Peeking Down Driveways

For once, I was ahead of things, a visionary, but like usual I didn’t do anything about it and now I’m just one of the pack.  I’ve had this title written on various notepaper scraps littering my house and on my lists of poems-to-be for years.  It was a favorite activity of my artist friend Kathy and I, peeking down the driveways of downtown homes to see if they had an old barn, carriage house, or outbuilding tucked away in the back.  Kathy was always on the lookout for something to paint and I am one of the best seconders around.  What I lack in initiative I make up in knowing when to say Yes! to something fun.   I was doing a little drawing at that point, but I was more interested in journaling and poetry, and our walks always brought on inspiration.  This was work, you know, going around looking for hidden objects, things that were pretty, outrageous, or that just tickled us. 

One of our more memorable trips was a drive around the area vineyards.  Kathy was looking for vistas but what we found was a dog, licking himself, laying in a patch of sun in front of a shady, tucked-away farm-house .  Yup, we said, it’s a good day.  Laying in the sun and licking yourself.  It can’t get much better than that.  And we were just about that happy, relishing being out in the beautiful day, the wind in our hair, doing something we loved.

Now, years later, my small city has declared that this is the year of the carriage house, that they will be sought out, studied, and photographed as part of our local heritage.  I can confidently say that they will find wonderful examples, and will come across many a good story to go along with them.  As for Kathy and me, we were just happy in the discovery, finding hidden treasures, and imaging those old buildings in their prime.

And now I finally get to use my title.  I am happy all over again.

July 9, 2010 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment


It’s the day after a holiday, so my whole work week timing is off.  I’m still mellow from the weekend and getting a lot done, both fun and practical, but my 5a.m. dream keeps niggling at me to pay attention.  I was drving on a road that disappeared, landing me in an interesting, but very dark woods, with a construction guy pointing to the side, saying, “there’s a couple jobs over there.”  That should be my wake-up call, literally, the clarion call of Get Going, but still, I feel myself just sauntering along with an it-will-work-out attitude that is somewhere between faith and denial. 

So while I’m reading about how great it is when plans come together and that you can’t live a dream without having a dream, and all the other wonderful advice out there, I’m making a list in my head. 

1. Do one thing to wrap up my job.

2. Do one thing to work towards a new job/career.

3. I learned one new word: flense.

4. I found an old word I had used once in an essay: moldering. 

So this isn’t the greatest list in the world, since I went from an action check-off list to things that made me happy.  That’s just how my brain works.  For you organized folks, I should really make #3 Learn a new word – read something interesting, and then I could put Flense and Moldering under there with nice little checkmarks. 

And maybe on tuesdaywednesday, I will start my list in the morning, and it will be organized and I will check things off and it will be another good day.

July 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm 7 comments

Idling in Inertia

I’ve been thinking about inertia way too much recently, letting several days go by where I have done precious little with my Plan B as I watch the time trickle away from my current job.  Not that I haven’t done anything, but it all feels like avoidance.  Nothing like cleaning the office refrigerator and microwave to get me back to my desk and paperwork!   So while the former is helpful and gave me the mental break and impetus to go back to a more tedious task, it seems to be a too common pattern in my life.

With inertia, we stay the same until a force propels us another way.   Whether it’s in a job, a relationship, or our health, it’s easier to stay the course than act.   And what force then moves us?  A job ending, a heart attack, a major loss…wouldn’t it be so much better to have that Plan B, or to change or stop what we can.  There are so many things we can’t control, that it’s important to deal with the things we can. 

One good thing, and I am all for rewarding baby steps, is that I’m noticing this inertia sooner than I used to.  The brain chatter picks up, saying, Look out, look out, rut ahead.  You should, you should.   It’s mostly negative chatter and while I know it’s not good, I am getting to where I can reframe it into something positive.  Yes, I should do something different, take some kind of step towards my new future, but instead of mulling that over and over, I will act.  I will create a force to get moving.  Even something as little as putting a goal on a list.  At least it is there to check off. 

We all need motivators, no matter how small or idiosyncratic.  For me right now, flabby arms and my blog stats are my biggest motivators.  Yes, of course, there’s also  the branching out into a new career, but I want to be doing that with tight arms and an active, popular blog.  I know that these seemingly minor things will make a difference – as I do anything positive, that movement will continue and I will do something in another part of my life that needs a little shove.   There is no judgement in inertia, it is what it is, so when we humans take on its significance in our lives, one of the directions feels better than the other.  For me right now, the body staying at rest is a rut and the body in motion is my future, and I just hope that I can keep that inertia, and my Plan B, rolling.

July 2, 2010 at 6:47 am 10 comments

Bobble-Heading Through Life

It worked again, those three journal pages in the early morning before anyone else, including the coffee pot, is awake.  Okay, the cat was up, but she loves the morning pages, too.  All my journals and pens have been permanently scent marked by her, not to mention the addition of jagged lines from her rubbing on the pen at inopportune times.

I had been writing and thinking about several things that had come up in the last two days, one about self-respect, the other about dreaming vs goal setting, and then bobble-heading through life  showed up and Poof! that was it.  That’s what it’s all about – whether we go through life nodding and agreeing with all that comes our way, or do we take life by the hand and say, What a great adventure!  Let’s go!

I always thought I was a good dreamer – I can while away vast amounts of time in my head, lost in thought, oblivious to others who are wondering if I am dead, asleep, boring, or what.  Nope, just thinking and trying to work that Law of Attraction, picturing the book signings, the articles in glossy magazines, even Terri Gross wanting to talk to me.  I just didn’t realize I wasn’t a very effective dreamer, and that while dreaming is good, without action, it’s like the northern lights, magic while there but then gone.   I had always wondered why, with such good ideas, such positive thoughts, that I still seemed to be in the same place.

Action!  Even the most novice director knows to say that at the beginning of filming, but I seem to have missed that part.  My father was not an action oriented man, more the let’s see if something bad happens first before we do anything, so I am awed and amazed at people who think something and then do it.  Who knew!  Action people assume action follows thought, that if they think or say they want to do something, they do it.  The dreamers  just keep on dreaming and thinking and sometimes need to be reminded that something must be done before something can happen.  Action people have lists with things checked off and at the end of the day, they’re done and I’m still thinking.  I am so envious!

Part of this, I realize, is tied with self-esteem and whether we deserve those dreams or not.  I used to think that flabby self-esteem was invisible, a nasty, hidden secret we could keep from others, but no, it’s as plain as day.  Horse’s know it, kids know it, students in class know it and they can make your day hell.  I wish I had a magic wand that would cure poor self-esteem, but just like any bad habit that is ingrained, it takes work to overcome it.  And whine, whine, whine, no one likes to work on those kinds of things.  Fun things, yes, painful things, not so much.

So this Reluctant Success has steeled herself towards action, to setting a goal and actually doing it rather than thinking about it, and creating new habits.  I still haven’t figured out why some things are so easy, they just get done with no thought, but then there are those rascally ideas, the better job, the newer car, and all of a sudden it’s oh, it’s okay, it doesn’t matter.  But honey, it does.

June 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm 6 comments

Contained Abandon

I hadn’t thought of Contained Abandon, my mythical flower shop and haven, for a long time until I walked past a downtown garden that epitomized the idea.  A little square of land filled to the brim with poppies and irises, daisies, spiked purple flowers and white weedy plants that are trying to take over.  The poppies are holding their own. 

I love the image and feel of Contained Abandon, the scared, shy girl on the outside housing the heart of an artist, demure vs. outspoken, robin’s egg vs. hatchling, decaf vs. high-test.  It’s the exploding into who we really are with no doubt that it is true and right and good.  I hate even hinting that the full expression of who we truly are could ever not be perfect, it just IS.  The IS that goes beyond any peer pressure, dogma, or self-esteem.  It’s our Buddha in the Belly and what is right with the world.  It is loving again after great loss, a child at play, and trust in life. 

Contained Abandon is what makes me sit down and write, it is the mystery inside that keeps us trying to connect with each other over and over again.   I often don’t know how people can keep that power inside themselves, and  some do leak it out all over the place, their energy and spirit obvious and contagious to others.  It is not surprising that we would gravitate to that energy, hoping to steal a little for ourselves, or bask in that glow, but how often do we forget that we have that inside ourselves as well?  Do we let that spirit shine or do we encase it in a shell letting it out only on occasion or not at all?

Part of being a Reluctant Success is not honoring that power within, not being true to oneself, not believing.  In my current job I find I need to convince people, mostly women,  to believe in their skills, to feel worthy, to own their own power.  I know I often need to be reminded of this as well.  I would love to get to a place where I didn’t have to teach this, that we could unlearn the emotional bonds we wrap so tightly around ourselves.

I was just asked the best question today – what is my greatest accomplishment so far?  I was very pleased to find out that I’m proudest of just being happy and of who I am today.  I could look with love at my struggles, my changes, the new challenges ahead and know that I’m the best I’ve been yet.   And that it will only get better.  I feel pretty good about that.  I think I’ll let that shine on through.

June 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm 4 comments

The Reluctant Success

In following with the current popularity of the Law of Attraction I am writing this as if I am a success, not the halting, undisciplined writer that I am.  I mean was. 

I had the worst possible childhood for a writer…a reasonably idyllic Midwestern childhood of riding bikes on country roads, Kids’ Day with parades, ferris wheels (yes, I could see my house from the top), and painted store windows, a popcorn stand on the corner, and yes, fresh sweetcorn from my grandmother’s farm and tomatoes from the garden.   Did I mention scaring pigs and watching their cute little back-ends race across a field?

If you’re looking for a dark side to this, it would be my brother providing most of the entertainment, throwing up strawberry shortcake from the top of the Octopus, that stomach churning up-down-swing you around amusement ride, or splitting open his knuckles on his rusty bike fender, or knocking himself silly when the metal seat of the swing whacked him on the back of the head.  That one got me out of my piano lesson and straight to the doctor’s waiting room.  The biggest suspense in my life was what was going to happen to him next.

Life was pretty easy…school was fun and I got good grades without trying too hard, learned the piano despite doing it my way instead of my teacher’s way, got into the college I wanted, didn’t die from being stupid, my periods were easy, childbirth was easy (well at least I forgot the worst parts), and now what?  What did I learn?  Well, it certainly wasn’t  how to push myself through the boring parts of life, to struggle to get ahead, to really work for a dream.  I mean, why?  I could be pretty happy and content mosey-ing through life, accomplishing a certain amount, a little travel, good jobs more meaningful than well paid, living in a pretty home in a pretty town.  But.

But now what?  I’m at the age where easy isn’t good enough, I get to put my dreams first rather than those of my kids or my husband, or anyone.  I have a small window of time before I need to start putting priorities to my parents needs, so I need to get going.  But how? 

Being an avid collector of quotes from Bartlett’s to The Portable Curmudgeon and every self-help book on a shelf, I have a million bits of good advice, inspiring, cajoling, sassy, wise, and not one of them will kick me in the rear and get me going.  Not long term at least. Only I can do that, and I’m not very good at it.  I know how many times Edison tried to invent the lightbulb, how many rejections William Kennedy recieved before getting Ironweed published, and that failure is mandatory (What! No one told me that when I was growing up!). 

And so my research begins, corraling the resources and supports around me, to believe my friends when they say, “I’d read that” about my book idea, gather my books and advice givers, and yes, you’re right, Karen Lamb, ” a year from now you may wish you had started today.”  I know, I know.

May 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm 6 comments

Rethinking Ballpark

I love my Dad.  He’s dependable, steady, hardworking, a great provider for his family, and uncomplaining.  It wasn’t until I could actual get a “visual” on him that it really made sense.  He’s a straight and narrow kind of guy, blinders on, nose to the grindstone, who forgets to look up sometimes and see what some other options might be.  I have learned from his regrets at not acting or taking a risk because of some internal should.   The house by the river where he first lived as a new father slipped through his fingers, and the hugging and kissing of his children that was too effusive was shut away until we had left home.  I hear his disappointment in himself, and even though I tell him how amazing it is that he learned that and changed has not seemed to soften that hurt.   I’m visiting him next month and wondering if he has more regrets in his life than joy.  I hope not.  What a terrible legacy to leave behind.

So here is the visual on my family.  My Dad is the straight line, just like the ones running down the middle of the road.  My first daughter is the jagged up down up down of a crazy day on Wall Street.  My second daughter is the wave, gently undulating, with highs and lows but without the thunder. 

And me, I want to be a ball park.  I’m at home base with a wide V of options and opportunities open to me.  My home run can be anywhere from first base through third base and even off to the edge a little bit.  I am at the mid-point in my life, the year that I have lived just as long away from home as I did living at home.  I have passed the age where my mother died and I get to see my grandchildren.  I am happy and healthy and looking to transform my own regrets.  My business card will read “What next?”  and my goal is to take as many people along that  journey of self-discovery as I can, making sure each and every one has that chance to see an open field and be able to go where ever they want to follow that dream.

April 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

Isn’t this beautiful?

The sign of a vacation – pictures of the most common daily occurances elevated to art, with predictable conversations of it’s magnificence, why we don’t do this more often, there’s never enough time, next time, one day, some day, if…the excuses lasting as long as the vacation, then back to “real life” and it’s all forgotten. 

So here’s an “aahhh” for a Monday morning to get us going.  That’s all.

April 5, 2010 at 10:12 am Leave a comment

Found Things – Writing Prompt

Oh, it’s been too long, dear friends, and what jarred me out of my slump?  A quick dash this morning to the community dumpster with my little bag of refuse, I slid open the door and there was a crate of partially drunk bottles of liquor, ranging from Meyers Rum to a 15 year old bottle of scotch.  The crate was stamped with an exotic distillery name from a hot country, the bottles were a little dusty, with one upside down in the little space that was left.   What a find!  But what to do?  Cave in to dumpster diving, leave be, pour them out and recycle the bottles…some many options.  My head was spinning!

What it really did was get me thinking about my old writing circles, how the prompts we were given would stir up all kinds of stories, and the pleasure of listening to each woman’s version or experience.  There was always magic there, stories that seemed to flow together with a common theme over and above the prompt in front of us, the heads nodding in agreement, “yes, me too,” the circle becoming more intimate with each story. 

The writing circles were also we played with Found Things, after reading about this latest trend in the NY Times.  We all had fun gathering, hunting, and trying to catagorize our own Found Things.  I considered myself an expert, having been a long-time admirer of Pippi Longstocking and her adventures in Thing-Finding with her demure, sheltered neighbor children, Peter and Anika.   I was much more like Anika than I cared to admit (read: no fun), so studied hard to be Pippi Longstocking.  I have succeeded somewhat.

So now I offer up this Found Thing, this crate of liquor left as an offering in a dumpster, from someone who had to throw it away, but still saw value in it, we can see who will take it or not, or what other options anyone can come up with.  Share some of your stories with me, but keep them short. 

Thanks for playing.


April 1, 2010 at 5:08 am 4 comments

Creek Watch, Day 3

Day 3 of  Creek Watch, of seeing it anew,  my struggles with getting thoughts to paper, my mind swirling with ideas as I cross again and again, Cascadilla Creek.  Six years and what have I seen?  How can I feel like this is the first time I’ve noticed it?  Probably five of those years are lost, invisible impressions that flit in and out of my mind, quick as my crossings.  Some events jump out at me, like the carp spawning, stacks of fish churning in the shallow water, huge females dwarfing the eager and abundant males.  They gather slowly, their numbers growing, sometimes hiding under the bridges, sometimes in the bright daylight, spanning the width of the creek.  And then one day they’re just gone.  I watch for the young, but I never see them.

Then there’s my returning duck couple who make a nest and have a few bobbing young every year, their nest disappearing in a spring flood, later their little family cuddled cozily on a sunny rock.  Summertime blackbirds with yellow eyes sit on the rocks, dipping their beaks and tossing back the cool water.  They clamor for the mulberries that shade the creek next to the Buddhist temple. 

Another day in the summer when all life seemed tucked away, the only living things I saw in the water were a snake, a rat and a crawfish, each reminding me of how cruel hemming in a creek in with cement banks can be. 

I’ve watched the water turn into a slurry of creek soup, slushy globs of soft ice that look like fat, the rocks, sticks, and society’s trash simmering underneath.  Watching the sinuous, liquid ice floes form and change, is like visiting the aquarium and identifying the different fish, dolphins and penguins that grab out attention.  It’s water cloud watching, the steam from my own breathing adding to the circle of water and air.

I vow to never not notice the creek again, thankful for the reminder of how fast life can go by.   I know though, that I will forget, lost in my head, thoughts of good days or bad days at work, what’s for dinner, happy in the warm evening air, and then I will be brought up short by the cool, damp air held by the creek and it’s memory of winter.

March 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

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