Tag Archives: writing

Fifteen Pounds Of Words

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And sometimes I STILL can’t find the right one…

It has been over a month since I wrote a post here.  I have wanted to write, but it has been difficult to find the words for my emotions lately.  The thoughts I want and need to convey, are sometimes beyond words.

For five months I worked as a temporary contract employee at the Oak Ridge Public Library.  It was only supposed to be a three-to-four week assignment, but some changes in library staff, illnesses, and retirements allowed me to stay far longer than the original time frame. It was only part-time, certainly not enough to live on.  But the assignment was more enjoyable than I ever imagined, so I stayed as long as there was funding for my position.

Early in the assignment, I assisted with processing items being withdrawn from circulation.  On one of the carts I was to stamp and sticker one day was an ancient and ENORMOUS dictionary.  I stamped and stickered it, and inquired as to what happens to items when they are withdrawn.  William, the reference librarian who was working that day, told me they are either donated to the Friends of the Library for their book sales, or, in some sad cases, destroyed. I asked about the huge dictionary, (having fallen quite in love with it) and he said it might go to the FOL, and might be available to purchase.  When I returned to work the next day, he had pulled it out for me.

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I placed my donation into the “bird box”,  a bird feeder on the wall in the Friends of the Library nook where people place their donations for the books they purchase.  Then I brought in a sturdy bag to contain my new/old treasure as I carried it out to my car.  A regular grocery bag would never begin to hold a volume of its size and weight.

Not long after, I visited my Dad and Bonus Mom Carole, taking along my dictionary for them to see.  The copyright pages are gone, but the illustration pages all have “1934” printed on them…before Dad was born.  I thought they would get a kick out of seeing such an artifact, and they did.  We actually weighed it.  It weighs fifteen pounds!

As a lover of words and language, this dictionary is far more than just a book for me.  It is a work of art, with line drawings and sketches adorning its pages to illustrate many of the words therein.  It is a piece of history as well, especially considering that it lived in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and Cold War years.  I imagine what hands might have turned its pages, whose brains may have searched its contents…scientists, perhaps, or educators, as well as students seeking the right words for their research papers and university applications.  Old books have a scent and feel about them that appeals to people like me.

And to my friend, Isaac, who rejoiced with me over my find.

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To answer his question…1934 smells like history, nostalgia, a mixture of curiosity, knowledge and wisdom…its pages are smooth and yellowed from age and use.  Its  contents are the very foundation of communication.  Fifteen pounds of words…and still sometimes, I can’t find the one I want.  But at least I have a tool that can help me as I search.

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(My hand is for scale, to show how thick this dictionary is!)

I found a similar but not-nearly-as-nice volume online that was destined for the trash heap and bought it for a song.  It is now destined to be repurposed into art and craft projects.  Its pages will find their way into the homes and lives of others who, like me, appreciate the beauty of words and language, even if not as originally intended.  I still like to think that some knowledge and wisdom will go with them.

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Practice Makes…?

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The old adage versus the new perspective…

We’ve all heard the old saying:

Practice makes perfect.

Here’s the thing, though.  “Perfect” is impossible for human beings.  Whether the pursuit is related to our health, profession, or artistic endeavors, perfection is an unrealistic goal.

I am primarily a musician, but I also enjoy several other creative pursuits including paper crafting, photography, and writing.  When I commit myself to a project, I want my efforts to be the best I can make them, realizing that my best is never going to be perfect.  Coming to grips with that is an ongoing process…and it is a change in paradigms.

So often we are goal-oriented, when perhaps it is better to be process-oriented.  Case in point: a student who crams at the semester’s end to receive an “A” on an exam, but forgets the information soon after the test is over. Process orientation is more focused on learning bit by bit, along the way, and letting the exam take care of itself when the time comes.  Information learned along the way tends to “stick” better.

I have begun to realize, and to share with others, an adjustment to the old adage:

Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes progress.

When I was young, I thought my life was going to be all about the destination; as I have gotten older, I realize it’s really about the journey…the process, and the progress.  As long as I am growing, moving forward, doing my best (whatever my best happens to be on a given day!), I am on the path that is meant for me.

That’s really the best I can ask for.

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(Pictured above, a recent creative project…in progress!)

Muses

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What inspires us…

My friend David shared an insight with me years ago that I have never forgotten.  He said that all creative/artistic types have more than one outlet for expression.  That one bit of wisdom has held true for me, even before he said the words to me and, in fact, since long before I ever met him.

I read somewhere that famed fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy cited Audrey Hepburn as being the inspiration for much of his design work…she was his muse.  Over the years I have found my own inspiration in many places, things and people.  A conversation with a valued friend can spark an idea for a blog post, or for a different way to interpret a phrase in a song I am working on; seasonal change and the beauty of nature often urge me to snap photographs, capturing a moment of color, texture, light and shadow; a sound, scent or memory can prompt me to write a poem, haiku or brief passage which might eventually find its way into a larger work.

Inspiration does not always come from things that are traditionally considered beautiful.  Sometimes an inspiring image is one depicting pain, brokenness, sickness or even death.  For me, if a thing evokes a strong emotion, it can serve as a muse.  I want to explore it further, document how it makes me feel…to wonder about, or create, its story.

In future posts, I hope to write more about my various muses, their stories, the reasons I find them so meaningful and inspiring.  You may find yourself mentioned here, or pictured here.  You may see a photo that evokes an emotional response.  I hope you do!

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Challenged

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Bible Boot Camp, writing…

Since 2010, I have done a yearly “Bible Boot Camp” every summer, during which I have read through the Bible in 90 days starting June 1 and ending sometime toward the end of August.  I finished up this year’s installment yesterday and remarked that it had been a little more challenging than usual, in part due to reading a translation I had never used before.  God has always been so faithful to teach, comfort, and yes, challenge me, through this journey, blessing me so much more than my small investment of time deserves.

Because of the special challenges of this year’s Boot Camp, I’ve let a few weeks go by since my last blog post.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  I will admit to a lack of inspiration lately, not because there’s nothing to write about, but because my ability to string coherent thoughts together has been…challenged.

We all have those moments, don’t we?  There is so much to say that we stumble over how to say it, or like me in recent weeks, experience verbal vapor-lock and end up saying nothing.  Even our prayers don’t seem to flow naturally, instead coming in fits and starts, or such seemingly scattered random thoughts that we wonder if even God can make sense of them.

He can.  He hears and understands the things that we cannot say in words because He listens to the heart.  And He cares about all the details of our lives.

So, as I attempt to get myself back in gear for the activities resuming this season with music and church, I will hope also to find my words again.  I NEED to write in order to maintain some sense of balance.  I need to share my story.  Most of all, I need to embrace the times when I find myself Challenged.

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Carried

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Words, burdens and letting go…

For nearly 20 years, I have carried a small book around with me.  It’s gone pretty much everywhere I’ve gone.  Inside its front cover I wrote down when and where I bought it.

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I have always loved blank books and journals, their potential for creativity and a place for me to vent my thoughts.  This particular one drew me in for 2 reasons.  First, I loved its cover art depicting the sun, moon and stars against a swirly blue background.  I think it’s permissible to judge a book by its cover when the inside is blank!

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Secondly,  I especially loved that its pages were unlined.  I have enough restriction in my life.  The pristine whiteness of its pages gave me freedom to write whatever I wanted, in whatever way I wanted…upside down, in a circle, diagonally or just crooked.

This little book became my constant companion, a safe place for me to write down the feelings I could not express any other way.  Looking at those words now brings back memories of the extremes in my life at the time…mostly extreme pain and sadness.  It contains the overflow of my broken heart and spirit during the last year of Mama’s life on Earth, a period when I was afraid and lonely, not thinking clearly and not making good choices.

I’m not proud of a lot of what I did during this chapter of my life.  My spiritual life and relationship with God were at an all-time low.  I couldn’t pray, really; all I could do was hurt, and sometimes, feel angry.  I realize now that God heard every anguished scream of my heart, even though I was not talking to Him.  He was still listening.

Even as wretched as I was, as horribly as I was acting and as distant as God seemed to be, I know now that He was right beside me all along, carrying me when I could not walk through life on my own.  And not just carrying me, but sending blessings, glimpses of hope that I could survive this valley.  His grace eventually brought me out the other side, altered for sure, but profoundly grateful.

I don’t think I need to keep my little book any longer, or at least, not the words it contains.  I think I can finally let that part of my life go.  Those pages need to be burned up in the bonfire of forgetting, of cleansing, never again a burden to be Carried.

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Bobbing For Inspiration

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Giftedness in the family

I’ve been writing blogs for about a year and a half.  Throughout my life, I have kept journals, usually in times when I’ve been depressed and overwhelmed.  And I’ve written lots of really bad poetry over the decades as well, again during periods of deep pain and distress.  In my wildest of dreams, I would love to publish a book.  I’ve heard that every person living has a book inside them…and for most, that’s where it should stay!  Mine is most likely one of those.

Reed, my brother, is the writer in the family.  I have always joked that he’s just waiting for the generation ahead of us to die off and then he’ll hit the market with a scathing family tell-all that will sell millions and he’ll be able to live the fancy life forevermore, Amen.  Image

I think he and I see our family and our world in very different ways, and we probably always will.  He is more realistic, but also more of a risk-taker in making his dreams happen.  I like to dream, but I require a certain kind of security to function comfortably.  He wrote a book that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  He has written dozens of magazine articles and interviews, as well as overseeing and writing publications for his companies when he worked in the corporate world.  People like what he has to say and they like how he says it.Image

I went to a party years ago where he was signing books and got started talking to a lady there after Reed introduced us.  In the course of our conversation, she leaned in conspiratorially and said, “You know, your brother is really an exceptional person,” as though she was sharing a big secret of which I was unaware.  Without blinking, I responded, “Of course he is.  We come from a long line of them, and he is exceptionally exceptional!”  Image

Since I began writing my blogs and sharing them, people have started saying that I should write a book.  Aunt Helen wants me to write about the family history, and I agree that those stories need to be kept alive for the simple reason that no one could make that stuff up!  But I always say that Reed is the writer, and he is.  All I do is share stories, memories and the feelings that come with them.  I don’t write with any kind of eloquence or expertise.  Reed is the smart one, the gifted one, the big brother who inspires me.

As different as we are, we also have much common ground.  We share parents and genes, memories and experiences.  We know what it was like to lose our Granny when we were kids and how it changed each of us forever.  We know what it was like to grow up in that house, the good and the funny, the traumatic and the damaging.  I’d take a bullet for him and I believe he would for me.

Last summer I had weight loss surgery and it was a big, invasive deal.  As much as Reed hates hospitals (and he HATES them), he came and kept Jeff and me company back in the pre-op area for a couple of hours while the doctors and nurses did their final preparations before my operation.  As they got ready to wheel me back, I kissed and hugged Jeff and we exchanged our “I-love-you”‘s.  Then Reed leaned down to hug me and I said, “I know we don’t usually do this, but, I love you.”  You know, in case I died or something, I didn’t want to leave it unsaid!  And he said he loved me too.  But his showing up there had already said it for him.

He writes words, but he lives actions.  He shows up.  He dreams, and he lives on his own terms. As I go through my life bobbing for inspiration, I can always find it in him.Image