Sunday, September 27, 2015

red flags

As expected, our off-season OBX vacation lived up to it's oppositional-defiant reputation. The red flags went up on Monday and stayed up until we started for home on Saturday...attesting to the gale-force winds, strong tidal currents, and turbulent surf that plagued us all week long.
If I were a sun worshiper this would have been a huge disappointment. Then again, if I lived to worship the sun, I would have gone to the beach in July or August, not during monsoon season.

On a brighter note, however, it was a great week for playing with Caleb...

...and for reading. The problem was deciding what to read first.

So...first I finished "Midwives" by Chris Bohjalian.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I started it a couple of times but it didn't engage me until recently. It's one of those books that basically lays out the plot at the beginning (A midwife loses a patient during childbirth and is sued by the patient's family.) The author then goes on to fill in the details, and in doing so creates an authentic portrait of life in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It took me back to my college days at UVM in Burlington. The most interesting thing to me, though, was the fact that the book was written from the point of view of the protagonist's 14 year old daughter...and Chris, the author, is male. I hurried to finish it just as we crossed the bridge onto the OBX. I didn't want to put it down.

Then I read through a short book on meditation by Pema Chodron, "Taking the Leap--Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears." In it she talks about tonglen meditation ( and leaves us with this suggestion:

On to "The Art of Memoir" by Mary Karr, author of "The Liar's Club" and "Lit." I had to pre-order a copy because it wasn't released until Sept. 16th and we were leaving on the 19th, so on release day I ran over to our local B&N and picked up my copy. For the beach. 


Excellent! More than excellent. She nails the craft of memoir in this book. To quote: "The split self or inner conflict must manifest on the first pages and form the book's thrust or through line--some journey towards the self's overhaul by book's end." Then she tells the reader how other authors have accomplished this, and how we can, too.

Last but not least, I re-read Melody Beattie's classic "Codependent No More", first published in 1986 as a guide for people who are struggling with a loved one's addictive and/or self-destructive behaviors including not just chemical dependency, but gambling and sex addiction as well as work addiction.

With the recent resurgence of interest in "burnout" in the corporate world as well as among those in the caring professions--pastors, lawyers, and physicians--workaholism has taken its rightful place as an addictive disorder that negatively affects co-workers, family, and friends. I believe I had just the tiniest touch of it when I was in practice, raising three children, and generally keeping house and home together so I have an invested interest in the issue. More on that in the future...

So...that's the story behind our vacation--not exactly what we had hoped for, but otherwise just about perfect. I can see myself hunkering down for the winter soon with plenty to write about. With so much to read and so much to write about, it doesn't get much better than this.

What's on your reading list? What are you planning to write about?


Sunday, September 13, 2015

off-season at the beach

Just when autumn starts to nudge summer out of the way, our family packs up for the beach. After a couple of days of cool wet weather that has us thinking fondly of heavy sweaters and fashionable boots, I have to think about replenishing the supply of sunscreen and freshening up the beach towels.
Going to the beach during off-season has its advantages, of course. The prices are lower. The traffic is lighter. The beach is empty which is a good thing for us because we'll have dogs with us.

There's no waiting to get into the restaurants, and sunburn isn't such a problem.

There are trade offs, however. The days are already getting shorter so it's hard to fit in those after-dinner walks along the water. The shops close early. In fact, by the time we arrive, some of them have already closed up for the season. Plus, some people simply can't make the trip in September because they teach. So, it can feel a little lonely down there.

This is a nice change of pace for vacationers who, like my husband, spend all day, every day working with people--patients, colleagues, and administrators. He likes nothing better than to sit on the beach and read all day, and I can't say I blame him. He enjoys the solitude.

I, on the other hand, spend almost all day, every day by myself. At home. Playing with words. Exchanging tidbits of news with the dust bunnies. After a while it can get lonely, so the traffic jam on the bridge to the Outer Banks feels like party time to me.

When the shops and restaurants are crowded with children and (forgive me for saying this...) teenagers, I want to be part of it. Dodging frisbees and wayward kites on the beach is great fun, too. 

What about you? What is your idea of a perfect vacation? Are you an in-season or off-season person? Why?


Plus...guess who's coming with us this year?


Saturday, September 5, 2015

when you just can't write and shouldn't even try

Let’s face it. Old Man Life sometimes insists we take a break whether we want to or not, whether we’re writing, composing, dancing, or drawing. Our efforts to create something new and beautiful, or meaningful, or entertaining are easily sabotaged even when we’re speeding along page after page, stroke after stroke, verse after verse. Just when the finished product is within reach we may have to set it aside and tend to the Old Man.

It might be an unexpected illness or injury that stops us in our tracks.

Anterior shoulder dislocation, compliments of my son

A flood or a tornado might sweep through.

Worse yet would be a death in the family. You can’t work and you shouldn’t even try.

Instead, give your muse some time off.  Tell her to rest. She needs to heal, too.

She’ll thank you with new insight, inspiration, and passion as soon as you’re both feeling better.

Maybe you’re planning a move, or you’re preparing for a wedding or a birth. 

Caleb as a newborn

You don’t want to miss a moment of it. There’s a lot to do, not a moment to think about the masterpiece moldering on your desk or in the studio. You may want to invite your muse along. Then, when you're ready to get back to work you can sit down together and share your memories of the event.

There are times you can’t work and you shouldn’t try…not because you’re blocked, or lazy, or distracted, but because Old Man Life has other plans for you…plans for you to gain experience, to grow in understanding, and to tackle your feelings about it. All of which will appear sometime later on, in a melody, or on the page or the canvas...whether you believe it or not.

It isn’t always how much we accomplish, but who we become that elevates our work. Playing peek-a-boo elevated my work this week:

Caleb at five months of age



I hope Old Man Life is good to you this week, and that you and your muse have a blast together!