Monthly Archives: January 2013

I’m sort of on a kind of partial hiatus this week, so I am re-blogging my very first Writer Site blog post. Have a mindful day and be sure to notice people’s faces :).

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

A face reflects differently under each new light.  It seems to me that faces are holograms.  To compare them with still photos or even other faces is a futile task.  One day I look like one relative and my mother like a relative from another branch of the family.  The next day someone will see my mother’s face in mine, although I look nothing like her aunt who seems to have cloned Mom.

Certain people think I am the female image of my father who, with his vaguely southern European looks, could never be confused with my mother’s Dutch relatives.

I didn’t start to think about faces and relationships until a day in 1976 when my grandparents entered the front door of my father’s store and I wandered up from the backroom to greet them.

Grandpa approached the glass case of men’s leather goods.  “Here ta get me a wallet,”…

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A Mindful Moment of Looking Up

Beams from the roof of my house reach out over the patio, a semi-shelter from the Arizona sun.  The sky can be a brilliant blue, even when the air is cold, but my view is obscured by these thick wooden bars.

I can’t make out the shape of the cloud swirl beyond the patio cover.  My vision shifts, just a bit, and the beams are not quite straight.

These beams don’t protect from rain or wind, but cast an imperfect shade from the overpowering summer sun.  Today it’s winter and the sky seems farther away. I crave it more.

Inspiration seems to lie above within the blue and white pattern.  Can I catch enough of it between the bars?

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On Monday, I posted the story of how I came to find out what was wrong with my foot.  I want to thank a few more readers who read the long story all the way through to the end!   These bloggers have great blogs–two of them new to me. I hope you will check them out if you haven’t read them yet.

  1. Dennis  Dennis is a writer and voiceover actor who likes to write about writing and other creative pursuits.
  2. becca givens  Becca is also posting her small stones this month on her beautiful blog.
  3. vanessamartir  Vanessa posts powerful memoir pieces on her blog.

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This week I will be on a sort of a little bit of a partial hiatus, so I will re-blog my very first pieces to show my love even in my absence :).

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For more on “small stones,” you can read my first post on the subject.  It’s all about this: find a moment in which to be  mindful and record it.

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“Small Stone” in a Stand of Trees

Down the path I see trees–weedy looking desert trees.  I haven’t seen real trees like back home in Michigan since I was in California.  Is it this way all through middle and southern Arizona?

Cacti, creosote, and then the trees: mesquite, palo verde, sweet acacia (which makes everyone sick in their sinuses).  All self-contained and meagre, hardy, like you have to be just to survive in the desert.  By their very foreignness, the desert inhabitants make me homesick for my past, for a vision of Michigan that exists only in my memory.

Then I walk close to a tree and, gazing in, I see the tangle of life and in the confusion I see that this is the way it is meant to be.  Far off, the threads of memory, and up close, the everyday details.

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For more on “small stones,” you can read my first post on the subject.  It’s all about this: find a moment in which to be  mindful and record it.

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Between Rocks: A Moment

Writing small stones this month feels like serendipity to me.  My path through life in the past few months has been stubbled with rocks–both small stones and big jagged boulders.

Yesterday I went for a walk through the dry wash and surrounding property which is near my house.  I noticed a patch of land where a vine or ground cover grew between the rocks.  This is what I saw:

How the light chooses what to touch

Which rocky surface

Which leaves

*

The rocks scarred by complaints

The green fragile yet persistent

a canopy for baby quail come spring.

I might continue to encounter rocks in my path, but I can watch for the greenery between.

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On Monday, I posted the story of how I came to find out what was wrong with my foot.  I want to thank the readers who read the long story all the way through to the end!   These bloggers have wonderful blogs, and I hope you will check them out if you haven’t read them yet.

  1. CrohnsDiaries:  Christina writes about her life with Crohn’s Disease.
  2. The Other Side of Ugly: Sheri writes from the perspective of someone who has come back from beyond.
  3. polwygle: Polly writes about her life with her sweet baby Wren.

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Here is Elizabeth Cutright’s “Interview with a Blogger (Part 2),” featuring some “immortal words” by myself and a few other bloggers. This is where I explain what scared me about starting to blog and what is most difficult about blogging.

the daily creative writer

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Interview With A Blogger (Part 2)
(More from insight and inspiration from fellow bloggers)
By Elizabeth Cutright

As I first detailed in my previous blog (Interview With A Blogger, Part 1), near the end of last year I decided that after almost 12 months of blogging, I still had a few questions.  I wanted to know what made other bloggers – many whose posts I admire in both content and posting regularity – tick.  I wanted to know what got them to the page, and how they’d overcome different challenges and obstacles.  My first entry focused on the birth of a blog, detailing the many varied ways and avenues that lead my different interview subjects online and into the storm of regular blog-writing.

In part 2, I delve a little deeper.  I ask about the difficulties, the complications and the hurdles my fellow bloggers encountered and overcame.  And…

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Grateful x 7+

I feel so blessed lately with award nominations by other bloggers (and embarrassed, let’s not forget that part).   Being noticed by your peers has got to be one of the most satisfying (and embarrassing) feelings possible.

Although I’ve posted before about some of these awards, since then two bloggers have nominated Writer Site for the One Lovely Blog award.  They are Write Brain Trust and Terry1954.  Write Brain Trust, published by a group, is an in-depth resource for writing which focuses on marketing and publishing “in a digital world.”  It’s a go-to site for all writers.  Terry is a sweetheart who writes heartfelt stories, both nonfiction and fiction.  My favorites are about her dear brother Al, who is disabled by Parkinson’s.

If you have ever felt that you received more Christmas gifts one year than you deserved, then you know how I feel.  It’s a little overwhelming.  I want to stay focused on the task at hand and not pat myself on the back, thus losing sight of my mission (i.e., WRITING!–something I put off for too long).

Still, it’s true that I don’t feel comfortable not acknowledging these “pass along” awards because they give me the chance to honor the work of other bloggers and thus keep us all connecting with each other.  Therefore, I am forever grateful to Write Brain Trust and Terry for giving me a positive beacon in the blogosphere and also for the opportunity to pass this light on to other bloggers.

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Accepting the award obligates me to write seven things about myself.  Since I’m on the theme of gratitude, I’ll focus on how much I have to be thankful for as a writer:

1.  I am grateful for my past writing instructors in all genres.  I’ve had so many favorites, but include among them John Woods, Stuart Dybek, James Arthur, Matthew Lippman, Caroline Goodwin, Kazim Ali, Carolyn Forché, and Gina Welch.   One of my instructors, Otis Haschemeyer, taught me the value of keeping a writing log.  He shows what his looks like in this WordPress blog post.  I could keep going, but I will end up looking like a lifelong student nerd (I am).

2.  I am grateful for my Stanford Writing Certificate cohorts.  You know who you are.  Love you guys (gals)!  You can read a few of their blogs at Fluent in Fabulous,  The Diarrhea Diaries, and Tanzania5.0.  Here is a great column, called From Where I Sit, written by one of my cohorts.

3.  I am grateful for my in-person writing group: Linda, Renee, and Rudri.

4.  I am grateful for my sweet and lovely friends who read my blog posts whether they got enough coffee or not and if they are having a good day or not.  I love each one of you so much!

5.  I am grateful for my friend Wilma Kahn (Jeannie Unbottled), writer and editor, who edited my dissertation and many other pieces of slop I’ve managed to crank out.

6.  I am grateful for my blog followers and other bloggers who make my world so much more lovely.  Much love to all of you . . . .

7.  I am grateful to WordPress for creating such a pleasant online experience.

Oops.  Adding another one for good measure:  I am grateful to all the lovely books I’ve read which have inspired me.

Um, one more.  I am grateful to my husband who taught me how to properly use a semi colon when we were college freshmen.

Finally, I get to nominate 15 other bloggers for The One Lovely Blog Award.  I’ve decided to nominate blogs which I have recently discovered.   Here we go–enjoy!!!

pressions of a princess

bits ‘n pieces

a Portia Adams adventure

The beauty of sharing our writing

Weaker than Water

Chronicles of Illusions

Poems from Oostburg, Wisconsin

Back Track

Saturday Evening Porch

The Puffin Diaries

ordsfromanneli

Kate Shrewsday

Pale Blue Reminders

Blessed with a Star on the Forehead

My Life in Lists

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Good Thing: The Story of How I Found Out What was Wrong

St. Mary's entrance, Mayo Clinic

St. Mary’s entrance,
Mayo Clinic

My daughter continues to recuperate from her surgery, and I remember my own medical adventures.

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I collapse into the nearest empty wheelchair parked just inside glass doors to the ER waiting room of St. Mary’s Hospital.  “Wait, Marshal.”  I call to my husband who marches, with his head bent forward, to the triage desk.  He turns, sees me in the chair, and motions me to follow.

He speaks to the nurse, and his upper body moves with the force of his words.  I don’t have time to observe the waiting room, when the nurse pushes me into a cubicle in back.  Within minutes I am in a gown, on the Stryker bed which is no bed, but a parking place for a sick body.  The gown smells of a commercial laundry.  I unbuckle my medical walking boot, dropping it to the floor, where it looks like a robot’s foot.

Marshal goes outside for a cigarette, and I am cold, shielding my eyes from the fluorescents positioned directly above.  I get migraines from fluorescents, but not headaches.  Mine originally were confused with transient ischemic attacks, or mini strokes, because they pucker one side of my face like a rotting fruit and give me vertigo, vomiting, and an inability to rise up from a prone position.  I put the pillow over my face and wait.

“Excuse me.”  A handsome young man has pushed another bed to the opening of my cubicle.  He helps me onto that bed, tells me to lie down, and pushes me still farther back into the ER, shielding my face from the lights with a towel.  “It won’t take long to x-ray your foot.  We should have some answers soon,” he says.  His voice is gentle.  His features vaguely resemble my son’s.  I wonder if he’s Korean; my son is of Korean heritage.

“Where’s my husband?”

My bed driver says, “He’ll be back soon.”

The lights are off in the x-ray room, so my eyes relax.  My driver stays in the room.

“My foot has already been x-rayed by two different doctors,” I say.

The x-ray technician is tall, blond, and he’s focused on his machine.  “We need to x-ray it ourselves.  Did you bring those films with you?”

I want to tell him that I’ve been traveling for weeks, barely able to walk with the shoe on, with a symphony of pain in my foot.  We arrived only last night in Rochester for my husband to get to the bottom of his mysterious medical ailments at the famed Mayo Clinic.  Now, before he has had a chance to be seen, my tears have sent him driving me to the ER before his own appointments at the clinic.

No, I did not bring my films from California, Mr. X-ray.

Both young men introduce themselves to me, but I can’t take in their names.   They are studying to be doctors.   Or maybe they are already doctors, studying ER patients.  They look at me to answer their question.

I want to tell them it’s the end of July, and it was early April when the spider climbed the wall behind the couch and I jumped up and came down to a fireburst of pain in my right foot.  I want to say that in these months, I have been examined by two physician’s assistants, four doctors-in-training, and have received advice from two specialists.  Both said to exercise my foot and tough it out.

No, I did not bring my films from California, Dr. X-ray.

My driver is to hold my foot while the blond works the machine.  The rubber gloves he is to wear to protect his hands from the radiation are huge, clumsy, and my foot can’t get placed correctly.  In frustration, he pulls them off his long slim fingers and with those fingers, he pulls my foot apart, spreading the bones out like the ribs of a silk fan.  This is the third set of x-rays and the first time anyone has concentrated on trying to do the best job possible.  Gratitude wells from me like tears brimming over.   I worry about him becoming a doctor, worry that if he continues putting himself in danger for his patients that there will not be enough of him to sustain a full career and a long life.

When we reach my cubicle, my husband stands at the doorway, hands in his pockets, surveying the workings of the ER.  He looks at my face quickly, steps aside to allow the possibly-Korean young doctor to position the bed-on-wheels next to my Stryker.  I scoot over onto the bed.

“Thank you,” I say.  “Have a good life.”  He smiles and pulls the bed back out of my cubicle.

Marshal stands at the doorway and watches the ER from there.  I lie under the fluorescents.  The ceiling is low and the light so concentrated they can do surgery right there on my Stryker, if they need to.  I shield my face with my hand until my hand gets tired, and then I switch hands.  Marshal sees me squinting and finds a light switch, turning off one panel of lights over me.  I hope he, too, has a long life and gets some help tomorrow from the Mayo doctors for his ailments.  He says if you rub your arm for twenty minutes and then stop, that’s what his esophagus feels like all the time.  Nobody has solved this mystery yet, but Mayo has the best doctors in the world.

Nurses and orderlies walk back and forth in front of my doorway.  I can see them beyond Marshal.

Marshal says, “What’s taking them so long?”

I lie down and pull the pillow back over my face.  Exhaustion settles like a blanket over my limbs, even my mind.  A clatter on the floor startles me, and I realize I have started to doze.  My body settles down again, shrugging into itself from the chill of the room.  The thin blanket I have pulled over myself only keeps me from chattering off the metal bed.

“It’s been at least forty-five minutes since they took those x-rays,” Marshal says, but I tune him out.

A hum starts in the large open room of the ER.  It grows in sound, a barely perceptible vibration.  I see Marshal alert, watching the quickened pace of the medical personnel.

“They must have brought in a bad one,” he says.

I sit up and look out past him.  The room feels as if a bee colony has awoken and begun droning.  I get off the bed and hop to the doorway, lean on Marshal’s shoulder.  Two doctors are walking from the hospital side into the large room.  At the same time two others who must be doctors stride from the other direction.  I can tell they are doctors because they know they are doctors.  It shows.  A fifth doctor materializes and they meet at the nurse’s station, talking at once, interrupting each other.

Marshal turns to look at me.  “Get back on the bed,” he says and helps me up onto the Stryker.  “I don’t know what you have, but you have something.”  He’s so dramatic.  I wonder what he’s talking about.  He sounds silly sometimes.  I wonder if he has the beginnings of early dementia.  He’s such a pessimist.

I’ll tease him, as usual, when those doctors converge on the stretcher coming off the helicopter or out of the ambulance or wherever the new patient is coming from.

Then the doctors are crowding into my cubicle, vying for my attention.  They all want to share the news with me, but finally the others defer to one who speaks to me.  They are busy, taking time away from their duties, and there is no time for finesse.  “You have a tumor in your foot.”

800px-Foot_bones_-_tarsus,_metatarsusI stretch my foot out in front to stare at it, the ridiculous stranger.  “No, no!” one of the doctors says and another catches my foot in his hands and slowly pushes it onto the bed, keeps his hands on it as if it’s a new hatchling or huge opal fresh from the mine.  The speaker keeps talking.  “You must be extremely careful of your foot right now.  The least misstep and the bone will shatter.  It will be irreparable, and you will not be able to walk.  Let me explain.”

Marshal is leaning against my bed, his hands behind his back, defenseless.

“A tumor has taken over your navicular bone, which is the central bone from which the other bones operate.  There is very little left of the navicular.  The only way it can be fixed is to graft bone tissue into the bone.  If the shell of the bone shatters, there is no way to recreate a new bone.”

Eventually they file out, and Marshal and I don’t look at each other.  He hands me my clothes.  A nurse bustles in with a long list of appointments for the next day and an address for the wheelchair store.  When I’m dressed, Marshal hands me the walking boot and opens the hospital’s wheelchair, plunking down the footrests with his foot.

“Good thing we came here,” one of us says.  “Good thing.”

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I’m sorry that was so long!  If you read to the end, give me the link to your blog, and I’ll post a thank you to you on one of my next posts!

A few posts ago I posted a link to a poem I wrote about my entire experience with this bone tumor (don’t worry: it’s much shorter than this post).

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Another Meaningful Moment

At the end of the week I travelled to Los Angeles to visit my daughter.  She had surgery on an ovary on Friday (all went well), and I stayed this weekend to take care of her.  My small stone for Friday is of a personal nature because it took place at the medical center.  But yesterday I shopped and cooked for her, and my small stone turned out to take place during the cooking.

She owns a cookbook by Giada De Laurentiis called Everyday Pasta.  I made Rotini with Salmon and Roasted Garlic for dinner.  I added steamed asparagus cut into two-inch pieces.  It didn’t last long and was the first real food my daughter could eat.

After dinner I made Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables (see photo above), and it was also a big hit.

Here is my small stone:

Inside the onion are circles inside circles.  Halving the zucchini, I notice the small seeds which lie dormant.  The mushroom caps plump like ovaries. Even the peas are small spheres into themselves.

After the penne dish, I made devilled eggs.

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Let’s Try a Month of Meaningful Moments

Have you heard of the Mindful Writing Challenge for January 2013?  I read about it on Writing into Radiance and loved the concept.  It’s about being mindful of the physical world.  To foster that appreciation, write one “small stone”–a very short prose or poetry piece–which responds to beauty one encounters that day.  Actually, it’s not just beauty–that’s my leap.  And my mistake.  Don’t look only for beauty.

Their short version is very simple:

1. Notice something properly every day during January.
2. Write it down.

The idea is to write one a day for the month of January.  It’s your choice how to share or collect your pieces–singly or in a group.

OK, I admit it:  I was still confused after I digested this idea.  What did small stones look like?  Loose pebbles?  A gravel pit?

From reading up on the notion still more, it seems that Haiku is fine, but so are a couple of descriptive lines which evoke the experience for readers.

I tried one on January 1:

Against the sky’s palm,

black sprigged ropes crisscrossed

until a boom ignited a thousand birds

scattering abroad, alone

OK, so it’s not a poem.  It’s not very good.  But it begins to capture the experience for me.  By focusing I can be “in the moment” with the birds.  If I wanted to begin a poem from this image, I’d have to figure out how to convey that empty-handed feeling after the birds are gone.  Then I risk going into the “one in the hand” cliché and that’s the end of the poem.

On January 2, I tried another:

The mountain splits the sunlight in half, and the oleander tree, its leaves glittering as though wet under bright rays, sidles up to the bare January tree which waits in shadow, dry and brittle.  The sun slips a degree, illuminating the green leaves which reflect onto the bare trunk of the tree next to it.  Now both trees shine.

I wasn’t sure what kind of tree that was, winter-naked as if it were Michigan here in Arizona.  It just looked like January.  I guess I can omit the word January.

The next day I felt frustrated and wanted to spend more time on my moment and less on figuring out what a small stone looks like.

Light tricks skewer the ground.  I’m not sure where to step along the wash, barricaded by shadow and scrub.  Stumbling on a half-buried boulder, I try to right myself, but there’s nothing to clutch and I fall.  As I haul myself up, I’m haunted by the weight of what isn’t there.

Lots of shadows and light and black in my early January stones.  I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, but I started having fun walking the wash for this last one, so I will keep trying until I get my gravel pit.

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Showing Up to Write

Last month, I learned from Elizabeth at The Daily Creative Writer that the first Wednesday of the month is  Insecure Writer’s Support Day.  Apparently it was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

This is where I’m supposed to admit how insecure I am as a writer.  I am.  But I used to be much worse.  Elizabeth told a great story illustrating the importance of just showing up.  Why did it take me over a half century to figure that out?  Because I really did finally figure it out, although it took me so long.

When I was little I wanted to be a writer like Louisa May Alcott or Carolyn Keene.  That was before I found out that there was no Carolyn Keene truly, and that Nancy Drew had been written only in part by a woman named Mildred Wirt Benson and wholly by a company with the nefarious name The Stratemeyer Syndicate.  But I am going off on a tangent, and that is poor writing.  By the way, I also wanted to be an actress and an archeologist.  Just saying that I’m not a Johnny One Note.

In high school I showed my poems to my best friend who turned up her nose and then to my boyfriend who looked confused.

In college, I stopped writing, and instead I studied, partied, got married, worked, studied, partied.

After my husband and I adopted our son, I turned back to writing with a poem about picking him up at the airport.  I wrote other poems and applied to a college writing program.

While I was in the program, I wrote poems and stories.  Then a famous poet who had selected one of my poems in a competition sat me down and gave me some advice.  She told me to go on and get some more education.  I’m a good girl and do what I’m told, so I listened to her.

With two little children and teaching and studying, I didn’t have time for my writing, so I stopped writing again.

Looking where I had come from, the pattern was now apparent:  I would write for a while, but then stop showing up at my desk.  And why?  Because my kids needed schlepping to school and activities, and I was carrying around tote bags full of papers to grade.  I had meals to prepare, a house to clean, and there was always another holiday or birthday looming ahead which I needed to prepare for.  All of those things were rewarding (well, except maybe the paper grading, which did get tedious, I’ll admit).  I didn’t want to give them up, but could I have squeezed in some writing?  I’ll never know.  I didn’t try.  I suspect I had a decades-long case of insecure writer blues.

A few years ago, I had foot surgery and a long recovery and I had to retire from teaching.  After I had fully recovered and had moved from California to Arizona, I told myself I was going to PBIC (put butt in chair).   And because I have ADHD and can’t just sit around doing nothing (I’m the one reading the book and doing a Sudoku puzzle at the same time in the doctor’s waiting room), just by PBIC I automatically started writing.

Now I’m working on a memoir, creating a play with my daughter, writing 3 blogs, and occasionally drafting a poem or two.  No, there is NOT enough time.  But at least I’m showing up to write now–even on days like today when I am wondering if I should even hit the “publish” button.

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