Sunday, October 31, 2010

Germany Welcomes Kelly

Back in July my best friend came for a visit.  For her first overseas venture, Kelly would be spending three solid weeks between Germany, Italy, and France.  We were both as excited as a couple of pre-adolescents with tickets to see Justin Bieber, since 1. we hadn't lived under the same roof for more than 5 days since we shared an apartment in college, and 2. Kelly had never visited me in my post-college grown-up life.  When you can live with a person and still love them to no end, that's a relationship that'll last, so I had no worries about the length of Kelly's stay.  Living together had worked well for us; we were good for each other.  Like we've both said before, had one of us been born a man, it would have been the perfect marriage :)

After actually jumping up and down when we saw each other through the glass security wall that separates passengers gathering their luggage and the people waiting for them at the Stuttgart Airport, it was all hugs and smiles and stories of creepy men on the flight.  For the first week, we took it pretty easy, as jet lag is least kind to first-timers.  Kelly and I spent time wandering around Tubingen, a charming university town nearby, and Strasbourg, France, as well.  The real first treat of the trip, however, awaited us on her first Saturday in Germany.

every one welcome!
fun for all ages
I toyed with the idea of not telling Kelly the reason for Saturday's big parade in downtown Stuttgart, slightly concerned she might not want to go.  Mean, I know.  But in the end I felt honesty was the best policy so I let her in on the details, and thankfully, she was up for it.  Who doesn't like a parade?

You see, although we have mounds of things in common, I might be a tad more liberal than my dear best friend, but she kept her jaw-dropping in check and, I believe, had a fantastic time.  How could you not?  The Christopher Street Parade is an annual demonstration of freedom and pride for the area's gay/lesbian/bi/transsexual community and with the outrageous costumes, open trucks packed with candy (and condom) throwing celebrators, music, and dancing, it was a massive good time for the whole family.  The day was gorgeous and the spirits high as we watched the parade, then walked behind it through town, smiling and moving to the music blaring in the streets.

Ra-ra-relly!  Yea, it's Kelly!

 Really, could Kelly have had a better welcome party?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I'm finally realizing that no one reads what I don't share.  What, you already knew this? 

When I began this blog it was to work myself through the fear of sharing my writing, establish some kind of discipline, and explore myself through different means.  I've done the daily blogging thing, the travel blog thing, the random thoughts's time to actually start not only sharing, but pushing for attention.  As is often true of writers, I'm more comfortable behind the page - or the monitor - but if anything is to HAPPEN with regards to this love of mine, I've got to DO something more.  So I've been spending time looking over old short stories, snipping and polishing, organizing and trashing, looking for something worthy of submitting for publication.  The problem is nothing ever seems done, because you can usually add more, or shorten, or rake through one last time to sharpen things up.  Letting go of something into which you've woven a little bit of yourself is a little terrifying, because letting go of that baby so that it can fly out into the world invites criticism and rejection.  I'm no sadist, so this naturally makes me nervous.  But without letting go of our darlings, as creative pieces are often called, we rob them of the opportunity to return to us in another form, preferably, published in my case.  

I've searched writers' websites, scoured the internet and bookmarked like mad.  I've started subscribing and reading to get a taste for each publication that called out to me, and I've carefully read over each one's submission guidelines.  I have a stack of note cards on my desk, each one detailing one literary journal, magazine, or e-zine for quick accessibility, and this week I submitted to two of them already.  By the time I hear from either of them I will likely have forgotten I'd even sent anything in, but no matter, because there are many to which I'd like to submit, but a lack of finished material to send.

One literary journal is all food related, though the stories need not be about eating.  Since Chris and I enjoy so very much the experience of new and sometimes scary-sounding food whenever we travel, I bookmarked Alimentum.  A few are travel-oriented, like the Literary Bohemian, but instead of travel pieces, per se, they're looking for quality stories that really transport the reader to another place.  This feels familiar, so onto the bookmark list it went.  Given the opportunity to travel I have, an international readership is attractive, so there are a few of those, plus the regular American big name magazines like the New Yorker, Cimarron Review, and Glimmer Train.  I've also got an all woman journal in the mix and a few that seem a little dark in nature, both showcasing sides of myself.  So a good list, I've got.  Now I just need some new material.

I thought about posting some short pieces here, in hopes of getting some feedback.  Would anyone read it and feel like offering some constructive criticism?  I'm not sure, but it's a thought.  I'm still (slowly) learning the ways of blogs, and am hoping to add more dimensions to this one.  Like a section for fiction writing.

As I've been bad lately, NOT blogging regularly, this is me trying to get back in the habit without the pressure I've put on myself to recount life since July in order.  This, I have little doubt, is the reason for my hiatus, but I'm working on getting over that.  Thanks for stopping back in.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Coffee House

This morning I found my way to a small coffee shop very close to the gym where my friend Sara is now kicking my behind four times a week, or will be starting today.  My new commitment to a healthier me includes a 6am spin class and then a 9:30am Body Pump class to keep me sore.  I like that her classes have fallen on the same day as one another, as this makes for a serious workout at least twice a week.  Since my employment has shape-shifted again this school year, I’m without a consistent daily schedule to make sure I get to the gym otherwise, so this is something I plan to cling to, nails dug in.

Ten months ago, Sara decided she wanted to be a fitness instructor and after some classes, exams, and waiting for the paperwork to settle, she’s doing a superior job.  It doesn’t hurt that she’s in crazy good shape and perky in a very non-annoying, if not kind of inspiring way.  And let me tell you, that’s a hard thing to pull off when you’re leading a huffing spin class at six in the morning. 

Having successfully gotten through this morning’s spin without the embarrassment of vomiting on my handlebars, here I sit in this cute little coffee shop, positioned next to a wall with an outlet for my laptop, facing the door so I can do a little people-watching while I enjoy my cappuccino.  I told a member of the staff that this would likely be a twice-weekly occurrence, me setting up for a couple hours between classes, if they didn’t mind.  It doesn’t make much sense to go home, only to turn around and come back a little while later.  I’d rather be stuck somewhere because being stuck means there’s nothing I can do except that which I can do sitting around.  Sure, I could run errands, but the amount of sweating one does in the typical spin class is not conducive to being around other people.  It’s safer for everyone if I pick a spot and stay put to keep my moving around to a minimum, thus containing my area of possible air contamination.  I like my little corner and I think this is going to be a great chance twice a week to sit down and write.

When I talked to one of the staff of the shop about making this visit a habit, it was after she handed me a flyer for this weekend’s artist exhibition where local artists will be showcasing their work.  She’s an artist, she told me, and will have a stand there.  I’d already planned to go and am really looking forward to it.  I have a deep respect for people who not only create art, but share it, which is why this blog ever came to be.  I would absolutely love to have a body of work good enough and complete enough to put on display, and even more to give it to people who actually want to give me money in return.  I am an artist at heart, but even though one would assume the part of the brain that handles creative writing would likely also handle visual art, I have a very hard time focusing on both at once.  As I’ve repeatedly admitted, I’m not a great multi-tasker, not even a good one, but it still surprises me that I can’t work on a story and a photo project at the same time.  My brain makes a noticeable shift when I move from one to the other, so I guess this is just a limitation I have to learn to work with.  Another detail that factors into my lack of creative aggression is the sheer amount of things I’d like to do.  Again, too many choices is paralyzing.  When my mind starts making a list of items I need to work on, and that I’d like to work on, writing for my blog, writing and editing short stories, submitting said short stories for publication, and doing work for Klett Publishing are quickly joined by experimenting with photography in a mixed-media piece, attempting to combine writing with visual art, and working on putting together a photo book of our time living in Italy.  And then I just sit there, blank.  Unmoving.  Chris is great and listens to my rambling concerns every time, and he actually asks if there’s anything he can do.  Really?  I have all these ideas, the luxury of having the time and opportunity to do something about it, AND a supportive cluster of people around waiting to help?  And I still have the ability to sit still?  Shameful.

So I’ll visit other artists’ exhibitions and appreciate their efforts, because not only is this fun for me, it’s a chance to soak up some of their creative energy for my own use.  Tonight I’ll be attending the official opening of 'The Turning,' a photographic and literary exhibition in downtown Stuttgart at the Deutsch-Amerikaner Zentrum.  Jim and Tiffany from the Writers group have collaborated to put on this fall-inspired showing and I can’t wait to see it.  It’s important to support your fellow artists because I doing so you’re not only strengthening their conviction in what they’re doing, but you boost your own need and ability to create.  I’ll be getting quite a dose of creativity from other people in the next couple of days, and am so happy about it. 

The coffee shop was experiencing a small rush when I came in close to seven this morning but it soon calmed down and eventually emptied out.  The next rush was at eight, and now it’s 8:45 and the place is full again with people placing their orders, joking with the staff, and chatting about work and the sharp cold outside.  The sweat has almost completely dried from my clothes and it’s nearly time to walk back over to the gym for Sara’s next booty-kicking session via Body Pump.  I’m quite sore from Tuesday’s class, but looking forward to round two.


What is it about sore muscles that feels to good?  I think for me it's a reminder that they're in there somewhere, waiting for me to pay attention to them again.  Nurture them.  Thanks, Sara, for 2 hours of pain today :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Proud to be an American?

There's something I need to fess up to today, something that's been growing inside for a while now but wasn't completely obvious to me until Saturday.  I am guilty of being somewhat of a self-loathing American.  I don't mean this in the literal sense, only that ever since we left life in the US, my perspective has grown and changed in a way that has actually brought me to lie about my nationality on more than one occasion.  Coming into contact with so many different people from just as many places has deepened my criticism for my own country, and already having a critical outlook as it is, my view of my homeland began taking on a tint of embarrassment.  Do we really need a fast food restaurant every three and a half feet?  Is it really necessary to have everything delivered?  And do you really need to shop at Walmart at four in the morning?  I have developed an aversion to excess in some ways, but I believe one incident, in particular, is partly to blame for this larger shift in attitude.

We were visiting Ireland with a couple of friends our first fall living overseas, when upon asking in which direction could we find the town center, we were faced with a rather rambunctious local demanding to know where our "I Love Bush" T-shirts were and why we weren't carrying around little American flags.  What was this guy's problem?  This was my first encounter with someone stereotyping me because of my nationality, and I had to hold back from arguing with him that I hadn't even voted for Bush, because honestly, it didn't matter.  Living in a place where some people used graffiti to tell me to go home nudged along my desire to disassociate myself with the "typical" American and blend in as much as I could.  This is where it began, my attempt to de-Americanize myself, if you will.  Am I proud of this? Absolutely not, but I think in attempts to show other people, mostly European but not all, that I am not, in fact, the loud, arrogant, entitled, and spoiled American that has earned us such a reputation, I started to look at where I come from in a different light, one that included some shame.  You think just because I'm an American I expect to be catered to?  I'll show you!  I'll clean up my own mess, and yours, too!

It is necessary to say, however, that I have never forgotten the fact that I am endlessly fortunate to have been born in the United States of America, especially given that I am female.  There are sadly few places in the world where a woman can pursue higher education, career, and family if she wants, and with the freedom to walk about without fear of persecution for it.  I'm aware of how lucky I am to be from a nation that symbolizes freedom and opportunity, but I'm not naive enough to believe that's all the US is.  There is corruption everywhere.  I consider myself a realist, able to appreciate that which should make a citizen proud of their birthplace, and a little disappointed with its shortcomings at the same time.  There are people all over the world who still dream of visiting America, as I've learned most people call the US outside of it, and this has got to say something about where we stand in the world, short-comings and all.  

The problem seemed to be that I allowed my focus to linger far too long on the parts of being an American of which I am not proud, and have actually found myself in conversations where a non-American was telling ME why America is so wonderful.  Had I really gotten this bad?  Had I been so worried about embodying the stereotype that I'd become ashamed of part of who I am?  (Am I really putting this out there?)

We went to Frankfurt this past weekend for the International Book Fair held there annually.  What was during the week a trade fair for all things books, a meet market for publishers and artists, alike, turned into a public show on the weekend.  Author interviews, readings and discussions, and new technology demonstrations accompanied the rows and rows, halls and halls, floors and buildings of books for everyone and everything under the sun.  We went, we looked, and we bought books.  It was heaven, especially when we discovered Hall 8, an airplane hanger-sized hall full of English language books and materials.  But the most interesting few hours we spent at the Frankfurt Book Fair happened over coffee inside Hall 4.1 beside the non-book vendor stalls where we had been browsing through things like notebooks, journals, and various book accessories.  What began as an excited gesture on my part when another woman was looking at her purchase, a gorgeous hand-made leather journal I had just been drooling over, soon turned into a lengthy and invigorating discussion.  At first she just looked at me, perhaps a little confused, and smiled.  It became clear to the entire table beside the drink stand what I'd been gesturing about when Chris handed me my very own gorgeous-hand-made-leather-journal, secretly purchased while I ordered our coffees.  I think I kind of squealed before kissing him thank you, and the people around kind of laughed.  So that's how our conversation began, two strangers excited over a couple of books.  

And so we began talking, we three, and even though the seats around us emptied and refilled with new people several times over, nobody realized just how fantastic a conversation we were having.  When four hours can pass by without anyone noticing, THAT'S a great talk.  They did, we didn't, and it was.

Her name is Nicola and she's a PhD student living near Frankfurt, though she comes from a smaller town in the country.  A simple chat about where everyone comes from and the differences between Germans from different regions easily flowed into a discussion of attitudes toward foreigners, learning new languages, living as foreigners in Germany, and the degree of truth in most stereotypes.  Nicola has yet to visit the States, but has hopes of doing so in connection with her studies, and later, profession.  Her sister has traveled to a few places Stateside and brought home with her stories of people who weren't sure if Germans had phones and microwaves, let alone where it's located.  This was several years ago, but I'm fairly certain there are places in the States where the knowledge of places beyond our national borders doesn't exist.  Although the world seems to be growing ever smaller and more accessible, not everyone cares to know about other cultures, and most don't have the resources to visit them, anyway, so why bother?  I like the idea of learning about other places, trying to understand foreign customs, and tasting life elsewhere; this is why we are so appreciative of our ability to travel.  I don't understand the kind of thinking that prevents people from wanting to explore, given the opportunity, and I'm actually related to a few.  One part of travel Chris and I have been noticing more and more is the human connections we make along the way, and this, too, was one topic we discussed with Nicola, of many.

As is common among Europeans, when there is talk of war or military of any kind, the conversation invariably revisits WWII.  And why shouldn't it, I suppose, since 70 years isn't so long ago when you live in a place with a history that stretches beyond America's young 200 years?  Many of the scars left by that era are still sore, and understandably so, but it's in talking to the younger generations who live only in its wake that conversations such as this can roll out across a table with such an eager desire to learn from the mistakes from the past.  I imagine this might be more difficult for someone who lives with personal memories of something so awful as WWII was, but what do I know.  While my mind was already preparing to shake my finger at my own country, Nicola talked about how Germany wouldn't be what it is today had it not been for the USA's involvement in WWII.  If it's going to be between the US, Russia, and China, she said she's glad it was the US.  She told us about an elderly neighbor of hers who's told her stories of his encounters with American soldiers during the war.  Upon his capture, the man was sent to live and work in a camp quite unlike those Hitler had built around Europe.  Those captured and brought here were fed and given shelter, but what surprised him the most were the parties.  Soldiers and for lack of a better word, prisoners eating and drinking beer together, laughing and relaxing like friends - this was unheard of.  He said one evening a high ranking officer walked into one such gathering and asked what was going on.  Instead of unloading on his soldiers and kicking the prisoners back to their barracks, he sat right down and grabbed a beer for himself.  What a thing!  

Friendliness, hospitality, and a willingness, if not eagerness to help is apparently very American, and as I thought about this notion I realized how true it tends to be.  Images of Katrina flashed through my mind, as well as those from the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.  Whereas Nicola's experience as a German has always been that people are hesitant to talk to you until they know your status (title ranks higher than money), I know most Americans to be rather curious about people from other places, which tends to carry with it an openness and friendly touch.  (Of course introducing fear into it changes things.)  I hadn't thought of such qualities as being typically American, but the more I talk to non-Americans about their interactions and views of my people, the more I realize I've been rather hard on them.  Perhaps it's my need to beat one to the punch, to make the joke first to prove I get it so there's no question.  This habit goes right long with my secret need to prove I'm intelligent, the source of my self-esteem as a kid.  Regardless of the why, I'm realizing now that Americans aren't just known for wearing athletic shoes and baseball caps while chewing gum (there's one stereotype), or behaving obnoxiously and expecting to be catered to (there's another); we're also known for our kindness and friendliness.  The United States is a place where someone can seek political or religious asylum, or where a person of absolutely no means really can do anything given they work hard enough for it.  This isn't something many countries can boast.

I guess what I find the most interesting about all this is that it's taken the perspective of other people not from the States to remind me of what I have to be proud about.  There will always be things about the culture of the States I don't like, policies with which I do not agree, and decisions behind which I cannot stand, but what remains the same is that I'm free to my thoughts and opinions, and I have the privilege of keeping them.  So maybe I need to stop focusing on how I don't want others to see me because I'm an American, and start focusing on demonstrating the great diverse pool of experiences, perspectives, opinions, and belief systems that is the United States of America.  It may not be perfect, but there is a lot of good going on, and plenty for which to be grateful.

Thanks, Nicola.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Alberto, part 2

It was the Tuesday of our one week Tuscan vacation this past September, and there had been very little discussion of how we would be spending it: Tirrenia.  The old neighborhood, our first real home together.  And as it was only the first week of September, the summer market was still hanging on, and this meant not only could we do a little stall browsing, there'd be the chance of running into some old friends.  Guy was one, a Senegalese street vendor with whom I formed a kind of friendship with, who returned to Tirrenia every summer for market season on his sales route through Europe.  Him, I'll get to in another post, as he'd already moved on to Pisa by this time.  Another was Alberto, aka, the Grumpy Old Man of Via dei Biancospini.  This one is for him.

One of my very first posts to this blog was about Alberto, a neighbor of ours while living in Tirrenia.  (Want a refresher?  See )  Reading over it now fills my chest with emotion because he really was an important part of My Italy then, and always.  After Chris and I moved to San Piero a Grado ten minutes away to a bigger and better-maintained house, I usually ran into Alberto on Tuesdays in the summertime at the morning market.  He liked to buy a rotisserie chicken from the roasting van that always set up there in case anyone dropped by over the weekend.  He told me he liked to have something tasty ready to go, to share.  Once or twice he treated me to a cappuccino and we chatted a while at the small cafe at the back of the loop where the market sets up.  He refused to let me pay him back, so one time I treated him to a cafe AND a pastry, playfully ignoring his protests and attempts to reimburse me.  Running into him was my favorite part of the Tuesday market.

The last time I saw Alberto before this trip was at the Italian American Carnival held every July on the American base nearby.  It would be our last summer living in Italy and we decided to finally attend this annual event.  I spotted him walking in front of us, then took off from Chris and a couple of our friends to catch up, calling out his name.  He turned and opened his arms to receive me, smiling and kind of chuckling at me.  We kissed our hellos and spoke for a minute; he loved attending this carnival each year.  That was two years ago now.  I'd always regretted not going back by the old neighborhood before we moved to tell him goodbye, and to thank him for all he'd meant to me.  Which brings us back to the Tuesday that began this piece, Sept. 7, 2010.

We'd walked the aisles of the market with friends, but no Alberto.  We walked up to the beach to talk lunch with some from the group who'd spent the morning in the sand with the kids, before heading back to the center to meet up with an American friend living in Tirrenia for pizza and pasta.  And though I'm tempted to follow this tangent, I'll have to save Jim for another post, as well.  After a nice, long, Italian lunch (close to 3 hours, including the stroll towards Jim's house and our car) Chris and I drove up to his old office to visit a few old colleagues before they left for the day.  By the time we left there, it was six o'clock.  Marcella at the office assured us an unannounced visit at this hour was perfectly acceptable, so we returned to Tirrenia to knock on an old friend's door.

Although we'd lived beside him for two and a half years and knew very well where Alberto and his wife lived, I questioned myself as Chris and I walked up the drive that lead around to their half of the house.  Was this it?  Chris didn't know, but I did so why so nervous?  Part of me worried he wouldn't remember me.  It should be said that last I'd seen Alberto his wife was in the hospital for her heart, and both of them were pretty advanced in years.  Maybe they didn't live here anymore.  Or maybe... so I rang the bell at the side of the gate and held my breath.  A loud and sudden buzz made me jump and the gate swung inward.  I stepped cautiously in and followed a short stone path around the gate.  Just then, Alberto opened the patio doors and looked out at me.  His expression went from neutral curiosity of who was ringing his bell to a wide-eyed kind of surprise, immediately followed by a great, big smile.  He stepped out and raised his hands, almost shouting hello, and I walked swiftly to him, embracing him and matching his smile.  "You remember me?" I asked.  "Of course, how are you?" he replied.  My heart was bursting; it was almost like seeing my grandfather again.

Teresa and the fattest cat ever

Alberto didn't let Chris get away without a warm embrace, too, and he called his wife, Teresa out of the house to say hello.  I'd never met her before, but had listened to Alberto worry over her health in the past.  She looked radiant to me, and we all kissed hello and sat together at their patio table talking for the next two and a  half hours.  After refusing cafe, cappuccino, wine, water, and a shot of some kind of liquor, we finally accepted a small glass of beer to put our old neighbors at ease.  We toasted to old friends and talked about life.  They have the fattest cat I've ever seen, and we laughed over his girth and looked at a photo album they'd kept of him since kittenhood.  They showed us pictures of their kids, all grown, and their beautiful lone granddaughter.  Alberto talked about his daughter's dog he often walks, and asked about Heidi.  When I mentioned how I never saw him without a pipe in his hand or in his mouth, he promptly retrieved pictures of his extensive pipe collection at their apartment in Florence.  There are many things Alberto had in common with my own Papa.  Conversation was a little bumpy since Alberto's English is limited and my Italian is quite rusty, but we managed just fine.  There was a moment when Alberto disappeared into the house suddenly, emerging with an Italian-English dictionary to help us avoid confusion.  It was sweet, and I was so glad we decided to stop by.

Before announcing my intention of getting pictures of and with them, I took a moment to clumsily stumble through something I very much wanted Alberto to understand.  I explained how it had been difficult for me in the beginning, living here in Italy far from home and family, alone most of the time and struggling to make being a foreigner regular life.  I talked about how I first saw him, this grumpy man passing by each day, grumbling at Heidi on his way to the dumpster, pipe in mouth.  And then I told them both how much it had meant to me when we finally started talking, and how Alberto had become an important part of my day, becoming a source of comfort and familiarity, something I needed very much at that time.  They listened and I said as much of it as I could in bad Italian, feeling very self-conscious all of a sudden.  And then I thanked him for his friendship and he squeezed my hands until they hurt.

They tried to feed us dinner, as anybody would around here, but not wanting to put them out but also not wanting to insult them, we lied and said we were meeting up with friends.  We took some pictures in their garden and I embraced Teresa goodbye, so glad to have finally met her.  We exchanged mailing addresses with promises of writing and sending pictures, and Alberto walked us to our car out on the street.  I was filled with such happiness that we'd come, that they'd been home, and that we were able to spend some time with Alberto and Teresa.  On the street Alberto squeezed my hands in his again, pulling them right up into his chest, and we kissed goodbye, right cheek, left cheek.  He grabbed a hold of Chris, gripped his shoulders, and kissed him the same farewell.  Then before we got into the car, he grabbed my hands and held them a minute one last time.  I didn't mind that he squeezed the blood from my fingers, because the dampness in his eyes looked like love.  He's a part of my Italian family, after all.

A couple days later we had dinner at Lo Squalo, a great ristorante down in the center of Tirrenia, owned and run by another pair of old neighbors from Biancospini.  When it was time to pay, we finally said hello to Christian, the owner, having not wanted to disturb him during dinner rush.  He spoke briefly of how everyone was and where we were living now, and it was nice to be remembered.  But the best thing Christian said was that Alberto had told him about us stopping by.  He said we had really surprised them, and it had meant a lot to him to see us again.

When we left Tirrenia that night to return to the villa in Lucca, I whispered goodnight to Tirrenia, and to everyone who made that place mean something to me.  This trip to Tuscany with such good friends would be filled with so much, but Tuesday evening at Alberto's will always be my favorite part.

My Room

It's beautiful out today, and sitting behind my much loved writing desk offers an inspiring view.  I decided this morning that I've got to start actually writing in my writing room.  Novel idea, I know, but as Chris and I enjoy being in the same room when we're both home, my laptop tends to stay atop the dining room table.

It's been a busy summer, and here we are into fall already and I'm just now finding the time to dive back into writing.  Like my last post said, I've missed it.  Transferring photos to the appropriate drive to get started today reminded me of the growing backlog of things I intend to write about here, which of course paralyzes me in a non-start position.  But last night Chris had a lovely idea, to just start with whichever moment grabs me and take it one at a time, as they come.  And whereas the plan was to systematically tackle each item in the order in which it occurred, detailing each day and event like a reporter, I think I like his idea.  As they come, in no particular order, but labeled, of course.  A somewhat unorganized organically-chosen retelling of the past months.  And maybe I'll get really wild and not even draw out every detail; maybe it's time to allow myself to treat this as less of a self-imposed assignment, and more of a lazy story-telling session.  It's in the moments that meaning lives, anyhow.

Which brings me back to this room.  One floor up from the many distractions of any household, like the laundry piled on the recliner, folded but waving at me to be put away.  And the kitchen counters, littered with evidence of last night's dinner, crumbs and dishes waiting to be cleaned.  The clean dishes in the dishwasher matching the clean clothes' call to be nestled back in their places.  The dog hair on the floor, the bags from this week's purchases, the tables beginning their paper's like a visual roar of other things to do before I sit down to write.  Isn't this something all writers deal with?  Calling responsibilities distractions without guilt when it comes to working?  Making writing a priority?  It's tough.  So up I climb to this sacred space, this quiet space where the breeze and birds outside gently drown out the responsibilities downstairs and invite me to listen.  And to write.