Don’t worry. T2 and I are still committed to sharing the last cupcake, but my lack of resolve had to translate to something good. Or at least funny. And on that note the Monday funnies edition of my cartoon Picking My Battles is back in action.
I’ve been making cards for a Holiday craft fair in December. I started making cards with flowers on them after creating a few pieces for family members and then kept painting flowers — get well cards for humanity.
Then I added a few cards for Christmas and Hanukkah since it’s a holiday fair, but, as an atheist, I felt a little funny at first. And I wondered, for the umpteenth time, if it was hypocritical and why we celebrate those holidays at all.
This year, health issues are changing our Thanksgiving celebration, separating us from family members. We still have so much to be thankful for, but being separated from family on this one holiday that is sacred to me helped me understand why the religious holidays of others are still celebrations for us.
There are the rituals and the memories. But there are also the holidays themselves. Hanukkah and Christmas and other religious celebrations that occur concurrent with the winter solstice are often celebrations of light at the darkest time of year. They are celebrations of miracles against all odds and of physical and spiritual growth even in the coldest winter. They are perennial demonstrations of communal good will and of hope.
Right now the world is in a dark place. It sometimes seems like the bomb throwers (literal and figurative) are everywhere. If there were ever a time to celebrate light in darkness – to celebrate and nurture hope and good will in those who want it, this is it.
I don’t have any illusions that the bomb throwers and disrupters in the world are going to come to our house and sit down for Thanksgiving dinner to solve the world’s problems over a bottle of wine. I do, however, look at the very existence of these holidays as unscientific proof that in our species there is an innate, inextinguishable desire for peace and even good will that is as vital as our competitive and destructive natures. That desire is something I am willing to work for wherever possible.
As an atheist, a belief in an inherent desire for peace not only gives me hope, it gives me faith (something I guard closely and try to nurture) in the future of humankind. And I’m happy to celebrate it by lighting candles, stuffing a stocking, or simply sitting at a table to acknowledge the good in my lives and hope for good in the lives of others.
This is a really exciting post to write.
It’s Veteran’s Day, so T1 and T2 are home. Naturally I headed to the country store for a little liquid courage (don’t look at me like that – it’s Diet Soda. Which might be worse than a bottle of wine when I think about it) and snacks to keep the troops anesthetized and quiet while I work.
T2 and I walked in to find Nancy Tschorn, the Ma half of the Mom&Pop store, wearing a mischievous grin. Oh and her uniform. I specify that because we have walked into find her wearing a cow costume and a little Red Riding Hood outfit (it was Halloween of course) and a mischievous grin which should tell you how good her blog is going to be.
Did I mention she was bubbling over to tell me about her blog? that I’ve been suggesting she start for sometime because she is a cauldron of creativity and not only that, she has thousands of stories.
She told a few of these stories a few years ago in a book – Wayside Country Stories – that she self-published on her own to great acclaim from the few lucky people who got to read them (please join me in badgering her to make an ebook out of them). A member of a now-dissolved but legendary and scandalous writing group (that’s as much as I can say, but don’t let our bifocals fool you – we were all very, very scandalous), she read some of these stories to us, but we knew she was just scratching the surface.
Today she started her blog, Wayside Country Stories, and opened the vault.Her stories are full of humor and humanity, and I’m so excited to add it to my Blogs I Love page. Check it out. You’ll be happy you did.
Thing2 is a little subdued today.
Most mornings by 8 am, he’s chirping with the birds outside, doing a sock-footed slide from room to room hoping to “accidentally” wake the sleeping thirteen-year-old giant in the room near the end of the hall. By 9am, he’s tapping at the door. At 10am, the giant has breakfasted and retreated to his cave and Thing2 dances outside the door with a soft mischievous smile on his face.
“MOOOOOOMMMMM!” usually reverberates through my office no later than noon as Thing2’s latest attempt to “play” with the giant backfires and the accusations fly. The tears dry quickly and round 2 begins shortly after the afternoon snack.
Today,the giant is away at computer camp for the next two, and the house is eerily quiet. The only chirping is coming from the open window. Thing2 has his nose stuck in a book or his head bent over the iPad. We’ll find something special to do this afternoon, but this morning, there’s no dancing or yelling through closed doors. There’s no “he started it”, and it’s too dang quiet.
Our little corner of Vermont is still getting plenty of showers, so this month’s Common Thread Give-a-Way is a much needed punch of color.
Jane McMillan, is this months artist. She’s giving away a felted fruit pin cushion – and you get to choose from the collection above. With the exception of the Strawberry cushion, all the cushions are filled with crushed walnut shells which keep pins sharp. The Strawberry is stuffed with polyfil.
To win a fruit pincushion of your choice, just leave a comment at Jane’s blogLittle House Home Arts.
I’m participating in the Common Thread Give-Away again, and November’s featured artist is Kim Gifford.
Whether she’s writing about her beloved pugs or her distinctive photographs, Kim’s work is humorous and heartwarming. I got to know Kim and her work through the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project. It, like she, is infused with an infectious joy.
This month Kim is giving away a matted 8″ x 10″ drawing entitled “Bounty,” printed on watercolor paper and matted to 11″ x 14.”
To enter the contest, visit her website atwww.PugsandPics.com and leave a comment for her anytime between Monday through Wednesday of this week. The winner will be announced on Thursday. Then when you’ve commented on her site, take a minute to visit the other artists in our group – Jon Katz, Maria Wulf, and Jane McMillan!
A little over a year ago I stumbled into a writing workshop at Hubbard Hall, our local community theater and arts center. The Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project was led by celebrated author Jon Katz, and, as with almost every other class or event our family has experienced at Hubbard Hall, it was life-changing event for me – and for every member of the group.
There was an application process for the workshop, and getting that acceptance letter felt like winning the lottery. I hadn’t shown my work to anyone outside my family and had only been prepared for rejection. That letter was a thousand times more valuable than any lottery ticket.
Jon, our guru, later told us that he wanted to find a group that not only wanted to write but that would work well together. He chose wisely. Over the last year our group has become a family of sorts. We’ve become sounding boards and safe havens for each other, and everyone in the group has flourished. What began as an artistic exploration of rural life became a search for authenticity in our creative and personal lives. Jon encouraged us all, and, recognizing our strengths, we began to grow and to encourage others.
Last Friday night, we met to celebrate the impact of the last year. The unseasonably steamy evening started with a reception which allowed all of us to display our work and continued with readings by each of the writers. The evening was warm and encouraging – just as the year has been.
I like public speaking about as much as I like shopping for a new swimsuit. I wasn’t nervous when it was my turn to read, however. Working with the video portion of the presentation kept me busy much of the day and evening, and I didn’t have time to feel nervous – at least not about the reading.
The crowd dispersed quickly after the presentation, and the writers returned to the reception room to clean up their displays. We all milled around a bit, even after our families had left, and I think I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want it to end. Even though the group is going into its second year, when we started our goodbyes, I began to feel nervous.
I’ve been working on a collection of short stories that should have been done last month. Dealing with some mental health issues has slowed down progress, but there’s been a part of me that feels this project is part of my workshop experience. I know I’ve been a little afraid that when it’s done, so is the workshop. I felt a little of that on Friday night as I climbed into my car.
When I got home I made sure the kids were in bed and then turned on the computer and checked messages, intending to sign off quickly and visit with my visiting sister-in-law. Unconsciously, I clicked on the link to our group’s Facebook page. There, like a beacon in the soupy heat of the evening, were celebratory posts from one, then two and then a third writer. A post from our guru suggesting a get-together appeared. I didn’t know what to post that could add to the conversation, and I closed my computer.
The next few days I didn’t go near my computer much. We had a guest and baseball and garden to occupy us, and I like getting away from the screen. For the rest of the weekend, however I took with me the knowledge that while the year of writing un-dangerously may be ending, it’s okay because it’s really part of an era that’s just begun.
I’ve posted and reposted links to the blogs of most of our members below (one author is currently keeping her blog private). They are growing, breathing proof that some of the best work comes from an atmosphere of encouragement.
Many times in my life I have tried to be a writer. I think in my heart I was always a writer. I have always had stories in the back room of my brain, but this latest attempt to create a writing life has been the most successful, and I think it’s because I finally came out of the back room.
For years, the only people who saw my writing were my husband and my mother. Sometimes I’d show other people. I joined a writing group for a while until each of our lives put too many demands on our time. But, for most of my life fear kept my journals in a box under my bed.
Then, last summer, came the Writer’s Workshop at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, NY. Already familiar with the magic effect Hubbard Hall was having on my husband as he immersed himself in their community theatre group, I had high hopes when they announced this writing workshop. But I was also terrified.
First I was terrified I wouldn’t get in. Then I was terrified I would, only to find out I was a hack and dilettante. I was sure that everyone else would be better. They would be ‘real writers’.
And then the workshop began, and fear was summarily banished by the group’s leader as he asked us each to start a blog and a practice of sharing. And, as we began to share with each other, I began to stop worrying about who was better and, instead, began to focus on getting better than before.
For me, sharing almost anything was initially about as easy as it would be to deliver the State of the Union address naked (at my current weight – 20 years and 100 pounds ago, not such a problem). But once I got over my initial nervousness and realized everyone else was baring their souls and lives, it was fun. And it’s been something else too. It’s been inspiring.
Each of us has had the pleasure of watching our new friends grow. We’ve each had our successes and setbacks – online and off. Our blogs have evolved with our goals and our lives.
Between work and family, my days were already fairly filled before the group began, and after the group got going, I had to find more hours in the day. As I found more hours in the day, I found I was spending more time reading my friends’ blogs. I found my way into blogs they liked. I found I was reading more each day than I had in years. And as I read I wrote.
I’ve kept a blogroll on my site since its inception. Yesterday while chatting with a friend from a workshop, however, I came to the conclusion that a blogroll doesn’t really do justice to the people who’ve been inspiring me these last months. So, today, following the lead of my friend Kim Gifford and our group leader Jon Katz, I decided to add a ‘Blogs I Love’ page to mine. It’s a little way to pay it back, but I really hope that by sharing the work of these and other artists I’ve loved and come to love, I’m actually paying it forward.
Blogs I Love (so far)