Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cracks in Everything

― Leonard Cohen

This is a post I have been mulling over since sometime last summer, when in the same morning, I ran across the above quote in two writers whom I absolutely admire and adore, Anne Lamott and Brené Brown. I know a sign when I see it (sometimes...), and this one was a much-needed wake-up call. In a nutshell, I realized that even with all life has taught me, I was still foolishly looking for an impossible flawlessness in my life and above all, myself.

So a couple of months later, here I am listening to "Anthem," writing this post, and thinking about how, contrary to popular belief, cracks are not flaws.

Would the Liberty Bell have a different sound without its iconic crack? Absolutely. Would it be a more beautiful sound? Perhaps. (Define "beautiful" first, though. Go on. I dare you.) But without the crack, would it be the Liberty Bell? Would it have the meaning for us that it does? 

Then there is cracked glass. I love cracked glass, the way it refracts light, blurs the lines of whatever lies on the other side, creating a different picture of the world. Sometimes there is such a thing as excessive smoothness, too much clarity. Cracked glass leaves room to dream.

Finally, what about the sky? Think of that moment just before the sun appears, that time when a bright line of golden fuchsia distinguishes the mountaintops from the heavens above.

Or those times when after days of clouds and rain, a strip of light cracks open the clouds and with them, the soul.

My task now is to remember this. Things are cracking all around me again, in my life and in the lives of people I love. This time, however, I'm not going to crack to pieces. I'm going to let myself crack open. That way, I can bathe in the light.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Yin and Yang

Opposites don't attract. They don't even coexist. Well, they do both those things. But it's way more complex than that: an opposite cannot stand alone. Its flip side is its raison d'être.

To see what I mean, watch this:

And if you know what I mean when I say that dark things are sometimes funny and sometimes just plain dark, check out Jenny Lawson's blog. She gets it.

As for me, the original plan for this blog was a new post every Friday, but my life refuses to be corralled into anything that orderly. So there will be new "real" posts about once a week, and in between, the occasional mini-post (like this). 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Not brave, maybe never will be...and I'm good with that

Last weekend I attended the Kentucky Women Writers Conference for the second time, and for the second time, I came away inspired. This year, I got to workshop with LA Times columnist and author Meghan Daum. Among her many successes, she counts "Difference Maker," published just a year ago in the New Yorker. (Yes, you read that right- little ol' me, I worked with someone who's been in the New Yorker! Insert fan-girl scream here!). I had signed up for the workshop before I read that piece, but that, well, it sealed the deal. I knew that while we might not be members of the exact same tribe, we were awfully close kin. I was excited to meet her and let me tell you, it was worth every second of anticipation.

I learned a lot of things in that workshop, among them that I need not only to write the scary part of my book, I need make it the opening. Oh, and I probably need to think of it in essays rather than narrative. Some people might find that discouraging, but apparently I am not one of those people. I'm champing at the bit, wishing desperately for real life to leave me alone so I can just sit and write.

Even more importantly, I learned that I am not brave. In fact, no one in that room is brave. Why not, you ask? The answer is simple: by telling our stories, we are doing what we are supposed to do. There is nothing inherently brave about doing our job, any more than it is brave for the dishwasher to pick up the sponge or the seamstress to sew a seam.

That's not to say we are never brave. The women changing careers midstream? Brave. The one who was a breast cancer survivor before her 25th birthday? Brave. The professional fake violinist? Brave (not to mention fascinating). The woman cast off by her parents as a teen who made it anyway? Definitely brave. But telling our stories? Well, that's more about listening to our muse and doing what she says.

I don't know about you, but I find this remarkably freeing. As my son's therapist used to say, we've already done the hard part. We know how the story ends, because here we are. We survived. Now it's up to us to tell the tale.

The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning
(my home away from home for one weekend every September... wish it were more!)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

While you're waiting...

Apologies for not posting Friday. I was at a writer's conference with the most amazing group of women, and will be posting soon all about how I learned I'm not brave and don't want to be.

In the meantime, three great blogs that each in its own way spoke to my heart:

"Poems, Prayers, and Mary Oliver"

"You are Home"


Monday, September 7, 2015

How to Write a Book Review

ATTENTION: these steps should not be taken until your deadline looms large. As a general rule, they are most effective in the final 48-72 hours.

1) Procure copy of book. The more difficult the text, the better. If the publisher offers only e-copies and you prefer paper, perfect.

2) Ensconce self on couch to read, preferably with afghan or quilt. This should produce one or more feline companions. (NOTE: if you do not yet have feline companions, head to your nearest animal shelter ASAP.)

3) If you get too hot, gently encourage kitty to move. If gentle prods fail, try cat treats.

4) While you're at it, get human treats. You may need to clean the toaster, coffeemaker, and hot air popper first.  This is best done within 48 hours of your deadline.

5) Resume position on couch. Acquire more cats.

6) Eventually, you will finish reading. Now it is time to go over your notes. Cats are useful in this step as well.

7) Compose your review. This may be typed on a computer directly, or, if you are old-fashioned like me, drafted by hand. Cats may serve –at their discretion– as affectionate, furry paperweights.

8) Type up your final draft. Ideally you will do this no more than 24 hours before your deadline. You will be at your most productive, and your cats will be at their most helpful, usually as guardians of the laptop, barriers to the screen (this prevents eye strain), or again, as paperweights. If they are feeling peckish, they may also help you diet by purloining some of your snacks.

9) Submit review. 

10) Revise as needed. Otherwise, accept editor's praise. 

You are done! You and your cats can take a well-earned nap.

Friday, September 4, 2015

just for fun!

Life has gotten away from me again, so until I can get the blog post up later this weekend,  please enjoy these two videos that are pretty much guaranteed to make you smile.

1) Simon's Cat. If you've never watched, this is the time to start!

Pizza Cat

2) Also known as "An Introvert and an Extrovert go to a Party..."  At this point, I am very much the one putting up her foot and saying "that's about enough of that..."

This Cockatoo Loves Elvis, the Other One... Not So Much