Join me over at Delilah Devlin’s blog today for some thoughts about hope. Today of all days, I think we need some o’ that.
Join me at Nice Girls Writing Naughty for the Friday Edition of Water Cooler Wednesday!
Join me over at The Romance Studio between now and Halloween for a blog festival, a giveaway, and lots of great content.
Have you always wanted to write? Are you already a writer, but stalled in getting words on the page? Are you a working author who needs some exercises to keep limber? Just looking for a good time? ~leer~
Well, you’ve come to the write place. Join me at Coffee Time Romance, the award-winning forum for readers and authors. For the next two weeks, June 12th through June 25th, I’ll be your facilitator for “Having Fun with Writing Prompts.” Together, we’ll play on the page, write a lot, and just keep ourselves occupied with words. Lots, and lots, and lots of words.
Sound like fun? Great! Join me!
My “Walking in the World” feature is meant to be metaphorical, in terms of a “flora and fauna” report, as author Julia Cameron terms it, and not literally as a report about walking.
Not today, Dear Reader. Not today.
In the late 80’s, I injured my knee catastrophically while downhill skiing. I was a racer, but on that sunny Saturday, I sat down to wait for a friend to join me on the main face of the mountain. When she skied up, I stood up. My knee dislocated for the twelfth and, though I didn’t know it then, final time.
My parents, unhappy with the idea of a jock daughter, failed to have it properly looked at. I was given an immobility brace for three weeks and no x-rays, and that was it. By the time I saw a surgeon fifteen years later, the damage was done. He seemed stunned when he walked in the room with my radiographs. I had a small bone broken off and floating under the patella, a meniscal tear, and my patella itself was off by 16 degrees. I had no cartilage left on either sides of the knee: advanced osteoarthritis.
I was thirty-three.
The surgery was a success, by all accounts, and they were able to go in arthroscopically and not have to cut the knee open. (Uh, good…?) I had six months of physical therapy and thought that was it. I was done. The PT place didn’t give me any exercises to continue and I was released back to my normal workout routine.
About three years later, my husband and I decided to go on an Outward Bound Dogsledding trip for nine days in the Boundary Waters, that zone between the U.S. and Canada at the top of Minnesota and the middle of nowhere.
My doctor stared at the sheet of paper that I needed her to sign: “Medical Release Form.” All students of Outward Bound over the age of twenty-five are required to get one signed by a doctor.
“So, tell me about this knee of yours.”
In the end, she did sign the form, but under protest. She insisted the only way she would do it is if I went to Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago to see an orthopedic specialist there. If you’re not familiar with pro sports, this is one of the places in the country they send, for example, injured NFL players in an effort to prevent them being taken completely out of the sport, or car accident victims who might never walk again.
And, apparently, me.
Six months it took me. My physical therapist was a specialist too, with a PhD. She and my doctor consulted, and they consulted with my primary physician. I didn’t need further surgery, they said. I asked if I could jog, ever again.
“Maybe,” the orthopod hedged.
“Maybe depending on what, maybe?”
“If you do everything I tell you to do.” He shrugged and pulled up his pant leg, revealing a surgery scar by his knee that was bigger than my three small dots. Small, but not invisible. “I jog.” He let his pants down. “But it took me a lot of work.”
That weekend, I went to the zoo with my family. We walked all over. I wore some cute new shoes I’d gotten at a discount chain store in my neighborhood, the kind that regularly holds “BOGO” specials (“Buy One, Get One).
The poor quality of the shoe didn’t even occur to me, until the next day when my knee swelled up to the size of a Chicago softball.
When I went to RIC that week for my appointment, my physical therapist was horrified. “What did you do?”
“I went to the zoo,” I said, and burst into tears.
When I got home, I threw out every single pair of shoes that I owned, except for the pair of athletic New Balance that the specialized shoe store gave me on doctor’s orders, (the doc even gave me a special piece of paper to take with me so they’d know what kind of shoes to give me), the one pair of office-quality shoes, and a pair of loafer-like black flats – also from the same store.
Okay, I kept the two pairs of four-inch heels, one a gorgeous, unusual emerald green leather, and the other ruby like the Ruby Slippers.
I couldn’t bear to throw them out for another ten months, even though I didn’t wear them ever again.
Okay, that’s not true. I tried wearing them at work one day. One day. And I had to take them off by 11:30.
Today, I can walk. A lot. I can do three miles in an hour, and if I’m gentle, I can do all day at the zoo. I can actually jog to catch a bus, as long as it’s not more than a half-block or so. I can do squats, and just yesterday with my new physical trainer, I sat down with my weight on only one leg, while holding the other leg in the air. I didn’t think I could do it, and I had to “spot” my injured leg, but it worked, God damn it. Three sets of five.
Walking in this world isn’t just metaphor. We’re physical beings. It’s easy to forget that, when we’re on the computer and sucked into the echo chamber. But if you’re not going to the gym on a regular basis, give it a shot. Even if all you do is walk, it’s enough.
I admit it. I read all sorts of stuff. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Stuff that defies description, but after you read it and someone asks you what you read, you’re all, “Um, stuff.”
When I was about fifteen, I got very curious in the nature of the soul and the existence of God. I blame this, appropriately enough, on my parents. (Isn’t everything their fault?) More specifically, it’s my dad. See, he studied to be a priest when he was in college. Nine years of becoming a Paulist Father (they’re the order involved with the media – television, radio, that kind of thing). He dropped out two months before he was to be ordained, citing significant philosophical uncertainty in the divinity of Christ.
All well and good, except that in first grade, my parents enrolled me in Catholic school.
Sorta confusing, you say? Tell me!
So what’s all this got to do with New Age Foo Foo? Well, when I was fifteen, my dad started studying Zen Buddhism. Now, when a man with a Masters in Philosophy, a B.A. in Theology, and a classical education decides to study something, they don’t fool around. Only trouble is, my dad doesn’t speak or read Japanese. Accordingly, copies of D.T. Suzuki and Lao Tzu started showing up all over his house. I asked him, “Dad, why do you have five – no, six – copies of Suzuki on the dining room table?” “Well, I’m studying Zen Buddhism. And I don’t read Japanese.”
“Um, Dad? These are all in English…?”
“Why, Dad? Why do you have six copies of Suzuki in English, to study Zen Buddhism, because you don’t read Japanese?”
“Those are all by different translators.”
It was then that I began to understand Zen. A little.
I’m very proud of the fact that I did not once take a nerf bat to his head.
Thought about it, though.
“Okay. You have six copies of D.T. Suzuki, all by different translators, in English because you don’t read Japanese, because you’re studying Zen Buddhism. WHY?”
“Because it’s the only way I can get as close as possible to the original language. See, it’s like this. Each translator sees the language a little differently, so they translate it a little differently. By reading them and comparing them, I can get as close as possible to the original language without actually speaking Japanese.”
Ask a stupid question…
So we started discussing Zen Buddhism. At dinner. Over ice cream. While doing chores.
And you know what? That stuff is kind of interesting! I started to ask about theology in general, and we were off. We talked about Saint Thomas Aquinas, who interpreted the works of Aristotle for the Church, we talked about religious hysteria when I subscribed for a while to a magazine called The Plain Truth, we talked about God and concepts of deity…
Fast forward to college. I got interested in different religions and went to church or temple with anyone who would take me. In college, I met some Wiccans and got invited to come to a ritual with them. I was, naturally, interested. One of the books they gave me was by a woman named Anodea Judith, a Western-trained Jungian psychologist who became interested in Eastern healing modalities. She wrote a book called The Sevenfold Journey, which is a primer about the chakras for Westerners. I loved it! Set up like a workbook, it has exercises for people to try, all associated with the individual chakras. (If you don’t know what a chakra is, hold on, I’ll tell you.) It had journal exercises, of course, but what I like about it is it has physical ones too, and music, spirituality, all sorts of things. You don’t have to change your religion to go through it, either – it explains the concepts and gives you stuff to do and think about.
A chakra is an ancient Hindu concept, which roughly translates to “spinning wheel.” And no, I did NOT read six different texts by different translators to find this out; I’ll trust Anodea Judith’s definition. The idea is that we have these wheels in our body, associated with major intersections of nerves. This makes a lot of sense to me, actually, since nerves transmit electrochemical impulses. The idea that there is an ‘energy’ associated with that transmission seems plausible, since electricity is energy. There are several chakra systems, depending who you talk to. Judith teaches about seven major ones.
What does this have to do with writing?
Good question. Judith has a number of tools in her books, not just The Sevenfold Journey, that allow a person to ruminate on themselves and their place in the universe. I figure, I’ll snag one or two each issue and share my thoughts about them. If you want to try them in the privacy of your own morning pages, more power to you.
I won’t, though, translate for you.
This was originally posted on my now discontinued blog, Noonsense, 07/27/2010.
In 2014, when I participated in the A to Z Blog Challenge, they had a neat feature for the post-challenge period called the A to Z Road Trip. Visiting other blogs in the list and commenting allowed the participant to hit blogs they didn’t get to during the challenge itself. While I’m not sure if they’ll have this for the 2016 challenge, I figured what the hay, I’ll do it on my own.
My visit today is to a blog called Jingle, Jangle, Jungle: a blog about music, artists, and the stories behind them.
The theme for this year is “Women In Music.” Wow! What a neat idea. Plus, this blogger finished all their posts in February – a feat in and of itself, I might add. Even a death in the family and a serious fall didn’t deter from the challenge itself, and that’s even more impressive. Sort of takes all the excuses for not writing and throws them out the window. This is, all things considered, a good thing.
Yesterday, I got a wild hair to rummage in my craft storage bins for some yarn that I bought waaaay back when I first started to knit. I put it away, thinking I’d make a sleeveless sweater or something for the holidays.
Only, I’d bought four skeins, which isn’t enough for a sweater.
And so it’s languished in the bin for ~cof~ years ~cof~. I also got some very difficult, fussy eyelash yarn of an eye-catching red. I tried mixing it with this gorgeous stuff and it looked awful. Rather than looking like a fur border, it looked like, well, a mess.
I’m not sure what magical alchemy happened yesterday. Mercury is retrograde; maybe it’s that. No clue. But in I walked to my office, let my fingers do the walking through my binventory (I made up a word!!), and voila – new project glee.
Only one problem. What the eff do I make, if not the sweater I’d been procrastinating?
The yarn is a lovely, skooshie Plymouth 24k in a red and gold, complete with gold flecks. I could do a rectangular shawl with thin tassels, (once I learn how to spell tassels ~fail~). I could do a necklace or beads.
Hmm. That’s actually not a bad idea. I have four balls of it; I could use three for a triangle shawl and the one remaining ball for some jewelry.
I started with a garter stitch border and then started yarn over increases three stitches in on each side. When I had enough of an edge to make the point strong, I started two yarn overs in the center. I’m going to do Little Arrowhead Lace from Barbara Walker’s Volume I, and then in the center, I think I’ll do budding branch once I have enough on either side of the center spine.
Oh. As I’m writing this, there are really two centers, one on either side of the spine. Hmm. I can do buds, but have them mirror each other. Facing center, or facing out? I’ll noodle on that, but I’m thinking facing center.
I got pretty far yesterday.
And I did not allow Kolya to eat the yarn. Or chew on the needles. Or steal the project bag so he could gnaw on the plastic.
Right. I decided to be a textile artist in a house full of cats. Brilliant.
What are you making this Monday?
As many of know, I’m an author. Last July, my coauthor Rachel Wilder and I decided to go independent with our Chicagoland Shifters series. That’s when the trouble started. It was as though I was a creative car engine, and I ran out of oil. I had plenty of gas, but no lubricant and the engine locked up. Boom. Nothing.
Artistic blocks are frustrating because there’s nothing visibly wrong But it’s like we’re bleeding to death with no blood coming out. And it’s incredibly difficult to talk about, because, after all, there’s nothing tangible that’s wrong. If we say something to the wrong person, we risk further blockage, requiring us to practice vigilant self-care in selecting our friends. I remember I told someone I was having a block, and she guffawed a loud bark. “A blocked Noony isn’t the same as anyone else blocked.” Only, it is, and I was, and damn it, it’s hard to get support.
Apropos of which, if you are feeling tuck, or clotted, or a vague yearning to make or write something, honor that and get help. The Artist’s Way is a great resource, as is a good therapist. So is taking a class or meeting with a friend to make or write something, no matter how small.
But my point in writing this is to say, there’s been forward movement. In December, we did “Six Geese Laid – A Holiday Fable,” set in the world of the Chicagoland Shifters In March, I was accepted to the Romance Divas Mentor Boot Camp and get to work with bestselling author Violet Vaughn.
In working with Violet, I’ve gotten Cat’s Cradle up on Apple and Barnes and Noble. I’m working on Kobo and ARe (All Romance eBooks). CreateSpace is nearly ready; I just have to fix the footers.
I know in business, speed to market is critical to success and sometimes a key differentiator between success and failure. I feel like I did everything wrong with our indie launch, but it’s taught me some important lessons:
- Just show up. You can’t get the job done if you don’t get to work.
- “Right” is none of my business. Just do the next task.
- Blockage is real. I am not lazy, I’m blocked.
- I can get unblocked.
- Blocks are a normal part of the artist’s life.
- Asking for help is a sign of strength, especially when it doesn’t feel like it.
- It’s hard to work a full time job, have a functioning family, be a writer, and an indie author. That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air.
- I like challenges. The December gym challenge got me to the gym 25 days in a row, and the April A to Z Blog Challenge got me blogging daily on three blogs, plus two team blogs and guest posts.
- Sometimes, you need to just fucking do it. I started a Facebook group for Writer Zen Garden – I kept waiting for the right time and realized if I kept doing that, I’d wait forever.
- PTSD and anorexia suck. In case you were wondering.
The moral of this story, or the “key takeaway” in corpspeak, is that the only failure is not getting back up. In July, I got Cat’s Cradle up on Amazon. I still haven’t figured out what stopped me putting it on the other vendor sites, but something did. Self-sabotage, most likely. Rather than sit and reflect on that, I can work with Violet and other writer friends and move forward, however slowly, to get it out on the other sites. I’m still not finished, but each experience teaches me something. For example, next time, I may hire someone to do the uploads. It is probably worth the money to pay them to do it quickly and efficiently, rather than this eight month lag-time and shame-fest that I’ve been drowning in.
If you’re reading this and seeing any echoes of your own experience, know this: just start now. Start where you are, today. Make something. Write some words. And most of all, forgive yourself for yesterday. We can only control where we are now, int eh present day. So own it, own your dream, and own your progress.
We can do this.
My theme for the A to Z Challenge here at Knoontime Knitting was “Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.”
I adore letters. I have my whole life. I started young as a calligrapher, and had a business at the age of thirteen where I did menus and certificates for local small businesses. While art was not something that was encouraged when I went to college, it’s always stuck with me in the back of my mind and I got back into daily calligraphy a couple years ago. It just seemed natural to look at letterforms in a non-traditional way, and while I was outside walking one day, it hit me. Why not look for accidental letters?
A book that was a deep influence on me was Alphabet Art: Thirteen ABC’s From Around the World, by Leonard Everett Fisher. This was one of the first calligraphy books I ever owned and I used to pore over it for hours, looking for similarities and differences in the way people make the alphabets that represent their language. I suppose because of this, it’s no surprise I studied languages when I went to university, or that I speak several now as an adult. My love affair with language and letters is a long one.
When I started the challenge, it was simply “In Nature.” I didn’t start adding the “Built Environment” until I was out on one of my photography walks, prowling the neighborhood looking for ABC’s. I found an “F” in a fence that made me laugh because of the double entendre, and it hit me that because I have become, of necessity because I live in the third largest city in the U.S., an urbanscape photographer, doing letters in built structures was a natural progression of the landscape photography training I’ve had. After all, “can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” And so, I set out to find more letters.
The more I photographed, the more I saw letters around me. I’d be waiting for a bus and examine a sapling waiting for Spring. Or I’d find letters in the joints of buildings and the elbows of signs. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I may even turn my photographs into a book, which tickles me because I can include narratives and poetry as befits the particular images.
On a more mundane note, as I did the challenge I realized that I needed some kind of footnote to explain to visitors what I was doing, and where, since I had multiple challenges going. Rather than re-write it each time, I created a “backmatter” file in my word processing program where I could write the notes, customized for each blog, and then just copy and paste each time. That really helped me feel like my posts were tied together with a common thread and helped me promote the different blogs where I was participating in the challenge. I’ll definitely do that again next year, because it made things feel much more professional.
Suffice it to say, I had a ball with this challenge and with picking a theme and, while it didn’t have anything strictly speaking to do with knitting, I found the inspiration it gave me to be invaluable. I can’t wait until next year’s challenge!
For your ease of viewing, here’s the list of the posts for the Challenge.
Letterforms in Nature and the Built Environment
I: There Is No “I” In Tree (possibly my favorite title of the series)
Thank you for joining me for the A-Z Blog Challenge. If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave me a link so I can come visit you too. If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:
The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo. Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.
The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago. Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.
The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year. Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports. Join the conversation!
The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland. Check it out!
My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):
- Darla M. Sands, Awakening Dreams and Conquering Nightmares with a Pen
- Kari Trenten, The Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration
Write on, and Happy Blogging!