Saturday, December 20, 2008

Choosing Joy To The World

We have a hawk that appears to have adopted our yard--I think because we have a tiny patch of trees. He flies in at the most surprising times. Sometimes I will have completely forgotten about him, and he will streak across the yard with his wide wing span. He has come so close to perch that I've actually had time to study his beauty. Native Americans believe the hawk is a totem of strength. When I watch this bird swoop and glide across the sky, I think of grace. He never seems to be in a hurry, even when looking for supper.

Our house sits right on the edge of Atlanta. At night you can see the skyline from my bedroom window. I have a love-hate relationship with this area. At times I long for open spaces and quiet. But I know I would miss this place. I know I'm where I'm supposed to be. I've come to know what to expect here: the grumpy drivers, the firehouse nearby, the school, other walkers, the city workers. I have a community.

This is a time of year where we focus on community more. For example, my church has adopted a women's shelter down the road. Eight children--ages newborn through seventeen--live there at this time. We are finishing homemade Christmas cookies to complete the stockings that have been stuffed.

This is the time of year for choices. Do we take the time to make a difference or do we look at the season through Mr. Scrooge's eyes? Do we say we don't make enough money to help anyone this year? Or do we give because we are to give no matter how little we have?

The women of this shelter can be found under the bridges of Atlanta every evening without fail. Why? Because they take part of their supper to those who don't have a place to sleep. They do this without fail with an open heart, filled with Joy.

Joy is not something that falls upon us when we receive our favorite present. Joy is chosen. Joy comes because we choose to experience it. And the good news is we can choose it at any time, even in the seems to be the most trying of times. The experience is easy, much easier than fighting it.

The hawk can fly higher than any bird with the exception of the eagle. It is known that often instead of choosing to fight, he moves to an altitude the enemy can't reach. He rises above.

The fine women at the shelter have chosen to rise above, even while others feel sorry for them, even while many people walk around saying they can't 'afford' to help anyone this season. These women haven't called off Christmas because they can't afford to spend money. They have taken to a higher altitude. They are experiencing the true joy of the season.

Where will you fly?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who Do I Think I Am?

Twice during this week, from two different sources, I was told to search out some of the WPA essays. These are essays written by out of work writers for the government during the depression. So I googled WPA Essays. Wow! The amount of hits were mind-boggling. The subjects covered everything from knitting to history. But I was drawn to the slave narratives. These are scans of the original handwritten interviews of former slaves still alive in the early 30s.

These pieces of art--they are art--are archived in a digital form on the Library of Congress' website. I couldn't imagine these treasures had been around and I never knew about them. The writer in me wanted to read this work, these stories. I began with an one hundred year old former slave still alive in the 30s in south Georgia. At any time in my life I would have been entranced with this writing, but now, it holds a more poignant interest. My family became richer and more diverse with my youngest daughter's wedding a couple of summers ago. And with the birth of my new granddaughter, a new history and culture was added. I guess what I'm trying to say is all those years of pledging that I would continue my outspoken belief in civil rights and my open love of the many different voices we have in this country just became personal, more than wonderful words. And maybe it was this personalizing that led me to read these essays with new eyes.

A germ of an idea sprang up two-thirds of the way through the second essay. I could begin a body of work concerning slavery. Whoa! Who do I think I am with my white southern relatives, who always believed the south was a country of its own and who weren't always people I wanted to claim as kin? I couldn't even pretend to crawl into a skin of a different color. Or could I? Is it not expected of me as a fiction writer to be open and willing to be any character that presents itself? The thought is scary. Why was it I wanted to begin this project? I spent the afternoon pondering this question. And then it came to me. I always write about what is nearest and dearest to my heart. A body of work always begins with a need. The need in most cases involves me finding the answer to a questions. In this case there is more than one? But the biggest is: how important is our family history in our lives? How does our relatives' choices form who we are, even if we never knew them?

So, I have decided to take on the challenge of writing from a completely different point of view. Who do I think I am? I am a wife, mother, and grandmother, who wants to leave a legacy for those far ahead of me, a path to explore. Yes I will take the road less traveled on this one and prepare to open to my art and allow it to flow in the direction it chooses.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A World of Difference

This morning as I drank my coffee I saw on a morning news show that a farming couple in Colorado decided to allow the locals to gather what onions and potatoes were left after they harvested their crops. The couple thought, possibly, thousand people would show up. Forty-three thousand was the end result. As I watched this spot, I was moved. What could I do?. I mean if I lived in Colorado instead of Georgia, I would have been in line for the free veggies. Times are tough for many families this year. What is tough? I asked this question of myself? I looked around my home. I had everything I needed. NO, I don't have a flat screen TV. I don't even have dish or cable. I made a choice two years ago to follow my dream of writing full time. This required an adjusted budget. No more eating out two and three times a week. Not as many raids on the bookstore :). But, what have I gained in this endeavor?

Ah, I have a completed novel that is now sitting with my agent. I have a slower more productive lifestyle. I take the time to listen to others. I've published many short stories and personal essays. I'm no longer beating my head against a glass ceiling that will never break. Instead, my worth is measured by something much bigger than mere money. I'm living a life of art, creativity, and peace. Gees, what kind of price tag can one put on this?

What has this change done for my family? Have they been hurt from the lack of material things flowing through our door? I'm here everyday when my nine year old comes home from school. She gets my attention and help with homework. My husband comes home in the evening to conversation about writing, family, and such. In my previous life, any given night was a blur of conflict and aggravation. Just this summer my granddaughter was born nine weeks early. She now spends her days here with me as I write each morning, so her mommy can go back to being a chef.

In Christine Baldwin's book, Storycatcher, she says: "Every person is born into life as a blank page--and every person leaves life a full book." We are the writers of our lives.

The farming couple in Colorado chose to write a new chapter when they allowed others to come into their fields to gather what would otherwise have rotted. I chose to give up what the world thought of me for a more inspiring life. In these choices people are changed. No, I haven't touched forty-three thousand people, but I seek to make a difference. We leave our mark on every day with our choices. I'm glad I'm awake and aware of the designs I'm leaving behind.

What chapter of your life is waiting to be written?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Babies, Grandmas, And Writing

I forgot what it's like to have a baby in the house, the different smells and sounds. My granddaughter, the one who was a preemie, has come to live with us for a while. Yes, at the age of fifty, my husband and I seem to be starting over. Of course the difference this time is my daughter, granddaughter's mommy, has moved in too. So, not only did we gain a baby, but weacquired an extra grownup. Thank goodness we never downsized our home.

As I write, this the wonderful bundle is sound to sleep in her chair. The rhythm of her breathing is enough to put me under. Yes, I agreed to watch her during the day while mommy goes back to work. Yes, I do work out of my house. Writing is work, even though many don't view it as that. But how could I say no? How could I allow someone else, someone that doesn't even know us, take care of a child I have such a huge investment in? Now there's a question.

I listen for changes in her breathing just like I did when my others were babies. I hold my breath when she wiggles, praying she doesn't wake until I finish my thought on in a coherent sentence. Today she did not sleep from seven in the morning until one-thirty in the afternoon. She's not even three months old and only weighs ten pounds. But she'salseep right now and all is straight and proper in the world.

The art of writing with one hand while balancing a baby on your shoulder does come back to you. Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't. Her little head bobs around and once in a while she leans enough to get a good view of my face. Then, she breaks into a smile. Baby smiles stop me dead in my tracks every time. I can walk away from a novel scene or an important point I was about to write.

One of my children was raised on my lap as I wrote. She's now nine and loves to read, write, and draw. I take complete credit for that. I can give you one reason why she is a math whiz with scores that goes through the roof. She listened to many of my story drafts and slept nearby just as this little one does.

All week I've slowly taken my writing room apart so Mommy and Granddaughter will have a private space. I thought I would mourn this. I wanted this space for so long, but I found I write just as well tucked away in my bedroom that seems to sit high in the trees. I've found I am a writer and that means I fall into writing no matter where I am. So, I believe when VirginiaWoolfe wrote of a room of one's own, she spoke metaphorically about that part of our soul that must be closed away so we can create. I believe women can create anywhere. I think of my own grandmother, who never had any true space that wasn't invaded by usgrand kids. She made the most intricately designed baby dresses. What she call handwork was art.

My bundle is still asleep. I look at her and see the future. One day she'll look at me and see an old woman with white hair and a pink scalp. She remember that closeness even though she might not be able to remember exactly when the bond began. We are the essence of our own lives. Live up guys. Each moment is a hoot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008 It's Your Power

I received a call from my middle daughter this morning. She was standing in a two hour line to vote. I praised her for making the effort. She said, "You're the one that taught me, Mom. You said it didn't matter who I voted for as long as I vote. I have to vote."

I was struck silent. Yes, I was hearing what my father told me over and over as a child. He believed in our right to vote. He always said it is the only real power we have and he never, ever missed voting.

My father actually gave more than most of us so others could vote. In World War II, he fought during D-Day. In Korea, he saw combat. By the time he went to Vietnam, he was a mechanic for the fighter jet engines and did not see action. But in all cases he served his country.

Today I took my nine year old daughter and we walked a mile to the voting place. She was allowed to come in and watch me cast my ballot. When we were finished, she was given a voting sticker too. I looked at her and knew I had passed on the message that was given to me.


What have we taught our children? They are watching us.

So my message today is to vote. I'm not here to tell you who to vote for. I don't care; just exercise your right. You owe it to men and women like my father, who have put in an effort to preserve our freedom. Voting is the one power we truly have, even when we feel like we're not making a difference.

Brave the lines and vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Woman of Consequence

Here's another personal essay.

My husband asked me after the birth of our fourth daughter in 1999, how I could stand the pain? How did I endure it without screaming? I just laughed it off with some joke about women being stronger than men, but inside I knew the truth. The beatings I survived as a child were much worse. I learned the art of taking my mind and soul to another place so as to stay alive.

At the age of fifteen, Mother burst into my room one night, informing me I had a doctor's appointment the next day. She had noticed my ongoing sickness each day.

Now, I'm not going to insult the reader here. I was fully aware of my condition or suspected anyway.

The exam room was cold. The paper sheet was the only barrier between the doctor and his diagnoses. He stripped his rubber gloves off and threw them on the metal table.

"Go get the mother." His disgust was evident.

The year was 1973 and the country was not accepting of teen pregnancies. Mother entered the exam room.

"Your daughter is pregnant. I would guess she is eight or nine weeks." He stared at me over half glasses that sat on his nose. I could see he had daughters and never, ever would they act like me. "You could take her to New York City. It's the only place in the country where the procedure is legal."

"How much does it cost?" Mother looked at me as if she held the leather belt in her hand.

"A thousand dollars."

"I guess it's the only way to save our name. Give me the information."

Two adults were deciding my baby's future. Neither held one ounce of compassion. Somewhere deep inside my chest a voice stirred, screaming at me to fight.

"No." My voice was quiet.

Mother looked at me.

"I don't care if you beat me to death, Mother. You can't make me have an abortion."

A flicker of sorrow passed through the doctor's eyes. "You have until she is twelve weeks." He clicked his pen down and handed Mother the information.

"You will do what I say!" Mother stared at me.

I held her gaze without pulling away.

On September 20, 1973, after seven hours of labor, my oldest daughter was born. She was the first beautiful thing to come into my life, my first ray of hope. Full of youthful determination and dreams, I planned our lives. Mother predicted my failure with glee, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't fail many times. But each time I was knocked to my knees, I struggled back onto my feet, brushed myself off and moved forward. At the age of eighteen I escaped my mother for good after I gained my high school diploma and decent employment.

Twenty-two years and two weeks after the birth of my oldest daughter, I looked into the eyes of Morgan Leigh, my first granddaughter. She stared at me with big eyes, and my world converged. In that moment, with that little bundle in my arms, I knew all my struggles, the beatings, the heart-breaking attacks, brought her to me. I was part of a new legacy; one that taught the women in our family to be strong, to go for what they wanted. Morgan's birth allowed me to believe wholeheartedly in my efforts. At thirty-five, I found myself, held her in my arms, and gave her a pure compassionate love that she deserved.

I came back into my mother's life when I turned forty-five. She had lost her power, shriveled in a wheelchair, struggling with kidney disease. My successes were never acknowledged. But I knew she saw the woman I had become, the woman of consequence.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ayana

Here's my new baby granddaughter.


video

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Writing Workshop

Have you ever thought about writing? Do you have a story to tell, but you don’t know where to start? Or are you a closet writer? Make plans to bring a friend and attend a free writing workshop given by The Friends Of The Library and writer, Ann Hite on Thursday, October 23, 2008 7 pm to 8 pm or a little later. Some of the topics that will be covered:

1. The importance of writing bad.
2. Keeping a writing notebook.
3. Writing even when you don’t feel the inspiration.
4. READ, READ. READ
5. How many drafts?
6. Listen to others talk. (Making Dialogue Sound True)
7. Novel or short story?
8. How do I get published?
9. How do I find an agent?

And more topics will be touched on within this session.

Ann Hite’s story, The Christmas Tree Hunter, will appear in Christmas Through A Child’s Eyes in bookstores October 17, 2008. Her personal essay, Surviving Mom, was part of Marlo Thomas’ latest collection, The Right Words At The Right Time, Vol., 2, which made number 14 on the New York Times Best Sellers List (May 2006). Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications. The Dead Mule featured 18 selected Black Mountain Stories in their May 2008 Issue. Ann lives with her family in Smyrna, where she has over 1,000 books, a butterfly garden, and her laptop. To find out more, feel free to visit her websites: http://www.freewebs.com/annhite/index.htm and her blog http://womanwriter.blogspot.com/

Hope to see you there for a great night!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Purple Moon Shadows

This is another essay I wrote for my class.

Purple Moon Shadows

When Jeff, my brother, and I were young, we shared a bedroom. Our full-size bed was positioned under a double window. On some nights we would talk and laugh as the moon moved across the sky. Full moons were our favorite. We would watch the shadows and half light stretch across the backyard.

"Purple moon shadows." Jeff would call them.

But brothers grow up and become adults. The change is inevitable. In this growth barriers and differences far to vast may develop. Jeff and I went into our separate lives. As years came and went, so did we until one day we stopped seeing each other at all. Was it my straightforward way of stating my position? Was it his drug use? But through our distance I clung to a belief we were both survivors of a turbulent childhood, connected through moon shadows.

Our mother died on September 27, 2003, throwing us together once again.

"What funeral home will be coming for your mother?" The hospital nurse asked.

I dialed Jeff's cell and went into voice mail. "I chose Crestlawn Funeral Home to pick up mother."

The next morning I still had not heard from Jeff. How does a sister plan a funeral for her mother all alone? At noon I called Crestlawn.

"Your mother's body was picked up by another funeral home this morning at your brother's request."

My heart beat in my chest and my head spun. I left to go to my mother's house in hope to retrieve some clothes for her. I made up excuses for Jeff. He had been out of Mother's life for over two years. He was probably overcompensating for his guilt. I was in denial.

Mother was a self-medicating bipolar and displayed her insanity throughout my childhood and adult years. The products of her existence as a mother was one overachieving, co-dependent daughter and a son who was addicted to both drugs and alcohol. Who could blame how either of us acted?

I slid the key into the lock of mother's front door. It froze and would not turn. On further investigation, I found the side window of the house had been kicked in from the outside. Now a board had been nailed over the opening from the inside.

Jeff had stolen my right to be part of the burial of my mother. I attended the funeral. Still clinging to the idea that all would be good between us, I told myself he just misunderstood. He was in pain. I stared holes into the back of his head, willing him to turn and look. If he could just turn and look at me, then I'd know he believed in what he did. He left the chapel without ever looking my way.

Rage built inside of me. I went to my car and screamed. I screamed at God for ever letting Mother be the mother she was. I screamed just to scream. Finally I screamed that I was all alone. How could one forgive this kind of betrayal? How could one walk through this kind of pain?

Healing was a long slow process, but slowly I worked through my pain one step at a time. And then one day I was able to forgive. It didn't come overnight. But I became aware of it for the first time one night when I watched a lunar eclipse in my front yard and smiled. I enjoyed the memory of a young girl looking out a double window into the night sky.

Jeff appeared in my life two months ago, five years after my mother's death. He was eightenn months clean. I cried for what we never had. Still I searched for purple moon shadows, but the logical part of my mind understood that the shadows were only figments of two children's imaginations. Children who desperately wanted to believe in magic and fairytales. Ah, but I've always been one to follow my heart before my mind.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Junkie

The Book Junkie

I have a dark secret. Yes, I am an addict. My addiction takes money out of my grocery budget, and it sure doesn't help that a bookstore is located next where I shop for food.

"Yes, I'm Ann, and I'm a bookoholic."

You think I'm kidding, but I've been known to have several copies of one book, example: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I use this book to lure unsuspecting readers into the hardcore material.

I've been known to have both hardbacks and softbacks of the same title. And--this is even worse: I will purchase a book I own because the cover art changed; case in point, The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

Of course at Christmas and birthdays, I'm an easy present. Just give me a Barnes and Noble gift card. I just love their bargain book selection. Shame on me! That is not how a published author is supposed to act. We're support the industry by paying full price. What can I say? My need outweighs my ethics.

My addiction has worked for me. I have a writing career due to my insatiable desire to do more than just drink in words. I allow sentences, paragraphs, and pages to move through me onto paper. I still write a lot of old fashion longhand, just like I must hold books in my hand, instead of looking on a screen. My writing room's walls are lined with floor to ceiling bookcases and every shelf is full. This leaves my desk to sit in the middle of the room, a queen overseeing her subjects.

My addiction has been widely accepted and even useful. High school and college students will come to me for required reading of the classics. Friends and family now understand they will receive a book for special occasions, whether they want it or not.

I've accepted my need, embraced it. Those closest to me have learned to live with my passion. I am what I am, a book junkie.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When Someone Shows You Who They Are!

Maya Angelou says if a person shows you who they are, then be smart enough to accept it the first time. She also says when you allow a negative person into your space her energy soaks into your walls, sofa, drapes, and then you.


So, I pass on these words of wisdom. Let the negative people in your life go and move forward.

I'm off to do more writing workshop stuff!!! My week long conference is so awesome!

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Muscle Ache or A Heart Attack And What This Country Is Coming Too

That is a loaded title. Don't you thing? Let me tell you, readers. You had better have some kind of insurance in this country or friends you headed over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Because the bare facts are this, without insurance, you are a nuisance, a piece of paper, a bad debt. And the truth is the uninsured are soon to become the norm. Of course that's just this writer's opinion, but after a morning in the emergency room, I'm no longer the confident, motivated person.



Now, to be honest the whole situation began before the hospital found out my husband, who is a contractor for the company that employs him--part of the outsourcing trend--didn’t have insurance. We were greeted by a woman who hated her job. The disgust shown in the way she walked into the room.



Assistant: “Why are you here?” She said this as if a child had come to ask for a snack before dinner.



Husband: “I’ve had a dull pain that developed in my left shoulder Friday night and has grown worse over the weekend. I have a history of heart attacks at an early age in my family and I need to know this pain has nothing to do with a heart attack.



Assistant: “Do you have any history of heart attacks in your family?”



Duh?



Husband repeats the above.



Assistant looking over her glasses and down her nose at him: “Did anyone in your family have a heart attack before the age of sixty?”



Husband, who is a saint: “My brother died of a heart attack at 48, my oldest brother died of a blood clot to the brain at twenty-five, my next to oldest brother had a stroke at 52, and my sister had a heart attack at 54.”



Assistant: “Normally pain for heart attacks do not start in your shoulder blade. You would be aware of the pain of a heart attack.” Assistant takes blood pressure it is 181/104.



Now, I’m no dummy. That is HIGH.



Assistant: “It is high due to your pain.” Once again she speaks to my husband as if he is a child in a clipped disgusted tone. Then she says. “We’ll run an ekg just for you, but you’re fine.”



I hoped she was right. But she was really bothered to make sure Husband wasn’t having a heart attack. And then she gave the zinger. “You shouldn’t wait from Friday night until Monday morning to come to the hospital if you think you’re having a heart attack.”All that is true, but gosh if you were going to meet her, would you hurry?



Husband: “I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a warning. I’ve been told that discomfort in the left shoulder that moves around to the chest could be a warning. The pain began to move around to the front of the chest this morning. I came. I’m trying to be careful.”



Assistant sniffs and leads us to a room. Here we are greeted by the nurse, who loved her job, and told Husband that she would do the ekg. This was training morning and an EMT from the fire department was there. He turned out to be the most helpful. When I expressed my concerns about Husband’s blood pressure, he explained the numbers to me and told me it wasn’t unusual to have a higher reading during pain.



Thank goodness it was determined that Husband had a pulled muscle by his shoulder blade and no heart problems. The doctor then wrote out a prescription for—Yes You know what—the dreaded pain pills. Husband explained he could not take them. No way, no how. So instead he wrote out a prescription for a muscle relaxer.



As we were checking out, there were two trainees and a trainer, who obviously wanted to show them she knew her stuff.



Trainer: “Do you have the money for the bill?”



Husband: “How much is it?”



Trainer: “Well, it will be days before we know that?”



Husband: “Why did you ask then?”



Trainer: “Because we want to make sure you can pay.”



Husband: “I can’t decide that until I know my bill. How about sending it to me?”


Trainees step out of room.



Trainer: “We’ll collect if we have to.”



Husband: “I’m sure you will.”



And he left with me not far behind.



This is a scene that is being played out all over America everyday. People are putting off going to the doctor and hospital because they don’t have insurance. These are hardworking people, who pay their bills and taxes. I realize that some people work the system and always will, but the normal citizen without insurance is not about walking away from their obligations.



So, friends, who have insurance, don’t get all warm and cozy. Unless things change more and more workers will lose their benefits, along with their jobs. And those that have it won’t be able to make the deductible when the need arises. We are a nation of excess, but we don't care about the health of our citizens.



What is the answer? I’m not sure. I don’t have it. I only know that each day I get up and come to my paper and write. But I know that something has to change. Each person has to care. What can we do to change the way things are done in this country?



And that’s my two cents worth. J

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gas, Gas, Where Did The Gas Go?

I don't how it is in the rest of the country, but us guys here in Georgia don't have much gas :). I live just four miles north of Atlanta and my county had two gas stations with the pumps open. Two. Do you know how many people live four miles north of Atlanta. Just about the whole city! This is something out of the seventies or worse than the seventies. We've been walking a lot. I walk my nine year old back and forth to school. We walk to the nearest store for the quickie purchases, but alas, we had to get in line for gas. The big family reunion is taking place in North Georgia. Gas is required.

Hubby had a plan. He was on the road early before seven a.m. This is unheard of in our house for a Saturday. But he was off. Here we are like some fools sitting in line, using what precious gas we have, to obtain more gas at the tune of 4.19 a gallon. What is wrong with this picture, friends? You don't even want me to get on my soapbox about this. :)

Hubby's strategy paid off. And there was the little matter of a woman who motioned him in before her. What you want to bet she's on my 29 give challenge site and lists this as her give for the day? Within ten minutes and one giant give, my husband has gas in our car. He then went to his mother's house and picked up her truck. He went back to sit in the mile long line again. This time around it took an hour, but hey we all have gas now. So we're off to the family reunion.

But still I keep thinking of what our fate as a country would be if gas didn't exist any longer. What would we do? And should we all look at this question and begin to approach life with this thought in mind? It makes this woman take a harder look at living a green life. What is the lyrics to that song? "It's not easy being green."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ebb Tide

Today I moved into my novel with ease. I spent the biggest part of the day lost in this world I am creating. When I emerged, I exchanged IM with my brother's girlfriend. We talked at length concerning chaos that has entered their life. I left the conversation with a promise that I would take the time to put all my thoughts in writing for my brother. Reuniting after years of separation has proven to be a tenuous affair for me. Sometimes I'm not as strong as I thought. Sometimes I'm stronger. It comes in shifts. I'm reminded of an ebb tide.

The first time I experienced an ebb tide was on a small island on the coast of Georgia. Each night I would walk the miles of beach alone as the wind brought the only music needed. On the last night, I went out to walk and found a complete and profound stillness. The ocean seemed to have disappeared. The air was thick and heavy, making it hard to breath. The birds were gone and the moon rode high in the sky. I made it my mission to walk out to meet the silent water. I walked straight to where the surf should have been and kept going. I didn't look back. Soon my toes touched the motionless water. I looked around and saw that if the tide came in suddenly, I would be underwater and far from land. But there I stood with my arms open, looking at the stars in the sky.

Moving back into my brother's life gives me the sensation of standing where I might drown at any minute. Do I run back to safety or do I open my arms and search for the stars?

My give to myself and him is to risk the ebb tide and remain in place. I won't dwell on what is behind me, the safety of what is known.

My hawk appeared again today. As most of you know, I live on the fringes of Atlanta. At night I can see the skyline just up the road. A hawk here is unusual. Today he landed in the tree outside my writing window. He is huge and beautiful. For me he represents strength. I went to get my camera to capture his image for a future blog post, but he was gone when I returned. Sometimes we can only live in this very moment and that's all we have. I did hear his call an hour or so later, reminding me he would be back.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Retrospection

Retrospection:
Pronunciation:
\ˌre-trə-ˈspek-shən\
Function:
noun
Date:
1674
: the act or process or an instance of surveying the past

Last night I had what I consider bad news. Maybe at some point I can see it as something more. My oldest niece signed away her right as a mother to her little girl. My younger niece's adoption went through. She is fifteen. I only recently learned of their whereabouts and their circumstances. The older niece (21 in Oct) is unreachable. She is addicted to drugs and I don't know where she is and she wants nothing to do with family. The fifteen year old niece doesn't know her father sought me out. She doesn't speak with her father anymore. So here I am in this situation where I don't seem to make a difference. A voice in my head says it's too early to make that judgment.

But what does one do when she is whisked back into a lost family? Once again the voice says, "Do what you do best. Write." How can writing help? I'm not sure. But what comes to mind are all the beautiful young women in my family, six total. Can I give them a path to follow, a suggested route, or is that too much to ask? Would my story in some way help, give them some map? These are questions that can only be answered by action. Write.

So, I look back into the past. I will survey the way one survey's land for a map. I will measure the distance from one year to the next. I will unearth the truth. My truth.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Revisiting The Past through the Now

For those of you who do not know, my brother's girl friend found me two weeks ago. I had not seen my brother since my mother's funeral five years ago. I had not spoken to him since Ella was born. So, that gives you the picture of our present relationship. None. Yesterday morning began with details on what happened to my brother's daughters, my nieces. I've had to take the story in small pieces. My nieces have been in my mind for many years. Children are always the fallout of the messes adults make along the way. I wrote letters to the last known address. I knocked on doors with no answers. The whole family disappeared. The truth is I didn't want to find my brother or his wife at the time. So, I had to settle with sending the girls thoughts, love, and prayers that prove well under what they needed.

The news I received yesterday was heart wrenching. My oldest niece has followed in my brother and his ex wife's footsteps, drug abuse at twenty-one and the lost of a child to DEFAC. The youngest was taken into foster care over two years ago. She is doing well and chooses to remain in foster care rather than go to my brother, who is clean now. But clean is such a subjective word. The Webester Dictionary's definition is as follows: 1. Free from dirt, impurities, or contamination. 2. Free from wrong-doing: honorable. Can any of us claim this? So clean is something that happens after we become dirty and there's always the chance we will become dirty again.

I can understand my niece's need to remain in the place where she found peace and love. You see it is that young abused girl, who still resides in me that relates to her decision, who cheers her on, reminding her to outgrow the legacy left to her by her family. But in doing this I walk away from protecting my baby brother, who is now 44. Has the time come to release my role in this family? Is is way past time?

Here I would like to give you a poem by Nastasha Trethewey called Momument. She wrote this poem after visiting her mother's grave that did not have a headstone. Her mother was murdered by her second husband when Ms. Trethewey was 19.

Monument

Natasha Trethewey

Today the ants are busy
beside my front steps, weaving
in and out of the hill they’re building.
I watch them emerge and—

like everything I’ve forgotten—disappear
into the subterranean, a world
made by displacement. In the cemetery
last June, I circled, lost—

weeds and grass grown up all around—
the landscape blurred and waving.
At my mother’s grave, ants streamed in
and out like arteries, a tiny hill rising

above her untended plot. Bit by bit,
red dirt piled up, spread
like a rash on the grass; I watched a long time
the ants’ determined work,

how they brought up soil
of which she will be part,
and placed it before me. Believe me when I say
I’ve tried not to begrudge them

their industry, this reminder of what
I haven’t done. Even now,
the mound is a blister on my heart,
a red and humming swarm.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Green

My mother was many, many things that I will not go into within a blog. But I had a revelation with this news. She was the handhold to these two girls. Never in our lives together was she able to be this for me, but she gave my nieces a small tiny life of security, not perfect by far, security all the same. When she left this world, they were abandoned.

We are so many different people. My mother was because of her mental instability. Her faces changed on a daily basis, but yet, she did touch these girls' lives.

It is my plan to reach out to my youngest niece through her caseworker only when they determine she is ready. I would never do anything to jeopardize her well being. I do want her to know she has an aunt who loves her and now knows where she is. This news was tough on many levels. It brought to light, once again, what my family was like when I was a child. Many times I've been told: You are so strong. How did you come out so together, so successful? I would never guess. That's my favorite.

It's times like these I'm reminded I didn't come out of it ok. I'm marked, a reflection in a younger girl's life.

Where I am right now is due to my spiritual background and my refusal to stay down. Also, my gift of writing brought me through with my sanity and that is why it is so much more than a mere career and publishing credits. I became a storyteller and I surround myself with creative people when I have a choice. The only way we take a journey like I've taken over the years is by giving and receiving. They go hand in hand. Period.

Yesterday after my news I met with a new friend at the coffee shop one block from me. This is a independently owned shop called REV. I go there to write when I just need to see something different. My suggestion of meeting at REV was my way of giving a glimpse of me to this person. We had a wonderful talk and goooood coffee. I was given handmade necklaces. One for myself and the other with a prayer box for my new mommy daughter. The conversation was healing for me. When I returned home it was with high spirits and determination to continue my journey and not go back into the past any more than is needed. But we never leave the past completely behind. We can't. I've come to accept this and in this I find peace.

And this my friends is what living is all about. There is no physical matter to the gift's existence. The spirit is what brings the action alive.

I passed the prayer box necklace on to new mommy daughter. I told her where it came from and all about my day. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "I can put all my prayers in here and wear them."

We must push our journey forward. Push, friends, push.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Stuff

A little over a month ago I began participating in a new challenge. The challenge is called 29 Day Give Challenge. I did it just to see what the buzz was about. Cami, the founder, began this site after someone challenged her to give when she was at her lowest with MS. Not long into her giving she began to see a remarkable occurrence. Not only did she feel better, but wonderful things began to come her way. You see when you give it comes back to you. I know we've been taught this, but so many of us think of a give as money. Money is good, but there are so many other gives out there.

I am rotating through my second round of 29 days. I've given a lot of myself. Most of the time the recipient doesn't even understand. They enjoy. And this is the point. I have given anything from my time to my writing. This challenge makes me keenly aware of what I do each day. How do I approach life and what is important to me.

These are the things I've found on the site. Strong women from all walks of life are everywhere. Many live right here in the Atlanta area. We've planned a meet up for later in the month. The topic of the meeting will be giving. How can we as a group give?

Each day I log on to the site and write a blog post about my giving for the day before. We tell our stories. And, these stories are amazing. The site is full of artists of all mediums. This doesn't surprise me. What have I gained from this effort? I've learned more than ever that I need to simplify my life, take it down to just what I need, not want. I've learned that you can travel, shop, eat out, buy new cars, and toys of all kinds, but that will not quench the need to change your life and move into something much more important.

Since I began to think more about my gives, I feel lighter, more compassionate than I ever have. I forgive easier and open myself to others more. I fully believe this is the reason my brother picked this moment to come back into my life. I'm ready now. I can give. I don't watch others and wish I had what they had or could go where they go. I'm content to look at myself in the mirror. My writing has expanded, and I've even allowed myself to be imperfect. That's a big one. Even when I do get angry--and it has happened--I get over faster.

I strongly urge you to take a look at the site. If you're looking for something that to add more substance in your life, this is the place.

http://www.29gifts.org/

You won't regret visiting the site.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Story Download

A free download of my selected stories can be found at: http://www.deadmule.com/fiction Enjoy. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Whole Dirty Deal. Worms and All

I am currently reading, When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris. I needed something butt-kicking humor after the past few days that I will attempt to touch on here. The first essay is about worms crawling out of a woman's wound and how this is the topic of conversation one Christmas Eve. Now most might not find the combination of worms and wounds funny, but me and my warped sense of humor finds this topic totally acceptable. This coming from a woman who gave her husband a pain pill instead of his antibiotic yesterday morning. Now, it just so happens, said husband noticed he was awful lightheaded as he drove to work. He then noticed he was going to puke his guts out because he doesn't handle pain pills all so well. And me, the said murderess, is having a fit at home on the phone with him because he tried to make his work deliveries.


Husband: I think I might have to call someone to come get me.

At this point has driven over forty miles from the earth he lives on.


Murderess: I can't believe you went ahead and drove.

Of course this is the guilt speaking.


Husband: I can't take this. I feel so bad.


Murderess: I told you to get some coffee and some food.


Husband: I got to go. I'm going to be sick.


But don't worry. Your favorite all time Writer Woman is not behind bars. No, she's at home reading her book. Said husband made it home, where he slept in the back of the work van for three hours in a rainstorm because he could not walk into the house. Around 8:00 pm he came into the house and passed out on the bed. All this from one pain pill he took twelve hours earlier. This morning said husband woke rested and bright-eyed.


Ah yes worms are a wonderful thing. I'll take worms and wounds any day over my sometimes crazy upside down life.


Signing Off

Murderess


Friday, August 15, 2008

Week One Of Walking and More Writing Stuff

I've decided wouldn't it be fun to journal about my commitment to walking my daughter home from school. I wrote a little about this at the end of the school year. Now we 've begun a new year and with the gas prices like they are, my commitment is stronger than ever.

This week is what I call warming up. If you read between the lines, you see that for one reason or another I have not walked regularly all summer. So warming up is a nice way of saying this walking stuff is for the birds, except birds rarely walk. They get to use their wonderful wings. I wish I had wings. If I did then I could both address the fuel prices and save my arches. Enough whining.

Since May the city has placed a sign at each crosswalk telling drivers that its the law to give foot traffic the right away. Yeah city! No doubt foot traffic has increased. I've seen this with my own two eyes. Many more people are using the buses and the sidewalks are busier. The temps this year are beautiful. This time last year I had to contend with 100 degree weather. This week I've seen 85 as the hottest temp.

Rain: Ah, I always struggle with rain. We dodged the downpours this week. They occurred overnight and cleared out by the next day. Since we've had a drought, I don't pray for it not to rain. I'll deal with it.

While walking this week, I've listened to two podcasts. One was an interview with Wayne Dyer. I found it very useful. I also discovered a solution for my novel. Walking does that for me. Yes, I look funny standing in front of the school, scribbling on a note card, but so is the life of a writer.

Yesterday I began an hour long podcast interview with Andre Dubus III author of House of Sand And Fog and his newest novel, In The Garden or something like that. I was mostly interested in what he had to say about plotting a book. He said don't. I love this man. He said allow your characters to show you where they are going and what they are doing.

So often I am asked how I plotted that story. And I just shrug my shoulders and tell the person asking he or she would have to speak to the characters. You wouldn't believe the looks I get from that comment.

Andre Dubus says to plot is to tell your imagination you don't trust it.

Thank You!

So my week of walking has been intellectiually stimulatling, even if my body has cried.

Walk more. You might be surprised where it will take you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

First Day Of School And Writing Routine

Today I saw my daughter off to school. Wow, time flies by. It's so quiet here. In front of me is this large amount of time. Did I say it was quiet here? I miss my daughter calling to me just as soon as I get into the best part of what I'm writing. I never thought I'd miss that.

So this is the first day for both of us. I'm back to writing four to five hours a day. Today I managed three before I broke for a blog break. I'm nearing the end of my novel polishing. In front of me stretches a new project. Many writers hate the first draft part, but I love finding the new voices and following their lead. I love the thought of this so much, I find it hard to focus on finishing this project.

Over the summer I've spent time writing in my notebook. Many sketches for the new project appeared here, but much of it is still too foggy to talk about it. I might talk it away :).

Sometimes it's tough being a writer. Bet you never thought I'd say that! Many people don't get that it is work. They see me as having it made, and in many ways I do. I work on my own time. I don't have a boss breathing down my neck. I knock off when school is over. I have school holidays off. But it is a little harder than it sounds.

First: I set a goal of at least one chapter a day. This runs roughly three to four thousand words. I don't have to show it to anyone, so I can fudge if I want. Sounds good! But to be a professional working at home, I have to produce. So, I'm the boss of me, and let me tell you I'm my own worse nightmare. No writing in pajamas. No being sick. No checking email while writing. No going on the internet. No breaking for coffee and a stretch. Gees, I had it made when I worked in an office.

Second: I have a certain amount of editing I do each day. This requires me to sit someplace and really focus. I can't answer the phone. I can't watch TV. I can't do the dishes from that morning. Edit only.

Third: I only get a half of an hour for lunch. When I worked in an office, I got an hour. Gees.

Fourth: I have to fight off the questions: When are you publishing that book? How much money do you make? Really, how many people do you know asked that question of a corporate professional? Can't you skip writing today so you can do what I need? Now most people don't ask in this way, but they ask this question in many of their own ways. Why does it take so long?

Fifth: Working on the filler stuff. What is filler stuff? It is book reviews, short stories, and book introductions. This is the work that keeps my name out in the publishing world, and yes, brings in some money, so I can answer that income question.

So as you can see, I have to be my own boss, multitask, focus, and develop tough skin. Many of you are saying why do it? Get a job where you're noticed and you can make more money? Are you kidding? This is the best job in all the world and I would not change a thing. I know this each school day when I see my daughter come out of the school looking for me. God, just keep me writing.

Off to edit.
Ann

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dancing In The Streets


When is the last time you danced in the streets? Well, I did this past Saturday night, after a huge thunderstorm, when Smyrna celebrated their 136th birthday. I danced with my youngest daughter and hubby to really bad Jimmy Buffet music. Once a Parrot Head, always a Parrot Head. We danced while people lined up for free birthday cake and ice creame. We danced until the fireworks began just over our heads. Wow, what a show!



It felt so good to let go and just dance. Try it. You may just enjoy your new freedom.

This night has helped a lot while wading through the chaos that comes at us from all sides. Give yourself a night. It's well worth the effort, my friends. Daughter begins school next Monday, so this is our last week of summer together. Both of us are ready for a change, but yet, we'll miss the summer routine. This week we are doing all those things that we missed. Today we watched Titanic. Daughter is a romantic, and I just need a good reason to be one. Tomorrow we will make shower plans with middle daughter for pregnant daughter. I don't know what we will do on Wednesday. Whatever hits us.

My collected stories published at The Dead Mule will be available in a pdf file soon. I'll give you a heads up.




Ann

Monday, July 28, 2008

What's Your Legacy?

"...The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the OTHER people." --Randy Pausch The Last Lecture

I found out on Friday afternoon, while staying at my daughter's house, that Randy Pausch had died. This is a man that changed my life by changing my way of thinking. I urge all of you to take the time to read The Last Lecture. Even if you're not a reader, even if you think you're too busy, take the time. You can also watch the actual lecture on the web. Google Randy Pausch. A special will air Tuesday night at 10 on ABC. It will be well worth your time to watch.

This man left a legacy that reached out to millions of all ages. He didn't leave his mark by making tons of money or climbing some corporate ladder. No, he touched people through his effort to sew a net for his children to fall in after he left the world. What kind of legacy will we leave? What's important in our lives? What will people remember about us when we're gone? All of these questions are very important to me.

Just some food for thought.
Ann

Monday, July 14, 2008

Slow Down

I'm not sure how many times this message must present itself to me. One thing is for sure, the words slow down will continue to work their way to the surface until I heed the meaning. I've battled an ever-changing rash for the past two weeks. It began while I was on my trip and raged for a week afterwards. At first I decided to ignore its existence. Ha. It showed me a thing of two. Last week was much better, but it is far from being gone. I know exactly what has caused the nasty creature to show itself. My lack of concern for myself. On the days I slow down and relax, few and far between, the rash seems to heal and disappear. But just let me commit myself to something I shouldn't, that I really don't want to do, but say yes to anyway, and boom it is back in full bloom. If a stressful situation should show itself, there it is among the chaos, striking me with all its force. 

For some reason, I feel this need to prove that I am a writer. Never mind that I've published well over fifty pieces since the first of the year. It's not enough. Always I say yes to projects that take me away from my focus, novel, novel, novel. It's as if I'm sabotaging myself. So, once again I know I must clear my desk and life of intrusions and trust that my work will speak for itself. I have three book reviews due in the next months. After this, if I don't take on anything else, I will be free to focus on nothing but polishing the novel and then presenting it to those who can help me shop it. I so hate that word, shop. 

I will focus on taking on only what lends me peace not obligation. We shall see. Next week Little Daughter and I will go stay with Oldest Daughter for a week. This will be down time for me. Even though I will take my laptop--I take my laptop everywhere--I will not write except in my notebook and journal. This will be a good time to fill up the well and enjoy my daughters and grandchildren. So, I will take next week off from blogging. I will struggle to slow down. 

I think slowing down is a lesson on many readers' plates. I wish you luck. I let you know how my attempt goes. 

Ann 

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fireworks, Eighty-three, and Pool Fun




Hubby, Little Daughter, and I began our Fourth with a cookout. My mother in-law and two brother in-laws came to our house. Mother in-law is eighty-three and beginning to show the wear and tear that age takes on one's life. As we ate our hamburgers and hot dogs out on our deck, I couldn't help but wonder what this strong lady has seen in her lifetime. Sure I've heard the funny and even some sad stories told over and over. But what about the ones never told? One can just look into the face of Miss Ruth and see a map of the most intricate kind. What would her family know if they heard all the tales? 

I guess it's the writer in me that seeks out the untold stories. Just the thought allows my imagination to run wild. But the fact is Miss Ruth has seen many Fourth of July holidays. What about The Fourths when her husband was fighting in Germany? She's seen a world that has changed radically and continues to change. And now she observes it all from her wheelchair and more often these days with foggy thoughts anchored in the past. But still she has much to give to anyone who will take the time to work around the many obstacles. 

As the day came to a close, we loaded Miss Ruth and her boys up to go to a fireworks display. The picture above shows her waiting like all of us for the great event. Right at dark the first firework was shot into the sky. Daughter and I sat on a blanket in front of Miss Ruth. I heard girlish giggles from behind me and turned to find Miss Ruth beside herself in pleasure. How simple was that pleasure? So simple that many would not take the time to embrace it. Red, Gold, Silver exploding in the night and Miss Ruth giggled on. The giggles were contagious and soon both Daughter and me were laughing too. 

The night lit up and I thought of my father, gone now for twenty years. He had a soldier's pride in The Fourth. He served in three wars beginning with World War II. He knew the meaning of freedom up close and firsthand. 

As the grand finale came to a close and all the people scrabbled to get to their cars and pull away first, Miss Ruth, sitting in her wheelchair, looked at Daughter and said, "You want a ride." My heart cracked open when Daughter said, "No Maw Maw. I'll push you." We made slow progress but progress all the same. I began to see the true meaning of patience as we snaked through the traffic. How often do we label an event to turn out a certain way and grow deeply disappointed when it doesn't pan out to be what we see as a success? When we made it back to the car, all the traffic had cleared out. We were free to go home at any pace we desired. 

Yesterday I wore the shoes of Miss Ruth. I went to spend the afternoon with Oldest Daughter, Her Hubby, and Grandchildren. Granddaughter is pictured above in their pool. I will save you from the sight of me in the pool. Grandson put on his own display of jumping and splashing to my complete pleasure. At one point Granddaughter said, "Granny go underwater." Of course I didn't want to do this. I had my makeup on and it would run all down my face and into my eyes. I heard the request again. Why was it so important for me to go underwater? I don't know but somehow I saw it was much like Little Daughter pushing Miss Ruth. It was an offer, a closeness. Just when Granddaughter was quite sure I would never go under, I plunged into the water. 

I heard voice on top, muffled. "She did it!" The magic of a grandchild's approval. 

We came together around the table, eating fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and of course hamburgers. I came home with a bagful of fresh green beans and tomatoes. The taste of summer. The taste of love and hard work. We can learn so much from the old and the young. And we know that old is after all only someone's opinion. 

Ann

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Meeting With The Muse







Let me start by saying no trip ever turns out the way we imagine. That's because we put so much pressure on this get away time to be perfect. Always there are challenges. But if we open ourselves to the changes, we might find some inspiration at the very least. My challenge came in the form of no power, as in light bulbs and air conditioning, in our cabin when we returned the first night at 9. Our day was wonderful. We went to Clingsman Dome, where I watched a thunderstorm move in. It was awesome. Hubby caught the different phases of the storm's movement in photos. His work is so wonderful. We pretty much spent the day on top of the mountains. 

While I was there, the muse whispered many times, teasing me with ideas just out of reach. When we returned to the cabin and found no power, I was angry and ready to scream at someone. Then, the place where we were staying upgraded our cabin. Not so bad. It had a good size table that I was able to drag onto the large porch. I worked next to the river as the muse revealed to me new work. I accomplish quite a bit. Each morning there after I woke, wrote in the early morning light, meditated--I haven't taken the time to do this in months--and listened to music. The days were filled with enlightenment. I now know that my next novel will take place in the Smokemont area. This area was once a booming logging town called Bradley Town. Yes, this is where I saw the ghost. I know that a preacher will be involved. 

I also found the house that Emily, one of the protagonists in my current project, lived in, complete with the shed that she converts into a studio for her art. I took several pictures so I can look at the details as I go back to the polishing. Now I can bring this part of the setting alive. I've included a photo above. This turned out to be quite a creative trip in spite of the challenges and there were plenty. 

Ann  

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bear Hunt






On our trip we went on a bear hunt. Twenty-five bears were given to local artists in Cherokee to do with what they wanted. Fifteen can be found by driving around town. Here are four of my favorites. You must see them in real life to get the full beauty. 

I will write more later about encountering the muse and where she took me.  For now there's a glimpse of the cabin we stayed in during the trip at the top of the page.

Ann 


Monday, June 23, 2008

Not One Minute Too Soon

Did you ever get the feeling that the walls are closing in on you? I've spent the past few days with the tedious part of writing. I've been going cross-eyed looking over proofs of my introduction and story that will appear in Literary House Review. I have to go over these several times, searching out typos or formatting problems. When I'm proofing another writer's work, this is not such a tough job, but on my own work, that is another story. Those nasty little mistakes such as new when I meant knew hide out in plan view. The whole time my artist child is screaming to write, really write. 

Part of this weekend I spent revising a book review that will appear in Internet Book Review Magazine. Dear American Airlines is the name of the book. I'm not at liberty to talk about it, but people you must read the review when it's published. Making editor changes, once again, makes my artist child throw a tantrum. She is very angry at this point. So, angry she is insisting on listening to Sheryl Crow's Best of Music on my I-Pod. Rebellious to the core.

And this brings me to the best part of this post, the part artist child is itching to tell you. We leave for a four day trip to the Smoky Mountains this week. This trip hasn't come a minute too soon. I can already feel the cool, crisp morning air. The rows of mountains, resembling ocean waves, gives artist child a peace she can't find anywhere else. The important tools are ready to be packed away in the car. A writer never leaves home without her laptop and writing notebook. And, of course there is the I-Pod. Artist child needs her music to create. 

We will stay in a little cabin not far from Raven Fork River and only three miles from the entrance to the park. Artist child is the boss on these trips. She insists that all writing projects are left at home. No work allowed. What she takes is imagination and of course the muse is somewhere hiding, waiting for just the right moment to reveal herself. There seems to be a trend among artists, especially writers, not to believe in muses. I'm of the old school. My muse is both my best friend and enemy. She flirts with me and then disappears, leaving me to do the hardest part of my creative work. But always she knows best. And always she channels some delicious character or scene my way.

I know not to wait on her because she'll never show. Instead, I begin to string words together into sentences, paragraphs, and pages. But she never fails to appear. She especially loves when I give artist child a trip. Her visits are then full of insight and inspiration. They are such good friends after all. When artist child and muse play together, I'm reminded of why I turn down that lunch date with friends, or unplug my phone so I don't get caught up in conversations. I'm brought back to pen and paper. To images and silly poems. To Sheryl Crow and funny jokes. 

Sometimes we can get so lost in the career part we lose sight of the art. My trips to the mountains refill the well. Have you ever slept in a tent beside a rushing creek? Or dozed on a warm boulder, absorbing its wisdom? The Cherokee believe rocks hold wisdom and teach us. Have you watched the mist settle in the mountain valley for so long, sprites and fairies begin to appear in the dusky light? This is the magic of taking artist child along. She makes up for all her whiny ways. 

We're packed and ready to hike to that one waterfall that allows us to walk behind the wall of water without getting wet. While there, we'll stand still on the edge of a world we only visit. We'll explore the old cabins and cemeteries. Scenes, characters, images will paint on our canvases their own unique stories. Imagination will be the rule of the day. 

Ann

Monday, June 16, 2008

Workshop, Father's Day, and The Muse Speaks


Last week I faced one of my biggest fears in the face. I taught a writing workshop to thirty rising 3rd graders to teens. It's one thing to teach adults what you know about writing. It is quite another to approach a large group of children that possibly 'had' to be there. It didn't take me long to fall in love. The group was so creative. We made friends as they revealed their wonderful imaginations. It was a magical night as we built a story together. We concentrated on character, setting, and plot. We hung out long past our allotted time. I will teach a writing workshop to the adults in the fall.

On Sunday we did what most fathers in our area wanted to do for Father's Day. We played hooky from church and took to the road. Here's my hubby and daughter, spending quality time together at the lake. Please notice the bunny ears that have appeared close to Hubby's head. Mom is on shore taking time to finish her latest book review. 

Everyone must buy Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek when it comes out on August 26th. It is one the most profound books I've read. Watch for my book review. 

Next week we leave for a trip to the Smoky Mountains. I'm already planning on what to take: my hiking boots, i-pod, and laptop. Who needs clean clothes and food? :). When I a new project is stirring, several things happen. The first is the giving birth dream. I always dream I'm giving birth. I can feel the child kicking in my womb. It is weird. Then not so long after the dream I get an antsy feeling. You know like something is about to happen but hasn't yet. Sometimes it takes a few weeks but I'll be somewhere doing something and I see a picture, a friend is talking, or a sentence will shoot through my head. I never know what will trigger the yearning, but when it hits, I know a big project is brewing. Yes, I've had the dream, the antsy feeling, and last week I picked up a book on churches in the Smoky Mountain Park. Bam! The yearning feeling nearly knocked me to my knees. I pulled the book off the shelf. One picture from 1915 keeps calling to me. It is a picture of an old bridge crossing a river. The bridge is full of people and the banks of the river are dotted with several people. The women are wearing long dresses and the men suits and Sunday dress hats. In the river stands who I presume is a preacher and a man about to be baptized. 

More than once this weekend I've been moved to look at this photo. I've learned when all this happens, I just wait, bide my time, and soon the character begins to speak. The exciting thing is I will have the opportunity to visit this very bridge next week. I can stand on it as long as I'd like. I can also walked the quarter of a mile into the woods and visit the church nearby. Maybe if I'm lucky the character will choose then to speak to me. 

Stranger things have happened. 

Ann

Friday, June 13, 2008

Would You Know A Ghost If You Saw One?

We leave for the Smoky Mountains in less than two weeks. I always look forward to making the trip. The rewards are wonderful. But today I'm thinking about the first visit I ever made. 

Hubby has been going to the mountains ever year since he was born. For the longest time they went to the same place, a campground just inside of the park, called Smokemont. My first tagging along on this trip took place when I knew Hubby almost a year, 1992. He was so excited to take me camping. Now you guys got to realize my idea of nature back then was walking around the block of my urban neighborhood, but I went. And it rained. It always rains at this campground when it's not raining three miles down the road. 

On the fourth night of our seven night stay, the stars were out and the temps were cold. Hubby and I stayed up past all the family, eight more members, had gone to bed. Remember we were still young and romantic. We just needed time to stare into each other's eyes and be in love. He He. That night we just sat in front of the fire until it turned two in the morning. No one in the campground was stirring. I was so tired from all the hiking I couldn't move from my chair. Hubby was awake watching the fire. 

I looked up and saw a figure moving toward us from the little road. Now, this is a National Park with no electricity except in the bathroom. A bathroom stood several campsites over from us, but its outside light could be seen. It did not light our campsite. The figure came closer. I looked at Hubby, who looked back at me. On its path, the figure would walk right through the middle of the campsite instead of down the path that took you to the bathroom. I remember thinking of all the nerve. The figure did not carry a flashlight or lantern. As it came into the campsite I saw it was a woman. Her hair was piled on her head in a ball with lots of little wisps curling around her face and down her neck. She had no shoes. I noticed this first because the direction she had come took her over gravel and through some tangled brush. She looked to be in her early thirties of spanish decent. She wore an old fashion slip that hung to the ground. Not what one would wear to sleep in while camping. The slip was edged with what looked to be handmade lace. I know my antique clothes and this looked like a slip from the mid to late eighteen hundreds. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. 

She walked in the middle of our campsite, right past the big fire, stood, looked at me, but more like through me. Around her neck was a tiny cold chain. The expression on her face made me think she had to be sleepwalking because she wasn't there with me and Hubby. She turned away and continuing walked toward the bathroom. 

This particular bathroom had a door that screeched so loud when it was open it woke me in the night. 

I looked at Hubby. "She was weird."

"What was her deal? She gave me the creeps." 

I kept waiting for her to open the bathroom door, but never did I hear the sound or see her walking away. 

A few minutes later I looked at Hubby. "She never went to the bathroom. The door didn't squeak." 

He shrugged. 

"Let's go in the tent." And we did. 

The next morning I still couldn't get the woman off my mind. I decided to walk in the same direction as she had come. If she were real, she had to cross a rushing river and walk through heavy woods, not to mention the afore mentioned gravel and tangle of brush. 

Who was this woman? I did some research when I got home and found that two cemeteries were on the Smokemont property. A logging camp had settled there in the late 1800s before the land became part of the park.

I told my future mother in-law at the time and she only smiled and said, "Child you've seen what my granny would have called a haint." 

I've been back to Smokemont countless times. The woman has never showed up again. I have not camped in the campsite either. I refuse to test fate, and mostly I go to bed around ten. 

But the woman is always remembered. The kids and adults alike ask to hear the story each time we stay, always in front of the campfire. 

Would you know a ghost if she came walking up to you? 

Ann

Monday, June 9, 2008

Too Hot For Wilbur

This weekend it was so hot in Georgia, even the pigs came to the beach! We spent the day at the lake Saturday. The water felt like a warm bath, but it was better than sitting in the house. You have to be careful in this kind of heat. The lake can fool you into thinking you're cool when your body is getting too much sun. I know because I spent most of my time in the lake and didn't drink as much as I normally would. I could feel the effects by the time I left.  We did get a strong storm on Friday that dumped lots of rain on us, but the temps still remained high. They are calling for a break in the temps this week. Chance of rain is in the forecast too. We leave for the mountains next week. Yeah!

This week I teach my writing workshop. I always get nervous when I stand up in front of people. I also am on a book reviewing roll. I have four great upcoming novels to review. 
  1. Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  2. Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek
  3. A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist
  4. The Plague of Dove by Louise Erdrich 
It so happens two of these authors are my favorite authors and I own all their books. Along with pay, I receive a hard cover book instead of the customary advanced copy in paperback. What fun! 

I also have a new Black Mountain story coming out in Literary House Review. This is a annual print journal that is a beautiful anthology of stories and poetry. I will also write the introduction for the book. 

Novel work is coming along. I am submitting chapters to my writing group. They are wonderful help. All writers should have a group where they can go to get trusted feedback on their work. No matter how good the writer, they always need another set of eyes. 

So, there you go. This post has mostly been about me, but I'd like to mention the sand art is once again Hubby! 

Ann

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Artist In The Making

As I said in early posts, we're getting slammed here with the humidity and temps, but mostly the humidity. It feels like August in early June, but that is the weather in Georgia. Yesterday one of my dear friends called. We hadn't talked in weeks, so I settled Daughter with her supper in front of the TV--I know I'm bad--and started playing catch up. We talked about I-Pods, writing, family, the amount of water that is needed to make it through the day. It was glorious. Then, I remembered Hubby's supper in the oven that by the way did get just a teeny bit overcooked. I entered the kitchen and there sat Daughter, who is eight, scrubbing at her legs with wet paper towels. The empty paper towel tube sat next to her on the white floor. 

The scrubbing was only spreading a white substance up her legs. It also covered her arms and hands. She took one look at me on the phone and said, "Don't tell 'Friend's Name' about this."

Now normally this would give me a melt down, especially when I saw the little white footprints on my hardwood floors. The look on this child's face and maybe the heat caused me to begin to giggle. I giggled until I cried. Maybe I was hysterical. 

"What have you done?" 

Daughter, catching on that she would live another day, smiled. "I painted you a picture." 

And that she did. I received a lime green paper with white hand prints and foot prints. She painted a memory that will stay with me forever. This is one of those stories I'll tell when she is grown and married. The ones we tell our grandchildren to get our children back, to plant ideas in their little minds.

I read somewhere that an artist suppressed her art for years because her mother threw a fit when she painted on her bedroom wall. Well, Daughter doesn't have to worry about her creativity being blocked this time :). 

Ann




Monday, June 2, 2008

Stimulating The Economy


Well, Hubby and I got our stimulus check. I swore I would not spend any of it, but you know it was our patriotic duty to boost the economy, so we compromised and took a third to spend. Yeah! Now, I've lusted after a new i-pod ever since the new design came out, but I just couldn't justify buying one since my daughter bought me a shuffle Christmas of 2006. It was everything I needed, and she had it engraved. 

What to do with my spending money? I could go on a book buying spree! This was tempting, but I just couldn't get that slim, sleek nano out of my mind. So, you know what happened. I broke down and bought one. What else could I do when I saw it behind the locked case. I could put all my podcasts, audiobooks, and music in one place.  I can even watch videos if I wear my strong glasses and store my favorite photos on it for showing off. It's a beautiful thing. 


Hubby bought a new tent. Yes, camping at its best. And we still put two-thirds of the check in savings, so we're feeling good. We are off for a vacation to the mountains at the end of the month with Jack's side of the family. This will be our first all-family vacation in years. I'm looking forward to the mountains. I will take my writing notebook and maybe my laptop. Who knows I might get some good fodder. That's how the Black Mountain series began. 

Did I mention that I hate summer :). The temps here promise to be 89 today. It's the humidity that kills us 84%. It causes chaos. This morning we're nearing eighty and it's not even nine o'clock. My morning started early. Little Daughter woke up at seven again this morning. So, there goes quiet journaling time. Older Youngest Daughter called as Hubby was going out the door to work. She is going to have a baby in October, and the whole situation is beginning to sink in, along with our damp, oppressive heat. Hubby decides to come back up to the front door to tell me something he forgot. Little Daughter is yelling to get Older Youngest Daughter's new phone number.  Older Youngest Daughter is still talking, and I'm crazy! 

This is summer! Gone are the quiet mornings where the neighborhood empties out and leaves me to the birds and hum of the traffic on the nearby highway. Gone are the days when I don't speak a word after seven-thirty until I pick Daughter up at school. It is culture shock at its best. 

But this morning I will buckled down and work on another novel chapter. The whole summer stretches out in front of me. This is the time of year Publishing takes a breath and relaxes a little until August. I have time. I will write, just not in long stretches. 

Ann




Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Someone's Idea of Holiday Fun


Yes, this is Hubby at the lake, where we spent most of the weekend. His idea of fun is creating sand art of the largest kind. We had a wonderful day, soaking up the sun, sand clinging to everything in sight. I read a novel and listened to podcasts. Ella made a friend and played the whole day. Ham and cheese sandwiches never tasted so good. 

On Monday, we celebrated by have a large cook out for Jack's side of the family. We moved out to our deck, using the patio table and chairs we acquired last summer. We broke in our fire bowl and warmed up the grill. It was a feast to beat all feasts. I'm still full this morning. 

Now life has to find a pace for me. I've had some interesting writing offers over the weekend, and you know I'll accept because they fit in with the overall plan. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the first of two real-life ghost stories. These posts were inspired last night as we told ghost stories around the fire and roasted marshmallows. I think, if nothing else, you will understand where I get some of my writing material. 

Ann

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rain, Thunder, and A Plan For Summer Writing

Last night we were smashed by a horrible storm. Rain, hail, and lightning came on us in a flash. Due to the weatherman's prediction that a tornado sat right up the road from us, we all moved to the basement. We heard the road that runs parallel to ours was hit with downed trees. 

We survived. My flowers and grass look better for the chaos. While I sat in the basement, I thought of how different this summer is beginning from last year when we had no rain at all. This led to thinking on the upcoming summer and our plans. I have to be honest here. I'm not a big fan of summer in Georgia. If I had it my way, I'd move away, somewhere north or south, anywhere but here. I always have big plans of gardens, exercise, and day trips outside. It doesn't take long and they go the way of migrating birds. 

The heat and humidity wins out. I retreat into reading a book under the tree just to get fresh air and barricading myself in our air conditioned home. So, last night I promised myself I'd look at this summer realistically. I won't be walking after daylight once the temps hit the nineties. Bike riding will be a joke until the sun goes down. Trips to the lake and the pool will be reward for making it through the work week. My garden will have to fend on its own. The grass will stop growing, stunted by heat, unless we have a rainy summer. And most of all the wonderful expanse of time to write will disappear. 

Now, with this realization came another aha moment. This week while typing an email to a dear friend, I realized an answer to one of my questions had been answered through my own words. I have been seeking the next step in my writing. Most of the readers are aware of my calling to write a memoir. They are also aware how I have fought it tooth and nail. Why? Because I just can't imagine what I have to say about my life that would benefit any person. Ah, but here's the catch. I do have a lot to say if I will only allow my voice to ring out; instead, of attempting to keep it in check. 

So, as the rain beat the windows and I faced the summer ahead, I saw I had to write the memoir. I would have to write the truth and talk about my spiritual side that I keep mostly to myself. In plain words, I would have to call God, God and not be politically correct. What kind of life would we lead if it were all politically correct anyway? My next question was how? When would I get the time during the summer with Daughter home? The answer: She will remind me of how far I've come in this life. In other words, the craziness will keep me grounded. This project will not be easy to complete just like seeing summer as perfect in Georgia is a myth. But I will attempt the work, and I will remain in Atlanta for the summer. Like I have a choice. And before I know it, fall will be here. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have something to show for my efforts.

Ann

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm Starry Eyed In Love



Yes, Jack has something to worry about. I have fallen in love with my new frig. You must understand the former frig, who died a slow lingering death, was so small I couldn't fit a week's worth of food in it. 

This one is the size of the fish who swallowed Jonah. I could crawl in here and live. Notice the crisper drawer with its own temp control. Heaven. 

I'm mighty proud.

Ann