Friday, October 31, 2014

Meeting Myself at 17

In the course of cleaning out a closet recently, I found a box of keepsakes from high school. It was educational, to say the least. This box contained treasures such as:
  • A Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio (anyone else remember these?)—I bought at least one of these every year to confine my class work.
  • My school ID from senior year of high school, complete with its coveted sticker allowing me to leave campus for lunch. My best friend and I often drove in her green VW Bug to her house to eat, just because we could.
  • Programs from high school plays I appeared in.
  • Copies of my annual high school literary magazine. My work appeared in the publication, and I was a staff member.
  • Final projects from creative writing class—collections of poems, stories, photos and drawings from the entire school year.
  • Journal pages from the journal our creative writing teacher required us to keep. She would read the pages, or not, as you requested. If she read them, she’d occasionally jot comments on the pages—can you imagine reading the journals of 20-some high school students?!

I spent a few happy hours reconstructing my high school days, cringing and blushing at times, surprised at others by how similar my writing voice now is to that of my 17-year-old self.

I had fun reconnecting with the girl I used to be. The exuberance, the highs and lows, the enthusiasm and hunger for life. That girl was easily cast down and just as easily sent soaring. It was in high school that I began to be able to negotiate around my shyness, finding pursuits I loved (writing, drama, tennis) and participating in life on my own terms. It was here that the seeds of who I am today were sown.

Looking at my picture and reading my words, I see a vibrancy that I wish I still had. In comparison, I’ve become muted by life and responsibility, even though that responsibility was taken on willingly and happily: building an adult life, working, raising a child. I see a more refined version of my 17-year-old self in the mirror today—some of the rough edges knocked off, the fears calmed, the goals achieved. What remains is hope for the future, curiosity about what’s next, excitement about what that might be—and yes, a little bit of fear as well. I have learned that fear is normal, and nothing to be, well, feared.

My life now is starting, in small and subtle ways, to have the same sense of possibility I felt at 17. My child is (almost) grown up, I’m settled in my home, I know how to cook and clean, I can pay bills and run my life efficiently. Most of the things I wondered and worried about have come and gone and I can turn my concentration to new possibility. What will the next 10 years hold? I see my journals (not to mention my blog posts!) asking this question. Wondering what the next adventure(s) will be. Wanting to have adventures, everyday and otherwise.

I remember what it felt like to listen to music and dream about the future. I still do that, only now I’m in my home office listening to my iTunes library instead of in my bedroom listening to a turntable. I still jot poetry in a notebook, write in my journal. My future is a bit blurry, as it was then. I’m more deliberate in my choice of opportunities to pursue now, because I have a better idea of what I like and don’t like, what I can excel in. I no longer have adults telling me what to do; I am learning to listen to my voice, because now I have experience and wisdom of my own. I want to incorporate my 17-year-old self’s enthusiasm into my current life, temper her fears with my maturity, and build a future me that combines all the best parts of us. 

Do you see your past selves when you look in the mirror? How are you the same (or different) from who you were at 17?

At 17--senior class photo


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Early October Snow

Photo courtesy Jim Ernsberger

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here’s a lovely poem for this lovely month, by Robert Haight, who lives in Michigan.

Early October Snow

It will not stay.
But this morning we wake to pale muslin
stretched across the grass.
The pumpkins, still in the fields, are planets
shrouded by clouds.
The Weber wears a dunce cap
and sits in the corner by the garage
where asters wrap scarves
around their necks to warm their blooms.
The leaves, still soldered to their branches
by a frozen drop of dew, splash
apple and pear paint along the roadsides.
It seems we have glanced out a window
into the near future, mid-December, say,
the black and white photo of winter
carefully laid over the present autumn,
like a morning we pause at the mirror
inspecting the single strand of hair
that overnight has turned to snow.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Robert Haight from his most recent book of poems, Feeding Wild Birds, Mayapple Press, 2013. (Lines two and six are variations of lines by Herb Scott and John Woods.) Poem reprinted by permission of Robert Haight and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Making Room for the New

One of my goals for this year was to deep clean and organize every room in my house. I’m not sure I’m going to finish the whole house this year, but as I’ve purged and cleaned, painted and organized, donated and sold, I’ve made visible progress through my home. I’m doing this not just because I want my home to be in order, but also because I’m ready to live in a simpler, less cluttered and fussy way. And after nearly 18 years in this house, it’s time for some updating.

Even though in general I love my life and its routines, I feel ready for some freshening up. In a couple of weeks I will have been writing this blog for five years. In that time, I’ve seen my freelance work slow to a trickle, then dry up completely. I’ve battled writer’s block and depression, experimented with writing and submitting essays, applied for a job at the library as well as numerous writing jobs. I’ve come up with several ideas for writing and editing businesses, but I haven’t found anything that sticks yet.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Perhaps I need to have less before I can have more. I’d like to think all this decluttering serves a purpose larger than just having my home look neater. I choose to think that getting rid of what no longer serves me makes room for the new. And I’m not talking about new things. Perhaps, less burdened by too much and too many (things and thoughts), the inside of my head will be a bit neater as well. For now, I’m focused on getting rid of.

I’m not sure what that something new I’m making room for looks like. I have to have faith that if I do make room, if I do simplify and purge and organize, then I’ll be ready when my opportunities come, when everyday adventure knocks on my door.

What would you like to get rid of? Add? How do you make room for the new?


Friday, October 24, 2014

Field Trip Friday: Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Some places resonate with me—they feel like old friends, even the first time I visit them. One such place for me is Turtle Bay Exploration Park (TBEP) in Redding, California. When I visit my family, it’s one of the places I always want to go back to—what better place to share with you as a Field Trip Friday?

TBEP is 300-acre “gathering place” divided into north and south “campuses,” separated by the Sacramento River and connected by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge. In addition to the bridge, there is a museum, a forestry and wildlife center, and an arboretum and botanical gardens. The complex houses approximately 800 plant species/cultivars and 225 animals. Here’s a brief description of each of the major components:

McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
The 20 acres of water-wise gardens here represent the world’s five Mediterranean climate zones: Southwest Australia, South Africa, California, Chile and the Mediterranean Basin. The plants share survival adaptations that enable them to thrive in climate conditions with warm/hot dry summers and rainy winters, and all require moderate to low water usage. The gardens are divided into several areas, including a Children’s Garden, Perennial Companions Display Garden, Butterfly Garden, Medicinal Garden and the Pacific Rim Garden. Mosaic features and fountains are scattered throughout the gardens. This is my favorite area of the TBEP—lots of places to sketch, take pictures, or simply sit and enjoy the gardens. I didn’t sketch while I was there, but did take some pictures:

Sounds of Water by Betsy Damon 

Mosaic fountain, part of Mosaic Oasis, by Colleen Barry

Earthstone, by Colleen Barry
Detail from Earthstone

Museum and Forest Camp
Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp is a popular destination for children. It includes a playground; the Parrot Playhouse, a year-round lorikeet aviary; Wildlife Woods; a seasonal Butterfly House and an amphitheater where daily educational shows take place. There are lots of hands-on activities for kids, and this is where you’ll find the animals. Though we never found the newest addition, a young bobcat (she was being used in a presentation that we missed), we did see a porcupine, a couple of raptors and a beautiful red fox.

The museum houses several permanent and interactive exhibits focusing on local and regional history, as well as traveling exhibits. When we were there, so was Toytopia, an exploration of the past century of toy making. We saw the world’s largest Etch-A-Sketch (more than eight feet tall—and I didn’t take a picture!), a retro arcade with games like Tron and Donkey Kong, building areas for kids with Lego and Lincoln Logs, and toys from the early 1900s onward.

Sundial Bridge
This beautiful bridge is indeed a sundial, though the shadow of its 217-foot-tall pylon is only completely accurate once a year, on the summer solstice. Opened July 4, 2004, the Sundial Bridge is also a downtown entrance for Redding’s Sacramento River Trail system, a 35-mile long trail that extends along both sides of the river, connecting the bridge to the Shasta Dam. Made of steel, glass and granite, it’s 700 feet long and 23 feet wide. No vehicles are allowed on the bridge, and it’s an easy stroll across the river. When we were there, we saw men fly fishing on one side of the river, and Canada Geese bobbing and floating on the other side.

Sacramento River--see the teeny fishermen?

If you’re ever in the Redding area, the Turtle Bay Exploration Park is well worth the visit. There is no admission charge to walk over the Sundial Bridge and down the Sacramento River Trail, but you do have to pay to enter the botanical gardens, museum and forestry camp. If I lived in this area, I’d like to think I’d often be found here, though you know how that is. We don’t always use and appreciate the simple pleasures and everyday adventures we have available to us. (When was the last time I was at the USF Botanical Gardens, for instance?)

Where have your wanderings taken you lately?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Coin of Your Life

Photo courtesy Sanja Gjenero

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
—Carl Sandburg

Friday, October 24 marks the 11th annual Take Back Your Time Day. How will you take charge of your time? 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Homes Sweet Homes

Lucky me.

I can call more than one place home. There is, of course, my home here in Florida, where I’ve lived for more than 20 years, raised my son, put down roots. And there is California, the home of my birth and growing-up years, where my parents still live, and, I confess, where a piece of my heart remains. I just returned from a 10-day trip to California, and while I loved my time there, I was so very happy to come…home.

Always have to stop here for coffee!
When I arrive in CA, I always want to do everything at once—hug everyone, pet the cats (we all have cats), hear what’s been going on, go shopping, play games, and eat all the special foods they always have for me. I told everyone that I mainly wanted to just hang out and relax; they weren’t to worry about “entertaining” me. I run around enough at home. So that’s mainly what we did—I was able to sleep eight and nine hours a night without an elderly dog waking me up, I had time to read, and I even did a couple of watercolor sketches! We did go on a few planned outings—to Turtle Bay and the Sundial Bridge (look for a Field Trip Friday soon), and my favorite used bookstore with my mom; lunch out and a shopping trip with my stepmom. And since my Rays were not in the playoffs, I rooted for my stepmom’s favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, in their playoff games against Saint Louis. (They won and will be meeting the Kansas City Royals in the World Series starting tomorrow.)

One of my favorite places--the old cow barn at my mom's


My dad making my favorite salad.
When I come back to Florida, I want to sleep in my own bed, drink my morning coffee made just so, wear the clothes I didn’t take on the trip…you get the idea. Now that I’m home home, I’m appreciating my life more: my work, my leisure, my little routines and treats. Whether it was because of the rest I got while in CA, or the fallish (for FL) weather, I feel reenergized and more awake. Ready to tackle daily life again. Grateful for the people, pets and places—the simple pleasures and everyday adventures—that feel like home.

My mom's newest addition

Misty, my dad and stepmom's cat
Like I said, lucky me.

Has anything reenergized you lately?


Friday, October 10, 2014

Living It Up in California

I’m living it up in California visiting my family—no housework, no cooking, no laundry…except for helping out, of course. And no writing, except for journaling. Time to catch up with the parents, refill the well, and take some much-needed time off. I’ll be back to the blog soon, and in the meantime I hope you have a very happy week!