Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Transition in progress...

I started this blog as a forum for my summer thoughts and growth projects as a writer.  It has been a gratifying experience.  It's nice to get comments and critiques from other literary types.  As summer comes to an end, I'm needing to turn a corner on this site in regard to design.  The template you see is probably the first in a line of trial-and-error adjustments.  I'll need to change the "first summer... " tagline.  It will take some pondering to come up with a title that feels just right.

One thing I'm certain of... the site will be an outlet for mainly fiction, prose, poetry and creativity.  Although I enjoy writing deep thoughts and memoirs, I'm not sure I'm connecting with an audience in that arena.  Also, I have a journal for all of that stuff.  This site will be my place to escape and find myself in another world, to push myself beyond the bounds of conventional reality and experiment with artistic license.

This shift in focus may result in less frequent posts.  I enjoyed the discipline of writing often over the summer.  But now that I'm back to work for the school year, I think I'll aim for quality over quantity.  And that applies to the quality time (quiet, peace, space and serenity) that is required to produce anything of quality.

So, stay tuned as my life takes another turn. 

I am very grateful for each of you who has offered your time, your eyes and your comments!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Magpie 28

Mmmmmmmmmmm... I love this sight.  It means I'm taking care of myself.  It means I'm relaxing in warm bubbly comfort.  It means that some time in the recent past I've siezed 45 seconds to paint my toenails without smudges. My "Relaxation in Progress" sign hangs on the bathroom doorknob.  That should keep the restless natives out for at least 15 minutes.  Sweet frilly air slowly fills my lungs all the way and my torso becomes more buoyant.  The exhale chauffeurs so many worries to the door and bids them farewell.  My soul is reconstituted.  I give my mind permission to be totally empty.  I have to reprimand it a few times when it drifts toward work or laundry.  The sound of tiny bubbles popping reminds me how quiet this sacred room is right now.  Just this morning, it was teeming with activity as the four of us gathered here for our a.m. rituals.  Why we all get ready in the same bathroom when we have 3 others, I'll never understand.  We laugh, we brush, we spit, we dance.  I gently drift back to the image before me... 8 painted toes peeking at me like an old friend, saying "you deserve this."  I become fixated... perma stare.  My head lolls stupidly to one side and my face threatens to slide off my head.  The 8 toes consume me.  A few more deep breaths.

Abruptly, the door opens and the cutest smile on the planet says, "Mom, look at my new outfit!"  My youngest is wearing neon striped toe socks, her dad's T-shirt (the one with the Geico gecko) belted at the waist with a dish towel.  The ensemble is enhanced by a pink feather boa, white satin gloves to the elbows, huge star-framed sunglasses and more plastic jewels than a carnival treasure chest... displayed with a killer diva pose.

Of course, she can't read.

Letting go of one savory moment and embracing the next, I offer "I'll be out in a minute... do you have some cool duds for me!?"

Giggles paint the hallway as the neon socks carry her away.

The drain will claim the remains of Mommy Time.  The faucet will hold one for another day.  Bye bye, eight toes.

"The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."
- James Taylor

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Power of Prediction

The countdown clock is ticking to the big day... the First Day of School.  One week from today, we all sign on for 180 days of teamwork toward a common goal; educating our children.  The plan is to build skills, knowledge and character from Kindergarten up and hopefully end up with civil, mannerly, successful citizens, employees, moms and dads.  (My, that was a run-on sentence.)

As the excitement builds, so does the anxiety.  I am fascinated by anxiety and the role it plays in human interactions.  It makes people do strange things.  Students are not the only anxious ones.  Parents and faculty have their butterflies also.  I am a perpetual observer of people. 

The greatest strategy I see for managing the anxiety of back-to-school is prediction.  Parents want to know:  Who is my child's teacher?  What is the scuttlebutt about him or her?  What can we expect in terms of homework and discipline?  What other students are in my child's class?  Will my child get along well socially?  Teachers want their class list, pronto, so they can compare notes with teachers of earlier grades and find out the scoop about these new pupils.  They talk about how the year will be since so-and-so has Johnny the troublemaker, thus-and-such will be teaching Jessica the drama queen.  (Vast gender stereotype there, I know.)

The funny thing is, in reality, these are less than accurate means of prediction.  I've heard many stories about last year's bad girl returning as a sweet child after a summer of maturation.  No one really knows how the intricate social dynamics will play out with a completely new mix of students with a new leader.

Prediction helps us feel somewhat in control of the vast unknown.  Think about it; weather, economics, fashion trends... we love to predict and pretend that we have some insight into what will happen in the future.  (Why people would be anxious about fashion trends, I have not figured out.)

Murray Bowen would call this phenomenon an anxiety binder.  He observed that when a group of people get anxious, they look around for something (a person to blame, a social issue, a legislative solution, a program) to hold their anxiety.  The anxiety binder acts like a 3-ring binder with filler paper.  It holds in order what would otherwise be a chaotic mess, flitting all over the place, rumpling, crinkling and generally getting out of hand.  The binder gives us something to talk about, something to focus on, something to have faith in, something to calm our nerves and avoid the fact that life is essentially dangerous.

Anxiety (in this broad sense I am talking about) is not bad, it is simply a part of being human.  Anxiety binders are not bad, yet personally I think the pitfall of putting faith in them is quite a threat to sincere reliance on God.  Maybe He is the ultimate anxiety binder for those who trust Him.

Anxiety is quite contagious.  One way to keep from catching it is to see yourself as a detached observer.  During tense times, visualize yourself wearing a lab coat and holding a clip board.  Watch the human subjects around you and pay attention to what happens as tensions rise.  If you are particularly proned to getting sucked in to an epidemic (with family of origin, in particular) feel free to use the mental image of that handy one-way mirror.

So, off I go this morning into the land of uncertainty.  Can I simply sit with the fact that the year ahead is wild, unpredictable, vast and uncontrollable?  Can I avoid catching anxiety from others?  We shall see.

{Readers, I need a favor.  This is the type of writing I gravitate to often.  I get more creative and apt to tell stories when I'm relaxed and open.  I guess these are just my thoughts out loud.  I need opinions.  Compare and contrast  my creative works of poetry, fiction, etc. with this kind of pontification piece.  Any insight you can offer would be appreicated.  Honest, of course!}

Monday, August 16, 2010

A work in progress

The inspiration for a fiction work has appeared to me over the last few weeks.  I think it's a novel.

I've done a time line, a general outline and developed the main characters.  I've written the introduction and a few scenes.  At times, I can escape in thought to the world of this book and watch a scene happen.  If it works with all of the other elements, I go write it and place it in.

When I was a kid, the world of Barbies was my creative outlet.  Early on, there were intricate social plots.  As I grew up, I began to enjoy the setup more than the actual play.  I liked to create still scenes of living, working or fun spaces for my characters to enjoy.  Once the scene was set, I was happy.  The Barbies looked happy.  Maybe they worked out the plot elements while I was asleep.

I fear that my current conception is weak on plot.  The setting (or settings) are great and vivid.  The houses and buildings where life takes place are actual characters in the story.  There is a plot, there is movement in the story, but it's not the central thing that I expect to grab a reader.  It's the lifestyle, the setup that appeals to me most.  I have used the characters, the setting and the family dynamics to illustrate some concepts and convictions that I'm passionate about.  There is a message.  Yet, I've worked them in subtely, I hope, so that it does not come across as prescriptive or preachy.  But, the reader will learn and grow along with the characters.

Perhaps this work is more like a painting than a movie.  It may lack movement that would draw readers.

Here is my dilemma:  Do I stay true to the scenes and threads that come to me in the quiet times?  Or do I "kick it up a notch", as Emeril says?

Friday, August 13, 2010

What does one do with a blog about a summer of rest and reflection once the summer is over?  The intent and theme at the beginning was to chronicle this particular time of growth in my life and all it's reflections and pontifications.  Another goal was to develop my voice as a writer.

So, the summer may be closing soon, but I'm more energized than ever about the writing part.  The comments and encouragement I've received have been a real boost.  It seems I have two options (stopping is not one of them).

Re-vamp this site for a renewed and refined purpose


Leave this one up and start another blog

Opinions, thoughts, suggestions??

A significant thing I have intentionally not focused on here is my battle with seasonal affective disorder.  I'm not sure if I want to go there in bloggywood or not.  My attention may wander off into a journal direction rather than the literary richness I want to develop.  I bring it up, though, because the title of my site is summerrest.  If I choose to re-vamp, this url would not change.  It would be a reminder to take the treasures of summer sun, rest and reflection into the cooler months.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vital connection to the mainline
life force flows through me
best when free and unfettered
yet rust, mineral deposits and gunk build up
slow the flow, spring a leak
decrease my capacity
to deliver to others
what i am struggling to receive
if I dry up
we will all thirst
what are pipes for?
it is not me that you need
but that which flows through me
sometimes we all need
drano for the soul.

On the job training

Have I mentioned that I was hired to do a job that I'm grossly unqualified for?  In an official sense, I have the license that says I can hold the position.  But, the licensure covers a lot of ground.  Just because I have a degree in school counseling "k-12" does not mean I'm skilled at all levels.  In fact, all of my coursework and experience has been with teenagers or older.

So, what am I doing as an elementary school counselor?  I ask myself that question a lot.

I've decided to view it as a stretching, growing experience.  One area I'm really exploring and studying up on is one-on-one counseling with children.  In one sense, the basics are the same no matter the age of the client.  In another sense, counseling adults vs. children is as different as night and day.  BUT, the craft and experience of being with children in a therapeutic way may be doing as much for me as it is for the child.

The greatest challenge for me is to be non-directive.  If you know me, you are laughing in agreement.  Working with adults is fairly non-directive, but I generally have a sense of direction before a session and things happen within certain predictable peramaters like we both stay in our chair and predominanty use words to communicate.  Play therapy and art therapy are usually child-driven modes of treatment in which  the counselor's job is to follow the child's lead, reflect feeling and observe.  All bets are off.  Anything is possible.  Good child therapists throw plans and order out the window, for the most part.

Early in my elementary experience, I sat down with a little boy to "play" with some small toys and figurines.  This is an asessment tool to help the counselor see into the percieved world of the child.  So, I watch him play for a little bit ... no interaction with me, only touches things with wheels, makes lots of motor sounds.  Hmmmmm.  When I announce that our time is up, he wrecks the entire play area like a hurricaine.  Rather than understanding what he is trying to tell me about his chaotic life and difficulty with transitions, I take this personally.  I try to clamp down.  I tell him next time, he will be rewarded if he does not wreck my toys.  I do not ask him open-ended questions about the destruction to find out more.  I had so much to learn.

I had the mindset that I didn't want the kids to think coming to my office was just about playing with toys.  Turns out, that's exactly what I want them to think!  I wanted to therapize them.  But I must learn that the way to a child's mind is through toys and imagination.  I've told people this before, yet to put the process in my space, under my direction, was a great challenge to my orderly nature.

After a lot of reading and thinking this summer, I'm ready to go back in there and read the chaos.  Even if a troubled child does nothing but "play" while visiting me, the experience of a caring presence will be worth it.

"Enter into childrens' play and you will find the place where their hearts, minds and souls meet."
Virginia Axline

Monday, August 9, 2010

A melancholy Birthday

I am pensive about having spent 37 years on this planet, and about what may lie ahead.  Feeling a little blah about it, frankly.  I've never been one to dread getting older.  It's better than the alternative.  I believe "the rest of my days can be the best of my days."  I fully intend to get the most out of each year.

That said, today I've thought a lot about the things I haven't done.  Dreams that seem to be out of reach because basically I didn't do the legwork when I had the chance.  Yes, of course I could do it now, but not without great sacrifice from my family.  I am comparing myself to other people my age who have grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns.  Comparisons are never smart. 

I'm still digesting the impulsive career move I made in January.  It was a smart move, but somewhat less than lateral.  I'm no longer moving upward professionally, but I can still move forward.  And I can also choose to move in a completely different direction if I want.  (Likely with financial consequences.)

There is so much I still want to do.  I guess the thing to do is rank them according to priority and get crackin'.

It is trite and a bit unrealistic to make a goal out of a wildest dream.  Wildest dreams are wild like the ponies at Chinqoteague or Corolla, they are quite difficult to catch.  But, Birthdays are for wishes, right?

So, here goes.  I wish to become a fiction author who makes just enough money to work when I want and pursue a hobby in community theater, without cost to my family.

Picture me blowing out my candles here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The juices are flowing...

Maybe it was the run-in with a fellow writer who initiated the hope of a writing accountability group.

Maybe it was joining Magpie Tales and seeing some comments on my blog.

Maybe it was just time.

The inspiration for a fiction work has landed on me.  I'm excited and guarded at the same time.  Excited because it's a great story and I'm enjoying the company of my characters.  Guarded because I'd hate to see this project be the next in a string of abandoned stories.  Another reason for my apprehension is that I've worked some of my real-life dreams, goals and plans into this story.  As a kid, I developed this strange supersition that things you think about too much never happen.  So, as the characters live my dreams, does it diminish the chance that I'll live them?  True, they are living in the land of artistic license and I live in a more stark reality.  Most certainly the stories will not turn out the same.  The best laid plans, you know. . .

It is so hard to put these deep parts of myself on paper, eventually I guess, to put them out for the world to see.

Eventually... I know the basics of the process.  Get an agent or start writing letters of submission myself.  Get turned down a lot.  Keep sending letters.  Get turned down some more.  Hold out hope for the angel who will give me a chance.

But, I have questions.  At what point in the development of the novel do I start submitting?  Do I just send out chapter 1, or the whole manuscript?  How many pre-submission readers should I get?  What is the standard format of a manuscript?  Is there any rhyme or reason to chapter breaks, topic shifts, time warps and changes of thought?  I see those lines that look like this...


... and wonder how the Author knows where they go.

Then, the Mother of all questions, pun intended.  When the heck, amidst my busy days of working and mothering and wifing does this thing get written?!