Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Field of Dreams ...

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love baseball. And the Midwest. Some people crave coastal living ... not Kathleen Stander. I've been to California; I've been to New York; my heart belongs in Missouri. Maybe Minnesota (I do so love winter). Perhaps Iowa. Kansas, not so much. Ditto for Nebraska.
So the spouse and I are heading to Dubuque. Has (his name, for the uninitiated) says that Dubuque, Iowa is, in his estimation, the most beautiful city in this great nation. No homebody is he, either. His employment takes him around the country in both clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. He's pretty much been everywhere. And he still maintains that Dubuque is "where the living is at."
I'll soon found out. Dyersville, Iowa, is the location where my favorite baseball movie, Field of Dreams, was filmed. The field is there, and the farmhouse that cutie-pie Kevin Costner called home in his role as the baseball-loving farmer. So we'll be visiting Dyersville, which is about ten miles outside of Dubuque.
I'm excited to visit some of the painted ladies that decorate this river town, set high upon a bluff.
Lots of pictures I'll take, and then will post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why I write ...

I recently sat down to think about why it is, exactly, that I write. The way I figure it, if I didn't feel compelled to write, and spend anywhere from ten minutes a day to ten hours a day (no kidding, yeah, I've done that ... .) I'd have more time in my day. To clean house. To watch The West Wing with my politically-oriented son. To make my husband a homemade pie. You get the picture. I've had dry periods, where no writing came forth, but then I got cranky and had to pick up a pen to right/write my way out of the funk.
Why is it, exactly, that I write?
This is what I've come up with: I can't seem to NOT write. (So what I've split an infinitive.)
I started writing even before I knew how to write. What was I ... three or four years old? I distinctly remember "writing" stories under Mom's scalloped-trimmed coffee table ... using a skinny felt-tipped marker, or one of Mom's fountain pens. (She always called them "fountain pens," which to this day makes me feel tender about her.)
In second grade I wrote a story about a dog with a 100-foot tail. Won the teacher's seal of approval. My mom saved the story for years, and then it just up and disappeared. I'd really like to see it again. I remember the illustrations, but the words are out of my head.
In seventh grade I joined the school newspaper. Wrote a "Dear Somebody" column, offering advice. "My boyfriend skated with another girl. What do I do?" sort of stuff.
In tenth grade I was named Features Editor of my high school newspaper, which meant something because The Criterion won numerous state awards. Senior year? I was Editor in Chief. I wore business suits to school, high-heeled pumps. Aspired to be the next Jessica Savitch.
In college, I got distracted (Read: pregnant) and then, because I was a mother, left journalism to pursue a career I thought would be family friendly: teaching!
Taught high school English for five years, got burned out, left the field. While teaching, I dabbled in poetry and playwrighting. Wrote, produced and directed a two-act comedy, Trail Mix. Aspired to be the female Neil Simon.
Too much month at the end of the money. Had to get a job. A local newspaper was hiring a receptionist/typist (this dates me, doesn't it?). I typed up press releases and obituaries. Got brave one day and asked the editor if I could write a story. He said yes. Pretty soon I was writing more and more.
Missed teaching. Went back. Went for one year only.
Missed writing for publication. Got hired at a different newspaper. Did obits, press releases, feature stories, covered three local school districts. The paper hired a new managing editor: he gave me a column. Tales from the (mother)hood was born. It ran weekly, was my pride and joy.
Feeling civic duty, I ran for a school board seat and was elected. Could no longer work for the local paper. Missed teaching. Went back to it.
Two years in, I missed writing. Put myself on a deadline to write a novel, the summer of 2006. Wrote from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. six days a week; took an hour for lunch and to stretch out my neck and shoulders. Ever typed nine hours a day? I lost 28 pounds that summer and by the time mid-August rolled around I'd done it: written a 130,000 word literary novel called The Hour of Lead. Solicited two agents. Struck down twice. School started. Teaching sucks my energy; I quit marketing my book.
Winter of 2006-07, my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I took six weeks off from school to take care of him while my mom was doing her own dying in a local hospital.
He died in front of me on a muggy, rainy Saturday night. June 30, 2007.
I didn't write for nine months. A pregnancy of drought.
And I missed it.
So I started this blog.
Why is it you write, dear reader?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Figuring things out ...

I haven't been blogging: 1) My best gal pal's 18-year-old son was killed on the Fourth of July (motorcycle accident: NOT HIS FAULT); 2) I've been distracted by Facebook, what with getting an account and all; 3) I've been reading and reading (trying to get through YA titles); 4) Summer school's kicking my butt (a language acquisition course); 5) My children continue to be needy, which I love, as being needed fills me with contentment.
So I've been busy.
But Alex's death has really made me reprioritize what's important on this earth. My new fat roll should not be giving me stress; the abundance of animal hair in the house should not be making me crazy; the kid clutter and dirty dishes in the sink (perpetual, it seems) should not be cause for whining.
Because my children are all alive, and there are wonderful animals (two cats, one dog) to offer creature comfort, and my husband and I still really, truly love each other, and our house protects us and I have my library and a closet full of clothes and a pantry stocked with food.
My life is so, so good.
I am a blessed woman.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Feeling sad/creative/financially reckless

Consider it a method of dealing with my-dad's-been-dead-for-two-years-grief, but I've been keeping uber-busy these last few days.
Bought twenty-two new frames for family pictures. Now all I have to do is get them hung in some sort of attractive manner.
Been playing the old vinyl LP's since Tuesday. Have listened to MJ's THRILLER 19 times. The children are getting very annoyed with that album.
Lots of retail therapy. Hundreds of dollars spent on household items. What is it about psychic pain that makes me want to buy kitchen linens?
Wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about how Stevie Nicks's music saved my life back in 1982 (long story). Got brave and e-mailed it to The New Yorker.
What have I got to lose?