October 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Earlier this year, Ruby (little kitten pinball) knocked down my favorite piece of folk art — a colorful angel I’d picked up in Santa Rosa back in my twenties.
The fall shattered the whole thing — arms off at the elbows, wings severed from the shoulders, waist snapped dividing its torso into two.
Rather than scolding her (because why? the damage was done) I told her quietly, “Mommy can’t talk to you right now, Ruby.” I was so disappointed.
While I gathered the pieces, I slowly reminded myself what the Buddhists say about glasses being already broken. Have you heard that one? I use it as a mental tool to help with shifting my perception when I need to let go of expectations.
So much of what we hold dear is destructible. Seems like the only potentially permanent things are the ones we can’t see, hear, smell or prove.
Still, I get attached. I was so attached to my angel that I’ve kept the broken pieces of her in a bowl on the kitchen counter all these months. It’s my nature to attach. I’m making peace with that.
After months of consideration, I’ve decided to retire this blog address and name — Mary and Bob’s Journal — and write, instead, at new site.
Having my own domain name, moving from wordpress.com to wordpress.org is sort of like leaving rental property (where the rent is free) to become a home owner. It’s more of an investment. I will now be paying to blog. And when something breaks, I’ll have to fix it myself. And if I don’t know how to fix it, I’ll have to figure it out.
I’ve spent the last month configuring the new site and designing elements for it. I’m learning so much. I must thank Jen Wilson who guided me through the process. If you have any wordpress blogging questions, do yourself a favor and hire her.
Just a couple weeks ago, during a rare visit back east, my brother said to me, “I think you should keep the name.” (Commence pantomime heart stabbing).
It’s true that this site has been a way to keep memories of my grandparents active. Even as recently as a few weeks ago, when I was knee deep in designs for the new blog, I got comments from new readers around the world expressing kind thoughts about Mary and Bob all because of what they read here.
This blog started five years ago sometime between the first anniversary of Grandma’s death in August and her birthday in October.
She would be turning 100 this week.
It just seems like a fitting time for transitions. I think she would agree. She used to say, “You’re a good girl, Ruth Elizabeth.”
I remembered recently — after I had completed the header imagery for my new site — that Grandma had a collection of angel figurines. I never played with them. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember what they looked like. In fact, when I was around seven, Grandma and Grandpa moved to a smaller home and left the majority of the collection in boxes. Even though most of them weren’t displayed, we all had common knowledge of Grandma’s angels.
I grew up knowing it existed somewhere: the angel collection.
Watch, tomorrow, Mom will call me and say, “Do you want the angels? I’ll send them to you.” Or maybe she’ll tell me that they’ve been divided amongst cousins. I have no idea, really, where the things are. Nor do I care.
I’ve got my angels.
They whisper too quietly to hear,
“What is unseen might be permanent.
What is broken can still transform.
What is your new URL, dammit? This post is over 600 words, already.“
Okay okay okay! From now on, I’ll be working over at WritingRuth.com. I hope you’ll come along.
And thank you for making blogging such a fulfilling process in my life.
September 22, 2012 § 20 Comments
~It looks like this where my people come from.~
Last weekend, while at a family reunion with people I see only once every three or four years, my mom whipped out her iPad and began pulling up this blog (literally, this one — Mary and Bob’s Journal) to show my aunt and uncle. I felt immediately embarrassed. So much so that I actually said, “Oh Mom, please don’t. I’m really self-conscious about my blogging.”
She got so far as showing them the adorable photo of Ruby The Hairstyling Kitteh and then we changed the subject. It all passed painlessly.
Now, seven days later, as my 43rd birthday looms half a day away, I’m questioning my insecurity.
I’ve written publicly at this site since 2007. At first, it was an anonymous endeavor. I kept a boundary between my day-job self (public – “in real life” – 3D – Ruth) and my soap-box-activist, melodramatic philosophizing artistic self (roolily – Ruth at Mary and Bob’s Journal). My disguise wasn’t absolute — people who knew me well enough to have my roolily email address could find the blog, but the separation was adequate enough for my comfort.
A couple years later, when I began posting blog links at Facebook, it was like a passive coming out to my friends and family. I progressively became more and more open, and now I tweet under my full name with a link to this blog. It’s not an unusual path.
Last month, perhaps as an early birthday gift to myself, I purchased my first domain name (currently under construction). I sit at my computer every morning around 7:00 to read about CSS. I’ve dusted off the Photoshop tool box and am rubber stamping my way to my very own logo — all in preparation to fully integrate my fragmented online presence. Cobbled together with my bookkeeping work and Andy’s support, I am self-employed.
I’m in control of my time and I spend a lot of it writing and blogging. These are good things.
So why, when my mom wants to share my creativity with people who love me, do I clam up and cringe?
I hate that I’m self-conscious about my blogging; It feels immature (not the blogging, the self-consciousness). I want to be confident about my work. No — more accurately — I want to do work worthy of confidence.
When I surf the blogs of my friends, like An Acorn Dreaming, and read the stellar work of writers I learned about at BlogHer ’12 – Citizen of the Month, Edenland, Mocha Momma, Native Born, Schmutzie, (to name only a handful), and especially when I encounter a gem like Susannah Conway, (who a cousin recently recommended) I’m struck by intermittent bouts of inspiration and envy. But mostly I’m grateful, but because it’s so uplifting to see that sharing deeply can be done with professionalism, humor, grace and intelligence.
These writers help me realize that I am not a freak for making the choice of disclosing highly personal thoughts and feelings in this completely public forum.
In the not so distant past (like yesterday) I felt my openness was a mistake that I was somehow getting away with. Have I been a sheep in the pop culture of self-exposure? Has this been a years-long bad habit? Am I too hungry for connection? Desperate for attention? I would ask my shrink these questions, but I know what his answer would be: “What do you think?”
Two years ago, when my personal life got messy (simultaneously wonderful and confusing, and eventually tragic), for better or worse, I used blogging as a healing tool. I still do.
The things I’ve written about here — god, how could I? How many elephants are in this room? Just one? Two? Neither of them are elephants, though. They are human beings I care about.
Blogging about my grief despite its odd circumstance has created even more awkward circumstances. When I’m vague, it’s to protect other people as best as I can while trying to be true to myself. But I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in protecting anyone. Mostly, I’ve just been trying to keep it together.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if I wrote fiction. Damn, though, making stuff up is hard. It’s a craft I intend to develop because I suspect that fiction might be the only way I can be open about my most profound experiences.
Preserving memories with words feels like a reasonable way to mimic sacred moments. While language can only approximate the holiness, it’s better than nothing — especially after relationships transform, after people die.
So I’m conjuring the past? Conjuring lovers? Conjuring myself?
And to conjure with witnesses — a magic blogging affords us — is to receive nods, handshakes, and hugs. An assurance that someone has heard the tree falling.
No shame in that.
Maybe acquiring confidence requires a rehearsing a script. Here’s one:
I’m a writer who blogs. I am learning to tell entertaining stories by practicing publicly.
My readers appreciate it when I write about what’s really going on rather than the first (gag-me) Yahoo headline I see in the morning. Today’s was, “Before and after plastic surgery – Ali Wentworth was tired of looking like this.”
Yeah, I don’t give a fuck about that. Sure, it could be bouncing off point for a post like the one I did recently about covering my gray hair and how I feel about appearance and gender roles.
But when I’m having a hard day, to hell with the safe topics, I write my truth.
Now the blogger in me is saying, edit some more, woman, this thing is too long. And don’t post on a Saturday night, no one will read it.
But I’ve been writing this post since the sun was rising, and now the sun is setting, and my only break all day long was to sit in a three hour French class.
Plus, I turn 43 tomorrow. The candles have been lit, they won’t last forever.
July 25, 2012 § 2 Comments
It’s one of those days when I wouldn’t be doing a blog post if I hadn’t made the commitment.
I nearly skipped it, thinking: who’d care? But then I remembered the experiences I’ve had in the past when « Read the rest of this entry »
July 21, 2012 § 4 Comments
Oh, the pressure’s on. Since announcing that I’m taking requests for topics on which to blog, three have come in. Unless a flood of more than nine great ideas arrive, I will be doing posts on the following suggestions over the next few days.
1. From a professor whose background is in rhetoric, composition, and all sorts of intimidating ways to describe written communication, a gem she encountered during her days scoring SAT essays, “What makes a good friend?”
2. From a woman who has been a writing instructor of mine for years (and more recently has become someone I’m honored to call a friend), this prompt: Take one moment (it might be the color of the sea) and what grows out of that moment. . . let it evolve on the page. This came after I posted the Bermuda pics, so I’m going to pull a moment from that trip.
3. From a man who was the youth pastor at my church when I was about 12 years old, whose humor and intelligence on FB regularly delight me, a follow up to #1, “Write about whether you’d rather have a zombie as a friend or a vampire.”
Open Call Continues . . . Let me know if you’ve got any requests.
This is not to say I don’t have plenty of ideas of my own. Not to sound arrogant, but I’ve got lists of plans for posts. I keep track of those unfulfilled promises, you know. In the meantime, some reader participation will be fun; don’t you think?
Full disclosure ~ When I sat down to write today, I intended to dive into #1. “What makes a good friend?”
I know full well that the hungover, flat-stomached teenagers with suntanned feet and the keys to Daddy’s Lexus in their pockets have only 25 minutes to crank out a hand-written essay after receiving the prompt. Here, I’ve had days already to mull it over. Plus, I’ve got this handy dandy dictionary that pops up in the corner of my screen and helps me verify that yes, “mull” is what I meant to say.
But I’m a coward. I just googled “How to Write an SAT Essay” and began a crash course at SparkNotes. I know the suggestion wasn’t to actually write an SAT essay, it was merely inspired by the topic. But what if what I come up with is an incoherent mess?
Here I call myself a “writer,” yet I just can’t imagine writing a “6″ essay. That’s a score. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. The last time I took a clear position on a topic, it was a messy incident.
What the hell are PhD’s doing reading this blog anyway? I need to go back to school. Will my “3″ essay (“shows developing competence“–that’s me, in perpetual development) earn my acceptance into a good grad school? And how will I pay the tuition?
Earlier today, I was in the middle of my too many cups of coffee and turned to Andy with, “I think the cats might be getting too thin.” Two months ago, I worried that Ell-kitty was too heavy. Five minutes later, “I’m concerned about our lack of earthquake preparedness.” To which, he aptly replied, “Honey, pick an anxiety. Just one.” I took a shower instead.
Tomorrow, I’m going to do it; I’m going to write about friendship.
June 4, 2012 § 6 Comments
Nearly 24 hours later than promised — here’s the text of what I wrote especially for my writing class’ big “end-of-term multi-class reading”. The criterion was simple: stay at or under two minutes fifteen seconds.
This week, I’ll write another post about the masochistic and stupid choice I made of imposing this unnecessary deadline on myself. What did I call the process the other day? Bliss? Ha! If by “bliss” I meant “painful and terrifying,” then that was a spot on way to put it. But it was also fabulous, and a gift, and horrible, and great. More about all that later. I’ll also include some details about the reading.
Without further ado, here’s my piece, which it turns out is fiction. Go figure.
Last Tuesday, my therapist asked, “What do you believe in?” The tissue in my hand was damp, and I knew it had left traces of white residue all around my eyes. It always did.
I looked at him when I answered, “I believe that we’re all going to die.” He blinked twice. Which, from a shrink, is a pretty big reaction.
Did he think I was going get all Bull Durhamy? All Kevin Costnery? All stoic? If a minor league catcher were familiar with the novels of Susan Sontag, if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, if anyone, ever, actually used five single syllable adjectives in a row, then this would be a different universe.
But as it is, in this universe, I don’t believe in, nor do I want, kisses that last three days. I mean, I have to eat at least once every six waking hours, and slow, strong, sweet (stopping two adjectives short of five) inhales through the mouth are my preferred method of breathing. What do I believe in. What do you believe in? What kind of mind fuck of a question is that?
On my walk home from the session, I stopped by the skate park to watch for a minute. This one little kid – maybe ten or eleven – got to the top of the ramp, and jumped up flipping his board into a mid-air rotation. It’s a stunt I’ve seen skater after skater try and fail. As soon as his board landed – wheels to the ground – rolling, he landed right back on top of it, smiled, and kept full forward trajectory.
I wanted to cheer, to run, to thank him.
I wanted to high five anybody with a palm.
I wanted to tell yell, “I saw that!”
And “What did you see?” my shrink might later ask.
I’d squeeze that cheap white tissue and say:
In his jump, I saw the water from Annie Sullivan’s well rushing up over the sands of the Atlantic to my nephew’s toes.
In his flight, I saw Galileo’s moons shining on Vincent’s stars reflected off Jesse Owens’ gold medals onto each strand of hair of Rubens’ young lady.
In his landing, I heard Bach’s Cello Suites accompanied by a cricket in the corner.
I heard the start up chimes of a new apple computer; I heard an EMT shout, “Clear!”
I heard Faulkner’s Benjy singing Cohen’s Halleluiah, and Lee’s Scout chanting Ginsberg’s Howl but Twain’s Huck didn’t add a noise because this — after all — was just one jump.