Monday, January 24, 2011

Adrienne, if I invite you to play your recorder at the National Symphony Orchestra performance, will you finally forgive me?

I really have no idea how to start this. I know the point that I want to make, but it's embedded in a story that's personal, one that makes me look bad, a story that I would like to rewrite. However, with Myndi's post on my mind - the point in particular about cultivating relationships - it's a story that I want to share with you.

Many posts ago I talked about my second grade sister wanting to sing the national anthem at my last high school basketball game. Upon finding out, I threw a fit that could've only been rivaled by one of the girls on Jersey Shore. I screamed about how badly Adrienne sang (and to my credit, she does:)). I complained that no one was "thinking about how I would feel" (that's right, I had a TOUGH life). I'm pretty sure that I threatened to be a no-show at the game (as though this would have been the make or break it for a win or loss;)). And to make it all worse, I said this in front of a seven year old.

I could blame it on being 17. I could justify it with statements like "maybe someone should've asked me first." I could lie and say that I wasn't as much of a b*^&% as the story, as told by Adrienne, makes me seem. But, the truth is, I was just wrong.

And, it is moments like this that are part and parcel of some of my biggest regrets; moments when I allowed my pride, my expectations, my own sense of "love" or "kindness" to cloud - or even worse, belittle - the actions of others; moments when my feelings became so much more important that anyone else's involved; moments when my visceral, knee-jerk reaction alienated someone who loved me; moments when I took relationships for granted.

The most recent example of this occurred about a month ago. Andy did something incredibly nice for me - something he spent a lot of time on, something he put a lot of thought into, something that should've immediately reminded me how lucky I am. What did I do with it, though? I squandered it. I picked up on the two or three things that I thought "didn't seem like me" and I let those drive my reaction to the whole. I nonchalantly addressed what was deserving of something so much more.

And, you know what, this is a moment that I can't get back. Sure, I can apologize. I can explain my position. I can elaborate on all of those things that I loved, but was too wrapped up in my own concerns to acknowledge. And, I can be forgiven and understood. However, none of this makes my initial apparent flippancy any less vivid or any more justified. I had the opportunity to cultivate a relationship, and I chose - and, this is always a choice - to demean instead.

So, I guess the point of me sharing this is to simply remind you to think about the motivations of someone's actions before immediately worrying about how it affects you. In both occasions I mention above, part of my issue was "I don't want to be in the spotlight/I don't want personal things exposed" - and I do see the hypocrisy in this by the way:) - and this blinding emotion tainted two really beautiful acts.

Let others love you, even if it looks a little different from your own understanding. Cultivate relationships every chance you get. Sometimes keep your big, fat mouth shut.
A resolution update: I said that I would read at least three works of fiction this year (most of you know how I feel about fiction). The library staff tried to pick
some out for me, but to no avail. Nothing just seemed to tickle my fancy.

But, then...

Cecil Hall Dyer returned a book last Saturday and, for no particular reason, I decided to flip through it. Linda Lael Miller's, A Creed Country Christmas, or as I have referred to it every time I try to remember the title, "Cowboy Christmas Love Story," really is something special. Yes, it was large print. Yes, I knew what was going to happen after reading about four pages. Yes, I'm fairly certain those incomplete sentences weren't solely for dramatic effect.
Yes, my fancy was tickled.

Nonetheless, I'm reverting back to my first love: Wendell Berry's Bringing It To The Table and Berry Craig's (who I hope to have speak at the Library this spring) True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Balance

I am confident that I am likely the only Pillowbook contributor who has never actually met Liza in person. This speaks to the power of Liza's words and how she has impacted people she hasn't even met outside of the Internet world. I was honored to be included in Liza's circle of guest bloggers. Pillowbook is a blog with a strong sense of community and sharing, and I'm happy to be a part of it!

If you've ever stumbled across my blog, you know I write a lot about balance, that delicate push and pull of finding it and maintaining it. And inevitably each January I spend the month evaluating my previous year, what I feel I'm lacking and what I need more of. My greatest fear in life is muddling my way through with my head down, getting through the tough stuff and looking up ten years later wondering where the time has gone.
I don't know about you, but if one area of my life is out of balance, I feel a complete mess. If I've been working 12-hour days, the rest of my life falls into disarray. I don't want to look back and regret not seizing moments and opportunities in front of me.

As I've gotten older I've learned that the dreams and big goals for myself aren't just going to happen on their own. I have to take action and make choices that help me get where I want to go. So for me, slightly type A and with a great affinity for pen and paper, January is the perfect month to take stock. I like to begin by grabbing a notebook or journal and jotting down the things that are most important to me. These fittingly break down into six main areas:

Creativity & Passion

This is why Sid Lerner's philosophy works so well for me. Lerner likes to think of Mondays as the January of every week. This is brilliant. Mondays are good days to set goals for the week and resolve to make it your best week. On Monday mornings I jot down my five main areas in my journal. Then I write down what I'm doing for each area that week. When Sunday evening comes around I look back on my Monday goals and see how I fared. Some weeks are better than others, but in the end, this has been a great way for me to see my goals through. I've included some ideas to spark in you avenues that help ensure you are feeling whole, and making time for each part of yourself.

What are you doing for your mind?
Find a way to exercise your brain. We have been on a serious crossword puzzle binge as of late. Also late night rounds of Scrabble. I also like to choose a longer news article to read each week. I am a big fan of Arts & Letters Daily. It makes the perfect homepage on your computer. One of my favorite parts of the week is stretching out with the Sunday paper all day, digging into each section and discussing the news of the week over a large pot of coffee.

What are you doing for your body? Exercise is one of the first items to fall off the list if I'm stressing out and working long hours. Quite backwards when I consider how much better I feel after a good workout. Find what works best for you. Choose a plan you can stick with. Start small with 30-minute workouts or a walk around the block. How are you eating? Everything in balance and moderation I say. Once you start cutting things out wholly and making drastic changes, I think the chances are greater that you'll stop following through and ultimately feel worse in the end.

What are you doing for your spirit? Do you pray, read, meditate, attend church services? This is a deeply personal area, but so important. I feel this is the area I am lacking in the most and hope to improve in 2011. We have been seeking out a church where we feel at home and have been trying out various ones around the city, hoping to find one that feels like a comfortable fit. Charlie and I also practiced meditation in college and I would like to find a way to incorporate it back into my life.

The majority of Americans leave this one off the list entirely. Who has time to volunteer and give back? All of us in my opinion. The key here is finding a cause that you connect with and one that suits your interests and talents. It's such a wonderful way to get to know your city and the people that make your community complete. Maybe you volunteer once a week, once a month, or once a year. No matter what you do or how often, the impact is immense. To get involved somewhere, click here.

What are you doing for the people in your life? Have you picked up the phone or the pen recently? I'm a letter writer. I try to write one letter a week, always send thank you notes, and always remember birthdays. Receiving a birthday card or letter from a friend is one of the greatest and unexpected gifts. I also love to surprise my family and friends. It can be as simple as sending a sweet note or picking up the tab at dinner, or a step further with a plate of cookies or jar of jam. If you're in a relationship or married, I think it's so important to plan romantic surprises. They go a long way. If you're in a serious relationship you also understand the importance of patience. I challenge you to think before you speak, to try and go one day without complaining to your partner. This touches on Becky's post about not sweating the small stuff. You quickly realize how much is insignificant when you make a conscious effort to stop complaining.

Creativity & Passion

What is your passion? What drives you? What do you aspire to be? It's so important to make time for your creative pursuits. This usually requires stepping out of your comfort zone and muting the voices of your inner critic, but how freeing to get to that place! For me, it also requires powering off. Pick a few evenings and keep your television off, Facebook closed, and phone put away. Reconnect with yourself and what inspires you. If you're lost and trying to find a place to start, I highly recommend picking up The Artist's Way. This 12-week program is a blast to work through and truly helps you get back in touch with your creative goals. Two of my favorite elements of the program:
Morning Pages
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages-- they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind-- and they are for your eyes only.

Artist Date
The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly "artistic"-- think mischief more than mastery.

Make a list of fun, creative goals for yourself and challenge yourself to completing one a week or one a month. Here are some ideas to get you started: Keri Smith's 100 Ideas, Learning To Love You More assignment list, 52 Projects.

Wishing each of you a happy, well-balanced 2011!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Article About Nothing

By: Becky Ballard
Isn’t it ironic when a person who is annoyingly chatty and always received a check for “talks too much” on her report card as a student suddenly is speechless and blank when asked to write an article for her favorite blog? Well, that is the position I am in when asked by Liza to write an entry. First of all, I am so in awe of Liza’s flair for writing. Her thoughts seem to flow effortlessly from her keyboard and are so insightful, clever, and charming. Her entries make me cackle out loud, choke up with tears, and wish I were as well read and intelligent as she is. So, after typing those thoughts, now I feel even more insecure about my writing abilities, and to steal a quote from my students, “I can’t think of anything to write!”

As soon as that sentence leaves my mouth as if it were in a cartoon bubble, an episode from the highly intellectual situation comedy Seinfeld enters my brain. For those Seinfeld enthusiasts like myself, remember the episode where Jerry and George create a sit-com for NBC and it’s about nothing? I can so identify with those characters right now! I have been snowed in for days with my two daughters who I adore, but have had very little adult conversation, since my highway department husband has been working overtime and isn’t in the mood to chit-chat when he gets home, bless his tired heart. So I don’t think the Pillow Book readers will appreciate an entry about my conversations with my daughters: Put the cats out now! Stop fighting with each other! No you cannot put baby lotion on the cat! Please turn I Carly down! Stop yelling at each other! (I yell). What in the world will I write about? I haven’t exactly been stimulated with deep thoughts over these 5 days of snow. Hmmmm.....crickets....hmmmmm....

Aha! To quote George Costanza (Another Seinfeld reference), I see the book I’ve been reading for the past few days on the end table that has really spoken to me as a mother and a high-strung person who gets easily annoyed at things that don’t really matter. (Yes, I sweat the small stuff Richard Carlson, so sorry to disappoint.)

The book I have been reading is titled Resilience by the now deceased Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator and former Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards. To quote from the title it is her reflections on the burdens and gifts of facing life’s adversities, and she had all of the above. It’s a beautiful memoir about her life’s struggles and is very inspiring. The chapter that touched me the most is where she describes the day her 16 year old son died. That afternoon Elizabeth and her daughter Cate were visiting private schools for her to attend. Cate was not a willing participant and had somewhat put a damper on the day. On the plane ride home, a family with a crying baby and a young child who kicked the back of Elizabeth’s seat for the entire trip, really agitated Elizabeth. Can you imagine anything so annoying? Elizabeth complained, she said, the entire way as her husband drove her home from the airport. Not long after arriving to their house a state trooper pulled into her driveway with the devastating news that her son was dead. She reflects back to the previous moments of getting so aggravated and thinks, in her own words, how silly.

So, I would like to ask those who like myself, sweat the small stuff to make an effort to identify the “crisis” in your life as what it is. When I’m at the end of my rope with my daughters who argue all day, I will be glad they are alive, healthy, and safe in my home. When I fly into a silent rage because someone has returned an empty box of cereal in the pantry, I will be thankful we have food. When my job leaves me discouraged and exhausted, I will be thankful I have a means of supporting myself and my family. When I am in a hurry and get behind a slow driver, I will think this is God’s way of slowing me down, and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. Because the everyday stresses of life, that I so often blow out of proportion, they really are about nothing.

"We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -- but rather, how well we have loved—and what small part we have played in making the lives of ...other people better."

President Barack Obama
Tucson Memorial Service, January 1...2, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Heard It From Schwartz Too

A wise philosopher (it was actually Oprah I think) once said, "you can't change what has happened, but you can control your response to it."

On Saturday I posted a clip from Neil Pasricha's talk, "The Three A's of Awesome" (if you haven't watched it yet, I encourage you to go back). The part that resonated most with me was his discussion of behavioral choice. Suggesting that "attitude" - one of the "three A's" - is malleable, Pasricha reinforced a very elementary concept, but one that we, or I at least, need to be reminded of fairly often. Sure, some days are - and will be - incredibly frustrating, some events tragic and inexplicable, but that does not mean that we must give in to our immediate responses. Grief and anger are inevitable, self-pity is not.

So, for instance, when I was at the barn at 6:00 am yesterday trying to feed horses and clean stalls in 8 degree weather, or when I got shocked by the electric fence I crawled under while scooting a manure-filled wheelbarrow across ice and snow to the compost pile, or when my dog got sick and I couldn't call my dad to ask him what he thought I should do, or when I simply missed my dad in general, I mentally replayed NP's talk of attitude, awareness, and authenticity (after I finished my mini-breakdown, stopped crying, and picked myself up off the ground and out of the way of the cows that stood around me wondering why Randy Parker's long lost sister was glassy-eyed and laying in the middle of their snow/poop/sawdust beds). I decided to laugh at myself. I thought about some of the quippy one-liners Dad would've used to describe the mess of a scene that had just occurred behind his barn. I decided to go to my favorite cafe and have my favorite meal. I swallowed all pride and facebook stalked my Danville vet, asking him to call me on a Sunday night to ease my concerns about Willie (which he did within 20 minutes - if you live in the Danville area, I wholeheartedly recommend Heartland Veterinary Hospital; if around here, Brian Dyer was wonderful as well, willing to work on and keep Willie overnight). I took time to be aware. I decided.

Here is some of the awesomeness that helped me...
My barn outfits typically are ridiculous, but I may have set a new standard yesterday morning. I had on: long-sleeved t-shirt, sweatshirt, down vest, Northface-like jacket, coveralls, carhartt jacket, scarf, toboggan, insulated boots, and gloves. And I was still cold. BUT, without said "layers," I would've said much worse things in my head.
It's cliche, but it really was pretty.
Brown's Supply and the recommended magic heat tape are winners.
Isn't it nice when your subject looks directly at you right as you take the picture?
This farm sign, in between Waterview and Glasgow, just makes me smile.
I love exposed brick and hardwood floors. I love mismatched seating. I enjoy eating by myself. I wish I owned Cream & Sugar.
I love the little spill-over hunks on the sides of just-made pancakes.
I love that my sugar substitute was called "Sweet Thing."
I love that I have a "Party in the USA" Pandora station. And, apparentely, no shame.
Why are movies so much better when you unexpectedly find them on TBS? While I think Michael Cera is always endearing, I can't say that "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" was one of my favorites. Yesterday, though, it was awesome.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

1001: Neil Pasricha

A follow-up to one of my favorite posts...

Spend some time this weekend thinking about attitude, awareness, and authenticity. Take some pictures that reflect "awesome." Tell someone why they should be on your list. Share your weekend with me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Festivus For the Rest of Us

I am a firm believer that my family is probably one of the funniest in the United States. Every Christmas I try to write a poem that captures some of their idiosyncrasies, quirks, and foolish decisions/behaviors/personalities. I hope these give you a glimpse as to why: 1) my family is awesome and 2) the standard "stupid picture Christmas Eve" seems perfectly normal.

"I Liked Last Year’s Better…"

Although it’s been a tough year for a number of different reasons,
We must remember the goodness that seems heightened during the holiday season.
Goodness in the form of puppies, family, new babies, and friends,
Each reminding us that laughter is okay and that hearts are supposed to mend.

So while Mom didn’t give me dancing fodder for the typical Christmas ditty,
I decided to just reflect on a few holiday memories that have made us a bit giddy.
From the classy (and always reverent) pictures taken on those chilly Christmas Eve nights,
To the unwanted guest debacle that quite nearly caused a heartwarming little fist fight.

Let’s start with 206 Virginia Avenue, an abode of great lore.
The home of the multifunctional Santa houseshoe is rarely a bore.
There will be paper plates in the dishwasher and china in the tree;
10 pm, Grandma remains locked in the bathroom with the fruits of her shopping sprees.

Although the blessing will be a step up from anything by Mom or Sherry,
The Turner Christmas is not quite a simple celebration of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary.
For it is gluttony in the form of appetizer and post-it note obsession;
We all relish Mama’s descriptions of the panties, mini-lotions, and socks now in our possession.

It is the immediate family get-togethers, however, that have produced the most memorable Christmas fun;
For Adrienne dancing with walnuts on her eyes indisputably brings joy to everyone.
Dad will hit up Grider “Antiques” the morning just before the big day,
While Mom, Ralphy, and Kenny G keep tradition alive and any sadness at bay.

A wreath on the P.T. Cruiser and twinkling lights in every tree,
Turner Farm simply embodies the Christmas spirit as any passerby could see.
We should thus all feel blessed to be a member of this incredibly funny Nunn/Turner clan,
So charge your camera batteries and put a drink in your hand.

“Music consumes my soul”

Writing Christmas poems is the equivalent of selecting the perfect birthday card.
Will it be a badass mustache or the wispy daisies sprouting in the yard?
Standing in Walgreens or typing on the bed in the one room to which the pups and I have been confined,
I frustratingly debate the all-important question, should I leave sentimentality or stupidity behind?

For Christmas is the time of the year when expectations loom intimidatingly static,
Poems don’t freely ebb and flow like the valuable necessities carefully organized in Jackie’s attic.
Twenty four years ago Glenn Frey skyrocketed to fame for his ditty in Beverly Hills Cop.
“The heat is on,” continues to haunt me a mere twenty four hours before the rib roast drops.

So here we sit, Luce, the Pickle, and me, looking for inspiration in all that we see.
But, alas, the bull-wearing-a-scarf cookie jar or the tipsy glass bunny aren’t really doing it for me.
I am Pat Benatar and I desperately plea for motivation to hit me with its best shot.
I look to the sky, hoping a pseudo Star of Bethlehem will untangle this creative knot.

Then suddenly it happens, the object of intrigue that will frame this annual literary gift.
In my periphery I see a blue streak of hoopie delight which causes my spirits to lift.
“That’s it!” I proclaim, opening my computer, and deviously running Christmas songs through my mind.
Billy superimposed into the Twelve Days of Christmas, a poetic gem, a joyous metaphoric find.

So the fruits of this year’s labor now take a decidedly different turn.
Rhyming mediocrity is finished, yet the rhythm inside my soul continues to burn.
I must “bring it,” therefore, just as Adrienne did for Western’s Mr. Powell.
No applause needed, but get prepared to be wowed.

"Fred’s Really Came Through This Year"

Who doesn’t need a singing sensor-based reindeer from Fred’s?
“What an important question,” the procrastinating muse of Christmas poems once said.
Walk behind and you’d never realize the secret talents the hoofer possessed,
Inversely proportionate to a mullet, it is the front that marks success.

“Where else could this poem go?” You are, probably for good reason, asking.
Will she bring up Charlie Daniels’ Facebook account or the Macy’s multitasking?
Maybe she’ll go on and on about details for which no one cares in the least,
making sure we all feel put-out and annoyed over the course of the Christmas feast.

Nah, perhaps she’ll do some reflection on the meaning of family and friends
Singling out each dinner guest with an ode to the love they foster and tend.
Isabella is pure joy even if she is the roughest sweet pea in the pod,
Her daddy, a man who introduced me to the word “moobs” and who has a brother named Todd.

Isabella’s momma, now there’s a complicated lady.
The only Turner around who secretly loathes precious, innocent, sweet, little Sadie,
The one who has encouraged flu shots to all near and far
Yet, a mother whom I respect and whose devotion will never be marred.

Now, we can’t forget ole Adrienne, the blue-collar laborer of the clan,
All-too-aware that papers don’t write themselves even in the best laid plans.
Copier, cheat, mischievous scalawag if you will,
Or, the vice mayor of Corntown who rules with unyielding zeal.

Last, but certainly not least, the spirited leader of the pack,
JNT embodies all that is Christmas as a matter of fact.
Whether decorating for 68 hours straight or baking bourbon balls for known alcoholics,
She creates an atmosphere of holiday perfection, one dorks might call warmly bucolic.

Oh wait, there’s one more who it seems I have left out
The big guy sitting beside me of which I have no doubts,
He, to his credit, sometimes reminds me of dad, witty, honest and handy
No shock where this one is going….his name is indeed Andy.

So, the poem that started with a Fred’s clearance reindeer finally comes to a close,
Deep in meaning and substance, so the story goes.
Maybe next year I’ll put pen to paper a few days before Christmas Eve,
And create a heartwarming poetic quilt that I’ll be proud to have weaved. …

Until then, though, you get moobs and far-too-obvious name rhyming. I love you all very much. Merry Christmas 2010.

Oh Micheal, said I loved you but I lied

Last year I resolved to listen to the Avett, I mean really listen. In their song "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise," Scott Avett simply states: "decide what to be and go be it." I know this doesn't seem like a big deal, some sage advice that only the most clever or insightful could come up with; however, it resonated with and inspired me. I stopped doubting myself. I stopped questioning what I knew I wanted. I stopped settling for the gray. I decided what to be...And, I am better for it.

So, for any of you who feel lost - in whatever shape that takes in your own life - I encourage you to download I and Love and You and put #3 on repeat.
I am grateful this year to be in a place - both literally and figuratively - where issues of identity are fleeting, if existent at all. I love my life, the people in it, the jobs and responsibilities that keep me busy, the house I share with the boy I love, and the goals that now seem like viable possibilities. So, with that being said, here are a few of my much less significant, but fun-to-think-about, resolutions for 2011...

1. Make cheese. 8 different kinds in fact. Caroline Kraft, this was quite possibly the most exciting Christmas gift I have ever received.
2. Host a Murder Mystery Dinner at our house.
3. Run a half-marathon.
4. Attend a concert, play, or lecture every month. Upcoming events: February - Peking Acrobats; March - Michael Bolton (Mom's birthday gift. That's right, I said Michael Bolton.)
5. Do CLT proud - try to break a horse by myself.
6. Learn how to make Mom's sourdough bread. And actually feed the starter when I'm supposed to.
7. Submit at least one poem and one essay to one state and one national publication.
8. Read at least 3 works of fiction. Finish the Sandra Brown book Vickie and Terry picked out for me by the end of January.
9. Save enough money to go to Europe with Caroline!!
10. Visit friends who I enjoy so much and miss tremendously, but with whom I have not spent quality time in years: Trina, Melinda, Meredith, get your couches ready.

Happy 2011!