New Neighbors

26 Feb

wpid-20150213_073522.jpgI have the great fortune of being new neighbors with a writer – a kind, warm, generous, multi-faceted writer who travels and plays music and mentors young people and builds community among writers. In all my years of imagining Gertrude Stein and her salons and her stunningly brilliant friends … feeling an affinity for Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group … I had this idea that I was living in the wrong time, in the wrong place, and maybe I was, or maybe I am, but right now, I have the great fortune of being new neighbors with a writer.

She invited us to dine and write one night with her writing group – any of us who might be interested. Grace and I went. I put on my hat and coat and gloves. Why? It’s cold. My ears get chilled quickly. I needed warmth on the trek from my front door to hers.

I can see her dining room from my kitchen.

I can’t explain my bundling. It’s just something I do, something I did, something I’ll do again.

Here’s what I wrote when it came time for that. Here’s the bit I shared:

The snap of the fire. The rush of the music. The calm. All the pens moving. This is church. This is a Quaker Friends Meeting, everyone sitting quietly, opening space for truth to tumble in.

How much space or time or heat does the fire need to ignite? Does it depend on the snow? The age of the wood? The ice clinging to its bark? Will the bark light? When?

One log burns down. My writer friend, the fire tender, adds a new log to the stack. Another log changes the sound of the fire, the snap of the sparks.

Family is like this, too.

We bring home a new puppy and the last new pet – a curious grey cat who joined our family as a kitten – pees. He pees everywhere.

Not to put the fire out, but what’s the difference?

Here. Here. Here. The fire. Yes. The rhythm of the music. Brings me back.

I have the great fortune of being new neighbors with a writer.

And although I miss my old neighbor, with whom I imagined for two years (but never planned) coffee dates, with whom I felt at ease – my old neighbor who I was eager to know, who seemed eager to know me, too, to know my family, my daughter, even when my daughter grew jealous and silent around her, wanting me, only me, as her own – although I miss this neighbor and her husband and their beautiful, funny, inquisitive, charismatic children, I am keenly aware that anything can happen and life is now.

And now.

I have the great fortune of being neighbors with a writer who – like me – enjoys a good game of dominoes on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

 

Writer’s Weekend

12 Feb

I went away last weekend.

Like: Away.

Like: Leave the family – the kid, the dogs, the cat, the laundry – at home and LEAVE TOWN. To write. To be a writer. To set a few goals. To free-write. Remember that? Free writing? Writing to cleanse the soul. To play. To be. Writing I may share or {gasp} not share. Free. For a whole weekend. Free from responsibilities. Free from duty. Free, free, free.

Because my family supports my writing – my Honey, both girls, even the dogs (trust me on this), I can actually ditch town for a full weekend just.for.me. Even if this is the first time I’ve done it in over ten years – since becoming a mom and, yes, I was wracked with guilt half the time – even while the tween was having the time of her life with a sleepover and two playdates and dancing and movie-making and stories and art and PLAY, PLAY, PLAY.

Even while my Honey had friends over both nights, and then up to and well beyond the moment I arrived home. Even so.

The guilt. My, oh, my.

Or maybe it was just that they could get along without me.

I’m told that bit gets easier.

I went away with a friend. A new friend. A coworker. A writer. We told stories for days – well, two days, but – you know? STORIES. To each other. And on the page. I adore this friend. I really do. In part because he handled warmly and gracefully my quiet melancholy in the woods, my need for silence, my insecure brooding self. How many friends do any of us have who can handle all that? These friends are gifts.

Here’s what our weekend looked like:

Writing Weekend Snacks

Writing Weekend One Computer

Writing Weekend Two Computers

Writing Weekend Too Much Light

Writing Weekend Fridge

When we stopped writing, we walked.

Writing Weekend Road

Writing Weekend Pictures of Trees   Writing Weekend Snowy Trees

And by the time we were ready to go – after hours of writing and talking and listening – I found my perspective shifting more naturally, less haltingly, both my feet on solid ground.

 

 

Writing Weekend Path to the Not so Frozen Lake

Writing Weekend Leaves and Ice

Writing Weekend Snowy Leaves Melting Ice

Writing Weekend Ice Melt

It was … precisely … what I needed.

All of it.

Snow

and leaves,

melting ice and

friendship. And words.

So, so, so many words

falling into place, all

in their own

time.

<3

We didn’t change the world. Now what?

5 Feb

After my daughter asked, “Why aren’t there two brown girls together?” about her pages and pages of stickers of American Girls playing and reading and living their lives … after I agreed that it wasn’t right … after she set her lips in that way she has that’s new and disturbing, I had a few choices to make:

Call her on her attitude? No. Not this time. Leave it alone? Let things be as they are? Again: No. Then what do we do?

Write a letter? Write an email? Make a call? Enlist the help of friends – her friends? my friends? Who starts it off? Me, the mom? Her, the kid? Me, the ally? Her, the one whose life is not represented by her favorite brand? And then – what if it doesn’t change? Because probably, it won’t.

We wrote a letter. Mostly, I wrote it and she sat on her iPad nearby, jumping up to add her commentary and make a few edits over my shoulder before we printed it off to stamp and send. She didn’t want to sign it, but she wanted it written. She wanted to be heard.

Here’s what we said:

Dear American Girl,

I am the mother of a ten-year-old who loves your dolls. She loves them. She lobbied my partner and me for one of your dolls for two years before we granted her wish and when we finally did visit your store to choose her doll, she did cartwheels in the aisle. She selected a brown girl that looks like her – from your historical series – the girl most like her in color and facial features – and she has played with her American Girl Doll with love and enthusiasm, over and over and over again.

We have your books on friendship and self-care and puberty, and both she and I appreciate the approach you’ve taken, the stories you’ve chosen to share, the facts, and the tone you take with your readers. We also like the pictures. A lot.

You’ve done a very good job with many things.

A couple weeks ago, though, my daughter and her friend and I were making cards and badges and crafts with your scrapbook sticker set and we noticed something upsetting, especially in the middle of our country’s overt and strong racial tensions. We noticed that while brown girls were shown in a variety of activities, there were no brown girls together. When your brown girls were social, they were social only with white girls. We also noticed there were hardly any Asian girls. And we wondered:  Why is that?

Respectfully …

I took a picture before we mailed it. Then we left town to visit family for Christmas.

wpid-20141221_101753.jpg

By the time their response arrived – and it didn’t take long, really – we had both forgotten about the letter we sent.

But then I saw the return address, the logo, the postmark, and called her over. “American Girl wrote back. Do you want to hear what they said?” She gave me that guarded look again – not entirely cold this time, still hopeful. I could almost hear her heart beating in her chest. Or maybe it was the heart in my own chest I heard. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

Here is what they wrote back:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with American Girl. We appreciate your feedback and are happy to hear how much your daughter enjoys her doll and our books. At the same time, we’re sorry to hear about your disappointment with our recent catalogue.

Our mission is to ‘Celebrate Girls’, all girls, so we’re committed to having diverse options within our product lines and marketing efforts. While we do not always have the luxury of reshooting catalogue pages to create better balance, one edition may have a better balance than another. However, we believe being a girl, any girl, is great and that the girls we inspire today will become the women who make the difference tomorrow. You have our word that American Girl will continually strive to maintain our reputation for inclusiveness.

We appreciate your interest in an Asian American doll. With the re-launch of the historical collection, we’ve decided to move away from the friend-character strategy within the line, which means we no longer offer Julie’s best friend of Chinese-American heritage, Ivy Ling ®. However, we’re constantly exploring various time periods and cultures to add to our line. We believe the Asian-American story is a very important one to share with girls and we hope to have the opportunity to do so at some point in the future.

In the meantime, we currently offer dolls which are considered Asian American in appearance: Bitty Baby ® (DFN00), Bitty Twins® (F4991-GF1A), the My American Girl® doll (F1253). In addition, our 2006 Girl of the Year® character, Jess®, was of Japanese American heritage. Each of these dolls has light skin, dark brown or black hair, and dark brown or black almond-shaped eyes.

Ms. … we value your opinion and hope this information is helpful. Customer comments are important to us as we strive to make our products as appealing from as many vantage points as possible.

Sincerely…

I couldn’t get through the letter without commentary. Hers. Mine. Kelly’s. Reshooting? Inclusiveness? 2006? Julie’s best friend?

“That’s stupid!” my daughter finally said, and I agreed. Again.

But again – now what?

When you try to change the world with a few tiny words and you’re not really heard and there is no change, what then? What’s next? What do you do when your child is watching, waiting?

“Do you want me to post it on my blog?” I asked her. “To see if anyone else has an idea?”

“Yes!” she said. “Do that.”

And she nodded. Decision made.

I took out identifying info ’cause that’s just how I am, but here are the letters in their original form:

AGD letter 12 21 2014

AGD response 1 8 2015

Our letter wasn’t perfect. Neither was American Girl’s.

But I’m posting them here and now I’m asking – I really am asking – in case one of you has an idea that sticks:

We didn’t change the world.

Now what?

What would you do?

Introvert or Extrovert?

30 Jan

Twice a week, I drive to work. After I park, instead of gathering my belongings and bolting out of the car, making a beeline to the office (as I’ve done – trust me – many times), I now stay in the car for 5 or 10 minutes scrolling through email, Facebook, Instagram, listening to the quiet from within the car, breathing deeply, preparing to begin my day. Allowing my mind to wander, settling into . . . myself.

That, and my morning shower, are the sum total of my weekly solitude.

It hasn’t always been like this.

Before I had kids, when I was single – or dating but not married, responsible for no one’s life but my own – I had alone-time every day. At home. With my cat. I craved this time and if I didn’t get it, it was like my personality got sucked out of the top of my head and I walked around like a quiet, deflated balloon, incapable of creativity. Or humor. Or conversation.

See, I’ve always had ridiculous dips in confidence. On my low confidence days – which used to drag on for weeks on end – I couldn’t make a decision to save my life. I doubted every little choice I made. Red shirt or blue one? Call her or leave her alone?  I always KNEW I was wrong, no matter WHAT I chose. This went on and on and on until at some point, I noticed a pattern. I noticed that when I had the time alone I so desperately craved, my confidence returned. I could wear any shirt at all. I could call the girl OR I could leave her alone. I could laugh, converse, and walk freely about the cabin. The FASTEN SEATBELT sign would turn off and I’d go merrily along my way!

That’s when I started building alone-time into my every day. I even turned off my phone {gasp!} sometimes, pretended I wasn’t home. I became unreachable. More stable. More purposeful.

So.

Does that make me an introvert? I don’t know.

My friend Marj  said that my opting for quiet time at home the night before our wedding, instead of a late night out with family and friends, could be an introvert thing, or it could be a Highly Sensitive Person thing, too. Could be.

In my early twenties, I took the Meyer’s Briggs test and landed in the low extrovert range. But things change.

It could be just a person thing, as Susanne suggested. Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is this: Alone time rocks.

Alone time steadies my soul.

So.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you know?

wpid-20150125_155829.jpg

 

Question #5

26 Jan

This week’s question isn’t random. It’s something I really want to know. It came up when I acknowledged out loud that I need more quiet time than your average bear. I have a feeling a lot of writers feel the same way. A lot of my family. A lot of my friends. But we rarely talk about it, so here goes ~

fishy

Introvert or Extrovert? How do you know?

I believe it’s a spectrum, and no one fits neatly on either side … but I’m curious how you relate to the world, how you recharge, where you put yourself (or your pets!) on the spectrum, and maybe even … WHY.

On Friday, I’ll blog my own exploration. Will you join me with a comment or a link to your blog?

Cheers,
RoiAnn

P.S. Thank you to Good Families Do for joining me every week!!! <3

 

How do you nurture your soul?

23 Jan

Our souls need nourishment. And nurturing. There’s no getting around it.

And whether we make time in our day-to-day lives, or not, most of us have a sense of what our soul wants, what our spirit needs, what helps us breathe deeply, what offers us that glow… do you agree?

Here’s some of what nurtures my soul:

Beautiful Space

wpid-20150118_162729.jpg   
wpid-20150106_073729.jpg

Writing Practice

Fox Journal

Water

wpid-20141016_113238.jpg             wpid-20141016_115930.jpg  wpid-20150118_162609.jpg

Fire

wpid-20150121_205502.jpg

A string of lights around my heart

wpid-20150110_183757.jpg

Eileen Molony Photo

Friendship

wpid-20141025_161916.jpg
I pledge to take care in 2015 . . . to make time for friendship, for rich conversation, for bearing witness to beauty – natural beauty, for writing practice, water, staring into the fire . . . I find I’m a more loving person when I nourish my soul in these ways. And you?

How do you nurture your soul?


NOTE: Wedding Photo by Eileen Molony 

Question #4

18 Jan

I’m curious. Do you blog, ponder, chat with friends, or nudge your family to answer random questions at strange and unexpected times like I do?

So far, I’ve shared three questions here from Kobi Yamada’s book ever wonder and I’m loving the conversations they spark. Now, stepping away from a game of Dominoes, I am opening the book to (Random) Question #4.

On Friday, I’ll blog my own exploration. I hope you’ll join me with a comment or a link to your blog. Here goes . . .

wpid-20150111_204631.jpg

How do you nurture your soul?

See you Friday!
RoiAnn

P.S. I’m so sorry I didn’t close Friday’s post with an invitation to link to your own blog if you have one! The offer is ALWAYS OPEN.

Who’s Driving this Car?

15 Jan

That’s the question I want to be asking because lately, my questions are all about power. Who has it? Who wants it? Can I have some? Do I have some? Can I let some go? Who has the wheel? Who must step aside?

Whether I’m talking about my tween and homework, my life, or my work, it always eventually comes to this: Who’s driving the car?

But let’s back up. I posted a question on Monday, and I aim to answer it. Here’s a refresher . . .image

Do you know where you are on your journey?

~ Kobi Yamada, ever wonder

After curating our year-end campaign for work — inviting staff, allies and supporters to map their journeys and share with the hashtag #MapYourJourney — I was supremely tickled by this question. There is a synergy at play, or perhaps it’s simply that “journey” is the word for 2015.

My word, anyway.

But which journey do I address?

* * *

I began my blog shortly after my stepmother died, acutely aware of how little time we have on this earth, how any impact we’re going to have must happen here, now … imperfectly, passionately … and here I am, still bumping around inside the heart of imperfection.

* * *

To pinpoint where I am on my journey as an activist for equity and justice, a too-quiet activist these past few years . . . I’m drawn back to something I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago . . . The morning after a Grand Jury failed to hear the case against Darren Wilson, I was livid. Quietly seething, truly horrified. There are not enough adjectives in my lexicon to reflect all the sparks, or all the tendrils, of my emotion. I stayed silent on social media. I didn’t have anything helpful to say.

Even as I left the house, even as I rode the train, walked down the sidewalk, smoldering inside – still, I had no words.

I walked directly into my coworkers’ office before removing my coat, my hat, before opening the door of my own office – I needed human contact, perspective, SOMETHING. I need to talk with someone as furious as myself – as hurt, as angry, as appalled.

We shared our outrage. I took off my hat. We told each other how we’d each heard the news, how it impacted us, what it reminded each of us of. I unzipped my coat. There were flushed cheeks. Tears. Intensity. Hugs. We come from different places, but we stood together. In that moment, we stood together.

I would have imploded without that.

Silence is not an option, not over the long term. Which means . . .

My opinions and my mistakes – so many of them – are coming out more and more now because even if I’m wrong or stupid or sheltered sometimes, even when I see it wrong or say it wrong, I know I have to keep talking until I get it right.

* * *

And listening. I have to keep listening, too.

I landed in nonprofit communications as a drifter with drive but no direction. I’m learning as I go — as we all are, I suppose.

I am learning not just how to be an online marketer or a non-profit storyteller, a social media manager or a website content creator – it’s bigger than that – I am learning what it means to listen. To be humble. To sit in a room with people I respect, people from many walks of life, and to support – truly support – one another as we grow.

It isn’t easy.

For any of us.

* * *

I consider each journey. To each journey, I bring my full attention.

Where am I? Who’s driving the car?

I am a poet, a mom, a blogger, a dreamer, an Aquarian in the middle of my life. I am a woman, a mom, a stepmom, a wife. I’m an auntie, a mentor, a daughter, a friend, an activist, a writer, a communicator. I am sometimes a bridge. I am overweight and under-styled. Down-to-earth. True to my word. I have never been happier. I am lonely sometimes.

Rilke says, in his Letters to a Young Poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I had a really hard time with last week’s question, I have to confess. I nearly scrapped the whole question-and-answer idea, except that … I am loving the conversations.

I love to see how we’re all on a journey, each of us with our own answers, our own ideas, our own responses or explorations, our own blinders, stumbling blocks, strengths, insights and passion – and it’s okay – it’s really okay – to see all these words we share back and forth across the screen as a living, breathing conversation. I can still change my mind. You can still change yours. We can change direction. Over and over again. And we will. These words do not need to box us in.

No.

I put words out here on my blog to be examined. I write them where I can see them, turn them over in my mind, rub them smooth with my fingers like shells or stones found on the shore, gifts from the sea, something I can hold onto, a kind of magic, daring me to make them into something liveable and real.

Where am I on this journey?

I am learning to love the questions.

Question #3

11 Jan

This is so much fun! I am loving the conversations sparked by questions from Kobi Yamada’s book ever wonder, both online and off. THANK YOU.

When more than five people responded to Question #1 last week, I posted a second randomly selected question. A few bloggers and friends shared thoughts on that one, too, so now I’m posting Question #3! Are you in?

On Friday, I’ll blog my own exploration and I’d love you to join me – with a comment or a link to your blog. So . . .

ever wonder dog wary

. . . from my living room to yours, here’s the question:

Do you know where you are on your journey?

Happy Pondering ~ See you Friday!
RoiAnn

Do you have to see it to believe it?

9 Jan

Is it true that you have to see it to believe it, or rather, do you have to believe it before you can see it?

~ Kobi Yamada, ever wonder

frosty window 2This had me stumped for awhile. As if one answer could hold all things! I decided to re-frame the question: What must you see to believe? What must you believe to see? Where are seeing and believing intertwined?

Incidentally, five full days is far too long to ponder an already potent question. I may have to adjust the timing if we do this post-a-question-and-then-answer-it thing again.

3-D Printer – This, I had to see to believe. Forget that my whole job is digital communications for a moment, and forget that my father chaired the math and computer science department at a Silicon Valley university while Apple was getting its’ sea legs. Okay? Let’s just say that when Kelly started talking about 3-D printers, I thought she was making it up. Until King Google confirmed for me that it was a thing. Did you know that a 3-D printer in Baltimore is making prosthetic hands for kids? Now that I’ve seen it (or at least seen a picture of it), I believe it. And wow!

God – Believe first. It’s a question of faith, right? It’s easy for me to see the world as random, without meaning or reason – but the world changes color when I open myself to god or spirit or goddess or being. I see more vividly then. At the same time, my faith is not described in scripture, and not described in how I was raised. I find god in myself, in the skies at sunrise, in the woods, in the ocean. In every person I meet, I see the spirit-which-connects-all-things. Not unlike the words of Ntozake Shange in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf: “i found god in myself / and i loved her / i loved her fiercely.” And the more I believe, the more I see.

Marriage Equality – I wanted to believe first, but I couldn’t. I wanted to believe that marriage equality would become the law of the land – of my land – in my lifetime. I hitched my wagon to some brilliant and playful advocates, organized receptions for marriage equality with wedding cakes and toasts and flowers thrown in the air, planned protests at City Hall, gifted urban commuters with little bottles of Vermont Maple Syrup for Valentine’s Day… And still, while I loved the romance of it all, and believed our families SHOULD enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities of legal marriage, I never really, truly, in my bones believed that it would come to pass. Legal recognition of my family, of families like mine, was something I needed to see before I could believe. And now we are married, Kelly and I. And now I’m a believer. In so many things.

Cooperative Ten-Year-Old – Do you feel me here? This, I must see to believe. Every time.

White Privilege – Here, I think seeing and believing are intertwined. Something shifted in me – in so many of us – when people in Ferguson spoke out… or started to be heard. Now I see white privilege everywhere, more than I saw it before. And I believe it more readily when it’s pointed out to me. My senses are heightened, and being the mom of a child of color is no small part of that. I see racism more readily, too. In the news – and in the everyday stories my colleagues and family and friends tell of driving while brown, of hailing (or trying to hail) cabs, of arriving at the hospital or ordering at a bar, being passed over, looked at twice, feared. None of this changed with Ferguson – but I paid less attention, took less responsibility, didn’t fully believe it was mine to fix before. It was too big. It still feels too big. But my belief in the power to change is stronger now. Making my vision sharper.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

It’s your turn. Any thoughts on the question above? Or on my response? Comment below or link to your blog.

Thank you!

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