The Object of Writing is to Grow a Personality Which in the End Allows One to Transcend Art — Lawrence Durrell


Recently I was answering questions in an e-mail magazine interview, and came to this one:  “What do you hope to accomplish with your books?”  I stopped typing.  I stopped moving.  Quite possibly I was legally deceased for two or three seconds.  There’s a Zen saying I learned in seminary as ‘Unask the question.’  My mind was spinning:  I found popcorn, the lyrics to 300 Leonard Cohen songs, and the number of our post office box in Mooreland.  Other than that?  A deep disquiet.  I considered writing, “The question is the answer,” because, right?  Buddhists get by with that all the time; or maybe inventing a different personality, Sybil-like, who could just take over while I napped.  She would glance down a lot, maybe even do a little toe-scuffing gesture that could be considered coquettish, the sort of thing I’d eat my own flesh before doing.  She would say things like, “I just write because I have to,” and “You know, I’m learning like everybody else, trying to do my best,” or perhaps, “I just want to spread a little joy around, give back.”  I realized I’d end up showing Miss Toe-Scuffer the back of my smacking hand, so I returned to the near-death state and hovered there for twenty minutes or so.

The question is too large, for one thing, and it’s absurdly complicated and personal, and while it’s seemingly an inquiry into language, words run terrified from it like a massive herd of lemmings who’ve overpopulated their garden.  Turn to an auditorium filled with a bunch of words and tell them you want to employ them to explain something both conceptual and concerning themselves, and they become as shy and wary of human beings as those monkey-guinea-pig-toy-poodle things with the buggy eyes, you know, those things that live in a rainforest somewhere.  If you’ve never seen one, my point is well made.

What do I hope to accomplish with my books?  Eventually the words looked all squiggly.  What are the possible answers? 

1.  I want to bring about world peace and guarantee universal wheelchair access.

2.  I want to be incredibly famous so that everyone will love me, and the love will fill this gaping chasm in my soul; so famous I eventually feel as if I’m being hunted, and in desperation drink anti-freeze, because dogs do it so it must taste good.

3.  I’ve found that it’s best if I invest my ego in everything I do and also in other people.  Like, it’s a really good idea to attach my ego to my children and make sure they know everything they do is actually a reflection of me.  And I’ve put A LOT of my Ego Bucks into fashion, because the only thing standing between me and a locked ward are those Christian Laboutins AND your envy of them.  And then it occurred to me:  I could write books and every review would be about Me, and the reaction of each reader would be a reaction to Me, and I would have fans who would dream they WERE Me, and then my Ego would be truly happy.

4.  Because I’m smarter than everyone else in the world, and everyone who ever lived, and other books are stupid written by stupids and I owe it to my genius and to the world to finally produce Greatness.

5.  I’m pretty sure that if you have a book in print, you never die.  That would be a HUGE relief to me, because I have issues around mortality.  My own, I mean.

6.  Do you know how much Danielle Steele is worth??

7.  I hope to accomplish vicious revenge against mine enemies.  Smoting.

The list above could also be seen as a condensed version of Dante’s seven circles of Author Hell.  We are blessed with the capacity to make Hell out of anything, anywhere, and all it takes narcissism, desperation, and wrong-headedness, none of which are in short supply.  Try it, it’s a very flexible recipe.  How to make a marriage Hell?  Narcissism, desperation, and wrong-headedness.  How to damage your children?  What does it take to become a political analyst on Fox news?  How do I squander my talents, lose the ability to imagine other people exist, and create unhappiness everywhere I go? 

What do I hope to accomplish with my books?!?  I couldn’t even parse the question.  I also lost the ability to understand why I was so confused.  Eventually, I settled for the most basic candor.  “I hope to find the right word, and follow it by the right word, from the beginning to the end.”  Yes, I know it sounds as if it were written by a collie.  I finished the interview and sent it off and it came and went somewhere and made not a dent in anything – all that worry had been misplaced.

Why, then, did I continue to think about it right up to this moment?  Sometimes I thought the problem with the question was semantic:  take out ‘accomplish.’  Writing a book is an accomplishment in and of itself, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.  The question was phrased such that I imagined my books going out into the world and doing something, like qualifying for one of those obscure Norwegian sports in the winter Olympics.  Maybe one of them would join a boy band, and another could buy a bar in the Florida Keys.  Then I decided it was the pronoun “I.”  I don’t have anything to do with this, the books are themselves, discrete.  They aren’t about me, there is no “I” in them.  I would argue that even the two memoirs aren’t about me:  they are studies in a particular way of crafting memoir. 

I have shelves of books on writing, everything from Eudora Welty to Stephen King to James Woods.  William Stafford titled his book on crafting poetry, Writing The Australian Crawl; so charming, that man.  As well as I can recall, not one of those books is anguished.  Some are extremely practical and useful (William Zinsser, King).  Many make suggestions like, “Write in the same place at the same time every day.  Your body will learn that it’s Writing Time if you develop this habit.”  “Learn to craft the perfect query letter, then tailor it to each agent by studying his or her client list.”  Eventually it hit me:  everyone talks about writing as if it were something we do, whereas I put it in the category of Being.  We’ve discussed the question Kat’s history teacher proposed:  How are we to live?  The question in the interview should have been, “How are we to live as writers?”  [Note:  The question came to me while I was sitting on the floor in the living room, going through the shelves of literary criticism and writer’s guides, and I actually tipped my head back and looked at the ceiling, the way actors do, or people lying in bed trying to make a hard decision, and I feel its my duty to tell you that while the tendency is deeply ingrained in our race, there is nothing to be learned from a ceiling.  Seriously.  Flat, plaster, usually white, not a clue up there to any quandary.]

Most books about writing are anguish free, but I’ve been worried about it so deeply and for so long I am near to collapsing with the vapours.  It’s a blessing to have a strong, definitive sense of vocation; mine is absolute, fixed as if with an entymologist’s straight pin.  But just as there is Right Living, there is Right Working.  You can be successful in any field with Wrong Working – in fact, the Wrongest are probably doubly rewarded.  Recently a doctor said to me, “I’m sending you to Dr. X.  He’s an asshole, but he’s the best.  Well, all neurologists are assholes but he’s exceptionally so.”  Shakespeare wrote, in Henry VI 2, in response to tyranny, the first thing we are to do is “kill all the lawyers.”  And that was late in the 16th century, when the Earth had not yet been declared a planet and we still spoke in a strange series of gutteral plosions and clicks.

There’s a theological practice adopted from the Hindus, now used as a way of thinking about lots of things, which is sometimes referred to as Radical Negativity.  If I’m stuck and can’t discern what action would be pleasing to Shiva, I reverse the process of discernment and make a list of the things I know for certain would not be pleasing to Shiva.  It’s a canny, graceful way of organizing abstractions.  I had nowhere to begin on how to Work Rightly, let alone what I hoped to accomplish with my books.  (Even now, I type the sentence and it fills me with anxiety.)  So I decided to make a list of Negativities.

Ways I Have Seen It Done Wrong:

1.  I am introduced to you at a conference and you are an asshole.

2.  Same conference:  we are speaking, even though I’ve become aware that you need to be in a 12-step Assoholic program stat, and I am only continuing to be gracious to you because I know that you will someday die, and you see over my shoulder a more important person.  You say, “Excuse me, I need to catch up with Gary before cocktails.”

3.  Your novels are self-consciously modeled on the length and conventions of the three-act screenplay, and you say to people, “When it’s optioned, it won’t need ten rewrites – it’s ready to go.”  You take a drink of rose, which has made an inexplicable reappearance.  “I’m going to have Binky bargain for me to have sole screen-writing credit.” 

4.  You have an idea for a book or a short story and as you’re working on it, you realize it it has failed, and rather than accepting that, you bend the prose to fit your outline, and you call this ‘making it work.’

5.  You refuse to be edited, because if the sentence hadn’t been perfect, you wouldn’t have put it there.

6.  You never imagine the effect a scene or a plot twist or some too-vivid sex will have on your audience.  You never think of an audience at all, because no one is real but you, and every cruel aesthetic decision you make is called ‘art.’

7.  You lie.  Your characters are a lie, and your dialogue is a lie, and your forced and premeditated sentimentality is treasonous.

8.  You will write anything, any time, for any publication that pays well, because you are a professional.

9.  No amount of success or praise or fanmail or adulation is enough.  You despise your life, you hate sitting at your desk, you refuse to read any author who has won literary prizes, you begin to plot your upcoming books based on what’s selling.  What’s selling is Havana, let’s say.  You don’t go to Havana, you don’t learn anything but the most basic information, you have no interest in the political landscape, you’ve never met a single person from Havana.  It doesn’t matter, you just prop up detritus – a doll your dog mangled, say – where you intend a woman to stand.  It makes no difference because there is no woman, no Havana, no language, you are venal and you sense it for just a moment, then turn and write an abusive letter to your editor for ruining your career.


But there is a deeper negative, something more radical than just Wrong Working.  In truth, the you considering this does not want Selfhood to enter a single line of your work.  You don’t want your name to be larger than the title, because the book has nothing to do with your name.  Author photographs fill you with a shame you’ve never felt before.  You’re told that the business has changed and you are now as much a product as what you hold in your hands, and so you’re asked to help develop a marketing plan:  who do you know, where can you network.  You pass an executive editor in the hallway and he’s on his way somewhere but shouts, “Love the new book!” even though everyone knows he hasn’t read it, won’t read it.  Your Soul now dwells in a Society where that lie is reflexive, expected, and will have no consequences.  It’s just some more Death Chatter, the staccato language of commerce and ambition and a nearly daily necessity to speak of your love of literature while scheming for a 5-second spot on morning television; in short, as Prufrock said, you are afraid.  No one in this building cares about Eliot, or poetry at all, for that matter, because it’s a black hole, and if you wandered through every floor and asked every person, desperation marring your delivery, why Prufrock asks if he dares to eat a peach, not one would know it’s because in ancient Chinese lore, when the Great Dragon drags the sun up every day at dawn, a handsome man who never ages sets off walking with his basket containing the peaches of immortality. 


Our is not an earnest or sincere age; vulnerability isn’t encouraged, and no one is guided by a devout religious belief.  There are still churchgoers, but their attendance is disconnected from the old motivation:  the deep longing for the mysterium tremendum, a belief in the sacred and in the places the sacred waits for you.  No one is possessed by the puzzle of Jesus of Nazareth – who is losing sleep over a word so overused and ironic it’s one of the lost or damaged signifiers wandering the trash heaps, looking for its signified?  The thought of the man doesn’t shake you in the slightest.  You don’t remember, if you ever knew, why his tendency toward inversion matters more than any other story in the world.  He spoke in parables, big deal.  There are books out now where the text is written in a circle on one page and the next page is blank; not cost-efficient but everyone needs something to believe in, even if it’s just that the empty page is significant and meaningful and they get it, they do.  Almost.  The non-practicing Jews will be a big audience; they’re reliable buyers.

I genuinely hate to say this, because it will sound imbecilic and you might have heard that I am not unfamiliar with imbecility.  How am I to write?  I am to write as if it were the measure given to me by the God of my Unbelief, or the Spirit of Truth, as revelation, which never ceased but is ongoing.  I am to listen for guidance, as if in prayer.  In Self-Reliance, Emerson writes, “Prayer that craves a particular commodity, anything less than all good, is vicious.  Prayer is the contemplation of life from the highest point of view.  It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul.  It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good.  But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft.”  Who ARE those people, the ones who got the idea that they could say some words and make God find their car keys?  Little spinning centers of the universe with God as a magic butler.  Emerson is right:  it is vicious.

I am to write as a person who is paying very close attention, not only to my own surroundings but to the patterns of the visible world, so that any reader might see him or herself and remember, as a kind man said to me recently, “We’se all in this together, honey.”  I can’t forget, even for a moment, that I have to let the book be what it is, or else it will come out lumpy and gooey in the middle.  I often stumble, considering the nature of prose, about whether it should serve as an amplification of beauty, or goodness; if that is a form of integrity.  It isn’t – it’s a form of dishonesty.  Redemption is appropriate when it is, but loss is elemental, and there is a shadow world we ignore at our peril.  Jung and Hillman speak so fluently about nightmares and archetypal patterns, much the way Hoosiers discuss the weather.  It’s just the facts, sir, the electrical storm that sets the barn aflame, and so are feelings of horror or deep revulsion at what we see in our inmost darkness.  I have periodically worried about the horror novel coming out in a couple years, as if I betrayed people who trusted me to stay in Mooreland, or to stick with sermons and cast-off objects.  Better that I should just tell you:  I’ll follow the course where I’m led.  I don’t care what’s selling:  this prayer does not crave commodity. 

There is the mysterium tremendum; there are the Mysteries; there is the mysterious.  One is the source of Kant’s definition of the sublime:  beauty that leads to terror.  The next are the wonders in our cultural narrative, acts that defy understanding or explanation.  And there is this physical world about which we are naturally curious.  In The Art of Fiction Henry James said, “A writer is one on whom nothing is lost.”   That’s who I hope to be.  A fellow novelist asked me recently if I was bitter that IODINE came and went unnoticed and unsung, was not nominated for any prizes, etc.  He said, “Does it make you crazy that you manage something like this and nobody pays attention?”  I answered, in complete honesty, “God no. I don’t care about things like that.  I care about one thing, which is getting it right.”

So for weeks now I’ve been turning this over and over, and all the ways I try to express my desire to do my work as purely and selflessly as possible, the more smug and asinine I sound.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one of you just hauled off and smacked me.  But I feel better after the reading I’ve been doing over the past two days.  There’s a recent paperback collection of Thomas Merton’s journal entries on writing, called Echoing Silence.  I already knew what a painful topic writing was for him early in his years as a monk.  At the time he decided not only to join the priesthood, but to become a contemplative, he was a writing student under the tutelage of Mark Van Doren.  He had, even as a young man, a singular and bright talent.  As he aged his books became artifacts of stunning beauty.  When he entered the monastery he did so as a young man with ideals so lofty and a religious belief so pervasive he was desperate to rid of himself of anything profane.  He would no longer write, he declared, because the desire to do so was actually an attempt to assuage one’s base ambitions and to engage in ceaseless self-idolatry.  If he were to write, he would be writing for himself (bad) and the world (wicked).  Reading the early journal entries is visceral; his need to overcome all worldliness, all selfhood, and become one with the mystical love of God was so great he seemed nearly panicked.  Anyone who knows Merton knows the fortuitous thing that happened in the midst of what I imagine as a bonfire out in the courtyard, where he’s throwing his Harry Potter books with great force, and . . . there go his AC/DC records, like Frisbees.  The abbot insisted that Merton’s first task would be to write his autobiography, and that the form his morning meditation would take, every morning, was writing.  What a bright and intuitive man the abbot must have been, because what Merton wrote was the classic Seven Story Mountain.  He opened the floodgates of a great, brave man and a formidable talent.  Merton went on to write 60 books, countless essays and reviews.  He was the Trappist/social activist/bald version of Joyce Carol Oates. 

I tell you about that book because as much as I worry about living up to the honor of the task before me, and how not to violate it or the source from which it comes, I laughed out loud when I read how my anxiety compared to his.  To the very end of his life he was pursuing a form of writing that expressed and magnified God’s love for the world – he sought to be pure to the very end.  He recounts a scene in Greenwich Village, where he was walking with his friend Lax.  Lax asks him:

“What do you want to be, anyway?”

            I could not say, “I want to be Thomas Merton the well-known writer of those book reviews in the back pages of the Times Book Review,” or “Thomas Merton the assistant instructor of Freshman English at the New Life Social Institute for Progress and Culture,” so I put the thing on the spiritual plane, where I knew it belonged and said:

            “I don’t know; I guess what I want is to be a good Catholic.”

            “What do you mean, a good Catholic?”

            The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it at all.

            Lax did not accept it.

            “What you should say” – he told me – “what you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

Oh, I laughed and laughed.  I thought I was in a crisis of conscience because someone asked me what I hoped to accomplish with my books.  I was terrified I might find a lazy or greedy or disengenous person, even though I know perfectly well that my motives have always been to do whatever I found my vocation to be with not just technical skill, but with discipline and humility and a refusal to give up until I had answered whatever I was being summoned to do.  From now on, problem solved:  I hope to be a saint.

My sister is, at this moment, laughing so hard she has done herself an injury.  I HOPE YOU DO, ARSE, BECAUSE I’M A SAINT AND I SAY SO!

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 11:40 pm  Comments (639)  


  1. You could have written this just for me. Thank you.

  2. Haven-

    I think I have run that rutt in the spiral pattern you just stomped into this ground.

    Intent is all. It encompasses everything.

    Following our creative urge, which is the baptism of the divine . . . can only lead to what is good and needed in our life.

    All those things that people think they ‘need’ – money, fame, notoriety . . . blah, blah, and blah – they will not be there at the deathbed. You/we/I will have integrety and authenticity (the the extent of sharing truth in the light in which we see it, and from the shadows cast by our pasts, and through the lenses we have chosen to view the world) not to say ‘the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help me god’ – but to adher to the spirit of the truth, to re-write our future for ourselves.

    I am just so glad that you follow your muse . . . I cannot imagine this year without my experiencing of Iodine, or this blog (which you called forth from your creative urges) . . .

    So I am still stomping that path, and tripping on roots (literally) once upon a while, but – – when I am asked this basic question – it is because I am called to do this thing by something higher than me – therefore, it must be the right thing and I will do my best to do honor to it in all the ways I know how. If I don’t know, I will seek.

    If I were alone (and pray God, somedays I wish I were) I would do this thing. If there were no money, no fame, no food, no water – – I would feed my starving soul with this creative urge.

    And I would die happy and proud and having had the most successful life imagineable.

    In other words, you go girl!!!

  3. one more thing . . . look at this comment on Word Press

    #76 ~ Trespassers will be Baptized
    3 June 2008 by Literate Housewife on The Literate Housewife Review
    … me of how much I enjoyed reading A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel . It’s nice to read about childhood experiences that weren’t traumatic …

    See, Haven? You worked your magic, she didn’t think you had a traumatic childhood???

    Bravo . . . Or Irony . . . Or Paradox . . . ????

    I am flattened with exhaustion and my eyeballs are falls out from the margaritas and the excel spreadsheets (and, what the QUAN does that have to do with art anyway?) But, alas, to buy new abandoned items from Goodwill, I must do all those ‘non-art’ things . . .

    it is like the musician who really only likes writing and recording, but has to tour to pay for the studio time . . .

    good night, john boy
    good night, mary ellen
    good night, jim bob, ben, elizabeth (probably a few more, but I am bleary on that)

  4. Fascinating.

    It is 15 below zero here.

    How much further down can one possibly hunker?

  5. If I were asked that question, I imagine I would like to say that I hope to accomplish telling the story and telling it well. And honestly. Oh, and without making a complete ass of myself in the process.

  6. Henry Green wrote, when asked that question, though in a slightly nicer way, (he was asked to finish the phrase ‘and the qualities of a work-of-art’) and he answered, “To be alive. To have a real life of its own. The miracle is that it should live in the person who reads it.”
    Oh, and Nebraska, way to make me feel better for the ice that is being spat at my house right now. At least it is still in the positive degrees.

  7. Haven, you are back in your true rare form. I read this with my breath held, and finished it a better reader, possibly a better person. And that is the reason I read, or what I hope to feel anyway after reading. I always feel that way after reading you, and that might be one reason to write..

  8. I’m not alone in saying that your writing touches my soul, has made me wiser, more thoughtful, and possibly kinder to myself and others.

    If I had the gift to do that for even one person I would die happy right now.

  9. Dearest Haven,

    I fear your interviewer has never read your books, or ever talked to any of your fans. I swear to you when I was 15 interviewing for my first job at “Hungry Howies” a pizza chain down south the manager asked me what I hope to accomplish by working at Hungry Howie’s. I was dumb founded by the retarded question at hand….After a few seconds I said the only thing that popped in my mind…I had 4 sisters and I really needed to get out of the house. A guess a retarded answer to a lame question. I wish people would stop using this like their fucking James Lipton. Yes I think Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep could answer this question about their “latest film”, but a writer or a 15 year old pizza girl :)whew.

    Haven I really love the way you looked in yourself and really questioned what was going on.

    I love you and your work so much. Especially Solace of Leaving Early. You truly have a gift. You can make someone laugh, cry, or haunt their dreams, not to mention open their minds.

    Anyways, a good interviewer/reporter would never ask you such a wide open question. I think the person should have asked individual questions on each individual book… I wish you would have gave the Ms. America stock piled answer “World Peace” 🙂


  10. Speaking of Miss America, Miss Michigan was at the mall the other day to sign autographs, or whatever. I felt kinda bad when I walked by to go to the bathroom because she was sitting at an 8ft table all alone. There was no line of people fighting to get her autograph.

    I sent a text to my 25 year friend, who works next to me, and she wrote, “Because no cares. Her looks will fade and she’ll still be shallow.”

    If I would have read this a couple days ago I would have asked her what she planned to accomplish, and to please not answer world peace? Just because I think beauty pageants are the height of egoism and stupidity, there must have been a reason it was her goal to be Miss Michigan? A reason I have a hard time fathoming.

    I felt bad but not bad enough to go ask for her autograph.

  11. Haven, you – your writing, the person that you are, the people who surround you – have opened up a new way of seeing and thinking for me. My gratitude is beyond words. I agree with Sher – you are a gift. This place, with you at the center of it, or at the edge of it, or far away from it – or wherever you need to be at that moment – is a place I come to with an open and longing heart. It is a light in the darkness for me. It is a voice crying out in the wilderness (oops, we are studying the Gospels at church and that is on my mind too) You make me believe that anything is possible, and that is something I need to believe these days.

  12. I struggle with a tendency to lose focus (I don’t mean in an ADD sort of way although there’s that, too) on the big “Why?” that your daughter’s history professor asked so well: “How are we to live?” The day’s small and large tasks create an excuse for mental or emotional or spiritual laziness, and I forget or, more accurately, choose not to ask the question.

    I described this in the confessional to Rev. James Barkett, and he immediately said, “We are all called to be saints. And that is all we are called to be.”

  13. I’d like to respond, but first I’ll have to lift my head and stop sobbing.

    When we lift our heads, when we look up, we affect a neurological shift. So often, we miss the place where biology and spirit connect. No, it isn’t on the ceiling. But looking up has it’s own validity and brilliance. (Like looking up and hearing yourself say, “I’m sorry,” even before you’ve heard yourself think.)

    Haven, unleashed. Oh my God. 🙂

  14. An can I say that your description of the hellish publishing word frightens me as much as Dante ever could, and makes me sad. What a soul-suck!

  15. “I am to write as a person who is paying very close attention, not only to my own surroundings but to the patterns of the visible world”

    I believe this is one of your most special gifts, this ability to play close attention and then to reveal patterns that are visible but not always discernible to most of us.

    Especially in Zippy and Couch, you tell stories of the world around you in such detail and with such grace that deeper truths are splayed out in front of the reader, who can then absorb them or (as in the review Sher quoted above) simply loll about on their shiny surfaces.

    The thing I relearn every time I read one of your books is the power of the thing unsaid, the truth of things unseen. And your writing here reminds me that whole-body listening is required to hear the voice of God in all that is and is not.

  16. POS,

    Why would you feel responsible for Miss Michigan? Did she lift her eyes to you and smile? We are all where we are because we make choices. Miss Michigan chose to sit at that table, and at any time she could choose to stand up and leave. You had no interest in knowing her, and your questions for her would have been asked out of pity.

    How are we to live our lives? Exactly as we want to, and that’s what most of us don’t know. Not “what do I want to be remembered for,” or “what do I feel is my obligation to the world.” We can take an example from every animal, because they know how to live their lives. They are present every minute — not thinking ahead making lists, not thinking behind with regret. How many days/years have we lost to thinking? When you get to work and don’t remember the drive. When you step into the kitchen and can’t recall why you are there.

    As Jesus remarked in the Gospel of Thomas when the disciples asked “When will The Kingdom come?,” “The Kingdom of God is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it.” You are There. This is eternity. You have everything you need. Stay in this moment — at least, start trying to stay in this moment, because you’ll find it’s not as easy as you think. You’ll find yourself list-making, song-singing, conversation-having, and you’ll have to drag yourself back.

    Enjoy your friends. Enjoy your meals. Delight in the heaven spread before you now. Now. Now. Now.

  17. Haven’s books can be absorbed on so many levels.

    Universal levels:

    The connects to highest spiritual plain of the unknowable.

    Prevailing winds of zeitgeist.

    The Storms of family and physical life.

    The Roots that pull from deep in our psychological, biological roots

    All the way down into the primordial ooze and, if you have a hell, it is dipped into once in a while, IF you can read BETWEEN the lines.

    I want to beat Iodine on a few heads . . . but one is ready when one is ready . . . shall we begin an Oprah bookclub campaign???? Wouldn’t it be fab if she did a poetry book – 7 years? Or Outlaw Quaker girl? Or, what is the horror novel, or are they one and the same?

    But some people are not ready to be submerged in the thereupetic waters of Haven – – some people enjoy having their unenlightened existence. She is offering a panacea but, see, they must reach out to take it.

  18. Dream Journal – morning, Dec 15th

    Dark woods, rutted trails, leading into a meadow. Glowing light in the center, rising from the earth in a circular ball.

    Descending in spiral into circular ‘arena’ . . . where mythical creatures are lightly caged in golden habitats (easily they could break out) . . . I feed the minataur and play roll the ball with the Cyclops (he has no peripheral vision), and of course there was a faun . . . some of this is vague but sparkly and there was wind sounds and compression of the air, it was physical somehow to be in this ‘world’

    I was glad there were no harpies around as they greatly annoy me . . .

  19. Oh, I don’t know. Ceiling-looking in my living room right now, at least from the couch by the window, will get you a view of the upstairs bathroom plumbing. Whether you choose to contemplate the incoming or outgoing pipes, either way it’s not a stretch to see a relation to writing and to the spirit.

  20. haven,
    whew, what an entry. i think it takes courage to write right. in that i mean, danielle steele may be rolling in money, but is she morally bankrupt? i dunno. i haven’t read any of her books. at the end of the day, i do believe that everything happens for a reason–and even finding this blog has been inspirational for me.

    i commend you on the inward look as to why you write, and it provoked the thought in me as to why i read. i have always loved books for as long as i can remember. i would go to the library just to smell them. i think that you and augusten are two modern authors who just speak to a particular audience.

    i have read all of your books, and i read sellvision (my last augusten book that was unread) yesterday in one sitting. i kept trying to tell my husband the story–but it wouldn’t work. it was crafted too well. i finally gave up and told him to read it after me.

    so as a reader, i think there is also job to grow and create your own personality. when books become movies, they so often take that away (but not always). zippy and couch i read in one sitting each, although your other books took me a bit longer-like 2 sittings. why? still dunno.

    what i crave is the intellectual stimulus while also enjoying what i am reading. i can say that melville made moby dick a little boring for me at times– the chapter entitled the whiteness of a whale—will be forever with me. God, who writes a solid 7 pages describing white? well, someone does (even if he/she is being paid by the word). probably would have put the book down, but my 400 lit class on melville told me otherwise.

    and my point would be, i think you do look inward in your books. not that it isn’t ok to profit–it absolutely is–but i am with you on the awards. if you did it right and did it the best you could, and considered criticism as well as praise, what else can you ask for? you are happy, as are the readers who choose to read your books. is that what it’s all about? your books as beauty? Keats’Ode to a Grecian Urn: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”

  21. …more later, but this now:

    I left my second reading of Couch, a changed and rearranged man and Haven get my eternal gratitude because she gave me my tears back as a reward for taking that second, slow look. Because I read it, my own personality was grown in a certain way, transcending the art. Haven is a saint.

    ok, more later…

  22. “I do not write for those who have never asked themselves this question” ‘at what point does real life begin?'”

    Pursewarden in CLEA

  23. Oh, Haven, how timely to find this post today. I’m half way through drafting my memoir and I’m having a hard time discerning the “watchers” from the genuine seers. When someone very close to me asks, again, why I am driven to write and publish this book, I try to spin the answer different from the last five thousand times it was asked and answered, because, well, I don’t have a concise answer. Why write and why publish and what do you expect to “accomplish” from your books are all, as you say so much better than I ever could, very personal, but maybe also very important, questions. I especially love what you said about your memoirs, that they weren’t so much about you as about how to craft them. Thanks for that and so much more. Hope your holidays are bright!

  24. Susan:

    I liked the quote on your blog: “Don’t think I write for purgation. I write because I write well…. You have got to learn to paint with words.” The Letters of Flannery O’Connor: The Habit of Being.

    This gets at my own desire to write.

  25. I love your answer to “how am I to write” — “I am to write as if it were the measure given to me by the God of my Unbelief, or the Spirit of Truth, as revelation, which never ceased but is ongoing. I am to listen for guidance, as if in prayer.”

    As if at prayer, indeed…

  26. “Writing a book is like rearing children— willpower has very little to do with it. If you have a little baby crying in the middle of the night, and if you depend only on willpower to get you about of bed to feed the baby, that baby will starve. You do it out of love. Willpower is a weak idea; love is strong. You don’t have to scourge yourself with a cat-o’-nine tails to go to the baby. You go to the baby out of love for that particular baby. That’s the same way you go to your desk. There’s nothing freakish about it. Caring passionately about something isn’t against nature, and it isn’t against human nature. It’s what we’re here to do.” ~ Annie Dillard

  27. “Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” -Angela Monet

    “Without music, life would be a mistake…. I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance.” Friedrich Nietzsche

  28. My God, Haven, this is wonderful and a lot to take in — I’m planning to make it a multiple course meal, actually. I’ve always liked — and perhaps you’ve mentioned it in a paragraph I’ve thus far missed but that will come to in a later course in the meal…? — Rilke’s advice that one should write only if it would kill him not to. Makes me want to read two books I’ve had recommended to me for ages now but have never gotten round to (Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners). It’s so difficult to answer a question that has no answer — and to understand that one must be understanding with whomever asked the question, because who are we to begrudge someone looking for answers? The mind is spinning now. I think I’ll go make the beef stew I’ve been putting off making this morning…

  29. Haven – I consider this to be your best post, ever. I had to re-read it twice, mostly because I was sneaking a peak at work (Now I’m @ lunch at my safe place, the library.) You are a joy to me. I loved the four books I’ve read of your so far, and can’t wait to read Iodine Christmas day. All I know is this – You were born a fabulous person with stories pouring out of your fingerprints. You have such talent, but more importantly, your funny, which I believe is the cream cheese frosting on the chocolate cake. I can tell just by looking at you that I would want you to be my best friend, but not in a weird stalker-type way. You have that spark in your eye.

    I thought about what I would say if anyone ever asked me that question. Immediate things come to mind, like how I want to educate people (but in a humorous way) about growing up on welfare, starving and having mice in the bed, being a child vitim of domestic violence, and how hard it is to have a parent with bipolar, etc. I HATE when people don’t want to pay taxes to help the poor. There are plenty of kids like me who need the chance to blossom, you know? But then I think about how I want people to understand me, because I’ve felt misunderstood my entire life, even though I’m blunt and honest, and I always say what I’m thinking, without the filter on. I don’t want fame, but I’d sure love to be able to have enough money to pay off my loans and buy my first house. I have no idea what my answer would be, either. I guess all I want is to make people laugh and make them learn something new, and maybe make them look at something in a completely different way.

    Hillary, you made me laugh so hard with your Hungry Howie’s story. Man alive, who would aks that of a teen. Bless your little teenage heart.

    POS – I am from Michigan, too. I think beauty contests are so dumb. I would have laughed seeing this. Who would do this to a kid? (Well, my mom won one when she was three, so I guess my grandmother?) Growing up I guess I was “cute”, but now I’m just getting chubby and old. My hubby always says I may be the only woman on the planet how doesn’t want to be sexy. No thanks, society, I enjoy my flannel pjs & my non-thong panties way too much to ever want to step into Victoria Secret.

  30. Unforeseen “accomplishments”:

    1) If one types into a browser’s URL field, without the http://www. preceding it, this results in a page. The first link?

    Zippy Monkey (in bold)
    Zippy Monkey available. Zippy Monkey. Bid now!

    2) My new Broadway paperback copy of Zippy (the book) includes “A Guide For Reading Groups” at the back. I cannot publicly guess at the target audience for this particular guide while holding to Thumper’s mother’s advice. Here’s question number 16:

    “Where the Jarvises poor?”

    Haven, where they?


    – Sarah

  31. Fainting Monkey Boy, if it is indeed thee: I summoned you yesterday by sighing loudly and declaring how deeply I miss you. I miss you the way I miss the wind and the trains and electrical storms in Indiana.

    Recently I bought a taxidermied stillborn lamb. I named her Margaret. Can you guess why? (Jodi, don’t tell. I know you know.)

  32. I miss the trains in Indiana, too. How those two longs and a short carry way past the intersections and over the flat fields of corn stubble.

    I bet I can guess why you named her Margaret.

  33. Haven – My school day if finally done! Thanks for the fabulous post, which, you know, I completely resonated with.
    Speaking of taxidermy, I am still on the trail of that lynx. I’ll get a picture next time I’m there. My husband is threatening to break into the diner and steal it. I think more to keep me from talking about it.
    Stillborn lamb named Margaret? Um, not even a guess, though I racked my Catholic brain for something hagiographic.

  34. I am only recently up from having slept twelve straight hours. I didn’t dream. What a joy, to wake up and read these comments and hear how other people address the question.

    Sarah, I laughed like a fool when I was shown that Reading Guide to ZIPPY. One of the things I’ve learned about publishing is that it’s best to just say, “Sure, that’s fine,” and open your hands and let it go.

    That said, Amy asked me to write the Reader’s Guide to TUW (is that right? Or did she write it? She wrote it.) and when I re-read my answers recently I was stunned at how sharply candid I was. It made me wonder what was going on that day. Delonda has a rule: if someone asks her what she thinks about something they’ve decided to do or are doing, she says, “If you really want to know, I’ll answer you the third time you ask.” This gives the other person a chance to back away from an honest response. I, apparently, have altered the rule to, “You wanna know?” And then BLAMMO.

  35. Ooooo George, I should have included you in the people put in the Quiet Corner.

  36. …I can guess, but I probably won’t get it correct

  37. Spielerfit, that’s a perfect piece of Annie Dillard. You know, she is one of Lee Smith’s oldest friends — they went to college together. I’ve met her a couple of times, and I think people have an image of her as . . . something like Joni Mitchell in 1968. Ethereal, nature-lit, delicate. Oh, how very wrong they would be.

  38. Me?

  39. Flannery O’Connor is a dominant force in my life and in my thinking; that’s part of the reason the Elie book meant so much to me. But another book also changed the way I thought about her, although I don’t know if it’s in print. A professor friend who wrote his dissertation on her published a book called FLANNERY O’CONNOR AND THE RELIGION OF THE GROTESQUE. The title alone should give you something to ponder.

    That reminds me of something Gaston Bachelard wrote, that the imagination requires “absence and deformation.” I’m working on it in the brainpan. I’ve BEEN working on it. My instinct is to agree, but I wish I could know more about his definition of absence.

    Curiously, the single sentence of O’Connor I most often quote is, “She would have been a good woman if someone had shot her every day of her life.”

  40. There is Play-Doh and a Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop in the corner, as well as dark rum and doughnuts. Does that help?

  41. Did you see there’s a new biography of Flannery O’Connor coming out?

  42. Margaret…Margaret Mead was a Quaker…coincidence?

  43. Amy in O., you wouldn’t believe how many people were Quakers and no one knew it. Kat was looking at the list of Famous Quakers (or something, I don’t know what it’s called) list on Wikipedia because she loves to see:

    Thomas R. Kelly
    Haven Kimmel (American author)
    Sir Ben Kingsley (Actor)

    Thomas R. Kelly was a man touched by holy Light, no way around it. He was zealously jubilant, as Emerson said, a Practical Mystic. (Rufus Jones coined that phrase, I believe.) He’s one of my favorite Quaker writers, and certainly one who lived and wrote saintly. He is followed by me, which for some reason strikes my daughter as humorous. I can’t imagine why.

  44. Haven what struck me from this is the sentence

    I am to write as a person who is paying very close attention, not only to my own surroundings but to the patterns of the visible world, so that any reader might see him or herself and remember,

    Yes darlin we are all in this together.

    Oh and GEORGE
    Don’t go to the corner if you can manage it I was there and ate the doghnuts drank the rum and worst of all I mashed all the different colors of play-doh together.

  45. That sentence describes very well a part of what you writing has meant to me

  46. Haven, all of your books are a numinous experience for me, which is why you are one of my favorite authors….if I get that feeling of having learned something ‘other’, something that existed outside myself before I read it and now somehow is a part of me, then that is how I know I love the book and usually then I go on to devour every other book written by that author. NUMINOUS. I love that word.
    Also…’lumpy and gooey in the middle”!! I thought you didn’t cook!! My brownies turn out like that every damn time.
    I loved this entry of yours, although I must say the thought running through my head all the way through the first half at least was ‘Remind me NEVER to ask Haven a question about how she writes in an interview’ or even ‘Remind me NEVER to ask Haven a question’. But I got over it as you were a mere saint at the end.
    Also Delonda…you so rock…my daughter asks me what I think about the same thing over and over and over just to see if maybe my opinion changed from the first time 10 seconds ago. I’ll have to use that one.
    back to work…or…back to gaze outside where it’s actually GASP….SNOWING here is Arizona!

  47. Michael T, let me tell you the story of the person who said that to me.

    I had gone to my Mentalist and there was sparring. He doesn’t spar, I just spar alone. When he found out that my mother is terminally ill (neither my sister nor I have a clue what her prognosis is in terms of time; I was awake for four days straight, holding the phone, waiting to be told to get in the car and come home), he asked how I am coping with Orri’s death, which had been exactly one week before I saw Dr. Mental, and I said, “Philosophically.” He said, “What does THAT mean?” I then quoted Socrates, Hamlet, and when those didn’t satisfy him I came back with Dickinson and a swift Oscar Wilde. I was entirely stoic.

    He gave me prescriptions for my seizure medication,etc., and told me to go get everything filled early, in case I had to leave in the night. I drove to the pharmacy, walked up to the window. I said to the pharmacist, “I need to get these filled early. I know some of them still have ten days or so, but I have to have them today.” He said, “Can you tell me why?” And GUESS WHAT? I first couldn’t speak, then my chest collapsed, and tears were streaming down my face, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and there was an older man standing there, and he said, “Honey, why don’t you tell me why you’re crying and I’ll tell the pharmacist.” I said, “I’m afraid my mother is dying.” The pharmacist said, “Go sit down. I’ll move them to the front and do it right now.” And the other man went with me. He sat with me the entire time I was waiting for my medication, patting my arm, telling me how he had felt when he lost his parents. When my name was called we both stood up and I took his hand and said, “You have done me a great kindness.” He said, “We’se all in this together, sweetheart.”

    Saints? There’s one for you.

    George, you may move to the sand table. The mashed Play-Doh is an atrocious color now.

  48. Haven, I believe that man was one of the angels my minister mentioned in his sermon yesterday.

  49. A new biography of O’Connor? I would be so happy if I could read twenty books at EXACTLY the same moment. I’d get more read if I didn’t carry the same battered copy of Emerson’s essays in my pocket everywhere I go, along with something by Hillman and at least one collection of poetry. This week I’ve read the Collected May Sarton from start to finish FIVE TIMES. Some poems I’ve read at least five more. That’s sounds crazy, now that I think of.

    An astonishing painting of O’Connor hangs in the center of my living room. I have a photograph of it. If I weren’t so . . . whatever I am, I’d go post it on the yahoo site. But then some of you can’t get to the yahoo site. Where else could I put it?

  50. Oh, that Saint at the Pharmacy story made me cry.
    and that snow in Arizona? Just faking it I swear…just to tease us…gotta go to Flagstaff to see the real stuff.

  51. Oh, and tell the boys not to get play-doh on the carpet because that is hard as heck to get out when it dries. It is like cement. And don’t even let them near the silly putty, if you have any. Or the slinky, because I know they would pull it all out of shape and it would never crawl down stairs again.

    Geez. Boys.

  52. Thanks, dear Haven, for letting me out of the quiet corner. Me and Mike finished off the last of the rum!


    Hello Blog babies…

    I am back from a weekend of early Christmas. It was a dear and loving time. Sorry I missed the discussion the other night on James Agee. Agee’s name actually came up last weekend when I was telling my youngest son Sam of the greatness in Death in Family and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It is a wondrous thing to discuss books with your children. Sam, who has posted here on the blog before, was praising Truman Capote. I told him that until In Cold Blood was written, other authors had touched on the fringes of that kind of writing, but Truman went the distance. It was then that I told him he might enjoy Agee


    Haven, this post is so delicious and has sent my mind off in so many directions. First, as a journalist, I have to absolve the questioner. It was an honest and simple question – the best kind because look what it has just produced!

    I have made my living my whole adult life as a writer. I have aspirations to cross into the Big Leagues where you reside with not just great writers, but those who produce literature. I know I can write and I have confidence in what I produce. Knowing that enables me to feel something like that ace player on the Durham Bulls roster who goes out and delivers in North Carolina but whose eye is always on the Tampa Bay lineup. It’s not a bad place to be.

    I got here through the discipline of daily journalism, yes, but also because of something an English professor at the University of Evansville (Ind.) said to me when I was 18 or so and had dreams and presumptions of becoming another Dos Passos or Agee. I went to UE specifically to find inspiration through Dr. Virginia Grabil and her husband Paul, who deeply influenced high school teachers I have revered. So, one day, I asked Dr. Virginia: “Do you think I could make my living as a writer?”

    The answer I wanted to hear would have sounded something like: “George, of course. I have had thousands of students, but I have never had the privilege of teaching someone like you, someone with such incredible talent who is destined to be the world’s greatest author.”

    What she said was this: “It depends on how big a hack you are willing to be.”

    My immediate response was righteous indignation: Me, me, me, me, me…a hack! I think not.

    Then I decided that I was going to make my living as a writer NO MATTER WHAT. That was also when I decided that I would be as big a hack as was necessary. If my editors wanted me to write a three-inch piece on the Girl Scout cookie sale, that was fine with me. Obits? I considered it a calling. Wedding announcements? No problem, give me the facts. Front-page, on-deadline story? I’m your man. I’ll do it and do it all with what talents and skills are available to me at the time.

    Haven, your post comes at a time when I was thinking about the very essence of the issue you posit: What do you hope to accomplish with your art?”

    When I was recently in Peru. I got an answer to this question in the town square in a little town of Ollantaytambo, about 50 miles from Machu Picchu. It is an older, and possibly more interesting place that Machu Picchu, a living, working, breathing city built on Incan streets and walls. As soon as I got there, unfolding my tall, fat, gray-haired USA gringo self among a populace of short, dark-haired, wiry people, I was mobbed by artisans and souvenir peddlers. “No. No. No. Lo siento, No mas!” I said until I was annoyed and found a place to sit, order a coffee, smoke a cigarette and collect myself.

    It was then a young couple came up with their child. The woman had the trussed the baby into one of those bright shawls tied to her back. She stayed back while her husband opened a leather binder jammed with art – their art. And I was captured. I looked at the pictures and tried to carry on a conversation, extracting from them that they were newly married, that they mixed many of their own pigments from local stones, plants, and clay. That they used bandage gauze and threads in their mixed-media. That they had studied in Cuzco…

    Their work was so beautiful that, of course, I was going to buy something from them.

    More than that, it was their insistence on the beauty and uniqueness of their work, that unadulterated and unmistakable artists’ mixture of pride, earnestness and humility that infuses and animates the work of anyone who does what they must. “Yes, I will buy! But not today. Mañana, día siguiente, por favor?”

    They took me at my word. That settled, we tried to talk. Their names, I learned, were Leonardo and Alize. The baby, they called Diego. They told about their paintings – how they work at night and sell them to tourists in the square by day. We joked around with each other a little. There was some basic human ease and recognition that went on in a subliminal way. They teased me saying I looked like St. Nick.

    I left shortly after that, but I saw them them the next night. I had walked into town seeking some Pepto Bismo when I heard “Georgie, Georgie!” being called from the town square as I walked up. They came across the street – this time not as a sellers, but as friends. I managed to get across to them my mission and they showed me to a couple of farmicias where I got the tablets I desperately needed. We talked some more and they asked me what I did in the States.

    “Soy escrito (I write),” I said, proud that I had made myself understood.

    “This life,” said Alize, looking me right in the eye, “This life to paint is each day to fight. This is what we must do. Writing is like that, no?”

    Yes it is. A fight? Sometimes, usually, often, always.

    What I must do? Yes. What do I hope to accomplish with what I write?

    The thing that needs to be accomplished: a script for the annual meeting, a poem, this posting…

    On the last day we were in Ollantaytambo, we went to the square to buy paintings from Leonard and Alize. They weren’t there! I asked a couple of people about the artists and they told me to wait. Sure enough, Alize came up, Leonardo and the baby were not with her, but she was carrying their portfolio.

    We went through the pictures, selecting the ones we wanted most and buying them after the required ritual of bargaining. When we asked the price. She answered; “What is their worth to you?” How could I say their true worth was the smile I would see on my musician son Sam’s face when he would see the stylized drummers and flute players rendered in wavy cubes of green and gold and textured with thread and lumps and layers of oils that cost the artists far more than I would ever know or possibly guess.

    When it was done, everyone satisfied, we asked where Leonardo was. “He and Diego. They went to Cuzco today. We need to get paints,” Alize said.

    We hugged and took photos. My wife and I were headed for Cuzco ourselves. Hours later we found ourselves walking those old streets, again I was hammered at every step by children and hucksters and sellers of anything and everything from coca leaves to cell phone minutes.

    As we turned a corner, heading toward the plaza, we passed a man carrying a baby. It was Leonardo and Diego.

    We greeted him like a friend: Hoala…hey, man, we just bought some pictures from Alize!

    “You said you would,” he said.

    We then parted and I knew they would be at their canvas later.
    I also knew that I would take this experience and write it, and probably rewrite it, and work it again until the meanings would come into focus and I would know what I am trying to accomplish.

    (I will post some pictures of Alize and Leonardo on the yahoo site.)

  53. All must see WINGS OF DESIRE without haste. Tonight. Or, whenever you want to.

  54. Haven,

    The right person passes you by during a hard time they help you and are gone. We think about them for a long time after they came and went. Funny how I picked that out after my recent hardship. My whole is slowly closing up due to a small variety of saints.


  55. Oh George thank you thank you what a lovely mini movie in my head.

  56. George, you weren’t a hack. Emerson also says, “Do that which is assigned you.” He means that in the deepest terms. You did that which was assigned you. But you write as honestly and lucidly and kindly as anyone I know. If we’re using baseball metaphors, you’re not the Durham Bull player who hopes to get called up to the Devil Rays. You’re a Natural.

  57. Why not post the photos at the top of your blog in the photo gallery? You know, the one called HAVEN’S PHOTO GALLERY.

  58. Michael, last night I was talking to Scott about Tom, My Block Captain (whom I adore), and Scott said, “Wow! Tom is your Block Captain and George is Blog Captain!” I said, “I have two! So why is my ship rocking in this scary way?” I realize now it’s because there are so many on here with me.


    Cut scenes from the beginning of the movie had Cassiel humorously mimicking the humans’ actions.

    I want to see this too but would love to have seen a angel mimiking humans that sounds hilarious


  61. That made me think of how lucky we are and.
    The Hues Corporation

  62. Okay, the photo is in the PHOTO GALLERY. It was done by Baxter Knowlton, who lives somewhere in Mississippi. It was hanging in the Salameria restaurant when I was there a few years ago. There was a whole collection of southern authors, and they were swooningly good. There was also one of Flannery as a little girl; it was sold, and one of Walker Percy that made me nearly burst into tears. Then I saw this one, and they weren’t hanging there for sale, they were just hanging there. I found the manager and asked him to call the artist and ask the price, and I would leave a check. This was Mississippi, and people mostly behave in a refined way, and the mention of money was a little shocking when Baxter was finally reached. I believe he keeps to himself, as they say. In truth, I didn’t care how much it cost; if need be I would have called John and told him to sell the house. Baxter shipped it to me a week later and when I opened it I remember thinking, “You are serenely happy. Remember this.”

  63. You know, Michael, it might have been a better film if Wenders had allowed Casiel to do that. Because they aren’t ‘angelic,’ they’re merciful and stoic and practical. That would have made them seem very complicated, don’t you think?

  64. I just saw the painting, Haven, and yes, any price at all!

  65. George, isn’t it both BRIGHT and sublime?!?

  66. Complicated maybe… for sure more interesting. Cassiel apparently was supposed to turn human as well.

    Thats in Wiki P tho so who knows if its true.

    That painting takes me some where from my youth not sure off had where but it is exellent.

  67. oh…the crutch and peafowl…yes, it is bright. a good painting, haven, IS hard to find.

  68. George – maestro of hearts,
    “What is their worth to you?” as an artist I am balling my eyes out right now.

    It is exquisitely painful to have feeling come back – gratzi mille!

    and claire will be home any minute and her box of cowGIRL boot slippers are sitting by the door waiting for her . . .trying to find the video camera and the real camera.

  69. Got it my aunt in Iowa sort of.
    what is in her left hand ? a shovel ?

    God I can really see why you like this painting.

  70. Somebody give me a very hard pinch. Did I just see the names Gaston Bachelard, May Sarton, Truman Capote, et al. float by? Honest to God, I hang onto this blog like a lifeline. I have spent twenty years in a county where I feel like a complete oddball and at times question my own sanity. And here you all are, talking about things and writers I love. I had relegated myself to mumbling in my dark corner sounding like a lunatic.
    Thanks for all being here and caring about this stuff.

  71. Love the painting. I know the photo from the Elie book and noticed the telltale crutch and peacock over Gus’ shoulder in the last blog.
    I fear how much the owner of the lynx might want.

  72. Maureen-

    I am so with you. It is like receiving spring water when you have been cast at sea . . . I was the same way when I stumbled here in August (although there are NO coincidences, right) . . . although I have artsy fartsy friends (as my husband calls them) I needed company at 2 a.m. . . . voila, you all appeared from the far reaches of my dream world . . .

  73. Don’t mind me, just seeing if my new gravatar is working. I did not paint it so no one has to be nice. I chose it because formal pictures of animals make me giggle.

  74. Guess not.

  75. I see it! It’s lovely. I have a deep fondness for cows. I found a picture the other day I almost chose as my Gravitational Image; I think I shall now go make the switch. I’ll see you in the back 40.

  76. George punned.

  77. well, wouldn’t you say that about a painting, too?

  78. Re: Dillard–

    After 4th grade, I entered 7th grade in a different school (long story, along the lines of, “out of the frying pan, into the den of wolves,” but the grownups were Oh So Proud, see?). My 10-year-old self escaped into my books, natch, and at the end of the year I was awarded the Middle School Science Award. Anyone who knows me would say, “Haw,” especially since Science tends to include something called, “Math.” ‘gads. Regardless, the actual prize was Annie Dillard’s “A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” chosen for me by my Science teacher. What a gift, at what a time. I remain grateful.

    Re: Your current blog post–

    Thanks for laying forth all that you have. Reading the above helps me understand all the more why your books have such impact. Your lack of taking shortcuts, or of mixing or substituting purposes, along with your willingness to see things through to the end, result in each work’s having true integrity– not in the simpler sense of adhering to a specific standard or moral code, but in terms of soundness and honesty on so many different levels. For this, too, I am grateful.

    I am further reminded of the simple injunction, “Having done all, stand.”

    In the places I’ve been called to stand (and live, and move, and have my being), I often find it helpful to know that I have “done all” before trying to stand. The “doing all” can be very costly, but it’s vital if I’m to stand on solid ground, regardless of whether or not anyone ever joins me on that ground. While it is a joy beyond expression to find or be given true comrades in the hard-quarried standing places, that cannot be my goal, and oh, the cost of yielding to the naysayers simply to have some “company” in the meantime. All that to say, I am grateful for your faithful service in and with that with which you have been entrusted.

    I like the way Dillard invokes love and passion in her quotation about writing, and am thinking that her “it’s what we’re here to do” jibes with your (and Hillman’s) ideas regarding vocation. Am I close? In this, and again in your words above, I hear incredible love, including the sense of the Wuest translation of “Christ’s love compels me”:

    “For the love which Christ has [for me] presses me on all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive….”

    – Sarah

  79. I love that painting of Miss O’Connor. How lovely.

  80. I’m with you, Kate. The glasses, the dress, the porch, the crutch, the bird…she is caught in the afternoon, right before writing a letter to A

  81. Sarah, yowza. Your post was like a medivac landing on a bloody battlefield at the moment I was most afraid. I just hung up from talking to my sister, who said that a friend had called her at work to say that Mom was ‘slipping away.’ M. flew over and was about to talk to both Mom and the doctor. She said she’s very close to flying to pieces. I don’t have the tendency to do that, but Melinda feels things very deeply, and when she comes apart it’s Vesuvial. I heard the warning signs in her voice, and I understand — she’s there, she’s spending twelve hours a day at the hospital and then going to work every morning, she’s dealing with the doctors, and she’s watching our mother suffer. But just as I do with dogs, I used the voice of God commanding the Israelites and said, “You may not. Do you understand me? You may not come apart, you may not give in to that. You have ONE OPTION and it is courage.” She said, “Okay.”

    I trust that I’m not the type to tumble over the cliff the way she does, but I still have to talk to myself all day and all night about how to survive this. Now I can repeat, “Having done all, stand.” It’s always been my philosophy anyway, but this is like a mantra. Thank you.

  82. Love the chicken! I wrote an incredibly short story for a short short story contest called “Chicken, Kitten, Calf” that used rock, paper, scissors as a structural device. If you all can stand something a little gory, I could share it with you.

    But I also have a less gory but kind of horrible chicken tale to tell. We discovered when my youngest was about five, that if he lay on his stomach across Andy’s knees and intoned “Aaaaaahhhhhhhh” while Andy beat a light but rhythmic tattoo on his back that this strange noise came out of my little guy without any effort on his part that sounded just like a chicken. (You can try this at home but use an older child).We all got such a charge out of this, laughing our heads off, that we did it for about three nights running. One of the other boys would say “Do the chicken! Do the chicken!”

    A week later my son got pneumonia, and I was mortified.

    Every time I see a chicken I feel a mix of hilarity and fear of Social Services.

  83. I hate it when I am writing a funny comment while someone else is posting a very sad comment and it looks like I was being funny after the sadness.
    Haven, I am so sorry. We’re thinking of you and our beloved foster Mom Delonda.

  84. Dear Saint Kimmel,

    “A fellow novelist asked me recently if I was bitter that IODINE came and went unnoticed and unsung …” Such a cruel assumption.

    “We’se all in this together, sweetheart.” Grace.

  85. Sarah – Thanks for all the wonderful words you shared above. I really like your avatar.
    What a tremendous gift that someone would hand you Pilgrim at Tinker Creek at age 10. Obviously, you were very ready for it.
    Tomorrow in my class we are discussing Annie Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels,” “Skunk Dreams” from Louise Erdrich’s The Blue Jay’s Dance, and “Friends, Foes, and Working Animals” by Gretel Erlich. I’ll be thinking of everyone here, pushing for the same sort of discussion from my twelfth-graders.

  86. Haven, what awful terrible news. I knew Delonda was in pain, but I did not know that she was dying. Of course you and she and all your family are in my thoughts and prayers. — I just sent her a letter and gift on Friday and wish I could just beam those thoughts to her instead. She’s had such an influence on so many of us, through Couch, through her mothering of her children, I just wanted her to know what she has done for this person whom she’s never even met. I’m just so very sorry.

  87. The loss of Delonda…well, it feels like losing a member of my own family.

  88. All, thank you. I’m not leaving tonight. A change in pain medication made her instantly more lucid, improved her color and vital signs. She was being given morphine, which was making her feel incredibly ill, and phenergan because of the morphine, and anyone who has had surgery knows that combination is like boarding the Zombie Bus. They switched her to Fentanyl, took away the phenergan, and her condition changed right away.

    The pathology report comes back tomorrow, and then we’ll know more for certain. Until then, let us do carry on. Any topic will suffice. We are all performing the duty assigned us: Melinda is there, managing all the practical details, John and Scott are running my household, and I’m sitting in the barn thinking.

    One thing I know for sure is that it’s pointless to grieve prematurely. Anticipating pain is a fool’s errand. So I’m simply not. I’ll grieve when the time comes, and until then I’m just waiting.

    You are all practicing sainthood. Thomas Merton would be honored.

  89. Kate, I’m actually more worried about, oh 30 people than I am myself. Some of her friends are going to be shattered. There are people who simply will not leave the hospital. And they’re arriving from all over.

    UPDATE: As I was writing that John came out with the home phone. Mom was about to get a shot of Fenanyl and go to sleep for the night, and she used what strength she has to call me and tell me she loves me and good night. Merton wanted to find a way to write about God’s love; the Quakers were were entirely faithful to the concept of Universal Love. They should have met HER.

  90. Oh, Haven. I’m off to bed, but I will pray for your mom and everyone who loves her.

  91. I forgot to tell you that Andy’s fishing boat is named the Saint Dymphna (patron saint of neurological conditions). I had to look close to see that’s who that was above. I thought it was St Brigid at first.

  92. Dear Haven–I don’t know what to say except that I am sure we are all thinking about you and your lovely family this evening and we are sending our prayers your way. I just went through a similar experience and can only say that you will get through whatever comes. Sheer determination, willpower and your beautiful children will see you through. I’m so glad you got to speak to your mom earlier. Hopefully you can get some rest tonight as well. Take care!

  93. Dear Haven, I have a package going out for you tomorrow. I hope Delonda is able to go home again and be as comfortable as possible there, given the circumstances. Don’t forget to call me if you want me to come down for a couple of days, for any reason.

    Love the Flannery painting. It would make me happy every time I passed it.


  94. I stood in a long lime at the post office today,shipping you a package Haven, and I stood there thinking about all of you and how wonderful this group is and how utterly giddy I feel at times knowing you are all out there.
    I have always so felt so different from my friends due to my odd thoughts, obsession with books, literature, pain of my past, and it’s okay now! Thank you for allowing me a few peaceful moments everyday to come here and allow myself to feel things, sad and happy.

  95. HK~
    How did mother Delonda choose the name Haven? Was there meaning behind it?
    Ah, but maybe I should not assume this is your real name? It could be something as sassy as Blade or Snakes?:~)

  96. Haven, my heart is pounding with worry for Mother Delonda. When I read this my first thought was really and truly, “oh, I must drive up there tomorrow.” Then I realized I have never met her, or you, or any of you except Sher (which, yes, is quite alot!!) and I got choked up over that thought too. You are truly my family as much as any of my blood relatives. Please let me know what I can do, other than pray for your mom. Put the hospital address on the yahoo blog if it would help for us to send anything there to cheer her. Or Melinda. Anything at all. xoxo

  97. Haven

    Oh what an angel at the pharmacy! I love this story.

    And you were perfect with Lindy; I just gave M. the same brief Come to Jesus pep talk when he threatened to fall apart entirely. You are doing everything right. We are all with you in spirit, as i hope you know.

    I freely admit I don’t have the philosophical education or the theological knowledge to parse much of the Object of Writing post. Most of it sails completely over my head, in rapid fire succession of Roman candles I am not tall enough to see. But that’s okay, because I know you don’t look down on those who know less than you know, which by my guess is 99% of all Americans. Your brain is amazing.

    Frankly I’m not sure I could trust myself to commence for more than a paragraph about what i DO KNOW about why i write, because more and more I’m discovering that what arcane knowledge i’ve gathered during my somewhat feckless tenure on earth is not necessarily as intriguing to others as I’d like to believe. Unlike you, I have seen people’s eyes glaze over when I commence. And I’ve only written three books, to no awards that i am aware of, so I believe I recognize my limitations as a Fount of Wisdom. I’m bookish but I’m no scholar, although I remember attending school.

    When asked what kind of books I write — which i find to be a very difficult question, I say that in a small way, I am “…an anthropologist of human behavior, especially the behavior between the sexes.” People seem to be able to accept this as an answer, and it also is less than 15 words (i do enjoy, in interviews, to display an economy of words, since it all becomes edited down in the end anyway)

    That said, I like what Willa Cather said “Art, it seems to me, should simplify.”

    If pressed on Why I write, I answer, “Because it’s what I’ve always done, and because I can.”

    I love the quote you referenced of Emerson: “Do that which is assigned you.”
    That one is going on my wall. Thank you, darlin.


  98. Oh, Haven … — your mother.

    As you say, let us do carry on.

    I have been dwelling on your post all day, and contemplating all the ways it resonates with me. At the most basic level I come up against the fact that I make excuses all the time for why I don’t … whatever. I feel confronted today, in the best way possible, by the question of how to live. I’m really up against it right now.

    And then I also have mused on the various ways one reads. I think the writer must write for herself, but the medium, at its core, begs a reader; so — how am I to read? This is a tricky question, because in my life I have read for so many reasons: to escape; to earn the grade; to please someone else; to gain information; to while away time; to fill a void; to feed my imagination. Whatever the “purpose” of the reading, the best books, stories, articles, recipes, are those that have 1) sucked me away, so that I felt like I came up for air when I finished (the first time I read MY ANTONIA, or POSSESSION, or THE SOLACE OF LEAVING EARLY; and 2) have stayed with me, either sounding a faint bell of memory or quoted daily. So BRAINS BENTON AND THE CASE OF THE COUNTERFEIT COIN counts as a “best” book [oh, my dear — a CLOWN answered the door!], right up there with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE [oooh — Mr. Darcy!]. And SOLACE is a book that tumbles in my mind, around and around: “Langston, can I have my backpack?” … “Yes, baby, you can have whatever you want …” … AnnaLee’s hair in the humidity, and her strength, and her inability to cope with her own mother ….

    Well! But what is my as a reader? Is it attention? Emotional openness? Willingness to be challenged? Does my responsibility change as the text changes? If the writer must answer to herself first, does she answer to me at all? Do I have a responsibility to her — to you?

  99. George – the paintings are beautiful.

  100. Blog Babies,

    I am devastated by Haven’s news of her mother as I know you are.

    There is something we can do, however. Just as we came together as a real people last fall for Haven, we can come together in love, honor and light during this wondrous season of babies, of mothers, of miracles, of light and love.

    So here is what I suggest.

    In the next few days let’s all of us dedicate ourselves to getting a copy of Couch, Orville or Kaline Klattermaster.

    Let’s then give our copies to a child, or to a library, or a women’s shelter — some good place where we know Haven’s words can change someone as her words have changed us all here.

    Let us give these books in honor of Delonda, bestowing these Christmas gifts with every good and loving thought of this wonderful woman. Not in her memory, but for her remarkable, strong life.

    Most of us have never met her, but we know her because we know and love Haven. We honor her because Haven has honored her in the deepest and most honest and loveliest way possible.

    We all are saddened and hurt by this. But I see goodness and love as a possible outcome from this. I think that does Delonda proud.

    Love you,

  101. George — you are the best.

  102. thinking of you haven. courage and peace, which you already embody. thoughts and prayers with your family

  103. What a beautiful assignment. I shall be honored to join you, George. It is, indeed, the next right thing.

  104. George, that’s so funny, because I was planning on giving copies of Couch and Zippy to several friends.

  105. Haven, is your mother in the ICU, or can she receive flowers? Is anyone checking her mail? I just wrote her a letter .. I meant to do it later when I had a gift to go with it, but I figured sooner was better than later. It should be there Wednesday. Thursday at the latest. I so hope the change in medication continues a change for the positive.

  106. This put a smile on my face: I was looking up some of Haven’s books on Amazon. There on the page for “Couch” is a “customer” review of the book by Delonda Hartmann–a completely objective, glowing review as if she just picked up the book and really enjoyed it.

    Here is what Mother Delonda wrote on Amazon: “A Girl Named Zippy was so good it’s hard to believe that this book is even better, but it is. She Got Up Off the Couch is as funny as Zippy but even more touching as the little girl grows up to see the truth behind her father’s charm and the desperation behind her mother’s reading. The characters are as real as small towns, foolish and sad. Kimmel is one of those writers whose work haunts the reader long after the book is finished.”

    How fabulous is that?

  107. George,

    My God you are the best among us. Thank you for this assignment.

  108. George – Great idea on the book giveaway. To make it easy, I am posting a link to a great charity that helps fight Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse. Plus volunteered with them for two years.

    And their name is HAVEN!!!

  109. Haven – I’m very sorry to hear about your mother. But I am glad to also hear the change in meds made her perk up a bit. Its wonderful that your mother is so beloved and that so many people are with her at the hospital.

  110. I am logging on after working on a painting for MOther Delonda off and on all day.

    All I can say that as I worked, I imbued every ounce of spirit to send her release of pain and lucidity to enjoy what she wishes. Apparently I am know making prayer paintings . . .

    so here is my thing – – I just want to thank Mother Delonda.

    I keep typing and deleting . . .
    I’m going to keep painting because that feels constructive.

  111. we all know that Delonda is the name of the patron saint of all who are in need of a strong light. our lady of perpetual light.

    george your idea is brilliant and we shall all do this. SGUOTC or Orville or Kaline.

    and Wings of Desire is one of best and most holy films ever made. the original version, of course. subtitled and beyond the beyond. i’ll never forget it: that’s art. and the great surprise is the american actor who plays a role in it, unexpected. you’ll see.



  112. Vanessa: my mother posts reviews on all my books on amazon. she is cleverly disguised as Bunny Mathews: the exact name I use for her, her real name. mothers are just too much. never afraid, never hidden, always on our side and usually right

  113. I know who it is! Mums the word!

  114. oh! oh! Haven & Everyone: I love thomas merton so much and thought i knew him…. but it was nick fox who JUST turned me onto his brilliant book of poems entitled CABLES TO THE ACE….which stands for ‘poems to god.’ it’s absolutely stunning and a good used copy can be found for about 6 bucks online; it’s out of print. EXTRAORDINARY.

  115. Oh George. I’m so glad to know you – what a wonderful thing cyberspace is. And what a glorious idea.

    And George, you gave me some advice awhile back. I took the project in Geneva. I’ll be in Europe January through April next year. Husband is flourishing in AA (so far). Thanks to you and others here who encouraged and prayed for me in taking this leap of faith.

    Amy in California

  116. Amy, whatever you’re doing in Europe – I’m happy for you. It sounds like it will be amazing. 🙂

    And that’s wonderful about your husband!

  117. Thanks Kittery. As clarification, I do Supply Chain consulting for consumer products companies. That basically covers everything from forecasting, inventory management, production planning to distribution.

    Given the overwhelming abundance of literary and artistic talent here I could easily feel like a Heathen at the Temple but don’t, mostly because the warmth is always equal to the intellect and oh there’s just so much goodness of spirit.

  118. Aaahhh. I shee. 🙂

    Aw, if that were the case, remember, ya ain’t the only heathen. 😉
    I agree though, there’s more love here in an hour than in a week most other places.. 🙂

    I have a (very, very juvenile) Christmas gift for everyone. My brother introduced it to me when I was thirteen and I had knee surgery (the 23rd of December – so Christmas was spent recovering and confined in the sitting position).
    I give you – Elf Bowling. It’s rather crass at times and remarkably stupid, but perhaps some of you could get a laugh out of it?
    If you want to play, click the link right under the picture where it says “Click Here for Win 95+” That will get you on your way.

    Enjoy (I hope). 🙂

  119. Elf Throwing and Elf Bowling is GREAT joy!!!

    Amy – Kudos on the new job and so happy you chose to follow opportunity . . .

    As a change of pace, her is the link to photos of Claire in her new Zippy CowGirl Slipper Twin slippers . . . plus a picture she drew of Haven as “Zippy”

  120. Sher- soo cute! She’s adorable. Did I also see a bit of Snappy?

    And, uh .. Elf Throwing? Do you know something? 🙂

  121. Loved this correspondence. I may have to get a pair of those cowboy slippers for my own self.

    Claire = Adorable

  122. will have to find the elf throwing . . .it is a link . . and you propel the elf over a frozen lake . . but you can be super bad at it . . . my kids are all in bed, will check out the link on their laptops tomorrow . . .

    yes, a bit of snappy, I need to post some new pictures – – she is a tail-less Korat that was abandoned (we think) because of her birth defect – – Korat’s are the most amazing, affectionate cats, they come from Thailand . . . she cries when Claire goes to school, sleeps with her every night, it is adorable!

  123. Who would get rid of a cat ’cause it didn’t have a tail? Jeez.

    I was at the Humane Society today, dropping off knit blankets for the li’l orphans. The HS asks for them, to give the animals brought in a little bit of comfort and when they’re adopted, the blankets go home with them so they have a bit of security. 🙂
    I didn’t stay to look around too much, ’cause I knew I would just want them all and it would be a wrench leaving them, but there was a *gorgeous* flop-eared rabbit and a scrawny seven year old all black cat named Scrooge and a huge long-haired dark brown dog .. beautiful eyes.

    (And I love that Snappy actually cries when Claire leaves. So sweet.)

  124. OH MY GOSH. SO Cute. I told Hanky-Hugh that I wanted cowgirl slippers and he said “Wow. Ok.” Then I told him Haven had a pair and he rolled his eyes at me. It’s JUST LIKE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

  125. ha – – I was so pissed in middle school – one time I started wearing my hair like Laura Ingalls, how when she passed her teaching certificate she started winding her braids over the top of her head and tucking them in . . . *#(%)% if all the girls didn’t start doing it, so then I switched to french rolls and 40’s comb curls on either side . . . this went on forever . . . until my sr. I gave up – I wore the same denim skirt, bought myself a bruce springsteen jean jacket . . . wore socks and tennis shoes, no makeup, didn’t fix my hair anymore, quit cheerleading . . .

    I was done!

  126. just finishing my painting for mother delonda – which I started before the bad news . . . it is like working on an altar and a prayer flag and ended up being a certificate style with cherry-red pants as the ribbon, silouettes of a ten-speed, a love bug, 2 dogs and the texts from the “leper” chapter of couch . . . and I also added gold stars . . .

  127. also, I knew it was meant to be when everytime I needed something for it (i.e., studio still not totally unpacked or organized) – – each item was where I reached for it . . . I am overwhelmed with the syncronicity of this day and my life . . .

  128. also, I am surrounded by death and dying right now . . . 2 family members (not immediate, but loved), my good friend’s grandfather died and she is completely devastated, and somehow, I am floating above this see of impending and immediate sorrow and just – trying to be there? if that makes sense. . . it is like when my stepdad died, I just – – (well after I fell LITERALLY to my knees), I stood up and took care of what needed taking care of . . .

  129. Sher, I’m sorry you are surrounded by loss. Doesn’t it seem like life just comes at us in waves? I think it’s God’s grace that we can cope when we have to. My first husband died when I was 27. This sounds awful but the day after his funeral I sorted through his clothes and emptied his side of the closet. Somehow I instinctively knew that if I didn’t do it then when I was numb it would be months or years before I’d be able to face the task. I spent the next two weeks in my pajamas and don’t remember how or if I ate or bathed.

    Grieving women operate at a weirdly instinctive, primal level.

  130. Good morning everyone.

    George, fabulous idea on the books.
    Sher, can we see your painting so we can share in your prayer?
    Ohio Amy “I have always so felt so different from my friends due to my odd thoughts, obsession with books, literature, pain of my past, and it’s okay now!” Me too. All of us, I think.
    Sher – A radical Laura Ingalls ‘do. Love it. She is my alter ego.
    Kittery – My family ice fishes. We used to play “Curling with Elliot” when my youngest was still small enough to slide across the ice.

    From me the Catholic: Saint Dymphna above is the patron saint of mental illness, neurological conditions, incest, and HAPPY FAMILIES. My husband, who has Asperger Syndrome, has named his fishing boat after her. May she protect us all.

    The Psalm from today’s mass readings was from Psalm 34: “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.”

    Love you guys. (I can’t believe I just said that. I am the girl known as The Rock.)

  131. Oh, I always LOVE it when I’m away from the blog for a bit and then get to come back and read your comments.

    First, I have never known such a highly evolved, merciful group of people since I left the Earlham School of Religion, an experience I assumed could never be repeated. And of course this forum is very different. What I loved about being in seminary was the way in which we were of one mind on the Big Issues, something I’d never experienced in my life, honestly. I didn’t know it was possible for someone like me, who is 100% NOT A JOINER OF ANYTHING. And I had grown up in a conservative time and place; there, it seemed, everyone was of one mind instinctively, without any dialogue or tangible expression of it. I got it, I understood the unspoken world view and its rules and regulations, and all of it was the opposite of me. (That, too, was unspoken.) After Mom moved me to Muncie, just a few blocks from the university campus, I felt as if the laws of gravity had been suspended and everything changed. I had a group of weirdos and sometimes the lunatic fringe and we were together all the time but that’s not the same as being in a like-minded community where the pull is based on a shared sense of the sublime as well as the ridiculous.

    Quakers practice what’s been called ‘communal mysticism,’ and we are a very self-selected group. The Quaker way of life is intensely deliberate, because all individual decisions are based on discernment, and all corporate decisions are by consensus. A thing CANNOT be done unless the gathered are of one mind. Discernment is connected to the belief that clarity is one of the most fundamental requirements of our lives, on every level. The search for clarity is constant, as each sentence we speak, every decision we make, requires clearness, and if we don’t have it, we shouldn’t act. We should wait until we do have it, either through prayer or by one of my favorite things, the Clearness Committee. Totally not making that up. Here’s how it works: like Amy, someone in the Meeting faces a dilemma or an important choice and can’t find clarity. Let’s call the person with the dilemma Frankie. Frankie goes to the people whose wisdom, judgment, integrity, and faith she values most (in grad school that generally meant three other seminarians and one Elder or faculty member) and asks if they will serve as a Clearness Committee with her. It’s an honor to be asked but it is also a duty to accept, because we’se all in this together, honey.

    You gather one evening (decided by consensus of course) soon after. Each time I served on one we met in one of the reading rooms — it doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s private and you won’t be interrupted. One person is given the task of keeping notes, and again, I can only speak of my own experience, but that was always done by the Elder. And since it’s the Quakers we’re talking about, you guessed it: you sit in silence. It’s not a Meeting for Worship, it’s a Meeting for Clearness, but the process is the same. You listen for the Inner Light to speak to you. The dilemma is explained at the beginning, and then prayerful, active silence. What you’re listening for is a question to ask Frankie; statements aren’t made, opinions aren’t given; questions are asked. Now what I found REALLY fascinating was the questions themselves. None of us ever asked, “If you decide to move to Costa Rica, will your husband find work easily?” Nothing like that. There was absolutely no way to predict what someone would ask. Again, because we are a disciplined people, the Elder is very conscious of telling us when we’ve reached the one hour mark. Very very orderly. So we’ve asked our startling questions, Frankie has answered them. The Elder then reads to us what was asked and what Frankie’s answers were, and we listen for a pattern, Frankie listens, and then she tells us whether she has reached clarity on the issue. If she says no, the group meets again. But the three times I served (they are rarely requested — one or two a year is all) the Frankie involved was led to clarity in the single session. The voice of God or the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Truth is stunningly insightful, and those who were moved to ask a question were obviously following a genuine leading. I know for myself, the questions I asked were not only not premeditated, they would never have occurred to me, ordinarily. I remember once seeing the exact moment the truth was reached for the person in need. Her entire face changed. The expression was very similar to the one anyone makes when they solve a mystery in a novel or in a movie, the “Oh! I get it!” look. It signifies an instantaneous grasp of what hadn’t been grasped a second before. The brain and the body respond at the same time. As I pointed out in the blog, it’s no accident that there are ‘mysteries,’ and Mysteries. The definition of Divine Mysteries is much too complicated to go into here; I’ll just point out the etymology of the word is Greek, mysterion, which means to close, or to seal, or shut. All religions, as far back as we can go, have had their own set of Divine Mysteries, either secrets that were known only to the initiated, or the theological concept of the unknowable, ineffable nature of God. The Catholic church has all KINDS of Mysteries — you should look them up. Or maybe you are not a religion geek, as certain other people are, in which case please ignore. And I swear this is the last thing I’ll say about it, but it is the case that many mystery novels, especially those in a series, take place in a church. If I’ve noticed it, someone has written a dissertation on the subject. I should go look and see if there are actually twenty-five books on amazon that point out the same thing. That would be funny.

    You long ago thought I had no point, but NAY CHIRREN. Quakers live in intentional communities, and we have formed an accidental one. HOW COOL IS THAT? It’s also a little mind-boggling but mostly COOL. We’re like a big, scattered, diverse Clearness Committee and the question could be anything, not just the grave concerns of life. We spent, like, three days on our Desert Island list, and all that is, as a concept, is a search for the answer to what looks like a trivial question but reveals something about each of us nonetheless. GOD, Suzanne, was it three years ago (it was a long time ago) you asked me to quick say not which books I’d take to the desert island, but the body of work of one author? In a split second I answered Nabokov, and Suzanne said Dickens and declared herself victorious. For three years I’ve periodically pondered: should it be Dickens? I understand some of the reasons, but should it be Dickens? And then OH I DON’T KNOW, all these years later, she sends me an e-mail saying she’s been reading Nabokov and she had been wrong. I’d made the better choice. Clarity. Also? It takes a big person to admit she was wrong, even between two book goobers pondering a dumb question for YEARS.

    What I love most about you all is how we are NOT all one sect with a shared history and a common temperament, not even close, but the same Grace arises anyway. Scott said yesterday that — having absolutely no notion of doing so — I had drawn the cream of the crop, each person arriving alone, and each of you so GOOD. Your brilliance often surprises me, but your goodness is a miracle. I’m actively grateful to you all, every day, and I respect the way the wagons circle when someone has a crisis. And I respect even more the ways you communicate privately and help one another; just as at Earlham, it goes without saying that if you ask George, for instance, for guidance, he responds as if it’s both an honor and a duty.

    It’s likely a hard rain is gonna fall on me soon, and what luck that I have you. Or (I’ll have to switch metaphors), as I told John, Melinda called with Mom’s diagnosis four days after Orri’s funeral, and since that phone call I have felt a tremendous force bearing down on me, and I know perfectly well that this force is nothing compared to the one ahead. In The Odyssey, there’s a scene where Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, goes to Sparta to speak with Menelaus and Helen. I think somebody goes with him, Nestor, maybe. And, you know, maaaaybe there’s a little social discomfort or even WILD UNCONTROLLABLE AGONY in Telemachus, his dad leaving for war when he was a newborn, ten years of fighting followed by ten years of Dad bouncing around having adventures on his way home. T. is twenty, he’s been fighting the Proci off (his mother’s suitors), and hmmm, how did this all begin? It began with the gods, of course, but among mortals it began with Helen running off to Troy with a luvah named Paris. And now, after ten years of horrific violence and loss, the complete upheaval of two cultures, Menelaus and Helen are contentedly reunited. There’s a beautiful passage in which Homer describes the way Helen goes to get wine for everyone, and because it has been such a mournful time, and events must be especially bitter for Telemachus and Nestor, she slips something into the wine to keep everyone calm. What she uses is called Heartsease. Homer’s women are smart, canny, and powerful. Helen in particular is no fool.

    But what is most valued among the women is Penelope’s faith, and what she would do with the Heartsease is honor its name. We all have it, but the mass of men and women don’t know it, and if they did they’d probably employ it Helen’s way, to prevent an ass-kicking. You are the tribe of people who know where their store of Heartsease is kept, and you use it both freely and for pure reasons. I can’t tell you much I admire that.

    To all of you in the Accidental Community of Blog Babies, thank you for the Heartsease. It works like magic.

  132. “…you’ve got a big talent for attention, and the benefit of belief” — Gregory Maguire

    Much of the reason I read has to do with availing myself of an author’s signposts to self-knowledge and to truth. It’s writers that have a talent for attention and for telling the truth that I look to like I’d look to air traffic control if the pilot of my two-seater had an heart attack. And how do I recognize these talents?: there is quakiness, a swaying, when I read the words. They resonate. I am, literally, moved. (Do tremble and tremendum share a root? Note to self: learn Latin.) As a reader, it is your “very close attention to the patterns of the visible world” I mine like platinum. That you work so hard to get at truth is humbling and a prod, but the kind that gives you that little frisson at the recognition of the Divine instead of seizures. That Spirit animates you as it does is absolutely contagious. My purest and most sacred self requires excavation. It’s all this…debris I’ve been hosting, unquestioned, because it has a long and respected history as truth. And here we have the little giftie of a dowsing rod, indicating debris or truth: are its roots narcissism, desperation or wrong-headedness? Out! Out it goes! — You consistently, repeatedly offer up tools, measures and little thingies with needles that move in your saying, this and this and this is how and where I find truth. And: pay attention!

    The first time through this post, I felt as though I were a couple miles up, edge of a sheer cliff (which always makes you feel just a degree of adjustment away in your perceptions from allowing your latent gift of flight to emerge), breathing cold, clear, air that was much more than air. It took a long time to come down from that cliff. I’ve read it over and over, but my head’s still a bit in the clouds.

    You are a writer on whom nothing is lost. And I don’t want to miss a word.

  133. The posts here were, too, sublime. Thank you Liz, and George, and Sarah, and Linda and so many more for making me feel I’ve found my heart’s home.

  134. Haven, you’re up! — I just read your last post, and Heartsease is what this ongoing meeting offers me. It is my daily clearness committee.

  135. Hi Haven – Keep us posted because we love you. It is an honor and privilege to have fallen into this Accidental Clearness Committee and both receive and try to give Heartsease.

  136. Carrie – “Much of the reason I read has to do with availing myself of an author’s signposts to self-knowledge and to truth … My purest and most sacred self requires excavation. It’s all this…debris I’ve been hosting, unquestioned, because it has a long and respected history as truth.”
    Me too. Oh my, yes. A thousand times yes.

  137. Carrie, the Latin root is the same for tremble, tremendous, tremor, and it means terror, awe or aweful (awful). Tremor is the gerund, to shake. George Fox named his new people The Religious Society of Friends (they were known also as The Children of the Light and a couple other temporary things); it was their detractors, i.e., everyone else who mocked them because after a person was moved to speak, when he or she sat down, they would often quake. Quakers. You see what I’m getting at.

  138. Oh, and Carrie, once again you did what I forgot to do. One of the best examples of a person who knows how we are to write is Gregory Maguire. I thought of him many times as I was working on this post. He’s a fine, fine man, one of the few writers in the world who is as wonderful a human being as he is a writer. Scott loves Margaret Atwood’s statement that reading a book and wanting to meet the author is like eating foie gras and wishing to meet the goose. I understand what she means, and it made me laugh when I heard it, but the truth is that there should be a sign above the heads of the majority of authors you might wish to meet: The sign should say YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE SORELY DISAPPOINTED.

  139. Good morning friends. Delonda is still in my heart and my thoughts. Oh, George, what a wonderful idea and one I was thinking myself on Sunday. I bought Zippy and Couch to send to my sister for Christmas, but then I decided to order her the audio cd of Zippy instead because she drives a bit to and from work. So, I have extra copies of Zippy and Couch and I thought I would give them to the Women’s Center’s library here at Vanderbilt. And, now I will do as you suggested and give them in honor of Delonda and write a note about her in each – and about Haven – and what knowing them both has meant to me in this year that I have found my sobriety.

    I have had such longing in my heart this Advent season – more than at any other time. I am reading A Prayer for Owen Meany and just last night I read about the Christmas pageant! Oh my word. I am not sure I will be able to stay in this office all day. I think I need to go out and be around art and books and stangers. I need to take some muffins to the Campus for Human Development downtown where I have several friends who work there with the homeless.

    I am so thankful for all of you today.

  140. Thanks to all, for kind words sent in my direction and in others’.

    A quick note on avatars: I now know to clear my browser’s cache every now and then and refresh this page, if I’m to see people’s updated avatars. While this knowledge is helpful, following through tends to mess with my wah. I evidently quickly attach voice and tone and identity to recognized icons, and thus have to reorient my brain each time someone changes his or her avatar. In my most recent Refresh, Maureen and Linda immediately reinvented themselves as a cow and a black dog, respectively, and Haven is a rooster (Er, please tell me that others see this, too?!). Creative bunch, y’all.

    Back to the Quaking Friends: Haven, if I’ve read correctly, you have your Society of Friend. And then, there’s this other thing you just mentioned, that I find suddenly appealing: “Children of the Light and A Couple Other Temporary Things”. The possibilities boggle.

    I really like what you wrote above, about listening. Silence, silence to do when earth grew loud, in lairs and asylums of the tremendous shout.

    I’ve been in the midst of having community torn apart around me, near and far, for a few years now. I never knew hearts could break in such slow motion. I am realizing that many in my immediate circle used to listen, alone and together, but have done far more Telling in recent years, to everyone’s detriment. Considering this anew, I’m wondering if, among other causal factors, this very failure to sit still and listen is more primary than I’d thought, as far as opening the door to other more identifiably destructive dynamics (cue narcissism, desperation, and wrong-headedness, as per Haven’s original post). Much to think about….

    In music, I think listening well is as perhaps as vital as producing sound(s).

    – Sarah

  141. Carrie — ! “Note to self: Learn Latin.” You are my new best friend! I feel just as you do about this post; I read it once, and then literally prepared my whole body to read it again — eyes (got the reading glasses out), posture, my breathing changed, I uncrossed my legs. I mean — gosh!

  142. Haven, I knew the origin of “Quaker” but your description also caused COLD COMFORT FARM to pop into my head, with the Quiverers’ preacher exhorting: “In hell there’ll be no butter for your burns!” Hilarious!

  143. It has happened that I have listened to a friend pour out a problem which seemed unsolvable. As I listened I worried that I was of so little help. And then later the friend called and said, “thank you so much — your advice was so helpful.” And I swear to you I never said a word. Completely mum, only nodding or shaking my head sympathetically (or helplessly).

  144. Hi everyone – I took the day off to deal with a sick son, a sick employee, and moving dry cows. I’ll be in and out.

  145. Maureen, do the wet cows have to stand perfectly still?

  146. I have given up on the avatars. I have signed on to wordpress, refreshed, etc. and I still see my face and not my dog, Foster’s face. Although I do see his face in my profile “gravatar”. I also see Maureen’s lovely face and not her cows and Haven is still dressed up fancy with Kat. So, I am just not going to think about it anymore. Ugh.

  147. At one point, Linda, I had a gravatrar image on the page, and a different one altogether on the edit function, and you all were seeing a third. I now look at names alone.

  148. Wet cows standing still ( giggling in my cubicle)

  149. Haven, remember when you talked about how bees stay in open jars? Well, Delonda seems to me to be the ultimate example of someone who recognized an open jar. At this moment, I have candles lit in jars all over the house. I lit them with the intention that their light find its way to her spirit, along with my prayers and blessings.

  150. On my mac, Haven is a rooster. On my PC, she’s still with Kat.

  151. Haven…a mcchicken!

  152. thought this might be good for a laugh. i have 3 dogs and i brought trevor to work with me today because he has stitches in his foot from stepping on something (we have no idea-just noticed the blood and rushed him to the vet). it is healing nicely, but it rainy and muddy here in CT and he can’t really have a lot of “outside time” with the other 2 pups bc he tears the plastic bag off his leg in less than 2 seconds.

    so i bring him in to work–i work in a family business (lightning protection for the aerospace industry), so having a dog around is always fine and often there is a dog here.

    let me say that trevor is completely house-broken. there is one woman in our office who just doesn’t like dogs (WHAT!?). trevor walked right over to her desk and proceeded to take a HUGE dump. she freaked and has lit multiple candles and is clutching the lysol. she even had to leave the building. i cleaned it up immediately and suffice to say, trevor is spending the day with me in my office, door closed.

  153. Jerri, that’s a lovely thing to do.

  154. Steph, do you know about a company here in North Carolina (in Greensboro, I think) called REPLACEMENTS? It’s a huge building that sells individual replacement pieces for sets of china, which sounds sort of obscure but actually there are countless thousands of patterns and people are serious about having entire sets and so it’s a big operation. The front is a showroom filled with beautiful dishes. But in the rest of the building, where all the work is done, every single employee is allowed to bring their dog to work with them, every day. There’s a documentary about it I sometimes see replayed on Animal Planet (or did when I was on bedrest), and there are dozens of dogs there roaming around, and not one piece of china has ever gotten broken because of them.

  155. First thing my dog Gus does when visiting someone else’s place is to take a crap.

    I’ve repeatedly told him that’s no way to treat the host.

    But he doesn’t seem to get the message.

    And we don’t get re-invited anywhere.

  156. How insane is it that George has a dog named Gus and a cat named Zippy?

  157. Well, the dog’s Christian name is Angus.

    I’ve told Haven that at the time of the Big Bang, some of my DNA stardust got commingled with hers, thus producing a lot in common.

    I don’t think she has yet bought into that theory.

  158. George, even entertaining such a notion is a flat-out sin.

  159. haven, i do not know of this company! i have to learn more of this workplace that lets everyone bring their dogs. that is great. i even brought my munchkin after he was born for about 3 mos to work with me. dogs and kids. they can really lift spirits. man, now i miss mason (my kiddo).

    george, i cannot believe you have a gus and a zippy. i am very pleased to hear that gus is a crapper, too. i like to call it a shit and run.

  160. Oops. Ha!! “English Teacher/Dairy Farmer Fails to Employ Parallel Structure, Eats Shoots and Leaves.”

    For comic relief and the general hilarity of the company I will be posting a picture of myself that my son just took. One of the cows fell into the gutter and gave me a BATH in manure. I am just covered head to foot and some even flew into my mouth. I have to take my employee to the doctor and I KNOW I am never going to get this smell off.

  161. REPLACEMENTS LTD. is an astonishing place besides the dogs! Haven, have you actually BEEN THERE? I collect antique Haviland china, and I’ve wanted to walked through this place for years. They are hugely, hugely overpriced on the china end of things. But to get dogs with the tour of the china? Wow.

  162. Well, my Gus is a very compact little dog whose giftees are not objectionable and actually quite preferable to those deposited by either of my sons during their early years.

    Sometimes the people we visit don’t see it that way.

    As for me, who grew up amid the hundreds of kids for whom my mother babysat, I am so inured by — well, experience — that I can change a diaper and eat a sandwich at the same time.

  163. Maureen…shouldn’t your employee be taking YOU to the doctor?

  164. wow george…you are a strong man. if it is a poopie diaper, i have to hold my breath. eating anything is absolutely out of the question. and trevor is a golden retriever, so his deposits are, well….ENORMOUS.

    maureen, i am sorry that happened to you, but just picturing it made me laugh. i can’t wait to see the photo. i hope you are ok!

  165. Kate: I have a sin I need to confess to you. I was in Evansville last weekend and I apologize for not calling you. I arrived late Friday and left Sunday and in those hours, had an early Christmas with my dozens of cousins and nephews and nieces, mother, brother and sister, went to a fifth grade basketball tournament in Newburgh and didn’t hardly have five seconds to call my own except for a few minutes when I got up out of the bed I slept in as a child and wandered out to the backyard and watched the ghosts of me and brother throwing footballs and baseballs and shooting hoops in the backyards. In the background, I heard the two longs and a short trumpet of the trains before the entered the rail yard off Highway 41. It was a comforting sound. One of home. I do plan to be back around February. If you aren’t busy, I’d love to get together then.

  166. Oh, I’m quite fine. I have probably eaten my own weight in manure over twenty years. It’s why I have an iron stomach: I have been thoroughly innoculated. Luckily, I am more than happy to be really dirty. If we could afford it, I would stay home and work on the farm every day. Unfortunately, I make twice what we can pay our farm workers by teaching.

  167. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could organize a meetup for all of the blog babies? Can you imagine the brilliant conversations that would emerge??

  168. We should all meet at the Calvin Festival in 2010 but that is way too long to wait.

  169. Maureen….eeeewwwwwwww

    Sorry. 🙂

  170. I’ll post the photo later – I’ve got to run. But if you look on Files, I added an actual Google earth file called Blog babies file.kmv or something like that. You can open it and add yourself as a pushpin if you’re not already on there.

  171. amy in ohio: my you’re lovely.

    george: we had a woman at my old office who was universally despised and wore leopard print pants by a designer. one day my partner’s dog came to work; during a big meeting he lifted his leg and pissed on her. i had to crawl under the table to keep from bursting into laughter.

    haven and i took our desert island author question very seriously, but it wasn’t fair because i POPPED it on her apropos of nothing and gave her two seconds to answer. then she said well, wait a minute, now and i shouted NO TAKEBACKS ON THE DESERT ISLAND! it’s a wonder she tolerates me. oh and i taunted her like melinda. i was melinda’s Stand In and that wasn’t right of me. but haven is a forgiving soul with a mind of endless curiosity and so she and i match.

    george, i love that you HAD A SIN TO CONFESS to miss cake. you are divine.


  172. Suzanne~
    I had a dream the other night that you and I were at a party and we ended up hiding in a bedroom because we were sick of being around people. And I made you listen as I told you how wonderful your books are and how much I love to read your facebook and blog posts, blah, blah, basically kneeling at your feet and you were so polite about it and didn’t seem weirded out all all.
    You are sublime!!!

  173. You are divine, Suzanne. What are you doing with your bangs lately?

  174. George, you are FORGIVEN.

  175. …by the way, Suzanne, I don’t know crap about how to do the socks monkey thing or the Christmas gift thing on Facebook. I see them when I go over there, but have no idea about what I should do. So I am not ignoring you. Also, I have a sin to confess to you. I bought Split many moons ago to give as a Christmas present to my brother who is going through a surprise divorce. I’m darned if I didn’t forget it when I saw him over the weekend.


  177. Uh, people?

    I’m now seeing an “Edit This” link on *everyone’s* post, just after ____ Said:, granting the capability of at least trying to edit _any post_, not just my own.

    This is skeery.

    Is anyone else seeing this?

    – Sarah

  178. Maureen,
    I must investigate this Calvin Festival as I have never heard of it and it sounds superb.

  179. “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” C.S. Lewis
    I don’t know what to say but I love this blog, and feel I love all who write here and I do not join anything. Haven’s description of Quaker clarity makes me want to join that, too.
    George…we can’t give away too many of Haven’s books…pretty soon it’ll be a MOVEMENT as Arlo Guthrie says in Alice’s Restaurant.

  180. I think I once browsed the replacement website when trying to augment a set of forks and spoons and such that my grandmother owned back in the 40s. the pattern was called Lovely Lady.

  181. spielerfit, I’m not getting the “edit link.” Maybe you have been appointed Queen of the Blog.

    I have to comment on the funny dog stories. I was a cat person all my life and never “got” the whole dog love business. That is until I GOT a dog for my kids and now have two pups.

    Never did I imagine saying to people (with a straight face), “I SWEAR he’s potty trained at home” and “I hope you don’t mind if he sniffs your crotch. He’ll stop in a minute.”

    Dogs rule.

  182. I liked Haven’s discussion on Quaker clarity, too. Sure beats the crap outta Episcopalian opacity.

    Despite my affability, I am not a joiner. I don’t even hold a gym membership.

  183. Suzanne, I have a confession to make. I’m working on an essay so intellectually complex, with so many disparate elements that in no way are connected except by my ability to convince you they are, that I’ve become That Person. Not only am I on my bed surrounded by a books and notes, a banana, a lip balm, my taxidermied lamb, I was unaware all night that I have two identical copies of Whitehead’s Process and Reality open. Two. Two copies of the same book, I didn’t even know it.

  184. My cat Zip rules our place with a surly presence leavened with cacked-up hair balls on the window sills…that said, he is otherwise, the cleanest of our brood.

  185. Okay, the Edit This link is now gone, which is a relief. I would love the ability to edit my own posts, but it’s a bit daunting (and too deliciously tempting) to have that potential with others’!

    – Sarah

    [No, it’s back again, this Edit This tempter, and here I just added this comment. I think I’ll go have lunch. ~ S.]

  186. George — Especially not a gym membership.

  187. Haven, at the Dodge Festival this fall I heard Billie Collins refer offhand to meeting the author as “one of the few reliably disappointing experiences.”

    (Obviously I’m reading my way backwards through the comments…)

  188. I do wish my chance to meet Mark Twain had not come and gone before my birth.

    A practical aside: All your gravitars (!) are always as you describe them, and change when you say they do (I swear I’m not reading them as one does a Rorschach). Both in Mac and Windows. And I’m far too lazy to clear my cache. Although I use Mozilla Firefox on my PC, not Internet Explorer, because its security is said to be much better and it really does has the best tabbed browsing. Not to mention it has a really good spell check regardless of context: whether one is posting or writing an email. Right now, only “gravitars” shows as a spelling error. (WordPress outlaws, making up words without provocation.)

  189. Jerri, you always know what’s needed. I’m following your example.

  190. What is a cache and how does one clear it?

  191. “I’ve become That Person. Not only am I on my bed surrounded by a books and notes, a banana, a lip balm, my taxidermied lamb, I was unaware all night that I have two identical copies of Whitehead’s Process and Reality open. Two. Two copies of the same book, I didn’t even know it.”

    yes. so what’s your point?


    i’m that Person too, only i am working on two rather simple books at once plus doing freelance gigs for dough but i sleep every night.
    otherwise i blow a gasket. like Albert in TUW.

  192. will post the link to Delonda’s painting soon . . . we had a late snowday start today, which was bad for me as I was in the studio until 3 a.m., then read until 5:15, then got up at 7:00 only to learn that the buses were delayed . . . anyway, need to edit photos and do a blog.

    Honestly, the yahoo thing is just too difficult for me. I don’t understand it. I give up, and I am sad because I know there are lots of fabulous things there to see . . .

    I listened to Amy Grant’s memoir “Mosaic” last Summer – – it was very gentle and authentic, and she was completely open . . . she deals with grief a great deal (death and guilt) and, of course, religion, and praying with your body.

    I am intrigued by both the Shakers and the Quakers.

  193. Did I miss the answer to why the lamb is called Margaret? Speaking as a former sheep farmer, the thought of a stillborn lamb in taxidermy form is unfortunately disquieting to me.

    Is it from ….
    Margaret, are you bleating,
    over woolycoat unfleecing?

  194. Amy – Here’s the link to the Calvin Festival. I saw Haven speak there this past spring. It sounds like rams was there, too, right? Has anybody else been? I went in 2006 and 2008. It was a pre-taste of heaven.

  195. Sher – I think that same storm is heading our way! I am crossing my fingers for another snow day. It’s awful, but I am really burnt out on school.


    quick posting of Mother Delonda’s Painting

  197. my only problem with our weather is that it is icky out, so they can’t play, and I am snowed in with work to do, which I can’t when they are all home, so I am a bit frustrated and tired (because I can’t sleep when they are all around) . . . I need a John and a Scott and a Barn?

  198. Suzanne, maybe my gasket is getting over pressured,I want sleep during the day and to stay up all night . . . unsolvable with children in the house

    plus I am hungry
    but I did pee recently, so I am good there.

  199. Sher – The painting is wonderful! What a wonderful tribute. Thanks for posting it so we can all see it.

    I just changed my avatar in your honor. I got to stay home and be a farmer today, so I am feeling a lot like your friend and mine … LIW.

  200. Oop. It might not be there yet.

  201. I can see a beautiful landscape, I think – – I wish we could zoom in on the avatars, is there a person in the foreground?

    I just had three 6 year-olds ask if it was 5 o’clock popcicle time yet – – it is insane that they always end up over here, maybe it is because I feed the herds . . .

  202. I am also guessing that your house is a lot of FUN!
    That is me with cows but a newer avatar is in process.

  203. now see, here we go, because I see your smiling face, but before I refreshed it was a landscape . . . but I loved the temporary cow one . . . what am I, in blue hair or a brown hat . . . it is like multiple personalities here! Like who is it, Trace? or ____? or _____?

  204. i am literally confused.

  205. Dang the new gravatar! It is leading to mental distress.
    I just did the whole process again. Let’s see what I am now.

  206. Sher, you have blue hair. Maureen, it’s back to you with cows. Your newvision name though is a close up on a cow’s face.

  207. Sher, it’s possible you just saved a life. I can’t say more than that for now, but you respond to the call of the occasion with divine intuition. A constant prayer hums in my mind — I’ve thought it so long it’s no longer a thought — “If I am called upon in the hour of need of anyone, anywhere, guide me to the words that need to be said in the way they can best be heard.” You do it in three dimensions, but the gift of Grace is the same gift.

  208. Oh Sher. I just looked at the painting you did. Amazing. I love the little red pants in the corner, too. 🙂

  209. Sher, you do indeed have the gift of Grace.

  210. Oh Sher, it’s . . . wonderful. And also, what Jerri said.

  211. SF, this is a favorite memory of mine: I was in Chicago, staying with Elizabeth Berg, and we went out for Indian food and then to see A MIGHTY WIND, which had just come out. We behaved like drunken goat children all through the movie, laughing hysterically. When it was over, three young women sitting in front of us stood to leave. One was a tall, thin, bright-and-shy girl, and as they walked ahead of us her friend whispered something in her ear. The tall girl looked down and a very large napkin was stuck to the bottom of her shoe, and as she removed it she said, “Oh, I’m THAT girl.”

  212. Just added my manure picture and some others to the group. Unfortunately, you can’t get the full effect because it’s dark on the porch AND I look like a troll because I’m wearing Andy’s shirt.

  213. Oh my goodness. I’m about 200 gazillion posts behind. I’m never going to catch up, so I think I’ll start from here. What did I miss?

    Speaking of gazillion, I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around how one person can defraud so many people out of 50 billion dollars? Where the heck did all that money go? Help the dead brain out here. I think I’ve contracted some kind of disease, from spending too much time at the mall. A disease that sucks all my intelligence away, because i just DON’T UNDERSTAND!.

    Here is another thing I don’t get. Bath and Body Works was broken into the other night. Bath and Body Works! WHhhhhY?

    My theory is they were going for the jewelry store, next door, but missed. Can you imagine having eyes filled with dreams of silver, diamonds, and gold but ending up with soap, shampoo and lotion?

  214. Does anyone have quick access to Ruby Turpin’s vision from “Revelation”? I need to quote it and I can’t find it on the internet.
    A link to it will certainly do. Thanks.

  215. Maureen your son Elliot looks like Frodo, from the Lord of the Rings, in that picture.

  216. What is my avatar? On my work laptop it is still the Peanuts Thanksgiving and here at home is is moi.

    Haven I looooove how you so casually said ” I was at the movies with Elizabeth Berg.” To me, that is the same as ” Oh I was at the movies the other night with Santa Clause. We had a roar of a good time.
    You and Elizabeth Berg were in the same place..and are friends. I am faint…must lie down.

  217. Sher~
    You are fabulous!( Say this in a loud trill as I am now)
    Your creations are beautiful.
    I want to spend a day on your farm.

  218. Amy – Can you deal with swimming in liquid manure?
    Kidding! Welcome anytime you’re passing through East Pharsalia.
    I see you (a very nice picture by the way) as your avatar. I never knew that was the Peanuts Thanksgiving – I though it was a quilt! Did I turn into Laura Ingalls Wilder for anyone?
    I had the same reaction to the Elizabeth Berg comment. I saw her speak at the Calvin Festival – what a lovely and gentile woman, I thought. Now I hear she behaves like a drunken goat child.

  219. I worked on a goat farm with my brother one summer. I was not of legal working age, but I went every day at 5am and washed milk buckets and mucked stalls and sterilized equipment and tromped around in the liquid poop.

    My favorite story from that time? The year after that summer my English class took a field trip to the Carl Sandburg house. In the gift shop I saw a basket of fudge sitting on the check-out counter and casually mentioned that I had worked on the farm that produced that fudge.


    The lady behind the counter lost her shit and started yanking me all over the Sandburg campus telling everyone “SHE WORKED AT SPLIT CREEK! SHE WORKED AT SPLIT CREEK!”

    I had NO IDEA what was going on, but finally someone explained to me that Split Creek was the largest goat farm in the South and it was famous among wanna-be goat farmers.

    This amused me, since the total number of employees at the farm that summer were 5. The lesbian couple that owns the farm, my brother, myself, and the handyman.

  220. Ah, goats. Amanda, lucky you. What a great tale. I bet that farm was a stop on the cross-country tour of the couple who wrote The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese.
    I have a goat girl in my class this year and a goat boy last year. I think they are very sweet animals.

    Wait, was your story connected to my dairy farm tales or Haven and Elizabeth Berg as drunken goat children?

  221. I think it was the diary farm tales PLUS the drunken goat children. Actually, it was mostly the swimming in poop that did it.

  222. Maureen you are alternating between a beautiful brown cow and Laura Ingalls Wilder.And I confess I could not tell who it was!

  223. I find that lesbians are disproportionately represented on the goat cheese continuum. My father raised Nubian goats, but he was a heterosexual male. He began making his own cheese, and one year around Christmas Melinda stopped for a visit, and let us just say that the house was an olfactory experience unlike any other, as he kept 16 cats in a small log cabin, as well as three or four dogs and a pygmy goat? a baby? an elf goat? He and his wife both smoked with commitment. Melinda got as far as the door and decided to just stand on the porch, sort of half in and half out, and Dad said he’d just finished unwrapping his new cheese. As he was talking he was putting some on a cracker, and in the way that one cannot be prepared for what one doesn’t know is possible, somehow Dad just popped the cracker in Melinda’s mouth. Under the best of circumstances she would have found the finest goat cheese odious; alas, this was neither. When she got home she called to tell me about it. She said, “And Haven, that paste was in my mouth and a wave of stink suddenly hit me at the same time.” I gasped. “Did you GAG?” She said, “Oh no, I completely threw up.”

    Why does this story always make me happy? It really does. I shall try to be high-minded by offering a literary quotation:

    “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”
    –G.K. Chesteron

  224. speaking for myself, not for poets, it makes me happy as well

  225. Haven,

    At 930 CST Mary Poppins is on Disney Family channel.
    They are doing “Step in Time” right now.

    Just thought I’d let you know.


    I just got done scooping snow.

  226. …and my Xmas lights are up. ALL BLUE bulbs but one red one…if you are flying over, tell the pilot to HONK!Yeah, make big honk for der Mattster.

    …One hundred twenty feet of Marian Blue.

    I DID HAVE SOME UP since last yearAND THE GODDMAN SQUIRRELS gnawed through BOTH ends. How i hate those buck-toothed morons.

  227. mmmm goat cheese sounds good about now. I admire it’s caramel-like consistency.

  228. Matt-are you sure they aren’t Hanukkah lights?

    Haven-did you also love Best In Show? It takes a few viewings to really appreciate it. Parker Posey is a riot.

    I’ll be picturing the Melinda-goat-cheese-incident all night. 🙂

  229. Oooooh…I got the “Edit This” line on everyone’s post. All I did was change my gravatar.

    Sarah, what’s up with this?

    And the gravatar didn’t change.

  230. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. “BEHOLD, THE POWER OF CHEESE.”

    (Yes, I stole that.)

  231. Ahhh, Maureen—you did indeed turn into Laura Ingalls Wilder for me! I recognized her right off! As a child I adored her books…truly, I read each and every one countless times. As an adult, I am pleased to say I have twice visited the Missouri Ozarks home she and Almanzo built and lived in (it’s quite charming–go if you can) as well as the town and buildings of DeSmet, SD…I was well into adulthood by then and was surprised at how moved I was to be there and see those places and things I felt I knew as if they were my own. All in all, it was just delightful.

    I will never, ever, tire of the stories Haven shares with us about her Dad, Melinda, Delonda, her brother.

    And I laughed myself sick at “A Mighty Wind”…and you saw it, with Elizabeth Berg? Oh my.

  232. A Mighty Wind has such a great soundtrack. I loved BIS and WFG but I didn’t guffaw quite as hard at AMW. But I did enjoy it, and I still listen to the soundtrack to this day.

    And yes, I would be THAT GIRL also.

  233. I saw the “A Mighty Wind” concert tour! The cast played their music at the 9:30 Club in D.C. -> in character!!<- I never laughed so hard for so long in my life.

  234. I’ve seen all of C. Guest’s films repeatedly, and I laugh every time as if I were a goldfish and the castle was brand new no matter how many times I passed it. I have a special place for WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, because there is greatness in the phrase YOU BASTARD PEOPLE!


  236. What I wouldn’t give for the MY DINNER WITH ANDRE action figures. One is helpless and must love the man who had that idea.

  237. I’m sincerely surprised Archie McPhee hasn’t tackled that one.

  238. I’m going to start telling people I have a wife named Bonnie who’s out of town a lot.

  239. Make sure you mention that when you are buying her a fabulous pantsuit.

  240. Make sure you mention that when you are buying her a fabulous pantsuit.

  241. We must breathe life back into the word ‘pantsuit’ regardless of context.

  242. “What’s that intoxicating aroma?”

    “Why, it’s my PANTSUIT.”

  243. Carol – I bow at your feet!!! Did you see the surveyor’s house? I finally see me as Laura this morning.

    My sister lives in California and I keep pressuring her to move near me. I seriously have our itinerary all planned out: Grand Canyon, Georgia O’Keefe’s ranch, Laura and Almanzo’s house in Missouri, Willa Cather’s house, after that it gets boring.

    I am within driving range of Almanzo’s house up north of here but haven’t gotten there yet.

    Have – That cheese story was great. My goat boy last year did his final presentation on the status of the meat goat industry. He brought in goat milk and shared it around. Even the MILK smells like goat. I smilingly gulped it down because his parents were there.

  244. Oops! My finger memory keeps writing “Have” instead of Haven.
    Haven – Can you photograph Margaret for me? I have seen stillborn lambs, and the image of you curled up with one is kind of grossing me out. I know my image is off but it’s hard for me to replace.

  245. Better late than never. I just remembered a book my sister gave me a few years ago for Advent called Watch for the Light. It has a literary/spiritual reading for every day leading up to Christmas and beyond to Little Christmas.

    It includes: TS Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris, Henri Nouewen, Eckhart, Aquinas, Madeleine L’Engle, Gail Godwin, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Annie Dillard, CS Lewis, Kierkegaard, John Donne … that’s a partial list. There’s a companion volume for Lent.

    I get up ungodly early.

  246. While we are rescuscitating the term “pantsuit,” let’s toss in “outfit,” shall we? In Indiana, women (and I’m assuming we’re talking exclusively about women’s wear here. Otherwise, ew.) sporting tight perms and doughy complexions wear “outfits.” This outfit will consist of a “top” and elastic-waist pants, will coordinate in texture (slick man-made fiber is preferred for its non-wrinkle goodness), color, jewelry (or as Hoosiers say, “jewry”), and cheery pictures appropriate to the season. It will be called “cute” by friends: “Oh, Marge, what a cute outfit!” Comfy Naturalizer shoes, squished by heavy weight into unnatural shapes that would make the shoes scream if they were capable, will complete the ensemble.

  247. Talk about stinky cheese. My kid’s dad has gone on quiet meditation weekend retreats with the monks at Gethsemane in Kentucky and has on occasion brought back some of the cheese they make. My kids also love goat cheese. I have never acquired a taste for it myself. I would probably make a very bad farmer.

  248. Haven,

    Do you have a winner in the “Why Margaret the Lamb is named Margaret” contest?


  249. Oh Jodi!!!! I am laughing out loud here!! My mom sends me “outfits” and wears them. I purposely won’t wear anything that was sold together actually together. I either give the whole to Sally Ann or mismatch.

  250. Jodi – I am finding it extremely dangerous to get on this blog on a school day morning. It is very hard to tear myself away and get my butt to town.

  251. Hi Linda – We eat goat cheese on Christmas Eve because my mother-in-law is Swedish and we eat all these traditional Swedish foods, including goat cheese and raw pickled herring. The cheese looks just like Fels Naphtha Soap. I have grown to enjoy both.

  252. Hey O’Connor fans, I was looking for “Revelation” on the internet and hit this. What do you think? Or is this me crawling out from under my rock again and this is some famous piece of music?

  253. OK, I’m sitting here on the furnace grate talking to myself so I’m going to go to school now.

  254. Hi Maureen,

    Sorry you were talking to yourself! I was right here, enjoying the two-hour delay we have in Indiana this morning due to snow and ice — the proverbial “wintery mix.”

    Good idea to stay away from those “outfits”! Teachers are especially culpable, don’t you think? All those “seasonal” sweaters with pumpkins or snowmen? I recently bought a pair of Etnies, which are skateboarding shoes, and the kids commended me on my fashionista sense. Who knew?!

    And Maureen? It IS dangerous to get on this blog before school, but with only days to go before Xmas break, give in to your impulse. Live on the edge, I say. Give your students a writing assignment and log on at your desk.


  255. My daughter, Emma, has the most awesome Latin teacher on the planet. Mrs. Sanford. She is a gem. She has been teaching at Hume-Fogg for at least 30 years. My daughter is now in her second year of AP Latin and she helps as Mrs. Sandford’s “TA”. Yesterday Mrs. Sandford surprised Emma with a pair of earrings and a braclet that are of Roman design so that Emma can “look just like a real Roman girl” She wore them today and was so pleased. That is so special and something Emma will remember all her life when she looks back and thinks about the good and the bad of high school. Hurray for teachers!

  256. NUMINOUS and almost luminous purple polyester pantsuit with a purple and pink paisley polyester blouse that bow-ties at the neck. I weep. It is my mother-in-law.

  257. How about that alliteration? Good thing Sher already had her pee.

  258. Blurrily awake, heading out to mail packages . . .

    here is the choice my good friend made after returning home from her beloved grandfather’s funeral (in Michigan) . . first we ate italian while I drank a nice Kendall Jackson Dry Red . . . she downed several beers……..and she talked for 3 hours while I ate and drank….we then moved to the local pool hall/bar (always packed where I had 2 MORE glasses of wine and she drank some more as well . . . we watched the dudes come in with their own cues in slings, some of them actually brought their on balls and we cheered on some pool dudes – — I could give a thumbs up without falling off the barstool.

    Alternatively, my mother-in-law is talking. For 2 or 3 hours each time on the phone when she calls about her nieces death (62 compared to the 87 year-old mother, Nanette’s OLDER sister who raised her). Louise insists on going through every piece of paper in her daughter’s bronx apt (she has receipts from 1985), she kept every newspaper, national geographic, she was a travel agent and has maps and brochures for countries that no longer exist . . . and Louise can’t even turn the key on her car, but insists on driving the 8 blocks . . . I think my m-i-l will have a nervous breakdown . . .

    my ears are in working order though . . . that is about all I can do (besides the painting for mother D).


  259. peeing is so time wasting and is needed too frequently when one is busy in the basement and the bathrooms are far away – or in Haven’s case, she has to go OUTSIDE with the opossums and racoons to get to the potty in her house . . .

    for myself, I am considering a bucket situation

  260. oh yes, Sher, the painting…I love the text under the wax the best…and the red pants rock, too!
    Art with Words = perfection

  261. the same professor who copied my work once told me to never use text or gold gilding . . . I love not being in school and doing what I want!!!

    text rocks for sure, it is all my favorite things, literature and art . . .

    now I am heading out the door . . .

    have a good day here in blog land!

  262. Sher:

    The depth and the feeling and the love and playfulness and detail of your art for Delonda has to go down in my experience as nothing short of lovingkindness poured over the sublime!!!!!

    As for goat cheese, I’ll pass. I’m with Melinda, that shit’s nasty, man!

    But back in the late 1970s, I acquired a goat when I purchased a house in Troy, Indiana. The previous owners kept this goat chained to a tractor tire and basically used him as a lawn mower and bush hog. Having grown up in the city, I was never around goats EVER so I took the opportunity to get to know this guy, who in a flash of inspiration, I called Billy. What I liked about him were his blonde eyes and how he would gently but affirmatively butt his head on my leg. I was generally opposed to keeping him chained up and gave him to a neighbor who already had several on his farm. As for the tractor tire, I poured dirt in the middle of it and my wife planted some flowers.

    I know this is an old topic, but I loved Mighty Wind. On the WAMU public radio station in DC, there is a show that starts at 11 p.m. Saturday where you can hear folk music — old and recent. It’s one of my favorite programs.

  263. Our favorites from Corky:

    The roPe broKe.

    There’s no swimmin’ in my play.

    Everybody dance!

  264. George – You so completely crack me up! When are you going to finish your novel?

    Sher – My friend Joanne loaned me her downstairs rec room for one of Tristan’s parties (far cooler than having anyone out to the farm), and as I was helping her clean up, I found a 2-liter Coke bottle filled with an amber liquid. You guessed it. Teenage boys (Joanne’s son being the culprit here) can do this so easily. She said it was because her son was too lazy to walk up the stairs.

    I found a similar bottle in our neighbor’s hunting shack, which is on our land, and opened it to take a big whiff, assuming it was whiskey. Oh no it wasn’t! I about joined Melinda in Barfland.

  265. Linda – What a great Latin teacher story!! I wish they taught Latin here. My HS Latin teacher, Magister Begley, was a complete nut. We nicknamed him Chaz the Spaz. We used to go Christmas caroling in Latin – it generally turned into a big snowball fight.
    I am not talking Adeste Fideles; I am talking modern stuff.
    Can you guess this one?

    Tu circumspecta, ne sint lacrimae
    Clamara noli sunt tibi causae
    Santa Claus advenit urbem
    Tinneat, tinneat, tinntinabulum

    Tell Emma that I know my spelling here is probably way off. We also translated the Life cereal “Hey, Mikey” commercial into Latin.
    Does Emma already have Winnie il Pu?

  266. She doesn’t have the Winnie book, but I have it on my list from when you mentioned it previously. Good idea! My daughter is president of their Junior Classical League and also a docent at Nashville’s own Parthenon. She just loves everything related to Latin. She is a smarty pants. Takes after her father.

  267. My son Sam loved Latin. He took it for three years. When that movie, The Passion, came out. Sam said he could actually translate the parts in it that were spoken in Latin.

  268. I love goat cheese and goat milk. The secret with goat milk is to keep the nannies away from the billies, and to get the milk VERY COLD right away. The raw, freezing cold goats milk a friend brought me once was the best I ever.

    Latin was the only language I enjoyed learning. I wish I taken it all four years.

  269. Haven – I just read your sisters tale of goat cheese secretly forced in her mouth. I am completely in tears at work. I love precious tales like this.

  270. i love, love, love goat cheese. i think it is simply delicious. but i must admit, i BUY it…and have never attempted cheese making myself.

    i have a friend who is terrified by all cheese. it is so bizarre to me as i cannot imagine my world without cheese. i could live on it. everytime it comes up–which lately has been a lot (parties, holidays, i dunno) he starts in on the wrongness of anything in food described as sharp. the whole time i think–geez–that’s only CHEDDAR! when i was pregnant i wanted soft cheese (like brie) MORE THAN I WANTED ANYTHING ELSE, and wouldn’t ya know…they’ve done gone banned it for pregos.

  271. Vanessa,

    I think it means you’re now Queen for the Day.

    Rule wisely.

    – Sarah

  272. I just reread Heidi and it made me long for goat’s milk. In the book it tasted like cinnamon and made Klara very strong.

  273. Jodi, the person who won the contest for why the lamb is named Margaret is the commenter I addressed. Because his answer is conspicuous by its absence, I know it was he, and I know he knows.

  274. Sarah–it’s been off and on all day. Now off. Reign over!

    On a Queen of another nature: In the car we were discussing singers who had died. Hannah (age 9)said, “Yeah, like Freddie Mercury. He was young, wasn’t he?” And I said yes. With a heavy sigh she replied, “The classics all die young.”

  275. Here are things I meant to address all day: Billy Collins’s statement about being reliably disappointed by authors is an understatement. It isn’t merely that they are human or shy or not what you expected, many are bogus ass-creatures with lizard brains whose greatest goal in life is to go bowling in an ironic way with a group of the Jonathans from Brooklyn.

    Jodi, I think the fashions you’ve described above fall into two categories: The Easy-Care Hair Person, who is essentially optimistic and really likes decorated clothing and ease for her bunions, and the women who have donned the I Give Up suit.

    All day I’ve tried to figure out what’s wrong with me. I can’t read, I can’t work, and then about an hour ago I said to Scott, “You know what? I think I’m tired.” As soon as I said it my bones turned to lead. I can’t get up to go inside even though I want to because I’m too tired to go to bed. I’ve stayed awake for hours for this reason.

  276. I have a favor to ask of the blog babies who have such incredible cosmic energy. My sister-in-law’s mother passed away this morning after a short – way to short – battle with lung cancer that had metastasized to just about every possible organ. They had just learned only a few weeks before Thanksgiving that it was there and terminal. My S-I-L found out about it in the most horrific way possible. She is a nurse and was looking at x-rays of a patient before consulting the chart to see who the patient was and could clearly see how bad the cancer was. You can surmise the rest.

    My favor is this: please send any thoughts, energy, or whatever to her and her family. This has been an incredible shock for everyone. I only knew her for a brief amount of time and the loss is unimaginable for even me. She was an incredibly thoughtful, warm and caring woman that made the world a better place with her presence.

    Thanks to everyone,

  277. Haven:

    Oh, for Pete’s sake! Go to bed already! 🙂


  278. Dear Sock, you, your sister-in-law, her mother and all who love her are in my thoughts and prayers. I’ll add candles to Delonda’s shining collection throughout my house.

    Light and love to all.

  279. Sock:

    She is on my prayer list. Thanks for sharing and thanks, too, for telling Haven to go to bed.

  280. Thank you Jerri. The funny/weird part of this, and I hesitate to say it, is that my s-i-l mother’s name was Dee.

  281. So sorry to hear of your loss, Jim. Lung cancer is particularly fast-spreading and maybe she didn’t suffer much since she just found out. That’s a small blessing but sucks for everyone else. We’ll send thoughts and healing energy your way. Take care.

  282. A former associate of mine from The Star is in late-stage lung cancer, too, I fear. I am going to send out thoughts of well-being for everyone on this blog and those they love.

  283. I’m happy to know her name, Sock. As George once said here, God knows the person and the need, but it still feels right to speak the person’s name.

  284. Another stellar idea from George. Light and love to all.

  285. I have many names on my list (prayer flag) right now – Dee is being added . . .

    Haven, if you are not asleep yet, and if you can get in the house, here are some of my rituals:

    warm washcloth over my face (yes, my whole face, but I use flannel instead of terrycloth) and I also will put some lavendar oil on the cloth first . . . or you can put some good perfume on your wrists and temples (I use Capri perfume that takes me right back to italy with it’s rosemary/lemon/broom therapy).

    Instead of counting sheep, I go back in time and ‘walk’ through every house I have every lived in – I go room to room and describe the objects and decor to myself . . . I never get as far as the NOW . . . I even think about each apartment I lived in and what the couch was like . . .

    I find I am nervous to sleep when I am afraid of what will happen while I am asleep. Sometimes if I just talk myself down from that, I can at least relax (not worry about if I sleep) and doze off . . .

    and then again, I will be up for at least 2 hours more, so call if you need to get all those thoughts out of your head . . .

    love you

  286. Well, for god’s sake. Can we please get some healing for jim’s SIL;s mother DEE? CAN WE bring down a round of cosmic applause for delonda? and for george’s friend? can we send hope to those who are running low?

    Haven, i know that feeling exactly: your body has no energy to get yourself up and into bed. you have to shift to lizard brain. you WILL YOURSELF and command your brain to LAUNCH your bod, you have to PUSH YOUR ASS THROUGH THE COTTON BALL OF FATUGUE and then you automatic-walk to your warm snug bed where gus awaits. as in spaceships, the hardest part is the Launch. but if you don;t Launch, you cannot fly, hand pie.

    sleep deprivation is the devil’s handmaiden.


  287. Geez oh Pete Miss Haven Pants, I think I must have been behaving like a Christian Mystic today and “bearing your burden.” I was so tired and depressed I could hardly move. I did NOTHING. I laid on the couch until 10:30, and at 1pm when it became apparent the day would not improve I put in The Shop Around the Corner ate a box of Whitman SoHo Artisan Chocolates.

    So, I hope that helped. If not, sorry. I did my best.

  288. George: thank you for calling me divine. My bangs are halfway down to my knees. i settled on the Fuckit default on the decision-o-meter. i’m pretending that i am not ill-groomed, i am in fact a character from DANCING WITH WOLVES.

    Amy: i love your dream, and it would be exactly like that. so maybe you were in the Country of Truth. (COT) i often feel that since we forget 99% of our dreams, the ones we remember are either what Thomas Merton would call “cables from the Ace” (messages) or things we actually did on the cosmic continent where the COT is.

    but then again it may be that since i am from Caifornia AND SF, it may also be true that everything i propose to be true should be taken with a grain of LSD.


  289. I have a really disturbing tendency to just leave out entire words when posting her. Haven? Are you stealing my words? Are you hoarding them like nuts for the winter? Did you really NEED that “and?”

  290. And letters. HER not HERE. Sheesh.

  291. SHER

    you are a magician with the palette of grace.

    i see some bits of poetry in your future need to – promise me you will, tonight — get a used copy of Merton’s CABLES FROM THE ACE.

    i worship at the shrine of your blue hair. and i love that you have a claire.

    oh fuck, this HAPPENS to me. i start to rhyme without trying. i swear to mary it’s a mental disorder which someone i am certain can tell me the name of.

    HAVEN: last night i wrote you a long, soulful email on my iphone FILLED with wisdom and great literati quotes and i was really proud of it and i kept adding just a littlebit more…and then my iphone died just as i was about to hit SEND, and now i realize it was the baby Jesus saying WHAM.

    it was Chesterton who said, “Whenever you come across a particularly fine passage in your writing, strike it out.”


  292. oh! i know what i was going to say!

    my ritual for getting to sleep is to visualize anything i desire to happen. not bad things to anyone, but good things to anyone. i have to confess, it’s usually me. and i do it without the inner censor. and some of the things actually come to pass.

    this is the good news and the bad news

  293. My ritual is to build things. In my mind, I’ve built everything from garden sheds to master suites to an entire second floor addition to a one story house. I’ve changed the architectural pedigree of one particularly heinous house and knocked out walls in others. I don’t know why this works, but it usually does. When it doesn’t, one word. Pharmaceuticals.

  294. My ritual for going to sleep is to lay my untroubled head on the pillow, say there is nothing else to be done, start babbling to the Divine and drift off…

    or take a couple of Advils

    g’nite cake
    g’nite Suzanne

  295. goodnight George

  296. …i will confess this, sometimes if the Advils don’t take and when I know I am boring the hell out of God, I replay rounds of golf. I have nearly total recall in this area, playing hole after hole at any course I have ever played.

  297. Now I know I’m tired. I just thought George said “…playing hole after hole at any course I have ever prayed.

  298. ” end quote

  299. now, george, what is funny in one of your former posts was that I didn’t get the shift to the Goat Billy and thought you were still talking about the farmer . . . mayhap I needs to go to bed, too

    Re Goats milk. yum. Goat cheese. yum.
    gelato, made of the finest goat’s milk –
    and I bet some of ya’ll have unknowingly had goats cheese/milk without knowing it – when done right (major requirement) it can be heaven, just as true greek yogurt is heaven and what people each as ‘yogurt’ just chaps my ass

    I am a train wreck that I keep driving.

    I’m just saying – I am nuts preparing for a holiday which will include just me, Don, Claire & Snappy (big kids are headed to NJ to keep Don’s mom & his aunt company, and hopefully lift their spirits). I will get to see many family/friends as they venture North (a great benefit to living only 2 miles off of I 65 in the middle of the country . . . but THE day will be hot chocolate, eating out, watching Claire play with her presents . . . and Napping.

    I hope Haven has found her way into bed . . .
    The Blog Baby Prayer Flag is overflowing . . .

    I had so much fun doing Mother Delonda’s painting, I think I might try to do some more ‘psychic portraits’ – but allow more than 2 days to create them, maybe.

    Now I get to print out about 300 papers and labels for stuffing museum package proposals . . . no napping for me tonight . . .

    Suzanne – a spiffy, sassy haircut and above ALL color is the main way I can lift my spirits, and even when I am grubby, I feel like – – people might think I take care of myself SOMETIMES since I have fresh color and a bitchin’ cut . . . it is better than zoloft!

    Merton’s are on my XMAS list – – all of it is BOOKS or gift certificates to Bookstores (or Lowes for supplies) . . . very unromantic

  300. sample of my train wreck….

    got up to move (hard) and realized the reason I was still hunger after I scarfed down a huge bowl of popcorn was because I had unknowingly dumped more than 1/2 of it on the couch beside me . . . I believe I will eat it anyway.

  301. Yesterday was, I think, a dark and exhausted day universally. We see this on the farm every year. As the Solstice approaches and the sun disappears, it seems to bring in a wave of darkness along with it.

    I was at work yesterday and had an anxiety attack: shaking, crying, dizzy. I called my sister and she talked me down, or up.

    And then she sent me God-given words:
    “You are not really drowning or falling apart. You are having an identity spurt. You have been finding people and activities that are about you. Writing, Haven blog. You have not done this for decades. So – the mobile is wildly swinging. The balance is off. It is a matter of trying to counter decades of
    imbalance. You are trying to fill a huge void – to gorge on words and connections to fill the gorge of solitude and isolation. I totally get this.
    The saints were extremists. Passion is like that.
    You may quote any part of this to the blog.”

    I love my sister. She is very much the best and was with me at Calvin and heard Haven and has read all of Haven’s books, too.

    Our older brother, very like Zippy’s bro in intensity and isolation, is having a pacemaker installed today. I didn’t even feel comfortable calling him.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Dee and Delonda and all else.

    I promised myself limited blogging today so I can actually teach. Blogging is a little like cocaine for me right now. I look forward to this as a reward later.

    Have a blessed day everyone.

  302. Not a cocaine reward, more like a backrub reward.

  303. Maureen, I am feeling exactly the same way. Daughter, Emma, and I were talking about the solstice yesterday. In addition to her vast knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman history, she is also taking an astronomy class at school. I think part of my issue is hormones but also being in my 8th month of sobriety and I know my brain cells are realigning themselves every day.

    Y’all I have got to say that it is also kind of eerie how some of this conversation is mirroring some of the story line where I am in A Prayer for Owen Meany right now.

  304. Sher, I need the name of your hair stylist because I have been taking Xoloft for some years now and lately I have really been wondering if it is doing a damn thing. Of course it probably is, and for most of those years I was countering its affects with alcohol (yeah, I know, smart). My head just feels kind of numb some days. Like Haven, I am exhausted but then I am too exhausted to eat or even go to bed. The only reliable relaxation technique I have found is hugging onto my dog, Foster. Oh, I love this dog. He really is like Weeds to me.

  305. Linda-don’t know if this helps but my mom has been on Zoloft for years. She decided she didn’t need it/couldn’t feel the effects, etc. so she went off. It wasn’t pretty…and she went right back on. She realized it was in fact working fine. You may still want to revisit the meds with a doctor just to be sure.

    Hang in there and keep hugging that sweet dog (my Scooter’s twin.)

  306. While discussing traditional Christmas carols in seventh-grade choir, “‘Round yon Virgin Mother and Child” came up, and Shawn raised his hand tentatively. “Um .. Mrs. Smith … how can you be a VIRGIN and … a mother?” I said, “Well, Shawn, that’s the mystery, isn’t it? Mary was about your age when she had to tell her friends she was pregnant, that an ANGEL appeared to her and said that God is the father of the baby, and that he would be the Messiah the world had awaited. What do you suppose her friends thought?”

    The first thing that shocks kids is when you tell them The Famous Virgin Mary was their age when she delivered Jesus. After that, their eyebrows shoot upward as they consider the consequences of such a story told to friends.

    Shawn looked down for a moment and considered the information, shrugged, and said, “Okay …” It’s not the first time – and won’t be the last – he hears something unbelievable from a teacher.

  307. Obviously I couldn’t stay away.

    Linda – You are awesome. Eight months sober. Wow! My dad was an alcoholic and was sober the last five years of his life. I know the struggles first-hand.
    Wanted to echo Vanessa’s recommendation to have your medications reviewed. I have become a believer in modern chemistry. My family has a genetic tendency toward anxiety – I think that’s maybe why my dad drank – it was self-medication. I realized that I was dealing with it about five years ago and went through various medicines before I had success with Effexor. It was either Paxil or Zoloft that left me feeling like I was made out of wood. I think hormones affect how well it works as well as the season. One of the reasons I melted down yesterday was a medication change.
    Do you have a good doctor who can reeavulate it all? Maybe yours needs to be changed now that you are not drinking. My sis takes Pristique, some new variety of Effexor that is supposed to be all the good stuff without any bad stuff.

    I’ll be thinking of you. Keep us posted so we can cyber-love you.

  308. Maureen,

    SUMUS QUID SUMUS. Sometimes a little medication can help us deal with that! =0) As my friend Kathy says, “Hand holding is great, but it’s no replacement for narcotics.”


  309. Thanks Jodi – Are you in school or are you off today? I’m jumping on in between classes.

    Loved your story about your son’s teacher. I feel my job is to blow kids’ mind whenever possible. Especially here in this rural community. I am a “Dead Poets’ Society” kind of teacher. Unfortunately, not all other teachers like me. But one great thing I learned in dealing with anxiety is this:
    20% of people are going to like you no matter what you do
    20% of people are going to dislike you no matter what you do.
    The other 60% can go one way or the other.
    I used to spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to get that bottom 20% to approve of me. What a waste – bang head against wall, watch bruises appear

    I just don’t care any more. In fact when those folks disapprove, I figure I’m doing something right. How else can human evolution occur?

  310. Maureen,

    I’m in school. I think we owe it to our students to help them with things that were overlooked when we were their age. So little of my class time is used to teach subject matter, because so many kids are dealing with tough issues — issues that I’ve not had to deal with in my lifetime. The world is so much wider than we imagine, right in our neighborhood. I’ve found that sweet blonde, blue-eyed girls are dealing with their mother’s convict boyfriends; that kids live in squalor and still manage to get to school and behave somewhat normally; that apples don’t fall far from trees.

    I find I can help these kids and still stay within the school’s guidelines. They understand completely when school rules are explained calmly to them – and they behave as adults do when they are demeaned and talked down to.

    Happily, the door to my music room is very near the exit to the parking lot. I don’t see many teachers during my teaching day unless I choose to walk on into the building. As I tell my students, if I had to spend an hour a day with some of these teachers, I’d be acting up, too.

  311. Jodi –
    I lucked out in landing a job with kids who really like school. They actually apply to get into my program. I realized my true skills were teaching these kind of kids and helping them through senior year. I know mine was a killer, emotionally and psychologically, and sometimes the very academically motivated kids have a really challenging time with twelfth grade. I kind of feel called to help kids through this transition, which is every bit as tough as kindergarten but at the other end of the sequence.

    As I just wrote to one of my kids:
    “The biggest difference I have found in teaching New Vision is that I no longer say to myself “I teach English” or “I teach Economics”. I say to myself “I teach Ben, Mariah, Melinda, Chelsey, John, Amanda, Bridgette, Jeremy, Katy, Kassie, Cameron, etc.”
    My job is to help YOU find YOU: What are your unique gifts? What makes your heart and mind catch fire? How will you contribute your unique self to the world?
    I feel I can’t truly give you a “grade” until five years from now when you come back and are happy and healthy and doing what you were always meant to do.”

    Have a good remainder of the day! Off to my other class.

  312. Hear, hear about modern medicine.
    Because of Zoloft I am a normal member of society:)
    Without it, I am rechecking unplugged curling irons, cleaning at 2 in the morning, and basically worrying about everything under the sun.

  313. Zoloft jump-started me back into living. After two years on it, however, I decided I didn’t need it any more and quit. I don’t know how my life would have turned out, were it not for the jolt Zoloft provided. I could perceive a difference within a week of taking it.

  314. The 80 cents a month I spend on generic Prozac is worth millions to me.

  315. I am not kidding guys, I could just burst into happy medicated tears right now because I HAVE NO FRIENDS who take meds and here you all are. I knew I was destined to come here, I knew it.

  316. Amy, I tried nothing but “talk therapy” for a full year because I was terrified of medication. It helped, but not enough and eventually I recognized the need for the prescription.

    And without it I probably never would have met the love of my life or been able to function normally in any relationship. The medication finally kicked me out of an intense, year-long depression.

    So, yes, HEAR HEAR to modern medicine indeed!

  317. Hi guys!!
    I cyber-hug you all and totally totally agree with you all about the meds…my doctor lets me have generic valium (in tiny doses) that have saved my sanity way more than once. Kept me from killing co-workers, husbands (no matter how beloved and tolerant) and children.
    And Maureen…your sister is so right about the effects of finding this blog and people who you can recognize as being ‘of the spirit’ with you….I am so blessed. I was telling a friend of mine about it that I see about 4 times a year and she said ‘that’s amazing! that is so NOT like you to join in on something like that!’ Which gave me a little burst of happiness that I was breaking out of my little chocolate shell.
    And as for getting to sleep hints…mine is I have a house in the middle of the desert (of course) that is only mine and I can build it and furnish it however I want with total disregard for anyone elses needs or wishes. No one is allowed there unless I want…just dogs and me. It has an inner courtyard with a jacaranda tree. I rarely get past there before falling asleep in the big bed growing out of living oak trees. I’m feeling sleepy just thinking about it….
    Anyway, it is lunchtime at work here in Arizona. And raining and cold, but not cold enough to snow. Thinking of you all,

  318. ((group hug))

  319. I have found that a couple of vocodines and Guiness have an amazing effect when im a bit down.

    I am continuing to test this supposition however.

  320. Amy – I hear you, friend. Anxiety is just an awful beast, and I am so glad I am not experiencing it anymore (except for occasional flare-ups). I NEVER want to feel like that again.

    I think that what psychologists say is true, that there is a certain emotional/psychological temperament that promotes both artistic response and expression, that those farther from the middle emotionally or psychologically experience books and images and music in a more profound way.

    In its most extreme form, sadly, Virgina Woolf and Sylvia Plath and so many others lose their lives, but I do think that being somewhat toward the edge of the emotional spectrum allows a response to phenomena that is not available to the “normal.”

    I have a fascinating article I found called “The Relation of Creativity and Anxiety” in the Journal of Religion and Health. I had started writing again and started experiencing anxiety problems right around the same time. I was really afraid that medication would dampen my creative side. However, my symptoms were getting really debilitating.

    I am glad I went on the medicine, and the article confirmed that a certain heightened level of ATTENTION and positive “anxiety” is linked with the creative process, but beyond a certain point it becomes destructive and needs to be managed. This gave me a very helpful way to look at anxiety, since it does have a positive side.

  321. Maureen my mentalist said the same thing! That anxiety can be positive if directed in the right way. I have been anxiety free for about 10 years but have the occasional flare up myself. Had a pretty bad one last winter and thank god everyday it’s over. February was a loooooong month for me last year. A long month my friends.
    And its so weird because I had just gotten engaged, everyone I love was healthy and happy, my job was going great, etc. And then it just popped up out of nowhere.
    I think this is why I have such a strong love for Plath. I discovered her my senior year of high school right when I started having anxiety ( coinciding with the demise of my parents 25 year marriage). Anyway, I loved that she was talented and pretty ( very vain, I know)but I needed to know that “normal” people had problems. Not just crazy looking old women or creepy goth teens who cut themselves ( again I do not mean to sterotype here at all) I was just only familiar with who I was and who I surrounded myself with…and they did not see psychiatrists and they certainly did not take medicine.

  322. Okay, things are getting serious here, so let me just say that a gigantic dose of irreverence (the generic kind) is really extremely helpful.
    I recommend the aforementioned Betty Page, Betty Boop, the music of Puscifer (specifically, Country Boner…this from a girl who was didn’t know what that meant when she was married some may recall), Anything Steve Martin does and of course the classic John Belushi. You know how the old saying goes: “Laugh so you don’t have to take so many drugs”. Or was that “take drugs and laugh”? Whatever.

  323. In other words, Lighten up, Francis 🙂 (Stripes?)

    Hey, here’s some good news. Thursday is over, and we’re expecting a huge snow storm tomorrow! I might be on vacation already!!! I feel like I’ve just stumbled across the finish line and collapsed on the track.

  324. I love it that Michael T continues to test his supposition. Go with what works, I say.

  325. No, nobody needs to lighten up, I meant as an ADDITIONAL help for anxiety, aside from all the intellectual stuff which is all’s the goofy stuff that makes it all worth it.
    Have a happy snow vacation, teacher!

  326. Thanks, Brenda! Goofy is indeed good. That’s what’s so great about this blog – it’s both goofy and intellectual.

  327. I love Stripes. Bill Murray is my hero.
    My favorite Bill Murray line ever from the movie Scrooged
    ” We wouldn’t want to scare the Dickens out of them. Thhhhe Dicken’s, man, nobody gets me.”
    Sorry for getting so serious on everyone before, just don’t get the chance to talk to many people about that stuff!

  328. Wasn’t he so cool in Lost in Translation? I loved his early movies – Meatballs, Caddyshack, etc. I think I was just barely odd enough to be allowed to watch that kind of thing. But I thought he was so lovable in Lost in Translation, though, ya know, I am getting a little sick of Scarlett Johansson.

  329. He was fantastic in Lost in Translation, I just adore that movie. There is something so heartbreaking about it. He’s also great in The Royal Tennanbaums.

  330. Rushmore. Rushmore. Rushmore.

  331. They’re OR scrubs…Oh are they?

  332. Jeremy Piven is ending his run in Broadway’s “Speed-the-Plow,” due to a condition caused by a high mercury count, but David Mamet, the playwright of “Speed-the-Plow,” appears skeptical of the actor’s exit.

    “I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury,” Mamet said. “So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”

    MORAL: Revealing medical conditions to your writer friends may lead to public humiliation.

    (Piven’s high consumption of sushi and Chinese herbs may have resulted in increased mercury levels.)

  333. HAAAAHAAAAA….oh Jodi…a career as a thermometer…I just spit on my computer. again.
    (contented sigh)

  334. Brenda,

    Isn’t that so funny??! That crap of actors thinking they’re All That, and Mamet called him on it. Maybe Mamet will set up a REHAB CENTER for Actors with Attention Addiction! That’d be some Tough Love there, baby. I’d pay for a front-row seat and a grape Super-Squishy to watch.

  335. Hey Maureen,

    Are you, as Hoosiers say, “all hunkered down” and ready for that winter storm that will begin your Christmas vacation from school one day early? Here in Indiana we’re awaiting an ice storm! Both my husband and I (both public school employees) are doing our Come Onnnnnnn, Snow! dance in hope of an early break.

  336. Oh, you better believe we are too!!! When 3:00 hit and I saw the weather forecast for tomorrow, I suddenly felt that “I’m done! I’m done!” sensation. Rumor has it one of our local elementary schools already closed, I guess so parents can make arrangements.

    I’m trying to prioritize my maybe day:
    Not in that order.

    Oh, we teachers will be so mutually psyched. Is it supposed to hit Georgia so Molly can be off too?

    Molly Bug –
    Are you back from the Disney trip? Do you have pix?

    Jodi – Do you have pix on the group site? I can only visualize you as a very cute doggie.

  337. oh, ho ho, I can’t believe I missed a medication discussion.

    I don’t have a gun because I would be a serial killer. I got on Paxil while I was in college fulltime, working parttime and raising 2 toddlers . . . it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

    Paxil did leave me slightly wooden, kind of, “The house is on fire?” “Oh, well, it will burn itself out” – so then I switched to Zoloft, but am now on Celexa . . for 2 weeks I did Wellbutrin and I was happy. I mean I was in heaven, giddy – but then I couldn’t take the full dose and began having migraines again . . . so it is Celexa for me.

    I feel there should be no shame in caring for our own and indirectly those we love. If not for pharmaceuticals, I know I would be a raving lunatic in a locked tower room.

    There is a delicate balance of the creative juice and mental health. I feel good if I am not throwing glasses at the wall or contemplating blowing out somebody’s brains on the highway . . . I enjoy having my edges smoothed down, but still having the emotional peaks and valleys of true humanness.

    So bravo for all of you that are proud takers of balance enhancers. Be proud of yourself.

    My artwork that directly deals with the bioethics of this subject matter (and other ethical medical issues such as: selective reduction, breastfeeding, fertility and infertility, fetal mutations, etc. is written about at ) – we are lined up for a review by Linda Wientraub and will be traveling this show throughout the US and Canada from 2009 – 2011) – – we will be doing talks and lectures to go along with the exhibition, maybe we will be within driving distance so some of you can see it!

    My piece “Coping Skills” is about my struggle with medical issues and hormones after the birth of my second child . . . and my ultimate acceptance of being on life long medications to maintain some type of balance. To visualize this I actually crazy-quilted the prescription bottles which I saved (169) for 6 years, and created an altar with a mirrored shelf, the viewer will actually see themselves reflected in the installation . . .

    Sorry for such a LOOOOONGGGGGG POSSSSSSSSSSSTing, but this is an important subject and it is as dear to my heart. I am so happy to be part of a group that includes non-judgmental individuals who are accepting of those of us who need medication.

    Thank you, it is good to feel welcomed by the open hearted and open minded.

    We think with our mind, but we feel with our hearts.

  338. Maureen – I would die to have my son taking your program.

    Really. You are a dream teacher. When I was teaching I had to avoid lots of the very negative, nasty teachers who did nothing but bitch about the kids and parents . . . it really discouraged me that so many bitter, unhappy people were in charge of children for so many hours a week. Ugh. I don’t miss that. I will be teaching some adult and children’s art classes coming up in Feb/March and am excited about being part of a participatory student body and the rec center I will be teaching at is fabulous . . . we’ll see how it goes, I might be a bit rusty!

  339. Hi Sher !!! Glad to see you’re here. Tristan had a concert last night – he plays the viola – and he looked so handsome even I was mooning over him. He is a bit intimidated by Lauren’s age but hopefully he’ll get over that and they can chat again.

    I am so excited for my artwork to arrive. Will the Take Care show be in New York state? I want to go and drag my sister along. She had a horrible experience with being emotionally mishandled after a miscarriage and then had a very bad reaction to starting Paxil. She gets VERY vocal about caring for women compassionately. Celexa was my first try, but it made me break out in a full-body rash.

    Thanks for the teaching compliments. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to do what I do. I had to break out of the bad-box school I started out in. I’m not even located in a school now, so I never see my boss – I pretty much run my own show.

    Has anyone had any news about Delonda? I get worried.

  340. Maureen – the art should arrive soon (any day?) it shipped out on Tuesday . . . this week has been nutso so I haven’t been able to blog too much . . .

    we are still cementing the venue list for the show, I know we have some Eastern venues, but the trick is to get them in a geographic pattern, one right after the other . . . and, thank god, that is not my part . . . I sent out the hundreds of packages to the venues . . . will let everyone know when we have a final schedule . . . seems like the first sweep is Southeast, then West, the North to Canada and ends in New York – – Adrienne and I are going to NYC in March or April to meet about some of this . . . you would think I would know more, but I have been in my basement for 7 days . . . kind of in the mumbling, blinking my eyes at the daylight stage of a prairie dog right now . . . I haven’t done christmas cards, wrapped presents, fixed my broken tree, or anything . . .and no cookies yet . . . but, I did do the painting for Mother Delonda!!!! So I feel rather accomplished on my end . . . the house looks rather abandoned though . . . 3 days until the next wave of company arrives, so that should work fine!

    Haven’t heard anything about Delonda . . . but I hope she is resting painfree and that she will get to see the painting . . . I am hoping Haven is doing one of her Marathon 12-18 hours of restorative sleep . . .

    Linda, my John (hair dresser) works at Premiere Salons on N. Carothers, right off of Moore’s Lane in Cool Springs . . . he is the gayest lovely and he had red hair a few weeks again AND he is from Evansville and goes home for the festival every fall to eat Elephant Ears. If you are serious and want his number let me know . . . he will put a smile on your face for sure!

    (Kate – can you believe I know people who don’t know what an elephant ear is NOR do they know what a Fried Indian Bread with Maple Syrup tastes like?) Those poor, poor people.

  341. Maureen – – I can’t tell you the disgusting treatment that women go through for any and all procedures.

    I believe every one should have the book: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christaine Northrup – – I found it in 1994 after i was having lots of surgeries, it really helped me to get balance back in my life – she talks about the mind-body connection and in a way, like Carolyn Myss, relates each physical issue to imbalance of the mind/heart . . . Haven has some gut-wrenching stories about all this, too . . . I was honored enough to have her read me on the poem that will be in 7 Years over the phone, It was stunning and so soul baring, and it reminded me so much of the stories shared in Northrup’s book . . .

    I just got Kaline Klattermaster from amazon today (it was the only Kimmel I DIDN’T have) . . . I am enchanted and can’t wait to get to know Orrie better. Also got the Latin Poo and some Latin crossword books for Dylan’s stocking . . . it was so exciting to open that box!

  342. SHER…you’ve got to tell me about John…who knows, I might actually KNOW him!! Email me!

    I actually am only familiar with fry bread tacos, but they are goo-ood!

  343. I love you Sher, LOVE YOU

    Hello All, again, I am home now and have been told by my husband (the not so tolerant tonight) that I need to apologize to one and all for recommending the above mentioned “irreverant” music of Puscifer’s which had my office mate and I (on our lunch hour) stomping on the floor and shrieking with laughter, because he gave me a cold, hard look when I got home (I had emailed it to him) and he said it was NOT funny and he didn’t get it AT ALL, so I tried to explain that the singer was really singing about how he loved (i.e. had a boner for) country music and true, it does have a lot of the ‘f’ word in it and probably offensive sex stuff but still…if you have to explain something you find funny to someone who just DOESN’T then suddenly it isn’t funny at all either and now I’m just plain embarrassed, so if I offended anyone I truly apologize, and PLEASE forgive me. Jeez. Now everybody who ignored it is gonna go look it up and that will be worse? If you do, make sure it’s the Puscifer version and not the porn guys. GACK. I think I’ll go take one of my little generic valiums.
    Sher! you rock.
    so do you all.

  345. You guys just SLAY me!!! You BET I am going to go listen to that boner song now.
    Sher – I am both a Christianne Northrup AND Carolynn Myss fan. I should really not be surprised by this by now, but every comment I read, I say “Yeah, me too!”

  346. Brenda, who is no longer a quinkydink, which I LIKED, because of your very good taste, poor taste, I have to share something that will, I promise, you offend even more people, and I do this in your honor, because I got it . . .

    The music of Debbie & Doyle . . . I cannot even describe it, but, wait, Adrienne did an article on it and I have the soundtrack . . . this whole show is about making fun of country music, but in a fabulous country music way . . . songs like:

    “i peed your name in the snowbacks of life”

    “fat women in trailers”
    and my personal fave
    “stock car love” or “abc’s of love”

    it is a musical . . . it will make you pee your pants . . .


    here is Adrienne’s WPLN interview with the actors/singers/songwriter

    If this doesn’t offend at least 20 people, I am losing my touch!

  347. we are all peas in the same pod . . . I almost typed we are peed in a pod, but that didn’t sound too good . . .

    It is rather eerie how similar we can be, and I thought I was a lone freak in the world . . . like I was Frankenstein stumbling through the woods and then, come across a village of fellow Frankensteins, it is so homey here.

  348. Sadly I’m not currently on any mood enhancing/anxiety-reducing helpers but I sure could use some! When I took my daughter to get tested for ADHD (which they said she didn’t have…just a gifted IQ that shows up as ADHD) I declared that SOMEONE was going on medicine…if not her, then me. Never did make my appointment though. They said I would have an easier time if she had ADD. Ha ha.

    Bill Murray…have to plug Life Aquatic with Steve Zizou. It was so strange yet I loved it. I go way back with Stripes and Caddyshack–saw them in the theater. Stripes: “Our newest best buddy and big toe.” Low brow humor but hilarious nonetheless.

    Oh yeah, the real reason I’m writing is to say that here in Georgia it is 70 DEGREES so we won’t be having any snow storms or early vacation days. I might just live near Molly. 🙂

  349. HAAAAAAHAAAAA…I loved that!! must listen to this if I can….by the way ‘Fat Women in Trailers’ litany of food…that’s what I ate growing up….’cept my dad put bacon in the beanie weanies and called it (inappropriately)squaw dish!! We loved it.
    Yay for the villagers…You know you’ve seen good theatre when you’ve fallen off your chair and peed in your pants a little.
    I’ll member that.
    Thanks, Sher, I feel better.

  350. And quinkydink is back with bells on . . . yippee, I am off to bed to get some shut eye(s), shut eye is singular, I have two eyes, so I think I should say ‘shut eyes’ . . .

    and that, my dears, are the ridiculous thoughts that keep my eyes open at night . . .

  351. Tonight we got THUNDERSNOW, which is where you get lightning and snow all in one. Is it any wonder they call it “God’s Country”? Here, the Weather is always the third person in the conversation.

    I have come up with an idea. To hold sheet plastic onto windows, to keep out wind. And it is: magnetic strips. That way, come spring, you can just pull it off, even use the same sheet again the next year.

    It is Keith Richards’ birthday! His 65th! Long may he wave. For his playing on the cover by Rev. Gary Davis – “Prodigal Son” – on Beggars Banquet, well, for that alone he should be given a cubic mile of sunlight. All hail the open ‘G’ tuning!

    Some of you were discussing “Wings of Desire” – the film by Wym Wynders – earlier in this thread.

    I cannot recommend this film enough. If any of you haven’t seen it, do by all means treat yourself. Peter Falk and Nick Cave are two of the stars. The script, the language of the angels in the public library, the imagery, the armour falling from the sky
    oh how I wish you all could see it.

    Since some of you are interested in boners, I’ll leave you with this fun fact. The Bereskova mammoth, discovered in 1901 in Siberia. It had been frozen for probably 30,000 years. Very well preserved, it had been eating hyacinths at the time it slipped and fell into the glacier. And, yes, it had a boner, still did when the scientists arrived to cart it away to the transiberian rail lines. And I suppose does to this day.

  352. matt – that is a boner fact even, I, in my boner expertise had never come across. Were you aware that pigs have corkscrew like boners? Hum, also the hermaphrodite slugs will chew off their own or their mates boners if they get stuck on each other . . . this makes me so sad. they must be so confused . . . I could go on, but believe it would be inappropriate . . .

  353. I am amazed that a thread that began with Haven’s profound and moving discussion of writing and the meaning of life has devolved into a discourse on prescription medication and boners.

    This is the best blog group ever!

  354. Maureen,

    My school got that cancellation!! Whoo-HOO! Christmas vacation begins today — a day early!!

    We’re experiencing an ice storm in northern Indiana –what’s happening where you are? Here’s hoping you get to stay home, too!


  355. Matt in Nebraska –
    Have you been to Willa Cather’s house?
    I had the great good fortune to see The Rolling Stones at Foxborough stadium – Wheels of Steel tour 1989. We were up in a weird spot of the stadium but there was a little stage-let up near us and Keith cam there for a solo. It made me a lifelong fan.
    Apparently, Johnny Depp based his Jack Sparrow character on Keith, saying pirates were the rockers of the era.
    Back to the school closings page, fingers crossed.

  356. Maureen,

    Here’s a quote for today that I like:

    “One o’ my girls had her heart set on bein’ a school teacher, but I talked her out of it. Teachin’ school is too much like bein’ a preacher’s wife. It’s a high callin’, but people expect you to give mor’n they pay for.”

    ~ Aunt Hettie, “Heritage of Our Schools, the Pride of Kansas,” 1934

  357. Jodi –
    Thanks for that!!! So very very true.

    I am wicked ticked off. The place I work provides our services for the 8 districts in our county. Our snow day policy is that we stay open if even ONE district stays open.

    Today, 5 of 8 closed completely and 2 are dismissing at 12, including my own children’s school. (The storm is due to arrive at 11)

    I just had to haul them all out of bed, with a promise of driving them in myself and going to McDonald’s. Then I have to go and hang out with about half of my normal morning class. ARRARARARARARGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGGH!!!!!!!!
    There goes my plan for pretending I’m a stay-at-home writer. OOOOOOOOOoooooooooo, I’m mad.
    Are you closed?

  358. there is a shadow world we ignore at our peril. Jung and Hillman speak so fluently about nightmares and archetypal patterns, much the way Hoosiers discuss the weather.

    My favorite lines in this essay. Which is wourth re-reading. It is setting off all kinds of sparks and pinwheels. I remember Jung once described the prehistoric bestiary as “…God’s anxiety dreams as a child.”

    Could any of us imagine, in creating and organizing and equipping human beings for survival, a creature as preposterously specialized as writers be? what is the gulf like between writers and all non-writers? How permeable? How impassable?

    I have to wonder: is the proposed horror book in some way a reaction to the popularity of ‘Zippy’, and the
    poor reception of ‘Iodine’? Or would the p.h.b. have happened anyway?

    I will go and read this essay again forthwith.

  359. Beautiful and sunny here, and warm, in the high forties! Strangers are looking at my house now, keep me in your prayers babies, I need this house to sell!!!! I want to go home to Indiana!

  360. I said earlier that Owen Meany seems to be mirroring stuff that is happening – and now it has again with boners. Seriously. I cannot tell you the last time I heard – or spoke- the word boner and now I have read it probably upwards of 20 times in the past two days. LOL

    It is WARM here in Nashville too. I almost thought I was in a dream when I took the dogs out at 5:30 this morning. Weird. And then the forecast says the temps should dip into the 30s by Sunday with a chance of flurries. Strange things are happening in the world right now.

  361. Hi all – The snow has arrived and I’m heading home from school. I finally got my NYC pix and posted them.
    Anyone going to New York ? I still have two tickets for this show that I will give you.

  362. Happy Friday from Arizona
    Sunny and dry again, but my last day of work for two weeks, I am so excited!!
    Yes, many strange things happening in the world. Trying to be a good observer, not my strong point.
    Small kindnesses.
    LOL, Brenda

  363. The UC Men’s Octet doing Bohemian Rhapsody on youtube.
    Merry Christmas Haven
    I hope the link works.

  364. Great pics Maureen and congrats on an early start to your Christmas break!!

  365. Hi Amy! I read this yesterday in Waiting for the Light and thought of you and all of us in this stormy time, as we seize any and all divine signs of Presence.

    Black Rook in Rainy Weather

    On the stiff twig up there
    Hunches a wet black rook
    Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
    I do not expect a miracle
    Or an accident

    To set the sight on fire
    In my eye, nor seek
    Any more in the desultory weather some design,
    But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
    Without ceremony, or portent.

    Although, I admit, I desire,
    Occasionally, some backtalk
    From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
    A certain minor light may still
    Lean incandescent

    Out of kitchen table or chair
    As if a celestial burning took
    Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —
    Thus hallowing an interval
    Otherwise inconsequent

    By bestowing largesse, honor,
    One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
    Wary (for it could happen
    Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical,
    Yet politic; ignorant

    Of whatever angel may choose to flare
    Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
    Ordering its black feathers can so shine
    As to seize my senses, haul
    My eyelids up, and grant

    A brief respite from fear
    Of total neutrality. With luck,
    Trekking stubborn through this season
    Of fatigue, I shall
    Patch together a content

    Of sorts. Miracles occur,
    If you care to call those spasmodic
    Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
    The long wait for the angel,
    For that rare, random descent.

    Sylvia Plath

  366. Lord, so much to comment on. Jodi, that last thing you said…TRUE TRUE TRUE. I think it’s especially true at my school because it is a Catholic school, and as I once bemoaned to Suzanne, I get paid spit.

    Maureen–Disney was lovely. I miss me nephews and my sister so badly. She is my Melinda, and her boys…God. It’s taken me most of the morning and this far in to the afternoon to get to you post about what your sister said:

    “You are not really drowning or falling apart. You are having an identity spurt. You have been finding people and activities that are about you. Writing, Haven blog. You have not done this for decades. So – the mobile is wildly swinging. The balance is off. It is a matter of trying to counter decades of
    imbalance. You are trying to fill a huge void – to gorge on words and connections to fill the gorge of solitude and isolation. I totally get this.
    The saints were extremists. Passion is like that.”

    I burst into tears. Since I’ve been out of the loop, I hadn’t yet heard about Mother Delonda (who I hoped enjoyed the card I sent) or anyone else’s tragedy and it was just too much. Your sister put her finger on the pulse of it for me–though drowning still feels imminent. Found out too that my dad (that crazy ass adulterer) will have a spinal surgery in January…which is fine, but then in March he has to have surgery on his rotator cuff. This will tie me to my parents for fully another year. No way out. No long weekends away or a summer spent with my nephews in New Hampshire.

    Zoloft is my very good friend as well. I also like the time I spent with Welbutrin but cannot remember why I switched.

    Having done all, stand. Do that which is assigned to you.

    Too bad it has to feel like the world is coming down around your ears while you do these things. You know, in an hour, I will be driving to Atlanta to pick up my brother who lives in New York. The reason I am driving these 2 hours is because he “just [didn’t] feel like listening to Dad talk for the entire ride home about everything that’s happened since October.”

    I wanted to say, “Are you fucking kidding me? I am standing; I am doing that which I’ve been assigned. Grow some balls and help hold me up, will you?” Instead I said, “I totally get it. I’ll see you in a few.”

    I don’t know which would have been the best response. I don’t understand why families are so complicated and so difficult at the same time.

  367. Oh, and because we’re putting “light” stuff on here, here’s a poem I wrote in haiku form about how I am STILL SICK. (NOTE: I pronounce “basically” with 3 syllables: basic-lee.)

    If my nose were a
    Runner, it would not be so
    Bad, but it is not.

    Instead it’s more like
    When glue begins to thicken
    As it dries on skin.

    Basically it is
    The most disgusting feeling,
    Not to mention theme,

    Of a very well-
    Respected art form. Basho
    Rolls in his old grave.

  368. He might well live to regret those two hours listening to his father talk about everything that has happened since October. I would pay any price at all to hear my Dad’s voice for two hours. Some of the best times of my life we spent driving from Evansville, Ind. to Birmingham, Ala., with my father to pick up or deposit my sister at Samford U.

  369. He might well live to regret foregoing those two hours listening to his father talk about everything that has happened since October. I would pay any price at all to hear my Dad’s voice for two hours. Some of the best times of my life we spent driving from Evansville, Ind. to Birmingham, Ala., with my father to pick up or deposit my sister at Samford U.

  370. Oh George. Since my dad is still here, I cannot say how I would feel about forgoing the ride myself. But currently I am so mad that my bro thinks two hours is a sacrifice when I’m LIVING it………. It makes me mad.

  371. sorry…it was none of my business

  372. Off to get my brother now. Glad to be back!

    And Maureen–sniffle sniffe. No snow. 😦

  373. Oh, George! I’m sorry. I wasn’t yelling at you! I’m sorry!

  374. I just meant that after dealing with all the emotional fallout of my father’s behavior and my parents’ failing health by myself since October, the least my brother could do was save me a trip to Atlanta during rush hour.

    Oi. I hope you’re not mad at me for sounding like I was snapping at you. I promise I wasn’t trying to.

  375. Hey Bug, hang in there. Have you read any Mary Gordon? Deals a lot with this issue and is Catholic. Try Final Payments. My sis played that role for our family for years and now she and I yell about it.

    George, that was well-intentioned though bitter-pill advice. I get mad at my mom often, and my sister, who has dealt with more damage from Mom’s hands than I have, always reminds me “At least she’s alive.” And I, like you Moll, say, “Yeah, I know, but she stills pisses me off!”

  376. Land’s sake, I just finally listened to that boner song.

  377. …it really was none of my business…

  378. No way, Jose, George. That’s why we come here. We all appreciate each other’s care and advice.
    I was just wondering if anyone searched the internet for my name, if they’d catch me on here going on about my drugs and my book fetishes, and then I thought “I don’t really care!” These are my friends.

  379. There is no one I’d rather have into my business than the people here, because I know you all will consider things in all their complexity and offer words of compassion and intelligence.
    So George, please get into our business. We count on your sage-i-tude.

  380. I wasn’t going to mention this, but given some of the musings above I’ll go ahead:

    For some time now, I’ve been in ongoing discussions and grapplings with those around me about taking responsibility for one’s own choices and actions, and the consequences of not doing so. A certain phrase has presented itself rather consistently. That, plus having my Palm’s small screen sometimes display the current title of this Blog only to the “P” in “Personality”, leaves me reading it as follows:

    “The Object of Writing is to Grow A Pair.”

    – Sarah

  381. {Cringe}
    Oh, Maureen…I’m still sorry about that song. (But I still think it’s funny).
    My office mate and I are finding all kinds of things to comment about that ‘won’t go down’….applies to all kinds of things.
    Like the Elf Hat I just won in the white elephant party we just had for lunch at work….it has ears that just WON’T GO DOWN! Seriously. Very Seriously.

  382. Isn’t her writing just lovely Maureen, sigh…
    Glad you are back safe and sound Molly Bug.

  383. Brenda – The song was very funny! I was hoping my laughter would cover it up so that my son didn’t hear 🙂

  384. Info – PBS Documentary on Thomas Merton starts at 7 central . . . late notice . . . sorry.

  385. that would be 30 minutes from now as this blog time is off by an hour for me . . . I don’t know if it is universal PBS or not . . . called Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton

  386. Maureen – I wanted to respond to this great advice from your sister, as well – but I have been chasing teens all over Cool Springs (i.e. our “new castle/Indianapolis” IN) and attended a not so good (in my opinion) kids movie “Despereaux” as in, I tried to sleep, but all the bratty kids that were allowed to sit without their parents where acting like little shits, throwing popcorn, talking – – – why did they go see a kiddy movie at the ages of 10-12 . . ???

    so now I need to order pizza for about 20 kids . . . will check in later . . .

  387. Hi Insomniacs. It’s 3:30 am and I am cleaning house, and I have to work 8 hours tomorrow PLUS go to a Christmas Party. Just checking to see if there are any weirdos out there.

  388. Hi – Kate, I abandoned ship yesterday because I felt so alone . . . read until about 4 a.m. WORKING! ugh .. . I am kind of taking a hiatus as I worked myself into a mess this past week . . . hubby is now off for a week and it is a good thing, becauseI was losing my mommy patience

    my boughs of holly are drooping, the broken christmas tree lights are still trapped in the tree . . . no cookies have been decorated…I want to go back to bed

  389. Sher, I put something in the U.S. mail to you today so hopefully you will get it before Xmas. xoxo

  390. Hi Sher –

    I’m glad you commented. I keep compulsively checking to see if there is any word on Delonda. Then I go away and pretend I am too busy with Christmas stuff to be blogging.

    But I know I feel worried about Delonda and Haven, AND I know that I want and need to chat with people here, who are every bit as alive to me as the actual humanoids walking in my visible world.

    We know Haven loves us and will check in when she is able. In the meantime, thinking of Delonda and praying for her, I found this:

    Let’s continue to be here for each other and keep the fires lit for all who need this community.

    Haven, if you check in, we love you, girlfriend, and all those you love.

  391. Hi Linda! Oh good, you’re here, too. How are you doing?

  392. George–Maureen is absolutely right. I put it out there to get feedback. 🙂 And I do appreciate it. Clearness Committee–and you guys are awesome with helping others (ME!!!!) see the forest rather than the trees…. or vice versa…whatever is necessary the blessed blog babies are here to lend an ear, and I am so very grateful. So. Very. Grateful.

    Both brothers are now home and everyone is playing nice (mostly, I think, because I threatened them with fates worse than death; i don’t want hot-tempered Bro #2 getting all het up and making things worse. He gets to leave in a few days…:)) Those of you sending good vibes, BLESS YOU!!!!!!

    Like Maureen, I feel wonder at the meeting of the minds that consistently takes place here, even though I am often only a “listener.” Thank you for everything you offer me.

    And, George, really. I mean it. Thank you.

  393. And I will try the Mary Gordon. I am always looking for new books. Thanks for advice. 🙂

  394. Maureen, Lightning and Linda, I truly enjoy reading your posts. I love Mary Gordon as well. “Seeing Through Places” is a particular favorite. It’s a sort of memoir via essays on personal history and geography. A good place to start if you’re not in the mood to read an entire novel. I have a very bad habit of picking up a book and not being able to put it down. Entire days have been lost to books. But lost isn’t really the right word.

    I’m particularly drawn to authors who intelligently tackle the subject of faith and deity. I’m always looking for the place between (or beyond?) evangelical Christianity and Eckhart Tolle. Recommendations are much appreciated.

    Not that I don’t love me some Eckhart, or embrace some of my Baptist parent’s beliefs. I’m just in a sort of refining phase. Was anyone else raised in an Evangelical family who managed to live through it with their original IQ intact while avoiding Atheism? Truly, I struggle.

  395. Amy,

    I love this question:

    “Was anyone else raised in an Evangelical family who managed to live through it with their original IQ intact while avoiding Atheism?”

    I didn’t see a way to respond to you privately, so will put this here:

    I wasn’t raised in an Evangelical family, though many around me were, and some I know are now attempting to raise their own families under that aegis. Neither have I read Tolle. But, I wanted to acknowledge your question foremost, then wonder aloud: have you read Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell? I’m not sure where it might fit on the Evangelical Tolle spectrum, but it came to mind when I read your question.

    ~ Sarah

  396. Ah, I seem to have found another incongruity, or perhaps simply displayed my ignorance of its workings.

    I put an arrow thingy between Evangelical and Tolle up there (a dash with arrowheads on each side). I’m guessing that was interpreted as html code? Either way, it’s not there. I’ll try again this way:

    I’m not sure where it might fit on the Evangelical–Tolle spectrum….

    – S.

  397. Hi Sarah and Amy –

    I have no family here yet for Christmas, so I’m socializing on the blog to relieve the boredom.

    You’re all going to kick me because I keep saying this but AT THE CALVIN FESTIVAL I heard both Mary Gordon and Rob Bell speak. Since the festival is in Grand Rapids, my sister and I decided to sneak into Rob Bell’s actual church for the Sunday service – actually, sneaking was not necessary since there were about 5,000 people there of all varieties.
    Check out his little movies called nooma on youtube. His church was just like that. He’s part of what they call the Next Gen (for generation) movement (according to my sis, who is more evangelical than I am). And you all probably already knew that.

  398. Sarah & Maureen: Thank you! I just bought Velvet Elvis from Amazon.

    Now . . . the CALVIN FESTIVAL apparently does not convene again until 2010? How have I lived my entire life not knowing that this existed? Maureen, this reason alone is enough for me to love you.

  399. Aw, thanks Amy. I learned about it through a complete fluke. My sister was looking up an old college friend and found that he was teaching at Calvin College. As she was cruising around the Calvin site she found information about the Festival, and simultaneously I decided to send a book to the Paraclete Press First Novel Contest, winner to be announced AT THE CALVIN FESTIVAL in 2006.
    So sis and I flew in from our separate coasts and had an awesome time. (And of course I so did not win the contest).

    So we went again in 2008. That’s how I discovered Haven. She was on the list of speakers, so I read Zippy and Couch before the festival and was smitten, and then I read everything else this past summer.

    I think we should book a bunch of rooms and all meet there in 2010.

  400. I am not bored, I am overwhelmed by what I need to be doing, therefore – I am doing nothing, but walking in circles . . . I have company coming Tuesday, just overnight, so do I really need to clean? Maybe not? I have never NOT made sugar cookies, but will the world end if I don’t? Ditto for christmas cards and my annual photo newsletter on the family? Ok, I can’t get out of wrapping the presents I already bought . . .

    I’m not depressed in the “what is the point?” way, but really questioning “what is the point?” will less people love me if I don’t drive myself crazy? will my sore throat and ear ache go away faster if I just chill out?

    Re Calvin Fest . . . where do we make reservations for 2010 . . . yes, let’s get a wing for Blog Babies . . .

    I don’t like any labels on religion/spirituality . . . I like contemplation and reverence. Specifically I feel most connected to a divine force when I am in nature. I can get something on how to live a better, more peace-filled life from almost any person or experience, even if it is the realization, ‘wow, I hope I don’t come across as narrow-minded as that, I need to re-evaluate my own statements . . . etc. – – I was raised rabid, fanatical evangelical, fundamental baptist . . . I feel I never fully realized my IQ until I shed that cloak of sorrow and guilt.

  401. Howdy y’all. I have not done a whole lot today other than going to an AA meeting and driving my darling daughter around. I dropped her off at work, went to my meeting, came home and did a few things around the house. Then I went to pick her up and drive her way the heck to her boyfriend’s house for his family’s Christmas party. I thought I would get some Christmas shopping done in the 3 hours I had until I had to pick her up. I am such a bad shopper. In all that time I got some swifter duster refill things, some air freshener to put by the cat litter boxes, one one stocking stuffer. Ugh.

  402. Sorrow and guilt! No one does sorrow and guilt better than a bunch of morally superior, child-abusing, Catholic-hating Baptists.

    Okay that was uncalled for. I know plenty of true Baptists who are children after God’s own heart. I’m really just raging against the elements of hypocracy and hatred that cling to the fringes of every organized religion.

    I think I’ll go have a glass of wine and wrap the last of the Christmas presents.

  403. Linda – You go, girl, with the AA! That’s what was necessary today. And quality time with your daughter.

    Sher – Don’t bake the damn cookies. The world will still turn OR better yet, make one of your kids bake them. My kids make all the desserts because they know I won’t.

    Amy – Catholic-haters!?!?! Why would anyone hate us nice Catholics? 😉

    I’m off to read the last chapter of In This House of Brede (Rumer Godden) about life in a Benedictine monastery for women, after watching Tootsie. We finally figured out how to pipe the Netflix instant play through the X-Box.

    Then I’m off to bed. Talk to y’all tomorrow.

  404. Maureen, I completely agree with you on the following topics:
    1) Catholics are nice
    2) Sher should forego cookie baking and join me in another glass of wine

  405. amy –

    I am going to open a bottle of wine . . .


    didn’t do anything but wrap the presents for our family exchange tomorrow – instead of decorating cookies I shopped online for special candies to decorate them with, put everything in shopping carts, including 3-D cookie cutters . . . and did you know dragees (the gold & silver balls are outlawed in 4 states?) . . .then I went offline without buying anything,

    we hid the new ipods in halloween socks and wrapped as the gag gifts for the teens . . . they will be so flustrated . . .

    I might make New Year’s Cookies and send New Year’s Cards . . .

    Amy — hoot – hoot! on the baptist comments, out of 18 years in the ‘depths’ of that I can think of 2 sincere, kind, loving people. And I treasure their memory.

    One highlight of this week was that I came across my sketch/journal book from November 2007 (I did 3 days in a B&B in West Chester, PA – in solitude!) while attending an art opening at that university (my first all encaustic exhibition) . . . I spent that time reflecting and setting goals for 2008 . . .

    So as I am flipping through it . . . holy moly, I met all but one of those goals (applying for fellowships/grants). I am flabbergasted.

    So, it goes back to me needing to remind myself of things I wrote about on my own blog – that even when we feel ‘stuck’ we are moving forward . . . I think I need to make myself a chart with gold stars so I can see my progress instead of just focusing on what else needs done – – – just like potty training, I need somebody to pat me on my back when I hit the target!

    the wine is breathing . . .

  406. Sher, you are lovely and perfect without the To Do list.

  407. i heard from haven today, she is okay. i mean, you know. as okay as she can be, is my estimation. she is most likely in constant touch with melinda and doing everything or nothing all at once.

    i sent haven VOICES OF LONGING 2-cd set by Rumi/ coleman barks. i was listening to it in the car today. extraordinary. i have to insist that everyone find a copy of this audio recording. if you’re grieving, if you’re depressed, if you’re lost, if you’re sad, if you’re happy , if you need spiritual food: this is the real thing. with music, too. i just gasp at bout every other line of that poetry.

    sher — i do believe in writing down goals and such ritualistic behavior. i also used to keep a big leather bound dream journal and i wrote in it every morning immediately upon waking. later i’d go through and highlight all the things i’d dreamt of that had come to pass….and clues i had missed. it was absolutely fascinating. congratulations on reaching your goals. you strike me as one with enormous talent and stamina.


  408. I say screw the cookies. Tonight is our Christmas Eve due to scheduling issues with Bro #1 and there are no cookies. Hell, there isn’t even an apple pie and that is Tradition. Like Fiddler-on-the-Roof-break-into-song-and-dance TRADITION. (Okay, I have just really amused myself by comparing my Christian tradition to a a Jewish musical…Lord, I am tired.)

    As for good books, you all are always offering so many–one of my ABSOLUTE favorite books is called Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman who is a bookaphile. She is very funny and so very enjoyable, especially to those of you (us) who like to write/read memoirs. i heard about this book in my Advanced Exposition class some years ago in college, got it for Christmas and read it one sitting. It’s a stitch and half. I love it.

    Haven–I cannot begin to know what you are going through and its immediacy for you and your family. My own mother has MS, but it’s a slow thing. However, I know you said that Something Rising started out as a kinda sequel to Zippy, vignettes from your life that you wove into fiction. If this is so, then you, like Cassie, when you are a woman without a mother, will never actually be a woman without a mother because you will ALWAYS have what Delonda gave you: her love, her support, her total self. You know you are cherished by her. She knows she is cherished in return. That is a beautiful gift, and I hope it brings you comfort. Be well.

  409. Good night, dear blog babies. I hope those of you who are awake are being productive and those sleeping are dreaming sweetly.

  410. Good night Lightning bug. It’s 11:00 pm here in sunny CA. I’m off to bed as well.

  411. Maureen,

    You’re reading Rumer Godden??! I LOVE her!! Have you read “Thus Far and No Further?” It’s great. I haven’t read “In This House of Brede.”

    We are having scary weather in northern Indiana. Ice storms, temperatures in the single digits, trees heavily coated in ice snapping, thirty-five-mph winds, icy roads, power outages. We were without power for 24 hours this weekend, and when the house temperature dipped to 58 we abandoned ship. I don’t know how the world turned for millenia without electricity in every home. Happily our power was restored yesterday, and being warm and having access to appliances now seems a miracle.

    As my dad would say, we’re going to “hunker down” until spring. Are you okay, Maureen-of-the-Great-White-North?

  412. Suze – Thanks for word on Haven. We appreciate your letting us know how she is when she can’t.

    Sher – I also have a ritual of a sorting and reflecting and goal-setting around New Year’s. I used to just write them wherever I happened to be in my journal of the moment. Last year I went through the tottering stack of journals and found all such entries starting in 2001. I tore them out and pasted them all into one “New Year’s Only” notebook.

    I expected it to be sobering (as in, “Yep, same goals as last year”), but it actually made me see how far I’ve come as well as how goofy I used to be. The move toward the Crone stage does have its benefits.

    Last year I snuck (sneaked?)off for one night alone and stayed in a friend’s empty apartment for this ritual. I cooked and ate a Lean Cuisine, did yoga, watched “Bee Season” and went through Anatomy of the Spirit (Carolyn Myss), organizing my 2008 goals around her chakra/sacrament/body/sacred truth structure.

    I live in a house of all males and am surrounded by other males on the farm and my best teaching buddy is male. It is nice to have some female friends – as well as the incredibly Yin-Yang males of the blog – who actually do these womany things like set yearly goals.

    This year, I am planning to sneak off to a retreat house I discovered on Skaneateles Lake called Stella Maris for one night and day of this. IF these dang snowstorms would let up.

  413. Oh hi, Jodi!! You’re up early, too. I was in the midst of writing my comment as you commented.
    Yes, hunkering down here. What’s hitting you now is heading our way by this afternoon.
    I ended up having to WORK Friday until noon. Did you have the day off?

  414. Glad you’re back and with power, Jodi. Nothing more beautiful or terrifying than an ice storm. — We’ve got about 5″ of snow with a bonus light freezing rain starting just… about… now. Supposed to snow through Wednesday. I got boxes of logs today against a repeat of December 2006, when we had no power for 5 days and a shower seemed a miracle. Though the local weathermen are bitterly disappointed that the wind warning was canceled (90mph+ is what was expected). This in a city that owns maybe two snowplows and three consecutive winters can pass without snow. It’s very exciting. I’m staying up all night and making cheese. But not goat cheese. I have no goats.

  415. Good morning, Carrie! My husband just invited me to a romantic breakfast at BK and a stop at the gas station to fill up the gas cans for the farm. We are in major hunker mode here. We have to sneak in marital maintenance as we can, so I’m off. I’ll be back later. With this weather, we might have no guests for Christmas.
    Happy cheese-making. What kind are are making?

  416. Duh. What kind are you making?

  417. Maureen: are you the Maureen whose sister gave you the speech? I understand why you want her to move closer. Those were mighty words, I tell you.

  418. Mozzarella. I’ve never done it. I just got a kit on recommendation of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle. It’s supposed to be easy (we will see). What passes for fresh mozz. here is a travesty. If it’s a week old, they call it fresh. Jodi would understand: that is not fresh mozzarella.

  419. Thanks, Carrie and Maureen, for the WARM words! All the schools in northeastern Indiana closed down Friday — the last day of school before Xmas break — but at 9:00 am our power went off and stayed off for 24+ hours, so it wasn’t FUN. No baking Xmas cookies, no computer, no heat, no no no no!! Maureen and Carrie, if you need any groceries, send someone into the storm NOW. We lost all our food to the power outage — cold enough to freeze us and warm enough to spoil everything in the refrigerator and freezer.

  420. I’m going to hang my perishables (in containers) from my hanging basket hooks if the power goes out. You know, like you do in the woods to keep it from the bears. We have coyotes. And raccoons. Who would not hesitate to filch the rosemary garlic chicken salad I just made.

  421. See, now, Jodi — that’s the only thing I am ready to throw down about — the lack of Christmas fun. There was a music party I didn’t dare venture out for tonight, there are Christmas cookies I won’t make because unless I have a working freezer, they’re crap by the time Thursday rolls around, and how HOW can I live without my computer? I’m waiting for the laptop that runs on 10-hour batteries. That’s the one I want.

    Still. You have appliances. And heat with the flick of a switch. All miraculous. And all mine, too, for now anyway.

  422. Carrie,

    How was life worth living without electricity? I can’t see how the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from Olde England, a country without electricity and prey to blustery, dangerous winter. “Heedless of the wind and weather,” my ass.

    Australian Christmas would be warm and sunny. THAT’s where we should be, my friend. “What say, Carrie, a bit of beachcombing this fine December day?” “Sure, Jodi! In celebration of the holiday, let’s include a basket lunch! My Christmas cookies are baked, I have the SPF 50 lotion, and off we go!”


  423. But Jodi! There are FROGS in Australia! Big, honking, aggressive frogs that blanket the lawn! I will, however, go anywhere else warm that you name. Until you name a place that has large flying insects.

    Life without electricity and indoor plumbing — even though I’ve been suckered into hikes before, long hikes without a hope of escape — I am not a
    roughing-it sort of individual. Olde England also had the chamber pots emptied on unsuspecting heads, we will recall. Life was likely only worth living because of the convenient ignorance of modern e. and i.p. That and board games. And mead. Lots and lots of mead.

  424. Carrie, I believe you and I agree that Time Travel is not part of our plan in this lifetime. When my husband waxes romantic or philosophic and wishes to experience any time prior to RIGHT NOW, I give him a good shake. The stench alone of Merry Olde England would overwhelm us.

    Nix Australia. Hawaii, the island of Maui. Why didn’t we start there, anyway? Glad you’re here to keep us On Track.

  425. Maui! Yes! Can we go to the Big Island, too? There are these seven pools …

    It was foolhardy to believe I could stay up all night. I am not on that schedule this week, so off I go to bed. Stay warm, Ms. Jodi, and let me know if your husband gets any other bright time traveling ideas — I will help you to dissuade him … except maybe 1910. I have heard tell that the average housing cut was around 10% of total income. This was why mailmen had those huge houses AND all those servants. (This was also why there was more pie back then.)

  426. Except that 1910 wasn’t great for women, and many of those servants would have been African-American. Nix 1910. Except let’s bring back that housing budget ratio.

  427. PIE?? There was more PIE back then? Let’s bring back the Pie, Carrie.

  428. Hi Carrie – Yes, same Maureen of the burning-bush sister. The entire planet is pushing her to go to seminary, including me. She was BORN that way and has kept afire through an unbelievable 45 years of CRAP. I love her beyond words. She is my Anam Cara beyond all blood ties.

    I’m back from Dunkin’ and Walmart and it’s coming down snow in buckets here.

    On the Merry Olde England thread, my favorite read for this time of year, especially today – HAPPY SOLSTICE!! – is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. It’s a children’s (why does the spell check not like that?) book but it completely captures the darkness of the season and of the universe and the gloriousness of the light that fights it back. Set in England with all that cool-o Celtic mythology.

    Luckily, we have a generator because we must always have electricity in the barn. So far so good this storm, and I hope the electricity stays on by itself because running the generator requires a tractor going full-bore right outside my kitchen window.

    Off to feed calves. Toodles.

  429. Just to tie together the randomness of my last comment, without the generator we would be up to our eyeballs in manure, and the pre-electricy “Merry Olde Englande” would indeed be a stinky pit of slop. And in 1910 my Irish forebears also were servants here in America.

    SO, I am feeling grateful to LIVE in 2008 and READ about Merry Olde England.

  430. Maureen,

    Thanks for the reminder that we are celebrating the Winter Solstice today!

    There’s nothing better than scary stories at Christmas. I’ll be reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising.

    Stay warm, and may you not need that back-up generator.

  431. Jodi – I finished my Rumer Godden novel last night – it was an engrossing vicarious experience in a place I much desire to be most days: a monastery in England.
    I remembered Rumer Godden from The Doll’s House in my childhood and just recently discovered her adult novels. I told my hubster that I wanted a few more books from the Loyola Classics series (all Catholic stuff) and I think he might have ordered me another Rumer Godden for Christmas.

  432. when i impulsively chose Dickens as my desert island author, i had just spent several months reading/listening to almost all of his work. of course, once one has Declared thier desert island author, there are no Takebacks — as i patiently and with some cackling explained to Haven when she chose Nabokov and then sought to deliberate.

    but it was winter and i had finished off my dickens education w/ A CHRISTMAS CAROL. and that is the top best book to read this time of year. shockingly elegant, wise, funny, terrifying and just word perfect and relevant.

    go Charles go!!!

  433. So glad to hear that Haven is hanging in and doing what needs doing or not-doing. Having the little ones around (like Gus) is such a great way to deal with all these issues of loss . . . that whole cycle is so apparent when you look from one fresh face and then at the ill or at the places missing.

    We have had a fun day – just us and our kids and we exchanged family presents and have been watching home videos from when they were little . . . it was lots of fun . . . I think I am tucking in early tonight . . . teens leave early in the morning for their NJ trip . . .

    Linda – Dylan loved the Winnie The Pooh Latin book!!! And I also ordered him a Latin crossword puzzle book . . . they are now madly loading the new ipods for the plane ride – – which who knows with this crazy weather . . .


  434. My mother bought me the Latin Dr. Seuss book after my 4th semester of Latin. It was funny as hell.

    Christmas was fun today, though Dad and Bro 2 threw down tonight with COMPANY present. That was nice. lol. Fortunately, being a middle child means I am perfectly capable of redirecting, which I did. 🙂 But still. Bro 2 is taking Bro 1 back to the airport tomorrow, so Mom and I will rest while Dad goes and does…something.

    As today is the winter solstice, I find it funny and wildly appropriate that it’s the first COLD day we’ve had in….well….it’s the first cold day we’ve had yet this year. I am bundling up in my down comforter. My house doesn’t have central heat and it gets quite CRISP when winter does decide to show its face in these parts. No frickin’ snow though. It’s too bad.

    Y’all watch out for the snow and ice. Be careful and have a good night!

  435. Just popping on for a second…I got some potentially life-changing news and I’d covet your prayers/good vibes/rain dances.

  436. what izzit miss cake????

  437. Good morning blog babies!

    I got hit with the double whammy of dark side of my cycle and winter solstice yesterday and climbed off to bed early but had horrendous dreams.

    I am rereading The Used World in honor of the huge snowstorm and am enjoying it so much more now that I cyber-know Ms Suzanne Fennimore Cooper.

    Suzanne – I share your love of Dickens. I read David Copperfield in its entirety during an 8-week maternity leave SOLELY during breastfeeding time. I have an especial fondness for that one. I also remember actually READING (as opposed to watching) A Christmas Carol in 8th grade after a long snowy walk home in the dark through many neighborhoods of Christmas lights. I was lying under (all the way under) our Christmas tree. I was TRANSPORTED.

    Katie Cakester! Prayers flying your way. Is this good news or not good news? It sounds good?

  438. It is so bitterly cold here this am…just horrible. However, we leave tomorrow to seond 5 whole days with our families. So much to be thankful for and just have to keep reminding myself of that.
    I hope you all have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas.
    Amy in O

  439. Spend 5 whole days…my fingers are frozen

  440. A couple weeks ago, our gas furnace started acting up. The furnace guy got it working again on a Friday, but said it wasn’t running quite right and that he’d need to check it again and perhaps switch out more parts.

    On the week end between his visits I was heading down to the basement with a load of wash when I heard a loud Boom. It sounded like someone had hit something big and metal, such as my dryer, with a sledge hammer. I thought to myself, “Lordy, it sounds like someone just hit my dryer with a sledge hammer.” This wasn’t likely at 11pm on a Friday, but I called one of my teenage sons to accompany me to the basement just in case.

    I didn’t think to check the furnace, which isn’t very confidence-inspiring.

    A couple days later, the furnace guy returned and told us he still didn’t like how the furnace was running, but didn’t know what else to try. He shut it down, telling us he’d get back to us after he discussed his findings with a Greater Tech.

    The following day, we received word that the heating company would be replacing our furnace entirely, courtesy of the furnace manufacturer. We’d need to cover labor costs, but not the furnace itself.

    Everyone was very friendly.

    I just found the original guy’s annotated receipt, the one he left here before consulting the Greater Tech:

    “After initial ‘boom and flutter’, it runs ok.”

    “Boom and flutter”?!


    It seems there’s a wee problem with the “combustion chamber”, and parts have failed that ought never to, and I’m guessing that a company or two is covering tookuses. Regardless, I also think we were maybe just spared a bigger BOOM.

    The upshot is that our furnace is being replaced today (14 degrees, windchill factor -3), requiring shutting down not only the main furnace (which has been off since the “boom and flutter” diagnosis) but also auxiliary heat sources for an indeterminate time. It’s all in the timing.

    Me, I’m keeping that “boom and flutter” receipt.

    Un-believable: gas + fire + Boom, but after that the furnace runs okay, see?

    – Sarah

  441. Good morning babies!

    Hope everyone is preparing for Christmas. I was busy last weekend from beginning to end — getting the house squared away.

    We are leaving tomorrow for a drive to Cape Cod to spend Christmas.

    Ok, Suzanne…so glad you heard from Haven. Hope she is doing ok and is gathering her Haven strength for Delonda.

    Kate…what life changing news?

    Maureen…I work in the electricity business…we worry constantly…I mean CONSTANTLY about the power.

    Ok, more later, wanted to tag up and say hello.

  442. Dude, I will let you know!! Just PRAY!

  443. Miss Cake–lots of prayers coming your way. I hope everything’s all right. I will also keep my fingers crossed.

    George, be careful driving through the ice etc.

    Sarah–pardon my language, but holy shit. I mean HOLY SHIT. Your whole house coulda gone ka-blooey and did not…wow. Someone’s guardian angel(s) were working overtime!

    Amy in O–Enjoy your family time and keep warm! It got “cold” here last night. Was down in the 20s. No. Central. Heat. Brrrrr. But having lived in New Hampshire, I won’t complain. 🙂

    Maureen? You keep holding on. Days like yesterday are why we love Zoloft. And Welbutrin. And why we post here. Hope you’re feeling better today.

    Got Augusten Burroughs’ (I should have just said Augusten…besides darling baby Gus, are there really any others?!?!) Dry for Christmas yesterday and am loving it. It’s…magnificient.

    Haven–love you and your family. Keep your chin up.

  444. Molly,

    Tell me about it! I just checked in with the furnace people downstairs, and asked one of the guys if he could tell me more about what had gone wrong with the old one.

    He sat back and said, “I don’t really know. I mean, I asked them, and they wouldn’t tell me nothin’. All they would tell me is ‘It kept blowing up. It just kept blowing up.'”


    He’s been instructed to remove and return to the manufacturer all the old unit’s serial number and identification stickers, inside and out.


    Whereabouts were you in NH?

  445. Oh Molly, isn’t Dry f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c???? He’s so brilliant. I know it’s been said a gazillion times but what are the odds that he and Haven are besties? I still remember the day I was on AB’s website and he had a pic of he and Haven ( this was 2 years ago I think) and I was like holy crap, he knows Haven Kimmel???
    My car said the temp was 3 this morning when I drove to work. 3 people, this is seriously effed up.

  446. Hi guys. Cold here too.

    Sarah – so glad the furnace gods were watching out for you! That was close. I hope you were able to go hide somewhere warmer for the day, but I am guessing you might have felt the need to keep an eye on the new installation, plumber butt notwithstanding.

    Molly – Feeling much better today. The hostages (hormonal) have been released. (Remember that scene in Where the Heart Is – movie version – where Natalie Portmann, fearing she is pregnant, suddenly runs into the library bathroom and all you hear is YES! YES! She comes back out and her clueless new suitor says So, it went well?)

    George – Safe travels to you. I loved your pictures of the Peruvian artist. We have brothers from Guatemala who work for us and we just love them. They are like part of the family – I actually have met 5 of the 6 brothers in this family and they are such warm, wonderful people. I have been looking at Guatemala on Google Earth and plotting my someday visit. Gotta learn more Spanish first.

    Because of the farm, we can’t go anywhere at all, and with the weather, few people are able to come and see us, including my beloved sister. So, I’ll be here keeping the blog fires stoked straight through if anyone wants to talk.

    I am not meaning to be a blog hog, just wanted to be sitting here sipping my beer if anyone stops in looking for company.

  447. Um, Sarah, as my daddy would say, “DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!!!” Holy cow. That’s scary. Scary.

    Maureen–your beloved sister and mine would get along great, I think. :0 I hear ya on the whole trapped by _________ situation. I’d love to travel, maybe be a DOD teacher. They get paid REALLY well and get to do cool things and go to excellent places. Sigh.

    Amy–lord, tuck your fingers into your arm pitts. It’s hard to type with frostbite.

    I lived in Keene, NH which pretty much straddled the border of Brattleboro, Vermont and NH. It was–is–a lovely, lovely place. It’s where my sis and her kids live and I MISS IT LIKE MAD FRICKING CRAZY. I love my Amber here, but I just don’t love Georgia anymore. Sigh.

    Anyway, gotta run. Mom and I are buying my father a gift for real Christmas.

    Keep warm!


  448. Bug…you been in Ga. too long…in NH, you would be saying: I miss it MAD WICKED CRAZY

  449. Hi everyone. Sunny but brrrrrr cold here in Nashville. No snow or ice, though, thank the Lord. I’m at work. There is a lot to do year end in the world of fund raising but it is kind of mellow since people who are able to come in late and leave early. I had a nice, although very cold, walk around campus earlier. It is so quiet with the students gone. It just kind of echoes.

    Love to Haven and Delonda. You are both in my prayers.

  450. Love to our Haven and Delonda

    Love to all of you.

    I am so glad I found this place. Yesterday I was going through a stack of books and found a couple I had read before coming here.

    I remember wishing how I had some friends or someplace where I could go to share what I had found.

    This place and the friendship and support you guys and Haven offers is that place!

    You all mean so much to me.

  451. What are you reading now, George?

  452. Praying today for:
    Kate: That your life changes in the best possible way
    Amy-in-O: Safe travels and warm fingers
    Sarah: Working furnace minus the Boom
    George: In gratitude
    Haven and Family: Peace, strength, Grace and love
    All Blog Babies: A warm and wonderful holiday

    Amy in CA

  453. Oh George, I shame myself. Wicked is a word the crept into my vocabulary and I use it All. The. Time. 🙂 My students give me hell about it. Imagine me using it in the same sentence with y’all. 🙂 I use it so much people make fun of me, so I try to tone it down. lol. I shoulda known I didn’t have to tone it down here.

    Haven’t heard from Kittery in a while. You okay?

    I tried explaining to my mother how amazing this blog is and how terrific all you babies are, and she totally did not get it. She thinks it strange I tell perfect “strangers” what’s going on in my life. She didn’t understand that after awhile…you stopped being strangers. Maybe it is weird, but like George, I am so grateful for you all.

  454. Jodi: This is so boring, you are going to wish you had never asked. I have been reading all the source material I can find online and in the library about the Inca civilization. In between these items, I picked up and about 50 pages into a book called, The Sparrow, it about a Jesuit priest who is part of a intergalactic team that was sent to make contact with a planet near Alpha Centauri. This is not normally a thing I read because usually I seek out Southern writers and “realistic” fiction, but this Sparrow book is intriguing.

  455. LB…tell your mom I married a stranger like that! We’ve known eachother going on 11 years, been married for 7, and we have three babies! And this is exactly how it started!

    I love you all. Merry Christmas, Happy Holy-Days. BE BLESSED!

  456. Oh Kate I love you!!!! Thank you!! That is so life-affirming for me.

  457. Kate is pregnant or moving???? If moving, hopefully to Nashville area or even better, here in Spring Hill! Maybe she is pregnant AND moving?!

    Sarah – I routinely ignore all manner of noises in this and all other houses, isn’t that what duct take is for? Glad your boom was diagnosed . . .

    George – glad you are back in your cheerfilled action, I’ve been missing you

    Amy – 5 days with family, I shudder and it is NOT because of the 15 degree weather

    Linda – burr, work? ugh. how can we be this busy . . . still haven’t done christmas cards, but I did get up this morning to tell my kids goodbye when the left for the airport . . . and I took the cat to the vet (another store), so I have earned 2 gold stars already today.

    Maureen – – I double up on my Celexa on THOSE days, does the mail get to you out in the wilderness, I’m thinking you should have received a package by now, but maybe deliveries are slowed down because of mailed presents? A book, wine, and cuddled under blankets are the only other cure for me.

    Suzanne – I still haven’t photographed your prayer flag . . . did Polly help you post items for sell on ebay??? If so, is there a link you can share???? I can only imagine the wonderful things you have available.

    Haven – – Claire and I just listened about your ‘piano’ Christmas in the car ride today . . . it was perfect timing. My heart is swelling for you and Delonda today . . . and I actually said to my children two days ago “I’ll be in the studio if you need me, but try not to need me.”

    And then I burst into tears. (Because Delonda is unwell, my big kids are leaving for 2 weeks, and I am having double earaches/sore throat . . . once you start crying the reasons are endless, like I am glad I am not going ‘home/wherever that is’ for Christmas, but I wish I felt welcome wherever that was, and how can 2008 be so great, but over . . . ). And then it is like all that pressure that was built up inside me was eased, and I feel better for having let myself feel.

    George – 2nd thought – yes, you are so right about that need this blog has filled, I can remember saying those same thoughts and wishing for some likeminded interaction, and then this door was open and I walked through . . . it has been magical and I so do NOT take it for granted.

    where is Jim Shue, John M, & Brandon???, Kittery . . . . ???? and all the other dear souls who are no longer strangers and I don’t know if they ever were.

    LB – – nobody in my family gets this blog either, but I can’t I share it much with anybody, it is like my little warm secret or my ‘blankie’ that I nurture myself with? It almost stains it to talk about to the clueless . . .

    Sending love your way.

  458. Kate is not pregnant or moving! Good guesses. This is related to my CAREER.

  459. …well, I am heading to the Cape tomorrow and that is the land of the Wicked. I love hearing it and start parroting it right back after a day or two…

  460. Kate: God bless you. did you get hired by the Courier?

  461. George,

    The Sparrow is INCREDIBLE. I cannot speak about it highly enough. It is so theologically challenging as well as well written and a great story. I love that book.

  462. Hello!

    I’m okay, I’ve been busy doing .. nothing? That’s not entirely true. Yesterday I made three different batches of cookies and virgin hot toddies ’cause I live with boring teetotalers.

    How’s everyone doing with the weather? Yesterday/Last night was deliciously vile and inclement (I love bad weather unless I have to go out in it and then I curse it mightily). We got well over a foot and a half of snow. It’s beautiful out there. I thought of you last night, George .. you like romanticizing Maine’s foul weather. 😉

    Today I’ve been working on my menu for Christmas morning – here’s what it’s shaping up to be..

    Baked Grapefruit
    Breakfast Strata

    Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Rolls
    Ginger Muffins
    Dutch Hot Apple Bread

    Fruit Skewers with Yogurt Dip
    Meatballs (Sausage, actually) in Apple Butter

    It’s meant to be a half sit down and eat/half buffet .. (and yes, I know it’s a carbfest.) 😉

    And I really, really don’t post menus/recipes to be obnoxious. I want all of you to know, if I was able, I would cook and bake for you all day, every day. 🙂
    (And again, if any of this sounds remotely interesting, just ask and I’ll give you the recipe). 😀

    Sher – what you said about strangers not ever really being strangers? Beautifully phrased. 🙂 I feel exactly the same way.

    Kate – I hope everything works out for you!

    Molly – Hah! I’ve tried explaining this blog too. Hopeless, isn’t it?

    Sarah – Your furnace story sounds frightening! Everything is working properly now? Our furnace died a few nights ago (it had been doing that try-to-start-shake-the-house-off-the-foundation thing).. the house was in the 40s before the guy finally showed up to fix it.

    I s’pose I ought to start getting ready for the Christmas party my family’s been invited to .. if I manage to not look like an emu’s behind, I will be grateful. 🙂

    Love to you all!

  463. I’m just starting The Sparrow…and am liking it. Have any of you noticed that starting up a new book is kinda like beginning a friendship? You start off enamored. Then you decide whether it’s worth hanging with. Then you warm to its uniqueness. Then you want the familiarity…the friendship.

  464. Oh, I knew I’d forget things.

    Sher – Get well! Earaches are bitches.

  465. Sorry about that romancing the Maine thing…when I was there, I put on ski pants and a puffy insulated coat and went around looking like the Michelin man from December until early April. Oh…forgot about the boots with the felt lining and the mittens OVER the gloves.

    I am such a cold wimp now…even after that.

    The dogs and I went out for about two nanoseconds this AM; long enough for them to do their hot squats.

    But they are wimps, too. I noticed they both beat me in getting to the back door.

  466. Hi George.

  467. Linda!

  468. Brandon is fine, just really busy with a kitchen remodel and problems with the new dog who is experiencing separation anxiety! Hopefully he will be back visiting with us this week 🙂

  469. :: snickers :: Oh George .. unless there’s a really brutal wind chill, I can be found outside in sneakers (with or without socks) and pajama pants and a tshirt .. with or without mittens when I clean off the car.
    As much as I try to deny it, I guess I am a Maine girl, eh?

    Dogs are the biggest babies! I used to have a cocker spaniel. She HATED the water (traumatic incident in puppyhood), didn’t want to play out in the snow and when she had to go out in snow or rain, she would try to do her thing on as few paws as possible. It’s quite amusing to watch a dog try to do their business while balancing on two paws..

    Still not getting dressed .. :: sigh ::
    I don’t even know anyone – do I really have to go?

  470. George ((hugs))


  471. I will catch up with y’all later as I am leaving work now. If I don’t see you tonight, safe travels George and those of you going places even if it is nearby in the bad weather.

  472. George–do you mean Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow? I LOVE that book. Not a science fiction reader, but it’s not really science fiction, more like a discourse on God. Oh, if that’s what you’re reading, I can’t wait to talk with you about it.

  473. Kittery – why go somewhere where you don’t know anybody – – when you could stay home and hang with us???

    I got dressed today, but only because I really needed a bath first, and I wanted to do the valiant thing of taking the cat to the vet . . . I am so ready to put on the pj’s again . . . note: I went to be at 5 a.m., got up at 11 a.m, took a bath at noon, got to the vet (barely) by 2 p.m., and have been doing spirograph since then.

    Which brings out something possibly entertaining:

    when I get dressed, this is what I think about all day:

    1. when do I get to take my bra off (sorry guys)?

    2. is this a place I can take my shoes off?

    3. what is everybody doing on the blog?

    4. my pants are falling off and I really ought to go by some smaller pants, or I could just go home and put on my pajamas . . .

    I ask these questions until I can go home, take off my shoes, take off my bra, let my pants fall down, and get in the said pajamas . . . announcing all these things to anyone who will listen (or not listen, as is more likely).

  474. Sher, you bring up a most excellent point. I would much rather stay here but I fear a war coming on if I make my wishes known..
    Last year, the first year I went, all the food was seafood except for one incredibly salty platter of Salt and Pepper Chicken. Even the rice had shrimp in it. So then my mother went in the kitchen and asked the guy to make white rice for me (oh, didn’t I feel like an ass). It just so happens that I am allergic (and by allergic I mean truly allergic – not “oh dear me, I have a rash now”) to seafood .. so eating it would kill me. Merry Christmas, eh?

    Also, should we start a petition of some kind to abolish regular clothing? I live in my pajamas. They’re just so much better. 😉

  475. Horror story Kittery? To my knowledge my family has never attempted to poison me . . . wow! sounds more like louisiana with the food . . . I don’t like dark chocolate (I know, I know, weird) and some people, who I won’t name, seem to think it is my favorite and make me birthday cakes or buy them or whatever . . .

    Is that even considered passive aggressive, maybe plain aggressive?

    I get it – it is a family get together, therefore you don’t ‘know’ them, nor they ‘know’ you – – – I totally understand, aren’t you coming down with that flu that is going around, or I can send you an earache – ear infection sounds very believable?

  476. I am now the very proud, very happy owner of an encaustic painting made by our own Sher Ficke. I absolutely adore it and have given it a place of prominence above my shrine/writing desk. Thanks, Sher!!! Have you considered doing works on commission? like someone’s favorite literary character or book?

    The gorgeous “My Solitude” serendipitously arrived the same day as my used copy of May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude from Amazon used. I am a happy, happy girl and wish I could actually HAVE some solitude. (All I want for Christmas is two days of my husband not having Asperger Syndrome and my three kids being gainfully entertained elsewhere).

    Kittery – Good to hear from you! I was wondering how things were WAY UP NORTH, even north-er than Central New York.

    George – I saw Mary Doria Russell speak – and everyone here can join in to say “AT THE CALVIN FESTIVAL” or alternately “Shut up, Maureen, with the Calvin Festival already”. I started The Sparrow – so intrigued by the whole concept and the Jesuits and all – didn’t get through it at the time but DID get through her novel A Thread of Grace about the Nazi take-over of Italy and the resistance there – fabulous.

    I am still re-reading The Used World in honor of all the snow and to think of Haven.

    Molly – I know what you mean about explaining the blog. I kept checking the blog the other day to hear any word about Delonda, and my husband said “Why do you keep checking?”
    “Because Delonda is really sick.”
    “Who’s Delonda?”
    “Haven’s mom. I’m worried about her.”
    He looked exasperated and said, “I’m sorry, but it seems like being concerned about Rex Morgan, MD” (the comic strip)
    I about hit him but then reminded myself he is Aspergian. But even the most neuro-typical find it hard to understand the ontological phenomenon of this blog.

    Kate – when can you spill the beans? so that we can pray more effectively of course, not because we’re dying with curiosity.

  477. Hahaha, just a few ill-thought out attempts on my life from the ages of 1 – 4.. Lobster (the last time) was the one that really did it for me .. I was bouncing up and down in my crib, my brother and sister (far older than I) came in, I told them I didn’t feel good .. YET AGAIN they didn’t believe me, a few minutes later I threw up on the latch-hook rug my (deceased) grandfather had made.
    Then I was told to lay down on the bathroom floor (this I did willingly, I thought I was going to die) (I had a rapid decline by the way). For the next SEVERAL hours, I drifted in and out of consciousness. My lucid moments were spent vomiting. Did my family think to call an ambulance? Naw, course not. They did, about a half hour before I started turning around call Poison Control. My parents were advised to never feed me shellfish again.
    Every incident with shellfish got steadily worse, and to confirm my suspicions, I was talking with a Paramedic (my instructor at the time) and she told me that if I ever come into contact with shellfish again, I’ll immediately go into anaphylactic I do try to avoid it when I can. 😉

    And nope, it’s not Southern food, it’s Chinese. Our neighbors have a Chinese restaurant. So it’s not even a family thing! Gah. Oh well. I am at least wearing ‘hugging and cupping’ clothes in the miraculous event a decent guy is there this year (unlike last).

    I think in the case of your chocolate – if it’s people you know ‘well’, then it could just be considered aggressive. Unless they live with you, and like it themselves and know you won’t eat it. Then that’s just good planning. 😉

  478. Things are very white here, Maureen. 🙂

    Can you post a picture of your new artwork from Sher? Or did Sher take a picture of it before sending it to it’s new home?

    I wasn’t thinking “shut up” but as I read your post, perfectly in sync, I thought, “at the Calvin Festival”. 😉

  479. ha! Kittery – brilliant summation and, phew, I was worried your death was being plotted, but it is just the Chinese, so you’re good!

    Maureen got the painting!!!! Yippee! And she likes it, she likes it!!!

    I am planning on doing some commissions via Etsy after the New Year (actually, more likely after Jan 18th) . . . didn’t get around to it in Dec. and didn’t think I could handle the Christmas orders, but I will start taking orders within a few weeks. Actually working on Mother Delonda’s really made me want to get into the commissions again.

    While I was working on it (I did it in 2 days which is NOT adviseable for encaustic painting), my husband asked me what I was doing it for (I hadn’t painted in 8 months), I burst out in tears, “Delonda is sick!” He said “who is that? (guiltily, because he knew he should know, and I do NOT like to repeat myself) . . . I said “Haven’s mother” and he was “oh, no” and really got it (not to mention that this was the day after Haven and I had talked for 3 hours in the middle of the night . . . and then emailed all of another night when I was working on the painting for her mom.

    I really did have Haven hangover after those nights . . .

    In the last few weeks I finished reading:

    Wally Lamb’s “The Hour I First Believed” and Wriekski’s (sp?) “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” . . . o.k., I liked the Lamb. It is very layered and I am still chewing on it and I would recommend it for sure.

    Sawtelle . . . I started liking it on page 385 and that lasted until I read the last chapter/page, then I was like – is that all? What were you all wrought up about for 700 pages . . . um, I got it, but it just didn’t grab me.

    As George mentioned, I, too, have problems starting a new author/book. Literally after reading Kimmel, I was circling the word ‘weeds’ in the Sawtelle book, then was like “oh, probably they are just weeds, right?”

    Mostly I have been re-reading literature anthologies, autobiographies, memoirs, and art history, and art criticism . . . I think I am a little raw to read something soul delving, or, mayhap I am waiting on Haven’s new work?

  480. I will spill the beans when I actually know something. I don’t know anything right now, and things could go either way.

  481. This is my wonderful painting:

    I bought it because I really do love solitude – I need it to recharge. And I love the tree. It reminded me of a collage I made in college (I was an Art/English major, but in no way gifted). And I loved all the words around it, even though they are French, a language I know not at all, but I just like words.

    I am also suffering from no-one-measures-up-to-Haven in my reading habits. I did enjoy the novel I just finished about life in an English Benedictine monastery (Rumer Godden). But then I grabbed TUW. I just consistently want a good plot, characters I love, and spiritual grappling.

    I was at our little small-town bookstore Christmas shopping and idly picked up a Maggie Shayne romance, only because she is a local celeb, and just set it back down. It was like considering eating Lucky Charms.

  482. has anyone ever read sloane crosley’s “i was told there’d be cake”? i am reading it now–it is a collection of true short stories–and if you are looking for something to make you laugh, it has sure had me in stitches. when i emote out loud while reading, i always consider it a good sign.

    sending prayers of love and peace to haven and mother delonda.

    happy holidays to everyone. off to guatemala after christmas! cheers and good tidings to all..


  483. Aahh! I love it! Lucky Maureen and Talented Sher! 😀

  484. Steph –
    Where in Guatemala? Why Guatemala (if I may ask)? We have two brothers who work on our farm from Guatemala, so I have developed an enormous fondness for and interest in Guatemala. Our wonderful Eduardo and Alfredo are from Coatepeque.

  485. Jerri: should have guessed you knew the book, The Sparrow. It seems pretty good. I am just starting to get into it. I owe you a big email. I read what you sent. I just need to carve off some time and send it.

    Kittery: You are a Maineiac! Sneakers and snow. Will somebody write a haiku using that image please?

    Maureen/Molly: At first my wife didn’t get the blog and the time I spent here. I think she was thinking I had met someone online and was planning to vanish and move off to, oh, let’s say, Idaho! It’s a very hard thing to describe, but I am a better person and a better person for this place. So, end of story. I do think she is ok with it…but I have noticed an increase in “honey-do” chores…hmmmm, I wonder.

    …said a prayer for Delonda and Haven yesterday in church.

    Here’s how God answered. Yesterday afternoon, I had stopped for a coffee at our nearby McDonalds, which is located across the street from a homeless men’s shelter.

    I saw a guy leave the shelter, take a few steps, fall. While I was sipping my coffee, I actually watched him fall three times and still I did nothing. I think living in the city like I do — especially DC — kinda makes you hardened to people.

    After his third fall, I drove over by him and asked if he was ok. I was expecting him to slur and slurp and generally be a miserable homeless, nasty drunk.

    “I can’t help it. I got MS,” he said.

    “Oh, man. Can I drive you someplace?”

    “You don’t know much I would appreciate that, sir. I don’t have any money to pay you.”

    Blogpeople, I was mortified by my own meanness and lack of compassion.

    “Are you kidding? Just tell me where you need to go?”

    “Could you take me to the Metro?”

    As he struggled to pull a deadened leg into my car, I took his suitcase and stowed it in my backseat. As I drove him the three or four blocks to the Metro, he said:

    “Just can’t begin to tell you how appreciative I am.”

    “No big deal.”

    In my mind, I was thinking how appreciative I was that I had been placed somewhere and with the power to actually be of good — useful — to someone else’s plight.

    When we parted at the station, I gave him $5 and we shook hands and wished each other a Merry Christmas.

    I do believe this was arranged by God. I think God was saying, I want you to believe that I have heard your prayer.

  486. Oh, George. This precisely addresses the most interesting part of The Sparrow (at least the part I found most interesting). One of the characters says that if you see a turtle on a fence post (or a homeless man with MS falling down), you can be pretty sure he didn’t get there by himself. But is he there as a sign from God, or do you interpret his presence as the message you need?

    This has come up for me over and over in the years since I read the book–at least 6. I’m pretty sure that in the end, all creation is God saying I want you to believe I have heard your prayer. Sometimes we recognize it and sometimes we don’t. When we do, we believe it’s arranged by God. And it is, but so are so many other things we miss.

    It’s exactly this that I look forward to hearing your opinions about. You going to have time to read over the holiday? I sure hope so.

  487. Oh, and you’re a rock star, George. Many city dwellers (not to mention reporters who’ve seen everything) would never have given the man a second thought.

    I’m grateful you were able to help the man and grateful to know you.

  488. Sher, what memoirs are you reading? (I’m writing one, so I’m always curious what people are reading.)

  489. also, George, you rock.

  490. Wow, George that brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful person you are.

  491. I was going to tell the story earlier today, but I didn’t really know what it might have meant until I just wrote it.

    If The Sparrow gets into these kinds of coincidences, then I am going to get ready for a real treat.

    …and believe me, in this town, for any homeless person you help, you ignore about 25.

    I basically felt ashamed of myself that I had watched the guy fall not once but three times before doing anything.

    I do believe it it possible to be in a dialogue with God through all kinds of metaphors and conincidences…routine weird crap that happens. If you pull back a little, sometimes it makes sense.

    So having said all this…that little scene makes me believe that our prayers here are scoring.

  492. Maureen…Guatemala bc we love it! my husband and i traveled there when we were just out of college…went all over…this time we are headed to antigua for the bulk of our stay…but perhaps some day trips…panajachel for sure….i can’t wait!! we are bringing our son with us and my husband’s parents too…renting a house—we lived in antigua for about 2 mos when we were 22, studying spanish and living in a hostel there. such fond memories that seem so far away…

    george, “yes virginia…there is a santa claus”. you are a saint.

  493. …I really liked Guatemala, too. Visited a bunch of Mayan sites there, including Tikal, where I watched the sun come up over a temple. Just the tip of temple was poking through the clouds and some tree tops. Flying between the trees were parrots and toucans. Incredible.

  494. george:
    spent the night camping in Tikal…hiked to the top of a temple (of the sun?) to watch sunrise. listening to howler monkeys at 430 am. it was terribly overcast, and we saw no sun until late in the morning, but it remains one of the most sacred days of my life. it was truly spiritual and like nothing i had ever experienced. “guate” as we have taken to calling it is AMAZING. my son keeps telling everyone we are going to WATT-EEE-MA-LA (he’s 2)

  495. No time, No time, No time….
    I have been so worried about Haven and Delonda, too and so quickly checked in right now but have no time to properly comment on all you lovely people…prayers to you all, will chime in tomorrow…lots of family and running around and now maybe an ice storm (big scepticism about that).
    Whatever helps with the holiday stress needs to be done whether that means not baking, buying instead, not wrapping…newspaper and paper bags can be just as fun…just be together. Propping each other up….more tomorrow….I hate being on the west side of the country ’cause I feel out of synch with y’all most of the time.
    Goodnight, more tomorrow.

  496. I’m back from the dreaded Christmas party! No one that I even remotely knew was there … a very, very bratty two hundred pound seven year old (I’m not making fun of him, I just think it’s ridiculously sad), and some drunk guys .. and old women. And old men who sat in far corners and didn’t talk .. It wasn’t miserable, but .. not the most stimulating or hysterically fun, either.
    I go for the free alcohol. Is that sad? It is..
    Oh, and I was also hit on by some guy my father works with. Which was a bit odd. I wonder what my father must think of that .. his fifty-something colleagues hitting on his twenty-two year old daughter.. If I was a father, I would find that mildly disconcerting. I think I would *like* my father to have some thought about it, but I would wager a pretty penny he doesn’t. Oh well.
    Rambling now. My point? I’m glad to be back with all of you. 😀

    Also – George, you did a wonderful thing and it’s nice to know you didn’t encounter another ‘slurring drunk’. I don’t think he’s going to forget you anytime soon. Or you him..

  497. Also, I have tried valiantly to ignore my Catholic upbringing, so I may be blowing smoke out my nose .. feel free to correct me ..

    “I basically felt ashamed of myself that I had watched the guy fall not once but three times before doing anything.”

    Didn’t Jesus fall three times before Veronica (?) wiped his face?

  498. Damn, Kittery. Score one for you.

    George, did you know my mom has MS? It’s a terrible, terrible thing. Thank you for helping him. Thank you for easing his burden and lightening his heart. Sins of omission, sins of commission…you waited until the 3rd time, but You. Got. Up. Off. Your. Ass. And that matters. That matters.

  499. Suzanne, I went to the book store today and BOTH Split and Otherwise Engaged were SOLD OUT. I know this is good news for you, but I was mad. Grrr.

    Maureen. You got the painting I loved best when I looked through all of Sher’s work. Not that all of them weren’t gorgeous–but Solitude really was my very best favorite. I feel great jealousy. Add on the fact that you have snow… 🙂

    Sher–I hope you feel better. And I hear you with the “when can I …..?” questions. My question is usually “When can I undo the top button of my pants?” I have *ahem* gained some weight since I got my belly button pierced (2003), and now my pants press on it quite uncomfortably. 😦

    Jerri–I was fascinated by this: “But is he there as a sign from God, or do you interpret his presence as the message you need?” Can’t the answer be both? Can’t that man be a sign from God that George was able to intrepret?

    Anyway. Those were some of my thoughts.

  500. Psh. Now that I can be up all night (winter break!!!!!), all the blog babies have gone to bed. Sigh.

    Sweet dreams, babies!

  501. Molly! I’m not in bed! Come back! 🙂

  502. I know this is years old, but I decided to read a little bit about James Frey .. I knew about AMLP when it came out and its subsequent fall from grace, but I never bothered to read this guy in any interviews..

    Well. After I saw his how-to guide to writing alongside Anne Lamott and Stephen King, I had to.

    What. A. Dick.

    Not only is he a lying sack of poo, he actually shifts the blame onto other people. And then – and then! He has the gall , or the titanium balls of a rhino, to say he’s done with memoirs because he wants to show his “fans” that he’s capable of writing fiction!

    I know this is old news but I had to whine. Rant finished.

  503. I’m up too – just getting back on after doing 117 christmas cards . . . I’m buzz eyed. It didn’t help that I was working from an old address book, an incomplete new one, envelopes I have been saving for 2 years . . . and my husband ‘helped me’ by MAILING the cards I had addressed earlier in the week . . . therefore, some people might get 2 or 3 or NONE and he bought me some new stamps – 1 BOOK – that has like 20 stamps on – I was like, who do you think you have been married to for 17 plus years? I have 52 cousins, . . . ? he was stunned with writing notes to 2 of his family (out of 5 for the whole ‘clan’) . . .

  504. Just in case anyone is up with me . . .

    George – that story, your life, your choice to offer help to that man – it is why I still believe in the slighted shred of hope for humanity. Thank you for being so brave.

    Maureen – you are SO fast!!! Maybe I can hire you as an assistant, I am losing my mind.

    So Don and I played Yahtzee with Claire tonight . . . she won! Fairly! But then Don got the only Yahtzee and we had to show her his Yahztee dance (think Party Boy from Jackass). Then she was practicing her own. She also sang “Yes, Kitty Loves Me . . . ” to the tune of “Yes, Jesus Loves ME” all day, because Snappy had to get a shot and de-worming at the vet.

    Vet Story: I tried to save this, but what the hell . . .

    We take the cat to a vet VERY far AWAY out in the boondocks, literally. Why? You Ask? Because Don treats one of their assistants and she was crushed by a bull in the large animal pen . . . and they are good and, whatever . . . Going the way MAPQUEST says it took me 45 minutes to get there and on my home (2 weeks ago) I knew there had to be a BETTER, Shorter Way.

    I travel by direction only – i.e., N S E W . . . I do not ask for directions. I don not have a GPS on any phone or in the van. But I will call home and ask Don to look it up for me if I am lost . . .

    So after spending 20 minutes going North, South, East and WEST of the town and not seeing the logcabin with the red tin roof (the vet), I called him “It is not here anymore – it is gone” . . . blah, blah, blah . . . “I have driven every direction around College Grove and it is NOT here.

    Claire is saying in the back “Mommy, did you miss it, Snappy is getting freaking out at this wiggly van”

    Don says “Well, that would be because it is in Chapel Hill”

    Me: “Well, f(#)*#, so I drove 5 more minutes South, and there it WAS . . . in Chapel Hill” I had left 1 hour 10 minutes earlier.

    My drive home (I did find the short cut back) took me 26 minutes.

    No I did not have the vet number with me because it was sitting on the kitchen counter.

    The visit took 5 minutes.

  505. Kittery – that old man liked your “cupped tush”!

  506. Shanna –

    here a few memoirs I am reading or have read:

    Lucky – Alice Sebold
    Limbo – A. Manette Ansey
    Kimmel – both
    Burroughs – all
    The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom
    The Man WithOut A Country – K. Vonnegut
    Education of LIttle Tree – (carter? cartel?)
    Memoirs of Ulyss S. Grant
    Dissident Daughter – Sue Monk Kidd
    all DAVE PELZER (simple but authentic)
    Night Trilogy – E. Wiesel
    Journals of Kurt Cobain
    Dreams of My Father – Obama
    Audacity of Hope – Obama
    Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher (I LOVE HER)
    Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth ?gilman, gilbert)?
    Wild Swans & Mao – 2 by Jung Chang
    Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – D. Eggers
    Year of Magical Think – audio Joan Didion for car

    um, seems like we did a thread on memoirs/biographies and everybody pitched in on suggestions . . . I also have a new one “walking through walls” that Haven suggested but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

    will try to think of more and review the bookcases tomorrow . . .

    nigh nigh

  507. Shanna –

    Here is the link to the thread on non-fiction:

    that should give you some stellar suggestions!

  508. I am struck dumb by our collective weather. So many of us housebound, or at least homebound, to some extent. It’s years since (13?) since Seattle had this much snow (and I am a tentative, anxious, and therefore dangerous snow-driver). It’s been snowy and icy for a good ten days, I’ve missed three parties that are truly paragons of their genre, and I am climbing the walls. I’m tired of looking at them (sure sign that it’s time to switch the art), but oh, the greenbelt out back! — To be good to myself when I am frequently cursing the snowbound roads and mightily, I feel the need to be productive in a way that isn’t work, exactly. Here’s where I turned: to making a list (! coincidence? I think no!). I used to make a point of staying home New Year’s Eve too, Maureen, and having a review and re-set with myself and a bottle of champagne, but that became increasingly … impractical. There are people I want to see that I don’t see that often come New Year, you know? I became sloppy with my annual review/reset. So: new tradition: why not Christmas Eve Eve? I am getting a jump on it, as tomorrow is the family tree-trimming (picture a 2-story tree frozen solid and now thawing in the basement), Christmas Eve I spend with my Other Mother and usually my best Vicki, but she has decided to stay up on the island with Bleu Onnalee (2 years) and her children and husband, and if you knew Bleu, you could not imagine doing anything but making yourself available to her. — So it will be me and my Other Mother, stuffing stockings for the sibs and drinking complicated mixed liqueur drinks and watching The Bishop’s Wife (usually it’s White Christmas, but I’ve lost my sentimentality for the title this year).

    Thank you Maureen and Sher and many others of reminding me of this lapsed and useful ritual. It’s been years since I made a practice of being just that clear on what I want in this life, from myself, for myself, for work, for expressing my truest self on a daily and thoroughly uncensored basis. I got halfway through this list before I realized what I was doing, where the echo came from. — This place is a Godsend. In every sense.

    Well I think I took so long to write this it is now Christmas Eve Eve proper. My jump has faded.

    I’m really so thankful for you all. You show me new and better ways to be. (You know who you are.) Keep yourselves well and warm and don’t pay the labor costs, Sarah!!! Flutter and boom indeed.

  509. Carrie – “where the echo came from”

    gorgeous prose!!!!

    I am prostrate with awe and zombiness – I hate to call it a new year’s resolution list – I usually do them early and also get a new sketch/book/journal around my birthday (dec) for the following year’s ideas/thoughts . . . it just developed organically, but it does require Solitude . . . I’m also hungry!

  510. Sher, thank you! — but not such zombieness that you didn’t do what I’d have done and written “prostate.”

    New Year was only a convenient timing thing in past. But the solstice feels right, and I’ll probably shoot for the 21st next year, now that I think about it. It is nearly exactly my half-birthday, so that’s convenient too.

    Eat a cookie. Don’t you have a few?

  511. Oh shoot. You all finally go to bed and I get up. Maybe I’ll join Molly in winter break nocturnality and switch my schedule so I can hang with you guys all night.
    I have to re-read everything I missed above and comment more thoughtfully after I do my chores. Moo.

  512. Moo to you too, Mo! — I’m off to sleep — see what you can do about that schedule, won’t you?

  513. I’ll see on the schedule, Carrie. My internal clock is very set to 5 AM to 9 PM after so many years.

    I took a photo of Sher’s painting over my shrine/writing desk. Please note the pink and yellow linen cloths on the desk and the white bow tied to the shelf. My lovely encaustic was wrapped in them and I added them to the display because I know Sher touched them! “Yes, Virginia, there ARE Blog Babies.” As well as Santa George the helper angel.
    It took me three years of passing our one-mile neighbor who has Tourette’s and hitch-hikes before I was brave enough to give him a ride. Now he is like a beloved uncle.

  514. Hello all-just a quick note to say I hope everyone has a beautiful holiday–I’m currently celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas here in Atlanta and all that entails. I’ve really enjoyed catching up and hearing your stories–you are all so talented and caring.

    Thanks, George, for sharing your experience. It reminds us that only a few minutes of inconvenience to us could mean the world to someone else. I’ll try to remember that.

    Steph-I bought I Was Told There’d Be Cake and maybe now is a good time to start it. I’m pretty glum this holiday over losing my dad and could use a good laugh.

    Time to clean and bake and not much time to visit my favorite blog friends since we’re hosting 20 here for Christmas Eve.

    Much love to Haven and her family. I hope they feel the uplifting of so many prayers from her blog babies. We have a common thread that is unique and special and I appreciate all of you. Happy Holidays!

  515. Lightning Bug: Yes, the man CAN be both. In fact, I think he is. Remember when Haven has said (in Solace and other places) that God’s only power is the lure?

    For me, that’s tied to this discussion because yes, the man is God’s messenger. So are many, many other things, but we notice some and not others. We pick certain things and believe they are messages. I do it, too. But I’m not sure they are specific messages just for me.

    George was kind enough to help a stranger, so he received a reminder of God’s love and reassurance that God hears his prayers. There’s the lure. Isn’t it wonderful?

  516. Maureen. I just read your essay about Asperger’s. Break my heart, why doncha? I know exactly what you mean. My dad and Bro #2 are both undiagnosed Asperger’s, which I try to remember when they do really atrocious things. It is hard, and this essay just goes to show what an amazing woman you are. It’s not easy to be with someone who doesn’t ‘get’ feelings, and we neuro-typicals (especially literary-type NTs) are all ABOUT them. Extra prayers and hugs and kisses for you.

  517. Jerri. Yes, it is fantastic. Ever since Haven on the blog responded to me with The Lure to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness answer, I meditate and meditate on it, especially when I am pissed off (as in when Dad and Bro 2 threw down in front of Company). I think the beauty of how God works is that the man with MS was a message for anyone willing to help him, but like you said, it was George who accepted the lure.

    Just to be clear (I worked/lived too long with people with autism, huh Maureen?), I do not think the man has MS in order to be a lure for George or others. I don’t think God is cruel in that way. However, I think people can be Tools/Lures that God uses. This man has MS for some other purpose, but at that moment, he was put in position to help George–and be helped by George. Who knows? Perhaps it was a Langston-at-the-drive-through type experience for the man. I’m sure he was surprised that someone was willing to help him.

    Maybe I need another cup of tea. I’m not sure that made as much sense as I wanted it to.

  518. Good morning everyone. I am having some problems with my computer at home so I have been missing out on the evening discussion. I have been thinking about you, Carrie, and the weather woes in Seattle.

    Maureen- how wonderful of you to buy one of Sher’s paintings. It looks beautiful in your office area which is lovely as well. Sher is such an enormously talented artist. I am hoping that some inspiration will rub off on me in the new year. I would be grateful for just a drop of her talent. Love you, Sher!

    George- I have been trying to be open to God’s call lately too. I continue to crave solitude and silence. Well, yesterday I was in Vanderbilt’s bookstore getting my son a few fan gear items for the bowl game (aside- yes, Vanderbilt is in a bowl game for the first time in 26 years and it is right here in Nashville – The Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve day. No offense to my friends in Boston but we are hoping that Vandy beats the pants off of Boston College. Gosh, what a nice little interlude in my being open to God’s call paragraph. LOL) Anyway, I took at little detour into the books (of course) and went by the religion section and a book just popped right out at me so I bought it. It is Holy Silence by J. Brent Bill, a Quaker pastor who is also a friend of Haven’s, a visitor to this blog, and a friend of mine on Facebook – Brent- if you are reading this- hello! (waving wildly). I started reading the book last night and it is wonderful. More on that later as I need to do some actual work since I am here at work. Love you all.

  519. Maureen, would you mind if I passed the Asperger’s essay on to my sister? (I’d ask you on the yahoo site, but I’m afraid I really don’t quite understand how it works…)

  520. Sher, I LOVE Carrie Fisher. I just read Wishful Drinking and I saw her one woman show of the same title last year. She has a huge birthday party every year next door to where I used to work and I’d listen from the porch and think (in my best Scarlett O’Hara voice) “As God is my witness, I WILL attend that party before I die.” I just read “On Broken Glass,” Susan Thorton’s memoir of her life with John Gardner. Fantastic.

  521. Sher, I LOVE Carrie Fisher. I just read Wishful Drinking and I saw her one woman show of the same title last year. She has a huge birthday party every year next door to where I used to work and I’d listen from the porch and think (in my best Scarlett O’Hara voice) “As God is my witness, I WILL attend that party before I die.” I just read “On Broken Glass,” Susan Thorton’s memoir of her life with John Gardner. Fantastic. Now I’m moving on to George Saunder’s “The Breaindead Megaphone” (essays) and Lee Montgomery’s “The Things Between Us.”

  522. Uh…that’s George Saunder’s “The BRAIN DEAD Megaphone.” Ha.

  523. Allow me to recommend David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Denim and Cordoroy. Run to the bookstore today–you don’t have to buy the book, but turn to page 157 or so and read the essay “Six to Eight Black Men.” Oh my God. It is hysterical.

  524. Molly Bug – I can’t believe just how much we have in common!! Actually, that essay is one “chapter” of a book I drafted over the summer. Way back Haven was talking about Steve Martin’s Grandmother’s Song, so I put it there so she could read it, but everyone’s welcome.

    I hadn’t ever heard of AS until last March, and it suddenly explained so much of what I had found baffling about my husband (and father-in-law and son).

    I struggle daily with how to look at my particular challenge – and how anyone looks at a challenge such as MS or AS or alcoholism – anything. Writing a bunch of essays about it was my way of thinking it through. I gave every one of the chapters directly to Andy and he found them very amusing.

    All the essays deal directly with this whole question of why we are faced with challenges or challenging people. When I get a minute, I will also post the first essay/chapter that describes the week I figured out that I was dealing with Asperger’s and all the questions – both marital and spiritual – that arose as a result.

    I am in the process of revising/rewriting, hoping to get it published. Feel free to pass it along to your sis. My beloved sister has read the whole thing to date and has already passed it along to some friends with Aspie friends or relations. It is good for me to know if it is helpful, funny but loving, clear.

    Speaking of which, it sounds like a lot of us are writing, and I am guessing this blog IS our ideal readership. If anyone needs a set of eyes, I am always willing to be a reader. I did my first writing workshop at Colgate in 2007, and I found it very helpful to have caring thoughtful readers give me suggestions. I equally loved reading other people’s work and telling them what I loved.

    My in-laws arrive today, so I have to go finish cleaning. Ciao!

  525. Maureen, yes indeed it is strange to find out that a perfect “stranger” (there’s that ridiculous word again) and I have lives that are sooo similar. Weird. And dammit, that we were pretty close geographically when I lived in New England.

    I, too, would love to be a fresh pair of eyes for anyone who’s writing. I am a grammar queen in a good sense, so if you ever have a question about that, I am you girl! Also, I would VERY MUCH WELCOME any suggestions on the little essays I’ve written. You can get to them by clicking on lightningbug in the handle. Some of the entries are just silly–like my haikus, but I hope people enjoy them.

    Hungry. In search of food now. Maybe cookies?

  526. 6-8 black men!!!! I just read that the other day! Well actually listened to…I have a long commute and I have been listening to David Sedaris’s books…hysterical.
    Another great memoirish book is ” A day in the life of” I’m not sure of the author but it is a book based on different women who all diaried their day on the same day of the year. It is wonderful.

  527. Maureen~
    Last night I watched a short clip on youtube of Augusten interviewing his brother John Elder. It was so interesting as I have never met anyone with AS. You should check it out!

  528. Wow, am I stupid. There you are on your own Blogger page. OK: bifocals, orthotics, students have to text for me because I can’t operate my phone, didn’t link to lightning bug link. Official middle-age has arrived.

  529. Wait. I’m confrused. The link didn’t work?

  530. No it did. I can’t even type anymore in my decrepitude. Meant to type “didn’t THINK to link”. I have linked and I will read. They look like fun.
    Hey, Grammar Girl, do you teach diagramming? I love sentence diagramming!!!
    Amy – I think I saw that video – Was it sponsored by a publisher? In front of a group at a book store?

  531. I’ve been very busy preparing for our big family party tomorrow night so I’ve been neglecting posting here (nopt to mention all the other things I’ve been neglecting as well,) but I want to wish all of you wonderful folks Happy Holidays! Peace and Love to all!

  532. Hey Polly! Long time, no post! Glad to see you, even if it was only for a moment. 🙂 Happy Holidays to you too!

    Maureen, I LOVELOVELOVE diagramming. Love it. LOVE. IT. My students are less jazzed, but then I make up sentences about them, and they’re a little more on board. lol. They still think it’s too much work.

    Ooph. Found an old essay from my Advanced Expo class. It was an assigned topic “Why I Write.” As I read over it, I kept thinking, God, I was young. I don’t have any of the angst Haven mentioned in this post. I’m just a woman in love with the language. lol. Crazy.

  533. Maureen-
    No it was AB carrying his own video camera and suprising John in his John Deere tractor. It’s quite funny!!!

  534. Vanessa: “i was told there’d be cake” is absolutely hilarious. i am sorry to hear about the loss of your dad and i am sure the holidays are not easy. i would definitely recommend reading this book. it is a fun, quick read and they are all short stories…so you can read one here and there when you need some comic relief. cheers!

  535. Thanks, Steph. He died rather suddenly in July so this is our “first” Thanksgiving and “first” Christmas, etc. Really it’s been helpful to hear how others are dealing with their losses. Our “perfect strangers” group is really a found family of choice.

    L bug–you’ll have to tell me where you live and work in Georgia…my email is on the Yahoo page if you don’t want to tell-all on the blog. 🙂

    I first found David Sedaris, (Go see the Santaland Diaries if it’s at a theater near you-absolute riot) then Augusten, then Haven. Linda, if you haven’t read “Dry” it’s a must. I also have it on cd and will send it to you if you want to borrow it.

    I guess I’m not really staying away from the blog to get ready for the holiday…

  536. Amy in Ohio & Maureen – Do you watch Gray’s Anatomy? they introduced a new character with Aspbergers. Mary McDonnel, who I love, is playing her, but my hubby and I think she’s a little too much. Just wondered if you had seen this new character. I am excited to see someone on tv though.

  537. Everyone? Listen to Haven talk about Iodine here:

    Frank Stasio, the host, is an excellent reader of Haven’s work and his interviews with her are fantastic.

  538. I love sentence diagramming – it is such a visual way to do words . . . I want to make some and then use in the background of encaustics . . .

    In the movie PS I LOVE YOU I think the Harry Connick character has Aspergers as it is refered to – I have “a medical condition to be rude” – interesting.

    I think a little girl at our busstop has it.

    To me one of the tale-tale signs is a lack of ‘sense of personal space’ which drives my touchphobia WILD . . .

    am waiting for the house appraiser (we are doing a refinance on christmas week) – which means I had to get out of bed. I think I will go to goodwill. Then maybe an antique or thrift store . . . no new retail!

    I want to go back to bed, I only had a nap.

  539. In the program Haven says that the lyrics to Iodine by Cohen are extremely important to the book, so I am posting them here for anyone who wants them. I might post them on the Iodine thread as well, but I didn’t want such a key sentence to go unnoticed.

    I needed you, I knew I was in danger
    of losing what I used to think was mine
    You let me love you till I was a failure,
    You let me love you till I was a failure —
    Your beauty on my bruise like iodine
    I asked you if a man could be forgiven
    And though I failed at love, was this a crime?
    You said, Don’t worry, don’t worry, darling
    You said, Don’t worry, don’t you worry, darling
    There are many ways a man can serve his time

    You covered up that place I could not master
    It wasn’t dark enough to shut my eyes
    So I was with you, O sweet compassion
    Yes I was with you, O sweet compassion
    Compassion with the sting of iodine

    Your saintly kisses reeked of iodine
    Your fragrance with a fume of iodine
    And pity in the room like iodine

    Your sister fingers burned like iodine
    And all my wanton lust was iodine
    My masquerade of trust was iodine
    And everywhere the flare of iodine

  540. Ghetto~ ( Can I shorten it to that?!)
    I do watch GA and that character is a bit much I agree. But she is very convincing. I love that show, I’m not proud of that, but I love it just the same:)

  541. A favorite poem of mine for the weather we are all experiencing

    by Emily Brontë

    The night is darkening round me,
    The wild winds coldly blow;
    But a tyrant spell has bound me
    And I cannot, cannot go.

    The giant trees are bending
    Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
    And the storm is fast descending,
    And yet I cannot go.

    Clouds beyond clouds above me,
    Wastes beyond wastes below;
    But nothing dear can move me;
    I will not, cannot go.

  542. Hi Polly! I was wondering how you were doing. Happy happy holidays to you.

    G from G – I was hoping you’d join in on the Asperger discussion. I have not seen the Gray’s Anatomy Aspie; Harry Connick did a somewhat decent portrayal, and apparently there was an Aspie lawyer on Boston Legal. I’m glad it’s getting into the mainstream as a recognized condition. I just keep saying to myself “Bill Gates. Steve Martin.”

    Diagramming Lovers. This is my favorite diagramming site.

    I start my students out very slow: The old dog chased the red cat under the tree. and work my way up to some of these master challenges. I find the trick is to GIVE the kids the blank diagram and then let them fill in the words. It gets the same stuff across – identifying parts of sentence etc., but they don’t have to struggle with figuring out how to make the lines.

    Amanda of Clouds – Thanks for the interview link and the lyrics! I did not know that the title came from this song. I just listened to it on youtube. Iodine is on my re-re-read pile.

    Off to get a haircut. I am going to attempt some kind of Meg Ryan do – which of the 500? you might well ask. This one:
    My hairdresser always says, “Now you realize, I can’t actually make you LOOK like Meg Ryan.”
    A dose of reality is always available here in Chenango County.

  543. Oop. Sorry ’bout the nipple. I’m not getting that.
    Yo, Meg, bra?

  544. Hi Vanessa- Dry was actually the book that brought me into Haven’s world. I read it first and then Magical Thinking and I noticed Augusten’s link to Haven and the rest is history. I have read all of Haven’s books, not all of Augustens (yet)so I think Augusten was put in my path to help in my recovery and lead me here. Oh, and speaking of Dry….today is my 8 month anniversary of being sober. One day at a time.

    I have been enjoying chatting with Brent Bill on Facebook about his book Holy Silence. I am learning so much thanks to Haven and her friends. 🙂

    Haven- I am continuing to send prayers to you and Mother Delonda. I know we all are here in this lovely place.

  545. Congratulations Linda! 🙂

  546. Kittery- I can’t believe you live in Maine and are allergic to lobster!!!

    Did I share with you my childhood memories of going to Yokens restaurant (“Thar she blows”…largest gift shop on the east coast) every single summer growing up. My dad saved the menu placemats. He has them going back to the early 1960s. I must admit, though, that I was not sad when it closed. I never once in all those years had a key to the treasure chest at the back of the gift shop to open it. I don’t think one existed. I think it was all a scam. ha ha ha. Oh my, memories.

  547. Lightning Bug–we agree completely: people can be Tools/Lures that God uses. And I knew you didn’t mean the man has MS so he could bring the message to George. My thought was about whether the man was at that place at that moment to bring a message to dear George or whether he simply was there and George saw God’s message through him. It’s a fine distinction, I’ll grant you, but it fascinates me.

  548. Hah, not just lobster. ALL shellfish. And I don’t like fish chowder either.
    Maybe this is why I shovel snow in my pajamas and sneakers? Overcompensation?

    I just Googled that restaurant .. I don’t remember hearing about it.. I live under a rock. :: sigh ::
    Did you try picking the lock with a bobby pin or anything?

  549. Amy – Ghetto is cool,lol! The new doc does do a good job, but since 1/2 my family has it, I guess I’m more judgmental of it. I used to love the show, but I feel like its going down the tubes. I am so sick of Denny coming back, yet I am thrilled for Christina to have such an intense new doctor boyfriend in her life. By the way, when I was home sick last week I watched “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Mr. Dreamy. He’s just so darn cute on this show ….

    Maureen – Yes, I have been sick lately, and I try to post on my own blog daily, so I put a lot of time into my own page. You should check her out, perhaps via youtube? I haven’t seen “P.S. I Love You”, but it sounds like I need to. Funny thing, I have read Augusten’s books for years, then last spring my co-worker comes in and has “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robinson, his brother. She tells me she has checked it out because she wanted to know about A’s since she loves Boston Legal. I then tell her about my son who has it (Not the hubby, he keeps that on the down low, as he is a master faker w/people) and then I read it, love it, find it fantastic. I then decide to read Haven’s books who I have sadly missed all these years, even though I knew she was great by looking at her book every time I was in a bookstore. Then I find her website via Augusten’s and the rest is history.

    I do have to say, the weather here in Michigan sucks, and ot just took me three times as long to drive home tonight because of the three snow storms we have had since Friday. Yikes! It’s cutting into my blog time.

    Linda – Congrats on the 8th month mark. I dated two alcoholics in my lifetime, so I understand a bit about this disease. Wow, I am super proud of you! Keep it up, and yes, “Dry” is a fantastic book!!!

  550. Linda – You are really strong and wonderful. Eight months sober – you go, girl! I so admire you.

    George – I picked up The Sparrow at the library today. I’m going to give it another go, so maybe we can chat about it if I decide the book is a friendship worth pursuing. The cover is kind of Christmasy, so at least it looks really good on my coffee table.

    I am adjusting to transition lens bifocals – I’m not sold yet. My eyes actually feel swollen from my eye muscles working.

  551. Just wanted to say (“contribute” is too strong a word with this bunch) a couple things here:

    –Congrats to Linda…yay for you; what an accomplishment! I have some experience with alcoholism (my dad) and you have something to be proud of.

    –Count me as a David Sedaris fan as well; if you want to read “SantaLand Diaries” as well “Six to Eight Black Men,” and some other highly hilarious stories (my fave: “Dinah the Christmas Whore”), then look for his little book “Holidays on Ice.” They have the new hardcover edition at Target, part of their “Book Lover’s Collection” and 30% off! I gave it to my boss for Xmas, to great acclaim.

    –I am holding healing thoughts for Delonda, and Haven, too, wishing there was more to be done from here.

  552. “Maureen. I just read your essay about Asperger…”

    MAUREEN can you email it to me at i need it!!!

    POLLY is an angel and a gifted angel. she sent me photos of me and my son -(as a single mom, who takes the pictures? well, pablo and i held the camera out a few months ago and took some ourselves…)and Polly heard i wasnt having a tree this year because of the moving fiasco and the hosue that wont sell, Polly SENT ME A beautiful garland necklaces with tinsel-framed photos from my facebook and it is now draped very festively in my window over the half-roice whit christmas tree lighted up things and it sounds weird but it is JUST GORGEOUS. and i was so blown away by her generosity of spirit and craftiness so.

    HAVEN we are all missing you wicked bad and we are all loving you.

    GEORGE i love that story. thank you for reminding me abot offeringh service to others. i;ve been in a kind of ballroom panic since august 1 when i was laid off my job, but i have been so blessed with miraculous freelance jobs basiclly popping out of “nowhere” but we all know it isnt nowhere. it;s what auggie and haven and i call THE BABY JESUS.

    i love all of you and have missed you these past two days — my son has been at my parents’ house and my freelance partner ( i’m teh writer, he;s teh art director, together we are an advertising creative team) actually spent the night so we could jam on this project for Ford. and he just left and i felt sort of lonely and disoriented and then i remembered um, i hadnt taken wht i call myLunatic Medicine (effexor) today. so i just took it and it;s calming me back down. fuck.

    i mean, you think you’re just all fine and dandy but then you realize the meds are straightening our brain oh so subtly, and are giving you an equilibrium that kind of goes haywire when you forget to take them. and i can so easily see how these things balloon and snowball. i mean, i am giving out so many thanks right now and i dont really try to explain the blog to people because yea, i dont want them to spoil it for me. i have however offered it up to a few choice readers and writers to join!

    on DRY: yes it;s a great book. i love it. ive been dry for a year and 4 months now, although i;ve had about ten drinks altogether in all that time, my hand to god. so i guess im not really and truly dry? but i am, you know? i’m sober 99.9% of all the time. and the ten drinks i’ve had have been spaced out over ten occasions. one drink = max. ie…. like my partner ken was here, like i said, and he bought a bottle of wine and drank half of it and i had no desire to have any. none. today he drank the other half: he is a moderate drinker, in other words. moderation = good. but i cant DO moderate frequent drinking, and i dont want to. i feel very lucky to have somehow broken the habit of drinking. but never really felt the pull to go back to thenightly wine drinking, and i am a fortunate soul in that i dont have the chemical lure to booze that says Oh , you had one drink? BETTER HAVE A FEW MORE. better drink tomorrow TOO BECAUSE NOW YOUVE BLOWN IT. i mean, i dont even converse with myself about it. but inotice i’m confessing here that honestly i;ve had 10 drinks in those 16 months. funny!

    oh i miss haven but it;s kindo f sweet that i feel im getting to know the rest of you better. i love you all, as i said already.

    Im getting THE SPARROW from teh library.

    i also LOVE carrie fisher

    LIGHTENING BUG thank you for tryng to find me in a bookstore but it’s or nothing, mostly. my books are in the stores for a couple months and then they restock with new books…uness youre haven or augusten, who have a much bigger readership, and frankly deserve it! BUT Split comes out in paperback in april and i’m hoping you’ll find it in the stores then? it;s definitely a paperback economy, we know THAT for sure.

    tomorrow my son gets delivered home by my parents and my brotehr, so we’ll all have a quick non-alcoholic eggnogg and exchange gifts and then my parents will rush back home because they dont like to night-drive, and i dont blame them! we are all — everyone in my family — homebodies. my son is also a homebody.

    HAVEN i sent you a little gift today which you’ll getin a few days. god i miss you.

    POLLY i will see you soon. and yes of course i wll post a link when Polly The PowerSeller on Ebay starts to sell my books on ebay! we’re spending 3 whole days just selling on ebay and being girlfriends. how cool!! it just fell together. again — THE BABY JESUS. i have a goodly collectionof first editions, but i need to shore up the cash bank and not hang onto more books. i feel joyous about it now, too, because Polly is coming. it;s amazing how much easier everything is with two people versus one person.ths is also why i like working with my ad partner Ken because he;s gay and funny and like my brother. so together, we have the right combo to make it through the labyrinth of advertising without going nuts or doing anything wrong. it pays well and as a single mom i say yes to that. of course i would not advertise cigs or liquor but Ford? why not? ive also written for KASHI (i LOVE their cereals and cookies!!!) and for Levi’s and so on. living in pricey california , with no child support, as a writer i do have to diversify! i just wrote a website the te Womens Foundation of California, a wonderful foundation. so.

    okay, now everybody else talk,



    rambling on, i notice!

  553. oh!

    i’m readinf INSOMNIA by the master – stephen kig — and i am waaaay into it. i LOVE that he has so many books to discover.

    as for frey writing a how to writing book? PLEASE.


  554. I just wanted to pop on and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I’ve been out of the loop. God bless you all, love you all.

    Prayers for Mother Delonda, for dear Haven, and the whole family.

  555. Suzanne,

    Thanks for all that– truly.

    I am a homebody myself, with no way to know if the way of life I’ve been given, which I’ve BUILT, will last much longer. I may soon have to find out the hard way, and not by my own choosing, if I’m good at anything other than “reading” (which I’ve read doesn’t pay much…).

    I have young ‘uns looking to me in fearful hope for stability, which changes things considerably from earlier years.

    I just watched Mamma Mia with my crew as a fluffy distraction. It mostly worked, except for the part where I quietly came apart at Meryl Streep’s rendition of The Winner Takes It All.

    My heart goes out to you, even as my heart takes courage from your fight.

    Peace to you….

    – Sarah

  556. Suzanne – hooray for you and your rambling. It was very welcome at my 4:30 a.m. (I didn’t go to bed tonight) hours . . .stay up at this point – yep!

    Insomnia – – King gets it, I love that book . . .

    Do blog babies get a pre-preview of the for sale items . . . I found that having ‘buy it now’ prices helped move things . . . it is also how I prefer to sell . . . but your stuff is probably worth more than that, so auctions might be best.

    I am a moderate drinker. I like to talk about drinking a lot . . . but then I don’t do much, 1 or 2 glasses of wine and I am done . . . sometimes going for weeks without any, or even months when I am working a lot at night . . . I find that it does not help creativity.

    It took us 10 months to sell the last house . . . it is pure and utter torture. Our magic was taking it off the market for a few weeks and then we relisted it on our own with a $500 MLS broker (but I was a paralegal in a former life) . . . anyway, agents showed it and it was on the calling list . . . and it sold in 3 weeks . . . it had been on for months, but people freaked when we took it off the market, then we had multiple offers when it got back on . . . still much less than the 2006 prices could have been, but we think we got a good deal on this one, so it all works out in the wash?

    I have been very remiss in not sharing one treasured book . . .

    Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I can’t say enough how this book has comforted me in my craziness of family, school, and balancing my art.

    Here are a few quotes, dedicated to Maureen, as it seems she is seeking this space:

    women need SOLITUDE . . . a room of one’s own . . . time alone . . . how to feed the soul . . . for myself . . . pattern of living . . . balance of life . . . a pencil in my hand . . . more than my individual story . . . along the same lines . . . What is the shape of my life? . . . my background and childhood . . . my heart and its desires . . . my obligations as a woman, as an artist . . . to be at peace with myself . . . a singleness of eye . . . a central core to my life . . . a state of spiritual grace . . . the writings of others before me . . . fragmentation destroys the soul . . . the patterns of our life is circular . . . womens normal occupations run counter to creative life . . . What is the answer? a road to grace . . . the final answer is always inside.

    One large portion of the chapter on marriage I had read at our wedding. I had discovered this group of essays before the engagement and it really helped me see that I could be part of a couple and still protect and nurture my own soul.

    I hope someone else might get some encouragement from it . . . if I could, I would purchase and mail copies of it to EVERYONE . . . I am currently working on an altered book of Gifts from the Sea, will try to post some studio pics of it . . . in progress.

    Merry Christmas Eve . . .

  557. Nobody is UP yet?????

    I am devastated . . . ok, during the wee, small hours of (well, my hubby just left for a 1/2 day of work and I am still UP from previous evening) . . .

    I listened to disc 3 and 4 of IODINE . . . I am freaking . . . I read that 3 times, but – HELLO – I want to discuss this NOW . . .

    It is like having HAVEN (who I am missing desperately) in your ear, pointing and highlighting words . . .

    it was difficult to listen as I was also working on altered books (which requires reading and attention) so I listened to the discs AGAIN . . .

    the sun is rising . . . gotta take that in, I usually only see that in reverse . . .

  558. OH. MY. GOSH.

    I have never met a bunch of women (and Yin-Yang men) that I love as I love this bunch of blogbabies. I had good friends in college who were very literary, but my college was VERY VERY secular. Although a bunch of us took Religion classes, it seemed more anthropological in intent. I hid my spiritual seeker side carefully.

    YOU GUYS/GIRLS, on the other hand, read SPIRITUALLY because you want to be spiritually aligned. You read, like I do, to Get Your Soul On Straight, in whatever form that takes. I feel there IS a sense of alignment that transcends denomination or “religion” at all. It’s like our behavior(s) slide around on top of the half-done puzzle and then suddenly drop into place, into a pattern that we know somehow is THE pattern which directs the course of galaxies and the best workings of the human heart.

    SHER! SOUL SISTER! – I have read Gift from the Sea so many times I practically have it memorized. I just copied your At-a-Glance synopsis to add to the many “fragments I have shored against my ruin” that are above my desk. Yes. Yes. Yes. That book rocked and continues to rock my world. That is SO what I seek and why I just also bought Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton to reread.

    As I wrote in my A Room of Her Own grant application, I have the physical room. I have the pitcher of water ready to pour out in a huge gush. I do NOT have the TIME because I do not have the money to take the place of my salary.

    Suze – I am mailing two chapters/essays to you. Do you have an Aspergian of your own?
    Molly – I am also e-mailing same to your Yahoo address.

    Gotta finish cleaning up. The in-laws are using our room tonight. I love them. They are awesome. They have brought the traditional Swedish food we eat in honor of Andy’s Swedish forebears. I will be aquavit-sodden by night’s end.

    Oh, how I wish I could just sit here, looking at my encaustic and chatting with my scattered-across-the-country spirit friends, who also, luckily, are flesh and blood and not literary characters.

    PS I have shorter hair now but look nothing like Meg Ryan.

  559. SHER – Dang it! We posted simultaneously! and I really can’t chat or my Aspie will start whirling.
    I missed the Iodine discussion completely – it was before my entry to the blog. So I will happily discuss any and all. I thought I had it kind of figured out, but everyone else had moved on to other topics.
    How are you??

    Is that what an “altered book” is?

  561. OK, this is like tearing off my limb, but I gotta go clean.

  562. Good morning all. Been away to Michigan over the weekend visiting the in-laws. Truly the most wonderful people ever given to me. Have to work today and then back to MI for Christmas. Daughter has been spending the last two days with Nana and Papa, getting to know them a little better on her own, plus all the cousins are there.

    I miss all of you (couldn’t piggyback onto a decent signal on my laptop while away) and just wanted to say that all of you have been the best present for me this past year. I’ll be back on sometime this weekend (hopefully) and wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanuka!

    Save some sugar cookies for me!


  563. Hum, well I am skipping the encaustic (wax) on the altered books until the LAST layer because it is sticky and the pages get heated up from one side to the next, so I am mainly collaging/journaling/coloring/sketching my way through the book . . . I work on several at a time, but it would be kind of like Mother Delonda’s painting, but on every page, then they all unify with a theme or literal thread . . .

    I am teaching a 6 word memoir writing course which we will then ink/stamp/whatever into altered books (which I am simultaneously teaching . . . so I am just trying to get the rust off on my technique . . .

    I need to do a new blog post on my blog, but I keep coming here to chat and get refortified, you all are my vitamins . . .

    I miss Haven, I had a crying jag at exactly 4:18 a.m. which made me very nervous . . . but I was also listening to Iodine which is 10x more painful to me in audio than it ever was in the written word. I came close to throwing up a few times . . .

    I should have known you, Maureen, would have read Gift from the Sea, but the words just seemed so apropos to you at the time.

    I think I will assign random diagnosis to all my family members – so I can think, “don’t let that hurt your feelings, so-and-so has inappropriate diarrhea of the mouth” or “that is just his lock-brained, pruned heart speaking” . . . maybe I will have more patience. But, wait – – I am not seeing any unwanted family members until 2009!!!!

    Ha! The ultimate dis. Or the ultimate ‘doing an ostrich’ – but at least I can be sleepless from creativity and not a re-broken heart.

  564. Sockmonkey – – –

    just big heart cartoons headed your way!

  565. Riley is going to really be aware this Christmas – what did you guys get her???

  566. Sock Monkey – he has left the building???

    Sad, sad, it is like losing the mate to your favorite pair of slippers.


  567. Dudes – I just checked my email and do you know I bought and/or purchased 17 items on ebay in the last 2 hours?

    This is OK because they are all for art projects (4 copies of Gift from the Sea, vintage children poetry books, Rilke, Donne, Oliver and GOD ONLY KNOWS what else). However, I went to Books a Million today and I could not have bought 1 NEW book for the price of all of those, plus a tad on postage . . . so, see, I SAVED money.

    Right, Suzanne, you will back me up???

  568. NOTE I went to books a million YESTERDAY . . . the day BEFORE today

  569. Hi Sher –
    I have not torn off the limb quite yet. Love ya! I also had a crying jag the other day – right before I called my sis.

  570. I fear to tally my amazon purchases for 2008. Not as much as my husband’s Cabela’s or Fish Are Us total.

  571. ok – the great thing is that the decor for your sanctuary is TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!!!

    Seriously, I am QUEEN of tax decuctions.

  572. Business expense to inspire my writing?

  573. This blog – 2008 –

    I have rarely been so moved to emotions . . .

    Pure JOY
    Absolute livid RAGE
    Searing SADNESS
    Hysterical COMEDIC squeals . . .

    I’m living a little brighter, and, hopefully, a tad more balanced.

    SUZANNE, just when you are feeling great and on TOP of the game, is when it is easy to slip and skip a pill . . . in fact, I am SKYING, but must go take my Celexa . . .

  574. Maureen – YES, anything, renting DVD’s, books, art, whatever makes you feel directly INFORMS your writing!!!!

    TAKE notes, line it up with receipts and you are SET . . . I have never been challenged in 12 years of tax deductions . . . my books are all marked up and I have notes on gumwrappers, stuck in my calendar from a note I took in a movie . . . which I then wrote a poem about . . . which I then made a painting about . . .

  575. Now I have to go great my sister, her hubby and kids and fix them breakfast, then they are driving to my Mom’s for Xmas . . . I don’t have to go, I am doing my happy pants dance . . .

  576. Calvin Festival – – tax deductible!

    new laptop for blogging/researching . . . tax deductible!!

    need to scramble . . .

  577. wait . . .

    it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical, but spiritual isolation. When one is a stranger to oneself, one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others . . .

    Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea.

  578. Hmmm … I’ll keep that in mind on the receipts.

    I am about to go from the bottom of my cycle to the top – it happens for me inside of about a week. All three times I got pregnant was on the sixth day after the hostages had been released. You know, the old “I can’t POSSIBLY get pregnant right now.” It’s rather a giddy ride hormonally. I mistrust the high a bit, though I try to ride the wave and crank out whatever seems to be coming out at the time.

  579. Is there some way to make my computer ding when someone comments? Like in AIM?

  580. Sher-we just had a work party at our house and to spice it up we had everyone do a six word memoir. It was very telling and entertaining as well. Some favorites:

    I thought I had more time.

    I wish you would do mine.

    Don’t panic. Every book eventually ends.

    There is so much more to learn.

    Car for sale. Willing to negotiate.

    Off to bake. Really. Not going to keep checking blog. Must stay away…:)

  581. Vanessa – that is a great parlour game!!!!

    You will find yourself. Writing. 6-word-memoirs.

    Not sure that counts at all.

    will try to do better hereafter.

    it is highly addictive this way.

    someboday make her stop it now!

    where did all the blogbabies go?

  582. I am watching footloose, footloose, kick off your Sunday shoes . . .

  583. Hi Sher – Off to pick up a chinchilla. Enjoy the movie! I watched it last Friday with my students and they all laughed at Sarah Jessica Parker pre-Sex and the City.
    Talk to you later! Did you post any studio pix?

  584. Maureen – we keep missing each other . . . no, I am prostrate right now, have taken some pics, but haven’t posted them yet, because –

    I don’t know where the cable is for the camera . . .

    maybe I accidentally wrapped it up in the presents yesterday?

    perhaps I used it in my yard lighting extravaganze?

    probably it was being used as a cat toy and is now tangled in the broken-light christmas tree?

    i cannot deal with this now

    I will try to find it FOR YOU!!!!

    Footloose is so primo – – it was the anthem/credo/troubadour movie of my high school days – we weren’t allowed to DANCE or listen to ROCK MUSIC either – I thought it was about my life . . . minus the tractor playing chicken scene . . . everything else – nail on the head!

  585. boys in cowboy boots and jeans?

    driving a pick up truck

    and if they were wearing Ralph Lauren Polo . . . and chewing Trident . . .

    oh, baby . . .

  586. Just home for lunch. I have a special something on my blog today for a giggle. If you have time, and I’m sure some of you have already seen it, but it’s something fun for the holidays.

  587. Hello All Angels. I can’t begin to answer all of these comments, although they ARE quite interesting. For five days I was keeping a vigil in my study, throwing down a fleece with God: either allow my mother to live a few more good years, or allow me to accept her death with grace. Protect my sister. Spare Delonda any more suffering.

    Then my friend Katherine just BURST into the barn where I was sitting shiva, as Jodi called it, and Katherine is to the world, the earthly, as I am to language. She is an absolute genius. And what she saw was a manic person grieving so deeply my skin was the wrong color. That’s not how she said it, she said she could tell by the color of my face, and here are two important things about Katherine: she is entirely free of artifice and she never lies. So I thought, “Well, screw that,” and I left the barn.

    There have been other reasons for my silence, not the least of which is that I despise Christmas with an irrational vehemence, so much I actually freeze and cease functioning. Yesterday I got up at 7:30, showered, got dressed, and was out shopping until 11:00 p.m. You can imagine how this contributed to my despair.

    An aside: pharmaceuticals for everyone. Believe me, if I had a large bottle of Xanax, one of any of the anti-depressants mentioned above, a bucket of pain-killers for all that ails me, I would be a BETTER PERSON, a more HIGHLY-EVOLVED PERSON.

    Sher, your art arrived and of course it is faintingly exquisite. I haven’t opened the big one because that’s for John for Xmas; the sorrow one is also a gift but I had to open it to make it sure it wasn’t the one for me. Unbelievably beautiful.

    Saint Mo: you could not have sent me a gift I needed more, that resonates with me more. If you would please send me your mailing address so i can thank you properly, that would be swell, as Scott says.

    And as for something Carrie sent me, as soon as I get it back from her (it needed to be resized) I’ll take photographs and put them in the PHOTO GALLERY. That’s all I can say for now.

    And Amy in Ohio, GOD HAVE MERCY if you knew the happiness your gift brought me. I’m like a chimp with a bag of peanuts. An entire little zipped case filled with different flavored winter lip balms??!?!?! I carry a different one every day so none feel left out. I need your address as well. I think I have most of them in a notebook in the barn but it’s just too far away. I need a pneumatic tube to get from the house to there.

    And Jodi, I can’t say anything about your gift, because it shall of course feature prominently in the Xmas blog post. It may BE the Xmas blog post.

    Oh, and Sarah, I’m reading the book you recommended. Fascinating.

    I have packages for a number of you — you’ll get them after Christmas because the before part makes me collapse like Camille. I don’t believe I’ve ever gotten a gift mailed on time in my damn life. And I’ve had Beth’s gift for months.

    As for Delonda, today is her birthday. I called to wish her a happy one and she sounded very cheerful and like herself. I said, “I’ll skip singing the song so I don’t keep you on the phone too long.” She replied, in her droll voice, “Do you know a Happy Birthday song I don’t? One with additional verses, perhaps?” So I sang and then asked what she was doing at that moment and she said she was in physical therapy. If that isn’t a sign that she’s improving there couldn’t be one. THE WOMAN TAKES HER CELL PHONE TO PHYSICAL THERAPY.

    As to my lunatic vigil, which I thank Katherine for ending, as well as for everything else she does, it was Pascal’s wager. If it failed, no harm done. If it worked, damn good idea. And also, Katherine? We may have been broken when we met in Girl Land fourteen years ago, but that place still belongs to us. We’re better now, you are angelic and earthy (the best combination) and I love you so much I get a little pang in my butt when I think of you.

    Happy Holidays, all.

  588. I forgot to add that the funeral director who handled Orri’s memorial service wrote and said he can’t reach Orri’s widow at any number or address, and has been trying for days, and could he please send Orri’s effects and the photographs to me? That helped. That made the day just a little bit more like a noose.

  589. “That made the day just a little bit more like a noose.”


    YAY FOR HAVEN JOKING ON THE VERY FUCKING EVE OF HER WORST FEARS. that is the sign of a thoroughbred. haven is just so high quality. oh we just worship our haven. that rooster icon looked like a mother mary to me, just now it LIT UP THE ROOM.

    okay this is all very good, in its own flawed way. haven sitting shiva, her friend bursting in and saying YOU ARE BLUE FACED. we all need friends who burst in and call at uncanny moments in time.

    i just wonder how i lived with any mental security before this blog. huh. i guess i just crutched along….

    jim shue i just opened your card and i love it! riley is such a beautiful child. i see you’ve been breaking your asses spoiling her. excellent. the little red bow in her hair says it ALL.

    SHER i love that you do so much and have such vivacity. i admire you. and no, i dont think youre an alcoholic. ha! although i KNEW you’d explain yourself immediately about the wine. LORDY girrrrrrrrl i am not one of those ex alchy’s who see alcoholics everywhere and feel it my moral duty to point it out. that’s just so bustass.

    HAVEN i’m going out to the mailbox where your gift is inside with the red mailbox flag UP and im going to sneak in another lil gift. you inspired me. i am wearing something on my wrist that i just realized belongs to you. so. and yes it is a FINE TRADITION to mail all gifts very late, the later the better. my other best friend Dee (i know. i know.) and i usually wait until at least february to get our gifts exchanged. then it’s so much more thrilling. it is. because everybody gets gifts on christms, but who gets gifts on february 3rd? you see the logic, right? i know i do.
    i am just now addressing my christmas cards, for example. i have a box of 10. that’s my limit. otherwise, i feel as though i am doing Direct Mail advertising.

    my whole family is coming to me, at about 2 pm, so that’s perfect. i am alone and very happy to be so. my friend Jon, who does all the stuff on my facebook? the artist/handyman/saint/vet/platonic BF Jon? he just called to casually announce that he’s coming by on chistmas morning, as he has every year since we’ve met. but Jon was a seargent in the army and so he does things his way. a one-day pre-announcement is a Friendly Show of Force. you never ask a seargant to come to a social event, howvere if you ask a seargant to put on a fire in your kitchen. he will drop everything and rush over and do it so that no one gets hurt and then he will fix the stove and paint the kitchen. that’s Jon. he;s a new englander as well, so he is WICKED ABLE.


  590. coming down from the cloud of hearing that Haven and Delonda are AS GOOD AS CAN BE EXPECTED, OR BETTER . .

    but Maureen, you know John M. and I have this shoe thing (not really a fetish mind you, it is a recognition?)?

    So, when you said ‘putting our souls on straight’ – – all I could picture was a sock-shaped SOUL and someone wiggling the heel portion to fit perfectly over the ankle . . . I am afeared that the wordplay is going a bit far: sole/soul, heal/heel . . .

    I actually napped for 10 minutes until THE DOORBELL RANG . . . Holy Burning Bush of Moses, THIS IS WHY I CAN’T WORK DURING THE DAY – TOO MANY INTERRUPTIONS!

  591. Oh God I just read this…

    Prayers for Delonda, prayers for you dear one…my heart has been with you and your family all day. Every minute of my bustling and time spent with my family you, my other family, were in the background of my heart.

  592. Just adored Zippy and can’t wait to get hold of the “sequel” if you can call an autobio that… 🙂 Thanks for some excellente reading material and for sharing your heart.

  593. […] was reading through augusten burrough’s blogs, i came across a link for another writer’s blog, haven kimmel. he had written an entry on why he was writer and i found myself connecting with all the reasons he […]

  594. This seems like as good a place as any for an Owen Meany discussion, especially since the little guy is so obviously a saint. Shall we chat here?

  595. I just went to the library and they told me that Owen Meany, Otherwise Engaged, and Guernsey Literary Society are all overdue. I am right in the middle of each of them so I am holding tight.

    I was really distressed during the first chapter of Owen by the farce-factor. Such serious and sad situations combined with what felt like slap-stick. I almost couldn’t bear the lovely Tabitha, most gentle of mothers, killed by a line-drive from little midget man.

    But I plunged on.

    Now that I can see what Irving is doing, I totally get the slapstick and its necessity. Considering what he is attempting in this book, the farcical situations are an absolutely necessary counterweight that prevents the book from getting either heavy as a ten-ton brick or as sappy as the worst Christian romance you can imagine (oxymorons for oxymorons? Thanks, Hazel Hunnicutt).

    That’s all I’m going to say for now.
    Polly, Sher, Suzanne, are you up for a chat?

    This is my lunch break and then I have to go and run around until about 3.

  596. HI Maureen, Yes, I’m ready, and even took it out of the library again to refresh my memory. I really enjoyed the slapstick/serious combo, and think I might experienced it as preachy otherwise. Exactly how far are you in the book so that I don’t give spoilers?

  597. Polly –
    I am in the middle of The Dream, but I confess to peeking at the last few pages.
    I agree it would have come across as VERY preachy if not for the comedy. Irving hides all the allusions so sneakily that it took me a while to even catch onto them.
    Then I started catching them and thinking “Oh, my! That’s so-and-so or whatever” but then he mixes them in so well with bizarre things and hysterically funny things that it does not come across as heavy handed.
    I see him as a combination of Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Dickens and …. Matthew/Mark/Luke/John?

  598. I have very little formal religious training so I am sure I missed a lot. We weren’t allowed to even enter churches when I was a kid because my mother was so against any kind of organized religion. I’ve learned somewhat about it as an adult and have had several good friends who were religious in one way or another, but I am not Bible-versed, so to speak, so I’m sure I missed a lot of those kinds of references. Sometimes in meany I suspected Irving was referring to one thing or another but I was sometimes unable to discern exactly what it was, while being aware that someone better educated about religion would probably get more out of it than I was. I’d love to hear more about any specific references you picked up on. Then I could look them up and appreciate them more, and also understand Irving’s writing style more. However, just even as a story read for pleasure, I truly enjoyed the book. It was one hell of a story.

    Relatedly, The World According to Garp has always been one of my fave films (just watched it again for about the tenth time) but I’ve never read the book. That’s definitely on my list.

  599. Hi Polly – One of the benefits of being raised Catholic is I know the Bible inside and out. The Catholic church has a three-year lectionary calendar that takes you through the books of the Bible (the highlights) over that period of time. So I will gladly go through and let you know what I noticed – not to be preachy, but I can do a Bible-as-Literature analysis and also let you in on any thematic messages I see.

    Considering Irving’s epigraphs, especially “Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig” (also quoted in Used World), I think Irving was making incredibly strong religious statements right straight through.
    Of course the beauty is (and the reason it’s LITERATURE as opposed to pap) that it is also a great read and can be enjoyed purely on that level.

    I last saw Garp ages ago and have been thinking I need to watch it again. I’d be up for reading it, now that I am becoming an avowed Irving fan. Let me finish what I’m in the midst of now and you can let me know if you want to read it together.

    I need to move calves this morning and then take my son to a rehearsal, so I’ll be in and out. I read Iodine last night and need to get back to Owen. I am one chapter to go on my third time through Iodine so I’ll be back with Owen and probably finish speedy-quick because I have vacation this week.

    Later, Polly love. See if you can get Suzanne to join us on this discussion.

    Hi Sher, if you drop by. We want YOU in here too. It sounds like you and I are at roughly the same spot in the book.

  600. I’d love a bible-as-lit analysis! Irving was making strong religious statements was what frustrated me – I knew I was missing some good stuff.

    My mother stopped going to her family’s Catholic church at age 12 – just announced one day she wouldn’t go anymore, and she never entered another Catholic church in her life as far as I know. She was also very rude to the non-denominational hospital pastor who offered my father last rites on his death bed. I believe it is because she couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of being abused at home and then posing as pious at church. She may even have been being abused at church too, who knows. Interestingly, I have always had many Catholic friends and enjoyed discussions about religion with them, even though it doesn’t fit for me. I’m also incredibly physically attracted to Jewish men, although that may just be a physical thing. (I began identifying as Quaker about 25 years ago and for 28 yrs have been with a Waspy Scottish man who I still find very attractive.)

    I spent a lot of time on a neighbor’s farm as a kid and whenever you mention your calves or other aspects of your farm life I am hit with memories of the scents of cow manure, the grain in the silos, and the horse stalls. Wonderful!

    I’ll give Suzanne a hollar and hopefully she’ll join in.

  601. Cool, Polly. I will return. I have to do a kid run.

  602. Hi again. Two rather generic thoughts then I’m off to a bath. First is Owen speaking in all caps. I am thinking it is a reference to the red-letter Bibles in which anything spoken by Christ is printed in red. My personal copy of the King James is printed this way. I think it is cool.

    Also, as an indication of the strange pitch and harsh dustiness of Owen’s quarry vocal chords, it reminds that the words of prophets are never pleasant to hear because they are often harsh. I think I got this from Irving’s introduction which I have in my copy (cheater! cheater! Maureen’s a cheater!)

  603. Polly? Waspy Scottish man? Me, too! My hubby is half Swedish, half Scottish of the boat-right-after-the-Mayflower variety. Bartlett. I think they went from being Puritans to being Congregationalists. They are related to Mary Warren of Salem fame. My man is an avowed pagan who once considered the Congregationalist ministry.

    You are always welcome to visit the farm. You’re not that awfully far away from me.

  604. Thanks for the invite, I love me a farm and I love smelly things like cows and hogs. Where do you live? I’m going to be in Ohio some time in March, visiting a friend who is ill, outside Cleveland. That’s interesting about Owen’s voice. I just thought maybe it was all in caps to grate on our nerves the way he voice did to everyone in the book. I also didn’t know about the voices of prophets, or if I heard it I thought it was an analogy rather than meaning their voices were literally unpleasant.

    A copy of OM with an intro by Irving? I’ll have to check my library copy for that. I’m kind of developing a little intelectual crush on Irving. There is definitley more Irving in my future. Or at least my future reading.

  605. My Ken’s folks came over from Scotland when he was wee. That is where I got my killer shortbread recipe. Their name was McGregor but they shortened it to Orr. It’s actually the same name and clan of Sheana easten, remember her? Her baby took the morning train.

  606. Did said baby work from nine ’til five and then, take another home again to find her waiting for him?

  607. Yes indeed, she did. And all the while she was wearing big eighties hair, oodles of makeup, and what are now comonly known as Mom Jeans. It’s not a pretty picture but it worked at the time. 🙂

  608. Hey, Jessica Simpson is bringing those Mom jeans back!
    Another hey – Suzanne posted a birthday post on her blog. I was just there and wished her a Happy Birthday.

  609. Gotta do another kid run, but I’ll be back.

  610. i AM planning to say some serious things about Owen Meany at some point. I’m just getting warmed up.

  611. I asked Suzanne to join us the other day. She said she’d try, but her laptop is being snarky and she is pressed for time as usual. I must go give her a B’day greeting, thanks for letting me know. I am way behind on Haven’s and Suzanne’s blogs as well as others I frequent. There just isn’t enough time for all the fun things I love to do.

  612. OK – Blob Babies – I am here for the Owen Meany discussion . . .

    my initial comments are:

    pg. 19 “in my grandmother’s lexicon”

    I just love that word lexicon, because it gives us a reference point in one word that points to a point-of-view, world-view from where something is coming . . . in this book there are so many overlapping lexicons, I love that Irving serve the reader so well in shifting without confusion between lexicons.

    pg 39
    “however small a measure of jeaolousy is mixed with misunderstanding, there is going to be trouble”

    I cannot tell you how TRUE this statement is regarding family members. bravo Irving!

    pg 83

    this is the page where I began to ‘see’ why haven is so enamoured of this book

    “I am a believer now; I believe in God, and I believe in the ‘special purpose’ of certain events or specific things” . . . also note how the Lord touches Jeremiah and ‘puts the words in his mouth’ – this is a direct reference to Owen Meany’s voice (in my opinion)

    pg 85 (we couldn’t talk about this) . . .’so we gave each other our best loved possessions” . . . that just blew a hole in my heart. It is so true and of course the armadillo hands . . . the hands of god . . . the hands of fate . . . instruments . . . instuments of death . . . the ball . . .
    utter symbology!

  613. Oh Sher, so glad you’re here! I have tons to say about Owen. You can check out what I already said above – with the voice thing – totally. Plus, I have the cheater edition with an Irving intro.

    I am dragging – up since 4:30. But I will add more thoughts tomorrow. I am off to read “The Finger” and beyond, I am off all week, so I’ll finish it as quick as possible.
    I am just blown away by Owen – he is a believable Christ figure in an authentic and hysterically funny way. So not Christian fiction in watercolor.

    At this point in my reading, I am not quite sure what to make of John in Toronto – perhaps that will gel for me as I finish. He seems so … static and uninvolved with the issues that upset him, like Reagan policy in the US and yet he is not involved in Canada either. I would think that being around Owen would have made him want to be VERY involved, but I haven’t gotten to the end yet. Don’t tell me if I am going to find out what happens to John in Toronto time.

  614. One more chapter of Owen to go. I am dreading his death so much. AND I know that everything is going to suddenly converge there and it’s going to be like a black hole emotionally as the freighted weight of that moment occurs and pulls everything along with it. Like watching the crucifixion itself. I’m going to have to stand there and just watch.

    I have one of those dreams, too, like Owen had. It recurs and expands. It points toward something in my future – not my death! But a situation in which I am called to do something.

    Has anyone else had that?

  615. I also dreaded the death of Owen, all the way through the book as it was so clear in the beginning that it was impending. Unfortunately, just because you know it’s coming doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, just like in real life, right?
    I’ve had recurring vivid dreams, especially years ago when I was just beginnning my therapy and was in the throes of ptsd. My dream journal helped me shed the cloud of them off every morning, and even years later it is such interesting reading. Fortunately they never told me I was soon to kick the bucket. 🙂

  616. Hi Polly. I am so grateful for counselors like you. My husband and I just had a first session with a counselor new to us. We are united in wanting to deal with the Asperger’s in our house in a constructive way and are seeking her objective help in teaching us some tools.
    My hat is off to you and all who help others in this way.

    I am about to read the last chapter of Owen – bracing myself for it.

    Just thought of this: Hester the Molester. I am thinking she is a funny, quirky, Irving-esque version of Mary Magdalene, forgiven and healed prostitute and devotee of Jesus. (That was Bible-as-Lit not condescension! I am sure you know who Mary Magdalene is)

    My recurring dream involves a huge house. When I first started having the dream, it was a warehouse, and my young family and I were living in a curtained-off corner of it. Over time it has become more and more renovated and has lots and lots of smallish bedrooms (like, 15). And there are foster kids in the rooms. Usually in the dream I am walking through the house, checking on progress, and I’ll find a place that has not been fixed up yet – leaky pipes, exposed wires, old/bad wallpaper.

    I know the archetypal meaning of a house in one’s dream is the soul (Teresa of Avila’s book about prayer is called The Interior Castle). And I do feel as if I have slowly evolved over time, with yucky places in need of repair still in me.

    You are a Garp fan, right? I watched it again the other day and found it mildly disturbing. Talk to me about it, would you? I feel I am unequal to its full appreciation.

  617. Hi Maureen, what a lovely post. I am kind of a frustrated counselor right now because I am working with addictions patients instead of the PTSD clients I have specialized in for many years, in my private practice. I gave the facility I’m employed by a two year commitment and only work two days a week so I’m thinking I might want to open a practice again when my commitment is up, and get back to the clients I love working with. The economy has taken such a dive in the past half year and our personal finances have too, so unfort, I might actually HAVE to work more. I started this job to contribute after not working for a few years due to health problems, but it’s really turning into a necessity. As Winnie would say, “Oh, bother!”

    I wish you well with your new counselor. A counselor changed my life while I was in college for business administration, and I switched to psychology and never looked back. I have found it completely rewarding from both angles.

    When I read about Hester the Molester I thought of Chester the Molester, a cartoon run regularly in Hustler Magazine featuring a pedophile and all the ways he tricked kids into being sexually abused. It was a sexually graphic cartoon drawn by a pedophile named Dwaine B. Tinsley who had served time for molesting his own daughter, and who died in 2000. I used some of his cartoons in slide shows I developed to train mental health professional about the psychology of pedophiles. Maybe it’s some bizarre coincidence but I don’t know how Irving could have used tha name Hester the Molester without referring to Chester.

    For years I was haunted by dreams of the 21 room house I grew up in, with seven bedrooms and seven baths and seven fireplaces. I was usually able to fly in these dreams (which they say is sexual) and I would float from room to room, remembering things that happened there and observing new things. These dreams had a very yearning quality. We moved away when I was thirteen, and then as an adult I went through the house as part of my recovery from my childhood abuse that took place there. After that the dreams were more peaceful. I never heard of thought of the house as representing my soul. To me the yearning that I felt to go back there represented the yearning for my very early happy childhood before things really went to shit. The soul concept is interesting and I’ll explore that a little bit. Hey, who amoung us doesn’t have yucky places still needing repair?

    Yes, I am a Garpie for sure. Tootsie and Garp are my two fave films. I love anything that examines gender roles and relationships between the sexes. I’m really looking forward to reading Garp and wishing I hadn’t seen the film first. I’m afraid the book is so far superior that it may knock the film off the top of my faves list. I’ll let you know as I just picked it up from the library today.

    The thing I love most about the movie is that it is feminist yet it also shows ways in which feminism (or any belief system taken to the extreme) can backfire. I adored the John Lithgow character – I just wanted to hug him and have him move in next door to be my best friend. What about the film did you find most disturbing?

    I’m having fun with this, hope you are too.

  618. Maureen…Sher…Wherefore art thou?

  619. Hi Polly!

    I didn’t disappear. I finished Owen Tuesday night and really it had such a profound impact on me that I couldn’t even blog for a day or two.

    I am very interested in your PTSD work. Do you use EMDR? I have a very good friend who is dealing with PTSD from a variety of life incidents.

    Interesting about your house dream, though I am very sorry about your childhood abuse. How very wonderful that you dealth with it and have used that knowledge to help others. You SHOULD go back into private practice. I bet you are phenomenal. The woman we saw works for our local mental health clinic for the county and then also has this small private office where we met her. We are both really looking forward to working with her.

    I do want to talk more about Owen. Truly I was just blown away by it. Profoundly moved. Life-changing.

    I am home completely alone!!! I don’t know if I have EVER been in my house completely alone. My husband drove out to pick up my two little guys at my mom’s in Western new York and is spending the night there. My eldest is going over to his best friend’s. I am going to vacuum (hoot! hoot!) and chat on the blog and read.

    I’m sorry I missed your previous post here. I must have looked at the recent posts and didn’t see it and forgot to look over here on this one.

    Carrie – feel free to join us, I know you’re reading Owen. But don’t look here if you haven’t finished it yet. You do not want to spoil it for yourself!

  620. not sure where we are posting on Owen Meany, just letting you know I am ‘in’ whereever it happens to be.

    I read GARP as a teenager, I adore Irving.

    I would love to have experienced OWEN as an audio book . . . the capitals were annoying but I believe they were necessary . . . and I love the analogy about prophets/redeemers not having always a melodious manner . . . (I paraphrased that)

    The strongest thing I got from the book is that one needs a calling and that one needs to follow through with it. That is a huge burden as well as a way to freedom of the spirit. I think it is what is missing in many humans, they have no calling . .. they float through life with no purpose and just end up whereever the tide takes them . . . myself, like Owen Meany, I believe in paddling like hell . . . get there, the sooner the better, get out of my way, I have somewhere to be . . . times awasteing!

    In total agreement about Hester/Magdalene . . . for sure and who is the real mother of Owen . . . it was Tabitha who really nurtured him . . .


    Sher –
    Absolutely on Tabitha as Owen’s real mother. As a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic, I immediately saw Tabitha as a Mary. She had a practically immaculate conception (the secret father), and the image of her dress-maker’s dummy watching over Owen is very much like the Catholic view of Mary as the Mother of All and protector of all. Catholics call on Mary all the time for help and protection.

    In took me a few chapters, but then I was picking up right and left on all the Biblical allusions. What I thought was so fabulous was how Irving mixed them in with absurd humor and sliced and diced them into new combinations so that you had to be looking hard to see them. Like Mary Magdalene’s arms on the dressmaker dummy.

    It wasn’t like Irving was saying Hester is my SYMBOL of Mary Magdalene, it was more like he was saying the archetypal Mary Magdalene is always present. Hester is that type of female. And Owen treats that woman (as should WE when we encounter her) the same as Jesus treated Mary Magdalene. I think in contrast of evangelical condemnation of prostitutes or “homosexuals”. Jesus would not do that. He would love and accept them as Owen did Hester.

    This is what I ultimately found so compelling about this book. I went back to the epigrams and the Buechner quote: “Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be.”

    I think this is what Irving was doing, and I so appreciate it. Religion, especially Christianity, in the US has been so simplified and trivialized. It’s like Twinkies. There is the variety like those plain-dressed polygamists who try to replicate Old Testament culture, thinking THAT is what Christianity calls us to do.

    Or there is the “mall” version, where it is sugary sweet and all violins and waterfalls, which to my aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities seems horribly inauthentic, especially because it simultaneously condemns anything low or dirty or real.

    What I loved in Owen, and what blew me away, is that Irving truly created an authentic, gritty, funny, modern Gospel, but the Gospel in its purest essence: What would the Gospel look like in THIS time and place? What did Jesus REALLY do and ask us to do? He was NOT into the trappings of righteousness – he called people on that crap all the time. What he did and asked us to do was RADICAL.

    Like Delonda teaching Shakespeare to prisoners. Now THAT’S Christianity. Not sitting around tut-tutting over what those guys did but loving them, dignifying them.

    I’m not putting this into words very well. When John flies into Phoenix (Jerusalem) at the end, and there is the military parade (palm-waving) to that awful funeral home (temple), and then the three-day picnic wake (Passover) and Owen and John eat (Last Supper) and relax at the hotel (Garden of Gethsemane), I suddenly experienced Palm Sunday, the temple, Jerusalem, the last supper, and Gethsemane in a way that cut me to the core, because it was set in a culture that seemed both modern and authentic and that I could relate to. I FELT Owen’s grief and fear and love and commitment to his destiny.

    Owen spending his last days with his best friend, wanting John there, THAT was Jesus in Gethsemane. When that crazed brother spits and threatens, THAT was the atmosphere in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. As Owen so composedly took that grenade and was LIFTED UP to his death, THAT was what the crucifixion was, knowingly accepting death and doing it anyway out of love.

    That was what made me cry and feel so blown away as I finished. I experienced the GOSPEL in such a powerfully new way.

    It’s unclear if Owen really thought he was “the savior” due to his parents’ tales of his birth (also unclear if true or not), but it doesn’t really matter, perhaps. “Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig.” That is the awesome and fearsome part of claiming to be Christian: it is saying I WILL be a savior if called upon to do so. Not, “I now get to look around in judgment on everyone else.” No, no, no. It’s rather accepting that I might be called upon to
    1 point out things I know are wrong, even if it means I am shunned or hurt as a result (Owen expelled from Gravesend)
    2 die in an effort to save others (Vietnamese kids)
    3 love those whom others find offensive or exploitable (Hester)
    4 patiently teach those who are slow to catch on even if I short myself (John and school)
    5 lend dignity to others’ deaths (Owen’s military job)

    It is what Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton and Flannery O’Connor and Gandhi did. They looked at the situation THEY WERE IN and acted AS CHRIST WOULD ACT. And it was shocking and startling and made them plenty of enemies.

    It’s the message of The Used World. What is love asking NOW with THESE PEOPLE in THIS circumstance? What leads to truth and compassion and healing, even if it is not according to tradition? Owen, Hazel, Claudia, Delonda, Haven, Amos, Langston It is what they all do.

    What is it Amos says? To figure out if something is an authentic action of Jesus, ask what is the LEAST LIKELY THING someone in Palestine would do or say, and that would be typical of Jesus. Or Owen.

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to go off like that. Wow. Sorry. I got rolling there. I have been mulling this over for a week. This book truly knocked me on my butt.

    Sher – I think you are saying the same thing: “The strongest thing I got from the book is that one needs a calling and that one needs to follow through with it. That is a huge burden as well as a way to freedom of the spirit. I think it is what is missing in many humans, they have no calling . .. they float through life with no purpose and just end up wherever the tide takes them.”

    You and Owen and so many others accept your calling, and go after it no holds barred, with a “spit on me if you want” attitude. People with that kind of spirit illuminate the world. They stun. They amaze. They change their world. They are salt and light and yeast.

    I’m going to stop before I cry again.

  622. Maureen –

    Your recounting of your moving reading of Owen Meany is what life, literature, and love are all about. I think you have seen it the same experiential that Haven did . . .

    I was extremely moved by the dedication of owen Meany. I can remember as an elementary school kid (maybe 4th grade) we had a missionary come to our small baptist church on a wednesday night (when few were there) . . . he gave the most moving, impassioned plea for falling your calling, whether it be to the mission field, or wherever . . . then he asked, while all heads were bowed, if anyone in the church would be willing, IF God called them, to answer, no matter the cost or sacrifice to their comfortable lives. To lay it all on the line and trust and follow . . .

    I stood up. Afterwards everyone was contragulating me (so much for closed eyes) and I can remember many people treating me differently after that, the missionary was literally crying, and the dear old ladies patting my back and holding my hand down the aisle and my family looking at me like I was some mutant being . . .

    that might have been my first experience with being other. I am different. i am a leader. I am a radical. But to me, there is just no question, no other path to take, than the one you are called to do/be. I cannot imagine living a life without purpose or conviction. When i love I love to the death and beyond. Unfortunately, when I hate it takes a powerful amount of love to quench that, too – but the burning, even when it is down to a simmer . . . it is what makes me breath calmly in the face of so much disaster.

    I still don’t even understand it if people don’t burn in the heart – the lack of fire in some peoples eyes – it leaves me cold.

    I have been called crazy, renegade, trouble maker, bitch, medusa, so many names – – and I don’t even care. What I am to do, I will do.

    I think that you, Maureen, got everything there was to get from this book – – you saw in Owen, the same thing that we, as humans, fail to see so often – the beautiful gift in such an abrasive, misunderstood being.

    I saw this movie the other night ‘Taking Chance’ and it just ripped me apart at the sweetness of honor. Duty. The beauty of stepping up to the plate.

    Would that we all could be as brave and sacrificial as Owen Meany.

  623. Oh Sher, sister of my heart. I can just see you in 4th grade. My sister was the same way.

    If I place myself in Lord of the Rings, I would not be Frodo: that’s my sister or my husband or you, but I am very much a Sam. I will be right there, in the same dangers and trials, and “I don’t aim to” let go of any commitment I make. Even if I get hurt along the way.

    I had Owen from the library, so I ordered me an Amazon Used copy and told Andy it was required reading for me if we were to remain married. He said he would, and he will.

    I’m off to a meeting. Thank GOD this weekis almost done.

  624. Amen . . . week is over!!!! I can sleep in tomorrow morning! Yippee-doodle! Cockle-a-doodle!

    Maureen – did you follow Laura Ingall’s example and forgoe the ‘obey’ comment in your wedding vows?!?

  625. Hi there and sorry I haven’t been more present, esp with my original enthusiasm. I LOVE the discussion about this boob and I
    d love to do it about Garp too. I am really impressed by everyone’s knowledge of Christian and other religions. I am especially intriqued with the comments about Owen’s real mother’s symbolizing Mary. Regarding the comment about evangelical condemnation of sexual or gender heretics, it seems it can’t be a coincidence that she is named Hester, which was the name of the title’s character in The Scarlet Letter. That name is just too uncommon and famously specific to The scarlet letter to ignore. I wonder if Irving has ever copped to any of this or disclosed what his thoughts or intentions were. Does anyone know?

  626. Oh lord, it’s 3:53 and it shows! …discussins about this booK, not this booB! This boob is going to bed!

  627. Polly –
    Oh my gosh! What kind of English teacher am I that I did not think of Hester Prynne? Oh course. Absolutely. Jesus and that fabulous scene from The Passion of the Christ where the woman caught in adultery is being stoned. And Jesus says “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And Owen is the same with Hester (Prynne)

  628. Exactly! That irving was quite the wit-meister. What a hoot.

  629. Polly –
    I’ll do a Bible-as-Lit outline if you do a lit-as-Meany outline. I am about to e-mail you.

  630. SHER: “They are salt and light and yeast.” What a beautiful description.

    I am joining you in your reading of Owen Meany. I’ve
    just read the part about Tabitha’s burial. Maureen redirected me to this site here and warned me not to read the above comments especially the “Spoiler Alert.”

    Hester seems very racy for a child her age. The wild
    hair and the references to her sexuality are sticking
    in my craw but I can’t think of who she is….she
    would fit other women in literature, but she is still
    a child. Maybe that’s where I should avoid getting stuck and not let chronological age be the determining
    factor? Any other time and place that child would
    be called a woman heading toward…oh,my God– Is Hester Mary Magdalene? If this sounds dumb, then I guess I don’t understand what I’m reading. Is there a connection between Jesus and Owen? I say that
    because of the capital letters being used whenever he
    speaks, and the fact that he has some very definite
    opinions about the nature of spiritual reality. I don’t
    have comfortable facility for language with which to
    write about this! I don’t! I just know there is something about this book which seems to be about
    Revelation. I need to get back to my book……

  631. PARTICLES: It was generous of you to think about approaching Miss Michigan. Listen, not every woman who
    takes a crown for a beauty pageant is shallow. No, I am
    not an ex-beauty queen. But if you go to any website
    and look at previous names of winners in your homestate
    and then you google them, most of the time you’ll find
    these women go on to do tremendous work with handicapped
    children, or abused women, the terminally ill, or other socially-committed work in their lifetimes. Some choose politics. Some choose to help other women start businesses. The pageants are stepping stones to opportunities that don’t always exist otherwise for women in America.

    I think it takes people like you who can see beyond
    that- and that is why something in you was touched and
    wanted to go up to her and validate her at her lonely
    table. You seem to be the kind of person who can easily
    go beyond the facade. Next time, do what that tiny
    inner voice directs you to do. You can’t go wrong.

  632. Carolyn – Hester as Mary Magdalene – yes, that was my take. And then Polly reminded me of HESTER PRYNNE (which went right over my head, but of course). I think she is representative of a TYPE, a highly sexual, exploited and/or shunned type (I just thought of the floozy wife in Howard’s End). Women of this sort, I think, are exploited or used or shunned but seldom loved and ennobled. Keep an eye on her in the book.

  633. THANKS,MAUREEN. I’ve just finished the part about
    the Christmas play and the school pageant. There’s alot
    to unpack there! Here’s a question: Why does Owen
    scare the pants off everyone as the Ghost of XMas
    Future? He’s short- that should make people
    relax, shouldn’t it? I know he used stage make-up
    to make himself look ghostly. Is this one of those times when you just have to go with what the author says and take it on faith that if you’d have been there, you’d have been scared? It’s that Presence thing Owen was talking about, isn’t it? You either have it or you don’t. Mr.Fish might have been tall and have bony fingers to point with, but he had no Presence.

    Also, what was that all about with Mrs. Wiggins when
    she wrapped him up in the swadling clothes and kissed him? I hope that was just a “you’re so cute like a bug in the rug” kinda kiss. Then why did Owen get so turned on? Eowwww. Does he just like older women or something?

  634. MAUREEN- My heart is getting very heavy here, and I know
    if I keep reading it will be shattered. Owen has enlisted. Hester has achieved fame. (Is she Madonna? Madonna Cicone that is, not Blessed Mother.

    I think I understand everything I need to except this:
    Why was Owen so harsh with his parent’s when they
    came to the Xmas pageant? I can’t find a correlation
    with any other literature that I’m familiar with, and
    I can’t fathom it with what I know about “real life.”

  635. I’m laid up with the flu or something vile of that ilk. Hopefully my opinions will make sense and add something to the conversation.

    This just might be me, but I don’t think Owen ever really identified as family with his parents. I think that again, it’s because of the religious symbolism, and him being more than just Owen, while his “parents” were just the people who happened to bring him up. Not that they didn’t give birth to him, but that he never really belonged to them because it was like he was from/of another realm. But even on a purely human level, it was like they never quite got him, and because he always knew his time was limited and he had bigger goals to accomplish, he had no time for them. (It was nothing personal.)

    About Mrs. Wiggins, it seemed to me like she knew he had matured into a sexual person and she was tormenting him for her own ego gratification, at the expense of his physical torture and emotional humiliation. She was being cruel to a horny teenage boy. Yes, he was young, but he matured faster than his peers. Sometimes boys do get involuntary erections, just like their voices crack when they’re going through puberty. It’s cruel and humiliating to take advantage of them for something that’s a normal part of their development and that they have no control over. When I read the scene it was like reading about an older woman sexually abusing a boy, because of the elements of control and power inherent in the realtionship due to their ages and community positions.

    Of course all this is just what it meant to me. What do you think? 🙂

  636. Hi Polly and Carolyn (I hope you are here),

    Polly, your comment about Owen not relating to his family reminds me of that part in the Bible where young Jesus and his parents are in Jerusalem and they head home and Jesus stays behind, unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph. They are frantic, and when they finally find him, in the temple with the rabbis, he says “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” That feeling that yes, they birthed him, but were not his REAL family, that higher purpose.

    Carolyn, in a LITERAL sense, you find out at the end why he is so angry with them.

  637. Hi all. Unfort, although the idea is tantalizing, I don’t think I’d be able to offer much if I did a lit-as-Meany outline. Besideas the time constraints I am hardly an expert on literature. I sure an enjoying this discussion though.
    Maureen, I hope you got my personal email in response to the one you sent me.
    When it won’t spoil anything for anyone, can someone remind me of what we find out about why O is so angry at his “parents?” I’ve returned the book to the library and since it was a loan from another branch I can’t just take it out again.

  638. I once went to a reading by Tony Earley, following “Jim the Boy.” I took a friend who had not read the book, and was embarrassed when she took it upon herself to ask him what his goal in writing was. It seemed presumptuous. But he gave it a moment’s thought and said that he wanted to “advocate a moral universe.” I continue to be moved by this, years and years later. What is good writing but a contribution to a moral universe? What is a character but a contribution to the question of what behavior, or belief, is moral? I think this is what we ask of fine writers– it’s never -accomplished- but it is what riles us as readers.

  639. […] The Object of Writing is to Grow a Personality Which in the End Allows One to Transcend Art — Lawr… […]

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