Sunday, April 06, 2014

Wine and Canvas for the Homeless

Last week, my friends invited me to go to Wine and Canvas. Basically, you pay a fee, show up, purchase beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and paint. Proceeds from the event go towards the Center for the Homeless.

There was a crowd in the room (and I hate crowds). After my initial anxiety, I settled in with my friends and we started painting a spring scene--raining and umbrellas. This was perfect because it is April, and it was raining. However, my umbrella started looking like upside-down flowers or produce or beach umbrellas. I felt initial frustration when I was painting because my umbrellas looked different. Instead of giving in to the self-criticism, I thought, this is supposed to be fun and stress-relieving.

So, I started making the painting truly my own. I painted outside the lines if you will; I painted the dots and circles over the umbrellas. This winter and spring was unusually cold and harsh, so why try to make this rainy scene appear normal? Once I let go and made the painting my own, I truly enjoyed myself. I noticed that people were very hard on their own paintings, even though each one was beautiful in it's own right. Lesson learned: if the model does not fit, adapt it and make it your own.

My painting is called "Off the Grid". One of my friends named it for me.

Along with the painting, I drafted a poem:

Off the Grid

April night
crowds painting
for a cause to
help the homeless

(wine and canvas)

Painting umbrellas
under rain like
everyone else but
my umbrellas
resembled upside-down
so I covered them up
with circular color resembling
snow and rain; off the grid
unusual like this


Taming the Butterflies

This last week I had two presentations.

On Wednesday, I presented on a 18th century Chinese scientist named Wang Zhenyi. She was amazing. In her short life, Zhenyi wrote 12 books, several poetry books, and articles. She discovered the lunar eclipse and explained the physics of gravity in her publication "Of a Ball-Shaped Earth". Basically, she explained that people cannot fall off the earth because of gravity.
I hope I did right by her. Wang Zhenyi was also a feminist, and believed that men and women should have equal educational opportunities, especially in the hard sciences. (Does that sound familiar?)

On Saturday, I presented on a panel for the Regional Midwest Liberal Studies Conference held at IUSB. This was a little more informal for me since I wasn't being evaluated. I presented on the Pleiades, which is the Seven Sisters cluster. Fortunately, my speech was short but sweet since the conference ran a little behind. The keynote speaker/singer and her accompanist were terrific! She talked about the interdisciplinary aspect of voice. I personally wouldn't have minded not presenting and just listening to them for the afternoon, but that wasn't part of the program. (I give kudos to the chair of the Liberal Studies department--he put on a nice conference.)

Interestingly, although I have been a performer in some way for a very long time, I was quite anxious when I gave the first presentation. (It is probably due to the fact that I was being evaluated.) So, this week I can inform my speech students that the butterflies will most likely be there, even for people who have done this for a long time. It means you care. Although anxiety can be uncomfortable, it is good. I also noted that I cannot--and did not--eat before either presentation this week. Afterwards, after I crashed from the adrenalin, I could eat as usual.

I was also nervous when I spoke during my session on Saturday. I was more concerned that it was not good enough. (The other two presentations were really interesting.) However, I need to keep in mind that I did the best that I could, and that there is only one person I need to be competing with: the person in the mirror. It's done, and I can note this experience on my CV.

Instead of worrying of how I fared, I need to be hopeful that it was a better experience for my audience than for me. That is the most important part of performing or presenting: making your audience happy and hoping that they learned something.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Adventures in Florida and Atlanta: Saturday, March 22

Saturday, March 22

All good things must come to an end. Fam took us to the airport at 5:30 a.m. and sent us on our merry way. Who knew that this would be a very long day.

The flight from Palm Beach to Atlanta was short, but not short enough. Steve and I had separate seats. It was quiet where we sat. However, the blondsey twins and a surfer dude (all in their forties) decided to have a loud, early morning chat. This is what was going through my head and finally I wrote it down to get my frustration out. I christen the writings as Delta Rants.

Delta Rants

*To the Middle-Aged Blondsey Twins and the Middle-Aged Surfer Dude in 34ABC, please shut up! Respectfully, the Middle-Aged Sleepy, Surly,Silvering Ginger in 35C.

*To the Kindly Flight Attendant, Please do not serve the Blondsey Twins and the Middle Aged Surfer Dude any more coffee in 34ABC, or please switch to decaf. Respectfully, the Middle-Aged Suffering Silvering Ginger in 35C.

P.S. I would kindly slip a few of my tranquilizers into their coffee mugs if that would help. Just a thought...

*Dear God, please shut the twit-iot trio up, already!

*The Blondsey Twins paused. Thank you, God...wait for it...wait for it... there they go again. Dammit.

*The Middle-Aged Surfer Dude managed to sleep through the chatter. Glad one of us can.

*Finally, a pause. The Blondsey Twins have weak bladders. They both use the restroom. Peace.

*And, they're back and bubbly as ever. Thank God the plane is landing soon.

We landed in Atlanta about 9:00 a.m. and I could not wait to get out of there. Steve and I had a six hour layover; so we frequented the shops, visited two restaurants for breakfast and lunch, and purchased a quiet room to sleep and get away from the crowds for an hour and a half. That rest saved us from going bonkers.

Our original departure time was 3:30 p.m. We didn't get on a plane until after 6:00 p.m. Our plane from the Bend was having mechanical issues, so they sent another one. We changed gates three times. We finally land around 8:00 p.m. However, our luggage was still in Atlanta. So, our friends picked us up and we went to dinner. (They had dessert, as they already had dinner.) So, we collected our luggage after 10:30 p.m. and arrived home after 11p.m. So much for getting anything done tonight. It was great to see the kitties, though, and what an adventure!

Adventures in Florida: Friday, March 21

(On the inner coastal during the cruise, March 21)

(Pelican diving into the ocean, March 21)

Friday, March 21

I am losing track of time--and that's not a bad thing. We slept in, enjoyed a late breakfast, and headed out to take a two-hour lunch cruise on the inner coastal. The ship was named the Lady Atlantic, and the cruise took us to Del Ray and back. The first hour had some narration, but the second hour just featured "yacht rock" music in the background. I'm sporting my purple sleeveless dress, which is the comfort equivalent to a 21st century muumuu. But hey, suffering is optional, right?

(I'm writing this portion while waiting for the bridge to open up for the boat.)

A few things to consider when travelling to south Florida-- peak times are January 1- March 31, so if you want to avoid crowds, November/December and April/May are the best times to visit. Don't get me wrong, we've had a great time. We just noticed more crowds and traffic.

(The bridge has long sense opened.)

After the cruise, we headed to a local art/gift shop and then headed back to condoland. We then ventured out again to watch the 7:20 p.m. sunset. We shelled for a bit before and after the sunset on the ocean. (This was a different beach.) There was a flock of pelicans surfing the waves and catching dinner. We also found some amazing shells on this beach. We captured the sunset just in time on the other side in a park.

After sunset and shelling, we returned back to condoland, and packed up for the next morning. Back to Siberia on Saturday.

Adventures in Florida: Thursday, March 20, Continued

(Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, March 20, 2014)

Thursday, March 20 (Continued)

Thursday night, we visited a restaurant called The Two Goerges. The outdoor dining area was literally on the dock over-looking the water. There was a boat parked next to the dock, where there was a little dog, a yellow Lab, and an Irish Setter? (It was a red dog.) They were adorable, even though they were a bit barky. We could see exotic birds across the water. The food was decadent.

Finally, well after dark, we arrived home and soon crashed. (Tomorrow, we opted for the sunset instead of the sunrise.)

Adventures in Florida: Thursday, March 20

(Portuguese Man-O-War, March 20, 2014)

Thursday, March 20

I suggested that we watch a sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean, so we planned to wake up early (like 6 a.m.-ugh). we loaded the blanket, chairs, picnic basket, and headed to the beach for a 7:20 a.m. sunrise. The temperature was about 60 degrees and cloudy. Fortunately, the clouds bought us extra time so we didn't miss the sunrise. It's often that we catch a sunset, but not often a sunrise. It takes a little extra effort, but the payoff is worthwhile. (Plus, going back to sleep is always an option.)

We were rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise. The waves were high this morning. We brought bags for shelling, but the shoreline looked different today than yesterday. Scattered all along the beach were these odd-looking blue shapes standing alone or mixed in with seaweed. Later, I learned that the blue blobs are referred to as The Portuguese Man-O-War, and a sting from these creatures would most likely land a person in the E.R. Steve and I combed the beach shells while avoiding the jellyfish-like land mines. We also spotted a flipper shark, so I opted to stay out of the water today. The Atlantic Ocean seemed different than the Pacific Ocean.
I can't really explain it. The water seemed saltier... and Steve and I didn't see any Man-O-Wars in California.

After about 10a.m. we packed up and headed back to Condoland. And here I am writing the first draft of this from the chair in the lanai, soaking up sunshine as a few tiny raindrops and clouds disappeared as soon as they appeared.

We though we were up early, I feel my energy returning.

Adventures in Florida: Wednesday, March 19

(Shelling on the Atlantic Ocean, March 19, 2014)

Wednesday, March 19

Steve and I slept in. We did not realize how tired we were until today. We all took it easy today; first a brief jaunt on the inner coastal. The view was lovely. It was great to not have to wear a coat or a jacket. There is a place to stroll near the water, and we learned quickly that any residence near water is prime real estate.

We all had pedis (and the girls had pedis and manis). It was hilarious to watch Steve get his first pedicure. (He was a good sport.)Steve is quite ticklish, so I was quite amused watching him. Poor sweetie. His feet look very nice. (Apparently, a lot of men get pedis in Florida. It makes sense, because people mostly wear sandals.)

After the pedi/manis, we returned back to the condo and got ready to go to Palm Beach. (Note to self: do not shell right after nail grooming... my toes still look good, but I had to remove the polish from my hands later.)

Okay, back to the beach. The weather is about 80 degrees. We viewed the Atlantic Ocean. Beautiful. The sandals came off and I instantly ran to the water, jumped in the waves, and picked up shells. The combination of the salt and sunshine seemed to melt my seasonal affective disorder (SAD) away. It was good to forget about the stresses of everyday life and just be.

After we left the beach, we did a little sightseeing and drove down the coast. Oh, my goodness, were the houses on the oceanside gorgeous! After sightseeing, we returned back to clean up and go to dinner. (Fortunately, we made reservations.) We contacted out friends from Stuart, and they met with us to go to dinner.

The restaurant was called The Banana Boat. We sat outside near the water. Great food; great company. Our friends came back to Condoland,and we chatted on the lanai well into the evening while fam went to play Bocce. After our friends left, Steve and I turned in for the night.

Adventures in Florida: Tuesday, March 18

(View from the airplane, 2014)

Tuesday, March 18

I awakened at 6 a.m. and headed to BMC to teach Composition II before catching a plane to Florida. Admittedly, I was pretty obnoxious in the morning, playing music by Jimmy Buffett and other steel drum music. I was a little stressed, because I had to finish a required module for work before I could leave. (I had the stomach bug on top of a sinus infection, so I missed a couple days of school.) Thank goodness the students were working on their papers so I could work on this module. My librarian friend is an angel--she is so smart and is always helpful. I was able to pay it forward a little by changing the toner. Thank goodness I was wearing black, because the toner exploded all over. (That brought up memories of working at the library.) It was good for a laugh--and I was fine with having the toner on me rather than her. Anyhoo, although I love teaching, the morning dragged. Finally, I was able to leave for the day; I wanted to return home so we could rest before our friend took us to the airport.

We are ready to go. P. takes us to the airport. Steve and I check in, and then grab a bite to eat. The flight is pleasant and quick. We had a 1 1/2 layover in Atlanta, which is not bad at all. The Atlanta airport was enormous; the time lagged a bit. Steve and I finally were herded into the airplane since we were in the last section (MOO). At least, in case the plane crashed, we would have a chance.

All went well. The flight attendant tossed me a few extra bags of pretzels, and I was grateful to him. Steve and I landed in Palm Beach around 10:30 p.m. Our fam picked us up from the airport and drove us to the condo. It's a 55 and older senior complex. How nice to be too young for something besides an AARP card. (*Laughs*) I'm not knocking AARP, it's cool and I'm looking forward to the senior discounts.

At the condo, Steve and I enjoyed bottled water, sandwiches, and collapsed into bed soon, but before we turned in, we sat outside on the screened-in porch (it's referred to as a lanai down here). There was a table, four chairs, some ornate decorations, and a tomato plant. (More than a few tomatoes would be nibbled on during our stay.) We peered outside and could see the view of the inner coastal in the distance--a million dollar view without the million dollar price.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Writing with the Senses Workshop Tomorrow at Tutt Branch Library

Hello Local Folks--

I will be at the Tutt Branch Library in South Bend tomorrow presenting a program on Writing with the Senses @ 4:30 p.m.
If you are in the writing mood and need some fun props, join me tomorrow for a writing with the senses workshop!
We will use the senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touch to provide a venue for writing. Also, writing
resources will shared.

Monday, March 10, 2014

SADness and Star Poem

One of the benefits of stargazing in the dead of winter is that it inspires me to write. Since I am struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)this winter, I wrote this poem--and my SADness-- out. Admittedly, it is dark, but it is a poem about resilience. It's okay just to be--dim is brighter than night.

Dim is Brighter than Night(in the Supernova)

When I have fallen
into that dark place,
free falling
towards that yawning
hole of hell,
plummeting into the
blinding abyss
not blinding
because of the light--
but because of
the absence of it.

Free falling
into a supernova
where stars dissipate
and die,
it's not my time
so, I hold on
to a glimpse of light
I hold on
to a glimpse of light.

Dimness resonates
and manages
to shine on
for another day;
I cannot, I do not
fall into the supernova;
and somehow I find
a glimmer of light,
because all stars
will eventually die
But, it's not my time
to light the night sky.

So, when Jupiter
and the Pleiades
fade into the winter sky,
one day, again,
in spring,
I will shine again
But, for now,
dim is brighter than night--
in the supernova.

LCS/February 2014

Sunday, March 02, 2014

One Billion Rising and Michiana Monologues

February was not only cold, but it was warm as well. My body was freezing, but my heart was momentarily warm.I participated in my first ever flash mob in South Bend. Eve Ensler, the playwright who wrote the famous Vagina Monologues, also started a movement called "One Billion Rising" to bring awareness around the world about domestic assault and violence towards females. Brave souls came out in the frigid weather and danced to Aretha Franklin's "Respect". I was a little nervous with the crowds, but soon relaxed and enjoyed the moment.

(Logo courtesy of the Michiana Monologues)

Last night, A. and I went to the Michiana Monologues . They are monologues written by women all over the community; the performers are not the authors of the pieces. We laughed; we cried. Both of these events brought the darkness of domestic violence into the light, and all the money is donated to women's shelters and programs in the Michiana area.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Are there times in your life where you feel stuck?
Several times I would visit the page to post...and nothing comes to mind. The white space is almost as blinding as the snow we've had this winter. So, I click "sign out" and then another week goes by. And another. And suddenly, it's February 23, almost a month later than my previous post, which is ironically, about writing. Proving. Myself. Write. So I don't sound like a hypocrite, I'm forcing myself to post before another month goes by. A former supervisor told me that "done is better than perfect". I hope this post (like all the others)is meaningful for you. Don't get me wrong. I love to write. It's part of who I am. However, getting back into the habit of writing is a lot like getting into the habit of exercise. There is a dip--and probably an imprint of my tush-- on the right side of the couch where I've spent most of this winter. I haven't even gone ice skating, and I will probably put on walking shoes before lacing up this winter. Fortunately, I have started walking with a friend, and I paid the fees to use the facilities at the university. I don't know if I will ever like exercise as much as writing, but both are healthy activities.

Yay. I finished the post. And hopefully more to follow soon.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Prove. Yourself. Write.

Hello. Even though Steve and I have been snowed in for several days this month, I have not had the desire to write.
Although there are individual and collaborative writing projects in the works, it has been a struggle to write, or do anything.
However, I mustered the energy to write a poem for Martin Luther King Day at the Century Center. The poem is based on a previous blog entry; I dedicate this poem to T., and to all my other writerly friends. Please feel free to make a copy and put it near your writing space for inspiration.

Prove. Yourself. Write. (2014)

Prove. Yourself. Write.
Prove. Yourself. Write.
Some days
I have to repeat this mantra
to myself.

Some days
I have to put the fear of rejection
on the shelf.
Some days
when I receive a rejection
from an editor
stating that “we are sorry to inform you…”

that my writing
isn’t literary enough
to take space on the page
and that twenty-first century rejection
is no longer worth
a letter and a stamp.

Prove. Yourself. Write.
Prove Yourself Write.

The sting of a rejection email
Still resonates
The sting of a rejection email
still penetrates
my heart chambers
but my poetic heart
beats on

The sting of a rejection letter
Makes me momentarily
want to press the off button on
the laptop and hang it up
Hang up the life a writer.

No way.
Prove. Yourself. Write.
Prove Yourself Write.

Rejection email
sparks a fire under my--
Because I live for words
and live my life with a
drummer’s own beat.

Prove the nay-sayers wrong
And prove yourself write.

Prove. Yourself. Write.
And just write.