Category Archives: writing & reading

my relationship with writing & books

Hiatus Continued

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I am Italian. I cannot keep calm.

I have no goals. 

That’s what I told my husband. I’m Italian. Melodrama runs high.

“You do have goals,” he said. “You wanted to move back to North Carolina and you did.”

“Yes, but now what?”

Good question. You’d think I’d have figured out that detail in advance.

I love blogging, but my husband’s consulting business is growing. He needs me to take on a more public role in the company, at least for the next few months. Officially, I’m a Managing Partner.

So what becomes of the blog and the 50 other business and writing ideas I have rolling around in my head. Lots of women do both, work for pay and blog for free. Can I? Should I?

Blogging carries with it the urgency of social media to publish. Publish. Publish. Post something already. It reminds me of the toddler in the grocery store who must have the grossly overpriced, cartoon themed, neon colored fruit pops. NOW. How would the wise parent respond to said toddler?

In a word: no. In two words: not now. 

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frozen foods aisle

Easy advice to give, but following through feels like a huge, scary risk. It’s so stressful that I had to eat NC barbecue twice already this week as comfort food. I’ll be crowned queen of the Lexington Barbecue Festival come October.

What if you say no and the toddler throws a fit on the floor of the frozen foods aisle? What if she holds her breath until she passes out? What if she hates you?

What if she ignores you and you become irrelevant?

So be it. The wise parent remains in control. The smart mom thinks to herself, “That child’s not the boss of me!

The adult in the situation is able to say no, not now. Everyone survives and is usually better off for it.

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 NLT

The Zombies Tell Her No.

Have you mastered the art of saying no?

in His time

in His time

FYI: I plan to continue blogging as a monthly contributor for Project Underblog. Please read my August post The What’s Next? Crisis of Blogging.

I also hope to continue to blog here, but I’m not telling you when because I don’t know when. The best way to see the stories I don’t know when I’ll publish is to subscribe for free updates on email. Follow the prompts in the top right sidebar to subscribe. Just do it.

photo credit: Storm Crypt via photopin cc
photo credit: shiilo75 via photopin cc

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Chasing Fireflies: A Midsummer Blogging Update

“I assumed everyone had fireflies,” said my friend. We stood on her porch at dusk watching my son spin and dart around her yard, chasing the tiny, mid-air pulses of light. “But they don’t. People are surprised to see them here.”

tree canopy

tree canopy

Growing up in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, I assumed the same. Fireflies are a given of summer. Since we moved back from the Midwest last month, I realize everyone doesn’t have them. Not the way we do here.

We didn’t have fireflies like this during our 16 years away. Chicagoland drowns them out with stronger, artificial lights. I vaguely remember them flickering in our yard in St. Louis, but that was rare. And their floating courtship didn’t stand a chance against the winds of Wichita.

Here they flourish. Waves of them parade through the night in the deep woods near our little rental house. We walk the trails in daylight and find them dark and hiding in the cool of the forest.

The first week we arrived, we walked those trails like destitute people who’d happened upon a cathedral. The rich green of thick vegetation flooded us. We took shelter under the canopy of tall trees. We breathed it in. An enchanted forest, steps away from our front door.

The dog refused to come into the house that first week. She would go out, but she wouldn’t come back in. The disruption of movers followed by driving across the country with my husband only to be met with movers again didn’t sit well with her. She’s adjusting; I still carry her back into the house some days.

Corinth

Corinth

My son and I made the drive incrementally from Wichita to North Carolina alone. We stopped along the way in interesting, important places: Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis, Corinth and Shiloh, Chattanooga. People have asked if I was scared driving all that way by myself with a child. No, I wasn’t scared. I was thankful I could do it.

Once we were moved in, my husband hit the ground running with his consulting work. He’s very busy, and we’re grateful.

My son and I are taking things slower, exploring our way through the summer and adjusting much like the dog. I’ve seen only a  fraction of the many people I want to see. Sixteen years is a long time to make up for being gone. Some things have changed. Others haven’t.

“Do you have a to-go cup I can pour this Coke into?” I asked the man at the counter of the barbecue restaurant. I love North Carolina barbecue. Eaten it twice already since we arrived. It’s comfort food to me. Makes everything better.

“No, we don’t have no to-go cups.” The whites of his eyes flashed up at me from his downturned, brown face.

“Oh,” I said. Just like the city. No margin for courtesies. Then I caught his smile.

“Here you go,” he said, handing me a cup, punctuated with a belly laugh.

“You have quite a poker face,” I said and laughed with him.

“I also work in drug and alcohol law enforcement,” he said. “I need a poker face.”

Later that day, my son and I took to the woods again, this time on our bikes.

forest path

forest path

We zipped through the forest in late afternoon, cutting the humidity like a boat cuts water. Rain from the night before had overflowed the creek banks and shifted the sandy trails. We ducked off the path to maneuver around fallen trees whose soggy roots had given way. Our wheels spewed flecks of gravel as they spun around.

Soaked with sweat and water, we reached the turn to go back to the house.

“Do we have to go in?” said my son.

“We can ride more tomorrow,” I said.

Today is only the beginning.

 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Eccesiastes 3:11 NLT

For King and Country, Middle of Your Heart.

What has your summer held for you?

Like fireflies in a city, my posts have been rare this summer. Thank you for your readership and your patience as my family makes this major relocation.

Martha Stewart, image credit David Shankbone

Martha Stewart, image credit David Shankbone

My work as a Project Underblog contributor continues. In June, Martha, May I? was published, and in July, A Clinique Conspiracy Theory was published. A third post is on tap for August. I invite you to click on the titles to read these stories. If you blog, consider stepping out and submitting a story to Project Underblog for publication. They are a supportive, safe community of writers~#smallandmighty!

I plan to attend the BlogHer conference in Chicago next week. It promises to be a fun time with my blogger sisters. If you’re there, please contact me @AimeeWhetstine on Twitter so we can connect IRL.

You may remember Listening to the Women of Monsanto was published this past May as a BlogHer Original Post. It was a well-read story for me. What’s next? That’s the question I’ll ponder at the conference and beyond. I must remind myself, as do we all, today is only the beginning.

photo credit: david_shankbone via photopin cc

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Poetic Pause

April is National Poetry Month.

image credit: JMR Photography

image credit: JMR Photography

I’d hoped to throw a grand Poetry Slam Party like we did last year. As the month wanes, down to the last two days now, that window is quietly closing.

My friend Corey celebrated the month rightly, posting a different selection every day in April. These poems came as perfect, compact gifts. Sugar cubes to swirl in mint tea. Addictive, steady shots.

One poem Corey posted was written by our beloved poetry teacher at Carolina, Michael McFee. It reminded me why McFee was the teacher. Speaks to me still. And so I steal it from Corey, who stole it from McFee, so it may speak to you.

Michael McFee Directions

Read more poems by Michael McFee at The Poetry Foundation.

Pause and post your own favorite poetry selections in the comments if you wish.

photo credit: JMR_Photography via photopin cc

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Speak Out

This past weekend, I read an article in The New York Times that crushed me: The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking

That story, coupled with Modern American Poetry’s photo essay of the Holocaust, reminded me of a quote from Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor who spoke out against the Nazis and spent seven years in concentration camps.

Niemoller

How could so many people know what was happening right under their noses and not speak out? What do you know about that’s happening right under your nose?

Will you speak out?

Speak out for those who cannot speak… from Proverbs 31:8 NRSV

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Happy Birthday, Blog

How do you wish a blog a happy birthday?
Let’s bring in the birds for an avian rhapsody soiree.

image by wili_hybrid via flickr

Click to read “Birds on a Ledge.” Image by will_hybrid.

April 23, 2012

Click to read “Nestful of Blessings.”

parrot by rotorod creative commons license

Click to read “Parrot Island.” Image by rotorod.

Flowers are essential.

single pink peony

Click to read “An Unexpected Post.”

lamb's ear, iris and Baptista in J's garden last spring

Click to read “Paper Weight.”

dillon's daffodil

Click to read “Missing Alex.”

And we must put up a sign.

sit up get God

Click to read “Everyday Q&A.”

private property

Click to read “Privacy Schmivacy.”

power mom sign

Click to read “The Lie of Having It All.”

Happy Birthday, everyday epistle.
Thank you for two fun, adventurous, unexpected years.

The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3 NIV

hair model

Gonna get my hair done for this occasion. Click to read “Gray.”

Music flashback: The Sign by Ace of Base.

What will you celebrate today?

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Yoga Face Time

Returned to yoga class this week. Took some time off over the holidays. Time to eat turkey, dressing, a dozen chocolate crinkles. You know, that sort of thing.

So did the rest of my class. How do I know? My instructor felt the need to speak this bit of wisdom to us:

frowning2

There are legitimate reasons to frown. The inability to do ardha chandrasana is not one of them.

Keep on keeping on. We’ll get there soon.

A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 NRSV

Closer to Love by Mat Kearney.

Enjoy your weekend!

 

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Book Review: ‘One Summer in Arkansas’ by Marcia Kemp Sterling

Marcia Kemp Sterling’s first novel One Summer in Arkansas draws readers into the “intoxicating warmth” of a southern summer, from Thomas Hinton’s soulful cover art to the final twist of resolution. 

one-summer-in-arkansas_cover 300 x 463The story spins around small-town golden boy Lee Addison. His smarts, hard work, and genes are about to pay off. At the behest of his mother, Lee returns to his hometown of Riverton in rural Arkansas to spend one last summer there between graduating from Stanford Law School and beginning his career. It’s the early 90s, and Lee is poised for success in the sleek, corporate law firms of San Francisco. But Lee’s last summer in Riverton resurrects a tangle of abandonment, addiction, murder, passion, and sullied histories that rise to burn with the summer temperatures.

Sterling tells the story from the points-of-view of Lee and other characters, mostly women. We meet Lee’s functional alcoholic mother Frances Dawkins Addison as she navigates the country club scene alone. We are privy to the heart of Riverton’s “prize,” teacher Annie Rayburn, the high school girlfriend Lee left behind for college. We follow Lee’s fragile, teenaged sister M.J. on a precarious downward spiral. We stop with Lee to visit Etta Jones, the curious, elderly African-American neighbor who still lives in the house where she was born.

Marcia Kemp Sterling

Marcia Kemp Sterling

A theme of running weaves through the book. All the young people run. Lee runs. Annie runs. Lee’s Stanford girlfriend Zoe runs. M.J. tries to keep up. Meanwhile, the older characters survive by standing still. Etta is a constant, sitting on her front porch as the story swirls. Frances is immovable, too, having never left Riverton. But where Etta is resilient and fixed, Frances is broken and stuck. An experienced attorney, Sterling touches on heavy subjects: racism, injustice, infidelity, addiction, ageism, classism, religion, the tension between rural and urban, and the inner workings of litigation.

My favorite moments in the book came with Sterling’s masterful descriptions of place—the humid, southern summer in a small town and the contrasting cool perfection of Silicon Valley. Although Sterling was raised in Arkansas and I grew up in North Carolina, there were times when I thought surely we hail from the same neighborhood. Take for example this excerpt where Lee puts together the scene of Dewaine Washington’s suspicious death at Riverton’s swimming hole:

Lee tried to imagine what it was like on the day the boy died. That early in May there would have been splashes of pink, fuchsia and white scattered throughout the hillside forest from small volunteer dogwoods and redbuds still in bloom. The sky would have been lit by a softer sun, exposing patches of color in the understory of tall deciduous trees not yet leafed out (p. 83).”

Passages like that take me home, and this book is full of them. It’s also full of surprises. Sterling deviates from the expected crime-solved-story-over ending. Her narrative is more complex. Like a southern summer, it pulses on and closes with tension still hanging in the air.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 NRSV (Chapter one of One Summer in Arkansas opens with these verses.)

To purchase One Summer in Arkansas, find discussion topics for your book club, and discover more about Marcia Kemp Sterling, please visit Marcia’s website www.MarciaKempSterling.com.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book for review. Opinions are my own.

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