Who is Charles Wright?

Did you know a new Poet Laureate was just name by the Library of Congress?

What is a poet laureate? Wikipedia describes the United States Library of Congress Poet Laureate, formerly the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress duties and remuneration;

“Laureates receive a US$35,000 stipend and are given the responsibility of overseeing an ongoing series of poetry readings and lectures at the library, and a charge to promote poetry. No other duties are specified, and laureates are not required to compose for government events or in praise of government officials. However, after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, the then Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, was asked to write a poem to be read in front of a special joint session of Congress. Collins wrote “The Names” which he read on September 6, 2002, which is available in streaming audio and video..<..> When the $35,000 stipend was instituted, the amount was quite large and was intended to allow the poet laureate to abandon worries about earning a living and devote his or her time entirely to writing poetry. That amount has remained the same, so the intent of making it a nice living for a poet is no longer being fulfilled. Now it functions as a bonus for a poet who usually is teaching at a university and earns the bulk of his or her living that way.”

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Charles Wright (Photo from the Poetry Foundation website)

The newly minted American Poet Laureate is Charles Wright from the state of Tennessee. He and previous laureates are described in a New York Times article;

“Mr. Wright, who was born in Pickwick Dam, Tenn., not far from the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh, succeeds another Southerner, Natasha Trethewey. But Mr. Wright’s work — oblique meditations on “language, landscape and the idea of God,” as he once summed up his themes — could not be more different from Ms. Trethewey’s evocations of the forgotten African-American lives, or from the Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit by the previous laureate, Philip Levine.”

“Mr. Wright, 78, a retired professor at the University of Virginia, has already won just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.”

Until now I’ve never read Mr. Wright’s poetry nor to be honest heard of his work, which given his prolific writing and obvious success is sad. But now that I am writing a few poems and rhymes I feel compelled to seek some of his writing out along with that of the previous poet laureate’s. I like that our government is supporting this type of artist, even if it is very modestly in this age of big paychecks. I wish him luck and hope that he inspires a few more poets to start on their writing path.

Do you have a favorite poet?

Grandfather

Andy and Grandpa My grandfather! (with my little brother)

I recently spent the day visiting my 86 year old grandfather. He told me about his winter in Arizona, his plans for fishing trips and a cruise to Alaska over the summer and the goings on of my little brother. It was a fun, relaxed conversation until we touched on the subject of my grandmother. I mentioned that I had had a dream about her the night before, likely because I knew I was driving up to see him the next day.  In my dream my grandma was younger, probably the age she was when I was a little girl, younger than I am now. She was giving me advise and telling me what not to do and that she was glad I had visited. His eyes darted away, but he told me that sometimes he dreams she is still there in the house with him on nights when he is in a deep sleep. He seemed a bit sad and changed the subject, but it was a lovely little glimpse behind the man that is always so stoic.

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Grandma and Grandpa Land in Hawaii!

We also talked about some of the trips he had taken with grandma. One trip was on a rickety train from Arizona to some resort in Mexico where the train was so rocky and the tracks so poorly maintained that the train rocked and rolled, you had to wear seat belts in the beds and you couldn’t even walk from one train car to another because it was just too dangerous. He also told me about trips to Hawaii in the good old days where you could golf all week for a $100 and all their friends came over with tee-times every day, evening cocktail hours and days spent at the beach.

He told me about some of the work he had done as a young man, advise he was given by his bosses. He told me about his first car, a model T that he suped-up with a new engine that made it go so fast that if you turned the corner too quickly the wheels would come off.

He fixed lunch for me; homemade clam chowder and a tuna sandwich with red velvet cake for dessert. Grandpa is a wonderful cook, his clam chowder and oyster stew are so good and no one in the world smokes a salmon like him.

I am so thankful for his good health and his positive attitude. I feel lucky for everyday I get to spend with him. It’s sad that I waited this long, but I am trying to ask those questions that are sometimes hard to ask and to talk about those things we share even when it can be a difficult conversation.

Have you been waiting to have those conversations?  Are you figuring there will always be tomorrow?

The Fear Effect

Fear is a familiar friend,

it sucks my life without end.

Fear of what I don’t always know,

it’s always there, a common foe.

 

As I write these words I have my doubts.

Don’t write, it’s crap. Will fear win out?

Is fear my excuse or why I fail

or why I don’t make the attempt and chase my tail?

 

Everyone gets scared at times, of this I’m fairly certain,

but the ones who win the game are those who show fear a hurtin!

 

Awhile back I wrote a post about my Nagging Omission with my husband. Well recently I pulled off that bandage, faced my fear and went all in with a quick rip. First I showed my blog to my husband, letting him read several of the stories. And then I emailed most of my family about my writing and gave them a link to my site.

The good news is my world did not crash in, my husband didn’t ask for a divorce and now knows I do not have an internet lover. I haven’t had any irate calls from family or friends, yet. My husband has shown a tentative curiosity about what I’ve been writing and said he admired my ability to express myself and tell a story, but at first didn’t realize that my blog was open to anyone to see. That part I don’t think he is completely comfortable with and has some fears of his own that we will have to work through.

The only other person to comment about my blog has been my dad(technically my step-dad to those who read my blog and are confused) and he commented on a few of the posts and recited a couple of the poems he has written that are very good. He has one about fishing that is amazing and he has sold some copies of it, but he recited two others I didn’t remember. Maybe we will write a father-daughter poetry book some day.

But now that my husband and my family are aware of this blog and some of my writing; I find that a different type of fear is at work now; I am self-censoring and self-conscience about what I am writing.  Because if there are any people I “people-please” for its these people.  This is going to be tough!

Do you share your writing with your friends and family? Is there anything you keep just for your self for just this reason?

 

Self Criticism and Some Instructions on Life

I recently started reading Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and coincidentally one of my favorite blogs, BrainPickings posted an article, The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing. The article calls out items from the book and some commentary from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook page.

What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies of the human condition — our insecurities, our social anxieties, our inner turmoils. Among her most powerful and memorable meditations in the book is that on how our perfectionism kills the creative spirit — something she revisited recently in a short essay on her Facebook page, spurred by a surge in negative comments and vicious troll attacks.

I just finished reading the chapter on “Perfectionism” and I certainly recognized my self as I read those pages. My perfectionism has kept me from doing and trying so many things in my life; if I don’t think I can do something well or know how it works ahead of time I just don’t attempt it. I hate that about myself and want to jump in and try things that I never have and experience things that I have been too driven by the perfectionist tendencies; worrying about making mistakes, failing, looking foolish and so on, to get out there and just do them.

And another quote the article pulled from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook Page really struck this people pleaser.

 “Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to “help” and impress. Well, your help is not helpful, and falls short.

People pleasing and perfectionism go hand-in-hand and I know began at an early age for me. As the first-born your every moment is watched, recorded, critiqued, praised or scorned and corrected.  There is a little note in my baby book (see below) written by my mother that I came across awhile ago and this illustrates nicely how early my perfectionism and self criticisms started.

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Self criticism started early.

Since my mother’s last entry in the book was around age three or just when I turned 4 after my brother was born; this “amusing saying” likely occurred around age 3. I spilled my coffee and milk (more on why my mother was giving a three-year old coffee in another post) and said to my self; “Christ sakes Shari” (more salty language). And I have certainly improved over the last 40 years, never really giving myself a break on anything.

I am going to get that “shitty first draft written“, keep writing and posting here and not let those voices in my head that are telling me I’m not good enough win.

I plan on releasing my copy of “Bird by Bird” on BookCrossing when I am finished, because I’m sure there is another aspiring writer or perfectionist that could use the help.

Do you suffer from perfectionist tendencies?

 

 

$600 Well Spent

Omaha Sunset

 

The repetition begins at an early age,

with competition to make the grades.

It’s early to rise, to knot the ties,

sip your coffee and monetize.

The work is hard, but still we strive,

because a new toy is in our eyes.

Do we love the work we do,

so often only the lucky few.

To pay for the life that we live,

our sweat we must give.

 

I have gotten on a rhyming bent these last couple weeks. It seems to happen to me when I start reminiscing and thinking about life in a more reflective way. I think the return of my grandfather to Washington, a visit with my parents and sister and then my nieces graduation this weekend all had me thinking more slowly and reflecting on how quickly time passes. Life truly does go by in a blink of an eye and I seem to miss so much of it.

I need to quit working to pay for “things” and rather work to pay for the experiences of life. This week was a great example of what I would like to do more of; I spend time with my beautiful, sweet, talented niece Hailey and her family. I was able to hear her sing in a performance, meet her new college roommate, finally meet her step-dad(who has been in her life for nearly 13 years) and hang out and laugh with my little brother. The four day with airfare, rental car, food, etc cost me $600, for me that was money well spent.

What do you work for and how do you spend money well?

I Am Afflicted With Wanderlust

Venice 1  As my world has begun to shrink, my wanderlust has begun to expand.

I keep reading books and blogs about travel and this desire continues to build up in me like the water behind a damn that is about to break. I was window shopping vacation rentals in Paris yesterday; imagining renting one for about six months and getting to write, walk the streets of Paris, learn some proper French and sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.

A Stephanie Rosenbloom article “Solo in Paris” in the May 2nd New York Times nicely sums up how I would love to spend my time.

“Indeed, the city has a centuries-old tradition of solo exploration, personified by the flâneur, or stroller. Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age. Baudelaire described the flâneur as a passionate spectator, one who was fond of “botanizing on the asphalt,” as the essayist Walter Benjamin would later put it. Typically, it was a man. No longer.”

With observation and people watching being favorite pastimes this excerpt from the Ms. Rosenbloom’s article encapsulates the idea perfectly;

“To refuel, I stopped by a favorite among my friends, Le Comptoir du Relais, a cozy maroon bistro where English is hardly spoken. I walked in around 4:30, which meant I had no trouble getting lunch. Tall panes of glass were flung open, letting in the sidewalk, the better for gawking at passers-by, which I did shamelessly while eating salmon with wasabi and turnips. Places like this, where one looks out as others look in, are ideal for solo travelers. I had that exquisite feeling described by Baudelaire in “The Painter of Modern Life,” in which you “see the world,” are “at the center of the world,” and yet “remain hidden from the world.””

I also found this wonderful blog post yesterday on Medium by Keegan Jones, Lessons From A Year of Solo Travel. He has some great observations and interesting tips and information about seeing the world. The first one was that he planned to spent less than $33/ day on accommodations but after a year on the road he spent less;

“Travel can be affordable.
Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.”

He also posted a picture of the limited possessions and clothes that he traveled with over his year of travel. Maybe 30 items.

“I have lived with a few things in a backpack for a year. I have been perfectly content. It’s a fantastic feeling to walk off an airplane with a single carry-on backpack. I didn’t buy a single souvenir because I had no extra space in my backpack. I have become more conscious about things I want versus things that I need. The less you own, the better. Otherwise, your possessions will own you. Living this way is a privilege. It affords the flexibility to easily move, live in less space, worry less, and spend less to buy bigger and better things.”

This was the most appealing part of the story to me, shedding all the possessions that are weighing me down and getting down to the basic necessities of life with maybe a few luxuries in there for fun.

And this quote, from the author Jon Krakauer, that he included also got me thinking.

““Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” ― Jon Krakauer”

I have always been the responsible planner that makes sure the trip is planned, the bills are paid, the next job is lined up, the birthday cards are mailed and on and on. I would like to escape the “monotonous security” for a while. I know my opportunity will come, I am working on being ready for it when the time is right!

How about you any secret travel lust?

 

Will I Be Alone?

IMG_0018  Recently, I sat inside a restaurant by a window looking out on to the patio eating area outside. An old woman with an oxygen tank sat out there alone eating her lunch and reading the “Trader Joe’s” “Fearless Flyer”.  Her grey hair was cut in a stylish short bob, she wore a colorful sweater and cute sneakers. The cord for her oxygen tank was tucked discreetly under her shirt and dangling to the ground with the tank itself in the seat next to her in a black bag.

She made me wonder about my life at that age (I do hope I make it that long in good health). Will I be alone? Chances are, yes I will be alone. I don’t have biological children, my step-daughters are older than I am, the grandkids are in far off places and I haven’t gotten to know the great-grandchildren as well as I would have liked. They grow up and get busy and we get less mobile.

Finding a second love of my life seems doubtful in my 50’s or my 60’s if I’m lucky enough to keep my husband healthy for that long. So a grey haired single life will be in my future. I guess for some the grey haired single life is swinging, a New York Times Op-Ed article I read, Sex and the Single Senior by Ezekiel J. Emanuel talked about the huge uptick in STD’s in those ages 65 and older;

“Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rapid increases in S.T.D.’s among older people. Between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent. Those numbers are similar to S.T.D. trends in the 20- to 24-year-old age group, where chlamydia increased by 35 percent and syphilis by 64 percent. Experts suggest there are four main factors contributing to the rise in S.T.D.’s among older Americans.”

The article also pointed out the similarities of retirement living to college campus living with lots of similarly aged people living in close proximity to one and other which was leading to the inevitable interaction of the sexes. This statistic about condom use was also interesting;

“But while they are having a lot of sex, seniors didn’t seem to get the safe sex memo, or when it came through they ignored it because they did not think it applied to them. They obviously don’t have to worry about pregnancy. And they grew up before the safe sex era. So seniors might think they have no reason to use condoms. According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, among college-age Americans, condoms are used in about 40 percent of sexual encounters, but only in about 6 percent of sexual encounters among those 61 and older. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that older men who use Viagra and similar drugs are six times less likely to use condoms compared with men in their 20s.”

Apparently they need to begin handing out safe sex pamphlets with those Viagra prescriptions. Mr. Emanuel suggested Social Security begin sending out safe sex messages with the retirement checks.

All of this rings true, I know not long after (I mean in a matter of weeks) my grandmother passed away there were at least three women vying for my grandfathers affections. And it wasn’t long before he had a girlfriend he was traveling with and spending time time together cooking and golfing. He said he wasn’t in love, but he liked the company.

Maybe there won’t be a second love of my life, but chances are I could get laid in my old age, if trends hold true. But, “No Glove, No Love” will be the rule.

Do you worry about any particular part of growing older?