Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Healing Power of the Book (Club)

It has been quiet on BettyRants for the last two weeks, and this has been driving me crazy. That is, unfortunately what happens when it is time for school to start again. After enjoying a summer full of magical moments of free time to write, read, tweet, photograph, draw, and explore to my heart's content, suddenly every moment of every day belongs to someone else. Every day and night is suddenly overfilled with things that need to be done immediately, if not sooner.  That is quite an adjustment to make.  It's a good thing I love what I do.

Anyway, after going ninety miles an hour with my hair on fire for the last two weeks, I finally had the opportunity to stop and slow down for a little while yesterday while I caught up with my book club.  For the last few years, my mother and I have belonged to a book club made up of lifelong friends who have become family.  In theory, we meet monthly, and each woman takes a turn choosing a book.  Our tastes, like we, are vastly different, so we read all kinds of stuff that we would never see without The Club.  We usually meet at someone's house and all bring food and drink that is connected to the book.  We go a little crazy in our preparations; the more creative, the better.  When we read Arcadia Falls, by Carol Goodman in the early days, Mom helped me pull grapevine out of her yard which I wove into a wreath to put around the outside of the pan of roasted root vegetables that I made to represent the twisted roots that recurred throughout the book.  It was awesome, and not even close to the most creative thing there that day!

We eat, drink, laugh, and sometimes even talk about the book.  Usually what begins as a discussion of the book ultimately leads to a discussion of life as we know it.  When we make it happen, it is sacred time.  The Club is made up of two generations of women, some of whom have known each other since birth.  Some are working while raising babies and young children, some work and have children who are grown, some have children in The Club, and some have four-legged children.  Our beliefs and politics may be different, but when we meet for Book Club, none of that matters.  We are friends who let down our hair, kick off our shoes, and have fun for a few hours.

Delicious Coconut Cocktail
It had been a few months since we had all been able to make our schedules work to get together for Book Club.  Between work, kids, and life in general, we are a busy bunch.  It seems like everyone I know is busy these days.  We are busier than we used to be, busier than we want to be, busier than we need to be, just busy.  We get so busy that we forget to stop and connect face-to-face with the people that help energize us.

For our Summer meeting, we read On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.  It was a quick read about two people who, after a plane crash, learn to survive together on an deserted island.  Since we had all been so busy lately, we decided to meet at a beach-themed restaurant.  Bahama Breeze, overlooking the water between Tampa and Clearwater, was a fantastic choice!  Coconuts featured prominently in the book, so a coconut cocktail was high on my priority list.  Theirs was perfect!

Our fun centerpiece
As we were in public, the decorations were mostly set already, but C, J & J brought a bag filled with kids' toys to use as a centerpiece representing different parts of the book, some of which, like the chickens, I had forgotten.  What a clever way to remind us of the story!  The toys provided a great jumping off point to begin our discussion of the book.  We actually found ourselves delving deeper into questions about this story than we have in a while, and the conversation was most exhilarating.

Our Survival Kits

To help us remember On the Beach, each of us was given a "survival kit" filled with items mentioned in the book that they either missed or managed to find to make it through their time on the island.  The thing that they said that they most wanted was a cold Coke over ice, so a little Coke was included for each of us.  It was creative and thoughtful, as always.

Possibly the coolest moment of the day came as we were wrapping up.  My mom, SandiPaints, looked over my shoulder into Tampa Bay and saw a dolphin playing in the water.  Again, dolphins figured prominently in the book.  We were all transfixed watching to see the fin pop up again. It was beautiful, and peaceful, and energizing at the same time.  For all of us.  Just as it should have been.

As the afternoon storm rolled in over the water, our little club parted.   But we have already planned our next meetings through March, promising not to let so much time pass again without this wonderful, inspiring connection.  I have always known that books have the potential to take me anywhere, to make me feel better.  Now I know that sharing these books, and this time, with amazing women has a restorative power all its own.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

If You Are Me, This Is a Big Deal!

Monday, August 13th, 2012

I have some exciting news.  

Instead of the blog post that would normally be found here, I have been chosen to be the featured writer today over at studio30plus, an amazing community full of tips, support, and inspiration for all types of writers!  My blog post is on their website!

Please click on one of the links or their button on the right and pay them a visit.  Read my blog.  Leave a comment.  If you enjoy it, pass it on to someone else.  

My Summer Vacation ends today, so I will be back at work when all of this happens, but chances are good, that I will sneak a peek on here, there, Twitter, or Facebook at some point during the day.  I'd love to read what you have to say.

Hope you all have a wonderful day, and an amazing week!


Security Blanket

Baby Boy Burrito
Infancy spent swaddled in its soft, flannel warmth and comfort.
Possessing superpowers, his cape propels him through boyhood.
Worn threadbare with love, Grandma sews it into a patchwork bunny welcoming his firstborn child.

The above is my response to the weekend's Trifextra writing challenge. "Noted blues musician, Lead Belly, was quoted in Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet as saying:
You take a knife, you use it to cut the bread, so you'll have strength to work; you use it to shave, so you'll look nice for your lover; on discovering her with another, you use it to cut out her lying heart.
Give us 33 words (exactly) that tell us three different uses for one object. But don't just tell us that a can opener can be used to 1) open cans, 2) open beer bottles and 3) break a window in case of a fire. Tell us a story, like Lead Belly did, if you can. It won't be easy, but you guys are far beyond needing easy prompts."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mountain Magic Part One

Our view over the mountain

Quite a few years ago now, my parents, my sister, and I were lucky enough to find property on a mountain in North Carolina with a house big enough for all of us that, together, we could afford. We had grand ideas of one day turning it into a compound like the Kennedys in Kennebunkport because we like to dream big, but really, there is room for all of us in the house and building new houses on the side of a mountain would be insanely expensive.

When we first started coming up to visit the house, our trips were crazy mad dashes from one "must see" place to the next. Every moment was filled with either driving somewhere to look at beautiful Carolina mountain scenery, or hitting some cute, little shop that just couldn't be missed, or checking out the food at a restaurant that the locals swore was simply the best in the South. We found ourselves at home just long enough to sleep, shower, wake up, and do it all over again the next day. By the time we made it back to Florida, we were always more tired than when we had left. While we were in Carolina, we recognized the laid-back nature of the place, we felt the sense of calm that permeated the air we breathed, but it just seemed like there was too much we "had" to do to ever sit still long enough to breathe in very much of it.

Finally, last year, something changed. A switch flipped in my head, I guess, I don't know, but something was different. For starters, this trip was just me and Dad, instead of the whole family. We hadn't done a father-daughter road trip since my senior year in high school when we went to New Orleans, but that is another story for another day. Anyway, for the first time ever we got up in the morning and asked the question, "What do we have to do today?" Much to our surprise, the answer was, "Nothing." It was seriously disconcerting. I tend to have almost every minute of every day scheduled in my regular life, so to say, "I have no place to be today and there is nothing I have to do," totally threw me for a loop. Then I decided to embrace it. I knew that opportunity would only exist for a short period of time, so I grabbed it with both hands and held on for dear life!

A couple of the days we just stayed in our pjs and hung around the house reading and watching tv. I introduced Dad to my favorite series, The Wire, on DVD, so we watched a marathon of that. Each day seemed more amazing than the next! We ventured out to Terry's, my favorite roadside produce stand, where we bought Hillbilly Stripeys, the most delicious heirloom tomatoes I have ever tasted. The first bite actually made me cry. I made them into tomato sandwiches, a Southern staple. When we felt like it, we went into town and ate our favorite burgers at The Coffee Shop, or pizza at Mill & Main, or our very favorite, vegan chili and sandwiches, at Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro. We went to lunch whenever we felt like it, we came home and took naps if we were tired. One afternoon we washed dishes and rolled silverware at the Community Table.  Another afternoon we drove out to the new casino to have lunch at Paula Deen's restaurant.  It was fabulous!

At that point, Baby Sister was early into her first pregnancy, so when we did venture out into the local shops, we inevitably found things that were so cute, the baby (we had yet to learn his sex) just had to have them!  We caught up with our favorite potters, Zan, Brant, and Karen Barnes at Riverwood Pottery, the only place in Carolina that I am guaranteed to spend money every time!  Their work is seriously beautiful!  We drove into Cashiers one day and ended up on a quest for a big, metal chicken named Beyonce' like TheBloggess' for my friend, Julie.  We also got to spend some time with my godparents up at their house on Dick's Creek.  On that trip I photographed the water in a few really beautiful Carolina creeks, which I love to capture on film more than almost anything.  We went where we wanted to go whenever we felt like it.  The freedom was intoxicating!

Deep Creek 

Afternoon Cocktail Hour was celebrated with fun, fresh appetizers and Bloody Marys. In the evenings I played Chef in our kitchen to my heart's content, and Dad was seriously appreciative of the food I made. I even started writing down what went into some of the dishes I created, knowing that someday I wanted to do something with them, even though I wasn't sure yet what that was.  I felt all of the stress and tension of the year melting away a little more each day. The magic the mountains were working on me was palpable. I couldn't remember when I had last felt so relaxed, and I knew, Dad and I  both knew, that we wanted to do it again this summer.  In fact we started planning our escape for this summer before we drove away from the house last summer.

Photos and details of this year's trip are coming soon.

Green's Creek from the bridge

Hemingway Homage: Six Word Story

It's positive! 
Finally dreams come true.

This post is in celebration of Hemingway Week at studio30plus. I combined both prompts, "It's Positive" and "Obsessed with Earnest" in creating this six word story, inspired by his. And no, I am not pregnant.