Coffee…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 7

Wow, seven days….seven days since the world holed up and I started counting squares when using toilet paper. Seven days since community starved people actually started saying hello from across the street as we walk by with our black dogs in tow. Seven days since I’ve hugged anyone not in my immediate family. Seven days of home cooked meals and slow moments of boredom and time to do all the laundry and vacuum the floors more than once every couple of weeks. Seven days of writing for ten minutes a day and creating art each day and thinking through what happens if this is more than just a passing phase. A lot has happened in those seven days. It’s an interesting world we are living in right now. How are you making it? Leave me a comment…for reals, I’d like to hear proof of life right now.

Today’s prompt feels less heavy than the last few, but as I have yet to start my timer, we shall see. Tell me about how you drink coffee? When? Where? If you don’t drink it, tell me how you stopped. I bet you know more about coffee than the person drinking it. Write about it now. Ten minutes…Go.

Coffee…a beverage I never liked until forty creeped in on me and sleep stopped coming in the night. I have always loved the smell of coffee, but couldn’t savor the bitter taste that never quite lived up to the rich aroma it let off. Then those years of working full time, driving ballet car pool, math homework and worry over angry teenagers came rushing in and coffee’s bitter flavor was the taste of everyday life and I clung to caffeinated relief like a smoker clings to a cigarette.

I learned to love coffee in a small shop that opened downed the corridor from my office and across the hall from my daughter’s ballet studio. The shop owner had a way of caressing pastry dough that infused it with life and I fell in love with her and her place. She taught me that coffee’s bitterness was unique to each bean and I learned to savor it like a fine wine.

Now I’ve passed that passion to my son and we share its secrets together sometimes over a cup brewed in our tiny drip coffee pot and sometimes over a new spot one of us has discovered. I still think coffee tastes of bitterness and lies to your nose about it’s richness….but I’ve grown to love it. The bite of each bean is unique and tells a quiet story…it’s not unlike life really…bitter, sweet, aromatic and full of a story.

I’d love to hear your words here….you know since we are all in this together anyway….if you feel like it, I invite you to post your response to these prompts in the comments.

Another writing prompt for you…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 6

It’s been a full week since we’ve started this experiment in social distancing…a hail Mary pass to save the world. It’s such a weird thing to choose to follow the rules and assume that the rest of the world is too, and then discover that there are those who are still congregating and shaking hands and sharing germs. I won’t get into how that makes me feel, but it does play into my response to the below writing prompt. I just want to lead with this- I am ok, I promise. I’ve always been very careful about the words I share in this space- only sharing uplifting, positive messages. But the truth is writing is a valuable outlet for me to flesh out thoughts that trouble me. Free writing exercises in particular are powerful tools for me to think un-edited. I have committed to share these with this space in their original, raw form. So if it seems this writing is darker than my usual, this is the reason. Welcome to the un-edited mind of Cari. I hope you’ll stay a while.

It has been an interesting exercise to find myself writing on the regular again. Even more interesting are the requests I get from more than one person when these posts are late at night and seem to be forgotten. I didn’t think anyone else but my friend and I were really engaged by these…turns out I was wrong. So for those of you following along out there quietly, I will try to make sure these are posted with more regularity. But no promises…:)

Today’s prompt is an interesting one. I’m skipping over a lot of the explanation, but know that this one had a lead in that is worth the read. You should invest in Old Friend From Far Away if you have any interest at all in writing. In the end, Natalie Shares this:

Tell me this: what’s the difference between a passion and an obsession? These are the kinds of questions writers love to ponder. Would you rather haven an obsession or a passion? Hint: obsession is linked to suffering.

Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend From Far Away

Write for ten minutes, keep the hand going, what are your obsessions? Go…

Sheesh… a loaded question- one that wreaks of dangerous knowledge and introspection. What am I obsessed with?

Understanding people….understanding myself. It’s a dangerous obsession that ranks first for me…before peanut butter and those chocolate chip cookies filled with frosting they make at Great American Cookie Company. The danger comes in the knowing. Once you understand a person’s motives…say even your own- you can’t un-know them. The danger comes in understanding- it paves the way for then rationalization and excuse.

Understanding what drives people opens the door to manipulation- but of who? It’s a long, dark hallway with a ton of doors- some locked, some not- but none marked with the final address. It’s easy to get turned around and lost down that corridor and never know that you’ve made a wrong turn.

That’s my obsession. I’m obsessed with knowing the why behind people’s actions. Understanding the constant push and pull of relationship and the need of some to ride emotional roller coasters until they are nauseated and disoriented. It causes heartache though, because once you understand it is difficult to find fault and without someone to hold the blame the world just descends into a writhing mosh pit of emotional pain.

The Third Thing

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 4….Hey look, I’m still writing! Two days in a row, that’s a habit right (or something)? Today, Natalie gave a bit of an interesting prompt. What’s your “Third Thing?” She says,

What is the third thing? There is you and there is writing, But you can’t write about writing. It’s ingrown. You and writing must gaze out at a third thing…..What is your third thing? Yes, of course, it can be your memories. Go, for ten minutes.”

From Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

So here goes….my third thing…

Image by Sadie Stumm

What’s the third thing? The thing I’m staring out the window of my soul at right now? For me, it’s this new normal.

What do you call it…all the birdies in the nest, snuggled in and held tight against viruses and plagues and the sky falling on our heads.. Yep, that’s my third thing right now. This brave new world of social distancing and six foot pole greetings and the creeping fear of a silent enemy that may have already breached the concertina wire and hand sanitizer.

It’s crazy how a virus named after the brightest light has brought so much darkness. At the same time to watch the world bind together and do small parts to stay connected and keep everyone safe and healthy puts Peace on the throne of my heart. There’s been so much light to watch and so much air to breathe and it feels like a much needed rest is being imposed on the whole world. Some of us will fight against it like a toddler fights against nap time, but just maybe God’s there, rubbing our backs and singing a lullaby over our over stimulated hearts and minds.

I think maybe rest is actually my third thing after all and it is a phenomenon coming to the entire world at once. What an amazing opportunity to close our eyes and dream.

I’d love to hear your words here….you know since we are all in this together anyway….if you feel like it, I invite you to post your response to these prompts in the comments.

Just a little something to pass the time…

Coronavirus Social Distancing Log- Day 3…

Our world has gone a bit crazy, people are in the aisles hoarding toilet paper and paper towels, every kid is a homeschooler now and the pace of life is beginning to slow to a crawl. In an effort to stay sane and maybe to seize upon the beautiful opportunity we’ve been given to reflect and create and love our families and well, just be. My friend, Kati and I were chatting about how we were muddling through this experience and she brought up writing prompts. I told her I was trying my hand at them again and would share them with her, and she encouraged me to return to this space and share them here. So that I’ll do….for how long- I won’t make any false promises, but for today at least.

This prompt comes from my favorite place to explore memory and memoir- Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. It’s simple….just write….for ten minutes…no editing. The prompt is Storage.

Tell me about a storage unit or someplace you stored things. Write for 10 minutes. Go.

Storage

There’s a box that sits on my bedside table that holds the oddest collection of things. I can’t remember where I got it, but the metal hinges are rusted and complain a bit when you swing them open. The dry wood is carved with intricate symbols of a religion that no longer whispers meaning to me. It’s full of interesting odds and ends from a life that seems eons ago. A St Christopher’s medallion blessed by the Pope, dog tags that proudly proclaim my blood type and social security number. There’s a tie tack in there that I was awarded when I left the Army and the silver dollar my great uncle gave me along with my first salute. My 11th BDE belt buckle and challenge coin that used to travel every where with me, even overseas….even into war…lest I be caught without it and challenged by a brother in arms. It smells of sandalwood and patchouli and way too many other kinds of incense and it reminds me of a girl who doesn’t live here anymore. It’s an odd feeling to look back over items of a past life and realize you’re no longer connected to them. But still they sit, in that carved wooden box, on my bedside table.

Memoir Writing Prompt…a little test for you :)

Grade A

Every now and again in Old Friend from Far Away, Natalie Goldberg throws in a little test.  These are multiple writing prompts that you write on for two or three minutes each.  It is a fun experiment to flex your writing muscles.  Let’s do one today! 

Here’s what she says about the test:

Here is a test.  The good thing about it is all answers are correct.  Right off the top you receive an ‘A”.

You have two or three minutes to answer each question.  Make sure you are specific.  Nothing vague.  You might want to begin each answer with ‘I remember.’

Ready? I’m going to share all the prompts with you, but only some of my writing responses cause…well…cause it’s my blog and I can! Don’t skip any though…you can do it! Here we go!

  • The first one:  give me a memory of your mother, aunt, or grandmother.  If it’s an aunt say her name, for example, “I remember my aunt Gladys…” Be detailed. Here’s mine for example:

My aunt Margaret was a brash drunk of a woman.  Her wealth made her lack trust for anyone around her, especially young children and she yelled about as if we were all servants.  She loved roses.  Her roses were the most beautiful bushes I’ve ever seen and like her, screamed the warning, “Behold my beauty! Beware my thorns!”

  • Give me a memory of the color red.  Do not write the word “red” but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.  For example, ruby, tomato, fire, blood.

His Chuck Taylor’s waited at the end of his feet begging for notice-signature shoes that shared his name and shouted Arkansas school spirit.  He wore them always with matching Umbro soccer shorts, even when it was cold. They matched his nose when the sun would bake it or the cold wind would chap it.

  • Give me a memory of a sound.  Again, try not to use the word “sound” in your writing. Here’s an example:

The hum of the generators was a lullaby at 2 am, especially when the fate of the world rested on my alertness. The low rumble of it vibrated the seat I was in and made everything else feel quiet and peaceful. While watching for the end of the world, I leaned my head against the padded wall and thought, “I will just rest it here for a while.”

  • Give me a picture of a teacher you had in elementary school. Two minutes..
  • Tell me about a meal you loved. Where were you when you ate it? What was the weather like out the window? How old were you? Who were you with? Two minutes…go!
  • Last one, tell me about a time you remember rain. Rain might not be the main focus of the memory, but write about a time when it was there with you.

He offered me his umbrella as we climbed the hill to our next class.  I was reveling in the feel of summer as it dropped on my skin I told him.  He looked at me as if I was a walking poem- desire lighting his eyes and closed the umbrella.  He turned his face to the sky, but he couldn’t be free so he opened the umbrella and continued to walk beside me.  It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

So what’s the point here?  What are we trying to learn?  Nicole is teaching us to use our senses when we write.  We didn’t write about smell, so right now, list ten smells you remember. Be specific. For example:

  1. Wet dog
  2. sage and onions
  3. Charlie’s sweat
  4. buttercream frosting
  5. spring after rain
  6. Aunt Lora’s house
  7. old books
  8. White Shoulders perfume
  9. baby poop
  10. perm solution

 

This is what Nicole says about using your senses when you write…I love it:

Naturally, you are not going to cover every sense every time you write a scene. But doing this “I Remember” test is like acupuncture pricks alerting your mind when you write.  You go along describing something and then-ah yes, Snow was falling wet as my heart when I asked her to marry me. The word becomes bigger. Your love includes weather now- and feeling.

Memoir Writing Prompt…and thoughts on memory..

Memory is a funny thing.  I sometimes think my experience with it is exceptional because I know first hand what it is to be without one (I lost my mine once when I had a traumatic brain injury.) Sometimes I don’t trust the memories I have because I simply don’t know which ones are mine and which I have created based on stories I have heard.  In the end, it doesn’t matter….we all have exceptionally creative brains that fill gaps and rewrite stories all the time….can anyone really trust their memory?  No, I don’t think so…which is why I write at times….because at least then there is a record of what I believed when I believed it.  Memoir is an exercise in memory recall.

Did you write on our last prompt?  My friend who was so excited I was starting this series was disappointed that it was something so mundane…But Natalie Goldberg suggests that there are four prompts we should flex writing muscles with all the time: “I’m thinking of../I’m looking at../I remember../I don’t remember.”  So we continue with lifting the ten pound weights before we transition to the 25 lb ones.

I want to share a bit of what Natalie shares with those beginning this practice:

“Don’t cross out. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or grammar.  Be specific. Not car, but Cadillac. Not tree, but sycamore.  But don’t worry, if you write “bird” instead of woodpecker, you can figure out what kind it was two weeks later when you reread it. The important thing is to keep your hand moving. If you get stuck go back and write the prompt again…

Say what you want to say, not what you think you should say. Trust what you put down, even if the editor or critic inside you says it’s wrong or you made a mistake…feel free to write the worst junk in America.”

So here are the rules:

  1. No editing.  Write what you write.
  2. You may choose to share your post- just post the link in the comments.  Or you don’t have to.  I sat on some of these writings for a year before I was brave enough to post them.  Let them be true…without thought of audience AND then choose what you will share with the world at large.  If you choose not to share, will you share some thoughts about your experience writing this prompt?
  3. Write for ten minutes….at the end of your ten minutes, wrap up with a final thought and end your piece.

That’s it! Easy-peasy, right?  So let’s go!

Write for ten minutes on the prompt- “I remember.”

n-WOMAN-CHALKBOARD-large570

I remember the year we left the Christmas tree up until March.  It was after my sister, Lora’s, birthday before we took it down.  I think Lora thought it was something special we did in honor of her in that way only young children can imagine that the most mundane of things is a gift to them.

I remember my mother was filled with shame at the thought of it.  I wonder if she felt it was an outward reflection of an inner failure on her part that the tree was still up and glistening with icicles and homemade ornaments. We never turned the lights on after Christmas.   Those lights were great blinking beacons to her failure and a lighthouse alerting all who would come near that this home did not have it all together. 

I remember the day that she admitted truth….that we didn’t have it all together and that, in fact, that made us a stronger family not a weaker one.

I remember my grandmother was dying that year and my baby sister, Alexis, was young, celebrating her second year on earth- or perhaps she wasn’t born yet- perhaps I don’t remember that part at all.  I simply remember that there were good reasons for our delayed response to removing the tree at a socially acceptable time.  I remember that life had intruded with busy schedules and more important priorities and had stolen from us any of the moments we might have taken to stow away our Christmas memories.