I’m recording an occasional Curiosity Journal, a recap of the past week or so. Tag words are: reading, playing, learning, reacting and writing.
Reading: I managed to finish a chapter in Sophie’s World this weekend, about the Epicureans, Neoplatonism, and Mysticism. As I read, especially the mysticism section, I kept thinking about a friend who said, “I think our kids should read Sophie’s World because it will show them that there’s really nothing new—these same big ideas and philosophies just keep cycling around again and again.”
I’m also reading Enchanted, by Guy Kawasaki, for the book club at TheHighCalling.org. Distracted by my garden, I forgot to write and link something on Monday. Having finished the chapter on “How to Use Push Technology,” however, I’ve resolved to have someone snap another profile picture of me, preferably featuring a Duchenne smile. And next time I prepare for a message, I shall revisit his presentation guidelines.
Playing: To celebrate the end of school, the kids asked to go to The Children’s Museum. As we walked in: Jelly bean art.
Some of you have mentioned that you may begin posting a Curiosity Journal, as well. I’ll toss a Simply Linked tool up here for you to link up if you write one of your own. But when Monica starts up her Curiosity Journals again, I’ll send you back to her place. She started it; she should host.
And though I don’t have pictures to prove it, I’ll have you know I rode the carousel and played Pac-Man—this week’s attempt at play.
Learning: A friend of ours manages a young musician who comes from a financially successful family. He said it’s been hard to motivate her to do what it takes to move ahead in the music business because things have been relatively easy for her up till now. He said, “She needs to wake up in the morning and ask herself, ‘What can I do today to become a better musician?'” Apparently she doesn’t think that way.
She could take lessons to improve, but doesn’t see the need; she doesn’t even practice her instrument unless her manager has scheduled a practice session.
The past couple of days I’ve awakened with a variation of that line rolling around in my head: “What can I do today to become a better writer?”
I know that reading quality literature and practicing writing daily will help me to improve, but I’ve also taken a concrete step that prioritizes my work: I’ve relocated and reorganized my workspace.
The family was okay with letting me convert the dining room to office space.
It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house, with light streaming in through the big window.If this space works, we can close it off for privacy someday.
Plus, I gained an extra writing desk in front of the window.The kids can practice piano in the next room over instead of two feet behind my head. I’m tucked away from the main traffic flow, hopefully minimizing “pop-in” inquiries from the kids.
I don’t know where we’ll eat when company comes for dinner, but I already feel more productive as a writer and editor.
Reacting: Today is my grandma’s birthday. If she were alive, we’d be celebrating her 115th birthday. Yesterday I carried a basket of clothes to the back yard to hang them to dry. A mourning dove cooed, and I thought of Grandma’s house in a small town in southern Indiana. Those birds sent out their mournful song in the mornings in her neighborhood, and I’d often help her hang a load of laundry on the umbrella-style clothesline.
My parents would drop me off to spend a week with her in the summertime, and I loved waking up in the front bedroom under fresh sheets spread neatly on the big double bed, a loosely woven purple cotton blanket folded back. In the narrow, horizontal window, she displayed a collection of colored glass bottles. Light streamed in through the colors, morning magic. I blinked myself awake, rested and safe.
In my memory I can still walk through every room, from the baker’s cabinet in the corner of the kitchen to the day bed along the dining room wall; from the collection of gardening books on shelves in the living room, to the glass jar of leftover yarn balls sitting next to a chair in Grandma’s bedroom. It’s all still here, inside me.
I can still wander out the screen door and hear the spring stretch the wooden frame shut with a solid “thunk.” Under the grape arbor, I pluck a Concord grape, manipulating the skin off with my teeth to suck the sweet, cool insides and chew the sour skins before spitting them out. In my mind, Baby’s Breath still blooms white behind the garage and orange day lilies line the side of the house. For a while, my grandma made rag rugs on a loom that she set up on a small porch. I can see its threads and recall how the shuttle slipped across to bind the strips of cloth.
When Grandma passed away in 1987, the house was sold, remodeled and turned into a rental after the possessions were divided among my mom, uncles, cousins, brother and me. Though the structure remained, the home as I knew and loved it has been gone for decades. I haven’t set foot in it since.
Why, then, did it hurt so much to hear from my mom that the house burned down last year?
It has sat derelict all these months. Mom and Dad drove to visit the cemetery on Memorial Day last weekend. Mom snapped this photo of the beloved house, her childhood home.
Next to the porch where the loom once sat, under the window that once framed the gleaming display of colored glass, a pink rose bush blooms.
Writing: I don’t anticipate writing a memoir, but I do write from memories sometimes, as evidenced above. My poor memory concerns me—what if I have all the details wrong? As I think back to childhood, I find that with the exception of Grandma’s house, I can’t drag up various scenes as detailed as I’d like. I think I may have sort of turned off some part of my mind, choosing not to listen or mentally accept what was said at times. What I carry with me to this day ends up sort of sketchy.
But I think it must be important that I have carried the memory with me in a particular form, even if I haven’t retained the events as accurately as a reporter.
I felt somewhat affirmed when I heard a report on NPR about memoir:
Memoirs have to be true, says Lee Gutkind, a professor at Arizona State University and a specialist in creative nonfiction. But you can’t apply journalistic standards to a memoir — there’s a difference between facts and the truth.”It’s your story, that’s what a memoir is,” Gutkind says.”
It’s your own personal truth, and it is not necessarily factually accurate, and it’s not necessarily the truth that other people have possessed.”
It’s my story—my own personal truth—even if it isn’t necessarily factually accurate.
And so I may begin to write them down, these memories, these stories, incomplete or inaccurate as they may be. The child I once was experienced them in a way that made sense at the time, and I’ve carried the stories with me all this time. Several friends have urged me to get them down, so as part of my personal writing discipline, I intend to preserve some of these moments somewhere on the hard drive of my computer or the pages of my journal.
Photo of Grandma’s house taken by my mom. Jelly bean art and home office photos by Ann Kroeker.
Michelle DeRusha says
I love this idea! And I really like your new writing space…kind of jealous of that!
Thanks, Michelle! I had to get buy-in from the entire family, and next time we have friends over for dinner, I’m not entirely sure where we will set up a table and chairs. It’ll be…peculiar.
Ann—whoa, I am overwhelmed with this today.
1) LOVE the question about what I will do today to be a better writer. For that matter, what will I do today to be a better servant? a better Christ follower? a better friend? Makes the day feel like an adventure, as it should.
2) Seeing your writing space made me warm and fuzzy inside. Not sure why. Just loved seeing where you will be, crafting a phrase and jotting your memories.
3) Your Grandma’s house made me cry. And now I’m singing that Sara Groves song, “This House”—do you know it? Here’s the video she played at her concert: http://youtu.be/pc7MLoRnyCg
4) I am starting my CJ. 🙂 Thanks for inspiring me.
1) I actually have had the same thought. I almost presented this as a fill-in-the-blank with the same kinds of categories: “What can I do today to be a better _________ (Christ-follower, mom, wife, friend, daughter, writer…).” Then I decided to simplify to writing.
2) Thanks for celebrating the writing space! I’ve worked in less than ideal circumstances for, well, about 15 years. I don’t know that my writing will improve any in this space, but my attitude probably will! 🙂
3) Makes me cry, too. I’m clicking through to the video as soon as I publish this comment.
4) Yay! Can’t wait to read it!
Megan Willome says
I’m so glad to hear that you’ve come up with a solution to your writing space problem. I prayed for you on that one. I only have 2 1/2 months of having to write around my kids, and you do it every single month of every single year.
Thanks for the npr link. Somehow I missed that one.
And now, I need to call my 97-year-old grandmother.
Well! That explains it, then, because the family was surprisingly positive about this whole switcheroo, even helping me tote things from one room to the next. I still have to sort through all the books and junk…you can note the empty bookshelf in the photos above. But thank you.
Love on that grandma of yours! I miss mine so much…
That jellybean art is insane! (In a good way). I visited a museum in San Antonio which had a map of Texas made out of rattlesnake rattles. I think I like the jellybeans better. And about memoir–I love reading it, I keep writing it, but also don’t quite know what to do with it. Also, at times, I feel like my brain needs to squint really hard to bring back details and I, too, fear that I will remember wrong. The quote you posted helps. And, I figure writing and collecting my little stories is a lot like women who collect scraps and make quilts (or braided rugs). It’s not anything yet but, someday, might be.
I was so surprised–there was a wonderful one of Starry Night, but I was distracted by the kids and failed to get a quick shot of it. Rattlesnake rattles is pretty formidable art. It definitely communicates the “Don’t Mess with Texas” attitude!
I love reading memoir, too, though I don’t write it–at least not intentionally.
My friends who have encouraged me to write the stories claim that I may find that the memories sort of strengthen and vivify as I write and remember. And more may come, they say. We shall see.
Oh, and I love the quilt (or rag rug) analogy!
Charity Singleton says
Ann — That jelly bean art is TOO much! But your office – amazing! Who knew your dining room could transition so easily.
And I love the questions you are asking yourself about being a better writer, about writing from memory, etc. A friend passed along this blog post which has me thinking about being a better writer: http://www.rabbitroom.com/2011/05/a-world-short-on-masters/.
Plus, I got my Thursday post up on Wednesday night – does that count for working ahead like we talked about on Monday? 🙂
Thanks for the link to Rabbit Room. And I’m impressed with your preplanning! I’m still poking around the network to see if I can find a good match. 🙂
Oh, Ann, what a touching story. Your word choices created pictures for me and I felt almost like I was reliving those memories with you. Lovely. But the fire — what a heartache that must be. I still like to drive by my grandparents’ home, though they passed away a long time ago. The memories in that dear house will always live in my heart.
Now, Ann, I hope you’ll write a memoir. Take it one vignette (or blog post) at a time. I teach memoir-writing based on Deut. 4:9 and similar verses that tell us always to remember what we’ve seen God do for us, and to be sure to tell our kids and grandkids. Your blog post today could be tweaked just slightly (so it would technically be considered memoir) and you’d have one vignette in your memoir already written! You can do this! Let me know if I can help.
Thanks for your encouragement, Linda. I love your suggestion of piecing together a memoir over time, post after post. Even if I capture the basic memory, it’s progress.
I appreciate you taking time to comment!
Andrea Van Ye says
Dear Ann: So sweet to hear from you — let me know if you gather some thoughts about you “Growing Up Girl” and I’ll post for you and link over to you. It’s been fun hearing from my friends about what is stirring around in their heads. Thanks for stopping by. I love the ideo of a Curiosity journal … I may have to post about it, too. Looking forward to getting to know you … hope your evening is filled with an assurance of the Lord’s sweet love for you
I did find myself inspired–who knew that we’d have Richie Rich in common?
Diana Trautwein says
Oh, Ann – I loved your little snippet of memoir. This gives me a sample of your writing, not just your reporting on activities in your life (which I also enjoy reading, but it’s totally different from your story about your grandmother) and I’m grateful for it! I, too, am interested in exploring memoir – primarily for my granddaughters to read someday – and loved the quote. He is right – your truth is…your truth, whatever and however you remember. And your new writing space looks fab! Tables can go anywhere, especially in the warmer months…when they can be outside. :>)
Thank you for your note. I hope you do write your own memories…and I hope to churn out all kinds of wonderful projects in this dining room. Thanks for celebrating with me, and reassuring me that I’ll find plenty of spots to entertain guests. 🙂
Andrea Van Ye says
BTW … about one year ago, we converted our dining room in to my office, where I write. I’m even using the dining room table as a make-shift desk. As for entertaining guests … it hasn’t been a problem. 🙂 We just make space somewhere else! Good for you — always love a new space to organize and work in …
Thanks, Andrea, for helping me relax about entertaining guests. 🙂
I enjoyed reading your Curiosity Journal. I think this would be a great idea to implement with my kids at some point…it sounds like it would be a nice summer thing, to make sure we’re learning, reading, playing, developing a skill, etc., something not too structured, but a goal for how to spend the summer time. Need to think some more, but it’s a great idea!
Your new dining room office looks wonderful and inspiring. Some years ago we turned our dining room into a “school room” with bookshelves, and a table with a computer, etc. We needed that space, and it’s been a good use for that room!
Treasure your new creative space!
I’d love to have a school room, too. The kids spread out all over the place. Some work in the basement, some at the kitchen table, and some in the front room (right next to where my desk used to be).
Thanks for your note.
Simply Darlene says
That’s not really your desk, is it? I mean, a person can see the grain of the wood. I shall not post a photo of my desk. Thankfully it is a corner cupboard desk that has doors and is fully enclosable. (Oh, I guess “enclosable” isn’t really a word… whatever.) Anyway, I shut the doors and the mess is gone. 😉
What is your current writing project?
How many people try to lick the jellybean art?
I just moved the desk into this room, so it hasn’t had time to accumulate all the papers and junk that it had in the other room. Don’t worry. I’ll be ashamed soon enough. And…this is a rolltop desk, so if I shove all the junk to the back, I should be able to roll the top down and hide it, just like you and your cabinet doors.
My current writing project: blog posts–possibly including memoir-like memory snippes; a teacher’s and student manual for a writing class I’ll lead in the fall; prepare an out-of-print book for possible re-release. Lots of ideas. 🙂
As for the jellybean art…they did have an extra plexiglass cover mounted in front of the already framed art. I’ll bet a LOT of kids try to lick.
I agree that reading quality literature and writing frequently both work to improve the craft……but girl, your writing is already amazing! Keep up the good work. Loved reading about your grandmother’s house! Beautiful prose.
L.L. Barkat says
I really like that definition of memoir. Yeah, it’s true. But sometimes the facts get… a little muddled 🙂
Ann Kroeker says
You have said the same thing…it gives me confidence to go ahead and try to capture *my* version of the story.