Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I was surprised and saddened to learn the word "suddenly" had been banned from the language available for use in literary writing. I don’t know who is allowed to make these determinations, but it is always good to know that someone is in charge. Moreover I now have a better understanding of what will classify one’s writing as either erudite or unscholarly.

I decided to look up this fallen word just to be certain I knew what I was giving up. According to Webster’s New Twentieth Century Unabridged Dictionary it is an adverb meaning “in a sudden manner.” Wanting to be thorough, I read the definition of “sudden” which yielded the following: 1. happening without previous notice; coming or appearing unexpectedly; not foreseen or prepared for. 2. done, coming or taking place quickly or abruptly; hasty. 3. violent; rash; precipitate; impetuous. 4. rapidly effective; prompt in effect.

That first word in the definition notation was a dead giveaway since I additionally learned adverbs have been removed from literary writing. Adjectives are suspect as well, but I did hear in the presented literary readings many still in use. I wondered if these new rules were a fad or had they been around those many, many years ago when I was taking high school English classes? Perhaps I missed a day or was daydreaming during that part of the lesson.

This news has definitely affected me because I have been known to use that expelled word when describing an unexpected, violent, rash, precipitate or impetuous event. I will need to scour my writing to remove this proscribed word. Fortunately, the computer will make this easy as I put out a search for the offender.

My newfound knowledge will additionally help me decode whether I am reading learned material or just common, popular writing. It is always a relief to be given the hard and fast rules whereby one’s creative outlets are governed. However, after this most recent addition to my literary knowledge, I worry about how many more of these rules there are I don’t know about.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Art of Seeing

This time of year, my farmer/gardener persona comes to the fore and I spend a couple of hours every morning in my garden. First and foremost the unkraut (German for weeds; what a great word since it specifically means anything that isn't kraut, a food staple) must be cleaned out between the rows and around plants. This is a very satisfying work since half of it is done on hands and knees, a meditative way to spend time.
It is exciting to have the garden start to yield its produce. To my delight there are also wild black raspberries at the edge of one corner which on a small scale remind me of the stands of wild black raspberry bushes we had on the farm where I grew up. To get to those we had to ride on the tractor with our berry buckets past the wheat, hay and corn fields to the very end of our property where there was, at the edge of the woods, a large hollow full of berry bushes, instead of walking a few feet. On hot days, picking berries can be pretty miserable because you need to have on long pants and a long sleeved shirt. The reward, of course, is the luscious, sweet, half orbs eaten fresh or baked in my favorite kind of pie. As a child, there was also a certain amount of competition for picking the most, which I am certain my mother encouraged so we'd get the job done sooner. Now that competition is to get as much of the fruit as possible.
The art of picking fruit or produce requires a willingness to see the plant from all angles. This morning as I harvested my first of the black raspberries, I fought my way through the prickers, cleared out weeds that had grown up, and proudly filled my bowl with ripe fruit. I looked carefully from different angles, pushed aside leaves and stalks, and felt satisfied with my efforts. Moving to the next job, I began weeding the area immediately in front of the berry bushes. While on my hands and knees I was surprised to see that from this perspective there were many berries I had missed. I got my bowl and began to harvest again. I hope I got them all, but if I didn't, the ones I missed can be considered toll berries for the birds and mother earth.
Once again on my knees weeding, my mind turned to the life lessons I have learned in my garden. To reap the sweet bounty that nourishes, you need to clean out the unkraut, wade through the prickery areas, and look at the situation from all angles, and in many different lights. Only then, can you attain your reward.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Mother's Day evokes varied memories for most people. For me, one of my strongest is of peonies. When I was five, we moved to the first farm my parents owned. One of my earliest memories were of the red, pink and white flowers along the driveway. I don't know at what age I learned they were peonies and I don't know who originally planted them, but they were an important part of our spring. By Mother's Day, they were in bud and by Memorial Day, my sister's birthday, they were in bloom. My mother always took them to church to decorate the alter on Sundays. We had them in the house as well where the scent permeated the dining and living rooms.

One summer after the blooms had passed, my father was mowing with the cycle mower and cut down all of the peonies. My mother was very upset, but got over it when the following spring they came back better than ever. From then on, they got cut back each year.

Over time, they owned several more farms and at each my mother would plant peonies. I never gave my mother a bouquet of peonies. She had them in her garden and giving flowers wasn't something I thought much about. When my parents died, they were buried in a small cemetery near where my mother grew up. They didn't allow live flowers to be planted because it hindered mowing, so each year since I have planted two more peonies in my gardens. Unfortunately our growing season has always been behind that of the Midwest, so they bloom a lot later. For Mother's Day around here, I have had to content myself with tulips. Fortunately, both blooms have always made me smile whenever I see them.

The scent of of the peonies, when they do finally bloom here, transplants me back to being a barefoot, five year old going from peony bloom to peony bloom. The many petal layers unfold slowly going from fresh new buds to old, wilted, fully bloomed flowers, and finally they litter the ground in a colorful blanket.

Thought for the Day: Thank your mother for the flowers she has introduced into your life.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Sunday, I attended the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance's Business of Writing conference. There were good tidbits about the reality of the business side of writing, which were both encouraging and discouraging.
Because I have been a Nurse Practitioner for over 25 years, I don't think much about the amount of study and work that went into getting to where I am in competence and skill. It is easy to think that writing is something anyone can do. In this day of instant communication there is a lot of writing out there, but most of it isn't professional writing for which someone should be paid. While talent is a part of the equation, publishing and selling writing requires polishing the craft and lots of hard work. I don't think anyone assumes that becoming a brain surgeon can be accomplished by going into an operating room and starting to saw open someone's skull.
As I rewrite my memoir Loving Hannah: Childhood Cancer Treatment from the Other Side of the Bed, I take hope from what I learn at conferences like this. Since I first wrote the introduction at Pyramid Life Center Women's Writing Retreat, I have continued to learn how to hone the craft of writing. The process of becoming skilled takes time and lots of AIC (ass in chair) discipline, as one presenter told us. It didn't take me 25 years to attain the knowledge to be a Nurse Practitioner, but during that time, to be good at it, I had to keep learning. Good writing takes that same dedication and commitment.

Thought for the day: Balance isn't just staying upright without tilting side to side, it is feeling centered inside one's own body.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It’s not that you can’t go home again; it’s just that when you get there, you find someone completely changed the scale and perspective of everything you thought you knew, making it unrecognizable. The fanciest house in town looks worn, the lush hedge moth eaten and the thriving corner store across the street has its sign hanging by one hook. That solid brick bastion of authority and education is gone. The gravel lot in front, home to so many dare base games by day, looks so small you can’t imagine there was any thrill to the game at all. The baseball diamond is barely large enough to host a beginner’s t-ball game and the only permanent part of the playground still there is the swing set which they must have been moved closer to the back of the E.U.B. church because the grassy area around it is really small.

In the surrounding area many of the farms you pass boast half collapsing sheds and lone sentinel silos bereft of their barns. Neatly painted houses, barns and outbuildings are weathered and look as if they may slowly sink into the land. Roads that used to wind through valleys whose fields were rich with river silt no longer go anywhere. Dams for water conservation have turned the valleys into lakes, their shores lined with vacation houses each with a speed, pontoon or house boat parked at its dock.

Towns which had vibrant downtown shopping areas are deserted, most commerce having moved out to the interstate exits. You watch children coming out of an elementary school to their waiting buses and wonder what their childhood is like here. Would they think you are some weird old geezer type if you told them that where they go to school used to be the egg factory you worked at to get through college. There’s no trace of the land’s former purpose nor does there seem to be any trace of your ever having been here either. Time has moved on and you wonder if the memories you have of these places were real. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Health Care is a current hot topic and while this blog will not be exclusively or even mostly about those issues, it is a big part of my professional persona. I have been a Nurse Practitioner for over 25 years, a mom for 23 years and a writer for 10. I was thrilled when health care reform passed because I have seen the effects of the insurance payment system on people’s lives and their health.

Since we have an illness treatment system in this country, not a health system, most of the people only see providers when they are not at their best. It is the equivalent of trying to negotiate the biggest contract of your life while you have flu symptoms. Your head is pounding, every joint aches, and even your hair hurts, making it hard enough to sit upright and think let alone have your interactions with the provider be on equal terms.

Creating a system which would focus on wellness will be a long hard slog. As providers we get paid the most for doing things to you. We don’t get paid as much to prevent your illness or problem in the first place. I’ve always thought we have a great system for you if you get hit by a truck or have a heart attack, but not so good if you don’t want to have a heart attack or develop diabetes, chronic lung disease or some other equally life long problem. Most of the truly big gains in the health and well being of most people have come from public health initiatives like clean water, sewers, immunizations, and anti-smoking efforts.

There are many subjects close to my heart, like childhood cancer, complementary therapies, stress reduction and gardening. I am certain many of them will crop up in my writing as time goes on.

Thought for the day: Weight loss is a very simple proposition. You just need to have all of your metabolic hormones in balance, be able to exercise enough to break a sweat and eat 100 calories less each day than you burn.