What I’m Thankful For

image borrowed from http://uprightcoffee.com/happy-thanksgiving-2013/20131128/

Since leaving my job–and a reliable income–behind me last June, I have been trying mightily to avoid buying more books.

Okay, “mightily” is perhaps the wrong word. I still download books to my Nook, and I still buy a used book here and there…and I impulse-buy a book now and then. Of course poetry books (especially when signed by the poet) don’t count.

So I’ve been accumulating plenty of books, even though I have boxes and boxes full of books from my old office that I’m haven’t yet figured out what to do with.

One of my impulse buys is Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Bookclub. (Click on the link to find a video introduction to the book.) I love this book. I love Will Schwalbe and I love his mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe. My husband and I began reading it aloud on the ferry (traveling to see my mother) back in September. After the first couple of chapters, he (my darling husband) took it over, and then it was misplaced for awhile. I bought a second copy (at a library book sale–not expensive!), and I misplaced that. Then, last week, the original copy emerged and I started carrying it around with me, reading a page here and there. This morning, after making the dressing for our turkey dinner, I retreated to the bedroom and read 50 pages. Usually Will and Mary Ann read novels, but today I found them reading books on mindfulness. Here’s a passage that begins with a reflection on thank you notes, and concludes with a description of Naikan, a philosophy developed by Ishin Yoshimoto (from a book by David K. Reynolds). I thought it was perfectly appropriate for the holiday.

“What I suddenly understood was that a thank-you note isn’t the price you pay for receiving a gift, as so many children think it is, a kind of minimum tribute or toll, but an opportunity to count your blessings. And gratitude isn’t what you give in exchange for something; it’s what you feel when you are blessed–blessed to have family and friends who care about you….

“If you are sitting in a chair, you need to realize that someone made that chair, and someone sold it, and someone delivered it–and you are the beneficiary of all that. Just because they didn’t do it especially for you doesn’t mean you aren’t blessed to be using it and enjoying it. The idea is that if you practice [gratitude], life becomes a series of small miracles, and you may start to notice everything that goes right in a typical life and not the few things that go wrong.” (211-212)

Today I am grateful for the joy of having all of my daughters home for Thanksgiving dinner, plus a couple of their friends. I’m thankful for my husband who is a very good cook. And I’m thankful for books and the people who write them and the people who make them and the people who read them.

Tuesday Complaints

image borrowed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locomotor_effects_of_shoes

Here’s a poem by my friend Kathryn Johnson. It first appeared in the 2014 Crosscurrents, which is published annually by the Washington Community College Humanities Association (WCCHA).

Tuesday Complaints

“This is a first world problem.” -Reader quote from Real Simple

No shoes
To match this skirt,
Half a day spent
Packing away summer shorts and ironing winter wool blazers,
A grocery cart with just a few items
Drifting downhill, making me run after it,
Molding applesauce
Exhumed from the back of our too-small fridge,
Thick dust
On the ceiling fan, requiring I haul in a ladder,
No antenna
Tuning professional football into our out-of-range TV,
Crows excreting blackberries on my clean, white car,
Too-weak coffee,
Too-stale bread,
Too-ripe bananas,
Leftover chicken for dinner, again.

A young friend’s three-pound baby sleeping in an incubator,
An older friend sleeping on the floor beside her cancer-weak sister,
One day’s worth of problems here in the first world
Where I count
Too much to eat,
Too many clothes,
Too full a life
My blessings.

You’re Invited! Poems and Stories about Animals at Good Shepherd Center, Seattle: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 7:00 p.m.

Can’t wait to read with you again!

Jennifer Bullis

I get to be in a reading with Bethany Reid, Rick Clark, J. Glenn Evans, Douglas Schuder,
and David Horowitz. Please come! Here are the details:

BOW-MOO-MEOW: Poems and Stories about Animals
7:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Room 202, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North, Seattle (Wallingford)

Telephone: David D. Horowitz, 206-633-2725
E-mail: David, rosealleypress@juno.com
URL: www.rosealleypress.com

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“How do I revise?”

P1020774This is for Louise.

1. Type and print out your work. Reread it with a pen in your hand. You don’t have to give anything up, at least not at first. Just jot down your notes. Underline words that you’re not sure about.

2. Read your work aloud, just to yourself. Listen to yourself. (You can add movement, pacing can help with tempo. Standing up can change your perspective.)

3. Try doing something on the page to make the words more visible. You can use highlighters to pick out patterns. You can circle all of the adjectives, or all of the verbs. (Do one at a go, then the next.)

4. Cut some of the adjectives (and adverbs, too, those -ly words). Decide which ones your reader really needs, and which ones you used out of habit.

5. If you have a lot of was and is or have verbs, see if you can spice them up. Sometimes this is easy: change was sitting to sat. Instant fix!

6. Make a decision to ADD something. Maybe just concrete nouns one time; the next, maybe color; maybe sounds.

7. When I feel myself getting far away from something, I reverse the advice of #1 and write it out in longhand. (I think this is a right brain / left brain trick.)

8. Remember, above all, that it’s YOURS. And it’s not written in stone.

image borrowed from http://www.writteninstone.org/