Posts

1950

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Where were you in 1950? I've probably lost most of my readers by now, but for those of you with an AARP card, let's take a trip down memory lane. Maybe we'll do the 60s and 70s in the next couple of posts, but then skip over the 80s: the era of big hair and leg warmers.

I was born in 1953 and so don't have a lot to add to this decade, but I recently ran across some files that one of my cousins sent me, one of which was a list of questions to be completed by students from Orrick High School in Orrick Missouri. My mother's home town. Blogger won't let me attach the file, but I thought I'd take a stab at answering the questions myself.

1. When did your family come to Orrick and from where? How long have you been living in Orrick?

I've only been to Orrick a couple of times; once when I was a baby, once when I was about 7, and then in January of 1972 when my grandmother had a stroke. My mother's family started pouring in around 1835 from Kentucky, Tenness…

Rain

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Often while telling a story about a loved one or topic dear to me, the hairs on my arms will raise with a rush of chills and I know I've touched something special. Something that connects me to that energy I cannot explain that winds through space, time and the places in between. Sometimes I get that rush when I write. Often, I get that rush when it rains, the roar of thunder and wind and rain in the trees giving form to still air reminding me that movement is life. And death.

I'm watching it rain outside my library window and can't decide if it's a peaceful calm happy sort of rain or the atmosphere shedding itself of an accumulation of dust particles that have just become too heavy to bear and so it's letting go. Maybe that's the problem: I haven't let go.

My great aunt Viola died a month ago yesterday. At 95, I knew her time here was waning, but I miss her stories, her letters, and white-bread sandwiches.

My sweet uncle Thurman died this past Saturday at …

Exercise for the Writer's Brain

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Say we were having coffee this morning and I convinced you to run a marathon with me this year. You haven't run in some time and so know you must train, but you’re a little stiff and really hate exercising in the heat and so decide that all you really need to do is yoga. Specifically, downward dog and a couple of sun salutations. That’s it. You’re going to perform these two poses for 10 minutes a day until race day. Your goal? Well, maybe not finish in first place, but you’ll finish and maybe even get a medal in your age category.
Let’s equate this to our writing goals.


Goal (because good goals are always measurable): To produce the great American novel in 12 months, to secure a publisher willing to provide a $50K advance and a follow-on book deal.
Training: Write 1000 unedited words a day.

Does that mean you’re going to open your draft and write until your word count reads 1000? That’s a little like downward dog.

Does that mean you’re going to open your draft and write for a bit, then…

Changing Stripes

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In 1998 off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia scientists discovered a species of octopus on the bottom of a muddy river mouth. For the next 2 years, they filmed nine different mimic octopuses impersonating sea snakes, lionfish, and flatfish—a strategy used to avoid predators, to hunt, and mate. 




Last week, two of our friends visited from Cincinnati. Everyone wanted to talk about flying since Walt's a pilot and what's not to love about airplanes. Although I'm a type-rated pilot, my career was as a systems engineer. Not many people engage in social conversation about hubs, switches, and routers and so when I meet someone with a similar background, like my friend from Cincinnati, it's nice to catch up. Somewhere in our conversation, we talked about the difficulty in making friends in a new location--one where you're not bonding through work, tee-ball games, or church. He remarked that since he didn't like people, it wasn't an issue.

That gave me pause. I replied …

Hometowns

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The drive to Orrick, Missouri from my home takes three hours and twenty minutes without a fuel stop. If I remember to download a podcast, the time flies by. But even without, I start the trip by listening to our local NPR station until the signal is lost at the northbound turn to Carthage and my thoughts turn to family.

I love the idea of a home town. My parents left Charleston, South Carolina when I was two months old and rambled until shortly after my eighth birthday, when they divorced and my mother followed my father to Dallas. I've never claimed to be from Dallas or anywhere really because each place I've lived holds a time capsule of my life at a point in time.

After twelve years in Arkansas, I'm still not from Arkansas. My career was in Ohio. My friends and some of my happiest memories are in Ohio, yet were I to go home...well, there's no home to return to. My career, friends, children have all moved on.

What is it that brings me back to Orrick? The stories. Alt…

The Missing Piece

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What is it that makes the eye wander?

Whether we're talking about throwing out ninety percent of our closet in favor of a clean, simply-designed wardrobe; dumping our family home for a 10x34 foot house on wheels; or changing personal relationships, sometimes things just don't work. Sometimes, something else happens. Something shiny attracts the eye, something that takes us away from the familiar to another place.

It's human nature to look. Actually, it's part of our DNA. Social psychologists write that men are attracted to curvy women because they're fit to bear offspring. Women are attracted to men who are tall and broad-shouldered, built to slay a beast for the dinner table. We build and feather our nests, and preen to make ourselves appealing. So the real question is how is it that some relationships endure? Some young people choose to remain on the family farm--some children still look forward to growing into an older sibling's coat or dress.

I have to beli…

Travel Log: Crusing the South Atlantic with Captain Woody

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Memories from November 17- December 31, 2004
1:30 pm by my Swiss Army watch and I'm still in the custom's office at Cape Town's International Airport trying to make my way to the Royal Yacht Club and a grand adventure. The agents don't want to grant me entry as I don't have a return plane ticket. I try to explain that I'm not leaving the country by plane, but by sailboat to Recife, Brazil. How do I know the owner of the boat? Well, I don't. He's on his way around the world and I'm crew on this leg of the trip. They're not convinced, who sails 3600 nautical miles across the South Atlantic on a 33' sailboat with someone they've never met?
My guess is that most people are presented with extraordinary opportunities through their lives, but reject those opportunities without first giving them full notice. This adventure started with a trip to Barnes and Noble one evening. Tania Aebi's book, Maiden Voyage, was displayed on the shelves marked…

Resolute

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What really makes one year more memorable than the past? Transitions, I think.

I remember the summer of 1964 as the year I lost two pair of flip flops in the molten tar that crisscrossed the residential streets in our neighborhood, requiring that I weave barefoot between cool grassy spots and searing sidewalks before making it home to douse my poor feet under the water hydrant. It's also the year I learned to ride a bicycle, opening the world to adventures.

When I resigned my position as vice-president with a large Cincinnati firm in 2007 and moved to NW Arkansas, I fully intended to retire. No more meetings. No more cell phones. No more stress.

The first month, I busied myself unpacking, finding the grocery store, and finding myself in the community. Interestingly enough, I found that I didn't have a place in this community. Our children were grown and gone with families of their own, and so no reason to introduce myself to a new set of teachers or buy school supplies and gym…

Letters from my Mother

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If you've not yet stumbled upon the StoryCorps project sponsored by TED and NPR, it's time well spent. I uploaded a 12-minute tribute to my mother yesterday by telling stories and reading some of her letters. Consider contributing your stories and those of your ancestors.

You can listen to the tribute here: Letters from my Mother -- Bertha Frances Hicks-Hanson

Our Life in Letters

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About two weeks ago I was looking through paint samples at Lowe's. We've been in this house for seven and a half years and for seven and a half of those years, I've wanted to change the paint color in the library from pool-hall parlor red to something else. Something that wouldn't require I wear a lighted miner's helmet just to see the books on the shelves. 

But before I paint, I have to empty those bookshelves. Eight shelves, seven of which are close to seven feet tall, are filled with books. Three of the shelves are topped with twenty-two full photo albums and two have five photo boxes full of photos to be sorted. Then there are letters and cards...

I'm an orderly person but over the years have found stray photos or duplicates left by the kids as they moved away. I can't throw them away and so into a box they go until I've the time to figure out which decade and to which volume of these albums they belong.
Dad didn't leave  much when he died, but Mam…