Views of New York

Recently, I decided to take a short trip to New York City with a friend. It was a bit of a spontaneous trip, we planned less than a week out, but the idea for the trip had been knocking around in my head for a while. I live on the east coast but I had never been to New York, and in my mind, it was overdue. In typical fashion for a trip to the city, I ran the entire time I was there. I told my friend that in a lot of ways, I felt that the entire trip was an exercise in resourcefulness as we moved from one mode of transportation to another. We drove from home to RDU airport, located in Morrisville, NC to catch our plane. We parked in one of the most distant parking lots to get a better price for parking then caught a shuttle to the airport. Once we were in the airport, we walked to the appropriate terminal. We flew on our plane, landed in New York and grabbed a cab to the hotel. Once we were situated at the hotel, we obtained a map of the subways, used the subways to get around and then walked where we wanted to go. 14, 986 steps one day.  We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We caught the Staten Island ferry for the excursion. At the end of the visit, we caught another car back to the airport, walked to another terminal, flew on another plane, took another shuttle to our car and drove back home. Phew!

Obviously, I have lots of thoughts about everything that happened in between which I’m sure I will write about over time. While in the midst of all this moving about, I did manage to write a couple of haikus and of course, snap some pictures. The haiku below is about my impression of the city as I flew in that first day. I was struck by how tiny the enormous buildings looked from the sky, like an architectural model. In fact, from my seat on the plane, they didn’t even look definitively like buildings at first, but rather large rocks standing up to reach or worship the sky.

Jagged rocks reaching

to the sky, lined up Legos

or modern Stonehenge

Below are a few more pictures that I snapped of buildings from other angles. The first set are pictures I took of a few buildings from the opposite direction, underneath, as I explored the Brookfield Place shopping center.

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The last picture is a view from my plane as I left the city at sunset on my last day.

 

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Mirror

A while back, I was listening to a podcast of Between the Covers featuring the writer, Dani Shapiro. I actually don’t know that much about Dani Shapiro, I have not read any of her books, but I intend to. I loved the podcast. I got so much out of it.

In one segment, she talked about reading some of her old journals and how they made her feel about her younger self. I, also, have read back over some of my old journals, and it is a very interesting experience. At times, I was frustrated with myself. I could read the struggles and patterns that would lead me down the road to certain mistakes or life experiences, but on the other hand, I was struck with the recognition of my own personality and the fact that I recognized my own voice, even from an early age. Me at 14, 17, my 20s, 30s and so on, it was always me. There were different levels of maturity, naivete, cynicism, happiness and pain, confidence or self-doubt, but it was always me. It was actually a very good tool for helping me to have compassion for myself. It gave me the ability to stand outside of myself, to see myself objectively, but at the same time, I understood completely what that girl was going through.

It makes me wonder just how early on we develop our sense of who were are, whether we know it or not. This thought process is what drives my haiku for mirror.  

 

Reading old journals

Younger me is a mirror

of the me I know

My brief adventures in Waxhaw, NC

This weekend I took a little road trip to visit some friends. My destination, Waxhaw NC, was not very distant, only 3 hours away. I didn’t explore any hiking trails like I often do or attend a writer’s conference. It was a straight up indulgent, sit-by-the pool and eat trip. Oh, and there was a ballet recital. A friend of mine teaches ballet and I attended a recital for her students who performed a little Spanish piece called “Carmen”.

 

I didn’t think I would find anything to write about this weekend, and truthfully, I didn’t write anything on my computer or on paper during the trip, but I did write some things in my head. The ballet recital reminded me of a couple of things I’m writing for children, one story about a little girl who is learning to pick out her clothes and another about a little girl with crazy hair. After the recital, I conversed with my friend’s mother, who is also a writer, about an idea I have about two boys exploring at the beach.

 

One morning, I woke up early to find the rest of the house still sleeping. I crept into the kitchen to find that someone had gotten up earlier, filled the Keurig with water then gone back to bed. Best hosts ever, I thought as I made a cup of coffee. I crept outside to sit at the table on their back porch. The air was already hot and humid and the sun was beating down on one side of the table. I picked a seat that was still shaded and wondered how long it would take for the sun to catch up with me. As I sat in the serenity of their backyard among the trees, beautiful green lawn and singing birds, this blog started to form in my mind. Sometimes, in order to write or be productive at anything, you have to relax and take a deep breath. Everyone is different, but for me, creativity flows when I have time to sit back and gain perspective.

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The sweet spot of shade and solitude didn’t last very long. People began to rise and soon I was joined on the porch by others with their own cups of coffee. The sun crawled across the table to join us and the quiet morning eased into a happy, social spring afternoon. Eventually, we changed into bathing suits and headed for the pool. I had an opportunity to drive a golf cart to the pool which was a BLAST.

 

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“I’m retiring to a golf community, “I announced. “Even though I don’t play golf…I just want to drive the cart”.  

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Truthfully, I probably won’t have the money to retire to such a community. But that’s ok. It was still a lot of fun driving the cart 🙂

 

I passed a few interesting places when I was in Waxhaw. It looks like they have a small but very quaint downtown area, and I learned that Waxhaw is a major equestrian community. There are horses and rolling hills everywhere. So, who knows, I may go back and explore these things later on. And then I guess that experience will be its own blog.

 

Have a great day all!  

Better

This week for the first time, I met my new children’s lit critique group. I submitted two pieces for review: a nursery rhyme about a little girl trying to find a matching pair of shoes and a short story about two cats learning to live with one another. My group loved the nursery rhyme but schooled me on stress syllables. They ripped apart the story of the cats but they liked the theme of the story. I came away with hyperlinks to stress syllables, two book suggestions and a reminder of how far I have to go before I craft my stories into the best stories that they can be. My response? I’ve purchased one of the books on Amazon, I’m reading up on the subjects of stress and meter and I’m planning revisions to my stories. In the end, both the stories and I will be better for it.  

So much of our lives, in every area, are spent growing whether we want to grow or not. At work, computer systems are constantly being upgraded and new people always need to be mentored. Once you reach a level where you can mentor someone else, watch out, because that means you qualify for more responsibility. With additional responsibility comes additional correction which is stressful (not to use that word again), but without the correction we cannot get better. I’m learning to think of getting better as growth instead of a sign that I’m not good enough, and I’m learning that no matter how much I grow, there will always be hard work to do.

This morning, I was lazily sitting on the couch drinking my coffee when I heard a vehicle pull into my drive. I looked out the window and it was my father. I wasn’t surprised. On springtime mornings, he frequently arrives unannounced with his pickup truck, trimmers and weedeater in the back, to offer assistance in my yard. I pulled on a robe and walked outside, cup in hand, and smiled.

“I guess this means I have to get dressed,” I said.

We spent a couple of hours working in the yard. I rode my  lawn mower, and he did the weeding and trimming. At lunch, I got us a chicken salad from Zaxby’s, and we sat on the back porch and ate together. The time he spends working in my yard is for both our benefits. I need the help in the yard and he knows it, but it’s also something that we do together. And there is reward in the end. The yard cleans up nice and visually rewards us for our efforts. As for us, well, we are better for it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

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It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

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I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

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My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

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