Call for Participants: N-N-1: The Quarantine Edition

For several years now, I’ve participated in a delightful photography/creative writing experiment that was created by two of my favorite bloggers, Anju, who writes This Labyrinth I Roam, and Norm, who writes Classical Gasbag. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time. As Norm explains it, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time.

The subject for this N-N-1 will be Quarantine. Our worlds have been turned upside down by COVID-19. What are you and/or your family and/or your community doing to cope during these strange times?

So your assignment (should you choose to accept it) is:

  1. Contact me using the form below, and then I’ll send you my e-mail.

  2. Mark your calendars, and snap a picture sometime between May 9 and May 11, and then do a 50-100 word write up about it. It can be prose or poetry.

  3. Turn that picture and write up in to me via e-mail by May 13th. If you have a blog or a website (neither of which is required) include a link so that I can also add that to the post that I compile with all your submissions. When the post is complete, I’ll send you a link so you can share it with all your friends.

Please invite others to participate as well! The more the merrier, the more far flung the better. It will be interesting to see what people all over the world are doing during this pandemic.

If you’d like to see how other N-N-1’s have turned out, check them out here, here, here, and here!

photographer

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My 2000th Blog Post

Well, holy moly! When I started this daily blog back on December 1, 2012, I would have never guessed that I’d still be going strong 2000 posts later. It’s hard to believe I’ve had 2000 things to say, and that I’m rapidly approaching 200,000 views by 110,000 visitors. A conservative estimate suggests I’ve written over 830,000 words.

I couldn’t have done it without you, dear reader. What has kept this blog so vibrant and interesting for me, especially on days when writer’s block was crushing me like a bug, is your feedback and suggestions. Without that input, I’d feel as though I were typing into a void.

I’ve also made quite a few friends on this forum; people from all over the world. Drawbridge Nation feels like a small, friendly town to me, one that I get to walk through every day. I even think that reading my blog is what finally convinced my boyfriend that I was relationship-worthy, so, yay, there’s that, too!

Because of this blog, I’ve written a book, and am working on a second one. I’m very proud of that. It feels like a tiny bit of immortality for someone who chose not to have children.

I’ve even been recognized on the street a few times, which astounds me. I’m used to thinking of myself as relatively invisible, not, as one reader once described me, “a sort of famous person”.

So I just wanted to thank you for indulging in my random musings, and I hope you’ll stick around for my 4000th post! Meanwhile, I think I deserve a cookie.

THANK-YOU-Computer

Exhausto-Day

To say I have a really screwed up work schedule is putting it mildly. Part of the week I work swing shift, and then, to make life interesting, I switch over to day shift. That means that there’s one day where I only get about 5 hours of sleep between shifts. Needless to say, by the time I get off work after that quick turnaround, I’m completely worthless. All I want to do is lie around and gaze stupidly at the ceiling.

I’ve had this schedule for 3 ½ years, and I’ve learned a great deal from it. First of all, it’s best if I don’t make any major purchases on exhausto-day. More often than not, I’ll regret them. I also shouldn’t get into Facebook debates. They will only end in tears. (For someone.)

The blog posts I write on that day tend to have a little less meat on the bone, too. And it’s not a good day to reflect upon my past, present, or future, but that’s a challenge since I am a navel-gazer by nature. And if you tell me something important during that time frame, make sure I write it down, or I guarantee I’ll forget.

I’ve also learned that sleep is a luxury that one should never fail to take advantage of. I have no set sleep schedule. Some nights I’m up until 3 am, while other nights I’m already snoring at 6 pm. The most important thing is that when my body says it’s time to sleep, I need to listen.

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that my quality control fluctuates from one day to the next. Exhausto-Barb is not nearly as efficient and level-headed as the Barb one encounters during the rest of the week. And that’s understandable. Once I finally stopped beating myself up for this ebb and flow, life became a great deal more tolerable.

One nice thing about my schedule is that my “weekends” (which don’t coincide with the rest of the planet’s, of course,) are 72 hours long. That almost makes the exhaustion worth it. Almost.

giphy

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Drabble

I learned a new word recently. Drabble. According to wikipedia, “A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.”

To this I say, challenge accepted! And I soon discovered that once I started to drabble, I couldn’t stop. (Yes, I’m officially turning this word into a verb.) I like it so much, this may become a regular thing in my blog.

So, without further ado, here are my first 4 drabbles. Feel free to drabble in the comments section! (Or just comment. That works, too.)

On the Brink

I stand at the edge of the cliff, taking in the view. It’s comforting to feeI small by comparison. Nature, man. Who can top it? It embraces me, cradles me in its loving arms. I’m a tiny part of a much larger whole.

Awe is such a heady feeling. Just breathing it in. Just being. I’m renewed.

How can people look upon this beauty and still jump? How profound does your level of despair have to be before the tears in your eyes make you blind to this miracle, this splendor? Maybe, just maybe, some people think they can fly.

 

Cheese

I truly believe that there are few things in life that aren’t greatly improved by extra cheese. I could guzzle a cup of melted cheese, tilt my head back and pour it down my throat, with no regrets except for the lack of free refills. It couldn’t be less healthy than a slurpee or a shake, and it would be infinitely more satisfying. But I’ve always been more savory than sweet.

There’s nothing like looking forward to mozzarella after a particularly hard day. Who needs drugs or alcohol? Give me cheddar or feta, and all my cares slip away.

 

Pathetic

“You’re so loved it’s pathetic,” he said. And deep down, I knew he was right. I have amazing family and friends. They lift me up. They carry me forward. They bear witness. They buffer me from life’s tempests.

As isolated as I often am, I’m never truly alone. Knowing that sustains me. It makes all this possible. All this abundance. All this beauty. I’m really rich in the only ways that matter. Life is such a gift when it’s filled with the lives of others.

“You’re so loved it’s pathetic,” he said.

And yet he still left me.

Dumb ass.

 

Going Home

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. At least that’s the current wisdom. And I tend to agree. Usually.

But not when I’m trapped in an airport on Thanksgiving day, imagining the turkey getting cold and gossip getting hot. Not when I’m paying too much at Starbucks when I’d much rather have my sister’s apple pie. Not when they’ve lost my luggage and my rental car reservation and I feel my throat getting sore, and there’s no wifi and my book isn’t in my carry on.

I’m grumpy and tired. Screw the journey. I just want to go home, please.

autocorrect

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Become an N! (Trust me. You’ll Want To.)

I must confess that I’m terrible at reading other people’s blogs. I tend to be too overwhelmed by writing my own every day. So every once in a while, I’ll go on a guilty binge read.

A few months ago I was doing just that, with one of my favorite blogs, This Labyrinth I Roam, written by my friend Anju. I love her perspective on life. I also love that her world has been completely different than my own. Even though her labyrinth has only intersected with mine in cyberspace, we have a connection. I hope we get to meet face to face someday.

After reading, oh, a couple years’ worth of her blog entries, several jumped out at me. They had to do with a project called N-N-1. She and a blogger friend of hers, Norm, who writes a blog with the delightful name of Classical Gasbag, thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time. As Norm explained recently, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time.

The plan was that they’d pick a moment, and each would snap a picture at that time, and then do a 50-100 word write up about it. It could be prose or poetry. Whatever the photo inspired in each photographer. Then they’d send that to the host, who would compile it into a blog entry. Here’s a link to a recent one hosted by Norm.)

It turns out that this project is incredibly revealing. It shows how diverse our lives can be. It shows different landscapes, different activities, and different perspectives. These blog posts always leave me feeling really great about the world. We got this, people. Because we all have our unique ways of existing, that diversity leads to strength.

So far, so good. But since they really did have participants all over the world, picking the same time became a bit problematic. 6 p.m my time would be 2 a.m. for folks in Europe, for example, so it tended to hinder a lot of people who would otherwise be up for the challenge. Eventually, they decided to regulate it to each individual’s time zone.

So, long story short, I’ve volunteered to host the next one. And I’ve chosen 6 p.m. (your time zone) on October 31st to be the pivotal moment. I figured that would yield some interesting Autumn or Halloween pics from those of us who had those experiences and chose to focus on them, and even more absolutely-nothing-to-do-with Autumn or Halloween pictures from people in other parts of the world. Fascinating.

So, would you like to participate? If so, contact me using the form below, and mark your calendar for October 31 at 6 p.m. Then send me the photo and the write up by no later than 6 p.m. your time on November 7th. I’ll compile them all into an interesting blog post and send you the link. Anyone can participate. You don’t have to have a blog. (But if you do, send me a link to it as well, and I’ll give it a plug in the post. It’s a great way to increase your readership!)

Also, feel free to share this invite with other friends who might want to play, too! The more far flung, the better! This is going to be fun! Join us!

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My Blog Through Fresh Eyes

I have a confession to make. For about a month now, I’ve been wondering if this blog is worth the effort. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. And sometimes I feel like no one is reading it.

That’s why your comments mean so much to me. Without them, I’d feel as though I’m sitting all alone in front of this computer screen, typing to myself. It’s like spitting in the wind, only slightly less messy and humiliating.

Not everyone likes to comment on such a public forum. That’s why I’ve set up a way to contact me personally on my blog’s welcome page, and I’ve also got a Facebook group called The View from a Drawbridge, which I encourage you to join.

Every now and then I’ll get a comment that completely does me in. (In a good way.) I’ve gotten several of those related to my Why I Hate Alcohol post, for example. A lot of people struggle with that issue, and they appreciate having someone put a voice to the way they feel. That’s when I know I’m making a difference. That makes it all worthwhile.

Just the other day I got a message from 13-year-old Mariah J. in South Carolina. She says she’s been reading my blog for about a year now, and that she finds it funny and inspiring. She wishes she could do what I do.

Sniff. Cold coming on. Or… no. The sun is in my eyes. Yeah. That’s it. The sun.

We’ve exchanged an e-mail or two since then, and it makes me realize that she’s an impressive and intelligent young lady with life goals and plans. She definitely seems to have her act a lot more together than I did at that age! And she says she looks up to me. Hoo. I mean… hoo. Speechless.

Since then, I’ve started reading my blog posts and I kind of have Mariah mentally looking over my shoulder. It makes me realize that I really ought to watch my language, for starters. And it’s also making me take what I say much more seriously. My words do have an impact. I’m not just spitting in the wind. I have a responsibility. I might actually influence someone every now and then. Whoa. Hard to believe.

Mariah’s message has renewed my faith in this blog. It has made it special again, for me. For the first time in weeks it’s not feeling like work. It’s once again feeling like a pleasurable calling.

So thank you, Mariah! And thank your SAT prep teacher for introducing you to my blog, and thanks to your 5 siblings for putting up with stories from it, and to your best friend Hannah for thinking I’m a “half famous person”. I think you guys are the best. Stay on your amazing path! And good luck on the PSAT today!

Thanks

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My Voice

I had a fascinating conversation with some old friends recently. I’ve known them for 10 years in the virtual world of Second Life. We hang out a couple times a week, but in all that time I’ve never heard their actual voices. All our communication is via text.

Am I alone in this? When I read something, I “hear” what I’m reading inside my head. I’ve always done that.

But the other day, for the first time, it occurred to me that when I read what these two friends type, I have different inner voices for each of them. Based on their personalities, my mind has created a kind and gentle voice for one, and a straightforward, practical, no-nonsense voice for the other. Fascinating.

So naturally, I asked what my “voice” sounds like to them. I was really surprised by the answer. They said it doesn’t sound like my blog.

That’s intriguing. I think of this blog as me on a screen. I’ve taken pride in laying myself bare and being honest and vulnerable here. But my friends say that in my blog I sound like a strong positive woman, and when I talk to them, I’m more fragile.

Hmm… Yeah, I can see that. Since I write my entries several days in advance, I have plenty of time for multiple revisions. That means by the time my posts reach you, I’ve edited out a lot of the craziness, impulsiveness, negativity, and basic hysteria. (Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.) I think that makes the blog infinitely more readable, but perhaps it also makes it less “me”.

But when all is said and done, that’s the definition of true friendship, isn’t it? Someone who sees the unedited version of you, warts and all, and loves you anyway.

I’m a very lucky person.

voice

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Ennui with Aplomb

Oprah Winfrey loves bread. (I can’t get that commercial out of my head.) I love words. Two of my favorites appear in the title.

I suspect 2017 will be the year of ennui for me. The current political climate has left me feeling listless and dissatisfied. It’s as though I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Please send pizza.

But rather than lie around gazing at my navel, I intend to do so in style (hence the aplomb)! I vow this year to take more baths, take more naps, and when the weather is nice, I plan to spend a great deal of time in the back yard, gazing up at the pine trees. I hope to read a lot to stay informed and write in protest a lot and eat a lot of delicious things.

Above all, I hope to not work up enough energy for excessive worry. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? Hell is going to break loose without any help from me. As long as you send the pizza, I’m good.

ennui

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If You Could Do Anything…

If money, time, responsibilities, age, and health were no object, what would you do right now? If there were no barriers in your way, what dreams would you pursue? What goals would you try to achieve?

I think about this quite a bit. As I’ve said, I have a very long bucket list. I dream big. Even so, my “one thing” seems to be different depending on which month or year you ask me.

Today, at this moment, what I’d love to do more than anything else is pursue a Master of Fine Arts at my alma mater, Warren Wilson College. Many very talented writers have gone through that MFA program, and have gone on to win National Endowments for the Arts; Guggenheim, Radcliffe, Stegner and Hodder fellowships; the Rome Prize from the Academy of American Letters; Whiting Awards; the NAACP Image award; The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award; the Kate Tufts Discovery Award;  the Juniper Prize for Fiction; the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry; the Kenyon Review Fellowship; the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy; The Howard Frank Moser Short Fiction Prize; and on and on. Even more have gone on to be published through highly acclaimed publishing houses. I genuinely think this program would push my writing to the next level.

It is a low residency program, which means I could remain in my beloved Seattle most of the time. But twice a year I would experience the delight of Western North Carolina and its Blue Ridge Mountains. And there’s something magical about the WWC campus. It is one of the most environmental and liberal campuses in the country, and it influences you. It gets into your bloodstream. You can’t go there without leaving as a more amazing you. I’ve tried to get many people to attend this fine institution. One day I hope someone will actually listen to me, because this place is a gift.

So what is holding me back? Money, first and foremost. That always seems to be my biggest hurdle. The bills won’t stop coming simply because I would prefer that my focus be elsewhere. And then of course there’s the question of time. An MFA is not a trivial pursuit. It’s not something I could squeeze in between my bridge openings at work. And unfortunately, that work is what keeps the dogs in kibble.

So unless I happen to stub my toe on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I’ll simply have to keep dreaming of a path in life that I most likely will never have a chance to take. Somewhere in an alternate universe, another me is sitting under a tree in the heart of an alternate Appalachia, learning how to be the most incredible writer she can be.

Oh, and she’s younger, thinner, in a loving relationship, and impervious to cold. Why not? Given my active imagination, I can almost content myself with that. Almost.

So now it’s your turn. What would you do, if you could do anything?

wwc

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Giving Your Artistic Baby Away

There comes a time in the creative process when you have to place your art in the hands of someone else. This happens with writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, and anyone else who forms something in his or her imagination and goes on to give it life. If you can conceive of something and make it real for others, and yet not become emotionally invested in it, you have no heart. I have yet to meet a heartless artist.

One of the best ways to feel immortal is to create something that will exist long after you’re gone. In that way, art is like procreation. In essence, your art is your baby.

Unfortunately, as a general rule, artists don’t get to spend years with their work before having to experience empty nest syndrome. I’m not simply talking about that moment when you sell your work and assume you’ll never see it again. I mean that point in the process where you have to rely on others. Editors, producers, managers, publicists, gallery owners. They all have a profound impact on the “life” of your “child.”

You are forced to loosen your grip. You have to accept the fact that you are no longer in complete control. Personally, I find this to be scary.

Once I had finished deciding what I wanted to have included in my first anthology, it then was handed over to the photographer, the editor, the cover designer… a whole host of people with their own unique visions of the final product. Yes, I still had influence. My opinions were sought out. And of course I had veto power. But relinquishing total control is extremely unsettling.

It took me quite some time to realize that that part of the process had plunged me into a low-grade depression. I wasn’t my best self at that point. And the irony is that I had total faith in my collaborators. I chose them because I respected their work. But it was still my baby that I was handing over. That is bound to have an emotional impact.

But like most parents, I’ve come to look upon my baby, now all grown up, and feel pride. I may not have any real control over the impact, or lack thereof, that my book has in the world anymore, but I really do feel that I built it on solid foundations. I gave it the best possible start. I watch it from a distance and I marvel.

And now I can’t wait to make another one.

baby

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