“One Of These Mornings You’re Gonna Rise Up Singing”*

I haven’t been writing much for the past two months for reasons I hope to blog about soon. Basically, life has gotten in the way. This is a post from a couple of years ago that still makes sense. I’m surprised by how consistent I am. I edited a little and the photos are new.

WE ARE RACING TOWARD SUMMER, AREN’T WE?

It’s feels to me, after such a long and difficult winter, that spring lasted no time at all. April seemed to go by in the blink of an eye and incredibly, we celebrated the unofficial start to summer last weekend with Memorial Day.

When I realized we were quickly coming to summer’s front door, I initially had an anxiety attack thinking of all the springtime activities and chores I haven’t yet gotten done. (As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a list maker.) But then I relaxed and allowed myself to think about the things I have enjoyed this spring, which is a much healthier exercise.

I was fortunate enough to watch the progression of buds to blooms to leaves on the trees and the pushing up of flowering plants from inside the ground to up  toward the sun.

I put the first of this year’s tomato plants and herbs into the garden. While planting the herbs, I held some aside to make some air fresheners, teas and lotions. I naturally have more energy come spring so I’ve been walking in the nature preserve to bird watch and I got to see goslings make their initial appearance at the pond’s edge.  Also, after talking about it ALL winter, I finally got to take the little people to the playground for a game of Hide ‘n Peek Seek. I engaged in each of those activities and enjoyed them completely in the moment as they happened. So if it seems that the springtime flew by, it is only in retrospect.

I hope you enjoyed your spring and that summer will be an equally wonderful set of precious moments for you. I hope you’ll find the recipes below useful. And lastly, I hope you had a great Memorial Day and thanks so much for reading.

*Lyric from “Summertime” by DuBose Heyward from Porgy and Bess

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Baking Soda Air Fresheners

Mason jars
Baking soda
Essential oils, I use lavender, rosemary or lemon
Dried herbs (optional)
Fill the jars to 3/4 with baking soda, leaving a little room on top. Add about 5 or more drops essential oils and stir. Sprinkle on top about a tablespoon of matching herbs to whichever oil you’ve used. (Some people punch holes in the jar lids and screw them on. I never bother, preferring to leave the jars topless.) Shake gently occasionally to reactivate the oils. The lingering aroma will be subtle but fabulously fragrant.

 

DIY Lotion

2 oz Shea Butter
2 oz Vitamin E oil
1 oz Jojoba oil
1 oz Lanolin
1/2 tsp essential oil
All of these measurements are approximate. I find its good to play with the proportions so you get just the right mixture for your skin type. Also, I cut the amount of Lanolin from the original recipe because I don’t care for the smell.

Traveling

So, I’ve been traveling this week. I’m in Boston right now where I lived for many years before moving to the DMV. I still have people here. This past week has been about celebrating birthdays, births and connecting with kin. Coming back to the place that was my home for so long but is no longer my home is challenging. There is a mixed bagful of memories here. Fortunately, after so many years, the memories evoked are more like my mind’s movies than pains in my heart. And I’ve gotta be real, the weather here is challenging too. It’s kinda cold. I’m not used to it anymore. It feels a little more like spring at home where there are buds on some trees. Not so much in Boston.

 

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Bare as they are, I still love “the triplets”.
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That’s snow. What?!

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to make a little space for writing and reading while still tending to the needs of my family. I can’t work on poetry submissions while I’m away but I can continue working on my new short story, “Perennially”. And I’ve been putting together my next blog post about some changes that come with the second half of life. Hopefully, that will come next week when I’m back home. At night when there are too many of us to all use the wifi, I practice reading as a writer which is wonderful. I borrowed Dr Apelles by David Treuer from the library before I left. It’s an engrossing work that covers territory I know little about which makes it even more interesting. As always, I’m reading my favorite WordPress bloggers.

I’m heading for home soon.  Until I get back, I’ll leave you with a few more photos from Boston.

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There is beauty.
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Had to have the New England clam “chowda”.
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Celebrating her made the trip!

Thanks for joining me on my journey.

This Is What There Is For February

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Once again, it’s the end of the month and I don’t have a thing written for this blog. I have no ideas that I want to share right now or that I haven’t shared already. (It must be a consequence of blogging for eight years.) It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I write almost everyday thanks to the writers Meetup group I started with a friend in November. The members are incredibly smart, talented women. They motivate me to be a better writer and I’m grateful. We read, critique or write together every Saturday morning and then I go home and write. (That is unless life gets in the way.) I’ve finished putting together a collection of poems, a few of which I’ve posted to this blog, I started a new short story and of course I’m still revising that damn novel.

Speaking of novels, I’ve also been reading. I read Small Country, an excellent first novel by Gael Faye, I read Becoming by Michelle Obama and Yeshiva Girl, another great first novel by blogger Rachel Mankowitz. And I’ve been reading some posts written by other wonderful WordPress bloggers. Thanks again Boomie Bol!

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So, because my mind is otherwise occupied at the moment, I’m going to share a piece I wrote a while ago. It’s part of a larger work I posted a poem from a few months ago titled The Only Things Certain. The poem begins the work and this bit ends it. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

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“Whatcha doin’ Mom?”

“Oh hey, son. I didn’t know you were here. I’m trying to finish grading these beds. Aren’t they going to look nice? Just the way I always imagined. Come on down and help me with some muscle work, please.”

“Ok, but you know this is a total waste of time, right? It’s not even your garden anymore, technically.”

“I know baby, but I invested so much of myself in these beds and they’re so close to being terraced just right. The new owners will probably love the way they step down from the fence into the yard. Bring that big bag of soil from up there with you.”

“Or they might tear them out or just let them weed over. Here, let me move the rocks. Did you have to get the most gi-normous ones you could find? These are really heavy and it’s kinda hot our here.”

“I got them over at Hamilton Park. They’re the last picks of my rock relocation program. Ha-ha.”

“You know Mom, a little of that goes a long way. You’ve been making that same joke for years.”

“I know, son. Your father used to think it was funny every time.”

“I’m glad you brought him up. It’s not just the garden. I think you’re having a hard time with all of this. He’s gone but we’ve got the memories. This is just a house.”

“It’s not that hot out. It won’t get really hot for another month, just about the time the hostas pop. I hope they like hostas. There are so many of them in this yard. But the daisies I planted between them died…Oh, and the day lilies! I forgot! I need to thin those before I go. They’ll take over before the new people know it if I don’t. Go get my long handle weeding hoe out of the garage, will you?”

“Mom.”

“Let me do this in peace, ok? Yeah, I’m having a hard time, so kill me. Now go get the hoe. I’ll finish off the rocks.”

“Here’s the hoe. Oh my god. Mom, you’re planting herbs? For real? Are you gonna leave anything for the buyers to do? Where were you hiding those, in the basement?”

“I just want to give them ideas for the beds until the perennials come in. There’s all kinds of good stuff in the lower beds; my irises, Astilbe and Delphiniums, then later, my coneflowers, bee balm and black-eyed susans…”

“Whatever. What’s the saw for?”

“Oh, some of the lilac branches are growing into Doug and Tasha’s yard. See there? I told them I’d cut it back before I go.”

“I’ll do it. Take my shirt. I don’t care what you say, it’s hot out here. I’m not used to the heat anymore.”

“You’ve only been gone for nine months. You kids sure do shake off the past fast. I was saying that to your sister last night. She called in between her scene changes.”

“I don’t know why Doug and Tasha care since they’re moving soon too. Just these two branches, right?”

“What? Who said they’re moving? Where’d you hear that? Help me up.”

“From Doug. I saw him in the driveway before I came back here. He said they’re moving to Houston to be near her family because of the new baby. I guess they didn’t tell you.”

“Nope, I had no idea they were planning to leave. That makes me sad.”

“Why? You won’t even be here!”

“Because baby, the neighborhood that I know, where I brought you all up, isn’t going to be the same. It’s a nice neighborhood with nice families. We were here a long time. I just think it’s so sad.”

“Mom, babies get born so parents move, flowers fade and new flowers replace them. And Mom, loved ones pass away. Things change. C’mon, I’ll grab the soil and let’s get this finished.”

#

The Only Things Certain ©2015 Kat Tennermann

Another Change

Well, it happened. For the first time since  re-launching this blog, I missed a post. I had committed to posting at least once a month but I missed October. It’s not for the lack of trying. I wrote two pieces but hated one and didn’t finish the other. I sat up Halloween night hiding from the trick-or-treaters while trying to come up with something. Nothing. I closed my laptop and turned on the TV.

I have this problem more autumns than I want to admit. I seem to follow a pattern. The leaves change color and start to fall and I get depressed. Then the temperatures dip and I begin to eat for comfort (and store fat for the winter, I guess). I have trouble writing, which I hate because writing is my real comfort. I swore I was going to resist the pattern this year. I thought I’d stored enough warm sunshine in Tulum in September to see me through. But the empty takeout containers in my recycling bin and the lack of an October post seems to mean it wasn’t enough.

It’ll be ok, I’ll make it through. At this point in my life I’ve learned it’s not either this or that, warmth or cold, light or dark, it’s both. There is beauty in the warm sea tides and the fallen leaves. So, I’ll share with you poems about both. The first is one I wrote which is actually part of a larger work by the same name.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Only Things Certain

Dying
green
cascading brown
down

to stream water
wearing still rock.

Degrading
green
turning red
up

reaching, beseeching
to moving sky.

Trees, stream, sky.

Passing out of,
seen
and unseen
beauty

in change
and death.

(©Kat Tennermann2018)

 

And then there’s this one from the beach in Tulum. It’s a Navajo poem courtesy of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation. I read this out loud every morning.

beach beautiful bridge carribean
Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

Walk in Beauty

In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again.

 

 

1968

So here I am on the last day of April trying to stick to my commitment to post at least once a month to this blog. It’s been a challenge to do it since the re-launch. I used to have so much to say and now apparently, I don’t.

Anyway, I’ve been watching some retrospectives on TV commemorating the fifty-year anniversary of the significant events of 1968. The year factors largely in a novel I wrote during my hiatus from blogging. (It’s unpublished which is why I haven’t mentioned it before now but it is copywritten.) In one chapter the main characters talk about how they felt as children witnessing some of what was going on in 1968. I was a child then too and the TV programs reminded me of how I channeled my feelings into those of my characters. It was an impactful time, even for children. Since I can’t think of anything else to write about, I decided  I’d share a little of the chapter with you. If you like it, maybe I’ll post more from the novel later.

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“I’ll tell you, it was some year, sixty-eight. Crazy. John dying in his crib like that.  Mom and Dad both wildin’ out and on top of all of it, half of Baltimore burning up in the Holy War Uprising. Yeah, it was crazy.” As Thomas gestured with his drink in his hand, his eyes filled with long past images. He, Junior and Judi thought back to the Baltimore riots of 1968 and their collective memory was one of fire. Memories of the glow of the TV screen in the living room of the homestead as David Sr. and Ella sat on the sofa, watching the pictures of everything burning. They remembered the way Ella, her pregnant belly touching the cushions, squeezed David’s hand and whispered, “Damn, that’s right where your cousin lives.” The kids had turned and looked at Ella wide-eyed because cussing was their father’s forte, something in which their mother rarely engaged. But it frightened them the most when David said, “It looks like hell.”  After a solemn dinner that night, the three siblings had huddled together in the playroom wondering which sins had caused the troubles and whether the hell fires would get them too.  The memory faded and the spell was broken by David Jr’s deep voice.

“Ain’t that much different around here now Tom, and um, you’d know if you didn’t live in a gated community.” Thomas was ready for his big brother’s taunts.  To him David Jr. was like Baltimore City, still vital but a little rough around the edges. The oldest sibling wasn’t the big, bad brother he’d been when they were younger. He hadn’t been since Thomas entered the meat and potatoes of his adulthood, the years that had brought the reality of negotiating a good career, marriage and parenthood as a middle-class black man. Thomas set down his glass and scratched the hair on his chest through his starched blue business shirt and undershirt.  

     “Ok, that’s true Dave but back then black folks weren’t just rioting because they were mad like they do now.  Everybody in this neighborhood and for that fact in black neighborhoods around the country were talking about Black Power. And it was all over the news so we saw all those pictures of raised fists on the TV when Mom was trying to herd us up to bed after dinner, remember? Matt, we know you and Ruth were too little to remember but I’m telling you it felt like something real would jump off at any minute.  Even at five I knew something big was going on.  It scared me, it really did,” Thomas said.

©Kat Tennermann, 2016

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(Photo by Ivan Cujic from Pexels)

 

Things Have Changed

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I kept wondering why I was having such a hard time re-launching this blog. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve posted.  I’ve taken breaks once or twice before and restarted without trouble. This time however, I must have written four re-launch posts but wasn’t happy with any of them. None of them felt authentic; true or sincere. Then it occurred to me, things have changed. The circumstances and nature of my journey have fundamentally changed.

Soon after I started this blog I revised my life. Since my husband had passed away two years before, I moved to a different state (fewer memories to make me sad) nearer to a new grandchild (new memories to make me happy). I joined social groups and dedicated myself to the real writing career I had neglected to establish when I began a wife and mother.

It was all working and things were going well until about two years ago. Then changes, important changes, happened that weren’t part of my decision-making process. I wasn’t the main agent of the things that were affecting me. I felt as if, instead of walking my path, I was being kicked down the road like a random can. My family changed. I didn’t want one of my family members to divorce but it affected me on more than one level. I didn’t want another member to decide to view my longstanding foibles differently but it affected our relationship. My body changed. I didn’t decide to develop lines in my face or a knee that goes in and out like a tide. I didn’t decide to change my metabolism to where I can gain 10 pounds in a month but can only lose two no matter how much I diet and exercise. And those physical changes changed my relationships with men. The country changed. I was a poll worker in November  2016 and still didn’t see the handwriting on the wall, or in this case, the ballots. The day after that election my outlook changed about people, race in the U.S. and the value of compassion. I continue to grapple with what it all means. (Is it a harbinger of a dark future or the wide swing of a constant pendulum?)

It’s only natural that if I’m going to continue writing this blog, it too must change. Seven years is a long time. I’m positioned differently these days, much more an attendant than the guide. So, Stop Along the Way’s tagline is now Looking Forward… From Back Here instead of Take What You Want, Leave the Rest. Back in 2010 my intention was to lay out what I’d discovered and learned from my experiences and that some of it might be somehow helpful to others. But things have changed. I’ll post now about what I see ahead from this new vantage point and ask you, the readers, for your take on my perspective. My life has new landscapes for me to travel and I need help figuring out the new territory. It’s much easier practicing compassion (the supposed cornerstone of my spiritual practice) when I feel equal to instead of greater than. Lol, that is a reference to the very first 2010 post. My starting point is always the same. I’m thinking of changing the blog name to “The Road” but I’ll wait a bit on that. Do you think I should change it? Maybe I should see if I continue to feel as though I’m being kicked along or if at some point I willingly go along and enjoy the view. Maybe the biggest change is that instead of walking this road, I’m at the point where I’d rather ride the rest of the way, in the back seat where I can observe more and judge less. I hope you come along with me.

 

 

 

Why You Won’t Be Seeing Us Real Soon

 It’s been a little while since I posted.  I have a few pieces in the pipeline so I  hope to post more during the summer. But there’s been a lot going on around here, the best of which was finishing the first draft of my first novella, “Ties That Bind”. I ‘ll talk about that experience on my other blog,  BusyWritingLife.

The other stuff is mainly around family, some good, some bad which are the subjects I’ll be sharing this summer. And speaking of which;

 

Yeah, Disney, about that…..

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We’ve been thinking about doing a family vacation this summer. There are young’ens in our clan so, naturally, when I threw out the vacation idea, Disneyland was mentioned by their parents as a possibility. I grew up in the counter-culture days and tend to think of myself as a social reform type so at the Disney suggestion the only response that came to my mind was, as one of the other family members says, “hashtag, I can’t”. But I was pointedly reminded by one daughter that as I was bringing her up, I pushed Disney like a Oxycontin dealer.

I admit it’s true. I enjoyed a lot of Disney movies, both as a child and as an adult. When I became a mother, the memories of feelings I had as a child for Snow White and Cinderella overcame my supposed highly developed social sense. My emotional need was to share those memories with my kids. I wanted them to give them what I thought I’d gotten out of the films. It was a knee-jerk response to parenthood. And, truth be told, I continued to get with the Disney program. As a matter of fact, The Little Mermaid was a special bonding experience for me and that same daughter. Her favorite song was Part of That World and mine was Under the Sea. Some things never change…

…And some things do. So, I changed my mind. Sue me. (Oh that’s right, daughter can because she’s an attorney now. Take that Arial!)  It was right around the Aladdin years that I noticed a change in my attitude toward Disney films. I was starting to become bothered by the things like historical contexts and language. Why is a princess using an expression like, “at your service?” And why a princess? Why always a princess?! By the time Pocahontas was released I was suspicious of all the basic Disney themes. (Actually during one point in that movie, in a theater, my sister and I both stood and shouted, ‘Oh c’mon!”)  I started questioning what it was I actually did get from those old “classics” in terms of gender roles, class distinctions and cultural perspective. I realized that as an evolved, modern, African-American woman, I needed a new cartoon vision that matched my mood. (Haha.) That’s when I started boring my kids with “responsible” TV shows like Captain Planet. We stopped going to Disney movies and instead I brought home videos like Ferngully, The Last Rainforest”. The only Disney distributed movie I let into the house was The Brave Little Toaster. It scared the shit out of them and began the “reading era” of their childhood. As a result, when they criticize me about that time, as they still do, it’s in very literate terms.

Did I do the right thing by casting a jaundice eye on Disney and sharing my misgivings with my kids or was I the throw back hippie hypocrite they feel I was? I’m not sure but I’m still going to take a pass on dunking the grandkids in the Disney kool-aid as our summertime fun. Maybe I’ll suggest a hiking trip in the mountains instead. Now, please excuse me. We have a birthday party this afternoon and I have to go wrap an Elsa’s Frozen Palace play set.

And Now There Are Two

SO… with the help of the 3 people who weighed (two via personal emails) on the questions I asked in my last post, I’ve figured out what I want to do, blogging wise. I want to reflect on spiritual and social questions and I want to tell stories. As the result of my conclusion, “Stop Along the Way” will continue as the place for my reflections, considerations and meditations. In addition, I’ve started a new blog, the name of which was inspired by my last post here. My second blog is called Busy. Writing. Life and it’s where I’ll tell my stories in the form of humor, fiction and poetry. I posted my first piece today. In honor of Halloween it’s a scary story called Mouth Brought Me Here. I hope you’ll click over and check it out.

Busy. Writing. Life.

I can’t believe it’s autumn again already. I was very busy over the summer and it passed by very quickly. I traveled quite a bit, I rooted around the area of the DMV for yet more insight into its history and I spent a lot of time outside. I’m in love with Rock Creek Park, Great Falls Park and Glen Carlyn Nature Preserve, having had the pleasure of hiking all three during the warm months.

Great Falls
Great Falls
Glen Carlyn
Glen Carlyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

I joined a second faith community to strengthen my practice and for service work. I’m also always trying to find work that PAYS. Oh, and I grew tomatoes!

Bumper Crop!
Bumper Crop!
I admit I had a lot going on last summer...
I admit I had a lot going on last summer…

 

But not as much as my neighbor did
But not as much as my neighbor did

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was especially busy writing. I spent more time writing during the summer than I ever have. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this blog as a result. Most of my writing energy was spent on other forms rather than blogging. So now, I find myself knee-deep in work on my first novel as well as poetry and short stories. I have a couple of pieces out for submission to literary magazines and contests. Nothing has been published yet but I’m happy with the work, which feels great. I also increased my involvement with three writers groups (both physical and online). All of this has left me with little time for the amount and type of writing I was used to doing for Stop Along the Way.

So what do you think I should do? Here are my choices as I see them right now;

  • Close Stop Along the Way after a wonderful four year ride.
  • Change it to a creative writing space and post my workshopped pieces here.
  • Narrow the scope of this blog to pieces that focus on spirituality, create a new blog for humor pieces and keep everything else for the groups.
  • Leave it as is, post when I can and hope for the best.

I’d love some advice from my fellow bloggers about the situation. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I don’t know which direction to go in. I try to write everyday but there’s also “life”. So, how do I blog, write the other stuff and still have time for things like family, health and paying the bills? Please weigh in!  

NaNoWriMo….Nope.

There is only one week left of NaNoWriMo. Are you one of the brave writers taking on the challenge? I don’t do well under pressure so although I’ve known about the annual writing  contest held each November for a while, I haven’t thought to participate… until this year.

I started my first novel last June. I ‘d actually been kicking around the idea for a few years. Membership in my writer’s group helped immeasurably in giving me the confidence to tackle it. I was energized and organized but proceeding slowly so in October I brilliantly decided that I would take advantage of National Novel Writing Month to move the novel along. One of my biggest problems when writing is fine editing too early in the process. I’ll go back and rewrite the first paragraph three times before I complete a page. The result of this habit has been many unfinished pieces. I told myself that I wouldn’t hold strictly to the rules, that I just wanted to get as close to 50,000 words as possible without stress outside of my own standards of discipline. I figured if I concentrated on the word count I’d get down all the fabulous story ideas that have been sitting in my head (and outlined in my notes) without the impulse to perfect every word already on the page.

Do you want to know what happened? I hit a wall at 20,000 words, that’s what. All of a sudden I didn’t know what I was doing or what the story was about, no matter what my notes said. My characters stepped off the pages and said to me, “C’mon now, this is long but it isn’t good. We don’t believe what we’re saying because you’re not being real about what all of this means. Slow down, dig deep and tell the truth.” That really made me mad! I spent a whole week pouting (not writing) because my goal had been thwarted.  But I also spent the time thinking. And I started examining two very important truths about myself. First, that my novel isn’t really fiction. Like many other authors, by telling this tale I’m trying to exorcise a pain born from my own life experience. Second, that I have a unique voice that doesn’t sound like Proust or Morrison but its distinctive tone makes me a good writer anyway. Then I had to review basics like character development and plot lines. It was an unhurried process that was both a relief and a revelation.

And what is the outcome of all of this? A MUCH better draft of the novel, that’s what. Yeah, I had to throw out thousands of words and allot extra time to sit and really listen to that voice in my head but it was worth it. It turns out that trying to get as much of the story down as possible prompted me up to the next level of writing. Now the words that flow aren’t forced or stilted. The lives of my characters will be as layered as they need to be and the themes that are so important to me will be natural and honest. I’m sure there are writers who will end this month with cohesive works made up of the requisite number of well-crafted words. I won’t be one of them. I should reach 50,000 words by next June and that’s fine by me.