Thanks, God, for so many gifts.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thanks, God, for so many gifts.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I know the transparency of my words give honesty and purpose to my experiences. That’s why I write about them.
Some have been angry with me. Misunderstanding my need to express, they think perhaps I’m trying to justify myself, my actions, my life. I’m not. Some of my writing is, indeed, cathartic. Most is the result of prayer, contemplation and reader reaction.
On one level, my writing is a ministry. It’s a way of helping others to deal with the difficulties of life that I have dealt with. Not because I have become some perfect specimen of grace and forgiveness; but, in my human reactions to the events of my life I have found Someone to give me grace and forgiveness. The answer to my life’s complications doesn’t come from within my own strength, but in the strength I get from God.
Say what you may, but that’s how I see it.
I see my writing as an expression of that, a way to connect others to God who has helped me so He can help them.
Some readers of the book are surprised to learn how similar we all are. At least, that’s how I perceive their response. Perhaps it is I who is surprised to learn how similar they are to me. Some pieces I expect people to like and they don’t. Some pieces I expect them to find shallow or foolish, and they love them.
Readers, I have decided, are an unpredictable lot.
The one piece which seems to garner the strongest reaction is the one I enjoyed writing the most: A Night at the Theater. Some readers have begged to know who is the mysterious woman, what is the relationship between the two, and is there a sequel! All are unanswered questions which make my heart smile to no end.
I’m a little afraid to see my words in print because I know I can’t take them back and hide them anymore. I think that’s why I haven’t written.
But don’t think for a minute that the words have left me. They push me along on the whims of their way. As long as I’m alive, I’m sure, I’ll be writing something.
And as long as I know you’re reading, I’ll keep writing. Please forgive the time between when I simply must catch my breath and determine if I really am strong enough to throw my heart out there.
I know not everyone will like everything that I write. I know not everyone will understand everything. Writing isn’t a popularity contest or a test of my ability. It’s only expression.
And so, my readers, please forgive my reticence. And thank you, so very much, for stopping by to chat with me.
If you would like more information about The Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges, please visit my website at: Krisanewman.webs.com Grab a cuppa java and visit awhile!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
You can also order through Amazon.com or through my website: Writer's Pages
There is something very strangely fulfilling about seeing my words in print. I realize that anyone can publish anything so being published doesn't make it good.
However, those are my words. Those words I can't hide from or stash away or live without. My words. And now, they are part of the experience of many, many others. People who are from completely different walks of life are sharing my path.
My words bridge the gap between their perspective and mine. It's not easy - this opening of my heart and spilling its contents to a stranger, but it's good. It's a risk worth taking and I would recommend it.
All very interesting to my writer's eyes. I watch and listen and perceive that underneath all of our bluster, we are more alike than different.
Monday, November 1, 2010
THEN here is the place you want to go to place your order: createspace.com
A couple of people have already ordered their copies and it seems to be a pretty smooth transaction. Let me know, please, if you have any difficulties. I can also order copies for you, but it's a longer process since you have to send me the money and then I have to place the order, receive the shipment and then send it out to you. Going through the link above cuts me out of the process.
I really am humbled by the support I've received, and the encouragement. I don't understand why you want to read my ramblings. I am not all together sure I make any sense at all and I surely don't have anything deep or profound to say that will shift your paradigms.
But, maybe, just in the transparent honesty of looking into the world through my eyes you can see something just a little differently. Maybe it's yourself that looks new. Maybe it's someone you work with, or live with.
I pray for you, my readers, that God will use my words to bless you. And I thank Him, too, for your friendship.
You can also access the link through my website: Writer's Pages
Let me know you stopped by!
If by chance you would like to host a book signing, please let me know. I'm sure we can arrange something. I would love the opportunity to share with you and your friends what God has done.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
“Confirm Proof Order” is all it said. That sounds pretty innocuous.
But the proofing order confirmed is my first self-published work.
All those times I’ve called myself a writer, all those books I’ve critically read and wondered who wrote them, all those bookshelves in all those libraries and stores full of books without my name have new meaning now.
I am a writer - a published author. People will criticize my words and syntax. A library or used bookstore somewhere eventually will hold a copy of what I have created by hitting that button.
No fanfare. No celebration. No notice except for those friends near and far pushing me along so I don’t chicken out at the last second.
By this time next week, or before, I’m guessing, I’ll be posting instructions for you to order your own copy. The cost will be $14.99 plus shipping. It will be about 100 pages. You can have one, if you like.
Daddy’s Hands, in its original form is in it; so is Patchwork Quilt of Me, complete with photo. Those are pieces I know people like. Those are insurance pieces.
There is a poem about being alone and another about broken glass. I think people will like them, too, but I’m not sure. They are kind of . . . personal. Maybe they won’t relate well.
There are other scattered bits in the book. Some you may have read and forgotten. Some you may not like. Random views through my eyes as I grew into this new version of me. Becoming better when I had every right to become bitter.
Good or bad, syntax complications or not, overused phrases and all; the proof is on the way.
I’m an author.
Thanks for your encouragement. Thanks for listening.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
It’s almost there now. I have one more editor to meet with. One more set of ideas to sift through. One more session of page creating, picture editing, getting it all together.
And now I’m more terrified than before.
Sitting here, on the middle of the bridge, too far down to turn back, not quite in the safety zone, is the worst part of bridge crossing. I remember the first time I walked across the Poetry Bridge in Minneapolis. The traffic raced beneath me. Lives scurrying from point A to point B with no thought of me and my drama. Didn’t anyone care that I was so alone? Didn’t anyone know how little value I placed on myself?
I had the option at that moment to make them remember me. To become a life they would never forget. To stop their rushing and force their attention to me. I didn’t, but the thought occurred to me. By not finishing the crossing of that bridge I would have made an impression on them. A horrible one, to be sure, but I would have become a part of their lives. They would see me then.
Today I stand at this metaphorical bridge and find a different scene. If I don’t cross this bridge, if I go backward, if I never finish The Book I will cease to make an impression, no one will remember me, I will be the focus of no one. I could be literarily invisible.
There is a great deal of comfort in that anonymity. For one thing, there is no risk of painful backlash if I simply slide off the grid here. I could take down the website. Stop answering e-mails and phone calls and before long everyone would forget my ramblings and go about their business without me just like they did a year ago before I started publicly writing. There will be no criticism of my expressions, no doubt about my sentence structure, no dislike of my endless strings of thoughts. No exposure of my doubts, fears, failures, inadequacies.
Like the voices which pulled me across the Poetry Bridge all those months ago, something compels me forward. I am not sure why my writing is so important, but I feel it is. Not in an egotistical “I have something to say!” way, but in a “I have lived this, am better for it, and you can make it, too” way.
Had my routine not been interrupted a couple of weeks ago, The Book would already be out there. You would know what I’m afraid of. Although many pieces have been strewn about, only a couple of people have read the whole thing. Their reception pushes me to the other side.
I think, by next week-end, while you are scurrying about your lives hither and yon without thought of me, a momentous event will occur. I will hit the button that says “send” and off will go the first edition, ready for publication, real library-ready book containing my words.
I’m not sure if angels will sing or heaven will notice, but I know a little lady with brown eyes, a tall Swedish man, and a biker in a leather who will be looking from beyond smiling. Whatever value they saw in my little life at the beginning, I give this book back to them in appreciation.
God has been very good to me.
If you haven’t yet, and care to, please visit the website: krisanewman.webs.com. The snatches of prose mentioned above are posted there. Although I’ll have links here for purchase, the website has a little more information.
Thanks for walking this bridge with me. It’s nice to not be alone.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
But only a few of you have made yourselves known.
I wonder who you are. I wonder what you like about what you read here, if you like anything. I wonder how you found this blog. I wonder if you'll come back again or if you came here by mistake like someone who opened a door unintentionally. I wonder what we have in common.
You're welcome to come back.
You're welcome to tell me about you.
You're welcome to share the common ground we're walking.
Writers write because we can't not let the words have their way. Readers, on the other hand, stop hither and yon by their own will power.
Writers are always trying to figure out what makes a reader read.
Are you from France? Thailand? Mexico? Are you raising a family in Singapore? Are you a missionary kid in India? A student in Ireland? A truckdriver in Alaska?
My writer's mind places you in all sorts of adventerous roles.
Add a comment. Jot a note. Join the website at krisanewman.webs.com and tell me more about yourself there.
Or, just follow along in the same invisible way and see if I don't some day write your life through my writer's eyes.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I was listening to music practice one afternoon and feeling the keyboard notes run along my arms and it occurred to me that music, like writing, is intrinsic to my identity.
I could describe people to you by the kinds of music they like. John is a little edgy, a little country. Melissa is sometimes romantic, but with a strong streak. Tina is rock ‘n roll laced with a healthy respect for blues. Bob? Full of mystery and depth behind blue eyes. Thi might come across as traditional, but once he opens the door you find a wide assortment of sound and intellect.
I’m an eclectic mix that begins with a colorful clash of poetry and sound and ends with fun mixes.
I’ll let you guess which bands apply.
I like Christian music, mostly, but I get bored with the repetitious redundancy of much of it. I find it interesting that people criticize my wide taste in music. Really? You think my musical taste is questionable, don’t even ask me about what I read.
I also find it interesting that they don’t want to take up the discussion about why I like what I like and how I think God sees it. They only want to tell me how they think God sees it. Hmm. In the words of my oh-so-wise Grandma, “who died and made you boss?” I wonder if they would object to a classical composer if they knew of his personal choices and misadventures. I don’t meant to be critical, but it sure sticks in my craw sometimes.
Back to music.
Music speaks to me. Not only the lyrics, the very sound of certain melodies will stick with me for days. I can hear their strains calling me to move for days, sometimes years. There seems to be a song for every event. I am forever singing something random because music is forever filling my mind.
I find myself drawn to music, like all art forms, which has a deeper meaning, something that goes well beyond the surface. I have to like the surface, too, though. A wild cacophony of sound has no purpose. Distorted, unintelligible lyrics are foolishness to me. Shallow, common rhythms bore me. Loud, I like. Soft, I enjoy.
I’m not a musician, but I sure do dig music.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Well, your friend the writer is considering taking a leap to cross the chasm between writer and author. What’s the difference? Publication.
I have fearfully looked over this chasm with its plethora of unknowns for many years. How does one find a publisher? Are all agents the same? Can I afford to self-publish? And is there any point in that? How can I sell my own stuff? Who cares?
If you know me at all, you know I'm terrified of heights. Someone with great patience will have to walk with me over this bridge....
Along comes Lulu.com and, for the moment, I think I may have solved the publisher problem. I can self-publish an e-book which can be converted to hardcover by personal order for a pretty small sum.
I am going to start the process. I think. If I don’t back down.
I mean… what if I go to the trouble and throw my heart out there on a string and it doesn’t make it to the other side, but crashes splintering into the abyss? What if no one cares that I have a book out there that could be read?
But see, then there’s the other “what if.” What if people would like it, would grow from it, would glean something of value from my meanderings? God gave me this talent to use for some purpose. What if by not sharing it, I’m failing Him?
That’s scarier than failing, to be honest with you.
Therefore, hereby I do declare I will at some point in the nearer, rather than later, future put together the Book of Pages – Musings and Meanderings of a New Single Woman.
If in the past at some point you have read something -whether on this blog or through various other Kris NewMan sharing events -you remember, please let me know. It may make the final cut and you’ll know it was at your suggestion.
Similarly, if you have ever read something of mine that was really, really bad . . . please, please tell me! I wouldn’t let you walk out of the restaurant with lettuce in your teeth. Don’t let me put something in my first attempt at authordom which stinks.
I’m kind of excited about this. I don’t expect I’ll make any bestseller list and I don’t guess Oprah will call me, but perhaps there is someone who will be blessed.
Now you know how a writer looks at becoming an author. We’re terrified.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
When a writer finds an author and a book who speaks to their soul, this is how we see it.
Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge
I love this book. I love the way Andrew Bridge uses words. I love the flow of the story. I love the pictures painted on the pages. I love this book.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m not a fickle book lover. Some books I like. Some books I very much dislike. There are very few on the Love List. The Bible, Dr. Zhivago, These is My Words they are on the Love List, but not much else.
Hope’s Boy is at the top of the Love List.
Apparently, I am not the only one who loves this book. Within one week, Hope’s Boy was named a New York Times Best Seller and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Seller.
Andrew Bridge draws the reader into the mind and emotions of a foster child. He begins at the same level that most people do when they encounter an abused child; from the outside. He is the lawyer sent to investigate a facility to report on the treatment of children. The neglect and abuse that he finds strengthens his resolve to do more.
And then he tells you why he is driven to do more.
His story begins with scenes of life with his grandmother in Chicago and carries you to the streets of Los Angeles with his mother. Try as she might, Hope could not take care of her son. Try as he might, Andrew could not take care of his mother. Andrew was only seven when the authorities took him from his mother. Growing up in foster care wasn’t the worst thing that might have happened to him physically, but the emotional scars run deep. A tale of determination and strength follows until you realize that the end has brought you back to the beginning. Along the way, Andrew has grown into the recipient of a Wesleyan scholarship, become a Harvard graduate and a Fulbright Scholar. You will cheer his success as though he were your brother.
More than that, however, Hope’s Boy stirs compassion. Rather than a victim’s tale of woe, Hope’s Boy is the story of a child who sees the struggles of the adults around him and understands. This foster child didn’t become a statistic, but found a way to succeed. With Andrew’s resume, he could have become a Wall Street corporate lawyer jet-setting with the big firms. Instead, Andrew gave his skills back to those without a voice.
Although Andrew has represented children through a number of channels beginning in Alabama, his work with the Alliance for Children’s Rights in Los Angeles, CA may have had the widest impact. Beyond providing legal services to children, Andrew has been instrumental in linking health and education services to children as well.
In my personal opinion, Andrew’s greatest work has been the attention drawn to children at the edge of emancipation. In the past, foster kids turned 18 and they were on their own. Just like that. If the foster parents didn’t feel a need to help them beyond 18, they didn’t. Most foster kids had no real contact with their birth families by that point and so the birth family didn’t help them, either. The state, certainly, didn’t help them. Statistics show that the strong majority of foster kids fail after emancipation. They don’t go to college. They can’t hold a job. They abuse their kids. They spend their adult lives trying to find a solid place to stand. Most fail. Under Andrew’s supervision, The Alliance for Children’s Rights has implemented model programs to assist kids beyond the age of 18.
Perhaps, this book is important to me because I was raised in foster care. Like Andrew, I lived in a home where my physical needs were well cared for. Like Andrew, I learned that love and failure can be elements of a parent’s character. Unlike Andrew, I have never really found a way to go back and help those who come behind.
For those who want to be involved in the legal side of foster care, Andrew suggests working with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, also known as Guardians ad Litem. Andrew states, “These are volunteers who work with kids in the foster care system, who most often take on the kids most in need, and find solutions to problems that have eluded dozens of lawyers and judges that have preceded them. They do a great, great job and there are far too few of them. It would be tremendous if someday every kid in care could have one.” Beside this suggestion, Hopesboy.com lists several resources for various advocate programs. I recommend checking out the site and finding a place to put your talents to use.
If you work with kids, if you have ever considered becoming involved in foster care, if you were raised in a foster home; Hope’s Boy is required reading.
Hope’s Boy is not a book that you read. It’s a book that you experience. Thank you, Andrew, for giving the story a voice.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
Why do I do what I do?
Live the way I live?
Don’t do what I don’t do?
I can do anything I want. I have no one beside me or behind me or before me to make me do anything.
Except for God.
And that’s a big deal.
I do what I do to be pleasing to Him who has given me peace in the storm, provision in the lack, laughter in the sorrow, fullness in the aloneness.
I live the way I live to enjoy the presence of Him who shares with me laughter, sunshine, flowers, stars, friendships, affection.
I don’t do some things that might make me crass, harsh, bitter, foolish.
I do some things out of habit, out of need, out of obedience.
At the very bottom under it all, I really don’t care what others think.
It may appear that my actions are intended to win someone’s approval, someone’s attention, someone’s respect.
That is only partially true. I do want approval, attention, respect – just like every other human being walking on the earth.
I want the approval, attention and respect of my God.
I think if I can live right before Him, everyone else’s opinion falls into place.
However, I have also gotten to an age where I realize that there are others watching, always.
They want to see how to develop this relationship with God that has grown natural to me. They need to learn how to depend upon Someone to get them through the bad times. They need to figure out what’s okay and what’s not good in cultivating this relationship with God.
They are my children, grandchildren, peers, co-workers, colleagues, associates. Some are new believers. Some have always been a part of a church community.
So I cajole, challenge, question, example and remain mindful that I am never truly independent of the world.
I try to be sensitive to them, to hear how they are really living. To listen to their needs when they are not talking.
It’s hard for me to remember I’m a grown up, a leader. My age and season of life makes me so. I have walked this path for more than 20 years through many, many dark days; have seen incredibly deep blessings; have watched God do amazing miracles. I have crossed some bridges.
When I look in the mirror, I see someone who struggles with faith and purpose and intangible questions. I see my failures and inabilities and the futility of my efforts. I hope no one else is watching my stumbling about.
Two songs from the early years play softly in the background of my life. They seem to define the ambiguity within me.
I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven
I’m not perfect, just forgiven.
Haven’t yet arrived! But I’m on my way!
Since Jesus found me and forgave me.
Can’t say I’m perfect.
But I can say I’m saved!”
Oh, I Want to See Him
R. H. Cornelius, 1916
As I journey through this land, singing as I go.
Pointing souls to Calvary, to the crimson flow.
Many arrows pierce my soul from without within
But my Lord goes ahead through Him I must win!
Oh! I want to see Him!
Look up on his face
On the streets of glory
Let me life my voice
Cares all past, home at last
Ever to rejoice!
I am not perfect, but I have managed to keep walking with Him. I can’t be afraid to share my experience. It’s ok to let the walls down.
I am bound to see Him, face-to-face someday. My Jesus, my Lord, my God.
That is why I do what I do, don’t do what I don’t do and live the way I live.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Now picture that same fabric torn, not cut, into five pieces. The ends frayed and torn. Two of them more together than apart, but none of them completely connected any more.
That’s what my family is like.
Two young people in love and ready to conquer the world and beat the odds were overtaken by life’s demands. Push pulled and they were strewn asunder. Not cut with neat edges. Torn. Raggedly. With strands flaying and seeking wholeness.
And yet, one strand, invisible to the outside, still connects those lives. It’s like a band of steel that could not be torn, cannot be broken. It can be ignored or pushed aside, but it remains. Intact. Unchanging.
I have been corrected for using the term “my real family” as though my foster family was my real family and my biological family was something else. I understood the correcter’s point of view, but I am not completely sure they understood mine.
I’ve also been told that I mourned the loss of someone from my real family when my family was torn apart; therefore, I had no cause for sadness when he died. That wasn’t true, either. The speaker didn’t see the thread that would not break. The speaker did not understand the insurmountable strength of that connection.
If you have never been in foster care, I don’t know if you could.
This reflection is meant to express some of that.
From the outside in, we aren’t a close family at all. Rarely are we all in the same space. Few pictures exist of all of us together. Two of us or three of us, now no more than four of us, gather from time to time. Our memories are stilted, disjointed.
Being together takes effort. We make the effort because we enjoy each other, we get something from each other, we understand each other. We are okay apart, but much better together.
My parents met in their early 20s. Married soon after they met. Began a family.
But unemployment, sickness, exhaustion, alcohol, women, little family support took a quick toll. Five years and three kids later, they divorced. Bitterly.
For reasons unknown, really, and disremembered by the players, my parents placed their kids in foster care. For more reasons unknown and disremembered, my brother and sister stayed together with my dad’s mother and I went to family friends.
But I knew they were there. And they knew I was here. We just weren’t often in the same here or there.
My parents went on to other relationships, other lives; but never really another family. My mom’s relationship lasted the longest at almost 40 years as of today. My brother and sister grew up together sharing friends and landscape and experiences.
My foster family sewed up most of my frayed edges. They surrounded me with good things and were my family in many respects. I love them and am grateful for them.
Yet, there was that one string, the one connection, that one feeling that someone I belonged to was not with me.
Our fabric was torn, but we were still oddly connected.
We are all so much older now.
I’m a grandmother, for crying out loud. Our father is gone. We live in different cities with different friends and different lives. We try to get together for Christmas. We call on birthdays, at least. The women, my mom and sister and I, talk pretty frequently, actually. We all work hard to keep the lines of communication open.
From the outside in, we don’t appear very close for a family.
I have no idea what my niece and nephew are involved in. I have to keep asking my brother, “what grade are they in? How old are they?” Other aunts know those things. It goes the other way, too. My brother chats on occasion with his nephews, but has no real clue what makes them sad or happy or angry.
Don’t mistake our distance for indifference. It’s not because we don’t care. It’s just how it is.
My sons are in two different parts of the state living two different lifestyles. One, a family man working hard, going to school, living small-town life. The other, a single, city-man, a barista, a musician responsible only for his own needs.
But let a tragedy come along. Let someone have a crisis. That invisible thread starts to tug. Regardless of financial situations. Regardless of other responsibilities. Regardless of other commitments.
The tie that binds starts to pull taut and the world stops.
Like now. Today. I should be at work and my German ethic is battling with this family need. My sister is on vacation and should be planting her garden. My brother wants to be busy about his own life. My son wants to be elsewhere doing something.
Mom needs us. Here we are.
My son, the family man, struggles with this. He wants to be here. But he can’t. His responsibilities are not shared enough and he can’t make a four-hour trip. I assure him it’s fine. He can wait until we need him and can’t do without.
There’s nothing we can do. My mom’s heart is breaking and the doctor’s keep saying there is hope for this, but not for that. All we can do is watch as silently as the man who has controlled her life for 40 years slowly ebbs away. We know he hates being where his and we wish we could let him go to the next life.
And so we wait.
Dancing around our responsibilities and our need to simply be together as life and death totter at the edge of today’s stage.
But we wait together.
Even if we try to go on about our lives – the thread keeps tugging. Our minds, our hearts, our attention is centered on one another.
We’re a family. Not like yours, perhaps, or any other. Together we are stronger, more complete.
The burlap is frayed, but only needs to be placed near the other torn pieces momentarily to find the right place, to connect, to become whole.
That’s my family from the inside out.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Almost done with this semester already. It seems to have gone quickly past, but it’s had so many events! I have flown from one thing to another living them each fully, but at break-neck speed! Writers tend to get unreasonably busy living life fully. We draw every drop of experience from everything we do.
Let me tell you about one particular week-end so you can get a sense of what I mean.
On Friday night of this particular week-end I watched a movie. Work had been long and I was tired. It was time to rest. Hanging over my head like a thunder cloud were several chapters of reading promised to be done by Sunday afternoon. But I couldn’t do it. I could not make myself pick up a book and try to retain one more speck of knowledge. I was in bed by 8:30 p.m. sleeping deeply.
Saturday morning found me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:30 a.m. I wanted to complain about waking so early, but I had already slept so long my back was tired from laying still. There was nothing for it, but to get up and do something.
So I started with dishes and laundry and housework. I luxuriously enjoyed my morning coffee and dug into the homework reading. Such fascinating stuff! I love history. Before I knew it, it was time to start the two-hour drive to St. Paul for class. I checked to be sure I had everything I needed and off I went. Half of the reading cloud has dissipated and I wished again for an audio copy of my textbook.
A lovely drive, I must say. I know some people think I’m insane for driving two hours to get to campus, but I don’t mind it. I like why I’m going and it always makes me happy to be on the way. I love the season of my life where it is, but I do miss the Cities.
Discussions, questions, sharing life with a diverse population of incredible women: behind us the clock keeps ticking. Thrown about the room are ideas and expressions grown and developed from many different fields. Girlie girls and tomboys discussing the relevance of gender and what we will do about the labels placed upon us. How do we become the change we see needed in the world? An unexpected, incredible compliment from my professor gives me personal cause to dig a little into my self-perception. It occurs to me that I see myself differently from the inside out than the world sees me from the outside in. Before I know it, it’s 4:30 p.m. and I’m on my way to the next chapter.
Waiting for me at the train station at the Mall of America is a classmate. We are going to the Somali quarter of Minneapolis to meet other classmates and get a taste of a different culture. We find ourselves immersed in colors, textures, languages and foods we had only admired from afar. We are now the outsiders, the foreigners. Among ourselves we try to understand the great questions of assimilation, Americanisms and culture. We are quieter on the train ride home.
The cloud of guilt is beginning to rain upon me. Homework awaits me. I find myself a spot in a familiar coffee shop where I can concentrate and dig in.
It’s after 10:00 p.m. when I head for my “home” in Shakopee. I can hear the guest room beckoning me and I am thankful for its familiar warmth. At 11:00 p.m. I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. and drift off.
Morning has barely stretched out the horizon when the alarm pushes me awake. On the road again by 7:30 a.m. I’m late to meet a friend who is passing through the Cities on her way home to Tulsa. The chances to see my friend are few and I must take this opportunity. Starting our conversation where we left off over a year ago, we gain strength from one another’s courage. The man of her dreams is with her this time. I enjoy meeting Prince Charming. I smile as I drive away content that my friend is moving toward a good season.
Off to school. I am too late to enjoy my normal Minnesota church service, but too early for class. I decide to go to campus and find a quiet place to read a bit and pray a bit and talk to Jesus about life in general. As I’m walking, I hear the most amazing voice coming from the campus chapel. An invisible line pulls me to my youth as I enter the Catholic Church doors. Grand in its appearance, austere in its command of respect, it envelops me. I sit in the back and drink in the memories drawn by the music, the expected responses, the formality of the mass, the reverent voices. I leave refreshed. For a short time before class, I sit in the garden and talk to Jesus. Peace He gives, it’s true.
Class again and this time we meet in the English garden. Sweet summer smells waft in and out of our discussions. Laughter, contemplations, sharing. Rain sprinkles outside of us, but we are tucked beneath the gazebo.
I stop for a quick coffee on the way out of town. Now the two hour drive yawns before me. My mind leaps from idea to idea over all of the layers of life lived in the preceding 48 hours. I smile and laugh to myself and think deeply about the concerned discussions I’ve heard.
Many people would perhaps close themselves into their quiet homes as quickly as possible after so much activity, but my week-end isn’t done yet.
Church starts at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday nights and my angelbabies are waiting for me. I duck in my apartment, wash my face, brush my teeth and head back out. I am very late so I sit in the back. I’m struck by the contrast between the morning mass and this evening’s service. Pentecostal worship is probably the exact flip-side to Catholicism. Children are dashing between their parents and other relatives. Women are smiling and commenting to one another. Men are clapping. Hands are raised across the building in surrender. The music is loud, boisterous, celebratory. Although there is a sense of order, it may not be obvious to an onlooker. It occurs to me that God really is everywhere.
My grandchildren see me and run back to my seat. Their smiles and kisses and questions wash over me.
It’s after 10:00 when a group of us head to McDonald’s for an ice cream after church. Giddy with exhaustion, we laugh and talk and sing.
I breathe deeply the experiences of my life. I feel very selfish, sometimes, enjoying my life as much as I do. I think I have too many good things. I see the suffering of others and wish I could give some of what I have to help them. But, truth be told, I really don’t have much to give. My riches are tied up in people and all that I receive from them.
The calendar page for Sunday slowly closes. Thanks, God.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Time flies past a writer as they stop to smell the flowers, feel the rain and forget about turning calendar pages. All of a sudden it’s May and Mother’s Day is across the hall waiting for me to open the door. I try to ignore its knocking and hope this year it will just quietly go away.
But it won’t. And I’ll do what I ought, dutifully, some; and joyfully, some; and sadly, some.
It’s not that I don’t like to give gifts and be kind to my mother, don’t misunderstand me. My mom is one of those sweet sorts of people who are always amazed by the smallest gifts. I think it’s from her that I got the ability to appreciate the gesture beneath the gift. For many years I’ve made a point of bringing her flowers for Mother’s Day. She likes the flowers. I like the giving. We both smile and are glad for the smallest moment shared.
There are other “mother/friends” in my life, too. Those are harder to give gifts to. Mostly because they are far away. Their handprints are all over my life, though, and I try to live in such a way that they are clearly seen. My ability to love, be compassionate, to yearn for education, to encourage: those are learned traits from my many “mother/friends.”
As a mother, I play another role on Mother’s Day. I am the receiver. My sons probably don’t know that I have kept every card they ever gave me. Sometimes I take them out to see their little boy handwriting again, to rest in the memories of their need and admiration. I have their gifts, too. The little bell with the flower on it – glued together after a fall. The ceramic elephant gracefully proclaiming love. The pictures they painted and photographed. I watch their growth along this trinket road.
I’m so proud of my boys. They are good, strong young men. They stand tall, do right and have so much solid character. I revel in their accomplishments vicariously experiencing life through them. I love their gifts, but I long for more of their time.
I’m sad that I don’t get to enjoy them more. I sowed a lot of my life into theirs. I don’t regret any of that – any of the baseball games and music practices and late nights waiting up. I enjoyed most of it for my own selfish reasons. I wish that now I could enjoy the finished product more.
I watch my “other kids” the same way. The bus kids and church kids and neighborhood kids who have left behind the hurts of their childhood and found Someone who loves them unconditionally. From a distance, I watch for their pictures and thank God for sharing their lives with mine. Those are precious gifts received.
Mother’s Day and May, mostly, remind me of my Grandma. Mae was her name, for one and she loved spring. She loved flowers – lilacs and lily-of-the-valley and roses. Strong, fragrant, beautiful, strong blossoms that started to show themselves quietly in May.
I don’t know that it was her favorite time of year or her favorite month. It’s hard to say because she loved life and holidays and people so much it was hard to tell when was her favorite, or who.
I miss the smell of fresh baked bread in the morning and chicken dumpling soup in the afternoon. I miss the sound of the song she wrote and played on the organ – Redbird, I think she called it. I would know the tune if I heard it again, but I won’t. No one ever learned to play it except her. It was Grandma’s song only. I miss the sound of her voice on the phone or with Irene. The gentle play of words, the laugh at the end of a sentence. Or if something was really funny, the deep rich sound of her laughter. I miss her beautiful hands. Gentle and strong so lined with life and with care. Those hands that wrote the recipes and brushed my hair and mended my clothes and comforted my broken spirit. I miss those hands. I miss that touch.
I remember sitting before her once watching tv. I was on the floor in front of the couch and she was behind me. My head was just above the arm of the couch and she gently pulled my hair up and brushed it while we watched a movie. Such a personal caress. “You have such beautiful hair, Krissy, beautiful blonde soft hair.”
I can’t help but think, also, of my friends who are not mothers. Whose arms are empty and hearts are full of sadness. I feel like a glutton in the lavishness of my children and grandchildren, as though I have hoarded a treasure. My heart hurts for them and I try to share, but fear my sharing is mistaken for bragging. I pray they see the plan of Someone who knows their days.
Writers, remember, see the world through a different lens of experience. We keep those things we feel close to our heart until they won’t be still any longer. Then those words fall out all over the paper. We hope someone reads them and nods in complicity. We hope that they will bring a new level of understanding. We hope they are not abused.
Like a mixed spring bouquet, a plethora of thoughts and emotions bunch together in my hands today.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Biology and English are not always on the same page. Well, to be honest, they aren’t generally in the same part of the library. So what’s a writer doing in a human genetics class? Learning.
It’s required. Everyone has to take a little bit of everything. It’s true. I admit it. I would never have chosen a Science course for an elective. Left to my own narrow-minded choices I would have taken a literature class or a writing class or even an art class. But Science? No, thanks. I’ll pass.
But to pass this level, I couldn’t pass this class and so now I’m just trying to pass.
And finding a whole new world to explore.
Writers are, after all, thinkers who express their thoughts and hope someone understands. Scientists are thinkers who explore their thoughts and hope someone can communicate them.
I guess we’re not so far apart after all.
This particular Science course is student-ed by a rather interesting cross-section of women. Several are divorced, but not all. Most have kids, but not all. Some have had great difficulties with marriage, divorce, pregnancies and kids, but not all. We talk about those things in this class as we explore the link between past, present and future through DNA diagrams.
There have been confessions of small-minded frustration. Admissions, and repentance, of personal bigotries. Dissections of character splayed on reflections of ourselves. What would we do if we could choose to have a perfect child? What do we think about knowing things our grandparents feared? How far would we search and how much would the answers be worth?
Human genetic research has made us consider what we’re made of.
Our professor tries to guide the learning and discussion and, I fear, has found curiosity has a life of its own in this class. Well-planned lessons fall behind as the learners push and pull the knowledge from her and one another. There are things we must know to say we have been here, but then there are things which we are taught here unexpectedly. For example, what it feels like to struggle through infertility; how an adopted child considers their biology; the fear of family history.
It stretches our minds as we try to wrap our intelligence around the idea that miniscule strings coiled within our cells map out our identity. Whether we have blonde hair or brown; we are tall or short; we will have early onset Alzehimer’s or clear minds and wasted bodies. It’s there!
The value of a human life, marred or perfect, has been the elephant in the room. The idea of a perfect genetic race is not new to mankind. It seems we humans have no lack of the superiority gene. Yet, when considering our own imperfections balanced against someone else’s perceptions, we can’t help but wonder if we are invalid. What determines the value of a human life? Or Who?
We toss about hypotheticals questioning our own ideas. What would we do if we could know it all? For ourselves? For our children?
But do we want to know all of it?
What will we do with that knowledge? If we can obtain it? Because who can afford it? Not me. Not now, for sure.
Or does looking at my family pedigree tell me all I need to know? I am likely to be overweight, depressed, diabetic, have heart disease and die in my 60s. That’s what my family tree says. Of course, I can watch what I eat, keep a positive mental attitude (prayer, helps, of course), and get hit by a truck tomorrow.
There are no guarantees. We are given this life to live and live we ought.
I’d like to know the worst case scenario for my future health. I’d like to be able to prepare myself and my family and make sure I don’t become someone’s problem.
I don’t think it would change my lifestyle. I would still try to live fully each day. To enjoy the blessings as they unfold, to sorrow the sadness when it crosses my path, to love lavishly, to serve God as well as I’m able. That’s the core of my life, honestly.
The more I consider the details of creation, the more convinced I become that Someone has set it all in order. To me, Science proves creation was on purpose.
All these thoughts are those which I see written around the beakers, the test tubes, the micro-needle-looking-holder-things, the PowerPoint slides, the textbooks and laptops. I may never understand the modes of inheritance or get a correct probability, but I have learned to articulate the value of life.
That’s knowledge to pass on.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I over heard someone say today, “I’m 59 and ½. Before I know it, I’ll be 60.”
It occurred to me that my dad was that age once. Looking at 60, but not quite there.
And then he wasn’t anymore.
I wonder what he thought of his life.
Was he glad for the choices he made? He was always smiling.
Was he sad for the doors he closed? He was always going.
Did the anger fill his thoughts? It spilled from his words like a vile poison, acidly eating away at his peace.
You could see it in his eyes. Bluer than blue; colder than ice.
You could feel it in the tension around his smile; gripped, tightly held inside.
His strong, large hands shook when he talked about some things, some people.
Nervously they gripped his Zippo lighter, his cigarette or strummed on the table extending energy in measured bites.
Did he ever consider the other days?
The tickly, laughing, giggly days? When his daughters walked on his back to relieve the stress of life and his son strode beside him?
“That’s nuts.” And he’d laugh. A deep, sarcastic, throw-your-head-back and guffaw laugh. “Oh jeez!” tears falling down his face and laughing, laughing, laughing.
Did he remember the one wedding dance? The one where he wore the suit we picked for him? The one where he posed for pictures with his lovely teen-age daughters? The one where pride puffed his chest until he was cockier, jauntier than all the other dads in pictures?
Did he look back to those days when he looked ahead to 60 and wish to re-live them?
Or did he only see the trouble, the loss, the heartaches playing over and over? Did he feel the kicks that life dealt him and sink beneath their darkness?
Were there too many seasons between the living and the existing? Were there too many blank pages? Too much aloneness? Too much burden?
I wasn’t there. I don’t know what the record of his days holds. Time, circumstance, apathy pushed a gulf between us that I didn’t cross.
I would give anything to go back to those days and help him re-write the story. To fill in the missing places with memories and peace. To overshadow the sadness with contentment. To share his grandsons’ accomplishments and joys. To let his hands carry them from past to present.
But I can’t. It’s too late. The book is written, the cover is closed.
I hope I’ve learned the lesson of his life so when I’m looking at 60 the air is clouded with children’s voices, graceful hands and contented sighs.
Today, 60 is far away and my life is rich. I know I must keep investing, continue sharing, love lavishly with arms wide open. Teach and guide and learn and grow.
Today is my present from the Lord, the Author and finisher of my faith.
Today I will live completely so when my book closes, the fullness of my life pushes the cover open again and again.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
How does a writer read?
Well, I can tell you how writers don’t read. We don’t read to be critical or negative or tear down another writer. Writers are generally encouraging and positive when discussing someone else’s writing.
That said, writers hold one another to a high standard. We don’t settle for drivel set on a page by someone who ought to be selling candles. We don’t appreciate a churned out effort made only for the sake of a paycheck. We aren’t always kind when discussing that type of writing.
Writers look for the emotion and depth of words presented on the page. We find the rest of the story that lives in the white space. It’s funny to me to listen to writers talk about books. “I think what he meant by that was . ..” “Clearly, she was talking about this because on page 54 she said that which was a foreshadow to this on page 97.”
How do we know?
Because it’s what we do. We play these games with words and explain and express and emote until the reader is so immersed they don’t even know how they got there. Unless the reader is a writer. Then the writer reader will see that which is not written. They will play the game and tumble along from thought to thought.
Here is a piece of a review of the novella by Tolstoy I wrote several years ago for 90&9, “Woven through this beautiful allegory of giving is a sense of common beauty. The beauty of family life and community breathe through every chapter. Tolstoy’s characters live simply, unburdened by the traps of possessions. They have one another. They have their work. They have God. What else could they need? They are not oblivious to the grand riches of the wealthy around them. Rather, they are satisfied with the richness of their relationships.” All that from a few pages of writing. Oh, but Tolstoy is so grand to read! You feel as though you are sitting at the feet of a great man when you turn the pages of his books.
Writers read to sharpen themselves. We like to see what else has been done. Not to copy one another, ever. But to find ways to make ourselves better. We love to read. We love to expand our knowledge, to find better ways to express ourselves.
We don’t despise shallow writing, but we do frown upon it. I find myself reading shallow books to distract me from reality when nothing else is available. I find myself reading real books when I have moments to revel in their goodness.
Writers love to read. Here are some specific examples of how I read, as a writer and some thoughts about what I have read. Perhaps you would like them, too. Let me know.
Albom Bestsellers Stick to Your Conscience
By Kris Newman
January 19, 2004
What Men Live By
By Kris A. Newman
November 3, 2003
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I remember when I was 13 and working on writing something. A friend innocently asked, “are you going to be a writer?”
“Yes.” Definitive answer, but of course, what else? How could they ask such a silly question.
Over the years I have written many things. Poems, plays, stories, album and book reviews. Give me an occasion, give me an audience, and I’ll write something for you.
My answer to the “are you a writer” question has evolved, too. “I do some writing.”
As recently as last summer someone asked me what I was going to do with my English degree when I finally have it in hand. “I’d like to get published, maybe teach writing.”
I am learning now that one does not become a writer, one simply is. I am required to write for my classes. A certain particular level of expectation is placed upon me by my professors. I am not “doing some writing,” I am expressing through writing.
In Hallucinating Foucault, Patricia Duncker says, “The identity of a writer is always a subject for speculation.” That set me to thinking. Why is it so difficult to tell who a writer is? Because a writer is always changing, always absorbing the atmosphere, always experiencing something. A writer doesn’t go for a walk. A writer immerses themselves in the world touching the flowers, smelling the factory smoke, hearing the colors, feeling the music of the day. A writer is constantly becoming someone new.
A writer cannot be a distant friend regardless of how alone they appear. A writer will experience the lives of those around her. A writer feels differently than everyone else. A writer may try to closet themselves away, to be separate. Don’t be fooled by this silence. It is only in response to her depth of emotion that she cuts herself away. When she simply cannot bear the burden any longer, she must be alone to write.
A writer is never content, never satisfied, never finished. There is always something else pushing a writer to continue. Words haunt a writer’s mind. Floating above the common scene, words dart about waiting to be captured by the writer. Once the expressions begin, a writer cannot stop until the picture is painted. Completely.
I can no more just “do some writing.” I must empty myself of the emotions, expressions, experiences which have grown in me, around me, through me.
I am a writer.
Monday, January 25, 2010
How does a writer see a holiday?
Maybe it’s my Grandma’s fault for making holidays such a big deal, but I LOVE holidays! I always anticipate something good and find a different pace in my step, a new smile coming more quickly. I’m not talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving, I’m talking about every holiday – especially a birthday.
My birthday this year was a writer’s classic! No kidding. It was amazing. It made me think back to other birthdays and the pack of emotions they held.
I've had more than my share of special birthday blessings over the years. I have a birthday quilt stitched by a very special friend to tell a story, a purple paper weight, a handmade angel and other special tokens received through the years that fill my home with their charisma. I remember my 40th birthday with a smile. A former student paid for me to have a special dinner at an exquisite restaurant where I was treated like royalty. Yes, I've had more than my share of good birthdays.
But this year in particular I was made to remember my Sweet 16 Birthday. My Grandma thought that it should be special and so she invited all of my friends to stop by and made sure that I was going to be home. She cleaned the house extra clean. A fresh bowl of punch on the side table with a clean white table cloth. My favorite strawberry cake with Kool Whip proudly displayed. Candles burning in the candelabra.
I was upstairs doing homework – as it was, of course, Exam week. Grandma called me to come down to have dinner with her and watch a movie.
“Put that away for awhile and come and sit with Grandma, honey. It’s your birthday!”
I reluctantly put my books away.
Now, don’t think I was such a good student and that’s why I was holed up and studying. That’s not true. See, what Grandma didn’t know is that a couple of my friends at school had told me about the party. They asked what kind of liquor would be there and would my Grandma be gone. When they realized she would be there and there would not be any liquor, they laughed. They wouldn’t be there. How stupid to have a party without anything to drink and with an adult present. Ridiculous! True story. That’s the kind of friends I had.
I remember feeling very alienated and alone. Torn between my loyalty to my fabulous Grandma and the embarrassment she caused by suggesting such a thing to the kids who called me friend. I knew they weren’t really friends, especially when they behaved that way. But it still hurt. Didn’t it prove my lack of value that no one would bother to be at my party? No one thought enough of me to want to celebrate with me?
When I felt that way as a teen, I either drank away the sorrow or buried myself in a book. That’s why I was upstairs.
Looking back, I wouldn’t trade that night for a thousand parties with ten thousand guests.
Grandma and I talked and laughed and watched a movie, I don’t remember what, on TV. At some point we had cake and punch and talked about being 16. Grandma told me stories about her young life. I can see us sitting there surrounded by memories, “if these walls could talk, the stories they would tell!”
Sincere, genuine, real, healing love flowed from my Grandma to me. I felt like my worth was multiplied over and again by the way she loved me.
Sometime after 9:00, the mainstays of my foster family arrived – Pattie and the kids. Presents in hand, excusing profusely, “I had to work late. Sorry we couldn’t be here earlier. How was the party?”
I tried not to let the sadness show, “it just started.” I remember the gift they brought - a red flannel shirt (can you imagine me in that? I LOVED it!) and the sound of their voices singing happy birthday.
This year was full of depth and genuine love just like Sweet 16. The notes I received, calls, texts, Facebook messages made me feel like the guy on It’s a Wonderful Life, except I wasn’t dreaming. I was so blessed to hear the genuine caring poured out over me. Honestly. I was.
A writer hears those words as though magnified through the mist of memory. The good words have to crawl over the self-doubt to be heard. This year, they resounded like a cacophony of voices drowning out all else. From the latest of my adopted girls standing in the snow singing Happy Birthday while holding a flaming muffin, to random texts from people who I imagined would have forgotten I existed, to notes saying things like, “I’m glad you’re alive,” to the annual Birthday Choir Call, to a special dinner surrounded by Angel Baby voices and grown children smiles . . . it was an amazing week-end full of blessing.
Like that winter night when my Grandma showered me with her attention, I was again center stage and amazed at how much I am loved.
I often think of my Grandma and the love she poured into my life. I hope I can be as sensitive and as giving. I hope I’m worth her efforts.
Happy Birthday to me! I am alive!