Category Archives: Personal experience

Things That I’ve Forgotten

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Things That I’ve Forgotten

Stashed in boxes, on bookshelves, in closets, and on my desk are hundreds of notebooks dating back decades. Each has a different purpose. Some contain ideas I want to pursue further, that might become an essay, a poem, or a book someday. Some contain notes I took at conferences. Some refer to books I’ve read, summaries or brilliant passages I’ve copied out because I didn’t want to forget them. Some are journals in which I wrote down experiences on trips or my day-to-day feelings. In some notebooks I’ve recorded my insights when studying scripture.

As Greg and I have gotten older, we’ve encountered more medical challenges, and we found we couldn’t always remember what tests or bloodwork we’ve had done and what the results were. We couldn’t remember when we had certain procedures. So in May of 2019, I started taking another notebook to all our doctor appointments to write down our concerns and all pertinent information.

So much of what I write every day is for one reason—I’m trying to remember stuff.

Strangely enough, much of what I write gets forgotten anyway. I recently grabbed a journal from 1996-1998 out of a box, and I don’t remember any of the stuff I wrote. In August ’96 I wrote down some details about a trip our daughter Carly had taken the month before. She visited Bennington College for “July Program” the summer before her senior year in high school. This is about her return flight: “Departure from Albany delayed approx. 1½ hours due to new security procedures resulting from crash of TWA 800 (?). Had to stop over in Atlanta—same day as bombing at Centennial Olympic Park. Reassigned to another flight to Phx. Had to spend extra couple hours in Atlanta airport. I was sure bomber was in airport, trying to get on Carly’s flight. Carly got to fly 1st class.” I don’t remember any of that happening, except for the bombing.

Most of the rest of that journal is notes about books I was reading at that time. For example, this excerpt from the book Waiting, by Ben Patterson: “Robert Schuller asks, ‘What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?’ The question is designed to break us out of our mental ruts and to think of the possibilities of our lives.” For me, reading this excerpt now is like seeing it for the first time.

So all those things I’ve recorded in notebooks and journals are essentially wasted if I do not go back and reread them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone; certainly some people remember what they’ve experienced over their lifetimes. But I don’t remember what I read a year ago, much less 23 years ago.

When my Mom passed away in 2004, my brother and I went through her “art collection,” our affectionate nickname for the stack of papers piled up in the corner of the kitchen counter. We found all sorts of old stuff in there, including letters I’d written to her from college in the early 1970s. I wish I could say the letters brought back memories. Mostly, I couldn’t even remember the people I’d mentioned in them, students in my classes and my dorm, even professors I’d had.

I still believe in taking notes at conferences and in journaling, in writing down ideas and interesting things I’ve read; but now I’m going to make a point of rereading my notes and journals from time to time. I’ll let you know how that goes—if I remember.

Creative Juice #224

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Creative Juice #224

On Tuesday, my husband’s podiatrist told us she got her flu shot. Somehow, that fills me with hope for 2021. So do these awesome articles:

  • This one made me cry. The video is too echo-y. Scroll down and read the essay.
  • Writer’s playlist.
  • When we can travel again, maybe we can go to Mexico.
  • This article from 2018 may help you set your creative goals for 2021.
  • 12-year-old Jesus didn’t have all the answers.
  • Interesting shots.
  • Everything I know about physicist Richard Feynman I learned from watching The Big Bang Theory. I didn’t know he liked to draw.
  • Good advice. And some not as good. And some I don’t understand.
  • These signs made me laugh.
  • There are reasons why you shouldn’t drive drunk, and there are reasons why you shouldn’t sing drunk. But they’re not the same reasons. Apparently, singing drunk is great fun, and nobody dies. Read about the Australian Pub Choir.
  • A quilter shares the 17 quilts she made in 2020.
  • This is an interesting idea: praying with index cards.

Creative Juice #219

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Creative Juice #219

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas. I put a new Christmas bedspread and pillow shams on our bed.

  • Awesome photographs of nature’s power.
  • For the musicians and the music teachers: young composers get to hear their works performed by the New York Philharmonic.
  • Beautiful zentangles.
  • Ways to beat writer’s block.
  • For the writers: flabby characters? Put them through some exercises.
  • Have you taken your Christmas card picture yet?
  • Ways to use your books to decorate for Christmas. (I am seriously thinking of turning my TBR pile into a tree. The books are already stacked on the floor…)
  • In case you need to laugh, here’s a story about what to do when your husband says you can’t buy any more towels.
  • Some ingenious Christmas tree tools.
  • We all know what we should be doing in order to live our best lives. Read this to get it all in one place.
  • Interview with illustrator Jim Starr.
  • Christmas movies to stream.

Oops.

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Photo by Candace McDaniel

My oldest daughter, Carly, entered kindergarten with seriously advanced reading skills. She was working her way through the Little House on the Prairie series. In school, she was being taught the letters of the alphabet, numbers, counting, and colors. They did have a gifted program, but not for kindergarteners. I fought hard to have her spend part of her day in a first-grade classroom. I was considered a difficult parent.

We lived outside of Trenton, New Jersey, and I began exploring private schools. In nearby Princeton there were schools that catered to advanced students and actively sought them out. I found one that had the resources and experience to work with students like Carly. They offered us a substantial scholarship, and my parents offered to pay most of the rest of her tuition, and that was where she spent the next three years of her education, until we moved to Arizona.

Many of the people who live in the Princeton area are quite wealthy. We are not. It was as though we lived in different worlds.

Parents at the school sometimes threw events at their homes for the parents and/or children in their kids’ classes. You could film an episode of The Crown in their homes. Generations of ancestors looked down on you from the oil portraits on the walls. Birthday parties were elaborate extravaganzas: carnivals, candy hunts, craft parties.

One time I was invited to an “informal reception” in connection with a fundraising drive. Silly me—I saw the word informal and thought it meant casual.

That’s not what informal means in Princeton. At least, not in the late 1980s.

I sewed myself a skirt out of a Hawaiian floral print. I was so happy with the way it turned out. It was bright and colorful—magenta and yellow and green. I paired it with a shocking pink shell and a turquoise over-shirt.

I took three steps into the reception and realized I’d made a horrible mistake.

Everyone was dressed in black, or in black-and-white.

In Princeton, informal is a short step down from formal. So, not ballgowns and tuxedos, but definitely not casual.

And there I was, sticking out like the proverbial neon sore thumb.

I thought about leaving. I thought about bursting into tears. But instead I took a deep breath, smiled, stood up straight, and tried to fit in as best as I could. No one said an unkind word to me. Nobody mentioned my homemade skirt.

For today’s post, I selected an online blogging prompt: Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion. This was the first incident that came to mind.

Now it’s your turn. Did you ever show up to an event either over- or under-dressed? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #216

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Creative Juice #216

Such good stuff here. Curated especially for you.

A St. Patrick’s Day Memory

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A St. Patrick’s Day Memory

When I was a little girl, I attended a Catholic elementary school. Our parish priest was Father Joseph Sullivan, and he was from Ireland. So every year for St. Patrick’s Day the teachers would put together a special performance where each class would sing an Irish song, recite an Ireland-themed poem, or act out the life of St. Patrick. I think maybe one year someone in eighth grade dressed up as Father Sullivan. “My Wild Irish Rose” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” were always on the program:

Father would sit in the place of honor, front and center in the auditorium, in a wooden arm chair carried from the school office, in contrast to the metal folding chairs that the audience (we students and our teachers) sat on. He would smile and applaud and maybe wipe away a tear or two as our efforts moved him. And it became a tradition that at the end of the program, he would complement us on our performance and reward us by giving us a school holiday the next day.

In the weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, our teachers would remind us that we were practicing our performance to honor Father Sullivan, and not to get a day off school. In fact, Father was under no obligation to give us a day off. “But he always does,” we would answer.

Except, one year, he didn’t. I don’t know what his reason was. Maybe we’d used up all our snow days. Maybe the teachers wanted to teach us a lesson in doing good without expecting a reward. But after he told us how much he treasured the experience of watching our program, he said, “See you tomorrow.” And the entire auditorium answered with a discouraged, disappointed, “Oh!” Immediately, every teacher admonished her students.

The following year, the tradition of granting a day off was reinstated, and I think it continued every year until Father Sullivan passed away of old age.

Stained glass window depicting St. Patrick was photographed by Nheybob.