Chiaroscuro

Gaza

MH17

Upheaval at work

Humidity

Finances

Climate change

General tubbiness

Dental instability

Galloping girl above my head

Birthday shopping panic

But

Fresh sheets

Practice time

Funny book

Road trip

Clean bathroom

Beautiful phrasing

Air conditioning

Good friends

Hair clips

iPod

it all balances out

 

Didn’t see that coming. Or maybe I did.

This really happened the other morning.

Timmy, on the way to camp: I want to be a priest when I grow up.
Brian: You can’t get married! You can’t have kids!
Me: Brian, hush! He knows that. Really, Timmy?
Timmy: Yeah. It’s my secondary dream job.
Me: Oh? What’s your first?
Timmy: Major league baseball. But being a priest looks interesting.

I’d say bring a ballplayer looks pretty interesting, too, but I found it really interesting that out of all career possibilities and dreams, my nearly-nine-year-old son put priest at the head of the lineup. Well, in the #2 spot.

His ten-year-old brother is ever practical, and tends to think in terms of more lucrative careers (geophysicist and pharmacist were two of his recent ideas.) He frequently talks about “When I grow up and have kids…” as well. No seminary for him.

But Timmy is a different animal. He loves people, and people love him. My husband tells me that out of all three kids, Timmy pays attention and participates the most during mass. He definitely had the best attitude of all three of my kids when they sang in my children’s choir, both during rehearsals and on Sundays.

I told him that morning in the car that he could see a bit more of what a priest does during mass, up close, if he were an altar server. He was interested in the idea, so I contacted the appropriate people at church. Later that night, I told him I’d gotten an email back, and that he could sign up for training in the fall.

“Yessssss!” he whispered.

I don’t remember what my eight-year-old self wanted to be when she grew up. Probably some sort of singer, as that was a pretty constant theme in my formative years, except for those few when I wanted to be an astronaut (high school physics and then my wooziness on the tilt-a-whirl put an end to that nonsense.) And here I am, more of a pianist and organist than a singer these days, but still singing and helping others to do the same.

I don’t know of the plans God has for Timmy, but at the very least, a tiny seed has been planted. Whether it will grow into fullness, time will tell, but in the meantime, learning to be an altar server could nourish the soil.

Maybe it’s inevitable

My eight-year-old son said to me the other day: “Haters gonna hate; skaters gonna skate; potatoes gonna potate.”

Writers gonna write. Right?

Apparently not, since it’s been more than three months since I’ve written anything more involved than a grocery list.

Most of the time, that’s okay. I’ve got a lot of other outlets in my life that keep me busy and, for the most part, satisfied. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling that once-familiar nudge. It says, go on, just sit down and write a little. Tell that story you thought was funny. Describe that struggle you’ve been having. Reflect on that event. Share yourself a bit.

It’s really true, what is said about the creative process. It’s about doing, and one has to do in order to create. If you’re a painter, or want to be a painter, you have to paint. Or, say, if you are an organist, you have to play the instrument, a lot (some more than others, ahem.) And if you’re a potato…well, you know what you have to do, and the more you do it, the easier it is, generally.

I’m finding that the opposite is also true. Not writing makes it more difficult to write.

Wait. Actually, it’s not the opposite at all: not writing makes it easier to not write.

It’s still true that there are some areas of my life that I think it’s best not to share through writing, chiefly my jobs and the inner workings of my family, save for some witty or telling comments here and there. Most of the time, work and family are all- or almost-all-consuming at this time in my life. So what is there left to explore through writing?

***

I went to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday. There was free admission, and I took my daughter and her friend for a couple of hours in the morning. We spent most of our time in the Ancient World wing, with artwork from the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Both girls ate it up. I enjoyed it, although there are only so many mummies and sarcophagi one can see, fascinating as they are. After several mummies, in particular, I started feeling a little sad, thinking about how the deceased no doubt expected to remain in their tombs and/or pass on to the next life in the way their faith traditions held to be true. None of them would have thought they’d end up in a museum thousands of years later, ogled by so many passersby.

I felt better when looking at the ancient coins, and found the exhibit on the gradual evolution of coins and monetary units to be fascinating. I was particularly intrigued by a Roman coin that dated from the lifetime of Jesus, and reflected on the biblical aphorism attributed to him, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but render to God what is God’s.”

And the jewelry!  I’m not much of an accessories girl, but some of the breathtaking ornaments created by Roman goldsmiths were so intricate and beautiful, I found myself thinking, “I’d wear that.” I loved the spirals that are believed to be hair ornaments, as well as the diadems for “high coiffures” (as the explanation read.) I’d pile my hair high every day if I could wear a gold headband like one of those.

I was staring at a pair of delicate gold earrings, with the famed granulation characteristic of Roman jewelery-makers, when I thought, someone made that. Someone took the considerable time necessary to create something of beauty, and today, long after its creator was returned to the dust of the earth, that thing he made still endures, and people still find it beautiful.

***

There’s a Grook by Piet Hein called “Simply Assisting God,” which comes to mind as I reflect on the creative process:

I am a humble artist

molding my earthly clod,

adding my labor to nature’s,

simply assisting God.

 

Not that my effort is needed;

yet somehow, I understand,

my maker has willed it that I too should have

unmolded clay in my hand.

 

Maybe that explains, at least in part, why potatoes gonna potate.

 

For more Grooks — I have a book of them and I absolutely love them for their wit and wordplay — visit this page.

 

Changes

I’ve been reflecting on a number of changes in my life. What better way to do so than writing in my blog, for a change?

The past couple of years, career-wise, could best be summed up thus: less writing; more music. There was a time a few years ago, when, in addition to my family humor column in The Patriot Ledger, I was also writing features for the Ledger; pitching (and writing) stories for South Shore Living magazine; getting the occasional piece published in the Milton Times, and, mostly, writing a whole bunch of stuff for Milton Patch (and a couple of other Patch sites, as well.) Musically, I continued to teach piano and voice lessons, as I have since 2001, and also served as a cantor and later as a children’s choir director for a couple of local churches.

Then Patch cut its funding, and that gig dried up. Not too long afterward, I started work as the music director for Saint Jerome Parish. This was a step up for me in the church music field, and I continue my work there, with much joy and satisfaction. My studio has increased, as well, and for the past couple of years, the only regular writing I’ve done has been the bi-weekly column for the Ledger.

Last year, faced with a major time crunch due to taking a graduate-level course at the seminary, I wrote an email to my editor at the Ledger, explaining that I just couldn’t write the column any more. I generally push myself pretty hard, but last spring, I had reached my limit. Also, it was getting harder and harder to find topics about which to write. My kids were getting older, and weren’t saying as many adorable things as they did when they were toddlers and preschoolers. There were also some real privacy issues arising, with my oldest child in middle school.

I saved that email to my editor in my drafts folder for a week, going back to it and revising it every couple of days. Finally, I had it the way I wanted it. I read the whole thing…and realized it made me really sad. I wasn’t ready to give up the column, after all, and never sent the email.

I plugged away, writing another column every two weeks. Most of them were okay; some of them were pretty good, and a few of them I really didn’t care for at all. (Funny how those were often the ones for which I got the most positive feedback!) The kids were getting still older and the privacy concerns were increasing. Plus, my whole life was filled with my church job and my teaching, but I couldn’t really write about either of those topics in my column, which was in the family humor niche.

In short, I’ve been having a really hard time being inspired. Much of what happens in our family these days, I’m just not interested in sharing with the world. Not that it’s bad — we’re hardly a family in crisis — but it’s just not the type of stuff I can build a column around every two weeks, particularly when I’m working full-time in my other two jobs.

So, I’m going to be taking a break from the column, for real this time. I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen. I’d like to write now and again if I can, and my editor is open to that, but I am thinking that the run of the actual column may be over. I may try to write a “thanks for the memories” piece if my editor thinks she can use it.

It does make me a little sad. Even now as I write this post, I’m feeling it. I know some people really do enjoy the column — people in my choir, for example, and some Facebook friends. There is a sense of letting them down, although I know it’s not a life-changing decision for them, as much as it feels like it to me!

As I’ve reflected on this change, and on my career path over the past few years, I am certain that I am where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I sometimes feel a nudge toward writing about different topics — my music ministry work, for example — but have always squashed that urge, telling myself that any time I have to write ought to be spent on turning out my next column. Plus I’m not really sure how to write about that, and don’t know if it would be as interesting to anyone else as it is to me.

Without a deadline every two weeks, it’s possible that I might find the time to write about these other topics. It’s also possible that without the pressure of a deadline, I may never write at all! I think the trick will be figuring out which way it’s going to go, and being okay with that.