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Posts Tagged ‘Practice’

Smile, You're On A Banana Puddin'!, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Stirring the steaming, liquid vanilla pudding as it warms on the stove is kind of Zen for me. The silver spoon gleams and swirls through currents of milk and cornstarch. I stare, mesmerized.

Liz was bustling around the kitchen, dicing and dashing, mixing the Dijon, OJ, and honey basting sauce, chopping bananas, basting the naked Cornish hens, while I stirred, and stirred, and stirred.

It’s a meditative practice, stirring pudding. Anything can be practice. Cooking is grounding. Recipes provide structure. Food anchors us in detail. Natalie often taught us – if you want to ground your writing, write about food. The closer to your heart, the better.

I kept staring at the steam, lost in memories of all the times Mom would grab one of us kids to stir, and keep the pudding from scorching, while she hurried around the kitchen, trying to pull a meal together for our family of 8. I have a lot of appreciation for all the meals she cooked for us.

When Liz broke into the box of Nabisco “simple goodness” Nilla wafers, she smiled and pointed to the inside of the cardboard. There, printed in both English and Spanish, was the recipe for the Original Nilla Banana Pudding with meringue topping, the one that Mom talked about in her comment on Southern Banana Pudding.

           The Puddin' In Banana Puddin', Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.        Baste With Care, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         Chop, Chop!, bananas for banana pudding, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  

I remember the old style pudding and the time it took to make it. In further research, I discovered that the recipe for original banana pudding with meringue (that’s printed inside our Nilla wafer box) can be found at NabiscoWorld, Original Nilla Banana Pudding. 

There’s also a page of Spread Some Holiday Cheer Nilla recipes that includes a Meringue-Topped Southern Banana Pudding that uses the boxed vanilla pudding (not Instant but Cook & Serve) that is in R3’s recipe post — Southern Banana Pudding – A Family Tradition.

           Basting The Birds, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         It's All About The Layers, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         Thanksgiving Dinner, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Confused? Like I said, there are as many banana pudding recipes as there are families to make them. Each is unique, traditional for that family. It seems to me that as puddings and pies became more packaged and convenient, the recipes were slightly altered to adapt them to the additional speed needed to save time as women became busier and busier outside the home.

That’s my theory. So take your pick; try them all and see which appeals to you. Next time, I want to make the vanilla pudding from scratch, the Original Nilla Banana Pudding with meringue. Just like my Aunt used to make.

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. A Holiday to count our blessings. To be grateful for what we have. Now it’s time to head off to my writing projects. I’m grateful for the simple gift of time. This day is just for me.

 
 

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 23rd, 2007

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Heart & Soul, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   

Heart & Soul, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, on the hill behind the zendo, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


My sister-in-law told me about a book she’d recently received as a gift, The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. It’s about the ways individuals express love. And the ways they like to have love expressed to them. What makes you feel loved?

On a recent 62 degree November day, I was taking a walk by the Susquehanna River with my mother, and we started talking about the subject of love. The lively discussion led to many questions.

What if the way you are able to give love is not appreciated by your partner or spouse? What if your partner or spouse doesn’t know what makes him or her feel loved? What about friends? Isn’t it important that they know the things that make you feel appreciated?

According to Chapman, there are 5 primary languages of love:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch



          Heart & Soul - Inside Out, Mabel Dodge House, through the zendo window, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved    Going The Distance, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved 


Think about the things that make you feel loved. Are they acts of service. Thoughtfulness. Gratitude. Is quality time high on your list. How deep is the well. Half empty? Half full? To love we need to be able to both give and receive. How do you like to receive? How is learning to receive different than taking?

If you’re having a hard time answering, Chapman provides some clues, questions to ask yourself to help determine your primary language:


Contemplation, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


 1) What does your partner or spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply. The opposite is probably your love language.


After The Fire, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, along the path outside the zendo. Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  






2) What have you most often requested of your partner, spouse, or friends? That thing is the thing that will probably make you feel most loved.


Meditation Heart, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved






3) In what way do you regularly express love to your partner, spouse, or friends? That method may also make you feel loved.








After answering the 3 questions above, pick up your pen and do three, 15-minute writing practices:

I feel loved when…

What hurts me the most is…

I know my friends care about me when…



 Heart Of Taos Mountain, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, outside the zendo, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Sheltered Heart, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

    

The journey is discovery. Where would we be without love?


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 20th 2007

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I don’t often lose things. Keys, gloves, hats, mittens, I usually own them for life. I don’t know why that is. I tend to be pretty grounded and track on a minute by minute basis. It’s changed as I’ve gotten older. I have more spaciness. I attribute it to hormonal shifts in the brain and the body.

Last December, after I moved from an apartment I’d lived in for 14 years, I lost track of everything. I purged and got rid of things quickly, off to Goodwill and ARC and Salvation Army. Art studio items were boxed up and moved to storage. I didn’t know what I was living with and what I’d given away or stacked into the garage.

I still don’t know. I recently drove over near the lake to grab a few boxes out of storage. I ended up with about 10 piled inside the Camry, and now stacked by the piano in our living room. In two of them, I found the documents I needed. One bent box, with my scribbled handwriting of 10 years ago, contained a stack of old journals. I’m thinking I may toss them or burn them. I need to see what’s on the page.

Before I did writing practice, my journals were filled with intellectual analyzing and the day-to-day trivia of love and life. So what’s changed? A lot. I can’t stand to read the old stuff. But it does have details that I might use in my memoir. It’s just so boring. I guess this could be considered boring, too. But usually by the end of a practice, I’ve gotten down to some little tidbit that I didn’t know about myself before.

Losing face. The mask. I’ve felt a lot of shame over the course of living. It’s been a long haul to turn it around into confidence. To let go. To know that the choices I make and the things I do are not me. They are choices I make and things I do. Many women feel some form of shame. I know because I hear them talk about it or act from that place in their heart. I recognize it. If you know what to look for, no one can hide.

I often wished to be lost. To never have to grow up. The better I feel about day-to-day living, the more fond I am of the notion of adult. It’s not necessarily easy to think the way artists and writers think. To pull the grub into the heart and spit it back out in words or images that ping the feeling in others. You’ve got to be willing to take in all the crap life has to dish out.

I’ve lost my way a few times. Felt completely ungrounded. Like when I was 21 and moved to Montana. One day I was in Pennsylvania. The next I was flying into Missoula. The only ground I could find were the mountains that captured me the minute I stepped off the plane, held me, and never let go. I still dream about them sometimes, especially the Bitterroots where I spent time stripping logs and digging foundations for the cabins my friends were building.

When I see photographs of myself at that time, I have this lost look in my eyes. I don’t recognize the 20-year-old body. What happened to that? I’m staring at the camera, eyes clear and hazel blue. But where are they going?

Here. They were going here. To the place I’ve landed. The last 10 years have been more about letting go and letting in a bigger life. I didn’t think I deserved a bigger life. What do I think now? There are givers and takers. And they live side by side. I’ve given away too much. But no regrets.

The wind’s whipping through the naked oaks outside the window. I’m waiting for the contractor to come power wash the deck in preparation for sanding, shoring up, and painting. There is a wobble in the pine rails and floorboards. But the foundation is solid. The peeling paint is tinted from the green of arsenic. The contractor said that’s what they used to use to preserve building wood. He said arsenic is not used anymore. But the chemical they’ve come up with to replace it is no better.

That’s the way I feel this morning. Wobbly and solid. Not lost. Not found. I’m here on the couch beside Pants who is curled up in a pile of lime green and hot pink tissue paper. It was wrapped around the Halloween bouquet a few days ago. He quietly cleans himself. The paper crinkles under his ear. It seems to comfort him. Cats never seem lost. They know to follow their instincts. I’m learning to listen.


-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – WHAT HAVE YOU LOST

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What Have You Lost, Rainpainting Series, outside the Fitzgerald Theater, downtown, St. Paul, Minnesota, night of Ann Patchett, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


If you want to know someone, truly know someone, ask them about the things they have lost. No matter how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter. The things we have lost stay with us.

These are the words of Ann Patchett, author of The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship. She wrote the memoir Truth & Beauty to grieve the loss of her friend, Lucy Grealy. The book was her grieving process.

What are the things you have lost? Have you ever lost face, your faith, time. When did you lose your virginity? What about your innocence. Did you lose your childhood, your dreams, someone close to your heart? Did you lose your keys the day you hiked the ocean cliffs of an Oregon beach and were left stranded in the dark.

Make a list of the things you have lost. Choose 1 or 2 items off of your list and do a 15 minute writing practice on each. Let yourself grieve. Take the time. What do you have to lose?


Grief is a debt you owe. After you pay, you can get to the joy.

-Ann Patchett on Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007

-posted on red Ravine Sunday, October 28th, 2007

-related to post, The Parking Is Free

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The Haunting, All Hallow's Eve By The Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 31st, 2006, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Haunting, All Hallow’s Eve By The Fire, one year ago, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 31st, 2006, photo © 2006-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Maybe it’s the time of year — Halloween and Day of the Dead nearly upon us. Nights grow longer. Frost kills the plants, and another season is put to rest.

Or maybe it’s our era, so many things to haunt us. We seem to be troubled, melancholy. Is the world crying, or is it just me?

I believe in ghosts, and not just the kind that might spook one cold, dark morning. (Who just caused the book to fall in the room next to me?)

It doesn’t take much to be haunted. Something someone told you that you can’t shake. Or something you saw. Experiences can haunt, and the specter of disease can haunt, and memories — my, how they haunt!

Is it bad to be haunted? Or is the ghost only as menacing as we allow it to be? (Remember Casper, anyone?)


In the October 1, 2007 issue of The New Yorker, Philip Roth said this about the inspiration of ghosts and haunting for his novel Exit Ghost:

‘Haunted by the past’ is a commonplace phrase because it’s a commonplace experience. Even if one is not, strictly speaking, ‘haunted’, the past is perpetually with one in the present, and the longer it grows and the further it recedes the stronger its presence seems to become. I agree with the Chekhov character who, when, in a crisis, he is reminded that ‘this, too, shall pass’, responds, ‘Nothing passes’.

What do you think of when you think of haunting and ghosts? Are you frightened? Or do you regularly revisit your old ghosts?

Write about ghosts and haunting. You can write about the ways you are haunted figuratively, or write about your real experiences with the supernatural. The topic is rich. Write more than once.

At the top of your page, write these words: I am haunted by … and then for three or so minutes list all the things that haunt you. Just like in Writing Practice, don’t stop to think about your list. Just click off each item.

When you’re finished, pick one of the “ghosts” on your list and write about it for ten minutes. Pick another and write for ten more. If you’d like, send us one of those writing practices to post on red Ravine. We’ll publish as many as we can.

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Sleep, the Temptress and the tempted. She doesn’t come easily for me these days. There were times when sleep was a blessing, refuge of the depressed. Then there are dreams. I don’t always remember them. But lately, they’ve been restless and disturbed. The things in which I’ve put my trust are rocky and double-edged.

Last night, I woke up at 1:30am, restless and worried. The cats were tossing and turning, too. Kiev and Chaco had been to the vet, Dr. Tiffany, in the late afternoon before supper, hot vegetable soup. Kiev was a doll. Chaco, with his oily black coat, howled the way Siamese do, lashed out, hissed, and threatened to bite. But he is harmless, a survivor of abusive previous owners.

The fairy thin vet assistant grabbed him by the scruff, then tied on the black muzzle with pink shoestring laces that Chaco ripped off with a single paw in two seconds flat.

Domestic animals may not remember short-term inconsistencies or the emotional ups and downs of their owners. But they remember long-term abuse. It’s stored in their bodies. And as much as Liz tried to comfort Chaco, he sat through Kiev’s temperature check and yearly shots, then dove into old anxiety, emerald eyes splayed wide, as she placed him on the cold stainless steel table.

Mr. Stripeypants had gone to the vet earlier this year. So he stayed at home. Waited, nostrils to the windowpane. And when Kiev and Chaco returned, he sniffed and smelled and growled at them. The scent of squirty needles and alcohol and oozing medicine.

And that ties in with the book I am almost finished with, Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty. She races through the latter chapters of her friend Lucy’s addicted and chaotic frenzy. And I think of the ways that addictions plague artists and writers. Recovery offers hope. Addiction cycles around again. It’s inevitable.

Writers go to places that others don’t want to go. They are willing to look at the good, the bad, the ugly of human existence and write about it, so the details of our living history are not forgotten. And I wonder why it is I can’t sleep.

I dream of reams of money floating down from the sky and read how Ann and Lucy had more than enough money with New York parties and scholarly literature awards. A temporary balm, it didn’t matter in the end.

Writing will not make you happy. Or save you from anything. It only offers the comfort of a moment of captured truth – your truth. But back to sleep. How did I stray so far off track? I don’t count sheep.

Kiev and Chaco finally got to sleep and I rocked the bed, boing, boing, turning over and over, leaning up softly against the warm back and hands that sheltered and slowed the spinning in my head. Finally, I grabbed a warm finger, turned over on my side, crawled into a fetal position, and leapt into the next dream.

I was standing in front of a classroom, talking to a group of students about how writing will not save you; I was rattled, a skewed version of art imitating life.

And then, buzzzzzzzzzzzzz, the alarm with the microchip that connects to a satellite clock somewhere in the snowy mountains of Colorado beeped through my brain. And I rose to the dark Fall Minnesota morning.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

-from Topic post, Writing Topic – Counting Sheep

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First Thoughts, Rainpainting Series, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Somewhere Buried Deep, Rainpainting Series, outside the Parkway Theater in the rain, September 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



First Thoughts

somewhere buried deep
within the fire of second choices,
first thoughts



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, September 28th, 2007

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