Friday, October 24, 2008

Word Problem and Essay

On August 16th (Same Song, Tenth Verse), Kathy set a goal to have 100 posts on her blog by October 31. Today is October 24, and Kathy has 84 posts (including this one). How many days does Kathy have to meet her goal. How many posts does she need to write to meet her goal?

Even I, dyslexic with numbers, can figure out this word problem. Kathy has 7 days to post 16 entries.

Let's turn the math question into an essay (more to my liking).

Do you think Kathy will meet her goal? Explain your answer by citing details about Kathy, her schedule, and her writing habits to support your answer.

Kathy is too tired to post 16 times in 7 days. Every day between September 15-30, Kathy's calendar was packed with activities: Writing Project duties (office work, newsletter, and writing retreat), Bible study preparation, Bible study/church/Sunday school attendance, spending a Saturday with an out-of-town friend, going to physical therapy twice a week (for a back problem) and going to the hospital (for heart palpatations caused by stress).

From Oct 7-23, Kathy again found herself coming and going as she continued her Bible study prep, church attendance, and WP office duties. Oct. 10-11 was the writing retreat. Oct.16-18 was joyfully occupied with family when her sister came home. This week she cleaned her house and began painting a bedroom and hallway. October 21 the neighborhood HOA meet at her house.

On October 27, she leaves for Kentucky, which is always packed with nonstop energy of three beautiful granddaughters. (no complaint there!) In fact, none of these are complaints on Kathy's part; her life full, and she has determined to go with the flow when her calendar events collide like a 20 car pile up.

Kathy could meet her goal if she moved some more posts from marmee's musings to here, or she could post twice a day (as she has today). But more importantly, God has been showing Kathy a lot about the pockets of perfectionism that still shadow her thinking (note previous mention of heart palpatations). He's helping her let go of impossible expectations and the dismay she feels when life doesn't go as planned. In short, He's given her permission to give herself permission to fall short of her goal, and to know that doing so is okay.


Since joining Literary Mama, I've communicated with or read about women who began writing when they were children. Since I came to know the writer in me much later in life (though I've saved poems fraught with adolescent angst), these mamas' memories make me wistful.

Then last weekend my sister and I helped my mom and dad clean out an old trunk where my mom revealed a forgotten cache of elementary workbooks she had saved for us. Tucked inside one of mine was a letter I had written in 4th grade. It was obviously an assignment, as I talked about visiting Courage Cove (a place unknown to me).

The letter is unremarkable except for one passage: "I went to Courage Cove this Monday while I was there there was a storm. But rain can't keep me in. I wandered all around the place I went to to Gray's Repair shop. . ." Tucked between two run on (one awkwardly constructed) sentences, I see a glimmer of my writing voice.

That made me happy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Enjoyable Writing reTREAT

The Greater Kansas City Writing Project's 6th Annual Retreat was this past weekend. This year we stayed at the Hyatt Regency at Crown Center.

The elegant suite offered a fantastic view of downtown KC.

The food was delicious! Once again we ate dinner at Milano, an Italian restaurant in Crown Center. Afterward we had cheesecake and coffee in the suite. Each guest had a gift card for Panera for breakfast and/or lunch, and snacks and soft drinks were available all day in the suite.

The 16 participants were enthusiasitc and supportive of one another. In our share-out Saturday evening, we enjoyed a variety of voices, genres, and topics: The Kansas City Star and its connection to World War I, a novel inspired by the Old Testament, the hilarious adventures of using an online dating service in the quest for Mr. Right, a mother and son's journey through Asperger Syndrome, a sonnet about Kansas City, and others.

And the uninterrupted time to write was truly priceless.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Hardy Hibscus

A hardy hibiscus is one that will survive Midwest winters, and they are planted in the ground.

My hibiscus is a potted plant, but I'm so happy that I have nurtured it to live through one winter and two summers! I brought it inside a few weeks ago, and it has bloomed twice since then.

I will say no more, lest I jinx its health, but isn't it pretty?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Speaking of Perfectionism

This was my first post at marmee's musings.

I am a recovering perfectionist.

Sometimes when I say that, people chuckle. I assume they think I'm making a joke -- parodying AA's famous introductory statement: "Hi, I'm Kathy, and I'm an alcoholic." Believe me, perfectionism is no joke.

Some see perfectionism as an admirable quality because they equate it with excellence. However, there is a big difference. People who seek excellence do their best at any given endeavor; they are able to differentiate the finished product from themselves. Their motto is I did my best, and my best is good enough. Perfectionists, on the other hand, see falling short of excellence as a character flaw. They think I should have tried harder; I'm a failure.

So what does this all have to do with strawberries? Well, recently, I was enrolled in a beginner's water color class through a local adult education program. The first night the teacher showed us (among other things) how to use materials such as alcohol, salt, rubber cement, etc., to create certain looks to our paintings. In the second session, he brought some fruit and asked us to create a still life, incorporating one of the techniques he had taught the previous week.

I sketched some strawberries and an apple then dotted the berries with rubber cement, so when I applied the red paint, it would leave white spots. When the red paint was dry, I could then rub off the cement and apply a different color to create the seeds.

The apple was a disaster from the first stroke. I used the wrong brush to get the needed effect, and I applied yellow paint first, which bled into my red, leaving my apple looking more like a peach. So, I abandoned it and turned to the strawberries, which at one point looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. Well, the berries were too pale, and the seeds were too big, but otherwise, they looked pretty good.

Several people, including the instructor, peeked over my shoulder and agreed; the strawberries had turned out pretty well. The class then moved onto a different project -- except for me. I fixated on my strawberries that just looked "pretty good" but not perfect. So. . .

I mixed some more red paint with water and painted over each berry. Now, water color is not like oil paint, which can be painted over and over and over without doing any damage. I turned my pretty red berries into this muddy mess as the seed's yellowish brown color bled into the red color. By the time I was done, they looked like the berries the produce customer would have designated for the compost pile.

Because I am a recovering perfectionist, I was able to separate my self-image from my picture. I did not feel like a moral failure because I ruined my strawberries. Still, I saw my old nemesis raise his ugly head, and I learned another object lesson: leave the strawberries alone.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Marmee and Money

When Jeff's family and I ate at a Mexican restaurant recently, Kara had one thing on her mind: the mini arcade positioned by the front door.

Our booth was on the opposite side of a short partition that divided the dining area from the video games and vending machines. Always propelled by curiosity, Kara kept standing up (and sitting down at her father's direction), so she could survey all the fun things.

After she finished eating and because he could see the games from where he sat, Jeff granted her request to leave the table. While Krista packed the diaper bag, and Jeff filled the leftovers containers, Kara rounded the partition and headed straight to me with one pressing question: "Do you have any money?"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Perfectionism: A Too Familiar Tune

Once again I find myself in a familiar place: battling perfectionistic thinking. This time it stems from a new job as the assistant to the director of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project. (Katie, the director, refers to me as the assistant director, but I can't quite own that label!)

I love Katie and so many other people I get to work with, and I love the work. More than once in the last several years, I have said being someone's assistant would be fun, and then Katie asked me to take this position for this school year. What a blessing! After (minimal-- I confess -- perhaps my first mistake) prayer, I agreed.

As I settle into a routine, anxiety sits on my chest, much like a 100-pound gorilla. This is old stuff, and I've pulled out every tool God has given me to have victory: reciting scripture, praying, confessing, seeking wise counsel -- yet nothing has changed the fluttery heart and shortness of breath.

Yesterday at Bible Study Fellowship (where we are studying Moses) our teaching leader commented on how Moses 'messed up' when he tried to help a fellow Israelite by murdering an Egyptian. She went on to talk about our 'mess ups' -- in our relationships, in our educational experience, with our children, on the job. And in the middle of her list, God whispered (in my mind) Will you let me be the God of your 'mess ups'? In that simple question, the Holy Spirit revealed that in my fears, I am ultimately saying my mistakes are too big for God to handle. How arrogant of me! I repent and am thankful for a merciful God who forgives.

The question did not have a magical effect by removing every trace of anxiety, but I purpose to go on with God, and I am greatly comforted to know that He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. I'm in good hands.