A Story: Authors Lunch Out, A Watts Grocery ‘Fix’

It was lovely to spend a few hours with two of my favorite local authors over a relaxed lunch.

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

BudNYbcIUAAiTZcElizabeth Hine, Stepheny Houghtlin, Noelle Granger

Here is the story…an author named Noelle Granger kept leaving the nicest comments on my blog posts. Eventually, she mentioned that she’d once lived in Evanston, Il. where I grew up. I decided to take a chance and asked her if she would mind telling me where she was living now. Imagine my surprise when she told me Chapel Hill, NC. (70 miles away) “Oh, and by the way,” she asked, “Do you by any chance know the author, Elizabeth Hine?” Elizabeth and I were in a writing group together for several years and her critique of my work has always been extremely helpful. Last Thursday I met Noelle for the first time. I made a quick trip into the Regulator Book Store on Main street in Durham and bought the last copy of her book to take with me to lunch. End of…

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Ode to a refrigerator

When we moved to North Carolina back in 1998, we moved from a rural farmhouse built in 1810 to a brandy new, just rolled the sod out house in a large subdivision. In New Hampshire, we were the epitome of house poor. We bought a nice house that needed a lot of TLC and put our backs into fixing it up. In the six years we lived there, I steamed off ugly wallpaper until my fingers puckered, learned more than I ever wanted to know about septic systems,  and was on a first name basis with our plumber’s family. We turned an eye sore of an old house into a pleasant place to live, all while having two babies and building my husband’s career.  We put all our disposable income into the house so we didn’t have a lot of stuff. Our formal living room had a Little Tykes jungle gym in it so the kids could have active play time year round. We didn’t have a bedroom set because you could barely fit a full size bed in our tiny bedroom and still walk around.

When we moved to North Carolina, so my husband could skip a few important steps up the corporate ladder and be closer to his parents, we were overjoyed to buy a house where all the doors shut and we were not in constant competition with the mice that lived in the dirt basement. Which brings me to the reason I am writing today. When we moved south, we needed “stuff.” The first two things we bought were a nice refrigerator and a big screen television. I remember the first time I turned Sesame Street on for daughter #2, she was terrified that Elmo’s face was now three feet high. She quickly adjusted. Other stuff followed, but those two appliances were milestones in our lives. We felt like we were moving up in life.

Well, two lovely young men came today and carted away both the refrigerator and the big TV. The TV stopped working around 5 years ago but it was too much of a pain to get rid of it. The kids didn’t use the playroom any more and it had become a junk repository. The fridge started freezing the lettuce  and melting the ice cream. It needed to be replaced with a new fangled one. It had served our family well for 16 years. Watching those two appliances was bittersweet. I’m excited to have lettuce that doesn’t freeze in the crisper drawer but losing our faithful refrigerator felt like a loss.

I realize that I am taking the loss of an appliance far too seriously, yet we are in a time of losses right now. The little girl that used to dance around the living room to Elmo’s World will be going off to college in the fall. The bigger girl will be graduating from college and start her career next year. It’s difficult to let go of the place where they used to tape up their drawings and keep their half eaten popsicles. The new fridge is nifty. I won’t have to pull it away from the wall to change the water filter and it has all sorts of fun features, but it won’t ever hold juice boxes or bags of baby carrots waiting to be packed in lunch boxes.

Greening of A Heart by Stepheny Houghtlin

A lovely review for a charming book. Stepheny Houghtlin is one of my writer friends and lunch buddies.

Rosie Amber

Greening of a Heart Greening of a Heart by Stepheny Houghtlin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Greening of a Heart is a delightful tale of journeys of discovery for many of the characters. The story is set in Burford which sits in the Cotswolds in England. I know the place myself, there is a lovely street lined with buildings made of the delightful pale yellow Cotswold stone, an absolute tourist delight.

Hannah Winchester is the wife of the Vicar of Burford, they live next to the Norman church and have a wonderful garden designed by Robert Myers, a nineteenth century Vicar who once lived there. Hannah wants to return the gardens to their former glory and in so doing finds herself on her own road to discovery. Its going to be a bumpy road, Hannah and Martin are going through a bad patch in their marriage and Martin is struggling with his role as…

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Exposure to Violence as a Child

I learned about this excellent video from Zoe over at Behind The Mask of Abuse. It is a bit long at 15 minutes, but it is time well spent.

The main character of one of my works-in-progress is the victim of child abuse and I wanted to get her coping strategies right in the novel. I studied psychology and philosophy in school, so I tend to go at research from that direction. As they discuss in this video, a child’s brain is physically changed by their early experiences. They will see the world through the lens of their early life. Change and recovery are not impossible but they are difficult.

Watch the video and think about the children you know. Do any of them show signs of early childhood trauma?

Poem Obsession

Do you have untethered snippets of novels and poems floating around in your brain? I do. They drive me to distraction.

I was a seriously geeky kid. Part of that involved competing on my high school’s National Forensic League team in prose/poetry reading and debate. One year I recited an excerpt from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which scarred my brain forever. The year before, I recited a poem that I only ever knew as Lump of Clay. I performed the poem every few weeks for a year, then never encountered it again. That poem has been niggling at me every since.

About ten years ago, I started looking for a copy of the poem hoping to get it out of my head. Every few months, I would google “I am a lump of clay” and never found the poem – until this week. A high school in Iowa posted the poem on their English department website. Beyond the text, I can’t find anything out about it. I would like to know more about the poem and its author. I have pasted the text of the poem below. If you recognize it, please tell me whatever you know.

“The Plea”

by Josef Rodriguez

          I’m just a lump of clay

         Scooped out of the riverbank

         And molded to the shape of a natural man.

         I’m just a lump of clay

         A handful of water and a fistful of sand

         And a warm exhalation from

         God.

         Fifty per cent

         God

         And fifty percent just plain old river mud,

         That’s me ….

         Sometimes I wonder if maybe

         God

         Isn’t beginning to wonder

         If it wasn’t all just a waste of breathe on

         His part ….

         Mud being Mud

         And

         God being God ….

         I’m just a lump of clay ….

         A seething bundle of great aspirations

         And expectations

         A juxtaposition of countries and nations

         And their innovations …

         A shifting kaleidoscope

         Of religions and races ….

         Changing chameleon-like their color of skin

         With each shift of terrain;

         And with gentle irreverence,

         With innocent and collossal conceit,

         Changing the color of their ….

         God ….

         For

         Man must Worship a

         God

         In his own image it seems ….

         I’m just a lump of clay

         And I’ve been fooled and tricked

         And taken again and again ….

         Through all the long dying ….

         Through all the long howling and crying of war …

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         And I’m cornered at last in a time

         Where the sky threatens to fall on me

         For all of eternity …

         Cornered …. Holding in my hands and heart

         One last desperate simple plea ….

         For peace.

         I’m just a lump of clay

         And I’m alone and afraid …. Do I have to be?

         Listen to me …. I don’t have to be!!

         Not while I can reach out to you

         And cry ….

         “Neighbor, neighbor, you and I

         Were born together beneath the same sky:

         Chinaman, African, Russian

         We’ll hold up the sky and it won’t fall

         Yes, I’m just a lump of clay,

         But put me together in a mass

         And there is weight there enough

         To level a forest, drain a sea

         Change the course of a universe

         Or of a war ….

         And so

         Kings, Dictators, and rulers of nations

         Don’t tell me my world’s going to end !!!!

         Why, I haven’t seen enough ranibows

         Reached for enough stars

         Or kissed enough pretty young girls

         Under the smoked silver sliver of the moon;

         So don’t you scream at me

         About killing and dying

         When I haven’t even begun to live yet!!!

         Listen, Tender, Sparkers who ignite

         The fire of war ….

         I, the lump of clay …

         Am a stubborn, song and sinew thing and I won’t step out

         Of your way

         Not while I have hands to plead

         And a voice to cry …

         For peace!

         Peace …

         That is my plea …

         I ask it humbly …

         After all,

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         Scooped out of the river bank

         And molded to the shape

         Of a natural man …

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         A handful of water and a fistful of sand

         And a warm exhalation from God …

         Fifty per cent  God

         And fifty per cent

         Just plain old river mud, that’s me …

         Sometimes I wonder if maybe

         God

         Isn’t beginning to wonder

         If it wasn’t all just a waste of breath on His part

         Mud being Mud

         God being God.

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         And I’m cornered

         And alone and afraid,

         But if you’ve listened to me

         If you’ll answer my plea …

         Do I have to be?