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My friend Karen’s hands, Moonshadow Antiques, 2011.

FILL IN THE BLANK: My hands are ….

Next steps…

White double garage doors with window insets

Today I had a good talk with an old friend. I think the heart of our talk was about getting stuck in boxes, in narrow definitions, sometimes of our own making, sometimes not. She’s a wonderful teacher, but hasn’t had much luck finding a full-time teaching job lately. She also has a talent for hosting wonderful retreats, which have been attended by poets, by pastors, by women in need of a place—and a push—toward guided reflection. I suggested that she start leading more of these, that her gift for teaching didn’t just mean the classroom. We talked about the fact that she has a calling for teaching, which I agree she does, but there are many more ways to be a teacher than in an academic setting. I think that sometimes we don’t dream nearly big enough about our callings. We don’t dare to reach beyond the fruit that we can map out a way to get to. I say this not as a chastisement of my friend, but as a strong reminder to myself that I’m constantly guilty of the same thing. Why are we so afraid to push past what we know we can do to that place where we might fail, but we might soar?

We also talked about the fact that maybe the reason she wasn’t getting full-time gigs was because God was trying to get her to focus on her own writing, which—as many teachers who are also writers will tell you—gets shunted to the side in favor of your students. And if you’re not full-time faculty, you can’t usually afford to give yourself a sabbatical. I think that sometimes God closes doors not because he doesn’t want us to move forward, but because he wants us to pay attention to a part of our lives, a part of our calling that we’ve been neglecting.

Our conversation has me thinking about my own calling. I’ve defined myself as a poet for nearly half my life, but I truthfully don’t know if that definition fits anymore. I still love reading poetry and writing poetry, and I still want to get published and give readings, but advancing my poetry career is no longer the driver it once was. I’m realizing now, as I type this, that that’s maybe why I’ve felt so unsettled the past few years. The thing that propelled all of my forward momentum—applying to the Fine Arts Work Center, going to graduate school, getting to AWP no matter what—is no longer the most important thing in my life, but I’ve been clinging on as if it were.

Seems that I have my own box to climb out of, to redefine if I too want to take next steps…

My sister’s a copycat!

Paulette Beete and Deborah Beete on Christmas Eve 2011

I’m fairly certain that when she sees this, Deeb’s going to say, “Dude! I can’t believe you put that picture of us on your blog.”

Today I’ve run into the first hard core challenge to blogging every day: an incipient cold. I’m at the coughing on and off, groggy head, achy joints stage. Also known as the “snuggle under the blanket and watch Leverage on a shady ‘forum’ URL my Dad sent me” stage. Which is not at all the same as the “blog anyway” stage. I’m pretty sure it’s going to turn into a thing. Only because I keep adamantly stating aloud that I refuse to be sick for my birthday party on Friday.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about someone related to me, instead. Like my sister. Who just started her own blog. Mostly because she’s a copy cat. But also because she’s a good writer. A smart, funny, what will she say next kind of writer. Here’s my favorite section from the post she put up yesterday:

I have been told that my boundaries are a little different which is, I think, a polite way of trying to tell me that maybe I need to get some. I partially blame my family…they don’t meet strangers and they insist on keeping inappropriate relationships. For instance, my mother’s father did indeed toast the bride and groom at my father’s wedding to his second wife. And yes, my little brother did spend a lot of time with my mother, sister and I when he was little (no he’s not my mother’s kid). And yes, my father does still invite my mother’s family to events and, yes, they do all show up. See…I didn’t make this lack of boundary stuff up on my own!

It’s true about the boundaries thing. And it’s definitely a family thing. In some ways I’m fiercely private. But then there’s those other ways…like when you innocently drop into my cube to ask if I want to go for coffee and I start telling you in graphic detail about how, uhm, messy, my fibroids make that time of the month. (Sorry Liz! And Don! And well, everyone else I work with on a daily basis. Sigh.)

It’s not really surprising that my sister’s a writer too, though hitherto (yep, I did, in fact, just use “hitherto” in a sentence), it’s been a lot of academic and grant and sermon writing. But I think she probably has the talent to be a strong creative nonfiction writer if she really wanted to.

That was a digression. What I meant to say was it’s not really surprising that she’s a writer too because we’re a lot alike in many ways. So many that I sometimes forget that we didn’t get along for many years. We weren’t estranged, but we really couldn’t be together for more than a day or two without nerves becoming frayed. We were so busy holding things against each other that we never really relished all our commonalities. Now we still hold things against each other, but usually for five minutes or so. And then we laugh at ourselves for being ridiculous, have a hard talk if one is warranted, then go back to talking about whichever chick lit authoress is our current favorite. (Okay, sometimes I do also change my train ticket in a huff in order to head back to Silver Spring immediately, but only sometimes.)

My sister’s one of the reasons I would never want to be in my 20s again, or even early 30s. I’d never ever want to give her up. Even if she is a total copycat!

30 Days of Creativity…In My Bedroom

I posted here about joining the 30 days of creativity challenge. And I have, in fact, been taking a photograph every morning when I wake up. I’ve decided to confine my photographs to my bedroom, since that’s the room I live in the most. (I watch TV in the living room but usually I act like I live in a studio not a one-bedroom apartment with a living room and dining room, which is actually a reading room since I ditched my dining room table.) I’ve been taking the shots in the morning as it feels more spontaneous. But maybe around the 15th, I’ll switch to nighttime shots. Here are my first four days of photographs.

June 1. My Bed.

I wrote recently that I love photographing beds because they are pictorial autobiography. In this photo, you can tell that I am on my cycle, I tossed and turned a lot the night beore, I shop at Whole Foods, and I have way too much stuff shoved into my bedside table. Colette, later in life when she found herself confined to her bed a lot, called her bed her raft. My bed is my desk, my library, my refuge, my art studio, and yes, it truly is my life raft.

June 2. Three Objects

I have realized lately that I tend to group things in threes whether they are hanging on the wall, or on the windowsill. I bought the vase at the Fine Arts Fair in Silver Spring. It’s an unusual color for me, and I wasn’t sure where to put it. Until I remembered that that yellow appears in the small photograph of a tree in the field that @ArtByChristy sent me a year or two ago when I bought a larger photo of hers. The vintage travel clock doesn’t work, but I love when I happen to glance over at it and it’s saying the same time as my working clock. Maybe someday I’ll get it fixed. As for the string of beads on the left side—I bought two sets of plastic beaded curtains at the Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock, Texas, in late 2005. When I moved into this apartment, I had nowhere to hang them, so I deconstructed them. Sometimes I let them hang out in a bowl. And I spaced five strands along my bedroom shade…to add a little sparkle.

June 3. Clock and candle.

I’d wanted this Pottery Barn clock for a really long time, but it was too expensive. I was excited when I found one on E-Bay. When it showed up, it smelled like smoke, which was weird to me. How can a clock smell like smoke? I bought the candle in a Dupont Circle shop that I can’t remember the name of. Some day I’ll actually use it all up and then the candleholder will become a vase for the flowers I never seem to buy.

June 4. Just Outside.

This is what it looks like lying in bed with just a slice of light coming through between the bottom of the shade (I can’t seem to get it all the way down to the sill) and the windowsill. There are two giant pine trees outside my window. They make me sad now because they were devastated in the winter storms we had two years ago and have yet to recover. When it storms they sway back and forth violently, and I used to worry they’d topple right through my window. Now I know they can pretty much survive anything. I hope.

Stuff I Like (5/9/11)

“Clock, Silver Spring.”

BUY THIS! Okay, I’m not usually quite so bossy but my e-friend Abbey Hendrickson (of the fabulous aesthetic outburst blog) who I’ve talked about a zillion times in this space has partnered with Pistachio Press on a line of cross-stitch, letterpress notebooks! I’m pre-ordering at least one (by which I, of course, mean one in every single pattern!). And since I’m being Princess Bossy Pants, can you go ahead and stick her blog Aesthetic Outburst in your bookmark toolbar or Google reader or whatever…or at least follow her on Twitter: @a_outburst (p.s. Abbey doesn’t pay me to shill for her… unless you count holding off on a virtual restraining order as payment…sigh…)

Prints Charming. The wonderful Camilla Engman, a Swedish artist/crafter/blogger extraordinaire is selling some her prints for just two weeks! Her point of view is wonderfully off-kilter in a magical, fairy-tale-ish kind of way, which seems to be part and parcel of the Swedish, and perhaps even Scandinavian, visual arts aesthetic. Alas, alack, I’m no art critic, so all I can say for sure is: these prints are cool. I’m particularly enamored of the paper-cut woodland scene and the two Atomic Age forest in the first set of prints. I’ve linked to her Batch 3 of for-sale prints, and you can scroll back through her blog a few posts to see Batches 1 and 2. (via Camilla Engman)

Rhyme time? And since we’re on the subject of people I like a lot….here’s Christian Kane singing “Thinking of  You” on Leverage. Conveniently, the song also appears on his new album, The House Rules. Yeah, I didn’t know I was a country girl, either….

Picture This…in Pink

shot in New York City, February 27, 2011

Stuff I Like (2/19/11)

I don’t know who Jack is but I sure do like his flag. Since I don’t think I’m becoming a subject of HRH Liz II anytime soon, I guess I’ll show my affection for Gran Britannia with this vintage Union Jack pillow from Henry Road. (Well, that and keeping up my monthly love letters to Prince Charles. C’mon, you know you thought he was dashing too back in the Charles and Di days….)

Remember how I told you…So I know you’ve heard me mention Abbey Hendrickson of Aesthetic Outburst to the point where  you’re thinking of taking out a restraining order against me on her behalf buttttttt I’m going to risk possible legal action to tell you that the talented Miz Hendrickson has started listing some of her original drawings in her Etsy shop, hownowdesign. Turns out Abbey is not just one heckuva crafter/blogger, she’s also a trained visual artist. I’m partial to “Minor City,” “Down,” and “by whom surrendered”…you know, in case you wanted to get me a little something for all the Internet awesomeness I bring into your life, or something like that. (via Aesthetic Outburst)

Stars upon Thars… I know it’s not Christmas but I’m thinking a bowlful of these lovely ornaments from Basic French Online would add a splash of glamour all year round. They’d also make a lovely mobile, or maybe tie a few to ribbon and hang them from some of your wall art. I mean can you really have too much starlight afoot?

It’s got that je ne sais quoi… What’s there to say about this lovely print from lovemaki? It’s in French, the typography is gorgeous, and the balloon is the perfect shade of pink? In other words—-swoon and double swoon. (via A Cup of Jo)

Dutch delight. The pillows and prints in Dutch artist LeiLiLaLoo’s Etsy store are a little bit folks, a little bit outsider artist-ish, and a whole lot of wonderful. I generally don’t like things this close to twee, but there’s a certain sureness of vision that pushes this past mere poseur-dom…or something like that. I’m especially taken by this, this, and this. (via One Fine Day)

Stuff I Like (1/17/11)

“Everything’s Coming Up Crystal,” Silver Spring, December 2010

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend? I know for sure I don’t want a bling ring if I ever get engaged (cause my rings tend to retire to the jewelry box after a few giddy wears) butttttt if I did want a ring o’ bling, this gorgeous gaggle of vintage gems from Erstwhile Jewelry Co would do me just fine. (via a Cup of Jo)

I’ve got a crush on you….And by you I mean this sweet Emersonmade tee-shirt. With straight leg black pants and my fave black/white/grey striped H&M scarf. Yeah buddy, I’d be looking goooood! (via A Cup of Jo)

BFFs? Abbey Hendrickson (Aesthetic Outburst) is one of my fave bloggers ever. I not only stalk her blog but I also stalk her etsy and Ebay shops. (And two seconds ago I learned she’s on Twitter! @a_outburst) And really, it’s her fault that I’m convinced that there are cool men out there—like her husband—who like to thrift store shop and (pretend to) craft as much as I do. I was so happy to read this interview with Abbey (by sfgirlbybay), which thankfully also has tons of pix. Now you can love her as much as I do. Win-win, I say!

BFF p.s. As you’ve probably figured out, I work on my posts over a couple of days. Not surprisingly, Aesthetic Outburst has gotten even more amazing in just a couple of days. Abbey is making 20 days of Valentine’s Day ornaments (check out her 20 Days of Christmas posts to see her put Santa’s elves to shame!) and this time around, she’s giving the ornaments away to lucky readers. In other words, quit your dawdling and start following her already.

This is Not About Abbey Hendrickson. But it is about Francesca who not only designed this beautiful poster of sayings by Gandhi but is also letting folks download it for free. Talk about living the spirit of Gandhi. (via Black*Eiffel)

It’s a puzzlement. You say kid’s toy, I say playful decorative object that will make me oh-so-happy. Whatever you call ’em, this set of Paris puzzles by French artist Nathalie Lété is tres magnifique—and how! (via Black*Eiffel)

It’s still Christmas, right?

December 30, 2010

I bought this tree a couple of years ago at Urban Outfitters; it’s the perfect size for apartment living. This year I decided to go with all hearts. I collected most of these ornaments about 20 years ago during many happy shopping trips to the original Filene’s Basement (in the basement of the actual Filene’s Department Store) in Downtown Crossing, Boston.

I don’t usually do a tree scarf, but this year I thought it would be fun to use an actual scarf. This one was a present from my aunt last year. The vintage pin was a present from my high school friend Gian Claudia who used to pilfer her mother’s collection to jazz up her uniform.

This little tree with sparkly pink acorns (both from Borders) brightened up my bedroom. Turns out a stack of Ikea faux-Eames chairs makes a pretty good pedestal. The bead garland was another Filene’s find.

In the bedroom I decorated the tree with a scarf I bought at the Harrod’s outpost in Heathrow several years ago. I picked up the butterfly pin at the Fenton Street Market a few weeks ago.

This lovely was a thrift store find. And how clever of Taschen to make books the perfect size for me to stack for a pedestal.

You can’t tell from the photo but this is one of two wee trees I wrapped with beaded ribbon I bought for my birthday but never used. I also have a magnetic picture cord that’s just perfect for corralling Christmas cards. And yes, that is a garland made of pipe cleaners and no, I don’t have a pipe cleaner addiction…well, maybe just a wee bit of one…

Why yes, I am an official vintage Christmas ball hoarder. Sigh…

Stuff I Like (12/16/10)

Why yes, my sister (r) will murder me when she realizes I’ve used this photo in my blog.

Gosh Hang It! I know everyone’s on the open plan bandwagon but quite honestly I want even more walls so I have space for even more art. Like this South-of-France-ish guitarist.

Take a look-see. In a writing workshop, probably one of the worst things you can say to a writer is that they’re work is sentimental. But Russ Potak’s colorful paintings make a case for the sentimental, capturing a scene that–like Proust’s madeleine–conjures a piquant nostalgia for yesterday. What I love about Potak’s work is that feeling of really taking a long moment to look and notice and store away. He’s captured that fleeting image that erupts in your brain one day out of nowhere and brings a secret smile to your face. I’m particularly fond of Path to Robert Frost’s, By the Sea, and Break of Light. (via @doallas)

Brrrr…..The perils of working in a building that’s more than 100 years old is that the heating tends to be cantankerous and finicky. Which means it behooves me to make sure I have a supply of cozy neckwear on hand at all times. (Okay, it may also be true that I have a tiny bit of a scarf obsession, I mean maybe perhaps…sigh…) The point is that I sorta desperately need this lovely from Ancient Industries in my arsenal and how!

Put a sock in it! While we’re on the subject of obsessions, I might as well confess that I’m more than bit gaga for socks. Like these beauts. (Yes, yes, I know…I am now also addicted to the Ancient Industries website….sigh…)

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