Polar Opposites

Max and Diesel couldn’t be any farther apart in personality:
opposites

Diesel is mostly cantankerous and grumpy. I guess I might be too if I looked like the cross between an owl and a prehistoric squirrel:

Diesel

Max on the other hand wants to be a part of everything that’s going on. I set up my camera the other day to catch what happens when I try to do sit-ups. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t approve of any type of exercise unless it includes a leash and the outdoors:

A Week of Writing Prompts – Week 2

(Daily writing prompts are posted Monday through Friday at 7am on Facebook. This is the weekly roundup with a few excerpts from my personal journal. The goal is to write for at least 10 minutes without stopping, regardless of what ends up on the paper. Feel free to share writing in the comment section. Write on!)

A little inspiration to start out:

“Write when you are in despair or euphoria, write it all! Write especially during the sometimes boring middle parts. Write about how pathetic or brave you feel, or how you just saw your unguarded face in the reflection of the TV screen and saw for just an instant…your grandmother’s face.” –Sark, Juicy Pens Thirsty Paper

 

Prompt 6: Anne Lamotte wrote in Bird by Bird that “good writing is about telling the truth.”Write down one true thing. And then another. And then keep going.

From my journal:
“I’ve been finding a lot of crow feathers in my path. They aren’t as black as I thought they would be. Some are more blue than black, “midnight” if I had to come up with a word. If crows weren’t such funny little creatures I would think the feathers were an ominous omen. “

 

Prompt 7: Pick one word from the list and write to wherever it takes you:

MELAMINE
HAIR NET
CLAM
ASHES

From my journal:
“The muskrats used to take the freshwater clams to their burrows in the styrofoam. Cracked open for their meat the discarded clams would litter the beach. I thought resembled shiny vinyl records or the blacks of saddleshoes. Some were lockets held together by a tiny ligament. I would try and nest tinier shells within the larger ones until they fell apart.”

 

Prompt 8: Grab a nearby newspaper, magazine or book. Write down a list of 20 interesting words you find. Pick one from the list to be today’s prompt.

From my journal:
“Ohhh…lots of good words here: storytelling, adirondack, traditional, sidekick, summer slide, unmask, librarian, dust, drought, Rothko, siphon, divining rod. DROUGHT. I read recently that the amount of water on the earth never changes which means that water is added in some places and subtracted in others. Subtraction is where the earth begins to tighten and contract and 
the shapes in the dried mud begin to resemble a geometry lesson.”

 

Prompt 9: What is the earliest memory you have? 

From my journal:
“I remember when my brother was born in Massachusetts, the drive to the hospital where the road seemed to go on forever. We were only in Boston for a few months in a rental house. I got one of those big vanity Barbie heads at a neighbor’s garage sale but it didn’t come with any of the makeup or brushes. When we returned to our house at the lake it seemed to big and vacant, like it had been sitting empty forever.”

 

Prompt 10: Where love lives.

From my journal:
“In open hearts. In open hands. In open minds. In open days. In houses with open doors. In pitter patter. In trails of ink….”

 

 

More posts on writing here:


More on the Lil Journal Project here:

The Lil Journal Project via lilblueboo.com

How to Make a Plastic Feather Necklace

DIY Feather Pendant Tutorial - 3D Printing Pen

I’m loving these feather pendants I made the other day….five in all in a variety of shades. I used two to make this plastic feather pendant necklace:

How to Make Feather Pendants

I made the feathers using a 3D printing pen. As a Michaels Maker, I had a chance to try out the new 3Doodler 2.0 3D Printing Pen and this was the project I came up with:

Plastic Feathers Made with 3Doodler Printing Pen

Here’s the 3D printing pen called the 3Doodler:

Doodler5

It was pretty easy to work. Boo actually read the directions and figured it out first, plugging it in was the first step. Second step: feeding these plastic rods down into the pen. The rods melt, and come out whatever shaped-metal tip you use:

Doodler2

I knew I wanted to make something practical that would get some use: feather pendant necklace was the first thing to come to mind because I have a metal feather necklace I wear a lot, and I actually lost it for about a month before it showed back up again. So why not have some backup jewelry in the same style? To start I drew a feather and then replicated it into multiples onto a piece of tracing paper:

How to draw a feather

Using a gray colored plastic rod I began to trace and draw parts of the feather directly onto the tracing paper:

3D Printing Pen Tutorial - 3Doodler 2.0

I worked on several feathers at the same time:

3D Printing Pen Tutorial

Switching between different color rods:

3Doodler Printing Pen Project Idea

I kept layering colors of plastic until I had the below effect. The plastic peels right off the tracing paper when cool:

Doodler15

Blue, clear, black, gray and white feathers:

Doodler11

I attached two feathers for a pendant using a rustic lobster clasp also from Michaels:

Doodler13

A finished plastic feather pendant:

Doodler16

Cool right?

Doodler3

I’d be wearing it but Boo stole it for her own wardrobe.

how to make feather jewelry

 

A little bit more info about the 3Doodler:

  • The 3Doodler 2.0 is THE must-have 3D printing pen that is an easy to use (and fun!) tool for crafters, artists and even designers!
  • The slim, light-weight pen draws dimensional figures and structures and is much more affordable than a 3Dprinter – you have to check it out!
  • You can purchase the pen directly from Michaels.com– and if you need some additional project ideas check out this awesome video.

 

{Giveaway is over. Winner is #62. But please feel free to leave a comment below still listing your favorite book!}

 

The Writing Struggle is Real

writing

In high school, where I first started studying the Chinese language, I was introduced to Chinese poetry by my teacher Youming Che. I think it was my senior year that Mr. Che and my English teacher brought in the poet Sam Hamill for a workshop. One of the books I read to prepare for that was The Art of Writing by Lu Chi, translated by Sam Hamill.

I still have that book. It reminds me that the writing struggle is real. No writer is alone in it, because Lu Chi was writing about the struggle 2,000 years ago:

On starting out:

Eyes closed, we listen
to inner music,
lost in thought and question:

our spirits ride
to the eight corners of the universe,
mind soaring a thousand miles away;

Re: the eight corners of the universe: I have really vivid dreams. Mostly they are about my teeth falling out or forgetting to wear pants out in public but sometimes my mind comes up with brilliant material while I am fast asleep. The only problem is I can’t remember it after I wake up.

On choosing words:

It is like following a branch to find the trembling leaf,
like following a stream to find the spring. 

Sometimes the words come freely;
sometimes we sit in silence, gnawing on a brush. 

I often feel like I’m just sitting in silence, feeling the minutes tick by.

On revising work:

Even with the right reason, the words
will sometimes clang; sometimes the language flows,
though the ideas themselves remain trivial. 

This reminded me that really there is nothing new under the sun. Sometimes someone else just says it better, or worse.

masters

On fear:

I worry that my ink well
may run dry,
that right words
cannot be found. 

This reminded me of a workshop I was in last year with the poet Ellen Bass. She told a story of how in one of her poems she struggled for so long for the right word that she went out to friends for help. I like that idea. Maybe sometimes the right word will never be found on our own. Maybe it’s resting within community waiting to be handed over. I would love for these posts on writing to become some kind of resource for that in a way using the comment section.

On inspiration:

The truth of the thing lies inside us, 
but no power on earth can force it. 

At first this had a “hopeless” ring to it but really it means as Lu Chi says in his own writing that we have to: search the depths of the soul for a spirit, beg, if need be, for a sign of life. Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird: If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unlikes. Tell the truth as you understand it. 

And encouragement:

Through letters, there is no road too difficult to travel,
no idea too confusing
to be ordered.
It comes like rain from clouds;
it renews the vital spirit.

The whole reason I decided to start the writing prompts was to keep me accountable. If I write on a schedule each day it becomes easier and easier, like the machine is being maintained and oiled. It is a practice, and it takes practice, and not a whenever-I-feel-like-it practice. Here’s some advice from Stephen King in his book On Writing:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, read to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. 

On oiling the machine:

Learn to recite the classics;
sing in the clear virtue of ancient masters;
explore the treasures of the classics
where form and content are born. 

I read everything I can get my hands on.  I take classes and attend readings. Always learning. Learning from the masters. Taking notes. Using the voice memo function on my phone to record observations while I’m driving.

bookshelf

So, today I started posting the daily writing prompts on Facebook. It starts at #6 because the first five were in the post on Friday. You can start today or write a week delayed using last week’s prompts. All you have to commit to is 10 minutes of writing a day. And I’ll tell you a very, very big secret I’ve learned to good writing: Turn off the TV.

A Week of Writing Prompts – Week 1

So I’ve made a new commitment to myself, one that I have made over and over, but this time I am really serious. At least 5 days a week I have to sit down and write about something that is outside of any projects I am working on. I have a huge mason jar where I’ve collected words and phrases over the year to pull from. Sometimes I’ll ask a friend for a prompt or I will find something to write about in a book or from another writer. Think of this as a continuation of the Lil Journal Project, and so I’ll be posting prompts here at the end of each week with a few sentences from my journal just to keep myself accountable. I’d love for you to follow along and write too. I’ll post each prompt on Facebook each morning (Monday through Friday) and the entire week will show up here Friday or over the weekend if all goes as planned.

I try to write for at least 10 minutes, and sometimes I’ll get about 30 minutes finished. If I get stuck I try to just keep writing about anything that comes to mind…even if it’s just a line of expletives on how frustrated I am that nothing is coming to mind. I like to write long hand in a composition book with a really good gel pen. I’m less likely to edit if I’m writing in a notebook and so it’s just a long stream of random writing to get my brain working:

composition notebooks

So even if you’ve never written before see where you can go with it! I try and stretch my imagination to see what pops up and write with no shame, no embarrassment of what comes out. Sometimes it’s a list and sometimes it’s just what’s going on around me. Sometimes I write for 2 minutes and struggle for 8, and sometimes I have these huge moments of clarity where I could write for hours if I kept going.

Here are last week’s prompts (#5 I just finished up a few minutes ago):

 

Prompt 1: The Center of the Universe.

From my journal:
“…a star that will die in a thousand years and its light will travel for another one thousand years after that. (An ant just walked across my foot.)”

 

Prompt 2: My life in trees.

From my journal:
“There was the magnolia tree at the lake growing up. Its branches hung down low enough to create a huge void underneath, large enough for a fort. Leaves carpeted the ground. Crunchy, and crispy potato-chip-leaves. Paw-Paw had a huge cherry tree at his house that we could pull the picnic table underneath to reach the fruit….”

 

Prompt 3: Things To Do. 

From my journal:
“Patch the baseboard in the kitchen. Replant the pepper plants. Fold the laundry. Funny how I automatically start making a list of things I think I need to do. Maybe I just need to lower my expectations of myself. But how low can they go? Where is the bottom of expectation?  I could end up being a sloth, and I think about this video I saw recently of a sloth eating while it was napping. Scary that I could see that in my future somehow. But really what’s wrong with eating while napping?”

 

Prompt 4: Chemistry. (from Food from the Soul Train’s Jar of Prompts)

From my journal:
“I just can’t keep a straight face: Pipet. Test tube rack. Gas collecting tube. Screw clamp. Rubber policeman. Rubber plug. My maturity is at an all time low today.”

 

Prompt 5: Read this quote and then write about it:

Those who would mend the world must first mend themselves. -William Penn

From my journal:
“The word mend makes me think of a careful, quite, concentrated stitch. It’s a nicer word than fix I think. Mending implies that there is still some imperfection, like in the patching of a quilt or sweater or the darning of a sock. Mending is healing.”

 

I’ll also start posting the prompts each morning on my Facebook page if you want to follow along day by day instead of delayed. (I’ve scheduled them to post at 7am EST.) Feel free each week to share any writing below or on the Facebook page post as well! Everyone’s reaction to a prompt is different and we can learn from the writing of others and how they see things different from us. It will be like we are writing partners.

Don’t think you have time? You do. Take your notebook with you on the train, to the carpool line, to the park, and especially the DMV. Turn off your phone for a while.

 

 

More on the Lil Journal Project here:
The Lil Journal Project via lilblueboo.com

 

More posts on writing here:

Take a Picture in Your Mind

Last night as we drove home the sun was this huge glowing orb as it set. I was trying to get a photo of it when Boo piped up and said:

I’m going to take a picture of this sunset in my mind.

Every day Max and Diesel hurry out into the sunshine. When I ask them to come back in they simply ignore me, pointing their faces up to the sunshine:

maximus

 

I love how content they look. It makes my heart swell up every time. Funny how much I learn from them.

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

What Happened When I Stopped Watching the News

I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my pursuit after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. -Gandhi

I used to have a certain news channel playing on my TV all the time. Literally all. day. long.

And I felt a lot of anger.

And frustration.

And suspicion.

But then, about 2 years ago, I decided to stop cold turkey. I decided to stop watching the news all together.

The idea was partially planted when, at the church we were attending at the time, I began feeling as if nothing felt right anymore. My conscience was seriously conflicting with my faith. And I felt like there was this sense of fear being spread, not so much by the pastors, but by influential groups in the congregation. Once, when I questioned the path the church was taking I was told: We are not libertarian congregationalists. And that was followed by: Maybe you need some theology classes. I didn’t exactly know what a libertarian congregationalist was but it sounded like maybe I should consider being one. And then I started seriously thinking that I was at the wrong church.

sky

To be fair it wasn’t just the news and church I cut out. I also unsubscribed from a whole lot of things (and I mean we pretty much uprooted our entire life.) There was obviously some withdrawal at first. I had been addicted to noise and drama.

But then I had a chance to breathe.

“The man who lives from God’s breath can recognize with joy that the same breath sinks into the lungs of his fellowman, and that they are both drawing from the same source. At this mutual realization, the fear of another disappears, a smile comes to the lips, the weapons falls, and one hand reaches out for the other.”-Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands

And then I spent more time outside. I read this over at Brain Pickings today, good timing:

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. […]

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.” -Herman Hesse

And I naturally became less judgmental. I forgot all the labels I’d been deluged with.

“With this new confidence we recapture our own life afresh from within. Along with the new knowledge of our “inner space” where feeling of love and hate, tenderness and pain, forgiveness and greed are separated, strengthen or reformed, there emerges the mastery of the gentle hand.” –H.N.

I started to feel like everything I’d ever known had been tossed up into the air.

“Detachment is often understood as letting loose of what is attractive. But it can also mean being attached to what is repulsive. You can become attached to your own hate. As long as you look for retaliation, you are riveted to your own past. Sometimes it appears as though you would lose yourself along with your revenge and hate – so you stand there with balled up fists, closed to the other what wants to heal.” –H.N.

Honestly, a few days ago I really wasn’t sure if I really wanted to write about all of this because I have a really low endurance these days for being talked at. Or being told that I need theology classes. If I need theology classes to be a Christian, I’m screwed.

Them: But you are wrong.
Me: What if I am?

Really it all boils down to (**Jesus alert**):

I believe in God. I question everything. I pray often.
The spirit leads me, but only when I am quiet enough to listen.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:18

I’ll always have questions. Whatever the questions might be I hope I follow the inclusive, compassionate path. I have this old 1952 copy of the Power of Positive Thinking and I love this line:

Christianity teaches that one basic trait will go far toward getting people to like you. That trait is a sincere and forthright interest in and love for people.

It’s nice when people like you. And not in the “I like you, but….” kind of way.  I guess the question is: why go to great lengths to have people not like you? The only reason I can think of for that kind of behavior is to be exclusive.  

Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear. -Lao Tzu

I’ve never met anyone that I couldn’t sit down with for a while. I’ve never met anyone that I couldn’t learn something from. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t leave me with a new story to tell. I’ve never met anyone that I couldn’t find something in common with in some way. I’ve never met anyone that didn’t have a past.

I just really like people.

So hooray that I was born on earth where there are humans.

faith

I’m not asking you to stop watching the news, maybe it’s just a matter of being still more often. Cutting out some of the noise now and then. And creating a quiet mind, a peaceful place to make sense of things.

Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves. -Thomas Carlyle

And maybe it’s a matter of meeting new people. Proactively. All the time. People different from you. Where do they live? What’s easy? What’s hard? And if you happen to bristle at someone: try to figure out what that says about you, not them.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. -Mark Twain 

(traveling doesn’t have to be far away)

And maybe it’s a matter of reading new things. All the time. (I think it’s kind of a red flag when someone says to me “you shouldn’t be reading that” and my immediate reaction is usually: I’m reading it twice.)

And speaking up when we need too. I’ve been teaching Boo this one-line (thank you Patti Digh) that can be used in almost any situation where you don’t agree with someone:

I don’t see the truth in that.

This was a birthday card my friend Jodi gave me exactly one month ago. Re-sharing it because I think it’s awesome:

stayopen

 

Love,

Ashley
Libertarian Congregationalist

 

 

P.S. Just a quick disclaimer: I do still browse the daily headlines because it is still important to know what’s going on in the world. Sadly sometimes I feel like I really have to dig. There’s a lot of awful stuff out in the world to be angry at.

Sharing this because it’s just good:

marilynnerobinson

Salvaged Wood Projects

One thing there is never any shortage of here in the mountains: old wood.

A few things Brett has made for the house using salvaged wood:

1. A large box with big industrial looking handles:

barn wood box with industrial handles

2. A coat rack for the hallway. The hooks were from Lowe’s.  The purpose of this was to keep me from  leaving all all my stuff on the dining room table. It worked:

salvaged wood coat rack mud room ideas

 

3. These chairs were made a while back out of old wood pallets:

reclaimed wood chairs made out of pallets

 

4. And of course there is the entire building of Bryson City Outdoors. 

See what else we’ve done to the House on Hospital Hill here. 

 

Note: A potential problem with old wood is that there are usually bugs to accompany it. A few ways I’ve gotten rid of them:

1. Make a concoction of peppermint oil and water and spray often until they disappear.

2. Still there? Seal the wood in large, black contractor trash bags and leave out in the sun on a really hot day. As long as the temperature inside the bags gets up to around 150 degrees all the bugs should be dead.

3. Still there? Buy boric acid powder and mix a solution with water according to instructions. Pour small amounts into the holes where the bugs seem to be originating from. Wipe away any excess. Once wood is dry wipe the area clean again to get rid of any remaining boric acid.

4. Still there? Adopt them.

 

 

If Books Could Talk

I opened up a book at the used book store and found this plane ticket…from Cairo to Amsterdam. I love when that happens:

oldbook

A few old books that have come into the Bryson City store recently:

books

 

I found a book by Henri Nouwen published in the 1970’s on prayer. It is just full of gems, like this one:

nouwen

 

And then this…a 1953 copy of The Catcher in the Rye…with a depiction of Holden Caufield. I wonder who read this book 50 years ago and where it’s been since:

“This unusual book may shock you, will make you laugh, and may break your heart, but you will never forget it.”

catcherinrye

If you haven’t seen the Salinger documentary I recommend it. While it’s a little dramatically-overblown-tabloidish it paints a good picture of why he probably became a recluse in his later years. He stopped publishing in 1965 and the most fascinating thing I think is how he very carefully set up the trust that his remaining works are in to control his copyright. Actually I think I’ve written about this before…or maybe I dreamt that. Either way my memory is bad.

A Wagging Statue

Sometimes there’s just too much to digest all at once. A few friends passed away suddenly. Two funerals later and then another sudden passing. And while my family has been out of town I’ve just enjoyed the alone time with my dogs, and my books and my yard work. And then today was a great day for so many of my friends. Yay for equality. Now I really wish it would rain. I have nothing more to say today except here is a photo of Max meeting a cat for the first time:

maxandcat

 

He tried to be a statue but his tail kept wagging like it always does. I wish humans had wagging tails too. Bark less. Wag more.