Update: Projects, Purging, and Poetry


Hope is the thing with feathers...

Hope is the thing with feathers…

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

– Emily Dickinson

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

Dear Readers,

I do want you to know that I have some things in the works.  I have not been posting regularly on this blog as I have been working on my other blog, The Original Journal Project. But mostly, life has distracted me.  It is amazing how things just get busy.  I do post regularly on Instagram, so please follow me there so we can connect. Find me on Twitter too.

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I am not sure where I stand on platform building and blogging.  I want to connect with my readers, but I am not sure where I need to precisely focus my energy (since I have three active blogs and projects). I’d love for you to subscribe to The Original Journal as I am in the process of getting things organized to publish the first edition of The Original Journal. That is exciting just saying it! I have been taking small business classes at the local community college. They are free. If you are interested in starting your own small business, go to your local community college and ask about the Small Business Office.  It’s such a great resource.  If you have any questions or need help finding your local Small Business Office, please email me and I’ll try to help.

I have also been reaching out to professionals and networking.  I find people are willing to help young (can I still call myself that? Well, yes I can — because I am a new budding entrepreneur) entrepreneurs. I have always struggled with the Left Brain.  I call it “Crossing the Left Brain Rickety Bridge.

I wish my post could be more focused, but I am trying to figure out branding (taking a class this week) and focus on business.  I should tell you that I am really excited about purging. I listened to this podcast on purging at Unstuckable (which is a great community and I 100% recommend it). I love what Stephen Worley reiterated about purging that author, Marie Kondo said in The Magic of Tidying Up — to allow yourself to hold the objects you are struggling to get rid of and thanking them for being in your life and then letting them go.  I have been able to get rid of so much stuff since listening to that podcast. It really cranked up my engine. The podcast also talked about seeing a thread in your objects. There’s a story being told about you regarding what you hold on to. Now for me, I still have letters I received from pen pals when I was 14.  I am a paper pack rat and I’ll say it — a HOARDER. I have so many scraps of paper with random poems and really awful prose. I kept it all. What I didn’t do was process it with a clear head. I’m doing that now and am making such wonderful progress on getting rid of things that I no longer have to hold onto.

Dare I say — ZEN. It feels Zen to me, but I certainly have a lot of paper based items. To me anything that is sentimental, I keep.  I love story and memories. Thus I write memoir.  I will have to post some photos of my progress.

The ceiling in the Artroom (office) fell in.  There were some heavy rain storms about a month and half ago and a big chunk of ceiling fell down.  Luckily, it did not leak because underneath the cave-in were all my papers and photos of The Evanston Community Kitchen. Thank goodness nothing got wet.  I take it as a sign to start getting serious on that project. My Elizabeths (great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother) are giving me a sign!  I am working on that book in a writing group.  I am really looking at the traditional publishing model and self-publishing is really looking like a good fit for that project. Self-publishing is the route I am going to take with The Original Journal. I will keep you updated about that.  I am trying to get my ducks in a row about how to streamline social media and my blogs.  But just know that I will be keeping memomuse as a blog too. I am trying to figure out how to do a newsletter.  I feel stupid admitting I don’t know how to do it.
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Well, honesty is the best policy.

So, I’m excited about blogging a bit.  I hope you are well and this update finds you in good health and spirits.  We are having snow in the South and I am just tickled pick. I love it.  I think snow is beautiful, but it has been a hard winter on people. This is an older blog I did not post right away. Everything is current except the snow update! We had the snow in February. We have sunshine today and spring temperatures. It’s lovely weather.
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Thanks for your support and reading my blog.

Bird on a Wire II

Bird on a Wire II

Memomuse Update: July Joy and Sorrow


Hello friends.  I am sorry I have not been keeping you in the loop of what is going on. Although I have been active on Facebook and Twitter, I have been somewhat dormant.  I am working on learning how to use Photoshop so I can upload photos with watermarks and protect my work.  But really all I want to do is share and tell.  I have so many images I want to share but since I have had to deal with photo piracy and I have the tools to watermark them, I feel I should use the tools to watermark images. Except the whole watermarking process puts out my fire and it always feels laborious.

open the door

I am not the most technical person and struggle with left brain waves. I prefer the open ended ocean of the right brain world.

Ocean photo by Megan Oteri Copyright 2011

Ocean photo by Megan Oteri Copyright 2011

I am working on some new posts for all three of my blogs: The Original Journal, The Community Kitchen, and Memomuse.  I have compartmentalized to try to target potential readers better.  I am a bit exhausted from social media though.  I am putting my energy into writing (in Microsoft Word). I get very distracted when I am on the internet.

But here is the 411 for July. We went to Washington D.C. to inurn my mother at Arlington National Cemetery.  She was placed in the same shelf like box (for lack of a better description) in the Columbarium (where people are placed when they are cremated).

My mother and I on my wedding day.

My mother and I on my wedding day.

I will post a detailed post about that as Arlington was very moving.

Columbarium

Columbarium: My parents’ grave

I climbed the ladder and placed my mother’s ashes in the box like shelf, or think of as an ash cubby in a way. I know morbid, but I am just writing, or rather blogging so I am not going to struggle with finding the perfect word/description. The marine who was the pall bearer or ash box holder, was very serious and he marched in typical Arlington fashion. He was very serious.  I guess I am dismissing the seriousness of death, but my mom died Christmas Eve and her inurnment was scheduled in July.  It was a serious affair and very moving, so I am not being flip — just trying to be funny.

The Pastor and Marine who were at my mom's funeral

The Pastor and Marine who were at my mom’s funeral

The marine had the most beautiful blue eyes.  They sparkled even.  As he handed me the urn box with my mom’s heart and ashes in it, I said “Semper Fi.” It was awkward.  I sometimes can be so strange even to myself.

Well, anyway, he handed off Betty and I placed her urn box in with my father’s, making sure they were back to back and their boxes touched.  I dusted off my father’s ten-year old death dust from the top of his box.  That was intense.  Dust to dust.  Anyway, it was moving.  I wrote a descriptive piece about this experience for the SAMLA conference.  I am the chair of the creative nonfiction panel this year. SAMLA will be held in Atlanta this November.

This was taken walking back from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we went to after my mom's funeral

This was taken walking back from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we went to after my mom’s funeral

See, even when I try to write a little update, it turns into a whole lot of words. 

I went to Evanston, Illinois at the end of July for a research trip on a book I am working on: The Community Kitchen. That was amazing.

Another view of this beautiful house.  You can go on tours of the Dawes House.  The Dawes House is the home of the Evanston History Center, where I conducted my research primarily.

Another view of this beautiful house. You can go on tours of the Dawes House. The Dawes House is the home of the Evanston History Center, where I conducted my research primarily.

My mom grew up in New York City, but moved back to Evanston in 1947 with her mom after her parents divorced. I went to Evanston a lot as a child with my parents. Mom took us to visit our grandma and great-aunt often.   A post will be coming soon about my trip to Evanston, either on The Community Kitchen blog or here.  The compartmentalizing is taking its toll on me.  Managing three blogs is a lot of work.  And I take my blog posts serious.  Probably too serious.

The Original Journal had several signings in Evanston. One was a man I met on the airplane.  He likes redheads.  Another signing was a Northwestern chemistry student taking a break in the Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern.  That is the signing I am going to feature on The Original Journal blog.  She wrote a great journal signing.  A couple more journal signatures were done on Northwestern campus.  So, there will be some posts on that blog.

Got to run. I am writing a book after all, so chop chop to it I go.

I will leave you with my mother’s favorite poem by Kahlil Gibran — “On Joy and Sorrow”

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Source: http://www.katsandogz.com/onjoy.html

Monday Museletter May 14 – Drowning


I feel like I am drowning in the realities of being a stay-at-home mom to a two year-old.  I can’t get anything done, except clean the house when I am motivated enough.  I wish I could stop the chatter in my head and the CONSTANT need to achieve, but I can’t.  Writing keeps me alive inside. Otherwise, I just am a mom. It is not enough.  I am mom enough though.  I want an agent to sweep in and hold my hand through the writing process. As if an fairy godmother agent will fly through my window and offer child-care (of course on the dime of the agency), pay me a big ripe advance, and then here is the kicker — the agent will ask me what other projects are you working on?

Seriously.

I know.  Too bad I can’t afford therapy, otherwise, I’d be there right now.  So, here I am at my free therapy — writing on my blog.

I worry that an agent will read this post and say, “Too high maintenance.”  I am so sick of trying to impress someone I have never met. In fact, I am sick of trying to impress people I don’t even know.  Geez.  How about trying to impress the people I do know, like my own son.  Today, I am leaving an impression of exhaustion on him.  I managed to deep clean the living room and it is the only clean room in the house.

Elmo is singing about imagination.  My imagination is on vacation.  She bought a one-way ticket outta my mind after I got an email from an agent that is not interested in reading my collection of essays about the first year and half of motherhood, which is a collection of journal entries and essays, coupled with anecdotal Attachment Parenting information.  I am an Attached Parent, aren’t we all attached.

The recent cover of Time magazine has everyone is a sh$tstorm.  Enough of the clotheslining and headbutts.  I saw this posted and thought it was well put:

“API Advisory Board Member Isabelle Fox puts it so well.
The question should not be, “Are You Mom Enough?” The questions should be:-Are you responsively parenting your child in a timely way?
-Are you attuned to his or her individual needs?
-Are you providing a safe, protected and predictable environment?
-Do you understand and respond to the developmental differences between infants, toddlers and older verbal children?
-Are you available and empathetic when your child needs you or is under stress?If the answer is “yes” to these questions, you are practicing attachment parenting. You can reasonably expect that your child will become emotionally secure, will be able to give and receive affection, and will lead a productive and successful life.

~Isabelle Fox, Ph.D., author of “Growing Up: Attachment Parenting from Kindergarten to College”

I don’t even care about the cover or what people are saying.  It just doesn’t interest me anymore.  Well, maybe it does, as I am trying to jump on the opportunity of the media storm to let agents know, “Hay, I have a thesis all about Attachment Parenting, from the trenches of motherhood.”  I didn’t even know I was practicing Attachment Parenting until I posted an essay I wrote in a mom forum, trying to get enough clicks on this essay, Love is Not Always Flood Lights and Fireworks, But Sometimes It Is, at Mamalode to get $30.  The Executive Director of Attachment Parenting told me to submit the essay to the Attachment Parenting International website.  I’ve been a regular contributor for API Speaks ever since.

I was asked to write a post on motherhood for the API Speak blog, well before the Time cover came out.   Mother: I Was Desperate for the Title was posted on Mother’s Day.

I thought, yippee — instant fame.  Well, it got some attention, but the phone isn’t ringing off the hook.  Remember in the movie, Julie and Julia when the agents and publishers call her after she is put in an article in The New York Times?  I want that to happen to me.  But I want them to call and tell me, “We will help you with the editing and organizing of your book.”

I know — head in the clouds.

Photo by Megan Oteri © All Rights Reserved

Anyway, I’m exhausted from motherhood, and life, that I just am not finding the balance I need to write a novel.  I hate this.  I am burning inside to write.  But the chatter in my head gets in my way.  And the fact I can never find any of my notebooks because my toddler grabs them and hides them.  I didn’t understand when my mom told me I used to hide her valuable jewelry because I would wrap it up and lose it in the process of wanting to give her presents.  I was like, How could you lose track of valuable jewelry?  I think the term two year-old toddler has to be learned by experience.

Blah blah blah.  I don’t even know if I want to post this as I feel like I sound like a whiner.  Then again, here I am trying to impress people I don’t know.

I met several deadlines in the past couple weekends.  Two of them were the API Speaks blog post about Motherhood and a food review I did for Dassant at Grocery.com: Dassant Vanilla Bean Cake.

I know part of the writing process is dealing with the rejections from agents and publishers, but it stinks.  I did see this quote today that shed some light and I have to reread it every ten minutes. ha ha

“One must avoid ambition in order to write. Otherwise something else is the goal: some kind of power beyond the power of language. And the power of language, it seems to me, is the only kind of power a writer is entitled to.” – Cynthia Ozick
She also said, “The engineering is secondary to the vision.”  That particular quote makes me think of my book project, The Original Journal, where I ask random people and strangers to sign my journal.  I want to create a website that mimics actually signing a real journal with pens, markers, crayons, and paint.  I just don’t have the Graphic Design or web skills to create it.  SO if you are a graphic designer, and you want to design the website pro bono, give me a shout. I am putting it out there in hopes the magic will come.  “If you dream it, you can achieve it.” Didn’t Walt Disney say that?

The Original Journals — filled with signatures of “Original Journal” signers
© Megan Oteri – All Rights Reserved

The thing about The Original Journal is that if it gets published or a left brain fairy comes to my rescue (to create the graphic design elements needed with the hand written signatures and to create the website where you can turn the pages and write in the journal) I am going to set up a foundation to benefit artists, creatives, and eco-activists that will help people get their “wish” granted to make their dreams come true.  So many artists struggle with the publishing process because of the left brain skills that are needed (marketing, computer skills, and all that razmataz).

I’d love to have the resources to be a fairy godmother to artists and creatives. The world needs creativity and it is not being fostered in school as it should be.  It is the foundation for brilliance.

Anyway, that my Monday Muse.  I hope you are having a good day.  I actually am feeling like I am doggie paddling now because I fired out another query letter to an agent, pitching my Attachment Parenting memoir of motherhood (the first year and half).  It is actually my thesis I wrote in grad school.  Of course (this is for agents trolling my blog) it would include more than just the first year and half.

This is me and my favorite horse.