Four questions for YOU

by Kristin on June 15, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Colin_K

I’m just coming off the three busiest months of work I’ve ever had, which culminated in four days at a trade show and convention in Chicago. For weeks now, I’ve been anticipating this day. I couldn’t wait to get home, and to have a day that wasn’t so stress- and deadline-driven. I couldn’t wait to sit down and write a Halfway to Normal post.

But when today finally came, and I finally sat, nothing happened.

Transitions are tough, and there have been a lot of them in my life lately: The school schedule to the summer schedule. Ninety-five degree days that suddenly turn to 70-degree days. Stressful, jam-packed weeks that transition to quiet openness. Four days in the big city with hundreds of people crowding around me to just me, alone in my house, in my quiet neighborhood. Being in work-mode to being in mom-mode.

I suppose I need a day or two for my mind and heart to catch up with the physical and geographical realities of my life. In the meantime, maybe you can help me out—help me re-center, re-orient and regroup here at Halfway to Normal. I’ll provide some questions—the sort of things I might ask if we were able to sit down together for coffee. I’d love to hear your response to one or more of them (and I imagine they might find their way into blog posts I’ll write during the next month or so).

1. What have you been reading lately (books, articles, or online)? What has captured your attention or sparked your imagination most?

2. What have you been writing about lately? What topics have been occupying your thoughts? (If you have a blog, be sure to link to a sample post!)

3. What have you been creating lately? (Songs, jewelry, photography, a garden, delicious meals…) How does creating that particular thing feed you?

4. What have you been wondering about lately—either with excitement or worry? (The future? Your vocation? Faith, or questions about God?)

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  • ed cyzewski

    When we push hard on our work, we certainly do need some time to recharge. I hit a similar wall this past weekend.

    I’ve been thinking about a few things:
    1. I’ve been blogging this week about the damage that conservative churches have done to folks, but I’m trying to avoid vilifying one particular group. I’m more interested in identifying our problems and then suggesting solutions. By way of a teaser, one post addresses our struggles with both relevance and holding onto the old ways of doing church, while the other has more to do with the damage done by fear and the consequences for Christian communities.

    2. As far as writing goes, I’m thinking more and more about ways I can help other writers take positive steps forward. I’m working on an e-mail newsletter article that will go out this Saturday morning about the things that writers can’t do on their own. I’m really enjoying the process of writing it.

    Rest up and enjoy some time away from the interwebs. We miss you, but will be here when you return!

  • Katie

    Welcome back! I do understand hitting the creative wall…I’m still regrouping from a journey to Nashville and back. (For a wedding. Good times, but not a vacation.)

    I just finished ALICE BLISS, a stunning debut novel…I loved every word. And I’m dipping into a little Madeleine L’Engle – always refreshing to me.

    I’ve been creating basic meals…nothing fancy, but I’m trying to get back into a cooking routine. Last night: soup. Tonight: homemade pizza.

    I’m wondering about the future…and how to find a job that really suits me. And wondering if Boston will ever feel like home.

  • Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Glad to see this post from you – was wondering where you were!

  • drew t.

    1. Pema Chödrön – When Things Fall Apart, Thomas Merton – The Ascent to Truth, Selections from the Philokalia, the “Big Book”, Mondimore – Bipolar Disorder

    2. A lot of self-reflection which is slowly emerging into a memoir which I’m not intending to publish right now. I’m doing it solely for my own spiritual and emotional health.

    3. I’ve been behind the drumkit more just to work out stress with music. Also finding ways to be creative and explore the mundane things about the world with my kids this summer.

    4. How simple faith is when defined as loyalty to a power greater than myself, but that it’s complicated because of my own shortcomings. How powerful attachment and denial are as causes of suffering and how letting go is the path to be free that faith can flourish.

  • suzi w.

    Amazing book: The summer before boys. (although I think it should be called the first summer of boys, but whateves). About a girl whose mom is deployed to Iraq and so spends the entire summer with her half-sister and family. She’s best friends with her “niece” (who is her age). Neat look at how deployment affects kids, an uncommon topic. First crush stuff is fun too.

    Devoured with my dinner: Anne Frank, her life in words and pictures. Non-fiction with lots of photos of Anne and family, pre and post hiding. I just got to the part where they were discovered, heartbreaking.

    Started at lunch but put down b/c I started talking to co-workers: Al Capone Shines my shoes. I didn’t read the first one, Al Capone does my shirts. About a kid who lives with family on Alcatraz b/c Dad works there.

    Wondering about the future. How some things are fast, some are slow, and some I can’t change the timetable for. It’s the summer my sister becomes a Mrs. It’s the summer before the fall when I turn 40.

    Wondering who will win this hockey game. The Cup will be given out tonight. Who will it be, Boston or Vancouver?

    Writing: mostly tweets and blog comments, b/c I’m in research mode as Summer Reading (aka my “retail Christmas” as a Children’s Librarian). Also, created new twitter account, @wakeupsuzi, where I’m following mostly #kidlit folks, a more professional account.

  • Sarah@ From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell

    1.I’ve been doing a great deal of reading from Tolkien’s The Hobbit to The Great Gatsby, and I’m rediscovering Pride and Prejudice.
    2. I’ve been writing a lot about faith and a wrote a guest post on Plant Suicides and Faith . I’m working on fiction and poetry, but I have resolved to be a more consistent blogger too.
    3. Right now, I’m trying not to kill a garden since I have high hopes for my purple tomatoes and purple basil plants.
    4. Right now, all I see is uncertainty in regards to the future, vocation, life. 2011 has been a nebulous year, and I’m hopeful it clears up soon.

  • Meredith

    1. I’m in the middle of “The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder.” It’s a book of essays about the things we can learn from our favorite literary heroines, like Lizzie Bennet and Mary Lennox. Besides being completely fun, it’s also really interesting to look back at books we think we know so well and see them in a new way.

    4. I’ve been wondering a lot about my next steps. I’m still trying to find a new job and keep wondering if I’m going about it the right way. Part of me wants the comfort of a familiar routine and part of me thinks this is an incredible opportunity to try something I’ve never done before. I’m just not sure which direction to go in – or even how I’d go about it.

  • Jason Korthauer

    1) Journey to the Common Good by Walter Bruggeman. It is a fascinating description of how we are still escaping Egypt. Always moving from Scarcity (Egypt) to Abundance (Wilderness/grace) and poised to create the Neighborhood (Sinai)
    2) I have been writing about how to be a good neighbor and working to build a new website around hospitality.
    3)Been creating a green lawn in the midst of one of the worse droughts in TX history. It is meaningful to create a home.
    4)I’ve been wondering if now is the time to build a great community at the church I lead or if I am called to be bishop of my area when the election occurs this time next year.

  • Ejly

    1. What have you been reading lately (books, articles, or online)? What has captured your attention or sparked your imagination most? I just read Dogsbodies and Scumsters and owe my blog a post on it. I’ve also been reading a lot of specifications for work. Finally, I introduced my sons to Doctor Who and we’ve been watching the series on Netflix and now having big conversations about Time and Continuity.

    2. What have you been writing about lately? What topics have been occupying your thoughts? I’m drafting a write up of The Sand Snakes, and Theon and – oh wait you do know about Game of Thrones right? I’m part of a fan site where we analyze the series to death. Article is due tomorrow. Time to get writing!

    3. What have you been creating lately? (Songs, jewelry, photography, a garden, delicious meals…) How does creating that particular thing feed you? I’ve been gardening, waging a war against an invasive houttuynia plant which I can only weed occasionally as the smell of it makes me nauseous. It feels good to put order to chaos, though. The astilbe look pretty, my peonies were gorgeous, and my roses are coming along.

    4. What have you been wondering about lately—either with excitement or worry? I’ve ibeen wondering whether I need to redirect my efforts on some bigger priorities; I’ve been working on them, but mainly by hacking at weeds rather than nourishing the crops that sustain me.

  • Elaine Tolsma-Harlow

    Here we go..
    1. Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis, which I found thought provoking & I recommend & I have a guilty pleasure/page turner mystery on reserve at the library.

    2. I don’t write on paper, just in my head, late at night when I should be sleeping.

    3. I just finished my Artprize painting & it was large & intricate & time consuming and I think it has zapped me so I’m having the hardest time doing anything to worthwhile in the studio. But I love cooking simply in the summer; grilled fish tacos, tomatoes, basil & fresh mozzarella on homemade focaccia bread, etc.

    4. I am stepping in as adjunct instructor this fall at Calvin for painting & I have to tell you that is consuming my thoughts.

    Thanks to everyone for the great read ideas, I need some good ones for the summer!

  • ThatGuyKC

    Kristin, I know just how that feels. It’s been 2 weeks since I graduated and still feel in a bit of a funk. Trying to adjust to “normal” life after 2 years of highly regimented and disciplined schedule with lots of pressure and deadlines has been tough. Definitely not on my A-game.

    1. Reading – JOLT! by Phil Cooke which is a fantastic book that provides practical advise for the reader to succeed and achieve a value-added life in this crazy, ever-changing world. Also, picked up a few thriller novels by Vince Flynn, Matthew Reilly and Lee Child.

    2. Writing – I’ve been writing less about being a dad/husband and more about just being a man. Kind of a nice change of pace. Decided to slow down the blog for the summer and feel really good about setting boundaries around that.

    3. Creating – for graduation I got a Nikon D90 so I have begun creating photographs. Been waiting for this camera for over 2 years and am excited to go all shutterbug on Seattle.

    4. Wondering – what am I gonna do with the MBA now? :)

    Great questions!! Thank you.

  • Kirstin

    1. I have been revisiting some old favorites, books I loved in college and my early 20s: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot. Also some recommendations from others: Paul Theroux’s Mosquito Coast, Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Also short stories by Borges. I’ve mostly been randomly casting around for good reads to flesh out the syllabus of an intro-level lit. course that I teach–trying to get away from my own research obsessions to think more broadly about what people get out of fiction generally and how I can best prod reluctant college students to read more of it.

    2-3-4. Trying to be a good parent to my early-blooming 12-year-old has been this summer’s obsession. She’s recognizably my daughter, but very different than I remember myself at that age–much more social, self-confident, at ease in her skin. And she’s trying very hard to differentiate herself from me and her father as she starts to figure out who she is. In a lot of ways, it’s reminding me of my first months as a new parent, all the mental energy required to get familiar with the particular needs of this kind of creature, and to get comfortable with myself as the parent of one. I find myself thinking a lot about the mistakes and misjudgments my parents made–and about how I have changed since I was 12. There’s room for a lot of navel-peering at the moment; I deliberately left this summer free of projects, classes, and other commitments so I could focus on things in and around my house. It’s been a different form of creation than I’m used to, but a good one (and I think, a timely one).

    Thanks for asking!

  • Paul Merrill

    Not a complete answer, but at least a little…

    1. Reading Solitary: A Novel by Travis Thrasher. It was free on Kindle, and it’s kind of like a Christian teen’s horror/suspense novel. (I didn’t know that genre existed till now.) I normally don’t read any Christian fiction, but I tried it for free & like it.

    2. Recent blogging:

    And I hope you enjoy the coffee today, Kristin! I trust today is a step toward your re-center, re-orient and regroup.

  • Kath

    Hey, thanks for the questions, I’m new here but I’ll join in…
    1. I just read The Right to Write by Julia Cameron and it made me realise that it doesn’t matter if I am a ‘Writer’ or not, I can still find writing a helpful way to think and process. I also read Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender, which was thought provoking in lots of ways. I posted a bit on my blog about it. My imagination and thinking has been sparked by conversations and articles like this

    2. I tend to write about issues and ideas that arise out of situations in my work ( vague enough?) or statements I hear that prompt thinking. One of my favourite recent posts is

    3. I am knitting a scarf, and find that making something with my hands calms my thinking. I am also enjoying cooking winter stews – I love the way the aroma swells to fill the house over a couple of hours.

    4. I have a big exam to do later this year. I am worried and wondering about preparation and planning. I’m also excited that it will be a step forward for me…

  • Kristin T.

    Hi everyone! I am LOVING all of your responses—so much! I want to take my time to look at the links, etc., before I respond, but I’ll get to it soon. (Going to spend the day with my girls…) Keep your thoughts and ideas coming!

  • Raquel

    1. What have you been reading lately (books, articles, or online)? What has captured your attention or sparked your imagination most?

    Geez Magazine ( Make a Difference truth vs hype rant)
    & UU World (Mom and kids leave everything in the US to go serve in India and other places)

    2. What have you been writing about lately? What topics have been occupying your thoughts? (If you have a blog, be sure to link to a sample post!)
    Homeless – City Life

    3. What have you been creating lately? (Songs, jewelry, photography, a garden, delicious meals…) How does creating that particular thing feed you?
    nothing really other than organizing and coordinating – not exciting or inspiring but work that must be done

    4. What have you been wondering about lately—either with excitement or worry? (The future? Your vocation? Faith, or questions about God?)

    School applications for 2012/13 middle school ! Due in Fall. ridiculous.

  • Jennifer

    Oof. I want to reply. But what I want more is an afternoon on your porch, with you, sipping limeade and feeling the breeze. Letting our conversation web like scattered seeds. Can we do that?

  • Raquel

    Let me add that the 4th question’s answer should have been:

    I have been thinking a lot about motherhood. What one does for one’s child, what one willingly puts aside/ on hold for one’s child. A conversation about Tiger Mothers on another forum got me thinking about the balance of pressure & rest, nature & nurture — the comparisons & high jumps we put on ourselves. Are we (am I ) giving our children the skills to have a meaningful , fulfilling, comfortable (money in bank vs check to check) life? Or is it not up to us at all?

  • Nicola

    Hi Kristin! Thanks for making me think about my answers to these questions and whether or not they reflect what I want & need to be doing! Here goes:

    1. Reading – I seem to be in a small, non-book phase (unusual for me) and have been reading blogs, magazines (such a guilty pleasure!), and skimming practical books such as New Rules for Lifting for Women (trying to convince myself to strength train instead of just run, run, running all the time). Life has been so hectic that I haven’t been able to focus on an actual book, but looking forward to doing so now that my family is leaving me alone at home for 18 days! I’ve got some great suggestions here!

    2. Writing – all my writing is focused on my free-lance work and job search. No time for pleasure writing and I’m missing it, even though I only started the habit last fall. But, I decided that this year has to be more about professional exploration, and I definitely don’t have time to do it all! So, the half-written novel and drafts of children’s books sit, bereft of my attention. Maybe they’re happier being left alone? It will be interesting to see if I can go back to them in a meaningful way after this break!

    3. Creating – I’m trying to create a vibrant, exciting life for me and my family. 2011 has been dubbed the “Year of Doing Something Different” and so far, we are achieving it! After settling in Portland, OR 4 years ago, I felt like we’d gotten too settled in our routines, so we’re all seeking out new things to do, individually and as a family. It’s been fantastic! I have been keeping track of the things we’re doing which is really important – I’ve been surprised and amazed each time I look at our growing list. It’s interesting how your brain assimilates things quickly; I tend to forget how many new experiences we’ve had together…

    4. Wondering – I’m always wondering and ruminating about things – issues both large and small. What is the nature of life? How do you have the right balance as a mom/wife/individual? What is most important for our children? Should I start my own business? Why is the educational system in Oregon so messed up and what can I do about it? What should be our strategy for buying a home in this expensive city? How can I have more flexibility in my job without sacrificing financial “security”? Should I buy a road bike so I can do a triathlon without having to do it on my 12-year-old, steel framed, hybrid mountain bike? Is the cost justifiable for someone who will only do 2-3 small triathlons each year? Maybe I should just stick with running? I’ve actually decided that I should stop wondering so much and practice just being a little more. So, more yoga and maybe a small meditation practice are in order. It starts tomorrow when J & A leave!

    I hope you have a wonderful summer!

  • Nicola

    Sorry about that long, long post. Too much coffee this morning!

  • Jen

    Welcome back! I thought things were slow around here….
    I am totally feeling the wall too. Sometimes you just need something like this to regroup. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll steal this idea for my next slump. :)

    Answers for you!
    1) Reading: Online, I’m really enjoying sifting through these posts on creative block by Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Cunningham, our friend Ed in comment #1, and others. How timely is that!
    In books, I’m reading Fiddler’s Green by A.S. Peterson. SO good, even if you think you won’t like historical fiction. It has knights and pirates and an awesome, deep heroine at the center. It’s also the first book I’ve read in a while that captured me in a “can’t put it down way.” Downside is that it really eats into my writing time, but that’s a good problem to have, I think.

    2) Writing: There are many things bouncing around in my mind… it’s hard to focus on one. Trying to get my head around a music review that’s eluding me (first time reviewing an instrumental record. It’s a challenge.) Blogging has been nothing substantial lately… but I’m trying!

    3) Creating: Actually learning to write songs with my church’s worship leader! He’s the musician; I’m focusing on lyrics. Our goal is to write church music and pop-punk songs about Star Wars. (seriously.)

    4) Wondering: Very preoccupied with the future lately. I’m content with my job and am excited about opportunities opening up both there and in writing, but I’m feeling very restless with where I live. (Your community post was timelier than you know… I just havent commented yet because it would be an epic novel.) On the other hand, big changes like moving scare me. Thinking a lot of feeling caught in the middle and longing to fully put roots somewhere. Oh! There’s a blog post…

    Whew! That’s kind of an epic novel there. Thanks for opening the door! I hope you find your center and writing groove again soon.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    Hey Kristin: just put your feet up on the porch railing and watch the world go by for a while. And Me?

    1). Greg Boyd’s book Present Perfect explores the idea that God created us to live within time. We can only experience his presence in the present moment.

    2). I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to writing: individual spiritual formation, because the world needs disciples of Jesus, not Christians.

    3). I did a flower arrangement last week. The dog ate it.

    4). I officiated a wedding last week, so I’ve been thinking about the whole “marriage supper of the Lamb” imagery in the Scriptures. It’s more than a metaphor: Jesus was a 30-something single guy who watched other people get married. Plenty of single folk should be able to relate. This old married guy, it fills me with anticipation.

    Welcome back, KT.

  • Linda Bullock

    1. Reading – newly discovered authors – Catherine Coulter, James Rollins
    – Books about how the brain works like The Brain That Changes Itself

    2. writing – Right now I’m concentrating on writing a research paper on dyslexia.

    3.Creating – I need to create, but don’t have the time or energy. (have fibro and CFS and I’m raising two of my grandchildren – both special needs) But I need to create. I cross-stitch, scrapbook, garden.

    4. Wondering – Am I doing enough to help my grandchildren? How in the world can I do all the things I want to do – earn my degree (I’m 57), tutor kids, babysit my newest granddaughter (#16), yoga, meditate, create, read, and write?

  • Preston

    Thank you for the opportunity to share. You’ve caught me in the middle of re-centering myself.

    1. Anne Lamott’s “Imperfect Birds.” I got to meet her a few months back and talk to her about writing. I love her language, the way she thinks of people as having tribes and emotional acres, the way she sees people as in recovery. I’m in recovery, from what I’m not always sure, but I understand the language, it roots meet to a place of home. Coupled with Madeleine L’Engle’s “Walking on Water,” which I am reading again for the umpteenth time, staying quiet in the reflections of art and faith and the extraordinary of the everyday.

    2. Lately I’ve been writing about needing to be understood. Not in the demanding way borne out of wanting to be different, but out of the recognition of being in some ways other, of belonging to a different tribe, and trying to explain to someone that my crisis of faith is not with God, but with myself, and that the greatest gift the could give would be to want to understand.

    3. I’ve been creating fiction lately, weekly bits that I have posted on my blog on Mondays. I’m finding a comfort in short stories, a mystery of incarnation within them, a textured thing, alive in and of itself, that I can’t control entirely but shape, carefully, to see where it wants to go within the boarders that I draw around it, wide as they are. It’s teaching me the secrets of my soul. I surprise myself. I’m also baking a lot. More than usual. I’m baking out all the frustration and the questions and the anger with myself. I believe in the liturgical sacrament of baked bread and cookies and I believe that God is as much present in my kitchen as in the sanctuary.

    4. I’ve wondered about me. Is this life atrophied? What is this space that doesn’t doubt God and doesn’t even really, beneath it all, doubt myself? What is this to be outside of rest and yet not passionate? Is this the dark time? Is this forever? How is it that I can know the answers to all of these questions, but I can’t seem to KNOW them? Are the motions enough, at least for now? God I hope so.

  • HopefulLeigh

    That is a heck of a lot of transitions! I hope you can take some time to center, relax, and refresh.

    I cannot rave enough about Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. Absolutely lovely writing, coupled with a more modern Gothic mystery. I could not get enough and can’t wait to read her other 2 books. Right now I’m reading Blood, Bones, and Butter, chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir. The descriptions of food and behind-the-scenes restaurant insights are compelling but it’s the twists and turns of Hamilton’s life that reeled me in. I’ve been reading more YA lit lately: As You Wish (Pearce), Shiver (Stiefvater), and right now Across the Universe (Revis)

    I’m slowing down on the blog right now because I’m about to move it all over to Typepad. This may be the most complicated techy undertaking of my life! But the piece I’m most proud of writing lately is this one reflecting on my grandmother who died 4 years ago:

  • Roxanne

    1. Reading ~ The Sepulchre by Kate Mosse also Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
    2. Writing ~ working on my book, a novel; not blogging as often as I used to
    3. Creating ~ I made my dad a father’s day card this year
    4. Wondering ~ yes, the future … also relationships