My 500 Words–End of Year Experience (A Bloghop Post)

My 500 Words First Year

I joined the My 500 Words group (link 1, link 2) almost as soon as I heard about it. I was sitting in a dining room in Prescott, Arizona—an uncomfortable dining room, a dining room of questionable welcome.  I didn’t know if I would find welcome in My 500 Words, but I was excited about the challenge.  Jeff Goins added me right away (thank you, Jeff).

One other friend, Tonia—a two-months friend but already close as a sister—joined up with me.   Over the course of this year, her encouragement and leadership and example of going from dipping her toe in the water to full, open hospitality and engagement have taught me much.

I met other friends here—true friends, not just Facebook “friends”—along the way.  I have traveled to other cities and states and countries to meet some of them.  I have derived a broader, deeper writer network through this group.  I have watched people in every state of writing development face their demons and wrestle with themselves in the dark.

I wrestled, too…with myself, with the angel on the riverbank.

I didn’t write every day.  In fact, I didn’t even write every day for the initial 31-day challenge.  I wrote more than I had written before.  But not every day.

I questioned my own abilities, my commitment.  These My 500 folks rallied behind me.  It was a mutual admiration society, a mutual encouragement society.

I failed at My 500 words.  But I also won…won great riches, in fact—lasting riches.  For “two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

And I’ll do even better this next year.  That’s a fact.


Bloghop:  Some of the fabulous My 500 co-pilgrims may have something to say on the matter…

Linze Brandon at Butterfly on a Broomstick
Vanessa Wright at Humouring the dark
Stella Myers at Stella’s Starshine
Amy Bovaird‪ at Amy’s Adventures
Crystal Thieringer at Muse and Meander
‪Carryl A Robinson‪ at Echoes from the Cave
Becky Williams Waters at A Novel Creation
Laura Hile at For the Love of Storytelling
Tonia Hurst at The Vast and Inscrutable Imponderabilities of Life

May 2015 kick your ass in all of the very best and most wonderful ways!

Follow-up to Asking

In her recent talk in Santa Barbara, Anne Lamott repeated her oft-stated advice:  “Write what you’d love to come upon.

I love this.

I also am frustrated by this.  If what I would love to come upon is answers and all I have is questions, how can I follow her advice?

I guess I’ll just write pieces that ask the questions.


Asking the Way

Ever find those poems that just so strongly resonate with you and your approach to life?  This is one of those for me.

I am told I ask many questions.  It is true; I do.  It is how I make sense of the world.


Asking the Way

by Ko Un, translated by Suji Kwock Kim and Sunja Kim Kwock

You fools who ask what god is
should ask what life is instead.
Find a port where lemon trees bloom.
Ask about places to drink in the port.
Ask about the drinkers.
Ask about the lemon trees.
Ask and ask until nothing’s left to ask.


[I have my friend over at What Now to thank for posting this poem from the most recent issue of Poetry magazine.]


“By now I know the answer’s always in the question.”  –Emily Ann Saliers

Albert_Einstein_passionately curious

November 15, 2014 Tiny Gifts

On Saturday…

I slept in (blissful).

I read most of a magazine (Southern Living, Christmas issue–delicious)…with the promise of a Pat Conroy essay still to be read.

I got a message on Facebook asking me if I was leaving soon (grateful for that message because I had forgotten the event was as early as it was).

Met up with Carolyn, fellow writer and friend (always uplifting)…

Carolyn and I at Beachside Cafe

…and saw Anne Lamott speak and read (always a gift!).

Anne waits to speak     Anne Speaks 1

Anne Speaks 2     Anne sips water


Signed Anne Lamott book


And now I have an awesome book to read.  Yay!

November 11, 12, 13, 14, 2014 Tiny Gifts

Nov. 11, San Francisco–Beautiful coastline, gorgeous drive, bridges and sun peeks and 30 seconds of magic rain, breakfast with friends, awesome best friend time, flight home only an hour long.

Nov. 12, Orange County–My students read their Gothic short stories aloud, and some of them have more impressive control of tone and mood and story elements than I at first suspected.  God, I get so proud of them!  Chiropractor appointment after many flights and awkward baggage-schlepping.

Nov. 13, Orange County–My dad’s and late great-grandma’s birthdays (celebrated deferred, since he was gallivanting in Yosemite); tomorrow’s Friday (LOL); a heavy mist (which in SoCal counts as rain) was happening as I went upstairs to bed.

Nov. 14, Orange County–Umm…it’s Friday.  Heh.









November 7, 8, 9, 10, 2014 Tiny Gifts

Despite not posting, I have still been practicing gratitude in the form of noting the gifts each day has rendered.

11/7 Gift:  Took the day off.  Slept in a little.  Finished laundry and packing.  Parking and flight arrangements went off without a hitch.  Saw a wicked pink sunset and brilliant bright moon through the plane window.  Got picked up at the airport by a friend I hadn’t met in person yet, and we had a blast drinking good scotch and talking until the wee sma’s.


11/8 Gift:  The view of the Colorado Rockies from my hotel window in the morning.  Sleeping in and a rare hot bath/soak.  Writing in the sunny hotel lobby.  Rich conversation and dinner and prayer with dear and godly friends.

DSC_0194      in the lobby 2

11/9 Gift:  Sleeping in.  Room service breakfast–a luxury.  Reading and writing.  The Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens–wow!–and a phenomenal used bookstore, the Tattered Cover, with a friend.




flannery oconnor prevented by teacher

Magnet, seen at bookstore.  Funny, misspelling of O’Connor’s name notwithstanding.

11/10 Gift:  Despite the early rising (in a different time zone, no less), and despite the gusting wind that rattled and shook the three-hours-delayed plane as it sat in the gate due to fog in SFO, and despite the fact that I didn’t get coffee until after having been awake for several hours…

…the sunrise was magnificent, casting a pink shade above the Rockies; and I got to see tumbleweeds roll across the tarmac, making me feel my Western roots; and we took off before the snowstorm hit; and the predicted bumpy ride was mild, as turbulent plane rides go; and I worked on an essay on the plane; and we landed at our destination without incident; and I get to spend a day with my best friend.

It’s all good.

November 5, 2014 Tiny Gifts

Today I am grateful for  parents.  Not mine (although I am, but that’s not who I’m writing about tonight).  Students’ parents.  That’s right–a teacher just said she was grateful for her students’ parents.  Today I conducted parent learning walks at my school, which means that, across the morning, I took almost fifteen parents into and out of classrooms to observe what students were doing and to reflect on how parents and teachers can collaborate–parents from home and teachers from school–to help their kids gain the needed skills to be ready for college and career.

These mommas were great.  Despite the slowdown that translation causes, these mommas were game participants.  They enjoyed being in classrooms and seeing what really goes on there; they found examples of the 4 Cs (collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication–all 21st century learning skills); and they left feeling empowered because now they had some ideas (generated by them, not dictated by me or anyone else) about how to talk with their kids and how not to take “I can’t” or “It’s boring” or “I don’t get it” as final answers.

It was an exhausting, last-minute mad dash to put it all together this week, but it was gratifying, and thus I am grateful…wiped out, but grateful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Learning Walk,” by Jacek Yerka


November 4, 2014 Tiny Gifts

Last night, when the wind picked up, promising heat and dryness and itching skin and crunchy nose today, I stepped outside to look at it.  I saw clear air and shiny leaves and the tiniest Pleiades ever…but it was the Pleiades…in Southern California…a rare sight indeed.  I was floored.  And I was grateful.

pleiades_vedder_crop_lightIt’s the tiny things.

The tiny things represent big things.  The tiny accumulate into big.

A lot of crap and exhaustion and stress today.  But…I saw the Pleiades.


tiny-clay-pot   tiny box   tiny letters

November 3, 2014 Tiny Gifts

November 3, 2014

Leftover pizza for lunch.

My beagle’s exuberant wriggling dance when I get home or when her dinner is ready.

A bottle of Session black lager.

Cabernet pot roast and veggies from the pressure cooker last night that just need heating up for dinner.

The smell of baking brownies pervading the house.

The generosity of friends in sharing writing resources.

The fact that teaching helps me learn things better.  Like writing.

tiny-clay-pot  tiny box  tiny letters