Category: Updates

Day 15

Hello friends,

Today marks the end of two full weeks of being at home for us. Our supply of cream for the coffee is running perilously low, I have reminded myself to be brave.

It’s sunny here today. It’s been gray and wet for most of the week but today is bright and breezy, not too cold, not too hot. Walking outside, the birds and green leaves seem to think it’s time for a celebration. When I’ve felt anxious, a few minutes of wind and birdsong have helped. Oh that’s right, life is still out here, just like it’s always been.

Tomorrow, Maggie’s 9th birthday, looks to be rainy again. She requested cod, and tater tots, and brussels sprouts (three sprouts, as the obligatory vegetable) for her birthday dinner. We have no cod so we’ll be having catfish. (She also is learning to be brave.) We will bake a very chocolate cake.

Many highs and lows this week. I’m doing my best to run a very flexible homeschool and simultaneously to assign myself creative work with specific deliverables as a means of giving my mind something to focus on other than refreshing CNN. I’m also in search of paid work and think I have one contract next week for which I am thankful.

The governor of Virginia announced this week that schools will not reopen before the end of this academic year. We will be homeschooling through June. I ate a lot of cookies that day.

Artiste update: I submitted some more poetry to another literary journal, five poems this time, bringing my total number of submitted works up to 14. I also received a rejection letter this week. It was my best rejection letter ever and included these words:

I just wanted to let you know that your submission made it to the final round of decision-making and this decline letter has nothing at all to do with the quality of your writing. In fact, all of your work was fantastic. So, I urge you to please submit again during our next reading period because I would love to read more of your work.

This brings my current totals for the 100 Rejections Project to 14 submissions and 8 rejections, including one of a more encouraging nature. At this rate, I believe I will be able to reach 100 by the end of the year and I’m encouraged to think that mixed in with those 100 will be at least one or two of the other variety.

I’ve also been working more consistently at song writing over the past year. I’ve written four songs in the past few months that I think are pretty good. I’ve gotten some feedback on a few of the songs from other creative types and musicians and I think I’m going to look into working with a producer to move them from rough cut to ‘final’ cut. I’m learning about this now. I’m also trying to figure out a better way to share the rough versions with you, hopefully I will work on a soundcloud channel in the next week or so to make listening easier. I’ve also been learning to use GarageBand. I think the best of the rough cuts so far is this one, called Fortify.

Health report: Dave and I both aren’t feeling great. Sore throat, light head, feverish but no fever. Not sleeping especially well. He reminds me frequently (only because I mention it frequently) that statistically it is highly unlikely that we have Coronavirus. I think he is basing this on the fact that there are 327 million Americans and 100,000 positive cases. So, statistically, the chances of us being one of the next 100,000 is not high. His science-talk has often had a calming effect on me in the past. Now it seems that only handfuls of hickory-smoked almonds can bring momentary calm. Or time away from the devices and especially the news.

Provisioning update: I’ve been trying to buy some groceries for delivery. This has been complicated and increased my anxiety. This morning I ordered a dozen bags of dried beans directly from Camellia Beans (a New Orleans favorite, since 1923). Dried beans last for about two years, and we love red beans and rice so I got red beans, limas, black-eyed peas, lentils, and pintos.

We are trying to go to the store one time per week for things like milk (and cream) and meat and veggies. By “we” I mean Dave because we both feel it is unlikely that one of us will contract the virus without giving it to everyone in the family and we both acknowledge that his level of carefulness well exceeds mine. I am trying to feel complimented that he thinks I’m too nice to keep a safe distance from people. I’m also happy not to have to go to the store.

How to help (?): The medical community, the people at the grocery store, the farmers, the delivery people, the elected officials and the folks at FEMA and the CDC, the police, the military, the inventors, the researchers, Dr. Fauci, we are all relying on a whole heck of a lot of people who are at the front lines of all of this. Please know my mentioning the cream is ironic. I can take a few months without cream. I feel like I want to be more helpful, but I don’t know, other than staying home, other than not hoarding, other than asking older neighbors if they need anything (not that I would necessarily be able to find it for them), I don’t know what else to do to help all of these people.

One more thing / happy closing note: Last week, on Sunday, a boy on my street turned 10. They had been planning a birthday party and it was cancelled. A few neighbors were talking and we had the idea that the houses on the street could put up signs to say happy birthday in our windows and doors and write with sidewalk chalk on our sidewalks or in the street before he woke up that day. His mom told us he likes planes, so everyone went with an airplane theme. I think everyone on my street who was still in town, and everyone on the street behind us, put out homemade signs, drawings of planes, or spaceships, or hot air balloons, wrote in chalk, decorated their doors. And at 10 AM, Owen left his front door and took a tour of the neighborhood. There was no laser tag, no collective dessert buffet, no strobe lights or pulsing overloud music, no petting zoo or themed favors.

The next morning, the day after his birthday, his mom sent a note to our neighborhood text chain. Owen said it was the best birthday he’d ever had. She said he told her: I didn’t know so many people cared about me.

It said a lot to me about what we think we need and what truly feels good. Where happiness comes from. What gives us hope and fills us up.

With lots of love,
Jennifer

Home sweet home

Hi friends,

I hope you are healthy and at least in a stable holding position in the new normal. I was planning to make crawfish étouffée for last night’s dinner. We are trying to consume aged freezer contents first, and the very strong aroma upon opening the bag of crawfish suggested to me that the eight months past the sell-by date was something to take into consideration (Dave having asked me, very specifically, just yesterday afternoon, not to give him food poisoning). Our black bean étouffée was surprisingly good.

I wrote a new song a couple of days ago in response to the current world situation. As with the last song I shared, this is a rough version. Maybe I will figure out how to share more polished versions, for now I am very happy to be able to share this way : )

I’ve also put together a resource page for Life at Home. It seems useful to have various ideas in one place so, since I have a place, I’m collecting info there.

I laugh to think of myself providing any words of wisdom. I was thinking about this yesterday morning at 4:30 AM as I lay there listening to the rain, trying to let it relax me, knowing I would not fall back asleep. I woke up and came downstairs and tried to be quiet. Sam woke up early too and we made homemade apple turnovers because I found some old puff pastry in the freezer and thought the space could be better used for frozen fruit or veggies, assuming we can get some.

In case you are curious, the Jenny Goodguts/Jennifer Hole Homeschool has no curricular expectations. I’ve read and heard people worrying our children will “fall behind” scholastically. God didn’t decree a certain set of academic benchmarks from on high. We set what is “behind.” If every child in the country is home for two months, the expectations are adjustable. I think creating stress about “falling behind” is literally insane at this juncture.

Current mantra: Expectations are adjustable. They are made up. We can change them.

A few notes on cohabitation in a time of global crisis:

I wrote a bunch of other words of wisdom and just erased them. What the heck do I know? I do feel that it’s really important that we try our best to show kindness to the people we are living with right now. That might just be ourself. It might be our spouse and kids. Our parents, some other random people. I know you are stressed, maybe you felt like hysterical crying last night while watching Monsters, Inc. Your cohabitators may be annoying you. They are making bad choices. They are not helping enough. They have germs. Whatever they are doing, do your best (try, I know it can be very hard) to be kind to them. At least civil. Not nice. Not bubbly or romantic or clean. But kind. Acknowledging their humanity also. Meditate. Go for a walk. Ask for help. Call someone. Talk about it. Say what you need. Being unkind is worse for you than for them. And it is worse for all the others around you. You likely feel justified in treating them and yourself this way. But try to find a way through. Or don’t but then you and the people around you will be miserable.

I think we should stop with the child abuse jokes. I think we should have real conversation about what is hard. And what is making us laugh.

I think we need to expect more from our children. Our children, even the little ones, do not need to be entertained and distracted all day long. They need to participate and to be taught how to contribute to taking care of something. They need to understand that in order for a home to work well, or a business, or a community, or a world, that we all participate, that we participate kindly, considerately, without eye rolling, without shouting.

I think about Little House on the Prairie. They had no screens, few books, and pretty much no neighbors. For long periods of each year they sat in that house all together and made it. They had one school book and one slate each (if they were lucky). And the kids were helpful. Yes, they used corporal punishment and yes they believed in a stern, punishing God. But they had to make their own butter. They did not have electricity. No clothes washer. No convenient grocery store. I feel like with all of the conveniences we have, we should be able to figure out how to have the time and energy to raise strong, independent, considerate human beings who don’t think they are the center of the universe.

At the Jenny Goodguts homeschool, we are making sure that we know how to fold and put away our clothes, how to make our own lunch. That we understand that this is a time to be helpful, and that being helpful is caring for others. That we are staying in our own home to keep others safe. That we are thankful for the food we have to eat, whether we like it or not, because not everyone has food. And that we talk about ways we can help those without food.

The (current version of the) Jennifer Hole/Jenny Goodguts/Ingalls-Inspired Corona Parenting Plan

  1. Children are given a list of daily chores which they are expected to complete. These chores alternate between children on a weekly basis.
  2. Homeschool “requirements”: I am looking for things my kids can do that require less supervision and that are less screen intensive and don’t require me to figure out a lot of frustrating (and frequently slow) technology. Bird watching lists, book writing, journal keeping, reading good books, practicing an instrument (I’m teaching Sam to play piano). These take a lot of time (for them, and less for me) and teach some of the same things they are working on at school. I will use what the teachers are sending when it is helpful and not too technologically challenging for me and I am limiting the amount of time Maggie spends remotely learning via a computer. (So far even this approach has been a pretty full-time job.)
  3. Children are given free time to entertain themselves.
  4. Children may continue to have free time (screen-free) for as long as they are able to play quietly. Arguing with one another leads to
  5. one question: it seems like it might be time for a job? lack of acquiescence or other non-desirable behavior leads to
  6. Job time! I have a list of jobs they know how to do (different from the chores listed as their responsibility which should already be completed): dusting, washing surfaces, cleaning baseboards, washing floors, bringing down/folding laundry, sweeping patios or walkways, carrying things to the basement. I usually start by assigning one job and if someone complains it becomes 2 (and so on and so forth). Each job is relatively simple usually, 5 mins or less. Good reset, I ask if they are ready to have free time again. Yes? Back to free time.
  7. My other secret weapon is separation. Child 1 is assigned to one room, Child 2 to another. If you can play quietly, you can play. Otherwise, jobs it is.
  8. Children are served breakfast and dinner according to my schedule, I plan it, they eat it (no choice given about options but i know what they like and try to balance it so no meal is wholly abhorrent). We also have a regular and long-standing breakfast schedule because I got tired of complaints (four years ago). M-F breakfast is consistent week to week. Lunch they make themselves but they tell me a plan in advance: one fruit, one veggie, one protein, one starch and then we can be flexible but no sugar. If they eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a reasonable amount of time, without complaining (I unofficially allow one small complaint and a reminder), there is dessert available, the only sweet of the day, and sometimes dessert is plain yogurt with fruit. Or fruit alone. But right now we are being a little more loose with post-dinner dessert. (We made carrot cake for Sam’s birthday.)
  9. If children make it through the day being helpful and doing what they are asked without rolling their eyes or being otherwise disrespectful, if they complete all of their Life Skills training, they receive ONE ticket for the day (again, i try to help them get the ticket every day, i give a small reminder if i anticipate they might be about to grump at me: not a threat, a reminder, “you’ve done a great job today and I really want you to get your ticket for the day so please make sure you are thinking about your answer, do you need a minute?”). Three tickets = 30 minutes of video games. We also have video games on Friday nights. And we use movies as we need or want to, but have only watched two so far.

Will my children be scarred by my system? Maybe there will be a memoir. I don’t know. Why am I sharing this? Because I think it is perfect or amazing? Not really. Am I totally consistent? No. Do the kids get excited earning that one measly ticket for a whole day of good behavior that translates into 10 minutes of game time. Yes, shockingly they really love the tickets. I have to do a lot of overseeing the chores, and the jobs, but we have to start somewhere. So this is what we are trying today. It’s evolving. They seem pretty happy and healthy so I’ll take that as a good sign.

I send thanks and prayers out for all of the folks out of their homes right now, working in the wide world to protect the rest of us and provide us with the necessities of life. I am fortunate to be sitting here comfortably able to type these words to you. Dave built me a new garden bed yesterday. Today we planted tomatoes, peppers, basil, spinach, kale, calendula, parsley, sunflowers, watermelons (Sam’s choice), beets — that’s what I can remember. They were seeds we had left over from prior years so hopefully some of them will come up. I would also like to get some thumbelina zinnias. I also love poppies but they never grow here.

Warm wishes and love to you all. Take good care, wash your hands, and I will write again soon.

Notes to myself

I am not in control. I am a part of the flow of life. I don’t know what will happen. I can do my best.

I can be brave. That doesn’t mean I’m not afraid, it means that I have faith in something hidden inside and around me. I will do the things that need to be done when they need doing.

I remind myself to let go of expectations of what I can achieve, my normal obligations that usually feel non-negotiable. Today, all obligations are negotiable.

The children are confused. They feel our energy. Breathe. Slow down. Look at their faces and show them patience and care. For them, for ourselves, for others. Answer their questions.

Cry, if you can. Laugh, maybe even better. Call someone. Read poetry or prayer. Connect to someone real.

Walk outside. Look at the plants coming back to life after winter, celebrating their part in all that exists. We are a part of all that exists. This season will pass just like winter has. And like winter, it will be dark first.

There is more health than disease. More vitality than fear. The sun shines and pulls life to itself out of the crust of our Earth. We are connected to that pull, we are part of that beauty. We can nurture it and celebrate it together. We can practice now.

Protect others. Stay at home and keep the children at home, before being compelled. Offer help. Use only what you need. See if you can need less and share more.

Today this is my real life. I can choose to live this day, in its realness, the best way I can.

How?

In thankfulness for the food in my cabinets, donate to feed those who are and will be hungry (right now, and later). Shop small and support local businesses.

In preparation for days alone, teach my parents to use Skype. Organize a Zoom call with my friends, learn how to connect, together.

Stay strong. Eat healthy food, do not drown your fear in cookies and scotch.

Teach the children resilience, help them learn their strength. Treat them with compassion, but expect more. It is good for them to learn to help. You are a parent, that is part of your job.

Simplify. Do not have things around that produce anxiety. And you might as well clean the oven.

Think about this day, and the next one. What could make it beautiful?

Plant seeds, play music, teach love, donate food, share, make, nurture, nourish, love.

Our brave new world

Hi my friends,

Today was a gorgeous spring morning. The forsythia are blooming, and those purple magnolia trees, some cherry blossoms, daffodils. I’m pretty sure I saw a tufted titmouse at the bird feeder (they are my favorite) — he looked on the small side though and my resident expert was not at hand to confirm or deny the sighting. There was a bit of rain Thursday night which gave everything a bit of extra spring-i-ness.

My children are home from school starting yesterday through April 6. Sam is working on a book of mazes. Maggie is sitting at the piano trying to figure out a new song. Dave went to work yesterday but will work remotely for the rest of the month.

On Thursday I went to the grocery store around noon, after refreshing CNN compulsively for two hours. What did I buy? Four onions, a bag of carrots, two loaves of bread, a bag of frozen cherries, four frozen mac + cheeses, a bag of bagels, one piece of frozen catfish and some broccoli. Six cans of tomato sauce because they were on sale. Some pasta (two bags). A bag of flour. I had no idea what I was doing, assessing my cart it seemed these were not the foodstuffs for an emergency.

I finished some paid editing work in the afternoon. I have no more work on deck. It seems unlikely that anyone will require my services in the current climate. Which means I have more flexibility to take care of the kids. It also means I won’t be earning any money.

I have a friend who waits tables for his livelihood. There are many fewer people dining out and he is paid in tips. He mentioned that he will be able to use credit for a while to cover life expenses. As long as the restaurant reopens… As long as he doesn’t get sick…

I have been trying to figure out a way to use this situation “for good.”

I’ve been thinking about how to be most helpful, other than keeping two hygienically challenged vectors of disease 6 feet away from anyone over the age of 20 (well, really from anyone).
 
I know local businesses will struggle. I purchased two books from a local bookshop I love today. We bought bagels from a small local shop and I left an exorbitant tip (it was only two dollars but at least a 30% tip on what we had purchased). These seem like strange measures to take in the face of a global pandemic.

I’m not allowed to donate blood (I haven’t been allowed because of the places I’ve been but maybe it has been long enough). I know that blood donation is desperately needed right now (I learned this while binge-watching the CNN live updates on the web) but I’m not sure where I would go to make a donation even if my blood is now acceptable. Also, what if it turns out I’m sick?

I know the WHO is requesting donations from governments, businesses and individuals to be able to maintain their work around the world to meet the crisis. I don’t know what is going to happen in countries without good healthcare infrastructure as the virus spreads.

And I have at least three weeks of together time with my kids so I’ve been thinking about how to make the most positive use of that time.
One of the books I ordered was Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (book one in the trilogy). We read The Hobbit last fall and I figured now was a time when we could stay up a bit later to read without too much of a problem. The children practiced making their own lunch today. I’ve thought about projects we could do at home, spring cleaning, or clutter clearing. I’ve thought about yard projects: I’ve wanted to make the yard into a wildlife refuge or a bird-friendly habitat or something along those lines. Now would be a good time to do the research. I’ve thought about making things with the kids, writing a book together, teaching them how to sing harmony or ?

My neighbors have been talking about playdates and vodka. I have wondered, how much distancing does social distancing require? And the vodka thing, I don’t know. I can see the draw, but I also feel that we need to take care of ourselves, to be strong. (Today I read an article about social distancing which confirmed my suspicion. Its titled Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day.)

In terms of resources, my neighbor (thank you Bette!) sent a list of education companies offering free subscriptions during school closings. And something called GoNoodle which is videos about movement and mindfulness for kids (could come in handy). She also sent a ‘day at home’ schedule that was helpful (I’m not going to post it here because I don’t have the source, but if you want it, write and I’ll forward it).

Another friend sent a quote on the training and education of children in the arts, crafts and sciences:

Be ye in that land vanguards of the perfections of humankind; carry forward the various branches of knowledge, be active and progressive in the field of inventions and the arts. … Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art.

Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha’

I really liked it. The kids and I did some Headspace meditations specifically for kids yesterday. They literally begged for more at the conclusion of each one. They said it was because they like Andy’s voice but I wonder if that’s all. So we will be practicing some family meditation.

I’m trying to think of how I can use this forced slow down, this time of not knowing, to move towards good. Not to tread water, not to wait holding my breath. To use the time to consider, to grow, to heal, to help, to connect. I’m thinking about all of the tools we each have now for connecting and for creating. I’m thinking about ways I can help, today, and in what comes next. And I’m thinking about the world as it will be, as we can make it.

I’m planning to write more, to share more with you over the next while. It will give me something to put my mind towards that feels nourishing, and I hope I can share something of use. I am always nervous to write, that readers won’t like it, but I’m going to try to write more often, with more openness and even less perfectionism. It will be an experiment!

I hope you are well, please take good care of yourselves and try to find ways to interact with others (Facetime, Skype, Zoom) and keep your spirits up — I will be sharing ideas for ways to do that here. I spent a lot of time in my yard today which helped to get me away from the news and checking one thing and then another. I would also recommend reading a great book, like E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat (my constant recommendation) to remember that people have been through so much and have behaved so beautifully towards one another in very hard times.

Here’s to being a force for good : )

love,
Jennifer

March madness

Hi friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you about the progress of my life as an artiste. There is progress to report! Here it is:

COVID-19: I purchased a small cache of additional groceries yesterday, mostly peanut butter and black beans, just to be on the safe side (yes, I felt like a prepper at the store) and watched an interview with Anthony Fauci (Director of Infectious Disease at the NIH) that I thought was very good about the current state of the situation. Listening to Dr. Fauci, I noted that I’ve missed hearing intelligent people provide information about subjects in which they hold advanced knowledge.

What’s up with me, why so few posts lately? The good news is that I’ve had more paid writing work, a lucky coincidence since it looks like all of the trees around our house have died from insect infestation. So, more paid work = essential. The very exciting thing about this is that while my paid work used to be mostly editing, now it is mostly writing and this shift has come as a direct result of publishing my book. A clear example of some inspirational quote or other about when you take action to tell the universe what you are ready for the universe will help meet you, not halfway, but if you take a number of steps, the universe will take at least one or two.

I’ve had a few pieces of writing published recently, but not in my own name. I had one article published on a major site but as I ghostwrote the piece for a lovely young woman whose face is next to my words I’m sure there is some legal barrier to my sharing the link with you. I could probably link to an “interesting article” and (wink wink) you could make the connection, but I won’t because I would like more work from the company that hired me to write it ; )

I’ve been doing a lot of writing related to satellites orbiting the Earth, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and how the intersection of these can help save the world. These are subjects that I would never in a million years have chosen to learn about on my own. In fact, they are subjects that I am quite nervous about. The work has been interesting — AND it makes for excellent research for a novel, I’m having lots of ideas. I’ve also done some writing work for a website to go along with a documentary series called Asian Americans, an opportunity that provided me with a three-week crash course in Asian American history. I was very thankful for the chance to do that work — I learned so much. I had many thoughts, especially about Cambodia, but those thoughts are for sharing on another day.

And what is happening on the artiste front? SO MUCH.

I wrote a new song last week, you can listen here:

I recorded a kitchen video of a different song, you can watch it here:

I submitted five pieces of writing to different pubs this week and I have a few more on deck. I can’t share those with you or they would count as published already but the update on my 100 Rejections Project is here. I’ve now submitted 9 pieces, had 4 rejections, it definitely isn’t going to take four years to get to 100.

The Stuffed Project is moving forward while taking a detour from the original plan. The idea is still for this to be the next book. The timeline is unclear but the work is progressing.

I’ve organized all of my writing (well, a lot of it). I’ve re-read the novel, it is not good. But it has a lot of goodness in it.

Two things I’ve tried lately that have been helpful:

A request: If you have read my book and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a short review on Amazon. Thank you ; )

A note: I received a lot of positive feedback for sugar babies and several folks wrote to ask if they could share it with others. Thank you!!! Please feel free to share anything I’ve written here with anyone you want! That’s one reason I’m writing it : )

So that’s the update for today. Currently not much is happening with the Rise and Fall book but I do still hope to record it as an audiobook — I just don’t know how or where, and of course there is the question of time and money… I have been invited to do two book readings, those were so much fun so I’m thinking about ways to do more.

I hope you are doing very well, keeping healthy, and ready for the start of spring. Thank you, as always, for your encouragement and support.

with love from Virginia,
Jennifer


My first book, The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts, is available for purchase. You can learn more about my current work, including The Stuffed Project, or subscribe to the blog to get new posts directly in your inbox.

Authorhood

Hello again!

School is in full swing, the sky is September blue, it’s time for an update, and so I shall.

I have submitted four pieces of writing for publication since beginning the 100 Rejections Project. Well under the two-per-month hoped for, but four more than I’d ever submitted before. As of Friday, August 16th, I’ve received four rejections. Yes, I chose to submit to publications that were very unlikely to accept my work. Those first submissions were more like a signal to the universe that I wanted to try and that I had aspirations. OK universe, I sent the signal. Now it’s time to find some more likely homes for my work.

Well what do you know, I already made a home for some of my work! Right here! I haven’t shared any poems so far because a posted poem (even on a little-read blog) is considered published and can no longer be submitted. Ah, but you can post a draft. So that’s what I’ve done. Details below.

As usual, a variety of circumstances or events have thrown my equilibrium (if you’ve been reading this blog you may find it funny to see the word “my” and “equilibrium” in close proximity. I think I’m more like a game of Jenga. And sometimes the pieces fall. And if you know that the whole point is to enjoy playing, when the pieces fall you can throw your hands up in the air, make some kind of loud noise, gather the blocks back into order, and start again): there is publishing the book, there is the experience of playing music with and for others, there was summer break, and there are home repairs and (thankfully) paid work.

I’ve been playing music as much as I can and writing more songs. I’m going to share some of them on the blog. I know that wasn’t the plan. I don’t know if it is a distraction. But I do know that when I feel like doing something that isn’t so good for me (mindless iPad games, for example) if instead I allow myself to sit down at the piano, when that hour passes I am in a way better place. It’s a healthier way to deal with wanting to change your feelings.

Change your feelings? Why would you need to do that? Publishing an unplanned and very personal book about yourself and sharing it with everyone you know, in case you are considering this option, is emotionally a little rough. Terrifying might not be too strong a word.

But time has passed, two beautiful friends have arranged for me to read from my book in front of groups of people, that has been very encouraging and helped me to feel more peaceful about the whole thing. Many people have been encouraging. And now it is time to keep working.

“Find the comfort in the rhythm of commitment.” I wrote this down from my 2019 Danielle Laporte “Desire Map” Weekly Planner and it has lately been useful to me. I said I was going to write Stuffed so I’m going to finish it. It might take a while and I’m not going to turn off the faucet when a poem shows up and I’m going to play music and write songs and share those too. And there is (thankfully) my paid work and being a mom/wife/friend/sister/daughter. So as usual I will write when I can and I will try to keep the blocks balanced and not have to start again, as life and my own nature allow.

I’m writing an artist manifesto. I will share it when it is done. In the meantime, two passages from my manifesto notes:

May the accumulated wealth of our spirit continue to grow among us, so that each of us may enter, and be revived by, a vitality beyond his or her solitary powers.

— Lewis Hyde, The Gift

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and land.

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth,
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass

I have read three amazing books lately. After I received the letter, in August, indicating that my two poems, while appreciated, had not yet found a home, I went to the library and checked out Red Bird by Mary Oliver which I read in one sitting and then twice more over the course of a week (it is a thin book of poetry, in case you are not familiar with Mary Oliver). Reading her words, I felt so un-alone and so much awe for the human spirit. While reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates I did not come to all of the same conclusions as Mr. Coates, but I found his writing to be beautiful and moving and challenging. I learned from and appreciated the stories he shared and I think it is a helpful, an important, book to read and consider dealing with race in America. It certainly expanded my perspective and I feel has changed my thinking and behavior. Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg I think will change/has changed my life. If you aspire to write, to communicate, I think it is worth the two hours it will take to read. I also started reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman for the first time ever. I don’t know how this can be true, but it is. Something I loved:

TO A CERTAIN CANTATRICE

Here, take this gift,
I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the progress and freedom of the race,
Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.

— Walt Whitman, “Inscriptions,” Leaves of Grass

Some “big news” is that the Adventures with Jenny Goodguts blog will soon be no more. What? How will you handle not getting a sporadic blog post from me whenever I feel like it?? Not to worry. I am moving the whole she-bang over to a soon-to-be newly designed site at jenniferhole.com. I’m torn about it. I love Jenny Goodguts. But functionally for me this will be better, and I think it will make it easier to share more frequently, easier to organize, more appealing to read, and so on. I don’t know. It is what I’m doing and it will be great. SO, I’ll be adding some poems to that site and they can be found here (there are two there now, somewhat randomly selected but one is related to The Stuffed Project).

I am also going to add new songs here. The song I have already shared (the Dear God song), as well as the mom opera which I am frankly embarrassed to mention, and the first ever video from five years ago are all up on that site. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. I was hoping you wouldn’t find them but they exist and they are, for the time being, still there.

That feels like enough updating for one day. I am committed to finding my way as an artiste. I feel that the universe is looking favorably upon my effort and that friends and ideas appear to help me on my way. At least I feel that way today.

It can strike me as insincere when some email blast from a smiling, perfectly coiffed blogista is signed “love,” but that’s how I feel so…

with love from my little desk,
Jennifer

Book one is done

Hello friends — happy springtime!!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted and there is news to report:

A1 TOP PIECE OF NEWS: I have finished the book. Not the novel, but the other book (The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts). It has a gorgeous cover that I will share any day now. I predict it will be available for purchase in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! First I have to review a proof copy, so it is possible that could slow things down a tiny bit, but not much. I feel terrified and excited and proud.

SECOND MOST EXCITING NEWS: I am in a band! We are discussing our name tonight. We have a two-hour show on April 24th at the Evening Star. Our first one. I’ll be performing music live for an audience for the first time since before the kids were born (and long before that). It feels amazing to make live music with other people. I’ve missed it so much.

Local wildlife report: There are two pairs of goldfinches sitting outside of my window right now, hanging out in the blooming dogwood. We also have a resident fox who sits on a log outside my window.

100 Rejections: I have received my first rejection (the first one within the scope of this project, that is). It was from The Sun, not The New Yorker. I am very glad they rejected the piece as now I have had the chance to significantly improve it. I haven’t submitted anything else recently because of trying to finish the book so I’m sitting at 4 total submissions, 1 rejection, no publication.

I’ve started a separate list to track the things I ask for where rejection is possible but that are not a submission of writing for publication. I sent a letter to the literary estate of E.B. White asking to include a quote of his in my book. And I also applied to join The Author’s Guild as an “Emerging Writer.” There was an actual application and you had to answer questions about your plans and publications. You pay a fee to join, so I imagine they are somewhat lenient in expectations in my particular category, but I got in! I’m officially, as of March 7, 2019, a member of The Authors Guild. I have a membership card and everything.

It’s official!

The Stuffed Project is still underway with numerous almost shareable thoughts particularly about Valentine’s Day and the various cultural practices by which we commemorate the births of our children.

Last thing for today, below is the conclusion or final chapter of the upcoming book:

The end of book the first

April 2, 2019

Four years ago I walked outside to buy a sandwich to eat at my desk in my windowless office. Not pregnant, I was wearing maternity pants although my son, my youngest child, was almost two years old. When I arrived back to my desk, I wrote a few paragraphs, my own thoughts that, for once, insisted on taking form.

Today, I’m sitting at home. I ate lunch, some reheated leftovers, hastily at my desk where I can see the buds on the dogwood outside of my window, almost ready to open. I’m wearing my hoody sweatshirt and sweatpants, the same ones depicted on the front cover of this book. The sun is shining.

Nothing has changed. 

I’m not a published author. I haven’t finished a novel. I haven’t figured out a master plan, I haven’t found a pot of money, I still feel scared every time I share my words.

Everything has changed. 

I have allowed space, I have listened, I have asked for help, I have studied, I have done what scares me anyway, I have sat uncomfortably and waited, I have practiced, and I have learned. 

Later this month I am singing, I have a two-hour show at a local bar with a band. We practice every week on Tuesdays after the kids are in bed. 

I’ve submitted my writing and received my first rejection. I am practicing every day. 

I’m trying to love the world that is. I’m trying not to hide.

I see that I was confused by the certificates. I thought I needed permission. I thought approval provided some guarantee.

This book, the one you are reading that is now at its end, was not the plan. Having read this far, you won’t be surprised to know that there wasn’t a plan. But compiling and publishing all of this introspection was not what I would have imagined as my first big splash (or tiny ripple) into the world of letters. 

If I had not lost (most of) the novel, things would be different. But I did lose it. And that led me to a sad but resolute place. And that led to a conversation with my husband about finishing things. And that led to a decision to finish something. And that led to telling a lot of people I was going to publish this book. And that led to revisiting all of these words, and considering them as a whole. And that led to a few minor revelations. And that led to more conversations and questions about why I had not yet taken action to share my writing in the usual ways. And that led to exploring the usual ways to share writing, and to submitting my work for publication, and to more writing, and reading, and waiting, and learning. I believe the novel will be better for all of this. I hope, one day, to say many useful things beautifully and with humor.

But now here I am, with a book all about myself, ready to share with any living human who decides to open the cover.

I can tell you, that’s a scary place to be. 

This is why people write novels. And fiction. And non-fiction about things other than themselves. This is why diaries are published when people are dead and why memoirs are told in hindsight, sharing what you want to share, rather than your often tortured and sometimes embarrassing inner thoughts.

But its done. This is what I have made, what I’ve finished. So now it is time to share it. Time to place my intention in the vast ocean of possibility and allow the universe to work through me.

And then I will be ready to make what is next.