Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Small, Medium, and Really Big

Visit me at ARTicles today...we're using small amounts of acrylic medium for BIG gift ideas!

I'll be back here on Thursday with some Usual Content.

So "follow" me on over, if you'd like :)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bits and Pieces

We're still two weeks from the official start of winter, but I'm coming out of hibernation. After a summer of bad gallery run ins I took a three month hiatus from mosaic making.

And I ended up wishing I hadn't. See, as my husband was trolling craigslist one evening, he he stumbled on a post from a gallery owner looking for new artists. Readers who followed the gallery debacle this summer won't be surprised to learn that I wasn't exactly eager to rush a portfolio over for review. But my husband insisted --repeatedly--that I send some pictures, and when that wasn't enough to elicit action, he sicked my daughter on me. So, I assembled some pictures: pots, seahorses, crabs--the usual things you tend to see hanging around here--and a few days later, I got an email inviting me to pop on into the new gallery with whatever I had. Trouble was, due to the hiatus and all, it really wasn't much.

So...I sprung into action. I decided to focus on pots, as that seemed manageable.

And I dug the fruit tray from the back of my hutch, where it had been in hiding since its Summer Smackdown.

The curator at the new gallery loved my tray, but had some great suggestions for mixing things up. So I went home and designed a new "Glitz and Glam" line of shiny things, just in time for the Christmas Show.

And then? I was finally inspired to put together a facebook page for my work. I hope you'll consider visiting me there, in what I hope will become my virtual studio. I'll have pictures, ideas, and links for you as well as savings! Right now, in fact, I'm smack in the middle of a 48 hour sale--stop on by for some last minute gift ideas!

And if that weren't enough? I've finally opened up my ARTicles blog. Nothing here at Running With Letters will change, but ARTicles will give me an outlet to focus more on the creative arts. I hope you'll follow me on over there, too!

And speaking of blogging and coming out of hibernation, it won't be another three weeks until my next post. I've got a lot to share, actually, and it will be coming out here in, well, bits and pieces, over the next few days.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Weeks Ago, and Change

I had a perfect day, three weeks ago and change. Sunny. Mid-seventies. Chance of rain: zero. I was with my husband in the mountains, at a special place we go to get away. The fall colors were beginning to peak. En route to our destination we’d stopped at the bank to drop off the last of the paperwork for a piece of land we’d just put under contract the evening before. We set up camp by a lake. There was cobbler, and coffee, and conversation.

We went into town to pick up a couple items we forgot and wound up wandering into a quirky artist’s studio. Miss Clara extended a wrinkled hand, lightly splotched in oils. She explained that, at “eighty and a half” she’d decided to open up shop. Her grand opening had been just two weeks prior. She served coffee in antique tea cups and told us stories of her art, her family, and her younger years. We listened. We lingered. We were in no rush. The day was ours. We bought a painting.

We sat by the lake, eating pizza and perusing a book of home plans. After a spin on our bikes though a thick forest, we read books in the late afternoon sun. We smiled at texts messages from our kids. They loved us. They missed us. They were safe. Life, in those moments, felt like an endless stretch of clear, blue sky and as tranquil as the still lake water. Smooth sailing, I believe they call it.

Forty eight hours later, we were home. Embedded in that day was a bitter truth that life wasn’t as unfettered as it seemed during those peaceful moments. In fact, it was riddled with questions. Doubts. Uncertainties. I’m intentionally vague for multiple reasons: the first being that I am not ready, or even able, to share my woes in their bare, unveiled form. The second is that the specifics of my admittedly standard-issue troubles really don’t matter: your problems, if laid bare before us, would look very much the same. Chances are, I'd even be humbled by comparison.

In those initial moments of enumerating all the ways my life wasn’t as perfect as I thought it was in those fleeting Mountain Moments, I felt angry. Cheated. Robbed. I remembered a perfect weekend, just prior to my thirty first birthday. Sunny. Clear skies. Crisp fall snap in the air. I walked next to my husband, crunching leaves, meandering through shops, poking through shelves of antique books. A woman played a harp. I awoke on Monday to icy rain and a call with bad medical news. I didn’t know when or even if things would ever feel quite so perfect again.

I recalled a moment in Maine, years later, on vacation with my sister and our families. We’d just finished a campfire meal and an evening of games under a canopy of stars. My sister declared that she was completely, perfectly happy. Thunder boomed from the heavens, as if in response. The skies opened and never closed until we wrung out our wet tents and mildewed accouterments days later.

I considered a different evening, this one at my house, one night just before Thanksgiving. There was pumpkin carving, and laughter, and happy kids and days to enjoy more of the same. My sister declared that she was perfectly, completely happy. As if on cue, my daughter’s pet bird died suddenly, and she took it hard, carrying the remains of her friend around in a sealed box. She asked tough questions like the number of days she was likely to live, so she could count them down to the moment that they’d be reunited in heaven, and various other expressions of grief that generally broke my heart.

It seemed to me, then, that perfect moments were nothing more than a signal of impending doom: a built in early warning system indicating a need to run for cover, perhaps even literally, as the experience in Maine so clearly illustrated. I became convinced that the pinnacle of happiness was simply a lofty height from which to plummet. But then? I considered the gift of those moments. I recognized them for the miracle that they are. And I realized how blessed I really am that in this world of disappointment, disillusionment, and impending disaster, that I had a perfect day, just three weeks ago and change.

Today I'm linking up with Tuesdays Unwrapped, where every Tuesday is an opportunity to celebrate the often overlooked pleasures of ordinary life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Falling

We're deep into the thick of the season I often reference as Hallothanksmas-- you know, that time of year where one can stand on virtually any street corner and witness turkeys cavorting recklessly with elves and reindeer under the watchful gaze of a tardy grim reaper.

I remember the shock I felt the first time I witnessed a retail establishment trimming trees and tinseling halls in late October. These days, it's not uncommon to encounter Yuletide cheer nestled amongst stacks of lunch boxes and college ruled loose leaf on Labor Day.

Here at Running With Letters, I advocate a strict Seasonal Separation policy. I believe that each season should be savored for its own merits for its full duration. Being, as we are, well over a week away from the Fall Finale of feasting and frivolity that is Thanksgiving, it's still full on fall here.

We're still enjoying evenings around our patio fire pit, enjoying chili and chai, and the leaves that are just now beginning to peak. And pumpkins? They're still everywhere. We haven't carved a single one yet--in our house, that's a Thanksgiving tradition.

What's your policy? Do Christmas decorations go up before Thanksgiving, or after?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shedding Light on the Darkroom

I am, by nature, a solar powered creature of sun and light. Which makes the fact that I selected a fall hobby centered in a windowless room of pitch black darkness rather ironic. In truth, my enrollment in a black and white darkroom course was actually a mistake; I thought I signed up for digital photography, and even dropped the class during a period of indecisiveness early in the semester.

My decision to stay in the course was based on my assessment that it was an opportunity to have a rare encounter with a dying art. I got a taste of darkroom photography 8 years ago, and I wanted to have a chance to learn the process enough to do on my own, if I were to choose to pursue it one day. For the most part, I am glad I stayed with it, although the trade off of having less time to write is beginning to wear thin. I’ve invested all of the writing time I’ve had into work I’ve submitted to various publications, and I’m missing my blog.

Since my enrollment in the darkroom class has caused me to go, well, dark, on the blog, and since it occurred to me that a significant percentage of my readership may never have set foot in a darkroom, I thought I’d give a sneak peek at what I’ve been up to.

Darkroom work involves two separate chemical processes: developing film and making prints. Developing film—and, I should clarify that by “film” I mean professional T-Max Black and White 100 or 400 speed Kodak—involves everything you see pictured below:

It also involves five chemicals, an equal number of graduated measuring containers and a timer. But talking chemistry is a little premature because we haven’t even addressed getting the film out of the metal canister in which it’s rolled. That process requires a bottle opener, a pair of scissors, a reel, and a whole lot of patience. Anyone who has ever used film is aware of the fact that it is “erased” upon contact with light. Therefore, the film has to be transferred from its metal sheath and threaded onto the reel in complete darkness. The amount of time this takes can vary from a few minutes to infinity, depending on—but not limited to—factors varying from experience, luck, and type of reel.

Did I mention type of reel? Because it’s a pretty big factor. The reel on the right came free with the tank you see pictured above. It’s basically useless. The reel on the left? That beauty cost $20.00, and unless you find yourself in a situation where you’re being paid by the hour to roll film (in which case you’d find a secure daily wage in the right hand reel) this is one case where you don’t want to scrimp. See that wimpy wire clip across the middle of the right reel? Imagine having to pinch that clip with just the right amount of pressure in just the right spot to lift it just enough to catch and secure the tail of the film strip you’ve just pried from its canister. Keeping in mind, of course, that we’re in utter darkness. Lefty there is designed a bit differently, with two little pegs that hook into the notches that run along the side of the film. The goal is to thread the film along the ridges in the reel, without any part of the film touching itself. You either get it right or you don’t and you won’t really know until the chemical process is over and you have either a viable negative or a purple strip of crispy celluloid. So you just give it your best shot and then pop the reel in your light tight tank and hope for the best.

The chemical process is semi-stressful, partly because you know that if you didn’t thread your film properly, everything you’re about to do is a waste of time, and partly because you have to be watching the clock like a hawk. The lid of the tank is designed to allow fluids to be poured in and out without exposing the film, so the chemical processing can be done in the light. The first chemical is the developer, and depending on a number of factors, it’s in the tank between 9-12.5 minutes, during which you are agitating the tank in a slow hand-to-hand inversion for 5 seconds out of every 30. Four more chemicals will enter and depart the tank before the Big Reveal, each with their own time and agitation requirements, and each needing to be dumped out in its own vat, trough, or drain. You’re counting. You’re consulting your notes, repeating instructions to yourself. You’re focused.

Assuming the above process renders usable negatives, you’re ready to go back in the darkroom to make prints. There’s literally dozens of ways to print your negatives, and provided you have enough photo sensitive paper, chemicals, and knowledge, you could spend countless hours making varied prints from a single strip of negatives. Although this work is done in the darkroom, this time you are working beneath the dingy yellow glow of a filtered “safe light.” Your tools are a machine called an enlarger, which filters light through the negative and projects the image on photo paper, and three trays of chemicals.

The first 30 seconds of the chemical printing process is when the magic happens. This is the moment you’re in it for—the thrill of placing a white sheet of paper in a tray of fluid and witnessing a picture bloom before your very eyes. After a two minute thrill of seeing your work floating in the developer, you need to dip the image in a stop-bath solution to keep your picture from developing itself right out of visibility. Finally, it needs to soak in a fixer for 4 minutes, or else you’ll go back to look at your image in a few days and find a muddy brown mess in its place.

All this, and I haven’t even touched on dodging and burning techniques, spotting finished images, or the importance of studying your surroundings so you can safely crawl around on your hands and knees when groping for a key tool you sent sailing across the floor during the film rolling phase. It’s all pretty complicated, and, to be honest, I’ve barely been able to keep up with all of the assignments. I’ve also found that it’s hard to match my enthusiasm level from 8 years ago, primarily because back then, film was the standard—to know film was to know photography. Today, I know there’s faster and more efficient ways to get even better images. For me, the jury is still out on whether those ways are artistically equal or not. But for now? This creature of sun and light is just focused on getting the most out of a rare foray into the dark.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Considering the record of deplorable banking history I have cataloged here in this forum, I feel it's only appropriate that I volunteer a financial report on the outcome of the auction I hosted in August.

Since my track record with mail only slightly rivals that of my banking acumen, I feel this report would have been stronger if I included a picture of the check all sealed in an addressed envelope, and perhaps one of the mailman carrying it away for good measure, but I didn't have the foresight. I promise, though, it was mailed!

In Other News:

My photography class is still pretty fun, but there are signs that I'm ready to move on. I'm missing the writing time, and bolstering my resolve to get some big projects off the ground. I'm also tossing around some ideas about a significant blog makeover, but nothing concrete yet. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Note-able Encounter

My husband spotted him first. “Is that guy playing a violin over there?” he asked, indicating a thin strip of median at the entrance of a busy Walmart parking lot.

I rolled down a window, hoping to catch a note or two as traffic paused at a red light. Faint strains of hauntingly beautiful music intermixed with the crisp evening air that wafted in the minivan.

The decision to turn around was unanimous. My daughter fished around in her pockets to find a couple bills for us to toss in the man’s violin case as we paused in a vacant lot for a moment to just listen. While the guy’s arms worked the violin, his foot powered a homemade percussion instrument fashioned from a rusty midsized tin can. The minstrel played on, pausing only to accept a steady stream of bills offered through the windows of passing cars and to shake the hand of a homeless man who emerged from the shadowy side of a fast food joint to offer thanks for the dinner music.

I exited the car and crossed the street to hand deliver my offering. As I approached, the man met my gaze. He was young, friendly, and stopped playing to greet me and thank me for stopping. I told him his music was beautiful, and to my surprise he extended his hand and slipped me a gift of his own—a CD in a blank white envelope. “My brother plays with me on this,” he explained. “He added a bit of guitar.”

I thanked the musician, clutched the CD to my chest and ran back to my van. “He gave me a CD!” I called excitedly. We opened the envelope and popped the disk into the sound system and listened in fascination as the van swelled with the sound of…speed metal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Search and Rescue

If your life is anything like mine, then chances are you’ve seen your fair share of things go MIA--items that were ,mere moments ago, so tangibly there and then simply weren’t.

Occasionally, a good round of Deep Cleaning will unearth a fugitive bauble or two—at my house, a notable swipe beneath the stove recently brought several cat toys, an errant pay stub, and an old Christmas cookie to justice. But most of the time? There’s no turning back for that stuff that just seemed to hit the highway.

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that something could be here one minute and gone the next. In fact, I did an entire blog series back in ’07 exploring the mysteries of a missing egg salad sandwich, some stray lunch meat, and a blue striped sheet that failed to return from a living room deployment to a Flu Zone. These things just don’t disappear, I reasoned. And that garbage everyone always tosses around about how it “must have been thrown away” is just plain rubbish.

Which is probably why I’ve spent so much time recently trying to chase down some of my wayward dreams and ambitions. After all, any woman who logs time in search of a queen sized bed sheet isn’t likely to give up her own passions without a fight. So I’ve been making a concentrated effort to figure out what ever happened to this big writing dream of mine and to figure out what ever happened to some projects that somehow vaporized straight out of my here and now and into the unknown .

So I’ve been writing—just not here. I’ve submitted some pieces and dusted off an old manuscript. In the meantime, weeks have now passed and my blog--that was, so recently, part of my here and now—seems to have disappeared from the public eye. A handful of friends and a few family members have made inquiries into the dormant state of this forum, particularly in light of the fact that I instituted a Friday Photo School and went AWOL after a single lesson. (More about that in a moment.)

Outside of my close circle, I’m not really sure how many people have listed my blog on their personal roster of MIA mysteries. And in many ways that’s really the point. See, I’ve had this blog for more than five and a half years, but if anyone other than my real life friends, family, and acquaintances read it, I didn’t know about it until about a year ago. That’s because last fall I made a calculated decision to build the blog in hopes of having one of those elusive literary success stories wherein a blogger garners enough of a following to convince a publisher to take a chance on a book deal. I enjoyed the building process and the people I’ve met along the way--but came to realize several months ago that the blog-to-book route to publishing probably wasn’t the path destined for me. And with that being the case, I knew that I couldn’t invest all of my writing time in a pursuit that, though enjoyable, wasn’t bringing me closer to my writing dreams.

As far as Friday Photo School…that got foiled when I showed up for class clutching my digital camera only to discover that I was enrolled in a black and white darkroom course. I thought I could cull enough usable information on basic photography—composition, camera settings, etc—to make a go of the series anyway, but the truth is I spent the first two weeks of class trying to decide if I should drop it, and the next couple trying to catch up after I did drop the course and subsequently reenrolled. Staying in the class was a good call on several fronts, but the truth is I spend most of my class time fiddling with an enlarger and dabbling in various chemicals, which is a lot of fun but does not translate easily into useful information for my fellow photography enthusiasts who don’t have access to a darkroom.

I’ve decided that staying in the class was a good thing, even though it has compromised my focus and shortened my writing time. But even as tangible images are becoming visible through the magic of the darkroom, a more elusive picture has been developing as well. Like the visual stories emerging in fluids before my very eyes, an abandoned fictional outline from my past has come to life once again inside my mind. Even though I am still struggling to find regular stretches of writing time, I’ve made more progress on that project than I have in 8 years.

And as far as the blog? I’ll admit to having no real idea how or if it fits in with my search for new publishing venues, but I’ve missed it enough over recent weeks to know it’s still part of my story—even if it can’t be the whole story. But, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy it. So I decided to stop for a bit to breathe some life into this little outlet of mine. I don’t really know how many readers will find me again, but if you do, I hope you’ll take a minute to say hi. Searching is tedious work and I’d find some friendly faces encouraging.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Photo School

“OK, everyone outside,” my photography instructor bellowed, in a sudden burst of enthusiasm.

The entire roster of community college scholars — various drifters, thugs, portfolio-toting art students, and a displaced criminology major (who visibly brightened when I reminded her of all the top-notch mug shots she’ll be able to shoot)—trooped past a line of public service posters extolling virtues like keeping teeth “in your mouth, not your friend’s skull,” as we filed out the door and atop a cement wall in the courtyard.

The professor situated herself on a seat facing the concrete wall, and asked us to look down at her. “You are seeing me through a bird’s eye view right now,” she said, “and this is the one I’d prefer if you were shooting me. It’s slimming. You don’t notice my enormous hips, my big butt. You don’t see my many chins,” she explained, waving her hand below her face.

She then summoned us to a crouching position on the cement ground and asked us to look up at her. “This is a worm’s eye view,” she announced. “It’s great for making your subject larger than life. But that’s not what we want right now, is it?” she said, waddling a number of formerly invisible chins. “Just look at this wide shelf of boobs, these enormous hips!”

The professor was clearly delighted to flaunt her, um, features for the sake of the lesson, and in her boldness, proved a strong point. The concept of perspective was not new to me—if asked, my family would happily recount their sightings of me rolling on various grasses and kneeling in patches of variegated gravel to capture unique angles on familiar subjects. But as much as I’ve embraced the need to move myself and the camera to get fresh perspectives on scenery and still life, I have to admit that I haven’t been quick to translate the concept to portraits. Even standing on the cement wall, looking down at my instructor, I didn’t grasp the full significance. But the comparison to the ground floor view? Big difference.

But don’t jump to the conclusion that one perspective is “good” and the other “bad--” because that would be, well, bad. Both points of view are tools. Your job as the photographer, is to decide how to best use them. Capturing a toddler from ground level could be a really interesting viewpoint. Grandma, however, might appreciate the top view treatment. Accordingly, your assignment for the week is to take pictures of people from both perspectives, add the best to a post, and link up next week.

Speaking of linking up, did you shoot last week’s optional assignment? If so, add the link to your results below!

Friday, August 20, 2010


I apologize in advance if today's title is misleading: if you're here for our Friday Photo School then you get an A+ for showing up early! In response to some questions I've had, I wanted to clarify that our photography adventure begins here next Friday--one week from today (my first class is Tuesday!). I'm excited, and I am glad to hear that many of you are, too!

But just in case you arrived, camera in hand and eager to start, I thought it might be fun to give a photographic challenge--a sort of optional, just-for-fun type "assignment." Try, if you dare, to capture your weekend in a single snapshot. If I make this sound unduly daunting, it's just because I have no idea how to do it myself. My weekend involves paint, a backpack, 16 hours in a car, a picnic, an airport, and a new family member, which, photographically speaking, seems to make for a compositional challenge--what, after all, is the subject?

Next week's post will come complete with our first real "lesson" AND a link-up widget should you choose to take today's challenge and wish to share your results.

Enjoy :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Flash Forward Friday

So...I alerted you that there would be an announcement of some sort today. Since you've already been waiting for 21 out of the 24 hours that comprise today (and I'm no math whiz, but that's a hefty percentage)I will focus on the subject at hand.

See, we're all going to photography school--for free!!

As a workplace benefit, I get to take one free class every semester. This time, I chose photography, and I'd like to share the opportunity with all of you. Here's how will it work.

I'll deal with all the messy stuff, like finding a parking space, arriving to class on time, and taking good notes. You just show up here every Friday, and I'll share the single coolest thing I learned all week along with a little photography assignment so you can practice the skill. You'll get a whole week to work on it and put the results in a post of your own. The next Friday, you'll link your post up here and we'll all take a look at the great pictures we took--and get the next week's assignment and do it all over again.

It will be fun to learn new things and watch our skills develop :)

Who's in?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

An Itty Bitty Post About A Tiny Little Auction for A Great Big Cause

Good News, Readers!

There's still over hours left to score a one-of-a-kind bag or some fun bangles in my Tiny Little Auction for a Great Big Cause.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from this auction will go to Sixty One, a non profit organization dedicated to helping young girls whose lives have been hijacked by sex trafficking build new lives and learn to dream.

The auction will be open until noon EST Friday, August 13th.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Dreams May Come, Part Two

“ You must remember to make promises to yourself and work hard to keep them.”
--Baseball Umpire Doug Harvey, in his Hall of Fame Induction Speech

"Auntie’s lost her balance,” my niece remarked in mock formal tones as I uprighted the swivel chair I’d just piloted into a mid course crash-and-burn at a family food function. Her remark was met with instant laughter, not just because of the uncharacteristic way she pronounced “Auntie” as if it began with an “o,” or her wonderful timing but also the because everyone present knows this auntie is seldom sure and steady.

I’m the kid who instantly became public enemy number one in first grade when I tripped over a cord in our darkened classroom, sending the film projector and class expectations of a media-enhanced lesson into irreparable wreckage. Growing up, I was just as likely to fall up the stairs to my room as down, once even doing hard time with my head stuck between the banisters of the same staircase as the result of a failed rescue of a stray marble. Even now, the quickest route to finding me is following the Hansel and Gretel-like trail of dribbled latte.

Which makes my present announcement unremarkable: I’m completely off balance, and it’s killing me. Last August, when I got my job as a part time art teacher, I wrote of my excitement about getting back into art, of having an artistic outlet. But in the same post, I also mentioned the need for corresponding good news in my literary pursuits in order to feel complete.

Ten years ago, I made a decision to become a working writer and made some concrete, relatively bold moves. With both my kids now in school, I quit a part time job that was no longer going well and dedicated several hours of every day to typing words into blank documents and then—get this—sending those words to editors with wildly varying results. Some ignored me. Some sent me notes, politely passing on my work (which, at the time, I was too inexperienced to recognize for the encouragement that they were). Others sent along suggestions for improvement (some I considered, and least one, I completely blew off—that story was immediately entered in a contest where it took first place. In a wonderful twist of fate, the cash award and the accompanying silver bowl were presented to me by none other than the editor who had suggested I ax most of the first page.) And other editors? They sent money. One, at my local paper, offered me steady work, which I relished for nearly three years.

In other words, I took risks. I wrote two entire books, and went into business with my husband to promote them. I went to book signings, and library programs, and school and girl scout programs, and got reviews in tiny little publications. I wrote a nonfiction book proposal and got polite replies passing on the project from all three agents I sent it to (which I was now experienced enough to recognize as the encouragement that it was). Some days I cried. Some days I laughed. Many a day I threatened to quit the entire enterprise, But never, at any point, did I lose sight of the fact that I was doing everything I could do to flesh out a dream.

So what happened? For one thing, I got a little comfortable writing for the paper. They loaded me all the work I could handle and sometimes let me shoot my own stories, too. I wasn’t bringing in anything close to a stand-alone income, but at any given time I was juggling 2-3 stories with no question on whether they’d run or if I’d get paid and when I got to shoot, I was making almost as much on my photos as I was on my text. What’s more, I was happy. I told my sister several times during this period that I was never so happy as I was when I had a story in the works, one in the wings, and my classes to teach on my “off” days.

Then, the state of Virginia offered me cash to get a masters degree, and I decided that the smart money was on education. Although the degree and accompanying teaching certification I earned is the next best thing to insurance that I won’t go hungry, it did nothing to forward my real dreams.

Meanwhile, the paper went bankrupt and fired all the freelancers. It would have broken my heart, especially because I'd let all my other contacts go stagnant while reveling in the coziness of the paper's steady work-- but I was up to my eyeballs in writing of a different, not-so-enjoyable-or-profitable-academic- kind. Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that all of this was OK, because I had a blog.

I graduated last June and figured I’d find my way back into the game. I submitted a piece I thought was a sure thing, and got easily discouraged by a rejection from a magazine who’d published me in the past— and no bites from the handful of other suitable publications (one of which went out of business between my send-off and the rejection). I fell into an online gig that promised to be “the best writing job of my career” but barely cracks the double digit mark for most of their most lucrative articles and is evidently run by robots. I eventually settled into my blog and dubbed it a career move.

I’m a year out of school, and none of this is OK anymore. I love my blog, and I’m not—I repeat—NOT shutting it down…but I can no longer go on telling myself that it’s a ligit gig. I know some people have pulled it off—a couple who even read me. It just hasn’t turned out quite that way for me.

I want my dreams back. It’s time to take some bolder steps toward my goals. I need to take risks again. Some of those risks will be visible here. It’s likely this space will morph into the story of how I find my balance again. Of how to remember a dream and work hard to make it come true. It probably won't be updated as frequently, or with lengthy, polished work--unless I'm sharing a chapter or piece of published work. But that's OK. This space is mine, and it has never failed to expand or contract to fit me to a "T".

A couple weeks ago, Doug Harvey, an 80-year old retired baseball umpire was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Along the way, he happened to remind me about the importance of keeping the promises we make to ourselves. I tried to find a video of his speech on youtube, but came up short. Track it down if you’re more savvy than I am—it’s well worth the effort, regardless of your baseball interest level. Harvey’s remarks—even this excerpt-- were relevant to anyone who has ever had a dream. His just happened to be umpiring, and he worked for it day and night—through broken teeth, months on the road, and memorization of a thick rule book he can recite in his sleep. He endured all that and more--gladly at that--because he made a promise to himself. I did, too. It is time to find balance once again.

On Friday, I’ll be giving you a little glimpse into one new direction the blog will be heading this fall. In the meantime, please give some thought to what you’re doing to nurture your own dreams. I’d love to hear about it in your comments. And just a reminder—my Tiny Little Auction for a Great Big Cause is still up and running through noon Friday, and it’s a great opportunity to give someone else the gift of a dream (and score a bag or a bangle to boot!)

Monday, August 09, 2010

What Dreams May Come; or, A Tiny Little Auction For A Great Big Cause

I’m willing to make the bold assumption that most people have, at one time or another, been anchored down by a Daily Schedule mired in enough sludge to almost guarantee a future of trudging around in circles that seem all too certain.

I’m furthermore willing to forward the even bolder notion that, more often than not, most people choose to plod along in the status quo than to do the hard work of extracting themselves from the muck into which they’re steadily sinking. Hopefully the feeling passes, but maybe it doesn’t. Too many lives have run their course with no one at the helm making the Key Decisions, blazing a trail to Somewhere, taking shots at Something.

That’s why I’m always a sucker for any story starring a brave soul who has chosen the proverbial path less traveled. My heroes are those who—-win, lose, or draw—-make deliberate moves from Covered Ground into the Unknown.

Earlier this summer, some vivid textiles lured me to a booth at a festival I was attending with my family. Exotic themes, rich colors, and varied textures grabbed my attention, but a conversation I had with the couple running the booth held it captive.

Several months ago, Joseph and Belle were pretty typical adults working jobs that, according to Joseph, made them both miserable. Their story may have been an American cliché were it not for a game-changing-big-risk decision they made to build up enough savings to invest their summer into something a little bigger than themselves.

So when the warm weather arrived, they hit the road with a stock of Indian textiles and beaded jewelry and a cross country itinerary. Not that the days would be any easier—the weekend I met the couple, they were pulling 12-14 hour days—but now the work had meaning. Where their old jobs had trapped them, their new gig is all about freedom.

See, Belle and Joseph aren’t profiting at all from the sales of the wares they display. A full 100% of the profit from their sales is going to assist young girls whose lives have been interrupted by sex slavery in rebuilding their lives. The couple is working this summer in support of Sixty One, an organization focusing on their physical and emotional care of girls who have been rescued from the sex trade to which they were sold, often by their own families. This video offers a glimpse into what their particular brand of rehabilitation can mean in a young girl’s life.

According to the Sixty One website, “What makes this program unique is our belief that our girls can achieve anything once they remember how to dream.” See, the rescue of these lives goes far beyond removing their bodies from the physical environment of their entrapment. True freedom comes from the ability to dream.

And that’s a cause into which I can thoroughly immerse myself. One of Sixty One’s core beliefs is “That significant social change is born out of individuals doing what is within their realm of influence to affect that change.” That, Readers, is where this auction comes in.

See, I immediately fell in love with, well, just about everything on Belle and Joseph’s table. And I knew instinctively that many of you would, too. Originally, I hoped to post a little plug along and point you to a link to an online store—until I discovered that such a store does not exist.

So I decided to create one—albeit with limited hours and small stock. I purchased four items: a handbag, two bracelets, and a pouch. Sixty One already received the profits for those purchases. I am now reselling these pieces and sending all the money—minus nothing—collected to Sixty One as additional profit on these items. In other words, I am receiving nothing from this auction beyond the joy of using my online space--my tiny little realm of influence, as it were--to help build some dreams.

The auction will be open until Friday at noon. Each piece is be featured in its own post, and you may use the comment section to place your bid. The last comment appearing at noon Friday wins!

Whether you chose to bid or not, I hope you’ll take some time to think about your dreams this week. Because if you’re reading this, chances are you’re a lot freer than you may feel. If you’re going to spend your freedom in slavery to a list, then please make it an enumeration of things a little bigger than laundry, lunch meetings, and lawn care. Celebrate freedom. Remember what it’s like to dream. If you can, help someone else do the same.

Items Up For Bid:

Elephant Handbag

Mirrored Pouch

Teal, Amber, and Green Beaded Bracelet

Elephant Bracelet

Thanks for looking!

Come back later this week for an important discussion on the promises we make to ourselves, and for an exciting announcement on Friday!

The Post Wherein You Bid On A Beaded Bracelet From India

You are bidding on a glass beaded bracelet in teal, amber and green. It was made in India and retails at $12.00. The bidding begins at $5.00, with the winner adding $3.00 to the winning bid for shipping.

Classy enough for dressing up, and fun enough for every day--enjoy!

(Click here for the full story on the auction and its dream-building purpose)

The Post Wherein You Bid On A Cute Pouch

This pouch retails for around $10.00...I am working from memory for what I bought it for in June. Margin of error is +/- 2.00.

I bought one for myself and it is perfect for those occasions when you want to travel light, say, with some cash and a cell phone.

The bidding starts at $5.00, and the winner will add $3.00 to the winning bid to cover shipping.

Dotted with mini mirrors, this bag is an eye catcher...and matches the elephant bag perfectly!

This picture is terrible, but it is just to show the size, and I'm too lazy to re-do the shoot. The flip flop, I reiterate, is for reference only :)

The Post Wherein You Bid On An Elephant Bracelet

Elephant Bracelet

You are bidding on a beaded bracelet with elephant charms made in India. The bracelet retails at $12.00. Bidding starts at $5.00 + 3.00 shipping (COUS).

Classy enough for dressing up, whimsical enough to wear with jeans.

Happy Bidding!

The Post Wherein You Bid On An Elephant Handbag

This embroidered elephant handbag retails at $18.00.

It zips closed at the top and features a small zipped compartment on the inside.

The next shot is just to give an idea of the bag's size-fip flop not included :)

The bidding starts at $8.00, and the winner will add $4.00 to the winning bid for shipping.

Don't miss this one-of-a-kind fashion statement!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

These Fabulous Items Could Be Yours; or A Tiny Little Auction For a Great Big Cause Preview

Today's activity here at Running With Letters is the ever popular past time we call window know, strolling along a wide, tree lined sidewalk, favorite seasonal beverage in hand, just taking in the possibilities. What would that faux fur fedora look like on me? Do I have anything to match that checked pea coat? Fun stuff. Sometimes we wind up splurging, other times we simply dream and de-stress--and it's good either way.

I've been scattering hints of an auction across the blog blog like a woodland squirrel preparing for autumn and I want to give you a sneak peek at what's going up on the block and why.

Earlier this summer I became a tad bit excited about a booth I stumbled upon at a festival I attended with my family. I was immediately drawn to the textures and colors of the handbags and jewelry I saw on display and treated myself to a bracelet and bag and my friends to a couple gifts. But I was equally drawn to the couple I met--Belle and Joseph--and to their story as well the cause to which they have dedicated their summer. I'll be introducing them to you on Monday and sharing more about their work in support of social justice and freedom...but the curious can get a preview by clicking on the hyperlink above.

So drawn was I to this grouping of goods and goodness, I returned three times, each visit learning more --and adding to my purchases, some of which I have chosen to auction off next week for proceeds that will be sent directly to the organization to which Belle and Joseph have committed their summer. For those of you playing the numbers game, that's double profits per item, going straight to the cause.

So without further ado, why not grab your beverage of choice and let's take a stroll through the possibilities.

See you Monday? I hope so!


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