Saturday, November 27, 2010

Starting Over in a New Place

There's something about a new place that is so exciting. It's a new beginning of sorts...a new way of living life in a different place.

Nicole moved out of our house (again!) and into a rental house in Belhaven in August. She rented a room, and she and the other roommates had use of the common areas of the home. The only thing is that the common areas were decorated with the homeowner's things, including movie posters, a pool table, and other "man cave" accoutrements. The only place Nicole could truly make her own was her bedroom, and she definitely put her stamp on it.

For alot of reasons, that place just didn't work out. But Nic and two of her roomies found a better house, perfect for their needs. It's a little further south, in Belhaven Heights--a wonderful little Craftsman bungalow that has been completely renovated. It is absolutely filled with character and I believe it will be an ideal place for them to pursue their life goals.

Of course, Nicole's decision to move meant that the Marquez Moving Company would be resurrected once again. Countless loads of boxes, furniture, clothes, etc. were carted not only from one rental house to another, but finally, out of our garage in Madison!

As a matter of fact, the entire home, except for the other girls' bedrooms, was furnished from Nicole's collection of authentic mid-century modern pieces that at one time furnished her apartment in Hattiesburg. For the past three years, most of it has been in our garage, where our cars should be. But now, it's out of the garage, in her house, and it looks great!

The roomies moved in--basically putting their stuff in their bedrooms--then left town for the holidays. One to Chicago. The other to Atlanta. So that left Nicole, who just can't do all the moving, organizing, arranging and fluffing like she used to. I have spent many hours over the past week organizing their kitchen, decorating the living room, hanging pictures, and even decorating the mantle and her purple tree for Christmas. The finishing touch: Christmas lights on the front porch railing--a signal to the neighborhood that there's something fun and festive happening in that house!

Yet, I come home and have not one ounce of energy. I can go and go, do and do at her house, getting things just right...but at my own house, I can't seem to find the energy or motivation to get anything done. Maybe it's because my family is scattering, so the focus of our home is changing. I really just need to concentrate on feathering my own nest to make Larry happy and comfortable.

I really do think there is something life changing about moving into a new place. It's an opportunity to live your life in a slightly different way. Alot of time is spent imagining what life will be like in the new home. The dinner parties you'll have in the dining room. Making breakfast in the kitchen. Relaxing on the front porch. Movie night with the girls in the living room.

Nic and I talked about having the new house blessed by a priest. I think it's a good idea. My friend, Ann, had a house blessing party when they got settled into the home they built around the corner from us. It can't hurt...knowing that they willingly asked God to bless their home and all who lived in it and visited it is comforting.

I hope that this home is a place where Nicole and her two roommates can find happiness and that their friendships will grow even stronger.

Now it's time for me to rediscover my own home...and to enjoy my newly cleared-out garage!

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's All About the Story

After a weekend in Oxford, I am now looking at the art and craft of writing with entirely new eyes. Last weekend, I attended the Oxford Creative Non-Fiction Workshop in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, located in the Overby Building, on the campus of Ole Miss.

First let me interject that as the daughter of an Alabama alum, I was not raised to be an Ole Miss fan. As a matter of fact, when I was a junior in high school my daddy told me that if I went to Ole Miss, I'd go to hell. I took that to heart, and went, instead, to Mississippi State. I stayed there three years before transferring to the University of Southern Mississippi (which, I might add, kicked Ole Miss's butt in football the last time we played them--in the early 1980's!).

I have not spent much time at all in my life on the campus of Ole Miss. I regret that now, as it is absolutely one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The Overby Building is just across the street from THE GROVE, one of the most iconic spots on campus, due to the elaborate game day celebrations that take place there. The trees on campus were putting on a real show, still full of leaves in all shades of orange, red and gold. And I loved the town of Oxford. The town square was vibrant and full of life with wonderful restaurants, shops and the famous  Square Books.

I rode to Oxford on Thursday with Diane Williams, a famous Mississippi story teller. Needless to say, she kept me entertained with her stories on the two and a half hour drive.

The conference was organized and presented by Neil White, Susan Cushman (author of one of my favorite blogs, Pen and Palette) and Kathy Rhodes (a facebook friend whom I got to meet in person!). My first session Thursday afternoon was with author Neil White, who wrote one of my favorite memoirs, "In The Sanctuary of Outcasts." Afterwards, the conference attendees boarded Oxford's double-decker bus (an ode to Oxford, England!) and headed to the Square Books for the Thacker Mountain Radio Show. (Think "Prairie Home Companion," but with a real Southern flair!) There was music and readings by two of the conference instructors: Lee Gutkin (the godfather of creative non-fiction) and Ian Frazier.

Afterwards, I had the pleasure to go with Diane and her friend, Rebecca, to St. Peter's Episcopal Church for the annual Veterans's Day covered dish supper. It was like a slice of Mayberry. Veterans from WWII and the Korean War gathered in a fellowship hall festooned with red, white and blue bunting and balloons. Everyone sang patriotic songs, most without the aid of the lyrics provided. It made me wonder if we are teaching our children these songs the same way we were once taught them. Afterwards, we enjoyed the most incredible array of foods I've ever seen laid out on a buffet table. Those people know how to throw down in the kitchen! After dinner, there were a few more songs, and introductions of the individual veterans. Judge Lamb then administered the Oath of Service to the group of veterans. It was very touching. I felt honored to be there.

The rest of the weekend was filled with sessions on writing cinematically and, because we were talking about non-fiction, speaking the truth--telling the story as it happened, and learning how to fill in with information pertinent to the story. We truly studied the craft of non-fiction. I loved every moment of it! During the day, I met many of the workshop attendees--many from New York, California, Kentucy and other states. I was amazed that they came to Mississippi for a writing workshop, and asked several of them why. Most cited Faulkner, Welty, Grisham and the gang...I do live in a state that produces great writers! It made me feel fortunate that just a little over two hours up the road from my own home, I was sitting in a literary hotbed!

I got to know a few more of the folks who came to conference a bit better Friday evening at the reception held at Memory House, the home of William Faulkner's brother, John. Built in 1837, it's where John wrote Men Working, Dollar Cotton and My Brother Bill, a tribute to William Faulkner. I met several agents, editors, publicists and folks who are looking for the next big work of creative non-fiction. That was interesting, for sure!

So, now I feel much better equipped to write the book that must be written, but I also feel re-energized and ready to take my article-writing up a notch or two. I don't know if anyone will notice but me, but I know that to capture and keep people's attention, and to make sure they learn and retain what they read, there must be a story. It's all about the story, and everyone's got one to tell.

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Let Your Light Shine!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This is a quote by Marianne Williamson, an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher. I heard the quote while watching the movie "Akeelah and the Bee," about a young inner-city girl who goes to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

Akeelah's friend, Jordan, always told her that she could do anything she believed she could do. Yet, Jordan wanted to be a flight attendant. "You can't be a flight attendant if you've never flown on a plane," said Akeela to Jordan, just before she invited her to go to D.C. with her.

What is holding you back from doing what you want to do in your life?

I've had the great honor to be around some people lately who are not letting their "fear of success" get in their way. A very driven young man, Matt Steffe, was a guest in our home Tuesday night. Matt played college basketball and went on to coach Divsion 1 basketball in Oregon. The California native is a devoted husband and father to three beautiful young children. Yet, six weeks ago he quit the "sure thing" in his life--his full time job, to persue more than he could ever accomplish in a standard 9-to-5 career. Matt is the highest-producing distributor for C-PRIME, a company that my son, Joe, and I are now involved with. Matt is "on" almost 24/7, talking to those who are also high achievers, and encouraging those who want to be.

We got into this company at the worst possible time...or, the BEST possible time. We just weren't in a position to invest alot of money in a new business. Thankfully, this business doesn't require that. But I do have what it takes: time and the desire to help others become successful. And in so doing, I've had the joy of watching Joe develop and grow and be successful in this business right along with me.

Next week, I'm going to challenge myself again. I'll be heading up to Oxford for the Creative Non-Fiction Writer's Conference. I'll be meeting other writers, as well as agents who will hear our ideas and, well, who knows what will happen? I know I want to write Nicole's story, and this will be the first step in making that happen.

I'm so happy that I'm surrounded by people who are creative and who push themselves to do more.

My own dad learned woodworking--wood turning and wood carving--after he retired. And there's Jonni Webb, who went from a career in advertising/sales to following her passion to be a full-time potter. And Leslie Puckett, who creates wonderful herbal lotions, soaps and other potions. There's Brenda Judin, who uses her creative talents to write and produce videos. And Ann Frye, who continually pushes the envelope on creativitiy of all sorts. And Jacqui Katool, who is stepping out of her comfort zone to hold a trunk show of her jewelry on November 11 at Chandelier in Ridgeland. And so many others...including my own Nicole, who took a leap to travel to Sedona to take a 100-hour course, "Yoga Meets Dance," and is now working on putting together classes where she can teach others.

"We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone." Yep, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I'm learning new ones every day. Growing...learning...and feeling God's glory manifested within me!

Blessings to all who read this!