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Peggy Armstrong and I started out as neighbors in the 90’s. I lived on Morehead, she lived on Delaware.   Our daughters Sarah and Meghan were the same age.

I remember the first time I saw her, and I was struck by how well put together she was. Her lipstick was  fresh, her hair neatly combed, not like my wild hair with a mind of its own.

Deb and Peg

Neighbors and happy moms Debbie Merion and Peggy Armstrong at Sarah Merion’s High School graduation in 2006

We were young moms, and often in groups together, and we both liked our differences. Whatevah! We had a lot in common too. We volunteered. We got stuff done. We loved being moms.

We Became AWARE

There was AWARE—where we learned how to trade stocks. That’s where we met Marcy Vandertuig, I still remember when she came up with the idea to buy Whole Foods—Hey Marcy—great idea! It’s a shame we didn’t hang onto that stock!

AWARE (Ann Arbor Women Always Ready to Earn) had as its members Carol Adams, Peggy Armstrong, Denise Barton, Paula Bergloff, Bonnie Brickett , Karen Cross, Ruth Haldeman, Lois Kane, Debbie Merion, Sherri Ralston, Karen Soskin, and Marcy VanderTuig.

I just pulled up our minutes from our AWARE meeting of 4-15-1999, where I wrote, “Peggy will look at Monsanto, Berringer.” Whatevah is needed! Peggy would always volunteer. She was also the money person, careful in that way you needed to be, and wrote the final checks when the group disbanded in 2006. I loved that she handled that—not my forte. Again, our differences worked.

Then the FAB4

So what made us decide to do the Avon Walk in 2002? It seemed like fun, and useful. Somehow we became the FAB4, which I had forgotten was an acronym until I found that too in my files; Females Against Breast Cancer. Our dear friend Carol Adams was fighting that disease then.

walking_Fab_Four copy 2

Abbey Road album cover comes to Ann Arbor in 2002 with the NEW FAB 4!

We trained for the 3-Day, 60 mile walk in an organized way—Peggy was always organized! We walked together every Friday morning, from one end of Ann Arbor to the other, with our baggy nylon shorts and fanny bags. Our goal was to be able to walk 20 miles a day. For our final training, we walked to Manchester, and had dinner there.

For the walk we picked out matching clothes, and had a logo of us on the zebra crossing, and gave out stickers as we walked.

And we worked so hard to raise money, with sales, parties, soliciting friends and family alike. We only needed to raise $2,500 a piece to do the 60 mile, 3-Day walk, but together the four of us raised ten times that amount!

Faceshot edited

cheer_stickers_flat

Raising $25,000 For Breast Cancer Research

Raising $25,000 for breast cancer research was one of my finest moments, and I did it with Peggy Armstrong, Marcy Vandertuig, and Sue McLinden: the FAB 4.

(Below is the newsletter we sent out to our generous donors in 2006. )

Newsletter3

But dear God, I so wish that some of that research could have kept Peggy Armstrong with us on this earth. Cancer isn’t fair.

Change Emerged From the Avon Walk and Each Other

The Avon Walk changed us all. When Peggy decided she wanted to make a big transition in 2007 and apply to University of Michigan School of Information, I helped her with her essay through my nascent Essay Coaching. I loved her essay, it was so heartfelt.  It began like this…

During the past year, I began to examine my life, to figure out where I had been, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do with my future, what I was interested in, and how could I use these interests to contribute to society. I bought a book called Zen and the Art of Making a Living, by Laurence Boldt and began the task of discovering myself. What I discovered was an interest that has been with me my whole life. I began to think about books, reading to my children, reading with kids at school, the passion I feel about books and the comfort of libraries and I began to realize I could live these passions, these interests, every day.

This essay started Peggy on her new life of being a librarian. Oh how I loved hearing about those days reading to the kids! But Peggy’s own daughters always owned her heart. She loved them so.

The Fab4 celebrated big on our 50th birthdays, and took trips together—to Peggy’s cottage on the lake, Sue’s OakaPiney, and Marcy’s Onekoma farm. We danced to 45s, there was skinny-dipping at midnight.

We had more than our share of good times. Since 2002, every year the FAB 4 partnership gave us a reason to celebrate life and our friendship. There was the annual night before Art Fair dinner, with wine, walking, and wine. We visited the berry bowl lady, walked up and down and peered into booths getting set up, had a night cap, and sometimes bought treasures…like the night I bought my stained glass fake-but-pretty “Tiffany” lamp. Most recently we recreated the best part of dinner in a conference call—checking up and giggling together on the phone.

 

Fab 4 dinner

FAB 4 Pre-Art Fair Dinner 2006 (above) and 2016 (below)

 fab 4

I learned so much from Peggy. When she started to battle cancer, her blog “Courage” showed me how brave a woman can be. From Peggy I learned how to get things done without handwringing or drama. Even now we are starting to say, when not sure how to handle something, “What Would Peggy Do? ”  WWPD?

The FAB 4 not only walked, talked, and had dinners together, but we shared a sense of spirituality that transcended religion. We took a class together from a local psychic, Diane Evans. We understood the comfort and strength one can get from faith. And we believed in each other, and in family. We had our “cone of silence.”  We had trust, and faith.

A Tearful Thank You

The last time the FAB 4 was together was at Peggy’s “Thank You” party, a brilliant and beautiful event, and sad. So much love was in the room!

There we were, once again, getting educated about breast cancer. Elizabeth spoke eloquently. Research into fighting metastatic breast cancer is sorely needed. (See donation suggestions from the family, below.)

 

Last fab 4 togetherFab 4 at Thank you party

The FAB 4 at Peggy’s “Thank You” Party in June, 2017.

We will miss our 4th always, and we have decided to always remain the FAB 4.

Peggy, we send you blessings as you transition to being our guardian angel. How ironic that the FAB 4 met through working to end breast cancer, and you passed from what we worked so hard to end, and during the week of our annual FAB 4 Pre-Art Fair dinner. How lucky we all were to know an amazing woman like you.   You will be missed forever.

FINISH-LINE

60 miles, 61 years. Peggy, we will miss you dearly.

P.S.

If you’d like to honor Peggy’s memory, here are some options–from the obituary here

Peggy’s family would like to thank the doctors and staff at Michigan Medicine and Dr. Lu’s Nourishing Life for the support and care they provided to Peggy as she lived with Metastatic Breast Cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Peggy’s name to the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor (http://www.cancersupportannarbor.org/) or METAvivor (http://www.metavivor.org/).

Also, Kris Maly wrote a beautiful poem about Peggy that she read at Peggy’s funeral. I asked if I could include it here, because it helps me to remember how amazing Peggy was:

Peggy loved words and books.

A book of Peggy’s life could begin

with some of the following words:

 

Peggy. Margaret. Peg. Mom. Peggy A.

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Friend.

Irish. Catholic. True-Believer.

 

Beautiful. Smart. Witty.

Generous. Thoughtful. Giving.

Caring. Kind. Gentle.

 

Traveler. Explorer. Adventurer.

Walker. 60-Miler. Hiker.

Boater. Waterskier. Sun Follower.

 

Initiator. Investigator. Mentor.

Charming. Inspiring. Smiling.

Loving. Loyal. Organizer. Doer.

 

Auditor. Bookkeeper. Basket Maker.

Volunteer. Student. Teacher.

Quilter. Gardner. Reader.

Game Player. Marble Counter. Crossword Puzzler.

 

Outdoor Enthusiast. Animal Admirer. Dog Lover.

Tea. Bugles. Good & Plenty. Delish.

Hoosier. Wolverine. Fan.

 

Listener. Discusser. Sharer.

Family. Friends. Gatherer.

The Lake. The Lawton Hood. The Huron Hood. THE HOOD.

 

Smile. Sparkling. Eyes. Bright.

Sweet. Positive. Special.

Fighter. Brave. Courageous.

 

Lived. Well. Laughed. Loud. Loved. Deep.

Hearts. Strong. Hearts. Full. Hearts. Connected.

 

Legacy. Blessed.

Meghan. Elizabeth. Martin. Jack.

 

Peggy’s life could fill several books.

These words are just the beginning.

What are your words?

 

Peggy. Margaret. Peg. Mom. Peggy A.

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Friend.

 

Always in our thoughts.

Forever in our hearts.

 

 

 

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Last month, I sat still in a big chair and thought how very grateful I was to be having the horrible experience I was currently having. A man I had just met was sawing on my jawbone with a glorified nail file, while I tried to get deaf. And tough. Fortunately, I was clutching my iPhone in my moist hand.

My white headphone buds were  in my ear, my fingers were on the volume buttons on the side of the phone, and Stevie Wonder was comforting me by singing “they can feel it all over, people.” When I saw the dentist’s lips move, I muted the music. When he had a drill in his hand, I cranked my iphone up until my ears were almost screaming in pain from Stevie belting in my ear and I tried to focus on every syllable, like a guided meditation BY SOMEONE WHO WAS YELLING AT ME.

Headphones for distraction

Headphones for distraction

I know some people have favorite parts of themselves, though I bet you don’t think that way. But if you were asked the question, what would you say? Your eye crinkles? Your hair wave? Would you focus on your relatively large size in a particular area of your body (boobs, butt, or….) or your small size in a particular place (nose, feet, hips)?

I’ve always liked the way my toes seem to have a perfect slope upward on the left, downward on the right, like a good or bad day at NASDAQ. But for the last few months or so, I have to say that my favorite part of my body is my Number 30 tooth. We’ve become so well acquainted now that I know it by number, which I know for people is a distancing technique (prisoners…and high school students are often identified by numbers), but for teeth it’s as intimate as I’ve ever been. I also sometimes call this tooth “the one on the bottom on the right that is second from the back” but that’s like calling my husband “the one who listens to all of my bad jokes and has since he was 15” or “the one who kisses me in the morning before I have brushed my teeth” rather than “Bob.”

Bob and Number 30 have met, although mostly because Number 30 is demanding attention as I defend his life. (How did Number 30 become a guy when I am a woman? I’m not sure.) I have been fighting for Number30 like Trump has been fighting to be President of the U.S.—doggedly, and with an open mouth. Like Trump, my mouth is simultaneously my biggest ally and challenge. I can use my mouth to teach workshops, tell loved ones how I feel, and even sing a version of “Happy Birthday” that does not humiliate my kids. But these dental bills are killing me. My mouth is not performing up to the level of most of my other body parts.

One of my dentists said, “you have a good attitude.” I try to look at the bright side. At least I don’t have a full set of dentures, like my grandmother did. Although I do admit that I have implants in my mouth. Yes, a few of my teeth have hired body doubles made out of metal, and they have big white porcelain hats on.

My crown is like a tall white hat worn by Justin

My crown is like a tall white hat worn by Justin or Pharrell

The embarrassing thing is that I have enjoyed interacting with the six dentists, endodontists and periodontists in Michigan and Florida who have been involved in Number 30’s care, especially the one who refused to pull Number 30, and said “This tooth can be saved.”

I jump to dentist number six in Florida, who came, sawed, and conquered, and who did an excellent job, but had some interesting quirks. He gave me sunglasses when I lay down in the chair, with a little makeover commentary: “I think you’ll look good in “The Elvis.” He noted with a “tsk” that I had some sticky dough in my teeth. Which seemed a little odd, since he kept me waiting 30 minutes with a tray of donut holes in a lobby.

donut holes before seeing the dentist--a perfect snack

donut holes before seeing the dentist–a perfect snack

When I think of being tough, I think of what Rose Kennedy said to her grandchildren: “If you are going to cry, we are going to send you back to where you came from.” I call this “stoic Christian tough.” But it really doesn’t feel like me. Although I have actually given birth to an entire baby without medication (“Really mom?” said our daughter Sarah, “Why?”), when it comes to teeth I am not “stoic Christian tough.” I am more like Woody Allen or Jerry Seinfeld or Joan Rivers.

I am whining Jewish pseudo-tough.

I’m happy to say that Number 30 is still in my mouth. Sometimes I just call him by my nickname for him. Num. Which is what I’ve been a lot these days. Just numb.

Humorous blog

floss!

Lifespan of a Wave

lifespan of a waveLike children, waves start out from nothing, looking clean and harmless. Before your eyes they grow taller.  The smooth wave crests.

Like a teenager denied, a  foaming waterfall erupts. It hits the surface–strong, turbulent and angry.

But sooner than you think, the ripples of the wave spread.   Now it looks like short white fountains: young adulthood, spouting out.

Bubbling fountains shrink, and the surface of the wave flattens. A white boarder of foam is all that remains. The wave climbs bravely onto the sand as far as it can, but the body of the wave that follows can hold on no more. As gentle and slow as a lullaby, the wave retreats slightly, then disappears as it sinks down into the sand.

But wait, what’s happening?

Here comes a new wave:  brief, salty, and filled with life.

Atlantic ocean wave

alienAre you creative, interested in extraterrestrials and would like to win one million dollars? Read on.  Now that Yuri Milner, Russian Billionaire, has pledged $100,000,000 in “Breakthrough Listen” to increase our telescope time in the the hunt for extraterriestials, I’m hoping we will find some little green men or some big pink women.  This new grant was announced by Stephen Hawking, who said in his TED talk that the biggest hope for our planet is to find another planet to inhabit.

There are two other interesting aspects to the story, one very exciting, and one not so much.

Some people may think that the idea of finding life on other planets is a little creepy, and that is certainly a part of this story, but in a way that may surprise many.  Geoff Marcy,  a former Professor of Astronomy at University of California,Berkeley was initially the Principal Investigator of “Breakthrough Listen,” until he was required to step down October 14, 2015 due to sexual harassment accusations.  Buzzfeed broke the story on October 9.  Four women came forward with allegations starting in 2010, and according to the newsletter for women astrologists, it was a known fact in the field that he is not a mentor that a female astrologist should have.

No news yet on the new PI for Breakthrough Listen, who reported only one line on their site,  “On October 12, 2015 Geoff Marcy resigned as Principal Investigator of the Breakthrough Listen project. His resignation has been accepted.” There has been no news either on the effect all this has had on Marcy’s marriage.

The exciting news about Breakthrough Listen is that they are now looking for people to create the  messages that could be read by an advanced civilization. The message must be in digital format, and should be representative of humanity and planet Earth.  The competition rules have yet to be announced, but what has been announced is that the prize for this is approximately $1,000,000.

You may remember the plaque designed for extraterrestrials from 1972, shown here.  What will the new message be?  I’m just hoping whatever it is, the message will be to respect women.  And hopefully the response won’t be like that old Twilight Zone episode about the extraterrestrial book found called “How to Serve Man.”  That turned out to be a cookbook.

 

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November 9, 2015.  Before I saw Arlo Guthrie on stage for his 50th Anniversary Alice’s Restaurant Tour at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater, I had a fantasy. I imagined that someone on stage introducing the concert might say, “Debbie Merion, will you stand up and wave?” I’d sheepishly smile and wave to 1400 folks sitting behind us as I thought “dreams really do come true.”

My dream to bring Arlo Guthrie (famous for singing “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”) to Ann Arbor started when I was in Florida in January. I saw an ad that Arlo was going to be performing at the 500 seat Lyric Theater in Stewart, Florida, but when I called the Lyric to get seats, Arlo was sold out.

When the Lyric called me weeks later to offer me two seats in row B off the waiting list, that’s when I said one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said. “I’ll call you right back.  I’m going to see if I can find a friend to go with me.” I didn’t have a date because Bob wasn’t in Florida.

When I called back ten minutes later, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t found a friend to go with me. Only one ticket was left.I considered myself lucky.

When Arlo took the stage the next night, he was wearing all black, highlighting his shoulder-length white hair that curled on its ends like a whisp of smoke. But there was no smokiness in his voice– it sounded nearly the same as in his 1969 recording that I listen to often as I jog.

2015-11-09 Arlo

Maybe he had forgotten some things (“I think you need to forget things  to open up more room in your mind for the new stuff”) or maybe that was just his self-effacing humor. He seems to have no end to stories. There was a long story about helicoptering into Woodstock (“I only remember getting there”) before he broke into “Coming in from London from over the pole, flying in a big air liner…” And he talked about his father, Woody Guthrie, before leading a sing-a-long with his most famous song, “This land is your land.”

Behind the band (including Arlo’s son on keyboard) was mounted a huge movie screen where we saw a pickle on a motorcycle fly through the air as he sang “I don’t want a pickle. ” The Alice’s Restaurant song opened the second act. How poignant to watch the 19 year old Arlo on the screen from the movie, as 69 year old Arlo sang. “If I knew this song was going to be such as hit, I’d have made it shorter,” he said.

2015-11-09 young arlo 2015-11-09 Alice lyrics

I liked the show so much that I emailed my friend Lee Berry at the Michigan Theater in January to see if he could book Arlo Guthrie in Ann Arbor. (After all, Arlo only sing’s Alice’s Restaurant in public during these once a decade tours). Lee said he’d have to ask the 400 seat Ark for permission, because they usually host Arlo here. The Ark said “OK,” and with months more of a wait there was finally a date on the calendar! Nov. 9!

My dream came true. “Absolutely the best evening I’ve had in a long time,” said one of my friends after the show last night. Although no one motioned to me from stage, I relished my open secret (that I shared with everyone I talked to!) Arlo’s daughter Sarah Lee Guthrie opened the show this time, and it was easy to fall in love with her. Her lithe body swayed in a shimmering dress, and her clever stories and pure voice showed she was her father’s daughter. Maybe I hadn’t gotten a friend to go with me in Stewart, but last night I had my husband Bob, and friends Susan, Nan, Steve, Bob W, Cathy and Annie with me, in the audience of 1400 Ann Arborites. Thank you, Lee Berry, The Ark, The Michigan Theater, and Arlo Guthrie and band for making last night so amazing. Congrats to both The Ark and Arlo Guthrie for celebrating “50 folkin’ years!”  What follows are some more photos from the event.

2015-11-09 Arlo band

2015-11-09 my peace

Arlo poster

Read the USA Today story about Alice’s Restaurant Here

Do You Want a Date?

date“Do you want a date?” That was the question I asked everyone when I walked into my Toastmasters meeting last night. In my hand I had a plastic container filled with soft and sticky pitted Deglet dates that I had just purchased from the co-op. I was going to use them to make my famous ginger tea, which I spike with dates to give a little bit of sweetness.  As it turned out no one around me actually wanted a date– everyone declined.   But  simply bringing these dates and asking that question generated conversation and stories for the entire meeting.
When Annie heard the question, she said “Yes, Chop House?” And then went on busying herself with getting ready for the meeting. I started chatting with Megan next to me, saying that I do like to go to the Ann Arbor Chop House for happy hour, especially because I love their lamb chops appetizer. “Have you ever gone to the Chop House for happy hour?” I asked Megan and as Megan was saying, “no,” then Liz walked by, handing out the 3 x 5” papers on which we scribble our evaluation for a speech. Liz said,”Happy hour at the Chop House? I love it there. I also really like to go to Chris Ruth Chris happy hour too. “

The meeting started, and although no one had eaten a date, the dates were not forgotten. When it came time for table topics, Liz didn’t like the prompt that she was given, so she decided to instead tell us a story involving –you guessed it–dates. It was a wonderful story, but of course any story would be that begins with, “When I was in Egypt working with a battalion that was clearing the fields of buried mines…” She had told our Toastmaster’s club that she had graduated from West Point and served, but stories like this still tend to amaze me. She told the entire story in the two minute limit that we have for table topics speeches.

It went like this: they were so tired and hot after five hours of mine sweeping with the Egyptians in the desert that the Egyptians invited the American soldiers to come and have dinner with them. Egyptians are very generous with food she said, but there were items on the table that were totally unknown to the soldiers. Liz said that they started eating the foods they know: “OK, I see an apple, I’ll have some apple slices. And those olives look good. “ But she said there was something soft and brown in the center of the table and she didn’t know what it was, so she “pulled rank” and told another soldier to try it. The brown soft stuff turned out to be dates, and that was pretty much the end of the story, except for Rena’s comment after Liz sat down.

Rena said, “Now, I have a date story to tell too!” She decided to not use her table topics time to tell her story, but told us briefly after the meeting. Her story went like this, and also took place in the Middle East, but in Israel, not Egypt. Rena said she worked in a kibbutz after college, and her favorite job was to prune the date trees. To do that, she had to get up very early in the morning before it got hot, and she would need to climb the trees like a ladder and snip them here and there. She said it was just a beautiful way to be outside and to interact with trees and dates, and that was her association with dates.

Why mention all of this? Here is what I take away from the stories:
One. Bring snacks to meetings whenever you can because they seem to make people happy and evoke stories to tell.

Two. It turned out the dates were a particularly good snack to bring since one could make a joke about the word “date,” which has two meanings, both of which fit well into the sentence: “Would you like a date?”  This doesn’t work as well if, for example, if you bring cookies. Because the joke associated with “would you like a cookie?” usually will engender something along the lines of “No thanks, I have my Internet browser set to not accept cookies.” Ha, anemic ha.

Three.  Food and any and all sensory products  (anything that evokes our sense of taste, smell, hearing, feeling, or seeing) are likely to prompt stories. This is because we perceive the world through our senses, so the more pungent, crisp, salty, or loud the story prompt is, the more likely we are to come up with an immediate or past experience to talk about in response to that.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to have a cup of homemade ginger tea. (Recipe–Take a spoon and remove the brown outside from half a hand of ginger.  Cut up into small slices, and put into a boiling pot of water with some dates. Boil for an hour or two.  Add lemon as needed.  Strain and drink! Save the rest in your fridge in a pitcher for later. Yum. Drink it hot or cold.)

Have you ever blown bubbles as an adult (on purpose)?  With no children around. And no other adults.  Which is advisable, because then there is no one to witness you looking what Julia Cameron would call “An Artist.”  ( Full disclosure–I did this  in order to fulfill my week’s requirement for an Artist Date, as dictated by The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.)

“An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers.”–Julia Cameron in The Artist Way

Part 1 of Artist Date. Buy bubbles. Off to Toys R Us, which I haven’t been to for at least 10 years, I’m sorry to say, because it is an awesome place. The good news is you can still buy bubbles for $1. The bad news is that they now sell dozens of bubble-blowing products that require batteries.

I am taking a stand. I for one am not too lazy to blow my own bubbles.   These two bubble products that don’t require batteries:

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Part 2 of Artist Date. Blow Bubbles

Jar one: Sponge Bob bubbles—The same formula and bottle type used by cavemen.  About 5 or 6 little bubbles when you blow into the little wand you remember from being a kid.

IMG_5929

Jar two—Fubbles Squeeze and Blow = Pop-Up Bubbles.  You squeeze the bottle and the little wand pops up.  Theoretically you don’t get bubble slime all over your manicured digits. Blow and learn. Fubbles works really well! Dozens of bubbles. Watch them float onto your tan house, your pink flowers, your brown deck, your blue jeans, all bubbles are in technicolor.   I love this poup innovation! It was totally worth the extra dollar.

Fubbles blew me away!  Have you taken an artist date lately? What did you do?

 

 

When I asked my boyfriend TED (his last name is Talk) to surprise me this morning, he surprised me twice—not only with the talk he selected, but how he gave me my surprise. Instead of asking me if I wanted to see a totally random talk (I would have gone for that) or to pick a topic (there are 3 on Ants, 2 on meditation, and 9 on yesallwomen—which I didn’t understand was a twitter hashtag about misogyny and violence about women until I looked it up one minute ago), TED asked me how I wanted to feel.

I love how sensitive a guy TED is.

He asked, “What kind of talk do you want?”

Beautiful? Courageous? Funny? Ingenious? Inspiring? Fascinating? Jaw-Dropping? Persuasive?

I picked Inspiring. Then TED, ever considerate, asked me how much time I had.

TED served up “One Inspiring TED Talk in under 5 minutes.” Teacher Clint Smith @ClintSmithIII spoke on “The Nature of Silence.”

clint smith

TED knows that short can be good. I tell my students that if a talk or paper is short, it’s easier to reread or replay. Repetition is one of the keys to memory. I needed to replay Clint’s talk to remember the four phrases he displays to inspire his students. I could only remember 3:

Read Critically

Write Consciously

Tell Your Truth.

Want to know what the fourth is? Clint can tell you himself as he tells his truth.

Clint inspired me by simply standing there with his hands in his pockets and speaking about his mistakes. Mistakes are compelling. Especially when they bring about change.  Maybe next time I’ll ask TED for a 10 minute talk.

What did you hear in what Clint said, or didn’t say?

 

 

It’s not easy to take yourself on a date. In fact, even though Julia Cameron suggests you do this in The Artist’s Way, (which I’ve been dutifully following since January by writing daily morning pages)  she also knows that you (and when I say you, I mean I) will try and weasel out of it.

Walking through the arboretum on Ann Arbor's first hot day.

Walking through the arboretum on Ann Arbor’s first hot day.

Oh, let me define, in Cameron’s words:

An artist’s date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.  It might be a visit to a great junk store, a solo trip to the beach, a visit to an aquarium or an art gallery— these cost time, not money.  It might be a long country walk, a solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset, a sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music, to an ethnic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds— your artist might enjoy any of these. Or your artist might like bowling.

How did Cameron figure me out so quickly, even though she had never met me? She says:

Commit yourself to a weekly artist’s date, and then watch your killjoy side try to wriggle out of it. Watch how this sacred time gets easily encroached upon.

But I knew I was meeting a friend to talk about The Artist’s Way. I HAD to have an artist’s date to report. I am so grateful for this. Otherwise I would never have gotten my buttskie out the doorskie. Little did I know I’d be able to write around 300 words illustrated by six or so photos in just 15 minutes.

After the recent rains, I thought we might be getting close to having the Peony Garden in the Ann Arbor Arboretum in bloom.  I read the “Peony Garden Countdown.”

“The peonies are getting taller. Recent rain and more to come plus much warmer temps mean accelerated growth for the plants. What does this mean? The garden is likely on schedule unless we get cold weather later in May—not unknown in Michigan. Stay tuned for more frequent updates as May unfolds.”

Peonies looking like red licorice.

Peonies looking like red licorice.

I took a walk there yesterday from my office–about 25 minutes to get there.

When I got there, I spoke into my phone and recorded what I saw and thought:

I know at this point I only have minutes to record my story. When I walked into the park, I saw a redheaded young man in purple shorts and no shirt staring at his phone either pre-run or post run and then another young man run by that looks similar to him except he has dark hair and he’s wearing UM shorts, okay really he looks nothing like the first guy except he also happens to be a fit male shirtless runner. My face is wet with sweat and there is not a cloud in the sky.   The patches of peonies are between 6 inches high to knee-high. The red ones look a lot like red licorice, and the green ones look a lot like skinny celery. A few people were sitting around on blankets. Some young women are with babies. Another woman is holding a yoga mat and walking her little dog. Some other people are sitting on a bench across from me, and a young couple are walking down a path, holding hands. There is no way that I would possibly be here if I wasn’t going to be meeting with someone, and no way that I would be doing this also if I didn’t feel like I needed to schedule an artist date. She’s absolutely right (Cameron)– I can’t believe that I might’ve missed this. Everyone around me is wearing shorts or dresses. I think I might be the only idiot here actually wearing long jeans, okay I rolled them up, but they are still long jeans. Sweat is dripping down my back. But at least I’m out and about. The biggest peony buds are the size of Hershey’s kisses.

 

A bud the size of a Hershey's kiss.

A bud the size of a Hershey’s kiss.

Long pants rolled up on a hot day are not my best look.

Long pants rolled up on a hot day are not my best look.

Flowers that are not quite in bloom are like a pregnant woman—healthy and full of promise for the future. Exciting in a way, and different from seeing the fragile flowers that eventually emerge, and who will eventually wrinkle (the human analogy is annoyingly obvious.)

So see the flowers BEFORE they bloom.  Then, when you see them AFTER they bloom, you can say to them, “I knew you when you were just this tall!”

And if you are curious, go to the Ann Arbor District Library and listen to this talk on May 19 at 7:30.  Fleeting Beauty, Enduring Value: the Peony Garden at the Nichols Arboretum.

Have you seen Ann Arbor’s Peony Garden?  It’s worth the trip.

 

Are you a black and white kind of person? Do you like to bifurcate concepts for simplicity’s sake?  I can be yin/yang kind of gal, which is why I am putting forward here my theory of the Two Reasons Most People Write. (By the way, being a black and white kind of person is not necessarily a good or bad thing, just like fifty-two shades of grey.)

Erica Jong Writing Advice from Buzzfeed

Erica Jong Writing Advice from Buzzfeed

If you think I am being socially incorrect or you are annoyed at the very concept of dividing up anything into two categories, remember that you are reading more than letters now. You are reading digital letters, which at their heart are hexadecimal values, which are made up of only 0’s and 1’s.

Two Reasons Most People Write—We write…
For our soul For our ego
To learn our story To share our unique story with others
To scribble in our journal To be published
To become better writers To be more widely read by others
For insight For impact
To explore inwardly To explore outwardly
Yin Yang
Because we are searching for our own value in a world of 7 billion people Because we are obsessed with sharing.We want others to know who our lips have touched. We want to talk about our own tastebuds, fingertips, hairstyles, belt size, brain doodles, brainstorms, and opinions.

 

Why do you write? Please comment after this blog.

yin_yang

I spoke about these two reasons for writing at the meeting of WXW of Washtenaw County last Thurs, April 16, when I spoke about how to create a one minute introductory video. Which category does the one minute introductory video fall into?

Trick question. I’d say both.  We have to spend some time writing for our soul–digging into our own past experiences and playing with words to come up with something we feel good about. But how do people hear our ideas, which may differ from the meaning inside our head?  For example, if you say “I’m crazy about helping writers,” will people hear the words “I’m crazy” and consciously or unconsciously feel a teensy bit wary of the sanity of the writer?

Because our words affect others, this workshop had group support built in so we could give each other feedback. On Thursday April 16, this is what happened in a nutshell at the WXW meeting, after I said we were going to “Have Fun and Get it Done!”:

  1. I had fun discussing the three basic concepts here for about 15 min.
  2. We broke into groups of 4 (or 5 is OK too), exchanged contact information, and named our groups with an animal or food in the title. Some fun names so far that I can recall (please help me add to this list!) include Chocolate Monkeys, Caffeinated Achievers, Wilderness Explorers and the Hot Tamales.
  3. We filled in the blanks in the one-pager I handed out. (20 min.)
  4. We each read our “0 draft” to our group mates, and the listeners only gave non-judgmental feedback (by merely repeating exact words or phrases heard).
  5. Demonstration from Meg Fairchild on how to upload from your phone video to youtube, with a brief description of the youtube editing and subtitle tools.
  6. Wrap up and request to keep me up to date on any video intro you produce.

Do you have a favorite one minute video introduction (filmed or still in the script stage) to share? I’d like to post it here.  Please write to me at debbiemerion@gmail.com, or include it in a comment below.

Thank you to Lori Byron at FamousinYourField, Meg Fairchild at Torrance Learning, Carole Baker at SolutionsFirst, and Heidi Weise at Clearly Aligned for their support with the April 16, 2015 WXW event, and thank you to all of the lovely women (and the one brave guy) who attended.

Debbie Merion accidentally giving herself the finger, while explaining at WXW "Say It and Show it" how to thwart the editor in your elbow who squelches your creativity.

Debbie Merion accidentally giving herself the finger, while explaining at WXW “Say It and Show it” how to thwart the editor in your elbow who squelches your creativity.

Erica Jong image was originally here.

Yin Yang image was originally here.

 

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