Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beyond THE FUTURE: Hope-filled Signs in Our Tumultuous Times

Stunning photo of HOPE carving from the walls of Stanford Memorial Church © inel.
I suspect when we’re all elderly and telling stories of the good old days to our grandchildren or even great-grandchildren (I don’t know about you but I intend to live to 120; that’s how long it’ll take to read all the books on my TBR list!), we’ll be inclined to describe the early years of this century as anything but terrific. Since the 2000 election through 9-11 through the fateful days of March 2003 and the past five years of misguided, devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has seen its international image tarnished to previously unimagined levels. Meanwhile at home, the past year’s economic fiascos and this year’s fall-out have forced many Americans out of their homes and into serious financial trouble. All this just scratches the surface, of course (don’t even get me started on gas prices; does anyone else remember the ’70s? Anyone?), but dwelling on the negatives is not what I prefer to do on this blog. Instead, before I embark on a two-week spring break blogging hiatus, I’d like to highlight two speeches, one given just this week and one given a year ago this month. Both these speeches are profound yet direct in their approach. Both also offer very encouraging, hope-filled signs despite the trouble times in which we live.

Enjoy, keep the faith, and happy spring!

If you’ve yet to read Senator Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech about race, its impact on the current election, and where our painful history can finally take us, please read or listen to it when you have time to really read or listen to it. I believe there’s a message here that every single American deserves to hear.

Thanks to Melissa at Mutterings of a Mindless Mommy for running the following speech in its entirety a while back. It’s well worth running again, especially on a blog that celebrates heroines and heros who promote tolerance. I hope we’ll hear much more from Soeren Palumbo in the not-so-far future. We need many more leaders on all fronts who truly care about others; who operate with a solid, heartfelt understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong; and who are brave and wise enough to put their beliefs into words and proclaim them for all the world to hear.

Soeren was a senior honors student at Fremd High School in Wheeling, Illinois, in March of last year. During Writer’s Week, he gave this speech to a gymnasium full of his high school peers and faculty and received a standing ovation. He went on to serve as a Youth Summit Leader for the 2007 International Special Olympics and is now a student at the University of Notre Dame.

I want to tell you a quick story before I start. I was walking through hallways, not minding my own business, listening to the conversations around me. As I passed the front door on my way to my English classroom, I heard the dialogue between two friends nearby. For reasons of privacy, I would rather not give away their race or gender.

So the one girl leans to the other, pointing to the back of a young man washing the glass panes of the front door, and says, “Oh my gaw! I think it is so cute that our school brings in the black kids from around the district to wash our windows!” The other girl looked up, widened her slanted Asian eyes and called to the window washer, easily loud enough for him to hear, “Hey, Negro! You missed a spot!” The young man did not turn around. The first girl smiled a bland smile that all white girls—hell, all white people—have and walked on. A group of Mexicans stood by and laughed that high pitch laugh that all of them have.

So now it’s your turn. What do you think the black window washer did? What would you do in that situation? Do you think he turned and calmly explained the fallacies of racism and showed the girls the error of their way? That’s the one thing that makes racism, or any discrimination, less powerful in my mind. No matter how biased or bigoted a comment or action may be, the guy can turn around and explain why racism is wrong and, if worst comes to worst, punch ’em in the face.

Discrimination against those who can defend themselves, obviously, cannot survive. What would be far worse is if we discriminated against those who cannot defend themselves. What then, could be worse than racism?

Look around you and thank God that we don’t live in a world that discriminates and despises those who cannot defend themselves. Thank God that every one of us in this room, in this school, hates racism and sexism and by that logic discrimination in general. Thank God that every one in this institution is dedicated to the ideal of mutual respect and love for our fellow human beings. Then pinch yourself for living in a dream. Then pinch the hypocrites sitting next to you. Then pinch the hypocrite that is you.

Pinch yourself once for each time you have looked at one of your fellow human beings with a mental handicap and laughed. Pinch yourself for each and every time you denounced discrimination only to turn and hate those around you without the ability to defend themselves, the only ones around you without the ability to defend themselves. Pinch yourself for each time you have called someone else a “retard.”

If you have been wondering about my opening story, I’ll tell you that it didn’t happen, not as I described it. Can you guess what I changed? No, it wasn’t the focused hate on one person, and no it wasn’t the slanted Asian eyes or cookie cutter features white people have or that shrill Hispanic hyena laugh (yeah, it hurts when people make assumptions about your person and use them against you, doesn’t it?).

The girl didn’t say “Hey, Negro.” There was no black person.

It was a mentally handicapped boy washing the windows. It was “Hey, retard.” I removed the word retard. I removed the word that destroys the dignity of our most innocent. I removed the single most hateful word in the entire English language.
I don’t understand why we use the word; I don’t think I ever will.

In such an era of political correctness, why is it that retard is still ok? Why do we allow it? Why don’t we stop using the word? Maybe students can’t handle stopping—I hope that offends you students, it was meant to—but I don’t think the adults, here can either.

Students, look at your teacher, look at every member of this faculty. I am willing to bet that every one of them would throw a fit if they heard the word faggot or nigger—hell the word Negro—used in their classroom. But how many of them would raise a finger against the word retard? How many of them have? Teachers, feel free to raise your hand or call attention to yourself through some other means if you have.

That’s what I thought. Clearly, this obviously isn’t a problem contained within our age group.

So why am I doing this? Why do I risk being misunderstood and resented by this school’s student body and staff? Because I know how much you can learn from people, all people, even—no, not even, especially—the mentally handicapped.

I know this because every morning I wake up and I come downstairs and I sit across from my sister, quietly eating her Cheerios. And as I sit down she sets her spoon down on the table and she looks at me. Her strawberry blonde hair hanging over her freckled face almost completely hides the question mark-shaped scar above her ear from her brain surgery two Christmases ago.

She looks at me and she smiles. She has a beautiful smile; it lights up her face. Her two front teeth are faintly stained from the years of intense epilepsy medication but I don’t notice that anymore. I lean over to her and say, “Good morning, Olivia.” She stares at me for a moment and says quickly, “Good morning, Soeren,” and goes back to her Cheerios.

I sit there for a minute, thinking about what to say. “What are you going to do at school today, Olivia?” She looks up again. “Gonna see Mista Bee!” she replies loudly, hugging herself slightly and looking up. Mr. B. is her gym teacher and perhaps her favorite man outside of our family on the entire planet and Olivia is thoroughly convinced that she will be having gym class every day of the week. I like to view it as wishful thinking.

She finishes her Cheerios and grabs her favorite blue backpack and waits for her bus driver, Miss Debbie, who, like clockwork, arrives at our house at exactly 7 o’clock each morning. She gives me a quick hug goodbye and runs excitedly to the bus, ecstatic for another day of school.

And I watch the bus disappear around the turn and I can’t help but remember the jokes. The short bus. The “retard rocket.” No matter what she does, no matter how much she loves those around her, she will always be the butt of some immature kid’s joke. She will always be the butt of some mature kid’s joke. She will always be the butt of some “adult’s” joke.

By no fault of her own, she will spend her entire life being stared at and judged. Despite the fact that she will never hate, never judge, never make fun of, never hurt, she will never be accepted. That’s why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because I don’t think you understand how much you hurt others when you hate. And maybe you don’t realize that you hate. But that’s what it is; your pre-emptive dismissal of them, your dehumanization of them, your mockery of them, it’s nothing but another form of hate.

It’s more hateful than racism, more hateful than sexism, more hateful than anything. I’m doing this so that each and every one of you, student or teacher, thinks before the next time you use the word “retard,” before the next time you shrug off someone else’s use of the word “retard.” Think of the people you hurt, both the mentally handicapped and those who love them.

If you have to, think of my sister. Think about how she can find more happiness in the blowing of a bubble and watching it float away than most of us will in our entire lives. Think about how she will always love everyone unconditionally. Think about how she will never hate. Then think about which one of you is “retarded.”

Maybe this has become more of an issue today because society is changing, slowly, to be sure, but changing nonetheless. The mentally handicapped aren’t being locked in their family’s basement anymore.

The mentally handicapped aren’t rotting like criminals in institutions. Our fellow human beings are walking among us, attending school with us, entering the work force with us, asking for nothing but acceptance, giving nothing but love. As we become more accepting and less hateful, more and more handicapped individuals will finally be able to participate in the society that has shunned them for so long. You will see more of them working in places you go, at Dominicks, at Jewel, at Wal-Mart. Someday, I hope more than anything, one of these people that you see will be my sister.

I want to leave you with one last thought. I didn’t ask to have a mentally handicapped sister. She didn’t choose to be mentally handicapped. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have learned infinitely more from her simple words and love than I have from any classroom of “higher education.” I only hope that, one day, each of you will open your hearts enough to experience true unconditional love, because that is all any of them want to give. I hope that, someday, someone will love you as much as Olivia loves me. I hope that, someday, you will love somebody as much as I love her. I love you, Olivia.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beyond FAMILY: Robert Rummel-Hudson and His Daughter, Schuyler

Wowwee-wow-wow, as early-reader star Junie B. Jones would say. Through the serendipitous world of blogging and books and the web I just discovered author and blogger Robert Rummel-Hudson, otherwise known as Rob, otherwise known as the dad of Schuyler (pronounced Skyler). While I’d love to wax poetic over everything I’ve learned after an hour of lurking on Rob’s blog Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords and on-line journal Darn-Tootin, I’m going to leave it to interested readers to enjoy that discovery on their own. A good place to start: the recent Dallas Morning News article highlighted in this Fighting Monsters post.

Suffice to say Rob’s a VERY funny guy who’s struggled with his wife Julie to help now eight-year-old Schuyler cope and overcome and flourish despite the rare brain disorder that prevents her from being able to talk, her personal monster bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria. Rob’s new book, Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey with His Wordless Daughter (which he calls “a love letter to my daughter”) will be reviewed here before long. Suddenly I’m certain a trip to a favorite Denver bookstore is in order this week. Nice to meet you, Rob!!

Irresistible photo of baby Schuyler in New Haven (© Robert Rummel-Hudson) shamelessly lifted from Rob’s archives

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Beyond FINDING A WAY: Blogomania Strikes

I joke with folks who don’t blog that blogging is like e-mail on steroids. There’s SO MUCH to read and write and it really can take over. Not that I’m compulsive enough to get hooked on reading other blogs on a daily basis or to feel compelled to write (much!) more often on my blog. Really. I’m not compulsive. Not at all. It’s just that I LOVE to read other blogs because there are so many amazing stories out there, so much to learn, so much that makes me laugh or cry or curse or marvel, especially when even the comments on other blogs from complete strangers ring so true and make it evident that people (or at least people who populate certain corners of the blogosphere) simply shine with goodness. It can get a little addicting, I have to admit. Add to that another aspect of blogging that I love—reading about books and sharing what I’ve read with other like-minded souls—and this whole blogging thing can pretty much entertain me all day. Much more effectively than cleaning dirty laundry...or bathrooms…or floors, windows, countertops, closets…. Come to think of it, I haven’t even taken a shower yet this morning and here I am, typing away in my pajamas…for three hours. Woops!

So I figure I may as well get on with it. When things overwhelm, as blogging sometimes can, I resort to making lists. Actually, I make lists even when I don’t feel overwhelmed. I love them. And crossing things off them as each thing’s completed like a toddler determined to color a hole into a piece of paper until he can see (and decorate) the tabletop underneath. So here’s a list of things I’d planned to blog about this month but am beginning to realize will never get attended to if I don’t attack them all at once. My trip to Boston, btw and thanks for asking, was wonderful! All the company, including three of my sisters and my sweet mom, had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to hurt myself. And soon my family and my husband’s extended family (including folks from Montreal and Minneapolis) and I will head to warmer climes together for spring break. That means no blogging or emailing or even typing a single word (or cleaning laundry or bathrooms either, for that matter) for over a week! It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it, right? So here’s my list:

Bloggers at Work

Lisa Kenney over at Eudaemonia works full-time and travels quite a bit for work but still manages to volunteer as a publicist for Denver-based juvenile justice non-profit, Pendulum Foundation. In this capacity, Lisa created the Compassion in Juvenile Sentencing blog to raise awareness of the fates of young adults incarcerated in adult prisons and sentenced to life without parole. Recently, Lisa posted a series of interviews with Jason Lind, an adult who’s been in prison since he was a teen. Lisa wrote this about her series, From Inside Supermax:

“The purpose of this series of posts is to gain an understanding of how we’re handling the cases of juveniles convicted of very serious crimes and what happens to these juveniles once we’ve locked them up. I don’t pretend to have any answers, but my contention that juvenile LWOP and incarceration for juveniles in adult prisons is wrong remains strong.” I’m looking forward to reading the eight parts of this series to see what so many young Americans are up against….and what many more will face in the future if we don’t get our education system under control (see reference below to The Freedom Writers Diary for more on that).

Meanwhile on Eudaemonia, Lisa also has been posting weekly chapters of her novel The Foundling Wheel—as she writes them—as part of the popular Dickens Challenge. I printed and read her first ten chapters while en route to Boston and can’t wait to read more!

At Simply Wait, Patry Francis has written yet another priceless post, this one about her son Gabe, on living life well. It’s always a joy to stop by Simply Wait and see something new! Hugs from Denver, Patry!

At Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference, young blogger-activisit Laura highlights a worthy cause every month. She’s currently raising awareness of Compass House, a Buffalo-based shelter for runaway and homeless youth. In her current post, Laura teaches how to give to resources like Compass House easily through, a Minneapolis-based charity that provides “toy-filled birthday gift bags to food shelves and shelters so that parents living in poverty can give their child a birthday gift.” For Laura’s recent birthday, her family donated to Cheerful Givers in her honor. What a terrific way to spread the love! Kudos to Laura on her continuing work on behalf of worthy organizations. She’s a cheerful giver through and through who makes a difference every day of her life.

Books on My Radar

I read a lot when I travel and (finally!) plowed through The Kite Runner this past weekend for an upcoming book club meeting. I’m happy to have read it, but definitely understand why some folks (like yours truly) hesitate to take it on. The fact that the abuses against children documented in it happen in many impoverished countries on a regular basis (including in Afghanistan, which the U.S. has sorely neglected for the past six years) makes it even harder to tackle, but the writing and story-telling and characters—and especially the glimpses into the lives of Afghanis past and present and of Afghan Americans—make it ultimately worthwhile. I’m looking forward to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns.

As for Atonement, I’ve heard not-so-great stuff about the movie but so far I love reading the book. McEwan’s textured prose and approach hooked me from word one, as many well-read bloggers promised.

In the non-fiction realm, I recently (finally) read The Freedom Writer’s Diary about the experience of a young ambitious Long Beach CA English teacher faced with a class of high school freshmen who preferred to taunt her and their classmates from rival gangs than listen to a word she had to say. How Erin Gruwell not only survived her first year with this class but went on to teach them much more than literature is the underlying story of this book. The true depth and power of The Freedom Writers Diary, however, comes from the journal entries the students wrote over their four years with Erin Gruwell (who was allowed to teach them throughout their high school careers not because she was granted special favors by the administration but because no one else wanted to deal with these kids). The incredibly varied forms of abuse, neglect, and violence to which these young adults were exposed throughout their childhoods boggle the mind. When a student writes about a stable home life of any kind, so often it’s marred with parental illnesses or lost jobs that force the student to step into a parenting role long before he or she is ready. Meanwhile, other kids face life-threatening pressures because they’re set up to defend “their own” above all else. Others have learning disabilities that have never been diagnosed or treated. Others fear for their lives when they step out their front door every morning, or even while they sleep at night. This book rivets with its tales of how these kids are expected to step up and make the grade in school and how so many of them miraculously do just that on their way to college…with a lot of help from Erin Gruwell and many others in the community, but hardly any from the administration within their school or school district. Most of these kids were not even expected to graduate from high school and were largely abandoned in many ways. Hell, most of them expected to die before even getting the chance to grow up. Their stories deserve to be heard not only for their own worth but as dramatic reminders of how much remains to be done to truly protect our children and make sure they get the education they need and deserve.

To learn more about The Freedom Writers, go here.

Bloggers in Need

Many bloggers write to vent and/or laugh, many to connect, some just to make sense of their daily lives. The bravest admit when the going gets tough and open themselves to the grace and goodness of those who’d like to help. I know of a few bloggers who could use a virtual hug or two; feel free to help spread the love to: G at Rooster Calls, Pam at Rhett’s Journey, Laini at Grow Wings, Kim at Kim Stagliano, Michelle at The Zoromski Chronicles, Jodie at Jodie’s Random Thoughts. And if you know of any others in the blogosphere who are calling out for a kind word to help them make their way, feel free to let the rest of us know.

Funky bleach painting © Deborah Gwinn at Seattle-based Moth to Flame Studios

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Beyond FICTION: SOUVENIR by Therese Fowler

I’m accumulating a back-log of items TBA (to blog about!) to add to my growing TBR list and wanted to post at least a couple before I head to Boston this weekend for a family baby shower. My kiddos have LOTS of cousins on their mother’s side, with cousin #36 due in early April. Yes, my family alone could populate a small town. With one of my sisters facing the prospect of motherhood for the first time, my mom and other sisters are flocking to Boston to shower her with gifts for herself and the baby on the way. As most DeGroot women (at least in my family) prefer to keep secrets until they have no choice but to reveal them, the gender of cousin #36 remains a mystery. More on that in about a month!

Anyhoo, I’ve been reading like mad lately and finished Therese Fowler’s debut novel Souvenir over a week ago. Therese is a fellow author/blogger/mom (or should that read mom/author/blogger?) based in North Carolina. Over the past year or so she’s kindly shared the ups and downs of the publishing process in her blog, Making It Up; more recently she’s written about signings and other authorly appearances in her neck of the woods. She’s a joy to read and a joy to “know”—virtually or in person.

I’m hesitant to write too much about this book since so much of its enjoyment depends on the discovery of answers to its suspenseful story questions. While the main character, Meg, struggles with a variety of mid-life quandaries (including a couple that are anything but typical and tug relentlessly at the heartstrings), a very serious development forces her to reassess her approach, her priorities, even her values as she grows more and more determined to live her life as she sees fit. What struck me most was the manner in which Meg chooses to reach out to those she loves, to make sure what she needs to say is said in a very clear way, to guarantee that the love she harbors for those most near and dear to her is recorded. Having learned a simple strategy from her own mother, Meg refuses to give up on her quest to make this dream of hers come true despite increasingly debilitating circumstances.

A few powerful messages ring clear through Therese’s story; Carpe Diem is just one. Look around with open eyes, set your priorities, and don’t surrender a single moment to regret or self-doubt, Meg instructs through her actions and words. Live today as though it’s your last, because life really is too damn short. Kudos, Therese, for a terrific story that packs such an important punch, and for giving Meg the courage to do (more than once) what she knows in her heart she must do. This reader, for one, will never forget her.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Beyond FINESSE: 2007-2008 RMWI Associates

I went to my final meeting with other current Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute associates yesterday. As fickle Colorado weather would dictate this time of the year, we met outdoors to enjoy a beautiful seventy-degree afternoon...that was followed this morning by a snow storm which continues to rattle ’round the rooftops as I type. Crazy!

As self-appointed (compulsive) secretary of our associate group, I usually follow each meeting with an e-mail noting what was discussed and what associates’ action items remain as we prepare for our Associate Showcase, “Lines, Lineage and Lore” in April. (That’s Wednesday, April 9, 6pm at the Space Gallery on Santa Fe for all you Denverites!!). But yesterday’s meeting took a creative turn that tied in with Lisa’s recent discussion of the artistic process, a turn I’d like to document here:

Margarita Blush, a puppeteer from Bulgaria, holds a masters degree in directing for puppet and alternative theatre from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. Yes, she’s as impressive as that sounds! While working on a performance based on a Bulgarian folktale for her showcase presentation (which I can’t wait to see), she’s run across a number of challenges she’s faced with an optimistic attitude that’s contagious. Calling the creative process an incredible leap of faith, she joked yesterday about the feeling of throwing oneself onto the mercy of fate, arms widespread, leaping and praying that one learns to fly along the way. As you can see from the link, the end results of her constant leaps of faith are stunning.

Kate Aspinall, an artist from Scotland, holds a degree in Art History from the historic (we’re talking six CENTURIES worth of historic!) University of St. Andrews in Scotland. A dedicated creator of large pencil drawings, Kate is in the process of creating a series of large portraits for the associate showcase. (She jokes that she works on the floor of her home, usually with her cat as her audience.) Kate was recently awarded a spot in a graduate degree program back in Scotland and will return there later this year. Despite illness and the recent travel to interview for a spot in this program, Kate always displays a tremendous amount of insight into the complexities of line and perspective and their impact on identity as viewed and portrayed in her art.

Joy Roulier Sawyer teaches creative writing at the University of Denver. As a performance poet, she’s in the process of producing a theatrical presentation of a sonnet crown called “Following the Piper.” Joy holds a masters degree from the NYU Gallatin Division, where she received the Herbert Rubin Award for Outstanding Creative Writing. Joy’s spirited discussion of her impressive RMWI project (which will feature a number of performers and participants, including Denver poet laureate Chris Ransick)—and her current quest for the perfect props—made us realize yesterday that her performance piece will be something unexpected and very special.

Deanna Lowman holds a degree in photography from the University Colorado. Her life work has led her to photograph a wide variety of subjects, including the wealthy and the poor of Ghana, a complex country she was honored to visit as a student. Deanna uses her photography not only to capture incredibly eloquent images but to tell stories from the present and the past. Her current project relates stories of women of African descent who have inspired and healed her life. Yesterday Deanna noted the importance not only of what she creates as a photographer, but of what others “get out of her work”—the inspiration and healing her art can provide as well as celebrate.

Li Hardison, a portrait artist and figurative sculptor, also explores the dignity and strength of women, and African American women in particular, through her art. Her current series of work honors the achievements of black women artists in all genres of artistic endeavor in hopes of not only manifesting their hopes and dreams but of speaking to young artists. By emphasizing the critical role the creation of art plays in the contribution to a person’s wholeness, Li creates art infused with tremendous emotion and grace. Her work-in-progress for display at the RMWI Associate Showcase is a tribute to legendary dancer and choreographer Judith Jameson. Li said yesterday she had envisioned this piece for a long while before realizing the tremendous flowing skirt of Jameson’s dress would measure nearly three feet across.

Reneé Fajardo is a teacher, poet, author, event organizer, and storyteller (and mother of seven!) whose enthusiasm for her art, community, family, ancestors, and the stories that remind us all of our vibrant connections inspires everyone she meets. Her work-in-progress has taken her to reservations throughout the Southwest as she’s photographed and documented the tremendous stories of women who otherwise would never have their stories told. In addition to reading from her work, Reneé will display select photographs from these visits at the RMWI Associate Showcase.

At our first meeting, Kate discussed her work from the perspective of exploring “the significance/symbolism of line to identity.” This discussion as well as the influence of folklore on Margarita’s work, the lines of poetry and prose in all the writers’ works, and the immense, heartfelt ties to the past—most notably in the faces and figures and stories of strong women who’ve come before us—in Reneé’s, Li’s and Deanna’s work led to the ultimate naming of the 2008 RMWI Associate Showcase. “Lines, Lineage and Lore” will celebrate not only a wide range of works-in-progress, but our time together as associates, the opportunities we’ve enjoyed to get to know each other as fellow artists who happen to have lived in the Denver/Boulder area during this period, and the support and well wishes we’ll send along with each other as our time together ends.

If you’re in the Denver area but can’t make the April 9 RMWI Associate Showcase, consider visiting the preview during the monthly First Friday Art Walk on Friday April 4 from 6-9pm. Within a six-block section of Santa Fe Drive from 5th Ave to 10th Ave., you can visit more than 30 galleries and artist studios. An added bonus at the April 4th First Friday Art Walk: Denver poet laureate Chris Ransick has assigned 20 poets (including RMWI Associate Joy Sawyer, who’ll be stationed outside the Space Gallery) to various corners of the multi-block Santa Fe Drive art district. In honor of National Poetry Month, the poets will recite their work to passersby as part of this notable drive to bring poetry to the public.

I find it fitting that this post immediately follows the post about Carleen’s signing featuring the photo of Carleen and Lisa. The past nine months have resulted in a life-changing influx of strong creative women into my secluded suburban reality thanks to my simple pursuit of a more writerly life. My meetings and discussions with so many talented women have led me to step up to the challenge of once more participating in Lighthouse Writers workshops, which I can’t wait to start again in a few weeks. While my first class will advance my study of the short story, my workshop wish list includes master classes in writing the novel and producing a poetry manuscript.

If my time with the women involved in this year’s RMWI program—including its former director, artist and professor Elizabeth Braden—has taught me anything, it’s to keep pursuing those dreams of making art in whatever way, shape, or form they present themselves. I love that women artists so willingly share the awesome possibilities of what can be achieved when one devotes one’s life not only to art but to the sharing of the many challenges faced throughout the creative process.

For women especially, making and teaching art mean much more than any finished product. Margarita joked yesterday that a friend of hers has said heaven for artists is a place where a work of art imagined suddenly becomes reality. That, of course, was followed by a discussion of the joys of the creative process, but any artist under a deadline knows how heavenly it would indeed be to have that perfect creation appear magically, fuelled only by the love and creative spark that ignited its conception. The reality of it all is that art takes love and spark and creativity and much, much more. As Lisa reveals in her amazing tribute to her beloved artist-in-residence, Scott Mattlin, a little support along the way makes the journey a lot less daunting, and a lot more fun. That’s what I’ll be celebrating in April, with many thanks to the growing number of creative women who bless me with their constant support and friendship.

I love this photo! From l-r back row: Kate, Margarita, Li, Joy, and yours truly; Front row: Deanna and Reneé.