Can you blog and still be a decent person?

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Lately, I have not posted much on my blog-not because of a lack of ideas or motivation.  I am not blocked.  I have written plenty of pieces.  It’s just that much of what I write is about the people I know-my daughter’s teacher, people I meet at the park where I take my children, family members, friends… My draft folder is full of pieces, some of which are not fully flattering representations of the people in my life.  I am afraid to share this work because I don’t want to hurt anyone.  Well, that’s partly true.  The other part of it is that I also don’t want to face the consequences of calling people out. So what happens is that I write and never publish.

As a writer I am feeling the burden of self-censorship.  When I hold back, the work is not true, not authentic.  When I let go and write without restraint, I feel uneasy, guilty and fearful that I have been hurtful and cruel.

This brings to mind a novel I read over the summer-Elizabth Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton.” There is a moment in the story when Sarah Payne, a writer and teacher tells the title character, “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write a piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”  If this is true, which I suspect it is, how do you write and remain a decent person?

Do you sacrifice feelings and relationships at the altar of good writing?  Is telling your story worth it? 

Blogging is a particularly tricky business because it is so personal. Usually, family and friends follow you. They read your posts and know who you are writing about.   Yes, I suppose that you can change the names of the people and places to protect their identities.  Really though, if I write about a teacher who gives too much homework but am careful to change her name, people who know me, who know my children, will be able to figure out who I am talking about or, given that I have two children, will be able to at least narrow it down to one of two people.

And while we’re on the subject…How do I write about my children and not steal their stories?  Of course our lives are inextricably linked, but aren’t their stories theirs to tell?  How much right do I have to discuss their lives, their struggles, their mistakes?   I do not feel that just because I am their mother, that I am in any way entitled to use their lives to further my writing. At what point am I stealing what is theirs?  The internet is full of mommy bloggers.  Sometimes I read what is out there and I wonder what their children will think when they grow up and read the stories their mothers posted about them.

Can we as writers find a balance between speaking truthfully and protecting others?  Should we?  Or should we just tell our stories, the truth as we see it?  Should we release ourselves from the shackles of censorship? If we do, can we still write and be decent people?

 

Etude in Words

Two years ago to the month I was in the throes of a terrible bout of anxiety.  Worry had essentially taken over my life, and I spent every spare moment ruminating over and researching those matters that caused me angst. At some point during July of 2012 someone asked me, “Heather, when you are done spending all your time worrying, what are you going to do?”  I responded, “I’d like to write.” 

Another year passed and in July of 2013 I launched this blog, quirknjive.com.  Despite having an undergraduate degree in English and writing academic pieces and copy as part of my profession, it had been years since I wrote anything creative or deeply personal.  Quite frankly, despite feeling compelled to do it, the idea of harnessing my thoughts and ideas and organizing them into any sort of narrative was frightening.  In my twenties I had worked as a dancer, and receiving a  harsh criticism of a performance was never as painful as receiving negative feedback from one of my college professors on a piece of writing I had submitted.  Never are you more vulnerable than when you write.  If you write with your authentic voice, everything is exposed: your creative ability, your technique and, perhaps most frightening, your intelligence.  Even which direction your moral compass points can be gleaned through your writing. When I shared my fears about writing with my brother Sean, a writer himself, he reminded me of this famous quote by Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”  So I opened my blog and began writing, but I wasn’t ready to bleed…not yet. 

I had conceptualized quirknjive.com as a sort of “mommy blog” about a domestically challenged homemaker who never seemed to be able to get her shit together enough to keep up with the other suburban housewives.  I saw myself as being a Morticia Addams in a sea of June Cleavers and Donna Stones.  My plan was to have a sometimes silly, sometimes bittersweet, yet always insightful blog about my efforts to get through my days despite a variety of challenges, most of those being my own personal inadequacies. So I came up with my tagline, “living life slightly outside of the box,”  and began blogging.  And it was fun at first. 

As I continued to blog, however, I began to struggle to keep to the intended theme. It became a chore to make every post an exercise in self-deprecation.  An old familiar voice began to emerge, and I found myself sometimes venturing into topics that really didn’t quite fit with my site. In March my writing shifted.  I began working with poetry and writing essays that could no longer fit within the confines of my “mom blog.”

So, as I have grown as a writer, quirknjive.com has grown as a blog. My goal now is not to play the role of the self-deprecating homemaker but to focus on the craft of writing itself, to use writing to find meaning when so much in life seems meaningless, and to create.  Of course I will write about my children; we are inextricably linked, and so many of my thoughts are centered on them. Limiting yourself as a writer, however, to a role, topic or theme is like taking a walk in the forest and forcing yourself to only look at the flowers while ignoring the majesty of the trees, the splendor of the sun filtering through the forest’s umbrella, the melody of the birds chirping and the gentle whoosh of leaves blowing in the breeze.   Moving forward, I will use this space not only as a mother’s place to write, but as a writer’s place to be free.

Goth Girls Hosting Superbowl Parties, Chinese New Year, Peyton Place and Other Random Stuff

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Oh blog , how I have missed thee. The last couple of weeks have been long and busy. I did make one lame attempt at a blog post, and I was angry, so it was angry.   It was angry, angry, oh so angry. To have posted it would have been an act of sheer lunacy.  Instead, I have saved it, which I find rather titillating.  With one click of a key I can send my deepest, darkest thoughts out into blogosphere for all to read.  I can send words I will most certainly…well, let’s not get carried away here.  I will rephrase.  I can send words that I might, perhaps someday wish that I could take back.  It’s all so dangerous and exciting that I’m getting hot and bothered.  No let me rephrase…again. The thought of posting it is mildly exciting because it may elicit a mildly negative emotional response from very few readers.  Bottom line, the night I wrote it I was so very tired, and, instead of going to bed like a normal, responsible person, I had the genius idea to stay up very, very late and blog. I wrote and wrote for hours.  It was epic.  Thankfully, something told me that I should just run the whole thing by Giorgio before hitting publish. Upon hearing what I wrote, my dear, darling, ever supportive husband suggested that perhaps, just this once, I sleep on it before I post.  So I did.  I went to bed like I should have done in the first place, rather than wasting hours pounding out some mildly antagonistic blog. I slept one of those amazingly unsatisfying sleeps where you drop on the bed, as if you just dropped dead, and wake up in the same position as you landed the night before.  When I awoke the next morning, I no longer felt angry, and I decided to save my jive post for a later date. To sum it all up, I delved into the dark recesses of my demented brain.  No, that doesn’t sound quite right. Let me rephrase…again.   I thought some moderately negative thoughts, wrote them down, didn’t feel good about it and decided to put them on the back-burner and focus on lighter matters. In an attempt to purge myself of any residual negativity, I have decided to rundown the silly, awkward and ironic situations I found myself in this week.  So here goes:

Chinese New Year at School: We are in the process of selecting a school for Allegra for next year.  Last week Giorgio and I went to visit one school for the second time.  I really like this place and, wanting to present myself in a somewhat respectable manner, took great care to look my best.   I donned my favorite Chinese inspired jacket, which Giorgio HATES, but I love. Giorgio, who has become a caricature of himself, wore his chef uniform.  He did have to run to work after our visit, but I also suspect that he’s morphing into a kind of chefinator, always in uniform and ready to whip up a souffle on a moment’s notice. Then, we headed out the door. 

Once we arrived at the school and made our way inside, Giorgio, chef-in-uniform, began speaking with a school administrator.  Although I was chatting with an instructor at the time, I distinctly recall hearing him speaking metaphorically and comparing the inflexibility of the current education system to the policies of most chinese restaurants which do not allow simple changes or substitutions to be made to menu items. Hmmmm.

Then we observed classes and spoke to a few teachers.  One of my favorite instructors at the school actually complimented my jacket and noted that it was very festive.  You know, with the Chinese New Year and all, which the preschool happened to be celebrating when we made our way past their classroom.  It was a bit later that I was struck by how ridiculous the two of us must have looked…showing up at a school wearing a Chinese jacket, weaving Chinese food metaphors into our dialogue, all the while one of the classes is holding its Chinese New Year celebration*.  If we don’t get our shit together and stop sabotaging our child, she won’t be accepted anywhere. 

* I do have to add that, in fairness to Giorgio and myself, we really weren’t aware that it was the Chinese New Year.

Superbowl Party at the Aging Goth Chick’s Place:  Let me preface this by stating that I am not gothic.  As a matter of fact, I get the heebie jeebies very easily and can handle absolutely nothing that deals with the supernatural, vampires, witches, witchcraft, the occult, animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, spooky castles set atop cliffs, coffins, fog, medieval crucifixes, incense, velvet, the color burgundy, burgundy velvet …you get the point.  I do however like to wear black.  Of course, on special occasions, like visiting my child’s potential future school, I sometimes offset the black with cool Asian jackets or sparkly costume jewelry. Other than that, black is pretty much the only “color” I wear in the fall, winter and spring (in the summer I usually pull out some hot pink and bright yellow). Also, I do have a sort of severe look  and I have been questioned by my son’s former teacher if we were a goth family (because, as you know, goth families tend to send their children to parochial schools)…

I really need to dedicate an entire post to this topic, so I’ll give you the abridged version.  Jack was in kindergarten.  Due to sensory issues, he would only color in black.  He also told the teacher that we lost our pet snake in our house.  Here again, I am petrified of snakes.  I can’t look at them, think about them, hear their creepy hisssssssssses.  But, Jack decided to tell the teacher that we had one as a pet, or we did until we lost it.  So putting it all together-child drawing in black, mother wearing black, pet snake-she thought that, perhaps, we were goth.

Now where was I?  Oh yes. I am not goth. I just took some liberties to make the title more interesting.  Anyway, I also don’t look much like the stereotypical gal who gets all worked out about the Superbowl much less hosts a Superbowl party.  In truth, I can care less about the game itself, but I do host a Superbowl party. You see, as child, I always felt left out on Superbowl Sunday.  I believed that everyone else in the entire world was sitting in their living rooms eating cheesy nachos and drinking Cokes.  Although I had no interest in the game, I did like the idea of the holiday that Superbowl Sunday had become.  So every year we have a very small Superbowl party with the kids, my parents, my brother Sean and my sister-in-law Jen.  We make tons of junk food and, some watch the game. Meanwhile, the kids disturb everyone by making  too much noise which is completely unrelated to game viewing, and Jen and I suck down martinis (although this year we tried margaritas which were fabulous and will most likely be replayed next year).  It’s a great time. Even Ginger enjoyed her first Superbowl party and had a Manwich for dinner.

So this year, a couple of hours before the game, I found myself in the grocery picking up our party food and a couple of Superbowl balloons for the kids. The store was PACKED and people were crazed.  Seriously people, if we’re going to treat the Superbowl like it’s a holiday then we need to shop like it’s a holiday and get it done by the day before at least. But I digress.  Back to the story. I foolishly decided to pick up the kids balloons first.  Have you ever tried shopping with balloons tied to your cart?  It’s just ridiculous.  You look ridiculous.  You annoy everyone because you either smack them with your balloons or you bang into them because the balloons obstruct your view.  So that was me, banging into people, smacking them with my balloons and “I’m sorrying” everyone to death.  It was so obvious what I was up to, cart loaded with chips and soda, Superbowl balloons…  At some point I began to feel pretty foolish.  I must have looked pretty stupid, dressed in faux leather skin-tight pants, as usual,  and a faux feather top, racing around, balloons smacking my face.  It didn’t help that I had to endure the sneers of a few hipster types.  Hey, hold up a minute.  What were they doing with nachos in their cart?  Going home to watch Daniel Day Lewis in the Unbearable Lightness of Being?  I don’t think so.  Such a movie would require cigarettes and perhaps some humus and wheat crackers, not Doritos.  That’s right. On Superbowl Sunday everyone (well, a lot of people), even aging “goth” chicks want to eat nachos and pretend that we belong to something greater than just ourselves.  Now that I’ve put it into words, I don’t feel so foolish.  Grant it, I may have looked foolish, but that’s not really very important. Is it?

Peyton Place: A couple of nights ago, Giorgio suggested that we watch the movie Peyton Place.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Giorgio wanted to watch Peyton Place.  And we did.  And it was pretty bad.  All that potential for greatness, flushed down the toilet along with a boatload of melodrama and probably one of the stupidest monologues ever delivered in cinematic history (perhaps an overstatement, but you get my point).  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized what an unusual dude my husband is and texted him the following, “U r a very strange person.  What kind of 43 yr old man stays up until 2 in the morning watching Peyton Place?”  Really. Recently, did any of your spouse’s suggest that you watch Peyton Place?  Of course the two of us fall asleep watching reruns of Columbo (yes we have the box set) almost every night, so what do you expect? 

That’s it folks.  Another week gone and the following lessons learned: don’t publish angry blog posts; don’t wear costumes to you child’s potential future school and don’t waste your time watching Peyton Place.  Oh, and, yes, aging goth chicks do in fact host Superbowl parties.  Peace.

German Cabaret Artists, Cleansing, Pork Fat and Tweak the Bunny…a Week’s Worth of Conversation

Poor lamb. We found her wandering the streets of Stuttgart.

Poor lamb. We found her wandering the streets of Stuttgart.

This is Heather Nanni, taking a break from her role as Tweak the Bunny to bring you this post.  That’s right; I’m Heather, not Tweak Bunny or Dashi Dog or Captain Barnacles the Polar Bear or any other member of the Octonauts.  Problem is, throughout the day, Allegra insists that I assume the role of any number of these characters. As a matter of fact, this evening, as I played Octonauts with Allegra as she took a bath, she informed me that she was “not impwessed” with how I was playing the game and gave me notes for improving my performance as Kwazi Cat. Being that I soon have to return to work (I know. I know.  I only teach two nights a week, but there is a lot of planning and correcting at home-I swear), I am trying to give the kids as much playtime as possible.  Unfortunately, all of this role playing is making me feel a bit schizophrenic, so for the moment, I’m happy to be just plain old weird Heather, writing her weird blog.  I’ve been so looking forward to writing this week, and I’ve tossed around a lot of ideas.  I have also been feeling rather grouchy and peevish, so I thought I would write some snarky, petulant blog about something that’s been annoying me as a way of alleviating some of my general negativity. .  And I reject that!  I want to giggle.  So after some careful deliberation, I have decided  against wading over into the dark side, to ignore its enticements,to forgo dark, brooding, smart ass ramblings in favor of recounting the ridiculous thoughts and conversations I had this week, which may very well only be funny to me, so don’t feel guilt by shutting this down; thus, shutting me up. For those maniacs who wish to stick around, here goes…

In search of lighter, happier material, I reflected upon this past week and to my surprise recalled some rather silly conversations.  There was the one I had with another student’s mother at the dance studio about cleansing. She’s a lovely lady and five days into a cleanse, eating only the healthiest of foods, drinking lots of water… At some point during our conversation, I realized that I did not have the willpower to omit all  dietary pleasures and confessed that I lacked both the discipline and desire to give up martini’s and pork fat.  My admission that the previous night, when cutting my children’s meat, I removed the fat from their chops and ate it for dinner elicited a laugh.  Then there was the conversation I had with the owner of the stables where my son takes riding lessons.  He confessed his beer habit and surveyed all present on their poison.  Of course mine is vodka.  Unfortunately when he asked me my vodka of choice, I found myself recounting the sad tale of how my husband and I started out drinking Grey Goose, but how after our first child we had to downgrade to Skyy and how we now find ourselves drinking Majorska.  I then made myself feel better by stating, “It’s not that bad.  At least it comes in a glass bottle.”  I got some pity laughs for that one.  But the very best and funniest of the week came from my husband.

 On Monday Giorgio tried on a new black v-neck sweater, looked at himself in the mirror and matter of factly informed me that  he looked  like a “cabaret artist from Stuttgart.” What?  On what planet would a cabaret artist from Stuttgart be the first thing to come to mind??  Granted, Giorgio did live in Stuttgart many, many years ago, but cabaret artist?  Why not singer or dancer, or performer even?  There’s just something about his use of the term artist that tickled me. I mean he had me thinking Berlin, the world on the brink of war, a tawdry, smoke filled club and a show being emceed by some sexually ambiguous emaciated person with a pale face and dark red lips sinisterly grinning at a pseudo-grotesque, featureless audience, all faces obscured by smoke and shadows. And he delivered it with such nonchalance that you would assume that German cabaret artist  is a typical reference for those of us who reside on the east coast of the United States. 

Upon further reflection, I think, perhaps, despite his adamant denial, my darling husband kind of digs the whole cabaret thing.  It’s got me thinking.  In the very infancy of our courtship I did sport a jet black, super short, Liza Minnelliesque pixie cut.  I also had a penchant for wearing bright red lipstick and fishnet stockings. And at some point during that time I had Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories on my nightstand. Hmmmm.. 

 Anyway, Giorgio’s description  of himself as a German cabaret artist struck me as so weird and out of place and hysterical that I had to immediately call my brother Sean Crose, another daft kat with an offbeat sense of humour and love of the absurd.  Clearly, my brother and I managed to make our way out of the same gene pool, gasping for air and full of neurosis and weirdness.  When the two of us emerged from the womb, the doctors probably had to beat the shit out of us, not to help us take our first breathes but to get us to snap the fuck out of our first baby panic attacks.  While we nearly killed each other during adolescence, we became the best of friends in early adulthood.  When we weren’t running around the city getting plastered in dive bars, we spent countless hours watching and quoting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Plan Nine from Outer Space and anything from Mystery Science Theater, Giant Spider Invasion being one of our personal favorites.  So I just knew that he would fully appreciate Giorgio’s referring to himself as a cabaret artist from Stuttgart.  And my brother didn’t disappoint.  He gave me the much desired belly laugh that I had hoped for, and then we got to talking.  We talked about Germany and World War II and Mussolini and Giorgio’s parents who grew up in Italy during the war.  We got to talking about Giorgio’s mother and how she possess a style and sophistication that reminds me of Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita (In addition to being beautiful, she’s a great person). We talked about Giorgio’s dad and how it’s a flipping shame that he was taken from this world too soon and how he was just one of those special people whose very presence made you feel good. Then somehow we moved back to talk about the executions of Mussolini and Clara Petacci and back to Hitler and his stupid mustache, which got us to talking about mustaches and mustache style and handlebar mustaches. We talked about how handlebar mustaches are all the rage with those damn young hipsters, which got my brother going on how ridiculous he would look with such a mustache and how he would bear a closer resemblance to our great, great grandfather who came through Elis Island after emigrating from Ireland than a young James Franco wannabe.  And this talk of the handlebar mustaches brought the conversation full circle and back to Giorgio, who, likely inspired by Kurt Russell in Tombstone, once grew handlebar mustache himself because he really is more cowboy than cabaret artist.  He’s an Italian who as a young boy developed a great love for America. He overdosed on spaghetti westerns and, in a music store in Rome,  discovered Alabama’s Mountain Music which began his love affair with country music.  When he met me, a Norwegian techno music loving east coast girl, he introduced me to country music, which I’ve grown to dig. 

So that’s it.  The story of how a silly remark led to a much needed laugh and a great conversation about evil villains and beautiful people and how a great conversation led to a flood of good memories and my personal conclusion that my husband is one awesome and strange dude.

So, What Does Your Christmas Tree Say About You?

CrazyTree PicBefore I begin this post I feel compelled to offer an explanation as to why I have not posted in weeks.  In a nutshell, I needed to think…hard.  When I began this blog four months ago, I assured myself that I would post weekly, and I did, until November.  I derive great pleasure from blogging. Before writing I think about each post a lot.  I think about what I will write about while I drive, while I shower, as I’m falling asleep at night.. I love, love, love to think about my blog.  For me, the prewriting experience is almost as fun as the writing itself.  So what happened?  I needed to think about something else. I know.  Do I really need to allot specific times to think? Am I really incapable of thinking about more than one thing at a time? Yes. When it comes to important matters, yes. I guess I am intellectually limited in that way.  This poor brain is easily strained and, hence, incapable of multithinking.  So here I am.  I did what needed to be done. I thought about what needed to be thought about.  As a result, I made some relatively decent decisions in my life. Now me and my demented brain are back and ready to blog.  On with today’s order of business..Christmas trees!

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had a very beautiful Christmas tree.  I always selected the most perfectly shaped tree, not too short, not too fat, without bare spots… It was always elegantly adorned with red and gold bulbs, nutcracker ornaments and miniature pointe shoes.  Of coarse, it goes without saying that it had white lights.  I loved my Christmas tree, selecting it, decorating it, until one day my dear husband informed me that I was a “Christmas Tree Nazi.” Of course I couldn’t have that, so I decided to change my rigid, unfun, unbending Christmas tree decorating ways and lighten up. But this was not easy.

You see, at the time we were pretty broke and struggling and living in the 500 square foot in-law apartment attached to my parents’ house. And it wasn’t just my husband and I. It was also Jack and eventually Allegra. Of course part of me was ashamed that we weren’t doing “better” in life, so, it was extremely important to me that from the outside we looked somewhat legitimate, despite the fact that we lived in an overcrowded one bedroom apartment furnished with my grandmother’s old furniture. Christmas provided me the opportunity to say,”That’s right. We’re broke. We live in my parent’s house. But I still have taste. I am an elegant lady. Look in my window! Look at my beautiful tree! Just imagine what I will do when I have money.” At night, when the neighbors passed on their way home, they would look at that stunning tree in my window and think “Ahhhh, there’s hope for that girl yet.”

Then Giorgio accused me of being an intolerant, control freak, and I knew he was right. I needed to make a change. So the following year, colored lights. And the year after that, colored blinking lights. And Jack and Giorgio were happy (Allegra was too little at the time to voice her opinion). And I learned not to give a damn. And then…I realized that I liked the colored (unblinking) lights. They reminded me of my grandparent’s tree. Growing up, I loved my grandparent’s house at Christmas time. Theirs was a tree you would NEVER find at the White House or picture in Elegant Home magazine. Theirs was a simple, middle America Christmas tree, adorned with cheap gold garland and silver tinsel, colored bulbs and popcorn balls. My Grandpa used to sit in his big easy chair next to the tree and literally throw tinsel at the poor thing. His favorite ornaments were the blue glitter bulbs, so my brother and I, who loved to help my grandparents decorate, always made sure that plenty of blue bulbs were visible from Grandpa’s chair. Sadly, I grew older and snotty and pretended like I didn’t like it.

So what do we have now that the four of us have moved into our own home? Well, I don’t want to fall back into my rigid, fun busting ways, so, we compromise. Downstairs we have a beautiful tree adorned with my nutcrackers and pointe shoes and the kids’ homemade ornaments. Yes, it still has colored lights. And upstairs…CRAZY TREE!!!!

Ahhhh…Crazy tree! It is a sight to behold. Its home is in our TV room and it is all things children love, and also all things that any adult, who isn’t in need of a lobotomy, finds completely insane. Crazy tree looks like something my grandfather would decorate, if he was on crack. Since words cannot express that which is Crazy Tree (except that if you stare at it for too long you feel like vomiting), I’ve posted a picture. The scary thing..we all really dig Crazy Tree.

I still love my beautiful, elegant white light adorned tree, but, right now, it’s not us. It can wait. And when Allegra grows old enough to pretend she doesn’t like colored lights any longer, I will be sad. Right now, downstairs I have a fun tree and upstairs-Crazy Tree, and, for now, we like it this way. It’s funny, but just as those lovely family portrait Christmas cards can be complete misrepresentations of who we are, so too can our Christmas trees. I mean, if I really wanted to let everyone know how the Nanni’s are doing this year, Giorgio and I would look like we’re on the verge of nervous breakdowns and the kids would be punching each other. Although we will continue to send dignified cards that are gross misrepresentations of ourselves, we will also continue to have Christmas trees that reflect who we are–child friendly (always), tasteful (sometimes) and, as reflected by Crazy Tree, insane (more than we want to admit). Merry Christmas!

Mrs. Nanni Makes a Home…With the Help of Her Blog

How about a picture? Curtains? Color?Anything?!!!

How about curtains? Color?Anything?!!!

I have read a few articles by writers who state that blogging has made them better people, and I get it. It really makes complete sense. At the end of the day I don’t want to read my blog and realize that I am nothing more than the member of the chorus in a Greek tragedy, recounting sad tales of my days and providing myself with the insights I could have used in real time rather than in hindsight. Worse yet, I don’t want to read my blog and realize I have been the protagonist in my own life, jacking things up for myself and everyone around me. While it’s one thing to employ self-effacement for humor and levity, it’s another thing to just be an ass. Soooo…what’s my point?

I think I should begin with this. It is a fact that I am domestically challenged. In my adult life, I have yet to make a house a home in the physical sense. For me, experience transcends the material. Following this logic, as long as there is deep love and joy and excitement, some sense of joie de vivre, then the actual setting where life takes place has been relatively unimportant. My thought has been if you take away the happiness of experience then you hold to the setting, the material, for some sort satisfaction. My reasoning, however is deeply flawed.

While I keep a clean home, it is stark. I have simply been too busy living life with my family to give it much attention. When we first moved into our house I had grand decorating plans. I had the children’s rooms freshly painted. I bought beautiful comfortors with matching curtains. I even hung the curtains, until I took them down to have our windows replaced. Now they sit in a closet, almost forgotten because I have been too busy living life.

The question is, have I been living my life or have I been consumed by my life? It’s not as though I’m always happy. I worry…A LOT. I am stressed…A LOT. I work all the time. I am tired. It really would be so nice to have a warm and inviting place to rest at the end of the day. But I didn’t give this much thought until last week.

Giorgio and I were sitting in the kitchen when our Jack came in with a catalog from some home furnishing company. It was their winter issue and in it were pictures of homes beautifully decorated for Christmas. Jack loves Christmas and winter and snow. He loves to look at Norman Rockwell’s painting of main street Stockbridge at Christmastime. He loves images of Sundblom’s Santa sitting by a roaring fire and paintings of villages during winter with their white steepled churches and homes with illuminated windows that leave the viewer to imagine the cheer and warmth and fragrance that is within. While Jack was sitting in the kitchen showing us his catalog, his eyes filled up. When asked “why” he responded, “It’s just so beautiful.” This is the moment that I realized that setting really does matter.

Of course setting matters. Yes you can perform a play in a black box theater, but the brilliance of that is that each audience member gets to set it as they like, as his imagination deem best. I feel that my Jack and Allegra lack for nothing other than a setting. Jack craves warmth and coziness, and I am sure Allegra does as well. Yes, they have all they could possibly need and more, toys and books and clothes and joyful experiences and the great love of parents who have placed them at the center of their universe. But they don’t have a beautiful setting for which to settle their memories. As time marches forward and memories become more and more distant from the actual experiences those feelings they had as children will need to be paired with images just as powerful in order to survive their battle against time and old age. More importantly, they need the experience of a warm and inviting home now because they deserve it. We all do. Home is not just an abstraction. It is physical; it is material, and as such, it should be beautiful. I know. I know. Most everyone else figured this our ages ago.

So this brings me back to my initial point. How will I use this blog to make me a better person? Each month I will post pictures of the progress I make as I attempt to transform the Nanni house into a home…in the physical sense. I don’ want to just make a joke out of my lack of domestic prowess; although, it does provide some pretty decent comedic material. I don’t want to look back and regret that I never paid attention to the setting of our life together as a family. Here goes. Wish me luck.

Why Am I Doing This?

So, this is my maiden voyage into the blogosphere. For years, I have contemplated blogging, but, since I have been so busy raising my little people, I felt that I could not justify committing the time to such a pursuit.  I mean writing, especially about myself and my ideas, seemed too self-indulgent, too narcissistic.  Now, I in no way believe that this is a healthy way think. Do we need to justify everything we do?  Of course not.  Are we not entitled to engage in pursuits that give us pleasure and fulfillment? Of course we are.  It’s just that at the time, I was not so enlightened, at least when it came to viewing myself.   Then two things happened. I had an epiphany during a conversation with my husband, and, at about the same time, I picked up a book I had owned for years and never looked at and finally decided to read the first chapter.

The aforementioned conversation with my husband was not unlike the conversations he and I have almost every day.  Don’t expect it to be anything mind-blowing .  I can’t even recall exactly what we were talking about.  All I remember is that he and I were sharing what we both believed were some pretty good ideas when I thought to myself, “Too bad we probably won’t remember any of this in a few days.  These great ideas will disappear as if they were never thought, never uttered.” I know. This is not a terribly deep or intellectual thought, and yet, for me, it was very profound.  It came to me. This is why I want to write. I want to preserve my ideas.  Whether they be smart or silly or simply a reflection of where I am at a certain period in my life, I want to make them real, to give them some weight, some validity, to write them down.  In fifty years, if my mind starts to go, I want some proof of my intellectual and emotional existence.  I don’t want to be left with a withered body and the memories that others have of the me that once was. 

Shortly after I had my mini epiphany about why I should write, a teacher friend of mine came to the house for a visit.  We were sitting in my living room when she spotted The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins stacked up in one of my many book piles.  She asked if she could take a look at it, flipped through the pages and left it on my coffee table.  Now I have owned this book for years.  I purchased it over a decade ago when I was in graduate school, and for some reason, never found the time to read it.  That evening I read the first chapter and was struck.  In it Calkins states

…as human beings, we write to communicate, plan, petition, remember, announce, list, imagine…but above all, we write to hold our lives in our hands and make something of them.  There is no plot line in the bewildering complexity of our lives but that which we make for ourselves.  Writing allows us to turn the chaos into something beautiful, to frame selected moments, to uncover and celebrate the organizing patterns of our existence.* (8)

That, my friends, said it all.  Through her writing, Calkins articulated my thoughts, and thus gave them substance and validity. 

 Reading those few lines written by Calkins inspired me to proceed.  To write.  To write to be heard in a world where so few truly listen.  I write to make my existence, my experience my thoughts real.  I write to freeze time and preserve the beautiful moments I share with my children.  I write to make meaning out of what sometimes appears meaningless and see the beauty in things that otherwise may go unnoticed or unappreciated.  I write because my time on this earth, all our time, is finite and I want to notice and enjoy and preserve all that I can while I am here. 

*Calkins, Lucy McCormick. The Art of Teaching Writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1994. Print.