From the files . . .

I found an old interview I did years ago for a student completing her senior project for high school graduation–I think from 2011. She asked some pretty cool questions about writing. It’s fun for me to revisit my answers. It reinforces for me why I love what I do.

  1. When did you first become interested in writing?

My interest in writing came about rather by default. In school, it was the only thing I was good at; but fortunately, this helped with all the other subjects where I was weak. In honors biology my freshman year in high school, we had to do a genetics-probability type of experiment where we kept a journal of our findings. My journal had really nothing of any scientific value in it, but my teacher enjoyed the lively story about my penny collection. He told me I should consider being a writer when I grow up, and the next year I was dropped from the science honors program.

Later, after I had married and had my first child, I watched horrified as footage of baby victims of the Oklahoma City bombing were pulled from the rubble. I vowed to leave my full-time job in banking and find a career I could do from home. At around the same time, my mother gave me a box of stuff she had saved from my childhood and in it was an award I had won for writing in the first grade. I decided to give writing a try. I started by selling articles about family life and child care to local baby magazines, and was soon hired as a reporter for the Brockton Enterprise, where I worked for about seven years before I moved to Rhode Island.

2. Do you ever get writer’s block?  How do you overcome it?

First, I eat. I’ve gained 15 pounds since I went back to work as a newspaper writer last spring, after moving away from the teaching profession. As deadlines loom, I panic, eat, and chew my nails. It’s not pretty, but there it is.

Then, I start writing anything at all. Often, when I’m really stuck, my opening sentence will look like this, “I really hate this stupid assignment and I wish I hadn’t said yes to it, but I did, and now I have to write about stupid people who make money selling crafts on eBay…” And then I go on to write the story, making absolute certain that I erase the first sentence before I submit it.

And sometimes, I just type in all the quotes I’ve gathered from my research in no particular order. After they’re all on the page, I cut and paste them into a flow that I like, and then I fill in between with my own thoughts and connecting paragraphs.

And when I’m done, I eat some more. I’m thinking of replacing the “eating to break writer’s block” technique with exercising, but I’m not there yet.

3. What’s the most interesting story you’ve ever written about? 

Cool question.

One story I’m most proud of wasn’t actually that interesting to write. It was about a woman who had been a physician in Ukraine before she moved to the U.S. She was collecting money, food, and baby items to send to her former colleagues who ran an orphanage in Ukraine. I just wrote a small piece about what she was collecting and where donations could be sent.

I didn’t know this at the time, but the story was translated into Russian and reprinted in a Ukrainian paper, and Russian officials thought that the U.S. was publishing stories about the government not caring for its children.

A government official was prompted by the article to investigate and visited the facility to make sure the children were getting proper care. The official had recently been at an orphanage 100 miles away, noticed a child who resembled and had the same last name as a child in the orphanage I had written about, and brought the two boys together. Each had thought his brother had been killed in the same accident that killed their parents, and of course were delighted to find each other again.

So while the story itself wasn’t all that interesting at the time, it felt good that my writing had made such a difference in the lives of those two boys.

As for the most interesting story I’ve ever explored and written? I just don’t know. There have been hundreds. I’ve written about former CIA agents, a 9-year-old high diver who was blind (can you imagine???), a young man who survived a rare, often fatal form of brain cancer who went on to graduate from college and become a naturalist and a teacher. I’ve also covered drug busts, political scandals, and murder scenes. Not one stands out as “the most interesting.” I think, in general, I find them all interesting because people fascinate me.

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A Healing Summer

Hello All!

I’ve been busy having all my innards surgically removed and–good news! It worked! I’m happy and healing and nearly healthy again. But while you’re healing, just so you know, there is a ton of things you can’t do. It’s a pretty long list. Like, you can’t move furniture, so decorating is out. You need to leave your outdoor chairs right where they are and just sit in them.

Also, you can’t vacuum, so cleaning is out. Boo hoo. You can’t do laundry, so wearing clothes . . . no wait . . . that’s a solvable problem. Other people can do your laundry, so you can wear clothes, but you can’t wear attractive clothes. No fancy duds like these guys. You can only wear comfortable clothes that have elastic waist bands and are a couple of sizes too big.

I know some of you are wondering how exactly that’s a problem, and I’m tempted to agree with you, but it does raise another issue. Since you can only wear comfortable clothes (i.e. jammies), you can’t go out in public. So, like, walking the dog can be a problem. But this is a solvable problem too.

Once you have all the “problems” under control, it is quite nice to stick close to home, surrounded by summer prettiness, especially when you’ve had your innards removed and you need extra time to be happy and grow healthy.

In 2018, I hereby resolve . . .

It’s that time again, time for New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I’m not fooling around. I have some serious resolutions to get to. Number one: stop ending sentences with prepositions. The rest I’ll share with you in case you need a resolution or two. No need to feel left out. They are as follows:

  1. Eat the chocolate. All the chocolate. Right now. Today. You won’t regret it. (Well, chocolatemaybe you will, but it will be worth it.)
  2. Don’t worry so much if you forget a, um, don’t help me . . . um, word. If you forget a word, just replace it with another one. No one will notice (probably). Best case scenario: they will run out of patience and supply your missing word with their own and you can stop searching for it.
  3. Take naps. Do you have any idea how wonderful naps are? If you don’t, this is your chance to find out. I tried them as part of my new Hygge lifestyle. I’ll never go back to that old fashioned, staying-awake-all-day thing. That just does not work for me.
  4. Don’t be afraid to throw things away. Like the living room rug. If you mistakenly 170904 Pippin restingbuy a green one and your senile beagle thinks it’s grass and pees on it several times a day, it’s okay to let it go, even if once upon a time you really liked it (before it got smelly) and you’re pretty sure some store somewhere sells something that will get the stench out. No. Let it go. Throw it away and buy a cheap one so that your senile beagle can pee in peace and you can have peace of mind.

That’s all I have for now. If I come across other issues that need to be resolved, I will post them here, or I will vague-book about them causing unnecessary intrigue and concern across the social medias. What are your resolutions?

The World According to Sarge

The mom-woman. She writes sap. She doesn’t tell the truth. She hates beetles and slugs and never plays with them. That’s dumb. 170905 Kristin Sarge blogShe sprays water on plants but I do that too, so she is wasteful.

170905 Sarge tongue 2I never pee on her, but I do stick out my tongue. She doesn’t know how things really are. I tell you how it really is.

She goes into the woods and doesn’t take me. She says it’s because I kill chipmunks. And rabbits. And snakes. So what? This is good. I do good.

These are the people I live with.

170905 Sarge family

The big-girl-I-love-the-most went away during the sunshine days. Then she came back. She spoke Italian. At least she said it was Italian. I don’t know what that is. The other dogs don’t know either. I was brave enough to ask them because I really wanted to know. I don’t think they like me.

 

The big-boy-who-makes-me-pee went away. Then he came back. He still makes me pee when he comes near, but I bite his ankles so he won’t know that I’m afraid.

The younger-boy-who-used-to-make-me-pee is now allowed to pat me. I’ve known him for 35 dog years and now it is time for him to rub my belly. But I still bite his ankles. I must make him afraid.

The man-I-bite-the-most still feeds me breakfast and cookies. I think if I bite him more, he will give me more. This is how it works.

They are all getting ready for the cold time. I know because they all have new shoes. The new shoes taste good. Pretty soon, life will be like this:

 

I can’t wait.

Where the Wild Things Are

It’s almost back-to-school time for me. I know I haven’t posted much anything about the Garden of Envy this summer, but trust me, it’s still there. It’s got flowers and bugs and other pests that both sting and bite, I mean surprise and delight.

There are my new friends, who come by to visit with I least expect them. This guy landed on my knee to chat about I don’t know what. He was darling but not very articulate: 170904 bees knees

I also have a regular meet and greet with a red squirrel whose picture I do not have due to an irrational fear of squirrels that developed suddenly when I was 5 and I was bitten by one. (I feel the same way about jellyfish thanks to an unfortunate run-in that same year, but I am less likely to run into one of those in my woodland garden.)

Anyhoo, here are some other new friends that live with me but do not pay rent. I’d call them squatters, but I’m not sure they even understand about mortgages and deeds and property law.

 

And even if you don’t get to meet them in person, the wild things let you know that they’re nearby.

170904 feathered friends

Though I love my little animal friends, it is the flowers and plants that give the garden life. The last two years out in the woodland have been about building the garden. This included lots of digging, planting, mulching, scratching unidentifiable rashes, and crying about the heat and the mosquitoes. I persevered, and the rewards I reaped this year were many.

 

And, as it turns out, I’ve got a veritable vineyard of wild grapes back there, as well as several blueberry trees that I had never met before.

 

After carving some walking paths into the brush, I found some white birch trees that make an excellent tea, and a bunch of blackberry bramble for tea and for snacking.

I also found a nest of bald-faced wasps and a bee hive, both of which I have left alone. I’ve grown wiser in my years as a budding gardener. This summer, for me, was about sitting and relaxing. Maybe next year I’ll get back to work.

My New World of Hygge

It’s been about a week since my girrl headed out into the world into parts unknown, and by parts unknown I mean Italy, which has Wifi and other modern conveniences like FaceTime and WhatsApp. She has used these modern conveniences to post pictures of the charming medieval village where she lives: the gorgeous architecture, the cobblestone streets. So, we’ve been in touch and it turns out she’s okay. Happy even. Who saw that coming?

I have decided to follow her example and experiment with new life philosophy. This week I’ve chosen the Danish concept of Hygge, which, loosely translated, means that I should be 100 percent comfortable 100 percent of the time.

Luckily, this has been easily accomplished. I have simply gone out into the woodland garden and created spaces where I can lose myself in complete comfort. I have cleared brambles from beneath a blueberry tree to create a spot for my morning coffee.

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I’ve moved stones (sorry for the thunderstorms) to plant roses to enjoy while I take my mid-morning tea.

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I have enjoyed reading time (which may or may not have turned into nap time) here.

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Or sometimes I switch things up and do some reading or restful contemplating here. Though Hygge advocates for the comfortably familiar, I want to be careful not to get too complacent. (Or maybe that’s missing the point. I don’t know. I’m new at this.)

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My late afternoon coffee is taken here, near my way-in-the-back vegetable garden, so I can meditate and tell the deer not to eat my spinach.

 

Or sometimes here, for a better view of the roses.

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Late-night chamomile tea, taken to offset the late afternoon coffee, is enjoyed outdoors under the stars and the moonlight, which is not crazy at all, no matter what people say.

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I’ve also made some lovely new friends, who also speak a language that I don’t understand.

In short, I have stopped at nothing to create a world in which I am always comfortable, all the time. I believe the complete and total physical comfort promised by Hygge is a worthy goal, and if I have to suffer poison ivy rashes, insect bites, burns, bumps and bruises to get it, then I’ll do what I have to do.

So you see? Though my girrl is far away, she’s still inspiring me. I’ve embraced a different culture and a new way of life right here in my very own back yard, thanks to her ambition and boldness.

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By the way, I’ve found Hygge to be exhausting. Next week I’ll try something else.

Leaving Day

Well, today is the day. My girrl is headed to Italy on the adventure of a lifetime. I don’t think I’m ready, and not in any melodramatic or meaningful life-metaphor sense—I really don’t think I’m ready. There is still so much she hasn’t taught me.

I don’t know how to take a screen shot on my computer OR on my phone, for example.And only yesterday did I learn how to contact Siri. I need help shaping my eyebrows and wearing decorative scarves just so. I need encouragement, practice, and praise when I do things right.

I knock on her door frequently to ask if my hair looks presentable and am I young enough to get away with a certain pair of shoes. I’m sure she just loves these interuptions because she is always honest. Brutally, painfully honest. Who will take care of me now?

And even though she really doesn’t need it, I still like to parent every now and then. I think it’s something I do automatically. My cruise control is set to “parent.” Did you charge your phone? Did you eat? Would you please feed the dogs? Will you go get me a coffee? Okay that last one isn’t exactly parenting, but it is something I’m going to miss—a LOT.

Potatoes June 2015And though I love it, taking care of the garden, specifically the potatoes, really isn’t the same. For example, the kind of care my potatoes need involves throwing dirt on them so they will make more. This is not the kind of parenting my girrl needs or would ever allow. So you see, the garden really isn’t at all a good substitute.

In any case, the bon voyage day is here. Elsie leaves in a few hours for fantastic adventures. She will eat delicious Mediterranean cuisine, speak and hear foreign languages, see and appreciate the exquisite art and architecture from one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. I’ll be sure to give you frequent updates on how I’m doing.

This is what I think Elsie still looks like:

Elsie baby pink dress0625 Elsie with duck

But the fact is, she has one of these now:

Elsie degree

 

So, in fact, she’s more like this girl:

brave

 

See?

Elsie trip 3

But now it’s time for me to step aside.