1. Ilana says

    I love that, Laura! You want us to describe in detail and with pride. So basically I have been given permission to speak about myself with no guilt, no obligatory modesty and no apologies. For the first time in months, I know exactly what I am going to write about. And I’d hazard to say that others who have read my posts before have a pretty good guess too. Thank you, Laura, thank you! IM

    • Fran Stekoll says

      I have pride and excellence sharing summers with my grand children. Each summer we would meet and pick outings. I had 7 boys and 3 girls. The boys wanted to go to the Space center, the girls to the bear factory. Both chose Marriott’s Great America and the Water slide. They also picked the train from San Jose to San Francisco and the local ice cream factory. At the end of the summer
      they presented me with a book of pictures and a write up on each of the trips entitled ” Our Summers with Grandma.

  2. Jenny says

    Sharon went into the bedroom to put on the outfit. I held my breath. Our friend Ella was sitting on her edge of the chair in anticipation. I was excited and scared. It was about 3 weeks to the conference so there was no time to start over.

    Sharon my friend and graduate student colleague of mine was about 250 lbs and 5feet 5 inches tall. She carried most of that weight below the waist, but she had a waist line and a decent shape. She was wanting to make a presentation at an upcoming conference in September, but was reluctant to appear before a crowd because of how she looked. She had experienced being snubbed by her colleagues in the profession and felt that her presentation would be judged not by its content but by her appearance. We talked about this in May before the end of the academic year. She was a brilliant thinker and researcher and it was a shame, I thought that the discipline would not benefit by her mind because of the body it was held in.

    I had been sewing for a while, making most of my clothes over the years. I made my suits, dresses, pants, blouses, jeans and even a winter coat. So I knew what to do on a sewing machine. I had never made a garment for another person but as I listened to Sharon an idea began being formed in my mind. I could make her an outfit. I had all of the summer to do it. The more I thought about it the more exciting the challenge became. I could see in my mind what the outfit should look like to bring out Sharon’s shape and beauty. So quite blithely I said to her one day.
    “I can make you an outfit.”
    “What!” was her reply.
    “Yes.” I said “I have been thinking about it and I could.” “I would have to start right away and you will have to try on as I go along, but I don’t see why not.”

    I described the type of outfit I felt would look good on her and bring out the best of her features. The way would be to adjust the pattern to fit her exact measurements. And, we would have to find fabric for the skirt that would fall just right. Sharon was game. As graduate students we lived at the edge of a financial precipice. She could not afford to purchase a business suit in her size range. Plus, anything she bought would need adjusting to fit properly. She did not have hundreds of dollars to spend, and I liked the challenge and was confident in my abilities as a sewer. At that point I never even considered the possibility of failure.

    She agreed, and we went to work talking about colors for a top and skirt. A top that would be formal and casual at the same time, and a skirt that matched, with colors that would harmonize her size. We spent hours in the fabric shop in town looking at patterns and fabric. First we found a pattern that fit how I saw the skirt. It would hug her closely from waist to hip line, then gently from the below her hips. The blouse would be softly formal and would sit on the skirt at the waist. Together they would give her more visual length and enhance her figure. I could see it in my mind’s eye. Then to find the fabric. Working with her favorite colors we found two pieces of that went together beautifully and for the skirt the fabric was soft enough to flare beautifully without sagging. I was delighted, Sharon was intrigued.

    I went to New York for the early summer and spent the weeks with the task at hand. Sharon was larger than the largest pattern the store had and so the first task was to adjust the pattern of the skirt to fit her dimensions. This was engineering, but at that time of my life I was fastidious about my clothes and had spent lots of time adjusting patterns so my clothes fit exactly right. I knew how to do it, and yet the numbers for her made me gasp. I felt like a tent maker, especially when drafting out the flaring of the skirt. After many attempts and oceans of paper, I got it. That feeling was almost orgasmic. I got it. I leapt in the air and danced around the room in joy.

    Next day I got to work on the cutting out of the skirt. We had bought extra fabric, enough to make 2 skirts, because the flaring had to be done on the bias of the fabric in order to achieve the proper falling of the flare. As I cut and basted and watched how the real met the vision I became more excited by the possibility of how the entire thing could work. And so I basted and ripped and basted and sewed until I had a decent skirt for Sharon to try on.

    We met for the fitting of the skirt mostly because I wanted to see if I had gotten it close to right. Most of the skirt was basted together some was held together with pins. The outcome made me happy, there were adjustments needed of course, but my basic idea seemed to be correct. Sharon had a beautiful shape and the flaring of the skirt enhanced that beauty so gently I loved it. I saw Sharon change in front of my eyes and start to be excited. As I snipped and pinned, and basted, she stood very still looking into her mirror with a small smile. It was almost as if she was beginning to believe, and yet was not sure what to believe.

    I returned to New York, on fire and joyful finishing the shirt, knowing the challenge facing me was the hem. Many an outfit is ruined because the sewer did not get the hem right and so the bottom of the garment almost made you seasick from the rises and falls in what should be level. Getting that right took hours and hours of ripping and re-doing and lots of patience. I know that what I do not like for myself I will give to someone else, and so I could find the patience within for this task.

    The blouse was easy compared to the skirt. Up top Sharon’s dimensions were better so my task was to simply craft the blouse using its lines to produce the illusion of more length for her.
    And so after a couple more weeks I returned with the whole outfit for a fitting and viewing. This was really sweet and funny at the same time. I got Sharon to pretend that it was the finished outfit and to stand like she would at the conference. She wore shoes with tiny heels and walked carefully in the garments to get the feel of it, while I looked at the flow and the presentation. Then I tucked and pinned the top and the skirt as needed to produce the entire creation. Sharon walked, sat (carefully), stood and swirled about in it. It looked beautiful every which way, at least to my eyes. I was becoming ecstatic. Sharon was becoming garrulous in her excitement, and this was sweet.

    We set a day and time for the final fitting and decided to invite our friend and mentor, Ella to the viewing. She was a “fashionista” and would know what finishing touches would provide the icing on this cake. It would also give us an “objective” view of our reality. Today was that day. Ella’s visage told me more than her words. She was saying, “Oh MY! Oh my! while her
    voice was softening and her smile was broadening. The she laughed out loud.
    “Wait, wait” she exclaimed and jumped off the chair running for her bedroom.
    She came back carrying a beautiful hat in a shade of blue a little darker than that of the blouse and with flowers in soft reds and browns.
    “Sharon, put this on” she exclaimed.
    Sharon complied.

    Ella adjusted the hat on Sharon’s head and adjusted the brim. It became a jaunty, saucy expression of womanhood. Ella and I broke out in applause and laughter. I was feeling giddy like something magical was happening in front of my eyes and I had no words for it.
    Sharon went into Ella’s bedroom where there was a full length mirror and did not come out for a while. After a few minutes we crept in and watched her looking at herself as if she had just fallen in love. There was the profound silence in the space the kind that opens the door to universes of delight.

    I returned to New York with the outfit. It was my task to have it properly ironed and ready for wearing. I felt humble on the way into the city. I felt that I had participated in a once in a lifetime event.

    The report from the conference was another tasty delight. I received many thumbs up signs, smiles, pats on my back, and hugs. The report was that Sharon was a hit. She wore the outfit well, her presentation went very well. I felt proud of myself mainly for the accomplishment of the outfit, but also for being a friend and colleague, for working my skills and self-confidence in service of another so well. I knew I would most likely never do something like that again, but that I could if I wanted to. Above all in a system that gave accolades for one’s brain, the receipt of accolades for an art and brain in service of another discipline was a coup-d’état.

    • Laura Davis says

      Jenny, I want to see a picture of that phenomenal dress. What an act of dedication and love! I’ve always struggled with the right clothes to fit my body and yet feel “right.” how amazing to have someone see you, know you, and design something just for you!

      • Jenny says

        You know, we never took pictures of that entire experience. I just have the picture of it in my mind. So many of life wonderful times I have in memory only. I never think of the camera.

    • Ilana says

      Jenny- What an amazing story. Speaking for those of us who are anxious sewing on a button, what you did seemed like magic to me. I loved how you shared how it felt to you, though. My favorite line was “I leaped in the air and danced around the room in joy.” There is nothing more beautiful than celebrating your own accomplishment that way, EXCEPT what you said later on. “We watched her looking at herself like she had just fallen in love.” To give to someone in that way, it just… You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing this story of your triumph and generosity. It is truly inspiring. IM

      • Jenny says

        Thanks. I did not remember how much that experience has done for me over the years. So I thank Laua’s prompt and my brain files for opening to that joy.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Jenny, What a wonderful gift to be able to create such a transforming garment for your friend. I can really relate to the sense of satisfaction you had. I’m sure Sharon must have felt so much more confident wearing a garment that was so “right” for her.
      I used to sew a lot and as a teenager sewed quite a few of my own clothes. I never cared much for dolls I loved to make cute dresses for my little sister who was like a little doll! She liked dolls and I liked sewing clothes for them.
      A favorite project was making a two piece brocade suit and a gold brocade formal skirt for my self. Patterns never fit me right and I was proud of the perfect fit of those garments. One of my most challenging projects was a chorus costume for my daughter who as a teenager had a figure like a barbie doll so the pattern she was required to use didn’t come close. With the help of a skilled neighbor we succeeded in a beautiful fit.
      Thank you for your share and reminding me how much I used to enjoy sewing!

      • Jenny says

        Ys. I am in that place as well, the remembering how much I loved making and wearing clothes that fit right to my shape. Sewing has been a joy.

  3. Vicki says

    I decided to quit hating my mother and to continue her work in genealogy, tracing our ancestors. The longer I have done this, the more I have come to know and love her, even though she’s been dead for 7 years. My work is meticulous and painstaking, as I know hers was. I thrill at the discoveries, as I know she did. I strive for accuracy, even though it’s tempting to follow someone else’s exciting, but unconfirmed research. I am proud of what I do and am happy to listen to other peoples stories of their ancestors. Not only because I find it interesting, but as a way of offering kindness and support, which I so appreciate from others.

    • says

      Vicki, I’m very touched by your story. What a remarkable way to heal–and because its what you’re choosing to do, you control the whole thing and do it the pace that is right for you. I have a long-time student who is an avid genealogist and I’ve learned so much from her over the years. And the stories she has woven on the underpinnings of her research have been stunning. I hope you learn to do the same.

      • Vicki says

        Laura, Thank you so much. I hadn’t realized I was doing it at a pace that is right for me, but that is exactly how it feels. I would love to weave stories about my ancestors, too. This sounds very exciting!

    • Ilana says

      Vicki- I found this very impactful. Your acknowledgment that you did, at one point, hate your mother and no longer do so, pulled me in because that is an issue I am struggling with. I admire your courage and the beauty you have created as you continue her work. I imagine it would be very nourishing to me if I were to someday come to the place you have. Thank you for sharing this story. IM

    • Jenny says

      Thanks very much for this offering. I has touched my heart deeply as I am working my way through seeing and loving mother as she is anto as I wanted her to be for me. What a wonderful way to get to knowing her.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Vicki. I enjoyed so much teaming with my sister on our family genealogy. She was meticulous like you, the historian: always careful to check facts. She and her husband planned vacations to poke around old graves and archives.
      Donna recently died, much too soon after a five month struggle with advanced lung cancer. I miss those phone conversations with her and hope I can keep her work intact until someone else in the family takes a similar interest.
      We recently found a second cousin who has done a lot of work on part of the family we had only knowledge of. In addition to all the great information she has it is fun to have someone else in the family who shares my interest.
      Maybe you will also find someone that way. A new friend who is also a distant cousin.

      • Vicki says

        Beverly, You have recently lost your sister? That is so sad. You must have had a lot of fun genealogy adventures with her. What a loss! Hope you are able to connect and work with your cousin. It would be nice to have another family member to research with. Take care. Vicki

  4. Ilana says

    And Every Time I Do, It Is A Truly Moving Experience

    Joe Friedman took off his tallace (prayer shawl) with a flourish, looking very much like a king with a finely made robe. I admired it and then went back to folding my own smaller, but no less treasured, one. I had purchased it almost ten years ago as a graduation gift to myself. It was on the cheaper end of the spectrum of choices but it was the one I had wanted. Besides, as a new-grad with my master’s degree and a new bride whose husband was still in his graduate program, I couldn’t have afforded much more. Still, it was navy blue with silver stitching and a matching yarmulke (head covering used for prayer). Anything navy blue with silver stitching had to be special.

    “One more announcement.” Samuel’s voice seemed to boom. He is our shamas, responsible for assigning volunteers to lead different parts of the service. A wonderfully kind and fatherly man, he has earned my respect several times over. “We do not have a Torah reader for next week. Will someone please step up? (The Torah is our bible, written in Hebrew and we read it from the scrolls. There, it is written in calligraphy with no vowels and no musical notes.) “I’ll do it.” Joe raised his hand. ‘Who is this guy?’ I asked myself. ‘He’s been here twice and now he’s going to read Torah after only one week of study? I went up to him and introduced myself joking that I was the other half of his team. “I’m reading Haftorah that day.” I smiled and welcomed him as a new member of our community. We learned that we had in fact met 18 years before and a happy reunion ensued but that is a story for another time.

    Joe is someone who is always “on” so to speak. The next week he did not do a quick little “drash”, speech teaching the parasha (piece of the bible that was read). Instead, he ran a game show. With energy and charisma, he prodded the small congregation to answer questions about how the lessons in this parasha apply to today’s world. When he was finished the excitement died down and he began his reading. The parasha is always divided into three sections and for each one a blessing is recited before and after it is read. During the blessings Joe bent down and seemed to duck into the podium. I shifted my weight, looking past the person in front of me to see what he was doing. A book was sitting inside the podium and he was studying right there, the second before his reading. He made no mistakes.

    As I walked up to do my little drash before singing the blessing for my Haftora I grinned at him. “That’s a tough act to follow but I’ll do my best.” The comment drew several approving laughs including one from Joe. After services I went to congratulate him. “You were cramming!!!” I accused him. “I was cramming.” He acknowledged with a grin. “The twins (his sons) had a hard week and I didn’t have any time to study.” I looked at him with awe. “I wish I could learn it like you did.” His smile held a little admiration of its own. “I wish I had a voice like yours.” The compliment was a surprise that I greatly appreciated.

    So Joe Friedman can chant Torah without studying more than a few minutes before hand. The more I thought about it the more I realized how much he is missing out on. When I read Torah it is an all consuming experience that includes months of painstaking preparation. The first thing I do is choose a date I want to read and Samuel e-mails me which parasha I need to study. I read it in English to find a minimum of 9 verses I want to chant. This I study from my beloved “Plaut”. That is a book with the bible written in regular type with vowels and troups (the real name for the musical notes). It also has translations and commentaries. My version is edited by Rabbi Gunther Plaut, hence the affectionate nick name.

    The next thing I do is make an appointment with my father-in-law, the rabbi to discuss the lessons of the parasha. I take notes in a special journal I made for this purpose. It was just a blank book I bought at Barns & Noble. It’s black, navy blue was not available, and I used a silver Sharpie to copy the prayer for the study of Torah onto the cover. Every entry is headed with the date, parasha name and page number it can be found in the “Plaut”. Together we pour over it until I completely understand the section I am going to read. This process takes about an hour and a half. By the time we are done both of us are on a high from the simple pleasure of sharing and learning from this sacred text.

    Finally, the real work begins. I’m getting better at this part. I’ve been doing this for about three years and I am at the point where I can almost site read the troups. After making sure I am pronouncing each word perfectly I record myself singing it and begin the months of listening to it over and over again. This is so I can sing it from the beautiful calligraphy without the help of the vowels or tropes. I use a special book called a Tikune. On the right side of the page is the regular type with tropes and vowels. The left side is the calligraphy I will read from the scrolls.

    These books mean so much to me. I never put them on the floor. I handle them with great care and store them in a special place when not using them. As a child, I was taught, when I finish praying or studying from the holy books, to kiss the binding. For me this ritual, too, is imbued with joy and reverence. I love my “Plaut”, my Tikun and my “Torah Journal”. But there is one more special, almost sacred, object. A person cannot touch the inside of the scrolls. The oil from our skin would smear the ink. So to keep our place we follow along with a pointer we call the yad. “Yad” is the Hebrew word for hand and that’s exactly what it is; a tiny metal hand with one finger pointing to the word you are reading. It is on the end of a beautifully fashioned metal handle. There is always one hanging from the scrolls by an elegant chain, so that whoever is reading can use it. But I have my own. Mine is the size of a pencil and has a very simple design on the handle. Just a few scattered stars of David and a small metal star at the end where the eraser would be on a pencil. It was, like my tallace, very inexpensive compared to the other options but it was the one I wanted. I keep my yad lovingly wrapped in a bandanna that I got at OSRUI, my Jewish overnight camp, in 1985 and have held onto all these years. It has the emblem of the camp all over it so that makes it perfect. This was one of the most important places I learned to love being Jewish. I use the yad to practice from the Tikune and bring it with me when I read from the Torah itself.

    Once I have learned the tune and the words to my satisfaction I’ve usually got about a week left before my reading. This is when I go back to my notes to write out my formal drash. I don’t force it but let it come to me when it’s ready. Reading the notes again, I play with the information in the back of my mind, let it rest there. Then, all of a sudden, the message takes hold of me. Somehow the ancient teachings connect deeply with my own life. It pushes its way to the core of my being and becomes a part of me. I let it push me, succumb to its power. Then I translate what feels to me like a live thing into a drash I can share with my community.

    Finally, the big day comes. Along with my tallace, which I bring every week, I carry my “Torah Journal”, a copy of my drash and my yad with me to services. I have learned not to waste the morning prayers anticipating the Torah service. Although, if something occurs to me I surreptitiously sneak a pen out of my purse and jot it down on my drash. My silent prayer, however, is always protected, always safe from distractions. That time is reserved for a visit to a deserted island of my own imagining. It is the place I created for the year long sabbatical; the first of the Writer’s Journey prompts I had received back in November of 2011. I don’t believe I ever posted that response but I wrote it so the place is there for me to visit every week. I open my eyes, pull myself from against the wall I’ve been leaning on and return to my seat. Not long after that the Torah is brought out and put on the podium. Samuel announces to the congregation that “Today Ilana M. will be reading Torah for us.” I pick up my “Torah Journal”, clutch the bandana wrapped yad and rise to begin my walk to the center of the room.

    “Shabbat Shalom. (a peaceful Sabbath to you)” I greet them. My voice is shaking and I gesture with trembling hands as I deliver my drash. No matter how many times I do it speaking in front of these people who I have so much respect for, still scares the life out of me. I end by thanking them for letting me share my thoughts and Samuel calls up the person doing the first blessing. I unwrap my yad and show them where I will begin. Then finally, when the blessing has been said, I begin to sing. Each phrase is a celebration, when I hit the notes and pronounce the words correctly. These are the words and the music my people have been chanting for over 5,000 years. These are the traditions that so many gave their lives to preserve for me, so that I could sing it. Men and women studying in secret while the Gestapo marched outside, or in the barracks of Auschwitz hiding from the SS under the cover of darkness. Here it is, all coming alive for me. The last phrase comes to a crescendo that invites the congregation to join me. I look up at the person to my right who is chanting the blessing. Then I give them a hug. Samuel thanks me and a few people whisper their congratulations, “Yah She’koach.” (There is strength in what you did.) I sit down to catch my breath while the congregation moves on to the next part of the service. I’m not jealous of Joe anymore. Other people don’t have to study as intensely as I do. So what? This is the way I read Torah and every time I do, it’s a truly moving experience.

    • says

      Ilana, I was deeply moved by your story. I am a secular Jew and have never learned Hebrew or read from the Torah. I know I’ve been missing out on my heritage, but not enough to motivate me to study. I’ve never felt connected to my spirituality through Judaism, but I’ve always wondered it would like to truly have a passionate committed relationship to my (or any) religion. You gave me insight into that world in such a beautiful way. Thank you. Your words and your commitment inspired me tonight.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura- That means a lot to me. I have just finished registering for the Memory to Memoir retreat. I am reading Torah on November 24 so of course I will bring my Tikun to study with. I would be honored to show it to you. I really enjoyed this prompt and as you can see my very first prompt is still a big part of my life, as are all of them, actually. I am often amazed by how deeply my life is enriched by study and by writing. Thank you for the weekly inspirations. IM

    • Ilana says

      oops. “Yah She’koach” means there is holiness in what you did. Sorry. Maybe there is holiness in being imperfect and recognizing your mistake 😉

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I’ve got to tell you how very much I enjoyed your post! I really appreciate you explaining the words and their meanings, the service, your practicing pronunciations, aiming for perfection, singing. Talk about excellence. It’s just beautiful. In my way, I did the same in my church when I was younger. I hung around alot to stay away from home. So, I did most jobs: dusted and cleaned the priest’s house and church, passed out missilettes in the pews, set up his colourful vestments, arranged flowers for the holiday services, and even, sinfully, stuck my finger in the wine for a taste. :))

      • Ilana says

        Terry- I really enjoyed writing this post and sharing this piece of me with you. Thanks for honoring it and sharing similar feelings of your own. I could so see you looking over your work and enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done. IM

    • Beverly Boyd says

      My grandson recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. I am not Jewish and have had minimal experience with Jewish rituals and customs. I knew he was studying hard. Your description of the process you go through when you read the Torah helped me to understand some of the steps he may have been doing.

      • Ilana says

        I hope he enjoyed it and felt nourished by it as much as I did. However, I am celebrating the 25th anniversary of my Bat Mitzva this year and I still remember how I hated studying for it. 😉 I’m glad I did it though, gave me a jump on what I’m learning now.

  5. Beverly Boyd says

    The Value of excellence

    This was an interesting prompt to contemplate. I could think of a lot of things over my life that I have done very well, but missed the mark of excellence. I have sometimes been envious of someone who has excelled in something that I can also do well. Then I realize the amount of single-minded solitary effort they have had to devote to their skill to develop it to excellence.

    When I was in high school I was in a variety of activities, athletics, band, chorus, cheerleading the school newspaper as well as being active in my church. I was also a good student ranking seventeenth in my class of over three hundred. A good friend was valedictorian…She went home every night after school and studied while I went to the YWCA for synchronized swimming. When we went to college, I was able to maintain an A average the first year. She was devastated to only have a C average though she studied just as hard as she had in highschool.

    Quite a few years after I graduated, I went back to that town for a few days. My friend, Andy, heard I was in town and sought me out. Andy was one of three very serious boys who were particularly devoted to music, spending free periods in the music rooms, practicing and just hanging out in the atmosphere they most loved. They were part of the combo that played for school dances and other events about town. Andy particularly wanted to tell me how much he had admired me. We sat beside each other in band practice. We were the oboe section in the concert band and played clarinet in the marching band. When the annual New York State music competition came around, Bill, Eric and Andy often asked me to play in a quartet with them. Even though I always had the easiest part, I practiced to play with them. I didn’t want to let them down and we usually placed very well. Andy said he thought I was a “great musician!” How could he say that? I never practiced! “Yeah, I know,” he said, “but we used to talk about what a great musician you would be if you did!” so that was the story of y life.

    Now I am living in a community where nobody knows about any of the things I have done in my life. No one knows that I have directed choruses, sung in a really good really good barbershop quartet, led folk mass for four years, served as parliamentarian for three organizations, and was manager of the health food store where I worked for twelve years, served on several advisory committees for the Vallejo Unified school district, led scout troops and kept the scorebooks for the little league… I’m almost embarrassed to list more. It’s easy for me to forget the many ways I have been part of the communities I have lived in and that I am more than the older lady who comes in every day for a large coffee, or shows up with a smile in the social hall after church. My writing groups know more about me because I write so much in memoir style. They have heard excerpts from the eight writing projects I am working on. In typical fashion, none of them have been published or for that matter even finished. It seems that something else comes along to capture my curiosity and passion.

    I used to think that I was blessed and cursed with an over active curiosity and interest in too many things. Part of the blessing was that it made me quite suited for parenting seven very individual children. I could be supportive of any activity they were interested in from singing in a chorus to high adventure outdoor activities, to learning magic, or competitive sports. They are an interesting group of almost middle-aged adults with very different life paths and philosophies. Its fun to be with them and experience how much they enjoy each other.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Beverly- That is a long full list. What rich life you have. I’ll bet others around you benefit from it in ways you are not even aware of. IM

    • says

      Beverly, I’m happy I’m one of those privileged to know you as more than “the older lady with the coffee.” I loved learning more about your life here. I understand the pros and cons of an overactive creative imagination. I’ve got that going on, too!

      • beverly Boyd says

        In some ways I love it. But I do try to restrain myself…especially since I am no longer the energizer bunny and I need to more careful of how I spend my time. I really want to stay focused on writing and have the satisfaction of actually finishing something!

  6. says

    I have noticed that fewer people have posted this week as usual–is this because the term “excellence” felt intimidating and you couldn’t come up with anything you do with excellence? We all have things we do with excellence–even if it’s knowing how to put a baby to sleep or how to make a perfect bed. If you are struggling with this prompt, try again–or write about what’s getting in your way.

    • Ilana says

      I had a hard time with it until I redefined it as something I do as best I can. I am by no means the expert. Many others do a better job, more often than I do but it is something I take pride in. Just wanted to share what helped me, in case it can help someone else. IM

  7. Beverly Boyd says

    I think the word excellence felt a bit daunting. Since you give me permission to excel in the mundane I am adding this.

    A friend of my daughter’s walked six blocks from her home to the store where I worked with a threaded needle held in two hands. She was sure that anyone who could figure out how to fold fitted sheets so they piled neatly with others of the same size would surely know how to put a knot in that thread. I guess I could call that excellence.

    • says

      I actually like the challenge of asking people to look for excellence in their own lives. Many of us tend to “hide our light” and not claim the things we’re really good at…

      • Ilana says

        Yes! You challenged me, in this safe place, to admit that I sometimes can shine. That’s what I loved about this prompt.

  8. Bobbie Anne says

    Thank you for letting me share that one cannot put a price on the value of excellence. Each and every person excels at one or more things. For me it is my writing and more important- my poetry. It brings me great joy to write and share with others. While I have been published in literary journals and even won awards, that is not what matters most. Those who have read my previous posts have seen some of the poems that weren’t published because the subject matter was deemed off limits, taboo or ‘too deep’ (I’m inclined to ask what that means).

    I’m proud of my poems. I am glad I have written them, even if they aren’t ‘perfect’ or don’t appeal to everyone. They aren’t meant to. I write the poems for myself first. I write with ‘painstaking excellence’ and each line is hard to put into words. I do it because I must. My poetry is my favorite way of expressing what I have to say. If others like what I’ve written, that makes me happy and I’m glad I wrote something that made you laugh, cry or smile. How powerful is the written word?

  9. Terry Gibson says

    Being excellent is a scary topic. Something I think I have done with excellence is coping with the aftermath of Steve’s death in late 2009.

    After the shock, I had to do something with myself, especially to crawl out of the depression and real danger I was in. So I found a hobby. Actually, I created a job for myself.

    My friend had just finished a social media course, which included Twitter, so I asked if I could read her booklet.

    I should note here that when Twitter first came along, I assumed I was not smart enough to use it. It is an old way of thinking I always fight.

    I devoured the book and approached my new laptop with gusto. I had no clue what to write but just started sharing quotes from books I love. I congratulated people on upcoming books and other successes. I became a coach of sorts and my enthusiasm was real; either that or I was just stoned all the time.

    No. It was real and I loved nothing better than to dig into my bookshelves for the treasures I’m so proud I put money into. From there, I moved on to sharing my warped sense of humour. I always loved telling little stories with a non-committal expression, only to shock everyone by letting the deadpan face go and having a great laugh. Only this audience couldn’t see me. It was very different in 140 character chunks, but I got good at it.

    Two years later, I have seven thousand people following me, a high percentage of whom are writers, publishers, and those in the helping professions. I have people on five continents and find it all fun. Also, I’ve made some great friends.

    Through hard work and cautious risk-taking, I not only made a job for myself, but I actually got my first paid job. The results are in and they love what I wrote. I can’t say more because of a non-disclosure agreement and wanting to be paid. But, I am so happy.

    Real dreams I’ve held quietly inside–never daring to share for fear of ridicule–are coming true. I could hug the globe . . . but will save up all my hugs for the Memoir Retreat. All they have to do is point me to a tree and I’ll wrap my arms around it.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- When I first started reading this I thought, ‘Oy, I must be so high on myself for having such an easy time writing about excellence.’ I had to remind myself that I had translated ‘excellence’ to what I do best, regardless of how others do it or would think is excellent. Then I settled down and enjoyed your post. How amazing that you have come so far and done so much with something you originally ‘assumed I was not smart enough to use it.’ (SO something I would say about myself!) That alone is a triumph. I enjoyed your love of what you have learned. Beautiful descriptions of a beautiful thing! Oh and Did I read that correctly? You’ll be at the Memoir Retreat? Yay! I will finally get to meet you in person! Ilana will not be on my name tag. My name starts with an S but I will be looking for you. sIMz

      • Terry Gibson says

        Ilana and Laura, thank you. Sorry to repeat this story. I was working on something new but didn’t have it finished. The truth is: I don’t think of myself and excellence together on the same planet. I only think of twitter … but I’m aiming to change that really soon. So happy about job! Yes. Barring the earth swallowing me up before Nov., I’ll be there. Can’t wait! Will love finally meeting you. I’m a bit shy at first, then they can’t get me to quiet down. :) Oh yes. Following me on twitter might drive you crazy, Laura. See you both soon.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Terry, I love the serendipity of your story. I almost want to break my resistance to joining Twitter so I can be one of your seven thousand followers.
      And congratulations on the job!

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Beverly! Serendipity. I love that word. So many words I love. Today it’s also ‘job.’ Yay. Oh yes. And “forty-five more minutes to sleep, Goddesses please.”

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