Sunday, September 26, 2004


It's almost 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Guess what I did today?

I slept.

What else did you do today, Jen?

I slept more.

Surely not! Surely you have done something today besides sleep?

I got up around noon, listened to some NPR, posted on Lucy's blog, ate some latkes Dereck had made, drank a few cups of coffee.

Then Dereck asked me if I wanted to come sit outside with him and the dog, and he started messing around on the internet a little, and I went into the bedroom, took off my glasses and Tevas, lay down on the bed, and woke up again about five or ten minutes ago.

That's it. I've slept.

The only reason I'm up now is that I am terrified about tonight-- I can't afford to be up all night!

Why did I sleep so much today? Bad allergy day for sure. And to be sure, the rest of the weekend was intense in different ways.

Friday was the eve of Yom Kippur, so after getting up and working all day, we drove down to Columbia, 90 miles, pausing only to stuff ourselves at KFC before the fast.

We drove directly to the First Baptist Church downtown where services were being held. I wore white pants and a white T-shirt and white sandals, and for the first time, wore my prayer shawl (the Yom Kippur evening service is the only evening service at which prayer shawls are worn).

For two hours we prayed about repentance. Then we hung out at the church talking to people for about an hour, and Jerry Hirsch and I sneaked away for a cigarette. He wasn't fasting, and I decided I could have that, and he didn't want to be disrespectful, so we were right on the edges of downtown.

Then, we followed the Mandells back to the synagogue, which is a large farmhouse, and we loaded our stuff upstairs, they downstairs with their two sons, and I sketched in my sketchbook for awhile and Dereck sat outside. Then we went to sleep.

We got up at 8:00 and showered briefly, and put on our clothes from the night before. You don't really want to spend too much time bathing. And we fasted. By 9:00 a.m. we were in services.

At noon, after praying for three hours, D and I decided we had atoned enough and left, and broke our fast at the Indian restaurant a block away. It was really good to go down, and I wish I had some really meaningful observations for you, but I am still absorbing it all (perhaps the most telling thing is that I have slept all day). It did move me that in the year 2004 you can still find 200 Jews in mid-central Missouri who are fasting and wearing kippot and prayer shawls and praying-- many of them until 1:30 p.m. yesterday, and then back for more at 4:45.

We went to Barnes and Noble and I bought a book teaching drawing. Last weekend I was absorbed in My Name is Asher Lev, which I initially began reading because of its Jewish subject matter, but it re-awakened in me a deep desire to try to learn to draw. I have trouble seeing the world in any other way than through words.

I have been talking to my blogger family lately about how we all ended up doing this and meeting each other, so I will answer Kathy here.

I don't know what other people's needs have been in creating blogs. I have always journaled. My journals are all in my dining room hutch within easy access so I can rescue them in case of a fire. I probably just need a security deposit box. There are MANY, dating back to third grade.

I majored in creative writing and English in college, did a creative Master's thesis. I am a writer. That is what I do. No matter what I do to earn my living, I am a writer. I have written since I can remember anything, in love with language, very much trapped in narrative all the time. I cannot have a life experience without thinking of how I would write it. Nothing is sacred.

I stumbled onto SweetJediMama's blog and we began talking about it (we worked together before she got infected with a passion to be one of the doctors we worked with, and quit her job to become a medical student) and I set one up very quickly with no other goal than to have a forum to make me write daily.

I very soon persuaded Karl, who is also a writer, to do the same thing. I contacted Shawn, a friend from grad school, and started reading Elizabeth through him, and then found a reference to Philip hanging out with J.D. Salinger, and the rest, my friends, is history.

I am a people person, and finding a blogging community was very natural to me. But the end all be all reason I started and that I am here is for the writing. which is funny, because Liza keeps giving me assignments to write, qualifiying them as "Not the blog." (Even though if I go for a few days without posting, she will call and say, "Are you ever going to blog again?"-- which, for a writer, is the very best kind of friend to have, so remember that if I whine on your blogs for more posts).

It's funny that I don't plan to do anything really with the blog, in terms of developing the materials. I enjoy it, and I hope it remains archived for my kids someday. I would love it if I had page after page of journals of my parents' lives to read. But then again, I'm so nosy, I just like reading peoples' journals, period. And it has gotten me into trouble. When I was in college, I hung out with an intense young man named Brady Udall. Remember that I was the writer at that time. And I had a big crush on him. Well, he kept a journal (as most young Mormons are encouraged to do), so one day he was napping on his couch and I sneaked a peak.

I found out from a mutual friend later that I had been caught and that he hated me for it, so I emailed him about ten years later and apologized, and was forgiven.

(This act of mine came back and karmically bit me on the ass, by the way, when my journals were subpeonaed during my divorce. Now. What do you do? Destroy ten years of your life? Or hand them over? I handed them over, and to this day I believe I won custody because of it).

So, naturally, blogs, journals that I am actually allowed to read, well, they are like heaven. And I have paper journals too: one that I carry in my purse (I just bought two replacements yesterday because it's almost full), and a larger one with acid-free paper.

But the drawing is something more spiritual, a way to break out of words for a time, and re-train other parts of my brain. I took a drawing class my freshman year of college, got a C and lost my scholarship, and haven't done it since. I came home one day to find my roommate and her boyfriend chortling over my portfolio. I suck. Truly bad. But it's all about taking the time and learning to see.

Now. All of the drawing books assert that everybody can learn to draw. I don't believe that anymore than I believe that everybody can write. I am not a genius-- I need a drawing book. My father firmly insisted to me my entire childhood that writing is not a talent, it is a skill that you improve by working at it every single day. And I agree with the writing daily part, but I do not believe it is not a gift or a talent.

Some people can write in ways that cannot be taught. When I taught writing, I think I sucked at it-- I didn't know how to explain how to write, because I don't know how I learned to do it except through doing it. And I am fairly obsessed with it, and I truly do not understand why others are not obsessed with it, so that makes me not a very good or sympathetic teacher. Oh, I am good in a classroom, and I can teach other things-- but as for the actual writing? I can tell students a few things not to do, and provide a few pointers along the way, but either you know how to do it, or you don't.

I have the privilege of reading many blogs by gifted writers. I have a distinct sense from some of the blogs that I read that the writers do not consider themselves writers and would be very surprised to know that I did think of them that way. Maybe one or two (wait, three) of the bloggers I read know how good they are and they are good on purpose. You know who you are. (The rest of you suck because you are good by accident, but fortunately for me, since you don't know how good you are, I don't worry about you becoming a great and successful writer like freaking Brady did).

Alas and alack-- we have to run to the store now.

More later on the Round Barn Blues Festival.

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