Mechanics of Art and Poetry of Work

By Angela Noel

June 1, 2017

The man works on a car–fixes its engine, buffs the exterior–long hours of loving pains.

Maybe he smokes a cigar. Maybe he drinks a light beer. Or maybe it’s Pellegrino.

Maybe he has a family–a son, a wife. Or maybe a daughter, the apple of his eye.

Maybe he writes sonnets that touch the infinite in a journal hidden among the tools in his garage. Or maybe he listens to mixed tapes of Madonna and Beethoven on an old, grease-stained boombox.

Every day . . . every hour . . . he loves the car more. Each bead of salty sweat escaping his brow is a tear dropping. Continue reading “Mechanics of Art and Poetry of Work”

What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?

By Angela Noel

May 18, 2017

Almost a year ago now, I sat agonizing over my first blog post. I’d convinced two or three brave souls to let me profile them. Each had placed tremendous trust in me, but I worried. Would the words I put on the page both honor my subjects and connect with readers?

As a few people read that first post, then a few more, I felt the rush. My heart pounded in anticipation every time I checked the stats. Ten people. Then twenty. A hundred. Matt French, the subject of my first post, liked it. His friends and family liked it. That’s what mattered most, right?

But the more I read other blogs, and the more research I did to understand what “success” for a new blog should look like, the ickier I felt. A few months in, after I’d faithfully posted each week, I remember reading a piece from another blogger. She lamented she had only a “small” following–10,000 views a month. I felt shame. If she was disappointed with 10,000 what did it mean that 1/10th of that number visited mine? Clearly, something was wrong. Continue reading “What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?”

Come Play With Me: A Writer’s Wish

By Angela Noel

May 11, 2017

Words, Come Play With Me

Sun-warmed pine reminds me of home and mountain vacations. I want to write like evergreen smells.

My husband’s heart beats steady and strong when I lay my head on his chest, ear pressed against skin. I want to write like his heart sounds.

My son sighs when he snuggles into the crook of my arm for bedtime. His contentment and mine fuse like a warm blanket. I want to write like these moments feel.

Clean water rushing over my hot toes cools and tickles. I want to write like the water flows.

The petals of wildflowers on tender stems weave and nod when bees visit or wind blows. I want to write like these flowers play.

After three hours of errands, a tired glance at the mirror reveals inside-out pants. The snorts of my laughter scare the dog. I want to write like life is laughing with me. 

Creators weave unique tapestries with universal threads. We mine the diamonds of memory to touch the divine.

Your turn: What are your favorite things? What diamonds have you found?

How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“How’s your son? How’s Jackson?” Danny asks me, almost every time we meet. Danny and Jackson have something in common. They’re both “only” children. Often I’ve wished for a better way to describe my son’s lack of siblings. Being an only child has cultural baggage for both child and parent. Even the way we describe only children, as if they are by turns selfish and lonely, feels messed up to me. Particularly because my experience with the sibling-challenged has universally been positive. Several friends of mine grew up without a sibling. Each of them are among the most independent, generous, outgoing, thoughtful people I know. Danny is no exception. Continue reading “How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story”

Creating Community by Reaching Out

By Angela Noel

April 13, 2017

I practice hot, sweaty yoga. I love the quiet, dark room filled with other people. We start and end each session in savasana, or corpse pose. The yogi leading the practice provides an intention, the only voice in the room, as we begin. He or she might share a quote, a song lyric, a poem, or a riddle. I’ve both giggled, and allowed tears to flow. There’s something about yoga that opens up possibilities in me.

No competition. No expectations.

Akin to a spiritual revival, the bunch of us sweat together, breathe together, slurp quantities of water after six sets of chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) together. But this feeling of community doesn’t happen by accident. Continue reading “Creating Community by Reaching Out”

Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“You know,” my dad said from his living room in California, “for that You are Awesome thingy you do . . . maybe you could ask people about speaking truth to power.”

“Tell me more.” I held my phone to my ear, enjoying a peek of springtime sun three-thousand miles away.

“Well, in my career (he’s retired) I never really gave much thought to whether I should say something, I just said it. And it got me in trouble, even fired. But, it’s really important. Especially now. So, I want to know how people do it, and do it well.”

Separated both by geography and sometimes ideology, my dad and I do agree on many things. We both, for example, believe societies big and small–families, workplaces, neighborhoods, countries–need healthy, well-informed debate by people that care. We believe respectful discourse among equals brings clarity, if not agreement.

But, there’s that whole power thing that mucks things up.

Continue reading “Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth”

A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting

Guest Post by Pamela Asbury-Smith

March 30, 2017

Act One: Motherhood to Quantico

High school and jobs, college and career choices. Perhaps it’s the era into which I was born but I wasn’t expected to go to college. In fact, I was told I wouldn’t need it because I’d just get married and have children, whereas my brother would need a college degree to support the family he would one day have. I did get my MRS degree–I also got a divorce after two children and had to go to work.

My brother never married, never had children. Irony of ironies.

Without any marketable skills aside from typing and ambition, I was able to land an exciting job as a clerk-matron in a small police department. My sagging ego needed that infusion of power. Continue reading “A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting”

Why We Should Stop Being Polite

By Angela Noel

March 16, 2017

I was in college when the first Real World by MTV crashed into our living rooms.  What happens “. . . when people stop being polite and start getting real?” the show asked.

Interesting question . . . only I don’t think they ever answered it. In thirty-two (and counting) seasons, have we seen a whole lot of “real?”

Drama. Yes. But, real? Continue reading “Why We Should Stop Being Polite”

Simple Lessons in a Complex World

By Angela Noel

March 9, 2017

“It’s like raisin bread,” Ryan Allshouse explained, drawing a blue rectangle on his white board studded with blue dots, “As the bread bakes, it expands and the raisins get farther away from each other.”

“I still don’t get it,” I said. “How can the universe be expanding? Expanding into what? The bread expands into the air. Where there was air, the bread is now taking up the space. When the universe expands what gives way?” I cross my arms and tap my foot, brow furrowed, unhappy with the raisin bread explanation.

Ryan laughs. “I don’t know.”

Years ago, Ryan might have kept this conversation going. He might have argued with me and showed me the research on the expanding universe and why, from a space/physics/science-y perspective, my question was silly. But this Ryan, older, wiser, and passionate about knowledge and deep thoughts, has learned the importance of not-knowing. He’s learned the immeasurable value of the one statement every human can (and should) make, regardless of years of study and expertise.  Continue reading “Simple Lessons in a Complex World”