Nicole Sharp

Writer, Wanderer and Coffee Lover living "la dolce vita"

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I’m moved into my backyard for the season. My flowers are starting to bloom enough for me to make small bouquets of fresh loveliness for myself every few days. I’ve been writing again in the early morning hours with my coffee and I find that there are so many life lessons that can be gleaned from where I sit and watch. No need to go too far afield. Of course, I love going far afield, but these past few weeks, it seems the lessons and magic abound right here at home.

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I’ve been thinking…

A friend and I get together and walk every two weeks or so. Once the hugs of greeting are given; cellphones and keys are tucked away in various pockets; and hats are fitted into place – we get to the task of walking. And talking.

My friend quickly runs through her personal update and then asks me excitedly, “what have you been thinking about lately?”

I like that question, the way she puts it. Though, I have to ask myself, is that really interesting? The things I’ve been thinking about?

I don’t think so.

Of course, just as I’m about to go on and on about how I haven’t been thinking about anything interesting and I have nothing to say, I start talking about what it is that I actually have been ruminating on.

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And the Author Bio goes to…

I haven’t blogged much lately because I’ve been stuck in the void of grant application deadlines and short story submissions. While a bit of a challenge, the experiences haven’t been bad. One positive is that I’ve been given the opportunity to stand up for my writing and passion. (Even if I’m standing up to myself.) I’m a writer. There is only one direction. Forward. Always.

(Oooh, it works for lots of stuff going on in life right now, too. Weird, huh?)

That’s one side of the grant application. The other is an exercise in self examination.  I’ve had to come up with several personal statements that cause me to question, “who am I?”

Wait. It’s not like that. Not the way you just read those words. Off handed and quickly,  ‘who am I’.

Read it again. With gusto. Read it like the self-inflicted, insidious introspection it’s become. Like it’s a torturous, soul bending, hair pulling, lying prone on the floor scream of: “WHO AM I?!!”

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A few years ago, maybe only two years ago, now that I think about it. Two years ago, I found Mary Beard. And since then, the more I find out about her, as she shows up in my peripheral, the more of a crush I develop on her.

Mary Beard has a laundry list of ‘things she is’ behind her name. In summation, she is a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge. She is an English scholar and classicist, think study of ancient Romans and Greeks among others. She’s been made a Dame of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, which puts the title Dame in front of her given name. There are more titles she touts as well; and she has a regular blog that appears in The Times Literary Supplement.

I first came to know of Mary’s in an article written in the New Yorker. I was fascinated with the easy going, long gray haired woman with no make-up that was practically glowing because as she sat comfortably on a velvet chase, she looked like she had the whole world figured out. The article was wonderful as well, and instilled the beginnings of my crush. Apparently, Mary’s not so polite trolls on social media are no match for her. She often engages them. So much so, that she engaged one such young man and they are now friends. She did indeed, if I am remembering correctly, garner an apology as well.

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Birthday wishes…

Birthdays are interesting things aren’t they? There is a joy in the celebration of self. It’s like a personal New Year with pampering at the forefront. Although, some people don’t like to celebrate them. Some never really celebrated to begin with, so they just give a nod of acknowledgment to the passing day. Of course, in my family, mom made it a big deal. I’m not talking themed birthday parties every year (although she did do that on occasion.) I’m talking – short of a parade – my mom had a way of making our birthday’s so special, we could hear the band in our head coming round the corner.

Okay, so I’m talking about birthday’s because the writer had a birthday. She is of a certain age now. I don’t mind telling you how old she is; it doesn’t faze her really. I’m 45.

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New Year Traditions…

Happy New Year!

When it comes to New Year’s celebrations there are as many traditions as there are people. My family eats Steak and Lobster with champagne, the idea being that you eat the way you’d like to eat for the rest of the year. So we ate well, in the hopes the coffers would stay full enough for such extravagance.

There are other traditions (superstitions?) I am thinking of adding to my own personal repertoire. Sweep your house of dirt and mess before midnight to symbolize ridding yourself of the past year’s trash. I know those raised in the south eat black eyed peas in the New Year. The more you eat, the richer you’ll be in the coming year.

In South America, folks pack a suitcase and carry it around the block at midnight to symbolize travel in the New Year. It might be worth carting a bag through the snowy Idaho streets if it brings more travel into my life!

A few more interesting traditions: Wear red underwear, you’ll find love. Burn your Christmas tree outside to cleanse the past and make way for the future. Fireworks might be pretty and the big boom fun, but the original use of fire and loud noises outside at midnight was to chase away any evil attempting come into your life.

The writer and historian in me loves these traditional ideas, but I’ve got my own tradition that has taken precedence the past few years.

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Merry and Bright…

One year, a few days after Thanksgiving, when my sister was starting to read, my dad brought home a copy of A Christmas Carol by Dickens. For the days leading up to Christmas, after dinner and bath time, my family would sit down and read the book aloud. My sister had to read a paragraph, my brother one page, me two pages. I remember feeling like life was ending with the way my younger sister read.  That paragraph took forever. And even my two pages felt like they dragged on for an eternity. We all wanted to finish our reading because then, it would be my dad’s turn to read. My dad is an English teacher and drama teacher. He did all the voices. He brought Scrooge and his humbug ways to life in our home.

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Damn poets…

Oh the poets did it again.

Got me in the guts.

Ripped out my heart to show it to me, still beating, still hoping, still dreaming.

I dressed in black, dressed up, dressed to go out on a school night.

Went out to remind myself of life beyond the capital Mom that falls into bed at 10 every night, still making lists of what needs to get done, should be done, could be done.

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Thanks Giving…

I’m in the middle of climbing laundry mountain, playing at chopping and prepping food like I’m a contestant on Top Chef, and trying to figure out the Martha Stewart logistics to having 18 people in my house for the Thanksgiving holiday. Oh yeah, and I’m looking for my gratitude. Cuz that’s what this holiday is all about, gratitude. But for some reason I stopped being grateful between cleaning the mildew spots off the ceiling in the bathroom and being elbowed too many times in the diary aisle of the grocery store.

Having everyone to my house for the holiday was my idea. I’m the Clark Griswold in my family. You know the scene, from Christmas Vacation. When Ellen and Clark are in bed and she tells him she’s worried, “you build thing up in your mind…you set standards no family event can ever live up to.”

I do that. For parties, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, graduations, vacations….just like Clark. It such a joke in my family, that when I hosted my own family for five glorious days a few years ago over Christmas; one by one (my dad, mom, brother and sister) they all called to ask if I was going to be okay. And I swear, they all quoted that same line…you have expectations no family can live up to.

But I love traditions. Love the crap out of them!

Then I read a beautiful essay a few weeks before everyone was to arrive that Christmas. And it slowed me down, gave me pause and allowed my normal expectant self to take two steps to the right and just breathe.

Here’s why I love the traditions so much.

Growing up with little money is one of the things I think I liked most about my life. My parents who struggled paycheck to paycheck would wildly disagree with me, of course. Being a parent and an adult now, I myself hate the hand-to-mouth existence. Still, what those years did was force my family to create traditions on nothing more than a moment. There are so many traditions I carry forward from my childhood. Thanksgiving morning dad and I woke up early, (everyone else liked to sleep in. Not me, I might miss something.) Dad fried up sausage patties and baked biscuits. It was what his family ate growing up on Thanksgiving morning. And the meal is mobile, you can take breakfast to the living room with you to watch the parade. Dad and I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade together and he’d slip into a reminiscent trance, telling me stories about his dad taking him and his brothers to the parade, which gave way to memories of growing up in New York. Dad loves Thanksgiving. A holiday built on eating all day long without the stress of present giving, that was right up his alley.

We always played soccer on thanksgiving and then football. We started going to a small mountain town Thanksgiving weekend to pick fresh mistletoe. Christmas Eve was always spent at my maternal Grandparents house. Christmas morning was always at our house. On birthday’s, crate paper was hung outside our bedroom door and a red plate with scrolling lettering declaring “You are special today” met us with a donut for breakfast. Valentine’s Day we woke to Valentine donuts and on our napkin in our sack lunch, mom drew a heart and the message “I love you” along with a pack of sweethearts. Dinner was always heart shaped pizza, heart shaped cake and 25cent bottle of strawberry Shasta cola.

Then, I moved away from home. My brother, sister and I all moved away from home because of the wings our parents gave us. But it’s difficult, these wings. They flew up far and we were fine until the holidays came creeping around.

I’ve been philosophizing over these feeling for several years now, but it wasn’t until I read that essay that I pinpointed what was making my heart ache so much. You see, it was this one tiny word: Always.

Our lives had been deeply steeped in the tradition of ‘always holidays’. Go back and read about our family traditions that cost next to nothing but had big impact and you’ll find that was Always the way it was.

So now, I celebrate holidays with a new family. One I married into and things are, of course, different. There’s no always. Which had made me fight these differences for many years now. In the fight I’ve tried to come up with my own always traditions, but it’s an uphill battle that often leaves me feeling more drained than filled up with the true spirit of the season.

Today, especially. When my list of things to do out numbers the amount of time I have in which to accomplish my set goals…I had to sit down and take a breath and remind myself of the lesson I took to heart a few years ago, when my family was coming to town and I read that article.

To celebrate the holidays was “to stop trying to live up to my own…preconception of how or what the day ought to be. Rather than chase Christmas (Thanksgiving) like a lover that must be wooed or lost, I have found it much easier to sit still and let it find me…The secret of celebrating…is to empty oneself of all expectations so that there is room for the unexpected, or even the miraculous…” – Phyllis Theroux

I’m soothed with those words. And what is able to finally seep in is what I have been continually thankful for over the past few years. An ideal that is both tangible and intangible at the same time The kitchen table. My table.

I’ve spoken of this several times now. I’m given to sigh-worthy contemplation this time of year and my table is often the sentimental centerpiece.Ever since I read the romanticize words – life happens at the kitchen table.

The past four years we’ve nourished our bellies and souls at my table. My table has been infused with life; with laughter and tears. With confessions and conversation. My table has scars from artwork, homework, and game score keeping. It’s been wiped down from playdough, pasta rolling, sushi making, and dinner time. It’s been dusted of glitter and paint and construction paper.

Friends old and new have rested their elbows upon my table. Family has gathered often around my table.

This year, my table is missing grandpa; my husband’s father. But he left his mark on my table; he might not physically be there, but his indentation is.

And isn’t that what we’re all trying to do in the long run. Leave our indentation on this world so that we leave it a little better than it was when we found it?

There is one “always tradition” that I will continue this year. It’s one of my favorite. Growing up, on the holidays, we always set an extra place at the table for those who couldn’t be with us that year; for those that had left us; for those we remember fondly.

Deep breath.

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving my friends. I’m gonna let go of expectations to make room. And while I do that, I’d like to leave you with my favorite poem that I’ve shared several times but still seems so apropos to me this time of year.

Perhaps the World Ends Here 

By Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

“Perhaps the World Ends Here” from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo.

For art sake…

Art for the sake of art. In Latin it’s: Ars Gratia Artis. That’s the motto of MGM, if you look at their logo of the roaring tiger, above his head is a ribbon with those words written across it.

I’ve always loved that idea. Art for the sake of art.

As a writer, my art, the moment I know I’m creating art, is when the world falls away. Once that happens, when I’m in the thick of a story, skies open up, the sun twists and turns; I own the light and the stars and the shadows. I allow the elements to frame what I’m doing in just the right way. That’s when my art comes alive for me. That’s when I’m writing for the sake of writing.

Art however…oh art for the sake of art. Not for the almighty dollar, not for the fame, the notoriety, but to make tangible the way an artist sees the world. I love that.

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