About mrsmetaphor

Angela Doll Carlson is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in Thin Air Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Apeiron Review, Relief Journal Magazine, St. Katherine Review, Rock & Sling and Ruminate Magazine, among others. She has published three books, “Nearly Orthodox," “Garden in the East," and her latest book, "The Wilderness Journal" releases November 18th, 2018.

Fitspo for real people…

I’m tired of being told that one food is full evil while another is all angel. I call BS on this and will continue in my delishatarian ways! So, to strengthen my cause I’ve created my first #fitspo (read: fitspiration) meme. Come on along, all my people!
😉

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For those who have fallen- Lenten Regrets

Paschal thoughts on this (eastern) Good Friday

Nearly Orthodox1

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“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”
-St John Chrysostom

It is always here, in the dark of Good Friday just before Pascha, that I find all the regret I have stored up over the years. It’s a pressing lie, heavy and persistent. It sounds right to me in the dark. It sounds reasonable and clear, repeating over and over,
“I should have…”
-given more
-prayed more
-attended more
-listened more
-fasted more

I’m always falling short. This is the reality of it.

And yet as I sit here struggling to put together some thoughts and make some weird sense of it all, I find I am at a loss and maybe that’s the right thing. I type and backspace and type again only to delete the whole mess later. Perhaps it’s right that there are no good words…

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The myth of the interrupted life

I spent all day at the Apple Genius Bar because my phone sputtered a bit then died last night just before bed. I cradled it against my heart for a moment before shuffling to my laptop to make the appointment I hoped would cure it of its ills. I rearranged my schedule. I shifted my focus. This was the day I was meant to really get stuff done, you know. I’m certain that if it were not for this wicked thing that happened to my phone I’d have kicked the butt of the universe of paperwork and house upkeep I’ve let pile up around this joint.

The first 20 minutes or so I was just waiting. The next 30 I was trying to explain what happened and waiting while the tech did everything I had done at home. After that it was kind of a blur as I tried to figure out how to contact my lunch date to tell her I was stuck in what was either the waiting room to Heaven or to Hell.

“I have no phone” I kept thinking. I tried to see it as a gift of some sort. I tried to be all Zen about that and breathe the moment as it were. I went over to Starbucks and got me a latte while I was waiting for the angels (or demons) at Apple to fix my little beauty. Everyone had bent necks, looking down at their devices, laughing and maybe grimacing from time to time. I felt the way I had the day that Dave and I took a trip to Alcatraz on a tour boat. We all wore headsets at first to hear the recorded tour guide give tidbits of information. We took our headphones off, Dave and I, just to allow ourselves to watch what was in front of us. At various prescribed times the entire load of passengers would turn to the left or to the right. Heads nodded all together. Smiling at the same time. Gasping when appropriate. It was mesmerizing.

So I sat in that Starbucks and I watched everyone, fascinated and yet still lacking something. This lacking was not so much the constant entertainment my phone offers but rather, the connection, the ability to check my parking meter before it expired, the ability to text my kid at school to say I couldn’t pick him up, the ability to shift more things around that afternoon so that I could sit and wait patiently for the tech to finish up.

When I did finally retrieve my phone I treated it with great care and concern, not checking too many things, not asking too much of it. I kept it charging and comfortable and then I sat and lamented the interruption of my life. I wasted that whole day in the Apple store. By the time i sat down to write I felt overwhelmed. I felt blurry and dizzy. I felt as though I just needed a nap. I did everything I could to avoid doing much of anything, doing laundry, finishing up paperwork, gathering tax forms, working on the essays that have deadlines approaching…I felt had no words, save for these.

What’s interesting to me though as I sit here and lament 1)my addiction to my phone and 2)the interruption of my life today with getting it fixed, is that believing that my life was interrupted today is a myth. Life isn’t interrupted. It’s just life. This is it. The texts and the appointments and the cuddles with kids after school, those are all life. The broken ceiling fan and the furnace or iPhone that died this week, those are also life. This is all a varied and glittering assortment of life I got going on here. It’s all my life, all of it. To steal a phrase from Richard Rohr, “everything belongs.”

So, I’m resting in that and in this humble reach at getting words on the page today. It’s all life.

Better answers to “What do you do?”

There have been a number of articles up lately about the question of “what do you do?” in polite society. I’m pleased that Elephant Journal decided to publish mine on their site! If you get a moment, take a look and tell me what you think. If you dig it and have another moment, share it!

tanks!

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Regrets of a crunchy parent…

I don’t usually give caveats before posts. I try not to because in a way it’s like when you say to someone, “Not to be nosy but…” or “don’t take this the wrong way but…” which only sets you up to appear nosy and have them take it the wrong way. The reason for this caveat is that I do have a number of friends who I like a whole lot who choose not to vaccinate. They do it for a variety of reasons and I do respect that. I felt the need to put this up this week though in light of the recent measles outbreak. These are my regrets. I can only speak to my own experience and my own reasons for doing what I do as a parent. Make of that what you will.

I am a little crunchy. I admit this.

I had my kids at home, on purpose. I home schooled my kids for a number of years. I eschewed the norms where processed food and standard parenting was concerned, letting my children “be children” for as long as possible, letting them run “Lord of the Flies” like at times and explore nature and learning and life. We were free spirits! Life was good, until the lack of structure and oversight started to me into the controlling and fearful person I had always hoped to avoid becoming. We made some changes- big changes- and we’re all catching our breath again, getting into the rhythm of things and enjoying the absence of the stress that plagued us while we were homeschooling in those final years. All that said, I don’t regret the homebirths, the homeschooling or the alternative parenting.

There is only one part of my crunchy history that I do regret. I regret not having my kids immunized sooner.

The decision to avoid immunizations was one that bothered me more often that it comforted me. Our health providers back then were also crunchy, always putting the ball back in my court about the shots. They never pushed one way or another where immunizations were concerned and I appreciated that. I do think it is important for the parent to have some degree of control over this. Ultimately, we are responsible for the care of our children, after all.

It was the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and the grass-roots, crunchy movement against immunization was growing strong. Studies were cited in groups I attended about connections between autism and vaccines, chemical contamination and vaccines, government plots and vaccines and while I didn’t buy into all of the hype, it had an effect. Becoming a parent was difficult enough, making far-reaching medical decisions for each child and the battery of shots they needed was overwhelming and frightening. After a great deal of research and thought and worrying, we opted to wait on the shots. Because we were homeschooling there was no outside source (i.e. the school system) pressing in on us to immunize.

We changed our health care provider because it was no longer a part of our insurance network after our youngest child was born. Our new doctor looked at the children’s charts and asked about the absence of immunizations. As I tried to explain my position to him he listened attentively. He was affirming and understanding even as I struggled to articulate my objections to the shots. He did not argue the points with me but rather offered insights into the research. He also offered medical studies and articles I’d not seen before. “It’s up to you,” he said, “but really, there’s no research that supports your fears about immunizations.” That information combined with my children’s’ entrance to “real” school prompted us to get caught up on all the shots finally.

It was the words of a close friend that finally drove home the reality of how my decisions affect the people around me. Her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect. She is more susceptible than other children her age to disease. The lack of immunizations on the part of other parents is not simply an “alternative choice” to her family. It can mean life or death to her daughter.

I regret that part of my crunchy parenting. The thing is, that I don’t regret waiting on the immunizations because something awful happened to my family as a result. It didn’t. My children to date are quite healthy and have remained healthy. I regret the decision to wait because it will always make me wonder if I was, at that time, part of the problem we see rising now- measles in New York, mumps in Ohio, polio or something like it, in California and now the recent breakout of measles that stems from a trip to Disneyland. With new outbreaks of diseases we thought were held in check it makes me now question everything I believed when I was a newbie, crunchy parent.

And this is the hard thing, choosing to reexamine previous strong held beliefs and let myself shift into a new perspective. The hardest thing about changing my view on this vaccine thing was the blow I took to my ego as a parent. I admit that. It is hard to say that maybe I got it wrong but in the long run I can only subscribe to a path toward becoming wiser for it. In the long run I have to be able to be open-minded about how I understand the way the world is shaping up and I have to pay attention to how it’s shaping up. I am a part of that shaping. On this point, where immunizations are concerned, I now believe I had it wrong.

We are responsible to our children to do what we feel is best for them of course, it’s important to remember though, that we are part of a bigger picture, a larger community. What we do affects us all.

8 things I wish I’d known about the Orthodox Church

Nearly Orthodox1

I make lists. Some days just the act of sitting down and writing out the list feels like an accomplishment. I used to try to keep track of these things on my phone, in fact I have at least three apps plus the notepad and the calendar to keep my stuff together so to speak. It works, for a little while at least. But there’s nothing like the piece of actual paper and the hard plastic of the blue ball point pen in my hand. I just feel better writing that list. And I feel better crossing things off that list. It’s satisfying.

When I was on the long road of the catechumen I had lists in my head, on the computer and in my journals about the Orthodox tradition, on the different services, the times to make the sign of the cross, the fasting times, the feasting times, the…

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All gift.

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2015 sort of snuck up on me when I was busy doing other things.

I had intended to write a moving and inspirational blog post about the hopefulness of a new year, about the passing of time and the growing feet of my three boys, about my daughter’s applications to college, about the gray hairs I find poking through at my temples and sometimes in my eyebrows so I guess I’ll get right on that.

Those wiry gray hairs are a weird comfort to me and I think it’s because I so often forget my age. I have to do the math, “let’s see…born in 1967 and now it’s what, 2015…”

It’s not a bad thing to forget my age, especially when I realize I’m a whole lot older than I had remembered, which sounds backward, I know. I forget that I’m on the backside of my 40’s sliding headfirst toward 50. I forget that and I get very impatient with my body, with my brain, with my energy level. It’s those gray hairs poking through that remind me of my age and I use those gray hairs as a sort of “keep calm” instruction when I get impatient.

I’m never going to have the body or the brain or the energy level I had when I was 17 or 25 or even 33. I am here now, living here now, having this body, this brain, this energy level and that’s okay. Really, it is.

So as I sit and reflect on the quiet, night-time passing of 2014, when I was busy doing other things I watch the slowly falling snow from the comfort of my favorite writing chair.  I hear the clicking of fingers on the keyboard issuing from my husband’s home office as he works on placing text in his graphic novel. I listen to my boys and their ever-growing feet as they run around downstairs, milking this last vestige of winter break. I think about my sweet girl sitting quietly in her room pondering great and powerful things that lie ahead for her in 2015. And I take comfort in the passing of time, the unfolding of the now and the not yet, the gray hairs poking through to mark the time, reminding me that this is all gift, all gift.

There’s still time!

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For the last few years we’ve spent our Christmas holidays in a house we have near Nashville, TN. After selling our place in Chicago at the height of the housing boom we bought this house in the middle of nowhere to escape the big city. We wanted a change of pace, a new view outside our windows, a fresh perspective and we got that. Unfortunately, a few things happened after that- First, we discovered that we’re not “country” people. Living full-time in the middle of nowhere was making us crazy. Second, the bottom fell out of the housing market which meant we could not sell the luxury log home on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere.

Lucky for us we stumbled on the vacation rental track. We organized the place to optimize the experience and began to rent the house on a regular basis. It worked out so well we were able to make our way back to Chicago over time. But we always find our way down to Nashville to spend time when the rental calendar allows in the spring and summer and at Christmas and New Year’s.

The Christmas trip always sneaks up on me.

I try to keep mindful of the season, to foster a sense of wonder and waiting. I try to keep my mind focused on why I celebrate this particular holiday and generally I fail pretty well. I find myself distracted and worried. Then as I begin to shift the balance back, taking care to still meet my holiday obligations of gift giving and travel planning I find I am drowning in all of it. There are moments, lots of moments, that are beautiful and mindful and real, even in the chaos of the travel and holiday madness and I’m thankful for that.

Today, a few days away from the feast of the Nativity I open my email while sitting in a comfy chair in between arrivals of family members and friends visiting. I am catching up so that I can clear my plate for the next days again. No less than five emails in the box start with “There’s still time!” My heart jumps a little, I know I have forgotten someone or something. I might have left the lights on in the house. I might have gotten confused on which gift was for Chet and which was for Henry. I might have forgotten to get anything at all for Miles. There’s lots to do to get ready, to prepare. The emails want me to know that there is STILL TIME!

And then I’m panicked. I think they count on that. Same day delivery and last-minute shopping was made for people like me who float a little aimless this time of year, procrastinators and seasonal hopefuls. But instead of caving today, only a handful of days before Christmas, I’m going to change the context as much as I can because there is still time- not for shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping. Those things will cycle through quickly. If a gift isn’t wrapped we don’t miss all that much. If a sink has dishes when the guests arrive or the countertop a bit sticky we’ll all survive no worse for the wear really, but if I move through this next few days losing track of the reason I celebrate this feast then it wears away at me, it tears down the purpose and the resolve and the motivation to move forward. This context of knowing why I continue to inch ahead is fuel for the journey, now and tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s where the joy is born, where the celebration is rooted, where the beautiful moments reside. And I want to be there as much and as often as I can.

There’s still time.

Nobody cares about your blog

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There have been days, quite a lot of them actually, when I really wanted to buy this tee shirt. And on some of those days, once purchased, I think I’d actually have worn the tee shirt in public.

For a long time (in internet years) “blogging” has been the thing. Everyone’s doing it. But when I started this blog, back in the good ole days of the internet, the concept was new. We were all maybe a little paranoid while putting out all this personal and revelational material into the great vacuum of cyber land, even adopting a pseudonym (see: mrsmetaphor) to protect our identity. It felt as though I was shouting into the chasm. Nowadays it’s more like shouting into the storm of people shouting. Everyone has a blog. So what?

Many of my long time blogging compadres have left their cyber houses untended, letting weeds reclaim the yard and vines grow over the entrance. We can peer in the windows and see the layers of dust on the floors and shelves, white sheets draped over the furniture. I think back about the hey day of blogging, lo those many (internet) years ago and sometimes I sigh with wonder and appreciation. Those were the days.

Then the idea of monetizing came and the idea of viral posts and blogging for book deals and high profiles and millions of readers. It’s interesting to see how things shift over time. I was never much for monetizing or viral posts. I just write what I feel like writing and put it out there, no longer shouting into the storm but more likely whispering. That’s okay by me.

I have to admit that I don’t read a great number of blogs anymore. I just don’t have the time or energy. The information overload on the internet is too much and too often so now I subscribe to the writers I like and have it delivered easy-like to my email in box. I unwrap those entries at my leisure and savor them in my own time.

All that said, as recently as a few months ago I encouraged someone to start a blog. Even with all the saturation and monetization and the “nobody cares about your blog” feelings, I will sometimes still offer a big thumbs up when someone asks my opinion on it. In no particular order, here are the things that sway me on that front-

5 Reasons to start a blog (even in the modern soggy internet market):

  1. You love to write and you have something to say
    So let’s say you find yourself with a little time on your hands, a working computer and something to say but no place to publish or no interest in pursuing publishing as a career.
    Go for it.
    It’s a great way to start a writing discipline and begin to see words on a page. Just be warned that whatever you put out there is out there. I like to tell people that the internet has a long memory and a short attention span. Even if you remove a blog post or shut down a blog those words might live forever someplace else- someone’s hard drive, cached pages, etc. Don’t write anything you hope no one sees. That’s just asking for trouble.
  2. You have something to sell
    I hate that I just wrote that but nevertheless, it’s true. If you sell something like jewelry or essential oils or fitness practices (wink wink) then it’s probably a decent idea to have a blog connected to your website. Products are lifeless and cold, writing about what you sell or how it affects your life or even how much you love donuts or Disney movies helps to make you a real person, weirdly enough, and that will lend your product some edge in an overcrowded online market.
  3. You are an amazing writer
    It’s true that I know amazing writers who won’t go anywhere near the “blogosphere” (mainly because there are non words like blogosphere that describe it.) But if you are an amazing writer and are not published anywhere but want to have your work out there, go for it. It’s a good way to begin to build some presence online and perhaps even begin to build a readership for your work. My limited experience is that people who are amazing writers get blog traffic when what they write about fills a niche no one else is reaching OR fills a niche no one reaches with amazing writing. Let that roll around on your tongue for a while.I’ll give a caveat here though because I know from experience that if you are an amazing writer and have something to say, see #2 and heed that advice as well. If you “publish” a great essay on your blog but think you’d like to send it to a lit mag or online journal you may find they won’t touch it. The thinking on this has been shifting a little bit but for the most part the most respected journals won’t publish it even if it’s “just” on your blog. Take care with your work. Blog about “blog” things, keep ’em short and chewable and lovely but don’t stop there. Use it as a springboard to write longer and more interesting things to submit when you’re ready.
  4. You’re quirky
    For this one I’d say you also should be an amazing writer but that’s because I get tired of people trying too hard to be quirky at the expense of the writing. Unless you’re selling something or are already known it’s really hard to get your work noticed. People need a reason to visit or subscribe to your blog, they’re busy and distracted and impatient. If you’re quirky they’ll come back or trek along for the ride. If you’re not sure if you’re quirky ask your friends. They’ll tell you. Most likely that’s why they hang out with you.
  5. You’re already published
    Here’s the thing, most of my favorite published authors don’t blog and I respect that. There’s this little nagging thing in me though and I don’t think it’s only me. I want more. I want to know more, I want to understand more, I want to know what that author thinks about Ferguson or the deficit or the cost of higher education. Sometimes you can get that by following them on Facebook and, in fact, Anne Lamott does her own version of this on that site. She’ll post long status updates (blog length, I’d say!) and those serve the purpose. But if you’re not Anne Lamott and you’re published and people love your work and want more it may be worthwhile to start a blog. You can do it on an author Facebook page if that’s your bag but it may be a good idea to set up shop on an actual blog and just save Facebook for cat memes. That’s your call. In any case you want your work to be available and sharable. That’s the key.

I hate that this now feels like one of those “ask the expert” posts. Sorry about that. I’m no expert. I just have feelings, a whole lot of feelings…and I have a computer and some time on my hands. Maybe nobody cares about my blog or your blog these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Good luck all my blogging people…make beautiful posts!

Day 24: Light

Everything reminds me of movies I watched when I was a kid. #truestory

Nearly Orthodox1

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Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made

I like the talk of “essence” though I’ll admit that it reminds me of the film, “The Dark Crystal.” I saw it as a kid and my foggy memory has blotted out some of the finer points but I do remember that we expected more of a “Muppets” vibe because it was Jim Henson and came away a bit shaken at how un Muppet Show like it was. And the second thing I remember is “essence.” In the film the hero, a “gelfling” must find a shard of glass to help restore the natural order of things. The villain steals the “essence” of other living things, the life force, the energy. When it leaves their little muppet like bodies they shrivel up, sometimes dying, sometimes just emptied…

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