Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Bits. More Pieces

In no particular order:

**Haven't heard a word from the UK editor since I sent the "happy to do the work, but you have to pay me message." Not feeling the love, but...hey...them's the breaks when you're a grown-up.

**Dad does need surgery again, another attempt at hernia repair. It's scheduled for Feb. 12. He's scared. Mom's scared. All God's children are scared. All Dad's children are, too.

**Evan called today. He was lucid and polite, which is the most I hope for on any given day.

**Yesterday Katie told me she realizes the day will come when she needs to "do the Mom thing" for Evan. I am proud to know she's looking into the future and planning to step up to the responsibility. I am broken-hearted to think she will one day stand in the center of this storm. Mostly, I am trying....trying SO remain in the NOW.

**The pond is frozen and the geese are gone. The silence is unnerving.

Tomorrow is another day. See you then.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bits and Pieces

First, this. What happened for Patry Francis yesterday was simply amazing. When I went to bed last night, The Liar's Diary was #300 on Amazon, #1 in Mysteries and Thrillers. One of the organizers of yesterday's blog-in said it was a "powerful example of the mysteries of kindness and compassion."

Next: Remember the thousand geese on the pond? Well, they're gorgeous and picturesque and all that. They're also messy and noisy beyond belief. They honk all night long. They settle down a bit, something gets them started, and the whole flock squawks like someone's trying to make comforters out of them. I don't love the noise, but everything costs something, right?

Well, as the flock grew and got louder, I pretty much knew my neighbors weren't going to tolerate it forever. Last night, about 10:30, I noticed two lights bobbing around the edge of the pond. When they drew near my house, I stepped out on the deck and asked what was going on. Two neighbor men identified themselves and said they were using the lights to drive the geese away.

The pond was very quiet last night. I wonder where the flock slept. "Not in my back yard." Makes me sad. Well rested, but sad.

Finally, I'm taking Daddy to the doctor today. More accurately, Mom's taking him and I'm going along for moral support and to keep a clear head when we talk to the surgeon. Sounds like Daddy's going to need another operation. They've already tried to repair this hernia three times, but trouble is still bubbling down there. Please say a prayer for him this morning.

Yesterday, Mom made a rocky road cake. Cake is not on my menu right now. "Thanks for putting on the marshmallows, Mom," I said. She smiled, "Makes it easier to resist, doesn't it?"

As I nodded, Daddy walked past me. "She doesn't like 'em, either. They're there because I like 'em." Then he took my hand and twirled me in a quick two-step motion. "Ain't love grand?" he asked.

Yes, Daddy. Love is grand.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Patry Francis

Today I'm joining bloggers across the country--maybe even around the world--who are speaking on behalf of Patry Francis and her book, The Liar's Diary.

After many years of hard work and determination, Patry's writing dreams came true. She found an agent, the agent sold her book, and the hardcover came out in February of 2007. Then came news there would be a paperback. Meantime, Patry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and her writing dreams were forced to take a back seat to the reality of surgeries and treatments and hospitals.

Today is the pub date for the paperback edition of The Liar's Diary. The book is out, but Patry is not able to be out and about on its behalf. And so her blogging friends decided to (as Prema says) work on the levels they can. They put out the word, asking bloggers and writers to mention Patry and her book.

I haven't read The Liar's Diary yet, but I plan to pick up a copy today. The synopsis on Patry's website sounds fascinating. I have read her blog, Simply Wait. In it, Patry reveals herself to be a woman and mother who worked as a waitress while she wrote and dreamed. Her warm heart and keen eye shine from her words. Since Katie is a server and talks a lot about what you can tell about people, I particularly liked a post Patry wrote about how she and her colleagues observe and categorize groups of people.

So, please join me in supporting Patry. Check out her book...mention it to the blog...whatever works for you.

Oh, and Patry's publisher, Penguin, is offering a 15% discount on books ordered before February 15. Go here to order it. (On the shopping cart page, enter PATRY in the ‘coupon code’ field and click ‘update cart’ to activate the discount.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

No, Again

This morning started with an e-mail from an editor who works with the British publisher of my most recent book. She asked me to be prepared to do a boatload of research for the UK edition of the book, and pronto.

Thing is, my contract was for the US edition only, and I've already done way, way more than I contracted for these folks. The only professional thing to do, the grown-up thing to do was say no. Or, rather, I'd be happy to do this work if you pay me for it.

I sweated this for two and a half hours without doing anything. I mean I physically sweated. Perspired enough to need another shower and fresh deodorant before going to the salon for my morning duties.

Then I talked about it with a friend who is head honcho of a publishing house. He totally agreed with my "yes, but you have to pay me" approach.

Finally, more than three hours after the whole thing started, I dashed off a reply.

My stomach has been in knots since I hit "send." To tell you the truth, I felt better in the bathroom at the Clinton event on Saturday than I do right now.

And that's not good.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

No Bill

Bill Clinton came to Independence last night, a local high school. My family, Democrats all, made plans to rendezvous for the event. My niece and I would go early to stake out a place in line. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew would pick up Mom and Dad and arrive closer to time for the doors to open. We'd connect via cell phone.

Meg and I got there shortly after 5:00 pm. Stood outside in line until the doors opened shortly before 6:30. We scooted into the gym and found seats on the top row of bleachers, where Mom and Dad would be able to rest their backs on the wall. Debbie helped Dad up the stairs, and he made it without any problem. Mom practically bounced up the steps.

There was a family in front of us, a youngish Hispanic man and woman with a babe in arms and a little girl who looked to be 5 or 6. The little girl wanted a Hilary sign so badly. Someone finally got hold of one and handed it back to her. She stood with that sign over her head, dancing with joy, until her father made her sit down. When I realized he didn't want to block my view, I leaned over and told him not to worry. "She's from the first generation of little girls to see a woman run for president. Let her hold up her sign."

The little girl stood on the seat, holding her sign over her head. I'm undecided about my vote so far, but I have to say it was thrilling to see the possibility.

A few minutes to 7:00. Suddenly, I knew I was going to be sick. I grabbed my stuff, told my niece not to worry about me, and ran to find a bathroom.

The Secret Service was clearing the hallway when I got back there. A serious looking guy with an earpiece and a bulge under his shoulder that had to have been a gun told me I could use the bathroom, and then took a position outside the door.

There I was, gut convulsing from diarrhea, desperately trying not to barf, eyeing the little Kotex container in case I couldn't prevent it. All the while, I could hear the Secret Service guy pacing outside the bathroom door. Yeah. Good times.

Finally got myself together enough to get out of there and flee--and I mean flee home. Didn't hear a word of Bill's speech. Didn't even catch sight of the man.

I feel fine this morning. Talked to Mom a little while ago. She got to shake Bill's hand. All's well that ends well, but I sure wish I'd gotten to hear Bill speak.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dreaming Light

My eyes open to darkness. Confused, I blink to clear my head. Ahhh. A dream. The light was a dream. Moments before, in exactly the same place and time, the room was filled with dazzling, warm, golden light.

As my brain makes peace with the unexpected darkness, I see it. Even in the darkness, there is light. The light of love is always there if only I can see it.

Things continue to be difficult with Evan. He called, shouting at me about how awful it was that I said F U to him, how awful I am. With you all at my back, I told him I had apologized and meant it. I told him we could talk, but he could not shout at me. When he started shouting in response, I said good-bye and hung up.

In the last few days, your comments and e-mails have shined light and warmth onto my path. Suzy forwarded me a piece from Abraham-Hicks that really, really helped. Deb suggested an Ann LaMott story. It really, really helped, too.

The pond has done its part. It's been out there glowing like crazy in the moonlight these past few nights. In the midst of deep sadness, incredible beauty.

Maybe that's what peace is. Not the absence of crap and trouble, but choosing to look past the crap and trouble to see the beauty and feel the love that surrounds us.

Hmmmm. No matter what the smart folk think, that's going to be my definition from now on.

From my heart to yours, I send love and peace. Oh, and a great big beam of that golden light.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Surpassing Beauty

The pond is breathtaking tonight. I mean, it literally took my breath away when I walked in a few minutes ago.

The night sky is the color of india ink, a blue so deep it would catch you if you fell. White clouds lost from a summer afternoon roil by, luminous in the moonlight. A thousand geese paddle, black shadows on black water. Every movement produces shimmering silver trails.

Glory streams from heaven afar.

God's presence here is as real as my own. Yesterday I asked for peace. This, then, is the answer.

In the words of Juliana of Norwich,
All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceedingly well.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Power of Words

I yelled ugly words at my son on Sunday. The ugliest: F*&% You.

At. My. Son.

I've only said those words a small handful of times in my entire life, and now I've yelled them at my son. Truth is, I had plenty of reason to be angry. I had plenty of reason to speak up about my anger. I had no excuse for saying that. No excuse.

I apologized moments later. Despite my apology, the words hung between us.

His response was ugly and intended to hurt and humiliate me. It worked. I was hurt and humiliated when my 25-year-old son stood in my yard, shouting his indignation that his mother would say F*&% You to him. The entire neighborhood now knows I lost my temper and said unforgivable things to my son.

Perhaps worst of all, by saying those words, I shifted the focus from the problem to my poor handling of it. He's now angry and outraged and I am wrong.

It's cold and dark down here on the low road.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Incredible Writing Advice

from the movie, The Mighty.

"Every word is part of a picture. Every sentence is a picture. All you do, is let your imagination connect them together."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pay Attention

As a kid, I wanted to be able to draw more than I wanted anything in the world (almost). And I tried, I really did. No go. It seemed I lacked the eye-hand coordination necessary to create art.

Eventually, I learned it was not a failure of eye-hand coordination, it was a failure of observation. I draw now. Slowly. Imperfectly. But I draw. I compare textures, see how lines intersect, watch where shadows fall. And I draw.

Once upon a time, I thought writing was about organizing words. It turns out that writing is about listening.

Yesterday I received a batch of Bible stories to edit. As written, the stories were stiff and boring, and I was worried about whether I could do anything to really fix them. The stories ran through my head all night. Just before dawn, I heard the first story, heard it in words that would draw in a 4th grader. When I opened my laptop later, all I had to do was type.

The key to drawing, the key to writing turns out to be the same: pay attention. I'm pretty sure it's one of the keys to life, too.

The more I observe my life, the more grateful I become. The more I recognize other people, the more compassionate I become. The more I absorb the natural world, the more passionate I become about it.

Life, our lives, all life. Such miracles. When I stop noticing those miracles, I slide into the darkness. As long as I pay attention, I'm pretty much forced to see the light all around me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Still back at the curriculum lessons. Sleep, to be specific.

Ever wondered why we sleep? Me, too.

As you'd imagine, sleep is a recovery period for our bodies. Among other things, while they're on lighter duty (they still have to control our breathing and make our hearts beat and so forth), our brains create our memories. Yep. The stuff we've learned and the stuff that has happened in our lives doesn't really become part of our memories until we sleep on it. Sleeping is kind of like pressing "save." Information moves from our desktop to our hard drive when we sleep.

That makes perfect sense, but the other speculation about sleep surprised me. Some scientists believe humans (and other animals) developed sleep patterns as a response to danger. Ancient humans were more vulnerable to attack in the dark, and so they learned to stay in the cave and rest at night. Sleep is literally a mode of self protection.

And get this--not all animals follow that same day/night sleep pattern. Brown bats sleep 20 hours out of 24. They fly around in the dark, eating insects. Doesn't take that long to gather enough to meet their caloric requirements, and back to sleep they go.

Giraffes, on the other hand, sleep less than 2 hours--sometimes as little as 10 minutes--a day. Think about it: Giraffes eat leaves and twigs. It takes a hell of a lot of leaves and twigs to keep a body that size going. They adapted to sleep less, which leaves them more time to eat.

Adaptation. The ability to change in response to existing circumstances. What a concept. What an enormous gift. I'm going to spend this day being grateful for the ability to adapt. And trying to do it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I've been writing a curriculum product over the last couple of months. Finished this afternoon. If the 4th graders it's written for enjoy reading this stuff one tenth as much as I've enjoyed writing it, they're going to get them some l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g. Yes, indeedy.

The unit I've worked on relates to health and nutrition. The things I've learned have strengthened my faith. Really. Over and over, I found myself in awe of how our bodies are made, how wondrous they are. Here are a few things I've discovered about human bodies.

Not a single cell present in your skin today will be there 7 years from now.

When you break a bone, cells that normally divide every 2 to 3 days almost immediately begin dividing every 3 minutes.

Scabs are an engineering marvel made of blood cells and tiny fibers stronger, pound for pound, than steel.

The fingernails on your dominant hand grow faster than the nails on the other hand.

When you hiccup, your epiglottis opens and then slams shut. The "hic" is the sound of your epiglottis slamming shut.

Your nose runs when you cry because tears drain through the tear ducts at the inside corner of your eyes and into your nose, a little moisture recycling system.

Snot traps germs trying to invade your body.

Here are a few things I learned about food:

The very first collection of recipes included a recipe for jelly.

After peanut plants flower, the flower stems turn downward and force themselves underground, where the peanuts develop.

Vegetable is not a botanical distinction.

The average American eats 135 pounds of sugar every year.

Christopher Columbus took pickles with him when he sailed off to explore the New World.

Oh, and horses can't throw up. Neither can rats.

I'm definitely not smarter than a 5th grader, but I'm working on it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More More

My folks left for Ava within hours of learning of Uncle Jim's death. Shortly after they got there, they called to let us know when and where the service would be, and so forth. From the get go, it was clear they expected me to make the trip but not my sister. (She's too busy, they said.)

They called every day, all week. Every time they called, they asked me to do something else before I came. Then they checked on whether I'd done the other things they asked. All while repeating that they couldn't ask Deb to do anything because she's too busy.

By the last couple of calls, I could barely hold my tongue. The words, "What about ME!! Don't you realize I have other things to do, too?" tried to leap from my lips. I fought them back.

Then came Saturday. Deb ended up going down, too. We met our folks at the church. My father, normally a pretty snappy dresser, was wearing white, ankle-length gym socks with his dress shoes. The bottom half of his tie hung almost to his belt; the top half flapped mid-way down his chest. He, quite literally, had come undone.

Within moments, I understood and felt terrible about my reactions. In his pain, he trusted me to help. He called not to demand things of me, but to hear my voice and anchor himself to the earth. He couldn't express that. May not even have known it. But there it is, just the same.

They're coming home today. I'm going over this morning to put fresh sheets on their bed and milk in the frig. Probably leave a pot of soup simmering on the stove so they have lunch ready when they get in.

When the world spins out of control, we are one another's touchstones. We can't change what is, but we can show up for it.

And that makes all the difference.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Prema asked for more about my trip home. I'll try.

Our cousin Melvin drove up from Arkansas for the services on Saturday. Once he was a hellion with mischievous brown eyes and a shy grin that could charm a woman at 50 paces. Now he's a portly man with thinning, ginger colored hair and thick glasses between his eyes and the world. The grin still draws women like a sweater draws cat hair, though.

Melvin's from one of the more well-to-do branches of our family tree, but you'd never know it. He wears dark denim, boot cut jeans and a plaid shirt. The embroidered design on the back of his dark blue wool jacket declares him to be the National Chuckwagon Racing Champion, Big Mule Division.

Melvin's wife, Barbara, talks about what a wonderful stepfather he's been to her children, what a grace he's been to her life. Love shines from her eyes. She pats his thigh and he turns from another conversation to see whether she needs anything. Satisfied that she's fine, he puts his hand on her arm and returns to his conversation. They remain linked through these casual touches until we move from the tables in the basement to the pews in the chapel.

Afterward, Melvin and Barbara invite me to come see Melvin race. He doesn't compete a lot anymore. He pretty much retired after winning the championship for the 7th time. Seemed like he should let someone else have a chance, you know. But he is going to race a couple of times this summer.

Back home, I google chuckwagon racing. Turns out it's a big deal. Upper Deck makes trading cards, just like for baseball players and such. Please God, please let cousin Melvin have a trading card. Please.

The pictures I found online make the races look like rowdy, dangerous fun. How? How do you make a mule race, I ask you? Come hell or high water, I'm going to Arkansas this summer to find out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Clippety Clop

Saturday morning my sister and I drove down to our hometown, about 5 hours south of KC. It's been 18 years since I've been to Ava. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.

The highways now bypass most of the little towns. Cars no longer pause at the one stoplight in the one-stoplight towns that dot the map. Travelers miss Peggy's Cafe and her great grilled cheese sandwiches. They sail along, two miles from The Exotic Animal Paradise, without a glimpse of the water buffalo or the gnu. The hills that first drew tourists have been blasted away to make room for roads to handle the traffic.

But the spindly blue play fort still stands beside the train tracks in Seymour. The Tastee Freeze still serves swirly cones in Mansfield. Water still trickles through the bedrock of the creek bed at the Roadside Park.

Our first little house still sits in the corner of a pie-shaped lot. The old oak that held my tree house is gone, though. So is the wood treating plant my father owned for decades and the timber yard he ran. The police department fills the front portion of the old Rawlings plant, where patient women once sewed baseball gloves while their husbands chewed 'baccy and spit on the sidewalks of the town square.

Our family gathered in the basement of Uncle Jim's church. Good Christian women served ham and green beans, chicken and mashed potatoes. There was pie and coffee. Sweet tea and lemonade. There were tears and laughter and shock at how much and how little had changed since last we gathered.

Aunt Agnes showed off photographs of the 3 x 4 ft. rendition of the Last Supper she crocheted for her church. It's her second one. She did the first sitting in parking lots in front of bars, waiting for her first husband, my grandfather's brother. Cedric died. Agnes remarried. Her new husband is a kind, loving man who treats her like a queen. She swore she'd never crochet another Supper, but Bob's church wanted one so badly. At least she got to do this one sitting in a comfortable chair in her own living room.

Aunt Jenny just got back from volunteering on a float for the Rose Parade. For two and a half days she stood on a 6-ft. ladder, gluing iris petals to a horn held by an animated frog. She's 78. Her husband, Keith, died a couple years ago after living with Alzheimers for almost a decade. Nothing will ever be that hard again.

Uncle Bill, my father's next older brother, came from California. At the grave side, he wore a tan golf jacket over his suit. Been so long since he lived in Missouri that he forgot he'd need a coat this time of year. Doesn't actually own a coat, but he would have bought one if he'd thought of it.

Uncle Jim left very specific directives for his service. Wrote most of it himself. He grabbed us from the opening line: "Jim did not earn his Salvation through good works." Nothing left but enough ashes and dust to fill a 6 x 8-inch faux-stone box, but he was still "leading souls to Christ."

This place. These people. They're in my blood, in my bones. They are part of me and I of them. We witness one another's rites of passage: births, weddings, deaths. We hold hands in hospital rooms. We stand together beside open graves.

We stand together.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Home Town Honey

Plan to be up at dawn tomorrow and headed to my home town for my uncles memorial service. Haven't been down there for 18 years. Should be interesting. Details to follow.

Search Stories

One of the great things about Site Meter is that you can see the search phrases that lead people to your blog. Every once in a while, I scan through the "Referrals" page, just for kicks.

The all-time winner is " emotionally unavailable men." You just wouldn't believe how many women out there are trying to understand why they keep falling for emotionally unavailable men. If any of them figure it out, I hope they explain it to me.

The next most popular is some combination of the words "Amish, celery, and recipes." More than a year ago, I did a Sunday Scribble, a character sketch about a young girl at the Farmer's Market. It still draws people to my blog several times a week. Who'd a thunk?

"Person helicopter" is a biggie, too. Somehow, I doubt that this post helps them much.

One day last week, people in two different locations googled the phrase "how a pond smells" and got this post in their results. I'd forgotten this one, and it was fun to read again. But really, the question of why people would google to find out how a pond smells....well....that question just won't leave me alone.

Were they writers looking for ideas? Kids writing papers for school? Why in the world would anyone who wants to, not know how a pond smells?

Just in case you're still out there, let me take a stab at it for you.

In autumn, the trees on the bank shed their leaves and their identities. The sumacs rage against the dying of their light. The pond smells like wood smoke and mushrooms, wet leaves and dying dreams.

In winter, a thousand geese gather out there, thankful to find open water and a safe haven so near a cornfield. The pond smells like the wet lining of an insulated boot. Like week-old bathwater mixed with goose feathers and gratitude.

In spring, babies are born on its banks and plants emerge. The pond smells like a fresh stick of Juicy Fruit. Like warm rain and new grass and hope.

In summer, thunderstorms race across our Midwestern skies. The pond smells like ozone and dust carried in a harsh wind. It smells like hay and horses and, sometimes, like something rotting in the heat. For the heron and the gaggle of geese, for the pin duck and for me, it smells like home.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On a Roll

Took another big step yesterday.

We make rules for employees at the salon but don't stick to them. Not lots of rules. Not unreasonable rules. The kind you need to make a business work. For example, an employee has to work an average of 32 hours a week to receive full time benefits. (Yep. A mere 32 hours week.)

When it got time to do the payroll after the holidays, I reviewed the schedules and hours worked for the people we think of as full time. Turned out that two of them are averaging about 20 hours a week. I did not pay them for the holidays. As always, I discussed it with my sister first.

When the checks were issued, both employees questioned me. I explained and offered to review the books with the first one. A day or so later, I got a note from the second one and talked to my sister about it again before responding.

Immediately, she wanted me to back down and pay the holidays. "What would it cost us to pay her two holidays?" she asked. My answer was that we wouldn't be just deciding to pay those two days. We'd be deciding to pay holidays for anyone who demands them without earning them. And sick days. And vacation days. And subsidized health insurance. Doing those things for employees who work 32 hours is generous. Doing them for employees who work 20 hours is business suicide.

Rather unbelievably, she persisted. Said she wasn't absolutely sure I'd made the rules clear enough and that I might be penalizing this young woman for my failure to communicate.

I took a deep breath and tried to feel you all standing with me. Then I told her (politely) I had no doubt whatsoever that every employee knows and understands the 32 hour rule. Took another deep breath, imagined Prema's hand on my back, and (politely) said I was not going to pay the holidays.

Then I went back to the salon and vaguely asked a couple of employees about the full time rule. Every one of them knew it down to the dots on the is and the crosses on the ts. Turns out there have been many discussions of this rule and how to work it.

So...I held my ground with the employee. She didn't even flinch. Clearly, she wanted paid holidays if she could make it happen, but it was just as clear that she knew she wasn't actually eligible. (It's mostly our fault, really. We established the precedent.) The conversation was amicable.

I've written a lot of detail here, but it's not the details that matter. This is just one more situation where I see that my sister will take any, any, side rather than support my opinions or decisions.

But guess what?

I can (politely) do what I know to be right, even when she disagrees. And the roof doesn't cave in. No blood is shed. I do not disappear in a puff of her disapproval.

The other day I said there might be hope. In a comment, Go Mama said there's always hope. She's right. There's always hope.

For us all.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Seeing Myself

By now you know, my friends. You know that when things get tough I go invisible. You may not know that it's more than a matter of not posting. More than a matter of staying home too much. More than not reaching out to friends. I actually lose sight of myself.

To add to my general invisibility of late, I've been letting my air go gray. Gray-haired women are pretty invisible here in America, even if they don't intend to be.

When I told him about the hair, Bryan asked me to send a picture. Until yesterday I hadn't been brave enough. After I said no to my sister, I decided to celebrate by taking a picture to send to Bryan. Here it is.

It's not like I think I'm a vampire. Not even that I actually believe I can't be seen. But I can't tell you how surprised I was to see this photo. I look so present. Gray. Wrinkled and crinkled. But present.

I kept the photo open on my desktop yesterday and again today as I worked. Throughout the day, I'd forget it was there. Once in a while, I closed or moved windows, and it jumped out at me. Every time, I wondered who she was for a fraction of a second. In the flash before I recognized myself, I wanted to be her.

I'm gonna leave it open on the desktop for a while. Maybe I'll learn to see myself more clearly.

No. Simply no.

I told my sister no yesterday. It wasn't easy. It took a while to work up to it, but in the end, I did it.

I'm proud that I didn't get upset or yell. I just took a deep breath, centered myself, and said no. Not a lot of explanation. No apologies. Just no.

It was a big moment. Maybe there's hope for me yet.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Keeping Time

Geese honking on the pond.

Bass booming from the car beside me at a stoplight.

My little dog scratching herself.

My world is filled with rhythm this morning, a metronome keeping time. Except that you can't really keep time. It streams past us, leaving only a whirl of sights and sounds and smells.

Dad's oldest brother died yesterday, the first of that generation to go. One of my mother's brothers and one of her sisters are very sick right now, too.

At one point yesterday afternoon, amidst the flurry of phone calls, I pictured my cousins making decisions about arrangements and services and facilities, making endless phone calls, dealing with the details of their father's death. I know that my folks will not live forever, but do not understand in any real way that they will die and we will go on.

This morning, every sound is a tick of the clock.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Fine Lines

Where is the line between dedication and obsession? It may be a fine one, but it's so very easy to trip over.

Four years ago my sister and I gave our folks a puppy for Christmas. They love that little dog, and she loves them right back. Her presence forces them to walk at least a little every day, to play with her and be active. But they no longer travel because it makes her nervous, and they refuse to go anywhere she’s not welcome. They stay home a lot now.

Reading is one of the best things a writer can do to improve her craft. But if, like me, she reads when she should be sleeping, reads when she should be writing, damn it, reading is no longer a positive factor.

A loving mother guides her children. But if an adult child is determined to ignore everything a mother tries to impart, trying harder and harder does nothing but break her heart and drive the child further away.

I can’t give up on my son. Will never give up on him. But my being more concerned about him than he is about himself was slowly killing us both. In this new year, I’m determined to get the log out of my own eye before worrying about the splinter is someone else’s. Even his.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back Again

Watched the movie "Waitress" yesterday. Loved it. From the opening scenes where she's baking pies to the end where she dances off into the sunset, I loved the whole darn thing. Sweet. Funny (in the way life is funny not the way sitcoms are supposed to be funny). Smart.

The final credit dedicated the movie to the memory of Adrienne Shelly, one of its stars. !!!???!!!

Google to the rescue: Adrienne Shelly wrote, directed, and starred in the movie. Even wrote and performed the adorable song at the end. She was murdered as she put the finishing touches on the final cut of the movie. Heartbreaking.

The thing that hooked me was the obvious love Keri Russell's character was baking into her pies, the way she put her soul into that simple task. According to several articles, Adrienne wrote the movie as a love letter to her daughter. She originally planned to star in it, but decided Keri was a better choice for the lead character. She (Adrienne) played an important but decidedly less central character. There's some generosity of spirit. Some passion for a project.

Adrienne Shelly died tragically. But first, she lived. She made this movie in the same way the lead character bakes pies: with intention. With passion. With a heart in the middle.

I've been so far out of the loop, for all I know, I may be the last person in North America to see "Waitress." But in case there are others, here's my advice: Rent it. Buy it. Share it.

and LIVE. Live full out. Live with joy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Putting Some Happy in my New Year

Good morning. And welcome to the first day of the New Year. Last night I realized that the darkness that has been surrounding me is not going away on its own. If I want light--and I do--I've got to step out into it.

So, here's a happy thought.

When Katie was here for Christmas, she lost the lovely platinum and diamond necklace her boyfriend gave her for Christmas. The last place she remembered seeing it was the bathroom counter. We conducted a thorough (and somewhat panicked search) before I mentioned that it might have fallen down the drain of the bathroom sink.

Her reaction was the-screech-heard-round-the-world. You all heard it, didn't you? About 1:30pm on December 27? She settled down a bit when I explained we had a very good chance of finding the necklace in the trap beneath the sink. We got a bucket and rags and set about taking off the trap.

As she held the flashlight, I explained what a trap is and how it works. When I got it off and dumped the contents into the bucket, out slipped her beautiful bauble. She was waaaaay beyond relieved.

After she stopped jumping around, I had Katie replace the trap herself. We tested for leaks. She got it right on the first try, I'm proud to say. It was a moment. I couldn't help remembering when I learned about traps and how they work. I was 40. She's not quite 21.

Katie's is SO damn prepared for the world. When she and her roommates lost power in one room of their apartment, she got a flashlight and went to the basement to find the breaker box. No breaker was tripped, so she went looking for a tripped GFCI. When she found out there were none in the entire apartment, she called the caretaker and told him a) they had problem and b) he needed to get some GFCIs installed pronto, as this was not safe.

When the heater in her car quit working, she drove to a car parts store, pulled out her owner's manual, and figured out which fuse had blown. She bought a new fuse, installed it, and went on her merry way.

She and her roommates pay for one outlet for their internet. Katie connected routers and cable to carry it to each of their rooms.

After the necklace was clean and safely back on her neck, I told her how proud I am of her for being so capable. Her response was, "Well, yeah. Who taught me all that, Mom?"

And there it is. A happy thought. One I'm going to hang onto all day long.