Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Art Therapy

I've been working on a logo for my 100 Things to Do Before I Go list. To tell you the truth, working on it feels a little self-indulgent, like I'm wasting time. But the thing is, playing with color and texture and shapes is like a deep breath for my brain, and, like mercy, I could use some of that right now.

Now that I've got the basic collage in place, I want to add wings to the heart and give it a title in Photoshop. I've been playing with ideas, but so far I haven't come up with anything I like. That could be because Photoshop remains mostly a mystery to me. But, like my Life List, I'm working on it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mercy Now--Life List Update #3

Mary Gauthier came to me through the 100 Things to Do Before I Go--one of my 100 new-to-me musicians. Had to listen to this several times before I got through the whole thing. The first stanza left me sobbing the first few times.

Every single one of us could use some mercy now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hard Rain

Dad had a CT-guided biopsy on the spots in his good lung on Tuesday. Well...he didn't quite have it. When the doctor inserted the needle into his lung, it collapsed.

Specialists were called--I imagine the scene as something out of "Grey's Anatomy," with doctors calling for instruments and nurses scurrying to "get the cart." I hope that's my imagination running away with me. In any case, they inserted a chest tube and reinflated the lung.

Yesterday, they removed the chest tube, and Dad's doing well--considering everything. He's home, playing with his doggie and letting Mom fuss over him. He says he feels much better "now that they took the 6-inch spike out of my chest."

We don't yet know whether they are going to try the biopsy again. The radiologist told me he sees no reason to put Dad through the procedure again, considering his age and general health. Apparently, knowing Dad has one fatal disease is enough for this doc. He sees no reason to go searching for another. For one thing, their treatment options are very limited, so how would they act on the information? The radiology doc believes the growth is very slow growing and not likely to compromise Dad's health further than it's already compromised.

The group of doctors who gathered yesterday at the removal of the tube don't seem to share the radiologist's view. They're going to discuss the matter and get back to us. I guess we'll discuss their recommendations and get back to them. At length.

When I left the hospital Tuesday, a storm was gathering. By the time I got on the highway toward home, it was raining like nothing I've ever seen. Biblical rain. Rain that made you forget the sun exists. Rain that clogged the storm drains and ran like rivers in the streets.

Hard. Rain.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Silver Eyebrows

Heather usually waxes my eyebrows when she trims my hair, but we both forgot last week. Thursday, I lit up my 10X magnifying mirror and settled my strongest reading glasses halfway down my nose. A shock awaited me: three silver eyebrow hairs.

Three. Silver. Hairs.

At first, I was completely bummed. I am so freakin' old. Headed for the long dirt nap. Subject to creeping decrepitude. But...wait.

I have now officially entered the "I Shall Wear Purple" years. I am going to wear what I like. Say what I think. Do the things I've always wanted to do. If not now, when?

Three silver hairs in my eyebrows give me all the permission I need.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Observations from this Weekend's Adventure

Best license plate, seen on an Audi A6: HAudi

Best Signage, seen on commercial building in Clinton, MO: Dull and Lowe, Attorneys at Law

This is the "Great Wall of Tomato," supported by a trellis Jeff built from timber he cut on his property.

Tomatoes like this are the reason Jeff built the trellis. Anything less couldn't support these monsters.

Jeff grows 9 different varieties of peppers. We had some of each in our dinner Saturday night. Whooooweeee.

Watermelon is the perfect desert when temperatures hover near 100. We gathered the seeds from our slices--this is an heirloom variety and Jeff returns the seeds to the seed company.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hearts on Stony Ground

Jeff (my brother) lives on a small hobby farm about three hours from KC. His garden is a thing of beauty, especially when tomatoes are in season. I'm headed down there today to weed and pick and putter. Wine will be involved. And great food made from just-picked produce. (sigh)

On the drive down, I plan to stop at several creeks to search for heart-shaped stones. I do so love heart-shaped stones. I took this picture in a stream bed in northern Arkansas in 2008, when I went to the Outhouse Races and Bean Festival in Mountain View, AR.

Pictures to follow. Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Caro Mia

When my plans for last night fell through at the last minute, I decided to invest the unexpected free evening making one of my 100 lovely things. Although I love the Astrid sweater and look forward to making it, with the heat index hovering at 105, even the word "sweater" made me sweat. So, I decided to floof up a favorite white T-shirt.

The fabric is cotton batiste. As it's laundered, the edges of the trim will fray a bit more--at least I hope so. The ruffles actually are a series of individual heart shapes, sewn down randomly but strategically. I decided on heart shapes because the curves and points would create interesting shapes when the fabric curled up after being washed. I sewed them down one at a time, twisting and turning the pieces to fill space and create the effect I wanted. I'm really pleased with the way this turned out--especially because I had no idea whether it would work.

It did.

If anyone is interested, I can make a tutorial for the process. It took about an hour and a half, but probably wouldn't take as long without the experimentation required for a new idea.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Even my breakfast was happy today.

Mighty List

Maggie Berry, also known as Mighty Girl, introduced the Life List concept to Karen Walrond, whose blog introduced it to me. Maggie calls her list the Mighty Life List. I made my list less than a week ago, but already I can tell you, making a life list is mighty.

Yesterday, Teagan stayed with me for several hours, which I love but means working earlier and later to keep up with deadlines and responsibilities. The weather was miserable--high 90s with humidity over 90%. By the end of the day, I was hot and tired and cranky. I had planned to go hear Audrey Niffenegger speak, but when the time came, all I wanted was a glass of wine and my comfy sofa.

I flopped on the sofa, ready to blow off my plans, but my list nagged at me. "If you're going to 100 author readings before you go, you have to get off your butt," she whispered. "It's hot. You're tired. This means you should not live your dreams?" (She's a sarcastic bitch, but I like her, this mighty list whisperer of mine.)

Audrey was a revelation: smart and spunky and...well...a little odd--in the best sort of way. She dyes her hair a shade of red definitely not found in nature and her skin is ghostly pale. She answers questions with her tongue firmly in her cheek. She chose the setting for Her Fearful Symmetry--Highgate Cemetary--because she personally loves the place and wanted to spend time there. She has not seen the movie based on The Time Traveler's Wife because she doesn't want the actors playing her characters to supplant her imaginings of those characters. She can, she says, always decide to see it. She cannot unsee it. So...not never, but not yet.

Niffenegger worked on Her Fearful Symmetry for five years. Five years: two of them before the success of TTTW. This woman believes in her self and her work so strongly that when 30 agents passed on TTTW, she kept going. So strongly that when the character she planned to build HFS around couldn't sustain the story, she invented a whole new cast of characters and a whole new story arc. So strongly that she continued to research and imagine and write for five years until the characters in her head fell silent. That's when the story is finished, she says. When the characters stop appearing on the radio channel in her head, the one set aside for a particular book or story, the book is complete.

Audrey was inspiring and entertaining and fun. I'm glad I went, and without the list whisperer, I might have missed her. So, thanks, Maggie and Karen. And Audrey. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life List Update #1

Journaling my Life List has reminded me how extraordinarily blessed my life has been.

For example, #16--Visit All 50 States. I started the journal with a brief memory of each state I've visited. Turns out I have clear memories of all but three states. Unlikely though it is--having lived in Missouri and MN most of my life--I cannot recall visiting Oklahoma, North Dakota or Nebraska. This weekend I plan to knock Oklahoma off the list.

And #55--Visit All the Great Lodges. Turns out I've already hit eight of the 16. These grand old buildings and the stories of their creation are fascinating. I look forward to learning the other eight.

The journal leaves a map for my children to follow--through my life and their own. This--having a plan, taking risks, creating and honoring memories--this is how you make a life, my dear ones.

I leave you with a message from Teagan.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mothers of the Bride

N (Katie's birth mother) and I had lunch yesterday. After some small talk, I asked what her dreams are for Katie's wedding. Her answer makes it official: She is a real mother, too. Her dreams, you see, are for Katie to be comfortable and joyous and surrounded by love. She doesn't want to cause a stir. She wants to be present but not intrusive. She wants to do whatever makes things right and good for Katie. Real. Mother.

Together, we cooked up the beginnings of a plan. She's going to attend the showers and the parties and the events leading up to the wedding. The goal is for her to meet everyone in all the families--Bill and Kathy and Kevin and Julie (Craig's parents) and all the kids and stepkids and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins--before the wedding. If she meets everyone before the big day and takes part in the celebrations, everyone will accept her as simply part of our family. As she is.

Here's an example of N's generous spirit: I asked if she would like to be escorted down the aisle immediately before the ceremony. She would.

I asked if she'd like to sit beside me in the front row (after I walk down the aisle with Katie). She would not.

That place, N said, is for me--the mother who raised Katie. She is thrilled to be recognized as special and important but wants to honor my relationship with Katie and the life we built.

"I gave her breath," N said. "You gave her life."

We are the mothers of the bride. And we rock.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Karen Walrond's book trailer and the premise of her book, The Beauty of Different, fascinate me. Both the trailer Michelle posted and a second one available on Karen's blog show many people who would not, at a casual glance in a crowd, seem beautiful in the traditional sense. But in these photos, each is beautiful. Truly. Beautiful.

In the clear focus of Karen's work--close up, shown in the best light, beauty emerges. If you look closely enough, everyone is beautiful. Deep attention creates beauty. Or, maybe recognizes is a better word.

Also on Karen's blog, I discovered a TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie about the danger of a single story--the problems that arise when we believe the one thing we know about someone or something is the entire truth about that person or thing. It never is.

And so, I ask myself whether everyone is ugly, just as we all are beautiful. This might sound uncharacteristically negative, but I hope it's true. I know for a fact that I am ugly--inside and out--at times. If everyone has ugly moments, it's easier to accept them in myself. I don't mean it's acceptable to behave badly or to be unkind. Not at all. But I find it comforting to believe everyone has dark moments, times they have to talk themselves off the ledge, times they don't make the most loving choice. I even find it comforting to think that--like me--everyone has moments when the dark circles under their eyes resemble caverns and their hair looks like a rat's nest.

Capturing and reflecting beauty is a worthwhile endeavor. The reminder that we're all beautiful is welcome. But how reassuring might it be to remind ourselves we're not alone in our occasional ugliness? I'm not sure how that could be accomplished, but it would be equally fascinating.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

100 Things to Do Before I Go

Blogging not only rocks. It rolls.

I introduced Michelle to Laura Munson who led Michelle to Karen Walrond. Michelle posted Karen's book trailer, which left breadcrumbs to Mighty Maggie and her life list.

This idea grabbed me and wouldn't let go. As both Karen and Maggie note, the point is not that you have to do all 100 things before you die. The point is that writing them down forms a commitment with your soul to reach further. To live bigger. And smaller. To remember that we all go. To recognize the time is now.

My list kept me up until 1:00 am and woke me at 5:45. I haven't finished, but I'm posting it here and now. I am committing to my self. I am committing to others. I am saying yes to life.

In no particular order...

100 Things to Do Before I Go

1. Fall in love again.
2. Ride my bicycle across Tuscany.
3. See the Grand Canyon.
4. Visit Yosemite.
5. Walk my daughter down the aisle.
6. Teach my granddaughter to swim.
7. Write a book from my heart.
8. Stomp grapes at a vineyard.
10. Fly a kite on a beach.
11. Take a barefoot sailing cruise.
12. Return to the Bay of Fundy.
13. Spend a weekend in Kinsale, Ireland.
14. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway.
15. Learn to bake good bread.
16. Visit all 50 states.
17. Take dance lessons.
18. Sleep at the Beagle motel.
19. Meditate at the Joshua Tree
20. Take a barge trip down the Seine.
21. Learn photography.
22. Make jam from strawberries I grew myself.
23. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
24. Take a moon bath in the full moon.
25. Bike Mackinac Island.
26. Finish or give away all unfinished projects.
27. Make the Astrid sweater.
28. Take painting lessons.
29. Make 100 lovely things.
30. Sleep in a treehouse.
31. Get an essay accepted by the NY Times
32. Spend a summer in a small house by the ocean.
33. Spend a summer in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
34. Volunteer with a theater group.
35. Make pasta from scratch.
36. Find a spiritual home.
37. Hike in a fern glen.
38. Drive the Going to the Sun Road.
39. Stay at the Plaza when I visit my publisher.
40. Ride the Katy Trail from one end to the other.
41. Take my granddaughter to Disney World.
42. Learn 100 new words in English.
43. Waterski again.
44. Try 100 kinds of tea.
45. Donate 1000 books to a library.
46. Hike Kitchen Mesa.
47. Create a comfortable, funky workspace for myself.
48. Read 1000 more books.
49. Attend 100 local festivals.
50. Dance from dusk to dawn.
51. Watch the Leonid Showers from a desert or forest
52. Attend a concert at the Sydney Opera House.
53. Listen to 100 new-to-me musicians.
54. Make giant bubbles with my granddaughter.
56. Spend a long weekend in Mendocino, CA.
57. Record my father's carny calls.
58. Attend 100 author readings.
59. Learn to stand on my head.
60. Recycle at least 50% of all garbage I create.
61. Hug a redwood.
62. Learn Tai Chi.
63. Meditate 100 days in a row.
64. Buy a book at Over the Transom in Fairhope, Alabama
65. Get a story published in Glimmer Train.
67. Read 1000 poems.
68. Post a YouTube video.
69. Make an illustrated book of my favorite quotes.
70. Swing for 30 minutes.
71. Write a six-word novel.
73. Take fly-fishing lessons.
74. Make 100 angels.
75. Make my own Pandora radio station.
76. Find 100 heart rocks.
77. Make my blog look like me.
78. Donate 100 warm hats to Micah Ministries.
79. Can really good salsa.
80. Journal my progress on this list.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I've slept 5,739* nights since the divorce, most of them alone. And despite my efforts to switch sides or move to the center, I cling to the edge. Of my bed.

Last night I stirred, started to turn over, and realized that if I moved even a hair, I'd fall off the bed. I had to move the dog and my pillows to adjust myself in the slightest. This morning, I woke on the edge again.

One of the things I do for my major freelance client is review the work of the 110 editors assigned to me. Writing each review is a laborious process that often involves making retroactive corrections and emailing various people on various matters. When I started in this position, my manager explained what needed to be done and how. I had no idea how many reviews I was expected to complete each week. I did some calculations and came up with what I thought they would expect. I've stayed up half the night, night after night, meeting this expectation that I made up. Earlier this week I discovered the rest of the team had been given a target. And that target is exactly half what I'd been driving myself crazy to accomplish each week. Half.

For this same company, I sometimes edit when the backlog gets too big. I'm not required to do this, but things get complicated for everyone when the system backs up, so I pitch in when I can manage it outside my usual hours. In an attempt to encourage editors to catch up, the company promised a bonus to the top 50 editors in terms of volume for a 30 day period. Yesterday I received auto-notification that I would receive the bonus. My "help when I can" habit put me in the top 50 producers out of 1200 editors--for a job that is not mine.

So often, I plug along, trying to keep up, only to discover that what seems normal to me appears excessive to others. Could this be why I've slept alone for 5,739 nights? The reason I'm on the edge? It's truly something to think about.

*No worries, folks. I don't keep track--I did the math just for this post. I'm working on my writing, and 5,739 says so much more than "a long time."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Teagan Day!

It's remarkably difficult to take good pictures of a baby by yourself. You really need someone to hold the baby while you take her picture. Out of the dozens I took yesterday, only these reflect any portion of her gorgeousness.

My darling granddaughter, ready for our first walk together.

My darling granddaughter, after our first walk together.

My Teagan is coming today!!!!

I get to take care of her for a couple hours this afternoon. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Today is Ringo Starr's 70th birthday. Seriously. RINGO frickn' STARR turns 70. Today.

I was 10 years old when Ed Sullivan me to introduced the Beatles. Sure, I knew the lads from Liverpool were adults and I was a child that Sunday night. But somehow I'm shocked to discover Ringo is closer to my father's age (79) than to my own (56).

Last night I took part in an open forum on Laura Munson's blog. Laura, the author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is, led a discussion of "stopping." As in stopping to notice, stopping to celebrate the beauty around us. As in stopping to buy lemonade from a child's stand.

The conversation included talk of surrender. It evolved to a discussion of saying yes to the Universe. Now that I've had time to think about it all, I don't think we drifted from the topic.

Stopping is surrender. Surrender is saying yes to the Universe. Something inside us--that spark of God that connects us all--wants us to notice the glorious gifts we're given. Every single day. Jack Gilbert wrote, "The treasures hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes."

It feels like a few years ago that Ringo Starr was a skinny, mop-haired boy launching a musical revolution. Today, he's 70. And still on stage. Still saying yes to the gifts he was given. He still can because he still does.

Ringo has asked that everyone stop at noon today (each in his own time zone) and wish the world "Peace and Love."

Please say yes to that.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Open Sesame

Managing daily tasks on the computer and Internet requires user names and passwords and secret phrases. Transferring money from one account to another--within the same bank--means I have to remember a user name and three passwords. Getting online to work requires two. Paying my utility bills requires three more. Secret words and phrases fill my brain, and accessing them at the right moment gets more and more complicated.

I've been waking in the night again. Words circle me in the dark, phrases begging to be written down. I want to tell these stories. I want to be a disciplined person who writes 500 words every day, no matter what. I want to step forward, believing the path will appear. I want to plug into the current that flows through me when I write from my heart.

Part of what holds me back is the idea that I have to find a magical combination of words that will open all doors. Anne Lamott believes in "shitty first drafts."

Maybe that's the password.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Some of you may remember my fascination with Crescent Dragonwagon, about whom I have written several times, including here and here.

Dragon, as she calls herself, briefly attended the same high school I did, although I can't say I knew her. Tremendously colorful and mysterious, she remained my most unforgettable character for decades. In the mid-80s, I ran across her work via the suggested reading list for a curriculum product I was editing. In 1993, she popped up again in various articles about Bill Clinton's inauguration. In 2002, my brother-in-law gave me Passionate Vegetarian as a Christmas gift. In 2008, I came across her blog, Nothing Is Wasted on the Writer.

Her presence is a recurring theme/dream.

Crescent runs a workshop called Fearless Writing. For years now, I've longed to attend one. I'm finally back at work on a "real" project these days. My biggest issue, as always, is the uncertainty, the not knowing where the story is going. Thus we circle back to Crescent and her workshop and fearlessness.

My major freelance client offers a monthly grant to help writers realize their dreams. I am not working today. I am not playing. Today, I am writing an application for the July grant. If I receive it, I will immediately sign up for the Labor Day edition of Fearless Writing. I will go to the Green Mountains of Vermont and meet Crescent again, for the first time. (She's changed. I've changed. We never really knew one another.)

In one way, this seems an impossible dream. In another, it feels like destiny. I can't know which is true. I can only write the best grant application possible and turn loose of the outcome.

Wish me luck.

* Green Mountains in fall. Photo from University of Vermont website

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Planning a Lunch and a Wedding

N (Katie's birth mother) and I are having lunch next week. We haven't seen one another since Mother's Day 2009, which is far too long. She's a lovely woman.

As the wedding planning ramps up, I realize how complicated this could be. My nephew and his bride-to-be are going crazy trying to mollify two two-parent families. Katie has four sets of parents in addition to her extended family, step-family and birth families.

Danger, Will Robinson!

My dream for Katie is that her wedding be peaceful and joyous. She will be at peace only if her families are. The night she asked me to help her find her birth mother, she said she wanted to know her well enough to have her at the eventual wedding. The eventual has become the actual. She has the dress, the guests, the cake, the whole darn thing. We're supposed to sign a contract for the reception location today.

I want to know Nancy's dreams for herself and the wedding. All final decisions are Katie's, of course, but I can influence the course of our ship of dreams. Knowing what N wants gives me a sort of star chart to work with. Katie is careful to be respectful of my feelings, and I appreciate that more than she'll ever know. Even so, I don't want the two of them to miss out on things they'd like to share. If I know enough to make the right suggestions, Katie won't have to worry about hurting my feelings, and she won't have to worry about disappointing N.

And so, I've asked N to lunch. My hope is that we'll talk and laugh and share our dreams for our daughter. My job here is to compromise. To make room. To live my love for my daughter. Come to think of it, N's job is pretty much the same.

We have a lot in common.