you, who are reading this right now

i want you to know that i love you.
you, who are reading this right now.
you, specifically.
i love the shape your mouth makes when you smile.
i love the way you choose which shirt you'll wear each day.
i love that your face relaxes ever so slightly and you get a faraway look when you think of that one summer.
(if you think for a minute, you'll know the one.)
i love that you hang in there with your family,
complicated as it sometimes is.
i love that you wonder if you're doing the right thing, the brave thing, the smart thing.
i love the way you get out of bed
and the way you get into bed.
and also
i love the way you blink.

i want you to know that i love you the way i love these things:
driving over water
swimming in water
drinking water
the memory of the superslide on burlap sacks with cousins and dad at the fair
the moon and the sun, at the right times
driving with the windows down
the texture of hay, dirt, rocks, and root vegetables that haven't been washed.

you, who are reading this:
i want you to know that i love you.


but i'm not too fond of october 18--with apologies to m

yesterday, i wrote about how i don't hate october 17, even though it's the anniversary of my father's death.

october 18, however, is the day after october 17, and therefore october 18 usually kind of sucks.  try as i might to resist it, every year i have a sort of subconscious build up to 10/17.  i take off work.  i plan dad-celebrating, family-loving activities.  i set aside time for writing.  and somehow, somewhere way down deep, i have this seed of a belief that this year, on october 17, something will change.

i never really fully recognize this kernel until october 18, of course.  when i can clearly see that the "something" i was hoping would change is not going to change.  i have not tranformed into a magical phoenix-like creature who now understands the meaning of life.  i did not have a dream in which my father appeared and told me the answers to all my doubts, wonderings, and hopes for the future.  lo and behold, on october 18, after all that celebrating and family-loving and writing, my dad is still dead.  well then.

this was especially hard to slam up against after anniversary one, and it was also extra crap-tastic after anniversary five.  this year, i thought i was wise to the ways of october 18.  indeed, it was no surprise to me when i woke up this morning to see that seed of a belief unearthed, barren, mute.  but even though it wasn't a surprise, it still wasn't fun.

october 18, it's a good thing you are the day m was born.  he is very special to me, so you get a pass.  otherwise, i'd just give up on you, i think.


i don't hate october 17

my father died exactly ten years ago.  on october 17.  since then, i notice the number sequence 10/17 everywhere, all the time.  i have an uncanny knack for checking the time at 10:17 in the morning and at 10:17 in the evening.  one of my closest friends in the world lives at 1017 _________ street.  i land on cell number 1017 in excel spreadsheets over and over again.

logically, it would make sense to me to hate that number, hate that reminder, hate it when october 17 rolls around every year.  but i don't.  i think i actually like it.  10/17 is now and forever linked to my dad, and so 10/17 makes me think of him, every time it shows up.  and i like thinking of my dad because i had a spec-damn-tacular dad.  every year, on october 17, i spend the day celebrating him and connecting with his memory and hanging out with my family.

this year, that celebration feels different to me, because this is the first year i've been a mama. this is the first year i've had this amazing daughter to take to one of her granddaddy's favorite breakfast places, to look up at me while those quintessential chamblee expressions form on her face, and to love with the same overwhelming, unconditional love i know my dad felt for me.  but this is also the first year i've had this incredible new human being who will never sit on my dad's lap, grin up at his slow smile, and crack up when he talks in his donald duck voice.

i never knew my granddaddy on my dad's side.  he died before i was born--before any of his grandchildren were born--just like my dad did.  i remember feeling awkward about that grandfather as a kid because i didn't know what to call him (no grandfather name is established when there are no grandchildren yet.), i didn't know if it was okay to ask about a dead person, and i didn't know if he would've liked me or not.  i want to help my daughter and her cousins know their granddaddy in some way, so in the spirit of celebrating him on october 17, i offer this:

my daughter and my nephews,

your granddaddy on the chamblee side...

checked everything in the house--but most especially the stove--at least six times before he left home

loved to eat breakfast and desserts from "the list"

wrote poetry for your grandma

made banners for his children on their birthdays and hung them in surprise places around our house

grunted when he was confused, mad, or in a tough spot

banged on the window over the kitchen sink to get our dogs to quit barking at least one million and seven times

washed the dishes but almost never put them away

couldn't stand whistling

trained us, all our cousins, and several unsuspecting friends that there is absolutely no smacking your food at the dinner table

wrote me a letter every single, solitary day when i was away at governor's school one summer between junior and senior year

taught us to drive at the farm on tractors, a go-cart, and an old chevy truck

once conspired with my siblings to hide breakfast from me on sunday morning before church because i was so hard to wake up

built a pond with just a scoop and a whole lot of trips back and forth

was a dreamer, a visionary, a schemer, a philosopher, a mediator, a stargazer, and a salt-of-the-earth farmer down to his toes

could be infuriatingly slow to speak but was frequently the one people listened to

laid down on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator when he was sick with the flu once every year

could make me laugh when i was mad better than anyone

was astonishingly smart but didn't show it off

had the best smile

would have loved to ride with you on the tractor at the farm
would have loved to listen to you laugh
would have loved to help you make a scarecrow at halloween
would have
loved you.

and that's just a start.  ask me more anytime.  i'll tell you everything i can remember.



the parent who remains

a note to my readers:  many of you know me and know my mother, so i feel it's important to point out that--like most of my poetry/creative writing--this piece is not autobiographical or even biographical.  it is, however, influenced by my own reflections at witnessing the strength and grace of many "parents who remain," including my own gorgeous mama.

she looks out the window and notices that the grass has been mowed.
someone mowed the grass and she never noticed and she can't think
or who
but it must have needed mowing and she is grateful
someone mowed the grass.
in a couple of weeks, she will need to mow it again.
and again after that.
and again and again and again.
for the rest of her life, this grass will need to be mowed.
she can do that.
she can absolutely do that.

she looks over at her husband's aunt
a very old lady
whose own only child lives an ocean away
and she knows that this aunt will need to go to the doctor soon.
in a few months, she will need to be the one to move this aunt
into a nursing home.
and visit her after that.
again and again and again.
for the rest of her husband's aunt's life, she will need to be looked after.
she can do that.
she can absolutely do that.

she looks around her at the house and all the people in it
a lot of stuff and a lot of people
and she thinks of oil changing, thank you card writing, retirement planning, dishes washing, grocery shopping, churchgoing, window replacing, dinner eating, dog medicine giving, trash taking out, taxes completing,
and representing
out and about in the world
and deciding
all that deciding
that she will need to do.
she can do all of that.

looking at her children,
all grown up
as grown up as they will ever get in her eyes,
she does her very first deciding since everything changed.
she decides:

i will watch my children be heartbroken.
i will not try to cover up their pain or pretend it doesn't exist.
i will not offer them stupid platitudes that make them feel oddly guilty about being sad.
i will not act out when their father's memory seems to get more attention than my living presence.
i will accept their help when i really need it.

they are each, in turn, finding her in the room
every few minutes
checking in with their eyes or a hand on her arm as they walk by
she is heartbroken too
and she knows they know that.


still not here after all these years

this week, on wednesday, my dad will have been gone for ten years.  and when i say gone, i mean he will have been dead for ten years.  i am ambivalent about saying that word: dead.  sometimes it seems crass and inappropriate and rough and ugly.  but at other times, it seems wholly and absolutely appropriate.  after all, the whole damn thing is a lot of rough and ugly.

passed away, moved on, left us?  i guess.  those turns of phrase are meant to soften the blow, i suppose, but that's like saying a single feather placed over your heart will soften the blow when an elephant sits on your chest.  it doesn't work.  nice idea.  but it doesn't work.

in the end, i think i say "dead" sometimes because "dead" is a permanent word.  it does not equivocate the way those other phrases do.

my father's death is the most permanent event i've ever experienced.  it was the first thing that had ever happened in my life that didn't make sense to me that i also had no hope of ever changing.  bad grade?  upsetting, but maybe you can earn extra credit.  your boyfriend breaks up with you for another woman?  heartbreaking, but there's still a chance you could reunite or find someone better.  even getting some sort of disease offers the hope--however slim--of cure or inexplicable miracle.  but dead?  dead is dead, and that's all there is to it.  yes, i know i can feel his presence sometimes, and yes, i know about the many possibilities of afterlife, and yes, there are many beautiful things i've experienced having to do with his memory living on through us.  but, come on, that's not the same.  it's not the same at all.

i remember standing in the kitchen the morning my father died.  i was paralyzed by the image of the huge, wide, long space of my life stretching out in front of me--all without him in it.  it seemed impossible.  now, ten years of that huge, wide space of my life is behind me.  and it still seems impossibly, surprisingly permanent.

so.  yes.  at this very strange ten year mark, i am reminding myself--and i remind you--to love the people we love here and now and as much as possible.  because, as bizarre as it still seems to me, you cannot change dead.


a person called okay

the second installment in a week-long series exploring our rituals of talking to ourselves

it's okay you're okay it'll be okay everything's okay okay okay okay?
{step} {step} {step}
it's okay you're okay this is going to be okay sh sh sh sh sh keep walking
{step} {step} {step}
{step} {step}
{step} {step}
everything's fine everything's fine everything's fine keep moving
{hand to chest}
{taptaptaptap taptaptaptap taptaptaptaptap}
yep got it got it yep got it
{clamp jaw}
{breathe out through nose}
{eyes cloud}


we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this...

holy moly.  yesterday was my one-hundredth post.

thank you so very much for reading, y'all.  and for commenting with your good thoughts and unique experiences.  no one seems to have time to spare these days, so the idea that you're choosing to spend some of your precious time with me in this way is a great gift.

in celebration of 100 posts, i looked back to see which ones have been the most read so far, which have generated the most comments, and which ones are just extra-special to me.

here are five of the most popular, in case you missed 'em.
and here are five that maybe not as many folks read or i just feel extra-strongly about, so i'm putting them back out there.
and finally:  i really do love to hear your thoughts, so click the boxes below the posts or leave a comment if you are so moved.  a couple of folks have asked if it's okay to share posts on facebook or twitter.  the answer is yes.  go for it.  i'm absolutely grateful and flattered and honored when you share a post that's particularly interesting to you.

with love and appreciation,


one way to hear what you're saying to yourself

the first installment in a week-long series exploring our rituals of talking to ourselves

this happened:  our baby was born.

and then this happened:  the things that i say--and even just silently think--about myself became very, super-duper, incredibly, intensely noticeable to me.

here are some examples--positive, negative, and...well...complicated:

  • i look like crap today.
  • oh man, i'm an idiot.
  • mama can't do anything right. ["mama" is referring to me, not to my own mama, who does almost everything right.]
  • i rocked that.
  • everyone's going to think i'm [insert negative adjective here].
  • look: i can fit into my non-pregnant jeans again!
  • i think i can really help with that.
  • i'm stressed out, okay?!
  • i'm awesome at figuring out those kinds of problems.
  • i don't care what he thinks of me.
  • i just tried to be a good friend to her.
  • we're having the most fun ever, and i am hilarious.
  • i'm not doing as much creative work as [insert person, usually a woman, to whom i am comparing myself negatively here].
  • i am the luckiest person on the planet.
  • i am supermama.
  • i sounded like a moron.
  • i'm really freakin' good at that.

now, i consider myself to be a pretty self-confident person.  on the whole--from a bird's-eye view--i really do think i'm smart and kind and a good friend and creative and have things to offer the world.  and still, my daily soundtrack tends to be pretty rough on me.

when i say or think these things now, i automatically click to how i'd feel if my daughter were saying or thinking them about herself.  and often, i don't like it.  

so i'm trying to change my daily soundtrack.  and it's hard to do.

i'd love to hear from the non-mamas and non-papas, as well as the parents out there:  when do you hear what you're saying to yourself most clearly?  and how do you change it when you don't love what you hear?


i love

the fifth installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of apologizing

i love || hobnobs

hobnobs cookies, i love you

because even though i am now gluten-free and couldn't eat you without getting all sick and broken out, you taste so unbelievably good that i still fall into a happy daydream when i spy you on the shelf at the parker + otis.

because i was eating you in a small-ish kitchen in london when i opened a letter from a longtime friend, one of those absolute highest-and-best friends.  it was a letter of apology for several years of unnamed troubles between us.  it was generous and loving and a total surprise.  and as i crunched away on your buttery deliciousness, i was both humbled and happy, and things got a lot more right in my world.


a place called little

the fourth installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of apologizing

i live in a little town in a little state in a big country.  five days a week, i drive my little car from my little house to a little office where i work for a little man with a big opinion of himself and a little opinion of me.   on the weekends, i putter in my little vegetable garden, go for a swim in the little indoor lap pool in our little community center, and come home to put on my little black dress for a big night out.

my little group of friends tells me i have a little problem with apologizing a little too much, which is a big deal to me.  so i got the big idea to keep a little log of all my apologies yesterday for the little space of two hours, when i was doing a little work, a little emailing, and a little grocery shopping.  it reads like this:

ooh, sorry.  pardon me.  sorry.  oh, excuse me.  i'm so sorry.  oops, i'm sorry.  i apologize.  i didn't mean to--yes, i'm sorry.  yikes, what a jerk i am.  i'm sorry.  could i just--yes, i'm sorry.  apologies apologies.  sorry, sir.  i'm just sorry as i can be.  oh crap.  sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry.

it looks like i have some big changes to make.


is your partner better at apologizing than you are?

the third installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of apologizing

i was going to write today about how my husband is a better apologizer than i am.  because he is.  and i'm trying to get better at it.  but as i was writing a whole big post about that, i figured out something brand new, so now i want to write about that.  here it is:

i am mostly bad at apologizing in this circumstance: when i do something wrong even after a little voice in my head tells me not to.  if i know, on some level, in the process of doing something, that i probably shouldn't be doing that thing, i fightfightfight against the inevitable "i'm sorry" later on.  okay, that's confusing.  here's what i mean:
  1. i bring up a controversial/tender/challenging thing with my husband at the wrong time.  i know it's the wrong time because there's a wise and experienced voice inside my head saying, "don't bring this up.  it's the wrong time."  and then i tell myself we don't have any other time because we must talk about this before [insert someone else's deadline], and i bring it up anyway.  in case you're curious, wrong times include but are not limited to: while racing around to get ready in the morning, ten minutes before we go to sleep way too late in the first place, and three blocks from arriving at someone else's house.
  2. i get mad at my husband for an inadequate, underwhelming, or distracted response, and i await his apology.  this may involve my snippily clomping around the house and/or sitting like a statue in the car.
  3. i wait for my husband to ask me what's wrong, and i tell him how mad i am.
  4. i hear his points about my timing in bringing up the aforementioned controversial/tender/challenging topic, and i have a flashback of that little voice in my head telling me the very same thing before i did it.
  5. reluctantly, i consider the idea that i might be the one who needs to apologize.  this could take 10 minutes or several hours.  all of it takes place in silence.
  6. and finally:  i say that i'm sorry.
all of this seems completely counter-intuitive to me, but after replaying several tapes in my head, i'm pretty sure it's true.  a revelation!  cool.  okay.  good information.

and that makes me curious:  when are you the worst at apologizing?



the second installment in a week-long exploration of the rituals of apologizing

she sits and she stews.
bubbling broiling basting baking in a badbadbadbadbadbad soup
her nostrils are flared
(which she doesn't know).
she is biting her lower lip
on the inside
(which she doesn't realize).
she is super duper bigtime watch-out-honey this-is-gonna-hurt

and no one speaks to her for a few minutes
because they know better.
and no one tries to help
they've seen this before.
and everyone just waits
because eventually

and when she does, she will send flames shooting up the walls / she will scratch the paint off the coffee table / she will rip up the curtains with her incisors and crunch gravel with her molar teeth.

after all that
she will stop.
and maybe cry a little bit.
or a lot.

because she knows that she's made a mistake.
she is the one who screwed this up.
she is the one to blame.

and because no one is harder on her than she is on herself,
this makes her skin feel hot and her head feel like it's crammed very very full of those little styrofoam peanuts,
and it will take her a long time to get to

i'm sorry.


six no-nos of apologizing (test-driven by me)

the first installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of apologizing

i've made my share of mistakes, which means i've done a fair amount of apologizing.  and not always in the best possible way.  so here's a little apologies-no-no-book for me:

  1. when you feel like you did something wrong, but you're not sure what it is, try not to apologize amorphously without really finding out why you should be sorry.
  2. when you've been hurting someone's feelings for an extended period of time, try not to give blanket i'm-sorrys for things that deserve specific apologies.
  3. when you've done something a little wrong, try not to apologize a million times for it.
  4. when you've done something a lot wrong, try not to hold it against the other person when they need more than one apology for it to really sink in that you're sorry.
  5. when you're in the middle of a bad spot with someone, try not to say you're sorry in a tone of voice that really means, "you're-a-pain-in-my-ass why-are-you-so-sensitive it's-your-owndamnfault-anyway goodgodwhatdididotodeservethis?!"
  6. when someone is taking things out on you unfairly, try not to apologize for things you're not really sorry about.
do you have some rules about saying you're sorry?  i so want to know them.  tell me in the comments, will you?


this is my chance

the sixth installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of starting again

in the voice of candace, 18 years old

cut it off.
just cut it all off.
really short.
i want it really short.
i've had long hair my whole life, and i'm sick of it.
you know what?
can we dye it, too?
well, white blonde.
just the tips, though.
let's do that.
this is good.
this is gonna be good.
this is gonna feel like me.
i want to walk in there and feel like me.
this is my chance.
i need to do it now or it'll be too late.
once people meet you one way, you're stuck.
i don't want to be stuck the way i am now.


i love

the fifth installment in a week-long exploration of the rituals of starting again

i love || TROSA

TROSA, i love you

because you not only give people who are recovering from substance abuse issues a chance to begin again, you give them a really super strong chance to begin again.  we're talking about 85% of program graduates who don't relapse in the first year.  i hope you're shouting that from the rooftops.

because visiting your christmas tree lot to choose our tree each year is one of me and my husband's very favorite holiday traditions--and one of the first traditions we started together.

oh, and because the guys at your christmas tree lot do not mock me when i talk to the trees to see which one wants to come home with us.  at least not that i know of.

because one of your moving service guys carried my husband's very heavy amplifier a very long way a few years ago.

because you have an impressive business + donations income model that allows every person in your program to receive treatment free of charge.  i'm a sucker for an impressive business + donations income model.

because you are here, in the triangle.


a place called front porch

the fourth installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of starting again

citronella and cigarettes
the tiny glow of five candles scrounged from various corners of her apartment
and assembled here
on a dusty little table
beside a makeshift ashtray
(she doesn't smoke, but he does.)
her chair creaks as she lifts her butt and folds her feet underneath her in the seat.
wine sloshes as he pours too quickly into each of their glasses.
a car goes by
headlights over-brightening the railing, their faces, the front door
and then it's gone.
she notices the envelopes poking up out of her mailbox
the cobwebs in the corners of the windows
the way she is blinking a lot like some kind of weirdo
and tries to relax.
he is a kind person.
he is not noticing these things.
a breeze blows through as if to remind her
that this is new
that there is possibility here.


shhhhh: i'm starting something (again)

the third installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of starting again

i didn't tell my husband that i was going to re-start my blogging this week until after i had posted.  and when i first re-started going to the gym a few years ago, i didn't tell anyone until i had used my membership three days a week for at least a month.  and a year before that, i didn't tell anyone that i was going to re-start on a program to help me keep my house clean until after i had finished the first 28 days of babysteps.

i've realized that, when starting on a goal or a project or a life-improving scheme, telling other people what i'm about to do doesn't motivate me to start.  i actually do better getting started if i make a quiet, but firm, promise to myself and don't tell other people about it until i've started (again).  it's almost a secret.

this strikes me as strange.  this is not what productivity-goalbuster-makestuffhappen gurus advise.

i do need to talk about the stuff i'm working on once i've got it going.  but for the getting-started part?  not so much.  no.

i'm so curious:  when is the best time for you to let people know you're starting something (again)?



the second installment in a week-long exploration of the rituals of starting again

he clamps his teeth together so hard he can feel his jaw muscles clenching
birds scatter and squawk at the creaksqueakscreech when he lifts his right arm right out in front of him.
he wonders what the spiders and the ants on the cement below him think
when they get caught in the snow flurries the rust flakes that float down from his elbow as it extends.
a rush of blood and his fingers are all tingly as he extends his palm.

he is vaguely aware that he is forgetting to smile
but he makes eye contact and considers that a victory.
he shook one hand at the entrance of this one interview and even if it all goes to shit from here
that's more than he did yesterday.

he clatters down the sidewalk
and the trees in their planters wave and cheer him on.


how to start again when you've stopped doing something you love doing

the first installment in a week-long exploration of the rituals of starting again

step one:  decide you're going to start today no matter what comes up, no matter how small your effort, no matter what the result, no matter how late you have to stay up

step two:  end up starting the next day instead

note:  i originally had all sorts of steps in here that included things like "beat yourself up for a while about having stopped and then realize that's getting you nowhere," "give up the perfect ideal of having never stopped," and "become indignant at some person, place, or thing that clearly caused you to stop."  but really, the two steps above are what it comes down to for me.

and you?


a place called glovebox

part four in a week-long series about the rituals associated with napkins...yes, napkins

one registration, signature smeared
three pens, one that writes
two pencils
one glasses case, empty
one throat lozenge, ricola
four pennies
seven napkins, crumpled but mostly clean

she flips the top open
tosses the glasses case on the passenger seat
and grabs the fistful of napkins

she blinksblinksblinksblinksblinks
not crying
not crying
jamming the napkins at her shirt
at her lap
at the sticky sweet diet coke staining her favorite sunshine dress.

the paper tears and leaves little brown bits of detritus on the field of yellow.
she drops the napkins in her lap
she drops her head
she drops it all and sits there
knowing she will not be making the best first impression today.


the abundance of cloth

part three in a week-long series about the rituals associated with napkins...yes, napkins

i used to love having dinner at friends' houses who used cloth napkins.  the napkins weren't fancy, but for some reason they gave me a real sense of abundance.  it took a couple of years before i realized that i could have cloth napkins at my house, too.  somehow i had subconsciously associated them with an abundance that i didn't feel, even though a pack of four wasn't very expensive at all.  funny how we do that.

and now: i love my cloth napkins.  and you know what makes them even better?  our napkin rings.  metal napkin rings!  they were a gift, ordered from etsy, and they have our names on them.  it seems silly, but those cloth napkins in those etsy napkin rings make me smile.  they make me feel at home.  they are a mealtime ritual that reminds me how simple and personal and sustainable abundance can be.

i'm curious:  what rituals make you feel abundant?



part two in a week-long series about the rituals associated with napkins...yes, napkins

i look in her eyes and notice
for the first time
how often she blinks.
she laughs raises her eyebrows lowers her eyebrows presses her lips together.
i start to speak and she is nodding
before i've gotten two words out
she is nodding.
her chin is tipped down
and her eyes are looking up at me
so that i know she is
what i do not know
is that she is sitting on her hands
because her therapist has suggested that she try it.
what i also do not know
is that if she weren't sitting on her hands
she would already be three rips into her napkin,
on her way to having 64 perfectly-torn squares in a little stack,
on her way to having six of those stacks in a row beside her fork before the entree is served,
on her way to arranging those six stacks in a three columns of two and then two columns of three.
what she does not know
is how long she can sit still.


i am ever-so-slightly obsessed with napkins

part one in a week-long series about the rituals associated with napkins...yes, napkins

i have a very tiny obsession with napkins right now, so i've done a very tiny bit of research about them.  i do believe that any amount--even a very tiny bit--of research into napkins indicates some level of obsession, because who thinks about napkins, really?

since i'm interested in ritual these days, i fell down a napkin-rituals-rabbit hole.  and here's what i learned:
  1. see the tablecloth swagging down in front of the table in this painting of the lord's supper?  that's the napkin.  it's a communal napkin for everyone to use. and according to this blogger's first generation italian mother, the communal napkin stuck around for awhile, at least in italian families. she remembers growing up with a mopina at the table, "a communal dish towel set on table used by all greasy hands young and old." in our hand-sanitizer-tastic society, i'm not real sure the communal napkin is gonna make a comeback. we are too germ-conscious to be truly communal.
  2. even when napkins made the move to individual, they used to be huge because eating was a messy, tactile endeavor.  then, along came the fork in the seventeenth century.  suddenly, eating became a neat, polite affair, and napkins got much smaller.  we traded fun and immediacy for refinement and politesse.
  3. and finally, it seems there was a time in roman civilization in which, if you were invited to dinner, you brought your own napkin.  yep, b.y.o.n.  and when the meal was over, these roman napkin-bringers just wrapped up leftovers in their napkins and took them on home.  next time you spy your great aunt slipping a napkin full of wedding cookies in her purse, know she has history on her side.  these days, we use styrofoam and plastic containers with all kinds of toxic crap in them when often a cloth napkin would do just as well.  sigh.  we make things so complicated.
napkins:  who knew they had so much to say?


what s/he wrote

tim sanders posted this about four years ago, but i thought of it immediately when i embarked on a rituals of summer-vacation-taking week.

one of the rituals of taking a vacation used to be coming back to an email inbox that you imagined would be chock full and would require several hours to deal with.  now, you don't have to imagine it because you can just-real-quick check your work email from vacation on your fabulous smartphone, and you already know what's awaiting you when you return.  in fact, you've probably half-heartedly dealt with some of it during vacation.  and you've certainly thought about one or two items, whether you've responded to them or not.

i like tim sanders' idea for managers, co-workers, and clients:

when I worked at yahoo, i put my employee’s vacation days into my calendar to remind me to leave them off threads or bcc/ccs. when there was an email that they would eventually need to see or be copied on (when they got back), i would part [sic] it in the draft folder, then send all of them the day they returned.
i'm going to try it.  i'm going to put emails to people who are on vacation in a draft folder and send them when they return.  it sounds to me like a kind ritual to put in place.


the non-negotiable breakfast

part six in a week-long series about the rituals of summer-vacation-taking

when i was growing up, my dad had only one demand when we went on vacation.  that demand was breakfast.  he didn't care much whether we spent all day in the ocean or walked the pier 25 times or sunned ourselves into oblivion around the pool reading magazines with our walkmans turned up.  but breakfast was non-negotiable.  and it was early.

at around 7:30 in the morning, he'd start to get antsy, and no later than 8, we were dragged out of bed, pulling our hair back in sloppy ponytails or grabbing a baseball cap, and sliding on flip-flops or jellies or those adidas slipper-shoes to go to some spot that would serve us bacon and coffee and maybe some biscuits and molasses.  we protested mightily.

but now, so many years later, guess what each of my siblings and i consider to be an inviolable part of going on vacation?  yes, indeed:  breakfast.

i'm curious:  what are your vacation must-dos?


i love

part five in a week-long series about the rituals of summer-vacation-taking

installment ten || kure beach pier

kure beach pier, i love you

because you make me feel like it's the year instagram photos try to replicate, but you do it without a special filter.  i reckon being the oldest fishing pier in the atlantic coast helps with that.

because you have photos of happy, sunburned people with their biggest fish catches hanging on your walls.  real pictures.  developed at a drugstore.

because you sell ice cream.  really, really good ice cream.

because you are open 24 hours, and that is awesome.

because walking on a wooden pier at night and peering into the black of the ocean and hearing the crash of the waves is simultaneously so romantic and sad and present and nostalgic that i have no choice but to let go, relax, let the tension slide away.

because fishing is meditating, and it is amazing to walk down a long promenade and see people of all shapes and sizes meditating together in the same way.

because you used to have the best baseball pinball machine, which my cousins, my siblings, and i played approximately one billion and seven times.  it was yellow, and if you managed to get that silver ball to go up the metal ramp in the middle, you scored a home run.  i know you don't have it anymore.  that's okay.  the ten-year-old in me will always love you for it anyway.


a place called boardwalk

part four in a week-long series about the rituals of summer-vacation-taking

the sun is up but the sunrise pinks are still in the sky
and the sounds of flip-flops and tennis shoes slapping against the wood haven't yet begun.
a fat seagull is perched on dumbo's nose
on the flying dumbo ride
right where the shiny gray paint is peeling off.
the garage doors are pulled down and chained on the arcade,
the shop where you can buy jewelry made of fake shells produced in taiwan,
the shop where you can buy airbrushed t-shirts circa 1984,
and the tattoo parlor.
the garage door is up on the doughnut shop
because it's hot in there already
and because the sweet sticky smell is too much
and because there is one more teenager who has yet to arrive for work.
a lost phone chirps a low-battery warning where it was dropped last night in the sand near the trash barrel.
the pavement is heating up down here
as the locals have their coffee in their kitchens
and the tourists sleep off their beers in their hotel rooms and rental cottages.


smartphone vs. vacation

part three in a week-long series about the rituals of summer-vacation-taking

smartphone, you are the enemy of the true vacation.

yes, it seems like no big deal when we're shooting a quick email here, and sharing our awesome vacation photo on instagram there, and picking up a short call, checking our office voicemail, and responding to just this one hilarious tweet from our friend from college.

let's compare:

vacation before you could work, plan, and socialize internationally from almost anywhere on the planet:

  • 9:00am:  coffee and breakfast
  • 10:30am:  horse around in the ocean with your kid, your best friend, and your best friend's kid
  • 12:00pm:  read a magazine lying on your beach chair while periodically poking your leg with your finger to see if you're burning
  • 12:30pm:  lunch
  • 2:00pm:  nap
  • 3:00pm:  play bocce on the sand and lose to your dad...again
  • 5:00pm:  shower
  • 6:30pm:  go out to dinner and watch the server's eyes get round when your whole crew walks in
  • 9:00pm:  drink wine and eat snack food you would never have at home

vacation now:

  • 9:00am:  check facebook, twitter, gmail, and work email.  make a mental note to respond to 3 work emails after you make coffee.
  • 9:15am:  coffee and breakfast
  • 10:30am:  send 3 aforementioned work emails while your kid, your cousin, and your cousin's kid start playing in the ocean.  scroll through facebook for just a quick second, and get surprised when your kid comes back out of the water.  say you were just getting ready to go out to join them.  dang.
  • 12:00pm:  read your magazine instead of the work stuff you brought along and feel guilty and stressed about it.
  • 12:30pm:  lunch
  • 12:45pm:  pick up call from this guy you know who is helping you plan a charity event for next week because you've been playing phone tag with forever.  feel the urgency of what he needs from you, so agree to post something to facebook, your neighborhood listserv, and your parents' group listserv by tonight.
  • 1:15pm:  nap
  • 3:00pm:  try to post about charity event, and discover that your facebook app is telling you it lost its connection over and over again.
  • 3:12pm:  give up and go find your dad playing bocce with the kids on the beach.  take an awesome picture that totally captures the moment and realize that it's so perfect you have to post it on instagram immediately.  try out six different filters, narrow it down to three, decide one is too grainy, and finally choose the one that makes it look like csi miami.
  • 3:22pm:  play bocce while periodically looking to see how many likes your photo has gotten.
  • 5:00pm:  look up best place for reservations on phone.  read reviews of seven seafood joints within a one-mile radius, and choose pirate's cove.  try to make a reservation using opentable, discover pirate's cove isn't on opentable, and call the restaurant instead.
  • 5:23pm:  shower
  • 6:30pm:  during dinner at pirate's cove, look up blackbeard on smartphone to prove to your sister that blackbeard was shot and beheaded, since she insists he had to walk the plank.
  • 9:00pm:  drink wine
  • 10:16pm:  tell your spouse to go ahead to bed without you because you still have to post about the charity event.  after you post, check your work email one last time.
  • 11:12pm:  lie in bed thinking about the best way to handle the latest wrinkle in your biggest work project until you fall asleep.

hmph.  i've done some varying versions of the second schedule, but that first one up there seems a whole lot more like a vacation to me.

i'm curious: has your smartphone changed your rituals on vacation?  for the better?  or not?



part two in a week-long series about the rituals of summer-vacation-taking

she doesn't care for the beach much
this is where they have wanted to come
every year
since the oldest one could say the word ocean
she packed the sunscreen the bathingsuits the raggedy towels
and proceeded to have fun
their way.
she got tangles out of hair
she held hands jumping over waves
she made rules about how late they could walk on the pier without a grownup.
she sits on the porch of the rental, half-reading her book as they and their spouses unload the cars
bringing in water wings and sand pails and sunshades.
she watches them swarm into the kitchen where she earlier unloaded the only kind of macaroni the toddler will eat, the favorite potato chips for the son-in-law, the special milk for the one with allergies
all things she knew to bring without them even asking.
she feels the place fill up with her favorite kind of noise, the unconscious noise of family, and keeps it to herself that
she doesn't care for the beach much.


how to leave for a vacation

part one in a week-long series about the rituals of summer-vacation-taking

how to leave for a vacation

  1. plan to leave by a certain hour.  save up 413 small tasks that you must accomplish before you leave.  begin those tasks 90 minutes before your planned departure time.
  2. pack way too much.  remove three items from your suitcase.  feel proud.  put one of the three items back in your suitcase. 
  3. water the plants.  think about how you should go on vacation more often so that the plants get watered more frequently.
  4. unplug everything in sight:  the coffeemaker, the rickety old lamp in the hallway, the microwave oven.
  5. spill something on the floor.  preferably something that makes a big sticky mess or will dye the floor a nice shade of purple if it isn't tended to immediately.
  6. decide to set the timers for the lights.  spend 25 minutes looking for the timers for the lights.  get in a fight with your partner/child/dog about where the timers for the lights could be.
  7. leave 104 minutes after your planned departure time and feel pretty psyched that you stayed on schedule.  or close enough.  or close enough-ish.
  8. feel relieved that you're finally on the way, and then throw a big rock at that feeling by stopping for gas, lunch, and cash before you even leave town.
  9. get fifteen minutes down the road and make a joke.  smile for the first time in several hours.  remember that you actually like the person/people in the car with you.
  10. relax.


what s/he wrote

part seven in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends

a long old time ago, someone whose writing i respect said some mean things about my writing--valid criticism, perhaps, but said in a mean, ouchy way.  when a new friend heard about it, she defended me thoroughly, intelligently, and without reservation.  she may not remember it, but i sure do.

in my mind, it cemented our friendship status.  that's one of the rituals of friendship, after all:  leaping to the other person's defense.

fast forward fifteen years, and i still consider the woman who defended me a friend.  which leads me to another ritual of friendship:  celebrating the other person's successes.

that's why this week's what s/he wrote is a little different.  i haven't actually read the thing that i'm going to ask you to read.  it's my defender-friend's debut novel.  her name is emily colin, the book is titled the memory thief, and it's available beginning august 21.  you can see the trailer here.  and if you're a book club kind of person, check this awesomeness out.

p.s.:  the  mean-things-sayer is now my friend, too, and she's an extraordinary person.  but that's another story.


an offer of help (softened with a sprinkle of movie)

part six in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends

in the voice of two new characters, gary and tim

hey man how's it going
it's alright man how're things with you
can't complain
well i could but wouldn't nobody listen so
i hear that
nice out here right
oh yeah
wouldn't want to be the one to have to cut this grass though
need a tractor mower for this place
[insert movie quote here]
[insert movie quote rejoinder here]
[insert laughter here]
so y'all gonna move again?
ah i don't know
[insert movie quote here]
[insert movie rejoinder here]
i don't know we're trying to figure out somewhere a little bit cheaper but there ain't much out there man
i don't know
what kind of stuff are you lookin' for
what kinda house?
house job both
oh anything really anything for either one
i hear you
well let us know if y'all are movin' and you need some help i know jennie can't be carrying anything
thanks man thanks appreciate that
yep no problem man just let me know


i love

part five in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends.

installment nine || elmo's diner in durham

elmo's diner in durham, i love you

because i was scarfing down your french fries the time j + k + i talked about the unconditional love we have for each other (and j creeped us out talking about bones).

because i was drinking your decaf coffee the time g + t + i nattered on about religion-related things and stuff.

because i was having your side salad with extra thousand island the time m + g told me with a gleam in their eyes about their visionary plans way before they actually happened.

because i was eating your chilaquiles the time b had tears in her eyes before she took a big leap.

because i was standing in your crazy crowded waiting area on a sunday morning with a the time the line between friendship and more-than-friendship was blurring.

because i have no idea what i was eating the time what used to be 11 of us (and had grown to 19 with kiddos and a new husband) all went out together for lunch.

because i was lingering over your huevos rancheros the time t + i had an incredible conversation about creating a new model for theatre in the triangle.

because my legs were curled up under me in one of your booths with m the time he made a momentous long-distance drive to see one of our shows.

because i have had three different beverages in front of me at one of your tables for so many hours with so many friends so many times.  and you have never once suggested that we hurry it up.


a place called kitchen floor

part four in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends.

black and white linoleum:
g's butt covers one black square and one white square
f's butt covers one white square, one black square, and half of another white square
p's butt is in the air because she is laying on her stomach.
the refrigerator just kicked on and g can feel the hum in her back
which is leaned against the bottom door.
f notices the splatter of tomato sauce at the top of the dishwasher
and follows it with her eyes all the way down.
it streaks its way into a dried up river along the bottom edge
where no one will ever get it out from between the white part and that metal border thing.
g wonders what f is thinking about.
p wonders how f will tell her mother.
f wonders if her face is regular-crying-puffy or sobbing-crying-puffy.
she asks them which kind of puffy it is, and g assures her lovingly that it is
p agrees.
they are laughing like lunatics
that laughing that hurts and sounds either ridiculous and high-pitched or absolutely soundless
and g crumples the empty ritz cracker sleeve
and throws it at f
they have long since eaten all the crackers, eaten all the pop-tarts, eaten what they could stand of the cool ranch doritos, drank up all the diet coke.
now they are drinking regular coke
and trading the can of easy cheese back and forth
to squirt onto their spitty fingers and eat crackerless until it's all gone.
f lays down and even though she can feel the crumbs poking into her arm as it stretches out beside the stove
even though she is sad and pissed off and humiliated
even though her head hurts in a way that advil cannot touch
she knows there is no place she'd rather be right now.


decisions decisions decisions

part three in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends.

it's a complicated, nuanced dance: a conversation with a friend.

the give
the take
the laying it all out there
the pulling back
the pausing
the checking in
the laughter
the keeping quiet
the analyzing
the overstatement
the speaking up
the teasing
the truth
the white lie
the glancing blow
the are-you-okay
the validation
the reminders of who you are
the reminders of who you wish weren't
the sighs
the i-knows!

in an effort to share, we are continuously, constantly making decisions, faster-than-fast decisions that we often don't realize we're making.

we are deciding whether our friend needs us to ask more so s/he can say more, whether we need to reach out or hold back, whether our tragedy-du-jour is worthy of the conversational airtime.

we are deciding how to support a risky choice, how to get all the topics covered in the space of one lunch hour, how to make the joke last longer.

we are deciding when to give the good news that might hurt a little bit, when to compare your stuff to my own life, when to keep our mouths shut thankyouverymuch.

in the best of times, with the best of friends, it's a nearly effortless ritual, heady and hilarious and heart-full.  in the worst of times, with the best of friends, we are working our asses off to hit the marks, to point our toes, to relax our jaws, to remember to breathe.

it is one of my favorite rituals of friendship.  not the easiest.  not the most glamorous.  but one of the most rewarding.



part two in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends.

she looks at her phone
and sees the name flash up.
she would love to answer she would love to talk she would love to
she is so busy she only has three minutes she has her hands full
the potato chips she just dumped on the kitchen floor / the ponytail she's trying to get in / the phone call she has to return from two weeks ago to the gas company about that bill / the gas she needs to get so she can drive to work / the text from her mom she needs to return / the stuff she was supposed to read for her meeting tonight / the book she needs that she left in the car / the keys she can't find
and they haven't talked in so long so many months to catch up on so much she needs to wait for a long stretch she needs to block out some time
she lets it go to voicemail.

three minutes later
she looks at her phone
and sees the name flash again.
same name.
she laughs, knowing that the longest message-leaver on the planet has struck again,
knowing that the voicemail timed out and the longest message-leaver on the planet has called back to finish the message,
knowing that the message will be hilarious, rambling, silly, loving,
knowing there will be no reproach for not returning the last two messages
the ones from last month.
she feels a rush of warmth and wistfulness and sorrow and gratitude and humility that she doesn't have time to tease apart.
she is on the run.

one minute later
she looks at her phone
and sees the name flash again.
same name.
and in a matter of seconds she realizes
there is no rambling silly message.
she stops.
she recognizes the code
their s.o.s.
their i need you now ritual
three calls in a row
and she drops it all
everything that was on her plate
everything right down to the plate itself
to answer the phone
and sit patiently with her friend at the edge of the deep, dark well.


how to make a new friend

part one in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends.

how to make a new friend when you’re five years old (option one):
  1. say, “hello.”
  2. wait for the other five-year-old to say “hello” back.
  3. ask, “wanna be friends?”
  4. wait for the other five-year-old to say, “okay.”
how to make a new friend when you’re five years old (option two):
  1. say, “hello.”
  2. wait for the other five-year-old to say “hello” back.
  3. ask, “wanna play dinosaurs?”
  4. wait for the other five-year-old to say, “okay.”
how to make a new friend when you’re an adult:
  1. watch the other person and how s/he behaves in a group.
  2. wait.
  3. dance around in your mind about whether you need a new friend because you already have enough friends for god’s sake.
  4. have a good conversation with the potential new friend but don’t follow up.
  5. forget how to suggest fun things and/or decide that nothing you do is fun.
  6. get scared that the new friend doesn’t want to be friends.
  7. get busy.
  8. try to act cool and aloof around potential new friend.
  9. hold back your real personality until you judge that potential new friend can take it.
  10. judge potential new friend as too snobby/smart/busy/pretty/unattractive/granola/corporate/soft-spoken to be your friend.
  11. take potential new friend’s busy schedule as an indication that s/he thinks you’re horrible and never wants to see you again.
  12. somehow, against all odds, hang out with potential new friend.
ah, to be five years old again. in the world of adult new-friend-making, it seems we have to be subtle, fend off awkwardness, avoid showing our hand in case the other person doesn’t like us. sigh.
about fifteen years ago, when i was newly living in chicago, i had an amazing experience in this ritual of new-friend-making. i made one of the best friends of my life with a conversation almost exactly like the five-year-old version above. it was so simple. and it worked. and we’re still friends.
it worked so well, i’m not sure why i didn’t stick with it.
this week, i got a message from a new-ish friend that reminded me we don’t have to do the adult version of new-friending. she said, in plain language, that she feels we were meant to cross paths, that we are kindred spirits. and it made me feel like a million bucks.


what s/he wrote

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

back in march, gretchen rubin of the happiness project posted "celebrate leap day, or any other minor holiday." i had a one-month-old baby at the time of the post, so i missed it.  but this week, i was looking for gretchen's "why i now own a set of four heart-shaped placemats" post, and my search lead me to both the placemats post and its update, the leap day post.


in these two posts, gretchen describes making a celebratory valentine's day breakfast and planning a fun leap day mini-adventure for her family in an effort to "find occasions for festivity."

in her words, "celebrating minor holidays is one way to make time stand out."

i love this idea for marking time.  i've loved it since i read the placemat post in 2009.  but i haven't done anything about it yet.  the minor holidays--heck, even the major ones--keep sneaking up on me.  i realize at about 11:15 the night before that i don't have pancake mix to make valentine-shaped pancakes for valentine's day or chocolate gold coins for dessert on international talk like a pirate day.

clearly, i wanted to do this way before there was a kiddo in our house.  now, i want to do it even more.  i just have to figure out simple ways that don't necessarily involve a trip to the store.

i'm curious:  do you celebrate minor holidays?


one hundred and seven puzzles

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

in the voice of a new character, john

i have one hundred and seven.
one hundred and seven that are complete.
i hang them on the walls of my shed out back.
but i might move them here to the house if i can convince janet.
i probably can't convince janet.
that's okay.
they look good in the shed.
they're all the same size, so they fit together real good on the walls.
i only do 5,000 piece puzzles.
40 by 60, not 42 by 62.
i like them all to be the same size.
i do one every month, you know.
mostly i work on them at night, after supper and before i watch the eleven o'clock news.
i have to stop at 10:47 because it takes me thirteen minutes to brush and floss my teeth before the news comes on.
i like to watch the news in bed, and i don't want to have to get up out of bed to do my teeth after the news is over.
sometimes it's hard to stop when i'm in a pivotal place in the puzzle, but i do.
i always stop at 10:47.
or earlier.
this one is from february, but i don't remember what year.
i know it's from february though because i was cold when i worked it.
that part there in the trees was really hard, and i remember i was wearing my orange gloves when i was trying to get it done.
it's hard to work a puzzle with gloves on.
but i needed to have them on anyway because it was really cold in the house because i forgot to pay the heat bill for a few months in a row and they cut the heat off.
i was kind of a mess then because janet had left me.
she left in november, and i didn't pay the bill for november, december, january, or february.
february is when they finally cut it off, when i was working this puzzle.
eventually, i paid it all and they cut the heat back on and janet came back in april when i was doing this puzzle over here with the tower of london on it.
that was a long time ago.
i'm running out of room out here in the shed.
maybe i'll try asking janet again about hanging my puzzles in the house.


i love

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

installment eight || first ladies at the smithsonian

first ladies at the smithsonian, i love you

because you are an extraordinary example of conservation science, something of which i've only recently become aware.

because you mark time for us in a way we're used to in this country, by presidential administration, but you do it from a different perspective.

because you make me think that maybe grace coolidge was fun with her flapper dress and that it must have been very strange for jane findlay to come to washington to act as first lady, even though she wasn't married to william henry harrison.

because no one who does important things in the world does them without support, and the people in the support role deserve some recognition, too.

because you are fun.

because the last time i went to see you, you had welcomed a black woman into your ranks.

because someday when i take my daughter to see you, you will no longer be called the first ladies at the smithsonian, since a first gentleman will have joined you.


a place called farm

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

a man is laying down on the wooden porch at the side of the house.
he is listening to the rain on the tin roof while his daughter sits cross-legged beside him
playing with a leaf.
the peas need the rain
and the man, the girl, the birds, the bugs,
they are all silent in their relief.
the tractor sits under the shed on the side of the barn
still warm
an old t-shirt tied over the crumbly cushion in the driver's seat.

the man laughs at his daughter's joke,
and his gaze wanders from her face to the old tractor
and for a moment he sees his own father standing there
in his yellow and blue plaid flannel shirt
with his head under the tractor hood
tinkering and swearing
trying to get it to start.

he sees his father stop suddenly
and look out over the field
the one where the corn is now
and his father sees his own father walking the rows
in his gray work pants, saggy at the butt,
inspecting the tassels and opening an ear here and there.

he sees his father stop suddenly
and look down the row
to the field across the dirt path
and his father sees his own father bent over
in his coveralls sweaty and sticky
pulling the tobacco leaves and stacking them up.

he sees his father stop suddenly
and look up at the house
to the porch with the rocking chair
and his father sees his own father sitting there
in his leather boots and shirt buttoned to the neck
watching the rain come down in silent relief.

and just for a moment
the man sitting on the porch
reaches out to the man laying on the porch
and they each know the other is there.
the sitting man's great-great-great-granddaughter smiles.
she can see that in this moment her father is content.


what are your befores and afters?

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

lately, i am thinking about the eras in our lives, the ways we measure our "befores" and our "afters."

global standards dictate that the timeline of human history is measured in b.c. and a.d.--or sometimes b.c.e. and c.e.  but i'm more interested in how each of personally marks time.

my memories tend to get automatically passed through the "before daddy died" and  "after daddy died" filter.  i reckon that could sound morbid, but i'm guessing i'm not the only one who has discovered that one of those "before-and-after-death-of-loved-one" filters got installed in my brain without my realizing it.  

i also have the "before baby was born" and "after baby was born" measure, "when i was in chicago" marker, a "when i could still eat gluten" and "gluten-free era" label, and a "when i was in the green/blue/yellow bedroom" filter from the musical bedrooms me and my siblings played growing up.

when i'm writing or performing a character, i often try to identify a moment in which things change for that character.  now i'm curious to think about characters in terms of their "befores" and "afters," the filters through which they catalogue their lives, the ways in which they mark time.

so, you can help me write stronger characters.  let me know:  what are the "befores" and "afters" that mark time in your life?


two years ago today

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

two years ago today
she got dressed in a barn that smelled like gasoline and fertilizer.
she pulled off her daddy's flannel shirt and pulled on her mother's wedding gown,
made new again.
she smiled without ceasing
and knew she was lucky
to have these people with her
at this place that is part of her chemistry her biology her physics.

two years ago today
she knew enough to know that she didn't know what the years would bring.
she knew enough to know that she couldn't predict
that she would take a new job in a few months
that he would grow an astonishing moustache
that they would argue over this thing or agree over that thing
that they would have a baby
who stretches their hearts in every direction.

and today
she knows enough to know that she still doesn't know what the years will bring.
she knows enough to know that she can't predict
how much money they will have
who will be healthy and for how long
when it will be easy or when it will be hard
what they will create
as a family or as individuals.

but today
just like two years ago today
she knows enough to know that she wants to do all of this with this same person by her side
and these people (and more like them) in their circle
willing and ready to affirm the joyful times and the shitty times for each other
down by the pond
in a mid-summer butterbean rain.


a wobble-versary--OR--why i like marking the passage of time

in celebration of july 31, the anniversary of the day my husband and i got married, this week’s blog posts will be about the ways we mark the passage of time.

it seems that 2012 is a big deal for earth. apparently, the earth wobbles when it turns. it wobbles really very slowly, so one complete wobble takes somewhere around 26,000 years. it seems that 2012 marks the completion of one cycle of an earth wobble, which means we're now back in the same place wobble-wise we were 26,000 years ago, but slightly moved over. if i understand it correctly, this means we’re in essentially the same orientation, but things look a little different now. the stars are not quite in the same places they were 26,000 years ago.

three things about this wobble idea remind me why i like marking time:

one || time is so much bigger than me. 

we’re talking about the earth over 26,000 years. i can’t really grasp the huge-ness of that, given that i can’t even really get a handle on the huge-ness of 50 years of marriage, or 20 years without my father, or 80 years of a life. it’s good for me to be reminded that time is so much bigger than me.

two || even very small changes over a long period of time can result in big shifts. 

there’s a bunch of conversation about what the wobble-versary and the shifting stars mean astrologically and for our north star and for our civilization. anniversaries do this for us, too. they remind us that even very small changes over a long period of time can result in big shifts.

three || it's good to re-evaluate and celebrate where we were, where we are now, and all the stuff that happened in between.

and, of course the wobble-versary makes us want to know what was happening 26,000 years ago, when this wobble first began. it was about the time that the neanderthals met with extinction and people started making tools like harpoons, needles, and saws for the first time. anniversaries make the opportunity for us to re-evaluate and celebrate where we were, where we are now, and all the stuff that happened in between.

i’m curious: how do you feel about anniversaries (or wobble-versaries)?


what s/he wrote

my fellow theatre-maker and creativity coach tamara kissane posted this last week, titled how to fall like a cat. i'm a sucker for how-to posts, and i'm hoping to write a few myself sometime soon, so i was excited to read this one from the start.

both the post title and the idea of watching an animal for clues about ways to be in the world are very cool. but the part i've been thinking about over and over is tip #3 about what to do mid-fall:

Tip 3: Orient yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the HOLY SH!T of falling and remain overwhelmed by it until you’ve hit the ground. However, if possible, and as soon as possible, orient yourself. Which way is up? Which way is down? What’s the landscape and where are you headed? What can you do? What resources are available to soften your landing? Understand what is happening in the moment. Orient yourself so you can land feet first. 

my first thought after reading this was: how do you know where the ground is? but now i'm thinking: how do you know what the ground is? is the ground the loss of the job, the bad review, the betrayal? is it the first time you can't pay the bill, the second weekend when the audience is only a quarter full, the packing of your stuff? or is it the first day of the new job, the moment you start to make a new show, the night you get dressed for a new first date?

how can you hope to feel oriented if you don't know where or what the ground--the bottom--is?

maybe, just maybe, hitting the ground is the good part of a fall. maybe it's the part where you finally feel oriented, the part where you know what's the real hard stuff and what you're just imagining to be bad and scary, the part where you feel the dirt between your toes and go from there.

maybe when falling, i should try very hard to remember that hitting the ground and being grounded often aren't very far apart at all.

i'm super curious: when have you been most grounded in your life?


lemme tell you

in the voice of a character, patty

oh yeah have the brownie it's awesome.
and do you know where you're going for dinner?
lemme tell you:  there is a restaurant
down by highway twelve
that will
socks off.
i had to be rolled outta that one, lemme tell you.
but you know what?
you don't wanna go there tonight.
they don't have tvs there and you won't be able to watch the gymnastics.
don't tell me but i bet you probably love the gymnastics, right?
you look like you would watch the gymnastics and you know i do too.
i watch them girls flippin' around on the mat and on that balanced beam and on the vault and all.
it scares the life outta me when they go on the balanced beam but it's like i can't stop watching.
so don't go down by highway twelve tonight;
go to john's instead.
john's always has the tvs on and you can see 'em from all directions.
and when those little ones are on the balanced beam, you hold your breath.
that's what i do.
i just hold my breath and lemme tell you i hope they don't land on their privates if they fall.
okay, you all take care now.
very good talking to you.
you're nice people.


i love

installment seven || durham whole foods

durham whole foods, i love you

because every time i visit, i run into friends, and that kind of makes grocery shopping feel like a social outing instead of a chore.

because your fish counter never smells fishy.

because you have so many gluten-free products that my non-gluten-free husband actually likes to eat, too.

because your baggers offer to take my bags to my car when i have a lot of groceries and a fusspot baby to balance.

because you hire local musicians to play your porch in the summer.

because of quinoa pasta, cranberry-peach juice, chlorine-free baby wipes, charley's soap, almond milk, and nitrate-free cold cuts.

because you have machines that let me grind my own coffee and peanut butter, and that feels fun.

because if i look vaguely confused in your aisles, someone asks me if i need help within 90 seconds every dang time.

because the guys at your butcher counter are awesome (and they hold the keys to the applewood smoked bacon kingdom).


a place called corner store

the bells have jangled twenty-two times today.
it's 10:21 in the morning.
the green 7-up clock above the cigarette display case is about 7 minutes fast.
it reads 10:28.
there's a little patch of sun coming through the front window,
peeking in between the flyers and the advertisements and the lotto ticket station,
warming up the place on the counter where the mini peppermint patties used to sit.
the girl who works the afternoon shift moved them yesterday because they were getting too melty.
the man behind the counter now is thumbing through a book,
folding down pages when he sees something he wants to come back to.
it's a book about organic gardening,
which makes the man who just walked in to grab a pack of tums curious about this man behind the counter.
he doesn't ask any of the questions that run through his head.
he just pays, glances at the book again, and leaves.
the man behind the counter caught the look and took it as a judgment against him,
even though it wasn't.
he misinterpreted.
but then the tums man is gone, and the moment is over, and the man behind the counter forgets.
there is a woman standing over the chest freezer with the ice cream treats.
she has been there for at least 9 minutes.
she's deciding.
it's taking her a really long time to decide.
she opens and shuts the freezer twice without getting anything out of it.
then she pivots abruptly, grabs a pack of honey-roasted peanuts off the endcap, and plunks it down by the register.
the long-delayed decisiveness surprises the man behind the counter,
and he laughs.
she doesn't notice his laughter because she gets distracted by the thought of the bill she forgot to pay, so she stays silent when he laughs and she pays and leaves.
the man behind the counter caught her silence and took it as a judgment against him,
even though it wasn't.
he misinterpreted.
but then the peanut woman is gone, and the moment is over, and the man behind the counter forgets.
the door jangles again, and a lady pokes her head in.
she tries to talk to him while still standing outside so that her words flow in at him while the smoke from her cigarette flows out toward the street.
he hates cigarette smoke, but he likes her eyes and her round shoulders.
as she has done every day for the last 21 days he has worked,
she smiles a huge grin at him and starts their conversation with, "hey darlin'."
she's trying to find out whether he has any virginia slims 120s yet.
the man from behind the counter isn't from around here and thinks "hey darlin'" means she's attracted to him,
even though she's not.
he misinterpreted.
but then the virginia slims lady is gone, and the moment is over, and the man behind the counter forgets.
the 7-up clock is ticking loudly, and he can smell the grape blow pops.
they are giving him a headache.


how do you do your best?

there is so much you can read about how to have a better work life, home life, relationship life, financial life.  so much.  you can get tips for simplifying, asking for a raise, getting rid of your junk, helping your baby sleep, and on and on.

i love reading books and blog posts and magazine articles about this kind of stuff.  they're all about how to be a better me for myself and for the people i love.  after all, even helping-your-baby-sleep-advice is more about the parent than the child.

here's what we have to remember though:  even if we get everything just right, even if we're more grateful, less materialistic, more confident, less confrontational, more outgoing, less busy, even if we're the best self we can be in any given moment:  we still can't control what other people do in response.

and that's okay.  it doesn't mean we should stop trying.

i think it just means that the goal of all this effort can't be to have a perfect life in which everything turns out just as we envision with a perfectly balanced calendar, a big fat paycheck, a fabulously organized hall closet, and a baby who sleeps through night from day 6.  because we'll always be disappointed if a perfect life is the goal.  it ain't happenin'.

for me, it's more about a mantra we've had in our house for the past five months:  everybody do their best.

i'm curious:  what are you working on these days to "do your best?"