Because of a Shelf

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Luisa and I have to install a new ceiling in our kitchen because a shelf fell off the kitchen wall a few months ago.

What? Did I lose you?

Let me explain how this happened by providing the following timeline…

A String of Lights

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The air feels heavy right now. I am overwhelmed by the news, by the violence and bigotry that is making constant headlines. I have withdrawn to some degree which is not my usual response. I’ve turned my attention to cuddles with my youngest though it’s past her bedtime, to the clean lines of my freshly painted kitchen, to laughter with friends. And me being me, I have also played Candy Crush with an intensity that hints at my underlying need for control – matching and sorting and stacking – because I can’t do that as well with the woes of the world.

But the kids are back in school and the words have been filling up my head and I finally feel that ache to write that you hear writers speak about – that need to put words together like strings of light that will illuminate the world around me even if it’s simply the internal. So, I’m coming back to this slowly and awkwardly but I do most things awkwardly so it seems fitting.

I have so many writers in my life and each of them adds a dash of something something to my experience. They inspire me, encourage me, reassure me and challenge me. Sarah Gilbert and I sometimes have conversations about writing in the early morning hours before we have to get our kids ready for the day and, this morning, she sent me a message that said, “What are we not writing today?” It’s the perfect question, really.

What are we not writing today?

There are so many things that I am not writing but maybe I can sit down and write one thing and then another and then the soft glow of my own string of lights will lead me forward.

Yesterday, I bought a book. Not a memoir. Not a novel. Not a book about writing a memoir or a novel. I bought a children’s book published in 1972, Dooly and the Snortsnoot by Jack Kent. As a kid, I was captivated by the simple illustrations and the story of a giant who is small and only grows to his full potential through loyalty to his friends and bravery. I don’t know what happened to my copy. I’m sure it was packed up and given away as I got older but I often find myself wishing that I had it with me, a reminder of my childhood, a reminder to be fearless. This past weekend, we had dinner at a friend’s house and she pulled out her copy of Dooly. Somehow, long ago, we figured out we had this favorite book in common which must mean we were destined to be friends. She handed it to me and I flipped through the pages once again, lingering on my favorite illustration of the Snortsnoot sprinkling his victim with salt and pepper. There really is something special about books and the way they can tie us to the past and, in this case, to the polished and simplified version of my childhood. So, yesterday, I searched for a copy online as I do from time to time, expecting to see the usual prices of $100 to $250 and saw one for only $5.89 that was rated as being in good condition. Though I am too cynical for signs most of the time, I took it as one and bought it. I know that it may come to me tattered and worn and with pages that are marred but I am learning to live with imperfection.

So, what am I writing today?

I’m writing about finding joy in simplicity and about hope that costs only $9.28 with shipping.

Iowa: Fields of Opportunities

IMG_1525.PNGI drove to Kansas City a couple of weeks ago which meant that I had a lot of time to think as I drove through Iowa. People make a lot of jokes at the state’s expense but I actually love it. I lived in Grinnell for five years and have many fond memories and – thankfully – none of them involve detassling corn. Driving through farmland and seeing the deep green of the cornfields broken only by the occasional red barn or grey silo does my heart good.

But, every time I see the welcome sign that reads “The People of Iowa Welcome You” with the motto “Iowa: Fields of Opportunity” beneath it, I laugh. Out loud. It’s such an ambitious sentiment.

In those quiet highway hours, I began to think of other possible mottos and
now…I will make jokes at the state’s expense.

Here are some possibilities…

Iowa: Life is always greener on the other side. Really. It’s just all green here.

Iowa: All the windmills, none of those awful wooden shoes

Iowa: #pighoarders

Iowa: It’s going to take longer to get through here than you think.

Iowa: We love gays! We just keep them in Iowa City.

Iowa: If a meteor hits, the popcorn is on us!

Iowa: You ain’t seen nothing yet! There’s more nothing just around the bend!

Iowa: A Skunk River runs through it.

Iowa: We have big buttes and we cannot lie. Wait – that’s Montana. Never mind.

Tips for Family Mealtime from My Kids

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It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to a close already. Our conversations are drifting away from time at the pool, soccer games and appetizers and drinks on the patio to school clothes, lunch boxes and backpacks. We’ve had a busy summer and the kids have stayed up late and then slept in and dinner time has been pushed later in the evening. As we prepare to return to our regular routine of work and school, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the past few months so I sat down with the kids and asked them for their thoughts on family mealtime.

Miguel said, “We don’t always spend a lot of time together during the day so dinner is a time for us to be together.” Zeca agreed and added, “We also focus more because we’re not on our electronics. And I think it’s cool because not all families eat together.” The interview was going well but then I asked if there were things they didn’t like about family meals and Zeca said, “We don’t always talk about things everyone knows about, ” and Miguel said, “Yeah, sometimes the parents talk about stuff that we don’t know about and that’s exclusive.”

Nope, we’re still not perfect.