Monday, December 31, 2012

Burning 2012 (New Year's Eve Inspiration)


"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." - Neil Gaiman 


Burning the Old Year
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn't,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn't do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Starting with the Kitchen

We are a few coats of paint, a back door, some trim details, and 2 glass cabinets away from my kitchen being totally done.

Here's a preview of the transformation, even with all those details forthcoming:

I am not kidding when I say that this renovation has changed my entire house.

Every time I go downstairs I am caught off-guard by the space; I jump back a little, surprised that this stunning kitchen is in my house. I made this decision, I thought about this for a year (hey, a girl can be indecisive if she wants), and ultimately I paid for every last bit of it, down to the drawer pulls. So whenever I enter the space, I am aware of how much of my energy is in it. It's the most "me" space in this old house.

Tonight I cooked my inaugural supper: my favorite quinoa salad and some roasted root veggies (turnips, golden beets, stripped beets, parsnips).

You probably are looking at that photo impressed by those fantastic crinkles on the golden and stripped beets. I was lucky enough to inherit a small crinkle-cutter tool from my mother, that she inherited from her mother. To my mom's great dismay, I constantly make jokes about the things I'd like to inherit - the beautiful artwork my Grandpa made, the sideboard from my mom's childhood home, the small bits & pieces of so many loved relations. (Okay, so I admit it's a touch morbid and also materialistic, but these objects hold important memories in addition to being pretty. And I can't not state my wishes or else my big brother will swoop in and claim my rightful inheritance.) Well, all that joking aside, having in my possession one of the most random kitchen tools out there, that was once used by my Grandma Bernice to crinkle-cut her vegetables, fills me with overwhelming amounts of joy. I love thinking about the quirky women of my family using this quirky little tool.

And now for rather big kitchen decisions: do I put my spices in a drawer - like I saw the fabulous chef in Mississippi, aka Joseph's mom, do - or do I put them on a rack? Either way I have over flow I will need to deal with. Decisions, decisions. 

As I instructed myself,  I will be making new maps, starting with the places and things I love. The kitchen is the perfect space to begin my mapping: it has so much good intention in it, so much room for growth and creativity.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

mapping a life

Let's jump right in, ok?

There was this moment right when I got back from my trip and was walking through the airport to catch public transportation home, when I caught my reflection in the darkened window. Walking beside me was my mother. The facial expression, the way the hair fell in my face, the tilt of my shoulders: it was all her. I hurried on, avoiding eye contact with the eerie and unsettling doppleganger walking beside me.

Perhaps the last few days here, in the place I've chosen as my adult "home," have been such a struggle because I have been haunted by that moment.

Whenever I go to my childhood home for a few days, it feels like exiting one life to enter another, rather than a seamless movement between spaces, a consistent life. I feel different there - more exhausted, more withdrawn, more critical. It's especially bad, I'm realizing, to go home when my heart is hurting.

I don't feel myself when I'm in my childhood home, and my parents and I don't have a relationship where we confide in each other our hopes or joys, let alone our heartbreak. When my heart is aching, I just want to feel whatever I am feeling openly and connect with the people who know me best. So to be in the space where I feel least like myself, is like an affront to the self that is barely keeping it together.

And then to be back here, with this shadow reminder - this literal reflection in the glass - of how much we are parts of our past, even when we've built a whole life to be distinct and move confidently into the future we dream of, well it's a lot to carry. Things start to fray a bit...

I want to enter 2013 with a refocus on my intentions for my life and work, which at the core is about the ways my life can be giving and be connected to community. Which, I know, is a rather funny sentiment to be expressing in a completely self-indulgent blog. Let's just say, baby steps

I thought of this today, while I was driving to meet a friend and her boyfriend. I was feeling dull - this new word I have been overusing that I think represents my greatest fear for my life and myself: that I will do nothing and live a rather forgetable life. A radio program was on, and as I heard the voice start to talk about mapping, I started to shift my focus from my fear of dullness to the conversation coming out of my car speakers. The host was saying something along the lines of: Map making means ignoring everything in the world but the one thing being mapped. 

He went on to say we make maps to make sense of the chaos in our world.

I suddenly realized, the map I have been making for myself has gotten me off-course. It's been adding chaos instead of clearly away clutter.

It's like I have been frantically trying to make sense of everything such that I have way too many keys on my map for it to tell me anything. I've been mapping the ways I'm broken, the ways I am alone, the reasons I will always be alone, the ways I am stressed, the ways I don't have enough time, the ways my family is screwed really, the map I have been drawing for myself for some time is a map of all my failures and fears. And when this is what I am referencing all the time, it's no wonder I feel I have lost my way.

I am mapping the worst, so I am ignoring everything else in the world. For me then, it's true: map making means ignoring everything in the world but the one thing being mapped. 

Perhaps the bigger fear, the fear at the core of feeling dull, is that I will get so trapped inside the worst-case-scenario-map of my life, that I won't do anything. I won't move out of my fears and my criticisms of the world, I will be so scared of the world being disappointing, that it will be. It's easy to  lose sight of the good when your map is focusing on the potholes, the cracks in the sidewalk, and the dark corners.

It's time to draw a new map.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Thankfully, unlike other home-for-the-holidays, this visit was not the usual. I spent most of my break  just snoozing in various sunny spots around my childhood home, petting my parent's very cute pup, but mostly existing in a state of tuned-out/turned-off. And when I did leave the house, I avoided all questions from family friends regarding my love life. I certainly did chuckle to myself a few times as I reflected on my recent discovery.

I'm back home to my little blue house and an almost completely renovated kitchen. It's so beautiful and I cannot wait to cook something with quinoa in it very soon. (Or maybe an old favorite.) I imagine a lot of my happy moments will occur in this gorgeous space that so many individuals have helped me create. I bought this century home with the deep hope that I could be an owner who made it better. Try as I might, I can't put into words how it feels to be achieving this dream of mine. It's sunshine on my face. It's hearing the laughter of my beloved nephew. It's the first lilac bloom of the spring.

A week from tomorrow I start the last year of my twenties, and so I imagine the next few entries of this here blog might be a touch over-analytical. I am a bit of a goal-setter, a balancer of the small and big picture aspects of my life, and especially at the start of a new year I get really into looking backward and then looking forward.

Intention-setting starts soon.

First, though, a poem.

Year's End
by Ted Kooser

Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
flocking away. Someone we loved
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little, glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather on the wind.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hello: Little Joys

Putting your needs and intentions out into the universe can be a powerful thing.

I arrived home today to find two treasures in my mailbox.

The invitation to be a special part of a very special friend's big day:

A letter from a dear friend rambling about what makes the world go round:

Oh, and did I mention, some freshly baked cookies awaited me at my desk this afternoon:

I also have a working kitchen sink! And a beautiful space developing before my eyes:

And two friends asked me how my roots and branches are.

Taking root. Stretching.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Three simple words

This week I've been nurturing a lot of people through life disasters and milestones...I've been keeping it all together so I can keep other people from falling apart...I've been worried about my family but listening to other people express angst over theirs...I've let a friend cry for five straight hours about her failing marriage without once mentioning my heart was aching a bit too...I have nodded along as coworkers gripped about bosses, deadlines, projects that couldn't be completed in time, but haven't told them I am dead-tired and overwhelmed from the stress of taking on the responsibilities of a coworker who recently left, that I too have something to moan about.

I've just been listening - listening to traumas big and small. Listening and advising and reflecting alongside, and being the rock and being the dependable one, and all the while needing a rock so bad.

While I love being reliable for my community, the need for someone to lean on is so great in me right now that I don't know if I can listen to one more life story without someone asking me as well, How are you? 

Three simple words.

I need someone to want to know how I'm doing.

I'm overflowing with conflicting emotions...and hurt large and hurt small...and hopes and wishes...and the experience of missing and the desire for closeness...and never ending ellipses...

I need someone to hear my contradictions and let the space between us fill with how I'm doing.

I don't normally ask.

But last night my evening meditation told me: Know you have roots. Know you have branches. And I just needed tangible evidence that someone out there cares about how I am growing in this world. A moment of certainty where someone wonders out-loud: How are your roots? How are your branches? How are you?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Poetry

Great Things Have Happened
by Alden Nowlan

We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, "Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time." But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn't mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once had been
the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince
(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I'm sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me,
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.

"Is that all?" I hear somebody ask.

Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently
than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you've never visited
before, when the bread doesn't taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The World of What If

Yesterday morning, I sat in my cold car, on a street that's not my own, and watched the ice on the windshield crack and melt from the heat of my warming engine. In this strange, wonderful way it was beautiful: the warm air hitting the cold glass made formations that were like algae or fungus, blooms growing and shrinking before my tired eyes.

Just beyond the algae blooms, I watched this beautiful person, whom I've known only a short while, walk away. She stumbled over chunks of ice, her small dog skittering around her. It seemed unlikely I would see her again - or at least not anytime soon. Unlikely that this idea of "us" would go any further than this moment - which happened to consist of me shivering in my car and she shivering a few yards away on the sidewalk. It seemed terrible that we were both shivering alone. I suddenly wished I'd looked at her for one moment longer than I had. I wanted to jump out of my cold car and hold her, so at the very least we could be shivering side-by-side.

Even if you sense something is ending, there is a moment of panic in the moment you realize it's crumbling: have I gotten my bearings? Have I taken in this last moment? Can't I just look into your eyes one more time before you walk out of my life? Maybe it's the cartographer in me: the part of me that needs a map to look back on, a map to see where I got off course, but also where the views were noble.

So there I was in my car, about to drive off, looking at my own little tragedy, unaware that across the country small, innocent lives were coming to an abrupt, violent end.

Life feels very sadly poetic in this way.

I've held off on putting to paper my feelings about this new person in my life, not because I was doubting what was so unexpectedly occurring, but because I was just simply enjoying it for once and wanted to do nothing but enjoy it. Oh, to just share time with someone witty and smart! Time feels so limitless and yet so full when the company is good. Holding hands and drinking tea, sending flirty, careful texts, making snowpeople together in the fast-falling flakes, laughing wildly in bed, whispering our hopes, and talking about who we were and who we could be, as individuals mostly, but also, possibly, together.

Today I've spent a lot of time not wanting to be out in the world. I haven't wanted to face a world that can be so cruel on such large scales and also so heartbreaking to individual lives.

I've been living in the world of what if. What if past relationships didn't bruise and challenge and destroy us a little? What if we felt free and open to letting love in, despite...? What if family baggage didn't haunt us and past failures didn't follow us? What if the timing was always right? What if everything could just work out for once? Does the world actually operate like that? What if it did?

I've been wondering, also, what it means to be ready. She and I chatted this morning and she said I'm sorry I came to your door bearing gifts and a big maybe. I should have left the gifts at home and met you on the sidewalk.

Is that the simple truth of the matter? Timing and what we bring are everything? I am wondering if things that don't work out are simply a matter of one or both of the individuals not being ready.

All I know is, today I awoke in a soul-crushingly sad world because of the tragedies beyond my own life. And I felt that today would have been a really nice day to have had someone beautiful, and warm, and real, and lovely to curl up next to and say Honey, the world can be a terrible place, I'm grateful for this simple moment together.

But since, for now at least, that reality isn't available to me, I spent the day remembering and enjoying my own company. I cried alone about the tragic events on the east coast, but I also laughed alone at small acknowledgments of kindness and beauty that too exist. I walked through my house and took note of all the pieces of a life that come together to create a deeply nourishing existence. I've done this single thing well for a long time, and just because I got a brief taste of what is possible, it doesn't mean I can't enjoy what I already had.

And I suppose, the nice part about not getting too used to what things are becoming, is that then it is easier to go back to the way things were.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kitchen Renovation: Moving Along

Those dusty, dirty, century-old floors have new life. I couldn't believe my eyes this morning:

Unfortunately, as you can see in the last photo, there is a little water damage area that I am not pleased with (character? charm?) and even if I could live with it, my designer/friend says she cannot and she plans to call my contractor tomorrow and yell at him for leaving it like this and not finding a good solution. Gulp. Today has been a day of yelling/talking sternly at various people involved with doing the work on my kitchen, and I'm not all that fond of days like this. It's sad to learn that sometimes being harsh is what has to happen to get things done. People will walk all over you if you don't stand up for yourself. Isn't that sad?

So here's another cool photo of the new ceiling (pre-paint). I cannot wait for the awesome vintage-inspired lights to go in! Stay tuned.

And finally some photos that simply show the sheetrock up, the taping and some primer done. Once this happened I really got a sense of the feeling/layout of the space. 

Cabinets arrived today -my downstairs is full of 24 boxes, therefore my downstairs does not currently have room to move around in. Once those start going in tomorrow, it's really going to start to feel like a kitchen again.

My goal is to cook a meal in it by my 29th birthday, which gives me approximately four weeks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pop Song Truthiness

The weekly* question comes via Robyn's brilliant Call Your Girlfriend. Go ahead, Watch it.

So, I'm wondering, is it true: Is the only way a person's heart will mend, is by learning to love again?

This week I am asking myself: do we heal on our own, through our own, solitary process or through the possibility of connections with other people, the headfirst plunge into "here we go again"?


(*which seems to imply there have been other questions of the week. let's just say I'm trying something new, inspired.)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

sunday evening poetry

A rediscovered Billy Collins poem. Every great weekend should end with a beautiful poem, right?

This Much I do Remember 

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of you shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kitchen Renovation: Week Three

Former back door: GONE!

Kitchen Vent: IN!

Overhead lighting/mechanical: DONE! (Pretty fixture comes at end)

Oh, bit by bit it's happening. And it's so fun to watch the new space slowly come together.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hello: Gratitude

Yesterday at work, as co-chair of the Culture Club, I hosted a table where colleagues could write cards of gratitude for each other.

It was amazing watching "grown-ups" come rushing up to the table with shouts of "GLITTER!" and then to watch them hyper-focus on their craft project, their grateful sentiments to each other.

A colleague of mine raised an eyebrow when I suggested we host a craft station, making the joyful response of the majority of my coworkers all the more satisfying. As a friend was saying to me, we think that "grown-ups" won't "participate" in cardmaking; we think that "gratitude" is a corny thing we talk about in grade school and Oprah magazine; but if nobody gives us an opportunity to do these things and express these feelings, of course we won't participate. I was happy to be part of providing an outlet for some real sincerity at work.

At the end of the day, my friend Paul and I were walking by the area where the craft table had been stationed. Pink glitter was all over the floor. Paul turns and says to me, "Glitter is your legacy."

Grateful for the small things.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kitchen Renovation: Week One

Day 2, Old window OUT

Day 3, New windows IN

Day 1: Pantry Demo

Day 3: Pantry reframed
Living through a kitchen renovation is some fascinating stuff. I LOVE seeing the guts of my house, the old, dirty original wood floors, the newspapers from 1938 that surfaced when things were ripped away. I also am fascinated by how the contractors work, and how much they are able to get done in such a short period of time.

My bedroom is right above the kitchen, so every night when I go to sleep I think about the bare, exposed room waiting below me. It's like my awareness of the space is more fine-tuned now that something's happening there.

It's only been a week, but washing dishes in the bathroom and cooking my meals at friends houses hasn't been that bad. More than anything I am eager to watch the pieces come together, and see my old house get a little TLC.

Monday, November 12, 2012

1,000 Words: Little Hand-prints

Nicole sent me this photo of the back of her couch, littered with evidence of my favorite baby. He's discovered the hand-print:

I see the writing on the wall. Evolution is alive and well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


This week really took it out of me, in areas both interesting and quite mundane.

First, what about that election, eh?

I stayed up way too late to watch local results of some important races, and I have suffered for the remainder of the week because of this decision...but probably I'm also exhausted because my pure elation from these hateful amendments NOT passing just took it out of me. It feels so good to be a part of the winning team, and for that win to be about basic, core human rights. YES.

So in no particular order here are some things making me happy these days:

-You know, this guy.

-The recent discovery of a fantastic cooking/lifestyle blog called Joy the Baker. I love this lady! How did I not know about her for my entire life?!

-And although I am kinda sad I won't get to make those amazing looking pumpkin bars from Joy's site anytime soon, I am SO excited that tomorrow my kitchen renovation starts!! I feel like a ridiculously lucky human that my dream kitchen is about to become a reality.

-Not one but two friends have asked if they can set me up with a friend of theirs. Nice for people to be thinking of me and possible connections of the romantic variety.

-I go to Mississippi in a few weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving with my dear friend Joseph. Dirty South Thanksgiving 2012!

-I purchased some new clothing this weekend, and three of the four pieces are bright red and two of the four pieces have stripes. I know what I like.

-I rearranged my bedroom, and the subtle changes make it feel like a whole new world. I am so cozy and my bedroom feels like a sanctuary.

-I've lost some weight such that I could fit into a tiny skirt that I've been unable to wear because I didn't feel confident in it until now. And my friend objectified me while I was wearing the skirt, so I think it was working for me.

-Also, I have gained muscles. 

-Soy nog is back in season and I am single-handedly making it worthwhile for the Co-op to keep that delicious holiday treat in stock!

Last bit of happiness? That even though this list is hilariously boring, I am going to post this anyway because it's my blog and I get to be as boring as I damn well please, and also: this.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

There are no words

I know it's strange to call a blog entry "there are no words," when clearly it's writing I am called to do right now, but I have been sitting staring at the computer screen for so long that truly it is starting to feel like there are no words. Or perhaps, they just feel so limiting.

A week ago I wrote about a coworker on the eve of her husband's too-soon death, and just now I learned that he "passed on peacefully" this afternoon.

Though "peacefully" is one of those words you use to lessen the initial, raw grief, because how peaceful is the death of a 41-year-old man who should never have been sick; who should never have died? Peaceful with the last breath, perhaps, but soul-crushingly sad and unfair for him and his loved ones. 

For the rest of us, the day was like any other. We "fell" back as autumn instructed us to wind our clocks back an hour. We cleaned the house, visited the gym, said hello to the neighbor, read a book, made a cup of was just any other day.

All weekend I have been trying to catch glimpses of what makes life worth living. I could pretend it was an unconscious exercise, but honestly it was a forced one. I have a friend going through a hard time right now - heartbreak to be specific - and I've found myself compelled to send him bits and pieces of the beautiful. So I'm always on the look-out for inspiration.

On Saturday I was taking a shortcut to get where I was going, and I found myself on a street I've never driven down in the ten years I've lived here. I noticed a red heart in a tree in the boulevard. Funny, I thought to myself. And then I noticed another in a tree nearby. Suddenly, I realized many of the trees lining this particular block were filled with red hearts. It was a quiet, nearly missed art exhibition or conversation between neighbors. Whatever it was, I felt blessed to have stumbled upon it.

I later saw two young kids and their Dad making what I can only imagine was the best, biggest leaf pile EVER. If it hadn't seemed super creepy, I probably would have pulled over my car to watch then jump in the pile - they seemed just on the verge - but again, that's a little weird. So I just drove on and smiled to myself as I thought about my own fall memories.

Later I texted my friend, in a way to remind him, but I also think to remind myself - that yes, the world can be ugly and heartbreaking, but if you don't venture out into it you will never remember how much good and beauty it also contains.

Tonight I am thinking of my coworker and how she might be seeing the world right now. It must seem so dark. I am sending her my version of prayers - wishes that this tragedy won't make life's many and unexpected beautiful moments seem less. I hope one day when she is ready, she finds the strength to venture out into the world again. There is so much good amongst the heartbreak.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: I live my life in widening circles, that reach out across the world, I may not complete this last one, but I give myself to it.

And what about you? What do you give yourself to in this one beautiful life you have to live?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hello: Living Without Tragedy

A strange couple of words have been echoing through my head this week: "Okay-dokey."

These are not words that I use myself, nor words that many people in my circle find themselves exclaiming.

But this week they are the words the husband of a coworker of mine uttered when he learned the cancer in his body has metastasized to his brain and that he should start hospice care. "Okay-dokey" he said to the doctor delivering the news. "Okay-dokey" he said to the certainty his days are numbered.

I've thought about him often this week - and the matter-o-fact way he is facing his mortality - and I've thought about his wife (my coworker) who is likely walking down a path in her marriage that she never thought to plan for. I also thought how this woman just lost her mom, also to a freak illness that came out of nowhere and wiped away her life in the blink of an eye.

Likely, she will have lost both her Mom and her husband before Thanksgiving, just a few weeks apart from each other. She will be forced to sit down to a feast and reflect on what she is grateful for, two noticeably empty chairs at the table, death hanging in the air.

The unfairness of it all just takes your breath away.

Her tragedy has me thinking about the ways personal tragedies inspire us or motivate us in ways that "normal" life often doesn't.

When someone passes away, their family and friends (usually) mourn their loss and speak to how important and wonderful the deceased person was. This is what a eulogy is - a moment to reflect, celebrate, honor, and love the life that is now gone.

And when someone dies too young or in a freak accident, you read in the paper how kind or generous they were, what a good friend and sibling they were, how they had so much potential.

When people are diagnosed with an incurable disease or have a near-death experience, you hear about "bucket lists," or the ways they will change for the better, the things they are now inspired to do. People who've gone through something like this are often more open to those in their life about how much they cherish and love them.

I don't think it should take tragedy for us to be honest with those in our lives, to express our deep love and gratitude for our relationships, and to be the person we want to be.

Thus I am spending some time thinking about living without tragedy, but still living the life we want and still being the best friend/sister/coworker/girlfriend/daughter/etc we can be.

Tonight I was driving to a friend's house for our Sunday night newish tradition of watching The Walking Dead, eating popcorn, and making fun of the bad writing and each other.

As I was driving, I got this overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Suddenly the day washed over me: sleeping in, an hour at the gym, raking up the blanket of leaves in my yard, going to the Co-op, watching an episode of Sherlock, baking some scones, making lunch for the week, and now heading to a friend's house. Honestly, pretty mundane. But as I drove the half mile to his home I was grateful for so much: living in a place where I have friends in my "hood" and can drive over on a Sunday night just to hang for an hour; having a yard to care for and beautiful leaves to rake into colorful piles; having a kitchen to make food in; having a great grocery store a mile away; having the time to do a lot of little nothing tasks that actually make me quite happy.

It reminded me of these moments I experienced while portaging in the Boundary Waters, when I would have the very heavy canoe on my shoulders and I would just start to think I couldn't go any further, when suddenly the canoe would almost feel weightless. It was always sudden and brief, but having just that tiny moment of relief made me push on a few more steps. It made me realize it was possible to have that moment of clarity and comfort during a very difficult time.

I was brought back to this moment tonight as I drove to my friend's and felt myself fill with gratitude, out of the blue. It was like the world had been pushing on me all week, and suddenly something opened up to remind me the little ways I have nothing weighing on me, the many ways I am blessed.

To live without tragedy and still be able to be grateful for the leaves you are raking, the scones you are burning in the oven, the coleslaw you are making up as you go, the day mostly spent alone until you find yourself laughing next to a friend...this is when I feel truly lucky. To live without tragedy and still be able to see the gift of my not-so-extraordinary life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Things To Do Besides Watch the "Debate"

  • Feel no regret that you no longer own a TV.
  • Chop up a bunch of crunchy vegetables to make this kickass salad.
  • Oh, and while you are not wasting your precious time listening to two grown men interrupt and belittle each other, you might also have time to make this delicious soup.
  • Visit Amazon to buy your favorite children's book for an upcoming baby shower.
  • Pause to feel grateful for the kids coming into the world; then feel nervous for a little bit for the world they are being born into; and finally feel hopeful for how we can make the world better. 
  • Spend just a few minutes counting your blessings: friends you love, places you've traveled, gardens you've built, the future you're actively creating.
  • Logically it would now be wise to waste some time looking at orange shoes.
  • End the night laughing about one of our more memorable past leaders. He sure said the darnedest things.
  • It's a lot more funny in hindsight than it is in real time, eh?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Do Nothing

Where has the summer gone? Where has October gone? Where has all my time gone? Where have my twenties gone? (Too dramatic.)

Yikes. It's been an annoyingly, stupidly busy few weeks and I can't say there is actually much worth noting within those weeks. I am moving forward on my first-ever home renovation and I am therefore having nightmares constantly, where essentially I second guess this decision in every way possible. Yet, I am still moving forward. I AM MAKING THIS HOUSE BETTER, DAMMIT.

There's also been a lot of gym time within these last few weeks, including a crazy circuit class at my Y that had me begging for mercy just during what they called "warm ups." Ha! Humbling.

I've also been saying YES to way too many things. The problem is, it's all things I want to say yes to. This is a new dilemma. Sometimes I worried that I was making myself busy just because of some sick ego thing or some fear of what being 'not busy' would do for my sense of self. Like, better be busy than alone and suddenly discovering I'm not just alone, but actually lonely. (That's the fear, right?) 

But suddenly my busy-ness and saying YES to all these things offered to me is because I genuinely want to do all these things. When that happens, it is so much harder to say NO. And why would I say NO? Perhaps because my balance, health, and well-being are also linked to not being so busy that I fall into bed exhausted at the end of each day, sighing as my body struggles to rest after a day that feels like it contained a weeks worth of 'stuff.'

So, I am going to try really hard to have at least one 'do nothing' day a week. I used to be a lot better about this, and reserved my Sundays for what I referred to as a "sabbath day" or a personal day of rest. Though not religious, I found the symbolism of a sabbath day too good to pass up. Some of these days were actually rather busy - brunch with friends, a walk around the neighborhood, cleaning the house, going to a meditation class, etc. Others, I literally just sat on my ass. But the point was to only do what I was sincerely moved to do: which sometimes meant a lot and sometimes meant nothing at all.

After looking back over my last two months, I think I have fallen out of this habit in a way that is not so good for my emotional, physical, or mental well-being. So I am going to have some damn DO NOTHING days and they are soon as I have time.

I guess that's the problem.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Poetry that Inspires: Marge Piercy

I read a lot of Marge Piercy in the fall. Even though September has come and gone, I find myself returning again and again to this poem by her.

I mean, why didn't I write these lines first:

"There is a turn in things
that makes the heart catch"

"In the perfect
moment the future coils,
a tree inside a pit."


And then there is her poem "To Have Without Holding" with a first line that made me grunt from my most basic, animal being because of it's deep, simple truth.  Autumn is the perfect season to curl up with a great book of poetry, and sigh or grunt aloud to the lines that resonate with our truest selves.

"To Have Without Holding"

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can't do it, you say it's killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
you float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor's button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Nostalgia


Or as I like to think of it: the sentimental season.

Wow, it sure has been an interesting few days around these parts. It doesn't take much to put my brain into complete nostalgic over-drive during autumn. This time of year I find myself thinking about a handful of topics in constant rotation: past relationships, growing older, and farming. 

Many of my relationships have started in the fall, so I tend to feel this strange mixture of hope - maybe I'll find someone great (and lasting) this fall - and utter, ultimate, jaded despair. Ha! How's that for honest? There are definitely relationship memories that are specific to this season - first kisses on hay bales, walks under a harvest moon with thermos' of steaming hot cider, the boy who introduced me to Neil Young, whiskey-inspired confessions in the pantry (yes pantry), and a million other mundane but important snapshots of past autumn loves.

I also think about the big life questions: who do I want to be? What do I mean when I say I want to be "useful" and "good" in the world? What is enough for me? What is success? Failure? How much is ego driving my desires? How much is fear holding me back? I spend a lot of time in the autumn sitting and thinking about how little I know. 

Farming is the strongest memory that visits me during the fall. Six years ago when I was farming, this was the point in time when I actually, finally felt like a farmer. I remember waking up while it was still pitch black outside and working up until the point it was dark again. I can almost feel the soreness of my muscles and the fatigue that you couldn't give in to because it was so close to being over - you were this close to the season's end. When I close my eyes, I see myself harvesting broccoli in an early season snow, wearing thick, leather gloves to protect my hands from the chill. I vividly recall pushing a cart full of carrots up a hill and marveling at how my arms were - for the first and only time in my life - stronger than my legs. I remember enjoying the harvest so much more during the fall than at any other point in the season- seeing the bounty as I visited the root cellar and thinking to myself "we created this." The crispness, vitality, and peace of that time is something that brings me great joy, but also haunts me a bit. The memories come flooding back to me and I'm not sure if I feel closer to it or further away. 

So, today, after discussing much of this with a dear, dear friend, I went out to my backyard and gathered the last bits of the season in the closest thing I've got to 'the farm.' I wanted to remember how I am trying - in my urban life after the farm - to not lose this part of myself:

It was a little pathetic, especially compared to the 20 pumpkins from last year and the hundreds on the farm, but I loved going around the yard and finding small treasures here and there. There are enough green tomatoes for a green tomato pie (don't knock it till ya try it), a handful of rainbow carrots, a few delicata squash, some last eggplant, a few onions, a couple of beets, and some awesome decorative gourds. Yes, I promptly arranged the gourds in a bowl in my house.

Then, I took the leaves from throughout my garden and stuffed them into one of the many house-warming gifts my Mom gave me when I bought old blue three years ago:

This reminds me so much of my childhood home, it tugs at my heart a little.

It's the sentimental season though, so it's only fitting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Early October Inspirations

Good beautiful questions, such as: Can art not only raise awareness of current ecological issues, but can it also propose solutions to those problems?

Falling down seven times, but getting up eight times.

Chris Kluwe.

Revisiting the past in an inventive, thoughtful way.

Laughing through the pain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reflections: On Being the Person We Want to Be (Part 2 of 2)

So a few weeks ago I started reflecting on those rare and beautiful moments we are exactly who we want to be. You can read that ramble here (if that sounds appealing on any level).

For two months I have been thinking about this question as I have had a number of experiences that seem to be so literally "making me." (For the record, I am putting quotation marks around my own quote. Awkward.) It's not exactly that I'm changing, but rather that I'm becoming more comfortable and sure of who I am. By seeing myself more clearly it feels like those around me are seeing me for the first time. I guess these are the positive impacts of what they call "self-confidence." No need to wax poetics, basically I'm just having experiences that are showing me what I value and what is worth pushing beyond my comfort-zone for.

One of these moments started out as a blog entry in late July called: "Hello: The Little Voice Within," but that post turned into me staring at a blank screen for quite some time feeling sheepish about devoting so much space to what felt like patting myself on the back, and then abandoning the entry altogether.

I'm over that now.

The "incident" (as I say with a playful smirk) has sunk in more, shifted, pulled me in new directions and I possibly have even more to reflect on here, two months from that little voice speaking up.

Essentially here's what went down: something at work was bothering me. Something big. Something about our mission, our leadership, our direction as an organization. Interestingly enough it was about my organization not speaking out against what I (and many) see as an injustice, and wondering what the meant about "who we are." (From here forth note that all quotations used here are questions I was or continue to ask myself, so think of it as my little voice within blurting out a statement.)

So, despite my discomfort, I spoke up in an all-staff (meaning: 200+) meeting and asked a question about why we, as an organization, weren't being leaders in the community and speaking out against hate.

I learned something valuable about myself: though I was the spotlight operator in middle school theater, I am not so keen on being in front of the spotlight myself...unless (and here's the kicker) I deem the importance of the thing that will thrust me into the spotlight as greater than my own comfort.

This was an instance where the importance of the issue felt more important than me. It felt bigger than me. So I swallowed my fear and asked the question. The moment itself was incredible. As I was talking, I felt the auditorium around me grow more quiet. I now understand the saying "you could hear a pin drop." Though my heart was pounding and I felt anything but sure of myself, friends would later tell me that my statement was calm, thoughtful, succinct, and very articulate. (To be fair, I had practiced this in the bathroom mirror a dozen times that morning.) And when I was done speaking, an amazing thing happened: a number of people applauded.

The answer given to my question was less than satisfactory, and the room felt it. And it was also the last question before time ran out and we were "dismissed" back to our desks. So the energy in the room was not positive, and every person there felt it. When the meeting adjourned, I was mobbed by colleagues - some I knew, some I didn't. They thanked me, exclaimed their own feelings, expressed outrage or hurt at the answers from leaders, patted me on the back, and overall cheered what I had done.

All day people were calling me to talk about the moment, emailing me their gratitude, and stopping me in the hallway to chat. I felt the support of my colleagues for doing the right thing even if it wasn't the easy thing.

Later that week, someone I've always been a bit intimidated by in the organization, told me I was a "leader," and that he knew it the minute he saw me "speak truth to power."

Those words, and many others, have been rattling in my brain since that moment I spoke up. And the moment in that meeting led to other conversations, meetings among colleagues, requests of senior leaders, action, and community gatherings. It has been a moment that stirred up some shit, but perhaps it's better to say: lit a fire for many people. And I almost can't believe that I was the one to strike the first match.

Am I surprised it happened? I think part of what I have been reflecting on is the fact that I put myself out there in a way that initially felt really surprising, but ultimately made me feel more like myself that I ever have.

Truth be told, I am still processing all of this, especially since it's still going on in many ways. Thus, it's hard to draw hard conclusions.

What I do know is that I like being called a leader. I like leading and being one of the "little people." My aspiration is not to be sitting at the top of the mountain looking down at my kingdom, but rather to be amongst the people and a part of the action and movement below. I like being the voice for something important, and I like using my voice.

In the split second after I finished my question and caught my breath, before the applause from colleagues started and I felt the affirmation of a community, a thought went through my head: this is me. This is the me I want to be.

It was like sudden sight after a lifetime of blindness: oh, so this is the mysterious "me." Hello, self. 

It wasn't easy. It might have burned bridges while simultaneously creating others. And the after-shocks of the action have been challenging as I've had to defend myself and my original statement. Work has been a little more exhausting than usual.

Another colleague told me she has watched as other original supporters/allies have backed down or crumbled under the bullying pressure of leadership. But that I have stood my ground in a way she herself couldn't. I have remained consistent in my message and my stance, despite being bullied and criticized myself. She said she was proud of me.

And you know what? I am proud of me too.

In the midst of all this, my eighth grade English teacher recently re-shared this piece she wrote a few years back. It's about the very influential and ground-breaking novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Mrs. Baker writes: "What To Kill a Mockingbird teaches us is that when a single individual cares enough to protest injustice, to fight against oppression, that the world does, in fact, undergo a change.   For when Atticus battles to save Tom Robinson, even though he loses the case, even though people do not start marching in the streets in protest, readers recognize that there have been small, yet significant changes in that town."

I read that and realized why this reflection was finding me at this particular moment in time. While I would encourage all of you to laugh uproariously if I dared compare myself to Atticus, I will say I absolutely agree that this action has made me aware of what a single person can do when they protest an injustice. I've seen the impact of my speaking up, and it gives me hope for what "speaking truth to power" can do in a community.

But, apparently, there was another reason Mrs. Baker's article reached me right here, right now: I'm a part of it, literally. When Mrs. Baker wrote this a few years ago, she reached out to me to ask how I had been impacted by the book. So caught up in my new-found voice, I'd almost forgotten the insights of past-me. Mrs. Baker writes:

"I heard from Sara, who read the book with me an eighth grader and is now in her 20s.  She wrote,
When Scout speaks, she speaks directly to her reader and invites us into her world.  Like her own journey to understand the world through walking in another’s shoes, Harper Lee steps us into Scout’s, takes us on her own journey of self-discovery and reminds us what it is to be human.
The last I heard, Sara was working as an organic farmer, living out her own ideals."

In the last few months I have been asking myself, reminding myself, what it means to be the person we strive to be; our ideal self. As I read my own words and the blessing from my beloved teacher, identifying me as someone who lives their ideals, I realized even if our life changes in ways that at times makes it feel unrecognizable, even if we fear what or who we've left behind, we will always find a way back to the path that represents the world and life we value. We always have the chance to be the person we want to be.

Since I spoke up at work, I have dusted off the little journal that holds my dreams and ideals, the nonprofit-business plan I started a number of years ago. And I have taken out my pen and started to work on it once again, buoyed by how much of my dream has remained the same, while also marveling at how much my knowledge and experience has grown and deepended as I've spoken up and, in doing so, found the world I want. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Robe Competition

I have a problem.

I found another robe I like.

also not an ugly robe

My symbolic gesture has turned into an actual devotion to robes.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

honoring a life

Tonight I lit a yahrzeit candle in memory of my Grandma Bernice, who died ten years ago tomorrow. It's Jewish tradition to light the candle at sundown the evening before the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death). I'm not the most devout Jew ever (to say the least), but I always have seen the symbolism of this tradition as being a reminder that even if a person is gone in body, their spirit lives on - there is a light still burning for the person. The light to me has represented the immortal spirit of our loved ones, but what do I know? And regardless of what it means, I've been comforted every anniversary date for the last ten years when I see the candle burning for my Grandma.

On this date, I always take some time to reflect on my Grandma Bernice and the amazing person she was. The first inarticulate brain activity was along the lines of: how has it been ten years?! When Grandma Bernice passed away I was 18 years old, three weeks into my freshman year of college, and in bed fighting a bad case of mono - which I had gotten, turns out, kissing a rather cute boy all summer long. So it really is "the kissing disease." I did not go to her memorial service - a decision I will forever regret - and because of that in many ways I've spent the last decade carrying the loss with me. Yet, I've found ways to let go for the most part and find peace. I've also almost forgiven myself for not being a part of her memorial, but it is one life decision I wish so badly I could redo. Since I can't, I will focus on what I can do...

Tonight also happens to be the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is about making amends for the past year and committing to improving your life in the coming year. Knowing I am remembering a decade without Grandma B, while also thinking of the year ahead, feels just about right.

What I've most often struggled with in the decade without her feels incredibly selfish: I'm sad I didn't get to know her when I was an adult, and that she didn't get to know me as I entered a transformative time of my life.

On the other hand, I think losing her as I entered my independent life changed me in ways that have made me who I am. So it's hard to think about who I would be if I didn't suffer this loss right as I was embarking on my life outside of the literal and figurative safety of my childhood home. It's one of those crazy moments of: did this make me who I am, or would I still have made the decisions I made if this significant life event hadn't happened then?

Regardless of the answer to that question -since there is no real way of knowing - I am seeing how she has been a part of my last ten years in so many big ways. Since she's been gone I've taken a leave of absence from school to live alone in California and work on a nature sanctuary; returned to college wiser and braver and willing to study the things I cared about instead of the things I felt pressured to care about; traveled to Japan, Paris, Hawaii, Vancouver, England, and loads of states; fallen in love for the first time; hitch-hiked on the Big Island of Hawaii wearing a rainbow-colored sundress; survived other losses and heartbreak; participated in back-breaking farming until I too believed in my strength; bought a house on my own at 25-years-of-age; quit a job when it was no longer life-affirming; written a story that was mentioned on public radio; spoken up for what I believe when it wasn't the easy thing to do; been kind and loving and curious as often as possible.

In so many of these adventures I see traces of Grandma Bernice. I see her determination and strength. I see her zest for life and her curiosity. I see her loyalty to living a life of adventure. I see her honesty with herself and those around her. Mostly though, I see her love for the world and the people in it. 

I see myself through her, and her through me.

So how do we honor a life? I think we honor it by living our life: living it well, living it with intention, and care. We live it, in the words of one of my favorite UU hymns, by saying "Yes" to life.

(here's that song)
Just as Long as I Have Breath

Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, “Yes,” to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, “Yes,” to life.

Just as long as vision lasts, I must answer, “Yes,” to truth;
in my dream and in my dark, always: that elusive spark.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, “Yes,” to truth.

Just as long as my heart beats, I must answer, “Yes,” to love;
disappointment pierced me through, still I kept on loving you.
If they ask what I did best, tell them I said, “Yes,” to love.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

why, hello there

Morning glories are wonderful, aren't they? Their discovery to me is always, always like reuniting with a good friend after a long hiatus and when you are in each others beloved presence again all you can think to say is "Why, hello there."

Why, hello there, good friend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Poem I Like

(and possibly have posted here before. deal with it.)

"The Seven of Pentacles"
by Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot always tell by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting, after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reflections: On Being the Person We Want to Be (Part 1 of 2)

This has been an action-packed few months, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Which of course makes me recall Brene Brown's fabulous TED talk. But that is a different tangent altogether.

I have been thinking about the moments where we are exactly where we need to be, and thus find ourselves in company with a version of ourself that we really like. In other words, I have been thinking about being the person we want to be.

I've had two rather profound experiences of late where I have experienced the me I most love. While these experiences have come and gone, I felt moved to reflect on them a bit more - see what else I could learn, what more is to be found in these places of self-love.

The more recent experience was an amazing few days spent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). This was my first trip to this highly-regarded Northern Minnesota treasure, and having never been made me feel like I wasn't really Minnesotan. Sure enough, afterwards I felt like I was finally a part of a sacred club.

that's Rebecca in the corner photographing a log that looks like it's growing out of the sky. trust me, this is true.

The first thing I thought when I entered the area - and the last thing I thought as I paddled out - was: "I get it now."

This beautiful wilderness area is closed to motorized boats. No planes fly overhead, no roadways cut through. Rebecca commented multiple times on how strange it was to not have a freeway with cars zooming by - and in fact one night she insisted she heard it, and I insisted it was some sort of insect (cicadas I think). This sort of silence makes way for the most profound heightening of the senses. Food tastes better off the campfire. The colors appear more vibrant to the naked eye. The sound of loons and wind and water are crisp.

And the feeling of it... it's hard to describe. Truly, the minute we hit the open water, I dropped into a quiet. I felt the stress just melt off me. I felt light. The openness of the landscape - the vast sky & water - they get in you. If you are willing to go there with me, I will tell you that this place, this beautiful, peaceful place, actually made my heart feel more open, appreciative, receptive.

This trip was after a few months of grappling with who I am - at work, at play, in relationship with myself and others. And this trip was the first time I had gone "into the wild" in a very long time. So I had forgotten how leaving your life behind can actually free you. I forgot what "wild time" (aka: not being ruled by the clock) can do to the psyche.

The pure surprise of it all made the impact all the greater. I didn't feel the need to rush. I didn't have to perform. I could observe what was all around me, and feel a great respect for it. I could feel tiny in the scope of things, and happy for it.

So I realized that to be the person I want to be, I must make room for quiet. I need to slow down. I need to look away from the clock, and just listen to the rhythm of something greater. I must allow myself some "do nothing" days. I must additionally allow myself time away - time to appreciate the parts of the world that are not part of my daily world. The urban girl in me recognizes the rural, wild girl in me. Both need room to breath. 

Very important to this trip was the company of Rebecca. I was deeply appreciative of the time I got to spend with my friend. It is a rare and special thing to be able to have an experience that feels so deeply personal and nourishing, and to be able to share it with another. There are very few people who can negotiate sharing an experience while also not disrupting the moments where solitude is needed. Rebecca was truly the most perfect person to have this adventure with, and I think we both found the balance - without even trying. We gave each other space when needed, and had plenty of closeness when that is what was speaking to us. I cherish our late night tent conversations, the day we paddled together in a very strong headwind, the giggles over some of our more special trip companions, and especially the many times we sat quietly on large rocks and looked out at the world together.

Our trip leader told us about two women from a previous trip who were celebrating 40 years of friendship. Rebecca and I realized this trip marked ten years of our friendship, and I hope we were both wondering what adventure we'd be embarking on thirty years from now.

I feel grateful to have had an adventure where I discovered a new place, remembered parts of myself that I cherish, and grew closer to a very dear friend all at the same time.

Part 2 Forthcoming...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Surviving a Family Vacation

Two survival tactics for a family vacation:

1) Get your own hotel room. This is worth the $400 for the weekend.

2) Bring along as many David Sedaris novels as fit in your bag, and sneak away to read a story or two when the tension is high. Take a moment to bask in how much more dysfunctional your family could be. 

Bonus survival tactic:

3) Remember that every vacation has beautiful moments that you are entitled to enjoy all by yourself. Remember also that every vacation has an ending. Know that when you have a home you love "coming home to," you are truly lucky. You can be lucky even if you also have a crazy family. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Getting by

Coming back to work after a wonderful week away (more on that later) is a dose of reality I'm not all that fond of. I spent most of yesterday nursing a massive headache and crying inwardly about being back in my cube, staring at a computer, sitting in an uncomfortable chair with coworker gossip rattling in my brain. I wanted the loons, the open water, the peaceful quiet of the North.

Today I woke up and knew I was in for another depressing day if I didn't take matters into my own hands.

So I put on a favorite dress.

And those acorn buttons that Mom helped me convert into earrings.

And my red shoes.

And I went out into the garden as the sun was just coming up and everything was still covered in a layer of dew, and I harvested all sorts of things to bring in for my gossiping - but lovely - coworkers. Eggplant, grapes, melon, cabbage, kale, chard, and flowers.

And I brought the bag of homegrown treats with me on the bus, where it sat by my feet as I read The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. The story I read was about a man who goes to Mars and then returns to Earth to realize how different it feels. Did he remember it incorrectly or did his new experience change it somehow, forever? I was struck by how the experience of leaving your life - even briefly - and returning to it is the same in this world as it is in a sci-fi story. In both cases we feel a little ungrounded when we return, the place we've just been quickly becoming distant memory despite our desperate grasping, and it's the little glimmers of happiness that are necessary for survival.