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Archive for May, 2013

One of my neighbors is a fireman. I don’t know if it is part of his profession or not, but I’m always amazed by what he sees. We’ll be standing in front of my house, talking, and he’ll reach down to palm a candy wrapper some rotten child has left on my lawn. We’ll stop our cars on the street to exchange news, and he’ll remind me to turn out the mirrors I turned in to squeeze out of the garage. He’ll ask about a tree branch on our property that looks like it is about to fall down, one I pass under every day but never seem to notice.

My neighbor has vision that is all about the external. I have no idea what his inner life is like, but I’m fairly sure he doesn’t spend much time imagining the life of Henry VIII or contemplating how an April snow shower might resemble falling apple blossoms, two ways I find myself spending time. (Although I could be wrong.)

As writers, we tend to spend a lot of our time in our heads, or obsessing over a single external detail. The trick is to find the balance between external and internal vision — between being present and noticing the world around us, and saving a quiet space in our heads for our work.

It’s a balance I still struggle with. How do you manage?

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The news has been so bleak this year — tragedy after tragedy. It can make you wish for a redo, a chance to go back to December 31st and live it all again with the foresight and strength to make everything better. But that only works in fiction. In real life, the gray cloud of angst and disaster seeps into your clothes, clings to you like dust, stays with you through the day, changing your mood, coloring the expressions you use.

Combine that with a laundry list of trite yet necessary end-of-year chores, plus deadlines, and it has the makings of emotional disaster.

So for today, I’m controlling what I can, even if it’s not what I’d like to be able to fix. I’m changing a simple expression “I have to” to “I get to” and changing my mood as well. It’s a simple thing, but it reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for in this life. I get to make a deadline, and get paid for doing work I love. I get to pick my kids up from school — a school that’s intact, with teachers who care for them – and take them to after-school activities. I get to walk the Slobbering Beast, who reminds me every day to find the joy in my steps.

What do you get to do today?

Don't forget to smell them.

Don’t forget to smell them.

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We’re about 6 weeks from the end of school right now, and the activities are crashing over us like big waves at the beach. There’s not a lot of time to catch a breath, and before I know it, this year will be gone. I have mixed feelings about this, but very little time for introspection, which is probably a good thing. But I’ve managed to snatch just a moment to share a few bright and shiny distractions with you. Check them out, and let me know what you think.

  •  Am I the only person who missed this when it was happening? The coolest astronaut since Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. (Aside from his taste in hockey teams, of course.)
  • This movie. Crazy good. Made me think again how important character development is.
  • The Glass Wives.  It’s Amy Sue Nathan’s debut book, and I cannot wait to read it. I’ve parked it next to my bed as an incentive to help me get through the next few weeks.

What’s on your must read or watch list?

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Awesome

We had a wedding this past weekend, the pictures of which I’ve plastered across Facebook because it is so rare for the four of us to be in the same place, dressed up, and clean. (We usually manage one out of three.) The bride was my oldest niece, who was five and my flower girl when I was her age. Like all milestones, this one was bittersweet: Watching her, I couldn’t help but remember the tow-headed baby girl who had brought her stuffed bunny to my house for sleepovers, who’d eaten her weight in fresh raspberries when we’d gone berry-picking, who’d let me carry her through Disney for her first time at the park, hot and sticky and smelling like suntan lotion. I watched her laugh with her mom, my sister-in-law, who was laughing at them both for crying as my niece walked down the aisle, and it made me laugh and cry too.

I’ve had a front row seat as my sister-in-law has raised her children, and I’ve been lucky to learn so much. Her babes are all much older than mine, and I may have been a bit smug at times as I watched her navigate the minefields of dating and dress codes, of driving and grades and college and all that comes with adolescence, but those times are far behind me. That future is bearing down too fast, and all I can do is buckle in and prepare for the ride.

I caught glimpses of that future at the wedding — my daughter, looking lovely, dancing with her dad, echoing the dance my brother-in-law had done with his own daughter just minutes before.  My son, fueled by his first Coke, dancing to Shout, fist-bumping the groom’s frat boy friends. My brother and sister-in-law, exchanging glances throughout the night that said Look at our baby, look how beautiful she is, look at what we’ve done together. 

It’s possible I might have gotten a bit teary myself, were it not for the following conversation held over much-anticipated slices of the wedding cake. (The wedding, like marriage, was not without its small disasters — the poor groom, done in by heat and nerves, fainted at the altar.)

Me: I’m so glad it worked out. For a minute there, I thought it was going to be worse.

Small boy: Worse? How could it have been worse?

Me: Well, he could have gotten sick.

Small boy: Really?  Right up there on the altar and everything?

Me: Yup.

Small boy, slowly: That … that would have been awesome!

Cake -- small boy guarded it all night.

Cake — small boy guarded it all night.

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