Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Something to Wag About

I was recently contacted by Daniela Caride, editor of The Daily Tail, asking permission to reprint my story “Best Dog in the World” that originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul What I Learned from the Dog.

I was happy to discover this wonderful site for pet lovers. I also discovered that Daniela is, like most pet lovers (and unlike some editors), a fun and pleasant person with whom to correspond. Here’s a link to my story at The Daily Tail. Be sure to check out the whole site!


Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Worshiping the Photosynthesis Gods

There’s something about the sun glowing through leaves that sets my heart aflutter. Maybe it’s the innate recognition that within this greenery is the miraculous marriage of earth and sun and water and air. Or maybe it's the intuitive knowledge that this marriage creates this most unsung of immaculate conceptions, the birth of all that lives. Surely leaves are the sparks that fly from the hand of God. They are magical green machines that manufacture life.

Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t seen the sun for so darned long here in the Midwest...!

The above is a closeup of aglaia odorata, in lemony-fragrant bloom in my sun room. Ahhh.

"People, like all forms of life, only change when something so disturbs them that they are forced to let go of their present beliefs. Nothing changes until we interpret things differently. Change occurs only when we let go of our certainty. " ~ Dee Hock

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Advice from the Bad Old Days

Becky Povich’s blog contest ends tonight. She’s asked for people to suggest titles of lesser-known books that they enjoyed. Linda O'Connell mentioned a very old copy of a Readers Digest that she cherishes. That reminded me that I have a book of my mother’s called Expectant Motherhood by Nicholson J. Eastman, Professor of Obstetrics in Johns Hopkins University, originally printed in 1940 and reprinted a disturbing number of times.

X-rays are mentioned as one of the ways to definitively diagnose pregnancy. Once that pregnancy is diagnosed (around the fifth month), be sure to consult this book before choosing your maternity corset! And for the baby’s layette, one should choose Gertrudes which are made from nainsook. I have no idea, but I still feel sorry for that baby.

It’s also clear that our mothers and grandmothers were impressively wasted when giving birth. Suggested drugs for a pain-free childbirth include morphine, scopolamine (“Its aim is not so much actual pain relief as forgetfulness”), rectal ether, barbiturates, and something called—gulp—paraldehyde, which sounds to me like the baby was born slightly pickled.

Never fear! That baby was sure to have been used to it by the time labor rolled around. On whether or not smoking is acceptable, the good professor says, “If you have been used to smoking considerably…by no means try to give [cigarettes] up in pregnancy. There is no surer way of upsetting the nerves at a period when you should be calm and happy, or of converting a placid, sweet-tempered girl into an intolerable shrew.”

Oh, and the price is listed as $1.25. For a hardcover. In other words, priceless.

From the movie, “Juno”:
Rollo: So what’s the prognosis, Fertile Myrtle? Minus or plus?
Juno: I don’t know. It’s not seasoned yet…. Nope…. There it is. The little pink plus sign is so unholy. [Shakes pregnancy test stick.]
Rollo: That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Perils of Toast

My family doesn’t have the latest appliances. But we do have a bitchin’ toast detector.

Really it’s a smoke detector, a gift from our old insurance company, the one I dropped because the agent was rude. But it’s rather unhandily located near the toaster. And I don’t like wimpy toast. Whenever the smoke detector goes off, we’ve taken to announcing, “Toast is done!”

We discovered we can have our toast and eat it too if we fan the toaster. This became my excuse to pile mail on the center island—ads and other odd pieces of mail make handy toast-fanners.

When I begin fanning the toaster, the dog gets very happy. This is because he knows I am not a very accomplished toast-fanner, and the toast detector often goes off, anyway. Some time ago I took to rewarding him with a dog biscuit whenever that horrible noise started because I supposed it hurt his ears—heck, it hurts mine. I also thought it might be extra insurance. If we ever had a real fire, I figure the dog would come and wake us up if only to get that biscuit. He may not be Lassie, but he sure is a pig.

Only now the dog is deaf, so he assumes any fanning at all means he gets a dog biscuit. If a stranger were to witness the Making of the Toast, they would see quite an ordeal involving fans and barking and very loud alarms.

Then the other day, I smelled a strong burning smell. I followed it clear to the other end of the house and discovered that the microwave popcorn that Santa put in the kids’ stockings catches fire. (Note to Santa: splurge next year and buy the non-spontaneously combustible brands.) My son got the fire out right away, but the smoke smell was still strong.

The whole thing confirmed a suspicion I’ve had: The smoke detector remained perfectly silent. The microwave is located right next to the toaster. And the dog slept through everything because no dog biscuits were involved.

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand. ~Kurt Vonnegut

P.S. Be sure to check out my friend Becky's book giveaway!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Okay, Now Snow Sucks

So much for the poetic waxing. Enough already.

Overheard from 10th grade girl: "Oh, eewww! I'm never letting my parents mess with my stuff again. They, like, gave me a morgue pen." (Then reads name of funeral home on her pen.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow's Stolen Moments

I love the mingle—the flirt and wink—of snow and sun. One beam, and the snow blushes and sparkles and sends long, aching blue reaches of shadow. Opposites really do attract.

I’m telling you. Relationships are about mysterious chemistry between two people, not about one person getting it right. ~Lynn Harris, “Advice on Love” column

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shhh...Snow Day

I grew up in Nebraska and have a bit of a love/hate relationship with snow. But today I loved it, and I think it’s because of snow’s silent surprises.

I love the hushed frenzy of a blizzard—the way the snow absorbs the sound of the riotous confetti flakes, like a secret, profoundly silent celebration.

And then there’s the surprise of opening the blinds in the morning to see the outdoors gone white overnight. It’s always an exciting little shock that such a complete transformation could have been so stealthy, sneaking so much snow while the world sleeps.

Then in the dark and early morning, I watched TV with the sound off while still warmly tucked under my down comforter, and there was that thrilling moment when our district’s name appeared on the list of school closings. Three more hours of snuggly sleep.

And then, the best silent surprise—my teenaged children went out to shovel without my asking, without saying a word.

Some of the greatest miracles, I think, are silent.

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand...and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late. ~Marie Beyon Ray

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Old Year's Resolution

My New Year’s resolution from last year was to get out more.

When I was married, my husband and I rarely went anywhere together. When I went anywhere, it was with friends or my children. Like many mothers, I let myself slip into the habit of mainly doing for others and putting my own needs—not to mention wants—last.

I think of those years as being lean and dry as toast.

But this past year, I got out just for myself. Saw virtually all of the movies I wanted to see (and even a few I didn’t care about that much). Went on tours, saw museums, went to festivals. Went to wine tastings, went on a hayrack ride, even. Had many wonderful dinners, lunches, and a breakfast or two. Went to concerts under the stars. Went to parties and teas and gatherings and picnics and dances. Shopped much, bought next to nothing. Met tons of new people. Wonderful people. Flirted, toasted, twirled, played…laughed.

In short—aging or not—I had more fun last year alone than in the past 20 combined.

I don’t have much money. Many of the outings were cheap or even free. But this year I realized I am poor only in money. I can live with that. Here’s a new toast, a non-dry one: to another year rich in laughter.

Happy 2010.
(The above picture was one my daughter drew for me when she was little to use as computer wallpaper.)

The only person who is with us our entire life is ourselves.Be ALIVE while you are alive. ~George Carlin

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Eight Ball Again

OH, Great Eight Ball! Will 2010 be a good year?!?

"Signs point to yes." Whew. (Thank you, Becky, for letting me know that my picture wasn't very clear!)

Life isn't fair, but it's still good. ~Regina Brett