Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 67: Porcupine

So. I got on my computer to write. And this is what I've done since then:
1) Watched The Meanest Mom's clip from Greensboro Fox 8 News.
2) Watch a video clip of some dog wanting to eat cupcakes from Cake Wrecks.
3) Read some funny posts on a new blog I found, one of which was directions for how to make chocolate covered bacon.
4) Looked at homes for sale in Utah. (I don't know why.)

So. I really need to get writing, and The Spouse challenged me to write a story containing the following things: a lemon, a songbook, a porcupine, and a mallet. (Are you kidding me??)

Here goes.

There was, not very long ago, a small and kindly porcupine that lived in a neat and tidy little burrow under the ground. He had to be neat and tidy, because otherwise his quills got stuck on every little thing, and it was difficult to get around.

Each morning, the porcupine would leave his neat and tidy little burrow, and go out for his adventure for the day. For although he liked his home to be nice and orderly, once he stepped outside of his burrow, there was nothing he enjoyed more than a good adventure.

On this particular morning, he was snuffling about in the fall leaves, smelling things, eating things, and enjoying the crunching sound of his little paws, when suddenly he heard the quiet sound of singing.

Curious, he sniffed and snuffled his way in the direction of the sound. The song got louder as he got closer, but--even very close--it was still quiet. Finally, he came to the edge of a little clearing, and in the center sat a small hedgehog, holding a songbook, and singing a soft little song.

The porcupine was delighted! Here was a creature he had never seen before, and it was prickly, just like himself. So, politely, he cleared his throat to let the little creature know he was there. The hedgehog jumped, of course, because he was startled and had thought he was alone.

The porcupine felt very sorry for frightening him, and quickly said that he was sorry, but wondered if he might ask who this little creature was, and what he happened to be doing in Porcupine's forest.

The hedgehog had tiny, black eyes and they looked very sad as he told the porcupine that normally, he is not a forest animal, he is a hedge animal, but that he got so distracted on his way home from gathering berries that he had gotten very lost, and had stopped to sing himself a song so that maybe he would feel better.

Porcupine felt very sorry, and told Hedgehog that he must come with him to his burrow and rest a little and have something to eat. The hedgehog hesitated, because porcupine was a stranger, and he thought that it probably wasn't a good idea, but, then again, porcupine seemed such a kind fellow, and he was prickly--just like himself, so it must be alright.

So hedgehog and porcupine sniffed and snuffled together back to Porcupines burrow. Hedgehog was very impressed with how neat and tidy it was, which made Porcupine feel very proud. He trundled about, getting some water and berries for hedgehog to eat. As a special delicacy, he rolled out a large, yellow lemon that he had found when some people having a picnic had left it behind suddenly when it began to rain.

It was such a happy color that he hated to eat it, but thought that surely something that beautiful must be delicious. Because it was the best he had, he decided to share it with his special, prickly guest. So, taking his small mallet in his paws, he smashed at the lemon a few times until it split in two.

Rolling one half over to the hedgehog and keeping one half to himself, they both took a large bite at the same time. My goodness! It was very, very sour! Both of them puckered up their mouths and made very funny faces, which made them begin to laugh. It made the sad little hedgehog laugh so hard, that porcupine took another bite and made more funny faces just to keep his new friend laughing. They decided to squeeze some of the lemon into some water, with a few drops of wild honey, and then it tasted very delicious indeed.

They had such a nice afternoon that porcupine began to feel very sad that hedgehog would need to leave, but he knew that he must help him find his home. He asked hedgehog to describe where he lived, and the things about it, because maybe--in his adventures--the porcupine had come near it at one time or another. And, indeed, he had! He knew right where it was. The best part of all? It was, really, very close by--so he would be able to see his new friend and have lemonade as often as they could wish.

And they did.

The End.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Day 66: Just a fact.

Can I get personal here for just a second?

Today is one of those days when I don't know how I'm going to make it through the next 6 hours, minus 4 minutes, until The Spouse comes home. Because here's a fact about being a stay-at-home mom: it can be gosh-awful lonely. Sometimes it feels like you don't have a single friend on the planet. (And really, there are days when it doesn't just *feel* like it, but it's actually true.) The worst is trying to call all the other stay at home moms, only to find that none of them are home. Now, while I'd like to believe that they're all sitting on their kitchen counters in their pajamas and just don't feel like answering the phone, I tend to believe that they're either all at some fun playdate to which I *wasn't* invited or, more likely, they're all at Costco with their shiny Costco memberships.

So, whilst all the other stay at home mothers are sampling the latest mini-pizza delicacies and maneuvering those massive carts down aisles of Boca Burgers and crates of Vitamin Water, I'm here at home trying to think of a single reason to exercise, get in the shower, put on makeup, or turn off PBS Kids. (I already turned it off once this morning, and such catfighting brawls occured after only 15 minutes that I decided it wasn't worth it.)

And now you know why I never post during the day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 65: Clementine, chapter 2

Sitting in the back seat of her parents Suburu, Clementine stared out the window. They had been driving for days, and she'd never had so much to see before. It had surprised her, how the world looked different from state to state. They had passed from the familiar hardwoods of the east--where you couldn't see anything from the road because it was hidden by the trees, to the rolling green hills, and then corn fields, as far as the eye could see. She saw a man on a tractor, the only person in a vast expanse. He raised his hand and waved to her, but she didn't think to wave back. They had crossed huge rivers, and she had quietly tossed a nickel out her window, hoping that it would reach the water and sink down, down into the muddy depths. Proof that she had been here.

Now, they were getting closer. Her little sister huddled against the car door, playing handheld video games or watching movies on her dad's laptop. She had cried for three states, clutching a stuffed koala her BFF had given her. She was 9.

Now, on the last day of their trip, the road wound through the trees, slightly upward, for what seemed like forever. Occasionally Clementine saw handmade signs for pottery, or small cafes offering huckleberry jams and ice cream. Clementine had never tasted a huckleberry in her life, and could only think of Mark Twain and his Huckleberry Finn. Suddenly, ahead, they came into a broad valley, rimmed by mountains. Her mother turned toward the backseat and smiled encouragingly, "We're almost home."

Home, as it turned out to be, was a hunkering brick house with a nondescript yard. Chainlink fence. A black mailbox that said SWENSON. Her father pulled into the driveway, put the car into park, and turned the key. There was silence as they all opened their doors and slid out of their seats. Her mother stretched. Her dad cracked his knuckles. Clementine just stood behind her open door, and looked.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 64: Sick.

*sniff* I'b sick. It's just a cold. But it's the kind of cold that bakes your ears feel all scratchy and your head seebs to weigh a little bore than usual. In other words: the kind of cold that should require insurance to pay for a nanny, a baid, and a cook for 48 hours so you can get some rest. (Hbbbb... I bight be on to something there. I'll put it on by agenda for by first terb as a senator...) Okay. Enough of the phonetic spelling.

This cold reminds me, by the way, that I have the immune system of... um... what has a really bad immune system? A mushroom, maybe? (And why, oh why, aren't there more medications out there approved for nursing mother's???? Because I can find, oh... none.) The Spouse pointed out tonight that Thing 1 seemed to have gotten his immune system, and Thing 2 got mine. I wondered how he had come to this conclusion. Could it be the constant flow of snot down my son's face? Could it be the fact that he always seems to be sick with something? (At least *just* sick enough that he probably shouldn't go to nursery on Sunday.) But, then again, Thing 1 is "sensitive" to tylenol and likes to spike fevers of 105. So it's probably good she doesn't get sick that often.

Some friends asked me the other day why my kids immune systems are so good. (Because, apparently, they are.) I replied, "You gotta let 'em suck on the shopping cart handles at Walmart. That'll do it." They laughed nervously and looked slightly dismayed. Maybe it's because I'll be watching their kids tomorrow.

And that makes me think of shopping carts, which makes me think of Target, and I wonder if maybe it was because of this cold that I bought that attrociously poo-colored sofa cover tonight. I mean, it must've been something. Surely, in my normal state, I wouldn't have come home with a sofa cover the color of "It looks like somebody missed." (One of my favorite quotes from my dad, by the way.) So, back it must go.

Oh well. Another chance for my kids to suck on the cart handles. Perfect.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 63: Where Credit is Due...

I claim credit for two inventions. I didn't patent them, but I still think I had the idea first.

First. When I was in second grade (or maybe third) we had to "Invent" something. Come up with the idea, draw a picture of it, and explain it. My idea? You could have paint brushes, but there would actually *be* paint in the brush, so you wouldn't have to dip it in paint. It would be less messy. Isn't that brilliant? Well, you can imagine what I thought, years later, when I saw these...

Someone stole my brilliant idea!! I'll bet it was that kid in my class, Nathan. He was always stealing my best ideas and taking credit for them. Like when we decided to start singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" in the middle of a multiplication tables test because our teacher hated that song, and we figured turn about was fair play.

My second brilliant invention? *smile* That. That's my second brilliant invention. To the best of my recollection, I started typing *smile* and *grin* and *grimace* in e-mails in mid-1997. I came up with it on my own, and have yet to find evidence that anyone used it sooner than that. Now, it may be possible that it was invented by more than one person at the same time. Like calculus, the Spouse informs me. I'd like to believe that the people I e-mailed, used it too, and then the people they e-mailed used it, and so on.

I can't prove it, but that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. Have you ever invented anything--whether you meant to or not?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Day 62: Parenting

I should write a book on parenting. It would be called Parenting By the Seat of Your Pants. Some people buy into methods of parenting: Love and Logic, Dr. Sears, Attachment. My parenting style?? "Please, get me through this day, so help me, amen."

I have, apparently, successfully taught my children the following things:

1) You can't go to church without some raisins or crackers.
2) Christmas lights make great home decor all year long.
3) If you wake up in the night and feel bored, go sleep on the couch and watch a movie.
4) Macaroni and tomato juice with mounds of cheddar cheese = heaven
5) Quesadillas are called "cheese bundles."
6) If you don't want to do something, say "Just a minute."
7) As my daughter informed me today "Cookies aren't treats. Cookies are food. Treats are candy."
8) Exercise helps us not to be "puff." (Sometimes.)
9) When mama says "You're killin' me, Smalls" she doesn't mean *killing you dead*... she means she's rapidly turning into a pumpkin.
10) When mama says "I am going to LOSE it" you should probably dump out a container of something. Maybe whatever she's about to lose, is in there.
11) Counting to three equals something bad. (How do all children know this?? I've never administered a punishment because I've never reached 3. Somehow, they come with the fear of counting to three already programmed on their hard drives.)
12) You need to take a bite of everything on your plate. (Yes, you can close your eyes.)
13) Whining gets you nothing. (Well. They know the phrase "whining gets you nothing". In reality, whining seems to get them quite a lot, in spite of me.)
14) When we are angry, we should apologize. (Maybe after we fling ourselves on our beds and scream for awhile.)
15) We should clear our places from the table. (Although, if you are quite a bit shorter than the counter and you end up dumping your food off the plate, down your front, and on to the floor, mama might wish that she'd cleared it instead.)

Parenting wisdom at it's finest... What have you taught YOUR kids???

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 61: Put a lime in the coconut...

Woe to me. I am trying to think of something to write, and I'm coming up empty. Truly. In trying to tune into my own mind, I'm getting either a busy signal or a monotone hum. I can't really tell which.

So I wrote an entry with some of my political opinions, but then thought, "Wasn't yesterday's entry punishment enough for these poor people, Bec? Do you want to scare people away for good????"

So I "saved draft" but didn't "publish" my opinions on the war in Gaza, Barack Obama, The Freedom of Choice Act, or No Child Left Behind. (Quick summary: against, pro, against, against).

But if I'm not going to drag you all through the mud of my opinionated, red-personalitied rantings, then what is left to write about????????

The answer? Lime sherbet.

I LOVE lime sherbet. I love how it looks, on top of an ice cream cone. Vibrant, fresh green in all it's shimmering, slow-to-melt goodness. That first bite, when the cold smell reaches your nose and clears out all the cobwebs that have been hanging around in your mind. The tart, tingly taste of it wakes me up and makes my toes wiggle, a sure sign of delight.

I have loved lime sherbet since I was a little girl, and my mom took me to Ray's Drive-thru on the hill for a mother-daughter date. She handed me this gigantic, towering ice cream cone with green sherbet and a little, plastic pony on top. I had never had such a treat. It rivalled even her late-night red pudding as my favorite treat.

I swear it does wonders for my soul. Especially if I'm having a night where my head is stuck in the sea of mental doldrums. Right now, it's all I want in the world. But I mayn't have any because it's Sunday and, you know, thou shalt not, and all that. But I can dream. And it's better than punishing all of you with my political opinions. (If only this blog were scratch n' sniff. Then it really would be my best entry ever...)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day 60: Clementine, bio.

The Spouse is home!!!!! Maybe life can get back to normal and I can stop skipping days around here. Sheesh. I feel like such a slacker.

Funny thing about the picture accompanying the makeup post: I think it's funny that they have those dots to represent flaws on a face that is absolutely flawless. Every time I look at it, it makes me laugh.

I'm working on expanding my little story about Clementine. She's intriguing to me. I want to get to know her better. One of the things that I find interesting, as I write, is the authority of creating an entire character. To imagine their likes, their dislikes, their fears, their stats, their environment. What bugs then? What do they love? What are their secrets? So, tonight, here's the beginning of my biography of Clementine...

Full name: Clementine Josephine Waters (Clementine actually has no middle name, so she gave herself one. It's after Josephine March from Little Women.)
Birthdate: December 19, 1994
Location: Pennsylvania (or Virginia... hm...)
Height: 5 feet, 5 inches
Weight: 110 pounds (thin, but not skinny... is this right? Believe me, I went from 60 pounds to 145. I don't recall ever being 110 pounds.)
Hair color: dark brown (kind of a chestnut brown, straight and fine)
Eye color: brown (with gray and gold flecks in them)
Shoe size: 8 (but she wishes she were a 7)
Favorite color: periwinkle
Favorite food: chicken masala (Indian) or hummus on warm pita bread (her mom wonders where in the world this child came from since she only serves dinners that end in "...Helper".)
Favorite book: Jane Eyre and Little Women
Favorite movie: Dead Poets Society and Napoleon Dynamite
Favorite smell: coconut sunscreen in the summer, otherwise, vanilla
Favorite fruit: red currants (she's never actually tasted currants, but she just knows that she'd love them.)
Fears: being in a store when it's closing, fire, boys.
Siblings? 1, a younger brother named Nathaniel.
Pets? None. (yet)
Intended college major: Law

See what I mean? I just wrote all that stuff out--whatever was the first thing that came to mind. Some of them, I find myself going back and thinking, "Really? She only has one brother?" or "Really--she's from Pennsylvania? Are you sure she's not from Virginia?"

Okay, readers--add stuff. I'd love to hear what you "know" about Clementine. Help me shape this character....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day 59: The Eye of the Beholder

Heaven help me. I've gotten my first wrinkles. Those "fine lines" you hear about so often in commercials. I don't know how I didn't notice them before, but I looked in the rear view mirror today--in full daylight--and thought, "Ee gads!" (I really did think that exact phrase.) Fine lines. Little smile wrinkles at the corners of my eyes. I raised my eyebrows, and a little crease showed up in the middle of my forehead. I never used to be able to do that.

Having just dropped my 2 year old off for a play date, and with the smallish child asleep in her car seat, I made a beeline for the nearest Rite Aid. (I had intended to go to Goodwill, but I highly doubt that I'm going to find anything there that will make me look *less* wrinkly and old.) Entering the fine establishment, I discovered that it was my lucky day: Wet n' Wild cosmetics were on sale. 99 cents each. Like a teenager, I began flinging emerald green mascara (to bring out the green), green eyeshadow (to bring out the hazel), and copper liquid eyeliner (to bring out the brown) into my basket. (I figured if I brought out the green, hazel, AND the brown--my eyes would be a dazzling rainbow of glorious depths and subtleties. No???) I got some pink lip plumper. (Do my lips need plumping? Better safe than sorry.) Then I headed straight for the next aisle over: the hair dye aisle.

I should tell you, right now, that my hair has been just about every shade you can purchase. My first dye job was "Castings: Sunset" when I was, maybe, 15. From that day on, I was hooked. I've been very blond, strawberry-blond, maroonish, brown, even pink once. (That was an accident, though. Really.) No matter what the color, I love it. I love how it makes me look and feel different. I love how, if you look through my scrapbooks, you can never tell from one page to the next what color hair I'm going to have. But, it's been awhile. My hair is it's own, natural mousy-brown right now. I think it's the first time that's happened since... um... ever.

As I stood considering which sultry eyed model I wanted to look like (if only the hair dye gave you the cheek bones and the eye color, too), I found myself feeling conflicted and a bit shallow. I have always been determined to "age gracefully." To accept each step I took in the "upward and onward" direction. To not utterly freak out at the sight of crow's feet. But here I was! Grabbing boxes of color with abandon, determined to be "pretty" and "recapture that glow."


If I truly wanted to recapture that glow, it was going to take more than Wet n' Wild and some L'Oreal, I'll tell you that much right now. So. I put the "Born Blond" back on the shelf, resisted the siren call of Hydrience "Warm Honey", and strode down the aisle and past the $27.00 Oil of Olay DermaPod Anti-Aging Triple Response System. I know that I can't buy youth. I am old enough to know that beauty is only skin deep. But I'm also smart enough to know that 99 cent Wet n' Wild to play up the green/hazel/brown is a great deal, thank you very much, and I'd better use it before I lose it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 58: Home Again, Home Again

Let's talk about the state of my life today.

We had a three day weekend that ended yesterday, with Martin Luther King Day. Until we woke up this morning to snow. The spouse is still in Africa, another day off of school, and the board was set for the game. Among other things, my day contained:

*The making of first snow angels and a first snowman.
*Much begged for hot chocolate, that no one would drink.
*Watching, and getting teary-eyed, at every second leading up to and including the inauguration.
*A four year old who locked herself into her bedroom in defiance.
*A 29 year old who had a two year old that needed a diaper change, and said diapers were behind said locked door.
*A door that no longer has a doorknob.
*A two year old that jumped into a tub full of cold water, provided by the four year old, while I was nursing.
*Wondering if your four year old is going to start using the phrase "I am going to LOSE it." in front of her teachers.
*A trip to the local Wal-o-rama to buy stuff to make 9 quiches.
*Watching the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball and thinking two things: 1) Is Beyonce's dress just really pointy, or are 2) Maybe President and First Lady Obama, who had a wonderful and sweet "first dance" as the "first couple" should try out for Dancing With the Stars. That deacon shuffle was a bit painful.
*Making those 9 quiches, which eventually rendered my kitchen a perfect replica of an exploded quiche.

I really hope it doesn't snow tonight...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 57: Clementine

There was a teenage girl, named Clementine. There is no nickname for a name like that. No way to shorten it, strengthen it, or even make it your own. It is a name that wears the child.

Clementine's mother chose the name because she was born in December, and for the whole week before she was born, her mother had eaten nothing but clementines. Holding their perfect, orange weight in her hand, she would unwrap them with the peel almost intact. Separating the see-through crescents, she would line them up on her pregnant belly and and then savor slice after delicious slice. She was convinced that clementines were the most perfect, wonderful food on the planet. She could imagine nothing lovelier.

And so, she named her daughter Clementine--the squirming bundle in the pink blanket, in a plastic bassinet among a sea of Jennifers and Kimberlys. Maybe if Clementine had been a happy child, with neatly combed blonde hair and a ready smile, things would've been different. Maybe. But she had long, dark hair, and large, dark eyes. From her smallest days, her eyes followed everything, but she made very little noise. She was not bubbly and warm. She felt anything but lovely. So she wore her name like a coat that was the wrong size. Every time she introduced herself, she would watch for the tiny line in the person's forehead that showed their confusion. Most of them would ask her to say her name again, with a slight shake of the head.

In junior high, Clementine would practice her handwriting and fill whole sheets with the names she wished she had: Elizabeth, Kathryn, Caroline. Serious names. Names that fit. Names that everyone had heard, and no one asked twice about.

Practicing her handwriting was something she did a lot. Ever since second grade, when her teacher commented on how nice her penmanship was. Since then, she took a quiet pride in having the most beautiful, even handwriting in her class. Not that anyone but herself and her teachers ever saw it, but it was beautiful, just the same.

It was in the summer after ninth grade that they moved. She hadn't minded, since she felt that she was leaving very little behind. The only things she would miss was a pattern in the plaster on her bedroom ceiling that resembled a bench on a cliff overlooking the sea, and a certain cottonwood tree near the sidewalk on the way to the library. These two things, she could not take. But she left nothing else behind.

Day 56: Uuuuh....

Ummmm.... that about sums it up....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day 55: Fire Bird

I'm afraid that my entries the past few days have been... well... "pretty bad" might be even too nice a term for them. It's a funny thing, this writing. Some nights, I have such great ideas. Other nights, I feel like there just isn't anything there. So, I write--either way. And some mornings, I wake up and think "Oy. Last night's entry was awful. I should erase it." Almost without fail, it's the stories that I think were awful that get a good response, and some that I really like--get none. So I erase none of them. Good, bad, unedited as they are. They stay. But, please, accept my apologies for the ones that are "pretty bad."

Tonight, I was trying to make up a story for my son as I was trying to wrestle him into his pajamas. Something about a bird of every single color who could fly so high that he could see the whole world. I was feeling pleased with it. My son, on the other hand, couldn't have been any *less* interested. So I thought I'd write my simple story here. Maybe someone *else* will like it...


There once was a bird.
It had draping feathers of blue, red, purple, yellow, green, white, black, orange, and aqua--every color of the rainbow. But it didn't always.

Once, that bird was very small, and very weak, with simple brown feathers. But, one day, he decided to fly as far as he could--to see what he could see.

Setting off, he could see some squirrels in the trees, gathering nuts. He could see small fish in the streams. But, before long he grew very tired, and went back to his tree.
When he reached there, he realized that he had grown some silvery blue feather--the color of the stream, and some green feathers--the color of the trees.

The next day, and the day after and after, he flew a little further and a little higher.
He saw sheep in the meadows and cows in the fields dotted with purple clover.

Higher still, he could see goats clambering on the rocks in the mountains,
their peaks covered in glistening white snow.

Ever higher and higher he flew, and soon he was never tired. And for everything he saw, he grew feathers of different colors. The yellow of the sunrise and the orange of the sunset.

Higher and higher it would fly, until it could see the boats bobbing on the deep blue ocean. Soon, it reached the moon, with it's smiling face, and grew silver white feathers.

Higher still, the bird--strong and beautiful--flew and flew,
until it's tail feathers brushed the stars and it turned all the colors of the sun.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 54: You Wore a Tulip

Growing up, my parents would sing old songs. "Let Me Call You Sweetheart", "Daisy, Daisy", and "Mairsy Dotes" were some I remember. My favorite was one about a big yellow tulip. Do you know the lyrics? It goes:
You wore a tulip, a big yellow tulip, and I wore a big red rose.
When you caressed me twas then heaven blessed me, what a blessing no one knows.
You made life cheery when you called me deary, way down where the blue grass grows.
Your lips were sweeter than julep, when you wore that tulip, and I wore a big red rose.

Tonight, I piled my kids into our car in the freezing cold and went on a drive just after the sun set. The house was feeling big and empty, and we needed to fill some time before bed. The radio is broken in our wonderful van, so, as I drove, I sang those old songs. When I came to that one, I couldn't help but smile. Then I wondered if I had the talent to guess at the love story behind it. So, I thought I would try...

If you ever visit Kentucky, make sure it is in the month of May. The soft green of early spring bursts forth into the multi-hued exuberance of coming summer. Horses on a track in Louisville. Fireworks over the Ohio River. Colts chasing behind straight fences in cropped green pastures. The heart of Kentucky can be found in the month of May.

That spring, my love and I would meet at the end of a lane--Happy Jack Hollow. He was always there first, somehow. Sitting on the low, moss-covered stone wall the rambled quietly on one side. At it's base, daffodils planted many years before bloomed. A very few tulips remained. He would rise, smiling, and take my hand. We would walk down the lane--talking, making plans. It was our favorite place.

On this May morning, I could see him, seated already--slowly twirling the last of the yellow tulips in his hands. As I approached, he rose and strode quietly toward me. With a soft, sad smile, he placed the tulip in the chocolate brown curls of my hair. Taking my hand, we began to walk silently.

The stream criss-crossed our path several times, overflowing from recent rains. But it ran clear, and shallow, across the slabs of slate. Stopping at one crossing, I peered down into the water and could see both of us reflected. He leaped lightly across the stream, and helped me gently across. A swarm of tiny, violet butterflies rose around us--fluttering in the rays of sunlight making their way through the trees.

We did not talk of the war in France. We did not talk of him leaving. I did not then dream of fields of poppies under clear blue skies. We thought only of each other, in a silence so brittle that neither of us dared breathe, let alone speak. Walking again, slowly, we came upon a wild rose bush with the first tiny rosebuds of summer on it. I reached out and broke off one stem and placed it in the buttonhole of his shirt.

Looking up at him, we kissed softly once. Sweeter than julep. He released my hand and turned to go. I wanted to run after him. To tell him to come back to me. To tell him that I would be waiting. But he was already gone.

PS. Yes. Happy Jack Hollow is real. And I've been there in May. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 54: 100 Goals

My high school psychology teacher assigned us to write a list of 100 Goals. I think she'd gotten the idea from Chicken Soup For The Soul or something. We had to write 100 goals. They needed to be specific. Below is my list. The ones in bold are ones I've accomplished. Italics are the ones I'm working on this year.
1. Give away a Book of Mormon to a person in all 50 states.
2. Perform in a play.
3. Hold a local, state, or national political office.
4. Serve an LDS Mission
5. Hike Mt. Timpanogas
6. Get my picture taken with Mickey Mouse
7. Stand on the shores of Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
8. Scuba/snorkel off the coast of Hawaii, Australia, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean
9. Go to the top of the Cologne Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower
10. Drink hot chocolate in the Alps in January
11. Buy a painting in Florence, Italy.
12. Read 100+ works of classic literature
13. Read a book in a foreign language.
14. Visit: Yosemite, Acadia, the Everglades, Carlsbad Caverns, and Mt. Rushmore
15. Take a church history tour
16. Kayak from Alaska to Mexico or Maine to Florida (NO desire to do this anymore. What was I thinking???)
17. Spend a week in Washington DC
18. Tour the Smithsonian and Holocaust Museums
19. Sail in the South Pacific (around Tahiti)
20. Go boating in the fjords of Norway
21. Visit the Rock of Gibraltar
22. Ride camels in Egypt.
23. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and visit an African game preserve
24. Go skiing in Vermont.
25. Go clam digging in Connecticut or Cape Cod
26. Go on a cruise.
27. Graduate from high school.
28. Graduate from college (Ba, Ma, PhD?)
29. Build a house.
30. Have a scholarship named after me.
31. Go to a running of the bulls in Spain. (not participate. view.)
32. Go to a performance in the Sydney Opera House and a Broadway play in New York and London.
33. Take a picture of a whale in the wild.
34. Shake the president's hand.
35. Participate in a Live Studio Audience.
36. Go to old friend's wedding receptions.
37. Build a tree house with/for my kids.
38. Stay at three nice hotels.
39. Own a horse, a cow, a sheep, some chickens.
40. Know the works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and Handel.
41. Read the great works of Austen, Twain, Dickens, and the Brontes.
42. Attend all the large LDS temples in the world.
43. Go to Europe.
44. Bicycle from Coast to Coast.
45. Go camping in the Redwoods.
46. Have a lot of kids.
47. Marry a returned missionary.
48. Live to be 100. (Again--no desire to do this anymore.)
49. Learn to crochet.
50. Make myself an outfit.
51. Swim in the Great Salt Lake.
52. Touch a seal, a dolphin, a manta ray, and a sea turtle.
53. Bag a photo trophy of 5 exotic animals in the wild.
54. See the Himalayas
55. Visit Asia (Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Manila, Bangkok)
56. Visit/volunteer in an orphanage (Ghana, Romania, Russia, China)
57. Keep an ongoing journal and scrapbook.
58. Visit Stonehenge, the chalk cliffs, Cornwall.
59. Live in a tropical area.
60. Write a book.
61. Have foster kids in my home.
62. Gather honey.
63. Have my portrait taken in a field of wildflowers.
64. Take a tour of NASA.
65. Enroll in a dance class.
66. Learn to oil paint.
67. View a solar eclipse.
68. learn to fly an airplane.
69. Make ice cream with my kids.
70. Pull a great April Fool's Joke, just once.
71. Get up early to go walking.
72. Be a happy person.
73. Learn to do yoga.
74. Try sushi, caviar, calamari, seaweed, and pate.
75. Learn to cry.
76. Have an orchard with apricots, cherries, peaches and a berry patch.
77. Bottle my own fruits and veggies.
78. Learn to do a graceful 360 degree turn on ice skates.
79. Have poetry published.
80. Walk barefoot along the ocean shore in a cotton dress and a hat.
81. Watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and set over the Pacific on the same day.
82. Learn to take beautiful pictures.
83. Take a San Francisco trolley.
84. Go to General Conference in the Tabernacle.
85. Bond with my college roomies.
86. Take time to read to my kids.
87. Willingly learn to keep my room clean.
88. Snowshoe in West Yellowstone.
89. Learn to ski.
90. Cut down my own Christmas tree.
91. Play in the snow with my kids.
92. Have a butterfly garden.
93. Catch lobster off the coast of main.
94. Go to Disneyland or Disney World
95. Go to the zoo.
96. Have my own study/library.
97. Own a baby grand piano.
98. Write a letter to my grandparents.
99. Buy a trampoline.
100. Have a huge bonfire with my family.

So, that's 40 down. It's a really interesting exercise to do; the first 50 are easy, but after that?? Watch out. When I told The Spouse (then The Fiance) about this list he said, "I'm supposed to live my life following the whims of an emotionally unstable 17 year old girl?" Um. Yep.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 53: Bon Voyage

The Spouse is at the end of our bed, packing. I can hear rustlings of things as he folds, arranges, and re-arranges. Clothing (summer-type), gifts for his parents (candy-type), and other travel essentials. He's weighed the suitcase a few times already. Tomorrow night at this time, he'll be halfway across the Atlantic. This means a few things for the coming days:

1. I might get some really good blog entries written because I'll have at night.
2. I might get no blog entries written because I'll be curled up in a ball on the couch watching various versions of Pride and Prejudice on repeat.
3. My kids will be eating a LOT of pizza.
4. I will not.
5. Something around our house is bound to breakdown, get sick, or blow up.

So, please, hands and feet inside the ride at all times. (Can't say I didn't warn you.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 52: Faith

Note: for our Young Women activity tonight, we were supposed to write poems about faith. I couldn't be there, so I decided I would post my poem here instead.

Faith to move mountains?

I would like faith
to move laundry.

Faith that the life I've chosen
is more than loneliness and Candy Land.

Faith that my children
will learn to pray,

Faith that what is in front of me,
is better than what is behind me.

It may never be a parted sea,
an ark in a rainstorm,
or a stroll over water,
but I guess I have faith that
my faith
is kindling enough for my own small fire.


Joseph Smith haiku

The trees are on fire.
But there is no heat. Only peace.
I did not expect such light.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 51: A Day in the Life

If only walls could talk...


Mr. Pelham had a sleepless night. The first rays on sunshine, pouring in the cracks of his window shades, fell across his open, bloodshot eyes. He threw his arm across his face, clenching and unclenching his jaw; opening and closing his upturned fist. Moving slowly, he rose slightly and took a sip of stale water from the glass sitting next to his bed, then falling back on his thin pillow. He tried to concentrate only on the ticking of the clock, and the sound of his breath in and out. He closed his eyes once more.

Downstairs, Krishna knelt before her shrine. Her hands and feet decorated in an intricate pattern, repeated on the step outside her door. She was perfectly still, as cool as water. Her saari a deep shade of blue, trimmed with gold, and her dark hair in braids. At her temples, the first shades of gray. The smile lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth betrayed a kind heart, still young despite years with a husband for whom she felt no affection. Despite the grief of a son who had rejected his upbringing and his parents for a blonde girl and graphic design school. She breathed, and she prayed.

One apartment over, the Tysons sat across from each other at the breakfast table. He put his wrinkled, knobby hand over the top of her tiny, gnarled fist and she smiled. He poured her a glass of milk, with a straw, and lifted it for her. She leaned forward slightly, shaking, and took a few sips. Some of the milk dribbled out the right side of her mouth, and he dabbed at it lovingly with a napkin. She smiled crookedly. He pointed out the vase with stems of pussywillows that Lavendar had brought, and asked if she remembered how much their own children had loved pussywillows in the spring. She smiled. Standing, Mr. Tyson wheeled her away from the table and into the small front room. He pulled her chair to stand next to his recliner, and put on the brakes. He adjusted the afghan over her legs--a beautiful afghan that she had made years ago, before her fingers had grown curled and rigid and painful to move. He stroked her cheek and asked her if they should watch The Price is Right or LIVE with Regis and Kelly. She smiled.

On the top floor, Lavendar Craven stood in front of an 8 foot canvas. Already spattered with paint, she had been up early enough to see the street lamps fade for the day. She dipped her brush into the Alizarin Crimson and pulled it boldly across the canvas, moving her whole body side to side. A small radio, covered with blobs of paint, sat next to her feet and filling her small studio with sound. She hummed as she dipped her brush into the turpentine, swishing it back and forth, finishing with a tap on the side. She stepped back to look at her progress, reaching back to pick up her cold roast beef sandwich off the plate on the stool in the corner. She took a bite and, chewing, tilted her head slightly to consider her painting. Ochre. It needed more ochre.

Below, Maggie paced the floor with Astrid on her shoulder. She sang "You are my sunshine" over and over, as the tiny head grew heavy. She swayed in front of the crib, rocking gently back and forth, watching the pudgy fingers slowly relax and uncurl. She leaned over and softly placed her baby in her crib, slowly and carefully so that she wouldn't startle and wake up. Maggie tiptoed out the door, drawing it closed behind her. Sighing and letting her shoulders fall, she went to face her stack of monthly bills and prayed there would be enough.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 50: Excuses, excuses...

Woohoo!!! 50 entries! This feels so significant. Only 314 to go. *pale*

I didn't write yesterday. Here's why:

Do you ever envision that your weekends are going to be totally different than the reality ever turns out to be? I was so hoping for a relaxing, laid-back weekend. In my imagination, I would slip into my darling "date" ensemble and Dave and I go on our Friday night date, to our favorite restaurant, holding hands and already missing each other in anticipation of his impending departure. Saturday morning, we'd wear matching robes and make banana pancakes in our sparkling kitchen, and then go to the park with the children. There, we would run gleefully down the grass, holding pudgy hands, and laughing like we were in a laundry detergent commercial. After the kids drifted happily off to sleep, we'd talk and relax in the house that was still clean from a week ago. I'd head into this week, and into his 9 days away, feeling ready to go. Is this too much to ask???

Apparently. Because, instead, I want to fall over where I stand. I'm on the South Beach diet, which completely killed our Friday night date because we couldn't go anywhere fun, because I can't eat anything good!! Saturday morning I made banana pancakes that no one wanted to eat until I threatened them with tears. I bolted out the door to a church meeting, leaving Dave to command the troops, and--by the time I got home and he got home from going shoe shopping with said troops, he just wanted the afternoon off. Our kids were happily bent on destroying anything and everything in sight, all in the name of sibling solidarity. I was almost relieved as I bolted to the car to go watch someone else's children for the evening.

Don't even get me started on today. Let's just say that I ended up at church in a black skirt wearing brown shoes, a nursing bra that suddenly wouldn't unhook when the Wee One started to holler, and legs that haven't been shaved in so long they could belong to a yeti. My kitchen would make SuperNanny shake her head at the camera and whisper, "How are children supposed to learn struc-tuh in a home like this?" That, combined with the incessant pleading for Signing Time viewing was enough to drive my carbohydrate deprived body over the edge and right into the crock pot. I ate a pot roast. Almost all of it.

Somehow, creative writing just didn't make it into the mix.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 49: Heirloom

In the back of my mother's closet hung a beautiful, ivory skirt. Made of water-stained silk, it fell to the floor with a tiny train in the back... where did it come from? Who wore it?


Sitting in front of the thin mirror, Emily turned this way and that, pinning up thin strands of her dark brown hair. She had spent hours trying to coax it into the Gibson style, but it was simply too fine. It wouldn't stay. Twisting a few strays behind her ears, she sighed. Her parents would never allow her to buy a foundation or a hairpiece, like so many of her friends had. Nor would they allow her to spend her hard earned teaching money on the beautiful, wide-brimmed hats that were in all the shops. But she did have a thin, blue ribbon to weave through her hair, and a small silver comb as an accent. It was a little behind the styles, but she thought it was pretty, just the same.

Tonight was an important night for her--her first social as an engaged girl. She wanted everything to be perfect. She wanted to look perfect, so William would be proud, just like she was proud of him. Proud of the dreams he had for his little plot of land. Proud that she was the girl that got to sit next to him, and claim the first dance. She held her hand out and looked at the delicate gold band, with it's tiny blue sapphire.

As she bent down to lace her boots. she heard some of her ten siblings bounding up and down the stairs and down the hall. She was the oldest, and the first to be engaged, and the other girls were as anxious for the social tonight as she was. Anxious to be included in the upcoming festivities, and to boast to their friends of their upcoming status as bridesmaids. Her mother, too, seemed to flutter. In a hurry one moment, and the still the next--looking at Emily strangely. And her father, saying little, but watching always.

Turning to the bed she shared with her two sisters, she picked up the soft white blouse and pulled it carefully over her hair, arranging the little bit of lace on the collar and the sleeves. Bending, she held up her skirt--ivory in color. A heavy waterstained silk. It had a lovely weight and drape to it, falling in folds to the floor, with it's tiny train. It made her want to sing it was so beautiful--the most beautiful thing she had ever saved for and owned. Her parents thought it was a ridiculous extravagance, but she loved it. She smiled as she pulled it over her head and buttoned it at the side, then tied a sky blue sash around her tiny waist.

Gazing in the mirror one more time, she could hear the wheels of a wagon pulling up in the front yard, and the sound of her brothers and sisters going out. She could hear William's deep, serious voice. Yes. It would do....

Leah was assigned to clean out her mother's arimoir. She was glad of the dark, comforting silence. Time to be alone--to think. Pressing in among the folds of dresses, breathing in deeply, she inhaled the mixed, mellow scents of perfumes. She buried her face in the shawls, blouses, and skirts. Simple, unadorned clothing, but it carried so many memories of her mother. Shoes worn through and patched, sweaters and stockings mended time and time again. Evidence of a life well lived, and worn through.

Placing the worn things aside, Leah divided them, one at a time, into giveaway piles. Going back in time, through her mother's life. She could hear her Father's voice, staccato and sharp, still ordering things in the orchard outside. She was glad, again, for silent task. With her Matthew gone to war, the days seemed to stretch endlessly in front of her. Her mother had been gone for nearly a year, but only now did Leah take on the task of sorting through her things.

Soon, she sat among piles of clothing, shoes, and the odd piece of jewelry. Reaching into the back of the closet, on the top shelf, her hand fell upon something wrapped in tissue paper. Drawing it out, with it's soft rustling, she drew the yellowed paper back and saw a shimmering ivory silk skirt. With a small gasp she held it up. She could hardly believe that her mother--her practical, hardworking mother, had ever owned such a thing, let alone worn it. Holding it up to her own waist, she realized what a tiny person her mother had been at one time.

Folding the skirt carefully, she placed it back in the tissue paper. She thought to ask Father about it. But then she shrank, thinking of his reaction to anything that had been her mothers. She ached to have it out of her childhood home, and into her own sunshine filled home. She wanted to shake it out, hold it up to the light, and think of her mother--young and beautiful. Glancing over her shoulder, she tucked the bundle in her wool coat. Maybe she could wear it when Matthew came home.


Everyone in her graduating class was wearing dresses covered in rows and layers of ruffles to their graduation. Broad hemlines and tight, long sleeves. Rachel had wanted something different, but she didn't know quite what. Her mother had offered to make her something, and she had looked through patterns, and fingered bolts of fabric, but she just couldn't find anything. Now, tomorrow was her graduation, and she had nothing better than her Sunday dress to wear. She flipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder and sighed, falling back on her bed.

Standing, she walked down the hall to her parents bedroom--thinking to borrow the single strand of pearls from her mother's jewelry box. Standing on tip-toe, she reached up into the closet and pulled the box down. She retrieved the string of pearls and was just reaching to put the box back when she caught a glimpse of shining ivory. Lifting a folded bedspread off of it, she pulled out a compacted square of fabric. Shaking it out, she saw a skirt fall in wrinkled folds down to the floor, with a tiny train at the back.

Fingering the fabric gently, she wondered how old it was and where it had come from. She held it up against herself, and wondered if it would fit her own waist. She draped the skirt over arm and walked back to her room, closing the door. Pulling the heavy skirt over her head, she did up the single side button and turned slowly to look in the mirror. Catching sight of herself, she smiled in surprise. It was perfect.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 48: Three broken toes.

First, I just have to say, that before I write every night, I spend time looking at other people's blogs. I love how funny some of them are--love how real others are. I'm nearly always impressed with what I find there. So, if you're a blogger like me and you wonder if anyone ever reads what you write, maybe it'll make you happy to know that I probably do.

Now, on to the story of "This Little Piggie."

This little piggy went to make dinner,
and This little piggy got stubbed.
This little piggy had bruises,
but This little piggy had none.
But this little piggy, the tiniest piggy of all?
Tripped on my daughter's Body Book and cried "Eee ee eeee!" all the way home.

Seriously?? THREE broken toes at once. How pathetic/clumsy am I? It's just because I resolved to exercise more, I think.

And yes, that was my creative exercise for the night. *little chuckle*

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 47: House Hunting

The house was yellow. It sat just up an incline, surrounded by tall oak trees. A rocking chair front porch hedged by azeleas that would bloom crimson and white in the spring. Carol, The Realtor, opened the box on the front door and stood aside to let me in. Directly in front of me was a wide staircase with a wooden banister. Turning to the left, I noticed that the carpets were faded and shabby, but the windows were tall and wide, with sunshine pouring in the south facing windows. I could imagine our Christmas tree, standing in the corner. Moving into the kitchen, I tried to picture our dishes in the dark brown cupboards, and wondered if I could paint them a clean white.

The Realtor trailed behind me, making comments about the neighborhood and the schools. She seemed oblivious to the 10 month old in my arms, our only child. The thought of buying this house, with it's attached school district and high school, made me feel like a kid pretending to be older than she was.

Running my hand over the banister, worn to a comfortable sheen, I wondered to myself "Is this our house?"

House hunting. What an experience. Trying on homes for size. Making a decision about the biggest purchase you'll ever make in less time than it took you to decide on and purchase a hair dryer at Target. And you don't just buy the house--you buy the neighbors next door, with their barking dog and tendency to throw their cat litter over the fence into your yard. You buy the noise of the bypass a mile away, and the former owner's preferences for trees and shrubs.

Note: I want to turn this into a story--I was just getting my thoughts out there, for tonight. I'm too tired, I'm afraid, to actually come up with a plot. I'll be working on it for tomorrow, though.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 46: Horror

Rebecca R.

Charlotte, North Carolina

* Bachelor of Arts Brigham Young University GPA 3.74 9/2000--6/2004
Major: Humanities with an English Emphasis, German Minor

*Associate of Arts Ricks College GPA 3.84 2/1998--6/1999
ajor: General Studies

Work Experience
Homemaker 6/2004 -- present

BYU Bookstore 1/2003--2/2004
Custom Framing: Assembled and completed custom framing of prints and artwork, requiring an attention to detail, an eye for design, and excellent customer service.
Contact: Todd (801) 123-4567

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 4/2001-- 11/2002
Church representative and missionary: Lived and worked in Switzerland, which required a working knowledge of the German language, as well as strong interpersonal skills and extensive self-motivation.
Contact: N. Hahl (801)123-4567

A. Rodriguez 9/1999--5/2000
Live-in nanny: Provided child care for four children, ages 0-11 years, as well as household management.
Contact: M. Mayorga (801) 123-4567

Church Education System 6/1999-8/1999 and 5/2000-8/2000
Youth Counselor, Especially For Youth: Supervising, teaching, and mentoring youth for five day religiously based camps held on various campuses around the United States.
Contact: J. Smith (801) 123-4567

Character References
T. Cheney Ecclesiastical leader (704) 123-4567
L. Coombs Neighbor and friend (704) 123-4567

Note: Okay. I know. It's the most boring entry EVER. But I was looking at my brothers resumes and thinking about how AWFUL and out of date mine is now. It got me itching to do one. So go ahead, check "Bo-ring". *hmmph*

Of course, it also got me thinking "Would I really include Homemaker under my work experience?" That's a tough question for me. I've never worked harder at anything in my LIFE and nothing I've ever done has required more skill. Thanks to this "motherhood/wife" position, I can fluently converse with people in the medical field, the education field, the speech therapy field, the finance field, the home repair and car repair fields, among others. I mean, seriously?? Does it really not belong on my resume?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 45: Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Writing Committeh

Alright. To get tonight's entry, you'd really have to be familiar with They have a "LOLCats Builder" on their site with various pictures, and you're supposed to caption them in "lolcat" language. I'm amazed at how hard it is to come up with something good, which makes me appreciate even more how *funny* some of their captions are. My three attempts (which took far too long to think of....)
The one above made me laugh because it just reminded me of someone who might've set their New Year's resolutions a bit high and dove headfirst into a huge bowl of whatever they weren't supposed to eat.

Give it a try--it's a good writing "workout". *grin*

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 44: In search of a shadow...

Oh, how I wish I had something wonderful to say tonight. My writing prompt for the night is: Right now you should be doing ______ instead of being on the computer.

Goodness. I should be doing dishes. I should be flossing my teeth. I should be putting couch cushions back on the couch for the hundredth time this week instead of thinking "Why? They'll get pulled off first thing in the morning anyway." I should be grateful that my daughter goes back to preschool tomorrow, rather than being thoroughly bummed that her break went so fast and wishing she could stay home a week longer. I should be sleeping so that I'm not a zombie when the Wee One wakes up at 3:00 and wants to eat.

More than that, I think part of me believes I should be running my fingers through azure blue water rather than being on the computer. That I should be in a time zone far away, jotting notes furiously in a notebook and contracting odd stomach diseases from local cuisine. That, rather than the static hum of the laptop, I should be hearing the rise and fall of babbling languages--some of which are coherent to me, but not all. That I should look odd and out of place in a sea of NOT blonde people.

Now, I'm not complaining. I'm really not. I've had a lovely day, and I have a *fabulous* life, but do you ever flip open Reader's Digest and read about the guy saving orphans in Nepal and think, "Wow. Now that guy has a calling"? Well. I do. Not all the time. I read Into Thin Air once and decided that I should stay as far away from the Himalayas as humanly possible. And when I went to Indonesia on a whim and *did* contract some odd stomach bug from eating pizza with local goat's cheese on it, I regretted it the entire 17 hour long flight home.

Strangely enough, very soon my husband will be the one taking a flight that is many hours long, over an ocean, to a different continent to visit his parents, who happen to live in the kind of country that you need some serious vaccines to visit. He'll be seeing the Atlantic from the other side, while I hold up the walls of the home we've made together. And you know what? I can't say I'm jealous. I wish I could go, to be with him. I wish I could go, to see his parents. But a yellow fever vaccine so that I can fill up on fuu-fuu, chicken, and rice? I think I'll pass.

I think it was Buddha who said that if you leave your own backyard in search of happiness, you're chasing a shadow. Maybe, rather than being on this computer, I should be making a list of all the reasons that home is the very best place for me to be right now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Day 43: Winter

Writing Prompt 2:
Write about one of the five senses
(related to your winter experience):
The smells of winter
The smell of winter is the smell of snow on boots, standing in the hallway, with slushy water puddling around them. It is the smell of hoar frost and fog on a still morning. It is the smell of wet car mats and salt on the roads.
The sights of winter...
The sights of winter are the bare, white branches of a tree with a single red bird. Frozen and re-frozen puddles with gasoline rainbows in them. Red brake lights reflecting off of wet roads. Geese on black water. Snow billowing and blowing off a rooftop. Winter is red mittens and black coats, and thick socks with holes in the heel. A bright blue sky against a radiant white field of snow. Water particles frozen in the air, making the whole world glitter like a snow globe. A tired sun setting behind drab, dirty roofs.
The sounds of winter...
The sounds of winter are an ice scraper on a windshield. The click of the pilot light and the furnace turning on in the night. The sound of snow crunching beneath your feet. Hearing your own breathing and heartbeat in your ears as you go on a walk with a hat and hood on.
The touch of winter...
The touch of winter is air so cold that it makes your nose hair freeze together and sting. It is the rush of bright red cheeks, and numb fingers that you have to run under cold water before you can run it under warm. It is frozen, raw wrists between your coat and gloves. It is the twisting weight of grocery bags as you try to make only one trip in from the car. It is a warm bed in a cool room first thing in the morning. Tingling hands in gloves when you exercise.
The tastes of winter...
The tastes of winter are scalding hot chocolate and thick, sticky oatmeal. Rich, heavy stew on a Sunday afternoon, with warm bread. Macaroni and tomato juice, heaped with grated cheddar cheese. Roast beef and potatoes, with gravy.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 42: Charleston

Years ago, I took a class on African-American Women's Literature. My professor, one of the world's experts on Zora Neale Hurston literature, was a petite white woman from New Zealand. She had a passion for Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison, among others. She vehemently told us that we--a bunch of preppy white girls--were not their intended audience. Their literature was meant to keep us out, and they would not like us if they met us. The dean gave her great leeway in her research, and so she traveled often to her favorite city, Charleston, South Carolina. She was looking for remnants of Gullah culture there, and she told us of local African-American men who showed her where the slave cemeteries are--under parking garages now. She showed us pictures of intricate wrough-iron gates, the creations of Philip Simmons.

That was the first I'd ever been made aware of this city, a beautiful, beguiling place, with a dark, sinister side: the Venice of the South. Driving down on a late summer day, you may find a parking space on East Battery, near the park. Here, the Cooper and Ashley Rivers meet and rush out to the open Atlantic beyond. Ancient, gnarled oak trees line the roads and provide shade. Civil war cannons, filled with cement, stand sentinel as you gaze out to the harbor and realize, almost with a start, that Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War, are floating in the water in front of you. Behind you, there are elegant homes in every hue with all the porches facing eastward, toward the harbor breeze. Strictly controlled by a preservation and restoration society, each home--even when connected--is unique and distinct. Here, hardwood doors are lit on either side by flickering gas torch lamps--a nod to an earlier, more enlightened era. Cobblestone alleyways run behind the homes, punctuated with gates that lead into demure, inviting gardens. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

It is entirely possible, in this city, to envision women in hoop skirts or colonial flounces. It seems, sometimes, like you can hear the echo of carts and the horses clattering down the streets. There are still shadows of the gentlemen and ladies as well as the slaves, the pirates, and the poor that walk these streets. It is the kind of place that makes you believe in ghosts. Even today, all the locals seem to know each other--calling out greetings across streets and exchanging warm hellos. It is easy to be enchanted by it's quiet, charming beauty. But it is hard to overlook the slums that crowd just outside the tourist section. As you pass very young men selling roses woven from palm leaves in the middle of a weekday, and you wonder, for a moment, why they aren't in school. Whenever I visit, I feel like I'm surrounded by characters from a book. Stories just begging to be told. It is no different than many of our old cities--Harlem in Manhattan or the French Quarter of New Orleans. Maybe just friendlier. Charleston, like America, is a living contradiction of darkness and light.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 41: The Darkest Day

Please forgive me for missing New Year's Eve. I was "chaperoning" a dance with the teenagers from my congregation, who all happen to be spectacularly cool. Of course, I was the completely crazy adult dancing like a wild woman whilst they sat against the wall texting each other on their fancy phones. It's a generational thing. They did get up for three songs: Boot Scootin' Boogie, the Cha Cha Slide, and--my favorite--Cotton Eyed Joe. I made it through that last one, but I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack. Muy pathetico.

Tonight, of course, being New Years Day is the darkest night of the year. Forlorn looking Christmas trees littering the curb like homeless orphans. No more cheery Perry Como or Bing Crosby on the radio. And everyone, in sync, quits plugging in their Christmas lights on their houses. So now everything is black and abysmal out there where, yesterday night, it was a cheery festival of snowmen, flashing icicles, and multi-colored trees. I don't know why it is we feel the need to begin the new year by plunging the world into darkness, but so it is.

This morning, determined not to be sentimental, I took down and put away all of our Christmas decorations. My daughter, upon entering the room and seeing me trying to hoist the Christmas tree out of its stand, took on the air of Cindy Lou-Who and cried "Mama! What you doing??" Me, feeling like The Grinch, explained that it was time for the Christmas tree to go back outside. She pitifully whimpered, "But it was happy in our hoooooooouse." Uuuuuh.... I considered, for a moment, screwing it back into the stand for one more night, but no. Nope. That is a slippery slope if ever a slippery slope there was. So, I explained that everyone everywhere was taking their trees outside and all the trees were going to have a big party together, so we had to get it out so it wouldn't miss the party. That got her in the mood to get it out of the house. I only realized my mistake when she came traipsing out dragging a string of Christmas lights and a big bucket of glass ornaments. To get it "dressed for the party." Uuuuuuuh....

Happy 2009 everyone.