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Summer To Do Lists

June 5, 2013
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We are looking down on 95 days of summer vacation. 95 days. I’m letting that number sink in for a minute. Because in our house, all of the adults work. And the child does not. For 95 days.  This creates an interesting challenge.

And while I’m super down with not having to wrestle a child out the door every morning before sunlight, I’m also not sure how we’re going to fill 2,375 hours. Productively. Nutritionally. Without killing each other. So right now, the wide open space of nothingness is daunting. Of course I’m into the slow days of porch swings and soccer balls and lightning bugs. At least in theory. But, on the other hand, none of us sit still very well, and well, there are things to be done.

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Pecans In Texas Are Puh-Kahns.

November 12, 2012
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Living in this house…where my great grandparents used to live…I’ve found that memories I’ve long forgotten often pop out of nowhere in the most unexpected ways. It happened today when a pecan fell on my head.

I was just walking out to the car, through the gate, down the path, when plop. Incoming dive bomber pecan right in the middle of my skull. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. I feel like this is how I spent every Thanksgiving in the 80s. Outside. Kind of bored. Getting hit in the head with small objects thrown by squirrels.

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The Gifts We Give Each Other.

December 16, 2011
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It was exceptionally dreary as we made our way through the fog on our daily pre-dawn commute to school. The weather was grey, the morning was hectic, and I felt like someone was missing in the car, the way you do when you overachieve at miscarriage. The more we stopped and started, inching forward behind miles of tiny red taillights, the bluer I became.

It’s the holidays, Man. A tough season for anyone over the age of 11. And honestly, it seems the more most wonderful times of the year you’ve chalked up through the decades, the further down you can find yourself in the weeks leading up to the happiest season of all. This is all coming from someone who’s obnoxiously Glass Half Full!…This time of year can be brutal. Sure it brings out the best in us, and also the worst. You don’t have to get many feet from your driveway to figure that out. And we were miles from home.

So I turned up the Holly station and challenged Harry to a contest to see who could sing the loudest. (He won. He screams.) And by the time we pulled into his school lot, I had veered back into the direction of normal. We parted ways, and I moved into the day.

But first, I had to stop for coffee.

This is what’s rough about getting out of the house in the sixes. Time is of the essence, and I excel at not making enough time to get it together to prepare the necessary to-go cup before going.  So I stopped in at the giant chain up the street and stood in line. The line is always the feature in this place, it’s the main thing going on, and it winds around every table in the room…tables that no one in her right mind would even attempt to sit in because of all the crappy line people standing over your head in the line. It also creates the perfect environment for eavesdropping.

So I was standing in line, eavesdropping, over this mom and her four-year-old daughter who had crammed themselves around one of these tables. The mother was beautiful, in a seemingly and annoyingly no-effort kind of way, and she was dressed in the area’s mom uniform…fancy workout clothes. The ringlet child next to her was wearing some kind of pink and red fancy dress. It was 8 a.m. They didn’t have any food or beverage on their tiny table. They were just sitting there, waiting for something maybe, and the daughter was begging for a cookie. The mom said, “Sweetheart, no, no cookies, you don’t want cookies. You need to lose some weight.”

And then I stopped breathing.

I didn’t hear anything after that because my senses were no longer working as a team. My body was taken over by that punch-gut feeling you get when the boy you love breaks up with you.  I went through all five stages of grief in 27 seconds.

Then I pulled out my phone. In a desperate attempt to remind myself I wasn’t in some kind of weird dream sequence, I did a version of “OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST HEAR THAT?” to the only other people around, the pixelated people on the electronic device in my hand…

I still wasn’t thinking clearly. I was typing this on Twitter and trying to breathe. I went through all the grief stages again and added on a few more just for fun. And then it was my turn to order. My ears were still numb and I was frankly still a little dazed when I stepped up and ordered a tiny hot chocolate with extra whipping cream. No. Make that two. No. Make that three.

As I waited for the beverages to be properly frothed and for my name to be called, I suddenly sobered up. Crap. Seriously. What the hell was I doing? I was taking eavesdropping to a new and inappropriate level of butting into someone’s life and parenting issues.

But then I realized this wasn’t about them.

It was about me. And my ears. And my blue mood that suddenly went exploding red hot with the utterance of six words. This was about me on about six levels. And it was about all of us…as girls, as mothers, as daughters, as people. Enough. We don’t even realize what we’re doing to each other. We don’t realize what we have. And we don’t realize how fragile, how resilient, and how powerful we all are.

I’d never expect a tiny hot chocolate to fix that. But that’s what I had at my disposal.

I collected my offering and walked over to the tiny table. I told the mom that ‘seeing such a beautiful mother and daughter out this morning made my day. Because it’s so great to see them together out during the holiday season. And what a wonderful thing to get to start the day with such a beautiful little girl. I came in for coffee, but I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate and I wanted to buy them one too and say Happy Holidays!‘ And my God as I’m typing this now, it just sounds crazy. But in that surreal moment of weirdo dreamland perfectionville nonsense, it all somehow made sense.

And then the mom took the chocolate. It seemed she didn’t know exactly what to say. But then she started to tear up a tiny bit. And she thanked me.

I don’t think she’d had hot chocolate in a very long time.

And her reaction made me remember something. We all have our things. And we’re all missing things. And we should all be easier on ourselves and each other.

Let your heart be light. Just let it be.

Soundtrack: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. 

My Life List.

October 20, 2011
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A Life List is like a bucket list, but more lifey. You may have heard of them. I’ve never officially put mine out there, although I’ve had one in the works for a while. Over the last years, I’ve done year lists every year, but have always put off publishing a Life List. I don’t know why. Perhaps it seemed too scary, or permanent, or impermanent. It’s hard to say. But now that I’m 40 (and doing two events a year based on Life Lists), I’m committing. So here we go.

Let’s do this.

1. Make a life list.

2. Keep a jar of sharpened pencils on my desk. Always.

3. Have a gigantic sale to get rid of all the stuff I don’t use.

4. Grow a pumpkin patch.

5. Learn to throw pottery.

6. Walk across the Brooklyn bridge.

7. Learn how to make tortillas from scratch.

8. Go real camping with someone who knows how to real camp. And just follow directions and/or stand around while that person does all the hard parts.

9.  Knit a blue hat.

10. Make apple cider. Or some sort of hooch.

11. Have Harry teach me how to play chess.

12. Own super-fancy, awesome-to-sleep-on sheets.

13. Work at a restaurant, waiting tables.

14. Work retail.

15. Have a cool pair of glasses for every day of the week.

16. Go to the Oprah show. Wear fun shoes.

17. Make a pinata.

18. Make pickles.

19.  Learn how to can things. In Mason jars.

20. Learn how to whistle loud, like I’m hailing a cab.

21. Make pasta from scratch

22. Make a quilt.

23. Fix up my great grandmother’s house and make it like I want it. (Fix it up, make it pretty, keep it tidy.)

24. Take Harry to Disney World.

25. Have fancy dinners at these 10 restaurants in the US: Alinea, Per Se, Daniel, Le Bernardin, Chez Panisse, Blue Hill Stone Barns. Uchiko, Clio, Canlis, French Laundry.

26. Go to Denmark. Visit the original Lego Land. Eat at Noma.

27. See Italy: Rome. Venice. Florence. Milan. Cinque Terra. Capri. Sorrento. San Gimignano. Portofino. Assisi.

28. Stay at the Le Sirenuse spa in Positano.

29. Eat at Osteria Francescana in Modena.

30. Visit Australia. See Sydney, Kata Tjuta,and a koala.

31. Spend a couple of nights on Mont St. Michel in France. (I’ve been, but I want to stay there for a few overnights.)

32. Visit Santorini

33. Visit the Parthenon.

34.  Visit Iguazu Falls.

35. Visit Dollywood.

36. See Cuba.

37. Stay in a glass igloo in Kakslauttanen, Finland + see an Aurora Borealis

38. Visit all 58 National Parks in the US: Acadia, American Samoa, Arches, Badlands, Big Bend, Biscayne, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Carlsbad Caverns, Channel Islands, Congaree, Crater Lake, Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Denali, Dry Tortugas, Everglades, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Basin, Great Sand Dunes, Great Smoky Mountains, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes, Hot Springs, Isle Royale, Joshua Tree, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kings Canyon, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, Lassen Volcanic, Mammoth Cave, Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic, Petrified Forest, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, Saguaro, Sequoia, Shenandoah, Theodore Roosevelt, Virgin Islands, Voyageurs, Wind Cave, Wrangell Saint Elias, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion (Thanks for the inspiration, Leslie!)

39. Explore 25 major cities outside North America as an adult: London,  Paris, Cairo, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Kyoto, Madrid, Nairobi, Istanbul, Cape Town, Amsterdam, Athens, Zurich, Edinburgh, Bangkok, Rome, Reykjavik, Mexico City, Seoul, Mumbai, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Dubai.

40. Find a local charity to support and volunteer my time.

41. Attend a Seder.

42. See the Marfa lights.

43. Sponsor someone for Women for Women International.

44.  Visit the Rosslyn Chapel.

45. Write a story set around a chapel, church, or a cathedral.

46. Stay in a convent for a week.

47. Sign over a full paycheck to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

48. Have my own office.

49. Get another degree.

50. Live in New York City.

51. Work at a cute retail shop in New York City. But probably not a clothes shop.

52. Visit Fallingwater.

53. Go on a sleigh ride in the snow.

54. Record an original song.

55. Produce a reading tour of bloggers.

56. Throw a party in someone’s grand estate.

57. Run a 5K.

58. Run a 10K.

59. Run a Half Marathon.

60. Drink tea in China.

61. Drink bourbon in Kentucky.

62. Drink vodka in Russia.

63. Drink scotch in Scotland.

64. Drink whiskey in Ireland.

65. Drink beer in Germany. At Oktoberfest.

66. Drink champagne in France. In Champagne.

67. Drink a caipirinha in Brazil. In Rio.

68. Drink sake in Japan.

69. Drink ouzo in Greece.

70. Be able to make a stable of things really well…basically, have specialty items: Homemade bread, pancakes (or waffles or some related breakfast item), a soup, a sandwich, a green salad, a meal salad,  a cookie, a savory pie, a sweet pie, a cake, an Indian dish, a Mexican dish, fried chicken, black-eyed peas, fried green tomatoes, salsa, gingerbread, an appetizer, a casserole, an old-fashioned drink.

71.  Make yearbooks for Harry.

72. Have a mantle in my house. Line it with photos of my favorite people. Decorate it each holiday/season.

73. Make Christmas stockings.

74. Host a Holiday dinner for 25 people (or more).

75. Only give homemade gifts one Christmas (but they have to be good).

76. Start a meditation practice of some kind.

77. Own a lake house. I use the word house loosely.

78. Own an Eames chair.

79. Own an old truck.

80. Host a BINGO party.

81. Host a costume party.

82. Throw a dinner party by the San Marcos river.

83. Grow a vegetable garden.

84. Make a scarecrow.

85. Spend Christmas somewhere where it’s snowing.

86. Be someone’s fairy godmother.

87. Read a book series with Harry.

88. Play Scrabble with Harry.

89. Make hot cross buns with Harry.

90. Be independently wealthy. Just enough so that money isn’t a worry.

91. Live in the Lake District of England for a time.

92. Celebrate Harry’s graduation from high school and college.

93. Go on some sort of pilgrimage.

94. Experience zero gravity.

95. Go to an official film premiere and after party. With some kind of super awesome VIP tickets. Because somehow I contributed to the writing, development, or production of this film. Not on-screen stuff. Just life experience stuff.

96. Sell a company.

97. Start a scholarship for a happy reason.

98. Start a writer’s grant.

99. See my son grow to be a man.

100. Celebrate something every day.

*Photo is from Apollinas. Citrus Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Orange Lemon Icing. I want that to be my cake in #70.

Cooking with Friends.

August 18, 2011
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Photo by Karen Walrond.

We are spending this last weekend of summer with good friends in Port Aransas. The beach rental is gorgeous. The rum punch is plentiful. And I can’t emphasize enough how great it is to travel with friends who are photographers. Pressure’s off. I’m not going to take one photo while I’m here. I’m just going to cook.

Get ready for a lot of recipes coming your way this week.

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta.

August 23, 2010
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On Saturday, I got back from the beach to a bunch of tweets from my friend Jenny, who was in distress after her dog died, which resulted in her running around her yard with a machete trying to murder vultures. (Long story here.) I called her to see if she was okay, and she clearly wasn’t, so I told her I was walking out to door, to drive to her place, to dig up her dead dog. (Other long story here.) It was not how I’d expected the day to go, but sometimes, that’s just how things roll out. On the way to Jenny’s house, I was crossing the Devil’s Backbone (that’s really what it’s called) and I thought, A.) If I have to go over the Devil’s Backbone to get to Jenny’s new place, that must mean that one of us resides near the Devil’s Brain and one near the Devil’s Asshole. (I don’t want to think about which  lives where.) and B.) I’ve never dug up a dead body before, but surely I can do this. This is what my grandmother would have done. Without blinking. In fact, this is just the kind of thing that randomly occurs in Central Texas. Get used to it. Oh how my life has changed. So I went. And it wasn’t all that bad. (Well, it was kind-of bad. But mainly, it was just great to help.) Most importantly, we did it. We took care of it. In 10 minutes time, we were able to lift a major weight that had troubled a friend for days. Not by thinking (obviously) or analyzing, or proselytizing. But by doing. Teamwork.

Soundtrack: Predictably, The Geto Boyz

Insect Suburbs

June 21, 2010
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Harry is currently a master-planned community developer for the Rolly Poly, Snail, and Caterpillar markets. He attracts them with a lush lawn, short commute, and attractive neighbors—promising a lovely, care-free, air-conditioned life. However, once they move in to their shiny new glass houses, their dreams of freedom are squashed. Eventually they just get slow and pass on.