Lovely Out

March 23, 2011

I was at a friend’s house late tonight and drove home in what has to be the slushiest conditions I’ve experienced to date.  Nerve-wracking, driving in this kind of weather.  You know it qualifies when EVERYONE slows down.  Well, everyone except the city bus driver determined to stay on schedule at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday evening.

But as I turned into my neighborhood and no longer worried about traffic and or dodging buses, I could enjoy the view.  After several days of above-freezing temperatures, the snow banks have slouched down to wide, shallow piles with rounded slopes.  Tonight’s freezing rain was enough to cast white back over the terrain which has changed so much in the last few days.  In the streetlamps the glow was different, yet another brand new landscape.

As I got out of my car I had that eery feeling that something was different but I couldn’t tell what.  I crossed the street and stepped up on the sidewalk.  My street was wider, my sidewalk smoother, the snow illuminating the shape of everything underneath it.  I had noticed the change in shapes of the piles earlier, but now in the night-lit snow it was all different again.

Despite brutal wind and wet cold I relished the chance to go back out to put the recycling and trash in my alley, feeling for the garbage collector dealing with all those wet bags tomorrow morning.  I still thought it was so pretty that I went back out when I was done, camera in hand, full of energy I rarely have on a cold, wet night after my usual bedtime, ruining all that smooth snow with many trips of my footprints.

After a winter of record snowfall, this Mississippi girl can still marvel at the wonder that is snow.  Even if it arrives in late March.

Bittersweet

March 21, 2011

This week my kids will take a vacation with Daddy for SIX WHOLE NIGHTS.  This is the longest period of time I have been away from my children and, I believe, only the second time for more than one night.  The other time was for three days when my father passed away and they were too young to be schlepped a thousand miles for a funeral they’d likely not remember.

I will enjoy the quiet and the solace and the relaxed pace of the way I do adulthood.  I had hoped to start a new job while they were gone, but that did not pan out.  So I will spend quality time with friends, my writing projects, and complete various undone projects around the house.  It will be a real vacation and I’m going to LOVE IT.  No matter how much you love the people in your life, everyone needs a break.  And I am grateful to have this one.

But no matter how much I will enjoy it, saying goodbye to my sweet ones for that long will be tough.  They are in good hands, without a doubt.  But they will miss me and they are still too young to appreciate how quickly a week passes, how quickly they’ll be in front of me again, talking non-stop about all the fun they will have had.  And I will miss them.  I don’t know what it will be like to have this place all to myself.

One of my greatest hopes as a parent is for my children to learn to go out into the world on adventures without me.  I so hope they enjoy this first big one.  And I so hope I will be rested and rejuvenated, and have a little more to give them when they return.

Career Day

March 19, 2011

Yesterday was Career Day at my kids’ school.  The idea of Career Day, I find, brings out the feminist in me.  But since my oldest is only in first grade and it was held on the Friday before Spring Break, I let the whole thing slide.  Next year, really, I am going to encourage them to come up with some cool stuff and actually help make costumes.  Really.

So, my son dressed up as an animal keeper.  His costume consisted of a calculator in his hand.  I didn’t argue as since he decided this ten minutes before they needed to be AT school.  One daughter was a princess, though she could not tell me what a princess DOES all day.  And my other daughter was a race car driver, thanks to brother’s Halloween costume.  She wanted to be an astronaut but we couldn’t find the right helmet for the job.

It was fun to see the different ideas at school.  One kid wore a brightly colored hat with a name tag that claimed he was a cartoonist.  I saw a girl with a doctor’s coat and, for some reason, a mustache and beard painted on her face.  I wondered why she needed to be male to be a doctor, but apparently she was a Mad Scientist!  I thought that was cool.

My kids loved the day and have been talking about it ever since.  This morning, Daughter #1 asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up.   Glad she noticed I haven’t really grown up yet, but I’ve been pondering my lack of an answer ever since…  Blog Writer??  Hmmm, no one pays me for that.  Must think it over some more.

In the meantime, this is the video for Career Day by our friends The Bazillions.  Daughter #2 can be seen in her debut as a coffee-drinking computer worker and a construction worker (yellow hard hat below).

I Wonder…

March 14, 2011

My children watch Nightly News on PBS.  It is an experience that makes me cringe, but a good habit to watch as a family as they are at the age where they hear about the bad stuff anyway.   But I cringe in a different way this week.

My children watched with awe as they saw the video replayed over and over of the ocean gushing across coastal land in Japan.

“That’s water?!?”

Yes, we told them.  We explained in basic terms what happens when an earthquake hits in the ocean.

“I see cars!”  “What’s THAT?!?”  They stood closer to the screen and squinted trying to make out the detail in the images.  I did not say what was on my mind, that most of those cars had a driver nearby or in it, passengers too.  That what they saw on the screen was the certain death of thousands of people in a horrific manner.  And I wondered what I didn’t want my kids to wonder yet.

I wondered how one gets through those minutes of sheer terror.  I wondered about family in Tokyo and took as a good sign that no one was talking about Tokyo.  I wondered what it was like for the survivors to see their entire community obliterated.  My mind darted around from one wondering to the next.

I still wonder.

I wonder what it is like to be a nuclear power plant worker who dons a white, crown-to-toe covering suit and walks IN to potential disaster because someone has to be there to attempt to contain the damage.

I wonder what it is like for all the people in that path of destruction to come to terms with what has happened and is happening around them.

I wonder what it is like to be trained in emergency management and drop everything to go use those skills to help the horrified.

We are tenants on this planet, probably temporary ones at that, not divinely placed squatters.  The earth will always shift and adjust under us as it has for millions of years before we came along.

But for now I am grateful that the people I know and love are safe and my heart breaks for those who no longer have that peace.

A few months ago I took an afternoon writing seminar from Dennis Cass at The Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis.  While I learned a few things about writing, what I remember most was how absolutely entertaining Dennis is.

So I made a mental note to read some of his stuff…one day.  You know, there’s a big stack on my nightstand.  At the time I found this fun piece published in NYTimes Magazine and really enjoyed it.

But last week I finally got around to picking up Head Case, a memoir about his attempt to understand his brain, and ultimately his stepfather, just as he was becoming a father himself.  Dennis has a voice, in person and on the page, that is at once dead serious and full-belly-laugh humorous, both attributes traveling parallel like the lines on an equal sign, and completely lacking the maudlin tone that marks the popular memoir.  He may never make Oprah’s Book Club, but he should.

He begins with an obsession that leads him into a past he clearly would rather not visit.  The result of that obsession is the tale of a pretty screwed up childhood and the process of temporary fixation which many of us indulge in at some point in our lives.  And his journey leads to some very realistic insight on what it means to move on and live with our own imperfect minds.  It is a search to understand science by an unscientifically minded person, which makes for great story-telling by a very talented writer.

Now I realize I am no book reviewer.  My posts about books I’ve enjoyed amount to “Dude!  You’ve got to read this!  And then call me so I can talk about it with you!”  But hey, it worked once so I’ll keep doing it.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.  If you’d like a taste of his delightful humor and voice, you can view his book promo video here.  And if you do read it, please email me so I’ll have someone to share it with.