Yesterday I had lunch with mom & dad, and then we visited my grandparents’ graves at Greenlawn (Grandma Ilene & Grandpa Fred, mom’s parents). Such a lovely, odd tradition: placing plastic flowers at the graves of long-gone loved ones. It’s nice to look around and see so many colorful markers saying, “someone remembers you.”

Grandpa Fred, circa 1942

Made me realize how much I miss having grandparents. Some of my friends still have them around, and I find myself feeling jealous for the baked goods, unconditional love, outdated humor and homegrown wisdom that grandparents provide. (My parents will be good at all those things. But don’t get any ideas.)

I miss having a place to go, and a couch to sit on, where I could just BE and everything else in my life could pause. (Sounds like therapy, huh? Sort of.)
Life paused and was put in perspective. My grandparents showed me that life went on a long time before I got here, and (if I’m lucky) my life will go on a long time after right now. Life is short and life is long.

And I could always count on good snacks… with Fred & Ilene it was Cheez-its, ice cream, stovetop popcorn; with Jimps & Audrey it was packaged soft chocolate chip cookies, angel food cake, garden green beans. (Not necessarily at the same time.)



I love this photo from Thanksgiving 2006. It shows off my best “mom, why are you taking a picture right now?” face. Just hanging out with Grandpa Fred — who is no doubt being hilarious and a little offensive.




It’s been a big few days for pondering The End of the Word as We Know It. Observe:

–The (not so much) End of Days came and went.
–Final weekend with my Memphis BFFs, who are about to become my Denver BFFs.
–Oprah’s final episodes are an event. I think I cried less at my graduations…
–Plus the tornado, and the bad weather isn’t stopping.

It’s a lot to think about, and not just for overly emotional, thinky types like me. (The wider populace might not try to glean meaning out of, say, a trip to Walmart. To me there are potential stories everywhere.)

All the news about Joplin makes me remember being a kid, huddling in my hallway bathroom (we didn’t have a basement), and clutching favorite possessions:

–My Fisher-Price “boom box”– red, plastic & prized.
–Shadow, my stuffed cat, wearing a doll-sized nightshirt that matched one of mine. Plus our real cat, if I could wrangle her.
–My Bible (not for reading at the moment, but because it was Important and therefore should be saved).
–Plus various knickknacks inside whatever purse was my favorite that day.
–And probably a pair of clean underwear. Practical.

I’d gather all that stuff whenever the tornado sirens started to sound, hoping everything would be okay. And it always was, which is lucky I know.
Growing up in a Midwestern small town, regular tornado scares are nothing more than an inconvenience to evening TV in springtime. What happened in Joplin is the kind of thing we secretly fear while we huddle in our basements but never quite think will happen. Sometimes it does.

Watching all the facebook posts sending prayers or links to relief websites, I feel like I don’t know how to respond. I feel so disconnected from this, even though it’s not that many miles away from me. It’s a little hard to process having Al Roker broadcast live from not that many miles away.

I told myself that the appropriate response–no matter how emotionally detached from the tragedy I may feel–is to GIVE. Knowing there are 1000s of little girls in Joplin right now who won’t have the cute memories or happy ending to the tornado scare from my childhood. That’s the least I can do. (And you, too.)

The second thing I can do is greet everyone in my life with a little more GRACE & GRATITUDE. People go through hard times that never make the evening news, tornado-level devastation in their hearts that we may never see or know, so why not be a little nicer just in case. That sounds good.

Still I can’t quite settle down about it. Neat, tidy lessons established for myself or not.

The 5:00 news is telling me about a little boy who is missing. There may be 100s more. And more storms are coming tonight, so I can’t help but feel a little afraid it could happen again (because it could). The story we tell ourselves is that these things don’t happen to people we know (but they do).
And there’s a more-than-small anxiety growing in my heart that you can’t outsmart the bad stuff. You can’t out-buy or out-prepare or out-worry or out-protect against life.
(Tornadoes in my state. Heartache in my self. They both happen.)

I think “good kids” who live through tough times learn that it’s our job to keep it all under control. If I can be good enough at everything I try, then everything will be fine. I can outsmart sadness and disappointment. But that’s a game I can’t win.
Sadness doesn’t care how smart I am. Sadness just is.  Storms don’t care how much I worry. Storms just are.

Owning the right stuff or finding a boyfriend who will be “mine” or doing all the things I “should” do to be a good woman / daughter / writer / friend. Those things I cling to don’t protect me. And they aren’t supposed to.

I was thinking today about how many religions place some value in SURRENDER or LETTING GO. That’s the secret right? All we really ever have is what’s left behind when we let everything else go: which is, of course, everything we need.

Tragedies can be times to wake up to life. People come together and sacrifice for others. They vow to slow down and appreciate life, hug their families, more.

That list of Big Things from the weekend aren’t as unrelated as they may seem. I think they teach me one thing, to use Oprah’s words:

Live your best life.

Daydreams & Dream Dreams

The back-end of wordpress just got so much cooler, you guys! Amazing what a little gradient can do to make the blank unreality of the internet seem more welcoming and modern and thing-like.

(If my grandma were still around to hear the words, “the back-end of my blog just got cooler,” I think she’d tell me to put some long pants on. It’s windy in springtime, and you’ll freeze in those shorts, Lulabelle.)

Speaking of spring wind, I walked across campus today clutching 200+ just-edited loose printer pages, ready to finally take them off my To Do list.
Tightrope walkers, high over pits of flame, have felt less tension than I did while imagining the slow-motion tableau of myself dropping the stack on the sidewalk. If ever there was a moment to go all Lucille Ball in comic failure, this was it.
Pages everywhere! Hours of work gone! Squirrels scurrying away with the index! Suddenly there’s a lake on campus and the papers fall in and Colin Firth jumps in to save me!

Imagination is a powerful thing, folks.

As I clutched this cursed project like it was the Gutenberg Bible, protecting against the wind and wasted effort, I realized in that moment of ridiculous paranoia that there was a time in my life (circa 1993, probably) when I would have died — I mean, like, just DIED, like that drug dealer on Nash Bridges* (That’s me being 10 in 1993.) — if you’d told me that it was going to be my JOB someday…That people would give me MONEY…And also a DESK with my own mug of colored pens & stuff…for me to edit 300 pages of pure typo treasure-hunt like this project was:
We’re talkin’ formatting inconsistencies in paragraph spacing.
We’re talkin’ subhead colons that should be bold but they are not bold.
We’re talkin’ watching out for “unievrsity” instead of “university.”

And I get to fix it. All By Myself.

NO WAY!, 10-year-old me says.
Yes, way., I reply. And you can make your desktop picture anything you want. 

*Nash Bridges actually premiered in 1996, when I was 13. Felt like I owed you that fact, readers. What would 10-year-old you think about you?