Tuesday, March 26, 2019

To All the Cars I've Loved Before

(**inspired by being lost, again, at the Car Show in downtown Columbus)

Dear Brown, Tank-sized Station Wagon from the 1970s,

thank you for being there when I first learned to drive, and for teaching me to master parallel parking and the K turn, and for that day

when I was taking my driver's test and the guy yelled at me for driving down the center of the abandoned street and I started crying because I thought I had failed my test, but then the guy said, FINE, Go take your picture for your license, and I was crying and didn't want to take my picture but I did, and then my mom said Yay! You got your license, wanna drive home?

And I said NO! I hate driving! I never want to drive again!

And thank you, Small car, although I don't remember what color you were and never knew your make and model,

it was You who taught me to always wear shoes when I drove,

and to never ever ever drive in a nightgown to go pick up my boyfriend at one o'clock in the morning, where I would be sitting at a red light when a speeding car, --those headlights forever in the rear view mirror growing bigger and brighter (he's not going to stop HE'S NOT GOING TO STOP) hit me so hard I smashed my face on the steering wheel and totaled you-- so when the ambulance came to load me up, I had the great horror and shame of stumbling out of your accordion-wrecked body barefoot and nightgown clad.

And thank you, Chevy Spectrum (is that what you were called?)

a gift from my generous doting New England aunt when I graduated from college in Memphis, O how i loved you

until my aunt told me you had no air conditioning, --but Jody, do you really need air conditioning? Just turn on the fan. -- how (not) fondly I recall sitting in you, those 100-degree sweltering days, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the only car with the windows open, the fan on full-blast blowing

hot air on my sweaty face.

Dear dear Bright Aquamarine Mini Van,

thank you for helping me schlep the kids all over town, the car seats and booster seats, the tossed toy cars and chewed on doll heads, the forever yellow and crispy McDonalds french fries tucked in your cushions,

the seemingly endless loop of carpools to preschool, elementary school, middle school, soccer practice, piano lessons, viola lessons, concerts, games, the friends multiplying in the back seats, the chatter/giggles/tantrums that sometimes gave me a headache but now in their absence make my heart ache.

All of you, Cars,

I forgive you your breakdowns, your heat, your flat tires, your cracked windshields, your dropped fan belts in the pouring rain.

In the end you did what you promised. You took me where I needed to go, and when the trip was over, you brought me home.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

When I met W.S. Merwin, all I could think about was

how he once knew Sylvia Plath. At twenty-two I was still wildly enamored with her brute black-booted daddy poems and the story of how she'd lost her mind in a cold flat in London and gassed herself while her toddlers slept in the next room. Part horror, part fascination, only a small part understanding. I knew next to nothing at age twenty-two,

but I knew enough to be excited that W.S. Merwin was visiting my MFA program to do a reading and later mingle with us at the wine-and-cheese.

I expected to meet the dark-haired Heathcliff-looking Sylvia Plath friend from the 1950's, but this man was white-haired and ancient,

still,

he had piercing blue eyes, and when I mingled with him while drinking my wine and eating my cheese, I want to think that I didn't mention Sylvia Plath,

that instead, asked him about his poems or at least sounded halfway interested and serious,

What I probably talked with him about was his poem "Air" because I'd used it in a poetry workshop when the assignment was to write a poem using another poem as a model, writing yours with the same number of syllables per line,




or I might've talked to him about his poem  "For the Anniversary of My Death" Every year without knowing it I have passed the day 

because I was blown away by how obvious the idea was and yet I'd never thought about it before,

but who knows what we talked about. That was almost thirty years ago. I think he signed his latest book for me...

Yes!

I just now checked, and the small volume of poetry is there on my bookshelf, proving I do have half a brain.

Today, the "Poem a Day" in my poetry.org email said: "Remembering W.S. Merwin." Apparently, he died two days ago, March 15th.

And so we both passed the day without knowing it.





Saturday, March 9, 2019

While Not in Rome

Last week my husband met up with our daughter and her roommate in Rome for the girls' spring break. Every day I would wake up to glorious pictures of linguini and gelato, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel.


Then I would let the dog out, dart off to work, shelve 400 books, come home and settle in to write.

It was kind of a reverse retreat. The house was quiet, with no reason for me to stop working. I made a vat of potato soup and ate it all week. I read two books, one that was so crappy I wanted to fling it across the room and the other that restored my faith in the power of literature. When I needed to hear another human voice, I listened to a podcast.

(and lest you think I am too highbrow in my entertainment choices, I also binge-watched the raunchy Netflix cartoon Big Mouth and then, of course, took a bubble bath.)

It's strange living alone for a week.

I have never done it for much longer than that in my entire life. My husband and I have been married for 29 years. Before we married, I had roommates, and before that, I was a child living in a loud house with a lock on my door.

At one time I was afraid to be alone at night. My husband's traveled a lot over the years for business and I was fine when the kids were home, but once they moved out, the first time he left for a trip, I was worried that my old childhood fear of the dark would creep back.

It didn't.

Maybe it's the dog. I talk to her when I am alone and I swear she listens to me. When I'm parked too long in one position, she noses me until I get up and take her for a walk. At night when the house is settling and creaking and shadowy, she curls up at my feet on the bed. I know that she would bark away a ghost.


Not that I believe in ghosts, but you never know. I make up stories for a living. And by "a living" I mean, it is what I do. Night Number Eight alone, I mix it up a little. Eat leftover spaghetti. Scroll through the latest Roman holiday pictures. Settle in to write.

Later, I'll reward myself with a bubble bath.




Thursday, February 28, 2019

An Interview with Marcia Thornton Jones on Writing for Kids

What seems like a million years ago I was working in Lexington, Kentucky at the county board of education's gifted and talented department, filling in for a teacher friend, Marcia, who was home-bound after foot surgery. For six weeks I sat at Marcia's desk, working, but sometimes stealing a few minutes during lunch to write. Back then I had dreams of being a writer, although I didn't talk about it with many people.

Something funny, one day at work I opened the newspaper and found Marcia's photo on the front page under the headline: Marcia Thornton Jones: Kentucky's Best Selling Author. 

Turns out my teacher-friend was the co-author of the best selling Bailey School Kid series. To say I was stunned is putting it mildly. My daughter was a huge fan, and suddenly, sitting at this woman's desk felt like serendipity. Could Marcia point me in the right direction on my own writing path?

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: Marcia's been a good friend and mentor ever since.

If you want to learn how to get started writing for kids, but you don't happen to be working for a best-selling author immediately after she's had foot surgery, I've got the next best thing:



A new book on writing for kids, called appropriately enough Writing for Kids: the Ultimate Guide, by Marcia and her long-time writing partner Debbie Dadey.

The book is available now and because Marcia is darling, she's agreed to let me interview her today!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jody: What inspired you and Debbie to write this book?

Marcia: When Debbie and I started writing, we were clueless. We knew we wanted to write, and we knew we had stories to tell, but we had no idea how to successfully put those ideas on the page and get them published. We really wished we had someone who could help us; someone to guide us. Mentors who could show us the way.

We didn’t, so Debbie and I took classes, we researched, we wrote, and we learned from trial and error. I think one of the biggest benefits of having a writing partner is that we challenged each other to learn and to develop our writing skills—and we kept each other from giving up because, let’s face it, writing can be frustrating--

Jody: Especially all of the rejections. Twenty years-- yikes!-- since my first rejection and it never gets easier.

Marcia: So true. And this is another benefit of having a writing partner, you figure out how to get past those rejections together, which Debbie and I did, and we kept going, learning how to navigate the writing and publishing world, meeting others along the way who were as clueless as we were.

When Writers Digest Books approached us about writing the first book in a planned series for children’s book writers, we realized it was an opportunity to give back to the writing community. That book, Story Sparkers, was intended to be the first book in a series, and our mission was to write about generating ideas for kids’ books.

Since drafting Story Sparkers, I’ve been teaching writing as well and coordinating the Carnegie Center Author Academy in Lexington, Kentucky. I start the first session of my classes asking students what they want to know…what they need to learn in order to realize their goals as writers. Then I develop lessons with focused writing prompts based on their needs.

When the Writer’s Digest series didn’t pan out thanks to a change in editorial staffing, Debbie and I decided it was our opportunity to build off Story Sparkers, by writing a book that included all facets of the writing process, from generating ideas to marketing your finished book.

Jody: Which is what led to Writing for Kids: The Ultimate Guide... 

Marcia: Exactly. It's the book we wished we had when we were starting out together.

Jody: I love that you and Debbie worked on this book together-- and that you've written over one hundred!? books together. I'd love to hear more about how that partnership came about. 

Marcia: Debbie and I started writing together when we both worked at an elementary school in Lexington. We wanted to write the kinds of books that resonated with students. When we first started working together, we sat side-by-side at the computer and typed the stories as we spoke them. After Debbie moved from Lexington, we developed a system where we took turns writing chapters based on a rough outline.

Jody: Did you have a similar process working on Writing for Kids:The Ultimate Guide? 

Marcia: Not quite. We knew we had a beginning, thanks to the work we did for Story Sparkers. From that, we developed an outline based on the elements of the writing process. Within that framework, we wrote with the intention of providing information and concrete tools that help writers develop ideas, draft their stories, hone their craft, and navigate the publishing world. 

All those years of developing lessons and writing prompts focused on the specific needs of students in my classes at the Carnegie Center became an integral part of Writing for Kids: The Ultimate Guide!

Since we wanted to make this affordable, we decided to self-publish it. Debbie took on the task of formatting it, but we did seek help from an agent as well.

Jody: Give me a teaser...  Say I am a beginning writer or someone further along in the process who's not quite sure how to break into the publishing world. Why should I want to read your guide? 

Marcia: I have a personal motto:  Give people TIME. 

TIME stands for Teach, Inspire, Motivate, and Empower. That’s exactly what Writing for Kids: The Ultimate Guide does. It teaches information and skills writers need to know about writing kids’ books. It inspires and motivates writers to write—and keep writing. And it empowers writers to achieve their goals of writing for kids.

Jody: Okay, you've got me. I am not a beginner but one thing I've learned over the years about writing is I always have more to learn. I downloaded the book last night and am eagerly dipping in!

Readers, if you want to take a peek Marcia's and Debby's latest guide for children (or at any of their other joint or solo ventures) See below:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Writing for Kids: The Ultimate Guide to buy on Amazon. 


Marcia Thornton Jones has traditionally published more than 130 books for children with sales totaling more than 43 million copies world-wide. Her works include Woodford Brave, Champ, Ratfink, Godzilla Ate My Homework, The Tale of Jack Frost, and Leprechaun on the Loose. She is the co-author of seven popular series: The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, Keyholders, Ghostville Elementary, The Bailey School Kids Jr. Chapter Books, Triplet Trouble, Bailey City Monsters, and The Barkley School for Dogs.

Marcia and her books have received many awards and honors including the Elementary Library Book Award (ELBA), Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, Milner Award, the Humane Society of the United States KIND Children's Honor Book, and International Reading Associations Children’s Choice Award. She was also honored as a nominee for the Surrey Schools' Book of the Year and Kentucky Bluegrass Awards. She was listed as a top 100 author by the Educational Paperback Association, selected for the Children’s Top 100 Books list by the National Education Association, and the Publisher's Weekly Bestsellers list.

Marcia, lives in Lexington, Kentucky where she is the Coordinator of the Carnegie Center Author Academy, an intensive nine-month writing certificate program. She also teaches Carnegie Center writing classes, seminars, and is a writing mentor. She enjoys presenting at schools and conferences.  As a veteran teacher with more than 20 years of experience, she easily relates the importance of writing to students of all ages.

For information about Marcia’s classes, mentoring, and the Carnegie Center Author Academy, please visit The Carnegie Center or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Debbie Dadey has traditionally published 166 books for children with sales totaling more than 43 million copies world-wide. She is the co-author of seven popular series: The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, Keyholders, Ghostville Elementary, The Bailey School Kids Jr. Chapter Books, Triplet Trouble, Bailey City Monsters, and The Barkley School for Dogs. Some of her individual series include the Mermaid Tales and the Swamp Monster in Third Grade

She also co-authored the Slime Wars series with her son Nathan.  Her works also include Cherokee Sister, Whistler's Hollow, King of the Kooties, The Worst Name in the Third Grade, Shooting Star, and Will Rogers, Larger Than Life. 

Debbie and her books have received awards and honors, including the Colorado Author’s League Children’s Fiction Award, Golden Reader Author Award, Elementary Library Book Award (ELBA), Milner Award, Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominee, and several International Reading Association’s Children’s Choice Awards. She was listed as a top 100 author by the Educational Paperback Association, selected for the Children’s Top 100 Books list by the National Education Association, and ranked in the Publisher's Weekly Bestsellers list. She is an Author for Earth Day.

Debbie is a former teacher and librarian who enjoys visiting schools and speaking at conferences. With three children, two dogs, and one husband she has plenty of fodder for new stories, but loves doing research for even more inspiration. She lives in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. 

Please visit her at www.debbiedadey.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.  


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Stories of Joy and Murder

They're eager to get started, game for anything I suggest. Make up a character? They're in. Chart out story arcs with marker on poster-board? No problem. Write the first scene? Let's do it.

I don't know why I am surprised. Kids are like this when it comes to writing. And these fourth and fifth graders in the writing program I've been teaching for the past few weeks, are particularly smart and creative.

Open to trying new methods, happy to use pen or pencil on paper or whatever I give them. Although, one girl has brought her laptop and another tells me she writes all of her novels on her phone. Only a couple of the kids are stuck, asking me to clarify the directions, stumped for a moment about how to start, but with just a little push, off they go.

Most are eager to share what they've written, read aloud their scenes and display their plot plans.

One surprise: the majority of their stories are dark. Evil government conspiracies and dead parents. Kidnappings. Murder. It's all presented matter-of-factly, though, and I try not to bat an eye. Hmm, okay, so in Act Two the main character finds the dead body? All-righty-then. Let's write that scene.

Who am I to judge the mind of a nine year old? They're the ones finding joy in this exercise.

Contrast this with adult writers. Contrast this with, um, me, daily on the phone with my critique partner whining about how hard it is to sit down and get to work.

Maybe the word "work" is the issue here. The fourth and fifth graders write because they want to. They signed up for this class. Two hours every Saturday for five weeks. I'm not sure what I can teach them. The most important lesson is one they already know:

If you want to be a writer, you write.

Now.

This moment.

Take out a piece of paper or open a file on your computer (or phone?) and go.




Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ruin and Love

Friday I drove with my writing friend Natalie down to Marietta, Ohio to watch her cousin Andi get surprise-proposed to. 

I had never watched anyone get surprise-proposed to before, and I was curious. The proposal was going to take place in a bar during a live band performance. The cousin's long time girlfriend is a bass player in the band, and the plan was that at some point during the show, she'd step down from the stage and ask Andi to marry her. 

I like Andi. She's a photographer and the last time I saw her, she let me play dress up in her Hot Tomato studio. Her specialty is boudoir photography and she's known for making all women feel welcome and beautiful. I don't think she advertises much, but word has gotten around, and she has a huge group of loyal clients and friends who flock to Marietta just to hang out with her. 

It was a long drive down there. Natalie and I did what we do a lot lately when we get together. Lamented about the horrifying state of the world. 

When that got too depressing I told her about the plot of the book I'd just finished reading. Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. It's about the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his third wife Martha Gellhorn. She was a novelist and war correspondent who covered basically every foreign war from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's to the US invasion of Panama in 1979. 

But annoyingly for Martha Gellhorn, she's mainly just known for being Ernest Hemingway's third wife. For a few years they had an intense bond, writing side by side and traveling to war zones together, hanging out in Cuba and throwing back drinks with friends.  

They talked and argued a lot about writing and what the point of it all was. How could you spend time playing around with a story while the world outside was going to ruin? Was it fair to hole up in your house in Cuba when so many other people were suffering? 

That's another thing Natalie and I do a lot. Talk and argue about writing and wonder what the point of it all is. Is it okay to care so much about our made-up worlds when the real world is such a mess?

The bar in Marietta was crowded with fans of the band and friends and family of Andi. She was happily clueless about what was going to happen, walking around taking photos, not noticing how many people were grinning and taking photos of her. I was getting excited and nervous for her. Also, I was tired, sipping my drink and trying not to think about the fact that it was close to 11 o'clock and Natalie and I still had a two hour drive home and I'm the frumpy old lady who usually goes to bed by ten. 

But the band was great, kind of Mumford & Sons-y and obviously a huge favorite in Marietta. The crowd was singing and clapping along. Girls were dancing with each other. Some of them were dressed up as if they'd just stepped out of the Hot Tomatoes studio. 

I had a momentary thought about the world outside. Stories I'd read in the newspaper about children held in for-profit detention centers who are forbidden from hugging their siblings, another mass shooting, the latest dire report on global climate change, the president's scary rambling speech and the cheers of his followers. 

But I let that go for the moment when the bass player stepped down from the stage and surprise-proposed to Andi. Martha told Ernest that the point of it all was to go where stories are happening, to talk to people, to bear witness to their experience, to tell the truth. 

Andi, of course, said yes. 









Friday, February 8, 2019

Things you can't write about

The arguments you have with your mother or the raw inner workings of your marriage.

Conversations with your kids, unless it’s a funny anecdote and you know they won’t mind. The secrets of your best friend. The crazy thoughts that wake you up in the middle of the night.

Weddings are fair game. But not funerals. Births. But not deaths. Unless the death was a really long time ago. Your father’s, for example, when you were seven years old.

That was your first introduction to death, by the way. The randomness of it. The confusion and seemingly bottomless grief. The rage. Also, the unfairness. For example, how he was thirty-four years old. But mostly the finality. How one moment you had this person in your life and the next moment, you did not.

No one wants to hear about it. Not really. A few words of sympathy for the bereaved and then let's all move on. The alternative is remembering that the dead are gone from us forever. That we too will die. That everything we do or don't do ultimately ends, and only for a little while will we have someone left behind to remember.

Something I have forgotten about funeral processions in small Southern towns is how all of the cars pull over on the side of the road. Strangers taking a moment to watch the procession pass. The police officers at the intersections holding their hands on their hearts.

It's a windy day at the cemetery. The soldiers stand grimly before they fire their weapons. One of them announces that we should prepare ourselves for the shots. But how do you prepare yourself for something like that? The noise, each time, is a shock.

So loud our ears sting during the playing of Taps.

I could tell you more about the person we lost. The memories shared. The tears. The confusion and seemingly bottomless grief. The rage. The talk of unfairness.

But this story is not my story to tell. And so I will not write anymore about it today.







Thursday, January 31, 2019

If writing is your practice

the only way you can fail is to not write.

I have been thinking a lot lately about motivation. Last week at the monthly Ohio SCBWI Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators meeting we set writing goals and talked about self- discipline. I had invited a guest speaker to the meeting, the lovely young adult and adult fiction writer Kerry Winfrey. She spoke about the importance of setting small, achievable goals.

(Kerry, for the record, is the mom of a toddler, so she can't always count on a long stretch of time to write. Some days, she admits, 250 words is all she can manage, and she feels good about that!)

We had a lot of new faces at our meeting. Brand new, just-dipping-their-toes-into-living-a-creative-life writers and illustrators. You can see the stars in their eyes. The dreams of bestsellers and awards and movies being made out of their books.

I didn't want to burst their bubbles by telling them that while it's great to dream big, the reality will likely fall far short. If they want to be writers, they're going to have work hard at it-- work hard at it, in all likelihood, without any acknowledgement for a very long time.

If ever.

Which isn't to say that you still can't have a fulfilling creative life. For me that means writing most days. Scrawling out a few pages in my journal in the morning or during my fifteen minute break at my day job. Writing a few pages on the novel I've been working on. Writing a post for this blog.

These are all things I can control, examples of my writing practice. Most of my words are not read by others and may never be. I've had to make peace with that over the years. Honestly, I continue to make peace with it every day. The trick, I've found, is to go All In with the work--throw myself wholeheartedly into writing and revising-- while at the same time acknowledging that the final product (ie: a published book on a shelf) is out of my control.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic explains it better:

"My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely)."

Yeah. So, that's not easy. But today at least, as I write the words I am writing to you now, as I prepare to open up my work in progress,

it's all I've got.





Wednesday, January 30, 2019

There is a possum the size of my dog hiding in my garage

and I am having a hard time focusing on my writing.

I sit down to work and I think of him curled up? sprawled out? Sleeping? hiding in there somewhere. I know he is there because last night when my husband was taking out the garbage, he yelled, OH MY GOD THERE'S A POSSUM THE SIZE OF OUR DOG IN HERE!

Today is the coldest day of the year. Minus 3 degrees as I write this, with a wind chill of minus 24. I hardly blame the possum for sneaking in.

But back to my writing.

I write a sentence. I delete it. I write another. I sneak downstairs to look through the window into the garage. I don't know if I want to see the possum of if I don't want to see the possum. I go back upstairs to my office. I move a paragraph from one section of the chapter to another. I move it back. I google possums.

Thankfully, they are not known to be dangerous or destructive animals. Unless they are cornered. I go back into my book and remember something I wrote in an earlier chapter. I get stuck in that chapter for a while. Writing sentences and deleting them. Moving paragraphs around. I google how to get a possum out of the garage. I write a sentence.

I delete it.

Meanwhile three hours have gone by and I have made no real forward movement in the book itself.

The late poet Mary Oliver wrote about distractions in one of her essays:

"It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist."

This is all well and good.

But Mary Oliver did not have a possum the size of a dog hiding in her garage.




Sunday, January 20, 2019

Why I March (part two)

A high school student asked me at the rally. She was doing a class project, an interview. Why are you here?

She asked my husband first, and he held up his hand and said, Wait. I need to think about it.

He was with me this time around. Actually, he was the reason I was there, at the march. All morning I kept changing my mind. It was cold outside. It had started to sleet. Soon, it would turn into a blizzard, the weather channel kept saying. Maybe the March would be cancelled. I mean, who would drive downtown on potentially treacherous roads to wave a sign in the freezing rain?

Come on, my husband said. I'll drive you. 

I didn't wear my pink hat this time. I didn't even make a sign. I didn't know what I would put on a sign. Honestly, my head was sort of muddled up about why I march.

Two years ago, my first march, it was crystal clear. I was shocked by the election outcome, outraged at the treatment of women by the new president, disgusted and appalled by his views on anyone who isn't white, his bullying of people with disabilities and veterans and refugees. That day I stood with over 500,000 other people, who seemed equally outraged. I didn't know until the drive home that there had been marches in cities all over the country, all over the world, with millions of people sharing the same shock, horror, rage, and disgust.

Today, I have all of those same feelings of course (except shock). Plus, a whole new slew of things to be horrified by and enraged and disgusted over, too many things to fit on a sign.

Something you may not know about marches is how Not-Angry they are. It's just a group of people standing in the rain. A cross section of humans. Take away the signs, and we are any crowd gathered in a park. People in wheelchairs. People pushing strollers or carrying their toddlers on their shoulders. People walking dogs. Women and men. Black people and white people. Christians and Jews and Muslims.

The signs and chants are angry, clever, funny. We listen to speeches. Mull around with each other. Walk together.

After the first march I came home fired up. I joined political organizations and went to meetings and called my congressman and my senator so many times the people answering the phones knew my name. I gathered signatures on petitions and wrote letters to the editor and canvassed neighborhoods to remind people to vote.

I know on a logical level that this is what democracy looks like,

that change takes time, that organizations aren't perfect, that the people who run them are flawed, that every election will not go my way, that even so, it is worth it to stand up, to be a body in the crowd.

Standing outside in the cold, in the rain, I remember.

Why are you here?

I stand with women, my husband answered. My wife. My daughter. I stand with everyone here.

And you, she said, holding her phone out to me?










Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Stress-Tidying into the New Year

Whelp, the whirlwind of holiday company is gone, the grown kids back safely in their homes, and after doing my day's writing, I find myself wandering around the quiet, empty house stress-tidying.

This is not the same thing as straightening or cleaning. This is haul-every-item-out-of-every-closet-and-drawer and pile-all-of-the-clothing-you-own-on-the-bed and ask-if-it-gives-you-joy tidying.

Yes. I am currently binge-watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and while I admit that I am not quite ready to kneel on my dusty floor and say a prayer of thanks to my house, I have been rolling up my socks and tucking miscellaneous items into shoe boxes. It is strangely soothing.

Something I (and apparently a lot of other Americans) need lately.

As every day the news from Washington gets darker and crazier and no end in sight, who does't want to shut themselves into a closet?

The alternative is to blindfold yourself.

Yes. I am talking about Bird Box, another show I recently watched. If you haven't seen it, the premise is that terrible monsters are whirling around us and even just one glimpse causes people to violently kill themselves. The only solution is to close your eyes.

This is strangely soothing too. And is probably why I have stopped watching and reading the news. But just as the blindfold sometimes slip off the Bird Box people, the crap news of the day often slithers into me.

So it's back to folding.

Marie Kondo is obsessed with folding. Entire segments of the show are dedicated to demonstrating her folding techniques. You can also find her instructions online. 

This sounds like it might be boring, by Marie is so lovely you'll find yourself immediately wanting to fold a fitted sheet. In the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up she comes off like an obsessed drill sergeant. On the show she's darling, speaking through her translator, prancing around people's cluttered houses and squealing about how much she loves messes so she can teach everyone how to tidy them. She doesn't bat an eye at the woman who has an entire room full of piled up Christmas ornaments or at the man who's saved every item of paper from his childhood.

Our goal is to touch each thing we own and ask if it gives us a spark of joy. If not, we thank it sincerely and into the trash it goes.

To bad we can't do that with all of our monsters.