Sunday, March 31, 2024


Last week we had a staff development day at the library where I work, and the presenter talked about how we could frame problems more positively. Say, for example, the problem is we have low morale at our workplace. Instead of focusing on the negative, we could try flipping it to:

We have high morale at our workplace. 

Some of us laughed under our breath. What, are we supposed to be gaslighting ourselves? But the point, the presenter said, is to reframe an issue from "a problem to be solved" into "the outcome we'd like to achieve." And then we can ask questions about how we can reach that outcome. What does a high-morale workplace look like? We can we do, individually, to make some of these things happen? 

I was immediately skeptical, and yet, at the same time, curious. And now I want to flip and reframe everything. My messy yard, the falling over dead flowers from last year, the dog poop piles, the broken tree branches, a Wendy's cup lid blown in from the Wendy's down the street, 


becomes a lovely yard, spruced up with spring blooms. My messy house, the remnants of our kitchen remodeling project taking over the dining room, the cans of paint, the power tools, 


turns into a shiny new kitchen with cleared off surfaces and fresh paint. The book I'm struggling to write is the book I joyfully and eagerly dive into each afternoon. The broken people in my life, my own brokenness-- 

flip us, reframe us--and we are made whole. 

How do we get here? What should we paint over and what must be cleared away? Which branches should we burn and where to toss the silly cup-lids? 

What can we do this moment to make the world, at least our small piece of it, beautiful?     

Sunday, March 24, 2024

What We Do

The mourning dove has not moved from her nest in days and it worries me. How cold it gets at night and what will I see when I open the door in the morning to let the dog out? A frozen bird? An empty space, the eggs like stones? I don't know which would be worse. 

But when I do look out, she's alive, her body poofed up like a balloon, eyeing me curiously. Do you like that I've given her an emotion? Curiosity instead of terror. Or maybe she is determined. She made this bed, so to speak, and she's determined to see it through to the end. What else can you do. 

I play a game each week when I write this post. It's called What Are My Two Sticks.

(This goes back to a theory about writing, that just as it takes two sticks to build a fire, you need two ideas to spark a story.) 

But the only stick I have today is the mourning dove. 

Meanwhile, the dog hurt her back leg somehow and doesn't want to go for her usual long walks. I walk alone. Take the route she likes, the one that winds past all of the houses where the people set out dog treats. I realize that I am anticipating a loss. I was going to say, grieving in advance, but it's worse than that. It's skipping past all of it, as if you can even do such a thing, and come out on the other side unscathed. 

Another part of the game is called Something Funny that Happened This Week. Because you've got to have humor or what is the point. 

But this week there was nothing funny really. Only a few mild laughs under my breath. When I sneaked the dog treats and brought them home. When I tiptoed outside to snap a picture of the poofed up mourning dove. She was definitely looking at me. Her eyes saying, oh, it's you again. 

Letting the dog out. Carrying her up the stairs because that's what you do. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Point of View

I can't remember how to write a poem, but I am going to have to remember fast because I signed up to take an online poetry writing workshop. The class is on points of view in poems. How so much can change when you switch from I to You. From You to He to She to They. Or sometimes there's even a We thrown in there, just to keep us all on our toes. 

I haven't written a poem in--(*quickly does the math)--34 years. But once upon a time I was working on an MFA in poetry. I loved it and was learning a lot. But then I panicked and quit, worried over how I would earn a living as a poet. Spoiler: you can't earn a living as a poet. Unless, you are Maggie Smith

who wrote one of my favorite poems, "Good Bones." But even Maggie Smith would probably tell you that she earns the bulk of her living not by writing poems but by speaking and teaching. But I digress. What I wish I could tell my twenty-two-year-old self is that it's okay not to have your entire adult life and/or your career trajectory figured out. That it's okay to play around with poems and finish your MFA program, maybe just for funsies, because how lucky are you to be able to spend your time reading and talking about words as if they matter and hanging around with people who feel the same punch in the heart when they read something like

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you

Did I mention that the university was paying me to attend? They gave me a stipend to live on that was laughably small, but I made up the difference by waitressing at TGI Fridays and learned how to balance four beverage glasses in one hand and layer three large dinner plates up my outstretched arm. I pulled my long, permed hair into a bouncy side ponytail because a bouncy side ponytail seemed to earn me higher tips. 

That, and the black mini skirt and the bling-y buttons pinned to my suspenders. (Who am I kidding. It was the mini skirt. This was the 90's. It was a different world.) After work I let loose the side ponytail and scrawled out my poems and imagined myself in an Emily Dickinson-style cupola, tossing gingerbread out the window to the neighborhood kids.  

She was weird, that twenty-two year old. The ponytail. The precarious balancing of glass. Her naive belief in the power of words. See her hunched over her notebook, a blank page, a sharpened pencil, 

remembering what she forgot, readying to begin.



Sunday, March 10, 2024

Wait a Minute

The yellow flowers catch the snow and I catch the snow on the flowers. Less than an hour later the snow has melted, the sun is out. Ohio weather. We joke about it. If you don't like it, wait a minute. At the library we have a scavenger hunt, a new theme every month. This month it's weather. 

Find the pictures hidden around the youth department: the sun, rain, a snowstorm, a tornado, a rainbow. The funny thing is in real life, over a four-day period, we’ve had everything except the rainbow. The tornado was out of the blue. A blare on our phones at 5 am, a warning to TAKE COVER IN THE BASEMENT NOW! My husband and I woke up and looked out the window, saw nothing, and went back to bed. Probably not the wisest idea, but luck was with us that day. 

Something unexpected: a surprise 36-hour visit from our son. He'd been having trouble buying a car in the very remote area where he lives, found a car here, bought it online, and flew in to drive it home. It was so much fun to see him, and funny too, how you can buy a car online now. Oh let me tell you that my suspicious nature was on high alert about this one. Was this a real car? Was this a real place? My husband and I drove out to pick it up, readying ourselves for whatever would be required of us to complete the transaction. Let me reenact the scene for you:

Salesperson at Dealership: Hi, are you the prius people?

My husband: Yes.

Salesperson: Here's the key. 


Later, it hit me that there's more security involved in checking a book out of my library. I was still laughing about this the next day during a quick trip through the grocery store. A whirl with my cart around the produce and an employee handed me a checklist. Find the fancy food samples—appetizers, dinners, desserts. 

A scavenger hunt! I tracked everything down, running into the same shoppers on the same quest, all of us having more of a blast than you’d think over finding small plastic cups filled with plops of prepared food.

The time leaps forward and our son is already on his way. It is cold and gray and I am aching from the loss of him. But wait a minute. It snows. And then the sun comes out. It snows again. The yellow flowers happily flutter as I creep around outside in my pajamas to catch them. 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Crooked Kitchen

It's only slightly crooked, and you have to step back and really squint to see it. It's possible we never would have seen it, if we hadn't taken apart the countertop, pulled out the sink, and moved the dishwasher. Now, it's a bare wall. Windows. Floor. Where does the crookedness start?

It's driving my husband crazy. He's building cabinets, setting up the framework to hold the new sink, another frame to slip the dishwasher into. I'm staying out of his way, but every once in a while, he calls me to hold a board or doublecheck his measurements. In between holdings and double-checkings, I'm working on a new book. 

Actually, this is an old book, something I started writing in the early months of the pandemic, one big meandery mush of a first draft that I put away in frustration and only recently pulled out again to see what I could salvage. Not much, as it turns out, but at the core, there's something there, and so I am writing the book again. 

I used to freak out about this level of revision. Now I find it weirdly absorbing. It's a puzzle with all of these little moving parts and pieces, but I know that if keep moving them around they will eventually fit. And even if they don't completely fit, it's okay. 

Something I am learning about a crooked kitchen is that it matters where you decide to take your measure. Are we leveling up from the floor or do we start at the window sill and find our balance on the way down? At some point you have to choose.

I've been called down again to help. The sink is in place-ish. My husband and I peer at each other through the open drain and laugh. Our house is one hundred years old. Any settling that needed to happen has happened long ago. We trust what we have and build from here.