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Friday, July 17, 2015

Family with a capital F



My extended family life is a mess.

I'm not going to sugar coat it. I'm not going to pretend I'm not a mess, myself, either.

When it comes to "my side of the family," as it were, we are a collective Mess-with-a-capital-M and I'm only just now, at age 40, realizing there isn't ever going to be some poignant moment when we get it together, mend all the broken fences, and start channeling the Waltons or the Cleavers or even the Bundys. We're always going to be more like the Bluths, and maybe in our more colorful moments, something out of the next Wes Anderson movie.

I'm not ashamed to own this mess, though, because I know I'm not alone. I know that if you are reading these words, you're a person (unless you're a spambot or an FBI surveillance program), and if you're a person, you've lived through a mess or two or twenty, too. You have messy moments. You've had messy family problems. You've experienced loss, change and drama, the extent of which could easily enthrall a nation, if you let an unscrupulous television network document it all. You have a distant or not-so-distant relative who has dealt with Problems-with-a-capital-P and you aren't sure how to reconcile your desire to both help them and shield yourself from the collateral damage of their own mess. Maybe you're the one with the capital-P problem. Your family, too, is probably a mess, at least sometimes.

Life is a mess. It's not even one of those so-called beautiful messes most of the time.

Yet here we are. We're a mess, and here we are. Take it or leave it; like or lump it. Embrace it or reject it - if you're reading these words, you are here - inhaling, exhaling, loving, grieving, hoping, worrying, working, breaking cycles and starting new ones, just trying to get home again at the end of each day.  This is the stuff of life - the constants, anyway.

In my family, we get it wrong sometimes. We're really bad at reading cues sometimes. We even hurt each other sometimes, and on an individual level, we take turns feeling forgotten or ignored or misunderstood. Our familial experiences are shared but they are also uniquely, painfully individual depending on our roles in a given situation. It's all but impossible to recognize how the same experiences have affected us each so differently. And so a familiar cycle continues - blame, shame and remorse. Again and again. It's wearying.

Sometimes I want to pile up the mess of this family, pour gasoline over it and toss in the match as I walk away (cue an appropriate soundtrack - maybe REM's "Bang and Blame?" ). But I never do. I never could.

We're bound by ancestry, by the messy, sticky blood that courses through our veins. And we're bound by the shared experience of surviving this mess together.

And sometimes, we manage to get it right. We remember the good memories more often than the bad ones. We know each other in ways no one else will ever really get because we lived through things together that won't ever happen again. When we're angry at each other, that anger is usually borne out of concern, out of love. Sometimes it takes time, but a hopeful glimmer of forgiveness remains.

So no, my family is unlikely to inspire a heartwarming sitcom any time soon. But you know what? As much as I've loved every "Richie Cunningham" who has crossed the battle-strewn path of my imperfect life, Happy Days was never much of a cliffhanger. I'd gladly take a punch to the jaw for these people if it came down to it.

I don't know how or why we manage to keep this mess (kind of) together, but I think it's probably because we're always going to need each other. We're always going to need to know the people who get why sometimes, something that looks like an unfixable mess is actually Family-with-a-capital-F.

It's as easy and as complicated as that.

Put that in your Christmas newsletter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Forty


Credit: Susanne Nilsson, Creative Commons License

I feel like I should mark the occasion of my fortieth birthday with some kind of writing, but I’ve been trying for six weeks and so far, all I can push out is trite, overwrought and a little melodramatic. In other words, my predilections haven’t changed much since I hit that magical number - the one that so clearly divides youth and whatever we’re currently calling the other side of that coin. 

I guess I’ll say a few things at this distinct mile marker on my inevitable march toward death, anyway. I’m too old now to get too hung up on whether or not the eight people who might read this will think I’m trite. I’ve got news for you: It’s all trite. It’s all been done. None of us knows anything. The only difference I’m finding at 40 is that this thought no longer terrifies me. 

But here are some things I feel sure about, and a little advice, too. I fully acknowledge that in another decade, I’ll feel a flush of shame and realize I still didn’t know shit at 40, either, but it’s important to honor ourselves right where we are sometimes. I hope 50-year-old me agrees. Here goes:

We’re all seekers. Some of us are stronger in our convictions than others. Some of us have deeply held faith in the unknowable and it guides us. Some of us challenge everything and accept nothing at face value. No matter what, we all seek knowledge and love and companionship and fulfillment, if we’re lucky. 

We’re all wrong and that’s alright. No one is right all of the time, and you never know if you’re catching someone else in a right or wrong moment. Be slow to criticize and quick to empathize. Repeat to yourself in times of confusion and especially in those moments when you’re feeling a little smug: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Even if you don’t believe in “god” or God or g_d. Because none of this is permanent. The Earth below your feet is constantly shifting and now and again, the crack that emerges might feel as though it will swallow you up. Or maybe you’ll just wish it would. Cherish the lovely moments when they come, if you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself more likely to recognize the preciousness in those moments in retrospect. It’s impossible to inject meaning in the moment. Meaning comes later. 

Nobody gets the best version of you all of the time. The people who stick around anyway are probably your tribe. Embrace and acknowledge these kindred spirits because there isn't an endless supply of them.

We’re all gonna die, and that’s not just a gorgeous Sufjan Stevens’ lyric. I’m prone to getting stuck on this hurdle. Mortality is maybe the only thing that’s for sure. Wherever your faith leads you, this corporeal form will falter one day. I’ll leave it to you to define what a soul really is or why we’re here, anyway, or what will happen to your supposed legacy. But I will say this: We’re all gonna die, and I think it makes better sense to channel the Flaming Lips on this matter: “Instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It’s hard to make the good things last…” 

Everyone we know will die, too. Again, the Flaming Lips gets it. "Do you realize that everyone you've ever known someday will die?" Yup. And man, that sucks. It's something some of us try to comprehend all our lives. You've got to find your own way through this little nugget of truth. Grief is unique to every person. You can't walk another person through it. You can't pull someone out of it. It alters people and it hurts and it's all part of the journey. When it visits you, be patient with yourself.

Some things are universal. Smiles. Music. Laughter. Sadness. Loss. Guilt. Somewhere right now, across the expanse of the universe is someone who is nothing like you, but who understands all of these things, intimately, as do you, as did your mother’s mother, as will your children’s children. The human condition is universal. We’re all just trying to get home again. 

Kindness matters. And it doesn’t mean rolling over or channeling a high traffic welcome mat. It means honoring the fact that we’re all going through our own shit, and nobody can hold together the fragile pieces of their own little world all of the time, so for the love of Pete, try a little patience. Stand up for yourself because you matter, too, but hold out a little tenderness for your fellow man. Stand up for the voiceless and for the things you believe in and try to hold out hope for people who have turned away from humanity. Nobody was born to hate. We all have the capacity, and the soul-sucking need for love and belonging. Bad things happen where love isn’t allowed to grow. Call me a hippie and hand me my rose-colored glasses, but I mean this in a practical way. Humans need love. Full stop.

When you screw it all up, own it and eventually, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself when you’ve done all you can. Repentance is a waste at a certain point. It’s not productive. Sometimes, you won’t get your words across right. Sometimes, you’ll sink so quickly into the muck that you won’t recognize it as muck until it’s up to your chin and by then, nobody’s getting out clean. Learn to step away. Understand that not everyone will like you, or get you, or think anything about you at all. It’s okay. Don’t get too stuck on this. 

Get more sun. Drink more water. Put down your devices more often. Breathe. Drop out of the race when you reach your personal goal. Ignore most magazines. Make art. Sing. Hike. 

Listen to Mary Oliver.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brushing Off the Dust

I decided to start putting myself out there for traditional freelance journalism gigs again lately, and it's gone surprisingly well. This is a piece I wrote for Between the Lines in Ann Arbor - an interview with folk singer William Fitzsimmons, who is amazing.


I'd forgotten how much fun it can be to interview someone truly interesting, and about the little thrill of seeing my name in print. This publication actually still publishes on paper in addition to their site, so it's old school exciting, too. It was a great experience and I even made a little pocket change.

So while I was still feeling semi-confident and buoyed by my small success, I decided to reach out to a couple local publications and managed to get another article lined up that will come out in August. I have some lofty, secret goals for this new trajectory. It's nice to have goals that are frankly purely selfish. Not to get all martyr-y, because I love my life and greatly appreciate the everyday gifts among the chaos, but there are times when I feel a little lost, too. More often than not, I'm someone's wife, and two other someones' mommy, etc. I love those titles, but when I write for publication, it's the only time I still hyphenate my name. It's a ME thing.

I'll still be working on my Pile O'Stuff which includes all manner of writing when I can, but right now, this feels like a good direction to pursue once again. I may even dabble in a little citizen journalism right here on my blog in response to the ever-widening gap in community and neighborhood coverage around here. There are way too many fascinating stories going untold here in Cincinnati. I have a camera and a computer, and why not?

Sadly, the journalism field is pretty blighted at this point, and the printed word, especially, seems decreasingly less important to society on the whole. It's a bit like when I took a black-and-white film photography class a few years ago, the last year the college would offer it before they tore down the whole developing lab to make way for a digital studio. I hope we still have a few good years left where it's not hard to find interesting, printed short and long form journalism. I hope my contributions, however small, are good ones.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I've changed on Change

Super Anderson saves the day. Photo by Mud Goddess Photography.

Someone told me recently, with a sneer, that "mommy blogs" are ruining the internet and to never, ever refer to my own blog as one of these cesspools of self-promotion and exultation of MotherhoodwithacapitalM. It made me really think. Eventually, I arrived at one overarching conclusion: Screw this person. I do a lot of things in my life, but the main thing I "do" is mommying. I'm not obsessed; I'm trying to raise human beings into Non-Asshole Adults. This person should both stfu and also thank me, really. In the immortal words of Cartman, I'll do what I want. I can only hope you read that in a Cartman voice. Now, on with the show.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I vowed to never be one of those people who let the experience of parenthood change them.

In this case, I was the idiot.

Because of course I've changed. Not only have I become a parent, but time has marched on. I have aged 9 years since I found out I was pregnant with our first little guy. I'd have changed either way by now; lucky for me, becoming a parent has helped me to change for the better, or at least I feel it has.

Oh, I'm a mess; don't get me wrong. Every parent I know is a mess in some way. We're all fumbling the ball like morons and just hoping our sloppy plays help to get these creatures into to the end zone one day, despite our best efforts to screw it up at every opportunity. We're basically the Cleveland Browns.*

It might look different from one house to the next, but my limited wisdom has shed plenty of light on this subject. You get a parent to talk, to really talk, and the next thing you know, you're huddling together and sending out hopes and prayers that you just make it through the next 10 years alive.  

I've had many a conversation with near strangers that have gone a lot like this:

"Someday..."  
There's usually a pregnant pause here, as the parent gathers some strength to actually say this next part out loud.
"Someday... they are going to become teenagers."
You chuckle together while exchanging panicked glances.
"And then, one day..."
"I know..."

Sometimes there is crying during this part of the conversation, and sometimes it's a transparent, joke-y banter about turning their rooms into craft studios and being able to travel without a U-Haul attached to your cavernous family vehicle. But in reality, it's just another session of trying to fool yourself into believing you'll be totally okay on that day, the one where they leave you.
But you won't be.

I mean, sure, you'll be "okay," and you'll develop strong, wonderful adult relationships with them, hopefully, but this part here, where they know no other home but with mom and/or dad, where their small hands still fit inside of yours, this part is special. I don't know yet what it's going to actually feel like when my boys fly the coop on their own, but I know it's going to be a big hit, no matter what happens in those apparently apocalyptic teenage years. Because I'm going to have this part right here tucked away in my hidden mommy pocket for forever.

In the end, if you're lucky, you look back over your childhood and you catch the glint of sunny memories. All those gray in-between days glom into nothing, and the highlights come streaming back. For me, it's Brownies and sleepovers, days at the zoo with my beautiful, young parents and my healthy, active grandparents; hanging out on the balcony of our first, Section 8 apartment when we were still poor; getting a baby brother (and then 2 more); sitting on a lawnchair by my mom in our backyard in our bikinis(!), coated in coconut suntan oil; excruciatingly long road trips in the back of a blue Mercury Topaz, crammed between two carseats, singing to the radio and dreaming of our destination - exotic Tawas Bay, Michigan or the Indiana Dunes. Highlights. If I think hard (too hard?) I can certainly conjure up some pretty bad times. But for the most part, I had a great childhood and it's a gift - a gift I want to pass along to my kids, too.

I guess that's part of the criticism some people level at some parents - it's not a good thing to make your life all about your kids. Giving them a "good childhood" can quickly escalate to spoiling and coddling. And we're meant to have our own lives, our own thoughts, and to make decisions that are inherently selfish sometimes. I get that. There are days I really would like to just go find a space somewhere outside and empty, and think only Sarah Things. And I do try to do "me" things here and there; I'm sure it will become more true as they become more autonomous. However. I'm not going to apologize for prioritizing my kids over me most of the time. They give me more than I could ever give back, if I'm being totally honest. It's just where I've landed as time has gone by. I'm a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person, and I had no chance of not winding up completely smitten here. I'm a sucker for all of it. Someone has to be the sucker, right?

All of this babble is really just my way of coping with the fact that my Anderson is turning 8 soon. It's one of those ages I can remember very clearly, so I know he's getting up there. But he's not me. He's wonderful - his imagination boundless, his vision clear and limitless, his heart completely open, and his big brown eyes deeper and stronger and somehow ever more magical when it comes to sweet talking his mommy. This kid is going to change the world for good, and I am thankful to be able to watch him do it, and to have such an amazing partner for it all. I love this family a whole, whole lot.

It turns out I'm more okay with change than I realized that fateful morning I realized I needed to buy a pregnancy test. These have been the hardest, happiest, most magical, monumentally mundane 8 years of my life, full of change at every turn. I am braced and excited for whatever comes screaming around the next bend, be it teenage aliens or digging change out of the couch for bail. Maybe not that last part.

*Obligatory Cincinnati dig

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Long Live Erma


Image from BrainPickings.org, one of my favorite sites.

A renowned feminist theorist, a septuagenarian New York Times bestseller, and the first editor of Ms. Magazine walk into a bar. No. Scratch that.

Three accomplished, poised women sit at an unassuming folding table in an auditorium at a university in Dayton, Ohio. A wide-eyed audience filled with mostly middle and up-and-coming middle aged women stare back expectantly. A few aren't aware of the collective body of knowledge, depth and experience emanating from that table, and they are about to be blown away.

As the moderator steps up to the podium, I reluctantly wrap up my small talk with the fascinating woman to my right, who is both a landlord and an extremely sharp marketing executive with a warm wit, and turn my attention to the panel. I try to engage the part of my brain that is capable of following what I'm sure is going to be a serious, academic discussion. This means switching from my ongoing worry about whether Kurt is lost somewhere in Cincinnati with our assumedly naked, hungry children. He's probably out of gas and stranded in the Bad Part of town. Probably the one that appears on "The First 48" most frequently. Oh, god. 

And then best-selling author, tenured English/Feminist Theory professor, and recent Friar's Club inductee Gina Barreca bares her upper thigh so we can all get a good look at her tights, which are printed with pinstripe stockings, and I'm whisked away for the next hour and a half. The van has GPS and enough Goldfish Cracker crumbs to sustain the kids for a few weeks, and Kurt has been making me look bad by taking them for ice cream and the park all the time while I've been gone, anyway. I am allowed to be here and soak it in fully. And I do.

As the pace picks up, it's a wild ride. Gina frames longstanding feminist debate with a confidence that precludes a need for her to throw anybody under the bus. It's more about empowerment than it is about wasting time on those people who haven't yet decided that women are simply human. And that giggle we do when we're listening to a man tell us a long story about getting his car detailed? She's on to us. We're not listening, and we're not having a good time. We have to stop speaking in the interrogatory. This is not a question? I actually do have a name? It makes no sense to introduce yourself with a question mark at the end? My brain is singing. Oh, to be free for a few days of the endless quest for preparing the next meal, for matching up socks, for ferrying small children. 

And it just gets better. Ilene Beckerman is telling us about how she accidentally published a book, which was turned into a Broadway show, directed by none other than Nora Ephron. And she did it in her sixties. She's wearing a turquoise, sequined head scarf over her long, straight, delightfully lavender hair. Her nose ring glints in the stage lights and I can see her heavy eye makeup eight rows back. She's a beautiful gypsy, and she's hilarious. She assures us that she doesn't deserve to share the stage with these other women, but it's all lies. Her story is incredible and real, and I know I could sit with her for hours and soak it all in and still leave wanting more. 

I'm not sure what to expect from Suzanne Braun Levine. She looks so polished up there, exactly what I'd expect from someone with a list of accomplishments like hers. I'm intimidated, really. She has sat, elbow-to-elbow with Gloria-freaking-Steinem and casually changed the way women are perceived by society. Everyone in this room is in her debt. I'm actually a little nervous. And then she's telling us about how it all went down, about how Ms. started as a one-shot gag, an offshoot of New York Magazine. The editor thought it might be amusing to have a woman at the helm for this one-time publication. But women were hungry for that platform, and they raided every newsstand in town, and as is the case so often, money talks. Just like that, a new era was hatched and our voices grew more powerful overnight. 

Suzanne keeps talking and I can hear stereotypes I didn't know I had shattering in my head. She's real. She's strong and she's hilarious, warm, and self-deprecating. She explains that her kids don't even quite realize that she's an accomplished woman. She leaves newspaper clippings and awards lying around conspicuously sometimes, just in case they happen upon them and are shocked to realize this woman is their mother. I love it; I get it. I'm not going to be editing a groundbreaking magazine any time soon, but I get that dichotomy. No matter what I do, to my boys, I'm always going to be their mother first. It's a powerful realization. 

It's one of my many, many powerful realizations that I hit on during this all-too-short session at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. Many of them come from women in the audience. A woman asks about how to help shepherd the younger generation through the current "geek culture." Why aren't there stronger comic book heroines? Where's the Black Widow movie? Another woman asks how to protect our loved ones when we want to write about them. The unanimous response: just do it, and as Gina points out, your relatives are never going to read what you write, anyway. ;)

Oh, and about that moderator. Because this workshop seems hellbent on giving me value for every second of the full 2 and a half day experience, the moderator could run her own workshop if she wanted. Pat Wynn Brown is incredible. She deftly manages a complicated, rapid-fire discussion, adds her own stories (I'd pay good money for a book about her experiences as one of the first female mail carriers in Columbus), and juggles questions from the audience as well as any TV host I've seen. It must have taken hours to pull together the questions here (and she did this twice, two completely different discussions with the same women). But that's not enough for Pat. She's also our beloved emcee for the whole event. We get to enjoy her introductions and anecdotes at every meal, as if dessert with every meal wasn't enough of a gift. I might be a fangirl for Pat at this point.

And then something happens that I will never forget. Something that will keep me lining up for this conference as soon as the registration opens until they stop having it or until I am no longer here to enjoy it. A young woman approaches the mic. She's shaking, and as the room grows quiet, she says she is so glad she'd taken the leap to come here, because the experience has helped her to find her sense of humor again. She'd been hilarious once before, she explains, and then she adds: "I'm from Newtown, Connecticut." 

Now. Like everyone in the world with access to media, I've thought long and hard about Newtown since that awful day in December, 2012. But I didn't quite understand the weight of what it must mean to be from a place that is now so marked that a mere mention of the town's name can bring a room to tears, instantly. Her bravery and courage fill up that room with compassion and love, and I realize that this workshop is about so much more than networking and developing a so-called platform. 

It's about the why: Why we're compelled to write down the stories of our lives. Why humor is vital to every human, everywhere. Why we're all in this together. 

I could regale you with fantastic stories involving insomnia, wine, and assing it up in front of Phil Donahue. I could recount the incidents leading up to my 3-day investigation into where the hell the hotel housekeeping staff was holding hostage my Erma Bombeck wine glass. I could easily write this much about any of the workshops I attended. I could tell you about the instant bonding that so often occurs among Bombeckians, and how I'm already counting down the days until 2016, but I'm still savoring so much of it, just for me.

I will say this. Wherever writers gather in community, something special will happen. There's an energy we share, and it's capable of changing this world. I am beyond lucky to know so many people who aren't afraid to drag the bodies out into the light and examine them fully. I'm even luckier that so many of them will point out the stray upper-lip hair and the mismatched socks.

Long live the spirit of Erma Bombeck.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This Blessed Mess

Just a glimpse of our blessedly messy, wonderful life.

I figured out how to measure whether I'm "blessed" (define that as you will). I'm not sure why it's been so important to figure this out, but this morning, it hit me like the metric ton of dirty laundry waiting for me in the chute. You know how I know?

Because if I didn't change a single thing about my life at this exact moment, in this exact space, and the ground opened and swallowed up my entire life in one big, chocolate-covered gulp, it would have been a great life.

There's freedom in realizing that none of it is ever going to be perfect. For me, it's never even going to look perfect. My floors will be sticky most days. I may never reach that magical number on the scale that pleases both society and my doctor. My kids will exit our home with bushy hair, snow boots in July, and forever mixing stripes and plaid with wild abandon - and that will be after 20 minutes of cajoling, yelling, and physically prodding them out the door.

Despite my failed attempts, my dog loves you, and she is going to jump on you. One day, we will repaint our trim, but probably not tomorrow. And though I apologize to my horticulturally-inclined neighbors, the weeds in my yard will likely continue their tireless march to the border between our properties for at least another few years.

I'm planning to continue showing up to all these kid activities with my hair still wet from the shower, slightly confused about what's happening this week and how much money I owe and for what. I'm never getting that dent pulled out of the side of the van - the van that apparently signifies my lack of cool to the rest of the world if the internet is to be trusted on these maters. Who are we kidding? I was never cool in the first place. Thank god. I'd hate to undergo the pressure of trying to try maintain some kind of cred in addition to just, I don't know, getting dressed in daytime clothes and leaving the house now and then.

There's a lot we don't have compared to the Joneses (not the actual Joneses I know - I love those guys). But there's so much more that we do have that it's busting out of my garage on a daily basis. Actually, some of those things are hand-me-downs from the aforementioned Jonseses, but I digress.

This house is loud. It's giggly, musical, yell-y and filled with colorful language. It's warm. It's dirty, to be perfectly honest.

If you're a real friend, you'll move the Lego farm off the chair and rinse out a coffee cup and have a seat. Lucky for me, I have those kinds of friends in spades.

Like I said, it's a blessing. A blessed mess. I'm pretty sure many of us have our own version of a blessed mess going on. I gravitate toward those people who embrace it, in fact. This is part of why my weekend at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop was so inspiring, fulfilling, and refreshing. A blessed mess of women (and a few men) who own it, write it down, and serve as cheerleaders for the whole Erma family.

Tomorrow, I'll try to capture in words what a wonderful opportunity this bi-annual gathering of kindred souls really is all about.

I'll also fill you in on how Kurt made me look like a complete slacker while I was away and how my children will never again be satisfied with my lackluster attempts to provide entertainment to them on a daily basis. Until last weekend, sending them out into the yard with a stick was plenty engaging, but no more...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Teacup pigs and possibly misuing the word "stasis"

These were taken like a week ago.
I can't even talk about this weather situation.


Hello, Internet. It's been a while. I should really just strive for quarterly updates here to avoid the constant nagging sensation that my blog is withering on the vine. 

Since I last posted, no birds have entered our home uninvited. The ones we did invite were not available, allegedly. Their excuses were pretty flimsy, if you ask me. Something about wanting to live outside where birds "belong," and not wanting to be eaten by a house cat. Stuff like that.

In other news, I did not win an international writing contest. I did make the top ten, though! They even put my name on the site and everything, and I am inordinately proud; I'm not going to lie. I did a thing! Sort of. I at least caught the eye of someone who had some kind of say in this thing. I'll take it. Since I didn't win or place in the top 3, the essay remains unpublished, which is actually a good thing, because it means I can submit it to places that publish such things. The string of rejections that are sure to follow will bring a good balance to this whole situation. It's all about stasis.

My children continue to grow taller and more smart-alecky. We got a second cat named Merlin; he has quickly become the favorite pet. David has taken to pretending to be a teacup pig named Max for most hours of the day, and Anderson spends much of his free time programming with Scratch and making me feel intellectually inadequate, but in a very sweet way. Kurt has been doing a lot of Kurting, as he is wont to do.

Soon, I will leave this part of the tri-state area and point myself northish, to the land of the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. At this point, I'm counting down the hours, along with hundreds of others, to that seemingly mundane Thursday in April. It's hard to explain the magic, but I wish I could bottle it for those times when this writing pursuit feels like the dumbest idea anyone in the history of the world has ever dared to admit. While other, more poised attendees might organize their notes after the conference and approach their work with renewed vigor, I plan to soak it up, get home and write like a maniac until the buzz wears off. 

What else? I turned 39 and started a new and somewhat subdued countdown to the dreaded 4-0, or at least that's what you're supposed to say, I guess. I really can't be bothered. It may have finally sunken in that I'm mortal, as are you (and you and you). Apart from the occasional grip of tummy panic that I've possibly wasted a lot of time of my limited time on a lot of really pointless worries, it's all good. I'm happy to wake up and greet the day each day. Someone has to feed the teacup pig.