Have You Done Everything You Wanted to Do in January?

 Here's some of what I wanted to do and did in January:
  • completed a Grey's Anatomy marathon (and, trust me, that's as close as I will ever get to running 26.2 miles without stopping)
  • started a blog
  • helped with home improvement projects
  • enjoyed several dinner dates (and a weekend!) with lastborn daughter
  • was initiated into the ranks of Munchkin lovers (don't ask. If you know Munchkin, you understand. If you don't know there is no amount of explanation that will help.)
  • welcomed home from two years in Germany my surrogate son:


The People's University -- it's free!

Here's my well-used Student I.D. card:

I've been using this one for about fifteen years, but I've been fully matriculated since 1967. And here's some of the free education I'm working on this week:

In addition to the books I borrowed, I also picked up 13 used books for 25 cents a piece. That's right. Untold hours of joy can be possessed for a mere $3.25. Not downright free, but right next to it.

While the school of Life Long Learning may not yield a diploma as precious as one from Stanford or Harvard, the People's University has served me well over the years and continues to be a source of enlightment and joy. If you are a fellow student you know what I mean. If you are not enrolled perhaps no amount of encouragement or nagging can persuade you to join the club. Hey, it's a free country. 

And thank heaven for freedom.


2020 Vision

I used to be short-sighted, myopic, couldn't clearly see into the distance. Corrective lenses, eye drops, and saline solutions were required to boost my vision until a multi-thousand-dollar miracle occurred and, lo, my eyes beheld the detailed glory of the world.

It was exactly the opposite experience of being in Timpanogos Caves when all light sources were extinguished for a moment to demonstrate total darkness. I much prefer details to darkness.

But I would not describe myself as "detail-oriented" and not much of a goal-setter either. Once upon a time I made four or five resolutions for a new year; 2010 is dedicated merely to fewer piles and more love letters. That's it. Short and sweet.

I do enjoy, however, envisioning the bigger picture. I spend way too much time imagining some of the possibilities the future may bring (and fantasizing about those that are entirely unlikely to show up).

God willin' and the creek don't rise I will be 59 years old and eagerly anticipating retirement in 2020. "The Kids" (funny how an appellation once reserved for just the firstborn and secondborn now includes them all) will be various thirtysomethings except Stina, while Eee will be leading the grandkids straight toward teen years. It is likely that some beloved elders will have passed out of this life by then. I wonder if there will be a woman in the White House?

Do you have a 2020 Vision? It doesn't take a multi-thousand-dollar miracle to get one. 


The Subtler Beauty of the Unremarkable

I like the leafy theme we are sporting in the master bedroom right now, and I want to capture how it looks at this moment because it will look different at a later date when we redecorate. This is a seriously premature "Before" shot in anticipation of an "After" photo to come in the months ahead:

Oh. Yes. I know the bed is offcenter, but the leafy stencil was painted on the wall years ago and I tried every configuration to make the loveseat work. Next to the bed is the best we can do for now. A little assymmetry is good for the obsessive compulsive to cope with now and then.

So how do ya like my dollar store stick-on word art? It's a phrase from a quote I love. Some day an artistic designer version of the complete quote may grace our walls. In the meantime hot pink words look pretty groovy. They are from an essay by Scottish poet, John Burnside, who was describing traveling in the Midwest (Kansas or Iowa or some such) and buried in the middle of a paragraph deep in the essay was this amazing sentence: "I want the here and now, the divine quotidian, the subtler beauty of the unremarkable."

Yes! Me, too! I love a breath-taking work of art as much as the next girl, but the sweetness of finding beauty or divinity in the ordinary or commonplace is equally satisfying to the soul. Burnside's sentence is like a prayer, really, and I want to exclaim a hearty "Amen!" every time I recite it. 

And speaking of a hearty amen...the heart pillow is a love gift from a grateful child that reminds us daily to appreciate every heartbeat. A healthy heart is a remarkably beautiful thing.


Home Improvement

Mr. Last has been very industrious in these first ten days of Twenty Ten. I have been his consultant and helper in matters of improving our home. We are both smitten with the luminosity of the light (as Ken Burns might say) that shines from yonder chandelier now hanging in the stairwell:

She replaces a well-worn 1980s number that sported beveled glass and candelabra bulbs. Here she is from another angle:

And because fresh paint and lots of light make the need for additional improvements apparent, we excitedly hung curtains in the family room without ironing out the wrinkles first:

Stay tuned for further adventures in feathering our nest...


Early Intimation of Future Aspiration

Me, age 2, huntin' & peckin'

My first real attempt to write a book happened at age 9. It consisted of five chapters, one page per chapter with an illustration at the top of each page and text below. The story was about a mouse-sized girl called Zora who made her own way in the world with the help of magic and insects and woodland creatures. I struggled, just as all beginning authors struggle, with how to open the story and how to move the action along and how to know when the story was at an end. I was frustrated and dissatisfied with my drawings that came nowhere near the delicate and detailed illustrations drawn by Garth Williams that I envisioned for my book:
Garth Williams' cover for A Cricket in Times Square

Eventually my book was exiled under the bed and consumed by rabid dust bunnies. From this distance I see that my story of Zora was a childish mash-up of Walt Disney's Tinkerbell, Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina, and Rodgers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella, but it felt so utterly original when I was creating it. And I continued to dream that I would grow up to be warmly embraced by children and teachers and librarians, and readers of every stripe, when I was invited to give author talks and read from my books at schools and bookstores everywhere.

As a teen I wrote regularly in a journal intended to be my defense against the moment when my future child wailed "You just don't understand". It was not creative writing, but I filled pages with adolescent emotion and drama.

I dreamed of entering and winning writing contests. I dreamed of living in a two-story farmhouse with a library on the top floor where my old wooden desk sat in front of a window overlooking fruit trees in the yard.

I haven't written another book. I never entered any writing contests. And I don't live in a farmhouse. I don't dream that I am warmly embraced by children and teachers and librarians, or that I am invited to give author talks and read from my books at schools and bookstores everywhere. But I do live in a beautiful two-story house with an office on the top floor where I sit at a keyboard and blog.

I have always been, and will always be, a Writer.


As the Round Earth Rolls

"This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling;
vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn
and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls."
--John Muir

One daughter lives in the next time zone, and one son lives in a time zone eight or nine hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time/Pacific Standard Time. Every day I think of them and our relative places in time and space. Occasionally I miss those kids intensely and feel their absence like the pain of a phantom limb that has been severed from my body. In spite of the powerful longing to bridge the separation I relax into the comfort of our connection.

I believe in love. Scientists have studied and identified some of the chemical processes related to "falling in love" but the study of human relations is considered soft science. Thus, the greater resources --time, money, regard-- are devoted to the study of so-called "hard science". I believe in science, too.

The "hard science" physical world is a marvel and a wonder. Any of us could spend a lifetime learning about a singular topic in hard science, and many have. I love the physical world: rocks and trees and birds and oceans and elephant seals and children and stars and planets and clouds and rain and blood and brain surgery...well, blood and brain surgery make me squeamish, so I cover my eyes and ears when the ambulance rolls up to Seattle Grace Hospital (Grey's Anatomy marathon concludes in the next 24 hours), but I do appreciate medical science.

Here's my point: Science is amazing. Love is amazing. Falling in love with science is amazing. Falling in love is amazing. Grey's Anatomy is imaginary; it's a TV show. I miss my kids. And I think perhaps John Muir was a man who showed us the way to love the physical world and bridge gaps created by separation among humans.

It is always sunrise somewhere.


Twenty Ten it is!

My first blog post on the first day of the new year and the first item of business is -- how to refer to this new year?

Two-Kay-Ten? That sounds so last century, like when we were looking forward to the new millenium and calling it "Why-Two-Kay". It's just not hip anymore.

So how about "Two Thousand and Ten"? Nah. It's just too formal and too long and unwieldy. Plus the visual image I conjure when saying "two thousand ten" has too many zeroes, creating confusion and distraction for my simple mind.

I consulted my trusty go-to girl for such matters, and Maggie confidently declared the new year "Twenty Ten". I like it. And it conjures just the right number of zeroes.

Twenty Ten it is! Happy New Year.