Wednesday, April 9, 2014

EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: Spring Haitus

Ah, I am writing this post with the window in my office open for the first time since last fall. It's quiet around here this afternoon; not even a peep from my dogs. And they drove me crazy yesterday with their barking. In fact, I was damn cranky.

Spring Fever has struck. There is no keeping my attention on a computer screen right now, no great desire to stay put in the chair or on the couch when there are hikes to go on and wind to feel on my face, photos to be shot and friends to see.

And so I'm going to do just that. I charged my camera battery today and am contemplating places I'll be hiking this month. Said places shall remain nameless until I'm ready to write about them.

In the meantime, One Minnesota Writer is going on a spring haitus. I'm a big believer in walking away from the computer from time to time. This is one of those times.

Enjoy the spring. I'll be back online at the end of April.

photo courtesy of

Friday, April 4, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - Spring Cleaning Edition

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

I find the damnedest things when I clean my office. What to make of it?

The toy sewing machine I had when I was very little. I grew up to be a lousy seamstress.

My dad's bike back that I cannot seem to part with. There's still tire patching stuff inside.

Magnets seem to multiply all by themselves on my file cabinet.

I think my husband brought this old spike home from his uncle's farm.

Venetian glass from a traveling friend.

Happy Friday, everyone. Spring cleaning is far better than spring shoveling.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: About Anniversaries

The Tuesday Night Dinner Project

Tomorrow, Mick and I will celebrate our twenty-first wedding anniversary. My son Shawn quipped about our marriage finally being legal last night when we talked over dinner at Merlin’s Rest in Minneapolis. We raised a beer to the idea (Smithwick’s for me, Murphy’s for Shawn, and Carlsburg for Mick). And, in my head, I thought how the hell did that many years go by already? I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how old I am or how long I’ve been married or what number high school reunion is looming mostly because it’s absolutely true that I feel the same inside as I did at 21 or 31 or…..well, I’ll stop there. And by “inside”, I mean the vulnerable, sentimental part of me that wants to be loved and wants to be part of whatever is going on around me and misses my family when they’re somewhere I’m not. 

The back injury that is being eased through physical therapy is a different sort of “inside”, so just don’t go there. 

Anyway. Mick and I have been married a long time. Not as long as my parents, who clocked sixty-five years together. I’m not sure we’ll make that landmark anniversary only because we have another forty-four years to go without one of us dropping dead. If we’re both still here then, damn, bring on the champagne. 

We didn’t spend long on the anniversary conversation last night; there was too much else to talk about and Camille was not inclined to sit still. We had fun, ate well (Merlin’s Rest hamburgers are grass-fed beef and really good….just sayin’), headed over to Shawn and Beka’s for an after-dinner drink and conversation while Camille wound down for the night. 

And wouldn’t you know that Shawn remembered I’d asked that he cook for my birthday, which is not until August, but he’s already thinking about it so he can practice some recipes before the event. That kind of planning ahead for a dinner months from now really surprised me. I’m so delighted that he’s taken to experimenting with food and feeding people. I can’t think of anything that I’m going to like better than to have one of my kids cook for me as I age as I celebrate another year. (Aging - yeesh.)

All this talk got me thinking about all kinds of anniversaries. I realized that the four-year anniversary of this blog slipped by me in February when I wasn’t looking. It’s just been five years since Every Day Poets published the first poem I submitted to them. And it will be seventeen years since Mick and I moved into our Roseville house the day after our wedding anniversary. It snowed the day we moved in. This year won’t be much different that way.

What is different this year is that our kids don’t live with us anymore. This is our first anniversary together in a house that is just ours, on a schedule that is just ours most of the time. Anniversaries, after all, don’t just mark the start of something special. They also mark the evolutions of us all.

Evolution. Yes, I believe in that.

The "Whew! We did it!" toast on our wedding day. My sister Trish looked on; she was my maid of honor.

My son Shawn also deserved a special toast that day. He still deserves a toast or two.

Friday, March 28, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

Things that don't seem to go together...find the beauty in some sort of common ground. Or create something that demonstrates why these actually do go together. Or justify the mismatch beyond all doubt. Jolt everyone.

1. Old age and innovation.

2. Motherhood and war.

3. Pesticides and good health.

4. Higher education and the blue-collar worker.

5. Religion and fact.

There you are. Something to tick off everyone. Get out of your own head.

Happy Friday! I have a feeling this list of prompts could keep you busy for a very long time.

Don't forget the details.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: Temper Tantrums

The Tuesday Night Dinner Project

People less than three years old are inherently more honest than those of us who are adults. 

This is not always convenient. People less than three years old are also apt to miss other social cues that tell them it’s time to be quiet or it’s time to leave or it’s time to let someone else go first. Ownership is a fuzzy concept. What’s yours is mine is ours, right?

Anyway. After a pretty easy day yesterday during which I baked cookies and read many kids’ books with my granddaughter Camille, evening was something else. I know from experience that kids don’t always do well at the end of the day, when they are tired and hungry and everyone else seems to have other priorities. I’m seldom surprised if Camille has a temper tantrum. 

She’ll learn.

But watching her yesterday got me thinking about temper tantrums in general. About the way adults work with anger, take it into other forms, let it shape something unrelated to the anger itself. I just had my own temper tantrum a little while ago because one of my dogs snuck downstairs and peed on the floor. This particular dog has challenged us quite a lot over the years because she’s incredibly stubborn and doesn’t like to be told, “wait”, even if that only means a few minutes (which was the case today). So, maybe she started the temper tantrum chain today with her stinky little act of defiance. She is now in her crate, where I’m sure she’s already forgotten what put her there. She won’t be there long, because I’m not that mean, but she’ll be there long enough for me not to be quite so mad. 

My reaction to the dog’s misbehavior is obviously less optimistic that my reaction to my granddaughter’s behavior. And if I think about what ticks me off from other adults, I realize that is when I’m the least charitable of all, because adults should know better, right?

Only not. It’s so apparent with kids and animals when they don’t understand something and tempers flare because of an inability to see consequences or process reason. But adults are better at hiding their uncertainty until it pops out like a champagne cork under pressure. Embarrassment ensues. And then anger.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for anger - injustice, violence, selfishness. But misunderstanding must rank pretty high. I come from a family who was notorious for not talking about things and keeping secrets. There were a lot of arguments when I was growing up. A lot of anger. A lot of assumptions. If my parents were still here, they would be disappointed with me for saying this in public, so let me temper that with the fact that there was a lot of love, too. We were kind of emotional. But the misunderstanding of each other and readiness to leap to conclusions without all the evidence is something I will carry with me forever.

When I look at Camille, I hope that she learns to channel those temper tantrums into honest conversations with the people she loves. Soon, she’ll be too big to carry out of the room until she cools down. Her parents are fabulous, so she’s got a good shot at it.

And now I’d better go let the dog out.

Who, me? I didn't do it.

Anger antidote: cuteness

Friday, March 21, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

Welcome to spring!

Now that we are post-equinox, do you feel a shift? Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune had an article that included the total number of days on which we had below-zero temperatures (50), the longest string of consecutive days we woke to such frigid air (17), and the measure of 60.9" of snow so far this season. Seeing those totals on the first day of spring didn't make me feel any more spring-like, but the numbers certainly helped justify the winter fatigue that ran rampant around here.

Will spring re-ignite your creative work? I hope so.

Here are today's fragments:

1. Echo effect: The way the house tosses around our footsteps and voices now that the carpet is gone.

2. The clank of bracelets on a wrist. A whiff of perfume. The swish of denim-clad legs. What nonverbal cues create an image of someone you love?

3. The 30-day weather outlook is cool. Hipster cool? Arctic cool? Wish-I-had-a-blanket cool? Outlooks lack specificity.

4. Rebuild a communication breakdown. What's your first step?

5. Sometimes I steal potential titles from bits of sentences I've read somewhere. My current favorite: "The Possibility of Transcendence" swiped from a sentence in Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan. Flip open a book, steal a fragment.

Happy Friday, everyone.


As you know, I am an editor for Every Day Poets and we are always looking for decent short poetry (less than 500 words, less than 60 lines). Right now, we're reading submissions for summer. Guidelines are here.

My friend Dave Morehouse runs Postcard Poems and Prose, a place to submit poetry and micro-flash fiction (less than 250 words) as well as artwork. Guidelines are here. They've recently expanded acceptances to include haiku, senryu, and tanka.

Every Day Fiction, a sister publication of Every Day Poets, accepts flash fiction. Their guidelines are here.

Happy submitting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The Tuesday Night Dinner Project

Sometimes there’s no good reason for fatigue to hit. But it happens anyway, every so often, and all I want to do is lie down.

After I broke up a dog fight in my own foyer a little while ago, I thought, damn. I’m tired. Both dogs were at the vet’s office this morning, both got shots. I guess they’re now feeling a little punky. Their bad behavior got them both crated for the afternoon. And now I’m watching words appear on my computer screen at an alarmingly slow rate given that there is no other distraction here. 

Well, that’s probably not quite true. I can find distractions in motes of dust that float by the window and the fact that iTunes radio is at my finger tips and the knowledge that there are snacks in the cupboard. Wait, did I hear a car drive by outside? Who was that?

I’m probably worse than my granddaughter Camille. I took her to the library yesterday so she could play somewhere new and pick out books and videos and see other kids. I am lucky to have a really good library less than a mile from my house. The Ramsey County Library - Roseville is quite an amazing place and is full of distractions for someone like me. For Camille, we very nearly didn’t get past the walkway to the children’s section because there are tiles with letters of the alphabet on the floor and Camille was completely enchanted by that idea. I showed her where the C was and she decided that was hers. We had to negotiate to get her to move on, check out the rest of the children’s area. Oh, but wait, first we had to sit on the cushions that lined up on one side of the walkway and were just right for small people. And then we had to check out the little table just inside the children’s area, near the first set of bookshelves where Camille pulled down a book about Islam. She can’t read yet, but the cover looked good. 

Eventually, we ended up on the other side of the room, at the back where there is a play kitchen and all kinds of fake food for kids to play with. Camille loaded up her arms and brought me rubbery grapes, berries, bananas, tomatoes, apples, and a taco. Yes, a fully-loaded taco. It was not your typical toddler-style fake food. We found what looked like fried chicken drumsticks and grilled chicken breast and pizza and an eggplant. An avocado. A piece of lettuce and both sections of a hamburger bun. The only things suspect were the eggs which looked an awful lot like ping pong balls. And maybe they were. 

That play area was a gift. Camille hung out for nearly an hour, mixing and then not with assorted other kids who came around and drifted on. I sat on the bench and thought, wow, this is great. Next time I should bring my coffee. I noticed other parents and caregivers (there was at least one other grandparent) doing just that. 

And the kids were happy in this unstructured safe place. Camille played until she had to visit the rest room and that was our cue to do something else. The only thing that kept her from going back was the bribe of being allowed to choose some DVDs for after her nap. It was a lovely, distraction-filled way to spend the morning. 

I told Camille’s parents about our morning later that day, when everyone gathered for dinner. We watched the snow fall last night, gathered around Moroccan-style roast Cornish hens with vegetables, and had a lively conversation about all kinds of things. As we hopped from topic to topic, the parallel was clear: that library offers Camille a chance to hop from thing to thing, too. It’s one of the doorways for her to join the conversation.

And now, I’m going to consider a nap of my own.