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06/01 Direct Link
My husband looks up at me. “What’s wrong?”

I kiss the top of his head before sitting down next to him on the love seat. “My sister is Mom’s Mini-Me. I don’t think she’s ever had her own ideas—she gets them from movies, books and Mom and Dad and doesn’t think them through.”

“I like your parents.” He shifts the morning paper so that I can read the headlines, too.

“That’s not the point. Gemma’s 35 and still imitating or agreeing with everything Mom says or does. Talking with her is so frustrating!”

He nods. This conversation’s not new.
06/02 Direct Link
The dream went like this: I am some kind of professional agent who works in the field. I am part of a team that includes astrophysicists, doctors, environmental and micro biologists, a zoologist, four students and. Twice in this dream I was shuttled to crashed spacecrafts where I did whatever my very important job was.

The people reminded me of Grey’s Anatomy characters. They looked and interacted much like them, but they clearly weren’t those people. And no one wore cleavage shirts or high heels in inappropriate settings. (But everyone could dance—my word, but we were all fantastic dancers.)
06/03 Direct Link
The Big Orange Splot is about being able to express yourself, even when others don't want you to. It’s all about nonconformity. It takes place in one of those suburban neighborhoods where all the houses look alike, and then one day, a seagull carrying a can of orange paint (no one knows why) flies over Mr. Plumbean's house and drops the can of paint (no one knows why). His neighbors, who are very proud of their nice, neat street encourage him to take care of the eyesore, so Plumbean handles the problem—and his neighbors think he’s flipped his lid...
06/04 Direct Link
Finally! My mom has finished all of the Harry Potter books (so far). We’ve been bugging her for years to get through them so that we can talk about what happens in the ends of the books, but she only ever read through book four, and had forgotten a lot of what happened in that one. So I went to the library and got her the books on CD so she could listen to them on her way to work and back. She borrowed friends’ audiobooks for numbers five and six. (Less scratching/skipping.)

Now, bring on book seven. We’re ready.
06/05 Direct Link
Let’s consider what makes a good interstate rest stop. Obviously, you should feel relatively safe stopping there. Lights should illuminate sidewalks from the parking area to the restrooms. But the area should not be so lit that it makes it nigh impossible to actually put back your seat and sleep for a few hours.

The whole area, in the bathrooms and out, should be clean, generally free of litter and gobblymuck. Sinks should have shelves (which travelers should help to keep clean) for people who are stopping overnight and need space to put down, say, a contact container or toothpaste.
06/06 Direct Link
I found the rest areas along I-5 in Washington and Oregon to be surprisingly nice. They were clean and generally well lit, in- and outside of the building(s), and well maintained. I was less than impressed with California’s rest buildings, which seemed out of date and neglected. (A few times, I opted to instead wait for gas station bathrooms—which, of course, were no guarantee, either.)

My favorite rest stop on the trip to Ohio may have been along I-70 in Indiana—clean, bright, well taken care of. Lots of shelf area for my contact solution and case and toothpaste.
06/07 Direct Link
Jenny, Trish and Nicole sipped their cocktails. This was a long-ago-postponed plan that had miraculously found an amicable night in all three women’s schedules.

It had all started forming at their high school reunion, and in their slightly intoxicated states, they had decided that they should all get together to see if they liked each other any better as adults. (One of them had stated this so bluntly that the other two had nearly swallowed their tongues laughing, but now they each denied having been so callous, and none of them admitted that they couldn’t stand each other as adolescents.)
06/08 Direct Link
The neighbor boy—Todd, I think his name is, or maybe Tom—came to my door and asked if he could help me do anything. I figured he was a boyscout, or maybe working on community service hours for something churchy. The bird feeder hasn’t been filled since my son was here last week, I told him. It really should be filled every other day or so. I like watching the birds. You’d be surprised at how many different birds are around. I miss being able to fill the feeder myself. They’d all fly to the trees, twittering at me.
06/09 Direct Link
The town I lived in for a few years during my first job after college—well, it wasn’t exactly a city, but there was a pretty constant stream of traffic at any hour going by my house. Yet I felt perfectly safe stepping outside for a walk, even after dark. (Though, before I left, I checked the database of sex offenders in the town and realized that maybe I shouldn’t have allowed myself to feel quite so safe… Several of them lived just down the street from me.)

I never did get to know the neighbors I wasn’t paying rent.
06/10 Direct Link
Anna needed a new vacuum. The one she’d gotten from her grandmother’s estate—a fabulous old Electrolux—had finally died on her. She hadn’t swept in a week, and with two dogs running around her apartment, she thought she could feel the fur build-up under her feet.

Intrigued by the claim that the vacuum would never lose suction, Anna decided to give a Dyson a try. The afternoon she brought it home, she had to empty the canister after sweeping her living room once.

And then she swept it twice more.

My god, she thought, I think I’m in love.
06/11 Direct Link
Flight is a fantastic, fast-paced, mind-blowing journey through human experiences with choices, motivations and death. Succinct, really, though that's not a word that often gets applied to books. You love, hurt and pray for Zits, the self-deprecating nickname our foster kid, "half-breed" protagonist offers, as he jumps from body to body and time to time, offered a miraculous opportunity to see others' choices about death before he makes his potentially tragic decision about the gun(s) in his pocket. A little bit historical fiction, a lot teen angst, this book should be encouraged reading in every high school (despite the language).
06/12 Direct Link
Half the fridge contents were out, many sloshed, dripped, and slopped onto the white Corian surface. The bowl in which he was mixing his ingredients contained a mostly liquid brown, the color of what the cat had thrown up that morning. He had included leftover tomato soup, refried beans, a spoonful of jelly, and some of all the stuff in the bottles in the door, and for good measure, a scoop of fudge ripple ice cream (which was melting in its container and beginning to leak).

He called his sister. “Hey, Lucy! Want to try some of my invisibility potion?!”
06/13 Direct Link
Lucy had been giving her family the distinct impression that she would rather be anywhere than with them since she was seventeen. They imagined that she apologized to the few boyfriends she brought home when she was in college as soon as they left. What she apologized for, they weren’t sure. It’s not as though dustwebs hung in the corners or the house reeked of unemptied litterbox. The food was good. They were polite.

After Lucy married and moved away, the whole family began referring to her as Petunia, though no one admits to being the first to do so.
06/14 Direct Link
Several people from my office, including myself, and our families have, in the last few years, formed a team. We ride bikes to raise money for MS research and support. The ride is a little more than 150 miles. The youngest rider was thirteen last year. This year, a 68-year-old woman—whose son, neighbor, and a dear friend have been diagnosed—has joined our team and is determined to complete the ride, even though she’s had both of her knees replaced and has been scheduled for foot surgery the week after the ride.

Break out the safety green team shirts!
06/15 Direct Link
Margaret, a bank teller, decided she had to give her two weeks notice sometime the next week, after working a Saturday (a mere three-hour day) in which she couldn’t think of a single genuine smile she offered anyone—even her coworkers. A few attempts provided only tormented lip-curving, teeth-baring semblances of a smile, and she felt sure they looked more like she was snarling, or maybe grimacing.

She had put it off because she knew the ropes, and staying was easier than getting a new job. Besides, the pay was decent for a woman with only a high school education.
06/16 Direct Link
Rick watched Tammy cutting vegetables for sandwiches and salad. He’d always loved how she sliced vegetables. Carrots weren’t really anything special, or broccoli, but there was something sexy about the way she julienned peppers and sliced onions and tomatoes. Maybe it was her concentration—her teeth set, her eyes not quite squinting. Her cuts were always confident, even when they weren’t perfect, as they frequently weren’t—she was always cutting half slices as a result of attempting to keep them thin and to avoid her fingers. And, oh heaven, she had mushrooms to cut today, fresh and spongy. Those were the best.
06/17 Direct Link
My sons were sitting side by side on the couch with a pile of books at their feet, and one open across their laps. Ray, who is thirteen, was talking quietly to his eleven-year-old brother Tim.

Hardly a normal scene.

“Hey, guys, whatchya readin’?”

“Books about Pompeii,” Tim said. “Mrs. Krismayer told me she returned them to the library yesterday, and I wanted to know more. And Ray remembers that chapter, too.”

“We’re glad we don’t live near Vesuvius,” Ray added. “We’d hate to die like that. And to be turned into casts so everyone could see how we died.”
06/18 Direct Link
Suzanne supposed she must have made good impressions on her first dates. Frequently, they were also the last, though a handful did make it all the way to date #4 or #5. What always got her was the kiss good night. She knew she was supposed to want to be kissed, but what usually happened was only that she wanted them to want to kiss her. There had been this guy from Georgia (Russia) who had offered her the most tantalizing little kisses, and he’d invited her in every night. (They were neighbors.)

She wanted to want to say yes….
06/19 Direct Link
Elaine doesn’t have pierced ears, but she wears all these clippy earrings and ear cuffs to try to disguise that fact. She never wears fewer than three necklaces at a time, two of them huge glass or metal pendants and one smaller one.

It’s a good thing she has the normal number of fingers. If she had more, she’d have an excuse to wear more of those gaudy HSN/QVC rings. You know the ones I mean. Most days she comes in with all eight of her fingers bedecked, and sometimes—especially Fridays and Mondays—she wears rings on her thumbs.
06/20 Direct Link
“You’ve been drinking a lot of soda,” the dentist said sternly, picking at my teeth. The instrument made a tight, painful-sounding ping as it slid of each tooth. “Mountain Dew?”

I wrinkled my nose. I hated coffee, so when I wanted a caffeine boost, that was my poison of choice. I didn’t even like the stuff. “They don’t make caffeine drip IV’s yet,” I replied. She told me to spit in the little sink. When I was a kid, I wanted one of those little sinks; I thought the way there was a little constant swirl of water was neat.
06/21 Direct Link
My first trip the library surprised me. It was tiny. This facility was supposed to serve a population of more than 15,000? The library in the town I’d come from was twice this size, though the population was less than 1,300. And they were about to commence another expansion. I decided not to mention that to the librarians, who were clearly frustrated with the situation.

They told me about how books were supposed to be circulated a certain number of times in a year—maybe three—and how their average was eight.

I didn’t ask who decided the magic number.
06/22 Direct Link
The little girl stood beside her mother, who was talking to the gardener, watching the butterflies and birds flit in the trees and around the flowers. She probably hummed under her breath, a most patient girl.

After twenty minutes of her mother’s conversation with the gardener, she tugged on her mother’s hand. Her mother told her to go look at the flowers and pick a few to find to plant in their own garden at home.

When her mother was finally ready to leave, the little girl asked the gardener, “Why are there piles of rocks?”

“Those are wishes, dear.”
06/23 Direct Link
My family participates in Bike to the Bay, a fundraiser for the Northwest Ohio chapter of the National MS Society. My sister started us riding it after she went one year with a friend. Mom and Dad thought it was a good idea. The year after, I got a bike and went along. The year after, my other sister. Every year, each rider raises at least $200. As a family, we usually aim for more like $2000.

People give us money because we’re willing to ride more than 150 miles (albeit mostly flat terrain) in two days for this cause.
06/24 Direct Link
Do you know about multiple sclerosis? You’ve heard of it. But do you know what it is?

It’s a disease that affects the central nervous system. MS isn’t normally fatal, but it often results in needing a cane, then a wheelchair. I know someone who was diagnosed and six months later required a wheelchair.

It frequently starts with tingling or numbness in the extremities, dizziness, vision problems, fatigue, balance issues. There’s no test for it; the diagnosis is made by ruling everything else out.

Can you imagine waking up in the morning without knowing whether you’ll be able to walk?
06/25 Direct Link
I saw The Children’s Hour years ago, from the middle, just in time to see that wretched little girl spinning her lie. Shirley MacLaine plays co-star to Audrey Hepburn. They are teachers at a girls’ boarding school—which they founded—who fall victim to that little girl’s insistence that she’s telling the truth. (She was getting revenge for being punished—for lying.)

While a compelling film, I found it depressing and seemingly unrealistic that a woman who realized her attraction to a woman should only find an outlet in suicide. And now I wonder if it encouraged any similar suicides.
06/26 Direct Link
It’s probably something a lot of self-published writers do, because they don’t realize that it’s a ‘rule’—there shouldn’t be widows or orphans. Widows are the dangling bits of paragraphs that show up at the top of a page, usually just a word or two. An orphans is the first line of a paragraph that gets “left behind,” where the rest of the paragraph appears on the next page. Fortunately, with technology being what it is, it’s easy as cookies to check for and fix them. Of course, doing this doesn’t help when the document isn’t laid out for printing.
06/27 Direct Link
One Stephen Crane poem is about a man who told the Universe that he existed, to point out the fact and be noticed. The Universe: “That fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.” I keep a copy of this poem on my desk as a reminder that the rest of the world owes me nothing. We may have a lot of rights, but those are ideals, not guarantees.

Every now and then when I encounter someone who feels owed—fame, riches, recognition that they may or may not deserve—I quote them the poem. They seldom understand.
06/28 Direct Link
The class is a five-week summer grad course, Native American Literature. Sherman Alexie, Paula Gunn Allen, Louise Erdrich, and more. I require a 15-20 page research/literary analysis paper by the end of the fourth week. My students think I’m sadistic, but that’s okay. Many of them tell me later that they learned more in one of my five-week courses than they learned in a whole twelve-week term covering Chaucer or Hawthorne.

But now this guy stands in front of me—a man older than myself—telling me that he wants to drop.

Instead of researching, he’s been playing computer games.
06/29 Direct Link
Making wands is a highly specialized art. One cannot simply throw elements together willy-nilly. For example, dandelion wisps will only be used with willow and ash. To use them with cedar or dogwood be catastrophe. Likewise, fairy dust and holly must never be combined, though the effects of such a creation wouldn’t be as horrific as the previous example. One who makes such a mistake will not forget the rule again.

Embellishments must also be carefully selected. Some woods are extraordinarily picky about their adornment. (Pickier than my Aunt Selma, and of course you know how particular she is.) …
06/30 Direct Link
He stirs his Vietnamese coffee without demonstrating the slightest inclination to drink it. He was staring at a picture on the wall, but anyone who noticed this would also notice that he wasn’t actually looking at the picture of a chubby baby hospital photo.

He looked as though he were waiting. A bag—probably holding an armful of files from his office—sat in the chair next to him, appearing disappointed at being cast aside, or maybe at feeling like a placeholder. But the man is not waiting for a person.

His expression is of someone longing for the sea.