29 January 2011

show and tell warning

I read the comics every day.

Correction: I try to read the comics every day. I try to read the paper every day, but sometimes, I have to admit, all I get to is the Ask Amy advice column and the comics.

Keeping up on what's happening in the Peanuts world is like keeping up with what's happening in the real world, right? There are squabbles and friendships and frustrations and people not understanding other people, which can lead to dark nights of the soul when you're questioning everything around you.

The other day when I read this Frazz comic, I laughed. I laughed because I saw myself in it, and then somewhat ironically, I wanted to share it immediately. The irony will be apparent after you read it.


{I hope that's big enough for you to see. I'm not so technical, so I couldn't make the size work out just right on this, so if you can't see it...um, call me, and I'll describe it to you in detail. I might even make different voices for the different characters.}

"I think they make us do show and tell so that we won't grow up to be bloggers."

"Life will be embarrassing some days no matter how you share it."

Ah, the sharing part of blogging. Now more than any other time, we can let basically everyone we know—and even people we don't know all that well—everything about us.

For example: here's a list of what ran through my head today. These are the kinds of things we're allowed to share instantaneously now, thanks to technology and a cultural shift to overshare.

"I had an egg salad sandwich for lunch today, and it made me think of going to the Sandwich Shop in downtown Burlington with my mom."

"During my massage today, I fell asleep for a little while and then did that jumping awake thing."

"Update from my massage: the music playing is Beethoven. How insulted do you think Beethoven would be if he knew that his creations, his masterpieces that pulled hours from him as he tried to find the notes in the discord, are now associated with gentle relaxation?"

"Update #2 from my massage: now 'What Child Is This?' is playing. Dear Aria Spa in Vail, it's time to change your music. Keep up with the times."

"Having people massage my scalp gives me the heebie-jeebies. I had to dig my fingernails into my palms do keep from shaking."

"Wow, I have a lot of thoughts while I have a massage. I should blog about this."

"But who cares?"

We can tell everyone everything now, but remember back in Jane Austen times when discretion was the thing?

25 January 2011

au marche en tunisie {post not actually in french}

It's fun to re-discover old writing—not that I'd forgotten about all the writing I did in Tunisia six years ago and was completely surprised to have stumbled across this in my very organized hard drive.

No, it's more that it's entertaining, insightful, and sometimes cringe-producing to look back on who you were before in writing. I'm getting slightly angsty here, so I won't go on, but I will say: it's fun to look back on who you were and what you were thinking when you were 22.


I like being called a gazelle.

I’m not leggy or elegant or graceful, although I pretend that I’m channeling Audrey Hepburn.

Maybe giving off a captivating air of grace, self-confidence, and sophistication will fool others—but mostly myself. I like it, then, when I’m complimented for those traits I don’t think I have, as if I’ve tricked someone into noticing me.

But every woman is a gazelle here in Tunisia; it’s the endearment to get us to buy more scarves at the market.

“Salut, les gazelles! Jolies, non?” He’s draped with scarves in cerulean, violet, and mandarin orange, so I know he’s saying that they are so pretty (and inexpensive, his eyes wink), but I want that jolie compliment for myself. I take the gazelle and run with it.

Of course, I like being mistaken for French.

My friends and I—three Americans and a Canadian who sometimes stubbornly points out that she’s American, too, because she’s from North America but then she relents in that Canadian way to American dominance—we’re with a French tour group.

Everywhere here in Tunisia, we’re assumed to be French until we open our mouths. Then, the missing subtleties of the French /u/ unmask us as foreigners, although no one is quite sure what kind of foreign.

So begins the game, often played at the markets as the sellers try to charm us into buying.

Belgian? Swiss? German? Czech? Italian? British? Russian?

No, no, no. Try further to the west of Europe.

Iraqi? Japanese?

One, the other west.

Two, let’s not even get into the political implications of Iraq and America, here in 2005, not too long, in the scheme of things, after we went into Iraq.

Three, Japanese?

These Tunisians don’t think of American and then think to yell at us for being American.

Once, after I told a waiter at our resort in Djerba that I’m American, he told me that Americans had to go sit in an isolated corner so that we could blabber loudly and with forceful authority without disturbing the guests.

He laughed when he saw my doe-eyed doubt that almost believed him; he was joking. Now when I come in the restaurant, he finds me to say hello to his American girl.

I like that this country seems so untouched by us and our long arm of culture, misbehavior, opinions, and politics.

And I like not being recognized.

24 January 2011


All the recent news about Tunisia has got me thinking about Tunisia. Obviously.

Six years ago right about now, I went to Tunisia with a French tour group. It was winter vacation of the year I spent teaching English to French high schoolers, and some friends and I booked one of those flight/hotel/bus tours. This one, because it was in Tunisia, also included a camel ride.

I was happy to go to Tunisia. My grandpa had spent part of the war there, and I'd grown up hearing his stories about camel races and swimming in the Mediterranean. And oh yes, about how he met a guy in the British army who was also named Ronald Walker and how they became good friends.

British Ronnie Walker would sneak into the American camp to get a decent meal, and American Ronnie Walker, aka Grandpa Ronnie Walker, would sneak into the British camp to get a decent drink.

That was my experience with Tunisia growing up, and six years ago, I had a perfectly fine and memorable experience with Tunisia myself. There was a sandstorm, references to Star Wars {which was partially filmed there—name the scenes}, a lot of couscous, and some writing.

But now the Tunisian government has fallen apart, and I read an article in the New York Times about how a fight with a fruit vendor started the riots. I'm sorry and somewhat ashamed to report that I didn't read the whole story, and I know this is how rumors and other forms of misinformation gets started; someone is underinformed and then tries to pass themselves off as informed. Fruit caused the Tunisian crisis. At least according to the New York Times.

I'm thinking about Tunisia, trying to form an informed opinion on what's happening, and trying to ignore the fact that when I hear on NPR about riots and chaos in another country, I go slightly blank and numb.

With Tunisia on my mind, I dredged up the writing I did while crammed on a bus with French people.

Here's a little excerpt for you.


I’ve lost my imagination.

23 January 2011

the end: in which my life becomes a lifetime movie

{This is the last installment of a three-part story, so maybe, if you want the full context, you should go back and read part 1 and part 2. Or you could just jump in here and try to guess what's happening.}

What's my boyfriend's name?

I considered my options. Quickly. Lies have to come out of your mouth quickly in order to sound like truth. Otherwise, it sounds like you're trying too hard, which I was.

Two basic lies presented themselves, and isn't it frightening how quickly the mind can think of lies?

We are full of stories, and here I was, about to tell one when I wasn't sure why it was necessary. I've lied before about having a boyfriend, but that's when I didn't want any more attention from some guy in a bar, or in one particular instance, at a grocery store. But this was Mohammed, and hate of Christmas aside, he seemed like a genuine good guy, very interested in my life but not about to suggest that he become part of my life.

Just because you're a pretty girl {or so people, including cab drivers, tell you} doesn't mean every man wants to ask you out. This is an excellent hubris-checker to keep in mind, but there I was, about to lie about a boyfriend to Mohammed, safe on the other side of the plexiglass.

The two lies were:

19 January 2011

how to get a pug to love you

I so enjoy looking at what people searched for to get to my blog. I've even written about it before.

While I was out in LA over the weekend visiting my sister and her husband, I obsessively checked my blog stats.

No, I didn't. I just looked in every now and again, in between all the amazing California-type things we did.

And by that I mean—I was wearing flip-flops in the winter! I had on capris at one point! I didn't wear a coat for several days in a row! I forgot sunglasses because I haven't seen the full sun in a coon's age {dang, you can take the girl out of Iowa, but you can't take the Iowa expressions out of the girl} and forgot that I would need them! I borrowed my sister's!

I realize that tells you nothing about what I actually did in LA, so if you'd really like to know, go ahead and ask. It involves the ocean, Hollywood, trying to find Carol Burnett, marveling at the traffic, and a pug.

Ah, yes, a pug. This brings me to my point today: someone got to my blog by googling "get my pug to love me."

On the off chance that this person returns to my blog—or someone else searches for this very precise and sad phrase—I thought I'd put together a little primer on how to get a pug to love you.

  1. Realize that even the Internet can't help you.  Seriously, you're having trouble getting a pug, that most loving, adoring of creatures, to love you? Your problem may be bigger than Google can solve because pugs love everything, even cigarette butts they find on the ground on their daily walk.
  2. Dress your pug like this, and she will love you. My pug does. It's because I make her look stylish, and yet I'm also concerned for her level of comfort when it's 20 below. This sweater lets her know that I love her, and her expression clearly says, "I love you. This is how you get a pug to love you."

Two funny stories related to that sweater.

One. On her morning walk the other day {all dressed up in this sweater}, Daisy started to bark ferociously at a commuter on his way to the train. Of course ferocious for a pug just translates to "Awwwww, look at her sad little face and buggy eyes!" The commuter said, "Ooh, feisty dog. I think she's angry about her sweater."

Two. It is bleak midwinter here in Chicagoland now, and the sidewalks have become sheets of ice. Walking is dangerous. Walking with a pug is dangerous. Walking with a pug while trying to drink coffee is also really dangerous. But watching a pug slide on the ice is hilarious. This morning, I just couldn't help it. Her legs were splaying, and she kept looking up at me like, "When did I become a cartoon? Isn't it right that only cartoon characters can run in place?"

I laughed. A lot.

I laughed so much that I stopped paying attention, and I slipped on the ice. Daisy ran up to me to lick my face, which means that she wasn't pug laughing at me but instead was pretending that she's a St. Bernard in the Alps. Lick the person until she gets up again!

Clearly, she's a nicer person than I am.

But the close-up I got of her—all dressed up in her stripey sweater—made me laugh even harder. Which made her lick my face more. Do not open your mouth to laugh while a pug is licking you.

So in conclusion, person who can't get their pug to love them: Buy a sweater. And laugh a lot but try to laugh with your mouth closed.

17 January 2011

part 2: in which my life becomes a lifetime movie

{To read part 1 of this story, you'll have to go here.}

Mohammed was from India, and when I first got in his cab, he talked about the snow and general cold. Normal Midwestern talk, even here in the city. Weather is what bonds us, no matter where you sit in the cab.

At the first stop light, Mohammed turned on the dome light and turned around, smiling in a way that showed me he was missing a few teeth.

"Cold outside, yes?" Even the wrinkles on his forehead were smiling at me. Mohammed was old. Not oh-my-gosh-should-you-still-have-a-license old—more of a you-could-be-my-dad old.

"Too cold for a pretty girl like you."

I didn't follow his logic because I think cold intensifies pretty: think rosy cheeks and scarves in just the right shade to accent the rosiness. That's the rose-colored glasses view of cold.

In the reality view of Chicago cold, pretty girls are also practical girls who cover up every inch of skin with down and fleece, layering long johns and bulking up their pretty shapes.

"Oh, no, I think it's beautiful out," I told Mohammed. "The snow makes it really Christmas time."

I shouldn't have brought up Christmas.

"Christmas! Too much money at Christmas! Waste. Too much waste. All the lights and decorations and trees. Too much. Christmas cost too much."

I didn't know it'd be a touchy subject for Mohammed; we barely knew each other, after all. I was mostly acquainted with his views on the intersection of pretty and cold and besides, I'd just come from White Christmas. I was in the kind of mood when you expect people to start dancing in the snow.

Mohammed kept going. All the way to Lake Shore Drive, he berated Christmas. Driving past houses with lights on made it worse.

He pointed out all of them as if they were evidence he was entering in a trial: Mohammed v. The Cost of Christmas.

And at every stoplight, he turned on the dome light and turned around to make his point more personally. Eye contact and all, you know.

15 January 2011

in which my life becomes a lifetime movie {part 1}

I lied to Mohammed.

He was my cab driver in the early evening on a winter Sunday, and I was going from the North Side to Ogilvie Transportation Center, where a train would take me out of the city and back to the suburbs.

I'd just had one of those particularly charmed city afternoons. Coffee with a good friend: a double espresso at Julius Meinl, the cafe that replicates the European cafe experience so precisely that just seeing the elongated sugar packet and picking up the demi-tasse spoon makes my heart twinge for France.

Jessie and I sat by a big, practically floor-to-ceiling window in these deep, burnt orange arm chairs with a small round table in between us, enjoying the winter sunshine. When the sun shines in the Midwest in the winter, it's that much brighter because you've gotten used to gray days. But then there's a sunny—and usually crystal cold—day, and it's brighter also because the sun is reflecting off all that snow.

As she and I talked about books and people we knew and holiday plans, a homeless man stood outside the window holding up a Christmas tree. Where he got the tree I will never know. Was he trying to sell it? Perhaps, but as I told Jessie about Gone with the Windsors, this book I'd just started that fictionalizes the story of King Edward and Mrs. Simpson, the homeless man lost interest in the tree.

He let it fall against the building and then began imitating me. I'm a somewhat imitable {and yet also inimitable} person, I will admit, when I'm talking. There's lots of swirling of hands and expanding of eyes and raising of eyebrows. And when talking about how the King of England abdicated for an American divorcee, I got especially swirling and expanding and raising.

14 January 2011

The Music Man is not real life

"It is a well-known principle that if you keep the flint in one drawer and the steel in another, you'll never strike much of a fire."

I said this with authority.

I said this with the attitude of a woman who'd been married for 38 years to her high school sweetheart, giving her the freedom to lecture whoever she wants on the way to get married and conduct relationships and not end up an old maid.

I said it to my co-worker Christy, who was about to go on a date and was having those doubts. The stealthy ones that sneak up like lions, low to the ground and hidden by the grass—you don't know they're even there until the last possible moment.

Then, just as you're ready to go meet this person, pounce. The doubts come out of the grass, and you suddenly feel you'll be mauled if you go to the restaurant. The idea of spending an hour or so making small talk and trying to smile at this person you barely know makes you go wild. And feel hunted, or perhaps like a hunter.

That is the feeling Christy had, and I was trying to reassure her. I wanted to get her through the door and to the table. She needed to see that just because you're meeting someone for drinks, that doesn't mean you have to fall madly in love with them, nor does it mean that you even have to like them.

However, the tactic I took was not as helpful as I intended.

12 January 2011

put your good thoughts ahead of your bad ones

As I have done every year since I was in 4th grade, I have re-started my Kids-Thot-a-Day Calendar—a little flip book my Grandma and Grandpa Callahan got for me. {You can read more about it here, if you're so inclined. And bonus! There's a poem in that post, too! This is only a bonus if you like poetry, I know.}

It's chock-full of pithy little sayings, and every morning before I leave for the gym, I flip the page to see what the day has in store for me.

I don't believe in horoscopes {although I will admit that there have been some I've read that are frighteningly accurate. But how, I always wonder, can it be accurate for all the other Sagittarians? How are we all having the same day, considering that we're all so different?}.

But my Kids-Thot-a-Day works a horoscope-like charm on me. I look at it and can sense, somehow, how my day might go.

Take yesterday for example. At 5:30 yesterday morning, I read, "Put your good thoughts ahead of your bad ones."

And I prayed: Oh dear Lord, if it turns out that I need that reminder 3 hours from now or 6 hours from now, please bring this moment back to me.

I did, and he did.

11 January 2011

vegetarian chili {a recipe}

Before you can know what you are, you have to know what you aren't.

This sounds very negative, this list-making of things you are not or are not good at or do not do. So much not.

But what you're doing—it's not focusing on the negative. It's looking for the positive. Focusing on your strengths so that you can become even stronger there.

This is not at all how I thought I would start this piece, but it's a good demonstration of what this blog is: a place for musings and thoughts and surprises and, I hope, laughter.

It is not, however, a recipe blog.

There are plenty of charming and helpful cooking blogs out there. These people take pretty pictures and give little kitchen tips and generally make you wish that you were invited over for dinner every night at their house.

And while I do cook a fair amount, I haven't made this a recipe blog. I leave that to Kirsten and Stacey, two girls from my hometown with the aforementioned mouth-watering blogs. Clearly, we raise good cooks in Burlington. {Go look at their blogs now, but only if you promise to come back here.}


After I wrote an ode to my Crock Pot, I had a few people ask for the recipe.

Never one to disappoint, I decided to share it.

10 January 2011

my pug may be na'vi. i may be an avatar.

When I first come home, my little pug, Daisy, is bursting to show her love for me. Her joy that I've returned. Her belief that I am worship-worthy.

It's also, by the way, entirely fine to read such emotions into a pug's whirling dervish dance. Faced with the choice that the pug is either crazy or has the ability to experience joy, I choose emotion. It makes me feel good, and isn't owning a pet about making you feel good?

{Lest you be concerned about my pet-owning abilities—let me say, that is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek question. Owning a pet is also about getting something furry to give you unconditional love so that you can make overdramatic single girl statements like, "At least Daisy loves me. Sigh."}

She channels her love, joy, and worship into running in circles around the apartment. I have hardwood floors, so part of her excitement also manifests itself as sliding into walls and the couch when she can't stop fast enough.

This teaches the lesson: joy can be so wonderful that it's painful.

That's an excellent lesson, but I'm also trying to get Daisy to learn this lesson: when I come home, it's best to show her joy by politely sitting down and shaking my hand. It's refined. A “how do you do” sort of greeting that would be appropriate for the Queen, should she ever stop by.

No, I'm not actually trying to teach her that.

I'm mostly just trying to let her know that she doesn't have to run around like grayhound when she sees me after the work day. She is not a grayhound; she is a pug with a little face that my brother says looks like Bob Newhart's face. Bob Newhart should be proud of this comparison.

The most successful tactic I've found so far of calming her down is saying, “I see you.”

It came out by accident one day as Daisy bounced into the wall while howling {something Bob Newhart would never do} and then looked up at me to make sure I was paying attention.

“I see you.”

And she stopped.

Stopped howling, stopped running, stopped sliding. She sat down.

“Oh my gosh, you're a Na'vi,” I told Daisy as I picked her up.

She tilted her head, most likely because I wasn't speaking true Na'vi to her.

“You know, like in Avatar. The direct translation of 'I love you' in Na'vi is 'I see you.'”

When I said the “I see you” thing again, Daisy licked my chin and put a paw on each shoulder. She was pug hugging me because I was speaking her language, her Na'vi language.

She hasn't had much love in her life: I'm her third owner and the people who owned her before me kept her outside. In the winter. In the Midwest.

She probably doesn't know what to do with the word “love,” then. She doesn't get the concept, but the idea of being noticed and noted and known by someone else—that makes her feel loved.

I see you.

And if I can communicate so well with her, that makes me an avatar, I guess. Probably to her, then, I look like a giant Bob Newhart.

A few of caveats about this story:
  • I have seen Avatar only once, so don't go getting any ideas that I'm one of those obsessed people who is teaching herself Na'vi. I just remember that whole “I see you” thing well because I remember thinking, 'Yes, isn't that a big part of what it means to feel loved? To believe that someone can truly see who you are, there under the layers of daily demands?' I remember liking that idea.
  • I know that animals can't understand language, nor is Daisy emotionally processing her transition to my home. She isn't thinking back on her life before and analyzing it. She isn't trying to wrap her little pug brain around the concept of love. I know that. But really, if you'd seen how she reacted when I said “I see you,” you'd wonder, too, about her Na'vi-ness. At least she isn't blue.
  • Daisy still runs around when I first come home, although her number of laps/length of howling is decidedly decreasing. I've seriously considered shouting, “I see you!” through the front door as I'm unlocking it. You know, just to prep her with calmness. But then there's the whole consideration of lying to a pug since I wouldn't really be able to see her then. And there are the neighbors to consider; being known as the girl who shouts is not the epithet I'm going for.

07 January 2011

the streetlight {a poem}

The streetlight blinks on
in the 5am January dark when
even the moon is hiding
somewhere behind the flat matte black
the black blank canvas the winter clouds have made.

The streetlight is the only light.
The sidewalk, curb, grass, and pavement in its dominion of light
are tinged
with the color of margarine.
That yellow stick.
That unnatural fatty glow.

No one else is out yet on this 10 below morning.

And so she steps into the spotlight
to do her one magic trick.

Inhale the frosted, bracing air.
And the 10 below air has been transformed: it's 98.6 air.
The heat of life, hanging noticeably
like a summer cloud
in the yellow spotlight.

The crowd goes wild at the beauty of it.
She bows and
the streetlight blinks off.

06 January 2011

a poem for winter

I looked for a solid, filling poem about winter—a verbal equivalent to ham and wild rice soup simmering away all day in the Crock Pot—and I found depression instead.

Judging by these poems I read, winter is a drag. A long drag into spring when life becomes vibrant and verdant again.

Oh, you can muscle your way into a good mood during winter, these poems tell me. But that would be a significant effort, and winter is about a significant effort to get through the day.

I don't believe that.

In winter, we can see all sorts of symbolic lessons about perseverance and celebrating, even in the dark.

In winter, we can learn to look closer at small details of a tree, usually brushed over in the glories of fall or the first burst of spring.

In winter, we can see the essential.

I went looking for a poem that conveyed those ideas, and I will give a caveat: I looked only in Garrison Keillor's Good Poems. Another caveat: it was a rather quick look, one night in bed. My eyes were pulling down, and my whole body wanted to burrow {a side effect of making the thermostat drop to 58 at night}.

I went looking, and I came back cold and no longer enamored with the crackle of frosted grass under my feet.


Until I read "January" by Baron Wormser.


"Cold as the moon," he'd mutter
In the January of 5 A.M. and 15 below
As he tried to tease the old Chev into greeting
One more misanthropic morning.

It was an art (though he never
Used that curious word) as he thumped
The gas pedal and turned the key
So carefully while he held his breath
And waited for the sharp jounce
And roar of an engaged engine.

"Shoulda brought in the battery last night."
"Shoulda got up around midnight
And turned it over once."

It was always early rising as he'd worked
A lifetime "in every damn sort
Of damn factory." Machines were
As natural to him as dogs and flowers.
A machine, as he put it, "was sensible."

I was so stupid about valves and intakes
He thought I was some religious type.
How had I lived as long as I had
And remained so out of it?
And why had I moved of my own free will
To a place that prided itself
On the blunt misery of January?

"No way to live," he'd say as he poked
A finger into the frozen throat
Of an unwilling carburetor.
His breath hung in the air
Like a white balloon.

Later on the way to the town where
We worked while the heater
Wheezed fitfully and the windshield
Showed indifference to the defroster
He'd turn to me and say that
The two best things in this world
Were hot coffee and winter sunrises.
The icy road beckoned to no one,
Snow began to drift down sleepily,
The peace of servitude sighed and dreamed.



It's that line about how hot coffee and winter sunrises are the two best things in the world that made me deem this the right poem for today, for how I feel about winter.

The blend of very plain language in the dialogue and the poetic highlights {saying his breath hung like a white balloon, for a little example}—that speaks to me of winter, too.

It's the time of year when we most feel our struggle to survive in the elements {assuming you live in a place with four seasons}, dashing from home to car to office to car to store to car to home to bed. But at this time when life becomes very plain, then, especially then, we want to find the deeper beauty in the plainness.

We want to look for something a bit more eternal-feeling than what the thermostat tells us.

Also, if you have a poem or a song or a story that speaks to you of winter, let me know. I found this one poem, but that doesn't mean I've stopped looking for more reminders of that eternal-feeling.

05 January 2011

my closet of happiness

There's just something satisfying and thrilling about filing, isn't there?

I'm not being glib.

When I file, my soul trills, the kind of trilling normally reserved for the first time someone you like accidentally {on purpose?} bumps into you.

I spent part of New Year's Day After surrounded by hanging folders, manila folders, tabs, and a recycling pile. I was going through my spare closet, located in my spare room/craft room/office.

I would like to point out that the closet wasn't disorganized before, but in my little world, there's always room for more organization. And color-coding. And ways to keep track of my life.

There are always more ways to bring my life in line, and that brings me calm, like how you feel when you wake up to a new snowfall and the streets haven't been plowed yet. To me, it always looks like the unbroken white is ready for a story to be told on it.

I didn't decide to re-organize the spare closet simply because it was New Year's Day After, although that did have a hand in it.

As I wrote on New Year's Day, I like to do things that day that I want to enjoy for the rest of the year. This year, I extended that to the whole weekend—the beauty, I guess, of having New Year's on a weekend.

Organization was slotted in for Sunday, New Year's Day After, and as I sat in the midst of paperwork—I thought of it as a moat, which I guess would make me a castle—I decided to create a closet of happiness.

I think that calls for caps: A Closet of Happiness.

Instead of thinking of it as the mismatched, hodge-podge, slash closet {paperwork/fabric/storage/miscellany}, I decided to put in there things that make me happy.

Not so I can sit and stare at it when I'm in a fouled-up mood—willing myself happy by some sort of shrine I've built to that glib-est of words to describe an emotion we all aim for.

I've always, by the way, harbored unhappiness about the word happy. We English speakers over-work it, making it serve as a good wish {Happy birthday!}, as well as a way to convey joy and contentment {a much deeper sentiment than the happy birthday wish you write on someone's Facebook wall}.

Doesn't the word contentment feel better and fuller than the chipper little happy?

I have just decided to rename my Closet of Happiness the Closet of Contentment.

In it are things that bring me calm.

Sewing projects.

Boxes of old letters and cards. I save them all and think ahead to the day when I'm 92 and I read through them all.

Cleaning supplies.

My files. Of course.

The Normandy flag—where I used to live in France. It has two leopards on it, looking very regal and very much like they should be protecting William the Conqueror, that man from Normandy who took over England in 1066.

That Norman invasion is how we got so many French words in English, something I learned in my college language classes. The textbooks from those classes are in the Closet of Contentment, too.

I'm going to show you a picture of my Closet. I believe it belongs on the front of Real Simple. Or that Jesus is smiling down on my Closet—look at that ray of bright shining approval emanating from my Closet.

If you have any questions about what you see, lined up so adroitly in my Closet, let me know. I have a contented reason for everything in here.

03 January 2011

how a crock pot transformed my life

A funny moment from my day:

I ran home at lunch today to check on my new little pug, Daisy, and to introduce her to my coworker Christy. {More on her later. The pug, not Christy.}

When we walked into the foyer of my condo building, I smelled something thoroughly wonderful. Onion-y. Garlicky. A rich heartiness that is perfect for a sunny winter's day.

"Oh, I want to eat dinner with whoever is making that yummy goodness," I told Christy.

The closer we got to my apartment, the stronger, the deliciouser {new word!} the smell got.

That's when it hit me: the yummy goodness smell was coming from my apartment.

"That's MY dinner!" I said to Christy. "I get to eat dinner with me!"

Somewhat understandably, Christy looked concerned that a1a) I forgot that I'd started dinner before work, and b2b) I was excited about eating with myself, something I do every night.

This morning—with a little pug standing right next to me the whole time—I sliced onions, measured cumin and cayenne pepper, and opened several cans of black beans and tomatoes.

Then into the Crock Pot it went, and I, just a few hours later, demonstrated how with a Crock Pot, you can get dinner ready to go, walk away, and completely forget about it. I should be on a commercial for them, if they have commercials, which I don't think they do because I've never seen one.

I don't know how I forgot that my Crock Pot would be cooking away for me all day, but however I did that trick, I'm in support of doing it again.

When I walk in the door after a long day at work, it will smell like home. It will smell like someone has been slaving over a stove all day, and that someone wasn't me.

It was a machine, working away for me, and now you're probably looking at me with concern, just as Christy did, because I'm excited about how a machine can take care of me. I don't care.

I don't care because it's 20 degrees out, and I'm going home to eat chili while a little pug sits at my feet.

If you'd like to make your own chili that will make you excited to eat dinner with yourself, try the recipe. I am sorry, but unless you own a pug of your own, you can't entirely re-enact this story; I will not loan my pug to you.

01 January 2011

on the first day of the year

On New Year's Day, I like to do things that I hope to enjoy for the next year. I honestly don't know where I came up with that idea, but I've done it for several years now.

I don't do much planning and dreaming for the next year.

I don't do Resolutions. {Such a strong word—resolute—and I don't normally shy away from strong words. But in the case of making these declarations about the next year, I prefer the slightly softer Decisions. New Year's Decisions.}

But I do have this deeply felt idea that on New Year's, I should have a day of:
  • running
  • reading
  • writing
  • friends
  • family
  • cooking
  • laughing

It's as if I'm trying to draw good luck and happy days and strength for when the days aren't happy: I enjoy this now, today on the first day of the year. Please let me enjoy again.

And now, off to the day. To the year.


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