Thank You, Erma

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

It’s been over a week since I returned from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. This means that there are less than 103 weeks until the next one.  I. Can’t. Wait.

Before going to the conference, I felt disconnected from writing, as if I was at war with my words. They would occupy my mind, bounce around my brain, but find no place to settle, leaving them, and me, senseless and lost.

I needed to fall in love with words again, and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop helped push me in that direction. I can honestly say that buying that ticket was one of the nicest things I’ve ever done for myself. I came away from the conference with renewed inspiration. And stronger abdominal muscles from laughing so hard. (Did I mention that this event was especially for human interest and HUMOR writers?)

I wish I could adequately recap for you all of the sessions and keynote speakers. I wish I could describe fully the feeling of love and awe in the room when Phil Donahue spoke of Erma, when he showed clips of her many appearances on his show. This woman was a force – one I had underestimated until I participated in a three day ode to her brilliance. I wonder what it felt like for her children, who were all in attendance, to watch their mother on the screen in a room filled with people who adored her writing, her presence, and her unique-yet-oh-so-familiar message.

I wish I could fully explain what I felt as I sat in on the session – Women Writing Their Lives – with Gina Barreca, Ilene Beckerman, Suzanne Braun Levine, and moderator Patricia Wynn Brown. The words and stories and laughs that these women shared with us ring in my ears over a week later, leaving the whispered message, “You can do it.” The lessons they unknowingly imparted about writing and life and their genuine and kind presence will stay with me always.

I attended this conference to find inspiration and purpose for my writing. I hoped to meet writers I have long admired and to meet writers that I had not yet discovered. I anticipated sharing laughs with my friend, Kari, and our LTYM Chicago sisters, Erin and Shannan, in our native (except Erin) Ohio.

I went hoping Erma could put my words and me back on the same page again.

I left the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop full of energy, hope, the healthy glow of camaraderie, and cake.

EBWW CollageI cannot think of a better result.

 

For the Love of the Library

Childhood LibraryMy first memories of the library include huge slanted tables with picture books atop, a small room for story hours, and rows of encyclopedias for elementary school projects.  I remember the feeling of comfort and familiarity I felt upon entering the library of my youth – except that one time when I walked in with my very own quarters clenched in my small hand, sent in by my mother to apologize to the head librarian. I had colored all over Danny the Dinosaur. My mother was masterful in the use of effective consequences and teachable moments. I never colored in another library book and felt a small tinge of guilt every time I highlighted passages in a college textbook.

My love for the library only grew as I aged into adulthood, with a short hiatus during the first few years of college. You see, my university library used computer card catalogues. This idea terrified me.  It took a couple years for me to get comfortable with punching keys instead of pulling drawers to search for books.

After graduating and marrying a fellow library lover (that wasn’t meant to sound dirty), we moved to Kentucky and made our first appearance at the Lexington Public Library. It was at this point that my new husband learned of my Library Book Disorder (LBD). His first glimpse into my illness occurred as he rounded the corner from periodicals to fiction and saw only the very tip top of his bride’s head peeking out from behind a pile of books. I learned from my grandmother (apparently LBD is genetic) to check out more than you could possibly read by the due date because “you never know which ones you’ve already read.”

Kentucky LibraryA few years later, I sat in yet another beloved library, this time with a Rosebud upon my lap as the Itsy Bitsy Spider Climbed up the Water Spout and Five Little Monkeys Jumped on a Bed. That building and its rows and rows of books witnessed countless story hours and weekend visits from my family. I remember tearfully stepping out of that library for the last time more than a decade later, alongside my three children, none of whom still fit in my lap.

Just as the library was one of the last places we said goodbye to in Kentucky, it was also the first place we visited in Illinois. When my husband and I were settling upon our suburb, we made it a point to check out the local library. You can tell a lot about what a community values by its library.

I sit in that library now as I write these words. It serves as a source of peace, comfort, and inspiration for me, much as all of the libraries in my life have done.  There is an elderly woman down the aisle from where I now sit. She is carrying a plastic Target bag of books, nearly full to breaking. Perhaps she is getting a few extra, concerned that there are some she has already read. I look towards her and smile, knowing that I will always have a safe and nurturing place among the book rows of my local library.

This week is National Library Week. I write this post in honor of all of the libraries that have nurtured and comforted me throughout my life and the librarians and staff who run them. I will forever continue to support them with my overdue fees.
Most especially, this one is for you,  Melinda, my very favorite librarian.

Where I’m From

Where I'm From

I am from my father’s recliner where I fell asleep upon his lap, from Little House on the Prairie, and soft serve ice-cream cones handed to anxious hands through the walk up window at the Dairy Dump.

I am from a little white ranch with yellow shutters and a cement front stoop, from a family room warmed by a wood burning stove – don’t forget to open the flue – and from the consistent sound of a basketball bouncing on the battered driveway.

I am from Grand Lake and its channels and creeks, from the woods and gullies of Deepest Worth, from neighborhood campouts  on summer nights and bike rides down the hill on Summit with my feet pumping so fast the pedals couldn’t hold them.

I am from side yard popcorn picnics on a blanket spread with love and from loud, hearty laughs that still ring in my ears. I am from Rita and Harold and Sarah Alyce.

I am from warm hugs heartily synched with rhythmic pats on the back and from a local culture with a deep appreciation of hard work.

I’m from “Never go to bed mad.” From “Family comes first,” and “I’m going to worky-derky to get some turkey.”

I am from Peace Be With You said with the shake of a hand; a warm, lasting sentiment among others set aside.

I am from Ohio and Ireland and Germany, from Thanksgiving noodles rolled out and cut to imperfect perfection, from homemade apple pie, and sauerkraut to bring in the New Year, but also from Willow Whoppers, Nutty Bars, and greasy carry-out pizza cut into squares.

I am from a boy raised among a dozen siblings who learned to work hard and eat fast, from a quiet woman who read every book in the library and could play a mean round of Pinochle. I am from a young widow with three small boys to raise on her own, from her strength and her grit,  and from her husband whose genes I carry. I am from an appliance repair man who came home everyday at 5:30 with evidence of a day’s hard work under his fingernails and quite often with a made-up song upon his lips. I am from a young woman who wished to see the world but opened my eyes to it instead, from her hands weaving through my hair, from her lips upon my forehead.

I am from the drawer on Grandma’s back porch filled with stacks of saved greeting cards waiting for a young girl to carry to the middle of the rug and sort through while watching Guiding Light. I’m from the memory trunk that sits in my parents’ house, where my father rests his feet while watching March Madness, or from the trunk that now sits in my house carrying the treasures of the distant and not so distant past.

I will never forget Where I’m From. My appreciation flows deep for every piece of it, for it has led me to Where I Am – to him, to the three of them, to you.

I thank Galit Breen for sharing her “Where I’m From” piece that prompted me to write my own. You can read Galit’s words here and find the template (based on George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From) to write your own here.

Some things are not meant to change

When Rosebud was a baby, she swooned for biker dudes.  Sweet little old ladies would coo and smile at her trying to evoke a response. Often, they would walk away disappointed. But, if we even so much as walked by a biker dude, Rosebud’s face would light up like the man was Santa Claus himself. Long ponytails topped with bandanas elicited waves and smiles.  Handlebar mustaches earned applause.  The sweet soft voices of elderly women? Nada.

Small Rosebud

As I write this, I sit in the lobby of the Fine Arts building on a Minnesota campus while my oldest daughter sits in on a college class. I sit here in this gorgeous building wondering how I got here and where I go from here. Rosebud will be my daughter forever but will be my child, in the literal sense if the word, for not much longer. The path I have traveled over the last 17.5 years is lined with every piece of her. Leading her (and her brother and sister) down that path, holding her small hand in mine, guiding her, walking beside her, has been, and will no doubt remain, the greatest joy of my life.  

As she prepares to enter the next stage of her life, I, too, prepare to enter the next stage of mine. In three short years, I will be taking a similar road trip with her brother, and in three more, with my youngest child.  As I sit here now, in this gorgeous building, I look back. I look forward. 

And the view is breathtaking.

I am filled with the sadness of endings and the thrill of beginnings. I am mostly filled with gratitude that I have born witness to all of it. I watched those little chubby hands gripping her first paintbrush grow into the the elegant hands of a woman, often still holding a paintbrush. Some things are not meant to change.

We have been on this college road trip for several days now. There have been multiple occasions,  while walking from here to there, that I have stuck out my arm at intersections to block her from traffic. She informed me that she had been crossing streets quite successfully for some time now and my efforts to save her from walking into traffic were no longer necessary.

Maybe not for her.

I am quite certain that I will be sticking my traffic arm out in front of her when she is forty. Some things are not meant to change.

Iowa's Capitol Building

We stood in line to buy snacks at a truck stop behind an older man wearing a Harley shirt under a leather vest. He had long gray hair, a helmet tucked under his arm, and a handlebar mustache.

“I really like that biker dude,” she said with a smile.

Yes. Yes, I know.

Some things are not meant to change.

 

 

 

Spring

Spring Break is upon us bringing with it sunshine and near sixty degree temperatures (for today at least). We took this opportunity to venture into Chicago for a quick lunch with Charlie and a jaunt over to the Garfield Park Conservatory.

It was a day for flowers…

Flowers

and green…

Umbrella palms

and making wishes.

Wishing Fountain

My mom came along, never one to pass up a trip to the city, while my Dad stayed behind, never one to pass up March Madness.

Boy Wonder and Gram

Charlie even made an appearance at the conservatory.

IMG_3357

Rosebud left town yesterday on a volunteer trip. I will pick her up on Sunday and we will head off on our own adventure (otherwise known as more college visits) and I will be away from these two for several days.

IMG_3344

IMG_3347_Snapseed

The forecast shows more winter temperatures for the beginning of next week, but today promised an end in sight.  Today was the promise of more adventures. Today was the promise of Spring.

Today made me smile.

IMG_3541

I intend to enjoy the remainder of Spring Break with my family. See you on the flip side.

Old School Blogging

I’m linking up with Elaine from The Miss Elaine-ous Life and Kim from Co-Pilot Mom for Old School Blogging where I answer a list of random questions.

And we’re off…

What is the last thing you watched on TV?  The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?  I went to pick up burritos for dinner. Actually it was enchiladas, but it was at the burrito place.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?  Nothing. I really need to get something on these walls.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?  A year long adventure around the world and a mountain unicycle for my husband. Don’t ask.

Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.  Wow. This one is hard. I’m kind of an open book. Hmmmm… I find driving across long bridges to be slightly terrifying.

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?  My husband called me (FaceTime) from the airport in Taipei, Taiwan. He said he was really happy to hear my voice which was sweet and now I really want to buy him a mountain unicycle.

If you could change something about your house without having to worry about expense or mess, what would it be?  I would replace our kitchen window with a greenhouse window to let in more light and grow some herbs.

What was the last thing you bought?  The aforementioned burritos. I mean, enchiladas.

Would you go bungee jumping or skydiving?  Skydiving, without a doubt. I trust parachutes more than I trust giant rubber bands.

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?   Well, that depends on if we are talking about people who are alive or if we are allowing time travel. If it has to be a living person, I’d pick either Dolly Parton (because I like listening to her talk) or Michelle Obama. If time travel is permitted, I’d skip the famous people and lunch with my grandmothers. I’d bring a notebook and ask all of the questions that I never asked and lunch would last for days.

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?  First of all, the thought of maxing out my credit card gives me hives, but I’ll play along. I pick The Apple Store. New Macs for everyone! You get a Mac and you get a Mac and…

Is the glass half empty or half full?  Half full. Heck, I’ll even go with two-thirds full.

What’s the farthest away place you’ve ever been?  Ireland, last October.

The River Shannon

Shannon by the River Shannon

What’s under your bed?  Nothing but dog hair.

What is your favorite time of day?  Honestly, I don’t really have a favorite time of day. I like my morning coffee time. And I like the evening after everyone is safely settled into our home for the night.

What inspires you?  I am inspired by people who take chances and risks, people who innovate and create just for the sake of it. I find inspiration in the diversity of people and places in the world, and I look forward to experiencing as much of it as I can. I am inspired by words and stories and books, by sunshine and nature, and by the ideas, kindness, and excitement I see in the faces of young people (three of them, in particular).

Hop on over to Elaine’s, grab a button, and join the fun.


Tales and Tidbits

My daughter and over a dozen of her friends sat in our basement Friday watching John Hughes movies (specifically Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club). They referred to this event as “Oldies Night.”

What do you get when you add one dog to a teeny tiny back yard filled with layer upon layer of snow during an unrelenting winter? Ask my son. I sent him out to poop scoop from the recent big melt. He will never be the same.

If you haven’t watched this yet, do it. It will make you smile.

I love Cooper.

If you haven’t read this article yet, do it. I found this story about the journey to communication between a boy (now a man) with autism and his family to be both inspiring and enlightening.  One of the benefits of sharing our stories to offer unique perspectives to all who read/hear them. This story gave me a new understanding into a world that is mostly unfamiliar to me. I will carry that understanding with me now. It will make me a better, more empathetic human. What a gift.