It's the Beginning

May 29, 2013

Photo courtesy Sara Haj-Hassan

In honor of my son’s high school graduation tomorrow, here are a few graduation/growing up-themed quotes:

“There is a good reason they call these ceremonies ‘commencement exercises.’ Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”
—Orrin Hatch

“The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.”
—Edward Koch

And my favorite:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
—e.e. cummings


A Moment to Remember

May 27, 2013

Today, we won’t be going to the beach or having a cookout—typical Memorial Day activities. We’ll be giving the house a good cleaning before all the grandparents arrive tomorrow for Nick’s high school graduation later in the week—an event that merits a holiday of its own in my book.

Hope you all have a happy, relaxing and meaningful Memorial Day.

Did you know about the National Moment of Remembrance? I did not. According to the U.S. Veterans Affairs website, “The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”


Bookish Pleasures

May 24, 2013

One of my greatest pleasures is reading. But not just the reading itself—also thinking about reading, planning what to read next, even reading about reading. This week I’ve spent more time than usual doing the fun little tasks associated with reading: shuffling piles, consolidating the to-be-read (TBR) list, and so on.

I always have piles of books lying around: books in progress, books lined up for one of the reading challenges I’m doing, books I’ve finished reading, but want to reread select parts of or write notes about. But the very best pile of all is the one of books next up to be read. I got this little pile at the library this week, except for the top one which I own and had already started to read. Here’s what I got:

What I Learned at Bug Camp, Sarah Juniper Rabkin. I’m always on the lookout for collections of essays, and I read about this one on Susan J. Tweit’s blog. Rabkin is a naturalist, artist and teacher, and I’m very much enjoying her thoughtful writing.

The Muse Is IN: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity, Jill Badonsky. This brightly-illustrated book looks like a fun jump start to creativity. It might help me with my proposed 30 Days of Creativity (coming soon!).

The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days, Ian Frazier. A humorous novel written in daybook form, the main character is a “hilariously desperate housewife with a taste for swearing and large glasses of red wine, who speaks to the frustrations of everyday life.” I read about this in the New York Times, and it sounds like a good antidote to stress, don’t you think?

Moving to Higher Ground, Wynton Marsalis with Geoffrey C. Ward. Marsalis writes about lessons learned in a lifetime in jazz—I’m quite excited about finally checking this out, because it’s one of the books that’s been on my TBR list the longest!

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. The novel that made such a splash last year, apparently a twisty/turny thriller. I’m looking forward to seeing what the fuss was all about.

I’ll have to start Gone Girl first because there are people signed up after me to read it and I won’t be able to renew it after the checkout period is over. This might be a challenge, because next week will be given up to entertaining out-of-town family and celebrating my son’s graduation from high school. Surely I’ll be able to sneak a little reading time in there. I hope.

In addition to piles of books, I have lists of books. On Sunday I spent an hour puttering through my TBR list, consolidating and updating. I’d finished a book, and wandered through the library catalog looking for something new to put on hold (see pile above for the result). I checked reviews on Amazon to see if I still wanted to read a few books that had been on my list for a while, crossing out a few, but mostly transferring them to a clean page in my organizer. My library recently changed its cataloging system, and it took me a little while to figure out how to best use it.  Occasionally, a book on my list will disappear from the catalog and I have to decide if I want to try interlibrary loan, buy a copy, or discard the book from my TBR list. Momentous decisions!

I’ll be spending some time getting a start on one or more of my new books this weekend before all the company arrives. What are you reading this weekend?

Laura Dimmit

"Joey, 4th Grade, 1992"

May 22, 2013

Note: I had scheduled this poem before the tornadoes in Oklahoma. I'm going to run it as planned, because it seems even more timely now. My heart goes out to those in Moore, OK and anywhere else where people are coping with the aftereffects of disaster. 

Laura Dimmit is from Joplin, Missouri, and her family survived the fierce tornado of May, 2011. The entire area was strewn with debris, and here’s a poem about just one little piece that fell from the sky. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

School photo, found after the Joplin tornado 

                                             “Joey, 4th grade, 1992”

He’s been on the fridge since it happened,
sneaking glances from underneath the cat
magnet at our dinners, coffee habits, arguments.
We posted him on the database of items found,
hoping that someone would recognize his messy
hair, Batman t-shirt, blue eyes, but no one
answered the post or claimed him.
Somewhere a childhood photo album is not
quite complete, or a grandmother’s mantelpiece;
an uncle’s wallet. One afternoon I got restless,
flipped through my old yearbooks, trying to find him,
looking to see how he might have aged: did he lose
the chubby cheeks? dye his hair? how long
did he have to wear braces? But he’s too young
to have passed me in the halls, the picture just
a stranger, a small reminder of the whirling aftermath
when Joplin was clutching at scraps: everything displaced,
even this poor kid who doesn’t even know he’s lost.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Laura Dimmit, and reprinted by permission of the poet. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


We'll Never Have Yard of the Month

May 20, 2013

Not yard of the month.

Our subdivision just started a new program—“Yard of the Month.” There’s a sign posted right at the entrance with the address of the winning house. When I saw the sign, I realized immediately that we’ll never have “Yard of the Month.” Not because we have an ugly yard, or a neglected yard—what we have is a yard that doesn’t fit the image of what a subdivision’s “Yard of the Month” should look like. We’ve left a good portion of our front yard in its natural state, except for grass required by the subdivision in the portion of our yard between the sidewalk and the street. This is our choice and our preference. I’m completely fine with never winning “Yard of the Month.” There’s something very freeing about not buying into someone else’s ideal.

This got me thinking about other areas of life where I might be buying into other people’s expectations: what I do (and don’t do) with my horse, how clean (or dirty) my house is, and, most certainly, what I do (and don’t do) as a parent. This last is particularly on my mind as we get ready to send Nick out into the world. It didn’t take us long to realize our son is not a fits-the-mold kind of kid. (But he was “Student of the Month” one time—in first grade!) We’ve had to frequently reexamine our expectations and choices to see if we were doing what was best for him or just what everyone else was doing.

It’s a good practice to take inventory of all our activities from time to time, asking ourselves why we do what we do. Because we really want to, or because someone else thinks we should? It’s all too easy to buy into someone else’s idea of happiness/fun/worth, without stopping to consider what we actually think ourselves.

I’m still learning this lesson—as we probably all are. How about you? Is there anything you’ve stopped doing after evaluating why you were doing it? Anything you’ve started doing just because you want to?

Brendan Burchard

Son of Link Love

May 17, 2013

It’s time once again for a roundup of websites and blog posts that I’ve collected in my internet meanderings that I think you might like.

Visit for “simple wisdom for complex lives.” Lots of good and inspiring stuff here.

Susan J. Tweit always writes thoughtful and interesting blog posts. This one,  posted on the second Valentine’s Day after the death of her husband, touched and inspired me.

Watch this video by Brendan Burchard on limiting beliefs—what if you focused on your greatness, instead of your weakness and insecurity?

I love Gretchen Rubin’s books about happiness (The Happiness Project and Happier at Home), and read her blog nearly every day (the comments following the posts are always interesting, too). This post resonated with me, because the things I really want to do, that I know will add true happiness to my life, are not always the ones I find easiest.

Read about 22 things happy people do differently here

If you want a low-key way to add more poetry (and inspiration) to your life, visit Samantha Reynolds’ site, bentlily. I love the subtitle: “the art of noticing your life.”

And that’s it for this edition of Link Love. Have you made any new online discoveries lately?


To Be Alive

May 15, 2013

“To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourself is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our life trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.”
—Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements


A Few Observations

May 13, 2013

One of Ron's beloved roses.

Thank you to everyone for your sympathy and good wishes. I returned from my mom’s over the weekend and all went as well as could be expected. My stepfather’s funeral took place Thursday, and we had a lunch for family and friends at the house afterwards. It was good to see my stepbrothers and their families as well as my aunt and two of my cousins, despite the reason for the visit.

On my flights and drives to and from my mom’s, I had some time to think, and I came up with a few random observations to share with you:
  • The longer the flight, the less room you’ll have between you and the seat in front of you. My knees actually touched the seatback.
  • There is always a baby. Be kind to the parents and grateful you are not in their shoes.
  • People are fascinating. What they wear, what they say, how they behave.
  • When your airplane makes a sound like someone trying to saw through the floorboards, don’t panic. That’s what Xanax is for.
  • Even if you don’t know the deceased, you will cry at a military funeral. If you knew and loved the person, prepare to dissolve completely into a puddle.
  • Life is short. Do the things that matter.
Again, thank you for your kindness—let’s all have a great week!


Life Happens

May 03, 2013

I was preparing another Link Love post for today, but that will have to wait. We’ve had another death in the family, this time my stepfather, and I’ll be flying out to California to help my mom.

That’s always the way, isn’t it? We’re getting ready for our son’s graduation from high school and all that entails, but life keeps on happening around us. I say “life” on purpose, because death is a part of life. My family members both had good, full lives and are now at peace, no more suffering or pain.

My stepfather, Ron, married my mom when I was in college. He was good to and for her, and always kind to me, too. (I’ve been fortunate in stepparents—my stepmother is a gem.) Ron loved life, was extremely active—going to the gym early in the morning and working in the yard. When my mom needed to move north to care for my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease, Ron willing left Southern California where he had lived for many years, to live with my mom in her childhood home and support her in her care of Grandma. He loved USC (the University of Southern California), travel, drinking good wine and martinis, and smoking the occasional cigar with my husband. We will miss him at our family celebrations.

Fishing on the Sacramento River

With my mom in 2011
I’ll be back with you in about a week or so. Thanks so much for your support!


Instead of Worry, Peace

May 01, 2013

Nearly all of us spend too much of our lives thinking about what has happened, or worrying about what's coming next. Very little can be done about the past and worry is a waste of time. Here the Kentucky poet Wendell Berry gives himself over to nature. [Introduction by Ted Kooser]

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things" from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.