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It’s in the Mail…

At a writers’ group meeting, Pam, one of the other writers who has a writing voice so deep and poetic I cringe with envy every time she writes, said she’d been writing letters. “Oh,” I said, “it’s a lost art.” And I realized that whether it was a lost art or not, I’d certainly lost it.

I blogged about it, using some of the same words I’m using here. That’s what you do in letters—you tell the same news to everyone you write to. We lost a tree last week in that wind. A new cat has shown up at the bowl on the porch. We don’t need another cat, but he’s so pretty. We got an inch of rain last night—slept right through it. The kids are growing up too fast. Why did I ever say I couldn’t wait to see what they’d be like when they were older? I could have waited. Did you hear about my cousin passing away? So many memories. I should have gone to see her, but never got around to it. Went by your folks’ old house and someone painted it pink—wouldn’t your dad have a fit?

They weren’t important, those letters, that news. Yet they were. Remember opening envelopes and having school pictures drop out? Sometimes a check. Sometimes a five-dollar-bill you needed more than you could bear thinking about. My mom and aunt were the queens of sending clippings. Obituaries, jokes, quotations. We found them in their Bibles after they passed away, with dates written at the tops in faded ink. Oh, yes, memories.

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...like a band of Gypsies...

Lots of people on road trips this year--have you noticed? It makes me want to go somewhere. I have so many favorite things about road trips.

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If we just do this…

Let’s talk about my bathroom.

It’s a half-bath with a window and good lights over the sink. You can’t change clothes in there—no room. Years ago, one of our grandsons claimed it as his bathroom because it was little like him. He said the big bathroom was mine but that I had to let Papaw use it.

This bathroom has a good mirror. It’s where I put on makeup, dry my hair, and count the lines multiplying on my face on a daily basis. I turn my head from side-to-side trying to determine just how many chins I have and if they’re sagging more today than they did yesterday. I brush my teeth there, giving the mirror a captivating arrangement of white spots on its surface.

The top of the vanity is always a mess. When I clean the sink, I put stuff away, but by the next day it’s all out again. I need to clean the sink more often.

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…TO STOP THE PAIN…

Writers are always told to “write what you know,” but the wheelhouse of things I know about is on the cramped side—it doesn’t hold much. I write mostly from feel and from what others have told me they care about. Sometimes I write about something because of a TV show or an NPR discussion.

Which is what led me to write about suicide. I make no claim to expertise, but you don’t have to know much about it to have been touched by it. It’s not something that touches lightly and doesn’t leave a scar; rather, its marks on the soul and heart are dark and permanent.

In 2015, I wrote this: “When my kids were teenagers, adolescent suicide became what felt to every parent of every kid like an epidemic. It was scary. I remember telling the kids that if they ever felt hopeless and unable to talk to anyone about it, to please, please, please wait two weeks. Because even though two weeks won’t go all that far in healing most wounds, it will make them bearable. And then when things get bearable, I said, give it another two weeks. This was in the 1980s—I’m still giving things two weeks.”

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If You Woke Up Rich...

There was this meme on Facebook today that said, basically, if you woke up with 500 million dollars in the bank, how would you quit your job? I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. And I can't help but wonder about something.

Why would you want 500 million dollars? Why would anyone? I mean, I definitely get wanting or needing more money than you have. We raised a family in fear of emergencies, because we never had that nice cushion in the bank that was recommended. Eating out was a Big Deal because we couldn't afford to do it very often. Paying book rent at the first of the school year for three kids meant robbing Peter to pay Paul until things fell back into place along about November, just in time to shop for Christmas. More money would have been nice.

It still would, I guess. But, if you're not going to give it away or help someone who needs it, what is the point of having a lot of money? Maybe I have been luckier than many in that I've liked my jobs, both the one I retired from and the ones I have in retirement. There's nothing more fun than writing books, not much that's more fun (for me) than working in a library.

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Fears, dreams, and donuts…

At a writers’ group in Rochester this week, WordPlay (https://www.facebook.com/WordPlayRochesterLibrary/), our prompt was to write about our biggest fear. One thing reaching a certain age does is make you fairly fearless about a lot of things, death being one—although my husband resents it and doesn’t see why he has to do it. He also resents running the weedeater and that donuts don’t have a respected place on the food pyramid, so what can I say? So, anyway, I had to give it some thought, and this is what I came up with. I hope you share your fears and that they are at least as goofy as mine.

There are some things that never change; one is that I’m totally terrified of water. We’ll just get that out of the way first. I have been planning to take swimming lessons for about 50 years and haven’t done it yet. However, there is still time. Right?

Last night, I had a dream. No, first, let me tell you I’m not one of those people who has dreams they can remember verbatim—I remember little pieces that don’t mean anything. But in this one, Duane and I were in the house in Converse, Indiana where my friend Nancy grew up. Denny, with whom Duane plays music, was there, too. So was another musician, a woman I’d never seen before. They practiced. I dinked around. Duane and I had an argument.

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Thanks, Mr. Kennedy

I'm not positive when I wrote this--I think somewhere around 2011, at a time when I'd taken a hard tumble off the fence I usually make my political home. But it was 50 years ago June 6 that Bobby Kennedy died. I remember the day and how I felt. At first I felt hopeless with him gone. There wasn’t anyone else in politics who listened, who wanted the good of all. But the hopelessness didn’t last, because he was all about hope.

In truth, I've visited hopelessness--and anger--often since then. I don't know that either emotion had positive results. My optimism has dimmed and so has my belief in what we euphemistically refer to as "the system," but reading back over this and remembering that June day in 1968 has given me back a little. It's okay to be mad, to have our rose-colored glasses smudged sometimes, but it's not okay to give up. I changed the title of this column at first today, to RIP, Mr. Kennedy, but I'm fairly certain he's not resting in peace. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't give up, so I'm not. And you shouldn't, either.

I never wanted to be a liberal. Truth be told, I never wanted to be political at all. It’s all Bobby Kennedy’s fault, because way back in the 1960s, he made me think all things were possible. For everybody.

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SMALL TOWN SUMMER

Are you busy today? Or maybe bored? Or would you like to look at some cool things or better yet buy them? Maybe you want to talk to someone you haven’t seen lately or someone else you have. You might be giving the sky anxious looks (I’m writing this on Friday, so I’m guessing) and wishing you hadn’t left the umbrella in the back seat or leaned up beside the door at home. But, oh, look, there’s food and flowers and eggs and clothes and chocolate and lots more. It’s the Farmer’s Market downtown there, in front of the museum.

Next Saturday, you might be bored again. You might want to go out to eat. To hear some music. To look at some startlingly good artwork. To just walk around a downtown where people are trying to make a difference. Notice the differences they’re making and tell them you notice—they’ll love hearing it. It’s Cole Porter Festival and Second Saturday all rolled into one big weekend.

It’s a Tuesday morning. The kids are bored. They might even be driving you toward the sharp side of the edge. But, hey, at 10:00 every Tuesday morning all summer long, the Roxy is showing a free movie. Then, after the kids have sat for two hours, they can run off some energy at Miamisfort or the skate park. Tired is so much better than bored, no matter who you are.