Sunday, April 28, 2013

A random act of carrot

The weather was gorgeous yesterday. Bright blue skies, slight breeze, warm sunshine. So I was looking for excuses to be outside. When Jovie woke up from her nap early I wandered out to grab the mail and scanned my various neglected flower beds noting a pretty sizable weed that had sprouted next to some to the wily holly bush that when we moved in had just been a stump covered with mulch (it's a pretty amazing shrub. It was literally buried, mostly dead under a thick layer of shredded hardwood and it was all, like, "Aww HELL no. You think you just cover me up and pretend I'm not here that I'll just go away. I'm bringin' that prickly Christmas cheer back. No doubt.") 

Anyway, I hadn't dealt with the weed previously because it didn't look like any of the other many weeds sprouting around my house -- it had nice, bright green frilly fronds (like the filler stuff florists use between the roses and carnations) and kind of looked like it had been planted intentionally. So I let it grow half out of laziness an half out of a hope that it would sprout some really pretty flower and add a little color to that sector of the yard.

Well yesterday, I decided to be a responsible gardener/homeowner and dispatch of the obviously invasive plant (in my mind any plant in my yard that looks large and healthy without any sort of extra attention must be a weed ... which pretty much means that all of my most strapping greenery are actually weeds). I set Jovie down to play with (and probably eat) the the fluffy ball things that drop off of the tree in our front yard and yanked the weed.

I ended up with a handful of fronds. 

See. Pretty, right?

The root clung to the ground (it'd been spending too much time with that holly bush). The size of the root bulb was kind of shocking:

I shoulda put a quarter or something next to it for comparison.
FYI, it was larger than a quarter.
Anyway, obviously, I got kind of suspicious about my weed after I got a good look at the root (I normally don't document any weeding I do. Let's be honest, I normally don't weed!) It was round and orange. The fronds had juicy, orange chunks stuck to the bottom of them that smelled vaguely familiar.

At this point I got kind of excited. I grabbed a shovel and started digging and unearthed this:

Meet the world's ugliest carrot.
A rogue carrot! In my front yard! From whence did this edible taproot come? 

As regular readers know, I'm no stranger to stray produce popping up in my yard. But at least I knew the pumpkins were a result of my own half-assed composting techniques. This carrot is a total mystery.

And it reminded me of other random floral invasions:

I didn't plant these either.
These tulips popped up in my yard last year. No, they aren't remnants of my house's previous owner (we've lived here four years with nary a tulip to be found until last year). Over the years I've planted daffodils, Black-eyed Susans (I know, so vain), poppies, irises, crocuses and mums (so many mums ... I run over them often). But no tulips. So how did they get there?

I'm now all but certain I've been targeted by a modern day Johnny Appleseed (Johnny Carrotseed? Johnny Tulipbulb?) Someone with a green thumb is sneaking garden contraband on to my property for unknown reasons. I guess if we're going to be the victim of pranking, then we're pretty lucky. I mean, the tulips make me smile (even more because I have no idea where they came from) and as for the carrot, well, I threw it on a salad (Brad was very skeptical about the malformed carrot, noting that it's flavor stood out amongst the other salad items... and not in a good way).

I run into people who read my columns or blog or whatever and comment about how they'd like to write, but never know what to write about. And I always put on my cheerleader pants (well, skirt I guess) and tell them to write. That if they feel the need to write, then they should write and it doesn't matter what it's about. 

When I found the carrot yesterday, I knew I had to write about it. Not because it was an extraordinary, life-altering event that taught me some sort of lasting life lesson. I knew I wanted to write about it because it was odd and made me laugh and gave me something to speculate about (also, the opportunities for metaphor were endless!!!). And I thought if I started writing about the carrot, that it would uproot* other ideas (like now I kinda think it'd be fun to have a character in my novel or some future novel who likes to sneak into people's yards at the dead of night and plant flowers). 

Writing -- or any art for that matter -- does not need to be a climb up Everest every time. Sometimes you unearth** simple truths by tackling simple topics -- like what happened today. And each time you sit down to document these happenings, I think you dig*** deeper into yourself. What you believe. What you dream about. What you hope for. What you hate. What you wish would change. It rounds you out and helps you make sense of the world. 

And it gets easier the more you do it.

So if it's in you to write, then write. 

And whoever's out there rescuing my garden from my own black thumb, thank you.

* See what I did there? 
** And there?
*** And there? ****
***** I'm shameless

Monday, April 22, 2013

Breathing, Boston and brighter futures (also, bossy babies)

I'm sore again today. 

Yesterday I revisited Down Dog Yoga -- the scene of my original yoga crimes -- to practice some more heated vinyasa flow. My legs are moaning about it today. But the rest of me feels good.

I've actually been taking classes at the Y a couple days a week, too.  They're shorter, cooler and not quite as ... intense ... as the Down Dog variety, but have been a really fantastic introduction to Yoga. (The Y is also lacking one important element to yoga fun: My sister Sarah to giggle, grunt and oooooommmm with.)

I've already noticed changes. It's helped relieve the lower back pain that comes with toting a 20-pound person on my hip every day. I feel more balanced and limber. 

But more noticeable than the physical benefits are the mental ones. We spend a large part of classes taking deep breaths and being conscious of how we're breathing and making strange breathing-related noises and using our breathing to move into different positions. I always thought that breathing was supposed to be, you know, easy. That one thing I do without thinking*. 

As it turns it, thinking about breathing is actually really helpful in life. Especially if your life involves a 2 1/2 year old and an almost-1-year-old. 

Breathing was instrumental in me maintaining composure as I tried to convince Lily to eat one (ONE!) carrot at dinner tonight. The standoff (which lasted at least 20 minutes) went something like this:

Me: Lily, you need to eat some of your dinner.
Lily: I want to watch cartoons!
Me: We're not watching cartoons right now, we're eating dinner.
Lily: NO! I'm sleepy!
Me: We'll go to bed after you eat some dinner.
Lily NO! I'm not tired! I want to watch cartoons.
Me: OK, you can watch cartoons if you eat one carrot.
Lily: NO! I don't like carrots.
Me: You just have to try one.
Lily: NO! I don't want to.
Me: Please try it. It's sweet like candy -- like nature's candy**!
Lily: NO! I'm sleepy.
Me: How bout this, if you eat one carrot, you can watch cartoons and have a piece of chocolate***.
Lily: I want chaw-cut! Yummm.
Me: OK, you can have it. Just try one carrot.
Lily: NO! I don't like it.
Me: OK. Then no cartoons and no chocolate.
Lily: Puts carrot on tongue.
Me: Yay! Good job! Now chew it up.
Lily: Spits carrot out on the floor.
Me: Lily, that's naughty. You have to chew it up and swallow.
Lily: Puts second carrot in her mouth and chews it up. Then spits it out on the floor.
Me: OK, dinner's over.

These interactions happen all day long. All day. But lately, when I find my blood pressure rising, I remember to mind my breathing. That is I take deep, meaningful, toddler-neutralizing breaths. And, like magic, I don't lose my temper. It's amazing. Seriously, all new parents should be given free yoga classes (or be required to watch videos on cleansing breaths ... the same way we had to watch videos on car seat safety and shaken baby syndrome).

Now, of course, I'm by no means even within the same continent of perfect. Especially when I'm overtired, stressed or generally pinchy (which happens frequently). When the situation is already out of control, it's difficult to then mind your breathing on top of everything else. Which it's why it's important to just be mindful of your breathing throughout the day, cuz then it's more of a second nature thing. You know, like breathing. But in this case, it's Breathing. 

Here's a sunset off my parent's deck in Colorado.
No, I don't talk about sunsets or Colorado in the remainder of this post.
But I thought I should break up the text.
And sunsets are kind of reflective ... which is where we're headed next. Reflection.
Here's your chance to watch that video of the baby seals you've been meaning to check out.

This week, I was thinking about other things that seem to becoming second nature to me. To all of us. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent made-for-TV-stranger-than-fiction manhunt and arrest, in the wake of Newtown, in the wake of Aurora, in the wake of Tucson, in the wake of Fort Hood, in the wake of Virginia Tech, in the wake of 9/11, in the wake of all of it -- all the ugliness -- grieving, rallying, moving on has become second nature to us. 

I feel like I don't have the benefit of years and years and years on this Earth to know if all of this ugliness is just the natural order of things, or, if we as a society, we as humanity are just becoming more violent. This week, it feels like the latter. 

I don't know how to solve the problem of world peace. But I'm learning how to Breathe, and I feel like there are answers somewhere in there. In yoga, you use your breath to help you reach farther, go deeper. With each breath you sink a little more into whatever stretch. You sink a little more into introspection, too. 

While talking to my neighbors and others about Boston, I've heard the sentiment that nothing surprises us anymore. Almost as if we've come to expect these things to happen. Given the past decade or so, that's understandable. Sept. 11 set the stage for my generation. Or was it Columbine? Or Oklahoma City? 

Rather then just accept this heartbreaking violence as a part of our existence though, I was wondering about how I could use that process of grieving, rallying and moving on in the same way you use Breathing in yoga. Can I Breathe in the sorrow and use the breath out to push me to joy? Can we do this as a country? as a planet?

Now, I know I'm talking some new agey shit that I don't even understand that probably doesn't even make sense to anyone but me and my own weedy brain. And, I feel like I'm also some how implying that we actually need the violence to reach a higher plane, which I don't believe is true. And don't want to believe is true. 

I guess I'm just kind of tired of feeling powerless in all of this sorrow. I'm tired of feeling angry about it. I don't want to just grieve, rally and move on, I want things to actually be better. I want to lessen the likelihood that my girls will be having the same conversations with neighbors over and over again. 

I recently found a poem I wrote almost 20 years ago (with apologies on behalf of my 12-year-old self for the forced rhyming): 
"A Brighter Future' 
One wish that I hold, one wish in my hand,One promise to keep in this wonderful land. 
We don't have to fight, Please help find a light.
It takes all of us to find a better day,Let's join our hands and say ... 
I don't want to live in this decay,I want to find a better way.
Then solving our problems in this manner, If we have to, let's fly a banner.
We must all unite as one nation, By working together in complete concentration. 
To seek and find a way to stop this crime,That has tried to be solved since the beginning of time. 
And will go on 'till the end unless we make it cease,We must find peace.
Right now I'm embarrassed by the earnestness and naivety of my 12-year-old self. Of course, reading this post I guess I should feel and embarrassed by the earnestness and naivety of my 31-year-old self. 

When I saw the picture of 8-year-old Martin, my heart broke because I was 8-year-old Martin. We all were at some point in our lives. Even, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan. And then at some point many of us lose that earnestness. And then a small number of us lose our hope, too -- I think that loss leads people down a darker path.

Plenty of people (like Leonard PittsMike Argento and James Martin to name a few) have written wonderful pieces about how we cope, how the evil element is much smaller in number than the good and how in the end, we all need each other

And we do. And that's another thing I like about yoga. It's a community of individuals who lift each other up. 

At the end of class we all put our hands together over our hearts, close our eyes, bow and say "Namaste." 

The divinity in me recognizes the divinity in you.

It's a simple gesture and it would be naive of me to say that it could fix all the world's problems.

But it's worth a try.

* OK, that's a lie. There are plenty of things I do without thinking. For instance, forgetting to turn off the oven. Or turning on one burner and putting the pot on another. Or, accidentally eating half a container of peanut butter cookies.

**The nature's candy trick worked one time -- when I was trying to get her to try sweet potatoes. It was a short-lived victory in the world of vegetable eating.

*** Yes, I realize the health benefits of one carrot are far outweighed by the health detractors of one piece of chocolate. I was desperate. Also, I was hoping if she just tried the carrot, she would realize how awesome they were and then eat more of them. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. And. Ha.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wanted: Some conflict (also, squirrels gone fishin')

Whelp - I missed the opportunity to shoot the squirrels in their baseball getup. 

Actually, that's not quite true. I passed them twice and they were perfectly photogenic, but inertia carried my little caravan right past both times (stopping involves quieting the dog, dropping the wagon and the bag of doggy No. 2, and trying to hold my camera hand steady while the unquiet dog tries to leap after every passing car. I just wasn't in the mood.) 

I figured I had more time, but as always the squirrel ladies don't let the rodent fashion get too stale. Today they're in full fishing regalia -- pants, vest and rod. 

So lest I get too far behind on my squirrelly responsibilities ...

Got one! Even if it is smaller than the lure.
Actually, I just realized you can check out the baseball squirrels from an earlier post -- sure they were in honor of the playoffs, but they look the same.

Also, speaking of inertia, today it's the scapegoat for the lack of progress on my novel. As they say, a writer at rest stays at rest (until, of course, she opens the story file and adds one or two or three words in an effort to get the train moving). This train has been at the station, too long. 

Last night I was hiding behind a pillow on my sofa (as I'm apt to do when I'm attempting to escape the sinking feeling that whatever endeavor I'm ...endeavoring on ... isn't going well or when there's a scary movie on ... or when I'm embarrassed to be watching "The Real Housewives") and I acknowledged (out loud!) to Brad that the real problem here isn't time, it is conflict. As in a lack of conflict. I have characters, plot, a setting but I'm struggling to figure out what the heck the conflict is. What are the stakes? Where's my rising action? What will the resolution be? Where the heck is this locomotive going? 

By now you're thinking I'm the Ralph Wiggum of storytelling.

"Me fail English? That's Umpossible!"

What have I been doing this whole time with my characters and my setting and my plot? I think I was kind of hoping a solution would materialize if I just kept going. Maybe it's already in front of me and I'm missing it. I've been thinking about this problem a lot. Like, I've known it was a problem for months. And today I'm admitting it (cuz the first step to fixing the problem is acknowledging you have it, right? Or, something like that? Have I been eating too much paste?) 

Does this happen all the time to fiction writers or am I just a wannabe novelist/idiot savant minus the savant part? (So a wannabe idiot novelist...)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another walk through the wardrobe

I've been feeling more nostalgic (nostalgicer?) the past couple of weeks. 

The other day while driving home from some errand or another,  I was trying to keep Lily awake (if she falls asleep for even a minute then, in her mind, that counts as an adequate nap and I get to spend the afternoon with an aggressive 2-and-1/2-year-old and my evening catching up on work I wasn't able to do. So you can see, naptime are of critical importance). Methods for keeping her awake in the car involve singing loudly, telling her to keep an eye out for cows and other livestock, plying her with fruit snacks, shaking her feet and -- when all else fails -- pulling up this creepy app on my phone where she presses different letters of the alphabet and an animal or mythical creature that starts with that letter pops up. Her favorite letter is U for unicorn*. It's creepy because there's creepy music that plays in the background and the person who says "U, unicorn" sounds like an alien who learned English in preparation for a hostile Earth takeover. 

Anyway, as I was handing her my phone with said creepy app ready to go, I got this flash in my mind -- a vision of road trips from my childhood -- long hours often wedged between siblings spent staring at the countryside, scouting for cows or (even better!) horses or falling asleep to my dad's music (usually a Windham Hill Sampler) and my parents talking about work (snoozefest!!). When I wasn't counting or sleeping I was reading. I could miss entire states lost in books (when I said long car trips, I meant driving from Virginia to Maine ... so lots of states). I suddenly missed those days. My pillow leaned up against the window (or my brother) and a good book. 

These days I'm still often wedged in the backseat between siblings (well, not my siblings, my kids). If I'm reading anything, it's "Dr. Seuss's ABC" or "Stay Safe With Dora" or something like that. It's a different sort of happy.

Books have always been a part of my life. In piles at the foot of my bed when I was a kid. Toppling over on my nightstand (or filling up my Kindle) as an adult. And I'm realizing more and more how much they've shaped me and the person I want to be (obviously) and how they're shaping my girls. Lily regularly points out things out in the world that's she's heard about in stories and Jovie loves flipping through pages and gnawing on them (well... at least she's doing something with them...). 

I think they might have even made me buy my house. 

See, exhibit A:

Ack! It's a naked squirrel.
This is a very random light post in my backyard. Oddly enough, it features a squirrel. I love our house for many reasons, but this is a big one. Because my first thought when I saw it was Narnia -- and the light post that little Lucy Pevensie stumbles upon after wandering through the wardrobe. 

“This is the land of Narnia,' said the Faun, 'where we are now; all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea.” - C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
My dad read me the "Chronicles of Narnia" when I was growing up. And I read them again myself over and over. I was kind of obsessed. In fact, for a long time I was pretty convinced I could find a closet that would lead me to a magical world (and I was probably too old to be dreaming about such things, but I did nonetheless). 

While sorting through some old stories I came across one I'd written in fifth grade about a down-and-out handmaiden who stumbles through a magic tapestry and ends up in the made-up world of Varn.

I've always hated drawing profiles ... but I love trees!
As it turns out, she's actually Queen of Varn and had been spirited away to England years before when her own world was under attack. When she returns to rule, she meets some old friends, a dwarf named Garlin and a pegasus. 

No people profiles! More trees! A merry dwarf!
Attached to the final copy of the story are several drafts and a map of sorts:

It's a plan of my story, including the setting, plot, characters, conflict, rising action, climax and falling action. 

I had grand plans for this story. There was going to be an evil wizard who my protagonist was going to have to defeat in order to reclaim her throne. The wizard never materialized -- nor did any conflict really. 

It seems I have a long history with getting stuck in a story. It might be time to pull out Mrs. Lynn's handy story map and come up with a plan. 

Maybe I should re-read "The Chronicles of Narnia," while I'm at it. Maybe what my story is really missing are mythical creatures and a little person. There are plenty of trees in it anyway.

(On an unrelated note, here's my latest column -- it's about being a bad parent sometimes. Or just being a normal parent who has a bad day every once and a while).

*It's funny to see Lily develop an interest in unicorns and horses and 2. What is it with girls and horses (or horse-related creatures? See pegasus).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why women can't have it all ... except for maybe sometimes

I'm having a bit of a "what's the point?" sort of week.

Not, like, what's the point of my existence. (Obviously, someone has to be around to sing "Cinderelly" with Lily on call and yell at the dog to stop barking at the squirrels running across the power lines each and every time he sets his paws outside of the house, prompting dirty looks from my neighbors and, I'm guessing, an elaborate canine assasination plot. Oh yeah, and post pictures of squirrels).

Squirrel Madness!

I know my purpose in life.

I meant that given the fact that I can't seem to find the "off" button on this treadmill I'm on every day, it feels overwhelming to turn up the speed and incline with this noveling business.

Hell, I probably shouldn't even be using any sort of gym metaphors, because I also have a hard time getting there, too.

And yes, I know I should limit the self-defeating thinking. I'm sure mom is very disappointed in my right now for even posing the "What's the point?" question. But you know, sometimes you have to throw open the windows to your brain and air out all those dark little dust bunnies and cobwebby negativity (I can use cleaning metaphors because I did just scrub the kitchen floor. Huzzah! Also, it's finally warm enough hear that we could open up our windows and let those spring breezes waft away our recent pestilence).

So here's where I'm at: Right now I have these two amazing little people that I get to spend my days with. They run me ragged through the morning and when I put them down for an afternoon nap (provided their naps overlap) then I set to work on my freelancing commitments. Then they wake up and it's run, run, run again through dinner, baths and bedtime and then it's 8 o'clock and I'm exhausted and ready to fall asleep, except that there's probably more work to finish up and once that's done there's not always a whole lot of juice left in the old noggin for more creative pursuits. 

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Believe me I know. But, didn't we agree I could whine for just a minute. Please?!

Recently, my old boss* posed a question to various moms about whether it is possible for women to have it all and I meant to respond but never did (given the various reasons stated above) that I hate, hate, hate that question and it's implications. 

Can women have it all? No. No we can't. Whether we're staying at home with our children, pursuing a career with our children in daycare, foregoing children to pursue a career or anything in between there's always going to be a level of sacrifice and guilt associated with whatever choice we're making. 

And this is coming from someone who feels pretty damn close to having it all. I'm blessed to be able to witness my girls' babyhood, my freelance work makes me feel like I'm maintaining at least some professionals skills and is satisfying on some levels, I try to cook dinner most nights, my house isn't a complete disaster (although there are plenty who would probably disagree) and I sneak in time (never enough) to write about what I want to write about. 

But I think all of this busy-ness has limited my ability to make more meaningful relationships with people. I think it sometimes takes a toll on my relationship with Brad (it's not easy to invest in couple time when I'm sitting in front of a screen for a large portion of every evening). There are parts about office life that I miss -- the camaraderie with co-workers, the feelings of accomplishment you get when completing an important project, the affirmations that what you're doing matters**, being a part of something bigger than yourself (well and the two kids, dog and three cats.)

My frustration is really about the question itself. Asking "can women have it all?" seems just another way of implying that we're not working hard enough toward perfection. And if we could just try a little bit harder, we could balance fulfilling professional work; while being an amazing mother; chef who prepares nutritious meals made from locally sourced, organic foodstuffs; legendary house-cleaner; planner of whimsically themed children's birthday parties (complete with handmade invitations and "how did she come up with that?" party favors); and an ever-supportive, always sweet and super-sexy wife.

And every commercial for paper towels, diapers, hair dye and toilet cleanser is designed to demonstrate to you just how to achieve these ridiculous standards of womanliness.

It is, pardon my language, bullshit.

The question shouldn't be "can women have it all?" the question should be "can women be happy with what they have?"

I'm not suggesting that women stop pursuing betterment for themselves and their families  -- certainly having goals to reach I think helps all of us grow. 

What I am saying is that we be allowed to just take a breath and be accepting of the lives we have without looking over our neighbors' fence. 

Here's where I answer the "can women have it all?" question again (I've thought about it some more now).

Women can have it all when they are allowed to make decisions about what's best for themselves and their families outside of the microscope of the rest of society. That means that we have to ignore all the judgmental blather spoken and unspoken and stop participating in judgmental blather ourselves. We're all trying to do the best with what we have. So just shut up and let me be happy about it already.

Wow, that was quite the digression from the original purpose of my post which was to whine about why I'm not writing my novel.

I think I feel like by not writing my novel that I'm letting myself down in a big way. In a way that gives me a lump in my throat. I know it's silly. There are plenty of days (like the last few days) that I feel it's silly to have this dream in light of the way my life is right now. In the history of the world it doesn't matter one way or another whether it's ever finished. 

But yet, every week I read the book reviews in my Entertainment Weekly and imagine what it would be like to read the review of my book. Hopefully, it would be a good experience, because then, on top of the impossible task of finishing it***, editing, rewriting and finding other people who want to read it, edit it again and then publish the thing, is the whole issue of it being good. Like. Good, good. Not just, "aww that was cute" good. You know what I mean. 

Damn, now we're back to outside judgment. And right after I ranted about it. I'm just a big 'ol bowl of contrary today.

I hope that finishing my project will be enough to quiet all my inside voices (well, finishing this project, and then the one I have after it...). 

Anyway, in summary: 

  • Don't engage in self-defeating thinking.  
  • If you do engage in self-defeating thinking, make it very clear that you know it's self-defeating but that sometimes you still need to get it out there anyway.
  • Don't watch daytime television and it's roundup of commercials targeted at housewives.
  • Don't worry about being perfect. Worry about being happy. And maybe, don't worry so much about it, and just be happy. Except, of course, if you're unhappy about where you life is, then pursue ways to make your life happier -- but do it in a vacuum, because pursuing other people's version of happiness won't get you anywhere.
  • If the thought of not doing something gives you a lump in your throat, it's probably a good sign that that something is something you should definitely be doing. Even if it takes you a whole lifetime. 

*He probably would've appreciated it more if I'd written "my former boss." But he knows why I used "old."

**My editing and copy-editing friends will laugh and laugh and laugh at this one.

***To be clear, I know this is not an impossible task. It will be finished. One day. But may I remind you, one final time, that we decided it was OK for me to whine?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Props, Angry Beavers and Easter Squirrels

I have a lot of business items to attend to this evening and not a lot of motivation for contemplative blogging (maybe that's a relief!) so here's a roundup of crap that's happened since last I posted. 

  • Jovie's pukecident on Thursday was a harbinger of doom. I won't go into the gritty (or should I say dirty? Sloppy? Smelly?) details, suffice to say by Easter Sunday, Jovie had gone through several wardrobe changes and Monday morning Lily greeted me in her vomit-smeared crib (ooops. Too gritty?). Today was more of the same, rarely in easy-to-clean locations (our white living room carpet hasn't fared well this week). 
  • My former colleagues at the York Daily Record (including my amazing husband Brad) just learned that they received an honorable mention for the 2013 Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage in Trauma. They took an in-depth look at the long-term impact on students and teachers of a 2003 shooting at a local junior high school (see the story here). Judges called it "moving," "compassionate" and "eloquent." They're being honored alongside the likes of The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Pro Publica, and This American Life. Congratulations Bill, ScottJasonSam and Brad! 
  • The squirrels dressed up for Easter. I failed to mark the occasion because after a day of brunching it with my siblings, picking up seemingly endless piles of plastic Easter eggs and tending to sick Jovie, there wasn't enough gas in the 'ol tank for Easter Squirrels:
That's a faux-hair scrunchie around his/her neck.
In the background of this picture you'll notice a wooden deer (with this head-on shot he kinda looks like the frame of a tee-pee). The deer is wearing bunny ears. I think the squirrel ladies are officially expanding their flock of anthropomorphic statuary.

Hope this egg has a carrot inside.
  • On Saturday I ventured down to D.C. kid-free to meet my brother and a couple friends for some Cherry Blossom viewing. Unfortunately, the cherry trees had other ideas. Here's a photo of one of the four trees that were actually starting to bloom: 

Under this tree were several tourists snapping pictures.
Fortunately, we found non-Cherry-Blossom ways to amuse ourselves. Here's my brother Steve pretending to be an angry beaver*.

I will make you rue the day you ever picked a blossom.
For some inexplicable reason, the Cherry Blossom Festival organizers selected a beaver as the mascot. There were little wooden beavers all around the Tidal Basin reminding visitors not to touch the blossoms. You know, beavers. The semi-aquatic rodents known for chewing down trees for dam construction and food. Does this mean that while we're not allowed to touch, stroke, pick or otherwise interact with any of the blossoms, we are allowed to gnaw on the trees? 

Moving on. We also stopped by the FDR memorial (one of my favorites) and snapped this picture on one of the turned-off water features (a spot we were more than likely not supposed to be standing on). 

We're not even afraid of fear itself.
This shot is just one of the myriad examples of the self-timer pictures my friend Becky (pictured at left) forces us to take every time we get together. Here's another:

We're soaking wet (but still smiling)
after getting caught in a rainstorm.
Someday I'll dig up one of her most famous self-timer shots from a few years ago: The two of us posing Apollo Ono-style while ice skating on a pond in Colorado. The camera was propped up on a pile of snow. I told you she was hard core.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” - Maya Angelou 
“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself... It's a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.” - Harper Lee
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” - George Orwell
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” - Ernest Hemingway
“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath
Why is it such a relief to see that so many of these writers agreed that act of writing is kind of a pain in the ass?

*The euphemisms were in bloom all day long.