Wednesday, October 31, 2007

- Happy Spooner, Spidey, Prince Phillip Day -

(Spooner is Will Smith's character in iRobot)

We like Halloween 'round here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Tag-You're-It from the Good Girls

This post is a Tag-You're-It from the Good Girl Lit blog. Enquiring minds want to know: Where is my favorite place to read? So this is a picture of my corner. I like the chair with the throw draped on it if I want to feel particularly tucked into my little cottage-sized home, and the right-hand corner of the love seat by the window if I want to look out on my beautiful street and think beautiful thoughts (between chapters of course). This is where I read when I am purposefully, deliberately sitting down to enjoy a book. Otherwise, I grab my chances when I can, kitchen counter not excluded.

Lately I've been fantasizing about reading at Hastings though. It's the pseudo-Barnes and Noble for our small town, or up-scale Wal-Mart entertainment center, depending on how you look at it. I've heard Christians in my city say they won't step foot in this store because of the images that sometimes jump out at you - that's entertainment for ya. But I love it. Especially the book section. There are little reading chairs a la "You've Got Mail" ("You can sit and read for hours and no one will bother you . . ."). And through my work day, which is at home, which means that the little things that need done tend to haunt me and the little toddler that needs cared for can sometimes frustrate my work ethic, and often I fantasize about those little chairs in Hastings. I always think I will go there in the evenings so that I can read in the book section in the hopes that all those wonderful pages will somehow infuse me with literary gumption so that I can not only more thoroughly enjoy the read, but also be inspired and motivated to write well. But alas, I haven't gone even once yet. I generally stay in my corner instead because just on the other side of it are the husband and the sons. And even though, these are the very things that distract me most from both a good read and a good "write", they are just so terribly difficult to leave . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the connection of storytelling

Book report time. But first: A rant. Why are people picking on Jessica Seinfeld? She seems like a perfectly nice person who cares enough about her children to pre-cook and puree vegetables for them every week. Is this really worth fussing over? I'm not going to follow her plan myself. Mostly because I'm too lazy, but also because I kind of sort of agree that it's better in the long run if you just get them used to the idea that they gotta eat 'em and that they do sometimes taste good. But, seriously, the fuss to me is too much. She isn't harming us. No one's making us buy the cookbook, and certainly no one is coming into our living rooms force-feeding our children spinach brownies - and if they were, really, wouldn't we thank them? It's not cool to me, and I feel we need to let her be.

Okay, Felicity loaned me this book because it's smart and because the idea of it is so lovely - a memoir in books. Gotta love that. And I did. So many things to thank this author for. First, that she left me free to never actually read Lolita. Based on her description of it, I'm very grateful for that. On the other hand, she did make me want to pick up some books by Henry James. And she informed me that Sheherezade (of the 1000 tales) was a woman. I had no idea.

Most importantly, she made me care about Iran. Having written a memoir myself, I expected she would make me feel embarrassed about that. That I would feel shallow and terribly distant from the real problems of the world. But that wasn't the case, and I was grateful for that too. Instead, I saw my own problems staring back at me - just dressed in a long black cape and involuntary head scarf. I saw my own tendency to blame my decision-making, my unhappiness, or my loss of identity on something that happened to me rather than on my response to it. And I saw the familiar struggle of being in a situation you want to change, but not knowing how long you can stick it out and fight for the change, while failing. It was beautifully told. And very sad, although not in the way I expected. It is one of those wonderful stories that remind us we are all connected, which as Kate quoted in my comments section once, is why most of us read in the first place - to know we're not alone.

It's kind of my greatest dream that someone - anyone - anywhere in the world would read my own book one day and realize that. Maybe someday . . .

Thursday, October 18, 2007

more things I love about October

Yesterday, October 17, was the anniversary of my motherhood.

John Michael prefers to call it his birthday, and because I'm a mother, I let him. I even give him the presents and the cake and the candles. I don't need them anyway. The thrill of the anniversary is better when it's kept inside - like a secret. Like the feeling I had when I was pregnant that first time. I knew there was something wonderful in there, something almost magic. It was a miracle, and I was part of it.

Then - four days after it was supposed to - the magic really happened. Ten fingers, ten toes - and I got to take home all of them. This was the coolest door prize ever. It took a day or so to feel really truly connected to it. But by the next morning, I was calling it him. I missed him when he was out of the room with the nurses. And as my friends Den and Andrea so poetically described it once, when I left the hospital with him, I kept turning around, looking for the parade. It seemed there should have been one. Hadn't the whole world stopped when he cried that first time?

I will never forget what I wrote in those first few days at home with those fingers and toes, that smooth baby skin, those tiny blue clothes . . .

if I never do anything else in my life, I will have been great because of him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

when i was dying

I really like the working title of my memoir - Serenity Now. As long as Jerry Seinfeld will allow it, that is probably what I would go with if no one else along the line disapproves. It's snappy, it has humor, and it's got my name in it which captures both the narcissism of having written a memoir at all, and the fact that the whole book is kind of about people living up to their names - sort of. Maybe I'm the only one who will get that out of it.

Anyway, I've been thinking of another title lately as I've read over bits and pieces. My family likes to joke about "the cancer card". That I shouldn't be afraid to use "the cancer card" if I want sympathy or, more accurately, just need a reason to stick out in a crowd. And lately I find myself using it a LOT. But not for any of those reasons. I find myself using it on myself. All the time. I roll my eyes at me each and every time, but I keep on using it.

It's so often so useful. And it usually begins like this, "When I was dying . . . ."

I try not to use it too much when I'm talking to the masses, because let's face it, that could get really old. Me having all the answers and always squelching your perfectly justifiable vent because of something I learned about life "when I was dying." Oi vay. Why don't you just write a memoir?

But I use it on myself all the time. And usually by accident. It just creeps up - this little feeling overwhelming all the stress and drama I'm used to basking in. I can so go there to that feeling that nothing, nothing, nothing at all matters except right now. This moment. This conversation. This casual phone call with my husband, this bike ride with John Michael, this hug before bed with Jake (that's my favorite one right now). You think you can just conjure up that reality check by knowing it's true. You know, the whole "It's better than the alternative" speech. I always tried that, I really did. But it's nothing compared to actually having lived it, having been there in those really dark moments when life was literally a vapor.

And that's the reason I mostly use it on myself. Because the alternative would be to say to someone else in their moments of stress, "Try dying. You'll feel better about this then." Nea. And besides, I don't think everyone needs my dark moments in order to better relish the light. Besides the fact that they have their own dark moments, some people may actually get the hypothetical. "It's better than the alternative" may be just as meaninful for them, just as able to focus them as my "when I was dying." I think whatever works, you gotta do it. Otherwise, the stress of life really could run you completely over, and you'll end up on Oprah one day trying to grab somebody else's aha moment, and I'm convinced - that just really isn't the same.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Here's something I know for sure: I married someone way cooler than me. And before you adoring fans out there, jump to my defense (I'm mostly talking to Mom, except she totally knows I'm right about this), hear me out.

First, you have to know what it means to be cool. I'm not ugly. I don't dress poorly - most of the time. I usually know things about pop culture and sometimes even real culture (although not so much), and I definitely have a sense of humor. To understand what I mean by cool, I'll have to share with you the moment in my life in which I realized it myself.

I was on a bus going on some church trip or another. My friend Mark sat in front of me. My brother was doing his Forrest Gump impression in the parking lot - not the voice - the run, to which my sisters and I would stand and yell, "Run, Forrest, run!" in Jenny's southern twang from the movie. Mark chuckled along and then turned to me and said with a sad, condescending sort of fondness, "You Nickersons. There's not a cool one in the bunch is there?"

In that moment, I totally got what cool is. And I'm so not. I'm never aloof. If I try the aloof thing, it's obvious to everyone that I'm either very upset about something and introverting in order to protect myself or else I'm - you know - trying out the aloof thing. I'm a ham, especially when I'm nervous, which as we all know is a death combination to any attempt at coolness. I get upset easy, cry at commercials, freak out over the little things, worry what everyone thinks about me, all the time, worry about whether or not I'm thinking rightly about everyone else. It's really exhausting to be uncool. But I trudge on. Analyzing and re-analyzing life every thirty minutes or so, stumbling upon the secret to it every 15, announcing my age, my financial situation, my dreams, my emotions, and whether or not I have to pee, to everyone and anyone, anywhere, all the time, who will listen. It's so uncool.

My husband on the other hand, is totally cool. The real thing. Actual - I-was-homecoming-king, scored a touchdown on the starting kick-off, acted bored at school but got really decent grades anyway, rarely-get-upset-by-the -little-things, never start a joke I can't finish - cool. I'm not sure if he didn't really know me when he chose me, or if I had other qualities compensating for the lack of cool. I suppose it's possible that these cool people actually like having a little awkward exuberance around them now and then. Or maybe - I mean, this is just a theory here - maybe none of us are really all that cool.

This is a picture of my middle son, Drew. He's not cool either, and I so love that. Once you discover you're uncool, you gotta just embrace it. If you've never run like Forrest Gump, yelled like Jenny, posed on the lap of a statue of Ronald McDonald, started a joke you seriously could not finish but kept talking anyway in the hopes that you would stumble upon it eventually - well then, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

happy birthday, Den . . .

And you're so right. October is the Thursdaysly of months. Weren't you lucky to be born in it? And today, your birthday, is both a Thursday and October. I hope October in Wisconsin was much more Octobery than October in Missouri today. I tried to picture you studying away at philosophy in that campus by the lake. I put those long boats with varsity rowers on the lake in my picture and I added color to the leaves. I hope that's a little close to the truth and that you raised your head from the books at least now and then to breathe it in.

Today was just a regular day for me. I've been out of town visiting Charity, which was just heaven really. I love to get out of my routine now and then and remember how much bigger the world is than my little desk on my little square of office carpet on the little back porch room of my little white house. A song kept going over and over in my head that Charity had been singing, Feel the rain on your skin / No one else can feel it for you / Only you can let it in / No one else, no one else / Can speak the words on your lips / Drench yourself in words unspoken / Live your life with arms wide open / Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten. It made me want to write and write and write until I really did have a book written. But mostly I just love the sentiment. It made me appreciate every monotonous detail of my life, because they're mine. And because if I realize that the book begins today - and every day again - then the possibilities are endless and beautiful.

This blog is my outlet most of the time right now, I suppose, for writing. And I certainly was thinking writeable, philosophical sort of thoughts. But I didn't want to say them to the world today. And every time I began to write here, all I could think was, happy birthday to Den. I don't usually remember friend's birthdays very well. Mostly because I am amazingly self-absorbed. But yours was seared into my brain some crisp fall years and years ago when Michael and I lived in a tiny apartment and kept a burgundy coffee mug just for our friend Den. You're one of those really rich friendships in my life, and on Thursdays in October when I am just inspired to appreciate life and live it more on purpose, you're one of those treasures that comes to mind. Remember when you gave me Peter Pan? If I drank coffee, I would sit in a chair tonight and drink it while reading Peter Pan. And then I would wish hapy things for you, my very good friend.

Maybe tomorrow I'll start the book.