24 January 2012

Oh, Puff

You never particularly liked being a child. It was such a clumsy period full of indignities and half-understood sentences.

You were a melancholy child, a serious child. I know. I was there.

But still, there are times you miss it in your bones. And once you look backward, you realize it truly was a long time ago. And far away. Remember how you made all of those promises to yourself that you wouldn't grow up. I won't you'd whisper under the covers at night with your stuffed animals. To the trees above the trail. I won't. 

But you did. You had to. And, in the end, they make you want to. You tear it all down yourself.

A dragon lives forever/
but not so little boys

You are still under there, aren't you? I can feel you sitting quietly. Whispering I'm here. I'm still here.

11 September 2011

10 Years

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to read this piece as a featured reader at Story Club. Thanks JP for working hard to get this story told right before the 9/11 anniversary. 

Some kids dream about being a baseball player when they grow up. Or a fireman. Me? I wanted to be White House Press Secretary.

I declared myself a Democrat at age eight. As a teenager, I dreamed of a life of briefing books and tough questions from hard-nosed reporters. Oh, and saving the world, one liberal ideal at a time.

By 29, I was getting close. I was a Press Secretary for the Senate Democratic Leadership, which is how I came to be sitting at my desk in the US Capitol the day that something went very wrong.

I had just hung up the phone with a reporter when my coworker Chris walked into the press office.

“Do you know why they suddenly went into recess?” he asked me. 

Chris, you have to understand, was in charge of tracking the business of the Senate floor for the entire Democratic caucus. It was his job to know why.

“Why are you asking me?”

I followed his eyes over to the small TV on my desk just in time to see the clerks and Parliamentarian quickly rising from their seats at the front of the well and hustling out of the Chamber. Without warning, everyone on the Senate floor had just vanished. 

“This can’t be good,” Chris said.

My body already knew what to do.  I kicked my heels off, ready to run, when the yelling started in the hall outside. 

23 August 2011

August and Everything After

It's the tail end of August, but today it was cool enough in Chicago to wear a sweater over my short sleeves. Tonight, after much wriggling, resistance and gnashing of teeth, I did some writing and began to make a plan in my mind.

I can't help but think back to last year at this time. I started the September Blog Challenge, began a class on novel writing that helped kick my book in gear. I even outlined the entire book in one feverish session on a caffeinated Saturday. So much was coming together.

And then my Dad's death slammed into it like a car through a plate-glass window.

28 May 2011

OK, then...

It has been a wretched couple of months.

17 March 2011

Kiss Me, I'm Irish

I'm not saying I'm into geneology or anything, but where my ancestors came from has always been fairly important to me.

My dad's father was Swedish -- straight up -- from an immigrant father and first-generation Swedish-American mother. Grandpa spoke Swedish until grade school. Even though he grew up to marry a Norwegian-American, my grandmother, our family holidays were a swirl of Dala Horses, fruit soup and Swedish smorgasbords. I like to refer to my brother and myself as Vikings and look forward to seeing "the home country" for myself someday.

Just as sure as I have been about my Scandinavian side, I always believed my mother's side of the family to be Scottish. I was a little less fervent about it, but when I visited Aberdeen the summer after my senior year of college, I made sure to chat up the Scots we met in pubs with the fact that my ancestors were MacCleods from the Isle of Skye. Skye had been "settled" (more like invaded) by Vikings centuries ago, which I assume is what makes my brother and me look like we wandered off a ski slope in search of a sauna.

I've also always had this little thing about the Irish. Specifically, Irish-American culture and its overbearing insistence on boisterous St. Patrick's Day celebrations and ear-splitting live Irish music that pops up out of nowhere on what was supposed to be a quiet night out with friends.

"You don't get a whole month!" I insisted to my (half Irish) friend J as we sat in a neighborhood pub underneath a promotional poster laying out the events for the "Month of St. Patrick." I also dragged her up to Andersonville the first chance I got for some Swedish pancakes and a little spin around Swedetown. When March 17th rolls around each year and people ask me why I'm not wearing green, I cooly respond "I'm not Irish."

Except, it turns out that I am.

11 March 2011

Bush vs. Gore

Last night, I tackled my second open mic at Story Club.  It was a bit of a different vibe than the one I did in January -- lots of friends and loved ones in the audience this time, including my sister Ariel, visiting from Michigan.  My good friends JH Palmer and Johanna Stein were this month's featured readers and they were amazing, as always.  

The theme was "Religion" and I like to think this touches a bit on the notion of losing it:

There are some things you just know at a very early age.  Some people become Cubs fans, falling asleep beneath Blue and Red pennants and dreaming of the World Series.  Some people are Catholics, lulled by the incense and hymns and Hail Marys.  Some people are outlaws – pilfering gum and Girl Scout dues before they learn long division. 

Me – I knew from the time I hit second grade that I was a Democrat. 

21 January 2011

Greetings from Griefland

I read this piece last night at the very first Story Lab Chicago.  It was such a great night and I had a fantastic experience doing a live show for the first time.  It's a little tough posting this here, because I wrote it to be read out loud and I think a lot is lost without hearing it live, but for my friends and family who couldn't make it to the Black Rock, here's what I did:

“Grandpa died.” 

I have wandered into my brother’s dining room late Thanksgiving morning, blinking against the sunlight into the middle of an earnest conversation between my little nieces:

“Grandpa B died!” says Claire, age three and a half .  She takes a scoop of oatmeal and lets this fact settle over her younger cousin Evie.  When you’re three and a half, there are few opportunities to be the authority on things…Claire is taking this opportunity and rolling with it full speed.