Thursday, July 30, 2009

on our own

When I was twelve or thirteen I saw a movie about three or four siblings whose mom dies and rather than be separated in the foster care system, they run away. They were looking for an uncle or cousin, someone who would keep them together and take care of them. They had a lot of adventures along the way and in the end, the uncle or cousin turned out to be very, very rich. I used to be (still am, still am - at times) morbid enough to imagine: what if my parents died? The best I could hope for was a very, very rich uncle or cousin.

My parents are not dead, but I do get the chance to be "on my own" with a pack of siblings.

Mom and Dad left for a weekend in Washington D.C. early this morning. I am hoping for them all good things: girl weekend for Mom, good visit with an old friend for Dad. And I am hoping they don't worry too much about what is going on at home. Last night Mom said that at least she wouldn't have to pick paint colors if the house burned down. We call her Bright Side Mom. She's just always looking on it. (Me too. I'm Sunny Side Sarah).*

Rather than let them worry, I'll just tell them what is happening here: this morning Mary Grace, David, and Danny came tiptoeing and whispering down to the basement while I was nursing Claire.

"Mary Grace had a dream," one of the boys said.

"And we're scared because it started to come true." Then tumbled out a tale of arms reaching out of drains and footsteps on the roof. One of them had to go to the bathroom. "Good luck with the drain!" another one wished the brave sibling.

Now we are waiting for Mary Grace's piano teacher and my mother-in-law to arrive. "You do know," I said to Rollene when she said she'd like to visit us this weekend, to help out while my parents were away, "That our house is - our house is chaotic?" She laughed. I think she'll have a lot to laugh about this weekend. Me? I'm going to get my survival run in for the day. On on this run, I promised I'd think about things like: who gets to play games on the computer when, whether or not we'll have a sugar cereal cartoon morning on Saturday, if Gracie can bake cupcakes today, the weekend's menu, laundry logistics, and how we'll juggle vehicles tomorrow.

*Can you find the sarcasm embedded in this paragraph?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

cross country revisited

Quick running update. Running in Wisconsin is glorious. The mornings have been cool, a little breeze, sometimes a little low mist over the fields. Yesterday I ran with Curt and a few of his high school cross country runners. Early in the morning. I ran to Curt's house and sat on the curb, waiting for runners to show. It was a small group - three girls, two or three guys, Curt - and we did an out and back run down a local bike trail. Thirty minutes out, thirty back.

I ran up front with a couple of girls for a mile or so. I wanted runner girl chat but there's a decade gap between us and they were busy talking about one of their jobs or a friends' job and I felt like a tagalong.

I tried to start a conversation. I learned how long each had been running cross country. Admitted that volleyball failed me too and I found running two and a half miles in heat, rain, and snow more fun than sitting on the bench. And then we ran out of things to talk about.

The girls' pace was slow and I didn't want to be that weird-adult-who-would-not-leave-us-alone so I broke away. In front of me was a senior boy named Kyle and he kept a good clip but I didn't want to catch up because I also didn't want to be that weird-adult-woman-who-likes-teenage-boy-runners (and everything can get skewed) so I kept between fifty and a hundred yards buffer. At thirty minutes out, Kyle turned around. A road crossing was just ahead and I have this thing about intersections and corners - I really like to say I ran to North Point Drive or I ran all the way to Highway P. So that morning, I ran to Golf Course Road N.

At the turn around I decided to go for a good negative split. I picked up the pace. I thought maybe I'd catch Kyle on the way back to town. I was feeling good - strong but not pushing too much. I'm a chicken about speed training and much prefer the safer route of let's just pick up the pace a bit. I cut two minutes and change off on my return (including a quick stop to chat with my old elementary band teacher out for his early morning walk) and did indeed catch up to Kyle. Curt told me that Kyle said I pushed him. Good for him, good for me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

irritable (given reprieve)

I have been irritable lately. Justin pointed this out the other day.

"What is your problem?" he said.

"I don't have a problem," I said.

But today when Justin asked if I had seen the papers he brought in from the car, you know, the ones he put on his bedside table, I said, "I didn't move them," clipping my words and ending one tone shy of, "No, stupid."

So maybe I do have a problem.
* * *
This morning my four year-old brother Danny, who still doesn't like to wipe his own bottom after pooping, sat on the toilet yelling "Mom! Mom! Mom!" Mom was helping Mary Grace choose fabric for a sewing project and called to Danny that she'd be there soon. Danny continued to yell "Mom! Mom! Mom!" until I got up and stood in the bathroom doorway.

"Do you like to be yelled at?" I said.

He nodded.

"You like it when other people yell at you?" I rephrased.

He shook his head no. Maybe he really does like to be yelled at but decided to just give me the answer I was looking for. Leading questions, leading questions.

"I don't think Mom likes to be yelled at either. Did you hear her say she is coming?"

He nodded.

"Then wait."

I left. I could have just wiped my brother's butt but (ha ha) I am already keeping Claire's bottom clean and there is something distinctly different about big kid poo. Soon enough Claire will be yelling "Mom! Mom! Mom!" and I'll be teaching her how to wipe her own bottom. In the meantime, Mom doesn't mind helping Danny wipe his bottom since her help guarantees skid-free underpants. Not a bad trade-off for "Mom! Mom! Mom!"

But really, Danny's yelling just underscores the constant noise at our house. It isn't all bad noise - mostly play and thundering stomps up and down the basement stairs; daily races around the living room, kitchen, and sun room; piano practice in small bits, at any given time (though most of us cringe at the opening chords of "Little Indian Dance," a catching ditty that Gracie has mastered but still not gotten enough of); there's whining (David's specialty) and laughing (all) and arguing (all, not usually at once). This house is full of kids and kids are usually loud.

"It must be difficult to share your space," I said to Ruth and Ellie the other day. I wanted them to know that I know it's hard to have guests around, imposing different routines, new family dynamics.

Ellie looked like she might agree that have Justin, Claire and me around is indeed a personal sacrifice on her part - after all, I am forever asking her and David to remember that Claire is napping so please, please keep it down - but Ruth said, "No, not really."

Perhaps that is because Ruth is really good at hiding, sneaking away from the loud games to read her books. What is so fantastic about Ruth is that she might be in the living room for two hours, buried in her latest book, while the house is shaking with games ("Let's play 'fight,'" David said to Ellie and Danny) and piano plunking. And Ruth is totally undisturbed.

I need to learn how to do that again.

Instead, what I do in the middle of chaos is feel my nerves fire and snap under the strain of not yelling "Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!" That's lately, at least - and likely because our move to the Middle East (who moves there!?) is imminent and Claire is teething and and and! But sometimes I feed off the cacophony and get silly and enjoy being in the middle of this crazy family. And right when I think: I am done, I am running away - I get a break. A fantastic run or an hour to write, an empty house. Then the noise builds again. And still, I love it here.

this year I sort

Last summer we arrived home with suitcases full of junk and threw it all in plastic bins in a corner closet in my parents' basement. We dug around and took more junk back to Colombia. We didn't sort anything, not in any way that you could really call it sorted. Things were together, undivided. United stuff.

This summer I decided to organize. Organizing is not my forte unless it involves putzy multicolored post-it notes and labels and, well, I lost my post-it notes cube. But I thought: this summer, I can pack my books with books, clothes with clothes, shoes with shoes. In theory, this is a great idea. But what it means in practice is that I unpack every plastic bin and start making piles that shift and take new shapes as more boxes are unearthed and unpacked. And in the middle of tossing a shirt on this pile and a ceramic mug on that pile, I wonder why a shirt and ceramic mug were packed in the same box as my old yearbooks and an empty picture frame.

I do not want to be doing this next summer.

So. I have my winter clothes in two bins. I didn't keep much when we moved to Colombia but I have favorites sweaters and jackets and winter running gear stored, and a pair of Doc Martens boots I've worn since college. I now have a bin of maternity clothes that I will clearly label in case I need my mom to ship me stretchy pants and big tops. There is a box of pots and pans too heavy to balance the expense of shipping them when I can just buy another set in Kuwait. There are a few boxes of books, already cut to a quarter of what I owned before moving abroad.

And then there are my memories. Oh, these boxes are crammed. I keep too much. My entire high school experience is journaled in pen pal letters I never mailed. I have Valentine's Day cards given to me at third grade class parties. Movie stubs. Dried flowers. A small wooden box that my mom bought for me on a trip to Germany when I was young, its lid and sides detailed with rosemaling. One of my first chunky attempts at throwing a bowl in pottery class. I looked at those boxes and thought: no way. Instead, I'm adding a few of my Colombia memories to them: a business card for a restaurant we enjoyed, a scrap of paper with a phone number for a nice taxi driver I met, my Medellin half marathon bib number. Maybe that'll be my project next summer, to get lost in those boxes.

This summer, though, just making sure that shoes aren't tucked in the same box as my old gradebooks is enough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

to do or not to do

That is not really the question since it all must be done! Feeling ambitious about tomorrow (Wednesday):

1. Email current insurance guy about bridge program
done (still need reply) but also got a quote for my coverage for next year (which isn't as scary expensive as I was expecting)
2. Email new insurance guy about coverage start date and yada yada insurance stuff
also done and waiting for reply
3. Write for at least one hour (I'll even count journaling, this time)
cheap therapy since I missed my morning run
4. Decide what to do about Chaco sandals that fit but look too small but still fit hmm
going to return them and order next size
5. Wash a load (of laundry)
thanks Justin!
6. Run!
um, no. But I did run between ten and eleven miles on both Monday and Tuesday (yea for running on bike trails! and friends willing to bike along and chat!)
7. Have a giggle fest with Claire
sweet cuddling instead
8. Make an appointment for a haircut (February's cute bob is looking straggly)
9. Freak out about Kuwait (allowed ten minutes of wild worry)
I've got at least three minutes covered already!
10. Update dayplanner because it makes me feel cool to have things written in their spot
added what I could...so far, not much: why do my actual days feel packed?
11. Confirm a few things (haircut! Chicago! run with Johanna!) that should have their spot in dayplanner
I emailed Kate about Chicago and Johanna about running
12. Email a friend I haven't emailed in ages
emailed two friends I hadn't talked with in over a year
13. Maybe cook dinner for my family - okay, I'll cook dinner and maybe I'll rope a sibling in to be my sous chef
managed this and the dishes!
14. Make a list of what we still need to buy before leaving (Penzeys Spices, a year supply of my notebooks & pens)
I ordered Pedipeds for Claire - does that count? I also flipped through a Penzeys catalog and decided I'll learn to cook and bake with vanilla beans rather than extract in Kuwait (no alcohol allowed)
15. Find one - just one - entry story poem in an old notebook to think about revising
I did! I found a three year old narrative poem about property disputes that might turn into something fun

That should keep me busy. Get up early. Seize that day!

Updates edited to add throughout Wednesday.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

point & how to be nice

Point

Our time visiting Justin's parents is going well. Rollene is eating up her time with Claire and Claire is eating up all the love love love. Rollene has been shuttling us all over: to the Marshfield zoo, the Rudolph cheese factory (mmm), her (very nice) gym (which serves an awesome breakfast burrito and blueberry yogurt smoothie). She's also enjoyed introducing Claire to her coworkers at the county library and to neighbors. Claire obliges with perfectly timed grins and giggles, quizzical stares and thumb in mouth. The cats - sometimes temperamental creatures that they are - seem okay with a baby in their house. Michael makes it out of the office for an occasional bike ride or errand with Justin and to join us for dinner or a movie before bed. Justin and I have enjoyed wandering the town - last night we drove by my old residence hall (set to be torn down and rebuilt!) and tonight we snuck in a trip to Justin's favorite ice cream place here, Belts. I've been enjoying some great running, returning to a few of my old routes.

Only today have I really felt like getting on the next plane - not because of Mike or Rollene, just because I'm tired. We have a lot to organize this summer. It all feels very in the middle. I'd like to get to the other side. I remember watching my brother and sister-in-law repack all of their suitcases last summer. They stayed up late shifting stacks of clothing and new purchases. My entire summer is starting to feel that way. I think when we get back to my parents we'll take another day in the basement to do a final sort of what stays and what goes. The thought of that - a day of reorganizing earthly possessions (all the junk we don't really need, all the junk we think we really need, and the relatively few things we actually need) - that prospect, oh boy.

How to be nice

Not only did I start feeling tired today, but I also started wondering how to really be nice. I am trying to be nice. Sometimes I succeed. Other times I yell at a car to hurry up and turn. One of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby, wrote a novel called How to be Good. He also wrote High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch (all turned into movies, the last one adapted from a book about soccer into a movie about baseball). Anyway, in How to be Good, a woman tries to figure out what to do with her husband's sudden religious conversion. After ten or twelve years of marriage and a couple of kids, this guy is someone she really doesn't recognize. He does weird things like invite a young man who needs a place to stay to crash at their home. So the wife decides to separate and think things over - there's a lot of other stuff going on in the book too - but she begins to question her own goodness. Is she being good? She's a doctor. Does helping others heal their illnesses count? Should she go on a pilgrimage? Give away all of their stuff?

What does it take for a person to be good?

So lately I've been thinking about being nice. I try to be nice. I like to bake things for people. I see a mom in the grocery store with a stroller and I say hi to the baby and talk for a moment or two. Sometimes I like to pay for a stranger's meal. What I started to think about today was: those are easy ways to be nice. Those are ways that I enjoy being nice.

I've watched my parents be nice to people. Once there was a waitress at Perkins who came to our table to take our order. She was crying but trying very hard not to, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand and smiling furiously, "What'll you have tonight?" Mom asked her what was wrong and she explained that a table of eleven had just walked out on her. So I remember my parents leaving a gigantic tip they probably couldn't really afford. I was twelve or thirteen and I don't think they intended me to notice but I saw that and thought that was really nice.

At some point, you have to be nice even though you don't enjoy it much. Maybe that's called being polite or civil. There is much to be said for civility. And at some point, being nice calls for some sacrifice and when it does, what really counts: that you did it, that you were polite and civil and even nice - or what you felt in your heart in the middle of it?

Maybe we just need to plough through it and sweat a little embarrassment or relief after we try to be nice. Maybe for awhile it doesn't count that you're thinking this is stupid even as you tell the waitress you'd like to pick up the tab for that teenage couple in the corner booth.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night with growing pains. My little brother David is getting those now, in his legs. My muscles and bones would hurt so badly I'd clutch at my thighs and calves and bite my lip. Right now I think I'm getting a few being nice growing pains. I want to learn how to be nice - graciously, not clumsily. (I am so clumsy sometimes and feel so silly about it). I want to be generous in different ways - time, listening, giving. And I guess that if that's what I really want, I need to expect a few growing pains as I learn to sacrifice self and forget feeling stupid and just be nice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

flow with it

The last time I listened to a life coach I was a first year teacher hoping to get a job closer to my boyfriend. I had just interviewed at a school in Minoqua. The interview itself wasn't stellar. I parked in front of the main entrance and decided another swipe of deodorant might be a good idea. I was very nervous about this particular interview because I actually wanted the job. I was mid-swipe, one arm raised and the other poking around under my shirt when I saw office blinds move aside and a man peer out the front window. We made eye contact. I shook his hand two minutes later.

"How are you?" he asked.

"I hit a deer," I said.

"Oh my."

"Yes, well, I hit the deer last night. That's my boyfriend's car I'm driving. Mine is...mine is not in good shape right now."

The interview plummeted from there. Then I tripped on the carpet on the way out. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be getting a call from Mr. Minoqua and I was pretty sure the English department chair was wondering exactly how I landed in the interview pile in the first place.

So this life coach I listened to had quit a few jobs before deciding to help other people realize their potential. I can't remember his name. Eric, maybe. Anyway, Eric was at school one afternoon talking with my mentor teacher in the classroom next to mine. I was ready to leave and walked by the open door when my mentor called out, "How was the interview?"

"Not good." I stood in the doorway.

"No?"

"No. Oh well. I guess I'll wait. They might call for a second interview. I doubt it." I was bleak (realistic) about my prospects as the new eighth grade language arts teacher for Minoqua.

"Do you want it?" Eric asked. He was leaning back on a student desk in a way that looked casual but I knew required good balance. And - you can't say this about many people but this guy - he beamed. He repeated himself, carefully emphasizing each word so they all weighed the same, "Do you want it?"

"Yeah, but-"

"Then go for it!" He smiled. Another life coached.

"It was a pretty bad interview."

"Call. At least call. Tell them you want it. Believe that you can!"

I felt a flutter of possibility. Maybe I could still get the job if I called and - "But the interview. Seriously. Not great."

"That's okay!" Eric said, "Tell them that. Own it. And tell them you'd love another opportunity."

He sense my hesitancy. I looked at my mentor who was lapping up Eric's advice. My mentor was owning it better than I was. Was this a joke?

"Look," Eric said, "You have nothing to lose."

"You have nothing to lose," parroted my mentor.

I tried the phrase out myself, "I have nothing to lose." It sounded a little flat. But it was getting there. "I have nothing to lose,"I said, more firmly.

"That's right!" Eric beamed.

I was beginning to understand why old ladies write big checks to television evangelists. I was beginning to feel excited. I was beginning to think: I will go home and I will call Mr. Minoqua and I will say to him I want this job. With exclamation points. I want this job!

"Okay," I said, "I'll do it. Thanks."

"Good for you!" Eric said.

I turned to leave and practiced what I would say to Mr. Minoqua and imagined him reassuring me We all sweat a little and We all have off days and I'm so glad you called. How about we talk next Tuesday at ten. Can you make it back? So when I got Mr. Minoqua's voicemail, I stumbled through my blurb trying for confident but landing closer to anxious. When I hung up, I couldn't remember if I'd left the correct phone number. So I called back. I called two or three more times. Then I sent a note thanking them for the opportunity to interview with them and praising their school, using words like initiative and purposeful.

Yeah, I know.

A couple weeks later a typed letter informed me that the position had been filled by another candidate and it was difficult to choose from such a pool of qualified yada yada just quit calling to politely inquire, okay? I didn't need a life coach to tell me the appropriate response. I moped and figured I was stuck where I was and it was the end of everything and now Justin and I may as well break up because long distance for one year was enough.
* * *
I hadn't thought about Eric and Minoqua and parking lot deoderant for a long time and then a couple of days ago my mom, in a very life coach way, said, "Flow with it."

I looked at her and tried not to grit my teeth. "I am flowing."

She didn't say anything. She smiled. She isn't a life coach. She's my mother and she knows that I get snagged on small things and hung up on big things and that it doesn't take much for my flow to totally not flow. Insurance companies and litterbugs set me off. And the other morning it was Big Red Truck: my flow hiccupped. I could see whitewater ahead.

It started off as a glorious run: technicolor blue sky, good breeze, low seventies. I met a woman named Ann and kept pace with her for a half mile before she turned off to go home. When I needed a bathroom, there was a gas station on the corner and when I walked in, the clerk smiled at me, "Womens' restroom?" and pointed. This run was all so perfectly choreographed with runners and bikers and dog walkers, good mornings and hellos and green lights. And then, two miles from finished, Big Red Truck.

I was running on the correct side of the road, a road at the edge of country but not quite out there yet, when Big Red approached. I raised my hand to wave - just a little wave to say hello, I see you, please see me - and he slowed down. I heard a car approaching from behind me in the opposite lane so I hopped onto the gravel shoulder. Understand that this was a short two hundred yard jag in the road and cars can't go fast unless they want to land in the pines at one end or a front yard at the other. Big Red stopped and I was thinking sunny thoughts about how polite and considerate this hulk of a truck was so as I passed the hood I waved again, this time a thanks for watching out for me and enjoy your - when Big Red's driver laid on the horn and turned to glare at me.

What I heard next was a choking gurgling sound as several choice words in terrific combinations bubbled up while I fought to keep them submerged. I won out, barely, with a ribbon of be nice be nice be nice be nice be nice all the way to the corner where I stopped, looked at the sky and said to God, "It is really difficult not to wish very bad things on-" I swallowed another choice noun, "On obnoxious people."

And then I started to think about what Mom said. Flow with it. I could flow with this. My day wasn't wrecked. Not yet anyway. I should know by now that not every detail is mine to order. And then I started thinking about Big Red's driver and what was going on in his life at eight o'clock in the morning that a runner on the side of the road would set him off. And I'm still thinking about that man today.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

goal: one book

I am going to write a book this year. I decided this a couple of months ago.

Oh, and by year, I mean this next school year. So give me one calendar year. By next July, I should have a book.

My expectations for this book are low. I just need to learn the process of starting, muddling, and finishing a book. It might be a loosely connected collection of short stories or a memoirish book about Colombia or a novel whose characters I might have already met in my notebooks.

I really don't know. But it is fun to imagine. I've thought about writing a book for awhile. In college I minored in Creative Writing and considered going to grad school for fiction rather than teach right after graduating. Whenever I regret the route I chose, I remember that teaching has provided me with experiences and people I would have missed knowing. So who knows. Maybe I'll manage a better book because I've taught.

The thing is, I used to salivate over graduate writing programs. I used to think that if I could get accepted here or here then I'd really be able to get that book written. Some of the programs I was most interested in required that you write a book during your time there. Cool. So I figured I'd get into a good program and be guaranteed a good book.

If I want to go through any of these masters programs, I need to move back to the States, not to Kuwait. Hm.

So why wait for writing a book to be a course requirement? I'll do it now. I'll do an okay job. Maybe even a decent job. And if I'm lucky, parts of this first big writing project of mine will be good. The experience, I am sure, will be frustrating and exhilarating and mundane. Like most of my experiences are.

At some point - maybe next week - I'll start another blog about my book writing process. The first entries are guaranteed to be repeats of variations on I don't know what to write about and What if everyone hates this? It'll be great.

I'll still keep this blog for personal posts - Claire, running, friends and family, tearing my hair out over another move abroad. Sometimes the blogs' content will overlap.

But that - writing a book - is what I'll be up to during this next year. That and adjusting to an insanely hot climate, learning how to be a stay at home mama, and teaching myself how to not waste the food in the fridge by actually planning meals before I grocery shop.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

say cheese

I am not a picture taker. I married one though so at least half of our life together is well documented. The bike riding half. I am not a biker either. See how this works?

I have maybe three rolls of film covering my five years of college experience. That may be a very good thing. One of those three rolls was shot on a single night when I gave an India ink tattoo to another girl down the hall from me in our freshman year dorm. It was a Christmas tree - the tattoo, not the dorm. A Christmas tree fake tattoo. Who does that? (Um, a group of girls avoiding studying for finals).

But who takes pictures of it? (Um, me).

Another roll of film from my college years shows my friend Kate up for a visit. We are sitting on my tangerine velvet couch under my bunk. It was a Sunday morning and while there are no pictures of Saturday's blender of grasshoppers, there are two pictures of us smiling together, waiting for the timer to snap the shutter. The rest of that roll are close up shots of a ripe peach sitting on a turquoise Fiestaware plate in various states of unsliced and sliced.

Yeah.

In high school I took photography classes and independent studies for three years. My work was selected to hang in a permanent spot in a hallway. (I don't know if it's still there). Then I graduated high school and started taking close ups of peach skin. I am not sure what happened.

Now I have a little Kodak digital camera that Justin uses most of the time. The camera rarely does what I want it to do and for me there is little artistry in taking a picture anymore. Sad. So I don't even bother turning the camera on half the time. I say: I am here for this moment, soaking it up, enjoying it. I say: I don't need a picture to remember this.

But there have been a few times when I grabbed the camera to hold the moment, save it for later. I have a picture I took just after I learned I was pregnant. I wanted my baby to know how happy I was so I held the camera arm's length and snapped a shot. I'm smiling a little too big and the angle is wrong but I hope Claire gets it. What she won't get from that picture is that I almost couldn't breathe when that blue plus appeared. I spent ten minutes sitting on our bed crying and laughing, utterly unsure of what came next.

Another time I wanted to hold the moment a little longer, I told Justin to grab the camera.

"What am I taking a picture of?" he said.

I thought it was obvious. "Me. In the rain."

"Okay."

I lifted my face to the rain. This was after a good run, a month or two after Claire was born. My body was just beginning to feel strong and ready again. I remember feeling full and beautiful, energy in my arms and legs. I let the rain cool me. I felt like singing. I was having a moment.

After looking at the pictures I decided I'd better just keep those moments to myself. The pictures didn't look anything like full or beautiful or energy. Justin had cut me off at the ankles (slender ankles: gone!) and I immediately noticed my post-baby belly pooch under the coral maternity running shirt pasted to my body. I stared. But, I thought, I don't feel that way.

So most of the time, pictures just don't capture it for me. I do better with words. But I'd like to change that, a little at least. I'd like to remember to take a few pictures once in awhile. Otherwise, Claire might tell me one day that she feels like that third baby in a family, the one moms and dads forget to take pictures of because they've seen it all before. I haven't seen it all before but I still forget the camera.

Maybe I shouldn't worry too much that the precise energy or mood of a moment isn't always caught in a single frame. Maybe I just need snapshots to say: I was here. You were here. This is what we did.

Yesterday in Best Buy I gravitated toward the cameras. I've been thinking about darkrooms and angles and exposure times. All the metallic colors of the tiny pocket cameras were like candy at the supermarket check out. I was more intrigued by the bulk and lines of the black Canons and Nikons, their wide unblinking lenses. "Next year," I told Justin, "That is my goal." To relearn photography. To find its art again. To enjoy the moments images glimpses I manage to catch with my camera.

I already have a goal for this year. More on that tomorrow.