Monday, January 21, 2013


This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day found me doing some more long-overdue deep cleaning in Jack's room, including vacuuming under his bed. There weren't many things--mostly rubber bands and nerf darts from past battles--but, whoo boy, the vacuum sucked up an awful lot of dust, feathers from his pillow, and cat hair.

I may be crawling at a snail's pace, but I will conquer our house and all of our crap belongings. Forward!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

85 Linear Feet

No physical feats to report yet. I had something dramatic planned to kick off the project today, but it fell through. I think I will have another opportunity sometime in February to do it, and I plan to take advantage. In the meantime, I need to think of something else to kick things off with.

I don't think today's project--in which I cleaned about 85 linear feet of bookshelves and reorganized nearly all of the books, some of which were stacked two rows deep--is quite in the spirit of the whole thing.

Jack's shelves were beyond full, so I pared them down. I'd long since moved out the board books we read when he was a baby, but his bookcases still held our entire picture book collection. I pulled them all out, culled the books we're bonded with and took them downstairs to put on the family room shelves, then stacked the rest away to sell or donate.

Of course there wasn't room for the picture books on the family room shelves, so they required weeding and reorganizing as well. That darn domino effect.

It turned into a six-hour marathon, and I'm still not quite done. This is why I procrastinate. (And it is also why I am glad there are libraries and Kindles.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Give Me the Beat, Boys

In between a meeting at the United Way and a shift at the jail today, I stopped to get something to eat at the tasty, offbeat Station 22 Cafe in downtown Provo.

I ordered the Jack Kerouac burger, partly because I liked the name, but mostly because of the melted brie, applewood bacon, and bourbon sauce. 

About 10 years ago, I read Kerouac's On the Road just a few months after reading Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. It struck me that Sal Paradise was Holden Caulfield, only a bit more grown up and with a bit tamer language. Both yearned for freedom from convention, but ultimately both were tethered at their core to a sense of responsibility they just couldn't shake.

I can relate.

As I ate my burger, I read in Andrew McCarthy's Longest Way Home about the time he flew to Buenos Aires and headed south to Patagonia. When he got there, he climbed up a glacier, high enough to look down on the low level clouds. He fantasized about doing flips in the clouds like he did when he was a kid looking out airplane windows. Back before he was afraid to fly.

When I was done, I headed south on the highway toward the setting sun and sang real loud when Bill Withers came on the radio.

Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away


I won't lie. I am struggling to get moving.

Maybe January wasn't the best time of year to launch my 50 Physical Feats project, especially with temperatures hovering around zero for the past few weeks. I could also blame my lack of motivation on some ill health. Or on my Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I have self diagnosed but have failed to self treat. Or on my compulsion to watch all five seasons of Doc Martin. Or on the fact that the fabulous kick-off event I had planned to participate in this weekend fell through and I don't have a dramatic enough backup plan.

Or maybe it's what William Faulkner said in As I Lay Dying that describes me so well: "I notice how it takes a lazy man, a man that hates moving, to get set on moving once he does get started off, the same as when he was set on staying still, like it ain't the moving he hates so much as the starting and the stopping."

Apparently I'm just set on staying still.

I will get moving though. I will. I will. And when I do I'll be set on that. I will.

I will.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Good Thing

After years of trying to figure out how to get in and do it, last week I finally held my first book group discussion at the jail.

Thirteen inmates showed up, and nearly all of them had read the book. I had given them several options, and they voted to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which is told from the point of view of an autistic teenage boy named Christopher. I read the book several years ago and had forgotten many of the details, which I saw differently as I read the book again over the holidays. I wondered, for example, how the inmates would relate to Christopher's unrelenting phobia of communal bathroom facilities.

I put the book on the list of possibilities because of some of the themes it explores and that we talk about in the transition skills class I teach: seeing the world through someone else's eyes, trust and forgiveness, and facing fears.

After laying down the one main ground rule (that all opinions must be treated with respect) and the one corollary (that while my opinions should be respected, no one is obligated to accept or suck up to them), the discussion we had was vibrant and full of varying perspectives and insight. Success!

I am going to do this again and again. And I'm planning to expand the list of titles I can offer to my classes. I've started an evolving wish list (click here) in case anyone wants to suggest additional titles and/or contribute books to the cause (zero pressure, though!). The books don't have to be ordered through Amazon, but they do need to be paperbacks and they need to be sent directly to me from whatever store they are purchased from to meet the requirements of the jail. Message me if you have title ideas, need my mailing address, or to let me know books are on their way so I can mark them off the wish list.

This is a good, good thing. And I'm not just saying that because Martha Stewart served time.

Saturday, January 05, 2013


The other day at the post office, I noticed a man in line ahead of me holding a veteran's ID card and a notification to pick up a missed delivery. I hoped it was something fun, maybe a late Christmas present.

As I watched my clerk stamp and meter my packages, I heard the clerk at the next counter ask a co-worker what he needed to do to release undeliverable certified mail. I glanced over and saw him holding the missed delivery the veteran was there to collect. An envelope with an address handwritten in big loopy letters.

"Oh," the man said softly. "That's what she thought it might be."

No late Christmas present. Just a dead end. Maybe one of many. Who were they trying to find? A long lost sibling? An old friend? Maybe a grown child?

So many people. So many stories. So many ways they might go.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Beginning

It's dropped below 10 degrees and it's not even 10 p.m. A cold, cold start for my new project. I don't do well in the cold. In fact, once fall turns into winter, I'm inclined to hibernate. So the next few months are going to be a real stretch for me.

When I came up with the idea of doing 50 physical feats in 2013 last summer--when it was warm and I was in better shape--I thought I'd try to hit the ground running on January 1.

But the inclination to hibernate won.

So I need to start out with some conditioning, both physical and psychological. Today I went for an hour-long walk and discovered two things. First, it looks like the city keeps the bike path clear in the winter. Nice. Second, one of the reasons I don't like exercising in freezing weather is being hot and sweaty under my jacket and hat and gloves while my face is so icy cold it hurts. I'll have to experiment with different fabrics and layering and find a good balance.

I will report on my first physical feat the weekend of January 19th. It will be something I have never done before, and I will be very glad when it's over.