My Craft Journal
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No More

I don't want to send condolence notes. I don't want to cut out snowflakes. What I want is for the laws to change.

Every day, I feel a little more sick to my stomach about what happened in Connecticut. I imagine those Sandy Hook parents, opening their front doors this week to find a package of Legos or a pair of pajamas, intended as Christmas presents for children who are now gone forever. I think of the teachers and administrators who lost their lives trying to protect those kids--and I wonder, just when did being willing to take a bullet become part of the job description for a public elementary school teacher today? I am grateful for those teachers who herded their students into closets and bathrooms and somehow distracted and comforted them while something so awful was happening in their school. And yes, I think of those first graders.

Those 20 kids should be making their own snowflakes. They should be baking holiday cookies with their grandmothers. They should be informing their classmates that they celebrate Hanukkah and get presents for eight nights straight. They should be putting their lumpy, tacky, and totally precious handmade preschool ornaments on their family's Christmas tree. They should be eagerly awaiting the first snow, begging for another story at bedtime, and refusing to eat their vegetables at dinner.

But they are not.

Instead, we are learning about their favorite colors, their favorite sports, and their favorite foods. (First graders are big on favorites.) We are seeing photographs of them, with their adorably mussed hair and gap-toothed smiles that surely melted their grandparents' hearts. We are reading their obituaries.

This is so terribly, terribly wrong.

I don't know how to fix this, but we cannot let this keep happening. The framework we have in place for dealing with all the individual issues--guns, violence, mental illness, and more--involved in the Sandy Hook shooting has been proven tragically inadequate.  Maybe we need metal detectors at the entrances of all schools. Maybe we need an armed security officer in every school, not just high schools. Maybe we need better--and more affordable--mental health treatment for people. Maybe we need to get better at identifying those who are emotionally unstable. Maybe we need more restrictions on violence on TV or movies. And yes, maybe, just maybe, we need to deal with assault weapons.

Because we cannot continue to believe that there is nothing we can do to prevent a mentally disturbed person from causing this type of damage to a community, to our country, and to children who had absolutely no chance once he started shooting.


Election Day

Fourteen years ago--and no, I cannot believe it has been that long--I spent the first Tuesday in November in a downtown Chicago newsroom covering local and state elections. I called in voting results from a now-forgotten-in-my-mind government office  that belonged to the monolith that is the ThompsonCenter/DaleyCenter/CityHall/CookCounty collection of buildings in the South Loop.

It felt strange to be in a government building so very late at night--and with so many other people. I remember realizing that one of the journalists crowded into that room was an on-air reporter for a local TV station, who periodically did a stand-up to update viewers at home on the vote. As always, I uneasily wondered just how friendly I was supposed to be with those who surrounded me--we were all reporters, sure, but we were also competitors.

The next day, after a late night of reporting, writing, and yes, celebrating at a nearby bar, I went back to the newsroom at what seemed like an ungodly early hour after such a short night. I'm sure I suspended my strict graduate school budget in favor of a latte fix to get me through the day: a classmate and I had to write a story  about the results for the next day's paper.

As we reviewed our assignment, my classmate, who was smart, thoughtful, and incredibly nice even for a Midwesterner, seemed to get a wee nervous about everything that needed to happen to get our story done. Shockingly, I did not, which would have been far more in character. After all, I'd been waking up at 1:30 a.m. nearly every night for the previous two years, thanks to the stress (much of it self-imposed) of being a schools reporter for a weekly paper in small-town Virginia. Not surprisingly given such lovely work-related sleep habits, I had decided that I clearly was not meant to be a daily newspaper reporter.

Yet here I was, on the day after the election, doing just that--writing and reporting a daily story on deadline like it was no big deal.  I talked my classmate off the journalistic ledge. We made a reporting plan. We called people. We shared notes. And yes, we filed our story on time . As we worked on the piece, I realized something had changed during my journey from Virginia to Chicago. Gone was the familiar feeling of white-knuckled dread that had become my very unwelcome but persistent deadline companion. Gone were the doubts that had absolutely plagued me since I left my "safe" job as an associate magazine editor for the opportunity--and challenge--of being a small-town newspaper reporter.

In their place, I found a truly unexpected faith in my abilities to make a story happen, even when so much was unknown and uncontrollable. Maybe my dream of being a journalist wasn't so crazy after all.



I marvel daily at the relationship that has developed between the Little Supervisor and Scooter. When we learned we would be having another baby, we all—family and friends alike—wondered how the Little Supervisor would adjust to no longer being Super Grandchild of the Galaxy and Beyond. After all when you are the first and only grandchild on both sides and have two grandfathers, two grandmothers, and two GREAT-grandmothers, well, let’s just say you get adequate attention on your birthday, Christmas, and every day in between.

So we were braced for the tantrums, the wish that the new baby would get back in her rocketship and go back to the planet she came from, and more.

It never really came. What has emerged instead is an affectionate, sharing, and frequently-full-of-giggles sister/friendship that we never expected. They “dance” in their car seats to (brace yourself) Savage Garden and KT Tunstall. They squawk like a flock of chickens on the way to church. (“Bawk! Baw baw baw SQUAWK!!!!”) They crack each other up with their giggles. They give each other big chubby hugs.

Yes, Scooter does think that Dora the Explorer bubble bath bottle is a dolly. Thanks so much for noticing.

The Little Supervisor also feels it’s her job to help her sister adjust to polite company as well. She picked out an all-too-relevant book at the library the other day and read it aloud as soon as we got home. “Scooter, teeth are not for biting,” Little Supervisor informed the curly-headed little dickens otherwise known as Scooter, who, yes, has taken excited/angry/playful chomps out of our heads, knees, and shoulders. “Ouch! Biting hurts!”)

She shows Scooter how to cuddle the babies in their collection of dolls.

And when it’s time to leave the house, the Little Supervisor even cheerfully puts her baby sister’s sandals on those very wriggly toddler feet.

  "Scooter, it's not every day you have a princess put on your shoes."


10 Great Things About The New House

1. The shower's pebble floor. It is a delight for the eyes and the feet.


2. The double hammock. Too bad Scooter thinks it’s a trampoline.


3. The lampposts in the backyard. It's like my own private Narnia. Where's Mr. Tumnus?


4. The peonies. Can't wait until they bloom next spring. Same for the azaleas and roses.


5. The weathervane and cupola on the garage of our neighbor's Georgian brick house. I feel like I have been transported back to Old Campus at William and Mary. (No photo--I don't feel quite right about posting a photo of their house, even if it only shows a tiny piece of it.)


6. Making s'mores and chasing fireflies on a summer night.



7. The unexpected and lovely flagstone path along the side of the house, where the giant hollyhocks live.


8. The refreshment center for grownups, which is conveniently located near the playroom. Because you will need an adult beverage to survive an afternoon of playing Candyland.


9. Playing with the Little Supervisor and Scooter on a summer night in the backyard.


10. And in the front yard too.





The Overthinker's Summer Reading List

For better or worse, I am a thinker. I mull things over, I look for patterns, and if I had an afternoon to myself with no agenda or obligations,  I would spend it reading.

Lately, in stolen moments here and there, I have been doing more reading that usual, thanks to the Kindle and the family iPad.  Why all the reading? Well, one can only unpack so many boxes at one time (14 last Saturday!), but I also think that life changes--a new job, new house, a baby--also tend to make me  re-evaluate my life from top to bottom. How the heck can I squeeze in some exercise? Is my work meaningful to me? Am I becoming the person I want to be? Do I spend enough time with family and friends? Am I flossing enough?

(What can I say? I told you I was a thinker. And for what it's worth, I’m sure the answer to the flossing question would be "No." If only they made those little dinosaur flossers for adults.)

And, because I am a reader, I often turn to books to help me both escape and answer those questions. Here are the latest selections:

  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. Because we all need a beach read in the summer.
  • Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. As a writer and editor, I always want to know about creativity--how it works, what inspires it, and how to replenish it. That last one is not  always so easy to do when you are a hard-core left-brain person such as, oh, me.  Which leads me to my next selection for this book-of-the-moment club...
  • The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. I have loved Beck's writing ever since "Expecting Adam" and after the last few months, I surely need to reintroduce joy and play into my life. Not that moving with kids isn't a blast, of course.
  • Young House Love, because after moving into a new house, who doesn't dream of their DIY projects turning out like the Petersiks' do?
  • Penelope Trunk. I have mixed feelings about Penelope Trunk and her views, but I think she nailed it with this one about Marissa Mayer.
  • Frugal Mama. I find Amy Suardi's blog thoughtful, inspiring, and encouraging.

As we slowly get settled, I especially keep returning to this post. Like Amy, I wonder what I want to do for the rest of my life. I also wonder how in the world I will make that work once I figure out what it is. :)