The Green Study on Break: The Blog Days of Summer

canstockphoto13311430It’s a fortunate thing I’ve taken a break from writing full blog posts, which would likely be an unending string of complaints followed by an occasional whine and a dollop of self-pity. Transition to nursing home. Transition to middle school. Transition to my own personal hell of over-scheduled, chaotic days and lots of interaction with people I don’t particularly care for – I’m apparently legally related to a lot of them.

Stress brings out the best and worst in me. For sheer making-things-happen moxie, I’m the person you want. Details, information, follow up on meds, money and hygiene? I’m the bullet. I reserve gentleness, what I have of it, for those I care for and love. But I am also impatient, have little regard for sentimentality and am likely an eye roll away from punching someone out. As I’ve said repeatedly to no one in particular “shit does NOT always take care of itself”. For those who think that the universe will work everything out on its own, you’ve never dealt with the mind-boggling bureaucracy for aging humans.

And here’s a tip: If a waft of urine rolls over you when you open the front door of a nursing home (euphemistically now called a Care Center), this might not be the place for your loved one. Also, if the employees’ name tags are handwritten on pieces of paper taped to their uniforms, this might indicate also NOT A PLACE FOR YOUR LOVED ONE. I saw both during tours yesterday.

So, onward and upward, my friends. I continue my month of blog introductions with 4 more blogs – a blogging buffet, with a little something for everyone.

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Meet Alice at Coffee and a Blank Page:

Coffee and a Blank Page: I am a feminist memoirist and academic who writes about sex, bodies, minds, and violence. In that process, I also think I write about hope.

Most of my posts fall into one of three categories, so I’m linking to a sample of each:

ATTN: Men, This Is Not How Doors Work [feminist and ranty]

Portrait of the Statue as a Young Girl [memory project]

This Is Not a Poem [though yes, it actually is a poem]

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Meet Evan at The Urban Vertical Project:

I run a blog about urban vertical farming. Through vertical farming, I truly believe we have a way to save the world. Agriculture contributes a third of all greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the highest water polluters in the world. But, there are tons of awesome ideas bouncing around about how to save the planet through farming. I try and share those with people and give them some inside information about how they can get started themselves.

Check out:

The first vertical farm showdown: Why you need to know what’s happening in Singapore 

Fresh Water Greens: A Hydroponic Success Story

and, for a summary of the potential for vertical farming in general: How to convince your friends vertical farming is the next big thing 

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Meet Kirizar at The Dust Season:

IMG_7940My blog is a platform for all the voices in my head. I’m tired of listening to them and they need a new audience, so it’s a win-win, really.

You can listen to the inner nattering of my SciFi Geek Girl finding humor in embarrassing situations in: Captain’s Log: To Boldly Go…

Or, you can enjoy my whimsical (read: borderline bad taste) humor in Friday Fictioneers: Jolly Green Giant Dead at 55

Lastly, you may admire my honesty or scorn my openness in: On How To Shave Your Legs When You are Middle Aged.

Giving you a window into my soul will give you a greater appreciation for people who keep their drapes closed.

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Meet Carrie at Philosofishal:

My blog spans reviews and reflections on the arts; teachings and resources on writing; samples of my creative work; my thoughts on dogs, birds, and sea otters (all things that eat fish, oddly enough); and tributes to free speech, reason, and blogs I enjoy.

Three posts provide a good starting point:

Play-Write: A Reply to “On Treating Writing as a Form of Play” – A core theme of my artistic philosophy includes links to several posts on the topic.

Wild Verses: Bits of Nature Poetry, 6 of 10 – A poetic sample links to the first 5 showcased excerpts of my nature poetry. I’m currently featuring a similar series of famous poets’ work.

Scotland’s Burns and Outlander Rival Shakespeare’s Bawdy – A fun, racy resource, and a related post, decodes and glosses a slice of the TV show Outlander.

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I ran out of Wednesdays for all the blogs offering up intros, but I’ll post again on Monday, August 31st to introduce the rest and wrap up the month.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

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The Green Study Spa: Take a Moment and Put Your Feet Up

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Japanese Beetles have mastered self-care in my garden. Bastards.

August has been a bust for taking a break. The heat, the bugs, the looming non-magical birthday (no trip to Hogwarts or surprise inheritance) and I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of care-taking, as my family goes through a big transition with my mother-in-law.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn is taking care of myself in the face of others’ needs. Care-taking sounds all very dedicated and honorable, but I am the Empress of Overkill. It always ends in tears and/or rage as I burn myself out and fill up with resentment.

Self-care boils down to taking time, if only a moment, to see to one’s individual needs. I’ve learned in the last few years that there are some daily basic things I need, to feel okay: sleep, writing, exercise and a period of solitude. What do you need, to be okay?

I continue my month of blog introductions, with this week’s post on 4 blogs: an artist who is a student of self-care, a healer who talks about Aura-Soma (something I never knew about), a spiritual pragmatist, and a humorist, because I never underestimate the curative power of laughter.

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Meet Sandy Sue at A Mind Divided: Artful, Conscious Living with Bipolar Disorder

Managing my mental illness is my spiritual practice. I try to be honest about the weird convolutions it takes while finding a few answers and even more questions. I stick my artwork on most posts, and there’s also some fan-fiction for those so inclined. My life is an Adventure, and I share it all.

Here are some samples:

Radar Day

Failure Seeds Tidal Waves

A Case Against Kindness

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Meet the Pragmatic Hindu: A Practical Journey Through the Bhagavad Gita

My blog is about learning to reconcile the modern world and all its challenges with the age old traditions and expectations that come with being a woman. I look to the Bhagavad Gita and its wisdom and reflect on how that ancient wisdom can be applied to everyday life for women of all faiths and all cultures.

Does Duty Ever End?

Keeping Up Appearances

Zero Expectations

Five Wishes

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Meet Susan at Often on the Bottles…: Colourful news and clues from Susan

I’m a chronologically mature Australian woman with a love of colour and words. I am combining these passions with no particular end game in mind, although to teach about the Aura-Soma colour care system that I work with would be a bonus.

Most Recent Post:

blue watermelonSomething in the way blue moves

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 Meet Greg at Almost Iowa: Where irrationality trumps reason

Most often, the comment section of a blog is a place for readers to interact with the writer and while that is a great idea, it is a greater idea to ask your readers to “talk among yourselves” while you take a break. So with that in mind, I will leave a few links for “yourselves” to talk about.

My Lawn Tractor

The Clutter Cycle

The Mosquito Refuge

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Thank you to the participating bloggers for taking the time to share a little with the readers here.

Tune in next week for more blogs you can put on your coffee table!

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The Green Study Catnap: Talk Amongst Yourselves

canstockphoto6664108The August hiatus has been short-lived. My mother-in-law had a medical emergency which dictated that sleep is fleeting for all of us, often a nod-off in any available hospital chair. Watching someone you love getting poked and prodded, dignity stripped away, these are moments that belong to a forgetful summer haze. If we remember them, we would not want to love again. It’s a prick to the psyche. Or a psychic prick, which sounds funnier but like a different website altogether. Holy batshit, I need sleep.

So, as I continue to gather my wits and drool on myself, while snoring at inopportune moments, let’s continue with my month of blog introductions. Last week, we met Ellen, Pheonix, Alison and Don. This week we have a doctor of medicine and meditation, a gardener/writer/wonder woman with attitude, and a blogger who wants to make kindness cool. Sounds like the perfect prescription for any psychic pricks. She giggles hysterically to herself, slumps over and commences twitching like a dog dreaming of rabbits.

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Meet Catherine Cheng, M.D. at Healing Through Connection: The Inner Work of Physician-Patient Relationship

I only started my blog in April, and the learning curve has been steep and fun. The community has welcomed me and I look forward to contributing as a good citizen. I am an internist in Chicago, mom of two, and seeker of connection. I started my blog and aim my writing to reclaim the healing physician-patient relationship. I approach it mostly through self-reflection, and a desire to start conversations between people about why we do what we do, what we all need, and how we can serve one another best.

Below are three representative posts:

The Premise

Bring What Ya Got

Gratitude, Generosity and Peace

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Meet Honie at HonieBriggs:

HonieBriggs.com is a mashup of rants and poetry and photography with some navel gazing thrown in for good measure.

I think maybe these three are a fair representation of what readers will find on my blog:

The Long and Short of It

Remembering Longfellow

Caution: Contents May Shift During Mood Swings

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Meet Donna at A Year of Living Kindly:

After about a decade of thinking about how important kindness is in this ever-shrinking planet, I decided to publicly commit to “A Year of Living Kindly”. It’s not that I’ve been a bitch all my life and am now trying to change my ways; I’m actually a nice person, but nice isn’t enough if we want to change the world. One can be nice without expending too much energy or effort; one can be nice without risking. Kindness sometimes takes risk, courage, and a willingness to be vulnerable. It also takes a good dose of humor whenever possible. So that’s what I’ve been exploring.

Here are three representative posts:

Choosing to Be For or Against…

Kindness and Curiosity

Extending Kindness to All

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Thank you to the participating bloggers for taking the time to share a little with the readers here.

Tune in next week for artists and healers!

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Mingle at The Green Study Summer Social

canstockphoto10226535During the month of August, while I take a break from writing scintillating and not-at-all researched blog posts, I’ll be introducing some bloggers to you. A few of them have been kicking around awhile in the blogosphere and others are brand shiny new, but I’m delighted to make introductions.

If you would like to be introduced to readers in the month of August, please read this post for guidelines. To keep my homework manageable, I’ll be introducing 3 blogs each week, so if you’ve requested an introduction and are not yet in this post, I’ve just made you stand in a virtual queue. What a jerk, right? Keep your eyes peeled in the following weeks – you’ll be there. Because you’re special and I like you. Now get back in line.

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Meet Ellen Hawley at Notes from the U.K.:

The header I liberally copied off of Ellen’s blog. I’ll give it back, I promise.

I’m an American living in Britain. I blog about the spidery corners of the culture, the stuff tourist brochures ignore, and general intercultural mayhem.

Calling a cat in two cultures: http://notesfromtheuk.com/2015/06/19/cross-cultural-cat-calling-how-americans-call-a-cat-in-britain/

On being a writer pulled by two vocabularies: http://notesfromtheuk.com/2015/07/14/does-my-vocabulary-look-british-in-this/

Low crimes and petty misdemeanors in Britain: http://notesfromtheuk.com/2015/07/17/crime-in-britain/

Ellen was polite in not mentioning the three books that she’s published, so check out her About page to find out more about those.

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Meet Pheonix at Struggling to Thrive: A parent’s journey raising a Failure to Thrive child.

Another header swiped. Pheonix is a relatively new blogger. Maybe she won’t notice.

I specifically started my blog for the purpose of sharing my experiences as a special needs mom. When my son first had his feeding tube placed around three months old I had an impossible time finding resources and support. I had no idea there were so many children without a diagnosis who have feeding tubes. I felt completely alone when I realized the feeding tube was here to stay for a while. So, that’s my best foot forward. There’s a little more in my, “About Me.”

Here’s a sampling of posts to share with you:

The Importance of Personal Best

A Special Needs Mom’s Never Ending Battle with Feelings of Inadequacy

Eating Out with a Tubie

I’m so glad that there are blogs like this one out there. So often our life experiences feel unique, isolating and at times, unbearable. Blogging is a great big “You are not alone!” and helps us find each other.

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Meet Alison and Don at Adventures in Wonderland ~ a pilgrimage of the heart:

Adventures in Wonderland

Alison and Don strike me as really nice people. Hopefully, they don’t mind me borrowing their picture. Although it would look great next to my velvet hanging of “Dogs Playing Poker”.

When I, Alison, was 61, and Don, my husband, was 69, we sold our car and apartment, and sold or gave away all our furniture and other possessions. We felt we had no other authentic option as to how to live our lives. We certainly had no other financial option. It came down to ‘have a home or have a life’. Since that time four years ago we have been travelling the world as intentionally-homeless nomads. It has been the most rewarding, challenging and enlivening thing we have ever done. Our blog is the ongoing story of our journey, both inner and outer, a mixture of travel stories from around the world, and the inner changes and adjustments that this lifestyle has compelled us to make.

Three posts to share:

Together twenty-four seven

Empire of the Sun God: Machu Picchu and Pisac, Peru

Tent City: the Mela at the Pushkar Camel Fair, India

After reading their website for the last couple of years, I was extra delighted when they did a live interview at Huffpo. I’m just a little bit in love with them. Perhaps it’s because in middle age, I’m starting to wonder what is down the road for me. When I read about their adventures, it fills me with hope and longing. And I think that’s a good thing.

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Thank you to the participating bloggers for taking the time to share a little with the readers here.

There’s more to come next week! If you’d like to be introduced, please read this post.

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Good-bye, Hello: The Green Study on Break

The Green Study will return to regular posting on September 1, 2015

canstockphoto10226535It might have been the all-nighter I just pulled trying to help my kid through a painful orthodontia transition. Seriously, look up Herbst device. Marquis de Sade would have been impressed. It could be that Japanese beetles are now devouring my gardens. They eat 200 species of plant. Welcome to the salad bar, you little bastards. It might be the impending kitchen remodel, which will nicely suit my lack of desire to cook anything that doesn’t require a microwave. Or it could be that it’s so hot, my hot flashes seem inconsequential. Whatever it is, I need a break from all things.

Let’s slap a smiley face on this break and do something different. I’ve held on, trying to post regularly through the summer and as a consequence, have noticed an uptick in legitimate readers (Hello buysexforcheap!). It helps that so many other bloggers have taken a break. My blog has been remaindered with a black tick mark on the spine. I guess I’ll read that one, at least it’s cheap.

At this point, my blog’s ever-shifting, ever-questionable numbers put subscribers at around 8,600. At least 137 of those are legit readers who would love to see what other blogs are out there.

In order to not let this space go to waste for the month of August, let’s introduce ourselves. Every week, I’ll post a list of blogs for you to check out. Here’s how to get introduced:

  • Use this comment section or my Contact page by August 10th. Send or comment with a summary paragraph of what you or your blog are about, along with a list of 1-3 posts you’ve written that you think would best introduce you to readers. I’ll include links in the final post.
  • Since this is still my little piece of real estate on the internet, I retain subjective editorial control. Blogs for the sole purpose of promoting products, hate speech or anything that I’d be embarrassed to be seen with at a party, will likely not be introduced.
  • Introduction posts will be published on Wednesdays throughout the month of August.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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Road Rage with Marcus Aurelius

canstockphoto20499175She came through the parking lot at high speed, cutting me off and pulling in front of me at the drive-up ATM. The only lessons I have faithfully adhered to through all my driving years is that you go slowly in parking lots and assume everyone else is a bad driver. She was the not-so-hypothetical reason for both rules.

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book II, 1, trans. Staniforth

The sun baked me at 90° F, magnified to 140°F through the front windshield. Even with the air conditioning on, I felt like breathing was an effort. My stomach growled, as it was getting closer to lunchtime. I watched as she conducted transactions with not one, but three debit cards. I was beginning to sweat. The air conditioning wasn’t able to fend off the burning rays. I shut it off and opened all the windows.

She pulled away from the machine, but stopped 15 feet up from the ATM. She was on her cell phone. I finished my transaction and realized that I would have to squeeze through at an angle to leave. Hot, hungry, frustrated, I navigated around her car and then yelled “You could have parked your ass in a better place!” And pulled out of the parking lot.

canstockphoto2020697While I am often a mutterer, grumbler and cusser in the car, I am not a yell-out-of-the-open-window kind of person. What people call “Minnesota Nice” here, is really Minnesota Passive Aggression. Anger is kept under wraps unless you’re a yahoo with no class. Which, apparently, is now me.

I felt immediately ashamed of my out-of-control raging. This is not the person I want to be. I often joke that I become someone entirely different when behind the wheel. It didn’t seem that funny now. I’ve been in checkout lanes with angry people, I’ve heard the muttering and cussing and surly undertones used in post offices and restaurants. I’d think give it a rest, it’s just blah, blah, blah. And wow, they need some anger management lessons. Yes, Hypocrites R Me.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book VIII, 47, trans. Staniforth

When I tell stories like this, people always say “you’re being too hard on yourself”. I assume that they’re being magnanimous because they’ve done things equally awful or worse. Perhaps, in the scheme of things, this is a minor incident, but I’ve been thinking about the roots of violence and aggression a lot lately.

canstockphoto1604923Our knee-jerk response is to beat our drums about mental illness and guns and racism and misogyny. When stories like the latest shootings at a theater in Louisiana and the military base in Tennessee hit the media, the response is predictable and ultimately, empty. Throw out something about the 2nd amendment, about the mental health crisis in our country, maybe the word terrorist. Next.

For a long time, I wondered if violence is endemic to human nature, despairing that the problem was too complex to ever find a single concrete solution. Because that is what we really want. We want there to be a magic reason for violence that would only require a quest, some passion, a petition, and maybe a few hashtags to solve the problem.

Sometimes I think about the steps between thought and action. Every premeditated act of violence begins with a single thought.

What is that thought? Was it a niggling sense of entitlement or anger at injustice? Was it a minor incident that snowballed in the person’s mind? And when did it progress – online in an open forum? At work with acts of petty vandalism? Did this person find people along the way who agreed with the lesser points, supported the jokes about killing ’em all? Laughed about blood and guts in some sort of adolescent gaming exchange?

Put from you the belief that ‘I have been wronged’, and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book IV, 7, trans. Staniforth

Or was it the media and entertainment, where killing and crime scenes hook our morbid fascination? Was it the collapse of a relationship? Or financial distress? Was it that the only kind of attention people seem to get is not the kind they really need? The murderers who get dissected by armchair psychologists and talking heads, a punditry that melds both ignorance and verbal abilities?

It’s too much to parse. We continue warily into the world. But I can’t shake the idea that violence and aggression have roots, even if just a tenuous thread between thought and action. Or in my case, words and action. I was aggressive and angry towards a stranger.  I did not know her story. I did not know her burdens or her joys. Maybe my action was a last straw for her. Maybe my aggression only fed hers. Maybe it will be something bigger than I can imagine.

canstockphoto18256337My evening walks don’t always entail philosophical meanderings. Sometimes I just spend the whole walk thinking “Ow, my knee hurts. What just popped? Do I look as hot and sweaty as I feel?” Last night, though, I thought about my own seeds of violence and aggression. How easily I fertilized those thoughts at the ATM. It took only a few uncomfortable circumstances, heat and hunger and impatience, before I acted upon them. Do I only differ from a murderer by where I am on the continuum of aggression and violence?

Try to see, before it is too late, that you have within you something higher and more godlike than mere instincts which move your emotions and twitch you like a puppet. Which of these is it, then, that is clouding my understanding of this moment? Fear, jealousy, lust, or some other?

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book XII, 19, trans. Staniforth

Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book V, 16, trans. Staniforth

Choose the seed. Choose the habit. Choose the kind of world I perpetuate. I have some work to do.canstockphoto4439665

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Walking through Storyland

canstockphoto15817518The most irritating writing advice for me is write what you know. Once I’ve written that paragraph, I sink into a morass of self-pity and caffeine. I wrote about finding narrative on vacation. Sometimes a change of scenery is the jolt needed to wake a person up from the glazed coma of being in one place for too long. Upon return, things look a little different.

Last night, I took a stroll around my neighborhood. With the latest addition of a grocery store, my neighborhood is like one of those preformed children’s city sets. I had a moment when I realized how lucky I was to live here, about two seconds before writer’s angst kicked in – could I create from such a comfortable and comforting kind of life? But wait! There’s more.

Welcome to the calm seas of a suburban life rendered into the turgid waters of human existence. Let’s take a walk.

I live in a neighborhood built in the 1950s, each little ranch home a duplicate of the one next door. Except that these houses have stories. Our neighbors on one side have home schooled their six children and the driveway is chock full of cars, as each child gains a driver’s license. Years ago, the husband got booted for smacking his wife. He’s back, contrite and polite. I watch for signs that he’s actually learned his lesson.

canstockphoto15722695The children all turned out a bit weird. One walks the dog sullenly, barely making eye contact when I say hello. The youngest has grown his hair as long as my daughter has had hers cut short. The next youngest used to follow me about the yard asking me if I was a Christian and telling me that the raspberries I picked were “God’s juice boxes”. I’m hoping the kid that keeps showing up on the weekend in camouflage is part of a well-regulated militia. And while they sound like a version of creepy Quiverfulls, they’re pretty good neighbors who don’t spray their lawn with chemicals. We share weeds.

The house that sits on the curve was thankfully bought after a brief time as a rental property. It worried us. They had pit bulls that occasionally got loose and the Sheriff showed up once a week to follow up on warrants for the son, an ex-con who was still dealing drugs. Cars would pull up at all hours of the night.

canstockphoto28260950I walk around the high school near us and pass a house where a couple of years ago, a man holed himself up with his shotgun and girlfriend. Eventually he surrendered, but we listened to the choppers all day.

John’s house is on the right. He is a veteran of the Korean war and following a valve replacement, would walk every night down our street. When I saw him coming, I put down my gardening tools and met him halfway. He’d lived here since the beginning and always had a new story. He has Parkinson’s now and I sometimes catch glimpses of him in the evening, slowly walking to his mailbox.

As I walk a few blocks away to the city park, I feel a moment of silliness. I’m in Lego Land. There’s city hall, the police station, the firehouse, the public pool. I think whimsical thoughts about how, if like Lego people, we could all turn our plastic hair backwards, everyone would look like Donald Trump.

There’s a gangly boy using the skateboard park. I always fear that I’ll be witness to a noggin being cracked open every time I pass the park. This kid’s not wearing a helmet and seems light on skills. My pace quickens.

At the outdoor amphitheater, they’re in rehearsal for “Oliver”.  A woman is warning them that four days is a long time without practice and that they need to keep at it. My daughter, years ago, took a summer acting class at this theater. They made the kids wear stage-worthy makeup which smeared in the August heat. She was morphed into a melty butterfly whose lack of interest in stage direction was only eclipsed by this summer’s soccer apathy.

Behind the firehouse, the police and firefighters are having a family picnic. The officer I talked to that morning is there. Two police cars and a fire engine had pulled up in front of our house before 7 a.m. I could see up and down the street, people looking out windows, strolling to the end of their driveways. Hovering at the edges with the odd, wary politeness of midwesterners. I watched officers break into the home across the street.

I used to joke that the guy was either a unabomber or that bodies would be found stacked like Jenga blocks in his basement. It seemed like he waited until no one was outside before getting his mail and his windows were always covered. After having a child, I decided that this was too weird. I started waiting for him to get his mail. And then I’d go out to check mine and greet him with a loud “hello” and big, fake smile. Who’s scary now?

It turned out to be a natural gas leak and he’d moved out a while ago and was just renovating his elderly father’s place, in order to put it on the market. Nothing exploded and no bodies were discovered.

canstockphoto2595648I was glad to see the officers and firefighters at a happy event. They deserve it. Earlier this year, after two new officers were sworn in at city hall, a man entered the building and fired on them, hitting the new hires. They survived. The shooter did not. One of the worst first days on the job ever.

Behind the pool there are tennis courts. A young woman is teaching tennis to a group of elementary kids. Only one parent stays. He watches as her tennis skirt sways and flutters upward during a demonstration for the kids. I slow down as I walk past him, making him unconsciously lean left and right to keep his view. Sometimes I can be a jerk.

One and a half miles of the human experience. Subject to a thousand interpretations, waiting for a writer to take hold and grapple with the stories on paper. To say we don’t know what to write has as much veracity in my ears as my kid saying I’m bored during the summer. My response is the same: Go for a walk.canstockphoto7444328

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