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Friday, October 18, 2019
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  • Wednesday, October 16, 2019 4:00 AM
    I told my husband, Peter, that our marriage was like stew—and that’s a good thing. 
    This is a second marriage for both Peter and me. We were both married for a long time and then divorced for quite a while. We dated other people and realized how tricky the whole process of finding a new partner was, after habits had been set and preferences settled. 
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  • Wednesday, October 9, 2019 4:00 AM
    They say that blessings come in disguise. 
    If so, my blessings are poorly disguised. They show up wearing false noses and funny eyeglasses and are instantly recognizable unless I am being completely thick-headed—and it is astonishing how often I am. 
    I had a really bad year a few years back when I lost my husband and my job and my home in rapid succession. All of this happened while I was living in Nigeria (which was not great to begin with). I realized immediately that this was very bad news. But I also figured out, pretty early on, that I had been given an opportunity to start my life from scratch. Nearly every day since I hear of someone else who has overcome tragedy, a dreadful illness, a setback, or disappointment in their life and found new meaning and purpose as a direct result of their terrible experience. 
    Somehow, it is almost harder to live with unexpected good news. “What the heck?” I say. “I wasn’t expecting this!” 
    Part of the challenge of navigating changes at mid-life is that they don’t seem to follow any sensible trajectory. When I was in my twenties, things seemed to move slowly, but in an expected way. Thirty-plus years later, my life hopscotches from one thing to the next in a way that can be disorienting. 
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  • Wednesday, September 11, 2019 4:42 AM
    The surprises just kept coming. 
    When I moved in with Peter a few years back, I brought my clothes, a few books, and some artwork. I rented out my house, gave away my furniture, and everything else was consigned to “things I’ll deal with later,” a pile which—mysteriously—did not shrink with time. These stacked plastic boxes were still in my barn, still waiting for me, long after I’d forgotten what was in them or cared. 
    But I am going to put the property up for sale and it was time for a reckoning with the barn. It took two dumpsters, four days, and two hardworking guys from the appropriately named, “Git-er-Gone Junk & Clutter Removal,” to see it to the end. 
    And, yes, I did think, “Why not just dump it all, sight unseen?”
    But then, what to do with all the surprises found in the boxes of photos and letters and trinkets? Obviously, most of them would be thrown away, recycled, or given to the thrift store. But what about that piece of blown glass from Norway, the postcard from grandpa when he served overseas, the bright red wool jacket handsewn by my aunt that was still stylish. Anyone who’s done this knows—it’s not that easy. 
    So, I piled a few boxes in my car (“kicking the can down the road” Peter called it, “saving my sanity,” is how I described it) to sort through after everything else was out of the barn. 
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  • Wednesday, September 4, 2019 10:40 AM
    Nobody was using the old wren house.
    My grandfather built it. Grandpa started building birdhouses when he retired from milking cows and his second oldest son took over. That son, my mother’s brother, is now 87 and retired 20 years ago. It’s a pretty old birdhouse. 
    “My dad never built fancy birdhouses,” my mother explained. Grandpa put on a tarpaper roof and, if you needed to clean it out, you had to unscrew the back. But they were sweet little birdhouses, painted bright blue with a little perch outside the round door. I always assumed they were mostly for decoration. 
    My parents had one of grandpa’s birdhouses hanging outside their cabin for years and they got wondering, one day over coffee, why this perfectly serviceable house never got any use. (My parents do some of their best thinking over coffee.)
    “Well, there are a lot of trees with woodpecker holes in them,” my father offered. Maybe the wrens just didn’t need any additional housing. 
    “Maybe we’re putting it out too late,” my mother suggested. They put the birdhouse in the basement every winter and spent early spring in Florida. 
    So this year, just to be on the safe side, my parents left the birdhouse out all winter so it would be ready for the wrens first thing in the spring. But winter was hard on the old birdhouse and my father noticed the perch had fallen out. 
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  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019 4:00 AM
    It was my birthday recently.
    Those of you with summer birthdays know it’s a little different. In the middle of March, everyone says, “Wow! A birthday party!” You bring treats to school and everyone is happy for an excuse to celebrate. 
    It’s different for the summer kids. Everyone is already busy with vacations and visitors and then, somewhere in the middle of all that, someone says, “Oh! It’s Carrie’s birthday, isn’t it?” 
    My birthday was particularly unreliable because it fell when the plant where my father worked as an engineer shut down and he always took that time off. We loaded up our Studebaker or Hornet or Volvo and headed off to California or Wyoming or Canada, to visit aunts and uncles or go camping or, one memorable trip, go backpacking. 
    We’d drive for what I seem to remember were endless days, my sister and me in the backseat, my mom and dad and dog in the front. This seating arrangement held until my mom poured coffee and our dog, Boots, remembering the one-and-only time mom had spilled hot coffee on her, frantically jumped into the back seat until the lid was safely back on the thermos. This caused my mother fresh guilt every time she had a cup of coffee for every vacation for as long as Boots lived. Boots lived a long time. 
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  • Wednesday, August 14, 2019 4:00 AM
    I’m having fun singing. 
    I started singing lessons a few weeks ago. My teacher lives out of town, but every other week she teaches in her parents’ house—the house she grew up in—just a few minutes away. So, I drive to a little house in the suburbs, meet her parents’ two friendly little dogs, (“More people! So exciting!”) and take an hour-long voice lesson in my teacher’s childhood bedroom. 
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  • Tuesday, July 23, 2019 7:45 PM
    I’ve got a good friend, Ayo, who told me, “Don’t use your head to break a coconut.” 
    As I wrote about in my memoir, Blue Yarn, I lived in Lagos, Nigeria, for almost four years, and I met Ayo there. Ayo is a very smart woman and a voracious reader and she is full of good advice. Ayo is what they describe in Nigeria as “a serious person.” A serious person in Nigeria is one you can trust, someone who can be relied upon. 
    The advice Ayo generally gives, however, annoys me because it challenges the way I think. 
    “Have you considered going on YouTube?” Ayo asked me. My impression of YouTube video blogs (or “vlogs”) was that they were made by hyperactive young men with lots of tattoos. It annoyed me that Ayo thought I should do something so totally out of my comfort zone.
    She persisted. “People are hungry for distraction. Even your cat waving its tail will get viewers.”
    Now I was mildly insulted. She seemed to be implying I was almost as interesting as a cat’s behind. Plus, the whole idea scared the heck out of me. 
    But then I saw a vlog put up by a woman at least fifteen years older than me. She told a funny story about a marmot and I thought, “Wow. I could do that. That would actually be fun.” 
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  • Wednesday, July 17, 2019 4:00 AM
    Spring came late and so, appropriately, did the annual deep cleaning of the refrigerator. 
    A lot of stuff gets tucked into the refrigerator over the course of the winter. Obsolete condiments band together and take refuge deep in the corners. A thuggish-looking jar of jam wearing a cap of mold sidles up to an empty bottle of horseradish sauce and they both evade detection by skulking behind an oversized bag of sun-dried tomatoes. A stray stalk of celery becomes separated from the pack and is left alone to mummify. Unnoticed spills of unidentified liquids petrify into sticky footprints. 
    The whole refrigerator had begun to resemble some archeological site with mysterious remnants of a past life that we could now only guess at. 
    In our house this is a double challenge because my husband, Peter, removed the dishwasher from our small kitchen and replaced it with a second, smaller refrigerator. The little refrigerator is a lifesaver but it is not self-defrosting—something we have come to take for granted. Over the winter, the mini freezer of the auxiliary fridge had almost entirely filled with ice and we discovered it just before it triggered the next ice age. 
    So, on a sunny day, Peter and I tackled our respective duties. He was responsible for removing the glacier in the tiny fridge while I worked to identify the historical artifacts in the freezer of the main fridge. 
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  • Wednesday, July 10, 2019 1:34 AM
    My husband, Peter, decided to make friends with a raven. 
    We have a lot of ravens around our house. Ravens are smart birds and Peter did some research on them. They mate for life and can live to be seventeen years old in the wild. They learn to recognize people and will grow less afraid once they know someone. So, Peter decided he was going to leave small treats on the birdbath every day and let some raven couple get to know him. 
    At approximately the same time as Peter hatched his plan, we decided to replace one of our two pub chairs. But instead of setting it on the curb where it would have vanished like magic within twenty-four hours, Peter parked the old chair in front of the living room window and starting taking his morning coffee there, watching for ravens. 
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  • Wednesday, June 19, 2019 4:00 AM
    As long-time readers of The Postscript know, I do not delve into politics or current events. You might think this comes from a desire to find common ground with all my readers. You might think I am trying to bridge the divide in a time when there aren’t enough opportunities to examine the myriad of things we have in common. Or you might simply think I am a coward who wishes to avoid controversy. 
    You would all be wrong. I am simply too ill-informed to say anything intelligent about current events, certainly anything that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before. 
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  • Wednesday, June 12, 2019 7:58 AM
    My husband, Peter, and I just spent a couple of days staying with our scientist friends. 
    I’ve honestly never had scientist friends before, so there is a lot to learn. One of our scientist friends, Wolfgang, is responsible for filling the ice cube trays (which is my job at home) but seeing a scientist do it made me feel like a rank amateur. If there was competitive ice cube tray filling, Wolfgang would be in the elite ranking and I would not have made the preliminaries. 
    “What is he doing?” I whispered to Mary, Wolfgang’s scientist wife. 
    “He’s checking to see if the meniscus is even on all the cubes,” she told me. 
    I tried to look as if I understood. I failed. 
    “You know, the curvature of the water caused by surface tension.”
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  • Wednesday, June 5, 2019 2:02 PM
    My husband, Peter, is preparing for the End Times. 
    This might not be literally true, but it would certainly appear to be if you checked out the food supplies we have stashed away. Peter hates the fact that packages now contain less than they used to while the price continues to rise. He is infuriated when products substitute less quantity and quality and try to “get away with it.”
    “Whenever I find a product I like, they discontinue it or change it!” Peter laments. 
    I tell him he sounds like an old person. 
    Peter and I are getting to be old people—although we would never admit it. We met when we were both technically past “middle-age,” although I notice that “middle-age” seems to be a very elastic term. Not a lot of us are going to be around at 120, yet sixty still qualifies as “middle-age” to every sixty-year-old I know. 
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  • Wednesday, May 29, 2019 2:56 AM
    More than 10 years ago, I was living in Africa (Lagos, Nigeria, to be exact). My life was pretty much a shambles, but I refused to return to the U.S. 
    The reason I didn’t want to come back was because I could not for the life of me figure out what had happened. My husband of 22 years had left without warning. The company I was working my heart out for suddenly dumped me. I found myself in a foreign country (and a difficult one) with no job, no home, no husband, and the most incredible part about all of it—to me—was that I genuinely did not see any of it coming. 
    One day I came in from my run. I was living in yet another temporary apartment that I would have to vacate soon. I was doing freelance work to make enough money to get by (although I didn’t need a lot) and, on this day, I came in still covered in sweat and sat down at my computer. 
    I typed: People ask me what Lagos is like. I never tell them. It’s easier that way.
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  • Wednesday, May 22, 2019 9:31 PM
    I originally joined Facebook when a long-lost cousin sent me an invitation. 
    No one had heard from this cousin in ages when I got a note out of the blue. Facebook was relatively new then and I hadn’t considered joining. But I figured if I could reconnect with family I wouldn’t hear from otherwise, why not?
    Since then, I’ve become a writer, which means I sit by myself staring out the window for hours at a time. There are about 200 yards of sidewalk I watch most of the day like some sort of hypervigilant Neighborhood Watch. (Don’t even think about committing a crime on my 200 yards!) It gets a little lonely and Facebook has turned into my virtual watercooler. I imagine that my Facebook friends are distant officemates I can hang out with for a few minutes whenever I need a break, when no one has recently tried to commit a crime on the sidewalk, or I have run fresh out of ideas. 
    So, when I finally got a signed contract for my book, I was naturally very excited and did what a lot of us do when we are excited about anything—I posted it on Facebook. 
    It was wonderful getting congratulations from all parts of my life—friends from all over and distant family members. Everyone wished me well and joined in my celebration over this milestone accomplishment.
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  • Wednesday, May 8, 2019 2:51 AM
    I saw him just a moment too late, coming down the path. 
    I wasn’t expecting anyone to come down this section of the trail. No one ever did. At least I never saw anyone, which is why I was messing around with the pine cones.
    Okay, I better start at the top. 
    The whole thing started because there was a line of pinecones crossing the trail and it caught my attention. It was just few enough that it could have happened by chance. Did it? I stopped and looked at them. Then, just because I couldn’t help myself, I suppose, I straightened up the line. Then I added a few more until there was a perfect line of pinecones running across the trail. This pleased me probably more than I should admit. 
    The next day, the line was intact, but the day after that my line was all messed up. Was it deer? Were humans responsible? Now I was curious. So, I straightened out my line and made it a bit longer. It became my little thing. Okay, it became one of the many little things I do that I think of as harmless but a less charitable person might view as a latent compulsive disorder or early onset dementia. 
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