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Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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  • Tuesday, December 10, 2019 11:34 PM
    My husband, Peter, and I are spending a month in Spain and we have left our worries behind. As a result, we have had to come up with new, temporary worries to occupy us until we get back home.
    Peter ran out of lotion and for several days used something he found in the house which turned out to be soap. (“I wondered why it wasn’t soaking in!” Peter said.) He doesn’t like my lotion (“axle grease!” Peter complains) so he ventured out yesterday to buy some more. He came home with some lotion in a metal tin and immediately began worrying if this container would travel well.
    “I don’t want grease leaking all over my luggage!” Peter worried.
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  • Wednesday, November 27, 2019 12:14 AM
    First, I noticed the owl. 
    “Peter! Did you see the owl?!” 
    Our last Airbnb in Spain had a ceramic owl. So, when I found a similar owl—in a similarly inconvenient location—I took it as a good omen.
    “What owl?” my husband, Peter, said.
    Then I found four more owls, bringing our tally up to five. 
    “Five owls! Now I know this is going to be a good trip!”
    “Huh,” Peter agreed. (Sometimes Peter’s not as effusive as I am.)
    We are staying in Frigiliana, a small town in the south of Spain. The rent was suspiciously cheap, but the reviews were all good except to say that the house was on a road with stairs. There is a good reason for this: the town predates wheels. Roads with stairs work perfectly fine if you don’t drive on them. 
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  • Friday, November 22, 2019 4:00 AM
    When my husband, Peter, and I met, we each had a dog. 
    Peter had a collie named “The Pretty Boy,” (Yes, “The” was part of his name) and I had a pound puppy, part golden retriever, part border collie mix named “Milo.” The Pretty Boy died shortly before we were married, about five years ago, and Milo died just over a year ago. 
    We talk about getting a new dog, of course, but all the good reasons not to have a dog prevail. Extended travel—actually travel of any kind—is enormously complicated with a dog. So, for a year now, Peter and I have stuck to our guns and only for a moment here and there been seriously tempted. But this doesn’t mean we have stopped loving dogs. 
    I see dogs every day and I no longer even hesitate to interrupt some poor person’s walk to talk to their dog. I talk to the dog and the dog lets me know if it is shy or finds me a little tedious or would prefer to keep walking or, in some cases, is really excited to meet me. 
    Being less focused on my own dog and more aware of other dogs has given me a new appreciation for all the breeds of dogs I never noticed before. In the great universe of dogs, I no longer play favorites. And I think this is a good thing because, the more dogs I meet, the less difference I see between dogs and people. 
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  • Thursday, November 14, 2019 4:00 AM
    Peter and I are packing for our annual trip again. 
    My husband, Peter, is retired and I write, so we are able to travel now. Getting married late in life, this might have posed some problems because Peter is exactly the opposite sort of traveler I used to be.
    “I’m packing two separate bags—one for Spain and one for on the way there,” Peter informs me. “This will mean some duplication, but it will simplify things when it’s time to fly!” Peter is obviously pleased with himself. 
    I used to take pride in traveling light. I fit all my clothes and everything I needed in a small backpack or a carry-on suitcase and hit the road with little idea of where I was going. This was a lot of fun and I had some fine adventures. Then I met Peter. 
    “Should we bring the paella pan?” Peter asks. We bought the pan in Spain. We are going to Spain.
    “I think they’ll probably have one,” I say, knowing that (if they do not) Peter will insist on adding a paella pan to the list of things we bring overseas every year.
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  • Wednesday, October 30, 2019 4:00 AM
    My parents live in a cabin deep in the north woods. I know this sounds like the start of a fairytale. Sometimes it seems a bit like one. 
    There are bear in the woods. Deer run in herds. The seasons are far more pronounced and extreme than those I am used to. After a day of glorious autumn sunshine on my bare arms, I woke in the middle of the night and saw, in the moonlight, that snow had covered the ground, turning the green grass white.
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  • Wednesday, October 23, 2019 1:14 AM
    Peter was up before anyone else—as he often is. 
    My husband, Peter, gets up early in order to have enough time to brood before busybodies like me expect him to engage in cheerful conversation. But this morning we were staying at my parents’ cabin and there was a glitch in the plans. The coffee jar was empty. 
    Obviously, a person can’t brood without coffee. Peter quietly opened one cupboard after another. No coffee. My parents are great planners so there was no chance they were out of coffee, but where they might be keeping it—that was another issue. 
    Peter stealthily crept around the kitchen opening one cupboard after another until finally, far in the back of an upper cupboard, Peter found a bag of coffee.
    “Bingo!” Peter said (silently, of course.)
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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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