Here we are, smack in the middle of the holiday season, and I’m waffling on how much good cheer I plan to spread. Too much will spread me too thin, and too little will make me feel crusty and crotchety. I’ve already told my kids that I don’t feel like buying a tree this year. “Jeez, mom, why not just cancel Christmas?” my daughter said.
See? There’s pressure everywhere to be jolly and generous, to shine brightly, to bake and shop and make polite chitchat. It’s the time of year for white elephants—the kind that come in wrapping paper or as 2-ton grievances that crush the joy out of family gatherings.
Vince Reidsma started out as just my friend Martha’s dad, the guy who kept the pool clean so we could swim all summer. Later, when I was in my teens, he was the guy from church who spent a lot of time talking to my parents as their marriage was unraveling. More than 30 years later, as one of my mom’s best friends, he has re-entered my life wearing a new hat: seasoned writer.
This poem was written by my friend Vince Reidsma, who has been penning rhymes for the Holland Sentinel every week for 27 years!
It was my first time facing a group of millennials and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was serving as a panelist at the Indiana University Media School Career Day. As an alumna with a journalism degree from IU, I was there to talk about writing careers.
How would I relate to a generation steeped in technology and global influences when my college memories included snail mail, interviews conducted on landlines, an electric typewriter, and learning to “burn” and “dodge” photos in a darkroom?
I was lying face down in a dimly lit room, listening to the sounds of a harpsichord or sitar or something equally soothing, willing myself to be soothed. I’d been looking forward to this massage all week. I’d finally convinced myself that I deserved it and that I would not, under any circumstances, regret the expense. It wasn’t regret that followed me into the room, but a sticky cloud of anxiety.
Why did I drink coffee before my appointment? And why, why, why did I get on Facebook? I should have known better than to start my day wading through negative stories.
I’ve mentioned before that I work with a coach. Recently he had me take a “needs assessment.” I thought it might be like one of those quizzes in Cosmopolitan magazine, revealing that I need to buy more silky blouses, or light a scented candle. Or maybe it would be similar to a “love languages” test and tell me what I already know, that I need a lot of hugs.
I was surprised to learn that my number one need is for PEACE.
When my daughter was in fourth grade, she sang a solo in her school’s production of Schoolhouse Rock. I was sitting in the auditorium behind two men. A few bars into her rendition of “Elbow Room,” one turned to the other and said,”I’m guessing this ain’t her first rodeo.”
Of course, I was thrilled to hear this compliment and it was all I could do to keep myself from tapping the guy on the shoulder and gushing about how she takes voice lessons and dreams of being a stage performer.
It all begins with some stinky, stained carpet.
After years of living with an elderly dog and then a puppy, the carpet in my small sunroom is trashed. This is the room where I write, and the smell is distracting. (For the record, nearly anything has the power to distract me from writing, but still…) Something has to be done.
So I go to Home Depot to price carpet, then come home and start dragging furniture out of my daughter’s room. That makes sense, right?
The title of my first book, ‘Hello Loved Ones,’ comes from an “endearment “ used casually by the father of the narrator when he comes home drunk after long unexplained absences. He tosses these words at his children, who are starved for his attention, before leaving them. The novel looks at the importance of love in action and questions whether love is determined by blood or by choice.
My suitcase was open on the bed, half full. My best friend was in the room with me, telling me to stop packing. I wanted her to shut up. I was becoming angry, and it was that particular anger that comes when someone tells you something you already know.
We were both juniors at Indiana University and I was soon to catch a flight for London to do a semester abroad. It was my dream, I’d lined up a program, and I had the student loan to pay for it.