Eulogy for a pet fish

Mixed media of the "butterfly effect" by Kentucky artist Sharmon Davidson

Blueberry died today.

He swam around a bowl. He ate little flakes of god knows what. He was complacent when we poured him temporarily into a measuring cup so we could change the water, which – to be honest – wasn’t all that often.

He lived extraordinarily long for a betta fish – a year and a half.

One day he was very lethargic and hovered near the bottom. We thought he was a goner, but he stirred when I shook the bowl. Still, Lily would not let me make fish cakes for dinner that night as I had planned.

In poor taste, she thought.

That was a week ago. Continue reading

All good things to those who see them

Lily, 6 months. Me, 24.

Do we meet people, see things, hear songs, start jobs, take chances – the right people, things, songs, jobs, chances – at the times we need to meet, see, hear, start, take them? Or, rather, are there times when we are more open to such experiences – more aware of the good that comes our way?

There was a morning this past summer when I sat in the sunshine at the City Center Starbucks, gazing at the blue sky and the downtown Presbyterian church, watching people, writing, and relishing the breeze. I’d been at a breakfast meeting at a friend’s office and was in no rush to get back to my own. Something about that morning sticks with me. It was unseasonably cool. I was unusually unhurried. I don’t know.

When you are in the right place, you know it. Even if there’s not much to talk about beyond your own good mood.

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The Best Question

Tonight at dinner Lily asked, “Mama, what is your favorite question?”

Well, quite possibly the one you just asked me, I thought, setting down my drink.

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“You know, like, ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ or ‘how.”

Oh. Gotcha.

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Yes Day!

Shelby Bottoms: skipping / throwing rocks in the Cumberland

Today, we had Yes Day.

We did not plan Yes Day. It just sorta happened.

Our group had decided around a fire pit Saturday night that Sunday would call for giant hamburgers, so around noon on Sunday six of us headed from my house in Franklin to the new Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden in East Nashville.

Thirty-minute wait? No problem.

It’s January in Tennessee! With highs in the 60s, we let the two little girls with us – my Lily, 10; and Ryely, newly 9 – run around the back yard of the place.

We had a hard time figuring out what to order, what with 4,000 possible toppings (curry catsup, stroganoff bechamel, wasabi aioli) and an entirely separate menu for homemade fountain drinks, or “phosphates” with names like Kentucky Mint and The Ricky (which happens to be Matt’s alter ego when he is playing cards, which is why he ordered it). So we pretty much said YES to everything, sharing each others’ dripping, ridiculous burgers, tater tots, dipping sauces, sugary drinks…

Maybe it was Matt’s wife, Alicon, who was the first reckless yes. Even after we told the little girls, “No ice cream before lunch,” she ordered a chocolate shake and slurped it down pretty much before her veggie burger hit the table. Continue reading

She Takes the Road Less Traveled By

Lily was concerned she’d get a bad grade on her writing assignment because, as she put it, “I didn’t do it the same way as everybody else”.

A couple years ago, she turned in a social studies project that was radically different from the other kids’, and rather than praise her creativity, her teacher knocked off a few points for not following rules.

I’m glad she is the sort of kid who can put perspective to a sucker punch.

She turned in her “different” take on the latest assignment, and this year’s teacher praised it as being “a very creative way of writing the story.” Exclamation point. Smiley face.

Lily was excited for me to read her story about the Underground Railroad, which she told from three different characters traveling via a time machine. While I was impressed with her choice of narrative technique, I was truly moved by her willingness to go with it regardless of what kind of grade she might get.

I love this line, from the perspective of someone helping the escaping slaves: “I had never felt genuinely risky. Twists and turns, I loved this feeling. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. I felt fearless. I wouldn’t get caught. I just knew I wouldn’t.”

That’s my girl.

I asked her to help me write about bravery. Continue reading

The Sweetest Little Moments from 2011

Keeneland; Lexington, Ky.

In no particular order, though I numbered them just to make it easier to read – here are some sweet little moments from my 2011. I think when you’re having a great time, every little bit of it sparkles.

1. Lily in the Heathrow airport: It is a complicated airport and we were racing to catch our connection to Bangalore, India, and we had to ride a shuttle, a train, and pass through several security clearances. Just getting to this point had been a bureaucratic nightmare, and I think my mother and I had our doubts we’d ever get to India. My daughter Lily, 9 at the time, never waivered. My favorite moment is standing on a shuttle, feeling a certain peace at our lack of control over the situation. I looked at Lily and she said very calmly, “We’ll make it.” I thought for the first of many times on that trip – Damn, she is so grown-up.

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