Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vacation, all I ever wanted

Big Wolf Lake family celebration, c. 1972

Have a great holiday--back after the 4th!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Raising Minnesota

I am no parenting expert. When my son was just a few weeks old I tried to cut his tender fingernails with one of those baby clippers. I nipped the ends of all ten digits--he barely cried--and when I brought him in for his well-baby check the doctor asked me about the ten little scabs at the tips of his fingers.

I don't feel very successful in the teen-raising department either and sometimes I say mean things and act inconsistent and run up to my room to sulk if things get really bad--just like the teens I'm trying to nurture.

But here's some advice I stand by, for anyone who has a kid in their life.

Take them out into the community, preferably with a group of other kids, and work with them helping others.

It's always been a good thing for our kids. They have served annually at Thanksgiving dinner parties at an assisted-living facility, have been part of a crew at Habitat for Humanity, have worked the kitchen lines at the Dorothy Day Center. They are better kids for it. They feel empathy, they feel pride, they feel a connection. My son recently said about one of these efforts, "We worked our butts off but it was fun."

One mother said to me recently, "My kid is driving me nuts. It seems it's my job to remind him the universe does not revolve around him."

I say, don't tell him. Show him.

And, if you don't normally have a chance being around a lot of teens other than your kid's small circle of friends, join one of these volunteer groups, too. It gives you some perspective. You get to see a bunch of kids at their best, perhaps. And they in turn get to see you in a new context. You reaching out to others; you out of their needy world and into another.

I chaperoned ten 13-year-olds to volunteer with the St. Paul Parks and Rec this morning and we planted native grasses in a rain garden at Lake Phalen. Last Thursday they loaded shrub and debris from the Salvation Army. Next week they'll befriend younger kids at the St. Paul Boys and Girls Club.

On the way back from the park we listened to the local hip-hop station. I had five boys in my little Vibe and they were in good moods after the morning work. An ad came on: "Want to have the plus-plus size you've always wanted? Those big, luscious breasts you've only envied on others? Then buy Latavia breast enhance--. . . " I said, "Someone turn the station, quick." It was stupid and offensive and for a second seemed to be a slap in the face to our good intentions, you know? But I could see all the boys pickled-up in the back, faces squeezed in near-hysteria and I knew they were trying hard not to fall into this one. One kid finally let out a huge laugh and the rest exploded. The tallest boy said, "This is hilarious. This is great stuff. Great stuff. I love volunteering."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Small Detours

Tuesday night. The hot spell has broken a bit. We just got back from River Falls, Wisconsin, where the St. Paul Midway 13-year-olds beat the hometown team 15 to 2. It wasn't all misery for the Wisconsin team. One of the River Falls pitchers had a killer curveball, which is quite amazing, considering he's only in middle school. Then one of their batters hit a nice line drive over our shortstop's head. He jumped up to catch it, Jeter style, but just missed. All the guys on our bench guffawed and one yelled out, "My mom could have caught that." And we moms all yelled out in false indignation, "Heeyy!" Then the kid said, "Okay, my grandma!" And an older woman in the crowd sat up straight and yelled out in real indignation, "Heeyy!"

On the way back, we stopped in at the packed Dairy Queen on Wisc 35 in Hudson. That's what you should do if you're looking for an easy night out. Go to this teen-filled DQ and get your favorite treat, then walk down to the St. Croix and watch all the pretty sailboats in the sunset. Inside the small Brazier shop, there were just as many teens working the counter as there were teens standing in line or lurking around the freezers. Whenever an order came up one of the young workers would hold it up for display and call out its name, and the kids hanging out would nod and praise the effort. It went like this: "Reese's Blizzard, small." "Dude, that is so good." "Kiddie butterscotch cone." "Ahh pysche, I love butterscotch."

It reminded me of the hotel restaurant I used to work at in Grand Forks. One of the other waitresses was as dizzy-headed as that one on the sitcom "Alice." When she had a four-top, we'd help her stack the hot breakfast plates on her skinny arms and she'd bring the food out to the table. She'd ask, "Eggs and Bacon?" and one person would claim it. Then "Pancakes and Sausage?" and another would claim it, then "Oatmeal and Toast?" and the third person would raise his hand. Finally she came to the last plate and she'd look at the plate and look at the last person and look at the plate and ask, "French Toast and Ham?" Killed us every time.

I got right to the tipping point today, trying to handle over 100 large image files from over 20 different sources. My computer kept freezing up and then my mouse broke, too. This is what I wrote my boss, with the subject line "My computer sucks": "My computer sucks so much that I can't manage all the files for this book, an ongoing problem for me and my big photo-heavy books. I'm thinking of taking up cigarette smoking again just so I have something to do for those 3-7 minutes it takes me to open each of these big scans."

I'm pretty sure living with two teenagers is having a small effect on me.

But then I was uplifted by some great book art at the Georgia Review, offered up by the smart new blog "Paper Cuts." You should really take a small detour from your reading right now and go see Thomas Allen's 3-D wonders!

Here's to slaying down Wednesday, the hardest day of the week. . . .

Image by Thomas Allen

Monday, June 25, 2007

That look, those eyes

Guilt? Terror? A full bladder?

In court, we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Except this guy, Par Ridder, new publisher of the Star Tribune, looks as guilty as Hugh Grant at the scene of his BMW pas de deux. Or as surprised as that buck we almost hit on old Highway 71, the one we all swerved for, the one with the look in his eyes that said, "You came close but you're not going to get me this time."

Star Tribune photo. Caption: "Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder leaves Ramsey County District Court Monday for a break after testimony in a lawsuit with owners of the Pioneer Press. Ridder acknowledged copying confidential financial documents from his Pioneer Press computer onto a portable computer drive and taking them to the Star Tribune."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Sunday

Finally we all took a day to play. Twice around Lake Como then a bit of people-watching as we eye the wedding parties near the pavilion; the overdressed groomsmen in their black tuxes drink beer and take pictures of each other near the waterfalls.

Out again to bike a few loops around Lake Nokomis and the scenes of the regatta there make me sentimental for Gopher rowing.

Daughter M. showed me all the cute tops she'd just purchased at Forever 21 and off she went in one for the "Sicko" premiere.

Son T. and friend Carlos have a sleepover at our house. I overheard this from Carlos: "I read about one way to get a girl. It was in a magazine. A men's magazine, you know." I move closer to the room with the pull-out bed, where they had sprawled with Pepsis and popcorn. "I read that If you want to get a girl flowers you just go over to a funeral home and get a bunch for free. They just give them away for free after the funeral is over." Son T. said, "That's sick," and Carlos was quick to say, "I know! Who would do that?"

It is a lovely weekend and I think none of us has to try too hard for a moment. Here we are: the new teen, trying to forge a new independence; the new adult, trying to establish her way in the world; and these two parents, old lovers, trying to get in synch with each other despite all the demands. Communication among us four--our modern American family--is intermittent and spontaneous. It feels a lot easier than we might predict, on these weekends when we can finally just be together.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Under the covers, just me and my Capn

From a British woman, posting on an American tourism website:


Right - I've searched but I can't find the answer!

Back at the start of the year I was over in America working. During this time I found a breakfast cereal which I quite liked, but I can't find it in the UK.

I can't remember what it was called in the US.

The only thing I can remember about them was that they looked like little parcels, they were not covered in anything and I can't remember what they were made of either, so I'm really clutching at straws! Anybody help me out?”


So once I got over the blues last night, the blues from working too long, the blues from hearing sad news of a young death—a former classmate of my daughter’s, the blues from picking?/receiving? a fight with my hubbie, I capped off my evening with a bowling ball-sized bowl of Capn Crunch with milk.

Yup, haven’t eaten that cereal for awhile but it made that last half hour of wake time a crunchy delight. I know. It’s packed with sugar and over-processed flour and preservatives and costs a whopping $4.25 a box at the local grocery.

Ahh, but I put on my favorite sleeping tee-shirt (the Nike All-Star Game East v. West), set the Big Bowl on my knees, and watched the rerun of this week’s Top Chef. I crunched right through Padma’s sorry-ass commentary at the judge’s table, which is no big deal because who can understand her marble-filled mouthings anyway? I skipped down the stairs to add a cup more of the Capn to my leftover, now slightly orange milk. My teeth were gummy from the sweet milk and soggy parcels. I didn’t brush them. I didn’t care. The day was long enough. Let my teeth rot in the moonlight if they wanted; this was my little act of defiance.

It was a very long night

last night and not just because of the solstice.

Working Late
by Louis Simpson

A light is on in my father's study.
"Still up?" he says, and we are silent,
looking at the harbor lights,
listening to the surf
and the creak of coconut boughs.

He is working late on cases.
No impassioned speech! He argues from evidence,
actually pacing out and measuring,
while the fans revolving on the ceiling
winnow the true from the false.

Once he passed a brass curtain rod
through a head made out of plaster
and showed the jury the angle of fire--
where the murderer must have stood.
For years, all through my childhood,
if I opened a closet . . . bang!
There would be the dead man's head
with a black hole in the forehead.

All the arguing in the world
will not stay the moon.
She has come all the way from Russia
to gaze for a while in a mango tree
and light the wall of a veranda,
before resuming her interrupted journey
beyond the harbor and the lighthouse
at Port Royal, turning away
from land to the open sea.

Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this,
she is still the mother of us all.
I can see the drifting offshore lights,
black posts where the pelicans brood.

And the light that used to shine
at night in my father's study
now shines as late in mine.

From Collected Poems by Louis Simpson, published by Paragon House, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by Louis Simpson. All rights reserved. (Originally published in Caviare at the Funeral, Franklin Watts, 1980.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It Really Is Summer

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who needs Manhattan when you've got St. Paul?

Do you know what local guy Garrison Keillor had for dinner last Saturday night?

(click to enlarge)Yep, this seven-course celebration was designed by Mario Batali for the great Jim Harrison's entry into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

You know what we had for dinner, our first big summer grill-out?

Hamburgers with mayo and onion and mango salsa
black beans and rice with
grilled tortillas
sliced avocados
grilled corn on the cob from the Farmers Market, 12 ears
My special rhubarb cream cake, in honor of the Dad

And you know what? Not only was our fete tasty, we actually had some women around our table.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Twins Territory: Where the Fans Are More Entertaining than the Team

(Photo by Wendy Freshman, MHS)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lot o' Dad

Whether you're sharing the love with one or hanging loose with the other, they both know they're lucky to have you in their lives. Hope you had a happy Dad's Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

We are all wallflowers

Some of my friends hate large parties with all that networking and mingling--and in many ways that's what a professional conference is all about. And you sometimes feel like you're back in junior high, lined up against the wall, silently tapping the beat with your thumbs in your pockets. But then you get the chance to:
*Have free Summit beers at receptions sponsored by the New York Review of Books and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
*See old pals like Juliliquoy and Elbee and also Judy. Thanks Julie for flying in!
*Hear people tackle problems and come up with solutions to the same grind you face every day.
*Gossip and unwind over late-night BLTs at Whitey's in Northeast.

At the beginning of the reception at the top of the Guthrie last night, one of my colleagues dropped her drink. The crash was loud and obvious and the facility crew who came in pulling those big yellow mop tubs attracted a lot of attention in that sea of black-clad partygoers. That and the startling crash of glass against marble floors.

Another of my colleagues sympathized and told about the night at a book reading when she tripped on the carpet and fell, spilling herself and her glass of wine in front of all the attendees.

So I shared my story--and I've heard this is a female thing, all of us sharing our like-type stories as a way of listening and empathizing; some say men would just see or hear about the faux pas and say, "Yeah, that sucks." Mine wasn't at a book event but rather at the local bank. My son, who was then five, and I brought in his giant glass pickle jar of pennies to cash in at the teller. And just as I walked into the lobby that busy Saturday morning, I dropped the entire thing. It was just three weeks after 9/11 and every one of the bank employees hit the floor with a look of panic. My son was so embarrassed he just crouched alone out in the vestibule until I had gathered up all the glass and copper coins.

The gig at the Guthrie was not one of those "I could have danced all night" nights, but rather a nice gathering of like-minded souls who are willing to put on their favorite shoes and sport jackets and black dresses and meet and greet strangers and friends alike.

And not a single one of us talked about reality tv tonight, unless you count the Twins.

While I was away I had a message from the family that the kid hit 3 for 3 with two singles and a double in the Minndakota Classic Tourney, and when I walked in the door 14 hours later from the time I left this morning, he's got his report card propped up against the wildflowers on the dining room table. And I think maybe that is the best part of this long professional day; I get to be in that world and still come home to a loving family who leaves out a little something as a good night wish: a note by the phone--"Hope you had a nice day"--and the last Special K bar, just for me.

Wallflower, 2004
Oil & Pastel on Canvas
by Allison Hill

Thursday, June 14, 2007

American Association of University . . . blah, blah, blah

Another weekend, another conference. After my friend Jim Rogers attended this same conference some years ago he told me the crowd was the bloodiest boringest group of navel-gazers he had ever tried to party with. Or something like that.

So here we are at the Newcomer's Reception and I've agreed to be a mentor, or newcomer greeter, so I'm trekking around with our smart new intern with the new PhD in American Studies, greeting people, blah, blah, and I tell him about a sister press that might be a perfect place for him to look for a job come this fall. I introduce him to an acquisitions editor from there and that editor tells the intern they really don't hire people with PhDs because usually they're the kind of people who have no idea what to do when they get out of grad school so they fall into publishing.

Then we're at the plenary address dinner--of course, they're serving chicken--and there is more posturing and people looking at each other's chests where the nametags fall and someone from Florida yells out, "Hey this hotel doesn't have Bravo. Did anyone see Top Chef last night?"

Alrighty, then. New friends. Now we're talking.

It reminded me of how my daughter, who knows my stern or ticked-off'ed looks all so well, will try to catch me up with a warm comment or a hilarious story just to see my tense face break out in a smile.

(said daughter hamming it up!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Dad, as a boy in Racine, Wisconsin

When my son was about this same age we had, it seemed, all the neighbor boys over all the time. In and out of the house, swords and rocks and slingshots littering the lawn, our small dining room filled with noise and elbows and smeared pizza. Sometimes I'd say to my husband, "Won't they ever go home?"

My dad loved coming to visit with all this racket and ruckus. Once we were all outside and one kid, a really handsome 9-year-old--he looks like a young George Clooney, I kid you not--was sitting very quietly on our stoop. Dad knew about the kid's parents.

He said, "J. what are you doin' sitting there by yourself?" My dad is not subtle.


"I heard your folks got divorced," my dad said and sat down on the cement stairs beside the kid.


"I know what that's like. My folks divorced, too, when I was a kid."

"Yeah?" says J., and he finally looks over at my dad.

"Yeah. It's kinda hard, huh?" says my dad.

"Yeah," J. said. Then he got up and ran out to our backyard, looking relieved to be playing with the gang again.


My dad's graduation picture, 1954?

My dad and I butt heads a lot. He is not patient. He is loud. He'd rather do than teach. If I take a different road home and he's in the car, he'll look over at me all agitated and say, "Why are you taking this way home?" When I tell him because it's a prettier route or a less-crowded street, he just looks forward at the road and tells me, "But it's not any faster."

Some time back I flew out to San Diego for the funeral of my cousin Jim, who was my age and was born with Down's Syndrome. He had lived at least four decades beyond his original life expectancy. My mom and dad were very attached to Jim, my dad especially.

I took a cab from the airport and just as it pulled up to my aunt's house my dad, who was then about 60 and had been out waiting for me, rushed out to the street, ready to pay the cabbie. But I jumped out to say, "I got it. Don't let him pay." This time my dad didn't give me the look but instead took my bag out of the trunk and brought it into the crowded house. He seemed really glad to see me.

Later that day my cousin Kane, who is a cop in L.A., said that as they got older men started to become androgynous, losing their testosterone and gaining too much estrogen. He said, "My dad is becoming a woman and your dad is wearing velcro shoes." My dad was wearing velcro shoes and elastic waist pants but he looked strong and helpful and ready to be in charge. He did all the right things those four days of our mourning. He didn't talk too loud or too long, didn't get bossy or pouty, made beef brisket and potato casserole for everyone at night, eggs and ham for everyone in the morning. My aunt had just divorced for the second time and not only was she crazy with grief for losing dear Jim, she was so furious at her ex. My dad didn't cringe with she called all men assholes or when my other aunt acted high-strung or flaky.

After the funeral, sitting together on the porch, one of the aunts pointed out that I had a broken finger just like my dad. He and I both opened our hands to the air to display our crooked ring fingers. We talked about the similarities among my mom and her two sisters: who had Papa Teubert's mouth (Aunt Suzie) and Grandma Nelly's eyes (Aunt Pat) and Grandma Teubert's nose (no one, thank God), and Aunt Sue said to me: "You look just like your dad."

"I know," I said, "I really do."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paradise Found

“If earth has a paradise," wrote Harriet Bishop of St. Paul, the city’s first schoolteacher, "it is here.”

80 degrees, sunny, breezy, coffee au laits on the porch, fresh picks from the Farmers Market, Flat Earth Element 115 beers at the Muddy Pig, two full days in the garden.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Life, no edits

My work as an editor involves a good deal of cut-and-pasting, lots of no-saying, and much weighing of what will stay and what will go. I do hell of a lot of tinkering.

Are editors control freaks? Yes. (And no; there is much work as well in letting go--"good-is-good-enough.") Editors have been called mothers, mentors, critics, talent-farmers, faith-confessors.

Some of us carry these roles into our personal lives. There's the stereotype of the editor as English teacher, correcting her family's grammar at the dinner table. There's the image of editor on vacation, reading one of the new summer beach books, meaning to relax, but making notes in red in the margins: "No one really talks like this," or "She would never have gone back to that motel."

There is real stress in making sure everything comes out right. Today I am checking the lyrics of Atmosphere and finding the death date of Walter Deubner and seeking the best way to illustrate the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. I'm rarely confident of my work in ensuring perfection--I am juggling all these elements at once, there is always one too many, and besides, I don't have great hand-eye coordination to begin with.

In A. Scott Berg's "Max Perkins: Editor of Genius" the work of a formidable editor in 1919 at Charles Scribner's Sons is described:

"William Crary Brownell, the editor-in-chief, white-bearded and walrus-mustached, had a brass spittoon and a leather couch in his office. Every afternoon he would read a newly submitted manuscript and then "sleep on it" for an hour. Afterward he would take a walk around the block, puffing a cigar, and by the time he had returned to his desk and spat, he was ready to announce his opinion of the book."

I'm working at home today and there is much to be said about this kitchen-table work. I don't have a spittoon or a leather couch but I can bring the sprinkler round to water the new basil and dill plants while I think about the next chapter. And I can slice up the German rye, spread it with butter, and eat it in the backyard while weighing a recent book proposal. The self-importance of the editorial eye seems to give way to a more lovingkindness here at home.


My husband and I have been in a slump, not as bad as in "American Beauty," say, but enough so that Wednesday we both came home from work and he fell asleep in the chair and I fell asleep flat on my face on our bed, still wearing my work clothes. We missed dinner--and the end-of-the-year school picnic. Why the slouching? Bills, deadlines, aging parents, agitated teen kids, old, faltering house, tired bodies, trying to make sure everything comes out right.

But we said no to a few demands last night and grilled brats over charcoal and shared a Guinness. We sat and talked and lit a candle and thought of new ways to pull ourselves back up.

And now today we have the lives of those we love surrounding us--the new and the old, fresh starts and sad endings--and we are blessed to be part of this circle of life:

*our newly emancipated 13-year-old, who after his last day of seventh grade had me drive around his school with the stereo blasting and all of his buddies crammed into the Vibe, car-dancing and singing to the beat;

*0ur neighbor friend who helped our son through elementary school--she'd wait for him each day so they could walk the two blocks to the bus together and often she'd hide behind the bushes to surprise him--has her high school graduation open house tonight;

*the father of my good friend Mary Kay passed away this week and I'll attend the visitation in Roseville this afernoon--I had the chance to meet this wonderful man a few years ago and you can learn a bit about him, too, in Don Boxmeyer's column today (;

*my daughter is planning a celebratory dinner tonight for her beau as they mark another year of friendship together;

*we'll gather over at Dunning Fields tonight with friends and family--just because it's Friday and we like each other--and make a picnic. Someone's bringing buns, someone's bringing beef, another is bringing cold pasta salad.

Life. There's no amount of editing that can bring the sources of life together any stronger, any truer, than they come together on their own.

Oh wee oh, yo-o-o ho!

First I lost my dog, then things just started to pitch around and I couldn't open the cellar door. I fell back and hit my head and had all kinds of crazy dreams . . . monkeys; witches; short, spineless, heartless men; some kickass shoes.

Man, it was windy here yesterday.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Open Roads

Got your fiery hot Cheetos ready? The new In-Fisherman? A pillow for your elbow and a CD of trip tunes?

Summer means Road Trip. Pack the car, check the map, fill the cooler, first to call shotgun probably has the front seat.

My husband always clicks the trip ticker on our odometer to track our mileage. I could care less. I make sure we have something salty and sweet in the car . . . well, besides each other. Beef Jerky and Dark Dove chocolates, how 'bout?

How far do we go before we lose Twin Cities' radio reception? The Twins games can barely be made out by the time we hit Motley. That's okay. Those baseball announcers never call out the score anyway.

We might not say the phrase "finally leaving this cement city!" but by the time we cross the Mississippi at Clearwater, or the rolling hills near Eau Claire, or the spread of Lake Pepin down Highway 61, we're thinking it.

If I could choose another job I would pick Anthony Bourdain's gig on the Travel Channel's "No Reservations." Or this guy's--the Frugal Traveler--at the NY Times. You can follow his travels this summer as he criss-crosses the big U.S. of A. Send him tips now if you've got 'em for Indiana, his next stop. Or throughout the summer when he calls out for your favorite state spots.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I am always late to many things popular and new in our culture: French manicures, podcasts, Heather McElhatton. It surprises me. I feel like our old Illinois bachelor friends, Harley and John, who at 70 and 80 had been sheltered from so much of the modern day. One of my husband's friends sat by the campfire they had all built on Harley and John's farm near Mount Carroll and the friend got smoke and ash in his eyes so he turned to the side a little and took out one of his contacts. John stopped in his tracks and stood transfixed. These things, what are these things you take out of your sockets? He had never seen a contact lens before.

So anyway I never knew what these things "tagged" and meme" meant but now I know. And Juliliquoy ( has tagged me. I'm not good at the pass-along unless it involves gardening, then I'd happily dig you up some chocolate mint or anise hyssop for your own plot, so I'll only fulfill half the requirement. And speaking of one-timers, I just saw the enchanting Irish movie "Once" at the Uptown and it gave me the idea to list for you these required 7 things, but only 7 things I've done once.

1. Once. Once I was a mean girl. I liked to think I was only reactionary mean; if people were rude and intolerant I let them have it. We'd go see "Billy Jack" at the moviehouse and then all of us girls would stand up from our seats and hold our fists up in the air during the movie credits, like the black sprinters at the 1968 Olympics. But there are some things I regret now.

A few of us lived near an old man who we thought was evil and misogynist. He never yelled at the town boys but it seemed whenever he'd come upon the pack of us budding girls walking down the alley, some of us smoking Camels, some of us wearing ragged bell bottoms, he'd tell us to go home, clean up, and stay out of trouble. Every time. We knew other people thought that but he was one of the few cantankerous enough to say so.

We vowed to get back at him. Who was he anyway?

One night we all snuck out of our houses to meet at midnight at Patty Jacobsen's house. She lived across the alley from this old coot. He had a prized apple tree in his backyard. We got two old blankets and crawled up and over his fence, climbed up his tree, and tore off every nearly ripe apple on his tree. Then we drug the blankets back to Patty's garage where we sat on overturned pickle buckets and with our teeth yanked off and spit out all the apple meat down to the cores. It took us over an hour and our front teeth felt sore and loose. We piled those hundreds of ragged cores back onto the blankets, hauled them back over the fence, and spread them out in a circle under the old man's tree, a gift for him to see in the morning.

2. Once. Once I tried on all my mom's negligees in her darkened room when she was at work and inspected myself in the mirror. I was 14.

3. Once. Once I served on jury duty and got selected for a gang murder trial. When the desperate defense attorney asked me my opinion of justice I told him I had just read "Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun" by Geoffrey Canada. He picked me immediately. Another potential juror told the same attorney she thought O.J. was definitely guilty. He picked her, too.

4. Once. Once I sat next to critic and essayist Doris Grumbach on a flight to Naples, Florida, and told her I managed Fortress Press. She told me she knew some of our authors, who were also bishops and pastors, and whenever one female pastor in particular came to Maine, she told me "all the lesbians would come out of the woods to hear her preach." And on the entire flight to Naples the stories she told gave me new ways to better understand my work at this theological press as a non-practicing semi-believer.

5. Once. Once I printed this line on my resume, my first out of college, 1984: "Mastery of word processing and the facsimile machine."

6. Once. Once I laid in the shallow part of a lake at Girl Scout camp and let the leeches latch on to my body, neck to toes.

Then I came up out of the lake looking apocalyptic and let the girls pour salt on all the black slugs until they shriveled up and fell off me in heaps.

7. Once. Once I wrote a "play" for a performance my second grade friends and I held in a garage with a makeshift stage and a curtain made of flowered sheets hung on clothesline. It was a two-act play with two sentences and two stage directions: “On the day of thanksgiving they went to the hall and sang.” (sing!) “Then they went home and they sang some more, but only the mother danced.” (sing and dance!)