I take a yearly trip to Door County with my sisters-in-law. If you are not from Wisconsin, Door County sits on a peninsula of land that lies between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. The long shoreline has many natural areas as well as many little towns with shops and restaurants. It’s a beautiful place to visit. This year, I saw how visiting a place I’ve been before can play tricks on your memory.
Have you ever received a sign from the universe? I did. An actual sign. The one pictured below. This sign gave me the message I needed to overcome doubt and make a change. I didn’t make the change all at once and it didn’t happen quickly. But it happened.
As students go back to school, I’ve been thinking about my own schooling. I was an okay student, but I’m a much better student now. I remember the smart kids from high school and wonder if life turned out great for them afterward or not. I wonder if they still attack life with the fervor they studied for tests then. Or I wonder if they burned out on learning while they were young.
I was always the kind of student who did enough just to get by. I didn’t have to study too hard, but I could usually pick up what was going on around me. Even today, I often list “quick” on my imaginary list of positive traits. I usually can “get” what people are talking about with a few clues. Of course, I have lots of negative traits too, but I’ve learned to balance them with my good traits.
Small talk. Chit chat. Whatever you call the verbal bric-a-brac people engage in with people they don’t very well, one thing is certain. I’ve never really enjoyed it. It’s not that I can’t think of things to say. It’s more that I’d rather people watch or talk to people I know than make nice with strangers. However, I’ve just returned from the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference and I now can see the benefits of small talk.
Making small talk with strangers is a whole lot more fun when you’re surrounded by people who have the same hopes and dreams as you. At every seminar I attended, I found myself engrossed in conversations with those around me.
As summer comes to an end, I’m thinking about scents. The smell of freshly mowed grass, mint or basil being picked off the plant growing on the deck, the purple cone flowers, and native cup plant growing along the trail will all soon be gone. When the frost come and we retreat inside, all we have are indoor scents. Though they may not be as beautiful as those of summer, they are no more forgettable.
I still remember the smells of the houses that surrounded ours growing up. There was the sweet homey smell of our neighbor to our right, the somewhat cold scent of the house down the block, and the oddly familiar scent of my aunt and uncle’s kitty corner from our house across the park.
One of my favorite parts of travel is trying the local foods. Whether I’m traveling across the country or the world I love finding something new to taste. But leaving these new loves behind is hard too. When you taste something really good and find that you can’t get it back home, it can be a heartbreaking. I’m traveling to New York in a few weeks, and thinking about the tasty foods I’ll get to eat while I’m there. I’m also swooning about all my past loves from travels that I will likely never eat again.
When I visit New York, there are two food items that are tops on my list: babka and knish. Both are Jewish bread-based items. Babka is a loaf of bread with swirls of cinnamon or chocolate. A knish is savory individual pastry with sauerkraut or potatoes, although I’ve seen them with sweet cherry filling as well.
Dani Shapiro had been questioned her whole life about her ethnicity. With blond hair and blue eyes, even though her parents were Orthodox Jews, people had told her from the time she was a baby that she couldn’t be Jewish. And then in her mid-50s she received the shock of her life after taking a DNA test. This is the story told in her memoir Inheritance.
Shapiro took the over-the-counter DNA test on a whim at the request of her husband. When the tests come back, she compares it with a test her half-sister and discovers that her father is not her biological father. Shapiro is quickly able to figure out who her biological father is through the test results, the Internet, and some help from an acquaintance who is active in genealogy.
As she looked out the window she wondered when we would stop. At least that’s what I imagine my mom was thinking as I look back to that desert car trip.
“That’s a nice yucca plant.”
She had said it so many times that day, now years later, we still remember it. My older sister and I use it as an easy joke when we are in the car together when one of us wants to stop, but the driver keeps pressing on.
Today I’m participating in We Are the World Blogfest. More about that at the end, but basically, it’s a chance to share positive news. This month I wanted to talk about the Friendship Bench – Zimbabwe project.
The Friendship Bench – Zimbabwe project is a project started in Zimbabwe to help people dealing with depression and anxiety. There is a treatment gap in Zimbabwe where there is one psychiatrist per 1 million people.
I was traveling this week for work so instead of writing something new, I went back into my archive of writing and found something I wrote a number of years ago. It is based on a prompt from the book Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg.
This book provides prompts to help you start writing. The focus is on memoir so the prompts tend to be around items that will jog your memory and help you dig into your past. Some of the prompts are long and open-ended, but others are more specific and fun like the one I’ve included below.