Sunday, January 24, 2010

Short break; long blog

Last week, I drove up to Minnesota on a whirlwind visit to see my sister and the viscous fog that hangs over Iowa. I was away from home for 49 hours, including 15.5 hours of driving time. My companion, the spotted Poppy of poop-foot fame, wondered why we were trading the wet grass of home for the wet and icy pavement of downtown Minneapolis. But I wanted a break.

As soon as I put it on the calendar, freelance work began to pour in. Like I can say no. Ha. Instead, I tried to reorganize the schedules, leaving myself a narrow window of free time for a quick drive, then a full Sunday of work to follow. I didn't care. I need the money.

Still, I did go over to help at the food bank last week. After a weird, whispered conversation with the organizer, who wanted to know if I needed community service hours to fulfill parole obligations. She was being politely vague, using her hands to point over at the courthouse, but I didn't understand what she was insinuating until she said it point blank. Finally, we were able to communicate freely, and she told me when to show up the next day. I spent three hours on Tuesday filling commodities bags for the county residents who were scheduled to pick them up the following morning. These are bags for people who pick up the basics every month: cereal, grains, dairy, dried fruit, canned goods, beans, sometimes more. The quantities depressed me and don't account for the emergency food bank needs, the walk-ins. Thirty bags of groceries for singles, twenty for doubles, thirty for threes, twenty-plus boxes of fours, fives and sixes, then skip the sevens, and add a dozen eights. That's about one-sixth of our town population. We ran out of room to fill the boxes and bags at tables, lining the hallways of a small building with boxes of food. They'll need help every month with this, as the parolees come and go. I don't know if I'll see the three I worked with again, except that they also pick up monthly boxes themselves. So probably, I guess.

Tuesdays I've begun attending a creative writing workshop in Lawrence. It's nice, despite the fact that everyone else in the class has been taking it together for at least a year and knows each other intimidatingly well. It forces me to write, and also to read other people's work aloud in class (scary!) and to make my brain work in a highly competitive, vocabulary-rich environment. Last week, I brought the first 19 pages of my novel for these people to read over the next week. I find out on Tuesday what they think and will receive seven marked up copies back. If they're mean, I know I'll never go back, even if they're right. To prepare myself for the worst, I googled several of my classmates' names, copying them furtively in my notebook when their poems were passed out in class for immediate reading and review. No one's been published. Is it wrong to be relieved? Petty, yes. But I'm worried about what these strangers will say about me and the words I've struggled over for the last year. If you think of it on Tuesday, wish for me a gentle response.

One of my high school besties, Dawn Mitchell, met me for lunch. Yay!

My sister made me attend her hot yoga class, which was actually lovely after sitting in the car for eight hours of foggy driving and a sleet-storm in Iowa. (Dear Iowa, I hate your weather. Sorry, Myntha.) And then we bummed around her hip neighborhood, where one of my high school friends has an amazing Italian restaurant, and found a vintage store I'd kill to have nearby. She introduced me to Yum! bakery, and I'm in love with their chocolate cupcakes and delectable chai tea. We sat in tall chairs at the window of a coffee shop and watched people walking briskly to who knows where and felt good to be alive and warm, picking at poppyseed muffins. It's funny how a well-timed car ride can actually be relaxing. Here's to short breaks every now and then.


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Myntha said...

No worries: I hate Iowa weather too, and also skipped town last weekend for a too-short break.

WenDee KE#36 said...

We're a grassroots organization that is currently working on a new project involving 20-40ish rural Kansans. You might check out the Facebook page we started and will soon have some more action on it to get young people living in rural Kansas town a way to connect and revitalize themselves and their towns. Let me know if you have questions. The FB link is:

Our organization's link is

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