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SURPRISE!

Everyone likes surprises, even people who say they hate surprise birthday parties, surprise filling desserts, and popping an unexpected candy flavor into their mouths. Consider the fun of a mixed-flavor bag of candies à la Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans in the Harry Potter series, one that includes intentionally gross, spicy, or sour little landmines. Consider roller coasters that swoop into dark tunnels and horror movies and thriller novels full of ridiculous plot twists. Science and the experience of every childhood tell us that human brains crave surprise--and need it in order to learn new things and to maintain emotional health.

If you are like me, you also enjoy a certain amount of predictability in your life. For example, my family and I just returned from a road trip during which I was the only one who consistently washed my hands, did not eat off the ground, and did not let any semi-feral animals lick the inside of my mouth, and I am the only one who developed a fever,…
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Someone Has to Do Nothing

Someone has to be home between the hours of 10 and 2 to accept the delivery. Someone has to be with the kids. Someone has to watch the neighbors' house while they are gone. Someone has to let the cat nap in their lap. Someone needs to chill out or keep it real or be more spontaneous, and that person must be unoccupied, or at least interruptable, for long stretches of time.

Someone has to look out of the window. Someone needs to notice when the sun rises and when the fireflies come out. Someone needs to remember to time the song of the cicadas so that we can measure the heat as it rises.

Someone has to rest. Someone has to be present. Someone has to pray or meditate or break the cycle of anxiety. Someone needs to laugh, and someone needs to watch this, y'all. And someone has to record it on their phone.

Someone has to listen. Someone has to think. Someone has to imagine what no one else has thunk up yet.


I spent my young adult life learning how to speak up and take action. I w…

Lumos! Lighting Up the Nights with Bugs, Bombs, Books, and Bestial Beach Bonfires

This July, my daughter and I are staying up three whole hours later than usual to accommodate all the "bombs bursting in air" and to head off jet lag before a Bastille Day-themed family wedding that will surely involve partying into the night. Daddy still has to go to bed at 7:30 for now, because of his wee-hours work schedule, so that means we girls have to spend that extra three hours of magical summer nighttime either outdoors or being very quiet. And after the fireworks have all burned out, that means two things: catching fireflies and reading extra long bedtime stories.



When my daughter held her sparklers this year, she shouted, "Lumos!" and pretended they were wands from the world of Harry Potter. This summer, we are starting Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it is trippy--and magical and life-giving and hopeful--to be reading this book as its terrible real-life prophecies come true.

There is also something hopeful and life-giving and magical an…

Logging Hours at the Writing Desk

It's time for another punny excuse for reduced productivity in the summertime! Last summer, I was stuck "in the construction zone." At the start of this summer, my writing hours have been interrupted by--literal--logging hours right outside the window.


Above, my daughter is watching a crew from the power company take down a very large, old silver maple tree that has grown up through the power lines.

Meanwhile, I received the July issue of Real Simple magazine in the mail, and it gave me the following tip for backyard bonfires:
Contact a nearby tree-removal company to get stumps to use as stools.
Wow, my backyard has so much extra hipster seating in it now. We're gonna have to have everyone over for s'mores and meat and potatoes wrapped up in balls of aluminum foil. It will be just like Girl Scout camp, except everyone is invited and we can go inside to use the toilet.

Last year's construction chaos resulted in a super nice, new sidewalk and road, and this y…

The Kid Is Alright!

Nux Gallica has completed first grade with the highest possible scores in everything on her report card plus special notes from her teachers praising her kindness and helpfulness in the classroom and out on the playground. I am so proud of my little caterpillar!


She also joined the main dojo of the world's highest-ranked sensei of original Okinawan karate and passed her first kyu test!


I cannot take all the credit for my daughter's accomplishments, but I can claim that, as her primary caregiver since birth, I have not messed her up too bad.

Let the aforementioned results stand as evidence that my go-with-the-flow style of parenting, characterized by mindful and heartfelt slacking, has not been a problem for my daughter. To read more about that, see this post from a few years ago: 10 Parenting "Musts" That I Skipped.

I may not have a lot of material successes to brag about, but I'm happy with how this most important of roles in my life is going.

A World Without Daddy Issues

Can you imagine a world without daddy issues? No dictators. No orange trash presidents. No family separations as terrorism against asylum seekers. No police brutality. No intimate partner violence. No child abuse.

Can you imagine a world full of excellent father figures who care nothing for gender conformity or forced obedience? Who love their children and actually show it? Who protect their children from the same kinds of traumas they have experienced, rather than replicating those traumas?

Can you imagine a world in which all fatherless children are surrounded by healthy male role models and mentors in their lives? A world in which men hold each other accountable and women love themselves?

I can, because I live in that world. Not on TV. Not in the news. Not when I travel. Not when I visit the church I grew up in or the schools I went to. I mean in the everyday life I inhabit now, as an adult with the freedom to choose what to pass on to the next generation. My husband is a suburban …

Geeking Out for Greek

Ermagerd it's a Gerk teshberk!!!

My latest preciousssssss research text, The Letters of Psellos: Cultural Networks and Historical Realities, has arrived! The editors and contributors seem to be passionately confused, emphatically giddy, and desperately impatient for the world to more deeply understand the personal correspondence of Michael Psellos. God bless the geeks for Greek. I think it's going to be worth the $140 that everyone thinks I was crazy to pay for a textbook when I am not in school for credit. But I have an 11th century thriller to write, and that's more fun than a degree, so there.

Although editor Marc Lauxtermann has worked hard to create this resource for English readers, he implores us in his preface to, "for heaven's sake, learn Greek."

But I will not. At least, not yet. First of all, that would take a long time, and my novel is already taking long enough. Second, it is my God-given right as an American to remain ignorant of non-English la…