Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas, Arkansas Style

Mick and I hosted a wine and cheese holiday party at our office building on Monday afternoon. Nearly all of the other tenants came include a massage therapist, a lawyer, an economist/consultant, a graphic designer, and a guy who works for a company that owns cell phone towers. People brought their wives. We brought Leo.

I really enjoyed hearing about everybody's kids, their work, their holiday plans. People we meet in Arkansas seem to be charmed by the idea that we CHOSE to move to Little Rock. They are eager to help us enjoy living here and I gratefully collect all of their suggestions about places we should visit nearby, good restaurants in town, and other features of Little Rock.

One of my own favorite features of Little Rock is how quickly you can get out of it. When I drive out to visit Katie in Perryville, I pass the last traffic light on the West side of town, and then don't see another one for 35 miles. Instead, the road rolls up and down gentle hills past lakes, pine forests, and farm land. In a wink, you go from city traffic to countryside. I love it.

On Christmas eve morning, I drove out to Perryville to hang out with Katie and Honey, despite a driving rain storm. It had been raining extremely hard for about a day and a half. Everything was thoroughly soaked, and it was still raining HARD. Trees were standing in water to their knees, creeks were running fiercely on either side of the road, and Lake Maumelle was overtopping its parking lot. I have new all-weather tires on my car and I really enjoyed being able to get out into the dramatic weather to see what was happening in the countryside.

When I got to Katie's house, I found Katie and Honey sorting through baby clothes. Honey finds this kind of activity irresistible, and unless we give her a job of her own, she will quickly and gleefully undo whatever organizing Katie has done. I love watching how gently and adroitly Katie gets the job done while at the same time letting Honey participate. It's a joy to watch them in action together.

Speaking of joy: I have LOVED getting holiday cards and letters from our friends. You can't imagine how curious I am about all of you - how your kids are doing, how YOU are doing, what you are thinking about. PLEASE keep it up.

Cold weather followed the rain storms, and it snowed out in Perryville on Christmas Eve. We didn't get any snow here in Little Rock, but we did get the frigid temperatures. Brrrrr.

Our family gathered in our house on Christmas day. Here's a picture of the kids with Leo's new video game system. He showed Katie and Travis how to play a game called "Fat Princess" based on Capture the Flag only you have a princess to protect and you feed her cake to make her fat so the other team will have trouble carrying her off.

After fattening ourselves on lunch, we went to see the new Shirlock Holmes movie. Honey came along to her first movie experience and she did pretty well. Hopefully, folks sitting near us didn't mind her little toddler voice naming things that came on screen, like "Horse" and "Water."

Over dinner tonight, Leo and Mick and I were discussing friends, both here and in California. Leo asked us if we've met anyone here that we could call a friend yet, and that left us trying to decide what marks the boundary between acquaintances and true friends. Is it how long you've known them? Or how often you see them? Or what you do together?

What do you think? I'd love to know.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can You Count?

I snagged a cheap plane ticket and hotel room package deal at Travelocity and made a quick trip to visit my Dad last weekend. We saw the New York City Ballet perform at the Kennedy Center in DC. Very wonderful. And we also spent some time pouring over Dad's notes and mementos about our family history.

This photo of us isn't the best, but hey, can you see the family resemblance?

Much of what we know about our family's past comes from the US Census. And guess what? 2010 is a census year. When I got back to Little Rock, I signed up to be a census enumerator. The Census department needs 5000 Arkansans to help with the census here, and they have only hired about 600 so far. The pay is puny - less than $13 per hour - but I think the work sounds pretty interesting. And if you've ever done any research on your own family tree, you know how great and lasting is our common debt to the census takers. You can find out about the jobs at Maybe you know someone who needs some extra income. Even high school kids are being hired - anyone who can count, passes the test and does not have a criminal record.

This week, Honey learned to say, "Nana" and she started saying "Leo" when she looks at pictures of him. Absolutely thrilling. Leo comes home on Sunday and I can't wait to see if she'll call him by name when she sees him in person.

Here is this week's picture of Honey. She looks a little like her grandpa, don't you think?

In Washington, they'll be counting votes. I hope that goes well. And in Arkansas, we'll be counting our blessings. I hope you enjoy the holiday, too, however it adds up for you. Cheers!

Friday, December 4, 2009

New Directions

Mick and I are both expanding our portfolios this season.

A book agent contacted Mick recently and persuaded him to develop some ideas for children's books. Mick is thinking about something digital, maybe even with sound. The task has got his creative juices gushing.

Meanwhile, I enrolled in an online school for tax accountants. Mick's new plan probably sounds waaaay more fun than mine. But actually, I'm really having a great time studying the tax code - call me a Geek if you want. I don't mind. After completing this course, I can find part-time jobs and earn enough over the tax season to carry me through the rest of the year. Anyway, that's my plan. I'll let you know how it goes.

So we're sitting here in our shared office today. Him reading classic kids books for ideas, and me filling out practice tax returns. Quite a change for both of us.

It's grown very cold here. Ice on the windshields in the mornings and a biting wind on your face when you walk outside. As a result, we've been hunkered down indoors and I don't have any juicy photos for this week's blog.

It seems too early in the season for this kind of cold, and we're not quite ready for it. We like the cold, but at the same time, we need to get a handle on it. For instance, we are figuring out where the cold can seep into our snug little house (like through the uninsulated hardwood floors) and how to manage the thermostat to keep us comfortable without overheating the place.

Katie and Travis saw their new baby's ultrasonic images this week. We all went out to dinner afterwards and sat around marveling at the pictures. What a miracle! I am shy about posting the image on the blog, so you'll just have to imagine it - a perfectly healthy little tyke about two inches long with all the right parts in all the right places. Yoo-hoo!

I miss my friends. Never hear as much from you as I would like to hear. I hope everybody is safe, warm, and happy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Scenes of the Season

Thinking about leaf-peeping and sweeping views, we traveled up to Mt. Magazine State Park this week. It is the highest point in Arkansas and there's a very pretty new lodge on top of the mountain. To get there, we drove about three hours along 2-lane back roads past rolling pastures and tiny towns. The drive was fun, but when we reached the lodge, we found that the views were blanketed with fog, the trees were practically bare, and the weather was bitter cold. And thus we learned that November is a terrible time to visit Mt. Magazine. Oh well. In the spring, we'll go back up there for the views.

Luckily, we had anticipated the cold, and bundled up well enough to hike the foggy trails. It was actually quite beautiful - and quiet - almost like a medieval forest, nothing stirring except ourselves. The lodge was quiet, too. Restful and warm.

Katie hosted the most amazing holiday dinner party last night in Perryville. She served up one of her own turkeys, plus a spread of side dishes and desserts that would make Martha Stewart blush - all with a toddler at her knees trying to 'help' or needing a snack or getting into some kind of trouble. Life is way more complicated - and fun - now that Honey is walking.

More than twenty people turned up to appreciate Katie's handiwork, and we all ate ourselves silly. It was a warm, delicious evening. Good job, Katie!

I hope that all my friends enjoy a warm and delicious holiday, too, wherever you are.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Big, Happy News

I am so delighted to tell you that Katie and Travis are expecting another baby.

The new baby is due next June, just a couple of weeks after Honey's second birthday.

Katie and Travis are healthy, happy and solidly grounded about the news. She said, "As of now, I feel better than is probably fair."

Meanwhile, Mick and I are trying hard not to be as sloppily solicitous as Spencer Tracey and Joan Bennett in "Father's Little Dividend" - remember that funny old movie from the 1950s?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kindly Strangers

Katie and Travis were harvesting Thanksgiving turkeys today. A bunch of their friends helped out, but still the job kept them busy from dawn until late afternoon. Whew. Honey and I had lots of time to kill.

We went out for breakfast, something we love to do together. There's only one restaurant in Perryville, and people greet Honey and me by name when we go there. I honestly can't understand the conversations at other tables - when people are talking to each other and not to me - because of their extremely thick accents, and because they're all as familiar with each other as puppies from the same litter. They leave out the half of each story that everybody else already knows and refer knowingly to offstage people and events. I am a complete outsider. But people are very friendly and kind. They never fail to greet me, wish me a good day, and to make tender contact with Honey. Their kindness draws me back there every time I'm in Perryville.

After our breakfast and our dose of local color, Honey and I went to the laundromat. She loved helping put wet clothes into the dryer and then later taking them out dry, and oh yeah, she loved pushing the carts back and forth. I wish you could hear the happy "Hunnnhhhh" sound she made while pushing around the empty baskets. She would have whistled if she knew how.

We also went to a car wash (whoooeee), an ATM machine (not so much fun), and a grocery store (lots of people to charm). When we got back home, we spent a very happy time listening to the wind, swinging in the swing, barking at the dogs, exploring the back of my station wagon, and watching leaves fall from the trees.

I love spending time with Honey, and with Katie and her friends.

And I also really long for some friends my own age.

We are meeting lots of local people - in our neighborhood, in our office building, at the Buddhist center, at the farmer's market, and oh yes, at the restaurant in Perryville. But its a challenge turning kindly strangers into real friends. I think I will need to cultivate an upbeat, open-for-anything attitude like Honey has. People seem to find it irresistible.

Meanwhile, I'm really grateful for the genuine warmth that is so common in this Southern culture. I'm cultivating that, too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Roots and Leaves

Yesterday, Katie and Honey came to make some food deliveries in town. I got to spend the morning with them. Honey was wearing her dragon costume hat. Here's a couple of shots of her, one with her mom and one with her dad. Everywhere we went, people cooed over Honey and I wondered what a baby thinks on her first Halloween. I mean, for all Honey knows, she's always going to wear costumes and make people smile. Why not?

Both Mick and I have hunched over our computers for way too many hours recently. He's working on a big poster project for Amtrak. Very exciting for him, but very tense, too.

I've been doing a family history research project while waiting for a client to get back to me. See, my dad's grandfather had a sister who lived on a farm outside of Little Rock some time ago. Dad came to visit "Aunt Angie" when he was a boy - in 1936 or so - and that was the last he ever heard of her. I wondered if maybe I could find out what happened to Angie White, maybe even find her grave.

I turned to a website called where you can enter what you know about a person and if you are lucky, a leaf appears beside their name indicating that the database has more information about that person. In no time at all - Bingo! - I found Angie and her husband in the 1930 census.

The website should come with a warning label because it is so easy to get carried away. Before I knew what was happening to me, I lost several days and nights following leafy 'hints' at, like an obsessed person. I told my sister Iris what I was doing because she's our family history expert. And Iris jumped into it with me: while I was sleeping, Iris would be adding new leaves and branches to the tree. Then I started adding Mick's family - more leaves, more leaves! - and now, our tree has over 750 people on it.

I tied myself up in knots tracing more and more details about more and more remote ancestors. Finally, I just needed to take a break. Mick did, too.

So yesterday, after our visit with Katie and Honey, Mick and I went to the Arkansas arboretum at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Its a beautiful park overlooking the Arkansas river, just about 10 minutes from our home. We're continuing our quest to learn about all the gracious old trees in our neighborhood, and we hoped to pin down some details at the arboretum, like, what is the difference between a Red Oak and a White one?

Unfortunately, nearly all of the trees at the arboretum had already dropped nearly all of their leaves on the ground. We learned a few things about bark and such, but we'll have to go back in the spring to learn anything more. However, we got ourselves some fresh air, some exercise, and a delicious break from our computers. We sat beside a creek listening to the crickets and woodpeckers chiming in with the babbling water and the wind.

Of course, we're both already back at our computer screens this Sunday afternoon. But hopefully, with a fresher outlook.

I miss my friends and hope you are all doing well. Write me back sometime. I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Now That's More Like It

The cold soggy weather broke open for a few days, and finally delivered on the crisp, colorful Fall I was looking forward to seeing in Arkansas. Temps climbed back into the 70s this weekend and we made the best of it. I raked leaves in my yard (one of my favorite things to do). And Katie and Travis took Mick on a bike ride along the Arkansas river and across the Big Dam Bridge. I'm not much of a bike rider, so I wound up driving the cars to and fro, but still, it was a beautiful scene, on a lovely afternoon.

This bike trail is about 2 miles from our house. Its part of a 16 mile flat, paved looping trail that goes along both sides of the river and across two bridges. I expect that we'll spend lots more time hiking and biking on this trail.

Katie and Travis have the same birthday. On Sunday, friends with their toddlers and dogs gathered in Perryville for a birthday party. We all enjoyed the sunshine, the food, and the company. They served us a variety of her Farm Girl meats smoked to perfection, some home grown potatoes and Katie's fabulous angel food cake. Yummmmm! Here's a picture of Katie and Travis on their front porch, and Honey riding on the hip of Katie's farming business partner, M.C.

Today, the temps dropped again and the rain is coming back. Its like a curtain closing over me or a scene change in a movie. Brrrr.

I try to keep things cheery in this blog of mine. But sometimes self-consciousness takes over: here I am complaining about the weather when other people have so much more trouble than me. This morning on the radio, for example, I heard that one billion people are 'urgently hungry' all over the world, meaning that they have trouble finding a single cup of food every day. Millions are still unemployed. Kids are graduating from college but can't find jobs because so many experienced adults are competing with them for entry-level jobs, even for internships. If the economy doesn't overwhelm us, maybe we'll get swine flu or cancer or food poisoning. See - I'm gloomy this morning!

My hope is always restored when I spend time with with Katie and her friends - or any of the wonderful people I know in that generation. If the world really does completely fall apart, I think maybe this bunch could put the pieces back together. I just hope they don't have to - that the economic clouds part for them and their beautiful babies - and they get to have a fair chance at creating the world they imagine for themselves. It will certainly be a beautiful one.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Family, Work and Healthcare

Another advantage to living in Little Rock is that its easier to visit my dad in Virginia and Mick's brothers in Florida. We just got back last night from spending 6 days in Virginia with my dad, his wife Lucila, and my sister Iris. For the benefit of those who know them, here are some photos of Dad, his wife Lucila, and my sister Iris - with Mick and me - during our visit.

I had not seen Dad since the economy fell into such deep distress last year. My dad knows that Mick and I have been very hard hit. You could say that we were laid off not by one boss, but by a thousand different publishing and design clients. I'll spare you the details, but only say this: our 2009 income is less than 40% of what we earned in 2008. Ouch.

In this visit, Dad asked me if the move to Little Rock is helping and I could honestly tell him that yes, it is. Alameda County's unemployment rate was 10.7% when we left, and layoffs dominated the news. In Little Rock, unemployment is at 5.7% and people seem to be suffering less. Here's a NY Times map if you want to see how your own county is doing.

Mick and I are both working a little bit right now. In fact, I met with an exciting new client earlier in the week. Can't tell you about the project yet because its a secret, but I can tell you that it felt WONDERFUL to be in my business clothes, toting my laptop and w-o-r-k-i-n-g!

It seems obvious to me that more people would have jobs if they or their employers could subscribe to a government healthcare program like Medicare, instead of having to buy insurance on the open market. I mean, talk about 'stimulus'!!!

One of my friends who owns a small business said to me just today, "I haven't been able to raise my prices or give myself or any of my employees a raise for years now, but today I get a notice from Blue Cross that they are raising their rates by 15%. We have to pay thousands of dollars more for the same services we got from them last year. Nothing new or better for us, just more money for them. Where am I supposed to find that extra money? My customers don't have it and neither do my employees, but when Blue Cross demands it from us, we have no option except to pay."

Our Arkansas senators are both Democrats, but they split on the public-option question. Mark Pryor supports it, but Blanche Lincoln does not. I have written to her and phoned her offices many times - every time I can think of some fresh argument. Feel free to pass along your favorite arguments and I'll write her again.

Meanwhile, my heart goes out to all the people who want to work, but don't have jobs. There are millions of people in that position and I know how they feel. And all the ones who work but don't have health insurance coverage. And all the ones who do have coverage but are afraid to use it. And all the ones who . . . and well all the rest who are hurting these days. Everybody is making adjustments, like Mick and me, and I hope everybody can find some comfort somewhere.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Exactly What I Expected

Fall is definitely here, but its not what I expected. I pictured blue skies, brisk temperatures, and brightly colored leaves gently settling into crackly piles on sidewalks. We both looked forward to taking walks in the crisp, cool air. Instead, it rained steadily for six of the past seven days. What leaves have fallen quickly washed down the drains or clustered in soggy piles everywhere. And the temps went from hot to cold. Whoosh. Just like that.

Apparently, Little Rock's rainfall is already 12 inches or 25% greater than normal for 2009. And everyone keeps telling us that this weather isn't typical for Fall. I don't know what to think.

Today was much better. There was some sun. The temperature reached 60 for awhile. And I spent some time outdoors, raking leaves and sweeping my deck. It was nice.

We spent a happy hour this morning at the Fall Foodie Fest. Mick had created a free poster and T-shirt for this event and we went to see how it turned out. It was pretty well attended, despite the gray skies and chilly weather. Local chefs had been invited to create dishes using local produce from the farmers market. They came up with a nice range: I ate a delicious apple pie and a fabulous cheese and sausage quiche. Mick had stir fried kale and tomato/gorganzola soup. Really tasty.

Speaking of local chefs: Katie's deal with the Capital Hotel chef fell through after she delivered chickens that were too big. Her birds were about 5 lbs each, and he could only serve them at 3 or 3.5 lbs. She actually had to go buy another freezer to reclaim and store the 100 birds she'd delivered to him a couple days ago. These are her last birds of the season, and she'll have no trouble selling them to other people - including me - but the whole exchange made me appreciate the complex path from farm to restaurant table. I mean, consider all the variables that a farmer must manage (including breeding) to deliver a bird that meets such precise specifications! No wonder they say that small farmers have a hard job.

Honey visited our office while Katie was freezer shopping yesterday. And so here are this week's gratuitous pictures of her. She loves watching the Wiggles on her grandpa's fancy computer and taking all the items out of my purse. Thankfully, she also likes putting things back into the purse when she finishes looking them over. Now this family time, of course, is the payoff we expected to have when we came here, and we're delighted with it. Just delighted.

Anyway, we optimistically made reservations for ourselves next month at a lodge in the heart of Arkansas leaf-peeping territory. Maybe the weather will be foggy and wet, or maybe we'll finally see the crisp, clear Fall that we've been dreaming about. Either way, I won't complain.

Hopping in Little Rock

I guess when the weather starts to cool, people start to gather themselves because dozens of events were on offer this weekend in Little Rock. There was a 100-mile bike ride ending on the same street where Katie's farmer's market is held. That whole area was blocked off for the riders and their fans, and people were selling stuff on the sidelines. We managed to get our vegetables and visit with Katie at the market, despite the hubbub, but it was a challenge.

The Clinton library sponsored a Saturday morning art program with kids drawing chalk murals on the sidewalks. We could have joined 150 other volunteers doing a landscape makeover at the Little Rock Zoo. There was also an event called Worldfest promoting cultural diversity and held in conjunction with the anniversary of the integration of Central High School by the Little Rock Nine (as they're known now) in 1957. That event featured music and speakers from around the world.

We decided to check out the Hillcrest Harvest Festival since it was right in our neighborhood. A chili contest was the main event, but people were also selling stuff, gathering signatures (for health reform and carbon caps), and showing off antique cars. We wandered around among our neighbors, enjoying the fine weather and all the people-watching. Lots of grey-haired seniors, parents with babies in strollers, young adults sporting tatoos and skateboards, and matrons leading their dogs through the crowds. I was heartened by all the diversity (for a change).

For us, the day's main event was when our next-door neighbor, Kevin Kirby, took the stage with his group, Battery. Kevin's wife is a nurse named Carole Ann and they have two kids, Gus (age 7) and Bess (age 3). His wife told me that she used to put headphones on the kids to protect their ears when they were listening to his band. But the street was an ideal place for a kid-friendly performance this afternoon: toddlers were dancing in front of the band while the rest of us tapped our toes and nodded in the sunshine. People sang along. It was very fun. Here is a fun video of Kevin playing in his backyard.

I guess the fun will continue throughout the fall. Next month, for instance, the Certified All Arkansas Farmers market will have a "Fall Foodie Fest" to remind consumers about buying locally grown foods. Mick made them this beautiful poster. Do I dare to point out the Arkansas dragonfly that Mick added to this poster? It's a local, too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blue Bubbles

Imagine snorkeling in an ocean that has nothing but blue fish. They are perfectly nice and pretty to look at, but gee, you would miss all the other kinds. That's what it feels like here. Its blue faces in the newspaper pictures, blue parents dropping off blue kids at the neighborhood schools, blue people filing into churches on Sunday morning, and blue joggers dashing past them. And when you see someone who is NOT blue, they're probably cutting the lawn, bagging the groceries, or serving the food for someone who IS blue. Its a blue bubble here.

Just this morning, someone wrote to our local newspaper saying, "Democrats have a cash-for-clunkers plan for the elderly: when your parents get too old and sick, the government will pay you to pull the plug on them." I can't imagine why anyone would believe that government officials could be so diabolical, and the letter writer probably can't imagine why anyone would trust and value government like I do. We are just not swimming in the same water.

I lived in a homogeneous bubble in Berkeley, too. I met almost no one in Berkeley who served in the military, didn't go to college, or couldn't afford to own a computer. And in my Berkeley bubble, it was hard to imagine that some people have never been on an airplane, never listened to NPR, or never subscribed to a newspaper.

When they learn that I moved to Arkansas from Berkeley, everyone says, "Oooh, culture shock!" And yes, jumping from that bubble into this one is indeed very shocking. But am I naive to hope that we can do away with bubbles someday? Am I thinking this way just because I miss my Berkeley friends as much as I do (which is a lot)? For whatever reason, I am determined to find common ground with my new neighbors, and to befriend them if I can. Maybe they like pie as much as I do? Or mocking birds? Or grandchildren?

In fact, the kids are my secret hope for the future. Katie and Leo (and their friends) relish pointing out whenever I'm speaking from inside some bubble or other. Each of them has already ventured far enough to value different voices and viewpoints. I trust that they'll avoid getting stuck anywhere because both are veteran bubble busters already.

Here's a picture of Leo checking into his new apartment at UC Irvine, where his roommates are Indian-American and Chinese-American guys. Non-Hispanic white kids like Leo make up only 27% of the students at UCI. He already inhabits a world far more diverse than mine, and so does Katie.

And here's a picture of dear little Honey with her first fistful of crayons. Hummmmm, I wonder what she will draw with them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Feels Like Fall . . . Almost

Mick and I keep hoping Fall will start soon, and that the hot sticky weather will change. Everybody tells us how spectacular Arkansas will be in the Fall, and we're certainly ready for it. Instead, it was still 80+ degrees when we took a walk after dinner last night, and the mosquitoes were out in force. We must be patient, I guess.

This week we went to the Perry County Fair with Katie and Honey and celebrated a couple of firsts: Honey's first merry-go-round ride, Mick's first taste of funnel cake, and our first view of a pig catch, which involves a dozen children chasing a handful of piglets around a rodeo ring. The kids who catch a piglet (or chicken or calf) get to keep and raise the animal, so this is serious business for them. It was really fun to watch.

Unfortunately, my little pocket camera could not catch the main action so instead we photographed the toddlers watching from the sidelines. Honey is closest to the camera, Lilly Gill is next, and then a little boy we don't know. They all three really enjoyed the show.

Leo goes back to school next week. And many of my dearest friends sent children off to college this month, too. George's Catherine went off to Boston University, Christina's Hannah is settling in at Macalester college in Minnesota, and Alicia's Anthony is getting comfortable at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Everybody please join me in raising a toast to the success of these fine children at their respective colleges, and to the terrific parents who will be sorely missing them for the next few months. I hope they find a much improved economy when they graduate.

When he goes back for his second year at Irvine next week, Leo leaves behind his Arkansas girlfriend, Kathleen. She is a horticulture major at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. They met at Heifer ranch this summer and are celebrating their one-month anniversary tonight. They're determined to maintain their relationship long distance, and I know we all wish them the best of luck with that!

Its easy to feel Fall in the air with all these fresh starts taking place. I hope the weather soon catches up - and the economy - so that we can all truly celebrate when the holidays come upon us. Hear! Hear!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Space, Time, and People

Pictures have been hung on the walls, curtains on the windows, and books are settled onto their shelves. We've got the new phone numbers, library cards, drivers licenses, car registrations, and health insurance policies. Even our magazine subscriptions are dutifully arriving at the right place. It feels like the move itself is finally finished.

And all of a sudden, time has opened up for me. This week, for example, I had whole stretches of time with no to-do list, and after so many months of relentless, detailed tasks and puzzles to solve, I found the openness more than a little disconcerting.

I went to the library and picked up a book called, The Not So Big Life, by Sarah Susanka. Years ago, her book called the Not So Big House radically changed my thoughts about what kind of house to buy here in Arkansas. Instead of the lavish southern mansion I had imagined, with sun rooms and screened porches and music rooms and walk-in closets, I wanted a tidy house. Something with energy efficient windows, good attic insulation, and low-flow toilets. Something I could clean myself, with room for the clothes I actually love to wear instead of the ones I'll never wear again in a million years, no matter how much I enjoyed wearing them fifteen years ago.

So here we are in this lovely little house. And now, there is the question of what to do with my time.

Happily, there is a little work: I got a new business planning project last week. A very exciting project. But even with that job ahead of me, I inhabit a strange gap between all the ways I spent time in California and all the ways I could spend it here. I sit on no committees, belong to no organizations, and have no obligations. It makes me think about how I would like to spend time, given this fresh start.

Obviously, spending time with family figures high on my list of priorities. Here is this week's gratuitous picture of Honey. There will always be a slice of time carved out for Katie and her family, Leo when he's here on his school breaks, and we also scheduled a trip to visit my dad.

Exploring Arkansas will also take some time. We took a spin through some of the downtown museums on Sunday afternoon, and I look forward to driving the back roads this Fall when the leaves are turning.

Walking has become my favorite way to take a break by myself. And as I walk around my neighborhood, I ponder: what's missing now? What's the next thing to do, now that we've moved?

I realized that I'm earnestly looking for two missing pieces: meeting people my own age, and finding new ways to contribute my energies towards fixing the world.

Last weekend, at the Buddhist center, we met a guy who just started a local magazine (!) called New Sixty. In exchange for some free publishing tips from me, he promises to introduce us around town. And today, at his invitation, we went to a "Slow Food" potluck lunch at the farmers market. The lunch was hosted by people working to get healthy, local food into the public school lunchrooms. We ate well, met some fine folks, and signed all their various petitions. Here are some pictures. Could Slow Food become a cause that engages us here? Could these be our new people? Maybe. We'll see.