convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #22-24

i’m talking to strangers… here’s why.

i grabbed my purchases and happily noted the lack of line. as i waited in the empty space, i pulled out my wallet and CVS card. ready now, i looked up, and saw a woman stepping towards the next available cash register. my eyes followed the path she just traveled and saw a massive line snaking down the card aisle.

me: “is this the line?”

woman in line: “it is.”

me: “i’ve never seen it go in this direction before.”

woman: “it is unusual.”

i reached the end and waited my turn.

awhile later at the grocery store (a few stores down from the CVS), i plunked my arugula onto the conveyer belt and settled in to wait in this line.

a voice piped up behind me. “now, the arugula. do you buy it for taste or nutritional value?”

an odd question, but i considered it. “both, i suppose.”

her: “it’s sort of bitter, right?”

me: “yeah, it’s peppery. i really like it.”

considering it was the only thing i was buying, my last statement was probably redundant.

i reached the head of the line where a new conversation started.

checkout lady: bag?

me: yes, please.

lady: paper or plastic?

me: plastic.

lady: game?

me: no.

lady: too many questions?

me: *laughs* no, i don’t mind.

lady: have a good night.

me: you too!

i had one last errand to run and yet another line to wait in. i’m not sure why there were so many people out on this particular evening, but wouldn’t you know when the guy behind me ordered the wheat tortilla, the question posed to me earlier crossed my mind. “do you buy it for taste or nutritional value?”

of course, that was the only thing it crossed. certainly not my lips.

okay, okay! i panicked. i guess i have a bit more to learn about talking to strangers. the mission continues.


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family resemblance

exhibit A

my oldest niece, M (brother G’s daughter), is looks-wise the twin of sister E. it’s a little creepy sometimes how much they look alike because E and M are aunt and niece, not mother and daughter. and now, with M rocking longer hair (the above pic is two years old), the resemblance is striking.

it’s come to light that M mirrors another one of her aunts, specifically me, but also sisters E and J.

how does she resemble us? she’s a reader.

her mom reports: “the book fair was at their school this week. M announced she was so excited she couldn’t sleep that night.”

(is this not the cutest thing you’ve ever heard? a kid who’s so excited about the thought of buying books she can’t sleep. don’t i know that feeling.)

but then the report thickens: “BTW, M started a 4th grade girls book club. They meet once a month rotating hosts and who picks the next book. She went first last weekend. They read “BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE.” She researched questions to ask, led the discussion, planned a craft (they made a journal) & made a snack (funfetti cookies). There are 8 girls.”

(1) this sounds like book club extraordinaire. reading + snacks + a craft?!?! AM I TOO OLD TO JOIN? (book hungry ladies, we should take notes.)

(2) she researched discussion questions?!? now there’s a leader.

(3) i hope her passion for reading never dies (side note: i’ve just made it my auntly mission to see that it never does) and i hope her thoughtfulness and enthusiasm continue to inspire those around her. heck, it’s inspiring me and i’m all the way across the country, so i can only imagine what those 7 other girls are feeling being in the same room with her.

(4) i’m so glad this portion of the mumford genes entered her DNA. (i’m not so glad that she’s already my height and she’s only 9. dang it! why didn’t i get the tall genes? or the math genes?)

(5) one of the most amazing things to me about my nieces and nephews is how much family history is in them. it’s in their features AND their personalities. it’s in their hair color, teeth size, tongue rolling ability, height, weight, and eyelashes. it’s in what makes them laugh and cry and run and jump and read (or not).

they make the family feel bigger and at the same time closer because they show us how we’re all intertwined even when we don’t live in the same neighborhood.


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convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #21

i’m talking to strangers… here’s why.

“that was some gust, huh?” said the woman with the inside out umbrella.

“mmm hmmm.” the wind stole my umbrella and any other words i might have said.

and since clearly neither of us had mary poppins’s luck with umbrellas, we each scurried on our way hoping to get ahead of the next gust or at least get to our destinations before our clothes were soaked through.

p.s. this made miss the umbrella i got when i was studying abroad in london. those british really know how to make an umbrella. it’s a darn shame someone in DC stole it a year ago because i’ve been through 4 umbrellas since. come on, america. learn how to make an indestructible umbrella.


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guest post: grandpa, round 2

my dad’s dad keeps the wisdom coming and it’d be a crime to keep it from you.

you’re welcome.

Words are things; and a small drop of ink / Falling like dew upon a thought, produces / That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. Lord Byron, (1788-1824)

It is my belief that the writer, the free-lance author, should be and must be a critic of the society in which he lives. It is easy enough, and always profitable, to rail away at national enemies beyond the sea, at foreign powers beyond our borders who question the prevailing order. But the moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home; to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own culture. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part, then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a shoe repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver.
Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

My stories run up and bite me in the leg — I respond by writing them down — everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.
Ray Bradbury, science-fiction writer (b. 1920)

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.
William Faulkner, novelist (1897-1962)

A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.
Charles Peguy, poet and essayist (1873-1914)

Most people think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.
Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1928)

Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground.
Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)

This passage is a quotation from Henri Nouwen‘s book “Reflections on Theological Education”:

“Somehow I believed that writing was one way to let something of lasting value emerge from my little, quickly passing life….. Most students think writing means writing down ideas, insights, visions. They feel that they must first have something to say before they can put it down on paper. For them writing is little more than recording pre-existent thought. But with this approach true writing is impossible. Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals what is alive…. The deepest satisfaction is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know.”

In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it.
John Ruskin, author, art critic, and social reformer (1819-1900)

i’m so grateful i have a grandfather whose research skills and internet know how are top notch (because mine aren’t) because i’m certain i never would have found these without his help. even though these authors’ works are unfamiliar  to me, their words above all seem familiar in their sentiment, which in turn, makes ME feel like a writer and not so much a “writer.” thank you for that, grandpa! and thank you charles peguy for saying what you said.


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FWIS: deadlines

FWIS (from where i stand) is a monthly feature i’m doing with jessica corra and bria quinlan. all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. (check out their links for this month’s FWIS from their points of view.)

today’s topic: deadlines

all of my writing deadlines are self-imposed which makes them more fluid than firm. i’m not proud to admit this especially since procrastination isn’t something i’m prone to doing.

(when i was growing up, my main motivator was my super smart older siblings. their brains naturally gave way to straight A’s while i had to work a bit harder for my B+s. our career paths have taken us down different roads, so they’re no longer available as bench markers…)

… and so, one way for me to circumvent this is by making writing a team sport.

how do you do that, you ask. isn’t the keyboard crowded with more than one set of hands, you say. is this some sort of tag team thing, you wonder. let me set the record straight. when i say “team sport” i mean that i’ve taken to transporting myself and my laptop out in public and have other writer friends join me. there’s something about looking across the table and seeing someone else diligently working. it’s a great motivator.

speaking of sports, i also take part in something called writing sprints with bria and her writing crew. they’ve very kindly allowed me access to the secret room where we chat and sprint (aka write as fast as we can for 20 minutes) and report in on our progress and chat and rinse and repeat.

the hope is that by doing all that, i’ll get my habits in order so that when the real deadlines kick in, my discipline will be in full force.


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