What's stopping you?

This is a true story:

I don't recall exactly how old I was, but there were three of us kids who were of swimming lesson age. We lived in the country on a gravel road about six miles from the local town swimming pool. Six miles doesn't seem like such a long ways but when you live on gravel and your vehicles aren't always reliable, well, it can seem like you have to make a trip to the moon. My dad was a farmer and my mom took care of the home and the kids. The structure of mom's days was dictated first and foremost by what work needed to be done on the farm and then in the home and finally what the kids needed. Hindsight provides a clearer lens so I know now what my mom's motivation was. Then, I thought she had taken things a little too far.

Dad must have been in the field, lunch was prepared to take out to him after we arrived back from lessons so the only think left to do was go to swimming lessons. Except none of the three or four vehicles in our private "lot" worked. We watched mom get in each one, turn the key, gun it, swear to herself, and move on to the next one. Finally, she hit gold...the truck. Much to my dad's disappointment, I don't retain vehicle lingo. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism wishing to prevent too many scary memories from overtaking me, but I know a John Deere when I see one and that is only because of it's color. So there was this truck. Larger than a pickup and smaller than a semi. I see them hauling mulch or scraps. I do know it was a Ford truck and it had about six 2 x 4's hanging out of the back. What possessed my mom to even get in this truck is beyond me, but I feel a rush of pride that she felt confident enough to get her going and that she did. She literally jumped it, turned the key, gave it some gas, and yelled at us, "Get in! You've got swimming lessons!" We peeled out of the driveway a little too fast if you ask me. The clamber of the boards sliding this way and that combined with the wind rushing through the cab since both windows were rolled down made any conversation impossible. Of course, I was too dumbstruck to talk.

We hauled you-know-what to town, and it wasn't until we arrived at the lane that led to the pool that embarrassment set in. The truck was large and loud and dirty and...it was a truck. Who gets carted to swimming lessons in a cab truck? We did. And I for one, could have died. All my town friends arrived in sedate little four door sedans, lucky kids arrived on their banana seated bicycles, and we showed up making the largest scene possible. What's even funnier to me about this is that none of us were die- hard swimmers. None of us had the physical prowess of an athlete. We took the obligatory lessons but skipping one would not have killed us.

What I know now is that when you have unstructured time in your day-- open expanses that seem to drag on, such as time home with kids,especially on a farm, unwanted leave from work, or recovery time for health reasons, it's the little markers in your day that seem to mean so much. Living on the farm was hard and lonely at times, I think, for mom. She was social. Those lessons weren't for us- they were for her. She had an appointed time that she looked forward to when she would get off the farm and have a chance to talk to other moms and find out about life around town.

I also think, that with that kind of determination in spite of obstacles, that it seems silly that we can't accomplish more in our world. Financial reform, healthcare, cures for cancer..come on! We have the intellect and resources (and access to working vehicles)to make signifcant lasting change. Maybe we just need more ticked-off, determined women running the show. In my own life, I just need to tap into her more often. She's there. What's stopping you?


View my April Updates on The Stack. You will need to scroll past my ratings system to get to April.

Well, here I am again. I struggle at times to determine what to write. I have looked at quite a few blogs and the ones I like the most seem to make me think or laugh. I haven't been feeling like I have much of either to report or ponder as of late. I went searching for material at a Wilfahrt family function, but I was greatly disappointed. Everyone was on good behavior. Even Dog. There was one off-color joke by Great Grandma, but even that seemed normal. So here is the real deal: the stress on the home front seems to be taking over. My lips are twice their normal size due to large cold sores. I find it convenient that there is one on the top and the bottom. If it works as a weight loss plan, I will feel less resentful. Work related issues for the spouse keep us agitated and restless and the ponderings of what to do seem a little too much. We make time for silliness and it starts out forced, but eventually we get into it. Sometimes silliness is unintentional. Yesterday I donned a less than perfect ensemble. I shuffled out to the kitchen and when I finally noticed what I had on, I decided to point out my fashion faux pas-- without missing a beat the king male said, "It's been worse." Ah, well, it seems part of our marriage success is that there is no end to the amusement we cause each other. But back to stress. Everyone has it, many have much more and frankly I annoy myself at times. But here is the kicker: why do kids seem to hurl their drama at you at the precise time of the big person's drama? Why can't it be evenly spaced out? Each of us gets a turn and we can handle it one at a time? Oh, right. The neat package of life is a farce so we must deal with the crap as it comes. Fairy Godmother Katy would say kids keep it real and put things in perspective and really, damn her, she is right. The time we get with these little babies is so brief. It won't feel good to have spent the time wallowing in stress. So we are muddling through and there are frisbees to throw and seeds to plant and pancakes to flip and Dog to walk and when your focus gets that small, it is really quite good.
But I do feel on hold as of late. Nothing new is on my horizon and pursuing something new right now just doesn't feel like a good idea. But if I wait for things to change or settle, well, I will always be waiting. But as this whole blog started, I was in search of something...and I am still searching.
Did I make you laugh or think? I don't know. But for now, this is what I have to offer.

When is the last time you thought about poetry?

We went to a dinner last night with a poet who is from Duluth, Connie Wanek. Here's the biggest news- my husband willingly went AND he liked it. Of course, there was good food and a little wine so the wheels were greased, but this woman was so great. Understated and just able to nail things we all see hundreds of times, and yet she was the one to come up with the perfect words. It wasn't overwraught or so obscure that you felt lost. It was just...real. I can't say I am over the moon for poetry. Or more accurately, perhaps my personality just isn't suited for it. I spent some junior high years rhyming- one particular claim to fame occured in 7th grade when I changed the words to a then-famous and very classy country song, "Elvira" and wrote about Santa. Mrs. Raymond gave me rave reviews and this set off a flurry of overwraught and over-rhymed poems about my baby brother and flowers(gag!) and life(double-gag!). As per typical in my relationship with my hubby, I discovered that he can do most everything better than me. He is a renaissance man- cleaning, drawing, musical, and he wrote this in junior high:
Happiness is
the pitter patter of little feet
across our kitchen floor.
He has a younger sister by quite a few years and his junior high time had a baby in it. My brother was 8 years younger and I wrote:
My brother is a baby.
I like to hold him maybe.
Until he cries.
We all know understatement is not my strong suit so perhaps that's why I won't be a poet. I can live with that.
Check out this link for more. http://www.conniewanek.com/

Comments welcome!

Hey everyone! Just like the wife who storms around the house waiting for her husband to read her mind, I have been feeling a little out of sorts. The best approach in getting what you want (most times) is to simply ask for it. I am working on getting a counter put on my blog so I can find out how many hits I get. But, I would also love it if people could leave some comments. Any little thought you might have regarding any part of my blog would be great. If you are not a member of I Google, you can still leave comments by clicking at the bottom and selecting "anonymous" and signing your name. I then read the comment and publish it. I have had people tell me they are blog illiterate. They just don't get it, can't navigate them, etc. I am, too, and I certainly relate to that. So email me if it's easier: lisa.graybookshelf@gmail.com, or go ahead. Give it a try. I would like to hear from you. Following through Facebook is easy, too. I am hoping that my updates are reaching people that way as well.

Am I on the right path?

I am reading a book called The Home Made Life. What is great about this book is that it is by a woman who started a blog 5 years ago called Orangette and while she is still writing, it has morphed into a book. Her blog is centered around food and the stories that accompany her memories of food. Am I hoping for some morphage? Yes. I think so. But once again, I don't take myself too seriously and doubt that what I have to say could fill a book.

I had this interesting conversation with a good friend who has a young son with anxiety and Asperger's. Someone had passed on a book to her about someone in a similar situation. She wasn't getting much out of it. "Why?" is what I wanted to know.

"Well, it's the same shit, but a different home, a different kid, but it's all the same. She is living my life and I don't want to read about my life. I need to learn something new. There was nothing new for me."

I asked, "Isn't there comfort in knowing you are not alone?"

"Well, yes. But I know that already. I know that without reading a book. It won't change how difficult my child is or how long my days can be."

For some unknown reason this made me very sad. I want to believe that books can help people, and as teacher of writing, I have professed to so many students that we all have a story to tell and our stories matter. Now here was this friend, someone I consider an adopted sister, telling me that other people's stories don't help her. Now I know she wasn't dissing this entire idea. She was actually just speaking of personal preference. I've had this conversation with people in the store. If they want to read a book, they want to learn something new or go somewhere they have never been before.

Which gets me back to me and this writing thing and where I want to go with it. Honestly, I wouldn't pick up a book by a 42 year old white woman with 2 kids telling tales of her life. Unless she lived in say, France or Italy, while her husband was following some crazy passion. Or she was left destitute and had to find her way into the working world again and spent time sleeping in homeless shelters. There would have to be some hook that stood out. Which is where I think- I have no hook. I am as average as you can get. This is not a cry for encouragement. It's just me musing, me asking the questions I ask all the time. I am having fun. I feel guilty for that. With bills to pay and classes to take and mouths to feed, many people are NOT having fun right now. On that note, I think I will clean some toilets for a shot of reality.

P.S. Check out "The Dog Slept Fine"!


I finally did it. I signed up on Facebook. You will find my page as bare bones as possible, but I have linked it to my blog for more readers. So friend me and I will friend you and your friends.

New addition to Family Fodder today. Check it out: Singing Past the Pain.

Seek and ye shall find

It's time to say good-bye to the car with one rearview mirror, a sagging ceiling, and license plates never fully attached to the front of the car. A recent longish-trip in the car disgusted my husband so much that he tepidly cruised a car lot looking for options. He didn't get out, mind you. He just looked. He equates haggling with salesmen as much fun as dancing or making "small talk". So I did the dirty work and finally, we are ready to part. This is what Bob unloaded from his car:
-27 pens (18 blue ones from Winona Health)
-1 dried apple core
-8 pencils (most with no erasers, only 2 sharp enough to use)
-1 used lunch container with unidentifiable contents
-1 men's spring jacket missing for 2 years
-5 toddler sized mittens (1 actual pair)
-1 sign that reads "Dr. Wilfahrt, You are a Physician SUPERSTAR!"
-1 foamy model colon that looks oddly...used
-2 manuals for cardiac pediatric emergeny training
-1 copy of Plutarch's Lives
-1 tub of Cranium model clay (from the game Cranium)
-2 packages of insulation

I mention this because for a guy who leaves between 6:30 and 7:15 every morning and arrives 12 hours later, making no stops unless it's for milk or a hair cut during lunch, I found these findings intriguing. But I can't really complain. As I unloaded our dying refrigerator the other day, I counted 41 different condiments, several cans of food just chilling in there (never opened or used), 2 dinosaur magnets, and 2 empty baggies just floating around for no apparent reason. Had I not noticed the condiments creeping up on me? Had I not noticed that Ben likes to store things in the fridge just for fun? I realize there is some cheesy self-help philosophy that says that just because you live in s*** doesn't mean you actually see it.
Oh well. The contents of the car and the fridge have now been pared down. While it it feels good, I am sure it will only be a matter of time before I stop seeing what's in front of me and I stop looking.

It was fun while it lasted.....

Well, my first official gig is not to be. The event I was supposed to emcee has been cancelled. It was the first of it's kind here in Winona and they did not get enough participants so they are going to try again next year. I am surprised how bummed I am about this. I was really looking foward to doing it. Bob said he felt relief for me. "You dodged the public speaking bullet!" Ah, well, I wanted to take the bullet was my response! So...I feel a little lost because I was really looking foward to it. Sadly, the applications to other jobs don't seem quite so appealing. Why is that? Is it that I am lazy, or that I simply don't really want those jobs? I guess I have more to consider and more time to write.

There is a new book out called The Male Brain. Imagine my surprise that it was a book and not a leaflet. My male boss and I discussed this at length. He was surprised to discover that the same author's book The Female Brain was one he could actually understand. We shared a few laughs about all this and concluded that really- what's the point? Some things are not meant to be understood and the mystery remains.

Don't cry over spilt milk... or jell-o that won't set.

It's always hard to admit when you are wrong or simply can't do something. I recently had a humbling experience that has taken me a week or more to process. You can now read about it in Family Fodder. It still stings a bit, so leave comments- only if they are kind.

A note about my books

Since my book page went up, I have had a few questions such as, "What? No 3 star books?" and "Hey- why only one star for something you liked and no stars for a book by one of your favorite authors?" Ok. So here is what I know as someone who sells books: You can know your reader pretty well and still hit a clunker. I am not being obnoxious when I say that I do pretty well at work. I feel like I know the right questions to ask and my scope of authors is not bad and I have memorized a few big author series in the genres where I am weak (science fiction and fantasy), but it is still hard to be certain because we are all so different. So I think my ratings are downplayed so as not to disapppoint. It happens far too often when somone gushes over a life-changing book that you can't wait to get to and when you finally get to it, your reaction is, huh? What was the big fuss? So it is safe to say that if I give a book 2 stars it really is just a damn good book. If I give a book 3 stars, it means it's damn good and for whatever reason, it is going to stick with me for years. This is why I put Here If You Need Me on my list of top 10 books of all time. I read it every year and find something new. It's the closest thing I will probably ever use as a bible. So to me that's big. To you, it might not be. Also, you can google reviews as well as me. This is just my take which may not be your take, but it is some place to start if you are looking for a good book.

Finally...it wasn't just talk.

I did it! I got my reading list on here. So check out my new section which I have elegantly named The Stack. This is much better than The Pile. I have a dog and just spent the weekend with a 9 month old so I think you know why that title wouldn't....do:) At any rate, I went back to January and listed everything I could think of. I will be taking January through March down soon to make room for the titles that keep coming my way.

It is now totally official that I am for certain going to emcee the upcoming spring colloquium. Here is a link that explains the event: http//www.southeastmn.edu/colloquium/ I will be travelling with my fairy godmother to Red Wing (she will be the keynote speaker there, she gets paid, and this is her 3rd time so I am looking at this as on-the-job training) next week to get a feel for the event AND to determine how fancy my outfit needs to be. Note Katy's nice picture for the Red Wing event. Could that be me in..2 years or so?


A few weeks ago, when my parents were here for a visit, my dad brought an old stack of books he found in my grandmother's home. He'd been pondering how to help me with my restlessness and thought he'd struck gold. In the box was a book made just for me. He proudly presented me with the 1947 edition of The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing. 352 detailed pages of instructions for making tailored pantsuits, money-saving ideas for "remodeling your family wardrobe and gay home furnishings". Over 500 photographs of Barbie in stillettos pinning and tailoring everything just so. Yes. My dad knows me well. My mom passed on many gifts to me, but the gift of sewing was not one. Probably because she didn't have it herself. Both my grandmas were seamstresses to a point, but the buck stopped with mom and I never took an interest. In a tortuous year of home-ec (remember when they called it that? now it's Family and Consumer Sciences), Mrs. French helplessly tried to instill basic skills into one who could barely cut straight- even with the chalk line. Needless to say, hemming means duct tape, and real needle and thread gets passed to Bob who has more skill because of time logged in hemming pigs feet and people. Sorry, dad. Nice try.

It's Been a Long Time

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Where have I been? Sick or tending to the sick. On spring break with the kids. Enough said there. Travelling a bit and now digging out from said travels. I have much for fodder so I will get cracking when my kids set off to school tomorrow. In the mean time, I have accepted a gig as an Emcee for an event that celebrates women in the busisness world. I will be working with a local radio personality. I think the introduction to us will be funny. Lots to say about our local radio man and then....Lisa. She.... is a mom. She works at a book store. She can't make jello but has a cackle you won't soon forget. No worries, though. She will guide us through this delightful event with a smile. Give her a hand- she needs one!