To celebrate the new season (don't you come back now, Old Man Winter), you can join the second annual springtime swap! Last year, approximately fifty people from seven countries joined the swap, trading vintage books, dried flowers, handmade soap, paper goods, homemade cookies, lemon drops, floral headbands, daisy garland, and apple butter. (You can view last year's showcase here.)
If you're interested in participating, email me at email@example.com with the subject line SPRINGTIME SWAP.
In your email, include:
1. Your mailing address.
2. Your shipping preference (domestic or international).
3. If you have one, a link to your blog, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
If interested, be sure to send me an email by Sunday, April 6. Next week, I'll email everyone information regarding his or her partner. Remember, anyone can join! You don't have to be a blogger in order to participate.
I'd love to see what you swap, so send me a photo of what you send out and/or receive! I'll be posting a showcase later, but until then, share your swap experience with the hashtag #springtimeswap.
Most importantly, please have fun!
I'm texting you, telling you to plan Easter. But you want to know a secret? I can't even think for myself. Not with Thao & The Get Down Stay Down droning on in the background. It's all the same, really--the music and the ever-growing pile of Post-Its that I crumble and deposit next to my feet. Everything is yellow, and I'm starting to wonder if my thoughts are disposable, too. I wish I knew. If I did, I wouldn't, every night, stay up far too late, watching the snow and thinking about the bottle of apple wine that's been in my fridge since July. I'm not sure if I'll ever uncork it, given that our special occasions are measured two and three weeks at a time, between phone calls about whether or not I'm too emotional. And maybe I am.
Today, my heart told me to stop, commanded that I swerve to the right and park at the curb. But I didn't. Even after watching a man on the street corner, one with a cane and a cup of Starbucks coffee, trip across the walkway and drop the entire cup. Frothy, creamy, smooth. It pooled on the sidewalk, dripped into the gutter. Spotted his pants. I ignored my instinct and kept my eyes eastward, toward Ohio. I should've been the stranger that jerked the steering wheel a bit too erratically, pulling over and pulling out a $5 bill. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I would've said. "But this is for you."
Today, I was not the kind stranger. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next. Or the day after that. Whenever I finish writing myself notes on small squares of yellow paper. They tell me to buy chickpeas or call the dentist. They tell me things I want to remember: The taste of the burger from lunch, the smell of David's cologne when he hugged me on his steps, and the voice of G.W., big and loud and strong, and in direct opposition to her stature, as she was encompassed by a gray cardigan that may have belonged to her mother.
My fingers scratch at the desk, separating paper from wood. Crackling, crumbling, like twigs in a fire. Onto the floor they go.
I can remember when my friends I wrote each other letters. We were teenagers then, and talked only of school and boys. I can remember, too, when you told me that, growing up, you used to write to Grandma Wood. I have to say, I love the intimacy of a handwritten letter, something both writer and recipient touch. These days, people have allowed themselves to be swept into social media. I, too, am guilty. Within the last year, though, I've seen a turn. Bloggers I've followed for five years have stopped blogging, in want of privacy. Or because they outgrew their "little corner of the Internet." They want to slow down. They want to experience the world without having to see thousands and thousands of images that tell them who to be, how to be, what to wear, how to decorate, where to go, what to do. And then there are the individuals who have downsized the number of Facebook friends they have, or have cut back on the number of people they follow on Twitter. They simplify.
It's a both a word and a trend that's popular with the hipsters and the creatives I'm friends with. Simplify. Purge. Organize. Live. Be. Put people first, and be nice. Always.
Lately, Indianapolis has felt like a small town. I recognize faces at the grocery store now. And I've learned the name of the man I often encounter on the Cultural Trail (it's Adam). I have extended conversations with food truck owners, rather than the casual, "Hello. Having a good day? What would you like?" I recognize faces, explore places. It's starting to become my city.
I have a nagging suspicion, though, that just before Indy feels like "home," I'll want to leave. To me, Iowa is home. It still is; it always has been. And I guess I don't want to run the risk of finding a new "home," one that isn't Iowa. But there's more, of course. As you know, I'm a daydreamer who wants something to chase. But unlike Matthew McConaughey--who apparently chases himself--I'm chasing my wanderlust. But the commonality between the Oscar winner and I is this: we may both fail at catching what we seek.
I said in a recent Instagram post that, "When I was 10, I filled out a worksheet that asked me what I thought I would be doing in 15 years. I said, 'Married, with two kids, a boy and a girl, and living in a house. I will have a job too.' Fifteen years after I filled out that sheet, I have woken up, rolled over, flopped around, gotten up, eaten cereal, watched two squirrels, and typed a paragraph."
This isn't what I pictured myself doing. But I'm enjoying it--time goes too quickly to waste it being miserable. Just because we don't do what we originally planned to do doesn't mean we're wrong. ... This certainly isn't what I planned to say in this letter. I guess I'm just trying to ... explain.
I love you,
"So, Dawn, what do you do?"
"I'm an editorial assistant."
"Ohhh." The person nods slowly, prepping more questions. "Where do you, uh, do that?"
"I work for the Indiana General Assembly, which means that I review, proofread, check for typos, check for inconsistencies--that sort of thing--for the state legislators. Basically, I help edit all of the bills the legislators propose."
At this point, I usually get one of three reactions:
A) a confused furrowing of the eyebrows, which means I'll have to explain my job further;
2) the wide-eyed, high-pitched "Ohhh," which also means I'll have to explain my job further, as they are under the impression I write the laws (which I don't); and
D) the inquisitive squint, usually accompanied by a nod and the words, "Soooo, can you, uh, write whatever you want into the law?"
(For the record: no, no I can't.)
My office is known as the "Keeper of the Indiana Code." Each year, after the legislators have adjourned sine die, my office updates the Indiana Code (state law). This involves a lot of organization, quick analysis, double-checking, and reading aloud.
During the session, every amendment, motion, and resolution the legislators propose are examined by individuals in my office. In one day, you can read about tanning beds, cemetery regulations, property taxes, mopeds, charter schools, and racinos (the portmanteau for a casino-race track). Sometimes, there is a 100-page criminal law bill that needs tackling. And, sometimes, you need to read a resolution congratulating a high school basketball team on its state championship. It's a grab bag, really, and we take our humor where we can find it.
Last year, for example, there was a House bill that concerned wild hogs. The bill happened to be co-authored by representatives Bacon and Hamm.
And then there are the days I trip up the stairs in front of the governor. Or the days I trip over myself and fall, face-first, in front of a herd of state representatives. I stand up, brush myself off, and laugh. It's a habit; a talent, almost.
We work sixty and seventy-hour workweeks during the session. We have thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen-hour days. Some individuals leave the office at 2:00 in the morning. Others come in just four hours later. It's exhausting, sure. We read. We think. We deliver documents to the Statehouse, sometimes sprinting our way through the underground tunnels. We gotta meet deadline. We want every document that leaves our office to be the best possible piece of legislation.
The end of the legislative session--sine die--reminds me of election day in the news industry. We both hurry and wait. We anticipate. We watch coverage online. We're angsty. We're caffeinated and full of pizza. And on those late-night stretches, we wonder what the legislators will do and say next. But, for as blurry-faced and red-eyed as we are, we love it. We're a part of something.
Ty and I were just forty miles north of Memphis when he got a call. Though muffled by a layer of denim, the ring tone--a sighing harmonica--roused me from sleep. As Ty wrestled the phone out of his pocket, I sat up and resumed staring out the window. It wouldn't be long, now.
Our excitement for the trip--which had been building for the past three weeks--was doused once we learned the reason for the call.
Ty's grandfather had come to the house Saturday morning, his weekly routine. But, on this particular Saturday, he had noticed some sort of lump, some sort of growth, on the leg of the family's 16-year-old shepherd-retriever, Bear. Ty's grandfather and mother had taken Bear to the veterinarian, who eventually confirmed that the growth was a series of tumors, and that the tumors were connected directly to Bear's veins. They couldn't be drained. They couldn't be removed. The solution? Painkillers. The prediction? A few months. It was unexpected and unfortunate and we were out of town and we were on the road and here was Ty's mom on the phone, asking, What do we do?
Ty sighed. "It's decision time," he said.
Bear had been regal, loyal, and had even had bursts of energy earlier this fall. By Thanksgiving, however, he was losing his ability to walk. His hips were stiff. His legs would give out while he was eating. He had to be assisted when going up and down the stairs. And, eventually, he started falling down the stairs. Bear was a curious dog, a sweetheart, and had loved unconditionally.
The rest of our drive was spent in somber quiet and, as we ate lunch at a local barbeque restaurant, Ty's mom called again. It's done.
I didn't know what to say. I'm not sure Ty did, either.
"Do we need to go back?" I asked, wiping sauce off my hands.
Ty shook his head. "No. It'll be okay. I mean ... it's not, but it will be."
"Are you sure? We can go back if you need to."
Ty shook his head again. "Mwhno," he managed, his mouth full of barbequed ribs. "It's fine."
I stared at him, eyebrows furrowed with concern.
Ty sighed and said, "Dawn, it's okay. Really. We've been planning this trip for a few weeks now. I've been looking forward to it. You've been looking forward to it and--"
"I know. I know this was my way to celebrate the end of the legislative session, but ... Ty, I mean ... I don't know." I pointlessly stirred my baked beans with my fork.
"Dawn. It'll be okay." Ty looked at me, his eyebrows and eyes stressing that yes, his dog had just died and, yes, we were out of town, but, no, we were not going back. Not right now, anyway. His eyes told me that I've have to save my sympathy for later, sympathy that he would have difficulty accepting, anyway. They said to stow away the grief, for now, and to just enjoy the day.
We spent a few moments in silence, his steel blue eyes locking with my patchwork ones.
"Okay," I said, nodding.
He smiled. "Okay."
And with that, we shared fries, baked beans, coleslaw, and a kiss. Not long after, we were fighting our way through traffic, snagging a $5 parking space, and walking to Beale Street. Ty had never been to Memphis, and I had been there only once, on a spring break trip with Hans in 2010. As expected, Beale Street was chock-full. Floats in the annual St. Patrick's Day parade wormed their way west, eventually turning left onto Second Street. Those atop the floats tossed green and gold beads into the air. Parade attendees fought and grabbed and reached for the plastic necklaces, their open containers of beer sloshing. Music was blaring. People were dancing. There were horse carriages and enthusiasts. Bodies. Leopard-print pants. Green. Noise. Laughing. Screaming. Glittering. Happy. Drunk.
After the parade ended, we meandered through the crowd, pausing to visit a few shops. Ty picked up an inexpensive Elvis t-shirt for his mom while I stood outside, people-watching. There were whole families, children and toy dogs included. There were the stumbling spring break-ers. The townies. The tourists. The University of Louisville cheerleaders. A drag queen who looked better in a dress than I ever will.
We left the party on Beale Street and began to wander, eventually choosing to visit the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Though we weren't able to visit the Museum in its entirety (due to renovations), the experience was still very humbling. And, on the upper level of the Museum, where we walked around what was once a boarding house, the experience became surreal. There, in that case right there, was the evidence used in James Earl Ray's trial. And there, in that corner, was the bathroom, the one with the cracked window.
"Look at this," Ty said, pointing a black and white photo. "They photographed foot prints in the tub. Thought he stood in there, stuck the gun out the window, and watched. And waited."
Back outside, Ty and I discussed visiting the Museum again. We would, after all, pass through Memphis on this summer's road trip. We threw out other possibilities as well--the National Ornamental Metal Museum, the Rock 'n' Soul Museum, the Gibson factory. We immediately vetoed Graceland.
After discovering an arts district, visiting a bookstore, buying coffee, and driving around Mud Island, we hopped back on the Interstate for our return journey. I spent most of the trip in a restless slumber, buried beneath my corduroy jacket. Back in Evansville, Ty and I nestled in on the couch and watched T.V. with Ty's mom. It was a short, quiet evening in which we tried not to dwell on Bear's absence.
Ty's grandfather came over Sunday morning for breakfast and--per the usual--discussed history and politics. The four of us binged on orange juice and coffee, toast and eggs and too much bacon. And though Ty's grandfather did comment that it was "weird" to not have Bear around, to not have him sniffing our feet or pushing his nose toward the table, we all knew that this was best, that he wasn't suffering. And that maybe, maybe someday, it would be okay.
the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, you'd never guess. It's a hike, most definitely. You'll feel spry in the beginning, young and fit after the first few flights. You're winded by the hundredth step, however, and by two hundred, your pace has slowed, and your rasping breath echoes about the stairwell. Your calves ache. The temperature is rising. The staircase is narrowing and you keep wondering, how much farther? It can't be much farther? Right? Of course, the elevator in the middle of the monument mocks you. It swiftly carries other visitors up, up, up to the top, to the observation deck. You could've taken it, sure, but you wanted to save both the two-dollar fee and the view. It'll be more worth it, right?