I’m a weird chick and I’m in love with paper–and it will probably be the end of me. Someday my family might find me bent over my computer, my head on my old ergonomic keyboard (I have two Apple keyboards I refuse to use), with paper bunching up around me. They might be able to bury me in my paper.

But what treasures! Some are folders of current ideas. Most are scribbled notes having to do with writing, and having to do with my current work in progress. (You still working on that damn novel?) Yes. I am. 

Day to day I find wisps of golden sayings, a quote that sparks an idea, a description of a book that I must read or a wonderful quote like the following:

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.Ray Bradbury

Thanks Ray, you are so right. 

Thus, my plot takes a fantastic turn from the piles of 8 by12 paper with typed notes on my desk—the keys to a creative day. Or I might send something to Facebook or Twitter to see if I get a response, or read these notes over and over until I find a way to use one of them in my novel—or like today, I want to share some of this stuff with you.


I am awakened in the night, hearing a high whining noise that penetrates my dreams—getting louder and louder. It’s the sound of hurt, pain, red– under my window. I look to see, because the world is white in the moonlight. There are two animals fighting, the noise persisting. It prevents me from further sleep. My body is ragged with it. Then in the morning, a pool of watery blood on a plate in our kitchen—my mother has taken frozen chicken from the freezer to defrost. 


Yes, it’s a family story. To kind of shake up my brain, because I’ve been working on a different project, a memoir of sorts. When I go there, my family, my people walk around my desk. They come down from the pictures on the wall and ask me to write about them. Okay. I can and will if a flash of memory occurs. 

And it does… 

I don’t know exactly how old I was, but probably only three, when we were at my Nana’s house and Papa Pete, a very tall gentleman with white white hair, caught the toe of his black shoe at the rising edge of an oriental rug in their living room and crashed to the floor. I mean this elderly man went down like a tree falling. I remember. His daughters, his wife, they all shouted out…Things like that you remember, even if you are only three.

The irony, sadness of this story, was the fall led to his death. The other irony is that the rug was a gift to the love of his life, my Grandmother. For Peter Rausch came from Huntington, Indiana to the big city of Chicago to find work, and make a life. He achieved it all, selling beautiful handmade rugs from the orient for the biggest store in Chicago—Marshall Field and Company. He also met my maternal grandmother in Chicago, eventually gifting her with one of the rugs he sold–this one deep red and blue, with curving and floral designs surrounded by lovely fringe. His adult life in some ways truly began and ended with this rug, which was moved from Chicago to California (but that’s another gripping story) and is now refurbished and adorning my brother’s home. 

Look around you. We all have stories like these. When I was young and living in Chicago, we could burn the leaves that fell from our elm, oak and maple trees. Autumn was fun, because our reward for raking the front and back lawn was lighting a fire and burning our piles. There are hollows in the fire as they burn. You can see some of the leaves beginning to curl, others that are greener fighting back, refusing to die. My ears turn pink from the heat and my hair starts to smell like smoke. Sometimes we put Idaho potatoes at the bottom of the leaf pile and if the fire is hot enough, they cook. We break them open and pile on the butter. It’s best to rake and burn when the moon is like a cold stone, big and bright.

When I was growing up in Chicago, we lived one block from the suburban line of the ROCK ISLAND TRAIN. I would lie in bed, the train in the distance, eery and sad, but often making me think I’m missing out on something–on travel, on strange places–and then I’d remember how content I was to be safe and snug in my bed. As author Kate Morton wrote in her book, THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN” You make a life out of what you have, not what you’re missing.

So today, no matter what you are doing–caring for children, heading to work that you might love and yet again you might only tolerate–think of these words from the writer Jen Hatmaker in her book, MESS AND MOXIE: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE WHAT YOU FIRST WERE. No, you do not. Because as Natalie Babbitt wrote in TUCK EVERLASTING: Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life.   

And all of this was in a folder on my desk. Have a great week. Be good to yourself.

Photo credit: Sherlock Holmes Day/Days of the Year