Ten minutes of love, more or less

Like so many others, you’re probably wondering what my position is on Valentine’s Day.  I know what some of you are tempted to say in response  to that sentence and that’s exactly why I’m not changing it.  At this very moment, my position is seated. In a few minutes, it will be upright, and a little later, it will be curled up on the sofa/couch/divan (adjust to your own belief system and home decor).

As to how I feel about Valentine’s Day, for those multitudes among you who  breathlessly await that revelation, I shall not delay, not for one more second.

Well, perhaps just this one aside. It seems to me that Valentine’s Day has become as polarizing as any other topic in our culture. That’s the only thing about Valentine’s Day that I dislike. Why do we have to take sides? It’s not Arbor Day, for Pete’s sake.

As with many other topics (except Arbor Day, because I mean, geez, a person has to take a stand sometimes), I can see both sides and find myself pretty much in the middle. If you love Valentine’s Day and all the trappings, good for you!  If you hate Valentine’s Day and all the trappings, I get that. If you used to love Valentine’s Day but have been jaded by years of high expectations and low follow-through, here’s the good news: It’s only 24 hours and you can sleep through most of it. In fact, this year, you can sleep through all of it. Winning!

Nonetheless, seeing how love is one-third of my “brand,” I should probably give it its time on the stage. Scoot over, peace and hyperbole. It’s the L word’s big day.

This morning the first two things I read gave me an idea.One was this groovy #ShareTheLove idea, and the other was this far out I Believe list (which, btdubs, put the line “I believe I can fly” in my head and it won’t go away, even though I can say in all sincerity that do not, in fact,  believe I can fly). I’m not saying it’s a good idea, and as a matter of fact, since I’m the one who came up with it, chances are it’s not a good idea.  But what the heck. It’s Valentine’s Day and this is probably only being read by a tree that fell in a forest somewhere and has nothing better to do until Arbor Day.

The idea: Share the love.

The plan: Do a focused free-write on “love” and then share it.

What will I need? Is this going to require a trip to the hipster market?: Nope, just some way to write things down and a way to time 10 minutes.

What next: Set your timer for 10 minutes. Then, ready-set-go, free-write a list of things you love. Try not to edit yourself.

And then?: Post it and share the link and the love.  Share it (a link or your list) in the comments section below or on the Share the Love post. (Or nowhere. Don’t let me be the boss of you.)

A word about editing: I’d suggest not editing during the 10 minutes, which is always the thought behind free-writing. Let your mind go where it will. As to editing before posting, that’s up to you. Some things are better left a mystery.

Here’s my list, slightly  edited to protect the innocent. What’s yours?

pictures of my children as babiespictures of my childrenmy childrenDunkin Donuts coffee black turtleneckselegant evening gownswearing boots in winter and flip-flops in summerdangly earringsdogs (except that one that might have been trying to kill me)chocolate, of course, but since you’ve asked, I’m especially fond of dark, Belgian)french fries — and any variation of potato for that matterthe smell of freshly baked bread (especially pumpernickel)avocadoscozy fires in wintercampfires in summerreading the Sunday papermusicsunshinesinging along with Sinatra in the car when spring has freshly sprunglemonadecontagious giggles and belly laughsriding my bikeimpromptu road tripsfalling asleep reading a bookstaying up too late reading a bookbooksbeing snowed in (sorry, New Englanders)crayonsbrand new notebookscolorful, smooth, round river rocksthe ferry ride to that place or that other placesunsetssunrisesfull moonswatersunsets, sunrises, and full moons over the waterwordskayakingintelligent, funny menintelligent, funny peopleholding handshugs(Ok, it’s getting dangerous. . .changing topics . . .)fortune cookiesexpressions of kindnesssolitudespy thrillersromcomshappy endingsthe color orangewalkingquiet conversationsinside jokespop culture quoteslisteninglibrariesmuseumsDegas’ dancers and Rothko’s colorslearning new thingsdaydreamingwatching baseball. . . 

So there you have it. My ten minutes of love.  Please stop by on April 24 for the big reveal of my position on Arbor Day. (Spoiler alert:  Probably crouched down planting flowers.)


(I found this steampunk heart at “lucky978″‘s deviant art page. I don’t know that person, but it’s a lovely piece. )


Famous Abraham Lincoln quotes

(Not really.)

For a little context, read the long version here. For some fun, add your own in the comments section.

"Happy birthday, Mr. President." -- Abraham Lincoln

“Happy birthday, Mr. President.” — Abraham Lincoln

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

“Where’s the beef?”

“I was for the war before I was against it.”

“Suppose you were a member of Congress and suppose you were an idiot. But I repeat myself.”

“I am not a crook.”

“Yes we can.”

“Don’t cry for me Argentina.”

“It depends on what your meaning of ‘is’ is.”

“Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

“The Eagle has landed.”

“Don’t make that face. It’ll freeze like that.”

“I believe you have my stapler. ”

“A penny saved is a penny . . . hey, that’s me!”

“Bygones.” *

“You can’t start a fire without a spark.”

“Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”


*”That was Richard Fish on Ally McBeal. You’re going to need to know that if we’re going to be friends.” — Hippie Cahier.

What Abraham Lincoln did not tell us about happiness

Four score and a lot of years ago, give or take, the 16th President of the United States was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. (To be historically accurate, he wasn’t president when he was born. That happened later.)

Here in the U.S., we’re about to kick off a three-day weekend honoring Abe and other notable presidents with hearts full of chocolates and red roses and mattress sales.  I didn’t get around to baking him a cake or buying him a lousy card or writing something new. I had a fun idea, but I was at work, where they don’t pay me to have fun ideas. Something has to replace my downer from yesterday, so here is a  re-run about  a quote on happiness  frequently misattributed to Lincoln.

(The quote is frequently misattributed to Lincoln. Happiness, not so much.)

Misattributed quotes on the Internet is one of my pet peeves, along with subject-verb ambiguity, so you might imagine how painful this sentence was for me to write. Anyway. I once saw some deep thought about airplanes attributed to Epictetus. Ridiculous.

But it’s not Epictetus’s birthday, despite what Mark Twain might have said that one time. It’s Lincoln’s birthday. To the Archives we go.  .  .


Several weeks ago I set out to write  about my Saturday at the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”). The theme was to be,  “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” a quote  I’d heard attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

I wasn’t sure, though.  It could have been Winston Churchill or Mark Twain or Maya Angelou.  Maybe Confucius or Buddha or Gandhi or Dale Carnegie. All good sources of inspirational quotes. I couldn’t in good conscience cite Lincoln as the speaker, since I didn’t actually hear him myself, so I did what responsible bloggers do: I asked Google.   I spent the rest of my Saturday sifting through link after link after link citing Lincoln as the speaker without finding one that I considered authoritative.

In fact, the more that I saw that Lincoln had said it, the less I believed that Lincoln had said it. I became obsessed with proving he didn’t.

I’ll take a break here and tell you a little about that Saturday. Anyone so inclined is welcome to wander out of the room to see if you can find the source of the quote.  I’ll give you a hint: it was probably not the 16th President of the United States. When you’re ready, meet us back here on the other side of the italics where I’ll explain how I came to that conclusion.

"I'm an excellent driver." -- Abe Lincoln

“I’m an excellent driver.” — Abe Lincoln

Meantime, queue up the harp music and fade to italics while I reminisce about that fine day. . . . .

Harp music / fade to italics

In this day and age, when one can do almost anything electronically, why would anyone need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, much less on a Saturday?  I’ll confess right up front:  it was my own fault.

It was time for my driver’s license renewal and they sent me a helpful mail-in form months ago.  It seemed straightforward and convenient but I made the mistake of sticking it in my work bag and — you guessed it — I ended up carrying it around for a couple of months until just before my birthday, also expiration day, when I remembered that I needed to mail in the form.  That’s when I noticed that there was a BACK of the form, requiring an eye doctor’s certification. 

At this point I had a choice: 

A. spending Saturday in line at the LensCrafters, hoping someone would fill out my form without charging me for another appointment or

B. taking a chance on the eye exam at the DMV. 

I went with B and here’s why:

  • LensCrafters is at the mall.
  • The mall is the place where parents dump their teenagers on Saturday.
  • I still suffer flashbacks due to post-teacher stress syndrome.  
  • Teenagers at the DMV are usually on their best behavior, hoping that the driving test administrator will go easy on them.

 I knew that spending Saturday at the DMV would be about as much fun as, oh, spending Saturday at the DMV. I had no one to blame but myself, so I prepared for the experience.  I’ve been wanting to block out some time for reading, so I packed a book.I knew there would be a line of fellow procrastinators, so I did my part to speed things along by filling out the form and having all my documentation ready. 

Sure enough, there were about 50 people ahead of me in the triage line, where they ask what you’re in for and give you the appropriate alpha-numerical wait slip according to your vehicular and /or licensing needs. Then you go sit with the other hundred or more people in the next round.  My only wish was not to get B-17.  I worried that they might not call B-17, at Olivia Newton John’s request.

This is just about the only up side to living so much inside my own head: I can entertain myself in just about any situation, especially public places. People are fascinating and / or amusing.

So there I was, laughing (on the inside) at my own B-17 joke, running my own Muzak through my head (“Please Mister, please. . .”), when THEY arrived. 

I  didn’t see them coming, but I heard them once they arrived. Before they even came to a dead stop behind me, their fearless leader Andrew Dice Clay started the swear-fest, complaining about how effing  long the effing line always is  at the gosh-darned effing DMV and how effing incompetent the effing employees were and how much effing time this was going to take out of his effing day.  The others joined in, wholeheartedly agreeing with ADC about what a ridiculous effing situation they were in.  They’d been there all of  thirty seconds.

Gratuitously inserted image to lure in those who skipped the italics.

Shocked and appalled, Olivia Newton John clammed up and ran for cover, clearing my mind to ponder the following question:  Who comes to the DMV in a group?

I can understand that perhaps one of them was there for an effing driver’s test and s/he needed another em-effing licensed driver along, but this seemed to be a family outing. Why?

I didn’t have time to form a hypothesis because the triage line moved rather quickly.  Before I knew it, the Head Triage Person pleasantly inquired as to my reason for being there. I copped to general incompetence further exacerbated by the onset of age-related feeble-mindedness.  She kindly handed me my ticket ( F-43, whew!)   and invited me to have a seat while I waited.  Off I went  in search of a quiet bench to get in a little recreational reading. 

I was a page or two into my book when I realized that the man two rows behind me had not stopped talking. When I realize something like that, I find it extremely hard to unrealize. 

On and on he went, the topic of choice of course being how horrible the DMV is. How every time he has to come here they mess something up. Story after story of the time when he came without this document or that document and they stubbornly refused to help him. How rude they were when he insisted they use their stupid common sense and give him a break.  He reminisced about the time he saw them skip right over someone’s number and call the next one (That one I believe. I just knew B-17 was bad luck). 

And then, then he said, I swear to you I am not making this up. It may be paraphrased, but it’s what he said. He said. . .

 “It’s one of my favorite things to do. Just come sit here and watch how these idiots mess things up.” 

 And I believe him.

Thankfully, my reprieve from the Frequent Flyer’s tirade came when F-43 was called and off I went to visit with another pleasant woman who allowed me to take the vision test without my glasses (I passed, which should frighten us all) and allowed me to keep the weight I listed ten years ago, although we both clearly knew it was slightly inaccurate.  She even took a halfway decent picture of me. No one takes a half-decent picture of me.  I am completely unphotogenic.

I was at the DMV for about an hour and a half that day. Considering all the people they had to take care of, I left pretty darned impressed, with a driver’s license I’d feel comfortable presenting to any officer of the law. The only disappointment was that I didn’t have time to sink into my book.

On the way home, I reviewed the experience and decided that most people are indeed just about as happy as they make up their minds to be. 

If you go to the DMV expecting it to be a miserable experience, you can make it one. . . for yourself and everyone around you. Or you can block out the profanity and whiners and get in a little reading. 

Whatever makes you as happy as you make up your mind to be.

The other side of the italics

That’s where my story would have ended, except for the nagging feeling that I hadn’t confirmed that Lincoln is the one who offered that insight about happiness.  Eventually, I started getting hungry and needed to move on with my life, so I decided to let someone else wrestle with this for a while.

I sent a question to the fine folks at the Internet Public Library   .

Although I still haven’t  learned where the quote originated, the diligent librarian checked with about as reliable a source as one could find (except for Abe, who was unavailable for comment).  Here is the answer she received and passed along to me:

Thank you for writing to us; your query has reached my desk.This is one of the 5 or so Hallmark-style inventions, or perhaps it is from Jonathan Livingston Seagull or some other late 20th century advice book, that is regularly hung on Lincoln’s neck. There is no record that he said it, and certainly no chance that he wrote it.

In general, we recommend to people that they never believe the stuff they find on the Internet in the way of ‘famous quotations’ by anyone.

James M. Cornelius, Ph.D.
Curator, Lincoln Collection
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Thank you, IPL.

Thank you, Dr. Cornelius.

Thank you, nice folks at the DMV.

And a very special  thank you, Olivia Newton John.

Phoning it in.

(I planned to focus on lighter, attempted-humor writing for the new year. Today that plan took a detour. Bygones.)

I’ve never published by phone before. I’ve been drafting a(n arguably) humorous piece about a phone-related incident that I am sure I myself will find funny someday. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere,  maybe because it’s not funny yet.  What I have to say today is not funny,  either.

I wish I could find humor or a clever hashtag game distraction. I wish I could annoy even myself with something naively uplifting.

But what I feel and feel the need to say out loud is loss. I feel today as if I have lost my own daughter.

It seems like we’re getting used to horrific news and desensitized to it. Today, though, I am having trouble going about my day without acknowledging that something unbearably sad has happened.

I’m thinking about how I have encouraged my own children and other mothers’ children to put good things into the world and to always care for others. Today, selfishly, I wish I could take that back.

Today it feels like the more good we put into the world, the more evil finds a way to adapt and to tighten its grip.(Why would autocorrect think I meant “gtip”.What is that??)

I know, of course, that’s not the way I want to think and eventually I will be back on track.

But today I feel like I lost a daughter and it is an unbearable sadness.

I don’t have any images to share and I can barely see the screen to fix whatever autocorrect has wrought. I just wanted to say this because it needed to be said.

Peace, or some inadequate facsimile thereof.

There might be unicorns among us.

The other day I read a bold and intriguing theory, pithily encapsulated in 140 characters or fewer. Regretfully, I can’t give credit where credit is due, because I don’t know the identity of its source.

There I was, minding my own business—which is usually the way when something life-altering happens, isn’t it?  You very rarely hear, “There I was, minding my neighbor’s business . . .”—when something along these lines scrolled across my screen:

“I don’t know, guys. I just saw a BMW with its turn signal on. Maybe unicorns do exist!” 

I’m paraphrasing there. If you counted the characters and came up with more than 140, this might be a good time to remind you that the best things happen when you’re minding your own business.

My first thought in response to this turn signal-based evidence of magical creatures among us, a thought that I had the sense not to express out loud, was to wonder if unicorns are known for their polite and courteous driving. It was a thought that would come back to me, sometime during rush hour this morning.

"I'm an excellent driver." (Photo of My Little Pony Glory,  by PoniesofDooom on etsy. Glory has been sold.)

“I’m an excellent driver.” (Photo of My Little Pony Glory, by PoniesofDooom on etsy. Glory has been sold.)

The timeline is fuzzy because I wasn’t paying attention, which is also usually the case when something life-altering happens to me. Perhaps it was in the hours before that notion scrolled across my screen, perhaps in the hours after. There I was—minding my own business again—when what was probably a rhetorical question crossed my screen:

“What is up with this whole Brony thing?”

This time I could not restrain my cluelessness, which I shared aloud. I was invited to Google the term, whereupon I was reminded that there are a lot of people on the Internet with entirely too much time on their hands. Twenty minutes or more into my “research,” I realized I was becoming one of those people.

I went back to minding my own business. And then it happened. Or maybe it happened before then. The timeline is still fuzzy, and magical stuff is going down. Who’s to say these events aren’t shifting in the time-space continuum even as I type this?

Anyway, there I was, looking for Latino-blend corn and beans on what I thought was a routine trip to the grocery store.  I turned my shopping cart into the frozen foods aisle and there she was, running through the pole beans, a vision of wonder, coming from the opposite end, adorned in her lavender coat, with her lavender and purple-streaked hair, followed by a little girl about six years old carrying a giant, stuffed, orange My Little Pony.

Bronies? Unicorns in disguise?  What is going on here? What. Is. Going. On?!?!?!

I wish I could tell you what’s going on, but the truth of it is, some things are better left a mystery. I decided it was probably best to go back to minding my own business, which eventually meant pretending not to read the headlines on the tabloids in the check-out line, and pretending not to wonder if Jennifer Aniston’s twins might turn out to be unicorns.

This part of the timeline is clear because it happened most recently, which is usually the case with timelines: I managed to put all this behind me until this morning’s commute.

There  I was—minding my own business—driving along at 66 miles per hour,  when I came upon a BMW in the left lane, driving at the posted speed limit. And then, as if being stirred to action by a sprinkling of magical fairy dust, the turn signal went on and the driver moved to the slower lane to let those of us in the left lane pass.

I wanted to look. I wanted the driver to be lavender-haired lady, this time no disguise. Just cruising along in all her horned, purple-maned unicorn glory.

But I didn’t. I went back to minding my own business. Because some things are better left a mystery.

Just between you and me, though, all signs point to unicorns among us. Grocery-shopping, BMW-driving, purple-haired unicorns.