Shoebox of Life

Mom gave me a shoebox of old school papers, journals, e-mails, and drawings from my childhood. It was a shoebox full of butterflies in every color of Crayola and of smiling, neckless little girls. Of wide-lined paper full of fat, rolling handwriting and of college rule paper with skinny, slanty, curly cursive.  I looked through the papers and saw my rainbow-loving self in there, who never drew a flower without drawing its roots reaching through the soil, and it was like Littler Me had all the answers that Bigger Me is looking for.

It’s taken me many years to finally start writing books. I always loved writing but thought I didn’t have anything to write about. I didn’t start writing novels in high school, like so many acclaimed authors. I never thought that writing was the only thing I wanted to do in life. I did not major in creative writing. So I’ve felt a bit like a poser and a fraud.

But now I have a shoebox that says what if you’re not?

There’s a story I wrote in the second grade about a Leaf and his cousin, Beaf, the only two leaves left on a tree.


We are the only leaves that are left on the tree. It gets lonely every once in a while. Sometimes I think we are falling down.

I could write a poem on just those lines.

Sometimes I think we are falling down, I  wrote. I didn’t realize how very little wind it took to blow a leaf out of a tree.

The two little leaves try to make the best of things but eventually Beaf blows away in a big gust of wind, leaving Leaf all alone. In a moment of heroic bravery, the little leaf finally decides to let go…and is reunited with all her cousins on the ground.

Did I know what I was doing, metaphorically, at age 7??

Maybe. Maybe I did.

Other things in the shoebox made me laugh. Like when I wrote: I always get mixed up on spelling. This is what I once spelled for hope, hop. Wher’s the e?


(I wish I could say this is an example of budding comedic genius, but alas, it’s just bad speling.)

Sometimes I used my writing in powerful ways, like to document complex interactions between family members.


Such raw emotion! Sad Me gets it.


In the third grade, I wrote the following story (apologies for the eye-bleeding cursive—there’s a translation below):


It’s a story of a lady who was tired of keeping house so she built a robot to keep house for her, but that robot got tired of keeping house and built a robot to take its place, and so on and so on until one very smart robot organized all the others to ambush Mrs. Krinket and wire her to be a robot so she could do her own housework.

I mean, that’s a story!  That I wrote!

Happy Me gets it.


On up through the years the shoebox went, reaching into high school, where I penned this poem after breaking up with my boyfriend:

I wash my hair of you
Strawberry shampoo
Rinse the residue
Ribbons flow
Where you once grew

That poem comes back to me sometimes when I step into the shower, and I whisper it into the steam. I don’t know why. I didn’t get the highest grade on it; my teacher said I should stick with lyrical prose and avoid so much rhyming, but it’s the one poem that keeps following me around like a loyal puppy, and I love it.

The shoebox showed me that all those years I wished I were a writer, all the years I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be a writer—all those years I already was a writer.

It showed me that I wasn’t just plopped down on this earth all big and adulty, like it sometimes feels.

It showed me that sometimes I felt happy and sometimes I felt sad. Even then.

When I finished looking through the papers, I sighed. I wished there were more. I wished that first of all Littler Me were here with Bigger Me and that second of all she was still writing more stories for the shoebox.

And then I realized that first of all, she is.

And that second of all, I am.

Pasta with your choice of vodka sauce or lobster sauce
Spinach salad
Millionaire’s shortbread


Vincenzo and his friends spent a couple hours sledding unchaperoned yesterday. He came back and said he had a great time and mumbled something about how they had built a snow man. “Fun!” I said. An hour later, I got a text from V’s friend’s Mom.

Her: Did you see what they built?
Me: No. Why?


I call it simply “Snowballs.”

Please note: my son is not in this picture and said he had no part of building the Snowballs. Good, I said. Someone needed to be on lookout, as this was built on a CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY CAMPUS.

I showed the picture to my mom, who needed an explanation and who then said, “Well, they must have had a ball building it.” She didn’t understand why I started cracking up, so I needed to explain that to her, too. (This is the same Mom who named our cat “Kinky” because the cat had a crooked tail and Mom didn’t know kinky could mean anything else.)

Well, anyway, at least we can all agree that yesterday’s snow day had a happy ending.

(Mom, DON’T CALL  if you need an explanation on that one.)

Apricot chickpea soup
Roasted cauliflower
Chocolate lava cakes

80% Chance that it will Snow 100%

What is the matter with our city? I checked the weather last night and this message popped up:


Give yourself a second to take all that in.

Below it was an hour-by-hour prediction of snowfall for the night, ranging from 30% to 80%, and below that was stated 100% CHANCE OF SNOWFALL TONIGHT.

We’re not too good at weather around here, or math either. And as you can see by that sentence, I guess we’re not too good at grammar neither.

But in the end we did get 2” of HEAVY SNOWFALL and school was canceled, probably for the rest of the month.

But oops, looks like we’re not all that good at putting on snow clothes, either.


Fortunately, it was an easy problem to fix.


Beef stroganov
Buttered broccoli
Fruity Pebble Cupcakes

New Year’s 2020

So New Year’s Eve happened and once again I did not spend it on the top floor of the tallest building in the biggest city, dripping with diamonds, my hair in  a complicated up-do, eating gougeres with A-list celebs, realizing I am desperately in love with Kevin at 11:59, and kissing him like our futures depended on it at 12:00.

No, I did not do any of that. Instead I  spent it on the top floor of a split-level house in a smallish city, eating mashed potatoes with a bunch of amped-up kids, realizing I forgot to change out of my sweatpants at 8:30 and kicking everyone out of the house at 8:31. Yes, it was our We Hate New Year’s party. This year’s party included 10 pounds of prime rib, three dozen vindictive sparklers, candy cane ice cream a la child labor, and our traditional New Year’s crackers.

For those who don’t know about the New Year’s crackers, after Christmas we all make Lego creations, then take them apart and put the pieces in TP tubes, write the name of the thing on the outside, and wrap them up all pretty. On New Year’s Eve guests open the crackers and build whatever the tube says, instructions not included.

Every year I feel so environmentally responsible, making the crackers with our old TP tubes and wrapping paper scraps. I take garbage and turn it into something fun and pretty. I’m doing  my part to save the planet! Of course, I don’t feel that so so much the next day when I throw away all the wrapping paper scraps and TP tubes. I didn’t save the planet after all. I just avoided throwing away some junk for a couple months.

This year things started out light and humorous, as usual:

Unicorn throne


Fully posable Egyptian


Tesla truck (rock not included)


The Springfield Tire Fire


Guy who stepped on a Lego


Then Kevin got involved and things got dark. Super dark. He called this first one “The French Revolution.”


This one is elegantly named “Electric Chair.”


I’m not even going to include “Jar Jar Binks’ Last Days” because it’s culturally insensitive and is also too graphic to post here.

Actually, the “Guy who Stepped on a Lego” should probably be included with this second set of crackers.

Anyway, to counteract some of Kevin’s dark creations, I built a candy shop.


But by then the darkness had spread.


I called it Candy Shop Stick-Up because Sticky Situation at the Candy Shop wouldn’t fit on the TP tube.

And now that this post is on the Internet, I am no longer eligible to run for politics.

Chicken tetrazzini
Green beans
Chocolate mousse pie