- Got a piggy-back ride part of the way home from a bar on my birthday
- Got a picture of one of my cats wearing a witch hat (this had been a longstanding dream of mine)
- Achieved a NaNoWriMo three-peat
- Sipped and painted
- Attended the Grilled Cheese Meltdown (yum!)
- Made kitty plates
- Saw the Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute
- Attended the Cider Summit
- Colored Ruth Bader Ginsberg on a unicorn
- Successfully escaped a room
- Had fun with helium
- Used a magical cupcake machine
- Read Infinite Jest (It’s somewhat debatable whether this counts as “awesome,” but it’s definitely an accomplishment, so I’m counting it)
- Was on TV! (I’m in the background in the orange jacket)
- (Obviously) did more SUP yoga
- Took this fierce selfie
- Experimented with buttons
- Experimented with lots of new hairstyles
- Took an arm balance yoga workshop
- Met a dog named Friday while with a person named Friday
- Stayed at a goat farm in Ballyvaughn, Ireland
- Visited the Cliffs of Moher
- Brought a cutout of my alma mater’s founder along with me on my travels
- Saw the Poulnabrone Dolmen
- Visted Ailwee Cave
- Visited Dunguaire Castle
- Learned about King Puck
- Saw a traditional Irish music session in and Irish Pub
- Wrote limericks while in County Limerick
- Visited Killarney National Park
- Visited the Rock of Cashel
- Went on a literary pub crawl in Dublin (and won a t-shirt by correctly answering the most quiz questions afterward)
- Saw the Book of Kells
- Took a selfie with an Irish sheep
- Toured the Guinness Storehouse
- Twirled a la Stevie Nicks in the Luxembourg City town square
- Took a walking tour of Luxembourg City
- Visited the Bock Casemates
- Sang about a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg while in Luxembourg
- Helped bring You Don’t Know Us..., the first collection of stories and poems from one of my writing groups, to publication
- Celebrated the Cubs’ first pennant win 71 years
Forty-one Awesome Things I Did While I Was Forty-one October 24, 2016
Fun With Wordle March 19, 2014
I haven’t exactly been writing up a storm here lately. I could give you all sorts of excuses, but instead, I’ll just share the fruits of my procrastination. I created this word cloud using wordle.net and all of my publications to date.
A Host of Problems May 16, 2012
“So, you’re making your first communion soon?” Shane, a fifth grader, said as he approached a group of us second-grade girls one day at recess.
Fifth-grade boys usually didn’t talk to second-grade girls unless they meant to torment them, so we were wary. “Yeah,” said Megan, the boldest among us. “So?”
Shane bounced a basketball slowly and tossed it over to Randy, another fifth grader. “I’m just curious. Have the priests and nuns have told you everything?”
“Of course,” said Megan.
I wasn’t so sure. “What do you mean?” I squawked.
“They didn’t tell us everything before we did it, right, Randy?”
Randy grinned slyly and bounced the ball back to Shane. “They sure didn’t.”
“What are you talking about?” Megan sniffed. She was trying to brush this off, but she was obviously nervous.
“I don’t know if I should say.”
“They’ll find out eventually,” Randy said.
Megan rolled her eyes. “You’re just trying to scare us.”
I couldn’t speak for everyone, but the scare tactics were working on me. I was worried enough about tripping on my way up the aisle and about whether my soul was pure enough to receive Jesus. Adding the thought that the grown-ups were withholding some important detail made me wish I was Jewish.
“Oh, just tell us!” said Mary, another girl in the group.
“Do you think they can handle it?” said Shane.
“Just tell us or leave us alone!” Megan said. She crossed her arms in front of her chest defiantly.
“Okay, I’ll be nice and warn you,” Shane began. “You know during Mass, when the priest says all of that stuff and the bread changes into the body of Christ?”
“Duh,” Megan said.
Shane stuck out his tongue at Megan before continuing. “When you take communion, you’d better not bite or chew.”
Randy snickered. “Not unless you want a mouthful of blood.”
“What are you talking about?” Megan sounded less confident.
“The host will bleed if you do,” Shane said.
“No way!” Megan said, her voice faltering.
“It’s true alright,” said Shane. “I just wanted to warn you. No one warned us, and boy were we surprised!”
I told myself that Shane and Randy must be messing with us. There was no way the grown-ups wouldn’t have warned us. Then again, some churches gave out wine with communion, which was supposed to be Jesus’ blood, so maybe the adults figured it was no biggy. Still, the thought of having something start bleeding in my mouth was enough to make me lose sleep. I didn’t even like hamburgers unless they were well done. Plus, even if I didn’t chew or bit the host, wouldn’t it start bleeding when it got all smooshed up in my stomach? What if I got sick? Everyone would think I was a bad person because Jesus made me sick!
The next time I was in church, I watched closely at communion time. Sure enough, most people didn’t chew. They just held a serious look on their faces and eventually swallowed. But there were a few who walked back to their pews chomping away. Unfortunately, everyone had enough manners to chew with their mouths closed, so I couldn’t tell if there was any blood.
I thought of asking my parents or a teacher about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to. If Shane had been lying, I’d look stupid. If he’d been telling the truth, I didn’t know what I’d do. I couldn’t not go through communion. It was supposed to be all wonderful and holy, but I dreaded it.
At my first communion, I didn’t dare bite or chew, and I managed to choke down the host without retching. It just tasted like stale bread, which gave me hope that Shane had lied. Still, I’d have to take communion at least once a week for the rest of my life. How could I do that unless I knew? I had no idea what I’d do if a bite of host sent blood gushing into my mouth and trickling down my chin. Perhaps I could fake illness until I found a different religion to convert to.
Gradually, I worked up my courage to find out the truth. I chickened out several times and swallowed the host after it got mushy on my tongue. But finally, one day as I walked back to my pew, I bit down tentatively but firmly. No blood squirted. Nothing felt or tasted different. I bit down again. Nothing. To be sure, I feigned a sneeze and spit into my hand. I folded my hands in prayer but discretely peered between them to check. No blood. No gore. No Jesus guts. I quickly wiped my hand on the tissue in my pocket and breathed a sigh of relief.
Originally published in The Journal of Ordinary Thought, Spring 2012
I’m on the JOT blog today! March 29, 2012
You can check out one of my latest essays on the Journal of Ordinary Thought blog today. Also, check out posts from my fellow Albany Park NWA writers earlier this week (and continuing through the end of next week)!
The Elephant on the Lawn September 22, 2011
The Elephant on the Lawn
In the fall of 2008, as my father raked leaves on the front lawn, he bent to pull his Obama/Biden sign out of the ground. The election was over, and the sign, a standout symbol of liberalism in the conservative sea of Southeastern Wisconsin, was no longer relevant. As he stood and tossed the sign aside the pile of collected leaves, a neighbor happened by.
“Well,” he said to my father, amiably, but with a slight edge of unhappiness. “Your guy won.” He motioned to the sign on the ground.
My father nodded and smiled, not being one to gloat.
“I can’t say I’m too happy about that, but we’ll see how he does,” the neighbor continued. “I’m sure glad that Proposition 8 passed in California, though.”
If I had to guess, I would say the neighbor wasn’t trying to start an argument or raise a controversy. Perhaps he even said it in hopes of finding some common ground with my father. In 2006, Wisconsin had amended its constitution to prohibit gay marriage, and I would wager that, in the town where I grew up, the vast majority of inhabitants who voted supported that ban. So many other people in town would have nodded in agreement, smiling as they bonded over the thought of denying rights to their fellow humans. Others may not have agreed with the neighbor’s sentiment but would likely have changed the subject, not wanting to make a fuss.
Little did the neighbor know, he’d hit on a hot-button issue, and his comment would not be left unchallenged. My dad, who is normally quite mild mannered, threw rake to the ground in disgust. “Are you kidding me? That just makes me sick! Why in the world would anyone see such blatant bigotry as a positive thing?”
The neighbor’s mouth hung open as the worms continued to emerge from the can that he’d opened, and my father continued. “What business is it of the government or anyone else who a person wants to marry? Did you happen to think for one second how you might feel if a close friend or family member, or even you yourself were the one having their rights stripped away? No, you probably haven’t even considered it, but you know what? I have, and frankly, anyone who sees my son or my son-in-law as a second-class citizen can go jump in a lake!”
I don’t know if my dad’s rant changed the neighbor’s mind. I’m guessing it probably didn’t, but maybe it made him think just a little bit more about why he had the opinions he did. That may not seem like much, but it’s a step. A mind must be opened before it can change, and then, the change doesn’t occur in one fell swoop, but in a series of small steps. Transforming society happens even more slowly, but each step is an important one.
Perhaps other people would have remained silent on the issue, either to avoid confrontation or out of a hopelessness that the neighbor’s opinions were too deeply etched in stone, but my dad resisted such cynicism. He refused to remain silent and took the opportunity to face the issue head on, attempting to chip away at that stone.
My father, my hero.
© 2010 Elizabeth Barton
Originally published in the Journal of Ordinary Thought, Summer 2011
The Little Blue Book (Nonfiction, Flashlight Memories [Silver Boomer Books], March 2011)
Three Minutes (Fiction, Gemini Magazine, October 2010)
The Kid Question (Nonfiction, Skirt! magazine, November 2009)
Not Tonight (Fiction, Runner Up in WOW Women on Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest, November 2009)
The Wedding March (Fiction, Third Place in WOW Women on Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest, August 2009)
The Latest JOT July 9, 2011
You can hear me reading my latest, beginning at around 20:30. But listen to all of it. It’s great!