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PLACES I STOPPED ON THE WAY HOME by Meg Fee

Places I Stopped On The Way HomeI link to Meg Fee’s blog occasionally, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned her ebook. It’s a short collection of essays about life and love in her 20s in New York City. It’s about home — leaving it, seeking it, creating it. Some of the essays started as blog posts on her site; some are brand new. All were thought-provoking and enjoyable to me.

A few notes from my reading:

“The female doesn’t want a rich or a handsome man or even a poet, she wants a man who understands her eyes if she gets sad, and points to his chest and says: Here is your home country.” – Nizar Qabbani

Those aren’t Meg’s own words, obviously, but it’s a good thesis, so to speak, for everything that Meg does say. And the qualities that she’s seeking in love and in a partner? I have them, with Andy.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky — between him and my parents — but I know what a difference it has made in my life.

The best people I know are comfortable with failure, willing to hang out in discomfort. They aren’t interested in looking cool or terribly concerned with fitting in. They understand the value of listening and are willing to apologize and admit wrong. They are engaged in the very active thing that is fighting for the life you want, and fighting for the love you think you deserve. And at the end of the day, when asked what they bring to the table, they know the answer.

This is the type of person I strive to be. Some days I succeed, some days I don’t. But hopefully the don’t days are getting fewer and farther between.

Occasionally I am rendered breathless by how much there is to look forward to.

I probably cry an average of once a day about something terrible that has happened in the world. And I worry. And I rage. But in spite of everything, there is still hope, joy, goodness, and endless possibility. That’s what we live for. That’s the how and the why. That’s everything.

And now, many months after I originally read and saved Meg’s words, that’s what I feel when I place a hand on my growing belly, and my baby girl moves inside me.

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Grow the heart

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Stuff worth reading

“Flexibility and Strength” by Casey Blair

The more I level up, the greater narrative control I need, the stronger I need my vision to be for what my story really is at its core. There will always be people who wish for something different from a story. In the end, though, if I’m the author, the onus is on me to make sure I’m writing my story, the way I think is right. And the ability to do that is a skill, and also, I think, a form of artistic strength.

“Inherit the Word” by Annie Liontas

I was raised to understand work as having direct and immediate impact, and the truth about writing is that it takes decades, sometimes longer, before you can collect your harvest. A life of writing is and is not a privilege; it is and is not a luxury to do this work in the darkness. Lately, I have been trying to tell myself that an honest day’s work for me means achieving honesty on the page, in planting something that may in time offer nourishment to someone.

“On Editing” by Karen Outen

The way that we serve our stories best in revision is in that spirit of expectation, wonder, and, yes, enough fear and trembling to invite the unexpected.

“All In” by Benjamin Percy

The writer is always a careful observer, but if you are constantly evacuating your imagination, your eyes and ears grow even sharper, and you lean forward with hunger for every experience, knowing that it will offer up a card to add to your hand.

This is, after all, a gambler’s trade. All in. Always.

“Scraps” by Trevor Crown

It’s this: don’t be too proud or pure to take scraps. … By all means, let bad work burn, but occasionally try to rescue a salvageable page or two from seven you cringe to recall.

“Mozart Had a Mother-in-Law” by Taiyaba Husain

I’ve been gorgeously funded, and I’ve lived in a two-room windowless apartment above an electrical shop. In each situation, I’ve found it difficult to do the work. Distractions and worries abound. … What inspires me in these moments is knowing that I am part of a fellowship of admirable, stubborn people who face the same challenges I do.

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Promise

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Kitchen moments

My mother showing me how to peel a cucumber, slice it in half long-wise, and scoop out the insides with a spoon.

My señora filling a bowl with fresh cherries from the market, swirling them in water, massaging them clean.

Plates stacked high around the sink, empty wine goblets and juice glasses, the remnants of Thanksgiving waiting to be boxed up for next week’s leftovers.

A tray of chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven, and the boy who liked me eagerly sampling one and proclaiming it delicious. (Only later would I discover that I had mixed up baking powder and baking soda, turning the cookies to rocks within the hour.)

Two friends and I back from college, eager to play adult, preparing a meal for one of their families, laughing and chatting while the radio sings softly in the background.

Alone at my aunt and uncle’s house, with a glass of orange juice and handful of Hershey’s Kisses beside me, laptop flashing a blank screen, deadline looming for my sophomore fiction class.

Baking banana chocolate chip bread for the first time, nervously following the recipe (double-checking baking powder versus baking soda!), and marveling at the magnificent treat I made all by myself.

Baking banana chocolate chip bread for the third time, realizing I am missing a few ingredients, and improvising with a bottle of Sprite.

Sitting on the wobbly wicker stool while my mom cooks dinner, steam rising in the air, oil sizzling in the pan.

Peeling a cucumber, or filling a bowl with cherries, or watching my husband bake mini key lime pies for a work event, and imagining the kitchen moments my future children will remember, the images and feelings that will come unbidden to them during the smallest of daily tasks, even so many years later.

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