12 February 2013


This month, I am participating in a writing challenge in which I write one moment every day for 21 days. (And you thought, because you haven't heard from me in a while, that I wasn't writing.) I receive a writing prompt by e-mail each day, and then I am supposed to write my moment. At first, I had no idea what to write about, and so, for the first five days, I just sat staring at my screen, doing nothing. And then, on the sixth day, the floodgates opened.

When I signed up for the challenge, I had thought I'd write fictional moments involving the characters who are floating around in my head. But that's not what happened. What happened is that I started writing about memories, and I now have a small collection of scenes from my life. Some of them are significant (first day at a new school). Some of them are sad (death of a grandparent). Some of them are just funny scenes that make me laugh (a day at the beach with a high school boyfriend during which we got attacked by sand flies). They're mostly true, but some are a little bit embellished (either because I don't remember the details exactly, or because the story improves with embellishment).

The thing I am learning is that the more I write, the more I want to write. The more ideas I have, the more ideas I get. Stagnation breeds more stagnation, but good work breeds more good work. And that might be the most valuable lesson I am getting from working on this challenge.

Today is Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday, also known, in French-speaking places, as Mardi Gras, and, in German-speaking places, as Karnival. It's the day before Lent begins. Since Lent is supposed to be a penitential season, full of self-reflection and self-denial, the tradition for today is last-minute indulgence. I've been baking cookies for my kids to take to school and youth group parties. If we were really being traditional, we'd have pancakes for dinner, but I messed up and thawed an enormous brisket the other day, and now I need to cook it. It's in the Crock-Pot now, and I wish you could smell it. If you could, you'd know that it's going to be more than indulgent enough for our little carnival feast. (The recipe I am using is from America's Test Kitchen's "Slow Cooker Revolution," and I recommend it highly.)

My son has been learning some common Yiddish expressions lately. He now knows that a jerk is a schmuck, that chicken fat is schmaltz, and that if you want only a little bit of cream cheese on your bagel, you ask for a schmear. These words amuse him greatly. This morning, watching me get dinner going, he asked me whether "brisket" was Yiddish for "enormous hunk of meat." He might not be too far off on that.

We survived the recent big snowstorm, "Nemo," with no serious consequences. The weather is fickle, though; today is an absolutely beautiful day, and I've been running my errands without a coat. Tomorrow, on the other hand, we are expecting another three or four inches of snow. Wherever you are this week, whatever you are doing, I wish you just enough indulgence, and just enough self-reflection; something that smells delicious simmering in your kitchen; and a moment or two that, in a few years, will be worth writing about.

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