twelve pretty pictures...

...all of New Orleans last week, posted here chronologically.They tell a story only I know, although you could write a fictional story using these photos, in this order. Or, mix up the order. Or, choose only ONE photo and write a story. Choose three. Which three would you choose? What stories could you tell?

Always, when I step into New Orleans, I want to live there. Give me twenty-four hours, though, and I'm ready to go home, possibly this time because home has been waiting for me for months. And, finally, here I am.
This makes thirteen pretty pictures. I like this one best. See those windows? My dining room has lived behind them for a year. Tomorrow I start moving my office back to its rightful place. I move further down the road to changing up my routines. And I begin again on book two of the sixties trilogy. After I sit on this porch a while longer...

Welcome home to me!

you knew I'd have to come

I still miss her.
The house has not sold. Last time I was inside, it was after a funeral.

Sometimes I want to buy the place. Mostly I want to remember.

Miss you, Daaahlin'.

coming up: travels with charlie

Cool tonight, and darkish at 5:30. One day home for me. After a meeting this morning and a lovely girls-lunch-out (with the newest little girl in attendance!) at Farmburger in Decatur, I returned home to get ready for tomorrow's travel.
But I didn't pack. Instead, I filled the coal hod twice with ashes from the last of the winter fires, swept the hearth, and lit a fire in the fireplace. It's May 17th, and I have a fire. In Atlanta. Cool.
I popped corn. I made Spanish coffee. I washed the grapes and sliced the cheese and found my favorite banana bread recipe in my favorite old cookbook.

And I contemplated the next project.
Thanks for all the great comments about hand work. Isn't it amazing how we gravitate to it, even in this electronic age. It soothes us. It centers us. It used to be essential for survival.

Maybe it still is.

Thanks to the wonderful teachers at S.L. Mason Elementary School in Valdosta, Georgia, for the fabulous work day yesterday, and special thanks to instructional lead teacher Tina Nunn, who worked with me for months to make the writing day come together for all of us.

And now... switching gears -- come see me tomorrow night, 6pm, May 18, at Octavia Books in New Orleans, where I'll be talking about and signing Countdown! I'll be at Page & Palette on Thursday night, May 19, in Fairhope, Alabama. I'm traveling with Charlie Young, Scholastic's Southern Sales Rep Extraordinaire. We're set to hit the road with sixties tunes and stories -- come with us.

More from The Big Easy. Stay warm tonight. Be as reasonable as I am; put whipped cream on top of your Spanish coffee.

hand work

Got home from Tennessee travels late Friday night -- shout outs to my good friend Scot Smith, his colleagues, and all 7th graders who are working on a truly amazing Countdown project at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge.

You'll be hearing more about this as we catalogue and archive and write up this project. How do we teach Countdown in the classroom? How does it reach into every corner of the new, national, Common Core standards? Stay tuned.

Thank yous as well to Jo Wilson and her team at Eaton Elementary in Lenoir City for an amazing hour with 3rd and 4th graders who have read the Aurora County trilogy and Freedom Summer, and to all teachers and students at Grandview School in Jonesborough, Tennessee, for a memorable teacher workshop day and another day with students in grades PRE-K through EIGHT. Whatta stretch. And it was good.
 Got my hair cut yesterday. Talked with Vincent about working with our hands. I talk about this a lot lately. It's part of what I'm trying to put into words in my new novel, book two of the sixties trilogy, and into a new project I'm cooking up. Again, stay tuned. :>
I made a commitment this year to work more with my hands. I talk about it all the time in schools. I preach about it, actually, about how we have to use our notebooks (Totally paperless classrooms? Aiiieeeee! At our peril!), and keep teaching handwriting and cursive and drawing and doodling and pasting and cutting and taping and knitting and cooking and gardening and sweeping and painting...
I finished Abby's Tiramisu late yesterday afternoon. (Ravelry notes here.) As I wove the ribbon through the border spaces and watched the whole thing come together, finally, I was filled with the delight of "I made this! With my own two hands! And it's beautiful!" I love that feeling. The beauty lies in the process, in the effort, and also in the finishing.

It's like that with writing as well. I've been teaching lots of teachers this spring, and that's what we've been working with -- process, effort, finishing. This is the investment.
Today I'm making this soup. I'm cooking the rice now -- the whole house smells earthy on this cool spring morning. I'll chop the onion and zest the lemons and leave out the mint, and soon we'll have a lovely soup and bread for our midday meal, before I drive to Valdosta this afternoon... to work with teachers again on Monday.

When I return, I'll go back to the project I started last week: moving my office back into its rightful place -- in the living/dining room of this old house -- and making the bedroom a bedroom instead of my office. I tried it for a year. It didn't work. And I don't need a dining room the way I need a large office space.

In preparing to move all this furniture once again, I washed by hand, in hot soapy water, every glass in the red hutch. I felt the ridges and admired the patterns and selected out the chipped ones -- what to do with them? Most are heirlooms, many are my mother's. My mother, who did so much hand work.
 Hand work. I'm thinking a lot about it, as I fashion this new writer's life, in this new writing year. I made a decision at Thanksgiving, and now, six months later, I'm revisiting my progress. I'll have more to share with you about how I'm changing my writing life, as soon as I have adequate words.
 I'm trying on those decisions, and it feels good.

from my garden

Just a little note to say I am here, and I will be back. In the month since I last posted, I've worked in seven states and have been so lucky to meet so many wonderful people who are working hard at telling their stories.
I've been lucky to squeeze in almost every possible moment home to be with brand-new Abby and her brand-new parents, with dollops of time to start a spring-cleaning and organizing frenzy -- a throw-out party and list-making like you wouldn't believe. Something's brewing...

We even managed to sneak in the year's first dinner party in Irene!

There was moving, too... Hannah and Richard moved in next door temporarily -- a situation that gives them a larger place and keeps the house tended and occupied while the owner waits for real estate prices to recover. We hope.

No official writing was done in this month. And that's okay. Because there is a new plan afoot....

My birthday was Saturday (May 7). You'll remember last birthday, I painted a wall orange. It's still orange. But that's going to change, here at age 58. Lots is changing....

I returned from the D.C. area on Saturday and went to dinner with two good friends and one good husband.

And on Mother's Day, in addition to a lovely supper at The Shed with my favorite people, I spent time in my garden for the first time in a year. A year. A whole year! No wonder things need to change.

I have something to say about this change. It has been coming together, since a night in November last year, when I took stock and made some big decisions. It is coming together still.

I hinted at the changes here. And there is more to tell, soon. For now, I'll leave you with Jack Kornfield's three deathbed questions:

Did I love well?
Did I live fully?
Did I learn to let go?

I am trying to live the questions.

xoxoxo Debbie