Links I Love

• It was spring, and raining—hard, and I was driving back from Ohio University with all my college furniture and belongings stuffed in the back of my parents’ pickup truck, covered in a tarp. With the rain came wind and the ropes holding my tarp down came undone. I pulled into a grocery parking lot. I kept trying to pull the tarp back over my belongings but the strong wind prohibited me from doing so. From out of nowhere a man in a nice suit pulled up next to me, got out and started yelling directions. He helped me get the tarp back in place and tied back down—he was soaking wet (as was I). I screamed “thank you” through the noise of the storm as he drove away. He was a kind stranger. He’s not alone. Here are five minutes worth of kind strangers doing kind things. The world can be terrible, but also so good.

3D paper hearts even I could make

• Have you ever wondered how historical figures would look today? (Whenever I’m in fine art museums, I do.) Here, some interpretations.

• I wear contacts mostly and, as such, my glasses were more than five years old (I remember being pregnant with Sophie when I picked them out). My prescription has changed yearly, and I was long overdue for a pair—but I couldn’t afford one from my eye doctor. Then I discovered Warby Parker. For $95 (mine were an extra $30 because my eyesight is so bad) you can get a complete pair of beautiful glasses—plus, for every pair you buy they give a pair to someone in need. Win-win.

• lovely floral fabric from Japan (scroll down)

what 30 families from around the world eat in one week (a pictorial essay)

• cute watermelon ‘cake’

• One of the reasons I love—and live in—old houses is the possibility of finding part of someone’s past up in the attic rafters or secreted in a wall. In our current house there are two bottles, filled with alcohol (we presume) and sealed. One has a piece of masking tape on it with “from prohibition era” written on it. There are more in our cistern. But that is small compared to what this family found.

These photographs, by Michael Wolf, are incredible (and the blog entry is pretty great, too).

“We plan, we toil, we suffer – in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol’s eyes? The title deeds of Radio City? The empire of Asia? A trip to the moon? No, no, no, no. Simply to wake just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs.” —J.B. Priestly

Lost Dog, Unlocked Doors and Goodness

We lost Tucker for a couple hours yesterday. I felt terrible about it. I had let him out. He always barks when he wants back in. He never barked, though, so in the craziness of the day I didn’t think about letting him back in—I assumed I had let him back in. Late in the afternoon I thought it was strange he hadn’t been hanging out with us downstairs. And then I thought it was really strange when the boys spilled Cheerios all over the floor and he was nowhere to be seen. Still, I assumed he was sleeping on his bed, upstairs.

But when we opened the door to pick up Sophie from a play date, and he didn’t come running down to say goodbye, I knew something was wrong. I went upstairs and looked—no Tucker. Thinking he may have somehow gotten in the attic or basement, I looked both places—no Tucker. I had knots in my stomach when I looked out the bay window in the dining room only to see the gate open just enough for a large lab to squeeze through.

I called Andy. He sprinted to his car parked downtown, drove home and started driving around Fort Thomas, looking. I loaded the boys in the van, picked up Sophie and then we drove. We drove and drove and drove, windows down while it flurried outside, screaming “Tucker!” as loud as we could. We stopped to ask people if they had seen a black lab. One woman, who was walking her own dog, insisted on helping us. I had talked to her before, and at times she didn’t seem quite with it. She was older and it was cold and she struggled with walking long distances. She wanted to help us look. So I invited her—and her dog—in our van. She started yelling, too.

At the remembering place I saw a black dog tied to a tree. I thought I had found Tucker. But after getting out of our van I realized it wasn’t him. The man who owned the dog ripped off part of a cardboard box and I wrote my number on it. He then loaded up his black dog and started driving around on his own, helping us look.

Sometimes, exasperated with the notion that the world is largely an evil place, I find myself testing humanity. I leave car doors unlocked. I leave my diaper bag unattended at the museum. I leave my camera in my stroller outside of indoor exhibits at the zoo. When computer systems are down at local businesses I have no problem with someone writing my credit card information on a piece of paper to be input at a later time. If I’m not home and a plumber or electrician or anyone, really, needs access to our house I simply leave the front door unlocked.

I trust.

I realize I’m lucky in that I can trust. I live in a neighborhood that allows more trust than other neighborhoods. And I don’t do anything that would put my family in danger. As much as my heart goes out to hitchhikers on cold, winter days, I never pick them up. I don’t allow door-to-door salespeople—particularly those who want to “inspect our house in order to give us a housecleaning estimate” inside. There are some neighborhoods in which, when I park on the street, I do lock my car doors. And maybe, someday, when I’m writing about having spent hours canceling credit cards, etc., because of a stolen wallet I will rethink my current theory.

I’ve been robbed, once. In college, someone stole my computer—they walked into our house through the unlocked basement door and into my room in the middle of the night (I was, thankfully, home that weekend). They picked up my computer and walked out. From that experience I took away the necessity of saving one’s work in multiple places. But when Tucker was lost, I thought about a neighbor who might find him. So I left our front door wide open so anyone could easily return him.

We found Tucker—on our street, of all places. A neighbor heard us yelling and ran outside, with Tucker on a leash. He had spent much of the afternoon at a beautiful Arts & Crafts bungalow, one we, ironically, considered buying when it was for sale several years back. He seemed overjoyed with his afternoon adventure. I thanked the neighbor profusely while also trying to deal with an overexcited lab and three overexcited children.

I dropped the woman who had been riding with us off and took the kids home. I called Andy. He came home, relieved. I walked to Anita’s, a Mexican restaurant across the street, and bought a gift card for the neighbor. I wrote a thank you note, and delivered it. I called my parents and learned that Andy had asked them to make calls for us—animal control, the vet’s office, etc. I thanked them, too.

There is evil in this world. Daily I see images and hear stories I wish I could erase from my brain. There is unfairness, deep unfairness, and hurt beyond anything I could ever imagine. But I also believe in the world’s goodness. I believe one of the main reasons we live in a (somewhat) civilized society is because there is more goodness than evil. I believe in unlocked doors, purses left attended, neighbors who will take care of a large lab for an afternoon and strangers who will give up what they’re doing to help look for a dog they’ve never met.

Perhaps I’m naive. Perhaps I will take much of this back, when one of my experiments involving the goodness of society goes wrong. But for now, my little humanity tests have all proved my theory that people, most people, are good. Most people will let unattended belongings be. Most people don’t take advantage. Most people will help a stranger in need. Our world can be awful—but sometimes, more times than not, I think—it can be beautiful, too.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.” —Mahatma Gandhi

A Kind Soul

I know, I know, I know Owen says “please” because we taught him to say “please” and that he says “bless you” after we cough or sneeze or clear our throats or make any noise that remotely sounds like it deserves a “bless you” because he thinks it’s funny.

But still.

When I refill Sophie’s glass of milk and his sippy cup of milk because both are empty, he says “James, milk, James, milk, James, milk!” until we prove to him that James’s sippy cup still has milk in it and that he doesn’t need a refill.

I know he’s only 2 but I think—I think—he really cares. I’ve told myself many times over that I will try so hard not to be a bragging mom. Maybe this is bragging, maybe this is not. But this kindness makes me so happy.

I had to take Sophie to the doctor last Friday. Andy’s parents stayed home with Owen and James, who were napping. Owen woke up first; James stayed asleep. When it was time for James to wake up, Andy’s mom said Owen walked upstairs, went to James’s crib and then said, “Isn’t he cute?”

And then. A couple days ago, while the kids were playing upstairs, I was staring at my closet realizing that half of what was in it no longer fits. And the boys are 2. The whole “9 months up, 9 months down” thing has long passed. So I began trying things on. Making piles. I began feeling really bad about myself. Owen came into the room, climbed up on my bed  and flung himself on my pillows a few times. Then he looked at me. I was trying on a tunic—well, a dress, really, but I only ever wore it as a tunic. I was staring at myself in the mirror, biting my lower lip, not happy with the reflection. Now, I know, I know, I know Owen was reacting to the tunic—dress—only. It had a vivid design, bold colors. It was pretty. Still, when he said, “beautiful, Mama, you’re beautiful,” I froze.

Sometimes, when something beautiful happens, I stop. I try to engrave the moment in my mind. I try to remember everything, where I am, the time, my surroundings, the lighting in the room, everything. Because it’s that important. This was that important. To me. I stuffed his words into my heart, my being, even though I know he was reacting to the dress, not to me. Even though I know he had no idea that I so needed to hear those words, at that moment. Even though he’s only 2.

Women often receive compliments from loved ones when trying on clothes. I will forever remember this one as one of—if not the—best.

Owen, I hope you read this someday, when you’re older. Still a kind soul. Thank you for your kind soul that day. And may your soul remain that way, always.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” —Seneca