Monthly Archives: April 2010

Festival of Faith and Writing

I’ve been in Michigan for most of this week, attending the Festival of Faith and Writing which is held every two years at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

The first time I attended the festival, four years ago, my book was still a year from being published and I…. Well, I was a kid in a candy store with Dad’s wallet and no budget. Except I didn’t have Dad’s wallet. And I should have had a budget.

I enjoyed it so much I came back again two years ago. And, this year, when Mike and I were trying to decide upon a timeline for our move to Laos – would he go alone first in mid April or would we go together? – the festival was one reason we put him on a plane alone last Sunday. While I’ve been shivering my way around a blustery Michigan these last few days he’s been in Vientiane in the middle of Laos New Year (which, from what I can work out from his emails, seems to involve 105 degree temperatures and a lot of Lao youth running around throwing buckets of water on random passer-byes as well as on the Buddhas in many temples). I guess Buddhas might get hot too.

Anyway, here in Michigan I’ve been doused repeatedly this week as well. Doused with ideas and passion and humour. Inspired by people’s stewardship of their talents. Refreshed by long talks with my writing BFF Nicole Baart and the vivid dance of tulips in the breeze (ok, in the biting wind). Reminded that I am looking forward to having more time to write after Mike and I arrive in Laos together in July.

There was so much to enjoy at this feast that I’m still too overwhelmed to properly sift and sort, but here were a few highlights…

Steve McCurry’s session on his photography for National Geographic. Sitting in a dark theatre for an hour while he projected some of his favorite photos onto the screen and talked about the story behind the image… wow. Talk about power in a picture.

Rhoda Janzen on memoir.

Parker Palmer on writing as a vocation.

Scott Russell Sanders on the essay as a way of discovery.

Jeanne Murray Walker, Leslie Leyland Fields, and Paul Willis on writing about great personal suffering.

Chip MacGregor on making a living as a writer.

Sara Zarr on pain in young adult fiction.

Richard Rodriguez (who I think gave the best keynote, hands down) on loneliness, memory, and intentionality in writing.

And Wally Lamb and Mary Karr on, well, mostly themselves. But they were very entertaining.

I’m publishing this from Grand Rapids airport on my way back to California and I’ll be glad to be home. Glad for some more sleep. And glad to still have time to place another big order on Amazon and pick up some more books to take to Laos. Now, if I just had Dad’s wallet…

But, on the bright side, I don’t have a budget yet either.

This issue of budget is one I am sure Mike and I will need to address at some point in the near future. But in the meantime, as Jesus once said, why borrow tomorrow’s trouble today?

And, today, there is

Thanks for stopping by,

I would never want to change you

The last day before seven weeks apart. From in front of his computer at the kitchen table, Mike has proposed a plan of attack for the morning’s life admin before they head out at noon to go see the poppyfields. Still waking up slowly, and with a cup of coffee on the couch, Lisa has proposed an alternate plan.

Mike (with slightly less than his usual measure of good grace): “Fine then.”

Lisa: “What happened to loving the fact that I’m different from you?”

Mike: “I love your differences. I love them so much that I would never want to change you. Just the things about you that are wrong.”

Lisa: “Huh. And do you have a list of those things?”

Mike: “Well, as a matter of fact, let me just pull that up.”

Lisa: “Material to keep us busy on the drive out to the poppy fields?”

Mike: “That’s a two hour drive.”

Lisa: “Well, time enough to make a good start, at least.”

Find a better wife

It’s 9:45pm. Mike and Lisa have just finished watching West Wing together on the couch. It’s dark. It’s late. It’s romantic. Lisa gives Mike a fond squeeze. Mike suddenly wiggles free and jumps up.

Mike: “Dishwasher’s finished it’s cycle. Need to unstack it.”
Lisa (confused) “Did you just say you need to unstack the dishwasher? Right now?!?”
Mike: “Yes, honey, yes. Otherwise the dishes stay all wet and yucky overnight.”

(Long pause while Mike unstacks the dishwasher and Lisa plays on facebook)

Lisa (towards the kitchen): “I think you’re fantastic.”
Mike: “No, I think unstacking the dishwasher right now is not the best idea I’ve had all day.”
Lisa: “I think it’s sexy.”
Mike: “No, not really.”
Lisa: “Yes, it really is.”
Mike: “No, it’s not. If overseeing the dishwasher really was sexy then I’d have an easier time of it on”

Find a better husband

Weekday morning. McWolfe household.

Mike: “OK, time to go, you’re running late. No more dawdling.”

Lisa (not in the mood to go to work yet, Lisa wanders into the bedroom to pick up her scarf): “Anyone would think you have a secret lover arriving at this house at 8:45am sharp.”

Mike (handing Lisa her lunch) “Maybe I do. Her name is Madame “Todo List.””

Lisa (meandering towards the front door): “Where are my keys?”

Mike: “I have no idea.”

Lisa: “Well what good are you, then?”

Mike: “No good at all, clearly. Maybe you should look on You might find them there.”

Love Song

Mike and Lisa are in the car. Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” comes on.

I’m not gonna write you a love song
’cause you ask for it
’cause you need one you see
I’m not gonna write you to stay
All you have is leaving
I’m gon’ need a better reason
To write you a love song today today


Lisa: “I love this song!”

Mike: “I know you do. I don’t get why. It’s mean.”

Lisa: “It’s not mean. It’s honest.”

Mike: “He asked for a love song, and she won’t write him one. That’s a little mean.”

Lisa: “Uh uh. She’s saying that him being all needy and manipulative makes her not want to write him a love song.”

Mike: “If you needed a love song I’d write you one.”

Lisa: “That’s very lovely. I don’t need a love song, but if you want to write me one that’d be great. I’d write you a love song, too.”

Mike: “But only because I don’t need it.”

Lisa: “Well, if you needed it, I’d probably still write you one. But the fact you don’t need it makes me want to write you one much more.”

Mike: “That’s messed up.”

Moving to Laos

It’s Sunday afternoon. For about a year now, most Sunday afternoons when Mike and I are in the same country we open a bottle of wine, lay out some cheese and crackers and other nibblies, and tune the radio to listen to This American Life.

National Public Radio’s This American Life is a show full of stories on that week’s theme. Sometimes one story. Sometimes a dozen. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes sad.

Rarely boring.

We enjoy the shape of wineglasses in our hands (who doesn’t love that feeling even when they’re not filled with wine??), eat things in small bites, and listen to the radio and the hush of a weekend winding down. It’s been one of my favorite routines that we’ve snatch out of the spaces between PNG and England, Malawi, Sudan, Indonesia and Cambodia. It’s spelled home and Los Angeles.

I wonder if we’ll do it, or something similar, in Laos.

For you see, in two months we are moving. To Luang Prabang, in Laos.

It’s a long story, and we’re right in the thick of it in ways that makes me alternately excited, overwhelmed, happy, sad, and reflective. Though there’s not much space for reflective – at least the type of reflective that I most enjoy – because, well, there are cars to be sold, work to be wrapped up well, and many many tasks to to be completed.

We’re doing a (mostly) good job of staying sane amidst it all as we launch out into this adventure, and there’s more to tell, but not now.

Because Sunday is designated “no tasks” day and writing about this for too much longer will risk granting me a mental advance on tomorrow’s craziness. Besides, This American Life is about to come on and I want to listen to it while I still have an “American Life” on this side of the Pacific to enjoy.

So in the meantime, new Lisa&Mike note up (Looking for poppies) and new essay about dark shadows in marital mirrors coming soon.

thanks for stopping by,

Looking for poppies

Gazing at the vase of tulips on our coffee table:

Lisa: “They’re so red and gorgeous. Do tulips look like poppies?”

Mike: “Yeah, a little. Wait…” (opening his computer, pulling up pictures from Afghanistan, and flicking through them rapidly). “I have photos of poppies in here.”

Lisa (spying one of Mike, dressed in Afghan garb, grinning broadly, and hanging upside down off the barrel of a tank): “Awww, look at you. You look like a lost militant, looking for a war.”

Mike: “And instead, I found you.”