Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O’Roark Dowell

My rebel brain immediately envisions the farm on a summer morning, the air already hazy, butterflies floating across the wildflowers. I see the house with its wrap-around porch, fresh white paint, cerulean blue shutters. I hear the slam of a screen door, the peaceful clucking of chickens. Ah, yes, our farm. How relaxing….
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

I remember the day we moved out to the farm, the excitement I felt as I ran like a maniac up and down the stairs of the farm house, built circa 1892, with its windows that rattled with every breeze and broad oak floors that groaned in the middle of cold winter nights. I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables; I was a girl who lived on a farm. Outside, the honeysuckle was just beginning to bloom and the whole world smelled sweet.
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

I actually like milking the goats. It’s satisfying to fill up a bucket with milk that later will become delicious, creamy cheese. I’ve also found that milking goats can be therapeutic. I talk to the girls to calm them, and because I need a topic to talk about, and because they don’t really care what that topic is, usually I talk about myself. Really, they seem pretty interested, which is amazing, given how truly mundane my personal life is. “So Sarah and I already got started on our project—total shock, since it’s not even due until November—but it looks like we’re going to have to change the whole thing, since Katie Womack and Lindsey Holpe claim they signed up to do Madeleine Albright before we did. Total lie, by the way….” Loretta Lynn looks at me sympathetically over her shoulder, and I continue happily. It’s amazing how fun it is to just say whatever comes to your mind and not worry that everyone will think you’re a total idiot.
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

“I think it sounds amazing,” Emma says quietly. “Totally amazing.”
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

I look at Sarah and Emma, and I know that’s what they want someday, to have an amazing story like this to tell, one where they faced obstacles but were brave, one where they made a difference in people’s lives.
And that’s when I feel the big feeling again—the one I felt the first time I picked up Monster’s bass—that strange sense that I’m becoming larger. Just by sitting here listening. Just by understanding how large a person’s life can be.
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

Authentic funkiness means never trying too hard.
-Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

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