Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm 17. I just had my wisdom teeth extracted, and I'm feeling pretty awful. I watch an entire movie with my eyes closed – sort of awake, sort of drugged. 

In the evening, John comes over. Or is it daytime? I can't remember. I'm in bed having my own little pity party and he sits next to me. Wonders what he can do.

Read to me.

He hates reading aloud but picks up the volume of Sherlock Holmes next to my bed and does it anyway. I know he feels stupid. But I snuggle deep into his voice.

It's sometime after he finishes the story and closes the cover that I tell him something that has been on the tip of my tongue for awhile. Something I've heard I'm too young to say. But it creeps out, past the holes in the back of my mouth.

I know it's early to say and—

maybe you'll think it's stupid but—

I think I love you.


His voice is in the background. I'm working at the computer so I don't pay attention to the words. But I hear the intonation. The inflection. The rising and falling of his voice.

I know, once upon a time, he hated reading aloud. But he sits here, nestled between two small girls, reading bedtime stories. With feeling.

And I sit here smiling at my screen filled with the knowing, knowing, knowing that—

I love you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

what the sky said

I'm perched at the edge of the sandbox, focused downward. Inward. Thinking about the way last night's insomnia feels circled around my eyes right now. About how all the matter between my ears feels overused right now. I'm zoning out.


A hickory nut falls from an overhead branch, smacking me square between the shoulder blades.

I'm startled.

Pay attention.

I suck my mind back into my head. It was spreading like a puddle, evaporating into nowhere.

So I focus my eyes on what's real in front of me. On my lap. On the dusty baby footprint on my skirt. It will brush away when I stand.

The girls come careening past, naming me a character in their game. They're on some imaginary adventure, circling around swings, slide, and sandbox. We'll come back when we're married, they call.

I watch them run, following their path with my eyes.

Pay attention, the sky tells me. They grow so fast.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Flavor of the Day

We're out and about, running errands. A request rings out from the back of the van.

Mama, can you check the flavor of the day?

Not that we're going to stop for ice cream right now, but Claire just likes to know.

I bet it's butter pecan. It seems like every time we drive past, it's butter pecan.

Yuck. [She's not a fan of nuts in her ice cream.]

We get close enough to read the sign. I'm right.


Today was utterly forgettable.

I talked to some people. Ate some stuff. Went a few places. Thought a lot. Did a few things. Ate some more. Cleaned up. The end.

I woke. I lived. I went to bed. [Well, not yet.]

This day slid off the calendar and into a pile of similarly structured days. Ordinary. Indistinguishable. Filed in a mental drawer labeled When the Kids Were Little.

And that's not a bad thing, the ordinariness of today. It's just that I'm quite certain the forgetting will happen.

I'll forget that the girls were inducted into the Super Smiles Club at the dentist this morning. I'll forget the particular, muted brand of panic on Claire's face in the school office when we stood there dropping off forms and learning how to pronounce her new teacher's name. I'll forget that we spent an hour cleaning up the jungle of toys in the basement. That Eliza broke a dish after lunch when she tried to carry too much to the sink. That Ruthie napped for over two hours (!). That I bought a new book. That we went out for ice cream. That Eliza curled up in John's lap while we all waited for Claire to finish her cone. That the dog curled up in John's lap while he read bedtime books to the girls. That I feel too awake right now to fall asleep and I'd rather stare at this screen than the black ceiling.

I'll forget all that.

50 days will blur those details, and the edges that are so crisp in my mind right now will all run together like too-wet watercolors. In 50 years, those details will have disappeared entirely under the weight of so many pages turned.

That's just the way it is. The way memory works – our minds can't hold all the minutia that minute-by-minute living generates.

But I'm pretty sure the flavor of the day will linger. Not as a taste that I'll be able to distinguish from tomorrow's flavor – which will be subtly different, no matter how similar it looks. But it will be a flavor that I'll be able to trace back to days like these, home with the kids.

I will always be able to point to some hard spots. Sour streaks, even. But the majority of my days are sweet. Ordinary, maybe. But classic and full and satisfying.

Vanilla, for sure.

A flavor I really, really like.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

good night

It's 9pm. John is out of town and the girls are all in bed. I made it through triple bedtime routines with patience and even a measure of enjoyment. No one came out after goodnight – okay, just once times two for another drink of water, but that was before the final kiss so I won't count that – and I even got a bit of work done already.

I've decided to fill this final hour with yoga rather than dishes. So I salute the sun and meet the half moon and finally find shoulderstand. My mind is empty but as the blood fills my brain a single word sounds in the silence: headstand.

But I'm in the middle of the room – no wall for support. Last time I hurt my neck doing this. I'm not sure if I'm strong enough. I've never gotten this quite right.

I think none of these things. Plant my head onto the ground and kick up. Find balance. Surprise myself.

Now it's 10 and I grab a glass of water in the kitchen. Open the coffee pot to prepare tomorrow's brew – John's chore, one I rather despise. But it's already done. A simple gesture, one that says Thanks again for letting me go have some fun while you hold down the fort around here. I hear his words.

And Ruthie crying. I settle her back to sleep and put the diapers in the dryer and write this all down.

It's 11 – way too late for me to be up. But it was a good night.

Friday, August 20, 2010

moments to live for

She waits all day.
It starts like this:

I get off the couch and walk to the kitchen to make the girls' breakfast. She follows. Now?

I head to my bedroom to get dressed. She's at my heels. Maybe now?

Bedroom to bathroom. Bathroom to basement. Back up again. Into the baby's room. Down the hall. Outside. Inside.

I move through the day, a sequence of transitions, and she is my shadow. She is hope made material. A quivering emotion under thick black fur. 

She's already curled up for the night when her moment comes. I jiggle the leash in front of her and the sound pulls her out of her dreams and into a dream.

We walk.

She lives.

Home again, we walk past the front door and into the backyard – I have to put something away. She's still on the leash. When we head back to the door, mission accomplished, she trots down the driveway like she's going again but her collar jerks and she realizes she's at the end of the line and the line's not coming with her. I have to pull her inside.

She stands just through the doorway, panting. Eyeing me suspiciously. She won't budge, even for a treat.

I wonder what's wrong with her but it's written all over her face – she's still waiting for it. She forgot all about the walk. Her golden moment. The only thing she really lives for.

She thinks I teased her, that I dangled the walk in front of her face and then put the leash away.

She finally stalks off to her cushion but continues to eye me with distain. I chuckle at her density and her short memory.

She huffs and circles three times, surrendering to the realities of settling in for the night.

It's quiet. I sigh. This, right here, is my golden moment. When the day's dust finally settles and the noise and the demands are abed for the night.

But this isn't all I live for. Because tomorrow, when it starts all over again and I'm up to my eyebrows in diapers and errands and tattling and sweeping and dishes, I will forget that I ever sat here. Peaceful. Still.

I love the end of the day but I live for other moments, the ones that are woven into the everydayness of the day, the ones that surprise me out of a monochromatic mindset with their bright colors. Snapshots that I want to write down and pin up.

Like these:

I'm on the floor with the baby. She crawls into the side-lying laundry basket and peeks through a hole in its side. Sees me. Belly laughs. She sticks her fingers through the hole and I nibble them and she laughs again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I mentally record the soundtrack of her simple joy.

Now, I'm walking ahead with dog and stroller and baby and John is supervising the girls on their bikes on this sidewalk on this hill. Claire is laughing – unafraid of speed for the very first time. And Eliza—she's a picture—hair blowing, too-big dress hanging off her left shoulder, clutching her tiny bike and pedaling pedaling pedaling while John coaches brake brake brake. She has no fear of bumps or busy roads—dangerous that way—and she glows with confidence and exuberance and a blind, total-body trust. I tuck her face into my pocket so I won't forget.

Home, I take the dry, crispy laundry off the line. A white shirt hangs cast in orange – backdrop to a neon light? No, it's the sunset, glowing so bright the shirt is practically a mirror. Breath held, I steal a quick snapshot for my collection.

Flash forward hours later and I'm lying on the floor, hips cushioned, legs up the wall. I can't sleep – again. But the hardwood floor is cool under my outstretched arms and the blood draining from legs to head slows my thinking and massages my brain. I'm awake – which is not what I want at all – but I hang onto this moment anyway. The stillness imprints upon my consciousness, tracing grooves for me to finger tomorrow, when I'm in the thick of things.

Finally I go to bed. I fall asleep (a golden moment), filled to the brim with everything I live for. Love for.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The wakeful hours stack like thin scales, brittle and opaque and one by one

forming small piles, three rocks high, which mark the path my mind has walked

alone and in the dark: senseless circles of retraced steps.

The piles grow taller as the hours tick tock tick tock

until stalactites hang from the inside walls of my head, puncturing my brain with

sharp, unforgiving points. All my sense starts to pool

in weird places like in quivering drops at the tips of my earlobes

or as a dry crust under my fingernails,

places where it does me

no good at all. 

Insomnia is a private hell until the day dawns and I spread it like rancid butter all over

a freshly baked day, rendering it inedible, even for the dog.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Taylor Swift Made Me Cry

Okay so I wasn't exactly crying. But there's been a lump in my throat all evening.

I'm going to guess that my hormones are bouncing around quite a bit as my body fights to return to fertility [can I get an amen to breastfeeding-induced amenorrhea?], but I don't care – emotions are real even if they're suped up.

John had downloaded the new Taylor Swift album for the girls to dance around to [what? He's getting sick of listening to The Chipettes?], and I got sucked into the lyrics against my will.

They're actually kind of good.

So I got curious about her – could she be more than just a teen sensation? – and checked out the Wikipedia entry for Ms. Swift. She's 20. All kinds of awards already behind her name. A rising star, I guess.

As a child, she won a national poetry contest. And spent a summer writing a 350 page novel. She wrote songs about her friends and learned to play the guitar. And now? Well, I'm sure you've heard of her. [Perhaps I'm the only one who hasn't bought her album yet?]

So then I started thinking about my own kids – what will they do? Be? And that's where I guess I started feeling weepy. So much potential, walking all over my house every day, leaving footprints.

From there, my mind wandered over to my novel. The unfinished one. I mean, the unstarted one. And I began feeling weepy about the fact that I'm not sure I'll be able to get myself together enough to actually write it.

I told John about how I was feeling all lumpy in the throat, and his advice, practical as always – Do something about it.

Okay, fine.

Here's the I'm-not-sure-where-this-will-go-or-even-if-I'll-keep-it first scene of my not-started novel. I have no idea where the plot is going anymore. But here it is. It's woefully short.

[Posting this here makes me feel a little raw. Exposed. But pinning it down into these solid black words is like netting some mythical creature and proving that it's real. I'm not looking for reassurance – I just want to believe I still have something to work with.]


The hot water had turned icy when Cadey finally stepped out of the shower. Moisture clung to every surface of the bathroom, fogging up the mirror and freezing on the window pane. She wrapped a towel under her armpits like a last-minute party dress and stepped onto the soft carpet.

Who puts carpet in the bathroom? Cadey thought to herself for the umpteenth time since moving in with her grandmother. She shook her head slightly as if to dislodge such a normal, sarcastic thought from her mind. She wasn't ready to feel normal. She couldn't.

She looked into the mirror but her form was anonymous, veiled in vapor. She opened the window slightly – it lifted in its tracks with brittle reluctance – and icy air punctured the steamy curtain.

As the heaviness of the air lifted, Cadey looked down at her toes. It still felt strange to be able to see them without craning her neck. She put her hand on her belly – soft, slack, empty – and tried to quell the sadness rising within her like a slow, dangerous tide. She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath and pressed one hand against her chest so hard it hurt. But it worked – the overwhelming waters were starting to recede. She was so sick of crying.

With a slow, uninspired swipe, Cadey cleared the fog from a narrow swath of the mirror. She leaned forward until the reflection of her eyes filled the cleared space. They were the only part of herself that seemed unchanged by the past eight months. Everything else had betrayed her somehow, swelling or stretching until she hardly knew her own body. And though dark rings still circled her eyes, the irises were what they had always been – green, flecked with orange. Not an uncommon color but –

Cadey drew in a sharp breath and leaned even closer. Soft, brown eyes stared at her where green should have been reflected. She quickly cleared a larger patch of the mirror, half expecting her hand to sink into the surface of some enchanted pool. But the glass was solid under her palm and squeaked softly as she wiped with a quick zig-zag motion. She leaned back to take in the full image. A face that was not her own.

A wave of prickly adrenaline began at the base of Cadey's neck and traveled down her spine, materializing as something warm trickling down her inner thigh. She tore her eyes from the woman in the mirror just in time to see the first drops of blood soaking into the pale pink carpet. She instinctively crammed the towel between her legs and looked back into the mirror. The woman was gone. She saw only herself – blond hair dripping, green eyes wide.


Well, that's it. Now I really need an outline… 

I have a long way to go.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

weighted words

When John and I were planning our wedding, there was one word above all others that made me cringe. I felt embarrassed to say it.

Of course, I had nothing against the concept behind the word. We were definitely planning on doing it. I just couldn't say it.


It sounded so hokey. So unreal. It made me think of an advertisement for an airline or a resort, one that featured a woman with perfect teeth and flowing hair, curled against a bare-chested man on a beach with a sunset and an ocean breeze. I love sunsets and oceans but the word honeymoon made me think of a vacation, a couple, a life poured straight out of a can.

And that made me cringe.

I didn't want to speak the word and agree to whatever roles and images society had already pinned to my back. So we went on our "post-wedding trip." To San Francisco. We ate a ton of bread and walked everywhere and shivered in the sand the one day we took the bus to the beach. It wasn't a trip to feature in a wedding guide, but it was perfect. It was us.

Now, I can ask brides-to-be about their honeymoon plans with a totally straight face. The word doesn't bother me anymore.

But when I first dipped my toes into catapulted into this whole parenting thing, I found another word that made me cringe. A title. One that I'm blessed to claim as my own. But at first, I couldn't stand the word.


It rang so sing-songy in my ears. So cutesy. And I could just imagine that eeeeeee ending whined so easily. But more than that, the word Mommy conjured an image that I still don't fit.

It's the same woman from the airline ad but she has a couple kids now. Her hair is still long and her teeth are as white as ever, but she has on a blouse and sensible shoes rather than a bikini. She's pushing a child on a swing and in this frozen moment her smile is wide and her eyes are laughing. Her kid looks happy and the whole scene drips with bliss.

She probably wipes up spills that smile on her face. Kisses scraped knees and the tears really stop. She probably saves artwork and scrapbooks photos. Her lap is probably always open. She exudes confidence and authority. She's selfless. She's a Mommy.

That's not an image of me.

I grumble. I get frustrated when the crying won't stop. I purge coloring pages like it's my job. I have been known recoil from a cuddle because of morning breath and I know I spend too much time on the internet. I don't always miss the kids when I'm away. I second guess myself all the time. I don't always feel awash with bliss. And I'm definitely not selfless.

But Mama is my name around here. And somehow that turned the pressure off. Dissolved the image. Maybe I don't make a lot of freeze-frame worthy faces in the day-to-day grind, but I've found my groove. I pocket bits of bliss along the way and show my love the best I can. And it's just right. It's me.

Maybe the kids will fall into different speech patterns and they'll call me Mommy eventually. But it won't bother me. I know who I am.

Monday, August 9, 2010


a little nervous
i'll admit
to stand behind the market table and sell vegetables
like i do every week
but looking quite a bit different than
last time i stood here.

mostly, folks focus on the produce
like usual
but i get a few longer stares
some nearly imperceptible double takes
and a couple compliments, too.

my hair feels like an elephant in the room.
just a little.

when The Lady in Yellow
sails up to our stand
wheeled as usual by her dutiful son
she hobbles from chair to standing
supported by her cane and his watchful gaze
selecting beets and sorrel and rraaadeeesh.
but not too much, now:
I can't use so much anymore.
she focuses her attention on me, her voice
thick with kindness and an accent from another time,
another place.
Yer hair is short now. Cool for ze summer.
a matter of fact.
i smile. she is my favorite customer.
i worry if a couple weeks pass and she isn't here.
she is always disappointed if we run out of radishes.

after she pays she sits back in her chair,
a bit winded.
i wish her good day and she looks at me carefully.
Eet looks guute on you. Ze hair.

her sincerity stays with me
even after she's gone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

meeting the edge

I sink low, hips to the floor. I breathe but I'm having trouble finding softness here – my muscles remain wrapped tightly around my bones. They're stubborn, and staying here requires more will than I was prepared to bring to my mat today. 

That's enough.

I rise out of this deep hip opener and adjust my stance to work the other side. I meet the same tightness. The same resistance. But this time I stay longer, breathing deeper. I don't find comfort but I try harder to embrace my edge rather than backing off so quickly.

It's small, but I feel some space on this side, and into that extra room walks a yogic adage I've heard more than once: The pose begins when you want to leave it.

And how quickly I usually leave.

Whenever there's work to be done – muscles to soften, hearts to open, minds to quiet and fill with peace – we will meet resistance. But overcoming that resistance my not be as hard as the first step – the real step: acknowledging the edge, the limit, the resistance, the tightness, the pain that we've found and committing to stay with it. Not run from it.

Each day presents edges.

I'm sure you know all about mine. I go on about them enough here.

The big, glaring one, the one that pulses red and oozes an unpleasant pus – is my frustration. It usually surfaces when I'm trying to navigate one storm and another crops up: Eliza careens into a tantrum while I'm dealing with a Ruthie who won't nap or Claire starts talking back while I'm trying to get us out the door or the kids start fighting in the car while traffic is bad or I'm trying to make dinner and John is held up at work and Ruthie is crawling towards the dog food and the top of the stairs and there's just too much noise in the house. Suddenly my voice is up a notch and my words snap and sting and all my grace and composure leaks out in the steam pouring from my ears.

Later, I'm disgusted with myself. I vow to slam the door in Frustration's face next time.

Next time comes and I might shove the door mostly shut but Frustration usually comes in anyway, seeping through the cracks.

It's too hard. It's the way I am. That's enough.

I throw up my hands and walk away.

But what if next time Frustration knocks, I open the door wide and let him in? Greet him politely? What if I invite him for tea and let him use my favorite cup? What if I let myself feel the frustration but work to look it in the eye, acknowledge it for what it is, name it, hold it…and stay with it until it somehow softens?

No one has an easy life. Whether you work or stay at home, whether you're a man or a woman, whether you're battling something or just trying to make it through the day, you meet your own edges. And compared to so many, I have nothing to complain about. But I don't think my fuse was meant to be this short. I think I deserve more peace than what I'm creating for myself. So maybe I'm spouting a bunch of idealistic, too-optimistic crap here. But I believe the truth in that yogic adage and that whatever moment I'm in really begins when I want to be done with it.

So come on in Frustration. I'll meet you differently this time.

[Do you have an edge, dear reader? Tell me, how do you meet it?]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

i can read

Last night, you handed me The Fire Engine Book to read as your bedtime story. You turned the last page right before I sat down – you already read it yourself but you wanted to listen again. 

My voice traced the words, old grooves in my memory from reading this one hundreds of times to a much younger you. I smiled inwardly as I read the line, the one you always completed on cue with your mispronunciations. You don't react to this page now – you've long forgotten that simple anticipation – though I wouldn't be surprised if the memory is plastered somewhere in your mind, a hazy picture but still up on your wall. You remember everything.

Here's something I'll remember:

Yesterday, we went to the park. You brought along your book. Your chapter book. Not one of those I Can Read books meant for kids your age, but the 80 page mini-novel you had been burning through all day. You couldn't put it down so you curled up in the crawl-through tunnel at the top of the play structure, completely untempted by your sister's games. You finally turned the last page on our drive home and couldn't wait to start the next book in the series.

I thought of myself as a child, toting books to family gatherings, reading instead of doing chores, staying up too late following my beloved Ramona or lost in Narnia or touring Charlie's Chocolate Factory. So many worlds await you, and you haven't even walked through the doors of your first Kindergarten classroom yet. I think you're going to love the school library as much as I did.

This morning, you're up earlier than your sisters. You snuggle next to me on the couch, reading another book. You don't need me to walk you through the pages – you've found the adventure all on your own and I can feel the pride and independence buzzing under your skin when you wonder aloud what's going to happen next.

I can't wait to talk Harry Potter with you. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Your voice is for so much more than crying...
You can get into so much more now that you crawl so fast...

You can see so much more now that you can stand...

Your circle of safe people is wider with more faces you recognize and love...

For you, there's nothing more than the present moment...

And me? I can't wait for more...