Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sundays are for Storytelling: "Wait for Me"

Happy Halloween! Here's some fiction for you.

I'm too old for dressing up and knocking on doors and opening my bag for treats. I know this. But I still want to go.

I have it all planned out. Mandy is leaving at 8 o'clock. When the doorbell rings, I'll slip out behind her and into her group of friends. No one will notice me in the dark.

I would never say this aloud, but I know this is her last year. October next, she'll have breasts and hips and long, black eyelashes. Trick-or-treating will be so uncool. She won't understand what she's trading in for.

I watch her silently from the bathroom doorway. She leans close to the mirror as she paints her cheeks white. She doesn't know I see her stick out her tongue, making weird faces at herself.

Now she's painting streaks of red around her mouth. She transforms so easily.

She backs away from the mirror, taking in the full view. Satisfied. She breezes into the hallway and I step back into the shadows. Would she be mad if she knew I was standing here?

There's the doorbell. She pummels the stairs with her sneakers on the way down and opens the door. I'm halfway out when she slams it in my face.

I shatter into a million pieces.

Just like the windshield. That night. 13 years ago.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

you never know

Inside jacket and sweatshirt, long sleeves and long johns, I shiver. The day should eventually warm enough to wake the Japanese beetles from their frosted stupor, but right now we're all a little sluggish. Fingers unfeeling and shoulders stiff against the wind. It's a cold October morning at the farmer's market.

I fumble with the money and drink even more coffee. Goosebumps stand shoulder-to-shoulder all over my skin. I wore the wrong shoes.

The sky is still gray when he hands me a bunch of kale. He digs for his money. My mouth wants to hang open but my jaw is too stiff with cold. That's a good thing. It's rude to stare.

He's wearing a plain white t-shirt. His arms are bare. I can't believe it.

I know it's not winter yet, but that wind is downright cold. My skin hasn't thickened up to the new season, I guess. I'm still shivering.

As I hand him the bag, the backs of my fingers make brief contact with his palm. It's warm. Too warm.

I thank him and he turns. His ponytail surprises me, snaking down to the middle of his back.

As he walks away, I can't help but think of werewolves.

{No, not the Twilight kind. The real kind.}

I laugh at my amped up imagination. But hey, you never know. Tomorrow is Halloween, after all.  

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fridays are for Feeling Full

Monica at Holistic Mama has been using Fridays to list out her "joy pockets" -- places in the week past where she found joy and inspiration. I love this idea. So here are mine -- moments that really filled my bucket. I'm overflowing today.

Ready, set, go:

  • winning something in a random drawing{and i'm absolutely giving it to kim (only if you want it, of course). it's really "her" don't you think?}
  • anticipating two sets of weekend guests {so much fun ahead}
  • receiving a flood of comments on a recent post {to know my words touched so many of you? absolutely bowled me over.}
  • entering another giveaway {follow that link. enter. you'll totally decrease MY chance of winning but you need to see this gal's stuff. she's really good.}
  • skyping with my mom {and more importantly, knowing she was enjoying a week off}
  • unwrapping a yoga metaphor  {and anticipating the possibility of attending class at a new studio that offers childcare.  yoga twice a week? bliss.}
  • scheduling nightweaning for the fairly near future {a couple hard nights = better sleep for us all. please?}
  • watching my baby take four steps -- fall -- and get up to take four more {drunken-sailor walking is the cutest. but sometimes i think she needs a helmet}
  • eating blueberry pie in a neighbor's kitchen {yum. the "not small talk" is always good, too}
  • finding out that kim's chemo worked to stop the cancer's growth. {waiting for test results to determine if the new stuff is gone or just stable. hold her in the light, please.}
  • listening to my girls play in their room. they're making their "haunted beds." {silliness before breakfast}
  • seeing frost on the roof {and hearing no wind, finally}
  • feeling appreciated. in the world's smallest things. always. {love you, john}

How about you? Did this week leave you feeling full?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

bottomless metaphor

Last night wrapped me in metaphor.

It was unmistakable. Obvious. Handed to me as a gift. And I can't repay The Giver with anything but these words.

I sat cross-legged, spine tall. I felt the expanse of my inhales and listened to the soft hiss of each complementary exhale. The yoga studio was dim and warm. But the walls creaked. Branches whipped outside the windows. The wind roared around the corners and sought chinks in the foundation through which to sneak.

It was a wind storm unlike any other. It peeled part of the roof off a nearby mall. It downed trees. It left some folks in the dark. It set records.

But I was still. Silent. Centered. Protected against external chaos by a cocoon of calm.


I rolled the sensations of this experience into my yoga mat and took them home. To unwrap today. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

time to learn

Mama, can you hold me? Her cheeks are wet.

Yes. But I'm still upset. She sits on my lap. I don't feel like wrapping my arms around her.

After awhile, she goes downstairs to read bedtime books with Claire and Daddy. I'm still sitting on the floor. Staring out the window into the darkness of 7 o'clock. Feeling it inside my chest, a black shadow that blankets my guts.

Why exactly am I so upset with her?

Because she's 3? Acting like a 3-year-old? Great reason. Nice. Way to be the adult.

I follow her downstairs and ask if I can hold her for a minute. She's a lot less rigid than I am.

I'm sorry I got mad at you. Will you forgive me?

She doesn't say anything right away.

What's forgive, Mama?

I have to think for a moment. Find words she can understand. Hurdle over the hard parts of admitting I'm wrong.

It's when someone says sorry and you listen to that person say I'm sorry and it makes you feel a little better. Do you feel a little better?

Yes. She doesn't know how to hold a grudge. I wrap my arms around her, thinking about the day 10 years from now when she does. When she holds a grudge and I hold a grudge and its a tug of war over something we won't be able to name later on when she's grown up and has girls of her own.

I explained forgive to her tonight, but I know I'll have to explain it to myself many times before I learn to balance firm and soft, stern and warm, right and not important, words and embraces, I'm upset and I love you.

I'm glad I still have time to learn. 

From them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I'm measuring the flour when the litany begins.

Fuck you, bread I don't feel like making.

I heat the cottage cheese and crack two eggs into warm water and honey. The yeast is already frothy.

Fuck you, cereal on the floor. Stuck to my feet. 

I affix the dough hook to the mixer. Add the liquids to the flour and flick the switch. The dough looks like mud. Like wet sand. The motor is a steady rhythm and I keep going.

Fuck you, bags under my eyes.
Fuck you, dog prints on the hardwood floor.
Fuck you, coffee buzz.
Fuck you, bills I need to pay.
Fuck you, La Nina and your balmy October.
Fuck you, expensive sweater. 
Fuck you rain.
Fuck you, pile of work that's waiting for me once all this is finally done. 

The flour cleans up from the sides of the bowl and I add chips of cold butter. Pale yellow. Smooth. Grease on my fingertips. The dough is a ball, warm and ripe. Spongy clay ready for the potter's wheel. I hold it in my hands.

Hey, dinner is essentially made. {Sandwiches on bread day.}

I sweep the floor, drink a huge glass of water, and realize it stopped raining {for now}.

The bread is rising.

Monday, October 25, 2010

what I gave her

My eyes -- she has them. My hair -- she has it, too. And my knees -- oh, my knees -- her legs bend from joints that grew straight out of my DNA for sure.

She has low tolerance for little annoyances -- just like me -- so that certain sounds or smells make her skin crawl. Oh, how I can relate to that. She takes things so literally -- me, too. She insists on being right and gives in only on rare occasions -- these things she inherited right from my heart.

We share a love of stories. A fear of the dark. The propensity to stay awake thinking when sleep is really best.

She feels deeply. Senses intuitively. Slips on someone else's shoes without realizing she stepped out of her own. I see myself in that, too.

But I expect too much from myself. Demand perfection and best effort and rarely let myself off the hook. I've excelled in many things because of this, but I've staggered under this weight, too. And I worry that I will pass that shadow on to her. That I already have. That she already carries baggage I handed to her. Baggage that is much, much too heavy for her small hands. For her small shoulders.

What does she already detect in my voice? What do my simple sighs mean to her? Does she know -- does she know -- that no matter what she does -- no matter what she does -- I will always -- always -- love her? That she should -- that she must -- act from her heart and never because she's afraid of how I will judge her? That I won't judge her? [I won't judge her.]

Dear God, I hope so.

Parenting is hard.

Parenting girls is hard.

Mom, how did you do it?

{thoughts inspired by Monica's post over at Holistic Mama}

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Storytelling on Sundays

On Sundays, I'm usually not dealing with many crises. John is home and we man this ship together. He often makes it possible for me sleep a little later on Sundays. The girls entertain each other and require little intervention. I usually find some time for myself. I usually get something done. Dinner is often a joint venture. The whole day feels simultaneously lazy and productive.

Today was just like that. I slept until 7:15. The girls played Barbies all morning. I did a ton of decluttering and took another load to Goodwill. I surfed the web a little. John made dinner and headed the table while I worked.

It was a good day. And it felt like another good Sunday for fiction. Last week, I wrote a drabble. It was fun to play in that form and do some more thinking about my novel. Today, I thought I'd try the one-sentence story. You know, where you write an entire story in one sentence [obviously]. Another exercise in fiction, another place to play. [This one has nothing to do with my novel.]

Everyone who predicted Armageddon always imagined bang would initiate the end of things -- maybe atoms would split or worlds would collide -- but no one expected the soft click that meant game over.

It's fun. Want to try?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

through the picture windows

The sun sulked all day, clouded and cloistered behind curtains that never really opened. Now he's exiting through stage west and siphoning light from the sky. Day gurgles and sucks as it empties down the drain.

Now a walk. At dusk. My favorite time of day. When everything curls in upon itself and the living room lights turn front windows into literal picture windows, soft still lifes in this gallery of a neighborhood.

They're watching TV in there. The screen blinks blues and grays against the wall. And here, a woman looks out at me. I keep my dog off her lawn. In that bedroom, the wall speaks. S - A - M, it says, under a ceiling fan that flickers the overhead light. The open closet door exposes clothes standing single file. On the next street, in that dim dining room, vases and crocks and pitchers and urns strike poses on the shelves. A silent collection presiding over a silent house. And way back there, in that house set so close to the lake, all the lights are dark. There must be so many curtains to draw.

Now I'm at the foot of my own driveway, looking into the picture that is my life.  I can see the green walls and a kitchen chair backed away from the table. Kids smile in frames above the couch. But from the road, I can't hear the happy shrieks that are surely coming from the basement. I can't see the man standing at the sink, washing the dishes. I can't see the tornado of toys all over the floor -- the remains of the day.

But I know it's all there. And I'm ready to walk back inside. Into this moving life.

Friday, October 22, 2010

not an epic fail

I could stamp this day in big red letters: Epic Fail.

But I won't.

Even though once again I got no sleep and I woke up in a puddle of drool to kids bickering in the bathroom and a day that started without me. Or, rather, started with me dragging behind, hanging off the bumper, sucking exhaust fumes. Even though the bag-eyed baby wouldn't nap and bit me while nursing and tried in so many different ways to hit me over the head with whatever object she held in her hand. Even though I let my frustration leak out in tears that I hid with my back turned while fielding kid-fired questions with a voice that tipped like a teeter-totter bearing the weight of 400 nights' interrupted sleep. Even though after school, the baby cried for a ride in the swing and the dog barked for a walk and the biggest kid cried for more snacks [not! fruit! mama!] and the quiet kid wanted to be outside then inside then painting then not. Even though I sat here in front of this screen for the longest time before any words would come.

Even though today kind of sucked, I won't kick it into done, won't slam the door in it's face, won't even say tomorrow's a new day.

Because today was still really something.

Today John made the kids' breakfast and handed them the TV remote before leaving for work so that I could snag even 20 extra minutes of sleep. He peeled the egg for Claire's lunch and left a note to say have a good day. Today the sun warmed my arms through my sweater and I watched Eliza swing with her eyes closed, leaning far back with a half-scrunched smile on her face. I asked her if she pretends she's a flying bird when she swings like that, and she told me no, I'm a flying spider. Today I took her to dance class and watched her do the Monster Mash in her spider costume and she was all round eyes in her round face copying the teacher and watching herself in the mirror and waving to me through the glass. Today I still managed to do the dishes and get dinner on the table even though earlier I vowed in my head that everyone would have to fend for themselves because I. was. done. There was stuff in the freezer I forgot we had. Today I tried on the tall black boots I've been dreaming about and realized they just aren't me. I can cross them off my list and want one less thing [though I did see this soft, colorful sweater that looked just cozy enough...] Today I put the baby to bed with less fuss than last night. Today I finished off the pint of best ice cream ever while spilling the day to John. Who listened.

Today has turned into tonight and we're all here in this tiny house with the heat on and the lights off and the soft breathing of three small people that take up so much space in my heart. Even on days that kind of suck.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

sound it out

your teacher wondered
what i thought
about pairing you
with a 5th grader
to practice reading.
the caveat being
you would have to


once or twice a week.

a fair trade
since you have recess
fifteen times every week

but you scrunched up your face
your whole body said no way.
what would my friends do
if i wasn't there to help

i rallied several times
trying various explanations
     how fun!
          good opportunity!
               no one else!

but you were adamant.
i backed off.

but then you asked
     are you
and i told you
i'm glad you told me how


i'm not sure exactly how you learned to read in the first place
words? you sight read them.
and emotions? you sound them out
from my voice
even when i thought i hid them
          my heart.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've been blogging for about 4 years. For the first 3, I wrote for an audiance of about 3 people (hi Pat! hi John! hi Kim!) writing little lists and tiny poems that made me happy. This particular blog, The Unwrapping, reaches a couple more people but is still a skinny, scrawny little thing. (Which suits me just fine.)

A few months ago, I received a little blog award from a fellow blogger. It was one of those things that gets passed around the blog-o-sphere -- if you receive an award, the deal is you pay it forward by recognizing other bloggers.

I never did.

I couldn't decide who to name.

Also, I'm a little shy about this kind of thing. About participating in a community and doing the sorts of social things that you do to fit in. 

But really, when it comes down to it, the real reason I didn't pass the "blog with substance" award forward is that I just wanted to pass it back to the gal who gave it to me in the first place, but that seemed to defeat the purpose of this kind of thing.

I found I'm Not Hannah when I was pregnant with Eliza. Heather was expecting River round about the same time, and I connected with her experiences and especially her writing style. She's funny and wise and opinionated and passionate and puts her soul into her words in a way that makes me envious.

Her writing has substance.

And her post from yesterday really got me. Made me stop and say wow. Made me want to see this woman's words in real print and know that she's getting paid real money for it. Because she's gifted. Really.

So what are you doing here? Get on over to Not Hannah and read something of real substance! (Click there. Yup. Right there. Or here.)

Go! Are you going? Go! Get out of here!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


you know how when you laugh
really  hard
and you feel sort of --
out of control?
like you could pee in your pants
like your face is unhinged,

and then finally,
with a big sigh,
you reel yourself back in.

that's how she laughs every time --
tickled or surprised --
but without the need to regroup.
a deep belly laugh
that comes from her core --
it's how her soul sounds when it's speaking
from a place that doesn't understand walls.
she knew this language
before she ever spoke a word.

she's asleep in my arms right now,
face slack --
eyes rolling, lips parted,
exhaling a soft whistle because her nose is stuffed.
peaceful baby.

but there's something in the way her chin juts forward
that whispers into the future.
somehow i know this is exactly how she'll look when she's grown,
in moments

Monday, October 18, 2010

on plumber's crack, good rejections, and the right start

My mother's side of the family is strongly Polish. Growing up, a few words and phrases immigrated into our everyday language. We always wore got-kas to bed because what if there was a fire? You wouldn't want to run outside without your underwear, would you? We jig-gotched instead of threw up, and we wiped our dupas you know when. [I'm feeling around in the dark for the spelling -- any ideas, Mom? Karolina?]

And while I'm uncertain about the etymology of it [is it Polish? Or something we made up?], I remember this word made us laugh.  


We'd whisper it, stifling giggles, while we pointed at the poor soul who wore the unfortunate, ill-fitting pants. He was nor-gin. You know -- sporting plumber's crack.

Well, folks, I've been nor-gin a lot lately. I'm sure it has something to do with post-pregnancy wacky-hips and a lot to do with my pencil-frame body and complete void of a rear end. Whatever the cause, the new [expensive] jeans I bought recently to replace my knee-holed ones have been hanging a bit low.

Until yesterday.

I rigged up something magical with a Dritz diaper pin and my trusty D-ringed belt and now my pants stay up.

It's been a good day.

So it was with pants secured above hip bones that I read my email this morning and got the rejection. The big fat no from the literary magazine to which I [long-ago-ish] submitted a short story. But it was the gentlest, most encouraging no that's ever been slid across my table. The editor told me that there was a lot she liked about my story, that she was "certain" I could place it elsewhere, but that it didn't fit the lens of this particular literary outlet. She encouraged me to submit another piece to the magazine though, as they are always looking for fresh fiction.

I know this was probably a pre-fab response that she copies and pastes to all the writers in her reject pile, but it was a response I appreciated. It didn't leave me licking a bad taste off my lips or doubting my self worth. In fact, I felt newly inspired to keep trying.

It's been a good day.

But I think mostly, the day dripped with positivity because it started out right. I was finally able to successfully summon myself out of sleep before the baby's cries or girly giggling could drag me into the day. I was finally able to delay drinking coffee and instead begin my morning with something I need even more -- yoga.

It was only 25 minutes, and all my joints were stiff with sleep even after savasana, but I felt so alive the rest of the day. Tired, like always, but I saw the sun through untinted windows.

My pants stayed up. No rang like a silver bell. It was a good day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

dribble, drabble, dabble

Remember how I told you I was wrestling with voice? That I'm not sure how to approach my novel? First person, third person, same voice, changing voices? So I thought I play a little today. Practice. 

I was going to write a random scene, then rewrite it from a different point of view. I started thinking up a scenario but asked myself, why not write a scene from The NovelI mean, why practice my swing without a bat in hand? 

Then, I found Rayna's blog through NaBloWriMo, and I learned about drabbles, a form of flash fiction that presents a scene in exactly 100 words.

Oh, cool.

I'm a huge fan of brevity. Maybe that's simply because I don't have enough endurance to write longer pieces. Or maybe it's because I don't have a whole lot of time to write or read or go to the bathroom sometimes. But I know this: I like writing short stuff. And I really like what writing poetry has taught me -- choose words carefully and shove as much as you can into every syllable.  

So I decided to do it. Write a drabble. And write it again from another point of view. 

Then show it to you.


Cadey unzipped anxiety and tossed it aside with her windbreaker, but it clung to her singlet anyway. She was all there when the gun went off and held pace with the leaders for the first half mile. It was hard. Her fingers went numb. But when shoe snagged against shin, her rhythmic gait splintered into a slow-motion lunge. It was over. She knew she was going to fall, the same way she knew she didn’t throw up this morning because of nerves like she had told her mom. She also knew that she wouldn't get up. She wouldn't finish.


I shivered. I was nervous. Not about anything but the race – it was everything. The silence before the gun sounded was the longest pause I had ever experienced. I was a ball of tension and then suddenly – bam – I was all motion. I saw nothing but the ponytail in front of me, swish, whip, swishing. Until I stuttered. Then all at once the track was too close to my face and I knew I was done. I didn’t move. My shoulder smarted something terrible, but I knew it would be the least of my pain. I would carry something heavier. 


I liked that. I can handle writing 100 words at a time. Maybe this is how I will proceed. Hey, 500 drabbles could make a novel!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

testing, testing

She picks up a fistful of sand and turns to look at me, hand hovering in front of her mouth. A half-smile plays on her lips and dances across her eyebrows. Are you going to stop me?

I ask her to lay down. To rest. She's going to the hockey game tonight and it starts at her bedtime. Trying to nap was written into the you-can-go-if contract. She gets in her bed. I draw the shades and leave the room. Maaaaamaaaaaa? Can you stay in here with me? She knows I can't -- Ruthie is out and about. Maaaaamaaaaaa? It's too dark in here. I crack the shades. Maaaaamaaaaaa? I'm not tired. I explain the deal one more time. She's stalling. I know she's tired. I leave the room again.

It's the usual battle. I ask her to do something, it doesn't matter what. Change your skirt, please -- that one is way too small. *** Let your sister be -- she said she doesn't want to play that game. *** Please, please stop trying to pick up the baby ** If her mood is just so, she responds with a decided negative. No. I don't want to. Stop making me do stuff. There's the sigh or the foot stomp or the door slam. Talk back again -- make another sound -- and there's going to be a consequence. She has to ask -- What will it be? 

I've got 30 minutes of relative quiet. I plug into my iPod to drown out the whines and laughter of other people's kids in this small waiting room and I stare again at my shaky list of scenes. They may or may not take me there, across this story. But I have nothing else to do but start.  I write a paragraph in first person. My teenage girl's voice. I'm not sure it feels right. I widen it into third person. Wonder how it might read from the mother's perspective. Or from his. I look again at the list of scenes. Assign a different voice to each one. 

I've never done this before. I'm learning how to be.


Friday, October 15, 2010

i'd rather be

There are two baskets in my living room, overflowing with laundry. The shirts and skirts are settling and wrinkling as we speak. I'd rather be folding it right now. Instead of blogging.

Actually, there are a lot of things I'd rather be doing.

I'd rather be clipping my toenails.
I'd rather be scrubbing the toilets.
I'd rather be hunting through the fallen leaves for dog poop to scoop before someone steps in it.

I'd rather be stepping in dog poop.

I'd rather be nursing the baby on the side that hurts like hell lately.
I'd rather be lying in the dark, not sleeping.
I'd rather be watching political ads on TV.

But here I am. Blogging again today because I said I would. And that says nothing about me except hey, you're stubborn.

That, and I have something to say.

Someone UN followed my blog today.

So what, right? I know. It's a little silly that I even noticed. But I did.

And my mind turned the page quickly before my heart (or my hormones?) could notice. I totally don't care. I'm not in high school. I'm not trying to win any awards here.

But my inner Sneer has been laughing all day: Every day? God, you're annoying. Could you say something new? Get a life? Or maybe -- invent one. And you think you're a writer. Ha ha! You're just blogging.

So my heart had to get involved.

Well, how do you do, Mr. Sneer. I've met you before. Remember? And I already told you you suck. I'm not writing here for you, or for you, or even for YOU. I'm writing here for me. So go away. Go scrub my toilets. Or else I'll stir fry you.

My fingers are in my ears. Nah nah nah nah nah. I can't hear you.

I'm blogging today. And I don't care who reads it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

sunrise [also titled: THIS morning]

I'm sitting on the couch, clutching my coffee with the lights off. The sky is completely black. The branches and their unfallen leaves blend into the shadows. The darkness is a sheet over the house.

I zone out the window, sleep still stuck in the corners of my eyes. At the top of every inhale I pause, imagining a small spark within me -- the North Star -- glowing a degree brighter with every cycle of my breath. A few silent moments pass. The sky warms from black to a dark blue, revealing individual branches, witnesses waiting for the sun's grand entrance. I'm waiting, too.

It happens every day. The sun comes up. I breathe. Events that are entirely explainable -- the turn of the earth, the expansion of my lungs. But right now, toeing the line between night and day, sleep and waking, still and sound, I see myself in the middle of a miracle. At the center of the world.

The sun is over the horizon now, an orange ball just hovering there. Where are the strings that hold it in place? There's a warmth in my chest, too -- something I didn't see before.

The day has begun.
I give thanks to her -- to the sun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

some mornings

from downstairs -- from underneath --
the pitter-patter of little feet sounds like
a herd of elephants. they gallop
        even at 7 in the morning,

from bedroom to bathroom
from to hallway to kitchen. how can
        half-sized people

make so much noise?

I turn on shhhhhh like a cold-water hose all over their antics but giggles seep between the cracks of their clamped lips. I'm sorry that I'm such a wet blanket, I want to tell them. I haven't had my coffee, I want to explain.  I'm not quite ready for the day to begin.

The baby is still asleep. It's all I can say. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Our garden sucked this year.

We put in some peas that produced a handful of pods, and we got enough slicing tomatoes for a couple BLT sandwiches.  A few volunteer plants sprang out of the weedy mess -- a squash vine and a few extra tomato plants that must have rooted in from our compost -- but they yielded fairly yucky tasting produce.

The fact is, we've never had much of a garden. My excuses are related to periods of pregnancy and baby rearing that drained my energy for all tasks outside the absolutely necessary. And I take home a bounty from the market stand where I work every weekend -- beautiful organic vegetables grown by folks who know what they're doing and do it well -- so I've felt little motivation to try to grow my own.

But for some reason, we're still getting about a handful of sungold tomatoes every day from our sad little patch. The plants are yellowing -- dying slowly -- but the fruit keeps ripening. It's a great afternoon snack.

Claire and Eliza won't have anything to do with tomatoes, but Ruthie could eat her weight in them. Yesterday, when I was hanging the laundry, she crawled over to the plants and reared up on her knees, laughing at the treats hanging just out of her reach. Nothing was quite ripe to pick then, but the green-tinged globes had turned golden by this afternoon.

I had felt fairly flat-lined all day. I couldn't find anything worth mentioning -- worth writing about -- anywhere. The leaves were just leaves, brittle in my hands. The sun shone brightly, but didn't show me anything different. The dishes were just the dishes; the diapers were what they always are. It wasn't an unpleasant day. But I felt like I was waiting for inspiration...sitting at the station, checking the clock, banking on a train that had already derailed.

Then I took Ruthie outside to gather our tomatoes. She quivered on my hip, trying to grab at what I clutched in my hand. I bit one in half and handed her the other piece -- she swallowed it before I could pick another. She laughed and made her want more noises with great urgency. Seeds were smeared all over her face and my shirt by the time our harvest was consumed. She opened my palm, looking for more. 

It was empty.

She tapped my palm with her finger -- a sign for more that I've been trying to teach her. She'd never done it without prompting before.

Sorry, baby. That's all we have today.

We went inside. She found something else to do [see yesterday's post] while I started dinner.

And I got to thinking. Some days brim with bounty and beauty, don't they? Some days literally pulse with something special. And I gobble those days up and write them down when I can. But sometimes, the trees are bare. Sometimes, there's nothing left and it doesn't matter if I ask for more.

That's it. It's gone. You ate it all up.

But I love it when those golden fruits grow back. I love it when I go to bed and a new day surprises me with packets of poetry strewn all over the house. I collect those crumbs and follow their meandering path.

There's not a lot of growing season left, though. Here in the Midwest, time is running out on our little tomato crop -- I'm sure a killing frost lurks in the shadows just around the corner.

But I'm not worried. I'm good at foraging and I'm not a picky eater. I'll find something to eat.

Monday, October 11, 2010


you take all the folded towels out of the basket. you leave sand in my bed. you relieve the bookshelves of all their tidy spines. you strew containers and cups and lids and pots all over the kitchen floor. you eat crayons. you collect the toothpaste and your toothbrush and the hairbrush and my makeup together in the bathroom sink. you smear yogurt on my shoulder. and pears in your hair. you dump the wet laundry out on the lawn. now there's mud on my white underwear.

everything's undone.

you rest your head on my shoulder.

so am i.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Anything -- everything -- is ordinary
until suddenly -- all at once --
it's not

do you wait for the change?
or can you look through new eyes?

make it mean something.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Today was the kind of day we stole from summer. Picked it up out of late June and plunked it a week into October.

It was hot. Unseasonable. Lovely. I just hope June doesn't make us pay her back. I hope she doesn't take it out of next year's paycheck. Or charge us interest for borrowing so far ahead.

I had sweat dripping down my back after packing up the farmer's market stand early this afternoon. When I pulled into the driveway and stepped out of the car -- home again -- I inhaled the scent of sun-baked leaves, freshly fallen and still warm from the oven. Delicious.

Inside, John offered me a gift. Do you want to take a quick nap?

So here I am lying on my stomach, sprawled sideways on the bed. The windows are open. The birds chirp crazily to each other and I can hear chipmunks rustling in the woodpile next to the shed. I don't think I'll really fall asleep.

And then suddenly I'm waking up, grasping after the coat tails of a dream that's already scurrying around the corner and down a different someone's rabbit hole. My hands are empty. I open my eyes. Decide not to move just yet.

I can see the tops of a few trees out my window. They're still. But I hear a rushing sound that ebbs and flows like a breeze in the pines. It sounds just like the ocean. I imagine myself rolling out of bed, stepping through a master-suite patio door, and breathing in the briny air. Alone on the beach with John and the sunrise.

I know I'm just hearing the traffic, gently ebbing and flowing with the stop-and-go light a half mile away.

But I can dream.

Suddenly I'm aware of laughing and squealing and the beat of a song vibrating through my mattress. The kids are playing downstairs. Dancing. Jumping on the couch.

I laugh out loud. Spring out of bed and head downstairs to join them.

I'm the farthest thing from alone but the closest thing to happy. I think I'll swallow it whole.


Friday, October 8, 2010


I stopped under the tree. I had to. It spoke to me.

The sun was beginning to step out of the sky. Bowing out slowly but never without a show.

And this is what I saw: A certain angle of the rays; a certain shadow cast from the nearest house.

A tree -- half-changed, half-illuminated, half on fire. Entirely real.

The canopy bled gold and each leaf waved the sun like a banner held high, proclaiming glory be. The understory remained deep green and shadowed. I stood below with feet planted like roots.

It was a burning bush in its own way. Not at knee height but overhead, with leaves -- distinctly maple -- carpeting the sidewalk under my feet.

And a voice, not booming but mine.

Do you see the tree, Rue?

Her reply, equal in gesture. She pointed upward with an outstretched finger.

The divine within me honors the divine within you.

We walked on. I wondered what else we'd see. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010


have you ever watched a barefoot baby walking on wobbly new-colt legs? seen how the toes spread and individually grip the ground? each one is vital.

have you ever seen a child learning to skip? hop-step-hop-step, a rhythem she doesn't quite get? she's used to having two feet on the ground.

have you ever held the back of a bike, steadying an eager rider who can't quite figure out how to lean away from a fall? that uncertainty is a heavy weight in your hands.

then you know about balance.
that it takes work.

but one day it comes easily.
doubt disappears and suddenly
you're running

wind against your cheeks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


we're at the bus stop. your eyes are still heavy-lidded with sleep.
you watch her spin herself silly and sing school songs
copying her 2nd grade friend's mannerisms, the way you sometimes copy hers. 
does she look different to you?
she has one foot in another world already, leaving you at home.

you don't really mind.

after school, it's all she wants to play.
you're not interested. she screams at you to do your math
so you come upstairs. we put picture books back in the shelf,
Library Workers right now. it's quiet in here.

but at bedtime i sit in the dark with the baby
while out on the couch two sisters sit side by side.
she reads to you
you lean against her


Tuesday, October 5, 2010


It all started this morning.

Eliza wanted to play with her kitchen. She planned to bake bread, and she had her mind fixated on a certain particular [missing-in-action] bottle of play ketchup. It had to be found. [Because she was baking bread, you see.]

So I began dumping out bins of toys, a dual purpose forming in my mind. I would find the blasted bit of plastic, and I would organize this ostensibly picked up but really boiling-beneath-the-surface catastrophe of a playroom.  I would purge.

I got out a couple garbage bags and started sorting. Handed Eliza the rogue ketchup bottle. Which she promptly forgot all about as she watched my progress with wide eyes. You're not throwing that away, are you, Mama?

Not yet. 

I discovered that we have roughly 10 dress-up dresses per kid. At least 20 pairs of dress-up shoes.  15 bags/purses/backpacks. 7 baby dolls. Fifty Zillion stuffed animals. And a veritable mountain of other random crap. [Sorry, beloved crap.]

And it's not just the playroom. I die a thousand deaths every time I walk into the laundry room -- there is a path to the washer and a path to the dryer and the rest is stuff. Everywhere. Our storage closets downstairs hardly close over all the stuff. And there's stuff all over every flat [high] surface. Every inch of unused table space. The mantle. The bookshelf wherever books aren't. My desk. Our dresser. Covered in stuff.

Unnecessary. Ridiculous. This has to change.

Over lunch, I opened this blog post, which challenged readers to a pivotal, life-changing divorcing of stuff.

I felt inspired. Especially in the middle of my toy room rampage. But also skeptical.

Could we really downsize so radically? Could I convince the kids that they could survive without the majority of the toys in that tornado downstairs? [They are, like most kids, so imaginative.]  Could we all function with just enough articles of clothing to mix and match and last a single week? I bet I could keep up with that laundry. No joke. Could we pick up each of our belongings one by one, hold them in our hands, and commit them to this life as items of essential worth?

I imagine the space. It could free us.

Don't you think?

I'm not committing to anything today. But I'm going to keep working on that playroom. Once everything is sorted, I plan to enlist the kids to help decide what they love. What they can live without.

Then I will inch from room to room, surface to surface, thing to thing.

Can we be brave enough to ask, Do we need this?

Monday, October 4, 2010

the point

A la Not Hannah, I think the time is ripe for a summary post. A what-on-earth-am-I-doing-here post. [On the blog, I mean.]

So here it is.  

I began writing The Unwrapping at the beginning of 2010 with the expressed purpose of practicing my writing skills. Unwrapping myself, if you will. Figuring that with a reader or two, I might feel accountable to this space and actually write. Rather than, you know, always intending to write something but never finding the time or the space or the confidence.

Over the year, this blog has become more and more important to  me. I don't present convincing positions or wrenching realities. But I write this life. I write through the lens of metaphor. I cast out my net and try to capture the beauty that flutters through these days, plunge my hands in deep to cup those fragile wings in my palms, and sketch it out in words so I can hold it up for you to see.

And by writing about the poetry seeping through the cracks of life, I find myself seeing it more. Living in it. Gathering it into a pile like so many red and yellow and golden autumn leaves. Rolling around in it, even.

So I want to thank you for coming here. Your presence is what keeps me writing. And I've found that writing, like nothing else, plunks me in the present moment.

Which is right where I need to be.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


You'll never guess what I saw in the woods last week.

No, it wasn't a black bear [though there have been reports in these parts...]

And it wasn't a cougar, either [but a few hours north of here, there have been multiple sightings...]

Get this: I saw a senator.

It was 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning. The dog and I had the whole place to ourselves -- we passed not a soul on the crushed gravel path, no one except for the squirrels. But after we had turned around for home, I saw a pair of people round the corner just ahead. I shortened Emma's leash to prepare for the passing [not everyone likes dogs sniffing at their shins, I always figure].

Hello, how are ya? was halfway out of my mouth when I recognized him.

Russ Feingold.

I reigned in the reflexive double-take, though I probably stared a little longer than is customary when passing a stranger. I also stole a backward glance once I was safely behind him. I felt a little giddy. Russ Feingold.

Really, this wasn't SUCH an unusual sighting. I mean, he lives right across from the middle school the kids will attend. But still. 

At home, I told the kids about my walk: I saw Russ Feingold in the woods today!

Eliza (my "3 and a half-er") responded: Oh, good! That's why we vote for him!

Hm. Um.

Yah, kind of.

Politically? I'm a die-hard Apathetic. I tune out when folks around me start arguing about policy. I change the channel on political ads.

I just can't get fired up about the promises these guys make during election year. I understand the issues are important and I know we need to get things done, but I'm sick of party politics and all the unseen crap that boils under the surface. 

And I never see anyone running on my platform -- no one is out there vowing to create policy according to the Golden Rule. Can't we all just be kind to each other? Seriously?

I know it's all so much more complex than that. I know. I KNOW.

But I still want to cover my ears when folks start arguing about politics. And I cringe every time I see a campaign commercial.

But I like Russ Feingold. I think he's a good guy. People talk about how he's lived in my community for years. How he has a reputation for independence, voting against his party to stand up for what he believes in. I admire that. Respect that.

Feingold faces a tough race this year -- polls call him the underdog. A lot of folks don't think he'll win. That his 18 years in office are over. I'm not interested in listening to them argue. But I will voice my opinion on Election Day. Even though I'm a staunch Apathetic, I'll be out there to cast my vote.

Will you?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

demons in the night

After a night like last night, I normally wouldn't write a blog post. Unless I could muster some positivity, of course.

I don't really like to complain. At least not to the general public [sorry, John].

But it's only Day 2 of the post-a-day challenge, and I also don't really like to quit.

Like a starving person searching for food or a parched person pining for water, I'm fixating on what I need most -- a basic need I've been lacking. Sleep.

And last night was the worst night in my recent memory. John was out of town and my usual waking but easy-back-to-sleep baby would Not. Go. Back. Down.

Nursing, crying, walking, shushing -- nothing worked. Then the middle kid woke with growing pains. Then again moments later to go to the bathroom. Needing assistance, of course. I might not have been as kind to her as I'd like to remember.

So I was awake for a good [I mean bad] two-hour stretch, the tail end of which found me trying one last ditch effort -- I was curled on the floor in front of the crib, hoping my presence would sooth this wakeful baby back to sleep.

She was playing.

Reaching through the slats to grab at my clothing. Stretching her feet to kick me. Squealing with pleasure when she got me.

That's when the night demons started speaking.

This is never going to change, you know. You'll never get a full night's sleep. 
You might as well forget doing all the things you love. You can't be happy when you're this tired.
Isn't this a lovely metaphor for life -- parenting is always going to be the thing that grabs you by the shirt. Ties you down. Kicks you when you're down. And laughs at you. 
This is how it is. 

Tears were puddling in the panes of my glasses. My knees were digging into the hardwood floor. I felt extremely and desperately sorry for myself.

But she finally went back to sleep. Of course she did. And I did, too.

Right now I'm off to the farmer's market, where I will smile at my customers. And it will be so frosty, at least at first, that I probably won't even feel that tired.

I'll come home to the baby who will be so happy to see me she will cry. Her hair will probably be sticking up, horn-like, and her eyes will be bright and piercing. She will laugh and say ma-ma and I'll watch her attempt to walk.

I'll forgive her poor night manners. I'll forget exactly how those demons sounded.

And tonight, when everyone is asleep, before another rough [or maybe not?] night really begins, I will do something I enjoy.

Just to prove those crazy, desperate demons that they are wrong.

Friday, October 1, 2010

the bigger picture

Today, I woke up in a raging bad mood. The kind induced by too little sleep and too much self pity, deepened by way too much too-strong coffee.

Today is also the first day of NaBloWriMo. I want to write a post.

But I don't want my words to come echoing out of this pit. And I don't want to sit down this hole all day either.

So I take a shower and use up too much hot water. I eat some yogurt to settle this too-queasy stomach. And I sit down with resolve to write something much more positive than I feel.

I check my email and visit my favorite sites -- the first one speaks to me. About the bigger picture.

This is it. 

It's Blog for your Breasts Day over at Bigger Picture Blogs. A perfect wake-up call.

Hello, Sarah? Get out of your head. Get out of your bad mood. You have nothing to feel low about. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. You are not battling for your life. Yours is right in front of you. Use it. Use it. Use it. 

As if on cue, my sister-in-law Kim calls me on the phone.  The strong one. I ask her if she's heard about Army of Women, the non-profit initiative run by the Dr. Susan Love Reserach Foundation and sponsored by Avon. She hasn't heard of it, but she agrees that grassroots movements like this one are important for advocacy and research.

So I'm signing up. I want to help this group meet their 1 MILLION MEN AND WOMEN goal, to be part of a database of folks interested in learning more about and potentially participating in research studies aimed to help prevent breast cancer. I'm not registered for any particular project, and I didn't pay anything to join. I am pledging to support this initiative, help if I can, and ultimately urge the scientific community to include prevention studies as part of breast cancer research.

And I'm asking you to consider joining, too. To be part of the bigger picture.

Even if you're in a bad mood.