Sunday, November 28, 2010


{fiction. metaphor. you pick}

She doesn't need a doctor to tell her. She knows what's wrong. Her heart labors. She can feel it working hard against what has been laid down over all these years of living. Her body is a map of blocked roads.

{today. every day}

She stands begging at the barrier of toy bins across the doorway. I'm keeping the baby in but she seems to think we're blocking her out. I've seen her jump this high, over other things -- she's an agile dog. But she wants me to let her in.

{crunching through morning frost}

On the gravel path, my usual route in my usual woods. Neon tape tied to the underbrush off to the left -- a rough hewn inlet I've never seen. I turn. Water crunches frozen under my feet under the brown trampled grasses. This way would have been blocked for me a couple weeks ago, a muddy marshy mess impassible in these street shoes. But today I get through. And then the landscape opens up and I'm at the edge of the water and the cranes and the geese take flight at the sound of my approach. My breath is frozen but for a second it stops.

{on the road}

There's been construction between home and home home all summer. Double fines in work zones, speed limit down at 55. It's a tiresome stretch of highway that feels slow like a log jam in a once roaring river.

They're not done but I guess they're calling it close enough for now. The machinery is in the median when we travel for this holiday, but they let us go as fast as we're used to. We fly, unblocked. It only makes a few minutes but it feels like we get there faster.


It's me who's blocked, veins full of junk, unable to jump over the smallest barrier. I'm waiting for something to move or freeze or finish and move aside. I can be patient. But I also know how to make my own magic, a medicine I can take. I am an alchemist.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

five times

Five times a day they turn towards Mecca. But they're not the only ones.

I pause at intervals, too. But not to face any north, south, west, or east. I fold inward, finding a new cardinal direction. Center.

1.  Coffee and the sunrise. Two minutes of silence.

2.  Yoga in the baby's room.  On a mat sprinkled with snacks, moving through a sequence that splinters more than it flows. I may not finish but I begin. And then I stand straighter.

3.  Naptime nursing. She's asleep but I sit here a little longer. Still. 

4.  One cup of tea. My soul rises with the steam even though I'm solidly here. In front of the doll house.

5.  Breath before bed. The day drains slowly but drain it does. Drain, it does. 

I don't prostrate myself. I don't recite prayers. But i connect. Rejoice. Give thanks.
We're the same like that.
All of us.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sundays are for Storytelling: "Late"

Here's some fiction. I dragged it out, kicking and screaming. I never wrote a male subject before. He was really quite stubborn. 


This was ridiculous. Maddening. Embarrassing, even. But it wasn't unpredictable. Jake could admit that, at least.

He had planned to be late. He could play it off as fashionable and everyone would swallow it whole. But late would mean he could slide into the receiving line and hug her hello with a smile that wouldn't crack under the weight of I do and the kiss that slammed the door in his face for good.

Late would save him.

But he hadn't planned on getting lost. Or at least, not this lost. Passing through towns with names he'd never heard of, names like Tichigan that would make him laugh out loud and bounce one-liners off whoever was in the passenger seat. But exasperation had boiled out all his humor and the empty seat never even smiled at his jokes. But he was used to that by now.

Of course, her new guy never got lost, Jake was sure of that. He was too sensible. Too straight. And he probably always carried a smart phone.

Jake had disconnected his own cell line when he left a couple of years ago. He needed to live life untied, he had told her -- he needed to see things. She wouldn't come. But he understood. About safety and risk and not wanting to blow all that she had worked for. And he hadn't expected her to wait for him. Not really.

But now he was back, approaching her hometown from a totally different direction. He had never come out of the west before. The night felt dense this far from the city but the moon was full tonight. No matter how the road meandered that bright orb was always in view -- now in his periphery, now framed in the windshield. His own companion. He exhaled noisily. He would stop at the next gas station to orient himself. Maybe even buy a map.

The car's headlights peeled back the night. But when they reflected off a pair of eyes, he felt his own grow comically wide and he had just enough time to think deer in the headlights before the impact. And then it was too dark to see the stars, even. But he could feel the moonlight dripping into his eyes and suddenly he was glad he wouldn't get there at all. Late wouldn't have saved him from anything.

Friday, November 19, 2010

not me

morning chaos

pulling on shoes and coats, finding backpacks and gloves. zippering the littles, dog in everyone's way. if she knocks the baby over one more time, i swear...

we may not have time to strap into the stroller today. when i'm anxious i drip with doom. we're going to be late. i hate being late.

the girls are already outside. big sister is bossy, even at the break of dawn. eliza, you can't get in the stroller.


a very real scream. suddenly i'm certain that i forgot the put the stroller brake on yesterday and i'm imagining eliza trying to get in and oh my god i bet now she's rolling down the driveway, down the hill, into traffic. those high school drivers go so fast, never looking.

i rush to the door.


they're just fighting.

i bark some commands about no screaming and thought someone got their head cut off and we're late and lets get going. my voice sounds so harsh. my edges are raw.

i plow the stroller down the driveway and look past the end of my own nose to see a neighbor standing at the end of her driveway. offering to help.

do you need someone to watch the little ones while you go to the bus stop?

blush rising in my cheeks. i sounded so awesome just now. i collect myself.

no, i'm okay. but thank you. some mornings, you know...

oh, i know. it happens to us all, unfortunately. she gets in her car, off to work. her two grown kids are in college now. i'm guessing she has been here. that her voice sounded like mine did just now. once upon a time.

but i'm still embarrassed. i feel exposed.

i tuck all my harsh edges back into the soft folds of my sweater. pushing them down, down.

not me. not me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

letting go

She's on page one. The very beginning of the book.

Her slippered feet shuffle down the hall. One hand on the wall sometimes, or fingers wrapped around mine. But she's holding on less and less these days. Letting go.


She's lost count of the pages by now but they're filled with so many words. Paragraphs of pain, maybe, but the overarching theme has been one of  love. It doesn't take deep literary analysis to see that. I watch her walking down the hall, slippered feet shuffling. She hesitates at the floor transition, one hand on the wall, unsure of her next step. She's holding on more and more these days. Someday soon she'll let go.

And I'll hold her hand once more.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

my own lunch

It's lunchtime.

I quarter grapes and tomatoes, shred some cheese and butter toast. I pour milk and slice apples and cut more grapes to replace what has already disappeared. Then more cheese.

A moment of silence. Everyone is satisfied. {For now.}

An inner voice. What would I be eating right now, if I was alone? If I had all the time in the world?

I usually hodgepodge my own lunch. But I don't want the uneaten scraps from these plates. Not a quick bowl of cottage cheese. Not peanut butter and jelly, even.

Today is dreary and cold and just right for a serving of something warm. Something no one else would eat but me.

Chopping would only take a couple seconds. The saute would be done in no time. And the extra dishes? Would round out this pile so nicely. Just make it. 

So I do. I chop and stir between refills of grapes and cheese. Soon the teapot is whistling and the frying pan is sending up the sounds and smells of a gentle sizzle.

It's done. The chai steams next to a plate of soft russian kale and onions. It looks amazing. I sit.

But the baby is through with her meal {Nah. Naah. NAAAAAAH!!!} so I wipe her down and release her from her chair. She takes everything out of the tupperware cupboard. The mess is fine with me. I'm finally eating and these are bites of heaven. Straight out of a day I lived just for me.

I'm practically licking my plate when it becomes clear that we better head for naptime or no-return.  So I get up, leaving my nearly full cup of tea to cool.

But I don't mind. It can be reheated.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

wait it out

We were playing Monopoly Jr. She had just bought both blue properties.

Mama, I'm almost out of money.

She was disappointed. But her ticket booths covered the board. I could see how this would play out.

We moved through a couple more turns before she got more interested in her cheering section {a line of stuffed animals, all on her team} than amassing money. She drifted away.

The tide was just about to turn. But she couldn't see that. 

Do you have the patience to wait it out?

Monday, November 15, 2010


from the outside, the tumble-down parts glared obvious
and the fixes slid fast from the mouths of anyone who passed by

take down that wall
add a new coat of paint
straighten out the front stairs
new curtains? a skylight?

but through the picture window
i saw a woman curled by the fire.
i didn't recognize the book she was reading
but it held her there
and she looked
even though i thought maybe
she could use a new roof.

*photo credit: ian britton

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sundays are for Storytelling: "Stuck"

I was driving down I-90 last night, headed to my sister's house. My first overnight, away from the family, since Ruthie was born. The radio was playing crap and my iPod was dead. So I thought up a story, inspired by the road and the silence. I wrote it down in the morning, up before everyone else because I'm trained like that. Reveling in the luxury of a pen and notebook in bed, no one asking for breakfast.


Cara was never as stuck as the time when she was stuck. And then she was really stuck. Here is how she got out.

It was a January 6th. A new day in the new year and Cara decided she would leave. She had had enough. It didn't matter what time she walked out the door -- he wouldn't be home anyway. So she did what any mom to a young child -- or young children, in Cara's case -- would do. She planned the leaving around the twins' afternoon nap.

In the morning, she packed with purpose -- sentimentality had no say in what stayed behind. She stuffed all the 3-6 month clothing she had been hoarding since the summer rummage sale season into a garbage bag. The plastic stretched against the weight of all that pink and blue. She only had one package of diapers left, but it would be enough for now. A Target run could be on her to-do list there just as well as here. She crumpled a couple of her own sweaters, an extra pair of jeans, socks, underwear, toiletries, etc into her backpack. The diaper bag was always ready to go.

The twins were wailing by the time she was done. The cycle had stopped on both their swings while she was loading the car. They hated to lie still. She never needed to work off the baby weight, what with all the bouncing, walking, swaying, rocking -- times two -- that they required.

She fed them bottles and they both fell asleep. Strapped into their car seats, they were just two more objects to stow into the car. Breathing objects. Fragile objects. The objects of her departure. They were the reason she would finally leave.

She sat in the driver's seat and surveyed her load. She had everything she needed -- for now. She'd come back for the rest when the dust cleared. Or maybe she'd just send David and Annie. They always said they'd do anything for her. She knew they'd make good on their offer.

It was snowing by the time she merged onto I-90. I didn't expect this, she thought. But then, what part of today had she expected? It was all predicted beforehand, but you have to be on the right channel to hear the forecast. She certainly wasn't tuned in. Not back then, not now. That would have to change.

Traffic was heavy. Rush hour. The worst time to leave. But the babies were quiet and Cara could concentrate on the road.

Then -- brake lights like dominoes cascaded down the highway. She pressed hers -- hard -- to go from seventy to stopped behind everyone else.

Cara clenched her teeth, tense all over. Not because of the hold up but because she knew the change of speed would seep into the twins' sleep cycle. And smash it. They would be wide eyed and Chicago was still over an hour away.

She waited, eyes trained on the review mirror and their faces reflected back at her. Sure enough, the boy turned his head from side to side a couple times before scrunching his face, opening his mouth, and squalling -- eyes still closed. The girl might have stayed asleep but you can't tune out a cry like that so she joined in. Cara signed and leaned back against the headrest. This was a chorus she knew by heart. Sometimes she sat -- head between her hands -- and sang along, but right now all she wanted to do was move forward.

But traffic didn't. This was a dead standstill. Seriously? She said aloud. It was like the universe had bunched up in front of her, determined to hold her back with another hurdle. This seemed like the cruelest one.

She only idled for fifteen minutes before her skin started to crawl. She tried comforting the babies one at a time in the front seat -- there was no way she could wedge between their car seats in the back -- but there was only so much she could do. Movement was the only trick up her sleeve. And they were stuck. Right here.

It had been awhile since the last feeding, so Cara dug through the diaper bag for bottles and formula. And that's when she realized what she had forgotten -- there was no water to mix the formula.


She turned on the radio -- loud, above the crying -- and switched over to the AM station that would feature traffic updates.

...I-90 closed...fatal accident...

There was an inch of snow on her hood. They would be here for awhile.

If only breastfeeding had worked out. But the twins had been born early and they couldn't latch on and she was too overwhelmed by their newness and their two-ness and her marriage and its failure and his drinking and disappointments to work that hard for physical survival. And they thrived. They absolutely thrived.

But right now, they were hungry. So Cara did what any mother would do -- for bear cubs, for baby birds, for the boy and girl in her back seat -- she set out in search of food, one car seat in the crook of each arm.

She knocked on eight car windows before she had any success. Three before someone would even roll down the window. People had their own miseries to nurse. A fellow in one of the last cars offered to help her lug the car seats back to the car, but she declined, her breath frozen in the air. She had come this far on her own and she would make it back.

When she finally mixed the formula and fed the twins, they fell asleep quickly, even though traffic was still stuck. They could adapt. And in the hour of silence that ensued, Cara let herself imagine tomorrow -- waking up in her brother's guest room. In a new life.

Luck had dealt an unfortunate blow to whoever lost their lives at the head of this line of cars. But hers was starting over. She would move forward. The wheel was firm under her hands, the accelerator real under her foot, and the road would open up eventually. She could wait a little longer while they cleared away the debris of a destroyed life. She could sit here and mourn that loss. It was not hers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

where i found you

i was in the bathroom
when your sister's screams erupted
from the other side of the house

i thought you were playing
with refrigerator magnets

but racing in i found you sitting
next to the scissors

now you're finally napping
and i'm sitting quietly
finishing off
the chocolate ice cream

i better stock up
on silence. on chocolate.
i'll need both to get through
the rest of the day
and the next 17 years.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

not trying

Limbs stretched, supported fully by the floor, I assumed the posture for deep relaxation. But I knew it would be just a posture -- a war with my mind would inevitably begin.

The moving meditation of the asana sequence should prepare the mind to fully let go and just be. But I have the hardest time with savasana, the pose of deep relaxation that seals a yoga practice. 

My teacher talks about finding that inner point of stillness, where the true self resides. The self that is not your thoughts, that cannot be undone by external events. In that space, my teacher says, you will find peace. Bliss, even.

It sounds so beautiful. I want to go there.

But I fight so hard against my mind. Now gently leading it to silence, now shouting at it to just shut up already. Savasana is never unpleasant -- it feels good to be bodily still, no one climbing on me, no one demanding anything of me, even if my mind won't stop moving -- but I've never really found that sweet spot.

Last night at yoga class, my teacher left us in savasana with these final words:

     No more trying. Just accepting.

My eyes were still closed but my mind opened wide. Wait, say that again? I literally vibrated with the truth carried in her voice.

And I did. I stopped trying. Stopped fighting and cajoling and begging and just let it be. My mind still wandered but I let the deviations come and go without trying. I let it go. My body sank into the floor, and when I got up at the end of class, I put my teacher's words in my pocket and took them home.

And I'm pinning them up today to remind myself to seek softness, even when I'm in the middle of great effort.

     No more trying, just accepting.

I know I've heard these words before, but sometimes, it seems, bits of wisdom just bounce off the concrete surface of an unripe mind.

Today, I'm ready to swallow them whole. Let those seeds germinate, take root, and grow into something bigger. I'm ready to find my bliss.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Sleep takes me like quicksand.

I feel it just closing over my head when I'm grabbed firmly by the shoulders and pulled back. Awake.

I lay on my side, breath pattern quick, listening for whatever sound had such a firm grip. Wondering which kid it was. Waiting for the stirrings to escalate into screaming. It does. {It always does.}

Back in my own bed, I pull the covers over my head, moonbathing on this shore. Sleep curls around my toes in frothy waves but recedes, recedes, recedes. The tide has changed.

When I finally slip into unconsciousness, its a hard fall. I don't dream. I don't move. I embody corpse pose in the deepest sense.

John's alarm sounds at the usual hour and he hits the snooze. Again. And again. I don't even hear it.

My consciousness is trained to respond to small voices, not incessant beeping. It's a good thing I work from home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Next door, they're washing windows.

The husband removes the panes and leans them against the fence. He has a rag draped over the end of a broom to brush the season's spider webs from each window frame.

The wife washes the downed panes, crouching next to the fence line. Her knees are better than his.

They don't speak. I don't think he can hear very well.

Their house will be ready for winter. A season that seems so far from this warm morning but will wrap its cold hands around us before we know it.

Inside my own house, the sun streams through floor-to-ceiling front windows. Ruthie presses her nose, lips, fingers against the glass. Her breath condenses in a halo around her mouth. A leaf falls. Her eyes follow it's descent.

When John pulls into the driveway, she waves through the smudged glass like it's her job.

Didn't he just clean these panes last week? Fingerprints already layer the knee-high sections.

But maybe I'll never wash these windows thoroughly again. Because really, what's the point? And because maybe one day, when I have whole mornings to take them down and carefully wipe away the dust laid down by 30 years of living in this house, I'll find traces of today. Proof of the fingerprints that are pressed into my heart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday hymn

I take off my hat.

Not out of reverence, though I'm feeling a good measure of that, too.

It's Sunday, and I'm standing in a cathedral with the highest ceiling I have ever seen.

I'm hot. Sweaty. Breath fills my ears. My entire being bursts with gratitude.

I'm alone, except for the dog. But I have a hunch she's praising all creation in her animal way. We're the same, like that.

Out here there are no walls. No words. No wisdom but my own and whatever is blowing in the wind. The divine hums in my ears.

I unzip my jacket and hike back down the hill. The wind rifles through my hair and the open halves of my jacket billow wide, like a pair of wings.

I'm no angel and I'm not anywhere near a church. But I'm keeping holy the Sabbath.

Out here
wrong season, but you get the idea

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sundays are for Storytelling: Children's Library Edition

Mama, can you tell a story about me and Eliza?

I groan internally. Sigh externally. And come up with a short tale of girls and magic and adventure. It's not very good. But it's the best I can do.

John can spin yarns off the top of his head that leave the girls in stitches. My stories are usually about something that's in front of me and are never very funny. But still, she asks. And sometimes, I say no. Not right now. I don't feel like storytelling on demand when I'm trying to plan dinner or change a diaper or think through something I wanted to write for myself.

The request comes far less frequently since Claire started school, but she asked me last week. And instead of groaning or giving her a flat no, I stalled. I told her I would tell her a story on Sunday. Since Sundays are for Storytelling, after all. This is what she got.


Once upon a time, there were three sisters: Claire, Eliza, and Ruth [Aside: This opening is not an option. It is a requirement. A mandate. You might as well not begin if you don't begin here.] But this story is only about Claire and Eliza because babies don't know much about how to conquer the dark.

Claire and Eliza found out all about that during one cold, autumn week in 2010. It all started the night the girls stopped listening to their mother.

Please pick up your room and get ready for your bath!

Mom's voice cut through their bedroom door. Claire and Eliza were playing house on the bottom bunk, between walls made of blankets. A world of their own. 

Toys and clothing covered the floor, and both girls knew it. It would be such a pain to put it all away. Claire whispered, hoping her parents wouldn't hear, Let's just put it all in the closet. They'll never know.

They worked quickly, shoving everything inside.

After their bath and bedtime books, Dad kissed them goodnight. Thanks for picking up your room, girls! The closet door was still closed. Claire could see a coloring book poking out. She told herself she would put everything away tomorrow after school.

In the morning, Claire was eating breakfast when her stomach sank to her knees.

I'm going to pick out your clothes for you today -- we're running late. Mom walked down the hallway and Claire darted after her.

Oh, I can get --

The closet door was open. Claire gasped. Mom held a dress -- not the one Claire would have chosen, of course, but that wasn't why Claire was so surprised. No, the closed floor was clean.  The tornado of clothes and toys from the night before -- all of it -- was gone. Claire took the dress from Mom's hand and waited until she left before whispering to her sister.

Eliza, look! Our mess is gone! She showed Eliza that the stuffed animals all stood smartly at the foot of their beds. The library books were stacked on the shelf. The dirty clothes were all in the hamper. Everything was where it should have been. It was a miracle.

But as they were getting ready to walk to the bus stop, both girls were frustrated. I can't find my other shoe, Claire complained. And Eliza had slipped into one Croc but it's mate was nowhere to be found.

Mom opened the front door, impatient. Grab a different pair and come on! We're late!

They scrambled for second choices -- shoes that were slightly too small or too hard to get on -- and left in a rush.

After school, Claire and Eliza kicked off their shoes, raced to their room, and closed the door. They had games to play, scenes to invent. They could not be bothered.

After dinner came the usual call. Clean up, girls! It's almost bedtime!

Eliza looked at Claire but neither sister said a word. They got up and began tossing everything into the closet. The door barely closed over the mess.

That night, Claire couldn't fall asleep. As she lay awake, she saw something so curious that she sat up in bed.

The shadows on her walls were moving! They were dripping off the walls!

She rubbed her eyes and leaned forward. This was no trick -- the shadows collected in a puddle of darkness and slid across the floor and under the closet door. Then the door opened slowly and each toy and t-shirt moved on its own accord, encased in its own mysterious shadow. Then everything was still. It took Claire a long time to fall asleep after that.

In the morning light, Claire told Eliza everything she saw.  They checked the closet before breakfast and found it as clean as it was yesterday.

Both girls felt weird. They were happy about the help but this just didn't seem right. 

And when it was time to walk out the door, shoes were missing again. This time, neither girl could find either shoe.

You girls are going to have start taking better care of your things. If we can't find those shoes, you'll have to use your own money to buy new ones, Mom threatened.

On the bus, Claire's friend Sydney asked her why she was wearing dress shoes. It was a gym day. So Claire told her the whole story about the mess, the miracle, and the missing shoes.

Sydney was unimpressed. Oh, that happened to me when I was a Kindergartner. I started sleeping without a nightlight. There were no more shadows and nothing else went missing. 

Claire was quiet the rest of the way to school. There was no way she could sleep in the pitch blackness -- she was more scared of the dark than she was of spiders. There had to be another way.

That night, Claire and Eliza held a secret meeting in Eliza's bottom bunk. They whispered ideas.

Maybe we could trap one of the shadows?

Maybe we could camp out in the closet and just ask for our shoes back?

Neither girl felt very good about anything they came up with. Suddenly, Claire had a brainstorm. Maybe if we leave something for the shadows, they'll give us our shoes back!

Like what? Eliza asked.

Candy! They said together.

So they asked their parents for a treat from their Halloween buckets. They hadn't had dessert that night, so Dad said yes. They dug in their buckets and rushed back to their room.

Should we give it all? Eliza asked.

Maybe we can just take a little bite.

So they opened the wrappers and each nibbled the smallest sample she could manage. Reluctantly, they wrapped up the rest and tucked it into the farthest corner of the closet.

Neither sister could fall asleep. They heard their parents go to bed. Eliza, are you still up?


Claire climbed down her ladder and snuggled next to her sister. They fell asleep without seeing anything.

In the morning, the first thing they did was check on their offering. It was still there.

Maybe shadows don't like candy, Claire reasoned.

Well, I do. Eliza ate the rest of her piece. Claire did, too -- their plan hadn't worked, but why waste perfectly good candy?

Claire wore her too-small shoes to school again, and the girls held another meeting that afternoon.

The shoes couldn't have just disappeared, Eliza mused. Maybe we should just look for them.

But where? Claire shot back.

Well, where would you hide something if you were a shadow?

How should I know? Claire was getting irritated.

I think we should look in the darkest part of the house. 

Claire shuddered. Okay. But we have to go together. 

They dug out their flashlights and went -- where else -- to the basement. They both knew where to look. Holding hands, they crept into the laundry room. They were edging between the boxes under the staircase when it happened -- Claire walked straight through a spider web. She stifled a scream as she brushed it away but really howled when she saw the spider crawling on her arm. Eliza rescued her with a quick puff of air. And then their flashlights found them -- two pairs of shoes, tucked neatly under the bottom stair -- in the darkest corner of the house.

That night, when the usual call came --

Clean your room and get ready for bed, girls! --

Claire and Eliza picked up everything that was out of place and they went to bed with their nightlight on.  The shadows stayed solidly on the walls. In the morning, they found their shoes right where they had left them. And from then on, Claire and Eliza always listened to their mother.


Claire loved this story. Lapped it up. And Eliza? She was scared shirtless. Oops.

Friday, November 5, 2010

time out

I sit across the table from her. The bags under my eyes mirror hers.

I try.

Dance class today, Eliza!! I sound enthusiastic.

I know. She glowers at me.

And, because I have crabby written all over my face, I glower right back.

{Again with the maturity. I rock.}

Why do you look at me like that, Mama? She is annoyed.

The real reason? I don't say it aloud. Because you're crabby and I'm crabby and the baby is crabbier than both of us put together and I can't stand any of us right now.

Instead I rearrange my face into a smile and brush it off.

I turn on Sesame Street -- a zany distraction. I circle my cold hands around this cup of tea and close my eyes.

A time out.

I inhale slowly, deliberately, filling belly to collar bones with as much oxygen as I can hold. I exhale -- push it all out -- and draw it in again. And again. And again.

Suddenly the Elmo's World song bursts my bubble and I open my eyes. I'm sitting in a puddle of sun. All the crabby has drained from my face. I get up.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

it's not October? What?

It's not October anymore. Did you notice? I hardly did. Because here I am, still posting every day like NaBloWriMo is still going on.

But the thing is, I learned a lot about writing last month. More specificically, about how to integrate writing into the flow of duties and obligations that fill my days.

When I first started this blog, it would take me forever to crank out a post. Ideas came slowly, sporadically, and I had to practically yank out my own teeth to convince words to show up on paper. It's been getting easier as the year has progressed, but it wasn't until October that I really discovered that it's entirely possible for me to write daily.

I did write every day. And I feel good about what I put up. October saw some of my very best writing in this space. Or at least, the writing that felt the best to put out there. 

No more setting aside time -- quiet time, alone time -- to coddle my ideas and coax them into something worth reading. These days don't offer that kind of luxury.

Instead I've been seizing inspiration whenever it shows up, grabbing it by ears and shoving it into my bag or stealing it out of the air with a quick flick of my butterfly net.

Sometimes ideas marinate all day and I can scrawl them out quickly before bed. Sometimes I can snag a few minutes while Eliza is independently playing and Ruthie is innocently destroying something non-essential. However it happens, I'm learning to roll with it. Take what I can get, write it down now, because the bus is pulling away from the curb and I had better leap on or start feeling fine about standing still.

{I'm not fine with standing still. So -- GERONIMO!}

This is good practice for me. The writing, yes. But the finding time to write even more so. Because while I love writing this blog and it's really filling me right now, I've got other goals in mind.

My novel isn't going to write itself. And time to write it isn't going to waltz in anytime soon, either. So here in this space, I'm practicing putting words together and almost more importantly, figuring out ways to string sentences together while seated in the eye of a storm.

Will I keep posting every day? Probably not. But I'm shooting for most days. Until ideas run out or my novel starts to take over -- whichever comes first.

Thanks for being here. Knowing my words are hitting someone's eyes keeps me going. And the keeping going is what is keeping me whole.

And that, I think, is the whole point.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


When I'm cold, I hunch them up to my ears.
When I'm hoisting a child on my hip, they're uneven.
When I'm tired, they roll forward.
When I'm sleeping, I always lay on the left one.

My shoulders.

They are the wings of my heart.
They are often bent.

Yoga reminds me unfold them.
Reminds me to ground them down my back
Reminds me to open the space between them

So my breath can expand
So my heart can expand
So my can expand

So I can stand tall,
Shoulder my pack
And walk this road.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

not in orbit

It's 7a.m.
Claire's bare feet slap down the hallway. It's still dark. She curls up on the couch next to me and accepts half of my blanket. She slept well, she says. She'd like a bagel for breakfast, she says. I let her warmth seep through my pajamas and into my skin before getting up to pour the milk and spread the butter. The baby will be up any moment.

It's 1p.m.
Ruthie is napping and I'm done with the dishes. Eliza puts her Barbie scene on hold to play a game with me. Candyland, today. Her whole voice quivers with excitement. What if I get Princess Frostine now? she wonders before nearly every turn. She wins three times. I only rig it once. We're just putting the lid on the box when Ruthie wakes and I go upstairs to feed her a snack.

It's 3:30 p.m.
Claire is home from school. She and Eliza disappear downstairs. I plan to make dinner later and I've already swept all the dog hair off the floor. So I sit on the rug. Read each book Ruthie hands me. Play upside down peek-a-boo between her legs. Let her crawl all over me until one of the girls comes tattling up the stairs. 

It's 9 p.m.
All the kids are in bed. Finally asleep. But even through their closed doors I feel each individual strand of their separate gravitational pulls. And that makes me so I'm glad I'm not the moon. I'm glad I'm not bound, tied, anchored in any specific orbit because a circle can only have one center point and I cannot fathom what kind of impossible loops I would have to make to be owned by them all.

I do not revolve around my children. Instead, I'm grounded. Right here. And I give to each of them what I can as they spin crazily through these skies.

Monday, November 1, 2010

the whole wide world

I'm doing the dishes
when something makes me look up  --
a stop-starting squirrel? a falling leaf?
I see a clear picture
through the window above the sink:
grass greener than it should be,
sun slanting across the yard,
leaves both brilliant and brittle.

I swear
last time I looked
the yard was under a veil:
gray, partial, obscured.
Perhaps this is a sunnier day,
but the quality of the light is different, too.
I realize I'm looking through a
pane --
there's no screen needed for the season ahead
and it's a whole new world.

Is this how you feel today?
Screen off?
Lighter, you said, but I can only imagine
how it felt to unscrew
anxiety and dread
from your frame of reference:
not needed right now.
There is no active cancer in the liver 
and the bone lesions are also showing improvement.

Yesterday was your birthday
and I wanted to give you a present.

The right thing.

But I don't think you mind
that I couldn't find it
because you got the best thing:

The whole wide world.