Sunday, January 30, 2011

in peace

Sundays are for stories. So here's some fiction. 


She was a small child. Skinny. Too skinny, they said.

They used to laugh and tell her hold on or the wind will blow you away.

Fart, they said, and you'll -- disappear. 

She would stamp her foot and yell I won't but really, she believed them. She had nightmares about where she'd end up. Always dark spaces. Always cold places. Places not here and not really anywhere. Where she'd be nothing but a creak in the floor. Her mother held her when she cried at night and whispered in her ear. Hush, baby. It's not like that.

Nearly a century passed and she never blew away. When her soul rode that last breath out of her body, it drifted around for awhile, untethered, until it found a place to settle.

She's nowhere dark. Nowhere cold.

She rests in the bend behind your knee, where you tuck your hands when you're lying in bed and its particularly cold and you're particularly tired.

She curls in the patch of sun that moves across the couch and onto the floor and pulls you along with a warmth more comfortable than any cushion.

She hides in the cupped hollow between held hands. 

She climbs into the top of your inhale, where you're all filled up and needing nothing, into that instant before reflex kicks in and you let it all go.

She swirls in the shower's steam, thick and slow, before it condenses on the bathroom mirror.

But the very best place she's found to rest in peace is that safe, warm, two-hearts-beating space that only forms when a child's head settles onto a mother's shoulder.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

the first of it


Third grade coat closet, jacket in hand, mind already on the playground. She's at my side.

Can I play with you guys?

I'm filled to the brim with not wanting to.  But no gets stuck in my throat. I wiggle out of this tight space.

I don't know. Go ask her. I point her in my playmate's direction. Let someone else deal the blow.

She cries. I never forget her face.

{{{flash forward}}}

We walk home from the bus stop. She likes to stay several paces ahead, pretending she's on her own. I talk to her back and strain to hear her answers through my hat. I ask the usual questions -- how was the day, anything new, what did you learn. A story tumbles out. I don't quite understand at first.

Playground. Friends walking. Can I walk with you? They didn't want me. I'm sad.

I don't know what to say.

She gets a hug and a freshly baked muffin and as she steps back into our home circle. She leaves those hurts on the front step.

{{{next day}}}

Different kids. Different injustice. Inconsiderate words. An even sadder face.

The stuff on the doorstep is starting to pile up. And this is just the first of it. The least of it.

{{{flashback. oh no -- flash forward?}}}

I'm lying on my mother's bed, face buried in the pillows, all the sobs dried up for now.

I'm more than a child but still in the middle of a growth spurt. I'm shooting up too fast, I think, and the growing pains really hurt.

It's not going to be alright. It'll never be alright.

There was a note, I explain, some mean words from both sides. Them against me. Now I'm alone. I feel so heavy.

{{{and here I am}}}

I made it through those days. Patched up those hurts and made it through girlhood and into womanhood. But growing up was hard. I was relieved to make it to the other side.

But now I'm leaning over the fence, reaching, stretching, craning for her hand. I can't pull her over. She has to make it on her own.

I'll throw every rope I can think of, though, and stones that she could stack. But she'll fall. She'll feel heavy. These struggles will be hard to watch.

Harder than I thought. Harder than my own.

But what she unfolds into -- I can't wait to see.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

missed moment

I am in the car. It's just me and Girl-three. Girls one and two spent the weekend with my parents (quiet house again) and I'm meeting my dad in an outskirt-ish town so his drive isn't quite so long.

Girl-three isn't saying much -- this car is kind of a ghost town without her sisters. I've got the heat on high to chase away the chills and my thoughts are mixed in and digesting -- leavening for my daily bread. Only I'm rising a bit too much -- out of myself -- and I miss a turn on this familiar road. I take the next U-turn and get back on track. But I'm still lost in thought.

I pull into the gas station. They're parked. Waiting. I see two grinning girls wave from the front seat -- they've been here long enough to unstrap and spill into a new space.

I get out and they're already on the pavement, two bubbling brooks unbound in this frozen landscape. My head is still lodged in the clouds -- they're hanging low today -- so it's quick hellos and hugs and I'm on task with loading bags and carseats and its not until I'm halfway home that I realize -- I just missed my moment.

The girls and I see a whole lot of one another. My presence is a constant. Even when I'm at work, I'm still here, just behind that door. Whatever they need. But when they got out of my dad's car, they had been gone for two full sleeps. That's long enough to miss the look of someone.

I could have had my moment. I could have got down on a knee, eye level, and taken those hugs full strength instead of watered down. I could have whispered into their hair -- I missed you. I'm glad you're home. But I missed that moment.

Now we're driving home and Girl-one has her nose buried in a book and Girl-two is singing her way into a whole new world. I'm back to being car driver and meal maker and rule setter. But I'm also bed-head kisser and lunch-note packer and lost-toy finder and good-night hugger. I'm the face of home for these children, even when I'm old hat. And that's a good feeling.

But I'm sad I missed that moment. I can't get it back. I'm trying to collect as many as I can, to line my soul, to cushion my heart. These days will be gone before I can blink.


It's morning. Snack time. I'm about to get up from my chair and put away some dishes -- Girl-three is safe in her high chair and I have to make the most of these moments. Girl-two stops hopping her bunny crackers across the table and looks at me.

Mama, I want to be close to you.

So I scoot her chair closer to mine and we're touching. I don't get up. I stay right here. Now.

In my moment.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Our dog has an overnight guest. We're watching my sister's dog for a couple days.

Emma is a tolerant hostess. But her territory has been compromised and she's a bit put out.

She is not allowed on the furniture. But Tucker balks at the idea of laying in Emma's bed (how it must smell to him!) and his face reads displaced and I feel sorry for him so I let him up on the couch. Emma looks at him and then at me. If she could speak she'd surely pout -- not fair.


I'm the floor, halfway through my 20 sit-ups (Another resolution! That I'm keeping!) Girl-three laughs and runs over in her slightly awkward, slightly fast way. She sits on my stomach. This certainly makes things harder. Her grin is mischievous, a flag staking her claim.

Mama, can you hold me? Girl-two is a snuggler. I sit up and she settles in. Girl-three has no words for this but she's determined to maintain her space. Her insistence speaks -- not fair.


It's 10pm. You know it's always 10pm. I add one little sentence to my novel -- the scene is creeping along. But it moves. It's like molasses but it moves.

I click the program's X and right away start gentling my muse. She rails against my touch and boils everything to the surface without using the words -- not fair. 

Hush, I tell her. You have to share. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

with a door

We have a dishwasher. The automatic kind. The not-me kind.

It's not installed yet. That's a project for another day. {Another year?} Right now, it's a good shelf for random stuff in the laundry room.

It's a hulking heap of possibility. Slumbering now. But just think! To load it up and turn it on! All those little cups and little bowls and spoons, spoons, spoons. Done.

It's also a good half-wall in my new office.

I like sitting next to it. Here. In my own space.

My desk tucks neatly in this corner of the laundry room. I have everything I need. Two lamps for softer lighting. A blanket and scarf and fingerless gloves because it's kind of cold down here. A princess cup with a few pencils and pens. A place to set my tea.

And a door.

Most importantly. A door.

John has plans to put in drywall and paint and flooring and make this thing really real. But I don't really care if that ever happens.

I've got a door.

I've already gotten a lot of work work done in this space. And a little writing, too. It's my own little corner of possibility. A place that's mine.

With a door.

Monday, January 17, 2011

take that, January

January kind of grabs you by the ankles, doesn't it? Laughs a sarcastic I told you so as the magic of the holidays ebbs away completely? Hands you a plate of cold mash when you know your table is filled with all things warm and delicious? Stuff that sticks to your ribs. Only you can't taste any of it.


It's 10pm. A different day but the same story. Work done, ready for bed, I'm looking forward to sitting on the floor -- spine tall, breath deep -- and emptying my mind. {Meditate one minute per day -- a new resolution.}

But then I remember what I forgot -- a chore I put off all day. John's work pants aren't going to unwrinkle themselves, and I'm sorry to say that if the ironing fairy exists, she is me. John could do it himself, I know, but this is something I'm usually happy to do for him. He does so much for me.

I'm grumbling about the lateness, though. And feeling disheartened that I can't even take care of my spirit in this very simple, very brief way.

But make a decision.

I pat January on the head and send him off to bed. I'm sick of him whining around the corners of the house, telling me how to feel.

Sweet June whispers in my ear. Let this be your meditation.


I've done this before.

I'm not sitting in meditation. But my brow is relaxed and I pull the stopper in my mind and let everything leak out all over the floor. When thoughts bubble up, I flatten them carefully and with a gentle exhale, send them away like dandelion tufts on a summer breeze.

And when I'm done, I decide to still take my seated minute. My mind is in the right place anyway, and its not so late afterall.


January tries to drag me down. But sometimes all I need is a fresh snowfall and the world looks new again. Old patterns of thought are erased and I'm leaving footprints on an untouched landscape. It's a new day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

the First

First baby.

is breastfeeding supposed to hurt like this what am i doing wrong is she supposed to sleep this much during the day oh my god i can't get her to go back to sleep at night she just threw up a whole feeding is she getting enough milk i'm so afraid to give her a bath she's so slippery and her HEAD is so floppy why can't i figure out how to cloth diaper is she okay in this carrier do we keep it too quiet in here does she look comfortable in that carseat should i wake her up for a feeding do i hold her too much is it weird that she never really cries AM I DOING THIS RIGHT

I had trouble getting her onesie over her head. I had so many questions.

So I started reading The Books.

feed on demand (but what if she wants to nurse every hour?) you can't hold a newborn too much (but what if she's not a newborn anymore?) you should start to see some sleep patterns by three months (but what do you mean by a pattern?) call a doctor if a fever exceeds one oh two (ha, i call the doctor every day i think) start a bottle no earlier than four weeks but don't wait too long (she refuses. now what?) she should take three naps (or five?) watch for signs of sleepiness (run those by me again?) put her down drowsy but awake (OMG WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?)

The Books made my head spin. So I put them down. And picked up my baby instead. And loved her the best way I knew how.

Now she's six. Yes, she's still a picky eater. Yes, she still sometimes has trouble going to sleep. But she's a gem. And she's doing just fine.

She can sort out the issues later in therapy if she has to.


First novel

who is telling this story what voice should i use how do i make my characters BREATHE wait, where is the plot going again whats the point of this scene who is my audience how am i going to pull this all together who am i kidding this is so BIG i don't know what i'm doing did i mention I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING?

My notebook is a discard pile of sentences that don't fit together. I have so many questions.

There are Books, I realize, about how to write a novel. Classes, even. Entire graduate degrees.

But I'm not going to look at them. {not today.}

I don't want to know what the experts say. I just want to love my story the best way I know how. By picking up my pen. And writing. {Every day or every other day or once a week Even if it's just one sentence. Or one word.}

It's going to have flaws. Major flaws. if it gets done. But I can work that out later.

That's what editing is for.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

what I like


Middle of the night.

Girl-three just learned how to put in pre-dawn requests. Daddy isn't going to cut it for this waking. I don't like this development.

I get up. But an inner monologue chants, There is nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing about this that I like. Nothing. 




Girl-three requests possession of Girl-one's stuffed animal. Girl-one laughs and hands it to her. She takes Girl-three by the hand to help her find her own kitty.

I like watching them walk down the hallway, tall and short, side by side.



Getting ready.

Girl-three demands this story. The kids in the book wiggle and bend and stomp and ask the kid on my lap if she can do it too. Girl-two stations herself at my side and demonstrates. Girl-three mimics her sister.

I like watching her eyes.




Girl-three is on my hip. I'm drinking {more} coffee and downing some cereal. Girl-three grabs the raisins from my bowl.

I like her weight in my arm and the way her hair smells and watching her long fingers smoosh against the space between her nose and her lip as she shoves food into her mouth.


I hate midnight.

But I love this life.

So I refill my coffee cup and get on with the day.


Linking up to find the Bigger Picture

Saturday, January 8, 2011


This is fiction. But not really.

She's waiting for me. I hand her the bag and watch her face.

Heavy. That's all she says.

She unties the closure and dumps everything into an open box on her desk. The colored shards of glass stack awkwardly, slip-sidingly. They're mine, all of them. The formed ones. The irregular ones. The large polygons and the minuscule crescents.  The reds, especially, catch the light.

She looks at me as she tries to fasten the lid. She pretends to struggle. I'm sorry, she says with mock sympathy and a touch of ice. It's too full. 

Let me. My boldness surprises me. But I've heard rumor of a false bottom. So I produce a small hammer from one back pocket and a nail from the other. I remove those colored bits and tap a series of holes in the floor of the box. I put the shards back into my bag, and before I can think harder about it, I smash them all to smithereens.

I meet her eye. Her smile is impossible to read.

I pour the dusty glass back into the box. It fills to the brim and begins to mound too high again. But I tap the side of the box three times and the contents settle through the holes -- into the space she had hidden so well.

She reaches across time and her desk and closes the lid. It snaps neatly in place. I stow the whole thing in my bag and hold it close, like the prize it is.

You're not what I expected, I tell her as I turn to leave.

What, you thought I'd wear a sash and 2011 across my chest? A tiara, maybe? She smirks. I usually disappoint.

I smile sweetly. I can be snarky too. Not this year, honey. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yes, I fell down the stairs. No, I'm not hurt. Yes, I had to write about it. It's what I do.

Its 10pm. I watch the computer screen go black. It, at least, will sleep through the night. I'm kind of jealous.

In the bathroom, I peel the contacts off my eyes. I can't see as well with my glasses on, but I don't have to look closely to notice the water spots and toothpaste reside and onlygodknowswhatelse plastered to the counter top. It was like this all day but suddenly I can't stand it anymore. Not for another second. I stick my toothbrush between my teeth and trudge upstairs for a paper towel. This has to be done right now.

Going back down, foot on the stair. Slippery sock? Misjudged step? What the hell. Not a smooth ride. Six stairs down, foot smarting, butt definitely bruised, toothbrush somehow NOT lodged in my throat. John is at my shoulder, asking if I'm alright. I nod through angry, embarrassed tears.

I carry on -- get that counter clean, get myself to bed.

And get up more than once -- all three kids have been sick this week. (again)

Now it's 5am and all five of us are coughing. Not a pleasant chorous but no one can stop. I wait for someone's cry but everyone finally quiets. I get one more hour of sleep.

And I'm thankful.

For nights that dawn into days. For colds that clear up eventually. For arms and legs and minds that work. For the hand on my shoulder. And mostly, for the hope that hedges over the horizon on the heels of the sun. It holds me together.

(Linking up with Bigger Picture Blogs)

Monday, January 3, 2011

bouncing off the walls

I'm sitting at my computer. Working. {Trying to work. Supposed to be working.}

But I stare at the wall behind my screen instead. It catches my eye.

Pink and blue play in shifting patterns there, sun reflecting off sequence and beads. A light show in my living room.

Girl-one and girl-two romp just behind my chair. Spinning. Dancing. Rising. Falling. Laughing. Laughing. Laughing. Laughing. Laughing.

I'm wearing headphones to tune them out {they're not on my watch right now} but I can't concentrate.

They are behind me. But in front of me. Bouncing off the walls from every possible angle.

I slip my headphones out of my ears and peek over my shoulder. Girl-two's skirt is only half-stuffed into her dance costume -- it's flipped up to her shoulders. Her ballet slippers are untied. She falls to the floor repeatedly -- I guess it's part of the routine.  Girl-one prances like a spindly-legged fawn on imaginary toe shoes and pretend grace. They are so free it makes me want to cry.

I turn back to the computer even though I don't really want to. Slip my headphones back on so I can concentrate. But the little lights still dance on the wall in front of me. I don't want to put them out.