Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Did During Winter Break

I've been binge-watching Downton Abbey these past two weeks.

Normally, I don't have time to watch TV. My days are full of kids, housekeeping, food preparations, family chauffeuring. Nights are when I work.  But during winter break, everything got quiet (except for the kids' voices -- it's loud with everyone home). There has been so much less to do (except for holiday activities -- there was that sweet busy-ness). And come nighttime, I had some real, actual free time. I hardly recognized it.

We just subscribed to Amazon Prime (for holiday shipping deals). Suddenly we have access to all kinds of media we hadn't before, so I finally got to try out Downton, which I've been hearing about for years as a must-watch. And -- oh! -- I was completely taken in. Absorbed, transfixed, rapt. It's been better than a movie because it is divided into small parcles I can handle without staying up too late. And with four seasons to catch up on, the story just goes on and on. One episode ends and then there's another -- so many conflicts and resolutions, highs and lows, and I never have to turn the last page. I don't have to say goodbye. Now I'm friends with the characters; I'm committed to the plot. I don't want to put it down.

The girls have been asking, "Mama, how many episodes of Downton Abbey have you watched?" They're incredulous. They know I don't really watch TV, don't really approve of all that watching. Oh, that attention-sucking, energy-feeding screen. They know how I feel.

But winter break is ending; the holidays are are almost over. Soon it'll be time to leave off gluttony of all kinds and return to the usual routines. That's okay with me -- routines are safe; I know my place in things. But I've enjoyed the break very much. And I'm not done with Downton Abbey. I'll find some time to watch it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I woke up
with glass shards in my mouth.
I spit them at moving targets
and I was sorry.

But I thanked God
or whoever
for that quick heel stamp,
that satisfying give and

Because there's nothing you can do
with a mirror but
reflect the cloudy sky
or collect grains of fog.
(Unless you're lucky and
it's sunny. Otherwise,
you're stuck
with gummed up and heavy.)

Sharp, ragged, dangerous,
shards draw blood.
But rounded and rearranged,
I see art.

And I'm grateful for the choice.

Monday, December 22, 2014

shaking hands

I remember when we were first looking at houses, how the empty rooms seemed so expansive. There was so much potential. I couldn't even imagine our stuff in the space. How would we fill it? We had just two kids then, and they loved to run circles in these spaces, turn summersaults if there was carpet, and their shrieks and laughter bounced off the walls. Everything was big, empty, and possible. Now the house we're settled in feels cluttered; the stuff is always closing in on me, pulling toward the center of the room so it's hard to walk through. A million books on the ottoman at the center of the living room, papers in the middle of the kitchen table, toys clogging the playroom, clothing at the heart of every bedroom. Sometimes I'd like to just get rid of it all, start over with those empty spaces, think more carefully about how to fill them. But -- that's not possible. We're up to our necks in it at this point.

A sweatshirt crumpled at my feet. A tissue balled up on the floor. Dust, dust, everywhere, except on the path through the room. It's messy in my bedroom, but neater than I've had it for a long time. What is so pleasing to me about a neat space? Order, everything snapped into place: a lego house. Out of order is the potential for falling apart, for rotting boards, for rain seeping in. I want everything to look untouched. (Do I?) And that's what kids do best. Touch everything. But that doesn't explain the sweatshirt, the tissue, the dust. Those are mine. And I don't feel like picking them up. Not right now.

Lego houses are plastic anyway. Lego people can't bend their knees. And I'd hate to have one expression painted on my face all the time. So: welcome, rot. Let's shake hands. I'm trying to be okay with you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


The sun hasn't shined in weeks.

The news is filled with violence.

Some of the very best people die too young.

There are whole cultures that straight up hate each other.

And I disappoint myself every single day.

But today when I was out walking, I saw a hubcap leaning against the base of a street sign, propped there on the off-chance someone might come back looking for what was lost.

It's as simple as a head nod to a stranger, a door held open, a single coin in the donation box: one extra minute of daylight tacked onto tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Surya Namaskara, in the shower

We're always living

This is the thought that comes to me
in the shower
while the notch-too-hot water
reddens the skin
on the back of my neck--hurts
so good.
The thought
is like
a slap,
a clap,
something loud and startling
right in my face.

I widen my eyes
at the white shower wall
in front of me,
at the beads of water
tears sliding down,
so obvious:

The edge is always right
We're toeing the
Even in our

I swallow once,

and panic sinks
into the horizon
where shadows burn
with the heat of the rising sun.

Friday, December 5, 2014

a love letter

I know you're in a tough spot right now.
I can see that it's hard for you,
even though you're pretty good at kicking dirt over your own rawness
and planting flowers on top.
I don't know how you do that.

But the space between us is so full of sound, so overflowing with movement,
that I can't seem to reach across it,
not with my hands or anything else.
And I worry -- do I seem unfeeling to you?

I think I'm showing you that I love you when I--
  --iron your shirts, make dinner, clean up, try to help with bedtime--
But I don't always do these things with an air of selfless service.
That's mostly because:
  I'm in a tornado 
  and the wind takes my breath away and 
  whips my hair across my face and 
  knocks me over sometimes, too. 

You see that. And I know you understand.
I want to give you something else.
Something softer than a crisp shirt or a cooling dinner.

  Something more like:
  The expansive space at the top of an inhale
  The warm gap between sleeping and waking
  The peaceful rhythm of new snow creaking under my boots
  The rushing energy of one hundred geese flying overhead

Basically, a place to rest.

But I know I'm not that. I never have been, have I?
Not even under the influence of motherhood,
which is such a rounding, softening force.
My edges have always been sharp.

But I'm trying to evolve
And I am
honored to receive your support in my efforts.
You probably can't see any difference
but I want you to know this:

  If you see any softening,
     it is for you. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Everything depends on this:
your hands on the steering wheel,
your awareness of the periphery,
your foot lightly on the brake.

I watch you turn left through the intersection. I am stationary
At the stop light.
The space between us narrows
For a fractured second I'm sure you're going to
Hit my car.
It won't be a fatal crash, but it will be
I wait for it--

I see your face:
your sunglasses,
your body leaned into the turn,
your jacket open just at the top,
your hair the same color
As mine. I wonder where you're going--

You navigate the turn.
It's not even a close call,
really. I'm not sure what I was thinking,
Once you're gone.
I'm not sure why I drew my breath in so sharply.
Why I'm still holding it.

My light turns green and I exhale.
The image of you dissolves
into pixels that blow off the roof of my car
As I accelerate,
Powdery snow trailing behind me, diluted and lost.

Monday, December 1, 2014


I know a lot less than I used to.

No, that's not true.

I actually know more.

Wait, I don't think that's accurate either.

What I know now is different than what I knew before.

Before what? Before kids, I guess. My world narrowed so much when one was born, and then another, and then another, and yet one more still. It narrowed all the way down to the walls of this house.

  Please don't practice pliĆ©s while I'm wiping your butt. 
          I can't believe I just said that.
     If you can't wait patiently for your turn I'll just throw it in the trash 
     and you won't use it at all. 
          I said that, too.

My world narrows further still, and sometimes all I can consider is everything inside the boundary of my own body.

A mind that bounces off the walls of an eternal to-do list, pockets of tension around this annoyance and that frustration, cells boiling over from too much noise too much activity or -- imploding into absence of meaningful conversation. 

Sometimes I think this narrowing is sad. Sometimes I see it as selfish.

But I also know this:

I am a whole universe. There are galaxies flung in every direction, distant stars bound together by unseen fibers stretched across the space between a breath, life burgeoning on blue-white planets, completely [or partially] undiscovered. 

So there's another dimension to this narrowing: it is an expansion, too.
     A flower blooming inside out,
          petals unfurling into darkness,
                growing toward a single point of light that is not as far away
                     as it might