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In My Mind

February 24, 2015

I wonder if I will ever be able to take off my ankle-length, black down coat.

I wonder how my hair is doing under my winter hat, all matted and nestled.

I wonder if the warm summer sun misses my face as much as my face misses it.

I wonder how life serves such duality: life/death, light/dark, happy/sad, here/gone.

I wonder if the tulips are stretching beneath the snow. I wonder how they know and envy their certainty.

I wonder what might happen if I truly gave up Caring About What Others Think About Me, what space would be opened, what peace may permeate.

I wonder: are the little birds who occupy this frozen land cold? Do they know cold in their bones? Do they care?

I wonder if I would be truly happy if my home were clean, top to bottom, door frames to base boards, or if I’m chasing an illusion like a dodgy dust bunny?

I wonder about the times I got it wrong. And hope I learned enough to get it right.

I wonder if wrinkles were always eschewed by our culture. I wonder what would happen if time’s stamp was heralded as much as a newborn’s cheek, both equally magical.

I wonder if I can get new inserts for my boots.

I wonder if I’m raising them well, giving them the Right Tools, leading by example in this precarious life.

I wonder and marvel at mathematical minds, speaking numbers like an exotic language.

I wonder if my uterus is suffering from empty-nest syndrome.

I wonder when the words on the page became so small.

I wonder how a song crawls within and pulses with my heart and chest and veins and soul. I can feel the double bar of the sixteenth note and the weight of the bass, starting in my stomach and ending in ripples all around.

I wonder at the implicit power that another person’s careless driving has on my temper, rising rising rising to mercury red.

I wonder if I’d feel free if I threw away my saved stack of magazine pages (recipes to cook, books to read, ideas to ponder)–or if I’d miss the certainty of them. Would I miss their company?

I wonder at the scent of the night, an expanse of dark magic striking my heart’s chord.

I wonder at the familiarity of my husband’s face, our 12 years of marriage and I the cartographers of his particular map.

I wonder how it is that I still marvel at time’s passage and I hope I never stop.

I wonder.


February 10, 2015

I tuck the waterproof pad into the back couch cushions, wedging it tightly. It crinkles, perhaps in protest, or maybe just  groaning in solidarity. I lay the waterproof cover on the floor, securing it tightly under the couch to protect the carpet. I put a clean, soft blanket on the couch. Position the bucket just so.

Dark circles and I shuffle slippered feet into the kitchen. Squirt squirt the Clorox Clean-Up, wipe it all down. Rinse. Repeat. Same pattern with the door handles, light switches, bathrooms. I give many thanks to Clorox Wipes.

I created a make-shift, easy-to-wash bed on the guest room floor, since I’ve no interest in cleaning vomit that could catapult from the loft bed.

The washing machine swish-swishes, dryer clink-clinks. We go to sleep, him on the floor, me in the guest bed. Side-by-side in our bunker.

“Mom? MOM!”

At 3 am, at 4 am, at 5 am the calls come from the floor, piercing tentative sleep. I squat down, rub his hot back, push the hair from his eyes. Grabbing for the bucket as I whisper love into the dark, a constant thread. I’m so sorry. Oh sweet love. It’s OK. Promises of the future, perhaps, but really of no consolation now.

“Can I just have a bath?” he asks, two hot-points of red, beacons on his grey face. I help him climb into the tub, worried that after three days of no food, he may slip, fall, concussion, thoughts swirl in cloaks of anxiety as they do in the dark.

I perch on the toilet, bent elbow and hand hold up my weary head. Why is my head so heavy? His fingers move just enough to splash the water gently against the tub’s sides. Soft light filters from the small recessed light above.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

He climbs out, all angles and bones. I wrap the white towel around his hot, small frame. He turns his back to me and plops himself into my lap. I wrap my arms around and inhale the soap, the scent of his Clorox-washed towel, him. He burrows in.

“I love you, Mommy.”

“Oh sweetie. Oh my love. I love you, too.”

I Did That

February 3, 2015



I DID that. I did THAT. I pushed through the fog of the flu. I went to the doctor, saw the two calls from my mother and called her back.

A fall.
An inability to walk.
A shattered tibia.

Adrenaline took charge. I packed bags and drank caffeine and Do I Have My Comforter and My Pillow? and made many yellow, sticky mental notes. I hoped they’d stick.

I drove to Chicago, my Diet Coke and I reunited after a six-day break. We were happy to meet again, sweet bubbles dancing in my mouth and belly. The opening chords of Huey Lewis & The News’ Do You Believe in Love broke into my dimly lit car cocoon. I gasped like a giddy, tweenaged girl and SANG IT. Oh the smooth harmonies. I’m waiting for Huey to call ANY SECOND.

I DID THAT. I drove the five hours, straight to the hospital and parked the car, taking photos like little bread crumbs to find my way whenever I was able to find my way back. Hoping that I’d find my way back.

I kissed her and held her hand and read the opening pages of Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home to her. I let her read the summary, worried that a story of 14-year-old June may not entice her, but I promised that the writing was exquisite, that the characters are layered subtly and beautifully. Is There Anything She Hasn’t Read?, I wondered to myself. Not this. I took solace in the well-crafted words of another, giving my own intonation and imagining if I were the author, reading to a group, where I would want the pauses. Would Rifka Brunt put them here?

I came back to my voice and glanced at my mom, her eyes resting, lulled by the cadence of my voice. Carol Rifka Brunt and I brought her a moment of peace.

I stayed with her, in the ER, helping, talking, staying until a room transfer could occur. I kissed her goodnight and cared for her the way she herself taught through countless examples. Countless hours, layering love upon love upon love, always staying.

I wondered not if she were proud of me, but proud of herself for the example she lived for me, that I stepped into and whispered into the dark night, through her searing pain.

Ambiguity swilling, pushing at the dark shadows of the quiet. Her right leg. Her teaching. Her students. She lives alone. My brother and I live away, not here. Where I am now. How Will She Drive How Will She Shop Will She Come to Live With Me and Us and Oh Please Will Her Pain Subside and now, Will Her Students Miss Her Quiet Calm and Many, Many Lessons?

Ambiguity, always present. And so, I reach out from this foggy seat, the seat of Rilke’s Questions, and touch the certain. My chest, my breath. The sun. Oh, the trees. Always the trees, echoing my ebbs and flows and teaching just as she does. Strong. Powerful. Quiet. Leaning in to hear their wisdom, proudly squaring my shoulders knowing I’ve stepped certainly into this moment. I Loved Her Am Loving Her Love Her. I did that. Just now. I really, truly did.


Last month, I participated in a fabulous on-line writing group, lead by the lovely, talented Jena Schwartz. Her final writing prompt yielded this free-write.  I am so grateful I gifted myself the time to write, with Jena and other talented writers. I think, as a result of this experience, I am going to use this space a bit differently, a bit like a writing playground. I’ll try new things. I may call out, like a child on the monkey bars, “Hey! Watch me! Watch THIS!!” And maybe it’ll be good and maybe I’ll just fall. But I’ll brush off my knees, mulch falling back to ground, and begin again.  As Jena writes, “Write. Practice. Be Good to Yourself.”


December 16, 2014


I’d like to teach the world to sing/In perfect harmony

I’d like to hold it in my arms/And keep it company

I’d like to see the world for once/All standing hand in hand

And hear them echo through the hills/For peace throughout the land

(That’s the song I hear)

I’d like to teach the world to sing

(Let the world sing today)

In perfect harmony**

– Bill Backer / Billy Davis / Roger Cook / Roger Greenaway

As I swirl and tilt about in this holiday season, I am surprised by the polarity of emotion I experience. One moment the pureness of a white twinkle light awakens child-like awe within. The next, I’m cursing the mother-f’n twinkle lights as I take all 600 of them off the really tall tree (which required the really tall, somewhat precarious ladder) because I strung them in such a way that I cannot plug them in.

One moment I am the embodiment of Christmas spirit and then next I give the Grinch a run for his money.

Then, there are the gifts that depression serves up. Generous to a fault, anxiety and depression Give Give Give during the holidays.  The deep swell of shadows, hiding just-under the holly jolly moments.  The uncertainty, the pulsing thoughts, the self-doubt. Everyone here thinks you’re ridiculous. You’re ugly. You don’t offer anything of value. Then, the self-judgement pipes up: This, again? Why haven’t you figured out how to not feel this way yet? Geesh. It’s a Buy-One-Get-One-Free as it gives doubly, serving up both self-doubt and judgement as I stumble through this lack-of-serotonin forest.

I understand the dissonance and discord (and do my best to find their gifts), but they’re everywhere. Within, in parking lots, on the news, across America, the world. But the moments of harmony–these are the ones for which I’m opening my eyes, heart and soul.

A true smile that begins in someone’s heart and spills onto their face, a tight hug, the feeling that I’m being heard and seen, a hand-written note, someone taking the time to share their story with me.

When I’m driving, impossibly blue sky arching above, and REM’s Radio Free Europe begins to play and I blare it. I sing–loud and proud– into an imaginary microphone that I (may) actually  believe connects to the outside world. I open my sun roof because THERE’S SO MUCH JOY and the crispness of winter surrounds my  senses and I dance and shimmy as much as one can when buckled into her seat.  And I ROCK my air-drum solo.

THAT. That optimism. That throw-open-the-doors-because-I-can’t-contain-my-euphoria joy.

The note I discover in the mud room that reads, simply, I love you Mom.

That moment when I can help someone else through the dark. When I can offer this: I understand. I am sorry. I will help. 

The moment when I approach an interaction with my child with understanding and love instead of anger and judgement.

This harmony, this blending of two lives who together make life richer and fuller and bigger and more beautiful. THIS is what I seek.

And so, I search. I open my eyes to the harmonious threads woven throughout my days.



**This song is one of my favorites and I first heard it in the 1970’s Coke commercial. I still listen to this song and it still makes me feel hopeful, and reminds me to be open to joy.


November 14, 2014

My husband and I sat in our driveway, in the front seat of the truck, reluctantly surveying the leaf-filled yard.

“Should we do the leaves?” he asked.

The heaviness of a Sunday afternoon hung like it did when I was young.  The clouds loomed gray and thick, as did the Monday morning ahead. I could see puffs of breath escape from Abby and Henry as they ran about the yard, playing.

“Well,” I answered quietly, “it’s not going to get any warmer or drier.”

With two hours of daylight left, we rallied and all headed inside to don old clothes, hats and gloves.  The weight of the work ahead slowed me down. The kids’ jubilant exit to the yard and the slam of the garage door echoed in our small mud room. I slowly tied my old tennis shoes, stiff from months of neglect.


I collect heart-shaped items I find in nature. Rocks and shells from my life’s travels sit near my kitchen sink, in a bathroom drawer, and at the bottom of every beach bag. Each time I discover one, I stop and admire. And if I can’t pick the Heart up, I snap a photo. Heart-shaped moss on an ancient tree in Ireland.  A subterranean rock, exposing itself to the surface, spotted on my run. Stop, they seem to signal, stop and see. Love abounds. Here’s proof. Blink and you’ll miss it. A small, prideful puff blooms in my chest each time I see one. My eyes and heart are open!, I think, patting myself on the back.


Dusk fell like the leaves in our yard.  Crisp, November air pinked my cheeks and my hair stuck haphazardly out of my ski cap. A sharp inhale revealed the scents of a neighbor’s fire and quickly decaying leaves. My crabbiness smoldered with each frustrated leaf-clean-up exertion. Damn do I hate doing the leaves.

“I hate this. I truly hate this”, I yelled to Hubby over the drone of our dueling leaf blowers. “Me too”,  he commiserated. Our whiny accord plumed up and away in our exhaled breaths. We turned back to our work, and I to the lonely maze of my mind. There I found remnants of a terse conversation with Hubby. Also vying for attention was Abby and MY GOD did she REALLY leave her backpack there in the family room ALL WEEKEND despite my kind reminders? She so deserved to lose her allowance for THAT. And Henry. Thinks it’s unfair that he has to vacuum the WHOLE damn house? REALLY?!! Each bitter bit collided. I was emotionally hangover, tripping through my negative mental feed.

Practice gratitude, Denise, my thoughts suggested. Blah blah fucking blah, I countered.

You need to try.

So I did. Amidst the mounds of brown, decaying leaves, I tried.

I’m grateful for the oxygen you give us. The shade, too.

I’m grateful for the whooshing crescendo of your leaves dancing on a summer breeze.

I’m grateful for my old jeans and old tennis shoes, not caring that they’re dirty and collecting burrs.

I feel my muffin top and flabby stomach, smooshy in these jeans, each time I move. (Redirecting…)

I’m grateful to have a safe yard in which to rake. I’m grateful for the warm food we’ll eat in our warm home when we’re done. At some point, we’ll be DONE.

I catch a glimpse of our kitchen through the back windows. Damn I hate that curve in those top cupboards. So 1985. (Oops, try again)

I’m grateful for my strong legs and arms, for my eyesight and my health.

A flash of phosphorescent neon disappeared into the growing mountain of brown. A gurgling giggle accompanied the swoosh of Abby and Henry.

I smiled, in spite of myself. I stopped. I saw. Two hearts. The argument with Henry fell away. The snappy snark with which I addressed Abby and her stompty-mcstomp-stomp response fell away. My pissy attitude




A lone leaf fell out of the muted gray.

I was left with a collection of leaves and three, very full hearts.


Just Write, Re-entry

August 5, 2014

Whatcha dimbat hougminoimgmmm.



(Clears throat, stretches fingers, preparing to try again.)



So here I sit, diet coke to my left, the wrapper from my Sausage McMuffin with Egg and Cheese to my right. Blinking computer screen to my front. Since I’ve already written about 100 letters, I stretch. Roll my neck. Crack my knuckles.


The cursor blinks. Bblinksblinksblinks. Blinkity Blink. I actually think it’s taunting me. Damn cursor! Nanny nanny boo boo What you write is doo doo. You know what? You’re an ass, cursor.

Can you believe the audacity of this thing? Just blinking and waiting and daring me to write. Really. And then this blank page is just standing by, watching the cursor push me about and does nothing. Nothing!!


Wait!! I know. I’ll go back to my notebook of awesome ideas. Hang on. I’ll be right back.


Ok, I’m back. Hmmmm. Somehow those notebook ideas are less shiny now. Well, any way, how about this one?

My life sits amidst these mundane, rote tasks. The dishwasher. The laundry. My minutes are spent in the folds of each slightly faded tshirt, the pairing of each sock to its mate. Each gesture connecting me to them, threads of everyday woven into their clothes and our lives. 

Hmmm. Or:

Bricks land on ancient face

Silouhetted in pale eastern light

Small belying strength: stoisism

at the mountain’s foot/

carrying centuries


Feet on the ground

Ground meet the feet

Coffee brews cream swirls

TV voices low and murmur

Unrest Murder Genocide Elections

while I split open the english muffin

and push the the toast button

Ambling down my vanilla path

Do I contribute to this larger unrest


by muting those talking heads do I abstain

put my energy elsewhere, into this life,

with the butter

the muffin

the coffee

and the dishes in the sink

and the raising of one girl and one boy?


The cursor still blinks. And I just stretched again because really, this has been quite arduous. But I did it. I showed up.


Take that, cursor.


Note: No, I’m not high. I’m just practicing this fine art of Writing Again and I’ve been wanting to write a super poignant, Really Great Blog Post and it’s just not coming so instead of not writing anything, again, I’m writing something. I’m practicing. Kinda like instead of a throwing a full blown dinner party, just having people over for an after dinner drink in sweat pants, and just wiping down the bathroom counter and maybe lighting a candle instead of going bonkers and preparing like crazy.

Joining up with the lovely Heather’s Just Write. Because I just did.

Eight Years

June 16, 2014

photo (18)Eight years ago, I packed the bag which held comfy socks, a cherished pillow with soft, flannel pillow case, a toothbrush, jammies, a nursing bra and a gift for a soon-to-be big sister.

The certainty and physicality of you were evident–your beach-ball perch on my lower abdomen made people reach out and touch you. You were charismatic and magnetic, even in utero.

Eight years ago, I filled my brain with questions surrounding your birth, your delivery and your arrival to this spot on our spinning, kaleidoscope of life. Who would you be? What would it be like to be a mother to you, a son?

The eve before your birth, Daddy and I drove to the hospital with our potent anticipation of your arrival as our companion. Heat filled the heavy, June, Arkansas night. Eight years ago, my body housed you, fed you, supported you and kept you warm. I felt each movement and turn.

Eight years ago, you entered my world and lodged yourself securely into my soul, becoming an anchor whose presence I hadn’t previously known was missing. Oh, I thought as I reached out and took you from the doctor’s hands, as I saw your scrawny body for the first time, Oh, you. There you are.


Recently, someone asked me to describe you. How, I wondered, do I wrap the essence of you into a byte-sized blurb? 


Your curiosity and drive to understand the workings of the world are powerful.  If  I could shrink myself down and follow the contours of your creative, cerebral activity, I would. Any random afternoon will find you building a thing–a sword, a contraption– or breaking down a thing–a box, a pencil, a container, a lego structure. When you sit down to create a painting or drawing, when I ask what you’re making, your reply is, “I’m not sure. I’m just making it.” The results are always unique and usually beautiful.

You spend long stretches looking out the window, quietly thinking and then, suddenly, you’ll ask me a question such as, “Who was the first person on Earth?” or, “When you look at this wall, do you see the same things, do they look the same to you, as they do to me?”, or “What does an ovary do again?”

I remember once we were in a children’s hospital waiting room, awaiting a meeting with a doctor. You were two, maybe two and a half, and you kept watching a teenager who sat in the waiting room, too. This boy’s head hung down, his chin almost rested on his chest. His shoulders slumped, rounding his back in defeat. You, Henry, without even looking at me first, waddled over to this boy. You, in your round, sturdy body walked over the industrial, low pile carpet and to him. You stood right in front of him, in the stark, fluorescent light. The boy did nothing. You walked closer, so calmly (and trust me, calm really wasn’t your thing at this age), and you placed your chubby, dimpled hands on each of his brooding knees. You watched him until he slowly lifted his head, heavy with his angst and mood. Your eyes met. You, Henry, I swear you pierced his dark cloud and gave him a moment to smile, even if it was the slightest, shruggiest smile I’d seen. You gave him kindness.

You carry this in your heart and your eyes and you pass it along to most people  you meet.


When I was a young, new mother, I thought my job was to protect Abby and you from harm. This primordial instinct kicked-in before you were born, when you and I coexisted in symbiotic togetherness. At that point, I could shield you from the bold world. Then you were born and the brazen world loomed. I shielded you from sun, bugs, infections, poisons, accidents, carcinogens and rough clothes. I provided a safe haven, a place for you to come into yourself. But now, I see that I only had part of my job description correct.

I know, now, that I can only, and should only, protect you to a point. Yes, I still protect you from obvious harm. But I have to let you live life. My job, now, is to help you navigate the inevitable bumps of life. The hurts. The heartaches. The disappointments. Sharp words, worry and friendship conundrums. Fights with your sister. Fights with yourself. It’s all normal and while this may seem counter-intuitive,  it is GOOD. I am going to hold your hand as long as I can and teach you that this is all an essential part of life.

Imagine a bruise, tender to your touch. Purpley bluish evidence of a strike or blow. It is an oddly shaped a spot to be avoided as it heals. It morphs from blue to yellow, indicating its healing progress. Sometimes, you’ll see the bruises on your body but other times, the bruises will be internal, seen only by your heart, given credence by your emotions. I promise that while these may take longer to heal, they, too, will yield fresh, tender renewal.  Yes, you will hurt. Sometimes, you will be brought to your knees. And much to my maternal chagrin, I cannot, and should not, protect you from the very things that will strengthen and embolden you.

Yes, these experiences will bring you bruises. But they’ll also yield tenderness and grace. Your seventh year provided many opportunities for you to learn this very lesson. To hurt, heal, and grow.

A move away from the only home you’ve known to a new city, school, house and friends. New everything. Then, this winter, a skiing accident and a spiral tibial fracture, yielding eight weeks of crutches and just as many of physical therapy. Not only did your leg break, but you bruised your spirit a bit.

And now. Just days after your eighth birthday celebrations have ended, I want you to know this: I see you. I see the strength in your stance. I see experience and wonder in your eyes. I see a stronger, more able-bodied version of you. Not in spite of your experiences–but BECAUSE of them. And you.

I love you forever.


Thanks to my friend Lindsey for the inspiration to write a birthday letter post.

My Writing Process

April 14, 2014

Writers, and their relationship with the page, fascinate me.  Getting to peek behind the finished words of writers I admire–to see their beginnings, middles and ends — is such a treat. So when the Writing Process Blog Tour started, I gulped up the passages. I was especially tickled when Kristen Levithan at Motherese asked me to participate. Kristen is a light for me — her writing is beautiful, honest and intelligent. I often nod as I read, thinking, Oh, me too, me too. Our blogship blossomed to friendship, and knowing she’s out there in my world softens my edges and my heart.

And so, I bring you my Writing Process:
1.) What am I working on?
I’m working on writing. Regularly. After months of prioritizing other things, my writing muscles were atrophied. I’m finally writing more regularly and it feels good. Really good.
I’ve got the beginnings of a novel that continues to percolate; I believe I’ll write it some day. For now, I enjoy having the story and the characters in my pocket, wondering how it will all turn out for them. I just need to find the time that is right for me to do so.
During our move, I’d write a lot for myself. I was surprised to find poems on the page when I was done. I always feel like a kid careening in my mom’s high-heeled shoes when I write poetry–like I don’t quite yet have the gams for it. But maybe, with practice, it will take shape and it will come.
I am most comfortable with essays for now. I have several ideas that I hope to pitch as well.  Now that I have a bit of exposure to the publishing world, I know that this endeavor can take many, MANY months from start to finish. I just keep on trying.
2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a question I have difficulty answering. But if I was pressed to answer, I’d say this: it’s different because it’s written by me, through my layers of living, through my lens. And that perspective is uniquely mine. I try to write my truth, from that quiet, shrouded place within, and share something that will hopefully resonate with others. I feel that the more people share their truth about living, the better life will be for all of us. The writers I read on a regular basis do this for me and I hope that readers will find the same solace in my words.
3.) Why do I write what I do?
I started writing to capture my children’s lives for my husband who was traveling extensively. As it turned out, I started to write for him and the person I ended up really writing for was me. Now, I write to understand. Writing has become as critical to my happiness as a pounding run or a sweaty yoga session. I write about the things that capture my interest, those topics that raise their hands and don’t stop until I’ve explored them. And, those posts I write that seem to be the grittiest are those seem to resonate the most with others. The complexity of life is the universality we all share.
4.) How does my writing process work?
My writing is usually fueled by Diet Coke from McDonald’s. Not from a can. Not from a bottle, but thanks for offering. From a large plastic cup and a straw and mmmmmmmmm when those first bubbles hit my tongue, Nirvana!
When I’m lucky, my writing starts with a spark (unless there is no spark–see below). An idea will ripple through, coursing with either question or truth. There’s a magic about those first ideas that bring a warm glow, like whiskey once it’s reached your belly. I’ll rush to jot it down wherever I can–the compact notebook I carry in my ridiculously large bag, a receipt, an email to myself. I’ve tons of scraps of paper holding sentences started, ideas captured.
After the rush, I then I sit with the hard work of building something more, more substantial, more meaty, more gritty, beyond that of first love and more like a solid marriage, applying diligent work, kindness and patience. That’s when my wicked avoidance skills kick in. Dusting my desk and bookcase. Washing snow pants. Push ups. Sharpening pencils.
There’s this funny thing that happens to me when I’m writing and I hit a block, like a clogged drain. I step away to take a break. As soon as I’m doing the other thing–driving, folding, etc–the words I needed, or the insight I sought, suddenly barrel down on me in full sentences.  Ha Ha! I usually think, shaking my fist at the sky, Oh sure, come to me when I can’t capture you! When I’m driving in heavy traffic! Oh, creativity, you insolent wench! After I’m done talking to myself and madly gesturing to the sky, I scurry to capture those sentences. And sometimes, they’re actually as good I thought they might be.
Most times, during the writing of anything, I feel that feeling that every writer before me has felt–This is shit, I won’t be able to make it come together, who wants to read this dither, blah blah blah and I’ve come to begrudgingly recognize it as part of my process. I persevere, and write and edit and edit and write until it’s a piece of work of which I am proud.
When there’s no spark, and when I have nothing, that is when (not surprisingly), it is the very, very hardest to write. I’ve recently made a switch and started to follow two pieces of advice from Dani Shapiro. (If you ever get a chance to study with this talented, kind and beautiful woman, please do so. I’ve studied with her several times and count my lucky stars that I did.)
1. Long Hand. Dani writes, in Still Writing,
“…the screen can make our work look neat and tidy–finished–before it is. … If you’ve never tried it, see what happens if you write a draft of something longhand. Before long, you’ll be forced to x out whole sentences. You’ll draw circles and asterisks and arrows. You’ll change your mind about what you’ve crossed out, and write “stet” in the margin. It will look messy, because it is messy. It should be that: a beautiful, complicated mess.”
And so, for the last month, I’ve been doing just that. I like it. It gives me the freedom to be messy and let the words flow. It helps me stop worrying about perfect writing and allows me to get down to the business of actually writing.
2. Join the Symphony. The other piece of Dani’s advice that I religiously follow is this: “Fill your ears with the music of good sentences, and when you finally approach the page yourself, that music will carry you.”
I used to try not to read the work of others before I wrote, for fear it would cause me to unwittingly copy their style. Now, since Dani gave me permission, I devour the words of others and steep in the ancient tradition of writers–people honoring their questions and then, trying humbly to do the same. Word by word.
Next week, the Writing Process Tour continues….
Tracy Morrison, Sellabit Mum
Tracy and I have gotten to know each other during our This Is Childhood series and shit howdy am I glad we did. Her writing sits in that unique space which is simultaneously powerful, thoughtful and funny. She makes me laugh and think at the same time.  She is, in her words, “a mom to three girls, wife to one husband and owner to 2 cats 1 cat (poor Tyko). …. I started blogging in 2008 after I realized my kids never laughed at my jokes and I needed a new audience. Even though many days my kids make me go crazy in my head, I still know that I am where I am supposed to be. Right now. In my spare time, I try to make new mothering in my 40s sexy but my body laughs about that. Maybe my husband does too. Thank goodness we mostly have the lights off.”
Be sure to check out her post next week on Monday, April 21.

A Compilation. An Honor.

April 7, 2014

This Is Childhood cover

Childhood (and it’s ensuing companion, parenthood) comprises of millions of moments–the anticipation of firsts, the trepidation of lasts and all the living we do in-between. Those days string together forming months that stumble into (gasp) years.

Brain, Child, Magazine, has compiled This Is Childhood–10 authors commemorating these glorious years of childhood with essays exploring ages one through 10. An amazing keepsake, including a place for your own reflections. I’m honored to be included in this collection of essays, alongside some of my favorite writers. This Is Childhood is a great gift idea for Mother’s Day– or maybe even Just Because– because, as we all know, time goes quickly whether we take time to stop and notice, or not.

Beginning Again

March 25, 2014

February embraced me with her gray folds. Hibernation-worthy fatigue walloped me after a harsh winter and, frankly, a long year. Looking back, I could see why I was exhausted. Surgery. Recovery. A cross-country move. A CROSS-COUNTRY MOVE. Heart-breaking goodbyes, soul-mending hellos. Card board boxes. Fucking boxes. Unknown quantities of pizza. Big changes. Small changes. Using GPS to get everywhere in a city that, while new, feels familiar with the sturdy, Midwestern sensibilities of my youth. Being the New Girl. Again. Navigating social circles. Again. A broken leg for Henry–a full-leg cast and crutches through the mounds of January snow. Abby was sick. Henry was sick. Abby was sick. Henry was sick. Hubby was sick.  Then I got sick. The temperatures hovered around zero for weeks. I didn’t write. I didn’t run. I ate many french fries and drank red wine and my muffin top flourished. 

I judged the progress I made with my new life and our new home. I judged the lack of it, too. I judged my emotion and judged how slowly my To Do list shrank–if anything, I watched it grow exponentially each day, becoming a serious contender for my muffin top. I struggled to feel as if I progressing.

Judge judge judgity JUDGE.

Beginning again. Starting the momentum, gaining the energy to sustain. When at the beginning, it seems that beginning  again is the hardest part. 


I stand in the vestibule outside my Yoga class. I begin to shed my exterior winter armor and whittle down to a tank and black leggings. The hushed greetings of students mill about. My winter skin glows garishly. I pad, bare-footed, across the hard floor, dodging puddles of melted snow on my way into the studio. I find a spot near the wall, slightly separated from the other students, slightly alone.

I unroll my mat and thawp it down on the floor. I love the certainty of this sound, mat to ground. I find my shoulders, standing attention at my ears. My life, stresses and the past year are very much alive in knotted colonies in my muscles. Rock like, rigid, terse.


From several mats away, a fellow student enviably exhales as she lays in repose, awaiting the commencement of our practice. I am jealous of her languid exhale as my staccato breath punctuates the calm, open room. Subtle incense burns.

I step gingerly onto my mat, a vessel with a destination in which I’ve placed a lot of stock–delivery back to myself.  I try to stretch iron chains, tangled and rusty from misuse and neglect. My knees pop in the silence. A dust mote saunters by. 


A thick, stubborn, glacier-like dam resided at the end of our driveway. A temporary break in the frigid temperatures (a balmy 38 degrees F) yielded a brief thaw. I stood at the end of my driveway, surveying the ice dam. It was just me and a big shovel, slowly chipping away at the ice. A brave bird chirped. I lowered and lifted the spade. Slowly. Repetitively. I began to enjoy the methodical work which I knew would make some dent in the ice. I shed my coat as the physical labor warmed me. I paused and turned my face to the golden, late afternoon sun.

Returning to my work, I listened to the comforting gurgle of melting snow and ice, trekking downhill to hidden tributaries below. I surveyed the black slush, the marred shoulder of my street, the gravel, the fray of this winter. The fray of this life.


Ever since the last box left my house, I’ve been practicing yoga. The yoga poses have started to become more comfortable and familiar and have lost their intimidating edge.  During my practice, my thoughts monkey about, tapping my mind like a petulant child,

Should we get a Lulu tank? Everyone has one and they loooove them.

You need to schedule your mammogram.

Loooook, she knows all the poses. 

You need a pedicure!

Nice effort, muffin top. Way to gain the real estate. 

I’m hungry. Are you? Can we get french fries after this?

I try to release them. I shoo them away.

Each time I come to my mat I am amazed at how long it takes me to join my physical body in the present. And once I am fully present in that stark yoga studio, tears often come. Like buried bulbs, my emotions unfurl in the warmth of my attention. They stretch into the room, into my consciousness, into the light. My teacher guides me into this foreign terrain, the fertile ground of my experience. There I twist, raw emotions and muck tumbling out into the room, onto my mat, down my face IN PUBLIC. Then, I worry. I worry that my fellow students will hear my emotion and that I will disturb their practice.

My teacher guides us to child’s pose and I rest with my knees pointed east and west, my forehead on my mat. She begins reading a passage and her words reach me, open and splayed on the ground:

There is Buddhist story about the lotus and the mud, an ancient anecdote which chronicles the necessity of the dark, fecund mud to produce the glorious lotus bloom. The mud. The lotus.

It seems as if her words have been selected just for me. I’ve been tilling this fertile soil, layering the compost of stress and life so I can wriggle my toes, spread my roots and bloom.

The sun beats down on my face and my feet are grounded firmly in the mud. The moments of grace exist within this regular life, filled with normal challenges and frustrations. The warm connection of new friendship. The solid comfort of tenured friendships, physically connected again. Dissonance. Gratitude. Stress. Joy. Happy Sad. The satisfaction of having Made It Through. Watching the walls of a house transform from a place to a home. 

The dark, rich, fecund muck.

Stretching, reaching, growing.

And, the resulting, beautiful blossom. 

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