Sunday, October 30, 2005

adjusting (or not...)

He left me alone tonight with an empty rocking chair.  

The sadness still hangs in the air just as we left it on Friday—camping with my parents for the weekend served only as a colorful diversion, not an escape.  Not that I expected it would be—I just didn’t expect my husband to go back to work this evening once the kids were in bed and leave me alone on my first cold-lapped night.  That’s all.  

I promise I won’t go on and on about my cat.  It’s just that empty rocking chairs shouldn’t be faced for the first time alone.  

Friday, October 28, 2005 such sweet sorrow

P2020773, originally uploaded by as we see it.

In loving memory.

Ruthie, 1993-2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Her green eyes search out mine—pain, confusion, what is she feeling? Those same soft eyes that stole my heart over twelve years ago, imploring me to take her home, to take her into my life, to take her into my heart. I couldn’t resist those eyes.

She took up residency immediately, she and her brother, together. My first babies. They’ve been a part of our family since one year after its inception—I cannot imagine our family without her. Without her presence at the top left corner of the sofa—the self-appointed Official Welcoming Committee greeting all who come to see her, and, she assures me, they ALL come to see HER. I cannot imagine life in our home without her warmth in my lap on a cold winter’s day, without her chirp-like call that announces her need to be adored and admired, without her persistent pawing every morning as I eat my cereal, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to lap up the remnants of milk she is not really supposed to have.

I was severely depressed when we adopted Max and Ruthie. I didn’t shift gears into marriage and adulthood easily—the jerking and grinding took its toll on me and on our relationship. I convinced my husband to move to a new apartment just so we could get cats, because I somehow knew that if I could only just hold something, just love something, just pet something that I would feel better. There was some truth to that. Ruthie introduced life to our home. Now, she will introduce death.

I hold her longer, trying to be especially still so as to not cause her pain. Trying to make up, I suppose, for the last six and a half years of neglecting her—trying to soothe my conscience for displacing her in a multitude of minute ways. She slept on the bed last night—the first time she’s been allowed in at least a year. More accurately, she slept on ME last night—her faint vibrating felt through the layers of flannel and cotton heaped upon my cold-intolerant body. I cradled her, trying not to be shocked anew by her skeletal state.

“Say goodbye to your dog, Lorie. He probably won’t be here when you get home.” I remember that moment, in 10th grade, as if it were yesterday. I remember crying all day, and my mom being so upset afterward she had to drown her sorrow at the mall to the tune of an amount that made my father's voice raise. And I remember her saying, often, that we would never have another pet because she could never go through that again.

Now I am the mom—and I don’t know any better than she did how to deal with the situation. A trip to the mall is certainly not in our budget. I am half-embarrassed by my response—things like calling a friend to see if she can watch my son while I take Ruthie in for the appointment and not being able to speak through the waves of emotion crashing against my voicebox. Things like choking up on the phone with the vet’s office. Things like writing about my cat dying, with tears streaming down my face to the point where I have to stop every sentence or so to clear my vision.

She is my baby. And she is dying.

And I am very, very sad…

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I love my job...

IMG_5640, originally uploaded by as we see it.

Being Momma is the BEST.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

an irrational season

“I wan’ a penny, Momma. I wan’ a penny…” Running late already because of his fit leaving the house, I am not charmed by his whiney, demanding voice this morning. Somewhat impatiently, I glance down at the empty space between the front seats where the stray pennies often gravitate. Rustling the residential protein bar wrappers around, I calmly reply, “I don’t have any pennies, buddy. Sorry.”

“NOOOO!!! You DO have pennies, Momma! You DO have pennies!!!” Little legs begin to thrash up and down through the opening in his car seat. The banging this creates jars my already full-blown headache. “You DO have pennies, Momma!” I reiterate our pennilessness, to no avail. His volume increases as his pitch rises, now in full-throttle fit mode. Somehow he manages the formation of tears, though I am unmoved by them in my incredulity. “Buddy! We don’t HAVE any pennies! They are ALL GONE. I’m sorry, buddy. But you need to CALM DOWN.”

I do my best to heed my own urging. Taking a deep breath, I turn up the radio to drown out the continued insistence from the back seat that there are indeed pennies to be had. My husband claims this only makes matters worse—simply layering noise on top of more noise. Considering that the nearly-continual screaming of our children for the last, let’s say, oh, six-and-a-half years has never really bothered his disgusting, unshakeable soul, I disregard his reminder playing in my head and give the dial another twist. “You DO have pennies, Momma! You DO!” That whine will cut through anything.

I wrack my brain trying to determine when this began—this completely irrational you-say-it’s-black-I-say-it’s-white phenomenon. A week ago, maybe two? Last night it was the assertion that he’d brought both rubber snakes in the car when he’d indeed only brought one. The day before was the declaration that Daddy was coming home for lunch. Screaming. Crying. Kicking. Flailing. I rub my temples, cursing the change in weather, and fight the often-present urge to panic. I do not have to have all the answers.

A literal full five minutes later, the pennies are finally forgotten. I turn the radio back to its normal level of too-loudness and point out the blaze of color along the freeway, thanking my son for calming down as nonchalantly as I can pull off. Internally, I breathe a momentary sigh of relief before the edge of fear returns. When will the next blow-out occur? Getting out of the car? Getting back in? Over lunch? Before nap? After? All of the above? Some days, I can handle it. Indeed, some days, I can handle anything. Then, there are days like today…

Maybe it’s the headache. Maybe it’s PMS. Maybe it’s my own irrationality that insists parenting should be formulaic and predictable. Or my own desire to lie down on the floor, kicking and screaming, and let the whole world know that I am not pleased with the current turn of events. Or my own insistence that if I believe it, it IS true, regardless of any and all argument to the contrary.

Curse this change of weather. The ushering in of a new season always makes my head hurt…

Saturday, October 22, 2005

out of balance

She's making me dizzy. Were I to anthropomorphize a bumblebee, I would attribute to it the characteristics of my daughter. Some children flit. My daugher does not flit. She dive-bombs life. She whirls from one thing to another. She is frenzied. She is motion incarnate. She makes me tired and energized all at the same time.

That is what I look like, I think, to many people around me. Frantic, unceasing movement from one thing to the next, not stopping until my body proclaims enough is enough and I have no choice but to collapse into my newly-warm bed and eat grossly insane amounts of chocolate chips cookies with huge glasses of milk and read really bad, really cheesy Christian novels for at least a week at a time. (I highly recommend heated mattress covers. I may never get out of bed again. Cookies or no cookies.) The thing is, I don't feel that this is true about me. I generally feel, for lack of a better, more writerly phrase, balanced in my life. Balanced. It just says it best--the scales teeter back and forth from time to time, but they most often return to center. Center. Another "best" word. There is a peace that passes understanding just as real as the mysterious force of nature, the name of which remains back in my junior high memory unwilling to be recalled, which causes things of equal mass to balance on a scale. Generally, there is peace in my life. Generally, there is balance.

Then there was this week. A few too many commitments and too few opportunites to empty my brain out "onto paper," and the scale is swinging. I feel it acutely. And it all centers around this. The need to write. The need to process. The need to create. The need to BE. When I don't get it, nothing is right in the world. I am, of course, being overly dramatic, but that is also part of what happens when life is out of balance. Things that are not life and death suddenly feel like oxygen and water. And so, gasping for air, I pull out the oxygen tent that is my keyboard, and I breathe deeply.

Equillibrium. It can be recalled, after all.

Monday, October 17, 2005

writing prompt 10.17.05

Write about something that reveals something about your personality, without writing about yourself.

Bright red against the blue sky—color contrasting color like fire against water, like passion against peace. Tethered to the cold, hard concrete, it is difficult to tell whether it bobs and bounces on the wind with great security over being grounded or with great frustration over not being free. The tension in the cord is obvious—the purpose it serves is not. Were the color at the end of it set free, would it be with great fear or great relief? Or would it be, as are most things in life, some complex and confusing combination of both?

Red against blue—two passions at odds with one another.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

a better writer in the house...

Too short, too heavy, too wrinkly, and almost too old.

This is the woman that my wife would have you believe I am married to.

I, on the other hand, know better. The woman I am married to has grown older. Well, it's bound to happen after 17 years. But in those 17 years I've known my wife, she's become more.

More loving, more patient, more confident, and, yes, dare I say, more attractive. Not in spite of time, but because of it. Come to think of it, many of these "more's" (if that's a word), have happened in spite of ME.

As I sit here writing this, I'm reminded of where we've been and what we've experienced. I'm also aware of what our love is capable of producing. For instance, the curly-haired six-year-old sitting next to me who keeps asking, "What are you writing? Can I read it? Why are you writing?"

My wife thinks I only say this because it's my "job." To some extent, she IS right, it is my job. It is my job to love her, to hold her, to encourage her, and cheer her on. It IS my job to love, honor, and cherish. It is exactly why I wanted the job when I said, "I do."

I wanted to be the one to tell her, "You are so beautiful, so kind, so caring."

My husband, October 2005, as written in our really cute little blank books that sit on our bedside table...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

shades of my son

korey small, originally uploaded by as we see it.

If this doesn't make you laugh out loud, I don't know what will!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

don't know squat

I’m convinced women should pee standing up.

That is, I am convinced women should never sit down on a toilet.

I’m not a germ Nazi. This is bigger than germs. I’ve actually even been known, in moments of desperation when my burning thighs scream for relief, to actually sit on a public toilet. Thanks to my aerobics class, I can now extend that time an extra ten seconds, but not without hearing my instructor in my head yelling Feel that burn? Good! It’s supposed to burn! Nope—not about the germs. Hygiene completely aside, sitting on a toilet is just something a woman should never do. It is entirely too dangerous, only for the bravest and strongest of souls. I, for one, am too fainthearted for the challenge.

Brace yourself—you may be, too.

When a woman sits on a toilet, as women have need to do, a shocking, heart-stopping phenomenon takes place within which every ounce of fat in a woman’s body becomes glaringly visible—hanging over the front, hanging over the sides, hanging over itself. It is an unavoidable oddity. A five-foot, 85-pound anorexic model could sit on the toilet and have her stomach wrinkle over and her thighs overlap the seat, sending her back to the gym for another three hours. There is NO hope, then, for women like me.

Seventy pounds lost and I sit down on the throne and I swear it’s all still right there. Stand up, it’s gone. Sit down, it’s there. Stand up, it’s gone. Sit down, it’s there. How is that possible? You can explain the physics of it to me, but as I never took to physics in the first place, it wouldn’t make much difference. All I know is that I sit down on the toilet and I’m FAT. I stand up, and I’m not-so-fat. I’m feeling a little schizophrenic in the body image department. The solution seems to be clear: don’t sit on the toilet. Or pee with your clothes on.

But as peeing with one’s clothes on presents its own obvious issues, or at least I hope they would be obvious, it would seem that short, mildly chubby, post-childbearing women like me are doomed to feel the burn. Or endure the overlap.

I highly recommend my aerobics class. Extended my squat by ten seconds after just three weeks…

Monday, October 10, 2005


The world asks, "What does a man own?"
Christ asks, "How does he use it?"
Andrew Murray (1828-1917), South African evangelist and writer

Sunday, October 09, 2005

you can go back

Seventeen years since I first set foot on my university campus—as recent as yesterday in my memory. Two years since I’d been there last, yet as familiar still to me as if I’d been last week. But for all its familiarity, it is not my home any longer. That is the irony of Homecoming. For the space and time of this weekend, I belonged. Come Monday morning, I would have not.

The tension grows, each visit, between that which is the same and that which is much different. It is as if I am watching a different cast rehearse and perform on the set we’d used for the same production, fifteen years prior. The lines are familiar, the props, the backdrops—but the faces of the cast are not. I remember my cues and might even fit into my costume, but my part is now being played by a fresh-faced freshman with the world on a string and I am very aware that although this is all still very much a part of ME, I am no longer very much a part of IT.

So we come now and linger around the fringes. We make the loop around campus—pushing our stroller through the valley, trying very hard to look as if that’s normal—and make our traditional stops: our choir director’s office, the office of a favorite professor, the Chorale rehearsal, the “new” fountain. We comment on the changes—a new dorm exists where an empty lot used to stand, the President has gotten more gray, the cost to replace a student ID has gone up exponentially. We scan the crowd for familiar faces on a campus where we once recognized the entire student body, and we come up nearly empty.

Cheap Thrills is no longer our venue, now it is the Alumni Choir—a charming collection of the graying and middle-aged, all thrilled, as I am, to be making music again. I take pride in still having our signature piece memorized—it will never leave me, nor will the image of our director, whom I adored, directing it. The chord at the end still moves me to tears—though I’ll never distinguish for sure if it is the music itself or the experience it was couched in that produces them. My husband is two rows behind me and my roommate in the section next to me, and if I squint really hard I can pretend it is the same. But it is not. I am not a member any longer—no fear of blending in with the students. Not when they are calling me “Ma’am.”

In my nostalgia, I consider that someone else lives in my dorm room—at least the seventeenth inhabitant since my posters covered the cement block walls. I consider going to meet her—to introduce myself and ask to show it to my daughter. But I do not. It is her room—this is her time, her university. I will leave it to her. She thinks, as I did, that this place only exists in this space and time while she is there—and she is, in many ways, correct. But it exists beyond her existence—however different, however changed, however distant. It remains. You can go back home.

You just can’t stay for long.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

going home

We return this weekend to the place we met 17 years ago last month. To the place we became friends, fell in love, got engaged, and planned our life together. To the cafeteria where he waited many a morning for me not to show for breakfast. To the dark room where we had our first kiss. To the paths we walked, arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand, for four years. To the favorite picnic spots, leaf-fight spots, walking spots, frisbee spots, snuggling spots, talking spots, and making out spots. To the bench at Decker Hall where he bent down on one knee in an Indiana blizzard and asked me to be his wife.

Dorm rooms, dark rooms, choir rooms, practice rooms, class rooms, dressing rooms. We will visit them again. We will show them to our children, who will be too young to remember but a faint vision of luminaries lining the sidewalks. We will hear the choir sing, reminisce with old professors and directors, catch up with good friends. We will remember what it felt like to be young and in love.

We are going home.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

reasoning skills

(subtitled: Why I Hate Shopping at Target)

“I wan’ dat one,” he proclaims, pointing at one of the two options presented. “You want Percy?” I reply, extending my arm to offer him the one to which he pointed. Seemed like a logical course of action. Except that I’m not two-and-a-half.

“No! Don’ wan’ dat one! Don’ wan’ dat one! I wan’ dat one!” He points to an item on the rack. Reiterating his options, I place Percy and Toby in front of him again. “You can’t have that one, it’s too expensive. You can have Toby or Percy. Which one do you want?” Again the shelf. And again. I round the corner, hoping in my cute little naive way that removing the distractions will make the process easier.

“I wan’ Percy,” he states. Greatly relieved, I hand him the package. “NO! NO! NO! Don’ wan’ Percy!! Don’ wan’ Percy!!” His whiney voice is to my head as his kicking legs are to my stomach, flailing back and forth out of the shopping cart hitting the soft, tender flesh around my incision. So as to not completely lose it in a public forum, I push him another six inches out of range and hold the packages up again, tension growing and hope waning. I force a saccharine smile. “Which one, buddy?”

“I wan’ daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat one,” he whines, pointing back at the aisle, four feet away. An idea strikes me and I retreat, though not giving in, and find a third option within the same price range. Rookie mistake. Except I’m no longer a rookie. “No! Don’ wan’ dat one! Don’ wan’ dat one! I wan’ daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat one!” Toby, this time. And yet when offered to him, the response is the same, save the addition of tears.

There is no way out of this. If I put them all down and leave, we have a scene and I have wasted over an hour of torturous decision-making and bargain-finding. If I force a decision, or make one for him, we have a scene. If I stand here and faint from hunger while waiting for him to decide, we have a scene. No one wins. What seemed like a sweet way to bless my son has now turned ugly and I’m about to bless him right upside the head.

There are three important blunders we should never fall prey to: 1. Never get involved in a land war in Asia, 2. Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and 3. Never, and I mean NEVER, take a hungry child to Target.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15

Monday, October 03, 2005

end of the tunnel

It was a true story, but it had a once-upon-a-time-in-a-land-far-far-away quality that distanced me from it in the telling. Not that its content was fairy tale material. No Prince Charming, no Fairy Godmother, no Happily-Ever-After. In truth, it was a sad story, as stories go, but, to my amazement, I simply was not sad to tell it.

My life’s work is stories, but not the writing of them. I enter stories, sit down in the middle of one with the main character and, like a 1980’s choose-your-own-ending paper-back, help her contemplate how her story will proceed from here. Fiction or fantasy, prose or poetry, description or dialogue—I hear a lot of stories. I participate in a lot of stories. I tell a lot of stories.

I told them the story of a girl, that day—a girl not at all unlike them. I could see it in their reddening, tear-rimmed eyes, in their nodding heads, their forward leaning torsos. I was telling their story, as well. They had experienced her dark nights, her never-dawning mornings, her days of February gray that lasted year long. They had heard the same well-meaning-poorly-thought-out advice, the holier-than-thou condemnations, the get-a-grip-and-stop-feeling-sorry-for-yourself-and-suck-it-up-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sermons. They had felt the condemnation, the shame, the futility. They had battled the discouragement, the desperation, the despair. They had been there. They were there now.

They had come, that afternoon, to deal with their own depression. They were expectant, though of what, they were not certain. They teetered precariously between hope and hopelessness—hoping to hope. Daring to entertain the thought that there was more to life than this, that there was a way to get there, that there was something to hope for. And so I told them my story.

The details of my own depression are unremarkable save but one—I am not depressed any longer. The light my father swore to me was shining at the end of the long, dark, never-ending tunnel, once completely out of view and out of reach, now shines like the October sun in the blue fall sky. Like an old high school friend or a sibling who lives out of state or a distant aunt on my father’s mother’s side, the girl in my story is familiar to me, yet I do not know her any longer. It is my story, but it is no longer my life—merely my pre-story, giving the reader the background so as to understand the current plot more fully.

I told them the story of a girl who was once severely depressed, for a very, very long time. That girl is me, but I am no longer that girl. It was a fairy tale of sorts after all—happy endings happen, even in the absence of Fairy Godmothers. There is a Light that shines in the darkness, and it doesn’t glow at the end of a magic wand.

Hope for the hopeless. This is my story, this is my song…

Sunday, October 02, 2005

believing with childlike wonder

The artist who is a Christian, like any other Christian, is required to be in this world, but not of it. We are to be in this world as healers, as listeners, and as servants.

In art, we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.

We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing. And during the writing of the story, or the painting, or the composing or singing or playing, we are returned to that open creativity which was ours when we were children. We cannot be mature artists if we have lost the ability to believe which we had as children. An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith.

Madeleine L'Engle, from Madeleine L'Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life

something to add to my resume

Got recruited to be a judge at the jazz slam tonight- was a blast! Some INCREDIBLE talent- made the judging difficult! If you ever get to go to one, I highly recommend it!