Saturday, December 23, 2006

my own pursuit of happyness

“This part of my story is called: Fear.”

It is 6:00 AM on a Saturday morning and I am wide-awake. Given that I am not usually wide awake until about 9:30, preferably 11:00, I am not sure what to do with myself, let alone the stirring in the pit of my stomach. I rummage around our hotel room for paper and a pen, fortunate to find two measly sheets by the phone, and slip back into my space in the middle of the king-sized bed next to my sleeping husband, pulling the heavy duvet back up over my chilled legs. He moans softly as I turn on the light by my bedside. I begin to write anyway.

It is the writing that has caused this stirring—this inability to enjoy my Saturday morning without children in a bed large enough to have its own zip code. No—perhaps it is the movie that has caused the stirring, but the stirring is about the writing. Whatever the exact source of this tension, I don’t like it—especially when I could be sleeping. Especially when I could remain comfortable. I don’t like to be stirred. Like the meals in my crockpot after a day left alone on low, too much of one thing is stuck to the bottom and too much of another has risen to the surface. Do I stir it all back into the soup, or do I start skimming off the top and avoiding the bottom?

What makes a man with a high school education, barely getting by in his sales job, think he can be a stock broker just because he could go through a math book in a week as a child? What makes a mother of two in the “heart of America” with a zoo membership and a microvan think she has anything to say that could be of relevance to anyone just because a few people told her she could write? Better yet, what makes one act on it, boldly pursuing his dream, while the other sits on the couch at the end of the day staring at her laptop, paralyzed by fear and the excuse of busyness and the mundanity of her life?

In a scene that I overlooked until this early-morning moment of epiphany, Will Smith’s character boldly pitches himself and his product to a CEO way out of his league in the CEO’s private box at a 49ers game and is shot down for his inexperience. The disappointment is clear in his eyes, in the shrug in his shoulders as he leaves later that day, bone density scanner in hand, and walks several blocks to take the bus back to his hotel room from which he is about to be evicted, rendering him homeless. What I first saw in this scene was the failure, the rejection, the disappointment. Then I saw the determination to keep going. But it wasn’t until this morning that I finally saw the big picture.

Will’s character, “Chris,” met that afternoon at the football game several young, up-and-coming businessmen eager to invest in the exploding 80’s market. His pursuit of the big fish had resulted in failure, but in the end it reeled him in a large enough net full of smaller fish to procure him the coveted 1 in 20 position at Dean Whitter, which began his climb to success and wealth. Small fish, big picture. He got it. I haven’t. Yet.

Fear of rejection and a lack of faith in the bigger picture. That is what grips my stomach this morning, robbing me of precious time spent sleeping in. That and the knowledge that I need to either act on it or stop torturing myself with just talking about it. I’m really not too busy to do this—I’m just too chicken. And so it seems, like it or not, God has reached down in his divine wisdom and stirred the pot—all the dreams stuck to the bottom and all the fears skimming the top all mixed back up in one big, delicious scoop. The decision is now mine—do I serve up a dish while it’s ready, or will I inevitably let it settle again?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

more orifice issues

My ear hurts, I hear from the front foyer. My ear really hurts!!! He is crying, as he was most of the night. I cringe inwardly, knowing that I have a full day of clients ahead of me and I talk to my husband about taking him to the doctor's office. The details worked out, we go our separate ways with kisses and hugs and the drying of tears. Everything will be fine.

And yet there is a nagging... Two voices whisper in my ear. One is named guilt. It whispers things like, you should have caught this yesterday. How did you not see he had an ear infection? What kind of mom are you? I try my best to ignore it--after all, we've not had an ear infection in our home since my daughter got tubes over six and a half years ago. This is the first he has complained that his ear hurt. I could not have known. But you should have recognized it...

The second voice is named fear. It screams things like, what if you can't get him in to the doctor? What if his eardrum has ruptured? What if you have to take him to Urgent Care? To the Emergency Room? What if he misses his Christmas program on Thursday? Then, fear stops screaming and begins to whisper--icy cold breath on my neck that sends shivers down my spine. Thoughts I would never think on my own. Thoughts that make me crazy swirling around in my head until I know the answer and all is resolved.

Thoughts like, what if that little turkey stuck one of those tri-beads in his ear?!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

it's all in my head

I’ve been sick so often since my youngest child was born that I’m beginning to have to grasp at straws in order to look for the bright side of this situation. My latest attempt involves likening my spiritual life to a sinus infection. In it’s most basic form, the theology goes something like this: I’ve got so much gunk in my head, I can’t think straight. Therefore, I feel like crap. It ain’t Augustine, but it works for me at the moment.

The Word indicates often that the thought life is the root of much of our trouble. That being the case, I seem to have developed a rather insidious strain that is particularly resistant to antibiotics, and it is wrecking havoc with my health. I no sooner clear up the symptoms than another infection rears its ugly head and I am down again. I worry—about my weight, about my finances, about my children, about my relationship with God. The germ enters my system and before I know it fear, discontent, and entitlement are racing full-blown through my bloodstream. I am sick.

I want to get better. But I am powerless. There was an old commercial for some food product that urged us to Eat all you want, we’ll make more! I’m convinced whatever creates snot in our heads works for the same product label. Blow all you want, we’ll make more! I take my thoughts captive as often as I blow my nose, discarded Kleenex and thought-particles all over the nightstand and floor, but my head is still full of both. No amount of striving brings change without a healing agent at work in my head.

Saline rinses
, one person tells me. Oil of oregano capsules, says another. Echinacea, vitamin C, zinc lozenges, Airborne, mushrooms— I’ve tried them all. Nothing gets to the root of the infection. Bible reading plans, journaling, memorization, fasting, prayer—I’ve tried them all. Nothing gets to the root of the infection. I’ve got to try harder, I tell myself. The answer is out there somewhere, preferably in a conveniently-packaged pill form—that is the promise, is it not? Take this, you’ll feel better. But I’m not feeling better, and I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Finally at the end of myself and my medicine chest, I invite the Holy Spirit to do what only He can—to heal my weary head. I implore Him to clear out all that is not of Him and restore right thinking, clear breathing, proper functioning, and overall health. Bring healing where my best efforts have failed. Enable me to breathe again. I’m tired of sitting on the couch with a box of Kleenex—I want to get on with my life and stop blowing my nose. I am ready, Lord. It’s time to clear my head.

Monday, November 27, 2006

a nose for trouble

It is quiet under the kitchen table—a point I don’t immediately notice because I am tying over 1,000,000 knots in a craft project with my daughter while my son repeatedly retrieves the tri-beads he has dropped onto the kitchen floor. While her craft project is progressing, his, on the other hand, has mostly resulted in several trips under the table to retrieve beads. I have stopped paying attention at this point, other than to occasionally encourage him to put another bead or two on his snowflake. Suddenly, however, the silence becomes glaring and all movement from below stops. “Buddy, whatcha doin’?” My son is never silent. I do not have a good feeling about this.

“Nothin’,” is his response, as he climbs back into his chair, hands empty, tentatively rubbing the bridge of his nose. Something is not right.

“Buddy, where is your bead?”

“I dunno,” he flat out lies, still rubbing his nose, his eyes three times their normal size. He is scared. So am I.

“Buddy, did you put that bead up your nose?”

“No,” he lies again, eyes even wider, as if mystified that I could have possibly known the location of the missing bead. He tries sticking his finger up his nose to retrieve the object that he insists isn’t there. I catch him just in time. Oh crap, I think to myself, as the realization sets in that I am probably bound for the emergency room.

“Buddy, let me see…”

I draw his freakishly-quiet body to me, his eyes growing wider by the moment and threatening to brim with tears, and tip back his head. Now I am really scared—I cannot see the bloomin’ bead at first glance, and I envision an entire evening and one hundred bucks both spent at the ER. I very unceremoniously turn him upside-down under the light and breathe a sigh of relief—I can see it. Now I just have to retrieve it.

I lead him up to the bathroom, still rubbing his nose with his wide-eyed gaze monitoring my own to determine when or if he will need to freak out. So far I have not, so neither has he. So far.

I grab the tweezers and pray hard that bead-extraction is one of my as-of-yet unknown talents. He rubs his nose again, still pondering these events and their outcome, as I flip him over on my lap and begin the procedure. Apparently it went in more easily than it came out, but with two gentle pulls and one or two frightened cries from my three-and-a-half year old, it came out, nonetheless. We are both dully relieved, and we have a nice long talk about never, ever, ever putting anything in our noses ever again. Ever. He appears convinced, at least for the moment.

I return to the kitchen and turn my thoughts toward dinner, feeling relieved and a little bit smug. I hearken for a moment back to my Girl Scout days, envisioning a bright, colorful “Bead Extraction” patch to add to my sash. Another notch in my Mom-belt. I have somehow arrived. I have removed my first tri-bead, saving my son from certain death and myself from a miserable evening at the hospital. I don my Super Mom apron and prepare now to make something spectacular for dinner, daring the beads that remain on the floor to “Go ahead, make my day.”

this one's for mom...

The answer to "How I Spent my Thanksgiving Weekend."

Friday, November 24, 2006

thanksgiving memories

(This piece began two years ago at our writer’s group—the prompt was to write about a favorite Thanksgiving memory from the 3rd person vantage point. This was my free-write, with a little editing, of course! Oh—and because my Mom and Dad will be sure to point it out, I’ve taken a little liberty with which cousin is which… writer’s perogative!)

It was a scene she remembered well—two little heads of hair, one curly, one straight, bobbing up and down the same creaky wooden steps. She looked across the room at her cousin with a knowing smile—the smile was returned with a confirming nod. It had been the two of them, some twenty-five years ago—bobbing up and down the steps, poking their heads through the cutout window on the landing that allowed a prime view of the preparations, eyeing the pies and the brownies with particular interest. It had been the two of them giggling, whispering, telling secrets and generally making the grown-ups worry and wonder. This year, it was their daughters…

She marveled at the resemblance as if seeing them again for the first time. No wonder her father often slipped and called her daughter by her own name. She wondered if her uncle did the same. “How surreal this must be for our parents,” she thought. It was surreal enough for her—as if she were looking back in time and observing her own childhood. She wished she could remember her own thoughts and plans and schemes—she wished for that precious insight into the mind of her daughter as she caught the gleam in her five-year-old eyes on her way through the living room for the fourth or fifth time. “Nothing,” her daughter responded sheepishly when asked what she was up to. None of them believed her.

Her father commented to her uncle about the scene looking familiar—apparently she was not the only one finding the unfolding events to be worthy of note. Somehow, that was reassuring to her. It felt good to know she was not alone in her fascination—nor in her feelings of affection. The curly-haired one bobbed by her yet again and she grabbed the wriggling child for a quick smooch on the top of the head before turning her loose once more, catching her father’s eye as she did. He smiled, and she smiled in return. “Brings back memories,” he said to his own curly-haired girl. “Indeed it does,” she replied with a sentimental smile. “Indeed it does.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

gains and losses

Some days, it is all I can do to not throw up. My muscles scream, my lungs implode, my head pounds with the driving bass. Driving me to move. Driving me to sweat. Driving me to “feel the burn.” Today is one of those days. I quiver and pant, wondering what the heck I was thinking, as I concentrate very hard on not vomiting in the middle of kick-boxing. Punch-punch-kick-lunge. Punch-punch-kick-lunge. Throwing up would throw off my rhythm, just when I’d finally gotten the hang of it. Finally.

I bounce and kick and jog and squat and all the time I’m thinking, “I’ve been doing this over a year now—when does it get easier?” The questions won’t stop—when will my legs stop begging for mercy a third of the way through the leg workout? When, for that matter, will I be able to complete the entire leg workout? When, if ever, will I not collapse into a puddle of molecular goo on the floor during the leg workout? And an even more important question—is it poor aerobic-etiquette to lie down on the floor and cry in the middle of the leg workout? They are questions for which there are no answers.

There are days—rare, but existent—when I don’t feel like I will die in aerobics class. Nausea-free days when I leave feeling like I’ve worked hard but I can still make it to my car without needing my three-year-old to carry me. There are even moments, rarer still, of victory over weakness. Heart-pumping, pulse-quickening, adrenaline-flowing moments. I am powerful. I am strong. I am Wonder Woman. I am She-Ra, Princess of Power. I am not going to throw up. It is short lived. Before long, I am a quivering puddle of goo again.

The cycle repeats itself ad nauseum. I feel stronger, I feel weaker. I increase the weights, I decrease them. I increase the reps, I decrease them. I increase the intensity moves, I decrease them. My weight comes down, my weight goes up. Nothing is constant. My strength. My endurance. My fitness level. My will power. No gains are permanent. I don’t like not permanent.

I like things that are done when you are done. Grad school, for instance. I graduated in 1998 and I still have my Master’s degrees. Once I completed the requirements, I was done. Once I was licensed, I was done. Once I was done, I was done. Sure, I have to do CEU’s, but I don’t have to redo the flippin’ degrees every year. I’m done. Exercise is never done. I want to get in shape and be done.

I want to come back after the three-week break and still be able to make it through class without collapsing. I want to make it though a workout all four weeks of the month, not just one, two if I’m lucky. I want my weight to level out and stay put. I want to invest my time and energy up front and then have it pay out consistent returns for the long haul. I want to get to a point where it’s easy. Where I’m coasting. Where I’m done.

I look around me at the other women in the room. Women in their 20’s. Their 30’s. 40’s. 50’s. Perhaps even older. Women in for the long haul. Women who get that this health and fitness thing is never done. I must be honest in questioning if I want to be one of those women. I have never been one of them before—this is a newfound persona, birthed out of the desire and need to lose weight. But therein lies the issue—it is always about losing the weight, never about maintaining. Health and fitness is about maintaining, and that has never been my strength.

When I step back from the dumbbells I can see I have made some gains that have not been lost. The ends of the weights say 8lbs and 5lbs now, not 3lbs. The bar reads 15, not 12. And my Monday class, which once threatened to kill me, has been conquered, thanks, in part, to the class that is yet to be slain. It isn’t easy. But perhaps, on a good day, it is easier. And with time and perseverance, it will slowly but surely become even more so. And, perhaps, that is the point. Some things are never done. But they can get easier with time.

I can only hope to God this aerobics class is one of them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Most of us collapse at the first grip pf pain. We sit down at the door of God's purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity. And all the so-called Christian sympathy of others helps us to our deathbed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, as if to say, "Enter inoto fellowship with Me; arise and shine." If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?
Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

what i happened to work out to tonight... (coincidence?)

Follow me through the door to the great unknown
(something was telling me
that this would shape my destiny)
Take my hand, understand you are not alone
(shame on me if I oppose
the stirring of the Holy Ghost)

I heard a voice calling out to me
I have come to set your spirit free
And in me you are free indeed

I took a dive
(I took a love plunge
into your arms)
I took a dive
(I took a love plunge
into your arms)
I took a dive
(I jumped in
with all of my heart)
I took a dive

I'm breathing underwater
I'm sinking like a submarine
Your ocean's so much deeper than
anything I've ever dreamed...

Won't you come and take a dive with me
Won't you come and take a dive with me
Jump in with all your heart and
take a dive

("Dive," From DCTalk Supernatual)

Monday, October 23, 2006

summer memories: the deep end

More than five minutes left to go, and they are telling her to get out of the pool. Her confused look registers from clear across the aquatic complex, but she obeys, nonetheless. She stands on the cold tile, shivering and squirming, her questioning eyes following her instructors as they begin to walk toward the other end of the pool, the rest of her class in tow. My daughter follows them blindly as they lead her away from her three-and-a-half foot safety zone, take her around the corner, lead her to the rim of a twelve-foot-deep water-filled hole in the ground, stand her at the edge, and tell her to JUMP. She gapes at them with wide-eyed disbelief.

I recognize her anxious look—indeed, I feel it in the pit of my stomach, having grown up with a paralyzing fear of being in over my head. The shallow end is much more my style—I am infinitely more comfortable where my feet touch. My daughter lines up along the side of the pool, and I cringe inwardly, remembering my own first encounter with deep water. Get pushed off a diving board at swim lessons just once and you’ll learn not to trust. But that is my issue, not hers, so I smile encouragingly from my perch along the wall, and mask, yet again, my anxiety for my daughter. SHE trusts. Not fully, but enough to be brave. Enough to be obedient. I pray they won’t fail her.

Fourth or fifth in line, she has a few moments to contemplate her fate, her feet shifting back and forth, hands wiggling and wringing, as the questions flash across her face like the LED ticker in Time’s Square: will they catch me? Can I do it? What if I can’t? What will it be like? Do I HAVE to? The answers, unfortunately, will not come until after she takes the risk. Her turn arrives, and my heartbeat races as she approaches the edge. Her toes curl over the side of the pool in a final moment of hesitation—her arms stretching out in front of her nearly three times the length of her body in an attempt to cling to her instructor—and she half jumps, half falls into the water. Enough trust to jump, but not enough to do so with abandon. But she jumps, just the same. My daughter is in the deep end.

I am learning, albeit more slowly than my daughter, that so much of life is about just jumping in. High dive, low dive, running leap or barely falling off the side clutching our swim instructor—at least we’re in the water. But I can’t help but think there is more joy in the running-leaping-falling-diving kind of jumping than in the fearful-clingy-clutching kind. My daughter is getting it—learning what she is capable of, what she is comfortable with. She will learn to dive—of this I am certain. Me? I’m not so sure…

Having been caught, she makes her way to the side of the pool held by strong, trustworthy hands and searches for my face among the other mothers. She smiles—half victorious, half still uncertain—and I flash her a thumbs-up sign, once again in awe of this child that is so amazingly flesh of my flesh and yet so amazingly unlike me. Oh, to have the trust of a seven-year-old—to look into an immense stretch of deep water and only see the hands ready to catch me. To jump without hesitation, to obey without fear, to risk without answers. To embrace life, deep end and all, and jump in full force with a flying leap.

Oh, to have the faith that someone will catch me.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters. Psalm 18:16

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


…fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies with a large glass of milk… order in the midst of chaos… time… apple crisp, right out of the oven… heart-felt worship… connection with friends, with family, with God… chips and salsa… faith, hope, and love… but the greatest of these is more chips and salsa… time at the piano, at the computer, at the art table… creative outlet… mama mimi’s pizza… intimacy… play-time… touch… fresh-baked bread with real butter… a night out with my husband… freedom… relief… breakthrough… satisfaction… more chocolate chips cookies… warm brownie sundaes with nuts and caramel… apple pie a la mode… the last pack of school lunch cookies… the crumbs at the bottom of the potato chip bag… stale graham crackers out of the back of the pantry… anything I can get my hands on…

What am I hungry for?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Isaiah 55:2

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

on semipermeable membranes

It is 8:27 and I’ve just gotten off the phone. Again. I resume my place on the couch and the cat resumes his, nibbling on my elbow in his attempt to solicit affection. It is not working—affection is definitely not the response it evokes in me at this moment. In between the two first paragraphs I’ve already written and disposed of, my daughter has come out of her room not once but twice, complaining, tonight, of a hangnail. “My finger hurts…” she whimpers in a voice just loud enough to know she’s talking but not loud enough to hear her—her ploy to be beckoned to the edge of the staircase. I send her to her father, who is already upstairs, though I know it is me she really wants. But right now, to be quite honest, I don’t want to be wanted.

Tonight, I want to be left alone. I don’t want to be touched tonight—I don’t want to be climbed on, nibbled, elbowed, fondled, tickled, kicked, head-butted, or stepped on. I don’t want to be talked to tonight—I don’t want to hear about the neighbor’s cousin’s dog’s puppies or the problem you had with your bosses boss and the brilliant way you handled it or the trouble with the doojie-hoojie that hangs down under the thingamajig on the car and how it will affect the amount of rainfall in China. Tonight, I don’t want to be nice. I don’t want to smile and nod. I don’t want to pretend I’m interested. Tonight, I want to put my oxygen mask on and take a deep breath so that I can do it all again tomorrow for everyone else. Tonight, I want to be left alone.

I chose these things—indeed, I continue to choose them. I chose to be a wife, a mother, a cat-owner, a friend. I chose to be a counselor, a leader, a teacher, a mentor. These are things I invited into my life—consciously, willingly, freely. But having chosen them, does this mean I must choose them all at every moment? It does not, but you cannot tell me this—the compulsion to be all things to all people forms “yes” on my lips even while my insides scream “NO!”

“Mo-mmy… Mooo-mmmmmy…” I hear faintly from within my daughter’s room, having threatened her not to open the door again. Door. There is a good “boundary” word. Door. Gate. Window. Fence. Wall. Door. I have closed the door tonight. But it doesn’t stay closed…

In this world of “boundary” talk, I am a semipermeable membrane—allowing all that fits through the unclosable doors to pass through my sham of a barrier and enter my day-to-day living. In my spreading thin I have become too easily diffused—matter spreads, rationalization spreads, real need spreads—my membrane becomes thinner yet. Pressure is exerted from the outside and I allow passage once again. This is not always a bad thing. Not always.

But then there are nights like tonight—nights that have followed days that have followed weeks of meeting other people’s needs and neglecting my own. Our pastor once said that if you feel like you don’t have time for any more friends, you need more of Jesus in your life. This from a man you have to make an appointment three weeks out to talk to. Not that I don’t understand his point—I truly do. But perhaps if I were a man and my children were grown and I had an assistant who managed all my contact with the outer world, I could be as cavalier about the issue.

The truth is, I do need more of Jesus. I need him to fill me up so that when I pour myself out yet again there is reserve left for me to survive upon. I need him to teach me to love when I don’t feel loving, to forgive when I don’t feel forgiving, to listen when I don’t feel like listening. But I also need him to show me when to serve and when to withdraw into the solitude of the wilderness, to show me how to find and take those quiet times alone with the Father, to show me how to rest in the Lord and wait upon him. I need the Heavenly Flight Attendant to remind me that my mask goes on first.

So, if you call my house and get the machine—I may or may not be there. I am trying to learn, slowly, that it is okay to not answer the phone, to not go back up to my daughter’s room for the fourth time, to not have to meet every need presented to me. “The need is not the call,” another pastor used to remind me. Tonight, I listen to the call—and it is not the telephone. Tonight, I allow myself to meet my own needs.

the apple that didn't fall far from the tree

I'll write tonight. I promise. I promise MYSELF. I'm dying to finally get into a routine again...
In the meantime, here are a couple of cuties, taken this weekend!

pumpkin picking

what a turkey!

fun times at the fun run

Forgive me, but I have to play the Proud Momma for a moment. First place, second grade girls. 7:41. First girl across the finish line, grades K-3. The only two girls faster were 5th graders. Okay, I'm done now. This is taken at the finish line.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

on trust

Perhaps it is because I am trying to do both that I found this quote compelling...

Writing a book, I've discovered, has much in common with resolving weight issues. You can proceed from the fear that unless you force yourself to do it, you won't. Or you can proceed from the belief that you want to do it, and will, but that doing it may sometimes look like not doing it. One way is as difficult as the other; both require perseverance and commitment. The way you choose depends on how you want to live. You can fear yourself or trust yourself.

From Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, by Geneen Roth

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

laid back

Maybe it’s the two jumbo mugs of caffeine I abused to get me through the afternoon. Maybe it’s the ten-hour days I’m pulling at work. Maybe it’s the accumulation of unfinished projects lurking in the house, the yard, the garage. Maybe it’s the added responsibility of being a room mother, cafeteria mom, assistant chef, and folder stuffer, not to mention spelling list checker, reading buddy, memory verse mentor, and research assistant. Whatever it is, it is rising like the water level during a hard, steady rain and threatening to drown me at any moment.

Lucky for me, I’m good at treading water.

It was a skill I learned in elementary school but perfected as a matter of survival during my four summers as a YMCA camp counselor. After seven or so hours at the park with ten first grade boys all over me like squirrels on a tree, I desperately needed the time in the pool as a respite. I had a firm rule that I was not to be touched in the pool (just ask my husband—I put him in timeout for dunking me one summer), but to further insure I would be left alone, I would position myself right smack-dab in the middle of the deep end and tread water for two hours. It was brilliant. I could keep an eye on everything I needed to, carry on adult conversations without being asked for the eleventh time for permission to go to the bathroom, and the kids could swim out and talk to me for as long as they could tread water themselves. Since the average first grader can tread water for only about two minutes tops, it worked like a charm. Treading water—that I can do.

But perhaps, now, I’ve been in the pool a little too long. What was meant to be a two-hour respite has become a way of life. I’m getting a little prune-y, and, honestly, a little worn out. My muscles are fatigued, and I’m beginning to struggle to stay just above the rising levels of anxiety and stress that threaten to shoot up my nose, causing me to choke and sputter like a child who’s inhaled at the bottom of the water slide, not that I have reason to know what that feels like. I feel tired, overwhelmed, a little panicky—maybe it’s just the caffeine. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never really been comfortable in the water…

I was never one of those kids who could lay back and relax in the pool—although I floated like a buoy (go figure), floating was uncomfortable to me. I didn’t like it. Too vulnerable. Too laissez faire. Too trusting. Despite my teacher’s best efforts to coax me, I would not remain in a float any longer than was necessary to prove I could accomplish it. The fear was too great. True to my nature, even in the pool I was more comfortable striving to be in control than allowing the water to do what it was created to do. I’d like to say I’ve changed. Unfortunately, most days, I cannot.

The irony is not lost on me that water, in dreams and visions, often symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The pool is full of that which can uphold me, and I’m flailing in the middle of the deep end, wearing myself out trying not to drown, looking more than a little silly in the process. This is my life, most days. But oh, for the ability to trust—to lie back, arms outstretched, and allow myself to be upheld. To hear the Instructor’s voice whisper Just relax—I’ve got you. I am not at ease. Maybe it’s the caffeine. Maybe it’s PMS.

Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and dare to trust that the laws of nature really do apply to me and not just to a fortunate few. Maybe it’s time to plug my nose, and lay back and float a while.

Monday, September 18, 2006

a pellet gun would suffice...

So, my hubby and I were sitting out on the deck late one night this weekend, enjoying the cool, relaxed September evening and celebrating it with a fire in the chimnea, when a dark figure made an arc around our yard. Is that a cat? my hubsband asked. I squinted as it made its way through the shadows to my right. I'm not sure, I replied. Momentarily it disappeared from sight, reappearing seconds later at the foot of the steps just below me. Its masked features peered up at me in the firelight, and my husband and I groaned in unison.

Raccoon number five.

Anyone have a firearm we could borrow?

Monday, September 11, 2006

i'll leave the light on...

He walked through the front door, put down his bag, and turned off the lamp on the table next to him. I came behind him with his carry-on, and watched as he walked through the dining room into the kitchen, turning off the lamp over the piano as he went. I smiled a wry smile. You're officially home. How symbolic.

My husband left two weeks ago on an airplane bound for Zambia. His absence was most felt in the evenings--the kids asleep, the sky dark, and our bed empty. Knowing myself well, I did what I needed to do to make it through those 15 nights alone.

I left the lights on.

The two lamps my husband extinguished as he entered our home this morning had been burning since he left. Literally. In one fail swoop he announced to my spirit and all others in attendance that darkness was no longer a threat to me--he was home.

The light of my life was home.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

in the air...

A cool breeze blows across me, filling my home with the promise of change and the sound of crickets. A fire burns in a backyard somewhere, its scent stirring within me a longing for clear, starry skies and burnt, gooey marshmallows. In a few weeks, the longing will be fulfilled, but for tonight that itch remains unscratched. I lean back, closing my eyes, and breathe in deep, greedy breaths—I want to suck in all that gives me life. Tonight, life smells like fresh-cut grass and glowing embers…

Max sits at the screen door, his twitching ears trying to take it all in as well. His tail sweeps the same space over and over as he dreams of catching the Japanese beetles I repeatedly end up finding dead in the bottom of my mailbox after a long night of courting the porch light. Occasionally a dull thwack comes from his post, causing him to scurry under the couch having apparently scared himself with his own boldness. Eventually his aging body will end up draping over my own, and as his motor-boat engine rumbles in my lap all will be right with the world, if but for a cool, pre-September moment.

There will be many more to come—these perfect nearly-fall moments that take my breath away with the largeness of life and the magnificence of God. Some people mourn the passing of summer—I am not one of them. I live for clear, brilliant blue September skies framing crisp, golden maple leaves, for chilly mornings and snuggle-weather nights that require a sweatshirt, a companion, and a fire, for afternoons of leaf-raking and pile-jumping and pumpkin-picking and jack-o-lantern making. They are just around the corner—I can smell them in the air.
There are memories of summer to share, but soon my attention will turn to wringing every bit of life out of my favorite time of year. If tonight’s breeze is any indication, it will be delicious…

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

what a difference a year makes

Front teeth, for example. She has both, this year. And while there are still holes in her smile, the biggest ones are filled. She's got longer skirts, shorter hair, bigger backpacks, smaller pencils. An air of confidence surrounds her--it comes with knowing and being known. And without her nervous stage mom hovering around, she's spreading her wings and taking flight, mostly in large circles around the playground.
It's quiet here this afternoon, although her brother is doing his best to fill the space with the voice that comes out of hiding whenever "Sissy" is away. I take a moment to reflect on the changes, but not too long. My own confidence is still too fresh to linger here, in the place between the now and the not yet.
My daughter is taking yet another step closer to the edge of the nest. I will try not to hold my breath. A year ago, I'd have passed out. Today, I inhale and exhale, and send up a prayer that her wings will be strong.

Friday, August 18, 2006

...and we wonder what's wrong with maurice clarett?

An Ohio judge recently decided two teenagers can complete their high school football seasons before they serve 60-day jail sentences for a car crash caused by a decoy deer placed in a country road. Two teens were injured--one of which is brain-damaged, the other of which is facing his 11th surgery for multiple broken bones. (See the story here.) Is anyone besides me completely APPALLED?!?!?! Anyone?
Our society creates the Maurice Claretts of this world with the mistaken notion that football is a sacred institution and those who play it are its gods. These young men, and their community, gain nothing by being told that starring on the HS football team and leading them to a victorious season is more important than facing the consequences of the irresponsible and dangerous behavior that have cost two families more than can ever be repaid. As a mother, as a counselor, as a Christian, as a member of a community, as a human being--I am completely disgusted and outraged.
Just like the former OSU "star," these young men are hearing loud and clear that there is something much more important in our society than character and personal responsibility. They are hearing that if they can run, throw, and sack--not cure cancer, not protect society, not prevent AIDS--that they can be above the law of reaping and sowing and not face the immediate consequences of their choices. It is a message that is far too prevalent and destructive for my liking.
Had these young men not been football players--had they been in the marching band, on the chess team, in the fall musical--this ruling would not have been rendered. When will we stop worshiping athletes and start valuing the development of young men's' character instead?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

...and still counting...

make that four raccoons.

sure am glad we did not go with the service that charges by the animal!

running tally

three raccoons

one oppossum

the neighbor's cat

(just kidding! we didn't catch the cat!)


Thursday, August 10, 2006

great, now i've got guilt

It falls under the category of it seemed like a good idea at the time... Flea infested raccoons move in under our deck, infesting our yard with fleas which we then track into the house which promptly results in our house and indoor cat getting infested (do you know how hard it is to get rid of fleas?!)...but I digress. Three raccoons, so brazen as to come out during the light of day, fighting on the deck at night, living under the space where my children play and my neighbor's cat sleeps. (A lot.) Every day she asks me--my neighbor, that is--what I'm going to do about the raccoons. I have no flippin' idea didn't seem like the response she was looking for at the time...

Not that I blame her. She has an outdoor cat and two dogs, one of which, apparently, the raccoons could eat, and they are, after all, on "her side" of the house. She has every right to be vocally concerned. I'd want them gone, too. And I do, really I do.

So, in the interest of neighbor relations and flea prevention and a rabies alert, I placed a call to Varmant Gaurd, who not-so-promptly set traps filled with peanut butter and apples around our deck. (PB and apples? Who knew?) Last night at one AM, in the midst of being unable to fall asleep, I hear rustling outside our window. Metal rattles, and then, in the dark of the night, the fatal "clink." Raccoon one, trapped. Fifteen minutes later, "clink." Raccoon two. I put the fan back in the window to muffle the rattling of their cages (as I already was having trouble sleeping), and drifted off to a fitful sleep, knowing my neighbor would be delighted. I was pretty relieved myself.

Until this morning.

Did you know that raccoons have German-shepherd-brown eyes? And that they shake and chirp when they're scared? Granted, they growl and spit like a, well, like a caged animal, when you get too close to their trap, but still...

I feel horrible. Fleas and rabies and neighbors and neighbor's cats aside, they're kinda cute. And they're scared. And they're gonna die.

And it's my fault.

Tonight the Varmant Gaurd Man brings "stinky fish" and takes the first (innocent?) victims away.

If I can't sleep, I'll tell you it's the smell of the fish below my bedroom window. But you'll know better. The guilt will be killing me...

Monday, July 31, 2006


I brace the cherry between my tongue and my teeth, pulling the stem out and losing it somewhere in the couch while I wait for my circa 1996 laptop to boot up. The pit makes a muffled dink as it hits the bowl, and I absent-mindedly reach for another, being careful not to mismanage the stem this time. I wonder, as the screen flickers and the internal workings of my machine click and whirl and beep, where the summer could possibly have gone.

Three weeks until school starts. Three weeks until routine and schedule and order return to our lives. Three weeks until I have my night-life back again. Three weeks until I can really write again. Three weeks until I lose my daughter again…

Must everything always be so bitter-sweet?

As if to answer me, I bite into a cherry not yet fully ripe and am caught off guard by the tartness of its taste. I look up from the screen to search for a burgundy-ripe selection and chase away the bitter with the cool, delicious sweetness.

This has been my summer. Chasing away the fleas, the raccoons under the deck, the termites, the weeds, the potty training, the endless pairs of poopy underpants, the tantrums, the attitudes, the battles over flash cards, the battles over dinner time, the battles over getting into the pool, the battles over getting out of the pool—chasing it all away with the sweet moments of star gazing and camp fires and friendship bracelets and “field trips” and making ice cream and you’re the best Mommy ever. All in all, I am left with a sweet taste in my mouth.

Even if I’ve not written a lick.

What was once a beautiful bowl of luscious deep-red cherries is now a collection of pits and stems—at least most of the stems. They are what remain. When these stifling days of lingering sunlight and long walks are gone, we will have consumed them fully—used them up in the best way we know how—together. The memories will remain.

And once school starts, I’ll share some of them with you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

writer's block pantoum

I’ve been having immense guilt over not writing at all lately—I tend to be all or nothing, so if I can’t finish a piece, I don’t bother to begin it, it seems.  In hoping to break out of that, I at least wrote something.  (And I finished it, to boot.)

i cannot think tonight—
my mind as blank as the page
ideas as fresh as week-old lettuce
wilting in the dregs of the crisper

my mind as blank as the page
blue lines on green paper
wilting in the dregs of the crisper
daring someone to make salad

blue lines on green paper
crumpled up, inside and out
daring someone to make salad—
i toss it, instead

crumpled up, inside and out
it may be redeemable—
i toss it, instead
better luck next time

it may be redeemable—
ideas as fresh as week-old lettuce
better luck next time
i cannot think tonight

Monday, July 17, 2006

"what i did this summer"-- a photo essay

since there's been NO TIME TO WRITE, thought i'd show y'all what we've been up to. these are all just this past weekend...

i miss writing...

...but we're having a blast!

a bitter-sweet drink

just a little too close...

just because she's beautiful

laid on my back to get this one. i don't recommend doing so in 90-degree heat on the sidewalk... just in case you've ever had the urge...

it's not a digger, momma...

... it's a eggs-ca-bay-tor.

(Where does one learn the official names of construction equipment, pray tell?)

he's actually operating this, btw.

sharing some history at cosi

My husband and I were my daughter's age when the first movie came out.

Do your own math.

her-father's-daughter with her father

Ya wanna come with me, Momma?


fun at the festival

his-mother's-son wouldn't try a thing...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

(sigh) those were the days

Saturdays were not meant to be spent cleaning the house, but, alas, since we’ve run like gangbusters since it first started to get warm, Spring Cleaning could not wait a moment longer. One absolutely gorgeous day down the tubes—but our house is finally clean. Well, as close to clean as it’s going to get, at any rate. A neat freak I may be, but a clean freak I am unfortunately not. The kitchen was where the majority of my time and effort was spent, and as I went from grotesque mess to grotesque mess (Have you ever seen what grows under your stove? Ew!) I began to question what ever happened to the Magic Kitchen of my childhood.

I can only assume that every home had a Magic Kitchen, but, truth be told, mine is the only one I can verify with any certainty. I’ve never heard mention of another, but I cannot imagine what stroke of pure luck or heavenly blessing could have possibly bestowed such a glorious creation on my family and my family alone. What wonders it beheld—oh, the nostalgia! The longing to go back! The yearning for an era gone by! But, alas, the Magic Kitchen seems to have faded into obscurity with avocado appliances and Jello molds—and I am all the sadder and wearier for it.

The piece de resistance in the magical masterpiece of my childhood kitchen was the Magic Fridge. Official 70’s-appliance-green (See what I’m saying? It must have something to do with the color!), the Magic Fridge stood in the center of the kitchen like a tower erected to the Grocery God. This dietary deity must have been quite pleased with us, because—and here’s where it starts getting good—the fridge never emptied! Like some widow’s jar of oil, the Magic Fridge refilled itself completely on it’s own—I never had to do anything but open the door. Lemonade, Kool-Aid, Soda Pop (or just Pop, if you’re a Midwesterner)—beverages flowed like milk and honey. Jello, Cherry Cheese Cake, Baptist Pie (a staple at Methodist potlucks despite the obvious theological issues), Rocky Road Fudge, Chocolate Pudding—not to mention all the staples for making pizzas and sandwiches and casseroles and tacos! I’ve never again in my life seen anything like it, I am grieved to say. It was a sight to behold.

While this was obviously the grand tour de force of the Magic Kitchen, especially to a child, I cannot help in my adulthood to also reminisce with great fondness about another important and overlooked feature—the kitchen was self-cleaning. Yes. It’s true. I never lifted a finger in that kitchen and yet the refrigerator shelves were always clean and the oven never had burnt cheese in the bottom of it and the dishes appeared on the shelves as if completely of their own volition. Clean. The first time. It was astonishing. The floor never stuck to my feet, the counters never collected crumbs, the sink never had a ring around it, and the utensils never collected dust. Ever. And I never did a darn thing. Amazing. (Sigh.) Those were the days.

Four hours later, as I look around my own kitchen—white, all of it (that must be the problem)—I remember as well the self-stocking pantry, the pre-packed school lunches, the self-cleaning toaster oven, and the garbage can that never needed to be emptied. I sigh deeply at my prunish hands and ragged fingernails, wiping sweat from my brow with an arm that smells like Pinesol and bacon grease while I try for the 37th time to get my hair out of my eyes. After fifteen years of cleaning kitchens, I had almost forgotten the days when I never had to lift a finger. Almost.


Magic kitchen—oh, where have you gone? Why have you forsaken me? You have left me to toil endlessly while my children do nothing but consume and make messes—

you’d think they believed the kitchen just took care of itself!

Monday, July 03, 2006


IMG_9152, originally uploaded by as we see it.

camped with my parents this weekend-- here are a few highlights!

a loose cannon

IMG_9035, originally uploaded by as we see it.

Five minutes later she did a head-first flip off the side into three feet of water. Twice. Lord preserve me!

what can i say?

IMG_8980, originally uploaded by as we see it.

so cute i could EAT HIM UP!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

summer lovin'

Always one to try something new (ignore my husband laughing in the background), I read about Pantoum, a form of poetry writing, and thought I'd give it a shot. The lines duplicate in a pattern, so in a 10 line/phrase poem, for example, the stanzas would look like this: Lines 1,2,3,4 / 2,5,4,6 / 5,7,6,8 / 7,9,8,10 / 9,3,10,1. Wrote this one while camping with the kids and my folks.

love wraps its sunscreened arms around my damp neck
its sweaty, summer-sticky body pressed to mine
like bare flesh on station wagon vinyl--
peel it off and it leaves its mark

its sweaty, summer-sticky body pressed to mine
scented with the long, hot day
peel it off and it leaves its mark
love's lingering fragrance mingles with my own

scented with the long, hot day
oppressive in its desirous nature
love's lingering fragrance mingles with my own
clings to me with fierce affection

oppressive in its desirous nature
I bear the heat of love's attention
clings to me with fierce affection
such are the sweet sacrifices of summer

I bear the heat of love's attention
like bare flesh on station wagon vinyl--
such are the sweet sacrifices of summer
love wraps its sunscreened arms around my damp neck

Friday, June 30, 2006

sticking to it

Here's a fun new blog I found called Bum Glue--done by a writer here in town who puts on practice writing workshops. Also puts out a newsletter, which I get, called Write Now, which details writerly stuff going on in town. I always get a little nugget of encouragement out of her newsletters--if you're a writer, check it out!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

you say it's your birthday (bah nah nah nah nah nah)

my little blog experiment started a year ago tonight... not sure if that's noteworthy or not, but it gave me pause to reflect! if nothing else, i've had fun writing again!

posting may be scant this summer--after bedtime is my prime writing time, and now that the kids are out of school, all bets are off as to when bedtime will be each night! i intend to keep at it, however hit and miss it may be!

i've run out of my exclamation point allotment, and now i must go to bed!

Friday, June 23, 2006

the orange route, part one

“I’m not from these parts—I’m what you call a transplant,” she tells me in what I discover later is a manufactured southern drawl. “Moved here from Chicago seven years ago. Packed up three kids, two dogs, four cats, two iguanas and my houseplant—which has a story of it’s own, you understand, couldn’t leave it behind—and headed out here on a whim. My boyfriend followed three weeks later—the cord is short, I tell you. What else can I say? I’ve been here long enough, though. ‘Bout time I move on. Can’t stay in one place too long. We’ll see who follows me this time.”

I gauge her to be early sixties, with long, fading red hair that blows, unstyled and untamed, around her seasoned face. Her freckles pop out around her glasses, which she passively nudges back up to the bridge of her nose after each drag on her cigarette. The blue in her eyes matches that of her wide assortment of accessories, and as she leans forward, I discover she is braless under her flowing, similarly blue shirt—a fact that somehow doesn’t surprise me.

“What they call a lake here is a joke,” she informs me, and though I can’t get a word in edgewise, I am inclined to agree. Having, like her, been reared along the Great Lakes, I have some difficulty conceptualizing the small river that runs below my hotel window—which, I’m told, is dammed on both ends—as a “lake.” But, always one to participate in the spirit of things, I squint real hard and tilt my head to one side and try to visualize a lake where a river flows. “A friend took me to see a lake up north of here—I stood there and could see the other side. ‘Where’s the lake,’ I asked her. ‘That is the lake,’ she told me. ‘That ain’t no lake—I could ride my bike around that in an hour!’ I told her. ‘Show me a real lake.’”

She pulls her hair back from her face—a futile gesture—and attempts to light her third cigarette with an emptying lighter—yet another. As she talks, ash flutters down around her, covering her lap and neighboring white straw Stetson, smoke swirling mercifully in the opposite direction from where I stand. She blows more sideways out the corner of her mouth, motioning perpetually with both hands like a marionette with the mouth and the arm strings somehow connected on the same stick.

“I’m a decent at the Austin Museum of Art—I love bringing art to life for kids—and I consider anyone under thirty a kid, let me tell you.” She points at me with her cigarette, looking me in the eye to see if I flinch. I do not let on that I am no longer a child. She continues. “So many docents are just ‘blah, blah, blah.’ I like to liven things up a little.” As she goes on, I learn she docents as well at the Texas State History Museum as a Ranch Hand, and went through training to lead “Haunted History” tours for The Hide Away which includes a pub crawl through the adjoining basements of several historic 6th street bars. Once again, I am not surprised.

Her delight in story telling, immediately evident upon sitting down next to her at the bus stop, is no doubt an asset that has served her well in these pursuits. Indeed, I remember encountering her a few hours before as she explained to a seven-ish looking young man the advent of branding cattle. “Image that someone suddenly decides that any steer that doesn’t have your name on it is fair game to add to his herd! Now, wouldn’t that just get under your saddle?” She punctuated her question with a finger into his chest—he stared back at her blankly, uncertain how to respond to her animated inquiry. I seem to recall chuckling—men of all ages seem uncomfortably uncertain what to do with a lively woman.

(to be continued…)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

deep in the heart of texas

P6176346, originally uploaded by as we see it.

back from almost a week in austin with the hubby. here are five "faves" from the 188 pics we took! to see the rest, click on any of the images and then go to the "austin" set. (just to warn you, they aren't all rotated--so if the picture looks funny, tilt your head to the right and see if it gets any better!)

hope to post some of the stuff i wrote there in the next day or two!

south of congress

P6176374, originally uploaded by as we see it.

otherwise known as "soco." great galleries--had a blast shopping!

shopping in soco

P6176385, originally uploaded by as we see it.

quite a tail you got there...

P6186415, originally uploaded by as we see it.

the armadillo tail (yes, you read that correctly) on austin's city hall.

a capital experience

P6146218, originally uploaded by as we see it.

they aren't kidding when they say EVERYTHING is big in TX. the capital building is HUGE!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

just beyond dusk

The sky is green on the west horizon, tall maples and pines stark black against its hue like intricate scherenschnitte cut with large, divine hands using small, impossibly sharp scissors. It stretches from the treetops of High Street to the rooftops of Indianola Avenue, turning to deep blue as it spans across our home on its way to the other side of the neighborhood. The moon carves its bright crescent curve out of the darkness, followed by star, after star, after star…

All is quiet now—chirping children and babbling birds alike—save for the low roar of the interstate and the occasional rumble of northbound trains in the not-so-distant distance. This is when my ears begin to perk up, searching the silence for the herald of summer, beseeching him to make his sweet, gentle music and set my spirit at ease. He does not disappoint me, this harbinger of both good fortune and great joy, as he slowly tunes his instrument, picks up his bow, and begins to play. He is rewarded with a contented sigh.

Deep, blue darkness has pulled its thick blanket across from east to west and the paper-cut images of trees have disappeared into the darkness. We are tucked in for the night—the lullaby of summer playing softly outside the window, which is finally unbolted and opened wide. I will sleep, tonight, in the tender caress of the almost-summer breeze, and dream sweet dreams of lightening bugs twinkling over vast wheat fields filled with a symphony of crickets.

Friday, June 02, 2006

curtain call

I had a little trouble with my daughter starting first grade, but, in the end, we both passed with flying colors.

The pretty one, the funny one, the smart one, the fast one, the loud one, the friendly one, the polite one, and the rambunctious one-- they can all take a bow!

(If anyone has read the script for second grade, I'd love to know what part we'll both be playing!)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Her bare feet are as hillbilly as the drawl I slip into within the first thirty minutes of my arrival—long, lengthy vowels drawing out like taffy, soft and chewy in my mouth. She fulfills her obligations—greets her great-grandmother, tries her hardest to understand the slurring speech, answers the repetitious questions with a sideways glance, bestows hugs and smiles and freshly drawn pictures—and then in a flash she is out the door, free from the constraints of walls and tennis shoes and ground-dwelling living. Has anyone seen her? my father calls in to the house some time later. I point to her feet, naked and happy, hanging from a branch fifteen feet up in the air. He smiles. That looks familiar…

Oaks of righteousness I will admit they are not—two fairly squat Box Elder trees with branches low to the ground and proceeding upward like stair-steps, perfect for beginning climbers. Perfect for my cousins and I. Perfect for my daughter. She has finally discovered what I have known for decades—Gram’s house has the best climbing trees around. Once perched, just like her mother, she is coaxed down for little more than eating, and, indeed, would have eaten in the tree would the same mother (though more cautious with age) have allowed her. A transfer has been made—my childhood memory has become her own. Mark always used to hang from that tree, my grandmother comments repeatedly, each time as if it is the first. Yep. We all did, I reply in turn.

I watch her from the kitchen window—her sun-freckled face peeking out between a forest of green, eyes and nose and mouth disjointed by leaves laughing in the breeze, obscuring my view of her finally filling-in grin. My grandmother calls her by my name, and I smile. I am the third of four generations present, surrounded once again by the wood-paneled rose-printed flower-filled doily-covered memories of my childhood. The only constant in my thirty-six years—my grandmother’s house and all that is contained within and without. Windmills and windsocks and geese and gnomes and toadstools and trees. But this constant will not remain much longer.

My daughter has made her own hard-wired connections here, today, reinforcing the memory with all five senses, fashioning it into the very fiber of who she is, of who she will become. It is a memory I am relieved we will share. From her bird’s eye view my daughter connects with my roots—her fleshy feet against burled branch, the remnants of Sand Hill still gritty between her toes. We have a family tree, and my daughter has shimmied up it.

my hubby

IMG_8550, originally uploaded by as we see it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139: 1-17

Thursday, May 18, 2006

cursed cursor (cohort of the common cold)

The cursor mocks me—blinking sarcastically on a blank white page,
daring me to form a coherent thought.

Tonight, it wins. I give.

I raise the white flag, only to pull it back down
and blow my nose with it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

ode to a charles penzones gift card

brown box, white ribbon:
what anticipated ecstacy
you contain!

Monday, May 08, 2006

within which I consider an advanced education

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I thought I was prepared for this. Really. Parenting was not supposed to be too terribly hard. After all, billions of people do it, many without ANY formal education whatsoever, most of them without so much as banging their heads against the wall more than, say, nine or ten times. A week. Oh, wait—that statistic is only for my household. But I digress.

The truth is, I have an advanced degree. I have TWO even. To review my resume, one would draw the conclusion that I would be more than competent to raise two small, albeit intense, children. Let’s review:
Master’s Degree in Counseling: check
Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy: check
Over 50 credit hours in Childhood Development: check
TAUGHT Childhood Development: check
Specialized training in Sexual Abuse Prevention: check
TAUGHT Sexual Abuse Prevention: check
Parenting classes: check
TAUGHT parenting classes: check
Lamaze, Breastfeeding, Infant Care: check
BioChemistry: um…
Nuclear Physics: well…
Biology: oh crap.
Physiology: you’ve got to be kidding!

It was about two weeks ago when these gaps in my curriculum vitae started to become apparent. The conversation went something like this:

My Son: Mom, what are trees made out of?
Me: Trees are made out of wood.
Son: Mom, what is wood made out of?
Me: (Tentatively.) Um, it’s made out of, um, well, wood.
Son: Mom, what is wood made out of?
Me: (Trying again.) Wood is made out of water and seeds.
Son: Mom, what is water made out of?
Me: (With newfound confidence.) Oxygen and Hydrogen!
Son: Mom, what is oxygen made out of?
Me: (Pause.) Itself?
Son: Mom, what is oxygen made out of?
Me: (Tersely.) Atoms.
Son: Mom, what are atoms made out of?
Me: (LONG pause.)
Poppa: (After laughing at me for long enough.) Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons.
Son: Dad, what are pow-tons, new-tons, and lect-tons made out of?
Poppa: (Smugly, in a scientific tone.) Quarks.

Quarks? What the heck? But somehow, it all comes back to Quarks, and I don’t mean the Ferengi Bartender in replicate. To date, I’ve been asked to break down cars, trees, people, rocks, dirt, and airplanes, to name but a few. Now, I’ll be frank. I’m not qualified to teach science, not even to a three-year-old. Normally a straight-A student, I squeaked by with a D in Freshman Biology, a C in Sophomore Chemistry, and, having fulfilled my science requirements, was mercifully allowed to skip out of Physics and Physiology. Aside from taking Astronomy in college (truly a What was I thinking? moment) to meet yet another stupid requirement, I have no further experience in the sciences to round out my parenting qualifications.

I’m screwed. Worse yet, so is my son.

Anyone know of a good science program? Or, better yet, have a Science For Dummies book I can borrow?

calling all carnies!

The Carnival of the Mundane is calling for contributors! If you write about, well, nothing in particular, why not throw your hat into the ring?!

Blogger won't let me post a link today for some reason, so check out the link to the right under "Blogger Buddies" for more info!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

a lesson in economics

IMG_8372001, originally uploaded by as we see it.

The sign reads:

Helicopter Seeds For Sale
For Trees
10 cnts

We had to have a little discussion about "supply and demand." Better luck next time!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

more things that convict the snot out of me

...hearing a dimpled AIDS orphan from Africa sing:

You know my name,
You know my voice--
Before I was born,
I was your choice.

The African Children's Choir is an amazing organization. Check them out here and consider supporting their efforts to "Help Africa's Most Vulnerable Children Today, So They Can Help Africa Tomorrow."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

augusta, gone

I became busier and busier. Work. Meetings. Off in my car. The only times I went to anything was when I had to. Teacher conferences were no longer the contented exchanges of pleasantries and congratulations they had been when the children were younger. Now I dreaded every phone call from the school. Jack had done something. Been sent out of class. Augusta was in trouble again. She smelled like smoke. She skipped school. She swore in class. She looked stoned. She was missing again. She fell asleep. She said she was sick.

In the car, driving somewhere—to the store, maybe—she starts in on me. “I just want to be free,” she tells me. “I need to be free. You can’t control me. I want to be my own person. That’s my right. You can’t control me. Someday I’m just going to go. I’ll just leave. You’ll see.”

From Augusta, Gone, by Martha Tod Dudman

I’ve taken, lately, to reading a lot of memoir, as I have an afore-mentioned fascination with the stories of people’s lives. (That and I’ve sworn off anything resembling a self-help book in any way, shape, or form. They give me hives. And they’re poorly written.) On the whole, it has been an incredibly enjoyable and gratifying decision. Until, that is, I found Augusta, Gone while perusing the tables at Barnes and Noble, and, against my better judgment, entered into the lives of Martha and her children. I’ve regretted it ever since.

I read the book a month ago, at least, and it is still on my mind. While it is well written (albeit a little too stream of consciousness for my taste at times), it is not the writing itself that made the deepest impression. It was the anxiety-provoking, superimposed images of my daughter and my self, woven throughout my reading of the book, that linger like the smell of gasoline on my hands and offend my nose when I least expect it—reaching up to brush my hair from my face, taking a drink from my glass, putting my hand to my chin as I struggle for clarity of thought in session. My squeaky-clean, sanitized life cannot wash away the smell of fear that spilled over from the pages of their lives onto my innocent hands. And its scent is giving me a headache.

I will be unflatteringly honest. Everything within me wants to judge this woman. Divorced. Single parent. Working full-time. Working over-time. Over-indulgent and permissive. Unwilling to set limits. Unchurched. Sleeping with her boyfriend. Trying to be her daughter’s friend. Her own history of rebellion. Of drugs. Of sex. Of running away. I want to judge her. Some of you may think I would be justified in doing so. She’s reaping what she’s sown, you may think. What did she think would happen? It’s her own fault. I want to think this. I desperately want to think this.

Because if I can think this—if I can ramble down this list of offenses that create an equation for parental failure—then I can avoid it. If X + Y + Z = drugs, alcohol, running away, hatred of authority, rebellion, and heartbreak, then I know to avoid X, Y, and Z. Don’t get divorced. Check. Don’t abhor church. Check. Don’t work full time. Check. Don’t have a history of rebellion. Check. Parenting is reduced to a “to-don’t” list, and I am safe. My daughter is safe. My heart is safe.

I was good at algebra—I can memorize any equation and plug in all the right variables and know exactly what my answer will be. Faith. Strong parenting skills. Solid marriage. Good communication. Involvement. Time. Plug them all in and the answer is a healthy adolescent. But the reality is this—there is no such perfect equation. And as much as I want to believe she doesn’t, as much as I want to believe that she simply had the variables all wrong, Martha Tod Dudman knows this all too well.

I know it, too, and it scares me.

frightened by the light?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

From: A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson (used in Nelson Mandela’s May 9, 1994 inaugural speech)

Agree, or disagree?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

my second writer's conference

I followed Mrs. Brown across the parking lot, my smallish eight-year-old hands, sweaty with nervousness, gripping the text pounded out days before by my mother on our old, staccato Smith-Corona. I looked down at it, marveling at my name in print on the cover as if uncertain how it got there, then, with a glance over at James, pulled it back into the obscurity of my jacket as if to absorb it into the fabric and avoid it ever being read. It was not a real story, and I, of course, was not a real writer—a fact I was certain would be discovered at any moment and broadcast across the campus as I was asked to leave under the shaming stares of all the authentic authors whom I had offended by my mere presence at this austere event. It would all prove that I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I knew this—how was it that my teacher did not?

Yet there we were, and she was leading us, unaware of the impending doom, across the campus of the University of Toledo to a large building with a tiny banner welcoming us to the Fourth Annual Young Author’s Conference. Everything was tall that day—the bell tower on campus, the trees lining the walkways, the students in the commons, the teachers, proud, with their apprenticing authors in tow. I felt small, small, small—my story puny in my grasp and shrinking further with each step closer to its threat of exposure.

James stood tall as well beside me—an interesting fact given that he was no bigger than I. Yet his creative presence was large in my eight-year-old sight, towering over and shadowing me and my tiny little tome. As we were good friends, I did not envy him this—it was purely a matter of fact. James, with his seemingly effortless ability to fashion worlds and characters and images, deserved to be there. He was the creative one. I was the imposter. At any moment, I would be found out and Mrs. Brown would rue the day she considered me a Young Author. I was ruing the day already, and it had barely begun.

I sit here now in the sun, at my second writer’s conference nearly thirty years later—skipping out of the last half of a session where four brilliant twenty-something-year-olds talked about having already been published several times over with the not quite sincere humility of youthfulness thinking it is not youthful any longer—and I think back to my early forays into the world of putting words and ideas on paper with that same, familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. The same, familiar voice whispers over my shoulder, unable to be ignored—You do not belong here. The same, familiar fear paralyzes my pen—What if that voice is right?

As the birds twitter around me and my notepad, unaware of the treachery going on in their midst, someone opens a window in a practice room above and a soprano voice, wandering in and out of tune, distracts me momentarily from my incessant insecurity. Repeated phrases and notes—at one moment beautiful and stunning, at another horrific and flat—float falteringly down, occasionally splattering on the pavement beside me. I am annoyed momentarily, but then I relax into revelation. She is doing, after all, what aspiring sopranos do. She is practicing—taking deep, full breaths and daring to do it wrong in the interest of getting it right. She is finding her voice—that which will make her distinct from the 50,000 other sopranos trying to likewise make their mark on the world. She is singing.

I see now, in retrospect, that I’ve never understood, even at the relative innocence of eight, how to just be myself and let the words come freely. Approaching thirty years later, I am finally learning to not force the words, to not “try” to write, to not struggle and strive to be something I am not but think I should be because that’s what I think it means to write. I am learning to take a deep full breath and put my fingers to the keyboard, writing out my scales and melismas in a faltering and sometimes out-of-tune hand, in order to find my one-in-50,000 voice. I am doing what writers do. I am writing.

Because I am real a writer, and I belong here.

Mrs. Brown was right, after all.