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?