Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Tidal waves of hormones,



a death sentence.






all tossed upside-down like so much krill in this sea.

I ride out one wave.

Sit in the trough of another.

Catch my breath just in time to suck it in for the next one.


I can't seem to get to the crest.

Feeling small and tired of paddling.

Not even sure which end is up.

I would like to enjoy the ride,

swirling in whorls with the sand that makes such pretty patterns.

Instead I just fight to find the spot where the waves die down.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Understanding

Balance. Fairness. Justice. Equality. These are a few of my favorite things. As the middle kid in my family, as a Libra, I have always found it important to spend time and energy 'fixing' things in an effort to bring them to balance. Back to the center.

I want the time I have for myself to feel as abundant as the time I have for my husband and my children. I want the people in my life to experience at least one tremendously satisfying moment for each of the devastating, difficult ones they have lived through. When I envision balance and harmony in my mind's eye I see those scales sitting still. Their edges dead even, the pendulum not swinging a millimeter. That see-saw in the park? I want it to be perfectly balanced so that neither side has an advantage over the other.

As I sat yesterday, contemplating the kaleidoscope of events that have colored my life the past several months, the sludge began to settle. At first when the bartender opens the tap and lets the Guinness flow into a pint glass it is all swirly murkiness. As soon as she sets it on the counter the magic begins. The rich, dark liquid begins to fall to the bottom and the cream rises in undulating waves to the top. I never tire of watching as the two dance their mystical routine. The dance is never the same on this path to finding balance between the two, but balance is always achieved.

I can't hope to find a sacred space of balance without movement. If the scales never tip, the balance means nothing. The teeter-totter is useless without someone to ride it up and down. And even if it is tipped one way today, chances are even that tomorrow when the children get down to head for the swings, it will tip the other way. Nature will find balance with or without me. For every void of space, every painful experience, there will be some positive that rushes in to fill that place. My job is not to force the balance. It is only to be open enough to recognize it when it comes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

When it Rains, it Pours

Small snapshot of my life over the past seven days:

  • the woman I job-share with was afflicted with this horrible flu that is going around and lay ill in her bed for a week. I was crazy enough to offer to do "our" job for the both of us all week long.
  • my eldest daughter's anxiety came roaring back at the orthodontist's office and I was not terrifically helpful in offering her solace and comfort.
  • my father, having recently finished 22 radiation treatments in a row on his brain is now experiencing excruciating pain in his hip bones and has two blood clots in his left calf muscle.
  • I have given myself a hard-and-fast deadline to finish the first draft of my book before I leave the country for a week to visit my dear friend on April 5th
  • a pipe on our sump pump broke and over the weekend we discovered that for weeks it has been shooting a geyser of water up underneath our house, ruining several spots on our hardwood floors.
  • I superglued three of my fingers together this morning trying to fix my daughter's St. Patrick's Day necklace. Acetone hasn't taken it off so far and it's past noon.

Sounds terrible, huh? Nah, this morning the girls and I put on some soothing music, sat in a circle on the living room floor and held hands. We took several deep breaths, relaxed a bit, and I handed out notecards to them that held special messages for them to carry throughout the day. I told them I hoped they would remember how strong they are, how brave they are, how important it is to laugh, and how good it felt to sit in this circle together, stroking the soft, smooth skin of each other's hands.

"But most of all I want you to remember this," I started to say as my eldest turned up the corner of her mouth, "I love you two more than anything."

"I knew you were going to say that," she said with a smirk.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Feeling Tie-Dyed

My emotions are swirling colors on a t-shirt. Joy at seeing my girls grow up to be compassionate, caring people who pay attention to how others are feeling winds hot pink from the middle out to the edges. Green stripes and streaks are reminding me that the to-do lists and time-frames in my head are only real there. Helping me ground myself in the reality that even if I were to put all of this down in black and white on paper it is still all so nebulous, not important.

Blue is the color of the deep, steadfast partnership I have with Bubba. The clear aqua of the waters that run miles and miles to their bottom and out to the horizon, farther than I can see.

The purple is pain. Sadness that my father is fading faster than I thought he might. Anxiety that he is not being honest with me about how much he hurts and how weak he really is. Fear that by the time the girls and I get to his side in two weeks, we will have waited too long to allow him energy to enjoy our presence. Frustration that I don't know enough. I don't have enough stories about him to share with my children. Despair that many of the memories I have from my childhood are painful ones, memories of his absences and anger.

This t-shirt is heavy. The colors are bright, intertwined, cover the entire canvas that surrounds my heart and stomach, my insides. I'm wearing it because I know it is important to let the shades mingle. I have to feel it touching my skin, feel the purple, the blue, the green and pink. Let them coexist. Today, the purple is winning out but I feel the small solace the balance offers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bad Mommy!

Occasionally I can't control myself. Every once in a while I have a horrible instance where I am standing outside of my own body watching the words come out of my mouth, regretting every one and wishing I could stop them.

Two weeks after her oral surgery, I am at the orthodontist with Eve, watching her anxiety level ratchet up like a car on a roller coaster heading for the tallest peak. Her cheeks redden, her eyes twitch from side to side and widen, the tears build inside her lower eyelids. At the same time I am becoming more and more embarrassed, knowing that at any moment she will reach for me and pull herself out of the chair, burying her face in my stomach and letting the sobs fly. I am paralyzed, feeling powerless, knowing that we've been here before time and time again. She is afraid of having the bands sized on her back molars. She hates the way the metal feels scraping against her teeth, hates the feeling of the too-tight bands and the too-loose ones pushing against her soft gums. Two years ago we made three successive appointments, each one attempting to get to this point and watching her fall apart more quickly each time. We decided to wait for her to get a bit older and hope that it would make a difference.

Here we are with the worst part (arguably) behind us. She's had the anesthesia, she's suffered through the pain and stitches and eating soft foods for ten days. We have to get past this point and Eve just can't do it. She's holding up the well-oiled machine that is this orthodontist's office by sobbing and refusing to let them do their job. The young man in the chair next to her opens his mouth and offers to let her see the bands around his back teeth but she's not buying it. She buries her head deeper. I am mortified. She's making such a scene! Lola is hungry and she jumps off her stool and grabs my free hand to whimper into as well.

Out in the parking lot I let fly. I know I should be the one who is comforting her, acknowledging her fears, rational or not, and helping her find a way past this. Instead, I am angry.

"We just spent a ton of money having those teeth removed!" (That's not the point at all. Why am I saying this?)

"You can't do this this time. You have to find a way to get into that chair and let them put the bands on. I had braces three times. I didn't die - it's not horrible!" (Not helping, Mom.)

"Why don't you trust me? Have I ever taken you to a place where you would be hurt? It's my job to keep you safe. I am not going to put you into a situation where you will get hurt. Why can't you trust me?" (Why am I making this about me?)

She is buckled in to her car seat, sobbing. Gulping huge gasps of air, tears rolling down her cheeks and dripping into her lap. She is frightened, embarrassed, frustrated. I am yelling at her. With every word that comes out of my mouth part of me is recoiling in disgust. Why am I so angry? Why am I embarrassed at her behavior? Why does this bother me so much?

I don't know. My instinct is to have Bubba take her from now on. I can't be rational about this. I can't find a way to get her past this and I can't remain dispassionate about it. By the time we get home she is calm and I am deep in shame and regret. I sit with her on the couch and hug her and tell her over and over again that I love her. It isn't enough to make up for the way I rubbed salt in her wounds today and I am afraid that this is one of those horrible moments from her childhood that she will always remember.

Tomorrow I will do better. I hope.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

When My Own Words Fail Me...

I go quote-hunting. I am tired today. The demands of parenting as my daughter recovers from her surgery last week, as the youngest one finds herself jealous of the attention her sister is getting, trying to cope with the increased energy the dog has since Spring sprung, helping to soothe Bubba's worries about his new business, and resisting resentment at the fact that I can't just shut myself away and write are mounting. Just as I think I see an opening, sense a release coming, my father calls to say he is not doing well.

"When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool." Chinua Achebe

I had been hoping I could put this off a little longer. The girls and I had planned to spend Spring Break with him. They know his treatments have left him with no hair. They understand that he can't get down on the floor and wrestle with him anymore. My 'big girl' doesn't really understand why the poison they put into her grandfather was disguised as 'treatment.' The youngest just covers her ears and says, "I don't want to talk about it. Stop right now."

"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open." Dorothy Allison

I am cracked open. I was that egg that looks smooth and solid on the outside. Feels cool and firm to the touch. The instant the shell smacks into the rim of a bowl and your thumbs push through the white membrane to reveal the shiny, vulnerable interior, before sliding out of the shell - that is me now. Open, waiting. Unsure where this will end up. Fried? Scrambled? Folded in with flour and sugar and baked? Where do I go from here? What is the right thing to do? Do I have another conversation with my girls? Do I reschedule our trip? Move it up?

I don't think I'm really asking any of those questions, though. I don't really believe that this is about road trips or missing school. I think what I really want to know is: how do I do this? How do I watch my father die? How do I make sure he knows I love him? How do I hold on to him? How can I stand to know he is suffering?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Thank You, Maya Angelou

"I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me." Terence

These words (among many, many others) were written by a Roman poet/playwright around 170 B.C. I first heard them last Tuesday night as I sat listening to Maya Angelou warble her particular brand of wisdom and love out to the crowd gathered in Seattle. I hope I never forget them.

She repeated this phrase several times during the hour and a half that she sat, regal in a tall chair in front of a clear plexiglass podium on the stage before us. Her message was that we need to honor our uniqueness, the special gifts that we each possess that make us who we are, that enable us to bring something new to the world around us. But in honoring that uniqueness, we also ought not to lose sight of the things that make us all so similar. That in listening to each other's stories we remember to realize how many times during those stories we find ourselves nodding our heads in agreement or understanding, recalling our own experiences.

This amazing 78 year old woman who has lived a life so different from mine gave me the thread to weave throughout the book I'm writing. This African American woman who came from poverty and grew up in the deep South during times of persecution and hatred, who quit school as a teenager to give birth to a child, who was raised by her grandmother and crippled uncle, this woman with whom I have nothing in common on the surface wrapped these words up in a cloak of humanity and compassion and love and handed it to me as sure as if she had stepped off of that stage and walked up the aisle to where I was sitting. I will honor her stories and the stories of the women about whom I am writing. I will remember to hold us all up as examples of people who have struggled with difficult choices and who hope that our choices will help illuminate this rocky path for others.

Turns out we have a little bit in common after all. Thanks!
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