Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The passing of my days
is ticked in irregular increments
upon the door frame
separating the kitchen from
the rest of the house.
Each rising mark a triumph
for you
and a sweet sadness for me
as you shed your childhood
like autumn leaves
falling slowly
until I am buried
beneath the pile of memories.

Running to Stand Still

I've been looking forward for weeks to the quiet of an empty house. Two kids in school ideally means seven hours a day to myself. I grew up with a great deal of solitude, and feel keenly the difference between lonely and alone. And I crave time alone. Time to think an idea all the way through without resorting to scribbling fractured notes I must later interpret and try to re-create a line of thought. Time to finish a task - even if it's just cleaning a bathroom - without circling through the house picking up things and making meals and separating storming children between each step.

I imagined blissful hours to accomplish everything on my years-old task list; and finding hollow spaces I had to fill with projects or visits to old friends; and being a better parent because I cherished the time with my kids instead of working around their presence to get stuff done.

It didn't happen.

I cried when I left Violet at kindergarten, and spent a few hours reaching for her little hand as I ran errands in my first solo afternoon. But since then, I've had no time to miss her. This year I accepted a position on the school PTA, and it's filling my days (and evenings, and even sleepless nights) with responsibilities and obligations. I'm having trouble finishing anything, because each part of my life is overlapping the others, and I can't concentrate on anything. And I spend my rare quiet moments wondering how any woman ever survives working and parenting and maintaining a marriage. Today is the first day I've had the house to myself since August (Will finally found some work) and I've gotten more done this morning than in many days past, but the passage of time makes me anxious to the point of skipping bathroom breaks and putting off meals.

I did take up my knitting again in the brief time Will and I spend together, exhausted into complacency in front of the TV. And strangely, the year-or-more hiatus has made me a better knitter. I even finished a hat and have started on number two. It's nice to actually have something to show for a hours work.

So. I breathe, and now I'm off to do more laundry before starting in on emails. Bless all of you who do this and hold down a job. I'm in awe.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My beautiful boy

We had to cut off all his hair. Don't ask why. The only good thing was that he allowed me to take some portraits of his new hairstyle. Doesn't he look nice! More pictures on Flickr.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Contemporary Art a la Five Year Old

Actual transcript of a conversation with V as she was getting into the bathtub tonight:

Mom: "Why do you have green marker all over your bottom?"
V: (grinning) "I was making a peanut!"
M: "A peanut?"
V: "Yeah! A peanut with my BUTT!"
M: "A peanut with your butt?!?"
V: "Yeah!"
At which point girl-child sat down on the bathroom floor and mimed tracing her naked cheeks with a green marker.
V: "I sat on a piece of paper and made a peanut. Then I cut it out!"
She then raced (naked) out of the bathroom and returned, triumphantly, with her peanut.

I think I should apply for an arts grant for her, don't you?

the peanut in question

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A brief tutorial

Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." But what if, to your delicate sensibilities, your guests stink BEFORE THEY EVEN ARRIVE? Just follow this brief tutorial, and you, too, can make your visitors feel like leaving before they even unpack.

Step 1. Look unfriendly. No matter what was said to give those people the impression that their presence is desirable (like repeated phone calls explaining how there's plenty of room, it makes the most sense, you'll be able to spend more time with them, etc), when they arrive keep a frown on your face, and, if possible, add a little wrinkling between the eyebrows. Nothing says "Go away!" like a screwed up face.

Step 2. Don't make them feel "at home" with bizarre statements like "welcome", "It's good to see you", "I'll show you around" or even "here are some towels for you to use". Under NO CIRCUMSTANCE do you want your foul smelling impositions to think that they can treat your house like a home.

Step 3. DO NOT interrupt your regular plans. Sure, the visitors may have driven thousands of miles to see you, but that doesn't mean you want to see THEM. Stick to your Friday dinner plans with the friends you see twice a week. For Pete's sake, you haven't seen them for FOUR WHOLE DAYS, which means you have LOTS of catching up to do -- which also justifies not including the guests in your conversation. At all.

Step 4. Ask your guests to stay quietly in their rooms as long as possible in the morning "for the sake of the children". That way they won't bother you, even if you're up early. Remember: you only reluctantly conceded to having them stay, not to be your friends.

Step 5. Make it clear that you are NOT a doormat, and you will not be providing meals for your guests. Of course you'll make the usual four separate, individual breakfasts for your family, but the freeloaders can darn well forage for themselves. After all, there ARE leftovers in the fridge. Hopefully, they'll even clear out the end-of-date food you are too sensible to eat. If you prefer, you can always go out to eat. If you do it right, you can sit at opposite ends of the table and not have to talk to them at all.

Step 6. Make lots of plans that the interlopers can't participate in. if that doesn't work, make plans with them, but don't bother showing up when you say you will, and be sure to leave without telling them. If you do have to do something together, make sure it's loud and unpleasant, and mislead them as to what their expectations should be. If you (unfortunately) have to do two activities together, be sure to invite your true friends to "unexpectedly" show up, so you can, again, ignore these other people.

Step 7. Practice your veiled insults before they arrive, so you can use priceless lines like "I love my children too much to do that" when the guests kiss their kids goodnight and send them to PUT THEMSELVES TO BED. Bad parenting must ALWAYS be commented on.

Finally, Step 8. No mingling. Remember, fraternization leads to contamination, so make sure to find ways to keep any children from actually interacting (reference Step 4). For your part, do not participate in small talk, like asking about your guests' trip, or inquiring about them as individuals. Such activities may lead to a false sense of friendship, at least on their part.

Follow these tips and you should have your visitors crying to themselves in the shower within two days. Keep up the good work! With effort, you may even encourage them to move on a day earlier than planned. If you succeed, bravo! If not, well, it's not like you're ever going to visit THEM, is it?

I gave 110%, and so did you!

We did it! On Sunday, June 9th, I completed the Steamboat Springs 1/2 Marathon in 3 hours and 51 minutes. Around the same time, my fundraising total for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society hit $2,761 -- 110% of my original $2,500 goal.

I can't begin to express my gratitude for your support as I worked to accomplish this huge (and somewhat uncharacteristic) goal. There is no question that your help and encouragement got me to the finish line. And I have to tell you -- I was not the fastest, sleekest, or most accomplished athlete in the event, but I was definitely the most enthusiastic and cheerful! I knew I already had won, even before they fired the starting gun. You see, thanks to you and many other generous folks, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Team In Training raised more that $110,000 dollars for the Spring season. That means lives were saved, research was funded, families and friends were assisted - even before I took my first step.

The race itself was surprisingly fun. We had a pep talk in the hotel lobby, then got on a bus and rode to the starting line before dawn. Everyone on the bus kept remarking about how long it was taking to get there, as we all slowly realized how very, very far we were going to walk or run. Aside from an absurd number of porta-potties, the starting line was fairly non-descript, and the air was cold until the sun came up. There was a one-hour delay due to some transportation issues, but as soon as we got underway I became aware of just how beautiful the scenery was. Being a (slow) walker, I had the road essentially to myself, and I was able to enjoy the sound of a distant river, at least three different kinds of songbirds, the reassuring crunch of gravel as I toodled down the road, and the sight of gamboling calves running circles around their more sedate dams. The locals were fabulous, setting up cheering stations along the way and offering just as much enthusiasm to me as they had the speedsters at the head of the pack. One pair of water-hander-outers were about six years old, and I had to turn them around as they ran up the course behind me, away from their grown-ups. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I had a spring in my step for quite a ways after I left them behind.

I made good time, even running a few sections, and despite the heat (an uncharacteristic 90 degrees under cloudless skies and relentless sun) felt good for most of the race. I was able to cheer on other Team In Training folks as the full-marathoners began passing me, and I did my best to offer encouragement to all the runners who were faltering. Karma came full circle around mile 11, when I hit my own personal wall and the cheer stations boosted me. That and a little Lady GaGa and other hard-rocking tunes on the iPod. I have to say, mile 12 was pretty much the hardest mile I've ever walked.

When I finally reached town, I was delighted to see my mom and dad, who gave up their day to come cheer me on and brought me to tears with their proud smiles. Finally, I crossed the finish line, received my medal, and got a great hug from Anita, who had sucessfully completed her 10K hours earlier. After some stretching and cold water, we all celebrated with fried pickles and sandwiches at a nearby restaurant (don't knock the pickles -- I've never tasted such salty fried deliciousness in my life!) and Anita and I headed back to the hotel for a much needed nap. When I woke I was pleased to find that I was only mildly sore, and filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride I seldom reach.

pictures are available on Flickr at:

So, we did it, and we did it well. Thank you.

Who's up for a full marathon?



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So grateful

I'm humbled to the point of tears. Donations to my Team In Training account are currently at $2,635. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

19 days

Hello! Just writing a quick update on my progress for Team In Training. This has been an incredible week for me! I have fewer than three weeks until the half-marathon in Steamboat, and I have to admit that for a while I've been beset by doubts about accomplishing either the fundraising or walking a half-marathon.

Fortunately, last week I received a very generous anonymous donation which pushed the fundraising past the minimum, and the proceeds from the jewelry trunk show I hosted brought me even closer to my personal goal. That has been a huge relief, although I still have $363 to raise. On the physical side, we just had our longest training day of the season; now we rest up for the race. In order to accommodate some family plans I hit the trail early with some other walkers, and boy did we burn up the trail! In just 3.5 hours I walked 11 (yes, eleven!) miles. I stopped there, but I proved to myself that I can -- and will -- complete 13.1 miles and cross the finish line on June 6th with few problems.

I'm still a little sore today, which probably could be addressed by drinking more water the day of the race, stretching better, and not digging up and moving hundred pound rocks for several hours afterward (the aforementioned family obligation). And in reality, what are a couple of blisters and a sore hamstring compared to rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries to fight cancer? Because that's what this really is about. I'm proud to have been a small part in the effort to fight and cure blood cancers. I'm also tremendously grateful to those of you who have supported me - emotionally, physically, even financially -- through this journey.

19 days 'til the race! I'll post pictures and updates on my Team In Training blog if you want to follow my progress or to make a donation.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Oranges, bananas, and grapes
tumble across the counter
in an unruly respite
between grocery store and fruit basket.

They brighten the room
with exotic colors
in the intermittent dusk
of fleeting rain clouds.

The tulips in my yard
also glow
peach and yellow
as if they
hold back the dark.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Forgiveness and Action

I forgave myself yesterday. I didn't apologize for the mess or overdue tasks or dirty hair. I just took a deep breath, said I'd take care of it in time, and forgave myself. Then I took a guilt-free nap.

Later, after I picked the kids up from school, we all went to the museum, exploring and touching and asking questions until the security guard announced that the museum was closed and even then he had to pry us out of the exhibit because we wanted to try that thing just one more time.

My world didn't collapse because I continued ignoring "THE LIST". We had fun.

And today I was recharged and already have gotten the top three irksome, bothersome, dreadful things on my list taken care of.

Forgiveness, followed by action. Now I just need to practice. And maybe do a little laundry, too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The critics in my head are very loud this week. I can do no right, I am a failure at everything, I'll never succeed no matter what I try. It's very disheartening, especially since they all speak in my own voice. I got a wonderful hug from Will this morning and cried a little, and he told me I needed to tell them to shut up, but it's just not that easy.

I am overwhelmed right now by my to-do list, which in reality isn't that big and wouldn't be too hard to contend with if I just sat down and did it. I use tiredness or the kids or any other excuse not to start, and I haven't yet figured out why I don't just "get it done", but I don't, and of course the longer I wait the worse everything gets.

Funny thing is, I feel like I used to get a lot more done when I was working. How is it that I have more time (including 3 hours a day to myself) and yet I can't even keep up with the laundry, let alone dust bunnies, dirty toilets or school projects?

Remember the Tardis from Dr. Who? It was the size of a phone booth on the outside, but extended in every dimension inside. My days are like that (in a bad way) -- limited time, but the stuff i want to do is far larger. And of course, that is fodder for the critics. Dirty dishes in the sink? White trash. Piles of laundry? Slovenly. Overdue phone calls? Irresponsible.

I read an article in O magazine the other day that talked about finding the truth of a statement. In it a woman was panicking, and the counselor she went to kept asking "is that true?" Over and over again, until all the layers of the onion peeled away, and the woman finally took a deep breath and said "no, it's not." That understanding gave her peace. I tried to use that with the voices in my head this morning, especially around the "you're a bad parent" accusation. But it didn't work. I kept hearing arguments against myself. No matter how smart, funny, healthy, generous, wonderful my kids are, all I see is a reflection of mistakes and failures on my part, as if they are rising above my parenting, rather than growing better because of my efforts.

As I was loading the dishwasher this morning, I finally thought of an answer for Sam, for when he challenges me on why he has to do something, especially when Will and I don't follow our own rules. Because I am trying to raise my children to be better people that their parents. I just hope I don't become the critic in his head.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In which I triumph over snakes

There I was, faced with a non-functional DVD player. That may not sound particularly tragic to more worldly people, but in our little household the DVD player is one of our primary sources of entertainment, especially when we bond in a ritual that we've come to call "Friday Family Movie Night". It's more impressive with capital letters, don't you think? Today is Wednesday -- the clock is ticking toward Friday evening, and I have a bazillion important things other people need me to do, so what better time to completely dismantle the entertainment system and attempt to rewire the whole shebang, McGyver-style, during the few hours the kids were entertained by a massive snowfall?

I got everything taken apart, cables lying everywhere like snakes (aha! a reference that explains the title!) or, perhaps more accurately, intestines. The kids occasionally stuck their heads in like worried family checking on a surgery-in-progress. But I couldn't make it work. One device would work, leaving two others hissing at me as I pushed the mute button on random remotes, also scattered like casualties around the carpet. Or I could get them all to sort of work, but the DVD player was only showing in pink. Or the TiVo wouldn't recognize the antenna, sadly blinking "no signal" at me. I delved into my box of random cables acquired over time, switching the red/yellow/white trio for the red/green/blue one, and then trying (again) the s-video, and occasionally hearkening back to the old coaxial. At one point I realized I had a cable exiting and entering the same device. Oops.

I changed strategies. Google guided me from despair to anguish to resignation, with occasional teasing passages that almost got me fixed up, until I learned I would need 75 Pounds Sterling for the correct part (because I was reading an English TiVo blog at the time). Finally, I gave up and headed to Target, hoping to find the right magical cable for under a hundred dollars.

Wrong cable (for a good price). In fact, I have no plugs into which I can plug that particular cable. I think I picked it up with a healthy dose of wishful thinking. We got home and my little angels looked at me with their sparkling eyes, begging to be able to play Wii because they were going through withdrawal. I laughed harshly and told them they might never play Wii again. I could hear their pillow-stifled sobs from the living room as I again approached the machines.

Then, I got it. I found a diagram online, printed it, and took it with me to the living room. Of course, none of the devices or connections shown on the diagram related in any way to my personal set up, but suddenly I was surrounded by a blue glow and I began working in a steady, inspired fashion. Tab A, Slot B. TiVo video? Check. Audio? Check. Wii video and audio? Check. Even better -- they were routing audio through the Surround Sound, so it was even BETTER than before. Oh, yes, an electronics goddess! DVD audio? check. Video? Pink. Unhealthy, unholy, reminiscent of Pepto Bismol. *sigh* And again lightning struck -- a few buttons on the remote, and voila! Perfect video.

I slowly rounded up the leftover pieces, shoved the old TV aside (I installed a new one which had been meant for a father's day present, but I thought I needed it to make this whole thing work), and trudged to my desk to write up a detailed explanation of how to make this whole thing work. But I won! The wiring-snakes are now coiled in the random-electronics box, the three remotes are labeled, the instructions are taped where everyone can find them, and I won't have to mess with this again for a few weeks, when the new TiVo arrives.

But I'm pretty proud of myself, even if it did take all stinkin' day and someone more knowledgeable would have been finished in an hour (two at the outside). So now I can go watch TV and continue to ignore all the tasks my ToodleDo account keeps reminding me about.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Two Blogs at Once!

I updated my Team In Training blog this morning -- please check over there for more fabulous words of self-absorption!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


My little girl drew this portrait of me when I was four, and I thought you'd like to see how much I've changed since then.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I just sent out 69 (teehee!) fundraising emails regarding the half-marathon I'm going to walk in early June. Immediately afterward I felt the urge to send a second email, apologizing for the first. It's not that I don't believe in the cause, I just feel so, well, whorish, asking for money, especially from people I don't necessarily know all that well. I hate to cause a sense of obligation among people I care about, although I've donated to or purchased from many of them in the past with nary a concern.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blue February

As I walked this morning I heard so many birds singing that I was reassured of the arrival of spring; the thought brought a (relieved) smile to my face. Later, however, I slipped back into a blue funk that has haunted me for days now. I don't know if it's February doldrums, or something hormonal, or maybe it's altogether unrelated to any of that. I do know that I am restless and frustrated, and I have been thinking poisonous thoughts about my children and husband in the wake of the slightest infraction. I just want to crawl into my bed and be ALONE, with no demands or expectations, no whining or complaining, and no responsibilities. I did get four errands run this morning, and three loads of laundry, and tonight I will sleep in clean sheets. Perhaps that will be enough to bring me out of it. Or maybe I just need a good cry. Until then, I think I'll ignore the laundry that needs folding, go take a shower and lose myself in a cheesy gothic romance novel.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Me? An Exercise Addict?

I am in no way an athlete. Any similarity to those sleek, competitive people who like getting out and sweating is purely coincidental. Which makes the following so much more surprising to me: I am learning to like exercise for the sake of exercise, and I'm coming to need it every single day (including weekends and vacations).

My first experience with exercise was watching my mother and aunt (we all lived together when I was little) attend an aerobics class. They hated it. Someone in their class had t-shirts made that said something along the lines of, "Mikki's class - whine, bitch, moan, complain, whimper" etc etc. I don't know how long they did it. I just remember watching that random group of women through a glass window, sweating and groaning, and later celebrating their survival with a cigarette and glass of scotch. They joined a gym later, lifting weights and maybe walking on a treadmill. I participated a little, more for the novelty of it, but again I saw that exercise is an odious chore faced reluctantly and whose accomplishment deserves a reward (again, a glass of scotch and a cigarette).

I can't say I've never exercised. I played soccer in fifth grade, but that was a game. I ran cross-country in high school, but it made me cry (and occasionally vomit), and thus was not to my liking. Search and Rescue practices (when I was at UWC) were entire weekends hiking through forests, over mesas, and down gullies. Calculating backwards I probably covered fifteen or more miles in a day back then. And oh, I felt strong and competent and even beautiful. But going for a run? A bike ride just to get my heart rate up? feh! Thus athletics became a sideline - I was the volleyball team manager, I cheered the basketball team. But I was never the one in bright polyester satin.

Don't get me wrong - I love the feeling of a good day's work. The ache and sweet exhaustion from hauling and digging; the first deep breath at the top of a climb; the grace of a perfect ski run. But I do better with a goal. My garden blooms and feeds me; we search for a lost person; the house is tidy (and yes, housework IS exercise, thank you very much!).

I blame the dog for the change. She requires walking, and the consequences are dire if I don't take her out (poop. 'nuf said.) So, I drag myself out of bed while the household sleeps, put on some shoes, and walk. I've hated it, especially in the winter, but it's better than having to clean up, or having to face those guilt-inducing eyes when I'm too lazy to get up.

But sometimes the sky is too gray, the room too cold, and the excuses come too easily. This morning I couldn't get up. It's snowing, and and dark, and I wanted a shower and just five more minutes in the horizontal, so I rebelled.

I discovered, however, that even though I was clean, and rested, and the dog voluntarily went out in the back yard, that I was grumpy. I had a low level of cranky going on, for no apparent reason. It didn't go away after loudly hustling the reluctant ones out of the house, or when my PTA meeting was over. I was growly all over. So when I got home, instead of settling down to paying bills or dealing with emails, I looked at the blue sky and warm sun, and took the dog for a walk. Wouldn't you know, ten minutes later I felt a warm glow rush over me, and I found myself chatting to Teddy and generally feeling good. Despite the cold my nose and fingers were warm, and I was telling myself to go a little farther, a little faster. Let's see how far we can go in thirty minutes. And I realized, I'm no athlete, but I kinda like this exercise.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clean Trash Cans

I washed out one of my trash cans this weekend. It's the one I use for recycling, so I don't generally put a liner in it, and drips and splashes had congealed into a sticky mess at the bottom. I could no longer look at it without grimacing. So, a few spritzes of 409, scrub scrub, scrub, and voila! a clean trash can. I immediately tucked it back under the sink where it lives, unseen by any but me, and felt good for the rest of the day about getting that taken care of.

I'm actually kind of pleased that I felt compelled to wash out a trash can. I know, it sounds totally silly -- both to be pleased and to wash out a trash can -- but it's the kind of thing my mom and my mother-in-law do, and I like the fact that maybe I'm starting to be more like them. You see, both are extremely intelligent, capable people; of all the yardsticks I use, I measure myself against them the most. None of this "what would jesus do?" stuff for me. Nope, Meredith and Vi set the standards for me. Not in a nagging back-of-the-head kind of way (unless I'm beating myself up, but I'm practicing being nicer to me) but in a "this is the right way" or "this is how it has been done traditionally" or, best of all, "this is the smartest, most efficient, and it'll make your life easier in the long-term" kind of way. For years I teased and laughed at the "silly" things they would do -- like scrub a trash can until it was nearly new. But (finally!) I believe I am starting to learn basic wisdom, and much of it is being handed down by these two wonderful women. So when I feel compelled to clean out a trash can which only I ever see, and at the same time I know it's the kind of thing my role models would do, I'm kinda pleased with myself.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts of Mortality and Farewell

Having just returned from a follow-up (and blessedly clean) mammogram, I am pensive this morning with thoughts of mortality and farewell. Three women in my family died last year. The turning of the calendar allows me to distance myself from that fact, as if the new year is distinct and free of the losses of the summer and fall. My sadness, however, stretches across the months and I find it difficult to approach my memories for fear they will overwhelm me.
Perhaps now, finally, I can write out the shards of goodbyes that have been sticking in my heart.

Jan died first. It wasn't unexpected -- she had been anticipating it for a long time, and from a distance her absence wasn't so noticeable.

Will and I visited Jan twice in her grotto in Connecticut. She was invariably cheerful and did her best to host us, although our little family unit is tremendously independent. The noise and suddenness of our young children alarmed her; at the same time it recalled for her the times she was called upon to help her oldest sister with childcare. She took such great pride in helping raise her nieces and nephews, and in all the descendants! Our cards and photos were arranged with care along the shelves of her tiny house, layered in front of one another so they became three-dimensional records of our aging. During our visits I didn't listen enough. I was distracted by the green of the trees and Jan's nervousness regarding my flighty children, so I have scant knowledge of the facts of her life. Instead I have impressions of determination and endless curiosity, of a liberated woman long before that was fashionable, of a life filled with celebrations in New York City, and peaceful times in Connecticut. And I have memories of her with each of my children: tentatively holding Violet, the first in the extended family to do so, and barely having time to embrace Sam, who was vibrating with excitement to go run around and explore that fantastical place. I am grateful for those memories, and saddened by the photos I never bothered to send because I was "too busy", although I know she would have been delighted.

Barb went next. I could say it was complications from a stroke, but really she was tired and the kind of lonely that comes from witnessing too many loved ones pass away.

I knew Barb only as a Grand Dame, rising from the death of two of her sisters to steer our large family in the stewardship of the Bane cabin. Family lore speaks of her mother holding court each Sunday with supper for four daughters, their assorted spouses, and eventually their children. I love the photos of Manna with her family arrayed around her in their Sunday best, cousins becoming nearly as close as siblings. That role fell to Barb late in life, long after the cousins and then second cousins had built separate traditions. Her presence still bound us, if only out of respect. Barb and I both had left Colorado - she to California, I for the East coast - so our relationship was truncated by geography. Yet she remembered my birthday each year with a card, and -- after we each returned to Denver -- with a brief phone call. Only now that I have a perpetually full calendar and often miss dates important to others do I appreciate the thoughtfulness of such gestures.

Finally bright Robin flew away too soon. What started as a surprising shortness of breath revealed itself as lung cancer that gave her a terribly short time to say goodbye.

Robin was on the other side of the family, far away, and I saw her only a few times. My strongest memory of her was a visit when I was tiny -- six, perhaps? My mother was forced by circumstance into a man's world, owning her own printing business and struggling alone to raise a child, which left little room for fashion and frills. Robin visited us, bringing her delightful California style, tall and lean and blond and girly in ways I'd never seen before, and she shared that with me, taking my little hands and painting my nails. I don't think I'd ever felt so glamorous. I doubt I even breathed for her whole visit, I was so awed.

Each of these remarkable women gave me, us, a final gift with their deaths -- they died the way they wanted to. Jan stayed in her home, conceding the need for assistance at the end, but never allowing the help to make her truly dependent. Barb chose her own way, seeing the consequences of failing health and instead setting a date, saying goodbye, and letting go when and how she wanted. And Robin celebrated to the end, adventuring and throwing parties and smiling that marvelous California smile.

I feel unworthy of my grief. To be honest I didn't know any of them particularly well, so my tears are more for myself than for them or the people most affected by their loss. Nonetheless, I want them back. Even knowing that I probably wouldn't pay any more attention to them resurrected than I did before, I feel that I am no longer whole without each one. My family, my life, is diminished without them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chubby fingers and long legs

Tonight you chuckled as you plopped -- wet from the tub -- into my lap, pretending to shiver so I would wrap you tightly in your bright pink towel and hug you until your damp hair soaked my shoulder. I spoke quietly in your ear, using an intimate voice because we were so close, and you told me fantastic ideas I only half-heard through the breathless squeezing of love that sometimes overtakes me. You took the nail clippers from me, arguing that you should trim your own nails; I allowed it reluctantly, suddenly protective of your not-so-tiny-anymore hands, grimacing as you nearly cut yourself (not unlike what I did several years ago, though the scar is on my heart instead of your hand). As you concentrated, I marveled at the perfection of your chubby fingers, so smooth and ever more proportionate, the nails traced with crimson from a lacquer swiped off as quickly as you apply it. You still haven't learned the particular leverage of a nail clipper, so I finally took control again, wishing we had more time but aware of the clock marking bedtime. When I finished you swirled away, the towel a royal cloack soon replaced by mis-matched pajamas, and I called your brother, assembly-line style, to the bathroom to bathe.

And you, you came upstairs talking ceaselessly about your game, so intent that my listening was inconsequential. You kept turning to the wrong room out of distraction, and I tugged you back with verbal nudges and gentle pushes until you had stripped, baring long muscles and a smooth belly; you mesmerize me with your unconscious Greek perfection. I had, again, to remind you to remove your dirty socks -- you kept talking all the while until you settled into the hot water and slowed, waiting for me to wash your hair, to a pace I could match. After rinsing I stepped out, trying to respect your privacy but relishing the openness of your innocence. Later, when I returned with a towel you rushed to me and I sat, wrapping you in a hug and expecting a cuddle like so many times before, but you threw your head back and laughed with your jack-o-lantern smile and exclaimed "I tooted!" before wriggling away to put on jammies and begin another story about your game. I perched on the edge of the tub wondering where my sweet boy had gone, knowing full well that you never did sit for long. Finally you slowed again, long enough for a quick kiss and an awkward hug before climbing into your loft where I could faintly hear you telling your stuffed friends the same things that had washed over me minutes before.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Shame

My children bicker
and talk back.
They yell and then,
when I am at wits end,
they melt into tantrums
and sulks.

I am ashamed to say,
they are merely reflections
of my worst self.

I get so angry
I lose control
until I am astonished
by the echoes of my voice
beating up the stairs.

My babies cower
on the landing
and, for once, quiet
(meek even)
unsure of their sudden

I stretch out the ache
where I stomped my feet
and swallow away a
ribbon of pain
in my throat

and after a shuddering breath
I bend sorrowfully down
to apologize.

They respond slowly -
but salve my heart
with delicate pats
and wet kisses
and enthusiastic promises
to do what I ask
next time.

And life goes on
but I am ashamed
and awed
by the gift
of their ceaseless love.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Putting on a different hat

I went out for coffee tonight with my friend Leslie. She's a musician, and is taking a break from her day job to immerse herself in her passion. She was gracious enough to approach me as a creative person rather than the pragmatic mother-of-two personality I usually wear, and it was delightful to stretch my imagination. The walls of the coffeehouse were hung with bright, intriguing paintings, and L suggested we write responses to two of them. It was such a different activity for me. Recently I have silently mourned the loss of creativity in my life, fearing that it was dead, but I am reassured tonight that I suffer only atrophy and not true death. I get caught up in the cut-and-paste crafting of early childhood; I must reach beyond that and allow myself to play. Hopefully that will revive a part of me I thought lost. In the meantime, perhaps I can find a more interesting use for popsicle sticks and yarn fragments. We'll see.