Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I am reminded by your gifts
of Rumpleteaser
a tabby cat
with a black heart on her pink nose
whose tail was unfortunately trimmed
in a gruesome coincidence
of wind and door.
The stump
was too long for a manx
and too short for balance.
She thumped it like a club
when pleased.

Teaser brought us offerings.
Left them respectfully
on bathmat altars
or even –
most memorably –
in the tub.
That one was
abruptly discovered
(and consequently flung)
by toes ready for a shower.

Your treasures are arguably
more useful
or at least acceptable.
I see what drew your eye to:
The elaborate stoppered jars
full of spices long since turned to sand.
The stack of rusted muffin tins.
The cart full of books dismissed
by the library ages ago.
The long knife that cut hundreds of pizzas
before the restaurant closed.
Still, they are the detritus
of someone else's pawed-through life.

Our garage is full of
these leftovers.
I appreciate the sentiment but,
what use have I
for twenty-four inches of
dull blade?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sub Zero

Cold gnaws at the house. Chill seeps through the brick walls and pours across the floor in invisible rivulets that seek out and nip at toes. Frost crawls up the windows, riming every pane. The children scrape at it and giggle when snow falls to the sill. The furnace cycles ceaselessly. On. Off. On. Off. It's not truly cold inside, but still we huddle, cringing at the creaks and pings of a house under assault.

The fireplace crackles. Before it one dog rolls and yips, reveling in the heat. The other dog stomps in circles and flops down, satisfied with her warm nest. My children tumble to the floor and lean against their living pillows, snuggling into the warmth, absorbing the animal stillness and drooping into sleep. I sit above, tangled on the couch in a mess of blankets, jealous of their ease. The dogs grow restless, slinking out from under their young masters. My babies have grown far too big for me to carry up the stairs, so I collect blankets and tuck them in together on the floor.

I remain vigilant through the night, stoking the fire, keeping the children covered. The dogs paw at my feet and only reluctantly withdraw from the couch. I am minded to let them up, but that is a step from which I never can retreat. I draw the line.

I doze, wakened occasionally by restless stirring on the floor or cold breezes that herald the need for more wood. Toward morning I stretch and pet the dogs who have slunk up beside me. Their trespass was forgiven in the darkest hours, when my ankles grew cold and their company was a balm. Dawn comes slowly, heralded by a halo of salmon and peach ice glistening at the tip of every branch. 

The children wake. They are gleeful at finding themselves downstairs, on the floor, together. It is different, and different is good. Seeing me, they leap. Soon the sun will rise high and the freeze will wane. Until then I hold my children, basking in their warmth.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Measuring Up

I've been feeling a little (well, a LOT) overwhelmed for the past couple of months. I'm embarrassed about that because I'm only working part-time. I look at the moms who work and are good parents and STILL keep their houses clean. I'm "just" a housewife. The critical part of my head tells me I should be able to do a better job with everything, and that I am failing at most of it. I'm barely keeping up with general cleanliness around the house (yesterday I discovered a dried lake bed of dog urine hidden under a table and still haven't gotten it all cleared off, bleached, and mopped up) even with all the time I have.

A friend recently mentioned that the most abusive relationship she's ever been in is with herself. She would never tolerate anyone "real" being as critical and unsupportive, as downright hurtful, as she is to herself. I've been thinking about that a lot. This morning, as I switched from email replies to typing minutes to website administration to cleaning the kitchen I paused. First I berated myself for not concentrating on and actually finishing something. Then I took a step back and marvelled at just how many things I was trying to do at once. Finally I decided to write down the names of the various hats I wear on a regular basis. Here's what I came up with:

- Girl scout troop leader
- School webmaster
- Property manager for 9 houses
- PTA volunteer
- CSC representative (secretary)
- Part time employee (3 days/wk)

Then I added the things I spend time on but don't really consider a "job"

- Student (or at least trying to be)
housekeeper (dishes, laundry, cleaning)
- calendar keeper/social directory
- cook (at least 10 prepared meals a week for 4, plus packing lunches for three 5 days a week)
- writer
- emerging athlete (so it's a stretch. At least I'm trying!)
- parent
- teacher (to my kids)
- friend
- knitter
- random tasks assigned by W
- webmaster for W's business

For today at least I have decided that the criticism being spouted by the abuser in my head is utter nonsense. Sure, there's dog hair in every corner of the house. And yes, I do spend more time than is prudent farting around on social networking sites. But I do measure up (even if it is a short ruler).