(Post 133 of 365)
When I’m driven to accomplish something, I tend to be self-punishing. Working hard and being hard on myself seem to be inseparable. Last night, a dear friend told me to look at all the goodness around me, reminded me that perhaps I can be gentle with myself and continue to move forward.
(Post 132 of 365)
Something I love: the way my toddler surprises me every day with her sensitivity and language. Today, as I was trying to install her car seat, she coached me through it. “You can do it, mommy. Try a little bit at a time. Try a little bit. Good job, mommy!”
I swear she’s an angel dropped straight from heaven.
(Post 131 of 365)
I wanted to write about the blue sky morning, the salty air breathing in and out of the windows. Perfect summer weather for Chris’s birthday. I wanted to write about his generous heart, his goodness, the way he is steady and true. And about the dedicated, patient, playful, loving father he is. A man who will do anything for his family. I take him for granted sometimes, this man I could not live without.
These were the early morning sentences I wanted to write over coffee with Sesame Street playing in the background.
I almost wrote about how I managed to make potato salad, veggie pasta salad, and a chocolate layer cake while juggling two busy toddlers yesterday, how it required more stamina than I ever could’ve imagined in my pre-motherhood days.
Before the day pulled like an undertow, I was going to write about how I had it so together, the piles of laundry folded, the beach toys collected, the sandwiches made. We even had time to jump in the car so I could hit the gym for a jog. I told Isabella, please don’t fall asleep, don’t nap yet! I had the timing lined up just so. I was checking the clock and reviewing a list of last-minute things in my head when she started projectile vomiting. I pulled to the side of the road, cupped my hands to catch the next round of bright red strawberry slush. Tossed it to the ground, searched the backseat for anything to wipe my hands on, found a tiny autumn jacket. Oh honey, oh my. And she said, hiccups, I’m sorry mommy. And I said, it’s not your fault, it’s okay. She and the car seat and her Ernie doll spectacular with strawberry vomit.
At home, we rinsed off in the outdoor shower before running a bath. I nursed her to sleep and then got to work cleaning out the car and the car seat. Chris was due home at 12:30. I hoped we’d still make it to the beach.
My mom had text me earlier about being at the vet. I called her after I finished scrubbing the car seat, and she tells me their younger dog Carly Lou, still practically a pup, sweet and gentle and a big part of our lives, is very sick. Carly, who greets us with a happy bark and jumps to open the front door with her paws.
As we were walking to the beach, the text came through. Bone cancer, kidney failure. Carly is gone. So suddenly gone, this sweet pup, and we didn’t get to say goodbye. I can’t tell Chris, can’t break his heart on his birthday.
There is sun and scorching sand and cool water. Later we have a birthday cookout. Isabella plays her harmonica. As the night goes on, she grows tired. Everyone is outside drinking wine and finishing dinner. I stand alone in my dad’s kitchen holding her, her head resting on my shoulder. We sway and sway. I hug her to me and we sway. I feel so crushingly in love with my daughter, that way you fall ever deeper in love with your child, that heart swell. I breathe it all in. The celebration, the joy, the heartache, the death, the love, the gratitude all contained in the space of one blue sky day.
(Post 130 of 365)
I’m afraid yesterday’s post sounded like a low-grade rant. It’s also one of those posts that prompts me to ask, what’s the one true thing happening here? Sometimes I come at it backwards. Rather than deciding on one true thing, I fill up the page and then challenge myself to find the small truth hidden there. Yesterday’s truth was: I took an action. Normally I would have passed by, wishing I could do something. Yesterday I actually did something.
Here’s something else I did this week: I signed up for my first writers conference. I’ve been keeping my eye on the conference scene and knew I wanted to attend October 2016 BinderCon in NYC, but I hadn’t expected the tickets to go on sale so early. It took me almost no time to consider it. I clicked the link and bought my first ticket to a professional development conference for writers. Panels, workshops, community, networking. I keep searching myself for my trademark anxiety and fear, but the only emotion I can locate is pure excitement. I can’t wait to attend this conference!
(Post 129 of 365)
Cars fly down our street. 50 mph in our 25 mph zone. Everyone in a rush. We’ve talked to the neighbors about petitioning the city for speed bumps. This morning maybe it was speed, maybe distraction, maybe just not-giving-a-shit that killed the opossum, bigger than my cat, as he scurried across the road during the early morning hours, probably tired from a night of foraging for his family. I passed his newly-dead body at 7:30am on my way to the gym. He was lying in the center of the oncoming lane, poor buddy.
It’s Spring and I’m constantly seeing casualties: opossums, raccoons, squirrels, sea gulls, even a small grackle. Why don’t people hit the brakes? Swerve? Try? Of course, accidents happen. And yes, I have hit animals; I am not without fault. I was also a distracted teenager and speeding (read: bad driving is what often causes accidents). I can count at least three times this season I’ve actually seen cars accelerate toward the squirrels scurrying across their paths. I cheer for the squirrel, c’mon buddy, you’ve got this, go go! Fortunately, all those squirrels made it.
What is the disconnect between drivers and their surroundings? Distraction is a given and that rush-rush-rush, but there’s also that strange thing about being behind the wheel that separates drivers from those on foot. Some drivers operate as if they’re playing a video game, as if that little creature going about his day isn’t really real, or maybe isn’t as entitled to life. Like when someone hits a deer and the first question is, oh wow, how’s your car? The first thought isn’t about the deer that was just maimed or killed, it’s: is your car going to cosmetically be okay?
I think about those casualties in the road and the families that mourn them. I always wish I had a shovel in my car so that I could at least give them the dignity of lying dead in the grass rather than being run over again and again and again until they’re finally a stain on the pavement. On my way home from the gym, the dead opossum was still there, but not yet run over again. I had time to do something about it. So I got gloves and the garden shovel and drove back. I parked in front of the poor opossum with my hazards on, waved a few cars around me, then lifted his stiff body from the road and laid him gently on the grass. It wasn’t much; it was nothing really. But I felt a little better seeing him there on the soft grass, the spot he would’ve reached if only he’d been given the chance to take a few more steps.
(Post 128 of 365)
When I was at art school in France (a million years ago), I returned to my limestone studio cave one afternoon to find that my small painting of pink wildflowers and green leaves, loosely rendered, had a torn piece of paper tacked to it that read: This is done. It wasn’t signed, but I recognized my instructor Kevin’s writing. The painting came together quickly, in just a few hours. I’d considered it a sketch. But the note made me pause. I stood back and looked at the painting with fresh eyes. In fact, the painting was finished.
Yesterday I brought my final working draft to class. So many sections sliced, a few carefully chosen sentences woven back in, all the pieces arranged in what I hoped was the right order. Marcelle’s first words were, This is finished.
It’s difficult to know when any piece of art is finished, and it’s important to know when to stop. I’d feared I had edited all of the energy out of the essay. What a relief to know the energy is still there and that the ending works. I will tinker with it a little more, thread through a few more sentences, make those final cuts. But it’s almost there, just a few small revisions away from saying, This is done. (I think…)
(Post 127 of 365)
I forget to be silly with my kiddo. Maybe a side effect of full-time parenting or maybe just my serious nature? But then she picks up her harmonica and blazes a tune–really, she’s a wunderkind on the harmonica–and I’m laughing and laughing, instant joy, my cue to be silly.
(Post 126 of 365)
The truth is grey May retriggered my seasonal depression just as it was finally beginning to lift. I like to pretend it isn’t real, that I’m impervious to weather, even as I struggle for speed on the treadmill, words on the page, patience with my family. May was a real sucker punch.
So I made sure to seize this sunny day. We lathered on sunscreen, put on our bathing suits, gathered the bucket of toys, dug our feet into the warm sand, and made it the first official beach day.
(Post 125 of 365)
Yesterday I mentioned Joy Castro’s Island of Bones, a slim, magnificent book of essays, where not a word is wasted. These pieces are so brillianty crafted, each one shimmers. And the sentences sing. “She could lean toward him, inclining like a tautened bow. Her hand could laugh across his cheek, grazing away crumbs that were not there.” The music of words strung just so. I live for sentences like that. I read them again and again for the pleasure of hearing the sound and think, what a voice.
(Post 124 of 365)