A Restlessness

I’m trying like heck to get a few short pieces submitted. I get tripped up by cover letters. I wonder if the piece is ready, really ready. Then I wonder if I’m waiting too long. I go to submit and end up hopping around the journal. I see names I recognize and start reading their work. Like this flash piece by Steve Edwards at SmokeLong Quarterly. “Love is a mess.”

It was not a great day of potty-training. I couldn’t seem to dig up enough enthusiasm to counter the resistance. I wasn’t patient enough. I tried to accomplish other things, and none of it really worked out. The days have been grey and confining. I wouldn’t be pushing it so much if preschool acceptance didn’t hinge on her being fully potty-trained. In a way, it’s like the weaning experience, a big change, and I’m trying to gauge readiness. The weaning process taught me that a child can be both ready and unwilling. It’s mostly a matter of being gentle. And sometimes it’s hard to be gentle when the day is grey and you’re trapped in the house thinking of a hundred other things and you realize you’ve got nothing but black to wear to this weekend’s Christmas parties and goddamnit is that unnameable idiot really, really going to be president and the paperwork needs completing and the car needs to go to the shop but for god’s sake no one’s dying and everything is fine and why can’t I just be happy batting this balloon around the kitchen with my kid? Yeah. Some days it’s just harder to be gentle. And you have to find a way to trade the guilt for forgiveness, surrender what’s passed, and look ahead to the fresh new unmarred day.

(Post 323 of 365)


Paper Snowflakes


Day 2 of potty training. It dawns on me that this task requires ALL of my attention, energy, presence. Once past the wailing resistance of the early morning hours, we reach an agreeable place, a sort-of fun game of turning off the timer and re-setting it. She says, “tick-tock, tick-tock.” The entire day is spent in 15-minute increments, conducive to little arts n’ crafts projects like cutting paper snowflakes while she paints, like pulling out the felt board, like finally cleaning out the toy closet in the den. It is not conducive to writing, submitting work, answering emails, or working on the photo albums I’ve procrastinated too long. It’s a day I find myself sitting on the bathroom floor in pajamas reading a Curious George book for the tenth time before resorting to blurry YouTube renditions of “Frosty the Snowman” on my phone to keep the kiddo on the potty. I have no idea what time it is, only that it’s 15 minutes from the last time I sat on the floor and read the book and watched the video. These are long days, my friends.

(Post 322 of 365)

Tiny Triumph

[Photo of naked toddler with fairy wings decorating Christmas tree.]

Isn’t it magical? A naked Christmas faerie appeared this morning and rearranged the ornaments on the tree. Later in the afternoon we cut paper snowflakes. And between those two short-lived activities, we potty-trained. Which looked mostly like this:

[Photo of child in high chair with hand raised, tearfully expressing the word “no.”]

Potty-training the resistance, an utterly exhausting process that requires equal parts enthusiasm and patience. But we did it. We had that triumphant moment when she initiated the potty before the timer went off, and she did it! Cheering and high-fives and stickers and smiles. That was our win for the day. I wanted to write about Lucia Berlin, but that will have to wait until tomorrow (because a migraine is now taking over.)

Goodnight, sweet readers. Sleep well.

(Post 320 of 365)

Make Something, Anything


First, put down your phone. Forget the torrent of bad news on Twitter, the cabinet of deplorables. Forget that the car died and the auto shop resurrected it and then it died again. Sit down on the floor with your child and build something. She will knock it over. Keep building. The cat will plop himself in the middle. Build around him. Realize you’re out of diapers, but have a bag of pull-ups. Coax the potty-resistant toddler to the potty. Make it fun! Get some books. Cajole, cheer. Be gentle. Set the timer to 15 minutes with a delightful ring called “Twinkle.” Think, positive associations. Think, be inventive! Remember that you have drinking straws in a drawer in the kitchen. Create a game, a magic trick. Can you make the water disappear by drinking from the straw? Cajole. Cheer! Per toddler’s request, slice half an apple. Renew your commitment to limited screen time. Declare a meaningless warning, only 15 more minutes of Caillou. Note the Twinkle timer. Use a joyful voice to announce, it’s time! Drag the limp-limbed toddler by her arms while she cries, then laughs, and eventually sits on the potty. Read more books. Make it fun! What animal likes apples? The horse, yes, the horse! Note the dust and hair collecting on the floor behind the sink. Get the bottle of diluted bleach, get down on your hands and knees, and scrub the floor. There, an accomplishment. Make a potty chart with stickers. Turn off Caillou and endure a 10-minute tantrum. Bring the felt board into the living room. Coax. Cajole. Try to sit at the table for a moment and write (ha!). Try the make-water-disappear-with-a-straw magic trick again. Coax. Cajole. Breathe. Sit in front of the felt board and pull out the tree-shaped piece of felt. Place a red circle near the tree and claim it’s an apple. Watch the toddler grab it and declare, No, it’s not an apple! It’s a red circle. Acquiesce with a sigh. You have no argument. Twinkle timer. Coax. Cajole. Find a new book to read. Please stop touching your bottom. Try to keep the edge from your voice. Be gentle. Admire your freshly bleached bathroom. Note the sun rising higher in the sky. It’s 9:00 a.m. You’ve been at this for 2 hours, eight 15-minute increments. Note this is how big things are accomplished, in tiny increments. Endurance is key. Your husband returns home from running errands and takes the toddler for a walk. You sit down to write this. You are interrupted by the friend delivering a cord of wood. By the toddler home from the walk, demanding TV. You swallow frustration. You accept that there will forever be forces running counter to your mission. You wonder why you bother. But deep down, you know it counts. You renew your commitment to remain Twitter-free, news-free for 24 hours. Mental health is key. You will stop consuming. Start creating. You will make something, anything.

(Post 304 of 365)