Monthly Archives: June 2010


Hic….                Hic….                Hic…
I most strenuously object. 
Shouldn't motherhood automatically grant women immunity from things like hiccoughs, acne and pink-eye?
Next thing you know, I'll be wetting my pants and having my food pureed. 
It is, however, Friday, and that has to count for something. 

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I distinctly remember vowing that I would never, ever, ever provide 24 hour childcare again. 
I have had three days to remember why. 72 hours straight. 
That's not true; I nodded off for a few moments while I was feeding a munchkin this morning. 
Five children under five–in addition to my own six–after the regulars go home. 
Complete mental and physical exhaustion. Bone weary, muscles pleading, soles aching, back breaking exhaustion. Just like I remember it.  Except not
Where is the emotional collapse that typically accompanies extended sleep deprivation? The ill-concealed irritability and snarling, even?
Strange. And completely unmerited. I'm trying to pinpoint the difference.
When I was fifteen years old I was riding shotgun, without my seatbelt, in my neighbor's Ford van. 
We never saw the Jeep coming. 
Just wham! into the post of the door beside my seat.

I'll never forget the sound when it struck. A sound that reached into the neighborhood down all four compass points from the intersection and brought every homeowner out at a dead run. It picked up that van and sent us tumbling roof over wheels across the blacktop. I think the sound was still going when the onlookers started in with pry bars to break us free of our prison.
Incredible noise.
And me, inside of it. 
Maybe you don't believe in miracles. Maybe you've prayed for relief or protection or an answer and you didn't think God was listening because the desired blessing never came. 
But I was inside that noise. 
I was sitting, upright in my seat when the Jeep struck, and I was sitting upright in the middle of that noise while the entire mass of twisting, shrieking metal spun around me. Glass, metal, sky. 
And I was sitting upright when the noise gave way to silence.  The seat somewhere above me, and my forearms trembling, but my hands in my lap and my skirt still tucked neatly around my knees.
My neighbor looked up at me and we laughed because we were alive and the world was sideways. I was sitting on her hip, with my feet out her shattered window.
They say her fastened seatbelt saved her life, and my unfastened one saved mine. But I knew better. Because while the van and the noise and my generously-sized neighbor spun around me, it wasn't a seatbelt, undone, that cradled me there, in the eye of a maelstrom of metal and glass, and set me down again, safely, when it was over.
I walked away from that accident. Literally. Ten blocks South, and three blocks East, home. The ambulance crew, when they finally tracked me down, did not approve. But the follow-up at the ER confirmed what I already knew–that nothing broke through that eye of protection to touch me.
That's what I feel like, this week. 
Sixteen hours of relentless cacophony gave way to silence about ten minutes ago and I find myself, still upright and my ankles crossed. 
Minimally shaken. 
Writing, for heaven's sake. When I should be sleeping. The little hellions could awake at any moment. 
Come to think of it… maybe I have lost it…

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My parents play Scrabble.
I know. Really, do I have to tell you much more about my childhood?
The other night they were playing it with friends and my father played the word "vox". Immediately great potests ensued. No proper nouns and such allowed. 
But guess what? He was right; vox is indeed a word. Latin for voice, and included in the official scrabble dictionary. 
Yes, they own a scrabble dictionary. 
And the entire OED. 
As in, a hard copies, on their living room shelf. Or somewhere. 
They literally have books and words in every room of their house. When I was a child my mother would bring home crates of books discarded from the library and the schools. 
Every once in a while, when I thought I had read every book we had a dozen times already, I would take them all off again, organize them by height, width, subject matter, and restock the shelves. We had bookshelves down the halls, in the living room and blocking off one entrance to the kitchen. Books on the couch, by our beds, on the countertops and under one arm. 
And newspaper clippings and random quotes scrawled on lined and white and every color of paper. Words on the walls and taped to the fridge and the mirrors in the bathrooms. Really important ones on the wall right in front of the toilet. Filing cabinets full of them.

I noticed that now she has dry erase boards, too.
Do you think that our voices are truly our own? That any part of them exists as something other than a subconscious mash-up of every other voice we've ever experienced? 
I feel like me. I think this is my voice. 
But every time I read Jane Eyre or War and Peace or Dante, I am startled to find constructions I thought were my own. Perhaps this vox is more accurately a mentalcuisinart, than a maytag. 
Not that that's a bad thing. Can you imagine what I'd be writing right now if my parents had primarily stocked the shelves with the ilk of, say, Gary Larson?
Yeesh. Although…I might be funnier.
Is that a word? Under what stack of books did I leave that dictionary…

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Come Thou Fount

Last Sunday a young mother stood a few feet back from the pulpit, her hands clasped behind her back. 
I've never met the girl, but I know her mother-in-law and I've seen her around the chapel and neighborhood with her boys. She seems nice enough. You know the type.
The pianist began to play, and then she opened her mouth. 
Yeesh. It was amazing
It probably helped that she was singing one of my favorite songs, but still. 

This is the closest rendition I could find on YouTube: (I'm not really sure who put together the visuals; some of them don't make much sense–but this is the song she sang.)

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Three-Legged Solution

Springsteen still has me thinking.

When she feels like crying, she starts laughing, thinking about glory days”

I don’t envy the people in this song; I didn’t envy them in grade school or high school or college.

Not that I have a regrettable past; I probably wouldn’t even change anything, given the chance.  But neither would I voluntarily relive a moment of it. Not one day, let alone days–and it doesn’t have a laugh track.

And so I am asking myself: when I’m old, kicking back, as Freedom said, what sort of track will my life hold, and what will make me view it with satisfaction?

I used to say that I could imagine nothing greater than knowing that  my children grew up to be decent human beings, but that’s a knee-jerk reaction; the obvious, easy answer. Because honestly, it isn’t enough for me to hedge my bets on the integrity of somebody else’s actions, now or in the future.  So what is?

This morning at four-thirty, when the sun was up, but not up, and the neighborhood dogs were still prowling, I was accosted, as usual, by my neighbor’s three legged mutt. Snarling, nipping at my shins and barking himself hoarse all the way down the block.

I have to tell you, running the gauntlet every morning is getting old.

On my way back, I kept my eye out for a really big stick.  Not finding one, I settled on two large rocks. One in each hand.

And then I felt ashamed of myself for gearing myself up to do battle with a three-legged dog. 

But for heaven’s sake–you can’t expect me to walk around my own neighborhood with my heart in my throat can you? I mean—the irresponsibility of some…

The stillness of the morning was torn completely ragged by the grey orbs of violence I held in my palms. And no matter how many of my neighbor’s faults, or those of his dog, I listed, the break remained unmended.

Well, what am I supposed to do? I asked the morning muses. Let him bite me?

Well…what if he did?

I hate it when they talk back like that.

They. Like I have voices in my head, right? I prefer to call him God.

How would I feed my family, if I were injured? I asked.

And he asked me if I have ever, ever needed for one thing. If I have ever walked even one day of my path alone.

Well… No.

And then he asked what I feared more—a three-legged dog or my own face in the mirror every morning?

I dropped the rocks. 

One at a time.

I’m not saying the need for a few well-aimed rocks will never arise.

But I realized that if I considered the genuine me and not the distracted, instantaneous reaction that compelled me to pick up the rocks, I was not truly frightened. Not today, not ever. Not of the dog. Not of my own weaknesses, not of anything  the future might send my way.

I don't actually live by fear, not when I'm thinking in real time and living each moment, and connecting with that voice of assurance at my core.

Which is when it occurred to me that the best days of my life are those in which I walk with absolute confidence—not on a path that is breathtakingly beautiful, or perfectly timed, or even free of trouble, but one where the steps I’m taking and the items I hold in my palms are things of my own, conscious choosing.

And that feels enough, for now.

Glory days. In the blink of a young girl's eye? I don't think so. 

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Warm (green) Fuzzies

In honor of the first day of summer vacation, my youngest children got up with the sun. 
Actually, they didn't. The sun gets up at four, and they were not. 
(I was, and I really, really wish I had taken my camera out with me. The mountains were magnificent. Yes. Mountains. You could see them from Moses Lake. The air was so clear it was as if the western side of the state had lifted up and bent towards us, just a little bit, to meet the morning sun.)
The kidlets were up shortly thereafter, waiting for something exciting to happen. 
It is summer, after all.
Why waste a moment of it in bed?!
I did my motherly duty and crushed their hopes and dreams with the revelation that before they did anything else they had to 1) do a job, and 2) write a paragraph in their journals. 
Oh that I were as organized as Freedom Smith, but alas, this was as far as my iron fist extended. 
I also paid my youngest to write lines. 
His handwriting is atrocious
I figured that out when I emptied his backpack and found his homework binder. Apparently something spilled in the depths there some time ago. 
Like maybe at Christmas. 
The binder was molded shut.

And when I say mold, I mean the mottled black and green, fuzzy type. After I pried the thing open I found his reading log–the last entry is dated October first. And various incomplete reading assignments.
Mother of the year award–that's me.
The kid can read. We just never get around to recording it. It's the reading that's important, right?

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Glory Days

I'm sitting at the far end of the Lowes parking lot, parked between an SUV and a little red car. Bruce Springsteen is on the radio singing about glory days and the clouds look close enough to touch. They are dark and heavy and wet. I can smell the rain with my windows rolled up.
I figure the cars out here belong to employees; nobody in their right mind would park this far from the entrance. 
Which is why I'm here.
I haven't gone into the store, and I don't plan to. I just want to sit here. 
In a town this size, there isn't much space for anonymity. Someone you know is always at the other end of the aisle, a few heads down the line, waving at you across the intersection while you wait for a green light. 
And I don't feel like waving.
It occurs to me that I don't know what Springsteen is talking about.  
It occurs to me that I never had any glory days.
That I'm still waiting, thinking about–glory days. 

That I've been enduring my entire life: just one more month of school, two more weeks of summer, one more year to graduation, six more weeks until the baby is born or the toddler is trained or the van is paid off or the grass to come in. 

Glory days. 
What would they consist of–and will I recognize them?

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No More Excuses

Tell me if this doesn't look like a recipe for disaster:

Okay, I don't know if there were actually five hundred. But picture this crowd, all the way around the lake, both directions. All of them with actual fishhooks on their lines. I can't believe nobody got (seriously) hurt.
I took my youngest to the annual kid's fish-in:
For five bucks, you can take your kid to this thing. They give you a shirt, a fishing rod (to keep) and you can catch two fish. They'll take your picture:

And even clean them for you. Which you didn't actually have to watch if you positioned your fingers just right:
We fished, we cooked, we ate, we now have a favorite shirt. 
I had to wash it that night so he could wear it again, the next day. 
And now we own a fishing rod. 

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Sharks in Heaven

Dear Neighborhood,
Had one of those days. Maybe weekends.
Where you just feel like a terrible_____________. Fill in the blank with every role you can imagine you are/should/could be.
And then I came home to this email from the Query Shark. (She's a NYC literary agent who also blogs about successful query letters–and not so successful.) 
I haven't sent out a query letter to many firms. But I did get a rejection letter once. So, I sent my letter to the Shark for shredding, on the off-chance that it would surface and maybe she could point out my failings. 
I think I've died and gone to heaven. Who knew there would be sharks there?

I so needed this today:

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When You Run Out of Cigarette Money…

"Mom–is that first aid kit still in the van?"
"I think so–look under your seat."
Over the radio I hear them rummage around, pull out our vehicle first aid kit and pass it to the boys in the back seat. They are looking for a band-aid just the right size for a killer blister.
My thirteen year old mutters, "What's Kotex?"
After a pregnant pause, my eight year old says, "I think they are cigarettes."
At which point my daughter and I (images of an 8 year old attempting to light up a Kotex bursting upon the mental stage) can no longer breathe or even see straight because we are laughing so hard. 
The men and boys in the car either don't notice, or pretend they don't notice; not one even cracks a smile. Which makes us laugh harder. 
(And no–I did not seize the day and explain to the kid what they really were!)

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