Wednesday, December 2, 2009


We were three of us at the start. We rang in the New Year with home-made hats. A brand new tiny baby boy (who was not, actually, all that small.) My sister had just adopted two daughters - six and eight, from Khazakstan. We were in a loft with painted harlequin concrete floors, giant drafty windows, and a cat that wouldn't come down from the overhead pipes.

We left the nineties, the loft, the extended family. We moved to New York. We added a nanny and new jobs. Graduate school. Towers fell. Another baby came. Taxis were hailed, umbrellas were spun inside-out in lower Manhattan wind-tunnels. I counted rats and listened to impossibly clear music with the stunning acoustics of subway stations. I learned something of bonuses, and something of crawling on my hands and knees for one more quarter for laundry loads.

We moved to Florida. We had another, decidedly final, baby. We were sand and salt and sparkly things. The Baby Bjorn, jog stroller, crib, and Avent bottles were dusted off and then retired. Hurricanes came. We lived out our thirties and returned to Georgia to each turn, implausibly and prematurely, forty.

This decade, we added cable and iPods and laptops and cell phones. We started carless and rode cabs, subways, trains, planes, buses, boats. We visited islands at either end of the decade - in the Caribbean at the start, British isles toward the end. We lived in three states, four moves. We went from the potential of family to a Family. With suppertime and homework and school dress codes and "go team" and "go outside!" and "go to your room."

Babies spit up sat up and stood up and learned to walk and then ran and talked learned to read and told jokes and did multiplication tables and wrote reports and begged for more time on their DS games. They cry less, they shout more. They laugh and they love and they try to believe in Elves and Santa and tooth faeries.

I attended three funerals and two births. I gave many, many baby gifts - and know dozens and dozens of fully-formed humans that didn't exist in 1999.

We watched the young senator on TV. I said "that is the next president." He said, with the authority and certainty that I know and love, "no way. Too green. Too black. We aren't ready. He isn't ready." And four years later - he was, he is. And we don't yet know what the reach of that is - but I am heartened by the fact that my children find it not a bit strange.

We are still fighting the same war. We've noticed the change in the weather, and we are talking about organic and local and reducing carbon footprints. We are paying down credit cards and know no one still getting real-estate rich.

We are defined by what we lost - in resources, in finances, in faith, in lives - and by what we have gained - in politicians, and expanded worldviews and tolerance and lives. We are prepared, really, for nothing. And we pray, futilely, that those unpredictable events and impacts will be soft and swift and enjoyable. That we will be spared tragedies, personal and global. That we will be kind, and generous, and peace-loving and patient and considerate.

For us, this last decade was about moving and changing and adapting and defining.

When this decade ends, Sebastian will no longer be a teenager. Patrick will be learning to drive. Annabeth will be in the middle of the college application process. We will be in our fifties.

A decade is a really long time. And, as observed by everyone who has lived through more than three of them, they pass at an unfathomably fast clip.

From here, we have no idea what that will look like. But we know - the two of us, the five of us - more than any other decade before - who we are doing it all for. We know that much.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


"All I want for Christmas is an airsoft rifle and an iTouch," said my 10-next-week son, Sebastian.

"Well, you'll be disappointed, then."

"How do you know that? How do you know what Santa will give me?" He said, voice laced with cynicism.

"I just know. And I will make it known. That assault-weapon-looking guns are not, nor will they ever be, welcome in this house."

Silence. Maybe tense. But quiet, as Sebastian tries to find a come-back, or, no doubt, a defense for his wishes.

Patrick, 5-years-old-next-week joins the conversation. Softly.

"What I would like to ask Santa for? .... Is a machine. ....A machine that could make you one or two. Whenever you went in it. Like a baby.

I would like that."


"Because I would like very much for you to carry me like that again."


"Oh, pPod. That would be nice."


"Yeah," he said, wistfully, "it really would."

(We lived in Florida. There was a hurricane. He bathed in pool water. In a bucket. It was chilly. He was, and is, unflappable.)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Agatha and I led our Sunday school class this week in an exercise about gratitude. We first talked through prayer types again: intercession, contrition, gratitude - then zeroed in on gratitude. Being the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the progression was organic.

To clarify, I am woefully unqualified to teach Sunday school. There are flaws in my religious views, holes in my 'wisdom' and practice.

I have problems with the literal nature of our curriculum. I greet Old Testament stories with skepticism. When teaching that Adam and Eve's Cain and Seth go on to populate the world... presumably with the help of "Mrs. Cain and Mrs. Seth-" I want to know who the women were. Where they came from.

In story after story here is violence and trickery and pettiness with catastrophic consequences - and often rewards. And God is very direct in His communications with the People.

I struggle with it - existing, as I do, in a world where God is far more vague - even in his omnipresence.

I am not good with prayers of intercession. I can't quite give myself over into believing the magic fairy dust element of it - the conceit that I get something, or something is all better, because I am a Good Christian, and I asked - fervently, with an open heart. I know too many better Christians with real problems - sickness, death, crisis, debt.

So I ask God to help give me more faith, or patience, or the ability to observe and find the Good in Bad. I ask for strength, for shoring up. And for more of that patience.

I do OK with penance. I can always admit to a screw-up. And I collect them. Though this Sunday, as we talked through this idea of prayer with the four kids that showed up, I tripped a little on "penance," stopped myself from giving a concrete example.

My son wasn't in class. He got left at home after an epic battle with me that resulted with him, in his room, while others went to church. The bad part was what came before, when I let him push all my buttons - and good robot that I am - I short-circuited in just the way intended. I spent time on penance after that one.

Contrition fuels itself, if you fancy yourself a prayer, and have a conscience.

I have my own religious tenets - things I hold myself to - that give me ample opportunity to fail in small ways, or to fail outright in larger ways.

My grandfather was a farmer. He worked hard, and he was quiet, and humble and Competent in all things. I never knew where he stood with Catholicism specifically, but he went to church every Sunday. He only went to communion when he had gone to confession. Twice a year, I believe. I could never imagine what Grandpa possibly had to confess. And I would try to imagine.

Away from the natural rhythms of the farm, my sins are many. In modern suburbia, there are no consequences for life sloppily lead - for laziness, for unpreparedness, for not reading the seasons or canning when the vegetables are fresh. This is the basis for my guilt, for the religion in my head, for the touchy relationship I have with God, for my awareness of how much I do wrong.

Things for which I kick myself regularly for my own hypocritical approach: I am sure that God would prefer I never stay inside on a sunny day, don't waste food, that I am active in my role as shepherd of the earth, avoid sinful meat not raised humanely, never scream at people smaller than me, don't fritter away time, maximize my gifts. Care for those who have less. Stay aware of injustice in the world. When I fail, I can't quite ask Grandpa to intercede on my behalf - because they are not mistakes he would have made.

And I willfully forget, sometimes, to seek absolution for these daily failings.

But gratitude...that one I can do.

My default is, generally, contentment. Hormone-laced-beef-eating, shouting, time-wasting contentment. I look around and I notice: I am well fed. I have a roof. I have beautiful, healthy, fascinating children. I genuinely love and enjoy my husband. I have extended family and far-flung friends and am estranged from no one. I have a car that runs, and two crazy cats. I can read and I can write. I catch my breath looking out at a great view or looking deeply into the intricacies of a single, perfect fall leaf. I know, intellectually, that from bad eventually comes good, and by strokes of luck in timing, geography and birth, no real bad has ever befallen me. And I am grateful for that, too. For the work of my grandfather that got us all to here.

And on Sunday, I sit in the pew and I try to keep children (those I bring) still and relatively engaged. I breathe deep and I tune in and out of the homily. I sing the hymns. And I give thanks. And I find, invariably, I have lots and lots of thanks to give. And this, in itself, is a blessing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I get stuck in-between. I am there now. Stalled. Needing to plan birthday parties and look for a job and face the holidays and make arrangements for spring break. I have to fight the thing inside that whispers that I can rest now. That it's enough that I applied for jobs, went on interviews, talked about birthdays.

Whole days can go by - in which nothing significant seemed to occur. Kids were fed and collected and bedded and some work got done - but nothing Solid.

On those days, there are massive lists of to do's I can't be bothered to write. And I'm stuck.

And the house is still a cluttered mess. And years into the need, I still don't have a couch. Or window treatments.

Two chairs fell off our deck this weekend - a cat was to blame, ultimately. But they broke. They hit no one on the head, which is good. But there they are. Around my table. And I have to wonder, idly, how long they will stay there. Especially given that you can still sit on them, just avoid the splintery parts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The hat says "APD."

He is holding a flashlight and a "soda pop."

On his (vivid pink) belt is a radio and a billy club.

He needs a shave.

He works for the Atlanta Police Department.

He is my son. And I am proud.

He was given this cutout of this guy, told to make it into him and to assign a career path. The design is all him - exuberant 4-almost-5 YO him.

Not sure which I like best: the orange shoes, the pink belt, or the purple collar.

As legend has it (it was before me), APD turned down my former-marine, recent University of Chicago grad husband on some sort of grounds not entirely memorable (or, for that matter, clear.) No way will they be able to resist pPod. No way.

This guy is made to apprehend criminals, maintain public order, and detect crime. I feel safer just looking at him.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Seaglass. Shells. Bleach-white coral branches. Treasures under your feet, gifts for dropping by.

In far-off rural Connecticut, Mom has thousands of these, sorted according to size and shape and color. Mine are in jars, in lamps, in bottles. I have a table scattered with sea-worn conchs on my back deck. I can't sit down without handling one.

I pick through shells within reach. Wonder what beach, where. Sometimes I know - the ones on the plate, by my sink in my bathroom are from Thailand, and Scotland. Reminders that I have traveled, that I will travel.

The tides ebb and flow and the bigness reassures. The view changes by sea, by vantage point, and by season. Sometimes silver, gray, black, and every shade of blue and green.

Those tides transform the sharp, dangerous, glinting bits of broken. The rougher the tides, the sooner the patient work is done. Tumbling across the ocean floor, glass shards are blunted and matted. Bright, flashing threatening - they become soft. Harder to see. Jewel-like and gentle.

The ocean is the only place that soothes my sharper edges, too. 'Place' is so general that I am not entirely discouraged. This 'place' that spans the periphery. A 'there' that can be hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of miles away.

For shorter, luckier spans, it is the distance of a bike ride, or a window.

I lived near the beach as kid - from 11 to 19. I snorkeled and was mesmerized at the bright, busy world out of view. Each date ended with a walk on the beach, at my insistence. My nervous chatter would cease, and I could affect stillness.

Mom bought time shares, and almost all time was spent on beach vacations. Different beaches, different weeks. An investment that made sense - that bought us ocean views, salt, sea glass, shells.

Back home, I kept a towel in my trunk. I would sometimes go after school, after band, and watch the sun set, alone - when I did so little alone by choice back then. Dateless nights, Tica and I would get ice cream and walk - and chat, and sit.

As an adult, we lived as a family, for four years, a few miles from the beach, a few years back. I could raise my head and smell salt on the air. I could breathe it, thick, on hot days. Closer in, I could taste it on my tongue, on my skin. I could brush the sand out of toddlers' hair. Slather sun protection onto fat little legs. Dig holes, bury limbs, watch kite surfers, envy sandpipers their quick feet.

With Jim and Lisa, we rode tentatively or enthusiastically on the back of the waverunner - exploring further. Visiting sea turtles and dolphins. Learning, intimately, the limits of the waves.

My pinkest, blondest, busiest baby was born a few miles from the ocean. His arrival meant tents and layers and lotions and pack-n-plays. Unwieldy things that interrupted my fandango notion of what beach visits were "supposed" to be.

We hauled stuff, set up camp, chased and watched, slathered and brushed off. Baby powder removes sand from chubby thighs, and even the most stubborn baby only eats a full handful of sand once or twice. We would move him under the umbrella, under the umbrella, under the umbrella - hand him trucks and shovels and grovel for him to STAY under the umbrella. Stillness was not a part.

We went on dates, some, the Big One and I. And like their precursors years before, those dates ended looking at the ocean. We would sit in commandeered lounge chairs, or I would lean against his sturdy, anchored frame. The top of the sand still warm from the day, toes digging to cooler layers. We would solve things. Or forget there were things to solve.

Feeling shardy of late. I could use some softening - some wave-tumbles, a dose of salt, some sand for my edges.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Zombie didn't really believe I was going to pull it off, but had a football game to attend Friday night, so wasn't sticking around to find out.

I went, with the soon-to-be-witch and the erstwhile cowboy, to that final Walmart run (*shudder*) and the Junior League Thrift Store remarkably sturdy grunge-wear run. The Zombie rolled in the mud and destroyed, enthusiastically, the circa 1992 flannel shirt and gray cords that were just glad to be put back in circulation in any capacity.

The Zombie had to be coached to stay off the couch at the friend's who was kind enough to host football -pizza - cocktails before. The Zombie's mud, while dry, was not entirely embedded. Nor was the Zombie's face, for that matter.

The Witch's tutu was more sheer than we counted on, and got a little tangly. But went well with striped tights purchased years earlier for her brother's alien costume (it was an ill-considered detail, saved for later. Used here.) The shoes aren't showing, but are silver glitter flats. She is the Wicked Witch of the West re-imagined. Not, as her uncle suggested, Mae West.

pPod was a pirate all day at school on Friday, and in the afternoon on Saturday, and changed into cowboy for Saturday night. His boots came. And were promptly put on the wrong feet. By me. And fixed. By a neighbor (who assumed he had done it himself - and found it very funny that, in fact, he had not. She does not - it should be noted - have children.) He was coached not to point the capgun at anyone - including himself, after he and Sebastian answered the door for a very shy butterfly (ghoul, plus little brother with gun in his ear. She will be no less shy next year, we can assume.)

There was football, there were friends, and there was loads and loads of candy. Pretty much perfect in every way that could matter.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


That's my brother.

Left to right: A vampire, natch. A ghostly ninja thing with a circle around one eye, natch. A menacing candle, natch. A fisherman. A possibly insane and decidedly girly clown. And a pirate. In the original Puffy Shirt.

An ad exec and dashingly handsome father of three, Halloween was once his best outlet for creative expression. I think reader, you will agree, he rocked it.

Giggling forth out of our house, empty pillow cases in hand, eyes twinkling and fingers itching for loot... in my house, we follow the tradition of my family of origin.

I have had a pirate, a fairy princess, Frankenstein, a hula girl, and Paddington. I sewed mylar, horribly unsuccessfully, for an alien tunic. I had a self-unravelling mummy in tea-died old sheets torn into strips, a dinosaur princess (we were hurricane refugees! I grabbed my son's old dino costume and a tiara before we fled north for water and electricity...), and a high-concept red crab.

I wait longer than I should, survey the available odds and ends, and create. From the costume bin in the garage: packed to the brim with Salvation Army finds. (My sister Lisa's best Christmas gift for my Littles, years ago.) I make runs for bits from party stores, from Walmart. Foam core is often involved. Glitter.

We have never had a recognizable character. They each asked maybe once - and then it didn't come up again. Likely due to my vehement response. And some years, these decidedly home-made costumes often cost far more than their $15 Walmart alternatives.

I do this (and yes, this breed of insanity is all mine. The Littles would be fine with store bought. And the Big One would not mind opting out of the extra drama)...partly, I think, because it adds to a 'colorful' childhood to walk through someone else's neighborhood in longjohns while yards of old sheets trail behind you. Partly, too, for the 'fun' of it - the transformation of near-useless bits into something that almost makes sense. Largely, I have to admit, for the people opening doors and exclaiming with incredulity, "you MADE this??" (Not that it isn't obvious. It is.)

But mostly, I think, in homage to Mom. A celebration of creativity, of adaptability, of a little magic. It's because I like messing with face paints, too. And I like the fact that we have no idea what this stuff will look like until it's done.

In my memory, Mom (who sews beautifully) made brilliant and complex hand-sewn creations. Every year is like it was in 1973, when abandoned Mom still had something to prove. We were Little Red Riding Hood, and we won the town contest. I was Little Red, my sister was the Big Bad Wolf (in a saucy leotard with a big plush tail and earred hood), my brother was the Woodcutter, and my other sister was the Forest. (A tree. Why, you might ask, was she not the Grandmother? She's a chronic over-achiever. She had a vision. And she liked trees, a lot. Or at least that's my guess about how it went. But it's equally possible that we were just weird enough that 'Grandma' didn't even occur to her.)

The reality was somewhat less cohesive. Mom encouraged us to make our own costumes. She would help, and resources were limited. But what we wanted to be, we could be. She encouraged, she assisted - but she didn't drive the process. And flat-felled seams were not involved.

There was the year that Tom was a candle, and Terry a Television Set. Made from a box. With a message on the screen that said something like "Please give to my UNICEF box so that children who have no Halloween can also share in our Good Fortune." (Tree sister, of course.) Whatever Lisa and I were, we paled in comparison. I mean, a candle and a purely altruistic TV set?

Over the years, the four of us headed out. We were clowns and gypsies and every animal that could be made with a stocking mask, a leotard, and a tail. One year, I wore a long dress and a "real" tiara borrowed from my friend who was a little pageant star. She reminded me that with my brown hair I wouldn't be convincing (she had blond curls), but I still felt almost pretty for the whole night.

There is magic in all of it. And while I know I am making work, inventing hassle, and creating a wee bit of unnecessary strife... we're doing it again this year. There will be a witch of sorts, in a tutu. A cowboy, with eBay boots we're hoping come in time. There will be a zombie, though I have made clear that there will be no visible evidence of brain-snacking.

We will all be a little frantic. Maybe more than a little. Tonight I will assemble costumes and make that last Walmart run. And there will be fun. Hard won. The best kind.

And next year? I may break down...

...and let Sebastian be a candle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I am, I admit, a commitment-phobe. To a weird degree, possibly to a pathological degree. Having never sought psychoanalysis, I don't know its deeper roots - but they are there.

I plan, in a work-required-occasional-Gantt-chart kinda way. But I don't plan in a save-for-the-future, make-plans-for-next-year's vacation now, get-good-grades-to-go-to-college, do-laundry-on-Tuesdays, yes-I-can-bring-a-dish-to-next-month's-dinner way.

I don't obligate myself to school projects in advance, I don't organize the group outings, and I have run out of gas and stood by the side of the road often. I am late for appointments and I have chased my children down countless times after the startling realization that it is (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) and so they need their (leotard, trumpet, check for so and so).

But I recognize that I should commit. I should plan. I should pay attention and life works better when I fully engage. I recognize that therein lie so many of my problems. And I know - and not only because I have written about it for fitness and 'leadership' websites, for sales materials and business proposals - that accountability is the key to so much success.

This is all I have: my imaginary support group in my head, and my 7 or so regular readers (you!).

Here I am. I am standing up. I am me: and I have a commitment problem.

So. When a friend (Dyana Valentine!) sent me her video newsletter declaring this the month for 40 days of her, and in it (every day for the first twenty days) there was an appeal to pick something, anything, and claim 40 days of a better you... I finally relented. For half. Half seemed manageable.

I dropped a note. I said that I would, as my commitment, work out - with intent - daily, for the 21 days remaining of the challenge.

I made it day 1 (boot camp) day 2 (a run) day 3 (boot camp) day 4 (every single time I walked back up the hill to get something for one of my children during the soccer game I fully engaged my quads AND my core. Surely that counts, right?) Today... day 5. Sunday. A cold, lazy, churchy, errandy, Sunday.

Post-church, I fought the Littles through mandatory shopping - Bass' pants all show ankles and there is a freeze due tonight.

We were inside, in Sears, in Lands End - on the first sunny day in (gaak! who knows how many. Just shy of forty, I think. God is clearly mad at Atlanta,though not-quite-ark mad. It has seemed close.) Gavin was at football, and the three were all more hyper than I preferred. That led, as it does, to my inevitable hyperbolic lecture on the way home (about The One thing I do, parent, that is based entirely on instinct, and yet I Fail because My Children Cannot Behave. . You Want Me to Fail. That lecture. It is at least as painful as it sounds - but don't worry. They don't hear a word of it.)

I got home, and considered sending them away until morning and then remembered Dyana. And the commitment. And my new music .

So I sucked it up. Swallowed my anger (softer now, since the Big One had returned from football). Then challenged them to a run. And they took it.

7 and 9, they kept up. Crazily. Arms waving, weaving around my legs. Annabeth in Crocs - and inexpicably, her better coat. Sebastian in summerwear and the hoodie that "finally" makes him look like "all the other kids" in the fourth grade. For two-plus miles they laughed. And we danced. And we moved. And we moved fast.

And so tonight, in addition to the tired sense of accomplishment that comes from a run, and the (literal) strides toward dropping the 5 pounds gained on my 'last hurrah' business trip for the company that has so recently rejected me... in addition to that, I made up with my Littles. I laughed. And I took a few steps further into that commitment.

For days down, sixteen to go.

And I'm off.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


He showed it to me while I was on the phone. Opened his hand, and there it was.

"I caught her."

He's almost 10. "She" was a bumblebee.

I thought to wonder why a bee, why his hand. Why holding, and how. But I was on the phone. We are nature people in this house, to the degree that our lifestyles afford it. We like creatures. It was pretty. I figured it was some species he had read about, that he identified as safe.

Later, I called him in from outside. He was sitting by the mailbox. On the ground. Dumbfounded "she stung me! She'll die. It hurts. It itches, too."

I said something like, "what did you think it would do?"

Later, I ribbed him further. Gave him a little grief about the bee, carrying it around like that. That just 'cuz it's furry doesn't make it a pet.

He said, "I found her on some plants at school. I carried her home on my shirt. I thought she was sick. She just stayed there. I talked to her. I told her I was going to make her better, but then she stung me. Now she will die. I killed her."

It was a leap of reasoning, a stumble of guilt.

"I thought, if she was sick, that maybe I couldn't make her better. That maybe she would have to be put out of her misery. And then? It looks like I killed her anyway. They can't live after they lose their stingers. I put her on a rose bush to die."

He sobbed. He lay his head on my lap and sobbed. That big, too-smart, eye-rolling, foot-stomping, put-upon boy broke down.

"Did she have a name?"

"Honey," his voice broke on the "-ney."

I thought of the old lady and the snake, the turtle and the scorpion. Those stories of the wounded and dangerous, made well, only to act out their nature.

He knew she was a bee when he brought her here.

"Maybe she knew, Bass. Maybe she wanted to thank you and offered her the only strong thing she had - the last bit of her 'voice.' She gave you her strength, so she could give up."

"You think so, Mom?"


Monday, October 5, 2009


Something tells me that to be disciplined, and to have meaning here - to be followed, to be watched to be read...I have to write something.

Mostly, I write what moves me, I write "what matters," and the topics are things that flood in at some point - idle thoughts that I hear myself shape into something else - so I add them here.

Right now, today, these days of late - nothing is striking me. And I know it isn't that nothing matters - it's that my vision is a little clouded with the one-two punch of unknowns and niggling fears.

In the scheme of things - the grander scheme - I know I am being shaken awake.

I took on, in my work, things so grossly not suited to me that they overshadowed the parts I did well, and enjoyed. The wrong bits accelerated the inevitable, and I lost my job.

I am certain I am learning from this. And I am certain there is work out there to be done that I will do better.

It is my responsibility right now to stay positive. To perk up, to take the steps I need for the Next Thing and to make home life, and writing life work.

I need to be nicer to my Littles, to engage sooner and more fully. I need to look for a job, certainly, but the search can be far less stress-inducing than was the job, if I let it.

As Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, I know for certain-sure that rolling around in the muck of it will not improve one itty bitty thing.

Telling myself I had that in mind, I skipped a dinner last night with a steady, gentle group of friends who would have asked questions and added kind support. I wasn't in the mood. I didn't want to talk about me - because I say too much. And it bores me right now.

And in retrospect, I know - of course I know - that I traded on the good bits of the evening, and the wine, the perfect mashed potatoes, and the laughter that also would have come. Because I wanted a little wallow and some navel-gazing. Alone.

Enough of that.

People around me help. And I will let them. And I will leave my belly-button as often as possible to glean knowledge and reach for different perspectives.

So. As Agatha (the glue of the aforementioned group) says, quoting a friend of hers (who's prominent husband had died) - no pats, please.

As Doris advised, I will take my occasional medicinal tequila shots. Only the good stuff. And I will find room and reason to laugh with my littles while no work to-do list looms.

As Ali advised, I will take the funded trip to Florida and I will breathe in salt and sun.

As Monsignor advised, I will send my resume far and wide.

And as pPod would advise - it is time to paint on my tiger face and try my hand at conquering.

I welcome - and request - any advice you may also have to add.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Feeling anxious lately - in a general way. It happens sometimes - these stretches where sleep is elusive and I get lost in self-navigating: do this, then do that, then do that. Mental checklists for even the simplest things.

It's nice when it's all more automatic. When the days flow, and nothing is a surprise. When there is order and predictability, a clean kitchen, no clutter, and a properly annotated calendar looked at days ahead of events, hours ahead of meetings. When plenty of sleep was had the night before, and the day started with fruit, and maybe egg whites.

It's fictional, mostly. Days like that. I have heard of them, and their Type A bearers. I crave them, even. I imagine them to be easier - a kind of mental blue sky bliss where there are clear routines, and some outcomes, at least, are predictable.

Wednesday, last week, I laid out Annabeth's Thursday clothes. That much, I do. It is me striving for order (and me harkening to a childhood full of paper dolls - and never knowing quite what you were supposed to do with Barbie after she had tried on every clothing combination in her mini wardrobe).

It happened that Daisies were on Thursday, so with her clothes I also laid out the mini IHOP apron with the unfinished flower ironed on in the middle. The flower center she got when her troop memorized the abridged version of the Girl Scout Promise. Nothing in there about being prepared - but it is implicit. Daisies are an add-on, an introductory troop. Pre-brownies, they are bright blue and optimistic. They earn their badges - flower petals - as a group.

The apron tunic thingy was rumpled because she had only just taken it out of her bookbag from the week before. This made me angry. I scolded her. Harshly. Responsibility and keeping things nice and a uniform and putting things away and blah and blah and she looked wounded.

"A lot of girls don't wear theirs. So I took it off."

"No. Not an option for you. It is a Uniform. You wear yours. I don't want to hear anything else about it."

The next morning, she put it on. Pressed. Over a pressed light blue shirt. Khaki bermuda shorts. Plaid tennies.

In the afternoon, I picked her up. At her request, I had let her go to after care after Daisies. She ran up to me. Apron-less.

"Annabeth...?" With a raised eyebrow.

"Mom, Daisies weren't today. Or last week either. Can't I just not wear it on Thursdays when there is no Daisies? No one else has to."



Two weeks in a row, I sent her to school in her irrelevant Daisy uniform. Twice, she had to save face alone. Feeling, no doubt, a little silly.

Like I felt, hearing it.

Daisies, I then learned (and no doubt had been explicitly told before - in person, via email, and on some printed something or another by the far more organized Daisy moms) are on the FIRST THURSDAY of every month.

And next Thursday? I will Be Prepared.

On my honor, I will try...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I welcome rain. The cleanse, the built-in excuse to rent a movie. The sound of it, the smell. The green of grass after the film of dry days has been rinsed.

I love obtrusive weather, in fact - when it's destructive and interesting. High winds, rain, snowstorms, hurricanes. The aftermath, the mess - changes to the landscape, alterations to expectations - sad -yes- and also fascinating. This sense of control we have, this false security - these plans we continue to make - outside. Knowing, as we do, that Weather might come and render those plans null, irrelevant.

Storms this week in Atlanta. Nonsensical storms, rain for days. Flooding. Ponds and lakes and rivers where there were puddles and gutters and trenches. Schools closed, businesses claimed. The flooding at once terrible but, again, interesting. I was afforded the luxury of watching it from a removed place - where the only affect on me is some mildly stir-crazy kids, a wet and confused cat, and some driving detours.

Until Agatha called today. Godmother to my first, Agatha is a motivator. She calls others to action. Through tears she told me that another friend, Dee, had her basement wall collapse yesterday. No flooding per se, but saturated ground that couldn't take it, a wall that couldn't take it, and suddenly her basement was rubble and georgia clay.

Dee quilts. I know her from years ago when I would do Habitat with some regularity - I was single and could offset my selfishness and mild debauchery with committed Saturdays with reliable friends and paint, hammers, laughter, and a little sweat. Dee was close to our chosen house leader, the one professional on the crew.

Through this connection, I knew her peripherally. I tried to know her better when several of my Habitat friends started spending their after-Habitat time quilting. I wanted to join them, and after asking many times, in various ways, finally figured out they didn't want me at their bee.

I was a little wounded. They were an inclusive group, but they had their reasons.

I thought I could quilt. I wanted to try. I was pregnant, and worried a little that if I didn't learn then, I may not get a chance.

My mother and grandmother quilted - and I loved the process - selecting fabric, patterns, laying them out. When I was sixteen they made me one at my grandmother's initial impulse to make them for all grandchildren starting with me. I picked it all - Laura Ashley pinks and greens and burgundy. Very eighties colors. Very considered. (Grandchildren after me got log cabin, no questions asked...)

Then, at the baby shower for my first born, the Habitat friends and quilters presented me with - a quilt.

They had been working for my baby.

A big, beautiful twin+ sized quilt. Too big for a crib. In watermelon and apple green and yellow - the colors of my nursery in our then loft. I was touched, and stunned, that people, some of whom I only knew tangentially, would make this for me. For my baby - not yet arrived.

I learned, much later, that Dee had joined "the quilting aunties" (as I referenced them to my toddler son, during prayers, under that same quilt) when she lost her son. The quilting became her therapy. Her tears, I thought, strengthened the threads, ensured that love worked all the way into the batting.

Flash ahead ten years: Agatha's call today was that, in the disaster that was the collapse of the basement wall, rubble claimed many of Dee's grandmother's quilts. Quilts that were now sopping wet and tinged clay-orange. Dee needed to find, she said, a laundromat with front loaders, to try to salvage them. To get them rinsed and spun out and air dried and rid of clay and water.

Not yet home, I turned my car around. I drove to Dee's. I took the bags of quilts. I went home. And I washed them (on delicate, in my front-loading washer) all day.

As each one (12 of them) came out of the dryer (on air dry) I touched them. I laid them out. I felt the piecework, and the stitches on top. The patterns of color, of shape, and then the shadow patterns on top - geometric and organic, colorful and white, patterned and solid. Quilts of many sizes. I laid one, fresh from the dryer, on pPod, at nap time.

Each quilt made by someone for someone. Each one stitched with love, with thought. Over the course of year, or two. While babies were born and grown ups died. Prayers and laughter and tears worked into the fabric. Each one. Decades ago, all of them.

Picnics had been eaten on these quilts. Love made, tears dried, babies warmed. Wrapped around some small person's shoulders to be capes. Draped over chairs as forts. Revered, now, as treasures. In the rubble that covered a lifetime's treasures - the quilts were the thing that needed saving.

I never have quilted. Never made, with my hands, something so lasting or so deliberate. Utilitarian beauty - scraps transformed. Bright happy crafted from the ordinary. Made to be taken for granted. To be relied upon.

Washing them seemed the least I could do - I had to do. It felt good to repay, in some small way, Dee, other quilters I have known, the quilts that have warmed me, and the rain.