Saturday, October 10, 2015

There is something particular about the slant of light in the fall; it is as if the sun knows we are leaving and she is reaching out, stretching her rays and begging us to stay.  No. Please. Pleeeaaase don’t go!  All the while we are spinning away, our own hands outstretched, saying we are sorry, we’d really rather not leave but we must. The saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” holds true; fall is fleeting and therefore we (most of us at least) are mesmerized by her show. 

Once a week I drive to the country to buy milk. And I take the long way home. I drive slow, slower than most would like, as I am staring google-eyed out the window. Other people, those not impressed by the light, pass me and flip me the bird. Truth-be-told I could care less. I intend to live to be one-hundred-years-old. If I succeed this means I only have fifty-six falls left in my short life. I intend to make the most of them. 

This afternoon, while in the country, I saw a rainbow. I slammed on the brakes and my milk went flying; my new car has now been appropriately christened. I got out and took the camera I had on hand — my phone. I focused on the rainbow and snapped my shot. At nearly the same time an osprey took flight and let out a haunting call. For an ephemeral moment I was one with the world; this moment was so perfect I thought my chord tendineae, my heart strings, might rupture; if they had you’d find me laying dead by the side of the road with an orgasmic grin on my face and my car covered in milk (or perhaps, by that time, cheese). But I didn't die because I have fifty-six autumns remaining. Perhaps, in my hundredth year, my heart strings will finally give out while I’m puttering around outside— what an amazing way to go. 

In the meantime I’m stretching those cardiac tendons of mine and driving like a half-wit through the back country roads. If you come across my dawdling orange car you have two options: 1) show me your middle finger, press on the gas and get to wherever you are going in an expedited manner or 2) you can pull over and listen to the birds and watch the leaves dance in the light and breath in the crisp fall air and know what it truly feels like to be alive.  'Tis entirely up to you.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Call it Desire

The street cars stop right outside our hotel. They are gorgeous and I could sit and watch them all day. Each one is different. Some cars are local but many are not. They were brought here for restoration and preservation; functional nostalgia.

We rode a car from end-of-line to end-of-line. We clacked our way through the city and jumped at the sparks that hissed from above. There was a particular noise that came from the ceiling, a sort-of a patter, as if an giant cockroach was marching across the roof. I imagined this roach powering the machine; his every step a volt that sent the car along the tracks. At the end of the line I stepped out and looked up. The roach was invisible. All I could see was his antennae connected to the grid.


We are in the nitty gritty heart of the city. Diversity lives here. As does disparity. The city is a good lesson in privilege and class. Truth is we're all only a dysfunctional ganglion (or two) away from those folks sleeping in the rain.


There are so many people here with their hands out. In want. In need. It's hard to know when to give and when to hold back. Despite our privilege money is finite. At least in our here and now. And so we must choose.

We gave to the man asking for nothing but smiles (and he gave genuine smiles in return).

And we gave to the man sitting in a alcove with a typewriter. Free poems. Donations accepted. Pick a topic, any topic.

I choose streetcar.

He gave me this, hunting and pecking his way into my heart.

And then he gave us a reading, leaning back into the alcove and projecting his voice so all the world could hear.


It's raining now and I have the urge to run into the street yelling 'Stella!' at the top of my lungs. I'm sure I wouldn't be the first nor would I be the last. Instead I'm going back up to our room. I'm going to talk to my girls about what it is to be us and what it might feel like to be someone else. Then I'm going to ask them to each write a poem; about any topic their heart desires.


"To travel is to live." ~ Hans Christian Anderson

Saturday, June 27, 2015

When Pigs Fly

Tonight we walked through an alley full of art. Sanctioned graffiti. A man sat on a curb next to a dumpster; the dumpster smelled so horrific my son visibly gagged. The man played the trumpet. The music was mournful. And beautiful. The alley reminded me of what it was to be human; ugliness and beauty tangled together, dancing.

We gave our daughter five dollars to give to the musician. She didn't do it. She was too nervous. The trumpeter didn't have a defined receptacle for donations. She didn't want to offend.

We wandered further, admiring the art and plugging our noses. The trumpeter closed his case and followed. We stopped to admire the pigs. Then we were following him. 

He had a key for a chocolate shop. He went inside and locked the door with a definitive clack. I wondered if he was like Vianne Rocher from Chocolat. Would he blow away when the winds changed? 

Tonight we walked. And we went to dinner. We talked about the Supreme Court's decision to allow gay marriage. We all agreed -- why not?  Our family is our family. Nobody else's family or values or decisions can harm our foundation, our core.  Love is love. 

And then the conversation segued into my job and what drugs I used at work. Which further segued into a general conversation about drugs and what kids were doing what. This. This honest conversation with a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old. This is the reason we pile into the car and drive for miles upon miles. Hot and sweaty, air-conditioning on the fritz. To Utah of all places (who goes to Utah?). To have these conversations. To forge these bonds. To see the ugliness and beauty that resides within us all. To love. 

Friday, June 19, 2015


I sat in the doctor’s office for two hours and got five different injections. I had to wait in between shots to make sure I didn’t die. There are two large round lights in the exam room. I think they are meant to emulate the sun. Instead they looked like large white glasses, as if I was being studied, as if I was a specimen in a jar. 

When I got home there was blood on my sleeve. It seemed pointless to change. Just more laundry.

When my husband does laundry (my husband does laundry!) he washes it on “heavy load”. I wonder what he is trying to say about the task at hand. When I do laundry I wash it on “whitest whites”. I wonder what I am trying to say. 

I am not a good patient. I am supposed to live in a bubble. I imagine myself in my bubble, a clear plastic dust free zone. I see myself rolling about town, like those people who jump in gigantic balls and bumble down hills for fun. 

I hope my bubble has gloves, like an incubator for premature babies. You could reach into my bubble and we could hold hands. I could pretend I was still from this world. 

“I thinks it’s all the pollen,” my doctor said, “we’ve had high pollen counts this year.” What he meant to say was I was not compatible here. During my manufacture I was built for a different environment. But someone messed up the delivery. 

The other night, at 3:00 am, a middle-aged African American man walked into our clinic. He did not bring a pet. His eyes were red and he was jumpy, he talked too fast. He said he’d been in to see us before, with his dogs. He asked us to look him up so he could prove who he was. We found his file. He said he worked nights and went to school during the day. He said he didn’t sleep much. He said he was trying to get home and was out of gas. He asked for five dollars. He said he’d pay it back. 

I had five dollars. I gave it to him. He went on his way. The next morning my receptionist asked why I didn’t call the police. Why would I? Five dollars is a simple price to pay for peace. 

Yesterday, when I came to work, there was note attached to a five dollar bill. Thank you, thank you it said. Sometimes there is good in this world.  Sometimes we can be the good in this world, even if we were built for something else. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our three day weekend ended in a meltdown.  Little, who is eleven, had a paper due.  One she hadn't worked on over the weekend.  Her weekend was spent being a kid and playing with friends. We didn't find out she had the assignment until the breakdown happened.  At 10:00 pm. The night before the paper was due.

She was bawling.  Her sister had made fun of one of the sentences she'd written.  Little said she knew, she knew,  she was a terrible writer.  TERRIBLE.  And her teacher was going to be mad at her.  HER TEACHER WAS GOING TO HATE HER.

Little's father and I told her not to worry about it.  Don't do the paper.  It's not worth the stress. But she couldn't let it go.  She worked herself into a frenzy.  Her shoulders tensed, knotted, and then she couldn't sleep.  She went to bed around 1:00 am.

Now me -- I'd been working all weekend. Nights.  And Monday was my zombie day.  A day I was awake but not fully present.  A day of recovery.  I rubbed Little's shoulders.  Told her it was okay. But I did not have the energy to help her write. I also did not get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.  Middle, who went to bed at the same time, had to be up a six.  As did Papa.

Papa, graciously, got himself and Middle up.  He let Little and I sleep.  This afternoon he is napping. Because he, too, is exhausted.

Today we let Little play hooky.  I'll be getting the phone calls and admonishments from the school. Because it's not okay to miss class.

Today we went to the library.  And a coffee shop with macaroons and blue cheese and pear sandwiches.  We are working on this assignment.  Eight paragraphs about dogs.  Something that should be simple but now is not.

Little is a good writer.  But she needs to be gentle with herself.  First drafts are just that - first drafts. They are meant to be corrected.  Writing takes time.  And patience.

Little, more than anything,  needs encouragement.  She needs to know it's okay to make mistakes. Goodness knows I love to write and my writing is riddled with mistakes.

And writing doesn't have to be rigid.  Talk to any teacher and they'll tell you no sentence should start with "and".  I do it anyway -- rebel that I am.  The world continues to turn on its axis despite my literary transgressions.

Little also needs inspiration. Right now she is working on her own project. Something for fun. She is re-writing popular lyrics and infusing them with Minecraft lingo.   Is this any less valuable than a report on dogs?

I can accept stress in my life.  As an adult stress is my burden to bear.  But a kid should be a kid; which, to me, means to play and explore.  Not to stress and panic.  Not at eleven.

I worry for our kids.  All of them.  We are sacrificing their beautiful creative minds for quadratic formulas and papers on dog.  I worry our world has moved forward but our schooling has not. Not the fault of teachers but of system that is nothing short of an archaic bureaucratic nightmare.

Right now Little is taking a break.  She's written four of eight paragraphs.  She is petting the dog and singing.  Were she in school her behavior would be inappropriate, disruptive.  And rightly so.  I can't imagine trying to teach 30 to 40 kids, each with different needs.  

We, as a family, are working to find a solution.  For Middle this means a mixture of online and home/unschooling which will start next semester.  Little has also been given this option but she wants to stay where she is -- at least for now.

I'm trying to move forward with an open mind and an open heart.   But I worry.  For your kids and for mine.  What a world.