Friday, October 07, 2011

liar, liar, pants on fire.

So many things are happening and not happening that I'm a bit lost.

Lost because I'm not writing. Lost because when I try nothing comes to mind. Lost because I finally realized that there is simply not enough time in each day to do the things I want. Lost because I want to stop the world for just awhile. Lost because I can't find time to meditate, or laugh with my husband, or cook food I like to eat. Lost because I want every day to be Saturday.

Fretting one day about how to make all of these things happen I had an awakening. All the women who blog about how you can stay up all night and write compelling copy - after eight or more hours at you day job, cooking, doing laundry, bathing your 4-year-old, reading bedtime stories, bathing, watering all the plants, feeding the dogs and cats, and catching up on Project Runway - are just big fat liars.

If they're not big fat liars, than they must be superhuman.

While most of them admit that it's difficult, they still maintain that it's doable. I just don't see it.

My typical day begins at 5:30 a.m. when I reluctantly pull myself out from under the (warm and oh-so-cozy) covers and head for the coffee pot. After getting myself ready for work I get my son ready for daycare and we're out the door by 6:45. I meet the carpool at 7, arrive at my day job by 8. After trying to be an effective marketing copywriter for 8 hours, I jump back into the car, arriving back at home at 6-ish. I sit for a minute, indulge in a single cigarette, and start dinner. I talk to Scout and Steve about their days while we eat dinner, then clean up. After dinner it's a short time for free play, followed by bedtime rituals. At 9:15, Scout is usually asleep, leaving me approximately one hour and 45 minutes to do what I want if I want to get at least six hours of sleep. During this time I must take care of my own grooming as well as be sure that regular household maintenance is handled.

The big decisions become:

Can I skip a bath tonight?
Do I really want to watch Project Runway, or should I finish that book on time management?
Can I start working on a new project, or should I just write a quick blog post?
Should I check my twitter feed?
When is the last time I called my sister?
Are thank you notes really necessary?
Can I quiet my mind enough to meditate?
Steve? I know I have a husband around here somewhere.

So no. I don't believe you when you say that it can be done. At least not in my world.

If you still claim it's possible, I have a few questions for you.

When is the last time you washed your hair?
Do you have pets?
A maid?
A stay-at-home husband?
Do you simply buy new clothes when the others are dirty?

Perhaps I'm just unproductive, worthless, a wannabe.

Or maybe not. Maybe I'm a real woman who juggles life in the best way I can. I work hard, have fascinating thoughts, love my husband, take good care of my son, and find time to laugh.

And once in awhile, I write about it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

lizards and other things

I know there is something sacred in every living thing, but this week has me trying desperately to figure out just why we have decided that it's a good thing to have six pets in the house.

Here's the thing. I was never really a pet person. Perhaps it's because most of my childhood pets were not the kid-friendly type. They didn't, as far as I can remember, wag thier tails when I came to the door. And it wasn't all their fault. I suppose my very first pet, Jaime the white mouse, just wasn't equipped to do that sort of canine thing.

The other problem was my mother, who was the farthest thing from a pet person. It was definitely a strong-arm sort of thing when my cousins brought Jaime to the house as a gift for me. She grudgingly gave in after unending begging on my part, and let me keep the mouse. Poor Jaime didn't last long. One day I came home from Kindergarten to find that he had been baked "accidently" when my mom moved the smelly cage outside to clean it, and conveniently forgot that mice don't last long in the hot sun.

Next came Prissy the Chihuahua, the offspring of my Tennessee cousins' dogs Inky and Chocolate. She too was a gift. A neurotic, yappy, nervous gift. Prissy was not allowed to venture far from the kitchen and its linoleum floors. She didn't cuddle with me in my bed at night, or lie on my stomach as I watched television on lazy afternoons. Mom didn't trust her to be a good dog. It didn't take long for my mother to find her a new home, at least that's what she said. I was skeptical and not happy. I had been somewhat fond of the pretty little blond, but we never really had a chance to bond in the ways that kids and dogs usually do.

Enter devil dog. It was a few years before Mom gave in and let us adopt dog number two. Pierre was a poodle whose first owner guessed cousin. She got married and her husband was allergic to pets. Pierre was pretty cute, but for a miniature poodle, he had an attitude. That dog was fierce when in came to uncovered meat. He once pulled two steaks off the kitchen counter which landed him, pardon the pun, in the doghouse. He was know to corner people with fast food, growling and snarling until they dropped the goods. The only thing that helped to control Pierre was the vacuum cleaner. When it was running, he cowered under the kitchen table trembling. The last straw was when he chewed up my Dad's wallet and all the contents including currency. Goodbye, Pierre.

It was years before I really felt any need to get a pet. I was in my early thirties, and all my friends were pregnant, which I claimed didn't affect me. With my biological clock ticking, I suddenly wanted something to cuddle and care for. A puppy seemed the perfect answer. I chose a name for my would be pet, and began to search for the puppy that suited this carefully chosen name. It wasn't long before I fell for a rather large 10 week old Dalmatian with a huge black spot growing around his left eye. When I met him in the Safeway parking lot, I dashed to the ATM and drew out the cash that would allow me to take him home. Bailey was my dream dog and soulmate. He erased all of the bad pet feelings I had from my past and accompanied me on many of my life's adventures during the 12 years we spent together. Because of Bailey, I was officially a pet person.

Which brings me to how I happen to find myself with six pets. Elmo (who the vet says is a "bad groomer") and Chaz (gentle and sweet) are our cats. Along with Buddy the Sheltie, they are fringe benefits that I inherited along with my husband when I said, "I do". Three seemed like a good number of pets, until I met Dori, a miniature Cocker Spaniel with a big personality. She's an in your face and in your lap sort of pup, that will take all the affection you're willing to give. I believed we rescued her from a less than pleasant life with Steve's cousin, and she couldn't be happier.

And that was enough. Until we had a baby boy.

Scout is now almost four, and loves all creatures great and small. From beetles and toads, to flies and frogs, he thinks all of nature's children should live with us. In tanks and jars and cages and aquariums, they come and go. A tadpole named Tad is now growing into a frog in a small tank on his dresser. Toad, the toad, which he rescued from the women's bathroom at the river, was humanely released back into the wild after tough negotiations. He won, and earned himself a bearded dragon.

Dragon is probably the most needy of all of our pets. He lives in an aquarium in the sunroom and dines on crickets, worms (that must be stored in the refrigerator), some sort of pellets, and various fruits and veggies. Dragon's home is equipped with a heat source to replicate the warmth he would feel lying in the sun on a rock in his natural habitat. Despite luxurious living conditions, he didn't seem happy. He was looking a little rough and was not eating the delicious crickets that we coat in calcium powder before serving. After a consultation with a lizard expert, we learned that bearded dragons can become constipated without warm baths. He now owns a hot tub. I am happy to report that his bout of irregularity has passed, and he is again enjoying mealtime.

As I clean the kennel, fill the dishes, and turn off the heat lamp, I must admit that maybe my mother was on to something. What I thought was an aversion to animals was actually self-preservation and a plea for a little down time.

I would like to say that things will change and life will get simpler, but I'm a sucker for a cute kid who thinks our house would be cooler if it were a zoo.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

traveling south dakota

Moving to South Dakota was a no-brainer for me. I packed up and moved my life because the universe put the right wheels in motion, allowing me to be in the right space at the right time to meet my soulmate. Okay, the term is overrated. But if you strip it down to the essentials, it works. My soul had met its match. The one thing my soul hadn't bargained for is that this soulmate would have a complete life in South Dakota.

With nothing holding me in Texas, except perhaps my love of really good Tex-Mex, I followed the wise little voice inside and here I am. But that's so not the story. The story is that there are things about this place that I fell in love with. And that every so often I have to remind myself that golden plains that stretch forever have a beauty all their own. Often, it's the drive to the country that gives me the chance to remember to find the things that are good, and beautiful, and worth experiencing.

On our last road trip I took some notes, and this me, observing the South Dakota east of the Missouri River.

It appears that summer has finally come to South Dakota. Corn shoots popping their heads up out of the rich soil as we drive north on Highway 29. Aging barns dot the hills surrounded by tiny fields. I am struck by the neat and even rows and the lack of unruliness. Plants grow evenly and winding paths split the neverending fields like the lead separating the colors of stained glass windows.

Strange how a stand of old cottonwoods suddenly appear and the trees spread their leaves and branches right in in middle of a perfectly groomed cornfield. Who decided to let them stand, and why?

Gray-brown barns and outbuildings show thier age, struggling to bear the weight of years. Siding holds tight to crossbeams at twisted angles and sloping metal roofs bow at passersby.

The weather has not been kind today. Strong winds and rain twisted sturdy tree trunks leaving them bending and crippled. Sheets of water washed the pavement and left puddles for geese mothers and their young to splash. The sun sets slowly in the rainwashed sky. Tinted gray, it teases us with the possibility of yet another storm.

Cows, sheep and goats feed on the still wet vegetation that grows just to nourish them.

In the distance, a windfarm rises like 100 giant tin soldiers ready for battle. Their white armor is sleek and new. Swirling blades face the setting sun in a constant salute. Some farmers sell off large pieces of their land to make room for this new breed, yet cattle graze in their shadows.

We pass fenceposts and silos, and I am reminded of the life I used to have in Texas. There are a few differences between the flat prairies of South Dakota and the neverending spans of Texas cattle country. Where there was once a rusting metal railroad bridge flanked by catci, spindly mesquite and sage brush, there is now a solitary oak and a huddle of hay bales.

If memory serves me, the stretches of emptiness along Texas roadways offered a bit more color and had more signs of a history. Out here, one farm leads only to another, and while I know that men and women have lived on this land for hundreds of years, they have left few signs other that the cultivated fields.

Beauty? It can be found everywhere if we take the time to look.

Friday, July 22, 2011

mommy space

A couple of months ago I decided that sharing the ride to work made perfect sense in my world. I could save money and have some company riding through the cornfields on my way to the office in Iowa. I talked to a colleague, who made the same daily trek from the city and we planned to begin the following week.

Monday came. I arrived at her house and parked, waiting for her to emerge with her toddler in tow. Unlike most carpools, our third participant is under the age of two. Greta's day care provider is just a mile or so from our office. Little did I know how much this little bundle of energy would affect our journey each morning.

At first, she was definitely not down with having another human being to steal mommy's attention. The more we talked, the more needs she vocalized. More milk, more crackers, more books, more toys. Look at me, Mommy, I'm talking to you.

Over the past few weeks she has learned a few tricks. When Mommy won't respond, Melissa will. Since the novelty has worn off, she's likely, on most mornings, to do her own thing and only raise the volume when something is seriously bin has tipped or she's lost a shoe, or found a shoe, or thinks there's something interesting about her shoe. I'm good with this. She makes us laugh and fills up the time with her little observations.

What I didn't count on was the safe mommy space carpooling has created for two full time writers who also happen to be mothers of preschoolers. It's just not cool to bring mommy issues to work. Our associates don't want to hear about every cute comment uttered, each milestone reached, and the sleepless night spent cradling a sick kid.

On the other hand, our precious carpool is perfectly suited to indulging in mommyhood full force. I can tell her how funny it was when Scout explained the features and habitat of the marmoset and the peregrin falcon without worrying that she'll be bored. She knows I'll share her joy when Greta sings the entire alphabet song without prompting. She mentions how tired she is of changing dirty diapers, and I reassure her that it will end. I share my frustration that people in my family give me a hard time about being overprotective, and she understands. Food allergies, great toys, where to get a deal on used books...all of these are relevant and important in our mommy space.

Best of all, there's no one to judge us or roll their eyes, except perhaps Greta, who is perfectly content, as long as we respond when she says, "oops."

Friday, July 08, 2011

white - a poem

I was born white
the daughter of two middle class Americans
with the blood of Germany, Hungary, France, a Canadian tracker
and maybe a little slave girl and a Mexican farm worker tossed in for color.

I chose this life
as you did yours
long before the coupling which brought about my birth
chose this life of privilege
where there is no worry about getting killed on my street
And I ate purple popsicles from the front porch of a white house
with a lush lawn
and petunias planted down the walk

And I do not apologize to you for my white life

I cannot feel the shackles that rub your ankles raw
and bind your wrists
I cannot feel the pain of your multicolored soul
growing up in the middle of a war zone
streets painted with blood and graffiti
while I finger-painted flowers and rainbows at my mamma’s kitchen table

I do not know the struggles you faced just getting by
while your daddies and brothers were rounded up by white cops
for the color of their skin and being in the wrong place at the wrong time
My daddy drove his truck home every day at five

And I am not sorry

I did not hear gunshots in the street over the songs my mother sang to me in my cradle
I listened to the creek water trickle over rocks
while dogs barked and the wind brushed across my face

And I am not sorry

What do you want from me black man? Latino woman? Navajo child?

You do not want my skin – pale and freckling, burning in the sun
You do not want my sympathy – the struggle has made you strong enough to reject my well-intentioned overtures
You do not want my money – you are proud and independent
You do not want my history – yours is rich and all your own

What do you want from this white girl?

You say “nothing” and I don’t believe you as you look at me with suspicious eyes

I think you want me to pay for the sins of my father, and his father before
And I hope that I’m wrong, because I cannot fix your history, mend the rent fabric of your tattered blanket or glue together the pieces of your wounded soul.

There is no band-aid to heal the wounds left on the red skin of the natives or on the land stolen and scarred with skyscrapers and mini malls

And that’s the problem – you have to live with it and I have to live with it
Your blood boils and I can’t cool it off – not with a smile or a loving embrace or even an acknowledgement.

I want to will the injustice of the past away and share my purple popsicle, but it’s too late and your daddy didn’t live on my street.

All I can do is tell the children, the young and color blind
Teach them that graffiti and finger-painting are good for the soul
Teach them to share their purple popsicles ‘til the world runs out

And no one has to be sorry

Melissa Bachara Rohwedder - May 2003

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Friday, May 20, 2011

it's my party

Sometimes life just sends you a party. I love it when that happens. At the end of the day, all of those parties just add up to a pretty spectacular life, and I know I am blessed.

It all started when I got on a plane bound for Nashville. I have lots of family in Nashville, and hoped that somehow, despite the business I was here to do, I would be able to carve out some time to visit and reconnect with these people that I love. So I called cousin Marty, knowing that if anyone can turn an ordinary day into a party it's him. And as expected, he delivered. He spread the word that I would be in town and picked out an amazing Mexican restaurant as our meeting place. There was a plan.

After working the convention, I was looking forward to seeing Marty, his Maw, and at least a couple other cousins. But when I arrived at the restaurant, I was so surprised that there were about 20 of the most wonderful people in my life there to say hello and eat. We always eat. Beth came despite the fact that a recent surgery left her temporarily voiceless. Candy was there. Liana and Billy and their kids were there. I talked to Wendy about life and yoga, and Rachel about remodeling her bathroom, and Aunt Anna about her recent rebound from not being well. Every conversation was a delight, and I smiled real smiles and felt totally home in a city hundreds of miles away from Sioux Falls.

I loved my party and it made me realize that no matter how long or how far, family is what really connects us all. Somehow, even when the invitation is late, they show up. How cool is that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I miss you old friend. You were good with words and wrote compelling things that others might find inspiring, or at least entertaining. I sat with you in the quiet hours of the night, you at the keyboard turning keystrokes into stories and thoughts into poetry. Then one day you were just gone.

I long to see you again, find you somewhere in the back of my head. I wait, not as patiently as I may have done in the past, hoping you'll show up with a flash of inspiration that leads to something bigger.

Occasionally I think I smell your perfume, just enough to make me hope that perhaps you've returned. I pick up a pen and scribble a few words, but they go nowhere, and I know I was wrong. So I will wait.

You were here with me once and I know you have not wandered far. For you are as connected to me as my own fingertips. I think perhaps you need some rest. Your life has been full, and hectic, but such an adventure. Chaos and quiet they are the same to you and are the source of all that you put on the page. And when you're finished resting I will be here. I have time to wait, and no choice really. For without you I am nothing. Without you I cannot breathe.

So when you decide to return I will be waiting still. I will feel you in my soul and know the time for rest has ended, and I must write.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

keeping it real

In an effort to keep it real, I have to admit that I had a few hellish weeks. All segments of my life were in a state of severe disarray, and I let the tides sweep me away. I became all of the things that I most dislike. I was irritable, short, unmotivated, awful to be around, and unproductive. Mostly I was sad - for no apparent reason. Nothing had changed in any big way. I could blame this on a lot of different things, people, get the picture. The truth is I was not present to what was happening in my life - my almost-fifty-getting-fat-gray-haired-wrinkled-too-committed life.

And then I got present. I am menopausing. This is not an illness. I am not sick. I have no "symptoms." I am simply growing older. While I do view this as a natural and blessed cronish moment, I also realize that there are ways to ease the transition instead of fighting it and the bad behavior. My answer was at the health food store. After a few trips up and down the supplement aisle, I purchased one little bottle of black cohash, St. John's Wort, and a pineapple fruit twist for Scout.

I fully expected results, but not nearly as quickly as they showed themselves. By the following morning, I felt the monster inside of me shrinking. My patience was returning. I did not dread the day ahead. But mostly, I wasn't sad. Miracle? I think not.

While I do credit my menopause cocktail for relief, I also know that the arrival of warmer temperatures and the fact that I didn't have to drive to work and spend the day fighting copy contributed to my rebounded sense of well-being. More than anything though, I think that the simple fact that I got present and acted instead of reacted made the most difference. Instead of being swept away by my emotions and the events of the day, I made a decision to change things and take back control.

I talk a lot about being present. My menopausal awakening is a testament to the power of presence. Now, I'm not about to give up the black cohash, but I will remember when I get that edgy urge to growl, that I have to get real and find myself in the moment. From that place, I have power. I like it there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

in search of patience

I read this blog post today by a self-proclaimed mommy blogger, who wrote about the fact that throughout history, it was men who told the story of women, and that somehow, "women's work" has always been that which should only be discussed privately. This post totally resonated with me. Perhaps it's because I had one of those days.

You know the sort. You wake up late, but your child is an angel until he breaks the corner off of his chocolate pop tart which signals for him, the end of the world, and for me, the sort of morning I can so do without. When it's finally time to hit the door running, he becomes velcro. It's become a "carry me mommy" morning. I have to peel him off of my neck while he's crying that he wants me to take him to daycare - not daddy. For me, this is not an option, as my carpooling partner and her not-quite-two sidekick are probably waiting. Mommy guilt sets in. I drive off in the truck wondering if I have in fact left my computer in my car. A quick phone call to my husband confirms that I am losing my mind. My computer is not in the car but on my desk at the office. This is good. I am also losing the battery on my cell phone. This makes me feel totally disconnected from the world, and most importantly my daycare provider who I am convinced will call at any minute to tell me about an emergency situation.

I arrive at the carpool meeting site, take a breath and remember that I can't have the cigarette that I desperately want because it would be so off to smoke around a kid, as if it's not off in the first place. Our ride is less than eventful, which is par for our ride, with the exception of an occasional outburst from Greta, the toddler member of our carpool, or a large piece of farm equipment, which often delays our arrival at work in the heart of Iowa.

Work is insane. Deadlines are unreachable at this point because I have more to write today than I can imagine writing in a week. But I write and try to stay centered. Ohmmmm. The day ends as expected, with less done than I had hoped, but my ride ready to make her escape. I'm so on board.

When I get home, things are pretty okay, until dinner time, when my child decides he can't eat because he broke the toy/candy thing my mother sent him for Easter. Trying to be patient, I manage to stop the tears and propose pajamas and a few books. The books I chose are totally wrong. He doesn't like those books that have been favorites since they arrived from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. I should pick other books he says. I refuse, and tell him to pick his own books. After too much drama, we settle in and read some Wonder Pets find-the-animal-friends book that I have read, with enthusiasm mind you, hundreds of times. Grrrr. I just want a bath.

Bedtime is a struggle, with monsters around every corner and scary things in the shadows. I sit on the floor with my back facing my child, iPod in place, ignoring his pleas for attention, until I can't take it anymore. Finally, he says it's "good" with him if I just sit on the floor in his room until he falls asleep. I just wanted to give you a hug, he says. I love you, Mommy, he says. My heart melts. I hate that I have lost my patience. I want to be the happy mommy with the child who climbs into bed without a fight and peacefully drifts off to sleep. I breathe and remind myself that my story is the story of millions of women who want to be more patient and peaceful. Our story is important and should be told, publicly, as it is the real stuff of life.

He sleeps eventually, as I remind myself to breathe.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

being a writer -for always

People always ask kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" First of all, it sort of pisses me off that kids are somehow less than "being" because they are not grown up. The suggestion is a little off, no matter what the intention. It is there that the problem begins.

From the time we're very young, we're somehow persuaded that unless we are doing something productive - a job - we are not actually "being." So we plan our whole lives around making a living, which for most of us entails something we simply don't love, but do for the majority of our time to pay our bills.

I'm sure that I was asked this question once or twice, but I don't remember any specifics, except perhaps when I was in high school trying to figure out which college program would be best for my career path. I'm sure I, like all kids, thought about all of the possibilities. Frankly, when you're little, the thought of becoming something specific means much more than punching the clock. When asked, most kids would probably choose ballet dancer, superhero, or astronaut.

I'm not sure I ever had an answer to that question. Someplace in my heart I knew I would write. When I was really being, I was writing, and it had nothing to do with making money or fame. It was like breathing. It is like breathing and sometimes I am short of breath or panting, but I always come to the page when I want to really "be."

Sometimes I follow the work of other writers and wonder what it is that keeps them writing, and why some have had lots of work published and others just write to write, because they have to. I want to be one of the writers who makes a name for herself. I want to say, "yes, I'm a writer." And when they ask what I've published, I want to have a whole list from which to choose an answer. I'm not sure how to get there from here. Maybe it's because I listened and in some way bought into the eternal question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I wish I had screamed, I AM being! Perhaps then I might have taken writing seriously when I was much younger instead of trying to figure out how to make a living. Perhaps then I would have made a life instead of a living. Perhaps then I would have a lot of published work in literary journals and my name on lots of book covers.

In light of this little revelation, I now vow, bleeding ink, before everything divine, that I will never ever ask a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Instead I will say, "Who are you?" and I will ask, "What do you love?"

For now I am writing, and I am breathing, and I am being. And that is enough.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There are worms in my house. The are alive and well and living in a ventilated plastic container that once stored thinly sliced deli meat. I think there may be four or five, but I didn't really count them. They were a gift, from my son to me, and I'm not sure what one does with them once they are given and accepted and properly housed in a ventilated plastic container.

I put them on the kitchen counter, but decided that I would prefer they live somewhere else. So I moved them to the counter top in the sun room to share the space with all the living green things that thrive under the skylights. If I were a worm I might feel at home there - at least as at home as a worm could feel after being pulled from his cozy underground home by the curious hands of a three-year-old and transported in a motor vehicle across town to a house that is also home to two cats, two dogs, and three humans. I'm sure the noise level is something they'll have to get used to.

My biggest fear is that I won't be able to keep them alive. This would be a crisis as my son is very proud of his gift. I was assured by my husband that the worm bedding he provided would keep them alive, and that I didn't have to feed the worms because there was food embedded in the bedding. Who would have thought that someone would make it so easy for me? Perhaps only a fisherman who had actually purchased something called worm bedding to grow bait. Still I'm afraid. Is the light too bright? Should they live in a darker spot, like their natural habitat? And if I put them somewhere dark, will they be forgotten? What if the embedded food runs out? Will they shrivel and die and will my son ask for them months from now forcing me to find them and discover they've died?

Perhaps I should put them outside once the weather settles down a bit. They definitely have a good view from their plastic container - but would it be torture for them to know that other worms were free and eating whatever it is that worms eat when they don't have worm bedding, and having babies? How do they do that anyway?

New found fear: They will have lots of babies.

Life with Scout continues to be interesting, and his gifts priceless. I must admit, I do prefer inanimate gifts that don't require so much thought.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Today I am stuck on the word "divine." It has been used and misused, defined and redefined, and I am still not satisfied that I understand.

When I was growing up, I used the word only with a very big "D" and only when I referred to the big Catholic God. And later, I learned to use this word more frequently about the gentle way Spirit moves through each of us.

Today, I am struck by the thought that virtually everything is infused with divinity - with a capital "D".

Spirit is everywhere, but most of all inside of each of us. It prods and pokes us in one direction or another, aiming us at all that we desire, and yet we close our eyes or look the other way. Perhaps it's a glimmer in the peripheral vision or a shadow that we almost see, and then looking over our shoulder, is gone. I find myself looking up not once, but repeatedly, knowing that I am beckoned to notice something, but because I am disconnected I can't quite see.

And then there are perfect moments that it is only the divine that is there for me. Not the human heart, or mind, or body can pull me away and I am fully present and full and alive and whole. Yet it is fleeting. I long to be in this divine space for more than a few moments. To see the divine glow that surrounds all that is - and stay there, in that spot, eyes fully open. Then it occurs to me that it would be such a beautiful painful eternity that I could not bear it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

On gratitude

They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I feel ready, but no teacher has appeared. I can only ask myself if I am really ready. A wise and intuitive friend once told me that I can pick the brain of a writer and spiritual guide long passed. And so tonight I have been calling on him to make himself known - to guide me through this process of reawakening the sleeping writer within. He smiles from someplace on the other side. With a smirk he reminds me in his own wordless way that I haven't spent enough time in silence, meditating, and asking for true guidance from the source of all creative energy. I got it. I hear you. But can you please give me a little tidbit to satisfy my soul?

He nailed it. My biggest challenge is to find the time and the space to fill a few notebooks and to search my soul for that which must be written. Or rather, that which is already written by must be made manifest. Here's what seems to need made manifest. I hope this is okay with you, Tom.

Blessings are everywhere if we simply open our eyes. As we were sitting at the kitchen table this past weekend, I looked at the table I had been able to set. Chicken sauteed in butter and garlic rice, fresh broccoli and juicy blackberries. The colors were vibrant and the food seemed to glow with a message of its own. How blessed you are, it reminded me. I looked across the table at my little family. We smiled, laughed, enjoyed each other's company, and I was struck by the thought that it was really quite silly to ever question my charmed life.

Somedays, it is easy to worry and wonder how particular things will work out. It is almost natural to spend the day focused on what we don't have instead of all that we do. And there are people on the other side of the world whose houses were swept away by water, whose families are missing, or whose livelihood is threatened daily by corrupt agents of the government or rebellious freedom fighters. One morning they woke up and the world was no longer what they knew. Their truths had been drastically changed by nature, or violence, or economic hardships.

This is not me. I lead a life filled with abundance and thoughtlessly forget gratitude. My home is warm and filled with love. My family is healthy. My fingers still type and my brain still thinks and I am loved beyond reason.

Today I will be gratitude. Thanks, Tom.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

signs of life

They're tiny, green, and just lifting there little faces out of the frostbitten dirt. Seems silly that these tiny buds could possibly make such a difference in a life. But today they did in mine. Although it's too early here to do a lot of digging in the dirt and cleaning up after winter, spending time outside today, cleaning out flower beds and sweeping the deck seemed like a sweet way to spend the day.

Steve wasn't enjoying himself nearly as much. I suppose it's because he hates to see winter go - and he was raking up a winter's worth of dog poop. It appears he will have his wish, as the forecast calls for snow, light and variable, again tonight. He will smile watching it fall.

And I am not discouraged. I saw signs of life today, and that has made all the difference. Tomorrow the wind can blow, and the snow can fly and I can remember today, and know that there is an end to winter, it's just not quite here.

Friday, April 01, 2011

scowls and other things

This is South Dakota in winter. It is a place of extremes. It is a place with hard edges at least one half of the year, and this shows on the faces of the people who live here.

When I first arrived here five years ago, spring had not yet arrived and I couldn't understand the scowls on the faces of people I saw at the grocery store or the post office. They seemed reluctant to make eye contact as if they may actually be forced to smile. I thought that people here were just sort of unfriendly. Now they of course would take offense to that. This is after all the upper Midwest, the heartland, where people are supposed to be very friendly.

So now I get it. It's March and spring has yet to make a real appearance. She teases us now and again with a little sunshine, a light breeze, and a cloudless sky. Then she runs away. So people scowl and wish for an end to it now. I desperately need to feel the grass between my toes, the sun on my face and the warmth. So today I scowl like the others.

I do not want to be this person. I always loved winter and the snow, but in this place it is too long, too cold, and too deep. It is this time of year that I dream of Tucson, of Austin, and of sandy beaches. I want to have coffee outside and take a walk to the park.

But I've learned that despite the scowling winter faces, there are soft hearts to be unearthed. I've learned that anywhere is warm where there is love, and that a smile can melt even the most frozen emotional landscape. So when I pass by a mirror, I check in to make sure I am not sporting a frown and furrowed brow that is all the rage these last long days of winter. And at night I dream of firefly evenings and pinks flip flops.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

sunday night again

It's relatively quiet in the house. The dogs are in their kennels and the cats are cozied up in the den. Steve is lying down with Scout, as that is our nighttime routine. Tonight seems especially difficult. Scout wants nothing to do with closing his eyes. Like me he knows that Monday is coming. Monday means getting up early, dressing right away, 15 minutes of some silly morning television show, and off to daycare.

As daycare goes, his is as ideal as daycare can be. But it's still daycare, and something about it seems wrong. As a mother, I feel torn each day that I leave him for someone else to care for. I know that right now, working outside my home is the only real option, but I long to stay home with him and just be a mommy.

That sounds crazy coming out of my mouth. For years I couldn't imagine myself doing anything but work. I couldn't imagine being "just" a mommy. Life changes us though. Those things that seemed so important no longer mean anything. While there are things that make my job worthwhile, I'm not sure it's a fair trade off for either of us.

Each night before bed, Steve and Scout and I talk about the best and worst parts of our days. Scout's favorite part is always coming home from daycare to be with us. And while he learns lots of important things and gets "socialized," I think there's a lot he could learn if we had more days at home together.

I love how he says things. I love how he thinks. I love to watch him play on the floor in his pajamas. I love how he doesn't care if I wash my face and how he notices my jewelry. "I love your earrings, Mommy," he says. And, "your skin feels soft, Mommy." There are never enough moments to share.

His sheer joy at discovery is one of the things I like most about spending time with Scout. We grown ups forget the joy of discovery. The time I spend with Scout helps me to remember.

Tomorrow will be Monday again. I will leave Scout at daycare, and wave from my car as he waves from the window. I will think of him often throughout the day, missing the little things he does that make me smile.