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.