Thursday, November 21, 2013

I've Moved- Again!

I've moved to a new blog.  Work, Play, Rest. Repeat.  I was ready to list all the reasons and insights, but really I think it's time.  Please do come by.  Y'all take care now.

Monday, November 4, 2013

In the words of Sly and the Family Stone...

Thank you.

The magazine, Rhythm of the Home, accepted my essay.   The publication went live (great expression I learned from one of the editors) Thursday morning last week and my particular essay is available here.  I would highly recommend checking out the entire magazine.  I've read through slowly, savoring each piece, as this, the editors announced, will be their last magazine.

Receiving an email from RotH that said "yes" gave me such a shot of joy.  But people.  People are the ones who amaze.  Because so many people, hordes to me, keep showing up to support it and encourage it along.  I'm still a little punch-drunk from the number of relatives, friends, and friends of friends who made a point online to respond to this essay.  It was nearly a day's worth of being Tina Fey or Anna Quindlen, in my own small, Tennessee, fifteen-likes-on-Facebook kind of way.  I am so appreciative to people who let me or a person close to me know how their feelings on the subject.  The soft and kind critique buoyed my nervous, fragile spirit.

Now I'm posting this here because I also have a strange, jangly kind of nerves about writing again at all.  This essay might be all I ever say in a publication again, but I'm hopeful that won't the be the case.   In order to make room for that to happen, I have to rip off the band-aid and send something else out in the world.  Even if it's only a bit piece to say "I'm so scared to try another one!  I really like the view of being quietly and softly well-received.  I might never come down again!"and then laugh manically.

Thank you, everyone, who ready my piece.  Whatever your feelings, that you took the time to read it… well, it felt good to be read.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Little Brave Moment

I had a brave moment this weekend.  This is not an attempt to sing my own praises.  Actually it is, a little.  I've spent a lot of time not choosing the brave moment and I am proud that I made a different decision this time.  So it's a little bit me singing my own praise.  Mostly, though, I'm marveling at how the simple, small choices are the brave ones.  They are, I'm starting to think, the only ones that ever actually lead anywhere.  Anywhere, to my mind, is a destination more like growth and becoming the person you want to be than, say, meeting Meryl Steep at the Oscars, but I think that ties in too.

Here is my brave moment: I submitted an essay to an online magazine.  For a few months now, I've noodled with the idea of essay writing and working with publications, outside of my blog here.  I talk myself off the ledge regularly- I can't keep up with a blog, let alone follow through on that. What do I have to say that's interesting, new, or fresh?  I have no credentials!  I have no history!  This self-talk comes up and it's not just demoralizing, it's debilitating.  It can keep me stuck in one small spot if I allow it.

I have so many plans in my head.  Any day of the week you might find me folding laundry in my bedroom, but in my head I'm giving my acceptance speech at the Oscars for Best Screenplay Adaptation.  It's important to note, I've not written a screenplay.  I've not written a book from which I might adapt a screenplay!  Yet here I am, sorting socks and folding 5T skirts, while accepting my little golden statute from Meryl Streep and receiving appreciative applause from George Clooney and Helen Mirren.

It's easy for me to imagine doing the big, complicated things, and much harder to contemplate the simple, everyday tasks in front of me.  I do not know how to write a screenplay.  I am damned good at my acceptance speech, but I have not typed word one of the script for which I'm awarded.

What I did instead was write an essay.  No, first I wrote a query, to ask if this publication had any interest in such material.  That took an hour in bed, after my family were already asleep, and it took a great deal of deep breathing to do.  Then it was sent and done.  No, wait.  First, I sat down and dashed out five pages of thoughts in my notebook about the essay I wanted to write.  Then I read through it and made notes on what I thought fit and did not.  Then I wrote the essay.  Then I sat with it for about a week.  Then I took a breath and wrote the query.  Then I took another breath and sent the query.  When the magazine responded with interest and asked me to submit, I took my notes and my laptop and wrote a 1,300 word essay about a shift I've witnessed in my family since my daughter was born.  After that I rewrote it a little.  Then I went to bed.  The next morning, I got up and made a gluten-free pancakes recipe for breakfast.  I added chocolate chips.  They were delicious.  When we were all fed and functioning, I took myself off to the bedroom to rewrite some more, while my family kept themselves busy and out of my way.   Then I had to find photographs to accompany the piece, an intimidating task in and of itself.  This publication is arty.  We are not so arty, going more often for that, firing-squad-stance-and-smiling-in-unison-on-the count-of-three style photography.  Eventually, after only a minuscule amount of arguing with my husband, who gallantly offered to assist, I picked out three photos and added them to the essay.  This took a little while longer, as I changed my mind, picked new photos, named them, read the submission guidelines, renamed them properly, arranged and rearranged their placement in the essay.  Around 3:30 on Sunday afternoon I submitted my essay.  A few hours later I heard back, asking for my bio and bio-photo submission.  I felt a brief heady rush of excitement until I checked the submission guidelines again and realized this was required with all essay submissions.

Since submitting my bio and bio-photo, it has been quiet.  I have no idea if my essay has or will make the publication.  What I know is, I did something important for me in these last few weeks.  It might seem small- I wrote a little bit, on notebook paper, in hastily caught moments between parenting and homeschooling and cooking and taking out the trash and folding laundry and composing Oscar speeches in my head and showering and all the other hundred pieces that make up the sum of an ordinary and possibly wonderful life.  The writing itself, the entire process, turned out to be just like ordinary life.  No trumpets heralded my essay's completion and the closest we came to anything celebratory was finally toasting an old bag of hardened marshmallows left over from last winter.

Writing my essay was hard.  And scary.  The imaginary approval of George and Meryl have nothing on actually producing a piece of work and submitting it for review.  I will say here, I think there is something powerful about imagination and we all need our jaunts with the Academy Awards to keep a feeling of possibility and hope alive. But for me, doing the next, seemingly, small thing was my important step.   Moving out of my head and George's attractive gaze, to the page, that was what I needed to do.  The fictitious friendships of the talented and celebrity cannot keep me fed forever.  So I took time off from my speech (and, really, it's good- not a dry eye in the Kodak Theatre) and wrote a real, short piece about something I know. I had a brave moment. They're available all the time, to all of us, aren't they?  I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I'm so glad I showed up this time.  Brave moments are out there, everywhere, waiting to be seized, to be choked down and spit out, leaving us a little trembly and roughed up and excited about the small, real-life possibility.  I'm so glad I took a breath and took mine.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Our dear dog, Georgie, died last Monday. Georgie was with us, Matthew and I, for ten years, half of Dory's life. She was a lovable girl, very gentle, comfortable with strangers only if Matthew or I were there. She came from the streets, this gorgeous Border collie/Spaniel/mutt mix, having spent most of her early life (we think) living on her own.

She was protective of me. Once, when I was home alone and had a handyman in, she hurtled a baby gate, going up steps, to get to me and she stayed put between this stranger and myself the entire time he was there.

She did not settle into indoor living easily. She was inquisitive, destructive, and yet she hated crates. When we buried her, Dory insisted we not put her in a box, saying, "Georgie wouldn't like that." Dory was right; Georgie hated containment.

She hated fireworks, thunderstorms. So many nights Matthew and I took turns staying up with this poor animal coming out of her skin at the crashes and bangs accompanying a later summer storm. Typically she alerted me to a night time storm by sitting on my head. As she got older, it got easier. I liked to think she felt safe. Probably her hearing was starting to go.

She loved us for loving her. She wanted only to be with us, as much as she could. Georgie opted to be in stressful situations, us shouting at the television during a football game, rather than be in a room on her own.

She was always gentle with Dory, always so easy about this crying, crawling, inquisitive baby, this unruly toddler, this little girl who dressed her in princess clothes, namely plastic, gold-painted crowns, and old nightgowns of mine. I once carried Georgie's train.

I hated all the mess of a dog, the hair, the dandruff. She has a hodge-podge bed on the floor of our bedroom, an old, torn, cotton blanket and a cheap and flimsy brown-and-red dogbed. We washed them frequently the older she got as her bladder gave out. I'm not ready to wash them and put them away, this mess from when she was here.

I loved her so much. I didn't know how much, not really, not in everyday life. There were flashes of it, flashes of her head on my lap, my hands buried in the ruff of her neck, when I knew it then. But not in the day-in, day-out experience, especially not after our baby arrived. It was only in the last year I came back to her, came back to loving her, noticing her, really paying attention to her. I don't think her love ever waned, not if the way she stuck to me, stayed under my feet, settled outside the door of the bedroom when I put Dory to bed gives any indication of devotion. A dog is unwavering devotion embodied

Her death itself does not worry me. I do not doubt her spirit survives, fleeing her old body for new pastures. She was old, she was ready. She and we were blessed with a quick, and easy death. It is not the death itself that bothers me; it is the absence of her everyday physical presence. I miss the head in the window when our car pulls up, the attempts to tunnel to China through the floor, the awkward ballet performed around her in the kitchen while cooking dinner. There is the everydayness of an animal that tethers us to home and the house feels so still without her in it.

Georgie was the best dog. She was entirely ordinary, exactly as good as every other good dog that's ever existed. The house is so quiet. I miss my girl.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Photo-Op Lost

We have three raised vegetable beds in our backyard, two long rectangular ones and one small, square Dory-size one. Dory plants in a hither-and-yon fashion, picking up handfuls of seeds and hurling them into the space. This summer, entirely by accident, she grew some Mexican sunflowers, tiny carrots, and many, many weeds. We finally uprooted the lot of it and now she has a bare bed, an empty palette.

Hence mudpies. We went out yesterday morning, a shockingly balmy day for September and we filled her bed with lots of water and made a mix of mudpies, mud balls, which we chucked at the wall behind the garden, and a mud monster.

I have to stop here and add, none of this comes all that naturally for me. Dory's five and I think this is the maybe the second time she's ever done real mud play. I don't naturally think, let's build mudpies! in the same way I don't naturally wear light cotton dresses and get caught in slow-motion with my head thrown back, hair blowing whimsically across my face, laughing. Were I to make an advertisement for Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger or J. Crew, it would be of me in jeans, in a chair, knees under my chin, looking up from a book to say, "I'm reading. Can I help you?"

However. I'm in the middle of Kim John Payne's book, Simplicity Parenting, and he's caught my attention on an assortment of subjects, particularly the complicated nature of children's play. He advocates for very few toys, very simple toys and lots more play in nature. He advocates for it far more eloquently and with much better expression that I just did. Nonetheless, there it is. Mr. Payne mentions a bit on mudpies and I, reading it, sat up in bed (or sort of pushed Dory over to the side a bit and shifted around) and thought, We could do that! We could make mudpies!

We did and here's the part that caught my attention. First, it was really fun. Second, I did laugh, but never anything Mr. Lauren or Mr. Hilfiger would care to photograph. And third, and somewhat related to the last, I did not have my camera. By camera, I mean phone, and I intentionally left it inside, cutting the two of us off from the world of electronics entirely. Yet, there I was, watching my straight-backed daughter, in her pink tank top and purples shorts, mud up to her knees, face creased in delight and I had no way to record the moment. None.

And then I thought- do I need one? Do I need to capture every single beautiful moment on film? Or really, do I need to capture every beautiful moment on digital recorder and perhaps, one day, transfer it to print?

I once called Dory the most well documented child in history and a father standing next to me marveled at it too. We can capture everything. And we do. But do we miss it, somehow, in the very act of seizing it? By needing a physical copy or the means of making a physical copy, do we lose the presence of the moment itself? We are blessed in a time when we will be able to show our children photographs, digital recordings, their childhoods captured and available for almost complete reproduction. Yet I wonder sometimes if we're losing the wonder of the moment simply by needing to hang onto the moment. I once spent a portion of a ballet open house watching the performance through the few inches span of my cell phone. I have every moment of six little girls dashing madly around the room to Skippy the Squirrel, yet my memory of the scene remains hazy. I have another video of miniature princesses performing a simple routine in Market Square, but mostly I remember cursing over the lack of close-up capabilities my camera held. The other day, I watched a commercial, for a cell phone, I think, of a children's play, with every grown-up in the room grappling to get close enough to record the show. The scene turns into a crazed fight, and the camera pans back to show the couple at the back of the room, also watching through a lens, have the best seat in the house. Why? Because their camera's zoom is unbeatable. Is that the message behind that scene? Is that your takeaway?

I did not seize the camera and we have no evidence of Dory, the Mud Monster, with mud up to her elbows, thighs and covering the better part of purple-shorts bottom. I cannot post any shots here of her flinging mudballs madly at the wall, laughing or chasing me with a garden hose. And they were beautiful shots, endearing, surprising, really, really funny. Yet the memories I have are crystal clear and by telling the story here, feel clearer yet.

I have a vague sense there's an even larger message behind this idea, something about us needing to record our lives so we can fill each other in digitally, something about the lack of personal touch and communication in the world these days. But that's out of my range, that's not really what I'm thinking about. Mostly I'm just glad I laid my camera down for today, that I got up to my elbows in mud, too, because I wasn't balancing a phone between thumb and pointer finger and watching her in high definition. I watched in real definition and I was delighted by the quality.

And, it's not lost on me, how I write this and fling it into cyberspace, that faux world where so much of our lives exist. There's a place for all of it, isn't there? There's a balance. I'm trying to find mine.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Writer Spider

We went to pick strawberries yesterday at King's Hyrdrofarm. The day was sunny, the sky blue, the temperature still mild. The strawberries were fading fast, at the end of their season and we came away with juice-stained fingers from many half-eaten berries. I found the number of insects, especially spiders, to be reassuring. When we first came to their farm, the Kings assured us of their conscience farming practices, yet the presence of insects tends to announce what might not otherwise be seen: we are taking the natural path! I know, in our little backyard patch of a garden, I picked off (and no doubt ate) a huge quantity of tiny little slughsdon't want to think about the number of slugs I expect I ate this year on my own lettuces in our backyard patch of food. This lovely lady
we learned, from Janet King, is Argiope aurantia, also known as the Writer Spider. Janet explained the spider makes designs in the web, like writing. You can see the zig-zag cutting through the bottom of her web. We wondered if this was the inspiration for Charlotte, from Charlotte's Web, and Dory expressed several times how she did not like this spider and also described the general color and shape of her to Ms. King. We left and I kept thinking- if this is homeschooling, sign me up. I felt filled up on the experience, my heart ready to burst at the simple pleasure of this simple day. I've missed my home. I've missed this daytime freedom. I'm feeling excited. Homeschooling appears already to be in progress...

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Home and Yuv

We are in the middle of a new transition, a transition to being home again, during the daytime, and poised on the brink of homeschooling. As a clarification, my job as a nanny is nearly up, hence that awkward description "being home again, during the daytime." I ought to find a more beautiful way to express it considering how totally jazzed up about it I am. Here's my new comprehension, after three years of this full-time weekly work: I missed my house. The next understanding, a lucky truth: I like my home. I like it so much, as my little charge often says to describe something that delights her. I like it so much. At one point in her life, Dory would have said "I yike it so much." That's another shift since last we spoke- her "l's" are now pronounced "L's." Gone are the days of yiking, of yaughing, of seeing her friend Yi-yi (translation: Lily) and of yuving. She stands squarely in the land of L and she sees it too. I've noticed, L's are often slipped into places L's do not usually live. "Anully" for "another" is the first that springs to mind. I missed my home and I'm glad to be back on a full-time basis. My parents named me after Emily Dickinson, a woman almost as renowned for her proclivity for staying home as she was her poetry. I do not question why she was able to create what she did from one small space, small only in the scope of the entire world. Is not our home the place meant to nourish us? I yuv my home. I'm glad to be home again.