Thursday, February 27, 2014


It is suddenly spring today.

I walked up the stairs this morning after the kids got off to school and growled a little bit about the wasting of electricity and rotten kids who always leave their lights on because there was a distinct glow emanating from the Hooligan's room. I reached for the light switch and realized it was already off. The glow was from the sun, unhindered by clouds, shining in his window and reflecting off the orange paint on his walls. I stopped growling, obviously. Not only did my wee boy turn his light off without being reminded, the sun was visiting in my house. The sun! We do miss it so, this time of year. I have no right to complain about the weather. We have fared well this winter compared to the rest of the country. But I still have missed the sun, if you must know.

I don't want to talk about the weather. I've always been terrible at this sort of small talk.

Here are some little sprouts of things in this early spring light that I want to share:

1. Poppies and bearded irises. I ordered myself some beautiful bulbs last fall for my very own birthday and carefully planned and planted them in the front flower bed, which was previously filled with what I call "real estate plants." You know? The things they throw into the ground and mulch with cedar bark to spruce a place up quickly? I'm not a fan. So poppies and bearded irises. Not California Poppies. Those grow like weeds in the ditches around here. Great big Oriental Poppies, in every shade available. I'm most excited to see what comes of the blue one. I have a thing for blue flowers. And the bearded irises. I ordered them as an act of pure selfishness. I love them and they make me think of Vincent Van Gogh. My husband hates them and they make him think of Georgia O'Keefe. I ordered them anyway for their happy blue and white petals that flap like sweet tongues, for the funny faces that they make. I planted a collection of blue ones, of course. My husband's only comment was, "Oh good. A yard full of big, blue vaginas." Honestly though, that only makes me love them more. And him. So now all these bulbs I planted in faith, with trepidation in the fall are starting to grow. Just tiny buds right now, but I can see them. They will stretch and bloom and they will be glorious.

2. Time. Yes. Time is growing. I have a very squirrelly relationship with time and the way it shifts and moves on me. I took last year to step back and examine my use of the time I've been given. I like to be busy. I'm always up to something or other. I don't like to be busy with things that don't matter to me. I took a long, hard look at the things that took up my time and decided that henceforth I would try to only commit to things that I felt were a productive and/or enjoyable use of my time. Hoo boy. That has made all the difference in our lives in the last several months. I actually have more long-term commitments than I did a year ago, but I am less "busy" and I get more done. I don't know how to explain it. The only conclusion that I can come to is that it's magic. But, as the spring approaches, I find that instead of my usual digging in my heels and wishing for more winter (I mean really. Who does that?!) I am ready for spring. I am ready for what comes next.

Check out the winter issue here
3. Ideas. I have battened my creative hatches right now. I'm neck-deep in several new projects and because of #2 above, there, I don't want to stretch myself into a quivering mass of nonsense. The blog has suffered immensely and I do apologize for that, but do appreciate the brave souls who read on and leave me some love. Truly. This blog has been all over the place for the last several months and you have been champs who have hung in there.

4. Drag Queens. Did you read that piece when it came out in the Burrow Press Review? Well, it would appear that editors of literary magazines like it. It was selected as one of 5 finalists in Digital Americana's 501 Word Story contest and was just published in their winter issue. This week, in honor of AWP, they are offering their digital version of the magazine for free. So, there's that. [As a side note, even though AWP is taking place mere minutes from my home, I am not there. Why? Because I'm a great big chicken. I'm OK with that right now, though.]

5. Something else. Rebellion is fomenting. Revolution.

What's growing on your patch of the planet? Do tell. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Do you remember those lists of questions that everyone - well, I don't know about everyone. My mother-in-law used to send them to me a lot - used to forward around on the email and you were supposed to answer them and forward them to 10 more people and so on.

Do you have any tattoos? Yes
Coke or Pepsi? San Pellegrino
What's your worst fear?
My worst fear is mediocrity. It's being dull. It's being a horrible, bitter old person who walks around thinking I'm awesome and wondering why people don't want to talk to me. It's being commonplace. It's being a chore. It's being tedious and merely tolerated.

My second worst fear is being vomited on by a stranger in public.

All the Photoshopped slogans tell me to do what I fear most.
No thank you.

Excuse me, sir. I noticed that you just cannonballed a forty of Old English and ate a chicken wing and half of a shoe out of a garbage can. Could you please vomit on me? I need to grow, here.

I'm pretty sure that's not what Ralph Waldo Emerson was talking about when he said "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain."

Except one time I was playing airplane with the Hooligan when he was a baby and he threw up all over my face and it got in my mouth. I lived. That's different, though.

So, Mr. Emerson, what are you talking about?

I've spent the morning examining my two worst fears, along with some navel lint. What it boils down to is this: I am afraid of the perceptions of others and I am afraid of things I can't control.

How tedious. How utterly dull and commonplace.

So now I've done it, Mr. Emerson. I've done the thing I fear. I've 'fessed up to my absolute mediocrity. My fear is not dead. Not yet. It's only mostly dead. [10 points if you catch the reference]

Is there ever such a thing as a certain death of fear? Should there be? My own fear of mediocrity compels me to work hard at doing something, being something. My fear of how others might perceive me forces me to stop and consider the alternatives, to look at things from different perspectives, and to really think about how much I actually care what people think in any given situation. The vomit thing, well, that's just self-preservation.

If those fears were dead, what would I do?

Now that I think about it, what would I do?

Does fear hold me back sometimes? You betcha. Do I make excuses for my fear and rationalize it away? Of course. Do I cozy up to my fear and stroke its warm, furry pelt and keep it as a bodyguard instead of fighting it like a monster? Who doesn't do this, I ask you? But I also ask you this - in all sincerity and without actually knowing the answer to the question - don't we sometimes just need to feel safe?

I have been charging around these last several months with a whip and a chair and big boots on. I have been working at taming my fears across the spectrum of my life. I find the more I fight, the more exposed I become, the more the same fears keep popping up in different outfits and playing a little bit of "nanny nanny boo boo" with me and I'm not taming fierce lions, I'm playing whack-a-mole. I feel all courageous and strong, an Amazonian warrior with my bloodied sword standing atop the heap of my conquered foes, but really I'm just some fool with a big foam hammer, pounding away at giggling rodents who, by design, elude me. Whack-a-mole. A roadside attraction.

Maybe it's because Whack-a-mole and the internet hadn't been invented yet when Mr. Emerson was writing, so he's a little dated.

I'm going to keep wrestling with my fears. I'm going to keep being so utterly and ridiculously commonplace until I'm all right with that, or until I die. Which ever comes first. But sometimes I wonder if all this conquering and whacking and whatnot isn't a little bit with the windmills and the tilting. All this whack-a-mole makes me feel  a little unsafe. And naked. Isn't it OK to hide sometimes? I don't know.

I don't have any answers today or any conclusion to all this nonsense, really, so I've kind of wasted your time. I leave you with a parting gift. A little something for your Pinterest boards.

Friday, February 7, 2014

That's My Song

Really bad phone picture from
when I went to see them in September
Check this out.
It's awesome and it made me cry a little.

Click here

The National are one of my favorite bands. "I Need My Girl" is one of my favorite songs by them. I sing along to it at least once a day. At the top of my lungs, under my breath, in harmony, on pitch, making up my own counter-melody, off key, on repeat. However I feel like it. I eat the songs I like. I consume them and make them mine, all mine.

So did these people. But they did more than that. They practiced, they played guitars, they got their friends, their kids(!) to help them out and they recorded them. Watch a few of the videos. The little girl rocking the giant xylophone in the "Family Band" one is enough to just break your heart. This guy played it only on household items! They moved past just singing in their living rooms, their kitchens, their bedrooms. They opened their doors and they let us see in.
They recorded them and they submitted them to this contest. That takes courage. That takes a little something extra.

It's so completely awesome, I'm just crying about it. The band sees all these people eating their songs in their own ways and they think - "Let's reward this. Let's give them some exposure and some money." That's really cool. They could have gone all Metallica on them and sued them. "THAT'S MY SONG! NOT YOURS!"

But they didn't do that. And now I got to spend a few minutes this morning watching total strangers interpret one of my favorite songs. It's extremely post-modern and lovely with the YouTube and the website and all that.

But this kind of thing has been going on since there were people to sing. It was how stories were told. It's how information was passed from generation to generation. It's how people have rejoiced, have mourned, have prayed, have shared for always. Each story gets changed in the telling; each person who takes and eats it, makes it into their own. This is so overwhelmingly beautiful. I'm nearly speechless.

One of my favorite bands created a beautiful song. It tells a story that's personal to them. I hear it and it reminds me of my personal story in some ways and I love it and listen to it. All these people all over the world are doing the same thing, but they are taking the extra step and they're sharing it. So, full circle, the band gets to see their story told in a thousand different voices, making the story a little bit different, a little bit new.

Sometimes I sit and I pound on my keyboard and I think terrible things.
What do you  have to say that anyone wants to listen to?
Why is this story important to anyone except you?
Why are you wasting your time?

I will probably never stop thinking those things completely. But listening to these raw and lovely renditions of one of my favorite songs this morning, I remember why I do this. And I thank the people who showed some courage, did a little something extra, and opened their doors.

We all have stories to tell. The wise man says "There is nothing new under the sun," and I believe him. All our stories could be boiled into the same basic parts with very little variation. We could all sing the same song. And often, we do.

But look what happens when we do.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


The lizard is molting.
A face only a mother could love

She molts every two weeks. No one told me this ahead of time. No one informed me that one of the members of my household would audibly eat her skin twice a month. I can hear her right now, carefully peeling and munching her skin.

My jBird will come home from school and drop everything and go and fuss over her and ask to give her a warm sponge bath to help her get the tricky bits off without losing a toe. I will probably agree to this, depending on what I've had for lunch.

A few weeks ago, my daughter handed me a wad of disembodied skin.
"Can you throw this away for me?"
Does it go in the compost? The trash? Recycling? Why am I holding a wad of skin?! What am I supposed to do with this?!
I can barely look at her and I've turned up the music so I can't hear the tiny ripping sounds. It's off-putting and revolting and just so very biological.

"It's good, Mom. It means she's growing." My daughter is exasperated with my squeamishness.

My whole world is molting. So is yours, actually. Our society is in the throes of growth. Humanity itself is always in some way, somewhere, morphing and changing and growing into something else. Maybe it's a friend of yours, a family member, a neighbor, a child. Maybe it's your school or your church.

Maybe it's yourself.

The skin that fit our lives just fine last week or even yesterday is suddenly a little too tight and uncomfortable. The new skin starts to peek out from underneath and that old, dead skin starts to flake and peel. It's not a pretty process. Most of the time, no one wants to hear about it. It's hard to watch. It's off-putting and it seems kind of private and wrong. So maybe we go and hide in our little hidey hole and rip and munch. Maybe we go and do the best we can to quietly tear up the bits of us that no longer fit and internalize them while people around us shudder and try not to look.

Maybe, though, someone sees us - really sees us. Maybe someone sees that we've got horrible flappy bits hanging in front of our eyes and doesn't want us to go blind. Maybe someone sees that we're tripping around over the parts we can't reach on our feet and wants us to be able to walk uninjured. Maybe someone drops everything that is important to them and spends time gently helping us through the transition, even when we're scared and we protest and try to get away.

I asked my daughter what leopard geckos do in the wild when they molt. "They don't have people to give them sponge baths," I told her sagely, "It's a natural process. You should just leave her to it."
"Well in the wild, Mom, they just take care of themselves. They are often deformed or blind or they just die. But she's not in the wild. She's mine."

We're not in the wild. No one should have to live in the wild. No one should have to grow with no one there to help. How many of our own to we just "leave to it" because we can't bear to think about it? How many who walk among us end up needlessly hurting and broken or dead because we were put off by the processes of their lives? There are a lot of people molting out there. They are not in the wild. They are mine. They are yours. We belong to each other. We have to. Even when it's revolting.

When all this disgusting skin-eating is over, Jubilee will have fresh, unblemished, new skin. Her colors will be bright and vibrant. She'll be frisky and alert and out standing in her water dish instead of lurking in her dark little hidey hole, suspicious and snappish. She will smile her silly little perma-grin and beg for crickets. She will, in her own little lizardy way, be beautiful.

Look around. Somebody is molting near you. Near me. How can we help them get through the tricky bits? What is underneath the off-putting outer layer of difficult change? How can you help them find their beautiful? And know this: it will probably turn your stomach a little bit, it will not be what you wanted to do most today, you will think didn't we just do this? and we did, it's time to do it again. And someone will hand you a wad of something you don't want to hold. Stare at it in fascination and then get rid of it. It's not yours to keep.

And look around and do it again.
And again.
And again.
And again...

This is the way that we all become beautiful.

*I'm not going to give the lizard a sponge bath. I will continue to turn up the music so that I can't hear her eating her own skin. I have my limits.