About Me

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A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Age 9 - A Whirling Dervish Delight

This month my daughter turns nine. In keeping with tradition, and in my ongoing effort to temper the bittersweet forward march of time, I like to author at least one blog wholly devoted to marking the milestone of her birthday. If I am to leave her anything of real value when I am gone, it will be this ongoing testimony of an immensely proud mamma who was fully invested in her journey and loved her in every second and with every fiber of my being.

This past year has been filled with trials..from the sheer physicality of moving twice this summer, to our ever increasing battles over her hair and clothes, to combating her near obsession with online games and YouTube. We have started most of the mornings in this fresh New Year with an argument about one thing or another. I have lost my mind over her stomping feet, exaggerated eye rolls and disgruntled faces. It seems we endlessly debate why leggings are not appropriate winter attire. We battle. Sometimes it gets loud and the dogs, sensing an epic throw down is looming, take off to hide upstairs until the storm passes.

Still, before our turn comes up in the drop-off line, we manage to sort it out. Regardless of how angry she may be, she still shoulders her backpack and leans in for a kiss before throwing open the door. These days I find it is more about finding victories in the delightful surprises then consistently winning arguments with her. Eventually she listens to me…and besides, there are so many delightful surprises…

She is becoming her own person and that person is most definitely not a mini version of me. She is entirely something new and improved, a hybrid of both her parents with a balance of our features and various traits blending together in this beautiful new way – along with things that seem unique to her.

She is athletic and competitive in a way neither one of us ever were. She is drawn to things that challenge both her body and her mind at once, like obstacle courses and horse-back riding. I can see her mind working as she puts her body through the physical paces, concentration is as evident on her face as enjoyment is. She has become more fearless in this environment, trepidation giving way to a growing confidence. I can see pride blooming there as well, in that telling Mona Lisa smile when her instructor cries out, “Yes, Good Girl!”, the moment she achieves the perfect posture or executes the perfect transition or canter.

Music continues to be something she is drawn too. She pushes back on practicing piano but once she sits down and begins to coach the notes from her instrument, I can see her lose herself. She started ukulele lessons in school recently, and she has really taken to it. She talks a blue streak about chords and likes to play me the YouTube tutorials they use in class. She has asked for her own ukulele for her birthday this year and I look forward to hearing her strumming away on those chords.

Like mine, her taste in music is highly varied. She has a wide scope of what she likes. For now, she gets by on my playlist but makes the occasional request for me supplement it with a new song she has discovered. For the most part, I enjoy her selections. They reflect someone who listens with a critical ear and harbors a true appreciation for musical composition, regardless of the genre. The other day on one of our drives, “Under Pressure” came on the radio. I immediately turned it up and began singing along, as one simply has to do in appreciation for genius collaboration of David Bowie and Freddy Mercury. I glanced at my daughter in the rear view and was simultaneously shocked and elated to find she was also singing along in the back of the car. She caught my eyes, and smiled back at me. It was a moment of kindred connection, one of those delightful surprises.

At her core, she is still that child that loves to snuggle. She still prefers to fall asleep between us. Even when she goes to bed in her own room, we find her wrapped about us come morning, one leg or arm draped over us and her hair falling in sheets across our faces. The “I love you’s” still come unsolicited, though not as frequently as they once did. She will still take my hand in a parking lot or store. Randomly, during a movie or in the throngs of deep sleep, I will sometimes suddenly feel the slip of her hand – her long fingers lacing up with mine. These are the moments I treasure most.

She is magical in so many ways these days. Even in her stubborn fury, her green eyes flash and pierce with a mysterious loveliness. Her heart-shaped face has changed so much, it is hard to find a trace of my own features there anymore. I see a version of her teenage father in her lanky silhouette but she has a grace to her movements and a flavor to her beauty that must hail from more distant ancestors.

As she turns nine, our girl is still more reserved and quiet than most girls her age. She still holds herself back, but less so. Her confidence is growing and she engages more freely with those people she feels most comfortable with. She readily chimes in on phone calls with my sister or responds with unchecked giggles at her new uncle’s antics and teasing. She tells stories and jokes. She asks for things she wants and responds to questions from adults without my prompting her to answer. She will occasionally surprise me by breaking into nutty dancing in the aisle of home depot or quoting “Napoleon Dynamite” with a deadpan accuracy. She still likes slime, unfortunately, but has showed a renewed interest in things like painting and her pottery wheel. She is creative but draws more pleasure from exploring the mediums than by finishing the final pieces. Our daughter has an explorer’s heart.

At nine, she is our whirling dervish, our musical student, our budding equestrian. She is warm and loving. She is intelligent and she is kind. She will not back down from an argument but she won’t hold a grudge. You may wait half a lifetime for an apology but when one finally comes it will arrive accompanied by a fierce hug and kiss and a throaty, heart-melting, “I’m sorry Mamma.” And it is absolutely no surprise that life with her is simply delightful.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Tactile Pleasures of Reading and There will Always be Laundry

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 2236: January 2, 2019
Prompt: My grandmother always said that what you did on New Year's day you would be doing for the rest of the year. What did you accomplish on New Years day? Will you be doing it the rest of the year?

Laundry...that is what I spent my New Year day doing...and most certainly what I will be doing for the rest of the year and all the years of my life to come. There will always be laundry...oodles of mismatched socks, soiled doggie diapers, changes of barely worn clothes discarded by my fickle daughter and sodden towels left on the floors and draped over the backs of chairs. There will always be damp swimsuits and grass-stained jeans. There will always be grease covered sweatshirts and hairy, smelly doggie beds. It will never end for me. I know this with a rare certainty. For the most part, I embrace the chore. There is something satisfying from turning a heap of dirty, soiled garments into a fresh, crisply folded pile of clean clothes and towels. I feel accomplished once the various laundry baskets are emptied and all the cleaned laundry is put away again. No matter that the baskets don't stay empty, or that the dirty cast offs sometimes fall just short of the basket's wide, easily accessible maw. This is my task to bear, mostly because entrusting it to another member of my household would certainly spell disaster; like the time my visiting mother-in-law managed to shrink all three of my pairs of maternity pants, or the time I found my husband had folded and put away an entire load of laundry that was still damp. *Smirk*

So yes, this New Years..and all on those blessed ones to come...there will be laundry.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1843 January 2, 2019
Prompt: "Open a volume and next comes fragrance: fresh, green and inky if it's new or a bit dusty and aged like a grandfather's cozy den" Which do you like better, new books or old books?

This is a tough call. I have always loved the texture and smell of old books. Near my new home there is place called the Book Barn that has a seemingly endless series of rooms and outbuildings filled with books. Some of them are very old volumes, their covers mottled with mold. I love looking at those books, imagining all the hands they've traded to and from over the years. Then there is a this inherent joy with cracking the spine of a new book, that fresh ink smell and the crispness of pages not yet thumbed through. I love being the first person to take a new book out of the library. It feels like a secret privilege of sorts. I have never wanted an e-reader for these reasons, there is something so tactility satisfying about reading physical books that you loss with those electronic devices.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Five Remarkable Books

30-Day Blogging Challenge - Oct 17th
Share a list of your top 5 favorite books and give us a short blurb on each.

I have to start off by stating that these five are in no particular order. I have always loved to read and over the years, I have found that these five books have stayed with me the most among the hundreds I have digested over the years.

"Salem's Lot" was Stephen King's 2nd published novel and though I read most of his work, this early novel has never been unseated as my favorite. The novel takes place in Jerusalem, Maine. Writer Ben Mears returns to his hometown to discover that the townspeople are being systematically turned into vampires. It is wonderfully campy, borrowing on all those original, "bump in the night" fears from one's nightmare landscape. King's descriptive prowess is on full display here, making even the most predictable scenes read with razor edge tension. It is a classic good verses evil story that pits faith and conviction against fear and corruption.

“You have forgotten the doctrine of your own church, is it not so? The cross… the bread and wine… the confessional… only symbols. Without faith, the cross is only wood, the bread baked wheat, the wine sour grapes.” Barlow, Salem's Lot

Jim Lynch's "The Highest Tide" is an almost complete departure from my first choice. It tells the store of Miles O' Malley, a thirteen year old boy who battles insomnia by searching the tidal flats of Puget Sound for exotic sea specimens to sell. It is at the same time, about so much more. This is a coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a boy who finds a mysterious creature on the beach at night. At the same time Miles is making his discoveries, he is also dealing with the fear of his parent's impending divorce and a man-sized crush on the girl next door. At all times this book is sweet and sensitive but packs a really meaningful and engaging story. Lynch's descriptive phrasing is broadly appealing, especially for those who appreciate the ocean and its creatures.

"A feisty entourage of purple shore crabs scurried alongside the snail, their oversized pinchers drawn like Uzis. I thought about grabbing the moon snail, but I knew that even after it squeezed inside its shell like some contortionist stunt, it would still hog too much room in my pack. So I noted where it was and moved on until I saw the blue flash. It wasn't truly flashing, but with moonlight bouncing off it that was the effect. I steadied my headlamp and closed in on a starfish that radiated blue, as if it had just been pulled from a kiln. But it wasn't just the color that jarred me. Its two lower legs clung strangely together in line with its top leg and perpendicular to its two side legs, making it stand out in the black mud like a blue crucifix." Miles, The Highest Tide

"Of Love and Other Demons" by the amazing Colombia author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is the book that made me fall in love with words. Marquez's prose is so breathtaking beautiful, I can only imagine how much more compelling it would read in his native Spanish. The story is about a young girl, Sierva Maria, who is bitten by a rabid dog. She is sent to a monastery to presumably live out her days in isolation. She meets and begans a relationship with a young cleric there named Father Cayetano Delaura. It is a tormented love story that is ripe with beautiful anguish.

And without giving his panic an opportunity, he unburdened himself of the dark truth that did not permit him to live. He confessed that every moment was filled with thoughts of her, that everything he ate and drank tasted of her, that she was his life, always and everywhere, as only God had the right and power to be, and that the supreme joy of his heart would be to die with her. He continued to speak without looking at her, with the same fluidity and passion as when he recited poetry, until it seemed to him that Sierva María was sleeping. But she was awake, her eyes, like those of a startled deer, fixed on him. She almost did not dare to ask:
"And now?"
"And now nothing," he said. "It is enough for me that you know."

Peter Straub was another author I discovered at an early age. His novel "Ghost Story", was the first book that really scared me. It kept me up at night, literally. There is such an amazing story that kicks off with four men discussing the one tragic night and horrific mistake they all have in common. It is a tale that travels through decades with characters that climb right out the page and sit, waiting for you in the dark corners of your room. Both this movie, and Salem's Lot were made into movies...and neither film came anywhere close to being as good as these books were. Aptly titled, Ghost Story, this is the one you will compare all others too.
From its ominous opening line, it grabs on and doesn't let go.

“What was the worst thing you've ever done?
I won't tell you that, but I'll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me...the most dreadful thing...” Peter Straub, Ghost Story

My final entry to my top five is one of my favorite authors...James Lee Burke. While I have read all of his novels, "Tin Roof Blowdown" was my first introduction to this master storyteller. No writer can transport me to places better than Burke. His descriptive powers, in my opinion, are unrivaled. His characters are teeming with life and vitality. This particular novel kicks off with a shooting of two looters in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This wasn't the first book to feature his recurring characters or the setting of Southern Lousiana, but it endeared Dave Robicheaux and his buddy Clet Pursell to me forever after. Burke has expertly crafted their characters and over the years, has given them lives that you can almost swear must exist outside the pages of his books. I repeated find myself reading a paragraph over just to more fully appreciate the care in which he has described a particular place or feeling. He is an absolute master of the craft.

"MY WORST DREAMS have always contained images of brown water and fields of elephant grass and the downdraft of helicopter blades. The dreams are in color but they contain no sound, not of drowned voices in the river or the explosions under the hooches in the village we burned or the thropping of the Jolly Green and the gunships coming low and flat across the canopy, like insects pasted against a molten sun." Dave Robicheaux, Tin Roof Blowdown.

There are so many other books that come close to making the cut that I can recommend. Like, Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants", "Horns" by Joe Hill, anything by Greg Iles...If you loved the show Stranger Things, I would highly recommend you check out, "Summer of Night" by Dan Simmons. I could go on but this entry is already pretty long and I surely must have lost most of my readers by now...

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What She Remembers...

Admittedly I woke up in a bit of bad mood this morning.  The day seemed it would be another rain-soaked drizzlier like so many others before it. I was already fighting fatigue and a blooming foulness when I signed on to yahoo news and saw the headline about our President mocking Christine Blasey Ford.  In some ways perhaps I was already primed to have a bad reaction, I’m not sure.  Normally I avoid clinking on political links that seem overtly sensationalized but, perhaps because I had myself been so recently triggered by Ms Ford’s testimony, I went ahead and did it this morning. 

The US political machine, and Trump supporters near and dear to me, often try to convince me that the liberal media loves to malign and misquote him.  I have to tell you that the unfavorable opinions I have come to hold about our President are not due to watching a biased news channel or listening to democratic senators take him to task over policies and principles.  No, my opinions are formed exclusively and concretely by the words I hear coming from his own mouth. They are formed by his personal actions, by his arrogance, and by this, a seemingly default knee jerk reaction to rally his base and choose his own political agenda and fragile ego over common decency and respect.   

I understand that he is supporting his nominee.  I will even allow that he feels an attack on his nomination is perceived as yet another attack on him and his administration by the Democrats and their political agenda. I will also concede that politics are always at play especially in the high stakes arena of the Supreme Court appointees. However, what kind of human being doesn’t watch Ms. Ford’s compelling testimony and not acknowledge that indeed, something traumatic happened to her?  What kind of person sits through her account, unmoved?  What kind of father, son, brother, husband…ignores her obvious discomfort and distress at recalling the details on an event that had so clear and profound effect on her life?  What kind of leader ignores the pain of woman’s assault and questions her credibility to garner cheers on a public podium for political gain? 

There are many details Ms. Ford does not remember, this is true statement. It is the details she does recall though that tear and wound.  She can remember some details with disturbing clarity – the hand over her mouth, the feeling of being over powered, the laughter. These are the details she can never forget. These are the memories that haunt her, lie in wait for her in the dark.  These are the details that had to be dealt with professional help and dedication.  These are the details that rise up in therapy like unwelcomed intruders.  These are the details she had to work hard to move past, to move on. 

This is how it is with sexual assault. We might not remember exact dates, we may be foggy on the timeline but we won’t ever forget some things. Some details will come back over and over again, even when we have never tried harder to pretend something didn’t happen.  Some memories can always reside with us, buried long ago with our shame and our fear, only to be unwittenly triggered by the testimony of others. 

I could not tell you the date of my assault, even the day of the week. I’m also a little foggy on the events leading up to it. I might have had certainly had a drink myself.  To this day, I’m not 100% sure how the situation so quickly morphed outside my control. However, I can tell you what I remember with startling, visceral clarity. 

 I can tell you how the fear started.  It was a slow burn in my gut that blossomed into a panic that rattled against my ribcage when I realized he was stronger than me and I could not get out from under him. I can tell you how he tasted of stale cigarettes and popcorn and the way my fingers got tangled in his blonde curls as I struggled against his advances. I can recall the way he turned into a stranger, his body taunt and unyielding, driven by one need.   I remember the way I disappeared under him, became a non-person with no voice and no power of objection.  He failed to hear or see me as anything other than a vessel to pour his rage and grief into. I remember the abrupt release, the dismissal and the almost immediate snoring that ripped through the room as I scrambled for my clothes.  I can remember the pain of it, a brutal rawness I nursed for days after and the numbing fear that something inside me had been tore beyond repair.

I don’t remember the walk back to my own room, only that I felt wrapped in a heavy blanket of shame with the hot whispers and his excited keening playing in my head and my burning ears like an obscene soundtrack.  I remember the self-loathing and the shame, the guilt I placed on my own shoulders for being naïve and foolish.  I remember wanting to forget everything. I had never wanted anything to disappear more than those minutes of my life.  

The reality of assault that President Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that the details you fail to recall do not erase those you can. The fact that you can’t remember dates or times, or the minutes leading up to an event, do not render that event untrue, they do not disqualify the experience as having happened. I don’t know if Mr. Kavanaugh is the one who assaulted Ms. Ford, but she seems to 100% believe he was.  I can tell you first hand, the decades don’t erase the face of an assailant.  I can tell you, someone absolutely hurt that woman. I don’t need her to tell me how she got to that place to know someone assaulted her there or that she was alone and she was afraid.   I don’t need the time or the date to know that someone robbed her that summer of something she can never get back. My heart breaks for the details she can never forget and there is nothing political about a victim’s pain…ever.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Legacy of Words & Finding Hope

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 2097 August 16, 2018
size:5}" “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there." ~ Ray Bradbury
Do you agree or disagree? If so what will you leave behind?

Without question, I will leave my daughter my words.

I have, it seems, always been writing in my life but the moment my daughter became the seed in my soul, she also became my muse. I have written about the joy of expecting her delivery, the trials of being a new mother and struggling to find balance as a working mom. I have written about the incredibly vulnerability you feel bringing a life into the world and of the fierce and all-consuming love that makes you both terribly afraid and immeasurably happy all at once. I have written about my daughter's growth, about her amazing milestones, our battles and all those sweet moments that made my heart melt.

I continue to write about her, marking her years with all the insights I can about who she is and what she is like at her various stages and ages. Her aggravating love of slime is forever immortalized in my my blogs, as is the lovely character of her laughter and the summer she fell in love with horses. I try to capture all her burgeoning beauty, grace and personality that seems to come at a rapid fire pacing I feel I can barely keep up with. My hope is that one day she can read through all my entries, all my stories and blogs and see how I saw her at age 3, age 7, age 18...and that this might tell her something about herself, about the woman she has become and most importantly, about how she was the absolute world to the woman who raised her.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1703 August 16, 2018
Prompt: Hope.
I had hope. It wasn't much hope but it was a little. Then it turned out to have a thousand pieces, Scattering it in all directions. Hope for the best, expect the worst. When is the last time you felt all hope was lost but things got better?

There have been many moments when I have felt hope scattered around me like so much broken glass. There were times when the darkness was so close to pulling me down that it seemed I could not draw enough breathe into my lungs to live another second for myself. Even in those moments, I must still have held onto hope because I did breathe. I did find a way to get back on my feet. I think I wanted so badly to know a different life, I wanted to be a different woman. I did not want to cower forever or live a life when I could not tell the difference between passion and violence. I wanted to love in another color besides red. I think I had hope even then, when a weak man's rage had me curled into a frightened ball at the base of my stairs, that this would not be my life and that it would get better...that I would love better and find someone in turn who did the same. I remember staring at my bloody fingertips and thinking, "someday it will be me or him, and I will have to chose me". Those words seemed so impossibly loud in my head and thinking them gave me hope, and that hope eventually gave me the strength to do exactly that.

Hope is this amazing thing that resides in our souls...quietly waiting until it is needed the most. In those dark times, it can be the light by which we find our way out.

"Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all" Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Jaden's Summer of Ponies

There has likely never been a summer when I have needed to write more and in a twist of cruel irony, have never had less time to do so.

We moved this summer. It has been a challenge in several, largely unanticipated ways. The unforgiving summer humidity coupled with adapting to a new home with a host of issues, has strained every relationship I have at some point. I'd like to say that with each room I "finish", we are settling in and feeling more at home but some days, that seems to be merely sugar-coating it. I know that we will reach a point when we no longer feel overwhelmed and things will become easier, more natural. I look forward to those days with the kind of hope reserved for much larger things in life. For now, I try to go day by day. I try to see the positive, I try to appreciate the progress we are making. I look for the things about this summer that are undeniably joyful.

Jaden is having a remarkable summer. She has grown into a leggy, outspoken girl who has discovered a myriad of new loves and abilities. Like a greenhouse flower, she has blossomed amid the heat and humidity, seemingly unperturbed by the dog days of a summer running a bit too long in the tooth. A surprise week at horse camp has radically transformed a unsettled summer into an adventure. She has fallen in love with horses and with trailing her Aunt Becky through her world of ponies and puppies. Jaden has become the child my sister always dreamed she'd convert from Barbies to show horses and trail rides. The first day of pickup at horse camp, I discovered my fastidious daughter covered from her head to her toes in grime and horsehair, smiling a 100 watt smile and looking as happy as I have ever seen her.

So, a week in horse camp as turned into three thanks to the generosity and stubborn persistence of a favorite Aunt on a mission. Each morning she pulls on her riding tights and laces up her paddock boots. She grabs her helmet bag, a present from her Aunt, which houses the pretty pink riding helmet and riding gloves, and heads into the barn. It has to be unbearable hot most days and the smell is...well, let's just say that it is not my cup of tea, and still she pops out of bed like a daisy, eager to get the to barn and get her pony tacked up. I get videos of her lessons sometimes and I can hardly believe its the same shy girl, posting proudly in her saddle and urging her mount into the rolling canter she loves. I am proud of her and immensely happy to see her bond with my sister as she has this summer.

Bat Houses & Butterfly Wings

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1695 August 8, 2018
Prompt: "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly." What are your views on this? Write anything you want about this.

These days I feel far more like a terrestrial garden slug than a caterpillar, nevermind a butterfly. Moving twice in as many months has left me drained. It has been an incredibly humid summer and the unforgiving weather has felt like a plague. Settling into our new home has been rough going. At times it has felt like a depressing treasure hunt where you find delightful little problems like shoddy plumbing and carpentry work around every corner. Some days it has been a challenge to find the beauty in the home we had so readily fallen in love with. We have made progress on fixing the showers, waged war on the ants, even made a kind of peace with the resident bat who comes and goes from one of the outside window eaves. I tell myself it a few short weeks that bat will move on to warmer climates and when and if he returns, we will have installed a far more suitable bat house for him as an alternative. We are making progress. We are adapting to our new life, our new home but it has been surprisingly difficult some days.

I don't feel like a butterfly although the transformation sounds like just the sort of miracle I could use. I've struggled to find time for myself, for those improvements I desperately need to make. I need to build back in an exercise routine, meal prep and self-care regime. I need to fix my hair, attempt to grown my nails again...and at least start shaving my legs with some regularity again. Moving has been all-consuming. I hardly feel like myself in a house where everything feels strange and new. I try to be grateful for the potentially wonderful home we are making, remember how blessed we are...I try to find the positive. I try not to get overwhelmed. I try to remember to be patient and know that things take time. I try to be the caterpillar looking for that perfect limb on which begin my new life with wings.