Monday, February 10, 2014


It was to put it mildly, a rough morning. By 9AM, I had dealt with two meltdowns and a standoff at school. I was exhausted—staying up too late, having trouble falling asleep, waking up to Elizabeth's cries at 1 AM. Is it bedtime yet? I wondered. But no. There were two chapters to edit and project updates to send out. A bill to pay.

I sat at my neighbor's dining room table, which serves as a desk these days, and closed my eyes, breathed deep. I heard the birds, busy outside, and when I opened my eyes, the sun again was bright, the sky a deep clear blue, and the snow still brilliant. I sighed and scrolled through my file. I wanted to be out there. I looked at my list and the thorny chapter I was cleaning up. I thought about the struggle of the morning and about the afternoon and bedtime looming ahead.

You need to run. 

I haven't been running regularly, not with the cold (temperature) and the ice and the cold (sickness) of this winter. But I had an email about making time for yourself even when things are overwhelming, and I remembered the Facebook post the other day about making running a priority and listening to your body, and even though I hate the p word, it stuck with me. I looked out at the sunshine. I wanted to be out there.

Suddenly I was motivated to get that chapter wrapped up. If I could do it by 11:15, I could go before Brian was back with the girls. I could do the 3-mile loop and be home in time for lunch, home when I said I'd be back from work. Yes.

It was colder than I thought. For the first half of the run I regretted not wearing gloves and contemplated another layer. One foot got wet when I stomped through a puddle hurrying to the side as a car approached. And I didn't grumble about any of that. I listened to my body, even though the to-do list suggested it wasn't wise. I ran, my nose tingling with the cold, as I breathed in fresh air. I ran, letting go of the meltdown about not wanting to go to school and the one about actually wanting to go to dropoff after all. I let go of the stand down by the cubbies and the kicking and the faces and the tone. I let go of the tears that threatened when I returned to the classroom with Kathleen's water bottle and one of her teachers was kind to me, patted my back, seeing that morning played out on my face. As I turned the last corner toward home, I stretched out my arms and shook off the rest of it.

I listened. I ran. It got me through the day.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sun on snow

We've all been grumbly lately. Kathleen pouts every day because it isn't spring and she can't make fairy houses. (We did get out for two days to make them, only to have ten inches of snow dumped on them the next.) Both kids have energy they don't know what to do with. I sigh every time I have to put on boots and coat and hat (now gaiters) to take the dog out.

It's been a long winter.

This time of year I'm usually done with winter. I'm dreaming of my garden even though it's still covered in snow. I'm buying seeds whenever I go to the store because it feels like a step toward gardening. I'm getting through by thinking of sap running and pancakes with sweet syrup in just a few weeks.

So it's just that time of year, but this winter has seemed particularly rough. I expected it to be the year we finally started to take back winter more with both kids a bit older and more able to maneuver themselves even in the snow. We didn't have all that much snow this winter though. Mostly ice and cold cold cold. We didn't go out to play because walking across the yard was treacherous. We didn't go out because we were all sick for two solid weeks. Getting out in winter makes it not so bad. Getting out in winter can make it enjoyable even. I couldn't figure out how to get out alone in this winter never mind with the girls and the dog.

It snowed yesterday. It started sometime after I got up with Elizabeth at 1 AM and there were several inches by morning and kept up all day. We shoveled for two hours ending at noon and had to shovel again before dinner. I made every one go out. Kathleen grumbled because she couldn't make fairy houses. Then she made them a snow cave. I took the pine swag from Christmas off the door and let her use that too. Elizabeth didn't want to go out, but was happy to help shovel. We worked. We had fresh air. It was good.

Today, the sun shone, brilliantly, on the fresh, dry, crystalline snow. After Elizabeth's nap, it was still bright. I made us all get out again. Kathleen pouted as she brushed off her fairy houses. Elizabeth begged me to push her on the swing. I grabbed a dead kale plant I never cleaned up in the fall and tossed it for the puppy to chase. I looked up at the blue sky and the skeletal trees. The sun was not warm, but the brightness glowed in me. This is the winter I wanted mixed with the inching closer to spring.

More snow this weekend, but it will melt. I'll see the ground again, smell the fresh dirt. I'll see green again and pink and yellow . . . spring will come. There's beauty though where we are. Yesterday and today that wasn't so hard to see, but even in the ice and the cold and melting muck, it's there even if I have to remind myself to look for it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My View, 6

Something new in my view: the puppy sprawled out on the floor, scratching and licking himself, happily in a restful state for for a while. He was 11 lbs at eight-week old when we brought him home, now he's over 50. He's growing fast, faster even than my girls who continue to amaze me. How are they five and three?

I sit here a lot again in the evening, enjoying the warmth from the wood stove, keeping tabs on the puppy who has been known to chew toys, try to dig into the couch, and chew up sticks until the carpet looks like a forest floor. I sit in the comfort of the living room, no longer feeling like I should hole up in my office to churn through a chapter for work, because I no longer have an office. I dismantled it to make space for a play room. I have no regrets—just piles of stuff still, six months later, seeking a new home. 

My old toy box sits next to me—in the spot once occupied by the baby swing—housing dress up clothes. A small bin and crate contain a jumble of hats and jewels a dance shoes and bags.

I'm constantly moving toys, getting new bins to sort them. Packing things up and putting them away for a while. I had just gotten things situated, and we had a birthday party for the girls. Now there are piles of new toys waiting for a home. I can't keep up. I think we should get rid of some, but the girls love some and I love others (and I don't ever really have the time to go through them to figure out what we're done with).

Sitting down in my chair earlier, I noticed where the fabric is starting to wear on the top of cushion and where a hole has already formed on the side. One arm is speckled with grungy black. Mildew? Oils from resting my arm there? I don't know. I've had this chair for almost seven years. It's younger than the hand-me down chair Brian sits in or our third-hand couch. It's seen a lot, and it's still comfortable, and knowing me and my struggles to get rid of things even when they aren't tied to memories, I suspect this chair will be here for a good long while yet.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


"Are you listening to me?"

One or both of my kids has been known to ask this in a slightly petulant or demanding tone, especially if my laptop is open in front of me. Sometimes I am listening, sometimes I'm waiting for them to say what they want to say, and sometimes, often maybe, I'm distracted. Sometimes, the distraction is warranted—the file I'm trying to send to meet a deadline just crashed, a client needs a quick response to an email, I'm looking for the recipe I need to get dinner going—but more often I'm catching up on Facebook or reading an article that I may or may not really be interested in or writing a more involved message that I could write after they go to bed.

I do listen to my kids. I believe that I should get some time during the day when I can pay attention to something else, but sometimes I need to listen more and make sure they know I'm doing it.

I chose listen as my word of 2014.

Cutting back on distractions is a piece of it, being more present and aware, but I chose the word—or it chose me—in December when I found myself really listening to Kathleen's responses as I was trying to sort out her birthday party. Instead of half listening while I tried to sort out my own expectations, I finally heard what she expected and her party and December were simplified.

I need to listen to my body too. I know that when I listen to what my body needs and respond to it, I feel healthier than when I don't. Here's where 2014's listen meets 2013's enough. Sometimes my body is going to tell me, "I need a run," but it will be so cold I can't breathe or I'll have a deadline for work or I won't have enough time before Brian needs to leave for work. I want to hear the need for a run, and instead of choosing coffee and one (or five) cookies because I can't, I'll offer up to myself a walk or dance party with the kids. I'll choose the alternative that isn't quite what I want, but that gets me closer to what I need. My body also tells me sometimes that I've had too much caffeine or sugar. It tells me I need to go to bed even though I want to do so many other things. It tells me I need to stretch instead of sitting hunched over that laptop again. I need to start to listen again. I won't make a resolution to eat better or exercise more or lose weight. I won't even set goals to run so many miles or so many times a week. Instead I'm going to try to listen and respond to my body.

I'm not quite sure where else listen will take me, but it's where I'm starting this new year.

Do you have a word this year? Tell me about it. I'll listen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22

As we parked in the church lot this morning, Elizabeth asked, "What day is it?"

"Sunday," I said, and added, "December 22."

I looked at Brian. Half a beat after my mouth started to ask "Are you okay?" I knew why he wasn't quite okay.

December 22, 2007 was the day of Henry's funeral. December 22 is a day that has broken me before, sneaking up as it does after the 17th when my guard is down. Today though, I just sighed.

One good thing about always being late to church is that we never hear "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." It's nearly always the entrance song during Advent, and because we gave the music director mostly free reign, it was the entrance song for his funeral. I know people who carefully planned their children's memorials or funerals, picking readings and songs that meant something to them. I was too broken to do that. We asked for one song, "Peace Like a River," one of the songs I had sung to Henry nearly every day. We delivered a CD to the music director who not only played it, but wrote out the music and gave us copies. Today, had we been a few minutes earlier, we would have heard "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and maybe I would have broken. Music does that sometimes, much like smells.

It was a strangely warm and foggy day today. I don't remember what it was like the day we buried him. Cold, I think. Gray. But maybe it just felt that way, felt like that's how it should be. But warm and foggy is so wrong for December 22, it would have been appropriate in some ways for the burial of a baby.

I did not stop at the cemetery today, even though I drove by. I didn't mark the day in anyway, except to nod and squeeze Brian's hand when I realized.