Apr 17

The Nest


I want to be in the choir. In step with the people who are snapping their fingers, stomping their feet, slapping their legs. Harmonizing. I am out of step but fully ready to immerse myself in joy. To say I belong even if I’m out of tune and still learning the song.


I grab backwards and flip through old pictures. There I am: in cross country. At camp. College. Young, tiny, beautiful. Experiencing belonging outside of my home.


My daughters are in choirs. They can’t snap their fingers, but they can sing in tune. They are teens and they are belonging to new worlds. Choir and friendship groups. Camp and school. They belong in our home, too. We make a nest and we settle in. They jump out and fly back in. The nest is always here.


I am in choir with them. Chris is in choir with them. We have a song and a melody. My girls bring us their favorite songs and we bring them our stories. I reflect back their light and I turn my light toward them. I am in the choir. The slip-stream of the now is where I want to be. I gather rocks from the beach and I sweep up dirt. I am weaving a nest for where we are today.


Apr 16



My daughter brought me a song. My Kk handed me a song called “Flaws.” I use it to crack myself open. I listen to the acoustic version and I cry. I cry to touch that place in me that I don’t have access to because it’s deep and scared, scared that someone will see my flaws and run.

Because you know what: not everyone is capable of holding our flaws.

Our flaws.

All of our flaws.

I so want to look up the song lyrics and let them tell this story.

This story of the human journey. How I am close enough to my family to see all of their flaws. To not want to love them. To read the words taped on to my desktop: “The best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle.” Mark Nepo tells me to love my family’s flaws, to love my own flaws.

Let’s finish what we’ve started.

I wade back to my wedding when my uncle the priest said my husband and I would be mirrors for each other.

Lately everyone in my family seems to be a mirror for me and this mirror is saying: look at my flaws. Love my flaws. Or at least have space enough in your heart to hold my flaws with a bit of grace.

I’ve witnessed my daughter’s anger at getting braces years after her friends had braces. I’ve seen her anger and it looks familiar: it looks like my anger. Oh, anger, hello. Oh, anger, how uncomfortable you make me feel. Like the world can’t love me in my anger. But I can love my daughter and make space for what I’d rather not make space for. All of her flaws, all of my flaws, we wear them. We pick ourselves undone, just like the song says. We open ourselves wide and say: am I still Ok?

I listen to Bastille’s “Flaws,” the acoustic version and I cry. All of my flaws, and all of your flaws, let’s pick ourselves undone. Let’s love each other through the rough patches. And set it to music. I’ll dance although my moves are awkward. I’ll sing even though I can’t match the tune. I’ll come to the dance if you’ll come to the dance. Let’s finish what we’ve started.

*Italicized words are from Bastille’s “Flaws” song.

Apr 13

This Is What You Came For


Photo by K. Kelley

This Is What You Came For

For the call from the accident claim office. To repeat the accident scene. Again. When you don’t want to talk about it anymore because you know the acidic bile in your stomach will churn and rise again.

This is What You Came For

In Capital Letters.

in lowercase letters, what you might miss if you can’t stop thinking about the acidic bile wreaking havoc on your esophagus. you might miss your daughter asking you about Julliard, quietly, while she eats her after-school snack. The girl you worried about incessantly when she didn’t want to go to school and only knew the letter x and the number 0.


“Mom, do you know anything about Julliard?”

To want to go to a performing arts college is enough.

To only want to sing in perfect pitch while listening to music by yourself is enough.

To hear this girl raise her voice in song every day is enough.

It’s enough to calm me down. To think that it’s OK that I get churned up because I know how to calm myself down. I know how to make my girl laugh because I’m willing to act weird. I’m willing to car dance, shrug my shoulders up and down and left and right while adding in hand motions while she sings in perfect pitch as we drive about town.

This is what we came for: the music in between the bile churning times. Can I hear my girl singing? Julliard.



Apr 12



I’ve surrounded myself with pictures of joy. As I sit at my desk, within my line of vision are pictures of people I love smiling with so much joy. My mom, my dad, my husband, myself, my girls. My mom in her 20s, hands on her hips, looking straight at me in the same manner as I like to look at the world sometimes. My husband before I met him, laughing with glee, lanky and bright. Us at our wedding. Chris playing dominoes with me while we were in our 20s before my brother-in-law died. KK at 14; KK as a baby in a backpack. Liz in 5th grade twice; in one of the them she holds a card for me with her Mother’s Day wish for me: love in huge letters and a spa day in small letters.

I’m settling into joy because every day there’s some small mountain of impossibility that arrives as well. A little of this, a little of that. Bliss and hardship. Swallow your joy slowly and completely, says life’s doctor. It’ll sustain you. For sure.

Apr 10

Backward& Forward


Backward & Forward   By NSA

They say the past is gone

turn away

leave it behind


& yet: my smile

confident & dazzling

schools me.


I stare at myself

20 years ago

newly wed


ready &

surrounded by

my childhood


& yet: the hesitant now

no path ahead

no map for the middle-aged.


We are forgotten

& Botox weary

lotioned up


& singing loudly

as our kids

surge past us


into their unknown

how sure they seem

except at 1am, not sleeping.


I am not sleeping

I am hesitant

until I look back


at my smile:

confident & dazzling

I borrow her:


my old self:

excited for my future

I see a path ahead.


I stare at my camera

try to be sure enough

to catch myself here


Startled and dazzling

selfie set

terrified & ready.




Apr 05

I am falling all the way in.


I am eating the breakfast my friend and I used to make together on those lazy long vacation days in Boulder. Back when I was running away from motherhood and into her home to be taken care of. Yogurt, granola, strawberries. It’s nice to take care of myself. Except for when it’s hard to breathe. Then I need the names that show up on my phone. Who reply back to me. Who remind me that I’m lovable even when I can’t breathe. It’s taken so long to turn away from people who no longer find me lovable. To find myself lovable. Even my really tired self who cannot believe my tears are as vast as the stars. The self who looks outward and wants an answer in a blogpost. Until I get to the part that says I need to come up with $1000 for a retreat that will help me birth myself. When I know these tears and those people who love me are enough. Yes, I want to see the Canadian Rockies and work with the very best writing teacher. But more than that I want to believe that not knowing what’s next is where I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be here, tasting the salt that accompanies change. Eating my yogurt-granola-strawberry breakfast out of the soothing peach-colored bowl. Holding on to my love for myself like it’s the shelter from the storm, the refuge that I need, the teacher that I seek. I am falling all the way into myself and calling it home.

Apr 02

Willipa Bay


Every time I land on the Washington coast, there I am: young, seeing the Pacific for the first time. The second time. The third. Every time. How I used to need the Harvard T-shirt bought at a garage sale. How I’ve always had a book with me. Reading: trying to find the answers. Answers. Whatever answer made sense for that trip.

This trip I bring Mark Nepo, who says there is no answer, that the questions keep him alive. I bring my deep sadness at passing time. I bring my middle age tears, which thankfully stop falling for the entire 3-day trip. I can’t find a new book to buy at the bookstore. I grab a bracelet instead. One for my mom, too. The beads similar to the necklace that hung in her room my entire childhood; the one that now hangs in my office.

How much I leave behind only to find it’s all here. The same me, looking for a T-shirt to wear that gives me confidence. Yet I’ve managed to instill confidence in the girls who travel with me. The ones who buoy me with their singing. They sing in tune together with no soundtrack.

Chris still travels with me. I’m still the passenger, slowly learning the coast. How Long Beach juts out, one edge of Willipa Bay. How even the robins look exotic here. How their red breasts are enough. I stand still and let their flying fill me. I am always arriving. I bring my questions with the small knowing that there are no answers. Only this: the robins flying along the tops of the eel grass along Willipa Bay, my family ahead of me walking along the edges of the muddy trail.

Mar 28

I’m a Sharp Shooter


Perfect Blue Tube

I’m a Sharp Shooter   by Nancy Schatz Alton


My student says her brain is a place made of boxes, everything that happens

sorted into a box. She dips in stored wealth, decorates

pages with hand-picks treasures from gorgeous open squares.


This matches a found cartoon of a brain: three levels with boxes on shelves

that spill memories. Unmet humans connect, sweet energy transfer:

Newly-published cartoonist channels confident 11-year-old girl.


The girl’s mother thanks me, her sweet darling loves my brain.

My brain with its gnawed-on cardboard trashed by a gerbil

named Fritz who’s wheel spun in my childhood bedroom.


What we chose to remember names us until we pick another box:

Teaching my friend how to ice skate, the one who’d never experience age 14.

Two things: grief expert & ice skater. I skate backwards & push forward.


Melting polar ice caps, sharpened blades, wisdom, boxes.

My sixth-grade yearnings, I wrote through everything

until I (narrowly, sweetly) pursued: my hands & 1 clicking keyboard.


Grief is a cardinal & tears sprout birdseed.

Words whisper salt water: feelings are contagious.

My brain is made of boxes: I blow every lid off.





Mar 27

Making Something Out of Nothing


Photo by Giovanni Adavelli

Making Something Out of Nothing   by Nancy Schatz Alton

you, clutching your rifle in thin fall snow,
are an instrument of some vital love
. –Emily Van Kley


I feel not so vital lately even as the world proves me wrong:

bylines, loving daughters, a husband who makes me breakfast

the way I pull words out of the air and hand them to my students

saying, hey, look: you created beauty so easily right there on the page.


Bylines, loving daughters, a husband who stays and stays

even as my energy surges like a too-bright comet approaching old age

says, hey, look, you created beauty that fell out of your womb and into your life

your next gifts: chin hairs, a thick middle, an invisibility cloak & dark dreams.


Yet my energy surges, so bright with the promise of approaching old age

grab it & be glad, what never arrives for some is mine for the taking

love the pluck/pull of tweezers, my soft middle, invisibility & dark dreams

alongside my morning coffee & time to be as vital as the day allows, I begin again.


Mar 26

Love’s Recovery


Love’s Recovery    by Nancy Schatz Alton

I don’t let go of the hot August sun.

It sears rejection in weary concrete.

I do turn to my daughter’s request.

I wash her chlorine tangled hair in our kitchen sink.

She leans back, mimics the beautician’s parlor,

bright blue washcloth under her tender neck.

She and I scaffold this safe place.

Warm water drenches her T-shirt,

my fingers straighten bleached ends.

Let this replace what I hold too close.

My misled mind trips while my body

makes this new path from love.


Older posts «