Aug 16

Grey August

coffee

The birds shake the tree outside the window. The house fan clicks on and off. We keep the windows shut to keep the smoke out. The day churns as the grey sticks as I grab onto the good stuff.

I want so much art out of the every day. I want the small moments of goodness to stick. How it took an hour to pick up KK’s friend and drive them to the mall, a trip that should have taken much less time. While we railed at the stop lights and the traffic, inside I was singing. Bless the state of Washington for making it illegal for KK to drive her friends for the first six months after she receives her license. Law and long clause that means I spent an hour with KK in the car.

I want August to last even with its smoke. I want the nights where there is no bedtime to stretch and stretch. Instead they are numbered: August will fall into September and school will start. For now, I find myself thanking my part time work. Thank you limited work for allowing me to say yes to the errand that took too long. Thank you work that is interesting for providing fuel for conversation after conversation with my kids. Did you know gender is a social construct? What gives you the most energy? That if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve only met one person with autism?  The car conversations unfurl from my work, and my work unfurls into part time hours around my girls.

The day is young and my girls sleep. August 16. I’ll count every day. The neighbor across the street arrives home from taking her 18-year-old daughter to work. I watch her walk into her house. She’s counting the days like me, the grey a brilliant backdrop to the flowers and the birds and our daughters.

8.16.2018

Aug 07

Paddle.

riptide-wave

Perfect Blue Tube

I read the news while I should be writing. As in social media and NYT’s and texts from friends. It’s how I find out a poet who I don’t know, that’s how I find out Anya Silver died. As I find out she died, I read a poem of hers. And I love it. And I look for more poems before I find the cancer news. Before I calculate that she lived a long time with cancer. How I think I hope she lived well and I bet she did and then my mind is a trail of things I think I should write so I can be OK with writing about a woman I don’t know who is gone too soon.

We are all gone too soon when it comes to the people who love us.

Is it too late to salvage writing my text for my work assignment? Probably, but now I must write my own writing to wrap my mind around news of a poet who died that I don’t even know. Because I love her words and that’s what is left behind.

This morning I interviewed a man who helps young adults figure out their life paths. Or more like their next step paths. I write about this stuff all the time: guiding kids into their lives. I laugh with this man about wanting my own gap year, just past the time when my kids soft launch into the wide world. I’m always making up my life as I go along. What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?

All this dovetails into the random post I saw about a poet I don’t know and that word comes up and bites me: cancer.

I had a friend who died of cancer when I was 13. It was the same year that my young uncle, age 23, drown. Drown. That’s a hard word to say out loud. And when I say it I have to add in my brother-in-law who also drown at a young age and then I’m drowning in death.

All death tells me on a sunny afternoon is that I definitely should go paddle boarding tonight. Summer is short, the light is waning, it is August. The words will be left behind. Paddle.

Jul 31

Learning to Be Quiet

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Photo by K. Kelley

Learning to Be Quiet by Nancy Schatz Alton

Silence is not my first language. I fill all the spaces up with words.

Especially when I’m nervous. Talk is not my daughter’s first language.

She speaks with her eyes, her face, her singing voice, her silence.

A teacher tells me she is the quietest student he has ever taught.

 

I spend this season pushing against and then leaning into the way she likes to be.

As we walked last night, she kept bumping up next to me.

She’s in my space all summer long, and if I really want a response from her,

she makes me wait.

 

Sometimes she opens into her most happy confident self:

Last night she danced down the hill after a mostly silent walk.

Wouldn’t it be great, she said, if everyone was happy and kind and nice at school?

She danced, smiled and teased me about my out of-tune singing, all on her time schedule.

 

I tell myself I’m no good at waiting, and I wait. I used to think words were fine tools

for empty space. I am learning to let the silence be loud and gentle, spacious

enough to settle into until my daughter’s voice appears. How I want everyone

to hear her voice, yet I know enough to pull back from this wanting

 

and just be glad to know her silence, the one that notices everything:

the flowers, the street signs, the dogs, that cat and the pitch of every note

in the song she just heard on the radio. If I’m quiet I get to hear her sing

that song as I learn how to listen.

7.31.2018

 

 

 

 

Jul 30

Dirt

Grace

Grace

Grace

Grace

Grace

The word sits in front of my work desk, pushing me to offer myself the grace that I extend others. Already the day heats up. News from Liz’s choir director, sad my gifted singer is opting for swimming instead of the stress of a large group choir. Minutes later the editor who is reading my book says she can’t look at it again until September, or that she hopes she can look at it then? All the while I hear my seltzer water fizz and the spitting that goes along with m y daughter brushing her teeth. While my 6 deadlines sing on repeat in the back of my brain.

I woke this morning and my hands and forearms hurt from my gardening session. How I keep pulling weeds and plants past their blooming out of the dry giving ground. Always gardening saves me from my thinking, plants me in my grief and gives me a shovel to dig in deep. You say everything is changing, says the ground, well let me give you some change. I’ll give you some morning glories that never give up their roots, raspberry plants brown past their prime, scratches and soreness and a thorough platter of heat. I am soaked through with sun and relieved to be working.

Can I give myself enough grace to fully grieve the changing seasons, even if the phrase changing seasons is a cliché? When I text my friend that I feel like I’m a cliché letting go of my young adult daughter with a bath of tears, she writes that she thinks clichés are cliché because they’re true.

There is nothing more true than my body in motion, tearing up the raspberry plants until I am covered in July’s dust. The garden gives me grace. I take it in.

7.30.2018

Jul 26

This Heart

discoverypark_0

Discovery Park

My heart wants what it wants.

On summer mornings, it purrs in the light from the living room window. Can’t these long days go on forever? The ones where we walk home as the light wanes and the flower color begins to pop thanks to the dark slowing spreading into the sky.

Still, my heart is far away, too, residing at my eldest daughter’s camp. How glad this heart is that I had my own camp experience during the summer I turned 16. I know the trill of the alarm clock, how I didn’t mind waking early because at camp I was my most confident self. The older counselors liked me and said it. They called me “Schatzie” with so much affection. They made a point of saying my energy energized them. It was something to be 16 and celebrated. I learned there was so much life away from the narrow halls of my high school. So I picture some of that magic leaning into her. Can magic time travel from my own 16th summer into her 16th summer? I think it can.

My heart. It wants these summer mornings so it can expand and grow into whatever comes next. Ah, yes, heart, I am here with you and all is well.

7.26.2018

Jul 20

Passing Praise

morning2

Passing Praise  by Nancy Schatz Alton

Right now the quiet is beloved, the coffee warm.

The mess is all still life: shoes, Sawzall, empty bags and a hairbrush.

There’s nothing to make sense of, my world is well enough: the last few years

of hardship have leveled off & turned into good news that’s not mine to share.

But share it I do: have you ever held your breath in the not-knowing time

hardly daring to hope? I stood outside & dead-headed every rose with my hand clippers

filling my neighbor with my story, told short, I could do nothing but pluck each dead rose

from its home, knowing the new rose would come if I cut the stem in the right spot.

Slicing was my prayer, how I couldn’t believe everything had come to this.

People are really good at saving themselves. Sometimes.

For now, the story ends well, all that I’m not telling you. I look out my window: this year

I have not dead-headed my rose bush. Perhaps later I’ll spend time with it in celebration,

whisper the good news, thank the blossoms past their prime before slicing them toward

their next phase. Everything continues in some form or another. The coffee pots hisses

in agreement. The wind picks up. Another morning continues.

7.20.2018

Jul 18

My Tears Are OK With Me

riptide-wave

Perfect Blue Tube

At my yearly medical exam yesterday, my doctor asked me how I am. Well, it’s been a difficult few years, I started. Then I got to the part where I mentioned that my kids were growing up and needing me so much less. And that when the older one needed me, she really needed me. And when she didn’t, well, she’s hardly home. I think I might cry, I said.

How can I open myself up like this at the doctor’s office? Well, because my doctor is the kind of doctor who told my youngest daughter, ‘Your tears are OK with me.”

When I mentioned the tear possibility, my doctor handed me a box of Kleenex.

I feel like a cliché.

My nest isn’t empty yet.

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary.

This was the first year when my birthday didn’t find me jumping up and down.

Life is wonderful. Life is moving fast. I think I’m starting to shrink. As in I always tell people I’m 5’4” and a half, but I measure just under 5’4” now. And I know at some point in my life I was the height that I like to tell people.

I don’t want to shrink. I’m probably not shrinking. But I have a lot of tears lately and I think the accumulated mass of tears leaving my body has resulted in a bit of shrinkage in my height.

Perhaps I sound dramatic. Perhaps it’s true that my life is wonderful (it is), and (yes, use a comma for emphasis) I have a lot of tears about my kids growing up.

No, I don’t want them to stay small or to be anywhere else but here. It feels perfectly right that my oldest daughter is hardly home and that when she is home she is sharing pictures of her adventures. It feels perfectly right to have my younger daughter tell me that no, she doesn’t want to go do some fun activity with me because she’d rather hang out in her room by herself.

This is where I am supposed to be right now. And I have some tears to shed. I can blame it on hormones, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who finds myself crying about my babies growing up. This cliché is me and I’m writing my way through it on my 20th wedding anniversary while my age approaches 50. It’s just another ordinary July morning at my house: another writing slow-down session to mark my tear-stained journey to whatever comes next.

7.18.2018

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 16

The Miracle

coffee

This not knowing is as uncomfortable as the vinyl seats in my car on a 90-degree day. I’ve just spent a few hours with my mother-in-law. I’m driving home, back to my holy house, and only my dog is home. My husband is hunting gooey ducks, my eldest is camping with friends, my youngest is swimming with friends. And I’m holding myself in the not-knowing space.

It’s hot here, as I said. The air conditioning doesn’t cut my stickiness in half, it just plays at the edges. The air blows on me like this incessant question: What’s next?  What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next is my 13-year-old no longer fitting comfortably next to me when the night keeps her awake. What’s next is a husband more awake to adventure, let’s do this and this and this. My 16-year-old parrots him, but she leaves out the us. She’s off on escapades; she shares her pictures every time she returns.

This time she shows me a picture of herself jumping off a rock. Says it took one of her friend’s an hour to jump off the same rock into the cool river below on the 90-degree day. That would have been me, I said.

That’s how I feel: I’m on the rock and I’m continually being asked to jump without knowing what’s next. It’s a reminder of how fearful I was my senior year of high school, my senior year of college, right after I moved by myself to Seattle to remake my life. It’s like that entire first year of my eldest daughter’s life: what did I do, how am I going to raise this beautiful being? Here I am, on the cusp of something new.

After I’m out of my sticky car and into the cool air of the grocery store, I run into a former yoga teacher of mine, an acquaintance who I see around town. I can’t believe you have a 16-year-old, she says. I can believe it, but what I can’t believe is my future spreading out wide, me not knowing what is next. I tell her I hope there’s something new and interesting ahead.

Until then, I’m listening to what teacher Tara Brach says. As I feel these deep, rich feelings, I’m listening to them. She asks me where I feel them in my body. I know I feel anxiety in my stomach, but where do I feel loss and change? Where do I feel gain, too? The gain of watching my eldest run toward her future with glee. I don’t know that I had anything to do with that, but it’s worthy of me bowing down to the miracle. I get to observe that. It is enough, I tell you, it is enough.

7.16.2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 13

Our Song

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Our Song by Nancy Schatz Alton

Your blossom into speech is slow.

Your smile covers every inch of my skin.

You reach for my hand as we walk.

How long it took to meet someone who I felt no need to give words to.

You’ve taught me silence, how it’s enough to hold our wishes quietly,

especially when we don’t believe them.

Oh, I didn’t believe you would break into song on a big stage.

You have. You did. I was in the wings wishing I could see you.

All that prep with me learning how not to speak

and you learning how to show your secret self:

the song in tune, your smile from inside breaking over the listening faces.

We walk, not talking, hands clasped, arms swinging, an ancient song.

Until we do talk: we’ve been thinking the same thing. We smile and laugh.

The silence broken to mark our marvelous togetherness.

7.13.2018

*blossom into speech is a phrase from the poem “The Student” by Dorianne Laux

 

Jun 27

Holy Fire/Dirty Bathroom Mirror

fire

Today’s the first day since June 7th that I’ve been home without kids for more than a few hours. Ah, I thought, I’ll have hours to work.

Ah, my focus is not focused today. Even writing this feels not easy. We’re half in summer and half out. I’m right in the week between our family’s two summer trips. I just finished writing a back-to-school feature while my brain tries to quiet down to this noise: my eldest is a junior! Two years left! Two years left!

Two years left to teach her how to cook. To soak her in and watch her eventually pass her driving test. Two years in to prod her to do her laundry completely on her own.

A fire alarm that screams “Two Years! Two Years! Two Years!” is not a song I can sing to very long. My Sweet Carolina is off at her beloved summer camp and just knowing she is happy there, that thankfully is beginning to douse the alarm signals that have been on repeat lately.

But that is where I am at: gasping at the god-damned-hourglass just like every parent of a high schooler while marveling that I won another year with my youngest when we decided she’d repeat her kindergarten year. Just, yes, that’s crazy: that spot of joy during a dark time was knowing I’d have an 18-turning-19 high school senior someday. I’m that stinking parent that people might call helicopter except my kids are so old that I say, ‘call me helicopter, the sound of my blades sound pretty nice even as my bathroom mirror is a disgrace thanks to my girls.’

Since my mind has too many blades slicing every neuron I still have in half, I’m not even sure this is worth publishing. Last night I went on a walk and saw a fire in the distance, black smoke curling around city skyscrapers. That’s what’s up ahead: who I have been for quite a long time now burning down.

I know the parents who have gone before me will scold me: your kids are a forever deal, just enjoy the now. But when my husband said a few years ago that these are the salad years: oh, he was speaking the truth. Last night I finished reading a memoir  by a local author who wrote about parenting his “willful skateboarder sons.” The book “Kickflip Boys” ends in the same place of yearning I see up ahead: with Neal Thompson mourning a time that he lived with his three best friends. His two sons/best friends were no longer to be permanent residents of the home he shares with his wife/third best friend/their mom.

Ah home, my sweet holy home. It’s quiet here today, just me knocking out some deadlines, thinking about a fire up ahead, pondering if I should clean the bathroom mirror or leave it as a testament to all that is holy in my life.

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