Sometimes, I walk around very aware of this gaping emptiness in me.  The size of the hole changes at times, though I haven't yet figured out the variable that makes it more lonely versus more tolerable.  I'm not sure what, if anything, could really fill it.  Perhaps it has a leak, and as all the things of the world pour into it, they just as quickly run back out into puddles at my feet.

A vessel finds its worth in its emptiness.  Its purpose as an empty space is to be filled, to hold on something precious.  Regardless of the beauty of the bowl, the cup, the vial, regardless of its composition, it is first and foremost an empty space, something without composition at all, defined only by its boundaries.

This leaves me with a conundrum.  If I ever find that which could fill my void, do I become complete?  Or do I simply lose my usefulness in this world?


A Good Day.

I've been feeling pretty apathetic the past few days.  Nothing was a cause for joy or sorrow, just the robotic predictability of life moving forward.  Today, however, was spent in a near-constant state of happiness.  It was full of smiles and laughter, a patience that didn't waiver and simple pleasures.

I put a nature documentary on Netflix for the kids as I cleaned the living room this morning.  My daughter was enthralled with "Microcosmos," a film showcasing the beauty and diversity of the arthropod world.  She sat in front of it yelling to me to look at the lady bug, or the bee, or the caterpillar, asking what a butterfly was doing or why the spider was wrapping the grasshopper in silk.  Our shared interest made me smile, and I sat with her to talk about ants and aphids.

We spent time together in the rocking chair.  My son drifted into a nap as my daughter and I sang "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", replacing the lyrics with various animal sounds and words we made up.  Then we went imaginary fishing.  We would bait our hooks, toss them into the sea and wait.  Evelyn would look at me with anticipation before shouting, "I got a bite!" and we'd reel in our fishes.  We'd talk about what our fishes looked like, and then I'd ask her what we do with them now.  "We eat it," she said with a smile as she gobbled up her purple, blue, white and green fish.  Her Papa would be proud.

Then we went to play outside.  There was a storm last night, and it managed to leak through the lid of the sand box.  The water was roughly three or four inches above the sand, and the sudden appearance of a beach in our backyard was deeply engrossing.  My son stomped his feet and burst into hysterical laughter at the water splashed up in his face before he'd plop down on his little butt and grab handfuls of wet sand.  Every time he made a major movement, he would look to me with this scrunched up smile, and then stomp some more.

As they were playing in their watery oasis, I sat in a lounge chair.  I watched the clouds move, I pet my dog as she laid in the grass next to me, I read a book.  I smiled as my children got filthy in a glorified puddle without caring one bit about the sand stuck to their clothes.  A dark cloud started moving fast across the sky, and we hustled inside minutes before a brief but intense rain began to fall.

They sat in the bathtub with a silence just long enough to listen to the rain hit the window as I rinsed sand from their faces.  I spiked August's hair into a temporary mohawk, and Evelyn told me a story about an imaginary time when she wore her hair like that and went camping.  

After dinner, we went outside.  Evelyn worked on her pedaling skills as she sat atop her tricycle.  Gus was content to be pushed in his Cozy Coupe and repeat "Beep beep!" as I ran up and down the sidewalk, our dog joyfully running along with us.

"Mom, wait!  I saw something!"  Evelyn said as she hopped off her tricycle.  On the sidewalk was a worm twisting its body around, lost.  We moved it into the tree lawn, and, content with the worms safety, she hopped back on top of her tricycle and tried again.

Bedtime wasn't easy, but it never is.  It wouldn't be a night in our house without my son sitting on my lap and singing his ABCs with me instead of sleeping.  In the dark of his bedroom, we laughed heartily together as he poked my nose and said his letters in his own special way.  A, B, She, D, E, Ep, G, Aysh.

I'm now laying in bed with a fan blowing on my face, listening to the crickets filling the night with their beautiful song.  It's been a good day.



The curtains slowly bellowed with the sigh of an oncoming storm, filling the air with the clean scent of anticipated rain.  Each time the heavy fabric moved, a blue panel of light would fall onto the floor and everything in the room would take on a silver hue.  The breeze would subside, the curtain would fall back into place as sure as if it never moved, and the light would give way to darkness once more.  Besides the gentle humming of the fan and the distant rumblings of thunder, everything was silent.

Each night, I lay in my daughter's bed.  It is our ritual; I serve as some kind of comforting ferryman as she crosses the river from excitement to slumber.  As she fades into sleep, I stare at the ceiling.  I smell the breeze, watch the light move with the curtains.  Though I will remain awake for hours, I am already dreaming.

I don't have many people in my life that truly care about me.  It is a sad truth that most of my relationships are nothing but hallucinations, some vivid imagination that I superimpose over the most innocent words and actions of others.  I imagine I'm much more important to people than I truly am, and sometimes the border between this colorful fantasy and my otherwise monochromatic reality gets blurred.

I recently had a transcendent moment in that gradient middle ground where two very different worlds collide.  I was reminded that I am very small and insignificant, that my hallucinations were a side-effect of copious amounts of optimism and delusion.  I wish I had someone to blame, some poor scapegoat to sacrifice to appease my silent tears, but there is only myself.  I have created this outrageous expectation that I be treated with a modicum of respect, this unreachable standard that people only say what they mean and speak it with conviction.  It is because I expect things that I am disappointed.  There's a lesson to be learned there, but I will not learn it.  I never do.

But in my new-found frailty, in my trifling gossamer reality that blows asunder with every gust of wind, there is that pale blue square of light that reveals the silver lining in every storm:  Though I am no one to nearly everyone, I am everything to some.

As the rain starts to fall, I slowly rise and close the windows.  My daughter is asleep at this point, and I'll sneak away for a moment of solitude before she realizes my absence in a few short hours.  She'll wake up and call for me, and I'll be there.  Just like I always am for anyone who needs me.



"And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you're such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it, Robin Williams, at 63, did that today."

This cold, soulless interpretation of suicide comes to us from unfortunately popular Fox News infotainment reporter Shepherd Smith.  His words are not his own, but just the loudest echo of the softest American thoughts, the blunt picture painted by a million tiny strokes that just barely touch the canvas of how we as a country approach mental illness through a narrow door of misunderstanding and secret loathing:  Suicide is an act of cowardice; it is the culmination of the most horrible parts of ourselves. 

Our society has been in desperate need of a frank discussion of mental illness, and now that a beloved household name has succumbed to depression's most tragic trick, it's time to talk.

There is a stigma attached to depression the likes of which no other disease suffers, and that is the stigma of choice, that one chooses to be depressed and can turn it off as simply as they turned it on if only they approached life from a different perspective.  Depression is seen as the result of ingratitude or selfishness.  Open up to anyone about your depression, and you'll likely get this:  "What do you have to be sad about?"

That single question and its bastard relatives that call into question one's ability to recognize one's own suffering as it relates to what a person has in his or her life are the reason that so many people do not seek help.  Sufferers of this tragic disease are made to believe they aren't sick, and a person who has no illness will seek no treatment.  Our society does a great disservice to everyone when we regard mental illness as imaginary simply because it has no evident outward displays of suffering, no emaciated appearance and deep sunken eyes, no unexplained bruising or bleeding, no hair loss or infectious odors.  But depression is a disease no less serious than any other that affects our physical faculties, and like other diseases, there is no choice.

Living with depression is like living in a hole that grows deeper faster than a person can climb. There is no sense of purpose, no motivation, no pleasure - just a desperate clawing toward that tiny pinpoint of light that's fading fast.  At some point, the hole grows so deep that the light is burned out.  A person that deep in the ground might already feel dead, and then what is the point of continuing through the motions?

Suicide is not cowardice.  It is not something horrible inside of us that has grown out of control.  It is a natural end to a disease gone unchecked, like a failing body is to cancer.  It is the last battle in a long war against illness. It is a tragedy which deserves our respect and our compassion, both for the victim and for those struggling to find the answers.

When we start to look at depression as a serious illness, we are naturally brought to a place of compassion for those who suffer.  If someone opens up to you, listen.  If someone comes to you for help, help.  If you need to turn to someone, you shouldn't be afraid to.  I'm here for you.  As I went to refill my own medication today, I was given only three days' worth because their supplies were otherwise depleted.  Depression is all around us, sight unseen.  It's time we start taking a look through a more loving lens.


You Shouldn't Be Okay With That.

I read an article today written by a mother who claims to be "okay" with her daughter's cruelty to animals.  You can read the post here, but I can sum it up for you.  It starts off with her describing a gift given to a 4-yr-old girl from her grandfather, a salamander he found under a rock and put in a terrarium for her.  The little girl proceeds to pull the salamander's tail off.  After harassing the animal as much as the mother could handle, they released it.  Instead of releasing it in a proper environment, the mother allowed her daughter to chuck it into a lake with a simple, "Can salamanders swim?  I hope so."  It continues by describing a child who gleefully stomps on ants, who hits her dog.

The writing is very typical of mom blogs these days, a proud showcasing of parental apathy, of refusal to not only model the appropriate behavior but also a failure to provide correction when improper actions are exhibited.  The mother laments the bad behavior but admits to allowing it, hoping that one day her daughter will figure out on her own what is right and what is wrong.

We have our own salamander story, though ours started out a little different.  One morning, our calico, Martha, dragged a salamander up from the basement.  It was uninjured, though stunned and sluggish.  The snow was heavy outside, so we couldn't release it back to the wild in good conscience.  We found ourselves with an amphibious, temporary roommate.

Evelyn took an immediate interest to the salamander, as she does with all life forms she finds, from worms and spiders to birds and squirrels.  She wanted to know his name, if he missed his parents.  She loved to watch me take care of it, always my little buddy sitting at the counter as I dropped flightless fruit flies into the little home we made him.  She would sit like some kids sit in front of the television, her chin propped in her hands and she watched in wide-eyed wonder at the pink tongue darting out and scooping up a meal.

When it was time to release Roger, as I named him the instant she asked for his moniker, we gently put him in a small jar and brought him to a local park with a small lake.  We walked to the water's edge, a blurry line of mud and decaying leaves.  As I tipped the jar and Roger stepped onto the earth, she smiled.  "He's going to go see his mom and dad now," she said.  "Perhaps," I said.  "He'll be happy here, no matter what."  We watched the salamander slowly walk away, until he disappeared under a leaf.  "Bye, Roger!" she waved as we headed to the playground.

This behavior isn't unusual for children, the desire to understand the world around them and the animals within it, to treat with kindness whatever creature comes our way.  The innocence and naivete of childhood are fertile grounds for compassion and empathy, but the right seeds need to be planted and when weeds start to grow, they need to be pulled up by the root.

Empathy isn't taught by asking a child who has just crushed an ant how she would feel if she was crushed.  It is taught constantly by the actions we do every day without thought.  A child who sees her mother scream at a spider before crushing it with a napkin is learning a different lesson about the dignity of life than a child who watches her mother trap it in a cup and release it outside.  A child who watches her father toss a glass of water on a noisy tomcat in the yard is learning a different lesson than the child who watches her father close the window and shrug that cats will be cats.

A child who is allowed to crush ants joyfully, to injure a wild animal, to abuse the family dog without repercussion is learning a lesson - that violence isn't wrong, that animals are disposable, that pain and suffering are entertaining.  I suppose a mother who is okay with her daughter's cruelty to animals needs to stop and ask herself, "Am I okay with these lessons?"  She probably isn't, but her actions - or lack of action - shows her child otherwise.

Us?  We'll just keep naming ants and pointing out which is carrying food, and which is returning home to see its mom and dad.

Immediately after saving him from the cat and cleaning him up.

Setting Roger free.

Roger, who we talk about still.


Happiness is a Choice.

It is not autumn yet, and the leaves on the trees are still quite green and healthy.  However, I had to rake the backyard today because the maple has had a very fertile season and the grass was full of little helicopter seed pods.  Even as I raked them into a sizable pile, they were actively falling from the tree.  Some hit the back of my neck with force and bounced to the ground, others were more of a tickle and fell down the back of my shirt.  It was peaceful.

Thunder started to rumble, and my daughter became frightened.  She was standing on the side porch, splashing in the water table with her brother.  I always try to explain to her that thunder is nothing to be afraid of, that it's just the sky's way of saying hello and letting us know it's about to give us a gift of rain.  This time, she bought it and as the rain began to fall, we ran around the yard.  We spun in dizzy circles, danced, ran through the wet droplets and looked up at the gray clouds, squinting.

I didn't waste time today with the internet, not with social media nor depressing images and stories of an ironic war in a holy land.  I didn't stare at my phone, eagerly awaiting interactions that weren't going to come. Something about today was simple, and it fostered the contentment that had been hard to find lately.  I was happy today, that simple true happiness that grows inside us when we make the choice to nurture it.

True happiness is not contingent upon external circumstances.  It is not dependent upon how much money we have, how large our circle of friends, how loved we are, how much property or material goods we have.  It is instead a product of gratitude, a conscious choice to hold a mirror up to our lives and see all the beauty contained therein instead of staring out a window onto someone else's life.  If you have to look outside for happiness, you'll never find it.

Lately, I've lost sight of the important things in my life.  I've focused on one dead branch in an otherwise overgrown and robust garden and made that misery the focal point of my existence - this one tiny thing that my life lacks.  Pathetically, I've clutched those dead leaves to my chest and lamented, "Why me?"  I've fantasized about that wilting plant and how much nicer my garden would be if only it could be healed, if only someone would rush to my rescue and pull the rotting roots from my soil.

No one is coming.  The universe doesn't owe me that.  The universe doesn't owe any of us anything.  The only thing we can do is pull the offending rot from our own lives, and look out onto our garden and its ripe fruits and vegetables with happiness knowing that the universe didn't owe us that, either.  But here it is, to be enjoyed for what it is.

The truth is, my life is full of simple beauty.  I have a hard-working husband who excels in his job and provides for his family's every need.  Because of his efforts, I am able to be a stay-at-home mom and raise our children myself, giving them the loving guidance and attention they wouldn't get with anyone else.  I grocery shop without a budget, I cook amazing meals in a beautiful kitchen in a home we own, I put my children to bed in their own rooms, then spend the rest of my evening pursuing intellectual hobbies without any real worry hanging over my head.  I have a tarantula my husband didn't want, two cats my husband didn't want, and might be getting a dog (which will actually be a compromise).

I brought my kids in from the rain and straight up to the bath tub.  Grains of sand settled on the bottom, blades of dead grass floated to the top, remnants of a day spent in joy.  We continued to splash and play as I scrubbed them down with castille soap that smelled of spicy lavender, then dried them off with fluffy towels and watched my little nudists run right to my daughter's room to jump on the bed before I wrestled them into clothes.

Happiness is a choice, and I choose to be happy.

*I feel I need to note that my unhappiness is in no way related to my son's autism.  Anyone who might not know what else is going on in my life or my head (and that's everyone, because no one knows what goes on up there) might jump to that conclusion, unfortunately.  My children are beautiful gifts and their own personalities, whether diagnostically labeled or not, are the spices of my otherwise dull life.


Love in the Land of Autism

After a long, hot day of playing outside, I sit my son on the couch.  He gets upset, not quite ready to settle down and certainly not ready to be confined to a chair.  But I kneel before him and carefully take his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sneakers off, the only ones at the store with enough room for his wide, tall feet.  He smiles.  I peel his socks off, and gently blow on his sweaty feet.  He giggles, a sound of genuine happiness escaping his throat.  I gently pick the sock lint from between his toes, and give his arches little kisses.  At this point, we're both laughing and our eyes meet briefly and in that moment, the whole world shines.

Love is a feeling, an action, a reaction.  The word itself doesn't even begin to describe the deep emotion involved in love, the effect it has on every part of our being.  That is why I do not share the sentiment I see so often repeated in support groups for mothers of children with autism, the desire to not only tell our children that we love them and have them understand it, but to have them say it back to us.

My son says "I love you" every day.  He tells me he loves me first thing in the morning when he runs into my room and throws himself on top of me, like the time we spent away from each other over the night was far too long.  He burrows into my chest, but raises his head to look at my face often to make sure it's true, that we're finally together again after long hours asleep.  Then, he slowly reaches to the night stand and grabs my glasses gently and hands them to me.  When I smile and accept them, he has this look of pride and accomplishment, like he prepared me for the whole day ahead and helped me become the me I'm supposed to be.  In a way, he's right.

I tell him I love him every day, too.  I tell him I love him when I rush to him in his time of tantrum and swiftly pick him up, kissing away his tears and petting his warm, thick hair.  I tell him I love him when I hold him close and rock him gently in his chair and sing his favorite songs.  I tell him I love him when I make him banana pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast, when I'm gently spoon feeding him lunch, when I tickle his arm pits at bath time.  I tell him I love him when we run around the backyard and sit in the sandbox together, or when I put his favorite movie on during a rainy day.  When I blow on his hot, sweaty feet and kiss them even when they're stinky.

The weakest expression of love is to tell it; the most powerful and profound expressions of love are found in the attitudes we have for each other during the mundane and the awesome, the quality of the time we spend together, how we talk to one another, touch one another, and connect with one another.  We don't need to hear it, we just need to experience it.

Whether or not our children have a word for what they feel, they feel it when we show it.  That's what is important.  I feel deeply loved, and I make sure that he reaps all the benefits of the endless supply of love I have for him.  That's enough for me.



Satya is one of the five ethical principles of yoga, or yamas.  In brief, it means truthfulness, denying reality neither to ourselves nor others.  It goes deeper than simply telling the truth, which itself requires an understanding of what exactly truth is, but it also means seeing things for what that they are without the lens clouded by our own experiences and opinions.

Our expression of satya must be in line with the yama of ahimsa, or non-violence.  Though the truth itself might seem overwhelming, scary, depressing, cruel or violent, our sharing of truth must always be done with utmost compassion and understanding.  Our words must reflect reality, but possess the caring human element that reality often lacks.  Satya must serve a higher purpose, it must serve others and ourselves.

So, what is truth?  I think of truth as the baseline of reality, the flat line from which random spikes and valleys occur like a heartbeat on a monitor.  It is the unaffected stillness that runs through our lives and the world around us when untouched by opinion, untouched by judgment.  For example, a truth of life is that it ends.  Death itself is neither good nor bad, neither depressing nor joyful.  It is through our own experience of the event of death that it is given these adjectives.

This brings me to the topic of the Little White Lie.  Is it acceptable?  Perhaps.  Little White Lies as they are called are "lies" told for the benefit of others.  Sometimes, they might not be lies at all but simply the humble concession of opinion.  For example, the answer to the question "Does this outfit look bad?" can be "No" when you feel that indeed it does.  Satya here is maintained, because we have to realize that our opinions are not the truth, and if our opinion could hurt someone's feelings or insult them it would be against the philosophy of ahimsa.  The outfit doesn't actually look bad; it is just an outfit, and as such is neither good nor bad.

I was thinking about truth today, which is why I decided to write about it.  I had a bad day, but if someone asked me how my day was, I would have felt perfectly comfortable telling them it was great.

I took the kids to the library today, where my son was engaged in running full force around the children's area, smacking the aquarium, throwing tantrums, drawing all eyes on me while my daughter was doing who knows what because I couldn't keep an eye on both of them.  Deciding the library wasn't the right place for us today, I took them to the park where these bursts of energy and noise are not only better received, but are fully expected.

While at the park, I had to chase two toddlers running in various directions over potentially dangerous tall playground equipment that was a little too advanced for their ages.  I had to stop several attempts to run into the parking lot, to run in front of the kids swinging.  Then my daughter had to use the bathroom, which involved gathering them both up despite a horrific tantrum from a little boy terrified of the dark public restroom.  As I was covering the seat with toilet paper, I turned around to find two kids with their hands in a puddle on the public restroom floor.  The sink was too high to wash their hands, so I had to rinse soap off their hands by cupping water and splashing it on them because I couldn't complete the balancing act that would have been required to hold a child on a bent knee while trying to get the motion-sensitive water to turn on, reach the child over and help rinse his or her hands before the water shut itself off.  They enjoyed it; I didn't.

Finally, when it came time to leave the park I had to contend with tears from both children.  Mothers and caretakers at the park in a well-to-do neighborhood who had their noses otherwise buried in their cell phones turned their perfectly coiffed heads to watch us leave, my threenager pulling me back and screaming that she didn't want to go, my other toddler balanced on my hip trying to nosedive into the wood chips that lined the playground.

When we made it home after stopping at the grocery store, I found that my rescue cat who still maintained some bad habits from living in a cat hoarding situation had managed to get rotten raw chicken out of the garbage can and spread its odorous juices all over my kitchen floor.

My experience with today, the impatience, the exasperation, the exhaustion, the feeling of just wanting to throw my hands into the air and announce my surrender, were just peaks and valleys on the steady base line of my reality.

The reality is that we went to the library, we went to the park.  We went to the grocery store where we were able to comfortably afford fresh, nutritious food for dinner.  There is still a roof over our head, a kitchen to cook in, cats lounging comfortably in the windows.  So the day was a little difficult, a little messy, a little noisy.  I am deeply loved, and I deeply love.

Saying that my day was great really isn't a lie, is it?


...The Big Appointment.

"Ready, set..." I said with anticipation.

"GAH!" Gus screamed.  With his hands firmly gripped in our own, my husband and I laughed and lifted Gus through the air, swinging him forward and plopping his two feet back onto the ground.  He shuffled forward in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sneakers and looked up at me with a dimpled grin.  "Ready, set..." I said again.

We walked across the whole parking lot in this manner as we headed to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism, a low building that appeared stark white against the threatening gray sky.

As we sat in the waiting room for the final appointment in Gus' autism screening, we watched him run in circles around the line of chairs, giggling and grunting with a car in each hand.  He stopped once in a while to throw himself dramatically on the ground, or to squat before the doors, or to run his car over the edge of a chair.  I watched the clock tick off the seconds, the minutes.  That skinny black hand seemed to tick in time with the light anxiety in my belly.

Finally, the doctor came to get us.  In a small room with some toys for Gus, we were handed a stack of papers detailing the various evaluations that he went through.  She discussed with us very kindly the methodologies, the observations, the details.

She used words like, "challenges," and "difficulties," even the word "weakness" a few times.  She was describing my son - his personality, his habits, his attitude.  Everything that makes that precious boy who he is, described as a "challenge" and a "difficulty" and a "weakness."  I thought I had prepared myself, but you can never really prepare yourself - not to hear the clinical interpretation of your child's being.  Tears welled in my eyes and she handed me a tissue. 

After sitting and listening, and reading through a packet, I finally asked, "So, what is the official diagnosis?"

She nodded slowly, "Autism."  Then she went on to describe what everyone has come to know as the spectrum.  I kind of started to tune out a little bit.  At this point, I knew that she had said he scored below certain thresholds, that his development wasn't where it should be.  I'm sure she had said "autistic" several times, and while I expected it, it didn't quite register.

The doctor left the room for a few moments, and Gus came up to me.  Snot was dripping from his face and I tenderly wiped it away as I drew his face close to mine and gave him a big sloppy kiss.  His dimples and his smile were the same they were an hour before; a day before.

When the doctor returned, she had a very big packet of information for us.  She discussed our therapeutic options, education, financial aid.  More things to digest than I could swallow at once.  As we left, we scheduled a second appointment to follow up and make sure we're able to get the help we need.

I broke down in the car.  I bawled as we drove east on Shaker.  No, you really can't prepare yourself even when you instinctively know what someone is going to tell you.  It's not easy to hear, not from a professional.  It is so final now, so real.

It started to rain as we drove home.  When we got there, Evelyn rushed up to me as she always does when I cry and immediately asked me what was wrong.  "Nothing, baby," I said as we embraced.  "Nothing."

And really, nothing is wrong.  Life will go on as it always has, only it will probably be busier from here on out.  He's still the same Gus, we're still the same family.  He's still my little boy, laying on the floor pushing his Matchbox cars back and forth, the same boy who smiles this impossibly big smile when I walk through the door.  The same boy who presses his soft little lips against my neck as we rock to sleep.

A few days later, today, I'm comfortable and I'm ready to tackle the hurdles that may stand before us.  I'm ready to be his biggest advocate, his biggest supporter.  I'm more in love with him today than ever before, but that's nothing new either - I love him more every day than I did the day before.  In other words, I'm ready to keep being his mom.  Autism won't define our family, and it won't define him.  


The Night Before...

Tomorrow has the potential to be a big day for our family.  That thought hasn't been lost on me today, and it feels like there is a giant timer over my head, ticking away the seconds until our appointment with the developmental pediatrician.  It is our last appointment in a series of three; the two prior appointments were with a psychologist, a neurologist, and who I am assuming were therapists though they never actually introduced themselves by their distinct titles.  The wheels have been spinning for a while, and they might finally rest for a moment tomorrow.

I took the first inning of our bedtime routine tonight, rocking my son for an hour.  He fell asleep quickly, but twitches rattling through his little limbs told me his sleep was very shallow and the likelihood of transferring him to his crib successfully was low.  I tried several times, and each time he woke with a start and a cry.

It's my husband's turn now, and from here in the living room, I can hear the rocking chair above me moving slowly back and forth.  My husband hates to rock, says the motion makes him seasick.  But his efforts allow me to relax alone in silence until I step in as the closer, fresh and prepared to battle those last few innings when the end of the game is in sight.  Last night, the game went on until nearly 11:30 p.m.

It's easy to think that your child is perfectly normal when his version of normal is all you know.  I still think about some of the questions they asked me at the previous two appointments and how they apply to my son and to other children.  I try to see our answers on paper, try to look at all four people we have met with and imagine them going over their findings together.  What they are saying, what they are thinking, on what they may agree or disagree.  Then they present their findings to the developmental pediatrician, and she may diagnose my son sight unseen.  I was even told I didn't need to bring him to this last appointment where we finally meet her to discuss everything, but he'll be coming with us.  Absolutely he will be coming with us.

I have my expectations, but on the flip side, I have no idea what to really expect.  I know that any label stamped on him will only be secondary to his primary labels:  August James, Lil' Gus, My Son, My Heart, My Breath.  I only hope that whatever we hear tomorrow is just a formality, a little hurdle to jump on the road to getting my son whatever help he needs to maximize his potential.

The seconds tick away above my head, and I'm sitting in my living room alone in silence, waiting them out.


I find that the happier I am, the less I have to write about.  I'm writing a beautiful life not in little words, but in breaths; not in front of a computer late at night but in the fresh air under the mid-afternoon sun, with my children and their laughter and the love we share.  Of course I still feel compelled to write, even when I have nothing much to say.  This is one of those "nothing much to say" posts.

I decided to turn the extra bedroom into a play room for the kids, though I don't know why these ideas for inside activities come to me on beautiful days.  No one wants to spend the whole day inside rearranging, so of course we didn't.  But I did get started, and hopefully that will be motivation enough to finish it in small spurts throughout the rest of the week.

The space was once our bedroom, but it's just a mostly empty space now after my husband moved his bedroom to the attic.  HIS bedroom, because we haven't had an "our bedroom" for a long time.  I'm sort of a nomad in my own home, sleeping wherever I'm needed - mostly in Evie's room because she still can't sleep through the night without me.  I was going to turn the space into my own place, finally my own place in my own home.  But the whole house is mine, really.  It's painted in colors I picked, decorated with knickknacks of my choosing, my books on the shelves, my cats wandering around.

So, I'm turning this plum-colored room into a play area hopefully before the end of this week.  We already picked up some cute kids' rugs - one is the solar system and the other is a map of the continents.  I've moved the play kitchen that cluttered up my daughter's room into the space already.

The big task, the worst task, is the fact that the room is full of laundry.  Clean laundry that I never got around to folding or putting anywhere.  I just kinda tucked in that room and was like "I'll get to it when I get to it."  Then I tucked some more in.  Then I went in and picked out an outfit.  Then more clothes got piled in.  It's sort of a living nightmare, as laundry is the worst task ever.

But it'll get done.  Eventually.  The days are too pretty to sit inside folding clothes.


A Date With my Daughter.

I am going to say what every mother has thought at least once or a hundred times in her career as a mother, but has probably been too afraid to admit on the internet at the risk of becoming another casualty in the Mom Wars:  My three-year-old daughter was really annoying today.

Wherever I would go, she would follow.  She was almost always touching me in one way or another - it was cute sometimes, like holding my hand or hugging me.  Sometimes it was obnoxious, like flicking my ears, laying across me, digging her feet under my butt as I sat on the couch or poking me in the neck.  At one point, I just wanted to yell, "Leave me alone for five minutes!  Find something quiet to do by yourself!"  I was very close, but thankfully for all involved, I didn't.  I just kept pushing her hand off my ear telling her she needed to stop.

It's hard to deal with these kind of annoyances sometimes, but they'll always pop up so "dealing" is just what we have to do.  My first idea of "dealing with it" is saying Welcome Home to my husband as he comes home from work and then immediately disappearing to the bathroom where I can sit in a hot tub for an hour or two and read a book in relative silence.

So, I challenged myself today and did the opposite.

It's hard for Evelyn to get all the attention she craves and rightly deserves.  Her younger brother consumes a lot of my time and resources.  It's hard for all of us, and can be very frustrating at times.  I don't stop and think about the toll it takes on her often enough, though.  While Gus is throwing a tantrum and I have to rock him, or while I'm struggling to feed him, or when he's climbing all over me and ripping the book from my hand when I'm reading to Evie, she watches me walk away from her to tend to him very often.  She handles it with such grace and patience, though, far beyond anything one would expect from a child her age.

My daughter is amazing.  She is at this age where she is realizing the effect she has on the people and the world around her, that she can manipulate her environment to suit her desires and needs.  It's a self-centered stage of development, this time when the ego truly seems to come into full glory.  It doesn't need to be reigned in and beat down, but nurtured and guided toward the right ends.  Even without a constant stream of correction or input from me, she is guiding her ego into this green pasture of love and sympathy all on her own.  It astounds me.

It also makes me feel intense guilt.  Here I have this beautiful child with an old, wise spirit and I'm not doing everything imaginable to lift her up, enrich her, nourish her mind.  The guilt I feel for simply being a mother to two children who must divide her attention - unevenly at times - is suffocating.  There have been times when I have called my husband at work in tears convinced that I was failing the entire family and destroying their little lives for simply deciding to stay in on a nice day because laundry needed to be done, or that I felt I was failing Evelyn for not taking her to play with other kids at the playground because I finally got a screaming Gus to take a nap, or that I was failing Gus because he didn't want to play with Evie and I so I wasn't actively engaging in therapeutic play with him when I was giving Evelyn the attention she craves.

My heart is full, but this fullness makes it so heavy.  I beat myself up all the time for the many failures I see when I look in the mirror, and the more beat down I become the weaker I am, and then even less gets done.  Then the cycle continues.

That obvious solution of running away to my bathtub oasis seemed like the exact choice a weak person would make, something predictable.  Run away, indulge in some selfish luxury, affirm my original belief that my daughter was annoying me, justify my escapism with a nice pat on the back and a "You deserve this warm bath and good book."

No.  If I was the swearing type, right about now is when I would say "Fuck that."

I took Evelyn out for a Girl Night.  We talked about anything she wanted to talk about and sang songs in the car.  We held hands around Old Navy and Half Price Books, saying "I love you" freely as often as the spirit moved us.  We shared kisses and laughter.  We ended our night with new books, a new summer wardrobe for a growing toddler girl, and a table at Menchie's before a huge crowd shoved in.

As we sat there, she with her bowl of berry frozen yogurt with chocolate chips and fresh raspberries and me with my simple honeydew sorbet, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief.  The guilt was lifting, and for the first time in a long time I feel like I finally did something right.  We both needed this time alone together - she needed to know that she's still my best friend, she's still important, she's still a priority, she is valued; I needed to see that she's still this amazing person despite not always being able to go to the park or the library, that I'm not an abject failure at motherhood, that I'm still her best friend and that no, she's not annoying.  Not in the least bit.

I still spend most of my night in her bed, because she gets scared and upset without me.  I'm writing this now from her room, and the feeling of her little feet burrowing into my back is the welcome sensation of love and trust.

At this moment, I feel good.



I need to learn to deal with my negative energy in an effective manner.  I always think that I've got it under control, that I've had enough practice with times that evoke impatience and stress that dealing with them would be easier than it always seems to turn out to be.

I think the problem is that I tend to practice stress-reducing techniques when I'm actually not stressed at all, when deep breathing and meditation and yoga are much easier to do because I'm not fighting against a wall of anger and frustration.

Today was deeply stressful, and I dealt with it very poorly.  I decline to go into detail, because looking back on it, I'm ashamed of myself.  The things that I would whine about now are so unimaginably trivial in the grand scheme of things that anyone looking in on what upset me would wonder how I could lose sight of the multitude of blessings I have and focus on these tiny complaints.

The truth is that I am incredibly blessed, even when I feel suffocated by tiny dark clouds.  My son was having a bad day, but he leaned on me for his comfort.  My daughter got to run in the sun, to play at a park we've never visited before, to laugh with her dad.  The weather was beautiful, and we were outside to enjoy it even though our planned picnic didn't quite happen the way it was intended.  I might not have been able to photograph the several varieties of beautiful spiders I found today, but I got to see them, to let them crawl on me, to peacefully return them to safe places.

But I failed to see these little beautiful things, to really focus on the positives because I was too caught up in how the day was "supposed" to be instead of letting it shift and change organically.  I dug my feet into the sand and didn't move when the tide came in, so I really have no right to complain about my wet legs.

Instead of focusing on how to calm myself when I become stressed, I think I need to simply combat the stress before it even arrives by simply giving up, and giving in.  Giving up the plans, giving in to the flow.

When we got home from our excursion today, I was moody and irritable.  I quietly seethed to myself as I shoveled food into my mouth, though I wasn't hungry.  I let myself be broken, and the worst part is that I broke myself.  I will not let myself be broken again; I will prevail.

*     *     *

Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.

Thus, whoever is still and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.



This Neighborhood.

I'm back in my old neighborhood, the place where I grew up and lived the better part of my life.  My daughter was watching a cartoon with my mother, my son was rocking to sleep with his dad.  Everyone was taken care of, so I used the opportunity to take a walk to the lake and watch the sun set.

The neighborhood is beautiful and simple.  Humble Cape Cods and ranch homes line the streets where well-tended lawns seem to glisten.  Cars parked along the street are unlocked, their windows are down.  There are no sidewalks, but you can walk in the streets with no worry.  It's a quiet neighborhood, a slow neighborhood.

Down at the lake, I sit at a bench.  Long grasses flow in the breeze before me, and the sun glows like a golden lamp in the sky.  The lake moves gently and constantly, reflecting the light like drops of golden oil floating on the surface.  I am a alone, but there are other people watching the sun.  Everyone is content to sit in silence, to simply watch the earth slowly turn and welcome the evening.  I am sure that my blood nourished a mosquito or two, but they take very little and I have much to share.

Soon, the black trees of Presque Isle in the distance swallowed the sun, and following it, a slow exodus of people.  Some walked away.  Some rode their bikes up the steep hill.  Others hopped back into their cars, to drive to some other neighborhood not quite as blessed as this one to have such an unfettered view.

A purple tulip shoots proudly among a small garden of yellow and pink flowers; a robin with her beak full of worms bobs her head into the dirt for another.  Lights start to come on in living room windows.  A man stands in his garage with a beer, talking to a friend out of my view.

It is a safe neighborhood, a peaceful neighborhood.  A neighborhood of working families proud of their homes.  Some yards are full of decorations with no worry of vandalism or theft.  People walk the streets after dark.  As I head home, two young boys are playing a simple game of basketball in the park.  One stops and waves at me, and happily says "Hello."  I wave back with a smile.  They are quiet, respectful.

Soon, I come back up to the house where I grew up.  It looks like the other homes around it, but different.  The front yard is littered with white petals delicately fallen from small flowering trees; a lilac bush peeking around the side of the house sends a sweet smell through the air.  I will never see this house as anything other than my home.  This neighborhood will always be the ideal in my mind.

Who can blame me?


Good Day.

Today was a very good day.

It started off with a typical morning:  My daughter curled up next to me in bed with her arm across my neck, telling me "Good morning" and how much she loves me, my son sprawled on top of me giggling his sweet morning breath in my face.  We wrestle, we play.  Someone eventually gets tickled before we finally march downstairs for breakfast.  It was sunny and the wind that came in through the windows was cool and fresh.

My son's therapists arrived a little late for today's appointment, but the visit went wonderful.  We talked about the small hurdles my son has made, how he says an approximation of "Go!" when we prompt him with a "Ready, set..." and a wand full of bubble solution.  It was a trick he was eager to show us again and again as we met with applause and excited squeals, and blew long strands of bubbles into the air as he shouted "GAAAH!"  We reviewed a video we had taken at our last appointment of Gus and I playing together, and I was given much needed pointers on how to imitate more than initiate, and techniques for more therapeutic play.

After they left, we went to Costco.  We had pizza for lunch, and the kids sat happily at the table with me without a single fuss, ate happily.  When we walked around to shop for a few necessary things (like chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt and dried figs, y'know, the important things), I was able to slip a little cinnamon and sugar-covered churro into Gus' mouth, and for the first time out of many, he actually seemed to enjoy it.  He ended up eating at least a third of the churro, and while it's not anything I'd consider healthy at all, it is huge that he took a textural leap of faith and accepted a sandy-feeling treat.

When we got home, we settled down with a little bowl of pretzels and watched "Frozen" for what must have been the 40th time so far.  Then, we went to the park.

Taking my children to the playground is a pretty predictable routine:  Gus climbs up the jungle gym, runs to the slide, goes down.  Tries to climb back up it, gets frustrated, runs to the swings and expects to sit on my lap as I swing.  Evelyn is more than happy to run all over the play equipment by herself while I watch.

This late in the day, though, there were a lot of girls there, some only a little older than Evie and some much older, and they eagerly accepted her into their play group.  They had bags with dolls and they sat on a step brushing their hair.  They climbed the slides together.  They ran around holding hands and jumping.  The joy in her little face to be included and welcomed, to be enjoyed and adored, to be among peers melted my heart.  It made me think of preschool and how my little social butterfly will be in full flight when she starts to make real friends, not just passing acquaintances at the playground.

We walked home, kicking and chasing our ball.  I got Chinese takeout for dinner.  Everyone honored bedtime happily and fell asleep quickly.  Gus even let me brush his teeth without a fight.  I am tired and worn out, but I powered through my yoga in a hot attic with sweat dripping down my cheeks and I feel amazing.  My life may be simple, but it is beautiful.

Yes, today was a very good day.



Balance is a still facade over the truth of constant effort.  To put our weight on a small point is to require consistent stabilizing movements from our muscles, who ripple and shift as our center of balance moves gently with the rhythm of our breath.  It is an act of will, to look into the eyes of gravity and accept the risk of stumbling and swaying, but remaining strong of body and of mind.

My yoga tonight took me through Virabhadrasana III, Garudasana, Ardha Chandrasana.  All of these asanas are one-legged balancing acts requiring a different center of balance.

Virabhadrasana III, or Warrior III, is a strong pose balanced on one leg with the opposite leg stretched strong behind while the core of the body and the arms are stretched in front.  I struggle here to find my center of balance:  My grounding foot rocks from side to side, my calf muscle tries to compensate for this weakness by rippling and swaying.  I try to keep my eye focused on something immobile in front of me, and I find soon that my entire sense of balance is carried in my vision.  Eagle Pose, or Garudasana, finds one leg wrapped around the other like ivy on a tree trunk, with one foot rooted strongly in the ground.  The grounded foot is at the end of a bent knee, the body is in a gentle standing seated position, the back is strong and stable.  The arms mimic the legs as they wrap around each other.  My center of balance here struggles as my back sways, my ankles rock.

In Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon Pose, the weight is again balanced on one foot, but the hips are open and the opposite leg opens outward so the outside of the foot is reaching for the sky.  The chest too is open, pointing out instead of down, and the arms are open with one hand reaching for the sky as the other brushes its fingers lightly against the mat.  The temptation to put weight on that hand and split the weight between the arm and the leg is great, but giving in would be detrimental to learning the delicate art of balance.

Here is where I crumble.  I find myself open and vulnerable in Half Moon, pulled in too many directions and I lose sight of my vision.  My heart feels open and my eyes feel closed; half of me is grounded and the other half is reaching into the clouds.  I fall backward, I lean forward onto my arm, I seek some kind of crutch as I find myself laughing at my inability to control myself, to even address the center of my balance.

All of a sudden, the time for Half Moon is over, and it becomes a small part of my past.  I don't know if I'm stronger and more balanced after the experience of wavering and losing myself to gravity, but I like to believe I am.  I won't know until I find myself in Ardha Chandrasana again, and when I do, I like to think I'll be a Warrior.


A Day in Photos - 5/19/14

The weather today was beautiful, the kind of day that you can wear jeans and T-shirts and neither be too hot nor too cold.  It was the kind of day that screamed "Come, enjoy me!"  So we headed to the North Chagrin Reservation, a beautifully wooded nature preserve dense with wildlife and vegetation.  Winding walking trails of asphalt awaited us, beaten paths of dirt and stone beckoned.

Watching Buttermilk Creek tumble forward.
We made new friends with some local wildlife.
A, B - Platycryptus undatus, "tan jumping spider"; C, D - Ellychnia corrusca, 
"diurnal firefly"; E - Unidentified caterpillar.
We ran around in the grass.
     Evelyn believes the humble dandelion to be nothing less than flower royalty.  
     I refuse to tell her otherwise.
We explored the ruins of a castle that never was.
Contrary to popular belief, Squire's Castle is not haunted.  It was never completed,
and the Squire family never lived here.
We discovered the true artistry of nature's masterful hand.
An elemental and imperfect Celtic knot.
Then we came home and enjoyed the true artistry of my own hand.

A simple caprese salad - Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella with organic olive oil, cracked black pepper and Kosher salt.
We had an amazing day, and I am thankful for the simple beauty that surrounds me and the opportunity to share it with my children.


My Everest.

The Indian tectonic plate slides deep beneath Asia, and where the two meet, the rocks push to the sky.  There among the Himalayas, we find soaring Mt. Everest.  In Nepal it is known as Sagarmatha, or "Goddess of the Sky."  At 29,035 feet it seems to be the point at which Earth and Air become one.  It took nearly sixty million years for a humble slab of rock to become the majestic and iconic peak that it is today.

This is how the earth moves, slowly and deliberately.  It accomplishes great things over even greater lengths of time and to those who have patience, it offers nothing less than itself as a reward.

The wind on Mt. Everest is wild and free.  It comes and goes as it pleases, blowing up to 175 miles per hour at its own behest, picking up as it desires and dying down when it has grown bored.  It dances with the snow like a swirling cloud; it kisses the summit hard like a lover.  It is the constant companion of the lonely mountain, urging it ever forward, ever higher into the realm of the sky.

This is how the air moves, capricious and volatile.  It accomplishes what it can in very little time, and to those who enjoy the unpredictable, it offers nothing less than itself as a reward.

I have a proverbial Everest, a lofty peak to climb where these two opposing elements dance harmoniously in solitude, cold and set apart from the rest of the world where the only warmth is in the joy they must feel when night falls and together they reach for the moon.  


Alternate Reality.

I don't regret many things that I have done; however, I regret many things that I haven't.  Words I didn't say, doors I didn't walk through.

Every decision I made not to act was a link in a very straight and narrow chain leading to the here and now, and each action I did not choose branched off into what is now its own parallel universe, its own hypothetical world that would lead to entirely different circumstances than the ones in which I find myself now.  I know that I'm where I'm supposed to be, but I can't help but wonder about all these other points on the map that I'll never travel to.

I journey to these worlds in my daydreams sometimes, and once in a while I find points where these chains run parallel to my own, and I fantasize ways that I could somehow skip between these realities without losing very much, almost like doubling back with a handful of what I have and taking a different route at the intersection of confusion.

Failure is the standard when trying to jump between the worlds.  People haunt these spaces the most, opportunities for social advancement alone stab me in the heart.  I care not about jobs I had lost, or the college degree I never finished, or the hobby I didn't pursue.  It is the relationships gone and forgotten, the ones that never were which make me long to leap that phantasmic space between these chains.

If only is a delicate whisper on this cosmic wind, a light breeze against my soul that turns me around sometimes.  But because I walked that particular chain and made no divergence in what must only be my destiny, I have my eyes focused solely on one bright, shining star:  My children.  They alone are my reason, and they alone are the only things I'd take with me if ever I doubled back, that handful of whatever goodness I found along my way.

I eagerly drink from the springs of new opportunity only to find myself eternally thirsty.  If only...


Simple Happiness. (Recipe)

I held off going to the grocery store for three days before today.  There were many things I needed, but I somehow managed to work around their absence through bizarre and random preparations from things I already had.  Sweet potato and tofu curry with shallots and a can of stewed tomatoes that I purchased on accident weeks ago was one of those meals.  I wouldn't call it a disaster, but it certainly wasn't something I'd care to reproduce in the future.

As procrastination usually goes, the day that I had to finally do what I had been holding off was an unforgiving one.  The sky was low and gray with storms that faded in and out.  The rain was hitting our windows with such intensity that I thought it was hail, lightning cracked through the darkness and thunder rumbled like a hungry stomach.

It took all day for me to finally get up the courage to run the kids out to the car during a welcome break in the weather.  Of course, between our house and the grocery store, the rain had returned worse than it was before.

I managed to get us all into the store with minimal dampness.  I unbuckled the kids from their carseats and pulled them to the front of the car.  I opened my umbrella and went into the rain, ran to the passenger side and scooped both the kids up.  Balancing a toddler and an umbrella in one arm and a purse and another toddler in the other, I rushed across the wet parking lot and got us inside with but a few raindrops on their precious little faces.

I found myself laughing at this point, at what I found to be my smartest moment of the day (pulling the kids into the passenger seat so I could grab them both at once - nothing genius, but still pretty good for a day where I used very little of my intellect) and what must have been an at least slightly comical view, a short woman shuffling through the puddles with two toddlers slipping out of her arms, her head obscured by an umbrella pressed against her forehead.

At that moment, I realized just how beautiful a day it was.

*     *     *

Meat and Potatoes.


Three or Four Yukon gold potatoes
Half a small head of savoy cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
Salt, pepper, butter/oil

About one and a quarter pounds of thin-sliced small steaks (really, any boneless cut you like)
Two large shallots, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1.5 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Salt, pepper, butter/oil


Peel the potatoes and cube them.  Place in a large pot and fill with water to about two inches above the potatoes.  Add about a half a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil and cook until tender.  In the meantime, heat some oil or butter in a pan and saute the cabbage with some salt and pepper until just tender.  When potatoes are done, reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and drain them.  Return them to the pot, mash them gently using reserved liquid to thin them as needed.  Add cabbage and about a tablespoon of butter.  Cover to keep warm until ready to serve while you prepare the beef.

Cutting against the grain, slice the thin-cut steaks into strips and cook them in a single layer in a skillet with some oil or butter for about 30 seconds on each side.  You will probably have to do it in batches.  Lightly salt and pepper the steak after removing it from the pan.  In the same pan, add a little more oil and saute the shallots until lightly golden.  Add the flour and cook for about a half a minute to reduce the raw flavor.  Slowly add the wine and broth, then allow to simmer so it can thicken.  Add the mustard and the thyme, heat through for a moment.

Arrange slices of beef on a plate, pour gravy over top, and enjoy.



Ahimsa is an ethical discipline, or yama, that at its simplest means non-violence.  This concept is practiced in as many different ways as there are individuals who strive to adhere to its message, but the theme remains the same:  To practice a life of compassion, gentleness, and love.

Like a rose, the petals of violence are many and they unfold one atop the other.  At the center is spiritual apathy, a disjointed view of who we are as a species, who we are as individuals, who we are in relation to each other and where our place is in the natural world around us.  This apathy opens us to emotional despair - confusion, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and no sense of our own worth or the worth of those around us.  Finally, this leads to the outermost petals of the rose, the ones who seem to decay the fastest, those of physical violence, the manifestations of which are devastating to who we are a species, who we are as individuals, who we are in relation to each other and the natural world around us.

Ahimsa isn't only about those outer petals of physical violence, the blows we inflict upon ourselves and others.  It's about the emotional and spiritual violence, as well.  Hate, prejudice, anger - all of these things cause injury, all of them are harmful.  Our thoughts and our words need to come into line with a concept of non-violence if we are to reap the benefits of a life lived truly in compassion.

We all are guilty of planting seeds of violence.  When we exert our power over those who are smaller than us, like stepping on an ant, we are actively guilty.  When we walk past a beggar and avert our eyes, we are guilty by omission.  When we spread a rumor, hold a grudge, feed a deep-seeded hatred, we are passively guilty.

Ahimsa requires some initial discomfort.  We need to make ourselves small so that we can see how big everything else truly is; we need to make ourselves nothing so we can see the something in others; we need to let go so we can give back; step back so others can step forward.  When we are all doing these things, we will all meet in the middle.  If something pleases me but hurts six other people, I need to sacrifice that happiness, because I am only one but they are many.

In my own life, I fail a lot.  I am impatient, I am emotionally volatile, I am lazy.  Each time I stumble, though, I see it not as a fault but as a teacher, an opportunity to recognize the bad in me and hopefully exorcise it so the next time I'm walking down that same sidewalk toward a violent outburst, I can try to avoid tripping over the same cracks.  I have a long way to go, but I have a long time to get there.

You are stronger than me.  Walk with me.  Hold me up.  Forgive me my faults and know that I am trying.


Rainy Day.

I was driving into a storm waiting to happen, a horizon composed of blue and gray clouds stacked one atop the other.  Erie had faded behind me, and Cleveland was too far away to see.  I felt like I was in limbo - I was nowhere and anywhere, driving what might as well have been the same mile of highway over and over. Trees, an exit ramp, a bridge.  Repeat.

It always feels weird leaving my hometown.  There's something that feels incomplete and empty, something I can't quite explain - plans conceived in a wild imagination that come to naught for lack of desire, lack of time. A sensation of leaving an important job unfulfilled.  Sometimes it feels like I'm not heading back to my home in Cleveland, but that I'm heading there only for a visit and that I will return to Erie, to my real home.

Driving in limbo, rushing toward a storm.  Somewhere between here and there, almost without space, almost without time.

This emptiness, this loneliness springs forth from a door that pivots on a rusty hinge, a tiny joint that opens and closes the channels of my peace.  In my tunnel vision, that empty space is all that I can see.  All I have, the walls that hold up my whole structure, are blurred along the edges while my focus is centered on that hinge just waiting for it to break, for that door to stop creaking open and slamming shut with every unconscious gust of wind.

I was overcome by an intense sadness, and could feel it hot and stinging in my eyes as tears began to well. Just as they hovered along my eyelashes, it started to rain.  It felt like the sky had taken on my burdens and shouldered my load for a little while.  The clouds cried for me, and I no longer needed to cry for myself.

The thunder even now as I lay here in bed rumbles a message, that all storms pass.  Whatever hides in the darkness will be brought to the light in brief flashes.  The earth needs the rain, and sometimes our souls need depression so that in braving it, we will grow stronger, larger.  Let us soak up the storms so that when the sun shines again, our flowers will bloom.


A Celebration.

The sweet smell of viburnum fills the air as handfuls of tender pink buds slowly begin to open into gentle white flowers.  In the shadows, ferns shoot into the sky and the curling leaves of the hostas break through the soil and unfurl like pages of a book.  Bright tender leaves begin to speckle the trees, little drops of green beginning to color an otherwise gray and seemingly lifeless forest.  The fertile earth springs to life in May.

It is no wonder that Mother's Day falls at a time when we can feel a kinship with the creative bounty of the earth as it opens itself like a womb to welcome life into this world.  We celebrate motherhood because it is reflective of the steady love around us - the marriage of the soil and the sun that brings forth the plants; the patient mother robin as she sits sentinel over her nestlings.  It is a day to appreciate that which gives and sustains life, something always so present to us that it's easy to overlook.

I find with great joy that I am still awestruck by my own motherhood.

My hips are wider, my breasts hang lower, loose skin on my stomach is decorated with silver threads where my body stretched to accommodate lives growing.  I have dark bags under my eyes from years of exhaustion, and they are rimmed now with lines born of laughter and smiles.  When I stand, I sway slowly from side to side without any conscious effort, a habit most moms pick up in the first year of their child's life and it becomes as much a comfort to us as it does to them.

My hands are dry and rugged.  They have bathed newborns, they have wiped tears, they have cleaned mucus and feces and vomit, they have patted backs and tickled armpits, they have scrubbed potty chairs and high chairs and kitchen floors.  I have never raised these hands with violence, have never used them to instill fear or dread in my children; they have only been offered in compassion, generosity, mercy and aid.

I am strong.  I have given birth twice, have been brought to my knees in the most joyous pain, have pushed and strained and yelled and torn.  I have fed a child at my breast while I suffered postpartum depression and battled intense anxiety.

I have given up the very things that made me who I was, stripped myself of my former skin and emerged larger, stronger, and hungrier than ever.  I am a teacher.  I am a nurse.  I am an adventurer and an explorer.  I see the world through fresh eyes, through the eyes of my children.  I am new.  I am reborn.  I am no longer scared.  I have battled and I have won.

My children don't know what I endure on a day-to-day basis, the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles my life as a mother has thrust me into.  They don't need to know, because to understand the sacrifices a person makes for us is to feel compelled and obligated to return the favor in some way, and I have no expectations of ever being repaid, no desire to ever hoist that burden on my children.  They owe me nothing, but I will accept with grace all the love they freely give.

And the love flows like a raging river, free and boundless.  Whatever rocky pitfalls lie beneath its foaming surface are covered and consumed by rapids that continue to push us forward.  It is wild.  I have never felt more alive than when I am consumed by this love, giving up any sense of control and simply going with the current.

My children are not mine; they are their own and they belong to the universe.  I am humbled by my role as their caretaker and nurturer, humbled to prepare these two amazing lives to go out into the world and fulfill their own destinies.  I project as little onto them as I can manage; instead, I let the colors of their lives write upon my own canvas.  Their innocent lives are my own newness, my own ticket to experiencing the world anew.

As I sat on the deck today and watched the mother robin with her mouthful of worms bow her head to the gaping mouths of her lightly-feathered babies, I knew that we were connected.  In her own way, she feels the same about her motherhood.  Her children are an extension of her no less than my children are an extension of me, no less than the grass is an extension of the earth and the sun - and we are all an extension of the stars, of the universe.

We are all amazing products of the fertility and love of the earth.  Celebrate spring.  Celebrate life.

Happy Mother's Day.


Why I Write.

Nothing compels me to write more than disconnect, that feeling of being alone in a full and busy world, of being composed of things unearthly and beyond reality.  That deep part of my soul like the bottom of the ocean where creatures we haven't yet discovered make their homes is cold and untouched by the sun.  I don't know what hides there, but I long to.  I drop anchor in these dark places every time I sit down to write; I imagine the strings of black letters are like a fishing line at the end of which is an enticing bait that will draw these creatures forward and pull them into the light where they can be studied, and known, and released.

I felt a compulsion to discover my oceanic beasts yesterday as I drove east on a nearly empty stretch of highway.  The broken white lines were lulling me into a thoughtful silence that sparred with the dull anxiety I always feel when I drive east, a result of playing chicken with Helios as he drags the sun across the sky and I'm fighting against the solar current.  I thought about how close we can be to someone while simultaneously being so far away, how half a mile of physical distance can be extended through walls of brick and glass that divide us, walls of apathy and ignorance that pull us even further apart.  

I thought about a single heartbeat in a building, this spark of energy that pulsated unseen into the air and was carried by the breeze and into my open car window, delicately caressing my cheek.  I could smell on it the same smell I find on myself, the tarry stink of destiny that firmly holds us in one place.  Our heads and our hearts don't always know it's there, and we get these amazing and lofty ideas of where we'll run to next, but every time we lift our heels, that black viscous tar of fate holds us firm.  And the heart beats on, unaware of my existence as I drive solemnly by, hidden by walls both visible and invisible.

In a city full of people, I saw buildings and cars.  I saw no one.

When I woke up this morning, I stood barefoot in soft moss wet with dew and watched the sun sparkle off the delicate pink blooms of a bleeding heart.  A mother robin nervously approached her nest to feed her naked, hungry brood.  I filled my lungs with the fresh air of a cool breeze and waved warmly to the first golfers of the morning as they made their way to the smooth green behind my parents' house.  I connected.

I am Gemini and Cancer, that zero degree mark between the signs that dives out of the air and into the water.  Born on the last day of spring, I am a daughter of the free sky, sister of the warm breeze and cousin to all those with wings who have tamed the fickle wind; I am a child of the sea, born looking through the rippling waves at the cool dark places the sun can't warm.  I am gaseous and gossamer; I am liquid and flowing.  This morning, I am everything.

I am starting this blog with high aspirations, that every day I can write of the things about which I am most passionate.  I am determined to hold back my wild horses, to no longer want to run against my destiny but stand here in my tar and learn to enjoy the view with patience and love.  Because it is full of beauty.  It is full of life.  It is full of awe.