Saturday, December 18, 2010

God and Daughters.

"Mom, are you going to die in December?" my six year old daughter asked.

"No." I continued picking up dirty clothes from her bedroom floor.

"Am I going to die in December?" cuddled onto her side, she looked over at me from her twin bed, little pink hands tucked under full rosy cheeks.

"No," I paused in my clean up to look into her big brown eyes, "And why December?"

"Because that's when the calendar ends."

"No honey, it's a cycle. I already bought the January 2011 calendar, it just loops around."

Death has been a topic of interest lately for my six year old daughter.

"Mom, what happens when we die?"

My first answer was honest, "I don't know what happens. I know we are connected and we will always be connected in our hearts. You will always be in my heart and I will always be in yours." Okay, kind of a lame answer, but it was under pressure and never rehearsed. Damn, why don't kids ever give us a head's up? But she let it be, and I felt good.

About a week or so later, I'm was lying in her bed for a few minutes before she drifted off to sleep when she suddenly clutched me with quite tears flooding her eyes, her face, smashed to the side of my face. I could feel her tears run down my cheeks, leaving a wet trail down to my neck. Her vulnerability struck me.

I freaked, "What's wrong?!"

"I don't want to die." Her voice was a whisper, a conspiratorial desire to plot against the inevitable.

My daughter cried to me, which she should. This is my role. I'm mother. Life-giver. Instantly, my role was too large for me to hold. I attempted to assure her.
"Everyone dies. It's okay. It's part of the cycle of life."
I'm so lame, I quoted Disney! Or Elton John, which isn't so very lame as Disney.
But raised Episcopalian, with brushes in both Catholic and Mormon churches, I'm a tried and true AGNOSTIC. I don't believe in one thing. I wish. I hope. But I have this niggling feeling that it's dust to dust and nature is the only truth.

"I never want to grow up. I want to stay at like ten or twenty." Her hug turned into a vice around my neck and shoulders.

The unknown was eating away at all the confidence six years on earth had the opportunity to build. Who am I to answer?
"Why ten or twenty?" I kissed her forehead and hugged her back.

"Because I don’t want to grow old and die."

I had to answer. Her young mind needed to grip onto some certainty. Yet there is no certainty. I paused. I looked over the top of her brown curls, felt her wet tears on my cheeks. I'd already told her we all die. How can I make that a manageable fact, one that doesn't frighten her to the core? She hugged me so hard, I could physcially feel her fear. Momma bear woke. I knew I had to make her feel better, had to take the edge off of her fear. So I converted to Catholicism, in a blink.

My husband was traveling in Germany at the time but I called him later, he who is an Atheist, and told him we'd converted and that he HAS to go along with it. If he can lie about Santa, he can lie about this, at least until she's older.

"It's okay honey, we'll always be together. When we die, we turn into angels and hang out in heaven forever together." Yep, that's about how I said it. And I went on, talking of this magic. I told her about angels and heaven and offered to take her to the neighbors Catholic Church on Sunday, to learn more. I talked until I felt her calm, her grip relax, her flow of tears stop. And I figured, if millions in the Bible Belt can use this crutch to cope with their expiration date, why not my six year old? I'd never been so grateful for the existence of religion. When she gets older, she can figure it out on her own.

All I wanted to do was crawl into the embrace of my own mother and ask her for reassurance. She, who is a mother, a life-giver. She, who once soothed my fears telling me that God is love, and love is in all of our hearts. There is something divine about going to our women for answers, to shape our grasp on this swirling life. And though I question God's existence, I know in my heart, if she's there, it's a woman.

The problem with GOD and heaven and angles is... I really don't believe it myself. A 'higher power' is about as far as I can take my psyche without flinching in awkward acknowledgement that I'm still believing in Santa. I want her spirituality not to be centered on an old gray bearded man, but on nature, something I truly to believe in. I can touch it, breathe it. I know it.
But... how do I do that? I wasn't raised that way. I certainly have no practices that encourage it. But I feel its truth.

Baby steps, via I bought a circular equinox/solstice calendar and want to try to convert our Christian beliefs, the only ones I know, into a natural celebration - but my first attempt came out like this:

"Mom, are angels real?" that inquisitive six year old threw at me while I was driving home from the gym.

"Yes." I have to go for consistency and I'd just told her we'd be angels last week.

"Are they apart of Christmas?"

How the hell do I know? I obviously don't know much about it. Being raised a Christian, but not attending church since teen-hood, is like taking Spanish in High School, you forget most of it. But I'm mom. I have to have an answer, right? Hindsight, I should have thought about my answer a bit more thoroughly first.
"Well, angels came down to celebrate Jesus' birth and the winter solstice - the time when all the trees and plants are dead, and it's the coldest time, and that's part of the cycle of life."

YES. Pause to take in the full lack of logic in that last sentence and the answer is undeniable- I AM FUCKING UP MY KIDS. How do I mesh these two cultures, sanely?

Is there a kid's book out there somewhere or an adult book on how to celebrate a more pagan (or whatever nature based beliefs are called) lifestyle or on how to incorporate split beliefs? I just need it to exist.

What did you tell your child, or what will you tell your child when she asks, "What happens when I die?" Give me what would be your first, off the cuff response, in comment to this post- because, I really want to know.

And - have a happy frickin' holiday - however it's celebrated.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nested in the Northwest

Nested in the Northwest
Every raindrop a kiss, a blessing from the sky herself
The lower the cloud, the tighter the embrace
The fog protecting, holding
The earth here
wants to blanket me in moss
Cover my body in her abundance
And take me back
Into her arms
Down into the fertile soil
Encompassing me whole
Leaving only a free soul
Able to drift up
Lightened of living load

*I wrote the poem thinking of abundance and acceptance, of nature itself. Only after I read it back to myself, did I see some resemblance to death. But it's really about life. Even so, aren't they just sides of the same coin?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Diva

Spring is a shy Southern Belle
She sneaks up
Like a slow simmer
A spot of color catches the eye and behold
She's been in the room all along
No warning
No loud announcement
She tiptoes in with her vibrant agenda
Twisting the kaleidoscope
Shifting shades
From pale winter to warm blush
Upon lush cheeks.

But Fall,
Fall is my season
When mother-nature rolls down the window
Letting the wind whip up my hair
Raining down leaves to knock about my head
Whistling through my bones
for attention
When the moment comes
for her spell to cast
Trees bow at her entrance
Leaves drop in open admiration
Winds blow untamed kisses
She is
the DIVA of seasons.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Squirrel at my Window

I sat at the kitchen table sipping my morning ritual- coffee- when a scratch at the window to my side caught my attention. Thinking nothing, also a morning ritual, I glanced over and startled at the squirrel nodding his furry head at me. I looked around the kitchen for witnesses but no one was around. This time, the little nut brown knocked and I looked back at him in disbelief.
I pointed to my chest and raised my eyebrows.
He nodded, "Yes, you." His voice was muted behind the window pane.
I cracked the window, but only an inch... who knew what kind of temperament talking squirrels had.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I'm a cynic when it comes to beauty. Beauty may cause more trouble than religion. It pokes at girls, creating eating disorders. It pinches young women's wallets into buying the latest trendy brands. It guiles ladies into smearing on useless nightly lotion regiments. Beauty is as unattainable to oneself as heaven. Because, who are you to be beautiful? I've never heard a woman fully claim it as her own. There's always a flaw, a 'one-thing' to change. Beauty. You can keep the version of it that plasters its judgment across exceptional faces and shapely bodies, the version that inevitably my daughters will one day worry about in their teens. That beauty... its looks can kill. Leave it alone, it's trouble in a tight skirt.
But don't be fooled, I'm beautiful.
There is a healthier side of beauty. Beauty you can create, with breathtaking artistry. Beauty you can capture, listening to a stunning symphony. Beauty you can taste on your palette, savoring a tenderly prepared morsel of goodness. Beauty you can feel, when observing nature's full naked glory at sunset. I'd rather observe it, hear it, taste it and feel it - than attempt to tame it, as mine.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The link I metioned in the previous post

Words Matter

Have you seen the 300 revisions in the Texas Social Studies Textbooks?
I was curious enough to search them out. Yes, I did this on my free time of my own free will, don't judge me.
There are some interesting points... just food for thought.
I placed a link to the site where you can look over them all on your own and see what sticks with you.
I'm going to read through them right now and post my reflections as I go along... little things that I notice as I read through the revisions, some that bother me, some that seem fine to me, some will surely strike the funny bone, to be sure.
I want to hear what do you think?
Okay, let's start in Kinder and work our way up through the revisions.

*Ordinary citizens have been replaced by patriots and good citizens. I usually like ordinary people but we didn't make the cut.
*This one I like: Capitalism is taught in Kindergarten (trust me, it's being taught in my house at Preschool age - my 4 year old runs a hard bargain.
*Veterans Day was added, which I thought I'd learned anyhow but John Smith was erradicated and I really can't tell you off hand who he is - wait - I think he was in a Disney cartoon with Pocahantos?
*The environment was deleted from Geography and isn't that like using a double negative?
*Modern technology was added in kinder, we'll have the kids show the teacher how to reboot their iphone for this one.
*The word "VALID" was added to several sentences as before, they must have been teaching invalid things. "?"
In Grade one revisions, 'ordinary people' have once again been deleted and I think this could somehow be turned into a drinking game, have a shot whenever you see the deletion of "ordinary people" - but that's why I'm still in this category.
*Free Enterprise was added again in first grade - and I think that Texas will have the most aggressive Lemonaide stands in the nation!
*Just noticing the "constitution" is added in several times already - I like the constitution, I learned about it, but why do I get the feeling that the Tea Party is going to pop out any moment now?
*Whoa - they just took away MLK day... gotta wonder about that one... and put in San Jacinto day - I'll have to google that one, but it's gotta be a local thing - I'll have to ask my Texas neighbors.
(OH HA HA - Big Laugh - I just googled it - it's when Texas won independence from Mexico... Yes, I'm California educated.)
*Take a shot, 'ordinary people' have been deleted again!
*MLK is back! He's like Jesus. Richard Allen was added, and damn, I'm going to have to google again. This is a first grade standard, Texas first graders are smart. (Oh, he's a bishop, hmmm, that's an interesting addition)
*Some things look to be taken out but when you read through, they pop up elsewhere, so no one panic when you see they've deleted the calendar.
*The 'environment' has been deleted from Geography again - and I'm thinking it's all Al Gore's fault. But maybe I'm reading into it - like all the adults that thought Kati Perry was sexing up Elmo when it really was platonic.
*I'm serious. Grade 1, standard 7 - Economics has replaced Culture. Ha ha ha. Of course it has! This is America silly.
*YES! 'Ordinary people' deleted again, take another shot.
*A definition has been added to "good citizenship" because as ordinary people, we obviously can't define this on our own.
*Clara Barton has been deleted. Apparently beginning the American Red Cross didn't make her anything more than an "ordinary person" and they've been deleted (take a shot)
*Nathan Hale is gone, sorry dude, I have to google you so I can't say as I'll miss em.
*Benjamin Franklin was added, but I find his initial absense suspicious.
*Take a shot (that means another 'ordinary people' has been deleted)
*I'm seeing a thread of patriotism and constitution running through here as added revisions... I can see Walmart stocking shelves with more red, white and blue right now. (I'm being sassy. That was not in my core curriculum, it just came as an extracurricular in High School).
*GRADE 2 is looking similar to the last two, more constitution, which is great,in my opinion, but then there's this addition where it focuses on how we've failed or upheld that document and that makes my nose itch.
*Oh! Another 'ordinary people' bites the dust, take a shot.
*Henrietta King was deleted and I just have to say, there aren't enough women in the books already people. This is the first one that actually bothers me, this accumulating hacking away at women's place in history. But they do teach in Iran that we are second class citizens, maybe this is just a bit more sublte.
*Irma Rangel was added, maybe I just got my panties in a wad. Don't mess with the girls!
*W.E.B. DuBois was added, and I think that's good. But how interesting that we get to pick and choose, a bit like gods. If God existed, but I haven't found it in the curriculum yet. I'll keep reading.
*Mining coal has been replaced by drilling of oil and for some reason, Texas, this also makes me giggle.
*identify functions of governments such as establishing order, providing security, and managing conflict; (I had to copy and paste that one... did it make anyone else think of Haliburton?)
*Yay - I like Grade 1 12-D - they added in volunteering and citizen participation... maybe I should try one of those out.
*Take a shot (yes, Ordinary People has been found deleted again) - this is fun but I'm getting a buzz.
*Culture has been added back... phew.
*GRADE 3 and it looks about the same as the previous grades...
*Take a shot.
*Grade 4 - my favorite because I taught it for so long in California...
*The Western Hemisphere has been replaced by North America - shh, don't tell Mexico, we already took Texas from them!
*Celebrate Freedom Week is the longest addition I've seen so far, and I like to celebrate it daily with a glass of Pinot Noir personally.
*Native Americans have turned into American Indians, keep up!
*Mexico's independence from Spain has been deleted. I wonder why?
*How cute, they've added in the impact of oil on Texas and it makes me think they'll make little oil well models, like California 4th graders make little Mission models. BP will be sponsoring this.
*Miriam Ferguson has been replaced by Bessie Coleman... ?
*The Western Hemisphere is about as popular as ordinary people... we should take a pity shot for it.
*5th Grade and I'm getting bored.
*Yankee Doodle has been deleted and I just want to say that song is annoying anyhow.
*Capitolism and Free market pop up throughout all of the grades as an added revision. This seems to be the biggest change thus far, and it doesn't scare me.
*Cesar Chavez was deleted along with Ben Franklin so I'm thinking maybe Cesar will pop up later. Like Ben has previously. It will bother me if he disappears altogether.
*Yankee Doodle is back. Damn.
*environmental changes have been deleted. It's so nice of Texas to take care of all our silly global problems like that, how thoughtful.

OKAY - I'm not going into Junior High or High School, I only teach Elementary grades and I'm tired from taking so many shots by now.

Final thoughts:
*** REALLY, by deleting people, they just taught the world more about those who are gone, because we all have to google them to figure their importance in order to be righteously angered over their absence. It's like censorship and burning books, it just makes me want to see it or read it more. And I'm "ordinary people".

Have any of you looked over the changes? Thus far, I'm thinkig the nation will survive this curriculum revision and I can rest well. I was ready to go on a soapbox but I'm not finding one here - just a shake of the head and a scratch of the chin on some.

Good Night Clara Barton. (you remember who she is?)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good Morning Wind!

Through the open window
The breeze comes in to greet me
Its cool touch is welcome
Eyes closed
It kisses my skin hello
Surrounding my senses
Bringing me the gift
Of early morning scents
Clear, cleansing, awakening
Good Morning Wind.
I inhale.
A swish answers, on exhale.
Poor souls, those who forget
To open their windows.


In the writing circle today we focused on description and for some reason, skin came to my mind. The first prompt was a green tomato, the second was simply choosing a person we felt like describing. As always, the writing in the group astounds me and I'm humbled by my fellow writers. Little snipits of their writing really stuck with me, to me. Here's some skin off what I wrote today:

Green as a Granny Smith
Smooth as split pea soup
Skin, balloon tight
It's surface, a shiny happy face.
Hard as a nine-months pregnant belly, packed with potential.
Green tomato


Grandma Flo was a Peach
I ran my finger across the back of her hand.
Her skin was like peach skin, velvet soft, only a thin layer that if pressed too hard, could easily peel away.
Ripe with age, her sweet flesh gives beneath my touch, tender.
Sun spots blotch like bruised fruit.
A long life on the vine has drained her juices, leaving wrinkles where fullness used to be.
The only thing plump that remains
Is her heart
Plump heart- still as strong as a peach seed- solid in love,
Even as the body surrounding it
wanes away with time

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Listen Inside

Been in a poem-ish mood lately... this one, written during a Portland Women's Writing Circle, was innspired by a Rumi poem about the deep listening, specifically; "the beauty of your separation".

Listen Inside

Listen to your solitude
Hear its daily hum, edging along your skin
Vibrating the heart drum

Listen with intent
Past the buzz in the fear of being alone
There is music there, inside you-
Accompanying you, a duet for your one life

Listen to your solitude
And find yourself there
Beyond the sigh of breath
A quiet orchestra
In your solitary soul
For your strum, for your lead
You: the conductor of your loneliness

Listen with the intent to hear
Your spirit
And it will sing
A lullaby of connection.

On Witch's Thanksgiving

On Witch's Thanksgiving
When day and night are of equal length, balance holds my thoughts.
On Witch's Thanksgiving
A full moon will shine on ripe harvests below, coven basking in her glow
Leaves will fall to quilt our mother, grounds growing colder
Earth stands for a moment in equity, ubiquitous female
On Witch's Thanksgiving
The Autumnal Equinox
I will pay homage to both sides
The yin and the yang, the dark and the light, fire and water, joy and sorrow
How brief this balance
Will be
Before we are set swirling once again on a titled world
Living a skewed existence
On Witch's Thanksgiving
Things hold still- suspended, peaceful
Before the Fall.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Color of Impatience

If Jealousy is green, what color would impatience be?
Red- Fiery. Hot. Agitated mobility.
Black - Black is done. And when you've reached impatience you're already done. Every drop of patience has either drained or evaporated, already departed.
But maybe black for emptiness, because patience was never there in the first place. Just its lack -it's absence- defines the whole of the other.
I am impatient.
Impatience wears jeans because they hardly wrinkle.
Impatience puts too much Frizz-ease in her hair because she doesn't take the time to tame it.
Impatience had two cups of coffee, not the four she desired...
Al dente pasta, wet paint, typo's... these curses follow in the wake of impatience.
But all you get is the wake because impatience doesn't wait around to introduce herself.
So, it turns out, impatience is blue.
Sowing the seed, not watching it bloom and grow
Mixing ingredients, never letting them stew
Making snap judgments - not sitting and getting to know
Missing so much, as impatience is bound to do,
She is bound to be blue.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Outliner vs. Organic Writer and a great new source for writers!

I went to a Larry Brooks seminar at the Willamette Writers Conference. He was really good at explaining "pantsers", those of us who sit down to write without an outline and just go for it (Organic Writing)- as oppossed to the mega planners that have every plot point outlined before they write a thing. I was a panstser. My characters came to me in a dream, I began to write the scene I imagined then went back to write the beginning and middle. Problem was, I had eye color changes for my main character by mid-book, then I had to figure out what color I really really wanted, and go do a "Find" for every color and word 'eye' - which wasted too much of my valueable writing time. Then of course, as a pantser - if I have a better idea - I change as I go and then have to sift through 300 pages to make sure everything else still flows. Much harder to do all of this 'editing' as a pantser.

Larry helped me move to be a pantser in the draft, or a synopsis - then an outliner before diving in and writing each of my 'planned' scenes organically. It was a relatively easy transition to make. I even went back and outlined all the organic stuff I had written before and wouldn't you know - I was able to look at the entire book more easily and it's better because of it.

So... inspired by what he's taught me already, I went to his website and also found he had posts that were very helpful. As a writer, I suggest other writers at least give it a look -

With inspiration,
Writer Crews

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where Did July Go?

Wasted away in California for the summer, dried out my Portland skin.
Oh, yes, and had my 20 year High School Reunion... that was more fun than I had ever imagined it could be. We had a very rare class, we all got along. Small town.

The Willamette Writer's Conference was the best place to go as an aspiring writer.
I met tons of author's, beginning like myself, and some well-known author's as well, along with editor's, agents, screenwriters... what an inspiring group to feed off of. How great to have a nice conversation with Hallie Ephron over breakfast before realizing that I was out of my league and shouldn't borrow her cloth napkin! She was SO nice. And then I met many odd one's in the group too - they were fun to hear pitch.

I kept hearing the same theme as I heard when I began teaching, "It's a lot of work and you have to love it."

Just passing the bar after the conference ended, I would pick up on different conversations as I passed tables and here a line of patched together dialogue, that goes something like this...
"So they found the body-"
"and then the refrigerator vortex-"
"But sex from a Male's point of view is-"
"He wrote what?"

I could have sat and people watched or, listened, forever but I limited myself to two gin-martini's to prove to my husband that this was a working conference. ;)

Now, I've found several neophytes that what to gather for a new Portland writing group, along the fantasy genre I believe and my next step - now that I've gotten around to sending all of my requested materials (oh yeah baby) out - is to work on putting that group together.

With much anticipation,
Writer Crews

Friday, June 18, 2010

Season of Departure

Seems to be a season of departure.
Rosie,Jason, Aunt Evelyn, Aunt Corine...
And isn't it just like mother nature- moody woman- to have the season's of our lives pass so vehemently different.
They pass quickly- out the blue, a shock to the system, lighting.
They fall gracefully- a leaf from the limb, to decay, slowly on the forest floor.
A subtle ebb to the ocean tide, they recede.
Or go swiftly by, in a gush of errant wind.
Either way, our season's change.
The cycle of life will take us all and all I can say is...
I wish for you, my friend,
nice weather in passing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why the Blog?

Writing is something I've done all my life,however;
becoming a 'writer' is new.
I've written a novel and am working on another, while searching out agents and learning the game.
What I've posted here will vary from memoir to poem to a snippet of fiction... anything that comes to mind that I'd like to share - with you - so, let me know what you think and post a comment!

Coffee Alone

Pine soldiers diligently lining the hillside
Sainted with the kiss of white cloud
the children are busy
but who am I if I'm not forgoing my needs
for someone else
so I sip my coffee
and watch
as green men are knighted
by noble day

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Poem about Poetry

No rules to follow
Only words to write
The words that carry the most of the might

Words we can relate to
connect us as we read
Reflect on our life, our death, our beliefs
True in simplicity
truth in its form
A poem tells it honestly
against the norm

Beauty found
in the placement of letters
Sounds to swim in
Words mesh together
Forming a body
beautiful, bold, better

We are walking poetry
Poems in free verse
All our souls dip
Into the ink
we immerse

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writing Dark Moments

Words turn into serrated black claws ripping their way across the page.
Dark moments, exhausting the pen, muddy blood of emotion.
I should be afraid to write them, but my will is to pull your heart out and show you it beating, dripping in my palm... so you can see it, feel it, and perceive the pain that I write. My only fear is that you won't.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sometimes Mosaic

Sometimes we need to rip off the wrapping to see inside.
Sometimes we need a breakdown before a breakthrough -
The darkness of womb before the light of birth,

If only every tear down preceded a rebuilding
but sometimes, nothing is put back together.
Sometimes, the egg shells still lie scattered from the fall.
Less a rebirth, than a shifting of sands -
blown distant
singed by sun
dry solitude.

A breakdown, tearing off the pretty paper
that held the gift together,
exposing the reality and rawness of solitary self.
Reminding of mortality, fragility... grace.

Sometimes, we can patch and repaper
Sometimes, cover, take-back, lick and stick
torn tissue
back to form...
No longer a strong solid support
but a mature, majestic, pieced together

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kind Love

Obsidian Smooth
dripping, melting me
softening edges
malleable mood
malleable me
hands meld
molding the space between us
touched together
two lives
strong enough to stand apart
strength enough to gently touch hearts
A kindness surrounds us
flows and bubbles around the love
tickling, lightly, living, breathing
Obsidian smooth

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Immortal Nose

I have an immortal nose.
It is the nose of Aunt Barbara - who is a teacher, like me - happy, like me - and I want to be vibrant at 70 like her.
It is the nose of Grandma Baldwin - who was a giant in a petite package
- whose faith could pull you in - who hit things in her big car, like me.
My nose is hanging in a Vermont Museum on a prominent Baldwin of old,
on a woman who doesn't smile nearly as much as me.
The bones that show a hole where my nose used to be are buried,
in a small Upstate New York cemetery, in the casket of a woman
who led a more difficult life than me.
When I'm done here - my nose will live on -
giving some future little girl a ledge for her glasses,
if she happens also... to get my father's eyes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


You never know when she'll flip
It may be standing in the grocery line
when she feels the hum of florescent lights
dulling her senses

It could be when she's driving
and forgotten to turn on the radio
so her ears ache for fulfillment

You never know when she'll decide her mouth has been parched too long
and she needs to taste

And in an instant
no matter the audience
she'll break
out into a song
a dance
a diatribe
or into your life

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Seed

A seed, light, full of promise
a seedling on the pathway to reaching potential

so much hope contained in it's tiny vessel

so much my responsibility

for without nourishment
this seed will never grow

I feel too small to be the
sun, water and soil to this little girl

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I vividly remember going in for my first interview at a popular sandwich shop. I had on my best white loafers, cuffed powder blue shorts and a pastel splashed cotton shirt. I wore my best shoes because I remembered hearing something once about how employers judge you based on the condition of your shoes. Someone should have told me not to wear the shorts, but it didn't seem to matter. As I asked for an application the manager came out, gave me an impromptu interview and hired me on the spot. My career has pretty much gone like that ever since. I apply, I interview, I get the job. I've got a perfect record. I've never even been fired. Oh, they tried once at the sandwich shop, but I cried. I explained that I thought 'requesting' time off meant that I'd get the time off and I didn't mean to miss two days of work. And then I cried some more... until they said never mind. So, technically, I've never been fired.

Since that first job throwing together meat, veggies and bread, I've been employed. No lapses at all. As soon as I could get a workers permit, at the age of 15, I've been working. It's never crossed my mind not to. It's something we do in my family. We work.

Eventually I found teaching and knew this fulfilling job would be my life-long career. When I worked, I never prided myself on the paycheck, but on my accomplishments. As a teacher in the classroom I had goals, measures and outcomes. I worked with groups, sat in on meetings and formed an education plan that would turn each individual student into an outstanding little citizen. I felt good at what I did and was confident in my success. Then I had my first child and I had a choice. I had the choice to continue working or stay at home. I chose the latter.

I assumed a few months off would satiate my mother-bone and I'd return to my job shortly thereafter. Then motherhood took hold like a newborn grasp on a hoop-earring and wouldn't let my conscience go. I didn't need the income. I certainly didn't want someone else raising my child. It seemed a logical solution to take more time off of 'work' to stay home. It was the most difficult thing I have ever chosen to do, after giving birth. Leaving the workforce felt like I'd been on the ocean my entire life, and suddenly jumped off the boat, wobbling in my attempt to walk with land legs. I was accustomed to working, producing and earning. Now, I felt my production was finished, evidenced in two beautiful little girls. The only working I did, felt more like chores and I earned nothing but spit-up down my back, and awesome looking neon poops. There was no fulfillment other than getting through the day and any earned confidence would be shot down by an innocent comment directed at me at any given time, and what seemed like all the time, such as; "You're not trying the cry it out method are you?"

There were many benefits of staying home. I liked being there for smiles, sickness, firsts and hugs. But I was used to 'doing' and earning. I had trouble sitting still. I felt guilty playing on the floor or resting. Shouldn't I be evaluated, be working to improve on something or have some email to send regarding the days' action? I couldn't shake the itch that I needed to be doing more, to justify my choice of staying home. So I went back to school at night and got a master's degree. That felt like something. But I missed my girls at night, and had to use my squeaky breast-pump in the college bathroom where skinny girls, who still cared enough to dress trendy, would ask what that weird sound was.

Even though I felt I was squishing my needs into a little corner, bartering for time to shower and exhausted with my problem solving abilities on a daily basis, I still felt that I needed to get back into the outside workforce. I tried a part-time position within the school district and left my girls with daycare for only a couple hours a week. I sat in my car outside that center and balled like I'd just been fired from a sandwich shop. So I stopped doing that job and realized that I have to resign myself to being a full time mom. I carried my case of the 'guilties' with me as I trudged through the day of laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, feeding, changing, burping, and mothering.

That was almost seven years ago. When I first took off work to be a full time stay at home mom, a friend who had no children of their own commented, "Enjoy your vacation." Those of us with children know that staying home with young one's is anything but a vacation. Still, the comment hit a nerve and left a rather large imprint in my mind. Family, friends and even strangers in the grocery store continually ask me, "So, when are you going back to work?" It's this time bomb ticking in the background as I walk the dog outside or push my daughter on the swing. When is it all going to end? It's the most stressful predicament.

The social culture has turned. It used to be that mothers were expected to stay home and we had to fight for equal acceptance into the workforce. Now, not only is it expected of me to return to the workforce, but also to return within a timely manner. Why? Why is it so important to the world that I give up being a full time mother to work when I don't have to? I feel the fight now, is for my right to stay at home and raise my children.

The cycle of motherhood is the fastest hamster wheel ever built. You have to run fast and when you stop, gravity takes over and you fall flat on your face. It's exhausting. If work is defined as something on which exertion is expended, well, definitely mothering is work. But they also say, if you love what you do, you never really have to work a day in your life.

After the practice of many years, I've learned to hush the voice that keeps telling me to fill out an application and leave my children in the care of others. I'm comfortable staying at home and don't sense the need to justify that to anyone. I feel value from my daily experiences and have learned to slow down enough to play well with my children. It took time, confidence and spousal support in order to achieve. The women's rights movement doesn't mean we have to pop out a baby and then pop back into the office. It doesn't mean we have to stay home either. It means we have a choice. The fact that we can exercise that choice is what feminism is all about.

My girls are older now and entering school themselves. And every day I get to look into their eyes and see what I've accomplished. I've worked hard at building our relationship, producing fine little citizens, setting them goals for chores and homework, measuring their growth on the inside of the doorframe, and earning their respect. The result has been a stronger family, confident children and a place where I've earned my right for life-time employment, the place of 'mom'. It will now, always, be my first job. I start my second job at the school on Monday, with a brand new pair of shoes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Calling

In the classroom, I weave magic
pulling from their hearts, spinning their interests into what I teach

I charm the snakes, help falcons soar, remove invisible cloaks
and carve out barriers so waters of knowledge flow

Threading a connection, weaving a safe haven
dyeing their fabric into colors that spark

They bring from me - an energy
and I stitch it into their days

So they learn...
So I love...

All my ancient powers drawn out on the loom
the teacher within me
weaves magic

They may not notice the carpet of knowledge laid before them -
until it carries them forward
of their own little spell

For when they weave magic on their own...
I know I've taught them well.

P.S. To all my little magicians out there, I am so proud of you!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


A seed is planted and hope is born --- For growth of future treasures
The gifted smile --- bringing forth rows of beaming grins
A melody embedded --- creating a day a-buzz with humming
A clean house --- reaches like ivy over the barbs of my worry, softening and serene
A completed project --- vinegar on glass, gleans accomplishment
Time for myself --- sprouts a happier woman who in return blooms
To enrich the lives of those who pass my garden
Fertilizing the soils of my life
Tucking in seeds that support my growth
Dewey petals capturing life's succulent essence
I, flower --- open to nature's bounty
Me, a flower --- a woman, a mother, a continuing origin
Of a seed
Predisposed to express all beauty, all life
All hope and all treasure

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Band-Aid is my Wingman

Band-aid is my wingman. She sticks by my side at all times. When my kiss won't heal, when my whispered words aren't enough to soothe, my buddy Band-aid steps in. I've used her to cover more than bleeding elbows and scraped knees. Just her presence placed gently over a perceived injury will calm and allow us all to carry on.

I guess a Band-aid in my house acts a bit like a Jewish Yarmulke, worn as a reminder that God is above - the Band-aid is a reminder that love is about and can be carried around with you.

Maybe I should frolick about placing Band-aids on wounded spirits. If only it could help others like it does my daughters. More likely, the "Band-aid Fairy" would just draw suspicious looks. So, I'll refrain and keep my Band-aid superpowers in the family. It's nice having a reliable back-up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The New Oregon Trail

An adventure begins when I step off the sidewalk onto the gravel trail. A branch snaps as I tread over its fallen respite. I have no idea where the moss-escorted path will lead. Pine trees accompany me. I hum, mingling in a tune with the sounds of a nearby stream. My scent joins the fresh smell of rain. I don't walk through unknown forest, I walk with it. Everything feels vibrantly green here, including me. Inhale the given abundance. I'm glowing with an appreciation of my new found connection to nature. The land is fertile with life and sharing its energy with me. Feeling giddy with bravery, my tennis shoes pick up a perky pace. I pass a slug, inadvertently disrupting its purpose. My sounds interrupt and the bluebird swishes off to find a different meal. My breath puffs out ahead, as my feet crunch below. Slip on mud, push at an overgrown fern, squish an innocent mushroom, snap, hum, inhale... just by being here, I'm intruding.

I'm an invader on this walk through Oregon Forest Park, though I've no intention of changing the grounds I've come to worship. Like so many transplants from out-of-state, I came striding in along The New Oregon Trail, on a quest for a greener life. We are moving here in droves, changing the area simply by arriving. The New Oregon Trail wasn't a straight path for me. Like the trail I began my walk on this morning, it ends where it begins.

My Grandma Flo tracked a path to Oregon in the 40's and decades later, that path showed itself to be circular. She moved to Albany Oregon with five young children, following her husband's search for a job. They came from the mid-west dust, settling in this lush State to find a sustainable life with more green money. John Deere hired Grandpa, in a wet-fertile land where tractors were well used. The years that followed were storybook recollections my mother told me when I was growing up in Southern California. On a burnt dessert stage, my mom would relay tales of a perfect childhood, traipsing through flooded roads to fetch a Thanksgiving turkey, picking berries during summer breaks, taking boat trips along the Willamette and shopping trips into Portland City Center. At the time, I could hardly imagine a childhood happier than my own and had no desire to move from my comfort-zone of brown hills and dry skin.

Grandma Flo has long since moved on to the higher land of heaven. But her granddaughter traversed the same beckoning trail to Oregon. I circled back around to where my Grandma raised her family. We followed, my husband, young children and I, the path to an enhanced existence.

It's a new kind of Oregon Trail. Not one where people tread to make a better living, finding cold-hard cash- but one where people flock to in order to make a life in and of itself. Sure, we find jobs here with Nike, Intel, and OHSU, enjoy the lower housing prices and find the greenery gorgeous. But we move here now for a different kind of green. A greening of life: seeding, feeding, watering and growing a better reality. Turning one's focus and tuning in. A refreshing of life, where there is time to follow trails out of town, cultivate an enjoyment of the world around us and meet our family.

Our previous life in the Silicon Valley of California, consumed us. Long hours from a competitive workforce and surging companies keep people at work. Then traffic slows their return. Upon return home, the portable office of laptop and cell phone follow you to the couch where you pretend to have a family but never really participate. Work is early, work is late, work is weekends and work is the frenzied purpose. We thought this norm was typical until we found the luring alternative.

The first thing my husband and I noticed when house shopping in Portland wasn't the green belts running through neighborhoods, spacious floor plans or environmentally friendly building codes. What we noticed, with stunning awakening, was that in every home, represented in some way, there was a hobby. There were medals from a half-marathon run, photos of cycling, a rowing oar, a dog's leash, a painting easel, a craft room, running shoes tucked into a well-used corner. People have hobbies here. People make space for life here and seem to be doing a better job at living them.

My husband's first week at work here, we were both shocked to find that people took sunny days off, simply because they were sunny. And when it's not sunny, you're challenged into ignoring it by the masses of runners, bicyclers and even mothers pushing strollers through wet licks of powder gray. Not only are vacations used, they're used well. Until the knee of it is worn through, showing raw skin. At 6:00 p.m. that first week, he called to report that everyone had gone home, the office was empty. We both sat silently on the phone for a while, blinking. People go home... and go out... and go into the green, to breath.

Like the great migration route of the 1800's, The New Oregon Trail is not a solitary road. It's one that we followed and so many of our neighbors and neophyte Oregonians as well. Seems most people I meet at the coffee shop are transplants from somewhere else. A fact, that seems to rile the natives.
Our first weekend out adventuring took us to a little restaurant alongside the Columbia Gorge. I prayed the food quality was not reflective of the carpet quality. The place was run down, 'hole in the wall' as it gets, and busy. We ordered our brunch and gawked out the window at a scene you'd have to pay for in California. Pay for and then get taxed on. The waitress was wrinkled, worn and suspicious of our freshman attitudes toward the scenery.

When she asks where we're from we happily announce "California" with pride, because we knew we were from the best State in the Union. California: the most progressive, the highest Gross National Product, the unsurpassed weather and the fame. If she could have spit in our food, I'm sure she would've, but we'd already been served and she was a bit more subtle than that.

"Now don’t go spreading that around. We don't like Californian's here. You're invading."

It seemed our chosen location for a better life was also a predictable gathering ground for the unwelcome invaders. According to our server, as a Californian, I was unwelcome. What our waitress doesn't know, is that now I love Oregon as much as, if not more, than her. When new subdivisions go up, I grimace - not wanting to lose what I've found, while acknowledging- they come here to find what I did.

We followed the trail to kid-friendly restaurants, lung friendly air and outdoor activities, for green in jobs, environment, and life. Oregon is as beguiling now as it was then for my Grandma Flo. We are chasing a different kind of green though, less money, more time for life outside of work. So, we invade, excuse us please. For we love our new home and like you, detest the new invaders - creating a cycle. A trail that is more circular than straight.

I continue walking the forest paths, feeling more native but yet still trampling the foliage. We followed and achieved a dream... as others will follow and achieve their dreams. The fear is, once all of the trail-travelers have achieved an Oregonian reality, it will have deteriorated. More follow, more change the area and the dream fades as our State is trampled on. Until a new forest is found and new paths on different trails are discovered.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Dream Stories...

When I dream about stories, I write about dreams.
I will wake up feeling like I'd fallen asleep at the movies. The picture won't stay in my groggy mind for long, so I race to capture its essence in ink.

These dreams don't only happen while asleep. I'll be mid-stir in macaroni when an image will wander into my conscience and my husband laughs as I run upstairs to let it out onto my computer before it tip-toes away.

When I'm moving these ideas from mind to matter, it's LIFE is in the flow - if I look up, or the phone rings, or a child enters... if I falter, it can easily die before ever coming to life.

I've learned to write quickly, on whatever I can grab and in the dark.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meet Marigold

When I looked up Mama had her worry look on and it was fo me. I knew cause I was pok-a-dottied and itchy all over. Even my tooths itch. Mama says, I got the Pox. All I know is now I can't play with my friend Patty today and she was even havin' her birthday party. Mama says Patty don't want that gift I got to give. Says Patty'd be mad if I gave her the Pox too. Me? I figure Patty'd like it. We could jus' play inside all day together. Uh-course, that itchy part ain't so good. I'm not uh-scared though, cause Mama said she do the worrin fo both uh-us. I just gotta not scratch and stay by myself and the other little one's that gots the Pox. But Patty's my favorite friend and I sho wish she gets the Pox for her birthday any ol way.

I don't gotta go to school tomorrow neither. Wouldn't Patty like that? Not going to school means no Wendell poking me from his side-a-da-line. And no arithi-amatic. Patty hates the subtractions. Pox would cure that... fo sho.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blue Monkey Pajama Incident

We were old enough to know better- but the butane seemed harmless enough. Four women of an age where skinny jeans were questionable and clothes that 'give' preferable, sitting in our pajamas at the dinner table in our hotel room. Hair tossed up in wild buns, faces smelling clean and flannel jammies comforting us, we felt in our teens. And (not to do anything halfway) we were making decisions like them too.
Tara in the plush white hotel robe, pulled out what looked like an unlabeled tin of cat food - but when she struck a match to it, the jump of flame like a rock star appearing on stage, was a tell-tell sign that it wasn't cat food. Candy,looking thirteen in blue monkey flannel pj's, retrieved the wooden skewers. And Debbie, in her holey-worn sweats came giggling out of the kitchen area with marshmallows.
We were living it up at the Ritz and making smores may not seem devilish to some - but for four stay-at-home mom's, this was like being drunk at Prom (although I've never had that experience). The smell of burnt marshmallow flesh filled the room and just as the mushy goodness filled grinning mouths, a piercing sound split through our hotel room.
We froze, marshmallows guiltily dripping from burnt wooded sticks. When the realization of what was happening sank in and sobered our sugar high, all eyes dropped down to our attire.
"Did we set off the fire alarm?" Debbie was offended by the possibility. Evidence of her marshmallow clung to her chin.
"No, it didn't even cause smoke to when we roasted them." Candy was determined to blow it off and remain unmoved in our childless refuge.
"We need to evacuate." We all knew the truth and reluctantly gave in.

Hundreds of people lined the front of the hotel- glittering gowns from a party, crisp polo-shirts after a day on the green, a few jeans and sweaters tossed in for good measure. We stood mortified at 5:00 p.m. in our blue monkey, white-robe, holey sweats and pink polka-dotted pajamas. Highlighted due to our clothing choice and wicked sticky fingers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sweet Life

Journey through the life of a cherry candy.
Begin hard and stubborn - holding in flavor.
Give way to a pink bunny, soft and sweet.
Bunny hops away and is transformed by evolutionary miracle, into a round tangy ball of citrus that releases floods in your mouth from its sour pucker.
Replaced then by a gummy molasses of fading sugar-
more hibernating bear than hoppy bunny.
Tired, used, fading.
Relish it. It will soon be over.

Seriously... this was all just a good slow suck on a cherry candy, but in reading it, sounds almost like the cycle of life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Affair with Coffee

I awaken a vagrant damsel in distress. The morning feels like sandpaper- its rough edges grating in my head, drying my eyes and leaving dust in my mouth. I tumble my habitual path to the kitchen with slushy feet and scribbled hair. I sense relief is near, hearing a gravely scoop of beans. A swish of water. Then the drip of awakening, the drop of stimulation, the drip and drop of coffee coming to my rescue. Drip, drop, like the clip clop of a white horse, my knight riding in. My eyes clear with visions of lucid brown liquid. My nose perks. My hair actually relaxes. One taste. One taste and my spirit rises like a champagne bubble. Coffee, my prince. It feels like love.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Portland Women's Writing Group

Today I attended my first writing session with the Portland Women's Writing Group and was elated to see after our first shared prompt, that not only was I amongst a very talented group of writers that I intend to have rub off on me, but also that we responded similarly. The prompt was "When I write..." and "When I don't write..." I'm thrilled to be feeding the art within... nothing feels better (okay, maybe sex and cake) than writing.

When I write it can be a transcendental experience. Time stops and I am able to connect myself to all the "Me's" in this world throughout time. When that pen moves I'm with Deborah the eight year old still battling boys on the playground and I'm with Deborah the teen, so eager to please. I'm connecting to Deborah in the future as well. She's waiting for my message down the line. When I write I am mask-less and most me. It's cathartic. It's meditative.

When I don't write sometimes I forget to breathe - caught up in life's' daily routines, like getting mascara out of Barbie's hair. I'll feel the itch and wish I had more time for it. Because when I'm not writing, I want to be.

But my muse is dark and protruding, rude and alluding. My muse mocks, teases and lays down bets against me. He's harsh and unforgiving. But I'm competitive and he knows this - uses it - realizing, I'll work hard to kick his ass. So, I find the time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Portland Writing Community

Last night I attended the Willamette Writer's Group Meeting to hear Jessica Morrell speak. She's a local, successful author. She shared her story, and oh! I love stories. She inspired me. The entire writing community in the Portland area is astounding me. First, I didn't even know there was a 'community' until Wordstock 2009 gave me the red pill that jolted me into a new existence. My new world has a club, and it's not exclusive.

I expected on some part to find the mystery writer's tucked in a back corner donning black jackets with unlit cigs dangling precociously from their tight-lipped mouths, romance writers seductively lounging with heaving bosom's, and perhaps a literary novelist sitting front row, whose nose would be held high enough to look down on me.

I'm not exactly sure what I expected strolling into the writing world, but it certainly wasn't what I found. I was nervous. I was feeling neophyte, unpublished, a stray dog begging for crumbs and not worthy of the surrounding company. But what I found in this local writing environment has not been hostile, pompous or intimidating. It's been the opposite. I've been approached with open-arms. I've been welcomed into this literary community like they've known all along that I was a writer. And never once let one of my fellow writer's catch me saying that I'm anything but a writer. I'm a writer. They make me say it. I blush, "Oh, but I'm not published." And they will add, "Yet." They make me believe it's a possibility. These people, these complete strangers, support me. The one's who've found success want to help you find it too. The one's who've not published yet will take your hand and happily pull you along the path to our shared goal.

Though we may sit alone at our computer or at our desk with pen in hand... we aren't alone in the writing community. They're out there. They're routing for me. That has been an unexpected delight.

Friday, January 1, 2010


"In The Lap" - because no matter what I reach out to touch with my fiery fingers, I know where I reach from. Grounded in the lap of security, contentment, privilege and love. Still, I save my right to complain. And I will complain. And I will change my mind. Often. Optimistic enough to think it an open mind as opposed to hypocrisy. Still, I save my right to be a hypocrite. In the lap I will be when my mind wanders. I just pray it will continue to return. Still, I save my right to be crazy. Writing is a cathartic art where creativity feels like an exhale of breath that I can float away on. Something intrinsic and personal made open to the universe, like a spread of wings on a thought. Someone may catch, someone may connect, and that's why I read. Why I write? Because I can't seem not to. It relaxes me more than gin and listens to me like a friend. It expunges tears and wrings out emotion. It may not be worth mentioning, or reading to some at all, but I save my right to write. For in writing, I remind myself not only that I am alive, but to live.