This blog has moved to Public Frog. You can find me there… Thanks for reading.
So I have three nights left of summer. And tonight, I’m watching Something’s Gotta Give while I decoupage my autobiography box (a model for my students). And, well, I forgot how wonderful and hopeful and kind of gross it is to see these two old people fall in love like a pair of bipolar teenagers. Diane Keaton is totally neurotic and she cries all of the time in this movie, which makes her look like a turtle. But I’m enjoying myself immensely because it’s cheesy and predictable. Plus it makes me less anxious about getting old.
This has been the summer of movies and books for me and my brain has taken a turn for the worse because of it I’m sure. I read The Help in a day and Ruthie and I have seen almost all of the “family” movies in the RedBox. I check in with the Facebook regularly. And with Twitter. I can barely muster the mental energy to fill the world in on what I’m doing in 140 characters or less. So I’ve decided it’s really time for me to really start writing. For the past seven years, I’ve called myself a writer, but I’m always waiting to be inspired (whisper this word as you read it, please) to write. I’ve compared writing to exercise before and that metaphor certainly holds here, because who is motivated to exercise in the beginning? Certainly not me. Writing and exercising were two things I swore I’d do this summer and I’ve done very little of either.
So. Intoxicated by the start of a new school year, which means (GASP!) new school supplies, I’ve taken on a little project where I’ll be writing every single day for a year. It’s a new blog because, in a very Oprah-ish way, I’ve become a new me. I hope. I’ve started writing today, but I’m not going to post the link here. Not yet. But if you’re interested in reading, email me and I’ll send you the link. Wish me luck!
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Tags: buh-byeeee, goodbye, movies, summer, writing
Categories : summer, writing life
Okay, so I’ve taken a hiatus from my blog for, oh, I don’t know, like a year? This post for me feels about as awkward as the first post ever (which I composed nearly four years ago!). I’ve lost a bit of the feel of writing as a daily habit. I’m always telling my students that writing is like running: You can map out your course, buy new running shoes, read about running, watch other people run, but the only way to become a runner is to start running. One foot in front of the other. So here I am, one word after another, writing again for the first time in what feels like forever. I’m sure that I’ll be sore tomorrow.
So where have I been and what I have I been doing? Well, for starters, I’m divorced. That might be a bit of an overshare (awkward!), but I think that my hiatus was largely due to the fact that I felt inappropriate writing about the divorce as I was living through it and in the wake of it. I’m a very big fan of honesty, and divorce is fairly consuming, so I couldn’t really find much to write about honestly.
Getting divorced is strange because when you get married, people tell you “Oh, you should be really sure about this because marriage is forever.” But then, when you get divorced, they say (with their voices dropped so as to indicate the seriousness of the thing), “Oh, are you sure about this? Because divorce is forever.” The finality of divorce felt really good to me. Like, okay, this really is forever. But then I was talking to my friend on the phone a few months ago and she was telling me about her divorced friend who just re-married the man she divorced. This was terribly unsettling to me. I mean, if divorce isn’t final, what is?
In my family, we call the last drink of the evening the final-final. Of course, you can have more than one final-final (and we typically do). And so, in the same way that the finality of divorce was comforting to me six months ago, I’ve come around to taking comfort in the idea that maybe nothing has to be final (or even final-final). There is a lot of freedom in the belief that I can always change my mind. I don’t have to be wedded to any dreams of what my future life will look like or any convictions I may hold now about how the world works.
All of this being said, I feel like I need to be very clear about something here: I do still believe in marriage and I do believe in forever. Two of my very dear friends got married this year and I believe that they have met their for-real final-finals. I also know lots of people who’ve been married for a long time who would say (and I would agree) that they’ve met their for-real final-finals. I find that there is a lot of comfort in believing (in anything) and there is a great deal of freedom in allowing myself to change my beliefs as I grow older and learn more about who I am and the world that I live in.
So, there it is, my awkward over-sharing return to the world of writing on the internet. I am still wandering through life with both hands full of Ruthie, my precocious four-year-old; cynical ninth grade students who don’t want to write, but are impressed when they manage to try; books I’ve been meaning to read; and bags of groceries that tend to burst wide open in really inconvenient places. It’s good to be back.
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Tags: believing, both hands, divorce, final-finals, forever, marriage, parenting, running, writing
Categories : awkward overshares, bursting grocery bags, divorce, epiphanies, final-finals, marriage, no easy answer, writing life, writing paralysis
This morning, my classroom is buzzing with the taptaptaptapping of students’ fingers on keyboards. I thought I would miss the sound of pencils and pens scraping against paper, scratching out ideas and shaping words. The tapping has much more energy–it’s a sound you can almost ride, and I do. And I almost feel like I’m cheating in a way, drafting off these young minds punching keys with the conviction that they have something to say that matters.
Anyways, this morning we’re tapping about objects. The kids brought in autobiography boxes, which they construct from pictures, drawings, artifacts, newspaper clippings. One student brought in a box that lights up, another chose to adorn his with a plastic mound of spaghetti. They’re all shapes and sizes and they contain all kinds of magical talismans: wands, Eiffel Towers, rubber duckies, pom-poms, dog collars, movie tickets, pigs made out of yarn. So the prompt was to write about an object–tell the stories or ideas that your chosen object represents.
My object is a gummy worm. Last week, when I went to pick up Ruthie, she came charging towards me with a strange, lopsided gallop. Usually, I get knocked over with a hug, especially on days when she’s particularly good, but on this particular day, she ran towards me and took a knee. And then, my little buddy reached into her shoe, where she’d been “keeping it all day so it’d be safe.” There, in the toe of her baby blue croc, she had been hiding a plastic baggie containing a single yellow and red gummy worm. She proudly handed me the baggie, proclaiming, “I sabed it for you, Mommy! All day I sabed it for you! It’s a treat for you for being so good.” Her little eyebrows arched with the seriousness of what she was saying. Of course, I had no choice but to take the treat from her with a wide, affirming smile. “Go ahead, Mom, you can eat it.” So I did. It was very warm. I didn’t really think much about it until the teacher told me, with the worm half-eaten in my watery mouth, that she’d had it in her shoe since they received goody bags that morning. Mid-chew I realized that I was consuming a worm which had endured the playrgound, the toddlers’ bathroom, naptime, lunch, and all of the super-yuck places that toddlers put their feet. Then, having made the decision to not-think about where this worm had been, I swallowed. Hard. With my eyes shut.”Thank you, baby. That was, er, delicious.”
So much of parenting requires an iron gut and a painted smile. There are so many things you have to do has a parent: maintain a calm and even voice, place your screaming-squirming-kicking-thrashing toddler on her “angry spot” with a stoic face and a gentle grip, create a dinner out of nothing at the end of a 12-hour day. Being an adult is not so glamorous or powerful-feeling as I’d always thought it would be. I never thought I’d find myself standing, in a dress and heels, consuming candy from my child’s shoe.
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Tags: autobiography, being an adult, candy, craft lessons, gummy worms, iron guts, magical talismans, painted smiles, plastic spaghetti, tapping, teaching, toddler bathrooms, treats, writing, writing lessons, writing workshop
Categories : bad gifts, iron guts, mornings, motherhood, painted smiles, parenting, ruthie, teaching, toddler wisdom, useful lessons, writing life, writing workshop
There is this wiggle-shimmy-dance-thing that I do whenever I am enjoying what I’m eating. It’s subconscious. I never knew I did it until I caught Ruthie doing it one day across the dinner table from me. We were positively inhaling sugared strawberries from a bowl between us. She started wiggling her little booty on the seat and shimmying her shoulders, her mouth closed in the shape of mmmmmmm. Even now, I can remember the way those strawberries felt so cold and so new on my tongue; the way they bled that sweet, pink syrup; the way they melted into the insides of my cheeks.
Today, as I sit down to write, I catch myself doing that dance of satiation. Why? Because I have three glorious hours of quiet writing time spread out before me like an empty glass lake. Because ever since I woke up this morning, my mouth won’t stop smiling and my toes won’t stop bouncing in time with the music I’ve been listening to. Because my coffee is the perfect temperature. Because today, I am my friend.
Mornings like this make me wish I were a poet, which I am not. So I’ll share a few lines from the poem that captured my attention this morning. Linda Pastan, in her poem “The Happiest Day,” writes
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
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Tags: bouncing toes, closed eyes, happiness, Linda Pastan, mmmm, mornings, salt, satiation, smiling mouths, strawberries, sugar, time to write, transience, wiggle-shimmy-dance-thing, writing
Categories : be inspired, fruit fondling, getting fruity, glorious days, Linda Pastan, moments of pause and shift, mornings, motherhood, music, not forgetting, parenting, poetry, ruthie, sweet, swimmingly, tales of satiation, the wiggle-shimmy-dance-thing, transient happiness, whole days in a morning, writing life
My Saturday morning begins with the heavy sounds of Ruthie barging down the short hallway that joins our rooms, still half-asleep, blanket and bear in tow, her hair teased a solid four inches out from her head by what I call sleep-traveling. She’s almost always smiling, proud of herself for spending the night alone and happy to be jumping into my bed, where she not-so-patiently waits for her chocolate milk as I fumble for the remote control. Once I get the t.v. on, I can usually steal a few kisses on her forehead, right along her hairline, which has the sweetest smell I’ve ever known.
Every morning, she has two chocolate milks. On Saturdays, I let her drink the first one at home, then we go to Starbucks for the second. This past Saturday, we loaded up at the wee hour of 6:40-something to make our weekly coffee schlep: Ruthie wearing panties and a chocolate milk stained butterfly t-shirt my parents bought her at the zoo when she was less than a year old, me in my pajama pants and Hanes tagless undershirt. Neither of us had on shoes. I picked her up and thunked her into her car seat, buckled her in (so she wouldn’t “go to jail”), and tucked her blanket in real tight around her legs. With Allison Krauss playing and the windows rolled down, we crept out of the driveway. I caught Ruthie’s eyes in the rear view mirror to see her mouth pulled into a tight smile that only children in a state of heightened anticipation can manage. As we picked up speed down the street, she squealed, “We’re goin’ on anudder PJ ride, aren’t we, Mom? Only girls go on PJ rides, huh?” She laughed and laughed from her gut and so did I. In Alabama there aren’t many days when the air feels cool on your skin, but on this Saturday morning in June, the air felt delicious. We spent the rest of the drive in awed silence, both of us with a hand out “touching the wind,” as Ruthie put it.
Until Ruthie gave it a name, I hadn’t really thought of our PJ rides as a ritual––they were just what we did. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about rituals, how they’re made, and why they’re so comforting. At what point does one aspect of a daily routine begin to shape itself into a ritual? What’s the difference between a ritual and a routine? Why are rituals so satisfying? And what are they satisfying?
So I picked up an old friend (Robert Fulghum’s From Beginning to End: The Rituals of our Lives) and began reading. Again. Here’s what he says:
To be human is to be religious.
To be religious is to be mindful.
To be mindful is to pay attention.
To pay attention is to sanctify existence.
Rituals create sacred time.
Sacred time is the dwelling place of the Eternal.
Haste and ambition are the adversaries of sacred time.
When I think of the word ritual, I think of churches and candles and chanting or reciting words that I don’t understand. Fulghum’s interpretation of the word is so comforting to me because it’s so personal. In a sense, we make our own rituals out of the things that we do on a regular basis, out of the routines and habits that structure our daily lives. Having a three-year-old around makes it much easier to recognize sacred moments when they happen, because three-year-olds are mindful. Always.
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Tags: Alison Krauss, coffee, pajamas, rituals, Robert Fulghum, Saturday morning, Starbucks, wind
Categories : blessed laziness, celebrations, epiphanies, floating, glorious days, moments of pause and shift, mornings, motherhood, NEED MOAR COFFEEZ, parenting, rituals, ruthie, toddler wisdom