Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2015

I believe

One of our two kids may be just pretending to believe in Santa Claus this year. It's okay. He's 10. One of these days we may have to tell him what's up. We have never made a big deal about Santa, beyond the standard traditions of sending a wish list letter and leaving out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. But I've always worried about the day he asks questions for real and I have to give him for-real answers.

So whenever my kids ask me if I believe in Santa Claus, I say I believe in everything Santa stands for, all that he means: generosity, care for everyone, magic, excitement, and love. I tell them that believing in Santa is not just for little kids but for anyone who feels these things during the Christmas season. I never really swear by all the fairy tale details, but I say instead that I've never actually seen Santa Claus in person. 
These are the things my mom said to me, and eventually I got it. I don't remember feeling betrayed or fooled; I felt loved,…

Christmas cookies... and other holiday tradtions that may not happen

I sat frantically on the phone this afternoon, refreshing my browser page in an attempt to purchase tickets to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens "Gardens Aglow" exhibit this weekend. The website kept telling me that there were no times available -- how can this be? There aren't possibly this many people in mid-coast Maine who need to see holiday lights as badly as we do. Come on! If this doesn't work out, what will we do this weekend that will make us feel cheerful and special and holiday-ish? Once I got a voice on the phone, I felt even more frustrated as she told me of the parking problems and crowds; not helping my cheer levels.

Holiday traditions! We all have them. Or at least we think we do. Recently I've been feeling awful about the lack of Christmas traditions in our household. Yesterday afternoon, for instance, as we walked home from school, I asked the kids if they wanted to go to the mall to see Santa. I anticipated "YEAH! Woohoo! I can't wa…

Thankful

I'm lying on an Aerobed in my brother's finished basement, listening to the sounds of my blissed out, over-fed, super-loved children's sleepy time breathing. Tomorrow we'll go home after a beautiful couple of days with my family. Bittersweet sleep.

This room itself contains bits and pieces of my childhood holiday memories scattered all around: a needlepoint acrostic of all our names that my mom stitched in the early 80s (before my little sister was born) displayed next to my mom's portrait; a photo collage of snapshots from the early 90s -- in one I'm shown holding a Sports Illustrated with Christian Laettner in the cover; a framed photograph of our entire Stock-Mello family snapped on a Thanksgiving perhaps 20-25 years ago -- that may have been the last time all the aunts and uncles and cousins were together before mom's illness changed us all; a crazy quilt on the Aerobed sewn by my great-grandmother -- she made one for every one of her grandkids, and no…

Those four little words

Zippy and I have been cooped up together for three days while he recovers from a pretty nasty upper respiratory yuck. We have snuggled through 24 hours of fever. We have watched approximately 37 hours of Spongebob and 29 hours of Paw Patrol. We have wiped at least 2 gallons of snot. It's been a hella couple days!

As he started to regain energy this evening, he also started driving me bananas. Finally, while I tried to clean up dishes and he insisted on spinning circles through the kitchen while shrieking some horrible toy commercial jingle, I told him he needed to go in the other room because I was losing patience. I spoke through clenched teeth the way my own mother did when we realized she was about to transform to Mrs. Hyde. Thank God he picked up the cues and retreated to the corner of the dining room. I breathed. Deeply. 
Three minutes later Zippy returned, coming up behind me as I loaded the dishwasher. "I told you I need a break!" I snapped, before turning around an…

Happy Maine-iversary

Right about this time last year, we rolled into the rest stop at Kittery, just across the bridge that marks the Maine state line. One hour from our new home.

We'd been driving all day, with just a few stops here and there, and we all felt jittery and excited and anxious. You know, lwhen your legs feel all twitchy because they've been folded up all day and you've been drinking Cokes and sucking lollipops. The black sky sparkled with a zillion stars -- night seems darker here, maybe because there are fewer people and less light pollution -- and I leaned back to stretch my neck and back. I breathed deeply, yoga-style, while the kids ran and jumped and played around the Smokey the Bear statue. And that's when I smelled it: White pine and salt air. That magical combination that brings back every happy vacation memory from my childhood. Here we are, I realized, in the place I've treasured my whole life for its wide open spaces, rocky shorelines, wild blueberry hillsides.…

Winter is coming

Golden leaves overhead filter sunlight onto my face; brown leaves underneath cushion my bottom from the chilly earth. I'm sitting under a tall oak tree, nibbling carrots from the farmers market across the park. A couple of squirrels run frantically nearby. One stopped just a moment ago to collect the nub of carrot stem I'd tossed aside. He looked at me with warning in his eyes, like "Why are you sitting there? Don't you know winter is coming?!"
The farmers market bustles this morning. Mobs of people wearing fall jackets and riding boots with necks wrapped in decorative scarves tasting apples and yogurt and mushrooms. The air feels crisp yet charged with a frantic energy. We're all stocking up for the winter, saving squashes and Brussels sprouts and jars of pickles, but also turning our faces into the sun at every turn. We need to store it up. Just like the squirrels. 


Winter doesn't fool around here so as October wanes we all scurry: Play more outdoors, …

All I can do is soup

A friend is going through something pretty scary and terrible right now -- a health situation about which most of us would say "Oh, that's my nightmare" -- and I haven't been able to figure out how to help her. I mean, I pray for her and listen to her and cheer for her, and I try to run interference when others ask too many (or too few) questions about her condition. But I feel like there's not much I can physically do to help. When someone you love is sick, don't you want to just wrap your arms around them and will the sickness out of them? I do. I want to use the power of my love to pull the illness out, like that big guy in The Green Mile. Alas, I can't do that, not ever, but certainly not this time. This time it needs more than hugs.

The air today is crisp in all the ways you'd imagine fall in New England should be: chilly and breezy and sparkling with sunshine. The leaves on our trees are just about at their peak color, which means the air around…

Big girl, small plane

I am never more aware of the size of my body as I am when I fly. Especially now that I live in a small city and often have to travel on smaller planes. From the minute I step aboard, ducking my head just to make it through the door, hunched as I walk to my seat, I feel every eye on me. The flight attendants generally give me the sad-sorry eyes first, then the true awkwardness begins.

My head rubs the ceiling as I squish myself down the aisle. I pull my arms across my body, hugging my backpack for comfort, and feel the hairs on my head standing up from the static. Or maybe my hair stands up from sensing the anxiety of every person I pass? "You've got to be kidding. Don't you dare sit next to me!" their eyes shout. Some look right in my face, as if willing me away psychically. Others look down or fiddle with the seatback pocket; if they ignore me, don't face their fear of having to share with the giant, then I won't possibly take over their armrest. Usually the…

A shiny pink colon

I know a thing or two about colons, both grammatically and physiologically, and I'm a big fan of each. In writing, a well-placed colon makes us stop and pay attention to what's coming. It's dramatic and sometimes even a bit sexy. Not so with the other colon. Although it can make us stop and pause (and run to the nearest toilet), it's rarely dramatic nor sexy. Let's face it: Our colons are poop pushers, and nobody really likes to talk about poop. (That is, unless they are any of the three males living in my house.*)

My mom died way too young because she was embarrassed to go to her doctor when she started having poop problems. I'm still so angry with her about that, 20 years later! Even more, she didn't just die, she really suffered. For years. First through painful surgeries, then the indignity of a colostomy bag, then countless rounds of chemotherapy that left her bald and weak. And let's not even talk about the pain she endured as cancer ravaged every…

Resilient is more than strong

I don't think I wrote about it here, but my word for 2014 was Grace. I selected it from a bowl at church and pored over it for a few months, studying the morphology and religious and lay interpretations if the word. I found over the course of a few months, the word grace came up often in sermons and speeches, but also in conversation, readings, or general "symbols" around me. Maybe because I was thinking about it and paid more attention...or maybe because the universe was trying to get me to pay attention. 

In fact, when I came to Portland for my interview -- the one that eventually led us on the giant leap-of-faith relocation adventure we've been on -- the company took me out to dinner in a beautiful restaurant that had previously been a church. Its name, I'm sure you'll guess: Grace. I smiled inwardly throughout dinner, grateful and gracious (and hopefully graceful) and winking at the universe for this big flashing sign that everything about this idea was ok…

Grow old along with me. Pretty please.

I glanced into the mirror as I rinsed my hands last Sunday morning. The face looking back shocked me: dry skin dotted with acne and a sunspot on the cheek, lines and pores more visible than ever; hair speckled with grays but lacking any lightness ("as we get older, unfortunately our hair loses it's luster," says my rainbow-haired 20-something hairdresser); bloodshot eyes sunken behind puffy folds of skin, crows feet wrinkles forming in their corners; a chin that's quickly moving south and a jawline getting rounder, thanks to the 12 (!) pounds of "winter weight" I'm carrying. (But let's be honest: We know this weight's not going on summer vacation.) I don't like much about this picture.

I shlumped back into bed with a big dramatic sigh. "God, I look old. And I'm fat. And my skin is horrendous. I'm hideous."

"You're beautiful to me. Always," he reassured as he pulled me closer.

"How can you tell? Your eyes…

I love-hate my house

Our big, empty house still has not sold. We listed it last July at a price that would allow us to break even; it's now listed almost $50,000 below what we paid for it in 2006. And it will likely sell for even lower than that. I feel physically ill when I think about how much money we have thrown away on this place.

This house has in fact been a major source of stress and anxiety since the moment we signed the papers. When I think about our first winter there -- when I look at photos of my sweet Happy, just 18 months old opening Christmas gifts on the bare tile floor because we couldn't yet afford an area rug -- I taste the sour fear that we wouldn't be able to maintain the place, let alone pay the mortgage every month. It's ironic that now that we're in a better job situation and not even living in the house, we still face major financial hardship because of this building.

We've been house-poor for almost a decade, never really able to make the improvements we …

All that is right

This afternoon I called the police because I witnessed a man beating a woman on the street. I saw a few dozen homeless folks waiting outside the soup kitchen, as I do each morning and evening. I turned on the news and writhed as I watched reports of Baltimore burning, another rage-fueled episode in our country's churning racial struggle. This story eclipsed, at least for a little while, news of the devastating earthquakes and avalanches in Nepal that have killed thousands in one of the world's poorest countries.
I spent a lot of time today noticing things that are wrong with the world, until at last I grew weary and sad. Then I came upstairs to bed and saw this, and I quickly remembered all that is right on our beautiful, fucked up planet.
Love wins. Every time. It has to. It simply must.

The universe will right itself

Dear Grace, The story of your birthday party has touched me: the friendships between you and Justin and between your mom and Tammy, the outpouring of support from friends and family and strangers, photos of you smiling and dancing in your beautiful teal gown. You don't seem comfortable with all the attention, but as your name suggests, you bear it graciously and gracefully and gratefully. In the short time I've known your family, I have admired your mother's humor and poise, and I've enjoyed your brother's quirky brilliance. And now I know and respect your resilience and wisdom. 
I thought over and over while reading and processing your story, "I can't imagine what that family is going through." But I realized today that's not true. I lived this hell that you're in now. And truly, the fact that it took me a little while to realize that may a testimony to the fact that someday, you too will heal. You may never feel whole and you will carry …

The sweet spot

Honey started his new job a couple weeks ago. As much as I like having a second paycheck in our bank account every month, I really love it that he's happy. And even more...I love it that he's happy and home with us in the evenings. We both have tiny little commutes now, so for the first time in our marriage, we all get home around the same time. Honey and I spend time together in the kitchen while one or both of us prepares dinner. He helps with the cleaning and shopping, and he's been much more active in getting the boys ready for bed in the evenings. You know why he does all this? Because he's relaxed. And because he knows that when he does more around the house, I'm relaxed. He loves me so much that sometimes it's hard for me to understand or even accept.  Even after all these years. 

It's difficult for me to relax completely, of course, even when things are going so well. Especially when things are going so well! I suppose this is why prayer and meditat…

The color of grace

This evening on our slog home from work and preschool through treacherous snow-laden streets, I felt stressed about getting to Happy on time, anxious about my cross-country trip tomorrow, upset about our house not selling, and weighed down by countless other worries stomping across my mind. I felt pretty grumpy, clenched.

Then I looked out the window and noticed the sky over the cove was exactly my favorite color. The color my bridesmaids, my sister-friends, wore at my wedding. The color on the walls of Zippy's bedroom in our Delaware house, where I nursed him and sang to him in wee hours that belonged only to us. The color of the sea-glass medallion my grandmother gave me that I wear around my neck, over my heart.
I think this is grace, right? That small voice that says, "Be still and know that I am." The reminder that life is beautiful and interesting always. The assurance that I am blessed and protected and always will be provided for.
Even at the end of a crappy day…