Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pruning Burning Bushes - in Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression

Issue 2.4 of Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression came today in the mail, and in it, my first published poem. Look at me, I'm a poet. Ah ah ah.

Pruning Burning Bushes

I am over-pruning burning bushes
that border my front porch on Morgan,
cutting back two-thirds of growth
to trigger recovery from the trunk up.
Horticulturalists wince as I saw
through oldest limbs and keep going –
the shrubs are old, nothing new is budding.

Someone buzzed them back before we bought
the house, topped and tipped instead of using
crown reduction. There are a dozen leaves left,
tiny offshoots triggered - bursts of green
from long dead, empty stems. My trimming

is traumatic. The branches bend, sustained
so long by suckers sprouted in haste. Here I am,
sighing, sweating, fists on hips, the pruners
lost in the grass. The landscape breathes.
There is no exchange, no return in trauma –
either slowly hollow, heartwood rotting outward,
or grow from green into a fiery blaze in autumn.

I pick the pruners off the earth, dust
my aching hands and look for where
the calluses will form.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Merciful Gardener

The Merciful Gardener
“Come, see a man who told me
everything I ever did.” – John 4:29

It feels as if I’ve been buried here
forever, dehydrated, covered in dirt,

a crocus stagnant and frozen with scales
wrapped tight and tunic pointing skyward

waiting for signs of spring. And now
water trickles down, sunbeams warm the soil,

I can feel myself changing, breaking!
All I’ve ever done was wait and rot.

And then he – And then he showed me –
I am compelled to tell, can’t help but bloom –

Do you see how he knew just what I needed?
Do you see how he knew what I could do?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snow in Auburn

Snow in Auburn

More than once I have heard
your frosty winter promise whispered,

the fire crackle of your laughter,
felt your sorrow falling with the snap

of heavy branches in the woods.
Eternity, you roar so loud

it wakes me from my sleep; I stand
by the slamming screen door and stare,

wind sudden, deliberate, constant,
each gust stirring the empty field.

Though annuals stiffen, roses brown,
and hostas wilt, dawn will sigh

over blackness. I will ascertain answers
from each snowflake in six feet of snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008


It has been a crazy week around A-town. The returning theme, however, has been hope. Put your hope in the Lord - nothing else can save, nothing else can be counted on, nothing else is permanent or solid or steadfast or true. God insists in his word that we have a hope and a future in Him. This is the hope that I have, the joy that carries me through darkness, the faith that lifts me out of anxiety and worry.

My prayers go out to the family who grieves the loss of a young woman, to the young ladies who called her friend, to the campus community silenced by tragedy, to the country choking on anxiety and fear over what the future holds. Give us peace, Lord. Comfort our trembling hearts. Ease the lines of worry and restore hope. Restore hope.


Put on the full armor of God…

You loosened your belt,
let truth slide to the floor.
You slipped off your sweater,
threw it in the corner.
Your feet were bare and prone to slip,
legs uneasy, head dizzy...
What if you’d been wearing a helmet?
What if you had had a sword
to wave at that demon who lured
you toward the window,
who promised it would be best
this way, to kick out the screen,
to feel the cold air from seven floors up,
your blonde hair streaming in the wind?
What if you had known your opponent
wanted it this way, to beat you
in the battle? You had no armor,
no defense against the quiet, sudden
decision to leap. Tank top, underwear,
bare arms and legs sailing
among all of the other small,
unique, beautiful, irreplaceable
snowflakes in the dark winter night.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against the authorities, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Consider the Sparrows

Consider the Sparrows

So many come, Dad hides behind a blind
with birdshot and a rifle in the grain field.
They scatter, land, scatter, land. I hear them
chirping through the boom, watch their flight
ripple like cotton sheets lifted in the wind.

A sparrow’s egg on concrete - the yolk
seeping through the fracture - makes me stop
to look from broken shell to fretting maple
branches above for the mother who chirrups
in her nest, twitching, head tilted, eyes blinking.

This too shall pass, small sparrow. Tomorrow
I will walk beneath your bed just like today,
the ruined egg in smaller fragments, or vanished
and you will scavenge the earth, fly overhead,
the sky heavy with you and your flock,

who will not know me from any other beast
below. I will regard you as just another
house sparrow, aggressive attacker
who captures bluebirds in their nestboxes,
descends on golden fields of grain.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gimme All Your Lovin'

Is there anything more moving than your child saying, "I love you too, Mom"? Is there? What could be better than saying goodnight and I love you and getting that reply? This is why we change diapers. This is why we cook meals and then make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when they don't want ravioli. This is why we scold. This is why we discipline. This is why we snuggle. This is why we teach them how to be human. Oh, that blissful moment of reward! Thank you, Lord, for showing me what it must be like to be yelled at, screamed at, to receive the look of distaste and bitterness and anger and lack of understanding, only to be loved again, to receive in its turn some sense of appreciation or adoration. I see, now. I see. I see how you keep giving, and giving, and giving, and sometimes it takes us days or weeks or months, even years, even a lifetime, to hear those words -- I love you, too, Lord. Gratitude and thankfulness are not needed, sacrifice and payment shunned -- just love me back. Love me. I just want your love, child.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Revision of Hoarding Any Memory

Hoarding Any Memory
Come give me a smooch! - Richard Lingro, Sr.

You appear in a family picnic clip
fifty pounds heavier than I remember
and bearded. Come give me a smooch!
that scruffy kiss and heavy hug.

Lawn mower tractor pulls, greasy rags,
and polka music play, profound
around the fuzzy photos, figures distorted,
shorter, thinner, younger years away,

driving in a silver Grand Marquis. I hear
oldies music, feel stale, air-conditioned cold
pumped into the back of an old police car,
the grey upholstered seat where I sit

with permanently locked doors,
windows I can’t roll down.
We are visiting great-grandmother
at her grave where your dust will rest

next to your mother. What felt like hours
is only thirty minutes – did you know
we were so close? We planted flowers,
or maybe we poked a plastic wreath

above her headstone, or maybe
there was no leaving behind,
only standing, staring, shifting feet.
My husband yells at our daughter

and I’m embarrassed to have thought of you.
But mostly, I keep sitting by your bed, alone,
caressing your head, whispering prayers,
holding your hand as you breathe in,

and breathe out, and breathe in…
and I breathe in, and in, and in, breathe…
and then I’ve breathed you out,
an immense whoosh like the smooch goodbye

after the car door is opened, windows down,
off to the great lawn mower tractor pull in the sky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recipes for American Meals

These are my best ones yet. I am certain of it.

Recipes for American Meals


Rigatoni: one
box rigatoni noodles
one jar pasta sauce


M&M Brownies:
one box brownie mix, one bag
mini M&Ms

prepare according
to package directions; add
in M&Ms. Bake.


Abandon oven
mitts and noodle colanders --
drive through McDonalds.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Baked Apple, Green Ogres, and Snuggles

My word it's been a week already. I am pretty run down tonight after a busy day at work and frustrating financial mishaps. I hate money. I really do. All of its finiteness, especially. But in the end, note the lilies in the field and the sparrows in the air - and we're worth much more than sparrows, so I'm told. ;)

We watched Shrek 2, again, tonight. I felt bad, to some degree, turning on the movie after dinner because I am rather certain it was on all morning, too, but it was cold in the living room (still is), and Lydia's energy levels were really high. I just couldn't come up with anything creative, energy-letting, and contained within the walls of our home to do on a rainy Friday night. I am really glad I did though - I don't think I've sat for an hour and a half with my children, ever. Elvis just melts into you - his little body snuggles up and he holds onto your arm or hand with his hands and rests. Lydia will sit for a minute or two and then she stands and then sits and then stands and then sits and then stands. And then jumps off of the couch, three times before you say ENOUGH! I'll turn it off! And then she sits again. There was a good 15 minute period though when they were completely sucked in by the ogres. It was heaven.

I "baked" an apple tonight with cinnamon and brown sugar in the microwave. It was delicious. I don't think I've ever made baked apples before - especially not the traditional in-the-oven way - but this turned out magnificent in 2 minutes vs. the recipe I found which called for an hour in the oven. What?! Are you serious?!

Ack! I just remembered that the Office was on last night. Time to go watch And I'm sure there was something entertaining on the Thursday edition of SNL...

This is why I love Friday nights. The only noise in the house is the ticking of the clock, the sighing of the dog, the passing of cars, and the clicking of the keyboard. Just. Me. And Tex. Who sighs.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Daily Bread

Daily Bread
Poetry ought to have a mother as well as a father.

The men are smoking Winstons, wearing work boots,
worn denim, deep calluses, their flannelled backs to the fire.
They are riding away on motorcycles, pulling up

in trucks - semis blare and brake - there they are
digging trenches, moving mountains, there again
heaving haybales, picking apples, building scarecrows.

In their shadows, we are slicing Granny Smiths,
baking apple crisp, sorting whites from dirt-caked blue
jeans, sweeping mud-crusted tread marks

out from under the rug. We kneel by porcelain
tubs and sinks, soak cornsilk blondes in Johnson's soap,
kneel to tie a toddler's shoes, kneel to wash

a Savior's feet. Someone must prepare the table -
sweet rolls wait for butter, sweet corn waits for pepper.
A harvest meal by candlelight, we whisper

with each other, laugh, clink glasses and drink,
dishpan and callused fingers clasped.
Without this waltz - the way we circumnavigate -

Sun pulls earth pulls moon pulls earth pulls us -
there is only exhaust and straw, hard work and dust.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Lately, I have had the great joy of spending all day with my kids on the weekends. At least it feels like that - maybe it hasn't been that way for long, but I LOVE this exhaustion from a day well spent. We squeezed out every ounce of good times from each available minute today, and my feet have much to say in response. It was good.

Saturdays are Pancake Days -- occasionally Sundays are also Pancake Days -- which sets the day into gear. Today, after pancakes, we putzed around the house for a little while and then went to the grocery store for apple cider and a few additional odds and ends. Then we swung through a few garage sales, first by car and then by foot (BIG mistake - long walk - Elvis fell asleep in his race car and Lydia tired out 1/4 of the way back to the house, but everyone slept well this afternoon!), and then back to the house for a lunch of leftovers. Elvis had a hard time falling asleep but once he did, he slept until a little after 3. Lydia went down at 1 and slept until 3:30. She was pooped.

After the kids fell asleep this afternoon, I took a shower since that didn't really happen this morning, and then I made something I am dying to taste - Pumpkin Streudel Squares. mmmm they sure look and smell yummy. They are in the fridge right now, and I'm debating, first, why I made them, and second, when I'm going to eat them. There was an initial motivation behind baking these that has since passed. I don't remember what it was. I'll probably save them for small group tomorrow night.

Once the kiddies woke up, we had a snack and lounged around a few minutes and then went to feed/terrorize Lisa's cats. Mission accomplished, we ran through the ATM at the bank to deposit a check and then drove the few minutes' ride out to our friends' farm for a fall festival (ffffff). It was... fun! :) We had a blast, to be completely honest -- playing with other kids, meeting more great people and finding a kindred writer spirit, carving a pumpkin, eating hot dogs, taking a hay ride -- it was a grand affair. We are all thoroughly exhausted, I think. Here's hoping the kids sleep in (yeah right).

The weather is amazing this weekend, too. It is so nice to be outside - I feel as if it is a necessity to get outdoors as much as possible before the days get shorter and the temperatures drop even more. The kids (and I) love to be outside and take walks, and I will miss it a lot when the snow starts to fall. I get a cold nose and dry hands just thinking about the freeze.

I think tonight is the perfect night to veg out in front of a good, predictable movie I've seen a hundred times. And then fall asleep on the couch, probably.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cover Hunting

I have been trying to pull together the pieces that are necessary to go forward with the chapbook and one of those is the cover. The title I have chosen is "Acquiesce." I've flipped through my photo albums here and thought about picking the image of me jumping off the bungee jumping platform in New Zealand... but it is so.... me centered. This collection isn't really about me. If anything it is about getting me out of the way. So, I decided if there was one image from the book or one poem that I felt would capture that feeling of letting go, giving in to a higher power, driftwood is it.

I have paged through hundreds of images of driftwood (thank you, google image). Pages and pages of chunks of wood. And I keep coming back to the image I snagged from CoffeeWaffle that I've used as a header here. It is captivating, complex, tangled - a mess of limbs. It's great. And there are so many others I've paged through on his site hunting for the shot - they are fabulous, if you have a chance to check it out. Anyway, I emailed Murray about the images on his site, and in the meantime have been paging through some more, searching his site for "driftwood", when I came across this:

"Every time I look at this shot driftwood on Rabbit Island Beach, I can't figure out how these two logs 'grew' like this." -- Murray, in reference to the header graphic above. I just love when this sort of thing happens - the poem, Driftwood, in my chapbook is about exactly this - the melding and merging of wood, people, God, whatever - so that you cannot tell where one begins and the other ends. So, I think that's it - that's going to be the cover. Now we'll see what the publisher thinks ;)

It's been a great week around here. Things are going well with work, Brandon and I have had a good week at home with the kids, this great opportunity with poetry has made my year, and I am just feeling blessed. Blessed blessed blessed. I have been trying to keep from getting an inflated ego about this book, because every time I look at the poems in it, I can identify what God was doing through the writing of it - I can see his hand moving the poem in the direction of truth rather than in the direction of what I thought was going on. I can see how he spoke into those poems. They are not about me. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the feeling of glory - this feeling that I'VE accomplished something now - look at me! look at me! Not good. I want to only be a vessel carrying the goods and I have to try hard to keep that in front. I'm just a rusty old ship, man. But I've got the GOODS.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Recap

I am still bubbling over a bit about this whole chapbook thing. Chapbooks, for those who aren't as bookish and nerdy as me, are kind of like mini-books or half the typical poetry manuscript. They generally consist of 15-25 pages of poems by one author. They are printed in limited edition print runs and usually centered around a particular theme. Mine is titled, Acquiesce and has poems wrapped around the idea of accepting loss, giving in to God's will, and letting go. I'm still a bit taken aback that it happened just like that... but it did!

Besides the sudden and random onslaught of "oh yeah! I'm published! Eep!", this weekend was a mixed bag. I had a great time with the kids, Bible study was great, church was great, hanging out with a bunch of college students was a blast, and I painted the living room red, again, while listening to the presidential nominees debate. Good times.

There were some less pleasant moments, but all in all, a good weekend.

I am debating whether to go database some more or just work on poetry. There are two days until the boss-man gets back in the office and then we can start going over the "Stuff for Steve" folder. At that point, I imagine my writing taking a backseat, or perhaps the trunk, to all of the business-related work I have coming up. And that's a good thing. I have a lot of plans and ideas I want to start executing for the program, but I haven't been able to do any of it because he's out of the office so much. How do I sign up for his job?

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I just got off the phone with the editor at Finishing Line Press, and they are going to publish my chapbook! I didn't really even know I had enough material for a chapbook and voila! here it is. I am still shocked and flattered and honored and amazed. Can I elaborate on how I'm feeling any more than that?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not Not Not :)

NOT pregnant! Woooooooo!

Okay, so it has been 47 days since my D&C and I was really starting to over-analyze all daily bodily functions like eating and sleeping, wondering and worrying whether I might-could be pregnant again. Not only has the whole content-with-two thing been hovering over my head, but physically it's a baaaad idea to get pregnant again immediately after this procedure. It's a lot more likely to miscarry again. BUT hurrah hurrah happy crampy mama this morning! Which explains my crankiness and critical attitude yesterday.

It annoys me that hormones have such an ability to manipulate emotions and perception. Fortunately for me, these "symptoms" are pretty mild usually, but unfortunately it doesn't occur to me until afterward that that's what was going on - I was just hormonal and exaggerating all emotional tendencies. Nice. I've come to realize that it is best to just keep my mouth shut for a day or so before I explode or implode, just to make sure I am in my right mind. Occasionally there's the hysterical crying outburst and blathering that dredges up every wrong ever committed by Brandon (he's the immediate bystander most of the time), followed by the next mornings, "Oh. Sorry. That's what was going on."

The peculiarity of this rejoicing is that four years ago, we were just beginning to wonder whether we would have children at all. After miscarriage #1 and the fears that a partial-mole pregnancy would spring cancerous cells on my insides, and then tests and tests, and then ovarian cysts and then miscarriage #2, every passing period felt like failure. Now we have two beautiful healthy children, and the thought of more terrifies my husband and launches a series of complicated emotions and anxieties in me. Have I forgotten how precious, fragile, and rare life actually is?

I see now how women in more desperate situations would contemplate abortions, have abortions even. Without the belief that every child is indeed a miracle, womb stirred by the finger of God, that tiny life could be "just another baby." It's just another mouth to feed. Granted, I am alll in favor of women and men being educated about prevention. For a woman who does not want babies immediately and cannot provide for a baby, better to not get pregnant than to deal with the complicated emotions that follow - keep the baby, abort the baby, put the baby up for adoption - and the complicated emotions that follow all of those options.

At the end of the day, my son literally jumps for joy to see me. Lydia buries her face in the folds of my skirt, wraps her arms around my legs. They both squeal with delight. How can I not squeal with delight as well? I am VERY grateful to be sitting here, all achy and recovering from an emotional uprising, but if the world turned a little differently for me today with different results, I would celebrate the outcome, hope for healthy babies, and know that I am blessed with yet another miracle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You Can't Have It All

This morning, Lydia wouldn't let go of me. She stood on her booster seat at the kitchen table and hugged my neck, her tears dripping onto my jacket. She has never done this before when I have left for work, and I have left for work regularly at or before 8 AM every day since moving to Ashland last fall. It sucked.

Lately I have been dwelling on the stay-at-home mom. Brandon is great with the kids and I love my job, but it'd be really great to just stay home, for weeks at a time, and when I'd had my fill with homelife, caught up with laundry and done all of the deep cleaning that needs to be done, I'd just go back and work some more until all the work at work got done, and so on until Elvis enters kindergarten. That sounds good, doesn't it? Why don't employers offer these work structures? Probably because they are completely unrealistic.

As cliche as it is, you can't have it all. I try, no doubt, but it isn't possible.

What I really want right now is some apple crisp. It's fall and I am ready for harvest food. So I'm going to make apple crisp tonight after the kids go to bed, or I'm going to get it all ready and make it tomorrow. I don't know yet. It's for small group, anyway, so that I don't eat it all myself. Mmmmmm I do love the apple crisp. In partial fulfillment of the apple craving, I shared a cup of hot apple cider with a friend yesterday and it was OH so good. I have overactive tear ducts. When I laugh, I also cry. Something is wrong with me.

In spite of this morning's episode with Lydia, I have had the cup-overfloweth feeling lately. Ah, the trees! Ah, the blue sky and sunshine! Ah, children and their funny voices and warm hugs and wet kisses! Ah, food! Ah, friends! Ah, God is good! It's all rather nauseating if you aren't in this place reading this. I just finished a book, called Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies by Brian Doyle which was basically celebrating all of these good things without the sappy sentimentality that usually accompanies expressions of joy. It is a great book if you are looking for quirky, smart, short essays on good things.

I am going to continue salivating at the thought of apple crisp. That's just how it is. This is. How. It is. You can't have it all. :) BUT, you can have long walks to the playground with your kids and a pretend cup of tea and muffins on the front stoop of a stranger's house.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Being Blessed

Tonight was one of those nights that enlarge my heart so dramatically it's a miracle it doesn't swell right out of my chest. Nothing out of the ordinary, just hugs, walks, and simple miraculous conversation with a two year old. Standing butt-naked and squeaky clean, Lydia sang patty-cake all of the way through with Elvis over the edge of the tub, and then the two of them erupted in laughter, thus sending Brandon and I into a fit of laughter, which made Elvis and Lydia laugh some more - both so excited and giddy that they bounced up and down laughing.

Ah, to laugh. Our children beg to laugh - please, please tickle me! And then they wriggle and scream in joy until we stop, catch our breath, and then launch in again. Tickle tickle tickle tickle!

We laugh when Elvis hears the Sesame Street theme song and waddles into the living room, his rear end stuck out as he walks, like an old man, over to the television and then starts to march around in a circle, dancing to the tune.

We laugh when Lydia pulls her pants up past her belly button, her buttocks hanging out the back end.

We laugh when one of us is in a cranky mood and asks, "Aren't you going to make me some tea?"

We laugh at one-liners from Anchorman (I'm kind of a big deal...) and Office Space (You know, he made a million dollars...) and a billion other movies that sneak into daily life.

We laugh at our dog Tex rolling around on his back trying to scratch that one itchy spot, his 80 lb. body twisting, legs lurching back and forth, and then the delighted shake when it's all done.

We laugh at ourselves, our crabby tendencies, our silly self-mocking faces and comments.

There's nothing like a good chuckle to let you know that you are blessed. To have this overflow of joy on a daily basis, a "cup of good cheer" to accompany the slice of humble pie... that is blessed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sonnetizing Free Verse

A neat task given me by a friend a few weeks ago has brought new life to a few of my poems. I'm calling it sonnetizing free verse - taking something already written that is lacking that oomph to make it decent and shaping it into a sonnet. Up until this point, I haven't been much a sonnet supporter. I don't know why - I like to write in form because it forces new words and creative ways of saying things that free verse doesn't always push. I've taken two poems and changed them into sonnets.

I've been reworking this particular poem for quite a while, but I like what happened when I shaped it into a sonnet. Thoughts?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What are ya, Chicken?

After tucking Lydia in and finishing the nighttime routine of praying and singing, I began the usual series of evening duties - laundry, in particular - and settled in for some good mind-numbing television. That's when I witnessed the "Natural History of the Chicken". Yes, chickens. In HD, even.

Because one of our children (Elvis) discovered the glowing blue button on the cable box, and because one of our children (Elvis) also likes to gnaw on the remote, it takes a few minutes or longer for our remote to function properly. It will turn on the TV and turn down the volume, but to change the channel or pull up the TV guide, you have to crawl across the living room floor and physically press the up and down buttons on the cable box. You have to crawl, because this is the most physical representation of how frustrating it is to not have a functioning remote. Or you could try to make the remote work like my husband, who hovers five feet from the TV repeatedly pushing buttons on the remote and nearly launching it at the set. Maybe, just maybe, if you gradually migrate closer to the television pressing buttons, it will work.

Left with these two options, I am more likely to sit and watch whatever was last on the television than to battle. PBS happened to be on earlier (big surprise), and much to my fascination and wonder, someone made a documentary about a chicken named Liza. At first, I thought perhaps I should be recording this. Lydia would LOVE it. I smiled to myself and continued hunting for matching socks.

But as the old farmer narrator shared the tale of Liza, the chicken who was intimidated by the rest of the coop's egg-laying capacities until a separate coop was built, I was captivated. This funny looking chicken laid six eggs in her Westin-coop and waited for them to hatch. It was really lovely, actually, and impressive videography.

I resumed folding shirts and mini-panties. Thinking the story over, I considered the remote, waiting patiently for instructions. But the narrator continued his story, and the next thing I knew, the chickens were scattering. They all retreated to some really great hiding spot, and the video flashed to a hawk high in the sky. And then something funny happened. Liza came out. In the middle of the yard were six chicks... her six chicks. She trotted out, in the presence of the enemy, and spread her wings for the chicks. She landed on the grenade, kind of. The video reenacted the hawk diving down to grab the chicken. And the narrator said, "Greater love hath no one..."

The chicken actually lived, and so did all of the chicks. But how about that? How about a chicken - a chicken - risking its own neck for its young. That might have to happen someday.

The best part of the show, though, was when the narrator closed with, "From now on, I am proud to be called, 'chicken.'" Classic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Sometimes, I rock him longer than I need to. A 20 pound body wraps around my chest and shoulders and neck, his head of hair underneath my chin, a hand fingering my necklace, the other gripping the back of my shirt as if to say, "Stay, Mom. I like it here." The instant he begins to fall asleep, his body temperature rises and I feel the heat on my chest, my cheek, resting close to him. We sway back and forth, the fan blowing away all outside noises and interference so that it is just us - mom and son.

Mary had these kind of moments, I am sure of it - the Messiah's fingers fiddling with her hair, his body light enough to be held with one arm. Can you imagine him running around after a bath, giddy and free, his new-found balance propelling him awkwardly across the room, Frankenstein arms out, prepared to tumble? Yesterday after Elvis's bath, I let him loose in just a diaper, turned the corner to the hallway and found him admiring himself in the mirror, giving his reflection kisses. I asked for a kiss and he tried to kiss the image of me. Damp fog remained where his lips had landed.

I missed the quiet moments like this at birth with Elvis. Whisked away to incubators and intubation, monitors and IVs, I didn't hold my son until day four, and then it was to lift his limp, sedated body so the nurse could change his blankets. How heavy he seemed then, even though he was only 7 pounds 13 ounces, resting warmly in my hands. And then finally I could lay that tiny body on me, feel his breathing, the scratch of his tiny fingernails on my skin.

Now he's one and waddles over when I come home, laughing and clucking like a duckling, arms outstretched to hug me. And sometimes at night, I rock him longer than I really need to, hold him close and listen to that breathing. Something in me knows that this will only last a little longer. These are the sort of moments Mary stored away in her heart, the sort of moments that have to be treasured. The future is mysterious and complicated, it's out of our hands, and the past testifies to who's really in control.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Testimony Sunday

I just came up with this great analogy for those of you who have not given a testimony in front of a church (or perhaps any public speaking occasion). Giving a testimony is kind of like having a child - you make all sorts of preparations and attend classes on breathing techniques, go through extreme pain and anxiety during the laborious process, disregard all of the breathing techniques and wing it, then, once it's all over, you forget everything you said and did. Like childbirth, you have to forget it or you'll never try it again. It falls apart if you've never been pregnant before.

In spite of not really knowing what I said, it seems to have gone well. Now the Browns game is on, and I'm going to take the kids outside and probably for a walk. But before I go, I GOT A POEM ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION! Really, I did! I am pumped. You are reading the words of an official Published Poet. ;)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Telling People How Much You Suck... that God can be glorified. That's the point of testimonies, at least to some degree. And Sunday, I get to do that in front of our church body and a bunch of college students who want an iPod. I'm pretty darn excited. And a shade nervous - I haven't done this in a while, and while I am great at making myself vulnerable (here is my sleeve, and pinned to it, my heart...), there's something particularly nerve-inducing about sharing how God has made His presence known in your life, often through your flounders.

Flounder is a really cute fish in The Little Mermaid. It is also a tasty fish. But mostly, it's me flopping around on stage, blathering and bumbling. Get me back in my fishbowl, man!

For those of you who read this and won't be at 5 Stones Sunday morning for the sweet iPod promo, ("and you thought only your mom would bribe you to come to church...") here's my shpeel in writing. It will likely not come out of my mouth this way, (oh if I were only so eloquent in speech!) but this is what I'm going for. It is just the beginning of my God-tale. There's so much more he's done and continues to do. I could write a whole series.


I was a sarcastic, self-conscious, introverted, egotistical, over-achieving high school band dork. I strived for perfection on every turn. I was angry that God would even consider loving someone like a murderer or rapist or popular person in my high school – He should be the righteous judge and condemn them all to hell. Obviously, the concept of grace was foreign to me.

I also struggled to merge what was taught in science classes about evolution with what was taught in church about creation. These are two specific roadblocks that Satan used to try to deflect me from meeting the true God. As a senior in high school, I had been studying other religions, reading books about evolution and creation, and trying to resolve this battle. One day, a switch was flipped in my brain, and I went from saying, “Psh! Those creationists are nuts!” to looking out the window of my car as I drove down the highway and saying, “How could there not be a God?! Look at the trees! Look at the sky! Look at the birds!” All the research I did helped me know about micro-biology and evolutionary principles, but only God can open up eyes like that. The scales fell away.

The third distraction came in the form of a boyfriend I met and fell madly in love with after graduating from high school. Eric was romantic and exotic, a Parrothead in search of his very own Margaritaville – the perfect distraction in my hunt for the real God dwelling in the real Paradise.

By random draw and God’s providence, I ended up roommates with my best friend from high school. She invited me, yet again, to Bible studies, the Well, and FCA on campus. She was a persistent little evangelist! I remember the first time I went to the Well – I could FEEL a presence in the room like I’d never felt before – that calm, peace, and strange movement of the Holy Spirit. It was breathtaking.

Eric and I got physically involved really fast. By October of my freshman year at AU, I thought I might be pregnant. While I worried and fretted that everything I had ever strived for was all for nothing, it finally occurred to me that I am out of control. I do the things I do not want to do. I cannot do life the right way on my own. I have no control over my plans, my future, my life, and there is only one person who does – Jesus Christ. At a Bible study one night, I confessed all that had been happening with Eric. For the first time in my life, I understood grace. I understood mercy. I understood forgiveness. As Paul says in Romans 7:24-25 – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Like any other new believer, I expected all things to be better immediately. But I still loved Eric, I wanted to be with him even though he wasn’t a believer and had no interest whatsoever in Jesus Christ. Through His gentleness and firmness, God gradually removed Eric from my life, first moving him to North Carolina, then sending him off on some wild trip to Thailand and Vietnam that did not involve missionaries in the mountains... like he said it was going to. In the end, God made Eric fall out of love with me, and that is what it took for me to let go, and let God be God of my heart.

About six months or so after God ended my relationship with Eric, I had finally felt like I was okay with being single. About a week later, I met my husband. Brandon and I have both been down similar roads with our scarring relationships, but most importantly, we both believe in a God who is merciful, just, loving, forgiving, constant, mysterious, and real – and without that foundation, our relationship would have been destroyed fast. Enough evil and unfair events happen in our lives to turn people with common interests against each other in a heartbeat, but if you have faith and have faith together, God who “began a good work in you” will carry it on to completion, together.

During my tumultuous relationship with Eric, a friend of mine gave me a verse to rely on. So often I have felt bewildered at where I am in life or where I was going. My anxiety levels were high – should I transfer colleges to be closer to Eric, should I move, should I marry, should I take this job, should I stay at home with my kids – and this verse among so many others like it in Scripture has kept me grounded. From Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, down unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” This is a promise God makes to each of us if we’d just let him take over. It will be okay. We will make it through this, one way or the other. And it’s probable that the end results will be the most unlikely place you ever thought you’d find yourself, but better and more amazing than you could have imagined.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


It is my great delight to reintroduce Sarah Wells, wife and mother, recomposed.

A long weekend including a trip to the Great Geauga County Fair (really, the Great one, not the Mediocre one), adult-time with the husband, a complimentary Japanese Steakhouse meal that was complimentary only after ordering such delectable plates as steak and shrimp and steak and scallops, and an elegant wedding and reception and brunch to wrap it up brought Sarah back to sanity in many ways. And for lack of a really great word - I am happy.

I am a wedding crier. I didn't think I was, really, until these last two weddings. The bride in her beauty, the atmosphere of a dimly-lit church and stained glass and Pachelbel, the grandmother's slow shuffle up the aisle, the dad's arm around his daughter's... goodbye, mascara, hello raccoon eyes. Both weddings we attended the last two weeks have served as catalysts for inspiring warm feelings and gratitude toward my husband. Five years already, and though this last one has been the hardest, I love him deeply - beyond his frustration and anger at the current situation, beyond all of this muck of day-to-day tasks - I forgot how much fun we have together. Especially when we can sleep in the next day...

The kids were glad to see us yesterday, and we wrapped up the weekend by taking them to the park to feed the ducks and climb the playground. Those ducks are getting awful bold. I feared for my children's lives as dozens of ducks waddled out of the water to apparently peck our eyes out until we gave up the stale hot dog buns. We fled for cover, and though they followed for a while, once they realized the bread crumbs were leaving they gave up the pursuit. Thank God.

In other news, I have been corresponding all weekend with an editor at a literary journal about a poem. We've been revising it together and I am hoping with all sorts of high expectations that it will actually get in the next issue of their magazine. Would he really waste so much of his precious time working through a revision if he didn't intend to publish it? This, by the way, will make me a Published Author. Yea, like I even get to submit my bio and photo 'n' stuff. We have high hopes for you, kid - you've got real potential.

Back to my real job now...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All Done?

Much to my delight, Lydia has stopped the crazy crying bit at bedtime. We think it was too dark in her room. Yes, I feel like an ass. But mostly I am grateful for night lights.

As we returned from the park a few days ago after feeding ducks at the pond and chasing the kids around the playground, and as we each removed one of our children from the car and carried them in the house, a crazy, unexpected thought crossed my mind: maybe two is enough.

In light of my last entry, anyone reading this is like, "dude, you should've stopped after the first two miscarriages, abusive crazy woman." But Brandon and I are in agreement about spankings and disciplining our kids this way, when needed. Though the fact that I feel like I need to justify myself says something about how guilty and miserable the whole bedtime screaming event made me.

Back to my bizarre, out-of-left-field pondering. This is so not me. I have been battling for months about having more children. And before that, I had fantasies of four to five babes and then teens and then married children with hoards of grandkids visiting constantly, eating my homemade chocolate chip cookies and sneaking extra pieces of pie when moms and dads aren't looking (I'm taking notes from my parents and in-laws on grandparenting). Stopping at two has never crossed my mind, even been a considered possibility, until now.

I don't think it is just the difficulty we had with Lydia sleeping, or Elvis's teething, or Lydia's emphatic NOs. In an unexpected turn of events, the miscarriage I thought would fire up Brandon's desire to have more children made me do a bit of reevaluating, to the point of actually saying something to Brandon about being done. "Just let me know, and I'll call the doctor." Nice.

I am a worker. I love my job. I already feel like I don't have enough time in the day to sufficiently love on my two kids and husband let alone add in a third or fourth child. Sure, if we were to get pregnant a third time, we would make it work and we would love that child unconditionally just as we love Lyd and Elvis. But I'm not built for staying at home and taking care of a large family, and we both agree that the husband isn't built for it either, so what on earth am I thinking?

Besides the job thing, I love to serve at church and have just taken up a few new responsibilities at church. My job and my duties with church fulfill a part of me that is essential to my soul. Not that spending time with my children and tending to their needs does not fulfill, but it fulfills in a different way - meets a need and swells my heart in such a significant way that is complemented by those activities I perform with work and church. These experiences make me whole.

There's also the physical aspect of pregnancies that is becoming a greater reality after every c-section and miscarriage - my body does not do pregnancy well. I know it is highly unlikely that I will deliver vaginally ever. I just don't have the hips to do it, apparently. And two c-sections have left my abdomen's muscles loose and severed (though not to the degree of early- to mid- 80s c-sections), my skin numb and sensitive around the scar. With every pregnancy the risk of miscarriage increases, and as much as I feel at peace with the causes and complications of miscarriages and what that means for me spiritually, it isn't an experience I wish to go through over and over again. I wouldn't mind being done with the stretching, weight gain, morning sickness, etc. that accompanies pregnancy and such.

It's also nice to be able to be paired up with our kids. There's never a third person waiting in the wings for attention, though they often battle for the attention of one parent. In some ways, the desire to have more than two kids for me is selfish - if I'm honest, would I really give them the time of day? Would they resent me, my career, and my commitment to the church? I am conscious of this question already - Lydia knows where I go during the day and routinely asks if I'm going to work. They miss me, act differently when I'm gone than when I'm here. With so little time to give to my kids, who am I benefiting, inviting a third/fourth into the house?

I don't know - maybe this is all a surprising backlash from miscarriage. Maybe I'm coming to this conclusion rashly. But I think I could be done. I think I wouldn't mind this being it.

How did this happen?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Seconds from Shaken Baby

The light is off, and Lydia and I just finished our bedtime routine - read a story (tonight, Big Little), use the potty and point out repetitious things like the fact that we painted the bathroom ("Oh, looks good!") and the boo boo on her knee is healing, and migrate upstairs to her bedroom. Elvis is across the hall in his room, still yelling himself to sleep - the nightly agenda since he won't take a pacifier and wakes up after falling asleep in mom's arms - but typically by the time Lydia is settled, Elvis has also fallen asleep, and if not, usually a revisit to the bedside to pick up and check diaper contents solves the problem.

I lift Lydia up into her big-girl bed, dig her pacifier out from the crack it has fallen into, and raise the blanket over her legs. She asks, "Pray?" and so we do, for grandmas and grandpas and relatives and the playground and toys and the dog and whatever else comes to mind, and we ask for protection and safety and thank God for Jesus Amen. And then the radio request show starts, the first song up is Away in a Manger followed by Rock-a-Bye Baby and last but certainly not least, I sing Row-Row-Row Your Boat. Lydia lets out the commonplace whine as I kiss her forehead and say, "Night Night." The whine escalates into a forced cry to which I reply, "Do you want me to turn on some music?" She says yes and settles back onto the pillow.

It is dark but I know the play button is right in the middle, volume pre-determined the previous night or during afternoon nap, and the instrumental music of Phil Keaggy begins. I return to Lydia and again kiss her on the forehead, pat her arm and wish her good night.

As I turn toward the door, the wailing starts. Before it's closed, Lydia is upright and sliding out of the twin bed. Before I can get down the hall, the thump of bare feet on hardwood echoes toward the door. And before I am halfway down the stairs, the door knob turns, a sobbing two-year-old waiting for me to come back.

One technique recommended by Super Nanny is to quickly, firmly and quietly return the disobedient and sleep-deprived back to bed, tucked in, and wished good night. End of story. Or beginning of two hour story, depending on the strength of the two-year-old's will and the fragile emotional foundation you feel certain you are crushing with every return to bed. But I try it, for awhile, thinking she has to give in at some point. She will get the message, roll over and silently if not hiccup-y suck her pacifier, the beautiful locks of fine blond hair swept away from closed eyes, tears still sliding softly down each cheek... asleep, nonetheless.

It is now four hours later... no, just ten minutes but it might as well be hours, and the wailing has reached hyperventilating screams of MOMMY! from the bedroom doorframe. Meanwhile, Elvis is still awake. I have given up temporarily on Lydia and move to the equally urgent but fewer decibal screams coming from the crib in the opposite room. Elvis is dry as far as I can tell except for his face which is damp with tears and I hold him close, do not hold him responsible for being awake still, and sway back and forth, whispering "shhhh". Elvis slowly calms down in spite of his sister hovering by his door (working up a wail here and there to be sure I am aware she's still awake), calm enough to lay him down and try his routine again. He begins crying but stays on his stomach, pushing forward with his legs until his head is wedged up against the crib bumper, a security he seems to have discovered to help sleep.

As soon as Lydia realizes I'm done with Elvis, it is back to the full-on crying. I quickly close his door and trot Lydia back to bed, envisioning Super Nanny with her hand on Lydia's shoulder all the way, speaking firmly with her British accent, "Now it's toime tu go tu bed, sweet hauht." We resume what now has turned into a game of how quickly can Mom shuffle out the door before Lydia springs from her bed.

Upon multiple failures at the Super Nanny approach, I try a new tactic - hold the door shut. At first, I think this will work - force her to stay in her room. She'll give up and proceed back to bed in a huff, clearly defeated, tired, and sick of this game. But coming from the other side of the door are heightening panicked yelps, "MOMMY!" sob, gulp "MOMMY!!!" and then the pounding begins. Lydia is beating on the door with her fist, and I am shocked. My hand is clenched on the doorknob, my throat tightening. The door is flung open, likely over the toes of my preschooler but I don't care. "Get back in bed!" I shout, louder than I wanted to.

This is extremely effective. At making the situation ten times worse.

I bound down the stairs into the kitchen where my friend Hilary, waiting at the back door, has called to see if I'm home. It is 8:15, 15 minutes past bedtime and it feels like we've been at this for an hour. "You'll have to bear with me, I have an irate two-year-old who won't go to bed." Hilary has a seat at the kitchen table with a book and I return to Lydia who is now standing at the top of the stairs hyperventilating.

The muscles in my arms are tense, my fingers tight around my daughter's biceps. I launch her into the air and swing her into bed. Her rear end bounces on the mattress. Between sobs I whisper, "It's past your bedtime, you need to sleep, why are you doing this?" and wait for an answer, my hands still firm on her arms. She replies, "I need to go potty," a routine bedtime prolonging answer that makes my blood boil because I know most of the time she is lying but some of the time she really needs to go, so we have to listen all of the time. But this time, I place my bet on the former. "No you don't, we just went."

I realize the force I've kept around her arms and loosen, relax, pray, pray for patience and intervention, please Lord. Lydia has forgotten about the potty and asks instead if we can pray and sing again. My voice creeps back toward normal levels of sanity and I say okay, "But this is the last time. No more crying and screaming or getting out of bed. Right?" She says okay.

"Dear Lord," I begin, exhaling a sigh from somewhere eternal, "Lord, thank you for Lydia. Thank you for Elvis and Mom and Dad and Granny and Pop. Thank you for Gramma Rose and Pop-Pop. Thank you for Uncle Ben and Aunt Kelly and Cousin Braden and the New Baby on the Way. Thank you for Uncle Bill and Uncle Phil. Thank you for all of our friends and family and we ask you to please bless us, Lord, keep us safe, and help Lydia to feel loved, protected, and safe tonight. We are thankful for all that you've given us and provided us. Amen."

In the time it takes my weight to shift from the mattress to my right foot, Lydia is wailing again. I lean back toward her and ask if she wants me to sing. Of course the answer is yes and so I do the whole line-up again, Away in a Manger, Rock-A-Bye Baby, Row-Row-Row Your Boat, and for the grand finale, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. In the twilight shadows slipping between the curtains, Lydia's eyelids are heavy, her thumb and forefinger rub the knob of her pacifier which is tucked securely underneath her nose, a position she's preferred since birth. I rest my hand on her shoulder, sigh, praise God for silence, calm, steady breathing, and rise up off of the bed.

Before I am out the door, Lydia yells again. This time I pick her up. I need a distraction, something to ease the tension and frustration, so I carry her downstairs where Hilary waits at the kitchen table, reading a book. "I think we're going to need to reschedule," I say, "Someone is having a tough time going to sleep." I introduce Lydia to Hilary and take Lydia back upstairs to sleep, this time certain I can placate this child.

We climb back into bed, Lydia's voice calm, tears and hiccups gone. "Do you want me to sing?" I ask, and launch into Away In a Manger... "Away... in a manger - no crib for a bed, the li...ttle lord Jesus lay down his sweet head. The stars... in the sky... look down where he lay, the li...ttle Lord Jesus asleep in the hay." Every line of every verse I drag out, "The ca...ttle are lowing, the awakes, but little lord Jesus, no crying he makes," the melody familiar but off-tune as usual, "I thee, lord Jesus look down from the sky, and stay... by my cradle til morning is nigh." Lydia is still underneath my palm, but just to be certain, I continue through to the end, "Be near... me lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with thee there." This last verse I'm fairly certain is misinterpreted lyrics from years of listening to first-verse-only Christmas carols on the radio, but I like it - I find my own comfort here in the third verse and let the "there" hang in the dark air a bit longer.

Aside from Phil Keaggy track 5, it is quiet. I stand, tip toe from her bed and pull the door shut behind me. And then it happens again - the wail, the cry, the thump of feet, the door opening, the hovering at the top of the stairs, the calls for mom who has huddled in the now-empty kitchen with her forehead pressed against the refrigerator pushing those tears back and dialing the phone, hoping her husband brought his cell into basketball with him, hoping he doesn't roll his eyes when he sees the call but instead checks his message and hears the despair. Lydia is yelping "MOMMY!" again but I ignore her, whisper into the receiver the report, hang up and wait, wait to see if she makes a move either back to her room or further down the stairs. Instead she cries, "I have to go potty!"

I climb the stairs once more. It is back to the bathroom, onto the potty chair. "Oh, it's dark outside!" Lydia says, staring out the window, and then, "Look at the star!" "Try to go pee, Lydia," I return. Lydia pauses and the sound of success rings true from the bowl. "I peed my pants."

I reach down to feel the damp crotch of her panties and pajamas, whisper, "Lydia," and gently pull off her bottoms. "I'll be right back," and return to her room for new underwear.

After she's done, she bolts back to her room and climbs into bed. "Where's my pacifier?" she asks, and I rustle through the blanket and under the pillow until I find it. She burrows in, asks for the routine again and so I sing. I promise her waffles with peanut butter and honey in the morning if she stays in bed, and we pray again, thanking and asking for forgiveness and protection. When I'm done, she cries again.

And again. And again. In between episodes, I text my husband, "Please come home" and return to her. We resume the Super Nanny approach, and when that doesn't work I pin her to the bed, angry, frustrated, crying. I leave her and she screams all the way back to the door. I threaten to spank her. I spank her. I put her back into bed. I put her back into bed again. I put her back into bed again. She's hysterical, I'm irrational. I walk out, close the door, hold it shut. Lord, intervene. Please make her stop. Please, please I am losing it. I've lost it. It's 9:30, Lord give me patience, peace, clarity, protection. Intervene.

This last time I do nothing different. Lydia is standing at the door and I've opened it before the knob turns. I walk her back to bed, lay her down, push the pacifier toward her mouth and pull the blanket over her. My head is inches from hers, my eyes staring into hers ("Oh, she has her mother's eyes!"), I speak loudly but not yelling, "This is enough. I am done. No more crying. No more yelling. I love you. Good night." And she says, "bye," what she says on a normal night at 8:00 p.m. after a book and a song and a prayer.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The weeds in my new flowerbeds are multi-legged monsters with weak stems and claw-like roots. I have never seen this particular weed before, but it spread in large cancerous masses over a two week period. This is what happens when you work all day for two weeks straight - cancer beds.

While hoeing and yanking my way through the flowerbeds (which have no flowers yet, by the way), Lydia let out the loudest, scariest scream I have ever heard. I thought for sure whatever just happened involved a finger separated from the hand, or a leg bent backwards - something equally terrifying. "Blood curtling" doesn't even come close to the level of this scream. My pulse jumped about a hundred beats as I spun around, nasty weed in hand and hoe falling from my other grip, to see my beautiful, smiling Lydia perched in the window of her playhouse, laughing.

Scream does not equal squeal.

"You DO NOT scream like that, Lydia, unless something really bad has happened or some scary person tries to take you or you get hurt, do you understand me?" I yelled. She fingered the plastic windowsill. "We do NOT scream like that. Don't do that ever again. Unless you..." blah blah blah blah blah. She's two. Get over it.

And in the opposite corner, my new toddler is picking clover blossoms and eating them. I guess it is better than pebbles, or grass, or dirt, right? My cousins and I experimented with clover blossoms ourselves. We pulled the delicate petals out to suck the sweet nectar from them - a country girl's glue-sniffing experience. Why feel guilt about clover blossoms? I do the finger swipe through his mouth and he gags, as usual, but the now quite soggy blossom is dislodged from potential choke-dom.

All of this while I hoe away at a flowerbed that has no flowers, won't have any flowers until next year, had two lovely holly bushes that were taken down by the dog's tie and died a slow, dehydrated death; beds whose plentiful weeds will bounce back with the next rain because they are not only infested with a masterful root system but also lack ground cover or mulch of any kind. No weed prevention here, baby. Just plain old dirt. Fortunately for me, one corner of the bed won't need to be weeded because my 75-pound redbone coonhound keeps digging his own dirt mattress every time the sun comes out, flinging soil onto the concrete patio that we never sit on anyway so why not throw dirt all over it?

I bagged up about thirty pounds of weeds this afternoon. You can actually see my blue star junipers and the Stella d'Oro day lilies again! It's a miracle! AND, mixed in with this amazing weedbed are some things that look like they might be wildflowers. Out of the weeds just might come something worth saving.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sounds Like Somebody's Got a Case of the MUNdays...

I had every good intention of getting laundry done, dishes washed, something significant that isn't so easy to do with the kids around, but instead, I have had a headache. All afternoon. So cable tv uninterrupted has been fabulous tonight.

I watched this ridiculous show on WE or O or Lifetime, some frilly station, called "Rich Bride, Poor Bride." Oh. Dear. What is wrong with people? This girl's mom paid for her wedding, which, come on - gratitude? please? But no, every step of the way, the bride was pushing to go above budget, with serious attitude. It was like listening to a 13 year old, "It's MY wedding!" Oi, vay. And she hardly seemed to like her fiance, who, poor sod, couldn't seem to do anything right. She had no respect for him whatsoever. It was nuts.

Poking around upstairs for a computer program to install on this nifty new laptop I'm using, I found our wedding albums. We are inching up on five years already. Pages on pages of smiles, hugs, kisses, laughter, intimacy... sunflowers and daisies, blue dresses, tuxes, Crystal Brook Farm, friends, family... I had a fairytale wedding, really. It is hard to write about our wedding without sounding incredibly sentimental. It's probably easier to read about bitterness and frustration than joy and good times, anyway, right?

I had a difficult time getting into the swing of things at work today. After another long weekend, everything seemed urgent, so it was hard to determine where to begin. The most recent book with the Ashland Poetry Press is nearly done, which feels SO good - the cover design is just gorgeous, and the author's thematic structure and well-constructed poems, I believe will be a hit. I also met with Joe and Dan to talk about River Teeth and the double issue; UNP is getting as excited about River Teeth's future as we are, and that's thrilling. The 10th issue is going to rock.

In the end, I guess I got things accomplished.

Besides my wedding albums, I found a notebook I kept the last year of college with some quotes and prayers in it. I have been thinking a lot about the outward flowing of spirituality lately - I used to gush 110% about how great God is, his love, forgiveness, grace, justice, mercy... etc., but not nearly as much anymore. I guess I got tired of saying the same cliches all of the time. It isn't that I've forgotten his faithfulness or disregard his love - in fact, these traits about God and Jesus are as apparent in my life as ever - but the vocabulary of it all has gotten old and heavy. I want to walk the beach and tread water at the same time.

A favorite verse of mine, to close: "These commandments that I give you are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Friday, August 8, 2008

D&C Done - Moving On.

All went well today - I am relieved to be done with the process of ending and happy to be moving back out of transition.

We took the kids to the park this afternoon following a nice nap. Weather was beautiful - mid-70s and a cool breeze, the Light in August (thank you, Faulkner), and two adorable kids poking around the playground. Lydia is the queen of adventure right now - she's bounding up whatever challenging ladder or climbing device she can get to and flying down all slides, big and small. The bigger the better, even.

Elvis kissed a girl today. Yes, my son who turns one tomorrow waddled wrecklessly over to an innocent 20-month-old to grab her shirt and smoosh his face into hers. We of course created a drama for it all. Elvis cornered this poor toddler underneath the playground. I hope this isn't foreshadowing a teenage life to come.

I spent a good deal of time writing ridiculous commentary to photos I found on our computer tonight. It's all on facebook. I also discovered my mini-videos of Lydia and Elvis from the last two years. I need, NEED to get a video camera, I've decided. It is obvious to me now. These teasers of days-gone-by are just not going to cut it.

It is good to feel good again. The guilt I feel for feeling relieved that it's over isn't too much - but enough to complicate the relief. If anything, this miscarriage has helped us think in terms of more babies, sooner rather than later, and that is, I think, a good thing. At least for Brandon, it is. We need to wait about three months or so to try again, and this time we will try to conceive off of the pill (a healthier approach, I think). The timing will be better as well, if we can work it out. It's not exactly in our hands, anyway, but we'll see how it goes. I don't even know if BW is up for trying again, even after this incident, but I have a feeling it will be so.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

.400 - major leagues, baby!

Not really major league status so much, but those are the stats - two babies for five pregnancies. I knew a few days ago that it wasn't okay, but confirmed everything yesterday and have had two fantastic days with PLENTY of evidence. Tomorrow is the D&C - though I don't think there's anything left to take care of. Such is life, right? Really though, as mentioned previously, the timing for this pregnancy was not great. We would have loved to have a third child and would have of course made everything work, but God works it all out for good... even though the immediate consequences suck.

The third miscarriage is easier than the first two. Having two lovable children here to cuddle helps. And - our five year anniversary will be much more fun now. I realize this is kind of a sick way to think, but I have to look at the positive side of things. Three miscarriages is a lot to carry, and fortunately the burden of the first two was washed away a long time ago (thank God). Finding out we were pregnant came with a lot of complicated emotions, and finding out we're not anymore is also loaded with complicated emotions. But for some reason, I am coping a lot better this time around.

It still sucks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

To the Unborn

The residency is over - hurrah! and boo... I will miss all of the students and faculty - such a weird transition from seeing people all of the time to none of the time.

I found out yesterday that another friend miscarried. :( I went to the doc yesterday but they think I'm only six weeks along instead of eight, so I'm going back in two weeks. The doctor didn't fail to let me know that conceiving while on birth control increases the risk of miscarriage. This is a complicated thing for me, because Lord knows Brandon and I weren't planning on getting pregnant right now, and the timing (in my world) isn't very good, for work purposes and for my husband's sanity, but on the flip side - that would not make a miscarriage any easier to deal with. I saw the little blob on the ultrasound. Any mom knows that the instant you're aware of being pregnant, all you think about is that baby - names, gender, health, personality - you become fixated, whether you were planning to or not. All of this to say - I'm nervous for this baby and already wondering if he/she'll make it. Am I not too careful? Am I worried for nothing? Am I suspicious?

In light of other friends' situations: a poem I wrote for my miscarried babies...

To the Unborn

And now you are the ellipsis,
the unfinished sentence,
the introductory clause
that made hollow promises
and then slipped off the page
almost as an oversight,
as if the printer ran out of ink
or out of paper,
or out of power,
a deadline passed
six months in advance,
the memory
that never was
and never will be

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Never-Ending Summer Residency

Okay. I am tired. Really, really tired. But the last nine/ten days or so have been fabulously fun and exciting, and of course inspirational in the poetic way. Because there are double the number of people at this year's residency, there are double the number of complaints and general issues to work out. Food is definitely a culture thing. I realize now that I am a true-blue meat-and-potatoes girl. That's all there is to it. I have no clue what "good food" is, and less of a clue about vegan diets, vegetarian diets, and other strict dietary needs and meeting those needs. Oh, to have a cheeseburger right now!

In spite of the food wars, most everything has gone splendidly well. The visiting writers have been great, the faculty are excellent and loads of fun to spend time with, and the students are generally good-natured and pleased with the program. And I am tired. Just plain tired. I am sure this is partly due to the seven week or eight week pregnancy bit, which is spiking up in its usual symptom of nausea.

The husband has been a real trooper the last week and a half, and I'm glad things have gone relatively well. I stayed home tonight instead of going to the faculty reading so I could actually spend time with them for a bit. It feels like I've been doing the residency forever and that it may never end. But, the end is sneaking its way closer and closer, and I know I will be sad when it is over. Goodbye, students! Farewell, faculty! Back to quiet office hours... kind of...

Sleepy time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day One - Residency

Today is the first day of the residency at AU, and my children and husband have left the house for the in-laws. I have a feeling of hovering, waiting for "it" all to happen. There were plans to go to church this morning, but I think with the check-in and meetings, orientations, etc. I can't. We met the faculty for dinner last night at The Cabin (Fabulous!), which was excellent - I am even more thrilled about this coming two weeks and the year to follow. The people are awesome. I think our students are going to be thrilled with the new hires. I am.

Tex has fleas. Ew. He has been an outdoor dog the last few months because we were tired of yelling at him all the time to stop begging from the kids, and he also has this habit of needing to go outside at 6:00 a.m. regardless of the day. He initiates this need by scratching relentlessly on whatever door is in his way to said outside. This had to stop - especially because the scratching seemed to have a direct coorelation with the time our children woke up. Bye bye, Texy! Outside you go! With this comes consequences - mostly for him - we occasionally forget to feed him in the morning; he now has fleas; and, my favorite, he gets the leash tangled around my newly planted holly bushes, yanking them out of the ground. It will be a miracle if they survive.

One of my favorite things about the residency is being in the presence of this hoard of writers who are not afraid to talk about writing as if it is the most important topic on earth. This is good fun. What I always come to realize, however, is that I do not fit the writer-mold: I am not left-wing vegan organic activist; I am not a professor with months of time to do research (though if anyone would like to grant me this time, I'd be happy to take it); I do not snub the midwest lack of big city culture. Here I am, small town girl, generally appreciative and easy going. How did I land here??

At any rate, these two weeks will be challenging, envigorating, and exciting. AND, I still have hoards of submissions pending all over the place, which is fun. I made the SHORT LIST at Relief: Quarterly Christian Expression - the first time I've received such an email. Hurrah!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I have been wanting to get back into the habit of "blogging", or what used to be called journaling and before that diarying, for some time - and this seems like a good time to start back up. I have known for about a week that we are pregnant with #3, which seems unbelievable. THREE KIDS. I am of course thrilled and excited, but the husband is less-than-so, since he is still the primary care giver in the relationship.

I had the hardest time coming up with a clever name for my new distraction from everything else I should be doing, but thanks to a recent poem, I found myself a title. "Driftwood" came about from an old poem I wrote when BW and I started dating and went river walking. This is funny now because my husband is not exactly nature-boy. The things you'll do to win a girl's heart, I tell you what. At any rate, the old poem was... bad. But I love renovation, and renovating old poems is much like renovating houses - you find one characteristic you love and you build on it, tearing everything else away. So, "Driftwood" came about as a piece about marriage making two people holy rather than happy, though it could be about any type of long term relationship - with God, with people, with pets, I don't know ;)

Here 'tis -


Not unlike two pieces of driftwood from up river,
we spin in the current and undertow of the falls.
The rocks, slick under our sandals render each step
cautious, the familiar made unfamiliar
by lichened sandstone loosened, unpredictable,
transient beneath our feet.

The water makes us softer; we are blending,
being refined, losing sharper edges, your limbs
and mine twist together, threaten to destroy each other.
How do I not break you, our throes violent, sudden, severe?
I could snap in half, take part of you with me.

When we’re finally spit out, the knotted whorl left over
will be bare, our two indistinguishable, polished, holy.