Keep That Hunger


Eleven years ago today, I got off of Route 40 in Flagstaff, took I17 south, and headed home to a place I had never lived.

One night, a few weeks later, while sitting alone in my apartment, I said to myself, “I can’t visualize my life, going forward; but also- I can’t imagine going back.”

A few days later, I met Craig.

~

A year ago, I walked out on a profession I had spent 15 years building. 

With no plan.

I sat with the uncertainty. I faced all the fears. I melted into the sadness. And then one night, I said, “I’m a writer.”

I called a grant writer I happened to know and I said- I need you to help me get to where you are.

This led to a second opportunity. This time I busted through the door for the interview, placed my hand on my heart, and said, “Writing is my art.” 

A week later she called me and said- Come back here and help us do this thing.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a VP I didn’t know looked at me during the middle of a meeting, and said, “So. I’ve heard you’re a writer.”

I swallowed the excess saliva that had overcome my mouth, sat up in my chair, and said, “Yes. What do you need done.” 

Don’t give up on your journey just because you keep falling off the train and your shoelaces are caught on the track.

Follow the trail of bread crumbs home.

How to Write Short 


How to Write Short

This is the title of a book I read recently, (by the brilliant Roy Peters), that I can’t stop thinking about. Which words to omit, and which sentences to pare down? Where to play the darling word games, and where to cut to the chase?

Can we talk about commas? Do I even have a single-handed, Vaseline-tight grip on this? How many of the punctuation rules learned in grammar school am I using correctly, and how many of them have I bent and twisted as I’ve aged?

“Just go write!” my husband says, “get out of your head!” But where is excessive, heart-aching self-expression worth it, and where does it become utter and complete self-indulgence and redundancy?

Speaking of redundancy, have I ever spelled this word with any kind of confidence? Truth be told, there are a slew of words in the English language that I write on a daily basis that I can say- I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO SPELL. “Strength.” And “length.” and “exacerbate.” (See also: redundancy).

Which brings me to the point; does this matter?

It matters to me. It doesn’t have to matter to you. You know things I don’t know. In fact, it’s one of life’s greatest serendipities that we don’t all know the same things. So it matters to me, and it may not matter to you; and that’s- beautiful, actually. It means you’re holding up some other end of the fort that I would have a leg and a clump of my hair stuck in.

I’ll keep sharpening my pencil and you keep counting the numbers, teaching the kids, painting the art, and holding the space.

 

When the Book is too Delicious

  
To My Daughter,

Today we went to story time, like we do every week. You didn’t want to sit. You wanted to stand. Right up in front. Inhaling the words off the pages, snuggling your heart into the arms of the librarian, and swallowing life the way you do; whole and all at once.

I know that I kept asking you to sit down. It isn’t that I don’t understand your need to move your body, it’s that I want you to understand the lay of the land, the rules of the world. Because this will help you channel that energy into the good stuff.

I speak about you often as though we are nemesi, you and I. As if you live to challenge me, break every rule I put in place, toss every parental confidence I have wildly astray. 

But you are me, little one. You are my spirit outside of my body. I know you need to move. And jump and hop and laugh furiously and yell like wildfire. All of this while you are taking in absolutely everything around you. I know you are. Listening. Learning. Shaping your mind.

I know this because I see myself in you. And in this picture. 

I know how hard it is to wrestle within a body that wants so badly to follow the rules but also- to break every last one of them. To feel the dizzying longing for creativity while wrangling oneself into the structure of a sound and well-researched paper.

Despite this understanding, I told you to sit down 97 times today and then finally pulled us both out of story time. But like I told you in the parking lot; it wasn’t because I was upset with you.

It was because life has rules to follow and because the people we meet out there have rights; being able to see the pages of the book too.

So sit right up front and feast on all the universe with your eyes and your heart; just sit down on your tush so all the world can feast too.

[Sit down. 

Sit.

Stop moving. Just wait hold on. Just. Hold on. Wait just… Hold on. 

Hold…

Just.

You’re standing on me. On me. You’re on me.]

What’s (taking up too much space) in Your Shopping Cart?

Today I watched a man haul a bulk-sized load of toilet paper on his shoulders, presumably walking home from the grocery store.

That got me thinking- isn’t it true that we always have that one gigantic thing we need from the store? Does this bulk-sized item in our shopping cart serve as a give away as to which stage we’re at in life? Let’s see.

College. 

 
Single.

  
Dating. 

Living together.

  With newborn.

  And again.

  And finally, the kids have moved out.

   

Raising Memories

  
I grew up on along the Jersey shore. Not literally, but close enough. So many summer memories from childhood right up through college and beyond involve those hot, sticky sand days and boardwalk nights. They are memories that define me, candle scents I search for and harshly critique, and rolling ocean sounds that I can still hear in my head.

I didn’t expect to grow up and move 2,000 miles away. And more than that, I didn’t expect those memories to represent home to me for the rest of my life in the way that they do.

That said, I’m raising my daughter in the desert. Not literally, but close enough. And sometimes I feel palpably saddened for her to think that she isn’t growing up… well, the exact same way I did. 

Which is of course, ridiculous. Because they don’t. Not completely anyway. Times change, things ebb and flow. She’s growing up in an entirely different world. Faster paced, sure. But that’s not quite what I’m getting at. She’s growing up in the world of Spring Training up the street, fire pits and marshmallow roasting during the winter, and “driving to the snow.” 

She can look in through the gates at Sloan Park and see the next Cubs pitcher warming up on the practice mound; like it’s Little League practice. She can look off into the distance in literally any direction and see mountains just a few miles away. And on a lucky winter’s day, some of them white-capped. 

She can ride “up north” to visit any season at all, and see fall trees and sledding, skiing and mittens. She can pop out back any evening from October through May and ask if we can “do a fire tonight.” 

Maybe the grass here in the desert isn’t always green, and when it is; maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe our front yard is gravel and our summer heat scathes the paint off her backyard toys. Maybe she’ll never wake up to a snow day. Maybe she won’t grow up with cool summer nights.

But she’ll have high energy Spring Training crowds up the street and all over town. And beautiful winters and campfire marshmallows out back. She’ll grow up understanding only certain shady summer trees can grow in the desert, and that they’re special and rare. Maybe it’s not about giving her my memories, but making space for her to make her own.

  

how i met your father

untitled

Two people come out of a building. One out of the whirling central door, and the other out of the furthest door to the left. From the gold-laden revolving door at center, a sharp looking man exits. He looks to be about 30 years old; give or take, and his demeanor makes him appear somewhat like a giant, just out of place, in the middle of an amusement park.

To the left, a young woman exits from the furthest door, trying to remain as invisible as possible. But that’s not quite what it seems. She wants to be seen, she’s just terrified of what will happen once she is. So she stays quiet and stays left, and just out of the rain and just out of sight.

As they step out onto the street, the rain suddenly turns into downpour. She buttons up her brown overcoat and pulls the collar up around her neck. At the same time, he pulls an umbrella out of his back pocket. He sparks a smile and opens the umbrella, quite pleased with himself.

But she, with her buttoned up, weather-appropriate raincoat securely shuttered around her neck, is now soaked to the bone.

Here is our heroine, drenched and shuddering, yet seemingly unaware. Now this is not to say she is optimistic and handling it well. No. Anyone could tell by the look on her face that shows that, on some level, she knows how cold she is. She knows. It’s just that she isn’t tuned in. There’s just too much to think about, so much to do and to learn and to know; she has no time to stand soaking in the rain, thinking about irony.

Our gentleman lifts his head to look up a bit, trying to get a sense of how to navigate his way through this storm. Suddenly, our heroine appears in his view. He looks at her. In shock. Why is she soaking wet? What is the deal with her malfunctioning raincoat? Why isn’t she looking for cover?

He walks toward her, the bottom half of his pant legs now weighted down from the gathering rainwater overcoming the sidewalk.

“Hey,” he offers, “You look kind of, uh, like you could use a hand.”

She looks up to see a man standing before her. He has offered her a smile, and she’s working to get a read on it; much in the same fashion as a mathematician would read code. He’s got an umbrella, she thinks, but just about the only thing it’s protecting is his head. Water is pouring down from the sides of it, in sheets. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“Uh yeah,” she replies, “I guess when it rains, it pours here.”

He laughs, “Yeah, when we do weather here we pull out all the stops.”

He cautiously steps forward, in an effort to get some umbrella over top of her.

She looks up. What’s he even thinking, that umbrella isn’t big enough to cover us both. What silliness.

He steps forward for the one last step and stretches out his arm to bring her underneath. She looks up and nods in appreciation. Then suddenly she glances down at the umbrella’s handle.

“LM,” she reads aloud, surprised. He looks down at the handle. “Oh. I don’t know, I just picked this up somewhere,” he explains.

“That sounds like a bad plot gimmick of an overly long sitcom series,” he laughs.

“Haha, totally” she chuckles. “What even, anyway? Don’t you hate when they have this build up for what seems like, ever, and you’re like hello, I’ve got it… I’ve got the ending. Like, let’s move this along now. Enough with the fillers.”

“I know, right?!” he tosses his head back in laughter, “Let’s just get on with the ending already. I mean look, I’m Craig, I’ll be your husband in about three years.” 

“Haha oh! Is that right?” she half-shouts in disbelief, “I guess we’ll see.”

He takes her arm and leads her away from the awning dripping rainwater overhead, “I guess we will.” 

 

How to Parent when Life gets Hard

  
Man. That’s a great title. I never write the title first. I have to half-admit I did so hoping it would lead to some incredible insight to put down on this paper right here. 

So.

Alright so. 

Let’s start with what I do know. I know that life gets real, much to our dismay, and that ultimately our children bear witness to it. And I also know that they are impressionable, and they’re sponges, and that they tend to save up stuff for when they’re grown and can tell us how hard their life is and that it’s all our fault.

But like, it’s real. Life is the real deal. Emotions are the real deal. And sure I’d love to tell you that every time I have an emotion slightly left of center that I sit my daughter down with the sunlight streaming in softly through the window and explain it with such eloquence and ease that she shall never be impacted.

But…. no. I mean, I do my best. And I know you also do your best. But it’s hard. Home is where we are the most ourselves, and the most emotionally messy when it gets hard; and alas, it’s also where our kids live. (Why is that? Doesn’t grandma need a sleepover?)

So, here’s what I’ve come up with- thou shall not torture oneself with worry about how the children will be impacted by our grief and our sadness. If we’re aware enough to worry about it; we’re probably already doing a good enough job (that sentence was more for me than for you, but you’re welcome to wear it if it fits). 

And if they are acting bonkers because we are standing slanted like we haven’t had our V-8? Toss our your arms to offer a hug. Get down on the floor and listen about Shopkins or BB-8 for thirty minutes or so. They’re pretty good about living in the moment. Maybe they’ve got some good stuff we need to learn.