Friday, March 25, 2011


Really, what is home? Four walls, a collection of memories,
a soft place to land. At times, its edges sharply contrast
its soft perches.
A canvas, twinged with, and housing shadows of the past, creating
the future.

A place of
comfort, yes,
and pain.
Of all life's intricacies.

Beyond the structure of walls, floors
furniture on which to rest,
home parlays into our being.
A contradiction--a place to flee,
a place to return.
To arrive.
To be.

To start the day and
to set down the day,
your things,
your thoughts.
A new life.
A trance of expectations, met and forgotten.
A folding of laundry,
of ideals,
of traditions.

Mittens, snow covered
drying by the radiator.
Beach bags filled with half-full SPF 50 and
grains of sand.

Stories of fallibility and success sunken into
rafters and worn wood floors. Varied, shifting, dark, light and warm.
Wherever I am. Yes. Now is home. Does each past moment inhabit
a support beam, a concrete foundation,
a beloved painting?

Do new moments wait in the dust-bunny filled corners?

A long embrace,
a birthday celebrated,
a phone call answered.
Lives created,
hurts tumbled with their apologies,
soaring gratitude.
Bandaids and meals shared.
Reverberations of doors slammed,
equilibriums restored.

Open wine bottles and intimacies
recorded by the flickering warmth of the
candle light.

At times, confining, others comforting.
The embrace of familiar scents,
the embrace of lithe bodies once pudgy.

An echo chamber of words, hopes, fears, questions, dreams, detours.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Views from my Windows

As those of you who've been reading here for awhile know, I adore snow. And winter. I love the solitude. Crackling fires and wind-pinked cheeks. I heed the call to go within to slumber.


As much as I've declared my love of snow, I am very ready this year.
For Spring.

And yesterday it arrived (ummmm.....)

And, as ready as I am for the imminent arrival of our next season, I cannot ignore my primal, guttural call to enjoy the profound beauty in a heavy, surprise snow.

The intricate intertwining of those branches, circuitous and varied, carry their share of the snow's girth. Their complexities send waves of comfort to me, standing below, in awe of their stature, their strength. Their stoic branches presenting a three-dimensional, suspended map. A garbled tangle of possibilities and questions.

Showing me, with their own labyrinthine of black, wet branches, crossing and twisting in unison, how each life shares beauty. And confusion.

And peace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Thoughts.

After weeks of life that needed to be lived in different ways, with different routines to accommodate sick days, I finally sit perched at my desk, in my office. Today feels more predictable and usual. Comfortable. I feel good sitting in this space that I created. The calm hue of the buttery cream walls, the simple furniture, smiling faces of those dear, a framed copy of my first published article. My windows providing unobstructed views of trees and their nascent, fragile buds promising that Spring will in fact come. And my thoughts.

My thoughts seem to meet me here.


I love opening books of beloved writers and seeing what words the page delivers. Today I opened A Year With Rilke (translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows)--it is an exquisite book, rich in Rilke tidbits and wisdom. These words greeted me:

Let us be complete in ourselves. Let us drink ourselves empty, give ourselves fully, extend ourselves outward--until, at last, the waving treetops are our own gestures and our laughter is resurrected in the children who play beneath them... (Early Journals)

and then...

Here is the time for telling. Here is its home.
Speak and make known: More and more
the things we could experience
are lost to us, banished by our failure
to imagine them.
Old definitions, which once
set limits to our living,
break apart like dried crusts.
(From the Ninth Duino Elegy)


A time for telling indeed. I will offer this: two very divergent set of thoughts interspersed as I lived the sick days. I realized, quite disappointingly, that a nagging sense of embarrassment resided just below the surface of my exterior. A self-critical judge issued verdicts of:

I should be doing a better job of keeping us all healthy.

If I kept my house cleaner then we'd stop getting sick.

If I could get my kids to eat leafy, raw vegetables, they wouldn't get sick. And they'd heal faster!

(Apparently, during these moments of self-flagellation, I choose to ignore the informed opinions of doctors and schools that this has been one really sick winter. Really sick. And that as much as I'd like to think I can control the germs and keep them at bay with hand sanitizer, Clorox and Lysol, I cannot. Sometimes the germs win.)

I shouldn't feel sick for so long. I should bounce back quickly and return to the gym. Start writing my book! I should be a superhero!!! (Alas, I do not yet feel fantastic. I feel a hell of a lot better than I did last week at this time, but my brain still synapses slowly. Small jaunts to the grocery store leave me needing a nap and laughing makes me cough.)

Should. Should. Should.

The divergence came from this epiphany, seemingly from another reality: As I trudged through the various infections and illnesses that comprised the last month of our life, I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be, sitting in the mess. The pain of bruised ribs. The tears of middle-of-the-night ear infections and rubbing of fevered brows. The mess of cancelled outings and play dates, missing a dear friend's wedding. The stress of asking for help continues to rankle me; I'm still working on doing this while jettisoning the guilt and antiquated belief that asking for help equals weakness. (Geesh.) Sitting with the piles of laundry and antibiotics, the realization dawned that I was indeed living. Right then. The strep throats, coughs, the multiple dashes to the doctor's office, bronchitises, fevers and runny noses forced my hand, expertly navigating me to right now. A messy concoction in flawed abundance.

And so, I sit with the conflicting tides of my epiphanies and try to calmly, lovingly and sweetly tell the self-bitchy judge, and her old definitions, to take a hike.

I try, with varying levels of success, to understand my many realities and be complete within myself. Sometimes, I belabor the very dichotomies that define and assure my place in this life. Others, I gingerly hold these nuanced, shadowy gulfs with amazement, desperately hoping to comprehend.

I try to let the old, stale beliefs and shoulds break away and fall out of my reality. Their very departure creating space for the new. Creating space for consideration. For living. For dreams and possibilities. A place where my imagination runs freely--encounters fear and proceeds anyway, marching right up to a future of possibilities.

This is life. Acceptance transcends the bubbling dichotomies--the confounding and conflicting emotions--and the variegated grace sits, patiently awaiting me.


I'm glad to be back here in my space. Where my words meet me. And I, them, as we go forth together.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Witching Years

You know how it is when you read a piece that so resonates within? That's how I felt the first time I visited and read Amy's fabulous words at The Never-True Tales. She's a talented writer and an on-line community builder. She writes, "Blogging is many things to many people, but for me, it's about writing. It's about the meditation between the mind and the fingers on the keyboard, the puring of thought and feeling in a way that becomes organic and good." Is it any wonder that I so enjoy this new-found connection?

Then I learned about Amy's awesome creation, Won't You Be My Neighbor--which she hosts so writers can connect and discover each other's incredible words. And this community is so important to me...a virtual life-line. Today I have the honor of hosting Amy as my neighbor. (And as luck would have it, I'm guest posting as her neighbor today, too.) After you've read her fabulous words below, won't you go visit Amy? Maybe you can slip off your suit coat, pull on a wool cardigan and climb into your slippers first....


The Witching Years, by Amy of The Never-True Tales.

It’s staying light a bit longer each day, but we still have a long way to go until spring. I can tell because I still have to switch my car headlights on driving the kids home from the karate studio or the soccer fields, still have to flip the porch light before calling them in from the neighborhood streets. In another lifetime (which wasn’t too long ago), I’d sit out these winter evenings indoors, the kids too young for unsupervised neighborhood roaming, my own motherhood too new to risk a public toddler meltdown or unscheduled nap after nightfall. From my kitchen window, I’d watch the sun disappear behind the city long before dinner was served, and something heavy and panicky would rise in my chest and sink in my belly as the outside darkness closed over me like a blanket, locking me into a fate of 5 pm until 7 pm with only my babies for company.

It would have been so easy to switch on Backyardigans and switch off myself, but most days, I resisted the lure of the TV. Instead, I’d play cars on the mat in the boys’ yellow-walled room, listening to thevrooom-vroooom vibrating against their lips, then to the bubbles blown in the bath, the run of the water from the faucet as they brushed their tiny, pearly teeth. I’d find Hidden Pictures, change diapers, press playdough between my hands. I’d pause to find blankies and binkies before scraping the dinner dishes and setting them on the sideboard to dry.

I was on my own most evenings back then, Charlie working late. Every weeknight. Every weekend. (I still can’t believe we ever got used to that, but we did.) As I waited for 7 pm, I’d finish the forgotten loads of laundry on the bed, each t-shirt and burp cloth and OshKosh overall cooled and wrinkled in the heap. I’d stare out the blackened windows and wonder how I’d make it another hour. Another twenty minutes. Another ten.

This was my Witching Hour, but what people forget to tell you is how the hours add up, strung together end-to-end, day-to-day to become Witching Years. They commence in those first black nights of nursing a newborn, and they roll on and on until all your children are old enough to take the bus to school. Or at least old enough to wish they could.

And some mothers are great at it–love it, even–but not me. I floundered. I immersed myself in my boys: their needs and their wants, their meals and their clothes and their toys. I waved the white flag and gave myself over to them completely, and this was how it had to be. On the surface, I even looked good at it. Underneath, I was drowning. (Needing. Wanting.) I spent my days sinking and my nights kicking my way back to the top, to where at least the waves slapped me in the face instead of swallowing me whole, arms stroking upward through the dark. I stopped writing. I stopped exercising. I stoppedthinking, truth be told. I think maybe, there wasn’t enough oxygen to my brain.

It’s clearer here, on the other side. In the light. With kids who brush their own teeth and do their own homework and get their own snacks. I know now that being a mom of young children, staying in the house day after day, parenting solo 80% of the time…well, it is what it is. (Oh, is it ever.) I know that I did my best.

I also know I’ll never get those years back, as much as they often make me shudder: those years that passed so slowly as to nearly grind backward. Those years so long I measured my children’s ages inmonths instead. And that’s a travesty, because I left a piece of myself there. Something raw, and unmeasured, and instinctively maternal. Something sacrificial.

It was that something in me that gave way, that moved to the rhythm of my children’s sleep cycles, to the sunrise and the twilight, to the stirring of the oatmeal and the snapping of the car seats and the hefting to the hip, to the breast, to the mouth to kiss the lips.

It was that something that laid down arms. Set aside dreams. And that something was…there’s no other word for itbewitching.

Thank you, Amy for your beautiful words, so honestly and eloquently woven together. It's great having you as my neighbor, and guest, today.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sitting With the Mess

(Kids and I have continued our fairly sick winter. And now I am under-the-weather, again. Ugh. I'm trying to stay positive, but must admit that this sick business is getting old. So, I've been posting here less frequently but hope to be back more once I perform the germ exorcism, scheduled for this evening.)

Lately, I've been thinking very much about a brilliantly simple phrase, shared with me by my dear friend and Life Coach Rita Hyland. "Sometimes, Denise, you just have to sit with the mess." As someone who has always liked nice neat corners, tidy rooms and clean resolutions, when Rita first said this her words bounced off my belief system. it did not compute. Sit with the mess? No way. Figure it out, fix it, clean it and move on.

Luckily, Rita's words permeated and infiltrated my old beliefs. I've shifted, knowing that she's brilliantly correct. In the dark, messy spaces sit nuggets of insight and growth. My friends and I, all churning through different complex parts of our lives, have been chewing on this wisdom. It calms. It fits. It helps. It intuits wisdom to deal with the inevitable mess of life. It gave me permission to sit, get dirty and grow.


I sit, watching, wondering.
Perplexed by the intensity of force of

Dark, surging waters.


Shallow eddies crescendo to a delirious, towering walls of water.

Waves pummeling. Water penetrating.

At times, I sense a disembodiment,
watching from afar

But I know am the water; she sits within me.
Feeling each white-capped slice of wave
As an extension of my soul.

I dive in, into myself.
Into the uncertain mess.

I want to know what she knows. What I know.
I don't wish for calm,
placid waters and blue skies.

I don't force the return of tranquility.

I don't paint a sunny day on my salt-water
strewn, disheveled face.

I sit. With the

Decades old hurts, now expired.

Possibility creeps in, holding hands with the
faintest rays of the sun, breaking through charcoal clouds.

I sit with the mess. And the power within.
I stop silencing it, and myself. Voices released,

swelling majestically over the briny, gray squalls of the ocean,
flying away with the mist.

(Note: This type of writing is a huge departure from my norm. I'd love to get your input--constructive (really!!) or positive--so I can continue to get better. I'd also like to thank Christa and Alita for they each recently wrote beautiful pieces about the water and their words inspired mine.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Maybe we ...have the same single and fundamental task: to make peace with the roads we have travelled, as straight or winding as they have been, and to trust that we are up to the task of what lies ahead, whatever it may be.

E.L. Doctorow’s quote comes to mind: “You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Maybe now my job is to stop squinting past the headlights. It’s only causing me panic that I can’t see, hurting my eyes, and taking my attention away from what is right in front of me.

Lindsey Mead, A Design So Vast

Every once in a while, life throws me a spark, a connection. And every once in awhile, I'm aware enough to heed the light and follow it. I don't know what cosmic force led me to Lindsey and her beautiful blog, A Design So Vast, but now I will publicly thank that cosmic force for I am so very grateful. Her beautiful prose both inspires and comforts. I often find myself holding my breath as I read a string of words she's artfully woven together--about her journey to now, her experiences as a woman, as a mother. A reverential place of comfort and kindred connection, her blog is one of my must reads. She will humbly deflect this compliment, but, let me just say, that, in twenty years, when I'm being interviewed (yes, after I've written all my best-selling memoirs and novels) about which writers informed and influenced me, her name will be on my list.

We began our friendship through our blogs and emails. And now, Lindsey is an in-the-flesh friend whom I adore. As I've told her, I first fell in love with her writing, and then I fell head-over-heels for her. Today I'm featuring Lindsey as my first-ever guest blogger. (And the crowd goes wild....)

The Dark Blooms and Sings
Lindsey Mead

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

- Wendell Berry

These Wendell Berry lines have been banging around in my head for a few days. (fighting – or harmonizing – with Annie Lennox and the omnipresent Willy W, of course). I so agree with what he implies, with the notion that to really know the dark we have to surrender to it. We have to let our eyes adjust, which means we must go in without any external light. And that, in that darkness, there is a beauty that we never imagined.

Berry’s words make me think, first of all, about internal darkness. Of what it takes for us to really know the darkness there, to gaze into the ragged hole that exists in the center of all of our souls, to push on the bruise, to feel the wound. Perhaps ironically, for me, I have often described the feeling of that intense darkness as staring into the sun. It has been the focus of the last months of my life, for sure: relenting in my frantic white-knuckled attempts to control, accepting the way it is and in so doing releasing my desperate focus on the way I wanted it to be.

It has only been when I have really let myself lean into that darkness, accept that my deepest wound is the profound sadness of impermanence, that I’ve started seeing the gifts that are there. As I sink into the way my life actually is, everyday I find unexpected gems buried in the mundane. Sure, I also cry a lot more. Every single day I face the truth that this is the last day that my baby will be 5, the last time I’ll have a Beginner, thelast, the last, the last. I grieve and mourn constantly, far more than I imagined possible.

But there’s also beauty here. Surprising, staggering, serendipitous beauty. Divinity buried in the drudgery. Dark feet and dark wings.


Thank you, dear friend, for honoring me with your words today.