Saturday, July 19, 2014

10 things I know to be true

1. I was staring at my almost 5 year old’s eyelashes the other day. He has so many and for a moment I saw myself there in that spot where they curl, folded into his body like he was once folded into mine. For a moment, I felt like he could hold me there.

2. I’ve been walking as often as I can, mostly around a little lake.  At the end of my walk, I look into the sky. I know now that the clouds are always moving but once in a while, it seems like everything is still.

3. I’ve been trying to focus on one moment of gratitude each day, something little – and I’ve been trying to document them on facebook and twitter, which are sort of weird places, but I don’t have to tell you that. I just sometimes feel over sensitive on the internet. Or I feel mean. Or I over analyze things I’ve typed, “conversations” I’ve had. 


4. I feel like lots of moms can work at home and be mom full-time and I wish I could. Or maybe I don’t. It’s strange being here when they aren’t, and sometimes I feel alone with my thoughts of wishing they were here. I do also leave the house for work too, and in that instance I probably wouldn’t be able to leave them home or take them with me. So I just do what I need to do, I guess.

5. I talked to a writer yesterday who is a man who is a parent who has a son and who was a son and also who has a daughter. We talked about moms, guns, and super heroes. Not all in that order.

Also, there is a mom I know who feels differently than me about lots of things and all of these conversations make me think a lot even though I am trying not to think so much. Yesterday that mom and I were talking, not about guns but about work. She basically said, own it. So I guess that is what I need to do.

6. I had a gratitude journal once, full on, wrote every day about five things I was grateful for. I did it as homework for this mind/body class thing I went to for 12 weeks. It was a program of sorts for people with all kinds of issues. There was all kind of homework but it brought me to a better place in my life. I am not in a bad place now but maybe a different place.

7. I’m trying not to over analyze everything.

7 a. I am so grateful for my feet. 

8. A couple of weeks ago I went to the bank in the grocery store at sunset because I needed for my deposit to be posted that day. There was a man at the bank. I saw the corner of his eyes as I passed him – him walking to the counter, me walking to the line. After his conversation at the counter, which was longer than most bank counter conversations are, he sat at the manager’s desk, which is connected to the counter, but lower. 

I didn’t see what it was but the man in line behind me had a piece of money in his hand. A fifty, maybe? Or higher? I have no idea. I only even heard it when the man seated at the desk asked what year it was. (I think something in the 80s). If it were (something else) the man at the desk would have wanted to buy it from the man in line. He said he could turn that money into more money, that people would buy it for a few thousand bucks if it were that other year. After I finished my deposit, I went into the store part of the store for two things. I bought three.  

As I checked out, the man was still seated at the manager’s desk, the lights of the bank had dimmed. He had a sense of notleavingthecounteruntilhehadwhatheneeded in his eyes, one I know well, though from many years ago and not at the bank counter. I felt sad for him. I still do.

9. There is someone else I know much differently than I know that man in the line and she is not at a counter. For her, my sadness is also worry and anger and worry and so many things.  I think about those things late at night, after the sun has set and the lights are off.

10. Sometimes it’s hard to make new friends. And then you do, and they help some things seem more still. 

10 a. I ran away to my parents' house for 12 hours recently. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

I met Kristen Forbes in the lobby of what sort of seems like an office building turned college campus and I then got to know her through her writing, which is as she is: beautiful and honest and funny -- and not afraid to  unearth the ugly truth about life. She writes brave essays and excellent fiction. (Linked are just a couple of my favorites. Please check out others!) 

When I finally had the chance to actually spend time with Kristen, in Boston, on the other side of the country from where we met, I felt like I'd known her for years, like we were just catching up. When I saw her name pop up in my inbox last week (shit) recently, I smiled in a way that I really needed to smile, if that makes sense. Her message asked me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. And since I can't drink wine with Kristen in person, I like this idea of being close to her virtually. 

You can probably imagine how this goes, but to be sure, I'm going to borrow the description Kristen included - which she borrowed from the writer who passed this thing on to her, Brian Benson, who is going to be heading a book tour by bike! How cool is that? 

Anyway, here's his lovely description of how this works...maybe someone I pass this on to will be daring enough to change it up! 

"A writer answers a few questions about how and why and what they write, and then they ask a pal or three to do the same, and as the weeks go by, more and more of us share our precious secrets about the creative process, until eventually, probably in like mid-September, we all simultaneously self-actualize."   

Kristen shared her answers last week and asked me to share mine this week
There are no precious secrets here. 

1.)  What are you working on?
Um, lately I'm writing a lot of copy for a beloved freelance client a little all over the place. Over this past weekend I sort of maybe was able to finish something I started years ago. I guess it's the closest thing to a poem I've written in a very long time. I've also been trying to work on this um, book? I'll report back.  

2.)  How does your work differ from others of its genre?
This is such a huge and difficult question. I am not sure. I try to be me, and we're all our own little snowflakes, right?  Seriously,  My obsessions are mine - even if they're thoughts others share. 
(I've left this question and come back and I've decided, I'm all done trying to answer this question.)  

3.)  Why do you write what you write?

I write poetry, when I can, because I just love poetry. It sounds simple but it's true.  I always want to read more poetry, feel like I'll never have read enough. I love to hear to how the words sound in their moments, and how they make me see the world in a different way -- and I started writing poetry to see if I could do that. But the root of why I write poetry is that it's a way to sort of park a lot of the stuff my brain won't let go of. My obsessions and neuroses and extra feelings. 

I've been writing essays recently. I can't seem to get into the headspace for poetry, with two small children and bills to pay. But my obsessions and extra feelings are heightened. I also find myself willing to go into more difficult subject matter. I'm at a point in my life where I'm ready to get into tougher stuff. I'm able to express myself in a different way when less focused on making a poem, and I can immediately jump back into an essay when I find myself with 30 minutes. I'd love to get back to my poetry manuscript, but I'm going to focus on this memoir -- I think it's what I have to do right now...It kind of feels like I want to stay up all night with it. 

I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job with these questions! 

4.)  How does your writing process work?

So to write poetry I need a lot of hours and time to I don't know, procrastinate. I read and look at prompts, and go back and revise old poems. I love to be near the ocean or the woods and be able to walk, a bit of wine is also helpful. I like to be able to stay up all night with poetry. Hence the reason I'm not writing a lot of it lately.

Writing an essay is a different process for me. I'll find a few hours, very late at night, and draft something terrible, like a journal entry. I do this bunches of nights, until I've actually found what it is I'm writing. then I come back to it whenever I can, pick it apart and often, start over. This goes on until I send it to a friend and get some edits. I've submitted essays without heavily revising, and they got rejected, quite quickly. I've learned to love revisions. I'll let you know my process for actually writing a book, if/when I figure that out. I kind of want to just stay up all night with it. 

But, for now, sweet friends, I will send you to two lovely writers, Wendy Fontaine and Lisa Cheby. 

Wendy is the person that reads just about every piece of non fiction that I write. I admire her as a person, mom and of course, writer. You can hear Wendy in all of her brilliance, in a recent interview with a newly launched site called Single Mom Nation, and on her website, you can link to lots of her amazing writing. She'll update her blog next week with her thoughts on writing. 

Lisa Cheby is the person that reads just about every piece of poetry that I write, and she also checks up to make sure I'm still thinking about it. She's also the only follower of this blog. (thank you Lisa!) Lisa herself is a beautiful poet with a chapbook coming out from Dancing Girl Press, and she writes insightful, eloquent reviews as well. Please do yourself a favor and read some of Lisa's poetry. Also, check out her blog, where she'll share her blog tour post within the next couple of weeks.

I can't wait to hear their secrets. 
Thanks for reading. xxooo  

p.s. For now, I'm drinking a lot of coffee out of this wonderful travel mug - inspired by the fabulous Cheryl Strayed -- Santa brought mine but he got it at The Rumpus!  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

a note to my son, at four and a half

Dear Ben, 

I'm sorry.
  1. I’m sorry that I am sometimes inconsistent with the sticker charts. 
  2. I’m sorry I don’t always tell you how great you are.
  3. I haven’t been writing things down in that journal and I'm sorry I haven't kept that book the pediatrician gave us up to date. I'm sorry I don't always add things to my to-do list and that means I sometimes forget stuff. I’m sorry I don’t write poems for you like I used to.
  4. I’m sorry I yelled at dad.
  5. I’m sorry I yelled at you.
  6. I’m sorry that for almost two years I’ve been unable to give you all of my attention. I know that someday you and your little brother will be great friends, but I'm sorry it kind of sucks right now. 
  7. I’m sorry that, when we are riding bikes, that man across the street sometimes says “Nice to see you” in a way that makes it seem like I keep you locked up in the house all the time. It’s weird for me too, to be here when you are not and it’s hard for the neighbors, I think, to understand that I work here, and that I’m not just lounging around all day.
  8. I’m sorry I don’t go to an office where I can take you to visit. We can visit dad at his office soon.
  9. I’m sorry that not going to an office sometimes makes me grumpy about being in the house a lot. I’m sorry that I move your toys when you aren’t here and that it makes it seem like I’ve been playing with them.
  10. I’m sorry that this winter sucked so bad and we’ve been in the house a lot.  I’m sorry that this means your little brother knocks down your block castle and tries to grab your toys. And I’m sorry that sometimes I get frustrated and ask you to just give him the toy.
  11. I’m sorry I forget about the kindness jar and don’t always see when you do really nice things for your brother.
  12. I’m sorry it’s so hard to play with your little Legos. 
  13. I’m sorry that sometimes I don’t come back to check on you like I said I would at bedtime. I’m sorry that sometimes I have to work, and can only count to 50 after we read books, instead of counting to 100. I’m sorry that I fell asleep the other night when we were counting to 100.
  14. I’m sorry that sometimes I am not here at bedtime and that I don't always take you to poetry readings. I’m sorry I will sometimes leave overnight. Hopefully someday, you’ll have something you love as much as you love your family. 
  15. I’m sorry in advance that I sometimes write about you or your brother, or sometimes, the sister you never met. I'll try to explain. 
  16. I’m sorry that sometimes you will not have everything you want. Your dad says it's good to want. I just want to be a good mother.  
  17. I’m a little sorry you can’t play with guns like some of your friends. I'm sorry I can't really explain why. 
  18. I’m sorry I haven't tried to use the word dead in a sentence until recently.
  19. I’m sorry I sometimes get frustrated when you are pulling at my clothes and when you screech. I know you might not be meaning to screech and just need my attention, but I am super sensitive to loud noises and sometimes I don’t want you to touch my body. 
  20. I’m sorry I get so nervous in the bathroom, but you aren't wearing a helmet and I’m afraid you will fall and hit your head on the sink or the toilet. I’m sorry I will probably fight with your dad about whether or not you can play football. That is, if you even want to play football. I hope you like soccer. 
  21. I am sorry we are on the waiting list for soccer. 
  22. I'm sorry I sometimes sneak outside to smoke a cigarette once you are in bed. I will stop, again, soon. 
  23. I know I'm not supposed to let you see me cry and I did. 
  24. I'm sorry that sometimes, people will make you feel like it's not ok to cry. 
  25. I'm sorry in advance, for not being able to help with your math homework. 
I love you so much. 


P.S. I came to check on you tonight but you were already asleep! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy Birthday to One of My Dads

Sometimes your parents are divorced, when you are young, like two – you think – but you were so young that you never actually ask how old you were because it doesn’t matter.

And I’m not sure how old I was in the photos, either – the photos of my mom’s second wedding, where her own father almost doesn’t walk her down the “aisle” in the function hall but does at the last moment. 

I don’t really remember being there, but I know I was, not just because of the pictures, though I don’t think it’s because of my own memory either. It’s weird how memories work like that.

Anyhow, the point is that sometimes you find yourself at age 37, trying to explain what you’ve never felt the need to explain before, because you now have a four year old.  The you here is me and therefore the four year old is my son. We have a large family, to say the least. 

Not that long ago a friend pointed out that when we were growing up, it wasn’t that common for kids to have different last names than their moms. My mom answered to Mrs. Fowler when the teachers called and she never corrected them, like it was part of her job not to.

My brother was born when I was five. He’s a half brother that doesn’t feel half way my brother at all. He had the same last name as my mom and step dad but we fought like any set of siblings would – and now we are as close as any sibling could hope for.

I’m starting to figure out how to explain to my kids that they have a lot of grandparents because both of their parents have more than two parents.  I’m not good at math but like I said, it’s a large family. I guess the best way to explain it to a four year old is a lot of love. 

I am grateful for the relationship I have with my father, whom I also call Dad, who my kids call Grampie. And I’ve never written much about this at all so I’m not going to go further now, though I imagine writing will be how I work my way through the explanations.

Today though I’m just kind of thinking about the man that married my mom so long ago I don’t remember the photos. He’s the man that I started calling Dad when my brother was born. The more than six foot tall man with light skin and blonde hair that people would look at funny when he answered to Dad in our little suburban town, where he picked me up from ballet on Thursdays. My mom worked late some nights and I got sick of his chicken cutlets, but they were actually pretty great now that I think of that.

He was Bob before all of that and he’s Papa now. He is always joking that he better watch out or I’ll write about him. So for now, I am.

Happy birthday, Dad. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oh hey, it's Fall.

September has come and basically gone. Three of the four of us in this house had birthdays in the month. B started "kindergarten prep." I turned 37, which B says is "a lot of pounds."

The Red Sox are going to the playoffs. Expectations could not have been lower for a team, so, yay, Sox. We're sorry about all that not buying tickets stuff.

Other things happened and didn't happen. I'm not going to dwell on it all because you should see the number of posts/poems/essays I might have written if I didn't dwell on things.

Anyhow, onward.

First, things about other people, in no particular   alphabetical order:

Penelope Cray. We met twice. She was a date at my wedding. I was a date at her wedding. Before those events, I lived with her husband for a while, when he was my husband's roommate. At some point I paid rent, so I guess that made him my roommate too. It was never weird. (Hi, Steve.) Thank goodness for Facebook, I now know Penny's poetry. She has a poem in the most recent issue of The Harvard Review, Death Devours More Than Nadine. It kind of knocked my socks off. You can download the poem or get the whole issue because she is there with peeps like Jim Daniels and Sharon Olds.

Jim Daniels. An amazing mentor. Looking forward to his new book, currently in my shopping cart.

Wendy Fontaine. Superhero. Her latest on What Not to Say to a Single Mom.

Kristen Forbes. Doing what she needs to do. I can't wait for her Book Beast. And Kristen, is there any chance your new writing spot will be closer to Boston?

Gina Loring. Poet extraordinaire. Singer. Songwriter. Lovely human. Please watch this.

Edwin Lyngar saw me cry the first night I met him. He probably doesn't remember it and it doesn't matter. But he was super kind, and he told me he was a dad and he had tears in his eyes too. Edwin's an awesome dude and an awesome writer. He's also a feminist. I've never called myself a feminist, for lots of reasons, but I think I am one. Ed's talks about feminism here.  If you're a dude, consider joining him.

Kate Maruyama. I just ordered her book, Harrowgate. I'm so very excited to read it. This should make you excited to order her book too.

Heather Mingus. I don't know her well. But I just read this and holy shit. Beautiful, brave writing. Sending you lots of love and strength, Heather.

Wendy Ortiz. This woman is a serious inspiration to me. She's a mom of a young child and she works her ass off as a writer. She also takes time to read and reply to long dribbly emails that I send her late at night. I'm really proud of her and I'm also in love with this column she is writing at McSweeney's. Can't wait for the next one.

Carla Panciera. My high school English teacher. I wasn't a writer in high school. Or maybe I was but I was focused on making myself into a physical therapist. Ms. Panciera says I have to call her Carla now that we've reconnected but I think that is insane. Anyhow, I'm so glad to have found her. I just this morning listened to this little podcast. If you have some time, she reads a couple of beautiful poems and talks about writing process as well as the fact that she just won the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. No small deal. Yahooo, Ms. Panciera!!

Ashley Perez. This essay has stuck with me. I'm guilty of allowing burnout to take over. Guilty of abandoning a project too soon, guilty of feeling incredibly doubtful. Thanks for the reminders here, Ashley.

I'm forgetting other amazing things that have stuck with me.

And so I'll just go to the topic of me for a moment.

Thanks for the sweet words about my chapbook. It's true that you can actually still order it. It's true I will be reading locally and it's true I'm planning a book party. True, true and true. I'll update you.

I can't stay stuck on myself too long and this is a symptom - or a sign - of something going on here. I'm about to cancel my appointment with my therapist because I literally don't have time for it. This may or may not be a wise move. Truthfully, the only thing we are going to talk about is self care.

And how much I suck at that.

I think the people mentioned above would say to make more time for writing. They know me. I mean they may not actually know me well at all, but they are writers. So they know it's part of self care for someone like me.

My writer mind is swirling all the time. In the 15 minutes I might find to write, I can't figure out which project to give the time to. My writing projects appear in lists, like the other lists I keep: things we need, things to do, calls to make, work project A, work project B, things to read when I have time, places to submit my work to, recipes to try when there is not a toddler attached to my leg. Lists that feel ridiculous. Lists that will never be completed.

My therapist is going to remind me to take my medication when I feed my kids dinner. This is what she always says when I tell her I have a hard time remembering to find the time.

Symptoms and signs. Did I tell you I had jury duty? I was empaneled, on a trial, for two weeks. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. It was a good experience and my writing list has a new item at the top. The problem started with a headache. The inmate was prescribed 2 Vicodin. A mother is now without a son, perhaps not physically but mentally. It was terribly sad and extremely scary.

My littlest is called a "she" on a regular basis but I'm refusing to cut his hair.  He's walking, like at least 5 steps at a time, and likes oatmeal, mainly rubbed into his cheeks. Apple cinnamon. He still nurses, which some people might say is a sign of a problem with the mother.


This is a weird spot to end but if I dwell here I'll never get to the next entry on my list. And you know you have a million other things to do too. So, onward.

(Please feel free to correct my comma usage. I give up.)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do you have a favorite flower?


Kind of an extravagance?

I mean not always.

I do stop to smell the roses.

Or take the pictures.

Sort of.

I am not a photographer but I do love to take photos of flowers along the way. And so what this really means is I've used my iphone to take like 5 photos of flowers in the past 5 years, probably over 2 or 3 walks, with some combination of husband, one child, two children.

Sunflowers. When I was (ahem, much) younger, I went through a small obsession with sunflowers in the way little girls go through obsessions with things. For a while, my step-dad and I took pictures of sunflowers almost everywhere we went. I recall his pulling over on the side of the road more than once when I shouted from the back seat that I needed that one.

I just came across one of these photos recently and hung it on the fridge.

We walk a lot but it's sometimes hard to smell the roses. I prefer the smell of the ocean anyway and my boys love the beach, so we're all good there. In fact, we're off to Maine today - our first vacation as a foursome!

I often wish I could stop fretting about the photos. We don't have many with the combination. One child. Two children.

But this isn't about that.

Flowers are kind of an extravagance for me. I do love to order them, when I can, for dear people like my grandmother, for example, and I do splurge at the grocery store on occasion. I'd love to hear my grandmother's voice - that moment when the person gets the flowers. And the moods of the flowers. And the smells of them. The way their leaves dangle.

When you order the flowers you want to get them there quickly.

If you've ordered my chapbook from Finishing Line Press, thank you -- for making room for a flowers kind of purchase. For making my poetry that thing on its way.

I'm sorry it's been on it's way for so long. I hope that when this small bouquet of flowers arrives, you will enjoy them for some time!

What's your favorite flower?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One Year

My baby is one. Three hundred and sixty five days have passed. The earth has made one rotation around the sun. Birds have flown south and north. We've planted and eaten tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. We've had a few weather related events. All kinds of other things have happened.

I don't want to start getting sentimental. And I think I might be getting my period. I've been feeling that way for about four months.

There are a couple of dreams that I keep having. One is almost too sad to write about but I have been trying. The other is a dream is telling me there's something I'm not writing about.

I am in a room where I used to have a poetry workshop. There are six rectangular tables pushed together making a big square and my therapist is at the head where the person facilitating the workshop would be. She is telling me I should never plan to get anywhere in Boston by 6pm. She is telling me that if I never get to the place where I need to be by 6pm, then I won't be able to write. She is telling me that we can't talk further about this one thing I keep wanting to talk about unless I can write these poems I want to write.


I mentioned in a post last summer that I needed to write about W's birth.

I have not written one poem in one year.

It had been sort of a complicated pregnancy and on Friday July 27, 2012 I had been in my bed, mainly on the left side, for a little over a week. If you know me, you know I was unhappy. You might also know I've had migraines since I was 12. Or you might know that B was born 3 weeks early after I was induced when my water broke in the middle of the night. You might know that during my pregnancy with B I had debilitating carpal tunnel. My husband was cutting my food toward the end and we were moving. The carpal tunnel was not quite this bad with W but laying on my left side was particularly painful.

When a baby is born it is an amazing thing, let's face it.

Almost 40 weeks preggers with W I was more pregnant than I had ever been. On my left side. Migraine. High blood pressure.

I'd done anything possible to get this baby moving out.

On Friday July 27 after my husband left take B to my mom's for the day, and then go to work, I left my left side to do something like pee or eat. Whether peeing or eating, I was seeing triple. I wanted the baby to come on his own but I knew I was going to be induced. Our regular appointment was scheduled for later that day but I called and we went in early.

I rode in a wheelchair out of my midwife's office as she phoned the hospital to let them know we were coming. She delivered B but wouldn't be there for this. My blood pressure was 160/100. The baby was just fine. Cozy, if you will. It doesn't really matter what all happened between then and 5:22am on July 28, when W was finally and fully born, but I think it might in the poems.

B was almost 3. For several days before and after W's birth, I felt like I could not be his mom. A couple of hours after W was born, I talked to B, who was with my mom and stepdad. He was telling me about a dream. "Mommy, I put my headache in the hole." These statements do not seem related but I think they might be in my poem.

When a baby is born it is an amazing thing. But it is a thing that changes everything again.

And here's why I won't get sentimental. I don't have the words to describe how I am in love with this little boy and I'm sad to let his babyhood go. I do cry almost any time I think about this. I think I mentioned my hormones.

But on the morning of his birthday, W fell asleep while riding on my back for the first time and I realized that his babyhood is not slipping away. It is moving naturally on, making room for more of him. And while it's sad to fold up and pack away the little green "Little Monstah" onesie, I am ready, to move forward, to see what he and his brother are passionate about. I want to see what they fall in love with in life.

As for me, I've got to write these poems, but there is much to be done before I can...