Monday, March 29, 2010

Be Still Life

Good Monday morning! It's spring break week here and I'm excited to throw off the regular schedule and all the rush, rush, rush to spend the next few days investing my time and energy in the smiles of these two sweet kids of mine. If it's your spring break, too, I hope you have a safe and happy one.


The pages of my life turn so fast. I lay in my bed this morning while everyone still slept, and thought of yesterday, sweet yesterday at the park, already a chapter gone by. Everything's ticking, ticking and ticking; the hums and drones and whirs of everydayness measure the bars of this family's life, lived.


Be still so I can catch you, my mind begs the sparkling sunlight as it shimmies up and down a curl sweeping Bean's face. Stay right there, I beseech the gentle breeze that tickles a smiling gasp from the Peabody's kissable lips.


This is why I write, and time's whisking away and re-drawing of every second is the reason the camera's never far out of my busy hands. Writing takes me full-circle around a moment I glanced from just one angle. Oh, the more my heart can see when I gently hold and turn a conversation, a gesture, a thought, until I find and unlock the passage to its real meaning. And in photos I can finally pin down elusive light and color against the flutter of love and laughter and purpose and concentration. Everything's still there, and so much more, in the second look. And the third and fifty-seventh.

Time ticks backwards and stands still - once, twice, forever - in even an amateur's simple studies.

(Originally published at 5 Minutes for Parenting, August 2009.)

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Friday, March 26, 2010


I've so enjoyed posting here more often again and meeting some awesome new friends over the past two months. I want to extend a big warm welcome hug and heartfelt thank you to those of you who have stumbled across me recently and found my rambling worthy of a click on that Subscribe button down there. Y'all, having you here with me just humbles and delights my soul. I love, love, love your comments and insights and anecdotes. Every single time a comment notification comes into my inbox, I do a little internal happy dance. On my good days, bad days, in-between days, I unwrap and admire each with relish, like the thoughtful, personal handmade gifts that they are. Y'all bless me daily with empathy and connection and OH! that validating feeling that other women experience the highs and lows of wife-and-motherhood in much the same ways that I do.

It maketh me to not feel so crazy sometimes, you know? And remindeth me that I'm never without resources, never without good friends with whom I can laugh and cry and let it all hang out, so to speak. And y'all? How much of a blessing is that?


Thank you. Thank you, thank you and thank you.


This morning Peabody came to me, whining, and held his arms up, buried his head in my legs, asking me to pick him up. Friday morning are PACKED with stuff we need to get done - preschool run, laundry, cleaning, last minute errands, it's all a big Friday hair ball - so at first I rebuffed him and tried to redirect his attention by showing him some toys that he loves. He was completely unmoved in his determination to have a cuddle from me and his cries only became louder and more pitiful as I went through my litany of how-about-a-thises and do-you-want-a-thats.

I stooped to pick him up, frustrated, I'll admit with shame, at his demands NOW, when a million other to-dos lined up and revved their engines menacingly behind me. He quietly lay his curly head on my shoulder and tucked his hands between our bodies. I felt him go soft and limp against me, as if the feeling of just being in my arms had immediately relieved all of his troubles. The warmth of his tiny body and the physical force of his instant comfort made me wrap my arms around him so tightly and love him so fiercely in that moment that my eyes quickly filled and a huge, aching lump formed in my throat.

As he buried his head into my neck, I shifted my eyes as far as they'd go, sideways to his face. In my peripheral vision I took in the blurred outline of his soft cheek, the curve of his nose, the dark contrasting ruffle of his eyelashes moving slowly up and down as he cozily blinked, lying there in this simple vulnerability, letting me give him what he needed. Light played around each arch of him like a halo. Honestly I could have stood and held him and beheld those precious fuzzy features forever.

I remember as a single woman in my twenties, after my divorce from my first husband, I did as I pleased whenever I pleased, I took care of ME, having long, uninterrupted brunches with friends, traveling, shopping, completely unattached, with no demands on my time outside of my work schedule. In the busiest, most frantic moments of my life as a mother and wife, I sometimes look back with longing to those days when I looked after my own needs only, luxuriated in complete self-centeredness and could read, sleep, play, work, DO exactly as I pleased.

But I also remember the deep ache I felt knowing that absolutely no one needed me. And that perhaps in my lifetime no one would ever need me.

In all that freedom to do only what I wanted to do, to please only myself, I was bound up tightly inside with this intense pain and loneliness. I talked to my friends about it, my sister, my Mom. I cried and prayed and worried and resented. I just ... HURT. I was so vastly, cavernously empty. Empty like I never, ever want to be again.

And now, years later, the memory of that emptiness has faded so much that the freedom it accompanied sometimes looks glamorous and sparkling to me. From the crazy-busy chaos of caring for this family I occasionally peer across to those years of self-centeredness as a fresh, welcoming oasis.

And then I hold my son. And the fullness he stirs inside me flows fast and free and over-its-banks like a river in spring suddenly made new and amazing and vital again. I am needed now. Where once I had emptiness, I am flooded with more love and natural connection than I can sometimes navigate without holding my breath.

He nurses quietly, his eyes fluttering and hinting at a nap, but then, refreshed, he sits up on my lap, grins, and climbs down again to thump off and find a car he'll race along the windowsills as I return to my work.

If he comes again and asks for me, I will not hesitate or distract.

I'll gather him up and allow myself to revel in being needed.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shhhh. Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet! I'm Hunting Wabbits Moments! (For You Capture: A Moment, That Is.)

Moments? Oh yeah, we got 'em. But to me, a moment, by definition, is both spontaneous and intimate. And as such, elusive. Moments are all around us if we're looking, but to capture them, every star in heaven has to align, and aligning stars? Much the same as herding cats.

Throughout the past week, moments often braved my clanging busy-ness and crept up to me on padded feet. But if I turned to meet them, or reached my hand out as if to touch them, they skittered away, or dissolved like a rippled reflection on still water as the wind stirs it.

I witnessed Bean gently wrapping a weary, crabby Peabody up in a soft blanket and settling him down to rest on the sofa. He lay still briefly as she stood beside him, humming, shhhhh-ing and rubbing his small, round back.

No picture. Couldn't get the camera out before he threw off the blanket and they both ran off pretending to be puppies.

I walked downstairs one night after tucking Peabody in to find Bean curled up on her Daddy's lap in our great big family room chair as he whispered her a story from one of their favorite books. She yawned, and he smiled and pressed his chin in to her hair and whispered on. They never looked up at me.

No picture. Too many happy tears in my eyes to set up the shot.

As I stood on the sidewalk with the neighborhood moms, a Big Boy (who was JUST YESTERDAY one of the Little Boys!) noticed Peabody watching him play with a football. He very, very sweetly walked over and knelt down, ruffled Peabody's hair and held the football out to him, saying, "Here ya go, little guy, it's a football." Peabody took the ball from him and studied it for a second, and then looked up again, into the Big Boy's eyes with the widest, proudest grin on his little face.

No picture. Had Bean's jacket in one hand, Peabody's sippy cup in the other, and besides that Big Boy never, EVER lets me take his picture anymore.

My neighbor and her grandmother (who's recovering from a stroke in the cozy comfort of her granddaughter's home) walked carefully down the street yesterday right after lunch. Sun streamed down on them from behind as they moved along, their shadows a step ahead. A slow and steady walk side by side, arm in arm, my sweet friend offering support to her mother's mother, their heads bent in quiet conversation. Fifty yards of steps together honoring a lifetime of love, history, and trust.

No picture. This moment felt too personal and was not my own. But I am so blessed to have watched it unfold.

Last night Al and I crawled into bed together, both tired and feeling puny from this perpetual cold our family's seemingly been passing back and forth since December, and sighed in unison. He reached up, turned out the light and rolled onto his right side, snuggling backwards into me as I squooshed closer and spooned him. My arm found its way around his waist and reached up to his hand, and just as they've done too many nights to count now, our fingers interlocked perfectly. In that miniature embrace, I lose the ability to feel which fingers are his and which are mine. They're all ours.

No picture.

(No explanation required.)

I did capture this moment though. No story. No words.

Just this moment.


And this one.


Yeah, we've got moments around here, alright.

To see more moments, visit this week's You Capture challenge at I Should Be Folding Laundry.

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Jeepers Bleepers!

I've been working on a video project with the ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom and I had a little okay, A LOT! of stuff left on the cutting room floor, just languishing in all its fabulousness, so I stuck a few bits of it together that I thought might give y'all a laugh.

(P.S. I think this clip pretty much explains in a nutshell why my attempts at "vlogging" haven't ever quite gotten off the ground.)

(P.P.S. Y'all please pardon my smokes-a-pack-a-day voice! We've all got our umpteenth cold of the season this week.)

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


After a long bleak winter, spring's renewing thaw leaves the earth purer, fresher - verdant and lush again. Complete rejuvenation bursts from within, only this gentle sunlight to invite it.

Last weekend Al and I had one of those wee-hours-of-the-morning air-clearing discussions that hurt to have, but we're knit together more tightly for the having of it. We both feel more connected to one another, more on-the-same-page than we have felt in a while. We needed more time alone together, so this week we tweaked the family schedule to create that space for just us two that we've been missing.

In the days following I've seen my husband smile and laugh with wide-open abandon. That kind of laugh tells me we've cleared the right air, made the right adjustments.

A fringe benefit of favoring the needs our own relationship? Our kids can feel it. We're both more available to them, in every important way. My connection to Al sets the tone for my connection to our children. They've got better parents this week and that makes everything about their already-radiant selves glow even brighter.

I watch Bean and Peabody and I can see our togetherness mirrored in theirs. They're peaceful and loving with one another, enjoying one another's company with laughter and tenderness.

Our love, our family, our lives, all directly blessed, brightened and warmed by the fire we've sparked and tended. Love's sunlight thaws the cold drifts of bitterness and misunderstanding that piled up in the quiet darkness.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Snow Bunny

All four of us hopped outside this morning to take advantage of brilliant sunshine, climbing temperatures and the quickly-disappearing remnants of a wet spring snow.

"Isn't it a little late for that," called our neighbor across the street as he saw us rolling huge, fat snowballs around the front yard, "To be building a snowman?"

Hmmm... possibly.

A few minutes of head-scratching and brainstorming later, Bean and I arrived at the perfect plan to make our snow-creation a bit more seasonally appropriate.


Happy first week of spring, y'all!

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Joy of Box

1 cold/snowy Saturday
+ 2 kids
+ 1 cardboard box
= A million squeals and giggles


Happy Weekend, Y'all!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010


I officially started training for The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure this week, and it seems like the weather approves of my efforts.

(Not me. Couldn't have taken a shot like this of myself in a hundred years. This is my sweet teammate, Kim.)

It feels good to be reaching for my old levels of physical strength and endurance again after two years of putting such things on the back burner.

It feels good to be reaching for goals. Sixty miles in three days. A group fundraising goal of over $40,000.

It feels good to be reaching beyond my own four walls - beyond the end of my own nose - to do something good for my community, my world.

It feels good to see my friend Meagan who was diagnosed with breast cancer last September, reaching the end of her chemo treatments, beginning radiation, and growing an adorable, short little pixie hairstyle again.

It feels good to be reaching out to the hands of my teammates for help, support, friendship and a feeling of purposeful connection as we work to reach our goals.


For more people and things REACHING, go visit Beth@IShouldBeFoldingLaundry, who is quickly REACHING the end of her pregnancy! Yay!

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pick It Up, Before the Snow Goes (D-doo-doo, Litterbug!)

(Forgive me, WHAM!)

I just got back from a nice long morning walk (training has begun!) with Peabody. Oh, the day is so pretty! Blue sky, no clouds, birdsong, sun painting the east side of everything warm again. I could just SING. If I could sing, that is. If my singing wouldn't ugly up all the prettiness.

Which brings me to my point.

Y'all, why do people litter?

I've wondered this all my life. There are garbage cans everywhere! And look at the beauty of nature all around us - to whom is it OKAY to toss down GARBAGE on the face of all that gorgeousness?

Does littering make y'all as mad as it does me? And why do you think people do it? And what needs to be done to get them to STOP already?

And yes, dog poop, too. Seriously? Poop? On the sidewalk?

{Shakes head.}

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

But When the Girl Scout Cookies Came Out, It was Every Man for Himself

Bean had a play date last week with a couple of her besties from preschool. The girls and their little siblings played together while the Moms went in turns to our preschool parent/teacher conferences. (My first conference! Big Deal Alert! Nerves! Hives and hyperventilation! But it was lovely of course - Bean's teacher had nothing but wonderful things to say about her and she's 100% ready for kindergarten next year.) (Or, you know, second year med school.)

At lunchtime our hostess announced to the girls that their macaroni and cheese was ready and they came thundering into the kitchen in a herd, grabbed up their bowls of hot, orange, molten goodness and disappeared giggling again to find their seats at the table. At that point the Moms moved in to serve the baby siblings and I held back, scanning the household horizon for the right setting (a high chair? booster seat? a cardboard box and some duct tape?) in which to feed my crazy, mobile mac and cheese loving boy. Not spying anything appropriate, I resigned myself to holding him on my lap and wearing neon yellow smears of his lunch home on my black sweater and jeans. Wouldn't be the first time, or the last.

(Macaroni and cheese goo's the equivalent of ceremonial war paint to a Mama. I don't feel like I've fully shown up for a day if I don't end it sticky, crusty and smelling like dried up pasteurized processed "cheese.")

Peabody'd merrily chugged off after his big sister and her bowl of grub, and I went to collect him so she could enjoy lunch with her buddies in peace, but as I rounded the corner, I saw him standing close against Bean's chair. She had an arm tucked protectively around his waist and was looking at him with a warm, cozy smile of acceptance. Her friends were chattering away around her and she joined the conversation, all the while carefully loading her fork with a couple of noodles and a dab of sauce, then feeding her baby brother a bite of lunch, then herself, then her brother, then herself. He waited patiently, mostly with his little hands resting on the table in front of him, for his sister's ministrations, and she continued to feed both of them until her bowl was empty.

I quietly stood and watched the scene unfold (and snuck out my iPhone to snap this grainy photo because how could I not?) As natural as I'd ever imagined them being together, but with so much love and trust and beauty mixed in that it was almost as if I was witnessing something sacred.


It was just two kids sharing a gloppy dish of macaroni and cheese.

But to a mother's heart? It was sheer perfection.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

I Always Find Stuff in the Last Place I Look

I blogged over at 5 Minutes for Parenting about our struggle/quest to find the right babysitter for our chiddren. I won't tell you how it all turned out but I will tell you I'm NOT WRITIN' THIS FROM HOME!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Too Much/Not Enough


I was eleven or twelve when you died - younger still as your suffering reached its height. I look at your rich brown eyes, those that laughed and loved and drank us in; now a woman myself with tangled history behind my own eyes, I'm uncomfortably familiar with yours from this side in.

Would I want to know the more, the real of you? Could I bear your story, even now as it's all told away?

Not to know, too little. To know, too much.

But you did laugh. (Was it you who laughed?) And you held and fixed and gathered and loved, and I tie myself tightly to that you. I try to forget the rest and hope you've forgotten too. Keep the you of swampy lake-bottom and aquamarine towels in the shade and flip-flops and bobby pins and bean bag frogs. You're a wide-dentured smile and a cup of coffee and the cavernous inside of your baby blue Bonneville with "Spinnin' Wheel" thumping in our chests. You're roses and summer squash and garter snakes and plain white sandals and four matching nightgowns for the queen and her princesses. The softest arms and knee-high stockings and perfect biscuits.

There I will let you rest, and you will let me rest there, too.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Capture: Quiet

When I saw the theme of this week's You Capture assignment, I laughed.


Um... y-y-yeah.

Quiet's a little hard to come by at FriedOkra Manor these days. Both of my kids' mouths and voices (indoor, outdoor, make no difference, ALWAYS LOUD) go NON-STOP when they're awake, plus you've got the accompanying banging and clanging and stomping and varooming and Mom-can-I-I-mean-MAY-I-have-a-snacking at regular (head-spinningly short) intervals. But Friday while Bean was at preschool, Peabody, who had been tearing around all morning with a Revereware pan in one hand and a wire whisk in the other, took a spill in the kitchen and pulled a small metal bookshelf down on top of himself which led to many sad, LOUD, heart-broken, world-ending tears and sobs, which led to a long cuddle on my lap, which, lo and behold, led to a momentous occasion for our tiny hero: his first manly-man sofa nap.

Although as you can see, he makes no pretense when he's asleep of being anything at all other than a sweet little baby.

And ... especially after the booming, screeching thunderstorm of tears that came first, ALL WAS QUIET.



Shhhhh... leave us a {whispered} comment and then click away softly to I Should Be Folding Laundry to see more Quiet pictures.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shower Her


{Last Saturday, at the wonderful shower given for Beth (I Should Be Folding Laundry) by Steph (Adventures in Babywearing), Love (Moments with Love), Erin (School Teacher by Day, Superhero by Night), Sarah ( and Donya (Crooked Eyebrow). What a joy it was to meet each of them and celebrate everything there is to celebrate with and about Beth and her precious baby.}


The day played out in perfection - a full, bright, too-quick afternoon, smiling into glowing faces I've only ever seen on digital screens, the real, poetic, surging beauty of women and light and giggles and moist eyes meeting and all of those lovely, purposeful feminine hands smoothing, admiring and making-right. I nipped off favorite pieces of each moment with my camera to bring home and savor later.

And I think that even the early-spring sun streaming in through the windows knew, as it fell on all those beautiful women, that it was blessed to be there. It took on a mystic, reverent quality for the occasion, creating liquid light that shimmered and spilled over everything like molten love. Now that I've actually been in Beth's presence - hugged her and looked into her rich, dancing eyes on a day like that - I'm compelled to hope and pray that same magically-transformed sun will pour itself over her for the rest of her pregnancy and the birth of her sweet boy.

You can see more pictures of Beth's surprise shower here.

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Monday, March 8, 2010


Nubby brown cushions and noisy springs, 37 years ago it was already a rusty, dusty wreck of a mess of a sofa. I sit on skinned knees, the rough pages of a coloring book spread before me, the smell of Crayolas' wax, but I have another kind of art in mind, and I turn away to the bent wood arm, polished dull and rustic. Makin' love in the afternoon with Cecilia up in my bedroom... I don't know what it means, but it's loud and the loudness and rhythm and voices hide and embolden me. I carve my name in halting letters with a backwards g. I'll be in trouble but I can't stop to care. And they are still there.

Written in response to a prompt Steph posted Adventures in Babywearing.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

You Capture: HOPEFUL

Ohboy ohboy ohboy ohboy! Is THIS a timely subject! Last weekend, while I was actually taking these pictures, HOPEFUL was about the last thing I was feelin'.

But THIS week my mood's perked right up again. All I have to do to get my HOPE on is take one quick peek up at the brilliant blue sky above me, or feel the gentle, playfully affectionate tickle of the warm sun through the windows of the truck as we barrel and bounce around town running errands.

The kids and I've been listening to my OLD (like, college years old!) Amy Grant The Collection tape (yep, TAPE!) as we toodle about, and lemme tell y'all, you haven't experienced HOPE until you've looked over your shoulder into the face of your beloved five year old daughter and seen her, head thrown back, rays of light kissing her cheeks and settin' her golden-green eyes on fire, just belting out El Shaddai for all her little heart is worth.

OHMYDELIGHTEDSOUL! I coulda stopped that truck right there on the side of that country road and gotten out and danced a Snoopy dance in the damp black cornfields until the resident cows showed up lowin' about how Hmmm... maybe they should call up the paramedics cause this one here was clearly havin' her a seizure of some sort. (Cows are, by nature, VERY country.)


(Gulps back tears.)

Yes, I know. Cliche. But cliches become cliches for good reason, and a bright red tulip on a windowsill, lookin' out over the snow-covered ground and the stark branches of a winter tree is unequivocally hopeful and I challenge anyone to deny it! I bought a bouquet of hope at Trader Joe's last week for $4.99. Went back this week and bought me some more, too. Hope comes darn cheap, if you know where to look!

He's HOPEFUL she's gonna let him have a turn. Any minute now. He can feel it! It's comin'. Ri-i-i-i-ight now! No? Okay then ... NOW! Alrighty don't mind me I'll just stand here bein' HOPEFUL because she's going to let me try it ... NOW!

Y'all can go see more HOPEFUL (and perhaps a little less cliche) pictures over at I Should Be Folding Laundry.

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No Law Against Lickin' Chocolate-Covered Baby Cheeks, Is There?


High time I took a couple staggerin' steps back from the face-melting fire of vulnerability for awhile, don't y'all think?

Oh, good! Then with your permission ...

The sun's shining brilliantly over damp grass and a few last land-bound icebergs of unmelted snow, the geese are honkin' away happily about the 40ish degree heat wave, and Peabody just grabbed my hand, dragged me to the cookie jar where I keep the Teddy Grahams, demanded I dole him out a handful, then trotted over to the pantry where he directed my attention, with much vigorous pointing, to the Nutella tub. Oh, I see many happy Mama-Boy mid-morning snacks in our future.

And so, except for the fact that I really, desperately need somebody to please, pleeeeease, for the LOVE OF MIKE, put some eyeliner and mascara on Ellen's bottom lids (am seriously considering applying them directly to my TV screen with a Sharpie if the matter is not rectified for tonight's show!), all is totally right in my little world.

What's goin' on in your little world?

5 ...
4 ...
3 ...
2 ...
1 ...



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