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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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The Devil's Due

Update: I heard from the mystery site administrator, & I am satisfied everything is on the up-and up.

Well, I have been trying for several days now to get around to writing something about Halloween, and the danger in individuals & societies not acknowledging their shadow side —how you've got to pay the devil his due, or all kinds of havoc is bound to ensue.


On the weekend, my cats threw a cup of coffee at my iBook and rendered several important keys impotent. I have found that I can copy and paste the letter 'a', and am mostly trying to avoid using words that employ the last and sixteenth letters of the alphabet. Fortunately, I have never been big on exclamation points.

Then I have been presented with a bunch swarm of opportunities to observe other people acting out of their shadow side, and double-dog dared to resist REacting out of my own. Call it a refresher in pschyo-dynamics. The universe's way of insuring I know whereof I speak, I suppose.

I was determined to get down to business this morning, five vowels or not, when I noticed a new inbound link to this blog, from a members-only site that has me concerned as to what its content might be. So protective mama & papa bear instincts have been in overdrive around here, taking down IP addresses like a couple of over-vigilant hall monitors. If I don't get some kind of disclosure from this site soon, I will happily share the url with the rest of you, my deputy hall monitors. And the Cybertipline.

If I can get a hex up on my doorway, I will hopefully be able to deliver my shadow post very soon. In the meantime, I am going to go eat a bag of candy corn.


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Friday, October 26, 2007

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The Rocking Horse Winner

And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money!

The Rocking Horse Winner, DH Lawrence

Last week, the lovely Nina Smith interviewed me about the challenges and rewards of our freefalllancing lifestyle, for Blogher. You can read it here, if you like. And I promise you our story is a slightly more upbeat read than Lawrence.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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Sleeps With Fishes

Here's another peek at my manuscript, D-I-Y Spells DIE, and Other Domestic Epiphanies. Artwork by my firstborn.

Wanda died two days after we brought her home. Or maybe it was one day. It took me a while to be certain, since she was nestled among the stems of an aquatic plant which prevented her from floating belly-up to the surface of the goldfish bowl. I was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for her to be pointed head-down for so long, but her tail and fins would waft gently in the current of the air filter, and I thought it was possible she was resting, or just disoriented.

The morning of Day Three, I reached in and gave the leaves a little shake. Wanda promptly fell upwards and assumed the definitive position. I called my husband at work with the sad news.

His preference for disposal of the remains was a private flushing at home. Less said, the better, was his philosophy as far as the children were concerned.

“Let’s not make a big production of this,” he suggested, in the rich blended tone of foresight and futility that comes only with years of marriage.

“What are you talking about?” I said, with feeling. “Of course, we’re having a ceremony. We have to have a funeral—this is how children learn to deal with death. This,” I declared with hyperbole, “is why you have small pets.” Moved by my own case, I began to sing the chorus from “The Circle of Life,” but he had already hung-up.

Men don’t know how to deal with their grief, I thought sadly, scooping Wanda into a plastic baggie and stashing her temporarily in the vegetable crisper. They’d rather just flush and deny.

I was determined it would be different for my boys. When they padded downstairs I gave it to them straight: Wanda hadn’t made it; she had died. They were mildly curious. Where was she now, they wanted to know, inspecting the goldfish bowl. I explained that while her body was lying in state in the refrigerator, her spirit was surely swimming with God.

Several days later, after Saturday morning cartoons, I announced it was time for the funeral. Someone would have to dig a hole. My six-year-old was enthusiastic about this part, excavating a large hole in the lawn beneath our lovely Japanese maple. He also helped me bind two popsicle sticks together with kitchen twine for a cross,

“Wanda,” I read aloud, inscribing the grave marker with a permanent felt-tip pen, “2005.”

I capped the pen. “Now it’s time to get Wanda.”

At this point, my six-year-old lost muster, and looking askance, said he’d rather go back inside and watch television, thank you. I praised his abilities as a sexton and let him go. His four-year-old brother, who during the digging and construction phase had been gathering dandelions for a memorial spray, followed me raptly to the refrigerator to see what would happen next.

The deceased was holding up rather well, considering. I lifted the baggie out, and we observed her in silence for a moment, before proceeding on our way to the front yard as pallbearers.

Under the canopy of red maple leaves, I unzipped the bag and poured Wanda into her final resting place. My son helped shovel dirt over the grave with a small garden trowel, and laid his bouquet of yellow flowers at the base of the cross. I turned to the prayer I had chosen from the board book edition of A Child’s Book of Prayers.

“Dear Father, please hear and bless thy beasts and singing birds,” I read. “And guard with special tenderness small things that have no words. Amen.”

I closed the prayer book and smiled serenely at my son, lesson accomplished. I was not prepared to see his fathomless blue eyes brimming with tears. His small shoulders sagged as he collapsed against my leg, sobbing.

“Oh, sweetheart,” I exclaimed, falling to my knees to comfort him. I was horrified. What kind of sick, morbid sadist was I, anyway? How many years of therapy would it take to recover from a mother who interrupts Saturday morning cartoons to make you carry your cold, dead pet to the front yard and shovel dirt onto it? My husband was right—I carry things too far.

As usual, I had at arrived at one extreme by way of a non-stop flight from another. Earlier in my career as mother, I took pains to avoid a direct discussion of mortality with my kids. They had just arrived here, after all. Why spoil all the fun right away with the dark and terrible truth?

I thought it was better to let them down gently. Whenever possible, I evaded the subject.

“Mommy, where do chicken nuggets come from? ”

“The grocery store, darling. Ketchup?”

Or I euphemized. “That bird left his body here and went to fly in heaven,” I’d say, as we paused over a feathered corpse lying in the gutter.

My illusion that I could or should shield them from life’s big spoiler ended abruptly one night as I was tucking my eldest son in bed. I was telling him a story about his grandfather, who had passed away while he was still a toddler.

“Where is Poppy?” my son asked pointedly.

I smiled sadly. “He went to live with God, baby.”

My son propped his head up and looked at me with a kind, but resolute expression, like a psychotherapist about to get down to business. He touched my arm.

“Do you mean he’s dead, Mom?” he asked, gently.

See, in my Momnipotence, I forget sometimes that my kids came fully assembled. I don’t need to do anything to activate their humanity. They’ve got it. They get it. The script for life and death, grief and joy is written on their DNA. I fool myself into thinking I’m the auteur of their childhood, when in reality, I merely work in the props department.

The universe has found it necessary to remind me of this early and often. I remember fixating on my first newborn’s tiny ears, whorled like the inside of a conch, pearly pink and golden. Tracing them lightly with my finger, I would marvel in silence over their intricacy. Like everything else about him, they were miraculous to me. And humbling. I can’t draw an ear, much less take credit for making one.

As I knelt in the dirt around Wanda’s grave, my weeping child clasped to my chest, I felt that sense of wonder and humility. My son knew his part. Not in my little production, but in the theatre of life. His mourning was both authentic and appropriate, and all that was required of me was to honor it.

“Let’s have some juice,” I suggested, brushing his sandy brown hair from his eyes. We walked up the steps to the front porch and sat at the boys’ little table. I brought out the whole jug of orange juice and two plastic tumblers. I thought we could both use a drink.

“To Wanda,” I said, raising my glass.

To life, I thought. The bitter and the sweet.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

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Talladega Knights

"I heart the State Fair. To me, it is a microcosm of America. The lights. The crowds. The excess. The crassness. The sweetness. It's teenage farmboys in wrangler jeans and straw hats. It's a little goth family eating pink cotton candy from a bag. It's a fat black baby sucking on a bottle of coke. It's two Mexican guys in shearling coats lined up at the Old West photo booth. It's rednecks with mullets and white boys with dreadlocks."

We went back to the fair on Friday. There's nothing to say about this year's excursion that I didn't cover in this essay from last year. It's comforting to know that some things remain constant and true from one year to the next.

However, I don't remember seeing this before:

That's right, kids. The carnivorous, rabid mutant donkeys are on our side.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

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The Channel

Passage East
Passage East, just outside Waterford, Ireland.

Even—and perhaps especially—if you don't read this post, please scroll to the postscript at the bottom for a question I have for you.—k.

I had an email from a good friend of mine who saw the film about the Irish literary tour we both participated in last winter.

He said some very kind and reassuring things about my appearance in it, and added that I made some very good points.

I've been ever since trying to recollect what those points might have been. It was a long interview, and what I remember most about it is that it was freaking windy out and my hair kept whipping across my mouth. I expect I look like I am sporting a fake moustache throughout. Trying to stay incognito.

I do remember pausing for a long breath while I decided how much I wanted to go on the record about what Wikipedia tactfully refers to as my father's "lengthy illness." I wanted to be honest and direct, but I was also sensitive to the fact that my mother and sister (and my young niece and nephew) have to live, work, and go to school in the very small town where my father lived and died. I have the buffer of geographical distance to serve as a privacy screen. They don't. And I'm a writer, which means I've willingly signed on for a certain amount of transparency and risk. They haven't (although the adults in my family are pretty well innoculated with it by now).

Thinking back on that deep breath, I realize I was inhaling for more than that one soundbyte. I was getting ready to dive into the memoir. The tension between my need to tell a story and my desire to protect the people I love is going to be ratcheted up for a while.

I often joke that I have an artistic license, that lets me get away with stuff. To some extent, I really believe this is true. Years ago, a friend and I had an argument about the obligation of artists to "give back." My position was that artists turn their whole lives into a vessel that serves society. To borrow the title of a work by a favorite painter, "we are free, we owe nothing to no one."

I do allow gifted people a small handicap in the social skills department. Many don't need it. But if you are a brilliant composer, I do not expect you to be preoccupied with timely handwritten thank you notes and matching your socks. And when your child or spouse comes out with a book about what a terrible person you were to live with, I am going to feel sad for them, but still grateful for the beauty you were able to channel into the world through your music.

Paradoxically, I also believe that to whom much is given, much shall be required. I think if there was a point I was trying to get across about my father's legacy on that windy Waterford day, it was that he understood and respected his position in society; the privilege of a gifted person. I once heard the poet Gary Snyder saying that those who are called to be the storytellers for their own community, however it is defined, must never underestimate the power and worth of that role. My father got that, and he instilled it in me. Everybody—everybody—has a story that needs to be told, wants to be heard.

If an artist is obligated in any one regard, it is in this holy charge: to hear those stories, to recieve them, and let them become part of you. And consequently, part of what you pour back out.

This morning as I was dropping my son off at preschool, an older woman stopped me and said, "I hear you are a writer." There was a tone of urgency and need in her voice.

I told her that I am, and she told me that her family home is about to be torn down for development, and she wants someone to know what is being demolished; the building, her memories, a community, or an era—I'm not sure she knows herself. But she needed to tell her story to someone, could I find the time to hear it?

I answered her as my father taught me.

"Of course."

I go through phases of wanting to talk about creative process, like right now, and I don't really know if it belongs here, or on my other blog. What do you think? Do your eyes glaze over when my "writing life" label pops up, and you wish I'd get back to slice-of-life stories? Or is too big a part of my identity to keep tucked away on the side? Not that my content is up for a vote, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

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My Umbrella

First off, thank you for yesterday.

Thank you for understanding that I wasn't asking for money, advice, or a good hard slap (though I know some of your palms had to be itching), but simply some help keeping faith afloat.

For all your confidence in my ability with words, I'm afraid it fails me when it comes to expressing how important your support and encouragement has become. Essential, actually. Sorry to be so needy, but we are all in this together now. I am absolutely determined to put a signed copy of my first book in the hands of every one of you who reached out to me yesterday.

What else can I say? You get me.

Today is a better day.

For one thing, I updated my poetry blog for the first time in about six months, to talk about my memoir.

For another thing, I submitted a post to Hyperion's new Every Woman's Voice website, and my byline is now on the front page. I am openly courting the co-founder of this imprint, Pamela Doran, to be my fairy godmother, so please go give them some love (although they don't make it easy—you have to register and get a password in your email—but they are print people, and new to Web 2.0, so maybe give them a little handicap?) Also, they say that you can submit your stuff too. I like where this imprint is going. I love that they are explicitly distancing themselves from the "chicklit" label.

Conventional wisdom says that putting your writing on a blog hoping to land a book deal is akin to putting your resume on your doorstep and hoping to get hired. Conventional wisdom says writers should never, ever do what I did yesterday and show where it hurts.

My second essay collection is tentatively titled, "Conventional Wisdom is an Oxymoron." Reserve your copy today.

p.s. Did any of you in Newfoundland happen to see the Women's Film Festival opener, "To Dublin With Love" last night? I gave a long interview for it, standing on a very windy shore near Waterford city. I'm wondering if it made the cut, and how it played. Leave us a review in the comments if you caught it.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

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Nearly every morning of every day, before the sun comes up in the east kitchen window, before the coffee machine is done spitting and sputtering, long before I get dressed, I am at my ibook, pitching, querying, hustling.

I email editors and agents with painstakingly crafted queries. I send essays around to anyone who publishes them. I solicit advice from people with connections and experience. I stand at the edge of a chasm flinging bits of my soul into the void, and listen with breath held, for a plink.

The plinks are as rare as desert rain.

I tell myself to just keep going. Not to take it personally. But after a while, the silence starts to whisper things to you. Things like, not good enough. Things like, who cares?

Did you think you were somebody? Oh, my dear.

Most days I can shout down those voices. Oh yeah? I list my publication credits, my loyal blog readers and wonderful commenters. I point to all the people in the world getting paid to write their stories, from the barely literate to the sublimely talented. Somewhere, in between, there's got to be a place for me. Why not? Why not me?

Pffffffttttt, I say.

Lately, I'm finding it hard to stay defiant, not to take it to heart. For a cluster of reasons, personal and circumstantial, my tank has gotten very low. There isn't enough gas in it to muster a pffffft.

In addition to trying to get more of my essays published, I've begun a memoir of my relationship with my father and my place in his world. It's about growing up as a girl in the midst of male artists. About casting off their projections and escaping the seductive role of muse, to claim my own voice. That surely has something to do with my feeling so vulnerable and desperate. I read once that every writer has a book they are afraid to write, and this is mine.

It's deep mining, and I don't know that I can do it in between work and kids, the way I hammer out the essays. I'm afraid that our financial circumstances will soon dictate that I get a full-time, outside job, and that writing will have to be relegated to hobby. I could probably continue to blog from the sidelines, and I personally know people who have written novels in the hour between waking and driving to the office. But I'm not one of them. It's not just about time; it's about interior space.

You know that commercial for Disney World where the kids wake up in their beds, hearing the approaching hoofbeats of Cinderella's glass coach? I saw it last night, and tears welled up in my eyes. Because I want so much to believe that my dreams are also speeding toward me, through this dark night. And even as I confess this to you, I'm afraid for you to see the childish nature of my fantasy, my wild hope that someone will see something worth nurturing here, and give me all the time, money and guidance I need to bring my ragged and homeless stories to the ball.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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Ring of Fire

So many of you have responded from the heart to this essay. If you'd like to share it farther afield, you can vote for it here. Thanks so much for keeping the lights on while I am taking some down time. I'll be back later this week.

You know how when you have to go away for a few days, you overfill the cat dish so the kitty won't starve? Life is calling me away for a little bit. The following essay is from a proposed collection, called D-I-Y Spells DIE and Other Domestic Epiphanies—feel free to tell people like this about it. It was published this summer in The Rose, a spirituality journal out of Athens, Georgia. Chow down the whole thing all at once, or ration it out. Back soon. Don't shred the furniture.

On our sixth wedding anniversary, the eve of his fortieth birthday, my husband decided to surprise me by cutting off his shoulder-length blonde hair.

“Surprise!’” he said, as he came through the door, grinning self-consciously and holding up his lopped-off ponytail with the guileless charm of a little boy clutching a fistful of dandelions.

“Surprise,” I said weakly, handing him the damp test stick with its pink vertical lines like bars on a tiny prison window. Impossibly, in spite of being on the pill, breastfeeding a toddler, and the almost complete absence of opportunity, I was pregnant with our third child, and his fourth.

Slack-jawed, Patrick stared at the stick. His mouth closed, opened, closed again.

“You’re not,” he said.

“I am,” I said.

He stared back at the stick, and I thought I saw comprehension dawn on his stricken face.

“This is your pee,” he said finally, looking back to me for confirmation. I wasn’t sure whether he was asking if there could be some kind of mix-up, or if he just found it distasteful.

I nodded soberly, thinking that the unfolding scene was already completely unsuitable for the baby’s memory book. We would have to lie.

Patrick slumped into the nearest chair, still clasping his limp hank of hair. Looking at it, I was reminded of that famous O. Henry short story, The Gift of the Magi, where Della sells her hair to buy her husband, Jim, a chain for his heirloom pocket-watch. Only it turns out that Jim has sold the watch for a hair ornament, and both gifts are utterly useless. Of course, it all works out in time for Christmas, and in the end they realize that what matters most is that they have each other.

Yes, our story was a lot like that, except for the part where my husband almost immediately plummeted into a spectacular midlife tailspin, during which time I was out of my mind with rage, hormones and confusion; and there were days I did not think we would make it to the next week, let alone Christmas. Also, Della & Jim did not have children whose needs had to be taken under consideration and who need help with wiping whether or not right now is a good time for you, emotionally. Else it would have had to have been a novel, and written by a Russian.

Here’s what they don’t tell you to expect in What to Expect When you Are Expecting, or any other pregnancy how-to book I’ve ever read: even the most carefully planned and anticipated pregnancy is like a bomb going off in a marriage.

It will test your mettle like few other things can, and it will show you exactly where the fault lines lie. I don’t recommend trying this unless you have a pretty solid idea already, but if you want to find out what your marriage is really made of, get pregnant. Then duck, and take cover.

In the space of two blurry years, we had gone from two of us to five of us, with the birth of our first two children and the acquisition of a third from a previous marriage. We loved each other and our kids, but in the course of keeping up with even the minimum demands of childrearing a few things had gotten pushed to the backburner. Big things, like sleep and sex; and little things, like good books, and long kisses.

We loved each other, but we were not at the top of our game. Facing another round of pregnancy and infancy was more than we could do gracefully. And so we blundered our way through it, pelting each other with resentment and blame. In and of themselves, our grievances were unexceptional. They all came down to how we divided available time and energy. In fatter years, we could have arbitrated with more civility. But this was famine, and we were starving people fighting over the last thin scrap.

Every emotion and perception was amplified and distorted. “You always” and “You never” became the constant, looping refrain. It felt like our wedding bands had twisted into Möbius strips—around and around we’d go, never getting to the other side.

I have a friend who has managed to stay married to the same man for over thirty years. She says the secret of long-term commitment is very simple: you just have to be willing to renegotiate everything, forever. It was time for us to sit down at the bargaining table.

We both had unmet needs, wants and demands. This was a serious test of our marriage. It deserved and required our undivided energy and attention. We needed to be in lockdown at Camp David, with a full entourage of aides and interpreters. We needed bottled spring water, and frequent stretch breaks; guided meditations and long, quiet walks in the woods. We needed all calls held and nothing on each day’s agenda but working out a new deal.

Instead, we had a fourteen-, a four-, and a two-year old. We had a full time and a part time job outside the home, and inside, the endless work of childrearing and housekeeping. We had clothes to wash, and school papers to sign, bills to pay, library books to return and crusts to cut. We couldn’t scream, or cry, or curse, as loud or as long as we sometimes needed to. And yet, as much as the presence of children inhibited and hindered us, I am not sure we would have hung in there without them. In a way, they were our entourage: a steadying influence that kept us from walking away on days when it felt too fucking hard.

I hate to admit it, but I am one of those who get lost when the going gets rough. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. As much as I love the idea of battening down the hatches and riding out the tough times, in practice I am apt to slip quietly over the gunwale and head for shore. My standard M.O. was always to have an exit strategy—the next relationship--in place before leaving. I would love to think I have outgrown those reflexes. The truth is, the urge to escape was strong. On our worst days, I did think about having an affair. I did fantasize about leaving, or making him leave. And then I’d remember I was three months pregnant and he was my sons’ father, and there was the house and money and all this stuff we shared and as hard as it was to stay in it, it seemed a whole lot harder to get out of it.

Which is the whole point of marriage as an institution. There’s all this infrastructure that can’t be dismantled overnight. And when children are part of what you have built up together, you can’t tear the whole thing down anyway, because you tear them up with it. You can only rearrange the details: who and what goes where, and with whom.

Rita Rudner said, “Whenever I date a man, I think, is this the man I want my children to spend weekends with?” I swear, there were days that the only thing holding me back was the thought that my pain-in-the-ass husband would be an even bigger pain-in-the-ass ex-husband. And I would have to have to put up with him, because of the children. As long as I was stuck with him anyhow, I might as well keep him close enough to take out the trash and help with bedtime.

I find the flipside of this line of reasoning useful even today.

“I will be the ex-wife from hell,” I promise sweetly, whenever I catch him admiring someone younger, blonder and bouncier in the sideview mirror. He chuckles and gives a heartfelt “whoo-whee.” Today, I like to think, he is happy to be stuck with me.
Back then, we were miserable and trapped. This is the beauty of marriage as a legal contract. I believe no committed couple, regardless of sexual orientation, should be denied the opportunity to feel miserable and trapped together, at least once in their lives.

Let me be clear, I am talking about getting through a rough patch. About getting uncomfortable enough to become willing to let go of what’s not been working and venture into uncharted territory together. I don’t advocate anyone staying in an abusive or chronically untenable situation, kids or not. There has to be love—good love—at the bottom of all the crap that’s piled up between you, or no amount of effort will make up for what’s missing. And even that’s no guarantee. But let me tell you, amazing things can happen when there’s nowhere left to turn but toward each other.

Amazing things, like admitting you need help. Realizing a marriage therapist was cheaper than two divorce lawyers, we sought one out. Her name was Nancy. She was terrific. She hardly said much of anything. She didn’t have to. Just having a neutral third party in the room made us more mindful and aware of what we were saying to each other and how we said it. The fact that we both kept showing up for our weekly sessions became visible evidence of our commitment to each other, and that goodwill began to spread into other days of the week. A kind word here, a soft gesture there.

We were still so fragile in that first month or so of therapy. If we came up against any degree of conflict, we would back away from each other as if from a fallen wire. “Let’s save this for Nancy,” we’d agree, and somehow manage to avoid it until then. Funny thing, by the time we got to Nancy, the issue in question wouldn’t seem like a such a big, snakey thing anymore. Gingerly, we began to try it at home. Clutching our photocopied diagrams of “how to practice active listening”, we’d approach a topic like students learning a foreign language. “I think, uh, no, wait…I feel…you should, no, wait. What was the question?”

It didn’t take long. Our issues weren’t the insurmountable, irreversible barriers they had felt like. We weren’t the bad people we felt like. The issues were just issues, and we were just humans who needed to upgrade a few skills.

The birth of our third and last child mirrored this labor. My prior two birthing experiences had started out as all-natural, at-home deliveries. The first was successful, but with complications; the next ended in an emergency C-section. I was younger, and cockier then. Less compromising. This time, I was ready to let go of expectations. I wished only what was best for me and my baby. I asked for direction and advice from my doctor and nurses, considered and took it. I made compromises. When the pain was too much, I asked for, and accepted, relief. I had a birth plan that I took seriously, but held lightly.

When our last son was born, the sun was setting outside the delivery room. I felt no pain. I had no fear. Patrick stood at my side, holding my hand, his golden hair haloed by the dying sky. Our eyes burned into each other. We could have been the only two people in the room, in this marriage. But we weren’t. This birth would add to all that was already between and behind us, binding us and holding us, sometimes against our will.

He squeezed my hand, hard, and with everything I had, I bore down and pushed.


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Thursday, October 04, 2007

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A Bug's Life

I had the hermit crabs outside the other day, in a temporary holding cage, while I cleaned out their luxury habitat for the first time since we got them, over a year ago.

Thanks to the spacious tank they normally occupy, with its private beach, we don't usually see much of the hermit crabs, though I sometimes hear them trashing the compound at night. I'm not sure what they're doing after dark, but when I lifted the two coconut huts out yesterday, I half-expected to find a stash of tiki lamps and empty rum bottles.

They also chirp, which is almost cute, until you remember that they are large bugs. But they don't smell (except when we came back from Ireland and one had died because my mother hadn't fed them), or scratch the furniture, or require much of anything past the initial set-up. Once a month, I have to go to the crab-slash-head shop, where I buy a jar of gourmet crabby kittles and a box of nag champa from a guy who swears the only reason his grandmother with alzheimer's is hanging on is for the sake of her hermit crab.

Crab people, as I discovered during my initial research into hermit crab care, are an odd sort. This is totally unscientific, but I'm hypothesizing that there's a statistical correlation between adult hermit crab ownership and recreational medieval re-enactment.

Anyway, we got the crabs outside in their playpen in the fresh air, and they went nuts. They were really quite fascinating. Which should tell you quite a bit about my life these days.

But you look into the eye at the end of this stalk and tell me you don't feel all squishy inside.

Who needs the warm fuzzies, when we've got yer warm crusties right here?


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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

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A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

My three year old, yesterday morning, on the occasion of our successfully crossing the street:

"Look, Mom! The cars not us KILLED!"

It's the little things in life you have to be grateful for.


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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

Radio Free Jen

Most of you already know that I am friends with the extraordinary Jen Lemen. Jen is cut from the same template as the little girl who picked me out the first day of preschool to be my friend, guardian and cheerleader. I had barely arrived on the blogging playground when she linked her arm through mine and whispered that we would be best friends. She has an incredibly generous spirit and a heart that broadcasts "I believe in you" on all channels, all the time.

I could give you tons of examples of how Jen is tuned to a different frequency than most. Like when we were at the rooftop cocktail party at the Blogher conference in Chicago this summer. I'm standing around, stuffing my face with canapes, wondering how to meet Rebecca Woolf and if I should guilt my pregnant roommate Alana into giving me her drink ticket, when I notice that Jen already knows the wait staff by name, and country of origin. Or going to another party and finding out later that week that while I was at the wine table, debating white or red, Jen was doing this.

But I like this one the best, from a Saturday morning telephone call, several weeks ago:

Me: Hi! What are you doing?

Jen (breathlessly): I'm driving across town to help a Rwandan genocide survivor escape a domestic slavery situation.

Me: Oh. Well. I'm folding laundry.

I have a feeling if you asked Jen's husband Dave, he'd verify that this is a pretty typical Saturday morning exchange in his household.

There's a great picture of Jen, me, and another of my favorite playground friends on Jen's blog this week. (The talent she refers to in the caption would be my talent for scoring comp drink tickets. Which explains why I don't actually remember this photo being taken.)


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