23 December 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

A day off work. I was up at 7, brewing coffee and reloading the dishwasher. I don't want to waste any of my time off lying in the bed. It has become so precious.

I was thinking recently about Christmases of recent past. Last Christmas, I had to work 7-3 at the assisted living facility. I worked every single day then. 6am on a Saturday morning would roll around and I'd feel so depressed about getting up. I still feel that way sometimes, but I am in a much better place now- I mean, I just qualified for my free life insurance!- and I am so grateful.

I am also able to understand the simple peace of having my whole family together for the holiday. I know someone whose son was just murdered. Another whose husband hung himself out in his shed a few weeks ago. People are hurting, and in years past, it was our family who was hurting. The first Christmas after Joe's brother died, his absence filled the air as much as we tried to turn from it.

I recall one Thanksgiving distinctly when I had to go visit my daughter in juvenile detention for the holiday. As I was escorted through the double locked doors, the smell of a holiday meal brushed my face. They were making a special meal for these kids in their navy jumpsuits. I had about an hour with my daughter that day, sitting across from her at a long row of plastic tables. I wasn't allowed to hold her hand. I went back out to my car and cried. There was another holiday, maybe the same year but maybe another- when we went up to Maryland for Christmas and left her behind in her cell at home. I wish now that I had kept better notes from that time- but pushing it all as far away from my heart as possible is how I survived it. We got a 5 minute phone call.

Those were sad years. And right now, people everywhere are going through it. I am choosing to feel thankful that my children are safe and well, they are home, and they are free. The daughter that gave me so much heartache has now given me a grandson. An amazing gift- one I did not want to receive. One I did not realize could fill my heart with so much love, enough to erase all the pain of the past. Enough to take my breath away.

Other Christmases of the past: People leaving bags of groceries on our porch because we were so broke. Joe having to deliver newspapers every Christmas for 10 years. Driving up to Maryland after the newspapers were done, getting there late and having a twinkling tree greeting us in the dark. The magic of little ones waking to American Girl dolls having tea under the tree, back when the gifts could come from Goodwill and no one knew or cared.

I hear people talking a lot about gifts at Christmas, and I was realizing that Joe and I rarely exchange gifts. We just don't. Back in the lean years, I spent what I had on the children. Maybe that just became habit. This year, we are giving each other a huge gift: a house. We close in a week. We'll need a new hot water heater and washer and dryer set. And it's going to be a chaotic New year's weekend for us.

But when you have one of those years where things are good, where you get to be the lucky ones for awhile, you learn to just soak it in. And when you've known those darker roads, it just makes you appreciate it all the more.

06 December 2011


Something made me think of the memory care center today, where I spent a year of weekends. I wondered if things were moving along exactly the same there after six months' absence. I thought: yes, definitely. Things don't change there. Lois is still sitting in the recliner by her bed. Helen is playing another round of solitaire with her faded red cards.

How I was going to write about it. I have begun to, but I never finished. I want to finish. Even when I think of those like Hendrix and Connie, who could write a hundred times more than I could about it. About what it's like to love them.

29 November 2011

Tuesday after work and dinner

I should go to bed. I know I should. I'm not a strong person and I don't do well when I don't get enough sleep. But the dishwasher is churning (for the second time tonight) and its dark and quiet. It feels kind of nice.

We're moving. But we aren't allowed to take any boxes over to the new house (vacant 1.5+years) so the house is slowly imploding with cardboard. But the children still want a tree so by Golly, we'll have one.

On the cusp of good things, overall. I miss writing.

28 November 2011

Do I Still Blog?

Oh yes- all the time.

In my head.

As I am drawing up syringes full of white milky Kenalog mixed with Lidocaine. As my hand swipes the spilled sugar off the counters on Thanksgiving morning. As I think about how it's coming up on seven years since Jonathan died.

Words weave themselves together in my head while my hands are busy, so busy. The words can't seem to make it onto a screen, or even a scrap of paper. The little notebook in my purse suffers from neglect and I miss the magic of seeing my words together in rows.

18 October 2011

Jackass Blues

Yeah, so get this. There is actually a decent heart inside of me. It's there. It's just that generally I seem to come off as more of a selfish, sarcastic jackass than anything else. But- I get jealous. I see my friends, those real live human beings I used to interact with, interacting with each other and I feel left out and jealous. I even get jealous when they leave stupid digital hearts on each others' Facebook walls because then I feel even more funky and disconnected.

But I still love all those people. I just have moods.

I get frustrated at work because I look around and everyone is faster than me, more competent. And worst of all: more flexible than I am. I hover around my familiar little pod (Pod G) and hope I don't have to cover for the other doctor because he might burst forth from the room and announce: Draw up a shoulder injection!

Or maybe: I need methotrexate labs!

And I will bobble around gasping until someone helps me get it all figured out, whether he likes the 21g 1 1/2 inch  needle for that or not. Kick me back into my little pond where I will float around with my eyes averted with shame.

My doctor tells me she wants a 1:1 or a 2:2 and I know what that means- half Kenalog and half Lidocaine, and I can ask if she wants the short or the long needle and she tells me. She is from China. She can't pronounce Methotrexate correctly. But I find it endearing. I love her and I want to be a good assistant to her. Fuck this responsibility business and this climbing of the ladder. Right now, I just want to do my job and clock out and go home and goof off. The guy that trained me to take his place wants to go to PA school. At Yale. Good for him. I want to cut paper in my studio on Harrison St. Yeah, the one I don't own yet.

I want to be a nurse on my own terms. I am lazy. I admire every one of the Medical Assistants I work with and think in no way that I am superior to them.

I saw an old friend yesterday, for about 10 minutes. I meant to tell her that her hair looked great- I hadn't seen her in so long that her hair had grown and had faint bluish streaks in it that caused me to long for my youth. But so much had to be crammed into that 10 minutes that the part about the hair got missed. I thought about what a rotten friend I'd been to her in recent months, too tired and caught up with family to meet her on her porch for one measly glass of wine. Then to have the nerve to feel jealous when I see her reaching out to other friends- even though I'm actually happy for her.

The same goes for another good friend who apparently is madly in love. I am truly happy for her. I just...miss her. And it's not her. It's me. I'm a jackass. But not the worst jackass ever. I think I get more forgiving and loving the older I get. I'm not even (very) mad at the girl from the coffee shop anymore. Slightly annoyed at the guy at Joe's work who gives him liquor. Yes- I admit that. 

I just don't know how to express myself the way I mean to. Want to. There is an okay person in here.

09 October 2011


And suddenly last night, I slept with my hood up. Suddenly, it's getting cold. Although if I'm sitting in the car in the sun, I feel hot and I can still pretend for a minute that the days and long nights of winter are not careening toward me.

Suddenly, my daughter has applied to three colleges. She knows how to get her transcript sent over.

Time moves too fast and then when I am waiting for something it slows like caramel. Like, waiting for someone to see our FOR SALE sign out front, some young couple full of hope and the prospect of procreating, waiting for them to turn to one another and say, Oh darling.

But allowing each day to be it's own moment, at it's own speed.

06 October 2011

i know this moment will pass

Losing my writing, losing myself
in this rat wheel I am on
needs and wants pull me around
like pearly taffy
no time left to let my thoughts
sift and congeal
into meaning
who am I becoming
besides a tired person
besides numb
besides resigned
to the parts of life that are

24 September 2011


My son. Standing on the back porch in the sun in his Donnie Darko t-shirt and orange baseball socks. He's taller than I am, and skinnier. It wasn't too long ago that we were all remembering when he was a chubby toddler, parked in front of The Jungle Book in his underwear. I sneak glimpses of him and store the images in my brain, because I know now how fast everything is slipping away. High school, girlfriend, college. Hugs become angular.

It has taken me a long time to start grasping the passage of time.

13 September 2011

Thankfully, the building I work in has many windows. I am able to see the sunlight

15 August 2011

Ready for Fall.

This evening is the first in weeks that it's been cool enough to put a window up. I had to bang on and force the window in my bedroom to get it to budge. I hate old windows- and yet I am attracted to every ancient house I see, irrationally so. I have none of the skills or the gumption needed to keep one going, but still I dream. Ezra and I peeped through the windows of a vacant mansion yesterday. We were killing time waiting for Maddie to do a senior portrait shoot. It was 4000 odd square feet and it's features even included a widow's walk.

The breeze reminds me that fall is once again around the corner. Ezra donned his cleats and headed to the ball field to resume a new season today. Tomorrow the kids register for school. I only have to tackle 2 schools this year and not 3, which makes me glad, but I will miss RS Payne Elementary school which was a special place for Nora to be for the past three years.

Ordinarily I am a huge fan of summer. This year, it's been too hot to camp, to hot to fire up the grill, and usually too hot to even sit outside for any length of time. I think I might be ready for Fall.

13 August 2011

Keeping the Day Job, or: Why I Write

Journal entry, 6-29-11

I am at the beach. It is my twentieth anniversary and I am watching my husband try to boogie board in the Atlantic with a board almost as old as our union. I am recovering from a year of working seven days a week. Feeling slightly shameful- know there are people everywhere who work harder than I have. But people offer me sympathy, and I take it. The waves are big today, but there is little breeze.It's been years since I've been to the ocean.The tides and waves are a mystery to me. I know I could study them and gain scientific understanding but I enjoy the mesmerizing mystery of them. Sand like brown sugar spills over and between my toes, making them look brown and healthy. Freer than they have been in a long time.

A cat came onto the beach last night. Black, with white beard and paws. He was chasing crabs in the dusk. I'd never seen a beach cat. Joe, letting his diamond-shaped kite up and up, grinning like a young boy. Other people on the beach had fancier kites, but his simple one seemed to soar the highest. It's windy and cool- how the temperature can change here in just a few hours' time.

I sat in my beach chair and read some issues of Poets and Writers magazine. Most of what I saw was disappointing. At least half the issue is ads for MFA programs or other training courses. Or, Get your book published today!!! One column caught my eye: Why We Write. A woman was telling a story about her grandmother dying. It was a good story, though I did not feel it addressed the topic very clearly. Why does she write? Why do I write?

I wouldn't mind becoming known as a writer, but I have not the resources- mental, physical, or any other- to put myself out there they way you have to these days. We are all drowning in sheer volume of people who want to be writers or who have written books. Even going to Barnes and Noble is almost more than I can handle anymore. I did enter a chapbook contest this past year. It was one chosen carefully based on what I thought might be a good fit with my work. They haven't announced the winners yet, but hundreds have entered it. I'm not lying awake at night wondering if I will get chosen. If I do, that's great. But if I don't, it doesn't mean I'm a bad writer. It just means that hundreds of people were competing. Its crazy to think of the time and money some people must put into systematically entering every contest that comes by, lured into visions of Stephen King-esque fame by said writers magazines.

Why do I write? Because I always have, as far back as my memory goes. It's how I process my world and the outer world around me. If it turns out that I am just mediocre at it- not trained enough in the craft- that's okay. I know I will still keep doing it because it is a part of me. The older I get, the more fatalistic I become. The world teeming with MFA-waving graduates shoving to get discovered. What are my chances, really? I'm a mom, I'm a nurse. I have laundry to do. Sure, I got a poem published on Anderbo. On Connotation Press. 15 seconds of fame, just long enough to repost the link on my Facebook wall and watch it dribble down my newsfeed and into oblivion.

No- this isn't why I write. My ego does hope that what I write will have meaning for someone out there. Otherwise, why publish any of this stuff? Could I actually touch someone the way Jane Smiley and Sharon Olds have touched me? I write to process the things in my life- family, love, death, old age, work. I never want to be "just" a writer. I want to be a woman who works with the public and who has children and who writes about these things. I am not capable of ordering the poems in my manuscript in some mythical, symbolic order as the magazine advised me to do to increase my chances of getting it published. I know which one I want to be first, and I know which one I want to be last. The rest is fate.

Which makes me some sort of literary hippie-rebel-castout. I have no degrees. I have a nursing diploma and a tickle in my heart and hand to put words to paper. I don't condemn those who are doing it another way. I just can't navigate it all. There's always someone with more time to write, money for a week-long writers' retreat, or better performance skills to steal the show at the local open mike.

I am not a writer. I am a woman who writes. The distinction feels important to me, somehow.

12 August 2011

Clearing Out

Joe and I are finally getting serious about putting our house up on the market. We've been looking at a few old homes around the area, and realizing ours isn't so bad. I mean yeah, that sink is sinking into the floor, but that's just details.

You do not realize how dirty and how cluttered your house is until you start seeing it with the eyes of trying to get it ready to sell. At least if you're someone like me who cleans as little as necessary on a day-to-day basis. I was working on the kitchen last night and found in a drawer a pile of those little packages of McDonalds sauce and duck sauce and soy sauce. Which will probably never get pulled out and used. I pitched them. And there's more, much more. I found Betta food and supplies from when we (once upon a time) had a Betta fish. Amazing the way it accumulates.

Recently Joe and I helped a friend move, and I was reminded of the enormity of packing your life into labeled boxes. It reminded me to start as soon as possible getting things organized and weeded out. We don't know when we'll move, but I want to be ready. And as a bonus, imagining that I'm moving makes the tasks funner than usual. Last night when I was cleaning the kitchen, I was imagining that I was getting it ready to take pictures of it.

Also at this time of year is the usual decluttering of the kids' clothes, all the stuff that no longer fits or is worn out. The kids are now old enough to do that themselves and it's great, but sometimes leaving me unsure as to what they now need. It's now up to them to let me know.

So that's my agenda for the weekend. Cleaning, decluttering, and being thankful I don't have to work the weekends anymore.

11 August 2011

Fits and Starts

Sometimes writing is just too hard. I log onto Blogger most mornings to see if anything new has been posted. I follow very few blogs, and so many days there is nothing new. I'll stare at my blog feed for a minute, try to think about what I want to write about, and then exit out. There just never seems to be a long enough piece of time to really dig into anything.

Or else someone's breathing down my neck to use the computer. Or else I'm distracted by Facebook or some other asinine time-waster.

Driving to New London in the mornings, I sometimes think of things I want to write about. I used to be better about jotting them down, but not so much these days.

I've been switching out the CDs in my car. A week or so ago, I put both of my Dido discs in. I hadn't heard them in quite a while, and hearing them caused me to remember that they were in heavy rotation about the time that Joe's brother went missing. Isn't it always amazing the way music brings back emotions? All her lines about love took on layers of meaning during that time.

I can't breathe, until you're resting here with me. 
His boots no longer by my door.
I promise you, you'll see the sun again.

Some days most things seem too hard. I go to work and I work and then I drive back home. The package that needs mailing waits several days in the floorboard before I muster the energy to drop by the post office. Why? I don't know. I get in bed most nights by nine with a bag of popcorn and a book and I read. Sometimes I don't understand what I read but it's the ritual of it. And I'm noticing that waking up in the morning seems to be getting easier for me. Finally, at almost 40. Maybe I will become a morning person yet.

Everything, fits and starts.

04 August 2011

New Job

Funny how you can try and try to make something happen, but often when the time comes it slips through the back door and surprises you. I interviewed for a job on Wednesday of last week, which was nothing unusual. I've been to plenty of interviews; sometimes I go back for a second interview. Once I even went to four, but that's another story. I never seem to land the job.

So I went on Wednesday and was told I'd hear back in a week for a possible second run, and then on Friday my phone rang and it was them. Making me an offer.

Finally, I have landed the illustrious Full-Time Job with Benefits. And I am glad. It's what I've been wanting and needing. The catch is this: I am moving into a new specialty. Rheumatology.

My new title is Rheumatology Coordinator, and yes, that involves paperwork. More than I was doing before. But it also involves delving into a whole new field. In family practice, I dabbled in everything. Sure, I know a little about gout, about labs for arthritis patients. This will be a new level and I do think it will be interesting.

Just wondering if this will bump me out of women's health forever.

But don't let me take you down any dark hols- I am very happy and thankful for my new job. Getting online now to look for some rheumatology books...

23 July 2011

Here Comes the Sun

My funk finally lifted and I feel brighter. It's Saturday morning and I slept well and I have an itch to make the house look nice today. It's amazing to have the whole weekend again. I'm so thankful.

I went through a spell where there was a house I wanted to buy in the historic district. It was amazing, and the price was ridiculously low as the house was a foreclosure on the market for over a year. We looked at it numerous times as the realtor had given us the code to the lock box. Ultimately though, we had to accept that we would not be able to afford the exterior maintenance on a historic home. The outside is clapboards, which must be painted every few years, and the roof metal but not very nice and the roof job will be a doozy on that house because the back of the house is on a steep slope.

So I had to let the dream go and now I'm trying to focus on getting our house in a state for selling. I'm also now thinking: Brick house. Basement. Craft room. Time will tell. I'm not always the most patient person.

Joe and I went to the beach for a few days and I never wrote about it. I did write some on the beach, though- gritty sand on everything and pink burns on my hands from the writing and the reading. But I've hardly written since I got back.

My friend Cathy asked me recently if I would still write when I was happy. The answer to that is a resounding yes. But not sappy-happy. I hope. These days, most things are a matter of time. I have a small stack of appointments I need to make for the children, still undone. Notes on my year in Alzheimers care still half-entered into Word. Life is spinning too quickly and it scares me.

In October I will become a grandmother at the age of 38. I still don't even know how to process that information. If some of you are sitting there stunned because you didn't know, that's because I went all Southern for a bit and just couldn't talk about it.

And I have a job which allows me very little time to think, or even jot down a thought I'd like to hang onto. I like medical but it's just so fast paced. I truly want to slow down and enjoy my patients more instead of politely cutting them off because I have 3 more patients waiting to put back and a stack of prescription refills to approve and fax back, and what's that? We need an EKG in room 2. I know some people thrive on the adrenaline and the pace, but I don't. Maybe I got into nursing at too late of an age or maybe it's just who I am.

Regardless, it's Saturday and even though the temperature threatens to reach its hands up near a hundred again, I am happy.

15 July 2011


Having one of those spells where I feel in a fog. I'm tired. I don't want to do anything. I feel blank. When I have a chance to write or do something creative, even a small one, I sit motionless and waste the opportunity. It seems pointless at times. Life this week feels like a creaky treadmill, and yet- nothing is wrong. I mean, no- life isn't perfect. But I have 25 hours of work a week and a nice car that for the moment I can still pay for and I have nothing major to feel depressed about. My hormonal and emotional swings certainly feel more intense with age. Just in the past couple of years, I suffer from what I can only assume is PMS. I will feel irritable, sometimes to the point of anger, or I will tear up for no good reason. And I am not one to cry except now and again, when great heaving sobs and wails will finally spew forth from my tough shell.

Maybe sometimes, we just feel blah.

I am still in my ongoing identity crisis about my life in general, my job specifically. Some days I pop my head up and look around at work and think: how the hell did I end up here?! I don't fit in here. I'm too dreamy and creative. Linger too long in the room with the patient. Other days- ironically, like today- I feel like I do my job well and could settle in awhile. Though that involves letting go of the dream I've held for so long that I would eventually use my nursing skills to benefit women in the childbearing year.

But next week, when I'm out of my funk, I will feel positive again and the sun will come out.

23 June 2011

Pushing out the doldrums

Last night at the ball game, my daughter drew a tattoo on my thigh with a blue sharpie. This morning, I pulled a pair of red scrub pants over it. I'm not going to shower- I don't feel like showering. I'm in one of those blah moods where I am feeling stuck and unmotivated. I grab my Mighty Mouse top because I know I will need some super power today. The shirt feels like one more reminder that I don't fit in at my job.

We all get accommodated eventually to our situation and begin to complain about it. I wish it weren't true but it is. I was (and still am) so thankful to have a job. Many don't. But after a year of doing the same thing, I feel unsatisfied. I have a longing to find a job that I really belong in and feel like I make a difference. I interviewed for a position I really wanted and after weeks of waiting I find out that they are still interviewing other people. Still holding out for someone better qualified than me, even though several people that work there had put in good words for me. It can be pretty hard to accept that the world really does operate like that. I still haven't heard about the job. Maybe I'll actually get it. But in my mind, I'm moving on. I have to.

I know I need to find peace and happiness within myself and within the life that I have. It's just one of those days where things are foggy. I feel jealous of my women friends who have the luxury of staying home, although I see them complaining just as much about their situations. We all lose our perspectives at times. I feel guilty that my husband has had to support me for so many years and that sees me as useless and dependent, unable to even clean my own filthy car out. I want to be strong, powerful, colorful. I want to be what everyone wants me to be.

I've been listening to old 80's stuff in the car on the drive to and from work. Trying to tap into the strong feelings from that time. Trying to see if those feelings mean anything now, or if they are just relics of a distant past. Working on focusing on the things in my life that I am really happy about- and there are many.

21 June 2011

I was out somewhere the other day and a friend didn't recognize me in my scrubs. It's okay; sometimes I don't know myself in them. I am still a newcomer in a foreign land, still going through my days wondering if I will ever walk into my workplace and feel the ease of belonging. Will the native language ever sound familiar to my awkward ear?

Last night Joe and I were talking about our "ideal life" and the various ways that we picture it. Mostly I was letting him talk, and he told me that something he likes about his job is that he feels like there is room to advance. He described it as "a road out of this cul-de-sac I am in." These words struck me because I feel very much right now as if I am in a cul-de-sac. I mean, sure- there's plenty of ways to advance as a nurse. If you have the opportunities. The money and time to advance.

If you love ti enough. If you fit.

I like where I work for the most part, but often I feel like I am riding on a large continuous passive motion machine. Mindlessly doing the same tasks over and over. And then I think: well, what is it I want from life, anyway? I wanted to learn a trade so I could help my family out financially, and here I am. I am doing it. And I think I could be content there if I just accepted the fact that it's my fate to be there.

Then I remember my dream: to work with pregnant women and make a difference in their lives. To build programs that educate them and break the chains of poverty and abuse. To help them take charge of their health and their parenting. And then I get restless where I am.

10 June 2011

End of a Long Week

Today at work, I described it as "All-star Friday" because our schedule included an absolutely amazing array of frequent fliers and typically complex patients. I felt like I was in the medical version of "Mars Attacks." The other nurses realized I was right on and were chuckling. After almost a year, they are finally sort of getting used to my sense of humor and the odd things I say. One especially crazy day, I made the comment that it had been a very "tangly" day. Which makes perfect sense to me. The lab girl looked at me as if I'd spoken Aramaic. But this is who I am. Most of the time I think I'm pretty ordinary, and wish I were a bit more off the grid.

I did some really tight blood draws today- I was really on my game with that. And yesterday I flushed out a patient's ear that had something very much resembling mold in it. She said that she did get outdoors quite a lot, and that perhaps some gnats had gotten in. We'll never know. We also had the couple in their (upper) 80's who came in together saying that their blood pressures were so low because they have sex all the time.

But it wasn't really a great week overall. The time crawled and I daydreamed while counting pulses and wondered to myself if this is the end of the career road for me.

Morgan moved into her own apartment this week and I helped her get groceries this evening. I was so tired and so hungry by the time I got done. Ez and I got Japanese food and crashed together in the AC and talked about dating and what there was to do when I was his age. I enjoyed thinking back to all those times hanging out at Nite Lites, the Fort theatre and game room, and the skate jams. I tried to give him a timeline of my old boyfriends, but I noticed it was all growing a bit fuzzy.

07 June 2011

Cleaning Binge

I guess I'd have to describe my housekeeping habits as somewhere between Bad and Occasionally Mediocre. I pick up, though not faithfully, but I'm not that great at the actual cleaning bit. Basically, it's dusty as hell around here and don't even look at the baseboards and all that. But for some reason, if I'm pissed off or have a lot of things on my mind, I tend to respond by cleaning.

I've thought a bit about why this is, and I think it's because when I'm feeling vulnerable, I want to wrap myself around something I can control. And that is something I can have a direct effect on.

Today was one of those days. At work, I felt average. I felt like, even after almost a year, I'm not getting any better at my job. I got reprimanded for not having a particular form filled out for a particular type of visit, which cost the doctor ten minutes' time. I know it sounds nit picky, but I should have picked up on that and made sure it was there. I should know by now. I didn't know which vaccines were in which combination..the Rotarix, the Pediarix, the Twinrix! It's so confusing. I felt out of place. I felt bored. I counted the hours until I could leave.

And I'm dying to put in my notice at my weekend job. Each weekend I toy with the idea, think of the money, reconsider. It's a terrible game of tug-of-war.

On top of that, I've been waiting for about 2 weeks to hear about a job I interviewed for. It's a job that I am trying very hard to remain neutral about, and not get myself built up for another disappointment. But here's the catch: this is my dream job. So I clunk along at my other jobs and try to push off the restless feelings of an exciting change.

And Joe isn't here this week to distract me from my thoughts. Normally I'd pop a bag of popcorn and get on the bed and watch him on the computer and talk. But I can't.

So I respond by attacking the baby grand and it's layers of dust. I drag a damp rag beneath the long strings. Rub with a shishkabab stick. I immerse myself in this task and blow off as much of this emotional energy as possible. Then I straighten the DVDs, putting all the stray discs back in their cases and dusting the tops.

This is serious.

And I am supposing it's a very good thing that I get in these occasional modes of deep-thought and almost-angst. Otherwise the place would really fall apart.

05 June 2011

Ariel Gore on Writing

"If you don't have time to write, stop answering the phone. Change your e-mail address. Kill your television. If you don't have a baby, have one. If you have a baby, get a sitter. If you work too much, work more. If you don't work enough, work less. If there's a problem, exaggerate it. If you're broke, go to the food bank. If you have too much money, give it away. If you're north, go south. If you're south, go north. If you don't drink, start. If you drink, sober up. If you're in school, drop out. If you're out of school, drop in. If you believe you have a year to live, imagine you have a hundred. If you believe you have a hundred years to live, imagine you only have one. If you're sane, go crazy. If you're crazy, snap out of it. If you've got a partner, break up. If you're single, find a lover! The shock of the new- shake yourself awake. There is only this moment, this night, this remembrance rolling toward you from the distant past, this blank page, this inspiration yielding itself to you. Will you meet it? 

-From chapter one of How to Become A Famous Writer Before You're Dead

02 June 2011


Me, to patient: So, what's bringing you in to see us today?

Patient: My ear is really hurting. It's hurting all the way down into my neck. I got into a mess of seed ticks a few days ago, and I'm wondering if maybe one got into my ear.

Me: Gosh, that's an awful thought.

Patient: Weeeeell, it happens.

Me: (stunned silence, contemplating the logistics of digging an embedded seed tick out of a man's hairy ear canal.)

Patient: And whiiiile I'm in here, I need the Doc to look at my toe. The nail is ingrown and when I tried to cut it out myself, it got infected.

31 May 2011

Summer Times are Here Again

So it's back to summer days for awhile. The kids are all sleeping in on this official first day of summer break. It was so hot this weekend that we had all the air conditioners cranking...before June! I love the smells of the house in the summer. The heat rises upstairs and warms the wood floor up which gives off the smell of an old house. Then when I head down the stairs there is the smell of the cool air which reminds me of the birth of Madison almost 17 years ago in this very house. We had the air on as I labored with her, and later, afterward- resting under cool sheets with damp hair and my new baby prize in my arms. I have seen the summer come and go in this house for almost twenty years.

In my last post I talked about not wanting to write. And I think what I meant was that I want to write. But life has been so hectic that I am not writing. I hope to get back to more this summer. I will have a little more time in the mornings, and also I am hoping and praying with all my heart that I will get the job I interviewed for and get my weekends back.

I want to start writing down all my memories of working this past year in an Alzheimers center. I want them to be short glimpses, much like the short-term memories of the people they are about. I still can't figure out whether I write poetry or prose, but I know this: I write truth. I love to read fiction but I don't think I can write it.

Yesterday a friend of mine announced that she is not going to blog anymore. She had a variety of reasons for this decision, all of which I respect and agree with. But it's leaving me a bit sad today. We had lost contact for a few years and since we reconnected, her blog is where I would go to catch up on what's going on in her life. I will really miss it. She is a fine, funny writer so I hope she finds another place to do that.

My energy seems to wax and wane with the phases of the moon. The past couple of days were good and I am thankful. Now Nora's swim team is starting up so I will be going to the pool across town several nights a week. I'll be sure to bring a notebook.

20 May 2011


No time to write these days. Or maybe, no space to get the words out and into the right places. Often, after I wake Madison up for school, I crawl back into bed for twenty more minutes. I feel tired. I feel that I have no excuse, and then I feel I have every excuse. Mostly, I just don't feel driven to write despite all circumstances, I guess.

Or maybe, I'm bored of my own voice, my tiresome presence.

I don't think all writers must be egocentric, or are. But you need to feel like you have something to say to the world that's worth saying and believe that you can say it well. I go through spells where I feel that way. But this isn't one of them. I'm sick and tired of working 7 days a week- this gets more painful the sunnier it gets- and a slew of job rejections have bruised my self-esteem about being a nurse. Navigating the stinky politics of a medical monopoly. I try to slither like a desperate worm, the way I'm supposed to, but I always seem to answer the questions wrong. And it feels like everyone but me has a cheat sheet.

I must have been absent that day.

Within the shabby mess of all that, writing ceases to even be an escape for me so I sit staring at Facebook, watching myself die in the reflection of myself in my computer screen. I've got to shake all that off and get back to more real life and more writing.

14 May 2011

Moving On

Nora performed in her last play as an elementary schooler the other night. One of the things I enjoy about that age group is that they haven't grown too cool for stuff yet. They were all up there on stage, singing and chopping out the cheesy choreography with full gusto. Nora had a small part, but she played it well. She used to hate being on stage when she was younger; she'd stand stiff as a board, barely mumbling the words. This time, I caught her glowing a few times. Her three years at the GO Center have been good for her. I look with some trepidation toward the middle school years but hoping this time has built a good foundation for her.

27 April 2011


I gave birth to only one boy. While pregnant with him, I had a dream that he came out of me, stood up and walked away. I see that happening as he grows and changes. These days, I am surrounded by pubescent boys- sweaty and throat-cracky. They are sized like small adults but with no sense of the amount of physical space they take up. Their limbs are growing so quickly that they knock things over clumsily. Noisily.

And that one there- I'm not even sure I know his name. He just crossed into my kitchen and opened the cabinet where the glasses are kept and got one down. Made himself an ice water. It was obvious he knew where the glasses are kept. I don't mind.

I like how these boys don't hate being here. They don't yet slink past me to hide in Ezra's room and make bombs or do drugs. They tell me about how the math teacher hates them. When I tell them they have to stop calling me Mrs. Schuppe, they start addressing me as Mom.

I think now that maybe my arms will always be full of children, one way or the other. Some might say that motherhood was a mistake for me, a child of eighteen. But I guess it was just Fate. My fate.

To be a mother. As often as I have fought it.

It is a place that I know.

26 April 2011

Graveyards I have known and loved, and why I never want to be buried in one

(This is a rough draft of an essay I was working on a few weeks ago. I'm going to go ahead and put it out here since I seem to be at a standstill...)

My childhood home was next to a cemetery. A small and forlorn one, to be sure, without even a sign out front until later years. My sister and I went there often- we lived on a busy road with few neighbors, so it was something to do. A lot of time was spent there, reading the stones. I was fascinated by how much older and  crumbly the stones became as I moved further to the back. I can still remember how it felt when I discovered three child's stones all in a row, all seemingly siblings who had each died at a year of age. I froze in my tracks, feeling part of a ghost story. We'd fly kites there sometimes. Not a good choice considering how we had to look both upward at the kite and downward so as to not trip on the stones. But we were kids and we made do with what we had available.

Cemeteries continued to pepper my life, as I suppose they do everyone's in some way. At one point my father got interested in geneaology and we spent most of a summer of traipsing all over Nelson County haunting the burial areas of little white country churches ion search of Fitzgeralds and their kin. Sometimes it was pretty boring. I grew tired of feeling carsick from the mountain roads, of trudging up a hill in the middle of the woods to look for 3 elusive tombstones that were rumored to be there. But in the midst of that experience I cultivated a love for the beauty there. A statue of an angel with crumbling features. The ever-popular lamb sitting docile atop the small stone of a baby.

Around the time that I got my first car, a champagne beige Honda hatchback which I later totaled- I was also taking a photography class in high school. I loved this new freedom to go where I pleased. I spent many sunny afternoons taking photos in cemeteries. It was at this time that I discovered the historic Old City Cemetery in downtown Lynchburg. I would pull over somewhere if I happened upon one that looked worthy. My old favorites, though, were the so-called "torch cemetery" and also Spring Hill, near the city stadium. My grandmother used to like telling me how she already had her plot bought and paid for at Spring Hill. She won't be buried beside her late husband, however. he chose to donate his body to science. No tandem stone for those two. But ultimately, does it matter?

I had my first date with the man I was to marry in a cemetery. We parked outside the gate, slid through to the other side and took a long walk and talked. There are few places quieter or more private, after all. We talked for a long, long time that evening and we returned to that spot many times to wander or to hash something out. One night we even took the camera and tripod to try to get some long-exposure shots.

It's an odd thing, really. How much I love cemeteries and yet cannot bear the thought of being placed in one for eternity. For one thing, the old stones and statues I love are relics of the past. I'd never have a grave that cool. Everything's all flat and easy to landscape now. Boring. But that isn't all of it. It's the vast amount of space these morgues take up. It just seems such a waste to me. I'd rather be burned to dust and scattered around somewhere. It rings out on a more practical note for me.

When our family lost a loved one a few years ago, I learned something valuable: that the ritual of the funeral is for the benefit of those left behind. Ultimately, I have wishes surrounding my own death but I want my family and friends to do what they need to do to process it all. Jonathan was gone and his body a lifeless hub. But for us, the placing of the chess book and the Bible in his coffin felt sacred. After all, this hub was all we had left of the one we'd known.As humans in a grief state, we tend to cling to this soulless body and address it as if it were still alive. The body certainly deserves respect, and in some groups the ritual of burial is a necessary part of that reverence.

It occurred to me one day that eventually, everyone who knew and loved these people will die off themselves, and then what? Acres and acres of forgotten people, taking up space. This came to light for me when I was sitting for an elderly woman for a few weeks. She was telling me how her first child was born dead. How her husband sat on the side of the bed and cried for the little lost child. She knew what cemetery it was in, and I jotted the child's name down in the margin of my notebook, intending to go and find her some lazy day. But I never did- and chances are, no one else ever will either. That baby lived in her parents' hearts and that heart is now in a grave of it's own.

I have a friend who became a widow at a young age. I asked her recently why she chose to have her husband cremated and if she regretted not having a grave to go to. Here is part of her response:

I have never even thought about going to a gravesite. I have been very happy with our decision to scatter the ashes. His ashes are scattered in the mountains and at the beach. So I figure if the boys and I need a place to go and remember him.... we can take a hike or a vacation :-)
I read a blog that is written by a gal whose fiance died. It's been a year... and she goes to "see G--" EVERYDAY at the cemetery. I keep wondering at what point she will realize that he's NOT THERE. I know that some people are really attached to gravesites... but I am just not one of them. I think tending to a grave would just be another chore to feel guilty about.
She also tells me that she and her husband discussed cremation because it's cheaper and they have certain feelings about the funeral industry and the notion that they prey on grieving people. But for me, it just seems wasteful. I wonder if perhaps we have just enough beautiful, old cemeteries to enjoy at this point.

Which brings me to a Harper's article from a few years ago that I just stumbled over recently, about the corpse industry and how body parts are hustled and "sold" for all kinds of purposes. Stay tuned.