Thursday, December 18, 2014

Making Dinner

There are quiet moments too, of course: moments that unfold and stretch; moments that hold still; moments where nothing happens, and where all the best things do.

Our house smells like pine needles and advent candles. The light fades as twilight unravels the edges of the afternoon.

Sometimes the girls help me cook. We set three cutting boards on the counter. I show Penelope how to slice zucchini, carefully, holding her fingers back, pushing the blade away from her body, the way you do, while Katherine dices the bell peppers. They arrange cut vegetables into bowls, and when everything is prepped they take turns emptying the bowls into a pot where they'll blend and soften into a rich winter soup. 

Sometimes they play outside. I can hear them shrieking, laughter reaching through the windows, while I flip through a cookbook and try to figure out what to do. Wait for Chris. (I often do.)

Sometimes the house smells like dough, warm and elastic. The girls are at the table, and Penelope's pigtails swing forward as she leans over her homework. The bright strands flash at the corner of my vision, all golden in the light. Katherine's solving math problems. It's not a subject she loves, but she's good at it, she says, which is true.

If you asked me, I'd tell you I don't really like to make dinner, and that's true too. But sometimes I breathe and think, I wish this moment could last forever, this nothing-moment, this piece of sky that's just an ordinary blue.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Luckily, Taylor Swift's a Crossover Act.

I took Katherine to the allergist today.

You might know what that means. (Apparently going to the allergist is a pretty normal thing to do.) We didn't know what to expect though. (Or --- I did. Sort of. But not in a way that was particularly clear.) And Katherine was really scared.

Chris came with us.

Katherine lay belly-down on a bed covered with hospital paper, and Chris sat beside her while a nurse scratched her back over and over. I held her hand and stroked her hair. Then we watched to see which scratches would flare.

When the doctor came in, he said, "She's having some really interesting reactions here. This one," he pointed to a medium-ish flare, "probably isn't bothering her much right now, but it might be a problem later. It's Kentucky bluegrass."

"Bluegrass?" For the first time all day Katherine lifted her head and laughed. "Did you hear that, Dad? I'm allergic to bluegrass! Bluegrass, get it?!?! Like, country?!?!" (Only, it isn't.) "Now you can't ever listen to it when you're with me!"

Somebody bring her her MTV!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Introductions

I didn't catch your name.
It was complicated, like you,
of unknown origin.
I could ask again, watch
your lips, chewed to bits, breathe
those vowels (round,
like the curve of my hips), 
into the space between us.
I could write it down.
My letters would loop, and droop.
Your life suddenly demanding
all the space
between my fingertips.
But instead I just pretend,
sign my own name, and check in.
I take a seat in the center of the room.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

13 Steps to Love

1. I hired a housekeeper.

2.  I told her to come at 8am on my day off. (Which solved the laundry problem.)

3. Chris had the morning off, too.

4. We decided to go Christmas shopping.

5. The shops weren't open so early. (Who knew?)

6. We decided to go hiking. (Which is something we like to do.)

7. I was wearing the wrong shoes.

8. We walked down three cracked stone steps. They were covered in leaves, all fiery, orange and yellow and red.

9. Chris linked his index finger with mine.

10. He let go when he stopped to photograph dewdrops on a pine needle.

11. The forest smelled like forests do.

11. Chris noticed a crane flying over the lake.

12. We watched its shadow ripple over the water. We watched the water move.

13. He asked about my shoes.

Monday, December 1, 2014

And You Could Always Get Implants, I Guess.

My high heels echoed in the darkness. They were clicking against the sidewalk on a night that felt endlessly black, cold and clear.  Around me, the air felt alive. Electrified. Clouds surged forward; the moon disappeared. Wind sent falling leaves skittering into the air. Above me, the trees were inky-black, brittle-branched, and practically bare. I pulled my coat across my chest and leaned into the thin night air.

I’d been working late that evening, tutoring at the college, and I had a stack of papers still cradled in my arms. The wind pulled at their edges. I smiled though, satisfied with another day of work, and a job accomplished. I was almost home, I told myself, and almost warm. But when I moved my lips something small and sharp pressed against my tongue. I put my hand to my mouth.

Blood.

There was only a small spot at first, just enough to stain my glove, but soon blood began to rush between my fingers. It poured down my chin and dropped onto the concrete. “Help,” I whispered. “Please, somebody, help me. Anybody!” My heart began to race. The papers I was holding fell. The wind caught them. They scattered in the air. “Can anybody hear?”

“Emma?”

“Chris? Is that you?” I squinted into the darkness. “Chris? Are you there?”

Overhead, the clouds shifted; stars appeared. Chris stepped forward through a pool of sudden moonlight, smiling and brave, ready to save me, but he froze before he got too near. “Jesus, “ he said. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. I just ---.” I covered my mouth with my hand, and a tooth spilled into my palm.  I looked up at him, and spit out another one. “Can you help me?”

He backed away. Another tooth fell.

“Don’t leave me.”

“I can’t help you, Emma.” He shook his head, retreating. “It’s too late.” He looked around. “You’re never going to find a dentist here.”

++++

Stress dreams. Have you had one?

Experts say that when you dream about losing your teeth it’s a sign of high anxiety, which is typical during major life transitions, and I think that explanation makes sense. When I got married I was plagued by dreams like this one.  After all, I was just out of college, trying to find a job in a bad economy, cheering my husband through flight school, and trying to come to terms with the idea of his first deployment.  We were starting a whole new life together, and even though our new life was exactly what we wanted, I was more than a little bit stressed. 

One night I told my husband about my nightmares. He furrowed his brow and looked at me. Then he said the words that wormed their way so far into my subconscious that they were eventually echoed by his dream-self, and my nightmares disappeared.

“But babe,” he said. “We have insurance. You’ll find a dentist. No stress.”

And he was right: MetLife TRICARE Dental Program makes finding a dentist easy.  Trust me, I haven’t lost a single tooth yet!

**This is a sponsored piece, thanks to MetLife TRICARE Dental Program. You can read the original post at Military One Click

Thursday, November 27, 2014

finding Gratitude

I've been struggling with gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Our turkey died (months ago, while it was still a poult) after a pipe burst and flooded the brooder. None of the babies survived. It was a bad omen, I thought, and in fact it heralded a difficult season.

I feel blank, in a way. Tired. 

My uncle is in the hospital, (possibly) dying. Chris's uncle is very sick. Our good news turned into bad. The country is a mess. Relationships keep ending.

I've been brooding.

But there's still solid ground: the way four o'clock light turns gold and goes round; cranberries in the oven; the smell of stuffing; laughter drifting; Mario Kart in the background; the time I can spend with my family.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Letters to Myself

I ought to go to bed. I was up with Penelope last night, which is unusual now that she's older, and then I was exhausted all day. (I fell asleep for thirty minutes while the girls were at school, dreamed about wanting to take a nap, and woke up feeling thwarted.) I want to write though. I keep thinking: if I type for ten minutes, I wonder what I'll say.

I don't have a plan.

I worked a lot this week. I had the daily work of childcare and house care, complicated by the fact that we're hosting Thanksgiving this year. Then I had my regular teaching schedule to manage, along with a new class I'm leading at a local mental health clinic. I was up late on Tuesday night because I was helping Chris edit job applications. Then I was up late on Wednesday night because I was trying to finish an article ahead of a deadline. So when Penelope couldn't sleep last night I felt ready to cry. I didn't even know where I was when I woke up this morning.

It seems like busyness has quieted my mind, or redirected it, or forced it to focus, or sterilized it, or something. All my mental checklists are suddenly organized into categories and sub-categories. There's a category for school, which is divided by child and broken into academic subject areas, social occasions, and friendships. There's a category for Thanksgiving, which is divided into grocery lists, cleaning chores, household-goods-to-buy-for-the-comfort-of-our-guests, and responsible pet grooming.  There's a category for work, which is divided into type of work, classes taught, and research pending. There's a category for categorizing. 

Sometimes, though, I feel like busyness has crowded out introspection. My thoughts aren't going farther than my next series of tasks: research activities that are contraindicated after a hip replacement, and an eye surgery; research activities that are beneficial to a frozen shoulder; vacuum the playroom; drive to Whole Foods; buy a bun form in advance of the recital; figure out how to draw out the quieter personalities and temper the dominating ones in a group setting (and figure that out fast); write something; spend time with everybody.

I haven't even mentioned that one of the places where I work is closing. I've had to turn down jobs recently though, so I guess now I might be able to accept them instead. My schedule needs reconfiguring. But I'm sad about the closure anyway, because I loved that place. So there's that. 

But this afternoon I took Penelope to a dance rehearsal, and when we walked out afterward it was twilight. I looked up at the sky just as the trees turned black against the darkening blue, and I saw a cluster of pine trees in shadow. I could see the silhouette of each individual cone, each individual needle. And I thought, there's still an expanse. There's still something vast and peaceful and quiet; there's still space for thought and inspiration. And I'm still a part of that. I just have to remember to find it.