March 31, 2015

Yesterday, I was feeling very tender and sentimental as you may have read in my post. Today’s experience with Maggie was a little more comical.

I was changing her diaper when I heard a loud squirting sound. The next thing I heard was myself screaming as I realized that projectile poop was all over me and the changing table. It was rolling down the side of the changing table. Whereupon, she began to pee, turning it all into a major soupy mess of yellow “curds and whey.”  It has been many years since I handled such a mess and realized quickly that I was in a bit of panic.

Maggie is still too young to give a full bath, but I whisked her to the kitchen sink and cleaned her up while Mark heroically took care of the rest. I failed to mention that we had guests here to meet Maggie for the first time. That’s an introduction they won’t forget!

On another note, thanks to all who make this month of writing and sharing possible. Thanks to all who took the time to read my writing. Thanks to all who stretched my thinking and my writing skills by modeling new ways of approaching writing a slice of life.

My “slice of life” is currently like a fresh apple, a ripe raspberry, or warm homemade bread. It’s nourishing and awakening my senses to the goodness that is possible. Writing has made me happier.

March 30, 2015

I intended to write my 3/26 slice of life on my layover between Chicago and Salt Lake City. Well, that didn’t work. A three-hour delay in Washington caused me to miss my connection in Chicago which catapulted me to St. Louis, where I froze(!), then to Phoenix, and finally to Salt Lake on Friday, March 27.  After 20 hours in airplanes and airports, I was exhausted, and all I could think about was getting to my daughter and her new little baby.

Maggie was born on March 24, 2015 and everything went so well.

Then, I intended to write my 3/27, 3/28, and 3/29 slices, but I was attending to my daughter, rediscovering newborn love, and feeling utterly mesmerized. I guess I’m still much more a mother/grandmother than I am a writer, but I am learning that the desire to write doesn’t make up for the effort to write. If I don’t make an attempt to record these precious days with my inadequate words, then the days are just past.  If I try to say something, perhaps a bit more remains.

So, it’s Monday morning of my spring break, my 4th day in Utah. It’s full spring here in Utah with flowers, warm sunshine, sandals, and sunglasses (both of which I forgot to bring). I’ve never seen so little snow in the mountains at this time of year. It makes me fear for what the summer may bring if rains do not come. When you see all the beautiful flowers, trees, and lawns here, it’s sometimes easy to forget that it is still a desert.

I have a few quiet minutes while Jill and Maggie sleep to try to express some things I’ve felt the past few days.

Do you remember newborn breaths–irregular and soft as clouds and the breeze? Do you Maggie March 30remember newborn hiccups–like chirps of toy crickets we played with as kids? Do you remember eight pounds of warm safe trust sleeping on your chest? Such a wonderful and beautiful contrast to the weight of worry or grief that can also sit there. Do you remember the sweet smell of newborn skin, how soft-as-down the hands and feet?  Do you remember tiny ears, already tuned to mama’s voice? What about hair, finer than the finest silk? Do you remember skinny little “bird” legs kicking when diapers are to be changed?  And flailing arms with tiny closed fists that sometimes softly punch in funny places? Do you remember the look of total contentment, satisfied, full-tummy baby bliss?

I started this month’s slice of life with the statement, “My baby girl is having a baby.”  As I remembered being her age and also having my first baby (22) and how little I knew, I felt some pretty normal anxiety.  I wondered how I could help, what I could share that would make a difference.  Guess what I have found in my few days here?  Mothering comes very naturally to this baby daughter of mine.  I don’t have to do anything but be here and love them.  She talks easily to Maggie; she plays Casey Abrams (Season 10 American Idol) and sings along because music makes her happy; she walks outside.  She moves and works at her own pace, in her own way, and it seems to suit Maggie perfectly.  As a mother, I couldn’t ask for more.  I’m so proud of her and believe now more than ever, that she knows what she needs to know.  She loves fully and freely.  She said that she is so glad Maggie is here, because now she has a little friend to talk to. My eyes fill with tears of wonder and gratitude as I write this.

Last night, we turned out the lights and were all in bed wondering if Maggie might possibly drop off to sleep:). Her daddy had to get to sleep to be up for his 8:00 a.m. class. Her mama was tired from a full day of mothering. Grandma was tired, too.

Then Maggie tooted. Mark and Jill started giggles that soon grew to belly laughs. This was more than 3rd grade, “she farted!” laughter.  I think it was laughter full of relief. Those first few days of fear–Will I be able to feed her, will she get enough, will her body systems work right–all were answered with a rather indelicate toot.

And life is good.

March 24, 2015

My baby girl is pushing

Hee hee hooooo

Her baby will be here soon

Hee hee hooooo

I’m 2000 miles away

And I can feel the joy

Hee hee hooooo

All the way across country

Can’t wait until Thursday

When I can hold them

Both in my arms.

Blessings for all.

March 23, 2015

When Jill gets nervous, she says, “Oh gosh.” The number of “Oh, goshes” is in direct proportion to the amount of fear and anxiety she feels. When I took her to college the “Oh goshes” started days before freshman orientation. We tried to combat it with Ben Folds’ song, “Still Fighting It.” We sang that song over and over. But “Oh gosh” usually followed.

Tonight Jill knows that at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning she is to be at the hospital to have her first baby. She is a week overdue. She told me that the “Oh goshes” started last night. Who isn’t afraid the night before life changes forever? Once you become a mother, there is no going back, no career change, “no way out–but through.” I tried to acknowledge that her fears are normal and that everything will be fine. What is so hard to communicate is how much you can love a little person and how nothing else matters when the baby finally arrives.

When you go off to college, it seems natural to fight growing up, but when you become a mother, it seems natural to fully embrace becoming the grown-up, the nurturer, and the protector of a brand new life. I’m so excited for her I can barely contain myself!

“Still Fighting It” by Ben Folds

Good morning, son.
I am a bird
Wearing a brown polyester shirt
You want a coke?
Maybe some fries?
The roast beef combo’s only $9.95
It’s okay, you don’t have to pay
I’ve got all the change

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry

Good morning, son
In twenty years from now
Maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers
And I can tell you ’bout today
And how I picked you up and everything changed
It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you’d feel the same things

Everybody knows
It sucks to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here.
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
You’ll try and try and one day you’ll fly
Away from me

Good morning, son
I am a bird

It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you’d feel the same things

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here.
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
Oh, we’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it

And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry

March 22, 2015

Right now, I am:

distracted::  so many things on my mind

waiting::  still waiting for Maggie!

sorting::  papers, papers, papers

washing::  clothes, dishes, and counter tops

reading:: Wild, the story of the woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail

savoring:: Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

cooking::  meals for my husband while I’m gone to Utah

knitting: the last square of Maggie’s blanket

planning:: an inservice using Notice and Note (Beers) strategies

smiling:: the day has brought happy moments to be grateful for.

singing:: I heard a lovely Easter concert tonight.  Who does not love Brahms’ Requiem?

March 21, 2015

My mom never owned or wore a pair of jeans.  She was in her fifties (1970s) before she ever wore pants.  Even then she wore knee-high stockings and dress shoes with her slacks. Later on, when walking became more painful due to arthritis, she would wear walking shoes that were leather and still dainty.  No clunky shoes, no athletic tennis shoes ever. She got her hair done every Friday and always wore lipstick if she was going out. She always smelled so good.

When I was little and before she started wearing pants, she always wore a “house dress” to do her work at home. All the dusting, vacuuming, cooking, baking, scrubbing, and laundry was done wearing a dress.  Every afternoon when her housework was finished, she would stop, take a shower, and change to a “nice house dress.” She would then put on her strand of pearls that my father had given her for their wedding. Next, you would see her sit down and read the afternoon newspaper, “The Washington Star” as dinner cooked. Back then, Washington, DC had a morning and an evening paper. She read the paper front-to-back, even the sports, which helped her connect to my brother’s world of sports and my father’s world of government service. Dinner would have been timed to have everything ready on time as Daddy walked through the door. It mattered to her that she looked nice, smelled good, and was not rushed when he got home.

Mom was a lady. She had been raised by her grandmother and mother as her father died when she was only six.  It was a household where the work was shared and the work done early in the day. They were fortunate to be able to keep their home during the Depression by taking in laundry and sometimes boarders.  She told me that her home had a proper “parlor,” a room that was only used when guests were present.  To be in the parlor you had to be dressed in your best clothes, mind your manners, and be a lady. She was taught that a lady never runs, never rushes, and is gracious in all settings. The interesting piece is that while my mother followed all the rules, she was also a quiet rebel.  She left home at age 20, rode a train across the country, by herself, to pursue getting a job in Washington, DC during the war years (1942).  She was a gifted musician with perfect pitch, and she worked hard to develop these talents.  She was a quiet woman, but she had inner strength that could be fierce. In her last 5 years, I would say she was a lady with grit.  The amount of pain she endured day after day never broke her ability to be proper and gracious. My sister fixed her hair every Saturday. She still wore lipstick. She expressed appreciation often.

Today our lives are more complicated, moving faster, and casual dress is the norm.  I confess that I can’t wait to get home from work to be able to put on my sweats. I don’t like to work in a dress, and often I don’t remember lipstick–much to the chagrin of my sister. I don’t often have dinner planned and ready as my husband comes through the door.

I dream of living a gracious life, but I realize that the drive to be constantly working, always striving, and trying to keep up with the busy, contemporary world make that dream difficult to achieve.  I guess I can just hope that one day, I’ll be the gracious lady in her sweats.

March 20, 2015

As I sit on my couch and struggle with what I might write about tonight, I realize that I haven’t articulated for myself what makes writing hard for me.  The writing process is complicated and emotional.  Sometimes thoughts, poems, and stories flow relatively freely; other times, writing is a treacherous climb, a wade through the mud, or a trek across the desert at night.  I have been sitting here for an hour starting and stopping, fighting with my inner censor.  The censor has so many voices–voices that say:

“That’s dumb.”

“That reveals too much.”

“That’s already been said better by so many people.”

“Yeah, that’s a cute memory, but what makes it worth writing about?”

I write and delete.  Write and delete.  I realize I need to acknowledge my own vulnerability and take on that inner censor, but tonight, it’s too scary.

Many times I hear teachers say that kids don’t write because they haven’t had enough life experiences.  That always makes me cringe because I know that all experiences are writing topics. Perhaps it isn’t the lack of life experiences at all that inhibits student writing. Maybe, like me, they have inner censors that are shouting in their mind’s ear. So, perhaps the more important question is, “How do we help kids recognize their inner censor and give them tools to fight back?”  What are some tools for fighting back? Maybe quieting the censor is not even a fight, but a letting go.

March 19, 2015

Here are 10 things I have to get off my mind, even though just putting down a few words feels beyond me tonight:

  • We’re still waiting for the baby to come.
  • My dishes aren’t done.
  • My table at school is so piled with papers it is beyond tolerance.
  • There’s snow in the forecast again.
  • Some say that we have to have another snow day so that the county can apply to the state to have an earlier start date to the school year.
  • I’m itchy and worried that my students shared their head lice (oh, misery).
  • My son taught his first college PT class today and loved it.
  • I can’t stop thinking about my silent 3rd grader.
  • The number of unfinished projects I have could fill a lifetime.
  • Writing helps.

March 18, 2015

My daughter’s baby was due yesterday.  Today she cried.  She’s so ready, but so unsure of herself.  I wrote this for her.

My Lastborn, Her Firstborn

I swaddled, lullabyed,

fed and bathed her.

No one told me

How much I could love her.


I’ll be reminding her

that she knows,

as all mothers know,

what she needs to know.

She doesn’t believe me now.

But she will.

March 17, 2015

Most people I know don’t wear aprons anymore. I guess some foodies, chefs, or bakers do, but the daily wearing of aprons for home cooking, is probably a thing of the past. Like many pieces of my past, aprons bring nostalgia.

My mother had a lovely assortment of aprons. She had everyday aprons made of inexpensive, floral-print cotton. Some she embroidered. I remember her making many aprons from all colors of gingham fabric. She used black embroidery thread to cross-stitch designs along the bottom of the apron. My favorite was a lilac gingham apron with little windmills and dutch girls. I wished that one could be mine, but I was only 7. Sometimes she gave these aprons as gifts or donated them to sell at the Church Bazaar.

Mama also had Sunday aprons that were a little fancier. They were made from organdy (a dressy translucent fabric), trimmed in lace or with ruffled edges. But even those were not as fancy as her party aprons which she got out for when she had invited guests for dessert or other social events. As a child, I could often take cues for my behavior based on the apron mama was wearing. I knew that the fancier the apron, the more I needed to stay out of her way and be as helpful as possible.

An apron is a simple piece of clothing, but to me, an apron is love.