Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Category: Priceology (page 1 of 2)

“Breakfast with Lorraine Hansberry” by Deidre Price

Breakfast with Lorraine Hansberry

 

Because you asked what the light looks like during my favorite meal,

lies clamber over one another to defend my domestic honor:

High pitched and head tilted, “She cooks,” they say.

It has been so long since I’ve prepared a meal for my family,

even my lies are lying these days.

 

I’ve even stopped scrambling eggs.

I hear Walter Younger echo in my kitchen: “Damn all the eggs that ever was.”

Am I Walter with his pocketful of dreams or Ruth, his tired wife?

This writing life turns me to Beneatha, “the one for whom bread is not enough,”

but I’m Mama, and there is God in my house some days, too.

 

I scroll through pictures of other people’s food,

first days of school with chalkboard reminders of who they were–

how tall, what grade, the teacher who will be another mother.

Meanwhile all these mamas keep looking onto other people’s papers

for answers these other mothers are maybe getting wrong, too.

 

I worry sometimes we’ll each find out we all had a different test

and feel regret so deep it chokes us out?

What if these manufactured clouds kill the one apartment houseplant our lives could afford

because we could not move it six inches to the right

because we were too busy making “all the eggs that ever was”?

Cappuccino, donut, eggs, and cheese grits for Atticus because these Legos aren't going to build themselves.

Cappuccino, donut, eggs, and cheese grits for Atticus because these Legos aren’t going to build themselves.

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“My Mom, the Spanker”: A Rogue Homily on Teaching and Why We Don’t Get to Decide What People Learn

I try to learn one new thing a day. That’s it. One thing. It’s easily done enough. I’m a professor who grades forty thousand papers a day, give or take, and I’m a reader, so knowledge finds me.

My work goal each day is to teach one person one thing. Once I’ve done that, it takes the pressure off. I usually check in with my students after a class ends. I’ll ask, “Did anyone learn anything?” If I get even one hand (I usually get most), I celebrate that. One person has learned something from me—that’s humbling and honoring all at once. It means they were listening, they were watching, they were waiting.

It’s nothing short of the stars aligning for learning to happen in a computer lab where click is king, so when my words get through, it’s a marvel to me. And they do most days.

I’m a good teacher even though I never set out to be. I tried to be a good writer and a good reader. I wanted to know how to love literature well through the study of it. I ended up in a classroom because that’s where people think you learn to be a good writer and a good reader—spoiler alert: It isn’t. Quite honestly, it isn’t how you learn to be a good anything, really. It’s analogous to an expo, really. You see a lot. You’ll use less than we show. Your job is to browse and to familiarize, to pick up information you can use later, when the real work starts.

The trouble with teaching is that you only get to decide what you’d like to teach, not what they actually learn.

Sometimes in class, I’ll follow up with my “Did anyone learn anything?” and what they say they learned is tangential to what I thought I was teaching. I might be talking about an essay mode and, in the process, end up talking about getting started and mention that one could start with the body paragraphs instead of the intro paragraph to avoid writer’s block, and that might be so liberating to them that it sticks, and they get all “Free, body and soul free” on me. I want to say, “Cool it, sister. Did you hear anything else I said? Did you hear anything else I needed you to hear?”

The answer? Nope. Nada. Zilch.

The same is true in parenthood. We decide what we teach but not what they learn.

I learned this myself when my son brought home this gem:

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I swelled with pride over the pages upon pages of construction paper stapled together into a makeshift catalog of things that defined his very four-year-old being.

My mind raced from thing to thing he loved and how it would be represented on the pages before me. I thought, Surely he mentioned Legos or how we play Play-Doh together for hours on end. He had to mention woot beer fwoats or maybe soccer. I’m sure he mentioned his curls. Everyone loves his curls.  

Batshopping 4

And then I opened to this:

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First of all, I’M A TIME OUT MOTHER! I can count on less than three fingers how many times I’ve ever spanked this kid, and I cannot remember the last time he was even spanked. Was it a year ago? Maybe two?

Despite my own spankalicious upbringing, my mother, Grandmother of Endless Grace and Peace and Mercy in all her glorious grandmotherliness takes issue with even the timeouts I dole out for his bad behavior because, well, Atticus is the perfect angel who never deserves anything but hugs and trucks full of ice cream.

I can hear her explaining away his vitriolic sass as I carry him off to his room for four measly minutes to allow him to get ahold of himself, an opportunity for resolution, a chance for peace.

I AM A VERITABLE MOTHER TERESA OF DISCIPLINE, THE SAINT OF ENDLESS MERCIES. I AM THE UNKEMPT VERSION OF SUPERNANNY. I WILL SO RETURN YOU TO YOUR ROOM SEVERAL TIMES IN SILENCE WHILE I YELL INTO A PILLOW IN ANOTHER ROOM. I HAVE SELF-CONTROL!

I suppose I should be grateful. What kind of questions are these? Is it an abuse and neglect screening disguised as a quaint little arts and crafts project?

He could have said, “I get sad when Mommy leaves for work every day to leave me to the recreational torture of friends and playgrounds only to be picked up by Grammy who makes me enough eggs and grits to last for the ages. The nerve.”

Or, when they asked about anger, he could’ve said, “When I get angry I’m typically encouraged to exercise deep breathing and look into my mother’s cold, dead stare while she says yoga things to me. Namaste, nama-go.”

Instead, he dubs me Mommy, the Spanker, in the first month of preschool, and it’s sent home as what, I can only assume, is a warning shot before the anger intervention people come for me in their white coats. I know how this world works.

And so I say to my son…

Atticus, darling.

Angel.

Let the good things stick and the bad things fall away.

Forgive.

Move.

Let the ick be like snow that melts into the ground.

You do not get that reference as you are a Floridian, but I assure you’ve seen snow on one of the iPads, iPhones, flatscreen TVs, laptops, or desktop computers you’ve been privileged to see in our sweet home in your sweet, short life so far, right?

Maybe you’ve seen snow in one of the thousand trips I’ve taken you to the library to pick out your own books? Maybe in one of the thousand books we’ve read in the aisles of Barnes and Noble while you tried to distract me with Thomas the Train cars?

Maybe you’ve heard about it in your favorite seasonal songs we’ve tolerated hearing on repeat during the Christmas season, like “Dominick the Donkey” in the month where I forfeited sanity for the sake of your sonic delight?

Maybe you’ve seen it in the seven dozen times we’ve circled Northgate Estates to look at their luminaries during Christmas while dining on sugar cookies and red velvet cupcakes and while sipping on Starbucks hot chocolate that I ordered special at “kid temp” because I care about something as silly as a burn on your tiny little unforgiving tongue?

To all this, I say, “Let it melt…

into the ground…

like so many other transgressions and missteps and slippery words…

Forget the spanks, the timeouts, the STOP, DON’T, WAIT, NO.”

I ask him, “Why did you tell them I spanked you?”

He replies, nonchalantly and matter-of-factly as though he hadn’t just wrecked my whole world because it depends solely on him and whether he thinks I’m a Glenda or a West witch, “Because you did.”

It’s true.

I did.

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Why I Take Batman Grocery Shopping

Meet Atticus, my three-year-old vigilante.

Atticus as the Winter Soldier

Atticus as the Winter Soldier

Most days he goes by Batman. And eats Batman yogurt for breakfast (just regular yogurt). And wears Batman shoes (just regular shoes). And goes to Batman school.

Batshopping 1

Batman and Evangline

 

In his spare time my Batman likes what other Batmen like. He likes to hang upside down and watch over our Gotham backyard from his treehouse, forming binoculars with his fingers because he needs to “wook for bad guys.”

His sister Robin helps (just a regular Evangeline).

Batshopping 5

I’ve never been a matchy-matchy mom. It’s less because I’m lazy and more because who cares? My husband is the one who’s more into “brown sock day” and “black sock day.” The rest of us live out of a sock bin. We dive in Double-Dare-style and grab two that are roughly the same size and height and run.

With each child, I’ve lowered my bar. I recall how my thirteen-year-old daughter would wriggle and writhe while I detangled and pigtailed her hair for preschool. I love Atticus’s sprawling curls—they are plots with many twists and surprise endings—but a lot of days, I send him off with a “keep that hoodie up, baby,” hoping the frizzy coils will settle down with a good playground romp.

Evangeline recently got a baby bob to fix her toddler mullet, but she wakes up with a ball of fuzz on the back of her head so that it looks like she’s always at the Exploreum, both palms held tight to that glass electric ball, full of shooting zings of purple light. She’s learning to love hats.

Batshopping 6

I’ll spare you the details because you have your own you can fill in, but this life is hard and full of fill-in-the-blank things.

I’ve always thought of my oldest as a child-savior of sorts. I had her at nineteen after a diagnosis of severe depression. We grew up together—are still growing up together. Atticus arrived an intentional ten years later in the middle of my father’s terminal battle with multiple myeloma among other battles. I was pregnant with Evangeline when we lost my father.

Children are silver linings and living dreams. It is because most of them do not understand the deep dark that you can pretend when you’re with one that the other does not exist.

I choose Batman, and we go to Publix.

If you’re imagining a calm, strapped in child who happens to be wearing a superhero costume, you’re not imagining my son.

Atticus is Batman in Publix.

He fake runs, swinging his bent and pointy elbows, crouches behind towering fruit displays, and when his eyes lock with a smiling onlooker, he’ll retrieve an imaginary something from his Batman utility belt, stick his arms out, wrists up, and make a whispered shooting noise followed with his evilest laugh.

You would think people would be annoyed, but the opposite happens. Joy kind of clouds around us when we’re there. You can see grandparents reminiscing. Kids cheer him on, “It’s Batman!”

He kind of nods as if to humbly acknowledge, “Yes. Yes, it is.”

Super Batman and the Penguin

Super Batman and the Penguin

And my favorite ones to watch are the late twenty-something to forty-something men—especially the ones with their wives. For them, he’s a celebrated brave one. They see him and glow a little. He gets high fives and a lot of people asking if he’s saving the world.

He is.

One man last week was shopping with his wife, and starting on Aisle 4 throughout our entire shopping trip, he and Atticus pseudo-sparred. They’d be an entire aisle’s length away from each other, and the guy would catch Atticus’s eye and drop down into a deep squat and point his arm out, pretending to shoot something out of his watch. Atticus, ever the invincible, would never go down but return fire of his own, sometimes making Spider-Man signs with his fingers and pretending to shoot webs from cereal to meat. He gets his superheroes mixed up sometimes.

Spider-Man and E

Spider-Man and E

His wife apologized to me on at least three aisles for her husband getting my son riled up. “He’s just like this,” she said. I assured her it was the highlight of my son’s day, smiled, and told her, without going into my fill-in-the-blank details, I knew of some things far worse things than being riled up.

Batshopping 4

Atticus as Atticus

 

I know he won’t be Batman forever. He’ll grow out of it. He’ll grow up. But I hope I’m raising the kind of kid who grows up to be the kind of man I married, the same kind of guy we met on Aisle 4.

It’s the kind who knows not to take himself so seriously or pretend to be a grown-up when a little boy in a costume has just pitched a make-believe ninja throwing star at you. It’s the kind who knows the very least you can do is duck.

I want to raise a son who one day remembers what it’s like to be three and Batman.

I think these are the men who know how very dangerous it is to let the dark overcome the light—and these are the ones who put up the best fight.

Batshopping 8

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Dear Garage Carpenters and Fine Woodsmen Who Follow My Husband’s Blog

Welcome, new friends of the woodworking community. I appreciate your patronage on my blog despite the divide between our interests, the gap between lumber and lyrics.

As of late, I’ve engaged in some shameless self-promotion. I say words like “my agent” and “my book” and “DeidrePrice.com”—See? I did it again. I’ve spent hours learning how to do this website thing—to make it look and walk and talk all Deidre things—to make it sing me. I am one big barbaric yawp on the rooftop of the internet. If you haven’t read Walt Whitman, you really must. You guys would be bottoms-up in love with each other. Is he not the first lumbersexual? He so is.

My husband has taken the opposite approach: default white background and Arial-ish font, direct approach (hey, wanna see my workbench?), and a narrative formula (wood + tools = this … and repeat). The man doesn’t even edit his photos or add a filter before posting. It’s almost as if he doesn’t care.

And he’s a hit. It totally figures. But in his defense, he was due.

You see, we both chase dreams in the evenings, I move in digital spaces to the sound of syllables formed into sentences, using my eyes as a veritable level, almost seeing that little greenish yellow bobbling bubble center itself in moving water.

He moves in materiality, and when I leave my space to visit his, I feel spiraled wood shavings crunch underfoot like fresh snow. I’ll track them indoors later, littering the living room with reminders that our very life is happening.

I see we’re not that different: We are both red-penciled people, X-ing out extra, marking where to cut and how much.

We see possibility in next to nothing.

We make the rough smooth and finish the raw.

We wait. We watch.

We listen. We learn.

And we’re glad you’re here, letting us know we’re not alone in the chasing and the doing. Yes, we’re one big, dovetailed pack of people in love with right angles and minding the grain as we go.

xoxo

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Big Fat Addendum (since this evening): It has come to my attention that my husband has some creative tagging practices on his blog. As a result, I’d like to also welcome here lovers of peanut butter, kittens, He-Man, and of course, underwear.

Welcome.

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Not Drought but Bottlenecking: Thanksgiving in Any Weather

I’ve been feeling bankrupt lately but not in a financial way. Instead, I’ve felt bankrupt of my time, bankrupt of my joy, even body bankrupt.

I keep promising people miles I can’t deliver. This is only partly metaphorical. I promised one friend a mile a day in October. I did two. For the month.

Another friend was doing forty miles in November. “Sure, put me down! What’s forty more?”

And then there was the 100 miles until Christmas. “Absolutely.”

So, here I am owing the world 169 miles of torture. I’d been better off promising them 169 poems or 169 pages of a book.

And let’s talk NaNoWriMo. That’s a book commitment for 50,000 words in one month. I’m in the middle of writing a nonfiction book, so I didn’t take on the novel challenge, but it’s looming anyway like an exercise thug as though I’d promised it treadmill time.

I spend my days making promises to children, most of whom I keep–the promises, not the children.

I spend other parts of my days making promises to myself about how many papers I can get graded and by when. I’m far too optimistic in this area. I like running more than I like grading. This says something.

In the midst of this, some of my nearest and dearests are traversing what is a terrible, lingering tragedy in their lives, the kind of tough uncertainty that’s been getting all my prayers lately.

In a world of stagnant waters, I might as well be bone dry. But I’d be a fool not to recognize poetry in the middle of it. This is what we writers do, and it’s the life people of faith are called to.

Thanksgiving remains, merely bottlenecking at the scene of the accident.

November 4 / A Gift Gathered, Given, Good

ONE: Myself – Sometimes I’m able to collect my thoughts, and at that moment, when I feel ‘gathered,’ a peace comes, even if I’m gathering the shards of something broken.

TWO: My Children – I’m used to Daina’s being here. She and I are old lady BFFs at this point, but the other two still feel so new and so borrowed. When Atticus’s little, rock-muscled body sits on my lap and I have a face full of blond curls or when Evangeline lean-dances through the house pointing one finger up and shaking her hips down the hall, I look at Jonathan, kind of squeal-eyed and say, “Isn’t it cool? They live here. We’re so lucky.” Part of me keeps thinking their real mom will just pick them up one day, and I’ll have to say goodbye. In the meantime, I’m going to hang onto them tight and smother them in kisses. This isn’t so far from the truth. They’re mine, but they’re not mine. How honored that I’ve been chosen and they’ve been given.

THREE: Apple Oatmeal in the Fall – My mother in law Jackie makes an incredible fruity-nutty oatmeal when we go to their Georgia cabin. I’ve learned to make a version of my own for the kids, and when the cold hits, I make it nearly every day, pouring organic oats into a pot with peeled, chopped apples, brown sugar, and butter. I add raw rolled oats toward the end for extra texture and stir in flax meal for secret nutrition. Everyone eats it, and we all live happily ever after.

November 5 / Three Gifts Acorn-Small

ONE: Wood Shavings That Litter the Garage Floor – My husband and I chase dreams in the evenings. He’s working on a table leaf for a nostalgic project for friends right now. This is my husband at his happiest. Little feet track in the shavings from the garage to the house, and I’m not even bothered by it. I’m seeing them kind of like my pens that lie around: good evidence of life happening.

TWO: Quarters My Son Can’t Pronounce – Choking hazards are the most fun toys. My son loves change. He calls it “his monies.” He’s learned the different coin names and can’t say his R’s. I love to give him quarters, and he makes valiant attempts to get through the word. One day, when he says it right, a tear will fall for a season passed.

THREE: Actual Acorns That Pepper My World – My son squirrels acorns into his pockets and lunchbox at school, fighting his way through the parking lot to pick up every extra one that’s “green enough,” as he says. If it’s cracked, it’s trash. These acorns line the corners of my car, the tiles of my kitchen counter, and our couch cushions. They are evidence of his new, three-year-old life outside our home, his autonomy, and his becoming some sort of acorn-thieving man.

November 6 / Three Gifts Government

ONE: Voting as a Woman – This reminds me I have a voice that others didn’t have.

TWO: Voting as a Mother – This reminds me I have the power to provide a future for my children in everything I believe and act on.

THREE: Voting as an American – This reminds me I have a voice that others still don’t have.

November 7 / Three Gifts from Your Window

ONE: Our Ugly Grass in the Skinny Backyard – Grass can be skipped through and played on no matter its color, no matter the weeds, no matter how patchy. The fact that we have grass that’s ours around a house that’s ours, no matter how skinny the yard or small the house, means I have a treasured thing, many Woolfian rooms and Whitmanian fields to call my own–space to write, to writhe, and to roam.

TWO: The Playhouse – The littles play like an old married couple in their plastic playhouse that sits adjacent to our concrete slab in the backyard. Evangeline sits inside on a chair by the kitchen table, holding the phone to her ear, pointing out the window at Atticus and yelling at him to fetch her things. Atticus moves in and out of the house retrieving whatever she beckons for. Both of them look grumpy but move swiftly, and it makes me the strangest kind of homesick.

THREE: The Neighbor’s House – One of my most exciting things about the holidays coming is my neighbor’s house. Their kids are grown, but they have grands that come, and so they are in that sweet spot of being young and energetic enough to want to decorate the house top to bottom in Christmas lights and they have the time to do it. It’s beautiful in all its blues and whites, and it’s done like clockwork well in advance of our own lights, and we get to reap the rewards of looking at it every night of the holidays. It’s like my own personal Northgate Estates. It makes me want to sip hot chocolate from the back of my car and just stare. That wouldn’t be weird.

November 8 / A Gift Sweet, Salty, Sipped

ONE: My Husband’s Whipping Cream Pound Cake – Aside from this being one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, this is what I call a Little Red Hen situation: I do absolutely nothing, but it appears as a marvel on the kitchen table, and I’m allowed to have as many pieces as I want. EXCEPT on the night he makes it. When it’s hot, he’ll break your finger if you try to pick off the crust. He wants it to sit overnight. We can’t win everything.

TWO: Ali’s Sea Salt Caramel Espresso-soaked Oreo Dessert – Everyone needs a best friend who can do this. Corningware has never looked so good.

THREE: Maas Coffee on Jazz Days – Maas Coffee Roasters is a downtown coffee shop that makes me forget I’m in Fort Walton Beach for a few minutes. It feels very college-towny, and that’s my favorite vibe, a place where I can sit with crunchy leaves under my feet in a hoodie with a book with nondescript coffee cups around me. And it helps that I have a former student who is the barista there so that I can order adventurous things without her laughing at me for not knowing how to pronounce some words. And jazz days are the afternoons when Daina has jazz, and I have a solid hour to myself. This never happens, but when it does, it should happen with coffee and a book.

November 9 / Three Gifts Harvest

ONE: Apples without the Peel – One day I’ll just put ‘apples’ for this item, but in this season of littleness, we go without the peel–unless I want Atticus and Evangeline hacking like they have hairballs. They’re like the angel in Dogma who can’t imbibe tequila. Only in our house apple peels are tequila.

TWO: “Fresh Soups” – This is my son’s term for a soup I make in the kitchen with him. It’s my most popular dish and comes highly recommended by the sous chef. Or would it be ‘Seuss chef’ in his case?

THREE: Alabama – When I think of the word ‘harvest,’ I think of Alabama. I think of corn and cotton. I think of pecans and field peas and people and plenty.

November 10 / Three Gifts Found in Bible Reading

ONE: The Skipped Parts – I grew up assuming that adult Christians had read their bibles. Or, at the very least, they’d be taught from or about every part of the bible from pulpit exegesis or in their own explorations of scriptures. The more I learn about literacy and the troubling reading, or rather non-reading, habits of adults, the more I’m concluding about the reading habits of people of the church: a large portion of them isn’t reading either. Yikes! In any case, I’ve been reading around a lot lately, diving into history and theology to give me a better context for understanding those often “skipped parts” that don’t make their way to enthusiastic pulpits or inspirational memes. I’m grateful for the writing in the margins.

TWO: The Center – I find my center in some of the words I read. It gathers me.

THREE: Myself – I love seeing messy people like me in the middle of it all. I see their stories and think they’re not so different from mine, all of us just doing the best we can with what we’ve got and planning on God in the middle of it.

November 11 / Three Gifts of Remembrance

ONE: Handwriting – For my father.

TWO: Embroidery Thread – For my mother.

THREE: Freaking Tennis Shoes and My Bankrupt Body – For the many people to whom I owe those 169 miles of pavement.

November 12 / Three Gifts at Noon

ONE: Wet Soup Wednesdays – We celebrate work family on Wednesdays in the fall by bringing soups.

TWO: Goose – I leave work to get my son, Atticus, our Gooseface, from school at noon most days. I love the “Mommy!” he belts from his seat when I arrive. It’s like I’ve been gone for years, and we’ve just been reunited. Pure joy.

THREE: A New Friend – A new friend, a dear one already, meets me for lunch now on a regular schedule on a regular day at a regular place. I love things that become regular, when “I’ll see you there then” means something that only you ‘get.’

November 13 / Three Gifts behind a Door

ONE: Baby Shoes – A mix of girl and boy shoes cover the rack on the backside of the nursery door. There’s something about smallish shoes that warms my heart in the winter.

TWO: The Giraffe Towel – We ‘catch babies’ from the bathtub in a giraffe towel that hangs on the back of Daina’s bathroom door. Jonathan yells when the bath is done, conjuring one of us to come ‘catch a baby’ pulled fresh from the water. The banana-colored towel has a tail and a giraffe head, and no one isn’t laughing when it’s on.

THREE: A Wheel – I need to drive sometimes, and when I’m driving, alone without carseats in the back with the volume at my own favorite level with the windows cracked and lipstick on, I feel seventeen again and small and big all at once. This has happened exactly twice, and it was magic.

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November 3 / Three Gifts That Start with N

Mondays are always the days that make me teeter between wanting to hunker down and wanting to run away. I’ve opted for hunkering down because the weather’s nice, and my feet hurt. It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days. Any old couch and some good conversation will do.

If you’re just joining us, we’re taking Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare for gratitude each day during the month of November.

The prompt for today called for three gifts that start with N. If I’m answering with my gut, I’d want to say Nilla Wafers, Nutella, and novels. But I could see myself tiring of these eventually. Fat chance, I know. So, I went broader. I keep thinking these work like desert island lists, like I’d better be really honest and completely accurate with these in print just in case a day comes when someone says, “You’re being stranded on an island. Quick! Grab your three gifts that start with N!”

I want to leave myself a little wiggle room in case that day comes soon. Here goes.

#1 – The New

Since I first began to understand loss, I began understanding the value and purpose of the new. For me, newness signifies restoration, and that’s what I need and love most these days. Whether I’m reading modern American poetry where the whole gist is “Make it new!” or scrolling through Instagram pictures of The Moore Family Folk Art to see what beautiful upcycled creations they’re working on now, I’m dwelling on the idea that everything can be reimagined, and that’s such a hopeful idea: life as a sentence without a period at the end. Let it not be finished.

#2 – The Now

Having grown close to so many people lately who have experienced great loss in their lives, I’ve had the chance to have meaningful conversations that point to two things: live well and live now. We are so very temporary. I’m learning to create better boundaries around the important things in my life and to preserve what I love about my world so that I can keep it close by as long as possible. I’ve been practicing saying no to more things so that I can say yes to that which makes my heart sing. That, too, is another mantra I’ve been clinging to because I want that in my life–to have a singing heart. And once you know it can, who wouldn’t?

In the past few months, I finished Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, both books that encourage celebrating the ordinary in our day-to-day lives. Ann Voskamp’s posts on her site do my heart good some days, too. I’m eager to read The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. I’ve recently started following her on Facebook, and I might be in love with her, too. Let me learn in the now so that my next now can be new, too.

#3 – The Naked

Two words: honesty and transparency. Few things mean more to me these days.

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November 2 / Three Gifts Worn

Those who ‘know me-know me’ would say (1) glasses, (2) nosering, and (3) black. This is me on a day-to-day basis, yes, but although the most common to see on me, I’m most grateful for a few other things worn in my home this year.

1. Jamberries 

I’m not big into personal aesthetics these days. It’s not even a matter of the children-first model which forces its way in the door when you live with three smallish people. Rather, it’s a matter of my prioritizing my life. Nails, makeup, and hair? They just don’t even make the list.

Enter: plot twist

A near-and-dear friend of mine, Michel, started selling Jamberries, these prettified nail wraps that smack of my sorority days long passed. However, and this is the huge however: the eclectic weirdo in me who likes things like red lipstick some days, green glasses legs, and bright shoes wanted those nails and thought Daina, my thirteen-year-old who has maybe the world’s largest collection of blue nail polishes, would like them, too, and maybe would be lured away from Minecraft and into my deep conversation lair.

I learned that the password into her heart was two words: Doctor Who. And it just so happened that Michel could get me Doctor Who wraps which made Daina want to check the mail every five hours.

I loved wearing these things this year because each time we put them on, Daina and I spent lots of time together. I know this is the opposite of what the selling point should be: Oh, they’re a snap! So fast and easy to apply! Just a cinch! <winky smiley face> But those things are less important to me when I want to spend some bonding time with my biggest, quietest kiddo.

There’s the potential that the closest we get in height, the farthest apart we’ll be in other ways, and I’m willing to fight it. Even if it means doing my nails.

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2. The swimsuit I put on at the end of summer

I haven’t owned shorts since the nineties, yet on an odd whim, I bought and wore a swimsuit, the first I’d worn in over ten years, to the beach with my kids in August. I’d decided that however mortifying it would be to try on and wear the swimsuit in the broadest of day lights, I still wanted in that water with my children more. So, I did it. And no one yelled at me or laughed at me. And I lived.

[Brave act not pictured. I’m no martyr.]

3. Babies and Help for Babies (and Mamas)

This year I wore my third and last baby lots. This is Evangeline on my back before she realized her independent streak and revolted.

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But holding my babies close are joys laced with reverence and a deeply sincere awareness that not everyone gets to do the same.

Since moving into my thirties, I’ve become far more acquainted with many friends and family members’ stories of infertility and grief, either through miscarriage or another infant loss, than I ever was in my twenties. You just don’t realize sometimes the struggle others are going through to conceive or to have a pregnancy go full term, and it makes sense I’d be the last person some would want to be around: me, who popped an accidental baby out at nineteen, and me, who most recently accessorizes in odd years with spit up on my shoulder. If I were them, I’d avoid me, too. I’m the worst.

But it was also the worst to find out some stories years later and even others years later after ‘rainbow babies’ had been born.

I’m endlessly grateful for some women in my life who have been so uniquely willing and open to share their difficult stories of infant loss, as these are the hardest stories to tell. My friend Tiffany, minister and author of the Fully Alive blog, which documents the experience of healing after the loss of her daughter, Josephine Ava, a day after her birth, tells an incredible story of faith and redemption in the midst of such pain.

Tiffany’s own story has enabled to her connect and to help countless other women with similar experiences. She has sent, too, far more than words their way.

She coordinated a diaper-making day for people in her church to sew cloth diapers sized for premature babies and micropremies who had passed away and a duplicate one to send home with the family who had lost the child–both comforts from one who has been on that same journey to others just beginning it.

She began making glittery jewelry, too, in Josie’s memory, selling earrings, necklaces, and rings to raise funds for The Mother and Child Survival Advance program. Here is Daina wearing her pair in memory of Josie.

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The gifts I’m grateful for wearing today run the gamut, but they’re all tied to people, and maybe it’s those people I’m more thankful for than anything. I wear their stories daily.


Need a little more?

Gift 1: If you scrolled to the bottom to see how to get Daina’s fancy Doctor Who nails (oh, predictable you), know that Michel has the hookup here.

Gift 2: Here’s your Life Bonus Points Extra Credit Homework for the day, three body-image articles I loved this year:

Gift 3: Learn more about Tiffany’s incredible story and her projects to support those suffering from infant loss here.

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November 1 / Three Gifts Eaten

I’m a normal-day person, not a holiday person. I love the everyday, and I love ordinary moments more than the Hallmarky ones. Part of that is because, the older I get, the more introverted I get. I don’t like feigning celebration or forcing conversation when I’m not feeling it. In short, I’m not into hubbub.

I started liking holidays even less when my father died on Christmas morning two years ago. The whole holiday season had been spent in hectic worry of what to pray and not pray and what to say and to whom. Knowing what to hold onto and what to let go of became even more difficult in that coming year, and when the next holiday season came, I just wanted it all done with. Life could have fast-forwarded to February, and I wouldn’t have minded.

I live circles of hyper-holidayish people. They love this crap, from the recipes to the homemade decorations to the Pinterest parties and advent countdown. It’s no wonder that I’ve been planted smack in the middle of them. This is how life and God and luck and serendipity work sometimes. You fall so in love with the people, the place becomes inconsequential, and you just find yourself managing because of the mess between you that causes you to hold hands and link arms and cross all your fingers and toes while holding your collective breath that it’ll all be okay.

I’m taking on Ann Voskamp’s November Joy Dare for two reasons. One, I could use the distraction from this most painful time. And two, I can see myself becoming the old man in Home Alone with the trashcan of salt and the pigeon lady in the sequel and taking on Grinchy hygiene habits a la garlic and onion to keep the carolers away, so I’m taking a stand for goodness and mercy because there is so much floating around in the atmosphere, kind of the romantic version of atoms. Anyhow, I want them to fuse into my being. I want joy and peace and love knowing where my address is, and I’m setting out to send a SASE in case it’s helpful in hunting me down this year.

I invite you to join me. Here’s the link to Ann’s dare.

Today is 3 gifts eaten, and because it takes me a running start to land on specificity, I give you three categories I adore for in-house dining, and I’m packing you two poems to go.

1. The Food We Get

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Daina after the House of Jerky with a fistful of her favorite food in Helen, Georgia.

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Auntie LouLou’s famous cake-balls. These are actual balls of cake. You should all be so lucky in life to have a friend that can do this magic.

Behold the spoils of my farmers' market trip, perfect for making social media spectators think that you produced such goods in your farmhouse. Spoiler alert: I don't have a farmhouse.

Behold the spoils of my farmers’ market trip, perfect for making social media spectators think that you produced such goods in your farmhouse. Spoiler alert: I don’t have a farmhouse.

2. The Food We Make

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Imprecise but pretty. Tell me about it.

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My Atticus at two, making pumpkin bread. The love.

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My Atticus, probably five minutes later, making brownies.

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My family makes this kitchen a sacred space in my home. Warning: Images in this social media picture are much cleaner than they actually appear in life.

3. The Food We Share

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With new friends come new conversations, new ideas, new stories, and new recipes. This is Pam Pork, named aptly for my dear friend Pam whose mother-in-law gave it to her. It’s a Boston butt, fork-poked, doused in liquid smoke, rubbed in Hawaiian sea salt, and covered in bacon. Talk about a good friendship takeaway. Love her. Love this.

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So many meals are attached to memories for me. This picture reminds me of all the food I’ve shared with the ladies in my poetry group. They, like these, are some of my all-time favorites on the planet.

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At work or at church or in life otherwise, when my friends get together, good things happen. Here are some of them at The Sundry Folk Festival, sharing in music, food, and charity for those in need.

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This is what love looks like, shot at our Cider Party last year before the drop off to Waterfront Mission, a local organization to help the homeless.

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My husband’s pumpkin cheesecake which we give to several of our lovelies each year.

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I’m learning that when we serve, they serve. My son makes the best “tea.”

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Life and art have such blurred lines these days. What I get so far exceeds the goodness of what I give. My heart just can’t contain it sometimes. The blessings overflow.

For Imaginary Bonus Points for Life, here is your Thanksgiving homework:

1. Read Galway Kinnell’s “Blackberry Eating.”

2. Read Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry.”

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How to Teach My Son: A Courtesy Letter to the Preschool World

The countdown has begun. Avengers lunch boxes line the shelves as though in anticipation for the one-boy parade that is my son, my beautiful curl-capped child who does nothing short of controlling the weather in our house.

Photo on 11-25-13 at 7.46 PM #6

Preschool World, I have a thirteen-year-old daughter whom I’ve sent your way before, and I have a one-year-old daughter who I’ll send your way again, but this year I’m sending my three-year-old son, and I’m a little raw about it.

I visited months ago. You thought I was interested in the art on the bulletin boards and how often he’d get music. You showed off a colorful play space with instruments lining the walls, touted the show-and-tell events where we could see everything they’d been working on.

Meanwhile, I counted fire exits, calculated the child-to-teacher ratio, asked questions about how much outside time and free play he’d get, and used that chance to check out the gate situation and see how many yards away the parking lot was from the street. I know precisely how fast he moves, so I spent those extra moments making mental bets about your speed and whether or not you’d catch him before he reached the double yellow line.

You see, we have a runner…

a climber…

a wrestler…

a pirate…

a soldier…

a cowboy…

an explorer…

a detective…

and a tinkerer on our hands.

You and I have supermuch to celebrate about him, his bold ways, and how he’ll change the world someday.

But I’m afraid you’re necessarily behind the curve. I’ve been preparing for every single today for the last three years and studying him since he first began barrel-rolling in utero so hard I believed he might think me a thief’s getaway car speeding toward the state line. Continue reading

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Iraq and Why I Won’t Look Away Again

After the 2008 election, I remember intentionally unplugging myself from that steady stream of news media, practically a staple of a believable, grown-up person’s diet. Overwhelmed and exhausted by the nonstop coverage I indulged in from twenty-four-hour looped network programs to the scrolling tickers on my homepages. I’d switched from NPR to talk radio and back again, filling in information gaps when advertisements aired.

News wended its way into my dreams, current events into classroom conversations, and the organic internet coached me link by link to get more involved and enmeshed. Headlines with photos kept me rubbernecking, every site equipped with a blogroll serving as a “You might like this” auto-feeder.

A mother of one and just beginning my dissertation, I realized something had to give. As a responsible, educated, voting adult, I needed to be engaged. I needed to pay attention with wide-enough eyes to engage with real people. But the daily consumption of what seemed truly to be “other people’s problems” was wearing me thin. The news only aggravated my already present anxiety, so I justified dismissing it as I did so many other, more personal things at the time: It’s not my business. Why do I keep thinking it’s my business?

So I pushed away from the table. I was just full. We cancelled cable around that time, I changed the homepages on my work and home browsers from news sites to the online college classrooms where I met my students. I researched as needed based on my students’ projects, read articles passed my way, and clicked the occasional shared Facebook link when a dear friend seemed especially up in arms.

I had friends deeply invested in social work, others overseas doing seasonal missions work, and one working with orphans in a school in India. In-di-a. She and the perpetual guilt of central air conditioning are the two reasons it is borderline impossible for me to say no when a charity asks me for money. I’m always thinking, Jana is probably hot in India right now. Get out your wallet. It’s the least you can do.

But I’m afraid the comfortable, air-conditioned, “not my circus, not my monkeys,” least we can do is killing us—or at least not preventing the death of others.

Did you know that children are being beheaded in Iraq right now? Their mothers are being raped and murdered in some cases and in other cases, forced to marry their captors then convert or be killed. Some are being killed anyway. The men are being hanged.

The homes of Christians are being marked to help along the extermination of an entire population. Families are forced to flee into the desert, where they will wait to thirst and starve to the point of death.

Image representing 'N' for Nazarene being used to label Christians from aidchurch.wordpress.com

Image representing ‘N’ for Nazarene being used to label Christians from aidchurch.wordpress.com

The images I would normally look away from, I’m letting sear into my mind. Last night I saw the headless body of a little girl not more than four years old in a blue dress. The pattern reminded me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. In one image she was lying on the ground. In another, a man had held her up beneath her arms, the same way an out-of-town uncle might position a niece to get a look at how much she’s grown.

For the first time in a long time, I scrolled past warnings of graphic images and made myself see what was happening because they would be happening whether or not I am aware. I grieved over every loss in every frame. I could have been their mother.

The horrifying images reminded me of Emmett Till, the African-American fourteen-year-old boy who was tortured and killed after apparently flirting with a white woman. His mother Mamie said she decided to leave open the casket so that the world “could see what they have done to my boy.”

That story has always struck me as one of incredible bravery on the mother’s part: to endure the scene, to experience the horror and emotions, for that greater call of exposing the evils of the world and having hope that, even though they cannot be undone, they can be stopped.

If the tables were turned, if it were me, I wouldn’t want you to keep your hands in front of your face. I wouldn’t want the channel changed. I would want you to see what they’d done to my son and to my daughters.

As I look at the images, I know I will not understand the evil that causes them, and I know that my hands cannot save a single one of these families who are, in every way that matters, an extension of my own.

I know instead that while my hands prepare sandwiches for my own three children, whose names are nearly indistinguishable from those I see on news tickers, helpless mothers will watch their children starve. As I write my children’s names on lunchbox labels, other mothers will draw letters in the sand on shallow graves.

But I know I still must look. I still must grieve. I still must pray. I still must hope that something, somewhere, someday can be done. I must remember that however little hope there seems to be, that there will always be even less if people like me choose to look down instead of up.

As overstimulated, desensitized people, we could not be of less use or greater danger to the world.

We feel weary from the noise of wars—even if those wars were fought afar with other children’s mothers and fathers and even if our arms held stories instead of bodies. We’ve unintentionally acquired a foreign vocabulary to describe groups we truly do not understand. We’ve become acclimated to their impact, used to their threat. When atrocities come across the screen, why do we sigh instead of yell? Maybe it is because the power to turn it off gives us the power to turn away.

Lodged somewhere between the static and the hum, we’ve begun hearing only ourselves. We’ve gathered our tribe and locked our doors. Our skin has grown too thick to feel, and some of us like me have built up callouses on purpose because it’s the only way we thought we could survive.

But I’m telling you not opening the mail doesn’t change the debt.

What is happening is happening.

The very least we can do is look.

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