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Saturday, December 05, 2015

shift work

Helping little people draw little people will shift to different afternoons, will hereafter nourish me midweek and end of week as I take on additional responsibilities at work, shift modes and roles and schedules and level of looseness, which is decidedly coming to an end Mondays through Fridays.

I'll never see you noted a chosen sister, to which I replied with a moue and so she quickly added except for pedicures. Me, begging: Maybe a smidge more notice from here on out, and she laughingly agreed.

In truth I am amazed how easily things have shifted, dovetailed, become workable where previously they did not seem to be, even while I hold my breath, think famous last words, and map out the coming week, which down on paper looks as precise as a ballet when I've always been more of a tap girl, truthfully.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

For what I have lost

  • a length of batik fabric from Ghana brought to me by my father
  • my Brownie beanie
  • the bedspread, red with white polka dots edged with navy with white polka dots, from my room in Maine
  • the 1950s white kitten heels I found in my mother's room in Florida and dubbed my "pool pumps"
  • my brother's copy of The Phantom Toolbooth which I purloined from his room and refused to return
  • my West African doll with the metal frame and wooden bowl on her head
  • the thimbles from my trip to England with my father and the display shelf my father gave me for them
  • the "fashion doll" with the short gold hair my mother bought me at Bruce Variety
  • the 7th grade tennis team trophy for best sportsmanship which is the only trophy I ever earned
  • my Beatrix Potter figurine of the mouse mother and her little babies abed
  • the framed needlepoint my father's mother did of a little blonde girl praying from over my bed
  • the piano in the basement playroom
  • Brownie the dog's collar
  • the little wooden birthday candleholders from Germany
  • my rollerskates with the orange wheels when I really wanted pink
  • my magnetic paperdolls from Maine, whose double names all started with Mary
  • the archery certificates I earned at Keystone Camp
  • the last birthday card my mother's mother sent me with the $5.00 check I never cashed
  • my mother
  • my father
  • Augustine

For what I have lost along the way, I give thanks for ever having had at all.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I mewed inwardly when I saw them at Fresh Market, tiny apples each smaller than a golf ball, organic, pink and nestling sweetly against one another, and so I cradled a bag in my hands and turned it this way and that to check each wee apple before putting them in my cart next to green beans and red-skinned fingerling potatoes.

Two hours later, a text on my phone from an old friend, Oh, God, Paris!, and my attentions turned to that city, to my friends who live there, my family priest among them, he whose ordination I attended, who married us, baptized our then dying baby who then lived, celebrated my mother's life while mourning her death, and finally retired to his home in Paris last year.

Où est Albert? Au Bataclan, à la Rue Charonne, à la Rue Bichat, à l'Avenue de la Republique, au Stade de France, à la Rue Beaumarchais.

My college roommate, who transferred from Université Paris-Sorbonne my junior year, her sophomore, and proceeded to fill our apartment with little tables she found here and there, creating the strange reality that nobody could sit but everyone could lay something down, which she insisted made it feel like home, like Casablanca.

Où est Kenza? Au Bataclan, à la Rue Charonne, à la Rue Bichat, à l'Avenue de la Republique, au Stade de France, à la Rue Beaumarchais.

They are the last two of whom I wait to hear, and until then I sit tensely after a poorly slept night, though next to me the cat sleeps soundly on her blanket, her little white nose resting on her white-dipped paws which she is holding clasped together so they form a prayer fist no bigger than a tiny apple.

Où est mon cœur? Au Bataclan, à la Rue Charonne, à la Rue Bichat, à l'Avenue de la Republique, au Stade de France, à la Rue Beaumarchais.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

a week of small but profound joys

Top to Bottom: 

1. The Wall of Jesuses (Jesi?) at The Eclectible Shop (1036 Northwest Blvd), which is THE place for a rainy day for the old books and their aroma, the cozy collections of old items, and the surprising enormity of the place.

2.  The sign at the church just down the hill from the oldest's school, which also happens to be the school from which my father and his brothers graduated in the late 1930s to early 1940s, which fact makes me immensely wistfully happy.

3. The plant on my desk at work, which I have lovingly tended and which has rewarded me from time to time with new growth, a gift that makes me feel exhilarated and in awe of my little plant.

4. My funny little man pot, into which a fairy pumpkin fit perfectly creating a pumpkin-brained creature to greet visitors. This pot will forevermore remind me of spending probably the best decorating afternoon ever with the oldest and his talented and plain wonderful girlfriend, whom we all love dearly.

5. Apple balloon twosome which have reset the balloon bar immeasurably high. All other balloons should drift downward in their presence.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

with apologies to the Five Guys crew for the peanut shells

Did you even know yesterday was Miracle Friday?

Photographic proof:

1. It was Friday, and he didn't insist we go to the place he always eats on Fridays.
2. In fact, he was amenable to trying a totally new (to him) place.
3. The fries were the kind with potato skin on them, but he wasn't fazed at all.
4. He ate both the meat and the bun at the same time. Like in the same bite. Even though that meant, you know, they touched.

Happy Halloween, with OCD or without.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Confession: my mind wanders quite a little bit when it should not. 

In a Sunday School class a few years ago. I completely lost the train of discussion chasing some rabbit of a thought. This happens often, nothing unusual about it.

However when I came back to awareness that particular day, one of my classmates was saying that every morning he prayed Psalm 118:24: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

That resonated with me, and so every morning when I let the dogs out, I too step outside and greet the day. I consciously take a few moments to breathe, to take in the sky, to delight in the dim outlines of the dogs as they purposefully cruise the perimeter, greeting every bush and tree along the way. 

I enjoy doing this. It brings me great peace and (forgive the hippie language I'm about to use) makes me feel centered and still.

Yesterday when I stepped into the cool air and looked upward, I saw them immediately. Two planets, I knew not which but I recognized them as planets, beamed at me from above the house behind ours. 

And so when I came inside and had set the coffee on, I Googled up the answer: Venus, Mars and Jupiter all meet up in the last week of October to present the closest grouping of three planets until January of 2021. Look to the east just before dawn between October 24 and October 29 to see the planetary trio, which is formed when three planets come within 5 degrees of each other.  

Thus when I heard the dogs rise this morning just after 5 am, I bounded up and out, took an extra long time greeting the day, the dogs, and the planets. 

And I rejoiced and was glad in it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

either, profiled

At times he seems utterly grownup, and at other times he craves childhood. He has the soul of an artist and the dreams of a visionary. He sets out on adventures then returns home to nest in his blankets. He basks in the lights and energy of a big city and the peace of a mountain creek. His face goes soft when he sees a puppy, a kitten, or any baby animal really, including human. He creates music and art with extraordinary ease. He laughs often and his laughter is sustained. Those he loves, he loves wholeheartedly and proudly.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

On maintenance and performance

Yesterday was Pep's physical. Like Salsa, her muzzle is graying. Nonetheless she still has the hearing of a bat, the gait of a gazelle, and the vertical leap of Wilt Chamberlain.

Her heart, though.

A murmur undetected when we adopted her eleven and a half years ago, occasional seven years ago, and slight two years ago has catapulted into major. "Precordial thrill" sounds like something good, but it's not. In this case, I would delight if the thrill were gone.

Pep, though, knows none of this. Even as I type she is happily resting, having just enjoyed a jaunt through this morning's spitty rain. Her fur is all disco, which is how we describe the crimp that happens when she gets slightly wet.

Try not to let her get excited.

How do you do this to a dog who delights in the first morning light, runs full barrel to the magnolia tree, turns tilting at a forty five degree angle to come back to her bush, crouches underneath waiting to see what moves in the grass?

How do you do this to a dog who greets her boy each day by poking her sharp nose into his legs until he sits, pushes him down so she can clamber onto his chest one paw on either shoulder, licks his cheeks as if to take the skin off, then nestles her head under his chin as if he isn't seventeen but still the little boy of five who picked her out of all the others?

How do you do this to a dog who sees furniture as a means of standing on higher ground, walking as oppressed running, and woodland creatures as meat-flavored toys?

You may need to take her to N.C. State to see cardiology.

How do you do this to a dog who trembles in the car, paces awkwardly on the back seat in terror, pants like she hasn't had water in days?

How do you do this to a dog who hides under your legs in exam rooms, tucks her tail between her legs like a sumo's belt, furiously scrambles her feet on bare tile in an ever increasing frenzy to escape?

How, when you know that at her age, she is unlikely to be a good candidate for surgery and even if she were, you know in your heart you would not put her through that?

How do you do this?

You don't.

You get her the three year rabies booster, you get her the parvo and the distemper, and you take your dog home to live.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

after the storm and

After the storm the walkway is littered with twigs and leaves and small branches, some as thick as my finger.

After the storm there is mud on the driveway and water in the basement and sticks poking crazily out of the boxwoods.

After the storm I can hear chainsaws and rakes on pavement and the sound of one neighbor's generator humming behind it all.

(Which is strange, because we never lost power.)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

the giving mountain

Leaving my office Wednesday I stopped stone in the parking lot at a light breeze playing in my hair, then made an executive-style decision: quick, absolute.

Thirty minutes later I had retrieved a boy from one place, a dog from another, and we three had ascended a mountain, our mountain.

All I had in mind was the weather and a walk, but at our arrival we found a wedding being set up, the couple and their dearest come to celebrate their joy, their love, their mountain.

Boy and dog headed down trails in front of me, took in sweeping views, climbed stone steps with an agility I no longer possess until at Little Pinnacle we were met by a row of backs and a board marked with the names of falcons and tally marks.

Oh, it's a bird count, your grandfather would have loved this, I said to the boy, and one of the backs turned around to become a man who asked who grandfather was, and when I said his name another back turned and became a man who said I knew him, if it were not for him, I would not be out here today, he did so love to bird.

And so it was that the boy, the dog, and I lingered on Little Pinnacle with the backs, sharing their mountain, our mountain, while one told me funny bits about my father and another fed bits of sandwich to my dog.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

sisters chosen

While one chosen sister boarded a plane in Sweden, I drove north to meet another chosen sister and spend the weekend with her, no children, no menfolk, just we two and the mountains and a city-town wrapped lazily around the railroad tracks on the valley floor.

While one chosen sister landed safely in North Carolina, I puttered around with another chosen sister, laughed together at my navigation system's obsession with saying "Route 11", found Roanoke's best breakfast joint, which is Scrambled, and best cupcakery, which is Bubblecakes.

While one chosen sister unpacked her bags, I sipped California and Spain with another chosen sister, shared notes about children who in diapers were like cousins but now live six hours and eleven years apart, commiserated over bodies changing and not for the better, got teary-eyed talking about aging and dead parents.

While one chosen sister slept off her jetlag, another chosen sister drove north and east while I turned south toward my new city-now-home, toward a Lego metropolis taking over the floor of the den plus one bedroom, toward a laundry bin overflowing with the transition between summer and fall, toward a reunion with my chosen sister, awake now and ready to tell me all about Sweden.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

how you will feel

How you will feel when the bus leaves without you is a pit in your stomach, a gnawing, a loss that needs grieving, even if the decision was yours, even if you have umpteen things to do that make riding on a bus full of kids to a beach four hours away nonsensical, illogical, inadvisable.

When the beach retreat bus pulls out and makes a right while you in your stay behind car make a left, there will be a deep flash of pain like a girl's first heartbreak, a note unanswered, eyes that won't meet hers, a sudden and complete silence stretching like a yawn as far as she can see.

When you pull into your driveway and look over and see the food page topmost on your clipboard on the passenger seat, the scribble scrabbles of meals you planned and shopped for that your hands won't prepare, your mouth won't eat, you will consider just sitting there, in your car, in your driveway, listening to your hurting heartbeat for a while.

But there's a dog on the other side of the fence, staring at you with a face full of welcome home friend and inside the sound of a boy choking with glee at something on YouTube, laughter pealing like a windchime, tinkling like a bright bell, while your heart tugs and heals, tugs and heals, tugs and heals.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

No list, just life

The supplies are purchased, though unlabeled. Still on the list as well is the giant startup grocery trip.

Haircuts happened last week, ditto the acquisition of new lunchboxes and ice packs for them.

We've attended the Open Houses, and we've come to understand how a child can have both 3rd and 4th periods at Career Center and at his home high school.

This is the year we won't have "three day weekends" but rather "college tour weekends". We'll spend as much time looking forward this year as we do focusing on the present.

These next two years are for polishing up our boy, the basic outlines of whom were long ago set. He needs to learn how to do some basic cooking, for example. How to fold a bottom sheet. How to plan a dream trip and then save and budget for it.

Something feels different, more expectant, about this First Day. I feel like we are hurtling toward his future now, and some doors are slowly closing and some opening wider based on the changes in trajectory he chooses.

Two years seems like nothing, like we're running out of time to finish this giant project we began sixteen years ago, but I know that powerful change can happen in two years and that the world won't end if he never learns to fold that sheet.

In the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, there is a teacher named Page Dancy whom he was blessed to have for English for two years. He basked and flourished in her classroom, felt cared for and nourished, and so produced incredible poetry.

A piece entitled "I Am" remains a favorite of mine to this day. The assignment was to describe his origins in various ways, such as in terms of his house, his neighborhood, and his city. The second to last stanza was to be in terms of his family.

I am from Spain and Mexico and Scotland and England 
And several other places along the way. 
I am from blue-eyed teachers and green-eyed naval officers  
And beautiful brown-eyed women speaking Spanish. 
I am from a celebration of cultures 
And I get all the holidays. 
I am from a family of fiercest love.

He is. And we are blessed to have him and will continue to shepherd him into the future he boldly embraces.
I am from the future of wonderful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On the volunteers at Guilford County Animal Shelter

In early November 2004, I launched a campaign in my home.

It consisted of me emailing this photo to my husband multiple times a day, hidden behind a link that would say something like I think our boys need this. What do you think? or Looks like a good workout!

The photo was from the Guilford County Animal Shelter and showed an approximately two year old female mixed breed Shepherd named Salsa.

Salsa wasn't getting much coverage. Her photoblurb was the second from the bottom on the shelter's Petfinder page and on page 3 of the dogs on the shelter's own webpage. I suspected she had been at the shelter for some time.

I loved her fiercely the moment I saw this photo. My husband however took a little convincing, which is why I set about Salsa-rolling his inbox.

I did so for 48 days.

On December 23, 2004, as he drove home from his then-office in Greensboro, he decided he would just run by the shelter and at least meet the dog. Only meet the dog.

When he entered the building, an older woman who was volunteering as a greeter asked if he needed help, and he said he was there to see about a dog named Salsa. Immediately tears sprang into her eyes, and her voice quavered when she asked to be sure, "Salsa? You're here for Salsa?"

At that moment my husband realized and accepted that he was going home with a dog.

As she led him to the kennel where Salsa cowered behind another, vigorously barking dog, the lady beamed at the other volunteers they passed and with no small amount of disbelief in her voice told each one, "He came for Salsa."


I went outside when I heard his car pull into the drive. The company for which my husband worked had recently been acquired by a larger company, and the transition was not a happy one. I worried about my husband and the toll on him.

He stepped out of his car that day about an hour later than usual, and so I asked, "Bad day?" He replied, "I've done something stupid." I sucked my breath in and waited for him to continue. Instead I heard a muffled bark from the car, and then I was moving toward it, crying and laughing at the same time.

"It was the old lady," he told me that evening. "She was so happy I had come for Salsa."

Salsa's paperwork told us she had been at the shelter five and a half months. She was matted and smelled sour, her teeth were so yellow they looked like someone had used a highlighter on them, and she tooted lethal gas that cleared rooms.

But she was alive. And for a large black dog in a busy county shelter, that was no small feat. Someone or some ones protected her, shielded her, convinced those in charge to give her a chance, a day, a week, a month.

Five months.


We have had Salsa almost eleven years. She is my dog, my sweetheart, my girl. She snoozes next to me late in the evening, and she will happily ride in the car on the dumbest errands.

Salsa's three year "Gotcha" anniversary

I love that when they were small she thought the children were her responsibility and I was a horrible mother who kept losing them at school, that she treats eating as the greatest activity ever, and that she still thinks sprinklers and hoses are toys not tools. She really is the best dog ever.

Pilot Mountain

But I am acutely aware that I never would have had her without the help of those unnamed Salsa's angels.

So thank you. Thank you for my dog and for the dogs and cats of innumerable others. Thank you, too, for the love and care you gave those you could not save.

Thank you to those of you who have kept hanging in there and thank you to those of you who found you could not.

Prettiest girl ever

May the days ahead be brighter for all.

boy + dog