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Showing posts from 2014

Rotten Vegetables of Hope

Last night I cleaned out our fridge, a task I've been dreading and avoiding for some time, which made it particularly daunting.

I moved swiftly, trying not to think, shoving shriveled red and orange peppers into a garbage bag. I I shoved a package of pale ground turkey and a clamshell of already-cut and now softening butternut squash in the bag, too.

It felt late at night, though it was only eight. Henrietta was winding down, and I was sweaty from cleaning my kitchen while dancing and listening to Taylor Swift. The energy I had begun with had gone, and the mean voice in my head began to turn on me. What a shameful waste of money, the voice said. Look at this nearly full garbage bag full of rotten food! What a failure you are, what a loser. Who do you think you're kidding?

I stood up and shook my head.

**

Just after the end of classes, about a month ago, I entered the deepest bout of depression I've ever experienced. I don't know how much I'll end up saying on here,…

I Died for Beauty, and It Was the Beauty of My Dreams

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Yesterday I was teaching Emily Dickinson's poetry. I was so excited to be teaching Emily Dickinson's poetry that I felt like dancing right up at the front of the class. I had inadvertently assigned five creepy poems about death (which is easy to do when you're assigning Dickinson), but it didn't even matter because she's so awesome and I love her and I want to be her when I grow up and I think she had one of the most bizarre and most brilliant minds that has ever graced this planet. 
We were talking about this poem, which begins "I died for beauty, but was scarce / Adjusted in the tomb, / When one who died for truth was lain / In the adjoining room." But when I went to read to it to the class, I accidentally said, "I died for booty." And then I couldn't stop laughing. I leaned over the podium, gripping the sides of it, and could hardly catch my breath; I was laughing so hard. 
And so I had to tell them about another time when I made such a …

Thank You Much

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Her adorable lamb costume finally arrived in the mail at five this afternoon. The party was at six. 
I tried to put it on her and she screamed and writhed, as I somehow knew she would. Long before today I tried to decide what she would be for Halloween, but I kept imagining her tugging at whatever I put on and saying "No like it!" It was sort of like that, only she just screamed and writhed on the floor. 
So I abandoned the lamb and put on her pinkest, fluffiest dress. I thought about how grateful I was to the Target dollar bins for these wings I bought months ago. I told my inner feminist tough beans, and I called her a fairy princess. 

This was the only picture I took, and it's not great. 
I felt terrible as we left home for the church party. I felt spread too thin and not nearly creative enough as a mom. I felt so tired. 
Luckily, a fabulous Halloween takes so very little when you're two. I'm pretty sure this was the best night of her life. At first she was confuse…

The Late Late Show

Henrietta no longer believes in bedtime. She believes in fighting with every tool available to her until she falls asleep on the couch, watching Scooby Doo (known in this house as "Dooby") at way too late an hour. I'm not a big fan of this development, but we go through phases like this now and then, and things ought to change soon.  
Until then, we're exhausted. Sam usually volunteers to stay up with her, but it's his turn to sleep. So it's 9:36, and I've been grading papers, and we've been eating popcorn, and she's been practicing reacting to the scary parts. She runs to the couch, looking behind her frantically, gasping, and saying, "Oh no!" 
And now I'm done grading papers, and her head is on a couch pillow, and we're watching The Wizard of Oz, and she's practicing saying "witch" and I'm suddenly so happy to be sitting by her that I can hardly stand it. 
"Wish!" she says.  
"Witch!" I say…

Birthday Walk, with Mailboxes

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At two, she seems poised on the edge of knowing, of actually meeting and growing curious about the planet. Sometimes now she seems so much like an alien: by which I mean, not yet of this world. She's the most gorgeous and funny alien I've ever met.

On the morning of her birthday, I talked to her as we walked, pointing out all of the important stuff: trees, leaves, squirrels, the colors of cars and houses and flowers. She participated, repeating the words she knew (tree! sqwrrl! car car car!) and asking, occasionally, "What's that?" She asked that once when we passed an animal smashed in the road, and I said, "Oh, that's nothing, nothing." And kept strolling. I don't have to introduce her to that part yet. Please don't make me introduce her to that just yet.

My heart was full of her two-ness as we walked. I carried all of the days of our acquaintence around with me, and I felt sure I would weep at something. But it wasn't the dead creatu…

Twenty-Five Marvelously Cute Things Henrietta Does at (Nearly) Two Years Old

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1. She calls water "otter."

2. She calls yogurt "ogre." 
3. Tonight she did "this little piggy" on my toes. It sounded like this, "This! Piggy! This! Piggypiggy! Weeweewee Piggy!"
4. She comes up to me, holds out her arms and says, "Again?" This means she wants me to do "Itsy Bitsy Spider" up and down her arms. Then she does it back to me.
5. She counts. She counts like this: two? two? three! six? nine? 
6. She's devoted to saying thank you. She says it when anyone gives her anything, or when she gives us something, too. My favorite is when she says, "Thank you much."
7. Her favorite activity is undoubtably running circles through our living room, kitchen, and dining room, chasing us or being chased. She growls, we growl, and then we all giggle. 
8. Dancing consists of spinning around in a circle saying "Dance-a! Dance-a!"
9. She can say Rothko. She says goodnight to Rothko when we go to bed. 
10. Whe…

The Sound of Rain Falling on Leaves

As I made the two of us a smoothie, I noticed it began to rain. It was only sprinkling, but I rushed Henrietta out to the back porch, both of us still in our pajamas, telling her we needed to save the sidewalk chalk before it disintegrated. I picked up the thick sticks of chalk--already a little damp-- piled them in a bucket, and set it down inside the back door. When I turned around, Henrietta had climbed up into a patio chair, and was looking up at the rain.

I pulled up another chair, and we sat together. It was gorgeous out, mild and misty and so quiet we could hear the sound of rain falling on the tall trees in our back yard. Henrietta was barefoot, and a bit concerned about the leaf debris on the bottoms of her feet. "Help! Help!" she said, showing me. And I did my best to brush them clean. She wore her jammies with the ballerinas on them, and a grey and black faux fur vest which she's recently become obsessed with and insists on wearing at all times.

I loved her as…

What it Means to be Settled

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And then, one morning this past week, I felt settled. I cut up a melon for breakfast, and it was in the top five most delicious melons I've ever tasted. The three of us sat at the table, eating melon (or rejecting it wholeheartedly, in the case of Henrietta) and talking. The house was in good enough shape that I cleaned up easily, without stepping around enormous boxes or having to look at a baffling mess in the living room while I did it. We had all rested. We had things to do which didn't seem like pressing emergencies in order for us to live in this place. We could just be here, working out our days in this new house with the big, green trees out our windows.

I'm not sure why exactly, but so far Alabama--the place itself--hasn't been the difficult transition I expected. It is undeniably beautiful here, which I'm sure helps. On my way to Target I pass green fields full of horses and the most incredible trees. The trees, the trees, the trees. Can you tell I lived…

The Next Big Adventure

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We're moving to Alabama. Sam landed a job teaching at a University there.

The move came as a shock. I hadn't planned on moving back to the South. We'd felt inclined to move all the way out here, from Boston to Arizona, and now we were going to move back across the country? And why, exactly, had we come out here? Nothing has really worked out the way we'd hoped. In fact, many of our ideas for surviving here have outright failed. Sam began to say, "You know when I found that five-leaf clover just before we moved? I'm thinking I found it so I'd know I was already lucky. I wish I'd known I was already lucky."  He also began to suggest we name our next child Equity Dwindle, which is rather a beautiful name, right? (No, I'm not pregnant.) If nothing else, we've learned this year. We've grown up this year. We've enjoyed being close to family. And the two of us have had time to hang with Henrietta constantly for the first two years of her …

On Marriage and Shorthand Arguments

Just before I got married, the women in my mother's ward--though they didn't know me all that well--were kind enough to throw me a bridal shower. Somehow the conversation turned to marriage advice, and I still remember just about everything the bishop's wife said about marriage. My impression of her prior to that shower was that she was quiet and smiley and not particularly "real"--if you know what I mean. But she was more than real that night, and I am still so grateful. Just about everything she said has proved true of my own experience in marriage.

Among other valuable and down-to-earth advice, she told me that eventually our arguments would whittle down to shorthand. That after awhile we'd know each other so well and we'd have had the same conversations and disagreements so many times that we'd be able to say, "Hey, could you ...?" And the other person would know instantly how we meant to finish the the sentence and be able to say, "…

The Strange Art of Trying

I once told a woman I didn't know all that well that I was "trying" to do something. She immediately said, "You're trying, you're lying." And the rhyme was so catchy and she seemed so sure of this truth, that I thought she must be right, even as I hated her for saying it.
But motherhood has changed my sense of "trying," and now I feel sure that this woman was wrong. To me, trying--especially when divorced from concern of outcome--is a noble art. And the most difficult and important one I practice as the mother to Henrietta. For Henrietta and I, it doesn't work to force it, and it doesn't work to give up entirely. It only works to come at it from somewhere in the middle, to approach it as gently as possible, as unemotionally as possible, yet still with a great deal of persistence. 
Here's what I mean: Henrietta is not, sadly for me, an eat-everything-on-her-plate kind of girl. She's picky, and it seemed for awhile she was gettin…

An Icon of Fame and Beauty

Yesterday, Sam and Henrietta and I went downtown to the Tucson Museum of Art, and we found a little pocket of downtown Tucson that felt like a real downtown. It wasn't just a sad whisper of Boston, but a genuinely hip part of Tucson with green space and cool restaurants. This was exciting. We looked up at the few high-rise apartment buildings and imagined living right around there, in walking distance to interesting shops and cafes and parks.

We were walking down the block, trying to find a place we'd heard about with good reviews and good prices for dinner, and Henrietta was holding my hand. She's taken to holding my hand lately, really holding it. Her hand is so small, and she grips mine like I matter more than I sometimes suspect I do. I hold on tight, in case she decides to dart away, but she's not interested in running off (yet). She's happy to walk right with me, connected to me, seeing the world pass by on the sidewalk.

In the crook of her other arm she held…

Habits of Babies

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Henrietta does these three things that I find so charming. The last of the three is charming and deeply disturbing. You'll see what I mean.

The first is that every time I change her top for any reason--to change her out of her pajamas, to put on her dress for the day, to change her dress when it warms up to 80 degrees in the afternoon--she waits until her head has popped through, and then says "Boo!" This on its own is plenty endearing, but to me what's even more endearing is when she forgets to say it right away, and then, with one arm partway through a sleeve, she says, "Boo. Boo." Quickly, almost apologetically, twice for good measure. This is so fascinating to me, as if we've signed a very serious contract that she must say "boo" while getting her shirt changed. We've signed no such contract, but it's lovely to me that this small thing matters to her. It amuses her, and she knows it amuses me because I still laugh every time she d…

Brought to You By Language Acquisition

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I've been fighting some pesky depression and anxiety, hence the silence. The first thing to go are my words. I stop writing, stop blogging, stop feeling like I can articulate to Sam or anyone else what's wrong or what I think, even about the smallest things. It's a terrible, miserable way for me to live. The good news is, I got asked to teach this amazing talk at church just before things got really lousy. Having those words in my head as I entered the lowlands was a gift.

But I don't really want to say more about it. I want to talk about Henrietta, of course, who is by far my favorite creature on the planet and becomes more so daily. And while I've grown sort of silent and strange, my girl is gaining new words every day, and figuring out what they mean, and figuring out what she wants, and learning how to ask for it. It's been an absolute miracle to witness. I think I knew I would like this part--this language acquisition part. But I wasn't quite prepared …