“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Monday, September 29, 2014


The hardest thing about it, I think, is the way my brain continues to be surprised. Each time I expect to see the strong person I have known my whole life, and instead I see someone exhausted and frail. Her mind is as sharp as ever, and my heart hurts knowing that she is acutely aware of everything that is happening to her.

My grandmother ran races and marathons until she was eighty-one years old. She worked out. And I mean, aside from running, she lifted weights. My friends' grandparents did not run or lift weights. She once asked me to polka with her. We were at my uncle's wedding and she wanted to polka. "I don't know how," I'd said helplessly. "That's okay," she'd replied, and she lifted me up off the ground in her strong arms and carried me around that dance floor, polka style. I was seventeen years old.

When I reach for her now, I am aware that she cannot lift me up to polka, but I am still surprised that her hugs are like a whisper. "I love you," they say, and I am grateful.

But I miss her fierceness. I miss seeing her at the dinner table, her elbows propped up, her hands clasped to the side of her face, joining in the conversation. She argued, she laughed, she drank wine with dinner and coffee at dessert. She passed the pasta and she declined the dessert placed in front of her, only to sneak a bite here and there when she thought no one was looking.

I have her eyes. She has always told me that. "Green eyes like Grandma." When I was young and foolish and knew everything and nothing, I'd roll my eyes and wish for blue eyes like my father or brown eyes like the Van Morrison song. But it is her eyes that still hold her spirit. They still have her spark, her lightness. She looks at me with her bright eyes and says what she has always said, "How's my Mary?"

If I close my eyes, I can still see her strong. Her broad shoulders, held straight and proud. I can picture a thousand different times she has found me in a crowded room with her green eyes to say, "How's my Mary?" When I was sick. On every birthday. Christmas night, after she'd finish the dishes and find me sitting at her piano. At Sunday dinner. In the hospital after all three of my children were born. When she held my hand and stared at me hard and said, "You cannot be a writer until you sit down and write."

She is eighty-four years old. She has cancer. And still she fights. She does not run anymore, but for her, the race is not over.

Please pray for my grandma. She is wonderful.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Going Back To Work

An important chapter in my life comes to a close tonight. It has been my greatest joy to be home with my children for three full years. I did it all, or at least, everything that I thought mattered to them: field trips, packed lunches, brought in forgotten homework assignments or gym clothes, picked them up from school when they were sick, attended class parties. I held Noah's hand every day that he walked into preschool. I was at every concert, every performance, and every event a parent was invited to. Except lunch periods. I never volunteered to be a lunch mom. It was too close to my old job, and I know how gross it is.

It wasn't just about their events, either. It was learning to build their world exactly how I wanted it. Sit-down meals and fresh fruit in the fridge. Clean, folded clothes and neatly arranged throw pillows. I redecorated their playroom to accommodate them, creating a homework area and a learning center because they just keep getting older. I learned how to clean grout in my kitchen floors. I learned that having all boys means bleaching around the bottom of the toilet at least three times a day, but really every time they use it. I wiped poop off the bathroom walls. I have clean baseboards. I have dishpan hands. I know how to get armpit stains out of my husband's shirts and I make sock balls. With matching socks. If you know me at all, you will find the fact that I match socks to be astonishing.

Much of this would have gotten done regardless, and for many of you it's combined with the hectic-ness I am about re-embark on. The beauty of it, for me, was that I was able to dedicate myself to it. It's kind of old-fashioned, but I was given the opportunity to be just one thing for awhile, to pick one thing and just give it all my energy. I chose my family, and I will never regret it, and after tonight, I will never stop missing that.

And, of course...my Max. My last born, my surprise. Tomorrow I will miss feeding him breakfast. I will miss his smelly morning diaper and his big round tummy as I change his clothes for the day. I will miss his silly toothy smile and the way he crawls like a little robot. There is a good chance I won't see his first steps (although any good babysitter would knock him down until I got home, for crying out loud). Every minute of the day, I will wonder if he wonders where I am. I will worry about the corner of the coffee table where always almost hits his head. I will wonder if he is crying or laughing. I will want, with all my heart, for him to miss me, and I will hope just as much that he doesn't even notice I'm gone.

I will love the long quiet rides to and from work. I will love adult conversation with my friends, people I've missed a lot. I will love hanging posters about verbs and theme and quarterly grades. I will love using my scented Mr. Sketch markers and making activities with index cards because frankly, index cards rock.

But I will miss the (considerable) weight of my baby in my arms. I will miss seeing my boys get off the bus every day. I will miss the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day that came from giving everything I had to people who mean everything to me. I'll be fine, and they will be fine, I know that. We'll be better than fine, probably. Everything will get done and we will all adjust. But deep in my heart will be a sad place, and right next to it will be a glimmery patch that hope-hope-hopes I made some small, good difference in my children's lives by being there for them.

It certainly changed me.