Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Leaky Roofs

If I lean my head back while I’m sitting on my couch I have to stare at a dark line on my ceiling. We had a leaky roof and it left behind a few gifts before my house got a brand new hairdo. I am perpetually telling myself to get this ceiling painted now, dammit. When I throw my head back in annoyance, tiredness, in a dramatic fashion, and when I don't feel like navel-gazing and would rather ceiling-gaze, I don't want to have to look at this irritating blemish.

Then the irritating damn dark line in the ceiling becomes an allegory for what's going on in my life.

This roof was not a special, extraordinary roof, it was just a normal everyday housetop doing housetop things. And there it stood for years, buffering away the elements and little critters, protecting the house underneath. Eventually, as all things ordinary do, the roof started to grow weary. The snow that year felt so much heavier than the snow from previous years. The sleet and rain slapped harder at its shingles, looking for ways in. The wind seemed very eager to take a peek at what was lying beneath its once stable flaps, and the animals teeth and nails were quite a bit sharper that season. What does a roof do when it starts to fatigue, when the outside continuously tries to get in? It doesn't want to sacrifice being a solid roof, yet the storms are so hard to bear. So the housetop makes a deal with itself, "I will let a little of this in that I try so hard to keep out, just enough to lighten the load." And so the roof shakes itself, loosening its shingles a bit and allows what it has protected itself against to seep in slowly.

A little time passes, and the roof gets used to the small invasion and continues to do its ordinary housetop jobs. The elements come again and again asking for more and more openings to slither in to, "I have no more to give, I have to protect what is inside of here."  Persistent and unrelenting those elements were though, so the roof with an exhausted sigh shook itself again and loosened its shingles one more time. For years it went on, and the ordinary housetop, who was not extraordinary, who liked to do normal everyday roof things did not realize how much it had loosened its shingles until one day the inside of the house started crying. By then, all the roof could do was watch as what it was charged to protect wept and sickened. Shamed, the roof realized how much of itself it had compromised to take away the weight of responsibility. It had willingly opened those cracks, it had let it happen again and again until all that was left was a shell of a roof and a sorrowed, mourning inside. 

One day its loose shingles were scraped away, and it was painful to see them go. The roof, who was quite fond of its shingles, grieved. But, it was time for them to be removed. They were not healthy, and they could not protect the inside anymore. For the roof needed to do its job, and it could not do its job with what it was covered in. So now sits a roof, an ordinary roof who likes doing ordinary roof things, and every day it squeezes itself together tightly, for it has a very important job and it cannot let the walls weep ever again. And the roof is learning to love its new shingles. 

I seriously need to get this ceiling painted.

Thursday Reflection Surge

I recall clear moments of happiness, acute periods when the clamor of life was good. Times when tab A fit into slot B and I was capable and strong, and everything made sense in a lovely ordered way. Life isn't like that just now, not at all. Generations of sadness span my bones, infinities of doubt live in my veins, and survival has knitted my heart together over and over, each time using thicker needles and coarser thread.

In the light of early morning, it isn't just my jointed body that cracks and moans. It is all of me, pushing together what has crumbled again while I bled dreams during my desperate attempts at sleep. Laying in the quiet, murmurs of what I am still rippling under my skin, they threaten to trickle out of my ears and mouth. Breathe, breathe it all back into myself.  

I swirl my fingers over my legs tracing the mementos, the brutalization of self, and my sacred scars. They are fading again, the mellowing of past bloodshed brings forth an odd panic, and I am not me without them. Who would I be if my legs were to keep paling, lightening? This is either an unwinnable battle, or a battle I have never fought hard enough to conquer. I rub the side of my left wrist, a trigger spot, roughened. Can I let it go soft and pliable again, or do I pick up where I've left off in my endless battle of abhorrence with one's self? Maybe one day I will stop noticing when they fade, then I'll know I have finally freed myself of this self-inflicted prison.

Everyone has a bit of forgetfulness now and again, some more than others. There are a mess of us wandering around trying to save ourselves with medicine while losing ourselves just as rapidly. It is a bargain, a trade, you see? They give me a pill that stabilizes my mood, I give those memories and a jaw that chitters when I’m nervous. Antidepressants for my sentence structure, writing skills, and sex drive. Xanax for indescribable, unlivable panic, in return I become a controlled drug addict. One becomes immersed because one feeds another, which feeds another.  The sweet elixir of pill and condition, a mating critical for many of us. Spacey is scary, forgetting to pay bills or wash your hair. Wondering if you ate, when you last left the house, what day it is. Sometimes it manifests in odd ways that sound hilarious, but are terrifyingly strange. At times when I go to the restroom it will suddenly feel like I forgot to pull my pants down and I am certain I am peeing all over my clothes. I'm not soiling myself, breathe. Have you blundered through using a can opener that you've had for years, or stare blankly at your phone, the code to access it somewhere out of reach?  Leaned up against the wall, forcing a smile and teary-eyed because you cannot put a puzzle together with your kids? Words disappear like vapor, and as hard as I try I cannot pull them back into my mouth and my psyche. I want to devour the words and spit them back out like I used to, before this medley of pharmaceuticals started writhing in my blood, running its fingers through my brain.

Two Years, Today

Dear Christian,
I'm sitting here tonight thinking about the last two years.  How I wish you could see how big Noah is, how tall and skinny Elle is, how overnight Emily turned into a teenager.  That we go to your grave and the babies still don't understand where the hell you are and why is mommy talking to the stone on the ground, because you are up in heaven with the angels and Grandma Mary Lu's dog.  That when we pick dandelions and make wishes and leave them for you I wish every time that you know how much we love you and that you are somewhere beautiful.  That sometimes when we are driving one of the babies will start talking about you, and I have a picture of Ellie in her carseat pointing to the sky, showing me where you were up in the clouds.  That  I show Noah pictures of him grinning on your lap on that damn thing you used to drive him around in and he remembers that you went so fast.  That if my kids know who their Uncle was and that he loved them, then I am doing right by you.

I want you to know that your wife is the strongest person I've ever met, and that my favorite memory of you is the way you cried when you saw her walking down the aisle at your wedding. I forget a lot of the rest of the day because there was a lot of alcohol involved but I have this gem and do we look glorious or what? Yikes.

You loved her. You loved her true and good and that has gotten her through.  I don't know what else to say, what is there to say?  Your absence is's especially noticeable when there is any event involving Sloppy Joe's or cake, because I think we all still forget we don't need to make the extra half-ton to feed you.  All I know is that we miss you, and that right now it is now officially two years too long without you.  But when we talk about you now, there are more smiles than tears.  We are healing because we know you would want us to. You were a good kid, I'm better for have knowing you.

When I attempt to explain who you were as a person I always end up waving my arms around talking about how alive you were.  Bigger than life, loud, tall, silly, funny, grumpy, fearless, smart, alive, alive, alive.  You were just this:

It's almost Geese season, every time I see a goose I'll think about how much you'd want to shoot the hell out of it.  And about how I made you lie to me when you caught those groundhogs at Grandma Virginia's house.  Yeah, I know you weren't going to let them run free and frolic in the forest, but that's the story i'm going with.

I love you. I miss you.

“And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief;” 
― William Cullen Bryant


I have always been a kind of wanderer, content as a loner, slightly bewildered by people and
the inner workings of companionship.  My life has been blessed and cursed with a baffling array of bewitching but heartbreaking souls that I held close during the short seasons we were granted. It would be an incredible lie to say I do not miss them, even the ones who have harshly cut the fragile ties binding us together with an abruptness that left me reeling. Each and every creature I have encountered on my journey has a unique piece of me that belongs solely to them. That there are fragments of me scattered through time and memory sobers and awes me.  Not any one person I have encountered remembers me as anyone else does, and each recollection I carry of them is in turn rare and precious.

My best friend in high school used to rub her feet together while we slept curled on her daybed, content in the knowledge that we had each other. Happiness came easy, we were blissfully unaware that one day our words would cut each other's hearts to shreds.
Now we live separate lives, irrevocably parted.  I see her occasionally at the grocery, during the ordinariness of life, and a pang of regret runs through me as we pass each other as strangers.

I remember a blue eyed boy that made me smile, until he was thrust into a different life and I had my heart cracked for the first time. I have never seen him again, but we talk often now.
Having him back in my orbit, his silly humor and old-man grumpiness has filled the void his initial absence created, the lingering sting of teenage confusion being patched through texts and time. I have seen a quote often that reminds me of him and that has held true: "They say you spend your whole life rewriting the first poem you ever loved."  You were definitely my first poem, Blondie.

A different kind of goodbye:

The phone call that everyone dreads. It never gets any easier, watching someone you are tethered to so tightly slip away. You never appreciate how sacred the bond is until it is snatched away abruptly, the moment you become painfully aware nothing is yours to keep. The pieces of me they carry are cradled safely in their hands until we meet again.  I will never know what the last memories of me they have are, but I hope they are as precious as mine of them.

Grandpa Mario was wasting away so quickly in the hospital. I remember sitting in the cold, plastic chair while I watched someone slip away from me for the first time. I remember the feeling as my heart swelled with pride as he groggily told my childhood friend Josh that he was going to be a great doctor. Unable to look directly at him in the bed, counting to keep from crying because I knew he was leaving and not all the prayers in the world would save him. Then I remember watching my five year old daughter alone in the room with him at the funeral home, standing on the little pew in front of his casket, patting his chest and talking to him.  I hope she was telling him beautiful things.

Grandma Virginia was smiling at my 9 month pregnant belly from her hospital bed, telling me she was so excited to meet Elise. She flew away three weeks before Elle took her first breath,
but first she placed her full lips against my daughter's and gifted them to her, a last legacy. She left us a little souvenir, perhaps? Every time I see my baby smile I see my grandmother.

Christian. The most unnatural loss.  One moment he is knee deep in my van telling me the
doors are shit, and what seems like a breath later I am standing at his casket, my hand lightly touching his hair while I tried to memorize his face. Frantically telling him I loved him, we all
loved him, he was a gift to this world, and that he just shined too damn brightly to stay on the ground.  That the moment his soul left his body it shot into the Forever and when I look up I see him radiantly lighting our way.

Trying to explain goodbyes and loss has been very hard for me, to get what I am feeling out into words has been almost painful.  It is scary to love people, because you never know when they will be gone, either by choice or by circumstance. I have to accept that no matter how much I love someone, I cannot force them to stay in my life.  I have to acknowledge that I will hurt people and scar them and leave them as I have been left.  This is why I find relationships so utterly and completely confounding.  We hurt each other senselessly at times, continuing on without healing the craters we create. We can be like tornadoes sweeping past, rolling carelessly over someones heart, leaving it in tatters. The force of loss and pain either gives us momentum or stops us abruptly, perplexed and unsure of our future. As I grow older and slightly weary, I realize that I must open myself up to people, that I cannot remain closed and afraid of disappointment.  It is time to let love in.

To all the people I love and have loved:

Your absence is palpable. I miss you.

Conversations with my daughter

There has been a tilt, a shift, a natural evolution between my thirteen year old and I's communication this summer.  The questions she ask are becoming more intimate, the answers
and stories I tell are becoming more sprawling, more detailed.  She will quietly pose a question as I am painting or drawing, my back to her as she curls up on the couch.  The honesty flows from my hands onto my work and from my mouth into her being.  I tell her tales of family, of teenage adventures.  We talk about first loves, about silly incidents, but mostly we just talk about life.

I tell her that she needs to look at each person as an individual: man, woman or whatever gender the person identifies with and embrace them.  
I tell her no book, no person, can tell someone who they can or can't love and marry.
I tell her to look at the people she thinks are mean and think about what they might have gone through in their short lives, how it chipped away at the natural state we are all born in, how experience hardens and hurts.
I tell her not to listen to what people tell her she should be, including me, and to carve out her own journey, choose her own path.
I tell her that death is scary but inevitable, and it's okay to miss someone forever.
I tell her how strong she is, because she has grown up with the weight of her birth mothers abandonment and she has not allowed it to ruin her.
I tell her that I am her mother, although she was not born from my body, that we were meant to be together and that she is the big open butterfly tattooed on my arm because she was my
first child and she made me bloom. 
I tell her that it's okay for women to wear short shorts, tube tops, sari's, hijab's, men's clothing, dresses, skirts, and whatever the hell else they are comfortable in and that they are never asking for it.  I also tell her a man has the right to say no, too.
I tell her that she has strong, mighty legs like her father.  That she needs to be proud of her shape and be mindful of what she eats, not for fear of fatness, but so she can stay muscular and powerful.
I tell her that chocolate cures almost all ailments, but the bad times require chocolate and ice cream.
I tell her that I am very clumsy, and I say the wrong thing most of the time, and that my brain works differently than other people, and she laughs and says she knows.

We talk of when I am old, of the silly things I will do, how she will divvy up the taking care of
me with her siblings.
We talk about songs and movies and books.
We talk about how tattoos and piercings do not define a person, but a person can use them to define themselves, to tell their stories.  
We talk about not giving away all of ourselves to any one person, because one must always keep the biggest chunk, for safekeeping , sanity, and strength.
We talk about the endless capacity of the human heart, how it can never to too full to love one more person.
We talk about losing friends, what the emptiness feels like, the disappointment and longing for something that can never return. 
We talk about how saying no when you are uncomfortable is right, no matter what.
We talk of what pets, what car, what job, she dreams. 

This always happens with my back to her, there is something raw and authentic when people communicate without having to look the other person straight in the eyes.

Sometimes I will glance back at her during a break in conversation and I will see a faraway look in her face and wonder what she is thinking about. I don't ask, though.  I turn around and continue my work, and I let her weave her private destiny in our comfortable, companionable silence.

Reflections of Summer

Summer is an incredibly intoxicating season. The soft glow of first blush over thickly leaved trees turns into the searing heat of day, then dusk arrives, painting the sky a haze of pink and orange hues accented sweetly by lazy swirling of lightening bugs.  It is the time of dirty feet and dripping popsicles, of scraped knees and wishes made upon stars.   It is the time for sunblock and swimming, clapping and feeling your heart swell when you watch your child find their courage and take that last step into the pool.  It’s driving home in wet towels with the windows down, a carful of shiny red noses and a sleepy sort of contentment that comes from splashing around in water for hours.

Afternoon naps and simple suppers, lots of fruit and lots of ice cream. A brand new pup curled into your neck, that warm feeling of contentment when she wakes up with a puppy breath yawn and a lick on your cheek.  Watching her accidental somersaults while she excitedly trips over her paws and her (mostly) patient older buddy, who doesn't mind too much when she jumps on her head or nibbles at her floppy jowls.

Summer is made for murmured confessions and sighs in the dark. Weaving legs and dreams with your husband, imagining different scenarios in the quiet of a Sunday morning (…yeah well, I would hire three nannies and someone to rub my feet on command…) It’s time for life lessons for your teenager, some painful, some hilarious, all memorable.  Watching a thirteen year old girl navigate through life is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.  You stare in wonder and pride (and horror) as she struggles, stretching and twisting and fitting into her teenaged skin.  Wanting to alternately clutch her to you and let her fly is an almost indescribable sorrow.

Oil pastels, acrylics, watercolors, pencils and a variety of other mediums cover my hands and my clothes most of the time.  I create to remember, I create to forget, and sometimes I paint cupcakes just to see my niece give me a huge grin.  I blanket the kitchen table with old newspaper, a jar of brushes and paint and paper and let the children find that piece of themselves they long to express and form, watch imaginations come to fruition in swooshes and shapes.

Summer is bittersweet, for summer is when we lost him.  August will always be tainted with the taste of sorrow, the burn of regret, the change that can never be undone. The countdown to the moment time stood still, the stinging realization that life continues even though we are missing a part of ourselves, the pang of reality during this time of wonder and dreams, of time passing.  We ache with sadness, and with happiness, clutching precious memories of a wide smile to make the days bearable.

It is a time for reflection, for sprinklers, and for playing outside after dark.  Too soon this moment will be over, fall will quietly take the daylight, the leaves, and like the seasons, we will change.