innocence

Seeing the way children care for each other. Tenderness but no coddling. Breathtaking. I was with my niece and nephew today. Honorary titles but no less meaningful. We see their neighborhood friend up the street all by himself. He’s on the young side to be all alone; not criminally young, but younger than I’d be comfortable with.

“What’s Jason doing up here all by himself?”

“He does this all the time. He doesn’t have a mom.”

“I know, but he’s a little guy to be all by himself like that.”

“But he’s like an outdoor cat. You see Aunt Kiki, me and Evan…we’re indoor cats. But Jason, he’s an outdoor cat…he’s still got his claws.”

“Yeah, don’t worry Aunt Kiki, Jason can take care of himself.”

The thought of an 8 year old, still needing his claws. So he can be an outdoor cat. So he can “take care of himself.” The simplicity, the truth and the profound awareness that every child isn’t as protected and fussed over. And with that, I suddenly feel very old.

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Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time…I had a good job.

I had money; not a lot certainly, but compared with my financial situation for the past couple years, I was FILTHY rich. I even had benefits, health insurance and a company matched 401k…whaaaaaat??!! Then a mean witch called “corporate downsizing” robbed me of my job and most of my savings. She’s a bitch all right, with a capital B. Yet somehow I can’t complain. Well, I could; and truthfully, I have. But since then, I’ve realized how much I had to lose in order to see what’s really worth holding tight. I had to lose clothes shopping at my favorite stores. I had to lose eating out for lunch every day. I had to lose my daily trip to Dunkin’ Donuts. I had to lose weekly movies and expensive vacations. I had to lose even the cheap vacations. I had to lose all the extra BS that seemed to be necessities at the time, in order to live a life of true necessities. I’ve learned that more money coming in, almost definitely means so much more money going out; that a bigger paycheck doesn’t always last that long when you have to expend soooo much just to keep up with creature comforts.

I’ve learned that coffee in a french press made at home is better than Dunkin’, and way better than Starbucks. I’ve learned that a summer morning spent reading on the front porch surrounded by flowers is an excellent way to spend some hours. I’ve learned that yoga in my living-room can be just as good at stress-relief as yoga in an expensive studio. I’ve learned to truly live on a budget and that I really, really love mac-n-cheese for dinner. I’ve learned that a phone call to your best friend who lives across the country is the very best form of therapy. I’ve learned that being caught in a torrential downpour at a kiddie amusement park with the best friend and her brood is a truly cleansing experience, that jumping in puddles is  awesomely messy, and that fireworks are truly the best.

The best thing I’ve taken away from this time-out, is that I found my voice in my writing. I never had the time before. It was always “later,” or “someday,” or maybe even “never.” I always had the words, but I never had the will or the nerve to put them down on paper (or laptop). They were constantly floating around in my head, bursting at the seams, only to be crammed down again and locked into the dusty box of “one day.”

I’ve learned what true depression is, what causes it, how to cope with it, how to heal from it, and how to plod on every. single. day.

I’ve learned that while money is great, friends and family who love you and support your dreams is even better. If you have a “time out,” don’t be discouraged. Use it as an opportunity to hone the skills that may have been lying dormant all these years. Look inside. Look forward. Look to the flowers, and trees, the birds, and bees, to the sunrise and the sunset, to those you love, and even those who make your blood boil. Love those who can make you giggle and value those who make you think. And always, always keep looking up.

Keep reaching for your goals, my friends; and never be satisfied with giving up.

downpour

evan

ana

tigerlily

Hold Out

Hold out for hope when none is there.
I will not give in to despair
Or wet my hair with tears each night
And stay awake til mornings light.

I’ll walk in greener pastures soon
Beneath warm sun at midday noon.
And underneath the stars we’ll play
And share the secrets of our day.

I’ll eat again til I am full,
And rest beside you in that lull
That comes with twilight’s steely light.
You’ll read to me into the night.

I will dream of pleasant times;
And file away some lovely rhymes.
Sing me tunes I long to hear,
And hold me close til morning’s here.

*originally written on Dec. 16, 2011 and recently published in the poetry anthology Ground Zero by Nicholas Gagnier of Retcon Poet

Ground Zero

Silent Dreams

I had a dream last night.
I dreamed of my grandfather.
He was young and yet old,
looked like his portrait from when he was 30,
but he had kept his 94-year-old soul.
We watched TV together and ate lunch.
He told me about grandma,
who passed away when I was only six,
about when he first knew he loved her
and their early life together.
He gave me advice,
but I couldn’t hear the words.
And in my dream, I wept.
I wept because he is gone,
been gone for four years now.
I wept because we talked,
and because the words he spoke were silent.

grampa

Let’s Not Fight

Take my hand and let’s not fight.
Bring me with you into the night.
Carry the lantern and lead the way.
I promise to follow. I will not stray.
Summon your courage and do not fear.
Dance with me to the tunes that we hear:
Celebration and hope to come soon,
And the songs that carry a mournful tune.
If it gets too dark and we’ve lost the way
We’ll relight the lantern while on our way.
We’ll bath in the shallows under dark skies.
As we walk on, the sun shall rise
And lend us the courage we need to keep on
Until we find ourselves back home.

originally written on 8/24/11

Blue Dreams

I dream about you frequently,
Of the things I didn’t say,
How I never came to visit you
Once you went away,
About the life we used to live
Before it all went wrong.
I’ve known you almost my whole life.
I’ve loved you all along.
Now you’re coming home real soon,
In only few short weeks.
The dreams have since been turned to fear,
That you’ll want nothing more from me.
I dream about you constantly,
Of the things I never knew.
I’ve failed you terribly my friend.
These dreams are ringed in blue.

blue

Letter to My Mom

My mom is amazing. I don’t often tell her this but it’s true. She’s kind of awesome. My mom has been a first grade teacher for more than 27 years. She was actually my own first grade teacher at the private school I attended for grade school and junior high. Tonight we celebrated her as she retires from her teaching career. I was asked to write a tribute, to be shared at the party, not only as her daughter, but as one of her former students. Here’s why I love you mama:

**********

I have had many teachers throughout my life. The older I get, the more I am convinced that I owe several of them an apology letter, Mom included. Of all the teachers that I have had, my mom, Mrs. Cutler, has been the most influential. Mom was the first person to teach me to read and write. She didn’t just teach me to read; she taught me to love reading. Sitting down after dinner together, we discovered the magic of the Secret Garden, the mysteries of the Little Princess and the bravery of Corduroy the little brown bear. I learned the history and promises of the Old Testament and the hope, life, and freedom of the Gospel. Mom taught me to value, cherish and respect good stories and those who have the courage to tell them.

When I was five, Mom showed me how to keep my first journal. It was filled with a short paragraph chronicling the events of each day; each entry was accompanied by a picture rendered in mixed media (usually Popsicle-sticks, cotton balls, glue, and crayon). It was many years later, when I felt I had no voice of my own and no words to speak, that I remembered our first writing projects and was encouraged to try again. I credit mom, more than anyone else, for teaching me so early that words are powerful and when used wisely can heal and encourage the writer, as much as the reader. Mom still has my first journal.

When I was in the 5th grade, in a fit of regrettable enthusiasm, I signed up for the speech contest. In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loathe public speaking, which is why I guilted someone else into reading this aloud for me. I still remember the title of my poem was Peanut Butter Sandwich, and I’m sure Mom does as well, since she practiced with me tirelessly. We practiced the piece so much, that I developed an aversion to peanut butter for several years. Mom was not my teacher at this point but was one of the chaperones at the dreaded speech contest. I was sitting in my little metal folding chair, shaking uncontrollably, and watching the other contestants perform. I knew that Mom would most likely not make it to my performance. I walked on shaky legs up to the front and looked out at the sour faced judges. I’m not sure what I thought would happen if I did badly, but I was pretty sure it involved being pushed over a cliff with a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets chained around my neck. I took a deep breath to calm myself when I saw Mom standing in the back corner, giving me a covert thumbs-up. Her encouraging smile and presence in that room gave me the courage to get through that poem and take home a blue ribbon (I’m still not sure how that part was accomplished).

I have thought of a hundred different ways to close this tribute, so that it would be touching, or clever, or funny…or make people cry. And then I realized none of that matters, when all I really want to say is, I love you mom. We all love you. I know I speak for not just myself, but so many, when I say how very thankful I am to have been taught by you.

Everyone else got to have you as Teacher, but I got to have you as Mom.

**********

I truly love you mom, and I’m looking forward to us driving each other a little more crazy by more time spent together 🙂

Blazing Days

Do you ever have a day where your brain feels slightly blurry;
When even simple tasks are riddled through with worry;
When you long to lie in bed with the cover pulled up o’er you,
Cocooned against the darkest thoughts that always buzz around you;
Received the cheer filled platitudes like “Fake it til you make it,”
But the energy and effort is more than you can tackle?
So I lie inside my mind and retreat into that place,
And e’en though it’s frightening feels like the only space
Where I can let the walls down and give myself a cry.
And waking from disquiet dreams I ask myself, “But why?
Why can’t I see the world through the spectacles of truth?
Why does every view I take, seem a dingy shade of blue?’
Do not try to cheer me as I make my lonely walk,
Or give me simple fixes. I don’t want that kind of talk.
Love me still or leave me. This is part of who I am.
Do not try to fix me. Just take me by the hand.
Keep walking forth towards blazing days.  I won’t be far behind.

originally written on 11/27/11

The Craziness of a Wildest Dream

If I had a million dollars…

Ever since I was a little scrawny sassy kid, I always wanted to come from a big family. I love my family dearly. But my parents only had two daughters. I am convinced if I had come first, I would have been an only child. Not because I would have filled all their wildest parenting dreams, but simply because I was an exhausting pain in the ass. As a toddler I would sit in a corner of our hallway, which I called the “sad corner” and make up weepy country western songs or listen to Barbara Streisand’s soulful crooning on my “Soby” walk-man. We didn’t have much in the way of music, so I had to pilfer from my dad’s tape collection.  I was the four-year old master of self-pity and loneliness.  I longed for multiple bros and sissies to play with. My best friend came from a family of four kids and I was always incredibly jealous and quite lonely when our families separated after vacations.

What would I do if I had my choice to do anything in the world? Where would I go? Who would I meet? Other than the standard self-indulgent desires of traveling the world and building a beach house on my own private island, I actually do have some idea.  If I could choose anything in the world to do, even as my career, I would buy a modest yet large house. I would become a foster parent or even adoptive parent to those little ones who are trapped in the system.  I would build a home for the ones who have none. I would give love and safety to those smallest kids who have been kicked in the face and let down too early by a grownup world.  I will have naysayers. Even in just expressing this desire, I have heard a resounding chorus of concern and questions: How would you support them? It would be harder than you think. Do you really think you could ever love them as much as your own? Wouldn’t you rather just make a regular family? Shouldn’t you have a partner (ie spouse) for such a massive undertaking? You know those kids are messed up right?

Let me answer each one in turn:
* I have no idea how I would support them, which is why I started with, “If I had a million dollars…”
* I am sure it would be much harder than I could think, because I have never done this before; but isn’t anything that’s worth doing, worth overcoming the fear that might stop me?
* I don’t believe love is measured in blood lines. It is a choice to love, not an accident. More people means more love, not less.
* A chosen family is no less valuable than a procreated family.
* At this point in my life, through God’s providence, I am walking alone.  God has called me to singleness for the time being. Ideally yes, I would like to have a husband, one who loves, supports, and desires the same things that I do. Until that happens (possibly not in this life), I hope to give as much love as is in me to those who might need it.
*Yeah, they’re messed up. So are you. And so am I. Isn’t that even more of a reason to try to give them what they need, even if they might fight you for it.

This is my no-longer-secret craziest wish. It is so absolutely ridiculous.  It seems completely outside of the realm of possibility. If this is to happen, it must come from God.  On my own, I have no hope of ever being successful in seeing this accomplished. But I’ll continue to dream, to pray and to commit this desire to God. And to ask those who know me to pray with me, that this craziest of dreams might actually come true.

So here’s to 2013. May God grant you the richest He has to offer and plant His craziest desires deep in your heart. And then, may He bring the craziness of those dreams into reality.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.”
– Psalm 37:3-6

My Kind of Sin

Sin is comfortable. But not too much sin.  Just a little sin; and our kind of sin.  We seek out the company of others who are permissive of our particular brand of sin.

I grew up in the church. There are many blessings that come from a Christian upbringing, but a peculiar set of pit falls is often part of the package deal.  I learned that it is good to be respectable.  A good Christian girl does not wear skirts above the knee, or smoke, or drink (but you can’t openly judge those who drink, since the Bible does not forbid liquor, merely overindulging in liquor; but you shouldn’t if your super serious about God, just to be on the safe side.   And the really big sins, forget about it.  She’s friends with someone who has premarital sex??  That guy friend of her’s looks a little light in the loafers.  I saw her with some kids who use colorful language!  But he has spiked hair – spiked!!  What what what??!!  I was taught, whether intentionally or not, that some sins are not only not respectable, but those “sinners” are not worth my friendship. At least until they clean up their acts.  Thankfully none of this came from my parents, but it was the message I managed to absorb through years of churching and two different Christian schools.

When I became an adult (that word is debatable by those who know me well) I rebelled against much of the outward Christian culture I with which I had become so familiar. I exercised my freedoms. I bought short skirts. As a 22-year-old, I sneaked out of the house extra early and brought pants to change into for the ride home because I didn’t want to face accusing questions.  I got tattoos. I smoked (stupid, I know – not the point).  I became friends with the marginalized, even though they believed differently from me. But all of this happened only after I walked away from the church altogether for over two years.  I had become so confused about what was Christian and what was merely Christian culture.

As a teenager I felt schizophrenic in my Christianity.  Not bad enough for the bad kids and not holy enough for the good kids.  As much as I’d like to think I have grown tremendously from that awkward teenager, I am still very much the same in my comfort level of sin.  Professing Christians who sin “way more” than me are hypocrites, frauds, and liars.  But Christians who are really “good” are almost too good – fuddy duddies, buzz-kills, or (gasp) legalists lacking grace and mercy.  My view of other Christians is much like my driving – anyone going too fast is an irresponsible, reckless maniac; while anyone going too slow is a pain in the ass because they get in my way, and I have places to be!  My natural inclination is to be around people who sin “just the right amount.”  You’ll tolerate a bit of gossip, but not so much that it turns malicious? Perfect.  You’ll drink, but at least you won’t be as drunk as so-and-so? Great. You’ll be cynical but only slightly more or less cynical than me? I don’t want you too cynical because it gets kind of annoying; but I don’t want you too hopeful either, because that’s just gross.

So yes, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a fraud. And a coward. And a sinner. But I’m also a Christian.  I have spent many years comparing my sins to those around me, using my own internal sliding-sin-scale. If I am honest, I have not just “fallen” into sin, but jumped in, with both feet and waving my arms over my head.  I want to believe that God grades on a curve.  And thank Him that He doesn’t. My sin is not worse or better than the sin of anyone else. It’s all sin and it all grieves our Father.  He judges us against His own impossibly perfect law, but through the lens of His own perfect Son.  Perfection required. Perfection delivered.  This is too mysterious for me to grasp, and even this clarity I feel I have tonight will no doubt be hard to find tomorrow.

Romans 3:23
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

1 John 2:1-2
My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Romans 6:1
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!