They Call

toss and turn. clammy sheets.
trembling hands and frigid feet.
creatures of the wildest kind
existing only in the mind,
hovering neither here nor there;
trudging through with weighty cares.
I know not if they’re bad or good
or simply the misunderstood.

they call, I come.
they chase, I run.
they seem as friends
but quickly lend
a mocking to my misery.
yet when they call each night, I’ll go,
afraid of where they’re leading me.
they speak of all that’s terrible
beyond the dusky shore of sleep.

*originally written on Aug 16, 2012 and recently published in the poetry anthology Ground Zero by Nicholas Gagnier of Retcon Poet

Ground Zero

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

Up Here in My Tree

I’m sitting in bed listening to the sound of chainsaws; chainsaws that are cutting down the oldest tree in our yard.  This tree has been here longer than I’ve been alive. I have never known my house without her.  She is so old that she has grown straight up through our fence.  When the fence was replaced several years ago, they actually attached the new fence to the part of the old that runs through her heart. But she is sick with tree rot and I can clearly see her rotting at the base from the inside out. If she falls, she will likely take down a good portion of our house and possibly our neighbors’.  My sister and I went out early this morning to take some last pictures of her (and with her) before she is put to rest.

I remember playing at the base when I was a kid, listening to my dad’s old Barbara Streisand tapes (“Enough is Enough” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore”) on my “Soby” walk-man. I would sit in the rain, wearing my turquoise poncho with my copy of Harriet the Spy, my umbrella and my giant purple spiral bound notebook, thinking of ways to commit espionage on the family down the street.  I would park my bike under her when I played “road-trip” which usually consisted of attaching a construction paper license plate to the back of my bike, tying my Cabbage Patch Kid to its fender and riding in circles around the block until I was so tired I had to pull into the “hotel” which was my room with a room number clumsily attached to the door. I had gone so far at one point as to ask for a peephole for the door, in order to cement my road-trip fantasies. I think my dad would have folded, but thankfully my mom pointed out that a peephole in the bedroom door of a seven-year old is peculiar.

The town has promised to plant a replacement, but part of why I love her is that she’s literally part of the fence and therefore part of the house.  It will take years for another tree to grow this big.  But even if something is old and sacred, if it is rotting, it needs to be chopped down.  It matters not if it’s old and matters not that it’s sacred. It has to go to make room for something healthy. When she is cut down, my memories of her still live; her branches will fall but my childish imagination still soars.

I am reminded of this song by Pearl Jam:
“Up here in my tree, yeah
Newspapers matter not to me, yeah
No more crowbars to my head, yeah
I’m trading stories with the leaves instead, yeah.”

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 Goodbye old friend

Winter in My Heart – The Avett Brothers

It must be winter in my heart
There’s nothing warm in there at all
I miss the summer and the spring
The floating, yellow leafs of fall
A million colors fill my eyes
The Roman candles and the stars
The calendar says July 4th, but it’s still winter in my heart

They say flowers bloom in spring
Red and golden, blue and pink
They say seasons turn in time
Their’s are changing, why won’t mine

It must be winter in my heart
There’s nothing warm in there at all
I miss the summer and the spring
The floating, yellow leafs of fall
The air in there is frigid cold
I don’t know what the reasons are
Calendar says August 1, but it’s still winter in my heart

They say flowers bloom in spring
Red and golden, blue and ṗink
They say seasons turn in time
“their’s are changing, why won’t mine, why won’t mine

It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
I don’t know what the reasons are
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart
I don’t know what the reasons are
It must be winter in my heart
It must be winter in my heart

[Lyrics to Winter in My Heart performed by The Avett Brothers]

Toddler Whispering:101

I am a nanny. And I love my job.  I feel so fortunate to have a job that make me smile and laugh pretty much all day and I get paid to do it.  Hi five.  I was recently told by a good friend that I am the Toddler Whisperer.  The conversation went like this:

“The nanny litmus test is having two children under the age of 4 in an awesome toy-store, without destroying anything or having a temper-tantrum. Success.”

    • me – MB, I meant me not having a tantrum 🙂
    • JL – Please, I know I am lowly and unworthy, but will you teach me your ways? Pretty please?
    • me – Lol just lots of gentle reminding before we went in that we would NOT be buying any toys
    • JL – Kristin Leigh: Toddler Whisperer
    • me – Omg that is so funny cause I’ve been calling myself that in my head!
    • JL – Do you get to do the snappy Latin shush/snap/poke?! Do ya?????
    • um…yes (but don’t publicize that)

However learning toddler lingo can be an interesting experience with lots of misunderstanding so here’s the rundown:

balella – vanilla
bwown –
chocolate
pink –
strawberry
cubuzz
– because
chickennuggetandfwenchfwies – chicken nuggets and french fries
cwyingbaff – crying bath (where one cries throughout the entire bath)
Fweshbeeban – Fresh Beat Band (that one took awhile)
ishy – icky
lellow – yellow
shushi – tushy; and also sushi, which makes me think this child might need an anatomy lesson at some point, since she might think it’s all the same thing.
Shyberman – Spiderman
Tinkerella – Tinkerbell
weawy – really

And I’ve had some great conversations lately:

to mom – “H had to have a time-out today.”
Mom – “H, why did you have a time out?”
H – “Cubuzz I pushed him. I pushed him down. Hard.” Shaking her tiny head in shame.

H – “A don’t like the Muppets. A, why you don’t like the Muppets?”
Silence.
“A, why you don’t like the Muppets? why? why? why?”
A – “Listen, that’s just the way it is. Some kids like the Muppets and some don’t.”

me – “A, I want you to get in bed for a rest.”
A (standing against the wall) – “I can’t, I’m stuck.”
me – “Hmmm.”

me -“Guys, it’s time for dinner.”
A – “We can’t; we have to take Havasham to buy her car.”
me – “Who’s Havasham?”
A – “My friend. Don’t worry, she’s imaginary.”
me – “Great. Tell her it’s time for dinner.”

me – “H, did you wipe after going potty?”
H – “Yep, I wipe my shushi (see above) with Dolly’s hair.”
Blehhh. Forever. Cause Dirty Dolly’s nasty hair accidentally wound up in my mouth earlier in the week.

me – “E, I want you to come and sit down over here for the story.”
E continues playing.
I, looks at me and says – “Boy, that kid is weawy annoying.”
me – “I, that’s not nice; but yes. He is.”

me – “H, do you want some fruit with your lunch?”
H – “Fruit? So I can poop?”
Me – long awkward silence.  “Sure.”

Stay tuned. I’m sure I will have more to add to my toddler to grown-up translation guide shortly.

*this one’s for you JL

Furr by Blitzen Trapper (not mine but obliged to share)

Yeah, when I was only 17, I could hear the angels whispering,
So I droned into the words and wandered aimlessly about
Until I heard my mother shouting through the fog.
It turned out to be the howling of a dog,
Or a wolf to be exact, the sound sent shivers down my back,
But I was drawn into the pack and before long.
They allowed me to join in and sing their song.
So from the cliffs and highest hill, yeah
We would gladly get our fill
Howling endlessly and shrilly at the dawn;
And I lost the taste for judging right from wrong.
For my flesh had turned to fur, yeah
And my thoughts, they surely were
Turned to instinct and obedience to God.

You can wear your fur like a river on fire;
But you better be sure if you’re makin’ God a liar.
I’m a rattlesnake, Babe,
I’m like fuel on fire;
So if you’re gonna’ get made,
Don’t be afraid of what you’ve learned.

On the day that I turned 23, I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree,
When suddenly a girl with skin the color of a pearl.
She wandered aimlessly, but she didn’t seem to see.
She was listenin’ for the angels just like me.
So I stood and looked about.
I brushed the leaves off of my snout
And then I heard my mother shouting through the trees.
You should have seen that girl go shaky at the knees.
So I took her by the arm, We settled down upon a farm,
And raised our children up as gently as you please.
And now my fur has turned to skin,
And I’ve been quickly ushered in
To a world that I confess I do not know;
But I still dream of running careless through the snow.
An’ through the howlin’ winds that blow,
Across the ancient distant flow,
It fill our bodies up like water till we know.

You can wear your fur like a river on fire,
But you better be sure If you’re makin’ God a liar.
I’m a rattlesnake, Babe,
I’m like fuel on fire,
So if you’re gonna’ get made,
Don’t be afraid of what you’ve learned.

du·plic·i·ty

[doo-plis-i-tee, dyoo-]

noun, plural du·plic·i·ties for 2, 3.
1.deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing. Synonyms: deceit, deception, dissimulation, fraud, guile, hypocrisy, trickery. Antonyms: candidness, directness, honesty, straightforwardness.
2.an act or instance of such deceitfulness.
3.Law . the act or fact of including two or more offenses in one count, or charge, as part of an indictment, thus violating the requirement that each count contain only a single offense.
4.the state or quality of having two elements or parts; being twofold or double.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone.  You will only wear yourself out and wind up getting burned by the lies you tell, even with the best of intentions.  The smallest lie casts doubt on anything you do and causes me to distrust anything you might say in the future.  A simple lie in a garden is what caused our world to fall.  Don’t be a part of that destruction.

Conversations with Smaller Ones

I am around kids. A lot.  With being a nanny, teaching Sunday school, and just hanging with my friends’ kids I have been witness to the amazing things they are capable of thinking and saying.  The more time I spend around them, the more I am convinced they are each on their own little planet, where what they do makes perfect sense to them.  Here is a collection of my favorite things that they have said (using initials to protect their integrity – or what remains of it).

***

picking up I.

I. – “Don’t frow me!”

me – “What?”

I. – “Don’t frow me!!!”

me – “Don’t throw you? Who’s been throwing you?!”

***

T. – “Daddy…I. is in the back woom (room) peeing into a cup.”

Daddy – “Sigh…send him in here.”

I. comes in holding his ear and looking sheepish.

Daddy – “I., were you just peeing into a cup?”

I. – “Ummm….yep.”

Daddy – “Why were you doing that buddy?”

I. – significant pause and look of extreme confusion…“I don’t know…”

***

G., B. and T. sitting at a table after church whispering

me – “Hey girls, can I sit with you?”

G., B. and T. in chorus –  “NO! It’s a secret meeting. 4, 5 and 7 year olds ONLY!” (in my recollection this was said in a voice very much like the witches from Macbeth, but I think it was just my hurt feelings at being banned from the cool kids table. And they were so damn specific about the age requirement, sheesh)

me – “Gawd…fine. I don’t care anyway.”

***

J. was giving me a fantastically difficult time and would not listen or respond

me – “J. this is unacceptable.” (Totally tried to super nanny his ass…and I’m not ashamed.  Although it seems to work better for Jo.)

J. – “Your face is unacceptable.”

Dear Jesus, please keep me from killing this child.

***

After the family VW bus burned down; conversation in Sunday school:

me – “Does anyone have any prayer requests?”

I. – “I weally hope that our VW is in heaven so that when we get there, we have something to dwive awound in.”

Q. – “Umm…God doesn’t let VWs in heaven…just people.”

I. – “There’s a separate heaven just for VWs…duh.”

***

T. wearing a princess dress and playing in the dirt

T. – “Kwistin…do you wanna see me pull a worm in half?”

me – “Nope. Pretty sure I don’t. And don’t ever ask me that again.”

***

Again in Sunday school; theology with 3-5 year olds can be interesting

me – “Q., I want you to draw a picture of how you could help someone.”

Q. – “I don’t want to.”

me – “Why not?”

Q. hemming and hawing – “Well…I dunno…um cause I’m not even sure I want to be a Chwistian.”

me – “Stifled GASP!”, and thinking “Well that did it, I’m going to get fired from Sunday school.”

instead saying – “Well…what makes you say that?”

Q. – terrified look

me – “You don’t have to scared to tell me. I didn’t always want to be a Christian either.”

Q. – “Well…sometimes, like when you try to tell someone about God and they get angwy.”

me – “So what would you do if that happened?”

Q. – “I would wun (run) away weally, weally fast.”

***

G. and A. in unison – “You’re puny!”

me – “What?”

G. and A. – “We said ‘You’re puny!'”

me – “I’m puny?! But you’re like 2 feet tall. You’re totally punier that I am.”

***

Q. talking to our pastor

Pastor – “Q., what’s it like having an older brother and a younger brother?”

Q. – “Well…my younger bwother is cool I guess, but sometimes it’s annoying having an older bwother.”

Pastor – “In what way?”

Q. – “Like…sometimes…he just doesn’t give me my space.”  He’s 4…I repeat 4.

Pastor – “Q., I just want to ask you some questions, to get inside your head and see how you think.”

Q. screwing up his face – “Well, I think you might have to cwack open my skull for that.”

***

At the pool with Q. and the kids who are intent on making me do very complicated dives, that I can in no way perform

Q. – “Now…I want you to do a back flip, spin 2 times and then finish with a dive.”

me – “Q., there is no way I can do that without killing myself.”

Q. screwing up his face again – “Um…can’t you just like twy (try) it?”

***

T. – “I. says he’s you’re boyfweind now.”

me – “I., is that true? Are you my boyfriend?”

I. – “Yep.”

me – “Well what’s gonna happen if I get another boyfriend?”

I. – “I’m gonna punch him in his face and then put on my boots and kick him in the shins.”

friend – “But what if he’s nice to Kristin and wants to play with you?”

I. – “Hmmm. Well I guess I will pway with him then. But I will still kick him in the shins.”

***

I was having a down day:

I. – “Kwistin…you are pwetty. So much.”

And that’s all it took to steal my heart.

***

A. – “Aunt Kiki is kinda like our gerbils.”

Mom – “How so?”

A. – “She sleeps all day and only comes out to play at night.”

Man, she’s got my number.

***

and I think my all time favorite (at least so far)…

Driving with T. in the car; As one of five, when she gets you alone, she’ll chew your ear off.

T. – “Wanna hear me count to 100….1,2,3,4,5,6,7,……..”

me – “T. you make me tired.”

T – “Why?”

me – “I don’t know, you just do. Someday when you’re my age, you’ll have a kid who makes you this tired and you’ll understand.”

T – “That’s ok. When I’m your age, you’ll probably be dead.”

me – almost drove off the road.

Bad Introductions and Worse Entrances

I have a fantastic ability to embarrass myself on a regular basis.  I have an extremely high tolerance for awkwardness and humiliation since I have been vaccinated so frequently.

At about this time last year, I was traveling home from a friend’s wedding.  I was taking a flight with my very dear friend D (who also appreciates classically awkward situations) and is my partner in crime for almost any time I put my foot in it (whatever IT is…I have managed to step in it).

We were tired. Like not being able to stand up straight, exhausted.  Due to a miscommunication we had to get a hotel room the night of the wedding and had to crash with some friends in their room, due to the short notice.  NO sleep was procured that night.  For the sake of not reliving the evening, I will not go into further detail. But as the clock ticked closer and closer to our 5 am wake up call in order to make our flight, I was slowly turning into an angry, delirious, zombie.  After the first part of our journey home, we had to change plans because of our layover.  The plane we were on was so small, that they left our luggage at the bottom of the steps used to exit the plane, so we could carry them ourselves.  As I went to pick up my bag it started to tip over.  At the moment, under the stress of extreme fatigue (let’s face it, people who know me understand that my brain will actually shut down) my bag falling over seemed like the worst possible thing in the world.  I saw it falling in slow motion reminiscent of shell-shocked soldiers from any war movie ever made.  My brain was saying “NOOOOOOOOO!”  I stuck my foot out to stop my luggage, miscalculated horribly, completely missed my bag, and managed to kick an elderly woman in the shins.  She not only didn’t see my bag falling, but my explanation for kicking her was less than coherent, followed with D falling over in a giggle fit.  It was a shining moment of humiliation.

This same glorious D (along with J, A, G, K and several others) threw me a surprise party this weekend.  Up until the night before, I had absolutely no inkling that there would be a party.  Apparently my friends are really good liars and quite talented at making believe I am not the most important person in the world.  It was sold to me as a simple “girls night out”  which I was MORE than happy with.  In the car on the way over to the super, sneaky, secret party, I told D my suspicion.  Damn, if that girl doesn’t respond well under pressure. “Oh sweetheart, no…no. no, no. Are you disappointed that you’re not getting a surprise party?’

me….”No way! Thank the Lord…I am so relieved.”

D’s brain…”Gulp.”

We walked up the back steps to my friend A’s house and across to the living room.

And I saw the door between the rooms closed.  That door is NEVER closed.

I had a split second where I almost turned and bolted, but D was blocking my path.  The door opened and I saw a sea of 25 of my dearest friends.  All wearing masks of my own face. Welcome panic attack.  There was the initial “SURPRISE!”  followed by a silence I imagine only existed before the creation of the world.

Then me cursing.  Then more silence.  This is a level of awkwardness, to which even I am not accustomed.

So this story has some actual lessons:

1. Kristin does not react well when tired (or hungry; or as we like to call it “hangry,” when you’re so hungry you become enraged).

2.  Kristin does not deal well with surprises and cannot be held responsible for any obscenities that may come as a result.

3.  Kristin is SOOOOOO very thankful for friends who love me enough to lie to me (as long as it’s for a party, I will tolerate it) and treat     me like a queen.  I am more blessed that I can think.

So thank you to all who have helped inoculate me against embarrassment in the past and in the present.  I just hope you’re strong enough to be there in the future.  Love you 🙂