In My Own Two Hands

FridaySaturdaySundayMondayTuesday....Wednesday. The days run together, outpace me to the point of lapping me. (Wait, did Tuesday just pass me again?)

Take for instance, these pictures I've been meaning to post, from strawberry picking on Monday. As in the 10-days-ago-Monday.

I see a bit of myself in one of the earliest definitions of the word "crazy". To be full of cracks or flaws, unsound. On the verge of cracking or breaking.

When I say my life is crazy right now, that's how I feel. On the verge of cracking. Barely keeping afloat. And in response, I tie my fragile and flurried existence to a handful of beautiful, buoyed moments. Moments that remind me of how my true wealth is this moment, this hour, this day.

  • Walking out of the turnpike service plaza with a child on either side, locking fingers, swinging arms, singing loudly, changing the lyrics to "With My Own Two Hands" to make them giggle. When the laughter--especially my own--is unforced and unabashed, in the middle of a 12 hour road trip, in the middle of a dingy rest stop, it is the stuff of miracles. (p.s. I owe Ben Harper an apology for the reference about flushing the "automagic" potty with my own two hands.)
  • Scrambling to get out of the house for a last minute showing and ending up with PB&Js in hand, snacking under the shadow of the Portland Head Light. Fragments of blue sky and saltwater floating by us in the breeze. Boats sailing by us, squirrels rummaging around us. My two babies announcing the every move of the Daddy Squirrel, the Mommy Squirrel, and the Baby Squirrel. How they boil everything they encounter in the world back to their sense of family. How they remind me to do the same.
I will not succumb to the crazy. I will not crack or fall apart.

Even as the days outpace me, even as the list grows longer and my reserve grows shorter, I will not drown in the stress.

Because I hold all that matters, these buoys amidst the storm of change, the wealth of this day.
In my own two hands.


It's the Only Way I Know How

The tide is known for retreating, sure.
Ebb and flow, everybody knows that.
But you won't hear a person talk about the tide rewinding.
Or pausing.
Or playing at any other pace than Now.
Because it doesn't. It doesn't stop.
It doesn't wait for you to finish one more page in your paperback.
Or to dig out the sand castle moat.
It doesn't wait for you to look up.

The years sneak by disguised as days.
Hiding behind hours' glasses.
Where did they go? We ask
Looking this way and that, palms up, heads shaking,
Like 'how did they just disappear? I swear they were just right here.'

But we miss them altogether, the years,
If we don't look closely.
If we don't mark a spot with our shovels and pails,
If we don't watch how far the ocean crawls away from where it was, from where we were.
If we don't keep pace with the tide.


This is the space where I mark the spot with shovels and pails, with stories and quotables and Ahah moments. Because charting the days is the only way I know how not to miss the years.


Linking up today with the lovely ladies at Bigger Picture Blogs.
Bigger Picture Moment


In Which She Is Leading a Double Life. As an Owl.

If you had come to dinner tonight, you would have overheard Dani breaking out into a whole new world of chattiness. And you would have seen me laughing so hard that I nearly dropped the phone I used to record her saying this:

Guess what, Mama! I hab a p'ace par par away, and I live in a owl's mest (nest). And da other owls love me and dey are my brodders and sisters. And the birds are my priends. And we all go to 'chool, and we ride da 'chool bus all da time togedder. And we go on a magic 'chool bus cuz, cuz, cuz we want to. And we play soccer and eat popcorn...and go in cars...and ride on boats. And we eat some popcorn on da boat, and I don't get 'cared of da water. I eat popcorn with the Owls, cuz dey are with me in da nest. And when we move to Ohio, I can still go to dere, to par, par away where my owl pamily lives. Cuz I can f'y to my owl's nest SUPER past (fast). And I have an owl mom dere, and she is different than you because she is my owl mom.
Dani, I absolutely and positively adore you. Owlways and forever.

Pictured below: Dani and one of her "pwiends", on their way, perhaps, to the nest far, far away.


It's Time to Smile

The other day, I was running through postcards, which is what I call it when I wind up running on a sandy cove or alongside an old light house, or when I catch a glimpse of the Portland skyline from the southern side of the bay. Anyway, I was running toward one of my favorite postcards (the Portland Head Light), and not doing particularly well given the heat. (82 degrees. Maine has turned me into a wimp.)

Ahead of me stretched at least a half mile of rolling hills (barely bumps in the road, but again, me + Maine = wimpy), and I wasn't feeling great. At all. And my Shuffle thought it would be funny to play a Third Day song. These thousand hills roll ever on....

Oh that's some inspired truth there, Brother. EVER. ON.
They continued: It brings me to my knees in praise. Well, I don't know about praise. To my knees in pain, maybe. These thousand hills just don't hold as much inspirational value when you are trying to run UP every blasted one of them.

Then, just as I rounded the curve for my first glimpse of the ocean, Toad came on to say, We spotted the ocean, at the head of the trail, where are we going, so far away. Well, that's encouraging. We don't know where we're going--just that it's far away. And uphill.

And then, as I was reaching the halfway point, within yards of the light house, Tom Petty decided it would be a good time to tell me I belong among the wildflowers. And he might have mentioned that I belong on a boat out at sea. And I quote, Sail away, kill off the hours, you belong somewhere you feel free.

Well now. Apparently I missed the boat. Here I am running and sweating and panting and ready to keel over, when I could be sailing off into the blue breeze. At this point, I figured the universe was giving me permission to walk for a couple of minutes.

But then I heard Xavier Rudd strumming the intro to one of my new favorites; and this time, I was proud of my Shuffle for picking such a perfect song. And you will think I'm weird (as if you don't already), but I watched a movie montage in my head for the duration of the song. In my brain-film (totally a word--and not just for the radiologist--because I say so, that's why!), I ran through postcards, packed up three shelves worth of my favorite books, built sandcastles, walked the sandbars at low tide, made strawberry jam, waved from the ferry to the Peak's Island shore, traded bites of Kettle Cove ice cream with the kids, and drove off with the family into the summer sky, the dog's ears flapping out the front window. Every minute wildly happy, incredibly hopeful.

I even started running again (for real, not just in my head). Fast. Because, my friends:
Summer is coming. It's time to smile.

So if you were going to make a movie montage of your summer, what scenes would you include? Am I the only one who makes up quirky short films in my head? Does that make me crazy? (Uh oh...channeling Gnarles Barkley....I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind...)


The Places We Are

At 5:33 this morning, I poured the coffee. Fed the dog a few minutes later. It must have been 5:37 when Larry came down the stairs, playing Marco Polo with the birds--the whistling and chirping version. Those birds were really going strong this morning. I thought for sure we'd find one singing back at us on top of the fridge, and that we'd easily win the first Marco Polo round.

It is going to be hot today. I mean, hot for June in Maine (88 if you really wanted to know). And since we don't have central air, we just open the windows in the morning while it is still 60 degrees, and let the cool air and the morning-voiced birds remind us of how lucky we are.

When I pulled out the peanut butter at 5:45, I heard myself scream it out in my head, like a rock star at the end of the set. We love you Portland! Then I did it again just for effect (in my head still--I mean--the kids were sleeping--I'm not that crazy).

Three years we've been here now. And from the beginning, it came so naturally to root for the home team.

*Did you notice Dani is wearing the same shirt all three years? I bought her a 3T at 16 months, and we made it last. I just couldn't bring myself to spend much money on Red Sox clothing, seeing as we're Indians fans, and we only love Boston when they beat the Yankees. Anyway...moving on....

I could make a list of all the reasons to love this place. But the most endearing thing by far--by really, really far--is that this is where they grew from babies to little people. My little man--a pudgy two year old when we arrived in Portland--graduates from Kindergarten today. My little girl--a fussy four month old when we moved north--now rides a big girl bike and tells her mother it is "not appwopiate" when being forced to eat her broccoli.

Marco! (whistle-whistle!)

Polo! (chirp-chirp!)

We love you, Portland.


What do you love most about where you are? Write it down (here in the comments, or just pencil it in your head), and remember it all day long. And tomorrow too. And let's all just make a point to remember what we love most about the places we are right now. Not the places we've been or the places we're going. The places we are.


Go on in, Dear. The water's fine!

Looks peaceful, doesn't it? You can thank Mr. Croppity Crop for this one.
Because lurking on both sides of this serenity were some sandy-toed preschoolers, one of whom was pretending to be a crab by doing the bear walk. Which I'm sure makes perfect sense when you're three.
Yes, this particular preschooler--the one I'm allowed to photograph ad nauseum, the one with the crazy eyes and not-quite-as-chubby-as-they-used-to-be little knees--Yes, her. Well, she has this thing about water.

Namely, she loves it. LOVES it. And even when the ocean is cold enough to make a sea gull shiver, my little girl could not care less.

"C'mon Mama! C'mon!" she prods. "I not cold," she shakes her head, denying all knowledge of her goosebumps as she steps forward to meet the tide.Our days of sharing a zipcode with sand and surf might be numbered, but we're going to enjoy it while it lasts.

(And by enjoy it, I mean I'll take lots and lots of pictures and leave the polar bear swims to the crazy chiquita in the pink suit.)


This post is linked to You Capture over at Beth's place, where the prompt is "Water."


While It Lasts

When the white-haired lady with the orthopedic shoes puts broccoli in her cart and tells me to "enjoy it while it lasts," I listen. Because it is as true as it is cliche.

And it isn't just about the children and how quickly they grow, though that is certainly the bulk of it. But there is also a sense that these physical places, now familiar and replete with meaning and memories, will soon sit beyond my daily reach. How the sand from our favorite beach will disappear from beneath my feet and show up again only as a filmstrip in my head. How the street that hosted inaugural bike rides will soon carry on to the park without us.

I must take each day as it comes, enjoy it while it lasts, gather up the treasured moments like wildflowers among weeds, taking with me the color but not the thorns. This is what it means to me when I hear the word savor. To slow down and know right then: this is something I will later miss. To taste every bit of it, sweet or sour, and yes, to enjoy it while it lasts.

It is getting harder and harder to do this as moving day draws near. I am tempted to recoil so the lasts don't feel so final, to hide from endings, squatting cowardly behind a long to-do list. Yesterday as I signed with the movers, I was even tempted to leave earlier, so I could (and I quote my miserable excuse for a brain) "get on with my life."

But I do know better. And I especially know better now, after a spontaneous trip to the beach this morning.
This is no time to hide or run.
This is the time to enjoy.
While it lasts.



I won't have a whole piece--just a small bite, just a taste, just a sliver. I say this to myself, but half of the rhubarb pie is already gone, not 24 hours later, and my slivered approach is almost entirely to blame.

Since I've last written, just a few days ago, a hundred little slivers of time have passed sweetly by; and I want to remember them somehow, before they disappear as quickly as rhubarb pie on a chilly June afternoon.


Last night at dinner, with Larry still at work, the kids doused--no, drowned--me in nonsensical knock-knock jokes. I really just wanted to eat my mashed potatoes in peace, but I humored them the best I could. In one particularly annoying round, Caed told me "eyeball" was there, and after seven times saying "eyeball who?", I decreed it my last inquiry as to eyeball's last name.

Caed put his hands out, palms toward me like an infomercial guy and said, "Just go with me on this, Mom. Just go with me." He can't tell a joke to save his life, but he's apparently just what the Sham-Wow people have been looking for.


Dani. Oh Dani. Where do I start? Do you know the SNL Gilly skit? Then I don't even have to explain. I'm going to get it on video one of these days, how she smiles mischievously and says "sorry". Just. Like. Gilly.

Perhaps this photo, in which she appears to be terrorizing the ducks, will suffice in the meantime.


We went to the farmers market in the rain, in search of rhubarb and fresh air, and we found both. (We also found ducks, much to the poor duck's dismay. Reference Exhibit A, above.)

I told the kids they could wear their soccer jerseys to get into the spirit of the World Cup. I tried to talk Caed out of the socks to no avail. "You have to wear the whole thing, Mom, if you're going to look like a real soccer guy."


We recorded the USA vs. England match so we could watch it with Daddy after he came home from work. Caed curled his sock-clad, real soccer guy feet under his legs and nestled underneath Daddy's arm. When Dempsey scored the first and only goal for the US, I said, "Just think, Caed, that could be you someday--playing in the World Cup!" To which he replied, without hesitation, "Don't you remember? I'm going to be a hockey player!"

Ummm, can someone please break it to that boy that he's not Canadian? And also that his mother has no intention of enduring four years of rising at 4:30 a.m. to squeeze in ice time?


Larry worked again today (going for the record with 18 days straight in the ICU--way to finish residency with a bang!). It was foggy and not even 70 degrees, but the kids and I decided we should hit the beach anyway. I warned and warned that we would NOT be getting wet, but Dani didn't listen. (Giiillllleeee!....Gillleeeee?!.....What? Sorry.)

We did fashion the most beautiful sand castle ever in the whole world. So there was that. And we found shell after shell after shell after shell. And a crab leg. Mmm. Tasty. (It also cracked me up that Caed kept accidentally calling it a "clab craw" when he was trying to say "crab claw.")


At the beginning of quiet time/ nap time, Caed came to me with construction paper and pencils in hand. He looked at me with his serious eyes, the same look he gives when he's trying to rescue a lady bug from the dungeons of the basement. And he said, "Today, I am going to write a real book." And he narrowed his eyes and nodded his head, agreeing with himself, making sure he could see that I understood. And then he leaned in and whispered, "How do you spell 'mystery'?"


This is why I write it down. These slivers, no matter how small, add up to the whole slice, to the whole pie, to the whole lifetime, so sweet, so filling.

What slivers have you savored this week? What moments filled you up?


Wonders Never Cease

If ever you find yourself house hunting in Maine, I offer this small piece of advice.

Do not buy a house in the winter.

Because you're going to want to see the yard, to see just how many perennials are snoozing under the snow, to know whether it will take a truckload of mulch and a summer's worth of weeding to maintain those flower beds.

It has taken me three summers to learn how to pick a Lilac bush out of a line-up. Three summers to work up the nerve to "trim" the shrubs. And by trim, I mean hack, and by hack, I mean ruin my back for the better part of the year. I've been listening to Olive Kitteridge on my Shuffle as I weed, thinking to myself how Olive would despise me for my horticultural ignorance, how she'd probably say, "Hell's bells! That wretched red-headed girl from away shouldn't be allowed within fifty feet of a tulip."

Yesterday I completed the first round of weeding, pruning, trimming, dead-heading. And the beds are officially in beautiful shape (even by Olive's standards). I wish I could say the same for my spine.

But yesterday brought a surprising revelation. As Dani and I carted a bucketful of rogue greenery to the back, I thought the most blasphemous thought: I enjoy this.

I enjoy pulling a tree branch toward me to trim its drooping branches, seeing sunlight burst through star-shaped, watching blue sky and green leaves shout brightly to each other like boys in a summer game of kick ball.

I enjoy discovering a ladybug, red as a ruby, watching her fly away, hearing Dani squeal with a familiar mix of delight and fear. "Her is f'ying to her pamily!" she giggles and claps. "Yes," I say, "She is."

I enjoy watching Calli run the perimeter, warning the gulls not to set a webbed foot on her lawn. Further down the street, I see a crow and a gull taking turns eating lord knows what. Working together. Can you imagine that? Wonders never cease, I think.

No they do not. They do not cease, not when you pay attention. It is a wonder that after three years of moaning about the yard, I am finally comfortable wearing my green gloves. It is a wonder how a tiny ladybug erases the ugly images of every headline I digested earlier--if only for sixty seconds--long enough so I emerge on the other side of the minute a fraction less angry with the world.

There is power and peace in the natural world, even, of all places, in suburbia, in the midst of the pursuit of a manicured lawn. It wasn't my first choice (see tip above on Maine house hunting), but I am nonetheless glad.

Because deep in the dirt of an ordinary backyard, wonders never cease.


Linking this gift--this unlikely enjoyment--to Emily's place, where she carries on a Tuesday tradition.


Saturday Evening Blog Post: May

So when blogging frequency drops (as it clearly has for me), there is one distinct advantage. It's much easier to choose a post to link to Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Blog Post.

I chose this one, where I wrote about mother love, about how words don't do the feeling justice. Which is funny really, that I used words to describe the inadequacy of words. (Dear Words. I'm sorry to throw you under the bus. Everybody knows that it's not you. It's me.)

I also need to take a quick poll. Did anyone else not realize that May was over until just now? Seriously.

p.s. May, we need to have a talk. Because you were supposed to show up for 31 days straight, and I swear you gave me 2 weeks tops before skipping town in your tight white capris and strappy sandals. Which honestly, makes you look like you're trying to dress as if you're June. It's a little pathetic, if you ask me. Put on some nice khaki pants, why don't you, like any normal, self-respecting spring month would do.

p.p.s Dear Reader, it sounds like I'm losing it, doesn't it? I'm going to end this post now, before I start insulting the entire calendar year.


The Road Less Cluttered

I started out brave and optimistic, not like a girl who didn't know any better, but like a girl who did. Like a girl who would choose adventure over predictability, rich relationships over the illusion of control. And I meant it when I said it didn't matter where we lived, as long as we were together.

But June came sounding like a four-letter-word, and suddenly all this talk of moving is not just talk. And in what was clearly a raw deal, I traded my peace for worry, my contentment for covetousness. And the crazy thing? I am coveting my own house. I can't even saute an onion without comparing my beloved gas stove to the elderly electric one that awaits me in our rental. I find myself envious of the tenant whose kids will soon perch at my precious kitchen island, tackling homework while dinner gets underway.

We took leftovers up to Larry last night while he was on call, and I thought, I won't be able to do this anymore. We'll live too far away from his work. And it was like my heart and gut grabbed hands and tried to run away without me. Pounding, tightening, and twisting. I wondered if this was how a panic attack felt. I wondered when it was I started listening exclusively to Fear.

This geographic move, this career move, it moves our story forward. It is absolutely the right thing for us. I have even begun to feel myself (if only slightly) beginning to morph into the character I so want to be. But in terms of the actual house we will live in, it feels like a step back, to longer commutes and less countertop space, to smaller closets and older architecture.

I hate to be so honest about being so shallow, to admit how easily I'm caught in lies about what will make me happy. An easy commute, a spacious modern home, a place to hoard without consequence. These things make me comfortable, yes. Happy, no.

Mary Oliver said, "I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things."

And Mary, it is so much more than a notion. It's too bad I couldn't have been there when Jesus compared the rich man's odds at heaven to a camel traveling through a needle's eye. Maybe it would have been clearer when he looked straight into my eyes, that He was talking to me.

Would it be okay if I quote Mary again? Because I feel so much better when I stop thinking about where I will put the Kitchen Aid in the new place, when I start thinking about the pursuit of a beautiful, de-cluttered story, of stepping off the beaten path toward temporary prosperity to chase after eternal amazement.

Take it away, my dear Mary Oliver:

When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

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