As long and obvious as an Ohio winter

The substitute-a-harvest-party-for-halloween people are smart. Because sure as heck those saints aren't going to be traipsing around in 39-degree weather along with their shivering Cinderellas and Luke Skywalkers. Even the force and fairy dust combined are no match for the chocolate-freezing chill of northeast Ohio. (The only good side here being that the Snickers I'll be stealing from the kids' candy bags will already be the perfect freezer temp).

As we prepare to go trick-or-treating tonight with "the cousins", do you know what scares me the most? The battle I'm undoubtedly going to have with Cinderella about wearing her winter coat.

But it could be worse, I guess. We could have snow on the sidewalks like our old neighbors in Virginia and Maine. Or we could have rain, like we've had every bloody day this year when it isn't already snowing. Okay, I'm exaggerating ever so slightly. But really, if we're going to break weather records in Ohio, couldn't it be in the abundant sunshine category for once?

All complaining aside, the truth is I'm so very thankful. And not in the I'm-only-looking-at-the-bright-side-'cause-I'm-supposed-to way. Really, this morning, the gratitude comes easily. The list is as long and obvious as an Ohio winter.

For living close enough to my sister that we can get our families together for dinner and dress-up.

That the kids' fevers that came and went before the holiday.

For snickers bars and reeses cups and hot apple cider.

For the beauty of change, for seasons that sing four beats to a measure, giving us an unforgettable rhythm beneath the harmony of tradition and memory.


Mark my place

He was four when we began reading about Mr. Tumnus, Lucy's first friend in Narnia. We divided the pages of the entire series among 300+ bedtimes. Every now and then, I replaced the 1950s language of Britain with a more contemporary word. Every now and then, I skipped a scary part. I was sure most of it was sailing far over the head of my little boy in the stretchy cotton, cowboy pajamas.

But I was wrong. He was six months shy of five when he wished Aslan would appear again within the pages of the story. "Because," he explained, "Aslan could make it all better--kind of like God..."

We finished the series over two years ago. This morning, he picked up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and began to read. On the way to school, he leaned forward in his seat. "Hey, Mom. Guess what part I'm in? Lucy's at Mr. Tumnus's house. The other kids haven't come into Narnia yet. And I was just looking ahead--chapter 12 is Peter's first battle. Oh man, I can barely wait till I get to that one!"

So this is what it feels like. To see what two short years can do to a little boy. To grieve ending and celebrate beginning in a single breath, moment, word. This book marks for me the places, then and now. Like a landmark you once saw as a child, now appearing along the highway, looking so much smaller to adult eyes, showing in an instant how far you've come. How much he's grown. How it's only the start.

Shared today with the beautiful community Emily hosts on Thursdays at Imperfect Prose.


Good morning, sunshine

Once upon a time, last week to be exact, we flew like the wind (though with significantly less leg room) to a fairytale world with majestic skies and magical waters. We broke our Cleveland-induced sushi fast and broke our record for most relaxing vacation ever. (Did I mention the kids stayed home? So that explains the relaxing part.)

It was amazing. But we are home now, reentering the world of leafless trees and chilly rain and six-shifts-in-a-row. It's good to be home. Really, it is. The sun rises here too, and the beauty, it's around here somewhere, even if we have to look a bit harder for it.


A Quiet Harvest

I've been quiet here for a while and will be for a bit longer. Life, on the other hand, remains loud, bright-colored, a harvest I can barely process, at times too much for words. This is one of those times. But what I lack in words, I'll give you in smiles.


Morning Voice

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, October 2007
Sometimes I wake up in the pitch black quiet, hours before the bus and the static-haired, pink-fleece-clad girl who loves to watch it go. If five p.m. is a baby's witching hour, then five a.m. is a mother's writing hour. The shrill voice that likes to boss me around says chip-chop! pay the bills! do the paperwork! return the emails! for heaven's sake, do the dishes your lazy arss left in the sink last night!

But in the morning, in the pitch black quiet, I shush the bossy old voice that shrieks in exclamation marks. And I listen to the morning voice, my own, the one that pleads gently with me to write, to say something beautiful, to let myself drift, to feel.

I rarely get it right, this balance between what needs to be done in order to get by and what I need to do in order to know who I am.

My little girl just toppled into the quiet, climbed on my lap and leaned her tangled, lavender-scented hair against my face. I can barely reach around her to type, and both coherency and contemplation have scampered away like frightened little mice.

I need to pack the lunch now and put peanut-butter on the bagels and make sure he's wearing clean socks.

My morning voice fades at sunrise like a sorrowful moon, when the sky no longer offers contrast, not enough to be seen, not enough to be heard.

Maybe tomorrow, I think, exchanging wistful looks with my morning voice.
Then the bossy voice barges back in with a fresh fistful of exclamation marks. Those dishes aren't going to clean themselves!


Any other frustrated morning writers out there? Or are most of you night owls? And for those of you non-writers (the ones who couldn't fathom churning out 500 words unless your history grade depended on it), what do you do to gain perspective, to stay sane, calm, to feed your inner self? Or am I making a huge assumption here that y'all are actually calm and sane and not a bunch of high-strung crazies with highly malnourished inner selves? (Not that there's anything wrong with that....)


Let there be blubbering

"Allergies?" I asked, offering her my most empathetic smile from the other side of the preschool art room.

"No," she took off her glasses, wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "I'm Italian. This is what we do. It's not even her first day--only the open house--and already I'm blubbering."

I moved in closer to introduce myself, to tell her that it's not just the Italians.

"She must be your firstborn?" I guessed. "She's adorable. And she's going to have the most amazing year," I promised, giving her my recently acquired and most reassuring I've-done-this-before look.
"But first, let there be blubbering."


The truth is, I didn't cry when my firstborn went off to preschool. I didn't cry when my lastborn went off either. No, that would be way too normal. I'd apparently rather wait until October, when both children have been happily deposited in the school routine for over a month, and then rifle through pictures from three years ago and sob like a 10 year old during the last twenty minutes of Old Yeller.

I let myself think for a minute today about what life would be like if I lost one or both of my children. I don't know why I allowed myself such a dangerous hypothetical. These are clearly the sorts of rabbit trails that could wreck me. But I dug out of the what-if-ditch quickly enough--before the fill-dirt anxiety starting pouring in. And I stepped from that shaky, shifting what if soil onto the firm ground of gratitude.

However long this amazing gift is mine--as long as these two miracles sit across from me at dinner (never mind that they're making scrunchy faces at the tortellini)--however long I can pull them in by the cheeks to kiss their foreheads, however long we are here, together, a family, I will give thanks.  Continually, if possible. (Except for perhaps a few moments of extreme annoyance with the aforementioned miraculous children).

And so it's gratitude, really, that's making me cry. I see the pictures, October upon October, and I'm so overwhelmed by the thousands upon thousands of moments--each one a gift--piling up into this beautiful history. And how, I think, how has this come to be entrusted to me?

Maine, 2008
Maine, 2009
Ohio, 2010
So I sit here--not at the preschool door or by the bus stop on the first day of school--but in a dimly lit corner of my living room at midnight in the middle of a perfectly normal week. I sit here. Humbled. Thankful. And of course, blubbering.

Linking today with Heather for Just Write. 
Also, to whoever is in charge of monitoring the use of double dashes--I'm really sorry I used a year's supply in this post alone. That's what happens when I "just write" and tell my inner censor to be quiet. Who knew my inner censor exerted such a tempering influence on my punctuation? Oh well, double dashes it is. Get used to it.

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