Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Safe Passage

2014 was a year with no space.

Correct that; it's just that the space was so narrow, the line of light beneath a poorly hung door.

I turned 34.  My kid turned one.  I rushed and rushed and rushed into the world as it died and died and died. 

I'm not sure what I'm after here, except to say goodbye. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014


It is a bit of a curse, on Thanksgiving, to be both dutiful and perverse. 

Amend that.  It is a bit of a curse every day.

But the friction between duty and perversity reaches fever pitch on Thanksgiving, day of turkey and cranberry sauce and enforced gratitude.  You're racked, on Thanksgiving, by conflicting wants: To bow your head; to stick out your tongue.  To feed your soul; to bite the hand that feeds you.  To eat the bird; to flip the bird.

Mostly, the answer is to drown your sorrows in stuffing.

But also, yes, to give thanks -for two hands, and all the pieces of your heart.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


What does it mean to have a day off?  I keep stumbling on the word "off," which drags behind it darkness and quiet and brokenness -all these things rattling behind my vacation like tin cans on strings.  If I'm off, what part of me is down for the count? 

The easiest answer is my working self, but that answer -even the idea that I have a working self, an obedient inflatable office version that blows up 8AM Monday and folds itself neatly up 5 PM Friday-  has become increasingly problematic the deeper I get into this mess that is twenty-first-century adulthood.  Only one of my jobs has anything remotely akin to an on/off switch.  The rest are ravening maws or greater or lesser hunger.  And then there's motherhood, which is, to put it badly, an endless grind.

This is the paragraph in which I must earnestly slather sugar on what I just wrote in order to sweeten it to the point of social palatability.  And yes, there are enormous rewards to motherhood, rewards I would never want to forego, but I'm perverse enough, and stubborn enough, to want to tell you the truth, so: endless grind.

But I'm off today.  The on-and-off job is in the upright and locked position.   The kid is in daycare, guilt bedamened.  And I've forbidden myself from offering this particular stretch of hours to the hungry hydra of self-employment.

I'm off.  A word that turns out to mean nothing more -or less-  than space to make light.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Was Here

Chicago, IL.  Oops

Monday, September 29, 2014

I was here

Denver, CO; North Garden, VA

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Prairie Home Companion

We spend our childhoods preparing for a world that is already burning away.

We learn how to make telephone calls and insert floppy disks, how to make plans to meet in specific places at specific times,  how to get a job: work hard, apply.

Then, when we finally we stumble out into the blaze of adulthood, half of the skills we hoarded -from our schooling, from our parents' explicit or implicit teaching- are nonsensical.  Even our dreams no longer compute.  You wanted to be a musician?  Those jobs don't exist anymore.

(They do, of course, but they are unrecognizable.  I am a musician.  Sometimes I play music.  Most of the rest of the time, I hustle: marketing emails, social media campaigns, direct solicitation, grant proposals, accounting, schmoozing.)

It's like walking into the fairy tale you've heard every day of your life, only to discover that the dwarves have grown up like weeds, the old woman is living in a handbag, and the dragon and the maiden in distress are having tea in the morning room, and would you like to join them?

You picture babies; you get colic.

You're ready for romance; you get marriage.

You imagine competence, savvy, an iron-clad adultness- and you get your same old self, wrinklier.

Which is why, when you're bumbling along and suddenly, for the span of only breath or two or three, the moment you're inhabiting slips sideways to overlay, precisely, the moment you imagined as a child, a moon moving to darken the sun-

well, it knifes you in the gut.

Early evening; dancing in the kitchen with my son.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I Was Here; In Praise of Reading

Woodberry Forest, VA; Blowing Rock, NC.

And a terrible documentarian!

I try.

This blog.  And the half-filled, black-bound blank books in which I scribbled out my eighteen-year-old heart.  And the word document -poorly formatted, unaccountably titled- in which I tried to impress the first miserable, blistering weeks of motherhood.   And the scrawled, broken bits of sentences I use to grasp at for my son's first year as it howls past-

-I try.

And, over and over again, I lose my camera.   I have no smartphone.  I forget to write and forget to write and forget to write; or, worse, I shy away from it, edging past the white of the page like a nervous horse.

So why this circling back? Why do I keep worrying at it like a bruise, picking at it like a scab, trying to call up blood -though appalled when, at last, it appears? Why this futile, fruitless thing?

Because futile, yes.  But fruitless- no.  Something is borne, even if it's windfall, pointless, rot.

And because sometimes when I read, I read something so vivid, so piercingly correct, I know it's not just necessary but sufficient.  That it's the whole point: those words, that way, right now. 

And the only thing I can think might be worth anything is to stumble along beside those words, panting, yelping like a dog-

but at least my throat is open.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I Was Here With No Camera


Asheville, NC; Cullowhee, NC; Charlotte, NC; Oakland, CA; Menlo Park, CA.

Mostly work; a smattering of play; plus five and a half hours laid over at DFW.  Got home at 3:30 AM.  Missed the kid.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Am Here

Harrisonburg, VA

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Was Here

Staunton, VA.  Yes, that is Jesus.  Apparently he only appears to the clean.

Friday, June 13, 2014

I Was Here

Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; I am a terrible blogger.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Walking Dead

This morning, over diner breakfast, a friend of mine shared her vision of what the world's last flip phone will be like: Have you seen those really big phones?  With really big numbers?  That are raised?  For old people who can't see?  That's gonna be it.

By way of comment, I dug out my own flip phone: ancient, mildly broken, but still possessed of the ability to make calls and send text messages that require the finger dexterity of an exploited, underage factory worker.

I had to dig my phone out because that's where it lives: in the dug-out, half-forgotten recesses of wherever I managed to leave it.  I lose my phone constantly, even ardently.  I lose it between couch cushions, in the pocket of the wrong coat, in dresser drawers and offices and the darker provinces of the car. 

And I know, with as great a degree of certainty as anything can be known, that if I had a smart phone it would never leave my side.

I lose my grandma phone because it is a grandma phone.  I lose it because its paucity of features, its broken screen and cumbersome interface, means it lacks the addictive power of my laptop and every other device that dings when Uncle Marty comments on that photo of your lunch.



You take it your phone your hand -heck, it was already there, nestled in your palm like moist, electric paw of your first crush, the one you body checked your best friend to stand beside at Sharing Circle- and raise it to your lips.  Your fingers fly over its length, inscribe its skin:

*sooooo yum*

And then, hey, you and Uncle Marty feel the frisson -delicious, restorative- of shared humanity because you both like pizza and I, your client or your wife or your colleague or your teacher or your friend, I with my long-lost flip phone, am left to stare at the top of your head.

News flash: some of you are bald.

Eventually, of course, I will find my flip phone.  I will go to the phone store and trade it in and walk out with a smartphone and I will sleep with that smartphone next to my bed; I will tap on it in  waiting rooms; I will cradle it close; I will never again eat indifferent pizza; and I will know, with the incandesent certainty of the Googler, whatever happened to that guy in "That Thing You Do!"

But until then: Get off my lawn.

Friday, May 9, 2014


After decades of glorious slumber, I've developed insomnia.  Grown-up, real-deal, hours-awake insomnia, days on end and lasting for months.   Needless to say, I am not a fan.  It's particularly galling in light of the fact that my baby is, and has been for a while, an Olympic-caliber sleeper, conking out reliably at 7 PM and rising with startling and somewhat disgruntling cheerfulness twelve hours later.
Not being able to settle to sleep sucks, particularly when the change seems to be permanent, and especially when sleep has been, in the past, a wellspring of joy.  I miss, acutely, the delight I used to take in going to bed- as if, every night, I unwrapped the most perfect, most useful, and most personal of gifts.

Now the bed is a bier.  RIP sleep

And yet, life trundles on.  It does so in the face of wakefulness and loss, amidst cancer and paraplegia and climate change and the million other miseries, gnat-sized to elaphantine, comprising the human lot.

We're adaptable beasts.  Even awake.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April, Now

This morning, my father fed my son his bottle as the sun set its fingers to the lip of the world and the trees, large and small, stepped into their bodies and I flew from home to home. There are worse constellations of things.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Am Here

Bloomington, IN.  My heart; my heart.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Am Here

Greater Charlottesville, VA.  Missing my kid.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Was Here

Indian Rocks Beach, FL.  Also not taking pictures.  Possibly because I was there for all of SIXTEEN HOURS.  Taking a very, very short trip is like being abruptly parboiled: In you go, and then out again, pale and damp and mildly transformed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Was Here

Raleigh, NC.  Not taking pictures.  Because I am terrible at taking pictures!  A lack-of-predilection about which I periodically have existential crises.  Is my failure to snap the world a failure to acknowledge my presence in it?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Why don't people talk more about malaise?  Is that distinctive cocktail of self-loathing, entropy, and foreboding really so foreign that we have to import the word for it all the way from France?  It's true that the literal translation of "malaise," "bad ease," goes some of the way toward describing its effects, but it leaves a good chunk of the experience untonuged.

Malaise. I haz u.

And I'm not sure why.  Of course, that's the essence of malaise: your inability to articulate any good reason for your presence within it.  It's a straight up first world emotion, the kind you succumb to when you own gadgets for frothing milk.

A thousand pinpricks, none of which bleeds.  Your newspaper is late.  There's a hole in your sock.  We're all dying in our own sweet time, and you're just not sure, midafternoon on a Thursday, what it is you should be doing.

The cure: Misfortune.  A hard fall.  Or tea.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Supposed to Be Mine

We went out for Valentine's Day last night, the first Valentine's Day in as long as I can remember upon which I've done anything conventionally romantic.

It wasn't my idea. 

I suffer from congenital perversity, a kind of virulent allergy to supposed-tos.  I like to run against the grain. This dates from babyhood, and made me a particularly endearing toddler.  )The number of preschools I was kicked out of is larger than the number of children my parents had, which does not strike me as an accident.)

But my husband surprised me on this one, engaging a babysitter and making a dinner reservation before I had even clocked the holiday on the horizon.  And who am I to interfere when a man wants to take me out for dinner?  And so we went.  The restaurant was full of couples in red.  There was an overpriced prix fixe menu, attentive servers, and much flashing of wedding rings.  I downed two cocktails and everything was delicious.

Swimming with the horde, doing what comes easy, taking the road more traveled by: It isn't always so bad.  It's only well past preschool that I've begun to recognize perversity for the taskmistress she is, to acknowledge that fear of allowing others to shape your choices allows -not to put too fine a point on it- others to shape your choices.

I wore red, too.  And a diamond ring.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Throw Wide the Gates

Having a child is basically like lying down in front of the universe and screaming "come screw me."

It's an invocation of chaos, a tempting of fortune.  You're shouting the name of the Scottish play in a crowded theater; you're taking down the garlands of garlic over your door; you're opening the window wide.  Sometime will go wrong.  Something always goes wrong.  You're asking for it. 

On the surface of it, this is unwise.  We are none of us at our most graceful when faced with adversity, and adversity is what children bring to the table in one form or another: they stink, they howl, they steal away your sleep and your sanity.  And that's before they get to middle school.

On the other hand, capitulating to your fate -be it ever so poopy- is curiously freeing.  You have no control- but you never did have, really, and at least, when you have kids, you get to learn this lesson at the hands of something genetically programmed to make you think it's cute.

Bring it, kiddo. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Visitation Street: Ivy Pochoda

"Jonathan stands up and breaths deeply.  The whine in his ears is now in sync with the wheeze in his chest.  His whole body sounds like a kids' recorder concert."

c. 40% on kindle.  Murder suspect running; the recorder as pejorative simile

Thursday, January 30, 2014

O sleep

So baby has had a run of excellent sleep, and I'm a wreck. 

You'd think, if you were a sane and rational human being, that it would be the other way around: baby up and about, mama prostrate; baby snoozing, mama restored.

If you are a sane and rational human being, I am impressed.

To be honest, the kid's always been a pretty sturdy sleeper as babies go, with none of the night-day confusion so terrifyingly outlined in books.  And now, at twelve weeks, he's slept a full adult quota -from 8PM to 6AM or 7AM straight- for ten out of the past eleven nights.

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Is it so strange, that a run of smooth sailing strikes terror into the hearts of those of us with a nose for disaster? When the plane ride is silken I fear turbulence; when the notes come smoothly I wait for the hitch.

Good times- the grin before the fist in the gut.

Which shouldn't, now that I think about it, prevent me from grinning back.  O sleep!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Divorce: $189

It's a small yellow sign, thrust into the dirt of the median.  You drive across the train tracks right before you see it, rumble over the ties, under the highway feeder and past the police horses grazing in its shadow.  It's a nowhere stretch of road, limned by windowless buildings that warehouses or abbatoires or dance studios, and how would you know the difference?  In their company, the little yellow sign seems almost homey, a letter from a world in which humans, even if they fight, nevertheless breathe and drool and listen to their hearts.

People in this pass-through stretch of the world are snug in their cars or homeless.  Occasionally a policeman emerges from his vehicle to tend to the horses, bring them out from under the shadow of the overpass and parade them through the projects.  The littlest boys stop and stare; the older ones pretend not to notice.  Which is something: pretending not to see those hooves, those teeth.  

Divorce: so cheap!  Weddings are inching ever closer to $30,000, but divorce will set you back little more than a cable bill.   In terms of bang for your buck, it's tough to think of something else that will change your life so quickly, so effectively, at so little cost.  Your knots unknotted: your solitude secured; your children shuffled from hand to hand.

It's not an accident, this sign.  $189 and you're alone.  $0, and you're almost there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

One Sunny Day

It's bright and warm today, as if the the world might possibly begin to think about Spring. 

This is false advertising.  I happen to know, thanks to the casual miracle of weather forecasting, that this will be the only sunny day in a clutch of cold and cloudy ones, the one yolk in the carton.  I'm enjoying it, if enjoyment means sitting around wallowing in guilt over insufficiently enjoying the eminently, if transiently, enjoyable.   

Failing to enjoy because I think I should be enjoying more: This is among the least useful of my neuroses, one step below my membership in the clean plate club but a rung or two higher than my nagging sense that I should be accruing more frequent flier miles.  And faster.  Why am I not Sky Priority?  What does is say about me that my travel habits, while adequate to my work-life needs, relegate me to the interminable purgatory of Sky I'll-Get-to-You-Later?

All this rattling around in the bright.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Am Here

Some shockingly cold version of Atlanta, GA.  In a basement.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hitching Post

I'm a sucker for the Vows column of the New York Times, in which couples enumerate the pleasures and vicissitudes of their particular schlep to the altar.  I like the soppy details, the tear-gland-wringing anecdotes, the ever-so-slightly snarky quotes from friends. 

It is true that the one time a couple I knew was featured, they were featured so rosily as to be unrecognizable -a shocking, pepto-bismol distortion of themselves.  But I still save Vows for last in my  Sunday paper perusal, savoring it as the climax of a long and pleasurable liturgy.  And if I don't read the column religiously, I do read it with more than a hint of the supplicant's fervor.

It's with some degree of puzzlement, then, that I declare an even greater affection for Unhitched, the column that spotlights divorce.  Unhitched is most frequently published on the facing page from Vows, where it looms over smiling brides and grooms like a memento mori: DIVORCE WILL COME FOR US ALL.  Or 50% of us, give or take.

I'm all for schadenfreude, but there's very little of that bubbly brew in my enjoyment of Unhitched.  Rather, I'm head over heels for the storyboarding.  The marrying couples in vows have to pour their stories into a single mold: meet-love-marry; what's more, their individual narratives must cojoin, compress into a single tale of how-we-met. 

The divorced couples in Unhitched, on the other hand, have a whole pile of narratives at their disposal, and in many cases, these narratives diverge: one spouse talks of blossoming, while another speaks of getting over the hump.  One spouse speaks of fight, another of flight.  Divorce is, after all, a fracturing of narrative- one person's tale splitting from another's in the telling.

Ergo, more story  -and often though you might not think it, more love.  There are so many splendors, Unhitched assures us- and only some of them require you to stay.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Brave New World

Book club has the salutary effect of forcing you to read things you don't particularly want to.  So here I am again, reading Huxley's high school-reading list chestnut.  So far it's notable mostly for its stridency- a kind of adolescent lookatmenow yawpishness.

But there's some fun in it, too, small details I didn't notice the first time through:

"Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation."

Huxley is not a Buddhist.  And neither am I.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Am Here

Chicago, IL

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Was Here

Phoenix, AZ.  Taking a really bad shot of a cactus.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Which I Give Advice

Oh, I promised I wouldn't.  There's nothing quite so smarmily irritating as the veteran parent who starts sentences with: "Just remember...."  "All you have to do is..." "When Norbert/Melchizedek/Hottentot was young..."

But one of the more dispiriting side effects of progeny is one's sudden, irresistible urge to enlighten others as to the particulars of your sagacity.  So here.  In the event that you are thinking about making the long waddle into parenthood, I hereby dispense my three hard-earned pearls of wisdom:

1) Some of it will be different than you thought.  Which particular parts will be different than you thought will also be different than you thought.  Basically, no one has any idea what is going on, and it's probably time to eat.

2) Accept any and all offers of free food.  Actually you should do this all the time, and not only after you undertake breeding.  Why wouldn't you accept free food?  It's free.  And it's food!  What is wrong with you? 

3) Do not, under any circumstances, read "We Need to Talk About Kevin" during the first two weeks of parenthood.  Also don't read it during weeks four through ten of parenthood, during pregnancy, or really any other time you might happen to be around a child.  Probably the only safe time to read this book is after you make the decision never to allow any immature human to come within in a twenty food radius of yourself and you hit the Internet to purchase a twenty-foot-long child-warding-off pole in accordance with this purpose.  In which case "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is a fabulous read and will make you feel safe and righteous and smug and relieved you have a pole and you should plow through the book now -right now!- while noshing on free food.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Baby, Baby, Baby

What I can't get over is that what I'm doing now -sitting with baby, feeding baby, dressing baby, changing baby, cooking, laundry, general domestic drudgery- used to be almost every woman's full-time job.  Maybe if she wass unmarried she'd get to teach, but otherwise a woman basically just got to have babies and raise the babies and hope that her babies got old enough to have babies.  The repetitiveness of this astonishes me.

And then, of course, I question my own astonishment.  If I had been raised with the expectation of making babies my work, would I find female history less startlingly boring? Or did my foremothers, too, get bored?  Is my own boredom a luxury, one more excrescence of the ease of modern life? 

The problem with the country of the past is that all its patriots are dead.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Snow, elsewhere

So I am tangentially employed by a large university in the Midwest.  My monetary remuneration barely covers my yearly car insurance, but I receive true recompense in the form of electronic missives -infrequent yet reliable- from a place that's not here.

Mostly these messages from elsewhere are alarmist.  Campus lockdown!  Tornado warning!  Occasionally they are sorrowful.  Bigwig died.  I have yet to see a happy one, but I love them anyway because they assume -wrongly, but with absolute confidence- that I am on the ground in another state, and in so doing they allow me to pretend, if only for an instant, that I am.

My favorites are the storm warnings, and so I savored the one that came today:  Mittens are warmer than gloves.  Watch for patches of ice.   Significant snowfall expected; bitter cold.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Shot Up

Baby got his two month shots yesterday.  He screamed as if he were being multiply impaled- which, I suppose, he was.  My role, according tot he nurse, was to comfort him.  I was blazingly successful, if comforting your child means running out of the room and hiding in the hall.  Go Mommy.

I really thought I had crying covered, too.  In one of my jobs, I see about a kajillion crying preschoolers, and I've become, over the years, stone cold: No, tiny Machiavellian,  tears will NOT enable you to eat my crayons.  Or hit your friend.  Or any of the other things you really, really want to do that are inadvisable and/or irritating.  You ran when you weren't supposed to and tripped?  Dust yourself off.   You want your Mommy? So do I.  My heart is hard, preschoolers: My heart is hard.

But it turns out there's a dreadful difference between the tears of a preschooler and the tears of an infant.  A preschooler has both language and agency.  You can explain things to a preschooler: Your Mommy is coming back.  Crayons are poisonous.  I told you not to run.  Preschoolers' brains are tiny, but those tiny brains do tend to have some grasp of cause and effect.

Try explaining things to a two month old.

Hence my retreat to the hall, where I resorted to ragged repetition of my sole parenthood mantra: Not "be a good mother," because, heck, I know I'm going to bomb there, but "be a good enough mother." 

"Good enough" means trying not to kill anyone.  It means muddling through.  It means admitting that I'm probably not going to be an awesome parent, but also that, if I put some effort in, I'm likely to rise above piss poor.  Set the bar low and trundle over it: parenthood at its finest.

In the meantime, I'm pawning all remaining shots off on Dad.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Happy New Year!  I probably miss you- and in any case, I'm glad you're out there, reading.

I will likely fail to keep my 2014 New Year's resolutions.  (I kept a written list of my 2013 resolutions, which was really ill done of me; accountability is most disheartening.)  I'm doubly glad, then, that I was able to keep the smaller, more personal resolution of marking, on this blog, every day of Advent as it passed.

Time is precious; the least you can do is howl a little as it goes.