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Sisterly affection.

Immediately after RegularDad throws a balled up tissue at my 11-year-old and then innocently hides his hands in his hoodie pockets:

11-year-old, to her sister: “Hey!!! Stop!!!”

13-year-old: “It wasn’t me!”

11-year-old: “Yes it was!”

13-year-old: “No it wasn’t! If it had been me, I would have thrown something heavier.”


The first books out of the boxes.

I haven’t yet tackled the stacks of book boxes up in my office. Not all the shelves are assembled and in their proper places just yet. We’re almost there, but not quite yet, so it’s better to leave those boxes where they sit.

But most of the boxes from the main living areas of the house are opened and unpacked, and what emerged from them are the books that were strewn around the house at the time the movers arrived. It’s an eclectic mix for sure, but a strangely comforting one at that. I’ve found everything from Little House to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, from Colorado and Utah tour books, to some old Dean Koontz, to Walden and Other Writings. These books have emerged from boxes labeled “kitchen misc” and “Living room” and “MBR: books and mice.”

As I unpacked these books, I simply placed them on tables in the rooms they’d been in, as if they’d never been disturbed, as if, in some other alternate universe, they’re still in Pennsylvania. Or maybe it was just the Universe’s way of knowing what books I’d need right away, because tucked in among them I found, of course, a small smattering of poetry books, including the latest from my teacher back home: Selected Poems, by Christopher Bursk. This morning, I opened up his book and found these lines:

…. Don’t
let go, you whisper. If I do
there’ll be no way
you can save me. My fingers hurt from grasping
yours. My body’s too great a weight
for anyone to lift. If it wants to fall
that badly, maybe
I ought to let it. I can’t
hold on forever, can I?
Yes, you whisper.
The word reaches down into the darkness
where I dangle.
Yes, you can. It is a command.

I can’t quite think about the fact that, come this January, I won’t be sitting down to another master workshop with this amazing poet and all my friends and fellow writers back east. But I can take some comfort in these lines, pretend for a little while that he was talking to me the whole time, that he looked into the future and saw me dangling here amid a confusion of boxes and half-assembled bookcases, and knew exactly what I needed to hear this morning.

Coming up for air.

Well, we made it.

Sort of.

We’re down to one dog now, and the movers didn’t arrive with our stuff for an extra 8 days, which was no fun, and we didn’t get our Internet service up and running until yesterday afternoon. But we’re here, and I have a working kitchen, and the ability to type on a normal keyboard, and now that our crazy dog is no longer with us, I actually have time to write.

I suppose I should write it all out, what happened these past three weeks, because someday I’ll be sorry if I don’t. But it’s hard because I’m grieving. That damn dog was such a pain in the ass, but I loved him. Four years I worked with him, and all for what? One week into this move, we had to relinquish him to a shelter. Because instead of calming down here in this bigger house, he just got crazier. I’m 100% sure we did the right thing, but still.

I miss my dog.

It’s the little things that you’ll miss the most.

Our beach day got rained out yesterday, so we decided to hit a movie instead. We were driving to our favorite theater, down this long county road that is hilly and full of potholes, a road that we always seem to end up on, in spite of its perpetually awful conditions, a road that, incidentally, was the road we first took seven years ago, when we found this little town and decided to stick around. As we’re bouncing along in my minivan, swerving here and there to miss the really bad potholes, radio blaring, my 11-year-old says:

“You know, I’m gonna miss this road.”

Me: “Really?”

11-year-old: “Yeah. It reminds me of every single horrible stomach ache I’ve ever had.”

Ten Days and Counting.

Ten days left until we all board a plane for Colorado.

The movers arrive on Monday. They’ll take two days to pack this house, and one day to load it. Then they’ll start driving west and meet us there in about a week’s time. I am continually grateful not to actually have to pack. But experience has taught me that movers will PACK EVERYTHING. Including any of your trash. They can’t make any assumptions about what you may or may not want to keep, so they just pack whatever they find and send it along for you to deal with later.

Back when we moved here seven years ago, I occasionally opened a box that was filled with nothing but trash. One box contained only a bunch of styrofoam blocks that once protected some new computer we’d bought way back when. Another, from my office closet apparently, held a full trash bag I must have forgotten to throw out at some point. Inside the bag were quite a few empty cigarette packages from when I used to smoke. At least there weren’t any ashes. Ick.

So, armed as I am with the knowledge that the movers will pack EVERYTHING, I’ve been spending as much time as possible going through cabinets and closets, tossing what needs tossing, donating what needs donating. Yesterday, the girls and I went through the DREADED COAT CLOSET. For such a small space, it sure did hold a lot of junk: mostly outgrown winter wear and sports gear. For about two hours, the chaos that is my normal living room reached higher and higher levels of disorganization as we sorted through the unbelievably overwhelming amout of CRAP that’s been collecting in there for the past six years.

Peppered in with all that junk, though, were dozens of pairs of outgrown shoes, along with an extra dozen or so shoes that couldn’t find their matches. We started lining up all these shoes and boots, and the line stretched across the room towards the back door. We exclaimed over the littlest ones, and each girl stole an old tiny favorite pair to keep as a memory, hurrying up to their rooms to hide them away. In the interest of being able to walk around in the house, we designated the back half of the dining room as the Shoe Recovery Area:


All these shoes have a story behind them. That lone black flip flop in the front center, for instance, lost its mate to a friend’s puppy last summer, when said puppy stole it and chewed it up. My younger daughter came home wearing only one shoe, but giggling the whole way. That black boot-ish looking thing all the way in the back at the top right is actually a walking cast my older daughter wore for half of one summer when she damaged some ligaments jumping barefoot off the swings CONSTANTLY for weeks on end.

And there there are the little pink princess crocs:


See them there behind the white dress flats my daughter wore to her first communion? It’s not that there’s a really cool story behind them, but I had just been reminiscing about these little shoes with a blogging friend of mine last week, and then suddenly, there they were in the closet. My younger daughter wore them all summer long a few summers back, along with a little red dress and white hat we’d found at the thrift store. Now she’s almost as tall as me, and I’m not sure where that little red dress ended up. But here’s how she looked back then:


And here is a close up of her feet in those little pink princess crocs:


We were jumping rope on the back porch that afternoon, and the rule was: you couldn’t land on the bunny. No matter what. Look how close she came. Those were good days. Good Pennsylvania days.

So, yeah. Yesterday I cleaned out my coat closet.

I may never recover from it.



Post-Rainstorm Backyard Drama.


MR. MALLARD: Good morning, dearest. Isn’t it lovely that the rain has finally stopped?

MRS. MALLARD: Yes, it most certainly is a glorious morning, if not a little overcast.


MR. MALLARD: Would you care to join me for a morning dip in this most glorious, private little pond?

MRS. MALLARD: Of course, darling. But first, I must do my stretches.


MR. MALLARD: Of course, dearest. Take all the time you need.

MRS. MALLARD: Thank you most kindly, darling. You should join me, you know. Remember what the doctor advised.

MR. MALLARD: Yes, I remember, dearest. You are so kind to think of my health.


MRS. MALLARD: It’s only because of my most deep affection for you, darling. Now, doesn’t that feel better?

MR. MALLARD: Yes, very much. Are you ready for our dip, dearest?

MRS. MALLARD: Yes, I’m so very looking forward to it… but wait… what’s THAT?


MR. MALLARD: What, my dearest? What troubles you?



MR. MALLARD: Oh yes, that’s the dog that lives nearby. Don’t trouble yourself one moment about him, dearest. All he ever chases is that yellow ball that makes such a dreadful squeak.

MRS. MALLARD: Are you certain, darling?

MR. MALLARD: Quite certain, my dear. See how he’s looking for it right now? He won’t trouble us at all.


MRS. MALLARD: Well… I suppose you’re right.

MR. MALLARD: Of course I’m right, dearest. Now, let us enjoy our morning swim.

MRS. MALLARD: I don’t know, darling…. Isn’t there also another dog that lives near here?


MR. MALLARD: Well, yes, but you know she never leaves the porch when it rains. I doubt she will bother us in all this wet.

MRS. MALLARD: But darling… don’t you see? The rain has… STOPPED!

MR. MALLARD: Yes, that’s tr——



Learning to lift the veil.

Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way.

But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. They they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.

— Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

While living in Pennsylvania, I had the good fortune to meet and befriend an amazing group of poets. One of them in particular had mastered the art of lifting the veil. Every time we talked, you’d get a little taste of what it was like, got a little better (braver) at lifting your own. She passed away in February. I wasn’t able to be with her that night because I was chaperoning a homeschoolers dance. I wish I could have taken a picture of what the sky looked like that night: a dense and beautiful fog had settled over everything, lighting up the snow covered fields. It was probably the most beautiful winter night I’d ever seen in Pennsylvania. But I was rushing that night, and didn’t stop to snap a picture. So, I’ll settle for this shot instead:

This is what the sky looked like as I drove home from her memorial poetry reading later that spring. And for once I took the time to stop the car and snap the picture.

And just now, while I was typing this out, the sun came out for just a few moments, brightening up my office, laying a swatch of warmth across my desk, after I don’t know how many days of dark and gloom. Like she knows I’m thinking about her, and knows how much I wish I could sit with her just one more time, and watch as she lifts her veil, showing me just how easy it is.

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