Thursday, December 29, 2005
The Escape
They're everywhere. Christmas remnants are shoved in every corner of the house. Boxes and bags are stacked along the walls. Clumps of tissue paper and bows and ribbons climb the corners. Empty cans and bottles from parties held a week ago are still sitting quietly on tables, waiting to be tossed into recycle bins. The house is frozen in the aftermath of the holidays - a trashheap of red and green napkins and paperplates - crusted with frosting and cake or dusted with crumbs.

And I'm leaving it all behind, hoping for fairies to come and tidy it all as I sneak off with my husband. We're babyless for two glorious nights, (thank God for the in-laws), and we're stealing away to a hotel in the city for two nights. I'm not bringing the laptop...but I am bringing a pen and notebook (writing the old fashioned way) and a couple of stocking-stuffer novels to indulge on while eating breakfast in bed and spending a lazy morning in bathrobe and slippers. I'm envisioning coffee shops, evening strolls through city streets lined with sparkling lights and room service.

Hopefully the result of this indulgent escape will be inspiration and pages of eloquence to post here in the near future.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005
This Side of Christmas
We left before sun-up; blanketed beneath a midnight blue sky. Bundled and hobbling with bags and boxes and the baby, we stuffed ourselves into the car. Fog seeped from the sides of the winding roads as we weaved our way to the highway. Seven AM and it was dreary and dead as night.

I hate this part winter. I sighed to the window, watching the wisps of fog curl in white puffs along the car. Early winter is light and hopeful. Snow is fresh and white and clean. The cold is enchanting and magical. It paints breath in delicate swirls before our eyes and daintily frosts windows with its sparkle overnight.

But this side of winter is a downward slope, moving further and further away from Christmas and twinkle of lights on new snow
. This side of winter winds before me like the roads we were driving, dark and enshrouded with fog. The snow is no longer fresh and white and clean - it's brown sludge that mucks up the roads and turns the scenery into a solid mass of white and brown. The cold is no longer wistful. It's numbing and cruel and it pinches at your skin as you wait for the heat to kick on in the car.

What do you mean? My husband asked as we pulled onto the highway, leaving the fog behind. The sky ahead was lighter too, a gentle plum color. But still no sun. The days are getting longer now. We're in the upswing.

I stopped sulking for a minute and watched him. A small smile was resting on his lips as he drove - looking ahead into the lightening purple sky. He was right. We're in the upswing.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 23, 2005
Happy Birthday Boss!
December 23, 2004

And one year later...


Thursday, December 22, 2005
Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes: Part Four
The final edition of Then and Now before the big birthday tomorrow:

The Boss & I

December 2004

December 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes: Part Three
Over the past year, even The Boss's uncle has undergone a transformation:

December 2004 2005

(I'll be back to writing here after The Boss's birthday. In the meantime, for posts that don't involve The Birthday Countdown, click here.)

Monday, December 19, 2005
Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes: Part Two
The Development of a Daddy

December 2004: New & Nervous

December 2005: Relaxed & Silly

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes: Part One
With the countdown to The Boss's first birthday winding down, I've begun reflecting on pictures from the past year and have come to the conclusion that one year really does make a world of difference. For instance, let's begin with a look at:
My Belly

December 2004

And..December 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
~ Sylvia Plath ~


But, I'd like to add a few more enemies to the list:

The sinkfull of food encrusted dishes, sitting in a tepid pool of old soapy water.

The toddler tugging at my sleeve, begging me to play (and really, who would rather sit around being "creative" with a keyboard, when you could be crawling around with a king of creativity - a child?)

"Must See" TV.

Christmas shopping.


The pile of bills and bank statements sitting between my mug and the monitor.

Grocery shopping.

Dirty diapers.

The list continues, but it begins to stress me out, so I'm going to stop there.

Since creativity appears to be scared of me lately, (and who can blame her? I'm constantly surrounded by no less than three of her enemies at a time. She would need to climb mountains of dirty diapers and hurdle past hours of mindless distraction in the hopes of catching even a moment of my attention.) I've decided to go hunting for her. I'm going to drag her down into the thick of my daily life and see what happens.

I've made a list of literary magazines and writing contests with deadlines all within the next month or two - and I have set a goal to have at least one short story ready to actually submit. Gasp! Wouldn't that be something? A girl who claim's to want to be a writer, actually taking the step and submitting a story for the world to see? Inconceivable.

It's true though, aside from the manuscript I had to submit for acceptance into my MFA program, I have never sent out a piece of my work to be scrutinized and -ack- rejected by someone in the publishing world. I suppose that I could blame this on the list I just posted; or I could just admit that Sylvia Plath was right - and get over it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The Rescue

The Boss and I are laying in bed nodding in and out of morning-sleep, shrugging off the day for a little while longer.

Mella? My mother's quiet voice drifts from beyond the door. Cautiously, questioning. And again. Yet a third time. As though she 's giving me time to cover up my naked body or hide whatever ungodly thing that I could be doing, behind closed doors at 7:45 in the morning.

When she finally musters the courage to peek through the door, she sees me, finger to lips - shhhhhh. The Boss stirs. I slowly wave her in, eyes remaining on the little guy. His small hand rubs the pillow then rests. Peacefully.

Do you have anything warm I can take to Vin? She whispers, already scanning the piles of clothing lined against the walls in our cluttered room.

I stare at her for a moment, my groggy mind slowly chugging into motion. Vin left for work an hour ago. Did he call and ask for clothes? Why, is it snowing? Is he out helping people move their cars? It's our car.

He's on the side of the road, she says, sniffing at a sweatshirt she's found atop one of the clothing heaps. Dad and I are taking care of it. She holds up the shirt and cocks her head as if the sniff wasn't enough for her to determine if it's clean or not.

I nod, it is.


My mother has left with the sweatshirt, gloves, a muffin and her AAA card. My father was supposed to be following directly behind her with a battery and various tools and automotive supplies. Instead, he's sitting on the couch, noisily crunching his way through a bowl of Grape Nuts - lecturing me on how important it is to bring warm clothing with you in the car in the winter.

He must be freezing out there, he says, lifting his spoon at me. I nod, deciding not to mention that my husband would be warmer if his rescuer stopped eating cereal and packed up his van of tricks to help him.


All is well. Husband is rescued, by a stranger who pulled off the highway to offer his expertise. Father doesn't even need to visit the scene. And I, armed with a steaming mug, settle in for a morning of writing.

Thank God for strangers and coffee.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 12, 2005
The Art of Making a Squishy Face
The Boss Learns How to Make a Squishy Face:

Exactly, how do you do that?
Like this?
Piece of Cake!

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 11, 2005
The Blackout
She sat at the head of the table beneath a halo of gray. Her cigarette hovered over the ashtray and her eyes stared past me down the length of the table to the china cabinet that was stacked with various mismatched Tupperware containers. She was lost to me.

I'd been warned that she was having episodes. They told me that sometimes she'd slip in and out for a minute or two and then be back to herself. And so, I sat quietly and waited. I strained in vain to hear crickets over the rattling hum of the air conditioner. I followed the movement of her cigarette smoke, still swirling from her fingertips. I picked up an old newspaper and skimmed the headlines. Finally, I whispered Kara? and stared at her face. It remained dull.

She was really gone.

I carefully reached to pluck the ash-tipped stick from her fingers. Her hand fell limp to the table, as though by removing the cigarette I had snipped her marionette strings.

Her son's girlfriend, Nora, appeared in the doorway, wearing a thin tee shirt and loose sweatpants. Her chest pushed out while she tied her hair back in a messy ponytail. Oh, God, did she go out again? she asked, leaning down to the table and waving a hand in front of Kara's eyes. I'll go get Josh.

She returned with my cousin and the pair lifted my aunt from her wheelchair and carried her limp body to her bed. It was effortless and routine. These blackouts had been happening more and more frequently.

No burns this time, Josh said as they emerged from her bedroom. Kara's legs were scarred with cigarette burns; she didn't always hold on to her butts. Oh, she'll be fine; he touched my shoulder as he passed.

Nora slipped by us into the kitchen. I heard the clinking of jars as she swung the refrigerator door wide and bent forward.

I stared at the scuffed up linoleum; embarrassed that I hadn't even stood from my chair to help them move her. And I felt oddly guilty for not saying I love you, before she slipped into her black hole.

Don't worry about it, she'll be fine in the morning, Nora reached around me with a can of Coke. She won't even remember what happened.

I nodded slowly. But I would.


Friday, December 09, 2005

The lake is completely frozen; the yard is hard and beneath a blanket of fresh white powder; the house is set in a snow globe. Schools are closed. The roads are slick and slippery with brown sludge tire tracks, sitting quietly after the early mornings commute. Everything's still now. The world is frozen.

Including the internet.

I've been disconnected from time to time over the past week - a blessing and a curse. It's difficult to procrastinate when there's not a world of websites to read at your fingertips. And so, I've been getting some words on the page, but almost grudgingly. Fine, if you won't let me play, I guess I'll get some work done.

The Boss has been keeping me plenty busy. We're in the most adorable phase of Step...Step...Clap. He takes one or two slow, clumsy steps, then latches onto my legs and smiles - at which point the adults in the room all applaud his achievement. The Boss pulls back proudly and stands on his own - clapping.

He then sits down and claps for himself. Then he crawls two or three feet, sits back and claps again. It's very, very sweet.

Meanwhile, I'm pushing everything to the center of the tables - since he's spending more and more time on two-feet now, he's reaching things in places that were once considered safe. I found him this morning on the floor with a mouthful of tissues, surrounded by torn bits of newspaper and an empty coffee mug - clapping.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
The cold is biting.

Half of the lake is pushing with the current, the other is frozen and carving out an angled path. I'm watching it from my little nook in the living room; empty coffee cup beside me, my barefeet freezing. But rather than refill my mug or leave to pull socks over my toes - I sit and watch the water flowing and resisting.

The laptop monitor in front of me is stacked with word documents - one on top of another on top of another. I've spent the morning wading through old works and opening new documents for typing random paragraphs whenever a new thought pops into my head - everything is disjointed and awkward. Nothing is flowing.

Three new beginnings and several works in revision. All only briefly touched upon - three sentences here, a paragraph there. New punctuation and cutting and pasting on yet another. But no real forward progress. I'm the frozen half today, feeling the current slide against me and wondering where it would take me if I'd let it.

I'm hoping to have something to put here before the end of the day - unpolished as it may be.


Monday, December 05, 2005
Babies & Hardwood Floors
The Boss is learning his ABC's and his No-No's. He knows, for example, that No means stop and look innocently at Mama before attempting for a second time the activity that caused Mama to say no in the first place. He knows that after a second No - it's time to pull out the charm. Look at Mama & flash an impish little grin. Wait for her to turn to another adult to discuss how cute her son is, and then return to the no-no activity.

The third No is accompanied by the sound of Mama standing up - this elicits panic in The Boss. What began as slow curiosity (Where do these stairs lead? What will happen if I put this wire in my mouth?) turns into a flurry of flustered movement - mostly random slapping. His panicked thoughts are written all over his little round face: Good god, how fast can I shove this cat food in my mouth?

By this point, the fourth, fifth and sixth No's are raining down on him and his brain hands the reigns over to his spastic little body, which responds appropriately: a screech, some tears and a dramatic face-plant on whatever surface is nearest to his head.

We're asking Santa for a baby-sized helmet this year.