Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Beautiful Day
To hear her describe it, her apartment is a pit with cracks and stains, with booby-traps for women in wheelchairs, and is maintained by evil people who hate the disabled. The sunlight is too hot. The view is too much sky, not enough city. The new cabinet sink they installed in the bathroom is too small, and there's a space between it and the floor that looks craggy and will probably be her downfall, somehow. Somehow.

When we arrive, she's sitting on the floor, holding her granddaughter's tiny feet in one hand and changing her diaper. Her husband is locked in his bedroom. Sulking, she says, her eyes roll.

My mother and I slide the bags of groceries to the cluttered tabletop. I let The Boss down; he immediately toddles to the half-naked baby on the floor to inspect.

He then turns his attention to my aunt and flashes a toothy grin, pointing at his reflection in her glasses.

We're here to deliver food from the food pantry and relief in the form of our company. My mother puts away the groceries, I pull The Boss up from the floor so that his cousin can get her post-diaper change bearings. She's thin and long, with delicate features and dainty fingers - the opposite of The Boss in every way.

My aunt sighs as she pulls herself across the floor and up into her chair. Defeated from a morning of babysitting, both her grandchild and her husband. Defeated from fifteen years of living in pain.

But then she smiles at the babies as they introduce each other, as they do each time they meet, eyes locking, bodies rocking back and forth, each waiting for the other to make the first move.

The Boss reaches forward and pokes her cheek. There, done. Now we can play.

My aunt laughs at the exchange, shaking her head, it's so easy for them.

My mother pulls a story of mine from the grocery bag. It's The Eulogy that I wrote last month. I brought it for my aunt to read, as a momentary distraction.

You know, I used to write. She says with a brown-toothed smile. And for the next five minutes, she talks about that. Writing. Poetry. Awards she won. The fun she had creating characters, plots, worlds outside of her own.

The teakettle whistles and my mother moves to the kitchen, leaving my aunt and I alone with the babies in her small living room. We sit quietly, listening to the sounds of plates and cups moving on the other side of the wall, until at last she speaks softly and to no one in particular.

Looks like it's a beautiful day.


Monday, February 27, 2006
Something's humming.

It's Monday morning. Not yet ten. The Boss is napping. The cats are outside scattering the yard with pawprints in the snow. Here, inside, it's hushed - like I'm wrapped in a blanket of white noise. The buzzing of the computer. The low growling of the furnace. My own stomach, wondering why I've not yet eaten breakfast.

But the humming I'm listening to isn't from this fuzzy static of life in progress...it's something different. It's not merely the shattering of writer's block and the electric buzzing through my fingertips to the keyboard. No, it's change. Happening.

But slowly.

Things that were once out of reach have become grab-able. The Boss is now a master of tippy-toed stretches that reward him with fistfuls of tissues and empty plastic cups and the guts of Sunday Morning newspapers to shred across the floor.

Things that were at one time inconceivable are now conceived.
She's seeing someone new.

Things that once seemed too daunting to complete, have become doable. My writer's block has proved to be nothing more than a state of severe procrastination. Which is surmountable. I am surmounting.

Things are humming. Moving. Changing.

But slowly.

And it's good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
An Open Letter to the People at My Gym
To the two girls lounging on the hip abductor machines: While I'm sure your weekends were exciting and that your boyfriend did get the craziest tattoo on his forearm - I do not pay a monthly fee to listen to you chatter to each other, while lounging motionless on a machine I'd like to be using to abduct my hips (or whatever it does.)

To the woman walking on the treadmill beside mine: I see you when you oh-so-nonchalantly glance over to read how fast I'm going or how many calories I've burned.

To the random lady in the locker room: You seem nice enough, but please, stop talking to me about how you just survived not one, but two classes and how your back is itching (Does sweat make your back itchy?) once I've closed the door to the bathroom stall. Conversations with strangers should cease when the stall door is closed.

To the man oogling my chest while I was doing the Pectoral Fly: Please. Stop.

To the members at large: While I do admire your confidence in wardrobe choices, you might enjoy learning that squeezing yourself into lycra or spandex is not actually a requirement of membership.



The Other Short Story
I've posted the other "very short" story I submitted a couple of weeks ago, over here.

Now, I'm busy working away on my next self-imposed deadline: March 31st. (And by busy, I mean, doing lots of thinking about writing...and very little of anything actually productive.)

Monday, February 20, 2006
Long Weekend
Between long car rides, visits with in-laws and friends, between malls and making pizzas and eating and sleeping and cuddling with a disoriented tired baby at one in the morning - I've managed to hide for an hour here and there, beneath a blanket to read lovely short stories.

I'm falling more and more in love with short works - especially as my time is so limited. There's a real sense of accomplishment in reading something from start to finish. It's wonderful.

In the midst of our whirlwind weekend we watched The Station Agent with friends. It was a last minute selection after hemming and hawing around the video store for twenty minutes (and wrenching the men from their hopes of bringing home spoof-movies involving low-quality actors portraying murderous zombies. Ugh.)

It's rare thesedays that I watch a movie that leaves me feeling refreshed. Most recent comedies are so lighthearted that they lack substance and most everything else that gets rented involves explosions or car chases and little else. I always seem to watch the credits with a sense of Huh. So that was two hours of my life.

But this movie was different. For once, I felt good after watching it. Not the full chested Awww, the protagonist reached his goal and life is wonderful type of good - it was more of a gentle sense that life is sweet and full of little sparkling moments.

I recommend it.

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Friday, February 17, 2006
We've long been broken. Our words are delicately curled wisps of breath, spit out across thin ice and afraid.

Or we don't talk at all.

Once we were hooked elbows and laughter through city streets - and our words were power. Fire. And we sat in smoke and watched them burn. We drove miles for good jazz. We dreamt poetry, theater, music, travel.

Now, we no longer exist, though his fingerprints remain on my heart.

I broke us. In a moment. In a week of moments. A month. In the time it took for
his hand to hold mine, I dropped my dearest friend and sent cracks through our smoothness, our shell. Killed what was inside.

Years have passed. Lifetimes. I've learned to find the beauty in brokenness. That the shattering of a shell, brings forth life. That the cracking of ice, signals the coursing of life pushing below. I've found beauty in broken glass; the shards curve sunlight differently, sending it shooting in new angles. I've found beauty in weathered relationships - that friendship is meant to ebb and flow, and that life is meant to be filled with both the present spectacular and the ashes of our past.

But the rubble of our friendship remains constant. A pile of smooth stones, I can run my hands over and smile. Moments of us. I've yet to piece these remnants into something as good as the original.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006
My Sunshine


Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A Simple (very incomplete) List of Good Things
Blueberry Patches
Homemade whipped cream
Well worn-in boots

Scent of Lilacs
Docks on small lakes

Warm breezes
Holding hands
Chenille blankets
Stained glass
Lift off and
Sleeping well and
Waking rested.

Rocking a baby to sleep
Long walks on sunny days
Art(istic expression)

Hot baths after long days
Garden-fresh tomatoes
Sliding your foot to the cool spot in the sheets


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Sunday, February 12, 2006
From Beneath a Pile of Snow...
My head is itching and my shirt is popping over my chest. This can only mean two things: I am dyeing my hair (again) and busty girls were never intended to wear buttondown shirts (which is why I only wear them for situations such as this.)

I love changing my hair color - it's the only thing I do to really alter my appearance. Aside from one drastic chop to just-below-chin-length back in 2003 - my hair is the same as it was in grammar school. (Ok, I'm blacking out about 4 horrific poodle-perms circa the early 90's. But I refuse to let them count. I was young and under the misguided impression that looking like a lion caught in an electrical socket was "cool")

Tonight, I'm dyeing my hair because we've been trapped in the house all day, bullied by a snowstorm. Because I've already baked cookies and read stories and played games and put my son to bed. And, because the dye was on sale and the box was sitting on the counter in my bathroom, begging for a go.

But, I digress.

Late last night, my husband and I threw darts while an episode of Mythbusters blurred past us in the background. Between our turns, I rummaged through a big box of clothing from our condo and pulled out the going-away dress from our wedding. It's a cute little dress - short but cut at jagged angles at the bottom. Ivory and tight, but with a delicate layer of lace material skimming over the top. And, my favorite part, it's an empire waist - the opposite of the button-down shirt for girls like myself.

In a fit of random - I pulled the dress over my clothes and continued to toss darts (and lose) while wearing it, like a five year old playing dress-up. It was surprisingly fun. Firstly, I was quite happy that the little thing still fit nicely - even when worn over jeans and a shirt - but secondly, because it was a silly and purposeless thing to do. Just what this weary mother needed.

My husband even joined in my little game of dress-up, pulling on a sports coat that he dug from the heap. But he only wore it for a minute or two, as it interfered with his dart throwing ability. (He won.)

We stayed up long past our bedtime. I, in my little going-away dress - took off the jeans and shirt, and modeled for myself like a little girl in front of the bathroom mirror. Embarrassingly girly. But, it was fun to see myself in something other than sweatpants and thrift store tee-shirts. Something frivolous and fun. Something with such a happy history woven into it. This is the dress I wore from our wedding, across the atlantic, all the way to our B&B in Rome. Not surprisingly, I haven't had much of an occasion to wear it lately, so, yes, I spun around a few times, and smiled at myself. And enjoyed every minute of it.

Then I met my husband in the bedroom - and we played cards on the bed for hours. My best friend and I, like a couple of kids. It was the perfect way to usher in the Blizzard of '06.

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Friday, February 10, 2006
Getting Lost
If I sit still long enough, it comes to me. It always does in the silence, even all these years later. It starts with the simplest of thoughts. Dense slabs of bread - cut on the table with a dull knife - crumbs scattering. A sticky jar of strawberry gem. A mug of Nescafe mixed with cacao and sugar.

Then she's there. My Romanian sister, inspecting a jar of Super-Chunky Skippy that I've brought with me to share. She licks her fingers and squints at the label. Nutritional Facts? She asks, her brow lifts. Fat. Calories. She laughs, You really want to know how bad what you're eating? I laugh with her. Oh, crazy, neurotic Americans. But I still refuse the jar when she tilts it toward me.

Her family spreads their bread with untura from a tub. Pure, white and shiny - a plastic bucket of lard. They fry potatoes every night in a pot of oil and eat them with fried eggs and untura slathered bread. Yet, they're the skinniest family I've ever met. Each with willowly limbs and impossible legs that stretch to their necks.

It's because they work hard and they don't own a car. They walk everywhere. It's a beautiful place to walk, Sighisoara. The old city, with it's infamous market square where once Vlad the impaler displayed his bloody pride. The park, filled with barefoot children. Main street. The smell of hot bread.

And I'm lost

Until the phone rings or the baby cries and I'm spit back out in the present. Years apart from those streets, that family, my once-upon-a-time life. But, aching as though I've just left.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006
Two bottles of Infant Cold/Cough/Fever Reducer medicine: $10.00

Two boxes of tissues & Vaseline for a tiny raw nose: $5.00

Four loads of laundry to wash sneezed on/sniffled on/snotted on clothing and blankets: $4.00

Ibuprofen for Mama's aching back and arms from holding and rocking for days on end: $5.00

Finally having your child fall asleep?


Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Reason #147 Why I Love Him
We're at the grocery store. A place we can sometimes escape to alone, it's become the equivalent to a date. Today we're shopping for guests. We're having company which obviously means, for my husband, that bad food becomes acceptable. Calories, fat, sugars - all irrelevant if consumed in a group setting.

I, on the otherhand, am anal to the core.

Case in point: There's a sale on ground turkey. Not only a sale - but the type of sale that makes us giddy. Oh, it's a BOGO (Buy-one-get-one for those of you who are still hip enough to have a life beyond grocery stores and Payless.) While my husband is preparing to snatch up a couple of packages, I'm inspecting the sale sign. Hmmmm. It appears to only be on the 93% lean meat.

It always is. They never put the 99% lean turkey on sale. I should've known this before I wheeled my carriage over in the first place. It was bound to be a let down.

Come on, Mella. The other 6% of fat is not going to kill you. My husband's pleading eyes bounce between mine and the yellow BOGO sign. His pupils eerily resemble dollar signs.

When I refuse, I brace myself for a rant about how ridiculous I am, passing up a good deal for an insignificant amount of fat (the horror!) But instead, he simply says, I wish you could see yourself how I see you. And pushes the cart down the next aisle.

Me too, Sweetheart. Me too.

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Monday, February 06, 2006
Trip to in-laws. Dinner with friends. Sick-sick-baby. Superbowl. Cooking. Baking. Sleeping. Loving. Driving. Rocking. Shushing. And finally, writing.

I submitted two pieces (that I still feel wish-washy about, but submitted them nonetheless.) One is posted

Thursday, February 02, 2006
T-Minus 48 Hours
The clock is winding down to the end of my personal writing challenge. (The deadline was extended, due to one magazine's deadlines being pushed back a few days.)

Is the story done yet?

Am I worried?
Not at all.
I thrive on this. Pour me another cup of strong coffee and let me go.

It's Too Beautiful Today Not to Be Inspired.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Naptime: Around the House

I'm having a wordless night. Unable to write, I'm ravenous. Reading. Thinking. Sitting. Clicking. Closing my eyes ~ imagining a sea of words - I'm scooping up armfuls until they're sliding between the creases of my elbows, dripping down the length of legs, splashing at my feet. Resplendent and shimmering. Begging me to empty my arms and drown.

But it's not my ocean.

It's hers.