• My Words

    From Fool to Forgiveness

    When she dies, I’m going to write a story about her. I made the threat a million times. I’d write it as a work of fiction to cover my ass, but it really doesn’t matter either way. If I were to write the drama, half-truths, and all out lies that followed along in my life with Ilene, most people would think I was writing some ill-conceived Housewives of Insert City Here, without the table flipping. If I’d given her an opportunity though, Ilene could have provided a bit of furniture flipping.

    She was a fairy tale when I was young. A dark-haired pixie with a bright streak of mischief that dripped off her like flecks of our craft glitter. She was laughter and giggles, which are not the same thing, and she was acceptance. As long as you were one of the little ones, you only saw the sparkly side. She used me for an audience and in turn I did the same, copying my little kid poetry onto construction paper held together with brass chads and heart stickers, signed with a promise to add more as I wrote them, and colorful blank pages at the end to ensure I could.

    That wasn’t the book I needed to write though. I wouldn’t have had to wait for her to die to just tell another story of another sweet grandmother. Nope. I needed to write about what happened when the magic wore off. I needed to write about the truth of aging out of her affection? No, not the right word. Aging out of her protection? Closer. I needed to write about growing up enough to see behind the curtain, to be included in her lies that others called stories. I wanted to write about a granddaughter betrayed.

    When I sat down to write my fictionalized version of Ilene, to purge myself of the sooty taste left when the magic wears off, my heart wouldn’t let me. I started the book. I finished the book. Her character was abducted by aliens, as she was. Her character has a mishap with a stand mixer, as she did. Her character tells the lies that others allow to live next to the truths, as we all did. But when I wrote the imaginary me living in the new story, I had grown enough to realize the dark magic behind the chaos that was Ilene had a source, and that She that is Me on those pages finds a way to forgive.

  • My Words

    Magical Places

    I don’t know who first showed me my magical place, but I know I was quite young. It’s a free place, open at all hours, with a vast amount of space and a never-ending collection of friends to bring along. I could get there on my grandma’s lap or with my brother and my mom through the living room. Under a blanket with a flashlight got me there as I grew.

    My grandmother introduced me to a little boy there with a purple crayon, a round face, and no hair. He invited me to join him on his journey and I followed, giddy at the chance for adventure. We sailed on his boat across rippling purple waves and landed on shore for a picnic. We shared pie with a moose and a porcupine. We wandered the city until we were lost and then found again, making our way back safely to his room, completing his quest to find the moon.

    Later I made my way back to that magical place and I traveled with my mom, my younger brother, and a young Brit named James. He’d lost his parents and was left with two Aunties who only cared about what he was worth, but he found his escape inside a giant peach, and rolled it out across the dirt. Safe inside the fuzzy fruit, we met his friends – a ladybug, a glow worm, and a friendly spider – and with a bit of magic, James and his crew got that peach to fly, and we were in on that journey too.

    Then A girl named Alice led me through a looking glass with a tardy rabbit and a hatter who was mad. We stumbled upon some crazy snacks that made us grow and shrunk us back. There was something new at every turn in her magical Wonderland, but as she shouts, “Off with her head!” we run from the Red Queen as fast as we can. We met a quizzical caterpillar and a snarky cat, and they’re all still there every time I go back.

    Photo of me sharing my magical place with my brother and cousin, circa 1984

  • My Words

    The Morning Argument

    I don’t want to get out of bed. The silk sheets have warmed to me, the dogs are in their beds, content. There’s nothing that says I have to get up. You turn off your alarm, sit up, stretch. Take your meds from the nightstand and go to the closet in the barest of dawn light that comes through our thick of trees this early in the morning.

       “Love you,” I say to you in the dark.

       “Love you more,” you whisper back.

    I listen to you fill your water bottle and close your office door. The sounds of the start of another of our days.

    I pull myself out of bed, no one to report to beyond the two dogs who want to go out. They need to pee, but also, they need to complete the first squirrel patrol and they might even get to chase a Robin. In and out we go, then to the coffee. I haven’t brushed hair or teeth, but the coffee is a priority. I know you’ll need it to get through another morning of meetings. I can hear you on the line now across the kitchen from behind your closed office door, answering questions.

    When the coffee is brewed and the call has ended, I grab our two mugs from the cupboard. I pick ones that are matchy adjacent – blue thrown pottery, one with a white rabbit, one with a bearded braided Viking – and I pour yours first. It’s the easier one, just black, no sugar, no cream. I open your door with mug in hand and dogs in tow and we bring you your coffee. A quick chat in your room with gorgeous views of our forest yard and extra heat from the server equipment in the closet. We say good morning. You say you need breakfast. You love on the dogs.

    As I leave, you give another “I love you.”

    “I love you more,” I say back as I close the door.

    I love you. I love you more. The argument we’ve had for nearly twenty years will continue throughout the day. By the time I climb back into the silk sheets that you don’t love but tolerate because you love me, we’ll probably have said it close to fifty times. It’s a reminder in each direction that this thing we have is still there, and neither of us is running away yet.

    Such a shaky word that is; yet. I’m not going anywhere, and I don’t worry you are either. Not to any real degree. But human hearts are nothing if not vulnerable, and ours are no different. That vulnerability comes up through the rest of our day with repeated questions: Do you love me? Are you certain that you love me? Do you love me forever? Questions asked and reassurances given, back and forth, a piece of comfort in our normal day. Do you love me? I love you. I love you more.

  • My Words

    Dark Matter

    Dark matter lives inside of me.
    It’s a midnight colored spiral that moves from mind to heart to bowels.
    It is a staircase for the dark set of emotions that travels with impunity throughout my every day.
    It pulls negativity and despair to center where they high-five over chants of “Give up.” “Give in” and “Girl, You don’t got this.”
    It celebrates every time I give in, and I do give in, and I do give up. Often times feeling the weight of those footsteps stomping up and down that internal staircase like tantruming children, waiting for someone to pay attention to their taunts. Needing someone to acknowledge their naughtiness, their existence.
    The Dark matter exists.
    It is real.
    It is a reality.
    It fights for it’s spot on my stage, sucking out every glimmer from the spotlight it demands until the audience can no longer tell if the performance is going on or if the heavy velvet curtains have been pulled.
    Do we applaud now?
    Is it over?
    But it’s never really over.
    I could accept accolades from a thousand loving hearts.
    I could throw my arms around a thousand lovers.
    I could bask in the glow of a thousand suns.
    It wouldn’t matter.
    Thor and his mighty hammer couldn’t knock this staircase down and close off its dark entrance to my heart.
    The staircase will spiral through me, just as certain as the sun will shine on me. Just as certain as the moon will pull through me. And I will listen to those stompy footfalls until my last day when my eyes finally close.

  • My Words


    You cannot conquer time. W.H. Auden told me that one day in his poem read in an English class, and I whole heartedly agreed. It was the truest statement I think I had ever heard, put into a poem that has lived on, through all this time, as one of my favorites. I’d always believed that time and death were connected since I was a kid, and I knew we were all running out of it from the moment we were born. I also knew there was nothing to be done about it. Time and his friend Death come for us all, and no amount of bargaining will deter them. I wrote about it when I was eleven in a cheesy little poem that I can still recite today.

    Death is scary and mysterious
    Strikes at any time
    For different reasons, and in different seasons
    It worries everyone’s mind
    But death will soon come to everyone
    And everyone will die
    Because death is just another part of life

    Yup, that’s the poem. Even eleven-year-old me was angsty and death obsessed, and a lot of that angst was related to the amount of time I thought I had. The amount of time others I loved had. And the crushing understanding that no matter what, just like the House in Vegas, Time in the end always wins.

    My great grandma had that poem in my little kid handwriting stuck to her bedroom wall with a push pin. I knew I was going to lose her when I hung it there with the folded origami shirt I’d pinned next to it. I knew I wasn’t going to be ready, but she let me know she was, and I held onto that. In her raspy, ex-smoker’s voice she told me she was dying. I denied it. She told me she was tired, and she was ready, and she was irritated they wouldn’t let her put sugar on her strawberries. I understood that last bit. She always made the best strawberries and I’d go back in time for her to mke me one more sticky-sweet bowl of the sweet berries from her garden. But Time doesn’t play that game.

    When Time and his friend Death came for my great grandma, my mother read my Death poem at her funeral. I was thirteen by then, and it was the first funeral I’d ever attended. I remember that moment and the service that seemed to go on forever. A man I didn’t know talking and talking about a woman he didn’t really know either. He mumbled on, trying to bring some sort of meaning to a death that was, of course, as inevitable as they all are.

    From the moment we first breathe, Time starts our countdown, and most of us live blissfully unaware of when that clock will ring for us. No matter what we do with the time we have – whether we use it wisely or waste it. Whether we live gracefully or imbibe with the gluttons – we cannot stop it. We might not hear them but the clocks through the cities whir and chime and Death walks towards all of us, holding hands with her friend Time.

  • My Words

    New Year, New Course, Old Memories

    The new year has seen the start of a new writing course with Laura Lentz, and tonight we touched on memories. The prompt I followed was about flashbulb memories. The long-lasting, usually vivid, memories were first talked about, funny enough, in 1977, which wouldn’t have been too much before my little, ever-lasting memory I wrote about would have happened. Did happen? That’s the funny thing about old memories. Even with vivid detail and emotional responses, the true details of events after they happen can actually become as much a mystery as a memory. Below is my flashbulb memory…

    I’m on the stairs in my mother’s arms. We’re in the yellow and white split level with the rust red shag in the living area and on the stairs and the bubbly yellow glass alongside the front door. We have to have been changing laundry because when I was young enough to be in her arms that’s all that was in the never-finished basement of my childhood home. And I know I was in her arms. I know I was less than three because Kendall came when I was three. I remember that day – I built a house out of giant box with my 7-year-old uncle, Duane. I remember that but I don’t remember I was doing it because my mom was in the hospital having my baby brother. Even after my grandmother told me why we were building it, surprised I remembered the box house and being impressed my uncle had a pocket knife, I didn’t connect that box to my brother being born. You’d think I would remember that bit, but never mind that, I’ve gone off track.

    I have my elephant and we’re going back upstairs from the basement. I’m in my mother’s arms and I watch him drop down the stairs. I know – to this day I know – that it was a greyish white with blue edging and pink cheeks. It mildly reminds me of those Golden Story Book characters. You know the ones, rght? It was almost squeaky-toy plastic with that plastic toy smell that I still love to this day. The smell of pool floaties and plastic figures. I think I was chewing on it? Maybe I wasn’t. My mom only vaguely remembers the elephant at all. She says maybe she thinks it was a shower gift. I know there’s a gift list in my baby book. I’m sure I’ve looked it up before to see if “Special Elephant” is listed among the gifts, but I digress again. Back to the memory…

    I’m in my mother’s arms on the stairs with the rust red shag and I have my elephant, until I don’t. I drop it and watch it go to the bottom. And it’s not the first bottom, where the front door is, it’s all the way to the bottom, the landing for the second stairs, and she doesn’t stop to pick it up. We don’t go back down to get it. I don’t know if I asked her to. I don’t know if I could have asked her to, I don’t know how I old I was, but I remember being sad. And now, forty plus years later, certain times of minimal sadness put me back on that staircase. Not monumental sadness. Not true, heart wrenching, gut punch sadness. The simple kind. Showing up at the Sev only to find out they don’t have Cola Slurpees will remind me of losing my elephant. And showing up at the Sev for any kind of Slurpee will bring back a whole load of other memories until they’ve tucked the little elephant thought away in it’s applicable drawer in the memory space of my mind. Oh Slurpees…

    There’s another memory with a car trip with little kids and two impatient fathers and mothers doing all they can and a toddler crying for a Slur-ur-ur-ur-peee. For minutes? Hours? Miles? Days? Depends on which one of us you ask, but we do all remember the Slurpees. And I definitely, absolutely, positively, almost certainly, vaguely remember my elephant. I remember dropping him on the stairs and I remember the crushing realization as a toddler that this time my mom wasn’t going to get him, and I was going to have to deal with being disappointed. And now, when small disappointments come up, when I can’t get my Slurpee or I forgot to grab creamer at the store, I see my little elephant at the bottom of those shag carpet stairs, and I remember.

  • My Words

    A Jolly Little Secret

    A long, long time ago, someone, somewhere, created a man named Santa Claus. If I’d done more research, I could give you a better origin story for the current iteration, but you know who I mean. He’d existed before under various pseudonyms and with varying powers, but this go ‘round they made him old, gave him a red suit, a sleigh, and a herd of reindeer. They gave him a team of helpers, an address no one can find, and they eventually gave him a wife who makes cookies and helps him keep up with his schedule.

    They also gave him a job. Every year he was to fill a sleigh with toys – enough to spread around the whole world – and hitch that sleigh to his reindeer and fly out into the night to deliver his packages. Delivery required coming down chimneys or other various means of breaking and entering, and depending on the family being visited, the gifts also had various levels of meaning and expense.

    Every year he makes appearances on television, on radio, on stages and mall platforms to check in with children who promise they’ve earned their spot on the good list, while adults fall over themselves to make sure the meetings can happen. And as they pull one screaming, terrified child after another off the knee and past the elf with the tiny candy cane prizes, they smile and wink at each other for keeping up with the secret.

    It’s that secret that I see as a miracle. Not just any small miracle either – this one is huge. For decades upon decades, people around the world have kept the secret of Santa. Even people like my little brother and his wife who were absolutely adamant they were not doing Santa at their house because they weren’t going to, and I’m quoting here, “Lie to their child” haven’t missed sitting my nephew on Santa’s knee for the past 8 years. Even during covid times my husband and I were with them when they trapsed through the snow downtown to a small hut where a man with a white beard and a red suit sat behind a plexiglass partition to listen patiently while my nephew outlined what he would like to see under the tree. And we all went along with his excitement afterward, agreeing with him that Santa liked him and would deliver.

    It’s miraculous to me that as a people who globally disagree on so many important issues, who battle and belittle, and war with one another 364 days of the year, we keep up the secret of Santa. Each of us a willing participant in the “big lie” to avoid being the one to kill the magic of the fairy tale. Not one of us wanting to be the one who says “Sorry, Walter, there is no Santa Claus.”

  • My Words


    A little something from a 2 minute excercise.

    I can’t go on, I go on. What other choice do we have once we enter onto this Ferris Wheel called life? Round and round we go in the universe, collecting momentum to continue forward, bringing the other riders along with us as we spin to the carnival music never quite in time with the lights. It’s a crazy ride, for sure, and maybe it could use a few tweaks. Maybe some safety measures to protect the heart when the wheel spins to hard, but it spins as it always has and we stumble off at the close of it all with a haggard thank you, thank you for the ride.

  • My Words

    A Prayer for the World

    I will not say another prayer for this world

    I will not. I cannot.

    No matter color, creed, or crown

    I will not sit silent at your table

    I will not kneel with my head bowed

    I will not. I cannot.

    They say their preacher can speak in tongues

    I say I will not hold mine

    I will not. I cannot.

    They say a prayer will heal us all

    I say the time to pray has passed us by

    The time to do is now.

    When the cries of the suffering are still ringing in our ears

    When the scorched trees of our forests are still crumbling at our feet

    When hatred’s poison flowers are still blooming in the concrete

    I cannot stop to pray

    I will not. I cannot.

    When I take my seat at your table it will be a show of action

    It will be a sign of strength

    When I bow my head with you, I will not be alone

    The hurt of a million mothers will lead my heart

    The wisdom of ancient scholars will carry my mind

    And the howl of a warrior will be on my lips