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August 22, 2016

Sometimes words are my gift, and I sit patiently twisting the sentences, plucking words that don’t add to the bouquet, trimming and rearranging until it’s my version of perfect. Until the words are bent at the perfect angle so that I can hear the rhythm rolling through them down their stems out in to the air and into my lungs. Sometimes I hand these vases of words to people I love. Sometimes I hide them. I’ve got hundreds of half empty vases, sentences stuck at odd angles, or single phrases starkly jutting into the air, or vases that have tipped over with too many words, thoughts spilling out across the floor.

Sometimes words are my weapon, a razor I use to slit the throats of others, quiet and neat, leaving little blood and tremendous damage. Or I hold those words up in the air over my head while I’m shaking in rage, an axe I wildly swing with my nostrils flared, blind in my fury. I am careful because I know their power. I have hundreds of word scars, dotting my body like moon craters.

Presented or brandished, words are my air. Whether I am shouting with joy or army crawling from one day to the next, it’s often words that I reach out to. But sometimes I forget to inhale. I hold my breath, sure that I can get on without them, until I wait so long that I end of gasping to get them back to my body.

This year has been a difficult one. I am molting. I’ve done it before, shed old skins that no longer fit. Habits, patterns, or trains of thought that could no longer stretch to cover the curves of my body, the angles of my mind, or the arcs of my soul. Molting is painful. Mostly because I insist on hanging on to parts of that old self that don’t fit. I thrust the threadbare self, hoping it will cover me as I grimace red-faced behind it. But if I could just let it go, instead of holding on white knuckled, it would get easier. The words help me loosen my grip.

The hardest part about molting is loosening my grip on the people. No matter how long they’ve been gone from my life, it’s hard to look at a photograph of those that I once loved with all of my heart and wonder when it was that they were lost to me and me to them. For others I can remember the exact moment they slid from my grasp, the irrevocable minute they left forever.

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far this molting season is that people are never truly lost. They are still winding through life’s reddened canyons. And while I may not be there to see it, I take solace in knowing that they have people to help them float along, paddle over rapids, swirl through eddies, or pull them over to the banks when they are too tired to go any longer.

Those that have truly passed are not beyond the reach of memory. The words I breathe, the stems and blooms I carefully arrange can bring me back to them – to the gap in their teeth, their vanilla smoky smell, the soft, tanned leather of their skin. These simple things, knowing the people that you love are happy or at peace, make the metamorphoses just a little bit easier. Loosening a grip doesn’t have to mean letting go.

Back to the words. I’m wondering where they will take me. I’m hoping to fill up a lot more vases. I’m hoping I can line them and follow their shadows back to where I should be. My new skin awaits.


Walk Tall

December 11, 2015

My friend Abby has two of the best words of advice I’ve ever been given. Walk tall. They’re not so different from the advice my sister gives me when she is helping me dust myself off after having busted my ass once again on life’s crooked sidewalk, “Chin up, tits out.” They are both brilliant and wise and haven given me the gift of words – my sister by teaching me to read and Abby for bringing me back to writing after years of allowing it to gather dust in the shadow of my fears. I love them both fiercely and they are both gaining one more year of wisdom this week.

There are some days and weeks when I feel strong and tall, long-limbed and loose, and grounded with gratitude. But there are also weeks, like these past few, where I feel small and lost, huddled up and bobbing along, while I struggle to find a horizon to set my sights on as everything churns and shifts around me.

As luck would have it, this week I came across something I had written in a writing workshop years ago with Abby. The exercise was to write a letter – from anyone and to anyone – to tell a story or give some advice. I chose to write a letter to my younger self. Good advice, that apparently, I still need to be reminded of to this day:

Stand up straight, for god’s sakes. Don’t waste your long-legged youth hunched into corners of self-doubt. Get rid of those bangs, they don’t hide that bastard step-child of a nose you have and it only serves to hide the truth in your eyes. Ease up on the make-up, the war paint (as your grandfather called it) was never something you were taught to wear. You wear it as awkwardly as you stumble in those silver spangled heels.

Focus more on your hopes than your fears. The what ifs should be the wind that pushes your dream clouds across the skies of your mind. They are not the harbingers of storms.

Yes, you are smart. Please stop waiting for someone to tell you. It will not be in the books you read, on a billboard, or etched in the ink of your boyfriend’s tattoo.

Your failures are your successes. They are not things to carry around in your purse like rusted razor blades. They are yours – THAT is the shadow you should wear on your eyes and paint your face with.

Use your gifts. They are not meant to be kept in a box, placed on a table, or looked at wistfully. Break the box so you can’t put them away. Shatter the table so that you have no choice but to hold them in your shaking hands and use them every day.

Let the seeds of disappointment grow green-leafed hopes. Tend to them carefully, fighting off the plagues of selfish relationships. Use water to feed the plant, keep it away from the blight of family doubts.

Trust. You’ve done well to place the bird nest of your heart in the hands of others, to carefully rebuild it when it has been dropped or stepped on. But you need to learn to place it in your own branches, trust the strength of your roots, your ability to bend in the storms and stretch in the sunshine.

Trust your next steps and stride confidently into the future. Walk tall.


An introduction for those that don’t know me (all two of you reading this blog)

November 5, 2015

I’ve loved words all my life. At least since I first knew them. My sister taught me to read at the age of four in the damp chill of our basement, our brown fur beanbags pushed side to side on the slate floor. She leaned over me with a book, her finger tracing words as they tumbled in fits and starts from my mouth, some of them catching on my tongue. As I read more on my own, I would drag out my mother’s electric blue typewriter and copy the words from the page, watching the letters punch the paper and only getting only a page or two in before I left the typewriter humming to go outside and play with the dog. I spent every Sunday morning across the kitchen table from my mom with a stack of dictionaries and thesauruses as she wrestled with the New York Times crossword puzzle. She would take a sip of coffee and call out a word, and I would rush to find them, thinking that the faster I found them, the more likely we’d be able to pin the puzzle into submission.

The more words I learned, the more they filled me. I wrote my first poem in sixth grade for in Mrs. Adam’s class. It was the color and consistency of cotton candy, a melodramatic mess about moving away from my best friend in New Jersey. But I got to read it for parent’s night in a packed middle school library and for the first time, felt good about being the tallest girl in school. Fast forward through high school, I stepped on to campus with the desire to be a business phenom and promptly enrolled as an econ major. But with the advent of my first “D” and my favorite poet coming for a semester, I switched to creative writing. I loved it but was fickle. Writing sometimes felt so personal and painful, it was like I was peeling my skin off. Add the ego of a 19 year old to the need for self protection and you get lots of first drafts without revisions. So I fought with my professors over “edited” pieces that were turned in two and three times with no changes coupled with some very creative grammar rules. If ee Cummings could do it, why couldn’t the rest of us?

Once I got out of school, I got away from writing. Moved across the country, lived my life according to the plan I had built in my mind. And then that plan began to fall apart. At first it was just a frayed edge, but as time passed, it began to unravel, the cloth falling apart until I was standing in the middle of my thirties, naked and afraid with one single blue thread in my hand. Writing is part of what helped me weave my life back together. None of these things give me the “right” to be a writer. Anyone can be a writer. And anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit. I am not published. I have not won contests, awards, or accolades. Writing either holds you in or tips you out of the chair depending on the moment, and why I love it so much. For the days I actually make it to the chair. I’m still the little girl that writes a page and leaves the computer staring in to an empty room to go play with the dogs. To quote Steven Pressfield, Resistance still kicks my ass on a regular basis. But I’m working on it.

Aside from writing, I love food, brussels sprouts in particular, and consider myself a connoisseur (pancetta and carmelized onions, baby). I am a recent convert to the Mini Cooper and am completely obsessed. The tiny rubber mini cooper thumb drive they give to all new owners justified the entire purchase in my mind. I’m a complete and total fitted sheet folding flunkie. I will admit to getting so frustrated that I resorted to watching tutorials on YouTube. I still can’t manage it and half fold and half stuff them into my linen closet. Can anyone fold those fucking things? I’m a frequent dropper of f-bombs. I’m also a repeated auto-correct victim (I’m fairly certain I DON’T mean ducking, Autocorrect, thank you very much). I am a fart joke enthusiast and am not ashamed about it. I am a Springsteen devotee (his music runs in my blood), but have a wide range of musical tastes, reggae and country excluded. Four years in Nashville couldn’t bring out the country in me. Don’t judge. I’m a die hard dog person and immediately skeptical of people who don’t like books or dogs. I am a fertility survivor, member of the tribe of the motherless, and a hopeful memoirist. And most of all, I hope you enjoy this blog.