Thursday, October 30, 2008


I'm going to make a second years' attempt to do the national blog posting month. There are several reasons:
1. You all just really want more content from me. You've been asking for it, daily, and I'm going to deliver! (I haven't received those messages yet, but I know you would send them if you weren't busily scouring the Internet for more of my essays).
2. In all seriousness, I need a serious kick in the butt to get writing again. My mother in law's illness has made posting difficult; it was most of what was happening with us, but it wasn't really my story to share, and I had little energy/time for posting, anyway.
3. As we mourn Donna, I know I'm not going to feel like posting, and won't feel like I have much to say that's important, and so the daily posting gives a convenient shape/excuse/motivation. Sort of like drinking from the fire hose.
4. I miss writing. I miss noting things that aren't really that noteworthy, and putting them up for the world to admire.
Nablopomo, here we come!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

goodbye, Nana

My mother-in-law died last week.

It's hard to beleive it has been a week. At these Signposts of Life I always want to cling to the post, and then I try counting steps as I walk away. But sooner or later, you lose track and you're just walking, and past the milestone.

But I was talking about my mom-in-law.

Donna Marie Calire, sixty years old, mother of three and wife, and Nana to almost six. Small and lithe, possessing more of a dancer's body than I (with fifteen years lessons) was ever blessed with. Long fingers that tucked and sewed and created. An architects intellect. Slow as honey sentences. Belonging to a different age, what with her spinning wheel and loom and false eyelashes and her collections of tiny, breakable things.

Donna. Who whenever I would leave, would say, "My girl. Don't leave me." Who patted me on the shoulder the first time I entered her house (her domain, her world) and said, "Please, make yourself at home. Really, you don't need to ask." Who was surprised to discover, a week away from death, that she had been beautiful child.

Who was surprised to find so many people would be bereft with her gone.

Oh, dear one. We aren't ready to lose you. You have six grandchildren who will hopefully inherit your avid brain, your penchant for crossword puzzles, your expert fingers, your kindness, your grace. Who will teach them to honor your gifts? My daughter will probably not remember you. I fancy myself a storyteller, but I know I cannot do your story justice.

Oh, Donna. We already miss you, and we haven't even had to try doing without you yet.
Even in the morass of your illness, you comforted those around you, prayed for the pastor who was there to shepherd you, apologized for your supposed awkwardness. Asked, gently, to be allowed to grieve your life.

Even in the hospital bed, you moved and spoke with grace. You lifted your hand and waved the fingers in a Giselle like gesture, as you always did, to get the blood moving. Who but you could turn a stretch into a thing of beauty?

Donna. We are mourning you, but are anticipating seeing you again. Surely, your workshop now is a thing of delight. Surely, you are with your Father, who created you to be that beautiful child, and who took you back into His arms, saying, "well done, good and faithful servant."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've been reading a lot of Ann Patchett's books lately.

This is because I love her with a fervent love. Bel Canto. The Magician's Assistant. Run. And, oh, that loveliest of them all, Truth and Beauty.
Since she's not prolific enough to suit me (she'd need about a hundred more books) I've been scouring our local library for everything she's written. And got to read an expanded version of the commencement address she gave at Sarah Lawrence.

The thing about Patchett is that her writing is so human. Her autobiographical stuff makes her come across as profoundly sane. Without sounding like she's covering up all of her deep dark secrets and being less than honest. Or making everyone else seem supremely wacky in comparison to herself.

In memoir, this is a tricky thing to do.

I have also been reading some David Sedaris, and while I love his humor and his dark take on the world, he's very good at making himself seem like he needs some good therapy. This is also true of some other memoirists that I like: Anne Lamott and Donald Miller. You read these people's work, and you sometimes wish you had funny things happen to you like that, and then you think, actually, no. No, I like being boring and not going through a cocaine addiction or alienating six housemates or working in a pathologist's lab where there's a bucket full of severed hands.

If you think about writing memoir, in other words, you wonder if you need to get much more eccentric. And maybe pick up a drug habit and a sordid past.

That's why I like Patchett. She seems pretty normal, but her writing still sparks. She's the kind of person that cleans up after the cocaine user, the terrible roommate, and the kooky pathologist's assistant.

So maybe the rule is: either you have to have a sordid past, or you have to get more interesting friends?
Any takers?

Momma Bear and Baby Bear

Lucy asked for an apple this morning.

Since she usually asks for blueberries (only about fifteen times a day) I was overjoyed.

Especially since we got a huge bag of great apples from our CSA last week. And I'm not much of a fruit eater.

Except the apple was cold, having been in the fridge.

"Cowd, momma, cowd," she said after nibbling on the edge of the cute little slices I'd made.

SOlution? One minute in the microwave! Then they were exciting baked apples!

"Hot! Momma! Hot!"

Restraining the urge to ask her if she thought she was Goldilocks, I stuck the plate in the freezer for a few minutes.

But even when the apples were just right, she refused to eat them. So I shrugged and picked up a slice and ate it. It was darned good. I think I like cooked apples better than raw.

Only it was apparently not okay for me to eat the apples she didn't want to eat. "Back! Back," she said, as I swallowed the last bite.
No, honey, really. You don't want it back. "If you want the apples, then eat them," I said.
Apparently, however, my logic was flawed. "No!"
I thought for a moment, then picked up another apple. I put one end in my mouth.
"No! Back."
I bent down, and Goldilocks took the apple slice out of my mouth and ate it. Not all of it, but at least she tried it.
And we all lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

asking for help

We just got back from a weekend in Ojai. Dyami's mom is sick and we went down there to be with his family.

When we got back, I emailed a few friends, telling them that we could use some help--we were frazzled by the visit and the drive back, and struggled getting dinner on the table that night. I asked for someone to help us take a nap over the next few days, and maybe some help next time we go up there.

And then some lovely people called, friends, family, and offered the help I asked for.

So why did I pause, and think, oh, well, you know--we're really okay. You don't have to. It's too much.

I decided to ignore that little voice. I took up some of the people on their offers, and we will be getting some rest over the next few days. My lovely friend Amy delivered a casserole tonight. My mom is coming tomorrow. And really, the help is an embarrassment of riches--we could really take the week off with all these offers.

But I've been in this place before: feeling overwhelmed, asking for help, and then wondering how to really allow people to help. Feeling that, once I ask, it's too much to actually take people up on it.

I've noticed this about a lot of my mom friends. And maybe all friends. The friend who mentions the out-of-town husband, but says, "oh, we're fine" when I ask if I could bring over dinner. The friend with too much work that waves off free babysitting. The mutual agreements to trade "daycare" that never happen.

I'm not writing this post to make anyone feel bad. I just think it's an interesting phenomenon. It's hard to need help. It's harder to ask for help. It's hardest to actually take the damn help when it's offered, thank you very much.

Is it guilt? Fear of seeming lazy? Politeness? What holds us back? I'm always talking about community and how it would make more sense to share child raising duties with our friends, but actually following through on that doesn't happen. I'm afraid of being a burden. I'm afraid of seeming like I don't have my act together.

So, thanks, dear friends. Thanks for helping.

Not that I needed it or anything. I just asked to make you feel useful. Really, we've got it together.

Or something.