What’s Your Story?

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This week I was thrilled to publish two new pieces. I got to delve into the past, and tell the stories I have turned over and over in my head for decades. Really fun and freeing.

The first was a piece published in a really cool publication called Role Reboot. It’s about the bumpy, intense, neverending journey toward body acceptance. As I’ve gotten older, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit closer to accepting that no matter what I do or want, I will never be skinny. But I can choose to be healthy, and happy. So simple, but hard to get. Somehow, having babies, nursing them, and just getting older has helped me accept this truth, and love my body. Here’s my piece: At 37, I’ve Finally Made Peace With My Body.

The second piece was written for xoJane. In the ’90’s I was a huge Sassy Magazine fan. It was my first magazine subscription. Michael Stipe, Courtney & Kurt, Johnny & Winona—Sassy was for misfits. And I certainly was one. xoJane is a site founded by the former editor of Sassy, so it was totally amazing to be published there, a teenage dream come true. And fitting, too, because I wrote a piece for them about when I was in high school and was sent to the principal’s office for not wearing a bra. Yes, that really happened. Here’s the story.

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I have been writing my stories (mostly in the form of poems) for years, but as I expand, and dig deeper, I see just how many stories are in me. And not just in me—in everyone. That’s the thing. We all have our stories. Harrowing ones, courageous ones, beautiful ones, heartbreaking ones. I know it’s cliché to say, but it’s true. So, if you are out there wondering if you should write, if your story matters, if you have anything say, the answer is YES. You do. Just try. Just write.

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Flowering Trees

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For National Poetry Month, a poem of mine, which I keep thinking of as all the trees become full with blossoms. It first appeared in Prairie Schooner and then in my book, Morph and Bloom.

Flowering Trees

The magnolias bloomed for a week,
then shed their petals on the lawn.
Two weeks for the redbuds,
then their feisty pinks
on sidewalks and cars.
My boy just learned the names
of these beauties and now they’re gone.
Soon he’ll venture into dirt,
squashing dandelions in his sweaty palms.
Then summer will roar into the yard,
turning the dandelions to dust.
And this morning, driving home
from the park, I saw my childhood
fly out the window: my father gripping
the steering wheel, his fingers
tapping to the music. I lost
the season, the color of his shirt,
the timbre of his voice.
All that remained
was a terrible thumping
in my throat, his love swelling,
then spinning from me.
Sometimes I search for my father
in my boy’s eyes. And when I find him,
I turn away, I scatter, I disperse.

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Spring Flowers & Sleepless Nights

This week was tired. This week was first spring flowers. This week was sleepless. This week was happily digging in the dirt. This week was new beginnings and tired ruts.

This week blessed me, and tested me. This week is over, and for that I am grateful.

My two-year-old did this weird thing where he alternated nights either sleeping like a log, or waking up like a newborn.

Half of the days this week I looked like this. Tired, haggard, beat.

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The other days we woke up and played happily in beautiful, bright spring.

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I have had this thought all week: parenthood is messy. It’s unpredictable. And all I can do is get better at accepting that.

I know my two-year-old is inching toward more of those good sleep nights. I know nightwaking in toddlers is normal (breastfed or not). I know I could try this or that technique to accelerate the process. I know it might work. I know it might fail.

Having gone through all these stages with my older son gives me a helpful perspective: no matter what you do or don’t do, all the stuff you are hoping will get easier (sleep, potty training, weaning, tantrums, etc.) has a way of working itself out in the end.

I still don’t know a lot about being a mom. I have only been at it for 8 years. But I know that some days I’ll be exhausted to the bone, and other days I’ll be running through fields of wildflowers with my kids (wouldn’t that be nice?).

So here’s to diving into the chaos. Letting go. Knowing that we know nothing. Accepting what is.

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Speaking of those hard days of motherhood, check out this piece I wrote for Scary Mommy. It’s all raw emotion, and I’m proud to have it featured on the site: On the Dark Days of Motherhood.

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When You’re a Touched Out Mama

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As soon as I got out of bed, my older son started playfully pummeling me, socking me right in the ribs. And just when I sat down to drink my tea, the two-year-old decided to marathon-nurse for 30 minutes. My tea got cold.

Then, as I was putting away the lunch dishes, my husband tried to pat my ass. I swatted him away like a fly. No!

Now my two-year-old won’t nap unless he’s sleeping directly next to me.

I love these people, and I love to be loved, but sometimes I am just TOUCHED OUT.

Case in point: this morning a miracle occurred. I slept in bed ALONE for two whole hours. The baby woke up early, my husband had no work, and bless his heart, he let me sleep.

I realized, it wasn’t just the lack of children (or husbands) touching me for those hours, or the very big need for sleep I have after weeks of broken sleep. Being tired and touched out is a real thing unto itself. But what I loved most about that (untouched) sleep was that it helped me remember who I am. I dreamt the dreams I wanted to dream (literally). I curled my body in my own position. I drank in the quiet, the autonomy.

When I am feeling touched out, it usually means I am stressed out, and that the role of wife-and-mother is suffocating me. It means I need some time to reconnect with myself—even if it means turning on the TV for the kids at a non-TV time so I can get on the yoga mat; even if it means shuffling out the door for a walk when my husband gets home and I should be feeding everybody dinner. Whatever it takes—just a few minutes of alone time works wonders. I start to remember who I am, and then I can give again to those I love. It’s worth the effort, the sacrifice—for them, and for me.

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I will also say this for you nursing mommies: the “touched-out while nursing” thing is REAL. It often gets worse as your nursling gets older. I have learned this from personal experience and from helping moms deal with this issue. It’s often exacerbated when your hormones levels are a bit out of control—like during ovulation, PMS, and pregnancy. Just knowing that this is part of the reason helps, I think. If it’s just a menstrual cycle thing, it will pass. Here is an article I wrote about dealing with those feelings while pregnant. Either way, breathing through it, acknowledging your feelings, and taking a bit of time to yourself can work wonders.

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A Giveaway for National Poetry Month

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It’s National Poetry Month, and I’m participating in the BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY.

I am giving away TWO books of poems!

First, I’m giving away my book, Morph and Bloom.

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It’s my second book of poems. I think of it as a love letter to my first son. The poems are of the early days of motherhood, that transformation that happens for the mother (and child). Here’s a review by Grace Cavalieri for the Washington Independent Review of Books, which sums it up well:

“From the wish for a child, through the profound generation of new life, the production—how it occurs—this is a heroically personal collection. To profess what we want most and fear most is the greatest courage. Our poet, from the first poem, writes as if she’s running from the tsunami of loss, always with us as we birth a child, for the only way a child can go, is away. Loss occupies these poems and brings with it the intuition that’s the heart of poetry. She writes of it whether at a playground, or an uncle’s funeral, the child within, or the child weaned. The book embodies an emotional life of Motherhood, each piece protean to the larger question: How do we bring in temporal love, and how well do we reflect on it.”

Second, I’m giving away a copy of Sarah Vap’s Faulkner’s Rosary.

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Sarah is one of my favorite contemporary poets (and she was kind enough to write a blurb for my book!). Faulkner’s Rosary is book-length sequence of pregnancy (and loss) poems. It is sensual, intimate, strange, and deeply moving. I am so happy to share it. Here’s a review, by Cynthia Hogue:

“Sarah’s Vap’s exquisite third collection, Faulkner’s Rosary, is a poetic “Stabat Mater,” the expectant mother both altered (altared) and precisely meditative. Faulkner’s Rosary transmutes the body’s magical chemistry into poetic alchemy with delicate, marvelous wisdom. I savored the intimacy of this book, its courage to express the particular and universal of becoming a parent, that larger knowledge of love’s generosity. I am in awe of the rare beauty of these poems.”

If you would like to enter to win these two books, leave a comment here, or on my Facebook page (I will be posting a few times about the Giveaway there, and will count all comments left on a post about it). Winner will be randomly selected and announced May 1st. Please check back here if you haven’t heard from me! If the winner doesn’t come forward in a week, I will have to pick another winner. Thanks! And happy National Poetry Month!

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If you’d like to do a giveaway of your book, or enter to win other books, please visit Kelli Russell Agodon’s official giveaway page! And check out her work. She is a marvelous, beautiful poet.

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Longing

I am lying in bed with my son while he naps. Last night I held him in my lap while he vomited onto a towel. Now, he sleeps deeply, chirping like a far-off sparrow.

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The days are long, and, often, the nights are longer. Sometimes I walk around the house stepping on broken rice cakes, and think: This? This is my life?

Now I’m lying under the covers, typing on my phone. Rain is starting to fall. The forecast calls for a bit of snow. On the last day of March—imagine that.

On Sunday I took my first run in many weeks without having to navigate across piles of snow. It was bright and warm. Finally spring. I made my goal of running to the dock.

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Now it’s illness and cold weather. Winter again. All I want is freedom—to wander the world for a half an hour alone.

And sometimes I let myself day dream of more than that. Afternoons—whole school days—where I write and work and run errands, alone with my thoughts. No whining children to pull down the street, or in and out of the car.

Right now, lying here, feeling his small fingers brush against my arms as he shuffles in his sleep, I feel everything at once—the desire to move onto easier days, and the sorrow of not wanting to lose these most intimate years with my children.

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I’m trying to find a word for the mix of feelings I feel at times like this, and the best word I can come up with is longing.

Isn’t it all wrapped up in longing? Longing to escape and longing to stay. To be free and to hold on. I long for it all. Every day. Every breath.

Amen.

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