Just Color!

“You know, Laura, you really can’t do this. Would you like to leave the class?”

Wait. What? I was part of a group paying this person to teach us basic watercolor techniques. During the second class she offered me the door and a partial refund.

That’s exactly the thing that life, teachers, partners, peers, and parents can do to us over the years. It’s happened to me more than once. It’s the reason I do not sing or dance in public or do watercolor at all.

Until now.

For Christmas middle son gave me the book Syllabus by Lynda Barry; I gave him What It Is by the same author. Lynda sums us the hibernation of creativity like this:

“By the 6th grade I stopped doing ordinary things in front of people. It had been ordinary to sing, kids are singing all the time when they are little but then something happens. It’s not that we stop singing. I still sang. I was just alone when I did it, and I made sure I never did it accidentally – that thing we call bursting into song. I believe this happens to most of us. We are still singing, but secretly and all alone . . . My only feeling was embarrassment.”                          (Lynda Barry, What It Is)

My teen years were rife with such occurrences. I quit dancing after I unsuccessfully auditioned for Oklahoma! my freshman year in high school.  Having been told years prior that I couldn’t sing, all I wanted was to be a corps dancer. I didn’t fit into the look they wanted for the show; my movements weren’t quite right. Suddenly, I was no longer a dancer.

Still, consider myself one of the lucky ones because for some reason, I always had words. Poetry was able to stay with me – perhaps FullSizeRender (14)because the writing of poetry can be intensely private. No need for public performance or audition to put pencil to paper.  However, I was even published in the school literary magazine (despite the efforts of an adversary who was on the editorial board). Words stayed with me long after singing, dancing, and drawing had gone into hiding.

Over the years, the desire to develop broader creativity in my life was thwarted by rationed time, by unsupportive husbands, by self doubt, by watercolor teachers.

I think it’s time to end the rationing. It is immensely fun to read artistic exercises in Lynda Barry’s books and do them on my own. Or modify them for my purposes as part of my writing work.

Creativity is for everyone. A colleague of mine took a welding class; one of my friends is thinking of an improv class; another friend is founding poetic endeavors in our area; middle son is looking forward to baking more. As I write this, that same son is reading the community college continuing education offerings to me – culinary, yoga, arts, welding – it’s all there.

New Year – new canvas. Do something creative every day, week, or month. And share it with someone. With an audience. Don’t limit yourself. Be brave. I’ll go first.  FullSizeRender (13)

If you have no one to share with – send a picture of your creation to me. I’ll share it here for you. And remember, creativity comes in all forms and is for everyone. Embrace that.

Join me.






Wine and Blood

“Half gods are worshipped with wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.”

In the season of champagne toasts and high-minded resolutions, it is time for many of us to buy new calendars. By purchasing a book of time-marked blank pages we are giving ourselves another dance.

A renewed floating orbit pushes us to make promises – to organize our hopes. These lined pages offer us chances to keep a tidier house which will provide us peace of mind that will lead to clearer thinking that will result in more time to do what we really want to do.

What do we really want to do?

What do we really want to do?

What do we really want to do?

What do we really want to do?

What do we really want to do?

It ends up that what we want to do is write things down to cross them off on a year-long repeat routine. Then this season sparkles promises again. We acquiesce, begging the heavens for another rotation of mercy to complete the unfinished, to start the undone, to say the unuttered.

Half gods walk through our days and sit next to us on the couch at night. We, the revenants, continue – committed to countdowns and calendars – we see passions through curiously dim eyes. Comforting.

Yet, the real gods await us. Grand purpose? Divine plans? Perhaps. Just as likely pursuits that whisper to us as we turn the corner. Possibly avocations from younger days that whimper attention in the wee hours. A sense of what we must do frightened by the course required.

We are more than codified plans and neglected intentions. To remember who we are is a summons – a decision for each day.

Join me. wine






Darcy grew up in the apartments of her mother’s boyfriends. Whenever a breakup was imminent, Mother would take Darcy and her brother out to Sunday afternoon open houses. They would walk through empty houses, and Mother would ask them which rooms they wanted, describe the furniture she would buy for the spacious rooms: a cozy table for the breakfast nook; beds with colorful blankets; a pillow-filled couch for watching Disney movies on a flat screen TV.  The next month would find Darcy and her brother huddled in the unfurnished corner of their latest “uncle’s” spare room.

Darcy grew up. She worked hard, bought a small cottage, and took great care in housekeeping. Years passed before she invited Mother to holidays. Delighted but bedraggled by yet another failed “relationship,” Mother arrived early and offered to help. None was needed – everything had been ready for days, including the eighteen individually and gorgeously wrapped empty boxes – each one inside of another  – that Darcy presented to Mother that evening.

empty box

The Middle of the Bed

A few days ago, I was looking for a poem series I had been working on before we moved, so I was rooting around in what I call “The Mine.” The Mine consists of  journals that I have used and notes I have taken (writing is a messy business for me). The Mine is where I hope that I can find nuggets of gold or little sparkly diamonds to use in future work.

Well, as I was walking through The Mine this morning, I came across this entry:


3:50   Rise

4-5   Gym

5-5:30   Shower

5:30-6:30   Write

6:30-7:30 Breakfast, laundry, pets, etc.

No diamonds or gold in this schedule – just insanity. Unless one has a job or an illness that requires one to rise at that hour, a body should never get up in the middle of a perfectly good night. If you follow the chronology that I had proposed for myself above, you note that before I would have even left for work, I would have done nearly FOUR hours of activities before going to work. What was I thinking?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I never enacted that schedule. And, I won’t be brainstorming such a schedule to enact in 2016 today, either. Last year around this time I wrote about not making resolutions; as this year closes, I have been thinking, as we are wont to do this time of year. In the course of this thinking, I have realized something: I can finally sleep in the middle of the bed.

Mind you, have been single for almost seven years. Until this past year, I would only occasionally sleep in the middle of the bed. Now, that whole thing is mine.  (And, of course, now I have a dog who wants to share it.) The point here, though, is that we need to fully inhabit all parts of our lives to be who we are meant to be and be comfortable with ourselves.

Last week, a friend asked me what things I like to do for myself. I like to swim laps, meditate, walk, and write for my own benefit. Thenhappy list he asked how often I do those things. Um. Haven’t swum in a year or more. I meditate and walk regularly, but my writing has not been as robust as it could be. My friend and I wondered aloud why people don’t do what makes them feel good.  We all need to sleep in the middle of the bed.

Maybe you do like a horrifically early workout; you might want to read more; maybe it’s time to sell a too big house; perhaps you want to learn to box (I’m doing that this week!); maybe jettison a festering, putrid friendship; or, pursue a bright new relationship. Whatever are your ideas for doing what you like – don’t wait. Why make yourself wait to feel good?  Now is the time.

Schedules, resolutions, and goals – oh my. We all need to do what works  – just make sure it is right for you– not what the world or a well-meaning friend or guilt or regret says.  No need to wait to pursue happiness. And, remember:  sleep in the middle of the bed.

Q & A

years that ask questions

What questions did 2015 ask you?

Which questions were answered?

A few days ago I was talking with a friend, and he shared a couple of things that he thought about me. I was flabbergasted in a good way. His thoughts reaffirmed some ideas I had. Then, a few days later the same thing happened with new friend. Again, her comments were unwittingly supportive. Earlier this holiday season, I was involved with a community theater production. While chatting backstage with a fellow performer, he commented, “You are so polished – I think I need to hear an f-bomb from you.” He didn’t know it, but he gave me a first-time ever compliment in that sentence.

Through these friends and more, 2015 has been a year of answers for me. I appreciate 2015 because I had two solid years of questions prior to this. Questions about moving, jobs, children, family, pets, life, avocations, friends – you name it and I was unsure about it. I’m not saying I’m sure about everything now, but I have more answers.

Well, at least I have a few answers for now. New questions will be posed – they are likely formulating themselves as I type –  and old answers will need revision.

Oprah’s closing column in every magazine issue is “What I Know For Sure.” Thank heavens I don’t have to guest write that column because it would be one sentence: Nothing is certain; make peace with that.

When things are going well and we feel on solid ground, it is easy to wonder when the shoe will drop or which carpet will be pulled out from under us. Faced with questions and uncertainty, a quick answer is to crawl under the covers and hide. Neither of these seem to be productive in the end, but I know I’ve done both.

As we endure the year in reviews that are inevitable, the diet program ads that are interminable, and the resolutions that fizzle out too quickly, it comforts me to think poetically about hopes and life and the years that ask and answer, as well as the possibility of not having answers.

Join me.


A Christmas Parable

Years ago when I was a child, a package appeared in our village. A box wrapped simply: brown butcher paper and a red bow. No one
knew where it came from nor what to do with it. There were long months of talk about the package. Priests said it was a harbinger of doom and should be destroyed; commoners suggested we should open it and allow fate – bad or good – to take its course. Scholars could find no mention of such a happening in the histories of any of the villages. Tradesman thought we might sell the package to buy goods. Arguments, gossip, and schoolyard banter swirled around the mystery.

Solstice came and the decision was taken to mark the occasion by opening the package. At the midnight hour we all gathered, and the elders carefully removed the wrapping and set it aside. The most perfectly faceted gem was lifted from the box, and as the icy air hit it, a red-purple light penetrated every soul. We were, from infants to elders, mute in awe the gift lifted from its ordinary container. A warmth that surrounded every person, an invitation to acceptance and pure love. We stood in wonderment.

The reverie was broken when someone lunged at the gem, knocking it off the pedestal. A scuffle mutated into an outright fist fight among men and women alike. Children bit and clawed alongside their elders. The light began to fade as the gem was knocked about in the dust, but no one seemed to notice. It was as if the entire village had a singular goal: to get the gem for themselves only. Greed and fear obscured the light and love that had embraced us just moments earlier. The brawl continued until dawn when a man yelled out, “It’s gone!”

As if on cue, the townspeople, bedraggled, cold, tired, and defeated saw the wrapping that had been set aside so carefully. It fluttered in the wind at the edge of the well. Hands grabbed, elbows flew, eyes were blackened, and the wrapping was torn. People went home with tiny bits of ribbon while priests took shreds of the wrapping to their temples, ensconcing them in protective glass behind locked doors. The gem was gone entirely.

Many years have passed, and there are those who have never heard the story of the package; but we hear rumors that the gem is still near our village. One fisherman told us he saw such a light in a shallow at the river, and as he dove to retrieve what he thought was the gem, he felt filled with kindness and love. But, he was unable to bring back the gem. Once a child said she found the gem under some moss in the forest. She told a fantastic story of playing with and talking to it. No one believed her then, and we labeled her simple. She still wanders in the forest, gathering flowers and talking to herself.

Now, the priests retell the story of the gem and reveal the remnants of the wrapping twice a year. In homes, the story of that winter solstice has been passed down, but no one dwells upon it; to do so would be to mourn the loss of the purity of the compassion and mercy we felt in the all too brief light.

Did You Know?

Starry SkyLike it or not, more and more Christmas songs are floating on the airwaves as many of us look forward to this holiday. One carol that I don’t remember hearing until I was older is “Mary, Did You Know?” If you’re unfamiliar, you might click here for a lovely version. The song asks the Virgin Mary if she knew all that her son would become in His life. It hints at life story and deity of Jesus Christ viewed from a mother’s perspective.

Perhaps because my eldest son’s birthday is two days before Christmas or perhaps because the last few years Christmas has been one of the few times all three boys are home, this song pushes me back into holding a baby and wondering who they will become. Whether one accepts the Biblical story of Christ’s birth as part of one’s faith or simply as a story, some lovely thoughts lurk in this carol.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

As members of the human race, we never really truly know who the babies will become. Heck, we can look in the mirror and not know who we are, much less predict futures for others. Certainly parents have hopes for their children; teachers might presume futures for their students. I remember one student about whom I had serious doubts. Doubts not just about his schooling but about his future as productive member of society. That student is now an outstanding physician. We might presume a little less because you know, you just don’t know.

Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

I have felt this keenly: my children have all made me new. Of course, none of them are revered as saviors, but they have all made me new in so many ways. They have introduced me to new music, given me books to read, provided me with lifetimes of conversations and experiences that I would have never had without them. So many Pokemon! Oh, the strategies of Call of Duty! How about the current five year plan in China? With all of their experiences and loves, my children have delivered me from the person I might have become and pushed me toward becoming person that I am meant to become. We all have those people – children, friends, lovers – who contribute to our growth.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Again, my children are not viewed as even minor deities by those who know them. In fact, I am not personally acquainted with any holy men or women as such. Still, consider the contributions – past, present, or potential – of every human.  We all are here and, as Robin Williams says in “Dead Poets Society,” we are all worthwhile: ” . . . life exists, and identity . . . the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” We may not cure blindness or control the weather (well, we might!); and while our parents may not foretell our exact gifts as they cradle us, we all have something to offer.

Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

There are miracles within each of us. Some days the miracles are small, and other times they may leave us marveling. The fact that people can do so many things: blinking, curing disease, communicating, raising puppies, baking cookies, making love, meditating, breathing, driving cars, wrapping gifts, writing poetry, building airplanes, sculpting, air traffic control, dancing, cross-country trucking, maintaining plumbing, tucking children into bed – this is all evidence that we have trod with angels and kissed the face of God. Miracles are all around us, and as my eldest son posited when he was three, “If God is in my heart, then a little bit of heaven is always inside me.”

Do I suppose that we are all Saviors of the World?  No.

I simply suggest that the miracles that Mary is asked to look for in her child are miracles that we can find around us and in ourselves if we open our eyes.

Join me.

What It’s All About

This past weekend I delivered some breakfast treats to a colleague who had a medical procedure. Our work team had a sign up to take this lovely person a variety of snacks and meals so that she would not have to fend for herself as she recovers. As we chatted, she showed me the pile of care packages she had received from our team and other friends. She said, “Nobody should be doing this; you all have your own families to take care of.”

Nonsense. Bullshit. My dear colleague is totally wrong. What we are trying to do – show care and compassion – is exactly what we care packageshould be doing. We might take her a thing she doesn’t like or need by accident, but to actively give love and care to those around us is precisely what human beings should do.

I can’t count the number of times I have taken a meal or sent flowers or done an errand or sat in the hospital with or watched children for friends and colleagues who had something happening – usually an uncomfortable or unhappy thing.

I have also been on the receiving end of such love. Years ago I was chaperoning a school trip. We were four hours away from home and ready for competition when I came down with what turned out to be an emergent case of gallstones. After surgery and several days hospitalization, I was able to go home. My whole school – students, parents, colleagues, administration – brought my family dinners, snacks, and flowers. That’s what it’s all about. Taking care of each other.

What would the world be if we did not do this? Well, I have an example of that, too. Years ago my middle sister died unexpectedly as the result of a single car crash outside of Atlanta. At the time I was an active member of a church. No one came to visit me after this tragedy. Not one person. Not the pastor. It was early December when my sister died, and by the time Christmas programs rolled around at church, I still wasn’t “feeling it.”

I left in the middle of Christmas Eve service to stand outside and breathe and cry. It was not a year I felt like celebrating much of anything, and hypocrisy weighed me down. After the holiday passed, a woman in the church greeted me on a Sunday and told me that she had thought about stepping outside to comfort me, but she didn’t want to miss the Christmas program.

Pretty bleak, huh?

You see, if it’s not the whole of the reason we are here, it is a part of it: to love and care for each other. That woman didn’t need to tell me she didn’t want to comfort me anymore than those who brought me meals needed to tell me they loved me. Actions do speak loudly.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was honored to be a part of “A Show of Gratitude” sponsored by a local theater. There was music, storytelling and poetry – all in support of a local family. We are all connected. We need each other.

My hope is that this season – and all year long –  we all can reach out and actively love each other. That’s what it’s all about.

Join me.

Fair Enough

He sat crying and sweating in the corner of the seat – his face contorted. Michelle couldn’t resist a man in distress, “Whatsa matter, huh? You scared? I’ll sit wit you, hun.”

He sniffled as they rose, “My boyfriend . . . my dad . . . my mom. It’s all over.”

“Ain’t never over, hun,” they rose higher and higher.

“Here,” he shoved a piece of paper at her and jumped, rocking the gondola violently. His head hit the edge of the ferris wheel just once, but the midway was closed for two days afterward.

ferris wheel

Changing Seasons: Not Home for the Holidays

Christmas lights

He’s done it again. Son #1 has altered my Christmas.

The first time he did this was twenty-three years ago when he arrived seven weeks early thanks to my preeclampsia and his wanting a Christmastime birth rather than Valentine’s Day. Even though that first Christmas was in NICU, we have spent each of his birthdays and every Christmas together since then. Academic calendars being what they are, the poor guy was even home for his 21st birthday.

Despite the life changes that I have created or endured, I have always imagined that all the boys would would want to be home for the holidays. Of course, intellectually I understand that this may not be the case. I can envision a future wherein they are all spending holidays with their own families or in far-flung corners of the world. That’s a path that I once trod, as well. I get it – in my brain. My heart whistles a different tune, though.

And this year – for the first time – the son that changed my world in 1992 has decided he would prefer to mark the holiday season and his birthday on his own. At first I was sad. Quite sad.

Of course, there are those who have different Christmases every year: traveling and adventuring; or, in the case of one woman I knew: every holiday season seemed to usher in a new round of stress and death in her family. However, I have found a kind of comfort in the traditions that the boys and I have created over the years. Perhaps the holidays with all of us at home served as a sort of anchor for the rest of the year, no matter what curve balls came along.

That Christmas in 1992 launched the ship that relied on my holiday anchor. Still life changes, and shifts are felt most acutely at the holidays. Babies are born; people die; students study abroad; neighbors move away; loved ones decide to stay home; sons forge their own paths – it’s all part and parcel of this world.

Looking into a future where Christmas includes only me and my dog is weird. Maybe I’ll sit home and eat chicken pot pie and watch bad TV and feel sorry for  myself.

No, no, (I don’t even like pot pie!).  I’ll find a Tuscan lodge and mark the holidays there. Or, I’ll work in an African orphanage over the New Year. Or, I’ll take the dog and visit children in the hospital. A Christmas in Wales appeals to me, as well. Or, I’ll show up unannounced at my sister’s house.

Changes are just that – changes. Some can be sad. If you have lost loved ones this year, my heart goes out to you. If you are struggling with illness, I send you light and health. If you’re just sad, I empathize. Changes can be good, too. Perhaps you have a new baby. Maybe you’ve moved to a great house. You’ve gotten engaged or landed your dream job. Regardless of what is happening around us, our joy depends only on us.

Candles can be lit. Prayers can be offered. Meals can be made. Toasts can be proclaimed. Greetings can be exchanged.

Life is a continuum of change; we must embrace it at all times – perhaps most especially at the holidays.

Join me.