layers of time

up from his morning nap one day — classic Ilan move, pointing

What a wonderful time I had in Chicago — too short, as always, but filled with all kinds of wonder and happiness. Every morning I got up with Ilan so Marnie and Tom could get a little more sleep; he usually wakes up at 5:15am and is up for two hours and then goes down for a nap, so it was my pure pleasure to take that 2-hour segment of time with him.

I went to Chicago to celebrate Marnie’s 32nd birthday (Friday, March 3) and Ilan’s first birthday (Wednesday, March 8), but I arrived mid-afternoon on March 3, and left mid-morning on March 8 so the celebrations were a bit more formless and leaked into the surrounding days. On Saturday March 4, Tom and Marnie spent the day out on a birthday ramble (their birthday specialty), so I had the whole day with Ilan, all to myself. I was playing music for us, my ‘iphone playlist’ which is just a random assortment of music I love, while Ilan ate his morning snack of goldfish crackers laid out around the perimeter of the coffee table, and this song came on. Richard Harris singing MacArthur Park, remember? From 1968?

As it does for most people, I guess, music jerks me around in time. And suddenly I just saw and felt all the layers of time going on in that moment with Ilan, generations of time, generations of moments and experience. I was simultaneously 9 years old, listening to this song and for some reason feeling how much I loved my dad, living in a terrible house of violence and the impending divorce of my parents; 19 years old, listening to Donna Summer’s great disco version of the song, living secretly in the office where I worked in Austin; in my late 20s, giving my own little kids a snack of goldfish crackers and watching them be my beamish little ones; and 58 years old, watching my littlest grandson do the same thing and being my daughter’s (and my) beamish little one. All those layers, all those moments, all those very similar experiences, all felt by me in that one light-filled moment. It made me cry, and it made me so grateful to be my very age, able to hold all that life and world together.

One of the hundreds of most-wonderful things about Ilan is how much he loves the Feist song, 1234. (I think Oliver loved it so much too — what is it about this song?)

He just couldn’t believe it.

Marnie got Ilan a small handheld bluetooth speaker of his own, and when she plays this song he just holds the speaker and stares at it with an extraordinary expression. He’ll glance up at her, and at me, and at whoever is in the room, with an expression I can’t exactly name but I know it completely.

Of course he’s one, and being one you put everything in your mouth at some point, but there were times he was holding the speaker and listening to a song, and he put it in his mouth and I thought he was really wanting the music to be inside him as much as anything else. I thought about this great story that Maurice Sendak told:

Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

I remain filled with all the wonder of my time in Chicago, the hours I got to spend with Ilan, the hours spent with Marnie, talking, and the evenings with Marnie and Tom over dinner. And I’m always grateful for those brief moments of seeing how time and life work together, and it’s all right there inside you all the time, waiting for something to break through so you can see it.

No way to catch up so…..

Gosh, I don’t even quite know where I am. I slept in my own bed last night for the first time in five weeks. I made coffee in my own kitchen, with my own gear, this morning. I took a shower this morning. I had to try to remember how to do all those things here. I have only one very very busy week here that includes time babysitting my darling Oliver, helping prepare for his 2nd birthday party, and then attending the party and spending the whole day with my little Katie family . . . and then to New York for three days before we go on to China for 15 days. WHERE AM I TODAY?

I was in Chicago for four weeks, and we imagined that the bulk of that time would be helping after the baby was born but it didn’t work that way. Two weeks of waiting with Marnie and Tom, long days talking and watching old Top Chefs and Marnie and I lying in bed together to stay warm, talking and killing time and snoozing. Even though that’s not how I’d have most preferred to arrange the time, since it meant Tom and I both left the same day (he had two weeks of leave accumulated), it will always be so special that I got to spend that time with her, waiting for her son to be born. I’ll never forget it.

The easiest thing is just to do a photo post. If you’re my Facebook friend you’ve seen some of these, and you know the gist, but here goes:

ready to leave the house
just before we left for the hospital the day Ilan was born, Wed March 8
We knew it would give us a great story, so instead of taking a cab or Uber to the hospital, we walked to the train station and then transferred to the bus. Sweet kids.
on the way to the hospital
HILARIOUS Marnie. Tom and I and the guy standing behind Marnie are a little more circumspect. 🙂 NOT ONE person on the train offered Marnie their seat. Not one.
chicago march 8
This was the view from their hospital room — Lake Michigan, a beautiful sunny day. I posted a picture on FB and Instagram but no one knew the significance except us. 🙂
outside the hospital
I dashed out for lunch
hospital hall
and spent a whole lot of time pacing this hall outside Marnie’s room.
me during marnie's pushing SO HARD
The very long hours of her agony were hard on the mama, I’m telling you. Very hard. Harder on her of course, but mamas, you know.
Ilan birth stats
et voila! I heard his very first cries and started sobbing.

I’d spent some hours in the waiting room — a large, nice enough room filled with grandparents-to-be. The hospital was top-notch, part of the Northwestern system, and the other grandparents were professional people with lots of education (it just came up among them). I sat in a corner, writing on my laptop and listening. One set of grandparents had been waiting 25 hours by the time I arrived, so they’d heard stories through the night. Grandparents reappeared in the room to announce that they’d seen their grandchild and everyone cheered. The room was filled with quiet conversations AND THEN a woman burst into the room complaining loudly:

“Oh sure, he lives right here in town and he’s retired already but I get here first? That’s typical. That’s why I divorced him 40 years ago.”

Our eyes got wide and we were all drawn into conversation with her. How she only had to push a couple of times with all 6 of her kids, her labor took just a couple of hours each time so this grandkid would probably be born fast too, but he probably wouldn’t make it, typical him.

The conversation came around to grandparent names, and most were typical: Grandma, Nonna, Nonny, Gramma Carol, Pete (me!), and then it was her turn: Grandma The Diedelhoff. Grandma The Diedelhoff. We all burst out laughing. It fit her so much. Her ex-husband finally showed up, reeking of Old Spice to the point that I had to leave the room before it gave me a migraine. I’d have divorced him for that Old Spice alone.

ilan into the world
And there he is, my first picture of darling little Ilan. I think this is THE first picture taken of him, so he’s about an hour old. He looks FABULOUS for being an hour old, don’t you think?
those tiny little wrinkled feet in his daddy’s hands.
my first time with Ilan
my first moments “alone” with Ilan. Everyone else was just on the other side of the room, but he and I had some eye contact time. When I walked into the room the first time, Marnie introduced us to each other by name — that was the moment I learned his name — so he already knew I was Pete, but I leaned down and told him firmly that I’m his Pete, and that I will always be on his side, and that we will have lots of adventures together. He seemed to take it seriously.

To get them home a couple of days later, I rented a car and brought the car seat to the hospital, and it was harrowing driving them home — I remember feeling that same way when I was driving my own babies home. New human being in the car! Be careful everyone, be careful! Drive safely!

The next two weeks were pretty routine. I took a couple of middle-of-the-night shifts but the kids mostly wanted to do them themselves, so for the most part I’d take Ilan at 7 and they would get 2 or 3 more hours of sleep. Those hours were extraordinary; Ilan was always in such a good mood then, quiet and watching, and for the most part I just held him. I held Ilan, tried to help the kids when I knew a helpful way to do something with a crying baby (amazing how it comes back, bodily, even if I couldn’t have said it if asked), and cooked. I cooked and cooked and cooked, and baked. We had yeasted waffles and cinnamon rolls twice and lots of big dinners (and their friend Paul fed us four times, big feasts each time). I was there for Paul’s birthday so I made him a fabulous birthday cake.

sometimes Ilan just slept during our early morning time together
He LOVED this spot — a changing pad on the coffee table in the living room with a view out the big windows. He would just lie there so quietly and still, staring at the sky.
WHAT? What just happened in my diaper?!
This is my FAVORITE picture. He's in my arms so I had a hard time catching the shot, but that pose, that half-open eye, that little knit hat (courtesy of Becci!), so adorable.
This is my FAVORITE picture. He’s in my arms so I had a hard time catching the shot, but that pose, that half-open eye, that little knit hat (courtesy of Becci!), so adorable.
lots of cooking. This was a farro risotto with roasted butternut squash and kale. Yum.
breakfast with a newborn in the house, a la Pete.
cinnamon and orange rolls ready for their final rise while the kids took Ilan to a routine pediatrician visit, after a VERY rough night.
Paul’s birthday cake — Pecan Cream Cake, from Saveur Magazine. Google it, this is a fabulous fabulous recipe.
A slice -- it's light and moist and filled with finely chopped pecans and unsweetened flaked coconut and it stayed moist until the last piece was shared three days later. If you and I are ever together in person and we're all bringing something to a potluck, this is what I'll be bringing. Always.
A slice — it’s light and moist and filled with finely chopped pecans and unsweetened flaked coconut and it stayed moist until the last piece was shared three days later. If you and I are ever together in person and we’re all bringing something to a potluck, this is what I’ll be bringing. Always.

I hated leaving, since Marnie was still recovering and in pain (and they live in a two-story home), but my time had run out. My last night, Marnie and Ilan slept in my room with me so I could help one last time and Tom could get an uninterrupted night of sleep before his first day back at work. It was so damn sweet I can hardly write about it without crying. Marnie would nurse Ilan and then I’d take him. He and I went to the nursery and I rocked him, and for a very long time I lay in bed with him snuggled next to me, watching him sleep. My arm was wrapped around him and I could hear his little quick breathing, and smell his little head, and I could feel my daughter on the other side of the bed, hear her exhausted snoring, and it was just one more experience that I’ll never ever forget.

This photo covers my life in such a funny way. These are keys to my homes — and they aren’t fancy vacation homes, but they are my homes. L to R: keys to my home in Austin. Keys to my home in NYC, with my metrocard. Keys to Katie’s home in Austin. Keys to Marnie’s home in Chicago, with my metrocard. I have yoga mats in Austin, New York, and Chicago.

When I got home yesterday, I got to see my dear friend Nancy for a couple of hours — lucky, since she’s gone now for a few days to see old friends in Kansas — and then I met Katie, Trey and darling Oliver for dinner at Chuy’s, a place that has a very very special place in my heart. Oliver looked huge! After holding tiny little newborn Ilan, and putting those tiny newborn diapers on him, Oliver looked like a teenager. 🙂 They got to the restaurant before me, and when I walked in and he saw me, he wiggled and grinned so big it melted my heart. I can’t believe he’s about to turn two, how fast that time has gone.

I didn’t get any reading done, to speak of, but I did finish the Ursula K. LeGuin book I was reading for my year-long project so I hope to write that post very soon. I missed the idea of writing on my blog, but it was such a blur of waiting and quiet and crying and cooking, the idea of it was about all I could muster. I gained ten pounds while I was gone and I didn’t regularly do yoga, and the only walking I did was back and forth to the grocery store, so I’m thrilled to return to my routine while I can, before we head off to China.

For now, I just have to remember which set of keys I need. xoxoxoxoxo

grandmother (again)-in-waiting

I’ll never know what it’s like to wait for a daughter-in-law to have a baby, but I just can’t imagine it’s the same experience as waiting for your daughter, no matter how close you might be. How can it? (What do I know. Maybe it can be.)

But I do know what it’s like — three times, now — waiting for your daughter to have her baby. Marnie’s due date is coming right up, two weeks from now, and I’ll get to their home one week before the due date assuming she doesn’t go into labor before then. She is all I can think about, all day long. When I wake up through the night, my thoughts are only with her. It’s going to be hard to be in NYC this coming week.

I remember all these feelings when Katie was pregnant, and I feel them again:

It’s such a close, close, close feeling of connection, a deep tenderness, an understanding of what is about to happen to her and she doesn’t know, because you can’t really know the first time. Her entire everything is about to change and she will never be the same again.

It’s a feeling of anxiety, as I think about the extreme pain of my own three labors and I don’t want her to suffer.

It’s a feeling of worry, as I think about all the ways it might go. As long as he’s born healthy, how he got here doesn’t matter at all, but I do hope surgery isn’t required — though if it is, I’ll be there with her for a few weeks so I can help. She lives in a two-story house and I’m in good shape for stair running.

It’s a feeling tinged with fear, as I remember that there’s no guarantee it will go perfectly and that we’ll all leave the hospital with him. The odds are enormous that we will, but they aren’t perfect odds. I think about our Gracie, and my devastated Katie and Trey. (And then I think about our adorable, happy, smiling Oliver and I smile like the sun.)

It’s a feeling of mind-blanking excitement as I wait with them to see his little face! What will he look like? Will he look like Tom? Tom’s family’s genes are pretty strong and the majority of the grandkids look like their family. Our little Oliver looks like his dad, and Marnie’s baby might look like his dad. One of these days I hope a grandkid gets the roll of the genetic lottery dice and looks a little similar to Pete in some small way. 🙂 But I can’t wait to see this one’s sweet face, to look into it and know that he’s in there already, he is who he is, who he will be, and we’ll watch him bloom and blossom.

It’s a feeling of heart-fluttering anticipation about walking into the room when I can and seeing my dear daughter holding her baby. I wonder what her face will look like? I have a pretty clear image of what Tom’s face will look like — some version of his face when they got married. All he wants is a home and family with Marnie; he has her, and they have a beautiful home, and now their first child. I imagine he’ll be in bliss. Marnie will have gone through that labor, so her expression will have more complexity, I imagine, but I don’t know! I just can’t wait to see her face.

It’s a feeling of big anx-worry-BLE!!! as I think about the hours I’ll wait in the waiting room with no idea what’s happening to my girl. As long as I’m nearby, just a question of feet or yards, it’ll be a tiny bit bearable. A tiny bit. I don’t know how mothers who can’t be nearby bear it.

Here I was, pregnant with her. This is the only picture I have of that period. I was 26.
Here I was, pregnant with her. This is the only picture I have of that period. I was 26.

And of course I remember my experience of her birth. Relatively speaking, it was quick and simple, especially compared to Katie’s birth, which was long and required six hours of pitocin — with zero drugs, not even the ones that “take the edge off.” But with Marnie, I think my labor started around 5am, and we waited until 8:30 to call my friend who was going to come stay with Katie. We were in the labor suite by 9:30 and she was born at 12:30. I didn’t have to be induced, I had no drugs, and the way I remember it is that the doctor broke my waters and Marnie washed out of me. She was clean as a whistle and her eyes were immediately open. There was a small-ish window a little bit higher on the wall, and the sun was shining on us. March 3, a sunny, beautiful Sunday in Austin. At one point during transition, probably, the pain became so bad that I had an out-of-body experience; I was up in the corner of the room, looking down on myself, and I thought, oh, look at her, she’s suffering so much. But that’s quick, 7.5 hours total, only 3 hours in the birthing suite, and then a simple birth. No stitches, no trouble, and home six hours later.

And so I think of my little girl, Marnie Elizabeth. If you hover over each image you’ll see the caption. In her life, we’ve called her Velvet, Peach, Scrappy, Emmie, Beppie, Bop, and Marn. Soon a little boy will call her mama.

Pete waits.


When I was a very little girl, the story goes — as narrated by my mother — that one day she was so frustrated with me for just wanting to read that she put me on the front steps with a bucket and shovel, shouted “PLAY!” and locked the door behind me. The story continues that I just sat on the steps crying and sobbing for a couple of hours until she finally let me back in the house in frustration. I never played with dolls because it felt so silly; I knew that it was just me making stuff up, moving the doll here and there, and that made no sense to me.

Then when I had little children, I so wanted to play with them because I knew that was important, but I couldn’t figure it out. I was more comfortable with things like Lego and K’Nex, and puzzles, and board games — rules and order, you know.

I think this part of me is a perfect match of person and environment. It was definitely not safe enough where I grew up to let down your guard, even for an instant, and play needs that kind of abandon. But it’s also just kind of who I am, too.

Most things I want to do, I can easily learn how to do. I taught myself to knit and weave and spin and tat and quilt and make bobbin lace and do woodworking and make croissants from scratch. I painted a couple of abstract canvases I really liked. Taught myself to smock little dresses for my girls, taught myself to sew. Taught myself to pick guitar, banjo, ukulele, and to play piano with two hands. Really, there was nothing I ever wanted to do that I couldn’t do — or that I even assumed I couldn’t.

Except one. I wanted to draw. I’ve always wanted to draw, kind of desperately. Like, I’d crave it in my muscles. There’s a great passage in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter where the girl, Mick, is sitting underneath the open window of a house in her neighborhood listening to the classical music coming from the radio inside, and it fills her with a feeling so huge she has to stop herself from clawing out her thigh muscles. This, I get. My longing to draw gives me that same feeling.

My “joke” about myself has always been that I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. And you know, it’s kind of true. The ruler slips, my fingers extend out enough and the pencil slips over them, making little scallops. Oops. I’d try to draw, on occasion, and be so mortified by the awkwardness of the first lines that I’d put it away, deeply embarrassed.

she drew these trading cards, exquisite in every way
she drew these trading cards, exquisite in every way

Luckily, I always thought, even though I cannot draw I gave birth to an artist, my daughter Marnie Galloway. OK, I thought, I don’t get the pleasure of doing that myself, but I get the huge pleasure of watching her draw, of seeing worlds appear at the end of her pencil, mysteriously. That line here, an arc there, what’s she doing……oh! Now I see! How did she know how to do that, I would never have started like that?

Recently I told her again how much I wished I could draw, and as the conversation progressed something she said, the way she said it, was a tremendous gift — something about the difference in doing a representational drawing and doing a comics-style drawing. And I knew all this, but hadn’t made the connection to it being something possible for me. It has nothing to do with a second choice for someone who can’t draw representationally — it has everything, instead, to do with the thrilling possibilities of that form. You have to think like a movie maker, really — visual perspective, the way you pace the story, huge worlds of considerations inside those elements. Even the lettering, for heaven’s sake, another choice. Comics are about skill, absolutely, but they’re at least at much about having something to say. There are beloved comics artists and much-loved comics that don’t feature the kind of beautiful drawing that my daughter does. (For example, xkcd relies on stick figures, which even I can draw!)

a bit of Lynda Barry
a bit of Lynda Barry

And so I listened to Marnie’s advice, which included, among other things, a recommendation that I look up Lynda Barry and begin with one of her drawing exercises. She likes to have students draw monsters, which I figured I could do. So you get a regular piece of paper (preferably one you were going to throw away anyway, she says), and you fold it into quarters. Then, in each of the quarters, you draw a line. A squiggle in two, and a closed shape in two. Then you get two minutes per square to turn that squiggle into a monster. Only two minutes! Hair, eyes/ears/mouth, hands, etc. Two minutes, one line, a monster.

After that, there are a number of variations. In one, you write a real to-do list for your day (mine was 1–take a bath; 2–roast the beets; 3–do yoga; 4–do laundry) and then assign each task to a monster. Instant funny! In another, you write a list of four questions you’re thinking about. In another, you then draw the parents of each of your monsters.

And so I did that on Saturday. I put on some music I enjoyed, set myself up at my table, set the timer on my phone, and drew monsters. It was so much fun. And what Marnie told me yesterday when we were talking about it was that she was happy because I was playingI had not realized that until she told me, and what a gift that was.

I was playing. I played. I was playful. I can play. I want to play some more.

Life is hilarious, really. Such a scream. I never knew how to play, never could draw even though I desperately wanted to, and then I gave birth to someone who draws so beautifully, who taught me that I can draw, and that I can play. Thank you, life, for being long enough. Thank you, my life, for helping me learn so many things and for bringing me to this place. Thank you Marnie, for giving me so much more than I ever gave you (except for the birthing part of course). Thank you, life, for giving me my beautiful daughters, both of whom give me riches beyond compare.

I’ll leave you with some great Lynda Barry links, in case you too want to draw:

It’s nearly summer. Y’all go play.

catching my breath

Marnie and Tom, my sweet kids
Marnie and Tom, my sweet kids

It was so cold in Chicago! Sleety and snowy the day I arrived (but mercifully not flooding), and then just cold and windy the rest of my time there. But it was wonderful, and we didn’t let the cold slow us down.

Marnie and Tom just moved into a new place, so it was such fun getting to see their new home. Mothers, are you like this too — I always need to see where they live as quickly as I can, so I can know them in their homes, and have them there in my imagination for all the times I think about them. One fantastic thing about my kids that may have come from our own itinerant lives is that they really know how to make the coziest little homes. Katie and Marnie both have such homey homes, filled with such personal details, decorated so sweetly, and so comfortable and . . . well, home. I love that about them.

So Marnie and Tom and I mainly did a lot of walking and eating. The destination on Saturday was the Field Museum, and on Sunday we took a long walk through Graceland Cemetery, which was absolutely wonderful. We ate magnificent breakfasts (chocolate tower French toast with bananas OMG, and a BLT eggs benedict) and dinners (yummy Cubana sandwich at Xoco, an amazing bowl of pho, and mussels and frites). We talked for hours and hours, and it still wasn’t long enough.

Sweet Marnie at the Field Museum
Sweet Marnie at the Field Museum
Eternal Silence (Graceland Cemetery)
Eternal Silence (Graceland Cemetery) — isn’t that amazing?
Enlarge this so you can read it -- Pinkerton!
Enlarge this so you can read it — Pinkerton!
Louis Sullivan, the great architect
Louis Sullivan, the great architect
mussels, frites, and a wonderful beer!
mussels, frites, and a wonderful beer!

And now I’m back home in Austin for a few days before I head off to NYC, and then shortly after that off to Indonesia. Much to do between now and then — preparation for my trip, a lot of work, seeing friends. On the flights to and from Chicago, I read more of Bluets, and found this beautiful piece:

79. For just because one loves blue does not mean that one wants to spend one’s life in a world made of it. “Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus,” wrote Emerson. To find oneself trapped in any one bead, no matter what its hue, can be deadly.

I really love that because it’s so true — and a good thing, too, because we don’t get just one thing. We get joy, blue beads, and we get sorrow, the matte gray beads, and we get grief, black obsidian, accepting no light, and we get light happiness, pink and orange beads, and we get everything if we just live long enough. It goes up, it goes down, it goes flat, and then joy and beauty come back, even when you thought they wouldn’t. Which brings me to these lines, which I share in the hope that you love them too:

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There’s an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You’re beautiful for as long as you live.

—the final lines of “Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry” by Stephen Dunn

Also by Stephen Dunn,

Solving the Puzzle

I couldn’t make the pieces fit,
so I threw one away.

No expectation of success now,
none of that worry.

The remaining pieces seemed
to seek their companions.
A design appeared.

I could see the connection
between the overgrown path
and the dark castle on the hill.

Something in the middle, though,
was missing.

It would have been important once,
I wouldn’t have been able to sleep
without it.

Happy Tuesday, y’all. xo

off to Chicago

taken yesterday morning!
taken yesterday morning!

Oh happy happy day — I’m off to spend time with my wonderful daughter Marnie and her equally wonderful husband Tom, in Chicago. At least I hope so; Chicago has been hit with so much rain they’re having pretty terrible flooding. Flights have been cancelled, so I’m just hoping hoping hoping that I get there. Otherwise, I’m not sure when I’ll get to see them and it’s already been way too long. The last time I saw Marnie was last October during the dreadful agony of our family’s loss. And that’s way too long to go without seeing my daughter, you know?

one my favorite pictures of Marnie, ever.
one my favorite pictures of Marnie, ever.

We always have such a good time together, the three of us. We eat good stuff, we ramble around, we talk and talk and talk, we solve world problems, and we’re just easy together, the three of us. Both Tom and Marnie are thoughtful people with a lot to talk about, so that’s just such fun. And Tom is a sociologist and I’m a psychologist so we take different approaches to interesting questions, and that’s really fun for me. I love getting to talk about academicky stuff, and Tom knows very cool stuff I don’t know. And Chicago, love that city so so much.

They’ll be coming to Austin for Christmas this year (and staying with ME!), so I have that to look forward to. It’s awful only to see your beloved kids a couple of times a year. That’s not nearly enough. If you live near your kids and get to see them whenever you want — as I do with Katie and Trey, and I feel so grateful for that — you are lucky.

Here’s a wonderful picture of Marnie and Tom right after they were married. See what I mean about them?

jumping for joy on wedding day
jumping for joy on wedding day

I won’t be posting while I’m away, so have a wonderful weekend! I’ll write when I get home. xoL

deep waters

deepwaterI seem to be in a little run of mainly writing on Fridays, for some strange reason. (Maybe it’s my subconscious prodding me to resume my Friday posts about my tattoos. Hmmm.) But one of these days—and I can’t wait for it—I’ll be back to having lots of things to say every day because I’m thinking about lots of things and need to work through them by writing about them. Right now, though, I’m just floating in some deep water.

And I’m sleeping like that too, still and deep. One night I got an idea to tuck one pillow against my back and maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve slept amazingly well ever since. My husband always slept tucked against my back with his leg draped over mine, and somehow that made me feel safe, like I wasn’t going to drift away. So feeling the slight pressure of that pillow against my back must make me feel safe or something. I drift off to sleep within ~half an hour of getting in bed and sleep straight through until 9am, usually. A couple of nights ago I had twin nightmares in the middle of the night and it was hard to calm down enough to go to sleep, but excepting that, it’s a long, deep, quenching sleep, the kind that just feels so good, you know? My consciousness drifts near the surface at moments and I just have an underawareness of how wonderful the sheets feel, I stretch my legs and it feels so good, I take a deep breath and dive down again. I’m having funny little dreams (except for those nightmares), which tells me I am actually sleeping. I spontaneously wake up just before 9am and I feel wonderful. Last night, I apparently did not move at all; the covers were flat around me as they were when I went to sleep. I could’ve just slid out of the bed and the bed would’ve been made. Well, the unfortunate effect of that is that the muscles in my shoulders and lower neck didn’t get to move and they’re hurting. I need a deep tissue massage.

Deep is appearing so much in my mind and life right now, but it always has. Once, when I was 12, I sat in the car with my mother and stepfather and he looked at me and said, “Still waters run deep,” prompting my mother to do her mean little attacky thing because she wasn’t getting all the attention. I ignored her and thought about what that saying meant about me, and whether it was right. I’ve heard it said of me various times since then, and the first thing I think is Still waters? I’m a thrasher! Within the last couple of years I’ve become significantly less thrashy (thank you dear Sherlock for giving me that word a few years ago, saying there was a certain thrashing quality about me, so true). My daughters noted it, and Sherlock told me spontaneously that there’s so much less thrashing now. Aging, hard work, deep thought, hard times, all work together in my life. And hard times carve deep valleys; my dear son-in-law Trey mentioned this old poem about a week ago, quoting the bolded line below when we were talking about our dear little Gracie:

On Joy and Sorrow
Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Yeah. What he said. Deep-carved sorrows leave space to be filled. I don’t think it’s necessarily and always the case that those empty spaces become filled with the capacity for joy, they can also become filled with bitterness and jealousy and contempt. I’ve seen that. But I’ve been carved so deep for so long, beginning as a tiny child, and I’m grateful that what filled me has mostly been the capacity for joy. That’s one reason I love my daughter Marnie’s recent comic published by Saveur Magazine, about her trip to Marrakesh. The magazine sent her there and to Madrid, asking that she create comic travelogues about each place and the Marrakesh comic just went live. It’s a thing we have in common, an easy sense of wonder and gratitude, and it’s present so beautifully in her comic, in a moving but then funny way.

It’s drizzly and gray here today, a good day for hunkering down and working and whaddya know, I have work. I hope it’s a good Friday and weekend for you, whatever it’s like where you are. Lots of love.


Marnie and stuff

Marnie and Tom last summer I think
Marnie and Tom last summer I think

Well, today is my daughter Marnie’s birthday — 28 years old, how did that happen. Her sweet husband Tom is making her day so special, up north in Chicago, as he always does and that gives me some comfort since I can’t be there to do it myself. It’s been a magnificent year for her, and I can’t wait to see what she makes happen in the year to come. Marnie calls me every week and those conversations are one of the best gifts of my whole life. She has been my ardent supporter, and I watch her closely to figure out how to be, when I finally grow up. Happy birthday, Marnie Elizabeth, my darling girl.

Yesterday I got to spend the afternoon with my dear friend Kelly, which was great on so many levels. It was a fabulous conversation with someone I’m crazy about, and all those levels of pleasure and inspiration aside, it was also just wonderful to finally connect with someone I already know. My social interactions have so far been with my precious daughter Katie and her kind husband Trey, or with total strangers (I’m getting to know them a little bit, but not personally yet). Since I’ve been kind of pulled inward getting myself together, I haven’t sought out my old Austin, my old connections. I haven’t been able to bear the whole “yeah, here’s what happened to me” conversation but I didn’t have to do that with Kelly.

lemmonAlso, yesterday I somehow watched three Jack Lemmon movies — Some Like it Hot, one of my family’s favorites, then The Apartment, one of my favorites, and then The Days of Wine and Roses, utterly wrenching in some ways, although it landed on me differently with this watching. I think if you grew up with a hard-core alcoholic it’s like watching a documentary, in a way. Yep, the destruction, check. Oh yeah, the lack of caring about anything but getting more booze, yep been there. Yes, boy did they nail the way an alcoholic looks and walks and talks and behaves. Since my husband has been in recovery since 1991, and since he was a consultant to Hazelden and a good part of his practice involved addicts, I learned a lot about AA. I’d never had any doings with AA before and in fact had some hard feelings about it. Watching The Days of Wine and Roses now, it seemed almost like a movie-length advertisement for AA, so many of the catchphrases were woven in (“other people can drink and they’re not alcoholics” “YET,” says the AA member in response), with Lee Remick standing in for the white knucklers, speaking for the hazards of thinking you can just do it with willpower—and see what happened to her? But however my feelings about the movie may have shifted, I’m still and always in awe of the performances. I read that Jack Lemmon was so caught up in the straightjacket scene he actually became hysterical, and the crew had to work hard to calm him afterward. I also read that he was an alcoholic in the 1960s; the movie was made in the early 1960s, so maybe he was already in it and that helped inform his performance.

Also, yesterday I read Brain On Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. Cahalan was a young reporter for the New York Post and essentially her body attacked her brain and she went absolutely mad for a month and might have died except for a brilliant neurologist who knew of a newly discovered autoimmune disease. The progression of her illness was fast and terrifying, and it’s quite a strong story. It’s easy to read (the science is encapsulated in a couple of chapters, and written simply enough to understand) and a page-turner because you just can’t believe how fast and terrible this thing happened to her, but I thought it was poorly written. Still, it’s one of those stories where what’s happening is so incredible it doesn’t even matter how well (or not) it’s written. Even though she recovered from the illness, there is still something changed inside her and she and others know it, and that is just fascinating. Some essence of who she was has been broken even though she is again her “old self.” And her trust in her perception has been changed too. She sees something run past, out of the corner of her eye, and is desperate to know if her boyfriend saw it too. Because maybe it’s just her, maybe the illness is returning. That is fascinating to me.

Late this afternoon I’m going to hear the Mundi Quintet, which should be great fun, but before then I’m getting out on my patio to do some flowerbed work; it’s going to be 76 today, blue sunny skies, a great day for playing in the dirt. I’ve got something on my mind, something I’m trying to figure out, but it’s kind of subtle and twined up in all kinds of things I need to think through so I’m not quite ready to write about it yet but probably tomorrow, a thoughty post. I just made up that word. 🙂

Happy March 3, 3/3, forever and always Marnie’s day. Once more: HAPPY BIRTHDAY my sweet little girl! xoxo