Monday, November 28, 2011


He tenses before the starting line, all forty pounds of him. Fiddling with the safety pins attaching his race number to his track suit, he shifts from the front to the back of his feet.

My son is five years old, and about to compete in his first road race---a turkey trot. One whole mile. And I am running with him.

With a shot of a gun, we start. "Keep your pace," I remind him, "Not too fast, not too slow."

"Okay, Mommy," he says, his fists curled into tight little clamshells, his arms pumping with each step.

We press forward.

He reaches for my hand, "My legs are getting tired." He coughs as the road crests like a wave. 

"Just keep going," I say. "We're almost to the top. And you know what comes next?"


I squeeze his hand, "You get to race me back home. Maybe you'll even beat me."

He grins, and we round the corner. "Okay, Buddy," I say, "It's all you."

I expect him to take off, fueled by fearlessness. Instead, he lets go of my hand, and strides besides me. "Do you want to race?" I ask.

"No," he says, "I want to finish with you."

We run through the final corridor, alive with whistles and cheers. He gazes from one side to the other, smiling. Uncoiled, like a loose spring.

Our feet stamp across the finish. They drape a medal around his neck.

He looks up from our hug, and says, "Okay, Mom. Now it's your turn to race."

I line up once more, and run five more miles. For him. For me. For our tomorrows.

Some say a photograph steals the soul. This week, show us yours: take us into the moment that photograph was taken. Show us who you were then and what the photograph means–in 300 words.

There are many pictures of me running. I like to think that my son watched me compete, watched his father run marathons, and learned that running is just what people do. The pics from this post  may have inspired him. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ponderous and Strange

The baby folded into me, her breath soft against my neck. Little grunts and pink-fleshed fingers, ponderous and strange.

Her mother smiled, "You're a natural."

I raised my eyebrows, "I don't know." I held my breath as I shifted my feet, "I'm not sure I'm a baby person."

"I don't believe that for a second," she said, "When are you going to have one of your own?"

I glanced at Paul, at his long graceful fingers as he sliced the onions for the stuffing. So meticulous. Never rushed, "Well," I sighed, "If I could guarantee that my kids would be just like him, then I would have them tomorrow."

She frowned. "You're pretty great, too."

Images sprouted from the silence. Of crying jags and Zoloft. Heaviness. Yearning to fade into the sheets, soundless and insubstantial.

Her baby nestled against my sweater. "I've had a hard year. I really miss Arizona. I hate my job. I've been---" I used the official terminology, "struggling with depression."

She placed her hand on my knee. "That's hard."

I blinked, fighting the waves that came in such ferocious bursts. "Yup."

"But, Nancy?" I gazed into her eyes. "Aren't you glad that you were born?"

Inhaling the softness of that head, I couldn't help but say the truth, "Oh, yes. Most of the time, yes."

 A year later, she held my newborn son in her arms.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Snow Day

We're doing dialogue this week for Red Writing Hood. Here's the latest edition from Janie, my teenage superhero. This week, she's talking to her mother about her newly discovered powers. 

I begin tugging at a hard piece of skin, waiting for it to yield and give.

“Stop that,” Mom says, without looking my way. She slows to a red light. “So, I got my first power when I first turned 14. Just like you.”

She says it matter-of-factly, as if saying, “I got a peppermint mocha at Starbucks.”

“Go on,” I say. “What is it?” 

She flinches. “I don’t have a power any more. But I used to control the weather.”

I choke on my Diet Pepsi. “Shut UP!”

 She tucks a stray hair behind her ear.  “You know how you wear your pajamas inside out when you want a snow day?”

“And put a spoon under the bed,” I add.

She frowns, “Never heard of that one. Anyway, I had a huge report due. On Margaret Sanger.” She pokes me in the shoulder. “The founder of Planned Parenthood?”

“Okay, Mom.  Whatever you say.”

“I have failed as a feminist.”  She pulls into the parking lot of Chiptole, shaking her head. “Failed. You really don’t know who she is?’

“MOM!” I screech. “I don’t care!” 

“Watch yourself,” she says. “So, I hadn’t done any research. No note cards. No trips to the library. Nothing.”

“Why didn’t you just go to Wikipedia?” I ask.

She ignores me. “The project was due the next day. It wasn’t happening, and your grandmother would murder me if I came home with a F.”

Grandma spent her days shooting chipmunks from her back porch.  Mom wasn’t exaggerating. I gulped.  “What did you do?”

“The only reasonable solution. I went to bed, and told the skies to bring a snowstorm to cancel school. And I wore my pajamas inside out. ”

I snort. “I’m sorry Mom.  You grew up in Wisconsin. That’s all it ever does--snow.”

“Yes, Janie. Normally that would be true.” Her voice turns to a whisper. “But it was almost Memorial Day. And it only snowed in Mill River. They were swimming in the river the next town over.”

I open my mouth, and close it again.  “Global warming?” I squeak.

“No,” she says. “And honey? That was only the beginning."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


So, we got a dog.

Her name is Eucy. It's short for Eucalyptus.

Why now? Because when I drove from place to place, I yearned.

This year has been so hard for our family. Full of joys, yes. But, yet, even in the times when my belly ached from laughter, I felt pinpricks of guilt, reminders that things were not as they should be.

After my mother-in-law died, I dreamed of a velvety head. I wanted something pure and soft and warm to love.  A fresh, furry start.

And now? My heart is refilling. When I watch the boys race around the backyard, red-faced and exuberant, I smile. And in the evening hours, I rub her belly and listen to her soft, grunty sighs.

My heart sprouts from the darkness. Verdant. Persistent. Facing the future, with a new leash on life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


For this week's Write on Edge prompt, I thought I would share Janie's musings about her mother. Janie is my NaNoWriMo protagonist. 

Each morning, while the rest of the world orders their lattes and updates their status reports, my mother returns to the womb.

She tucks her hair into a ponytail, and scrubs her hands until they tingle. Next, she rubs in the sanitizer, feeling the burn in each parched cuticle.  The latex gloves seal the remaining world off with a single, practiced snap.

The doors whish; she enters. Pressing her face against each artificial womb, she greets the babies by name.

Keston. 29 weeks, 2 pounds. Intubated. Miranda. Group B Septis. Gregory. The surviving twin.

She holds their translucent, paper-thin fingers, and speaks of moon bounces, sunsets, and peppermint ice cream.  

As she exits the hospital, she whispers each name, so the stars will hear them, and know that they were real.