Thursday, December 30, 2010

Night Dreaming

My little one screams
The same terror I have heard
From her
Night after night
Since she was two

"Stay away!"
"But that is mine!"
Or simply the blood-chilling
Screeching fright of being chased by a lion
Or a dark, brooding unseen thing
With a growl

I, too, have had my dreams
But when I was young
They were dreams of flight
Of escape from the ground
A gentle lifting off from rooftops
A soft, not-too-sad goodbye before I floated away
To a kinder place
On my own

Listening to my daughter
When I reach for her
And whisper words to end the dream
I wonder why
Her dreams are not like mine
Why she can't fly,
But why she runs instead from unseen fears

Have I made her life that fearful
When I'd hoped to make her happy?
Not like me when I was young,
Afraid of everything around me
When my dreams were ended, my eyes opened.

Perhaps I had no need
For more fear
Perhaps my dreams allowed me to escape
The fears I knew too well.

Perhaps my daughter
To be human
Must fear something
Even something she cannot see, or name,
But she does not wish
To escape her life, her fearsome life,
As I once did.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Hard Part

The hard part
Isn't living

It's seeing the bad in the world
Watching people take
And take and take

And then still getting up in the morning
Reaching out to others
To give everything.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Light a Candle, and Shine

I've been saying good-bye to a lot of things lately. Tomorrow my family and I take off for a new home and a new life a few thousand miles from where we've been living for the last four and a half years, and the good-byes have been multiplying as time has grown short.

But I have another good-bye to say, one I knew was coming, but one that hit me hard nonetheless. My beloved grandma Jeanne passed away yesterday. I don't know the details yet, but the details don't matter. Jeanne had been sick for a very long time, so I am happy that her suffering is over. I am also grieved, deeply grieved, and today I hope to be able to express why.

I have known Jeanne all my life. I called her Jeanne even as a kid, for the term "grandma" made her feel old. I was one of dozens of grandchildren in a very large extended family. It wasn't until I was fifteen, though, that I really "knew" Jeanne. I spent two weeks that summer with the Three Musketeers--Jeanne, Aunt Sue, and Aunt Leilali--and I believe that was the first time I felt unconditionally loved. Certainly, my older sister had always made it clear that she thought I was great, and even then we were close, but I was a shy child, and it was all too easy to be overlooked and ignored. I didn't really think I was much of anything. My little light burned inside me, but I couldn't really see it.

Jeanne--and my two aunts--saw my light from the moment I walked in the door. I wasn't just a teenager, or just a granddaughter or niece. I was a beautiful little candle, barely lit, but shining out just the same. Jeanne focused on that little light of mine and did all she could to encourage it. She bought me my first pair of glasses when she realized I was pretty much blind. She spent that week telling me how beautiful I looked with glasses. And I felt beautiful, perhaps more beautiful than I ever had before.

Another year she bought me fabric on Mother's Day, telling me, "Every girl should get a Mother's Day present. You'll be a mother some day." And she was right, for I did become a mother. She told me stories, encouraged me, listened to me, watched movies with me, and gave her smile to me over and over. She'd had a hard childhood--far harder than mine--but she smiled every day, and when she smiled the whole world lit up, warm and comforting and encouraging.

I visited Jeanne's house every summer for six years, and my flame grew and grew, glowing brighter with each year, with each word of encouragement. I held onto that flame through the rest of the year, as I hold onto it now, and I have learned to let it shine on my own. Now that she is gone, I know I can keep my flame alive, that I can be strong, that I will do well even if she is not here to encourage me.

But that is precisely why I grieve. Jeanne helped me so much, but I know there are so many out who need a Jeanne of their own--someone to make it clear they are loved and supported, someone to help their flame grow--and she cannot help them anymore.

And so the candle is passed. I have learned from a master, and it's time for me to take up the task in earnest. My two children need the same unconditional love from me, every single day. My students need it, too, as do my friends. The girl who bought my minivan yesterday needs it, so that she can complete her GED and support her three young children. My neighbors need it as they raise kids, work, and pursue their own goals. My new town will need it, so it's my job to keep my candle lit and use it to encourage the lights around me to glow as brightly as they can.

I can't promise to do it well. I've already made some huge mistakes. But it's my job, my task, and I am grateful that I had Jeanne to show me how it's done. Jeanne, the light of your candle will never die, for it lives in me now, as it does in every person you have touched.

I will love you forever.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Tip-tapping toes
To the bathroom
And a yellow light
My little one is up
For the morning

Glimmering through the haze
Of morning, the sun's
Yellow warmth melts
The blue frost
On neighbor's rooftops

Sparkling from eaves
Patterned across a crisp lawn
Bulbs light the way
With holiday cheer

Over there
Closer with every step
The light at the end of the tunnel
As my heart beats faster

The plane, high in the dark
The black of sky
Seeks the lights below
The strong lines
Guiding it in to its new place

Lights show the path
Of expectation
Of hope
Of rebirth
Of the new

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Tears of sadness
For friends I'll miss
Friends I'll never see again

Tears of regret
The souls I've missed
By passing through
Too quickly

Tears of pain
From the dismissal
From those who averted their eyes
Too self-centered to look at me for a moment

Tears of hope
Of adventure coming
Meeting it will all my energies
To make the next step greater than the last

Tears of promise
To use the everything I have
To become more
To make the world greater

Tears of joy
At new life
New possibilities
A fresh start
A new me

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is it Time to Panic?

A few weeks ago, after I'd finished packing up the china cabinet and my husband had packed (most of) the man cave, he looked me in the eye and said, "I think we're almost done. This move isn't going to be hard at all."

And he wasn't joking.

Not to be goaded into a false sense of calm, I answered, "We aren't close, and this is going to be hard."

Guess. Go on, guess who was right. You know the answer. Since I'm the one writing this blog, and the title has the word "panic" in it, you know I'm the one who was right. I would guess we're still only 25% done with the packing, and we still have to say good-bye to all the people here, finish getting all documents ready for closing on our new house, pack the other 75%, scrub down the house from top to bottom, go to every doctor (it seems), enroll the kids in the new school, sell two vehicles, sell a bunch of furniture on Craigslist (I just posted it all yesterday), finish both courses, help the hubby recover from oral surgery this coming Thursday... should I keep going? Really?

So here it is: Panic, panic, PANIC, panic, panic, more panic, PANIC, PANIC, PANIC, panic, PANIC!!!!

And that's it. I'm done. All done panicking. It's a waste of time anyway, panicking is, and it will only get me a heart attack. Besides, it makes breathing difficult and gives me a headache.

Now it's time to get to work. I have a library, playroom, and kitchen to pack, along with other ducks to put in a row. Talk to you later!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas at the Piano

My mother-in-law has a great sense of humor.

"Since you don't have anything to do right now," she says, just after we've discussed the move, the end of term grading, the end-of-year optometrist and dentist appointments, the house we're buying, etc., "why don't you practice some Christmas music, so that we can sing carols when you come this Christmas?"

Her words are music to my ears... or at least they are when I sit down at the piano. I stack the dozen or so piano books containing Christmas music in front of me, and start to pick through them. And I am astonished at how much better I play than I did last year, even though I haven't practiced Christmas songs since last December. Some songs I could never really finish last year are pretty easy, even on the first attempt. Wow.

And Mom's request does two things for me, beyond giving me the pleasure of playing Christmas music. For one thing, she's given me license to play every day, even with stacks of papers to grade and a ton of other obligations. And for the other, she's made it clear, in one sentence, that she values me and my gifts and wants me to share them--that she is looking forward to Christmas just a bit more because she'll have piano music playing in the house, because I'll be there playing.

Nice mom. Even nicer because I don't have a tree up this year (no sense in decorating, since we're loading up the truck starting on December 10). Now I get my little bit of Christmas at least once a day, when I sit down, lay my fingers on the antique keys, and play.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Only You

Tell me you are nervous
Tell me you just can't write the way
I want you to

Tell me English
Doesn't fit the way you are
You're too uptight to write
Too scared that what you put on paper
Won't be what I want

Tell me your life has made you
Into a gelatinous mass
Unable to make it through
A tough, tough world

I know better

It isn't the world that holds you back
It isn't my lofty expectations
It isn't that the demands of life are simply too much to bear

The world is not against you
The world wants nothing more than your success

Your enemy is you

But, by all means,
Go on telling yourself you can't do it
Despite all that I might say or do
Call yourself a failure
Say that you can't do it
Over and over and over
Until you believe it

And in the end
You'll be right
And I'll be wrong

But the world
And I
Will be oh so disappointed
For you will have given up
On yourself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Failure

National Novel Writing Month is over. A whole bunch of people wrote 50,000 words, some of them completing the challenge in ten days or less. One blogger commenting on another person's page said he'd written over 100,000 words. (wow!)

I did not win. I did manage over 24,000 words, but I didn't win. I didn't even get quite halfway.

But that doesn't mean I failed. It means I spent over a week finding and obtaining a house for the move to Georgia. It means my students didn't drop off the face of the earth and stop turning in papers. It means my kids still needed help with homework instructions, still had swimming lessons, still went to karate and ballet, still needed help with items with school, still needed to eat. It also means my husband needed a partner to help with the transition.

It means I've been sick for the last two weeks, and will likely go to the doctor tomorrow morning to see if I have now developed a sinus infection (sure feels like it).

But it doesn't mean I've failed. It means I'm now, at the beginning of December, nearly halfway through writing a novel I'd been wanting to start for at least a year. I'm not sure when I'll get the first draft done, or how long it will take to revise it, but I'm farther along with it than I would have been without the NaNoWriMo challenge.

And that means I've won. And I'm proud, and I'm going to end this post and go pat myself on the back. And then I'm going to keep on writing, not until some arbitrary deadline, but until I'm dead. (Then, I guess I'll be out of time. Darn it!)

Now it's your task. Forget what deadlines you haven't met, what tasks still loom on the horizon. What have you DONE this last month? What did you begin? What progress have you made? Let me know, and I'll give you a pat on the back, too!