writing from the heart

 So this writing practice, going on for 38 non-consecutive days now, has been a highlight of this winter/spring. Mostly poems are what happen when I write, even some that I have shared here. Sometimes the writing opens these doors into the past, just by giving time and attention to even one small aspect, more details come and memories that I didn’t know I had. But a lot of times, what I am writing about is the present. And I think about how the photography and poetry are just two different manifestations of the same impulse: to show you something ordinary so you see it or think about it differently.

Knitting update:
The Birthday Knitting has slowed to a crawl. I am knitting the Gaptastic Cowl which is SEED STITCH, easy, slow, and boring at best, and I have now ripped it out twice. But the third time is the charm. It’s a beautiful gray yarn (like the photo in the pattern), so very squishy and yummy, and I am not upset about the ripping out part. With so many things in life that cannot be redone, why not relish those opportunities to make things exactly how you envision them?
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the alternative education program and, as always, I found myself completely moved by seeing/participating in alt ed in action. I was there to ask them to work on writing content about their program for our high school’s website. As is typical in most alt ed programs, it was mostly boys, about 15 boys, 3 girls. (We could talk about why traditional education seems to be failing our young men…).

So we sat around this table together, 7 students, 2 teachers and me. I introduced the idea of having them tell the story of what their program is, outlining the Description, Philosophy, and Rationale, instead of having the program director write it. And I don’t know what they thought of me, but I was completely floored by them. I had written some guiding questions to get them going and shared those by reading them aloud. They had questions for me, articulated their thoughts, asked intelligent questions of each other and of their teacher. There was a high level of comfort with the process and each other. What it felt like was engaged learning at its finest, youth empowerment before my eyes, and the level of engagement felt more like a college or private school classroom than a public high school classroom. I able to reflect back to them what I was seeing and how impressed I was.

IMG_0409Yet my heart broke when the students expressed frustration at how they are perceived: as delinquents, drop outs and problem kids, pregnant girls, drug users. But here they are: showing up for an education that has not been easy, and in a public school institution that has failed them, and now they have this second chance. Do the students know how lucky they are to have landed in this program (and some who come, don’t last it’s true)? That what they are getting IS different from regular school and wow, it’s freaking awesome.

As I was leaving, shutting the door, I heard one student say: “This is exciting! As long as we can write from the heart.”

Trees and Tracks


So how am I doing with the Jonas Leaving part? I’ve been getting asked this question a lot. But I guess it’s not so sudden for me, since I’ve been processing it already for about three months. Actually, now there is almost a sense of relief—he was accepted and the decision has been made. The hardest part was not knowing what the outcome would be, the stress of amped up focus (on wellness, on all the hoops for jumping through), the worry for “what if he goes?” and “what if he doesn’t go?”It hits me in the car when I am driving alone. This year, we share a commute to school together: such a gift. I have my own private DJ every day, who tortures me with Michael Bublé (hilarious, right, that this crooner is my form of torture?), but will also choose songs he knows I like in equal measure. And we always pull into the school driveway on a pump-up song, played loud. We also talk.So when that passenger seat is empty and I’m driving my usual route alone (rare, but it happens), and I have to pick out my own playlist (no one is selecting music by request), and there’s no one to talk to or process with, and no one to tell me about a computer simulation he was doing online to balance the national debt, or about how I could be parenting Sylvan better or differently, or about the conundrum of separation of church and state yet it’s OK to swear on a holy book (why not swear on the Constitution, if you please?), it’s in those quiet, boring moments that sometimes just a few sobs come out.        When we visited the school, I was almost crying too, being there and recognizing a place that seemed so right for this boy. How will it feel for our family to be suddenly three? How will it be for Sylvan to be our only? I can only take just the one step at a time right now. But since I’m a trusting sort of optimist, I think it will be like our life is: mostly great, with occasional bumps. We’re lucky. So lucky. Spring Walk Poem

I started the day resentful of the cold, the dark, of the getting up part.

Sleep just kept pulling me down like drowning back into the seductive warmth of my bed.

It was also a take-Sylvan-to-school-with-me-extra-early day — another body to feed, prepare, nag, jolly and mobilize on time.

So thank god he wore his Superman socks because we needed all the help we could get.

23 degrees felt nearly tropical, so we had that going for us. But I forgot my hat.

The afternoon, however, was gentle.

When I got home, all I wanted was a walk.

The air was fresh, the sun was warm,

and the ground eased under my feet with spring mud-softness.

In the shadows there was still that snap on my neck,

and back to hard brown ice, crunching and slick.

Every step had to be mindful, nothing certain or expected about the surface of the earth.

My feet were leading, a sensory organ,

and I was observing fine details:

the brown lace edge of a puddle

and the lazy swirls of mud water trickling in a crack.

It looked like solid ground, but with one confident step forward

my boot squished deeply into brown frosting

—a trick!—

so airy and light that I wanted to sink my bare, pale winter foot right into it,

up to my ankle,

wiggling my toes into that smooth, cold wetness.

~a little story about a princess and her foolishness~

~#1 birthday knitting project completed, the jenny/brooks chevron scarf~

Once Upon a Time

When the prince left town,

the princess had to start her own fires and make her own coffee.

And thank god it was warmish because the prince also starts the princess’s car each morning.

The joke, however, was on the princess

one very dark morning,

when she was so very very far away in dreams:

morning yoga was out of the question

and just getting out of bed

was a triumph.

She made her own coffee in the dark, cold kitchen.

It was quiet.

She made sure both boys had smoothies ready for them, with lunches in various stages of preparedness, little notes where necessary:




Only later in the day did the ridiculous headache start,

a certain lack of focus like moving in thick water,

and a complete plummet of perkiness

ensued after lunch.

The princess begged the school nurse for some almond butter on a cracker—

perhaps her healthy salad wasn’t enough for lunch?

Driving home,

nauseous from the headache that was alternatively sharp and dull and everywhere at once,

she recalled the prince saying something about putting the coffee in some blahblah new place blahblah.

But since she was the princess,

at the time it didn’t really concern her,

not being the one who makes the coffee after all.


The princess had unknowingly reached for the jar of decaf and made herself a cup.

~st. patrick’s day brooding~
~this is what they really look like: smiley, handsome, delightful~




I guess I could already see it coming after all, even though I tried so hard not to look. Back in October, along that beautiful autumn wall, the future was already moving towards us. And Jonas was already stepping forward to meet it.

DSC02883I thought I had signed up for an 18-year first tour of duty (2017), but as it turns out we’re winding up early, in 2015.

IMG_0747[**Let’s be clear, the motherhood tour will never end until I die, of course, and probably not even then.**]


The week before winter break, in December, he decided he wanted to check out boarding schools for next year. “SURE!” I said with enthusiasm (hiding shock), “Um, when’s the deadline…?” It didn’t come out of the blue. It’s something we put forth as an option in the spring of 8th and spring of 9th grades, and both times the offer was barely across my lips before there was a definitive and very swift “NO.” The truth is, his high school experience has been good and he’s been happy; the school has been supportive and open to the ways in which he has already customized his learning experience (skipping into Honors Junior English, an independent study on Forms of Government and Social Structure, and an online AP US Government class this spring). So he entered into the application process knowing that he would be fine staying where he is.

SONY DSCOur month of January included 3 school visits. The closest was 3 hours away. All three interviews coincided with two prolonged nasty cold/flu illnesses for Jonas; he was in equal states of not-quite-100%-healthy for each one, but well enough to go. I sat in admissions offices with families from Florida, New Jersey, California, and one from Beijing. I saw the country’s largest high school library. We drooled over history elective courses that sound like college courses, each description like a special chocolate to savor. We worked through possible interview questions, questions for the interviewer, and special things to “work in” if possible. We had our pump-ourselves-up playlists for the car rides, snacks, toothbrush, water, cold medicine, tissues, thermos of tea, etc.

SONY DSCAnd at almost the 11th hour, coinciding with school vacation week, the discovery of a missing recommendation that we thought had already been submitted. And by some sort of grace, that teacher was reading his school email at 11:30 at night, on his vacation, and found it in his heart to write and submit (again?!) a digital copy the next morning. ON HIS VACATION. I was mortified to make this request. (Did I sleep that night? Nope.) And P.S. that dear teacher is a colleague that I see every day at school. And he even still talks to me at lunch.

SONY DSCHanging over it all was the sense of not getting too excited or attached to any outcome. Being cool, OK with whatever happens. Whatevs.



But I’ll admit that many times I had to take myself to task and remind myself that whatever was going on was decidedly NOT ABOUT ME and all about Jonas, on his own trajectory. Not my circus, not my monkeys. If I’m honest, it felt like I was offering up one of my masterpieces, someone amazing, one of the best humans I know (if I might say so), and what on earth would it mean if that wasn’t good enough and they didn’t accept him? How could they not?

SONY DSCSo, flash forward to this week.

SONY DSCHe got into his top choice and will be going away this fall. When he got the email, because that’s what they send out first, it came in a day early. A surprise! And he had to send it to me to be sure, because somehow the words “We are delighted to offer you admission…” were overshadowed by a photo of a bunch of celebratory teens in school colors, and he thought it might have been some sort of spam. “HELL TO THE YES #momscrying” was my reply. I knew that either way, it would be devastating; heart is both bursting with pride and excitement for all these doors wide open, and breaking into little bits and pieces as I start to imagine the space he will leave behind.

SONY DSCI have to fast-track the rest of my Mom Curriculum and the clock is ticking. It’s pretty minimal, just some polishing, really. Self-care skills will be high on my list. And I need to ponder what to put on his Mom’s Recommended Reading List for summer reading. Mr. Crafty is taking over the Movie/Film List. These four most important phrases, from my favorite author Louise Penny, are going to figure into the curriculum somehow:

  1. I was wrong.
  2. I’m sorry.
  3. I don’t know.
  4. I need help.



From your first breath,

your eyes were peeled,


As if,

by the amount of eyeball exposed,

you could consume more

of the world,

your oyster.

You never snuggled in my neck,

spaced out,

sucked your thumb,

or needed a break.


When you were awake,

the moment your eyes were open

your mind was alive, active, curious.

You had ideas, demands, plans,

articulating your visions immediately,

while I was still trying to pull myself out of sleep.

In those early years,

you came home from school exhausted every day:

your brain never stopped,

you never let your attention wander,

never missed any social exchange.

You remembered everything



and you made up even more

so you would retell stories you’d heard

with more details than the original text.

You were always eager to do the next thing,

unconcerned with perfection,

but enticed by the exploration of something new.

Curious, open, willing.



more wonderland



I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about the snow we have been experiencing here this winter. It’s basically a winter wonderland every single day. Snow and snow and snow. It’s the winter for jumping off roofs, sledding, skiing, and of course, shoveling.

~two of my favorite friends between sled runs~
~valentines from two sweet girls~

And knitting. I finished this Wave Shawl, a belated holiday gift for my mom. It felt a little like work by the end of that LONG hypotenuse side of the triangle. The yarn is yummy merino and silk.
SONY DSC SONY DSCAnd now I am onto Thing 1 of my birthday year knitting! (See here for more info). Two lovely skeins from two friends. The variegated is Misti Alpaca Qolla, in the most luscious tide pool colorway, all slate and greens and rusty and teal. And the solid is Yak/Merino by Lang. Super soft and yummy. 
SONY DSCSONY DSCThe chevron is a nice stitch idea from another special friend and Thing 1 will be a scarf. The stitch pattern is easy and it’s very pleasing to look at.
I’ve embarked on a writing journey this winter, simple really, just write every day for 108 days. If you skip a day, no problem, no stress. There’s a Facebook group, if you’re interested in joining. It feels exciting to be doing this. Below is something that will give you a little picture into the last slog of knitting that lovely shawl.


My Brain on Knitting

We can blame the dopamine receptors

for why the


of creating the new knitting project

is so alluring.

Anticipating and planning

releases more dopamine

than actually doing it.

I’m an addict.


It really is a sort of itch,

my mind just wants to go there all the time,

pursue the math of the puzzle,

the new gauge,

learning the new stitch pattern.

This conception phase is like that obsessive love,

the kind that looks for every possible

“chance” encounter,

when you might “happen” to run into each other between classes

if you take the back hallway,

since he’ll be coming from gym.

And it’s not like it’s that much out of your way.


so totally worth it,

even if it was.


This is my brain in love with an idea,

really an ideal,

because the gleam of perfection has not yet worn off.

It’s just that tantalizing puzzle,

the new sexy yarn,

and oh!

those colors.


I’m so ready to dump that old nag project.

We’re almost done with each other.

I did love it once,

before it became an obligation,

the knitting equivalent of calling every night,

texting all day long,

being too needy.

Still beautiful, sure,

but so clingy.


Would it be cheating to knit a small swatch

with that new dreamboat yarn?

Just a tiny one?

You’re right,

I’ll just have to face that sad old thing

eyeing me balefully from the knitting bag.


It’s for someone I love,

that’s all that’s keeping me going now.

And I did love the project once,

loved it enough to impulse-buy the yarn in the shop

because they had a gorgeous sample knit up.

The pattern was free,

the lace sequence was easy to learn.


Winding up the ball of new yarn wouldn’t count as cheating, right?

It’s casual,

just a quick coffee.

Nothing serious.



You’re right: I’m fickle.


I’ll do what’s right by the soft, elegant shawl—

the color of morning glories.

I’ll finish it.

Stick with it to the end.

Power through that damn hypotenuse of the triangle,

knitting for miles.


But, know this:

I’ll be riding those dopamine highs in my thoughts,

as I imagine my hands on that next project.


Anticipation is a delicious moment.


Birthday Girl


SONY DSCWell, Alice, my birthday was the one that just happened! This is a reference to Frances the Badger, from the series by Russell Hoban, who told her imaginary friend Alice: “That is how it is, Alice. Your birthday is always the one that is not now.”

I made lemon curd for a crowd: it was 8 full eggs plus 8 yolks and 3 sticks of butter, plus tons of sugar and delicious lemon juice (12 lemons/2 cups).
SONY DSCThere were beautiful tulips and some roses too. Inspired by my reading of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (mentioned here), I asked each guest to write down a few things: a favorite book title, favorite poem, favorite movie, and a memory of a time we were together. I was even gifted a mixed music CD! Some read their poems aloud and shared their memories—so fun to hear all those good times spoken about, sharing such good company with some of the women I admire and love the most.
SONY DSCI also asked each guest for a skein of yarn. To be turned into somethings or a something… to commemorate the occasion of turning 40, a grand and grown-up birthday.

SONY DSCOne theme of memories emerged: experiences that we shared outside and in the kitchen. Now I have this beautiful collection of cards and poems to read and re-read, new movies to seek out, and books!
SONY DSC SONY DSCBooks, memories, yarn, cards, chatting, and a delicious meal catered by my dear family. I was surrounded by love all weekend. What could be more perfect?

Oh and wait. Here is something incredible: two friends brought two skeins of the exact same yarn, in a different dyelot, but the exact same colorway (luscious purples)—even purchased in two different states! Unbelievable!SONY DSCHere’s a poem from today, while I shoveled:

Andy Goldswothy,
where were you today
when I was shoveling
still more snow ?

Each shovelful
flung airborne,
was a moment for your team
to photograph.

(Just out of curiosity,
did you get any snow down your neck
or sprinkling your face
when it was blown back?)

The dusk was falling
and the quality of light
was soft,
And because it was so cold,
the snow was tiny,

The sound of the snowflakes
as they sailed off the shovel,
hush hush
Like plunging your hand
into a barrel of cool, dry lentils.
Or barnacles whispering.

When I waded over to the wood pile,
it was too hard to walk
in the drifts.
So I crawled.
And this was better,
but the snow
kept sneaking into my mittens;
the worst feeling besides
taking off a boot
when your sock comes with it.
(Later, this happened too).

Being in the snow is the same
as playing in the water:
a short-cut directly to joy.

Andy, if you come to photograph
me and the shovel,
be sure to bring the sound equipment.


Snuggled in/Light returning

~act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid~

OK. There has been so much going on this January in our family. Most recently: SNOWPOCALYPSE! EPIC, ALL-CAPS BLIZZARD! On the day before the storm, I was driving on the highway from Massachusetts and there were no less than 5 highway alert signs to the tune of: In case you have been living under a rock, there is a blizzard coming. Make plans and don’t drive.
SONY DSC We heard the Governor of MA deliver the news that a state of emergency was in effect when only a few flakes were flurrying. He sounded non-plussed, perhaps suffering from a January ennui that even an ALL-CAPS blizzard could not shake him from.

~awesome part of going to work when the sky looks like this~

SONY DSCThis picture makes my heart hurt a little bit. Don’t think I have forgotten the many years of teasing (still happens), people hurting each other (still happens), screaming and crying (not so much), and all the extremely hard work we did each and every day to provide boundaries and structure for our boys so they can become nice humans (you’re welcome).

Jonas is helping Sylvan with his math. He’s patient, kind, funny, PATIENT, and did I say patient?!?! with his brother. Did you know that lack of focus can be played as an extreme sport? I didn’t either. Mr. Sporty can play any game well, as you know. But Jonas beats him, nicely (shh! don’t tell either of them), with patience and refocusing, suggestions and reminders like some of the best teachers I have ever seen.
SONY DSCWe’ve also had flu in the house: Jonas, Sylvan both. Actually first, it was Jonas with a cold right after the holiday break. Then one week of health to prepare for and take finals. Then, next week: flu. Now manifesting in Sylvan! I had a touch of something, but it passed quickly (flu shot?). I’m drinking lots of water with cider vinegar, pumping vitamin C and zinc, elderberry, in between reading aloud from the Ramona books, forcing people to drink fluids, washing my hands like crazy, washing the dishes all the time, making and re-making couch beds, washing germy blankets, cooking healthy foods, boiling Thieves oil on the stovetop and wiping surfaces down with it, and I’ll be honest, WORRYING.

Did you know that when my children cough at night it literally makes me feel like my head is getting an electric shock? Flashback to whooping cough mom-response.

SONY DSCLove to curate a nice windowsill…


~wordpress: why is this picture so big?~

Don’t think I’m weird, but this is my current sink still life. Yes, those are human teeth, Sylvan’s in fact. A precious snowy owl salt shaker! A little peg dolly on a spool of thread! A super rare LEGO fish! Yes, and the four teeth: he lost them in the span of 3 weeks! The Tooth Fairy’s head is still spinning, and who knows, with this blizzard, when she might make it. When these teeth were coming in, they would take months of pain and agony, drool, suffering, sleepless nights. Then: zoopzoop, shedding teeth like it’s nothing!

{Oh and also: I accidentally deleted some photos from the very oldest posts on the blog. Ugh. I am going to try to dig back in and pull them out of the archives of the computer, but in case you’re wondering.}
Oh goodness, the beauty. I braved the blizzard and snow got down my neck, but it was worth it to bring you this.