Monthly Archives: April 2012

Five for Five: Word Up & Just Write


A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.”
– Emily Dickinson (“A Word is Dead”)

Don’t say it, you beg him, but silently. In your head you are having one conversation, with him you are having another. The words hover in between, the air is charged and if you strain you swear you can see the molecules collecting and moving, the atoms bouncing wildly off of what is left unsaid. If he says it, out loud, it is done. It is real.

It is already real, of course. You know this, already, by your intuition, by the way that something in your chest feels heavier than the rest of you. It is as if there is a impish being that sits in the space between your heart and your rib cage, crammed into that hollow space that was waiting for it, swinging its feet and licking a lollipop.  Swallowing every full glance and misunderstood word, every story that is not quite right, every way he averts his eyes when you ask him that question. She collects them all, gleefully, until she is too full and something must be done.

So we have the words. And yes, you already know it is broken. But before the words are actually spoken and given life, there is still us. When he says that word, when he breathes out yes, it is done. What was youandme is now you. And me. Because these words have the power to dismantle things. He says, yes, it’s true, and you think, now I have to lose you. The imp inside you has long ago tossed aside her lollipop, and is hunched over with the weight of what she is carrying. She has to let it go, and it slides out of you, and you think, I am coming undone.


Waiting for a phone to ring when you expect bad news. You pick up the phone. You should feel terror, anxiety. You should be nervous. But you are not. You simply do what is expected. Sit up. Lift the phone. Look at the number, a doctor’s office. Think you should say a prayer but you don’t. The prayers have already been said. You consider letting it go to voice mail, but then whatever is to be said will be recorded. Longer lasting. A human voice that disappears is better. Click yes, I will accept this call. You say hello. A man, a kind man, says something like “Well, there’s big trouble in little China”. Or he says “Is your husband with you?” Or he clears his throat, stepping up to the platform, ready to dive in. That’s all you need to hear. You don’t need the words, the actual words to confirm what you already know. But he says them anyways. And you think, five minutes ago, this wasn’t true. Five minutes ago, I didn’t know, not for sure.

The real shock doesn’t come when you are waiting for the phone call. The real shock happens when you are thinking about if you can make that trip to Belize in your condition, if you should ask the doctor. Or you are thinking about a party that is happening that weekend, and if  you should wear your black skirt or your leather pants. Or maybe you’re thinking about the way the doctor’s nose hair seems abnormally long for someone that spends a lot of time looking down at a person. Whatever you are thinking, it is not about the thing that is about to change your life. I wonder, do the doctors ever hesitate, knowing that when they speak, your life gets split in two? Before and after? Do they want to wait, to let you live in your before world for just a moment longer? Because these words, they have the power to destroy. A dream of something. A person you used to be. A life you thought was about to be.


He says “I do”. The sun is dappling, actually dappling through the trees. You feel beautiful and your dress is right. The flowers dangle from the trees and you somehow know enough to look up, to really take it in, to not let it all fly by too quickly. You thought about the dress and the flowers and the risotto and the duck quesadilla appetizers, and the poem to be read, and the song to be danced to. You thought of it all. But you did not think of the vows much, the classic words that you chose. You wanted the tradition, of course, but expected the words to float by you in that way that all big moments seem to float. It is only later that you can take in the big moments. But this, you did not expect. When he said “I do”. When you said “I do” and meant it. At that moment you feel as tall and rooted into the earth as the massive oak tree you are standing under. Everything that has come before and everything that will come after is exactly turning on this moment. The balance is whisper-perfect, and just as delicate. Yes, this man, this moment, these words.  I do, I do, I do. They fill you up, inside a raw place that has been empty until now, a small hollowed out hiding place below your heart and above your ribs. The words fill that spot and keep flowing, overflowing actually, The words tumble out of your mouth, and they are alive, doing cartwheels over each other, spilling out over your dress and down your toes and into the damp grass, below the dirt and into the roots of the trees, where they keep flowing, out into the river that winks at you from beyond the trees. You think, you are done. These words, these words have the power to build things.


I’m joining the lovely sisters at Momalom for Five for Five this week, taking part in a blogging challenge. Check out the other amazing posts inspired by these women.

Today’s post on WORDS is also coming to you from Just Write, a free writing exercise hosted by the extraordinary Heather of the EO.




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Five for Five: CHANGE

I grab my little boy’s hand and guide him across the parking lot. He clomps along somewhat gracefully beside me, not resisting. His hand is tiny and almost weightless, and I have to squeeze it a bit to make sure he is still there. I pull him towards a local Starbucks, a place I have been many many many times to write, but always alone. It is a limitless day, shimmering and warm and without humidity. I notice our shadows on the ground, a mother and a child. I am a mother walking her son across a crowded parking lot. I am in charge of that child. I am responsible for his happiness, his nutrition, his words, his ideas of the world. Most of all I am responsible for keeping this child alive. The thought startles me, causing me to breathe in too deeply and I start choking on nothing, on air. It also makes me giggle. It’s ludicrous. Me, a mother. Someone let me be in charge of this spritely, golden-haired mass of fragile bones and silly smiles and sudden tears and daily exuberance. He already has a chipped front tooth from when he fell down our back stairs. I was right there, and couldn’t catch him. He looks up at me, and says in his gorgeously scattered and unclear chipmunk voice, “You ok mama? You choking? Need hug?”

Yes, I am your mother. Yes, I am choking on your beauty, your existence. And yes, I will always need a hug.


Later that day, at the Aquarium. After we have prowled the dark corridors glowing with fish and sharks and sting-rays, even two white tigers. After we have ridden the train and the carousel. My little guy points up at the ferris wheel rising up into the sky. He wants to ride the ferris wheel. I am surprised, thought I don’t know why. He is pretty fearless, this kid. I hesitate. I am almost 36 weeks pregnant. He is 2.5. Is this crazy? Will I be the girl on the news that everyone at home says what was she thinking? But I am with a friend who is a doctor. She has been on the ferris wheel with her 2 year old many times. She assures me it’s ok. The attendant promises to let me down immediately if I feel sick, staring warily at my stomach. I want to joke with her, tell her don’t worry I won’t sue you, but I don’t. But more than that, I think, I used to be fearless. I loved ferris wheels and of course the me that I know I am would jump on this ride and show my son the view from above.

We slowly swing up, up, up, above the ground, above the aquariaum and the freeway, watching the cars zoom below. It is quiet, and a gentle breeze soothes. This is beautiful. O is still, his grandmother’s blue eyes big and serene, taking it all in. He loves it up here. I relax into this moment. We go down and back up.  Then up top. We stop. We are stopped at the very height of the wheel. Swaying back and forth. And it’s still beautiful. But O starts to want to move towards the doors, doors that are barely closed and certainly not secure enough to prevent him from slipping out. I tighten my grip on his hand, pull him close against me. I try to sound firm and calm, not scared, when I insist that he stay still.  And we don’t move, we don’t move, we aren’t moving. Why aren’t we moving? My hands start to sweat, I feel something rising in my chest, something persistent that tells me to get the hell off this thing. Now. Yes it is beautiful. And yes, there is death everywhere. The bolts could come unscrewed. The wind could suddenly rise and dump us upside down. There are no seatbelts. Why are there no seatbelts? O could scamper over and try to get out and I have a huge pregnant belly and am oh so slow right now. His father would never forgive me.

I yoga breathe myself back to mild panic. It’s beautiful up here, remember? I look around, remind myself that I am not a fearful person, that there is scary stuff everywhere if you look for it. We are stopped just to load passengers, nothing is wrong and we will soon be on our way. I calm down, but I do not loosen my grip. I step outside myself a bit, and wonder. Why am I so fearful when I was once so fearless? Why the change? I look at the top of O’s head, his translucent hair glowing beneath my palm. It’s because before I had only the world to gain. Now, I have everything to lose.

The pod starts to swing more violently, but it’s just the wheel starting its slow and steady swing back down. Up and down, down and up. We get off, all is fine. I release O, and see my fingertips embedded in his pale skin. I have marked him, and will do it again. Is it my fear that is marking him, teaching him to be afraid? Or is it my protection, so that he feels safe in this world, safe enough to take chances? Two sides to the same coin. Fear. Protection. Beauty. Death. Up. Down. Every coin has two sides. Every move we make is a toss of the coin.

For this boy, for me, the world is oh so beautiful. And oh so dangerous. I wonder sometimes, is the beautiful so much sharper because the thread of danger runs so close beneath?


Today’s post on CHANGE is inspired by Momalom’s Five for Five. Check it out here, and join us.


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One Name To Convey It All? Help Me Name My Baby!

What, you want me to name someone? You want like a name? Oh, God, the pressure of a name… I got it. Cindafuckin’rella”– Kit, to Vivian, in Pretty Woman.

I am officially name obsessed. I’ve always been keenly interested in names- how people get them, their meanings, name trends, etc. Even when I’m not naming a baby, I still read the Nameberry blog avidly. I’m a name nerd.

But now, I get one chance. One chance to name one baby girl. A GIRL. When I had my son, I thought boy names were harder- less room to be creative, less interesting names to choose from, more tied to “but what will it look like on a business card”? (Yes, I know this is ridiculous and sexist and I hope my daughter will have a business card too).  But naming our first-born was easy. My husband and I agreed on most names we liked. We had a list going very early, and of course some names moved up and down, but for the most part, we liked them all.

We went into delivery with 2 or 3 names and thought we’d pick a name after we saw what he “looked like”. Except he looked like a creepy old man.  My husband and I looked at each other and said “He looks like a Henry”. He just did. But even in my confused and overwhelmed state, I knew that was ridiculous. Why would you name your kid to match what he looks like as a newborn creature, all skinny limbs and smushed face and not-quite formed features? We should name him based on what we wanted him to be, our favorite name, our best vision of him. So we picked another name, one that fits him so perfectly. (By the way, I still adore the name Henry).

But I longed to name a little girl. I am a serial namer. I think I played Barbies just for the excuse to make up names and exotic storylines for each “woman”. In every journal I’ve ever had, you will find a list of names I like. Potential baby names, potential character names, names of people I admire, any name that sparks something.

And here is my chance. And, as I’m sure you’ve suspected by now, I am utterly paralyzed. One name, to rule all of her? One name, to convey to the world all of the spunk and beauty and fire and sweetness and hopes and desires and small quirks and complications I expect she will have? Where does one even start?

Well I started with lists. And then I pulled out the name books. And every day I’m reading Nameberry and Babynamewizard and Nymbler and You Can’t Call It It. And I ask every woman and girl child I meet what their name is. If a friend mentions any person of the female persuasion, I immediately badger her with questions about her name. I have names on the brain.

I have lists and lists of names in every possible combination. And yet, if I were to go into labor today, I could not possibly name this child. I know too much. I know the statistical popularity of that name (including all variations of spellings and not). I know the history and the meaning and the trend of it. I know the trends that are forecasted, I know what’s popular in England and Greece and Montana and Texas.

So please, please help me. I need to step away from the books and the pressure, the pressure of a name. Somebody just tell me what to name this baby!

Here are my “rules”:

Feminine but not too girly, with some spunk

No “A” names (last name begins with “A” and doesn’t sound good)

No made up or misspelled names

No “trendy” names- but popular is ok if it’s classic

No boy names for girl

Names I Generally Like: Lily, Nora, Charlotte, Eloise, Louisa, Daisy, Lucy, Juliet, Arden, Beatrice, Samantha, Marin, Flannery, Millay, March, Elodie, Clara, Maisie, Tess, Genevieve, Colette, Willa, Susannah

Family Names: Katharine, Bess, Margaret, Lucille, Mary, Emma, Harper, Reed, Caroline, Bailey, Claire, Rose/Rosa, Amelia, Beatrice, Emily, Elisabeth, Patricia, Mary, Sarah, George, Downs

I did get some input from my Grandmother and my son. My grandmother suggested “Skye”. (Considering she likes “Dawn” for my sister’s to-be-named baby, I feel honored).

My son is firmly entrenched on Tigerlily. He can’t imagine why I even keep asking him if he likes other names. He shakes his head vigorously and says “Nooooo, not Char-lotte!” with disgust in his voice. “Not Nooor-a! Tiger-Lidy.”

Me: “Ok, can we call her Lily?”

O: “No! Tiger-Lidy. Can I have a snack?”

You see why I need help. I’m weak and close to giving in and he’s the most persistent voice in the debate. And while I think Tigerlily has a certain charm, I’m not entirely confident in my mothering abilities to produce a child named Tigerlily that does not end up as an exotic dancer.

Any brilliant ideas? How did you pick names for your children? Any words of wisdom? And if you’re too shy to post (I see you out there reading but not commenting!), feel free to email me some ideas. I kinda like the idea of sending her to therapy one day because I picked her name from a stranger’s suggestion on the internet.


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What Will You Be Made Of?

Friday, March 2, 2012. Sunset in Santa Barbara. On a stone wall at the edge of the ocean, we opened an envelope. 

A GIRL. Sugar and spice. Pink tutus and sparkly shoes. Or rainbow striped knee socks and purple sneakers. A girl, like me. A girl, probably so unlike me. I was shocked, am still shocked. I couldn’t imagine NOT having a girl in my life. I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a wife, a best girl friend, a mother. I am layered in the feminine. I couldn’t imagine not sharing the experience of a daughter, the ultimate in complicated relationships.

And yet, I didn’t dare hope for a little girl. I thought, of course, I am a boy mom. I am great at being a boy mom. I know how to talk to little boys, I know how to stand back and let them fall, how to marvel at their bravado and sheer boyness, and how to just let them be. I thought, I am destined to have boys. And that was a good thing.

But wow, a GIRL. All of a sudden, sitting on that stone wall, with my past so close and my present sitting beside me grinning and holding my hand, and the small white card that announced my future, I felt a huge responsibility. I now have to raise a GIRL. Holy crap.


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