Mammoth Tree




monument to living

To a trillion leaves, add millions of twigs

How dare I number your appendages?

Even an arborist, a dendrologist

Wouldn’t attempt to fathom your numbers


One cannot trace infinity. I have tried and failed

Multidimensional webs of vessels and veins

Gnarled fingers and ancient skin

Slow growth and tangled hair



In living and death slowness reins

A browning of edges

A sucking back of resources

A lifelong reach for the sun shrugged off

moment to moment to years


No grasp on the geometry of your boughs

I will happily praise

the embrace of your outsized presence

against an distant gray sky

The Value in Nothing

dried brush

I keep coming back to the same idea about value. How do I value my work, myself, my relationships? How do I measure my success? This week I’ve been listening to interviews with some great writers, thinkers, researchers and spiritual leaders on this topic of value and kneading my own newly formed idea, which is, that no matter what I do, whatever I accomplish, it is not worth crap if I wasn’t present, completely present, during the process. It’s a tall order, sometimes, to be real and honest, and even tougher to maintain. But when I do it, when I am fully in my body, watching my breath, seeing the beauty of the moment roll out like a technicolor carpet even if it is in the midst of something “bad,” I am living the best way I know how. Showing up really is the most valuable commodity I have.

I watch people, myself included, and I see how important everyone feels it is to do things, to start projects and finish them, to be busy, to have bucket lists and to look good. We value it if it gets an award. We value it if it makes money, or shows up in a magazine or on a website we deem legitimate. We value it if it adheres to present ideas of what is good for the earth, or humanity, or both. But we don’t necessarily value the elastic moments that happen every day, the spaces where we touch one another with tenderness and time stops as we experience pure love. That is what I value. The moment of hugging my child after a bath to keep her warm. Of feeling proud of my almost teen for trying something new. The moment of laughing with my husband over an old joke that we still think is funny. The value of listening carefully to a story even if I think I know how it will turn out. The pleasure of talking with someone who is sick or very old because they understand life and suffering better than I do. I don’t get paid for being kind, or for listening, or for helping someone listen to them self and yet these are my gifts. I don’t get awards for writing through old pain, but that is some of my best work. I don’t seek acclaim for being a loyal friend, or for trying to understand someone who has a very different approach to life than I have and yet these are the things I am most proud of.

To me, living a good life means finding the innumerable moments that offer opportunities to love, to give and to show up. I think it was Gandhi who said, “I cannot change the world. But I can change myself.” We can let ourselves off the hook of having to change the world, or save it. We need to change ourselves. Reinvent ourselves. Save ourselves. And watch the course of history change with us.

Looking Back to Move Forward


Sometimes I have to do the opposite of moving forward and today was one of those days. There was a story I wanted to write about a crazy relationship I had in college. I got really into it, remembering the details, all the flirting and the excitement of a secret crush that turned into an illicit affair with a prof, who was also my mentor and my boss. It was a difficult time. I was only twenty, and just six years out from losing my mother. I was still running from my grief and obsessing over boyfriends and generally making my life over-complicated so I wouldn’t have to deal with my feelings. I had a boyfriend who cared and tried to talk sense into me. He knew about my obsession with the mentor and he saw what it was doing to me. That I was frittering away my education and talents on a man who had no heart.

After writing it I felt lighter, but also disoriented. I had dredged up old pain, old crap, old embarrassing behavior for what purpose, I wasn’t sure. I certainly wasn’t going to share it here. I thought, maybe if I get this out of my system I can write a fictional piece about something similar where I get to make the whole thing come out better. Is that what I’m looking for? A better ending to the story? Is that old story there for me to share? Or am I better off keeping it locked in a drawer somewhere?

I have written two books now that focus on painful periods of my life in an effort to quit dragging that shit forward. It’s quite obvious that the process has helped me to live a freer, happier life. But does it make sense to keep going? To keep dredging the muck from the canal?

I have been keeping diaries since I was a kid. I looked in the one I wrote during the college obsession years and found some pretty insightful reflections. I am forever using words to sort through feelings and figure out what I need to do next. It’s what I do here. And sometimes I enjoy the freedom of writing fictional pieces off the top of my head that have nothing to do with personal history. Perhaps there will be more of that going forward.

I have considered throwing away all the old diaries many times. But in the end, I think it’s better to keep them and not feel ashamed about any of it. Better to love that twenty year old girl who can’t help herself, admire her sloppy young spirit and forgive her mistakes. I think the point is to respect all the many past lives I have led and aspire to who I am still to become. And when I die, they can toss all my diaries into the fire.


Violence, Fear and Mad Max



It was opening night at the Arclight and every seat was filled with pumped up young men and women. I had been excited to see it but I was having trouble following the plot, distracted by the brutality of the violence, the grotesque makeup and weird body armor. The movie was making me tense. Onscreen were hoards of enslaved people including children, with shaved heads and mostly naked bodies covered in white powder, gut-wrenching scarification and ornamentation. Many appeared to have endured their mouths being sewn shut. Others were in chains. The pace was hyper speed, with fast motion chase scenes and a relentless yet banal soundtrack of distorted guitar sounds and tribal drumming.

I remembered loving the original two MM movies for all the crazy stunts, the firebombs and the heavy metal mash-up vehicles chasing through the Australian desert. The stunts were so good they were hard to get your head around, and there was humor and corny romance thrown in for good measure.

But beyond all the high priced tropes of Hollywood cinema, the writer/director George Miller has a way of getting under my skin. In every MM movie there is a ruthless gang of thugs, hell bent on raping and torturing the innocent just for fun. That alone makes his films appeal to our worst fears. Add to that the setting of a dystopian future of the earth, scorched and wasted, supporting a few remaining lawless and bloodthirsty survivors, and it’s hard to leave the movie without a sick feeling in the gut.

This latest iteration “Fury Road” was much more intense than I remembered the earlier MM movies, and I was struggling to enjoy myself, enduring the endless racing of vehicles and crashing of trucks, when my husband grabbed my arm, his hand throbbing with tension as he pulled me out of my seat.


His eyes spelled fear and I looked around in the dark to see everyone around us leaving their seats, heading to the exits, I assumed, but it was hard to see anything in the dark with the film still roaring at us. People, and all animals in fact, primarily and instinctively use hearing to detect danger, but the decibels pumping out of the speakers blocked all other sound, adding to the confusion.

“Is it a fire?” I yelled to my husband, but I didn’t see or smell smoke. It was disconcerting to be surrounded by a panicked crowd, not knowing the cause. With only the torrent of cinematic blasts and crunching metal, guttural threats and evil laughter in my ears, it was virtually impossible to avoid assuming the worst as we joined the rush.

We climbed over three empty rows of seats to the exits at the front of the theater, closest to the screen, which someone else had already opened setting off a terrible high pitched alarm. I kept waiting for them to stop the movie or make some sort of announcement to calm everyone but there was clearly no one in charge. For some reason only a few people followed us out the front. Most were crushing toward of the main doors, which were jammed.

We stood dazed on the sidewalk with just a handful of people, all of us speechless. It seemed our minds were trying to reconcile the relative silence of the empty street, with the mayhem we had just escaped. It was odd, standing there in shared bewilderment. Time seemed to have skidded to a sudden halt, and even my husband, usually a leader in scary situations, just stood there.

“Come on, let’s go,” I said, and we all made our way back to the front entrance of the Arclight. The lobby was a sea of confusion with people squeezed in tightly like a crowded bus. We weren’t sure what we wanted anyway. Was it getting our money back? Seeing if we could finish the movie? Or just to know what had happened? We wanted all these things, but when the police arrived and pushed their way past us into the lobby, we just left.

“Let’s get ice cream,” my husband suggested and it seemed like the best idea. We felt strange, not unlike driving by a bad accident on the freeway, knowing we had escaped something terrible but also feeling let down somehow, from not knowing what it was.


My husband went back the next day to try and get a refund and learned that two men had gotten into a fight in the last rows. Apparently one of them had tried to leave and tripped over someone’s foot. “There was a misunderstanding,” they said, that escalated into a fistfight. I wasn’t surprised it was something like that. The tension in the theater that night was overpowering and I guess I wasn’t the only one feeling pulled down to my most base fears and reactions.

Violence and fear are as contagious as an aggressive virus. We see that portrayed in movies, but it happens in real car accidents and even in our own relationships with the people we love. Anger and fear live in all of us. Perhaps now more than ever there is a very palpable collective fear that gets translated into anger. People rant about the political climate, the environment, and corporations, as if we are all victims of some terrible force “out there” that we had no part in creating.

When we explode our fears out, or impose our anger on others, acting defensively or aggressively, it just ignites that spark in others. Even if I’m not feeling angry, if someone gets mad at me, it has the potential to pull up anger I have stored and spark a full-blown argument. This is why I am such an advocate of meditation and other forms of spiritual practice that teach us to navigate emotions. It gives me the ability to stay present, keep calm, and usually find the most efficient way out.

I also think meditating helps me have perspective. I have faith in human beings. If we really want to effect change, we need to learn how to pull together, using the power of anger to fight for good, instead letting fear eat away our self-determination. In the end, that’s what the heroes of “Fury Road” end up doing.

We got our refund and went back to watch the whole thing, this time in the middle of a weekday. We were two of about a dozen people in the theater and it was a completely different experience. It helped that we had already seen two thirds of it, but this time I had no trouble following who was who or what was happening. I was able to enjoy it for what it was, a well-made movie designed to scare and impress while also making fun of it self, and making commentary on just how absurd the human experience can be.


The Tormented Writer


“I’m NOT a writer!” Frances says. She is staring at me from across the black kitchen counter, stark against the white glass of milk firmly set in her small hand. The pencil lies diagonally across her paper, which is covered in the ghosts of labored sentences, impressions from the tightly gripped pencil, then erased furiously until the page is ragged.

Poor Frances, I think to myself. She really is a writer.

In third grade, her teacher is trying to get them serious about their writing. They have something called “Writer’s Workshop,” and in the beginning of the year Frances was writing personal essays, focusing on “small moments,” and being encouraged to describe her feelings. The young writers learn to share their work publicly in a “writing celebration” that is attended by friends and family. I remember attending her first writing celebration, listening to all of her classmates speaking their words out loud in front of adults they didn’t even know, and thinking it was great for kids to take themselves seriously as writers so early.

Now I’m not so sure. It is almost the end of the year and Frances has her first “informational essay” to write. It’s really a term paper. She had to pick a topic, make a list of subtopics, do research and site references. Having worked on it for three weeks now, she has produced five pages of pencil scratches, crossed out words, corrected spelling, grammar and punctuation squeezed in on layers of post-it notes, and margins full of words and arrows.

The edited and revised draft was due Monday. We had no other plans so I thought it would be fun to spend the weekend bonding over our writing. I would work on my book and provide support for her essay. In the past we have written stories together, and I have watched her sit at a typewriter for hours, pressing the keys letter by letter to build some fabulous convoluted fictional tale.

But that was then. The weekend of writing was spent pulling teeth.

“Frances, after breakfast we are going to write,” I said on Saturday, and again on Sunday. But as soon as she sat down to work, she got up to go to the bathroom. Then I heard her brushing her teeth.

“I have something caught in my molars!”

“Okay Frances, sit!” I said. But no sooner had I said it and she was out of her chair.

“I have to get something,” she said, disappearing before I could stop her. When I went to find her she was doing origami on the floor of her room.

“Frances, come on. We have to write,” I said, annoyed.

“I’m hungry,” she said softly. I glanced at the clock. Where did the morning go?

“Okay. We’ll eat, and then we will write.”

This went on all weekend. It was incredible how much time and energy I wasted trying to get her to sit down and focus. And when I managed to get her to look at her text and think about what she needed to add or subtract, she would fall into despair.

“I don’t know what to say!” she wailed. “I don’t want to do this anymore!!”

She fought me for two days but somehow we still managed to comb through her five pages, correcting spelling, cleaning up phrases and even adding a little more information. But there was one chapter that her teacher had told her needed more work and that was the part she couldn’t face. In the end, she avoided it so hard I gave up. It was late on Sunday evening when I broke the bad news: She had to go to bed.

“But I’m not finished!” she cried, her eyes brimming with tears.

“Frances,” I said gently. “It’s all right. We tried our best and it’s good enough.”

“But I didn’t do what my teacher told me to do.”

“I know. And sometimes we just don’t manage to do what we set out to do. It’s okay.”

She stared at me like I was crazy. “Why do you think this has been so hard?” I asked.

“Because I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know anything about art.”

“Oh yes you do. You know all about the struggle of making something and how vulnerable that makes you feel and that is at the crux of all art. We have to be brave to write and sometimes that’s really hard.”

“I HATE writing!!” she screamed as she marched off to her room, leaving me to question the wisdom of the assignment. Or maybe for Frances, it’s just the way it is.

Fiction: The Fury Inside


Fury was the name of my first car. It was a beat up 1975 black Ford Mustang with white racing stripes up the middle. Larry, the guy who sold it to me had named it and every time I got in it I felt the power of that word.

Larry was a mechanic and a scientologist who didn’t look anything like a Larry or a scientologist. I didn’t know much about the Church of Scientology before Larry talked my ear off about processing emotions and childhood traumas. Because he sold me the car, Larry must have felt guilty every time I brought it in because he always insisted I wait around while he fixed it and he barely charged me. He had put a new engine in it that was fast but finicky. It never stranded me on the side of the road, which Larry said meant the car had a conscience, but sometimes it wouldn’t start in the morning, or it would gush smoke or just drag when I pushed on the accelerator. Larry liked to curse Ford for their crappy parts, but he loved Fury as much as I did.

I had no job or boyfriend so I would hang around Larry’s dusty place, which was more like a corral than a shop. It was in Van Nuys somewhere, I can’t remember the street now, but it was hidden behind some depressing nondescript block. It was basically an empty lot with a collection of sheds around the perimeter and a lot of broken cars and empty carcasses crowded between them. His office was just the shade of an old tree and a desk drowning in crumpled purchase orders and receipts with black fingerprints on the edges. I got the feeling Larry lived there somewhere and that he never showered. His long hair was as greasy as his hands. But there was something about being around an older loser guy that I must have enjoyed since I sat there for hours listening to him complain about the fact that he couldn’t afford scientology anymore. I thought it was sad that the cult he had sucked himself into had priced him out.

As much as I liked Larry it was tiring being around him for too long and I was always happy to get back in my car and drive away, feeling superior. When Fury was running well, the engine made a loud angry growl when I revved it. I felt like I was some tough guy in a wife-beater who was going to hurt someone, instead of the young female artist without much of a life that I was.

Acting on my anger was something I could only fantasize about. I knew my anger, but I was afraid of it. A hot cup of coffee just waiting to be spilled. Fury is bigger than that. Fury is anger in a black leather jacket with spikes on the shoulders. Or maybe, if anger is fire, fury is hot lava spewing fifty feet up into the night sky. That’s how I feel sometimes when I ‘m really in it. Like I’m going to blow.

I grew up in a family where we didn’t express or even admit to having anger. My mother would only say she was disappointed in me. Of course kids naturally get mad, but when I lost my temper I was sent to my room. The message was that it was bad, and I was bad for even feeling it.

I’ve generally shied away from making things that touch on the heat and fire that lives inside me. These last few days, it has really been pushing me to do something with it. Blaming it on someone or something that happened only serves to perpetuate the false perception that something outside of me is at fault. I’ve learned that no one has that power unless I give it to them. I own my anger just like I owned that beautiful decrepit old car. And like Fury, I can choose to sit in it or leave it on the side of the road. Sometimes that’s the best option, at least for a few days, until I’m ready to come back, get in, and enjoy taking it somewhere.

Close Call


We have no idea what’s going to happen. We know death is an inevitable part of life, but to see it close up is to be brought back to a state of awe that we are alive and all is well.

On Friday night my husband had a choking incident. Now that I’ve learned a little about choking, I don’t believe that he came close to death. But there was a long slow moment when his death seemed absolutely inevitable, and in that time I was changed, yet again.

We were having dinner. He and I were enjoying leftover curried chicken and the girls were having something else. I have no idea what anymore. Certain parts of the evening have evaporated from memory.

We had decided to watch a show while we ate, which was unusual (and is now banned). It was Parks and Rec, and my husband had just taken a big bite of food as well as a large swig of bubbly water when his favorite character, Ron, did this hilarious thing where he uses a remote control to shut the door to his office as if he were Cool Hand Luke pulling out a gun. We all laughed and my husband made a face like he was trying to keep from spitting his food across the table and then, still holding his mouth closed, he started coughing. I stood up and started patting his back, asking if he was okay. I remember feeling silly, saying in my head of course he’s okay, while realizing he wasn’t. His torso started leaning to one side and I watched as his fist dropping into his bowl of curry.

My mind reacted with confusion. I remember thinking, He’s fine, I’m overreacting, but also feeling terrified that my husband was in serious trouble. The reality of what was happening descended fast. The girls were yelling, “Dad! Dad!” So I knew he must look terrible even though I couldn’t see his face from my position behind him. I grabbed him around the middle, still feeling this split reality as if what I was doing was somewhat silly, while squeezing as hard as I could. I’m not doing this right. I don’t know what I’m doing. He’s going to die if I don’t do this right were the thoughts I had along with he’s fine, this will all be over soon. I thought I wasn’t squeezing hard enough and that to give him the Heimlich effectively, I’d have to get him on his feet and throw him against the table. I thought maybe he could hear me so I started pleading with him to stand up as I pulled.

I don’t actually remember the moment when he came back. I think I had let go of him and moved around the table to the girls. Or maybe I did that after he came to. I can’t remember how he came around other than he looked at us and said, “What happened?” He knew he had passed out. He was shaken up, a little pale, but he was back.

For a few minutes I had this awful sinking feeling that he would now die of a heart attack. Sort of like in the movies when the guy misses the bullet only to be killed by the car. I had that feeling that even though he was back, he was still going to die. I stood there holding the girls who were still shaking with fear, still haunted by the feeling that I had tried to save him but couldn’t. What if he dies right now? What will I do?

 My older daughter went to the bathroom. I went to Dave and asked how he was feeling. He was freaked out. We all were. But we were also incredibly relieved and happy. It was a strange combination of the real fear that was so potent in it’s proximity and the absolute joy that we were all okay and alive. Slowly, the realization that he really was okay sank in.

I went to the bathroom to find my daughter crying. I held her for a long time, not trying to cheer her or reassure her, but just letting her release the trauma of the experience through her tears. I joked that I would probably lose it after everyone went to bed.

I called a friend who is a paramedic the next day. I wanted to know if it was normal to pass out the way my husband did. My friend asked me for every detail of what happened and then said yes, it was perfectly normal. “When you cough like that and you’re afraid of not being able to breathe, your throat tightens and the airway is restricted. The loss of consciousness is a way for the body to force the muscles to relax. Once the body went limp [when the hand went into the food] the airway opened up and he woke up.” In other words, my husband is perfectly healthy.

We are both no longer young enough to think we’ll live forever. But watching him choke was a very frightening reminder that anything can happen. I realized in that moment that as hard as it would be to lose my husband, we would survive, as many have before us. I felt grateful that we have things organized for the girls if something catastrophic were to happen to both of us. But the big difference is that for the next few days, every time I looked at my husband, I felt incredibly thankful that he’s alive. It has worn off slightly, but I don’t think I’ll ever take him for granted again.


Fiction: The Hunter, Part 3

lion tracks.pdf

Slowly, heart pounding, she looks up. The stillness that characterized the previous moment evaporates into a swirl of movement and confusion as she searches for the cat, now her enemy, among the layers of maple branches overhead. The sun is low making it hard to see in the raking orange light. She hears her own breathing, quick and nervous, and tries to slow it down. Keep calm, keep calm. The fact that she hasn’t got a gun seems supremely stupid as she stops herself from reflexively reaching for it. Her eyes search the massive boughs overhead and catch on something, the flick of a tail and then she sees her. Her massive body is largely hidden by the thick bunches of summer leaves but she can see the head, the shape of it surprisingly blunt and wider than she expected, and the eyes. Deep saucers of black.

It would be easy for the cougar to jump down on her. It could be a game for this full-grown youngster. But in the eyes she sees a calm that doesn’t include excitement. She sees adolescent boredom more than anything else. As though the cat were thinking, “you’ve been sitting there for hours. Aren’t you going to do something?”

She calms her breathing down, convincing herself the cat is not going to attack her but knowing a sudden move could change her fate. She keeps her eyes on the cat’s eyes and takes a slow step backward.

With eyes locked she finds herself in standoff game she has played with her tabby, Felix, at home. All cats do this. They lock eyes and move slowly. I am speaking cat right now. I must maintain this position of presumed dominance or I may die.

As she moves slowly backward she has to release the lock. The angle doesn’t allow her to see the eyes. But she keeps them glued to where the cougar is lying in the branches. The last thing she wants is to lose sight of her. Or to give into the fear that would have her run as fast as she can.

A sound startles her, she gasps and automatically turns her head to see a large hare, ears erect and eyes glaring. He’s nearly hidden in a patch of goldenrod but his eyes are sharp ovals of black that cut through the yellow. She snaps hers back to position and finds the cat has moved. A large branch shudders. She is now ten feet out from under the tree’s canopy but that doesn’t make her safe. She continues her slow movement backwards, into the open pasture trying to formulate a plan. Her car is the only thing that would provide real safety and it is over a mile away, but there is a road about a half mile east that she could reach by cutting through the woods. The cat won’t follow her to the road. They avoid humans at all costs. So why is she so afraid now? This cat, the one she believes has never been identified, is probably only two or three years old and she is sure it is afraid of her. Her senses are coming back as she searches the tree for a glimpse of tan fur. Her opponent is masterful at hiding, knows her visual trajectory and is avoiding being seen. This part of the cougar’s skill set as a hunter is quite obviously far superior to her own. To keep prey in the dark as to her location is pure instinct. But at least she knows the cat is in the tree. She just doesn’t know where. It wouldn’t take her long to jump down and reach me, she thinks. I could never outrun her. I’m such an idiot not to have armed myself, at least with a dart that would knock her out. She realizes how arrogant she’s been all this time. Tracking a deadly predator without any protection. I’m like the grizzly man, she thinks, believing that I’m somehow protected just because I’m trying to do something good.

The hare takes a few leisurely hops through the grass and suddenly the cat is flying down to the ground, a long blur of yellow and brown she pounces on the hare who manages to slip through the massive paws. The cat chases the hare around the base of the tree and then lifts up into a hunched but tall position as she bats the hare, and pins it under her paw. She sees the cat nestle her head into the grass and knows she is biting into the hare’s neck. There is blood all over the cougar’s face as she looks up and they lock eyes again. The cougar’s look is warning her to keep her distance. Don’t worry, she thinks. From now on, I will.



In Support of Writing on Paper


This week I was cleaning out my studio and I found a box containing a few stacks of old personal letters and a notebook. I wondered if I could discard some of the contents so I decided to go through it quickly, having no idea what I was getting myself into. There were dozens of letters from family members addressed to me at camp, college, graduate school and traveling in Europe. I was stunned.

We used to write letters. My God, we used to communicate that way. It was as if I’d forgotten how much more practical it once was. We were concerned about the expense of calling. Hard to imagine that email, texting and facebook did not exist. We actually wrote on pieces of paper and mailed them, and that this allowed me to unearth their contents thirty odd years later was an incredible gift. I learned things I had forgotten about my own history and the history that came before me. There was a stack of love letters from my uncle to my aunt, written in the 1920s. He courted her from abroad and the letters continue into their married life when, as a young senator, he frequently traveled. His handwriting is pure art, and the language he uses is from another world. But they lived not so long ago, and their story, their love, infused my childhood. What overwhelmed me as I read was how much love all those letters, including the ones addressed to me, still exuded.

Then I opened the notebook and read, “This Diary is intended for Grace Muller.” I had no recollection of it, but it was clearly my hand. There was the sinking feeling of good intentions never met as I expected to find the pages empty, but they were filled, spanning over three years. I didn’t remember writing any of it until I found a vase full of tulips, carefully outlined in ballpoint pen, and another drawing of Dave holding the sleeping infant that is now my gangly twelve-year-old. Somehow, I remembered doing those.

For me, the false promise of “paperless” means forgotten, and forever lost as old computer files are rarely retrieved. I was grateful to have had the foresight to record Grace’s first years in words, and on paper, for me to find and give to her, so she can discover it later. Of course there was one small problem with it. There was no matching notebook for my second child, so I pulled a blank notebook from the shelf.

April 14, 2015

One thing I have learned in a long life is that time moves quickly, speeding up every year and there truly is none to waste. My dear Frances, tonight I found a diary I kept when Grace was a baby, and gave it to her. It is full of the reflections of a new mother, a few drawings, and many sweet anecdotes of Grace’s early life that would surely have been lost if I had not recorded them. Upon discovering it, I immediately thought, “Oh! But I don’t have anything like that for Frances!” The last thing any mother wants is for her child to feel less important or loved than their sibling. So, in the spirit of “it’s never too late,” (your childhood isn’t over yet!) I am going to attempt a similar project in your name. I can’t promise I will keep it up for three years, but you never know. I can promise that like all my efforts as your mother, I will do my best.


Going through that box changed the course of my life to some degree. I have written several pages in Frances’ notebook already, enjoying every moment of remembering what makes her a unique little being, and I have spoken to my family, letting them know how much I appreciate their unending support. I especially thanked my stepmother, whose hand had written the bulk of the family letters and whose love has never waivered. Sometimes I forget how much she means to me, and I am so glad those fragile pieces of paper came back to remind me.

My New Best Friend


It all happened so fast. One day I was single and happy and thinking it would be nice to have kids pretty soon as I pressed up against the far end of my breedable years, and the next day I was shacked up and making babies. By late 2008 I was weaning my youngest and looking over my shoulder at my reproductive years. I was done. I had made it through three pregnancies, two live births, one still, and a couple thousand sleep deprived days. I realized I had been either pregnant or nursing for six years when I finally weaned my youngest. As my boobs slowly deflated I realized my job producing people was done and I was now graduating into a managerial position. I went from being “Mommie,” gurgled out of drooling lips and gazed at with wonder to “MOM!!!” yelled from a car window. “I forgot my______! Can you get it for me?”

Unfairly, as they push up against adolescence and face the prospect of a menstrual cycle mine is on the way out and I suddenly have this mini tire around my abdomen. I don’t want to exaggerate the situation. It’s not that bad. But it is definitely there, hanging out over the top of my jeans, and it’s not going anywhere. That much I know. Though I don’t share genes with my step-mother, I watched her lament her own abdominal bulge when I was a teen. She complained that no amount of sit ups put a dent in it, was embarassed by it, tried to hide it and though she ultimately made peace with it, she still curses it given the chance. She is eighty-three. Like me, she is tall and slender, and the little paunch sticks out like bad hair on a beauty queen. It just looks wrong. Not bad, really, just out of place.

I do not wish to hate any part of myself. I’ve worked too hard. So I came up with the affectionate term ‘menopaunch,’ and it has helped me make friends with the litte handful of softness that now rides around my middle.