breathe in, breathe out, then don’t

{by the grumbles of grumbles and grunts}

Our first dog, Nico, died on Saturday. Really I should say we put Nico down on Saturday because what I wouldn’t give to have just found him dead of his own accord in our house as opposed to the visceral reality of an assisted death for a very sick friend. It would have made things a lot easier. But, as with his whole life, nothing with Nico was ever easy.

Pets are a cruel joke that we play on ourselves. We go into the game knowing as a cold hard fact that we will outlive them. We’re destined to fall in love, share the ins and outs of daily life, and then watch as our friends die. Still we do it, and I don’t know why, maybe because we’re in denial. In the early years this harsh reality seems so far away, something we don’t have to deal with yet, an eventuality that we don’t want to think about until it’s right there staring us in the face. Not that it’s not worth it in many ways, but after a weekend like that I find myself wondering if it really is. Because Nico was sick for so long it’s hard for me to even remember happy Nico and I think that breaks my heart more than anything. I should be sadder. This should have been harder. But he was in so much pain and I just wanted it to go away, for him, for me.

I’ve never seen anything die, not like that, let alone something I loved so dearly. There’s a stillness to a body, to a corpse, when it ceases to take breath and the blood doesn’t flow, when the chest you’ve used as a pillow so many times isn’t moving, that I couldn’t take. It cut my heart in two and I had to go, I couldn’t bear to look at it any longer, the hollow shell that used to be my dog. Every second that ticked by past his last breath and my gasping tears was one more where I could feel it building in me, a primal response that I couldn’t control, RUN, THIS ISN’T RIGHT. GET AWAY. But I didn’t want to go and leave him there alone. But he wasn’t there anymore, it was just Jon and I and a jar of snickers labeled ‘human treats’ and a poorly placed ad for a pet photographer and it was time to leave.

In This Skin

{By Rachel at A Southern Fairytale}

Comfortable in this skin.

I’m not. And I am.

I’ve gained weight. Quite a bit.

I look at you and I don’t see your size, I see your sparkling eyes, your boisterous infectious laugh, your beautiful hair, your captivating smile, your heart, your elegant hands, your adorable sprinkling of freckles, the bounce in your step, your sassy-ness; all the things that make you who you are, the things that endear you to me, draw me to you.

And yet.

And. Yet.

To Sing My Song

{by Laurie White of Laurie Writes}

I drove the old roads yesterday, as I rarely do anymore unless someone died, as someone had. Turning instinctively on numbered streets — that party there, that unfortunate conversation on that street corner, I knew the sounds and the smells of the neighborhoods, felt the grit of the pavement and the echoes of so many voices up through the undercarriage of a car I never could have afforded then, can barely afford now.

Road miles, they carry us, somehow.

Monday was PG County and a dead body in a Hawaiian shirt, unbearable grief and chicken joints and that school I went to once. I forgot about D’s corner lot house, the irritation of the left turn. The shortcut through the 7-11 that I made still-instinctively after 20 years away made me want to smoke more than usual, an urge staved off mostly by the almost seven dollar price for a pack that made me smile big.


{by Jennifer Doyle from Playgroups are No Place for Children}

(photo credit: Flickr)

I remember the thrill of the discovery, like I had unearthed a secret treasure.

Lonely and isolated as a new mom, I woke up each morning before the sun and with the cries of a hungry baby, followed by naps, laundry, more cries of a hungry baby, followed by more naps, more cries, bedtime. The next day was exactly the same, as was the day after that, and the day after that.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad! Motherhood was just…not what I imagined it to be. In boredom, I went online, clicking one website after another, when one day I read the words of a mother. I don’t remember them exactly, but her message spoke to my soul, the secret place inside of me that couldn’t admit outloud that I didn’t know what I was doing and that most days I wanted to escape, even if just for 15 minutes. This discovery, a mother–just like me, staying home with a baby all day–confessed in writing that being a mom was hard, wonderful, exhausting, boring, fulfilling, gratifying, and every other adjective I had also secretly thought only to myself.

You Inspire Me. You Make Me Brave.

{By Sara Sophia}

if we look closely
the sunspots in our eyes
become lions and bears made of fire.

they glimmer and bare their teeth

i counted the freckles on her cheeks.
There are 27.
tomorrow they will multiply.

tracks left
by lions
by bears
constellations mapped out across her

and the day is all fierceness and flame.

bright like four lives in a jar
set free.

and they laugh louder under God’s gaze
and shoot up to pluck stars from the heavens

Mercy is this firepit

burning away the chaff
of every broken day before.

(written for my children after reading my favorite poet-mama)

(photo credit)

Nearly four years ago I sat in front of a computer screen with the idea of starting a blog.

My world had grown so small I could hardly breathe.

days that build me

{by John Blase, the beautiful due}

Vintage bathing suits

I went with them yesterday, ‘them’ being the three females in my life. Two of them, my daughters, needed swimsuits because, well, it’s summer. The third of ‘them’, also known as their mother, had warned me: you know they want buhkeeknees, right? I said I had heard that word several times of late but had always tried to change the subject. For example -

Daughter: Dad, I really really want a buhkeeknee.

Me: Sweet-girl, have you finished reading Rob Bell’s book yet?

Anyway, I went along yesterday, I felt it needed to be a father’s day on some level. So I stood in a store called Justice and leaned against a waiting-wall while three video screens assaulted my senses with some little tweener-boy trying to sing ‘Broken Hallelujah.’ I kid you not. As the poor kid butchered a classic I eyed my girls’ feet below the 3/4 dressing room door, feet I know well, toes I’ve counted, this little piggy and stuff like that. Their not-so-little-anymore feet skittered around accompanied by growing-girl giggles…

broken hallelujahs to my heart.

The Falling Away of Everything Wrong.

{by Kari of Through a Glass Darkly}

photo credit.

I keep telling Mike that being at the pool is going to give me plenty of fodder to write my Great American Novel. There are so many things to observe at the pool, so much of humanity (and flesh) on display. It reminds me that there really is nothing new under the sun. (Except possibly my blindingly white skin.)

It is still hard for me to watch those girls that I never was: the confident ones in the tiny bikinis with their perfect tans and their perfect hair and their perfect boyfriends to rub sunscreen on their shoulders (get a room!). I relate more to the ones who are holding back, shy in their bathing suits, aware of their flaws. Of course, they don’t have to be wearing bathing suits to be that shy. I see it at school, too – the girls who, somehow, aren’t awkward at all. And the girls who are profoundly aware of their own awkwardness. I am sometimes overwhelmed with the feeling that I need to take these girls aside, the shy bathing-suit clad, the awkward, and tell them: You might not be like the girls over there, but you are still wonderful. There are things I wouldn’t say, because I know they would not hear them: You will look back and realize you were looking pretty great after all. And: At the same time, you would never go back and relive these days for anything.

But I know, like all the rest of us, they will have to figure those things out for themselves. So I sit in my chair and watch and pray and root for them to find their way.

There has been a lot of dress talk in my house lately. I have seen a lot of magazine pictures that I know I could never live up to, all those tall leggy women who tower over me. I have been very tired and my class has been very frustrating and the economy has everyone worried about their jobs. I have forgotten things I needed to do. I have not lived up to my own expectations. I have not felt beautiful, inside or out. In the midst of that, I ran across this poem.

Her Mother

{by Gillian Marchenko}

photo credit

Last year in a Ukrainian court room, a stern looking judge asked me to rise. “Mrs. Marchenko, can you be a good mother to this child?” I had been coached beforehand by our adoption coordinator to answer ‘da,’ yes in Russian. Instead, though, I burst into tears.

My tears that day were a showcase of a medley of emotions: fear, insecurity, excitement, expectancy. The judge’s face softened as I stood weakly before her, sobbing. “Sit down, woman. The answer is in your tears.”


A year later, I am perched with my legs crisscross on scratchy gray carpet in an observation room with Evangeline, the little girl we adopted from Ukraine, on my lap. We just finished singing The Wheels on the Bus under the watchful eye of a social worker with a yellow pad of paper in one hand and a sharpened number two pencil tipped to take notes in the other.

Evangeline is being evaluated to determine if her behavior falls somewhere on the Autism spectrum or if what she does, stuff like eating dirt off the floor and rocking back and forth all day, are connected to her prior diagnosis of Down syndrome. I wonder internally, are these behaviors simply left over from being orphaned at birth?


A couple nights ago when all four of our children were tucked away in bed, I started working on a picture montage documenting Evangeline’s first year home. I scrutinized each picture we had of her and chose only the best: the ones where she looks happy, comfortable, content. While working on my project, I imagined friends and family commenting charitably. “Her hair is so long!” “She is so pretty!” And it’s true. She’s a beautiful girl. Her hair is as soft and shinny as corn silk. Her face is a plump, pink heart.

But so far, the montage falsely documents our first year together. I’ve left out the overarching theme; one of struggle and pain. Correct documentation would include a picture of me crying on my husband’s shoulder. “I can’t do this. She’s not who I expected her to be.” There would be another picture of Evangeline with a huge knot on her forehead from hitting herself on a crib bar at night to fall asleep. There would be a shot of me with scratches on my face from trying to hug her and probably another one with my back to her, my face blotchy and red from anger over her rejection.


Today at the evaluation, Evangeline surprises me by happily waving to the social worker when we first walk into the room. She bangs two plastic rings together, and flirts and laughs, this little girl who is typically suspicious of the world and traditionally closed off to me. Her actions both excite and anger me. I am overwhelmed to see her connect to her surroundings but I’m pissed off that she’ll wave hello to a stranger but won’t look me in the eye. If I would have seen these skills displayed earlier, we wouldn’t even be here.

The Boys, Part 1

{by Dera of Casablanca}

I’m driving home from Fiona’s school when she asks me this in a soft voice:

Fiona: “Mom? Did you ever like a boy when you were my age?”

Me: (thinking, “I loved boys in the womb. By seven, I was already over this dating thing and ready to settle down.”)

“Yeah, I think so.”

Fiona: “Were you ever afraid that he didn’t like you back?”

Me: (thinking, “There was little to no fear in my approach. Capture, seize, and conquer. Much easier.”)

“Sure. Is there a boy that you like?”

Fiona: (silence)

I adjust the rear-view mirror, and see the reddest face smiling back at me. I have my answer.

Me: “It’s okay. You don’t have to be embarrassed. Is it someone I know?”

Fiona: (nods with her face buried in her hands)

Me: “Fiona, do I have to guess every boy in our lives or are you going to tell me?”

Fiona: “I’ll give you a guess.”

Me: “A ‘hint’?”

Fiona: “Mmm hmmm.

1. He’s really smart.
2. He has curly hair.
3. His skin looks like your coffee.”

Neve: “Oh, yeah. So he’s from France?”


{by Mary Lauren Weimer, My 3 Little Birds}

I almost didn’t go.

It was spitting Michigan sleet and I was tempted to change into sweatpants and curl up on my chair with dinner in my lap.

Sometimes, if I turned the antenna in just the right way, I could pick up Canadian channels. To me that sounded almost exotic–watching foreign television. But I’d worn a dress and heels to work, and all that wardrobe effort would have been wasted on another evening alone in my apartment if I didn’t venture out.

It was Ash Wednesday. I needed Lent like detox.