“How can I help you?” That’s how I start every session with any student who walks into the writing lab. I smile. I am sincere. I want to be there. Forty-five minutes later, after fumbling through each word, pronouncing over and over again and you repeating, me finding the words to describe the word you don’t seem to grasp, sometimes drawing, sometimes miming, I am exhausted. And you? You live every day this way. I am shattered and inspired at once.

It seems like most days you look at me with disgust. Is it testosterone? Is it that I don’t know how to speak to you without reminding you of something? What do we have in common? I can’t find it. I don’t like video games. You are waning on the baking. My attempts at humor and simply buying a thank you with junk food don’t even work. I don’t know. Am I losing you? I look at your broadening shoulders, searching madly for a glimpse of the sweet boy I know resides in there somewhere. Sometimes it’s like I am looking for a ghost. Was it ever real, how you’d take my hand or let me lie next to you forever reading, snuggling? I love you and I am terrified. Will you return to me?

We have a bag of kale and so far it’s worked its way into four out of five meals. Mom made caramel corn this weekend. She bagged it up so each person received their own stash. It has worked its way into five out of five meals. Kale and caramel corn. The story of my life.

The secret to happiness is having no expectations. Generally, I find this to be true AND I find it nearly impossible to not have expectations. Most mornings my hubby sits a steaming cup of coffee next to my bed. On the days that he does not, I am momentarily wrecked. I can also feel myself drift towards, and this is totally embarrassing, anger. I am angry someone did not hand-deliver a steaming cup of coffee to my bedroom. Jesus, girl! Get a grip! And the cornerstone of teaching, running a business, really, managing people, is to have HIGH expectations. I don’t get this and I do. I don’t understand this and I don’t. Regardless, I made my own coffee and I was sad about it.

Every morning I climb back into bed after feeding the cats. I snuggle down just for me and try to write. After eating, one wanted to snuggle and I wanted to write. How can I have both? I can’t. It’s hard to write with a cat between my chest and the keyboard. I pushed him off. He was not happy. I love you and I need you to go away.

I am putting too much pressure on myself for finding just the right way to celebrate my 50th birthday. It feels like a big deal to me. But there it is, it is big for me. Not to anyone else. So I want to keep the focus on me. But here is where I screw up, I skip ahead thinking I will do it wrong and feel regret. I do not want an “I wish I would have” birthday. But damnit….an after Christmas birthday sucks. It totally sucks and here’s another thing. I am the party planner. No one in my life likes to plan parties. And so, I get twisted and it’s dumb and I wish someone would just say, go away by yourself and I could forget it all. I broached this idea with my hubby.
“What if I just go somewhere alone for two days?”  
"You?" he said, "for your birthday? With no one fawn over you?"
He was right and so am I and then I am mad at myself for making something bigger than it needs to be. I am mystified by people who say, “Oh, we had dinner at home. It was not big deal” for whatever milestone birthday. How can this be? And what does it say about me that I want to mark the passage somehow? I am irritated with me AND I want what I want but, of course, I don’t know what I want so that is the trouble. And look at this? My rumination on my birthday is the longest passage yet!!

It’s after 7 and I have to get ready for work. I started late because of no coffee and cat wrestling. I made this commitment to myself to do this and now I feel pressure. Jena would say some words are better than no words but I can’t stop. I don’t feel like a perfectionist and god knows, this is far from perfect, but I can do it. I can feel pressure and not stop.

I stopped to take a picture of our bluffs yesterday. It was on the way into our valley and I pulled the car over and got out and walked around. The road was busy and I felt a little weird, but how many pictures have I not taken in the last week. So many! It felt good to be standing in the cold, cataloging the shades of gold and red and orange. The thing is, I love the way this land looks. And so I looked. I am happy I have the pictures. I am happy I said yes. I wanted to stay longer and I did not feel safe and it was worth it.

My daughter looks strung out. Is this how almost 18-year-olds are? I am collecting poems for her. I am going to give her a book at Christmas of all the empowering words I have read in the last year. It’s my strange little hope that poetry will help her through this troubled time. I am not sure it’s worth the effort and I am hopeful that maybe there will be one phrase that stops her, helps her reframe this wonky time in her life.

Everyone is up now and they are angry. I want to hide. I was just helping someone locate something and I am the wrong one. I have slunk back in here hoping to finish. I can do this and I don’t know why this is such a deal to me.


It’s hard to keep promises to myself. Years of putting myself last are a well-worn path. Building new roads takes time. This is a step. It’s not easy and it’s worth it. (I did it!!!!)

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