Where I’m From

I haven’t written anything other than school papers in so long that I forgot how to log into my site. I’m putting this out there to get myself writing again. I based this poem on George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From,” which you can find here: george ella lyon where i’m from . I highly recommend doing the exercise yourself. It brings back a lot of memories.

I am from picking blueberries in long-sleeved shirts

while swatting away the mosquitoes

I’m from Sandy Point

and sand dollars

I’m from dump rides on Saturday mornings

holding the steering wheel of Dad’s big pick-up truck

I am from a family of fishermen

people who love the sea

I am from “fishing” off the mouth of the Merrimack

where my father baited my hook

and I pulled in the fish

and screamed until my mom and dad removed it

I am from John Denver’s Some Days are Diamonds

and Country Roads, Take Me Home

I am from blueberry pancakes and corn on the cob

mocha frosting and congo squares

flounder and haddock with Ritz-cracker crumbs

and from watching sunsets from a rocking chair

I am from kids who rode our bikes until dark

and caught tadpoles in the stream out back

from flashlight tag in the cornstalks

and Nancy Drew under the willow tree

I’m from swatting at green heads through the month of July

and sleeping in the basement on hot summer nights

I am from an Episcopal church

where I stood and knelt so much

“I might as well be Catholic” according to Grampa

I am from Gram and Gramp’s Congregational bean suppers

where I learned that church is about the people

and God is about the connection

I am from Dad, who told me stories ’bout girls named Amy,

who drew maps and graphs as he helped me with my homework,

and carried me from the car when I pretended to be asleep

I am from Mom who taught me the names of every flower

and painted me pictures to hang on my walls

I am from a family of hearty appetites

of early-to-bed and early-to-risers

I am from a family of great “idears” and many talents

a family of savers, not spenders

because a penny saved is a penny earned

and “two hundred window panes might be worth something some day”

I am from line-dryed clothes

that froze in the winter,

and caught bees in the summer, which led to some stings

but smelled like nature and air and Heaven all in one

I am from Ivory soap

that I still use to remember my grandmother

I am from farmers and gardeners and boaters and builders

artists and sewers and bakers

I am from humble people who would never tell you all they’ve done

who might not tell you what they feel

but would make you a casserole, bake you a pie, give you tomatoes

picked from their garden

all because they love you.

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What I Learned from Our Sixteen Day Staycation


family game

Not my family.


I sometimes   always think that a lot of unstructured time with the kids will be lovely. And I absolutely imagine the above photograph. We will play games and giggle and have ticklefests!  What psychological defense mechanism is this? Denial? Repression? Lunacy? Why do I do this? As families around me tell me about their upcoming plans and busy travels, I say, “We’re staying put. I think it’ll be good to have some down time.”

When I say those words a month from now, which I’m sure I will, please forward me this post. When I say, “It’ll be good to have some down time,” I need to HALT. Some down time. Like one day. Maybe one day and one morning. NOT sixteen days. Sixteen days of “down time” is not actual down time, especially when a good portion of that time is spent in blizzard conditions. It is sixteen days of sledding, skiing (thanks, Mr. POTL!), more sledding, whining, crying, shoveling, 1,500 episodes of Jessie (shoot me), video games, setting limits on video games, disciplining kids for whining about rules for video games, cosmic bowling, movies, bringing the kids together, separating the kids, making 54 boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese, hosting manic play dates, doling out 240 snacks, cleaning up a pound of glitter, trying to save the dog from being loved to death…I believe that paints a fair picture.

This break, I realized that, no matter how enthusiastically I present these activities, my kids do not like to do them:

Organize closets.

Go to The Container Store.

Clean their rooms.

Play any game that lasts more than ten minutes.

I also realized that I will end up doing children’s activities alone if I try to initiate them. Play-doh? They will enthusiastically agree and then sneak away, and I will be left alone making a series of eight neon green snakes. Therapeutic? Possibly.

Puzzles? They will flip over three pieces, tell me that puzzles are hard and that I should do them. And so I will. While they jump off the couch in the background.

Coloring? We will get out all the markers from the craft closet that they don’t want to organize (what?), spread them everywhere, and they will determine that they are going outside. But then inside. And then outside.

They and their friends will show me things I didn’t know were possible: eating Cheez-its off of a straw, making every sentence into a poop joke, eating crackers mixed with snow.


The kids went back to school today. Despite my complaints, I bet you anything that they had an awesome vacation. They are already reminiscing about it, one day into the real world. That’s the takeaway. I might be a bit frayed around the edges, but I am fine, and they had fun. For the next vacation, though? We are doing less Jesse, less attempts at organization, and more time out of the house.

And remember, forward me this post when I say I’m psyched to stay at home for the next vacation because preparation is the greatest defense against insanity. Didn’t somebody say that? Somebody?




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New Year’s Resolutions. For The Dog

This gallery contains 21 photos.

New Year’s always freaks me out a bit. I love tiaras and glitter, but I don’t like thinking about all of the ways I could be better. So this year, I came up with ways that The Dog could be … Continue reading

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I’m Back (Well, Kind Of)

I’ve been out of the writers’ loop for a while. I went back to school in the fall, and I was so busy writing research papers that I couldn’t bring myself to write creative papers.  I had so many things that I have wanted to write about, but I had also become paralyzed at the thought of sharing personal information when I was busy learning so much about the human psyche. Could I somehow reveal too much? Would I regret sharing later? But a part of me knows that I have to keep writing, if only for my sanity. The need to write gnaws away at me, no matter how busy I am with other activities and no matter how many doubts I have about sharing.

Sometimes people express their dismay that I have been willing to share such personal details of my life: depression, anxiety, worry, indecision, and parenting craziness. For a while, I might question my decision, but then I remember what is right for me. Reading other people’s stories throughout my life has had a major impact on me. Nothing has made me feel less lonely than reading something and thinking Me, too! I was just inspired to write again because today I watched Brene’ Brown’s TED talk on shame and she quotes, The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” Yes! So I will continue sharing my stories in the hopes that I might reach someone else who feels the same way. When I can clear out my cluttered head, I will write about my husband overcoming amnesia, me going back to school as a forty-something-year old, my little guy struggling with anxiety, and me working my way toward becoming a school counselor. Of course, I will also write about the pug eating the Christmas tree. And the eyes off of every stuffed animal in the house.

Thank you for reading. I can’t wait to connect with you in the New Year!

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Ten Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years of Parenting

Isn’t that a great title?

Well, how about this:

Ten One or Two Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Parenting.

My little Peanut turns ten today. I always thought I’d have a big list of all of the things I’ve learned about parenting by now. I’d be a better, smarter, wiser parent after ten years. I’d know when to hold my ground; I’d know when to acquiesce. I’d be grounded; I’d be patient. I’d be fun yet firm, compassionate yet motivating.

Huh. I can’t say that’s the way I am. I try to be all of those things. But often I am impatient. Or grumpy. Or unsure. That wasn’t my plan. I wanted to be amazing.

So what have I learned?

I have learned that you shouldn’t leave a baby on a couch alone and look at the baby with a scared face. (I just learned this piece in child development.)

Sierra Exif JPEG

And I have learned that sometimes Aaron Neville says it best.

Here you go, Peanut:

Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstandt singing her this duet from 1975  2008:



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Eight Ways College Will Be Better As An Adult

1. I won’t be wearing oversized flannel shirts. images

Or overalls. Or mock turtlenecks. Or turtleneck body suits.

2. I won’t be distracted by cute boys because that would be all cougar-adulteress-like.

3. I won’t have to run across campus in the middle of the night to slip my paper under my professor’s door by 11:59. Email, people. It’s incredible.

4. No more microfiche! images

Look at these internets! Fascinating.

5. No more tapestries! images

Not on my wall, and not turned into an impromptu toga.

6. No mix tapes of Cat Stevens. Because there are no mix tapes, and there is no Cat Stevens. He’s Yusuf Islam now. Although, come to think of it, Yusuf singing Oh Very Young might be part of a nice little songs to make-me-cry playlist.


7. This time, I have my own car. It’s an SUV covered in fur, cracker crumbs, and melted crayons, but it works.

8. I will not be pledging a fraternity. You got that right. The first time around I joined a fraternity. Not sorority. Enough said. No more fraternities unless I’m going to be some sort of den mother.

Any other ideas?

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Figuring Out September

I don’t have my RSS feed linked to Psychology Today, so here’s the link to my latest post.

Are you smiling/crying/laughing/singing weeping your way through September? OK. Let’s get together.


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Back-to-School Shopping, Otherwise Known as: Moms Weeping at Malls

Yesterday, I took little Miss M. back-to-school shopping. That girl has got a hell of a funky style and has always been fun to shop with. She rocks the ruffled shirt with the tulle skirt and colorful leggings. She wears plaids with flowers and polka dots with stripes. 009Somehow she pulls it off.

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time being naggy and shrewish, so I wanted to really up my Fun Mom status. We dropped off the little bro at a sitter’s, so we oculd have some dedicated girl time.

“OK, Girlie, let’s go shop our heads off,” I yelled.


“Errrr, Mommy? You need to work on your youth phrases.”

“Huh? What’s that mean?”

“It means that’s not how I talk.”


I’m already not cool.

All the way to the mall, she sang songs from Free to Be You and Me, which made me feel good about her and humanity.

When we got to her favorite store, Little Miss M. squealed and jumped up and down. “Don’t you just loooooove it here?”

Thought bubble: I hate it. Hate it. Hate it. I just gave a big ol’ smile. I cannot tell a lie.

I saw an adorable dress, gray with silver strands running through it with a hot pink ruffle along the bottom.

“M., what about this?”

She looked at me with a patient smile, the way someone would look at a child who tried his hardest but still failed the math test. “Aww, Mommy, that’s nice, really. I just don’t see myself in it.”

“Really? But it’s awesome!”

“Mmmmm,” she murmured with more patient smiling.

Then she started picking things out for herself, which were fine, but had a lot of “paraphernalia,” garnishes, and adornments on them. Blech. Necklaces attached to shirts. Faux vests that are really sewn on. Gems?

This time I was the one doing the patient smiling. “Gems. Sweet.”

I gave her space to look for bedazzled clothes and wandered my way into the baby section. I picked up eensy dresses, held tiny shoes in the palm of my hand,IMG_3536 and (I’m not gonna lie) got a bit choked up.

I’m pretty sure tiny shoes are always going to make me verklempt because Little Miss M. is at a crossroads between being a little girl and being a “big girl.” Having differing opinions about clothes is only going to be the beginning.

But I always want M. to rock her very own style. Unless it’s something inappropriate I-M-SO-FUCKING-FUTURE-T-Shirtsand/or that makes her look like a hooker, I’m going to take some deep breaths and support her in her fashion taste. Girls spend enough years feeling self-conscious and worrying about what everybody thinks. If she is this confident about wearing such eclectic outfits, the more power to her. (Although I still do not like those necklaces attached to the shirts.)

So I let her buy a bunch of clothes adorned with trinkets and told her how beautiful she looks in them.

When we got home, she squeezed me, giggling and said, “I loved shopping our heads off together.”


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How I Almost Played In The NHL. Almost. Sorta. Kinda?

My teammates flung open the locker room door and marched heartily toward the ice. Music blasted from the rafters. Roommates, parents, roommates’ parents, and drunken fraternity guys cheered from all 360 degrees. The coach gave each player a hearty pat on her shoulder pads as she leapt on to the ice, clacking her stick and making wild circles around the rink. I deliberately stepped, more than leapt, on to the rink and then did my best to avoid stopping to the left, which I had never quite gotten the hang of. When the warm-up ended, we skated into the center for the National Anthem with me silently praying, God, if you can do anything for me today, just please, please do not let me fall down during the National Anthem. Please?  And with that, I grabbed the rink wall for support, pushed off, and stretched forward like a wobbly deer.

I was a skidding, sliding, semi-skating bag of bones in a kelly-green uniform, and I was playing varsity hockey for the Bowdoin Polar Bears.

Previously, the only hockey I had played was with my father on the old reservoir. I had been more engaged in watching our dog skid around the ice than shooting the puck. And yet, earlier that year, when my dorm mates left to try out for the hockey team, I tagged along in a newly made vow to be spontaneous. I was going to do the opposite of what I was comfortable doing, which was to stay in my room writing letters to my friends back home. I thought I would be happy with myself for trying. But then, somehow (perhaps my coach’s soft spot for underdogs), I made the team, which meant that I was not happy with myself for trying. I was freakin’ panicked.

I was officially on the team, which meant I had problems, starting with getting dressed. How could I ask my teammates how to put on my equipment?   Nobody wants a teammate who doesn’t know how to put on a uniform. It doesn’t instill confidence. I was an imposter with big skates to fill, starting in the locker room. Hmmmm, I noted. The piece of plastic goes over my pelvis. It doesn’t look like something I should leave out. And the wooly things?  Looks like I put them on my legs before the skates.

The ice glistened with a watery sheen when the Zamboni pulled away, signaling the start of practice. This meant there were no piles of slush with which I could slow myself down. I always loved a slushy rink; I felt much safer. While I recovered from getting dressed, I already had to figure out what was happening in the rink. What was I doing?  What did the coach mean by, “It’s all in the wrist?”  And why could I only stop when I skated to the right?

Every day, I trudged through the snow to the rink and fumbled my way through getting dressed. Every day, I listened to my coach speak the language of hockey, as if I were a foreign exchange student dropped into an advanced English class. Vamonos? Donde esta? Merci? I had no idea. I used every ounce of brainpower to figure out what I was doing and every ounce of physical ability to stay upright. Throughout it all, I revered my teammates who skated circles around the rink, smiling beneath their helmets. And they could stop. In either direction.

This scenario continued for five months. The season ended in March, and I practically melted with relief. I was no longer committed to those hours of uncertainty on the ice each day. Eventually, spring came to Bowdoin, and I was happy to spend my spare time lying on the quad, rather than scrambling around the rink.

The more time I spent away from the rink, the more the idea of going back scared me. I forgot that there had been moments when I had felt improvement and those when I had relaxed enough to enjoy the camaraderie. I convinced myself it would be better to call it quits. When the next tryouts came, I panicked and hid until they were over. I remembered the months of fear, and I didn’t have the energy to sustain a smile for that long again. I told my teammates I had too much going on to play, but I didn’t have too much going on to play.

I had been part of something intense and riveting, and now I had opted to stay in the bleachers. I watched my former teammates swirl around the ice, and I missed hockey the way one misses an ex-boyfriend, with an unexpected twinge or sudden tightness in the chest. How could I miss something that caused me such torment?  Just like one does with an ex-, I listed all the things I didn’t like about hockey and all the reasons why I left. But, even with my list of the fear of the National Anthem and the Zambonied ice, and the frat guys watching, I still got that ache.

Because I knew.

I knew if I had stuck with it, the deer legs would have been a little less wobbly, I would have figured out what was “in the wrist,” and I would have learned at long last to stop in any direction.




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Best House Eva

A few weeks ago, when the temperatures soared into the ’90′s and everyone’s hair stood in a frizzy halo around her head, our AC conked out. I lay in front of a fan and wept. And as I lay there, hallucinating, I wondered who I had become. We moved into our house a year ago, and I have spent countless hours deciding on curtains and bedding and exactly where each piece of furniture should go. And yet, I used to live joyously in an oversized, rambling, highly combustible Victorian….


When I finished grad. school in Atlanta, I moved back to the Northeast, where three of my college roommates had a room for me in the attic of a bright-purple, somewhat lopsided Victorian outside of Boston.

It was glorious.

Two funky lesbian professors lived on the first floor with their German Shepherd and a bunch of old records.

Our landlord lived on the second floor.

But we held the penthouse suite: the third and fourth floors. When I first saw the apartment, it took my breath away. Hardwood floors, a spiral staircase leading from the kitchen to the upstairs bedrooms (err…attic), huge windows, skylights, a woodstove, and a deck! As someone who had been a student for the last seven years, I was not used to such luxuries. girls lived on the third floor, each with her own bedroom. Two more of us lived in the attic and shared the open expanse. We built a hanging rack of clothes between us to allow for privacy. My bed was under an eave, which was under a skylight, which seemed lovely at the time. Who cared that I had to crawl headfirst into the eaves to get into my bed? I was sleeping under the stars! And who cared that we were single girls sharing a room? We had the wall of clothes if we needed space. Sure, the house was bright purple, which was a little kooky, even for my fresh-out-of-school taste, but it made us stand out. When we told people that we lived in the purple house in Brookline, everybody knew where it was. This was before GPS, so it was important to have a house people could locate without directions. “It’s the bright purple house” worked perfectly for parties. Our deck had begun to slope toward the ground three floors below, but it still seemed secure, so we used to grill out there on summer nights. We simply hid behind the tree branches or went inside if the neighbors caught wind of the smoke. Apparently, they were “nervous” about us having a grill on the broken deck of an old Victorian. Sigh.

In the winter, we lit the woodstove and sat on the many couches that we had inherited and that now circled the room. We drank wine and ate nachos and commended ourselves on our Christmas light decorations that stayed up all year. Sometimes, the fire raged and began to sneak out the sides of the pipe up toward the ceiling. At that point, we made sure to keep a pail of water near the stove. Just in case. We had a pretty big kitchen and were known for our cooking. Our guy friends in town rarely cooked, subsisting on takeout and peanut butter. We prided ourselves on having real meals: spaghetti, angel hair, ziti, even rotini. Once in a while, we made pita pockets with vegetables in them or bagel pizzas.

Every once in a while, a squirrel jumped in through one of the open skylights and found his way into the house. The squirrels weren’t bad unless they felt trapped, in which case they went bananas, scampering through the apartment and over the furniture like they were rabid. And I didn’t like that their main point of entry was over my bed. You might wonder why we didn’t just shut the skylights if squirrels were coming in and bouncing off of my bed. The skylights were the only air opening in the attic. Fourth floor attics get hot in the summer. We had to leave them open in order to breathe. So the squirrels came and went. And I often had to sweep leaves off of my bed in early fall, but I did love those stars.

One drawback of the hardwood floors was that they had never been quite finished. Very splintery. If one were to sit on the floor for some reason, one might get a splinter in one’s ass. But they were gorgeous.

Our landlord, living on the second floor, had just returned from Nepal where she had experienced some sort of epiphany. Each time she scolded us or demanded rent, she bowed and gave us a little “namaste,” which was way before namaste was mainstream. What was she saying? She saw us as members of her commune, rather than renters. She often let herself into our apartment to shower or “check on something.” A number of times, she knocked on our door, wearing only her underwear. Namaste.

Now I live in the suburbs in a home that I love. I can get in my bed from any side; I don’t need to crawl in from the bottom. Our fireplace hasn’t caught fire. I haven’t had a squirrel on my bed. My home is an understated blue, classic: no garish purple. The deck is not going to fall off with me on it. But I’m going to say that that purple house was the best house I ever lived in: ass splinters and all.

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