It’s a gorgeous spring day on our 22 acres outside Fulton, a brocade of rolling green set against a periwinkle sky. It’s where I come to breathe. Today all four kids, their families, plus my dad and sister visiting from out of state are here to celebrate. Four generations together, a rare treat. I’m relishing Read More
“Mom, is Santa real?” I shouldn’t be surprised that questions of this magnitude frequently come from the back seat of the minivan, shouted over the top of Katy Perry’s “Roar” as I’m dodging traffic on Providence. Questions like, “Why can’t gay people get married?” or, “Are you a Christian, Mom?” or, “What does it mean, Read More
Aaaaaaand just like that, Christmas is over. The preparation, the anticipation, the actualization; come and gone for another year. My beautiful live tree adorned in sparkling red and gold is dead, morphed into an endearing Dr. Suess caricature; its pliant needles turned brittle and sharp, its majestic branches drooping sadly, ornaments lowered to the floor Read More
After Grief lives in our house. Among the furniture, between the windows and the walls, it sits; thick and unmoving. Grief rides, heavy, on my chest. I can’t get a good, deep breath these days. It weighs down my husband’s shoulders and molds his features. Grief seeps into our nights of restless sleep and dreams Read More
“Mom, do you have a pencil and paper I can have?” Haley, my 10-year-old asked as we watched the ring-tailed lemurs leap from tree to tree at the San Francisco Zoo. “I need to write something down.” Our vacation this year — part sightseeing, part family reunion — took us on a 5,000-mile adventure that Read More
I don’t want to work
I want to bang on my drum all day
Captain Higgle’s ‘Rainbow Ship’ made its maiden voyage in my living room last weekend. Constructed from an enormous cardboard TV box and every kind of tape known to humankind, Sydney and Haley designed their pirate ship with only a little help from Dad. Sails of giant foam squares attach with duct tape to the handle of a push broom forming the mast. A cut out drawbridge lowers from the helm onto the gangplank engineered from plywood and risers from Mom’s Reebok step.
My girls imagine vivid landscapes when they make believe, acting out stories and fantasies of all sorts. Household items become props as they set the stage for their dramatic improvisation. Haley crawls on her hands and knees, sniffing and licking at two bowls; one of water, the other, cheerios. “I’m a newborn black lab,” she says. Read More
Brother and sister, together as friends,
Ready to face whatever life sends.
Joy and laughter or tears and strife,
Holding hands tightly
As we dance through life.
‘Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.’ Edna Buchanan said that. I can only assume the implication is that the relatives we’re stuck with wouldn’t be the ones we’d pick if given the option. On some days, I could see myself choosing friends over family, but in the end, I believe I’d take the parents and siblings I’ve got. Among this motley crew, the love is hard-earned and runs deep. We started small then divided by divorce and multiplied through remarriage, becoming a Modern Family before it was trendy. Actually, it was more like The Brady Bunch. From hell. Three parents, two brothers and seven sisters, consisting of steps, halves and wholes, round out my nuclear family; every one unique and each one, extraordinary. A complicated blend, the reciprocity is messy and even volatile—there’s been no lack of drama in 38 years. But in the hotbed of familial relationship, conditions are ripe to learn life lessons that just don’t come any other way. Lessons on love, forgiveness, redemption and transformation.
Flying over New Mexico on my way to Phoenix, I peer through the airplane’s small window and take in the vastness of the red rocks below. I’m going home, to the funeral of my oldest brother’s son. Read More
And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She’d say, “oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise.
“Paradise” by Coldplay
~For Richard, Heidi and Gabriel~
It was Sunday afternoon. The weekend that seemed to stretch out enticingly before me on Friday was, for all intents and purposes, over. I sat on the couch, mindlessly surfing Facebook and playing Angry Birds. I had what we call the ‘Sunday blues;’ that restless dissatisfaction that strikes around 5:00 p.m. along with the realization that my vision of a weekend filled with relaxation and leisure . . . well, it’s just not gonna materialize. This happens frequently. My days get filled with grocery shopping, running kids to activities, projects at home, work issues, and other mundane tasks and my fun gets relegated to Saturday night after the kids go to bed, but by then I’m so beat I pass out halfway through a movie.
I felt a coming shift in the weather foretold by a pounding headache that stormed my skull. Sitting alone I looked out the window at the gathering clouds. Malaise settled in as I thought with a sigh how the girls would be home shortly. I’d have to get up from this couch to start the nighttime routine; wrangle up dinner, corral kids into the shower and herd them to bed. I’d go through Friday folders (Sunday night folders?) and look ahead to everyone’s schedules, gearing up for another busy week.
But that was all before I got the news that my brother-in-law had died. Just 45 minutes earlier, while I was lamenting the end of the weekend, he had taken his last breath and given up the battle he’d waged to the finish. He and my sister were separated, but in the end, their differences didn’t matter. The strife and tension between them healed spontaneously on his journey from this plane to the next. When cancer took over his body, she took him into her home and tended to his dying. In the process she found forgiveness and focused on creating lasting memories for her son, their son. He is seven, my nephew; much too young to lose his father. And his father, much too young to lose his life. Read More
God bless the postman who brings the mail.
And bless the cowboys out on the trail.
Bless Mommy and bless Daddy who come each time I call.
God bless the folks I love, God bless us all.
Lyrics by Tom Murray, Music by Tony Burrello, 1953
I took a quiz once to define my priorities in life, listing the three possessions I would save if my house was on fire. The answer was the same then as it is now; family photos are numero uno on my list. And two and three as well, since I would lug through the flames as many albums as I could drag or throw. Now, in the digital age, our collective family history is conveniently stored on my hard drive and I imagine in my panic, I might heave my iMac out the window. It may seem like dramatic heroics to rescue mere two-dimensional images, but these visual reflections of the past not only warehouse and catalogue individual moments, but also activate and develop the negatives in my memory, bringing the people, places, and times surrounding those moments back to life, in vivid 3D Technicolor. Pictures tell stories. Pictures reveal secrets. Pictures frame truths. Irreplaceable homages to what has been and never will be again, they are priceless.
Any fool can do it; there ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride.
Sliding down, gliding down, try not to try too hard.
It’s just a lovely ride.
James Taylor—The Secret ‘O Life
I don’t always recognize I’m headed for collapse until, speeding down the freeway at 100 mph, dashboard warnings flashing, I veer off the road to make an emergency stop. I’ve gotten so good at disregarding my maintenance lights, by the time I realize I’m in trouble, I’m already sputtering and careening; out of gas, overheated, or worse, out of control, crashing and taking out everyone around me.
When we moved from Missouri back to Austin, Texas in 2003, circumstances combined to create a fusion of indescribable stress that will go down in Kent family history as The-Time-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. Every member of our family was a hot mess; Haley, 5 weeks old, a textbook example of a colicky infant, emitted a type of banshee wailing that could literally wake the dead, and was silenced only when nursing (constantly) or sleeping (rarely). Sydney, 4 years old, with modulating sensory integration issues, experienced overstimulation, auditorily and otherwise. She was confused and jealous. Her ‘elopement’ was at an all-time high and, thanks to a very ambitious preschool teacher, potty training had begun in earnest (it took two years to fully train our sweetie and it wasn’t the potty that was so much the problem). Let that image crystallize for a moment: Clingy, wailing infant on the boob and pooping-in-her-britches toddler on the run. Read More