Escaping, Clinging, Rising

April 19th, 2014

photo-3I‘m enjoying my last couple of hours at Wellspring House, a sort of B&B for writers out in Western Massachusetts, in a beautiful little town. I came here for a week way back in 2011 to work on Double Time and it was a fantastically productive time. You get a room with a desk and a comfy chair and a bed, and there’s a big living room and a shared kitchen. It’s a monastic little existence. Lots of time for quiet work and reflection, long walks or runs, occasional chats with other writers, if there are any around.

I could only manage a short visit this time around, which has been a sort of torture. When I go away like this to write (which I’ve only been able to do a handful of times) it takes me a half day at least just to shake off the distractions and rhythms of my everyday routine and get into a groove. This time was even harder as I’d taken a few weeks’ break from the novel I’m working on while we were dealing with all our house stuff. (Update: We found buyers for our house last week!) Still, I’ve managed to get about ten pages down, which I’m content with for two days’ work. Especially given that I had some real-world (i.e. day job) intrusions on Friday. C’est la vie.

I do get some writing done at home, in the midst of work and household responsibilities and the kids and all the rest. I aim for few hours a week. But it’s hard. Not just carving out the time itself,  but carving out the mental space. I can retreat to my office for a couple of hours in the morning before I dig into my day-job work, or settle in with a latte at one of the local coffee shops. But I feel like the rest of life is sort of peeking in the window at me: The groceries that need buying. My inbox filling while I write, and looming deadlines. Thoughts of the hectic evening and morning routines ahead.

I am much more productive when I can step away from it all; dwell in the dream that is whatever I’m working on. I’m going to apply to a couple of residencies this spring and summer. I’d like to go to this place. I’d love to go to this place, and have applied twice, but not gotten in. My stuff may not be “literary” enough for them, but I’m just going to keep on applying every year until I wear them down and they take me. Heh.

Funny, I don’t really miss the girls while I’m away on these jaunts. I mean, I’m happy to come home to them. But I don’t feel any sort of longing.

Lately, though (segue to next topic in this rambly sort of post…) I’ve been feeling a certain longing for them even when I am home. I think it has to do with moving, or maybe with turning 40, which I did last week. Or maybe just the number seven, which they are, and which feels so much bigger than six.

Elsa's letter to Narnia.

Elsa’s letter to Narnia.

I want them to stay little. I want it to slow down. I want them to build me trains out of paper (Clio’s latest “present” for me, to move toys and things around, she says) and draw “I love you mama” pictures forever and ever. These days, any time they want to crawl up on my lap, I let them. I spend more time with them at bedtime, just talking and cuddling.

I don’t want this to be the last or even the second to last year they believe in the Easter bunny. I want them to keep believing in magic. I am clinging to them in a way I never have before. A desperate kind of clinging.

And I’m also haunted by this sense of  doubt — this wondering if I treasured their toddler and preschool days enough. So much was so hard and intense and exhausting about that time. I wish I’d been more patient. I wish I hadn’t wished them older and more rational and less whiny and needy. And yet I know that even as I had those thoughts I did my best to push them away. I periodically reminded myself to treasure, treasure, treasure. Seize the day, instead of just looking forward to the end of the day. Stay in the moment. Be mindful. But mindfulness is so hard. Especially when you’re in the thick of parenting.

And then sometimes I feel just downright angry that there’s been the whole stupid cancer thing right in the middle of this blossoming that’s been the girls’ fifth and sixth (well, technically sixth and seventh) years. You know, no big deal. Just cancer. 

I don’t know. Maybe I’m having a touch of late onset seasonal affective disorder in response to this endless, brutal winter. Or maybe it’s the limbo-ness of our situation right now,  still in our current home, but on our way out. Limbo is hard. And transitions are harder for me than they used to be. I haven’t had a life transition quite this big in a long time.

Maybe once it warms up for good I’ll feel better. Maybe I’ll be infused with the spirit of resurrection tomorrow. Even though I don’t consider myself Christian anymore, on Easter I can’t help feeling Christian-y. Or Pagan-y, I suppose. Out of darkness, into light and life. Not a life that’s the same as before, but one that’s new, and beautiful in its own way, and maybe more enlightened. (Buddhist-y!) And hey, why not Jewish-y while I’m at it? Out of Egypt, into the promised land.

Hallelujah, y’all.

Last Easter.

Last Easter.


Also last easter

(Un)even Steven

April 10th, 2014

Oh, my poor derelict blog. These last few weeks were a whirlwind — nay, maelstrom — of packing and prepping and de-cluttering as we got our house ready to sell. “Got,” past tense, because we’ve got buyers! Didn’t even make it to the open house. So I’m sitting here now in our gorgeously sparse, staged house after having camped out at Alastair’s parents’ place for a week, thrilled to be home and to have everything more or less settled.

I’m also — to my utter surprise — looking forward to re-cluttering this place a bit (but not completely!) so it actually looks and feels like home. Poor Elsa, when we were over here briefly the other day, broke down weeping, saying “It doesn’t look like our house anymore!!” I’m guessing it will take 48 hours of us being back, tops, for it to feel adequately chaotic again.

So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately (in addition to how many of the girls’ toys I can get rid of without their noticing…bwah ha ha):

The other night at the kitchen table — Alastair’s parents’ kitchen table, that is —  both he and I struggled to help Clio understand the concept of making a number out of various combinations of tens and ones. (e.g. 49 = 0 tens and 49 ones, 1 ten and 39 ones, etc.) Even when we skipped the more conceptual understanding and focused on following the patterns in the sequence, she just couldn’t seem to get it. Read the rest of this entry »

A Fresh Start

March 18th, 2014
Our (current) house

Our (current) house, as seen on Google spy-cam

Well there’s a big reason I haven’t posted for the last nearly-two-weeks. I’ve been a wee bit busy and preoccupied because…We’re moving!

The contract isn’t signed yet, but the lawyers are reviewing it, and already our current house is a box-filled, partly denuded version of itself as we de-clutter, de-junk and prepare to de-part, hopefully in July, depending on how long it takes us to sell our place. We’ll be putting it on the market in a few weeks.

We’re not going far; just to the next town north. Our new house is less than ten miles from our current one, about a fifteen-minute drive. It’s not that much bigger,  but it has some creature comforts that we don’t have now and that have always been on my wish list: A fireplace. A driveway. (Oh, how we will not miss fighting for parking spots on the street in the winter….) A big screened-in porch. Trees in the yard. Long-term, we feel like the schools will be a better fit for the girls. We belong to the UU church there, and have friends in the community. So it doesn’t feel like a huge change in some ways.

I still have some mixed feelings about our moving, which I won’t go into now (hint: much less diversity) but overall, it feels like the right decision for us. Even when we bought our current house, we planned to move within five or six years (we made it to eight), and this new house is probably where we’ll be for the next twenty, barring any unforeseen, unfortunate circumstances.

What’s notable — and probably not coincidental — is the timing. We’ll be moving right when Clio’s treatment ends. I think the subconscious reasons for this are twofold, and interrelated. Read the rest of this entry »

Super Sib

February 27th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 8.23.31 PMAs I’ve written here many times before, it’s hard to be a sib. 

Throughout this crappy little boat trip, Clio has gotten so much more attention than Elsa, of so many different sorts. She’s been the recipient of countless gifts and treats, only some of which have come in duplicate. She’s spent endless hours more with Alastair and me at the clinic, in the hospital, at home. And when we’ve gone to special cancer-related events, Clio has been the star, Elsa an afterthought.

There used to be a lot of tears and a lot of anger from Elsa. We’ve tried all along to even the scales to the extent that we can, and to fight for her when it comes to things like charity events and special outings; try to impress upon people that we’re all in this together, and that Elsa has had to be pretty damned brave, too. But there’s only so much we can do. And there are some things we just can’t control.

Like a couple of weeks ago, when we got to go to a Celtics game, thanks to the Jimmy Fund clinic. We had seats in one of the corporate boxes, which was really fun for all of us. Great seats, and free greasy chicken tenders and crappy pizza for everyone!

But during halftime the patient kids and only the patient kids (meaning, kids who are patients, not kids who are good at waiting, because that wouldn’t necessarily be Clio…) plus one parent got to go down on the court to high-five the players.

We knew this ahead of time, and told Elsa so she wouldn’t be too disappointed when the time came. I braced myself for a big scene. But to my immense surprise and relief she just said, “Yeah, that’s OK. It makes sense since she’s the patient.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Girl

February 19th, 2014

I dropped the girls off at their February vacation day camp yesterday, and at first Clio didn’t want to take her (winter) hat off.

It took me by surprise. She hardly ever wears a hat indoors anymore, and has enough hair now that it *almost* looks like she just has short hair on purpose. But you don’t see that many girls her age with very short hair. I remember being Clio’s age or a little younger and hating the short hair cut my mom had given me, because I was the only girl in my class who didn’t have long hair:




I can understand, though, why Clio was self-conscious. Going to camp was a completely new situation, with a new group of kids and teachers. Last month when Alastair took the girls to their first class at a theater program they’re doing, she didn’t want to take her hat off at first either.

She wouldn’t take the hat off yesterday until I explained to the teacher why her hair was short.* And then she did. Maybe she was more worried about the teachers’ reaction than the other kids’. Or maybe she just wanted to make sure the teachers had the backstory in case any of the kids stared or made her uncomfortable.

(*When I explain the situation to people these days, I’m torn over whether or not to say Clio *has* leukemia. Because hopefully she doesn’t anymore. More often than not I say she’s being treated for leukemia. Not that it probably makes much difference to the average person.)

Last night, I asked Clio how it went without her hat at camp. “Well,” she said. “Two kids asked me if I was a boy or a girl. But one of them was just a little guy, so he doesn’t understand things.”

I’m amazed by her resilience and strength sometimes.

I’m also amazed when I think about how much her appearance has changed over the past year and a half, and how quickly we’ve adjusted to each new change. As it is with any sort of physical changes in people, you don’t really notice day by day or week by week. But when I go back and look at pictures, it’s kind of amazing: Read the rest of this entry »