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Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Heart Shaped Pebble in a Parking Lot Full of Rocks

November and December are, by their very definition, months of reflection.

We're meant to ponder what we're thankful for-focus on what the holidays are truly about. We're meant to embrace kindness and love, and to tap into that thing that for most of the year, remains elusive-our own humanity.

But sometimes it harder than it should be.

Sometimes we remember that November is the month that our father died-that this is the first holiday season without our figurehead, our clan leader, our reason for celebrating in the first place.

Instead we as a culture declare the day after we're supposed to be our most thankful, Black Friday, and we start the first day of the Christmas season by celebrating commercialism instead. We want more for less and we want to be first in line, no matter how nasty and mean it may make us.

When my father died, nine years ago this month, it was hard to remember that the holidays weren't just about food, football, and shopping, but he managed to show us, and he continues to show us that we aren't alone. We can't hear his laugh or watch his belly shake like the famous fat man himself. We can't hug him or be encouraged by him (or enraged at him either.) We can't watch a grown man brought to tears by the reading of the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, but in his own way he lets us know he's near.

He sends us hearts.

Hearts in the oddest places. Our pancakes come out heart shaped or the reflection from sunlight hitting a piece of glass will show up on the wall in the shape of a heart. We'll see heart shaped knots of wood in furniture and in trees, in potato chips and the pepperoni on our pizza.

The last few months for me have felt like I tripped into an open grave, in the rain. I keep trying to climb out of the pit I've admittedly dug for myself, and the walls turn to mud in my hands. It seems like everytime I make a little progress I slip back down again.

I've been pretty discouraged. I've complained about my job, I've complained about my life. I've complained about missed oppurtunities, even as I stand on the corner and wave as they pass me by.

But it's days like today, a day as normal and bland as any other, where I cleaned my house with my husband and we played with our son, to remind me that it's not always the big moments, it's not always the weddings and births and celebrations that matter.

Sometimes it's just a hand to hold- a shoulder to lean on- a smile from a stranger- that's what we live for-that makes life living.

So here's what I'm I'm thankful for this holiday season.

I'm thankful for a good book.

A well written poem.

I'm thankful that I'm a woman. Because being a woman sometimes means that you're sick for months at a time and tired and cranky and tearful and sometimes whiny. But I'm thankful that I'm a woman because it means I'm strong enough to create life- and then nurture that life with love and laughter.

I'm thankful that I have a home and that it's more than just brick and mortar.

I'm thankful for friends and family- even the ones who aren't here physically but whose spirit does surround us. Even if somedays their spirit isn't enough, I'm thankful that today it is.

I'm thankful for heart shaped pebbles in a parking lot full of rocks and red birds that sit in your driveway and wait patiently while you scurry around her in preparation for a funeral.

And above all else- I'm thankful for oppurtunity (and for those who give their lives for us to take it.)

I'm thankful for an unspoken thought that suddenly becomes a dream, that a dream can take root and become reality, and that that possibility -even if it remains unfullfilled-means that there is never too far to fall before you pick yourself up again and move forward.

I'm thankful that there is no better time than the closing of one year, to remind us that there is always a new beginning, a new chapter, a new oppurtunity to be human, to be happy, and to be thankful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beneath the Skin

So I'm having a strange week. A good week, but a strange one none the less. First off, my mom makes this comment. "I just finished reading this book by "insert best-selling author here" and I couldn't stop thinking that I wish you'd finish your book. You're so much better than he/she is."

Now I don't put too much stock in the comment since it came from my mother, but it gave me a little flutter in my stomach anyway.

Then Monday morning I wake up at 5am and Braden and Alex are tormenting me. For 2 hours they keep asking me questions. What if this, what if that? You know if you wrote this, this might happen.

Again I shrugged it off. See I haven't so much as doodled my name on a scratch piece of paper in months, and every time I see my notebook laying there, I kinda cringe, and truth be told get slightly nauseas. this could be due to the pregnancy, mind you, but I don't think so.

Then last night my husband gets a new TV, so he's busy putting it together. *Yawn*
So I grab a book that's been on my bookshelf for months. I have no idea who the author is (Nikki French) and I can't remember why I picked it up at the half priced bookstore in the first place, except perhaps that I liked the title (Beneath the Skin)

By page 3 I'm saying "wow", by page eleven the world around me has started to blur around the edges,I'm vaguely conscious of the fact that my husband is speaking to me, but the words are muffled as if I'm wearing earmuffs.

I'm in the story.

I'm standing on the streets of London watching a man and woman jumping off a moving bus. I can smell the smells of summer, and I can taste the cherries Zoe is eating. I hear the thud of the woman's head as she hits the pavement, can feel the thick sticky blood pouring out of her mouth, the broken tooth scraping my fingers.

For the next 419 pages I'll be walking the streets of London, being stalked by a madmen, and I'm going to love every minute.

So thank you Nikki French for getting under my skin. For making me want to study writing again, not just pass the time with a good book.

Opening Line Chapter One

"I wouldn't have been famous if it weren't for the watermelon."


"It was hot, but that may give you the wrong impression. It may make you think of the Mediterranean and deserted beaches and long drinks with colorful paper parasols dangling out of them. Nothing like that. The heat was like a big old smelly mangy greasy farty dying dog that had settled down on London at the beginning of June and hadn't moved for three horrible weeks."


"Normally the choice of books that I read to my class is dictated according to facist totalitarian principles imposed by the government, but this morning I'd rebelled just for once and read them a Brer Rabbit story I'd found in a cardboard box of battered childhood books when I'd cleared out my Dad's flat. I'd lingered over old school reports, letters written before I'd been born, tacky China ornaments that brought with them a flood of sentimental memories. I'd kept all the books because I thought one day I might have children myself and then I could read them the books that Mum had read to me before she had died and left it to Dad to tuck me into bed each night, and reading aloud just became another of those things that were lost, and so in my memory had become something precious and wonderful. Whenever I read aloud to kids there's a bit of me feels as if I've turned into a soft, blurred version of my mother;that I'm reading to the child I once was."

All in 15 pages.

That's what I'm talking about.