Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Round Two, School, Teens

the firsts of the lasts…

I didn’t have time to really think about the fact that tonight was my last parent-teacher conference, ever.

And to bring it full circle, the very last of tonight’s meetings was with with his collegiate sociology teacher who also happens to be his… father.

While more than a dozen years ago, his earliest conferences in preschool and kindergarten included me, his mother, as parent and teacher.

Posted in College, Nuts & Bolts, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Spring Break

At 22, he’ll still fight me over meal contributions (dishes & the like), and it is this ordinariness in which I most delight–this sharing of home–particularly now that he resides elsewhere; a fact my heart refuses to assimilate.


Posted in Borrowed Voices, Fragile Life, Mother to Crone, Takes a Village

guns & the mouth of babes

I wake in the night thinking about 17 lives, and I say to myself:

This is good, this waking.

My heart has not grown numb or too defeated.

It will continue to voice:



I wake in the morning, my heart aching, but I can’t remember why.

Am I sad about something? Worried? Is it something I ate?

Later, I come across my sister’s post about her pillow talk with my 5-year-old nephew…

…How did a guy with a gun even get in a school?

…When I go in in the morning, the door is just open, would a guy come in the morning?

…What are the new rules?

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Mother to Crone

Half-Mast for School Kids

In February, I found myself stuck in a chair, inside a building, listening to people talk at me for 7 hours a day.

When it was time to leave, they filled my arms with work that would eat away at what remained of the evening.

In encountering such violence (made more apparent in its stark contrast to self-employment), my heart went out to high schoolers everywhere, and thus when I later saw a group of angry-looking teenagers roaming the streets of the city, I understood.

On the second day of this three-day training, despite the holiday, there was no mention of LOVE, and so that when I returned to my hotel room, alone, I gave in to the novelty of television, discovering that a school shooting had just taken place in Florida.

What I wanted most to do in that moment was to embrace my own high schooler and keep him home from school for the rest of the week (or forever), but instead, I messaged him to be sure he opened the  chocolates I’d left behind, and then I got into a hot bath, and never opened my homework.

On the final day of training, there was no talk of the shooting, and yet just the thought of any high schoolers made it hard to breathe, and when one passed me in the parking lot at the end of the day, he looked me in the eyes and said with surprising warmth:

How’s it going?

And right there, with the sun high above us, and my satchel heavy on my shoulder, and the flag at half-mast, I almost cried.

Posted in Mother to Crone, Round Two, Teens

Empty Nest practice

We are practicing.

Our youngest works weekends this year (his last year at home)–

Friday nights.
And all day Saturday;

And so the house is quiet,
and we putter,
and it is mostly sweet.

I feel old.

Tonight we make boxed macaroni & cheese with canned tomatoes–a throwback to our early years before kids. Only now we skip the baked beans and add spinach.
(And it’s Annie’s, no more Kraft’s.)

The hardest part is eating without him.

Posted in Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

Ode to Winter & other passings

Once the weather grows cold we often prepare soup for breakfast. On Sunday, a butternut squash with mushrooms. To the small bowl he served himself, my son added not one but 4 pieces of buttered toast, dismissing my raised eyebrows by marveling over the invention of bread, “Who was the first to think of this,” he said, “It must have been life changing,” which left me marveling over the synchronicity of the poem of the day read by Garrison Keillor on the The Writer’s Almanac.

Bread and Butter

for Michael

I often wonder how people figured
things out—simple things like bread
and butter. How did the first person know
to grind and knead and bake,
to milk and skim and churn?
How did someone realize they could soak
olives in lye or let grape juice ferment
inside casks of oak? How, when
we first leaned toward each other,
did our tongues know to touch
before our brains knew
we were going to kiss at all?

“Bread and Butter” by Gayle Brandeis from The Selfless Bliss of the Body. © Finishing Line Press, 2017.

Breakfast bonus poem:


I’m scrambling an egg for my daughter.
“Why are you always whistling?” she asks.
“Because I’m happy.”
And it’s true,
Though it stuns me to say it aloud;
There was a time when I wouldn’t
Have seen it as my future.
It’s partly a matter
Of who is there to eat the egg:
The self fallen out of love with itself
Through the tedium of familiarity,
Or this little self,
So curious, so hungry,
Who emerged from the woman I love,
A woman who loves me in a way
I’ve come to think I deserve,
Now that it arrives from outside me.
Everything changes, we’re told,
And now the changes are everywhere:
The house with its morning light
That fills me like a revelation,
The yard with its trees
That cast a bit more shade each summer,
The love of a woman
That both is and isn’t confounding,
And the love
Of this clamor of questions at my waist.
Clamor of questions,
You clamor of answers,
Here’s your egg.

“Egg” by C.G. Hanzlicek from Against Dreaming. © University of Missouri Press, 1994.

(RIP Writers Almanac)

Posted in Mother to Crone, Twenty-something

Winter Break Reflections

(December 27, 2017)

With our oldest, 22, home for the long break (for the first time in years), the house is once again, and even more fully, tipped toward youth, toward late nights of conversation, music-making, meal-making, movie streaming, not to mention heavy footsteps up and down the stairs outside my bedroom door (my bed vibrating like a drum) and something else–door latches (like gunshot) ever so charming when we first built the house and little hands had no need of closed doors.

Thus despite the luxury of vacation, I am walking around with deepening circles under my eyes, not only from riding youth’s current well past my bedtime, and from the gap between my sleep and theirs, but also from waking in the middle of the night–to silence–to a house full of breathing bodies–who once shared the same bed–and then waking again, long before dawn, for no reason at all, unable to do anything but rise in the dark, seeking light.

Sleep deprivation is my Achilles heel.
My glass half-empty.

Trees laden with ice are transformed from beauties to omens, particularly if my sons are on the road; while the harsh, dry cold, echoes in my aging bones, and the sunless days accentuate my fear of all the ways the world is ending.

I am newly menopausal. Does that explain the fear and the ugliness creeping in–a kind I haven’t felt since I lost the babies and looked upon pregnant women in the same way—resenting them like I find myself resenting youth–for all the ways life seems infinitely stretched ahead of them–while mine is doomed to end–and something else–my house now full, in another week, will empty, eventually completely, and don’t I resent that too–the way I gave so much–my entire body, my career, all sense of a separate self–only to be abandoned, even while the work I do in the world necessitates more and more of just that.

Which is to say that after a dozen days, I’ve adapted! Last night, I didn’t wake at all, and not only that, when I did wake, the jeweled promise of a new day was pulsing through the trees.


Let them have their youth, sleeping away perfectly bright mornings, and let them have their long lives ahead of them, so full of that which I couldn’t bear to hold again; while I have the ripening pleasure of turning toward the simplicity of getting to know—just me–again.


“I think I might be dead soon,” I said, as my sons tucked me into bed last night.

“WHY?” they asked in unison, surprisingly alarmed at the passing of one who seems so irrelevant to them except as an institution of familiarity and return. (I am jealous as a mother in ways I never recall as a girlfriend.)

“Because look around,” I said, pointing to my baby blankets in the tiny rocking chair that belonged to me as a girl, and then to the rug and the comforter and the curtains and my favorite sweater. “Everything around me has begun to match the blankets into which I was born.”

They smile, simultaneously. “You’re not dying,” the oldest said.

“You’re being born again,” said the youngest, “As a crone.”

I smile then too, recalling the framed print of a raven that he placed under the tree.

“It’s the symbol of the Crone!” he said, “I researched it.”

His older brother presented me with a pair of regal earrings in silver and amethyst and moonstone. He leaves in a week for Istanbul. Toward a new love.

And now I recall another surprising ugliness I felt, toward him, when he first returned home from college a handful of years ago. I hadn’t known I felt it until my therapist pointed it out. I hadn’t believed it at first, couldn’t imagine it possible, especially since I had given my life to provide that which was lost to me, and especially how astoundingly grateful I was that he could spread his wings with the promise of a home upon which he could return.

But there it was. I resented my own child for having that which I gave him because I hadn’t had it myself.

“It is my firm conviction that human nature is essentially compassionate and gentle,” writes the Dalai Lama. “Anger, violence, and aggression may arise, but on a secondary or more superficial level; in a sense, they arise when we are frustrated in our efforts to achieve love and affection.”

I withhold love in fear of losing it and I create barriers against love to protect myself from the inevitable loss of everything I hold dear, including the precious gift of my own life.

So there you have it. This is what a full night sleep brings. Take it or leave it.