i've had a lot of homes in my life. but when i say "my hometown," this will always be peoria. grandmothers live there and groups of cousins, the screen porch and grandma o's china collection, cabinets full of antique mementos of a life and past worth displaying. i think of the woodpecker—both with dad as a seven year old, awed at the daring height, and again as a married woman in her 30's, showing off the view to her new husband. i think of christmas eve's and church on sunday, riding bikes criss-cross around the familiar neighborhoods. i remember climbing the treacherous staircase to the top of pat's warehouse downtown, the best view for the fireworks over the river on the fourth of july. there are riverboats and steamboat days and the gus macker basketball tournament: filling the streets downtown with boys in long shorts and matching jersey tanks.

peoria is my grandma's stuffing on thanksgiving, her china dish on the oversized hutch and sneaking sugar cubes. a dozen of tins of christmas cookies and her famous egg salad on doll-sized pepperidge farm bread. peoria is sneaking out with my girlfriends to TP the neighbors house, flying millard's plane, and mowing the lawn on that horrible riding lawn mower on sheridan road. i remember learning to drive in the richwoods highschool parking lot; josh teaching me to drive stick shift in that old rabbit convertible. the easter egg, parties in the basement, beer cans hiding amongst the shelves of cabbage patch dolls. i remember toys-r-us when my name came up on the waiting list the day the doll arrived. my teal-painted furniture—refreshed from the antique streaked blue of my mother's youth. the bubblegum carpet in my bedroom, the aquarium, and the hermit crab in the glass bowl on top of my dresser. peoria will always be swimming: willow knolls, the YMCA, lifeguarding at the park district. standing outside the fire on the way to lakeview with jamie.


this man

it took this man to allow the tough shell to begin to crack. to invite my soul out from the shadows. to clear away the dust and debris, to polish off the rust, and allow me to shine.


the pool

the sounds of children laughing and lifeguard whistles punctuate the view. the hot concrete under our bare feet—the stubbed toes and cool first aid cream to soothe them. i picture the scene in preparation for a swim meet, the lane lines being pulled across the deck like wide snakes, swirling toward the water, bobbing faithfully at the surface to guide our lithe bodies the length of the pool. the turquoise paint chipping from the worn wooden blocks, poised at the edge of the starting line—awaiting the small feet that will perch atop as a baby robin on the rim of the nest. the throb of the gunshot in my ears as i dive out into the warm embrace of the chlorinated bath. the faint cheers and shouts of Tom the Dog. his athletic socks barely visible as i near the opposite end, his arm pinwheeling in a motion only meant to suggest "go faster!" i cannot identify the girls on either side of me, i am only focused on the finish line. my bullseye, looming closer with each frantic kick. my hand smacks the wall with a force reserved for bad children when daddy gets home. it stings slightly as i dart my head above the surface to survey the finish. clear. both sides free from bobbing heads and outstretched hands. i am the winner.


my story

there have been multiple times over the years when it became clear that i wanted to write a memoir. the first was as clear as the michigan lakes, i could see straight to the bottom of it, everything laid out in front of me. and this is strange because i cannot remember anything from that period in my life. i was sitting on mom's cool leather couch on a houston summer morning and began recording a timeline of events for every day following my sister jamie's death. in my heart i knew that these details would prove invaluable when finishing the book i was destined to write.

i recall the subsequent mornings, wrapped in a blanket against the chill of the air conditioner, noting the events of the previous day and pouring my anger and sadness onto the clean sheets. following the funeral this tradition continued, though becoming more sporadic –evenings spent scribbling drunken entries into that old blue spiral notebook until i couldn't see through my tears.

the second time was during that workshop at the hospital, when for a few hours each week i could fulfill my dream of being a writer. the day i presented my short story to the room full of doctors and nursing assistants, i was as sure of anything in my life that i would write my story. the support from my classmates was overwhelming, insisting that my story was only a chapter in a much more important book.

all of these hints culminated when i ran across the posting for natalie goldberg's writing workshop focused on memoir. it was as if i had followed the trail markers, cautiously navigating the well-worn path and arriving at a clearing. in the open field i found all of the authors before me, smiling with an invitation to their private celebration. it was as if they had known i was coming, but it was me who had forgotten the location. writing had slowly crept back into my life like a child under the covers in a storm.

after the workshop ended i could envision my own heart flowing out onto the page, my truth exposed naked in the sunshine. i could feel the power of my pain, cracked open wide and bleeding with my readers at the bedside. to acknowledge my despair, the hopelessness, the filth that lies at the bottom of grief. and the sweetness that comes with surviving it.

it is true: we are stronger than we can ever imagine in the face of tragedy. we are more powerful that we ever thought possible. as humans, we are resilient – we are destined to learn the nature of our existence through incomprehensible means.



p.s. this is my new backyard

truth be told, i had to google the word after reading the critique. my teacher for the first writing workshop i ever attended referred to my narrative as "a little reticent." this was in early 2010 while i was still yearning to become a writer, to stop talking about the book and actually get my pen moving. i'm currently reworking the story to submit for an online publication and excited to see how much my writing has changed over the past 12 months.

and you know what? she was right. i was restrained, i didn't reveal my thoughts or feelings readily (dictionary.com). it has been a problem all my life...and not just in my writing. my therapist referred to this phenomenon  as my "frozen feelings" and charged them with my resulting panic attack. but it was hard to open up, to say what i truly felt and not what i thought someone expected me to say. a year of self-reflection through this space has showed me that this was definitely true. it felt uncomfortable at times to be honest with myself, but i persevered. i did so in the name of authenticity.

i posted a piece of my writing last post and promised to start adding more of my daily musings. but i didn't. weeks elapsed and finally i decided to flip through the old journal and pull from its scribblings. it seemed that once i typed it onto the screen, i was disenchanted. it didn't feel how i wanted it to feel. i closed the document and avoided my blog as a result. but today i opened it again and felt the power of my own words...it's true what they say about letting your writing sit and coming back to it.

so, that's what i'm going to do. tomorrow i will post that entry i struggled with. and today i will spend the afternoon perusing my notebooks and picking some entries which are authentically non-reticent. because that is what this blog is about...overcoming the fear of being truly myself and celebrating the joy of this crazy beautiful life.  here.we.go.


a place i haven’t lived…

milos, greece. but i will someday. i wanted to pretend i lived there during those seven glorious days. pretend that i was european and glamorous and could stay forever taking pictures and making art. but i haven’t lived in one of those dusty stucco houses nestled in the hills, the white gleaming like ivory against the mediterranean landscape. i haven’t woken up with the view of the ocean twinkling below my perch in the hills, with a church to the east and another to the west. i have not received mail or prepared a meal, nor have i taken out the trash.

but in my dreams i am there. in an airy studio with native tunes floating out of an old radio and a breeze that could melt your heart. i have dishes and a garbage can and a flowy ink pen to send airmail messages across the sea. in milos, i am an artist. i am a writer—a famous american writer—with her rabbi husband, the quirky couple who ride their bikes across the island and skinny dip late at night off the pier. i am fulfilling a lifelong dream, to live in a place where i first realized true beauty, where life is simple and safe and inspired.

i have not lived on a tiny island in the aegean sea, with a restaurant in the fishing village that serves grilled calamari so good you’d spend all day on a dirty fishing boat with two stinky men, just to have seconds. an island with secret places to explore, mountains to climb, sparkling oceans to swim. with more sandy beaches than any of her sisters lining the path to athens. a magical place where australian expats throw pottery and open their studios to curious travelers. and the sand artist who works by lamplight, late into the night as tourists admire his intricate handiwork. where greek yogurt is just yogurt and is served with the sweetest honey bees have ever created. and when they dance around the table amongst the teacups and thinly sliced provolone, they are welcome breakfast guests.

in my dreams, the living room opens onto a wide terrace where we take our meals. fresh tomatoes and feta and sweet onions join the rustic bread basket and crisp white wine on the tablecloth. here, i am home.

i haven't put a lot of my writing here on the blog....which doesn't really make sense because the whole point of this blog was for me to improve my writing.  the above piece was sent to the writing group i met at kripalu in november.  we have committed to doing a monthly submission to each other...mostly as a way to stay connected across the country. 

i have been doing an almost daily writing practice, using prompts from my natalie goldberg book old friend from far away. this prompt came from the book, which is full of things to get me going on my memoir.  hopefully i'll be posting a lot more in the weeks to come...i quit my job at the hospital (finally!) and will be moving to the beach full-time.  i'm so excited for my new life i can hardly stand it.  i'll be sure to post about all the changes soon.