Pulling Teeth

As a teacher, I’ve had parents tell me, My child tells me everything that happens at school. They go through their entire day A-Z.

I’ve also had parents tell me the opposite, I have a child of very few words. It’s like pulling teeth to get something about their day.

I’m definitely yanking teeth with Pup, my seven year old. It’s a tricky art that I wish I didn’t have to learn or practice. I just want my kid to open up already.

Sometimes, I think he’s just tired. I get it, the school day is long. I don’t always feel like talking either. But other times, I worry there’s something more going on. He holds everything so damn tightly. Isn’t that lonely and exhausting?

It is for me.

I get a lot of rejects when I say to Pup, Tell me about your day.

MOM! He barks. You KNOW I HATE that question! His harsh answer always bites. I wonder if there will be a day when I just give up.

Today I rework the question a little. Tell me one good thing that happened today.

One good thing that happened is I finished my United States map. Weird, Pup actually sounds willing and little bit eager to share. One not so good thing that happened is no one wanted to play with me in the gym.

I’m shocked by this unprompted reveal. Do I dare pull for more information or do I put my pliers away? I can’t help myself, I want more teeth. Did you ask anyone if they wanted to play with you?

Sort of. I walked around the gym and shouted, Does anyone out there want to play with me? I squelch my giggle thinking of him hollering his open invitation. I squelch my heartbreak too. Why is it so scary for Pup to ask someone directly?

That does sound like a not so good part of the day, I say. We are quiet together for awhile. I decide not to give Pup any wise suggestions on how to find someone to play with. What I find myself wanting to say is that I know what it’s like to feel alone.

Mom, can I have a hug?

Of course you can. I kneel down and face him. My gosh, he’s still really little. Then I open my arms and do the only thing there is to do, wait.


Bigger Paper

Martin is annoying. There is no way around saying this thing.

I’m not going to feel bad for it either.

Martin is a 4th grade student and more than just an underdog in my mixed-age 4th-6th grade class.

He’s an outsider, an uninvited guest, a buttinsky.

Lately, Martin has been grabbing kids’ hats off their heads and running away with them at recess. One student said it wasn’t just hats, he had taken her squishy and disappeared with it.

The students will only tolerate so much of his behavior before they say things like:

“Move away from me!”

“Could you be anymore annoying?”

Martin is notorious for needing to hear things more than once.

There are times I have no compassion left to muster a calm response. I say things like:

“I will not have this conversation with you anymore!”

“Don’t think about asking me that again!”

Martin stirs up the snarliest version of me.

If this were a game, Martin would be winning. I break enough of the time.

“Martin is an excellent artist. Have you ever really looked at his drawings?” a sixth grade student asks.

“Sure, I’ve looked at them.” Martin corners me everyday with his drawings of wild, hideous creatures. I’m very familiar with them. In fact, I’m certain one of his creatures are based on me.

“Martin is still taking people’s things,” the student said. “It’s a real problem.”

There’s a pause. The student says,”But his drawings are good! You know what he said to me today that I liked? He said, I have all these ideas in my head I want to draw, but this paper just isn’t big enough to hold them all.”


I once said goodbye to a boy named Andy. He played guitar and wrote songs. Some of those songs were about me. They were love songs. When I listened to them, it was the first time I really understood how someone could know and love me. I felt embarrassed when Andy would sing them to me. Then Andy gave me a recording, so I could listen to the songs whenever I wanted to. Alone I held those songs so close, I’d breathe in every word of them.

The summer I was six, I learned how to ride my bike. My dad ran alongside me holding the back of my seat and yelling for me to pedal. I wanted so much to ride on my own. When I looked back and didn't see my dad's hand there, I wondered what it meant. Had I lost something? Where was my little girl self? Was she standing with my dad watching me ride away?

I wanted badly to have a second child even though having the first had been filled with challenges. Before having another one, I wanted things to get easier in our lives. I waited for a long time for things to get easier, but they never did. In fact, for awhile, they got worse. My persistent illness had become unmanageable. By the time I recovered, I knew I had to protect myself, which meant not having a baby. But the unbearable longing never really goes away.

My sister Jen called last night to tell me that she thought Reese's time had come. Initially, Reese had been my dog. Jen took Reese into her home when I started dating and later married, Josh, who has bad allergies. Jen sobbed while she told me how she thought Reese had suffered a stroke. Jen said she was having trouble walking and that her hind legs could be paralyzed. Reese is such a dear family member. Although, she is old and has had a remarkable life, we're hardly ready to say goodbye.

The writing challenge has had its ups and downs for me. It has been hard for me to write every day and to not take myself and my writing too seriously. However, with practice, I think I'm getting better at loosening up and posting crappy first drafts as Anne Lamott would say, which I think takes wonderful courage. I received some meaningful comments on my writing and read so many great slices. I'm hopeful that I can continue a daily writing practice even if it's only for 10 minutes. I'm grateful for having been apart of this community. 


A youth choir singer, Lutheran, believer,

a tomboy, a free spirit, forest trekker, tree climber,

a runner, reader, pianist, studier, procrastinator, English major,

a concert dancer, sound collector, a romantic,

a best friend, lover, giver, heartbreaker,

a loner, a misfit, a stranger,

a questioner, wanderer, dreamer, stargazer.


Before I was here at the kitchen table
thinking of something to write,
and getting tangled up with thoughts
of the moonlight filling in the shadows
of the back porch railing, 

and deciding to go exploring for the moon,
which wasn't at all hard to find,
as she was centerstage in the sky--
heavy and full and almost perfect
bathing the fields and shallow ponds
with her rich, silvery light.

Before I was here at the kitchen table
thinking of something to write, I was asleep, 
my son curled up next to me,
murmuring a dream.

What is Good

- tender morning light

- this quiet place to write 

- letting go of perfectionism

- my heavy clay coffee cup

- geese honking their return 

- soft-spoken daffodils

- new books from the library

- packing up to drive south

- wearing a favorite t-shirt

- time set aside for rest and play

Questions to Ask

Why do we stop asking so many questions?

Where do the tears that won't come out go?

Why does the sun come up on rainy days?

How do we take care of hate?

Why can't everybody be an artist?

What questions am I not asking?

Why do memories fade?

Why does loneliness come back?

Who decided on the colors of the rainbow?

How many chances do we miss?

Where can I find a friend?

The Cornfield

Some see shadows at the gates. 
Some see droplets of light 
tumbling in the dirt. 
Some see skittish, windswept leaves, 
Some see paths to adventures, 
games of Follow the Leader,
a chain of holding hands
maneuvering twists and turns. 
Some see the passages of time, 
summers of yesterday,
their childhood spirits calling out. 
Some see what it might be like to vanish.
Some see the last days of summer,
the striking contrast of green and blue,
the million golden fireworks.


As a child with dirt
plastered to my feet at
day's end, a blessing.

When I stop treading
these harsh waters, it
wasn't that I was drowning.

Sun taps at our window,
golden footprints traipse across
our kitchen floor.