Slowing Down

“If you’re having difficulty coming up with new ideas, then slow down. For me, slowing down has been a tremendous source of creativity. It has allowed me to open up — to know that there’s life under the earth and that I have to let it come through me in a new way. Creativity exists in the present moment. You can’t find it anywhere else.”

Natalie Goldberg

A dear friend once told me that happiness is about floating down the river of life. If in doubt, just float, he would encourage.

Lately though, the water has been choppy, and the idea of floating hasn’t been as appealing. So, I am trying to be more at peace with what life brings my way, and perhaps, through that openness, I will find the inspiration to write more consistently. Writing, for me, is both cathartic and creative. So, here is my commitment to…slowing down. Slowing down to see the stories right in front me, and not being afraid to write them down.

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open. ”

-Natalie Goldberg


Time Out for Baby Dolly

My three year old strolls into the kitchen, one arm swinging, gaze forward, saying in a nonchalant tone, “My baby dolly is in time out”. She walks toward her play kitchen, looking every bit like a mother set on cooking dinner, time outs be damned.

“Why is she in time out?” I ask, dicing carrots next to her. And with a shake of her head, disappointment clear in her voice and movements, “Because she said shit”. She looked up. I laughed. And because I didn’t believe it (baby dolly has always been so well behaved), I ask again, “What did she say?” With a twinge of annoyance, body still facing forward toward her pretend sink, she looks up very casually, “Shit, Mama. Baby dolly said shit.”

I am half-grinning as I try to explain exactly how naughty of a word that is. I am not at all articulate and finally ask, “Well, where did baby dolly learn that word?” Her response? “Daddy. When he’s driving.”

So, now we have a plastic baby who has a swearing problem, a comedian of a girl who tells this story often because it gets a chuckle every time, and a dada who–with a smile–denies ever having said such a word.

Stories Written in Hands

As I rocked L.E. to sleep for her afternoon nap, my eyes drifted from her face–chubby, rosy cheeks and long eyelashes reminiscent of her father’s–to the hands that grasped her shoulder. I was surprised that I almost did not recognize them. Wrinkles. Blotchiness. Scratches. Funky shaped nails. And best of all: blueberry stains on my fingertips. And I realized, they looked like the hands of a mother…

My own mother wore braces on her wrists to ward off the pain built from carpal tunnel. Long hours at the hospital and three young children at home seemed to be, quite literally, weighing on her. When I fast forward the years, I see her digging in the mud and planting flowers on a Sunday afternoon. She would wash off her dirt-caked hands at dusk and then get back to work, this time in the kitchen. Those hands would hold our own as we prayed and passed the potatoes. On the special occasions that my mom would drive me to school alone, she would reach across the console of her ford taurus and place her hand, open, palm face up. An invitation for me to let her in. In those moments, I felt nothing but love and complete security as we held hands, talked openly, and drove alongside cornfields. In the embraces with her as an adult, I am brought back to that same feeling.

My Grandma Lorrie was my pen pal until an unexpected fall took away her ability to write. Her handwriting was as graceful and elegant as she is. As with everything, she takes her time when she writes and her thoughtfulness shows in every thank you note and letter she has sent through the years. Her long fingers give way to perfectly-shaped nails, and her thin, delicate English-heritage skin reveals her healthy veins. Her talent lies in those hands–quilt-making, cooking, scrapbooking, and painting. When she tells a story, she creates a precise visual with her fingertips clicking as they come together. Even now, I long for more stories of hers at her kitchen table while we nibble her home cooked food.

When my mind settles on the last memory, I see my Grandma Ginny, G.G., sitting on her rocker and knitting, the quintessential image of a grandmother. I take comfort in that image because I always know what to expect with her. She taught me how to knit and type with those hands–always painted fingernails and long, thick fingertips that were always put to good use. When, I came to her third grade Sunday school class on the morning my great-grandmother passed away, a stream of tears began, and she immediately and gently lifted me while the other kids looked at me with confused and sympathetic looks. Her hands embody the comfort I felt in her presence as a child.

So, if I have learned anything from my own mother and grandmothers, it is that through our own imperfections come stories of love, devotion, and care. Care to others and care to ourselves. I welcome the scratches accrued from a temper tantrum or the blueberry stains from breakfast because they all mean that I took part in this beautifully, messy thing called Life.