Why I Don’t Write (Much) Anymore

Image taken from “The Seven Silly Eaters,” by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee

I want to write, but three in children in four years has tuckered me out.

Instead of words, there are toy horses hiding in the corner of my room mocking me, Will you let me sit here and stare at you while you think and ponder and write or will my presence so unnerve you that you are forced to return me to the third-floor playroom, and, in so doing, be distracted by half a dozen other things calling your name?

I let the horse sit and stare at me.

My days are filled with sorting toddler underwear and trade negotiations over favorite toys. (In the middle of writing this last sentence, the voice of my four-year-old trickles down the stairs, just as I’m settling in with my blanket, after a day of birthday shopping, writing for my paid job, toting children to and from school, lawn mowing, dish washing, and bath giving.)

“Mommy, you didn’t give me a goodnight kiss.”

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A Baby, a House Project, and Peace Toward Men

Our house was covered in dust when I went into labor.

It was two weeks before my due date and during the previous month, we had been living in a construction zone, pending a renovation of our kitchen and upstairs bathroom. Plastic draped our doorways, floors, and furniture. Every morning, I would spread a covering over the top of our bed and down the length of our dining room table table, each anticipating a fresh dusting of drywall before they would be unrolled for our evening rituals.

Three days after I found out I was dilated three centimeters, I was eating a pumpkin waffle and sensed a tingling on the right side of my tongue. Two days later, it felt as if the entire right side of my face was going numb. A stroke!? the frenzied side of me freaked. Instead, it was Bell’s Palsy, a somewhat rare virus that temporarily weakens the muscles on one side of the face and is three times as common in pregnant women. It would likely disappear in a few weeks, but in the meantime I was told to rush to an eye doctor to make sure there was no damage to my cornea, because, of course, I couldn’t close my eye now without the help of my hand. Also, the doctor recommended, maybe best not to keep living in the Dust Bowl of 2017.

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Answered in Scars

Sometimes it takes going to prison to get closer to the reasons behind life’s biggest “Why?”

I have always asked the “Why,” the one I wish I didn’t care so much about. The one you’re supposed to leave to mystery. The one that will drive you mad if you go at it too long. God, why do You allow—even perhaps ordain—evil things to happen?

I have heard stories of little girls abused at the hands of those who should be their protectors. I have met women who lost their children to the machetes of crazed neighbors. I know children who were chucked to the streets because of a system run by rulers who couldn’t find room for them.

Sometimes the “Why?” takes different forms, but often it comes back to this deeper question: God, are you good, really good?

Mostly He speaks to my soul that I must trust that He is. But sometimes He peels back the curtain and gives a merciful drop of respite in the land of faith. Less in an answer of explanation, but in an answer of His passion—pain and tears and scars.

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I Finally Did It!

I finally did it. I took the plunge. I ditched my desk job and wound up at my dining room table, joining the ranks of tens of millions of other Americans who earn a paycheck in their pajamas.

Some days it feels almost too good to be true. Other days, I’ll admit, I feel a tad lonely; but only when my newly adopted cat isn’t sitting at my feet begging for food or showering me with feline affection.

There are all sorts of decisions to be made when one launches out on their own as a full-time freelance writer (I still haven’t decided if that’s an oxymoron). Perhaps the most important being where to work, as in where to physically plop your rear.

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Ode to a World Iced Over

An icy place not in Indiana

Since we live in the Midwest and the center of last week’s arctic blast, we found ourselves “iced in” for two days. It was like being given permission to play hooky. Also to breathe.

And when you’re given permission to breathe–because the world’s iced over, and everyone else is too, and there’s nothing else to worry about–you do.

You sleep in, at least until 8. You watch the snow (or ice) fall and hold your cup of coffee closer. And you find yourself thinking about your heating bill in a new way. You also discover yourself viewing your outside stairs as as a small glacier to conquer.

And you get to do these things at random hours of the afternoon and don’t watch the clock. Not like the weekends, which are far too structured.

You have friends over–the kind who tend to live a few doors down. You play board games. You make food together–the good kind, with spinach and pork and seasoning.

But best of all, you can take a nap at any moment of the day, whenever you so choose. But of course you don’t feel like it, because you’re allowed to.

The world is better, sometimes, when its iced over.

Sixteen Days Till I Say “I Do”

(First posted on Common Grounds Online as “Nineteen Days Till I Say ‘I Do’ “)

My sister once told me that she had no idea when I’d get married (I’m sure my well-carved independence made many wonder if I ever would), but that when it did happen, it would go fast.

Still, this didn’t seem to reduce my sister’s confusion when–two days after I stepped off the plane from a three-month sabbatical in Australia–I announced to her that I was getting married. Had I been dating someone when I set off on my travels, it might not have seemed so ludicruous. But I hadn’t been. In fact, I decided to skip the whole dating part entirely.

It all began at the Starbucks on 96th Street somewhere during the spring of my senior year of college. Continue reading

Lessons from a Fruit Farm

Jak fruit at Cape Tribulation Farmstay

(First published on Common Grounds Online)

The air hung thick and damp on the back porch of Dawn’s exotic fruit farm on the northeast corner of Australia’s Daintree rainforest. I sat on a plastic chair, one foot crossed underneath me, the other dangling a flip flop above the concrete floor of the brightly colored bed and breakfast. I began to think about what this gracefully aging Australian woman with wayward hair had just told me.
 
“Americans live to work. Australians work to live.”
 
With just three weeks left on my 10-week sabbatical on the underside of the world, I began to wonder if these words were true, and if they should mean something to me.

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A Cultivated Life

(First published on Common Grounds Online)

In November I did what no thinking person would do in the middle of an economic crisis: I quit my job and traveled halfway around the world, to Australia.

I left behind a steady stream of income and a heap of security in the hope that I might find a little more freedom, creativity, and vision for the future. So, I jumped on a jet plane for a very long trip down south, where I would spend the next two and a half months connecting with old friends and rediscovering my Aussie side. (Quick interjection: I was born in Australia, but moved to the States when I was seven.)

Along the way, I picked up a thousand little lessons from those who have walked a few extra steps down life’s journey. Prominent among them was this concept of cultivating life.

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Nelligen

"Jackie"

When I found myself dripping water into a kookaburra’s (pronounced “cook-a-burra”) beak, I knew for sure that I had arrived in Australia. Not that I had any sizable doubt about the fact before, but I was learning that there are levels of “Australia-ness.”

There’s the “Look! There’s the Sydney Opera House. I can’t believe I’m in Australia!” level. Then there’s the level where you pat yourself on the back because you called the “trash can” the “rubbish bin.” But you know you have found the deeper Australia when you, first of all, know what a kookaburra is (just picture a strange cross between an owl, a woodpecker, and something that would appear in National Geographic) and give him a nickname (in this case, “Jackie”).

It was week 8 of my trip when I met “Jackie,” after having just stumbled into one of the most breathtakingly sleepy towns on the southern edge of New South Wales: Nelligen.

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Seasick on the Reef

Jessy and I (after getting off the boat)

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It was a delightfully relatable story about a little boy who went to sleep with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair. The rest of Alexander’s day continues in a series of unfortunate events of which he remains the victim. Throughout his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, Alexander repeatedly tells his mother that he wants to move to Australia, where, supposedly, nothing bad ever happens.

By the end of his day, Alexander’s mother tells him the unwanted truth: that some days are like that, even in Australia.

Last week, I discovered that Alexander’s mother wasn’t lying.

After three gorgeously touristy days in Sydney with my friend Jessy (who had flown all the way from Indiana to spend two weeks with me), the two of us were itching to get on the train and head north to Queensland, where we hoped to bask in sunshine, swim with Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef, and sweat in a rainforest.

The only trick was we had to catch the train first. Now for someone who has spent the past five years catching trains in a big city, I figured I had this one covered. And like any gracious friend, Jessy trusted me.

Our train was set to leave from Sydney’s Central terminal at 7:15 a.m. We did our homework and planned to catch the 6:37 local train from Epping (where I’d been staying for the past 10 days), arriving at Central at 7:05—not a lot, but just enough time to catch our coach. To our luck, we arrived at the station several minutes early, and found ourselves on the 6:33 train instead. Perfect!

 Not quite.

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