Archive for January, 2013

Strands of Moonlight

Thursday, January 31st, 2013


Lately, I have been waking in the night, something I never used to do. It’s a strange feeling, this coming to alert clarity in the watery dark of my bedroom. I discover things in the night that would otherwise remain cloaked.

I notice strands of moonlight seeping through the layer of snow on the skylights above my head. I hear, in this resounding silence, the soft steady breath of our dog on his bed beside us mingling in the air with the soft, slower sound of Jon’s breathing inside his chest, both muffled and amplified by his muscles and flesh and skin pressed against my ear.

I discover the tender fact that Jon holds my hand in his sleep. (more…)


Creative Synergy Mini Retreat

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Come join us for an afternoon of writing, yoga, and meditation, and get a taste of what you can expect on the Summer Solstice Retreat this June.

At Tula Yoga & Wellness Center in St. Paul

Saturday, February 23, 1:30 – 4

Light your creative fire and liberate your “fierce, original” voice and your deepest truths. You’ll love the surprising writing exercises drawn from the work of poet and master writing teacher Paul Matthews. Matthews uses playfulness as a portal to the profound, based on the wisdom that in silliness we make room for the soul to emerge. No matter your experience with writing—from published author to napkin scribbler—this workshop will lead your inner critic to disappear as you enter the realm of the unknown.  Yoga, meditation, and the power of pranayama (breath work) open you to your truest insights, while writing provides a container for this wisdom.

What to bring: yoga mat, comfortable clothing for movement and sitting, meditation pillow if desired, water bottle, hard-backed notebook, your favorite pen (or two)

Registration fee: $25

To reserve a space: call 612-244-0865 or email And please share this post with friends and neighbors! Maria and I hope to see you at Tula!


Fertile Ground

Sunday, January 27th, 2013


I remember my first flower garden, a thick batch of blooms grown from seeds sown in one ambitious spurt in the spring of my second pregnancy … and then left to their own devices all through the summer. I was twenty-three, married for two whole years already, and had never in my whole life had a real garden. My young husband and I had a one-year-old daughter in tow and had planted ourselves in a pretty old Victorian in a small town forty-five minutes out of Minneapolis, where he taught school. His days as a commuter were long, and my days at home with a baby were hectic in that perplexing slow-fast way that all mothers understand.

Suffice it to say my garden suffered from pathetic neglect, all under the watchful gaze of our easterly neighbor. Both of our next-door neighbors were master gardeners, as fate would have it, but the one to the west was kind, loved children, and leaned toward the abundant chaos of an English garden. Whereas the one to the east preferred all growth in tidy, well-manicured rows, and was affronted by her view of our scraggly side yard. She frequently and chirpily pointed out—from her vantage point in her own flourishing garden, watering hose suspended in her green-gloved hand, eyes shaded by wide-brimmed gardening hat—“Nature does tend to take over when left to its own devices, doesn’t it?” (more…)


Fear and the Search for Bird Island

Saturday, January 26th, 2013


Sleeping birds are vulnerable. This is why the lucky ones flock by the tens of thousands to roost for the night on the low, gnarled branches of the mangrove trees that flourish in the back bay waters of Estero Island, Florida, where I once spent a week with my husband Jon and our kids.

In these quiet, tidal waters, masses of entangled leaves, boughs, and trunks spring out of the sea itself—not a sliver of earth protrudes above the water. On the landless Bird Island, some fifteen thousand birds gather at dusk to nod off in peace. No ground, no predators. These birds are fearless for the night. How I envy those birds on Bird Island. The romance of it makes me shudder: What would my life look like if I erased all fear? 

Fear of failing, fear of wounding, fear of falling short.



On the Run

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

I’m off to Mexico again soon, interviewing kids who, years ago, received free cleft lip and palate surgeries from Smile Network International. I’m helping Smile with a book, and I’m sure it will be extraordinary to meet these individuals whose lives were changed dramatically by one simple act of kindness by strangers.

Meanwhile, Mexico brings back potent memories. I can’t believe it’s been 28 years since my first trip there. I planned it myself, secretly, with an atlas and a phone book, in the weeks before my sixteenth birthday. When the morning of the big day arrived, I skipped school and hopped an MTC to the Greyhound terminal. I had enough money for a one-way ticket to El Paso and $67 for food and sundries en route. I wore an unattractive light gray Members Only jacket and baggy jeans, and carried a purple tote bag with the word “Ciao!” embroidered on the small label. I had braces on my teeth and a genuinely traumatic hair-do leftover from a perm gone wrong at a discount beauty school. (more…)


Hands Above, Feet Below

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Sophie, my twenty-two-year-old daughter, moved to Florida yesterday. She graduated from college six months ago, and since then she has completed several graduate school applications (seeking an MFA in creative writing, go Sophie!), found an apartment, got herself a full-time writing job for a web development company, and otherwise managed a bunch of grown up tasks. I’m super damn proud of her and I’m going to miss her terribly. Not only is she the wittiest person I know, she’s also hell of a cleaner, for which I routinely fail to give her fair credit, and a highly reliable and karmically correct dog walker.

Sophie’s flight to Florida took off at 10:25 a.m. yesterday, and just a few hours later, I came across an old essay I wrote for her seventh birthday. It was originally published in Minnesota Parent in August 1997. It’s not Sophie’s birthday now, but still, the letter feels a little apropos to this current major milestone. So here it is again, some 15 and a half years after it was first published. (more…)


Parlor Games

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

When I was just getting started as a writer, I immediately took some risks. It wasn’t something I set out to do, it just came out that way. For example, I wrote an essay called “The Life and Times of My Breasts,” and sent it to Parents Magazine. It was about breastfeeding, but not the usual sort of thing you’d see in a mainstream magazine back in the early 1990s. I wrote openly about the horrors and humor of having my breasts swell up to the size of two Volkswagons in the earliest days at home with my firstborn, and how I tried to find relief naturally, according to the advice in one of my myriad tomes for new mothers, by stuffing raw cabbage leaves in my improbably gigantic nursing bra. No relief ensued, however. All that happened is that the leaves literally steamed and wilted from the heat of my painfully engorged, swollen, and feverish breasts, which, in unjust defiance, refused to shrink or soften despite the pungent stench of the softened cabbage.