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14 Nov

Little Wing

Dear Emilia,

Today, you are five.

This is both totally extraordinary, and utterly ordinary. Which of these it is varies from minute to minute: in one moment, I look at you and think, when did you become such a big girl? Where did that little baby go? Where has the time gone? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU ARE FIVE? In another, I look at you and I think, wasn’t it ever thus? Have you not always been this little girl, this little big girl, this here-and-now person who is so completely and utterly you that any other yous, all the previous yous, are almost unimaginable?

fall 2010 067 2That you are five and that you are you and that you become ever more you – ever more consistently you and ever more differently you – with every passing day is, for me, a joy for which I have no words. But it is also a sadness, an ongoing grief – a quiet grief, the kind that just hums, quietly, in the darker corners of my soul – and for it, too, I have no words. How do I describe the feeling of celebrating you and mourning you, all at once? Of the joy that I feel in your presence that thrums with a nagging sensation of loss? The complicated happiness that is loving the incomparable you that you are now and aching to discover the incomparable you that you will be tomorrow and missing the incomparable you that you were yesterday, last month, last year? The sweet sadness that comes with yearning to find out who you will become while clinging to the you that you were?

9 Nov

On Being A Good Mother, In Spite Of It All

Emilia 039Before Emilia was born, I had a very clear plan about what kind of mother I was going to be. I was going to carry her with me everywhere in designer slings, I was going to hand-blend my own organic baby food, I was going to shun pacifiers, I was going to teach her sign language before she was six months old, I was going to lose the baby weight before she was four months old, I was going to forbid any and all toys that were not hand-crafted by Swedish artisans from entering my house, I was going to swaddled her bottom only in cloth diapers hand-laundered in eco-friendly detergents, I was going breastfeed her until she was two, I was going to not let her watch television until she was three, I was going to clothe her only in garments woven from pure cotton by Tibetan monks or, at least, certified Disney-character free. I was going to be master of my maternal domain! I was going to be the very best mother ever, and nobody would be able to deny it!

Then Emilia was born. You know where this is going. There was a pacifier in her mouth before we wrapped her bottom in some Huggies Little Snugglers, bundled her in a Winnie-the-Pooh sleeper and took her home from the hospital.

4 Nov

One Word

her bad wordsThere really aren’t words to describe the awesome that was – that is – Blissdom Canada. Unless that word is, actually, AWESOME, in which case we’re off to a decent start.

We spoke a lot about words over the three days that we spent together, even in sessions that you might not have thought would draw heavily upon the verbal and the literal and the rhetorical. During the closing keynote panel, we discussed personal branding, and our opening keynote speaker’s assertion that we are, all of us, marketing ourselves all the time, and what words have to do with this. Every every time that you put yourself out in the world and participate in social life – he said – every time that you open your mouth (use your words!) or put your fingers on a keyboard (use your words!), you’re marketing yourself. You’re saying: oh, hey! This is who I am! I am THIS guy! I am THAT girl! Which is kind of a crazy way to think about social like and interpersonal relationships, but you know what? It’s kind of totally true. And so by the end of our two days, we wondered what that had to do with the totally over-used and amply abused idea of The Brand, especially in the context of One’s Personal Brand, as in, oh, hey! WHAT’S YOUR BRAND? as the latter-day equivalent of ‘what’s your sign,’ except much less obscure, and, perhaps, slightly creepier if misused.

blissdom canada rocks

The word you’re looking for here is ROCKSTAR.


At some point, I asked my co-panelists if they could summarize their ‘brand’ – which is to say, describe themselves as they see themselves putting those selves out into the world – in five words. “Do it in one!” someone shouted from the audience, and my co-panelists (the divine women that you can see in this video) nodded furiously and said yes, yes and I shook my head and insisted, into the microphone, that I couldn’t do it in one, and everyone shouted back, no, no: ONE WORD, and so I conceded and asked my co-panelists: “what’s your one word?”

2 Nov

To Dwell In Unapproachable Light

dante-paradisoToday is All Soul’s Day, or the Feast Of All Souls, which is a name that terrified me as a child, because I imagined that it referred to a sort of buffet of ghosts, which, really, is a discomfiting idea at any age. But it’s not a ghost buffet, thankfully (or regrettably, depending on how dark your interests skew): for Catholics, it’s the rite of The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, which means, basically, it’s the rite of remembering and praying for those we love who have passed and who have not yet – yet – reached what Catholics call the Church Triumphant (Heaven) and the ‘beatific vision’ of God. It follows All Saint’s Day, which celebrates the souls of the just who have reached the Church Triumphant and are, presumably, getting down with some celestial karaoke and partying with the Lord.

This is one of the teachings of the Church that caused me to wander away, confused and frustrated.

13 Oct

On Freaks And Geeks And Princesses, And Why Lady Gaga Is More Like Jesus Than You Think

Last week, Emilia went to school in a Snow White costume. She wore it with striped leggings and her hot pink skate shoes, the ones with the sparkly laces, and also a baseball cap. “I’m not really a princess, Mommy,” she informed me, “I’m just pretending to be one, because I like this dress.” Which summarizes her approach to fashion more or less perfectly: the determining factor, for Emilia, in selecting any article of clothing – shirt, pants, shoes, underpants – is simply “I just like it.” How things fit, whether or not they match, whether or not they are in season: these considerations are irrelevant. All that matters, to Emilia, is whether or not each individual item of clothing appeals to Emilia’s unique and ever-changing tastes, and whether the resulting outfit reflects to her, as she puts it, her “own self.”

This is Emilia, then, as her “own self” (Sporty Pretend Princess Edition):

30 Sep

From A Distance

lesotho 2010 288I’ve been home, now, for a few of days, and I think – I think – that I’ve recovered from travel fatigue – 28 hours it took me to get home from Lesotho – and jet-lag and the brain fog that comes from traveling halfway around the world and back in less than a week. But I haven’t quite recovered from what I can only describe as soul-lag: the existential exhaustion that settles upon you when you’ve experienced something that changes you so profoundly that your psyche has trouble catching up to your transformed heart and soul.

I have soul lag. It’s getting in the way of writing anything meaningful or informative about everything that I saw, everything that I learned, everything that changed me last week. It’s clouding my mind and tangling my thoughts and every time that I sit down to write I am faced with a screen that demands, now, something better than before, something worthy of the stories that I heard and the stories that I was part of, and as I stare at that screen something inside me sags and crumples. I tell myself that it will all come, in time, as my heart and soul and psyche reconcile themselves to each other and to the clock of my here and now, and as I find the words to do those stories justice, but my self is not entirely convinced. My self is also not a very good listener, but that’s not really the problem here.