Because I know you want more cute kiddo photos, less "Deep Thoughts by Suzanne Nahay". Nothings says "Joy!" like the smile on Beck's face in some of these photos.
(above) High-fives to "HoHo" (his visit an annual tradition at the Gehret Family Christmas Party, which is held in the church basement because there are just shy of a million people in our family. Truly, it's so fun for all!). Hanging with Uncle Grant and his sweet girlfriend, Rebecca.
And tonight, on the piano, the one, the only, Beck Nahay.
Then... 'Twas the night before Christmas.
We took a spoonful of dirt from the flower beds because Beck insisted reindeer eat dirt, not carrots.
...and they apparently enjoy dog bones, too. Delicious bone for Rudolph courtesy of Sebastian.
Not your everyday cookies and milk: A green rocket in honor of my high school alma mater, of course, along with dark chocolate shortbread stars from Trader Joe's and some delicious soy milk. The note to Santa included one final plea for Beck's only wish: a "blue Mater" truck from the movie Cars. (see next photo)
This Christmas Day - one we'll never forget.
Ours was a happy little Christmas cottage, bursting at the seams with people, laughter, robots, puppies and good food (oh wait, the latter made ME burst at the seams).
but in her belly's globe that desert night the earth's
full burden swayed.
- From DESCENDING THEOLOGY: THE NATIVITY by Mary Karr
After a day full of noise -- the big, banging, beautiful noise of paper tearing, cars vrooming, blocks crashing, timers beeping, toddlers taunting and friends & family laughing -- the house is quiet. Save for the television and low grunts of the football players and occasional roars of the crowd gathered 'round, shivering and shaking against the biting night air.
I am filled with food and drink and the yearning for sleep. I am filled with gratitude. I am filled with pure, peaceful joy.
The spirit of Christmas has come upon me in so many ways this year. Through celebrations and connections with friends, old and new. In books, poetry and music. Through a renewed relationship with God and church, one that is quiet and intense, joyful and inspiring.
And through the constant love of -- and for -- husband and son. Today and everyday. What joy they give me. Our day has ended as it began. Quiet. Just the three of us. Hugging and laughing, telling stories and dreaming about what will come tomorrow.
Christmas Day may be flickering at its end, but my, the memories of my sweet son's third Christmas will endure. Photos will follow soon. Cannot wait to share the joy with you. Merry Christmas.
Since I'd elected not to attend any of the orientation or meet-and-greet sessions at my writers’ retreat this weekend, when I finally decided—three-fourths of the way in—to attend a scheduled Q&A session, I happened upon an empty meeting room. The group had apparently changed the schedule at some point, and I'd had no way of knowing. A blessing in disguise, though?
I ended up sitting alone in the pale pink-walled reading room of the café and artists’ studio at Scarritt-Bennett, which is a beautiful old campus nestled smack dab in the middle of Nashville. In the middle of a city blanketed with friends and acquaintances and people I recognize around almost every corner. But there, in that solitary space, I was alone and anonymous.
Away from my computer but still inclined to write, here is what I recorded in my notebook as I sat in that space:
A man is playing piano in the next room. Just as I was sketching out the last five chapters of my book, the music started and my eyes welled with tears. Such a perfect sound, the piano played well.
I feel God in here today.
I just stood at the front window for a few minutes, holding my white coffee mug with both hands, looking out at the old stone and brick buildings across the way, the hand-painted multi-colored rocking chairs on the front porch just outside the window and at the bright crimson berries covering the shrub just beyond. The sky above is the lightest of blues, and suspended in it is a bright white sun.
The air is cold. But clean. Crisp.
And there is solitude. A solitude I embrace despite the occasional discomfort.
At times I am tempted to run to my car, drive straight home to Beckett, lift him from his nap and hold him tight for the remainder of the day.
But I stay. I feel the gift of this solitude and this time and space in which to write. It is a gift from God. Supported by Matt. Made possible by our moms (who chipped in for the registration fee as an early Christmas surprise). And today I was bolstered by words from my dad, in a simple text message that said “You were born to write.”
I don’t know if that is true, but I do know I’d not feel fully alive if I didn’t write. So that’s why I’ve locked myself up in a 10’ x 10’ room with nothing but a bed, desk and computer. I’ve got to finish this book. And I hope I get to say that about another book and another. But one at a time, right?
Yes, this one first. Now at a little over 26,000 words. A leap from the 9,000 I had in September. Eight of fifteen (I think) chapters complete. I may even finish this before my August deadline. I hope so. Then I’ll have more time to plan and save for that precious reward.
Mm hmm... I see London. I see France. Indeed, I do. I’ve got my mind set on you.
Here's wishing you the gift of space, time & solitude, to do with which whatever you need, whatever you dream.
Today would have been my little brother Matthew’s 30th birthday. I last saw him on another milestone birthday. His 21st. He died only two weeks later.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ll share with you some of the things I loved most about him. Those things he brought to our lives that I’ll be forever thankful for.
His goofy, infectious laugh. It rolled from deep within his belly and made his nose crinkle and his shoulders shake.
His playful spirit and sense of fairness… always kind to little kids (ok, except when beating up on his little – and big – sisters), inclusive of new people and searching for friends.
And, on the other hand, his serious, thoughtful disposition. He liked to play grown-up. Even as a teenager, he liked to talk politics, to eat at 4-star restaurants, to linger at the dining room table with the adults after Thanksgiving dinner.
His trust in me to give him advice, to keep his secrets, to share his joy and his disappointment.
His handsome face, his lightning-fast feet, his sharp mind and his big arms that really knew how to give a hug.
And, of course, the millions of moments we shared as big sis and little brother. I can’t recall them all here, on this page… but I’ll be dwelling on them all today as I travel the long road north with my other beloved Matthews – husband and son – to the land of the Hoosiers. My birthplace, and his. Where we celebrated many holidays and regular days, happy ones and sad.
I hope this Thanksgiving is a happy one for you all, blessed with the celebratory spirit of gratitude for precious time spent with family, friends and loved ones.
I am thankful for reminders – sometimes gentle, sometimes bold, sometimes funny, sometimes sad – that my son is a little human being who needs not just love and discipline, but room to run, be wild, be free. That he will fall down. And then learn to get up. That he will get confused and not understand. And then raise his hand to ask for help. That he will roam far and away. And then discover and grow and become who he is. (And hopefully miss me terribly.)
I took some time last night to think about growing up in Anna, Ohio, where we walked several blocks to school unsupervised. Only once did our parents seem to reconsider this, for the couple of weeks following the murder of the 40-something female attendant at the Gas America a mile or so down the road from our K-12 school.
Where, as young teen girls, my best friends and I rode our bikes for miles and miles down back country roads. No cell phones. No houses within shouting distance.
Where adolescent boys drove their daddies’ pick-ups from farm to field and parents tended not to lose their minds if we had real Pop Tarts and 2% store brand milk for a bedtime snack while we watched Beverly Hills 90210 before we were yet in high school ourselves.
Did our parents live in fear of our getting fat or pregnant or kidnapped or killed? Maybe, but I don’t think they were consumed by fear in the way so many parents seem to be today. Did we get to experience a little danger and eat a little too much sugar? Yes. We experienced fear and bellyaches – and of course heartache. But we also learned how to look both ways before darting our bikes across the county highway and how to negotiate real life from fiction, how to face tragedy and loss and pull together with our neighbors. And how to drive a stick shift. Maybe at 16, maybe at 13…no matter. It’s a terribly useful skill regardless.
…a thoughtful husband who brings me home vegan pumpkin cookies from Fido.
…a trooper daddy who voluntarily takes Beckett to the Health Dept. at 7am on a Tuesday and stands in line for full hour for the H1N1 vaccine.
…a roommate who does the dishes so I can read to my little guy after dinner, who gives him a bath so I can take ten minutes to change out of my work clothes, who remembers to feed the dog twice a day, and who takes out the trash when he comes home on his lunch break.
…a best friend who compliments me every morning (and noon… and night).
(I could add many more to this list, but he’s waiting for me to watch our Thursday night shows together … now that we’ve tag-teamed through an hour of toddler bedtime kicking and screaming.)
I'm totally geeking out. (See previous post.) I bought one of the few copies of Lit at Borders during my lunch break, AND caught the second half of Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview with Mary Karr while driving there. Fascinating to hear her take on why her son has not yet read any of her memoirs. Just another consideration those who write about their own lives must wrestle with...
When I started unpacking my memory and sitting in the middle of it all day, I had the most bizarre experience – I’d write an hour and a half or two hours and then lie down on the floor of my study and sleep the sleep of the dead.
- Mary Karr, poet/author
I know this feeling. Writing your life can be physically painful and completely exhausting. As in, reducing-you-to-a-pile-of-nonsense-and-tears-in-the-middle-of-the-floor exhausting. Read Mary Karr's The Liars' Club, and you'll understand why.
How grateful I am, though, that writers like Karr give themselves over to it and endure the process. And how grateful I am that she's done it again! Tomorrow, she releases Lit, and today I send an advance "thank you!" to her and to HarperCollins. I have not been this excited about a book in, well, perhaps ever.
I predict I'll have it finished by the weekend. If her past works are any indication, Lit will be brutal and beautiful, heartbreaking and hilarious. I'll look forward to discussing it with any of you who heed my advice and get thee to your nearest bookseller bright and early tomorrow!
In gratitude for good lit, good friends, and good writing days that leave you in a heap on the floor,
We set aside one month each year for giving thanks. Of course books have been written and blank journals sold with the sole purpose of facilitating daily thanks. And many of us were taught to say prayers of thanks alongside our everyday pleas for mercy and acts of contrition.
I'll admit: I've bought the gratitude journals and occasionally send up long (long) lists of all I'm grateful for; however, I never maintain a regular pace, and it's always as if I'm trying to make up for lost time. The journals get buried after a few weeks (or days?). And my evening prayers too often get preempted by sleep.
So here, during this great month of Thanksgiving, I'll give daily thanks. To you and to him and to her... to whomever is listening. Maybe I'll finally extend an overdue "thank you" to someone I should have said it to a long time ago. Maybe I'll remind others of some thing or some person, some place or some gift they're happy to have received in this life. I hope so.
Nothing is more genuinely, peacefully satisfying that putting my nose into the top of Beckett’s freshly washed and dried hair and watching his million-miles-long lashes flutter to sleep as I recite a convoluted version of Goldilocks & the Three Bears.
I hope he someday knows that I felt this way even though I didn’t get to say “good morning” to him before running out the door to work at 7:30 today. Even though I didn’t take him to the park to play in the afternoon sun. Even though I didn’t get home in time to make him dinner, which means he had turkey sandwiches for both lunch AND dinner today (although Target plus Jersey Mike’s Subs has become something of a fun boys’ night out tradition for him and Matt).
At least I made it home in time to read books and to pretend that I was swimming in the “ocean” of our living room and to rock my big sweet boy to sleep. “My best friend,” he said, hugging my neck as I put on his PJs. I hope that is what he remembers about today. It’s definitely what I will remember.
(Ok, ok – that and hearing (live!) Vince Gill do “What You Give Away” and Martina McBride belt out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at lunch and watching Titans Coach Jeff Fisher strip down to a #18 Peyton Manning jersey.)
Beckett is spending this week with my family in Ohio. His Grandma Lisa, Grandpa Bill, his aunties and Uncle Grant. This has been a plan long in the making, and Matt and I are grateful to my family for wanting so badly to spend this one-on-one, quality time with Beckett. To make up for lost time, in a sense. To ensure that he not only knows the faces and names there, but that he builds meaningful relationships and lasting memories with them. And that he has a sense of the quality of life there – a quality forever engrained in me. One that’s centered around hard work, farming and the land, God, and community, family and friends.
In the meantime, Matt and I are having a little (pardon the term) “staycation” here in Nashville. We just couldn’t swing the little getaway to Chicago or New York like we’d hoped, and we still have to get up and go to work. But we do intend to enjoy some quiet quality time together. Our nine-year anniversary is tomorrow, and so we’ve declared the entire week a celebration of this quite impressive milestone (if I do say so myself).
Last night—the first of our nights without him—included a casual dinner at one of our old favorites, PM, a spot we used to walk to when we lived in the great little second story apartment on lovely Linden Avenue and I was a grad student at Belmont. Then we hit our favorite dessert spot, Fido, for cookies and coffee. I had a vegan Spicy Hot Chocolate cookie (cayenne pepper was the second ingredient!). Pure deliciousness as we sat at a sidewalk table in the slightly chilled October night air.
Then it was home for best-out-of-five rounds of Wii Tetris. I totally won. (A little fact about me: I’ve been highly skilled at and loved Tetris since junior high, when Matthew and I challenged each other to endless tournaments on our original Nintendo. Tournaments that usually ended with one of us trying to punch the other’s lights out while our little sisters looked on, dismayed…)
Tonight, just home from work on Day 2, we’re thinking about what to do. Looks like another night of restaurant dining. Probably a neighborhood joint – The Local Taco, perhaps? And no crayons! No wet wipes! No mysteriously sticky booster seats! Then it’s on to Rock & Roll Trivia at Mercy Lounge. I get to hang with Matt and Toddie and the boys, and hope that there’s at least one question about early 90s teen pop stars or 80s Chicago hits or movie soundtrack power ballads (see below). I really hope to contribute at least one right answer.
And somewhere in there, we’ll be sure to phone home to bid our little man sweet, sweet dreams. That is, if he’ll break away from banana splits and new puzzles and wrestling with Uncle Grant long enough to take our call.
Last weekend, we enjoyed a lovely family outing to Cheekwood's annual scarecrow exhibit. It was a perfect, sun-shiny Tennessee fall day. Beckett enjoyed running through the fields and exploring the wooded paths as much (or more) than the scarecrows. Matt and I simply enjoyed watching him, being together and taking pictures (here are several!).
Sad news from Conde Nast today. Two of my favorite magazines, Gourmet and Cookie, are folding. Interestingly, since I started this blog, I've been eyeing the September '08 issue of Gourmet that still sits on my shelf and thinking I should snap a photo of it to share with you because it is just so incredibly delicious.
This issue will serve as one of my trusted food guides when we travel to Paris next fall. And within its pages lives a challenge nearly as daunting as my novel: a Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Tart recipe. In Gourmet's singular words: "A triple layer of crumbly crust, a truffle-like interior, and an almost patent-leather-shiny glaze make this tart the chicest take on chocolate we've come across in a long time."
I left for work this morning knowing I’d be rushing home eleven hours later just in time to kiss my baby goodnight.
What I should have known was that eleven hours would turn into more than twelve. This is a rare occasion in my current work life, so I won’t complain. I was sad not to find my boy waiting for me at the front door though. Instead, here are a few of the things I did find when I stepped into my house and slipped off my heels.
A baby sleeping soundly … apparently after a few minutes of reassuring himself that “it not scary, it not scary.” (He woke up crying last night and reported bad dreams about a “mobot” [i.e. robot].)
A husband rushing down the stairs, ready to run out the door to defend his Rock ‘n Roll Trivia title and help cash in his team’s $100 bar tab prize.
Half of a Jersey Mike’s sub in the fridge. Necessary. The Pumpkin Spice Moonshine I sampled earlier was delicious, but not a suitable dinner.
In 33 years, I’ve lived in four states, nine towns, and twenty-five—count ‘em, 25—homes.
With all this wandering it’s no wonder my Grandma Jeanne called my brother and I her gypsies. Oh, how we wreaked havoc on the “M” page of so many address books. One scratched out entry after another. From Hogpath Road to Grand Avenue to Peachtree Street, I’ve lived in farmhouses, walk-up apartments, cottages and industrial lofts.
I’ve been in a little 1930s brick and stone bungalow on Utah Avenue for more than three years now. Almost a record! In fact, I’ve only lived in one of those other 24 homes for longer. Six years is my personal best. So this is progress. This is me making myself at home.
And I love it. Indeed, I love Nashville. I’ve been here for more than ten years now—minus a 4-month jaunt to Atlanta—and despite my occasional frustration with Tennessee politics and a certain air of Confederate nostalgia, I can’t imagine leaving. I’d consider New York City if The Daily Show or SNL wooed my husband (as they rightly should) or L.A. if Conan O’Brien came begging. Until then, this is home. And I’m thankful that this is so for many, many reasons. Here are a few – along with a few photos I snapped during my lunch break today.
- 70 degrees and sunny. Every day this week. I predict brilliantly happy people abound.
- I truly enjoy the eight-minute commute to my downtown office each morning.
- From hole-in-the-wall honky tonkin’ to blockbuster stadium shows, I get to on a regular basis see and hear more live music than I ever dreamt possible.
- The food (and drink). I devote way more of my meager income to good restaurants than a responsible adult should. But oh me, oh my – there’s some good eatin’ to be done in Nashville. I’ll share specifics in many posts to come.
- The friends and family who make Nashville home. After all, isn’t that what I learned as we blew from house to house, town to town in all these years past? It makes no matter what my bedroom looks like or how big my backyard is, so long as there are good friends at my kitchen table, neighbors gathered on the front porch and supportive family just a few miles (or a phone call) away.
- On that note – I’m less than six hours from my original home. While that often feels much too far away, I know on that a good day I can get there on one tank of gas. I can always make it just in time to celebrate a graduation, wish a happy birthday, cry at a wedding or hold a beautiful new baby.
9,213 words on the page. I wonder, how many until the book is written and the story is told?
I began a novel six year ago. After two years and only two polished chapters, I stopped. Walked away. Took jobs getting paid to teach others to write (and rewriting what they wrote), then writing press releases and brochure copy, speeches and letters to the editor.
Then I ushered into the world something more astounding than any novel. My son, Matthew Beckett. Named for his father and for my little brother. (And for a wild-haired Irish playwright.)
During those magnificent yet dry four years, though, the story of a girl and the brother she could not save stayed with me. It shifted shape, changed direction, welcomed new characters and bid farewell to others. Its heart and the truth became clearer. And now it’s begging me to let it go. Apparently it’s ready. And I believe I am too.
So I am back at the keyboard, six years since I typed the original first sentence: “She woke that morning sprawled across the bed, face down into the mascara-streaked white pillow.”
The new lead sentence is better. I think. Do you?
“This morning, I said a prayer.”
I do not know how far into this great wide world my story will go. My husband, Matt, says if he can read it by August 12, 2010 (my 33rd birthday), we’ll go to Paris and London to celebrate. He may be the only person to ever read it. And that may be just fine with me, so long as I have the chance to thank God it’s finished down on my knees under the cathedral ceilings of St. Paul’s or to spend an afternoon drinking Côtes du Rhône and eating brown bags full of fromage and baguettes along the banks of the Seine or to kiss Oscar Wilde’s grave. That may indeed be all the reward I need.
The Writing Mamas – an incredible group of writers and friends I eat, drink, share and workshop with every third Thursday of the month – will also be my readers, I hope. They’ve convinced me to start this blog, and most importantly, they’ve convinced me in the short time that I’ve known them that I was ready to return to my book. (Working title? See the title of this entry.)
So here I go. I’ll keep you posted here. And, since this is my first entry, I suppose I should let you know I’ll be using this space to keep you posted on lots of other things as well. All the things I carry with me. The people I love. Places I go. Memories I keep. Questions I ponder. The fashion, food, film and other finds I just can’t keep to myself. I hope you enjoy.
And I hope to post lots and lots of photos from across the pond one year from now.
Two-year-old Beckett often called out, "I hold you!" And no matter where I was standing -- empty-handed at his bedside or juggling grocery bags, a laptop bag, lunch box and preschool art in our driveway -- I could not refuse him. I loved his upside-down language. And I loved being able to grant his wish. To let him hold me.
Here I look forward to sharing snapshots of Beckett's young life with family and friends - and, someday, with him. I also look forward to exploring and sharing the other things in life that beckon me to pick them up, pay them attention, carry them with me wherever I go.