Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Birthday.

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.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I know I've done terribly at keeping up with my record of daily gratitude.  Maybe I can at least commit to daily posts on this ten-day countdown to Thanksgiving Day. 

So, today, amongst many, many other things, I am thankful that Beckett and I can share boots.

(Boot scootin' to Dinosaur Train our PJs Sunday morning.)

Seriously, I am thankful that he is so playful and funny. A gift from his daddy -- only encouraged by the fact that he can always count on getting a laugh from me.

(INSIDE a game at the bounce house bonanza we visited last weekend.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

We Love You So

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.)

These reminders come from good friends, professionals who have seen and heard it all, creative geniuses and, lest I forget, my own experience.

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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Days' (& Nine Years') Worth

How thankful I am for…

…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.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


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...

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Early Christmas Present

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,


With Thanks

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.