New Year, New Wrinkles

I’m still here. I’ve learned a lot in the past year. But I’ll just hit five highlights:

1. Eleven lines are coming for us all. But in my world, they’ve brought their tent, smore-making supplies, solar panels and camped out directly between my eyebrows. I’ve contemplated Botox, sure. But then I think to myself, “Hmmm… that would be the same cost as a new garden bed.” Garden beds are probably always going to win. Instead I got bangs like Goldie Hawn. Goldie knows about hair.

2. My children grew a lot. I didn’t authorize this speed-growing, but I wasn’t consulted. Jane goes to dances and sings in a choir now. What happened? She was just licking subway poles and wearing tutus. Now she almost looks me in the eye when we stand side by side. Gabriel decided this was going to be the year he talked, much to all of our relief and excitement. It turns out he’s been storing up a lot to say about anything with wheels, any food he doesn’t care for, or when I take the wrong turn on a walk and he holds his arm out like an old fashioned turn signal and says, “No, mama, we go dat way.”

3. I got married in December. His name is Charley. This house is a happy house. This is where I was meant to be. Every single step I took in the past 20 years led me right here to this house, with these children, married to the kindest man I know. I would do it all over in a heartbeat, even the sad parts, the brutal parts, the heartbreaking parts. All of those parts brought me home.

4. Work taught me a lot of lessons. Like if you don’t walk, your pants stop fitting. It seems like something I should have just KNOWN, but when work requires you to be glued to your computer 60 hours a week, you stop walking. And your pants stop fitting. So now I walk. Seems simple right? I also confiscated the dining room and made it into an office. If I’m going to spend long hours in a room, I want to be inspired. I don’t care what anyone says about electric fireplaces, they are the new-build’s best hygge friend. Also, the wall light is crooked, and now I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care about that.

5. You CAN wallpaper textured walls. Opalhouse Peel and Stick from Target… highly recommend.

So that’s it. Well, not all of it, but the highlights.

I’ll be back.

One Year Later

It’s been a year since I’ve been here.

A lot has happened.

I bought a lot of books I still haven’t read.

I wrote articles here and here.

The kids grew up and said cute things. Gabriel calls himself “Geo” and Jane told me I could start a TicTok account because, and I’m quoting directly here, “It’s been around for a long time, so anyone can use it now. Even old people.”

I found a couple of gray hairs.

Birds roosted on the patio lights by the front porch and created a Jackson Pollok pattern on the sidewalk that I don’t feel right about cleaning.

I love owning this house even if it does have a flighty HVAC system.

Jane asked if I was around for the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and if so, what was it like.

She also asked me if I knew that Abraham Lincoln was born in February too (my birth month) and then asked if it was the same year I was born.

Before anyone thinks I’m irritated with my soul-burning 10 year old, I’m not. She says things with a pure honesty that I love, and also in a direct way that hearkens back to the take-no-prisoners spirit of Sophia Patrillo. God knows she’ll need that in life.

And it is my birthday month. I’m solidly in my 40’s now. My newest hobby is trying perfume samples and then yelling “this stink has become one with my skin.” I am older. I am grateful. I’ve discovered the joys of bourbon in tea. I’m still alive.



When I sat next to Angela on a flight from St. Louis to Newark, I knew something was up.

I knew, because Angela had been gone for nine years.

I had an aisle seat that late December night. I was two months pregnant, nauseous, exhausted, and traveling alone, so I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings. The plane took off, they dimmed the cabin lights, and I settled in to get some sleep. As I turned my head, I glimpsed the profile of a woman sitting next to me and my heart stuttered. The profile of the woman next to me was the exact, and I mean genetic spitting image, of my friend Angela. My Angela, who had died from cancer nine years before.

I sat in the dimmed lights, breathing deeply and trying to settle my heart rate back to an acceptable level. The woman was asleep, and it was dark, and everyone else was either asleep or reading, and I discovered that if I turned my head just so, I could gaze at her undetected to my heart’s content. And I did. I never took my eyes off her.

The slope of her nose, the set of her eyebrows on her forehead, the way her eyes were closed tightly and determinately. Her nose, her chin… they were all the same. I knew Angela’s face better than my own, especially when she was sleeping. Before she died, I spent hours with her while she slept in the hospital, and then at the end as she slept in her home while the cancer finally took her over. I remember trying to memorize her face during a small family viewing before they cremated her, knowing that I would never set eyes on her beautiful face again.

And yet, here I was.

Rationally I knew it was not Angela. But emotionally the hairs on my arms were standing up, and tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I felt in my soul that my friend was paying me a visit. I felt that somehow in the realm of the cosmos, heaven, behind the veil, or whatever other term one uses for “the next world” was stretched thin at that moment. It felt like she was with me, her warm, wise, take no prisoners, suffer no fools, spirit washed over me and I could feel her, while I gazed lovingly at a replica of her face.

I sat there, thousands of feet above the world’s surface, in the dimmed cabin of a jet airplane, and thought, “Something is up. Something is happening. This must mean something.”

I used to be a woman who looked for meaning in everything. I believed that we received visitors from the great beyond. I believed that a fluttering leaf from the sky that landed at my feet in the shape of a heart meant something wonderful, that God was messaging me. I believed that when I prayed “help” into the world, an ever-loving God heard me. I used to be that woman. But years of heartbreak, loss, disappointment had stripped much of that away.

And yet on that night, in that plane, looking at the face of my dead friend, I knew absolutely that something was up. I just didn’t know what it was. So, I decided to consider it a blessing, a hello and a how-are-you from a woman I had loved with all my heart. That I still loved. That I would always love. I reconsidered the beliefs I had lost, the idea that maybe I should once again look for signs.  And I sat in the dark of that airplane and gazed at a stranger’s face and felt love in my heart for my friend, and maybe for that divine power I doubted.

When the plane landed, the cabin lights flooded back on, causing me to squint and avert my gaze because I didn’t want the poor woman to wake up and think she had a strange stalker staring at her. But I couldn’t help it, and I glanced back at her again. And that’s when I saw the woman looked nothing like Angela. She took her hat off and she had short blond hair, nothing like Angela’s brunette waves. When not in profile, her features weren’t nearly as refined, her nose was blocky, her eyes blue instead of green. It was as if Angela had shape shifted away.

Instead of feeling baffled, I quietly smiled and gathered my purse and got ready to get off the plane. Angela had been to visit me. And then she had gone back to wherever she’d come from. I felt warm and loved, and so happy to have seen her again.

A few days later the baby inside me died. Well, actually, if the doctor’s calculations were correct, the baby had died inside me around the same time I was riding next to Angela on that airplane.

It felt like a practical joke, a New Year’s Eve “just kidding” moment inside the ER as the clock struck midnight and all the nurses cheered and wished each other a happy year, welcoming 2018, and my baby was dead inside my stomach. I laid on a narrow hospital bed, in my hospital gown and looked down at my stubby haired legs I hadn’t shaved in a few days because of the pregnancy nausea and exhaustion. It felt like a joke because just two weeks before, coincidentally on the anniversary of Angela’s death, we had gone to the doctor and listened to his little heartbeat. I had even visited her old blog and left her a comment about it. It felt like the right thing to do, letting her know. Had that called her to me? In my mind, my baby was a boy, and very stubborn. Despite lower than normal HCG levels, he continued to grow and develop. He was determined, I’d felt it. I called him The Little Engine That Could because I just knew he would make it.

But he didn’t.

On the anniversary of Angela’s death, we got good news of Little Engine’s heartbeat. A week later Angela rode beside me in the airplane. A week after that, I said goodbye to my baby. I sat in the ER, listening to the drunk revelers coming in with sprained ankles and joking about dancing on tables, and cried my eyes out. I cried in a way I had never cried before, and listened to sounds coming out of my mouth I’d never heard before, mournful inhuman sounds I didn’t know I was capable of making.

I laid there with my hairy legs and ass hanging out of a worn gown and cried my heart out. I cried because I was 37 and everything felt too dark, too late, too old. I cried because I missed my friend and the wise words she would have been able to give me. I cried because I loved that little life and its heartbeat inside me so much. To everyone else, I’d lost a pregnancy. But to me, I’d lost a baby I already knew and loved.

I feel certain that there was no coincidence in the tangled timing of Angela’s death anniversary, baby heartbeats, and ghosts on a plane. All those signs were enmeshed in a way that I cannot possibly detangle, and I still can’t. It all had to happen to remind me that there are some things we will never, ever, understand. I had to go through all of it to be standing where I am today, home again in Arkansas, living in a house that feels like a hug, with my two happy babies. And lately Angela has been waving hello at me again, this time in less dramatic, smaller, private ways. I believe that in this life, if we’re lucky, we get more than one soul mate, and she will always be one of mine.

I like to think of Angela in the next life, loving the three babies I lost, but especially The Little Engine That Could. If anyone could appreciate a stubborn little spirit, it would be Angela. Maybe that’s just a silly fantastical story in my mind, but it comforts me. If there was anyone who would love my babies, it is her.

Signs are everywhere, and I don’t think we’re really ever meant to decipher all of them. Instead, I think we’re meant to be comforted in the knowledge that this isn’t all there is, that there are bigger things happening behind the scenes, and that the ones we love never really leave us.

Aunt Lib

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I decided to crack the door a bit and inspect the remnants of a place I walked away from a few years ago. Honestly, I’m here because Jane insisted I do this. She’s learning all about “blogs” at school, and now that she’s the google chromebook pro, she keeps asking, “WHEN are you going to write on your blog again? Blogs are cool.”

Bless her sweet nine year old heart. They’re really not. And I can’t tell her why I stopped writing here because she’s too little to hear that stuff. Because I was tired. Because my life wasn’t good and I couldn’t find the energy to string words together for fun. But life is better. Stringing together words doesn’t seem as silly as it once did. So I’ll dust off this little corner of the internets and see if I remember how to do this.

Instead of writing about me, I thought I’d write about my great-great Aunt Lib.

The oldest of a large hillbilly family from Tennessee, Lib ventured into life knowing two things:

  1. She wouldn’t be a stupid hillbilly.
  2. She wouldn’t have kids.

When she was growing up, she would cry when she found out her mother was pregnant again. Being the oldest of the brood, child raising fell heavily on her shoulders and likely influenced her “no children” stance. She liked to pick up quartz crystals off the ground and carry them in her pockets, pretending they were diamonds. She didn’t like being poor.

As an older woman, Lib always told every young woman who would listen (allegedly, because obvs, I wasn’t there), “Marry the one who loves you, not the one you love.” 

She wasn’t wrong.

Her marriage to “Uncle Billy” had been a rough one. He was a tortured artist of sorts, and had an open affair with a beautiful Cuban. He was notoriously serious, and apparently not much fun. It’s one thing to live with a human version of a wet blanket, but when you add in infidelity the plus sides evaporate completely.

One time she packed her bags, went to Florida, and ran a boarding house until Billy convinced her to come back to him. I wonder how often she regretted that decision. I wonder how often she looked back on that tiny pocket of her life by the ocean, where she was free of him, and free to be herself. I wonder if it filled her with wistful sadness that she didn’t hang on to it. Or maybe she was miserable and missed him.

In his later life Billy shot himself with deliberate plans for her to find his body (although he did make the effort of spreading newspaper underneath himself to reduce cleanup).

Lib’s love life was the envy of no one.

One could assume, based on the marital facts, that Lib was a bit of a pushover. A wuss. A beat down woman because she didn’t leave.

But, she was no pushover. She was basically hell on wheels. She touted Emily Post, but also took the liberty of blacking out the parts of the Bible she didn’t care for, literally, with a Sharpie. I once asked my mom if she thought of Lib as a grandmother and she said, “No, she was too scary.”

And yet. 

Despite all that backbone.

She stayed.

She stayed and preached to any woman who would listen, “Marry the one who loves you, not the one you love.” 

And that’s how she’s remembered.

I get a little overwhelmed by the sheer waste of it. She had an entire life and devoted it to a marriage that left her scarred and angry and if that statement is any idicator, more than a little bitter.

What a waste. What could have been. What could she have seen and felt and accomplished otherwise? What hidden attic rooms in her life sat under dust, filled with gorgeous windows and comfortable furniture, never used. Never experienced.

What a terrible bookend to a lifetime of marriage. 

But what was her definition of love?

We imagine true love to be fun, and happy, and affectionate. We imagine that it will make us feel good more often than it makes us feel bad. We imagine someone who thinks of us often, remembers flowers. We imagine someone we want in bed, and someone who wants us back.

And for some people, that is love. That is their experience, if not all the time, most of the time.

But not for some of us.

I would imagine that Lib, the woman who felt it was her right to dictate to God where he’d messed up on that whole “divine inspiration” thing with her Sharpie pen and could filet a human with her double edged tongue, would have said, “Love is not being an asshole.”

And at the end of the day, that’s all we can do for each other. For our spouses, for our children, for our friends. We can try to lean hard into the better angels of our nature. We can also remember that if we find that little boarding house by the sea, where life is good and we are free, that we should stay there. Going backwards and shifting into reverse is never the right answer.

She was right about a lot. She was wrong about a lot.

And so are we.

And I thought she needed to be remembered. 

Wintertime Defiance. Also I May Never Go to the Bathroom Undisturbed Again.


Ladies. The minute I lock my bathroom door, for any reason, it sends some sort of cosmic-call through the ether to my daughter, who proceeds to charge up the stairs and rattle the door-handle violently. There is no good response.

“MOM, what are you doing?”

If I am silent, she gives it approximately 2.5 seconds before deciding that I might be dead in there.

If I am vague and say something like “I’m just getting ready” she responds with “For what? Can I go? When are we leaving? Can we go to Target?”

If I say “I’m taking a bath” she plops herself down outside the door and proceeds to chat with me. The conversation usually veers toward lofty topics, like whether one might need a magnifying glass to see an ant’s poop.

If I say “I’m going to the bathroom” she erupts into laughter and starts howling “ARE YOU POOPING?” And after she calms down we end up having the same bath-time-through-the-door convos.

I thought that by the age of seven she might grant me undisturbed bathroom time. Time to reorganize my bath salts. To stare into the mirror. To sit on the floor and check Instagram. To take a shower without someone beating on the door to make sure I’m still alive and kicking. But no. It was not meant to be. I know one day I will cherish these moments, and miss her presence… but gosh golly ya’ll right now I’d just like five silent minutes to Clorox the shower door.

In other news, it’s wintertime. IT. IS. STILL. WINTER. I’m feeling defiant. I’m planting all the indoor plants. I’m wearing flip flops (inside only, of course, I don’t fancy black toes). And my sister gifted me with the loveliest new artwork for my Etsy Shop. She knows me. She really knows me. When we were exploring themes and inspiration she was like, “How about a witchy kitchen theme with herbs hanging and greens and lavenders.” UM OKAY. My own kitchen is decidedly not witchy-magical. It smells like old banana peels and there is currently a huge pile of Etsy shop stock that I need to sort and put away.

But Rachel’s vision was so much better. It usually is. I want to live in my Etsy banner. Just like Mary Poppins, jumping right in.

After a mid-winter break, my shop is back up and running. I’ve added a few new things, marked down a bunch of prices, and changed all items to free shipping (b/c shipping calculations are the pits for buyers and sellers). It’s all here and ready to go. 

In the meantime I’ll be defying winter by watering my plants, taking out banana peel trash, and dreaming of an undisturbed restroom experience.