Tipping Point

Last Friday afternoon I pulled into a crowded toy store parking lot. I’d forgotten their Christmas lists at home so I paused for a moment, trying to mentally recount what was scribbled on notebook paper. A jewelry making set and paper dolls. A Star Wars LEGO set. A Wii game, or was it X Box, and what’s the difference anyway? The regular chatter of radio news suddenly became more than background noise. A gunman. Elementary school. Eighteen children. Gone ....more

Fighting the Urge to Push

The little boy’s finger traces the shape of an M on the page. The circle of the O is next, then the up and down and up and down of another M completes the word. Mmm. Mom. MOM! My 5 year old is learning to read. He manages a handful of sight words, mostly three lettered little gems— cat, dad, bug— but occasionally he surprises me with more. Happy. Come. Said. There is nothing like the look on his face ...more

All Tangled Up

Yesterday morning my husband walked into the kitchen and saw a teenager sitting at the breakfast table. Legs dangled, lean, spoon scooping cereal into her mouth without spilling. The look on her face, he told me later, she could have been fourteen. I’ve looked deep into my 5 year old’s eyes and seen a man. I’ve seen my 9 year old at 30 in my mind. These moments are fleeting and rush like fear and love all tangled up ....more

The Pie Safe

Before moving into our new home, the previous owners— dear friends of ours— gave us the opportunity to purchase some of their furniture. They were preparing for retirement and moving to a resort community several states away, and much of what they’d collected over the years would not be going with them ....more

All Grown Up

Are we ok? My mother’s question caught me off guard. It’d been another one of those weeks around here: busy parents, cranky kids, boxes from our October move still untouched and stacked high. My rough edges were showing, and my mother was the first to call me on it. I paused, realizing that I’d literally backed myself into a corner with the phone to my ear. I twisted the cord around my fingers like I’d done as a child. Well, ...more

The 20 Things I’ve Done Today

It’s closing in on 2 o’clock. This time of day you’ll usually find me in the kitchen, brewing coffee to savor in piping hot sips. It typically signals the end of one shift of work and the beginning of another, and I’ll need that jolt of caffeine and more where I’m headed. If I close my eyes I can almost see my children in their classrooms: eyes fixed on the ancient clock in the corner and counting down the minutes ...more

A Good Enough Christmas

Last year we drove country roads in search of a Christmas tree. We’d dressed in puffy vests and flannel, laced up boots for weather we rarely see here on the fringes of Appalachia. We’d told the kids that adventure awaited, the kind to be recorded for posterity in family photographs ....more

What I Learned from a Year of Lonely Friday Nights

Age 25 was the loneliest year of my life. I spent it, mostly, in an upstairs apartment watching bad tv and smoking borrowed cigarettes through a crack in my tiny kitchen’s only window. I put the butts in the snow that fell on the ledge outside, then worried that I’d gotten hooked (I hadn’t, thankyouJesus). When I’d first moved there I considered getting a land line phone only to realize that I didn’t know a single person in my area ...more

A Ton of Feathers

I recently wrote an essay for an anthology on the topic of how motherhood changes things. I could have approached it from a thousand different angles: my marriage, my identity, how suddenly fear and danger lurk around every corner (but then again, so does love). When it came time to sit down and, you know, actually write the thing, something entirely different floated to the surface of my mind. It was as if that tiny stone of truth had been ...more

Sometimes You Need a Bench

The preschool parking lot was almost empty by the time I made it to my car. It had been another of those mornings at home: cereal spilled, homework lost, three tangled little bed heads who refused to finish their milk. I’d responded with empty threats and empty promises, the dullest tools of motherhood. If you don’t have your coats on by the time I come downstairs you’re losing privileges this afternoon. Blank stares. I swear, you guys, I’m about to ...more