I haven’t been writing here much lately. It’s hard to know what to say. On an ordinary day, there are lots of little happy/sad moments. Somehow I’ve lost the thread of writing about them in a way that adds up.

Today I drove my daughter to her new school, the public school in the city where her dad lives, which means that when I return for parent conferences at noon, I drive around and around looking for a place to park my car, which doesn’t have a resident permit sticker that would allow me to park in most of the places near the school since I live in a different city. When I finally find a spot by a meter, I have  only two quarters and I’m too shy to ask a passerby for more in exchange for a dollar bill so I get in line with all the high school students out early from school trying to get lunch and coffee from the sandwich shop. After I order a coffee and a cookie, the cashier tells me I can have only four quarters. I hope for a fifth, but she is unyielding, so I return to the meter, fifteen minutes short of confidence for the conference.

I arrive a minute or two late to find my daughter’s dad already talking with the teacher. This goes on for all four teachers, the dad speaking to the teacher while the mom listens and waits, a pattern new to me after eight years of separation and divorce and no  shared parent conferences in all that time. We get through it relatively tension free. We learn about our gal, ask questions, share thoughts with the teachers in ten minute increments in between which we race around the maze like school trying to find the next classroom with a few minutes here and there to talk about our sons, our sons a strange sounding pair of words to my ears right now, as our is not something I like to call much that exists in the world when I refer to my ex-husband and me. Ours is in the past, for the most part. Our house has become almost gracefully now, my house. His house, also his wife’s house, is their house, has never been my house, still awkwardly called my kids’ other house, or their dad’s house. My house, is not called so much our house as my house, or mom’s house, and as I write this I wonder if other families have better names for the houses between which the children travel when they do.

Near ten, after a long and late dinner, two delicious artichokes trimmed and stuffed by my daughter and her friend from her old school, a salad made by me, sourdough bread toasted by daughter topped with tabouli we bought on sale on our now routine Sunday shop, my daughter and her friend take a few minutes to work on her Halloween costume for the dance this weekend where my daughter will be a guest rather than the organizer. I’ll drop her off at the start of the dance and pick her up at the finish. Her brother won’t be there to drive and act as responsible resident and she won’t be there hours before and after to set up and take down. Once again, though, she will wear a beautiful dress and fancy makeup, this time as an Alien, always with the beautiful dress and the makeup, since she was a small girl, one Halloween after another. When I drop the friend off in Watertown past ten, and they look forward to meeting again at the dance and again at Halloween, I find out they plan to watch a scary movie and give out candy at my house on Halloween even though it’s a dad’s house night. I feel mildly redeemed for all the small sadnesses of knowing that many days she sleeps at my house she goes to her dad’s between school and crew to do her homework with her dad and that the same doesn’t happen in reverse as I am working, as my house is not close to school, as I’m not so good at math and physics as her dad. These tiny inequities make me feel small when I notice them. They make my heart hurt and my throat tight.

Why do people say your heart melts? my day care five asked me again and again Wednesday and I wondered with her, talked about how our hearts do physically hurt when we are sad, and we talked about the warm feelings we have when things melt our heart, but still it’s not the same as when our heart is hurting, and it literally aches. How does it do that?

When my kids are hurting, when they are away and I don’t know when they’ll be back, when I try to plan holidays and it isn’t easy, when my love is two hours away in his home and I am here and without a partner again, my heart hurts, my throat aches, my eyes well up, I swallow hard. I don’t know what else to write about tonight. I thought maybe if I started writing it would come clear. Not so much. This stage of life seems not to be about clarity, but about surviving in the murk. What comes next? Which small hurts and happinesses will make up my day is more what goes on than what great thing will I accomplish or learn or do, what tragedy must I overcome? It’s a small world life I’m living. Finding meaning in it is a bit of a challenge. It’s day to day existence, with few plans other than work and chores and writing and yoga classes, Quaker Meeting, the routines.

It seems I say it again and again, but I didn’t expect this to be my life and yet it is. Maybe by writing about it I can give it coherence, make it good enough, find my way. I’m grateful for the work I do, for the house I share with the day care and my kids and now my housemates. I have a few good friends. I’ve tentatively reconnected with Richard. My kids are mostly happy and quite healthy. My finances are tricky, but I’m surviving, with more stuff and cash than many. Deeper meaning?  Still struggling. Purpose in life? Same old same old, or something new? Don’t know. Happy/sad/happy/sad/happy/sad.


Anyone else here with me? Seems from talking with my close friends in middle age with kids flying out of the nest that I am not alone, but the book club moms no longer meet, the evening school meetings are no longer for me, the friends I have don’t get together in a group and share about our kids, about our struggles, about the challenges we face as we transition from focusing on our children and building our careers to what. None of us seems to know what next. We aren’t getting together to talk about it and sort it out. Maybe others do, but I don’t. Maybe I should, but even that feels hard to figure out. Ugh..no more whining..time for bed.

I spent this past Sunday morning in the company of Quakers in Western Mass. My daughter attended her first retreat for young friends with other high school students there. Three of those others had spent their early years with me. I had watched them and held them, known their parents and their families, wondered what they would be like when they grew up. This weekend I got hugs, we took photos, I caught up.

One of the young friends lost his mom a few years back. The memorial service which marked her passing was so meaningful to me I was lead to commit myself more fully to learning about the Quakers.

What I remember this morning, though, as I think about my week, and try to prepare some thoughts and writing for a project I am working on with a more recent day care family, in which that family and Liana and I will grapple with how we in the day care handle loss, is the morning I learned of the death in each of these families, and of the sorrow I felt each time, and the sorrow in me that loss connected to.

When we feel another person’s sadness we also feel our own. It seems to work the other way as well. When we feed another person’s healing we feed our own. Each time I’ve been with a family who has experienced great loss, and there are always many, I find myself reconnecting to the losses in my own life, pondering them, wondering on them, sometimes doing something for that child or family I might have liked done for me or mine.

I’m off to day care today. In the moment, we don’t have anyone really struggling with major loss. We have a family with newborn triplets whose life is in disarray. We have families struggling to understand behavior of their children and the parenting that works best. We have families, no doubt, in financial distress of one sort or another. We have children who may not want to say good-bye when it’s time for parents to leave. There are sadnesses I don’t know and will never. But even in the little ones, the sad good-byes, the crying over physical hurt, I expect to feel those moments as places of connection with potential for deeper understanding, even healing. Here I go. That’s my day.

This morning I’m taking time out to write at my kitchen table, having showered, seen my daughter off to school on her bike with her dad, whose been biking cross town to meet her and help her learn the route, having done my seven minutes of meditation, my short attempt at journal writing, having read and responded to e-mail, having collected laundry from the bins upstairs, having attempted to paint the touch ups in the day care, only to find the cleaning crew already hard at work, having collected the day care files to work on in preparation for our surprise licensing visit which will happen any day. But here I am, again, writing in an attempt to sort out life, to connect with some inner voice, to find you in whatever place you live, to put myself in a place of greater ease, to figure out where I’m headed and where I’ve been and how those places may be connected, to make meaning, the lifelong task of everyone I know.

I’ve been watching the children do the same each day in day care, in their ways, the younger ones learning how to be and play together, one three learning how to use the toilet while at home the newborn triplets shake up life, his five year old sister redefining her life as the oldest of five, a gentle, reflective, physical soul. I’ve been watching the fives make sense of this new, more chaotic group of ones and twos and threes, and of their own growing up, one five learning math and thinking about big questions, one five telling me how happy she is she doesn’t have to do school work and homework, just the work of day care living, like cleaning up at clean up time, and how happy she is we have time to chat and that her mother and I enjoy chatting even more than she and I do. I’ve been watching the work with scissors, tape, paper, markers, crayons, pencils, for the youngest just learning how to make marks, often on herself for the one, for the twos the surprise of patterns emerging a they move the pens, surprise at how the scissors work, overwhelming surprise at tape. For the threes, emerging representations that look like the real world, and for the fives, the emergence of scenes of intention, rainbows with clouds at either end, houses with grass and flowers and trees, people moving the world with many modes of transportation, family portraits, sense making in a world that can easily overwhelm.

My own children are doing the same, at fifteen, nineteen, and twenty one, they are each trying new things, and I get to watch, and occasionally help: public high school for my daughter, with classes, subjects, homework, crew, and friends, college for my middle child, with papers, classes, reading, friends, living away from home, work and independent living for my oldest, making life in Manhattan with a shoe box apartment with a brand new, decent job. It’s fascinating to watch and to engage when we do, about all they are taking on.

Here on Garrison Avenue I’m learning again to live on my own, sans partner, and that is it’s own life stage, one ripe for making meaning, for writing, meditating, thinking on. My mothering and day care provider selves live on. At the same time, somewhat separate from all that parts of me are seeking solitude and partnership and friendship and connection to my extended family, as well as some sense of artistic and spiritual and physical life. Life at this moment is rich with opportunity, also with a certain amount of dis-ease.

I’ve been working on finding a voice in my writing. This past week I shared a piece in writing group about losing my dad when I was a small girl and how that has shaped my life and work. I’ve been writing a lot about midlife, about divorce and dating, about the struggles of a single mom. Often this feels whiny, though it is the stuff of my life. I’d love to write something that both acknowledges and transcends all that. How do we live in the world and stay connected to the larger meanings? How do we live through the hard places without losing hope? How do we write about our lives in all their gorey detail in ways that give us voice and connect with others?

For the moment, I’m just trying, following the inner voice as best I can. The meditation, yoga, and journaling help a lot. It’s been hard to keep those going with the shift to fall, but I’m still here, still trying.  I do feel this tremendous sense of opening in my life, even as I say good-bye to so many things and people I loved and thought I needed to be me. What abides? a writer in our group asked me the last time I shared writing in the spring, naming a theme he saw in my work. Great question for all of us, especially those of us going through great change. What gives us hope and meaning? What grounds us in ourselves? In our families? In our work and communities? In our faith? What do we believe? What keeps us on the earth and wishing to be here?

For the moment, it’s keeping my day care license! So, off I go to look through the childrens’ and teachers’ files and see what’s here and missing, off I go to wash my daughter’s clothes, off I go to yoga, after drinking the last of my tea and blowing out the candle, off I go to do an errand at CVS for my daughter, then to return home again for more of the licensing and home chores, followed by an afternoon in day care with the kids and my co-teacher Jen, then dinner for the two of us, followed by an Ann Patchett reading in Harvard Square (yeah!), then time to pick up my daughter at her dad’s near bedtime, to bring her home to me, the ride across town with her bike in the back of the van worth every minute and the exhaustion of making our life together as best I can. Full and rich day. Learning to shift my description of life from busy to full and rich, to remember I am fortunate, that I have been both blessed and worked hard, that the connections I have are two way, and that the effort I put in will come back in most cases, and in some cases not, that my heart is both a lonely hunter, as in the title of one of my favorite books, and a reliable companion, making the richness even richer, as I experience it with greater depth of feeling when my heart is working well.

I wake up this morning thinking about prisons, about charter schools, about people I’ve known, battles I’ve been involved in and invisible struggles I’ve yet to consider. My mind is being stirred in lots of ways..two weekends ago by the funeral of my uncle, who had served as a corrections office at the Attica prison during much of my childhood, along with several of my mother’s and father’s brothers, the last two weekends by college essays my son was writing on economic systems of oppression and how they contribute to and/or construct divisions of class and race and economic disparity, this week by an episode of On Being with Ruby Sales, a civil rights advocate who sings of love in her heart for everyone, last week by the men in our sharing circle who have experience of prison life as those who were formerly incarcerated and family members of those who are in prison, this week by a Facebook article talking about the benefits of charter schools in urban areas of Massachusetts where they are shown to better serve the needs of children of color, ELL kids, and I believe kids with special needs and kids of lower income and the arguments in response to the sharing of that article against the support of charter school by a group of people, mainly white and mainly middle class, many of whom have found options outside the district schools when their children needed them, who oppose charter schools and who opposed the Somerville Progressive Charter School I tried to help found.

My daughter has left Sudbury Valley for Cambridge Rindge and Latin, another way a white middle class family has found options, as her father lives in Cambridge, where my daughter worked out yesterday with the novice crew team in a workout space full of fancy workout equipment I’m sure no school in a poor district could afford. Again we take advantage of white privilege, as my daughter finds her way, and I am aware not all of us have this.

Meanwhile, my cat Frances has chosen to live in the basement and I think again about her situation, choosing solitary confinement down below versus the freedom of living outdoors, now I have given up trying to share my home with her and the habits that made my life too difficult to bear, regular poop and pee on furniture, tearing of the upholstery, cat hair everywhere every day. But why not go outside, I wonder? Why does she, why do any of us see confinement as solution?

All this is in my mind, bubbling around. This morning I found an article in The Atlantic with an interview about Attica and how the uprising/riot there set the tone for prison conditions ever since. My family’s farms were up the road and up the hill from Attica. Looking down from the farm where my mom grew up the view is over the walls of the prison, which my daughter or son once wondered about because it looks so much like a castle. I realized this morning, I never have had an image of the inside of those walls, never considered all the black and brown and white faces in captivity, not in any real detail. I had sympathy for my uncles. I knew they did not want to talk about their work, that they looked forward to retirement, that in the life we shared they were kind and loving men who had taken options available to them to support their families, to earn a living wage and to have benefits. I’m going to read the article. I may read a recent book published which looks closely at the Attica riot/rebellion with fresh eyes.

We all have pieces of our history we’d be better to explore than to deny. For some of us, we are called again and again to explore the themes that draw us. For me, I am thinking a lot about confinement and captivity, freedom and liberation, trying to notice how those themes have shaped my life, wondering what they are calling me to do.

Today I am awake again in the fours. The new school year has begun..in earnest, at WFDC, for my daughter in her new high school, for my son at college, for our old day care friends in kindergarten and in their new day cares, for Maeve, my new housemate, in her new classroom of english language learners. The house thrums with the energy of it. As I type this, the computer flashes new dates entered in the calendar by my daughter’s dad, crew practice, crew practice, crew practice, crew a frontier I hadn’t counted on, now entering my life the first week of my daughter’s public high school experience, my daughter another athlete in the family finding pieces of her stuff not identifiable as of me.

This weekend I had lots of love, as I visited my son in New York City, with his gal, my gal and her guy, as I visited our place in Western Mass, with surprise time with Richard and a hello to his daughter, neither of whom I’ve seen all summer, with a call from my guy at college, also in the form of an invitation to join Liana and a day care mom in writing an article together, and again in the invitation to this fall’s writing class.

This week the day care reopens with new children, who we are invited to love, and for these new little people, I feel gratitude that the love will come easy. We have a sweet one year old just learning how to walk with a voice like a tiger, a sweet almost two with words to tell us what he wants and parents to help, a wide-eyed three who tells me he was hoping to start yesterday, so much sincerity and feeling from a new acquaintance when he speaks I become wide-eyed, too. They remind me to be open to love, these little people. As the three leaves with his mother, he wonders if the little people are starting at his old school..and I wonder if the phrase little people, which has been my choice of late in referring to our smaller friends, is one he’s incorporated into his own vernacular in one short day of togetherness, or if it is one we just happen to share.

These loves come into our lives, and they leave, often unexpectedly. My own cat Frances has been a mystery in love all her life, cursing me with her bad habits, wooing me with her affection. Last night, after I had packed up her food and planned to offer it to the day care group, I returned home from a meeting to meet a friend here for tea on the porch, only to hear Frances crying in the yard, first time she’s returned in nearly a week, after a week outside and no seeming interest in returning to the house..a night before her vet appointment to be put down for incurable pooping and peeing on the couch..oh, dear..another life and death decision to make, another connection to sever or maintain..Just a cat some would say, but when I went down to see if she was there after my friend left, I found her sitting on the porch settee cushion, just where I knew she would like to sit if she returned, with her two wide eyes looking directly into mine as they always have, one soul to another, and the decision felt real indeed, life or death, life or death, life or death.

And my uncle died this week, my father’s closest surviving brother, one of the three out of ten siblings living as of last week now gone. So this weekend my sister and I will drive all day Saturday and Sunday to be at calling hours Saturday evening and the funeral and meal afterwards on Sunday, so I can finish work Friday at 5 and she can be back to work Monday bright and early, both of us teachers too committed to our students to take time off this time of year.

But this morning it’s money, too, which is its’ own form of love. Out of love for the house, for the day care, for my family, for myself, I’m taking all the money I’ve got and dumping it out this month, giving it to the carpenters and painters, to the teachers, to the IRS and Commonwealth of Mass, to Wells Fargo for the mortgage, to the GAP and Target and wherever else my children stock up for back to school, to Peapod and Whole Foods, to Taylor and Murphy who came to fill the oil tanks for winter in the end of summer heat, to EVERSOURCE for all the air conditioning and fans and lights and sound and gas, to the City of Somerville for real estate taxes, water and sewer..away it goes, all the money that comes in this month, and most of what I’ve saved, is going out, in chunks I need to coordinate. I must concentrate to make sure it comes out right.

And the house looks fine, as fine as it’s ever looked since I’ve lived here, on the outside at least. In the corner of the living room I’ve got two boxes of lights the electrician whose daughter once attended after school here will put up on the porch, piece de resistance, not spelled correctly, but you get it..a Moravian star for to replace the standard fixture that came with the house and a string of edison bulbs from Pottery Barn to replace the strands of Christmas lights that had been dying and came down after the paint job..Next comes day care relicensing, for which we will work to tidy and freshen the house as well as to get our routines and records in order..then comes inside work..cleaning, cleaning out, tidying, painting, finishing clearing out the housemates’ rooms of day care and Ben stuff..It’s a big job to love a house thoroughly enough just to live in it, forget about running a day care and inviting folks to share it..but it makes it worth it that way, all the money and time and energy would mean nothing if no one lived or played here anymore.

Time to get on that. Wish me luck with the Frances decision, the money wrangling and house chores. All in love, all in love, all in love..What would the heart say?


Day 7 in the woods i wake up not at four or five or nine or ten but eight, giving me time for a leisurely morning before we pack up a day early, the other campers in our group, and thus my gal, ready to go home. I am not eager, but I will. With lots to do at home, it makes sense. Plus, as I go through my morning camp routine, I gradually pack things up and realize that in two weeks I’ll be camping with the day care families at Nickerson. This won’t be my last night sleepimg out of doors.

As I putter I debate bringing home the wood that remains. While sittimg by the campfire in Maine, sometimes reading a Waldorf book describing a fall festival including fire and roasted potatoes, I’ve imagined fires in our Somerville yard, perhaps with the day care in celebration of the solstice or daylight savings time.

This morning, though, I want one last fire. I look around and see neighbors have started theirs. I’m not alone in my attraction to the flame.

I lay down three sticks of kindling over two crumpled sheets of paper, open the bundle of plastic covered wood, choose the smaller pieces, lay them atop the kindling, criss cross style, light the match, watch it take hold. As the fire burns I add larger pieces of wood, admire the flames in their power reaching towards the sun as the early morning rays of sun reached down through the trees capturing my attention as they were captured in the smoke.

At nearly fifty I’ve built a fine fire. hallelujiah. take back the night. in fire we shall rise. all that. now time to read and warm my feet before the work of breaking camp begins.


Yesterday I wondered what I was doing here alone in the woods. My son’s gone home. My daughter is off with her friends. I’m here at the campsite alone. 

Last night I built my first solo fire of the week and sat beside it all night long. This morning I woke up to the sounds of my neighbors and their six kids packing up their rv, to light rain, just in time to roll out of my hammock where I indeed slept many solid hours, and tidy up my site. As I pulled the hammocks from the trees, backed up the van so the tailgate lined up neatly with the shelter, tied down the fly of the tent, made my tea, I enjoyed doing all these things myself and on my own, as I’m enjoying sitting in the shelter on my camp chair facing out listening to rain on leaves and soft voices of the nana and grandchild on one side  and the mother and adult daughter across the way. No one else here seems to be alone. Again I’m the oddity. After awhile I can smile into it and the neighbors give me credit. Did you carry that heavy thing all the way up the hill? the older guy in cammo pants asked me last night near dinner time as I approached in my bathing suit carting a box of kindling and my towel. Yup, I’m pretty strong, I laughed, grateful for the first friendly interaction with a neighbor. 

As I read through my email and check facebook this morning I find a poem by David Whyte, whose words found me on my first Gilchrist retreat, when aloneness was more new and overwhelming. They strike again today, as I settle into the retreat phase of this summer. Wish me a happy day of aloneness in the woods. I’ve got my tent tied down, my electric kettle and plenty of tea, a bag of tea light candles, a votive and some matches, my writing homework with a conference call at noon, long johns presentable enough for neighbors to see, a cozy fleece, so far only light rain, many books and magazines, a yoga mat, drawing things, no end of things to do alone, if I choose to do other than rest or sit and stare. 

Here is David Whyte’s poem, The House of My Belonging. Enjoy:)