The scarf

My car trunk is brimming with things I don’t need.

My baby is no longer a baby.

My house is cluttered.

My neck is bare on this blustery morning.

I’m on my way to purge the trappings of a babyhood gone by.

Along the way I meet a woman with a beautiful scarf.

It is so beautiful I stop to tell her how much I like it.

So she unwinds it from around her neck, unfurling its swirled colorfulness. It’s like a great butterfly flapping about  in this autumn landscape.

Keep it, she says.

Oh, no, I couldn’t, I reply.

You must have it, she insists, it complements your dress.

We dance this way a few times before I lift it from her open hands.

An unexpected outcome.

Awkwardly I cradle its cottony softness. I listen as this woman tells me the story of the scarf.

She created it and many others. She sells them.  She has so many scarves, giving one away is nothing.

What’s your craft, she asks, because these days it seems everyone has some special gift.

I’m not sure yet, I admit.

We part with a handshake and a promise that I will visit her store. As I walk to my car I slip the wings of turquoise, indigo and emerald  over my shoulders. The colors caress my neck and cheeks as the wind tugs the scarf’s fringed ends.

On the way to the community outreach center in a scrappy part of Detroit, I steal glances of it in the mirror while stopped at red lights.

As I heft the stroller, car seat, safety gates, and bags of odds and ends onto the curb, the wind slaps my hair and face. I pull the scarf tighter around my neck, up to my chin.

It’s not that I needed another scarf. I have a closet full, a veritable rainbow of neck coverings. But I don’t have a scarf like this one.

This is an extravagance. This is a serendipitous scarf.

I start thinking about giving spontaneously. It’s one thing to hand off used items to charity. It’s quite another to relinquish something new and hand-made. I consider the idea that I am free advertising for her work. I also acknowledge that I meet creators of  beautiful things all the time and I don’t walk away with freebies.

I think some more about how much easier it is to give than it is to receive. Or is it the other way around?

It’s hard to receive randomly, to quiet the barrage of inner questions that follow the gifting moment.

I wonder what of mine I will give to a stranger.

My trunk is empty.

My heart is warm.

My mind is racing.

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Glad I didn't NaBloPoMo this month

Why I’m not posting as much:

1. Our Internet service is on. Then it’s off. Then it’s back on again. Then it’s on but really, really slow.  What’s up with that, Wide Open West?

2. My free, uninterrupted time is on. Then it’s off. Then it’s back on again for a second. Then it’s off. By the time I have free time again, I’m really, really slow.

3. All my good post ideas come to me at the most inappropriate moments. One day, I wrote the idea in pen on my bare thigh. Another day, I scribbled it with my right hand while my left hand steered the car down the expressway. Another day I tried to write a post on toilet paper.  I  can’t figure out what “whe whit xhxik. shee. I hoo gon tably aa vaie” means.  I’m sure it’s something brilliant.

4. Lately, I’d rather be trying to reverse the signs of aging with restorative sleep and reverse the effects of eating with heavy-duty exercise. Also, I have a lot of stuff simmering on the back burners but lack the cojones to publish. Maybe soon.

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Four years

Photo by Joiseyshowaa via Creative Commons

Four years

out of the workplace

and in the home

being a mom.

It began with a one-year pledge to stay home with my newly adopted baby girl. She needed my full-time attention.

One year easily stretched into two years thanks to a thriving family business.

Two years became three when the economy wiped out that thriving business and slit the throats of the major industries that fed the bellies of this region.

Three years became four as I realized a few things:

* I had grown to mostly like this lifestyle.

* The longer you are home, with a somewhat free and flexible schedule, the harder it is to imagine rejoining the rat race. Also, the longer you are away, the harder it is to jump back on the treadmill.

None of this is to say things can’t be figured out. But, heck, a four-year gap on the resume is a tough one in this tough market. Thankfully I’ve found some freelance work here and there.

Four years

out of the rat race

working my way slowly

through the maze.

I am someone quite different from the woman who walked out of the newsroom with a U.S. Postal Service-issue plastic tub filled with her career and an extra helping of bitterness. (I returned the tub, just in case any government types are reading.) It’s true what they said to me: You leave now, you won’t be able to come back. It scared me but I did it anyway.

Along the way a bunch of great stuff happened in my life that had nothing to do with money and careers:

I experienced full-time motherhood.

I started doing things myself.

I made some amazing new friends.

I dropped some highly toxic relationships.

I started to volunteer in my community.

I didn’t find what I was looking for but what I needed found me.

I changed the direction of my life. I may not know where I’ll end up, but I do have a path to follow and the faith to know that I’m on the right road. Endless unknown possibilities are just around the bend. A really, really long and winding bend.

I endured some hard lessons in these four years. We lost our life savings.  We came scary-close to picking up and moving.  We had many months of living on very little and worrying if this utility or that service would be shut off. It was painful. We came away with the kind of appreciation for things we couldn’t have known otherwise.

After these four years,  I can make it through anything.

Ah, sleep

Photo by Domenico Salvagnin via Creative Commons

I’m doing something different. I’m getting sleep. Real, glorious, soak-the-pillow-with-drool kind of sleep.

It’s been amazing.

I’ve never been a champion sleeper.

One of my earliest memories is of awakening in my dimly lit bedroom to the sound of  a squalling monster. I recall slipping out of my bed and padding over to its cage on the other side of the room. Inside was a smallish, red-faced beast with curled fingers and toes, leaking profusely.

My next memory is of my mother rushing in, flipping on the light switch and actually touching the creature, which, as it turns out, was my little brother. I recall sitting on my father’s lap in the living room as he explained babies and crying to me. The late news flickered on the TV screen and cast a blue glow around the room.

As a teenager, I went through a sleepwalking phase. I was known to walk from my bedroom down to the kitchen, turn on all the lights on the first floor, then open the side door leading to the driveway and garage. I’d lean out and look for someone or something. That’s when I would wake up.

As a young woman out in the world, anyone who slept next to me complained that I tossed and turned, sometimes shouted, sat up and carried on one-way conversations, and then *gasp* snored my way through the rest of the night.

I guess I’ve settled down in my middle years. If I snore, I get a poke in the shoulder to turn over. No more reports of conversations or late-night wandering.

Most of the time I’m adrift, seeking the distant shore of unconsciousness.

But this past week, thanks to the wonders of NyQuil, I slept the blessed slumber of the very young and the achieved the stillness of the dead.

Speaking of dead, I’ve been advised and warned for more than a year now that my sleep deprivation habits are going to kill me. I didn’t really believe it until I tried to lose 20 pounds. No matter how much time and effort I put in at the gym, no matter how much I dieted, I was not losing a pound or shedding an inch anywhere.

I kept reading studies and hearing reports about belly fat and lack of sleep and mortality.

I thought back to a friend of mine who died of cancer early this year.  I recall her telling me that as a single mother, she never got more than five hours of sleep a night. She did this for two decades. I wondered if she ever kicked that habit, or, if the damage had been done.

I’ll never know but the memory scared me.

So, a respiratory infection, followed by a three-week cough, followed by the common cold felled me like an old oak in a light breeze. I realized the most important thing was to get some sleep to get better. Night after night I just went to bed and slept until my body woke me.

It was amazing.

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