Thursday, December 25, 2008

We who have so much

cannot comprehend, but that we keep trying...

The Gift

The day my mother dropped a net
of oranges on the kitchen table
and the net broke and oranges
rolled and we snatched them,
my brother and I,
peeled back the skin and bit deep
to make the juice explode with our laughter,
and my father spun one orange in his palm
and said quietly, "This was Christmas, 1938,"
said it without bitterness or anger,
just observing his life
from far away, this tiny world
cupped in one palm,
I learned I had no way
to comprehend an orange.


Happy Thursday in December.
May you find your joy
in the day.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The names we give

My mind has been pondering names a lot lately. The names we're given, the names we forget. As many of you know, the boy has been traveling his own path with names. The name we gave him at birth morphed into Joey as he became a bundle of energy and words. In the last year, as he discovered the world of Guitar Hero, the passion of rock music, he came down the stairs with a slip of paper, on it written his new name: Jos. It sounded edgier to him. Recently, he discovered the ElfQuest comic series and, after a character, has taken the name Cutter.  Cutter is so named because he has skill with a blade and cuts through deception to find the truth of a matter. 
We are, most of us, myself included, amused by this boy who chooses his own name. I wonder what happens if I deny him these names. If I refused Cutter, would I also refuse some part of him that wants to be brave, that desires to be strong and protect his loved ones. The name I call him does not matter so much to me, as I think he's an amazing being regardless of the word he's taken to describe himself. 
I wonder about those names we once wished for ourselves, and what happened to them. As a girl, I loved Kallie Marie. I suppose it sounded musical and unusual, coming from Jennifer Dawn. Later, in college, I was drawn to Xavier, my own edge and shadow. 
I ask, what name have you forgotten? Who have you hidden inside?

Monday, November 24, 2008

How I Give Thanks

or why I gather grey feathers and fallen leaves with my son.


by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The grass is always

long or cut, green or dry or not grass at all, but clover and full of bees. It is rarely truly greener, but instead a different shade of green. Kelly or olive, lime or pine, even celadon. A shade of green you don't even know the name of, or a shade you recognize only too well.

Those of you who have loved the Voss and Armstrong family have also come to recognize and perhaps even love the family of my sister, the Newcomb family: Cole (aka Nikki), Ryan, Olivia, Sophia and Brodie. Next Wednesday will find Joe and I in the hospital green of a waiting room at University of Michigan's Children's Hospital as Cole and Ryan's youngest, Brodie, undergoes surgery for a tumor in his brain. This  is not our story to tell, and while it does affect us, and I will likely write of it, now is not the time. I recognize the shade but cannot put my name to the color. 

For those of you who have offered support, and with permission of Cole and Ryan, the website to check is 


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

100 things I love

I am trying to make a grocery list. I am trying to write the next line of a poem. I am trying to respond constructively to the lines of another writer's poem. I am trying to remember that this adult world and its fears are not the fault of my child. I am especially trying to remember this when the computer has frozen and he continues clicking the mouse. I am sometimes failing more than I would like. I am going to stop trying for a moment to remember why I try. A list I made months ago, probably from a prompt in some artsy book about how to free my soul. I forget sometimes it is free. What tops your list, frees your soul from the trying?

black tea, mushrooms, light blue, candy shops, homemade bread with real butter, hand-dipped candles, spinach sauteed in lemon, pumpkin orange, East Africa, cherry red, Austin, molasses cookies, vanilla, photo booths, tamales, San Francisco, the first spring crocus, Joe in the morning, peppermint mochas, antique furniture, the heat of summer, heated seats in winter, board games, ink pens, beautiful journals, art work, space, blank canvases, charcoal pencils, cute erasers, play-dough, instant coffee, nutella, maple syrup, woods with rivers, singing, Ben Lee, Amelie, lino cuts, wabi sabi, vodka martini triple dirty, swirled marbles, libraries, aquariums, unschooling, handwritten letters, stationary, beads, bone, found objects, printed fabric, resale shops, banana slugs, caterpillars, deer, old barns, soft pillows, quilts, yoga pants, running, trampoline jumping, swinging, stones, big waves, handmade soaps, etsy, laughter, pregnancy, making lists, eyes, red cheeks, curly hair, sleeping, my bed, peanut butter, strawberries, children's picture books, playing the piano, the coast of california, driving by myself, dr. suess, the pound and salt of the ocean, wind in my hair, scrabble, my grandma's kitchen, sticky buns, 50 cent words, sun on my face, my fingers in sand, speaking french, speaking spanish, prayer flags, reading into the wee hours, love stories, scalding hot showers, baths, the minds of children, rolling change, magic tricks, thunderstorms

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Time the predator

Jos has been very into coral reefs and deep sea life lately. We've been reading books and watching nature shows and looking into scuba lessons. Watching a recent flick on the Great Barrier Reef, fish began attacking a crab that crept into the open. Jos didn't want the crab to get eaten and I explained that bigger fish would come along to eat the crab-eating fish, and he said, "Yeah and then the biggest fish will get eaten by Time and nothing can eat Time." I wonder why it takes the rest of so long to realize that no matter how many escapes we make, we're all going to get eaten by Time, in the end?

Jos found his Halloween costume at the resale shop last week. After online checking, we discovered it's a Power Ranger, DinoThunder, though I'm still pretty sure that it's actually a device for human suffocation.

Walking to the bus stop in Holly to pick up cousins Olivia and Sophia last week, Jos and Aunt Nikki and I reminisced about making the same walk with Isaiah. About his desire to pick every dandelion, stop at every pile of rocks, about how long it took to make the walk. Jos said, "Just because he was slower doesn't mean it wouldn't be fun to still have him here." He is coming into his grief, and it is hard for me, because it would feel so much easier to not remember, to not have Jos experience sad. Consider this your friendly PSA reminder: feeling is hard, but worth it. Because I don't really want to forget Isaiah, and I do want Jos to have every memory he can to hold for as long as he can.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sex Ed. and Space Stations

Our friends recently reminded us of the joys of shaving cream play. Thus was born the world of our sparklemon (Joe and Jos have been playing the Simpson's video game, hence sparklemon). School at home officially ended about three days after it began, though Jos would still like to do "projects" with me. 
A few days ago at lunch, we played a game called "Let us give thanks." We took turns giving thanks for something related to the lunch. I gave thanks for the person that grew the cucumbers that became our pickles. He gave thanks for the person that invented the machine that chopped the trees down to make our lunch table, and so forth. Whoever came up with the last one was the winner. So toward the end, I said, "I give thanks for the people that made the boy that's eating the lunch." And he looked at me and started laughing and said, "You and Dad made me," and then laughing even harder, said, "You and Dad are walking factories."  It was so fun to laugh with him! 
Last night we were looking at a photo of a space station and Jos started talking about how it goes around, trapped in Earth's orbit. When I asked, he said he'd learned it on one of his shows. My money's on Jimmy Neutron. All hail the magical power of cartoons- and kids! We're off to find science supplies of some sort so Jos can test the soil sample he took from the sand trap at the golf course on Sunday. I imagine he'll discover it's full of anger and sweat and curses ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Unschooling school and other assorted strangeness

Jos decided this week that he'd like to try school at home. He set up a schedule that begins with him leaving by way of the front door at 10 a.m., "catching the bus", and entering the back door two minutes later, to be greeted by his teacher, Miss Rose.  Wednesdays after recess there will be art and Fridays, cooking. Saturdays will be led by the male teacher, Mr. Max Power. Though today Jos came downstairs beaming and said, "No school today. It's raining and the bus driver can't see." It will be an adventure no doubt and on our list of "school topics" we have such joyous subjects as scuba diving, deep sea creatures, Spore and a visit to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago to look at the exhibit on evolution. We decided to make the classroom in Isaiah's room, which required the disassembling of Isaiah's bed. Joe handled that while Jos and I played LiteBrite. As we played, I said, "It will be sad not to have Isaiah's bed around anymore," to which Jos replied, "Yes, but we still have Isaiah in a jar." True, my beautiful child, true. Later, we put on music and had a jump fest across Isaiah's bed, which we were sure he would've loved.

In my own adventures, I just finished reading the YA novels Stargirl and Love, Stargirl. They were a delightful (if I may say so) read!  Someone amazing (ok, poet Jack Ridl) sent along an article about introverts today; I laughed with recognition and I highly recommend it to all the friends and family I drive crazy with my unwillingness to talk on the phone. I love you, but...;)

As for Joe, when asked what I might share with all of you, he said he continues to be mystified, baffled, befuddled by the insanity of my desk space. I say, he continues to work on top-secret exciting projects and is trying to line up some pros to see if we can sell in these downtimes and move to GR. Preferably before the Michigan winter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Virgo: wisdom, garnered in the fields of experience

I am not a big fan of birthdays, either because I frequently forget those of the ones I love or because I dislike the inordinate amount of attention it brings to me one day out of every year.

Today, I sat in some small amount of dejection before the computer, said to Jos I was having a hard time escaping. He responded, "That's because the computer is negative energy." This, soon after Joe suggested I flee to the woods. So the boy and I fled into the arms of grasshoppers and apple trees, shared river logs with garter snakes and the path with something Jos called a mole and likened to a Bidoof in Pokemon, and which I can only guess was a woodchuck or beaver.  We fled into the living peace I needed and few understand better than Mary Oliver.
For you, Ame, and anyone else that can't flee in this moment:

When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
  but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day of Birth, Eight Years Later

Jos has been playing around with the PhotoBooth feature on my Mac a lot lately, recording various faces from funny to alien. For his birthday pic, he decided to go with a pose to match the shirt, though moments ago he had his action hero professing, "I'm a gladiator of love." 

On our afternoon walk, he said it's getting harder without Isaiah, because he's remembering more so we talked some about the ideas of shock and forgetting for protection. 

Yesterday, when I searched and didn't find a water bottle I wanted to take to the park, I swore. Jos looked at me and said, "Why did you say shit?" I responded with something about wanting the water bottle and he said, "A water bottle's not worth all that anger," and proceeded to offer me several other options, from jelly jar to plastic cup and by the end, I was laughing.

As he grows, Jos continues to be a gift, one that challenges us to learn how to live with more patience, more peace, more questions and more joy. We give many thanks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Us, redefined

I've been feeling that it's time to move from the site that hosted so much of our pain the last six years. That does not mean moving from Isaiah; he will always remain Jos' little brother, our curly-headed little boy. It does mean moving from his pain and coming to a place where we can celebrate his memory joyfully, as well as our living. 

In case of confusion, Jos is the boy formerly known as Joey. He prefers to be called Jos (rhymes with gross) these days, and while it's difficult at first (believe me, I know), it does get easier with practice.

Jos and Joe recently read Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass,  Jos has been listening to the Sisters Grimm books on CD, and I've been reading poetry like mad, so we all came together over the Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Hence, my beamish boy; hence, our frabjous day. Welcome to the fray!