Turning the page.

For decades it hung nonchalantly on the door of the refrigerator in the corner of the kitchen: a spiral-bound calendar compliments of Citizens Insurance Agency. The rows and columns segregating one day from the next were tattooed with  blue and black Bic ink: hand-scrawled reminders of teeth cleanings, hootenannies, and oil changes. Every morning I would look blearily over those scribbles while pouring watery blue skim milk over a heaping bowl of Cocoa Pebbles, jogging my memory of the things that needed tending to that day. I looked twice at entries made in ALL CAPS  or those circled in red Sharpie marker in order to not drop the ball on important events or deadline (when the tax instalment was due, for example, or grandma’s birthday coming up).

Some mornings I would find myself standing in front of that big white box and discover that month had arrived: it was time to begin again.  So, I’d set the cereal bowl down, remove the (also complimentary) Citizens Savings Bank magnets that held the calendar firmly on the refrigerator door, and tear off the bedazzled and worn old month to uncover the freshness of the new grid underneath. It would only take a day or two for the empty columns and rows on the new page to  be covered with colourful notes and stickers and doodles reminding me to change the furnace filter, take the dog to the vet, and get ready for Thanksgiving dinner…but for a brief moment there was a sense of a a fresh start, a new beginning. Ahhhh.

Earlier this week, I found myself at the breakfast table staring with sleepy eyes at the calendar on my laptop. Scanning the screen while scarfing down  2% plain yogurt and gluten-free honey nut granola, the word “October” caught my eye. I set my spoon down and blinked. October? How did it get to be October already? The middle- and ring-fingers of my right hand scooched over the pad, making row after row after row scroll quickly across the screen in an attempt to figure out where September had gone…and all my eyes could see was a sea of monotony: clean, tidy grids full of black sans serif letters and boxes free of scribbles or doodles or anything else that would distinguish one day, one week, one month from the next. The page before me wasn’t a work-of-art-in-progress. It was just one big run-on sentence:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySatudayJanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember2018201920202021202220232024.

Damn.

Those auto-filled entries and electronic reminders were efficient and all…but in the process of adopting efficiency it seem I’d stopped marking everyday endings and beginnings and making art of my days on that spiral-bound throwback of a calendar. I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but I quit turning the page.

Anyone who has attempted to read big-ol’ run-on sentences out loud will tell you that it is really hard to do: staying focused is next to impossible and you end up running out of air. Periods, commas, semi-colons, paragraph breaks provide the necessary pause to stay engaged. It seems to me that the same is true when the days/weeks/month/years all run together: when you try to live it all out loud things get fuzzy, you find yourself gasping for air like a bluegill on the shore, and before you know it, it’s October.

Tomorrow there will be a calendar hanging on the door of the refrigerator…

Thirty years ago (???!!!)

Thirty years. That’s one score and ten years. 10,950 days (plus a few more if you count leap years). Dang, that sounds like a long time…and yet, I woke up this morning and could see Dr. Briggs perched between my legs wearing a yellow paper gown and sporting a matching paper cap on top of his balding head. He was peeking over the crumpled up sheet draping my knees with a face-breaking toothy smile, announcing loudly for all the world to hear: “It’s a GIRL!” His booming voice was quickly drowned out by the cry of one pissed off kid who had just been yanked from a warm womb and plopped naked on her mama’s chest for a moment before being whisked away by team of nurses (strangers) to poke and prod and do all of the things that needed to be done with and for her. An hour or so later, seemingly less pissed now that the cheesy goo was gone from the fatty folds of her legs, sporting a pink skullcap that couldn’t contain the shock of black Troll hair covering her pear shaped head and swaddled like a sausage in a soft blanket that smelled of equal parts Dreft and hospital antiseptic, that same baby was wheeled into my room in a clear bassinet labeled “Baby Girl Hulin”…and my heart swelled so big so fast that I could swear it busted through my chest, a phenomenon that would continue everyday in the thirty years since. What a day that was. What a life it has been. And what a life it is.

Thanks for being my kid, Bailey. I love you to the moon and back.

Happy, happy, happy birthday.

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Knowing what you think by seeing what you say.

‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” –E. M. Forster

Here’s a practice for today: without thinking about or planning out the “right” thing to say, sit down with a pad of paper and a pen (no computer here, please) and write for 5 solid minutes on “What I Love About You…” Write about someone you know, someone who you just might take for granted from time to time: your spouse, child, parent or good friend.  Whoever it is, bring that person to mind (or, rather, to heart), set a timer, jot down that opening sentence (“What I love about you…”) and then WRITE LIKE THE WIND. Let ‘er rip.

Do not let that pen stop moving…and do not edit for spelling or clarity or to be more polite or for any other reason. Just scratch down whatever comes up for you, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Be specific: you don’t just love they way your daughter plays the piano, for example. You really love the way that her fingers dance over the keys like Fred Astaire and that her left butt cheek comes off of the piano bench when she really gets into it. And you don’t just love it that your husband is big hearted: you love it that every time you go to the grocery store together, he makes eye contact with Julie-the-checkout-clerk and asks how her day is going…and then genuinely and generously listens as she talks about how tired she is, that her kids have the flu, and that she is sooooo excited about going home to see her sister at Easter. Ahhhh…that’s what you love.

See what you think as you see what you say…and get a glimpse at what a difference is makes when you pay attention to what you love. It’s a practice that is oh-so-good for the heart (and soul and mind, too).