Casey Cares

My daughter’s preschool, The Goddard School in Forest Hill, is running a pajama drive to support Casey Cares, a Maryland organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of critically ill children.   I’m really excited to be able to promote a cause that has been so generous to us.  Here’s the letter I wrote:


Easter, 2011 –

Two years ago, Evelyn was in the middle of her chemotherapy treatment for leukemia.  We’d been released from Hopkins, but still had to go to clinic several times a week.  She had a port in her chest, an immune system so weakened she couldn’t attend preschool, and a daily schedule of medicine to take at home.  Right around this time one of the parents at clinic told me about Casey Cares – a Maryland organization that helps critically ill children.  We applied and almost immediately they sent out pajamas.  Evelyn wore the Tinkerbell gown the next time we had to stay overnight at the hospital.  Then they gave us tickets to see “The Little Caterpillar” puppet show, and tickets to see Disney on Ice.  At Christmas we went to a special party at the Science Center.  The best part of the tickets was that they always seemed to come just when we needed a break from a difficult reality – just when our family needed an incentive to keep going. Evelyn’s cancer is *officially* in remission, but many other children are just starting this agonizing journey.  I’m excited to help out with this pajama drive and pass along the support and encouragement that were so vital to our family. Thank you, Casey Cares!

New pjs can be dropped off to The Goddard School at 460 Granary Rd, Forest Hill, MD 20150 now through April 19th or sent directly to Casey Cares.





Me:  I don’t really want to be a family that eats at Taco Bell on Saturday nights and uses plastic utensils at our St. Patrick’s Day feast.

Mike: Based on our past weekend, that’s exactly what kind of family we are.

I’ve been on edge this past week, like a tuning fork that’s been hit too hard and vibrates like mad and makes everything it touches start vibrating too.

I can say its because I’ve been waiting to hear back about some stories, because I’m waiting to hear back from some agents about my novel, because I DID hear back from one and he said, “I have reveiwed your manuscript and it is not ANYTHING I wish to work with at this time.”  I can say because I’m tired of waiting on spring, I can say….whatever.
There’s a quote in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: “I could resent the ocean if I tried” and isn’t that just the truth.

But, my edginess started affecting my behavior, and making me a person that I don’t want to be.  I’ve always prided myself on being a good critique partner.  For years I’ve encouraged, looked for what works, tried to be constructive with what doesn’t.  And yesterday I actually wrote to someone that I ‘expected more from them as a writer.’  Who the hell am I to say that?  How is that helpful?

And then, of course, when the writer explained a connection, I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s really good.”  I’ve apologized for my first comments.  But, I can’t stop thinking about it. 

We are made from the choices we make.  I hurt myself too, I broke the contract that I’d made that said I would be empathetic and respectful of other people’s art.  I wasn’t careful. 

I understand why some people do vodka shots to take the edge off of life.  I can’t keep vibrating like this, existing in a hyper-sensitive state, but dulling the edges with alcohol isn’t really feasible for me.
I brainstormed a list of alternatives
                    I can exercise more — our hedgehog on his wheel as my inspiration.  Boy can run!
                    I can be more mindful of my behavior, erring on the side of caring
                    I can forgive freely, because I know I’m going to need it.
                    I can write more frequently in my gratitude journal.
                    I can admit to being human, to feeling things very intensely, to being disappointed that my art hasn’t found an audience.
                    I can acknowledge that its hard to feel like I have a purpose, that I’m making a difference in the world around me, when my words only sit inside my computer.
                    I can acknowledge that writing is a lonely pursuit.  It’s not like a painting that can be easily and quickly shared, a song that can be performed almost anywhere. 
                   And, after acknowledging, I can try to let it all go.  To bring my awareness back to my work, back to my family, back to a sense of love. 

WHAT?  I said TRY.  And, Happy Spring.


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

So, my five-year-old fell right before I left for the writers’ conference in Boston, and I didn’t know that it was broken until the day I returned — almost a week later.  Generally I suss out my feelings on how to react, but I felt so many things at once that it was hard to concentrate.

Part of me was Mother Bear: WHO BROKE MY CHILD?  Part of me was indignant: None of my children have ever broken a single bone before, never had a trip to the emergency room (well, you know, except the whole cancer thing of the past three years), a mother can’t leave without something going wrong…blah blah blah.

You will notice that Sylvia is smiling in this picture.

My ballet moms at the Friday class are great.  They asked me what happened.  I was defensive.  They were sympathetic and told me stories about how they or their children had broken bones.  Ms. Pam came out and teased me about beating Sylvia.  No problem.

At preschool the teachers let Sylvia show off her cast and gave her extra hugs.  I love the Darling Ms. Debbie and the Caring Ms. Cathy.  They called me to come in with Tylenol a couple days when she complained about her arm hurting.  Here she is, waiting in the office for me.

You’ll notice that she is smiling.

At the orthopedic surgeon’s office I asked if her bones were brittle, if she needed more calcium.  He shrugged and said she could take a multivitamin.  Then he offered, “Kids have accidents, a lot depends on how they fall.”

It wasn’t me, I wasn’t with her.   I don’t even know how she fell.  I’m a good parent.  Are you going to call Child Services?  She has a twin.  You can’t separate them.  And, you certainly can’t have both.

Isabel and I talked.  I understand that she was being careful, that she truly loves my children as her own family and we’ve known each other for a long time.  She and I are good, but I still didn’t know how to answer when people asked what happened.  I felt that I was being judged, that I was taking responsibility for her fall unless I specified that she was under someone else’s care, and that felt like I was still blaming. 

And then at family swim I sat out with Sylvia while everyone else played in the pool.  A mom I didn’t know pointed to Sylvia and said to her son, “Be careful or you’ll get hurt and have to get a cast like that girl.”  She saw me looking and let her eyes drop before trying to be friendly.  “Why is she in a cast?”

“She fell and broke two bones in her arm,” I said.  “It was an accident.”

And there it was.  Acceptance.  Hearing someone else say out loud all of my insecurities made them POOF away.  It was an accident.  I know about accidents. On Friday I drove into my mailbox.  I’ve made the turn into my driveway tens of thousands of times and have managed to miss the hulking brick structure and yet….not this time.

I’m off to sign my girl’s cast.  See if I can get another grin and make this about her.


AWP Pictures

I’m up in Boston for the AWP conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). The internet connection in the lobby of the Marriott is a bit spotty, so I’ll be brief. Last night, I went to a reading by Anne Carson. Here’s my visual imitation in if-then paragraph:

1.  If you wear beautiful new shoes,


2. If you are not invited to a reception,

Then make your own.  With truffles, wine, and apricot cheese and crackers. 

3.  If you sit through a Political poets presentation

Then you can sit in the front row of Rick Russo and Jennifer Haigh’s talk on regionalism.