The Last Dandelion Bouquet

Memoirs of a Mama Bear

Brilliance. Staring into flashes of memory. My kids when they were little. My son as a baby, how warm his round head would get when he was sleeping. My daughter not even five, and obsessed with black and white scary movies. The excitement of picking Halloween costumes, and their small faces seeing Christmas presents under the tree. Them peering over my shoulder as I did homework, asking when I would finish and come play. Knock-knock jokes, peanut-butter-and-jelly, velcro light-up shoes. Summer nights with roasted marshmallows and lightning bugs, movies, and popcorn. So many bags of popcorn.

The snowsuits and skinned knees, the spilled milk, and tickles. Wishing upon stars. How their little faces would cringe and their chins dimple as they tried not to cry. The first time they learned how to tear the wrapping paper off of presents. Them sneaking around in the morning trying not to wake me up “Shh, don’t wake up Mom!” Their intent expression while reading the back of cereal boxes as sunlight streams in the kitchen. The birthdays and bedtime stories and pancake breakfasts. Missing mittens and forgotten lunch boxes. Watching them smile as they climbed onto the school bus for the first time, and how tiny they looked reaching up towards the rail. How the bus sounded as it roared away, and how I cried when they were gone.

My son, born strong, silent, and stoic. Dark brown eyes blinking at me as he was placed on my chest. My daughter came with a full head of raven-black hair, loud and cantankerous, eyes of the deepest navy blue. My son’s first smile. And his reaction to me celebrating that smile. My daughter’s first words aside from mama: “tickle, tickle”… whispered from her high chair with a mushy Cheerio stuck to her round cheek. 

The thousands of beautiful dandelion flower bouquets that I was gifted. Training wheels and then learning how to ride without them. Roller skates and scooters. The neighbor kids’ bikes laying all over the front yard and driveway. Letting them go for the first few (hundred) times: “… don’t forget — just to the stop sign and back — remember?”, and “… stay where you can see the house, ok?” Red or blue or purple-stained popsicle lips and eating the strawberries right out of my Aunt’s garden. Bullies and trouble with friends. Couch cuddles and snack time and cut up hot dogs. The sprinkler and playing with the hose. The first sleepovers and the hugs during pick up on the mornings after. The back door slamming from the constant in-and-out during ‘outside’ play. Laughing at Saturday morning cartoons and staying in pajamas all day. Falling into a pile of leaves on a warm autumn afternoon. Jumping higher because of new shoes. Hot chocolate, snowmen, and cold noses.

The ever-worn and ripped knees of my son’s pants from playing on the floor. The never-to-be-eradicated glitter fallen from my daughter’s headbands. Cold school day mornings, packing lunches, grapes, juice boxes, and Little Debbie snacks. Waking them up late to tell them it’s a snow day. Hot wheels, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes. Legos and crayons. Colored pages covering the refrigerator. Watching them pick gifts for their friends, the thought and effort for someone else energizing them. High school dances, prom, graduation, driver’s licenses. The moon following us on a night car ride. Checking under the bed for monsters and closing bedroom closet doors. Lost special blankets and late-night drinks of water. Their goofiness and grumpiness, the funny faces, and practical jokes. How excited they were when I came home from work. The hugs and enthusiasm, the sense that all was whole.

My daughter on stage at the choir concert, eyes bright under the stage lights. Looking back while driving and seeing their little heads resting against car windows, asleep on a long ride home. Making beds with clean sheets and tucking them in after a bath. The Friday night lights at my son’s high school football games “Go Warriors!” Stay-home sick days, their cheeks red as they napped in front of the TV on a blanket-covered couch. Playgrounds and swinging on the swingset, “Please Mom, just one more push…” Their inclination towards serious and difficult topics. How I wanted to shelter them but knew that I couldn’t. How carefully they listened as I spoke hard truths. How they sometimes spoke wisdom beyond their years. The moon reflecting in their eyes as they looked at the night sky and told me how much they loved the mystery of outer space. Their little voices telling me “I love you” as they glowed- meaning it with every atom of their being.

Childhood is gone so quickly that it takes a moment to even realize that it is gone. It seems never-ending from the middle of the story, from inside the day-to-day. Only in hindsight, can I see that I had chances to do better… perhaps because we always think we have time. We don’t realize when the last of something is happening. I don’t remember when I was given my last dandelion bouquet. When my daughter gets home from work, I will ask her to surprise me with one someday. She will roll her eyes and smile. And that will make me smile. Looking back, it’s a blur, a whirlwind. A fraction of time. A fraction of their lives — and just a fraction of mine, really. For only one split second, they were mine. 


Read me on Medium, here.

*Photo by Herbert Goetsch on Unsplash

Dappled Golden Light

Knock softly to find me in the spare room, 
set to the side for tired eyes to visit.
Where I am nested in silky cream linens, 
undercover. 
Drawn shades with dappled golden light; always.

From across the room, you watch me,
pleased at my stillness.
And pinned under your stare, I wait.
As you slowly drink me in,
up and then down.
And maybe back up again.

Slow steps towards me, 
then shadowed by shoulders, broad and wide.
Strong hands filled with paused intention,
suspenseful as they take their time.
And wander 
over my soft form.
Pressed against me,
I ache to take you in.
Interlaced fingers, parted lips.

Sighs.


Come read me on Medium here.

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash

The Day Floods the Night

A Just-Get-to-the-Point Metaphor

The night feels darker when lost deep in the forest. Cradled under treetops and cloaked from the light of the sky, everything looks different. Once-familiar paths shift unexpectedly and snake-like, veering off at odd angles. The dark is dramatic, altering every little bit of light and making shadows reach towards us from around corners. 

With our flashlights, we illuminate narrow hallways between the trees ahead. Regardless of how bright, nothing is ever clear. North looks the same as south, and east the same as west. But we continue on, the light in our hands bouncing with our steps —  a beacon to whatever hides nearby.

We tend to think of the night in hushed whispers and muffled voices, tiptoes, and quiet sighs. But in the forest, the night noises are loud. Echoes multiply, moving towards and away from us simultaneously. Twigs snap behind us even if no one is there. Our footsteps sound like that of many — no matter how lightly we step. Leaves scamper despite the stillness of windless air.

We feel vulnerable, unsure, and unprepared. A minute seems to take much longer than a minute and self-doubt seeps in like a spill soaked up by paper. No one saunters through the dark wood. We move fast, pushed ahead by the dark behind us. 


We all have dark times. When we try to describe it to another or even understand it in hindsight, it seems like something is lost in translation. Dark times cannot be shared like the good times are. 

When we find ourselves in a dark place, it can feel like being lost deep in the night forest. If you are in those dark woods now, you aren’t alone. Some of us are there with you, with wide eyes that search for dawn.

But, the passing of time is certain. The day will flood the night, making what was once shadowed become enlightened.

Things will get better. Or maybe we just get better at things. Either way, we come out on top so there is no sense in running, in panic. The point is that we will rise stronger and with a greater understanding of ourselves, our purpose.

Take these difficult moments in. Live them, breathe them. Focus on how the night air feels wrapped around you. Take your control back and light a match. Sit in that dark forest and rest beside the campfire. 

We have to fully experience the dark in order to truly appreciate the light. 

Purpose becomes renewed with a fresh set of eyes….

I’ll see you in the morning.


“Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” 

Earl Grollman

Also published on Medium. Read me here.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Dreaming Backwards

or the gift of the mid-life crisis

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

“We will never be here again.”

Homer, The Iliad

When driving through a dense fog, only the next few feet are visible before you. Everything beyond your sight is unknown.

When we were young adults, the foggy vision of our future loomed before us, vast and limitless, making us feel excited and alive. Our life ahead was mysterious because it was undefined and undetermined, making it full of possibilities.

Eager, we paced restlessly at the gates, listening for the gun to sound so we could race out into the fog ahead, each of us our own spinning galaxy, full of Potential.

We believed. We just knew we would find the magic of beginnings and the joy of surprises and the wonder of adventure. We were going to make our mark, find love, clink glasses with friends in revelry, and live breezy, sunset-filled lives.

The uncertainty of it all; the life yet to be lived… made us feel ALIVE.

Everything ahead of us was a choice yet to be made, our paths yet to be determined. Here, the idea of Endless Possibility reflects itself onto Time, making it also appear endless. Can Time be timeless?


It is sometime in our forties or fifties that we realize our paths are set. The foggy air becomes clear, and the question of “what is to be” is answered. Where we used to revel in the mystery of what is to come, we can now see. Our trajectory is set.

With minimal imagination and minimal maintenance, we can live out our days. And then one day becomes the next, becomes the next, becomes the next. And we become comfortable.

Until we’re not.

Suddenly, Time no longer seems timeless or limitless. And with the “end of the story” seemingly so clear in front of us, how can we not experience the infamous ‘mid-life crisis’?

The world looks so different when the fog clears. Without the excitement of the unknown, monotony begins. We may begin to look back more than ahead.

“I miss dreaming forwards,” Anna said.
“What?”
“I dream backwards now. You won’t believe how backwards you’ll dream someday.”

Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

We think about the legacy we will leave behind. We think about the way we spent our time, the choices we made, and all the times we settled, became complacent.

Many will remain complacent and spend the rest of their lives looking back, living in the memory of years past, the best of their time behind them. Too afraid to make a move.

Some will yearn for more, but stay the path, afraid to make changes because of what others think, a sense of obligation, money, status, and familiarity. All the while, wondering “what if”.

We will all crave some form of intimacy and desire connections that offer depth. A few of us will seek out experience, adventure, knowledge, and a greater understanding. Philosophy and self-development move to areas of high interest.

We want to maximize the life we get out of our time, and maximize the value of the time we have left in our lives.

But how?

We have to fill our lives with things that inspire excitement and make us connect to the world around us. Without focusing on our careers or materialistic things, here are a few ways to improve the best half of your life and feel alive again.

Fill your life with Potential.

  • Never stop learning. Learn something new every day. There is no room for boredom in this world. We live in an informational age, everything at our fingertips.
  • Find your tribe. Find people that inspire you to be a better you. People that challenge you to think deeper than ever before. Surround yourself with the ones who want to hear what you are thinking. The ones that smile the moment you enter the room.
  • Stop escaping. Stop distracting yourself with the monotony of pointless and mind-numbing TV and superficial interests. If it doesn’t move you to the core, you are wasting your time.
  • Stop settling in your relationships. Don’t stay for comfort or out of obligation as that isn’t fair to them either. If current circumstances are not ideal, don’t be afraid to blow up your life. Regret from inaction is heavy. We change. We aren’t the same person that we were 20 or 30 years ago — actually — we better not be.
  • Have downtime. Breathe deep and enjoy the moment. Stare out at the horizon and listen to the birds during a sunset. Relax on your front porch and wonder at how the cloud formations create shapes. Watch the leaves blow through the treetops and notice how the sunlight reflects off a blade of grass.
  • Take an interest and passion of yours and make it grow. Make it a gift for the world around you. Be creative and express yourself — just write it, sing it, draw it… CREATE IT. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks…. just put it out there.
  • Pick up an old hobby. What did you once love but have forgotten? What passion did you give up in the name of a 9–5? Think back and reignite that energy.
  • Take care of your self. Go to the dentist, the doctor. Invest in preventative care. Lose weight. Learn to love healthy foods and see just how satiated they can make you feel.
  • Skydive, swim with sharks, learn to ride a motorcycle, climb a mountain. Do something that scares, excites, and intrigues you.
  • Exercise until your heart is beating out of your chest and your muscles are screaming. And then do it again the next day, and the day after that. Learn to love the physical discomfort of pushing your own boundaries.
  • Get lost in the woods. Or better yet — get to know those woods like the back of your hand. Learn about the land, wildflowers, rivers, ecosystems, wetlands, deserts… whatever corner you live in — study it and fully experience your spot on this beautiful blue planet.

The fact is that cultural and societal expectations pave much of our way. Take what you can control into your hands and begin living life the way you want to live. Be courageous.

Your mid-life crisis is a gift, an awakening. The universe is grabbing you by the shoulders and trying to shake sense into you before it is too late. Will you heed its warning? Are you paying attention?


“Let us not remain anchored in the quicksand of a waning past, and lose the war on obliviousness, but let us listen to the bracing sounds of new horizons, grasp the enchantment of the fleeting instants and seize the cleverness of the moment. (Could time be patient?)”

Erik Pevernagie

Originally posted on Medium. Read me here.

When I Left My Dream Job

and went to play in the woods instead.

“Red Trail” 7.13.19
photo by author

Last January, I walked away from a job that I initially loved and had worked hard to get. Structural changes trickled down and leadership had a massive turn over. New management came through and the environment became toxic.

I felt lost. I realized that I had wrapped my entire self-image and self-worth into my career. I am not sure, but it might end up being a chip on my shoulder for the rest of my time on this planet. The experience changed me profoundly.

Unfortunately, nearly all of my friendships were work-related. It is rather embarrassing and it hurts to say, but losing the shared atmosphere caused my friendships to dwindle quickly. You know how that goes.

At the same time, I inadvertently pulled my head out of the sand and finally faced some hard truths about my 24-year relationship. That’s a story meant for another rainy day, but I mention it to illustrate the Snowball Effect that seemed to occur when I started to evaluate the world around me.

I took a couple of months off and slept. And felt sick. Really sick. Like not able to look in the mirror sick. And I felt useless and aimless and pointless and was filled with purposeless-ness. I mean, I *was* without purpose. I needed something that I couldn’t name. And I was lonely.


On a cold spring day in April, I went into the woods. To hike, to hide, to feel like I was running away- without actually having to run away. It was a distraction disguised as a positive outlet. 

I came up with arbitrary hiking goals that included:

  • Twelve Miles A Day Because Every Day is Leg Day
  • A Marathon a Week or It Didn’t Happen
  • Two-A-Days or Bust (super effective way to avoid being at home)
  • Muddy and Rainy: Better for the Brainy
  • If You Aren’t Crying Then You Aren’t Trying

But, seriously.

To feel a sense of control, I avoided any kind of paved trail and sought to find the more unknown trails. The messier the terrain, the better. The less-traveled, the better. I even made a couple of my own.

Over the course of 4 months, I lost the extra 40 pounds that my “dream” job had gifted me through stress and break-room bakery.

I sprained each ankle no less than 3 times, tore my calf muscle (brutal), tweaked my knee, slipped, fell, bruised, bled, and I might have hit my head a time or two. I worked through each injury, taking a day or two off when absolutely necessary. Basically, there was a lot of ice and kinesiology tape involved.

But I needed to push past my physical and mental limits. The physical struggle was the only thing that offered me release, let me cry, feel alive. Without it, everything remained all bound up somewhere in my head. 

The exhaustion made my sleep a little less restless —  although my legs would wake me nightly with the dull ache of overtraining. But I preferred it, as it was a physical pain that demanded more attention than the emotional turmoil I felt.


I have no real lesson to share here. But I am still out there. Down to 2–3 x a week because of the winter weather and the nightshift job I have to maintain.

And I’ll never stop. I may move to the mountains and make hiking take over my life. The trees, flowers, and even the bugs. The sun, the ice, the mud, the wind, the warm, and the cold. It is all so beautiful.

Maybe I need a hiking buddy. So if you see me out there, stop and say hi. 
If I’m crying, stop and say hi, anyway. It’s a good thing. It means I’m breaking through something.

And I will come out of the woods stronger… or fall down a mountain trying.

CVNP 7.6.19
photo by author

cross-posted on Medium

When You Don’t Know Your Niche

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

I can’t be the only one.

The writers who write about writing tell you that finding your niche is important. How do I do that? Do I write different topics under different pen names? Use certain platforms for certain themes?

Here’s the thing. I don’t really fit into a niche. Sometimes, I just need to write. And when that happens, I do just that. I write.

Something is born from my fingertips dancing across the keyboard of my laptop. Like a funnel, I become a medium between my computer and the universe, the words flow into me, through me, and onto the Word document before me.

Sometimes the words are surprising. It is incredibly romantic to think of how many different combinations we have created using the same words. Like a spilled bucket of ice, cubes flying out in all directions, each of us pulling them back together in our own unique way.

Sometimes the words are beautifully painful, achingly raw, and embarrassingly revealing. Sometimes it hurts to write.

Sometimes the words that are funneled to me uncover what I really need to write about at that moment. So, I continue. Tap tap tapping away, as words become sentences, which become paragraphs… and then are born as short stories, poetry, and recently, a few serious articles, too.

Sometimes I share what I have written. Sometimes I hide it in a sub-folder that only exists 7 layers deep in My Documents with shady promises to come back to it someday.

Sometimes, I DELETE, although a dear friend of mine has recently convinced me to ‘stop deleting, everything has value’.

But does it? Does everything have value? Is he right?

Yes, he’s right. The value is that the words come from within. That they are genuine and sincere and that I pour my soul into them. That matters.

But will my readers find any value? I hope so.

Sometimes I ache to hear my reader’s thoughts regarding the words that I have bled for them. To know that someone looked in between the lines to find me, as that space between words is where the real me is hidden.

Maybe, since I am still new to sharing my writing, my niche will become apparent one day. Until then, maybe someone can share their wisdom as I know I am not the only one.


“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

― Mary Oliver

Cross posted on Medium

Follow Your Future

And then one morning you wake up.

Consciousness overcomes dreams, breaking through that sleepy haze.

Like the barometric pressure subtly shifting, we sense a change in our forecast. The weather vane swivels, our course suddenly pulling us into a different direction.

And in that direction, we will take one step, followed by another, and another after that. And it will feel all wrong. Unfamiliar and foggy, unclear as to what lies ahead. And you hate to admit it, but you are terribly sure that the known lands behind you are not meant for you any longer. Not everyone can accept that knowledge.

Some fight it for lifetimes.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, of course. Admitting that your old life no longer serves you, has you stuck, limited, in a rut, doesn’t cultivate personal growth. You will hesitate. You will look back over your shoulder and see the world of your past while knowing deep down that ‘just head back where it’s safe’ is not really an option.

Because now you know there is something else out there looking for you.

Some kind of inner honing device triggered, a call to arms, a neodymium magnet pulling you towards *it* as *it* demands you to become You.

It’s right. Go. Go, and leave the rest behind.

Going in the right direction may not feel right. But keep in mind that going in the wrong direction does not feel right, either.

Follow your future.


The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Cross posted on Medium

Our Ghosts Running

The summer treetops shaded us and the hot air
kept us flushed
through the pursuit of the moment.

And when those leaves began to fall around us,
we listened as they
were crunched by our footsteps.

In the fall air, we were warm and hazy,
with creases from laughter
upon our pink faces.

And then through the swirling snowflakes
we found
how nice cold noses felt
when pressed against warm cheeks.

And we ran towards something
but
towards nothing.

And in the icy valley, we left it there.
Ghosts running
through the trees in time-past.
Gone,
but never really fading.

7.29.19 Cuyahoga River, Ohio: photo by author

Also published on Medium. Read me here.

*Top Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Ballroom Behind My Eyes

I want you to know me by the voice that you hear in your head when you read my words. I want you to know what I am thinking. To be the holder of my decoder ring, able to decipher me.

Translate my abstractness into a concreteness and teach it back to me.

Then tell me more.

I want you to feel as though you have found your way home in my sincerity, my realness. That you can feel my faults, for they are as big as San Andreas. That you forgive me, as I do you.

Tell me that you can see me. I want you to read my soul, to see my soul. To touch me there because that means that I am touching your soul, too. I want you to take me in so deeply that I cannot question my trust for you.

I want to move your heart with the thoughts that I have stretched out and left here for you to read… to find. These little pieces of me once crumpled and strewn about the ballroom behind my eyes. I am compelled to collect them for you, sift through them, iron them out… deciding which are appropriate for human consumption.

Tell me how you can feel me bleed through to you — for you — regardless of the genre or the subject that my words are weaving for you at the moment.

I want you to feel refreshed by my sincerity… like that delicious intake of crisp cool air that you can’t help but take into you so very deeply.


I want to feel your potential radiate from within you, your inspiration bleeding into the air around you. Your Phoenix Rising. I want you overcome with the need to find those words locked inside of you… to let them out and for you to tell me their story. I will be mesmerized as you share them with me.

Move me. Make me feel you. And when you are done, I’ll ask you to tell me more.

I want to relish in your memories with you, view them with our collective hindsight. And yes, even the times that you felt most terrified, vulnerable, and saddened. Tell me about how you were lost inside of yourself and couldn’t find your way out, for I know that place, too.

I want my words to walk with you in that darkness, reach the shadows within you and show you how they love you there, as well.

I will come find you so that we can spin in circles while hand-in-hand and laugh

as we change the sadness into beautiful, icy snowflakes that fall around us and crunch at our feet.


I want to know your first waking thoughts. And the ones that put you to bed at night, too… those sleepy notions that dissipate before you can articulate them.

Tell me how you run after them, catching only their particles with your fishing net… using careful, soft, and gliding motions.

And tell me how frustrating it is when those motions create passive ripples that push the other thoughts away, unable to be captured…perhaps now lost.

And tell me how, later, you yearn to piece them together again through pen and paper.


I want to paint pictures in your eyes, moving ones — if I can. Pictures that bring you back to your own moments. Like your first bite of apple pie, a puppy asleep on your lap, or like that time you were kissed so deeply that it became more than just a kiss.

Or when — the *exact* moment when — you realized that you recognized someone’s soul and how you suddenly ‘just knew’….. tell me how time stood still for you. I want my words to bring you back there so I can feel it with you, too.

Tell me how it feels to have my words envelop you.

Because I hope they make you feel like you are landing inside a pile of fallen leaves on a warm autumn day.


Tell me that when I am long gone you will still feel the waves of my energy, weighted and heavy- as if particles of true matter and subject to gravity.

Tell me that when I cease to exist you will still be able to hear me in your mind. And how my words will still manage to make you feel safe as you lie your head down to sleep each night.

And when you feel the smile that I snuck on your lovely face from so far away, I’ll know and smile from somewhere far away, too.


“I want you to tell me about every person you’ve ever been in love with.
Tell me why you loved them,
then tell me why they loved you.
Tell me about a day in your life you didn’t think you’d live through.

Tell me what the word home means to you
and tell me in a way that I’ll know your mother’s name
just by the way you describe your bedroom
when you were eight.”

 Andrea Gibson


Come read me on Medium here.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tiger’s Eye Glowing

Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

Tiger’s eye glowing, into mine of hazel.

Dive right in,

without hesitation;

a free-fall.

Past the noise and the clutter and into the darkness of it all.

Into the center…

where the mess is.

A moment of refuge found;

the drifters’ solitude eclipsed.

;

Tiger’s eye glowing, into mine of hazel.

Find asylum within the intensity;

within the thirst and the longing and the hurt of it all.

Within the rose garden;

where every dance is always the last,

and greetings are made with a goodbye kiss.


;

cross posted on Medium