Walking the dog in the rain

Rain On Window by David Wagner

When I was 23, I flew to Ireland with a backpack. I spent three lovely weeks in a wander. I went alone. And it was marvelous.

In Ireland, it rained. A lot. I was almost always slightly damp. For several days, I was quite sick. In Dublin, I met a man who claimed to have set bombs for the IRA. Near the Cliffs of Moher, I learned that being “brave” enough to hitchhike is a rather stupid choice. In Dingle, I fell in love with mountains and sea but mistook them for a boy. When I left, with a newly acquired smoking habit and a heavy stack of Irish myths, I believed that nothing would ever make me sad again.


At 23, I thought I had discovered internal truths of such magnitude they could never be forgotten. I’d had a grand adventure — no small thing — but not a revelation. At 41, I have come to disbelieve epiphanies. The truth is usually smaller, spare, and easier to miss. The deepest revelations come dressed in the mundane. Continue reading

Puppy Love

Giving birth to my daughters came with its share of surprises, including some of the questions asked of me by strangers. The first time someone said, “Where did you get her?” it took me a full minute to realize that the lady cooing over my child assumed that she was adopted.

Both of my daughters carry the beauty of my husband’s Korean heritage. If he’s not around, people wonder where they came from. They guess it’s not from me.

Although I know the question is posed without malice, after a few months of sleep deprivation, I was tempted to answer each “Where did you get them?” with either (a) “Walmart” or, (b) “I ripped them out of my uterus and I have the scars to prove it.” Usually, I held my tongue. Continue reading

Chaos Theory

Fractal by Sharon Apted

Writers and physicists don’t often think alike. For a scientist, chaos theory is the study of complex systems that can change wildly based on small, initial differences. The classic example is the Butterfly Effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can change the weather in Idaho. Chaos theory doesn’t actually describe “chaos” in the literary sense. It describes patterns that mutate within underlying, if complex, rules.

Chaos in a literary sense is more, well, literal. It’s a mess, an unresolvable conflict, a total free-for-all, no-holds-barred, breakdown of order. It’s chaos.

I never was particulary good in physics.

And I have my own, more literary, version of chaos theory. Continue reading

Four-legged lessons

dog collar

Bella follows me everywhere.  When I sit on the couch with my legs crossed, she rests her head on my elevated foot. She curls up beside my chair while I write. She goes to bed when I do.

We have invented at least a dozen nicknames for a dog that we’ve had in our home less than a week. She dances when she’s happy to see us. Bella — or Belly-bean, or Jelly-belly, or Bella Bells — has tolerated scores of hugs from Boo Monkey (age 4) and Rainbow Girl (age 7). And me.

I can hardly imagine the vacancy when we give her back on Saturday. We’re dog sitting, but it feels like Bella is taking care of us, stitching up places in our lives that we never knew were torn.

Diana Spechler, author of Skinny, writes about how a loaner cat helped her reach places in her manuscript that she’d been afraid to confront. Over the last few days, Bella has nudged our family towards a similar grace. If that sounds like a lot to attribute to a four-legged sage, just take a look at the lessons we’ve learned. Continue reading