Monday, August 11, 2014

Reviewing Being West is Best

When asked to read Being West is Best for a blog tour, I thought, "Children's/YA novel, clean, fun, easy read--sure," and signed up. I wasn't expecting to get hooked like I did. Being West is Best turned out to be a book I didn't want to put down.

Displaying BEING COVER.jpg

Being West is Best deals with two twelve-year-old BFFs, Ginnie West and Tillie Taylor, who previously matched up their single parents, Ginnie's dad and Tillie's mom. Now everything seems to be working out for the girls when the families get an unexpected phone-call from Tillie's ex-father, claiming he's cleaned up his act and wants to make amends. The girls worry that long-lost-dad showing up will ruin their plan to become sisters, so they fight the reunion, while the well-meaning parents, uncles, and grandparents try to help them see that there is enough room for everyone in the West family.

Being West is Best is a book full of classic 12-year-old drama and high family values while dealing with adult problems. It brought me right back to my uncertain, brace-faced youth and kept me locked in with delightful characters (Ginnie's long, lost aunt being my favorite), just enough plot twists, and a healthy serving of girl power. It took me about a day-and-a-half to read it (sticking to after kids went to bed and nursing the baby for reading time), but the story and lessons still stick with me, even having read it a month ago.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

While Cooking Sunday Dinner

Outside, the wind shakes the orange trees’ branches and they shimmy uncomfortably like busty old women. And before I hear the pinking on the roof, I see the grey spots appear on the cement patio. “It’s raining!” Aaron announces to the house as he heads for the backdoor and slides it open. I pick up Evan from his Bumbo and sit him in my arms, facing out. 

                                                                                                                   I found this picture here.

The monsoon weighs down the Arizona heat, so when Aaron opens the door, the air swims powerfully over my face and through my nose. It wraps itself intimately around me, folding warm blankets fresh from the dryer but still damp from the wash around my index fingers, ears, calves, knee caps, neck, hair roots. I step barefoot onto the warm concrete and walk just far enough to get dusted with the starter rain drops. Then I inhale the dirty rain. I have loved the smell of rain wherever I have lived, but in Arizona, my home town, it smells like baptism. The dust, dirt, and oil washes the streets, bubbles in the gutters, and floods dry, grassy retention basins.

Evan feels the raindrops tap his arms, feet, and face and blinks into the sky, making sense of the heavens. With a furrowed brow, he reaches one hand out and tries to capture a drop in his squishy fist.

I blink the rain from my eyelashes and look out, making sense of the earth. Sunshine in Arizona bleaches my perspective. But overcast days unveil the desert’s colors: green leaves, magenta bricks, white trunks, orange, brown, red, blue, silver, grey, rust, yellow. The swimming pool reflects what it sees like a pair of sunglasses and turns deep grey as the water rustles and plops, churned by wind and raindrops.

Tasks wait inside—dishes, cooking, playing. But here, mother and son get polka-dotted by the rain. While I drink in smells, colors, and sounds, Evan concentrates on the sky and plays catch with angels pitching him raindrops.

(Another piece I wrote for the ANWA Founder and Friends blog.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Utterance: My Sliver of Eternity

by Andilyn Jenkins (I originally wrote this piece for the ANWA Founder and Friends blog who invited me into their ranks. Check them out.)

Five foot and three inches at 118 pounds, I sat on the laminate wood floor in my black leotard and mustard yellow Sofie shorts holding my slippered feet and leaning forward in the butterfly stretch. My hairline and back were misty from a hard workout as we sat in a small half circle cooling down and stretching before heading home.

I don’t remember how the conversations began, but they were always thought-provoking and nourishing. Several years later, I have to Google “ballet terms” to recall the pirouettes, piques, and rond de jambs, but I always remember listening to my dance teacher Julie open my eyes to the limitless possibilities of the eternities.
Ballet Stretches for Beginners
                                                        I found this picture here.
Julie wanted us to understand why she worked us—why she pushed us further when our muscles trembled and our breathing huffed, the precision required seemingly beyond our physical capabilities. She wanted us to understand the beauty of dance that was linked to our souls.

“Our bodies,” she encouraged, “are imperfect. We are fallen. But when you and I are resurrected, our skill with our bodies will be limitless because we trained them in their fallen state.” She visualized that we would feel our ankle weights drop off as we leap with the grace of queens.

Julie chases dance because her spirit hungers to reconnect in mortal measure what she knew and will know in eternity—a link we could all feel for dance but one that I suspect is magnified for her because she has cultivated it. Because when you drill a fouetté jeté thirty-two times only to complete it perfectly once, you feel for a moment what it is like to be perfect. But the beauty of the connection she has for dance is that we can all feel it for something. We are all created eternally, which means we lived before the world was and we will live again after death. And in the infinite befores and afters, we did not and will not sit endlessly on feather pillows gazing listlessly into infinity. Surely, we danced, sang, wrote, acted, taught, painted, and built.

Pondering Julie’s lesson, I realize that what is true for her in dance is true for me in the written word. I mine my soul for nuggets of truth that I must craft into language. And in the crafting, I am foiled by my mortal education and a fallen language. I pause when the stuff of my spirit knows the right words to unroll the truths stuck in my core, and yet, the frustrating state of this fallen place hold me back from reading the word etched on the tip of my spiritual tongue, and I feel a phantom itch on that part of my brain encasing the memories I no longer have. So in a yearning to articulate those truths, I dig to the bottom of my pit and crudely describe the dirt under my fingernails because the dirt is all I have left to taste from the eternities.

                                                                          I found this picture here.

So I must breathe every fallen, imperfect word because it is all I have. And much like a plastic bottle of Coke, only if I wrestle my mortal brain vigorously enough, will my words reach the heavens when I remove the cap. Until then, my hungry soul will grumble for the words it knows and cannot utter.

Julie dances. I write. Where is your sliver of eternity? Feed your soul and prepare to lose your ankle weights.

 “Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man” (3 Nephi 19:34).

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Gut

To all the mommies who do their job with no vacations or sick days.

If you didn’t like this poem, don’t share it. That would be dumb.

If you did like it, or—better yet—if it rang true, I invite you to share it. It would certainly make my Mother's Day.

I met Daddy and his smile made my knees buckle,
so we buckled down,
and now we tell you to buckle up.
And the swish-clicks of the car seat and booster seat and seat belts
tell me that we’re hittin’ the road for a journey that I am evidently on
but unprepared for.

Unprepared to lose the backs of my diamond stud earrings
because they slipped through your fleshy, fumbly fingers
when you “helped” me accessorize.
Unprepared that I would comb through carpet fibers looking for those escape artists
not because I cared whether or not my earrings were in-tact,
but because my gut said, “Kneel. Comb,” when I saw your apologetic eyes filling up with tears.

My gut.
My gut told me I was missing you, then filled with you, and now extends to you,
always aware and never free from the deep purple scars that reflect in the bathroom mirror
and announce, “I have a child.”
My gut churns on date nights with Daddy hoping Grandma remembered to put your pink blankie on top of your covers instead of under them
so your fingers can sift through the minky fabric until the steady waves in your sea-green eyes break in sleep.
My gut holds me prisoner to those eyes.

And I can’t help but feel like I’m giving
and swinging and hugging and praying,
drying tears, sewing tears, painting pictures, buying stickers, fixing lunches, stopping punches,
nursing—no cursing—and I’m short. I run dry.
Because no matter what I give, I never finish.
So I wonder why I don’t fly and live the dreams that filled my gut before Daddy smiled.
But you were once a part of me, and now that you’re apart from me, you’ve taken part of me 
and my gut
will never stop looking after those missing pieces.

So at night when I write and I think all I want is escape,
I realize that if I sliced off my left leg, I’d most likely want it back because how else could I dance?

So baby, remember that I yelled when you asked me to help you put on your socks,
remember that I fell asleep on the floor playing princess, using my plush steed as a pillow,
and remember that I locked the bathroom door to cry because these shoulders you rely on aren’t always strong enough to carry the weight that they bare anyway.
Don’t forget those moments. Hold onto to the truth.
Because it too easily slips through fleshy, fumbly fingers when you read too many posts and blogs and tweets.
And you’ll find yourself on your knees combing through fibers of self-doubt and insecurities when you think you’re not supposed to break.
Good mommies don’t break?

Here is the truth:
Baby, you broke me. My body, my sanity, my soul, my dreams into play-dough pieces
that you ripped and rolled and stretched and stacked
because I am yours.
And, while I fantasize flight—a daytime me-time world with blank pieces of paper and pens that work—
I stay.

Because my name is Mommy.

I fought with this poem for about five months before I thought it said what I wanted. After I had my second baby, I felt a lot like Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. With my resources exhausted, I started writing this poem wanting to pen motherhood in real light because I was getting tired of the memes that end, "But when I see them smile, it's all worth it." Because that didn't make it all worth it to me. And I became fascinated with the realization that moms just do it. No one teaches a mom to love her children more than herself. No one tells her that she must give over her body and dreams to children. In fact, there are those who choose alternatives. But those who stay, plug on. Why? Because we understand the work we do and choose to do it. We are mommies.

And, finally, a special thanks to Laura Crandell over at Crandell Corner: budget-friendly video for life's happy moments. ( It's thanks to her mad skills that my poem finally came alive.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Raspberry Chat

He pulls his legs up and flop-flop-flops,
they gleefully thump the ground.
With an open, toothless grin, he ska-waaks,
delighted that he has been found.

I scoop him up from his little blue chair
and smash lips to his squishy cheek.
I breathe in baby soap and pears,
planting three kisses to hear him squeak.

We laugh and blow raspberries, our own secret chat.
His hands sloppily seize my chin,
locking my face and requiring that
I stay in this moment with him.

          And I wonder if the adoration I see
          is my baby boy mimicking me.


I was playing with my boy and the moments turned into words which turned into a Shakespearean sonnet. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Shalee Jenkins, for the stunning photos of my baby boy.

Find me later this week when I post some slam poetry about being a mother. With the help of the very talented Laura Crandell, we're recording tomorrow. Wish us luck! You won't want to miss it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Milk Run

My husband put on his coat and shoes
and pecked my lips.
“I’m going to pick up some milk;
do you need anything?”

I could use a few extra hours in the day.
I want the ones with crème filling,
batteries included.

I need three quarts of bubble-gum flavored optimism
and a cup of realism to balance out the side-effects.
Eh . . . forget the realism.
I‘ll substitute a teaspoon of pessimism—I’ve got plenty of that on-hand.

Oh, just one more thing:

When you find the aisle
with heartbreak
and swing dancing lessons

please load up on baby kisses.
They’re seasonal, you know.
And unlike most things,

they won’t be around forever.

Thanks to my husband for the photography-skill. Stay tuned later this week for my Evan sonnet. And this Mother's Day, I will be posting a video of my slam (spoken-word) poem on motherhood that I guarantee you won't want to miss.

If you like what you're reading, please comment, share, and/or follow my blog. Your support keeps me motivated to write more.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Love Yourself Tomorrow

Growing up, I tried to remain physically active: horseback riding, dance lessons, aerobics classes, jogging with friends, wakeboarding, longboarding, but nothing held my attention for more than a few months at most, usually a few weeks. I was never overweight, but I knew I wasn’t health—I wasn’t fit. I knew how alive I felt after exercising. But when my life got busy, exercising fell to the back-burner, again and again.

Two things changed my outlook on exercising. One came with my baby girl: unwanted weight and baby blues. My self-esteem plummeted, and I hated it—I hated me. I felt sluggish, useless, and it was winter in Idaho, so I constantly felt trapped and antsy. I wanted to be more for my daughter, an example of high self-esteem and happiness. But that goal was far from what I had become.

But the second thing, along with encouragement from my husband, came through school: I took a Women’s Health class—a class that I recommend every woman of every major take. In that class I learned that while becoming physically fit has its advantages for your physique, the most important benefits are for your physical and emotional health. Exercising couldn’t be about turning me into a bikini-bomb-shell, because the reality is that few people who exercise will ever feel that way about their looks. Exercising became an opportunity for me to feel strong, successful, and pro-active. I was no longer holding a daily pity party; instead, I took charge and dealt with my problems. And even after exercising that first day, I felt happy again. I hadn’t lost any weight, and I certainly felt sore in the morning, but I felt alive again. And as I developed a regular exercise routine, three to six days a week, the feeling stuck.

Bob Livingstone, author of The Body-Mind-Soul Solution, explains what happened to me. Livingstone suggests that neurotransmitters are affected by exercise (88). Endorphins are probably the neurotransmitters most of us are familiar with regarding exercise: endorphins release during exercise and make us happy. But on the topic of serotonin production in exercise, Livingstone quotes a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “Physical activity has the same effect as antidepressants . . . Aerobic exercise stimulates neurotransmitters in our brain to produce serotonin which makes us feel good. And exercise, unlike antidepressants, has no negative side-effects” (90). Imagine: a solution to mild depression that doesn’t require the cost—monetarily and emotionally—that exists in prescription solutions. Of course exercise is not a fix-all; there are some who will still need to pair depression medication with regular exercise, but exercise is the healing power—the natural key God designed in our bodies to deal with depression, stress, anxiety, and sluggishness.

It would be six more months of off and on exercise before I found an activity I loved enough to stick to. ZUMBA fitness was my activity, something I enjoyed so much that after a year attending classes, I went on to license. Since moving to Arizona and having a second baby, I had to cancel my license, but it hasn’t changed my dedication. I discovered myself through exercise. And I became whole. I became a happier, more confident person, a better wife, and certainly a better mother.

Most people know that exercise is good for our bodies. The benefits are endless: exercise sharpens your mind, strengthens your muscles, enables you to deal with stress, improves your physique, enhances your self-esteem, reduces your appetite, clears your arteries, reduces cholesterol, strengthens your heart, reduces high blood pressure, reduces your risk for colon cancer (87) and Alzheimer’s (89).

Do I have you yet?

What if I told you that exercise generates new brain cells, and studies show those who exercised “displayed improved decision-making abilities and improved cognitive performance” (97)? What about the study where “patients with epilepsy felt better . . . [and] improved their seizure control with regular exercise” (92)? Furthermore, exercise “enables you to stay physically strong as you age,” reducing “muscle loss, joint stiffness, ligament failure, and injury propensity” (96). Aka, exercising today staves off the old-fogies’ bed pans tomorrow.

But the bottom line—exercise is good for your physical and emotional health.

Find something active you love and become addicted. Your body and mind now and in the future will thank you. Posted on the chalkboard at my old ZUMBA fitness dance studio Fuzion in Sugar City, Idaho was this quotation: “Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it.” Exercise because you want to do something good for your body—something good for you, not because you want to fit into a pair of jeans. I guarantee if your motivation is the latter, you’ll likely be disappointed and quit. If your motivation is the former, you’ll be successful and healthy. So start today and love yourself tomorrow.

Works Cited
Livingstone, Bob. The Body-Mind-Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise. New York: Pegasus Books, 2007. Print.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fire Watchman for Welders, As a Beginning Technical Theater Student

The Arc is blue—it dazzles,
but looking at it burns retinas.
So I stare at the two-by-fours, blue by reflection, but less brilliant.
As Lot’s Wife, I long to see the glow, the glamour, the awe-full radiance.
But I close my eyes, not a grain of salt sighted.

Fiery sparks sky-rocket and fall lamely—
the misted stage precaution pointless.
But still I stand, and euthanize the flickers.

I guess I do what I’m told.

I wrote this poem in my junior year in college and it won me second place under poetry in our Pre-Professional Writing Conference. Granted, I'm pretty certain my poetry professor was the only judge. So feel free to take that hoopla with a grain of salt.

The handy-woman in the picture is me as a beginning technical theater student. Unfortunately, I'm not welding in this pictureI'm grinding. But with the sparks, the gear, and the time period, I thought the picture deserved to be here. Working with the welders during this depicted semester was, obviously, the inspiration for my salty, award-winning poem.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

17 Steps to Writing “Like”able Status Updates and Stop Annoying Your Friends

Keep it to twenty words or less
I want the info and I want it fast, particularly if you’re trying for a witty post. Cut, cut, cut the fluff.

Read your status update before you post it
Typos make you look foolish. Clean it up.

Try action verbs and avoid overused adverbs and adjectives
Going right along with eliminating unnecessary words: try switching out those to-be verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) with some action verbs. And eliminate overused adverbs and adjectives like “totally” and “very.”

Blah: “We’ve been together five terrific years today and went to the Dodger-Diamondbacks game to celebrate.”

Oooo: “Celebrating our five years together with a little friendly rivalry at the Dodger-Diamondbacks game.”

Beginning with the action verb and eliminating the “to-be” verb immediately puts my friends in the action.

Be realistic
When sharing a video, blog, or meme, give it to me straight. I’m much more likely to look into it if you’re honest with me. Refer to my friend Amy’s self-test about posts like “BEST EVER!” or “Most amazing------in the world!”

“Is a dog jumping through a hula hoop or a 5-year-old kid singing a crappy rendition of a song the best thing you have ever heard or seen?” Likely not.

Use exclamation marks and CAPS LOCK with trepidation
Unless you are literally jumping up and down and about to run through the streets shouting your news to the heavens, keep your punctuated “excitement” to yourself.

Post 2 times a day or less
If you limit your posts, you by-product only post the best of the best, and your great posts don’t get lost in the mundane, and therefore get more likes. If you’re using Facebook as your only source of validation and feel the need to post about every menial thing, go ask your mom to give you more hugs. #momhugs

People like relating to your post, so find the nugget in your status that makes people go, “Amen!” or “Happens to me all the time!”
We’re all here just trying to relate in the human experience. State your universal truth and give us specific details. Don’t leave out the details because that’s what makes the truth funny or interesting—aka “like”able.

“Just signed up for Spotify Premium solely because I was sick of listening to 30 second commercials for 1) Trojan and 2) terrible rap artists” (Natalie Wall).

“When your child poops on your pants the day after you did laundry and you think, ‘It's not that much poop . . . a little water . . . no one will ever know’” (Yours truly).

Funny observations
The world of comedy exists in being able to translate funny observations into words. Join the world. Everyone loves a good laugh.

“Cell bio fact of the day: the race for zygote fertilization isn't about being the fastest sperm-swimmer. It actually comes down to being the best mucous-eater. So congratulations; you all once ate egg-mucous faster than your competitors” (Natalie Wall).

“I'm watching my carbs. I'm watching them go in my mouth. I'm watching my gummy bears too” (Kyle Martin).

Quotations, usually without commentary
If you overhear or engage in an amusing conversation, we love hearing about it. Don’t feel the need to also tell us it’s funny by posting after the quotations, “I could not stop laughing.” We know. We just read it, and we laughed too.

Cim: “I had a dream where you kept your tummy to yourself and didn't put any babies in it.”
Me: “Oh?”
Cim: “Yeah. It was a scary dream.”
(Shannon Cooley)

Satire and Sarcasm
We all love a little snarkcissism. Just don’t go too far or too often into the “pity me” zone. #momhugs

“11:39 PM: hot date on the couch with my cell bio textbook and a bag of Smarties. Living the dream” (Natalie Wall).

“I enjoy short walks on the beach. Really short. More like driving past the beach. I enjoy seeing pictures of the beach. I acknowledge beaches” (Kyle Martin).

“Sorry I opened your Valentine's Day chocolates. I was hungry and you're imaginary” (Kyle Martin).

Nobody cares about your play-by-play except your mom, so text your mom instead
Basically, post two times a day or less, and this one sorts itself out. #momhugs ‘Nuff said.

We don't care about your baby's mile-marking #momhugs, but we do care about funny or sweet things your baby says.
Again, two posts a day or less and this one pretty much takes care of itself. This mom rocks my socks with her kids’ dialogues:

Mari: “Can I have a drink, please?”
Me: “Sure, what would you like to drink? Milk? Water?”
Mari: “Yours.”

THIS, people. This is a parent’s life in condensed form.
(Shannon Cooley)

If you’re going to mush about your spouse or partner, keep it short and specific.
Avoid clichés—“He's the best husband in the world!” That just makes everyone roll their eyes.

And while we’re on personal relationships, NEVER use Facebook to say negative things about your spouse or (the one I usually see) your kids.
I know your kid is a terror; I’ve met him/her. But if you’re not planning on soliciting advice on behavioral problems, stop using Facebook to complain. Wait until your kid is asleep and definitely can’t hear you, then call your mom and vent it up. #momhugs

Fishing posts
If you’re not willing to share the drama (and it’s likely we don’t want to hear it anyway) then don’t post at all. “Worst day EVAAAAA!” “About to kill this school’s admin!” Come on, people. Call your mom. #momhugs

Don’t be a hater
State your opinion, share your beliefs, quote a scripture—terrific. But Facebook is not the medium for hashing out your beliefs against others’. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind over social media. Get off Facebook and go build yourself a soap box.

Don’t force their hand
Posts that read like chain mail often have the exact opposite effect. We all like to think we’re intelligent enough to decide for ourselves whether or not we want to post, like, or share. Leave it up to us. 

Call your mom, be intelligent, be funny, and be nice.

Thanks to Shannon Cooley, Kyle Martin, and Natalie Wall for letting the world benefit from your fine examples. Here's to making News Feed a better place.

This is what Andilyn thinks. Comment below with thoughts of your own.

The Unusual Hand-Hold

Aaron rolls onto his stomach, punches his left arm under his pillow, and begins to fade. I roll to my right side, bend one knee and breathe, settling in for what I’ve dubbed as quiet time, but might actually be a mild form of insomnia. And tonight’s topic of self-conversation is my five-year anniversary, which dawns tomorrow. As I’m musing, Aaron shifts in his almost-sleep and slides his hand over my right shoulder and strokes my braid away from my neck almost as an answer to my reflective thoughts. I rest my left hand on my left shoulder and lock my fingers with his as he drifts off completely. The unusual hand-hold launches me into a memory and I inwardly chuckle at the irony.

I was eighteen and three weeks out of high school. To celebrate our independence, two of my girlfriends from home and I went and did exactly what we would have done at home: we found a dance party. About half an hour in I figured I should break away from my pack and meet a guy. The heavy music forced condensed pleasantries:

“Hey—Andi!” I pointed to myself, knowing from experience that repeating Andilyn seven times and finally conceding defeat gives me a sore throat.

“Air-ih!” he pointed to himself. “Where’re you from?”

“Arizona! You?”



I could have asked him to repeat his name, but I wasn’t interested in giving him a sore throat. He would have saved himself a lot of time then if he would have asked for my number; although, I doubt I would have given it to him. I had seen enough movies about college to know that twenty-year-old boys are predators, so I put him in the possibly creepy category and made my way back to my pack after the song. Poor Eric.

Three days of tireless Facebook searching/stalking later, I received a message and a friend request from Aaron Jenkins.

“Hey, Andi. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at the dance at the flight museum. . .” The rest of his message that he undoubtedly spent hours trying to word perfectly escapes my memory now.

 Aaron Jenkins . . . nope. I didn’t remember him. But he certainly went out of his way to track me down, so I figured lying would be the polite thing to do.

“Hey, Aaron! No, of course I remember you! Hey I’m having some peeps over at my apartment to watch Disturbia on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7:30. Hope you can come. I’m at the Ridge.” I wrote my reply in thirty seconds.

So curiosity had me. I didn’t recognize his profile pic, and there would be a lot of people at the movie-night—a good chance to check him out. He would spend the next 24 hours desperately trying to find a wing-man, coming up short, and debating whether or not I was hoping he would come alone.

7:32 p.m. on Wednesday night found me sitting on our kitchen table, shoving a hot dog in my mouth before “people” got there. A young man walked in the open front door and I was face-to-face with creepy-Eric. But, I didn’t invite Eric. And slowly the shouted, “Air-ih!” rolled in my mind, and I realized I hadn’t lied after all. I definitely remembered him.

“Hey, Aaron!” came my roommate from behind me.

“Hey, Kaylin.” They hugged and began asking the “how-are-yous.”

“So what are you doing here?” Kaylin asked.

“Oh, well, I met Andi the other night, and she invited me,” he replied, bringing me into the conversation with a cozy smile. I studied him, contrasting my previous opinion of him as much as the black lights and strobes of the dance party contrasted my apartment’s steady fluorescent. Standing, I would only have reached slightly above his shoulders. Even in my highest heels, I would still be shorter than him. He had strong arms and big, steady hands with long fingers. And our skin color and complexions were almost indistinguishable, which meant he, too, probably had three bottles of sunscreen and aloe in his bathroom cabinet. His comfortable, striking smile pulled for my attention, and I complied.

“So how do you two know each other?” I asked.

“Oh, Aaron sang in an acapella group with my older brother in high school.”

I might have swooned. “Oh, what part do you sing?”

“Baritone and bass.”

I played it cool, “Sweet.”

At this point, Spencer arrived, a boy from my English class, and it suddenly became clear to me that both of these guests hoped I had invited them as more than friends. Aaron became cautious and pulled Kaylin in for conversation again, trying to judge my relationship with Spencer, and I cursed my naivety for inviting two boys stag. Tonight, one would go home a loser. And I now had to give Aaron the sign that he was not the loser without rubbing his victory in Spencer’s face. College was hard.

After the rest of the party showed
up, I directed everyone to the couches while I took my time putting in the DVD. Spencer had an open seat next to him when I finished. Aaron did not. But Aaron’s seat was right in front of the TV, so I sat on the floor next to his legs, leaning against the arm of the couch, saying I’d have more room to spread out. Spencer sprung over and joined me, resting his hand between us. I glanced down, surprised I didn’t see, “Hold me,” written on his open palm.

When the suspense escalated, I sat up, brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my fingers in my pixie-cut hair at the nape of my neck. Spencer stayed lying on his back, conceding defeat. Then I felt Aaron’s fingers lightly brush mine. I thought about pulling away to save face for Spencer but worried that Aaron would take it as a rejection. So hoping my fingers were sufficiently blocked by my head, I reached my right hand over my right shoulder and locked my fingers with his, effectively setting off a roller coaster that would lead us to the eve of our five-year wedding anniversary, fingers locked over my shoulder.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Banana Bread Baby

Dear Mom,

Aaron baked
banana bread muffins.
And Evelyn ate a whole muffin
all by herself.
Hot banana-bread-scent stuck to the air,

but I missed it, my fingers busily ticking at my keyboard in the silent library:
acquiring my degree
like you never did.

Evelyn waddled into my bedroom,
searching. “Mama?” she repeated
tugging on the bed covers, where she often
finds me, sleeping,
because I’m always tired,

but I missed it, busy analyzing when one should or should not use passive voice:
acquiring my degree
like you never did.

Mom, Evelyn crunched an autumn leaf, swept snow from her mittens, touched the hot pink geraniums, and gave one a kiss,
and I missed it.

But you never did.

Two Minutes

1:28 a.m. 

My “me-time” turned into a very late night, a beautiful manicure, and a promise of an even earlier morning, seeing as both of my kids went to bed uncharacteristically on-time. The lights off, I pull my red elastic out of my hair, toss it on the nightstand and flop my head on my pillow when I hear Evelyn let out a squeaky moan from her bedroom. That was the third one in the last ten minutes. And this time, my nails are dry. No more excuses. Aaron checks the video baby monitor and "suggests" I go tuck her in before I get too comfortable. The back corner of his brain that is still awake manages, "Goodnight, dear," as I thump out of bed. I know he’s asleep before my feet hit the floor, but I say goodnight anyway.

I click on the hall light and open Evelyn's door. The light breaking into her room from around my silhouette causes her to stir for the fourth time. She lies diagonally in her full-size bed, the ceiling fan playing both comforter and trickster. Her curly hair weaves around her face and neck like a wool blanket, begging for cool. But her goose-bumpy exposed legs make her restless. Accepting the fact that I might wake her up in my intention to allow her to rest more peacefully, I let the light in. I unwind her feet from the sheet and bring the comforter up to her shoulders. She lets out a deep exhale and rolls so her face turns to mine. Her heavy eyes unstick.

"Do you need to go potty?" I guess.
I pull her minky, pink blanket out of the ball and lay it softly over her covers, under her hands so she can pet it. I lean in to sweep her auburn hair away from her neck, "Goodnight."
Eyes closed, "Goodnight, Mommy."
I kiss her cheek, "I love you."
And with an exhaling breath as she repositions herself on her side, turning away from the door, "I love you too."

1:30 a.m.