Road Trip

Heads of state

Memorial bridges
Digging ditches

Sticky soles
Caution zones

Pulling muscles
Rustling children
flexing against restraints

Forcing the engine to its limits

Exit 1, 2, 3
Routes A, B, C

Four hours sleep – total net
Are we there yet?

The Sentence is Your Life


Laundry List

Poetry recitals, preschool sing-a-longs,
spring picnics, slumber parties, school vacation,
First Communions, community events, social commitments.

With so much fun to be had,
how can one have any fun at all?

Just looking at the list wears me out -
and I haven’t even thought of doing the laundry yet.

Good thing the laundry looks happy - because he's going to be there for awhile.

Good thing the laundry looks happy – because he’s going to be there for awhile.

Soak a Single Moment


Tart and sweet,

warmth running down my middle.

The cricket click of a processor.

The whine of refrigeration.

The wave of radiation shimmering in the shadow box of mullions.

No matter where I am, I can find the glow of the sun.

It and I travel all over, and yet, connect -

if I look, if I feel, if I stop to soak it in.

Sometimes the grandest thing to be done

is to do nothing but soak in the sun.


No Such Thing as a Coincidence?


“There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”   ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

For the most part, I believe this.

Yes, we could drive ourselves crazy analyzing every bit of beef for meaning – when, indeed, it simply may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol) – rather than a spectre of our own fate to come.

But I do believe the universe serves us up soul food at precisely the time we are starving. If we take the time to really see the menu.

Over the last four years, there have been moments I’ve really hated the concept behind this platitude. What kind of sadistic universe would send me depression and anxiety to teach me a lesson? Some would say such a struggle is meant to bring me closer to God, to trust in His care since I could not do it alone. Some would say it equips me to communicate with and possibly console others in a similar situation. Maybe it was meant to break me, to distill me down to my most raw entity to make me grateful for all I have despite all I’ve suffered. I don’t know the grand scheme of things and how I fit in. I wouldn’t be able to offer a treatment of it in one blog entry anyway.

Yesterday, though, as I listened to my priest reveal the healing power of an exorcism he’d performed (yeah, mind-blowing), I suddenly felt the pull of the universe on the strings of my soul. In thanking God for the gift of the human being in front of him, the evil harbored inside that being – whether in the form of guilt, regret, or an actual demon – was excised, freeing the person to live in love.

Now, before you sign me up for an exorcism, no, I am not possessed. Not by a demon, anyway. But as I listened to my pastor, I realized the shame and resentment I’ve harbored this long journey since the birth of my third daughter. The blame I’ve laid on myself for ‘succumbing’ to depression. The weakness I felt I exhibited by allowing myself to feel anxiety. The overall failure to be the master of my own body. The alternate guilt and anger at having such a beautiful life – aside from mental illness – and not being able to appreciate it.

So another platitude: acceptance is the first step?

I’m not sure where I’ll go from here or how much I’ve truly learned from this coincidence, but it’s a starting point. The answer, I know, has something to do with mercy – for myself.

Extra Yarn

“On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.”

It was a seemingly endless box of yarn; no matter the number of sweaters or hats or cozies knit, there was always extra yarn.

Annabelle converted town bullies with her rainbow thread. She led her dog, Mars, around on a rainbow leash. She clothed her naysayers in a prism of perseverance and accomplishment.

image from School Library Journal

The very nature of the town began to change.

And she still had extra yarn.

News spread of Annabelle’s wondrous deeds and visitors came from far and wide. An archduke wanted, at any cost, to acquire “that miraculous box of yarn.” No matter the price, Annabelle declined. The archduke arranged to have it stolen, but once he returned home and opened the box, he saw that it was empty. Hurling the box into the sea, he shouted, “Little girl, I curse you with my family’s curse! You will never be happy again!”

The current carries the box back to the shore where Annabelle and Mars sit. And once Annabelle retrieves it, its magic power is once more ignited.

A box of extra yarn is available to all who want it. We need not seek it out in a secret nook of a far-flung fiber shop. We need not win a life lottery. We need not spend all our riches in acquiring it.

It is there for the taking – if we have the right combination of thoughts and attitudes to unlock it. It opens easily enough; it is how we view the contents that determines the wealth and abundance of them.

We need the wide-eyed optimism of a girl that, despite dreary surroundings, can still see wonder in the world. And doesn’t question the where and why for of happiness, but wraps herself in it like a cozy, hand-knit sweater.

Battery and Rebirth

The land is repairing itself now from the spring deluge it experienced this past weekend. It is still trying to assimilate the stands of water upon its surface, soaking and sucking, trying to get back to base. Clogs of leaves and rivers of sand mark the slick black surface of tar. Mini mountains of rock crumble and crunch beneath car tires.

As I traverse curvy country roads and see nature doing its best at damage control, I realize it’s also pushing forward with its plans of renewal. It’s not just attempting to achieve stasis, it’s battling for the burgeoning growth that has been swelling beneath the surface for weeks. Carpets of moss are a brilliant green against the rust colored blankets of leaves up to their chins. In sunny snatches of land, the green points of daffodils are poking up. The air has lost its bite, but blows a breeze still fresh and new.

In this push and pull of survival and revival, I pass a farmyard with a basketball hoop. The grains of the weathered wood on the backboard peeking through the paint, it hangs sideways, the mottled metal loop of the rim vertical rather than horizontal. Of all the images I see in my travels, my mind’s eye freezes this frame.

Why does human ephemera coexisting with a totally divergent context appeal to me so much?

I ponder this as I drive on and suddenly realize why. All of us – broken backboards, bushes and trees swallowed by muck, humans sunk in quicksand – we all struggle to survive despite the forces that strive to push us down. And we do. Despite chipped paint and rusty bolts that no longer mount us firmly to our foundation, we stand. Though rivulets swell into rivers and strain our roots, we hold. Even while downward sucking motion seems inevitable to overcome, we keep our heads above the surface.

A few years ago, my mother was sorting through my grandmother’s old tool shed. An avid gardener whose advancing age had taken both her stamina and her partner, she hadn’t opened the shed in years. In the discard pile of rusty tools, I found a spadeless spade – a thick wooden handle leading to a corroded metal tip even sharper than its original piece. “Can I have this?” I asked. My mother looked at me incredulously. I wanted it as a reminder, that even in an imperfect form, items made with quality materials and craftsmanship would endure. Also, that any job is easier with the proper tools (ie of course you’ll get frustrated if you try to dig a hole with a broken shovel).



Even with the most vital part of its existence broken, this object will endure and possibly inspire others.

May you find your battered backboard or broken shovel.

Photos: Jennifer Butler Basile

Photos: Jennifer Butler Basile



The Imaginative World of Words

Free App: Poetry from the Poetry Foundation.


It’s National Poetry Month.  Woo Hoo!  Hang sonnets from the sashes and couplets from the cupolas.  Let a ballad be your banner flapping in the brisk April breeze.

I would join in your revelry and pen my own poetic masterpiece, alas, I got distracted playing with this fabulous app.  It doesn’t have flappy fins or diced fruit, but you can spin TWO wheels and garner a fortune of carefully crafted verse.  It is a goldmine for logophiles like me, for it brings merit to the world of technophilia.

Which brings me to the book I just finished reading (and shows just how distracted I am today): Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Though at times in the plot there are contentious arguments about the merits of print vs. technology, Sloan, for the most part, has created a loving universe where both coexist in meaningful and appreciative ways.  The last lines, though, do give a good ol’ what what to my beloved book:

“A man walking fast down a dark lonely street.  Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need.  A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes.  A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”


May you always find exactly the right book, at exactly the right time.  And may the spinning poetry wheel of fortune be ever in your favor.  Happy reading!

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago (blurred book pages) 1988


** Big shout-out to iGameMom for tipping me off to this app!


Sitting in the driver’s seat of the idling car, waiting for the bus to return my children, I stared at the barren landscape and felt a piercing pull at the point when my left sinus emptied into my throat. It’s just a twinge, I thought. It doesn’t mean I will get sick. If I neti-pot the hell out of it and force fluids, I won’t get sick.

But the pierce persists and I know that as soon as I noticed it, I was done for. Because despite my best preventative measures, my psyche had already talked my body into succumbing to the germs, urging them to multiply and prosper.

When my husband returns from work, we greet by way of hug and I linger there. He kneads (some of) the tension from the inner corners of the upper quadrants of my back. The next morning, the sore throat is worse. Throughout the day, my nose starts running and the body aches begin. I blame him for releasing the toxins into my system, but let him squeeze more out.

Cranky and congested, I don’t go to bed early, thinking, what’s the point. I can’t breathe when I lie down anyway. My husband really knows something is wrong when I arise after the first ring of the alarm – for the same reason I didn’t retire early.

I feel better when I’m forced to socialize at the bus stop and preschool drop-off, but seem even worse when I’m back to my miserable cocoon in the car, sneezing and snorking and cringing. Did I feel better because interacting took my mind off my ailments or off its nefarious plans to infect me further?

My mother has told me repeatedly I’m my own worst enemy – in the most loving, instructive way possible. Apparently, I have not learned the lesson.

How does one shut off the tap of postnasal drip and negative thoughts?

And the song running through my head since that first moment at the bus stop? “Breathe” by The Prodigy. No, the irony does not escape me.

(Warning – video may be more disturbing than the description of my mucus malady)


Damn the Weather, Man

That’s a very precariously placed comma.

I don’t wish eternal damnation upon all meteorologists, nor do I have the authority. However, as an anxiety-sufferer who already has enough on her plate, weather reports add another element of doom and gloom.

Perhaps if I didn’t live in New England at the ever-encroaching tail-end of winter . . .


Perhaps if the cold clime didn’t make my already shriveled trapezius muscles jerk ever upward . . .

Perhaps if I woke up in the morning, looked at the thermometer and decided on my wardrobe at that moment on current conditions . . .

Perhaps if I could notice the gentle unfolding of the season with my own eyes rather than through the lens of radar screens and predetermined dates on the calendar . . .

Maybe, then, I wouldn’t be psychologically distraught at the impending snow storm we’re about to get.

I wouldn’t be worried about the fresh shoots that I’d unearthed beneath their layer of winter leaves. I wouldn’t bemoan the loss of soft earth between my fingers that I’d felt just this weekend. I wouldn’t begrudgingly look at the lightweight fleece jacket hanging forlornly on the doorknob.

I wouldn’t feel trapped. I wouldn’t feel like I was experiencing a relapse into unforgiving ways. I wouldn’t be nervously anticipating the loss of something I’d only barely gotten a grip on.

Driving home and noticing shutters pulled tight against the windows of a historical building that I swear I’d never noticed shut before, I actually thought of banishing all weather reports from my existence. If I didn’t know I was supposed to be battening down the hatches, I might delight in the snow. At the very least, I’d adjust accordingly when I woke up that morning by pulling on my knee socks and down coat. I wouldn’t obsess. I wouldn’t worry. I might actually live in the moment.

And that, dear people, is really what this is all about, isn’t it? It never really was about weather reports. That’s my irrational psyche’s way of pulling attention away from what is really at the heart of the matter. If I can blame the weather man for my obsessive tendencies, then I don’t have to take the onus on myself. That I can’t live in the moment. That I can’t still the whirling dervish in my mind and so must look to external forces, such as a lovely spring day, to calm me. Or, in their absence, to name as the reason for my failures.

If only the sun were shining, my heart would be light.

If only spring had truly sprung, my mood would refresh.

If only I had no prior knowledge, I wouldn’t obsess and worry.

If only it were that easy.

(Though weather reports and the attendant technology do pull us out of synch with the natural rhythms of the earth and our surroundings. ;-) )


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