fotos: Never Swim Alone

I did a reading recently of a popular piece here at Mrs Metaphor, “Never Swim Alone.” For our “fotos” this week I thought I’d post that. Spread the word, if the Kickstarter doesn’t kick in over the next 10 or 11 days then the book isn’t likely to be published. If it does, this piece will be included 🙂


Update #3: Pumped up kicks…

I confess that I don’t actually know what Foster the People are talking about when they say, “all the other kids with their pumped up kicks” in the lyrics to their song. As best I can figure it’s about angst and I get that. I was a young adult once.

I also confess that every time I hear the lyrics all I can think about are the Rockettes…in a kick line.  Of course, now you have THAT image in your head to refer to when you hear the song next time. You’re welcome.

This has nothing to do with a kickstarter update but it’s fun to think about.

Today as I watched Miles on our 2nd story back deck I panicked  a little when he placed his foot on the bottom rail and draped his elbows over the edge of the top rail. The thought that came to me is “I have to trust physics here.” By that, I mean I had to trust that this little boy did not have enough weight in his arms to propel him over the edge while his feet rested on that bottom rail. I had to remind myself that this was not life and death and that while I may find a moment of panic in watching things unfold, that we were both safe and happy and breathing in the warm spring air.

So, all this to say that we have about 20 days left on funding “Reflections from the Glass Factory” and I don’t feel any degree of panic.  I’m trusting physics here.

I so appreciate the early support of this project. It is humbling indeed!  I hope you’ll take a moment in the next few weeks to post on your Facebook wall, to send up a Tweet or an email to get the word out for the book!

The Missives book is now ready to head to the printer and the manuscript for the Mrs Metaphor book is resting comfortably on my hard drive; bones waiting for flesh, flesh waiting for clothing. It’s up to us to sing it into flesh, to wrap it in clothing by getting the funding!

Thank you all so much!


To donate to the Mrs Metaphor book through Kickstarter

please check out our project page here:


Kickstarter is a funding platform for independent projects. Money is raised for a length of time but a project WILL NOT be funded and no money will be collected if the FULL AMOUNT of the goal is not reached!

all together, all alone…

Back in the 90’s I saw a film called “Little Man Tate.” Maybe you saw it too. In the film Jodie Foster is a working class mother with a brilliant young son, Fred. At one point he comes under the instruction of a doctor, Jane Grierson, played by Dianne Weist. As they look through a series of Van Gogh’s works, mostly flowers, they talk about one in particular. Grierson muses aloud as they look at a painting showing a single white iris in a field of purple, “I wonder why he only painted one white.” Fred replies, “Because he was lonely.”

I have forgotten much of that film even though I liked it quite a lot but I have never forgotten that moment in the film, that line, that painting. Something in me knows Fred was right about Van Gogh, probably the lonely part of my own self.

When I ran across this beautiful photo a couple of weeks ago taken by lovely poet Luci Shaw I was struck, once again, by the contrast. One yellow tulip in a sea of brilliant color- and I was reminded of Van Gogh, of being lonely but not being alone. The idea that Van Gogh painted a white iris in a sea of purple was not simply that he was lonely but that he was also not alone, he was surrounded, but different. This tulip, too, while beautiful and healthy is different and also not alone.

And then I was the iris…and the tulip…in a field of color, clothing the meadow the so much beauty…and I considered the lilies, erm, irises. I think there is something vastly comforting to me about being different, sitting among the brilliance around me even while having these really profound moments in which I am certain something is lacking in me. It’s the forever push and pull in each of us, at least I think it’s in all of us- that we are our own unique selves and that we are not alone.

It’s tempting for me to launch into how different I feel from the world, the mall, the workplace or the soccer field but I recognize even as I type it how arrogant that sounds. I could even detail the lonely, the deep sad that comes of feeling different but that wouldn’t take the edge off the hubris as far as I can tell. The real truth is that we’re all the white iris in a field of purple, we’re all that yellow tulip in a sea of color, at one time or another. We can’t stop there though, we can’t stop at knowing that we’re different at times, that what accents our loneliness IS that we are not alone. Every bit of color around us has the potential to either heal or harm us in that loneliness. Van Gogh was a man of deep sad, probably mental illness. I wonder if the tragedy is less that he felt he was the white iris in a field of purple but rather that he may have missed that he was also at times, a purple iris surrounding the single white flower.

This is the discovery I’m finally making in my own life, that to always see myself as different, set apart, outside the “normal” life really only serves me and possibly in the worst possible ways. For as long as I revel in my “difference” I am removed from the connection I need to really embrace that “difference” as a member of the human family. I make my loneliness supreme, more important than community, I make art more important than relationship and then I’m not just lonely, I’m also alone…and that’s not who I want to be in the world.  Am I willing to be a member of the sea of color? Am I willing to step back and recognize the lone yellow tulip in my midst, to embrace him? to love him? to let him know he is not alone even in his loneliness?

I have this thought that Van Gogh was not merely a great technical painter, did not merely have great moments of inspiration but that he was in fact channeling some great deep truth we all share…we are all together and all alone, that we are at times the white iris, we are all at times the field of purple.  It may be the reason that painting speaks so strongly, has spoken out loud to so many and for so long. And it may be the reason a photo such as this by a lovely poet I like an awful lot would stand out,  perhaps it what made Luci snap this photo…because it spoke some great truth, some great real thing we all need to see and hear and imbibe…we are, all of us, lonely and yet we are not alone.

Originally posted June 2011. This piece is another in a series of essays which will appear in the Mrs Metaphor: Reflections from the Glass Factory project. We need your help to bring this project to fruition! Please show your support by donating to our Kickstarter Project before April 1st, 2012. If you like the works you read here, spread the word!

Never Swim Alone…

For the next 6 weeks I’ll be reposting pieces I’ve written over the years. These are a few examples of essays that will find themselves expanded with fresh air and correct punctuation then placed lovingly into the book I hope to publish through Kickstarter. If you like what you read I hope you will share it any way you can so that the book can become a reality! It’s time to flex those social media muscles and get the word  out, friends!

This piece was one I had written a number of years ago, when we had first moved to Tennessee from the big city of Chicago. As always, big shifts show all the cracks in my psyche, it’s not pretty but I think I heal up alright in the end. I still read this one aloud as often as I can so that I remember what really matters.

Never Swim Alone

Rule #1 Never Swim Alone.

This is one of my rules. When we moved out to the country a while ago I made a list of rules for the children to help adapt to our new surroundings.  The pool on the side of the house caused me a few sleepless nights so rule #1 is Never Swim Alone.

I guess I make rules and drill them into my children because of the fear.  I could theorize that I do this to help them protect themselves out here in the “wild” but really I think it’s because I don’t want to be alone in my fear.  If they end up being wiser for it then so much the better because if I’m looking for another shoe to drop I know it will.  A watched pot may not boil but a watched shoe is bound to drop and then before you know it we find a couple of copperhead snakes living in a retaining wall near the house.

Rule #2 Never touch a snake.

Never touch a snake, never put your hand or foot anywhere you can’t see into.  Never put your face into a hole in the ground, things like that.  Every day for what seems like 6 months I say this to them.  And then one glorious day while basking in the cool breeze in back of our house my 5 year old son says, “There is a snake living in here” as he points to the crevice.  My response was basically, “HUH?”  But sure, enough, there it was.  I’ve done a little research on snakes in our area and this was one of the few venomous.  Lucky us. Never touch a snake.

We made our way inside.  We played inside until the nice man from an animal control company came to claim the snake and the snake’s surprise friend.  He asked my son about it.  “What did you do when you saw him?” asked the snake man.  “I told my mom.  She said ‘Never touch a snake.’”

There you go, consistency pays off.

It’s only recently that I have begun to notice the pattern of life becoming consistent again after the unsettling move from the city life we had in Chicago. I find that I look forward to the steady clicking of the clock, the predictable measure of a schedule.  I crave the schedule. Every morning is the same, every afternoon ordered and every evening filled with ritual and ordinary time and shoes waiting to drop.

A friend of mine lost her daughter Allison to cancer recently.  She was 7 years old. I followed Allison’s progress for most of her illness through email and phone calls and occasional visits.  Sandy and I had met a few months earlier for dinner in fact. Hearing her talk about the daily regimen of treatments, medications and tests made my head spin.  There was an order to it but each medication and each treatment was utterly dependant on how her body responded in any given moment.  They seemed to be at the mercy of this illness and then she said something amazing.  She told me she was coaching her son’s soccer team that spring.  In the midst of the struggle she was coaching soccer.  When I walked her to the car I saw the mass of soccer balls in the backseat.  How ordinary it seemed to me. Ordinary Time.

For Allison’s funeral I sent sunflowers because they reminded me of her.  I imagined her sitting across from me at American Girl place the day we met there, smiling broadly, missing a couple of front teeth and most of her hair.  She beamed with joy.  Sunflower beaming.

Some things even my “rules” will not cover.  Never get cancer. Never die young.  So many things are out of my control that to be “consistent” seems an unearthly task.  I suppose it is, in fact.  I comfort myself late at night with the thought that only God is consistent.  Words fail, bodies fail, people fail…

The truth is that I simply cannot protect my children or myself.  I cannot protect anyone it seems from the reality of life on this broken planet.  I can be as consistent as possible.  I can make rules and give instruction.  I can confront my fears and pray for release from them.  I can do all these things but is it enough?

Never Swim Alone.

The reason we never swim alone is that we might drown and no one would know we were missing.  No one would know we were in trouble.  No one would be there to go for help, to add us to their prayer chain, to bring meals when we are too tired to cook, to offer to babysit for us when we’ve been at the hospital all day, to give a word of encouragement, to send sunflowers because they remind us of someone we’ve lost, to tell us we are not alone when we feel utterly helpless and no one there to pull us up when the water begins to cover our head.

So, Rule #1  Never Swim Alone.

Reflections from the Glass Factory

I love the idea that glass begins as sand and that sand was once perhaps rock. I love the image of mirrors and windows starting life on a beach somewhere, that bare feet walked that beach, that sunsets infused that sand, heated that rock, whispered into the memory of that substance. I love the thought that what changed this substance was time and heat and care, the same things that change all of us. With time and heat and care we all transform into something new, something transparent, viscous, beautiful.

And so for the last 6 years I have attempted to write about these things here at Mrs Metaphor. I have tried to write about us as sand, as rock, as glass, as mirror. I think sometimes I hit it and sometimes maybe not so much. You are a fine, patient and thoughtful bunch of readers. I am grateful for you.

Reading back over nearly 6 years of posts I’ve decided to edit, expand and compile this untidy mess of metaphorical thoughts into a real life paper book for those readers who would like to have them on hand or to hand out to someone else. The biggest barrier to this happening is the expense producing this treasure. Because I like you guys I’m hiring an editor and a graphic designer. I’m having them printed by a bona fide printer and bound in gold leaf and fine Corinthian leather. Wait, actually, the gold leaf and fine Corinthian leather is an elaboration but rest assured, it will be beautiful.

This is where Kickstarter comes in. Kickstarter is a way to raise funds to complete projects such as Mrs Metaphor:Reflections from the Glass Factory. In order for this project to see the light of day I will need your help. If you check out the Kickstarter page you’ll see all the information needed to understand the scope of the project and what you can do to be a part of it.

At the very least, please take some time to spread the word. I have 40 days to raise the money to fund the book. If I don’t raise all of the money then no money is collected. It’s all or nothing, baby.

You will see updates from me over the next 40 days about the project as well as some re-posts of early essays which will be revised for the book. I am open to suggestions on pieces you’d like to see in the book as well, so please peruse my archives and see what strikes your fancy!

Be sure to look through the “Kickstarter” tab at the top o’ the blog for more information.

Thank you SO MUCH for supporting the work of (relatively) young writers!