Tag Archive: Family

Day Seventeen


1397750153April 17th. No prompt except the date.

My daughter was born 14 years ago today. Even though it’s been more than a year since she’s been willing to see or speak to me, I can still close my eyes and go back to so many good times.

Kid coffee was always a special time of each day. I hope she can remember and smile too.


Kid Coffee

I make the Kid Coffee with special care
While she watches me, attentive, making sure
Our rituals are followed to perfection
Because I know to her Kid Coffee means Belong

I pour the cream into the Pyrex cup
And heat it in the microwave, just warm
Testing the temperature with my pinky
Before pouring it gingerly into the mug

I spoon in sugar, she knows the right amount
Approving with a two year old’s precision
And then I pour the coffee, just a taste
Enough to tint the sugared cream

And we sit together at the counter then
The two pajama’d ladies with our cups
She delights in the stir-sip stir-sip ahh
And I delight forevermore in that

~Liesl Dineen 2014

Day Fourteen


2427183Prompt from NaPoWriMo.net:

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) is a little something I’m calling “Twenty Questions.” The idea is to write a poem in which every sentence, except for the last one, is in the form of a question. That’s it! It can be as long or short as you like. The questions can be deep and philosophical (‘what is the meaning of life?’) or routine and practical (‘are you going to eat that?’). Or both!

I went with the literal, and made it 20 questions…



Twenty Questions

What are you up to today?

Why do you want to know?

What’s your problem?

What do you care?

How can we fix this?

Do you really want to know?

What do you think?

Do you have any idea how much you hurt me every day?

Can you explain?

How can you not see the things you do, the things you don’t do?

How can you expect me to understand if you won’t tell me?

Is it even worth it?

Is anything?

Should we just say goodbye?

Shouldn’t we at least try?

What if we saw someone?


How else can we figure things out?

When do you want to start?

Is today good for you?


~ Liesl Dineen 2014

Day Nine

From NaPoWriMo on Facebook:

Write a poem to someone you love or once loved something you never got to tell them.

Sebastian was a tuxedo cat, and the coolest damn cat that ever lived. Oh I could tell you stories, so many stories. He was, simply, a bad ass cat. He lived for over 18 years, from my college dorms in Freshman year all the way to Texas, from my teens to my 30s.
When it was his time, old age putting him in a near coma, I was talked into letting my (ex)husband hold him as he was put to sleep, so as not to taint my memories. It was a huge mistake.



I’m so sorry I didn’t hold you
When they shot you full of death
Although I know, and you knew too
You were mostly full already

I just didn’t understand
You know I’ve always taken bad advice
And it was bullshit when they said
I’d remember you better this way

I’m sorry I wasn’t the one
Stroking your face and whispering love
It was my job, my right, my vow
And I stood there just outside the window anyhow

Watching you pass into the dark
Wishing you sweet feather breezes
To set your whiskers twitching
Wishing you open fields of mice

I’m sorry I didn’t believe in myself
Or know love would make me strong
Our eighteen years together, love,
Deserved a far far holier parting than this


~Liesl Dineen 2014

Because of the Socks


This is utterly not at all like our bedroom!


It all started because of the socks. For the last couple of years we’ve had this whole laundry basket just full of socks. The kids just walk into our room and fight through the pile to find what they need, and the pile never gets any smaller. It’s just one of the many mystifying things about socks, you know?

So I’d recently bought one kid a huge bag of black socks, and he was tearing through the basket looking for his socks, which weren’t there, and he was grabbing anything black while griping about our “system” which is obviously not a system at all, and is honestly a pretty big fail. He was upset with me because he thought the socks were mostly mine, but I said all the colored socks were his sister’s, and he suggested I just throw those all out. I think he was kidding… But well, she hasn’t lived with us for 8 months, and has likely grown out of those socks anyway, and I knew he had a point. Then I thought, why, I’ll just fix this whole mess today. I’ll pair up all the pairs, discard all the non-pairs, and maybe even have a separate holder for black vs white socks. They could live above the washer/dryer and not on our bedroom floor. I was inspired!

Then I realized that the socks were only one of three major problem areas in our room, which is far too large for people like us. We aren’t the type to build a lovely lounge area in all that space. We are hoarders of the worst kind because we don’t actually want the stuff that gathers all around us in boxes and laundry baskets. We just can’t seem to get it out of the house or stop it from coming in!

So then I thought, why, I’ll also sort all the books we have stored in these giant boxes today, and decide what goes and what stays, and life will be pretty and organized, and the shelves won’t overflow because I’ll fix that too. And I looked at the two large boxes of books on the floor and realized that we needed a serious donation area set up so we could handle this all efficiently.

I got to thinking how great life was about to be for us! We’d have all this space, and maybe I’d rearrange and make us an actual loungy area. Ah, but the next big project is supposed to be finishing the kegerator that’s waiting patiently in the garage for a proper tapping system. See, we’ve been making beer and kegging it, but the system is what John calls “college” at this point, and I have a plan to add real taps and stuff, and then we can entertain and share our quite fabulous beer. But the garage… Well, the garage was disgusting. It was the kind of project that’s hard to start because you can’t even imagine it as a finished thing. There was furniture for the dump and charity, and cobwebs and leaves, and spiders, and so much junk, even though we made sure we had room for one car, since we have four cars actively using our driveway now.

It was a big job, the one that I’ve put off doing for well over a year, and the one that John’s been waiting for someone to help with. So I went and sat at the computer for a minute or twenty to think on it, and this same sock-hunting kid came into my office and reminded me that I’d sat idle the entire day Saturday, and I should get up and make him delicious pancakes. Of course I said no, because seriously? But I did manage to get up, and an hour later I was dressed for mess and tackling the garage single-handedly. I filled the front lawn and driveway with things. So many things. Things like a dog crate for a 100+ pound dog, which I think weighed close to that itself. And a dog crate for a 70 pound dog. And half of a coffee table. And a frighteningly large amount of rope that I don’t think we’ve ever used for anything. That last one makes me nervous now that I see it in writing…

In between piling things everywhere that wasn’t the garage, I upset the mama spiders by mercilessly sweeping all the corners, up and down, and even sideways. Over near the hot water heater I found a dead bird, which was upsetting on so many levels. I’m pretty sure it didn’t have its head, which just made for more questions I didn’t want to ask or answer. For hours and hours I cleaned, heaved, slung, and nearly wept. Then John got home from work, and I could see the panic in his eyes. I’d taken on a huge job, and he had no clue what I wanted or expected him to do about it.

After a little bit of yelling (yeah, that was me, I was a little, um, into this job), the guys fixed a few heavy trouble spots for me, and I got back to work alone. Okay, alone except for when I started screaming like a maniac every time I saw a large bug (okay, I know, I know, but they were water roaches, and they were THIS BIG, seriously, and they were malicious!) and being rescued unceremoniously by the other kid, who finally went to get shoes since there were a good number of bugs to catch. He ended up helping on and off as I spent a few more hours cleaning and putting things back together. In the end, it was pretty awesome really.

There is now a space for the kegerator, some stereo stuff in a nice entertainment center thing, and a dart bard. There is a cozy spot on the old carpet for the weight bench to actually be used for weights instead of paint cans, lawn stuff all in one area, tools in another, a neat pile of stuff to donate, and a pile for the dump. The dead bird is waiting for burial outside. It was the least we could do really. The garbage is overflowing, and things still need cleaning, but this was an amazing transformation for a single day’s work.

Finally I stumbled upstairs to shower, and when I got up there I looked around at the untouched basket of socks, the untouched boxes of books covered in t-shirts that don’t even belong to us, and all the other assorted stuff that was taking away from my lovely future-dream lounge area. I may have said a curse word. Then I took more Aleve than I’m supposed to, showered in hot hot water, realized that moving any part of me in any direction hurt like mad, went downstairs for beer and football and passed out early. Today I can’t move without hurting, and I’ll have to tell the PT guy I’m seeing for my recently diagnosed rotator cuff tendinitis problem that really, it’s all  so much worse now because of the socks. I’m sure he’ll understand.

What world is this?


2168110As a child I stood in front of the mirror and I wanted it to swallow me up, like Alice. And sometimes I’d dream that my real family had been kidnapped and replaced by a secret government agency that was trying to just string me along for some reason. It all made so much sense in the middle of the night.

Mostly though, I lived in my own world, or really the children’s world of the 1970s – that era you see described in memes as no helmets, no seat belts, no Internet, drinking from the hose and look how fine we turned out. It’s funny though, that we like to say this stuff to today’s kids as if we ourselves had nothing to do with the crazy world they live in now.

In my world back then, parents were just… I dunno. I mean, they fed us and that was about it. Mom read me bedtime stories. They didn’t completely sound like the adults on Charlie Brown specials, but it really wasn’t that far off. They sort of just… didn’t matter much. We found our own adventures, made our own rules, ripped holes in the knees of our jeans from climbing trees and riding bikes, and I don’t remember once thinking these were things I needed to explain to my parents, or to blame them for.

I would love that freedom now. But “kids these days” know that world hasn’t existed for a long time. Maybe they don’t even believe our silly stories. Who really knows what all happened… TV news brought fear, fear brought locks and more TV, and somehow social media is how everything is done now. Kids don’t rip so many pairs of jeans. They ride bikes under our watchful eyes, and we tend to tell them not to do most anything we would have back in the day. I hear way too many parents fuss at their kids for even a spot of dirt. Gasp. Anyway, I can’t undo this, can’t manage to find the magical mix of nurturing and lackadaisy that brought me up at least knowing I could own my own problems. True, I owned too many, but I’m beginning to see that as a gift too, now that I can let go more.

My parents didn’t make my mistakes for me, and I don’t remember ever thinking they were responsible. As a parent in this new world, it seems like that’s all we’ve done sometimes. I spent countless hours trying to make sure my kids were “enriched” with experiences. And when anything went wrong, and oh did things go wrong, I took all the blame laid out for me by myself, other parents, and the kids themselves. But seriously, I think at some point we each have to own our own mess, tend our own wounds, and get on with the business of being ourselves. I don’t think I did a good job preparing my kids for that, in spite of tremendously good intentions. I do have full faith that they will figure it out sooner or later, and know what to do to be their best true selves. I think that I’m now in a first do no harm kind of place, and that will have to do until the mirror swallows me, or them, and we figure out this was all just a dream.

Deathbed – a short story


3816189I’m not trying to be cute with the title… This is a real short story. It’s under 800 words, so I guess the technical term is flash fiction. It’s also kind of sad. Sorry about that. It can be uplifting if you let it…

Peace One Day is coming up in a few short months. I’ve been thinking a lot about what brings us together and tears us apart. They ask the question “who will you make peace with?” and my personal answer is “myself.” Oh, wish me luck with that one.



It figures that now, at the end of my life, you’d show up and try to tell me you love me somehow. And with these tubes in my throat, you know I can’t ask you the hard questions. Where were you? Love me? You walked away with only your contempt to keep you warm and brave against your better judgment. And you’ve been together ever since. Where they hell were you?

They’re going to burn my body soon. I’ll be ashes in the wind. I’ve asked my family to throw a party, and throw me to the dolphins and sharks. It means nothing to me of course, I’ll be long gone. But I’ve told them it’s what I want because it’s what they want, and it’s what they need to hear.

I don’t think they will invite you, but I hope they do. They all want to know where you’ve been. They credit you with the breaking of my heart so long ago. I am dying to tell you so many things. You didn’t break it all, my heart. You tried so hard, and that’s what kept me from going over the edge. You tried so hard to ruin me, I felt the passion and love that struggled still, inside the contempt, inside you. You don’t have to tell me you love me. I’ve always known.

And then I discovered my own true heart. A place nobody can break, not even me. And I lived! Oh, the things I want to tell you. The amazing things I’ve seen and felt and done. The person is dusty and brittle, yes, but the memories, the slices of life I dished up, those will outlive us both. I’ve loved more truly since you left than I ever knew possible. The broken pieces of my heart were already weak before they shattered, and without them the best of me grew stronger. I came just a bit more alive with every month gone by. I’m sure you’ll hear some stories that will surprise you. That gives me comfort too. I want you to know I’m happy. I’ve been happy.

Oh where were you? I made art, and friends, and some damn hilarious jokes. I told you in all those notes I sent every month for years that I will never stop loving you. Yes, of course I love you still. And I forgave you, mostly, while you were still packing your things. I forgave the rest a little later, out of simple joy. There was no room left in me for the anger. I learned to live and thrive without you. I learned that pity isn’t healthy, and self-pity is a terrible drug addiction. I cured myself quickly. You were one hell of a shot in the arm.

And here I am, with questions that will never leave my lips, and with answers that you deserve to hear but never will. I can only look at you as you stand over me. You look old around the eyes now, but still so young inside, still unsure how to let the contempt slip away and leave you in the peace you so deeply need. I’d have been a better choice. I’m glad I can’t tell you that. It’s not what you need to hear. And so I’m glad for the notebook I left you. You’ll get it from my lawyers in a month or two, when the ashes have finally turned to soggy clumps and landed at the bottom, where sunshine is just a legend, and any food is good food. The notebook contains so many memories, some of us together, things you don’t even know you’ve forgotten. And many of my own memories of the years since you left. And it contains the forgiveness you may be ready to believe in. I know it will give you something to cling to, and I know sooner or later you will cry, and that will be the cry you need.

So I struggle to ask the one question that drives me to cling to life just a little bit longer. Just to hear your answer. I squeeze the words out and can tell as you lean toward me frowning that you haven’t heard me at all. I gather all I have left, and these will be my last words. I will live long enough for your answer, and then I will let go. With you leaning forward, I push the words through my lips, and I know they are good and solid, and you hear them, and you will answer.

“How are you?” I close my eyes a moment, and listen for your story. I hope it’s a good one.

Don’t walk, run! No, don’t run…


I’ve been running all my life, but I never seem to get anywhere. No I don’t mean jogging. Good Lord no. I mean running. Away.

I come from a family full of walls, so it’s pretty natural to solve problems or people by closing my eyes and pretending I can’t see them. Life gets hard, and I think immediately, I could get away, start over, and maybe things would just be peachy. I think I’m currently the only member of my birth family speaking, or trying to speak, to every other member. Could I leave all that behind? Hell yes.

Sigh. Hell no. Because as much as I’ve wished at times it would, ignoring people and problems isn’t going to make them disappear. The problem is, I want to open my eyes, and see what’s in front of me, who is in front of me, and I need to like what I see. Lately I dream night after night about my family. I try to make things alright, and of course, I fail. In real life, I’m practicing NOT trying to make things alright, and it’s downright refreshing. But my dreams are a reminder of failures of all kinds. I can’t run away from them, either, so I have to look at them up close and personal.

When I first started dating my husband, the one I’m married to now that is, I warned him that I have a run-away problem. And indeed, there were at least three moments of panic in the first year, that involved me saying goodbye forever and walking out the door. He was very patient with me. I still have my moments, still talk about that bus to nowhere, to anywhere but here. I still yell and storm off. But see, this man wasn’t raised like I was. He follows me, eventually. He tries to stay reasonable, which is not easy for him, either. He’s far from perfect, but what he does works because he doesn’t walk away like I do. He knows even in the terrible times that this, what we have, is valuable, that it will last through one stupid fight, that family is family even when that family is messed up with disorders, drugs, bad relationships, terrible behavior, whatever it is. I hate that it’s so hard for most of us to get that.

Of course, some people are just too toxic to one another. They just are. I get that, and I don’t know where those lines are. It’s personal for each of us. Obviously, people have to keep themselves safe. But I do believe that the lines can shift over time, and with help. I believe when you write someone off forever, you’re hurting yourself as well, forever. It’s up to each of us to manage which pain is worth it. I believe in forgiveness, where there’s meaningful apology. The kind offered willingly, with no excuses.

So I’m not getting on a bus, at least not so far. I’ll be here a while, struggling, screwing up, storming, trying again. And someday, hopefully, I’ll be here when my kids want to talk. When they realize that forever is really too big for hatred. It only fits comfortably with love.

Let the sun shine in


Dad, 2013, shooting the sunrise over Myrtle Beach S.C.

When my sisters and I were kids, we traveled a lot in the Summer. Our parents both worked for the public schools, and camping was a cheap and effective way of seeing the sights. I didn’t know we didn’t have a lot of money by the way, that sort of thing just never came up. We took things as they came, and I know I asked for a lot more than I got, but the same can be said of a rich kid who has more than I  can imagine. Kids…

Anyway, we saw so much. One Summer, I was 5 or 6, we took the Chevy convertible and the Cox camper and drove from New York state to California and back. I didn’t appreciate the heroics of taking 3 girls under 10 on a journey like this until decades later. The car was hot. It overheated often enough that each time spent waiting to get going again has blurred into an amalgam in my memory, and it lives as only one experience, rinse, repeat. My dad may have cursed about it, but if he did, I don’t remember. I just remember him adding water and the waiting. And of course, I remember bickering with my sisters, arguing over the small amount of space we had in that car. I remember getting car sick in most every state we passed through. I’m relatively proud of how many states I’ve thrown up in actually. Sorry parents.

The thing I remember most though is the views. The things we stopped to watch, the things we drove by. Incredible things, Grand Canyon, fields of gold, the view coming down Pike’s Peak (we lost power steering on the way down, and I was sure we’d die, but it was as beautiful as it was terrifying). And mostly, the sunsets. My father has taken tons of photos of sunsets over his years. He would often stop the car, and just as often slow down and tell us to be quiet and look out the window at the gorgeous sunset. He wanted us to gasp in awe, and we really should have. I don’t think we did though. I’d like to say I remember gasping in awe. I do, however, remember the sunsets. I did look. And I don’t know when it finally sank in, but at the ripe old age of 47 I can say that now I remember the sunsets over plains and mountains, canyons, and through ridiculous heat that you could see rising in waves from the earth. I remember, and I’m so grateful for the sunsets, and for a father who wouldn’t give up on making us stop and appreciate what was right in front of us.

I don’t think I stopped the car often to show my kids the sunset. But I slowed down an awful lot. And I nagged them, and forced them to put down the Gameboys and LOOK! I hope to God that they remember some day, and torment their own kids with the beauty of sunsets they won’t appreciate until later on. I’m not sorry for nagging. I’m only sorry I didn’t completely stop the car more often, and take more pictures.

I’m reading this chapter of a very good book right now that describes the inextricable link between joy and gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings joy so often, according to people who manage to be joyful on a regular basis. While I’m working on the joy, I couldn’t be more grateful for the sunshine, and the stubborn will of parents who know something the children will eventually know for themselves, if they’re very lucky.

I just spent the weekend at the beach with my father and stepmother. I was the first one up, at 7:30 Saturday, just in time to take some snapshots of a gorgeous sunrise. I was giddy with it. And I’d beaten my dad – he missed this one. But the next day, I peeked out my blinds at 7:32 and saw him on the deck, camera in hand, fully focused. I snapped my fingers old-school style; darn it, he’d beaten me. I rushed into my robe and hustled outside anyway.

I snuck up on my dad, took a couple pictures of him and the sunrise with my phone, and then announced myself. He laughed, but didn’t stop shooting. And that was awesome.

Sarah smiles

Sarah smiles

I would walk for miles, for one of Sarah’s smiles.

There are words forming in my head in a language that this keyboard doesn’t recognize. Maybe anyone who’s ever watched their beloved children hurting can speak it too. My daughter isn’t happy, although she has memories of being so. She has a drive for more, and nothing ever seems enough. And yet, the trip we just took to Disneyworld gave us both a glimpse inside “enough,” into what it could feel like. She’s a tough girl! She beat her fear of flying just to get there. She beat her fear of coasters, and rode so many times I lost count, although she didn’t, and she would tell you if you asked. She spent a lot of the trip not smiling, but content enough. Then the night-time parade came through Main Street USA, with snow that she knew was made of soap but maybe that just added to her excitement, and with hot cocoa, and free apple slices and cookies. This was just after the fireworks that literally filled our sky from all directions and lit us both up like little girls. The fireworks had come just after meeting an admittedly slightly intimidating mouse in his own backyard. The goosebumps were still fresh from that, a surprise to both of us, but welcome.

Then the parade. She’s never liked parades, according to her. I have different memories, filled with small-town parades and her chasing after candy in the streets, catching all she could. But still we sat, with our good friends, and waited, watching the crowds forming and feeling that electricity of anticipation that makes the hair on your arms rise up, just a little. Disney magic does not often disappoint. The parade was magical, and we pointed and laughed and delighted in recognizing characters we each grew up knowing so well. I saw her excitedly spot each princess, then shrug it off, because she outgrew that stuff, long ago, she says. Then in one amazing moment, the Fairy Godmother went by, THE Fairy Godmother. And she looked right at Sarah, and she winked. And blew a special kiss right to her. That kiss was loaded with real magic, and it brought my girl’s smile back to us, if only for one wonderful night. “I feel special” she said, wonder in her voice. You are special, Sarah, so very special, Godmother or not. We watched the rest, the dancers, the toy soldiers, the whole Goofy lot of them. Then Santa came and blew her a kiss too, before heading back to the beach to rest up for December. We had to hurry then, to catch all the rides we could before midnight. She and her good friend and I closed Space Mountain that night, walking away wishing for just one more ride.

There really is nothing like Disneyworld, especially at midnight. You can really feel the special everywhere.

We’re home now, and Sarah seems to have lost her smile again, although I catch glimpses. I can’t afford to take her back to her Fairy Godmother, maybe not again in her first childhood. But we sure could use that smiling round happy lady around here, both of us. Keeping the magic alive is a challenge here in the Real World. I hope we can figure it out, and Sarah smiles again.

thief in the night

Distant dream screams pierce the shroud
Less loud and steady than the ready alarm
Invoking the can’t resist insistence
That comes with the one more push

The fear, so clear and Clorox pure
Reality based, not of being chased
But misplaced, forgotten in the left behind
And out of mind of the out of sleep

Erase the empty pillow case spaces
Clutch with care, sharing jagged air
The heavy shroud shifts, and lifts away fear
As the helpless stares lovingly at the thief


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