Monday, July 2, 2012

"I am for people. I can't help it." -Charlie Chaplin

In just a few hours Olivia will wake up, and we will begin celebrating her 7th birthday. Once again she'll hear the stories that make up the day of her birth. She already knows much of the narrative, but she always brightens up when we start sharing moments from her story's beginning. Often she asks us to retell another particular detail from the day that we might have forgotten to include. She loves the part about her Pop Pop and Nana arriving late the night before and Pop Pop taking her dad out to The Grill, a 24-hour diner, to get a bite to eat while Nana sat with me in the hospital room. She loves to hear that her older cousin Dorothy cried when she was told she couldn't accompany my brothers on the drive down to Athens from Nashville to meet her. She loves the bit that includes our neighbor Michael stepping out of the Sunday church service to call and see if she'd been born (She had been, and Michael was extremely efficient in getting the message out). She still hangs on to the picture our friends' son Noah drew for her and delivered to her in the hospital. And she loves for us to recount for her all of the people who came to see her that first day of life. She won't settle for names of people. She likes to pull out the pictures of everyone, and she wants to be told again who they are, what they are like, and how their lives connect with ours. I love this about Olivia. She gets that people matter, and she seems to understand, often better than I do, that we can't really get through life well without them.

I remember the complete agony I felt when Brett and I left Olivia in the hospital nursery for a couple of hours that first night. I was an absolute mess all the way back to our hospital room-- I remember thinking that anyone who passed me would wrongly, but understandably, assume something tragic had happened to our baby. I felt silly for being so emotional, but I remember telling Brett, in between my blubbering sobs, “No one in that nursery loves her as much as we do. She's so special.” This thought returns to me every first day of school, though fortunately my reaction gets more controlled each year. But it's true. She is so special. I'm delighted that on her birthday she treasures the details of her first day that are tied to other people. And to be honest, on her other days, she shows me that very few details aren't tied to others.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Ears of My Ears"

The kind people over at the Blue Bear Review recently published one of my essays. If you like, you can read it here.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Olivia's 1st grade class is writing poetry. It's been a beautiful and humbling process to witness. I feign nonchalance as I walk past her sitting in the dining room, her elbows on the table, pencil eraser tapping her chin. I can't resist throwing a glance at her work in progress. What turn of phrase will pass through her pencil? And how does it come so easily for her when I wrestle with every word choice? Her freedom inspires.

Today she came home with a poem she wrote about her experience at the Wildgoose Festival last June. This festival on justice, spirituality, art, and music included three days of rich conversation for all of us, and we hope to go back in the future. But there is no question that, over the past 7 months, the children have brought it up more than Brett and me. Here's Olivia's take on the festival, in verse:


fun and great
tweet, tweet goes the bird
I snuggle, I cuddle with my mom
I hear the bands
I snuggle in the tent
in the tent I cuddle
in the tent
some nights, sit by the lantern
some nights by the band

-Olivia Wiley