Channeling my inner Madeleine L'Engle

While journaling yesterday I discovered I have an inner Madeleine L'Engle. When I picture the author of 'A Winkle in Time' and 'Circle of Quiet' (my favorite) I see a comfortably-sized lady in a African-style moo-moo, lots of large, clunky jewelry and a laissez-faire attitude about housework and bedtimes. I don't know if I have her pegged exactly but this image of her has taken residence in my soul.

On the outside I am a jean-wearing (no, NOT mommy jeans, mine are boot-cut and come nowhere near my natural waist, thank you), anxiety-ridden, not-so-much-fun mother. I don't know how to play and baskets of laundry piled in my office can send me into a frenzy. I don't have the patience to do much with my brillo-pad of hair other than stuff it away at the back of my head or put more on my face than a swish of bronzer and a dash of mascara. I do "do" jewelry - my hands feel embarrassingly naked without the oversized rings I prefer, but I frequently forget to wear the many necklaces and bracelets I angle for each birthday and Christmas.

But inside there resides a different woman. This woman wears long, floaty skirts, with boots in the winter and sandals in the summer. She has bangles up her arms and huge wooden ear-rings peeking from beneath her wild hair. She raises early to walk with her large dog and comes home to a tidy, sunny, beautiful, antique and art-filled office where in perfect serenity she writes all morning. She laughs easily and plays in earnest. In her sun room she dances with abandon to Indian and African drum music.

I have had this authentic person inside for many years, I just didn't know she had Madeleine for a muse.

Being authentic doesn't always go over so well when you've forgotten the cupcakes again for your daughter's snack day because you've been writing since 5AM. But through my journal I do hope to introduce and forge a relationship between these two selves. I truly believe if I can envision the life I want I will make it happen. My inner Madeleine peeks out sometimes when I am dancing with my children to a Bollywood video on YouTube or when, on a (rare) special night out I reach for the long skirt and complicated shell and bead necklace. This is the authentic, slightly eccentric me who Sarah Ban Breathnach urges us all to recognize and become one with in her book 'Simple Abundance.' It will take a little coaxing to get her out, she is a little shy right now, but I am working on her.

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Words springing forth

I've been feeling some writer's block lately. Well, that's my excuse anyway. Each time I sit down at the computer I stare at it waiting for it to speak to me, or something. I go through these stints of profusity (actually that's not a word, but I think it should be, don't you? It's so much more elegant than "profuseness") where I can be cutting up an apple, for example, and I'm forming phrases and adjectives to best describe the event (thankfully, for the most part, I curtail my enthusiasm over such banality for the sake of my readers).

But over the last couple of weeks, my mind has ceased its word acrobatics and even potentially exciting topics have failed to get a rise out of me.

I have four words to say: Cab In Fev Er (which translates to "get me a Taxi to a somewhere Hot, it's an Emergency!")

Yes, I blame winter. Snow. Ice. Zero degrees. Cold feet. Blue hands. Kleenex. Pale skin. Vitamin D deficiency. Blah. I need some warmth, some color, some life, people!

I want green shoots to inspire me to roll out my own word tendrils. I want blue skies to clear the snow clouds from my brain. I want flowers to remind me to color my world with exciting sentences. I need the sun to defrost my writer's block. I want the birds to sing me new stories.

Spring reminds us all to start living again. We can finally walk down the sidewalk without risking death by ice puddle. We can almost hear the world coming back to life - the grass growing beneath the mud slick that will soon become a lawn again, the trees stretching their limbs preparing to put on their new suits of green, the birds rehearsing for their upcoming spring concert.

For me, spring is a start-over. Get out of the house, breath non-heated air, flex atrophied muscles, and finally expose the skin I have been hiding under five layers of clothing for the past six months. We're not quite there yet - it's only March 12 and any New Englander will tell you you can't safely start counting your spring chickens until about June 1. Easter bonnets around here come with fleece linings.

But it is in the air. The two feet of snow on the back deck has finally melted, revealing toys abandoned there last fall. Your breath doesn't freeze on the wind shield on the morning commute, and the afternoons require one less layer.

Now I am just waiting for inspiration to sprout with the seeds, motivation to arrive with the robins, and words to flow with the thawing rivers.

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In search of the baguette

In one month I am going to England... and France! I was born in England and lived there until I was 13. I have been back three times in 22 years. But I have never been to France. Although I have never walked the streets or sipped wine in the cafes of Paris, and god knows, my parlez-vous n'est pas, I believe my soul belongs there. I am drawn to French design, architecture and decor, I sing along to Carmen, Anais Nin is my muse, Renoir and Monet were the painters of choice for most of my 20s, and cream sauces - oh la la! My vision of a perfect day would most definitely include sitting outside a cafe with a book or my journal watching beautiful people walk by.

Did I mention the kids aren't joining us?

Ah, c'est tres, tres bon.

Oh, bad mother that I am! At first I didn't even think of attending the family reunion in Southern England - how could I? Work, kids, expense... then I told a co-worker about it. Are you insane? You HAVE to go!! She even offered to look after the kids. But could I really leave my two preciousnesses with someone else for a whole week? Someone who doesn't do things exactly as I do? Wouldn't they miss me too much? What if something happened? What if...? What if...?

What if I passed up this opportunity to see cousins I haven't in 30 years, to visit the home I still hold dear to my heart? For my husband to see where I was crafted?

When my mother-in-law called that very night to question when it would be a good time to visit from Mississippi and replied without hesitation that she would love to stay with the children, and why don't you take the Chunnel over to France while you're there?, I was decided. Forget the kids, I'm going to Paris!!

OK, I do still have twinges of guilt that I could so easily leave my offspring in the dust in search of baguettes and fromage, but they will be just fine, maybe a little over-sugared and saying ya'll and gur-url when we return, but fine. Sometimes you have to walk through a door when it flies open, especially when there is croissant or, even better, a cuppa and a bickie* on the other side.

*translation: cup of sweet, milky tea and a hard cookie to dip in it.

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