While I Was Out


While I was out, the last days of summer came and went. We caught and released the last of the painted turtles that spend the summer on the pond before they all disappeared. I threw out the summer sneakers – all full of holes from running and bike riding and sloshing through the pond, the soles practically falling off – and we switched to the next size up.

The mornings got darker a little bit at a time…then all at once, and the ducks came back. I don’t know how they always somehow remember this place, but they do. They come by the dozens, and they spend the early evening wandering our yards for food, calling to each other loudly.

While I was out, my firstborn, Dane, boarded the bus to kindergarten for the first time, Avenger’s backpack strapped on his back, waving out the window, and I didn’t cry, but I felt it at the back of my throat all day long.

10.07 - kindergarten

Liam went from age three to AGE THREE and spent long afternoons sobbing over the fact that I put his milk in the wrong cup or that I put it into his hand in the wrong way. We had a lot of long battles about using the potty chair, and in the end I got him 2/3s of the way potty-trained before we hit a total power impasse. Which means that while I was out, there was a lot of laundry to do.

The Internet kept spinning while I was out, but it all felt farther away. I stopped reading blogs and looking at Twitter for the most part. Instead, the world became very small. A kitchen table. A piece of paper. A loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven. A red leaf on the driveway.

I helped one friend welcome a new son into the world with a diaper-and-wine baby shower. People from our church filled up the house with love and appetizers, and we passed the new baby, one set of open arms to another, exclaiming at his tiny fingers, his perfect features, his new baby smell.

I stood by another friend while she let her twelve-year-old son go, unexpectedly, far too soon, on a beautiful September morning. When they put his small casket into the hearse, we all waved checkered flags and popped confetti, and racecars showed up to do a victory lap. While I was out, I stood in a crowd of grievers, and we hugged through our tears and worked very hard to believe that this will all someday be made right.


While I was out, I excused myself from calorie-counting and responsible, grown-up eating habits and binged on potato soup and bread and pasta. Sometimes I had lunch-wine at my favorite writing spot, and it felt like a luxury, alone at a table, just wine and words.

I was out, so I didn’t blog, but I wrote every day, thousands of words that I didn’t show to anyone. I second-guessed and deleted and rewrote and revised. I averaged five cups of coffee in the mornings, writing and guzzling, writing and guzzling.

Every two or three days, I stomped out of the kitchen yelling, I’m quitting writing forever! But then I’d go back, and it felt like learning to tune my violin by ear back in junior high school. Without the instant response of commenters and retweets and Facebook shares to tune my words against, I had to close my eyes and really listen. I had to remember the sound of sharp and flat. The fixed pitch of truth.

I didn’t read much – just bits and pieces, here and there. I couldn’t seem to manage whole novels, so I read excerpts and a lot of poetry. I renewed The Interestings twice and then finally had to give up and return it to the library.

I spent too much money on IKEA bookshelves and stayed up way too late putting them together. I got one piece backwards on the TV stand that I spent five hours building, and two nights later, I had to loosen the whole thing and redo it.

bookshelvesI had a garage sale. I sold our old rocking horse to an art student who will make him into a sculpture. I sold a good portion of our pretend food to new families who will be served imaginary meals by their enthusiastic children. It was therapeutic and sad – letting go of one part of their childhood, embracing a new part.

While I was out, I missed this place and the way I am changed at this blank screen. And I also appreciated having time to rethink what I want this online space to be about. Time to plan and to realign myself and to get excited about this new season of blogging.

While I was out, life kept happening, and I am grateful, and I am refreshed, and I am broken in a few new ways. I am a little emptier and a little fuller.

I am here. I’m ready to get back to work.


[Okay, update me! I missed you all. What have you been up to while I’ve been out?]

47 thoughts on “While I Was Out

  1. I’m a writer too–kind of–no really, I think.
    A few months ago a friend recommended your writing to me. Writers, as you know, read a lot.
    I started reading you because you make me smile.
    Today, I smiled again.
    Welcome back. We’re all glad you’re back.

  2. So happy you’re back, Addie! I’ve missed the posts. Just lots of GRE studying for me. Lots of frustration too. I didn’t do so well my first try last week. So back to the algebra and geometry… Sigh. But I’m going to keep writing and stick with my plan. I think it helps me stay focused and motivated because I can see the purpose in the present moment.
    Looking forward to what you have coming up!

  3. Welcome back! We missed you! I moved to Nashville while you were out. Life is so much quieter and slower than it was in DC. And I feel like I’m discovering all over again where God is in this new place. So far I have heard God most clearly in fall sunsets from our new balcony, words from Kathleen Norris, and loneliness. In fact, something Kathleen wrote made me think of you, as the mornings are getting darker: “Psalm 88 is one of the few psalms that ends without even this much praise. It takes us to the heart of pain and leaves us there, saying, “My one companion is darkness” (v.18). We can only hope that this darkness is a friend, one who provides a place in which are deepest wounds can heal.” Darkness as a friend? Whoever would have thought. 🙂

    1. OK, where is that Kathleen Norris quote from?? I love it! Thanks for sharing it. And congrats on the move to Nashville. Such a cool city! (I mean, at least what I saw of it on the one crazy day we were there on our Epic Road Trip. ;-))

      1. The Cloister Walk. I’m 3/4 of the way through and I already want to go back and re-read it. Too much wisdom to grasp in one take.

  4. I am thankful for this summer’s out for you. It was an out summer for me, probably others too. I’m not sure where it went. I watched two daughters graduate, then stood close later as they both went through break-ups that they thought would last many summers and winters. I spent time with parents who are all in their 80s, and finally gave myself grace to slow down a bit. We grew and picked and picked and froze and ate the fresh produce and were full. I just about quit reading blogs, and church has drifted away with all the comings and goings out of town. I’m not sure what my fall holds, but I am ready to appreciate you now.

    1. I’m so sorry it was such a tough summer for you and your family. I think it’s fine to take some time away from blogs and church and all the things. I hope that this fall you find rest and healing in some small way.

  5. There’s one thing you didn’t write that I always write on my blog after a long absence: “I’m sorry.” And I’m so glad you didn’t write it. There’s no bloody reason to be sorry because life happens as it happens. I know it’s an odd lesson to pick up from your lovely post, but thank you anyway.

  6. Addie!!! I love that you are back. Love this breath of fresh air. Thanks for reminding us of all the beauty that happens in those simple days when we step out for some fresh air. 🙂

  7. I loved “When We Were On Fire,” and am so happy to have found your blog. This post has inspired me to appreciate the smallness of my world today:, “A kitchen table. A piece of paper. A loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven. A red leaf on the driveway.” Beautiful stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  8. What an awesome-looking living room! I’m in the process of building a library in my new apartment, but my fiance and I are at that stage when none of the furniture we have matches, since we acquired it all via friends who were moving and needed to get rid of their furniture, or Goodwill. Part of my ‘terms’ for marriage was having my own reading space (ha), but I hope my raging OCD can handle the mismatched furniture for a while 😉

    My “out” time sounds like the opposite of yours: took a rare leave of absence from personal journaling in exchange for more blogging. I need to fix that.

  9. Wonderful to have you back. Your summer sounds like it was a time of refreshment and the opportunity to breathe in beauty. Lovely.

  10. It’s good to have you back, dear Addie.
    It’s amazing how much I relate to this though. This summer was full of writing and short on reading. However, I need to get in on this lunch-wine thing.
    So excited to hear that things are coming together with you, and that life is so full and rich.
    Love to you.

  11. Yay! You’re back! I had my own four months of OUT (dancing with the darkness). Didn’t achieve much apart from a distance from the Internet – and it helped. I’m now back to juggling seeing people, playing with my son, attempting to write a book, blogging – oh! And being a full-time Sick Person. (Could be why I’m feeling a little frazzled…)

    My little boy went to school (he’s four. Crazy-days). He wears a tie and blazer and everything. That’s all kinds of wrong.

    I loved this:
    “Without the instant response of commenters and retweets and Facebook shares to tune my words against, I had to close my eyes and really listen. I had to remember the sound of sharp and flat. The fixed pitch of truth.”
    I need to know this. Thanks, girl.

  12. What a summer of highs and lows you’ve had! Proud of you for so many reasons, not the least of which is the ways you’ve cared for your friends and conquered Ikea bookshelves.

  13. Yay! I am so glad you are back. Thanks for this beautiful post and, as always, for sharing what you learn. I love being reminded of the beauty and hard stuff in daily, ordinary life.

  14. I’m so glad you’re back. And so glad you were able to take the time to be away,

    ” Instead, the world became very small. A kitchen table. A piece of paper. A loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven. A red leaf on the driveway.”

    There’s something so elusive about the real smallness of our lives, isn’t there? I keep finding myself imagining BIG futures and having BIG dreams, but then my life is just so small. Even when I have internet friends who live far away and have ducks arrive in their yard for the fall (we’ve got the bears roaming around our trying to fatten themselves up for hibernation – super cool and a little frightening!) I remember that what’s good about our friendship is it’s small-ness. The fact that it’s you and I. And I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember that those small seeming relationships are the important ones. The way I sit with my own Liam while he refuses to potty train (like a desperate general clinging to the last of his losing campaign to stay a baby) is more important than ever writing a book many people will read. Can I be content with the smallness? That’s the real question. Or maybe can I even remember it’s important enough to BE content with.

    Crap, I got all rambly again. But I love how you had time for the small this summer and I loved hearing your update! Yay! Addie’s back!

  15. I missed having you here, Addie. Welcome back! (And oh. Those bookshelves.)

    I’m recently back from a trip abroad to a place that always changes me in good ways. Still trying to think through all that. In the midst of fall madness but glad to be here.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and the bookshelf love. 😉 And I saw that you just got back from London! Wonderful. I have never been and need to get out there to visit Kim (the friend I wrote about in my book.) One of these days.

  16. Thank you for returning, I certainly missed your realness. I was worried and was praying for you and am glad to see my prayers answered and that all is well. Thank you once again for sharing and for your honesty.

  17. Big smile reading this. Three year olds, huh? Mine had a major meltdown the other day because no that was the wrong chocolate biscuit, he wanted the (identical) one his big brother had just eaten.

    Yay for shoes worn out from playing out, a living room full of books, and joy in the small and the ordinary.

  18. Wow, Addie. That’s a whole lotta stuff right there. Lovely to see you back here, friend. Looking forward to whatever comes out on that screen back there in the cold fields of MN.

  19. Missed you, my dear. So grateful your world got smaller for a little while. Smaller is sometimes exactly right. Can’t wait for the words you’re writing. And so glad you’re back.

  20. Glad you’re back:) I just made the same decision – to come back to blogging. I have bascially been out since my third was born in April.

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