Forget spring cleaning in a soon-to-be empty nest

In December 2000, the back seat of my car was pristine. Untouched.

I was eight months pregnant. Still me. Still incredulous that I was soon going to join the demographic “women who have given birth.” I was aware that carrying my child above my bladder and under my heart, might be uncomfortable but would be the easiest phase of parenting. My body did the cradling, feeding, and nurturing, while I went on with my life. All the conscious effort, decision-making, and second-guessing would come later.

And so would the stuff.

The rear-facing infant car seat, installed weeks before the impending due date just in case the baby arrived early, was the first harbinger of the stuff that would take over our lives. Every time I returned to my car after work, it sent a jarring message from the future: Soon everything will be different.

At our house, a guestroom bed was moved out, and a nursery appeared. A mural painted by Christopher’s sister and aunt; a crib, changing table, and gliding armchair to welcome the soon-to-be new addition.

The arrival of a baby brought sleeplessness and worry, monitoring of poops and pees, and a whole new awareness of the world being so much bigger than me, and so much smaller than everything else that used to matter.

It also brought piles of soft blankets, clean bottles, and increased board books. It brought ridiculous gadgets with ridiculous names, like Diaper Genies and Wipey Warmers.

Some things came and went. Bottles and their cleaning accouterment disappeared after our baby refused to take one. Pacifiers went next after I forgot one in a pot of boiling water and it burnt to an unrecognizable crisp. The house smelled like plastic for days, but the firemen assured me I wasn’t the first.

When the baby became mobile, the blankets we had laid him on spawned soft toys, which in turn spawned wooden train tracks and giant blocks. Tiny four-wheeled cars lined up end-to-end from the front door to the back.

A second baby joined us. Tiny diapers and baby things reappeared, now added to the big brother’s essentials. Yellow construction trucks. More books, a few balls.

They churned out watercolors and tempera paint creations, five or six a day. I hung them with clothespins from a string I affixed to the ceiling separating the kitchen from the family room. A rainbow-striped rug on the floor added to the sensory overwhelm.

“Your house looks like a preschool,” my sister observed, which I did not take as a compliment. If my house looked like a preschool, it was one run by a madwoman who could create, but not curate. I kept everything. We should have bought stock in Scotch tape.

To hold all this stuff, a three-by-four-foot “toy table” anchored the family room, with two giant drawers filled with puzzles and games and whatever else could be shoved in there. By the end of each day, a Fisher Price three-level parking garage with a car elevator — the same kind I’d had as a child and played with for hours at a time — seemed to have survived a hurricane, with cars parked willy-nilly, upside-down, and sideways. Red and blue plastic train tracks, uprooted by a light tornado waited to be sorted and stored. Or not.

Around that time, I went with my pre-schooler to a new friend’s house. Watching them play, I could not take my eyes off the neat array of plastic storage bins on wall shelves, each with matching printed labels. Is this how my house should look? Every time the boys got a new play idea, the other mom made them stop, clean up the toy they had been playing with, and return it to its proper bin on the shelf. I made a mental note — Aha, that’s how it should be done!

Our house “rules” for cleaning up toys were only consistent in their inconsistency. Some days I made him clean up before doing the next thing, but most of the time I let it slide. After all, a car race he had toiled for hours to set up on the living room floor was too impressive to be taken apart so soon; surely he would want to come back to it the next day! We stepped around and over it for days until he (or I) finally had enough.

Twenty-two years after that car seat marked the end of one phase of my life, that first baby is graduating from college. His “baby” brother is weeks away from finishing high school. In the morning when he leaves for school with a ‘bye-mom-luvya,’ I want to chase him down (and sometimes do) to get a hug. In a few months, he will be walking out of a dorm room in the morning, living in a new city.

I know this much is true: Toys get picked up. Dinosaur jigsaw puzzles with pieces as big as your face get boxed up, put in bins, and migrate to closets out of reach. Legos are stored. Yellow construction trucks are donated to Goodwill or given to friends with younger kids. Toys give way to balls and gloves, then video game consoles and phones. What is left: discarded socks and size 11 men’s shoes kicked off on the family room floor. Blankets spilling off a couch where a teenager falls asleep watching movies into the wee hours. Shaving cream and razors on sink counters.

I limit the number of glances I make into my sons’ bedrooms. In one, the blanket curls in the middle of the bed. Clothes that might be clean or dirty decorate the floor.

And in the other, where my older son sleeps when he comes home to visit, the bed is made. The room is neat and tidy. Pristine. Untouched.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is writing a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker from Guatemala. For more, go to FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Dream Small

Unexpected wisdom from a midlife birthday

Many years ago, an artist’s handpainted signs at a crafts fair at the local park caught my attention. I came home with five, and hung them on the wall outside my sons’ bedrooms. They implored:




As a fledgling writer working on a novel, these three messages I needed for myself. Acknowledging that these messages carried their own kind of pressure, the wall also bore warmer fuzzier, and perhaps competing, messages I also wanted more of:



A decade and a half later, on the eve of my birthday, I sat at my dining room table with my family. Dinner was winding down, and my father asked with his winsome smile, in the quiet voice he uses now, if I had a speech. Like a doll he can wind up with a key, needing the barest of nudges to speak (I am like him), I said, I do.

I have been thinking lately, we need to do the opposite of what the world tells us is called for. We need to let go of all the pressures we take on that we cannot see or name, like the signs I hammered into our walls — think big; make a splash; publish the book and hit the bestseller list. We need to dream small.

Dream small.

Dream of having dinner with parents who are healthy. Dream of an imperfect table with uneven leaf extensions. Dream of the flavors of Thai take-out. Dream of a chocolate-smeared tablecloth and pink candles melting into icing.

Dream small.

Dream of an array of pink tulips your husband arranges for your first-thing-in-the-morning view. Dream of your 18-year-old’s doting presence and phone calls from college towns. Dream of a board game whose rules you don’t understand but you play because it makes the kids happy, and their happiness makes you happy.

Dream small.

Dream of an afternoon dog walk over slick, muddy grass that pulls you down, then pulls up a laugh and a memory from your honeymoon.

Dream of a fireplace and fresh chopped wood that catches. Dream of hand-me-down sofas with room for everyone. Dream of the ache in one hip that is loosening with stretching and time.

Dream small.

Dream of Prince’s music playing over the speakers, reminding you of how in 1987 you danced to 1999, and how in 2023 you are dancing to it still. Dream of the friends who walked that arc with you, whose smiles you count on appearing at your door.

Dream small, and in naming your small dreams discover their immeasurable enoughness.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is writing a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker from Guatemala. Follow on Medium, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Hey, Writer’s Block: Meet Me Outside.

When creativity hides, look for it in unexplored places.

Blue skies above a green mountain range, above chartreuse grassy meadow.
Photo by Delano Ramdas on Unsplash

“Why don’t we ruminate on good things?” I ask my husband as dawn pushes through the shutters. I am awake unusually early for me, and he is in bed unusually late for him. Beyond the closed windows, Sunset Boulevard’s morning commuter-shush rides over our neighbor’s house and our back-to-back yards, mirroring the sounds of waves that are rolling against sand a mile in the other direction.

“Maybe it’s the amygdala’s fight or flight at work.” This is the kind of answer he can wake up with. “We have to think about what dangers are out there.”

The dangers pinging around my semi-sleeping mind this morning are mild in the scheme of world problems—navigating hurt feelings and rejections, my own and my loved ones’ — yet they will occupy and squat in my mind until I kick them out.

The dog’s paws skitter up the steps, then thunder into a running leap onto the bed. This fluffy one marches straight to my head and pillow to present his curly furry chest for a morning scratch, while his sister stretches out on her pillow on the floor. The dopamine hit of my hand against his heart works its magic on both of us. Though when my scratching pauses, he lifts a paw and pokes me: No stopping now. Get up. Get going.

It is time for a walk.

The spring deluge has retreated for a few days while it gathers itself for an encore, so our walk is lit by sunshine, making vibrant greens and blues. Los Angeles is most stunning after a storm. At the park, grass grows over patches of the once-and-future muddy field, bright weed-mounds popping up without a pattern. A tree has tipped over from the soil’s saturation and the prankster wind that followed. The square of sidewalk that always has tiny shards of glass is washed clean. The mountains play dress up doing their best impression of Oregon.

The dogs explore the scents the rain has scrambled, and I think about my dormant writing practice. It has been three months since I last posted something after a two-year streak of posting almost every week. What I discovered through that weekly posting practice was that even when I had nothing I needed to say, a concrete goal boosted my creativity. (Almost as important was announcing this commitment, as accountability to keep from quitting.) This practice yielded almost one hundred new pieces. Some cringy, some I still like, including the first piece, “What Will We Remember?” about the small shiny moments amidst the rubble of the preceding twelve months, as well as the last, “Almost There.”

Last December, I allowed myself a six-week pause in my weekly posting to focus on finishing a bigger project. Now that “pause” has rolled to a full stop. I have not been able to rouse myself. I write shards here and there but I have not found words worth sharing. Of course, we all need time for renewal. For grace. For stirring the pot and letting the sauce simmer (oh god, see how these horrible metaphors take over?!) My mind tells me it is time to get back in the saddle (ack, there they go again!), but my words resist. They want to stay on the ground, burrow under, and continue hibernating. (Good lord, do you see what I’m up against?! Revolting!)

“You can’t fight it,” Judi, my writer friend advises. “It goes in cycles. You just have to ride it.”

Fine. Past the field, past the sandbox, I lead the dogs toward a place where I can let them off leash, but they have a different idea. They are pulling me toward home, so I let them guide me. Words a writing teacher once preached come to my mind: there are many ways to be creative. Use them to nourish you.

Could this walk outside have given me…the seed of an idea? A writing prompt for when I get home:

Make a list of ways to be creative.

  1. Plant a garden. Corn stalks and cucumber and kale, next to the tomato plant that survived the torrents and gale winds, and the green onions and the baby eggplants, survivors all. A ratatouille growing in the dirt outside your window.

2. Make a meal.

3. Create a meal plan! (Hahahaha!)

(It’s not that a meal plan is a bad idea for everyone, it is ambitious for me. Too many fancy meals (aka a meal planned and shopped for before 5 pm) can overwhelm the senses. I need a palate cleanser of, say, cereal or scrambled eggs or whatever is in the pantry at dinnertime. I need to let the dazzle of the last meal’s flavors sink in, like that rare novel your mind is still digesting days after you finish reading it and you need to let linger before you can pick up the next one.)

4. Make an album of photographs from last summer, and the flavors of Spain are brought back in the revisiting.

5. Start a photo album for my youngest child for his high school graduation. Revisit these 18 years that have felt like 18 months, all of it living in me at once — my way to prove Einstein’s theories of relativity and time-bending-over-itself. A caution: one risks getting stuck in these curving-in-on-themselves moments and overheating in a meltdown of your nuclear core. So yes, pause on the memory of him on his first birthday sucking on a corn cob in the little garden, holding it in a dimpled fist, his round eyes wide open with the new experience; then remember to see him as he is now.

6. Dig out the watercolors and oil paints from the cupboard; paint something without judging it.

7. Light a candle.

8. Let an idea take me for a ride on its airstream.

9. Collaborate.

10. Go to an art museum and stare at things I do not understand.

11. Read poems.

12. Eat good food. (See #2 and possibly #3.)

13. Take new walks and see new sights.

14. Learn Italian.

15. Pull weeds.

16. Dye my T-shirts royal purple.

17. Pick up my old guitar now that I’ve worn my fingernails down to their nubs again.

18. Sing a made-up song while one dog pulls me forward and sideways as he explores every nuance and scent the rain has reallocated, and the other dog stays right next to me, sensing my need.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. MediumFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Almost There

Daring to shout your dreams to the world lets others dream, too.

A young child looks up at a yellow wall with “believe in yourself” in cursive
Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash

I am posting from a different place than I normally write, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for my uber-talented sister-in-law’s birthday.

I came to the East early to spend two nights on my own in New York City. I love being alone there, walking wherever I choose, changing my mind when I want, stumbling upon a late-night event, cheeks numb with the cold. For a brief flash of time, I inhabit an alternative “me” — a fairytale where I am young and creative and soaking up art and possibility — not the same-old-same-old person, a lady I like fine but who feels like she exists substantially in reference to the people she loves — mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend.

On the train from Newark Airport to Penn Station, I found my pen and spiral notebook and wrote about my excitement about the next day’s meetings with “literary people.” The happy flipside of “impostor syndrome” is that meetings like these do not feel banal, but thrilling. They feel like they belong in someone else’s story.

The train slowed to a stop under the Hudson River, waiting for a track to open. I remembered being 16, waiting at an “El” station in Chicago with a group of kids from a summer theater program at Northwestern. We had just seen a play and were heading back to campus, when a woman on the platform shouted to us in excitement, “I just got cast in a Kevin Costner movie!”

She had come from a pay phone, this being 1986, which also explains why she wasn’t texting this news to a friend but screaming it to us, a group of teenage would-be actors, wondering if a creative life might be possible. Here it was in the flesh. I studied her face, telling myself to remember this moment when she someday accepted an Oscar. Did she know that in sharing her excitement she was giving us reason to believe in our whispered dreams?

I saw the movie. She had one line. I don’t recall seeing her in anything else. That’s not the point. These tiny moments of delight may be the beginnings, or they may be all we get. So we may as well blow them up big. Feel our presence in this world.

The train begins to move again. Almost there.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. Medium, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

In Praise of Tiny Gratitude

Most days I feel like gratitude is my superpower, and I can turn away from the crap and orient myself toward reverence for all that is good — as small as a dog offering her tummy for a scratch, or a piano playing in the other room, or as wide as Christopher’s steadfastness, patience and love.

Some days it is harder to find that reverence. There’s a lot of sadness, near and far, and rustling up gratitude feels like a heavier lift than usual. On this day of heightened emotions — both gathering with joy and missing with ache the people we love — from a posture of humility, I go tiny: gratitude for finding my computer charger. Gratitude for finding a matching sock in the laundry. Gratitude for joints that bend and stretch without pain, and the sense of smell when the maple caramel pumpkin pie comes out of the oven.

It occurs to me that these are not tiny at all. Neither are these “tiny stories” (in 100 words or less) of gratitude from around the country I pass along (hoping the link goes past the paywall.)

Wishing you a happy, ample, or (fill-in-the-blank for whatever you need) Thanksgiving.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. MediumFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Did I love it enough?*

No matter how we try, can we savor a moment as much as we should?

A young man and his mother in black raincoats, stand in front of a waterfall with their mouths open to catch snowflakes on their tongues

Did I love it enough?

Those three quick days with our son, popping into his life for a weekend, then back out. Arriving on his doorstep straight from the airport, feeling the moment it takes to reinhabit our connection, then the swoosh that wraps us up like a swaddle in our mother-father-child circle.

His hug, for me, is what resets it. It says more than a love poem. It feels like storing up for winter.

Did I love it enough?

The stepping into his living room from outside, wiping the already wet and leaf-sogged bottoms of my shoes on the small rectangle of cloth at his door. These Oregon trips are always waterlogged. A quick exchange of hellos with his Cherub-faced friend, another mother’s baby graduating from college this year, then the three of us go off to dinner, our route drawn by Google maps to a restaurant we have never been to.

“Are your synapses firing, Mom?”

He’s teasing me about a rant where I said I want to do new things and go new places because it makes our time feel longer (or so said some TV show that I told my family about, which he will not let me forget). Tomorrow we will leave his college town for a new adventure an hour away, two nights with our boy in a cottage on the McKenzie River. But did I love it enough, these familiar streets, his favorite sports bar, playing pool with his friends?

The next day, Christopher drives and I soak in the views from the passenger seat. The full rushing river. The steady rain. Forests of Douglas fir. Colors of fall, specifically northwest beautiful — more yellows than browns — so different than the desert beaches of our southern California autumn.

Closer to our destination, the trees wear char marks from last season’s fires. Some are blackened halfway up, yet recover and yield to green at their tops. Others end in shards scraping middle sky. Oregon fires have become a season to themselves, prompting me to check my Weather App for air advisories. When the fires came again last month and my son’s town’s air filled with smoke, I asked if he needed an air purifier and N-95 masks.

“You sent them last year.” (Unspoken, perhaps: they’re still in their boxes.)

Beneath my conscious awareness, but in my bones, is the memory of another drive with just the three of us, headed to the ER near midnight because our son’s breath scraped his lungs and he might not be getting enough. When he fell asleep next to me in the backseat and his breathing eased, we turned around; the ER seemed worse than guarding him through the night, listening for the tightness again. The next day the pediatrician gave us an inhaler and said, as his body grows so will his airways, and this proved to be true.

The rains have washed the air; it smells like life. We walk along a trail it took us three tries to find, then retreat inside to get dry, gaze at the river, read books, and — here’s the most important thing — watch college football. He takes a break to do some work, and we watch the river go by and talk about where to have dinner.

The guy at the diner in the Astros shirt shows us a photo on his phone of a waterfall twenty-six miles away. “This one is visible from the highway. There’s another waterfall, but you have to hike two miles to see it.” And because our son wants to see a waterfall, and also wants his Sunday watching ESPN Redzone on his couch, and because I see how much he works — writing, interviewing, editing, and publishing — I want that for him, too. A waterfall from the road will be plenty.

The snow surprises us as we get closer to the falls. We had not noticed the elevation gain or the temperature drop. There is a small parking lot and a well-marked sign. We step out in too-light rain jackets and follow a steep, slick path.

You might watch a waterfall forever and not be able to decide which is more powerful — the sound or the sight. A million gallons of energy pour, spilling, endless, relentless, backsplashing against the river it is part of. Snowflakes fill the air, thick and fuzzy, and accumulate on the trees. I understand why we say “take your breath away” and that something beautiful is “stunning.” .

“Woooow! This is crazy!” My son’s awe sends a tickle down my neck.

“My synapses, Aaron!”

He tips his head back and sticks out his tongue to catch slushy snowflakes in his mouth, and I think, that is the best idea anyone has ever had and do the same. I see the sky above, the trees tilting toward it, and dancing melting dreamflakes landing on my face and tongue. The waterfall behind us never thinks of slowing down.

Before we go, one of us says, or maybe we both do, “I love that when we go home, this is still here, still happening.”

Did I love it enough, these days with my son? Soaking up time together. Building a fire. Playing Catan. Talking about what keeps him awake at night. Falling asleep to the sound of the river rushing by.

Can you ever love it all enough?

[*After the poem “November” by Maggie Dietz]

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

If you would like another way to support my writing, follow me on Medium.

This is what life is like now

A desk’s drawers give clues to who we are, and who we might become.

a desk with a laptop, green spiral notebook, and pouch of glass beads
Do our desks hold the answers? (photo: Laura Diamond)

This is what life is like now.

The sound of my husband watching television migrates from the living room, through the door, and into the room where I am writing. I turn on white noise to block out the voices on the news channel. Digital nature sounds wash over the commentary by Whatshisname, you know, the journalist from Watergate, whose name will come to me any second.

This is what life is like now.

A digitized monkey (or is it a bird?) interrupts my thoughts, so I lower the volume as I sit at this desk we bought at the vintage store for Maria to do her homework and keep her things. Now that she lives on her own, it is a space for me.

I wonder where this desk lived before we brought it home. Who rested their arms on its surface and what work did they accomplish before it was emptied and restored? If this desk were marooned on a desert island and found in a hundred years, what would its contents say about who we were?

In the top left drawer, Maria’s high school student ID and an old pair of glasses hang out with sticky notes of forgotten ideas scrawled in my handwriting. Hairbands, hers and mine. A pouch of glass totems I made a few years back, with drawings and words of inspiration like, “I have everything I need.” “Write and share the love!” “50 is fun.” Ha.

Bob Woodward! Phew. This is what life is like now.

Beneath that drawer, a deeper one holds my things — filled spiral notebooks, a box of blank cards in case the need arises. Happy Birthday. Thinking of You. With Sympathy. A burnt candle in a small glass jar. A new candle, unlit.

On the opposite side of the desk, like the other half of a brain, a drawer with closed legal files for people I once spent hours with, interviewing them about the violence that made them leave behind everything they knew and owned and touched — all the things that told their stories until the moment they ran to seek refuge. Folders with research on the basics of asylum law as I learned it. This drawer is heavier, and harder to slide open.

I open the last drawer, the wide shallow space in the center, holding the last scattered clues to who I am, or who I have been until now: two glue sticks — one old, one new. A charger that doesn’t fit. Soft ear plugs (forgotten). A Shutterfly photobook coupon (unused). The empty red box for a fancy pen with my name engraved on it, a gift from a friend that reminded me that in her eyes, I am a writer. Blank 3×5 cards at the ready. A recently rediscovered photo of my then-three-year-old niece riding my back like a pony in my parents’ living room, her arms and eyes lifted in joy. Closest to my hand, the last thing I put inside: this year’s birthday card from my husband, bright yellow and in bold all-caps: YOU ALWAYS BRING THE SUNSHINE.

This is what life is like. Opening drawers, physical and emotional. Examining mementos and discovering which ones still stir something. What will we keep and what do we throw away? Are we content with the contents as they are, or is a purge coming? Does one drawer call to us more than another? The answer to these questions answering the persistent one: who do we want to be now?

. . .

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. MediumFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Unexpected Gift of a Writing Practice

How it may break me of the nasty “helpful” habit.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

At our Thursday morning zoom writing group, a poem is read, a timer is set, and we write without stopping. Moving the pen in this way can loosen us up and let out the juicy stuff, surprising us at times with where the subconscious may lead.

Except minutes into the session, my son’s “G’morning” as he rouses himself from bed breaks my focus. Is it a little gravelly? Is he sick? Even as my pen moves, my mind starts ticking through “should do’s”: I should ask if he is feeling okay. I should offer him lozenges. I should find a Covid test.

No, that’s not it. I should keep writing.

I should. But one quick reply to let him know I am here can’t hurt. Checking that my zoom is muted, I shout upstairs, “I can help you in thirty minutes.” Good for me! Protect my writing practice. This is a revolution! My declaration of independence!

The next thirty minutes will be my internal civil war.

Because, I mean, I haven’t made his lunch yet, something I do most days — not because I think he can’t do it, of course, but well, we both like me to do it. And he does not know that I bought the good bread for sandwiches yesterday.

No, no, no. I am not stopping to make his lunch.

Except now I hear him say something to Christopher, who is out of commission with Covid, and my brain tunes out my inner voice and tunes into theirs. A vector pulls hard on me to get me off my chair to see what they need.

No, no, no. No getting up. But maybe just one text? There is good bread in the pantry, and sliced turkey, and yogurt, and apples.

Ahhh. A hit of helping settles me down. Now I can focus on the writing.

Except was that a sneeze? Now half my brain (more than half, let’s be honest) is occupied with, who was that? do we have tissue? and shouldn’t I go buy a Covid test this very instant?

No, no, no, no, no. Stay here with your pen, your notebook, your fellow writers, creating collective energy. Stay until the timer says you are done.

It takes more strength than it ought to, resisting the reflex to jump away from my work into what I think they need. Running around doing for others feels like home base — extra points if I have to give up my own thing to do it!! The martyr game is my jam!

Next time, I think, just tell them in advance that I will be unavailable for ninety minutes. But it is only me I need to tell: Stay put. Atta girl.

If it takes scribbling garbage until the timer beeps to keep my butt in this chair and break the impulse to jump into everyone else’s business, well then let that be one more way writing saves me.

My arm is getting tired. Good. Keep going. Keep writing like your life depends on it, every word showing you how strong you can be.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. http://lauranicolediamond.medium.comMedium, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

These Things We Love

The unpredictable bliss of salvaging a memory from a (sometimes) fruitless writing practice.

(photo credit:

These sagging couches, broken with the weight of brother-wrestling, and binge-watching, stained with old chocolate and fresh dog lick. They were once pristine, even measured to fit the room, with cushions like single beds, not broken up in twos or threes, representing my hope for kids’ sleepovers, now the soft landing for teenage boys sleeping late..

These dogs, scratching on the glass door to be let in and not taking no for an answer. Can’t they see my pen is moving across these lines? Don’t they know I am trying to drop into a memory or uncover a turn of phrase that could make my day, if only they would bug off?

These drugstore notebooks, not so precious, filling up with last week’s bad ideas and false starts, the same stuff from the week before, maybe a good paragraph waiting to be rediscovered, reshaped, and repurposed.

What is the point of all these scribblings that come to nothing? Is it simply in the exercise, writing as sit-up or squat, their value in how they may have strengthened me?

Or could there be buried treasures hiding, as ordinary as beach glass, to pick up from time to time, maybe bringing back a memory of an ocean’s spray, or the time a wave knocked me over and I got up laughing and soaked, wholly forgotten until I revisited the page where I wrote it?

These things. These decisions to etch in ink for my own muscle memory, later to be remembered, something found and forgotten and found again.

Like this morning, flipping through pages, finding something written at a different desk in a different city, a memory stirred by the view from the airport shuttle bus from San Franciso to Marin. As we passed Stern Grove, a memory comes alive — just for a second, like flash paper — of being twenty-six and with a friend in a grove of redwoods. And though I can’t remember the specifics, I remember there was music playing.

. . .

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. MediumFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


Lessons from my grandmother’s sewing kit

Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash

There is a moment when you can feel the rain before you can see it. When an unconscious glance at the sidewalk reveals gathering polka dots of grey, and you are flooded with relief for this confirmation that your skin still tells the truth, and the world still operates as you expect it to.

There are moments when your phone ringing at night makes you jump, the sound too sharp for nighttime, the pulling back of sheets, the silky cool of them against your skin, the weight of blankets on your legs, the dog encroaching on your hip.

You set down your book (and your newest pharmacy-rack readers), and your distracting thoughts, and answer the phone. You know who will be calling. Your son, asking if you can mend something that has broken. A heart, say.

Not so long ago, he brought home a torn sweater and asked if you could sew it. It was a jagged tear in the fabric, not on a seam, like it caught on something rough. It was a favorite sweater — its perfect softness, weight, warmth, color — and he wanted nothing short of full restoration. You knew at a glance that what he wanted was not possible.

You said: What if we patch it?

He answered: Can’t you please just sew it?

You loved that he believed you had some special skill to make it like new, so you did not want to tell him what he wanted was impossible. You wanted to believe it, too. You and your inexpert hands went in search of your grandmother’s sewing kit, with its yellowed quilted fabric and basketweave, the one she had brought with her when you were laid out with the chickenpox for two weeks and made pink satin overalls for your teddy bear.

In the sewing kit, the spools of thread her hands put in it half a century ago and a needle. Hoping he knew something you didn’t about mending, you brought the sides of the torn fabric together, stitch after uneven stitch. Maybe it would work? In the end, the best you could do, was a scar across the sweater’s surface. He thanked you, and even wore it like that for a while.

Now he reaches out from the distance of another state. You answer the call, and in the pause before he speaks, you rummage through the kit of your experience, gather your thoughts and wisdom to prepare for whatever might need stitching, hoping the world still operates the same as when you were young, and knowing scars are inevitable, and beautiful in their own way.

Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is at work on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. 

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