By Heart…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log-Day 14

I stayed up last night searching the interwebs for an example of what kind of procedure stops a brain leak. File that away under “Things you don’t want to know.” But in the process I got to thinking about these daily prompts and why I do them. The book, Old Friend from Far Away, is all about the practice of writing memoir. As such, in many ways it is an aid to access and write about memory in a real and non-fable-y way. I hope that you guys understand that….a lot of these prompts take me to long ago and relive moments from another lifetime. I say that, but today’s prompt brings me right into the present. Nevertheless, the point isn’t to draw some moral of the story, but just to be honest and, hopefully, to learn to capture that honest story in some sort of powerful way.

Today’s prompt is interesting…Tell me about something you know by heart. Write for ten minutes. GO!

Photo by Michael Morse on

I know his eyes by heart. The way the blue turns to pale ice when he’s tired and the lines that form like angel wings when he laughs. They sing out wisdom and intelligence and softly whisper compassion when he’s listening to your story. I love the way they narrow when he’s trying to figure something out and I even love the dark gray they turn when he’s angry.

They’re an odd color of blue that I’ve never quite been able to create with my paints. Not a hint of green at all, but like ice under the ocean, pale and frozen, with tiny flecks of yellow sunshine. He has these perfect rainbow arched brows that never need grooming. They frame his soul windows like arches above a beautiful stained glass.

When he smiles, they smile with him. They sparkle when he chuckles and light on fire when he laughs. They can bore a hole into when they are uncovering uncomfortable truths and shine comfort when you are scared. They are my favorite thing to wake up to each morning. I know his eyes by heart.

Feigned Indifference…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log-Day 13

Don’t trust my day count…it’s my best guess.

Today we learned that my daughter has had contact with someone who has the dreaded COVID-19. It’s odd sort of mix of education and abilities I own, but among the random things I remember from my time studying biological sciences is the calculation of epidemiological vectors and rates. One brush with disease and I am turning our family into a case study for transmission opportunities. Yes, my children are in some sort of homeschooling hell when it comes to this particular subject, but I find it both fascinating and troubling at the same time. So now my poor girl is holed up in her room, desperately avoiding in me in the hopes of keeping me healthy. This takes isolation to a whole new level…and frankly….it stinks.

Today’s prompt is an interesting one…Tell me about a time you pretended not to care… write for ten minutes….GO!

I remember the time I called you and she was there. My dad and I screamed at one another….he said “Ungrateful..” I said, “You’re an **shole.” He said, “Get out!” I said, “gladly!”

I drove the twenty minutes back to town and picked up the pay phone at the Easy Mart just down the road from the apartment we had shared together for the last semester. I’d only been home for the summer for a couple of weeks. I missed your blue eyes and crooked nose and the way that you made fried eggs and pancakes at two in the morning when late night studying and sometimes partying kept us up too late. So when my people said I had changed and needed to get a hold of myself, you were the safe place I ran to.

I dropped 25 cents into the pay phone and dialed your number. I could hear Jimi Hendrix ripping away at his guitar in the background, and a girl’s voice say near your ear, “come back over here, I’m lonely.” I tell you I need a place to stay the night, and you crooned into the phone, “Oh, I’m so sorry baby…tonight’s no good. I have company.”

“A girl?” I asked….and then you tell me…she was the greatest girl….you’d never felt so alive…she totally gets you….and then you asked me, “Hey babe…you’re not mad or anything, right? This is always how it was…”

I swallowed my pride and my hurt and my heart way down deep…I buried that future of pancakes and fried eggs six feet under next to “one day I’ll be president” and “I look good as a blonde.”

“No…I’m not mad. Why would I care? I just thought you might like to hang,” and hung up the phone. It was the last I ever saw you.


Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 12 (I think)…

Yesterday was an interesting day. I rose early and drank coffee with a friend via skype, I showered and did my hair and put makeup on and pants that weren’t stretchy for the first time in a few days. I preached a message to my church via webcam, zoom and Facebook Live about faith in the waiting and I took a long nap in the middle of the day. It was almost 8:30 by the time I made dinner and you know what? It kind of felt like a weird sort of normal. This is what our days are beginning to look like everyday. It’s odd and sort of comforting and I vacillate wildly from loving it to hating it in the same heartbeat.

Today’s prompt provides much the same feeling….Home. Where or what is home for you? Write for ten minutes….GO!

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

I have lived in the same house for the last 18 years, but home moves around for me. Two years ago it was the poolside lounge chair of my best friend’s back yard while I healed from an abusive business relationship. That summer I floated on blow up rafts and sunburned the tops of my shoulders an thighs and journaled my heart. Sometimes she and I would chat about what I was feeling, but most days, she just let me be and let the sun heal me the way summertime heat can do and just accepted that my quiet woundedness was part of me for a season.

Last summer, I decided that I wanted my own place to turn my face to the sun but I needed more color, so I painted murals of ocean sunsets and waves on my back fence and sanded down the boards of sixty year old porch swing my husband’s grandparents left us. We painted everything bright yellow and white and teal and bought cushions that screamed Mexican villa and for the first time in a long time, a part of my house became my home. I spend every moment that the weather is even slightly bearable out there…writing, reading, just sitting. It’s been invaded by new neighbor children behind us on their trampoline and sometimes with their nerf darts, but I don’t mind….it’s a song of life that drifts over my little island paradise in the middle of land-locked Arkansas. Since the social distancing order started, I’ve been out there a lot. Resting on the porch swing that my husband and I refurbished together, reading, checking email and just enjoying this escape I have carved out of our reality. It’s bright colors nourish me and the sun stamps vitamin D in my arms and my heart continues its healing process.

And now for something a little different…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 10? 11? Yikes! I’m starting to lose count!

I have to apologize for my absence yesterday. I spent the morning at the doctor’s office, which, in and of itself is a surreal experience. It was made more so by the (finally!) diagnosis of a Cerebral Spinal Fluid leak from my nose that I have been struggling with for the past three weeks. It’s a weird time to think about CT scans and non-invasive brain procedures, but better than getting meningitis and way better than the constant headaches, leaky faucet that looks like a nose on my face and deep fatigue that I thought was just a worse than average allergy season. In some way, it comes at a really great time when work has slowed to a snail’s slither and I’m forced to stay home. Anyway, all that to say that the all morning appointment kind of stripped me of my will to move from the couch yesterday, so sorry I didn’t show up for our ten minute coffee and writing date.

Today, I was feeling artsy…mostly because I got to return for a bit to the mural my sister and I have been working on since this summer today…and it got me thinking about the healing sensation of paint under my nails and color on my mind. So I thought I would share with you an art prompt from Shelly Klammer’s Symbolic Journeys class.

I chose to do the collage prompt and combine it with some free form poetry.

from Shelley Klammer, Symbolic Journeys

The prompt is “Night,” and here is what Shelley has to say about that symbology:

The night sometimes symbolizes a loss of faith. Who or what have you lost faith in recently? 

Shelley Klammer, Symbolic Journeys

Here is your mission:

You can Collage: Create a “dark” collage using dark colors, or imagery that feels emotionally dark to you. I’ve done this and added my work down below.

Or you can do a Painting/Drawing: Create a drawing or a painting that reflects what you have lost faith in. What do you most want to have faith in? Is it love, kindness, abundance, or something different? Write or illustrate this quality on top of your drawing.

Or you can stay with the writing theme and answer the question “What do you most want to have faith in?” Write for ten minutes….GO!

Here’s mine:

Night by Cari Kaufman

Tell me about a new sound…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 9

Today dawned bright and sunshiny- well once the fog and my migraine cleared…huge white fluffy clouds interrupted blue as far as the eye could see and the sun warmed faces and and baked in much needed vitamin D. It’s amazing what a day of sunshine can do for the spirits. Our neighborhood crackled with sounds of life and it inspired me to come up with my very own writing prompt.

Today…tell me about a new sound…something that you haven’t heard for a long time or the first time or a sound you aren’t really sure you know…write for ten minutes….GO!

Our neighborhood is alive with new sounds this week. It’s been years since I have heard the amount of life coming from the trampolines and back yards on our street today. The dogs are so keen on it they bark back and forth like prisoners in isolation. Each guarding its own space, but letting the others know with a yelp and a shout what is happening on the other side of the fence or three doors down. Kids are playing, jumping and swinging and brothers yell back at sisters and laughter wafts through the air like the smell of my grandmother’s oatmeal raisin cookies.

It’s a cacophony of voices and laughter and somewhere, maybe a street over, a song or two. The windows of houses have been thrown wide and the songs of the lives inside are thrown out into the world for all to hear. It’s the crazy irony of humanity that in these days of social isolation I have learned more about my neighbors than I would have in the days of everything as normal. The sounds of daily life are a beautiful blessing in the midst of all this unknown. It feels like a sweet reminder that there is normal in the middle of new.


Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 8

It’s Tuesday….I’m no officially into week two of this social distancing experiment and things are starting to settle into a rhythm. Whether that is good or bad, I don’t know yet, but here we are…doing our part….and I don’t hate it.

Today’s writing prompt comes from an art therapy online workshop I am working through called “Symbolic Journeys” by Shelley Klammer. She’s an amazing art therapist and online educator and I highly recommend ANY of her offerings as I have worked through several of them. This art prompt struck me yesterday, so I decided to sit in it a while and turn it to a writing prompt. So here you go…

Keys often symbolize opening and closing. Write for ten minutes about an area where you feel closed and what you want to open up to. GO.

Photo by Dids on

There is a part of me I struggle to let anyone see. A young, quiet part of my heart that isn’t wisened by experience, sharpened by trauma, or deepened by age. She sits and stares out at the world in wonder, but with a naivete I am ashamed to let the world see. She is the little one who doesn’t have all the answers. She is the one I’m afraid no one will love because she has nothing to offer the world but wide eyed wonder and a natural inquisitiveness to explore. She spills milk and breaks precious heirlooms and has no idea how to to pick the lock that lets her out into the world.

I hold the key to the lock on a janitor’s key ring on my belt loop. It’s an old key with three teeth and it hangs next to keys that keep all the other parts of myself locked behind closed doors. I’d love to let her out to play and skip and ask the question “Why?” fourteen times in a row, but the wisened, sharpened, deep part of me wonders if anyone will love this childish part of my heart. She brings no answers to the table, just more questions…and she’s likely to break an ancient artifact or two on her whirlwind tour around the house, but she sure would love to make the world her playground.

This is what I would love to open up to.

Sharing my young, immature, imperfect heart with the world and trusting that it would be accepted and cherished as much as the older, wiser, know-it-all part of me is. It’s a scary thing to unlock that door and let her out, but I’m gaining the courage to do it.


Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 7

Wow, seven days….seven days since the world holed up and I started counting squares when using toilet paper. Seven days since community starved people actually started saying hello from across the street as we walk by with our black dogs in tow. Seven days since I’ve hugged anyone not in my immediate family. Seven days of home cooked meals and slow moments of boredom and time to do all the laundry and vacuum the floors more than once every couple of weeks. Seven days of writing for ten minutes a day and creating art each day and thinking through what happens if this is more than just a passing phase. A lot has happened in those seven days. It’s an interesting world we are living in right now. How are you making it? Leave me a comment…for reals, I’d like to hear proof of life right now.

Today’s prompt feels less heavy than the last few, but as I have yet to start my timer, we shall see. Tell me about how you drink coffee? When? Where? If you don’t drink it, tell me how you stopped. I bet you know more about coffee than the person drinking it. Write about it now. Ten minutes…Go.

Coffee…a beverage I never liked until forty creeped in on me and sleep stopped coming in the night. I have always loved the smell of coffee, but couldn’t savor the bitter taste that never quite lived up to the rich aroma it let off. Then those years of working full time, driving ballet car pool, math homework and worry over angry teenagers came rushing in and coffee’s bitter flavor was the taste of everyday life and I clung to caffeinated relief like a smoker clings to a cigarette.

I learned to love coffee in a small shop that opened downed the corridor from my office and across the hall from my daughter’s ballet studio. The shop owner had a way of caressing pastry dough that infused it with life and I fell in love with her and her place. She taught me that coffee’s bitterness was unique to each bean and I learned to savor it like a fine wine.

Now I’ve passed that passion to my son and we share its secrets together sometimes over a cup brewed in our tiny drip coffee pot and sometimes over a new spot one of us has discovered. I still think coffee tastes of bitterness and lies to your nose about it’s richness….but I’ve grown to love it. The bite of each bean is unique and tells a quiet story…it’s not unlike life really…bitter, sweet, aromatic and full of a story.

I’d love to hear your words here….you know since we are all in this together anyway….if you feel like it, I invite you to post your response to these prompts in the comments.