A Day Without


I want to give you darkness unfettered
you alone
among the star-dusted obsidian
free to wake and wander
while the rest of us sleep
slip out our door
onto the quiet street
in your night-clothes
as what we’d been taught to fear
has at last gone
every lightless alley
and inky black parking lot
now available for exploration

I want you to wear a red wrap dress
because you like the color
how it fits your curves
how it feels so comfortable
like a vibrant second skin
and when your colleague passes
as you sit sipping tea and writing copy
he tells you your last article
was well-reasoned and powerful
and that your dress
makes him think of July

I want you to read
in history books
that the night did not always belong to us
nor did the vote
or our right to decide for ourselves
who and when to marry
or if we’d become a mother
that women and men
faced ridicule and contempt
put themselves at risk
to eliminate yours
served you limitless opportunities
despite their own limitations
and gave you access to galaxies whenever you wish

League Apart



At 21,
I imagined her in college
or backpacking in Belize
working some 9-to-5 job that she loved or hated
so that she could earn enough money to cover her rent
and the cost of clubbing with her friends
making art and living in our basement
joining AmeriCorps and teaching children how to read
spending hours wandering in museums for inspiration
rarely leaving her room because she was so engrossed in creating new apps
or music
or poetry
or never being home because her social needs were so high that she was always out
in the world and we wished at least once a month she’d stop long enough to eat dinner with us
as a young, single, loving mother
on a boat in rough seas with Greenpeace protecting whales
researching grad school programs and stressing over paying back student loans
single and ambivalent about the status
obsessed with locating and meeting her birth parents
working in a tattoo parlor
preparing for medical school
skating in the Olympics
building a tiny house with her girlfriend near the edge of a lake next to the greenest forest
base jumping in every continent

All is less than optimal
it is not the future
that any parent imagines

I didn’t envision
the organ failure
or cancer
the speech therapy
and special education services
wrapping my arms around my tiny-in-frame but adult-in-age daughter
as she buried her head against my stomach
her body shaking
as we went to visit
the program she’ll enter
when she graduates from high school in June

My language is foreign to my peers
they struggle to understand and respond
mishear my hope and optimism
as acceptance or surrender
to this abrading future

Although I’ve learned to mine the joy and beauty
in the oddest of overlooked cracks
no dreams have been conceded
as I attempt to swallow with some grace
each of these real days


February 3, 2017
Julie Ayers

Why I Don’t Want to March…



Why I Don’t Want To March in Washington D.C. On 1/21/17…

• I’m fairly short and can get claustrophobic in big crowds.
• My knees need to be replaced and have this inconsiderate habit of dislocating easily.
• I’m not fond of cold despite having grown up in Minnesota, or maybe because of growing up in Minnesota.
• I am acutely aware of how excruciating it can be to need to use a restroom and not be able to access one for hours and hours and hours to the point where peeing in a cup in public seems preferable to holding it one more second – and I never wish to experience that dilemma again.
• I, minute by minute, navigate an incredibly complicated and stressful life as a working mother of two children who both have very demanding, and time consuming to manage, special needs.
• I don’t really have the spare minutes that make the hours that make a day to devote to fighting traffic and crowds to get into and out of DC.
• I’ve had MS for 25 years and when I get really, really cold, I can become incapacitated, like quaking-statue-fixed-to-a-spot-incapacitated.
• There is enough on my plate already every day to make the dish split under the weight and rain the messy contents to the floor.
• My heart is pinched with worry about the actual survival of my children because of their health issues (that is not hyperbole).
• What would happen to my special needs kids if something bad happened to me?! It would be awful, scary, and a time suck to be arrested for protesting – or even worse, to be a victim of violence while I participate in my civil right to march.
• I don’t want to draw attention to myself or my political beliefs and thereby draw ill will from anyone and jeopardize relationships or employment.
• I wish I could just stick my head in the sand and avoid the news and wait these next four years out – hope for the best – let people with healthier bodies, who are younger, with less demands on their time, not as much at stake, and more resources, to do the heavy lifting politically.

Why I Will Be Marching In Washington D.C. On 1/21/17

• Because I am a mother of two children with special needs. The Affordable Care Act, although far from perfect and in need to revision, guaranteed my children could be covered on my private insurance until they were 26, that they could not be turned down for insurance because of pre-existing conditions, and that there would be no life-time caps on coverage.
• Because no person deserves to lead this nation who is so insensitve,  and lacks the emotional and political savvy, that s/he mocks anyone with a disability.
• Because women know best, in consultation with their doctors, about decisions related to their bodies and when, if, and if ever, to become a mother. I am horrified by the thought that my developmentally disabled daughter may be blocked from having access to birth control that prevents her from getting periods, which she cannot manage on her own. Or that, an even more terrifying thought, if she were to become pregnant, all options regarding her health and well being would not be available to her. Abortion needs to be safe, legal, affordable, and accessible for all.
• Because I am a sexual assault survivor and will not accept excuses for the perpetuation of a rape culture by dismissing vulgar, objectification of women and girls as “locker room talk” and something that is acceptable and normal and to be tolerated.
• Because I am a woman and should be paid equally for my contributions to the work force as any man might be paid for the same job.
• Because I value and celebrate diversity and acknowledge this country is mostly made up of immigrants. Our cultural differences, various religious beliefs, numerous ethnicities makes this country stronger.
• Because I believe the best path to our future will be forged through diplomacy and cooperation instead of amassing greater arsenals, threatening military action, or engaging in war.
• Because our Earth home has finite resources and we need to protect the environment for current and future generations to be able to thrive…and survive.
• Because I believe it is fundamentally wrong to give tax breaks to the super rich and subsidize corporations when citizens of the United States are going hungry, do not have safe and warm homes, or good healthcare.
• Because it doesn’t matter who you love, but that you love. Everyone has a right to be just who they are without fear of judgement and marry who they love and have equal protection under the law.
• Because I believe in supporting great pubic education for all, which includes access to affordable higher education.
• Because guns are used to kill people, not just for hunting or self defense, and there needs to be sensible regulations restricting assault weapons, and stockpiling guns, etc.
• Because Islam is not our enemy. Muslims are not our enemy. Extremism is the real issue – whether that extremism is expressed under the guise of Islam, Judaism, OR Christianity…
• Because Black Lives Matter. That does not mean Blue Lives don’t matter, or All Lives Don’t matter, but our black citizens, friends, family, coworkers, are being profiled and abused and killed and we should all care and speak up and not tolerate bias and discrimination.
• Because the PEOTUS has repeatedly shown he is quick to anger, vindictive, untruthful… all qualities that could cost us all dearly and lead to many people dying.
• Because the only one who can make anything better, ever, change things from bad to worse, is all of us taking the time to speak up and let our voices and concerns be heard.

I have a heart full of love, not hate. I believe in our democracy. I know our country can do better and be better.

I’ll be there. I’ll march. I’ll advocate. I won’t give in or give up.

Got You


img_2700 img_2701

It was not the usual way. There was not nine months to prepare, but rather three days.

When the adoption agency called and told me there was a baby girl, born, in the PICU, and did we want to be her parents?, that was the moment I became Sierra’s mom. Not later, after we saw her for the first time at the hospital. Not even after that when we had to give the adoption agency our final decision — were we willing to adopt this tiny baby whose life had started off with so many challenges? This baby girl who got pneumonia the day she was born, who couldn’t suck on a bottle without choking, who had received no prenatal care, whose birth mother was developmentally challenged, who the very-experienced-PICU-nurse told us had something seriously wrong with her even though tests were not yet identifying any major health issues, whose birth family had a history of significant medical and developmental challenges, whose birth father and ethnicity was listed as unknown.

I became a mom the moment I heard that voice on the phone say, “It’s a girl. She was born about two weeks ago.” Everything after that didn’t matter. Everything after that was just what happened next to our family. Yes, we agonized, in a way, over the decision for the first few days before we were allowed to sign the official paperwork and take Sierra home from the hospital. We were fearful, like any new parents, about the health and well-being of our newborn. But never once did I ever feel any desire to walk away from something I could have walked away from. We were not legally obligated at these early points to parent this child, certainly not at the inquiry call, or the follow up call once our pediatrician talked to the doctors caring for Sierra, or even once we first saw her and realized much of the information we’d been told on the phone was not accurate (such as the baby weighed 7 lbs at full-term birth; she was barely 7 lbs at three weeks when we first met her. She weighed 5 lbs when born). Yet, it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. She was my daughter from the moment I heard the words, “She’s born.” I loved this nameless, faceless, genetically unrelated, and still unknown baby fiercely, before I ever saw her hazel eyes and auburn hair.

I felt it. I felt motherhood. I felt it in the stillness that folded around me in my busy, noisy office where I took the call from the adoption agency that told me she was born. I knew it by the way my breath left my body and I didn’t need to draw more oxygen into my lungs for days – not until I finally got to see my baby and lift her up in my rock-steady hands and rest her sweet head on my shoulder. These hands knew preemies well, having helped my sister care for her preemie twins when I was a teenager. I saw my daughter, held my daughter, for the first time two days after I became her mother; took her home from the hospital three days after we met.

My husband and I had just three days and two nights to transition our lives and our home from childless to child-centered. We’d drive from Baltimore to Prince George’s Hospital every day to visit Sierra for as long as staff would let us stay — and stop at Babies R Us on the way home to buy as much infant gear as we could stuff into our car each trip: a crib, changing table, glider rocker and ottoman, onesies, rattles, bottles, diapers, booties, sleepers, stroller, sheets, pacifiers, diaper genie, car seat…

When we’d arrive home with the bounty each night, we’d spend the rest of the evening assembling everything and setting up the nursery. It was just us. We had no family in the state, no church home, and few available friends as we were relatively recent transplants to the area.

As we’d build the furniture, we’d turn over every medical opinion and report we’d heard that day about the health of our daughter. We’d spin it around and around like screws into misfitting pilot holes. The information was confusing and troubling, flat out frightening at times. This baby had yet to pass through our front door or rest her body on these newly-purchased giraffe-speckled crib sheets, but she couldn’t have been more our own. We agonized over her potential future, like any new parent who had been told their newborn may be at risk for… What? Some vaguely awful uncertainty. We worried for her, but I sought to adopt, in addition to my baby girl, my Grandma Jo’s advice to ‘not borrow trouble.’ So began this parenting journey of dealing with whatever this particular moment offered, reveling it or reviling it accordingly, but keeping the focus on right here, right now. (…there is no other place I’d rather be :))

My baby girl made me her mother the minute I knew she existed. Later, when I gave birth to a son, it was clear to me that love arrived no differently. Not with adoption. Not with birth. I’d always suspected that and claimed as much, but how could I really know, until I had experienced becoming a parent both ways? How your child comes into your life is irrelevant. That they do, is all that truly matters.

As to the rest, what happens, happens. Parents dream of bringing a healthy child into their home. Dream of the best possible outcome for the baby. Want the world for their child, and hope that the world will always be kind and generous and gracious to their offspring. Some get mostly that, others don’t. We are all fragile, imperfect beings. Babies arrive DNA already spun and as dads and moms we do your best to help them achieve the most they possibly can with that glorious, preset double helix.

We love them. We love them strand for astounding strand, regardless of how or when or why they arrived in the shelter of our arms and homes and hearts.

I love my daughter, who grows older and yet doesn’t grow up the same way most other children do. Happy 21st Gotcha Day to my remarkable Sierra Jule. Thank you for confirming for me love is love is love is love. That we eventually found each other is what matters. That I get the honor of being your mother…is everything.


October 23, 2016
Julie Ayers

Twenty One Days



You had a different name
penned on the card
affixed to your bassinet

I missed the first three weeks
when your life,
a fine thread, barely held

Those absent days
seemed endless as space

Impossibly small you
untethered by family love
adrift in vast wards

I didn’t hear your first cry
wrap you in my arms
and nuzzle you close

When your wet, weak lungs
made them intubate
I didn’t know there was a you

Those twenty one days

before we met
before I took my place
before I became your witness

before I acted as your voice
before I first saw and loved you
before I was your mother

Seemed an enormous failure
on my part
to find and protect you

A love feed irrationality
that’s finally begun to ebb slightly
after twenty one years

your mother


October 2016
Julie Ayers

Street Theater



there were voices

she stood on the sidewalk
brown-eyed, haired, skinned, clothed, shoed
answering them


lighting a stub of a cigarette
she’d picked off the ground
her mouth rounded

thin as rolling paper
she wavered in the Light Rail’s breeze
nearly toppled
but righted
raised her fist
and howled

she cursed the train
the pathetic nub of nicotine
a world long gone to mud
with its muck of formless voices
dogging her unsteady step
her own Sophocratic chorus
for a Greek tragedy of a life

awake, asleep, sober, stoned, adrift
a cacophony only she can hear

all these words
enough to drown in

her rounded mouth
as we watched
and wished the curtain would fall


August 2016
Julie Ayers

How A Mother Makes Her Morning Cup Of Tea



As the sun rises orange fire
she walks barefoot to the kitchen
in a simple, summer nightgown
washed by years to softness
a faded brown
spotted with small dots
that for some reason make her smile

She sees the dishes
left in the sink by small hands and large
a cereal bag, half full
resting against the empty box
glasses on the counter
next to an empty milk jug

Their curly-mammoth of dog
trailing her
she opens the porch door
to let him out in the lushness of dewy grass
fills his bowl with food
and opens the window overlooking the garden

She moves about the kitchen
rinses, repackages, tidies, seals, recycles
loads everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher
wipes the counter
and goes to the basement
to the extra fridge to get a carton of skim
notes it is the last one
and writes “Milk” on the grocery list
when she returns to the kitchen
before pouring some into the steamer

As she puts the milk away
she realizes her daughter has used the last of the chai
goes back to the basement in search of more
remembers the laundry is in the dryer from last night
beach towels from the pool
she pulls them from the machine
folds them
and places them in the waiting beach bag on the floor
scoops the rest of the clothes into the laundry basket
and heads upstairs with the tea
“CHAI” is written emphatically on the list

As she sets down the pen
her mind engages in an unbidden inventory
spotting a gap in open-fridge-image in her head
she picks the pen up again
“Cider,” for her son
she smiles

The box of tea finally in hand
finally open
twenty minutes after her insouciant entrance
into the morning light of the kitchen
she pours the dark liquid
into an ordinary cup and puts it in the microwave
adds a splash of heavy cream to the skim in the steamer
pushes the button until it glows red
the white mass begins its swirl

Chai box placed into the fridge
she stands on tiptoes and reaches
pulls her favorite cup down
from where she’s hidden it
placed high on a shelf
tucked inside of a stack of deep bowls
out of her diminutive daughter’s reach

Something she’s set aside
just for herself
an item that holds
adorned with rich, soft color
tiny, raised dots like Braille

Once filled by tea and milk
the feel of the warmed surface against her palm
like a long-awaited caress

An oasis
sometimes as ethereal as a mirage
her moment to sit
and sip alone
with thoughts of nothing less
than sunrise and birdsong

She can’t bear to think of it dropped
one more piece potentially lost
to the demands and confusing chaos of family

In her mothering world of limitless care
and constant nurture
which she embraces and willfully chooses daily
she holds this


July 3, 2016
Julie Ayers