September 6, 2011

spark and echo

Here is the link to my new blog.



Things are weird right now. Many changes are brewing. I think a change like this is really what I need. I can't promise I'll update often, but I want to.

See you there, I hope.

August 22, 2011

Endings/Beginnings

This will be my last post on Love Street.

Wait, scratch that. There will be one more post after this one. That will be the last one.

I have no plans to stop blogging, though. I already have a new blog. It may take awhile for me to get it the way I want it. I am a busy girl. (For example, I have been interrupted seven times since I sat down to write this.) But once I do, I will share the link here.

This blogging thing is a strange enterprise. I've already written about why I blog and my feelings are still largely the same as they were two and a half years ago. I am one of those people who has used blogging to supplement journaling. Most of my entries can be described as thinking out loud. I don't make many attempts to be "arty" in my writing; however, I make every attempt to be concise and easily understood. I was always reserving my arty writing for the "real" stuff: you know, poetry, fiction. It has taken me awhile to come around to the fact that blogging can be an art form rather than just a way to transmit information. And thus this blog has become a frustration for me rather than a release. It just isn't what I want it to be. That is my fault - for pigeonholing the genre.

I guess it would be easy enough for me to just change the way I do things around here, but I'd rather just start over entirely, leave my archives here for awhile, and begin anew elsewhere.

My new blog will be an ongoing art project. The differences between this one and that one may be subtle - it's hard to say right now - but the time has come in my life for me to really devote myself to being creative and making art. I have no plans to become a professional blogger, but let's face it, I really enjoy blogging. I love connecting with others, hearing their stories, and letting them hear mine.

I wanted to wait to post this news until the new blog was done but several people have been politely pestering me about neglecting this blog. This is why. I have outgrown Love Street and it's time to move on. And once my new blog is up and running, I hope you'll come with me.

Thanks for the support and love you've shown me over the last four years and 967 posts. You guys are amazing.

(It took me an hour and a half to type out this post. Don't expect that new blog anytime soon. ;)

August 2, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 2

Day 2: Your Least Favorite Song



Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle

Puke.

This song makes me want to do that. I think it's been the Father-Daughter dance song at almost every single wedding I've been to. It's just so overused.

Or perhaps I am just jealous because I am not "daddy's little girl". That thought did occur to me.

Still! That is irrelevant. It's just not a good song.

August 1, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 1

I'm doing this 30 Day Song Challenge on Facebook, but I figured I'd do it over here, too. I enjoy talking about music and the places it's taken me in my life.

Day 1: Your Favorite Song

I don't have an all-time favorite song, but this is my current favorite.



Ghost Town by First Aid Kit

I've been listening to this song quite a bit this summer, including one evening in June when I wrote this poem:

It’s been silence.
Quiet and crickets chirping,
cats meowing,
each blade of grass rustling
in the stale breeze,
the sound of time
wheezing by
in its wheelchair.

It was music you heard
staining your ears with life,
music that made the tears
drop with finality
onto your journal pages,
and your life’s words smeared
and you could no longer read
your own history.

So you turned
off the radio and record player
and instead began to listen to your cat’s hair
quietly hitting the carpet
in your house of sadness.

The music continues beyond
your legacy of isolation,
green lush enveloping
a loud, unapologetic life

unlived.

July 19, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I've been writing blog entries in my head but haven't summoned the energy to sit down and write here. Truthfully, I've been in kind of a slump. For now, life is hard and it takes enormous amounts of effort to breathe through each day. A lot of things are piling up, ranging from the very serious (we are broke, the birth center owes us $3000 and refuses to pay so now we have to go to court on August 31, and in the meantime, there are car repairs and checkups for our cats and a sleep study for Roy waiting in the wings) to the moderately serious (I need a root canal and we don't have dental insurance, and also I hurt my back) to the annoyances of the everyday (Simon's slobber managed to kill my phone and my laptop power cord, neither of which are cheap to replace; there are ants in our kitchen; our toilet is leaking; it's fucking hot outside; my kids like to scream loudly all day long; I'm not getting enough sleep; I feel hungry all the time and there is not enough junk food in this house to satisfy me; my toenails look like claws; I have Sesame Street songs playing on repeat in my head every single day).

So. You can understand if I'm a little grouchy. I'm kind of like an old guy growling at people to GET OFF MY LAWN. I'm even hunched over like him because of the aforementioned back injury.

I feel the need to retreat, and so I'm taking a break. I'll see you back here when I'm feeling better.

In the meantime, stay off my lawn.

July 5, 2011

Charlie's Favorite Songs

In no particular order:

Blueberry Pie by Bette Midler


One Day by Matisyahu (feat. Akon)


Howl by Florence and the Machine


Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire


If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett


The kid's got eclectic taste in music. I wonder where he gets that from?

July 3, 2011

A Second Chance for Robert



Friday morning, as Charlie stood on a chair at the kitchen sink and “washed dishes” and Simon rode on my back in the Ergo, I read the latest Dear Sugar column.

Saturday I went to the post office and mailed out an extremely late Father’s Day gift to my dad.

The two events are not unrelated.

It’s not uncommon for Sugar’s column to make tears roll down my cheeks, but her most recent advice offering to a father who’d lost his only son broke me wide open. I stood in the kitchen with my grief burning in my body and I sobbed right there for both of my kids to witness.

I’ve done my fair share of bitching about illness and fever and teething lately but the month of June was so much more than those things that have led me here, to this place where I am once again a grieving woman. Father’s Day, for example. I think it may be the most bittersweet day of the year for me. On that day, I smiled and laughed and I meant it because my boys have a wonderful father who loves them and they will never have to question that. I have loved watching Roy grow into his role of daddy and I am so proud of him. All of that is tempered by my relationship with my own father. It’s practically non-existent and it feels like it lives only in my mind. It doesn’t feel real. Only the grief does.

And so while everyone posted on Facebook about how much they love their dads, I had nothing to say aside from a shout-out to Roy. I posted a video about forgiving our fathers but there was no response. Either no one saw it or no one knew what to say or no one wanted to talk about the places that hurt on a day that’s supposed to be celebratory. I’m okay with that. I do love my dad. He’s half of the reason why I’m here today. But we don’t have a relationship. And that I am not okay with.

I will never be okay with it. It’s the grief that keeps on grieving.



Simon’s middle name is Robert, which is my dad’s name. We knew, as soon as we found out I was pregnant again last year, that if we had another boy, his middle name would be Robert as a way to honor my dad. I wonder sometimes what it means to saddle a baby with the weight of a relative’s name. Will he develop a brain tumor like my dad did? Will he live in a way that my dad couldn’t? Will history repeat itself or will he write his own story? I asked Roy these questions today. I needed answers that were once clear but had become muddled.

“It’s a second chance for Robert,” my dear sweet amazing wonderful husband replied.

And it slapped me across the face like it does every once in awhile, the realization that I will never have a dad like the one in Father of the Bride, that my kids will never have a grandpa to play with, that there is a person sitting in a crappy nursing home in Waco, Texas, who is half of the reason why I’m here today and yet he is lost to me. Forever fucking lost to me.

I don’t know what to do with that. It’s been almost 30 years since his essence was taken, leaving this shell behind, and I still have no idea what to do with this howling emptiness inside me. I try to silence it, by sending out Father’s Day gifts and writing cheerful cards that say things like, “Charlie is 2 now! He’s such a smart and sweet boy. Simon is 7 months old and is crawling and pulling to a stand. We wish you were here. We love you.” It’s all bullshit. What I want to say is “Charlie is 2 now. Why didn’t you call? And what about my birthday? Why didn't you call? Do you even realize that you have a 32 year old daughter and two adorable grandsons? If I tell you I love you, will you say it back? I hope you’re not suffering. Are you suffering? I don’t think I can bear it if you are.”

(I know he is suffering.)



My dad will never have a second chance. I sometimes have to sit with this and let the enormity of it pass over me. I don’t know what to do except breathe and feel the screaming space inside me.

My dad will never have a second chance. So we gave his name to our second son because it’s the best we can do to give him the impossible.

My dad will never have a second chance. He will remain in the nursing home with the big picture of John Wayne over his bed and in his fragile and damaged mind he will drift away to happier times. This is perhaps the only thing that makes his suffering okay, the fact that he can escape it.

My dad will never have a second chance. And someday he will die, just as someday we will all die. Of course, we don’t know when. He’s defied our expectations by hanging in there for much longer than I think any of us expected. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen him. Charlie was six months old. It was Christmastime. In less than three months, I would be pregnant again with a little baby boy who would be given his name, a little boy he has yet to meet.

My dad will never have a second chance. I understand this, and that is the place from which my sorrow speaks. There is wisdom in that sorrow, and understanding, and compassion. And yet, like Sugar said in her column, I would give it all up to hear him tell me he’s proud of me and that he loves me.

And this is why I find myself here this morning, reaching for healing, despite the fact - no, because of the fact that my dad will never have a second chance. After all this writing and this spilling of my sad, sloppy guts, I still don’t know what to do with all this reality.

And so I will sit awhile. And breathe.



(All pictures in this post were taken by my dad in his college days, pre-illness.)

(If you don't already read Dear Sugar, you should start. Her column is one of my favorite things about the internet.)

June 28, 2011

Summer Style

I was in desperate need of new summer threads and kicks. (Do you see how I did that there? Made myself look uber cool by using words other than "clothes" and "shoes"? I may be 32 now but I am still totally hip.) All I really wanted for my birthday was a basic summer wardrobe update, as I had no shorts, two bikinis that I hated and avoided wearing, several pairs of jeans that were hanging loosely on my hips, and a pair of Crocs flip flops that I've been wearing almost every day for the past two years and really wanted to retire.

I was completely in love with this tankini, but by the time it came for my mom to buy it, there were none in my size. I scoured the internet and couldn't really find anything that I loved as much. On a trip to Target while my mom was here, I happened to pass through the swimsuit section and found a very similar one. I was stoked. It fits great and makes my boobs look awesome.



Roy bought me a pair of Sseko sandals with these straps. Love these shoes. The interchangeable straps and the multitudinous ways to tie them? Genius. What the company stands for? Nothing short of awesome.



In the last few months I've become obsessed with Threadless, and my mother-in-law was more than happy to feed my addiction with these two shirts:


(Breakthrough)


(Secret Garden)

I am such a jeans and T-shirt type of girl, and it's so easy for me to get sloppy. But I could never feel dowdy while wearing a Threadless shirt.

My mom also bought me some long & lean jeans from the Gap. With the skinny jean craze going on, it's ridiculously hard to find wide leg jeans. I looked for a long time and then it occurred to me that I should check The Gap, where I got my wide leg maternity jeans. These jeans are awesome. I already had two pairs that I had bought at the beginning of the year, but I needed to go a size down. Now I have jeans that fit, and I guess I'll hang onto my bigger pairs in case I put a few pounds back on.



And then we went to Old Navy, where I got some cropped pants and some shorts. I later went back to exchange the pair of shorts I got for a pair similar to the ones below. I got them home, put them on, and loved them so much I had to go back and get a second pair. At $10 each, I think these are a steal. While I was there getting my second pair of shorts, I also picked up a pair of cheapie flip flops and some cute sunglasses.




I'm so happy with all my new clothes, but particularly my shorts. It's been years since I've really worn shorts proudly and it feels damn freeing to show some leg, varicose veins and all. I decided it was time to really embrace my pasty whiteness and just wear what I like instead of worrying about possibly blinding people.

The only clothes-related thing left that I really want is a pair of TOMS shoes. I've been drooling over them for probably about a year now. I got some money for my birthday, which I was planning on using to buy them, but since I am now 32 and a responsible adult, I may have to use said money for responsible adult things like gas and groceries. Bummer.

However! There is still a chance for me to possibly be frivolous and get the shoes. And I am having a hard time deciding which pair to get. Here are my favorites:

Blue Leopard Women's Vegan Classics

Passport Black Women's Vegan Classics

Passport Lilac Women's Vegan Classics

Which is your favorite pair? And while you're letting me know, tell me about your summer must-haves.

(Also, I am so not a dress girl but I want to turn that around some day. Maybe next summer! Here are a few dresses I love, among some other clothing choices.)

June 24, 2011

this big exhausted weepy baggy mentally ill cellulite unit known as mommy

I missed the official first day of summer. I had grand plans for that day, which really only included busting out the sidewalk chalk and writing SUMMER! on the driveway and then taking a picture and posting it here as a way of showing you all that yes! I am alive and cherishing the 100 degree heat! yes! I am one of those people who lives entirely in the moment! who never wishes any minute of her life away! who can take some lame sidewalk chalk from Target and use it to make a masterpiece worthy of display at the Museum of Modern Art! who is so fucking happy it's dangerously close to saccharine!

You see, I exhaled too soon. And this week, which was supposed to be about getting back to normal, all of a sudden became about Simon's first tooth coming in. And the fever. The runny nose. The crankiness. The refusal to eat. The sleepless nights. Basically a rinse and repeat of the whole month of June, which I am boycotting, by the way. I hate you, June. Forget the fact that you're my birth month, and my son's birth month. You've betrayed me, you mercurial Gemini you.

Last night was a terrible one in Simonsleepland. I mean, so terrible that at one point in the darkness I could not even see my baby's face - instead I saw a gigantic head with hollows for eyes and a mouth lurching toward me, like some kind of horror movie creature. I wish I was kidding. I had to have Roy take him away for awhile because he was freaking me out and I was crying.

If that's not a sign of sleep deprivation....

My mother-in-law came over this morning, and by that I mean Roy walked over to her house this morning and brought her over to stay with the boys while he slept the sleep of the almost dead and I left the house. I treated myself to breakfast. I ate. I read my book. I did not have to share my food. I did not have to ask the waitress for extra napkins because Charlie spilled his drink all over the floor. Then I went to the bookstore. I browsed. I flipped through magazines. I read a couple of poems. I lingered over the bargain books. I did not have to wrestle yet another Elmo book out of an insistent toddler's hands when it was time to leave. I did not have to pick up my baby and strap him to me because he was fussing about being in the stroller. Then it was time for a brief trip to the library. I got a few free (old) copies of National Geographic. Then I had to go home because Simon really, really needed me at that point.

My date with myself? Oh so needed and deserved, especially after three weeks of fever/illness/teething hell. I think I'll make this a Friday thing I do. I think I will be a little more aggressive about getting Simon to take a bottle, if for no other reason than I would like to go out with my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary next month.

Late this afternoon, I finally got to hang out with one of my friends, her daughters, and her parents for the first time in about a month. (We have a weekly playdate.) We went swimming (Simon's first time) and had a little BBQ. Charlie stuffed his mouth full of grapes and then spit them all out, half-eaten. Charming. I danced with my friend's daughters in the living room and admired all the art around the house. The light outside was perfect as we were driving home listening to First Aid Kit. It was all very summerlike. What can I say? I love you, June.

(title graciously stolen and mercilessly bastardized from one of the wonderful works of Anne Lamott)

June 18, 2011

Exhale

It's been two weeks. Two weeks of one small cold (parents), fever with no symptoms (Charlie), terrible crankiness and refusal of food (Charlie), phlegmy cough (Charlie), fever and cough (Simon), full-blown cold with fever (Charlie), full-blown cold (Roy), and hardly any sleep at all.

Somewhere in there, we had two birthdays, Simon started crawling, my mom flew in, we went to a baseball game, we had a birthday party, Roy's work got broken into, a skunk took up residence under our house, Simon turned seven months old and pulled to a stand (twice), and my mom flew back to Texas (with a cold).

What a ride.

My friend Kim was nice enough to send us an edible arrangement in response to my last post. Seriously, if this is what complaining gets me, I'm never going to stop.





Pretty! Yummy!

(Thank you, Kim. So wonderful of you!)

Things are getting better. I smiled as I typed that because I can hear Charlie in the next room throwing one of his mega nighttime tantrums. This is how I know he is better. And while I loved the cuddles we shared while he was sick, I'm so happy that he's back to his old sleep-fighting self.

There were some scary moments. His fever was like a metastasis, returning day after day. I would lie on the floor next to his crib at night, listening to him struggle to breathe. In my head: "This is YOUR fault. You didn't breastfeed him. If you had, he wouldn't be this sick. You are a terrible and selfish mother."

Love that mom guilt.



I'm ready to get back to normal life, whatever that is, ready for playdates and hanging out with my friends, going for walks, playtime in the backyard, reading and writing and art lessons, Monday movie night with the husband. I guess I'm even ready for laundry and dishes.

We have had so many bouts of illness since Simon was born. I wonder if this is just what it's like with two kids or if we are just so sleep deprived that our immune systems are incredibly compromised. We are going to be making some changes around here to give ourselves a boost. Boy, do we need one.



(But Simon's hair doesn't. It's awesome, yes? It just started doing that on its own recently.)

Tomorrow is Father's Day, and I doubt I'll be making an appearance in this space. I'll be with my family, and we'll hopefully all be feeling good enough to do something fun to celebrate the day. My own father won't be far from my mind, though, because he never is. Here's to daddies everywhere.


June 14, 2011

Delirium + Dreams

Both of my boys are sick.

Charlie's three-day fever lasted from last Monday night through my birthday through his birthday and ended on Thursday, the day my mom flew in. It got up to 104 on his birthday, a nice little gift from the universe, and after popsicles, Tylenol, and a bath, it went down and stayed there. I know that I sound rather casual about it all, but let me tell you that there is nothing like holding your baby and realizing how hot he is, a mini overheating radiator, while all through your mind thoughts of meningitis and cancer race. I make those leaps easily, and before you know it, I am close to tears. I am almost always able to breathe away those thoughts, push the crazy back into my brain's mess, and be a somewhat normal, somewhat functioning adult.

Charlie's fever broke, but he kept his major attitude, and we spent the majority of the weekend preparing for our birthday meal on Sunday night.

My time in the kitchen went something like this: Measure out half of ingredients for strawberry cake. Comfort crying baby. Measure out other half of ingredients. Change toddler's diaper. Mix ingredients. Throw dirty dishes in sink. Give insistent toddler a banana. Rescue banana from clean soapy water in kitchen sink, where he threw it once he was done. Comfort crying baby again. Put cake in oven. Strap crying baby onto my back. Peel whining toddler from legs. Remove cake from oven and let it sit for ten minutes. Remove it from pans and watch the entire cake fall to pieces as it comes out of the pan. Rinse and repeat process for the rest of the day.

We managed to pull off a most excellent birthday dinner with only a few mishaps: the strawberry cake that fell apart, setting one of our plastic cutting boards on fire, and filling the house with smoke while making the pizza. It was a good time and a ton of work.

That night, right as Charlie was put into his crib for bed, he started coughing. And not some wimpy cough, either. A cough that said, "Attention, Mom and Dad! Phlegm!"

Monday was supposed to be his two-year well check. I took him in and refused the shots. The doctor pronounced his throat irritated but couldn't see much else wrong with him. By the time we got home Simon was running a 101 degree fever. Last night Simon had his worst night ever, burning up for part of the night, waking up once an hour all night long. Charlie, meanwhile, woke up about six times. Today they both had fever. Charlie's got a runny nose and cough. Simon coughs from time to time but is mostly just cantankerous. I'm glad the illness has finally made an appearance because fever without some kind of sickness makes me incredibly anxious.

The dreams started last week. In the first one, I found out I was pregnant again, already 25 weeks. Roy and I were waiting to have an ultrasound to find out the sex of the baby, but we had to sit through a bunch of baptisms first. Then fast forward (you know how dreams go), and Roy and I just got home to find Charlie screaming and Simon lying on the floor pinned under a chair. The top of the back of the chair was right on Simon's neck and he looked like an old man instead of a baby, his eyes bugging out of his head. He was ... not alive. I can't even say the word for what he was, because even in a dream, it's just wrong.

The second dream involved me and a friend going to the mall with both Charlie and Simon. We were in a shoe store and I left both boys with my friend to go use the restroom. When I returned, Simon was sitting in the stroller but Charlie was nowhere to be found. We searched and searched but he was gone. I was frantic, scared out of my head. The last thing I remember was CPS getting involved.

Then this morning. Once it was light out, Roy took Simon, and I slept a little on my own. And dreamed of a vampire apocalypse. My brother's best friend (who looked like his old best friend) and I were going to the top floor of a house to escape the many vampires that were on their way. We were huddled up there when from a distance I saw Charlie with my mother-in-law walking across the bridge to get to the top floor (where we were). Charlie had no idea what was going on; he was just being his cute little self and running around aimlessly. He was wearing his Easter shirt and blue jeans, his blond hair was flopping around as he ran. He ran right off the edge of the bridge. I was horrorstruck.

Then later someone showed up with Simon and he was given to me. At that point the vampires had arrived and were coming up to where we were. By some miracle, Charlie had lived through falling off the bridge and had returned. He also was given to me, and I was holding both him and Simon so tight. We were surrounded by vampires. It was just like a damn action movie, stupid music playing and all, and we were almost done for. I found myself wishing for two Ergo baby carriers because I had no idea how I was going to hold onto both of them and fight for our lives.

It was at that point that Roy woke me up, and I felt otherworldly. I can't say "I dreamt of a vampire apocalypse" with a straight face but it all felt so real. These dreams are almost exhausting as all this sickness.

Roy has been sleeping in Charlie's room for the past week. I've woken up in the middle of the night to find them both asleep in the glider, or Roy asleep on the floor with Charlie in his crib, or both Roy and Charlie on the floor. Simon and I sleep on the futon cushion on the floor in the other bedroom. If we are lucky, Roy and I get to have a face-to-face conversation during the day. If we are really lucky, we get to have some cuddle time in our bed (which largely remains abandoned these days) before one or both of the boys wakes up. It's a very strange delirium of a time. I miss my husband. I'm worried about my boys. I'm feeling guilty because my mom's here and there's all this sickness and we can't go out and do much and I'm tired and crabby and not my best self and I hole up in the office to write these bitchy blog posts instead of spending time with her but I so need the time to myself.

I'm feeling the weight of these dreams and I just want them to stop. I'm drowning in these terrible possibilities. I'm becoming a little afraid of the dark and of what sleep has to offer me. But I need need need, oh how I need that sleep. I can't remember the last time I slept through the night; I'm becoming somewhat of a wreck.

(Helppleasesendchocolatemaybesomeflowersanighttimebabysitterandsometranquilizersforthekiddosokaythanks.)

June 9, 2011

Dragtastic

You know what I'm tired of? Captions of pictures that say things like this: "Please excuse my messy house!" or "Sorry, I look like shit in this picture." I've written plenty of explanations like that myself, even said things like this when people come over or something. But today I was wandering around the house looking for my phone and this realization washed over me. I am now 32 years old and I have spent a lot of time in my life apologizing for myself and feeling guilty about my feelings. Not all the time, and I certainly have gotten better about this in recent years, but that tendency still remains.

It's really fucking sad. It's so sad that I actually had to sit down for a minute and let that realization sink into me, the weight of it. Wow. And I don't think I'm alone here. I've noticed a lot of people doing this, and we all have one thing in common. We're women. I don't think I've ever witnessed a man doing this, ever. Have you?

On a related note, here is my kitchen sink right now. I am not going to apologize for the bits of avocado, the yogurt container, the disgusting rag. Nope.



(I suppose I could say something like "Sorry for the crappy cell phone picture!" but I'm done apologizing for the unnecessary.)

This week was supposed to be YAY BIRTHDAY WEEK! Instead it has turned into let's lie around and be crabby week. Charlie's had an off-and-on fever since Monday night and in general just hasn't been himself. So we've been lying around and being crabby. Both of our birthdays came and went without any big fanfare, which is so not what I wanted. I'm one of those bring on the fanfare types.

No fanfare right now. We're all just too tired. I started to feel guilty about the lack of celebration. I mean, Charlie's birthday arrived and we had nothing to give him, no gifts, no special breakfast, no fun outing, nothing except the video I made, which was actually a huge labor of love. But it wasn't as big of a day as I wanted it to be. And that's okay. He's not going to remember it. We'll have our birthday celebration on Sunday and everything will be great. Yeah?

My mom flies in tonight. Charlie's fever has been low-grade all day, a big improvement from the 104 of yesterday. Bring on the fanfare.

June 7, 2011

Happy birthday to me...



You've got a lot to live up to, 32.

June 6, 2011

Practice

I read Writing Down the Bones last week. I'd actually read it before, over 10 years ago. I don't think I was ready for it then, even though I liked it enough to keep it all these years.

Natalie Goldberg, the author of the book, stresses practice as the key to "unlocking the writer within," meaning you show up every day and practice (write). I used to feel pretty much the opposite - I'd only show up when I felt like it. Thankfully I usually felt (feel) like showing up often but I have yet to make writing my job. It's always been the thing I'm pursuing - what happens when it becomes work?

I got a taste of this last week. Roy came home from work early and I shut myself in the office for an hour. I had been dreaming of this all week - a whole hour to myself to write whatever I wanted! (The masterpieces that would come flowing out of my pen! Pulitzer Prize, here I come!) I wrote stream-of-consciousness style for ten minutes to warm up and then tried to work on various projects I've got going on. I got very little done because I kept switching around. Nothing felt like it fit. It was hard. It felt like work. I felt very discouraged at the end of the hour.

I don't know what to do with that discouragement other than conclude that it's my natural reaction to creating a new habit. And so I've got to push past it, because that's where the good stuff is.

***

I wrote the above about an hour ago and since then have been struggling with how to end this post. Because it's all well and good to say, "Well, I've just got to push past it," but doing it is a whole other story. I hate how I (and almost everyone else in the world) tend to say, "But I'm just gotta DO it" and that's it. I don't like that. But what's the alternative? If you've got to do the dishes, do the damn dishes. Writing isn't much different. I think I was just surprised at how the reality was SO different from my fantasy.

Life is tedious. From the every day chores, like dishes and laundry and cleaning counters, to the not-so-everyday chores, like paying for new tires, it sometimes feels like this thing called life is just one giant suckfest of blahs. Like, really? I stepped on avocado and it's smeared all over my foot AGAIN? The car needs gas AGAIN? It's so boring sometimes, and so unremarkable. And you know what? I always wanted to be remarkable. I wouldn't say that I was some genius child, but things came easily to me when I was a kid. I took dance lessons starting when I was 5 years old and the teacher told my mom I had the best point in the class. I didn't have to do a damn thing but point my foot! Amazing. And in school I got good grades so easily. I was always "a pleasure to have in class." And the stories just poured out of me and every single teacher I had told me that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. Because I was good at it so it was bound to happen, right?

I've learned a thing or two since I was a kid, thankfully. And one of the things I've learned is that natural talent is a wonderful thing, but practice makes all the difference. I have written a lot of shitty poems, blog posts, starts of stories etc. I've taken a lot of shitty pictures. But every once in awhile something salvageable comes bubbling up to the surface. The good stuff. And that's what I keep pushing myself towards. I've got natural talent for this writing thing, but it's still so raw. I could be better. I want to be better. So I'll keep practicing, even though sometimes it's damn annoying and inconvenient. Here's a little piece of practice for you, a small something I wrote in the car on the back of a receipt on Memorial Day:

your hand on my leg
in the car
on the way to Lowe's
to buy paint
for the play kitchen
you are building our son
for his 2nd birthday
feels like a divine message
scrawled on the back
of a Thrifty receipt:
"Hey, I love you
and I love this
Iron & Wine CD
and I love this morning
and its clouds of plenty."

***

Tomorrow's my birthday. Maybe as a gift to myself, I'll practice some more.

June 5, 2011

Still Life

My kids are my main muses, but I often find myself drawn to silence and stillness around the house.

(a flower Charlie brought home from a walk)

(unmade bed)

(thumbelina carrots from the farmer's market)

(plants' reflection in our kitchen sink faucet)

(eggshells)

(tomatoes from the farmer's market)

(utensils)

(produce)

(strawberries!)

(grapefruit from our tree)

I had a little cold on Saturday but was feeling much better today. Some chicken soup and oscillococcinum kicked that pesky cold's ass. Good thing, because this week we've got two birthdays to celebrate and my mom is flying in on Thursday. I'm pretty excited to see her. The last time she was here, Charlie and Simon looked like this:



A lot can change in six months! And I can't believe Charlie is turning 2 on Wednesday. Wasn't he just born?

June 4, 2011

More Books, Less Clothes

Today I went through my closet and found 49 items of clothing that I am not wearing. 49! What an obscene amount. So I took them all off the hangers and shoved them into a big garbage bag to donate. I did this quickly, in about the space of 15 minutes, so I wouldn't start second guessing my choices. I needed to do something to atone for the fact that Roy and I went to our neighbors' house this morning and took quite a few books off their hands. I feel simultaneously guilty and thrilled about bringing new books into the house.

Getting rid of clothes is easy for me, for the most part. I have finally reached the point where I'd rather have a few select items of clothing that I wear over and over as opposed to a whole closet full of choices. I want to own clothes that I feel good in, and I need to let go of the fact that the dress I wore on my 21st birthday (when I weighed an unhealthy 100 pounds) will never fit again, and why would I want it to? Still, it's a beautiful dress and it's still hanging in our closet for reasons I don't fully understand. It's in good company with the shirt I wore on my first date with Roy, the dress I wore to my high school graduation, the skirt I wore to my college graduation and the night Roy proposed. I know fully well that the memories I have of those milestones in my life will never fade, and yet I continue to hang onto what I wore then. It's absurd and yet a totally human thing to do.

Books are harder - although reading over the previous paragraph has me realizing that clothes aren't so easy after all. The other day I let my mother-in-law borrow a few books that were slated to be donated to the library. I couldn't bear the thought of parting with them. Letting go of books is like finally admitting to myself that there are limitations to this life and I will never be able to read every single thing I want - there's just not enough time for that. I want to read Virginia Woolf and all the other greats! And yet when given the choice, I always bypass Virginia Woolf (for example) for someone else.

These big realizations are sometimes crippling, sometimes freeing. I find myself torn a lot of the time. I love how I feel after a big purge of our possessions but getting there is sometimes a heavy process. Looking at that dress I wore on my 21st birthday is a huge reminder of my Great Depression, yet when I look at pictures from that day I see a smiling (albeit way too skinny) girl. I should probably just get rid of the damn thing; I do have pictures, after all.

Here's a picture of the books that I had stacked in the office before I cleaned it out. I'm still feeling massively guilty over acquiring more books. There are worse habits, though, right?

June 3, 2011

Food Is Love

I'm not a foodie. For the longest time, I did not get people's fascination with food or food blogs or cooking shows or anything else. I grew up not thinking much about what I was eating or what was in it or where it came from. I had a penchant for fast food, soda, candy, cookies, chips, and all that other processed junk. (I still do.) Several years ago a co-worker buddy told me he was reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and that it was about knowing where your food comes from (among other things). I honestly had no clue what he was talking about - I had no frame of reference for any of it. My food came from the store! What else could I possibly need to know?

(I am cringing a little at how terribly ignorant I was about food just a few short years ago.)

Additionally, I never really cared for cooking. I didn't even learn how to cook until Roy and I moved in together. Before then, I ate out or made spaghetti noodles with butter using my one pot my mom bought me when I moved into my first apartment. Once I learned to cook, I recognized the importance of it and went through the motions of putting food on the table. I did not get how people could see cooking as a creative outlet because to me it was a means to an end. You're hungry, so you make something to eat so you won't be hungry anymore. The end.

Since then I have been learning little bits here and there and making small changes in my diet. Having kids has pushed me to make healthier choices, but in order to make those choices I've had to learn a lot. As a result, I've become much more interested in growing our own garden, going to the farmer's market, buying local and/or organic, and (wait for it) cooking.

(Let me interject here to let you know that I still enjoy the hell out of Dr. Pepper and a bunch of other junk that may end up killing me. However, I am miles away from where I used to be and in a few years I'm sure I'll be miles away from where I am now. I believe in baby steps when it comes to making changes.)

A few months back I was reading through Aura joon's archives (great blog with gorgeous pictures, btw) and came across this post on food. I love how passionate she is about food. When I was done reading that blog entry, I came away thinking, "Food is love." (She may have even said that in her post; I can't really remember.)

Nothing says "hey, I dig you" more than food. Recently I developed a crush on the cute family down the street so I brought them a small basket of strawberries from the farmer's market. A blog friend came to visit and I brought her and her husband some strawberries, too. Today I drove out to Orange County to see a friend and brought some strawberry muffins I made last night. There's something extra special about giving someone some good clean food to eat.

We have a grapefruit tree on our property and I love it when our friends come over and pick some to take home and enjoy. It's just such a simple and uncomplicated happiness. That's the way we should eat. Simple. Uncomplicated. Without all the unnecessary crap that turns real food into food-like substances.

Last night Roy's allergies were acting up, so I made chicken soup. Every week we buy a whole organic chicken at the farmer's market and cook it in the slow cooker, and then we use it for meals throughout the week. I used the rest of the chicken and the broth from when we cooked it for the soup, threw in some carrots and green onions, and steamed up some rice. I also roasted some carrots and that was our (healthy) dinner. I was actually beaming last night - this is what I mean by food being a simple and uncomplicated happiness. I cooked and fed my family with love, and I felt it all the way in my soul. That's amazing when you really think about it.


(homemade organic chicken soup)


(yummy)


(roasted organic carrots)


(healthy toddler meal: cheese, avocado, carrots, chicken soup with rice, and milk)


(healthy toddler who refused his high chair and instead ate dinner with Elmo, Zoe, and his magnadoodle)

Charlie is not having a big birthday party this year. Instead, we're going to have a small gathering of just family, and I think I will cook everything myself. I have never, ever, ever attempted anything like this. I'm still not sure what we'll be serving, but I think it'll be a lot of fun, and a lot of love will go into it, of course.

June 2, 2011

This is not what I planned.

I had a decent post in the works, but in the past hour (well, over an hour now) that I've been writing it, Charlie was throwing a tantrum and woke Simon up twice - so I've been away from the computer more than I've been on it. Yes, an hour long tantrum WAY after he had been put in bed for the night. It makes no sense to me why things have gotten so out of control but they have, and we've tried everything, from rocking to singing to back patting to even letting him cry and scream for short intervals. Nothing works consistently.

We had two great nights in a row on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I was hoping that was the end of this terrible stage, but apparently not. So instead of my decent post, here's this crappy, whiny one. I'm a little irritated because I even uploaded pictures to post but it's just getting way too late. And Simon woke me up at 4:30 this morning all ready to play so I'm just dead.

But I hope to redeem myself with this offering.

My new favorite song:



Listen to and enjoy this little beauty, and I'll see you tomorrow.

June 1, 2011

Hello, June!

Since it's my birth month, I've decided to give you a present.

I'm going to post every day for the month of June. YAY.



One of my primary goals for this month is to get into a writing schedule, so I think posting a lot will help with that. Another one of my goals for June is to catch up on the 3,000+ photos just sitting on my desktop. Today I finally finished January. The two photos in this post are a couple of my favorites from that month.

Anyway, it's entirely possible that I could run out of ideas on things to write about, so if you'd like me to write on a specific topic, please leave your comments and/or questions in the comments, and I'd be happy to give you my thoughts.

May 31, 2011

The Month of May

May was about decompression and quiet (as quiet as it can be with two little boys in the house) and balance and clarity.



In May:

Osama bin Laden died. The Rapture did not happen. I had a wonderful Mother's Day, complete with a beautiful necklace from my boys, breakfast out, a box of chocolates, an eyebrow wax and bang trim, some much treasured time to myself, a visit from friends, and dinner at my mother-in-law's. Simon started getting on his hands and knees in preparation for crawling and he also started making BIG sounds in preparation for talking. Simon amazed us with his abilities to move across the room at record speed by just wiggling and rolling around. Charlie baffled us (and still does) with his mega nighttime tantrums and as a result, we got little sleep the entire month. But Charlie amused us by starting to say HI! to everything, from the flowers to the ants to his own pudgy little arm. And Charlie melted my heart by saying, "Hi Mommy. I mishu." We went to Sea World and the Renaissance Faire and a wedding at a winery, strolled around the neighborhood, went to the Farmer's Market and to play with friends, and spent lots of time in our "backyard." We had family pictures taken, thanks to Becki, which you will see scattered throughout this post. I went to a free zumba class and loved it. I started taking art lessons on the cheap twice a month and love that too. I did yoga on our back patio early Friday morning under the trees and (guess what?) I loved that as well.

Life is good.



Of course, life also deals out some shitty situations, like the fact that we are poor and on top of that we are having some issues with the birth center who handled my pregnancy and labor. I will probably say more on that when I know more (and by that, I mean when the issue has been completely dealt with). These things are stressful, to be sure. But they aren't everything. Life is full of such annoyances.



Clarity is often difficult in a world that seems designed to keep true understanding at bay. From the depths of the garage we dug out three big Rubbermaid containers filled with my old journals and I read through a few of them. Ten years ago I was an incredibly prolific writer but, as I have already mentioned many times before, I was also existing in the blackest hole of desperation and depression that I have ever experienced. Dealing with sexual abuse and daddy issues on top of being a confused 20-something year old made such a terrible combination. I was just so lost and I had no idea of what I was doing or where I was going and I didn't even have much of a clue that things were going to get better. I made some awful decisions and I hated myself. I hated myself and believed myself incapable of love. And that was all I wanted: love. To love and to know that someone in this big cruel world loved me back.



I proved my hurting and cynical self wrong when I married Roy and had his babies.



But there is another side to the story.

As I grew up and shed the heavy skin of that lost little girl, I not only gave up the ridiculous notion that I would never know real love but I also gave up the idealist who wanted to drop out of college and just write and who for a short while did just that. But then I re-enrolled in college and being a scholar was my religion for awhile. I had already convinced myself that writing for a living wasn't going to happen and so I had to figure out something else. And so once I got my BA in English, I immediately went on to pursue an MA in English because I was still trying to figure out something else to do with my life. We read stories and poems and essays and critical writings and I loved every minute of my education, both undergrad and grad. (Well, mostly.) I was thrilled to be surrounded by all the depth and genius of those writers. Learning is an amazing thing and a gift for which I am so grateful.

But I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I could have been a college professor or a journalist or a photographer or a teacher or even something entirely random, and I could even have stayed at my terrible job that I hated, continuing to proofread boring legal documents while putting up with inordinate amounts of bullshit.

I could have done all of these things and even enjoyed some of them, but the only thing I really wanted (other than babies) was to write, dammit.



I gave up the crappy job after Charlie was born and worked through all the birth trauma and then had Simon, and I find myself deeply and joyfully entrenched in this mothering thing - not just the mothering thing, but this stay-at-home mothering thing. On any given day I get to hang out with my kids, watch them meet another milestone, play outside, take walks, read books, laugh, cry, change ten poopy diapers, go for playdates or to the park. Some days are damn hard but I love it wholeheartedly. And I am fulfilled in a way that I thought I could only dream of. It's a gift, to have this time with them.

My graduate degree remains unfinished. I only have my thesis to go. My course work is set to expire a year from now. I took a year-long leave of absence for this year because of Simon. A few months ago I began to think about going back. I decided that I needed to change my thesis topic because I was no longer interested in the old one (that I've had since 2005). I got the ok from my advisor and was instructed to start researching and reading and putting together a thesis committee. That was almost two months ago, and I haven't done anything remotely related to school.

I don't want to research or read or put together a committee or write a thesis. I know I should want to do it, after putting so much time, energy, and money into the program, but I don't want it anymore. I don't want any of it.



And that is what I said to Roy a couple of weeks ago: "What if I don't go back to school?"

Sometimes all you have to do is ask the question, and then you'll see the answer.

Which is:

Start where I am. Find a place amongst all the toys, piles of crap, unpaid bills, and dirty diapers, and write. Clean out the office and make a space for writing to happen, and write. Carve out both small and big chunks of time, and write. Start or join a writer's group, and write. Do the dishes and the laundry, and write. Deal with life's stressors and beauties, and write. Love my husband, and write. Mother my kids, and write. Piss and moan about how unoriginal I am and how I have no extra time, and write. Practice saying "I am a writer" instead of "I want to be a writer", and write. Forget what I should be doing (like finishing my degree), and write.

And that is where I find myself at the end of this strange and glorious May. Motherhood has stripped me of the extraneous, bringing me back to myself, and I finally understand that my past self was indeed sad and lonely, but she wasn't wrong about everything. She knew that the dream would never die - and that it shouldn't.

I've come full circle, but this time as a whole person - and a writer. And so I write. Because in writing is where I find my truth. I write and I write and I write and I write.