Thursday, June 30, 2011

Indie Ink Writing Challenge: Freedom.

This is my piece for this week's Indie Ink writing challenge. The way it works is that you sign up for the challenge weekly, and you'll be paired with another participant who will create a writing prompt for you, and you have a few days to write and submit your piece. (Click HERE if you'd like to participate next week.


This week, I challenged Bran with the prompt, "Why aren't you going back."

I was challenged by Barb She told me to write about, Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, the lyric from Bobby McGee.

(Don't get me started about the song itself. Bobby McGee and that "You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need," song by the Rolling Stones. I feel like if I hear either one of them one more time in my life, my brain will actually explode from overuse, due to a crappy song being overplayed too many times. I hate the song, but I liked the lyric as a prompt.)

Anyway, he's my piece for this week:




---------------------------------------

I can meet men, now. I couldn't do that before. I was married and we had children. Sometimes people ask me, "Do you have any kids?" and I don't know what to tell them.

There was an accident.

There was a settlement.

I visited Greece last month. I'm thinking about going to China.

The last time we talked, we fought. "It isn't fair," I told him. "I'm stuck here all day with the boys, and I can't even buy myself a dress for my sister's wedding. When is any of this going to be worth it?"

I had trouble sleeping, before. I hated my life. I was trapped and wild, daydreaming about wide open spaces and a sky so big you could reach up and grab an armful of clouds. I sat alone in the living room at four in the morning, biting my lower lip and crying. Could I leave them? I thought that I probably could.

That's all over, now. I have pills that make me sleep at night, I have my space. I don't dream anymore.

I can go anywhere I want. I met an American at my hotel in Greece. His wife was sleeping in their room. I lifted my skirt for him on a salt-white slab of rock, overlooking blue water. I wanted to ruin his life, to murder his wife, sweetly asleep under starched white sheets smelling of bleach. The man said to me, "The women I sleep with are usually younger than you." He was drunk. His hands fumbled at me, aggressively.

"I am older than time," I wanted to tell him. "I know all about living too long. I am older than I deserve to be."

"I can see why," I said, instead. "You're a terrible lover, a real woman could see right through you."

He laughed and told me I was beautiful. "I hope I see you tomorrow. I'll be with her, but I want to look over at you and know what your body feels like under me."

This is what I wanted. I wanted everything to disappear. I wanted to travel, for my life to be full of exotic midnight meetings. I dreamed all of this. I wanted to be a devil, to be free.

He finished and wiped himself clean on a white handkerchief, delicately embellished with fine silver threads that caught the light of the moon and were so pretty they broke my heart. I didn't have anywhere to be, so I wanted to get drunk. I told him, and he smiled and his teeth were too big. This is what I wanted. Drinks, overlooking a strange sea at night.

"I'll look for you tomorrow," he said. "I hope I see you."

"I could throw myself from this balcony, and it wouldn't matter," I thought.

This isn't what I wanted.


-

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer To Do List

Here's my List of 50 Things I want to do this summer. (Inspired by Mama Kat's Writing Prompts. Mama Kat is awesome and hilarious, by the way, if you're not familiar with her site.)


1. Go to Erie
2. Go Camping
3. Play in the waterfall on the North Shore
4. Host a dinner party outside, with a fire.
5. Go to Yellowcreek State Park in my hometown
6. Go hiking
7. Go to the drive ins
8. Make Lemon Blueberry cupcakes
9. Go to Soergel's Farm and have ice cream
10. Make organic Banana Pudding Pops
11. Campfire bananas - (Thank you Burgh Baby!)
12. Landscape the back yard
13. Play basketball with Kurt
14. Teach Scouty to really ride her bike.
15. Get my very first pedicure.
16. 30 days of smoothies
17. Edit my book
18. Take a nap
19. Go to the movies with my husband
20. Take Scouty to an outdoor play
21. Have a snow cone
22. Go to the strip on Saturday morning with Daddy and the girls
23. Go out for breakfast
24. Persuade Kurt to call off work one day and have an adventure.
25. Smell a newborn
26. Mulch the flowerbeds
27. Complete my entire summer to-read list*
28. Have an awesome giveaway
29. Bobby pin updos
30. Go to the park first thing in the morning before everybody else gets up
31. Get a hammock stand
32. Commit a completely random act of kindness
33. Iced Herbal Coffee Lattes with decadent flavored cream
34. Get rid of all the stuff we don't need
35. Lose 20 lbs
36. Swim in the ocean
37. Make Louisey's birthday cake, from scratch, all by myself
38. Play an awesome game of Kickball
39. Go to Idlewild Park
40. Picnic on Mt. Washington
41. Go to Raccoon Creek State Park on a weekday, just me and the girls
42. Read a whole book on the beach
43. Make the yummiest dessert in the world and share it
44. Catch fireflies with Scouty
45. Camp in the back yard
46. Visit the country
47. Pick berries
48. Tomato sandwiches from the garden on homemade bread
49. Visit GG's grave
50. Bring flowers to someone


Since it's most definitely summer, we completed something from the list today!

3. Play in the waterfall on the North Shore

Two sisters, ready to play!

Waterbaby! (PS. Isn't my city beautiful?)

She always says, "I'm an excellent swimmer."

Waterfall adventurer.

Mommy and grumpy Cheesy.

When did my baby get so big?

Watching the Allegheny River and having snacks

So big.

Cutest picture ever taken by an human. Period.


What are you up to, this summer?




*My summer reading list:

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
+ the Blogher bookclub books I'm reviewing

What are you reading this summer? Have you read anything lately that I simply HAVE to try?



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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In which I go psycho nuts and schedule my life to be better than good.

Thank you for all of your comments on my post about falling apart at the seams. (Especially to Stacy, Alzbeta, Laurie, Sarah, Leslie and Karen.) I started to reply to all of your comments and it ended up being a post in itself! Just know that it is incredibly comforting to hear that you're going through the same things, and that it will get less intense as we all get older.

In the same sort of vein, I was inspired this afternoon by two very different things.

First of all, I was reading Stephen Elliott's Daily Rumpus newsletter and he wrote:

Someone said the other day he wished he had written his story differently. It was a short memoir piece published in a large magazine. There were points he still wanted to make. But he hadn't taken the assignment seriously. And he worked a regular job, and he was dedicated to his children, and the deadline came and he turned in what he had. And I thought if he didn't go to the zoo that day with his family he could have written more. The choices aren't wrong; the idea that you can have everything is wrong; the idea that we don't choose one thing over another is wrong.

I'm not sure that I agree with this in an absolute way, but I kind of do. I agree that if I didn't go to the zoo with my children, I would write more and get more done. I also agree that I have never made the wrong choice by spending time with my family. But, to believe that I can be something other than a mother, and commit myself one hundred percent to it, that's naive.

So, since I can't be a one hundred percent mom and a one hundred percent writer and a one hundred percent athlete, I need to rearrange my life and re-purpose my time so that I can be those other things, with at least some degree of productivity and conviction.


The other thing that inspired me was this.
I was making dinner, and my husband said from the living room, "We have a problem out here." I thought he was kidding or being dramatic about some crayon scribblings or something, but instead, I saw that a huge section of the living room ceiling is sagging downward. Fuck. A pipe has been leaking in our bathroom and we didn't realize it. Now, we have to replace part of our ceiling, a piece of the bathroom wall and fix a leak. Let me say fuck again, because fuck.

So all the stuff I've been talking about, about feeling out of control and like my life is exploded, I mean... it's true. It's all true and it's okay. I have no idea what's going to happen with our ceiling, but it will be okay. There has never been a problem in the history of our lives that didn't end up being okay, even if it sucked and was more stressful and annoying and expensive than we even dreamed could be possible. So, whatever.

I can't do anything about being a young mom and having a young family. I can't make it so that messes don't happen, I can't stop pipes from leaking, so why worry about it?

What I can do is get my own shit together. I don't have much time or energy, but I have enough that I can rearrange my time and efforts so that I'm not just frazzled mom ALL OF THE TIME. I can be other things, too. It's just going to take some dedication and extreme planning.

I'm kind of good at extreme planning. I find a perverse sort of comfort in making lists and schedules. I can't wake up an hour early every morning, but I think I could totally manage one or two mornings a week. I can't cut out hanging out with Kurt time in the evenings, but I'm sure I could sacrifice an hour, here and there. I'm going to come up with a detailed plan that allows me be frazzled mom but that makes it so that when daddy gets home, I can also be super amazing bike rider and manuscript editor and blogger and book reader.

Stay tuned for the decidedly not psycho plan I come up with to utilize everything I've got to be better at being me.



-

Monday, June 27, 2011

Here, just use that old popsicle stick to stir your coffee.

I'm a mess.

I want to be together and with it. I want to have a tidy life, and I just really, really don't. Sometimes I feel like I'm just barely clinging to a distant notion of being acceptable. It feels like, each day, I wake up in the middle of a flurry of things to do, messes to wade around in, schedules that I'm constantly failing to adhere to.

As my babies get older will I be able to get it under control? Or am I doomed to unwashed hair, digging for pants in the laundry, stepping over unfolded clothing, chugging a smoothie for breakfast. Is this just how I am, as an adult? Hurried and overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with reality. Or is this just the life of a woman with an 11 month old baby and a 4 year old child?

Please, those of you who have kids who are older, tell me it gets better. Actually, tell me that you remember feeling this way, like every day was a race to juggle a bunch of tasks that can never actually be completed, and that it gets better.

We're making laundry just as fast as I can clean it.
We're eating up the food as quickly as I can cook it.

And, mostly, this isn't my life. I refuse to make this the meat of my existence, but it's hard not to have diapers on your mind when the pail is full.

Do you know what I mean?

I am not a person who cares about keeping a super clean house. I only care about it being clean enough that we can have friends over for lunch without having to invite them to sit on a pile of unwashed towels and eat out of a big leaf from the tree in the back yard because all of the bowls are dirty. Here. Here's a stick you can kind of poke your food with and get it into your mouth. Sorry, I didn't have time to wash forks.

Sometimes I feel like I spend all of my waking time running after tasks that i have no interest in, cleaning and shopping and cooking and cleaning and being on time, and let's not even get started about things I actually do have an interest in, like not smelling and not having a house that smells like diapers and garbage.

I'm finding it really hard to keep up. I need advice. Do I throw/give away everything and live minimally, so that our house isn't a toppling pile of possessions that's threatening to smother me? Is it not the fault of the number of possessions, but just how I have everything organized?

Do I need to start waking up early to fit a work out in, so that I'm not scrambling to get to the gym after supper? What about the fact that I'm an anxiety ridden mess if I don't get enough sleep?

What tricks and rules do you use to keep yourself and your family running smoothly? How do you keep up with your children and the messes, responsibilities and activities they come along with? Are you really out there in your kitchen somewhere right now, wearing your one year old child in a sling while you wash dishes and pack lunches for tomorrow? Then how come mine just screams and dives for the knife drawer every time I pick up a dish?

When you out there, when you take pictures of your heels and red lipstick and talk about how you're a rockstar at housework, are you just messing with my head? Have you really had on a cute pale yellow dress all afternoon and your children didn't totally destroy it? Are you really wearing make up to play in the back yard? How is this possible?

Maybe this is what we're all talking about. Maybe this is the mommy thing, the thing we used to be afraid to admit, but now we're talking about. Maybe this is just how it is, how we all laugh and nod our heads when somebody talks about scrubbing poop out of the bathtub or peeing her pants in the grocery store during a really big sneeze. Is this just how we all feel, and the point is to enjoy our beautiful children in spite of all the exhaustion, because someday they'll be grown and they won't be making diapers to wash and we'll wish for a moment of this pandemonium back? We'll wish for one of these ungodly early mornings, being roused by a perfect little voice saying, "Daddy said to tell you Cheesy took off her diaper in her crib and everything smells like pee."

Is that all it is? Do I just need to let it all go, and do my best to keep up, but mostly I just shouldn't worry because it will get better?

Because I do understand that my babies are only babies for such a short time. I do squeeze them and flip them upside down and kiss their fat little chins because it makes them giggle. I do crawl onto their bedroom floor at night, just to stare at their tiny little chests rising and falling. I do love them like the sun's gone out, I do.

I just can't keep up with them.



-

Where I'm from...

I am from roller skates with worn down stoppers from sugar cereal and abandoned gravel lots.

I am from the green house on the corner, average and paint's peeling. We can see our school from here. The yard in back is bigger when I'm smaller.

I am from the acorn pressed flat into the Pennsylvania mud the wide brown mushroom, daffodils with drooping heads, wet with thawing, early spring dew.

I am from a restaurant on Christmas Eve and small hands, from mom quietly praying and Dad in a sagging chair with ripped upholstery.

I am from silence and desperation and fingers worked raw and lazy arrogance on Sunday.

From God is love, God is jealous, God is angry and these are the end of days.

I am from anointed foreheads and babbling spirit languages in the dark, hands pressed on flesh, hands that could heal and make the blind to see.

I'm from a nowhere town populated by young people who are only passing through, bulk bin cookies with white icing and spongy angel food cake with sugared strawberries.

From the birthday where dad got mad and left us in the car, pulled out into the road. My brothers and sisters laughing through their tears at a puppet show that hurt my heart, my grandmother had eighteen siblings.

I am from a box tucked into the entertainment center, images yellowing and curling around the edges. In fourth grade I wore giant glasses that slid off of my nose. The lenses were tinted purple so that the colors of the world weren't quite right.




Where are you from? Use this template to tell us.



-

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Love letter to a boy I knew...

There's nothing for me but you.

When our first daughter was born, and we'd spent more time pregnant than we were kids, my mother took you aside at the hospital.

She said to you, Be careful because she gets into moods where she's hopeless. She'll be fine most of the time, but some of the time she's given over to unhappiness and it gets bad.

Things get bad, sometimes. I feel like I haven't seen a human sun, everywhere I look is just light, light, light and my eyes ache and I'm swimming in my panicked blindness.

I've felt the tendril of our love snap. The thing that kept us tethered as the sea widened and roughened and threatened to take us under, together.

Now, we're apart. Now, we live our lives on a clock and the hands sweep me past you in the evening. I grasp for you, choking on air and blood, my fingertips slipping through the golden thickness of your hair.

When will I ever see you again, my pretty boy love?

Our babies are angels and they hold the world in their fat little fists and I curl around their feet as they make their lives, building towers so tall and majestic, they are gods and I am their foundation. I live for the filling of their slippery, perfect lungs. They are everything, and they build their towers on my back.

Our home, once upon a time.



But when will I see you? Were you a boy who visited me on the weekends? We're still there, somewhere, sticking to one another naked, in my living room. The television is flickering in a bare room somewhere, a vigil to where we've been. Somewhere, smoke is curling into the plaster.

I'd like to marry you again. I'd like to meet you at the foot of a mountain with flowers in my hair. I'd like it if you came alone.


I'd like to have pancakes with you in a torn leather booth at eleven on a Sunday.

Out for breakfast, sometime 2006.





-

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I learned from two first years...

Since my baby is ALMOST ONE YEAR OLD! Have I mentioned that? I can't remember. I've been thinking about Scout's first year compared to Louise's. There are a lot of things that were the same for both of them, like... we love them both more than we love the air. But, mostly, things have been very, very different.

Scouty and mommy, 2007




- Scouty came home for the first time to a tiny apartment in the middle of nowhere, and Louisey had a house with a big back yard and a rocking chair on the porch.

- Every time Scouty cried, we panicked. By the time Louise was born, we were so used to the sound of crying, she sounded little a little kitten. They both cried non-stop for hours and hours every day for the first few months of their lives, but with Louisey it was more tiring and annoying than it was heart attack inducing.

- They both spit up all day, every day until they were about 11 months old. The second time around, I had already given up on looking presentable and had let go of my pride a long time ago. Yes, that's barf on my neck. Yes, I'm too tired to wipe it off.


Scout, crying in a pepper costume.


Louise, crying in a pepper costume.



- Every little thing Scouty did was received with absolute amazement! Oh god, she just moved her fingers, watch! Louisey was also amazing, but we sure didn't have the time or energy to cheer and call all of our relatives every time she blinked.

- Scouty did everything early. Louisey didn't even roll over until she was 7 months old.

- I was afraid to take newborn Scouty anywhere in public, because... what if she cried? Wouldn't everybody be looking at us? Louisey was out and about by the time she was a few days old. We had to drive sissie to school, even, LONG before I was okay-ed to drive. She visited more libraries and parks and museums in her first few weeks of life than Scouty did in her first two years.

- Daddy got up at night, just about every single night, with Louise in an effort to preserve my sanity, (aka. to try to stave off the PPD that crippled me when Scouty was born.) Daddy wasn't even available to get up with Scouty.

- Kurt worked two hours away from where we lived, when Scouty was a baby. He left the house at 4:30am and got home after she'd gone to bed at 7pm. I was a student. I was lonely. It was a nightmare. Since Louisey has been born, daddy has always been in charge of bedtime and bath time and giving mommy a break time.

Love, Scouty.



- I didn't allow Kurt and Scouty to spend any real time alone until she was at least 6 months old because I was afraid he wouldn't do everything right. I hovered over him and gave him annoying pointers all the time. Louisey and daddy are like THIS, and I've been more than happy to trust him to know how to feed and diaper her, at least well enough. Because, really? What did I know, anyway? He was only as clueless as me, and I should have trusted him.

- I understand now that parents don't have to be perfect. They just have to be good enough. We tried to be perfect with our first baby. With our second, we totally revel in the idea that we're perfect for her, and not actually perfect at all.

- When Scout was a baby, I rushed her to the hospital once because she had jelly in her hair and I thought it was blood from her ear. Another time, she got a tiny scratch above her eye and there was blood and I freaked out and was SURE her eye was poked out. There have never been any panicked "close calls" with Louisey. I learned to think before I make a mad dash for the hospital.

- When Scouty was little, I tried to maintain relationships with my childless friends, and I always felt like a disappointment because I couldn't just be normal and have fun. By the time I had Louise, I had given up on being interesting to people who don't like nerdy moms. (I just secretly hold out for the day they have kids so that I can gobble them up and induct them into the mom club.)

Love, Louisey.



- When Scouty was a baby, she was the only kid in the world. Louisey was born with a sister who loved her. They were both lucky.





What about you? What did you learn about child rearing as time went on? Did you make any stupid mistakes along the way?



-

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I need a break...

As a stay at home mom of two small children, when I say that I need a break, I’m not talking about wanting a vacation or a treat, as a reward for doing my job.  Needing a break doesn’t mean that I’m seeking a respite from my responsibilities, or that I want to put my feet up.  It means that I need a moment to feel like a human being, in a relentless life where I don’t belong to myself, anymore, where I give my love and energy away, every moment of my existence, and can’t figure out how to keep any for myself.

We're very aware of men who don't understand the point of giving the mother of his children a break. They go to work all day and they don't have fun at work, do they? When they come home and their wives say, I need a break, they think, "When do I get a break? I just worked all day and now I have to come home and give my wife a break?"

The point of a break, when you’re a stay at home parent, isn't fun, or excitement or relaxation, although breaks that contain those things are great, and we absolutely totally deserve them. When a stay at home parent says, I need a break from being a mommy for an hour or two, they aren't trying to swindle you into doing the work of caring for the house and children so that they can get out for some fun and letting loose. Needing a break isn't the same thing as wanting a vacation.

When you're a father, caring for your kids doesn't count as work. It counts as something you promised to do when you created a life. It isn't the same thing as going to a job. Caring for your children means that you’re teaching them how to be people and giving them the chance to be happy. Taking time out of your life every single day to care for your children is absolutely vital to their growth as people. It's not something you grace them, or your wife, with. It's not a favor. It's not extra work at the end of a long day. It's part of who you are, because you're daddy. You are absolutely required, by the fact that you made a baby, to spend all of your time being a father to that baby, for the rest of your life, and that isn’t bad news. Fathering is about your kids deserving a parent who is engaged and who demonstrates that he loves them, because that is what will help them become happy, healthy, successful people.

When I get a break, at the end of my day, I don't use it to have fun. I don't need a break so that I can unwind and have a blast being me, all on my own, finally, without the kids. I go to the gym. I go grocery shopping. I might take a walk or ride my bike.  I garden.  I might write or read for a while. I do yard work.

I do whatever I need to do, in that moment, to feel like I deserve to exist.  I do what I need to do to feel sane and stable and capable of keeping up with the never-ending needs of my beautiful children. My breaks might allow me to think my own thoughts, for a few moments.  They might allow me to drive a car without being tense and distracted.  I might need a break because I want to use the bathroom without someone watching me, or without worrying what might be happening downstairs and yelling, “Mommy is almost done!  Are you guys okay?” 

I want a break, not because I’m bored or restless or craving some fun, (although I am probably feeling those things a lot of the time.)  I want a break because I put absolutely everything I have into staying at home with my kids.  From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, there isn’t a single moment where I’m not engaged and on call.  There isn’t a single moment where I am alone with my thoughts, where I’m not being touched and called on and where demands aren’t being made of me.  Not a single moment.  Not when I’m brushing my teeth or showering or trying to find something clean to wear.  Not even in the bathroom.

We know that going to work all day isn't fun, and it isn’t easy. We’ve been there.  We’ve had jobs.  We’ve had responsibilities and stresses outside of motherhood, and we understand that life is challenging for you, and for everyone.  We know that commuting to and from work and sitting in a cubical all day is not how you would choose to spend your time, if you had a choice.  We know that going to work is not a personal break where you can unwind and put your feet up. We totally get that, and we love you and appreciate you for all you do to keep our family safe and cared for.  We would be better at saying thank you, if we had even a single ounce of energy or sanity left over at the end of the day.  We love you. We do.  And, Thank You.

We still need a break, though.

Not because we work harder than you or deserve something you don’t.  We just need a few minutes to not be on edge, working our nerves and spirits raw for the safety and happiness and health of our kids.  We just need a moment to remember who we are, to not feel worried and harried and invisible.  We need a second to catch our breath, to make our own choices, to try to love ourselves, for a moment.  We need the opportunity to exist, as a human being with a name and thoughts and ideas; as a person who is allowed to complete a thought.  We need to be allowed to drive a car and use the bathroom without being called on and pulled away and pressured.  We just need a moment, or we’re going to break. 

We love you, daddies.  We aren’t trying to get anything over on your.  We’re not trying to say that we don’t think you work hard.  We aren’t trying to weasel some fun or excitement out of life, by denying you, yours.  We just need a second to try to remember who we are.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Indie Ink Writing Challenge: The end of the world.

This is my piece for the Indie Ink writing challenge. The way it works is that you sign up for the challenge weekly, and you'll be paired with another participant who will create a writing prompt for you, and you have a few days to write and submit your piece. (Click HERE if you'd like to participate next week.


This week, I challenged Christy ofThe Colour of Four with the prompt, "Why do you sneak out of the house at night?"

I was challenged by D. R. Rux He told me to write about, It's December 20th, 2012. Your children are scared for their lives and the lives of their friends. How do you handle the situation of the apocalyptic nature of the Mayan calendar?

-----------------------------------


"Are we all going to die and go into outer space?" Marian asked me.

"What?" I said. "Why did you say that? Of course we aren't."

"Someone at the workshop said that it's the end of the world," she said.

I was standing at the kitchen counter, cutting onions for a broth. The hairs on my arms stood on end at the mention of her workshop. The workshop was a new low. I tried having her hospitalized temporarily, but she didn't get better during any of her stays. I tried having her admitted to a ward, but she came home so angry at me, I thought I'd lost her forever. The workshop was a place where she could go every afternoon, with other young people like her, and they made things with their hands. They put together fasteners or elaborate paperclips or something. It kept them busy, and also allowed them to make their own money, under constant, palpable surveillance, of course.

"It's nonsense," I said. "How would this person be privy to knowledge about when the world is going to end while the rest of us have been left in the dark?"

"He's a genius," she snapped at me.

"Of course he is, darling," I said and transferred the onion slivers to a boiling pot.

"You never believe me about anything," she said.

How could I believe her? She lied to me, to the authorities, to everyone about what my husband had done. She only wanted me to divorce him, to kick him out of his own house. It was payback for losing his job and forcing us to relocate inland.

She had a boyfriend on the lake. We were barely aware of his existence until we moved away and suddenly, she was threatening to kill herself, or us, if we wouldn't change our minds and stay where we were. She claimed she belonged there. Her love was made of water, she told me. It grew by the light of an unencumbered moon. Now we lived alone. Her stepfather served a short prison sentence and refused to speak to me after he'd been released. He was scared of her.

"I mean it," she said. "I'm really terrified, actually. He told me--"

"Who?" I asked. "Who told you all of this?"

"He's a pyromaniac," she said. "He has eyes so light blue they're almost see-through. He knows a lot of things because his parents were archaeologists."

"What are they doing here?" I asked. A tiny college town in western Pennsylvania hardly seemed like a place for a pair of highly knowledgeable archaeologists.

"His parents?" she asked. "They're dead, okay? He lives with his grandmother."

"What did he burn down?" I said, being careful not to look at her. I moved on to the carrots and basil.

"Everything, alright?" she yelled. "He fucking burned everything down and that's not even the point!"

I placed both of my hands on the cool counter top and stared at the patterns in the polished granite. I feared that any quick movements would set her off. "What is the point, honey?" I asked.

"He knows, mom," she said. "He does. He knows things. Why won't you listen to me?" Her voice had a frantic edge. I wasn't prepared for a fight, right now. I just wanted to make dinner in peace.

"Mom?" she said. "You have to believe me. I wouldn't lie to you anymore. I said I wouldn't."

It didn't matter. She lied the one time that destroyed everything. Since then, I could barely stand to be in the same room with her.

"I'm scared," she said. "I really am. There's an ancient calender. The Mayans made it, and they read it in the stars. They were brilliant mathematicians and astronomers. They said that the world is going to end in three days, on 12-20-12. See? That date is fucked up, right? 12-20-12?"

"The world isn't going to end," I said softly, still watching my hands on the counter top. "Just shut up before you make me insane."

"I love him, mom," she said. "I wish you would listen to me."

"You don't love him!" I screamed. She was frozen, watching me with her dark eyes. "He's some crazy teenager who sets things on fire. He's criminally insane, he's a liar and he doesn't know anything about the Mayan calender!"

"Fuck you," she said. "He does. He has a book about it and he showed it to me."

"The calender has come to an end before!" I yelled, staring at her fully, now. "What about that? It's not the end of the world. It's the end of the stupid calender. All it means is that the numbers that they used to count the days and years is being reset to zero."

She picked up a glass then, and threw it at the wall. Diamond shards littered the tile of the kitchen floor.

"Clean it up," I told her. "It's not the end of the world. All of this has happened before."

Me: The List

Inspired by Momo Fali who was inspired by this post at BlogHer.


I don't really believe that anybody is unique.  I can give you the longest list ever of my fun little distinguishing traits, but it's not like fifty million other people couldn't give you a really similar list. But, really, being you isn't about being "unique," is it?  Being YOU is about all the characteristics and personality flaws and strengths and weaknesses that allow you to fit in with the world the way you do.  You know more about me by reading the things I write than from a list of things that make me who I am.

But those lists are still interesting and fun, right?

So, what are some things about me that you might not know?







-I'm vegetarian.  I used to be really in-your-face about the rights of animals, but then I grew up and realized that nobody ever changes anybody's mind about anything by being in-anybody's-face.  And also, I had kids and suddenly, getting all worked up and expending energy about the rights of animals seemed like a waste of my resources.  This is mainly because my kids are exhausting and animals poop in our yards and eat my tomatoes, thus infuriating me and making me care about sticking up for them less.

-I have a quick temper.  Not a bad one.  I don't like... get mad and bash things up, (or at least not now that I don't date the world's biggest assholes, anymore)... but I am quick to react in a snippy way.  Weirdly, my girls seem to be the antidote to my temper.  I feel like I can honestly say that I have never really snapped in anger at one of my kids. 

-I love water.  I will spend all day swimming, if given the opportunity.  I'm even an adventurous swimmer in the ocean and I go out way past the breakers where all the babies like to swim. My husband is one of those babies, until he is forced to come out into the brave water to save me. Which happens about 1 million times every vacation.

-I'm very much a music person.  I love music.  I'm also a good singer.

-I'm an ex-junky. 

-I love perfume.

-I work out every day.  I originally did this in an effort to be skinny.  Now I do it because I get anxious and pent up and tense if I don't.  Also, I totally believe that I get sick less often than a lot of people because I sweat out all the toxins.  I have no idea if this is a scientifically sound idea, or not, but I believe in it.

-When I gave birth to my oldest daughter, I started having terrible panic attacks and became hyper vigilant about germs.  I have always hated germs, but suddenly, I was doing things like driving out of my way to a park bathroom to wash my hands because there weren't any sanitizing wipes left at the grocery store.  I started taking Zoloft for PPD/Anxiety and my germ phobia pretty much went away.  I even leave the house without Purell, now.

-I read all the time.

-I watch reality tv and love it.

-I am weirdly stubborn about buying new underwear. I wear them until they're just a weird holey contraption being held to my body by a few fraying strings before giving in and paying for new ones.

-In related news, I hate wearing a bra... but I totally love what a good bra does for my shape, so that's a torture I've learned to live with, at least in public. As soon as I walk in the house and close the door behind me, I rip off my bra and drape it over the bannister. I really can't stand them. Even the "comfortable" ones.

-I love health food stores. They make me feel excited, even though I shop at one at least once a week.

-I rediscovered bike riding before I got pregnant with Louise, and now I want to ride my bike all over the universe. It's awesome and it has given me awesome calves.

-I hate winter so much that I'm convinced its existence will kill me, one day.

-I crack my knuckles all the time. I even do it in my sleep and wake up my husband.

-I like honey and real maple syrup and almond butter and fresh baked bread.

-Holidays are sources of super, duper excitement for me. I love the decorations and the cheesy songs and color schemes and baked goods and candy that usually accompany them. Except Thanksgiving. That one sucks.

-Libraries are my favorite places on earth. There are billions of libraries in Pittsburgh, and you can take out and return books to any one you want to. Some of them have awesome playrooms and one of them has a beautiful window reading room. Two of them have those huge puffy, climby building block things that keep my girls occupied for hours.

-I love camping, but I haven't been since I had children. I don't know if I will still love camping with two girls in tow, but I plan to find out, soon.

-I don't drink, anymore.

-I like short dresses with winter boots. Or rain boots.

-I think Pittsburgh is awesome.

-Sleep is very very very important to me.

-I can't control myself around candy.

-I pretty much only watch scary movies, unless there's something in another genre that people are peeing their pants over. I kind of feel like "funny" movies are the worst thing ever. Except for Napoleon Dynamite.

-I talk a lot and probably too loudly. When I'm nervous, I feel like I can't control the volume of my voice or the appropriateness of my content. I always find myself talking about butts or pee to my husband's family.

-Beefy, muscley men are a total turn off.

-I like big boobs.

-I also like dinosaurs, shrugging off expectations and authority, butt jokes and "shooting hoops." These are all ways I am actually a 13 year old boy.


What about you? What are the things I might not know about you?



-

Monday, June 20, 2011

Featured at Indie Ink





Very pleased and thrilled and excited to announce that one of my pieces is being featured at Indie Ink today.

Please head over and leave some love and check out all the talent. Thank you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day, to our very good and wonderful daddy...

We went to Wildwood Highlands for our Father's Day Adventure. Kurt doesn't go crazy over gifts and dinner, so we try do so something fun and kind of immature and dad-ish every year. Last year, we went to Sandcastle so he could ride the super fast water slides and eat ice cream for dinner, while Scouty and a VERY pregnant mommy lounged in the baby pools. This year, Kurt taught Scouty about riding go karts and bumper boats.





They called themselves "Team Double Bubble" and Louisey and I were Team Boring, on the sidelines. It made me feel so much like a mom, holding the tickets and sitting under a sun umbrella with the baby while Kurt and Scouty circled around, waving at us, hair blowing back and their mouths open with laughter.

Showing off her new teeth


Hi, yeah. Just sittin' here.



It was weirdly fun and exciting. Things like amusement parks and go karts remind me that there is more to my childhood memories than church and spankings. Even if I didn't ride anything, yesterday, I felt oddly at home inside of myself. Like I remembered this, and the memories were happy. I'm sure mostly, it's just that Scouty and Daddy are best friends and I was so happy to see them having so much fun.


Louisey even had so much fun that she pooped out.





At preschool, Scouty made Kurt a little flower pot wearing a tie, filled with candy. She was so excited to give it to him, this morning.



She brought it home on Thursday and hid it in the toy oven in her bedroom. That means she was alone with a pot of "horsey kisses" several times over the course of four whole days, and she was totally brave and good and she didn't eat even one of them, even though they're her favorite. How is that? I would have eaten them about 5 times and replaced them with new ones, but I'm not a sweet girl and I'm also a pig about candy.


I'm going to get some fancy cupcakes from our favorite bakery today. I'll even get chocolate peanut butter because it's daddy's favorite.


He asked me to write him a story about the two of us going to the beach together, alone. We do that for holidays, as a gift. We'll ask for a letter or a story about something. This year, I didn't feel like typing out a story and handing it to him, so I made him a little book. I'll give it to him tonight at our cupcake party.


The story goes:

Once there were two people, and they were in love. They worked very hard for a very long time and one day, Kurt said to Amanda, "I'd like to take you to the beach."

So they woke up at 5 o'clock. It was so early in the morning that the world was still dark.

As they pulled onto the highway, the lights in the distance made Amanda feel uneasy and sad.

Lots of things made her feel that way and she didn't know why. She supposed she was just too big for herself and wished that she could shrink to the size of a pea.

Kurt saw his wife shrinking, and he said to her, "I love you my darling, I love you my darling, I love you more than anything," and she felt mostly happy again.

Kurt supposed that he was just too small to take care of all the sadness and poorness in their life, and he wished he could grow so big that he blocked out the sun.

They listened to music and talked about love and death...

and then they got to the beach.

They grasped one another's little hand and stepped onto the sand.

Amanda saw that the ocean was very big and very powerful and she was calm and peaceful, shrunken by the sea to the size of a pea.

Kurt saw that the ocean was big and powerful and he felt like a part of it. The waves crashed around his feet and he grew to fifty times his normal size.

They both loved the ocean and they loved each other.

"I'd like to stay here, forever," Kurt said, and Amanda agreed.




You're the best daddy in the world. Happy Father's Day.



-

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dear Me: What to tell your teenage self?

Inspired by Soul Pancake who was inspired by this.

What would you say to your 16 year old self?

Everything you were ready to die over was worth it.

Except for the boys. You were stupid about the boys. The boys who lied and broke your heart were totally not worth your time and energy. They were downright disgusting, really.



What were you THINKING? Barf.



The rest of it, all the ways you fought and cried out, the things you ripped yourself to pieces for... the things that made you feel like you wanted to die. You were right about all of them.

There was no God. There were no prayer languages or dream visions. The Holy Spirit didn't really descend upon a congregation of 100 backwater oddities and wash them pure. There really was blackness creeping around the edge of the scenery. The little girl who peed her pants in Sunday school and made you feel sick, you knew her. She was being hurt and so were you. There aren't any demons, in the world. Only men who want to scare people and push them around.

You couldn't have known it, then. Your only windows into the world were covered with paper. Your models for living were harming themselves. You'll know it when you're grown. You'll know that all the sadness and death weren't a part of you, like you thought they were. Like you thought you were born with blackness and rot in your bones. You were fine, all along.

You talked back because you had something worth saying.

You were mad because you were right.

There were no demons on the stairs at night. There were no lights in the sky over Halloween. Men told you those things to scare you, so that you might live quietly, and without any boldness. Those men wanted to scare all of the women in the world into remaining children for the rest of their lives. They wanted to you be good and small and subservient and you weren't. You were actually born with big, giant, calcified bones and nothing those poor men used to tie you to the alter could hold you.

You weren't born wanting to die, and you won't end up that way.

Although, I suppose you will die several times in the future. You'll find yourself on the floor behind a locked bathroom door, first by force, then by way of escaping, and finally with a glowing pregnancy test in your hand. All of these things will feel like a little death. You'll be so low and so frightened that there won't be anywhere to crawl but up and out and through.

You'll take that test in the restroom at a grocery store. You'll steal it because you haven't learned all of your lessons, yet. You'll tell your sister, "I'll be right back. I just need to grab something..." and you'll rip open the packaging and bury it in a garbage can full of crumpled paper towels, and two pink lines will appear, and you'll whisper, "Holy fuck." That will be one of the ways you die, and come back to life again.

You'll have some trouble with boys, first. I wish I could save you from them, but they're too terrible and invigorating and angry. There isn't anything I could do to get you to look away. Scars and ink and rib cages that press too fully against their pale white skin, you won't like them, but you won't want to be without them, either. They are trash, though. They will kill you and you'll wait up for them until 6 in the morning, tears and snot sticking your cheek to the hardwood in a rented living room, a liquor bottle resting obviously at your fingertips, blood congealing around the bend in your wrists. You'll be murdered this way, by the fact that nobody loves you, and they don't either... but you'll make it through.

When you meet your husband, he'll be shy and drunk and all together sort of small, sitting out of the way, folded into a chair in the corner. He'll have a boyish smile and blonde hair and you'll think to yourself, "That one isn't for me," because he won't be flashy enough about his damage. In time, you'll see how he's willing to give up everything, including his breath and blood in order to disappear and to slow the pressure in his veins. Once you know him for sure, you're going to know everything, for sure and that's going to be a very big moment. Loving him will be like loving the sun or the air you breathe. It will be very easy and very wild, and mostly very important.

You'll understand the concept of a future for the first time, even if the two of you only have plans to die.

But, that stolen pregnancy test I mentioned? You'll have a daughter, and suddenly everything will be smashed to bits. All of the ideas you've piled up around you all of your life, every lie you've ever told about yourself, it will all be blasted to dust by the arrival of the world's most perfect being. You will hold your new little daughter in your arms and everything inside of you and outside of you, like your love and your brain and the power lines and the stars will be buzzing with life.

And also fear. You'll die again to your fear, because it's a very scary business being responsible for the world's only true and pure little person. But, you'll grow together, your child and your husband and you. You'll even be brave enough in your new skin someday to birth another perfect and immaculate little girl. Even after God and the moon and every boy you ever knew, even after they all failed you and gutted you and forgot their promises, you'll be happy.

You'll be safe and in love, and you'll be happy.

Hang in there, I guess. I know you will. I've been to the future, and it's better.






What would you say to your 16 year old self?



-

Friday, June 17, 2011

How I'm sure I don't want to be pregnant...

Can it be true? Am I really starting to think about Louisey's first birthday party? Is my little teensy, tiny baby really all grown up?

There are times where I feel downright tearful about this. My baby, my BABY! Then, there are other times like last night when I randomly become convinced that I'm pregnant and I can't sleep because my mind is spinning with the logistics of fitting another person into our house and budget.

If Kurt and I give up the big bedroom, we can put two kids in it. Actually our closet is pretty big, maybe we could put their beds in there and decorate it with glowy stars. It could be like a fun little hideaway. Of course we could never admit about this "hideway" to my parents-in-law or really any visiting guests, and am I seriously considering putting my children into the CLOSET? Oh god. Maybe we could just chain them to the walls and put a black and white tv with rabbit ears in there, one that only shows fuzz. This is a TERRIBLE IDEA. The only way we can have another kid is if I build a shack in the back yard and move into it. It might be cozy.

On nights like those, I come downstairs where Kurt is up late watching sports and I tell him, "I can't sleep because if we have another baby they'll become closet dwellers." He talks me down from the ledge by working out the logistics of our last semi-reckless rendezvous (read: full body armor soaked in spermicide wasn't donned at the first hint we were even thinking about sex,) compared to my cycle and it really is wonderful to be married to somebody who loves math and statistics so much.

He's right. I'm not pregnant. Just PMS-ing.

Most of the time, PMS is just annoying... like, I'll start to cry because I can't find one of the straps to my favorite bra after doing laundry. And, even though I'm the one who did the laundry, I'll find a way to blame Kurt. I might even call him at work and tell him how that bra was the only bra that didn't make me go crazy with uncomfortableness and it's his fault that I'm going to adjusting all day.

This time, however, there is a lesson to learn from my pre-menstrual crazies. No matter how sad it makes me to see my littlest baby get big, sometimes... no matter how soft and warm and squishy and WONDERFUL SMELLING my friend's infants are, I DO NOT really want another baby.

So, my baby is turning one? What's so heartbreaking about that? And what's so great about newborns, anyway? Is it the way they're so pure and beautiful that they make you feel like you've just been born yourself? Is it the newness and softness that reaches into your soul and rearranges you so that you're sure you understand the meaning of life? Yeah. God. Newborns are pretty magical and awesome. Well, I've had all of those things in my life, twice.

I'm just going to have to embrace the wonderfulness of 1 and 4 years old, because they're awesomely magical, too. It's just that they're here, and newborn is gone forever. I just need to think about the closet hideaway and remember that no more newborns is a good thing.

At least in our family.
That doesn't mean that I can't smell my friend's babies and hold them and get a little bit of that tingly, zen, this is the meaning of beauty and life feeling, by-proxy.

And really? What is that newborn feeling anyway, compared to holding somebody in your arms that you've known for a whole year, or two or three or more? How does it compare to waking up everyday with somebody you've loved for a long time, already?

I love you, my big almost one year old, and my love for you only grows, as you do. You and your sister are enough for me.



-

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soccer Girl...

So, watching Scouty play soccer was one of the most delightful experiences of my whole life.

And Louisey's, I think. She always wanted to know if she could play, too... and got VERY unhappy when we picked her up and moved her away from the action.

I have never cared about sports, especially WATCHING them. I just find them repetitive and I don't really care about it when somebody is good at kicking and running.

Unless that person is Scouty B. Because, she's the best at kicking and running out of anybody in the whole world. I actually lose my head and cheer. There are no goals being scored and nobody's winning or losing, it's all just a bunch of 4 years olds running around aimlessly... but I totally lose control and yell, "Go, Scouty, go!"

Ask her and she'll tell you that she got this medal by being awesome at soccer.


I wouldn't have thought that 8 soccer lessons could make much of a difference, but she really did come a long way from her first hilarious attempt at scoring a goal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Indie Ink Writing Challenge - I'm not cruel...

This is my piece for the Indie Ink writing challenge. The way it works is that you sign up for the challenge weekly, and you'll be paired with another participant who will create a writing prompt for you, and you have a few days to write and submit your piece. (Click HERE if you'd like to participate next week.


This week, I challenged Random Girl with the prompt, "What is the worst thing you've ever done?"

I was challenged by Cope. He told me to write, A first person story in which the narrator is completely unlikeable.



-------------------------------


I told her to stop following me. It had gotten to the point that I was ready to punch her in her big, fat face the next time I turned around in the middle of campus to find her hailing me from a few hundred yards away, her pudgy little arm waving, excitement at seeing me creeping around the edges of her smile. I understand that we used to be friends, but we were kids, then. This was different. This was real life.

The worst part was that we're roommates. Sometimes I'm convinced she's in love with me, in a weird lesbian way. When I comb out my hair before bed, she just lays there, on her side of the room watching me. She says things like, "You're so pretty. I've never been a very pretty girl."

What am I supposed to do? Lie to her? She looks up at me all expectantly, like I'm going to put down my brush and cup her fat little cheeks in my palms and tell her, "No, Lauren! You're pretty! You just have to work at it." It's not like I wake up hot, but honestly, even if she slathered herself in high end cosmetics morning until night, she would still be ugly.

She has big teeth. When she smiles, they stick out at you, all wet and slick looking at first, and the more she smiles the more they stick out, until you're sure you can actually see the surface of her enamel drying. You can see that the more she smiles, the more she has to lick her lips because they get stuck to her dried out, protruding teeth. I can hardly stand to look at her, sometimes, slippery little particles of spit evaporating off of her any time she's struck with a happy feeling. People have to breathe in those particles, you know?

I think maybe I was excited when we were both accepted to the same school. I didn't want to show up on campus not knowing anybody. We were from a corn field, Lauren and I. She was a good student and I competed in pageants, but we were neighbors. We used to sit with our feet hanging off the side of a bridge and dream about how life was going to be when we left Iowa and went to college. Now that we're here, I see that I'm different than I thought. I'm not like her. It's like everywhere I go, she brings a little bit of the farmland with us. She announces to complete strangers with her goofy teeth and tucked in blouses that we're from a place that doesn't necessarily believe in fashion or sexiness or fitting in.

The other day, I was standing outside of the English building with Evan Downing, and she walked right up and stood next to me, staring up at me, waiting for me to say hello. I pretended like I didn't really know her and paused for a long time before saying, "Yes? Can I help you?"

I couldn't exactly tell Evan, who is gorgeous by the way, that she was my oldest friend, that we had pajama parties when we were little. Oh yeah, gorgeous twenty-one year old boy who is finally flirting with me after weeks of me dropping hints. This horsey, big cheeked nerd is a friend of mine. We're bosom companions. I'm sorry, but I'd rather die.

She just kind of blinked up at us a few times and I saw Evan start to smile, like he thought the whole thing was hilarious. He kind of shook his head to get his hair out of his eyes and the way the sunlight hit him made him look like some kind of lacrosse playing god, I'm not even kidding.

He said to Lauren, "So, are you lost or something?"

"No," she said. "I'm on my way to sociology."

"Well?" I asked. I made sure not to look right at her. I didn't want to encourage her to try to communicate with me too intimately.

"I know you're going the same way," she said. "I thought you could use some company on your walk."

I laughed a little bit. Not in a mean way, just enough to get my point across. Evan actually put his arm around me and said, "I don't think she's going anywhere right now." Lauren just stood there, staring at me like some kind of lesbian freak. I swear she's in love with me or something.

"I'm not going that way," I said and turned away from her. I didn't see her walk away, but I didn't care either. This wasn't elementary school. We just weren't going to get along, anymore. I'm not cruel. I've never told her how much her ugly face makes me want to puke. I just asked her in a forceful way to stop following me.

"It's like you're in love with me or something," I told her, one evening. "We live in the same room. It's not like I don't see you every night, or at least the nights I come home."

"I'm not in love with you," she said quietly, staring at the pink and white quilt on her bed. She kind of fiddled with a loose string for a minute. I was putting on eyeliner and then she said, "They only like you because they want to sleep with you. You look like an idiot."

"I knew it!" I said. "You're trying to sabotage me! Why else would you show up everywhere, trying to talk to me when I'm obviously occupied with people who are more... Well, I knew it, anyway. You're so jealous."

"People who are more what?" she asked.

"Nothing," I said. "I'm over it."

"More what?" she said again, only this time there was a weird edge to her voice.

"God, Lauren," I said. "Just drop it. I said I'm done talking about it."

"Just say it!" she screamed suddenly.

I closed the lid of my make up kit with a loud bang. "Just leave me alone, Lauren!" I screamed back at her. "I don't want to be friends with somebody like you anymore!"

"Somebody like me?" she said, her voice reaching a shrill peak. "Somebody like me? What am I like? Tell me!"

"I don't know," I said, gathering my things to go out. I wanted to get out of the room before she had a chance to get dressed and ask to come with me. "You're kind of a farmer, aren't you?"

Then she did something so psycho that it makes my skin crawl. She covered her face with her palms and she just started wailing. A high pitched, ear splitting wail came ushering out of her. I thought for a moment about diving on her and seriously smothering her with a pillow, just to get her to shut up. People live in rooms on the other side of our walls. Who knows who was hearing her?

Instead, before I even knew what I was doing, I whipped my keys across the room and hit her squarely in the head. I think I even saw one of them kind of poke itself into her ear canal. I felt bad for a minute, I did.

Even as it was happening, I knew it was going to end up this way. I knew that she would tell on me for throwing my keys at her. I didn't expect that she would also report me for having some pills in the top drawer of my desk that weren't prescribed to me. At least she had the sense about her to withdraw for the rest of the semester. At least this way she wasn't going to completely ruin my life, like she was planning to. This way I was only on academic probation, which kind of made me even look a little bit dangerous. At least I think it did because Evan invited me to his house the night after my disciplinary hearing.

He said, "I've heard around town that you've got quite an arm on you. You'll have to show me what you can do, sometime." I don't know if that was some kind of sex reference, but I had plenty of plans to show him anything he wanted to see.