Wednesday, November 30, 2011

100 things that I am

I'm linking up with the amazing and brilliant Schmutzie today.

Here is a list of 100 Things I Am...

1. discriminating
2. opinionated
3. vocal
4. expressive
5. funny
6. sharp
7. judgmental
8. resistant
9. moody
10. loyal
11. stubborn
12. persistent
13. brave
14. introspective
15. observant
16. philosophical
17. feminist
18. tired
19. loner
20. outspoken
21. good with new people
22. comfortable in groups
23. easily frustrated
24. explorer
25. daydreamer
26. sleepy
27. passionate
28. distant
29. eccentric
30. good mama
31. good with kids
32. imaginative
33. creative
34. music lover
35. impatient
36. disorganized
37. quirky
38. exciting
39. witty
40. pretty singer
41. convincing
42. selfish
43. fair
44. not a phone talker
45. water lover
46. beach bum
47. sunshine seeker
48. pretender
49. pent up
50. depressive
51. clumsy
52. hungry
53. grown up
54. skillful
55. fast learner
56. anti-directions
57. avid reader
58. freak out-er
59. intense
60. atheist
61. long walk taker
62. thinker
63. rule breaker
63. aware
64. terrible with authority
65. full of ideas
66. questioning
67. cold weather hater
68. afraid of the dark
69. bed hog
70. light sleeper
71. adventurous
72. impulsive
73. bright
74. exclusive
75. intolerant
76. good city driver
77. has a good memory
78. animated
79. big
80. indulgent
82. full of fantasies
83. progressive
84. forward-thinking
85. strong
86. good cook
87. celebratory
88. encouraging
89. risk taker
90. spendy
91. decadent
92. cool
93. dramatic
94. accountable
95. demanding
97. delightful
98. full of personality
99. complimentary
100. full of abandon


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A mostly grey (and unagented) day...

On the way to school, I call Kurt and say, "I don't know why I'm calling you because it's only going to freak you out, but the car is struggling and the engine light comes on every time I push the gas."

Our two little girls are in the back seat, one of them is shouting, "Mama!" over and over and over again. When I respond with, "yes, honey?" she babbles a baby sentence with focused baby sincerity. I have no idea what she's saying. I nod my head and say, "Wow. That's awesome."

The other girl is four big years old and she's wearing yellow star shaped sunglasses, rehearsing in her mind how everybody is going to go nuts over how she cool she looks when we make it to school.

If we make it to school.

And we do. Of course we do. We're a super family of Super Girls!

Back at home, I lay Louise down for a nap, surrounded by all of her guys. She's only a little head peering out from a mountain of coziness and plastic eyes.

Perfect. Everything is still and perfect.

I find a note from a beautiful blonde agent I met in New York saying that I've written a beautiful book and that she enjoyed it. She's not going to offer me representation, though. If you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you this would upset me. I believe her reasoning, though. Everybody just bonds with different kinds of characters.

Still, though. I daydream about being interviewed on NPR or maybe even on television! I would need a new pair of glasses. Something daring. Those dreams are a funny contrast to the real me, the me who actually exists in this moment... hunched and squinting over a desk wearing workout clothes, all of my resolve to run on the treadmill pooling around my feet. Like my confidence and bravado.

It is so hard to tell if I'm a hack, because it sometimes feels like, "Oh, you say that thing about beauty to all the girls." It is starting to feel a little dangerous to keep explaining things away by saying, "I guess they just didn't get me."

So maybe it's a little bit like love. Not everybody would love to be married to me. Not everybody finds me charming and attractive and interesting. That doesn't mean I'm unlovable. I just had to find The One.

photo by alan weir


Today's post is a link up with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary's Just Write. If you want to join in, write something about the details of your day and link up! Be sure to read a few other pieces and get to know some great new writers in the process.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I worship the dirt.

Look at this girl.
Sometimes I simply can't believe how pretty she is. And how big.

Things have been getting easier around here, the way they do when your babies start turning into people. When you're not needed every moment of every day. Sometimes, when Scouty and Louise are playing together, I will suddenly realize that nobody is paying any attention to me.

I can quietly tip toe away and read a book or fold some laundry, and the world feels tiny and peaceful and everything is full of color.

We have this wall in our house.

It is actually the wall behind the computer screen. I look at it while I'm searching for the right words. It sort of feels like everything important to me is pictured here.

My giant glasses from my 5th grade school picture and Baby Cheesy, the one single time she wore that dress. She hated the smarmy photographer and so did I.

Daddy is love and my family from when we were kids.

Or maybe I am tiny and the world is huge, and I am full of big things. I am full of a love so good and honest and perfect that I break apart and I'm a million flickering shards and everything is frozen.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love my family and this makes me a god. I worship the sun for shining on the beautiful little faces of my girls. I worship the air for filling their slippery, powerful little lungs. I worship the dirt.

Sometimes it seems like I don't have everything I need, but really, I just want things. I've seen the face of god. I know what it's like to have your heart outgrow your ribs. I know what it feels like when it stops up your throat and shines out of your eyes. Sometimes washing the dishes feels like an outrage, when we're full of so much love. I want to be able to feel what I have, all the time.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Weight Loss Update... or, not so much.

I didn't lose any weight this week.

I thought about lying about it, saying I lost a pound and then just try to make up for it in the coming week. But, well... I'm too much of a wuss for that. If I lied, then this whole being accountable by reporting my progress each Sunday would all be a big, total splat.

So there.

I didn't lose a single pound.

Though I COULD blame the holiday and the cheesecake and chocolate cake and pumpkin pie and birthday cake that ALL HAPPENED THIS WEEK, I won't. I'm the one who made the decision to eat those things. They were all delicious. They weren't all worth it, though. The cheesecake was worth it, but that's it.

I kept up my workouts, because I kind of always do.

I read an interesting article about working out and weight loss last year. Let me see if I can find it. Here it is, if you feel like reading it. It's also okay if you don't.

What it says is that exercise alone won't make you thin.

I think this is a totally spot on claim.

While the article talks about how people who work out often feel like they can spare the extra calories and have a mocha, or whatever... it also talks about how we, as a society, have overblown the effectiveness of exercise in getting thin, and have undervalued it as an important way for everyone to be healthy.

Everybody should exercise, whether you're thin or fat. It's important for everybody for SO many reasons. We all know what they are.

In order to lose weight, though, dietary changes are way more effective, if you just look at the task logically. When you exercise on top of making dietary changes, you're giving yourself a weight loss edge and making yourself more healthy. They're both important, just not necessarily in the ways we are told.

Just for example, lets say you weigh 300 pounds and you eat 3000 calories per day.

So then, you start working out. Say you walk or use the elliptical for 30 minutes each and every day. It's fair to estimate that you'd burn about 300 calories every day during your workouts.

That's 300 calories more than you were burning before, so now, your intake is more like 2700 calories per day, instead of 3000, if you don't change anything about your diet.

So, you'll lose a little bit of weight. 300 calories per day's worth of weight.

What if you changed your diet and started eating 2000 calories per day, which would be a totally healthy amount. And let's say that you exercised 30 minutes per day, also. That would be a deficit of 1300 calories (compared to the 3000 you were taking in before), and you'll lose a whole lot of weight.

If you only made dietary changes and chose not to work out, you would lose a lot of weight, but still feel like shit. You would lose a lot of weight, but possibly not be healthy.

I don't know.

Does that make sense?

I feel like it has totally been true for me.

Without torturing myself at all, I exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Within the first year of beginning to work out, I lost about 20 pounds. If I go through a time where I don't work out as much, my weight starts creeping up. Unless I'm prepared to exercise for HOURS every day, exercising alone will not make me thin.

Are you the same way? I feel like I don't have to focus on working out at all. I just do it. I feel great when I'm doing it. I love being tough and sweaty and worn out. I feel shitty and achy and stiff and stressed out when I skip a few days of exercising. I totally believe in the importance of working out.

But, I also totally get that losing weight is at least 90% about my diet.

I eat too much volume, and I waste calories on sugar.

If I start to think about how much I exercise, it's really easy to feel like I'm putting in a lot of work, and I should be getting thinner by the second. That's just not how it's going to work, though. Buckling down, for me, is all about eating. I have to focus and be mindful all the time to avoid a totally haphazard intake of food.

I don't know for sure if I feel like I've let myself down this week. Maybe it's because I felt like eating too much was inevitable over Thanksgiving. Maybe it's because our schedule was thrown off and everything was out of control and I just went with it.

I'll do better this week and have something good to report next Sunday.
I promise.

PS. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thank you, Sarah and Sarah!

I have the best blog friends.

Sarah from Sadie Designs sent me one of her beautiful necklaces. Oh my gosh, how much do you love it? It's my new favorite piece of jewelry.

She has an awesome etsy shop and she's so inspiring and creative.

And so then!

I did a handmade present swap with Sarah from Cerlandia and she sent me these:

My new hat! (This haircut is colder than I was expecting.)

She also embroidered this sweet little version of me on my way home from the library. So cute.

Thank you girls! I love my presents so much. You are the best! :)


Friday, November 25, 2011

Walking at night...

I like to take walks to get ideas. Tonight, taking a walk IS my idea. It is all I have.

Black water like oil is pouring out of a drainpipe onto the pavement. Sweet, warm laundry steam engulfs a front porch. There are little islands where everything is golden and still under the streetlamps.

Approaching the municipal park at the end of the block, there are deer on the empty ball field. One of them flickers her tail in warning. They see me all the time. I tell them, "Hello," and the buck snorts at me and stares with his antlers held high in the outfield lighting.

This isn't quite city living. It is too cold for what I'm wearing.

I walked this way when I was pregnant. I had to stop halfway up the hill to breathe. I cursed myself for not being more able. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I couldn't imagine going through another birth. I couldn't imagine getting to where we are, now.

We walked this way on Halloween. It rained for trick or treating. I asked my husband what happened when it rained. Would they cancel the night?

He laughed and said, "Don't you remember having an awesome costume and having to put a raincoat over it?" And then a few moments later he remembered I didn't celebrate Halloween as a kid. I never went trick or treating. "Oh yeah..." he says.

"Thanks for rubbing it in," I say. It's only a joke. My mom was there wearing cat's ears and blinking glasses. Everything is a joke, now.

My parents are separated and in their fifties. They live with other people. My dad's girlfriend is dying of cancer. I don't even know them.

We see them on Christmas and once this past summer when Scouty and I camped in their part of the state. She's dying and she lives with my dad and I can't imagine this. I can't imagine how he is everything she needs to not feel afraid, but I don't know her.

She told me that, last summer, a doctor told her, "This is it." He said that she had a month or two to live. She started to sell her things and empty out her house. A few months went by and she wasn't any sicker. Another doctor told her she might live for ten years.

I wonder what that would be like, to lose everything and get it back to hold for a few minutes or years. I think maybe her story is the saddest and greatest thing I've ever heard.

The chipped manger scene my father painted is somewhere in my brother's attic. In the crawlspace of my childhood bedroom. I doubt I will ever be inside of that house again.

Walking by the lantern lights
photo by horia varlan

PS. I linked up with:


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Misadventure.

Pictures from our morning.

We had an exciting moment today where Louise bit off the top of a glass ornament and started chewing. I was frantic over the possibility that she may have swallowed glass. Thankfully, pediatricians keep their calm in these situations.

We ended up throwing things off of schedule, and now we're home, just the two of us while Daddy and Sissy are having Thanksgiving dinner with his family.

Louisey and I, we're going to snuggle up under a blanket, eat some cereal and watch tv.

For a holiday, I think that one casualty is just about on par.

As much as I'd like to be eating so much pumpkin pie that I want to barf, we're having a sweet, quiet little evening, just us girls.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Zoloft. I was desperate for you.

I take Zoloft now, so I have no sex drive. I have no wild leanings over anything, anymore.

I read something that Ariel Gore said once about being a mama and taking anti-depressants. She said something like, Go ahead and take them if you're really losing it, be careful not to let anybody prescribe away who you really are.

I was really losing it.

I also sometimes wonder.

The way all of my anxiety, trembling and panic have been painted white, so has all of my impulsiveness, my wildness, my longings and my thrashing.

I'm not crazy any more and that's good. How important is drowning in a red sea, anyway? I can still write, I can still lay on the floor laughing with my girls and know how much I love them. I might not lay awake at night, lonely for them and scared that the world will gobble them up while I'm sleeping. I might not feel so happy over a rhyme at library story time that I have to hold my breathe to keep from crying. I don't feel certain ways anymore, but I haven't forgotten anything either.

I wonder who I'll be at the end of my life. When I'm half-asleep and all glimmering and godlike, will I want those moments back?

Will I grasp at those early mornings, shaking and staring at myself like I was a stranger, like something wasn't quite right. But what? I didn't know what was wrong, only that it was something and it was terrible and it was coming for me. The bathroom light was too bright over my head. Will I long for every moment of my life, cling to them, thank the heavens for them?

I don't know what I'll wish for when it's time to die. I have my head, now. I have my feet under me. I haven't shaken Kurt awake before dawn with my skin covered in electricity, biting down on my tongue to keep my teeth from chattering in years. I haven't been pacing the cold kitchen floor. I haven't forgotten anything, either and I don't want to go back.

I wonder about sex, sometimes and about being so overwhelmed by my body and my thoughts that I was lost to everybody. It was a different kind of being lost, though. I was choking and spitting up black water. I was desperate for you. I was reaching for your hand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giveaway from Earth Mama, Angel Baby!

My girls are Angel Babies.

Click here for a wonderful giveaway from Earth Mama, Angel Baby.


Monday, November 21, 2011

He doesn't notice the world...

This will have to be quick.

I really must warn you that I'm working with borrowed me time, right now.

I am supposed to be curled up with an outdated baby fashion book from the nineties and a salted caramel coffee in a padded booth somewhere. I am supposed to be walking slowly though the mall, soaking in tinny, faraway holiday music, the lights of the macy's display a twinkle in my eye.

It isn't cold enough for this.

Probably one of my favorite things about Christmas are the sad, lopsided tinsel candy canes hanging from lampposts. One of them has lights that only work on the bottom half, and they're short circuiting.

Kurt comes home from work. I've spent all day rearraging our living room so that we might fit the Christmas Tree. "Why do we have to do it tonight?" he asks. I honestly don't know.

"We bought a sparkly ornament shaped like a mushroom today," I say, by way of an arguement. "It just seemed like the right time."

Nobody wants to drag the box out of the musty room in the basement. Nobody wants to stick themselves straightening out the branches. Nobody wants to find the broken bulbs at the bottom of a box of decorations, the matted strand of pine garland.

He tells me about somebody he knows from work, how there is a new baby in the family and something isn't quite right. "You can shake a toy in front of his face, and it's like he doesn't even know it's happening." I think about being a baby, about being blind and deaf and the world is full of so much sadness.

I think about my babies a lot, how they were as newborns. We've sort of labled them as bad babies, in an adoring way. They were colicky, or maybe we were just scared. Maybe an hour of crying on a Tuesday turned into months of screaming in our memories. They were bad babies in the sense that there's no such thing as a bad baby, or a good one.

Before their eyes could focus, they reached into the world, testing the air, honing their abilities to move and perceive. I read once that instead of having to learn to make the right connections to be able to move with meaning, babies flail about, jerking and responding with all of their connections firing at once. They have to sort through their brains' many impulses and figure out which ones work, discarding the others to become dormant. Instead of learning how to make a specific movement, they actually teach themselves how NOT to make all the other movements.

It must be so overwhelming to be filled with so many possibilities. It must be amazing, too.

Kurt told me the baby is three months old and it's like he doesn't notice the world is there. And also, he is an entire world, inside of himself. He stares all the time and it's like his mind has already decided which movements he doesn't need.

The world is full of so much beauty.
Something isn't quite right.

Newborn's Hand
photo by a4gpa

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Weight Loss Update... and some thoughts about being loveable.

How did I do with week one of my 59 pound goal?

Well... the answer is, I did KIND OF AWESOME.

I lost 4 pounds this week.

Which means that I now want to lose 55 pounds in the next 37 weeks.

I'm really interested in the topic of health. I used to be a junky. I used to be black rimmed eyes and torn hems. It used to not matter when I died.

The moment I found out I was pregnant with Scouty, I became totally obsessed with living the healthiest life possible, for me. I agonize over vitamins. I prepare our food from scratch. I buy organic and local. I don't do any of the things I used to do.

Something that is important is that healthy choices and habits matter, no matter how much you weigh. Since we're so skinny minded as a people, overweight people have come to believe that being overweight equals being totally and utterly unhealthy. So, if we're not seeing our weight go down, then the healthy habits we're adopting don't matter. We might as well be fat and not exercise, since exercising isn't working to make us smaller, anyway. And everybody knows that the only way to be healthy is to be small, right?

Something else that is important is that, if you're overweight, you aren't living your healthiest life possible.

That totally is true.

It's also true that if you're skinny and you never exercise, you're not living your healthiest life possible. If you're skinny and you eat processed foods and refined sugar, you're not as healthy as you could be. If you're skinny and you don't get enough rest, you're not living your healthiest life.

The thing about weight is that it is absolutely an indicator, in a long list of indicators, of your overall health.

If you're overweight and you start exercising, hoping to lose weight, you might believe that exercise isn't doing anything good for you if you don't see your weight getting smaller. That isn't true. It is totally doing you good, even if it isn't changing your magic number that everybody is telling you IS THE ONLY NUMBER THAT MATTERS.

Weight matters, it totally does... but your fitness, muscle mass, sleep habits, food habits, your environment, the chemicals you're ingesting and your emotional and spiritual health matter, too. A thin person who stresses all the time and never works out isn't healthy, either.

It's a hard thing to work through, just because our world is set up in a way that you're supposed to be ashamed of being fat, especially if you're a woman, but you're not required to be ashamed if you're practicing any number of the other things that make you unhealthy. As long as you're thin, we don't care what you're doing with your body, as a society.

I know you've heard it a million times, but it isn't anybody's business what you're doing with your body. Just like we don't admonish thin people for depriving themselves of sleep or eating non-organic produce, we shouldn't admonish somebody for being overweight. It's nobody's business. The end.

Can I just say this, though?

When you love somebody, you want them to be healthy.

I know that it is so hard to love yourself. I know. We're women and we're Americans and we're so many things. We're expected to give away all of our energy and power. We're expected to nurture and take care of everybody, to wear ourselves thin making sure that our families are safe and cared for and thriving... and then we're absolutely assaulted with messages saying,

Look at you! You're fat and that means that you're a piece of shit. Since you're fat, it doesn't matter how smart or successful or tireless you are in loving and caring for people and accomplishing your goals. It doesn't matter how many wonderful things you birth into the world. You're fat, so you're stupid and ugly and a joke. Even though you do impossible, amazing things every day, you deserve to be made fun of and laughed at and insulted.

I know that it's hard to love yourself. I do.

Here's what I want you to know: I don't believe those things about you, or about myself. Maybe I don't know you, so I couldn't possible love you, but let me assure you that if you're trying your best at living your life... if you're caring for somebody or working hard every day to be successful, if you're kind and honest and fair; YOU ARE LOVED. You must believe that you're deserving of love; you are deserving of praise; you deserve to feel absolutely ecstatic over being who you are.

You're amazing! You do amazing things! As long as you're living in a way that is compassionate and that takes the well being of other people into consideration and you are TRYING YOUR HARDEST, you are living an amazing life.

I do love you.

I do love me.

That's why I want to lose weight. Not because I feel like, "Fuck, I hate myself for being fat," but because I am an amazing person. I care about myself. I care about being as healthy and happy as I can be. I care about living for a long time and sharing my life with my family and the people who need and love me.

My weight absolutely doesn't tell you anything about who I am and how I live, other than that I haven't mastered every single thing, in a long list of what it takes to have my healthiest body. That's okay. I haven't mastered other things from the list, too. I stress out and get afraid. I isolate myself. Sometimes I don't get enough sleep. Those things are just as unhealthy as anything else; and since I love myself, I'll work on them to try become the healthiest person I can be.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Etsy shop reopening...

After almost two years of swearing off sewing, I have decided to open my etsy shop back up again. So, there is it.

I'm even looking forward to getting it filled up and running full time again.

Can I sew you something?
Do you have any ideas for me?
Do you have an etsy shop? Let me see!


Friday, November 18, 2011

It is cold between living and dying and everything is beautiful.

My mother's side of the family fell apart a year ago, while my grandmother was dying.

My mom lives in the city and her car broke down. My aunt was living with my grandmother, who was quickly losing her mind due to a brain tumor. They've never really been a family of huggers, anyway.

I had just had a baby when the news broke.

My grandmother had been feeling confused. She got lost driving to the grocery store. She was awake all night with disconnected anxiety. My sister knew it was the cancer taking over her brain.

"She's fine," I said. "She's probably just foggy from her pain pills."

Those pain pills.
I took so many pain pills as a young person.
I can taste them, feel my gorge rising seven years later in an effort to keep the memory down.

Kurt had to leave early on Sunday mornings. We were newly dating and it was winter. We had spent all weekend swallowing pills and we woke up with sickness in our bellies. Kurt had a job and very few expenses. We went grocery shopping at three in the morning and bought individual ice cream cups and candy and slushees from the gas station. We were kids.

We were bad.

He spent all morning throwing up. The pile of pills we bought from some deviant, redneck pharmacy assistant on the night shift... we were down to fourteen.

"I won't be able to swallow them," he said.

"You just have to keep them down until they kick in," I said. "And then you won't be sick anymore."

We bit them in half. He ended up throwing his up, anyway. We spent our last few hours together huddled together on my beaten up foam couch watching a DVD Napoleon Dynamite on repeat. A blanket over our shoulders, I was naked and stoned. We ate frozen lemonade popsicles. I wouldn't allow myself to miss him until he was gone.

By the winter of last year, I'd been clean and healthy for five years. We had two little girls. My aunt hated my mother and the rest of their siblings fell down around them like dominoes. My grandmother lay in a hospital bed in the living room. Sometimes she talked to people who weren't there.

Once, she peered over the edge of her blankets and looking into the soft light of the drawn curtains and said, "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here until four, Grace," the hospice nurse said.

"Not you," my grandmother said.

When she held your hand, she remarked over and over again how warm you were. She was always cold. She plucked at her nightgown with her fingertips and started sleeping all the time.

I had a newborn baby. I couldn't even be sad.

I was watching somebody die. My cousin was mad at my mom and my sister was mad at my aunts. My Aunt Debbie didn't visit often enough and my mom wasn't supportive enough. My Aunt Pea's life was falling apart anyway. They were all falling apart. Years and years of unraveling, and suddenly there was something happening that couldn't be denied. Their mother was dying, and nobody had had a good life. There was nothing left to do but to crush what was left.

My baby slept a lot. She slept so much that I called the doctor, worried that something was wrong. "You're just lucky," the nurse told me over the phone. "Lots of people call here panicking because their baby won't sleep at all."

When Baby Louise was awake, she nestled sweetly against my bare throat. She sought out the soft places of my body. If I moved even a few feel away from her, she cried for me, so I held her always. I kept her warm.

It is cold between waking and sleeping.

It is cold between living and dying.

Things won't be put back together. The anniversary of her funeral is Christmas Eve. My mother cried on Christmas morning and everything was beautiful. Scouty wrote Kurt a letter that brought tears to his eyes. Louisey walks, now. She says a hundred words each day.

Everything was beautiful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wake up! Some big news...

Kurt wakes up before me, but Scouty wakes up before everybody.

While he's getting ready for work, Kurt gives her some cereal and turns on the television for her. When it's time for him to leave, she comes upstairs to wake me up.

So, I was sleeping soundly, snuggled under my blankets, when I heard her little voice.

"Mom," she said. "Mom, wake up! I have some news!"

I opened my eyes. "What honey?" I asked. "What is it?"

"Do you feel like your closet is crammed so full of stuff?" she said.

"What, baby?" I asked, propping myself up and squinting into the morning light.

"Because if you do, THERE'S SPACE BAGS!" she said.

"Space bags?" I asked.

"You can put your sweaters in them and then a car can run over them! You can put them anywhere, even in your basement!" she announced.

"Wow..." I said. "That sounds awesome. Where did you hear about these Space Bags?"

"On the TV! All you need is a vacuum hoser!" she said.

"Cool," I said, yawning. "Thank you for giving me this news. We'll have to try them."

I guess that means it's morning.

Best and weirdest wake up, ever.

I have a pretty amazing life.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It will be light on the other side - Indie Ink Writing Challenge

There was a man after us. We were children. Mother was asleep in the cabin. Her bedroom had floorboards that creaked when she rolled over. We slept on a deerskin by the woodstove. The man, he had long fingers like bones. He pried up the nails that held shut the windows.

My sister, Sarah, and I were twins. We had the same blue eyes.
There was no sound in the night, only the scrabbling of his fingertips across the threshold.

“Get up Joseph,” she said. “We have to run.”

We knew everything in the woods. Sometimes men came out of the fire and we led them to the stream in the hollow. Sometimes, though, they came from the forest itself. On nights like these we had to go underground.

There was a cave made of mud, carved out of a round hillside that sat in a clearing. The moonlight bathed everything in silver. Our skin was glowing. I thought that if we got hurt, our blood would come out slippery and sparkling, like diamonds. My mother had a diamond that she kept hidden in a hollow stump next to the well. I wondered sometimes if the men weren’t looking for it.

We reached the opening of the cave after padding expertly and silently across the wet leaves and fallen branches. Sarah stopped and cupped a hand to her ear, waiting for the scratching and tapping that meant we were being followed. The night wasn’t quiet, but we were alone, for now.

“Get inside,” she said.

I ducked under the overhang of earth and pressed my body into the muddy opening. It led to a tunnel made of soil that got narrower the further you crawled. My knees were sinking three inches deep into the soil.

“I can’t find it,” I said. “I can’t find the opening.” I reached a place where only three fingers of my hand could squirm inside.

“Pull apart the earth,” Sarah said. “He’s coming.”

I dug at the mud and pebbles with my hands, pulling away clumps of the tunnel walls. I saw colored lights in the air in the absolute and all-consuming darkness.

“Faster, Joseph,” she begged. “Pull at the roots!”

I gripped a thick root and heaved my body backwards. I placed my feet against the cool earth and struggled to rip it free, to make an opening for us. My sister wrapped her warm arms around my body and leaned backward, pulling me by my shoulders. We milked a few drops of water from the root, and then the barricade started giving way. Great mounds of slick wet mud fell around our feet. I was stuck.

“He’s here,” she whispered. “Go! Go now! He’s here!”

I threw myself onto my stomach in time to hear a hideous clicking and hissing making its way towards us. Pulling myself forward with my arms, I slid like a snake through the impossible darkness. Sarah and I, we squeezed our bodies through impossible spaces. The mud moved for us. I plunged my face into the watery slickness; my nose and mouth were stopped up, and heaved my tired body forward. The earth opened up and closed around us. We were worms and it had been raining for weeks.

Eventually, the colored lights went away. I saw a sparkling in the distance. “Sister,” I said. “I see the diamonds!”

“Keep going,” she said, her voice obstructed by gobs of mud. It sounded as though she was speaking underwater.

Suddenly there was a great pressure in my head accompanied by a feeling of coldness, and I emerged from the mud and slipped onto the sand, gasping and sticky, like the calf that was born and died in our barn last winter. We had reached the shore of the black lake.

The water of the lake was opaque and roiling, its surface alive with waves made of oil and ink. Creatures lived here. You could see them cresting and squirming beneath the surface. They wound their bodies around one another. Sometimes you could make out a gaping mouth or a terrible, wet eye in the writhing mass.

Sarah and I built a bridge here. We carried rotting planks of wood that we salvaged from a shipwrecked rowboat with a mess of pink blankets inside. The skeleton of a ripped, lacy parasol stuck obscenely from the stern.

There weren’t enough boards to finish the job. We lay them across the surface of the black lake and tied them with strands of coarse hair from the water creatures. It was green and beautiful like seaweed. Bunches of it washed onto the shore and sparkled under the giant, bare moon.

“Hold my hand and help me to balance,” Sarah said as we stepped onto the grey, floating planks. Something sighed in the darkness. I thought I heard the mud moving. “Take your time, but quickly, please,” she said.

“Sarah,” I said. “I love you. You are good and wise and you never let anything hurt me.”

“Keep going, Joe,” she said. “I love you, too. Keep moving.”

A blubbery mass of sparkling flesh emerged next to us in the water. Two water snakes with rows of blood red scales running down their bodies twisted and writhed around one another. I saw that one of them was blind. In the place where its eyes should be, there were open, oozing gashes. Its mouth was forced open and it was gripping the body of the other snake with its teeth. I watched the mechanics of its jaw as it bit into the black flesh, deeper and deeper.

I almost missed the end of the bridge. I took a step, and suddenly my shoe was ripped from my foot. A creature held it by the shoestrings and took it into the blackness. It skimmed across the oily surface of the lake, creating a neat little line of waves on either side before disappearing.

“We’re here,” I said.

“Listen,” she gasped.

Scratching on the weathered boards, he was coming for us, still. It was worse for Sarah; she could understand his language. When the men spoke to me, I only heard a sharp and unintelligible whispering, like the wind coming through the gaps around our windows in a blizzard.

“Take a breath and be sure it is deep,” Sarah said.

We’d never had to go this far, before.

“Wait,” I said. “How will I find you?”

“It will be light on the other side,” she said, staring into the blackness ahead of us.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I’ve dreamed about it,” she said.

She gingerly raised one of her slippered feet and only barely touched the tip of her toe into the water before she was whisked away and pulled down into the lake. For a moment, I saw the glowing shape of her, sinking and sinking, until a thousand glittering shells were illuminated on the bottom of the lake. Then she was gone. I shivered, alone.

A violent, poisonous voice was in my ear, suddenly. I didn’t need to be able to make out the words to know that hesitating for even a moment meant death. I felt the pressure of a dry, clacking tongue stinging my earlobe. I took the deepest breath I could manage and stepped into the water.

Redfish Lake at Night
photo by charles knowles


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, The Drama Mama challenged me with "Do whatever it takes," and I challenged Hannah with "Everything was burning".


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Even when it's winter, everything is new.

I couldn't wake up this morning. There was too much waiting for me. There's a yellow light on in the car and it's raining. It is only the middle of the month and Christmas is coming.

I remember when Kurt would bring us baskets of fruit from work, and fancy chocolate. I remember the year I was pregnant with Scouty, we got a thousand dollar Christmas bonus. Some part of me just believed that's the way things were. This is a time where it's dark outside as we're eating dinner. This must be a time for magic.

Now, the company is waning. My husband is sharing an office. Everyone keeps the lights turned off in the hallways. We've learned not to expect that sort of magic.

I nestled down into my bathrobe and the tattered blanket Kurt bought for me our first winter together. I didn't open the shades. My girl had me out of bed and I was tired. Her bright eyes and redheaded enthusiasm were a prickling little ember in my heart. I wanted to sleep, but she was making me too happy.

"I'm writing a book," she said and held up her shapes and random letters. "It's a story about people who take pictures of things."

"Things like what?" I asked.

"Triangles, mostly," she said. "And circles and squares. Want to help me write it?"

Did I? All outward signs pointed to retreating. All outward signs pointed inward. I should yawn really big and put a pillow over my head, but she has glowing skin and her pajama pants are too short for her growing legs. She is the only thing, right now. The rest of the world is dark and quiet. All I want is her.

I want her wakefulness to infuse me.

I talk to my husband on the phone. He wants to take the girls to the mall after work to see the decorations and ride the train. "What about Santa?" I ask. "Is he there yet?"

From across the room, I see that my big girl has frozen, her eyes are wide and she's listening intently to our conversation. She told me earlier that I would be on Santa's nice list if I wasn't so old. I let her magic invade me. I remember it, when it was my own. I believed in Santa until an embarrassingly advanced age.

This morning is golden. There are thirty nine days until Christmas. I will let go of my sleepiness before it eats me up and drags me down. We'll see the sun again. For now, I'll get by with cinnamon and strings of red lights, with lopsided candy canes hanging sadly from the light poles. For now, I'll weave a silver thread through a silent night, holy night.

All I want is her. How much those lights and songs will mean to her. I'm sore and tired, and then I'm young again because she's happy. Both of my girls are happy and small and everything is new. Even when it's winter, everything is new.


Today's post is a link up with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary's Just Write. If you want to join in, write something about the details of your day and link up! Be sure to read a few other pieces and get to know some great new writers in the process.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Sewing Woes...

I've been making gifts and things for Christmas. If you had asked me before, I would have told you that handmade gifts were well... usually pretty crappy. (I mean really. Someone is actually suggesting that you give a "smores kit" as a gift. I would be so mad...)

Now that I've spent hours of my life sewing soft little presents for the children in my life, I understand that homemade gifts can be awesome.

I sewed these elf slippers for my nephew.

Right? Adorable.

I have a strained relationship with sewing. See... I have an overlock machine. I know how to surge with ruffles. I'm kind of awesome at sewing, if you want to know my secret. I used to have an etsy shop. It was great.

And then I started sewing the same skirts over and over again until my eyes were bleeding. I sewed so many of the same kind of thing that I was seeing alternating color blocks of fabric in my sleep. I woke up one morning in the middle of planning my DIY wedding and pregnant with my second daughter and I just suddenly totally hated sewing.

I closed up my shop with a vague idea that I would return to it after the wedding was over and we got settled in with the baby.

Well, the baby is sixteen months old, now.

I've thought about it a few times, but I couldn't bring myself to get my machines down from their dark place on a shelf in my bedroom closet. The thought of sewing anything made me feel a little sick to my stomach, honestly. I kind of assumed that I would never sew again. Because, why would I put myself through that boredom and torture?

But then... I really wanted Louisey to have an awesome Muno blanket for Christmas. I invited some friends over and made pumpkin spice lattes and by the end of the day, I was sitting in my old seat at the dining room table, a pile of fabric bunched up around me.

It didn't even feel terrible.

It would also be nice to have a little extra money.

Maybe I could only sell a certain number of those godforsaken black and white striped skirts? Maybe I could only sell things that I like to sew?

I'm probably a little bit crazy, considering that I have ZERO time. I have ZERO extra energy.

Somehow, I found the time to sew a giant fuzzy Muno face, right? I found the energy to make an adorable pair of elf slippers. Maybe if I vowed to sew only things that made me happy, I could make it work again? Maybe if I sewed things for babies and kids and people I loved (like you guys) and didn't care about how much money I was making, it wouldn't make me want to cry myself to sleep while the image of unending fabric feeding through a machine.

For those of you that are set to get a notification when my shop reopens, keep your eyes open.


Let's just say... keep them half open.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fifty nine pounds.

It's late evening. I just put the girls to bed. Kurt is away at a funeral.

I've started a few pieces of writing, but they're just not happening. I'm not feeling inspired. How I am feeling is achy and fat.

I've gained weight over the past few months.

I'm finding it hard to focus on everything right now. I constantly feel like I am being pulled in a lot of different directions, barely any of them actually sanctioned by me. Both of my children are going through a time in their lives where they need me A LOT, in different ways. Every single quiet moment I have, I use it to write or read.

I've stopped getting up at 6am to go to the gym. I was taking the girls to the gym playroom in the afternoons which was AMAZING... but then Louise decided that she suddenly hated it in the playroom and started throwing a fit as soon as I leave, and 5 minutes into my workout they page me to retrieve my drooling, screaming baby.

I've also started eating stuff all day. Have we talked before about how much I like baking? And fancy coffee drinks? And that a Trader Joe's opened up in my neighborhood?

I feel like I've just given up on myself. Well, not on all of myself, just the physical part. I structure everything about my appearance to be low maintenance. I mean, so low that I could get away with not showering for more than a day if I have to. I have no time or energy to care for myself. I'm in a demographic of people who just can't focus on appearance. We're too busy KEEPING CHILDREN ALIVE to put on make up. At least that's the way it feels.

I've also been feeling anxious, lately. We've been going through some medical things that have me up at night. (Don't worry. Everybody is fine.) But, my nerves are raw. I haven't been sleeping well.

All of this is exacerbated by the fact that I've been eating too much, eating sugar and not getting enough exercise.

The truth in all of this is... I've been feeling pretty miserable and bad and just kind of blah in general. I've kind of been living in an oversized boy hoody that used to belong to my brother in law. I've gained 15 pounds. I don't want to lose 15 pounds, though. I want to lose about fifty pounds. Fifty nine, to be exact.

Fifty nine is a lot.

I hate focusing on weight loss. I hate counting calories and logging fitness minutes and thinking about food in terms of it's mathematical breakdown. (Yogurt is yogurt, people. Stop calling it a "protein".)

I hate how getting healthy should be a totally organic and honest kind of thing where you eat when you're hungry and you move around a lot because you're a person and that's what we're meant to do... but instead, everybody feels like if they want to lose weight, they better sign up for a dieting website and buy a bunch of rice cakes, or whatever.

Being anal and overly organized and restrictive about things doesn't work for me.

I need to do this, though. I need to be serious about it and show up to my beautiful friend's wedding in August as a totally refreshed, youthful, vitalized, healthy, slim looking bridesmaid.

Lately, I've been feeling the opposite. I don't want to feel old and sore and tired. I don't want to eat up all the Jo-Jos and blame Kurt. I want to just be in control of myself. I want to feel like at least ONE of the directions I'm being pulled in is a path I'm actually choosing. I don't want my body and my appearance and my energy level to be a casualty of being a busy mom. I want to be, I don't know... springy and full of life. I want to make a little gun with my fingers and say kapow at myself in the mirror after I get dressed in the morning. I want my neck to not seem too thick for dainty jewelry. I want to not feel like a bulky nerd with a mohawk. I want to feel like those stupid posters of a silhouette of a person wearing biking shorts on a mountain top.


Is it okay if I talk about food and exercise and my weight sometimes? Or is that like... totally boring to you? (Don't fool yourself into thinking your answer to this question actually matters. It's like when I ask my husband which color of paint he likes better for the bathroom, and then I pick dazzling lime green anyway.)

I'm thinking that I'll do an update once a week, on Sunday, about my progress. Next week I'll show you the dress in my closet that I want to fit into.

I have 38 weeks to lose 59 pounds. (I'm using my friend's wedding as a goal date.)

Wish me luck, or commiserate with me or give me tips or something.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What happened at PSU? Let's try to tell the truth.

I was at the gym earlier and the Penn State game was on the tv in front of me. All week, I've been feeling sick and anxious. I told myself yesterday that I wasn't going to read anything that would make me sick to my stomach. I told myself today that I didn't want to hear or think about it, anymore.

But, I can't help it.

Especially as mothers, we're all reeling. We're advising one another to talk to our children about touch. We're going over every facet of our lives, checking the ropes and pushing against the retaining walls for any hint of a crack. We're making sure that our children are safe.

This is so totally right on. It's exactly what we should be doing. But, you know what? As mothers, we should also be talking to the rest of the world. We should be pushing up against the walls of language and secrecy that is built up around child terrorization and annihilation.

We should be saying things like, Do you know what happened here? Sandusky ripped people open. He made them scream and bleed and feel so afraid that they might never some back into the world of people, how we walk around assuming that things are basically okay. He forced them open and raped them. He murdered who they would have become. He committed violent, aggressive, ugly fucking crimes. He changed them forever. He left children amputated, left their dignity hanging to their memories in tattered, messy shreds. He destroyed and raped people. He turned their lives into things so full of dread and horror that we couldn't imagine it. He punished them, assaulted them, left their lives in shards.

Why don't we say it like that?

I tend to think along the same lines of Clare Potter who wrote this piece about how we mistook these crimes as an offense against women. Potter said, "Since most people don’t believe that ten year olds want to be anally penetrated by grown men, once there is credible evidence that the sex happened, people tend not to spin alternative scenarios about little boys like: ”look what he was wearing;” “he’s probably just mad that Coach Sandusky wouldn’t hook up with him;” “he was drunk;” or “it was just bad sex and he’s trying to get back at Coach.”

Since we can't make those claims about little boys and say, "Well, he shouldn't have been alone in a shower room with a grown man in the dark in the first place," instead, we suppress the horror of the truth; we pretend that we're respecting the victims by not really telling the truth. We try to protect their purity in our minds by using words like molesting. We do what Joe Paterno did and we say, "He was fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

Guess what? Sandusky destroyed those children. He violently and aggressively sodomized, assaulted and terrorized them. They don't need to be protected from the truth. They are living the truth. We are the ones who can't stomach it. By refusing to acknowledge these unspeakably disgusting abominations for what they are, we are only seeking to protect ourselves and in turn, we're protecting the sick institution that allows these kinds of things to happen, to go unreported and to carry on for decades.

Men fondle the gear shift of a new car. They fondle the handle of a golf club or the remote control. What happened to those little boys at PSU was rape. Rape is a thing that is foul and hideous and it destroys people.

Those little boys will grow and learn about the world and they will have a chance at healing, as much as a person can. I hope they will be able to love themselves, someday. To feel safe and precious and human.

I am so lucky that I can turn off the news. I can choose not to click on a link about PSU. I can accompany my little family to soccer practice and hold a travel mug of hot chocolate between my palms, and we're all whole and sound. Nobody has violently attacked us. Nobody has ripped us open, humiliated and gutted us. I have the luxury of getting sick of hearing about it. I can tell people, "I don't feel like talking about it, anymore."

We should be talking about it and telling the truth. We should be sick over it. We should feel like we can't bear to read or listen to another word about it, because it's vile and vile things are supposed to make us sick. The one thing it is SO important not to do is to let it go by as another sex scandal, another dirty little secret that doesn't have anything to do with us. Especially as mothers, we can't pretend this doesn't have anything to do with us.

I wasn't even going to write this post. And then, after I did write it, I thought about just erasing it and moving on. I've read a lot of smart, compassionate and heartfelt articles about this topic over the past week. I didn't want to say more of what has already been said. I thought about it, though, and maybe you weren't reading the same things I've been reading. I wanted to be a voice. Especially as a mother, I wanted to try to tell the truth.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Reads

Book Spiral - Seattle Central Library
photo by j brew

Here is what I read this fall.

Crank Ellen Hopkins - This book was kind of really good. The midwestern underbelly of methamphetamine use and sexual depraivity holds a weird appeal for me. Remember Faces of Meth? This is a YA novel and it's written in verse, so steer clear if you're not into gimmicky fiction written for 14 year olds.

Thirteen Reasons Why Jay Asher - I read this book in about two sittings. It's another YA novel about suicide. I didn't really like it. The girl who kills herself comes across as being WAY too prepossessed and her reasons for hating life are WAY too well thought out and explained away for the reader to believe her as a self-hating teen. In the end, I felt like this book actually made light of the reasons kids kill themselves.

Love At First Bark Julie Klam - Okay, so... I don't really care about dogs. (Don't hate me, dog people.) I just don't really love them. I did kind of love this book, though. You can read my review here.

Flying In Place Susan Palwick - This was a good book about sexual abuse. It wasn't entirely believable, though. The bad, abusive character was a little over the top. I had trouble viewing him as a real person. I saw him as sort of a composite "bad guy" character. It was a really engrossing read, though.

City Of Bones Cassandra Clare - Yeah, I'm sorry, but I liked this book. I am going to read the next installment. It's a totally cheesy urban fantasy novel full of characters who overuse witty repartee. It was really fun and had sexy wizards and stuff. Whatever.

Crush Richard Siken - I feel ill prepared to share my feelings on this book of poetry. I loved the first few poems and felt like, "Yes! I am getting why people like poetry!" Then they all kind of started to sound the same. By the end, I reverted back to my, "I either hate poetry or like... don't get it or something," stance. I didn't get this.

Men Women and Children Chad Kultgen - White, American male reading. I loved Chad Kultgen's earlier novel, The Lie, so much that I recommended it to a bunch of people who immediately barfed all over themselves at it's perverty-ness and inappropriateness. Men, Women and Children was a sort of made up expose into the lives and sexuality of everybody, within the confines of our modern setting. I wanted to say, "Fuck yeah. Another Chad Kultgen book. I love it." Instead, I said, "Okay. Another Chad Kultgen book. It is JUST OKAY." I liked reading it, but it was nothing to demand your sister read only to have her pronounce you some kind of sexual deviant because it made her feel uncomfortable with it's maleness.

How to Be An American Housewife Margaret Dilloway - I mean. This book was nice. It was sweet. It was a mother/daughter, clash of cultures, finding yourself kind of book. You can read my full review here.

The Chosen One Carol Lynch Williams - Loved it. It's a YA novel about being a teenager in love, who also happens to live inside of the abusive, polygamist FLDS cult.

Lunch Wars Amy Kalafa - Um. If you want to read about how you can change what kids are eating at school, then this book is for you. If you're just a person, looking for a book to read... well, whatever. You can read my review here.

Fallout Ellen Hopkins - I was really looking forward to this book after reading Crank. I only got halfway through it before deciding to return it to the library. It was basically EXACTLY LIKE Crank, only less entertaining, less inventive, with crappy, unlikeable characters and, oh yeah! We just read all of this in Crank.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves Karen Russell - YES! This book of short stories is amazing. It is insanely quirky, imaginative and totally genius. I found my two new favorite stories in this book. Read it. It's awesome.

Now it's your turn. What have you been reading all autumn? What should I add to my winter reading list?


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Comforts of Home - Indie Ink Writing Challenge

It’s dark and there are ice patterns on the windows like lace. I am the only one awake.

There is a blue patchwork blanket folded in the cradle. The corners are tattered and the stitches are coming loose.

I gave birth to three girls. The youngest, we named her Sparrow because she was so tiny and came so early. She was born with a milky film over her eyes. Some part of me felt blessed by her blindness. She would need me more than the others. She would need me forever.

My husband is out back, in the yard. People blame him for what happened to our family. They came out of their homes in the middle of the night to watch as the thick plume of black smoke rose right up to darken the face of god. There were so many stars in the sky. The moon was fat and yellow and looked down on everything. The moon was sorry for me.

I burned my hands sifting through the embers. I stumbled on the charred shape of my Sparrow. I cried so loud and gulped down so much ash, my throat still bleeds on cold, dry nights. I buried the gasoline can in the garden; I couldn’t bear its metal and shine.

He caught me gathering eggs in the hen house. He knew I would take them to the cabin in the hollow where four children lived without a mother. She died in the snow trying to snare a rabbit. The drifts in the valley can be murderous and sudden, but food is also scarce.

Their father was a quiet man with terrible, bent hands and swollen knuckles. He picked wildflowers and made medicine from their petals. He spent long hours out in the meadow shepherding his flock. We knew one another when we were young. He thatched the wheat grass and made a place for me to lay.

I was a girl when I was with him. My husband knew I took them eggs and the ends of our bread. I fed him strawberries pinched between my fingers.

The cradle creaks sometimes although it never rocks. I don’t go near it. There is dust on the coverlet that I won’t brush free. It’s the same with my husband’s stone. Moss grows on its west facing side and I can’t bring myself to clear it away. He is buried in the burned rubble of the shed. The lock he put on the door didn’t burn. It is nestled darkly into the grass, stuck there obscenely. I don’t touch it for fear it will burn me straight through to my bones. They say that bones usher forth a sound like screaming when they burn. The marrow boils and is released as an angry steam.

I couldn’t tell the difference between my own voice and the screaming of my girls, locked inside. Maybe their bones were howling.

“I don’t hate you,” he said when he found me dreaming in the sun with my blouse undone. “But, I will find a way to make you understand what you’ve done. You’ve taken everything that matters.”

My babies share a grave. I keep their space clean and a young willow tree is growing there. The worms will aerate the soil and it will grow tall and strong.

I’m older than I was. I don’t go into town, anymore. My eyes are grey and they used to be blue. I am the only one alive and the shadows on the stairs are my memories.

photo by rob & stephanie levy


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Alyssa Goes Bang challenged me with "The comforts of home," and I challenged Kelly Garriott Waite with "There are just so many of them!"


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The National Blog Posting Month prompt from yesterday made me think. It was something like: talk about a trauma you've been through. Of course that question is urging you to talk about something that caused you emotional and spiritual trauma. Everybody is always saying things like, "Emotional wounds can hurt more than physical wounds."

But what about the times they don't?

Have you ever been hurt so bad physically that it destroyed you and changed the ways you saw things?

My c-sections were that thing for me. Recovering from them was full of a pain so pure and focused, it changed the way the world looked from where I stood.

Mamas, please don't hate me for saying so, but the first time I stood up after my first c-section, the first few steps I took afterward... they hurt infinitely more than my 9-10 centimeter contractions.

All I could think was, No. What has this done to me?

After Louise's birth, I woke up in the morning and the morphine was gone. A sweet, clunky nurse in a white cardigan told me that she wanted me to get up and shower this morning. I decided to attack this thing, head on. I decided to get up and moving as soon as I could, before breakfast and pain pills. I wanted to be an overachieving healer.

Standing up was nothing short of exquisite. It was a pain so deliberate and palpable, it erased the existence of everything.

Standing in the hospital bathroom, there was a plastic chair across the room, in the shower. I was going to faint with every step. The pain made me nauseated, I leaned over the toilet as best I could and my stomach heaved involuntarily.

Pain so real and so deep inside of me, it was everything.

The ticking of the heat lamp overhead.
The steam from the shower.
My face was grey in the mirror.
There were purple marks under my eyes.

I couldn't cry. I couldn't expend a moment of focus on anything but surviving this moment. I couldn't talk with any volume. I whispered instructions to my husband because it hurt too badly to project my voice into the air.

Kurt knelt at my feet as I stood gasping and gripping the shower wall. The warmth of the water was soothing. I felt like a baby. I felt like this was the first moment of my life. He only had the clothes he was wearing. He washed my legs for me. I shivered and bit my tongue. Looking down at him with the curtain open, there was a wide puddle of water gathering around him. He was soaking, so gingerly smoothing soap over the sagging surface of my body.

His face upturned, he said Thank You. Thank you for this and I am so sorry.

He doesn't ever cry.

It broke my heart.

From that moment on, he was the person who bathed my feet on the first day of my life. He was kneeling and soaked and his eyes were so blue. Drops of water fell from his eyelashes. Our baby was away with a nurse getting blood tests. He was the only thing that existed because he shared the pain with me, a little bit. He wanted to gut himself with my sorrow and take it.

Maybe nobody thinks to write about physical pain because it's not a secret. Maybe it's because it goes away when the other kinds of pain really don't.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It is so quiet here.

I can hear the air coming through the vents.

The quiet is warming me, turning my body slack.

We had a friend over this morning, and three lunches, three trips to the bathroom, three pairs of shoes, three carseats in the back. Then there was school and groceries and the park. It is November and the sun is shining. What a miracle! Louisey is obsessed with going down slides. But then, in the car, she threw up all over herself.

During the winter months, my children are overcome with the plague.

I tell Daddy to meet us at the library because Scouty is so sure that she's going to pee herself, we couldn't possibly make it home.

I stare through the windshield at the day that is darkening much too soon. I watch as my fantasy of having a walk through the leaves before it gets too late turns into another one of those things that we'll have time for when we're old.

When the girls are grown, we'll go to movies and have lunch outside, reading the paper. When we're old, we can act like kids again. We won't even have time to notice that we're waiting for it; a free Sunday morning, a dinner where nobody is spitting anything out.

For now, I'm crammed into the bathroom at the children's library. I'm peeling a little dress with mushrooms printed on the front over my baby's head. My big girl is kicking her feet and singing, her beautiful little voice echoing off the yellow tile. "I need your jacket, honey," I tell her. "Louisey's pants are covered in puke and I don't have any other ones."

"Why do you need my jacket?"

"Well, I'm going to put her legs through the arm holes and then buckle her into the stroller and hopefully nobody will notice that she's wearing a jacket for pants," I explain.

This is just novel enough to work. This is just the sort of thing people can't comprehend unless they've been here. That delirious moment where you've rattled your wheels right off. Where the hope of keeping it together is so far behind you, there's nothing left but to go jangling around in public places, inventing clothing and rinsing the barf off of your children in the bathroom sink.

But then, there's Daddy. He's tall and smartly dressed and fresh from work smelling of copier toner and Old Spice. He's impossibly blonde and boyish and he tells you, "I'll take the girls home and get them cleaned up. You come home whenever you're ready."

I'm sitting in the library with this wonderful book in my lap, absorbing the lightness of a quiet place.


Today's post is a link up with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary's Just Write. If you want to join in, write something about the details of your day and link up! Be sure to read a few other pieces and get to know some great new writers in the process.

Monday, November 7, 2011

She'll leave before we are ready.

Sometimes I think it must be a profoundly sad thing to be a human being.

Kurt told me about something he learned about life once, I think from watching the Sopranos. He said that humanity is all one big storm, all together we're roiling clouds and flashes of light. To understand what it means to be a person, you should picture millions of little tornadoes reaching down to touch the earth.

That's why we're always holding our babies close. That's why we hug our lovers, probe for ways to get inside of them and let them inside of ourselves. Somewhere in the sky, we know each other. When we're born, we're a tiny tornado and when we die, we turn back into the storm.

I was tired last night. I forgot to refill my pills. Kurt wanted to watch football, but I asked him to stay in bed for a little while.

We don't go away. We don't go away lonely. We are so lonely while we live that we press our darlings against us, breath them and need their warmth.

I wasn't sleeping last night, not really. I didn't want to be bothered, either. I curled against my husband. There has always been a place on his collarbone where my face fits. I wanted him to be still so that I could clumsily fit myself into all of his spaces. I half-slept and dreamed that we were twenty years old, again. I remembered what it felt like to be young and to not be alone, not touching the cold earth anymore, suddenly. I remembered when I recognized him as the thing that would keep me warm, that would help me to be alive. I let myself remember that.

When people want to die, it isn't because life doesn't have meaning. People want to die when nobody wants to be inside of them. Sometimes people are actually lonely. Sometimes they're filthy; sometimes they do bad things that nobody else should touch. Sometimes they only feel that way.

I think about how we build these little homes. We live in them and leave them at some point. When we do, some other little humans will move their lives in and settle down in the dark together in the space where we slept. Dear, lonely little animals clinging to one another because it's all we can do.

That's why we need our mommies. That's why we need to let her go. She'll leave before we are ready. That is why people forgive their fathers when they shouldn't.

I was lonely as a girl. Some of that loneliness became me, so that I'll be in a small space with all my love piled around me and I feel like a ghost. Sometimes I feel that being alive is a deliriously wonderful thing. We'll all be back together someday.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Money, and where I'm from.

I bought some Christmas presents last night, and then came home and freaked out about money. I snapped at Kurt and told him that he had to either agree to freak out with me, or come up with a solution. He was just sitting there, watching football and looking at me with big blue eyes.

I went to bed early because I was being an asshole and there wasn't a cure for it.

There's something I need to remember, though.

When Scouty was born, we didn't have ANYTHING. We lived in a tiny apartment in a tiny place on the outskirts of the town where I was finishing college. Kurt drove almost two hours to get to work, and two hours home. He made WAY LESS money than he does now.

When I was this mom, I didn't have anything.

I didn't know what it was like to have anything. For our first Christmas as a family of three, Scouty didn't get presents from us. She was too small to know the difference. I think I bought her a book about snowmen.

My baby didn't even own shoes until she was walking. That wasn't something to shake my head at. It was just her childhood and her little toes knew the dirt and that was all I knew about supporting a family.

We have a lot, now. We're homeowners and have two cars and live in a nice enough neighborhood in the city. We have memberships to museums and play places and the gym. We have bikes and scooters and attend preschool. We shop at health food stores and go on hayrides and have a hammock in the back yard. There is a decorative wreath on our door. We struggle to make it to the end of the month, sometimes. Everything is fine.

I have hangups about being poor. I was born in a farm house and spent my early childhood in a trailer park. I've seen how people who have nothing desperately need a god. I've seen how women with nothing need to keep their eyes closed. Men with nothing take ownership of things that don't belong to them. I've seen a lot.

Sometimes it's hard for me to understand that we don't belong to those things anymore. I'm afraid of the cracked sidewalks and wooden alters in my memory. I'm afraid that the offering plate will land in my lap. If I'm not careful, the seams I've mended might split.

It's true that I'll be that girl, my pants rolled up around my knees, dirt under my nails... I'll be her forever. I'll always be from a small town hidden in the brush. I'll always be one of the little children Jesus loves, but I don't have to be afraid of those things anymore.

I didn't choose those things.

If we have to be careful with money for a few weeks so that I can stuff our closet with hidden Christmas presents, it will be okay. There will be enough food. My daughter has a dentist appointment this week. We'll visit daddy at lunch time. My sister will invite us to her house for Thanksgiving. Maybe Louise will wear a dress, they haven't seen her in so long. She walks now.

We don't belong to those things.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Life List

I started a life list a few years ago and kept it in my wallet. Since then, I've changed it around, completed a few things, added lots of things and there's still room for lots more. I'd like to have at least 100 things.

What's on your list?
Is there anything you feel like everybody HAS to do or try in their lifetime?
Is there somewhere near you that you think I just HAVE to see?

1. Write a book
2. Publish a book
3. Become an athlete
4. Stop having panic attacks
5. Have a savings account
6. Go on a camping trip
7. Have two babies
8. Write a memoir
9. Remove wallpaper and paint the inside of the house
10. Get married
11. Plant a successful garden
12. Go to The Outer Banks as a family
13. Go back to Shenandoah with the girls.
14. Go to South America
15. Build shelving and organization into our house design
16. Stop procrastinating
17. Go to New Hampshire again with Kurt
18. Go to Disney World
19. See a whale
20. Go to the beach in winter
21. Go to Atlantic City with Kurt
22. Go to New Orleans
23. Hike up a mountain
24. Visit Yosemite High Country
25. Go on a real honeymoon
26. Go on a road trip with my girls
27. Get (relatively) skinny
28. Build a tree house
29. Get/build a tiny house for the back yard where I can read and nap
30. Give myself a brave haircut
31. Go to NYC with Kurt
32. Get rid of our carpeting and lay down flooring
33. Get brave enough to go down a really big water slide
34. Go to Kennywood with just Kurt
35. See Jenny Lewis again
36. Help somebody in a really big way
37. Throw a holiday party
38. Ride my bike at Presque Isle on Lake Erie
39. Go snow tubing
40. Paddle a kayak on the rivers
41. Get cool glasses
42. Go to the West Coast
43. Speak in public
44. Learn to can and put up my own vegetables
45. Build loft beds for all of us
46. Go scuba diving (or snorkeling, I guess.)
47. Visit a volcano
48. Go on a cross country road trip
49. Go skiing
50. Give somebody a huge surprise
51. Plant an apple tree
52. Furnish our house so it's our dream home
53. Go raw vegan for 30 days
54. Fly first class
55. Do something totally out of character
56. Go on a cruise
57. Go to Alaska in the summer
58. Win an award
59. Explore a ghost town
60. Ride in a Limo
61. Go to Salem for Halloween
62. Get more tattoos
63. Learn how to work on cars
64. Have dinner at Wild Rosemary
65. Have a real Christmas Tree

Friday, November 4, 2011

OF COURSE I will. I'm joining NaBloPoMo.

I've decided at the last minute to participate in National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo, if you can handle it. For some reason I can't handle the acronym. It makes me feel weird to think my way through it.)

So, that means that you should be seeing a post every day from me for the rest of the month of November.

NaBloPoMo 2011

The official prompt for today is: When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?

And, to that, I have to say, I prefer the computer.

So, there's this picture of me.

I posted it a few days ago. It's not new to you.

Kurt wrote me an email about it. Here is part of it:

I cannot stop looking at this picture.

This is a situation where, like, something seemingly small has a tine of wires and connections and meanings and roots twisting off of it. Like, when I die, if you were going to tell the story of my life with as quickly and as easily but as accurately as possible, this picture tells a million words about one of the most important pieces of my life.

There was my youth. Then there was my wasted youth. Then there's been my adulthood. And this picture tells everything you need to do about the bridge between my wasted youth and my adulthood.

This is my girl. That is my shirt. That is my baby in her belly.

I have to be very careful, here. This is exactly one of those situations where beauty and its magnitude start swelling in my chest until I think I'm going to come apart at the seams, and then I'll spend the rest of the day going insane, and I'll be insane when I come home, and I'll get upset at night over not owning enough of you, anymore - that's how it happens, by the way.

You are so fucking gorgeous, it breaks my heart. And in this picture, you're such a little kid. And when I see pictures of me from the same time, I'm such a little kid. And it's fun to look at these pictures, and want to hug these kids and tell them, "Hey, guys, it's going to be okay. It's going to be really, really hard, but it's going to be okay." And it feels good to realize that we're now in a place where we would have the right to say that to those kids. Because, yes, we're still often times... fucked. And, yes, things are still really, really hard. But we've come so far. And we've done it together.

I didn't realize what kids we were, at the time. But I see it, now. And thank you for letting me grow up with you at my side. Thank you for growing the world's two most amazing little souls in the safety of your belly, and for making a father and a husband out of me. This sounds weird, and I'm embarrassed by the sentiment, but thank you for loving me.

He also asked me on the phone if I would take off all of my clothes after movie night tonight, after it's too late and I'm tired and the girls are sleeping. He wanted to know if I would just lay next to him and let him be the center of my attention for a single hour. Could we talk and laugh because we're really funny and just be friends, like we used to?

When we were kids, we barely knew each other, but I knew him with everything in me. I knew him with all of my energy.

I think to myself, "Of course I can do that." What does it mean that my husband is asking me for an hour of my attention. Of course I can do that.

But, I don't. Not usually. While parenting is one of the most long-suffering and challenging things I've ever done, it has only managed to fracture my attention span. It's like I live in a place that hasn't happened yet, or maybe one that never will.

I don't give anybody my full attention, not even for an hour.

It's so bad that I'm bursting with darkness, I'm bursting with displeasure and dissonance. I write blood spattered stories about people who are losing their minds. I scratch with a mean little pen, telling tales that should make me blush.

It's like I'm either the homeroom mom or I'm a monster, froth in my mouth as I gnash my terrible teeth.

The truth is that I'm not anything.

I am wild and in between times. I drive too fast when I'm alone. I can't handle the sound of loud music. I need to be able to hear my voice above the din.

When I get alone, I feel so frenzied and raw. I feel like my palms are bleeding against a fevered grip on the moment. When there's nobody near me, nobody I'm responsible for, I say to myself, "Here is your chance to lay it all out. Here is your chance to flip everything on it's side. You don't have to be good and perfect and kind, right now. You don't have to be soft, your arms don't have to be open. You'd better tear a hole in your knee. You'd better bite down until you bleed."

I belong to everybody. I'm free to organize the winter party. I get up with my four year old and make waffles and snuggle in front of cartoons. I brush hair from foreheads. Attend play dates at the park. I wear earrings that dangle and sensible underwear. I let my kids eat crackers while we shop for groceries. I am everybody, just another one of us.

But really, I have a lot of sharpness inside of me. There is a lot of struggling against my skin, inside of me.

I am kind of a loner.

I'm really friendly and talkative and warm. I'm a good person to meet for the first time. I'm easy going and animated.

And also, I'm kind of an animal in a trap.

All I was meaning to say is that, OF COURSE I will give my husband my attention tonight after we watch a movie with Scouty. After we share Halloween candy and chips under a blanket. After he has fallen asleep and been nudged awake. OF COURSE I will just be something, be for real, belong to the living and the doing and the present moment.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Magic, magic, magic, magic

I had a parent/teacher conference with Scouty's teachers today. Louisey was crawling around at my feet bringing me pieces of a puzzle. I always get nervous going in to these things, even though I know my girl. There is no way in hell anybody would ever have something negative to say about her.

It's just that I love her so much.

Her teachers told me the same things they've always been telling me... that she's kind and deliberate. She's generous and thoughtful. She's a good friend and has a long attention span. That she's determined to learn how to read and write.

While I was listening to these women describing my big girl, I swear to god that my throat was burning, that I could feel my face getting hot. I was clenching inside, trying to hold back an embarrassing display of tears.

I have a goal not to look crazy in front of my child's teachers. The meeting took about five minutes, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it.


I'll spare you all the details. She is a wonderful child, but me saying so will only make you think I'm one of those moms who can't see the truth. If I start telling you how amazing she is, you will only be led to believe that I exaggerate.

I suppose I do exaggerate.

But, my Scouty is really so wonderful that you wouldn't believe it. About a million times a day, I look at her sweet little face, or watch her playing with her friends and I feel all of a sudden like my heart is breaking. That she's actually killing me with her goodness, with how beautiful and sweet and darling she is.

(I feel bad every time I write about Scouty and don't mention Louise. Please believe that everything Louisey does blows my mind, too. It's just that, Louisey is still a part of me. She is attached to my body almost every minute of the day. She is so close to me that I'm breathing her breath. I am proud of her, too. That needs to be said. She makes me breathless, too.)

Magic Girl. I have no idea what I'll do with myself when I don't have requests for homemade halloween costumes to fill every year. (You can't tell, but the stars on her costume light up. I wired them to do that. I'll accept my award, now.)

Big sister and little poodle.

I guess that all I mean to say is that we're making it, out here. Life is long sometimes, and there are a million moments of being so happy I could cry stretching out in front of me into forever.