Friday, December 30, 2011

I want to be a monster, this year. My one word.

I'm fairly outgoing. I'm good with new people. When everybody in a room is uncomfortable and shy, I'm the kind of person who speaks up, asks questions and gives out compliments.

That's not really what I'm like, though.

Every time I go for a long walk, I try to pick the roads where I won't see anybody. When I have to smile and say hi, it kind of kills me.

Even though it was insanely muddy and the hems of my pants were dragging on the ground, I was driven into the woods, today.

I don't know why I want it so much, to not be seen.

I used to paint myself like a party balloon. I had pink hair and dreadlocks and boobs out to THERE and I wore makeup and sewed colorful dresses. Everybody looked at me, everywhere I went. I won't claim that I hated it, but I did. I got to hate it.

When I had a baby, I cut my hair, scrubbed my face and put on some goddamn underwear. I didn't know who I was. My appearance had always been a deterrent to some kinds of people and an invitation to others. I was always wild and out of control. I wasn't the kind of girl you brought home to mommy.

Suddenly, I WAS mommy. And, oh my god, mommies aren't wild and fancy. Mommies aren't sexy, they aren't artists. They don't ask for things, least of all attention for themselves. They don't express a point of view. They don't rebel. They don't embarrass themselves. They are mom. They feed babies and put pies on windowsills. They worry about dishpan hands. They take care of themselves. They read books recommended by Oprah. They go jogging in the mornings. They like moderate amounts of things like wine and chocolate. When they're having a really bad day and they're totally losing it, they might call a girlfriend and go shopping. They don't tell their husbands how much they spent.

I wanted to do it right.

I wanted my daughters to be proud of me.

I started to go crazy.

It's been hard for me to let go of these feelings. That moms don't look like I do. They don't say the things I say. They don't build robots out of duct tape and garbage. They don't eat and they don't run wild. They don't ask for things. They don't want freedom. They don't need freedom. They don't question authority. They don't know the devil. They don't remember honey in their veins, a brilliant, blond boy between their thighs, and how it was to die. They don't pull at the threads of their hems. They don't pluck their children from bed and hold them in the eerie light of midnight because they're afraid to be apart in the dark. They don't get into moods where swallowing seems weird, where food looks like a function, where love looks like seagulls and a mating dance.

Moms don't admit things. They might half admit that there's dirt in the kitchen, but it will be cleaned up before anybody arrives. They don't have things inside of them that need to get out. They don't want anything so badly it burns their throats and stains their fingertips. They weren't people, before. They were pretty girls just waiting to be filled. They didn't make mistakes. They weren't pieces of shit. They weren't junkies. Their fathers loved them. They came from homes with enough closet space. They weren't crammed into the arms of God, beaten up by the fists of God.

They aren't forces of nature.

I get confused, sometimes... but not nearly as often as I used to.

I wanted to choose a New Year's Word, like people are doing, nowadays. I remember that in years past, I chose things like "fit" and "organized."

I took a long walk today, expecting that I would come up with a word. I walked the back roads at South Park and kept having to pass joggers and people walking dogs. Waving a little wave and saying, Hi! It was awful. I couldn't bear another moment of, "Oh man, there's somebody coming towards me. I can only just make them out from here, so I'll look down and cover some distance and then look at them again to see if they're close enough for a smile. Okay, it's almost time to smile, hold it, hold it, look down, look up, hold it and... SMILE! Oh no, I smiled too soon. Now I have to look down for a few more seconds and smile again and then say hi. I'm so weird and stupid. Hello and smile and done!"

It's all just too awful. I was just so tired of things like saying hi. I wasn't sure I could bear it another moment.

There was melting snow and mud everywhere. I cut into the woods and spent all afternoon jumping over fallen logs and catapulting myself over mud pits with rotting sticks. I got dirty. My glasses fogged up. I slipped and dropped my keys into the mud. I pretended I was a bear, that I was a monster in the forest. If anybody hiked through my land, I would gobble them up! I slid down an embankment and awkwardly crossed a trickling stream by jumping from rock to rock. I missed my girls. I thought how Scouty has hair the color of the forest floor. Nobody could see me. Nothing matters when nobody can see you. You could have the world's worst secret, you could tell it out loud and it wouldn't matter. I didn't even have the world's worst secret. You could be the world's worst goal setter, and it doesn't matter when you're a bear in the woods.

I might have been tempted to pick the word "fit" again, this year. It's a good thing to be. One of those people who wear bike helmets and spandex shorts and who carry an apple in their back packs and have special gloves for biking.

Fit and lean. I'm pretty sure those are only the kinds of goals I make when people are looking.

The truth is that nobody is actually looking, and if they are, it doesn't matter. The people who REALLY SEE me already know what I am. Nobody else cares. I don't need to be fitter and more organized and more mom-ish. All I need to be is the thing I am when I'm alone, crashing through the brambles like a wild thing. I need to love my family, I need to love my husband and my friends and people who are kind and who touch me. None of those people want me to be "fit" in the new year. None of those people want me to stop straining against my ties.

My One Word for the year is creature.

I don't want to mold myself and improve myself according to a predetermined set of standards. I don't want to be easier to digest. I don't want to fit better into the clothes they sell. I don't want to make more money or organize my things. I don't want to plan my future.

I want to be a bear. I want to be a storm in the trees. I want to be an animal. I want to love what I love. I want to have too much of things. I want to throw something away. I want to be what I am. I want to be happy, like the way I am when nobody is looking. I want to be this creature, strange and inappropriate and imperfect and great and strong and powerful. I want to walk until my legs are sore, crash, crash, CRASH. I want to sing songs that make people afraid. I want to tell stories that say too much and make people nervous. I want to be perfect, just like I am, with dirt on my hems and forgotten hours turning into evening. I want to be a terrible, wonderful monster in the moss.

What's your One Word, this year?


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Snakes - Writing Challenge Piece

Coyote at Padre Island National Seashore
photo by terry ross

Most people don't think it matters how you die, once you're dead. There are some ways that are eternal, though. I died looking for a gun in the desert. I buried it a month ago. He came home with it, reeling and tripping all over the place in the dirt. When he passed out in a puddle of his own urine, turning the dust to mud, I took it.

There were snakes asleep on the rocks, the night I died. I startled them, pushing through the brittle brush and flipping things over. He would have killed me. He may have even been planning to bite me, too.

I could have followed the light back to the trailer. I thought for a moment that I might skirt his attention by sticking to the dark and leaving my shoes. I could call for a ride into town, for somebody who might suck out the poison.

I laid down and felt my calf getting hot, instead. I felt the muscle clench and my teeth chattered. The first thing the coyotes ate were my fingers. They came at me gently, curiously, taking little nips of flesh with the tips of their teeth.

My eyes were closed, but I saw everything under the moon. Morning wouldn't come, not for me. There were snakes guarding my weapon. There were snakes keeping watch over everything. They traveled the length of me, slid their tongues between my clenched teeth and over the drying membrane of my eyes. I was one of them now and grateful. I would be forever.


This post is an entry at Trifecta Writing Challenge. The deal is that you have to write a piece using the third definition of a given word in 33 -333 words. It's fun. You should give it a try, too and link up here. This week's word was skirt.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lilu challenged me with "The day I lost my finger," and I challenged Tara with "The third one was just right".



The Magic Room - Blogher Blook Club Review

The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow is a sweet little book that absolutely doesn't live up to its promises.

A collection of family lore, The Magic Room follows the Becker family and its business of selling wedding gowns to the world out of a little shop in a small mid-western town. We follow generations of Beckers as they pass the reigns of the family business through changing times where customers have evolving ideas about what it means to be a bride.

The family has been selling gowns since the 1930's, when a wedding dress was a modest affair that was often passed around from sister to sister to cousin to friend. Over time, the bridal shop and its "magic room" full of mirrors in which a bride can glimpse herself silhouetted in her wedding dress from every imaginable angle, has catered to thousands of brides with changing expectations. What was once a humble operation has turned into something, well, sort of fabulous, just like brides themselves.

Interspersed with Becker family history and their points of view about ever-changing wedding culture (for good and for bad), are vignettes about various brides coming through Becker's Bridal and seeing themselves in The Magic Room. These chapters are sweet and sentimental and the brides often open up about their own family history and what it means to them to be getting married.

All of this is totally pleasant, palatable reading. The only thing is that, if you even glance at its cover, The Magic Room bills itself as "A Story About the Love We Want for Our Daughters." Maybe Zaslow intended to write a story about the love we want for our daughters and ended up taking another route and telling a story about one family's experience with selling wedding gowns and how the wedding industry has changed around them. If that is the case, someone should have updated the book's subtitle.

Overall, this book is nice. It contains some interesting statistics about weddings and marriage and how they are changing. Some of the stories about the Beckers and their customers are engaging. Mostly, though, it is sort of like a mild-mannered afternoon TLC show about weddings, only in book form. I mean, sometimes that sort of thing is nice while you're on the elliptical and all the other channels are showing game or talk shows, or whatever.

Why don't you check out what the other Blogher Book Club members thought and decide for yourself?

I was modestly compensated for this review by Blogher and the opinions about this book having no balls or emotional hook and mostly sucking are all my own.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Birthday List

My birthday is in a few days. I'm going to be 33 years old.

Thirty-Three used to seem like a really big number. Like when Scouty tells me, "Thirty-three reminds me of a hundred!"

I realize now that it's plenty young.

Here's my list of 34 things I want to accomplish before my 34th birthday

1. 40 pushups at once.
2. 3 minutes of planks on my elbows
3. Take a weekend away to write.
4. Write a second novel - At least a first draft.
5. 30 days no sugar or refined flour
6. 30 days no dairy
7. Finally finish taking down Louisey's wallpaper and paint her room
8. Build a raised bed with a fence to keep animals out of my lettuce and spinach
9. Save $1000
10. Consolidate our credit cards
11. Go to New York this summer for Blogher.
12. Query somebody every month.
13. Go to Lake Erie
14. Run/Walk/Elliptical 500 miles
15. Read 50 books
16. Swim in the ocean
17. Get a pedicure
18. Grow some heirlooms
19. Grow a successful melon
20. Go rollerskating
21. Go to a place I've never been before
22. 60 Yoga sessions
23. Go on an overnight trip with Kurt and stay up late and sleep in
24. Make pasta from scratch
25. Cut back the hedges with a chainsaw
26. Send 12 handwritten letters
27. Sew this flannel shirt: McCalls 5338
28. Sew this portfolio dress: Simplicity 2245
29. Play kickball
30. Get a tattoo
31. Install wooden floors downstairs
32. Win something
33. Go to the casino
34. See a movie that actually totally scares me

Wish me luck. Especially with the pushups. I can do about 15, now and I'm not getting any younger!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas wasn't how we planned...

So, Little One, Christmas didn't end up being like we planned. We spent it without your big sis, crying together in a hospital room. You were heartbreaking in a little open-backed gown that tied around your perfect little neck.

Scouty B wasn't feeling well, either. I guess she got a paper cut at Grandmas and curled up on the couch and cried. We missed her a lot.

I was careful not to get upset about how we never got to see the gingerbread houses and the trains, how you rushed through your presents, holding your throat and trying to be happy. I tried very hard not to compare it to the holiday in my plans. You only get disappointed about things when you have expectations that refuse to fade away.

I guess you also get a little disappointed when you spend a little over five hours on Christmas in the emergency room. I didn't want to say this, but I was more than a little disappointed to see that my baby couldn't walk without falling down, that nothing could console her, not even the magic of Christmas morning.

Still, though. You were so tired and missing your nap. You wouldn't eat or drink and you'd been subjected to rectal thermometers, an x-ray, throat culture and rsv test. The hospital room was too bright, there was too much noise in the hallway and you're stubborn. You simply DID NOT WANT TO SLEEP, so we didn't try to make you.

I did hold you while you sobbed and we walked the hallways, though. Your little head slowly came to rest on my shoulder. Daddy pulled the curtain shut and I held you against me while you slept. Your heaviness and warmth were all I've ever wanted.

Merry Christmas, Baby.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Silent Night - Writing Challenge Piece

My wife killed herself on Christmas Eve. My daughter died a few weeks before that.

A year later, I'm cowering against the back of the closet in the master bedroom. I can't remember the last time I slept in our bed. I didn't even try it after my wife died. Even being in this room, where we stayed up late, sticky with sweat, my fingers wrapping the length of her hair in an easy fist; well, it makes me sick to look at the bed.

My daughter's room casts an equal feeling of terror and panic over my heart. She was four. The nurse on the phone said we didn't need to bring her into the emergency room if she wasn't wheezing or gasping for breath. We should give her Tylenol for her sore throat and fever. She advised us not to use one of the vaporizers that emit hot steam. They were too dangerous.

The cool mist humidifier is still sitting next to her bed. The sheets, sour with the scent of fever, are still fastened to the mattress.

My wife finished shopping early last year. It was the first time Christmas would really mean something to our daughter, she said. It was the first year she'd be too excited to sleep. Neatly wrapped presents are piled in our closet with the summer clothes covering them. All of the name tags say "Callie." My wife even disguised her handwriting and adopted a more solid penmanship, worthy of the man himself.

"Love, Santa," they all say.

I'm looking at them, but I can't bring myself to touch them.

My sister suggested I give them away to needy kids. I should drop them off at the homeless shelter. There's no use in spending my life holding on to something like that. I don't know what's in most of them. I've never liked shopping, especially not around the holidays.

They whisper to me in little crinkling voices. I want to open them and press myself against their blinking lights and plastic eyes. I want to eat them, to take them inside of me and digest them, feel them against the roof of my mouth. They hold ghosts and I want to be one, too.

I didn't believe in guns, before. Once my girls were gone, I bought one and started shooting things. I have a brother who hunts. He offered to go shooting with me, for fun. I didn't shoot my gun for fun, though. I've bitten down on the tip of the barrel so many times. It makes me sick that he shoots animals, anyway.

I'm going to kill myself here in the light of a bare bulb surrounded by hundreds of darling little bows and the name "Callie" in a hand I recognize as being the last evidence of happiness in the world. The only thing my wife wrote after these tags was her suicide letter. It was addressed to me.

"I hate everything," it said in her own handwriting. "I hate God and I hate you for being alive when she's not. I hate God."

That was it. Only, at the the bottom of the page she scribbled, "I love you."

It's Christmas Eve again. I've bitten down on the barrel.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Chaos Mandy challenged me with "Silent Night, Undead Night" and I challenged femmefauxpas with "There is a stain on the carpet. It's really hard to see."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Good news and bad news...

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that I'm going to be a star.

The bad news is that Kurt probably has a secret gambling problem. Or maybe it's Scouty.

I'm not a very mystical person. I don't even believe in God because it's too silly. But, when I was asked if I wanted to get a free psychic reading and then write about it, my answer was yes. I love the idea of a weird subculture of wacky seers and wizards who can see straight through to the heart of you. I love that they're a mildly persecuted group. They have their own fashion sense, their own mannerisms and language. They are true eccentrics. I love it most of all that occasionally, they make sensible, down to earth people feel like they've been touched by another dimension.

So, yes. I wanted to get a psychic reading.

I called in the first time unprepared. I connected with a woman named Serenity or Tranquility or something, and when she asked what she could help me with, I balked. I thought that I would just say my name and she would begin spewing facts about my love life. I said something like, "Um, I don't know. I don't really know how this works..."

She said, in a voice wizened by years of filterless cigarette smoking, "How what works?"

"Oh," I said. "Well, what do you need to know?"

"What do I need to know?" she said.

"About me?" I said.

"What are you TALKING about?" she said.

Uh oh. I was testing Serenity's patience. "Sorry. Can you... um, tell me about my career?" I asked.

"Okay..." she said. "What about it?"

"Will it go well?" I said.

"I see that you're lacking direction," she said. "You're indecisive and don't know which direction to take."

"Okay..." I said, waiting for a moment of prophecy. Nothing happened.

"What about my book?" I asked.

"Your BOOK?" she said.


"What do you mean, what about your book?" she asked.

"I wrote a book," I said.

"It's choppy and needs work," she said impatiently "You don't have a clear direction."

I panicked and hung up the phone.

So, now I knew that if you wanted a psychic reading over the phone, you couldn't just call and say hi. I needed some parameters. I had already wasted two of my minutes. I jotted down some notes that read, "Ask about finding a literary agent. Love life?"

I called back, and this time I chose a flamboyant sounding man named Rosco. He sounded like someone who would wear a big earring. I was hoping he wouldn't use his gifts to see that I had already totally rubbed another psychic the wrong way.

I asked him, "I'm currently seeking representation for my novel. Can you tell me if it looks good?"

I could hear cards being shuffled and flipped on the other end.

"I'm seeing a man," he said. "Somebody who brings a mature love to your situation. Lots of patience."

"Could it be my husband?" I asked.

"No," he said. "It isn't your husband. It is possibly your agent."

"Oh, okay, good," I said. "So it's looking like my agent is going to be a man?"

"Definitely," he said. "He will be somebody experienced. Somebody assertive and confident."

I thought that my agent sounded a little steamy.

"The image of a star is coming up," he told me. "That doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it usually means something that can be counted on, a reason to be optimistic."

He paused for a few moments, flipped over a few cards and said, "You. I'm seeing that you're going to have a following. You're going to be a star."

Yes. I believe him.

He went on to tell me that if I shifted my focus to a new project, I would just be turning my desire for the world upside down. He said to "conjure my inner warrior", to be more strict about my resolve. He told me that I was on the right path. I just needed to find the confident, experienced older man who is going to bring me some mature love.

Got it.

The conversation was fizzling. I still had a few minutes. I asked, "Can you tell me about my love life, really quickly?" I told him I was married and that we owned a home.

He said, "Your husband is coming across as a weak energy. It's like you have a weak bond. He's not coming across as something strong at all."

Hm. It's probably pretty standard that a married woman who calls a psychic line and asks about her love life isn't totally head over heels for her husband. I kind of said, "Oh, I don't know. That's not really..."

"I see your home," he interrupted. "You have a very stable home life and family situation. Wait a second, have you recently been robbed?"

"No..." I said.

"Does someone in your household have a gambling problem?"

"No!" I said.

He seemed like he didn't believe me.

"We don't have any money to gamble with!" I said.

"Maybe that's what I'm seeing..." he said, dubiously.

The reading finished with him telling me that Kurt was generous and pleasant, but that he sensed that a great loss could happen at any time and that it had something to do with Kurt. He reiterated that we're not really showing a strong, potent bond. Now, I won't hand out any facts, but I am going to totally let you speculate about Kurt's prowess and virility.

In summation, I am going to be famous and sought after and everything, no duh.

And Kurt has a gambling and/or libido problem. A psychic said so.

Closed environment
photo by Tommy Wong


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We were actors and english majors and I wanted to die, I was so special.

What is wrong with me?

I was raised in a revival. God made the blind to see. He made the lame to walk.

A lot of my childhood memories take place in church. Women in tan stockings kicking off their shoes and dancing in the aisles. Giant men falling on their knees in fits of holy laughter. Everybody raised their hands in the air while we sang. People moaned, called out for Jesus to become them, to make them whole, to help them get away from here.

Whispered rumors that a member of the board molested his daughter. Somebody else got drunk and groped the babysitter who returned, red eyed and guilty-looking, to the youth group for prayer.

Sex was wrong.

Once, when I was a little girl, I was walking around saying, "How!" instead of hi, in an impression of an Indian, like from Peter Pan. One of the husbands of the congregation, a mutant with dentures that didn't fit quite right, said to me, "You know how, don't you? You're a bad girl." I squealed and laughed and ran to tell my friends. We were all gawky with braces and hairspray in our hair.

Sex was wrong. Music was wrong. Rebellion was a sin.

The drummer in the holy band that led us all in worship on Sundays; he went away for a long time for making a little girl touch him. She was his neice. She was pretty and funny and didn't have a dad. She eventually moved to one of the mountainous states, far, far away. She had troubles as a teenager and got divorced as an adult. The church forgave her uncle and he came back to play the drums.

None of these things are mine.

Except, my dad hated me.

I've spent my whole life feeling like I was right, only nobody knew it. I was something special. I was bright and talented and smart. I just had to grow up a little bit. I just had to get away from that place. Once I was away from my family and my hometown, then the world would take one look at me and see how I glowed.

Now, I'm almost thirty-three years old and for the most part, I'm unexceptional. I can't seem to finish anything I start.

My dad was a grown up and I was young and idealistic. He used to match wits with me and win. He needed so badly to prove that he was smarter than me. He was bigger than me and meaner and I didn't know shit. I would get excited about something, and he would kick my legs out from under me. He knew more than I did. I tried so hard, but I never won those battles.

So, then, I stopped trying. I only did things that came easy to me. I only attempted things that were a give-in. I became one of those drifting drug kids. I was easily the most adventurous of all my drifting, drug kid friends. I was easily the most suicidal.

One evening, in college, a boy was mean to me and I accidentally coughed all of the marijuana out of the bowl and I was feeling like shit. I was drunk and my head was buzzing with emptiness. There was a pain in my heart. I was hungry and cold and alone. I walked down an alleyway to the gas station and bought a sandwich. I ate it as I walked home, not caring about how I looked, pickles and shreds of lettuce littering the front of my shirt, splats of mustard on the toes of my boots. There was so much fog. I was blinded every time a car passed by me.

I lived in an old house with a revolving number of misunderstood college students. We were a scrappy bunch of artistic losers. Lots of us were gay or hiding something, like missing teeth or a father that wanted to murder us. Kurt was there. He lived in the bedroom next to mine with his girlfriend. She was a pretty girl who couldn't smile without covering her mouth with her hand. We were actors and English majors. Painters and kids who owned worn skateboards far too late into life.

I got home that night and nobody was there. It probably wasn't even very late. I drank a beer and then smashed the bottle on the front stoop. Sitting right there, out in the open on a suburban street in a sweetly nestling college town, I ran the jagged edge of the bottle over my wrists. I fine spray of blood appeared on the front walk.

I went inside and called a boy and told him I was killing myself. He said he loved me, but he didn't. I hung up on him. I left a trail of blood on the wooden floor between the phone and my bedroom. I was something special, I knew it. I've always kind of believed I was brilliant.

In the morning, my arms were stuck to my sheets. I peeled the cotton away from my cuts and my wrists started to ooze fresh blood. I didn't want anybody to see. Everything was a stupid joke. I started wearing the studded leather cuffs one of my roommates gave to me. I wrapped my wrists in bandages and hid them, only not really. Anybody who was looking could see the truth.

So, what do I do, now?

I'm happy, now. I'm married to somebody with integrity and balls and talent. He loves me the same way I love him, which is only slightly less than we love our daughters. We have a little home and we've found ourselves. We know how to live now.

All of that dying nonsense was just us being young. It was just me not being heard, not being seen. It was just that I'd clenched my fists and gritted my teeth and gotten through my unbearable childhood and now, things were supposed to be better.

Nobody could see me. I've always felt like a god. I've always known there was more to life than this.

I'm feeling unseen, right now. I'm feeling like a big, fucking hack. I'm feeling like maybe I only thought I was brilliant because I had to. If I believed what my daddy said, I wouldn't have been able to go to school and play outside and kiss a boy and read Catcher In The Rye and cry. I wouldn't have been able to get out of bed in the morning. I would have picked at all my scabs and made knots in my hair. I would have plucked out my lashes and bit my lips until they bled.

Maybe I have only been suffering a pleasant delusion. One that dictates that I'm somebody special, that I've got a gift, that I will someday be heard and everything will be better.

I work and I bleed and I tell the truth. I love the right people and try to take care of myself. I get eight hours of sleep. I have adorable mom friends who laugh at all the right things and keep me company. I have two beautiful girls who are so happy and wonderful that the world falls down at their feet, everywhere they walk. I have trendy mom shoes and a gym membership. I have a better life than anybody expected me to. I do a good job. I can barely stand to look at myself in the mirror.

I'm disorganized and short tempered. I'm constantly making schedules that only mean something for a few hours. I have no time and I never get anything done. I hunker down and pull the shades and disappear over my manuscript and a set of form letters. Rejection, rejection, rejection. Even the story nerds in my writing groups have lost interest.

I am something special. You have to believe me, buddy. You will be able to say that you knew me when. They're gonna know my name at the bank.

I don't know what to do. I don't even know what's wrong. Everybody is so perky and fit and streamlined and successful. I have no idea where I fit. All I know is that I'm nothing.


Good morning.

It's winter and I don't want to wake up.

My big girl crawled into bed with me last night, along with three of her blankets and a tumbling armload of stuffed animals. I lay, squished between them and daddy for a few minutes and then I whisper, "Honey, I'm sorry but you're being kicked out."

Daddy is really so sweet. I kiss him seven times sleepily on the shoulder. He doesn't protest. I stretch my arm and leg into the warmth he left behind. We're not the kind of parents to kick a baby out of bed. I think I'm probably just glad that they need me.

Our curtains are sheer, though and they let in the very first rays of morning sun. Scouty starts talking to a little white teddy bear she got yesterday at school. He came with a little note attached to his ear that said, "Happy Holidays. Love, your teachers," so he is, understandably very special. Through my attempts to keep sleeping, I hear her say, "Your name is Ted. Don't forget to tell mommy when she wakes up." Then her pointy little toes nudge me in the ribs. I do my best not to startle. I'm still sleeping, see?

Soon, little whispers between her and Ted turn into amazing acrobatic feats on his part. Somersaults in the air that make Scouty laugh, especially when he gets a little out of control and his plastic eyes smack off of the ceiling. "Mama," she says, "Can you get up, yet?"

"Five more minutes," I tell her.

She spends those five minutes jumping on the bed. I don't mind. I'm still warm and my eyes are still closed.

"I'm thirsty," she tells me. Honestly, I'm thirsty, too. It's a very gray day, but I can do this. I slept in a pullover sweatshirt with a hood for just this reasons. With my hood up and my hands pulled inside the ridiculously long sleeves, I push back the covers.

"How many days until Christmas, mama?" she asks.

I almost forgot. Only five more sleeps! "Five more sleeps," I whisper, trying not to wake the baby.

"Five more sleeps!" she screams. "Five more sleeps! Five more sleeps!" I don't shush her. She jumps a few times in excitement and then tackles me. This is the exact sort of thing that would annoy me, especially before I've had a cup of tea and a few minutes to be grumpy and ugly with sleepy eyes. I can't help it, though. She's too adorable. I even feel grateful for being kicked and elbowed all night.

Good morning.

Hilarious self portrait.


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, December 19, 2011

Bad Santa

We've seen about a hundred different Santas this year. Santas with real beards, fake beards, real bellies and pillow bellies. Something I've been noticing, though is how terrible and grumpy most of them are!

I don't know why it didn't occur to me in years past that these "Santas" are just men who need a seasonal job. They don't necessarily like children or care that they are holding fragile little dreams in the palm of their white gloves with fingertip stains from last year. It definitely isn't required of them that they posses any of Santa's cheer and jolliness.

This last Santa, at the mall with the trampoline jump. The one out in the middle of an industrial wasteland. The one that doesn't bother to turn its lights on during the day. We approached him and Scouty started wringing her hands and glancing up at me nervously.

Would she get all of her wishes right, or would she freeze up again and forget to mention the Lightening McQueen Guitar and Hotwheels Sky Jump? Would Santa remember her, remember how good she is and how nice to her sister and what a wonderful listener she is at school?

She stood at the end of the plush red carpet leading up to Santa's chair and waved a meek little wave at him.

He just sort of slumped there, his back riding halfway down his high backed leather chair in obvious and palpable boredom. He didn't say hello. He didn't boom out a "Ho Ho Ho, and what is YOUR name, little one?" He just kind of assumed a position with a bent knee and his arms outstretched. I couldn't tell if he even bothered to smile under his mustache.

Scouty leaned in close to me and said, "Santa looks... tired."

He must have been worn out from making all those toys. Or maybe he was up late finishing off the dregs of an $8 bottle of whiskey, wearing sagging underpants printed with candy canes and a pair of dirty bottomed elf slippers?


So, Scouty was brave. She recited her name and the name of her sister. I already have about 50 thousand pictures of her sitting on the laps of various Santas, so I wasn't even going to get out my phone, but then Scout looked up at me with these sparkling little eyes. She smiled a shy smile that said, "Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I'm sitting on SANTA'S LAP! THIS IS THE GUY WHO WILL MAKE ALL MY DREAMS COME TRUE!"

I opened my phone and activated camera mode. Right in the middle of her sentence, where Scouty was telling Santa that she wanted a Lightning McQueen Guitar, he looked up at me and snapped, "Ma'am, no pictures unless you're going to buy one of ours."

Scouty flinched. How could I have done something naughty like this right in front of Santa? She didn't want to be associated with my bad behavior. She kind of waved at me to put my camera away. "Oh. Seriously? Sorry," I said.

Scouty started over. "Louise wants some Yo Gabba Gabba shoes and a Mickey Doll," she said, "And I want a Lightning Guitar and Hotwheels Sky Jump."

"Do you want any Barbie dolls?" Santa asked her.

"Um, no thank you," Scouty said. (Only, when she says "thank you" it sounds like "Sank You" and it's the cutest thing in the history of the world.)

"No Barbie Dolls?" he asked, obviously surprised that A GIRL wouldn't want BARBIE DOLLS.

She said again, "A Lightning Guitar and --"

"Lightning guitar," he asked. "You don't mean Lightning McQueen?"

"Yes," she said. "Lightning McQueen!"

"Isn't he for boys?" Santa asked.

Scouty glanced up at me, feeling insecure. Was Lightning McQueen for boys?

"No," I said. "He isn't. He's only for awesome kids."

Scouty nodded.

"Okay," Santa said. "I'm surprised that girls like him. He's a car, isn't he?"

"Alright, baby," I said, scooping Scouty off of his lap and maintaining my temper enough to not start screaming AT SANTA, the magic man who knows if you've been bad or good, but obviously isn't smart enough or socially aware enough to know NOT TO MAKE CHILDREN FEEL BAD ABOUT THEMSELVES AND THEIR WISHES by being a patriarchal douche bag.

"Let's go," I said, and we thanked Santa and waved goodbye.

As we were walking away, Scouty said, "Don't you think Santa was getting a little bit sassy with us?"

She had no idea how sassy I was about to get with him.

But whatever. We grown ups know that the Santas at the mall aren't the REAL Santa. They're just his helpers. I'm sure the real Santa is all caught up on his social politics and has refused to be willfully ignorant, even way up there at the North Pole. I'm sure he has it written down somewhere in his big book that Lightning McQueen Guitars are for awesome kids, only. Boys AND girls.

Awesome-est kids ever.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Un-Christmas

Scouty and I took this book out of the library. It is about a girl who lives in a town where every day is Christmas. She wakes up every morning and opens her presents and eats Christmas dinner and stuffs her room full of toys.

She's really bored with life.

The one day she looks forward to more than anything is Un-christmas, when she gets to go to school and eat TV dinners and the mailman brings the bills.

It's a cute story and it was written because every kid, at some point, wishes it could be Christmas every day.

But, it actually got me thinking.

We do the same things with our time every day. The reason certain days are special is because they're out of the ordinary. We might think it's because of the presents and the cookies and everything... and those things are awesome. But really, those things are only awesome because they so rarely happen. It is totally true that if we got presents every day, they would stop being wonderful really quickly.

You know how we're moms and we wake up and make breakfast and get kids dressed and brush a bunch of teeth and put on the same shows while we get dressed in the same clothes we've been wearing for years? And we pack the same lunches and take kids to school and play the same puzzles with the baby and lay her down for a nap at the same time every day, and then we workout and shower and keep buying the same soap and snacks? And we pick our big kids up from school and go to the same park and the same grocery store and do a craft and read a book and daddy gets home at the same time every day?

It sucks.

It's so boring, right?

I hate it, too.

I've decided to come up with a list of ideas of ways to make my days go by a little differently. There must be something we can do to mix things up every once in a while? If everything wasn't so mind numbingly THE SAME every day, maybe we wouldn't feel so unplugged, like we're just mom robots going about our mechanical robot business without any emotional and spiritual involvement.

I need ideas.

Don't respond and tell me about how you've got it all figured out and all you do is give your kids a bowl of rice to play with and voila! your life is totally enjoyable and stimulating. I won't believe you. Or, if I do, I'll just think you're crazy and a little bit smug.

What are some things that don't cost a lot of money and aren't totally annoying and exhausting that we could do to make our day feel a little bit out of the ordinary? So that we can administer some novelty to our daily routines and get a little happier?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't even clean up when you're done.


Let's be tough.

It's Christmas and everybody is writing about money and nighttime and saving themselves. Everybody is feeling like things will be okay, no matter how much worry they've put into it.

What if we just decided to fuck it? What if we went strutting around with our bellies and our sensible shoes, and those wiggly feelings way down deep in our loins were the ones we listened to? What if we didn't do the dishes? What if we stretched out across the floor and let the babies get Cheerios everywhere, in lieu of having an actual dinner? What if we didn't even vacuum afterwards?

How about we shut up and quit being scared for a little while? Let's be women. Let's have sex with our husbands on the couch with the hallway light on and not worry about our double chins. Let's trust each other. Let's take care of each other. Let's take care of ourselves and stay up late wearing a bathrobe and sexy underwear. Let's try to believe the way we did in college, when men were boys and they loved us and we knew everything we needed to know about life. Let's act like we don't know that coffee creamer will kill us. Let's pretend that we haven't read books about the merits of leafy greens.

Just for a minute?

What about the kids?

Do you want to know what about the kids? THEY ARE FINE. Yes, they are! They are fine when we worry about them and fuss over them and pretend like we ARE them and that there's nothing left to us but washing diapers and smearing almond butter on apple slices. They are fine when we're women, too. When we're on fire, hunched over a keyboard, in a wild, daydreaming trance over a love that's all in our heads. They're fine when we take a bath with a book in the evening and make them keep each other, or themselves, entertained! They're fine picking out their own clothes. Let them eat jelly sandwiches for lunch. Let them watch cartoons while we're around the corner in the kitchen eating Christmas cookies from the freezer behind their backs. THEY ARE FINE.

If we love them, they are fine. If we love them, that's all they need for Christmas. We love them so much and they are fine.

What about us? How are we doing?

Sometimes I don't know how fine I am. Sometimes I'm not fine at all.

Do you know what I'm going to do? Put Iggy on the car stereo and paint my lips red. I'm going to eat something messy. I'm going to dress up like a tough guy, sneer at my reflection. I'm going to swing my girls in a circle by their arms while they squeal and laugh. I'm going to let my husband see me naked. I am going to get rejected by another fucking agent and rewrite my query letter again. I am going to do two minutes of planks on my elbows. I am going to be sore in the morning.

I think it's probably about time we all got over ourselves, don't you?

None of those scary things matter like we think they do. There has never been a time that I've stayed up worrying over something that ended up being as bad as I JUST KNEW it would be.

We're all poor. We're all tired. We're all self-conscious. We're all worn thin. We're all getting older. We're all scared. We're all the same. We're all in love with something.

Exploit that something.

Let it make you happy.

Let it make you god, because you are.

Love something and let it become you, instead of painting yourself all over with worry and doubt and acting like you're nothing but a sorry old bag of sorrows that sag and crumble at the slightest pressure.

I love you. You're better than this. Stand up taller. Tighten up your laces. Wear something with cleavage to the grocery store. Know that everywhere you look, men and women alike are biting the inside of their lips over how much they want to do you. Write something important. Stop hiding. Be something amazing. Do something surprising. Quit giving a fuck. Don't even clean up after yourself when you're done.

I love you.

Yeah. What?
Disclaimer: Boys didn't really love me in college, only the one who mattered. Everybody else thought I was an intimidating loud mouth, or a total loud mouthed idiot or just an idiot. I will not comment either way about the validity of their impressions.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hell - Writing Challenge Piece

Shower door
photo by e m

We weren't high anymore, and he still couldn't get what he wanted from me. I pretended to sleep so he would go away. He rolled away from me, swearing and frustrated. It was only fun for a while. We slept on a sagging mattress on the floor. It was here when we moved in. There was a ripped leather loveseat in the ally that we dragged up the stairs. Things weren't like this when I met him. I had a family. They lived on the other side of the state and they hated me.

I wouldn't be working in the morning. I would call in crying and say that I was sick.

I was sick.

It was four in the morning. That didn't matter. The insides of my thighs were bruised and rubbed raw. We had a blanket made of fleece. I sewed around the edges with a haphazard stitch in stolen embroidery thread. Someday I would sew us some curtains.

I had to piss. The hallway was dark and the shower was running. I barely opened the bathroom door and saw him standing in the steam, one hand on the wall above the toilet, bracing himself as he hunched over the bowl. He wasn't wearing a thread of clothing. I pulled at the hem of my t-shirt, covering the bareness of my legs.

I pushed the door open wide. The single yellow bulb above the mirror was too much. He was an alien emerging out of the fog, back lit and inhuman. I stared, frozen and ashamed of myself.

His back was bent in a smooth curve; his arm stretched above his bowed head in a salute. His hand slipped in the condensation. He suddenly looked up to heaven. He stared at the water spot on the ceiling. Something like terror started deep in my belly and ran up my spine, making my teeth chatter. He knew I was watching him. What he was doing to me, it was something like shame.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Sir challenged me with "Hell is other people," and I challenged Kelly Garriott Waite with "I'm coming out of retirement".


This post is also an entry at Trifecta Writing Challenge. It's something new I'm trying. The deal is that you have to write a piece using the third definition of a given word in 33 -333 words. You should give it a try, too and link up here. This week's word is shame.



Little Flower...

I am feeling better in little ways.

I am.

Remember when I told you I wasn't going to be afraid of Christmas? That I wasn't going to get stressed out about money and mailing cards and entertaining? I was being for real.

Maybe it's my pills, maybe it's the sex dream I had last night.

Maybe it's because it's 45 degrees and sunny and one of my babies is at school while the other one naps.

Maybe I'm just a girl, maybe I'm getting stronger, getting meaner, getting over myself.

But, I feel kind of like I have everything I need.

I had an almost totally silent Sunday, one day. It was just me and the dark outside my window, the sound of wet tires on the pavement.

These people are mine. They're totally, mind-blowingly beautiful and they're mine. You can have little bits and pieces of them. Maybe you even love them in your own way, but they're mine. I made two of them with the third. We are all a part of each other and they're here and real and alive and with me. In my arms. They crawl into my bed at night. I get to smell them and warm them up on cold mornings. We live in a little house and it's ours and it's absolutely bursting with sound and happiness and love.


I've even got Super Kid on my side.

Nobody can say shit to me.

I felt kind of wobbly for a few days after decreasing my dose. I felt dizzy and had weird rushes of something where my hair all stood on end. I noticed that I woke up at night, thinking. I started taking the long way home in the evening so that I could daydream about being brave.

I am proud of myself. My muscles are sore in all the right ways. I am feeling fine.

There is a plastic flower on the windowsill next to me when I'm writing. She dances when sunlight hits her. I know it's a stupid kind of thing to say, but I've grown to love that little flower. She used to wiggle all day like nobody's business, from morning until dark. It hasn't been sunny for weeks, but she's still going on, as best as she can with what she's got to work with.

That's me singing and then saying, "What? Oh, taping the flower..."


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Weight Loss Update - It's all crap.

Kurt took the girls to breakfast with his parents, this morning and I got to sleep in. Holy shit, did I sleep, too. I went to bed before 11pm and woke up at 11am! (I'm so sorry to all of my mommy friends who want to kill me for reading that!)

So, when I woke up and realized that I had just been sleeping for OVER 12 HOURS, PEOPLE... one of the first things I thought of was how I needed to weigh myself and write about it, here. I thought, "Yes. Since I haven't had anything to eat or drink in so long, I'm probably dehydrated enough to have lost some extra ounces."

And then I felt like punching myself in the face.

Honestly, I've wanted to punch myself quite a few times over the last few weeks.

Hooray! I'll just weigh myself before I drink any water so that I can cheat my way into appearing to be a few ounces thinner than I really am!

I mean, who I am I kidding? Women who think these things and behave this way are idiots. I don't want to be an idiot.

Ever since I decided that I was going to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time, there have been countless moments where I've acted like a douche. There have been countless times that I've decided to not eat in the morning to see how long I could make it before "giving in." I have obsessed about food and my appearance. I have counted calories. I have beaten myself with extra intense workouts for the sin of overeating the day before. I have been thinking of myself as fat, so that I could stay motivated.

You know what? It's all bullshit and I'm a bullshit person for participating in it.

Do you know how many times I've done this in my life? Do you know how many times it has actually worked at making me feel happy with myself?

There have even been times that I've felt great about myself and my body, and they didn't have any correlation with the times I've been the thinnest.

I'm not going to stop endeavoring to be the healthiest person I can be. That includes my relationship with eating. As a matter of fact, I need to focus the most on my relationship with eating, but not because Ugh, I'm so fat that I need to get a healthy relationship with food so that I can be skinny and then I'll be fixed. That is a stupid and damaging way to think.

I need to focus on my relationship with eating and with my perception of my body because I think the way that unhealthy people think.

When I have a Christmas party (like I did yesterday) and there is a bunch of wonderful, rich food in my life for ONE FUCKING DAY, I look at it and think, "Oh my god, I shouldn't eat any of this, but I know that I am going to and then I'm going to feel so fucking guilty. I'll either just feel like a fat cow, or I'll spend my free Sunday tomorrow running and lifting weights until I want to pass out."

You know? What the fuck is that all about? Especially for somebody like me.

Somebody like me doesn't believe that eating equals failure.
Somebody like me doesn't believe that fat equals ugly.
I don't believe that eating a piece of birthday cake means that I've fucked up.
I don't believe that being skinnier will make me happier when I'm getting there by acting like a fucking idiot.

I'm not beating myself up. I know that I'm not an idiot. But, when it comes to food and my weight, the only way I know how to approach it is to start treating food like it's SO BAD and to start treating myself like I'm SO FAT AND UGLY so that I'll be able to comply with the behaviors it supposedly takes to make me more HEALTHY. There isn't anything healthy about thinking and behaving this way.

Skinny isn't beautiful.
Fat isn't beautiful.
People are beautiful when they're actually beautiful.

This doesn't mean that I'm just going to "give up" and throw in the towel and decide to start eating a bunch of cheesecake every day or something because I refuse to let cheesecake equal evil.

It just means that I refuse to participate in this way of thinking, anymore. It's so stupid. It is so a product of growing up in a world where women are only allowed to be beautiful, successful and acceptable if they either fit an ideal or agree to hate themselves and be ashamed of their bodies.

Why do we even feel like we are "too fat" in the first place? Why, when I love movement and activity and have appropriate numbers in every health category (ie. blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol etc.) do I still feel like my body isn't perfect?

It is because I'm succumbing to a stupid idea put in place to make sure that women keep acting stupid and hating themselves and squabbling amongst themselves and obsessing about they way they look in cute pink workout gear instead of being powerful. I'm behaving in a way that is keeping me from being a force in the world. I have accepted an idea so damaging and insidious that it's able to overshadow all of my other capabilities and accomplishments.

I'm smart and gorgeous and talented and accomplished. I'm a great mom and an awesome person... but deep down inside, we all know that none of that really matters, because I'm not allowed to really BELIEVE that I'm awesome until I'm skinny.

How often do I wake up on Sunday morning and think about how beautiful and talented and amazing I am, instead of hoping to cheat out a few ounces on the scale or telling myself not to eat anything until lunch time to save on calories? Never, right? That never, ever happens.

And just imagine what I could do, if instead of all the times I looked at myself and didn't feel pretty and didn't feel skinny... if instead, I acknowledged how worthwhile, beautiful, amazing and inspiring I am? What would my life be like, then? Would I still be too fat?

Something else is that I am convinced that my attempts at losing weight through feeling ashamed about eating and hating myself for "failing" don't do anything but keep me unhealthy. They keep me from looking at myself, loving myself and being able to approach each one of my days with an attitude that says,

Today, I am going to do my best as a capable, amazing and beautiful woman to make the choices that will make me the happiest, that will make me feel the best and help my body and soul to function the best.

If I said that to myself every day, I would already be winning, because I wouldn't have started from a place where I have to assume that I'm too fat and not good enough and scared of something coming up where I might be pressured to eat. I'd be starting every day remembering that I'm an amazing person, I'm a wonderful person, I'm a goddamn beautiful person, and I want to do everything I can to exert my personal power all over the place, because I can TRUST MYSELF TO LIKE MYSELF.

I'm not too big or too small.
I'm not ugly or pretty.
I'm just not made up of those things.
I don't participate in such a hateful, shallow and patriarchal judgement when dealing with everybody else in the world. There isn't a single woman in my life who I love and admire for being thin or pretty. The women I love and admire are certainly beautiful and sexy and inspiring, but not because they've managed to fit in and look like they're supposed to look.


How come it's so easy to see, when you step outside... but when it's just you and a scale or a mirror or whatever, it's like we just become vapid, controlled, female idiots? Why do we judge ourselves in a way that we absolutely would never, in a million years DREAM of being so terrible as to judge the people in our lives that same way?

My number on the scale went down, this morning, just for reference. I don't even care because I'm so grossed out by the way it happened.

I've got some thinking and figuring to do, but I'm feeling good. I'm feeling like I'm on to something and that it's clear for the first time.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our home was pressed between us.

We were kids, but we were probably too old to be acting this way. It was late, past midnight, and the world was dark and quiet.

We had spent the evening on our friend's battered couch. It was velveteen and patterned in orange and brown flowers. You lost your wallet between the cushions. In the tiny apartment on top of a locked garage, everything was yellow and warm. We swallowed pills until we vomited. We held hands until it didn't even feel like the dead of winter.

On the way home in my clunky silver car, the roads had disappeared. There was nothing. Only great mounds of perfect white snow and obscure, tire smeared pathways between us and home.

Our home was a foldout piece of furniture made out of foam. Orange vinyl curtains that set everything on fire and the silent television tuned to a static channel. Naked and young, a fine mist of invincibility and suicide littered over everything we owned. Our home was pressed between us.

I struggled getting up a hill and you were passing out in the passenger seat. Suddenly, the stars were a blur, the air was blue. I pulled a knit hat down tighter over your head as you leaned against the window, opaque and frosted shut. I loved you and the world was a wasteland. The world was shit and I loved you.

The car was out of my control and the world was sleeping, so quiet and still, the world wasn't real. I put my hands over my mouth and screamed, waking you up, as we crashed into a telephone pole. It didn't matter. We were on the back roads of a sleeping college town on winter break. There were deer prints across front lawns. You wouldn't remember this.

As I was unlocking the door to my apartment, you slipped on the ice and went careening backwards, smacking your head on the pavement. Oh god, the mesh from my little outdoor grill was stuck to your foot. You stepped on it and broke it. Your head was hurting. We made our way, laughing, inside where it was warm. We stripped out of our freezing clothing and went to sleep.

In the morning, you were in a hurry. You had to drive home. It was Sunday. When you sat up, your scalp was sticky and matted with blood. Your hair was stuck to the wall. You took a hot shower and emerged, touching the back of your head gingerly.

You were so dear, like a dream. I spent the next few nights pressing my palm against the smooth white wall where you left a smear of dark red, turning to brown. I didn't wash the blood off for a week.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why do we read?

scouty and daddy 2 years ago at the IUP Homecoming Parade

Kurt was reading and I was looking for recipes. He looked up at me and said, "Like, why do we read? Isn't that weird?"

And I knew in that moment, and a million moments just like it, that he was totally meant for me.

Because, when he said that, what he meant was something like,

We're these creatures and we sit perfectly still and use our eyes to take in strings of shapes that we've determined have meaning when they're placed in a certain order. So, these shapes spell out words and they're describing something. We take these words into our brains and we can, for hours, imagine something happening, and it can be more beautiful or more disturbing or more amazing than almost anything else in the world. It can be like love. It can make us into something better.

And then, isn't it also weird that reading books means what it does to us, and then there are other human creatures who don't really care for it? They barely spend any time at all wiggling their eyes back and forth to take in the characters. Or, when they do, they just want to imagine something fun, something harmless that doesn't make them feel anything other than mildly entertained.

It so totally is weird, right? Everything is weird. We're bone robots filled with goo and we have pulley systems and electricity inside of us. We're dependent on rhythms and contractions. And we fall in love, with each other and with our children and with music and the ocean and Stephen Elliott books and novels about the shaded side of the hills of Appalachia.

It could make you go crazy, if you really understood it. If you needed to be aware of every breath you're taking.

Life is beautiful, I think.
It's important, or maybe it doesn't mean anything to anybody other than us.
Life is beautiful.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This is my big news.

So, if you've been hanging around me at all, you know that I need to make a change. I even have a specific change in mind, it's just been complicated.

(This is where my husband gets a little nervous in spite of himself.)

(Also, don't worry, love.)

I started taking Zoloft after Louise was born. I made this choice because I suffered terrible, debilitating PPD in the form of anxiety and OCD flareup after the birth of my first daughter, Scout. I had panic attacks every day for eight months. I went to the er, convinced I was going to die. My sleep was disrupted. Every minute of every day, I pictured terrible things happening to my baby. I was afraid that I would crash our car. I was afraid of everything. It was hell to get through, and I did it.

When I was pregnant with Louise, I talked to my doctor about my fears of experiencing PPD again, so he promised me medication as soon as I gave birth.


The medication worked wonders. Not only did I not totally spiral out of control and down a deep dark rabbit hole of sleep deprivation and nightmares... I actually got better at a lot of things. I even got better at things I didn't really even know I was failing at. I didn't have PPD the second time around.

And also, I suddenly didn't have the wacky germ-phobia I've always lived with.
I stopped having bouts of insomnia.
I didn't become deeply dissatisfied with my life each month during a certain three or four days and cry and ride my bike through the city trying to bleed the gray from the sky.
Suddenly, I didn't argue as much.
I didn't get mouthy with other drivers during rush hour.
I stopped being afraid of the car and slides at the playground.
I didn't panic over what to wear to Kurt's family's house and ritualistically make us late for Thanksgiving dinner plucking my eyebrows, trying to look at least semi-acceptable.

I stopped having all of those INTENSE, WILD feelings.

It was great, you know? Not only did I manage to keep the depression and panic away, I became a totally solid citizen. I stopped being flaky and excitable. I stopped beeping my horn at intersections. I even said I was sorry once, when an old lady cut me off in a parking lot and then called me a bad name.


So good.

So then, why do I feel like shit?

Things have calmed down in our day to day life. Our baby is approaching two years old. Everybody sleeps at night. We do a good job of figuring each other out. I'm not convinced that my life merits anti-depressants, anymore. I think I am over the hump and PPD is just a faraway memory. I don't have to worry about it, anymore.

When I started taking these pills, I didn't mean for it to be forever, did I? What about all the awesome things they have helped me with, like the germs and trouble falling asleep and my temper and anxieties?

This is where things have gotten complicated.

I like being subdued, in lots of ways. It's awesome to look at a situation and recognize... "This should totally be making me flip my shit, but I barely even care."

The thing is, I feel myself barely even caring about a lot of things. I feel like all the ways my tendencies towards excitability are being suppressed are not necessarily so wonderful. Along with being cool about everything, I'm also... really really fucking cool about everything. I feel really hollowed out and emptied of feelings.

For all the times I praise medication for keeping me calm when I would be panicked, there are an equal number of times I curse it for making me unable to muster up any feelings about anything.

I don't feel excited about anything.
I don't feel passionate.
I don't feel in love with my life.

It's true that I don't feel intensely bad about anything, and I used to feel bad, sometimes. I also used to feel really, really out of control good about things, too.

Like the sunshine. Like birthdays and love. I used to be sexual and wild and artistic.

Lately, I've been mildly crafty.

Do you see what I mean?

It's time for me to step down my medication, or I am going to lose all of the sparkling parts of me that might shock your fingertips if you get too close. I might be sacrificing a definite night's sleep every night. I might be inviting PMS right back into my routine. I might feel overwhelmed, sometimes.

But, the good thing is that I MIGHT FEEL OVERWHELMED SOMETIMES.

I've been gutted out and polished all clean and smooth and compact. I don't feel like myself. I feel more sensible and perfect and easy to deal with, but I don't feel like me.

It's going to be hard, I think. I like depending on things. I like the idea of a magic little pill that fixes all of my problems. It's just that, it's time for me to take responsibility for my problems, because I know I'm in a healthy, stable place and I can TOTALLY handle them. It's time for me to make room for a little bit of chaos and unpredictability in myself, because the birth and the newborn stage are over. I can do this. I can do this.

I can do this.

I want to be in love, again.
I want to be alive and whole and human and imperfect again.
I want to feel inspired and impulsive and driven.
I just want to feel ANYTHING, okay?

I am totally grateful for medication and the role it played in my life when I needed it. I just don't need it anymore. I'm a little bit scared, but I know that I don't need it.

I need to wake up on fire. I need to find something really, really hilarious. I need to daydream about my husband all afternoon so that it makes me blush. I need to read passages of books out loud with tears in my eyes, sure that I've discovered the meaning of life. I need to hunch over my typewriter in a wild state. I need abandon and fear. I want music to affect me. I want to feel a little bit bad because of Iggy's gold pants. I want a movie to hurt my feelings. I want to be a little bit scared of the dark, like I used to be.

This is my big news.
I'm going to try to be me again.
Wish me luck?

me, in my twenties.


Monday, December 5, 2011

I can't get alone.

I feel like I've said everything.

I am feeling uninspired.

I like to talk about telling the truth, but then I get stuck in this way of being where... hey, I talk about my embarassing childhood and my weight and my marriage and my opinions about society. I SO tell it like it is.

But, what it really is right now is something else.

I am in a rut. I can't remember the last time I did anything really exciting. I can't remember the last time I felt really, really pleased with myself. I can't remember the last time something non-kid related delighted or thrilled me.

I feel like I need a vacation or a night out with my husband, but the truth is that I need a lot more than that. I need a new life. I need a new routine. I need for something to delight me and make me pant and wriggle and squeal. I need for there to be something more to me than this.

This. Days go by and I'm wrestling children into clothing, picking smashed crackers out of the carpeting. I wipe the counter tops, cut my hair, watch television in the evening. I take pills that turn me into a cave with slippery walls. Nothing sticks in my chest, anymore.

I don't have any interest.
I don't have any interest in sex or the weather.

I want to be shaken by something.
I want to grip something in my teeth.

I'm not happy, right now.

I have my girls and my hobbies and my cute little writings and everything is very dear and subdued and managed. I sew and bake and dog ear the corners of the pages of my books with dry, manicured fingers.

Do you want to know what I'm feeling deep down, under everything, where I used to be a boiling sea of dread and color and wonder? I feel... sort of annoyed and frustrated. I feel very much bored. I feel tired. Empty. Hollow. Nothing.

I just feel nothing.

I feel proud of my daughters and in awe of them. I feel desperate for them and so very in love with them.

As far as I go... as a person who exists separately from being a mom... I don't exist. I have black glass for eyes. I wear sensible shoes. I never get out of control. I keep things running in tip-top shape. I am practically a robot, accostomed to wiping smears of jelly from the upholstery and supressing my ideas and whims. I wait for the time to be right, and then it never is.

I can't get alone.
When I'm left alone for the day, there is too much to pick up and clean.
When I go away by myself, there isn't enough time to turn off my tendencies to worry that everybody is okay without me.

I need to do something big.

I sort of feel like I might be losing all of the good things about being a person. I never feel happy on my own, anymore. I never feel anything on my own. I'm so mad and lonely and bored at who I am.

How's that for telling the truth? I'm a big, wooden nothing. I'm totally lost. I watch tv and own books and books of muffin recipes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Weight Loss Update and some thoughts about Dr. Oz...

So, by some miracle of holiday magic, I lost 2 pounds this week. I'm going to thank hormones, (which I was totally cursing last week.)

That means that I have 35 weeks to lose 53 pounds.

So, since we're talking about weight, can I point you to a kind of awesome blog? It is Dances With Fat written by a super informed, successful, inspiring, healthy, fat woman named Ragen Chastain.

This week, she pointed us to the video of an episode of a Dr. Oz Show, where his guest, Dr. Gaesser, is a medical expert (I believe he is an exercise physiologist) in the arena of Health At Every Size.

You can see the videos of the show here, if you want.

But, Dr. Gaesser went on the show to talk about how it's not being overweight that is the problem (except in the area of joint health)... rather, it's a series of unhealthy lifestyle choices that, in a lot of cases, can lead people to being overweight. He cited research and studies that illustrate that a persons cardiovascular health, AT ANY SIZE, along with the content of their diets (ie. that they're eating heart healthy foods, no matter how rich in calorie content) is the actual indicator of how at risk they are for dying early.

He went on to say that the popular attitude towards being thin as THE ONLY way to be healthy (the one the Dr. Oz most definitely subscribes to) was actually causing fat people to be more unhealthy, not helping anybody. Dr. Gaesser, citing research, said that our current obsession with losing weight in order to battle a host of obesity-related illnesses, is actually making people weight cycle, (or yo-yo diet as we're used to hearing) which puts a tremendous strain on our bodies, particularly our hearts.

Dr. Oz responded in a resplendently douchey fashion and kept trying to make false claims about the things Dr. Gaesser was presenting. He repeatedly twisted Dr. Gaesser's words, saying things like, "Dr. Gaesser actually claims there are BENEFITS TO BEING OBESE!"

And then Dr. Gaesser would say, "Well, I didn't actually say that. What I actually said is that lifestyle is the critical factor, not weight."

Anyway, my opinion of a television celebrity doesn't really matter. What DOES matter is that I'm an overweight woman and I want to lose weight. I am also in total support of the over 30 years of research that concludes that a healthy lifestyle, including cardiovascular fitness, maintenance of muscle mass and a diet full of whole, real foods should be the focus of our efforts to be healthy. That by subscribing to an attitude that the ONLY WAY we'll ever be healthy or beautiful or successful or valid is if we're thin is total bullshit.

So, then... why do I personally want to lose weight?

If I believe that people can be beautiful and healthy at any size, (which I do), why am I trying to lose weight?

I wish I had an answer. I guess my answer is that it's complicated. I guess my answer lies somewhere in the fact that I am a fat girl who grew up in the world. I want to run on lonely roads with a winding snake of yellow. I want to be the only person in the world. I want to accomplish this thing that has been a goal for years. I want to feel awesome. I want to jump really high. I want to knock people's socks off with my appearance, just like I already do with all of the other parts of me.

Most of all, I want to be healthy and live a long life. I can do that while being fat.

Wanting to lose weight is something beyond just wanting to look good, or wanting to be healthy or sexy or whatever it is we've been assaulted into believing about ourselves. It's certainly not the fact that I'm a sad fat person who will only be happy and pretty and desirable once I'm thin.

But, it might be something akin to that. It might be something along the lines of... I know it's shallow and I know it most likely comes from negative information and ideas I've been fed over the course of my whole life and I know it's all about appearances when I don't give a fuck about these kinds of appearances, but I just want to lose weight because it's my body and I want to.

Is that okay?
I'm not asking in a sarcastic way. I really want to know.
Is it okay that I am a person who believes that I am beautiful and fucking sexy weighing exactly this much, but that I want to lose weight so that I can achieve something that I believe will make me feel awesome? So that I can achieve something that I've wanted for years (whether my desires were always coming from healthy, appropriate places or not?)

At the risk of sounding like an asshole -- Something about me is that I'm pretty good at everything I try. I was talking on the phone to my sister about sending my book out to agents and she said, "Just be patient and keep trying. You'll find one. Has there ever been anything you've really tried to do that you've failed at?"

I've done a lot of amazing things. I am an amazing person. The one thing I've tried and failed at is being a thin person.

Being fat doesn't in ANY WAY cancel out everything that is beautiful and impressive about me, or make me unable to see how awesome I am, it's just a thing that I want to be able to say I could do, along with all the other things I tried and succeeded at.

I hope all of this makes sense.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

I believed I could keep my children...

Movie night was last night. It's the most special night of the week. Louisey goes to bed early and Scouty, Daddy and I stay up late watching a movie that Scouty picks.

We were watching WALL-E and my girl was snuggled up on my lap eating snacks and we were all wrapped up in her blankets. I closed my eyes and smelled her hair. We were so small and still. I started to think about space.

I said to Kurt, "Isn't it weird that colors wouldn't exist if everybody was blind?" Because, things are only real to us because we can perceive them with our senses.

There must be millions of things happening in the universe that we can't perceive because we only have 5 senses. There are probably even things about my children that I don't know and can't see.

And really... if you think about it, everything is just a big, pulsating blur of sensory stimulation. We only control our point of view and believe it to be reality because it is all we can detect, as little human animals.

Sometimes holding my baby tight on movie night makes me sad.

Last night, the stars were burning balls of gas and everything was so big and faraway. I was a stupid, tiny animal believing that I owned these hands and that the things that I can see belong to me. I believed that I could keep my children safe and that my arms were big enough to fit around them.

I smelled her orange and vanilla shampoo and closed my eyes. All around me, life went on and time marched by, or at least that's the way I saw it. In your homes, you were settling down with your loves, holding their hands and feeling their breathe on your face.

I thought again that we must be tornadoes and that everything was a storm. I thought that I could only hold my daughter the way one tornado could embrace another, that she wasn't something separate from me and I couldn't have her. Maybe we weren't real at all. The swirling black storm was outside of my vision. It was animating everything, moving us like puppets. I didn't really own anything at all, not even the right to perceive the red color of her hair.

Sometimes that will happen to me. When I was a kid, I used to have a fear of the idea of infinity. I didn't like how it stretched out into forever and never ended. Sometimes when it's night and everything is holy and still, I wonder what it is I can't know. I wonder what it is that I can't have because I'm only a person with eyes and a mouth and nothing will seem real. Or maybe it's that everything will seem real and I'll realize how powerful I am for my fingertips and nerve endings.

Nothing ever goes away, we just stop being able to understand it.

photo by eirick solheim


Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm not afraid of Christmas.

A few days ago, a courier truck driver had a very reckless day a few miles away from where we live, en route to Kurt's work. Somehow, the doors of the van came open and $200,000 went flying into the wind. People pulled over, snatching bills out of the air and tackling plastic bags full of money.

Imagine that.

Our car is broken down and in the shop. It's been there all week. We've choreographed a routine where Kurt comes home at lunch, we get all bundled up and take him back. Then, we drop off sissy at school and Louise and I run home for a quick nap. We pick Scouty up and then go get daddy and we all come home together. It's been Christmassy, in a family togetherness sort of way.

Yesterday, during our lunch break trip, Kurt told me about how people were driving to work and suddenly, there was an explosion of money. It was dancing in the air, being thrown around in the wind.

I love the idea.

I love that people were grabbing fistfuls of dollar bills and laughing to themselves, marveling over their weird luck.

Kurt said, "Don't you think a lot of people have a new story about how they believe in God, because of this?"

I said, "Yeah."

He said, "I think that if I had been there, I'd probably reconsider the way I feel about Santa not being real."

I said, "But not God?"

He said, "Well, I mean... no."

The thing about the holidays is, a lot of us are feeling the same way. Not having money to create the explosion of glitter and light in our Christmas dreams, it makes us feel lonely and like the world is dark. Some of us don't really have money for presents. Some of us will be stretching ourselves thin for gas money to make it home on Christmas Eve.

We're not alone in this, though. Just lonely.

There are trucks full of money exploding in some people's holiday planning. The police are issuing statements that the money is the property of the bank, to please bring it back. One man returned the $60 he found fluttering around his head.

The loneliness and fear are part of the magic.

Trips to glowing department stores, fingertips freezing, coughing into your elbow. Snowflakes being illuminated like stars in hyperspace. Windshield wipers that stick and screech. Tinny, hollow voices singing silent night on the radio.

And then we return home where the lamplight is golden. We all make it. We're lonely and we're scared, but that's just because we're always lonely and scared.

What if we decided not to be, this time? What if we remembered that we're safe and warm and that everybody around us is feeling the same ways we are? What if we just decided to believe that everything will be okay, like it always is? Actually, everything will be wonderful. We're always scared and we're always lonely in our fear and everything is always wonderful.

People were grabbing money out of the air.

I kind of believe in Santa.