Wednesday, April 29, 2015

lost and found

adventure seems to follow any major appliance debacle.  more than just melting meat in a tired freezer or a flooded laundry room floor, both of which i lived through. it seems that as i am forced into the process of replacing any square hunk of white metal that rules my domestic life, mysteries appear, hair is pulled, teeth are gnashed, heart is tugged, and ultimately...eventually...peace is restored.

this happened years back with the whole i-keep-concert-tickets-in-my-freezer-event, which i wrote about somewhere on this blog.  if i was a snazzy tech type i might even have a link or a hashtag (which at five in the morning makes me think only of sausage links and hashbrowns) but i am fearful that if i navigate away from this stream of writing, to try some tricks of modern writing to get you to read more of me, the magic may be broken.  and while i do love that you are reading this and i am so motivated because of that, let's just remember that writers write for themselves, first and always.

so, yes, jack white tickets were found in a plastic bag in the garbage.  there were maggots.  and happy chickens eating maggots.  that happens.

what also happens is that spiders break.  you may be a person who likes to think you don't have spiders in your house.  perhaps you scream and scuttle at the sight of eight thin legs crawling across your kitchen ceiling.  not me, i adore spiders. (once in college i had a large spider in my house, her immense web stretched through a houseplant in the living room.  i learned how to stun flies so i could feed them to her then watch as she knitted them up faster than any waldorfian-knitting-mama-blogger ever could.  it was like "wild kingdom" but oh so much better.)

turns out the most adorable spider in the house is the one inside of your washer machine.  it's a metal brace of sorts, with many arms, that holds your tub together to let it shimmy and gyrate and agitate and clean your dirty, nasty clothes.  when the spider breaks, everything stays dirty.   the tub does not nicely spin, but wobbles and grinds and sounds like maybe someone is killing your neighbor's noisy geese which makes you only feel mildly sad for those bad-behaving fowl.

when the spider breaks, you need a new machine because fixing a broken spider costs $500 and your washing machine's boot (black rubber seal thingy) has already been patched with an bicycle inner tube and bottle of gorilla glue. you measure your tiny laundry "hall" and look for options.  they are few.

you contemplate used verses new, local appliance store verses big box store, pick up verses delivery, all the while the laundry grows like the killer blob from that ridiculous movie from the 50's.  You visit stores, tape measure in hand, and sales people size you up in seconds flat and once they realize you are not going for the cherry red, steam enhanced, pick your own tune to play when your laundry is ready to be folded, kind of gal...they steer clear.  there is no money to be made from you.  you have so little of it to begin with.

however, you have a generous dad who offers to help and you have new job that came with a raise. you find a machine, scratch/dent special.  good.  the pile of jeans and underwear shudder with,ti, shun.

except, you know what happens when you give a mouse a pancake?  yup.  translate that story to washing machine replacement.  here's how it goes.

  1. broken spider.
  2. find new washing machine.
  3. have to disconnect gas line, which is behind old stand up freezer.
  4. move old stand up freezer., smash finger in process.  swear in new creative ways that scare/amuse children.
  5. move it out into the kitchen so you can move the washing machine far enough into the hall to disconnect the gas line.  be careful not to blow up house.  that would suck.
  6. oh wait, moving the washing machine reveals torn-the-hell-up linoleum floor with water damaged particle board sub-flooring that disintegrates when you stab it with a flat head.
  7. contemplate how your husband planned chaperoning a youth conference in Idaho at same time all this shit would go down.  damn, he's clever.
  8.  ok, find scrap of flooring to thrown over that mess like a band-aid and just make mental note to add that fix it to the list of "stuff that will never get down but will wake you up at 3 am to think about."
  9. buy new washing machine from guy who sweats a lot and talks too fast.  drugs, no doubt.
  10. have new washing machine delivered and watch in glee as they take away the old broken spider and all the treasures stuck in the coin trap that you will never know you are missing.
  11. install new washing machine with help of awkwardly awesome 12 year old son who is way more patient with missing tools and swearing mothers than anyone else on the planet.
  12. realize old stand up freezer is gross as hell.  bodies may have been stored in there.
  13. find new home for old freezer (don't share dead body theory with happy new owners found via facebook).
  14. find new freezer.  be awed and amazed at how light they make those things.  rejoice that it doesn't have a lock- cuz that is creepy.  locking freezers? hitchcock plot for sure.
  15. decide what items you want from old freezer.  not much.  put that in new freezer.
that should be about it, but no. because something is lost.  something you put in the freezer over a decade ago (then added to a few years later) cannot be found.

now, this is where it's no longer hypothetically YOU, but is actually me.  i do this as a favor because some of you will not be ok imagining YOU doing this.  it's all me.

the placentas are missing.

yes, the two placentas of my children.  the organs that i grew.  the literal trees of life that sustained my spawns for hundreds of days.  freezer burnt though they may be, cannot be found.

i make a quick inventory of contents of old standing freezer that i have not chucked out: roughly one gallon of beef stock made over the course of several days, strange brick of duck parts from son's hunting season, loaf of breadfarm goodness via free box at work, two dead owls, pint of cuban beef stew - also via free box. my inventory is so quick, that i barely touch the plastic bags and bins because i am scanning for the mental image i have of the placentas.  tin foil wrapped, tape wound about it with "PLACENTA, DO NOT EAT" written as cross, using the N to intersect the two words in the center of the package.

i am at a loss.  in a panic, i review possible placenta misplacement options:
  1.  they got thrown away when i lost the jack white tickets.
  2.  they go thrown away when my mom cleaned the freezer.
  3.  aliens came and stole them for genetic testing.
  4. ....that's all i got.

now, good reader, perhaps you are asking yourself "why save placentas?"  well, i had a plan.  i had many possible plans (none of which involved eating them...unless, i was diagnosed with something really, really bad then i would have considered cannibalizing myself by eating my own organs that i grew inside my uterus which maybe would not have cured myself, but i just think if you can eat your own organ for the potential of curing yourself that the universe should recognize you are the kind of person that either should be able to stick around longer or gets a fast-pass to a better existence).

the main plan was to plant them under a tree, in our yard.  even thought this seems like a simple plan i never carried it out for two reasons.
  1. i couldn't decide what type of tree or trees.
  2.  i couldn't decide where to plant them.

these two obstacles where kept afloat  by a superstitious fear that the tree/trees would die and this would feed my morbid view of life and worry about my own children's well being (which i owe to my mother singing horrible, really gruesome, songs to me as lullaby.  i kid you not, one of the lyrics says "husbands and wives, little bitty child lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down.") 

as i tried to reason my way through this mystery, i found myself so disappointed with my procrastination. (which i have mostly come to terms with since i am an optimist and in love with potential and projects, but cannot achieve so much of what i imagine because of limitations like time, money, and lack of mind control abilities).  i imagined my placentas in a land fill somewhere, just rotting away and it felt like the most disrespectful thing i could have let happen to the most magical piece of my body.  i felt myself grieving over the loss.

i started reviewing all the placental memories, like a power point slide show at a wake with soft music humming softly, completely cheesy but so darn authentically cheesy, like when a hallmark card makes your cry in the aisle of a grocery store.

looking at my first placenta, held gently by my midwife in a towel while i sat on the bed.  my son snuggled on me, our skins warming each other, i saw the iridescent shine on the twisted cord, leading up and branching out and around this canopy of deep purple and red.  it was full of beauty and mystery.  it was perfect in it's strangeness in a way that my spleen just probably would not be if it happened to pop out of my body someday and land next to me on my bed.  

i remember, as we readied to move back to Washington, having to leave that placenta in my mother-in-laws freezer, amid elk ribs, deer roasts and buffalo steaks, and really hoping she didn't mistake it for any of those and report back to us about the experience of eating it.

i remember my husband, months later, pulling a ziploc bag full of blood out of his luggage after being picked up from the airport.  me, gazing at it in confusion as it dawned on me that, post 911, he had managed to carry on a human organ to an airplane and fly it across several state lines...without arising suspicion. as a big, brown man he found pride in this. i could tell.

i remember the second placenta, sloshing out into the water.  Being only a little less impressive cuz.., well, we had seen that trick before.  

i remembered all the placenta people made smoothies from them or encapsulated them or sauteed them or sold them to cosmetic companies so wealthy woman could ward off wrinkles for a few days more or mistakenly referred to poinsettias as placentas when commenting on christmas tree decorations to my endless amusement.

i grieved for all the ways i had not shared any of this with my children.  how i had not followed through with the simple plan i had for trying to stretch out some of that placental magic into the ground, the roots, the branches of a tree where happy birds could sing.  and eat the bugs in the tree. make a nest in that tree.  hatch baby birds in that nest, in that tree, from those roots, from my placentas.

cirlce of life, indeed.

i was only mildly relieved when my husband wondered aloud if a friend had maybe mistaken the placenta for some of the grass fed beef we were storing for her.  i found it comforting, if not disgusting, to think she had feed it to her ailing cat, believing it to be liver.  this felt like a better use of my organs than being picked from a trash heap in the county dump by a startled worker in an orange vest, him calling out to his supervisor, "hey trevor! what the hell do you think this is?"

all of this flashes through my mind at a manic rate as i sort the remaining frozen items, sending the dead owls off with my mom.

that's a whole other story.

i grab the miscellaneous duck brick, wondering what my child is going to do with this (plant it under a tree?!) when i look closer and see that it is not duck gizzards.  


it's my placentas. 

red brick of human goo that is not so different than duck guts.  i promise to honor you this spring and put you in the ground so a tree can take root.  

or maybe throw you into the skagit river so you may feed the salmon.  

of course, i am getting older and if i decide to do that genetic testing, and it's positive maybe a little placenta pot pie would just get my cells back on track.  

i mean, this freezer is going to last a long time. so i got time. 
and lots of placental potential.

Monday, April 28, 2014

both ways

they say "comparison is the death of joy." or maybe i say that.  i do, i did.  i believe it too, but apparently i like killing joy because i still compare.

i compare my couch to yours.
my job to her's. 
my status update to everyone's.
my present to my past.

it's that present/past comparison that has the most sting to it, right?  because i bet we all have at least one pocket where we store wishes and wants that have yet to take hold in our life.  we pull them out, pick out the bits of lint and crumbs, and stare at them longingly, hold them up to our current commitments and wonder.

how does the peace corp dream compare to your minimum wage job?
the grand mansion to the rented room?
master's program to the motherhood program?
or vice versa.

of course, the comparison is just the starting point.  after the weighing and humming and mulling, after all that, there's judgment.  and if joy is already dead, judgment is pouring concrete on her grave.

i try to resist judgment and turn to her kinder cousin, curiosity instead.

 "hmmm," i think, "i wonder why you imagine that life to be more fulfilling than yours?"

(snarky middle school bitch replies: DUH- they just traveled to freaking CHINA and you can't even make it to the national park that is less than an hour away!")

"hmmm," i muse- making the universal sound of curiosity- the hmmmm, "what can i do right now to bring some of that past desire into today's destination?"

(yeah, she's right there: "how about you get out of the house?  that might be a good first step.")

and so i do.

we somehow manage to gather fishing supplies, rain gear, snacks and get on the road before noon.  we even buy a topographical map because the last time we wandered around the trail systems we ended up relying on my husband's internal compass- which is accurate but often sarcastic.  as a rule, sarcasm while lost in the woods doesn't sit well with me.

map, food, gear.  bonus points for camera, colored pencils, first aid kit, flashlight and lots of water.

we drive to the trail head, load up the backpacks and head out onto the 1 mile trek up an old road to the lake, known as Whistle.  sounds delightful.

the papa and the big son have long legs and excitement to fuel them up the gradual grade and their forms quickly shrink in front of me and my 5 year old.  in his red rubber rain boots, hoodie of chunky primary colors, and blue and red spider man fishing pole- he gets all the style points to be awarded today.

but his attitude sucks.

when he notices papa and brother up ahead he starts with the "wait up" mantra.  except mantras are relaxing and his yelling is not.  when he tires of his echoes bouncing around the woods,  he settles into whining about how tired he is.  his steps slow down, he is looking at his feet, he is miserable.

i know the feeling because i am kinda starting to feel miserable too.  i think about how much i like hiking by myself.  i start comparing my current hike with hundreds of other hikes of my past that were better because i could pick my pace, and go where i wanted and not hear a whining child next to me. 

joy is withering.

fortunately, it is beautiful out.  the sun is shining through new leaves in a way that makes them glow like neon.  ferns are stretching out their arms after the long winter nap and even the smell of skunk cabbage makes me breath deeply.

joy takes hold and i start singing.  this is distracting to the little son.  especially since i am singing about him, his whining, how he wants to fish, how his feet hurt, how he is tired.  i throw in some lines about bodily functions to make him smile.  for minutes he forgets his misery, until it returns.

i check his backpack- wow, he's really prepared with two liters of water.  i lighten his load.  that's better- for 14 seconds.

i feed him peanuts and raisins, three at a time, popping them into his mouth like he is a little bird.  when his mouth is full, he is silent.  but his foot steps drag and he can still do that sigh.  deeeep sigh of discontent.

then i remember how little he knows of the world.  he has no concept of time, really.  if you say something will take 10 minutes, he counts to 10 and looks at you with "now?!" firmly planted on his forehead.  also, distance means nothing.  he is consumed by the present emotion that rests in his heart.

i kneel down and explain, "we are walking uphill and that makes it harder.  but look how far we have come!" and i turn him around to stare back over the path we have taken.  he looks at down the road and for a moment i can tell he understands why it has been so hard.

i can tell he understands because when i look back at the path i have taken, i understand why it has been so hard.  when i look at your present state and compare it to mine, i'm not honoring our paths.  i'm thinking somehow your path has been easier.  or that your reward means you are more deserving.  but really each step has brought me right were i need to be.

i realize how important it is to have someone next to you to sing you songs, lighten your load, feed your spirit, and turn you around now and then and say "look what you have overcome so far."

i realize how important it is that i do this for others, especially for my children.

"just think, walking back it will be all down hill and super easy." i say to him, knowing that he cannot see into the future three hours from now when we pack up, without any fish, and head back.

also knowing that sometimes, it is uphill both ways- but that doesn't make the journey any less worthy.

sometimes struggling a bit, makes the joy you feel when you top the last hill and see the lake shining at you even better and your tiredness flies away- and in a surge of YES! you just run. run. run.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

the groove

truth: household chores bore me.  they are like chisels slowly chipping away at my foundation of creativity.  they are fleas in my bed of contentment.  they are rusty spots consuming my sense of freedom.  they are mold on my ceiling.  they are holes in my tires.

in short, i do not like doing them.

yes, they are boring and repetitive.  more than that, they suck time that i would rather use to write a novel, dance wild and loud, walk fast down green trails, plant a garden to feed me, dream about the future, work on projects that give back to me as much as i give to them.

work?  chores are work. yes, but they are boring work.  while it can be rewarding to vacuuuum a rug and see all the parakeet feathers and lego pieces disappear (especially if you use a shop vac because you can suck up much bigger items too like avocado skins, broken pencils and things-you-can-no-longer-identify), the act of vacuuummming becomes boring because it has to be done so often.  by me.  many times a week.

yes, the gripe goes to a deeper level here.  it's not the just the hum-drum factors, it's the no-fair factor too.  in the part of my mind that does emotional math -you have one too- if there are four people peeing in a toilet, that means each person cleans the toilet once a week.  this is so reasonable to me, that my emotional math brain says i should only have to state this one time - everyone will see the logic- including the 4 year old and voila! toilet cleaning chore has been reduced by 75%, happiness factor increased exponentially more.

while i certainly don't do all the chores around the house i do enough to feel resentful about it at times.  typically when this begins to happen, i step back.  i do less and it passes.  sometimes i don't even see the gray haze drop into my heart.  i just keep doing stuff i don't really want to do.

until a sign appears.

i'm big on signs.  i count the number of birds in a flock as it flies over my head.  i count twice to make sure i get it right, then i see if that number reminds me of something or i add the digits of the number together.  ok, i do both.  thirteen geese. small son was born on the 13th.  1+3=4.  four directions.  four corners.  family of four.

i also flip open to random pages of books to see what words the world is offering.

i turn on the radio to random stations (am often rewarded by Journey or Bon Jovi more often than is statistically possible).

i pull tarot cards.

i find rocks.

i watch.

recently i was sweeping.  a chore made tolerable by the rhythm and my magical broom purchased at the Oregon County Fair four years ago.  here's how i sweep.  i sweep everything that is on the floor, clothes-toys-books, into a big pile and then i yell "does anybody want any of this?"  my boys come scampering over.  they paw through the dusty pile and retrieve marbles, coins, hair ties, and such.  i stop them from eating anything, and i rarely offer any reasoning to keep anything they haven't self-selected. i scan the pile for earrings and it all goes into the black metal dust pan. then i dump into the trash or recycling depending on how green i feel.

but this time- one thing stuck to the dust pan.  i shook. still there.  i look down, squinting since i broke my glasses, i see a small, white rectangular magnet.  it's one of those popular poetry magnets.  i got a set as free swag from a company we sell where i work.  it's all inspirational words for women.  i thought i had given the set away until i found them on the fridge, apparently this one had left the nest.


now, i could stop the story here and you'd get it.  you'd be happy and think "cute."

but i couldn't. the message was too trite.  "delight in taking care of your family.  delight in having a floor to sweep.  delight in your life of domestic bliss."


i thought- maybe the meaning of delight held more for me.  i attempted to decode the word by trying to remember what the prefix "de" means.  but i couldn' i thought of words that have that prefix:

when i tried to apply the implied mean to "delight" i kept coming up short.  "de" in defrost seems to imply to "do away with the frost" so how does that translate to "delight?"  and what is the inspirational sign as it applies to sweeping?  decode- you are breaking apart the code.  this also implies kind of a negative, but accurate definition if i were to assume that "delight" means taking the light away and that's what chores do to me.

i know that i could have gooooooggled it, but that pretty much would have sucked the soul out of my quest.

i was resigned to just going back to the original cute ending.  in fact, that's what i was going to do until i started to type.  then i realized what "delight" referred to wasn't the typical "something that brings you joy,"


it's about bootsy collins, paisley pants, platform shoes and slide whistles.  you feel me?

groove is in the heart.
and i think maybe she sings something about a succotash.

then the sign appears.

basically, no matter what damn chore i am doing, no matter how damn often i do it.  if i blast Deee-Lite i will enjoy the chore.  i will dance, i will sing, i will do that little move with the leg kick, head tilt, hands swing.  and i will do my best to force anyone around me to do it with me.

because the groove is always in the heart- even when my hands are in the cold dish water trying to unclog the beans before they ferment there and bring the summer swarm of fruit flies.


Friday, May 24, 2013


just when you think you are getting to the heart of it, the deep place of discontent in a situation that feels so murky and dank- whoooosh! - the world provides you with a perfect example of why you need to shut-the-hell-up.

i needed this.

for weeks, i have had a inner moping going on.  this little irk' of a troll hunched under my breast plate, t'sking and sighing about every little thing.

-those cleans clothes have been on the couch for three days.

-the morning glory are back.  curse them.

-the truck needs the oil changed.  again.

even as i am totally irritated with the troll, let's call her Prissy, i still manage to give her a voice.  a voice that i listen to.  a voice that i totally despise and completely distrust - and yet, i listen to her.  i talk back to her.  i conspire with Prissy, the hunching troll under my breast plate.

which only proves to me that i am even more of a troll than her.

i mean, who gives a troll that kind of power?  if i met a troll, besides being completely terrified and wanting to believe jim henson was somehow in charge of it, i'm fairly certain i would doubt everything that came out of her drooling mouth.  but, in the wicked way of my brain when she says, "no one really knows you, so they can't really appreciate you."  i nod in agreement and <sigh> go on trudging along, dragging my wounded Achilles heal, all decorated up for bonus points (stay tuned for that story).

back to the whoosh.

i am mid-sentence, allowing Prissy to run my mouth to a human ear - a mistake, even when it's called "venting"- when the human is distracted by her husband reporting something ridiculous, like "the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River has just collapsed."

um, no.  not that bridge.  i drive over that bridge all the time.  it's perfectly safe.  it's made out of steel and concrete and cars are always on it.  so, no.  that didn't happen.

but just in case, let's google that.

there it is.  this chunk of bridge in water.  see the people?  they are on top of their cars.  waiting in a jungle of bent metal for someone to get them. to be honest, i have imagined my car winding up in the Skagit.  i drive over the Skagit, on a much older bridge, several times a day.  we live in the flood plain, less than 1/2 mile from a curve of the river.  almost every errand i run involves going over a bridge that spans the Skagit.  i have  i actually thought "remember to roll down the windows" and like a checklist of Things To Do When Your Car Goes Into The River.

like anyone would ever need that.

even as i clearly don't want to wind up in the river, i imagine it.  i don't want to feel the seemingly solid ground sink underneath me in a chorus of screeching steel and snapping cables.  i don't want to feel murky river water rush into my windows and make the feather around my rear view mirror float, my clothes billow, my heart race.  i don't want to meet the troll under the bridge.  or become her.

and there sit those stranded people. there are hunched there, wet from scrambling out of the cold water, atop of the honda, looking up at the helicopters, seeing the crowd thicken along the banks, feeling their skin slowly warm under a persnickety sunbeam - but still their brain is blank except for one pervasive thought:

thank you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

hell yes

the young son has begun preschool.  not a cooperative preschool where i am down the hall kneading bread - which i miss.  but a preschool where i walk him up the three concrete steps, sign my initials on the sheet, kiss/hug, kiss/hug, kiss/hug, kiss/hug and then walk out into the afternoon with three hours to spend with the big son which i wholeheartedly enjoy.

today we saw a movie.  in the middle of the afternoon.  it was an awful movie- another million dollar mess of a good book, but the flying baboons were terrifying.  something the 10 year old remarked about several times over dinner.

the thing i like about the preschool is the same thing that i dislike about most schooling settings: the rules.  as a montessori preschool there are very specific routines in place.  consistent expectations.  this now, that later.  repeat.

it both lures me in and horrifies me.  it speaks to the part of me that wants to always have the scissors tucked into the sewing basket for speedy retrieval and disgusts the whimsy gal who is too distracted by the sound of migrating geese outside to take the extra ten steps back to the bathroom to put the nail clippers away.

as a mom, i have never mastered the art of routine.  honestly, i don't completely believe that "children crave routine" either.  i think adults crave obedient children and routine is the quickest way to train a child.  or a baboon, especially if you want them to do something completely unnatural like fly or go to sleep alone in a dark bedroom.

so, i'm conflicted often.  i do enjoy watching my son sit down and do his "coffee work" with precision and pride. the way he rolls the place mat up so tightly, like it's a tortilla to be dipped in salsa, makes me smile.  his tiny fingers on a tiny dropper as he polishes a wooden dolphin sculpture with a q-tip and cotton ball- its melts me.

at the same time, i am equally thrilled when he attempts to put his slippers in his cubby by flipping them off of his foot toward the ceiling- rather than picking them up, stacking them together like a sandwich and gently placing them above his name.  i am thrilled because this small deviation thrills him.  i know i should be alarmed that he likes to deviate, but i am not in the least.

i suppose i see it as being himself.  liking himself.  putting his own thoughts and whims on a slightly higher shelf than what others expect of him. and i want him to continue to be that independent and assured.  i want him to hold onto a spark of individuality midst the herd.  if following the rules leads to being normal- veer from that path, son.

just this morning, as we dashed out the house, he saw me eating a banana and was inspired.  he attempted to pull one from the bunch, but as you know, that's tricky.

 "hey mom, get me a banana!" he called in a sing-song voice of mock authority.  typically, i would have just handed one over or maybe said back "Git your own banana, monkey boy!" in some kind of East coast slang if the mood struck.  but because he is in school and we are "working on asking" i prompted him, "are you asking me to help you get a banana?"

he looks at me with this "i know what you are doing" look.  he's got that one nailed.

the thing is- my kids are gorgeous.  neither of their parents are especially stunning, but the combo of euro-mutt and pueblo native...well, wow.  it's distracting sometimes.  like in that moment, when he looks up at me through his bronze curls and slanting crooked eyes with a playful glint jumping out at me like a star winking.  i just swoon a little.  and maybe if i could have frozen the clock right then i would have thought about  all the rules i will never tell him about because i trust his heart is golden enough to know right from wrong and how to hear its whispers even as mouths shout their truths in his tender ears no matter if he 4 or 14 or 44.

i might have thought all of that and more but he didn't skip a beat before he hollered-"hell yes!" enthusiastically, "get me a banana!"

and i did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

deep down

i boarded the train at 9:38 am on thursday and it sped south toward olympia with the same straight-forward determination i felt.  it was something along the lines of "get me the hell out of here."  perhaps  not the warm and sappy thoughts a mother "should" have about leaving her family for three nights away, but then in many ways i don't feel like most mothers.

if there was a twinge of my heart aching it was hard to hear over the sizzling of my nerves after two weeks on my own with the boys while my husband and boss were away- leaving me to find places and people for my sons to be with while i worked for a depressing wage.  so while i do love my family and i do love my job...i loved leaving them too.

during the train ride i smirked at the overheard conversations of men drinking bloody marys, introducing themselves as "mobile entertainment technicians" which makes being a carnie sound like it requires a degree and lamenting about the loss of the sonics to another city- and the sad reality that even if the sonics did come back they would never be loved again.  it wasn't particularly interesting conversation under normal circumstances but it was entirely different than the usual and so it was interesting to the point that i began recording their sentences in my journal to savor for later.

the purpose of my trip was to get away and the means to this end was a 5Rhythms workshop at Waves Studio- a place I had spent many hours blissed-out, battling myself, building friendships that counter the closest of family ties.  blood is thicker than water, but shared sweat rivals blood bonds most definitely.

i danced Thursday and Friday evenings at the studio, each night for two hours and had breakfast plans for saturday morning- and here's where the tale really begins.  over eggs and tortillas i learn that a friend of a friend- sitting to my right- has a deck of tarot cards in his pocket.  i watch as two others pull one card as a sort of guide or symbol of that moment, their day.  the deck is beautiful with muted warm earth toned illustrations that have a vague feeling of munche or toulouse.  i watch each person before me draw queens, the later one a perfectly symmetrical drawing of one woman with one cup, beautiful and regal.

this reminds me of the last time i drew a card in olympia, about four years prior when i was pregnant with Small Son.  i sat on the living floor of marie's and "asked" the deck about my unborn child.  specifically i wanted to know what gender my baby was.  the first card i pulled a knight with a long sword.  i slapped it down and pushed it aside.  i tried again.  another sword.  and again.  more swords.  i then flipped through the deck to ensure there were some feminine images, and yes of course there were- but none had touched my fingers.  all i had drawn were true to him- my second son.

so when i decided to pull a card on saturday morning i was confident the deck would show me what i needed to see.  i pulled out a card and gazed at it.  my first thought was "she looks like me!"  and then i laughed to see how completely wobbly the card was.  the image was of a woman with a light pink derby on with wavy blond hair and uneven eyes.  it seemed that she was looking straight on with her right eye while her left looked far off to her side.  in front of her was a thin infinity sign with a red pentacle in the center of each loop- at first glance it looked like she was roping them up in a rodeo.  the blue sky was above her and around her was water.

i described what i saw to my new friend- a fiery man with small round spectacles that intensified his eyes even more so than his observant nature.  he listened carefully and then pointed out that she was indeed surrounded by water and that perhaps she was in a boat.  he mentioned, almost casually the need for balance, although his warm eyes looked at me meaningfully like a teacher willing a student to "get it."

balance. ah yes.  what i seek, what i miss, what i need.  in all aspects of my life i often feel out-of-balance.  too much this, not enough that.  within my own self, in my relationship, as a mother, as a human it feels that i often am struggling to redistribute tasks, thoughts, needs to be more balanced.  coming to the dance was an attempt to right myself a bit- to figure out how to balance a job, homeschooling kids, working on my marriage, having a garden, serving on a board, and the keeping the house from falling into complete ruin, laundry pile first.

coming to the dance is always about this.

so dance i did.  i danced furiously, curiously, drastically, bombastically.  i danced through so many flavors of joy and fear, celebration and indignation, opening and closing....and then right back to fear.  the deepest, darkest fear my body has ever held.  the fear i think i have "gotten over" only to have her slide up beside me and unsettle me all over because this fear isn't based on a shadow, but a truth i have felt in my exploding lungs and hurting heart- even though i cannot recall the details with my mind, these other organs scream protest, they scream witness.

the story goes that when i was a child- about 2 or 3- i fell into a swimming pool and sank.  my brother, who is 4 years older than me, was my witness.  he told me once, casually over dinner in vancouver, that when they pulled me up i was blue.

now, i could have dismissed this as a mis-memory on my brother's part- except that my body jolted with a clear recognition that was impossible to deny.  years of swimming lessons all undone by the slightly splash of water on my face, the way my heart races if my feet do not touch bottom, the many hours it took to simple trust water enough to float in a pool four feet deep.  the "click" of understanding a bit more about myself must have been audible that night.

but i had felt i had dealt with that old fear- until suddenly, while dancing- i was there again.  alone, terrified, drowning in tepid water, frantic for someone to come and help me.  which, of course, happened.  someone did come and help me.  i am here now.  except for that small bit of me that is stuck somewhere in my past, trying to catch up with me, sending me messages like greeting cards across breakfast tables.

hours after my break down on the dance floor - oh yes, full on tantrum - i remembered the tarot card and reviewed the sketch i had done of her/me.  then i noticed a few more things. i was in a boat.  i was safely, securely in a boat.  and i was not alone in the boat- someone was looking me in the eye and telling me that even if i lost balance and capsized, even if i sank like a chunk of granite, even if i grew terrified and forgot how to float and how to breath, that no matter what- i would not drown.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Hero

Everyone wants to be a hero, champion, a badass.  Few things compare with that feeling of knowing you were there, just at the right moment, and completely changed the outcome of a situation doomed for darkness.  I could argue that maybe it's this need that fuels motherhood, because being a mama requires being a badass many times a day.

Or attempting to be a badass and failing at it, locking yourself into the bathroom and taking a bath at 3:30 in the afternoon because you figure you are least likely to do permanent damage this way while you mourn the fantasy of being the badass you used to once be.

I realized into my seventh year of parenting my Big Son that this desire, to be the unexpected solution to a problem, was HUGE.  It fueled his play, picked his toys, and provided a significant motivation when it came to chores.  While asking "can you help unload the dish washer?" was met with lackluster interest, rephrasing the question into something more of a plea for help, the clean dishes being menacing and overwhelming (which they often are, damn plates) resulting in an enthusiastic rescue.

I'm not above playing the stereotypical helpless maiden bound by circumstances outside of my control (sock sorting, for example) when it comes getting help with the housework.  Don't tell Ani, but sometimes being the kitten in the tree has perks.

There have been real life situation when I did need a hero.  A Hero, even (and I include in this the female form of the word Heroine...but not the liquid suicide you inject into your veins.  That has no place here.)  Times when one showed up, times when one didn't, times when I just got tired of waiting and decided to be my own.  Or times when all three happen at once.

For example...

Sometimes my brain clicks on, loudly and fierce like a downhill train without brakes, at the wee hours of the morn. I lay in the dark, resentful of nearby snoring, and review all the ways I have fucked up.  Or worry about the way I am going to fuck up.  Sure, there is a undercurrent of self-love and grandmotherly charm somewhere in my head too, but it's mostly drowned out by the screeching.  After ninety minutes of this, it feels like a good time to do laundry.

On this particular October morn, I found my flip-flops in the dark and wandered toward the laundry room.  Ok, that noun "room" implies that it is more than a hall- which is what it really is - the laundry hall/pantry.  A very tight hall packed full of glass jars I can't seem to use, recycle or surrender pushed into the crevices of boxes, packages and cans of food that I often forget to use.  It's not a particularly welcoming area of the house, it's supposed to be about function - but does not have much form.  True, I often get a little skittish because you have to walk through the dark hall, three steps, to reach the light switch and then you stand facing the window on the back door and more than once I have scared the shit out of myself by seeing my reflection staring back at me (really, a child should never watch those Halloween movies).  Oh, and there was the time I switched on the light and found a country mouse (also known as a rat) clinging to the wall, staring at me with big, wet, black eyes.

This morning I was too sleepy to remember to be scared though, and as it would happen, as soon as I switched on the light there was a thudding sound of something hitting a wall and the squawks of startled chickens.   At 4 in the morning, before the slow glow of dawn has begun to tickle sounds out of the world, these are really loud and terrifying sounds and instantly cleared the whiny bitch noise in my head.  If I had only heard the thudding sound I would not have grabbed the closest "weapon," the broom, and ran out into the dark night.  I would have gone and woke up the slumbering big man of a bear in the bedroom.  It was the squawk.  A squawk of equal parts terrors and indignation...a call to arms.  Broom in hand, I went forth.

As I ran out of the door and down the slippery wooden steps, I hollered over my shoulder to the sleeping house "SOMETHING'SINTHEHENHOUSE!" and ran, full tilt to meet the tormentors.

And then I stopped.  As I cleared the corner of the house, darkness cut a sharp angle and only shadows of the hen house greeted me.  I was taken over with the realization that my sleepy attire of yoga pants and flip-flops was sooo not the rodent-fighting armor I was wishing for.   I have a vivid imagination, and in that nano-second of seeing the hen house and knowing I was going to get closer to it, I clearly lived the horror of having my toes mauled by a fierce furry thing.  Something with a looong and pointy tail. My toes were cold and worried.  They were wondering if maybe they were higher up on the priority list then the chickens, because yes- the eggs are good but walking is really good.

Their complaints were hardly acknowledged before another loud round of thumping and squawking erupting from the wooden coop, which caused me to scream and randomly bang the outside of the coop.  At the time, I had a vague notion that this was going to scare the critter out of the coop.  Now I realize it was just reinforcing the perception my neighbors have of me that I am crazy.  In fact, I was just practicing my broom swing...cuz I was fixin' to do some mean sweeping on those darn varmints.  "Sweep 'em clear to Sunday," is the term I would later coin to explain my weapon of choice.

I could see ruffled feathered hens darting in the bottom run of the chicken coop so I ventured round to open the run- squishing into wet grass - toes loudly protesting as I neared the door.  Two chickens ran swiftly into the safety of the dark and then ran back out of the dark because the dark doesn't really feel that safe most of the time.

Now the chicken coop was put together from various found wood, which we hoard, and isn't really the most clever in the design area.  It is on wheels and it sits parallel the elevated back deck.  There is the bottom run, which has a ramp leading up through a hatch- which had been left open the night before - and into the roosting area and nesting box.  The nesting box has a lid that opens and the roosting area has a large door that you can swing open and latch.  If you get really close and put down your broom.  That's what I did to find sleeping birds and lots of menacing blackness.

The perfect moment for a hero to arrive.

The outside light sprang on with a fierceness and the sliding glass down rolled open with a velocity that caused it to bounce back a tad, and out stepped my Big Son, his long brown hair wild and full, clad only in his plaid boxer shorts, holding in his two hands his pellet rifle, cocked and loaded.  And as he stepped into the light he yelled out in a high voice imitating a low voice, "WHO IS MESSING WITH MY GIRLS?!"

I'm writing to Websters and telling them to update their entry for "badass."

And for "hero" too.