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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

small spots

as i walked down the houseware aisle toward the cat food, i spied a nymph-of-a-cashier carefully turning the cans of cat food into columns of symmetry.  this meditative practice is often referred to as "facing" in the retail world.  i spent a good lot of my time at work doing this to antioxidants, omegas, and the like.  this cashier however, had a pensive countenance and her movements were slow and measured.  this is not the usual approach to facing a store.  it is often a much more harried task, so i felt compelled to inquire.

now this cashier is especially faerie-like.  she may be the quintessential cashier for a health food cooperative store.  her hair is wispy, light and often has fragrant flower blossoms or found feathers laying in it's haphazard curls.  her eyes are a piercing blue but her lids are heavy.  she is slight in build and has freckles on her nose. her name is not common.  she isn't named after a plant or a state of being - as the stereotype might suggest - but you probably wouldn't be entirely sure how to pronounce her name if you saw it on her name tag.  she is kind and genuine.  i'm pretty sure when she sleeps butterflies make moss beds on her pillow to slumber near her.

i wasn't completely surprised when she told me that at that moment she was thinking that "it" was all about balance.  "it" being life, not facing - although if you have ever dared to enter the tetris-like task of facing the tea-box-wall then you know that facing is also all about balance.  she continued to talk a bit about balance - the need to not swing to far to one side or the other. 

in my own balancing act i have found that when i make a sudden move, there will be an equally forceful movement in an opposing way.  while if i made smaller nudges then the pendulum doesn't hit me in the ass on the way back to me.

i immediately thought of the yin-yang symbol when the faerie-of-cashierland said "balance" because this symbol is often used in my parenting conversations, more so perhaps than most, because i have a very emotional child who can go to extremes in his reactions - clearly a genetic lark. 

the way the swirls suggest motion and a cycle.  the spot of light within the dark and vice versa.  the small points when light turns to dark and then dark back to light. 

constant circular movement creates balance.

and i fight like hell against this most of the time.  when things are good, i want to stop the clock and just keep it good.  for. ev. er.  i want laundry to stay clean.  i want money to stay in the bank.  i don't want to have to buy more cat food a month from now.  and i certainly do not want to talk about something that has already been talked about before.  yes, ironically i want exactly what i fear the most: stagnation.

but, as the cashier-faerie demonstrated with her towers of cat vittles and her twinkling eyes - it is all about balance.  even when things comes crashing down and land on your exposed toes, it is still about balance.

even when your checkbook is not balanced and your bounce several checks to the place you work - it is still about balance.

even when you try to bring in your purse, the library books, and the rotten food at the same time and fail at this attempt.  yup, balance.  again, when i say "you" what i mean is "me."

riding a bike.  taking a shower.  comforting a child.  making a meal. asking for help.  going to sleep.  sun down. sun up. 

over and over.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

let it shine

the divine mostly whispers.  small and soft voice in my mind- suggesting solutions, offering detour directions, calming me when i scrap my knee past the age when my mama's lap fits.  it is the crux of life that whispering can be easy to ignore.

often it is about ten seconds too late that i recognize the whispering.  the moment after i turn down a street and see the sea of brake lights, when the sound of my son's siren screech out of his square mouth lands in my ears from a trip i didn't catch -  resulting in blood and scab, the look of hurt as my impulsive words land on the heart of someone in an ugly splat of black tar.  then i think, didn't i hear that whispering that said to turn right, to hold my son's hand, to keep my mouth shut?

truth is i do hear it. 

truth is i sometimes don't recognize it as my whispering divinity.  sometimes she can sound a little bit like a nagging fish wench or a whiny child or a grumpy-ass old man who doesn't brush his teeth often.  or maybe it's that it is hard to hear because all of these voices/thoughts are swirling around in my head in an overcooked soup, where carrots and potatoes taste the same.

truth is, sometimes i hear it, i recognize it and i ignore it.  i think "yeah, right i don't need to get gas now."  the stubborn part of me that simply doesn't want to be told what to do - even told what to do by my best-self, my guardian angel, my muse, my floating buddha of hope.  the rebel without a reason, i just disregard all sorts of good counsel and go straight toward obstacles as fat and crusty as brick walls. 

basically, this is why i got my nose pierced.  not because i was rebelling, but because i wanted a reminder that i do have this little light that shines and if i let it shine, as the song goes, i can follow it to where i need to be. 

i discovered this one late night when i sat up and preached a sermon to myself on the couch as i folded laundry.  i started off by singing songs and then i started chatting about the song - why it has lasted so long, why so many voices and hearts had found comfort in them.  i kept coming back to "this little light of mine, i'm gonna let it shine."  and i'd talk to myself, out loud, about what that meant to me in this life.  

i figured the whispering and the light are one-and-the-same.  i also figured that i needed a reminder about this, something a little big bigger/louder than the whispering.  something purdy and glittery and magically delicious.

these were the thoughts i had when teri stuck a hollow needle through my right nostril - i was singing this song in my head and imagining the tiny hole was like a star in the night sky.  a jewel in a vast dark landscape.  a disney tune might have slipped in there too.

a year later my nose-piercing seemed to be working.  except when it didn't.   like one morning as i washed my face in the shower, i heard the whisper say "you should be careful washing your face with this nose piercing."  and so i didn't.  i thought "nah, it's been fine all this time."

until 5 minutes later when i noticed the moonstone stud wasn't firmly in my flesh, but on the brink of the shower drain.  and it wouldn't go back through my nose.  i could get it all the way through the layers of my outer dermis, the cartilage but not the inner mostly muscusy layer of my nose.  i could feel the tip of the metal but it would not pierce through.

i'm as vain as the next person, i admit.  but it was something more than vanity that caused me a slight flutter of panic to land in my belly at the thought of my nose piercing refusing to be replanted in my nostril.  it was like a sign, like my light was being denied.  like the whispering had gone away - the tiny stud being it's speaker in my face and i couldn't get the freakin' wires to connect.

throughout the day, i kept trying to get the stud back in my nose.  my nose responded by swelling up and making it even more difficult.  i straightening an L shaped piercing to double the length, but still couldn't quite get it through.  i stalked pierced folks at stores and later at a party for advice.

the consensus: i had to push it through or it would only close up more.

the advice: do it now.  make noise when it hurt.  use a frozen carrot.

well, there were no frozen carrots to be found in the farmhouse freezer because really, frozen carrots are never as good as fresh carrots.  however we did manage to find a bag of edamame pods in the chest freezer.  i've also appreciated edamame pods, especially because of those soft hairs on them.  they remind me of $85 tabs for sushi, seaweed salad and sake when it was feasible to spend that much money on 45 minutes of food.  it's been awhile.

while the party continued behind the barn, the jugglers on the stage of the flat-bed truck and the cherries pits being sucked clean and then spit into the bushes, i went inside to the bathroom with my Small Son in tow and a midwife for the pain.  sitting on the counter, i shoved a cube of ice up my nose to numb it.  Small Son found this hilarious.  then in with the fuzzy green pod.  the bulbous curve of the bean fit snugly into my nostril.  i pushed the piercing through and felt it hindered by my thinnest skin.

this is where the noise-making helps.  because it is really challenging to cause ourselves pain and hold in noise at the same time.  it also helps to have someone else, midwife, make loud groaning noises with you from the doorway of the bathroom as your kid plays with the wooden teapot on the waldorf kitchen set up.  it is easier to groan into a groan rather than into silence.

as i pulled the pod out of my noise i saw small spots of blood on the green skin.  i felt the silver poking my septum as i wrinkled my swollen nose.  i turned my head this way and that to view the little light that had been gone for the past ten or so hours. 

and i thought
next time, i'm going to listen to that whisper
damn, that hurt.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


the days before my birthday, every one, is awash in a gray film that clouds my emotions and smile.  by now, my 38th time at this, you'd think i'd be ready or at least aware of it. but like pms, it's not until after the fact that i think "oh, right" and remember that this is my pattern.  a repeating, predictable pattern.

it's something like this- i start to think about what i want to happen on my birthday and then i immediately dash all hope because these plans are in the hands of others to shower me with ridiculously delirious amounts of love and stuff.  now i have had really great birthdays, but every year i start to worry that this will be the year that everyone suddenly deems me unworthy of any type of consideration other than requests for clean laundry or popsicles.

then there's that very teeny-tiny voice of small, wise girl that whispers that maybe i should just consider letting the day unfold and see what treasures show up. 


that's my middle school bitch that lives right under the skin.  she uses a lighter to melt her eyeliner and aquanet on teased bangs.  she wears short tight skirts and black suede boots.  she rolls her eyes like bowling balls- fast and dangerous. 

perhaps my gray film is actually the result of these two gals fighting it out somewhere in my spleen or gallbladder or other obscure organ.  maybe the small girl purrs and the middle school bitch hisses and i build brick walls around the scuffle so i don't have to pick sides.  and of course, by not picking sides i am pickings sides.  as my dad likes to say, the first option is always not to do anything.  which is still doing something. 

i love the doing nothing option.

i do nothing until the morning of my birthday and the bitch is in the lead.  she is throwing darts of criticism faster than someone who throws darts really fast...sorry it's too early for a meaningful metaphor here.  the point being, that it really looks like m.s.b. is gonna win the day until slowly i start to pick sides.  what switched me from indifference to defender?  i dunno.   i spoon warm honey milk to small, wise girl and she perks right up.

off we go into the day.  i get lunch at my favorite place in Atown, and we walk to thrift stores where i find nothing especially fabulous and that's ok.  we kill time until the last thrift store opens and i get dropped off to dive into the crowd.  i barely make it out of there with red preschooler shoes and green shirt because there's just too many eager treasure hunters which means there's no easy browsing and's all about the hunt and the long wait in line.

i wait on the curb for the fam to pick me up, i sip my water.  the water is stale and smells like it's been in a metal water bottle for a few days in a warm car.  which it has.  out of the thrift store comes a woman in her fifties who is coughing.  the cough is that annoying cough of "i swallowed wrong" and nothing super dangerous, but she keeps coughing.  she has short kinky hair with bright sunglasses and cocoa skin. 

i wonder briefly what it's like for her to be in this white-washed town as i step up and offer her my stale water.  i'm secretly hoping she doesn't take it because it's not cold and sweet the water is meant to be, but it is water and i am offering it.  she politely declines and says something about how if someone is coughing they are ok, and then she chats about the dog there and this and that with me.  her smile is genuine and her hands flit about as she talks.  out the door comes an elderly woman using a walker and the woman, no longer coughing, comments to her "Girl, you're just getting out everywhere today."

this reminds me how much i miss living in a place where i hear women call each other girl with big smiles.  it reminds me how much i miss living in a place where i see and hear many different types of bodies and voices and movement.  i suppose this might be some type of racism, that i seek people out who are not like me - white.  just like i pick out books to read based on the last name of the authors, going straight to the ones i cannot pronounce.

in any case, the sun is out and i'm chatting with this....girl....and she tells me, "my name is carlotta.  what's yours?"   and i tell her my name.  i repeat it and she repeats it.  we shake hands.

then she says....she actually says, "well, nancylee aren't you just the sweetest thing?  we are lucky to have you on this earth."

i smile shyly and say thank you. i cross the street.  i am overwhelmed.  my eyes tear up and i'm curious at the power strangers - how strangers all over the world show love to each other in simple words that rock worlds.  truly,  i have heard words like this from people i love and not been as moved as hearing Carlotta say them to me.

and at first the small girl feels like this gift was for her.  because of course, everyone loves the small, wise girl. 

she is the sweetest thing, after all. 

the more i think about it, it was for the middle school bitch.  that part of me that feels not welcomed and unseen.  because she is the same part of me that has dragged my ass to this point through particular parts of hell too much for small girl to doing anything more than nap through.

folks may like small, wise girl - i know i do.  but i just gotta say to my middle school bitch, "damn girl, we are lucky to have you on this earth."

Friday, July 13, 2012


i watched the mail van creep its ways down the sidestreet, it swerving in closer to rural boxes to deliver paper and packages.  white with blue and red stripes.  dip and glide.  dip and glide.

"guess what's coming in the mail today?!"  i called back to the boys hunkered behind me in the new truck, also known as the Duchess of Wow.  i'm thinking of a documentary about a certain band my kid has recently fallen in love with.

DOM DA DOM DA DA DOM DOM, i sing out.... the first notes of Seven Nation Army - the 3 year old can sing it by now.  and he does.

"the tickets?" replies my gleeful almost 10 year old boy who will headed to this concert with me in August for our birthday concert.  i'm confused by this for a nanosecond because we already got the tickets and i showed him where i hid them...

"THE TICKETS!"  i holler.  confusion in the back seat.  "THE TICKETS WERE IN THE OLD FRIDGE!"  and yes, the old fridge died last week. it was hauled away.

never to be seen again.

see, on friday night i get home from work and when i open the fridge to put away the groceries my hand slips into tempid air.  in the freezer the popsicles are sagging, ice cubes reverting to water state, the plastic bag with the two $60 tickets calmly sitting in the door, next to the bag of sweet corn.

at some point in my life - i have yet to figure out when - i was taught/told/decided that the freezer was the safest place to store valuable papers.  i believe the reasoning was something like if the house burns down the stuff in the fridge won't burn.  because the only thing lamer than your home becoming a mountain o' ashes is not being able to go see the Red Hots, PJ and yes, Nirvana.  of course, who knows if a freezer would hold these sacred slips safe?  typically this didn't mean i put cash or birth certificates in the freezer, just tickets - concert tickets.  priorities people.

the 10 year old begins to break down in his own controlled rage/sadness way.  he grips his head with his hands, mangled hair peeking out of grubby hands, and i can feel his heart sinking into his flame converse.  i say something incredibly consoling and kind like, "don't just sit there, let's go look for them!"  this might even be a nicer version of what i said.  i am not a saint.

inside we check the usual places- the new fridge.  the freezer in the pantry.  then we get crazy and start checking my desk and the recycling bin.  the boy calls the dad and leaves heartbreaking voicemail.  i call the dad and get a slightly abrupt "no i haven't seen them" reply.  my dad, who is visiting from california, is equally ignorant of ticket's whereabouts and my habit of putting things in the freezer for safe keeping.  maybe you can never really know a person.

around this time my best friend shows up with her teenage daughter en route to birch bay.  it's her 41st birthday and i was planning a nice time of visiting with her while eating ice cream.  instead she has walked into melt down central - no cone required.  while seren shifts disgarded receipts and bills, i decide to call the appliance store where we bought the new fridge, where the old fridge went.

donnie - maybe the one from NKOTB - hides his confusion/mockery well.  he goes and looks for our old fridge and reports that it is not on the premises.  the trailer full of old appliances has been picked up.  i ask if there's any chance someone in the warehouse opened up the freezer, saw the tickets and did the happy dance.  he tell me, very seriously, that they typically do not open up old refrigerators because they "smell pretty bad."  never thought about that.

he does take my name and number.  good kid. glad he had fame and riches once upon a time.

continue frantic search.  i start doing the mom thing where i look everywhere my kid has already looked and my kid goes and hides in his room.  in the dark.  under his desk.  he wants ice cream.  but i cannot let him eat it alone in the dark.  i know that song too well.

meanwhile, my friend has offered up her two tickets and her daughter loves up the cats.  my dad returns from the tire store.  the 3 year old wants more ice cream.

seemingly random tangent, like a commercial, but with important back story:

i often wonder if the years of television watching has provided me with inappropriate role models.  like macguyver.  at moments in my life i have actually seen images of him in my head when i need to go into desparate fix-it mode.  like when i dropped the keys out of the truck into a trench and used the dog leash and paper clip to retrieve them.  

however, since i read every word i could get my eyes on, i also have a host of literary characters to personify as well.  nancy drew, for example.  if having the same name wasn't enough, she was also blonde and...nothing like me at all.  now and then, i get this secret-agent tingly feeling and i solve the case, mo fo.

with the case of the thawed-out tickets, i decide to do some more tracking.  i call back the appliance store and ask for details about who/when the old appliances were picked up.  confusion ensues, but then i'm given a number.  i call that number and repeat the same story i told Donnie earlier.  This guy, does not hide his confusion/mockery, but also shows some compassion and give me another number to call.

i call that number.  by this time the child has come out of cave of discontent, and is lurking nearby to hear if anyone knows anything.  the third appliance guy sounds like a grandpa.  i add more details because i have a slight worry that the tickets will wind up on craigslist and maybe if i get enough pity this won't happen.  i explain how this was a birthday present for my son, how devastated he is, how yes- i know it is weird to store tickets in a freezer.  and this guy totally gets it.  he unleashes the hounds on to the cemetary of dead appliances.  if those tickets are there- he is gonna find them.

my friend and her kid leave.  my kid feels better because he knows that he is going to see Jack White, no matter what.  Yes, that is who all this is for - Jack White, formerly of the White Stripes.  This is the apple of my kid's eye.  Possibly for mad guitar skills combined with screeching rocking lyrics, most definitely some style points too.  Jack White who writes songs that someday my kid will "get" and ask, incrediously "you let me listen to this?"  in my defense, i suppose all i will be able to offer up is that he wanted to listen to it.  but in truth, it's because the music transports him to a place where all things are bright and brilliant and intense.  it's the music of his emotional landscape.  last year it was the avett brothers.  this year, more distortion.  bring on sixteen saltines.

now that it's just family i know it's time to dive into the garbage.  luckily (?) we haven't made a dump run since the fridge died.  yay!  all the old rotting food-stuffs is outside in the deep bins of refuse.  the good news is that it isn't raining and we have chickens.  remember- chickens eat anything.  i begin pulling out garbage.  i realize we aren't really doing a good job of recycling.  i contemplate whether it's true that this doesn't matter because "they" sort it all out anyway.  i also realize my kids are being fed crap food while i'm at work.  i also realize i'm not sure if i could sift through a stranger's garbage.  eww.  i bet nancy drew would do it, if she had gloves.

i pull a book out of the box that had been under the house (in musky city) for month and thus had decomposed into cardboard shreds.

"hey!" i shout.  my son jumps up with excitement and yells "you found 'em?!"

"no.  but here's that library book we lost."  the one we paid $20 to replace.  the one on budgies.  the one - i later will learn - the library has not replaced yet but will not issue a refund either.  no, we will not be returning this book.  we gots budgies.

i send the boy into the house to search through more paper recycling.  and i reach the final bag of garbage.  it contains all the things in the freezer i didn't even try to save- the ground turkey my mom gave us, the pork stew that needed more work, the....i don't even remember what that is...container.  the chickens gather with glee, pecking at a speed not seen since the maggot-munch.  everything is covered in a rancid slime.

i should have worn gloves, i think.

if it was raining it would stink less, i think.

i have found the tickets, i think.

yes, amidst the plastic bags of disgust shines a white pristine envelope with two tickets to the August 14th show of Jack White at the WaMu Theater in Seattle.  Hot damn.

i call for seren and race up the stairs.  he is sitting on the floor contemplating each piece of paper before putting it back in the box when i say "i found 'em" and hold them in front of him, slime slick still.  his eyes light up and his face radiates into a smile that would stop a parade.  he runs to me and hugs me with this strength of love and release of anger and complete bliss.

even if it was probably me that tossed them out in the first place (never clean out a fridge after working all day and needing sleep) i feel like macguyver and nancy drew with a dash of Jem (truly, truly, truly outrageous) and She-Ra (princess of power).

cuz that's what it takes to be a mama.  no sainthood required.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


i am a fixer.  if i had a tool belt of my life's work around my waist it would hold a pen, paper, and glue.  maybe some toast.  and a warm drink.  yes, those things can make just about anything right again with enough time and good intention.  good attention.

these days i notice friends struggling.  more than one.  people i love dearly.  gals i consider sisters even if i only know one paragraph of their life story.

and i want to make it better for them.  i want to glue their chipped feelings together and soothe their frazzled hearts.  i want to somehow reach inside them and hold the hand of their small ego with her pink finger nails until she is ready to laugh and jump rope again.

but i know i have to wait it out.

this is how i know.

a long time ago i found myself not feeling safe in my home.  not because another person wished me harm, but because my own rage was beyond containing and i worried that i would spontaneously combust if i stayed one minute longer burning down everything and everyone around me.  leaving was my anger management.  it was also a way to set boundaries.  and a way to get a good night's sleep.

on my friends couch.

i'd show up with small child in tow and rest.  it seems like i did this often.  more often than i would have liked.  at various times of the day and  night.  with toothbrush or not.  with pajamas or not.  with words or not.

and my friend would look at me with her green eyes aching, her lips twitching to ask, no doubt her curiosity as peaked as a mountain top- but she never asked me why or how or what.  she never once told me what i should do or what i shouldn't do.

she just was there.  with her guitar.  with her cats.  with her single wide mobile next to railroad track at the base of small mountains where harley's like to drive like wild animals.

and that's what friends do.  because before you can glue something back together you have to wait for all the pieces to land, then gather them, puzzle them around a bit.  and that all takes some time.  but when we are ready to give it a go, it's nice to have someone there with glue at the ready.  and a cup of tea, some toast.  maybe even a few tissues.

cuz fixin is messy work.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


suddenly i needed a clean bath tub.  i cannot pick the exact motivation behind this need, but there were several contributing factors:
1. it was disgusting.
2. my back was in a constant pain spasm.
3. pending visit from my favorite aunt.
4. it was disgusting.

more about the bath tub.  it is the original tub when the house was built in the fifties.  thankfully it is not pink, yellow or blue.  it is white.  or it was white.  probably.  any glossy sheen it once had has been worn away like freckles from a summer vacation- slowly disappearing over time.  without that protection glimmer the stains of the day sink right into the pores.  where they stay for a very, very long time.

i wasn't always so neglectful of my tub.  probably there was a phase in my life when i regularly scoured porcelin.  i vaguely remember loving a tub- the one in the top floor of a triplex where the window was eye level as you soaked and birds often gathered in the birdplace out on the roof.  a person could soak and witness cedar wax wings flicking diamonds of water on their creamy gray plumes.  most likely that bath tub was regularly cleaned.

no tub in this house gets that kind of lve.  this house always housing me as a mother, i have found washing the tub to be continually on the downward spiral on my to-do list.  if i ever actually wrote one of those. i place dirty children in there and they come out cleaner.  i keep  my eyes closed when i take a bath, fan on to mask any whining, essential oils to paint prettier any odors and i shower immediately afterwards.

problem?  i don't have a problem.

but then there's sunday morning and suddenly motivation hits me with a tinge of shame, perhaps, and i decide i will make my tub into something different than what it is.  something clean and white and glimmering.  so i gather supplies from under the bathroom sink.  well, i sort stuff first to get to the bon ami powder and green scrubby and then go in search of gloves.  this is when i spy the bottle of "soft scrub with bleach" in the kitchen.  i did not buy this.  i would not buy this for so many reasons and yet here it sits.  i decide it's  my mother.  in her ever-good-intending mode she has brought this contraband into my world.  perhaps in a moment of do-gooding she has forgotten that i am Green.  i work at a co-op.  i shop at thrift stores.  i feed my children tahini dressing on organic greens.  surely she has forgotten that i don't want to use toxin cleaners that taint the ground water and kill fishes.  she has forgotten that chlorine produces the most lethal of all byproducts: dioxins, mega mutant killers.  she has forgotten this all in the blissful moment of believeing soft scrub with bleach will make my tub scrubbing easier.

and i forget all this too and grab the bottle.

sometimes my brain splits and i can watch me do stuff while the other part of my brain says "holy hell- what are you doing?!"  but then the third part of my brain replies "shhhh- let's just see what she does.  it's kinda boring around here anyway."  maybe if i had cable this wouldn't happen...

there's me in flip flops with yellow rubber gloves in the bathroom ready to transform the tub into the shangrala of sudsing.  i squirt with abandon.  even as the fumes hit me and my eyes squint, i kneel and begin to furiously work the green rectangle back and forth along the black foot prints and dark smudges.  and even as part of me still screams "stop!" this other part of me is sayin "wow, this stuff really does clean stuff up quick."

i'm in awe of how fast grey turns white, at the same time being offended that i want it to be transformed just so.  i've made my own scouring powder, i've boiled water, i've bruised my knees and sweated my brow in the process of cleaning the tub.  if one doesn't mind the burning nostril feeling, this bleach stuff isn't so bad.

i open the window, turn on the fan and yell into the house "don't come into the chlorine cloud!"

with the sides nearest me, i start to work on the far sides, and then decide to actually step into the tub to get better leverage.  all three parts of my  brain agree that standing in the frothy foam is a bad idea so i leave my flip flops on.  when i bend down to work at the ring of scuzz i almost pass out from the fumes.  while most sane people would leave at this point, i am far too into the fantasy of white bath to stop now.  besides- a half clean bath tub is worse than a completely dirty one.  it's the contrast that gets you.

i decide to use my ample leg muscles.  the green scrubby is about the same length of my foot, so i step onto it and work it back and forth and back and forth in small, fast movements.  i hold onto the wall for support.  i scream "don't let him in here!" frantically as the toddler tries to investigate.  i switch feet.  and then switch again.

most of the tub is gleaming.  true, there still is no shine and no doubt won't be until i fork over $300 to have more toxins repainted on the tub.  but the tub is far more inviting.  except for the large yellow stain where it looks like a dead body was left to rot.  the stain that is never removed no matter how long i soak things in it or scrub at it.  the stain that only once showed any signs of dimming after a $18 bottle of white cranberry cleanser was spilt on it, leaving a clean streak like a river through it.  and yes, that worried me.  and no, i never bought another bottle of that.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

bloody valentine

i woke up on valentine's day to my naked three year old begging to go shoot arrows outside.  i'm not making this up.  he managed to get the bow out of the closet and did not rest until i gave him an arrow..."NOT THAT ONE!"...that was up to his high, and completely secret, standards.  he then walked around the house with these in hand, his round belly and small butt, putting to shame every cupid you have ever seen.

no, i did not take a picture.

i did, however, put out the small bags of the very small candies i had cautiously picked out at work the night before on the dining room table (the only table we have actually, so we do a lot more there then just dine).  upon waking, my fully-clothed nine year old sees these and asks incredulously "is it valentine's day?!" i nod.  because he is kind, and trying to avoid the preschooler with the weapons, he disappears to cut out a red heart and write on it "happy valentine's day mama.  i love you."  he hands this to me with a hug and turns to the goodies.

they are gone in seconds.

the naked cupid boy abandons his bow and arrow now that there is sugar involved and begins to whine for the lone bag on the table even though it is clearly labeled in crayons and markers that it is for his dad, not for him.  all attempts to explain this to him is interrupted with a wailing noise that my neighbors probably no longer question but most likely caused eyebrows to raise initially. 

at first, i try the reasoning approach:
you already had yours.
that one is for papa.

more wailing ensues.

i try distraction:
let's make muffins!
help mama feed the kitties.

tears, wailing and some anger. 

switch to physically comforting while acknowledging his emotions:
let mama hold you.
i can see that you are really upset.

fiercely determined, fists of rage, clenched jaw, screaming "I WANT IT!" over and over.

i resort to:

and then i put it on top of the fridge and silently berate myself for giving into the lure of purple foil and chocolate hearts and marshmallow gooey things.  i mentally kick myself for somehow forgetting, despite having gone through this before, that my child cannot tolerate any amount of sugar without melting down into a puddle of discontent and woe.  wailing woe. 

he punctuates my thoughts with more tantrum while i contemplate going back to bed.

after several more rounds of no-scream-no, he gives up (or maybe begins to develop his plan b) and we move onto the next thing.  for me this means the dishes.  for him, he goes back to his bow and arrow- including a few attempts to go outside naked to shoot it.  bigger brother has found a lego cruiser in need of restructuring.

suddenly, although this happens so often it is only sudden to visitors who don't have kids, the air is ripped apart and my knees tingle as the i-am-in-pain-squeal bounces off the ceiling.  the naked three year old is sitting in the hall, cradling his foot as a red circle of blood grows on the creamy pink skin of his tender sole.  a slight touch and another squeal reveals a shard of glass embedded in his foot.  he yells for me not to touch it even as he cries that it hurts.

and this is the lesson of the bloody valentine.  so pay attention.

i sit him on my lap and instruct bigger son to get the tweezers and cotton ball which he retrieves quickly and then holds the crying cupid's hand for support.  i attempt to gently pull out the shard, but of course,  any touch - no matter how well intentioned - hurts and is not tolerated.  he squeals and pleads with me.  i try again but the tweezers slip off the small exposed edge of the glass sliver.  he jerks away from me and begs with tears crashing down his face.  the seconds stretch into years as i am aware of two things: 1) my child is hurting and 2) i will have to hurt him to make the hurting stop.

of course, he doesn't understand the part about trying to make the pain stop.  he only knows that i insist on hurting him.  i try to explain that i need to get the glass out, but like all of us, his main concern is to avoid pain.  even when someone we love and normally trust is causing the pain.  maybe more so because it's unexpected and confusing.  especially after the chocolates.

i bolster up my resolve to get this damn glass out.  i ask big brother to help and reposition the crying child so his view is not so clear of what i am doing.  i firmly hold his foot and grasp the slippery sliver and somehow manage to shut out the noise and emotions pounded on my ears and heart.   the sensation of metal gripping glass travels up my arm and i slowly pull at the shard- it slides out.  it is so small.  tiny speck of pain in my palm.  he pays no mind as i try to explain how i made it all better by taking it out.  his face is still red with anguish.

i am grateful that he still nurses.  and i wrap his naked body in a blanket while i rock him back and forth a little bit.  his breathing slows.  big brother stands by quietly. 

it is not even ten in the morning and my day is already epic and packed full of too many lessons, too many emotions, too many red things like crooked hearts and spilled blood and deep anger at not getting enough and sad, sad shock at getting hurt by people we love.  just another februrary 14th.

or any other day of the year.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


for two months i have not written here, and i'm embarrassed.  it's like the couple who doesn't have sex for so long they are shy getting out of the shower while the other one brushes teeth.  hypothetically speaking.

several times i have had moment when i had words bouncing around in my brain with such fierceness i could have filled pages, but rather than sit to type i folding laundry while listening to the soft rock love song station.  even as i did this i would think "why am i doing this?!"  yes, a chicago song can be an interesting walk down memory lane with ralph machio as your escort.  however, if a person listens to that kind of ear noise everyday strange things happen.  like you stop writing in your blog.

until you read another mama's blog and feel that little panicky pang of jealousy/inspiration. 

then you find yourself boldly pressing "new post" with very little to actually write about.  i don't have a story to tell.  i can't even remember anything witty my boys have said to me recently.  my brain is in the white wash zone of nothingness- that place when you wake up and aren't sure where you are for a split second as your brain recreates the last conscious moments, trying to remember if you are on the couch or in your toddler's bed.

it's like that-  a nothingness is here now, but i know it will fade and a somethingness will be there.  i think when my eyes adjust and my fingers warm up i will have something worthwhile to write about, so please stay tuned.