Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Amazing Invisible Woman

Next Day
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,

Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I've become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.

When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I'd wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I'm old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car

See me. It bewilders me he doesn't see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile

Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home. Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind

Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water--
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don't know . . . Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work--I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them. As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:

I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate. Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: "You're old." That's all, I'm old.

And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me

How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I'm anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary

--Randell Jarrell

“True Confessions: sometimes I'm so envious of certain people and certain things that it becomes a physical ache and presence in my body that threatens to choke me. Just sayin'.”

That was a status update I saw on Face book a few weeks ago and I boy oh boy do I understand this sentiment. My envy is pretty free floating but it’s usually focused in one direction and it pains me to admit I’m usually envious of younger women. Because I’m deep--like a mud puddle--and a living breathing archetype: Crone hates the Maiden. Ok, I don’t “hate” the maiden but I certainly wish--at times--I was the maiden again. I also wish I could be content with the “wisdom” and “knowledge” and “experience” being in the middle of middle-age has given me. But I’m not. I’m not proud of the crow’s feet around my eyes, the lines in my forehead, or the sagging flesh threatening to take over my entire body. I’m also acutely aware of just how invisible I’ve become. NOT that I was one of those young women who turned heads no matter where she was. I’m fully aware I appealed to people who liked a certain type of woman: not classically pretty but a little exotic and well turned out. At the same time, I don’t want to be one of those pitiful over blonde, over tanned, over dressed, cartoonish women who remind me of Blanche Dubois, one of the saddest middle-aged women in 20th Century literature. (well ok, Rabbit’s wife was sad too but that’s because she didn’t cap his ass but that’s another subject for another day) Whenever I find myself longing for my youth and in danger of becoming a caricature of Blanche I am reminded of this poem and the second saddest woman in 20th Century literature.

Jarrell was more known for his war poems describing WWII and wrestling with the futility of death during war. This poem, written late in his life, is uncanny in its description of what it is like to be a middle-aged woman. What’s ironic, is Jarrell was commenting more about alienation and isolation inflicted upon everyone post war, rather than meditating on what it must be like to be a fifty-something year old woman grasping for her youth. The first time I read it I was at the ripe old age of 32 and it scared me to think I might feel like this woman someday. Someday has arrived and I can fully relate to the narrator and her gray lined smile. Fortunately, I don’t feel my life is commonplace, confusing or solitary. But at times I do long for my youth and the time when: the world looked at me and its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me, the eyes of strangers! And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile Imaginings within my imagining. . .” I have past this time of my life and am now invisible to most people younger than myself. On any given day at any given moment I don’t feel my age and like many people I am my age going on twenty less years. I don’t feel like I’m in my late twenties because they were so fabulous and happy and wonderful. In fact, twenty years ago I was “pretty and miserable.” I believe what leads me to feel like I’m twenty years younger is my wisdom because I am learning what to overlook. I am also learning what it is like to be overlooked.

Whenever the idea of being overlooked depresses me I remember there is freedom in moving through life a stealth being. The first time I was keenly aware of my transparency was on a trip with my family in Greece. One day, I was on my own and aimlessly wandering around Corfu Town: drinking in the sites and completely oblivious to where I was going until I realized it was getting late and I was absolutely irrevocably lost and couldn’t see the port where the huge ship was docked. My first inclination was panic because I couldn’t even read the street signs to tell a cab driver where to pick me up. After a brief thirty second freak out in the middle of a residential sidewalk, I looked down a hill and spied a busier boulevard… Piece of cake, just walk down the hill, hope it isn’t in the wrong damn direction, find a café, pull out my Greek flashcard with my: “I would like a taxi, please” phrase, stumble through a thank you and be on my way to the ship. Halfway towards the boulevard I noticed a group of men, turn the corner and walk up the hill. They were huddled together laughing and joking with one another as they walked. Oh hooray! I could save myself some steps and just show them my flash card for “where’s the port”. But as they got closer, I lost my nerve--the warnings of avoiding men in Greece and Turkey came back to me--and instead I nodded my head and said hello in Greek. They stopped speaking for a second and returned the greeting but didn’t stop or linger to size me up or strike up a conversation in feigned interest of who I was so they could chat up a pretty “girl“. It was like an epiphany! I was free! I could probably go anywhere on the planet unescorted and not be catcalled, wolf whistled or propositioned for anything aside trinkets, tours or drugs. Suddenly the world was a safer place. I pulled myself up to my full height and strode down the hill towards the boulevard. The street was as I expected, busy and peopled with all sorts of locals and tourists. On the street corner, I saw a group of obviously annoyed lovely young blonde women trying to politely extract themselves from the attentions of two considerably older Greek men. I wanted to laugh and point, mocking their dilemma with a victorious: “I‘m here all by myself and no one is annoying me! So put that in your nubile blonde pipe and smoke it chica!” I didn’t say anything but I did catch the eye of one and gave her a sad and empathetic half smile. Now, after remembering and savoring this poem, I would assure them the upside of aging was “moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All”.

(if anyone knows the name of this photo please let me know, I found it openstock)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hamburger Gravy

What a glorious spring day! After taking a sleepy Beav to school and working out at the gym, I managed to get Wally out of bed and into the yard this morning and we turned some mulch and raked up multiple bags of needles from the stupid evergreens. I hate, loathe and despise evergreens. They are messy and the acid in the needles is a threat to my lovely lawn and make my ornamental rocks look messy. The only thing I hate more than evergreens (aside from a few politicians and a couple of political commentators) are aspen trees. Aspen trees are stupid unless you live at about 7-8 thousand feet and then they are large enough to tower and quake like…you know…aspen trees. Otherwise at just under a mile elevation, they are small and look like trash trees. Besides looking like trash trees they become trash trees and throw out suckers through out the yard and your neighbors yard and your neighbor‘s neighbor‘s yard. Twenty years ago I was waging war on our next door neighbors‘ aspens and threatened to water kill them with Calcium carbonate. (OMG I didn‘t do it!!!). Give me a big oak tree, a messy cottonwood or a larch any day of the week. Because of my nemesis’ evergreens my yard work warm up was an imaginary tantrum, complete with foot stomping, swearing and genral bitching about the tasks. But as I moved from raking to gathering, the sun warm on my back and defrosting my late winter blood. I could feel the seratonin swell in my blood stream and I didn’t mind it so much. It felt good to be moving and outside without a coat or even a sweater this morning. Once Wally was awake and outside for a few minutes he was actually almost enthusiastic as he started the poop scooping. I was amazed how fast we knocked out the winter clean up and sort of disappointed we didn’t have more to do. When Wally bounced up to me and asked what else there was to do and I was tempted to hand him clippers and tell him to trim the dead stuff from the perennials. But it’s too early for that sort of thing and the tender green stuff peeking out from beneath the spent leaves would suffer when we have our next--and inevitable--snow storm. This evening when I asked Wally to be home at a decent hour his response was: “Sure! we Have stuff to do in the yard tomorrow!” (All I can say is God works in mysterious ways because I have a heck of a time getting this one excited about anything and in view of his enthusiasm I‘m inviting stuff for us to do tomorrow)

After we finished working in the yard and I had retrieved Beav from school I spent an hour or so sitting in a lawn chair, face to the sun, listening to a This American Life pod cast I didn’t finish at the gym earlier today. Heaven.

Until I had to go inside and fix dinner. Yuk to the twelfth power of five thousand and eight.

Fortunately I had planned a quiche for tonight which is the only thing I like to make besides reservations (ba-dum bump) It’s quick, simple and can be cheap. And we need cheap because we are having a “hamburger gravy” week at June’s house. Hamburger Gravy is something we would eat when I was growing up and I referred to it as “Depression Food” because it was sort of greasy and gray and pathetic. Everyone loved it but me. In fact, the other night The Girl and I were having our usual: “What do you want for dinner…“ conversation and I quipped out of the blue and from a long forgotten memory:
“Not Hamburger Gravy. “
“Oh God, I know what you are talking about and don’t worry, I hate that stuff.” was her rocket fast answer. We had a good laugh over the fact her family had their gravy over potatoes and we had it over white bread. (TG’s family was deemed “fancier” in this instance) When I remembered this particular “delicacy” it made me wonder if we didn’t have it when Mom was running a little short just before payday because someone needed shoes or glasses or the dentist. I kind of like this turn of phrase: “Hamburger Gravy Week” and I think it will become part of the family lexicon (along with “too many hands”, “hairplane” and putting a “y” at the end of each kids’ name). Someone asks for a new pair of jeans or a video game? All I have to do is look them dead in the eye and sagely intone: “Dude, Hamburger Gravy Week.” and the inquisitor will know their desire/request will have to wait a few days or longer unless they are naked, ill or starving; something that wouldn‘t happen unless it was Ditchwater Gravy Week.

Gravy isn’t all together a bad thing, it’s usually associated with an abundance of something (like meat drippings and fat) or an additional or superfluous but treasured something or extra money which makes the whole saying extra appealing to me, what with my love for all that is ironic or satirical.

Today really was a gravy day, with the warm sun and youthful enthusiasm for a stupid task coupled with a warm night with windows open, a full moon and one more precious day off:

It’s all gravy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Not On Fire"

Yeah, it’s me again. I received an email from Dad this morning and he claims I picked out my second car, the yellow Sunbird, I however have no memory of doing this. Mind you, it was a great car and pretty darn fast. Not that I ever EVER drove it faster than 70 on the highway…now the old runways at a deserted airport…He also denies ANY INPUT on the first car I actually bought for myself. Um...sure Dad, whatever you say... (See yesterday’s pontification about memory and history).

Getting his email this morning while I was wallowing around in self-bity because I tried to take Wally clear across town for a cattle call interview for a job that is actually within walking distance of our home but no one at the golf course fifteen miles away knew what was going on…so it was a useless trip and he was understandably frustrated. My email to Dad looked like some sort of: “poor me…blah blah…poor me.” And after I hit send I realized I hadn’t bothered with my gratitude journal this morning because I woke up after a short and almost sleepless night of IBS (good times, I gotta tell ya!) symptoms the only thing I could think to say was something my dear and funny and sweet friend Kevin is wont to say when things are going too wrong too fast and he is looking for a positive:

“I’m not currently on fire.”

That was about it for me this morning, too. I wasn’t on fire. Yet. But give the universe a chance and I’m pretty sure I would self-combust any minute.

But by the time I sat down to write this blog I came up with a big ole’ list of short term things I’m grateful for.
The Beav got up for school, the first day after spring break without comment or problem.
The sun was up for our commute at 0645.
I heard a great song that pretty much sums up my relationship with God.

I’ve been living out of sanity
I’ve been splitting hairs and
I am a house that is divided
In my heart and in my

use one hand to pull closer
The other to push you away
I had two
hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high

have a broken
I’m a liar who thirsts for the
while I ache for
faith to hold me
I need to feel the
scars and see the

And if
we just keep digging we can reach
the foundation
our souls
And if we
just keep cutting all the
chains from our hearts
We’ll lose control

And it feels like giving
It feels like
starting over
It feels
like waking up, and you
know it’s coming
feels like a brand new day

I could do without feeling the scars…and I’m a control freak.

Wally’s frustration drove me to the basement and I was sewing and muttered an Anne LaMott style “beggy prayer” that something wonderful would happen to him. A few minutes later his sweet friend, J came over. He told The Girl: “I heard about Wally’s accident and he has driven me all over the place so I borrowed my sister’s car and I’m here to see if he needs to go anywhere.” (Chokes me up just typing about this) Wally told me later he was really surprised J just showed up like that. I wasn’t because I knew the second I heard the knock on the door it was a gift.
Wally made it to the cattle call interview and it went well.
Wally, me and Beav had a great time driving home from school; we laughed all the way home.
Buddy was waiting for one of us to let him in our house when Wally came back from his interview. Buddy is like family and Kipper hasn’t been feeling well but brightened and played a little before going taking another nap.
TG’s vision continues to improve after her lasik surgery Saturday.
We are actively planning our trip to Cambodia and are separately devising itineraries and next week we will put them both together.
I’m grateful one of my decisions I need to make is whether or not I’m going to the Gulf of Thailand or not.
I heard from an old friend (the other EdgyJuneCleaver in Fort Worth Texas) and despite the unspeakable and sudden death of her beautiful twenty-four year old daughter she had time to write me a thank you not and give me a hug across the internets.
I also heard from my friend with stage 3 colon cancer and his spirits are good.
One of my new virtual friends has met someone and is in the beginnings of a romantic relationship and is very happy.
Another virtual friend after six months of unemployment in the high tech sector has a promising job interview this week.
The Girl made some awesome brats for dinner tonight.
Baylor women beat Notre Dame (ok, that was yesterday but Yay! Baptists! Smacking‘ down the Papists!)
I have hyacinth buds, they are green and will need to be protected from our next freeze but they are there.
It’s supposed to be 78 degrees tomorrow and Wally is looking forward to working outside in the yard with me.
But the best thing: It’s after seven pm in my world and the sun is still up and won’t be gone for at least thirty-minutes.
And Baylor beat Duke!

image found here

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barbie Versus The Red Power Ranger or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bombs

I made a commitment to myself to blog every day I’m home. Just at home days because if I blogged on “school days” each entry would read something like: “blah blah…drunk guy…blah blah stupid computer system…blah blah crazy old woman…blah…blah…poop everywhere…blah.” So I’ll spare my readers and just write four days a week. Anyhow, this blogging everyday is going to be a hefty challenge because I’m sorta lazy. But at the same time it is forcing me to think about what’s happening around me and then make it interesting without sacrificing the truth. Telling the truth is important to me. I remember studying reality in nonfiction eons ago at school and it fascinates me because the truth is lost the second something happens. But If I were keeping a blog about my fictive life I would probably regale everyone with stories about new shoes and cocktails with George Clooney and Sharon Stone on my yacht in the South Pacific; Valentino would appear every once in a while with a gorgeous vintage gown just for me and I would be about eight inches shorter and sixty pounds lighter... (Cue up a little Brad Paisley “On Line”)

So I was on the treadmill this morning and reviewing what I wanted to accomplish today; number one on the list was figuring out how to practice forgiveness towards Ward rather than my knee jerk standard white hot anger. I was reminding myself with each step that ultimately my anger wasn’t going to change his behavior or our shared history. The only thing I have control over is me. Trust me, this mantra was not repeated in a soft sing song uber Zen chant but rather it echoed in my head like a DS issuing orders. I was also reviewing all the stuff I’ve learned as a result of mothering sons versus daughters. I’m really thankful to the one hundredth power I didn’t have daughters. I grew up with a sister and we fought with one another a lot. It wasn’t the mix it up, hurl insults at each other in a big whoosh of ten second bad energy, either. Rather, it was more like a slow torturous emotional burn. This past year it’s been great watching Wally and Beav move away from the CONSTANT taunts and physical teasing to a camaraderie of fun, games and secrets siblings often have with one another. I was pretty surprised to learn they were text messaging one another a few times a day this week while Beav was in Texas. So I’ve learned what it looks like to have a brother. They have always mixed it up one minute like mortal enemies and the next minute they are best friends again. I could use a lesson in forgiveness from my kids.

The other thing I realized is my taste in “films” is much different than it was before they came along. I’ve always enjoyed science fiction but not action or war movies until I had boys. Now, I’m the one suggesting we go see the latest and greatest Car Blows Up Bad Guy Dies or post apocalyptic story. The bigger the FX budget the better in my book. I’ve also learned to appreciate inane comedies like Night At The Roxbury and Zoolander. Ten years ago, I had this fantasy we would be going to art films and by the time they were teenagers we would have left behind the pyrotechnics and space ships. Now I’m the one all antsy to see the latest sci fi movie and they are just sort of meh on them. I almost bribed Wally with ten bucks to see Star Trek this summer but in the end The Girl went with me and I was spared laying out extra cash. (sad, very sad, isn’t it?) So this afternoon, we went to the “Sticky Six” (Dollar theater, wish I could say I coined that phrase) for the latest Denzel Washington flick about a post apocalyptic world. Thank goodness we didn’t invest more than five bucks because this movie is right up there with the Pokemon Movie as a“Thing -I-did-with-my-kid-and-hated-every-second.” I have a pretty high tolerance for violence and seedy subject matter but after about fifteen minutes into the movie, I look over at Wally and he is text messaging . So I give it another five minutes and decide this is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly meets Mad Max and take a big chance on the “wrong” answer when I lean into Wally and ask:
“Are you really invested in this movie?”
“Nah, I can watch Mad Max at home”
Thank God because this movie was a grim and a cheap heartless version of The Road and it was going to be two hours of my life I would never get back. Much like the hours of Barney and Pokemon those two owe me.

After we left, I realized we had never left mid movie before. In fact, the only other movies I have ever left: a film with Kevin Spacey about flesh trading in a concentration camp, Dogville and Reds. (in my defense: we left Reds because we were drunk and it was moving a little too slowly for sloppy 20 year olds. I tried to watch it sober a few years ago and found myself wishing I was drunk.)

Years ago I could speak Power Rangers and dinosaurs which was invaluable at the preschool snack table. Now I find myself able to speak airplane, car, Parkour and Army. The Beav has turned me onto Top Gearand I find myself watching it even if he isn‘t around. I could probably intelligently purchase a car in England now. A valuable skill for a Semi Suburban-Semi Stay-at-Home Mom in the US, dontcha think? Army is still a language I’m learning and can understand about 75% of what is said to me. Fortunately, the unintelligible 25% no longer elicits an eye roll from Wally. He is a little more forgiving nowadays.

I don’t think I would have done too well with girls. I have a salty mouth and a cutting way with words and I would make her cry every time she was in trouble. I was a girly/girl but now I think toys marketed for little girls are insipid and just perpetuate the stereotype girls need to sit back and play quietly. But denying a little girl (or boy for that matter) the toys they gravitate towards just makes them all the more salient. Years ago, when I was pregnant with Beav and we didn’t know he was Beav yet, I asked Wally what he thought of having a little sister. My very sage three year old told me: “If she had Barbies I would cut their heads off and hide them from her.” And he would have had my full support.

Being daughter free means I don’t have to speak Sparkly Vampire or Jonas Brothers. Nor do I have to deal with daughters leaving the house looking like hookers, which would probably make my head hurt more than trying to understanding Beav’s mumbly speech and gritting my teeth when I see Wally’s saggy pants.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

That's Gonna Leave A Mark

“Farm Help wanted. Family farm located North West of Goodland, Kansas. Dryland & Irrigation. Housing provided. Salary negotiable. Call for more details. Evenings only and ask for Ed.” ad on Craigslist

That doesn’t sound like a bad gig, it’s a little windy out there but it’s quiet, not a lot going on. Pretty easy to get away from the brouhaha of the new health bill. Along the old highway west of Goodland is an old native stone fence and years ago you could find arrow heads and fossils in the ditches. I wonder if anyone would notice if I just disappeared and sent money in from the farm? I also have a romantic image of the “housing”, I’m picturing a cute little frame farm house with a big Cottonwood tree in the front. The light golden in the evening and blue in the morning as it ricochets off the white washed walls and golden wood floors. Realistically, it’s probably a 1970’s single wide trailer with dirty lime green shag carpeting. I also have a romantic notion of the person who will ultimately get the job. I’m picturing someone like Beau Bridges in Crazy Heart or any of David Straithairn characters in his Sayles films during the 90’s. Maybe a woman like Cher'scharacter in Silkwood. This is the perfect job for a contemplative person with a past who is interested in working their body so hard their mind can’t remind them of what is broken in their spirit. I could dig that. Especially since the salary is negotiable and I could only work on a farm, outside in the elements rain, cold or shine for about eleventy million dollars. However, wasn’t it Thomas Wolfe in Look Homeward Angel who said something to the effect of no matter where you go, there you are? So yeah, day in and day out you fuss over the irrigation system, repair fences, spread manure and work until your body aches. But you still have that time just after dark when it’s too early for bed and too late for work that your mind reminds you of what you are running away from and even the stars in that big dark sky aren‘t a comfort or a congenial companion. Actually, someone like me, a semi suburban, semi housewife running away from her children and working on a farm would make for an interesting novel. Because sweaty, dirty work is a hell of a lot easier than raising teenagers.

Wally killed an important member of the family Friday. Mitzy. He hit a patch of ice and lost control of the old Mitz, slamming into the back of another SUV. Airbags deployed, front end destroyed. Car gone. After I discovered no one was hurt and all the paperwork had been taken care of, he was safe and the ticket was simple I hung up the phone and very professionally burst into tears at the nurses station. One. More. Thing. I. Get. To. Deal. With. Visions of hanging out at a café in Goodland were looking pretty good.

Poor Mitzy, this wasn’t her first rodeo, either. I tried to destroy her in 2003. It was at the bottom of my life just before I crawled out of a hole and away from a desperate situation. The only reason we were able to fix Mitzy was because while the radiator was almost in my lap, the airbags stayed securely in the dash and steering wheel. I still dream about those seconds when I realized I was going to hit the tiny car in front of me, praying out loud I wouldn’t kill or maim the driver. My prayer was answered and the car I hit slid up and under my front end. One of the first things I said to the nice young man in the car was: “I can’t imagine how frightening it was to see me barreling towards you.” He gave me a stunned nod.

Wally was able to calmly relay to me what had happened but then he paused and said: “I know how much you loved your truck.“ His biggest fear then spilled forth: I would kick him out of the house for wrecking Mitzy. Well, yeah, if he was using it as a rolling meth lab at the time. Poor kid, he is convinced he is the biggest fuck up on the planet because he is having a time of it finding a job and now he wrecked a car. He’s a little mystified why I’m being so nice to him but I figure there isn’t enough room for me to kick him in the ass because he is doing a great job of it all on his own. The absolute irony of this is he was on his way home from a successful job interview. We will find a way and make a way to get him to and from work. Wally also thinks he is the only member of the family who has wrecked a car. He momentarily forgot how I wrecked the car, how his granddad rolled a car in 1971, and tried to take out a sign in 2007. He probably doesn’t’ realize his cousin wrecked a car when he was in high school. Accidents happen. Some are worse than others. This one could have been bad, too. I am just thankful it wasn’t. And God is really good at putting people in your life when you need them, too. The tow truck driver happened to be in the office when we arrived this morning to settle up on the bill. He was jovial and tried to joke with Wally, asking him if this was the first car he killed and telling us about the trouble he got into as a teenager. The manager was empathetic and extended his condolences for the loss of the old truck and was genuinely relieved to see Wally wasn’t hurt. It was one of those moments which restore my faith in humans as being ultimately kind and benevolent creatures.

The weather was sort of nasty today, hard cold wind under gray skies that threatened snow over the west side of town. Perfect day for a funeral, all we needed was some rain. Poor old girl, the right side looked untouched (Wally had just given her a shampoo and a spit shine, she was looking hawt) but the front end was mashed and the grill was gone, you could see the radiator and her left “eye” was dangling from the socket. The windshield had a shattered spot as if something had been hurled into it. From the inside. I felt my heart leap into my throat.

“What hit the windshield?“

I knew the answer wasn’t “head” because Wally always wears his seat belt and won’t start the car until everyone is buckled in. (hmmm how would I know this?)

“Oh just my hand” was his flippant reply.

I started to blubber, the small burn on the left side of his face was scary enough but the idea he might have broken his right hand was too much too bear. It didn’t get any easier when I opened the drivers side door. Opening the door was sobering. Like a Jack-in-the-Box, the steering wheel had popped open and the air bag was out. The dashboard reminded me of a cardboard cake made specifically for a girl to jump out and sing a randy song or “Happy Birthday”. There were papers and things tossed all over the front seat and floorboards. I was reaching around looking through the documents to make sure there wasn’t anything I needed or wanted when I came across a pristine piece of yellow paper folded around several old photographs. The photos and letter looked as if it had just been taken from the envelope and the letter was in my mother’s handwriting. I groaned, this was all too much and now this artifact. I wanted to run off to the farm. I glanced over the letter and scanned the pictures. I didn’t immediately grasp when it had been written but it was a long time ago. I showed it to Wally and he didn’t remember ever seeing it. After we finished our sad errand and I was at home I put pieces together and figured out it was written in about 1997. Three years before I even bought the car. The letter ends with: “Kiss Evan for me and hug and kiss yourself, too.” The idea of Wally reaching over and kissing his brother made me laugh. Mother wanted us to know she was watching over Wally. Mom died in our house, actually in what is now Wally’s room; me and The Girl hear her voice every once in a while and I have lucid dreams about her. What a comfort it is to know my mother is looking after us. I had suspected as much but now I know it for sure.

I must confess that I am grieving the loss of this vehicle. Not so much because the next few months could be really interesting in a hellish way: sharing a car or chauffeuring him around while I save enough for a beater mobile. It’s because of what Mitzy symbolized for me. She was my emancipation. Mitzy was the first car I bought all by myself and at the ripe old age of 39, too. No father or husband offering input, down payments or anything. I did it all on my own. She really was my first car. And we saw a lot of the country together; hauled a lot of antiques, groceries, dirt and kids. She served us well for one hundred and nine thousand miles. Rest in peace, Mitzy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Fire Bad, Tree Pretty"

picture source

March seems to be about continuing my intellectual break: between the Jersey Girl bounty hunter novels on vacation last month and overdosing on Buffy The Vampire Slayer via Hulu this month I’m thinking my brain has called it quits on thinking/sussing out/deducting/inducting/ or figuring out anything beyond blood sucking demons or bad guys in Atlantic City. I’m not sure if it’s all the crap swirling around me and happening to my family and those I love or if menopause is eating my brain. I’ve been meaning to blog about menopause but I keep forgetting to and then when I remember I just get all choked up about it and grab a cookie instead.

But I have to confess, Buffy is making me happy. I didn’t watch Buffy in the late nineties when it came on television the first time. I wish I could say it’s because I was busy making Dinosaur Dioramas for a third grade project or cupcakes for a preschool. But no I was a Xena girl. Not enough time in my life thirteen years ago for two chop sokey camp-a-thons television shows. Ward blamed Xena: Warrior Princess for the questioning I did about my sexual orientation while I was in therapy eleven years ago. Um…yeah, cuz teevee shows make people gay that’s why everyone who watched Will and Grace have thrown aside their real lives and are in New York City looking for Karen and a cocktail. I wonder if I had watched Buffy all those years ago if I would have gone to a therapist wondering if I were a vampire slayer or a watcher? Good thing I didn’t, my blogging would be from a small room in a quiet hospital.

A padded cell sounds good about now. I managed to ruin both of my sons’ lives last Wednesday before 0730 in the morning! It was awesome! Because everyone knows I live to ruin my kids’ lives: I told Wally he had to get his shit together or he was losing the privilege to drive my car and then I explained to Beav he was going to his dad’s house after school rather than my house (where the PS3 lives). Wow, you would have thought their lives had just become Shakespeare meets Brecht in the level of tragedy I had inflicted upon them both. If I had that kind of power I certainly wouldn’t be exercising it on the likes of them. Hell, I would have sent my favorite president to hate--W--and his little friends up into a roaring puff of smoke about the time Sunnydale was swallowed up by the Hell mouth.

Menopause seems a likely cause for my lackluster intellectual leanings is that it took me AN ENTIRE SEASON of Buffy to figure out the extremely droll irony of a Hell mouth existing under a high school. I had to put the episode on pause so I could laugh and laugh and laugh again when the irony finally sank into my withering gray matter. Then I was halfway through season two when the light bulb went on: Whedon didn’t take the vampire stuff seriously and was poking fun at a genre, himself, and the fans.

I are very smart.

Or maybe I’m taking a brain break because life feels really hard lately. I’m exhausted by a series of bad events taking place in the lives of people I know and love. I’m really tired of worrying I’m coming home to or waking up to a dead dog. I’m sick of nagging a kid about cleaning up after himself or nagging to help around the house (just pick one and I’m nagging at him); I’m sick of the patients who--on some days--feel like Whedonesque demons with bad latex faces and glow in the dark eyes holding me down and sucking my soul out of my open mouth. I think its winter. It’s been dark and gray this winter and we haven’t had as much sun as we usually have. Add a child who feels like a failure at the ripe old age of 19 (Dude, save that for 30 years from now, ok when you‘ve really made some boneheaded mistakes) with a dollop of frustration surrounding the continued disinterest in his sons exhibited by the Asshole I Was Stupid Enough To Breed With, and ice all of that with ever fluctuating hormones and you have the makings of a really hard winter and looking for a friend in Mr. Stabby. Too bad things like a child preceding a parent in death, stage 3 cancer and broken hearts aren’t vampires a slayer could stake in their hearts so they dissolve into a pile of gray ashes.

"Whatever is causing the Joan Collins 'tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it." -- Cordelia

Day Light Savings time has helped tremendously. It’s a pleasure to be sitting here at 1815 and the sun is just beginning to wane. The second Saturday in March springs us forward to summer. Springs me forward to all sorts of things like working in the yard and spanking my inner moppet.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Good-bye Means Hello

ADD girl has three separate pieces started for this week’s blog. Fortunately, the other two will keep because they aren’t going to seem any less current in a week or three from today and y’all will never know next weeks idea didn’t spring forth from my forehead the second I sat at the computer. (Oh don’t I wish!) I’m on day three of three off and I’ve kept myself busy with projects in the drafty, dark basement I ironically refer to--when I’m feeling expansive--”the studio”. We celebrated my birthday in fine style at my favorite drinking hole. Nothing like starting a dreaded birthday in a whimsically decorated room sipping a breakfast martini with two of your very favorite people on the planet.

I finished organizing all the lace, trims, linens and fabrics I have been collecting or inherited over the years this past week, too. I refurbished a few tee shirts, sweaters and made a dress this week, too. I’m not such a great seamstress, very slow and can’t get it perfect enough before frustration sets in but this week, I swear I was channeling my mom; a talented seamstress and designer. I was doing things I didn’t know I had forgotten how to do. It was very cool and Zen.

For about a minute.

So for the last month I've been working on repurposing clothing, using bits and pieces of antique textiles on reclaimed/used clothing. I thought I would love it. I thought I would just love love love designing the clothing, doing the handwork, piecing them together. The Girl thought she would just love love love the grunt work at the sewing machine.

Um no.

And that’s ok.

It felt like a chore except for that minute when I fixed a waistband the majority of the time I was discouraged or bored or both.

But this is the first time I have abandoned a project and didn't feel like a failure or that I was quitting because I was too lazy to finish what I started. Quite to the contrary. I feel liberated in the knowledge that I'm really not meant to design clothing from scratch.

Tis the week for beginning new things or putting to rest old things. A Happiness Project was launched by one of my new Facebook friends (love this woman. Love. Her. Sister of a guy I went to high school with. He was cute and wild and sort of dangerous back then. Apple doesn’t fall too far from that tree or so it seems.) Another friend is meeting with a group of architects and designers to discuss the feasibility of starting a career in design in this economy (I have one word for her: Slim) Finally, I know I have yammered about this to death but my father is getting married! I can’t wait to get to know our new family. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming, it’s grace at work. Besides this I have a great excuse to go to Texas Hill Country as many times as they can stand me.

I'm still putting together an Etsy store (if I'm satisfied with this spring's work, I'll open in July and the few pieces of clothing we did will be there. I have a feeling the store is going to be a mish-mash of all sorts of things I like to do. My biggest fear is I will end up on regretsy.

Today is the first day in a few I’ve been really happy--at the bottom of my soul happy--in about a week. Growing older was weighing on me; my exhaustion with nursing is at a critical point; and my son’s frustration with joblessness and boredom is weighing on me. Apparently, it’s so hard on him he can’t bring himself to clean his room or empty the dishwasher when asked…but that’s another blog, isn’t it? And OH. MY. GOD. his utter lack of sound judgment has me closer to running away than my job! The good news (?) I’m not alone in this and know more mother’s with kids like this than I care to think about with shutter over the future of the planet. His underdeveloped cerebral cortex is making me wish for a lobotomy or running away some place no one think to look for me like Vegas or Pittsburgh.

But isn’t it wonderful I know what makes me happy? Playing with words, ideas, paper, glue, paint, and little bits of stuff makes me happy. Cooking, nagging, and taking care of sick people: not so much.

This made me really happy today:

The Discipline of Joy

Joy's a choice. Joy's a discipline. Misery's easy. Sometimes, you don't feel like you can handle the burden of joy, so you slouch and frump and sigh and feel exhausted. Joy can be a real pain,like doing elevated push-ups on your TRX system in the basement. Right now, the joy doesn't want to ignite. I'm feeling the pressure of writing against the schedule of outside things. Inside vs. outside. I have to rush back to school today--my writing day--to sit in a PhD oral defense. Tomorrow, I have to teach, though I can get in some writing after. But Friday, I rush away to Tucson
Festival of Books. Love Tucson, love my friends there, love the festival, and I
love fancy hotel weekends with Cinderella. I can't get it done. So my decision
today is to embrace the discipline of Joy. Capital J. Because I'm feeling a li'l
Luis A. Urrea

It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it this burden of joy.

Find some joy. Like me, you might have to look in the spaces between the words or the space between the beat of your heart but it’s there. I promise.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Which Our Heroine Takes a Sledge Hammer To A Wall

"Eeyore," said Owl, "Christopher Robin is giving
a party." "Very interesting," said Eeyore. "I suppose they will be sending
me down the odd bits which got trodden on. Kind and Thoughtful. Not at all,
don't mention it."

"Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not
there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want
something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want
something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.”
Pausch The Last Lecture

I’m a little late on this Last Lecture bandwagon and I finally listened to his lecture about childhood dreams today. A lovely bit of synchronicity in my life because I’m moving towards a couple of childhood dreams in tangible--albeit--baby steps. Too bad I have strong Eeyore tendencies and think any minute the world will discover I’m a faker and completely without any abilities so paralysis sits next to me. My other pet theory I like to play with and coddle is I really have been given the odd bits of talent and luck; those odd bits “which got trodden on”. (That quote always makes me giggle dispite myself) I also have made a BFF out of guilt. I’m facing down my fiftieth year and finally, finally courageous to do something with the imaginative sparks I have been gifted with. What the hell took me so long?

I am my own brick wall.

Not the first wall I’ve encountered.

Years ago, I underwent a reiki healing session help overcome some (then) chronic back pain but what really happened was a release of old bad psychic energy, which in turn did away with the back pain. Stay with me here even if you don’t believe in metaphysical healing because frankly six years later, I’m not too sure I fully believe what happened to me. During the reiki session, I was given a vision of a dirt wall that was created with mud, trash and twigs. Those who were positive forces in my life surrounded me and were helping take down the wall. Bit by bit we disassembled the wall. People would come and go and some would try to get me to stop working when it was obvious I was very tired. My helpers would tire and stop working, trying to convince me to rest but I would gently indicate it wasn’t time for me to stop. When the people who I allowed to weigh me down or hurt me the most entered into the picture, I would physically push them away so they wouldn’t interfere with the task. The wall was circular and in the middle of the wall was an entity (God/Jesus/Buddha/Me whomever it was It) bathed in light and a warmth that shone on the back of my head and I felt comfortably warm. Two of the most malevolent people in my life returned and started to cram dirt, rocks, trash back into the wall as I took it down and I was filled a deep and abiding anger as I pushed them away, screaming at them to leave me and to stop building the wall. When I pushed them away, I would push them away and out of the warm light. Soon the wall was gone and all that was left was a trench and I walked the circle my eyes shut against its’ brilliance and savoring how it felt on my skin. The depth of my grief and the sobbing after the treatment scared my wonderful practitioner. She was very afraid she had released something better left untouched and had accidentally broken something inside of me. Something had broken, it was a dam. A dam of resentment, pain, anger and self-pity. Who knew this was the first step.

Since that day, life has been pretty simple and satisfying over the last six years. I’ve been given enormous and generous gifts of people, time, oppertunities, you name it it’s been given to me. However, in the last eighteen months my life feels like it’s at the brink of becoming a murky, uncertain and difficult mess. Fortunately, I have gained enough personal insight to know this doesn’t mean I’m going to get so ridiculously depressed I can’t leave the house or work or care for myself. Tearing down that dirt wall moved me past the point of suffering from ever again suffering such a depression. Yes, I refer to it as a healing. Because it was.

So why all the naval gazing? I’m exactly 72 hours from my 49th birthday and birthdays always call up the worst in me. My woo-woo therapist told me my mom‘s last month of pregnancy was probably very difficult and that‘s why birthdays are hard for me. Mom couldn‘t remember such details about her pregnancy, which is particularly telling. Whatever, I think it’s just my birthday and I err on the side of too much introspection to begin with. Deep thinking: a Piscean occupational hazard of sorts.

Now I am faced with a big brick wall that I thought was The Economy, my age, my sons, my geography, my socio-economic level. . . That brick wall was everything but what it really was. Me.

I am my own brick wall.

Should I hit my head against in exasperated defeat?

Use it as a prop to watch my final years go by as I ruminate in everything I could have done?

Do I take a sledge hammer to it and move it?

Tigger wants to move it. Eeyore is afraid it will fall on her while she’s swinging at it. But if it falls, it's no longer in the way, right?

So Peace out this week and I will. Promise. And just in case you are getting me presents all I want for my birthday is a son who acts his age and gets his shit together and another son who doesn’t act as if he is the center of the world. A public option for health care would be nice too so I can quit my thankless job without feeling completely irresponsible.

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