Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oprah Asks: Do I Examine My Life Enough?

The April issue of O magazine has a feature called "20 Quesions Every Woman Should Ask Herself" and I thought it might be okay to turn those into blogs. Don't hold me to it. 

When Indy was a toddler she used to grab my face between her two hands and pull my lips to hers, kissing me hard, claiming me. Then she would pull back and gaze into my eyes adoringly before going in for that kiss again. I treasured these times, sensing their final countdown around age four. I don't remember the last time, but I do know the last time has come and gone.

This weekend, Indy, now seven, wrote me a note on a roll of toilet paper. "You are not my mom," it said. It said, "You are not my mom because you won't take me to the park you big douche."

So now O magazine comes along and wants me to ask myself: Do I examine my life enough? This is a perilous question for any woman or mother. The entire female existence is the succession of one scrutinizing question after another. Now we have to worry about do we take too many self-portraits and is our period as metal as other women's periods (I actually liked that quiz but you get my point). I would like to instead suggest that we examine our lives less. Take today, for example. This week brought civil unrest to my digestive tract, and today found me sitting on the couch under a Goodwill afghan googling "does snack pack have dairy". I have wanted to be a writer all my life and this is the grammar and gravitas with which I approach the Google. Literally all I have eaten today are Corn Pops from the box and chocolate snack pack. At one point I mistook the flesh of my palm for cereal and gnawed at it greedily.

How strong of a magnifying glass am I meant to examine this behavior with?

Or this: yesterday we were driving probably home from McDonald's again because my husband has been gone and Indy turns to me and says, "I've been so mean to everyone because I have spring fever. That and I don't get enough sleep because every night Georgia is jumping onto my bed and farting in my face. When people at school say I stink I tell them that story."

How far, exactly, should I probe?

One afternoon I woke from a nap and fell straight into a state of bliss. I drank green tea while gazing dopily out my window at the spring afternoon. God help me, I think I journaled something about "frothy trees" and I didn't rhyme it with bees, but bees were in there. I had recently gone off my meds. I knew I was in a state that I'm not often in, though it does tend to occur in the spring, and I didn't question it too much. I tried not to really notice it at all, lest I scare it away, like an orgasm or a BM. I literally cannot believe I write these things sometimes. I started out writing a blog because I wanted other mothers to feel less alone in their craziness and now all we are certain about is my own. What I meant to say, though, is that I was able to sit in this blissful state for a good while because I wasn't examining anything. Now don't get me wrong, the magazine has great example questions we might want to ask ourselves when the time is right. I just think that, as women, we are being told to question everything about ourselves: our decisions, our actions, our feelings, our parenting, or social media habits, our voices, the way we hold our lips--literally everything. We need to take the things we do for granted sometimes. "That's just me," we need to say in our heads, and shrug, and lick our palms. And while, as O magazine suggests, asking "could it be better" is a good way to improve our lives, so too is it helpful to sleep late in the afternoons, Google DOES SNACK PACK HAVE DAIRY, let the things our children say slide, be a big douche, gaze dopily out windows, and never ask what we accomplished today, where we are going, or why.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Erotics In The Snow

Hi friends.

In the end what's going to kill me is that Brevard has nowhere to eat. I'm talking about a Tuesday night when you've both worked all day, the dishes haven't been done, the kids are cranky about their homework and you woke up to dog poop on the kitchen floor. This is a crucial juncture in the life of a family. This is a make or break moment here. Everything hangs in the balance and BOOM. You don't have a Chipotle. Eternity spins out before you. It makes you dizzy and you fall down. You wake to phantom scents of guacamole.

Spring came but it's over now. The blooms are all here, oh how cute, let's wax poetic. I dreamed of crocuses in the snow--what a feat, I'll text my sister. But before autocorrect can chance "crocus" to "erotic", they're dead. They are drowned in the freezing rain. The birds chirp to a gray sky. Sylvia Plath writes sonnets in her grave.

I really did have a dream though. I hate when people tell me about their dreams, so here you go: the moon was made of wax and bees were filling it with honey. I was worried about those bees, up in space, but they seemed to be doing all right.  This is the part of the post where I'm supposed to make meaning but who can? It's fucking March and my hair is short. I'm having lots of trouble with the passage of time. It keeps me up at night. I blinked and bees were on the moon. I blinked and spring was gone.

You know what I'm saying.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sunshine, Martinis, and Shamrock Shakes

Friday was a real rush. Ayla walked on water and in the evening, we went out to celebrate the release of Stone and Spring. The tequila bar we wanted in Asheville was completely booked so we ended up at one of those silly Italian places. They all look and smell the same and the food is always mediocre but it didn't matter. I drank an extra dirty martini and it was perfect. We told the girls that they get to see their grandparents and cousins in a couple weeks for spring break and we all clinked our glasses. On the way home Indy said "Everybody in this family has one thing in common. We are all really funny." She later told me that "the w in wrinkled is silent because it wants to be good. All these other letters are noisy because they don't know any better." Bon Jovi came on and Ayla said, "Is this Oprah?" I have to write these things down before they disappear forever.

I am reading and writing again because I am done editing the book. It feels wonderful. I didn't have too much of a breakdown, though I did learn I can't wean myself off Wellbutrin just yet. On the second day without it, noon hit and found me doing my old "can't get out of the shower" routine, which is immediately followed by the "can't get dressed" routine which of course spirals quickly into the "I hate everything" routine. At this point I was so low that I didn't want to take a Wellby, but I did, and then I took the girls to McDonald's for disgusting shamrock shakes and watched them play in the sun. Now that I can control this depression it's a fascinating thing, watching it ebb and flow from a distance, its predictable phases, always the same troubling thoughts and behavior patterns. Then I take a pill and the clouds clear and I find myself again. It's a relief to know that I am not by nature a dark or troubled person. But this talk is all to heavy for spring.

In two weeks we get to go see my family, just the girls and I. I am really hoping to move back there before August, but no concrete roads out yet. So here I throw it out to the universe. Another thing I would like to throw out there is this: Elizabeth Aquino, a fiercely talented writer whose blog you should be reading if you're not already, wrote this lovely and generous review of Stone and Spring and I would be remiss not to link to it. I read it while drinking my dirty martini in the silly Italian restaurant and almost cried. Check out her blog, even if you don't read the review. Here you go.

And I want to say again how grateful I am for my gentle and beloved editor. She blogs anonymously so I won't link to her right now. But Stone and Spring wouldn't have seen daylight were it not for her. Thank you so much, dear A.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spring Fever

Ayla, about 3 years old

Hello world.

I've had the flu. Or something. I have had some illness that's dulled my brain. Since Wednesday, I've been good for nothing but lying on the couch and sleeping feverish sleep. I had this entire week off work and set the goal to finish my book by Friday. By Wednesday I was too sick to focus, but I mostly finished it anyway, before stupor set in. I cried a little, and felt a little thrill, and then I got in the shower and took a long nap. I was hot and chilled. When I woke up the shadows were long across the ceiling, orange like summer. Noah was supposed to be gone over the weekend, but he cancelled his business trip when we realized how ill I was. The sunlight was slanted when the door opened and he came home with the little girls. They brought me sunflowers and grapefruit fizzy water. My brain was quiet, peaceful, clear. They moved through the house around me, stopping to pat my head with petaled fingers. Noah made the girls dinner, brushed their teeth, put them to bed. The house went quiet again. In the morning the sun broke orange and we were that much closer to spring.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Febuary 20, 2014

It was the lightning that woke me, not the thunder. Someone is taking your picture, said the dream brain. Ayla came into the room upset and went to her father. She has always gone to her father for comfort in the night. From the time she was two until the time she was four, she would wake up once every night and go to her dad, who would get up and lift her and put her back to bed. That was all she wanted. I don't remember him every getting mad. He said he knew it wouldn't last forever. He was right.

At work I was approached by an older man who appeared to be kind and harmless. Then he wanted to know my last name. Despite the fact that he could look it up--I'm a county employee--I didn't give it to him. It creeps me out that this town is so small people can recognize my car and know where I live. The man invited me to church. "You have to be careful," I told Noah this morning. "Someone can seem really nice at first and then just invite you to church."

Today is an odd day. It smells like the sea. It's warm and wet and I feel like I live in some sleepy beach town, with wind battered shutters and a stormy pier. I don't know. We are frustrated. It is a season of frustrations. All unbloggable. Our saddles are full of burrs.

Yesterday I got off work and you could tell it was going to be spring. I took a route I usually don't, one that winds through the neighborhood Noah and I cruised in May 2012, when we were visiting Brevard for the first time. I thought about myself then, looking at the rolling lawns, the unfenced yards, the untidy forest laced throughout the houses. The way I envisioned our lives here, full of Southern tropes like rocking chairs and record players. I couldn't reconcile the past me with the now me. Every year a part of me thinks that spring isn't going to return. I think that's why I nearly cry on the first day we can sense it coming. Everything seems impossible until it happens.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter's Tale

My neighbor took this picture
of the fantastic sky and that's
our house on the left. 

Yesterday morning after reading the news, something I never do, I started wondering if we had enough food to last us 24 hours. We did, but something about the media and everybody on Facebook saying that we are about to be hit by the new ice age, that the White Witch is descending upon the south to plunge us into a snowy hellscape from which we might never return, that WINTER IS COMING Game of Thrones style, has a way of making you question whether you've bought enough fatty foods and are your vibrator batteries going to last you through. They were telling folks to fill tubs with emergency supplies of water. I felt this was a bit inflammatory. And I knew I would go outside and eat snow before I would consume anything from a bathtub.

I asked Noah to go to the store for the second time in two days. I was concerned that the grocery store might actually shut down, something I have never witnessed in all my life, living in Denver and going to school with a foot of snow on the ground. Well the grocery store didn't shut down, but the liquor store did. It is the armageddon, I thought, and then I took my dog for a walk down a snowed in street at night. They don't have plows or technology here, so the world was still and absolutely white washed. It was snowing in a strange way, hard grains spattering the furry hood of my Yeti jacket. We went down to the field and the dog reveled in the snow like a dolphin on the waves. She danced and leapt in the field where I could see the husky remains of some harvested crop peaking up through the snow in abandoned rows. I want to call it corn, but I don't think it was. In the far distance was a hill, and high up on the hill I could see the lights of one house shining hazy through the falling snow. It felt like whoever lived in that house and I were the only people on earth.

The tiger-striped dog rocketed back and forth and bulldozed into me, body-checking me with her joy. I'm not crazy about this dog who always has such high expectations for me and destroyed my Minnetonkas. But she was in her element. The sky was that orangey pink, you know, still pregnant with snow. We were alone. It was dark but snow-bright and we weren't afraid. We turned to go home and a car came down the street. They spotted us and turned on their brights which felt accusatory somehow. I called the dog but she ran toward the car--don't worry--and the car didn't really slow down. The dog danced away. I raised my palms up to say sorry and as the car passed I saw it was the police. I thought they might give me a ticket for having a dog off a leash but they just kept driving in their ominous way, beyond us and into the night. There is no story here, just a woman and a dog saying hello to the earth before turning and heading for home.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

These Things I Would Like To Confess

One: One day working the cash register at Borders, an older man came through my line with his adult daughter. They were tourists from Poland. "My husband's grandfather is from Poland!" I said in the way of a bored customer service worker trying to get through a shift. The woman translated this to her dad, and his deeply folded eyes lit up. "He asks from where in Poland?" she said with a pleasant accent. I put their books in a bag and told them I didn't know, but wanting to give them more, I went on to say that he had emigrated to the US with his family as a teenager, and they had settled in Chicago before eventually moving on to Southern California. The old Polish man was slightly hunched and intense in the way of elderly Europeans from movies--people who we are meant to understand have had a past. He asked what the family name was, and the daughter explained that he might be able to tell what region they were from by the name. "Zitny," I said, and it was at this point that I remembered that Noah's grandfather is not in fact Polish but Czech. "Did they leave before the war?" Oh shit, I thought. I am getting in deep. "Yes," I said firmly, because I had heard no family lore of Noah's family living out World War II in Europe, and I would not trade war stories with the man, even though I kind of wanted to. I waited for this dignified elder to catch me out. He only corrected my pronunciation of the word Zitny and then reached out to shake my hand, smiling. "He says you are people of the same country," she said. "Countrymen." I smiled and hoped for a forgiving God.

Two: Three nights ago I repeatedly watched the youtube video of figure skater Bryce Davison's skate catching his partner, figure skater Jessica Dube, in the face--the moment that sent her to the hospital and both of them to therapy for PTSD. I did this because I thought it was romantic.

Three: My children were excited for the first two snow days, over it by the third, frustrated by the fourth. Today they have slipped into existential despair. "Will we have to go to school on Saturday?" they ask me, and "Does life have meaning?" They are fretful that their spring break will be taken from them. "Don't worry," I told them. "I won't let them touch your spring break." We have plans for spring break and if Transylvania County Schools comes clawing with their skeleton fingers and scythe, hungry for even more of our joy, I will pack two bags of clothing and apple products. I will set out west across the plains. We will leave our rain boots behind.

(Four: Someone send help I just applied olive oil to my scalp because of something I read on Pinterest)

Friday, February 7, 2014

How I Live Now

Here you see how I looked this morning when I sat down to write a spell, like Blanche DuBois or I don't know, Laura Bush might, in my kimono top and pearls. A real southern tragedy with sloppy lipstick and no bra, liable to show up drunk at the country club and skip church on Sunday. It's embarrassing to show these pictures I have snapped of myself, embarrassing like everything I have done as of late. The more I promise myself to stay off Facebook, the more I find myself ranting on it, the more I tweet the less sense I make. My emotional and spiritual state is shabby-chic, dignified and pretty pieces falling to ruin.

Yesterday I drove to the store, pulled into the parking lot, and then drove straight home. I was supposed to be getting something for dinner, but SOMETHING FOR DINNER is a puzzle that triggers a nervous breakdown these days. I have tiny nervous breakdowns every time I go to the grocery store. Sometimes they are not tiny at all. Every time I leave that place I am a bit more decrepit than I was before.

The brain is dizzy and in its own wonderland. Last night after seeing a promo on an American snowboarder, I dreamed we had moved to Lake Tahoe. I fantasize about adding tirades against Transylvania County Schools in the acknowledgement section of my book. Thanks to Transylvania County Schools, this book was in real danger of never being finished. Thanks to TCS, I have made a mockery of myself on social media. Do you know my children had school one day last week, at this time when even eating and peeing are unwanted intrusions? I don't understand anything anybody is talking about, I cannot keep up, I cannot create structured sentences anywhere outside of the book. Don't touch me, I am in labor, get the kids out of the room. Aside from Tahoe, all my dreams are of being trapped. I use my ruby lipstick in place of red slippers, smack your lips together three times, find your way home. I wake every day with the gnawing feeling that there is something I'm supposed to be doing but I can't think what, so I make coffee and put on my pearls and sit down to edit my book.

The elusive thing I'm supposed to be doing is life and this is what editing looks like on me.

(PS: Please know that Noah has been making many dinners and doing all the cleaning, which is even more than he does already, in normal times when I'm not a crazy editing book birther) (Please know I have pizza and sushi on speed dial)

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Shirt and Editing Cocoon

I am in an editing cocoon. Which this morning means that I put on red lipstick and cried over a mass wedding at the Grammy's, but I know you don't judge me.

I have been editing this book on and off for years, but this is the final push. So for now, I can't come around these internet parts any more.

I will be back and I hope to see you then.

Here is my new shirt:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Drop Martinis

Left to right: Noah's brother Zach, Zach's wife Susie, Noah, Noah's sister Sophie, Noah's sister Lucy, Noah's brother Carlton, Noah's sister Mercy, Mercy's husband Trey, Noah's dad Carl. No, they are not Mormon nor Catholic.

We were in her bed, I was stroking her hair, and Indy said, "I want to go back to California and live in that hotel."  "I do too," I said. "I miss the sound of the downstairs," she said. "You miss the sound of free drinks being poured, too?" I said. I shouldn't have been surprised. The thing is, Indy has always had good taste.

The above picture was taken at my father-in-law's 60th birthday celebration, the day after Christmas. He rented out a room in an Italian restuarant and we ate ourselves silly on burracotta and ham with truffle oil and limoncello fusilli and things I don't even remember now. When the picture was taken, I was exactly 1.5 lemontinis deep. The lemontinis were a point of contention among us, because the nice South American waiter recommended I try a Cosmopolitan or an Appletini. As a feminist, I feel required to order whisky straight up anytime I walk into a bar, especially after a statement like that. It is exhausting having to defy stereotypes all the time. This is just one more advantage of being born male: you don't have to defy the patriarchy every time you order a drink. The appletini recommend really was insulting, and I told him so. Then I promptly ordered a lemon drop martini. My brother-in-law laughed at me, but I told him that by not intentionally defying stereotypes, I was META defying stereotypes.

The word among the siblings was that Their Old Dad was going to make some major announcement at the Italian restaurant. Well I am here to tell you, he didn't announce anything. He said some things about baptism that I don't really understand, having given birth to pagans, and then raffled off an ipad. (I didn't win it, so it doesn't matter). "What's the announcement?" we all said after. "Announcement? What? There's no announcement," he said. It seemed true although it's possible there was supposed to be an announcement and he forgot it. He turned 60 and is definitely senile. Probably right now he is on a plane somewhere over the west pacific getting ready to release a rap album and is like shit, I forgot to tell everyone. Anyway, the sense of letdown was palpable--we were primed for announcements--and so I think I was driven to pull the above pictured move to compensate. This picture is a pretty good idea of who I was in California. My favorite thing about it is how everyone else is so over me, except for Noah.

In Brevard, I am the mom who forgot to send her kids to school. If you think this is beneath notice, you don't live in a small town. The story of how: We got home from sunny California to New Year's Eve and a heater that wasn't working. "It's 45 degrees in the house," Noah said as I came in the door wearing my chic travel clothes and smelling of paradise. "I told you not to set it so low," I told him helpfully, and went to turn it up. Only it was set to 63, and it wouldn't turn up. At first we were optimistic that it would be fixed. Our landlord came over, 9 pm on a frigid New Years Eve, and climbed into the crawlspace below our house, a place where we have seen giant hornets and portholes to hell. Our landlord is an older gentleman and also a badass. He stayed down there some time before emerging to tell us it couldn't be fixed tonight and leaving us with a space heater. See, he mistook us for fellow badasses. Here's a space heater, quit your whining, some people live in Ohio. Noah drew me a hot bath and put the heater on in the bathroom, but the water turned tepid moments after I got in it and that is when I lost touch with my best self. I stomped and stormed a bit--after chiding Noah for doing the same thing--before climbing into bed wearing four layers and my North Face parka. So comfortable, you can imagine. We all spent the night huddled in our room, the heater was fixed in the morning, and really the only real tragedy was that in my anger I wasted a glass of prosecco.

The point to all this is that I slept until noon and spent the rest of new years day drinking flat prosecco, unpacking, and recovering from hypothermia. Noah and I then tried to watch some season four of Dexter, which is the godawfulest thing I've ever seen, and went to bed late, still on pacific time. In the morning I made my merry way into work, Thursday, January 2nd, and it was there I learned from a patron that school was in session.

School had started back up. On a Thursday. One day after New Year's. Not on Monday, because that would be a normal thing to do, and nothing here is normal.

I didn't really care that the girls had missed a day of school, because they needed the day to rest, and any school district deciding to start school back up on Thursday, January 2nd, isn't really worth my time.  This is the very same district that cancelled school today when the sun was shining and the roads were dry, and that has threatened to call child protective services when my daughters missed six days of school total. Noah and I laughed and it wouldn't have mattered much, if it weren't for what happened the next day. The next day, (January 3rd), Noah was at work when a total stranger walked by him and said, "Oh, I heard your kids weren't in school yesterday!" At which point, of course, Noah quit his job, bought an Airstream on a credit card, and we cut our ties and left this small town forever, driving too fast, swilling lemon martinis, leaving all our possessions and cares behind.

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