Monday, February 27, 2012

Sometimes Hermione Just Says, Look

Vesuvius, the voice whispers. Post something happy on the blog today.

Happy? I say. I'm afraid I don't know what you mean.

You're not always so moody, says the voice. It's ok to write about those times too.

I don't get it, I say. You mean like cake pops? It's true that on Friday there were cake pops. But there was not Supernatural. . .

Vesuvius, the voice warns.

But just now, I answer. Just now, Ayla woke up and immediately began to cry because she couldn't watch her show. Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beatiful your child has thrown herself on the floor in the pre-dawn chill and is sobbing because she wants to watch Goosebumps, not Rugrats.

So what, says the voice. I mean really.

. . . . .I guess you have a point. . .

All right then. How about this:

On Valentine's day morning, the voice in my head WOULD NOT SHUT UP and so I woke up at a quarter to five am with a spring in my bleary-eyed step.

In the sweetest of silence, under yellow light in the dark kitchen, I brewed some Italian coffee in my magic silver coffee triangles (haha, hipsters!) and got some writing done. Alone with my thoughts, until the sky began to pinken and the birds began to sing. Writing: one of the greatest joys bestowed to my particular soul.

I love it more than money.

More than fame.

More than whatever satisfaction one might find in visiting a bookstore and seeing their own book there on the shelf--a million times greater than that is the dizzying joy of creating the work itself.

No amount of measurable success will every make me as happy as a pen and a page beginning to curl with ink.

I woke up, this pre-dawn V-Day to three bunches of flowers on the table. (Mr. V had departed at four am, you see.) For each of the daughters there were roses and a heart-shaped box of candy.

For the wife there were more roses, and a Bee Mine, and a bundle of money.

And next to the bundle, it was printed: For the Bees.

While the wife worried where she would get the money for the bees, the husband had been working extra shifts and saving money for that very thing.

Because I had woken so early and had a precious quiet hour to myself, I was a content mother. One who actually made heart-shaped pancakes for her daughters on Valentine's day.

Or tried to, anyway.

(I wonder when we learn how to actually fake a smile rather than to simply stretch back our lips and bare our teeth it what might as well be a show of dominance, were it not for the stricken look in the eyes. I almost wish we never learned; except then I would spend a lot of time grimacing oddly at acquaintances I'm not actually all that fond of. Which might bruise some egos, but would also save me a lot of time.)

Later, at Target, browsing the toys with a sparkly gift card, Indy would sigh and offer me this gem: "Mom, I kind of want all of this, but I actually want none of it."

Such wisdom, my girl.

There, I say to the voice. There is all that happiness in my life. Plus, soon there will be bees.

And cake pops, reminds the voice. She is just so gentle, sometimes.

And cake pops, I agree.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What We Don't Say

What I didn't say was that Monday, I woke up in a black mood.

There was no reason for the mood. I went to bed feeling fine and woke up with an absence of any feel-good hormones. I was unloading dishes in the kitchen, my entire body feeling heavy and my heart unwell, when Mr. V got home from the gym. "Why don't you go out," he said almost immediately. I nodded. My mood was so dark, I could barely speak.

This doesn't happen often, these days.

I wrote for awhile, came home, and took the girls to Chick-Fil-A. I felt marginally better, but by the time I'd returned from fast food and a very crowded grocery store, the mood had crept back in, unwelcome visitor in the tender places. Mr. V made dinner while I folded laundry in the bedroom with the door closed, the girls perfectly content to watch some early evening Totoro. It had been a good weekend. We'd all gone to see "The Secret World of Arrietty", the new one from Studio Ghibli, an outing we don't take very often. Then a fun party, followed by a good meal. A night's sleep.

Black mood.

A nervous voice in the back of my brain feared that here it was: a late arriving plummet into seasonal depression. I didn't listen to that fear. I knew from my previous experience that the only way was to wait it out. Not to nurture the darkness--not to feed the bad wolf--but not to deny or repress it either. Just to lean in. To let it be. To observe it like from a distance whenever possible. I made it through the day, quietly, avoiding unnecessary interaction. I managed to tell my husband that I wasn't mad at him, this mood wasn't his fault. I just am out of happy today, I said. I know, he replied. It's ok.

I sang Indy to sleep and put myself to bed. In the morning, it was gone.


Headed out the door to school drop off, I texted my husband. "Indy is in the worst mood of her entire life," I said. Indy is rarely grumpy, and the culprit is almost always lack of sleep. She resolves this by asking me to put her to bed, and I do. She wakes up refreshed, her good-natured, buoyant self. This morning, I'd told her to put on her shoes. She'd squared her shoulders at me and said "NNNNNNO." Oh Indy. Indy's fate is that she's stubborn so seldom, it becomes comical when she is. I handed her her pink jacket. She took it and threw it on the ground.

I turned away and laughed. Indy angry is like a fierce beautiful pixie. She presents no real threat, can do no real harm.

The breeze changes.

So does Indy.


Ayla and I walk a delicate line together every morning.

My seven-year-old in her spirit is thirteen. Being asked to do something nicely annoys her. She drags her heels, not wanting to comply until the power of being told is worn off. She is reminded again. The reminder kicks her off the balance beam and lands her fully in outrage. If she has to be told a third time, things go irretrieveably down hill. She stomps, rolls her eyes, slams doors, calls names. Says, "I knnnoooooow," in her best teenage drawl. O-M-G. Whatever. You're ruining my life.

All have crossed her lips.

Of course it is difficult. I take deep breaths. I imagine white or my preferred caramel-colored light. I try to send her calm energy, try to keep calm myself.

Often I fail.


Driving the girls to school in the morning, I know that Ayla and I have the more difficult time because her moods hold up a mirror, reflect my own struggles back to me in harsh glinting blades. But in the strengthening February sunlight, I know that dealing with my black moods, the process of learning and struggling over time, is what has allowed me to become the person who can ride them out today. Ride them out without hurting others or sending hurtful thoughts at myself

I know that this angsty incarnation of Ayla has emerged early, the moods and anger and defiance rearing long before they were expected. But now, like waking up on a black day, I know there is another side. Sometimes Ayla seems a world-weary traveler, sent to show me how far I have to go. How easily my daughter can tug a thread and ravel me undone. I love this old soul that was sent to me. Who she is, and who she will become.

I know the person that emerges in the light is different from the one who first started out down that dark path, into the woods by chance or by choice. I know there are roads through the blackness and out. I know that I can tell her about them, but she'll have to find them for herself.

I trust the wisdom in this.

Ayla will become, like me, a person who knows that all things pass.

Over and over again, we will walk these roads.

Forever we will find the light.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Are The Weirdos

As a teenager, I spent most of my time driving all over Denver with my three best friends, in one old Honda or another, seeing movies and eating Italian food and daring each other to do things like go through the drive-thru backwards or take the forbidden bus exit off the highway, the one that goes underground and says BUSES ONLY(scandalous, I know). We called ourselves The Blood Sisters, and liked to pretend we were the girls from that 90's girl power gem, The Craft. We each had a direction. I was West (I lobbied hard for West) and when we needed a little magic, to make doors swing open at school or to become impervious to unrequited love and popular-girl disdain, we would chant "North, South, East, West, Craft, Craft, Craft!!"

So as you can see, we weren't going on a lot of dates. My friends did occasionally, but never me. I can say this now because of years of therapy high self-confidence. When we weren't out, awkwardly trying to make some coffee shop "our" place (like on 'Friends')by over-staying our welcome and over-tipping, or "crusing", in the technically illegal sense, around the Arvada mall or sitting in King Soopers eating Ben & Jerry's and browsing Teen Beat for pictures of boy bands, I was content to be at home with my family.

My family isn't exactly normal either. We sing in restaurants and talk to each other in accents and the first time I brought my now-husband home to meet them, we all thought it would be funny to pretend my parents were alcoholics and scare him. It made more sense at the time. But before that, back in high school, if I wasn't out dabbling in witch craft I was at home, where every Saturday smelled of barbecue and the soundtrack to every evening was Garrison Keillor. I was content at home, penning damply emotional poetry, or gleaning a rich sexual education from novels, or spending my requisite hours on the phone. My sister's room was right next to mine. "I can hear everything you're saying," she would taunt me. We got along, mostly, in high school, and if we weren't driving around together listening to Save Ferris and Aqua, my sister would sit in her room and make things. The first thing she made me was an Altoids tin covered in pictures of moons and stars that she'd gleaned mainly from the Delia's catalog. She didn't have modge-podge then, so she'd stuck the pictures to the tin with clear glittery nail polish and presented it to me. It was lovely. It was so me, back then. I still have it.

Now my sister has refined her artistic talent and uses it to run a small business and throw incredible parties. On Sunday she threw a Red Riding Hood themed party for her daughter Violet's very first birthday. Violet has red hair, and I am sick with envy. I wanted a little ginger kid, someone to smell like sunscreen and stay inside with me year 'round, in the dark, where it's safe. There, there now. Safe little ginger. Mommy's got you.

Anyway, my blonde sister got the red-headed child who earned the nickname (what else?) Little Red. And the red-headed child turned one. Below are the results.

Ayla, Cousin Eisley, and Owl Indy

Who doesn't love a craft? (Besides me.)

I make funny expressions when I talk to people:

Me with my lovely sis and the birthday girl, Viv. (Short for Violet).

(My style secrets, you ask? I have two hippie tunics and one hip-modest cardigan and I wear them to every single holiday, party, and wedding. Done.)

My mom, my grandma, my daughter

My mom and dad

Red Scares The Wolf

Look, I might spread Nutella on a Wal-Mart croissant and call it a work of art, but my sister is the real deal. You can visit her blog here, where I'm sure she'll have a party post up soon, with lovelier pictures. (Vintage photos are probably out now. I'll be the last to know it). Or you can visit her craft blog, Lark & Lola, where she does amazing things like turn tea towels into pillows I covet, and is kind enough to tell you how.

Now hipsters, please excuse me. I have to go pen some damp emotional poetry and steer backwards through the Wendy's drive-thru window.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's All Over Now, Baby Blues

Post-partum depression ravishes a mother's soul. I know, I struggled with it twice.

In the past I blogged about hallucinating my daughter was the Soprano's Uncle Junior (yes really), and today I am talking about my rough tussle with the baby blues again over at momology.

Click here, if you'd like to visit.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Just Blogged To Say I Love You

It seems like one is expected to have a position on Valentine's day.

And it seems like it is hip to hate it

or hip to embrace it with homemade Valentine's and fancy heart-shaped rice ball bento boxes

(Japanese parents do it better?)

(Please, you know I jest).

I decided last night that I have a position on Valentine's and it is this--

--don't worry, you're not about to get Kama Sutra'd--

I love you.

I really mean that.

I love those of you who come here and read my words.

Those of you I know, and those of you I don't.

Those of you who leave comments, and those of you who simply leave a notch on my page counter. (We all have different styles. I get that.)

When I started blogging I had no idea what I was doing

or what I was doing this for.

And most days, I still don't, but I want you to know

I can't express in words how much it means to me.

To have you read my blog.

To feel your encouragement, and your love.

I hope some days, when the blogging stars align

you feel that love come back to you.

Some days your comments shore me up.

Some days your comments remind me why.

And even those of you who don't comment, I feel your presence

and some days that presence is what remembers unto me

that the world is a beautiful and loving place.

So Happy Valentine's day, my blog readers.

I hope you know that you are not alone, never alone.

And that I love you, but

more importantly

I believe there is a divine and loving presence

whatever you want to call it

(some days I call it Hermione)

that loves you

and accepts you

no matter what

no matter anything

exactly as you are.

And you, I happen to know, are fabulous.

Now, here are some pictures of bento boxes

to shore you up.

images from here, here, here, and here.

Please, one last thing:

here is my one true love Amanda Palmer

wife of Neil Gaiman

singing her song that makes my soul say, yes.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Still Sleeps

This morning Ayla woke me up with worry in her eyes. "Mom," she said, "Did we miss the field trip?"

It was too light outside and I let out a string of mental curses while fumbling for my phone. The alarm was still going off. Silently. It was 7:27, not 'miss the field trip' time but certainly 'big friggin hurry' time. We managed to get dressed and out the door by 7:55. Ayla was jumping-out-of-her-skin-excited to visit the Butterfly Pavillion and hold the tarantula. I was meant to go, but still feeling sick and thus let off the hook. So frustrated with this illness, this week of getting nothing done, that one happy day of tea and rest followed by six more filled with weariness of all I should be getting done, of all I've left undone.

But driving Ayla and Indy to school, I was filled with a subtle, quiet feeling of good. There was snow on the ground, the heater cranked high, the sounds of Ayla and Bejeweled on my iphone from the back, and a calm and quiet happiness settled content in my chest. A warm red valentine heart. Sun shining through.

I kissed the girls goodbye, Ayla mostly ok that I wasn't going to see the winter butterflies with her, and drove off to run errands, drop off movies, pick up a chai. I'd left my sunglasses at home, and then it hit me. Something had changed.

It was the light.

February 8th, 8:18 a.m., I drove around town feeling sick and tired but happy, happy still, because I realized the light had changed. It was brighter. It was warmer. It glanced gently off the snow and promised pollen, and rain fall, and buds, and bees.

I know that we still have Valentine's to get through, and St. Patrick's, and then Easter and it will snow, it always snows on Easter. But today was longer, did you notice? It was longer than the deep of January, and I remembered that there is time to achieve, but there is also time to rest. Those poor winter butterflies, like me, forget that January is for cocoons, for wrapping soft things around ourselves and letting the soil settle, letting it gather nourishment where it may and whispering to it only this: it is good, it is growing, it is wonderful.

So today I will rest, and maybe tomorrow, because it is time for that. The days will grow longer, the light will come full, and I will gather my strength. My soul has whispered to me promise of August, and I won't harvest now what yet is waiting, what still sleeps.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Snow, Secrets

Last night we put two sick kids to bed early and watched Moneyball. We'd watched Drive the night before, and I'd spent the evening walking around the house listening to the song on my ipod and had even played it in the car en route to the library, driving purposefully but with my face all emotionless and blank. I like to pretend I'm in the movies whenever I'm alone. I've never been caught.

It's important you know we'd watched Drive because it's possible what happened next can be solely chalked up to SRGD (Sudden Ryan Gosling Deprivation). My husband was trying to enjoy the movie and I start tossing out comments like "Could we take baseball any more seriously?" and, "Could this movie be any more like The Social Network?" with a vaguely Chandler Bingish inflection. I don't know why I decided to become the movie's heckler, it was after all an innocent little movie, sweet and well-intentioned. I swear I didn't know until the credits rolled that Aaron Sorkin had written this, too. Like I said, it wasn't Drive, there was no Ryan Gosling or sweet-ass synthesizer music, or hot pink fonts. Billy Beane seemed determined to be unhappy and the scene--MILD SPOILER HERE--where the clouds roll in during the game and you-know-what happened really bothered me. It made me itchy. I get that we are trying to be romantic about baseball here, but come on. I just don't have it in me. You can't play "Kittens are being forced to fight each other to the death" music during baseball. Hath Jimmy Duggan taught us nothing? Also I was annoyed that I was born in 1981, I'm 30-years-old, and the vast majority of movies are still made about men. Yes, I know we had The Help and Bridesmaids this year, but Kristen Wiig and Skeeter Phelan can't single-handedly save Hollywood and can someone call Steven Spielberg and check if he's even aware that women exist? The last time I saw a female in a movie of his, Drew Barrymore was in pigtails and screaming.

We turned off Moneyball and I listened to the song again to comfort myself. Mr.V went to bed and I made a cup of tea and settled down with a Jacqueline Carey novel. It was close to ten and the house was dark. The snow had started outside. Mr. V had baked bread and I had a thick, warm slab of it drenched with butter and honey. It was a real cozy moment, where your bones just say "ah". From down the hall, I heard a small coo. I set down my tea. In her bed, Indy was crying.

Baby, I whispered. What's wrong?

She had an earache. Medicine and warm washcloths were given. Look, I said, pointing to her window. It's snowing. We snuggled up tight together. How sweet a mother I will be right now, I thought. We will just cuddle here until she is back to sleep. Indy sat up. "I'm just going to go lie down on the couch and watch Rugrats," she said. "Because I feel like I want to."

It was ten o'clock and she'd in bed for three hours. I am powerless to Indy. I settled her on the couch and turned Rugrats down low. Outside the window behind her the snow was thick like marshmallow cream. I felt my flirting illness settling deeper into my bones. Baby, I said. I'm going to go to sleep now.

Ok, she said. I'm just going to watch this for a few more minutes and go back to bed.

Yeah right, I thought, kissing her forehead and padding down the hall. In the morning I knew I'd find her there, the tv still on, my Indy dreaming away under quilts on my sofa. But I was wrong. A short while later a noise opened my eyes, and there she was in her room. My door faces hers directly, her nightlight was on, and I watched my Indy in her private world, in her owl pajamas, five-years-old and so good natured, whenever I tell her I forgot to put dessert in her lunch or the birthday party is canceled, she shrugs and smiles and says "Oh, that's ok!" I watched her climb up on her bed, on the flannel sheets, and pause to rest her elbows on the sill and peer out the window. She muttered something, soft as snow, some private world or language I could see only the fringes of, the essence like Avalon, shimmering in the mist. She blew on the glass and squeaked her finger through the fog.

Memorize this moment, my spirit said to me. So very seldom am I present enough to memorize. Brief flashes, laughter on a beach, my daughters in the spring, pink cherry blossoms falling in the breeze, landing in their hair, and they are holding hands. But now I have it, this memory, forever. Indy, five-years-old, pausing at her window to think thoughts I will never imagine, to spin dreams to be forgotten, to tread in worlds that I will never see.

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