Thursday, November 28, 2013

Frozen, Pho, and Platitudes of Gratitude

Thanksgiving last year, just after dawn

I do not like the holidays at all. I woke up today and went onto Facebook with a perverse desire to see everyone doing the thing I hate--offering up the platitudes about family and God--and sure enough, there they all were. I stormed out into the living room to make cinnamon rolls and bluster to Noah about how much I hate it all. I hate it so much that yesterday found me morose with anticipation, and in the early afternoon I went back to bed. Should I say that I hadn't taken my Wellbutrin? I hadn't taken it. I slept a dreamless sleep. Then Noah woke me up and said, let's take the girls to a movie, and so we did. We drove an hour to see a movie that I had sword to boycott, and as we drove the wind gathered fury. It tilted stop lights in tandem and blew Christmas trees across their lots. We hurried in to the theater in the chill, both invigorating and punishing, and sheltered for two bright hours. I had been wrong about the movie, it was feminist and wonderful. When it ended, both evening and the snow were falling. People here in the south work themselves into a frenzy every winter over dozens of promised snow storms that never arrive and yes, I'd been cynical about that too.

But now the snow was falling, it was bitter cold, and we drove to a Pho restaurant that had the same sriracha and Chinese horoscope-atmosphere of every Asian restaurant across the country. We sipped that spicy anise-laced broth, the lone diners on a fierce and wintry night. The drive back was hairy for a bit, but the weather ebbed as we drew closer to home. The children asleep, I drank half a beer, felt drunk, and went to bed. The moment the lights went out, my brain began to fret over Christmas and presents and travel and of course, budgets. And as I prepared to send up thoughts to the universe, my mind did the thing it had done after sushi. So maybe it's these Asian restaurants that are stirring enlightenment in with the rice, I don't know. My comprehension expanded beyond my little world, and I realized how ridiculous it was to worry about whether or not I'll be able to buy my daughters many toys when here we sit in a cozy house with pho in our bellies and the certainty of food tomorrow.

You see what I have just done? This morning, after blustering to Noah about how much I hate all the recitations of contrived sentiments, I began to tell him of my late-night enlightenment and then I stopped myself. Oh god, I said, oh god, I am about to do the thing I just told you I hate. I am abashed to report that my voice was teary as I started. And now I have done it on my blog, and I have no excuses. I guess I should make an observation here about being kinder and more compassionate to people who offer platitudes, but the truth is that I strongly dislike Thanksgiving, whether I'm home with my family or not, and that at 11 a.m. I'm going to pour my first drink, which will probably turn out be my last, that I'm a hypocrite and a sellout and that, for all my talk of enlightenment, I'm sure I'll be back to my petty prayers tomorrow. But I'll also be okay with thankfulness again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Two-Hearted Woman

At this turn in my life, I am finding it more difficult to do this thing we call "balancing work and children". When my daughters were first born I didn't work for a few years. I went back to a part-time job when Indy was two and Ayla was four and regretted not going back sooner. The work I did at Borders was infinitely easier than being at home all day with my two young children, stupefied and brittle with loneliness. In those days, I was finding it nearly impossible to get out of bed every morning. My somnolence wasn't due to depression, I don't think. I believe I was just catching up on two back-to-back infancies that deprived me of sleep to the marrow of my bones. My sleep, especially in the morning hours, was like an enchanted sleep from which there was no rescue. In the mornings Indy would rattle the bars of her crib calling for her sister--her first word not "mama" but her sister's name, Awa, Awa, Awa. I would drift in and out of sleep, rather resplendent, I picture myself now, a young woman tangled among blue bed sheets in a sunny room. My body cream heavy with early motherhood. Ayla would go to her sister bearing offerings--a jar of peanut butter, a bag of powdered sugar or, the very worst time, eggs. I would lie there, wafting in and out of dreams. I could never manage to pull myself out of bed before ten a.m. By that time Indy's face and hair would be smeared with peanut butter, or the carpet would be covered with sugar, and I would wearily drink my coffee before cleaning up, telling the girls not to do it again without much vigor. I accepted my daughters' little coups as the tithe I had to pay for my lassitude.

In those days I only had weekends to write, and I would, every Saturday and many Sundays. On writing days I could rise early, and did, slipping out of the house before the girls or Noah were even awake, driving to the coffee shop in what I remember now as a perpetually snowy dark, and setting up camp. I would stay there into the afternoon, and sometimes I would buy a lunch and change locations--move on to another coffee shop and write for a few more hours. Occasionally I'd go out at night to the 24-hour Starbucks. It was in a neighborhood of Denver where immigrants from many regions had established communities. So at eleven pm or twelve am on a Monday, I could sit and watch men in fantastic princely turbans, women in hijabs, hear people speak the languages of Ethiopia and Russia and Lebanon. God it was fantastic.

These days, it's harder. As the girls get older, they require more and more of my emotional energy. More, I am afraid, than I have to give. Not a day passes without some conflict at school, some disruption of the force, and when I go to tuck my daughters in at night they will unleash labyrinthine and infinite stories, incomprehensible recountings of the fragile and ever-changing ecosystem of elementary school children. Their teachers are sending home notes, scandalized that my daughter walked down the hallway on her knees, or didn't pay attention during one lesson or another. Our days seem fuller and shorter than they did in that toddler time, when I shaped the rhythms and we rarely had to be anywhere we didn't want to go. Now they have schedules, the schedules are tight, and I find myself starved for creative time. But of course, I always have been.

Last night as I went to sing to Ayla and tuck her in, a shadow passed across her face. I asked her what was wrong and she told me it was nothing, just that her finger was hurting her. I pressed gently. Was she sure it wasn't something else? Some argument with a friend, perhaps, or had her feelings been hurt? No, she insisted, it was just her hangnail, and she clicked on her reading lamp and held it up for me to see. There was a hang nail indeed, but I was not completely satisfied. I waited. We sat there together in silence for a bit, while I stroked her hair and hoped this detective-novel technique might work on a young girl. "Are you going to sing to me?" she finally said, and so I pulled the covers up to her chin and I sang. I uttered the same intonations that I have uttered over this daughter nearly every night since she was a baby, nine years ago when I think we were both afraid, me trying futilely to soothe my own heart in my arms. You can tell me anything, I said, and she said she knew that. I will always love you, I said, and she said yes, she knew. I exited the room and as I closed the door the light from the hallway slanted across her face and then left it, rendering her unknowable to me in more ways than she ever was before.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Know What I Did Last Summer

I find I'm needing to keep my cards close to my chest these days.

So I thought in the meantime I could share a few pictures of good times we've had during this year that's winding down.

These are all from the trip the girls and I took back to Colorado in July.

Guanella Pass, where the air is clean and and crisp.

Ayla looking hip.

 I love this picture of me and my mom at the North Pole 
in Colorado Springs. We had Christmas in
July and now look, we're going to have it again.

 Ayla, Georgetown

Me and my chicken in the Rockies. 

 Chicken and my dad, her Papa.

My nephew, Paxton, had just been born.
Here is his amid the sea of his sisters (the little ones)
and cousins (the big ones). Indy, Eisley, Ayla with Pax,

Sometimes pictures will do when words won't.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Talk of Utopia

Last night I went out for sushi with some women I know and some I didn't. The conversation turned to utopias. It was at the opposite end of the table and I couldn't hear much. I was maybe trying not to, as they had just been discussing the Affordable Care Act with displeasure and I remain hopeful. But the utopia they described was one of gender segregation. Women and children on one side of the line, men on the other. My friend, who has the most perfect southern social graces the world has ever seen, turned to me and murmured, "I couldn't have a utopia without the men," and then, of course, we began to consider open marriages. These are ideas that are easy to throw around on a rainy night in November, when it's been dark since 5:30 and you're tucked inside a crowded sushi restaurant, drinking sake beneath neon signs and steam of miso.

Over second Sapporos I heard it said that teenage boys are basically walking fireballs of unchecked sexual desire and that they will do anything and say anything to coerce a teenage girl into sleeping with them. Now wait a minute. I stared at my spider roll and squirmed. This is not the message I hope to teach my girls, nor the message I believe. I find it fundamentally disempowering to both sexes. It robs the women of choice (by telling them any choice will be harmful, by turning them away from their own inner wisdom) and it robs the men of responsibility. I know the dominant culture insists that men are perpetually ravenous with desire and that women have basically none. I know for a fact that one of these assertions isn't true. When I talked about fem!Dean the other day, I was referencing the tip of the iceberg that is female sexuality writ and recorded online. I was talking about fan fiction. Fan fiction fascinates me because it is written largely by women, it is largely erotic in nature, and what I've gleaned from it is that there is absolutely no end to the limit of things the female libido might be excited by. My theory is that men have had drilled into them, relentlessly, what is attractive (thin, brainless, submissive women), but since the culture has basically ignored women's desires altogether, the collective feminine sex drive has grown absolutely wild and wantonly for centuries. Like a secret garden of unruly bramble and serpentine vines, walled off from the world, boasting all manner of strange fruit and previously unknown varieties.

The point of all this is that I believe in and hope for better. In all elements of the troubled world. Why didn't I say anything, or speak up? Sitting in that restaurant, lit up like a giant lantern floating above the black mountains, eating sushi that may or may not be radioactive and fished from a far-off sea, my view expanded and encompassed a greater portion of the universe than I usually conceive when talk turns to politics or gender. All the millions of us out there, our own paper lanterns in the night. There are thousands who'd agree with me and thousands who don't. There always were, and always will be. What good am I arguing my own meager beliefs, trying to prove my own enlightenment, while I eat the flesh of lobsters, a creature that I've recently learned might not age or even die, if we didn't kill them? I will never change their beliefs, they will never change mine. My goal is to grow a group of like-minded friends, with whom I at least can be at peace and not at war. The world teems on with every possible thing, known and unknown. I can only tend my own garden, and my style is one of loving neglect, offering nourishment and light and air but few parameters. As for the brambles, let them be wild. Let them curl their own tattered path to the sun.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Smile Like A Lady

Yesterday I stayed in the house all day and was absolutely stir-crazy by the end of it. I crave my old big city lifestyle. All I want is a goddamn drive through Starbucks, I find myself thinking some days. Or, would a goddamn Chipotle be so much to ask? There are pretty much three streets in Brevard and I'm tired of all of them. 

So today I decided I would get out of the house early and enjoy my little town. Making lemonade! and all that. I drove to the bakery on Main Street where I purchased a blueberry cream cheese danish and an almond croissant. Then I drove to our Starbucks, which is in the depressing grocery store. We have no freestanding Starbucks. We have other coffee shops but I wanted a gingerbread latte. Gosh this is turning into a diatribe. Here's what you need to know: I was wearing my new military jacket and standing in the grim grocery store waiting for my gourmet latte when an old sport walks in--Brevard is chock-full of old sports, southern variety--and says "Hey Sarge." Nyuk nyuk!

Old men are becoming a problem for me. I deal with a lot of them in my line of work and while I used to see old men as sweet and fragile, I now see them entirely as a group of depraved dirty leches. (I am a tongue-in-cheek person in case you are new here). One old fellow came into the library and, long story short, mistook my friendliness for something more and started some garden variety stalking. He was going in to the library almost every day asking for me and even went to my husband's work trying to track me down. When he finally did find me at work, he asked me where I live (I did not tell him), told me that if my husband wasn't "being good to me" he was going to "beat him up" because I'm "gorgeous" and then he asked me if I was still having sex with my husband. 

That was when I told him he was making me very uncomfortable and walked away. 

Since then I have been pretty put off by old men altogether. They come into the library and tend to call me honey or sweetheart or gorgeous. There is one who likes to make disparaging comments about how little I am being paid and others who harangue me for "standing around". It is all condescending and rude. I feel that any level of friendliness will be taken as encouragement, and so I've become a bit of an ice queen. You know that thing where men tell women, "Smile!"? Well, men should know, the reason we're not smiling is because at some point we have smiled at the wrong guy and ended up being stalked. Or worse.

Look this was supposed to be a blog about a military jacket.

I smiled politely at Sarge because I am trained to be nice and it's a hard habit to break. And Sarge probably meant well but the thing is, I would really like to go about in the world and have it understood that my appearance and my person are not available for comment. I don't want to make small talk or listen to your story or smile over your stupid joke about my clothing, OLD CHAP, simply because I am female and can therefore be relied upon to "be nice". I mean, do men deal with this? Do little old blue hairs just feel free to condescend to young men, and are the young men expected to smile about it?

What I wish I had said to the man is, I am not your sarge, I am fem!Dean. He wouldn't have known what that meant and neither do you, probably. My dad told me, "Never let a man call you baby!" and I guess he should have added, "Or Sarge!" Maybe I should have just snapped, "Don't look at me in the eye!", thrown my latte, and run away. He said a few more things and I smiled but made no replies. The college-guy barista handed me my coffee and I did not say thanks stud or thanks baby or are they paying you to look good? I just said thank you and walked away. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So Glamorous

I am sitting at home today thinking about how well things are in my world. I mean, I did have to go to the dentist, but she removed some stains and now my teeth are white and shiny. I don't know what is better than shiny teeth, except maybe my blog. Just kidding. You know I am kidding, right?

(I am not at all kidding.)

After I got my teeth shined I went and voted, and then I returned some library books at the library at which I work. It was a nice small town moment. The polling place was in a little white church one block away from the dentist. Both on Main street, onto which you can make a left hand turn easily at any hour of the day. The library was about four blocks away from the church. Everything is right there. Croissants and pizza, lattes and polling places, the hardware store and movie theater, free books and shiny teeth all within three minutes of each other. So not everything is bad about living in a small town. Most things are bad, but not all things.

Here's what else is going well. A website recently came to my attention. This website was designed for the express purpose of getting together and anonymously eviscerating bloggers who are living their lives in the wide open, writing about things and you know, baring their souls for our emotional and intellectual stimulation. I feel very lucky at the moment to have inter-met such a wonderful group of kind-hearted and supportive people, smart-ass people yes, but kind, who come to this blog and I felt so grateful that nobody is eviscerating me on the internet. Then, of course, for a brief moment I kind of wished somebody was eviscerating me on the internet. Because that would be like the first time they make fun of you on SNL. Then you know you've made it. My husband has made it, as you can tell from the above screengrab. I can only hope the photoshoot involved Noah mashing in grain wearing nothing but his Wellington's. Maybe tipping back his head and pouring a Ten Fidy on himself, I don't know. Then it's like, "Oops, I dropped my lauter tun!" Movie pitch: In a world without shirts, brewers must mash tun in any way they can. He is living the life that I was supposed to lead, but that's ok because what I really want is not to be in Southern Living (god forbid), but to sit around reading and writing and sometimes talking to people about both.

Which, as it happens, is a pretty perfect description of my life right now.

Guys, I think I forgot how to blog, so thanks for bearing with me in the interim. Feel free to bare with me as well, because I believe communal nudity would be healing for our society. I'm talking like Nordic saunas or Turkish baths here, definitely not topless beaches. Maybe topless beaches. I just think we need to see more bodies au naturel. Look, this is a whole different blog. Feel free not to comment, I certainly can't blame you. I thought about relieving you by turning off comments, but then I found out they'll just eviscerate that anonymously. You know?

Peace out?

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