My baby likes bacon / And that’s what I’m making!

I’m inexplicably tired this evening so while my mom visits and Ralph bustles about making dinner I lay on the couch under a blanket. I feel vaguely nauseated so I’m giving myself permission to rest. An hour earlier I’d been trying to do some work, and after a bit of that I’d realized I was floating in an odd trance. One difference between me today and me of not-that-long-ago is that before I might have rested just as I’m doing now, but I’d feel terribly guilty doing it. OK, I still do feel a little guilty. See, the Guilty Monster inside me is still trying to blot out my existance and my conscious contact with God.

Dinner was incredible. Ralph made some kind of corn butter rice, lemon broccoli, and cedar-planked salmon, the latter of which was the most tender and delicately-flavored salmon I’ve ever, ever had. It was seriously amazing. Wedges of perfectly-ripe cantaloupe completed the meal. All five of us sat down and shared repast and conversation and after that the kids packed their suitcases, kissed me goodbye, and headed to my mother’s.

Ralph is very good at following recipes. He doesn’t take shortcuts if he can avoid it. It pays off. He is a very good cook because he has learned alongside me over these years (although he doesn’t seem to think he has) and he has a more exacting and precise methodology than I.

I haven’t mentioned here (yet) that for the last six days or so I’ve barely cooked. Ralph has taken over the job of meal planning and preparation – now his territory for the nearby future. This means he plans out what to eat and makes grocery lists, shops (a lot more than before, although I continue to do some), cooks and cleans. And me? I help. I let him have this job, but I help.

Oh shit, I am ambivalent about this all. But I am very sick and I am recovering. I also will mention I did the bulk of this work, like so many women in families, for… OH TEN FUCKING YEARS. I got so burnt out that I wasn’t even angry or resentful. I was just so so tired and confused. Even though in the past I’ve done this task well enough, the past few months I wasn’t very effective. My appetite had dwindled and my inspiration began to implode. My fridge was feast or famine and I drooped leaning against the door looking in, uninspired and uninterested. It was Sucktown, USA.

I am now the “helper” and Ralph the master. Last night I told him it was hard going for me to accept this – those old old labels of “selfish” keep rising up and yammering in my head. I have lost objectivity to know how fair it is for him to cook, as I told him, because he worked fulltime and it didn’t seem right (I can’t even believe I believe this, but old training is quite effective). To this he responded, “YOU work fulltime, taking care of yourself and keeping our children alive.”

The other day I asked him, Was this what it was like for ten years, you mostly got this great food and you didn’t have to think about it much? He said, “Yup, pretty much.” and we both laughed. Then he said, “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but, yeah. I was playing Legos with the kids.” I’m not mad about any of this but I’m kind of stunned. I’m just sick is all. I need time to myself and time to rest. And time to help others and time to be here for my family too. I have a backlog of not-resting. It’s kind of incredible. I could have lived this way a lot, lot longer, but I can no longer do so.

My appetite is returning. Slowly but surely. Tonight’s meal sure was simple and lovely and fun – for all of us.

different names for the same thing

Today sucked. First? I was up all night – at least up to something marginally entertaining, watching the television show “Justified” on instant video. It was instantly deeply entertaining (Timothy Olyphant FTW), besides being more or less standard very dudely television fare (kiss kiss bang bang, ladies leave the room cuz menfolks is talkin). I eventually fell asleep and had a dream I made out with a local lawyer, non-related to any television viewing or any desire to make out with anyone besides my own actual man, and while the dream itself wasn’t the most unsavory I’ve had, it still to this moment leaves an ick-factor I haven’t entirely brushed off.

After I (eventually) staggered out of bed and washed up and opened blinds and brushed my teeth and got some laundry started, I dragged myself to the computer, cup of coffee in hand, to continue my day in a positive way – but, sadly, I was immediately exposed to something awful on the internet. And you know what? It doesn’t matter much what it was. It involved people I knew (and people I love), and ugly, soul-sucking behaviors, and apologism for the kind of social constructs I find most personally abhorrent, reprehensible, and hurtful. And I don’t know why, reading and doing the work and activism I do, I could stand to say I feel any sense of surprise to see such regressive and destructive attitudes and behaviors and why I haven’t just “evolved” (my mom’s phrase) into where I find these sorts of human behavior just kind of, shake-my-head funny. Or maybe sometimes I can – but not this morning. No, I sure didn’t.

I felt like shit the rest of the day, or most of it anyway. Depressed, overwhelmed, deeply sad. The timbre of the day’s experience felt like the rainy-and-dark depression that can overwhelm me seasonally, which I’d noted had been lifting lately. I took the best remedy I know, which was to go outside – in this case, a walk, joined by my children and later a couple girlfriends (who delivered excellent conversation). This helped, a bit. When Ralph got home he knew I was feeling bad and he did his best to take care of me, including dinner out. It helped. A bit.

Days like today I cannot imagine my life without my family. Yes, living without Ralph and the kids would be entirely different, I know that, enough it is silly to speculate on anything much. But while I have much to be grateful for, and a shared life with many passionate and incredible people who are supportive and loving and inspirational, there is something restorative about family life – and specifically my children – more constant than just about anything else. Even my daily and regular efforts in caring for them bring me to a mindfulness and in-the-moment experience that feels more Me than anything else – yes, even more than my beloved writing and sewing and my social interactions (in fact these three often distract me from my children, my husband, and my practice of mindfulness).

In the final analysis there is nothing that can take the place of the meaning and joy I find in the most simple things, plating up a ham sandwich and apple slices, or brushing hair and washing faces, or cuddling on the couch or simply bundling up and stepping outside for a walk while talking, the kids’ observations, their questions (which I feel honored to be trusted so implicitly with), their worldviews, their laughter. It’s rather confusing because people tend to frame joyful experiences with regard to grand or extravagant events, not those little things we have in our day, every day. As I get older and the more time I have with the children I feel an increasing experience of gratitude. It isn’t just that I like them, and love them, and find them my favorite people on the planet. It’s that I wonder how much passion would have passed me by had I not them in my life, and I feel grateful not to miss out on that passion.

A multi-part healing prescription: sunshine, exercise, friends, family, dinner out with my best friend and husband, and a bit of writing. Yes, I am feeling much better now – after all.

bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid

Back in high school my closest girlfriends and I developed a system of “Badass Points”, an informally-tracked schema whereby each of us could earn group acknowledgement by doing something daring or asinine – and usually both (like skipping class and smoking with “the stoners” – this meant working-class or poor classmates who wore jean jackets adorned with Sharpie’d skulls and who listened to metal – or telling a teacher he had a sexy bum. Unconscionable but rather tame on that last one, I know, but in my defense we were seventeen and imprisoned in our family lives and school). I don’t remember our game running very long but it was much-beloved to me all the same. I liked the idea of being a Badass when most my life I’d invested in Good Girl, when indeed I was very afraid of many things. To venture out – only a bit – and be myself instead of the Convenience I was relied upon to be – felt grand.

In that vein, I don’t think I’d earn many points these days. I’ve become someone quite risk-averse because I’ve found my position oppressively policed by forces both tangible and many perhaps insubstantial to others’ eyes; I’ve found my Fearless ameliorated by events personally devastating that linger on. These days my “badass” mostly runs to deeply-committed-to concepts of fairness that are so inextricably wound up in spiritual practice and belief they are less individual instances of Awesome and more rewarding ways of life that I nevertheless continue to grapple with – for instance, trusting my kids in their wholeness and personhood

OR –

my “badass” consists of speaking up against oppressive social mores that are trite and common, yet devastating and ubiquitous: more wearying than acutely scary. Examples from just lately: this weekend in a group when a person wondered aloud how a missing girl’s family could have let the child out of their sight in the first place – and after a pause in the conversation I indicated my non-support for such victim-blaming and insensitive speech; another example, speaking out when my daughter’s hairstylist called skinny gym neophytes “gross”.

I know at least a handful of readers might think I’m badass enough given the above examples – and a handful of other readers will eyeroll at just how limited and cowardly I really am. Other people’s verdicts don’t matter so much – because what matters is I haven’t felt a Badass in some time and what’s more I feel it’s something I need.

Being a Badass isn’t about, for me, being a jerk to other people, or proving a point to someone else – it’s about doing something I want to do because I want to do it, and I’m a grown lady who’s allowed to make mistakes – right? – without looking around to make sure there won’t be a big scary reprisal, or wondering what my reputation (such as it is, because Who? Gives A Shit) will suffer. Why do I still fear things when I’ve survived through so much so far?

If I was Badass I’d stop running to spend my every last dime on my kids’ immediate needs and I’d “selfishly” buy myself some things I want – I’d let the kiddos have holey socks and stained clothes and I’d fix myself up with some slutty and awesome bra and panty sets and maybe a top that wasn’t an old band t-shirt. But on the flip side if I was a Badass I’d stop giving a damn for the folk who talk like it’s Empowering to collect Nice Things; I’d start saying “Fuck Off” (mentally) now and forever to those who speak prescriptively about those “must haves” that carry price points that don’t reflect my foursome’s economic reality and I’d say “No Thanks, but Good Luck With That” to those with worldviews that don’t concern themselves with the earth, with fellow man here and abroad, and with conspicuous consumption and the cultural heritage of being an American who just tramples and eats everything they see.

If I was a Badass I’d stop feeling crap about my bad habits. Fuck it. Seriously, I have them. They’ll lift someday, or they won’t.

If I was Badass I’d call up that friend who’s not been a friend and tell her, “You know what? You aren’t much of a friend, and it really hurts, and I know you’re busy, but you should know I have feelings.”

If I was a Badass I’d tell my friends, to their faces, I love you.

If I was a Badass I’d let the house be messy (OK, messier) and know that I would get around to fixing it at some point so let’s move on. Instead of what I do now, which is make sure to take care of that shit first, THEN decide what I want to do with the rest of my supposedly-“free” time.

If I was Badass I’d stop worrying about my husband’s health and trust him to manage his own self. God knows I do pretty right by him.

If I was Badass I’d seek more joy and maybe be a more loving and spontaneous and relaxed lady for this man. I’d quit working myself so hard.

If I was a Badass I’d sing loud in front of other people, because I love to sing, and the only people who ever, EVAR hear it are my kids.

If I was a Badass I’d stop feeling this weird shame we’re working class and have working class lives. I’d stop feeling it was my “fault” somehow, especially considering when I reflect on other people’s lives I truly grant them the same humanity and nobility inherent regardless of status and privilege or any lack thereof (or at least I really, really think I do).

If I was Badass, I’d stop feeling people have a right to give a damn or have a say about what food I feed my children, like I’m required to make sure they grow into some awesome consumers with prim and holistic eating habits I can put down to my awesome parenting. Truth is some days I love to cook more than anything, other days (like today!) I save my mental health and take a walk to the diner and get a veggie burger with my son, and it’s pretty funny how hot and cold I am on the whole good-housewife bit. I come nowhere near the mark on being good at this, the whole well-rounded awesome Mama routine, so it’s laughable I still put this pressure on myself. And yeah, I know people shouldn’t have that right to weigh in, but weigh in they do, and dammit, I let it get to me.

That’s part of my problem, maybe most of it. Deep down I keep believing people have the right to weigh in. On my worthDeep down I still really fear not being a Nice Girl. So many things I want to say but don’t. Or sometimes I do say them then later feel a very humorless shame because my words weren’t “Nice”, or they might have been uncouth or low class or “inappropriate” according to the voice (who?) of someone who, well the one thing I can tell you, is this person is not very fun anyway. The twisted thing is, I am a good (enough) person, and I’m a friend to many and do okay by those I take responsibility for. What am I really afraid of? And another really twisted thing is I know lots of “not-nice” folk and they are some of my favorite people and they’re not scary or horrid!

I’ve made it on my own steam, and that’s to my credit as well as the family and friends who support me so well and the privilege I was born with. But inside… inside I’m often cowering, afraid to lose things I probably don’t really need in the first place, cowering even knowing I won’t lose Me no matter what I do.

But you know. One last thing? I think just writing it all out, and letting it go publicly just what a coward I am?- like, PRETTY much, all the things I’m afraid of? All of a sudden, just now, feels pretty Badass. Hit “publish” – too late now.

It’s almost 2 AM and I hear my daughter giggling at something she’s watching (with headphones) on the laptop. You know what’s really awesome? That. I have her, today, and a sense of unabiding joy when I’m with her.

So I’m going to join her.

***

“Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

and hours later i’m still thinking about her

Today in the grocery store I had my eldest child only, which meant I wasn’t having to deal with two children fighting or (and this is worse, I swear) climbing up the side of the aisles or running full-tilt through the store or pestering me every second for brownie mix and cream-top yogurt and coloring books.  In fact I was having a great conversation with my oldest; doing the math to shop for groceries.  An excellent exercise; I think I was in my twenties before I started noticing how much food cost.

In the produce section I ran into a friend and she looked beautiful but rather stressed; we talked about what was stressing her for a bit, then talked about some upcoming gatherings we’re planning, and caught up as best we could.  And toward the end of the conversation we heard the kind of heart-wrenching crying that usually comes from an infant in distress, an all-out sobbing that if drawn out for any length of time is hard for most parents to hear.  “I’m going to go nurse that baby right now,” I joked to my friend, and she admitted to having the same impulse.  We parted ways and my child and I headed to the canned vegetable aisle to get olives for tonight’s dinner, homemade French bread and Salad Nicoise.

The crying was not in fact coming from an infant but from a child old enough to walk, sobbing and screaming and trailing behind his mother who gripped the handles of one of those huge, pain-in-the-ass carts that’s supposed to be extra fun for small children but is really cumbersome to drive, at least in my opinion.  The screaming child looked to be between three and four and he was distraught and so was she, although of course full-grown women aren’t allowed, socially, to holler or collapse in the aisles of supermarkets.  As I passed I smiled at her and she smiled back, but her eyes weren’t really seeing me.  She looked almost calm – and of course, many parents can be calm while their child has a big, loud upset in a public place (the family I grew up in denigrated children’s emotional displays by calling them “throwing a fit”) – but I knew the look of tension and anger in this woman and I knew she was very upset.  I moved down the aisle and as my child and I spied the olives and noted their price I heard this mother at the end of my aisle lean down and near-yell at the child, telling him to shut up and I can’t remember what she called him.  Then she’d straightened again and continued shopping.  The child remained inconsolable.

Here’s the shitty thing, there were lots of people in the store and they were all either ignoring her or sending off hostile looks and vibrations.  This broke my heart into tiny pieces.  When I passed her again I said “Ma’am, excuse me, can I help you in any way?  Would you like me to hang out with him for a little while and you can finish shopping?”

“No, he’s just a brat,” the woman says.  She is a blonde and tiny, her face tight with strain.  Her voice is harsh, she looks up at me and then away, and her chin shakes.  I say, “I understand.  I have two of my own,” and I put my hand on her arm. I have tears in my eyes.  She passes on and I put my hand on the little guy’s head too, and I let them go. I think to myself I hope it means something to her, that I saw her and saw what she was going through, and I felt only love and compassion, and I didn’t cast her out or condemn her like everyone else I saw in the store.  And even as my words offering help came out of my mouth I thought it was so unlikely she’d avail herself of my assistance – although I was totally willing, and if she’d have had a few moments to herself to shop I’ll bet she could have pulled it together and come back to her child refreshed a bit, and I only wish she would have let me do this for her.  But I’ve myself been that mom who needs help, and had help offered, and sometimes I take it and often I don’t, and I hope every damn person who’s done it realizes how much it meant to me.

The thing is some people look at this woman and think she’s a bad person, or a bad mother (totally different, so much more pointed and awful and loaded), and feel sorry for the child in this case in that sort of nosey, pathetic what-about-the-children?! type of feeling sorry.  And I felt sorry for the child, sure.

But I also know the chances are most every other minute of every day this woman is loving up on this boy and sticking up for him, and just then she needed someone to stick up for her.

choosing to breed, Surprise # 437

I am learning to cook some modest amount of French cuisine (and loving it, I might add).  Today for breakfast, on a lark: oeuf en cocotte; eggs baked in ramekins – with cream and butter and a wee bit of fresh parmesan.  At 10:30 my son thundered down the stairs, “What smells so good?!” he shouted.  The kids set the table, scrambled up.  Their faith in and love of my cooking is truly an inspiration and quite heartening for me.

It took longer to get the food on the table than I’d expect; I need my egg whites at a medium finish.  Peeking in and out of the oven, edgy and bored, and the kids’ rowdiness in our small kitchen grated on my last nerve.  As I finally brought the hot morsels to the table some clumsy or abrupt movement of a child climbing around set me off.  “Stop it. STOP IT!” (they are literally unable to hear me when they are all revved-up.  “This isn’t playtime, this is fucking food!” I fumed as I whacked down a ramekin.

The kids were silent; Sophie slid her plate away from me.  I turned to the oven, brought the rest over.  Moved back to the table with the salt and pepper, contrite: “Would you like some orange juice?” I asked.   My children softened.  They are more or less used to my temper, or more specifically, they know that it doesn’t last.  I mixed up the juice in their pitcher, sat down, and deliberately apologized for my outburst.  We enjoyed a surprisingly delicious breakfast; I felt giddy at yet another delicious dish learned.

I think one of the pleasures of life is serving a meal to your loved ones and watching them tear into it, pausing only to repeatedly praise the repast.

Later, after groceries and errands, I fiddled about in the kitchen cooking beouf bourgingnon while the kids entertained themselves, including drafting up a garage sale, cracking a child’s schoolbook on study habits (purchased last Friday at a church rummage sale for ten cents), and drawing then cutting out ferocious kitten masks decorated brightly and ferociously like luchadores.  Both their spelling and worksmanship impressed me; my son’s writing is improving enough that I can’t always tell it from his older sister’s.

Although I am fiddling with the temptation to place my children in a private school next year (with a generous scholarship this is just financially feasable for us), it sometimes seems obvious that our current track of unschooling is what works best for our family.

I have a few problems with this.  First, I sometimes feel I am only just able to handle having my kids around me near 24/7.  I feel the fault is my own; I am simply not a groovy-enough Mama to accept without protest or miniature breakdown the infringements on my daily freedom.  To be fair, I know that if I worked all day and came home to the wee ones I’d have about the same amount of miniature breakdowns. I guess I am just a colossal ass.  I am not sure what to do with this aspect of my persona, something that has given me a lot of personal emotonal pain.

Secondly, the same part of me that longs for freedom knows on some level she would not allow much more of it to herself.  The prospect of school for my children gives me the illusion I’d have more time for myself, and that I’d actually spend that time – on myself.  Sometimes I fantasize about having more time to do yoga or work on the home-sewn lovelies I so love to create; yet God Knows what I tend to prioritize is cooking and housecleaning and doing things with the kids when I have a choice of where to put my efforts.  I know from Sophie’s first and only year in public school that I would likely find myself to and fro the schoolhouse anyway, volunteering my time and staying up making flyers or binding little project books.

I might think I long for more time for myself and my exploits, more space (what does that mean?), but my genuine joy and interest in my kids’ day-to-day life – and a personal ambition, as well as some sense of obligation I can’t quite put my finger on – keep me away from these such that at present I might be getting the most of this “me time” I’d allow myself in any case.  At the end of the day the laundry is done and the counter wiped clean and maybe I haven’t gotten quite as far on the silk shirt as I’d hoped; yet most days I’ve acheived at least an hour of sewing.

I call this a victory, for now.

being the ghoul i’m not afraid of after all

More strawberries. I’m standing at the kitchen sink going through the latest large colander full from my husband’s efforts. I’d left them covered on my counter (instead of in the fridge) for two days and so a few of them have gone bad, a few of them have gone too soft or have mold. I think of myself as the kind of flibbertigibbet who’d just debate for a minute and then throw the whole batch in the trash. As my husband says, Kelly, it’s fine, we have so many more. But my actions sometimes show me different than how I imagine myself, because instead I stand there and pick through them, carefully winnowing the bad from the good, taking tiny nicks out of tender berries to remove the soft spots. I think how amazing it is, while alive the ability we have to know with the merest touch of our thumb the difference from a perfectly ripe berry, to one that has gone over to the decaying process; perhaps not something I could write a standard operating procedure for here, but if you stood with me at my sink you’d see what I mean immediately and you’d take your own small knife up and we’d talk about other things while we did the bowl full.

I am thinking of one of my character flaws, something so innate it’s like an ego-twin whose shadowy form has followed me most of my adult life. In comparison, giving up smoking or cursing would be much easier*; it’s almost hard to isolate or describe this thing I’m rolling about in my mind, and it’s certainly a bit humbling when I get my hands around it and begin to see it’s shape. I’m thinking of my tendency in my close relationships to account actions vs. words and, if I find them not in accord, to judge or resent these offenders for this “sin”.

The friend who airily maintains he only has a beer now and then but is clearly an alcoholic. The acquaintance who says over and over she’d love to see more of me but does not make the time and effort to do so. My mother who insists she’s independent and enjoys being alone, but who has been so quick upon widowhood to begin thinking about and searching for a new man (incidentally, I meet her boyfriend this afternoon). The friend who goes on soliloquies about punctuality and integrity, but has last-minute canceled on many of our plans together.

It is so very important I pause here and clarify, because the “sin” I respond to is nuanced. It’s not that I am lacking in quality friendships or obsess on those that are less quality. I do not judge my mother for dating on her own schedule (in fact, I have not once teased her in any way about it – which for me indicates a good deal of restraint!). I am realizing when I write this that my character flaw, as I call it, only rears it’s head when I am close to someone. It’s as if after giving myself in some way to someone the disconnect between their actions, their behaviors, and their words will begin to seem like a personal affront. They are asking me to listen to them, to care about them, to pay attention to who they are, and to bring my own integrity to the table – then asking me to look the other way when their repeated real-life actions contradict their heartfelt words. The words say, “I am like this, I care about that,” but their behavior belies this. They are my friend and want my friendship to include my honesty and intelligence, but then they want me to suspend these qualities so they can spin out their more comfortable concepts of themselves.

And yes. I know “they” are asking none of this. This is just how it feels.

As I write this I realize how very incorrect I am to allow myself to feel slighted by someone else’s difficulties or personal disconnects. Because no one who “sins” in my scenario is beyond my understanding when I focus and consider the individuals who offend me in this particular way. The women who say they want friendship but repeatedly do not nourish it – and there have been many – are often just very busy people. This is such a typically-voiced mantra in so many of the friendships I’ve had in the last decade (“Oh, I’d love to sew, I’d love to learn yoga, I’d love to spend more time such-and-such“) that I have at least learned to notice especially those who put time in to what they say they value – including Me. As for my mother, she is to some degree independent – everyone is – but more importantly, I would guess she does not give herself permission to self-identify as lonely (many people eschew that word or concept quite vigorously, especially when it’s true). Alcoholism? I am still sorting that one out.

As for the tacit agreement my friends and family at times seem to require – the requirement I do not speak up and say, “Yeah, you say that, but I notice this” – even behaving as my best self I am unsure what to do here. I love my friends all the more knowing in the particular ways they are human, they have flaws – but I also feel clumsy when I am honest with them, and I worry that I have hurt feelings when I’ve done thus. Sometimes I wonder if this is a part of being female; there are many unspoken codes about what you’re allowed to say, what you should say, the quid pro quo of you stroke me, I’ll stroke you (I believe women do this very much with regard to things moral!). I wonder if loving someone deeply, being interested and courageous enough to truly know them, and being able to understand down at the depths of my gut what it’s like to be human may not make up for when I unwittingly or deliberately break these rules.

Maybe people are more rugged than I give them credit. I myself have not yet encountered that person, that “monster” who says the things about me I want no one to voice aloud. There is no nemesis out there I will avoid because they love me and see keenly into me and “out” me for my unfavorable traits. My favorite and best-held friends have been those who have had the courage to speak out and tell me what they notice about me – even if it’s not praise. Those people are rare, I confess. Either it is something about me in particular that is intimidating – or uninteresting! – or many people truly do see it as a gaffe or impermissible to say, “I see this about you, do you see it too?” and merely wait for the response.

* Nothing would be harder than giving up coffee, however.

a nauseating bit of minutiae

A little stream of consciousness, for those who’d willingly get to know me better:

My husband and I listen to music a lot. We’re always trying something new – he more often than I. Ralph writes music – so much so that today in the car I heard something beautiful through our car stereo and after a while I realized it was something he wrote. I truly am in awe of his talent, and I’m so thrilled he’s expressing it. Our children are growing up musically adventurous: listening to our selections, their father’s songs, and writing their own music.

I’d love nothing more than to actually sing in a band in front of people. This is so completely unlikely to happen it’s funny I would even mention it. I think my voice is okay, but it can’t carry. And I don’t have the confidence to sing in front of others, nor do I want the applause or esteem some performers crave. I just like singing a lot and would like to do it more.

I stockpile rags. It’s kind of one of those good habits that becomes obsessive and shameful. Recently I reduced my rag inventory by at least half. This took me months to consider doing. I will point out I use only cloth at home: no paper towels, paper napkins. I’m forever swiping down things and dusting with these rags. P.S. old, sturdy cloth diapers are the best rags ever.

My feelings are easily and often hurt. I find myself mentally churning over arguments or sleights (some real, some imagined) while I’m washing the dishes or biking my kids somewhere. Sometimes I don’t answer my children’s questions or even listen to them very well because I’m thinking of people, online articles I’ve read. I am considering this character flaw as something that deperately needs to change.

I’m pretty good at confrontation. I’m good at telling people how I feel when it’s necessary or would cause more pain to demur (my recent discussion with the neighbor vis-a-vis her dogs eating my chickens is a good example). I loathe the personality trait that finds it “awkward” or weird to have a conflict of interest or a dissenting opinion with someone. I also heartily dislike bullying, which is the resort many will take when they believe they need to win out. I’m more of the, Tell them right away! approach. This has occasionally backfired on me. For a trivial example: one time at a party everyone was gushing about this odd apricot / cheese pate on the table. Everyone had their say and at my turn I said, “I don’t care for it” and the room of chatty ladies got silent. You’d think I’d climbed on the coffee table, dropped trousers, and taken a piss. Ever since this incident I’ve wondered when it’s cool to be “honest” and when one is being “honest” in a way that isn’t necessary, and is in fact rude. I literally wonder about this every day.

I find my life with children more fulfilling and fun than anything I’ve previously known. It isn’t that my kids give me a social life, or something to live vicariously through, or that I didn’t have a fun life before (I did!). It’s that they’ve multiplied love through my life by a hundredfold. It’s brrn amazing to have so much love in my life.

In some ways I don’t think anyone knows what makes me tick; although I have a spouse, and a few close friends, who know bits and pieces.

nicey-nicey

The very lovely young mother who’s been sitting next to me during our twice-weekly swim lessons kept the chit-chat lighter than normal: having invited us twice previously to her church programs on Sundays, perhaps our repeated non-attendance sank in as some kind of snub. Perhaps she was snubbing us out of judgment or boredom. Or perhaps there is nothing to speculate – she was merely quieter than weeks past. Typically a woman in my position makes sure to make extra-nice in the scenario – as if to say, “I’m not going to attend your church but I want you to know it was so nice you invited me, and I still want everything to be okay between us.” That’s the way most ladies are. It’s not that I don’t care to be polite. I’m just so damned tired right now.

A tendency to anemia during my menstrual period, hormonal fluctuations, the abstention from drink, or the rainy, dismal weather: I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been in a dangerous mood. It paints my perception of the world into something utterly different than how I usually experience it. The children I spend time with are rude, horrid, or slow; adults are clueless, irritating. My mental state is like shark cruising, waiting for the scent of blood to distract me, edgy, keyed up and ready to strike. I haven’t yet crossed the threshold into Full-Blooded Bitchdom where my husband is concerned, but my kids have certainly been on the receiving end of my precipitate hostilities.

On my Pandora station Band of Horses’ “The Great Salt Lake” begins playing. Coincidentally this is Sophie’s current favorite song. She’s sitting next to me reading (and thus so enthralled she can’t “hear” it), but my mind is full of memories of her precise duck-voiced singing, which makes me smile.

Another day, another night to get through; maybe things will look or feel better in the morning.

back slowly away from the crazy woman

It’s just before six and I’m kneading dough for pita while my son helps clean the dough bowl. This is the third meal from scratch I’ve made today and normally this is doable but today, it’s not. And yesterday, Saturday, stretches out behind me of a day of cooking and having just a few dollars for groceries. The lack of money is only a problem in that I’m forced to be more creative, but I’m just tired in some elemental way that makes me exhausted tenfold to think on what to feed the family. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow I get to get up and do it again, amen.

This weekend I didn’t get things done I wanted to: printing out my finished zine, making more headway on my brother’s coat I’m sewing (I’m currently angry about some bound pockets that didn’t quite work), enjoying the family, relaxing. We did do a lot of chores and Ralph’s loft bed is finished and painted with the kids’ room all set up for them and I freeycled two things and got a buyer for Sophie’s old bed frame. But no amount of “getting done” helps me now because with my hands on the dough at the table it just seems all I do is cook and clean and clean the refrigerator and work for other people and when I take time to myself I’m too tired to do anything worthwhile. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s no one’s fault. It feels like being first trimester pregnant again. Wretched and uninspired.

At least today I got to tell my mother, remember that part in that Ya Ya Sisterhood book (we both read it) where the mom goes crazy and just leaves her family for month? I keep telling them I’m going to do it but they don’t realize I mean it. I think because to the outside world and to them it looks like I’m functioning the same, functioning well. My mom told me to take a job. I’m not sure that will help; I’m not sure what will help, really. And I don’t want help; I want to learn how to take care of myself so I can take care of my Others. And I want to be able to tell people I might be needing a Crazy Person Vacation, even if it doesn’t end up happening quite that way.

“Are you OK?” Yes, I’m OK. Just not every minute of every day.