Just Fall

I’ve mentioned a few times now how much I LOVED Laurie Wagner’s online writing course, Telling True Stories. 5 weeks of assignments and lessons, a supportive community for feedback, and great prompts to get you going – and there’s a new session coming up September 10th! If you’re like me and you need just a little push to get you going, this class is for you. I found that the structure and the schedule of assignments really kept me honest about writing – I found it easier to make time for it since I had invested in myself through the course.

Here’s a piece that I wrote in the course of the class, working with the prompt, “Just Fall.”

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Just fall. I see them do it all the time – throw themselves to the ground and roll, hardwood floors, bruises everywhere that they never see never feel. Just fall – how I try to avoid it, too. How I don’t want to feel pain don’t want to feel the lasting embarrassment, the lasting shame of making a mistake, even when I try to laugh at myself about it. Just fall – they are like little comic actors, specialty: physcial comedy, falling down, sprawling really, it looks almost accidental but they way they manage not to hit their faces (most of the time) alerts you to the truth – they are great actors. They are great at falling, at playing at silly. I try to do it – I really do try, and I am pretty good at it, better than most parents, the silliness, the songs I will sing, the way i will easily make a fool of myself as long as it’s deliberate, as long as its a performance, as long as there’s a chance you will see me, you will think I’m a good parent, because look – she’s playing, she’s singing silly songs about popcorn and little ponies and she’s galloping with the kids around the gym, she’s leading the kids in a shadow stomping competition, yelping with fake pain when they stomp her shadow-head. At least that’s what I hope you think when you see me. You might be thinking, good god, get that woman a real job, she’s having entirely too much fun, she has no decorum, no self respect. Doesn’t she know that kids are supposed to be taught, led by adults and not played with, not given respect, not not not not partnered with, not befriended. Please. She needs boundaries. She must have had kids too young.

Just fall, I want to want to more than I actually want to. I want to be more interested in their games and their playing than I am in reading that blog about ways to extend the harvest here in the pacific northwest, more than that status update of an unschooling friend and her love affair of cuisenaire rods, more than the fiction book I waited for four months at the public library to read and finally got, and now I still can’t pull myself away from facebook, email, instagram and flipboard. So much information to take in, so many ways to make myself better, to offer my kids more, to save money to write better, to meet people I admire all over the country, that I’d like to know better. So many ways to dream my way out of the small house in the city with the tiny lot and no fence in the backyard, though it does have the knottiest old crazy Shiro plum tree that uprooted itself once, and the arborists saved it by leaning it on a limb – now it sits there on a tripod, trying to bear fruit, but mostly not. But it does flower amazing beautiful white flowers in the spring, looks like its covered in snow or magic. And it’s a fantastic climbing tree – knots everywhere, limbs climbing out gradually instead of straight up. I would miss the plum tree, the lilac, the raspberries that didn’t come back as much as I thought they would, the tiny raised bed gardens we put in. But I wouldn’t miss the way I feel like the neighbors hate us, the only renters in a owner-occupied neighborhood, in a clearly deteriorating house, holes in the back porch that we’re afraid to call the property manager about, since we don’t want to call attention to ourselves, give them an excuse to raise the rent. I would miss the little boy next door who my older son loves, only a year apart, and they play so well now and are at the age where we don’t have to be outside with them anymore – the fears that they will run into the alley and get run over are pretty much gone.

But I do so dream of another house – a house to fall in love with, make my own, be able to paint, tear up the yard and plant the biggest most ridiculous garden you have ever seen, an impossible garden for the Pacific Northwest. And get chickens. And have projects we don’t have room for and space for the kids to run around without worrying about the alley. We’re dreaming of something right now, that I’m so scared won’t come to anything I’m so scared it’ll be another dead end, the one millionth dead end we’ve come to this year after some major disappointments that might have been blessings in disguise, I guess, how am I to know. I do so feel like we’re waiting for something, some circumstance to change before we take our leap and fly, before we cut ourselves off from work that doesn’t fulfill us that only provides us with the money to survive and then the extra that we can never seem to save, that gets funnelled into activities we call “sanity tax”, that allow us to live the way we do now without going insane – going out to eat when we’re too tired, little trips when we get bored, books to buy to keep us engaged and moving forward, always forward, always more, always learning always improving…

Just. Fall.

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What they don’t tell you about…

I mentioned last week about taking Laurie Wagner’s excellent writing class, Telling True Stories, in July. This is a piece that came as a result of that class, using the prompt, “What they don’t tell you about________ is….”

August, mid-meltdown

What they don’t tell you about motherhood is that you can never do it right.  How you have to fuck up repeatedly, blindly thrashing around in a closet until you find something to try on, see if it fits you and your child, a sweater with two necks, and it has to fit you both well for anyone to be happy.  How you can read every book out there by every expert and still you will drown in all that you don’t  know.  How you will devote yourself, religiously, to finding the best way to parent your child and you never will, because the answer keeps changing.  What worked yesterday in that particular set of circumstances will not work even one hour later somedays, and you will flail, with no grace, wondering what you ever did wrong instead of paying attention to what’s in front of you.  You will want easy answers, and the best experts out there will offer you exactly zero, though they will be full of advice on what you absolutely should NOT do, which begins to sound like everything after a while.  But no one will be able to tell you what you should do, your particular you with your particular child.  You cannot study for this test, you cannot try to figure out the answers the teachers are looking for – because in this case, your teachers have no fucking idea what they want, and that’s part of the problem.  You’re here to try, with increasing desperation, to help them.  Be happy, be content, figure out how to tie their shoes, what they want for snack, how to read, how to beat this game.  Everything, in microcosm.
And what they don’t tell you about motherhood is that you can never take your eye off the prize, not for a moment.  Not even when you are sleeping.  You will have anxiety dreams about leaving your children at home alone, accidentally, when they are 2 and 5.  How you beg your husband to please, please, please, drive home so you can check on them and he laughs at you and tries to reassure you that they’re fine (and you know they’re not).
You will feel like you are forever cramming for a final that will never come, or comes at unbelievably inopportune moments – a total full-body meltdown in Target, with every old woman in the universe there to witness your failure, shaking their heads, muttering loudly about how THEY would never stand for that behavior.
You will feel like you’re drowning some days.  Not every day.  But some days.  You will never have a day off from this job ever again.  You will get little breaks.  But at no time will more than a few hours go by that you do not think about your child, wonder what he’s doing, if he’s okay, even if he’s with the most wonderful people in the safest place in the world.
What they don’t tell you about motherhood, is that sometimes you will want to call in sick, but the best you can hope for is that your spouse will stay home to help out a little so you can rest.  This is sort of like hiring a plumber to check the wiring of your car.   No matter how committed and amazing your partner is, there is no substitute for you.  (But would you really want there to be?)
What they don’t tell you about motherhood is how transformative it is.  How you will die a thousand times, from a thousand unintentional and intentional mistakes.  How you will always be forgiven.  How much you can be loved, unconditionally, even when you do a horrible job.  And how you can love someone so purely, so unconditionally, that it hurts to breathe sometimes.  There is so much fear in motherhood.  The best thing you can do is face it head on, and roar like the mama bear you are in the face of it.  Hopefully, your cubs will roar with you, too.

Howl….Growl….

25 Things About Me

I mentioned on Monday about taking Laurie Wagner’s excellent writing class, Telling True Stories, in July. Here’s another exercise she used to help us get the juices flowing. It’s common to see it around on Facebook and the like, but I haven’t written one in a while. Feel free to respond with your own!

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1. When I was five, I had such a hilariously thick southern accent that even my mother – raised in the South – had a hard time understanding me. I wanted to be a Car Bar for Halloween and she had no idea what the hell I was talking about (translation: Care Bear).

2. I grew up in New Hampshire from age five on, but never took on the New England accent. But when I hear it in movies I laugh and LOVE the sound of it.

3. I taught myself to play guitar when I was 15. It freaks me out a little to say that I’ve been doing something like that for over 15 years. I feel like I should play a LOT better than I can.

4. I cry when I get too hungry. When I start to either get really mean or look like I’m about to burst into tears, my friends and family know to feed me IMMEDIATELY.

5. I’m an only child, and apparently a semi-miraculous conception. When my father had some routine medical work done recently, among finding out that he has only one kidney and it’s not really where it’s supposed to be, his reproductive equipment is also sort of mis-wired. My mom SWEARS the milkman was not involved.

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miraculous conception baby

6. Sometimes seemingly inappropriate music makes me cry. It’s a little embarrassing. I swear, there’s this one song in the movie Sister Act that makes me tear up, every time.

7. I was salutatorian of my high school class. My speech at graduation was about running away from home when I was 15 and how the police picked me up about 30 minutes after I left my house when my friend failed to pick me up on time.

8. I am a huge fan of science fiction, particularly utopia/dystopia stories and feminist science fiction. I love reading about how our world could be so different, just one degree off.

9. I am a librarian by training. I finished my master’s 2 months before my oldest son was born, so I have actually never worked as a librarian. Maybe some day.

10. I have a strong interest in nutrition and healthy eating. This is a challenge for a mother of two children with enormous sweet tooths, thanks to my husband.

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If I put it on a rainbow plate, they’ll eat it, right?

11. I got married on a boat by a ship’s captain.

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Paddleboat wedding FTW!

12. I am a recovering perfectionist.

13. I kind of want the life of the cartoon character Curious George (modern version): house in the country with a garden, apartment in the city with a view.

14. I’ve lived for four years in our current house, which is the longest by far I’ve lived anywhere as an adult. And I’m kind of dying to move.

15. I gave birth naturally, twice. The second time was at home, on my bed. My son saw his brother born, and thought it was really cool (he was 3 1/2).

16. I am terrified of heights. Totally panic-stricken.

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On a gondola ride over the Redwoods last summer. Trying to keep it together for the kids.

17. I love swimming in the ocean. Snorkeling, boogie boarding, body surfing, splashing in warm waves…mmmm, LOVE it.

18. I’m sort of inexplicably drawn to the Olympic Peninsula here in Washington state. Whenever we talk about going camping or on local trips, it’s like the rest of the state doesn’t exist for me. I just want to keep going there.

19. I am an introvert that can pass for extrovert. But I’m a true introvert – I don’t get energy from people, it takes energy for me to be around people. I need a lot of down time, which is proving difficult as a mother to young kids.

20. The only job I’ve had that I’ve ever liked was working in a pool hall in college. Except it ruined AC/DC for me. And Hotel California.

21. I have a strong interest in Buddhism and Buddhist meditation practice, particularly Vipassana or Insight Meditation.

22. I went to Girl Scout Camp once when I was 10 and I still remember the songs we sang.

23. I used to play guitar and sing at Open Mics all the time. Haven’t found a place since we moved to Seattle four years ago.

24. If you want to see me lose my mind, poke me repeatedly or make the same sound over and over. Repetitive noise/touch sends me straight to rage-ville.

25. When I was 20, I had five wisdom teeth pulled. Yep, I was so wise that I had an extra tooth. And no room in my mouth for any of them.

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Please, do not take after me orthodontically.

Dash Point Camping

I mentioned on Monday about taking Laurie Wagner’s excellent writing class, Telling True Stories, in July. Here is something that came of it – a moment in time.

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“Nother murshmallow, dad?”

The sounds of my children compete in my consciousness with the sounds of so many birds, sparrows, chickadees and maybe a Northern Flicker? Was that a Stellar’s Jay’s shriek?

“Watch out, buddy, you’re going to catch that on fire.”

“Oh! Thanks, dad.”

I move the sleeping mask more snugly down over my eyes, and try to get comfortable on the air mattress. It’s surprisingly warm for being so early in the morning, and I kick one leg out of the sleeping bag to lay it on top.

“Nother one, dad?”

“No, Aug, sit down and have your cereal.”

“Ohhhhh…..,” so much disappointment conveyed in one word.

We forgot to bring pillows, so my neck is stiff, like it used to be from staying out all night at a concert. No earplugs meant the bird song choir started promptly at the first light of dawn, around 5 a.m. I wasn’t awake, but my husband told me he was, and it was like a switch flipped – the birds went from silent to cacophony in a heartbeat.

“Hi, mom!”

The tent window is open right above my head, and I peek out from under my mask to look out, but he’s not there. “Here’s me!” And I turn my head to see him at the tent’s door, like a magician who can throw his voice.

“Want to come in,” he says with his grumpy face.

I finally join in the morning. “No, Aug, mama’s coming out. Mama make coffee.”

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What if I were to tell you…

In July I took a risk and enrolled in the online writing class Telling True Stories with the fabulous Laurie Wagner. I decided to post a few of the pieces I wrote here over the next little while, both because I like how they turned out AND to freshen up this stale little blog a little (ripping the band-aid off the no-posting-habit, so to speak, in a low pressure way).

I loved Laurie’s class – it gave me great prompts to explore my life and a fun supportive online community to give and receive feedback. Lots of fun and I plan on doing another of her classes, soon!

The first assignment was to write with the prompt “What if I told you…?”

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What if I told you that my father has dreamed the future? That one night he dreamed of his Uncle Rick, dead for years, sitting at a bar. When my father asked what he was doing there, Uncle Rick replied, “I’m here for your father.” What if I told you that my parents were woken later that night by a phone call, that my grandfather had died unexpectedly that night after a routine procedure in the hospital?

What if I were to tell you that a dream of my own changed my life? I dreamed of being married to a man I had met recently, we were expecting a baby, and I was filled with what can only be described as divine peace, unbelievable happiness. What if I told you that I woke up from that dream and knew, down to my core, that my five-year relationship was finally, finally over and that I would leave. What if I were to tell you that I lived through two of the longest days of my life between waking up with that knowing and actually leaving? That I stayed those two days for the sake of my friendship with his sister, who we had been planning to visit for months for her 21st birthday that weekend? What if I were to tell you that on the drive back from visiting her in Seattle we stopped for gas, and I sneaked into the gas station bathroom to call my best friend to ask if I could stay with her a while, that I was leaving? What if I told you that when we finally, finally got to our apartment I filled a white plastic laundry basket with some clothes and other essentials and told him, “I don’t love you like you love me. I’m sorry. I’m leaving.” And I left.

What if I told you I married the man from the dream? And that we have two beautiful babies? Would you believe me?

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