Thursday, December 16, 2010


the other day someone asked me if i was pregnant because i 'seemed so happy lately.' well first of all, every baby is a blessing, but me + pregnancy rarely = happy. even on the best of days. and the 'happy' part? well, i must confess...i haven't been terribly happy.

what i have been is positive, i have been open, i have been the seeker of the silver lining, but i cannot say that i have been happy.

the move leveled me, frankly. physically, mentally, and emotionally. i have never in my life been so flattened by something. the wicked month long cold like something out of that scene in alien only in my head and the terribly injured arm didn't help, either. but when you have kids and you carry the heart of your small family you've got to see your way past that.

and perhaps my ruse was so good that's why i seemed happy.

and while i haven't spent my days weeping, i am sad. and i know i will have to process the loss of the house and the move away from family and the total life transplant to a very different place than i ever thought i'd find myself eventually.

don't get me wrong. i LOVE my new house, this town is beautiful, and thus far we've had a lovely almost eerily easy transition into things.

(well, some things, good lord don't dare to ask questions about a small town's outdated and archaic recycling/waste management practices lest you want to be run out of town on a rail. or to be told to, and i quote, 'suck it up.')

but let's not forget the best part of all, a fabulous job for my husband. which is huge. bigger than huge. and the reason we find ourselves here. the reason it's all going to be worth it. and what i've been trying to put at the absolute front as my focus.

but it's like leaving a crumbling relationship and finding yourself in a healthy and progressive one. there is still loss. when your heart has been broken, even finding it beating and whole again can't ever erase the earlier pain entirely.

and while i haven't processed this, i knew i would break down spectacularly exactly twice before we got here. the first time was at the house, finding the truck was already full and there stood my grandmother's chairs, the rocking chair my father in law refinished for me to rock my babies in, my desk where i spend the majority of my days. and no room left for any of them. jesus could we bring more any more metaphor in?

i broke down in tears and instantly i had two sisters and a husband and a brother in law trying to figure it out for me. there's nothing quite like a woman on the edge losing her shit in the middle of chaos. "I AM TIRED OF GIVING THINGS UP! NOBODY FUCKING ASKED *ME* ABOUT ANY OF THIS! AND I'VE BEEN SO GOOD ABOUT ALL OF IT! WHY DO WE HAVE SO MUCH STUFF! WE ARE SUCH AMERICANS! THERE IS SOMETHING VERY WRONG WITH US IF I CAN'T EVEN TAKE MY GRANDMOTHER'S CHAIRS! WHAT IS *WRONG* WITH US!"

in the end i left the chairs and the rocker. a friend has them stored for me. along with everything else we couldn't take and i couldn't part with. and lest you think otherwise, i left a LOT behind that i did have to part with. because even if you love something sometimes the truck is just full. and you have to let it go. but not the chairs. and my awesome sisters and brother in law and husband made sure my desk and desk chair got broken down enough to fit at the top of the truck.

the second breakdown was because of the trees. the first day we drove it was nothing but snow and traffic and the roof box on the car being blown open on the freeway and chaining up a 26 ft moving truck on a mountain pass. god it was intense. i was driving away from my home for the last time and it was snowing. all of a sudden it was winter. and i realized i hadn't left the house at all in the past two weeks getting things cleaned and packed. i realized i had been so preoccupied the past few months (years) that i had lost a whole season. where had fall gone? i had completely missed fall.

so the second day i was riding in the moving truck and our traveling companion was driving the car. i was looking out the window and all of a sudden i noticed the trees. we were in eastern washington and the trees suddenly weren't my trees. these were ponderosa pines. shorter. scrubbier. they were not my trees. the trees i have lived around for so long. perhaps taken for granted. and i realized that from that point on EVERYTHING would be different. the trees, the view out the window, my life. it's like that's the moment it hit me that nothing would ever be the same again.

and i lost it. it was that moment i realized just how far this had gone. it's like after all the hard work and worry and cleaning and dumping and packing and moving and organizing it's like once that fell away i came right down to the nugget. and that nugget fucking sucked. and it still does. because that nugget is loss and distance and change i didn't ask for but have to totally and completely accept. that nugget is my sisters. my family. my house. my friends. my coast. my fucking trees.

i cried for the next 300 miles straight.

i'll not bore you with how hard the trip was from there. oh, but please don't forget about the 4 cats in a car the size of a large handbag. because that added a special extra element to the whole traveling circus sideshow.

and just because our life gets to be extra adventurous we were doing all this with no set place to land. we didn't find out until we were on our way that the house we wanted was actually ours. well, so we thought.

after 8 days of hard travel we landed here at the house. only to sit outside it for an hour, the afternoon light fading and it's getting colder, the neighbors curious and trying not to spy, waiting to 'actually' find out if it was ours. because what people say and what they actually do can be two different things. which i understand. and it happens. though when you're sitting outside what you thought would be your home with a 26ft moving truck packed so full you can't get the door open and your kids and a car full of cats and there's even a question of 'maybe' life boils down pretty quickly. and you begin to wonder if this all hasn't been one cosmic joke and you fell for it. and why you didn't think to pack your flask.

well here it is, some weeks later and we all know now how the drama played out. there are still boxes all around, except for the bed none of my bedroom furniture will fit up the stairs, the house isn't nearly big enough for all my useful pieces, i can't find ANYTHING, and there's one bathroom for 4 people. one of whom is a teenager who appreciates looking at himself in the mirror more than 1 bathroom for 4 people really allows.

i miss my family terribly. i used to talk to one or both of my sisters nearly every single day and i can't remember the last time i talked to one of them now. the time change has been a big hindrance. the cold i caught a month ago is just now going away, but still a bother. and my injured arm is still in a lot of pain.


this is a lovely home and we are lucky to have it. really really lucky. to have a roof over one's head is one thing, but to have such a charming roof is quite another.

the neighborhood is very nice and has been welcoming. we are in walking distance to a few cool places. there's a trail that runs through the whole town just a block away. we chose this town specifically for the high school for the duke next year. there were exactly 3 places to choose from here. and we got 1 of them. and we made it here.

and then there's the job. it will take us awhile to dig out of the past two years, but the future is incredibly bright for our family.

so, no, i haven't been happy. but i have been positive, and open, and the seeker of the silver lining. i have smiled when i've felt like crying because i am still the mama, the keeper of the heart for my little family. oh, and the teacher. these kids still have school.

and don't forget about the 4 cats.

and it's all going to be good. it is all good. just because you're sad doesn't mean it isn't good.

and yesterday when we were coming home from our walk (yes i make my kids walk in 19 degree weather) we were coming up the street and our house came into view on the corner. a very cold and grateful wingman raced across the street and shouted "HOME!"

and right then i knew that it was all okay. that everything happens for a reason. that we're right where we need to be. and the rest will come.

and that maybe, just maybe, it will be better than we ever imagined. i'm sort of leaning in that direction. i'll keep you posted.

so here's my christmas card letter to you all;

Dear Family & Friends,

Well, 2010 pretty much sucked a metric assload for the Sillymortalmama Family. But, kinda, sorta, maybe eventually in a good way.

Seasons Greetings!


Friday, October 29, 2010

2 boybarians. 4 cats. 1 piano.

when i was little we didn't watch tv. i mean REALLY little. by the time i was 9 & 10 & 11 i knew the theme songs and formula to every show worth watching. but when i was really little, when my mom was still with us, we got to watch Little House on the Prairie. i want to say it came on only on sunday nights, and that it was a big deal, and that i had to have my bath first, and be in my pajamas already, with wet hair brushed, and lots of anticipation. but i may be just remembering that the way i want to remember it.

anyhow, i DO remember very clearly when they packed up and left the big woods for the prairie. i remember the wagon and the stuff and the kids and ma and pa. i remember seeing all this and thinking, but they live in the big woods? that's their HOUSE. that's where they LIVE. and i didn't know about the magic of tv at such a young age, but i couldn't help but thinking this was just, well, magic. something that would happen and then it would all get changed back. you know, BACK. to where it was before.

so i watched this for awhile with my mom and dad and my two sisters and eventually i turned to my mom (and shit for me to remember this moment is magic in itself. believe me. magic.) and i said

'but they are going back. right? next show? they'll be back in the big woods, right? that's their house! that's where they live!'

so it's time for the sillymortalfamily to leave the big red house. i'd be lying if i said it was 'entirely' voluntary; that it's not forced at all. that i had 100% certainty of where we will end up.

but i do have 100% certainty that it's all going to work out. that this is just part of the adventure i never planned on myself having. and how fun is an adventure that's planned for, anyway?

see, i am not a cautionary tale. no. i am not. i'm just one more person part of one more family who tried to do it and got caught up in the rising tide of crap that so many other families got caught in recently. not because we were stupid trying to bite off more than we could chew but because after awhile there wasn't anything left to bite. let alone chew.

we fought so hard and so long and in the end we came up short. we gave it everything we had. and it wasn't enough. but, this is not personal. i know that. in the end it just didn't work. and while my heart breaks with the loss, i get the situation and i am so rich in all the ways that actually count.

please allow me for a minute to offer a smidgen of advice. whatever it is you are facing, please do no be afraid. however hard or scary or unfamiliar, nothing ever comes of climbing into bed and pulling the covers over for the duration. maybe for a minute, sure, we all need a break. but after a bit it begins to get hard to breathe under there.

and no one ever got to see a beautiful sunrise or the magnificent sunset with the covers over their head. and when things aren't going the way you may like sometimes it's the break of a new day, the eventual rest of a day gone by, the leaves changing on the trees, the way the air feels different as a season changes. sometimes it's the the little things you notice...that you may not have so much before. because you were preoccupied. or because you were so busy doing something close to nothing that you just.never.noticed. how special it is to be alive. to notice colors. to breathe. to just be able to breathe.

losing a house is like a death, in this regard. it puts A LOT into perspective. boils it down. makes the little things count.

the big things? well, perhaps sometimes the big things are made bigger just because we can make them bigger.

but it's slow, this death, and it gives one some time to gather themselves. so i use this time to count my blessings, to fully understand and to know with all the certainty in the world i am luckier than most. wine helps. ;)

so. i am leaving a house that for all intents and purposes is the family gathering spot. holidays and sundays and birthday parties and saturday afternoons. a house i bought so young and so excited and so full of the future. a house full of possibility. and a house i fully expected to die in.

toys haphazardly 'stored' in the basement for the grand kids, grand plans for skylights and a wrap around porch and a mudroom that would actually be functional and be the envy of all mudrooms everywhere. i got married here. right in the back pasture. with so many who were ever important to me gathered in one spot. my kids and nieces and nephews and kids special to my heart all have graduating heights recorded on the wall between the kitchen and living room. maybe we could get someone in to help us make the gardens what they should be. what they could be. it was all there. potential. the future. love at first sight for a falling down house that i thought i had time with. but there was never enough money. and now, we've run out of time. we always expected that would come later. the money and time. that it would all come. later.

but, sometimes things just don't work out how you want them to.

and this is just the way it sometimes goes.

and so i am sitting here trying to figure out how i move a life nearly 16 years in the making. nearly 12 in this house; complete with 2 boybarians, 4 cats, 1 piano OH MY GOD I HAVE A PIANO TO MOVE! HOLY SHIT A PIANO! and one mama and one papa who have thus far kept it together but are getting so very tired of keeping the world up and spinning, of making it all work out of nothing. who are more than willing and ready to move towards MOVEMENT FORWARD. whatever that looks like.

and regardless of what their hearts have to say about it.

i am at once scared and interested in the great wide open and so very very very very sad.

but, i am going to let go and jump in. both feet. the hugest fucking leap you ever did see. round and round she goes where she ends up nobody (including her) knows. with eyes wide open. because i can still see through the tears, and also because even in loss and as your heart is breaking ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN...and sometimes it does.

everything is possible.



be blessed,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

your moment(s) of zen.

years ago i was moving from one place to another, 'back home' really. as if that place actually existed, but that's a story for another day.

so i was leaving the desert southwest to go 'back home.' and the day before i left a friend, with whom i had laboriously forged a tenuous and somewhat difficult friendship, placed a wonderfully beautiful pendant in my palm and closed both our sets of hands around it and said

"i want you to have this. but whatever you do, do NOT lose it or i will be really upset."

and i held on to that pendant for the drive halfway back across country to the first place i thought was 'back home.' and i held on to that pendant for the short drive to the next city that was the second place i thought could be my new 'back home.' and when both of those didn't work out i drove two states north to the place that had become 'back home.'

and then i stopped driving.

and when i came to the first big body of water, which just happened to be the puget sound, i tossed the wonderfully beautiful pendant in with many blessings, good wishes, and good riddance.

and with the knowledge that i will never lose it because i know exactly where it is.

which brings me to this installment of your moment(s) of zen.

there are a million ways not to lose something. a million ways to hang on.

and a million ways to let go.


Thursday, October 07, 2010


so i went to the doctor on tuesday for a follow up on a minor issue from earlier in the month. and my blood pressure was high. even for me. who has high blood pressure. i was instructed to keep an eye on it for a few days and make a follow up appointment.

i was appropriately nervous, but figured the sinus headache, lengthy cold, minor issue from earlier in the month, all in the last month and lack of exercise from all those all in the last month and oh yeah, the last few years just was rolling all together, and contributed to the reading and i just needed to take it easier.

so i went for a walk after the doctor to clear my head and get some fresh air.

now, the walking trail we've been going to for years is 4 or 5 miles from our house. it's a bike trail, too. one big loop, flat and wide, a boardwalk over the wetlands. it's pretty and quiet. you go through trees and meadows and wetlands. there is a little creek. and in the fall you can even see salmon.

so i'm walking along and i'm thinking about what i can do to get healthier, but sort of on the abstract. despite all evidence to the contrary, i feel like a pretty healthy person. i eat well, i exercise, i like my body. all the things you're supposed to do. sure, maybe i could do more of this and less of that, and not every curve is the one i want to flaunt. but all in all, i feel like i'm doing what i'm supposed to.

at this point i get to the spot on the walk where the trail cuts through a tall meadow. and at the edge of the meadow there is a stand of trees, and beyond the trees is the highway.

some time ago i was walking along with my family and right there at the edge of the meadow where it meets the trees there was a giraffe. just out of the blue. just standing there. and yes, at first i thought it was real.

oh, there's a giraffe!

and that's when wingman said

it was here last time, mama.

oh. i honestly did not remember it being there last time. and then every time after that i would see it and it would shock me. this life size giraffe just standing there. and i would wonder, is it flat? or a real lifelike replica? part of a drama set? who put it there? and then as time went it shocked me less and less and i would look forward to coming upon it. and i would register it and keep walking.

and then one day i noticed someone had mowed a path through the meadow to the giraffe. you could walk right up to the giraffe and check it out.

oh, there's a path!

and i didn't take it. not when i first noticed it. not the next time. and not tuesday when i was walking after my doctor's appointment. i can't say why, i just never did. i registered the giraffe and the path and kept walking. i felt good, i ended my walk, and i went home.

and the next morning, yesterday morning, i went to the emergency room with all the symptoms of a heart attack.

i got put in a wheelchair and saw my kids' faces in the waiting room as i was taken back through those double doors.

i got put on a bed and hooked up to a bunch of machines and saw my husband's face as he stood next to me.

they put in an IV for blood draws and took my blood and my blood pressure and stuck stickers with snaps all over my chest and snapped me in and measured my heart rate and asked me all the questions you ask someone who comes in with shortness of breath, chest pains, shooting pain down the arm, all the questions. they put me in a gown. i knew then it would be a long day.

'have you been under any stress, lately?'

and that's when i started to cry.

obviously, they don't read my blog.

and my blood pressure? 193/116.

they ran the tests one runs to check for a heart attack. they watched the monitors. i held my husband's hand. i held my breath.

the first tests came back negative for a heart attack. but they cautioned about a false positive. they would do another test in three hours, that would give them a better estimate.

my blood pressure came down. still high, but way way down. my heart monitor and oxygen saturation and respiration and heart rate looked good.

my lab work was excellent. i am, apparently a healthy young woman. (i put in young, the doctor never said young. ;) )

i sent my family home to eat lunch and come back for the next blood test.

and i just rested in the hospital bed and listened to the beeps and the commotion around me and wondered how in the hell i got there. not that i didn't know. but life seems to become a bit more transparent and beg for a bit more self examination, WITHOUT all the bullshit, when you're confined to a bed and can't move because you are hooked up to machines that are there to measure your life. and what you may have left of it.

funny how that works.

the second test came back negative. my blood pressure was still down. no heart attack. it was chalked up to blood pressure and stress. i am to monitor, talk to my doctor, and only change my blood pressure medication if it doesn't stay level through the weekend. come back with anymore symptoms.

and then they unhooked me and took out the IV and gave me my clothes and i took off the stickers all over my chest and i got sent home.

my family was scared, it was traumatic. i'm only now realizing how much harder it is to be the one in the waiting room. the one standing by the bed, rather than the one in it. harder still when you're 9 and 13 and that's your mama. or you're 45 and that's your whole life.

fuckin' giraffe.

i have known that i have high blood pressure. hell i take medication every single day for it. it's not some big surprise. it's not like it hasn't been there a few years. it's a family curse, one of them anyway. i'll take the sharp wit and the gallows humor. the blood pressure sucks, though.

but i can't just blame that. i'm right where i am because of me. i know what i need to do and i don't do enough of it. the bottom line is while i am happy with who i am, my heart is not. my frame is simply just too damned small for the weight on it. i'm not supposed to be a size 2, but i'm not supposed to be as 'curvy' as i am.

and it's been such a stressful long stretch and i can be as positive as i want, and i am, but that stress finds a home somewhere. i did NOT do enough to give it an outlet. stress builds. and it kills. i know this, and i could have done more.

but even when you know something it's easy to disregard it. like the giraffe at the edge of the meadow it's easy to become accustomed to seeing it. even when a clear path is created, we are content still to just see it at the edge of the meadow. no need to get closer, we know it's there, manageable. and look at me! look how i manage!

but that's not how we get healthy. by managing. we get healthy by doing. less of this, more of that. it's never been rocket science.

i am not a stupid person. i know this. what the fuck.

and all of us has a giraffe. whether it's related to health or relationships or finances or addictions or whatever, we all have some thing somewhere we know is there and needs to be addressed. and we don't, or we do very minimally. enough to convince ourselves we've got it covered. and even when we do see a path to it, we just walk by. and we keep going on the loop. seeing the giraffe, registering it, ignoring the path, moving along the loop. lather, rinse, repeat.

it's so easy.

but i will tell you what, and you know where i'm going with this, lying on a hospital bed bargaining with god is NOT the time to start dealing with the giraffe. your odds, at that point, are not very good.

so there you have it. i could go on and on about changes and plans and preciousness of life and all that. but unless you're on oprah and she's touching your knee and handing you a tissue that's just boring. and, i think you get the gist.

i am still the luckiest girl in the world. but i know now that luck can and does run out.

and when atlas shrugs it's a big fucking deal. so secure your goods and find your hard hat before this happens.

above all, take care of you. and quit ignoring the parts that need the most attention. life is too goddamn short. and it's only getting shorter every day.



Friday, October 01, 2010

your moment(s) of zen.

when i was in jr. high i was bullied. by two girls in my grade with whom i seemed to have an AWFUL lot of classes. for two years. every single day. and it sucked. and i think about that now with all the recent news of kids killing themselves because they were being bullied. for being gay. or being perceived as gay.

i wasn't bullied because i was gay. i was bullied because i was poor. and shy. and strange.

and the day i left 8th grade was the day it ended. even though i had high school for the next four years with those girls they never said one word to me ever again. i don't know if they found somebody else or what. but, it got better. i found friends, the best friends a girl could ask for, who knew me and accepted me. i was still poor. and shy (i know y'all balk at this one, but it's true. i still am shy. really. i promise you.) and strange. but it didn't matter.


i will never understand why people think being gay is wrong. in my life i will never understand why people even give a rat's ass? it's not like it's some new invention or fad dreamed up just to bother the bigoted and unkind. it's not like it's not BEEN AROUND FOR FUCKING EVER. who are we to judge? nobody.

we are NOBODY to judge.

my 13 year old son has endured his fair share for the past year or two from teammates and others who 'suggest' that he is gay. and they like to shove this at him. and say things. and call him names. as he is home schooled it's not daily or all that intense. but really, at 12 and 13 how intense does it need to be to make an impact?

and my 13 year old son is sharp and strong. but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. and doesn't make an impact. now? it's pretty much a joke to him. he could not care less what those assholes think of him. but when it first started happening he did care. he's 13. an age when it can all turn on a dime. so we talked and talked and talked about it. talked about how he felt. talked about how it doesn't matter to bullies if something is true or not. talked about how people are miserable in their own lives so they pick on other people.

and not just weak people, but people they are afraid of. people who they can't figure out. the duke is an anomaly out here in the sticks to some of these boys who are raised in a whole different culture than he is. and of course if he dresses like he does and refuses to talk smack about girls' bodies with the rest of them then he's gay. clearly.

and we talked about what it meant to be gay and more importantly who in the hell cares? we don't. and i reminded him that kids can be assholes because they haven't been taught *not* to be. and that these boys won't be around forever. and that it sucks but you've just got to ignore it. and get through it.

then i reminded him that some of the adults he knows, people who he thinks are cool, were bullied. and how they had to get through it. and they did. that they made it. and how awesome they are. and how awesome THEY THINK HE IS. and that meant a LOT to him. it's impossible not to feel good about who you are when you know there are cool people who think YOU are cool. especially when you're 13.

and that helped. and boosted him.

and now he likes to say who cares? i don't. and he likes to remind people that in ancient greece they thought that the love between two men was the highest form of love. and in sparta they would strive to put male lovers in the same army regiment because it was thought that the men would fight harder to impress each other. (history is awesome.)

and he takes the comments in stride. and comes up with more outlandish fashion choices. partly to push the envelope, partly because he just plain likes the idea of wearing lavender skinny jeans. and a lot, i suspect, because he's figured out the chicks really dig a guy wearing something out of the norm. young mr. smooth. he is not stupid.

so my 13 year old son is getting through it. and it breaks my heart that there are mothers out there missing their own 13 year old sons. their 11 year old sons. 16, 18, 21 year old sons because they weren't so lucky. life is so very cruel sometimes.

people are entitled to their own opinions. i respect that. but that's what they are; opinions. they are not gospel and they are not the *only* truth. and in some cases they are hate disguised as personal belief. and that is tragic and shameful.

and i only wish everyone got to know that. before it's too late. because too late comes for some. and may they rest in peace. and may god or someone somewhere have mercy on the souls of the bigoted and the unkind. may something positive come of these tragedies.

when i was 12 and 13 i couldn't imagine life getting better. i was at the mercy of cruelty and circumstances beyond my control. but, it did get better. and continues to. and there was a moment the other evening when i was sitting with my two boys and the papa and we were all busting up in laughter at something and couldn't stop. and i remember seeing that moment so clearly even as it was happening. and i remember thinking life doesn't get any better than this moment.

and i wish that every child or teen or young adult who feels that life won't get better could have a glimpse of a future moment to convince them that it can. it gets better. and it is in that spirit i bring you this installment of your moment(s) of zen.

be blessed.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

wherein i give a lesson on breastmilk. and my kids chase the dragon.

there is one woman responsible for both my of kids' 'first meals.' and that woman is not me.

when i gave birth to the duke i was transported to the hospital and he couldn't go with me. not until the next morning. so that meant that for about 12 hours i didn't get to have my newborn baby with me. sure, he was surrounded by those who love him best in the world, but even in my half dead (literally) state i was upset about this.

what would he be thinking, not hearing my voice? not seeing my face? because he had heard my voice for so long, and saw my face when he was first born. what if he wanted to nurse? sure, he wouldn't starve, but when the midwife put him on my tummy he crawled up and latched on and started nursing. he would know something was missing.

the papa brought him to the hospital after i was first admitted that night for a short visit, but by then i had been poked, prodded, and prepped for the multiple blood transfusions to come, was battling a monster migraine, and was cracked out on morphine. plus, there was that half dead thing. so it wasn't a terribly long or coherent visit

i tried falling asleep but i couldn't. not really. so i passed the night thanking god for being alive and with the vision of the duke's two huge pink cheeks peeking out of the ugliest piece of newborn clothing i had for him and wondering why the papa would dress him in that god awful thing? (in the papa's defense, not that he needs one, i think he wasn't thinking 'what's the cutest thing i can dress my newborn baby in to take to the hospital to see his half dead mother?' i have no defense. i'm a mama. even half dead i saw it could be done a 'better' way. how any relationship ever survives is a mystery.)

and i passed that night wondering if the duke wanted to nurse and if he wondered where i was. wondering if he missed me. because i sure missed him. terribly. until that night i didn't know how much i could miss someone.

so it was early the next morning and i cannot recall if it was a phone call to the room or if a family member brought the information in but in my dozy hazy state i heard the goddess mother lean into me and say

"wendy's at the house. she's nursing the duke."

and with that i was finally able to let go and rest.

wendy. we were in texas at the clinic together. and from the moment i met her i loved her. it was hard not to. if you think of looking into a face that seems to hold the whole world, is capable of anything, and yet is right there present with you, that's wendy. she had since moved to the bay area and just so happened to have been visiting in seattle with her 8 month old son when i gave birth. she came right over and dove right in. there when i couldn't be. and she put the newborn duke to her breast and fed him. a mama doing what a mama does. opening her heart, feeding a hungry baby. so basic. and yet when i was lying in the hospital, utterly helpless in this arena, it gave me the greatest comfort and meant more than i could ever express.

the trouble with this arrangement came later. when the duke finally came to stay with me in the hospital.

now, there is a huge difference between the milk of a woman who just gave birth and that of a woman who's pretty much exclusively nursing and has been for 8 months.

let's have a little biology lesson shall we? when a woman gives birth her milk doesn't come in right away. what a baby gets in the first few days of nursing is colostrum. which isn't milk, but precedes it and is filled with antibodies and minerals and all that good stuff. there's not a lot of it compared to actual milk, but a newborn doesn't need a lot. and, the lack of real flow is helpful in teaching a newborn to regulate the milk while nursing. so he/she doesn't get too much and choke, etc.

a baby will nurse on this for a day or so and then BAM the real milk comes in. as a woman you know this happens because you wake up with the biggest rack you have ever seen and it's ON YOU. that paired with the incredible discomfort from engorgement and yep, there it is. and by incredible discomfort please know that this is an understatement.

okay, so wendy had been nursing for 8 months so the milk the duke got was not the bit of colostrum he could learn to regulate but a windfall of super rich and abundant milk. the cadillac of milk. double cheeseburger with bacon milk. wendy said he nursed right away, got way too much, threw up, and then nursed some more.

so by the time he came to stay with me in the hospital he was a nursing pro (that little crawl and latch after birth gave me a glimpse of that) and was ready to nurse. and nurse. and nurse. and not that colostrum stuff either. he was ready for the good stuff. the flowing stuff.

as you may imagine, this took a bit of time for him to adjust to. newborns can look like angry little men better than angry little men can. but, after awhile and lots of mama love we figured it out. but whoo boy when my milk came in he didn't leave my side for the next few years. literally.

he nursed ALL THE TIME. in the car with him strapped in the car seat and me leaning over. like a barnyard animal. this is not recommended, by the way. in the grocery store with him in the sling while i pushed the cart and shopped. the original hands-free device. occasionally, just for fun, he would get curious and stop nursing for a minute to peek his head out of the sling and see what was going on. just because *he* stopped didn't mean the milk did. and so i would up flashing whomever was around and spraying breast milk all over. fun.

he nursed all night long. all day long. and then all night long again. he nursed so much i ate like a pack of teenage boys and STILL lost my ass. this is just a theory, but i think he was chasing the dragon. trying to recreate that first great meal from wendy. and no matter how hard he tried...nothing. but he wasn't going to stop trying.

and he wasn't quiet about it either. he nursed with great smacks and sound effects. he wanted EVERYONE to know how much he was enjoying nursing. and when he couldn't nurse right.then.and.there. he would let you know how terrible it was. when we lived in san francisco when he was a toddler he would push against the straps and STAND UP in his baby backpack and shout I WANT NEE NEE! at the top of his lungs, punching the air with his fists. all. the. way. home.

good times.

fast forward a few years and i have a 4 year old and a 6 month old and i'm getting married. in a big wedding. because that's how we do it in my family. we like EVERYONE in the pictures so you've got to have the kids first, right?

anyway. wendy. by now she had two children and came for the wedding. which was lovely and a good time was had by all.

and, as an added bonus, because i had all the important people around, the day after the wedding i planned to feed the 6 month old wingman his first solid food. cooked mashed made with love organic sweet potato. just like his brother.

i even filmed the whole thing.

his first food. such a milestone.


a few years later wendy was visiting again and she had a story to tell me. apparently the day of the wedding when i went to have my hair done wendy and her family took wingman to do some errands with them because the papa was busy with last minute details. there was some reticence because i wouldn't know about the arrangement, wouldn't know that wingman wasn't at home, and i was/am an 'attached parent' to put it mildly. but it was decided because it was wendy this would be okay.


they are at target. and the normally quiet wingman was at the end of his rope. too much going on. too many people. who were these kids? where was his own brother? he cried and cried.

so they hightailed it out of target. and they got him strapped in his rear facing car seat in between wendy's boy and girl. and he cried and cried.

and because they wouldn't be eating until after the wedding later in the day and with a crying baby there were few options they went through a fast food drive thru. got food for the adults and the two kids. and wingman cried and cried.

but about two minutes after pulling away from the drive thru wingman stopped crying.

wendy asked after him in the back because she couldn't see him due to the rear facing seat.

"he's not crying anymore!"

she hears from the backseat.

"he really likes the french fries!"

she hears from the backseat.

and sure enough, there's the 6 month old exclusively breastfed waiting on his first solid food tomorrow wingman in the back, in between her two kids, with two fists full of fries, chomping them down and as happy as can be.

and not crying.

and wendy in the front going oh. SHIT.

and wendy and the papa making a secret pact vowing to NEVER EVER speak of this to me. ever.

to their credit, i had NO idea.

until wendy told me years later. and by then i had relaxed a bit into my parenting, and to my credit, i laughed.

no wonder wingman seemed so underwhelmed by those stupid sweet potatoes.

and wingman? well, let's just say out of the four of us his palate has always been a bit less 'refined.' and further, he's always seemed less than impressed by the things he does eat. like he's looking for something...more.

i'll bet. shit, how do you top fistfuls of hot salty fries as your very first food? i almost feel sorry for the lad.

and so it goes. the baby books never tell you about the little things that crop up. the what ifs and the oh shits. and that it can all go sideways in an instant. and sometimes, it does. and then what do you do?


and what do you do? you jump in. or you let go. or you make the best of it. you try. you fail. you learn to laugh.

and you don't place too much emphasis on the stupid sweet potatoes.

and if i've learned anything about parenting it's that surrounding yourself with the very best people makes ALL of those things much easier and makes ALL the difference in the world.

i wish for you a wendy in your own life.

we should all be so lucky.

and, some of us are.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

your moment(s) of zen.

so i was sitting in the car in front of the grocery store while everyone else was inside.

this is a store we don't often go to, mainly because it's a bit out of the way. but we do enjoy shopping there as it's locally owned and operated and they have an excellent meat department for the size. it's been a long time since it was new and there is no pretension about it whatsoever. the kind of store you can pull right up and park in front of. it feels straight out of my childhood to shop there. in fact there was a grocery store near my house called 'new deal' and that's what this store reminds me of. the kind of place with some produce and maybe a shopping cart full of discounted items offered out in front.

all right so i have the radio on and all of a sudden that oasis song comes on. you know the one, 'wonderwall.' you either love it or hate but you know it. and i RARELY hear it, but when i do it always reminds me of one of the most up in the air what the fuck moments in my life. and by moments i mean months and months of moments. and now the only time i hear it something unusual happens. like the sun breaks through the rain, or there's a call from someone from out of the blue. something out of the ordinary.

so i was thinking about this hearing the opening chords and right then three teens, a girl and two boys, walk up to the front of the store. the boys kinda slump against the wall to the sidewalk near the shopping cart of discounted items. the girl catches my eye a minute, gives me that disinterested look girls her age give 'ancient' girls mine, sets down her backpack between them, and leans against it. one boy takes a cigarette out and lights it. he leans across the girl and hands it to the other boy. all the while the girl is staring at the first boy. he turns to her and says something. she blushes and shoves him a little. she LIKES him.

the second boy hands the first boy the cigarette back. he takes a drag. then he nudges the girl and motions to the cart and leans in and says something to her. she looks up at the cart and shakes her head. he says something back. she looks nervous and shakes her head again. he gives her a nudge and a smile. then puts his head on her shoulder. this all takes about a minute.

then i see her get up, back pack slung on her shoulder, and go over to the cart. she kinda looks around and then quickly reaches in and takes something from the cart and puts it in her back pack. i can't see what it is from where i'm sitting.

what *she* doesn't see is that the two boys have gotten up and gone around the corner of the building, and that there has been a store clerk watching her the whole time.

the clerk comes out and confronts her, all the while she knows she's busted and she looks as white as a sheet. then the clerk kinda takes her arm, loosely, and leads her inside. she's got her head down.

all of this in less than 5 minutes.

and the song ends.

and i'm thinking about the girl.

and i'm thinking about how she thought the boy liked her. and, maybe he does. but who knows? who knows anything so young? you just keep going along and hope for the best. the faith of teenagers. it comes so easy yet doesn't make the hard any easier. you do things you think you would ever do. and you just do them. and you wonder what in the fuck you were thinking. and you might even do them again. because he likes you. or, usually, because you like him. and because teenagers sometimes have momentary lapses of reason. and sometimes, more often than not, they last longer than a moment.

and i want to take that girl aside and save her. give her some bit of wisdom that catches fire and stirs her senses. that sticks with her. that keeps her safe and aware. that keeps her away from the boys with the cigarettes and the bad ideas. but i know i can't. and i know it doesn't work like that. you have to go through it. she has to go through it.

and it's so hard. to go through it. it's so hard to say what you feel. there's so much it's about to burst out but you don't even know where to begin. or if you can. you're too busy being nervous or unsure or in love or too cool or not cool enough. that's a lot to bust through. too much to work with.

and i think about how teenage girls grow into adult girls and how it doesn't get much easier. how those momentary lapses of reason are still around. how you STILL have to go through it. how you never quite know where you stand. because you think you do, but it's only the gift of hindsight that tells you that you didn't know a goddamned thing. you know everything and yet, you don't even know where to begin.

how there are many things you just don't know how to say. for starters. just for starters.

well, until you are 'ancient' like me. because now? now i can say what i mean. and i mean what i say. it's not just a big puzzle i'm dragging everyone in to work out with me anymore. i don't have any problem telling people how i feel and what i need and what i want. i will never again be the girl with the backpack for the rest of my life. and for that i am so relieved.

i don't know how any of us make it out alive, and yet.

it's amazing really.

and then, just when you might have figured it out, the wheel takes a big deep breath and starts to spin again.

this morning the duke (13) turned to me and out of the blue he asked

"mama, how old do i have to be to be allowed to go out on a date?"

and i think about the boy with the cigarette and the girl with the backpack and this girl crying her eyes out in that room somewhere in san francisco during one of those moments and the chubby 10 1/2 pound blue eyed baby the duke used to be. my baby. not my baby anymore. me. no longer that girl.

"i don't know, honey. let's just take it as it comes, okay?"

and in that spirit i bring you this installment of your moment(s) of zen.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

it's all about the dress. (and spanx.)

okay, so we all know i often have some difficulty in the dressing myself department. or at least i've crowed about it enough. and judging from the whole little black maternity dress debacle from two years ago, my judgment in general when it comes to clothing isn't always the best. i believe it might be referred to as 'suspect.'

so a little more than a year ago i had an important event and needed a dress. not just any dress. i needed a dress that said 'stay at home moms are the HOTTEST kind of moms!' and 'i don't look like i weigh as much as i do!' and 'no OF COURSE i'm NOT wearing spanx under this dress!'

i realize this is a lot to ask of a garment, but i believed i could find it. and, i believe i did. in a size smaller than i normally wore, too! nice!!

so i wore the dress and i felt like it did its job and life was good.

okay, cut to about 9 months later and it was awards season. and there was a certain movie out with a certain actress. in addition to being talented and young and pretty this actress was also plus sized. really plus sized. and there was all this press about her weight and whatnot along with her talent. okay, so i was trolling through a bunch of oscar party photos like i like to do and there she was. looking cute. in a cute dress. and i panned down and realized, OMG (yes i say OMG in my head) THAT'S MY DRESS.

okay not the 'same' 'exact' dress as this was longer and in a darker color, but make no was MY DRESS. the 'stay at home moms are the HOTTEST kind of moms and i don't look like i weigh as much as i do and OF COURSE i'm NOT wearing spanx under this dress' dress...and as i panned even farther down and read the comments they were mostly positive and in the following vein;

and i quote

'it's nice to see a larger girl dressing APPROPRIATELY FOR HER BODY SIZE...'

end quote.


so of course i got on the phone to sisters and friends and they assured me my dress was cute and i was cute blah blah blah. i like to do that, you know...get that positive verbal feedback after a totally manufactured and self induced and made up in my head set back. it works.

okay, so this summer i was paging through a friend of a friend's wedding photos on a certain social networking site like i like to do. i didn't know but one of the people who had been tagged in the photos of this wedding, but the whole wedding was up for everyone to see. so i looked. because wasting time looking at the photo albums of people i don't know is a fine way to spend an evening in my book.

so, i get to the family pictures of these people i don't know. all in their wedding finery. oh say can you see where this is going...guess what the MOTHER OF THE BRIDE WAS WEARING??? oh, just take a guess. i'll give you a minute.

aaannnnnddddd there it was, on a woman (albeit a very pretty and in shape woman) of a 'certain age' wearing MY DRESS. the straps were a bit different and she opted in some photos to sport the smart little matching jacket...but otherwise she was wearing MY DRESS. exactly MY DRESS. my 'mother of the bride' dress.


i couldn't ignore it now. it was like that movie where all those girls have one pair of pants. and they can ALL fit into that pair of pants. magically. no shit. it had to be magic because there's no way that stick of a girl from the 'gilmore girls' and the curvy america ferrera could fit perfectly into the same pair of jeans.

only all those girls were young and cute and sharing those jeans while they traveled and had adventures and romances. my situation wasn't quite like in the movies.

so i sulked a few days and made my usual round of phone calls.

then i started really thinking about it and realized that this was some kind of metaphor, this dress...jeeze, everything's a metaphor lately, but stay with me. because it bugged me enough to really look at it. what was going on here? was this vanity? yeah, of course, but not all of it. and i thought about that young actress, and that mother of the bride. and me.

okay, so here's this girl and she's in the race for the oscar and it's been this huge whirlwind that her life has become in just the past year. so much has changed for her. and she's standing in front of the mirror and suddenly she's no longer the famous actress in the race for the oscar. she's suddenly just like every other woman and girl in the world...she's just a girl in front of a mirror. and she wants to find the dress that makes her beautiful. the one that fits the best and gives her that extra little boost. it's not about the body anymore, or the fame, or everything that isn't the same. it's about the dress. find the perfect dress and it's like magic.

and then you have this 'woman of a certain age,' the mother of the bride. and her daughter is getting married. and everyone is coming. maybe relatives she doesn't care for, maybe an ex-husband or two, frenemies she hasn't been able to stand since high school, who knows...but one thing SHE knows is that she wants to look GOOD. maybe it's that despite her love for her daughter she DOES NOT want to look like the mother of a much younger bride. and like every other woman or girl who stands in front of a mirror she wants to find the dress that makes her beautiful. she doesn't feel as old as she is, she still feels 17 maybe. suddenly she's just a girl in front of a mirror. and it's all about the dress. find the perfect dress and it's like magic.

and, you already know my story. just a girl, in front of the mirror. find the perfect dress and it's like magic.

so i was thinking about these three dresses and the women wearing them and i swear i saw like this maiden mother crone thing going on. okay, don't tell the mother of the bride she drew crone because i'm pretty sure she wouldn't appreciate the analogy. BUT it's true. it was right there.

it doesn't matter how young or old or in between you are. it doesn't matter how much you weigh or don't. it doesn't matter what you have deep down inside or what's sitting on the surface. because when you are a girl in front of the mirror you just want to be beautiful. and it's all about the dress. find the perfect dress and it's like magic.

yeah, sure, it IS all about what you have inside. yes. that is what it's about. ultimately. but when you're walking into a room filled with people you don't know OR do know all.too.well. OR haven't seen in 20 years it's all about the dress. the rest comes later.

so i felt a little better about my 'perfect for the extra plus sized mother of the bride that we all know is really a bigger size than it says in the tag' dress.

better still that i got that fucker for half price.

because in addition to being fashion challenged i am what one might like to call 'frugal.'

and hell, as if that wasn't FABULOUS enough, now i have something to wear when the boybarians get married. one less stress during what i am betting will be a pretty stressful time.

and, judging from the evidence, it's gonna be perfect on me.

(though i do wonder if i should spring for the matching jacket?)


Friday, September 03, 2010

the shed is a metaphor.

i once read about this russian fable about women who lose their children. when this happens the other women build a shed at the edge of the village, and the woman who buried her child goes to stay there for 6 weeks. the other women bring her anything she needs and leave it with a knock at the door and no interaction with the woman inside.

at the end of the 6 weeks the shed is set on fire.

and it is up to the woman inside whether she will come out or stay inside.

i've been thinking about this fable a lot lately. thankfully not because i've ever lost a child, but because life has a funny way of being sucky sometimes. this is an interesting time in this country, in my little piece of the country, in the country my friends and family inhabit. and by interesting i mean it's kinda scary and bleak for some. for a lot. i can choose to see the positive, but it doesn't mean the negative isn't there. it still exists.

sometimes when life isn't the way you imagined it to be, or want it to be, when it's hard and painful and frustrating it's so easy to imagine the shed burning. it's so definite. you need only to make the decision to stay in or get out. how easy is that?

but what about the times when *nothing* is happening? when the decisions seem endless and the outcomes all seemingly fruitless. time just drags and things seem stagnant. and you feel like you want to just set the shed on fire yourself? before the end of the 6 weeks? just to force the decision. the outcome.

this is all metaphorical, of course, but you can see it happening. you can see it happening in a bad argument with another person. there is that moment when you are so angry and frustrated and you aren't getting anywhere and you just want to see that fucker burn. the shed, not the person. or maybe the person but that's weird and you should see someone about that.

but, i digress.

or when you're just sitting in that godforsaken shed waiting for the end of the 6 weeks and the 6 weeks DO NOT END. they just go on and on and on and you think well if i just set it on fire that brings the 6 weeks to an end. right? it would so so easy to decide then what to do. case closed. problem solved.

and you can do that. you can force the outcome with anger and frustration and impatience. it happens. and sometimes it feels good to set that flame. sort of a scorched earth approach to problem solving.

but there's something to be said for waiting for the flame to be set. for waiting out the 6 weeks just see what it brings. there's a reason they leave the woman alone in the shed. there's a reason there's a set amount of time. there's a reason they don't give the woman the matches.

sometimes it's good to just sit. to be. to be patient. to let the path clear and to let the world come to you. sure, it's not as much fun. it's not the american 'can-do' way. but it has its merits. and it works. eventually. but how many of us give our issues that kind of time? give ourselves that kind of space.

pain and loss and frustration feel desolate and powerless and crushing. and there is nothing in this world that truly can take away the impact. not right at the time anyway. nothing. and then desperation sets in. and desperation is just like that scene in the movie when everything starts to go wrong and it only gets worse from there.

so i say there *are* two things that 'help.' but you can't 'do' them. you can't force them or make them different than they are. and i've said this before to a few of you and i will say it again because i have never spoken truer words.

time and distance.

simple as that.

there are times i think it would be so easy to just not come out of the shed. or easy to speed up the process. get the crap moving and over with. no time. no distance needed. done.

but then i think about it and i realize that i don't want to go down in flames. that i want to be part of the group that builds another shed. because there is always another shed to be built. the next shed in a string of sheds that need to be built. because that's just the way life is. you're moving along and then bam, it's time for another shed. and sometimes you're building the shed and sometimes you're the woman inside. and yes, sometimes you're setting the fire.

and the women in the village don't 'do' anything for the woman. there isn't some set thing that is executed to help the woman 'get over it.' what the women in the village do is offer time and distance. and it's up to the woman inside to accept or be able to accept the space. and who knows what goes on in that shed in those 6 weeks. but the space is there. and the woman emerges or she doesn't. she chooses to battle the flame rather than succumb to it. or she doesn't. but the shed has been offered. is there.

i don't judge either way. stay in the shed and let it burn, or come out and help build another one.

the trick is to know when you've been offered the shed in the first place. to know you are square in there and now is the time. the trick is to know when it's time to be patient and let the world come to you. to resist the match and let it just be.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

my wish upon a star.

i was 22 years old when i drove drunk. i was leaving my sister's high school graduation party. i had arrived in heels and was leaving barefoot. i remember this detail because i spent 20 minutes in the driveway in my rental car trying to figure out how to adjust the seat. that's the last thing i remember.

i drove to my in law's house. across town. in the dark. there were stoplights and stop signs along the way. and other people in cars. people. real live people.

i only knew i got home that night because i woke up the next morning and was there. my rental car parked by the curb. intact. me, head splitting, but intact.

i remember looking at the car out there by the curb and thinking oh my god what have i done? and then i puked for the next two days. more out of fear and shame and disgust than anything else.

i am not a stupid person. i cannot for the life of me figure out what possessed me. and there have been times in the past nearly two decades that i have literally dropped to my knees in thanksgiving that that stupid choice did not kill me or someone else.

i haven't driven drunk or even slightly buzzed or even barely tipsy since. not once. and i will not.

i tell you this story not out of some deep seated need to be confessional or sanctimonious. i tell you this because my dear cousin stella was killed by a drunk driver this week. a driver who also put my aunt in the hospital for the next 6 weeks with serious injuries, and badly injured my cousin's boyfriend, too.

a driver who, according to the police report, had no license at the time of the accident due to "habitual operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, driving while license suspended/revoked for DUI and inattention to driving..."

the thing about my cousin stella was that she was LIFE to all who knew her. she was LIGHT. she was LOVE. and the injustice of someone, and here is my judgment, who seemingly lived his life in darkness taking the life of someone who lived only in the light is so very very tremendous. unfathomable.

and *he,* the driver, did *take* her *life.* i don't consider it an accident. because an accident is something you did not mean to do. and when you get in the car when you've been drinking that is a choice you've meant to make. accidents are not borne of choices. mistakes are. and a mistake is only a mistake until you fix it. then it becomes a lesson. he cannot fix this. this cannot be fixed. this is broken. hearts are broken. he fucked up.

i fucked up, too. but i was "lucky." by the grace of god i was lucky because i didn't kill myself or someone else. lucky that i got the chance to learn that lesson, and have spent and will spend the rest of my life putting that learned lesson into practice. so goddamned lucky. and a lot of us have made this same mistake. some of you may have made this same mistake. not doing it again EVER fixes that. never ever again. EVER.

but 'this' cannot be fixed.

but maybe, just maybe, someone will learn a lesson here. gain some clarity. understand. get it. someone, even if it's just one someone. anyone.

i have to believe that tragedies like this do not *just* occur. that hearts aren't broken for no reason at all. that lives aren't taken and lives aren't horribly altered and that there aren't so many people grieving the loss of such an amazing person for *nothing.* it may be a silly and foolish notion to some, especially when there is so much hurt and anger, but i like to believe that positive can come from negative. that hope abounds no matter what. that my beautiful cousin's life was not lived in vain. that the giving she did when she was living will somehow continue into her leaving.

people are writing on stella's facebook page and the common theme is about her infectious laugh, her unforgettable smile, her unfailing gifts of kindness, of spirit, and love.

she was an absolute treasure, the very best kind of person to know, and she will be more than missed by all who knew her and all who loved her.

stella means star. and my wish upon that beautiful star is that the people of this world respect themselves and those around them enough to make better choices, especially when alcohol and 2 ton weapons are involved. my wish upon that beautiful star is that the people of this world take to heart the words of another of stella's cousins and understand that drinking and driving doesn't just break the law, it breaks people's hearts, too.

be well, be safe.


Friday, July 30, 2010

eat when you're hungry. rest when you're tired.

when i was hiking earlier this week i realized that one of the things i've missed most, that went by the wayside when i became a busy mama, was backpacking. and that one of the greatest gifts my father ever bestowed upon me was never letting being a single father with three girls stop him from doing what he loved, and backpacking was what he loved. so from a tiny girl to a teen to a young adult i always backpacked. first with my father and then with friends. i've gone with the boybarians, but not nearly enough. not by a long shot.

and as cliche is it sounds as i type it here, much of what i learned about life i learned from backpacking.

1. eat when you're hungry.

2. rest when you're tired.

3. take care of your gear so it can take care of you.

4. keep moving forward, no matter the pace. one step in front of the other will always get you there.

5. don't forget to stop and take a look around. to appreciate your surroundings. it's not all about making the daily miles.

6. get up in the morning and do it all over again.

when i was on the very hardest part right near the very end of the trail i was on the other day i came upon a woman from florida. now, i've never been to florida, but when i think of florida mountains don't generally pop into my head.

this woman was older, but in no way elderly, and she had her college age grandson with her. she seemed in okay shape, BUT not the kind of shape this trail demanded. ask me how i know.

so her predicament was that she and her grandson had driven to the top of the mountain to see the view. they were coming down to see what other views there were to see. i'm guessing that's the florida kicking in as one generally does not come down a mountain to see a view. AND there was no thought to getting back up. he in flip flops, she carrying the hugest pair of binoculars i've seen in a long time. neither had water. and it was a 1/4 mile back up to the top. the steepest 1/4 mile of the trail.

she was trying to catch her breath on a log. i had hiked behind her long enough to know she wasn't going to do very well getting back up. wasn't doing well getting back up. when i reached her on the log, i offered her one of my water bottles and some chocolate. i chatted her up to help ease her worry, you could tell she didn't know how she'd make it back up and she seemed nervous. after a time i asked her if she wanted me to hike with her, but she said no, her grandson was there and that would be fine. so i kept making my way up.

it's funny, because before i came upon her i was feeling like my lungs might burst and the thought of being devoured by a hungry cougar was starting to look good. you know, because at least if you're being devoured by a cougar you aren't still making that sadistic climb. but after meeting her and giving her some assistance i realized i was doing all right. i could do this. there was nothing keeping me from the top, and for that, i was lucky. my ability made my pain no less painful, but it was temporary, and was being replaced by the knowledge that i was a lucky lucky girl to be so physically abled. so i was now humming sweatily and slowly along with a new found respect for the strength my legs had, for my ability to keep my own body going.

it was right then that a woman, who was clearly older than i am, and clearly in way better physical condition that i am, came RUNNING up behind me, passed me, and left me in the dust.

and right there, folks, is life in a nutshell. it's hard, then it's not, remember to help each other along the way. some people get to go forward, some people are further behind. and right when you're feeling smug and self assured and the most able there will be someone to come up behind, to pass you, and to leave you behind.

the trick is to just keep moving forward.

and keeping a stash of chocolate never hurts.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

happy birthday carlos santana!

so every year carlos and i celebrate our birthdays on july 20th. not together mind you, but i'm sure he's thinking about me.

so last year when i turned 38 i listed the 38 things i had learned in the past year. i won't be doing that this year. i'm sure i learned 39 new things but jeeze that seems like a lot of typing doesn't it?

5 things the universe taught me. 5 things i was smart enough to take to heart;

5. indian leg wrestling while drinking is always a bad idea. worse if you're wearing a dress.

4. teenagers are like toddlers. give them a cold drink and a snack and let them listen to their music and you're golden.

3. it's not about forgiving and forgetting, it's about remembering and reconciling.

2. don't condemn don't convert. just love. (thank you for the words, z. marley)

1. if somebody loves you, even just one person, you are very very lucky. pass that on. a LOT.


Monday, July 19, 2010


i was planting sunflowers in the garden with wingman the other day.

he had grown the sunflowers himself, started each one from a seed. he scooped some soil into a cup, carefully put in each seed, and then gently patted some soil over the top. watered the soil and moved on to the next cup. his face set in full intent the whole time. to look upon the face of a 9 year old boy in full concentration is to experience the divine.

he kept the cups on the front porch, and every day he went out and watered them. and every day he checked on them. he wondered about them and talked about them, and on the day the sprouts started to peek through soil he jumped around in excitement.

but out of 15 cups of seeds there was one that wasn't peeking through.

give it a day or two i said, some seeds are late bloomers. he checked the cup the next day, nothing. then the next, nothing. by the third day i walked out and saw the 15th seed had sprouted.

'wingman, your seed sprouted!'

'yeah, i dug all the soil off the top and there it was.'

'well, that's one way to do it.'

so as we were planting the now much bigger sprouts in the garden i was thinking of how pleased wingman was with his efforts. and thinking about everything that can happen between the time the sunflowers reach their 5 feet and now, at five inches and being transplanted from the small and cozy to the vastness of the garden. what the passing of time can bring. weather, squirrels, other things, elements beyond the control of any of us. things that might prevent wingman being able to see his sunflowers grow to their full potential.

but a gardener doesn't think about those things, wingman wasn't thinking about those things. and i didn't bring them up. planting seeds is planting hope. that's good enough.

so i was thinking about this yesterday when the duke came home from a four day camp out with five other boys.

this isn't my story to tell so i will just give the quick and dirty; the duke was harassed by a few of the boys. the whole time. with slurs, and worse, that i won't type here.

now, as a mama i sit and fume. why didn't he call? why are those boys such assholes? how could he stand it? as a mama i want to send nasty e-mails and yell at someone on the phone. compassion takes a back seat when fury rears its needy head.

i talked to the duke about it. asked him how he felt. asked him how he handled it. and he did what he could and he understands how asshole bullies work and why they target the people they do. he promptly 'unfriended' the offensive boys on facebook and said good riddance. the 21st century equivalent of whatever it was we used to do as kids. it made him feel better. moving on.

so he was upset and said so, but he survived. and said he thought about calling me but stuck it out and tried to make the best of it. which makes me sad, but it was his situation to decide about. not mine. and from what i understand he gave it back in the only way he knew how. by explaining the origins of the slurs those boys were using and why they shouldn't use such offensive language. oh and i'm sure that went over 'well.' but, good for him. he tried.

beyond that, he didn't give me too many more examples, and i wanted to ask, but didn't. i am entering the period of parenting when i cannot control and manipulate every situation and environment. those days were over so long ago, deep down i know that, it's only now that i'm fully realizing it. there won't be any nasty e-mails or angry phone calls.

he did say at one point the mouthier boys were doing something dumb with the fire and a sock. and as he sat back watching them he said,

"well, there's darwinism at work for you."

and yes, he paid for it. but he said it. and i bet that it felt good to do so. small victories.

i assumed when i sent him off on the camping trip he'd have a good time. that there'd be sun and lots of soda he rarely gets to drink and an all around good time. like planting a seed i didn't think about all the things that could go wrong, i cast him out in hope.

and things did go wrong. and he didn't have much fun, if any. but he withstood the elements and took the risk and stuck it out.

i don't know if that counts for much when you're fresh from being harassed and bullied. but it's got to count for something. there is a lesson in there. and he's learning it. and i'm learning it.

it's hard to be a parent. to shepherd and nurture these children, like little cups of soil and seeds on the porch, only to cast them out to harsher elements.

we hope we've given them all they need.

time will tell.

i suppose it already has.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

to my goddess daughter on the occasion of her mother's 39th birthday.

this is a letter to my goddess daughter, piper, daughter to my very best friend nicole. today nicole is 39. piper is only 3. she will get this letter much later than now. you know, when she can read. and is old enough that she won't giggle at the pee parts.

and yes, this letter contains the words 'pee' and 'pubic bone' and also includes the actual act of someone (me) peeing. and if that doesn't make you want to read it then i don't know what will! but, you have been warned.

Dear Piper,

You will have lot of birthdays come and go in your life, and some birthdays are going to be milestones, like your 16th birthday, the day you turn 21 and I take you for your first drink, your 40th birthday, 65, etc. Then you'll have the birthdays that are real blowouts, the ones that come on a Friday and they last all weekend, the ones with a new love, a fabulous trip, or an extravagant party with all your family and friends.

Today your mother turns 39, on a Thursday, and as far as birthdays go it may seem like a subtle kind of passing. Just another birthday in a life full of birthdays. No big deal. After all, NEXT year she is 40 and isn't that the birthday to save the big celebration for? BUT all birthdays are celebrations whether they are the real blowouts or just a Thursday when you turn 39. Every birthday is a birthday to be cherished, every birthday offers the opportunity for something fabulous to happen, even if it isn't billed as that kinda birthday.

Piper, this story is a Thursday turning 39 kinda story. There is no flash, no fireworks, ponies, or big bands, just a thing that happened. A thing that should be known by you because it illustrates how awesome your mother is and how lucky we all are to have her in our lives, how very lucky I am. Just another day in a life of days, but one that is so very important and needs to be told and to be known.

Now, at the time the story takes place I was about to and then did give birth to the Duke of Fun. And while we all know what she ultimately decided, at that time, your mother was not sure at all about having children. She and your father had met and been together for years at that point, but it seemed children were a distant idea if one at all. Your Grandmother had different ideas, though, and had hoped that because your mother was going to be part of my birth it might start a few balls rolling in that direction. Especially since your mother and father had recently, very seriously, been talking about getting married.

Well, in hindsight, perhaps this was not the birth to do the convincing.

As it turns out, the birth did not go smoothly at all, and after a very intense 36 hours, a baby, and a lot of bleeding later I was headed to the hospital. Your mother found herself sitting in my home after the ambulance left, waiting to follow me to the hospital, wondering if she’d ever see me alive again. I cannot imagine how she must have felt.

Piper, your mother was amazing. She came to the hospital, slept on the floor, and didn’t leave my side for 72 hours. She changed the newly born Duke of Fun and carried him and rocked him to sleep because I couldn’t sit up to do it myself. She interpreted my needs and fielded questions from the medical staff because I wasn’t able to do it myself. Then when I discovered I couldn’t move or feel my legs due to pubic separation from the birth, she got up every few hours all night long and put them back up on the bed because they would slip off and I couldn't do it myself.

Oh, I had the Duke's papa around to help and my family, but they were taking care of all the other business of me nearly having had died from the birth. It took a village to get me up and running, and your mother was by my side every step of the way.

She did all the errands needing doing to get me back home. She shopped and cooked and cleaned and was just *there.* There when I was sent home with a newborn, a catheter, and a walker. (it would be two weeks before I could walk without it) There when it was time to care for the Duke. There when it was time to deal with my catheter and when it was time for me to eat and to sleep and to try and get comfortable.

We were both 25. How incredible that we were so young.

What I remember most, however, happened nearly a week after arriving home. I had just nursed the Duke back to sleep and thought I finally felt well enough not only to sit up, a recent accomplishment, but also to make my inaugural trip to the actual bathroom. The midwife had paid a visit about an hour earlier and had removed my catheter so I felt ready.

It took me some time, but I managed to sit up and steadied myself on the edge of the bed, careful not to wake my baby or topple forward. This was a 30 minute endeavor at the least. I managed to hoist myself up on my walker, and knowing there wasn’t anyone home but your mother and me, I didn’t even attempt at putting on pajama bottoms. Like I could have if I wanted to.

I got to my bedroom door and so far so good. I could hear your mother in the kitchen and it sounded like she was mopping or sweeping. I left my room, and with the aid of the walker was nearly out of the living room when I realized, to my horror, I wasn’t going to make it to the bathroom in time.

Right there in the living room I peed all over the wood floor. And not just a little pee. The kind of pee that comes after having been impeded by a catheter for nearly a week. The kind of pee that comes from finding an outlet in a finally upright body. The kind of pee that would feel fabulously liberating at last if it didn’t happen to be happening in the living room all over the floor.

I started to call your mother’s name and I swear the first syllable hadn’t left my mouth before she was there, crouched before me, with a big towel.

Without a word she wiped my legs down to my feet, moved and wiped my feet, and then the floor.

“Do you still need to go?”


“Come on, I’ll get you settled back down.”

Then she helped me back to bed and settled me down next to the Duke.

“Hey, thanks.”

And she turned to me smiling, as if it really was no big deal, and said “No problem. Are you hungry?”

Piper, may you know this kind of friendship in your life. May you have someone who is so graceful and kind and giving. When the shit hits the fan, or the pee hits the floor, may you have someone who will be there, without a word, and with a big dry towel. Someone who will dry you off and settle you back down. Someone who loves you that much.

May you have a friend like the friend I have in your mother. Because those are the very best kind of friends to have.


Aunt X.

Friday, July 09, 2010


there's a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Mexican...

Samantha: I have to ask you a question. It's a good one so think about it. If two people love each other, but they just can't seem to get it together, when do you get to that point of enough is enough?

Jerry: Never.


what is it about love that turns us into crazy people. any love. not just relationship love, but oy, isn't that the big one...friendship love, family love, love love love love.

when you let someone into your heart, or they are just there from the minute you draw your first breath, there is this assumption of safety, freedom, peace. oh, there are all those things, sure, they exist, the assumption is when we believe they will always exist. and then they don't. and that's enough to make anyone crazy.

when someone knows your heart they know you. and that works for the good in so many ways. but when everything goes pear shaped people don't often exercise restraint in what they know of your heart. not when they know how to get to you. not when they know how to drive home a point. make you understand. make you listen. make you make you make you...when everything goes pear shaped and they want you to know how badly they hurt they forget you hurt badly too.

the intentions are so pure. so intent. but what's that path to hell paved with again?

and what is it i say about love that hasn't been said or written about or sung about? nothing. except that when you love you are better for it. that love is infinite and cannot be contained, that you cannot run out of it. ever. that love elevates and inflates and it's like that house carried away by balloons in the movie, Up.

the trick is not letting the heart do it all. to carry the whole load. because the heart is not designed for that. it needs someone to do the heavy lifting, and that's where the head comes in. the problem with this partnership is that the head is just not as fun to party with. the head doesn't let us forget the hurts. the head doesn't let us forget anything. not like the heart. and what is the heart without the forgetting? not as much fun that's what it is.

you've never heard anyone say 'follow your head' have you?

i love the heart. i love that it can get shattered and broken in two and yet, and yet it forgets and jumps right back on. like a voracious beast wanting ever more. forgetting. it's such an amazing resilient part of us. a warrior in the world of body parts.

in the past year of few resources i've been fond of saying i don't have much but i have love. love to give. love to receive. lots and lots of it. an endless boundless resource. and with love i am the richest girl in the world.

but that fucker love breaks my god damned heart on the regular. because there are days i wish my love was enough for the people around me, and it isn't. it cannot save anyone. and there are days i wish that the people who love me wouldn't choose to hurt me, but they do. it cannot protect me.

but we are humans. and we all get our hearts broken. and people who love us hurt us. sometimes even the people who are supposed to love us first and the most and forever. and as hard as it is to believe, it's nothing personal. it's just the cost of doing business as a human.

the trick is to protect your heart as best you can without walling it off.

and to remember the opposite of love has never been hate, it's indifference.

so as long as you love each other, even if you can't get it together, you will never get to enough is enough. you will find a way. even if that way is walking away. because love exists even if you aren't standing side by side. and maybe it takes your whole life to figure out and maybe it doesn't.

just remember when someone is in your heart, and you are in theirs, time doesn't matter. proximity doesn't matter.

just remember when someone is in your heart, and you are in theirs, to tread gently and kindly. even when it is so easy not to. and fun not to. yes fun to be ugly and hurtful. because lashing out stitches up our own pain so nicely, doesn't it?

just remember this is your one beautiful life. and theirs. and hate takes up so much time. so much energy.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

i never promised myself a rose garden.

new york magazine recently published this article about how people with kids loved their children but hated parenting. how parenting was so very hard some days, with little joy. and the prevailing theme seemed to be how these parents thought that having kids would make them happy.

okay, now, the first part of that is NOBODY can 'make' you happy. you can be happy with other people, but being happy comes first and foremost from within. the minute you deviate from that you are screwed.

all right, so back to the article. i found it to be very honest. here are these parents, and they cannot believe the drudgery of parenting. they cannot believe how little they are sleeping, how little fun they are having. etc. etc. etc.

about how maybe they expected something...different.

i am so very happy to say i am not one of these people. not because i am perfect, but because i am not. and i never expected my kids or my parenting to be either.

so this post will be a celebration of sorts. a celebration of ME as a parent and the few things i did right, lucked out on, or forrest gumped my way through to make parenting something i enjoy doing. (you know, for the most part. and i definitely let you know when it's not!)

(these are specific to my situation and not meant to cover EVERY set of circumstances for birth or relationship. i fully realize not every mother gives birth, that not every birth is vaginal, and that not every set of partners are opposite sex.)

okay, so let's start with the birth. given my own lifelong interest and 'professional' experience in the field of birthing i feel qualified to say that that's where the illusions begin. women like to imagine the birth going smoothly and serenely without complications. yes, there will be pain, but that's okay. because A) you're either going to choose drugs to make it go away or B) you are not. either way you are smug in the knowledge that it will be 'handled.' and yes, you know there will be the moment you yell at your partner for getting you into this mess but it will be a funny story later. etc. etc. etc.

birth is pain. it is soul tearing incredible god bargaining pain. there is NOTHING in this world that prepares you for this pain. by all means, read the books and take the classes, because it's worse when you don't have a fucking clue. but even with a clue? even with drugs (i don't know first hand, i was smug #B, but i've attended enough drug births to have knowledge. there is still some amount of pain somewhere. really. believe me.)

and when you are staring at you partner who did this to you? their face is a dumb stupid face just sitting there while you are being cleaved in two by the universe. why in the hell are they smiling! there is not one reason for them to be smiling. and looking at you all lovey dovey, telling you you are beautiful. yeah. come a little closer. i'll show you beautiful on the next contraction. give me your hand mother fucker.

eventually this passes and they are your love again. and with this, you shouldn't tell them what you were really thinking. and eventually there will be the baby (oh i've glossed over a lot, and i haven't even mentioned the 'ring of fire' because, well let's just cut to the chase. eventually there will be a baby.) but before that there will be sweat and pain and blood and piss and unnamed fluids and shit and vomit and it will be like a long weekend at a frat house before you're done. without the benefit of drinking. and the smell. they never mention the smell in the books.

but then you have a baby. and that makes it all worth it. every.single.time. and there may be those of you who wonder why anyone would go through that ONCE let alone MORE THAN ONCE knowing what they know? because, believe it or not, you forget. or, you just don't make it as out to be as bad as it was. because it ceases to matter when you want a baby.

so the first thing i did right was be part of a whole lotta births before doing it myself. and not those sweet light filled hippie births either. the real reservoir dogs kind. which is good because as it turns out quentin tarantino could have written the script for my first birth.

i was under NO illusions. lucky me.

the thing i lucked into was nannying and babysitting. always good work for a young woman trying to figure out what to do with her life and job situation. babies, toddlers, kids, you name the age i did it. not only did i get a lot of experience with children, i saw what they did to their parents, to the house, to the car, to the pets. i saw the stickers that don't come off pasted all over everything, the marked up bedroom walls, the trashed cars, the traumatized pets, and the inevitable empty glass of wine left by the television, on the kitchen counter, by the bed. i saw the relief on the faces of the parents when i showed up and they practically ran out the door and knew my OWN relief when they showed up and i was the one running.

plus, there is NOTHING like taking care of other people's children to make you appreciate your own so very much more. even if you haven't had them yet. and just because that's harsh doesn't mean it isn't true.

i was under NO illusions. lucky me.

the thing i forrest gumped my way into was the father of my children. okay, that sounds weird, but true. because i consciously chose to have a family with him doesn't mean that it was the only possibility of me having had a family. i lucked out. see i've been wanting to have kids since i was 12. not trying to, mind you. just wanting to. but considering the father of my children was not the only person i have had ever had sex with, and sex creates babies (for the most part) i consider it quite lucky INDEED that it ended up being him. for that matter, i'm sure there's a group of individuals out there who consider it quite lucky INDEED that it ended up being him as well.

okay, so this article suggested that 40% of the fights couples have are about their kids. we've had ONE fight about our kids. and that was before the first one was even born. and it had to do with the penis. so of course he thought he was right, but i knew i was, so...

i have always been pro non circumcision. i won't go into the whys because it doesn't matter to you what i think about it and because i don't care what you do with your own penis or those of your kids. BUT if we had a boy i was adamant he NOT be circumcised. considering we never knew the sex of the duke before he was born made this a somewhat abstract argument. the father of my children did not want his boy to be uncirc'd for all the reasons a man of his generation wouldn't. i felt like i had the knowledge and facts to back my position up and he felt like he had the experience with the penis to back his up, so it was an impasse. a BIG one.

then he talked to his friend/longtime housemate about it. a man without kids mind you, but with, um, let's say with a much broader experience of the penis than either of us and he said something to the effect of, well...we don't need to get into it here. BUT he was VERY pro non circ and the father of my children was convinced and that was that. (and if you're reading this and remember that and know who you are thank you thank you thank you. you solved a BIG problem. and um, i'm sure my boys will have cause to thank you when they are older, too. ;) )

other things i lucked into;

1. support. years and years ago i stumbled on a group of mothers on-line. it sounded creepier to say that out loud then. now it's pretty common. and this has evolved into a very tight knit, loving, supportive, somewhat exclusive group. oh my god when you are a young mother and the days are long and the years are short and vodka at 8 am is starting to look like a good idea there is NOTHING like have someone to instantly bitch to, cry to, rant to, rave to, brag to, etc. and have the possibility of *at least one* out of the group who has been there say, "i have been there. you're gonna be all right." especially at 3am. especially when you are at your worst. especially when parenting has pulled you into the abyss and you forget tomorrow will come and that this too, shall pass. especially when you forget that. AND to remind you that parenting is sometimes about so much more than children. that it's everything. and not everything. this is a good lesson.

i tried finding it in real life, but the women in san francisco were so bent on showing each other up in how gender neutral liberal additive free organic cotton they could be they forgot to be kind to each other. and the women in santa monica didn't raise their own kids. so they were never around. the nannies were around. the nannies did not speak english. and they certainly didn't want to speak to me. the women where i live now were, well i don't know where they all were? i don't live in a neighborhood, and the preschool the boys went to didn't engender or encourage socialization between the parents. drop off, pick up, stay in your car at all times, no helping in the classroom, no parent's nights. i loved this preschool but i couldn't pick out a kid or a mom from a line up to save my life.

2. homeschooling. while this is a HUGE commitment, and it takes a lot to find other families we mesh with, etc. just by homeschooling i've eliminated two of the hugest issues facing parents of school age kids. getting kids up and out of the house for school on time and intact, and homework. my kids don't have to get up and out and we don't have homework. no fight before school, no fight after. i feel like the luckiest sillymortalmama around. and i didn't even consider these two things when deciding to home school. i think i was just thinking, "thank god. no PTA."

3. my family and friends. well, they've always been supportive. no nagging mother in law about what i'm doing wrong, sisters who respect my parenting decisions even when it's different from theirs, friends who never said a word about my choices. even when they knew, for example, that the boys were still nursing at 3. never a word. at least they didn't say it to me. so thank you for that.

4. starting a blog as early as i did. because if you're not laughing you're crying. and because admitting your shortcomings to the whole wide web has a very cathartic effect. i am not a perfect person or a perfect parent. i remind myself of this by telling these stories to you. so thank you for listening, because it has always meant more than you know.

parenting is rewarding, yes yes it is. tremendously. and there are enough people and media to tell you this. books, television shows, movies. boy they make it look so great sometimes. and it is. but parenting is also hard. and anyone who tells you anything else *without* mentioning this part is selling something. read the books and get the advice. listen to those who have been there, take all of it with a grain of salt. just remember that this is YOUR journey. yours and your child's. and your child is all that matters. and how you parent your child is up to you. and no one else. so be brave, don't be afraid to try and to fail and to try again. and on the days that it's hard don't be afraid to cry and don't be afraid to embrace the imperfection, don't forget that you are not perfect. and you are not supposed to be.

don't forget that tomorrow always comes. and that this too, shall pass.

and above all, don't forget that you were meant to be your child's parent. and that they are so very lucky to have you. and you are so very lucky to have them.


Monday, June 21, 2010

when life hands you lemons make dark chocolate pudding with caramel cream and pistachio praline.

recently two people who are very near and dear to my heart, my person, my life announced that they were separating. what is it about a couple announcing their separation that makes one feel like a little kid again. sitting on the front step, chin on knees, wondering what happened, but knowing it won't ever be the same again.

and it's funny because if you're not in the relationship it's always so "sudden." this is so "sudden" we say...when for the people *in* the relationship it's not sudden at all. and often a long time coming.

so what do you do with information that hits you out of the blue and changes a LOT? well for me, this time at least, i made pudding. because the thing about dessert is that while i don't care for sweets, i love to make them. because making dessert so often means following the recipe to a T or it doesn't work. so there is often little room for interpretation, for your own input, which when you are feeling adrift is a wonderful sense of peace and calm, an anchor.

dark chocolate pudding with caramel cream and pistachio praline is actually three recipes put together at the end. so it seemed a good, long, methodical project.

first i made the pistachio praline. which is as easy as pie AS LONG as you are patient enough to wait for the sugar and water to bubble WITHOUT stirring it and WITHOUT being impatient and stirring in the pistachios before it reaches that perfect shade of dark amber. sometimes easier said than done. OFTEN easier said than done. oh, and be careful of that burning sugar. when the pistachios are coated with the boiled sugar quickly spread the mix before it hardens.

leave it alone and let cool.

next i made the pudding, chopping chocolate and whisking cream and waiting for all of it to come to a bubble. then you mix cornstarch and water together to be set aside and added later. and then you stand by the stove and stir, and stir, gently, waiting, and it seems nothing is happening. the chocolate melts so slowly, you don't think it will ever melt wholly into the milk. the minutes tick by. you want to stop it's so boring, but you don't. you don't because the milk will burn or the chocolate will stick. so you stand and gently stir. and stir.

and just when you thought you've been so pulled in by the repetition that it will never be different, everything happens at once! the chocolate and cream starts to bubble furiously! you have to RE-mix the cornstarch and water because the corn starch has hardened at the bottom of the bowl and separated from the water. how did that happen you ask? it happened because you forgot how corn starch and water can get when you leave the mix sitting for too long.

meanwhile the chocolate is bubbling away, you are RE-mixing the cornstarch and water, you get it liquid again, you add it to the chocolate in the pot and then you've got to whisk this constantly to ensure it doesn't burn or stick or clump and your arm gets tired and you thought you had it all ready to go but it happened so fast even though it seemed to take forever.

then, then when it's ready you pour the pudding into separate dishes, dividing it evenly, trying to make it smooth so it sets that way. but there's always a little that has set before you get to it. and that dish of pudding is clumpy when the others are smooth. a casualty of the process. because you had the choice to put it all in one bowl to chill but you decided to separate it. you wonder if it would have been easier just to keep it together. but you like it this way. even the non perfect bits.

leave it alone and let chill.

making the caramel cream is much like making the praline, only instead of adding pistachios you need to add cream to the bubbling, just-turned-the-perfect-shade-of-dark-amber sugar. and when you do, adding the cold cream to the hot sugar, it's unexpected, jarring, so it boils up something fierce and it's best to give it some space, to back your hand away while using your very longest spoon to stir. but do keep the spoon in there, you need to keep stirring. even if it's hot, even if a bit got on your hand. you have to keep stirring it until the hardened caramel bits have dissolved. and they will dissolve. just give it time.

leave it alone and let cool.

then fold it into freshly whipped cream. and, well, you know, let chill. always make space and time for the cooling and chilling. and, well, you know, don't be impatient with this step. especially not this step.

when it's all done, and it will all get chilled and done, it always does, top the chocolate pudding in the dishes with a dollop of the caramel cream and top that with bits of the pistachio praline.

in retrospect i would have done things differently. the pistachio praline could really use a pinch of salt, i knew that at the time, but i followed the recipe just to see. i should have added the salt.

and i let the hot pudding sit too long in the pot while i futzed with the dessert dishes. i should have had those ready. because as i futzed, a bit of the pudding cooled too much and congealed. and the last dish of pudding wasn't very pretty.

i could have whipped the cream more. i knew it was too soft, but again, the recipe. it didn't say stiff peaks, so i didn't do stiff peaks. and sure enough, when i folded in the caramel it loosened the cream considerably. chilling it in the fridge helped, but it wasn't the same. i should have followed my intuition.

but when i put it all together and gave the pudding to my husband, to my kids, they all had nothing but wonderful things to say. they couldn't get enough. they loved every bite of it. and only i was the wiser of what i could have done differently. deviating from the recipe and making it better, at least in my opinion. because sometimes we're lucky enough that it works out that way. not always, but sometimes.

i know that when people separate it's a decision that they don't take lightly. and i respect the choice. the people. and i am more often than not proud of people being able to take that tough step. most of us have been there. we know it's hard, but so much harder to ignore it.

and it's not the end of the world. not for them and not for *us.* because as much as we feel like making it about us, because we hurt too, it's not. we deal with it but it's not about us. unless you are in the relationship you have no idea. none. even if you've known them forever. it doesn't matter. unless you are one of the two you can never know.

i have learned that the 'bad' things that happen in life aren't personal. that life is just a continuous strip of, well, living. and everyone goes through it. everyone. and we have our role in it, in our own life, and in others. we take our places and we live. and life just goes on like that.

what's personal is that sometimes, sometimes what we are doing needs to change. it just does. and it's just a decision we make in a life of full of decisions. meaning, it doesn't have to make or break us. like deciding whether to divide that pudding into separate dishes or to keep it all together in one bowl. we get to decide.

and we hope it works out.

and we hope others will respect our decision.

and we hope. we hope. we hope.