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.