Hokey Pokey (What this blog's all about)

A writing challenge I've given myself to write every day for six months. After some posts, I'll put in a comment with a brief explanation of the inspiration for the piece. Some posts will be practice for bigger projects: character sketches or settings. I don't really know what all will happen which is why I'm doing it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 58

I had this recurring dream when I was a kid.  It would happen when I was sick and my fever was high.  I remember it was terrifying.  All the more so for its indescribably abstract nature.  It was a dream of ideas.  Crushing wrong ideas that I could not pinpoint and was punished for trying.

I'd awaken in a sweat, petrified. Occasionally screaming.  And my mom would come.  Or my dad.  That calming looming shadow beside my bed ready to help.  Patient, kind, nurturing.  But the panic of fever induced nightmares stays above the bed, waiting for you to drift back so it can tackle you again and I knew.  I needed to explain for them to help me.

The dream defies explanation.  It is a substance of indeterminate size.  Just when you think it is a large black, velvety antimatter coming to claim you, it shrinks.  It is thin when you say it is thick, long where you think short. The moment you commit to its shape or size, it makes you a fool and destroys the thick place within yourself you didn't know you had.  When you call it tiny, it takes a humiliating bite out of the tiniest value you have left.  It leaves you panting as it laughs, then humiliates you for saying it had a voice in the first place.

I've had other repeat dreams since that one.  Snakes, teeth falling out.  But nothing is scarier than something you can't even describe.  That dream was fear extracted and abstracted.  Then it humiliated and multiplied.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 57

A lot of marriage is tolerating and at times ignoring each other's foibles.  In the case of some of us, we pretend not to have any.  I don't stick my foot in my mouth on any sort of a regular basis, the natural result of saying nearly everything I think.  I'm certain my excessive swearing has never embarrassed anyone, especially not my husband who I cannot believe had the guts to introduce me to the elderly portion of his family.  I never henpeck.  I do not try to strategically choose the diaper changes I volunteer for to avoid poops.  I never shave just one leg.  And I certainly do not fart loudly in my sleep or snore.
I especially do not do those things when I'm pregnant as I find myself now.  Yup, that's right, pregnant again.  That's how it feels even though this is only my second child.  I feel like Carla from Cheers, as though everyone will just assume I'm always pregnant.  Oh, and irresponsible.  Because who thinks the timing is just perfect for another child when she's unemployed?  This girl, that's who.
While I can go on and on about my husband's bizarre list of annoying quirks, (using a screw driver to obsessively pick each and every dandelion out of the lawn or compulsively talking about where to put the potatoes in the garden when it is, in fact, December,) my current irritation is the OB and all things twat-related.
I'm speedy at almost everything I do (except brushing my teeth which my husband regularly sends himself into gales of laughter complete with toothpaste coming out of his nose while mimicking me,) but you just never know how much time a visit to the OB office will take.  I'm not naturally patient, so my composure during each privacy-invading trip is challenged. 
Most recently, I went to the OB's office for an ultrasound to check for a heartbeat.  My doctor has recently moved her offices from a regular ole' office, to a spa.  Ok, it's not really a spa, but it feels a bit like someone might put an avocado mask on your face and offer you a mimosa which I would have to spit daggers out in declining.  Seriously, I'm pregnant again?  Didn’t I just stop nursing, like, yesterday.
So my patience is less tried with the bubbling waterfall noises and the lightly scented aromatics and the fuzzy socks on the stirrups.  But oh yeah, I'm at the doctor for my girlparts and there are STIRRUPS.  Back to that. 
You go through the regular song and dance.  A twenty-year-old skinny bitch smiles politely and takes your blood pressure and then tells you to undress from the waist down.  She points at the lovely paper napkin you can use to cover a tenth of yourself and tells you the doctor will be right in.
Here's where the unpredictability of your errand comes in.  You have absolutely no idea how long it will be before the doctor actually comes in.  It could be moments after stripping or it could be quite a while.  In my experience, it's generally right when you get to a good part of whatever book you brought.  What's that?  You brought Anna Karenina?  You're screwed.  You will wait hours.
In all fairness, the wait time until any doctor comes into the exam room is unpredictable.  I once ran low on patience at the regular doctor’s office and painted iodine pictures all over the sink area with those footlong cotton swabs.  The doctor was less than amused.  The difference at the girl-doctor’s is that you’re sitting there half naked with a napkin drapped over your nanny.  Before the twatdoctor, I tend to do a little extra primping.  I shower and put makeup on and generally obsess back and forth about whether to shave or not, usually opting for a five-minute shave.  I can be a bit of a slob but don’t want my doctor to think she’s going to catch a case from being in a room with me, so I groom.  Which makes the half naked/half dressed combo even more awkward.  It’s like one of those children’s books of animals where the pages are split so that you can get an animal with ostrich legs and a giraffe body.  Oops, turn the page, and now it’s a professional on top, and an irresponsible knocked up half-shaved girl on bottom.
This trip in particular felt like an eternity waiting for the doctor and my patience was running thin.  I was just about to rant about the wait-time to my husband when the doctor came in and before I knew it my toes were making up with the fuzzy stocking-footed stirrups as the doctor said “A little pressure” (a ridiculous statement to someone who has given birth,) and the ultrasound games began! 
The doctor looked around and found the embryo easily.  She had no trouble locating the heartbeat and highlighted it with red and blue dots that blinked on the screen.  She synched those up and then pushed a few buttons and  the room filled with the reassuring sound of a heart beating inside me that was not my own.   I teared up.
Before any tears could escape though, the doctor moved on to look at my ovaries.  She found the one responsible for the new heartbeat and showed me how she knew.  I’m one of those people who always ask to see it if you have a new injury.  I like to see what’s under the microscope if the labs are done in-house.  And if you need your sunburn peeled or your stitches not-so-professionally removed, I’ll totally do it.  So when the doctor was digging around looking at all my internal bits and pieces, I showed interest. 
“Is that my ovary?”
“Actually, if you’re interested, that’s your small bowel.  You can tell because there’s this dark line of liquid surrounding solid material.” 
Which was nice to hear about and see identified on the 50 inch screen with my husband right there.  She might as well just have said “And here’s some poop!”
Thankfully when you’re in the twat-spa and hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time, you don’t care about anything else.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 56

She wakes up and it's drizzling.  It feels late in the day and she regrets having skipped breakfast.  Regrets  not cancelling.  She's not certain but she thinks the sun will set soon, is maybe in the process of setting now.  It will be getting cold.  She regrets not hopping down the trail sooner.  She could have rested and hopped, rested and hopped, and gotten to the trail head by now.  Now it will be dark and cold and she hasn't eaten in nearly 24 hours.

She gets up.  Hops as far as she can, then sits down to rest.  She's probably only gone a block.  With the fast clip she came in on, it'll only be a week before she gets back to the trail head.  And then, what?  Her car's a stick shift, she won't be able to drive it.  So she'll still be hoping someone will stumble upon her then.

She tries not to panic.  She gets up and hops some more, gets dizzy, chilled, rests.

Dear God,

Here's the thing.  I don't want to die in the woods without showering or ever having children.  I don't want to die with people's secrets in my keeping.  Really, I don't want to die with my own secrets kept.  I know this whole thing is my own stupid fault, but if I could get a hand from even the grizzliest of weirdos, that'd be helpful.

She hears something rustling in the bushes, gets optimistic.  Maybe she'll reconsider her stance on god after all.  Then she hears a grunting and realizes the steps are not human.  She just hopes its not a bear.  Hopes it passes her and she just gets to ponder what it might have been.  Maybe she can make it into a bear in the retelling without ever having to actually see a bear.  Thank god, I'm not on my period, she thinks, just as she sees something dark and looming coming through.

She feels warm wet between her legs when the quantity of brown fur comes into full view.  A thousand possibilities fly into her mind: yelling, screaming, staying quiet, playing dead, petting it because why the fuck not since she's about to die in the woods.  She freezes though and just doesn't do anything.  The bear is upon her, sniffing and batting her.  She swallows the pain and doesn't make a sound, playing possum.

The bear sniffs her some more, then thunders off in another direction.  Her foot really hurts now and her face is scraped up from allowing herself to just fall where the bear plopped her down.

Her foot still has a soggy, wet, dirty sock on it and has swelled and shrunken depending on cause in those conditions.  She begins genuinely fearing that her foot may be lost.  And really, what if the bear gets desperate and comes back?

Dear God,

Ok, I've broken my ankle, it's raining, I'm cold, I've been attacked by a bear, II'm sitting in my own piss, and it's getting dark.  I'm getting pretty scared now.  So here goes:

In second grade when I told everyone that Billy Williams farted in music class, he really didn't.  It was me.  In seventh grade when I told everyone Sarah Stone lost her virginity to Sam Spoede, she really didn't.  It was me.  In tenth grade when I told everyone that Tyson Barson was masturbating in the girl's bathroom, that was true.  I just didn't mention the part where I convinced him it would be hot if he did and that I watched for a while.

I don't even feel all that embarrassed.  I guess you already knew any of these things I'm telling you anyway.

With her head slightly cleared, she came up with a plan.  She hopped a little farther, then started gathering leaves and branches.  She made a pile and crawled into it to do her best to stay warm.  There was no way she would make it back to the car before morning and anyway, even if she did, she wouldn't be able to go anywhere when she got to her car.  She shivered, and slept.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 55

She starts her day later than she meant to.  She's flustered and frustrated with herself.  It just makes for one of those mornings where she can't find her keys or matching socks or get anything to get out the damn door. 

She looks at the clock and realizes she'll never make it to meet Janet.  She's always missing her connections with Janet.  She's so pissed at herself for getting up late.  She loses another ten minutes debating whether it's better to cancel now or to call and tell Janet she'll be an hour late.  She wants to see her friend, it's just that Janet gets so bristly when you're late.  She just can't handle bristly when she's already kicked herself this many times before noon.

"I'll cancel," she thinks.

Then goes back to debating.  She doesn't want to flake.  She doesn't know when she'll get the chance to see Janet again.  But she's seriously considering crawling back into bed at this point and just downing a couple of valium and melting into a sleepy, masturbatory, self-pity party. 

"No, I'll go."

She searches for her keys, skips the shower, skips breakfast, skips coffee.  Shit, she shouldn't need coffee when she's gotten this much sleep.  She wears mismatched socks but doesn't care, she's out the door. 

As she's locking up, her cell phone rings.  She digs, drops things, digs some more, then locates it just as it goes to voicemail.  It's Janet, probably calling to make sure she's still coming, given their recent track record.  She calls back and gets Janet's voicemail.  She gets in the car and starts heading toward the trailhead where they're to meet.  Her voicemail tinkles and she checks it.  Janet's dog's sick.  God DAMNIT!  She regrets not showering, her mismatched socks, getting out of bed at all.  But she's got it minimally together and has gone this far.  She snaps the decision to continue to the trail.  It's a nice morning after all.

The sun is fully up when she arrives and there are early morning people (like she should've been,) who are on their way back down.  She puts her sunglasses on and starts off.

She's working out all her frustrations and feels it in her pace.  She's brisk today.  Anger scraps her calves as she pounds her way up the inclines. 

She gets into a grove, stops seeing things.  Just smells the pine needles in her long inhales.  The water and her movement rush out all the other sounds.  It is meditative at this point and she doesn't experience anything but the long strides and the breath and the water.

She goes on like this for long enough to lose herself in it and have no concept of time when she realizes she's thinking again.  She's resenting her friend and feeling lonely.  She's doing that self defeating thing where she builds a case on how she doesn't have friends and is a lonely, undeserving person.  If you're annoyed by her, trust me, you feel exactly like she does about herself.

Her pace slows and she considers indulging her self-defeat further, pushing herself down so that she can have a good fullout cry and move on.  She knows she can search long enough through memory to find the times when she's been humiliated, think of how pathetic she is, and really tear herself a new one.  But she realizes she doesn't want to pass people on the trail with her eyes all puffy and have to pretend it's allergies.  She thinks of her bed and promises herself a xanex and a good cry when she gets home, when she trips.

She tries to catch herself, but instead, twists sideways and hears a pop.  She's dazed and her ankle stings.  "Idiot," she thinks!  "Wimp," She thinks.  And she pushes herself up to stand.  Immediately she grows lightheaded, her field of vision goes black as she crashes right back down.  She tells herself to keep it together and avoids fully losing consciousness.  She breathes and sees the light come back into her sight.  She looks down.

Her foot can't be her foot.  It simply doesn't go that way.  It is turned and twisted and no longer hers.  It will certainly not do anything useful for her.  She is fine hip to foot on her right side, which is stronger anyway, right?  She lies down and gives in for a few minutes.  Rests.  Then she considers moving off the trail and just dying, she considers waiting until someone comes upon her and asking for help, she considers hopping all the way back to the car.  None of the options sounds good. 

She settles on dragging herself off the trail and indulging in the good cry now.  She starts, grows dizzy, and stops, then starts again.  It takes time, but she finds herself next to the stream.  It is recently melted so just above freezing in temperature.  She attempts to take her shoe off, which makes her woozy and she stops.  She considers plunging her ankle in shoes, socks, and all, but thinks this might be worse than not icing her ankle.  Then she's doing it and it feels better even though she's probably making it worse.  She pulls it out and just lies there and thinks about god.

Dear God,

What the fuck?  I got up late, overcame my self-pity to come on this hike and now I'm lying off the trail like a fucking idiot with a soggy fucked up foot.  Why?  Why?  Why?  If you could please get me out of this, I would certainly reconsider my position on your existence.


The tears don't come.  She's not going to have her good cry now.  She realizes this idea of hers won't due.  She has enough adrenaline now or sense or whatever that she comes up with a more practical plan.  She gets up and hops back toward the trail.  Slips and falls again.  And the pain!  Dear GOD the pain!

Dear God,

THE PAIN!  Seriously, is this because I said "fuck" when we last talked?  Or is it that I'm not convinced of you?  Either way, not cool, God.  Not cool.

She's at least closer to the trail now and it's early enough in the day that someone will come along eventually.  She might have to lie here swelling and sogging for a while but there'll be someone.  Eventually.

She thinks she'll hear the person even if she sleeps.  She knows she shouldn't need to sleep after oversleeping this morning, but fuckit, she can't cry.  And a good rest sounds good.  Her mind meanders off on the slope of disturbed sleep as part of her mind stays here and part of it goes there.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 54

I'm at The Split about to slip into the seraphinite waters.  The water is calm, nearly still here, and could fool you for freshwater if you didn't pay attention.  There are crabs on the bottom and fish flitting here and there away from the boats and the snorkels.  I stop partway in and feel the baby move in my calm waters.  I stop and put a hand on my belly to feel it better, whatever it is.  Rob has just felt it too for the first time here in Belize where days are slow and sidewalks long.  I'm happy for this reality, and the confirmation of the baby's growth.

I swim around for a while.  There is a concrete slab that divides The Split and I linger near it watching for fish.  I hop up on the side and sit watching a group of kids playing after school.  They try to sell me popcorn but I decline.  They try everyone else, sell what they can, and then take their time getting home, taking dips in the water instead.

I love to watch kids being normal and challenging each other.  There's a friendly confidence, a slow-paced, easy jovial nature to the people who work in the tourist industry and I wonder how that trickles down to children and if it is real.  From what I can tell it is.  These children aren't sneaking to have their fun.  They've worked a bit and its hot and now they swim.  Later they'll come home when they come home.

A group of girls is doing the giggily things girls do and I've hopped down off the concrete.  At six months into this pregnancy, I'm too hot to cook this baby any more in the sun.  I try to be invisible around them so I can see how they play and enjoy their free time.  I'm watching one girl who is holding onto to the side of the concrete slab and then suddenly isn't.  And she isn't swimming either.  She is trying, but flailing.  I rush to her and pull her up.  Water spews from her nose and her smiling mouth as she slops her hair back and says "thank you," then goes right back to teaching herself to swim.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 53

overfull stomach pouches
tips forward, slouches
ghosts pouring down
bridges falling down
my fair lady!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 52

Sometimes at night, I lie in bed and think of all the energy I put into my room.  I avoid going to bed angry.  I pace or sleep elsewhere instead of tucking those feelings in between the golden sheets and the off-white duvet of my sanctuary.  I try to protect that space with hospital-corner efficiency.  I lie there sometimes though and realize it's not just my energy determining the tempo of that place.  There are people who lived here before us.

In the mornings, my son climbs up the bed.  A truly superhuman feat.  The bed is extra tall and with a pillow top mattress, and his head no where near crests the top.  Undeterred but the technical nature of his task, though, he says "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?" and gets himself on up there.  Where we read books a minimum of three times in row, clucking and mooing our greetings to a day that has not yet begun at 6:20.  And I think of the morning I had him in this same room.  And wonder at whether he was conceived here or there.  And I wonder whether the people who lived here first got on their knees next to the bed where I'm pondering away, and prayed for their own miracle's safety.

I have strong feelings about places. I store my feelings in places.  And I leave feelings behind in places where I visit them later or don't.  Chile is trusted with a piece of my heart purer than fresh squeezed orange juice in a field.  I left a lot of resentment in the streets of Saint Louis.  I had an apartment there where the walls and floors never met at ninety degrees and you always felt that slight clownshoes on backward mist in your eye.  There was a shooting in front of the apartment and dozens were taken away in a patty wagon.  I wasn't home at the time and since I missed it, could easily pretend that the occurrence had not soaked into my home.  I just focused on the next door neighbor, Pearl, who told me about stealing her father's chew out of a trunk when she was five and drove me to school when my car broke down.  She made the halls smell like fried chicken you only hear about in movies and can smell the lard in the theater even over all that butter and wasting.

I'm a consumer of places.  I like to feel what's there and possibility and history, store it in my senses, drop off a thought or a feeling or two, and move on to the next place.  I like stopping at old mining shacks while hiking, kicking off my shoes and climbing into an old bunkbed, and thinking about the warmth they fell asleep to with a fire blazing while lying on the springs with no roof that were left behind.  Sometimes a place feels too yucky and I'll pass right on through as quickly as possible.  Las Vegas Los Angeles, Lost souls, Loused dreams.  My room is more complicated though.  I want to reinforce the space between my walls and the rest of the house, the rest of the world, so that I can clean up the energy my own way.  Open windows or close doors or cry or read or fart in safety.  I can't simply move on to the next space if someone gets shot there or the neighbors keep banging away their anger and it gets through the walls to me.  I have to mentally build up textures of my own experience, light a candle in an effort to defend my homeland.

Still, how can I not wonder if a Chilean has been in my room?  Or what fights got made up there before I ever gave birth on plastic just above the carpet?  And what energies are mine and which are thirty year old housewarming gifts?

My room is a space I am tied to emotionally and logistically.  I can't walk away in a week to find a new place to infest with my books and dust.  I can't pack up that many photographic memories that must be saved come hellfire or tide water.  Neither can I hold off the emotions across the hall at all hours of toddlers crying and slamming doors.

Maybe I'll unwrap a housewarming gift this evening.  It will have answers in broken bows and recipes for protection and hopes for good cheer.  Then maybe even I'll drop to my knees to thank the universe for kindly continuing to look favorably enough on me and mine.  Surely that is enough, today.

Journal 4

I realize I haven't done a journal entry in a while.  Here's what I've been doing instead.
Trying to keep up with my effort to post daily which at times has resulted in some pretty wimpy posts.  Still, I think if I let this slide so early in my goal, even if I'm not posting great ideas, it'll go out the window.  And I think this is a valuable exercise.  I want to keep at it.  Especially because not all of the ideas are duds.  And not all the ideas are going to be amazing anyway so what the hell.
I haven't been focusing on any particular new things here though because I started grad school and have been furiously looking for work.  I've been interviewing for jobs (none of which do I think I'll get to be honest.)  And I've been putting in bids on freelance writing jobs (none of which pay above minimum wage.)  I quit my job at Social Services 5 months ago now and am starting to worry about the economic problems catching up to us in the not so distant future.  So I'm swimming against the stream and exhausting myself trying to fight the current of our savings being flushed away.  Oh well.  Tonight was a lovely dinner.  And my son is developing wonderfully.  So while there's food on the table and good company, who am I to complain?
Life is good.  Uncertain.  And good.

For now, I'll not add in new goals.  I'm just going to try to keep writing every day and posting something.  Hopefully it'll give me an idea farm I can harvest from later.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 51

He sits at the computer for the thousandth time that day, and, now compulsively, types in craigslist.   He knows it's a waste of time but it has become such an ingrained mental obsession/habit that he just can't stop.  The free section and the supernatural and psychological section of the forums just call to him. 

He needs to know whether that white, African bird has been adopted yet and see what the psychic trolls are doing to prove their legitimacy.  He can't move on with his day until he sees if anyone has provided any decent advice for the mother of two who was trying to get her husband to stop drinking.  He just can't move on.

He spends more and more time checking on people.  He branches out and starts looking at neighboring communities as well.  You know towns over this way and past that one.  Turns out they also have psychic pissing-contests and tips for saving money.  Reuse bags of pellets or dogfood as trashbags so you don't have to buy trashbags, for example.  It isn't all about dumpster diving.

He clicks and types and clicks and types.  Searches and lurks.  He types a sentence on his resume, then opens a new tab and types in the URL again.  Sees no one has responded to the mom who is worried her son might be drunk driving her new truck tonight. 

Then, for some reason, he clicks away into the pregnancy forum.  It's the first place where people are actually nice to each other.  There are pictures of women's bellies and advice about what is and isn't safe.  They are excited for each other's births.  They're attractive and kind. 

And he wants to be part of it.  He stops clicking on over 50 and queer.  He begins hoping that Vanessa's baby will come today so she won't have to be induced.  He's in Daniela's corner for a VBAC (even though he doesn't know what it is.) 

He checks in on the forum in Seattle and New York to see how Judith and Kelly's (lesbians her egg, her body, donor sperm,) ultrasound went.  A boy!  He collects tips on morning sickness remedies and the best delivery nurses.  And he can't stop.

He needs to know how Melissa's amnio went and whether Sarah got off bedrest at the doctor today.  He wants to tell Tina he knows just how she feels when her husband leaves her at 15 weeks pregnant and give her a big hug and tell her about the single parent group he found when he was on the other forums.

Instead, a few days later, he confesses, screenname DecBabe, "Just took a test and OMG! PoSiTiVe!!!!  When is 35 weeks from now?"

He swears his breasts are getting sore and talks how he already can't wait to eat sushi again. 

He spends his pregnancy buddying up to the single moms and talking about how hard it is to do this without a husband to paint the nursery or help with the groceries.  He talks about the man who approached him outside of planned parenthood and propositioned him and how that wouldn't have happened if he'd jsut had a man in the picture!  He didn't make this baby by himself, after all.

The 35 weeks fly by and he's talking about taking walks and how long the days are.  His feet are swollen and he wishes he could get a massage but he's  got all this responsibility with a maternity leave to cover on his own. 

He goes a week overdue and realizes he has to give birth.  He steals a picture and posts it with a brief story of how he couldn't have known how wonderful it could be until he held tiny Harrison in his arms.  And it was all worth it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 50

I remember lying on my back in that carpet my mom carelessly admitted was hideous and kicking the door.  I remember how angry my parents would be and how they'd tell me to stop.  I remember, this time, I was still wearing my black, patent leather, dress shoes and that they scuffed my lacquered, white furniture.  I remember being glad they'd be angry at me like I was angry at them, glad I was causing it.  I remember kicking harder and seeing all those black marks appear.
I remember my curtains swaying in the breeze with the windows open.
I remember waking to hearing a motorcycle on the lawn, although I didn't know that was the sound.  I just thought it was weird to hear that fast a lawnmower and when it was dark.  I also remember awakening on summer nights to tomcats fighting in the distance and worrying that maybe one of our cats escaped and was being murdered while I slept.
I remember the one foot by one foot hole I used to crawl through in the fence to get to our backdoor neighbors house and hope that they would let me come over and roller skate in the garage until I got blisters.
I remember snipping away at the lawn with scissors to cut out a floor plan to play house.
I remember lying on my bed staring at the yellow-paned light fixture until it's penstroke shapes yielded my imagination and wiggled around and became.  I remember watching that and thinking I was not tired before falling asleep with my orange tabby for a nap.  I remember saying I didn't want to take naps anymore and trying not to need them because it seemed the grown up thing to do and then maybe I could start school early.
I remember a bunny I so hoped would live, not moving in an aquarium.  It's body still on top of a clean, white towel with a hot water bottle underneath.  I remember not touching it so I could pretend it was still alive.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 49

I am terrible at shutting up.  I rarely do it.  I'd make an awful angler.  Much better wrangler.  Also because my butt looks good in jeans.  Honestly, almost everyone's butt looks good in the right pair of jeans.  But I digress.

While the bride was unwrapping a gift with wooden spoons on a package at a bridal shower recently, (people had joked about how many children the bride would have,)  I commented that she would need all the wooden spoons to spank ten or so kids.  If it wasn't bad enough, I then told the room that I used to work in childwelfare.  I can tell stories like this about idiot-comments I've made all day.

My husband, on the other hand, is excellent at keeping his mouth shut.  He has never once made a comment that could even in the most warped hands, be twisted into alluding to me somehow being fat.  I look beautiful or great in everything I try on.  He stays quiet when I'm ranting.  He stays quiet when I complain about work (or being unemployed.)  He stays quiet when I'm sad.  He's just good at being quietly present.  What a jerk.

Since I do everything really fast and all at once, his habit of taking his time, being all zen about shit, and doing only one thing at a time, sometimes drives me crazy.  Other times, I'm envious.  Still more, it makes me get quiet as I imagine the luxurious feeling of calming down and taking your time to dig a hole and place one tiny seed inside, then fill it up, never thinking of how many seeds or what else I might get done at the same time.

Everything in his physical life is cluttered.  His closet looks like a teenager could have hid a bong in there that you'd never find because of the tons of clothing heaped on top of more tons of clothing.  Who has time or needs to fold clothes much less hang them up?  And don't ever look in my garage.  I swear my car used to fit in there.

But I imagine his mind is a clear place where he is able to disregard unimportant things the rest of us fixate on like possessions and simply think of an idea.  Let a tune play out.  Until another comes along.  And then you play it instead.

He's a beautifully infuriating person.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 47 and 48

I didn't write anything yesterday which probably no one noticed but me.  I promised myself daily writing and I worked on essays yesterday and took a two and a half hour test for my teaching license.  Then, I fell asleep after putting Magnus to bed at 8 and just didn't.  Here's one of the essays:

I have an old friend that I write with occasionally.  Once in a while, she or I will send the other a line or a theme, or a few lines, or a completed poem, and we’ll each write a poem with our own take on it.  Recently, we’ve both struggled to write anything (poetic) on her topic “women hating women.”  So when I came across the essay, “Narcissism as Liberation,” I pored over the whole thing immediately, never getting up from the bookcase where I initially located the book of essays I found it in.  I did so with the dual purpose of reading for class, and also hoping to get some zesty images to use in a poem to impress my friend.  Susan Douglas’s piece is so powerfully rendered, that I can’t bring myself to pull anything from it for not wanting to leave out the rest.   

I like powerful writing.  I like when an author can take you through multiple sides of an argument and yet stand firmly in her opinion and make you feel strongly.  I like that the issue is complex and lasting and that Ms. Douglas has found a view of the issue that I had not thought of previously. 

You can’t grow up in the United States without thinking about the media influence on your body image.  Any woman with an ounce of serious thought has spent time considering the way media influences women and young girls.  I’ve certainly spent time thinking about the infantilizing of women.  I’ve thought about the many messages about who it is desirable for women to be: smart, stylish, effortless, selfless, and on and on.  I’ve thought about the issue of girls’ starving themselves and the increase in eating disorders, and now recently, cutting.  I’ve spent most of my adult life finding ways to avoid the media to hopefully curb some of the image and anxiety issues it presents for women who are healthy and young, much less as we have children and age.  It creeps in anyway, but I strain against it. 

I like reading articles like this one, even if they present no new information.  They support a woman’s effort to be a healthy, well-adjusted, intelligent individual.  They support our ability to value ourselves based on something other than our butt skin.  And I think it’s important to do something to combat the images we’re inundated with.  This article did all that and more.  Ms. Douglas’s article not only presented a new angle on an issue of particular interest for me, but it did so while being entertaining, witty, and well-written.  As much thought as I’ve given to feminism, I had never considered what stalled the movement.  Sometimes there’s momentum and a move forward and just as quickly the momentum slows, I guessed.  The concept that it is a media-driven shift changing the focus from a solidarity movement to an individualistic one makes complete sense.  It was profoundly interesting to me that the movement became narcissistic.  Certainly a focus on the self and pampering that self because as a successful woman beyond the issues of sexism, you deserve it, and that you will further be liberated as a woman by this focus on yourself, is a narcissistic one.  The ideas contained in the essay are first and foremost in the reasons that I liked it and the reason it stays with me.  The reason the essay is good for rereading and the reason it is an especially persuasive one that I can learn from is the writing.

The technical aspects of her writing completely escaped my notice on first reading.  It wasn’t until I really put aside my passion for the issue and reread the essay that I could take notice of the technical aspects of the writing.  Something that is effective in persuasive writing when used well is repetition.  It is also something I need lessons on.  I tend to think I’ve written in a greater amount of detail and repetitions than I actually have.  Susan Douglass starts three sentences in a row with the word “Narcissism” on the third page of her essay.  She doesn’t do this constantly throughout the essay though, just at the point when she is defining the word narcissism as it relates to the issue of Women’s Liberation.  It is an effective use of repetition since it: draws attention to and emphasizes her point, and defines her thesis. 

The author uses imagery constantly throughout the piece to illustrate her point.  There are literally dozens of vivid images used throughout the piece of women from advertisements lounging in front of pools or on a veranda in France or lying in a mud pool.  When she says it, it sounds more luxurious.  The number of images lend credibility to her essay since they evidence the quantity of such images in constant use.  She deconstructs the images used in advertisement after advertisement.

Just prior to deconstructing the advertisements and their underlying themes, Susan Douglas does something particularly effective in undercutting the most obvious argument she must confront: we all want to pamper ourselves.  She takes a brief paragraph to admit that she does indeed “enter” Glamour magazine and is subject to the same desire for perfect, youthful, eternal skin as the next woman.  She admits this and then ends the paragraph by saying “I’m here to say that deconstruction can make us strong, so let’s be on with it” (121).   Her statement here lets the reader know that she is human, and, of course, wants the nice skin and endless free time and power and all that comes in the advertisements’ images she’ll present.  It also undercuts the importance of attaining those images with a bit of levity.  That simple sentence says that she is a regular woman AND that it is more important for women to think critically about the advertisements than it is for them to avoid them or deny their wish to be perfect.  It entertains the reader and gives her credibility and gives the issue it’s due weight.

There were seemingly endless examples to draw a reader’s attention to the issue.  None struck me so much as the product that compelled you to “fill those character lines we can all do without.”  Susan Douglas’s reaction was similar to my own.  People work for the faces they get as they age.  Who could do without their laugh lines?  It tells you something about the life a person has led and our experiences are valuable.  Shouldn’t the lines on our faces show something of our character?  Ms. Douglas states it perfectly “women didn’t dare look like they had any character at all” (122).  This image more than any other stays with me.

The final issue that stays with me is the issue of the change in the women’s movement from sisterhood and solidarity to individualism.  Ultimately, if we focus entirely on the ourselves as individuals, we will be in competition and will ultimately be “women hating women,” instead of sisters working on a common issue.  While still a topic well worth writing a poem about, all I’ve got is a short reaction paper.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 46

Functional language is when you can function in the language but it's not pretty.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe functional language is the meat and bones of it.  Maybe it is all snapshots and the core of what needs saying.  Except with an accent it's hard to tell whether the person speaking is intelligent or not.  We don't know what to make of another person's language when they speak functionally.  We just knit our brow, think for a moment, and answer their questions simply and probably loudly.

I've been on both ends of functional language.  Hearing and speaking.  It's humbling.  You plead a lot with your eyes when you're trying and begging the universe that someone will get your combinations of mispronunciations, incorrectly conjugated verbs, and wild gestures and not think you are a complete idiot.  It helps if you smile a lot.  It doesn't help if you are on a schedule or really need something. 

Since I've been on the other side, when I listen to someone speak functionally, I wonder about what they're like in their own language.  I wonder whether they are intelligent and what passions are striking.  I wonder if they are funny and if it is on purpose.  I'm funny, and usually not on purpose.  Especially in another language.  So I try to be understanding and take the time that so many people have taken with me when I've been abroad and confused.  I try to listen carefully and think of ways to communicate back.  I do not offer directions if I don't know them well though.  That drove me crazy in Chile.  I remember being late for class because of getting lost running and being sent in wild directions all over the city until I was finally so exhausted I had to flag a cab to get where I needed to be.  Also in Chile, I ended up in a town of just three people.  There was a border guard and his wife, and one other guy.  This time my Spanish was clearly not functional.  The couple I stayed with had a cat named Osama Bin Laden they did not want to tell me about and the bus that dropped me off never returned.  I had to hitch hike back to a "town." 

Functional speaking often results in adventure and thick skin.  I think of that and try not to assume someone is an idiot just because there's an accent and some incorrectly spoken sentences.  If you have the guts to write in another language.  Well, that's just brave.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 45

Sharon steps into the room.  It is silent.  Always so quiet in the courtroom.  Her heels clack against the tile as she steps purposefully toward the front of the room.

She is an expert witness.  She's been called to testify regarding the custody of two Bard children: Mary 9 and Sam 7.

She tries to tune out her own walk as she steps toward the stand.  Feels her feet begin to sweat and realizes she's forgotten to wear nylons.  Her grandmother calls her a trollop somewhere in the back of her mind and she almost lets a laugh escape.  The distraction is helpful and calms her with a little perspective and levity she needed just then, even if it is from her own imagination.

She situates herself in her chair and the attorney's pacing and attention to detail is impeccable.  It helps.  She is an "expert," but not a professional "expert."  There is a difference.  Anyone with enough training or information on a particular topic can be qualified as an expert witness by presenting credentials and having the discussion with judge and opposing council.  Then there are witnesses that accept a fee and testify regularly on specific topics.  Sharon has been called to testify in this custody hearing because she supervises the visits between the Bard children and their father.

Council has told her just to be honest and answer the question that is asked.  The message that she is not on trial here has nearly implanted into her mind.  Still, it somehow feels like she herself is the one being scrutinized, so she reminds herself of the advice.

She states her name and her qualifications.  A lengthy discussion ensues about trainings she's attended, the number of families she's worked with, the type of experiences she's had.  Finally, without objection, she is qualified as an expert and therefore permitted to render an opinion on evidence in the family court case.

Did she know Mr. Bard had been arrested on multiple occasions for domestic violence.  Had she ever had an violent episodes with the man.  Had his behavior during supervised visits been a concern.  What were his interactions with his children like.

She's honest.  She talks about the stilted beginnings of visits.  She clarifies that this is not abnormal.  She talks about times when Mr. Bard has taken advice about providing activities or healthy snacks and that he keeps the visits centered on his children and not their mother who is shrinking by the moment into her shriveling skin.

Sharon doesn't know the mother well.  She brings the kids to visits and picks them up afterwards.  There is no overlap between the mother and father due to a restraining order so she's never seen the mother in the presence of the father.  She doesn't look up to the task.  She is certain this woman could not protect these children from him.  Yet, her testimony will likely make her responsible for just that.

Sharon testifies that the children are not afraid of their father.  She says that he has been appropriate during supervised visits and that she is prepared to recommend unsupervised visits with a neutral party arranging transfer of the children.

The mother's eyes get glassy and teardrops plop onto her suit.  She is afraid for her children.  Sharon recognizes this and will even tell the judge if she is asked about how victims may not be able to stand up to their abusers for years and so even though she is recommending unsupervised visits, a second check in with the courts would be advisable or ongoing therapy for the children to provide a support for them during the transition.  But no one asks.

The problem with being the expert, is that you have the information about what should be asked, but aren't always the ones asking.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 44

There is a knock at the door and she stirs in her sleep, turns over.  The knock gets louder and she shakes awake.  Stops, listens.  Thinks she heard a knock but is not sure.  Then, a third time, insistent, puposeful.

She puts on a fleece robe that is ten sizes too big and heads down to answer the door.  There are two police officers on her doorstep. 

"Sorry to bother you ma'am.  Could we talk to you?"
She's confused, "Sure, come on in."  She's suddenly uncomfortable about the dishes she left out, the unfolded laudry dumped uncerimoniously on the living room floor.  She sees everything that is out of place in her house and is certain the police are categorizing her a hoarder already.  She's not.  Just busy and messy this week. 

She tries to lead them back toward the kitchen table, but they say "We're fine here.  We were actually hoping you'd have some time to come to the station so we could talk with you at length about your neighbors."

Her neighbors are a constant source of annoyance and she involuntarily sneers.  "Sure.  Um, I guess.  What's this about?"

They'd prefer to not get into it just yet, they say.  She says she'll need to get dressed and does.  It's the middle of the night but she was raised a direction-follower so she goes where cops ask her to go.  Thirty minutes later, she sits in a conference room and they have her sign some forms including one making her aware of her miranda rights.  This makes her nervous but curiosity and her own deference to authority cause her to comply.  A tape recorder is placed on the table, clicked on and they begin.

They ask about the nature of her relationship with her neighbors.  She tells them they did not get along well and kept to themselves.  They want more.  She tells them about how they were always fighting and screaming and banging things.  Their children cried and were up at all hours of the night.  She didn't think they were using drugs or anything, just that something was amiss and it made it difficult for her to sleep.  She admitted she'd called the police in the past and that the husband became confrontational.  He never hurt her or threatened her.  Just stared a lot.  Seemed to be where she was a lot.  Seemed to know a lot about her comings and goings.  The police seem to be aware of all this and she wonders why they're asking.  They delve further and further into the details of every encounter she ever had with them.  Had she noticed anything strange lately. 

"Well, now that I think about it, yeah.  Things had gotten better.  I hadn't really noticed because it must've been gradual or something but it's been quiet over there most of the time.  Funny how you don't notice when things aren't wrong."  She told them.

The conversation goes on and on.  She tries to remember every exchange she's ever witnessed on the lawn.  Remembers times when the wife watered the front lawn, banal things she'd never remember if they weren't asking.  Remembers seeing spray-painted hearts in the snow and leers from him in the grocery store line.  Remembers so many things but the police aren't taking many notes so she's sure these are meaningless details that are stealing her sleep unnecessarily.  She finally cracks. 

"Alright, what's this about?" 
The two officers, suddenly young and inexperienced looking exchange looks.  "We can't say much.  It's an open investigation.  This will be passed on to a detective and she might be able to tell you more."
"Ok...?"  She says, uncertain where to go now.  "So, can I go?  I've got to work in the morning so..."
"Yes, yes of course.  Detective Whitsitt should be contacting you shortly to get more information.  I know this isn't easy and it's made especially awkward by your contentious relationship.  We appreciate you coming in." 

She goes home.  Doesn't sleep.  She thinks of more banal details.  Times when she heard kids up in the middle of the night, doors slamming.  Then something that is not like the other snippets.  Something she can't believe she forgot. 

She tries to ignore it.  It doesn't mean anything.  She'd gotten so used to using mental exercises to shut their noise out.  She dismissed the yell, like she dismissed the screams, the slamming, the banging.  Just focused on her breathing and the feel of her forehead and relaxing her pinkie toe and being in her own body and her own space.  She tuned them out.  Still, she feels strange about not telling the police about that yell.  Feels stranger still about how it sounded. 

Days go by.  She doesn't hear anything next door.  Doesn't see cars moving or people or kids or toys.  Their grass is turning brown, heretofore unthinkable.  She wonders.  Thinks about the yell.

It happened first thing in the morning.  Before seven.  Before they were even usually up.  Sometimes you know these things when you share walls.  Hear people's routines.  Know what days they vacuum without meanting to pay attention. 

There was no other sound.  She didn't hear the kids or the rustling that usually accompanies a whole family being up.  Just a yell.  A man's voice.  Him, most likely.  The one voice you never heard through the wall was his.  You'd hear her yelling the kids' names or the kids giggling or running or all kinds of other sounds.  But his voice was implied, not heard. 

It was a primal yell.  Not a moan, not a scream, somewhere in between and without words or phrasing.  Just one yell.  No banging, no follow up.  She listened at the time, unable to think of doing any therapeutic exercises to keep it out, then tuned out when nothing else happened. 

And now... now?

Now she can't sleep at night for the silence filled with curiosity.  She wishes she weren't so rule-abiding.  She'd sneak into their side of the house and see what was inside.  See if things were as orderly as she imagined.  If there was blood on the walls or if the food in the fridge was rotting or if there were footprints and yellow tape.  Maybe they'd been evicted.  Except that didn't fit.  There'd be furniture on the lawn and postings on the door. 

So she went back to the yell.  She pictured him and what might cause him to yell.  She remembered how things had been quiet lately.  Wondered where the kids had been that it was so quiet.  She'd continued to see the woman come and go.

She imagined that he had been gagged and the wife had torn the tape off, let a yell escape, then quickly replaced the material.  Maybe she'd killed him.  Maybe he'd killed himself.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

She'd just have to wait for the detective to call or the papers to leak.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 43

I'm thinking of two thirds of nothing and putting less together than that.  The sum of my total parts is more than it used to be if you ask a scale or the things I've removed from a resume, but it's less than the projections so if I were a betting woman, I'd say this is not a stock likely to skyrocket.  The flitting of my mind alights on your lashes, doesn't stay.  Blood and guts and sinew and gas and nerves float bump into each other, don't stay.  Nothing is as solid as it seems.  Seams hold patchwork thoughts till night.  Nightbright insomnia waves it's hand byebye.  I spy with my little eye, aye yai yai, sweet spaghetti slurp.  Missing teeth, missing piece, peace-loving space.  Sticks and stones do indeed break bones and rubber baby buggy bullets bounce on my knee.  Pulpits and poets standing and swaying in breezes and hazes.  Wheels pedal over stacks of petals, piled neatly in a row.  Kneeling at the railing, a ballerina goes gazing, a cup of tea and honeypot bellied pig on rye.  Order me a list of tasks, hut two, four, ten.  Integers and negatives of photos fake friendly in a sigh.  And before a sister makes her maker, just so bye and by.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 42

She steps into the suit, humiliated before ever leaving the stock room.  It's hot in the suit and she always breathes in recycled warm air that makes her overly conscious of her breath.  She never eats onions now because of this shit job.  The only thing worse than doing this job in the store, is when her boss sends her to the streets to "rustle us up some customers."

She hates cars and has seen more than one accident while working.  She's managed to avoid taking the head off and giving a statement to the police but she knows it's just a matter of time.  And when it finally happens, enough of the town will see her and word will be out that Ellen, remember Ellen?  She's the mouse at that kid's pizza place!  Can you imagine?

Warrenton is not exactly hopping with jobs so she had to take what she could get.  She tries to think back to elementary school when all the kids wanted to be tall enough to fit in the blue McKelvey mascot suit so they could walk around the end-of-year carnival.  It was fun to see the costume and guess at who was in there.  You could usually figure it out pretty quickly.  You just had to look around to see who was missing and make enough jokes that the person laughed.  Then, you could tell whose voice it was.  Kids stood in line and on tip toes to get to walk around the school grounds in that dragon outfit.

This outfit does not get her the same excitement.  She steps into the nearly empty eating hall and begins the rounds.  She checks out the ball pit and the arcade.  She likes the toddlers who are not afraid best.  They're cute and want hugs and more hugs.  Around ten the kids turn into assholes who will kick and spit on you if their parents aren't looking in a fete of preadolescence.

She was good at being the mascot.  It took the kids the longest to guess it was her.  She could keep silent and just let them guess.  She engaged with the younger kids and pretended not to notice the kids from her own class.  They figured it out eventually and she was always a little sad when they did.  A little insulted it had taken them this long to figure out that she was both missing and the person in the suit.  She just didn't occur to her peers.

It is the same now.  She blends.  She is not identifiable to anyone.  They don't cock their heads to the side and say, "Ellen?"  The kids enjoy her but assume she is a teenage boy.  The adults, some of whom she knows, never realize it is her.  Only now, she is thankful she can keep so quiet in the suit.  It keeps her anonymous and holds the shame in the sweat of the mildewy fur.  She realizes there aren't enough customers and it will only be a matter of time before her boss tells her to go outside.  Surely there could be nothing more humiliating than being 29 and standing on the corner in a giant mouse suit, waving a sign with the nightly specials.  Some would say stripping is worse, but she is not one of them.  At least someone wants to know who a stripper is and wants to touch her.  No one wants to touch the sweaty 29 year old crawling out of an oversized fur suit.  At least people can't tell it's her.

"Get on out there and rustle us up some customers wouldya?"  Her boss instructs.  He makes an attempt at jovial and she's glad he can't see her face's sardonic response.  She nods and heads out the doors.

It is early.  Rushhour hasn't wound down yet so there's plenty of people with no dinner plans and hungry children in cars who can be tempted into a last minute unhealthy pizza choice.  She just has to entice the kids into pestering parents at just the right moment and boom! customers.  The company has the right idea, sending her out like this.  It's just the traffic.  She hates all the noise and the exhaust and the avoided looks and worse!  The occasional lip licking looks from forty something women who think they're turning on some nondescript man.  Yuck.

She has a route she always walks.  She walks in front of the store first.  It is at a major intersection.  So she stands at the stop light until she can't take it anymore, then uses the cross walk to go to a different corner.  She heads down the block, then back to the intersection and then back to the store again.  If she's feeling really confident, she adds another crossing and another block.  She rarely does this.

To get across, she has to cross a turn lane first.  It has white lines painted for those making a right, but no one pays any attention.  She's very careful about this and crosses only if she is certain no one is coming.  She  bides her time and gets to the concrete island with it's safety measures such as a curb and beeping button.  She breathes a sigh of relief, pushes the button, waits.

Cars zip behind her and she is thankful the suit does not have a bulky tail the way the dragon suit in elementary did.  She pictures how it would blow her around as the cars zipped through.  She'd fall over and people would whip out cell phones to take videos.  Thousands of hits on youtube and no one would have a clue it was her.

She hears the beeping change but checks to be sure it's safe before heading across.  She waves the nightly special sign, as she was trained to do, to the cars she crosses in front of.  When she comes to one car and stops.  She should continue walking.  She's standing in the middle of the street.  But she's certain she must be seeing a ghost.  How else could this be possible?

The light is about to change and cars are honking.  The man driving the car has no idea who she is and looks confused.  She doesn't say a word.  How could he not know it was her?

Honking starts.  It startles her into action.  Flustered, she continues toward the other side and makes it to the concrete island.  Then, without looking, she heads across the turn lane.

She hears the screeching without registering it has anything to do with her.  She doesn't even see what hits her.  Fur flies, the suit pads the pavement, and her head flies right off.  Her sweaty hair, and real face revealed, she lies unconscious in the street.

If she could think, she'd wonder if he realized who she is now.  She'd wonder why he didn't notice her missing and figure out it was her.  She'd wonder who would have to give statements to the police.  She's worry about the photo in the newspaper and how her parents would hear the news.  She'd wish someone would put the head back on so he wouldn't see her now, since he never saw her when she stood right in front of him.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 41

I remember lots of things about my mom.  I remember how good it felt to hug her and how I couldn't wait and would hug her legs for loving her too much to wait to hug her body.  I can't say our relationship is without complication or difficulty or it's own moments of strange.

But I was never tortured or humiliated and that's not true for everyone.  Lots of people grow up with mothers who are so mentally ill that all the adult walks away with is the idea of NOT growing up to be her.  Or so wasted.  Or just mean.

Some of my friends have moms like that.  Lots of my former students do.  And they're working really hard at seeing that path that was laid for them and steering around every turn to avoid walking that way, being that way.  I'd imagine that results in some strange dreams:  your conscious disagreeing so wholeheartedly with your unconscious. 

Every year on Mother's Day, I first feel happy for all the things I'm doing with my family and what a beautiful life it is.  And at some point in the day I always give pause to the people sitting in the background that don't have such uncomplicated feelings about this day.  I wish for unconditional love for as many children as possible- they all need it and all deserve it.  And I feel for a moment the loss of not having a mom.  I know plenty of people whose mothers died before they were ready to be adults.  Long before they were ready to not have a mom.  I'm still not ready to not have a mom. 

I had a brilliant mother's day.  I took Magnus skiing for the first time at a closed ski resort so it was just my family: Rob, Magnus, and me.  We skated around and he skied down between my legs, calling out "Weee!!!" on the way down, and "Gah-gah-gah-gah gaaaaain!!!" when we got to the bottom (again.)  I can't imagine a better way to spend it than my 20 month old saying "key!" (ski) and grabbing his coat to go.

If you don't have a mom, or you spent the day feeling the strange of a complicated relationship, I hope this makes you smile.  It's the only thing I have to share today and I'm sharing it with you.

P.S. This post was a total cheat. BUT, I did a lot of editing of my grad school work and turned that in and didn't feel like posting the final version of the second assignment I worked on since I did a rewrite yesterday.  So you get something autobiographical and off the top of my head instead.  Tomorrow, a return to fiction!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Day 40, a rewrite of Day 38

Midwest Basement
I love to lie in bed and squish my fingers deep into my eyes until the black grows tendrils and colors burst. I do it when I think I can't sleep. I do it in church whenever they talk about heaven. I do it when Matt tells me I'm rubber and you're glue times infinity. It's the infinity that's behind the blackness when I rub. I do it when I imagine the darkest it could be.
I'm wearing pink panties with ruffles on the butt. I'm only supposed to wear them under my Sunday dress but I’m wearing them now. Happily, I prance around on the long, olive green, shag carpet of my ten foot by twelve foot bedroom before heading down to play.  The people who lived here before us used my tiny room as a sewing room so if you pick around the long carpet pile long enough, sometimes you find a straight pin.
I stand at the top of the stairs, open the door, and inhale deeply through my nose. This is the smell of home, real home.  Not the prepared, just-dusted shelves and freshly-vacuumed carpet of the living room.  Basement smell.  I inhale and hold in the humidity and the old indoor/outdoor, red and black carpet.  I’m sure the midwest earth filtered through this carpet and scented it perfectly, fecundly. I’ve lain, face down in this carpet and sniffed and sniffed at that smell until my cheek was scratchy and red. 
With full lungs, I race down the stairs (thu, thu, th-th-th-th, THUMP!)  I run past the dining room table, behind the brown plaid couch, and across the basement floor to the shelves. I sit down on my blue, plastic booster seat in front of the plywood and brick and survey the low shelves for toys.  I settle on the primary-colored, rubber blocks and get to it.
I've been playing for a long time. Long enough to hear the dehumidifier whirring and then clunking off, then shrugging into service again, several times over. I feel need rising up.  I pinch and squeeze. Squeeze harder. The feeling passes and I return to my game.
The booster seat gets sweaty and slippery and I wipe it off, sit back down.  Even dry it’s too warm, so I sit on the concrete floor instead.  The carpet doesn’t go this far into the basement.  I smell dryer sheets and humidity coming from the laundry room against the sounds of the news left on in the background.
 A wave of the feeling comes again and I squeeze. Again, it passes and I can return to stacking blocks: red, blue, red, blue until I run out or the stack falls.  I build a more stable, less color coordinated stack and put other toys on top.  The toys are talking to each other.  Since the boy has gone to sleep, they have that freedom. They don’t know I’m here.  I tell the toys he will love them all, not just the velveteen rabbit. The wave comes again and I cross my legs tighter.  It is coming more frequently now. The concentration and squeezing to stop it is harder each time. I should go upstairs and go potty, I think. But I never have this much fun playing by myself. So I squeeze and squeeze and squirm to squeeze harder than I can.
The hollow wood door at the top of the stairs opens.  “Karin, you probably need to sit on the potty, peanut!” calls my mom. 
“In a minute!”
I squeeze and hold my breath to keep it in check. I keep playing. I promise myself, in just a minute, I'll go. A minute comes and goes and I play it away.  More minutes.
Stomp, stomp, STOMP!  My mom’s signature rhythm from upstairs.
I’m out of bargaining and need to go now.  Finally, I try to stand up.  I am as far from the bathroom as I could possibly be.  I picture the path back up the stairs, past the kitchen table, straight down the nice-blue-carpeting to the bathroom door.  It’s too far.  I have to stop and sit back down if I’m going to make it that far.  I sit back down so I can rock and hold it in better. I rock and rock, and squeeze. I can't stand up now. I have to go too badly. I hope for a solution. I rock and hope.  It comes eventually.
Even as I pee on the floor: shame and relief pooling in my pink ruffles, I think, “I should stop.”  I could pinch and stop it, then run up the stairs to the bathroom to finish.  I think that would be better.  My mom would be less disappointed if I couldn’t hold it but tried.  I think this as I let go, give in to the shame, give in to the spreading consequences, and empty the whole thing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 39

We pull up to a brick building in a regular office complex.  I could be researching the title to my house but I'm not.  RA Nelson and Associates, Wolfe and Wolfson and Associates in slanted not-quite-cursive letters.  We walk in, wind around a corner, another glass door, up a flight of stairs and there is a sign that says "Entering No Shoes zone."  There are recently and hastily built cubby holes for our socks and shoes.  I pull my too short shirt down over my ill-fitting pants and shuffle in toward the water cooler where I fill my purple metal bottle I found on the floor in the back of the car.

"Last name?"  A blonde in a spaghetti-strap aqua athletic top asks.
"Christie.  And yes, that really is my last name."  My friend answers.
"Heather, right?"
"Yeah.  I got an email for a pass to bring a friend."  She says gesturing at me.
"Fill this out."  The blonde tells me.  Name, address, email, how did you hear about us, and chronic or acute physical issues we should know about.  I pause here considering what to say.  I don't want to divulge this to strangers though, so I leave it blank, skip to the bottom and sign the waiver.  I pass the pad back.

Heather has gotten us mats and set up a spot in the corner.  We sit and joke while people come in.

The blonde enters, says, "I LOVE bad weather!  It's going to be a full class so if everyone could move their mats to make room, we can fit a third row down the middle."  She pauses while people jostle around.  "My name is Kristin.  I'm actually from the Vail Valley.  I grew up and went to school here and used to hate bad weather.  I wanted to be out on my bike or my board.  Now that I'm a yoga instructor, though, I LOVE it!  Full classes, YES!"

She gestures wildly with a big smile.  "This is life!  It's now.  It's happening in here.  Not on your bike or out there.  Today it's in here.  Now!"

I can already feel myself mentally figuring if it's too late to get closer to the door just in case. 

The class begins with a couple of ohms while standing.  By a couple, I literally mean two.  The instructor does not do the instructions she barks out.  She paces the room and calls out "living big is in here!  It is happening in here now!" 

She takes us through the same three positions repeatedly.  "Reach down, now flat back.  Jump back.  Low pushup. Updog.  Downward facing dog.  Now fly those feet forward!"  I begin to sweat.

We finally move on.  I'm dripping and considering lying on my back with my feet in the air and meditating for the rest of the class.  It feels disrespectful and I think of not having put anything on the slip and how I should pretend that I'm normal and everything is fine so I keep going.  "Fire is restorative.  When something burns through us, it burns out what we don't need so that we can grow."  She preaches.  "Let the fire burn out what's old, what's not working for you." 

I continue to do the poses she requires.  My arms shake.  The temperature is rising.  My temperature is rising and sweat drips.  The handful of nuts I've had since 11 am seems to be staying with me ok but I stop and drink some water and drop into child's pose to regroup for a moment.  I need to take care of myself.  I'm not here for judgment, I remind myself.  I'm just going to enjoy what I want from the class.  This is not a time in my life for pushing myself.

We're in downward facing dog again and she tells us to lift one leg high.  Right leg.  "Right leg."  She repeats.  I wonder who has the wrong leg up, realize it's me.  I switch legs.  "Ok, now let it dangle over.  Reach, reach.  Go on, poke your neighbor." 
"Gotcha!"  Heather pokes me with her toes and I can hear her face smiling in her voice.  The instinct to whack someone if they touch me with their feet arises momentarily, but this poke is just the break in the tension I need.  I'm thankful it's not the stranger on the other side.  Though that must be next.  I can't reach the stranger, so I don't poke her.  I try and it's certainly not because my legs aren't long enough.  I consider for a moment really reaching but my arms are shaking and my hands are sliding on the mat in my pool of sweat and I worry that I will do more than just a slight poke.  I could totally crash down on her.

The class returns to a rigorous exercise regimen.  I can no longer keep up.  I'm getting nauseated, which is actually a little comforting right now.  I slow down.  Rest in child's pose.  Do whatever modifications I want.  I am the only one who does this.  Kristin continues her sermon about burning through our doubts and what stands in our way of living the pose that is in us now.  It feels contradictory to the theme I've come in with:  accepting what is now.  Not pushing myself because of shoulds or judging myself harshly or consider what will be if this or that.  Not getting ahead of myself to next week or a few weeks from now or January.  Just being.

I'm dizzy and Heather notices.  Concerned she asks, "Are you ok?" 
I nod and take a gulp of water. "I'll be fine, I just need to take it easy."  I rest and wait for my head to right itself.  The room is hotter.  I'm drenched and everyone is dripping now.  The temperature must have risen 15 degrees since the beginning of the class.  I search the walls for a clock, again, and once again there is none.  I don't know how long I can take this but don't want to be rude or worry Heather by walking out.  I don't want to let the fire burn through things that might be in my way either though.  I just want to breathe some normal temperature air!

The class ends eventually.  I feel the air coming into the room from the hallway and consider running toward it with an open mouth and gulping in it coolness to quench my aching brain. 

"Sorry."  Heather laughs at me.  "This is the hottest it's ever been in here.  I've been to her restorative class.  This was hard.  I feel great!  Some return to yoga for you though, huh?"  She adds, "Are you ok?" for the fourth or fifth time.
"I'll be fine.  I just need to take it easy."
"I'm glad I came.  It feels great afterwards."  Heather is energized, vibrant, herself.  I smile internally at how good it is to be with her like this.  I'm too tired to show it externally.  I wipe myself off and drag myself to change clothes and go home.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 38

I love to lie in bed and squish my fingers deep into my eyes until the colors burst and the black grows tendrils.  I do it when I think I can't sleep.  I do it in church whenever they talk about heaven.  I do it when Matt tells me I'm rubber and you're glue times infinity.  It's the infinity that's behind the blackness when I rub.  I do it when I imagine the darkest it could be.

Tonight I do it because I wake up and have to pee.  The house is silent.  The only sounds are from outside- crickets chirping the summer night's temperature.  Normally, I call out "mom," quietly first.  Then louder and louder, adding syllables "MA-ahm!"  Until she comes and I pad down the hall barefoot to the bathroom where I pee without turning any lights on, rinse my hands and reverse my steps back to bed.  I fall right back to sleep.  This night, though, I push on my eyelids.  The fireworks alight and I decide not to call out.  A thief, I sneak down the hall.  I stop and listen at the end of the hallway where the bathroom and my parents' doors are.  I hear my father snore, long inhale, click, stop, razzing exhale.  They don't wake up.  This is nothing short of miraculous.  I pull my panties down and my nightgown up.  I hold it and twirl it around my forearms as I tinkle.  I reach up and turn on the cold water, rinse my hands, dry them and go back to bed.

I did it. 

The next day, I'm wearing pink panties with ruffles on the butt.  I'm supposed to wear them under my Sunday dress but I beg to wear them now.  My mom yields.  Happily, I prance around in them before heading down to play.

I stand at the top of the stairs, open the door, and inhale deeply through my nose. This is the smell of home.  The humidifier and old indoor outdoor carpet.  The midwest earth filtered through new nostrils.  With full lungs, I race down the stairs and across the basement floor to the shelves.  I sit down in front of them and survey the low shelves for toys. 

I've been playing for a long time.  Long enough to hear the dehumidifier whirring and then clunking off, then shrugging into service again, several times over.  I feel the pinch and squeeze.  Squeeze harder.  The feeling passes and I return to my game. 

I remember sitting in the blue booster seat, the plastic getting sweaty and slippery and wiping it off.  I remember the shelves were plywood stacked on top of each other with bricks for pillars.  I remember sitting on the cold basement floor.  I remember the smells of the laundry room wafting out.  I remember the sound of the news on TV whether my dad was actually sitting there watching or not, but he likely was.  I remember knowing I was supposed to stop playing to go potty. 

A wave of the feeling comes again and I squeeze.  Again, it passes and I can return to stacking my rubber blocks.  Making shelves and putting toys on them.  The toys are talking to each other, since the boy has gone to sleep.  I tell them he will love them all, not just the velveteen rabbit.  When the feeling comes again.  It is coming more frequently now.  The concentration and squeezing to stop it is harder each time.  I should go upstairs and go potty, I think.  But I never have this much fun playing.  So I squeeze and squeeze and squirm to squeeze harder than I can.  My mom calls down to remind me to go potty.  I say I will.  I squeeze and hold my breath to keep it in check.  I keep playing.  I promise myself, in just a minute, I'll go. 

I try to stand up but stop to squeeze so it won't come out.  I sit back down so I can rock and hold it in better.  I rock and rock, squeezing and playing.  I can't stand up now.  I have to go too badly.  I hope for a solution.  It comes eventually.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 37

She enters the hospital through a side door like a slave arriving late for work: afraid of what will come.  It is 1967 so even though she is in labor, she put on stockings and a nice pair of shoes, dressed, and touched up her hair before arriving.  She still holds onto showing people she is the "nice girl," she was raised to be. 

They bring her in to Labor and Delivery and keep the door shut.  She starts to cry out, in pain, but is immediately scolded.  The nurses have made it clear, she has done this to herself, she has no business complaining about it now.  Sympathy is reserved for married women.  Nice girls who grew up and followed the rules.  Not whores. 

She was in denial about the pregnancy for a long time.  When she finally told her mother, her mother called her a whore, slapped her and told her the family would finance her to go off to the country to have this one.  As though she had been caught shop lifting and this was the only time she would be bailed out.  Her mother was appalled when she suggested she would stay in school.  Big breasted, Carole hid her pregnancy through the spring.  She was to give birth in the summer so would not take summer school classes.  She had a bohemian friend in Nebraska who would let her stay on the farm for the summer until she gave birth. 

Telling her mother fortified her position on the pregnancy.  She felt a twinge of ashamed, but she felt more alienated by her family, closer to her baby.  As he grew, so did her attachment to him.  She knew she would hand him over to a nurse.  Knew she could not keep him.  But still, she could not help but feel the bond of mother and child.  She would turn herself inside out for this child.  There is nothing bigger than motherlove.

Practical, she continued to attend college.  She knew she would need something to keep her busy when the baby went on to his life. She would need a life to help her forget him.  She had no way to support him.  Her mother's comments made it abundantly clear, her parents would be of no help.

Now the nurses refused to help her.  They would not look her in the eye, and when they did occasionally meet her gaze, it was defiantly, with judgement and disdain in their faces.  She labored on silently, painfully.  She felt the fire burn through her spine and they told her to push.  She pushed the boy out. 

They reached out and took him.  And even though she knew, knew the look she would get, she asked to hold him. 

"He's not your baby, whore.  I'll give him to his real parents."  The nurse told her scornfully.  Then, she gave her a shot.  Nancy felt woosie then and became sleepy.  A pen in her hand.  Papers and the nurse was gone with her boy.  And she never even held him.  Her sleep was not restful.

From that moment on she regretted it all.  She regretted most letting go of him.  Regretted going to the hospital.  Regretted her ruined stockings and her ruined nights.  Regretted her quiet labor. 

She fortified herself and went to the hospital to inquire about him.  She asked what the adoption agency's name had been and how she might contact them.  She had made a mistake, she'd told the hospital and needed to find out what she had to do to rectify the situation.  The hospital tried to refuse her, tried to send her away a slave-whore.  But she was inside out and without rest and no longer cared what destruction society had in store for her.  Her soul was already destroyed with longing and need.  She didn't care what the adoptive parents could do for him, he needed to be with her.  Every part of her body told her that. 

She stood at the desk, breasts leaking, and told them she would soak the desk while she waited, but she would get the information she came for.

Next, she went to the agency.  But here there was no amount of pleading that would achieve results.  She begged, argued, cajoled, and got no where.  The records were sealed, there was nothing she could do.  She became hysterical and police were called to remove her.  She contacted her senator, her state senator, her congressman, her state congressman.  None would speak to her.  She was ragged and desperate. 

Each night she would start to fall asleep only to jerk away in the in-between space of waking and sleeping where she was about to sign the papers.  NOOOO!!!!  She would scream.  Then she'd search for him. 

She was convinced she'd know his face.  Nature had not created this bond that it should simply vanish.  She would find him.  She would know him.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 36

I get why people don't like children.  They're loud.  They say exactly what they think.  They have dirt in the corners of their mouths and don't care if you don't like them licking the ice cream bowl in the restaurant.  They run off and pet strange dogs and get upset if you try to stop them.  Children blatantly stare and don't look away no matter how much you stare back (unless you pick your nose them.)  They eat boogers and some of them even smear poop.  Plus, THEY'RE LOUD!

So I get why some people don't like them.  The most important reason, though, is other people are not attached to your child.  They haven't held your child through an entire nap to feel his weight on their chest.  They haven't seen his first smile.  They don't know his soul.  I know by the slightest change in the slope of his cheek whether he has food or an imminent smile or a building scream in there.  I know what it feels like to nuzzle against the back of his head and let my arm go numb and my shoulder pinch while he sleeps.  I have held him every day since the day he was born, many times until parts of my back tingled for days.  I have eaten food out of his mouth and know how terrible his shit stinks.

I know what it is to want to smack him because I'm out of ideas for how to get him to do what I need him to do.  I know what it is to hear him try to say and sign "love you" for the first time unprompted.  I know the peaceful stolen moments in the middle of the night when he couldn't sleep which have been just ours.  I know the price the next day for such moments and have paid that toll many times. 

I know that what I don't know is the most exciting part.  What is to come and what is this moment.  How he changes me now and now and now: again, again, again.  And it is the most beautiful part of life.  It's loud, and gross though.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 35

Dear (Legislator,)

I have been out of college for 10 years now and have worked in special education for 5 1/2 of those years.  I loved my work as a teacher and am writing to ask you to remedy some of the barriers legislators have (hopefully) unknowingly put in the way of education.

I have taken CBASE test for competancy, PLACE exam in Special Education, Praxis II in Elementary Education, and Praxis II in Special Education.  I am about to take a second version of the Praxis II in Elementary Education since the testing company and the state of Colorado have changed the test number so that I can once again prove that I am competant to teach.  I graduated summa cum laude from Saint Louis University with nearly 200 credit hours (when it only takes 120 for a degree.)  Since then I have completed hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of classes and trainings both to maintain my license and to meet school district requirements.  If you estimate that I paid approximately $100 per test, I have now spent $500 on tests required by states to prove that I am able to teach.  To be honest, not a one of those tests remotely reflects my teaching abilities.  These tests are not a valuable way for underpaid (and sometimes unemployed) teachers to spend their time or their money.  Continually placing more constraints on teachers is not a useful way for the state to prove it cares about kids or education.  Funding is.  I'll say that again, "FUNDING is the way you show your support of education AND kids."

This goes for state CSAP testing as well.  There is not a single child who is better served by spending her time in a classroom filling in a scantron during the meat of the school year.  Testing is done at a time when children should be learning.  It would be one thing if testing were for an afternoon but it often takes over the entire school for weeks at a time.  When you consider that there are approximately 180 school days and that a minimum of 15 of them are now spent on testing, know that testing is absolutely and without question taking away from children's education.  When my son reaches testing age, I will be pulling him from school during those days to see that he gets some educational activity.  These tests put teachers at the mercy of scores and send them straight to teaching to the test.  I was recently volunteering at an Elementary School where a teacher confessed that teachers just don't have time to teach things like the Holocaust anymore because they're too busy with state standards and CSAP and district requirements.  There are ways to get to an important topic and I know there is a lot of good teaching going on (especially in that school.)  However, creating more complications and hurdles for children and teachers is not helpful to the education of children.  It is necessary to measure progress but with all the money spent on this, I can't imagine it would have been any more expensive to send experts to OBSERVE (not interrupt,) teaching and pull a few students in a random sampling across the state to take qualitative data on how children are doing.  I can go on and on about how horrible the current trend in testing is. 

I'll leave you with an example from my special education teaching days.  I had a student that was hardly able to hold a pencil.  He had occupational therapy issues and couldn't read.  He took in everything he ever saw and heard on a nature program and could recite the information nearly verbatim.  He was intelligent in his way.  He also had emotional difficulties and high stress situations (like testing,) brought them out.  The first week he was "in" my classroom, he screamed all day every day in a stairwell.  He "took" the CSAP.  He painstakingly fought his frustration to fit his letters into spaces they did not fit and filled in bubbles.  I am certain he did not answer a single question correctly.  This was a boy who needed every moment of instruction he could get.  Taking time away from that to put him through a test of endurance for the benefit of the state was not remotely valuable to him. 

Please consider de-legislating education and leaving it to educators to regulate.

(any parent, educator, student in CO)