Friday, September 30, 2016

Back to the Future Backfire

When Silas was four, I wouldn't let him watch all of the Thomas the Train episodes because the trains often were too worried or scared and -- you know -- the emotional intensity.

> enter third child <

Last Friday night I decided it was FINALLY time to watch Back to the Future for movie night -- I've been waiting forever.  Ordinarily, I check Common Sense Media , but I know Back to the Future and doing the math figured I'd certainly watched it multiple times by their ages.
(not perfect math).

Fact: I haven't actually seen the movie in decades and my memories of it are only beyond awesome (minus the Biff-in-the-car scene at the dance, which, planning ahead, I'd thought would present a great opportunity to talk about saying no as a woman and not waiting for a man to come to the rescue.  By the way -- it doesn't present that opportunity).

So we all settled on the couch with bowls of popcorn and a neighbor, even Maeve was squeezed in with us to watch the movie we'd talked about for so long and that Ben and I had dressed up as last Halloween:


(we are the Delorean if you can't tell, with our doors opened)

Let's be clear, the flux capacitor, the story line, the life preserver, "Calvin Klein" and the skateboarding are beyond excellent.  And then there's the language.  Who remembers the language?  Turns out there's a lot of it -- pretty much every few sentences.  At one point, Maeve paused and in a loud voice, with perfect annunciation, asked:
what did he say?  It sounded like BUTT.  HEAD.
Silas squeezed my arm so hard and later asked me,
Mom, why didn't you put her to bed?
(vaguely) I did before it was over, didn't I? 
NO.  She watched the WHOLE things.  Why didn't you take her out?
Silas... I have no idea!  It must have been because I didn't want to miss any of the movie.

You're weird, mom.

I also failed to think through how the unprecedented violence of Doc getting shot with an uzi, the angry shooting terrorists (that carry a different weight these days) or the impact of the car scene, which I did. not. fast.forward. for. no. apparent. reason. would affect my older daughter in particular.

SO, all in all it wasn't my best choice for movie night.  Not to mention that every time my kids see a VW bus (which now is ALL the time), they yell Look!  A terrorist van!!
I have tried to shut this down...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Seasons and how the body talks

I just listened to a podcast (twice) about seasons.  It's worth a listen.

He starts by talking about how we're disconnected from the natural rhythm of light and lightlessness, seasons -- all of the natural world's limitations.  When it's dark, we flip the light switch.  When it's hot, we blast the AC.  We can have it all without too much disruption.

So when there is no light or we do feel cold or it is not the season for peaches, we feel a sense of outrage or injustice (and go to Whole Foods and buy some winter peaches from South America).

Emotionally this is true, also.  I expect  >>pleasantness<<  as a general state.  Not necessary ease, but --- yeah, probably ease -- or at least inconveniences that I can quickly resolve.

Even though the more I live, the more I see how mythical this "norm" is -- my friend's 9 day old's battling with open heart surgery right this minute -- and rationally disregard it, deep down, I still cling to that expectation.

I don't want to feel uncomfortable.
I don't want to be off balance.
I don't want to stand with one season ended (abruptly) and another not yet given shape.
I don't want darkness without the switch to the overhead light.

But here I am.

Last September I unexpectedly plunged into sadness about school starting, and the gloom hung on for a long time.  For weeks I fought it -- This is just normal rhythm -- kids go to school.  Shake it off and move on.  They grow up.  Your job is to let them go -- get over it.  And even with my "pep talks" (judgment), I couldn't sleep, my back ached, my stomach hurt -- low grade discomfort for "no good reason."  Bell talks about how when we don't let ourselves feel, transitions lodge their losses in our bodies, and the grief (whether we think it's "valid" or not) comes out one way or another.

My body is doing a lot of talking right now.  Not just the insatiable craving for bowls of comfort-food-cereal every night:

-This morning Eden found my keys in the lock of the front door where they'd hung all night for anyone who might want to come in
-I forgot Maeve's school lunch -- twice, though it was packed
-I drove Silas and walked him in to an art class that actually starts in October
-Many craigstlist guffaws including driving all the way to a person's house who was selling something entirely different than I'd thought.
- I parked my car several times and left it running (and it's not a silent prius)
-Not even worth going into the mixed up texts I sent to a poor college student who was (and I do say was) a possible babysitter
on and on...

And my dreams have been wild.  Many take place in my childhood neighborhood.  In a matter of seconds I am 14, 20, a newlywed, a mother.  Ben's mother, who died six years ago, has made two appearances.  I've dreamt entire movies full of strangers.

Though I have -- thank God -- good friends and company here who are softening the transition, apparently a large part of my brain is preoccupied and reckoning with identity and all that's in between: the liminal space, once again.

 I wrote about the liminal on the plane ride here and was surprised to find Bell address it also.

liminal: occupying a position at, or on both sides of, of a boundary or threshold.

Yesterday our natural season changed from summer to autumn.  Here in CA, nothing visible happened, as I know nothing visible happened in DC either, or much of anywhere.  But the season shifted nonetheless, and imperceptibly, the physical world will follow until we're squarely in fall.  I'm hoping for the courage to stay standing with feet on both sides of the threshold until both seasons come into focus.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Month One

What may be most indicative of life as I blog (or don't), are the silences.  Here it has been 21 days since I last wrote and nearly a month since we climbed aboard American Air and flew here to live.

We lived the hotel life.
We glamped for a week in an empty house full of neighbors' blankets and aerobeds.
We were surprised by how good it was to be within the walls of our own house, even with cricked necks and only four plastic spoons we kept washing, and even still, when we laid first day of school outfits on the bare floors.  I don't think I would have been so ready for the truck or the work of settling without that bare week.  And I was ready.

But the work!  Settling, unpacking, organizing, building (Ben has ben building), and still, things are only almost-there.  There are several piles that I cannot make budge; there's just no place to put the cords, the old tape recorder, the library book from the DC library that's overdue, the magnets (no magnetic surfaces) or all the printed photographs.

I half wonder why on earth we own things.  There's something beyond wise (and that also makes me feel homesick...) in the ancient bedouin lifestyle.
We are so encumbered by the junk we lug with us and insist on keeping and carrying.
And yet, each of the things is imbued with meaning, memory, or beauty and we like nesting with them.  But really...

It took me two weeks of being here before I woke up teary and missing family.
It took 18 days before I opened my journal and forced myself to name "feeling words."

It's strange, like so many periods of life are, to be brimming with such internal dichotomy: on the one hand *happiness* to be back here in this sunny, salt-smelling beauty, with friends we love in a life we'd firmly said goodbye to and suddenly have back (also quite unreal).  On the other hand, we are far from home, cousins, and all the expectations our year held.

I'm wondering how to be true to feeling both full and gutted at the same time -- is it a choice, which we focus on?  Is it denial to charge past the sadness?  Is it wallowing to breathe it in?  The other night, my friend Danny reminded me there has to be room for it all -- to allow whatever the moment holds.  Apparently this is hard for me beyond the concept.

September has begun and here in the middle, all the kids sniffling and sneezing with fresh colds.  Maeve's had a fever -- again -- for days, and I, since the moment we left home, continue to teeter right on the brink of well, pounding vitamin C.   This steady care taking has added to the (gift of?) dullness that's glazed over all the feelings.

This morning, sick-ish Maeve and I have made a batch of mediocre gluten free chocolate chip cookies (yet another attempt to feed the deep and hungry in me that won't be sated with food), and now I've sent Maeve to watch Octonauts, so I can finish spray painting a doll bed for her birthday tomorrow and write here.  Between coats of pale pink paint (now all over my hands and the grass), I'm sitting here with the computer on my lap and a stack of papers from back to school night that all require either reflective thinking about a child or check writing, neither of which I feel like doing.

Maeve just started school, so soon -- soon! -- I will move into a bit of rhythm.  Until then -- on y va!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Just Keep Swimming

We are in California.
We moved here two days ago.
We live here now -- though at a hotel, in a rental car, and out of suitcases.

Everyone is handling this differently: one child has had a fever for four nights and is whining and understands nothing, really, about this change, though she may be the most anxious about our rootlessness and the speed of our move.

Another feels all the feelings, writing letters peppered with phrases like, "I feel uneasy about the move, "I miss you So much -- I can't live like this!" (where did she learn that?), and "I feel like a crumpled piece of paper," - ! - while simultaneously building forts with friends and riding a hover board down the street, beaming with the fun of it.  This one wants lots of reassuring touch; they all do.

The 3rd child is on the uber-happy, uber-social track, dying to race around and be with everyone at once.  He is hard to keep up with  -- both the pep and intensity.  Though there's lots of sadness in him, he won't touch it yet, though he, too, wants to be hugged constantly.  (yes -- we all do).

This will be and be and be an adjustment.  Ben starts his new job today and is holding stress in his body, too, sleeping it off now -- the tension of end-of-quarter-two-job-overlap and the launch of all the exciting newness and responsibility tomorrow.  He, too, is strung in the in between of crumpled suitcased-work clothes and no car to drive here yet.

We will all do.  We are all doing.

I've been trying not to articulate how I feel in my head for fear of a negative phrase sticking on repeat (I'm good at that).  And as Ben and I keep talking about, there is no summary or phrase to do justice to our sudden shift.  For now it all still seems surreal.  Though I'm usually a processor, it's not time for me to dwell on the feelings or even unfold them yet; "just keep swimming, just keep swimming." I usually laugh at Dory for this, but realize she's right; it's what I need to do, keep swimming where I am, feel the water, the burn of muscle, keep pushing through the waves.

The sermon today said cynicism weakens us and breeds bitterness -- a good word for me right now; in moments of feeling sorry for myself (or in crisis), it's easy to take little delicious lollipop licks of that negativity.   Instead choose gratitude, constantly and pro-actively.  God knows all about this -- keep looking.

And instead of isolation -- no one understands this, sigh -- choose relationships.

Go, keep showing up.

(and therein ends tonight's pep talk to myself)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

On the Move

Maeve was born on the autumn equinox, the day when summer turned to fall, and almost at the exact hour that late morning.  That was the day I learned the word liminal:

liminal; adj.

1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process

2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, of a boundary or threshold 

Her birth seemed to represent the word beautifully as she ushered us into a new life, our first baby in DC, a family of five when we thought we’d be four, a sweet baby of summer heat and fall depth.  It suits her.

Today we fill a different liminal space.  The five of us are on a plane flying to Phoenix, where we’ll pick up our second plane and arrive in CA to begin life again.  Do we begin life again?  Or just continue life in a different setting.  Funny how a change in setting does re-set us…

As of this morning, we have officially moved from DC.  But still we are neither here nor there.  Our DC house is boxed up but not yet emptied – we didn’t get to see it hollowed out.  In two quick days, it ceased being our home, even though it’s held us so snugly these four years.  Our rental in CA is set up but still in possession of another renter (long story), and we are operating on good-faith that he will move out so we have a place to stay (though no furniture for 8 more days).

For who knows how long we will each hover in this liminal space as our rhythms shift from summer to school, from east to west, from home to new home. 

Last night, when Annemarie and I sat on my parents’ porch swing saying our goodbyes, I tried to explain what this week has been like. In 18 days we went from a settled life in DC to sitting on this plane: everything we own packed, 10 bulging bags checked below us, and in our wake, a week of excruciating goodbyes – which felt half-pretend, like we were acting in a play -- and a zillion tasks cleaning/purging/packing/sorting/repairing/coordinating/deciding/leaving.

I have never felt such holistic exhaustion. 

Maeve has had a fever for three nights, and we have all moved through storms of  emotion that change on a dime.  We will have to keep allowing each other to do this.

Adventure.  That’s what I keep telling myself. 

All of the attachments are hard, though: how houses become dear friends, how routines become comfort, how people become anchors, and seasons with their weather, lead us through.

New adventures.  We will follow. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Move

I am sitting in my bed eating chocolate ice cream.

Somehow it is 7:26 and my eyes can hardly stay open.  The exhaustion is beyond.

Last Tuesday, Ben was offered a job and we decided -- after ALL of this -- we are moving to California.  And moving fast.  In all, the turnaround will be just under three weeks.  We are at eight days and counting...

When I first found out, I felt like Kristen Bell when Dax brought her a sloth.  I wasn't in the fetal position, but the hysterical laughing-sobbing-sobbing erupting from my face was close.  And went on for at least 45 minutes in front of my mom, sister, brother and sister-in-law.  Ben had to do the talking.  The turn of events!  The sudden monstrous loss, and gear-jamming-shift, after all the processing and deciding NOT to go to California!  About face.

So we've changed directions.

Monday and Tuesday Ben and I flew out to find a place to live.  We ate amazing tacos, touched base with grounding people, and left still unsure of where we'll live or how we'll register our kids for school.  The rental we found is currently being rented from guests from Friday Night Lights who've leased the place to get their kid into high school football but want to break the lease (in time for us to register for school???)  Drama.

But either way, we'll be there in less than two weeks.  I've heaped a pile of packed trash bags in the living room full of stuff to give away.  The kitchen counter is lined with bottles and cans from the pantry.  There is so much to order, purge, and reorder in a week and a half.

And the exhaustion -- I can't stop talking about the exhaustion because it's borderline dangerous for driving, it's in every bone.  I can't tell if it's emotional or physical or intellectual, my brain frying over it all, or all three.

SO, we are going.  Stay tuned!


Friday, July 08, 2016


My whole life I've had a love-hate relationship with eggs -- I'll eat them every day and then suddenly can't imagine putting a bite of one in my mouth without gagging.  Maybe this comes from laziness, forgetting how to make a fried egg crispy or scrambled eggs soft with chives, and instead eating hurried rubbery things.

Summer is all about the mouth -- peaches, blackberries, figs, ripe avocados, tangy tomatoes, mmmmmm.  I'm putting it all on toast, often the thin dense bavarian bread, thinly sliced mozzarella or goat cheese with eggs on top or sliced peaces, figs and a drizzle of balsamic, smashed avocado with a heap of tomatoes on top.  The peaches are like eating pie for breakfast (or lunch or snack).

When we were with Kaia Joye in CA, two mornings in a row we made these Cornmeal griddle cakes from Smitten Kitchen, and then I made them once more (because why buy a giant bag of cornmeal on vacation if not to keep making pancakes).  They, too, taste like summer -- put in any fruit you have.

     from Smitten Kitchen, June 2015

¾ c flour
¾ c cornmeal
2 T sugar
½ t salt
½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda

3 T butter melted
1 c buttermilk
2 eggs
diced strawberries (or peaches or raspberries or any combo)

Mix dry.  Mix wet.  Combine and stir in fruit.  Melt butter (key step) in skillet over medium heat (or even medium low so they cook through the middle) and patiently let them brown, then flip, cook, and eat. 

A little whipped cream isn’t bad on these (or a tower of whipped cream if you're my children), or sliced bananas and maple syrup -- my fave pancake topping.