Monday, December 31, 2007

On the other side of Chistmas

Home again in Southern California where the cold cloudy morning burned off into a sunny beautiful day. After a VERY long visit to the doctor's office (during which we left and ate at IN N OUT and then came back to wait longer still), we now know that Silas has bronchitis just like his cousins. Bummer, but hooray for antibiotics.

Today is New Year's Eve. I usually do little reflection on the past year until a week or so after New Years when Ben and I write in our Yearly Journal (this is one of my very favorite traditions -- thank you Cary Umhau -- email me if you want to know more!). And as for new year's resolutions, I usually don't make them at all (Ben will just laugh if I tell him I am going to join anything else -- gym, yoga studio, art studio etc) or pretend not to and make "private resolutions" -- resolutions that no one else knows about so there is no accountability or judgment.

This year, however, I had a glorious entire day to myself just in time for a wee bit of reflection on the days past and the ones to come. Ben and I both left DC yesterday but on different flights, so Ben took Silas and left me lightly laden with hours of sky time to nap, read magazines, start a novel, write letters on my airport-bought Crane's stationary, and write in my journal -- unheard of!!

So, at the end of my 8 hour day, here are some resolutions that I came up with (that seem practical enough to implement which is why I dare say them out loud, though now that I'm looking at them, there are a lot):

-set up a babysitter for 5 hours a week -- one morning and one afternoon

-wake up for 6AM writing at least a few times a week (or make it happen some other time of day, though less likely)

-have a date with Ben, out or at home, at least every other week if not every week -- the key is that our time has to be planned

-be faithful to a spiritual practice daily. This resolution seems least helpful because of the vagueness, but the lack of rigidity may work in my favor (?) -- to light a candle and pray for 10 minutes, to read for 10 minutes, to sit for 10 minutes, to draw a mandala, journal madly about anxieties, to do something to connect me with God and my inner world consistently. The first 10 minutes of Silas's nap may be a good time for this...

-to try to listen/breathe/receive people when I'm feeling on edge/uncomfortable rather than talk and say something I'll regret

-work on not being negative/bitchy (esp in side comments and commentary to Ben)

-buy a bedspread

-have the living room painted (what color?)

-magically transform house into spa-like zen center before the baby comes in June

-find a place to put the baby when she comes (we think she's a she)

-plan some girls' nights

-go away just with Ben for a night, weekend, month (ahhh)

-reduce the insane amount of trash my house produces, maybe even suck it up and find a thorough recycling center and join the 21st century (which Orange County presumably is not a part of)

-make some aggressive efforts to save money -- it's been a while and it's time!

-and lastly, get physical, be active, go outside, go (a friendly goal -- no mileage, time allotment, number of days per week, memberships)

Happy 2008*

Sunday, December 16, 2007

messy christmas shmissmas sickness

It has been a week and three days since the stomach flu plague struck our house. Silas moved in and out of it for days, then we breathed into a short respite during which we thought we were done, and then , following a lovely sushi lunch, I started. What was to be a crowded busy weekend -- Cirque du Soleil show, an art journal workshop, riding the train with Silas at Fairview park, a Christmas party at our house, a concert in LA to celebrate Bowis's engagement (!!) -- has turned into a weekend of lying around and little else.

Some years are like this, I suppose. And I have to say that despite the frustration of not feeling *well* (how does Cindy do this all the time??), of not gallivanting with Eli and Hollie, nor cooking them delicious meals food, nor eating plates of cheese and crackers, bruschetta, and meatballs (not to mention the unmade eggnog), there has been a certain relief in being forced to slow down and pretty much stop:

I tutored over the phone.  I heaped some clothes on a chair that I will (or won't) try on to see if they fit and I can wear them in DC.  I looked over Ben's shoulder as he Christmas shopped online. I looked out the window with Silas and watched Ben trim trees with a pole saw. I roasted parsnips and potatoes for dinner (this was during an energy burst when I was sure I was better), looked at all the other party food I bought, and closed the fridge. I read some of Elizabeth Alexander's poetry

And I had to sit with the fact that somewhere over the last six years, I lost (or misplaced) the ability to be quiet and still. Instead I have become a doer -- a mad doer sometimes! which can get out of town especially this time of year.  

So here I am despite myself, lounging in bed, listening to Silas across the hall refuse to nap yelling for "ma-MA!" and for my mom who is across the country.  The message behind the door of my advent calendar today said "pause."  Go figure.  I will try.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

blaaaah

Today I am 12 weeks pregnant, and I hoped to wake up with the spell of gagging, burping, general nausea, and gloom magically broken, replaced by a burst of energy and a singing leap into the second trimester of energy, wonder and well-being. Instead, I woke up groggy and hungry at 5:35 and by 10AM had eaten 3 breakfasts...

During brunch with some friends (breakfast #3), I felt my eyes glaze over and all social graces evaporate as I watched conversation tumble around the table. Then for some reason, after swiftly exiting with wrestling son, dirty pie plate, and cellophane-wrapped gifts piled in my arms, I decided the thin moment before lunch and nap was an opportune time to pick up the Christmas cards we still needed. Where do these decisions come from? By the time we were home, even my bones were tired.

I fed Silas, barely carried him up to nap practically dumping him in his crib, and napped myself in the narrow, dusty loft, where I woke slightly sweaty and too soon, with a chattery mind and restlessness that kept me from sleeping again.

I am surprised to feel the pull of two children already: the lime-sized demander in my belly who is some energy vortex sucking up every reserve I have, and Silas, the talking discoverer, who wants more than ever to be held, carried, played with, and who seems most certainly to sense my exhausted withdraw. What will life be like come July, when the lime has a mouth??

The grace in my day is that Amy has shingles! (sorry, Ames) which means that she is home from work at the hospital and could help me anchor a semblance of sanity this afternoon during the witching hours. We successfully dodged the man and his 13 and 16 year old sons (a family that still practices the art of apprenticeship and family business) who are resurfacing our complex decking VERY SLOWLY and POORLY (why, oh why, are we on the Home Owners board in charge of these projects??) and went out for an afternoon philly cheese steak and diet coke. (She is pregnant too).

And so, we shall see what tomorrow brings... Off to dinner #2.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

6 AM

It is 6AM and I am trying my first write-at-6:00 regiment. Miraculously Silas, who woke at 6, is quiet in his bed now. Toni Morrison used to write in the mornings before her kids woke up; she called it “writing into the light.” That phrasing makes facing a dark, cold house more appealing.

Last Sunday I drove up to Santa Monica and met two friends from college. One I hadn’t seen for 6 years and the other for 3. You never know how these reunions will go – friends I had once lived such intertwined lives with but whom I’ve had almost no contact with since. But there we were, so many years later, walking in Santa Monica of all places, not our predictable reunion spot post-Atlanta, feeling familiar. Most striking was that in all the familiarity of mannerisms and stories, there was something markedly different -- we were now women. As we had bustled through college with all the brimming emotions and wants, we had gripped questions, strung with insecurities, about who we were. But this weekend I saw that we’d spent the last years finding our edges, realizing our selves more, exploring work we love, solidifying. That may sound a bit overstated, but watching Saralyn talk, even her face looked changed wearing such a confidence.

While standing in the sun with her one-year-old, Kara Jane, Eli asked me about my writing. I felt myself shift weight from one foot to the other as I wound through my answer, mentioning a stubborn manuscript that won’t grow, relentless rejections, being in a “new season,” and heard myself finally conclude: “so I’m not really writing at the moment.” She looked into my face with bent eyebrows: “And you’re really OK with that?” “Yeah, I really am. It just makes sense right now…”

But she, who hasn’t seen me for more years than we spent together in college, still knows how to see through me and push just enough with one more question. So here I am, starting in a small way, greeting the keyboard at 6AM.


(thanks, Eli)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

home

Sometimes the flight from Washington to Long Beach is 5 hours and sometimes it is 5 1/2. Today was a solid 5 1/2 and stared early. Despite the anxiety-laden lead up to the flight, there were bits of grace all around: an empty seat next to me on a packed flight, lorna dune cookies, Silas's playing happily the entire time even without napping (though I may have nodded off a few times), my not throwing up, finally arriving on solid ground to an overcast, salty day.

I seem to be resurfacing, very slowly, in the land of the living. The baby I'm growing is apparently now the length of a fig and has been wreaking some serious havoc. Th0ugh queasiness still hit like clockwork this afternoon and I'm still eating Trader Joe's pizza as my primary food group, I felt hunger for the first time in weeks, I didn't cry or fall into a dark pit of despair once today and I muscled through a whole flight.

***
It is now about half an hour later and I should say that I ALMOST made it through the entire day without melting into an emotional puddle. Almost. I guess we are taking eensy-steps ...
I am hoping there really will be some kind of magic on the 12 week marker (which is also the first day of Hanukkah. Maybe I will celebrate with gratitude, a candle and my limited Hebrew - c/o Greenberg Shabbat dinners).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Syrup

Kaia Joye came to California for a 36 hour visit (long story). On our one real day, we woke up early, as always, and made buckwheat blueberry pancakes with bananas. Yum. A bit later, we were up in my room "packing" for a 12 day trip to DC (i.e. lying on my bed talking), celebrating the fact that Silas, who had long since left us to play elsewhere, was such a responsible, easy, independent sort of baby. After quite sometime, KJ ventured downstairs to do something, and I immediately heard laughing. Never good. She had found Silas waddling away from the dining room table, the open jug of syrup with a spoon now sticking out of it, a plate with a freshly pooled with syrup, and a finger-smeared sticky tabletop. Here he is, sticky from toe to hair and quite pleased with himself (and a bit guilty)...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What If...

I love this. My friend Kak wrote it and sent it to me today:

i used to be afraid of the rain--i would fear the traffic (how would i make it to my class on time? would i be able to park?), what kind of shoes would i wear? would my feet be soaking all day? did the discomfort seem that intolerable? what kind of jacket? what if it was going to be a cold rain--did i have the right jacket? i was always buying coats and never felt like i had the right one--where would i put my umbrella (if i remembered it at all) when i got to my destination? would i then forget it on my way home? what if....WHAT IF
but now i am looking at my water-laden patio, my thoroughly happy soaking wet doggie,wet tail wagging away, my shoes wet, yes, and my hair frizzed to no tomorrow, the bottom of my jeans wet and dirty, and am reminded of the gifts God provides. this rain, this lushness, this grand sweep of nature, of rejuvenation, of persisting life.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Judson

Judson Levasheff's Memorial service was today. He died last Wednesday and was 2 years and 10 months old. A bright, shining, smiley, polite, sweet sweet little boy.

I have never been to a memorial service (or any service for that matter) that was so honest.

Throughout Judson's sickness, the past 5 months, Drake and Christina, his parents, have been praying with utter confidence for God to heal Jud's body. Their faith has been pushed and pulled and stretched and held to fire, but they've still prayed and still believed, and asked hundreds to pray with them.

For the first few months after Judson's diagnosis, I found myself praying for everything but Judson's healing. It was a rational decision, even theologically based. I knew that God could do anything, heal any person, perform a radical miracle, but I knew he probably wouldn't. So for that, my prayers would go something like "please heal Judson if that's part of your plan, but if you don't then... (the bulk of my prayer)"

For months I watched (and read about on their blog) Drake and Christina's faith, which was completely tangled up with excruciating pain, grief and questioning. Despite all the darkness that was filling their lives, their faith remained and seemed solid enough to in with my hand. And as the months went by, I found that I actually was holding it, looking at it, wondering. Slowly I began to ask whether I believed that God could heal Jud and wouldn't, or that I didn't believe he really could or that I didn't believe that our asking would change God, or that I was too scared to risk hoping for a miracle, for something that might or might not happen, was too scared to believe and to voice that belief out loud? It became clear that the truth lay in all of those things. And slowly, over a week or so in early September, despite myself, I found myself praying that Jud would "take up his mat and walk," and that for the first time, I could picture him well and believe he might be.

The pastor at the service today told us that he'd had a similar experience; he discovered that his seemingly-theological stance, like mine, was actually masking a weak belief, that he didn't want to be disappointed, didn't want anyone else to be disappointed, and that, in a foolish way, he felt that he needed to "protect God's reputation." How perfectly put. As if God needs us as front men -- read Job (Judson's favorite story) for a picture of a man who, against all we understand as reasonable, saw and knew God.

Throughout the service there were videos of Judson, so verbal, funny and expressive, photos and stories. Then, about halfway through the almost-2-hr service, a couple stood up, good family friends of the Levasheffs, and essentially said, Drake and Christina took a risk and believed that God would heal Judson's body. Not only that, they chose to make their hope public and to ask others, many of whom joined them, to pray for healing with them. Today, they are having to bury Judson rather than throw him a party for his healed body. This is not what they prayed for.

(a huge exclamation point shot off over my head in the audience because that is what I -- and probably so many others -- were reckoning with: how do you pray confidently for something, with belief that it will happen, and still know God is with us and loving us beyond all measure if our prayer isn't answered?).

I wish I had their words verbatim and also the words that Drake spoke after them, echoing the same concern, a lack of understanding, disappointment. Though I can't recall word-for-word, what struck me most, wasn't their phrasing, but the fact that in the face of bitter anguish, they each stood up and said, our prayer wasn't answered, but God is. I am reeling with questions, but I know I am reeling in the safest hands.

Monday, November 05, 2007

ingredients

what IS xanthum gum?? It is in everything!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

pain

For 80 hours straight, I have had a pounding headache. While I've had killer headaches before, migraines that have made me throw up included, I've never had such a relentless one. Today the pain has lessened, and I am drinking a cup of green tea in hopes of dulling it further (thanks Kir), but it lingers. So, fueled by ache, I've been thinking about pain: It's hard not to allow pain to change you. I have noticed this week that my face looks different -- more washed out, fewer smiles, my eyes seem weighed down; I have forgotten how to get dressed in any decent sort of way; it's taken me two hours to do a small shop at the grocery store; I've moved slowly, called no one and spent much of my time lying on the floor trying to convince Silas that we're having fun; I go to sleep at 8.

In some ways, though I've been in tears in the morning unsure of how I could possibly crawl through the day with a child in my charge, I have a kind of pain that people covet -- temporary. (An assumption, but the swollen glands seem evidence enough). Even so, I have felt deflated, defeated, and exhausted.

How do people bear their pain? Cindy, whose pain diagnosis is not only permanent but scheduled to increase exponentially. Christina, whose grief is so severe that it physical hurts as she watches her child degenerating before her eyes.

My skin is so thin -- what temperatures I can bear (the Santa Ana winds blew through with a vengeance last week and I, living without air conditioning, felt miserable), what amount of pain I can bear and still walk under, what grade of emotional discomfort or misunderstanding I can sit with -- that I wish (just a teeny bit) that I were living with Eli in Sierra Leone weathering the rainy season that gushes the roads to mud, the still humid heat that follows, the bucket showers and minnow-groundhog stew.

What are we made of when everything is stripped down?

(would I be scared to know the answer?)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Discipline: to practice or to punish?

Since Silas bit a child yesterday (poor Vivian!), I have been thinking a lot about discipline. What is discipline really? What does it require? Does it require some kind of pain or harshness to separate it from regular conversations? Since we cannot reason with a one or two or three or even ten year old necessarily, we must do something else to discipline. For discipline to exist, there must be an authority figure who is imposing his or her authority on someone else-- what does that look like?

The most polite and well-mannered children I know are spanked (this is a sampling from a small pool). I, however, strongly dislike the idea of hitting a child to teach him what is wrong and to enforce what is right. Is it silly, though, to refuse to spank on principle of imposing force/violence but to grab a child by his arm so it hurts or to squeeze his hand? Aren't these the same things, forms of pain for effect?

Must there be a physical element to discipline for it to be effective? Must that physical element be painful in someway? If there is not a physical element, is that replaced with shaming or emotional pain?

I don't know the answers. I do know, though, that it could be easy for me to act out of anger, so as I am thinking about this, I want to consider boundaries for myself too (i.e. no hitting). I also have seen how easy it can be to shame children (and adults) and how damaging that shame can be. What are the wise ways?

In the American Heritage Dictionary, Discipline (which comes from the same route as disciple -- not usually how we think of it) is defined as follows:
1. training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior
2. controlled behavior resulting from such training
3. a state of order based on submission to rules and authority
4. punishment intended to correct or train

verb:
1. to train by instruction and practice
2. to punish

The primary meaning in both the noun and verb is training and teaching that involves practice and controlled behavior.
The punishment is secondary.

I wonder how we best train and teach and produce upstanding and outstanding children? And I wonder how I will figure it out...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

sitting

I read recently that people who vent their angers, stay angry longer. I think this is true. I want to learn to say, I'm going to sit with this for a while, rather than rushing into an immediate debrief...

There is much to sit with today.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Straight line or curved?

I had quite an awakening recently. And I can't say that too often. A week and a half ago, I was in DC. For days I had been playing with a train set in the sun room of my parents' house, building perfectly oval tracks for Silas (and rebuilding them after he carried off pieces) and even ones that included the tunnel, crossing gate AND bridge (very advanced). Then Zeke came over. Zeke just turned 3 and was very intent on playing with the trains. After he'd been playing for a bit, I looked over saw that he had built a track whose sides wound like a river rather than lay straight like the sides of my firm oval tracks. I was floored. It had never OCCURRED to me that I could make a wavy track. I was shocked --not so much by the now-obvious shape that lay on the floor, but by my own straight-line thinking. How did that happen? Amazing.

So, I've been trying to watch myself since then. I'm certainly a creature of habit and I love that in lots of ways -- rituals ground me and give me things to look forward to like champagne thursdays, the petting zoo in the afternoons, walks to our park -- but what am I missing because of my routines? Ben is out of town this week and I am trying to catch myself off-guard (well, I don't think that's really possible) but at least to challenge my impulses, to take a curvy-tracked route, to slip a bit.

[Thanks Zeke]

post-dentist

I feel like I've been chewing a mouthful of staples, but no, I've just been to the dentist where the hygienist Debbie jabbed at my gums for an hour. The practice is convinced that everyone is on their way to periodontitis -- and maybe we are, though it's strange to think that God gave us teeth that involve a masked person squirting microbe anti-bacterial stuff through a syringe into their roots to maintain...

It turns out I really do suffer from sitcom-scenario dental anxiety. When I walk into the office, I feel the same tense defensiveness that I feel when I take my car in -- that helpless this-guy-is-trying-to-work-one-over-and-make-an-extra-buck feeling. Today I even argued with the woman at the desk and threatened to walk out after only hearing what the "cleaning" involved. (poor woman -- sorry). And to top it off, there is the reality that 9 out of 10 visits end with the words, "so you'll have to come back in to get that worked on" backed by the sound of drills spinning in every other exam room. Ugh.

The good news is that today, my mouth was sparklingly cavity-free! And to top it off, the dentist said, "keep doing whatever you're doing -- it's working!" What that really means, though, is flossing once a month and canceling dentist appointments out of apprehension for a year. Perfect!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a 3 foot tall teacher

The past few days have been quiet ones. Yesterday, Silas and I went to the pediatrician in the morning and that was it. Around noon, I lay on the couch next to him while he drank his milk. He was sluggish and crabby from shots in both arms and legs, and as I lay there beside him, I had a brief certainty that I didn't need to be doing anything else at that moment. Though there were errands waiting in the car, a computer humming with power on the counter, books stacked by my bed to be read, students in need of tutoring, all I needed to be was on the couch next to Silas catching his feet when he raised them in the air and keeping him company while he drank.

He has grown from baby-to-care-for into companion. Lately, he'll plop down somewhere, usually on his dragon chair or this morning on a hill of sand at the beach, and then say "Mama" and tap the sand next to him. He'll answer questions, "would you like to go home now?" with a pause and a thoughtful "...noh."

He also, once again, tends to be a pretty good teacher. When we were in DC last, Ben, much of his family, and I went to see a grief counselor. Among other things, she talked about being present, giving our full attention to the person we are with. Silas does this naturally, and I guess we all must have at some point. He cannot stay on task for longer than a 15 second span -- when I tell him to get his shoe by the door, I have to remind him over and over of his task as he swerves off to pick up a car, to climb stairs, to find a raisin under the table, to put on my shoe -- but each thing he does, on task or off, he engages in completely. So I am trying this too, to look into people's eyes, to keep my phone on silent when I'm with a friend, to hear people the first time, to mute my cluttered mind.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A few things I've liked lately

1. "Stardust" -- go see it -- it's a fun fairytale to spend some time in.

2. the sea breeze that has just started breathing again into the heat

3. being among C.S. Lewis's thoughts as he wrestled with losing his wife in A Grief Observed.
A few striking moments:

"One never meets just Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment that comes. .. Many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst. One never gets the total impact of what we call 'the thing itself.'...The thing itself is simply all these ups and downs: the rest is a name or an idea."

"Is it rational to believe in a bad God? ... The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile?
I think it is, if nothing else, too anthropomorphic. When you come to think of it, it is far more anthropomorphic than picturing Him as a grave old king with a long beard. That image is a Jungian archetype. It links God with all the wise old kings in the fairy-tales, with prophets, sages, magicians. though it is (formally) the picture of a man, it suggests something more than humanity. At the very least it gets in the idea of something older than yourself, something that knows more, something you can't fathom. It preserves mystery. Therefore room for hope."

"Images of the Holy easily become holy images -- sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. .. The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins... All reality is iconoclastic. The early beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her..."

"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask -- half our great tehological and metaphysical problems -- are like that."


4. Watching Silas learn to anticipate -- playing with the train at the bookstore, running out of edamame while he is still eating them, getting to the park.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

I am sitting on the living room floor drinking mint tea. Ben and my mom are sitting on the couch. We have been talking about death, about roles and loss, and so many things we know nearly nothing about.

Somehow during our conversation, after talking about C.S. Lewis, we started talking about the name of the cat who wore little dresses and bonnets and lived in a tree on Mr. Roger's Land of Make Believe -- almost immediately the name Henrietta rolled off my tongue. It's funny how the characters from childhood stay nestled somewhere in our minds for the rest of our lives.

If you feel nostalgic for King Friday, Queen Sara Saturday, Prince Tuesday who goes to school Some Place Else and Henrietta Pussycat: http://pbskids.org/rogers/make_believe/

I love childhood.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I didn't used to understand this poem

by Elizabeth Bishop:


One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hope

Ben, Silas and I just flew back home from a weekend in DC. We went for Steve's wedding and to spend a little time with his mom. At the wedding we talked for a while with our friend Sherry, a strong, spunky woman who is battling cancer, herself. She was full of wisdom and bold enough to ask us hard questions -- about funeral arrangements and wills, about Welcome Home parties and grief. She said that she does not want her doctors to give her any kind of time frame for her life, that she won't let them. What good does it do, she asked, to be told that there is no hope; hope is all that we have.

The more I've thought about her words, the more I agree. I cannot imagine the kind of pressure that rests on every single hour Cindy's had since a doctor told her she had 8 healthy weeks of life left. And when there's that much pressure on small moments and big ones, how much risk there is for disappointment... How deep will she have to dig for hope?

Sherry and I talked about what a solitary road cancer is, that even when she is surrounded by people who love her, she still has cancer alone, still falls asleep in her own thoughts at night, still feels the pain by herself and alone is facing death. I think for most of life we can trick ourselves into believing that we don't, actually, have to go it alone, and in many ways that is true; we so rarely have to be stripped down to our cores and forced to stand outside. But cancer does that to people, and so does great loss.

Christina and Drake are standing outside holding sharp silver hope. I hope when Cindy reaches in her pocket, she finds shards too, glimmering, polished, warm to the touch.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Silas's Dedication on the beach!

In mid July we had Silas's Dedication (similar to a baptism except that it's more about the parents' declaration of how we want to raise Silas rather than his declaration of belief, which is what a baptism really is). Tiffany and Chris extended their trip to stay for it (thank you! we loved that!!) and Bowis and Taylor drove down from LA (as did Hubbs!). We were touched by all who came, by how big our family is here...

Crystal Cove State Beach. This is the beach where I grew up. Not as a child, but grew up through my 20's and into an adult. It is the first beach I spent time on after I moved away from my family and started calling California home. It's the beach where I spent my first Thanksgiving with only my husband. It's the beach where I've walked for hours, working out life's questions and reckoning with God. It's where I've started friendships, spotted dolphins, saved seals, written in my journal, pocketed life-marked shells. It's where I sat with my husband having a picnic the day I went into labor with our first child. And it's the beach where we decided to have Silas dedicated.

What a sweet babe; he lay his head on Ben's chest as we all sang "Jesus loves me" and rested there until we were through -- his own private lullaby sung by a chorus.

Artificial Pizza Topping

Ben and I made a disturbing discovery today at Albertson's: among the bags of grated cheese hung huge bags of "artificial pizza topping," which looked suspiciously like grated mozzarella but had virtually no recognizable ingredients. It is quite possible that a) this ingredient has existed for ages and b) this product tops most of the big-company pizzas we order, but either way, the discovery was new to us and struck us as an all-time food production low.

When I was shopping for produce the other week at the local market down the street, I found a box of blueberries from "Disney Farms" -- what could be more disheartening than to think of Disney not only taking over a huge chunk of the entertainment world, toy production, children's clothing branding, and travel, but also to now be meddling in FARMING?!

And I can hardly give Silas a bath without doubts and guilt about baby soap because of a study I recently heard about that most baby bath products (all of the ones that smell good) are manufactured through a process that releases carcinogens into the soap.

As far as clothing goes, yes organic cotton or bamboo is incredibly soft (and exorbitantly expensive) but at least clothing is safe territory. Wrong again! Apparently the cotton we tend to buy and wear goes through a whole series of its own poisonous treatments before it touches our skin.

And then, of course, we have dairy products with antibiotics, vegetables with pesticides, processed deli meats, hormones in chicken and beef.

We accept SO MUCH because it is convenient and inexpensive and any detrimental affects are far enough away that we can convince ourselves they don't exist. I live in Orange County, and worse yet, 100 yards from a freeway. The air here has a reputation of being some of the worst in the nation, and in fact, many days there's a low-lying swath of smog at the horizon to lend a visual aid. But do I move? No. Because I love the beach and weather, my friends and neighborhood, and can believe that the sun and breeze makes everything all right.

The complacency is terrifying, really.

Like so many, I pick and choose; I buy organic milk, try to wash my vegetables decently, shop for deals, and carry on with my life. Do my half-hearted efforts make any difference? Are my complaints about how out of the way and expensive organics are (the 3 markets within walking distance sell very few organic anything) absurd because really the quality of the food we put in our bodies should be invaluable?

There have been stories in the papers lately about the Nicaraguan field hands protesting banana plantation owners' use of the poisonous DBCP pesticide in the 1970's. How much is actually known and denied, swept away for profit by those in charge? It's hard to imagine people consciously harming others by withholding information, and yet again, it is not hard at all...

For us, for them, for survival -- What is enough?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Conchords

I am sitting up in the roasting loft to escape noxious fumes from a flea bomb downstairs (though I am pretty sure I am being poisoned too, just more slowly than the fleas). Why we have fleas when Fat Kitchen lives only outside? Who knows! Disgusting!

Sitting up here, I find that, as usual these days, I have a Flight of the Conchords song stuck in my head. If you haven't yet watched this new show or tivoed it (sunday nights, HBO), you must check it out. I am not one to blog about a TV show, but this one really is funny. Two Kiwis, Jemaine and Bret, moved to NYC to play and cut an album, though really they only sing to themselves in their apt. Here are two sketches to check out:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=5Qy6CxgqW20
http://youtube.com/watch?v=YdH5i6re-6E

Ben, by the way, is *obsessed* with this show.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

something new... (there is no ready)

Ben and I are entering new territory. I guess we always knew that at someday we would have to brace ourselves for pain and for loss, but I, at least, considered those things far off. Our vows we tell us we'd face sickness and health, ease and heartache. What they didn't tell us, was how. How do we move through sickness and health, how do we love through the easy times and the unthinkable? The answer, right now, is that we do with heaviness and disbelief, standing close enough that our whole sides touch.

What did explorers do when they summited a hill panting and faced an unending wall of jagged peaks ahead of them and a fresh blizzard howling at their necks? I guess they did all they could -- take the next step. (This seems like a lame analogy; it comes from growing up with a mom who read historical fiction a lot and would stop us and talk us through a vivid landscape, making us consider the details of what life would have been like if...).

Ben's mom's cancer, after having virtually disappeared in April, has suddenly begun to grow aggressively. Yesterday her oncologist categorized her stage 1 clear cell ovarian cancer as stage 3. The disease is incurable and fairly advanced -- she will explore some trial treatment options with a specialist at Johns Hopkins and per her doctor's recommendations, push to do "everything she wants to do" in the next 6-8 weeks. Everything? What does that even mean?
And then what will happen?

I cannot imagine that this strong-willed, healthy, woman won't take up her mat and walk. It turns out I cannot imagine much more than I can see...

Monday, July 09, 2007

On Aging

Madeleine L'Engle writes in A Circle of Quiet:

" Memory is one of the most essential of the writer's tools, and a writer finds it easy to have total recall, just as other people find it easy to balance a checkbook... But the adolescents today are concerned over a general lack of memory in their parents and teachers, and it is this forgetfulness of what it is like to be twelve, or seventeen, or twenty one, that is largely responsible for the famous generation gap. The young look at the amnesiac over-thirties and say, 'We look at the adults around us, and if that is what it means to be grownup, then we say, No! We don't ever want to be like most of the adults we see.'
So they dress as differently from us as they possibly can; they wear wild hairdos and symbolic jewelery; in a secular world they are crying out for transcendence...
So the challenge I face with children is the redemption of adulthood. We must make it evident that maturity is the fulfillment of childhood and adolescence, not a diminishing; that it is an affirmation of life, not a denial; that it is entering fully into our essential selves."

Speaking Pain

I've done a lot of thinking these past few weeks about pain and about communication.

At 9 1/2 weeks, I lost the baby. So unexpected to me that I would have a miscarriage, even though they happen often -- and quietly.

Madeleine L'Engle says that when people talk through pain, they "spread their problems out between [two]...[and]...can then see it themselves in better perspective" (A Circle of Quiet).

This has proved most true for me during the past few weeks. I have been struck by what happens when people speak their pain aloud -- suddenly, others' pain becomes unearthed, and all of this buried gold begins, magically, to rise up and out of ourselves; gravity is reversed and we experience seeing each other for a brief moment.

These interactions change us; they seal us to each other, push us from rehearsed existing into wild living. Often, we don't talk again about what we saw during a raw exchange -- it's too sacred, we even feel embarrassed by how our whole body shook with sobs or how our face turn red and swollen, how all of our guardedness fell -- but the moment solidifies and becomes one of the rocks we pick up because it marked us. Or made us.

I'm so thankful for all the rocks in my pocket...

Friday, June 01, 2007

some new things

1. Well, first of all, after the ultrasound today, it appears that there is, in fact, an impossibly small (lentil bean-sized) baby growing in my uterus. The fact -- proven by the image of a tiny peanut-shaped object with clapping heart chambers -- feels impossible, humorous, miraculous, vulnerable. And this life is very early -- only 7 weeks.

2. Into this good news was also born the news that one of my best buddies is ALSO pregnant, I am just not allowed to out her yet. HOORAY!!!!

3. I do miss a glass of champagne...

tomorrow morning!

Tomorrow morning I leave for a week away in Paris and Prague! Ben will not be coming because he's decided to save his vacation days for beach and slow-paced sun. Good choice, though there is nothing like walking with your beloved through the streets of Europe, especially the aged romantic ones in Paris and Prague... and I'll miss his being there. Silas will be home too (compliments of Ben's mom who arrives tomorrow!), so I will be much more alone (and free?) than I have been in quite some time. I cannot wait. Wonder what it will be like to be without Silas on my arm for so many days in a row for the first time, really. Not apprehensive, but curious...

I have a stack of books to take, a new journal I just made, MANY snacks, a couple of magazines. YES. Everything is lying on my bed ready to pack, and I feel quite prepared. The dilemma, as always when traveling to Europe, is shoes: I want to walk from corner to corner of the city without a thought of my feet aching off of my body, but I also don't want to look like a tennis shoe-clad American tourist traipsing through the city with much too loud a voice.

I just made homemade mac n' cheese with broccoli that's waiting for me on the stove. Yum. It's funny, this week, despite myself, i have had all of these domestic impulses to prepare for my leaving: to make a huge pan of macaroni, to stock up on berries, crackers and yogurt for Silas, even to clean out my car. And then at the same time, have felt a slight strain of resistance, of wanting simply to go and to let everyone else take care of themselves. This instinct, of course, is really only half possible and only half of what I want. It would be pretty lonely way to live...

There is a vase of peonies (pea-O-nee, as Max would say) in the middle of the table -- 5 fat, fringey blooms whisping their fragrance into the air... I wonder what flowers are in season in the markets in Paris right now.

***

I woke up at 3Am this morning with my psychic-Silas-connection (often I wake literally 2 minutes before he starts crying) and then lay awake long after he fell back asleep. Lying there in the dark, my mind racing with anticipation, items to gather, money to transfer into my account etc., I pictured my plane leaving the ground and Costa Mesa becoming a spec, then fading into desert, then the span of the country, then vast ocean, and for the first time I felt a twinge of homesickness about leaving my boys.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

on being a mother (take 17,443)

My mom and I had an interesting conversation last week in which she asked whether I think the mothers of our generation feel as much tension as hers did about staying home, since the cultural pendulum seems to be shifting toward valuing Mother as a full-time vocation.

The answer is yes, I think, and will always be. The generation of mothers before us faced an unprecedented pressure to break ground professionally, to prove that they were not only equal to but the same as men, which by definition caused frowning at women who worked at home with their kids and lived "traditional" lives. This generation is more on the side of our being equal to but different than men, and recognizing great and essential strengths in the differences. This thinking allows for women to choose either profession or combinations of them and accounts for third wave feminism and the slow pendulum swing. It's kind of a relief, really. Women are allowing ourselves to be whole, to define what wholeness means.

My thought, then, is that as long as we are people who are concerned about our whole selves --our individuality, our sexuality, our wellness, our creativity, our intellect, our relationships, our needs -- we will always feel rub with motherhood because nothing else demands this amount of self, of giving, of creating, of compromising; the manual labor alone is ridiculous (why did no one warn me about that part!)

There are many frustrations I have with being a mother full-time -- the fact that there is no roll-off-the-tongue-profession to name at a cocktail party, no neatly carved career path, not much of a reason ever to wear suits, no quarterly reviews to boost my morale. The fact that when a friend living in SF on an amazing poetry fellowship came to visit, chatting articulately about politics, literature, her complaints about academia, I felt utterly one-dimensional among the board books in my living room and had to work hard to remind myself how I am not...

So there is rub. Of course there is. And there are days when I think my eyeballs are going to drop out of my head and my arms are going to fall straight off of my body to the ground. But here I am. Each day, here I am. I wake up and I choose to be with Silas for the day. I get to be with Silas for the day. And he teaches me a lot about what I am made of. And he makes me laugh -- at him but also at myself. And he stretches me and makes me consider whom I want to be. And so I choose this -- to be with him -- this crazy little scientist who opens and closes everything, fake laughs to make me laugh, who knocks on doors and windows with tiny fists, and scoops blackberries into his mouth faster than I've ever seen.

The Southland

Silas and I recently got back from a week in Nashville and Atlanta. Finn Moyer, 2 weeks old, hardly made a peep night or day and Sara looked beautiful and showed virtually no signs of having just given birth (not to mention having had a C-section!). Max graduated in his poofy hat
with his huge smile (I loved being there to celebrate him), and Ella whirled through the week in her ballerina outfit, bouncing and talking about sleeping blooty.

Their Nashville neighborhood may be a perfect neighborhood: old wood houses close enough together with front porches and paned windows, big trees along the streets, and alleys winding behind. The entire trip g r e e n continued to strike me: hills of grassy clover, limey leaves unfolding from bushes and along branches, towering water oaks and maples, shaggy and ancient.
These are trees that have lived. Delicious.

And it rained. Even thunderstormed with jagged lightning spearing from the sky. All week it was hot enough for Silas to play in a wading pool, hot enough to wear sun dresses without layers, hot enough to woo fireflies into glow. I miss those summers...


This is Silas's photo smile

3 Homers


at KJ's graduation

She walked barefoot and officially gets the award for being the first Moyer to have a moonbounce at her house for a party!! (I think if Mona has anything to do with it, there will be a moonbounce at every 5101 party hereafter).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Going to Court

Well, my brain is a bit too fried to write anything substantive or reflective, so I am writing only to brood about the DMV. The long and short of it is that I owe California $1000 -- yes, one thousand, there is not an extra zero there -- for two red light camera tickets. Apparently I got one in January of '06 that they sent to my former address and then doubled, and one at the end of last month. In DC, the same offense warrants at $75 ticket. What is WRONG with California that they need to fine $346 for a red light offense? So, tomorrow morning, off to court I go to plead guilty and hope for grace. Can't wait for this thing to be done!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

small thanks here and there

Thank goodness we don't move through this world without other people...

I ended up talking with my mom for an hour -- she happened to call at a crucial moment -- and voiced many balled up thoughts --- relief.

Then Ben left work at 4:30 and met Silas and me at the park (Silas is in love with Ben -- and parks for that matter). I climbed up the jungle gym after Silas and then once he went down the slide, sat up there with my eyes closed, face up to the sun, breathing, while a 7 year old boy climbed over me and monkey-barred back and forth to my left. Sometimes we need a breath.

We then wandered to the post office and back home. No pressure to be anywhere. A break from pushing a stroller. When we got here, Ben and Silas went to play with Annie and Honey (the neighborhood Frenchie and Pug), and I gathered up my People mag and a coke zero with lemon, bundled up in my green vest and uggs and sat out back in the cooling afternoon breeze, sun flickering through leaves and read about Drew Barrymore (I love her these days) and a slew of other people who don't matter much but name their children interesting names and are fun to look at.

Ben cooked Silas dinner and is giving him a bath right now. Breaks are good.

I'm going now to make my specialty hamburgers that will have to be shaped like hot dogs since we only have hot dog buns and are still bread-eating Americans, unlike everyone in the magazine...

May Fair Scramble

You know those rides at May festivals -- whirly gigs or merry mixers or the scrambler? I am on one of those. In fact, I have been for quite some time now. I love those rides -- Mari and I used to stand in line for them over and over, beg to stay in our car to keep riding, but what makes merry-mixing repeatedly so exhilarating is the pause between trips, the brief moment when the body is reassembled, when gravity, sky, ground reassert themselves, before you hurdle into space again.

Riding one of these contraptions for days or months on end, however, is another story. It's hard to know what to do, really -- jump off mid-motion and slam into the wall, stay on and risk walking lopsidedly for the rest of my life bent by centripetal force, scream at the top of my lungs into the blaring music, throw my shoe at the controls in hopes of jamming them and risk killing us all (or it could just get funny, like when KV kicked his sandal off on that ride in NJ and hit that old woman -- maybe I'll try that, laughter usually does heal in some way or another...).

The truth is that young motherhood is hard. Hard in a way that's deep and gut wrenching and most of the time buried under survival and looking at the sunny side (which, to be fair, is bright). Yes, it is flexible and exploratory, oozily relational and often funny. But it is also utterly uprooting and messy because the need to give never lets up; the demands on my time and body and attention stretch out ahead of me in an unending line, like the yellow brick road but without Oz.

So here I am, hurling through space, around and around in this red metal car.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Guys.... Girls...

Last night 5 of Ben's friends slept here after their weekend in Mexico. When I came downstairs this morning hardly any of them even said hello and when they left 35 minutes later hardly any of them said goodbye (granted they had slept on a wooden floor and gotten 1/2 a night's rest, but still, I've known them practically my whole life). After they were gone, I found dirty glasses and a cereal bowl still filled with milk on the counters, a pair of someone's dirty underwear on the living room floor, mountains of rumpled, unfolded blankets, the toilet seat up, wet towels on the living room floor AND last but not least, PEE on the bathroom FLOOR next to the toilet. Seriously?

In contrast, last night, before they all arrived, I had Hollie, whom I hardly know, over for dinner. She came with 4 picked roses from her garden and helped me grill chicken.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech

How does one even write about this?

I have felt sad in my core, introspective, quiet, afraid, mournful.

Everyone has looked different. Walking through the park with Silas, I involuntarily looked for guns in the pockets of peoples' jackets.

I've thought a lot about death.

I've thought a lot about loving people. What a fearsome endeavor it is -- to love from our gut. Nothing is more vulnerable.

In the shock of tragedy, I feel floaty, like looking around at death is like looking around at mythical creatures that most of the time I don't believe in. Death means vanishing. How can it be possible for a person to be vibrantly moving and then to be utterly gone from the earth? It is unthinkable. At least unbearable. It makes my chest tight and achy.

At 3o, I still have never suffered losing someone. This terrifies me. Loss, big loss, is inevitable . And to be honest, I am not sure how I will ever face it.

What has struck me as a miracle, though, -- and I do believe in miracles -- has been watching people survive losing someone. People do survive, and not only that, they usually continue to live. Annemarie described her grief to me once by saying that each morning she had to make herself breathe, make herself put one foot in front of the other and show up. People do this. Fiona. Mari. My dad. Kari. People in Iraq. Probably most of the people we know, at least many of them, are moving through a quiet grief much of the time. Somehow this is possible. Somehow, we are incredibly resilient, incredibly full. We can absorb and feel and remember so much, be loaded to the brim, overflow. And we can heal. Never, perhaps, without tenderness or scars, but we can heal enough to move through the earth again. That is a gift. And maybe somehow the tenderness is too. Today I can't see that, but belief goes deeper than today.

What I hope most for all these families and students and roommates and friends and boyfriends and children and parents and lovers and sad people is that as the day plummets into blackness and thick shadow, that somehow, even far off through dense trees, they'll see the moon rise and know there still is Light.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Catching Up

When we were in DC Easter week, an April snow fell all over the cherry blossom blooms and emerging azaleas. This is Silas in his first snow.

Last Tuesday I turned 30.
To wear this new age beginning with 3 feels surprisingly refreshing -- a gust of wind, almost cleansing. My Mom said it well: as you grow up, whims and dreams and likings change, emerge, fade, but what stays the same is your core, who you really are. As you get older, you come to know this core more and more and settle into your real, solid self.
This is how I feel, settling. It is relaxing, assuring.
This is a picture from my birthday party that Ben threw for me-- a circle of women (and two men) around a wooden table outside in half-sun, eating cupcake roses and telling stories. How blessed I am to have them fill my life.


30 and 1 walking in Newport.

A small bandito.

And lastly, Fat Kitchen. It turns out, just as I suspected, that she has been feasting at various houses around the complex. On Friday, I officially gave her to a neighboring house. (She has scratched Silas on the face three times and once on the arm -- seems to me like enough. 10 minutes after the last swipe, however, Silas, with a big red scratch across the face, leaned over and kissed her picture on my "cat needs a home" poster -- oh to be as forgiving as a baby!).

It was a tearful goodbye as Fat Kitchen trotted after the heels of her new owners and they carried away my yellow cat food bowl. She has been a trusty friend these 4 years. The gloom settled around me in the living room -- an era over. Since we parted ways last Friday, though, I have found her on my doorstep each time I have left the house or come home. SO... it looks like our goodbye will be gradual after all.
Publish

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The World now and in 100...

My Mom is 58 and almost more obsessed than anyone I know with her technology. Her Treo is never far from her fingertips, and frequently trills customized rings. Her iBook travels with her around the country and back and you can almost always find it in whatever room she's standing in. What a different world it is than when I was in college. SO different. For example, this afternoon, I found all four of us scattered around the house working on our four separate laptops. And last night, Ben and my Dad watched some bloody movie while my Mom and I sat on my bed each with a laptop. Many of our technological trends suggest that our culture -- world, really -- is moving toward isolationism. And in many ways we are. But I must say that we did feel very much together sitting there uploading our photos...

At dinner tonight we talked about what the state of the world could be in 100 years. 100 is a long time. Lots of positive predictions: leaps in healthcare (AIDS, Cancer, Alzheimers), more technology, a more global, communal planet, efforts bent on meeting basic needs for impoverished nations, hopefully radical environmental conservation. We appear to be on the brink of making important planet-altering decisions. What will we choose? (it is so easy to look down at only our own lives and conveniences -- it's terrifying to look up at any sort of big picture).

Though there is much we can do environmentally, we agreed that the planet may continue warming regardless -- due to population, pollution, a natural shift, something. The Nuclear card also continues to be a wild card. Will there really be a nuclear war? Too hard to imagine, too terrifying. Population growth could alter everything too. We are growing at an exponential rate as is, and if devastated nations do begin to get well, there will be even more of a boom. I pictured our grandchildren piled into pod-like apartments in white sterile buildings, emerging for work wearing white suits and sliding into rivers of bodies walking to work like an Army.

Where will we be in 100 years? My mom thinks a lot may blow over in the next century. Today our world is charged: China's power swells, North Korea threatens, Russia wears more corruption, the Middle East surges and bleeds and is ready to blow. Maybe in 100 years much of this will have played out and we will be settled in a new place. The casual phrase "played out" smuggles horrific chills.

The more we speculated and talked about which parts of our world are throbbing, the more I found my body bracing itself agains the wooden chair and the impulse to squeeze my eyes shut and sing "tra la la" over and over until the conversation passed. But instead I kept moving my mouth as I gripped the edges of my seat and listened. We have to listen. And I have no idea what we have to do, but we have to do, too.

Read, think, look up, stop throwing so much away, turn off the lights, invite people over for dinner, be kind, give money away, be watchful, say yes, pray for children and leaders and grace.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

advice to me

When in doubt, pause.


(or leave the room for a breather)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Oh, our world (and our selves too)

It's Sunday morning: Silas is napping (home with a runny nose), Ben is at church and I am reading the newspaper. The whole world, it seems, is up in arms. Violence continues to rage and destroy people in Baghdad and all over Iraq. Marches against governments buzz in Taiwan, Ukraine, and coups are in the wings in Sudan. The Darfur crisis continues. Starvation is rampant all over Africa. AIDS. Child trafficking. Sex slaves and the market, violence, pornography that accompanies it. Gobs of explosives found in Spain. A new deep water port paid for by China in Pakistan. Oil. Oil. Oil. And global warming. I realized this morning (again), that somehow, Ben, Silas and I produce as much trash as a small nation. This is not ok.
(check this out for more thoughts - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHWTLA8WecI )

How eerie it feels, after pausing to consider, to sit in a structurally sound home that I have filled with objects and colors of my choosing, windows intact, locks on every opening, the quiet of sleep at night in the absence of terror, watching maples push tiny leaf-paws into Spring air.

We feel so safe here a lot of the time -- even in the midst of all of our American dysfunction, obesity, overcrowded prisons, partisan hatred, crises in education, poverty and injustice especially for our poor. But overall, I think we -- we being the educated, the wealthy -- wrap up in our silky lives and carry on wearing hefty earplugs and singing to ourselves with averted eyes. How else could we carry on? A lot of us feel untouchable, I think. I do. Like all the violence and poverty surging and spewing all over the world is so other. Tragic. But other.

I half want to pull out my woolly earplugs and put my nose on the ground and realize all this Stuff people are and are suffering from is a reflection of me, instead of a picture hanging across the room. And I half want to sprint to the hills and set up a tent (with lots of big pillows and mattresses in it) among wildflowers with my closest friends and family and live there happily ever after roasting marshmallows.

*sigh*

I've been watching BBC/Discovery's "Planet Earth" -- which, I might add, is stunning, sobering, and refreshing -- and have been trying to learn from the animals. I haven't come up with much except that one, their lives is 100% about survival, there is little room for gratuitous anything, and two, they rely a lot on each other. Maybe that's a lot.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

funky morning

Lately I have felt like a 9 month pregnant 75 year old in the mornings. My joints are stiff, my face is puffy, my back feels like a 200 pound man is leaning across it. This does not make for a cheery start to the day.

This was one of those mornings. After doing a little yoga that helped moderately, reading the paper, half-heartedly eating peanut butter on english muffin, and then brooding in my bed while Silas napped, Ben made me get out of the house. We walked up the street -- he got his haircut and I bought what may be my last pile of fabrics for my quilt. (I finished sewing together all the patterned squares, now will add borders and sew the backing, then somehow figure out the business of batting). Despite the insistent sun, the blooms opening along bush and branch, the soft breeze off the unseen ocean, I kept caving into gloom and throwing my arms on top of my head -- some impulse for balance or protection -- and walked that way until I was ready to face the sky again.

When we got back, neighbors were scattered around the complex sanding down a front door, washing upstairs windows with a long brush, tending to potted plants. Most of these people are casual, friendly neighbors with whom I do nothing more than exchange smiley hellos. But as we wandered toward our house, I in the privacy of my own gloom, Silas crabbing and Ben wondering what had become of his family, Ben started offering up "Bronwen is pissed today" to anyone who asked how we were.

Someone laughed. Someone just glanced at me and kept working. Someone said, "really?" at which point I had to smile and say, uh yeah, big funk or something equally as articulate. And Ben, who had no interest in relenting, kept calling a spade a spade as he left me at the door and headed to the car to get a burrito (and escape from me). And despite myself, the more he pulled my big rope of gloom out into the middle of the complex, the more my broodiness began to dissipate a little.

It is a couple hours and half a burrito later later and the day is still shadowy all around the edges, but I am finding my way back to gratitude, or at least trying. That seems to be the only way i know to try to relocate my feet and find something to stand on.

They just walked in the door -- apparently, while Ben was fixing a sprinkler head, Silas crawled straight for the pool and tried to get in feet first (at least he knows how to properly enter large bodies of water...) -- Ben nabbed him more than his pajamaed right foot was in...

Friday, March 30, 2007

independence

Now that Silas is 1 and completely grown up, the two of us tend to coexist much of the time. Today I was sitting on the floor next to him reading while he played with my cell phone. Then, quietly, he crawled out of the room. I waited a few minutes to finish my chapter and then got up to find him. He had crawled into my closet and was happily playing with the wheels of a suitcase. So I plopped down on a pile of dirty laundry and kept reading while he crawled around nearby playing with bottles of lotion and dirty clothes (ahh, the really great toys). And before long, he had once again crawled out of the room. Is he already insisting on having his own space? When I found him, he was back in his room reading a board book. I ran downstairs to get an english muffin and found him lying on the floor on top of a little flannel blanket he pulled out thunking his legs against the floor again and again laughing. We sat up there together for a while eating buttery toast. A bite for me, a bite for him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the day

Today I went "marketing." In many parts of the country there is no name for this; it is just how people get errands done, but here in Orange County it is an anomaly to walk anywhere other than to your car. (I am distracted becuase Erik and Ben are recounting obscene scenes from Jackass 2 -- what Jackasses -- the guys, not Erik and Ben). People literally drive their cars across the parking lot to go from Starbucks to the grocery store.

After a stop in the post office, I figured I had time to run into Kmart (a store less than a mile from my house that I rarely ever remember to use) to buy a few things even though it was bordering Silas' lunch time. "Water, meat sticks, dirt, and wipes. Water, meat sticks, dirt, wipes;" I made my way to the store chanting my mantra. About 15 minutes later, I put meat sticks in Silas' hand and wheeled out of the store with two huge bags of potting soil and a box of diapers balanced on the handle bars of the stroller Potting soil, it turns out, is quite heavy, so the entire time I was walking I had to pull up on the handlebar so that there was enough pressure on the front tire. Finally, sweating and with sore arms, I pulled up to 260. As I paused to punch in the gate code , the entire stroller tipped backwards in slow motion -- the diapers and two bags of soil toppling onto the sidewalk, Silas' eyebrows raised to his hairline as he lay on his back strapped into the stroller, and the woman sitting in the car by the curb looked like she had eaten a bird. --sigh-- I gave her a weak smile, righted the stroller with my son in it blinking at me, and lumbered around gathering my scattered, bulky possessions.

That was the beginning of the day. We didn't do much else. I'm not sure how a single hour can make such a difference, but I just haven't been myself since Day Light Savings. It has tripped some invisible circuit in my body so that all I want to do is eat Cheetos and other savory delights and sleep. Despite the blossoms erupting around me, of which there are many, I seem to be gearing up for hibernation. So, the errand running was a real feat.

And now, at 8:45 PM, I think I will go fall into bed, only slightly depressed by my 80-year-old impulse to sleep before 9. Adieu.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Babies are funny (thank goodness)

A couple of months ago I started to worry that I don't laugh very much. There are people with loud, springy, ready laughs who laugh real laughs at everything. That isn't me. Often when I think something is funny, I have nothing more than a smile for it or a small ha ha. But even those seemed few and far between, and where was my deep, whole body-shaking, tears-in-my
-eyes laugh? Was it gone?? Just as I was about to despair in my in my lack of humor and ease, and in the fact that I was only half-engaged with life, I started to notice them. Who knew that laughs could be so easy to miss. They sidle in here and there, are quick and quiet or sandwiched in the ridiculous or mundane (thank goodness for that). There is lots of both the ridiculous and mundane these days, which makes me so glad for my found laugh. Silas brings this out a lot (and so do Ben and Amy).


Silas holds up the phone now, or the remote control or a cracker...

One day when my mom was here, Silas was crabby and whiny, so at a loss for what to do, we put him in a giant bag and carried him around between us. He couldn't have been happier.



Amy took this one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Brown Ale Quilting

I am sitting here working on my quilt -- quilt, a project of 10 years, the least product-oriented project of my life, refreshing! -- sipping New Castle Brown Ale, which I really bought to cook Corned Beef and cabbage in tomorrow (Ben's parents are coming over) and which I surprisingly like.

Carrie Miller inspired this quilt when I was in college. I collected fabrics here and there -- Oklahoma, Eli's old clothes, Mari's shirt and the khaki cut-off shorts we used to wear, Costa Mesa -- for about 3 years. Then I cut squares for the next year or two (that sounds like a lot of squares -- what you should know is that they are 6x6). Then gladly looked at the squares for a while and just recently started sewing them together. Recently being two years ago. I don't sew them often. I MAY be halfway through and then will come the whole actual quilting part, which I will also make up as I go along.

Because this has been such an unfolding process, there's a lot sewn into these squares, which makes it all worthwhile (i have had 2 sips of ale and i am wasted -ha, clearly not irish, i'll stick with the corned beef). Our move to Cali. 227 Walnut St. Our new house. Silas' birth -- he was born in the middle of a row so I stitched his name into a seam. And I tend to work on it when Ben travels (or during one of his trips away a year), which includes working through being with myself, with loneliness, with the questions that arise in my own space.

So even though the columns do not begin to line up -- it is ridiculous -- I like it more and more as I go. And it looks like me. I'll post a picture in a few years when I finish.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

a few

1. the office is on in 6 minutes

2. i accidentally froze orange slices in the freezer -- good.

3. i am starting to hate money. don't really want to be an embittered-about-money type person, but...

4. i find out about the stegner fellowship in the next two weeks

5. i am freaking almost 30.

6. my brother max turns out to be a genius writer

strawberry picking

Last weekend, Kaia Joye visited before her CA road trip senior spring break. Saturday, she, Silas, Ben and I went to Tanaka Farms to wagon ride and pick strawberries. As we bumped along in a wagon-full of young families, chewing on giant stalks of celery, sugar-sweet carrots, cauliflower, cilantro (it turns out fresh, organic cilantro just-picked, though still v. fragrant, is mild and almost lettuce-like), I realized there is something deeply grounding about having family stuck to your side on a farm wagon. Even while growing into a family of our own, there is nothing like having root-family with us to pick pumpkins, visit a farm, go to the circus; it is all worlds at once -- childhood, today, and what we picture ahead. It creates a gradual turning. Warm. Reassuring.

And then there are so many days when the three of us go it alone, together, -- our own family -- and end up at the smallest zoo, at the ocean, or driving south through Salinas -- the yellow hills and tumbled rock -- on our way home.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Protest

Silas threw up this morning. I am pretty sure it's becuase he overheard that I was going to give him to the fairies. Don't worry, Silas, I will keep you.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

FUNK

I am not a person who does more than one thing well at a time -- I am not talking about multi-tasking. I can easily talk on the phone, read the mail, feed Silas, cook something and make myself a drink simultaneously. What I refer to is doing more than one thing well that involves my heart and creative energy: When I was teaching, I felt conflict with writing; when writing, conflict with visual art; when raising Silas, conflict with everything else. It is hard for me to divide my passions...

Some people do not experience this, which I find fascinating (and perplexing too).

I have a child. There is no going back on that one. I like him. I love him. I stare at him for hours a day and laugh when no one can hear me. My skin gets the chalk-board-scratch-feeling when I think of anything bad every happening to him (which includes thickening skin with other kids and ever becoming a teenager).

That said, if a sparkly fairy appeared out of the blue and could magically *poof* him away to a happy place and make him instantly disappear with no pain or sadness --not die, mind you, just magically disappear --, I think I would kiss him goodbye on his mushy little cheek and let him poof.

Ben, of course, balked at this. But really, it would be sudden relief from this place where not only is there no turning back, but where I know I MUST continue to go forward. Silas WILL have to elbow his way through adolescence. And worst yet, sometime in the near future, I will embark on this whole thing all over again and have a second one. Why is this?? A very fair question. Being one of 4, my conscience simply won't let me raise an only child, despite myself. He must have a sibling to survive and laugh with...

So what I am wondering, as I sit here sipping rose bud tea that Sara sent for Valentines day (first taste is campfire, then roses) is what to do in moments of feeling transparent, of feeling like my life work -- not just Silas but all life work -- is a washing machine full of clean, warm, soggy sweat socks? what to do when the only idea that stirs the crackling current of aliveness through me is the idea of leaving tomorrow on a plane for France alone for 3 months -- travelling in Provence, staying in Paris on a houseboat or in an apartment with un petit balcon, which of course, is a complete impossibility.

But maybe that's just it -- the root problem -- that I believe in impossibilities...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Evolution

I've been feeling "angsty," as my former student Elizabeth Ray would say (who just ate dark chocolate rather than milk to confirm that she is, indeed, angsty -- I love teenagers), and haven't found much to say.

A highlight of the week: on Valentines Day, Ben and I gave each other cards. And of all the cards in all the stores in all the world, we bought each other the same card.

I am thinking about coming back to teach here next year (currently am subbing an English class). Today, all signs point to yes, though it is hard to imagine being here without these kids whom I have grown to love the past 4. That is the thing about teaching and loving a school -- it empties and fills. It's malleable. Come back to visit and you are a stranger. Coming back here would be starting from scratch. Taking a gulp of air, diving in.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Books from childhood...

I threw a Couples Valentines Cocktails-Mocktails Baby Shower tonighT (how is that for a mouthful?) This is the game we played -- jogs the memory -- which kids books do you remember? Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Ramona Quimby, Curdoroy the Bear?... Read the first lines and see if you can come up with the source.

I am exhausted and going to take a bath and fall into bed (yes, it is 8PM).


FIRST LINES: NAME THAT BOOK

(some are chapter books some are picture books, some are popular now, and for some you have to think back to childhood … good luck*)




In the great green room




The night Max wore his wolf suit




Here are Paul and Judy




Once when I was six, I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast.




how many workers are there here?
One.two.three.four.five.six





Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong. Ding-dong.




Once there was a bunny who wanted to run away




One sunny day, the caterpillar was hatched…




On the fifteenth of may, in jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day in the cool of the pool…




One day, little Sal went with her mother…




Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live.




"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother…




Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide,
wide world





I expect I might as well begin by telling you about_____________, so whenever I mention her name, which I do very often in this book, you will not interrupt and ask, "Who is ___________? What does she look like? How big is she? How old is she? What color is her hair? Is her hair long? Is there a Mr. _______?"




"I am not a pest!"




Mr and Mrs Brown first met _________ on a railway platform.




On the cover, what did that say? Did that say there would be a monster…?




In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines




One evening, ___________ decided to go for a walk in the moonlight, but there wasn't any moon…




___________ is a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store.




Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of
his head, behind ___________.





Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown
Hare…

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dang

Well, Ben is out for the evening, which means I actually have an extended uninterrupted span of time to do some things (I owed Kirsten a poem yesterday), but it turns out all I want to do is drink wine, eat reeces pieces and watch "Anchor Man." What can I say??

Cheers

Last night, Champagne Thursday, Ben, Amy and I toasted to life. Over the past couple of days, both Ben and I have waited to find out his mom's diagnosis -- essentially whether she was going to live or die in the next few years. Intense. And yesterday, she found out that she is cancer-free!

In light of this, I have been thinking about how to pray. How does one pray about cancer? Even if we pray, cancer might come. God does not promise that the body will be well or that life will be long. These are not his guarantees. Then when cancer is gone, we find ourselves saying, "God is good!" but the fact is, "God is good" whether or not the cancer is there...

God doesn't promise a lot of what I want -- like bodily safety for everyone I love (I REALLY want this)-- so it makes sense to know what he does promise and then ask for these things -- God is God, should be good on his promises. (sallie clingman told me this recently).

He promises to strengthen us when we are weak. That he will give us hope. That he can renew our thoughts. That he can make us new, give us second chances (and third and three hundred and seventy-third). That we are tasty and lovable in his eyes. That we can have peace -- a real, settled-in-the-gut peace that comes with knowing that regardless, God is God and we are his, a peace we can have in the midst of the most shitty times. That Immanuel -- God is with us -- always. I happened upon a verse this week that says, "She who has Jesus has life." And so it turns out he also promises us life. Life. Something to think about.

So, yes, cheers to Life.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday Morning

Silas is napping his 9 AM nap, Ben is surfing his Saturday morning surf, and I am sitting up in the loft. It is clear and cool outside. From here I can hear the sound of the freeway and the quiet of Saturday mornings.
I just got back from breakfast at Kim's house. Sunflower Bakery bakes such good bread. Frontier is my usual, but this morning we had cinnamon swirl as french toast. Yum.
Last night Ben and I found a babysitter (hooray!) and went on a date. I made Beef Bourguignonne yesterday -- this is NEW territory, making recipes for dinner -- so we ate here, then went to Alta for vanilla chai and chocolate cake, then a bonfire on the beach. The wind was cold off the ocean, but fed our fire, which smelled like pine. We sat on the cold sand, the skin of our faces hot, talked and read Prince Caspian. On the way home, we stopped by Ralphs and each got bags of bulk candy (really to break a $20 to pay the babysitter) -- I mixed gummy frogs, good n plenty, those gummy black/raspberries, and jordan almonds. Ben put each kind in a separate bag: sour apples, reces pieces, red licorice (which ended up being waxy and hard and tasting like my childhood).
There are so many things we will miss if we move (it kind of makes my chest hurt). The other day I found myself wondering how life could ever be better than this...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Driving North on the 5

The drive from my house to San Francisco has become one of my favorites. First of all, it is beautiful and the landscape is so varied (back to this). Also, once through LA, there is hardly any traffic and you can fly. There are also multiple rest stops with Starbucks and huge mini marts. Always a plus.

The landscape: it is Orange County/LA weirdness -- strip malls, brake lights, weird power plants, car dealerships, sitcom billboards -- until you come to the Getty perched up on the left. Then there is a gradual climb up and the scenery quiets into steep brown mountains patched with brush, and then a decent into "the valley." The net 45 minutes or so, you climb and wind through the mountains. They are a different kind of mountain than we have in the east -- they look much more geologically formed, more sculpted crevices and grooved faces, as if water gushed down them not too long ago. Their surface is different too; rather than being covered head to toe in trees, they are brown dirt and rock with scattered shrubs, desertous ones, patchy over them. The higher you climb, though, the more pines there are, and this morning, I even saw some stubborn remaining snow frozen in the shadows.

When the road begins to wind downward (my ears always pop here), it suddenly straightens out into a perfect ironed ribbon and the land becomes farms as far as you can see. Unfortunately, yesterday when I drove north, there was so much smog that as far as I could see was only a few cars in front of me. . ,

The farm land lasts for miles and miles. There are mostly orchards. Some were shaggy with leaves and full of oranges, but most were barren. Those trees, which I think were almond trees (must ask Eli) were the color of pink tinsel Christmas trees, but quieter -- just the sheen along the bare branches.

My favorite part of the drive is what comes next -- the smooth round hills, much softer than the others, that bulge and roll for the miles before San Francisco. These hills, I think, are where Salinas is -- read East of Eden. These hills, which slope to the road and have cows standing at impossible angles on them, are different every time I pass them. They change with the light and the seasons. Last time I drove, they were soft and downy (see pic below), but yesterday they were different entirely. They looked more like worn leather, the down gone, like skin. They looked muscular, sensual, breathing.

And today they were shadowy and lovely but not striking. These are the hills where the windmills are that make me think of Ben. Yesterday, they were all stopped. Almost eerie. And I wondered who decides that an energy supply is sufficient for the moment, who programs them to resist when the wind blows.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Road Trip

I am sitting in Kirsten and James' apartment in San Francisco. Decided this morning to pile Silas in the car and drive up for Kirsten's Stegner reading. Throwing things in the car is much more involved with an infant... I remember swearing that when I had a baby I would not haul a lot of things around, but it turns out it is a worthy trade off to be prepared. And so here I am with suitcase, huge bag, small bag, pack n' play, refrigerated items all in hand...

It also turns out that it is difficult to attend a poetry reading fully with a 10 month old. I walked into a woman's office in the Stanford English Building (a woman who was clearly working -- books open and typing) and asked her if she'd be willing to play with a baby for 5 minutes. How could she say no? So thanks to Melissa, I was able to have 5 uninterrupted minutes of listening. Kirsten was poised and despite herself seemed utterly at ease. And her poems were, of course, striking.

And now I am sitting in an apartment I love -- blend of modern and antique -- cream, oranges, green. I love it here. Off I go to retrieve my suitcase from the car.