Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's nine nineteen on a Tuesday morning.  I sit at the table, big mug of coffee, glasses, gray sweatshirt, slippers.  The children are still quiet in their beds after a night of raging fevers for Sol, nightmares that send Elie from the bed in a dazed discontent.  I should be at work right now, another sick day surrendered to my babies.

I spent the past few hours awake reading books about how to write poems, exercises, examples.  I devoured page after page.  When I sat down to write in my little journal, the images felt flat, lifeleless, like this white mush outside my window, the absolute gray of the trees, the still of this kitchen table, the strange haze of night after sleepless night. I open this instead.

Last night I took Eliana to church, the MLK service the only one we find ourselves at year after year.  The room was filled with so many different kinds of people -- more color, shapes, sexualities than I'm graced with normally in my Missoula day to day.  While she fidgeted during the key note, disinterested in the LGBT community in Montana, the voice of the other that some are working so hard to hear, she came alive when the fancy dancers from St. Ignatius found their way towards the front.  Eagle feathers and buffalo teeth, golds and blues spinning, stomping to the percussive wail.  Children and elders, strong young boys, each person moving in his or her exact and perfect way.  I'm smoothing her curls out one by one, I'm gently holding her perfect shoulder, her neck craning this way and that to get a better glimpse. When my students names were read, their poems chosen and awarded and recognized, we cheered loudly together.  "That's Ava," she squealed, "She won!"   The children's folk choir began their first bars of, "This Land is Your Land" and invited us to join.  Eliana looked up at me with those tremendous, true eyes, and I felt flooded with absolute contentment.  I felt the power of community, the sacred and collective breath of filling space with our voices, our hopes, our strength.  I smiled as I looked around, so many faces I recognized, so many I'd never seen.  I felt so proud to be the mama of that beautiful girl beside me, her mismatched socks, snow boots on the floor of the pew because she'd decided to make herself comfortable, knees tucked to chin or spilled over to the side, cozy-ing in to her mama. 

This mountain community, my family, my students, my friends, they all continues to astound me. Even in the sleepless wonder that is this morning.  Even if the sun has yet to shine.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturdays with Sol and the sweet surrender...

The rainbow disco is rocking in the sunshine.  The prism spins, rainbows fly, the children sing and jump.  We watch the icicles melt from the roof, Frosty finally a lumpy triangle on the terrace.  Sunshine is my salvation.  For twenty eight years I took her for granted.  Then I encountered my first January in the valley.  The inversion thick, icy windshields, hats an actual necessity, long hours on the sofa reading while my man met his glee on the ski hill.  When she graces us, it's a true and simple celebration. 

I'm finding myself in a similar situation lately.  Except that Eliana and her dad go up to ski, leaving Soli and I at home for some Saturday silliness.  And while Soli was kinda driving us all a little bonky at the end of the holiday vacation, being back in school has seemed to stimulated him back into his old self.  And his old self is a little creative maniac.  A snuggly dreamboat.  A Wiggles singing, guitar slinging fool.  Who can find endless uses for laundry baskets and empty cardboard boxes.  Ideally while wearing basketball shorts. 

Soli's starting point seems to always revolve around The Wiggles.  He's Murry and I'm Anthony.  And anything we do is fun as long as I say, "How does that sound, Murry?"  He eagerly replies, "Sounds great, Anthony!"  And we're off.  These games can take many directions.  At any point we can spontaneously break out into song.  Sol has learned how to move his guitar, his banjo, his yukelele, just like a rock and roll king.  His rhythm and moves have always impressed me.  They just keep getting better. 

The best part about the sunshine is we can take our act on the road.  While walking around downtown on a freezing cold, gray, socked in day sounds awful, walking around in the sunshine, even if it's still cold, actually is satisfying.  Yesterday Mury and Anthony went to Bernice's for a bowl of soup and a piece of poppyseed poundcake.  We then meandered, hand in hand, into Upcycled where we talked about what all the goods used to be.  Murry, what do you think this bracelet used to be?  Um, I don't know, Anthony.  It used to be the tops from a tin can.  Oh, yeah Anthony!  We walked into Betty's where Murry was able to practice his tunes on the plastic piano that waits for kiddos like him while their mamas quickly peruse the dresses and coats, take a breath of their former lives before the banging gets too loud and the mamas feel self-conscious and quickly smile and move on.  We mailed Nana her mail and Murry marveled at the enormous bags of packing popcorn.  Which made him think of actual popcorn so we decided to go into Ace where he could score a bag and look at the tractors.  He's so easily satisfied when all the attention is on him.  Aren't we all. 

And even when sister gets home, hair matted from the helmet, body and spirit tuckered, they are so dang happy to see each other after some good time apart.  They morph into some other weird game, Baby/Big Brother or performance.  Eliana is really into performances.  She dances and Soli plays one of his instruments.  They always involve flying leaps and floor work, costumes and scarves, demand their parents attention.  And we are more than happy to oblige, our little living transformed into a theatre of the absurd, littered with loot, exhausted smiles exchanged. 
Which is just about perfect for me.  My week was a big one.  Something about that book unlocked something deep and dark from within.  These Saturdays in this valley, these ten years so far from the world I knew, the world of history and timelines and dings...and family and warmth and all I ever knew for so long...they have created a strange disconnect between then and now.  I think it was a disconnect that I needed.  My face stopped twitching.  Something slowed inside me.  I made new friends, planned a wedding, bought a house, had some babies.  But the past is such a huge part of who I am.  And I'm beginning to feel ready to dig back in a bit. 

My mom sent me a box of poems and papers, letters and memories she unearthed from her stash.  I was hesitant at first to go there.  I was having such a lovely, mellow, simple time with my family over the break.  I didn't feel in the head space to read what I wrote a lifetime ago. 

But the other night after I finished the book, I dug out the box.  I wanted to find a particular poem I'd written at twenty, a poem about a lecherous teacher, a theme unearthed in Susanna's book.  I performed the poem in my senior acting recital, loud and raw, a single chair in the center of the black box, spotlight on me.  I felt so proud as I re-read it in the quiet darkness, my children asleep on the other side of the wall.  I began to dig through the others.  Heavy duty themes fell from the lines.  My honesty astounded me.  I was absolutely unafraid.  I wrote it all down.  Like everything.  And then made twenty copies for the other students in my class to workshop, to tear apart, to circle images they liked, put big question marks around things that they didn't get, write 'trite' or 'awesome' or 'overused' whenever they felt moved.  My poetry professor was big on exclamation points.  I loved it when one of my wild lines would earn one of his signature exclamation marks in the margin. 

Jeff came home and found me in bed, poems scattered around my tired frame.  Dude, look at this one!  Can you believe I let anyone read this shit?  He smiled.  He didn't know me then, but knows me well enough to know that I probably did.  We read through a few more.  The one where I fantasize about my hearing aid wires strangling my loser boyfriend.  The one when I was lost up Angeles Crest.  The one about genital mutilation in Africa.  The one about my favorite teacher who died of AIDS.  I was all over the map.  All over the map that is me.  The map that I'm slowly spreading before me, folding and unfolding, folding and unfolding again.  It gathers wrinkles and tears, each journey a mark on a blue line, a mark of understanding and unearthing the depths, processing the now.  The snowy trail in the sunshine, another solo journey to the highest point, then back down again. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I've been reading a pretty incredible book lately - She Matters:  A Life In Friendships.  And this book has done everything that incredible art is supposed to do.  It's made me stop.  Made me think.  Made me reflect and dig and feel and associate and empathize.  Made me shake my head, breathe deep and say, Yes.  Yes I know that.  I've felt that.  I can't believe that even happened.  Where did that go? 

The wilder part still of my little reading journey is that a friend of mine,  this, "life in friendships" wrote this book.  An incredibly brave, bright and brutally honest friend.  I had the good fortune of being cozy-ed up in my favorite bookstore when I first heard a chapter from this book.  Even then I was shaking my head inside.  Felt extra there.  Felt it.

And the funny thing further about this friendship is that Susanna isn't a 'typical' friend.  I've known her for almost a decade, yet our relationship has been of parent to teacher, associates in our small, private school, Missoula, Montana community.  That said, in that context, it's been much more.  Susanna brought me a burrito when Eliana was first born, gave me an advance copy of her first book, on the heavy, heavy topic of mothers and daughters.   We walked around the park and talked deep.  Went there.  Over the years she's taught writing workshops with my students, me hanging on her grace with language, her knowledge and immersion in a subject so close to my heart, Neruda and William Carlos Williams, the way she held the attention of my small students' absolutely rapt.  Years later when her father passed away, she told me that she was dealing with her grief by dancing.  I joined her one night.  It wasn't my typical dance scene, the two-step and down-home bar.  But it was fun and easy.  There was always some level of connection.

And while I was excited to read her book, I had absolutely no idea what sort of breaking open of emotion it would cause in me.  I return to her honesty.  Her ability to say exactly what happened.  To be accountable.  Her path was not smooth.  I realized as I met yet another character I related to, another scene I had experienced with such intense proximity, that there was some pretty big stuff that's just been gathering dust in my emotional world.

I had the chance to tell her some of my connections.  I teach my students how to make connections: text-to-text, text-to-world, text-to-self.  Susanna's book has been one giant text-to-self.  I sat on her sofa like a pinball in the machine, my whistles and bells sending dissonant DINGS all over her living room.  There is so much.  It is all so much.  And while I can't go there just yet, certainly not here.

Though maybe one day....

Because I'm growing up.  It's been a long, long time since those dings hit the scene with their heavy discord, their heavy grip.  I've found some light, some breath.  My face stopped twitching when I found my home in this sweet town, these frigid mountains, this life I'd never imagined.  I married a kind and good man who loves me with all he has, who has shown me so much that is new and beautiful and bright in the world.  My children.  My gorgeous and precocious and wild children.  They are the lights that light this path of breath, of the new, of stability and a break from the unrelenting heartache that was those first thirty years.

Wow.  There.  I said it.  A whole lot of shit went down in my life.  And it was heavy and dark and scary and unpredictable.  I made some bad choices.  Perhaps influenced by my parents' bad choices.  There was chaos and lies and dark, dark sadness. 

Yet I've always been a happy girl.  As Caroline said after Brandon killed himself, Hilary and I chose the light.  She said that as only a sage could.  She barely knows us.  And that's why his suicide brought me so down, down, down.  It reminded me of my past.  It reminded me how far I've come.  How fortunate I am.  It flooded me with the guilt that's run my life for so long.  It was the first recent reminder of all those thick, black lines on my timeline.  Those moments that took years and years of psychoanalysis to begin to undo.  That psychoanalysis that I never told anyone about.  Driving across town in LA traffic after play practice all alone.  After a full day of high school.  Head cheerleader, lead in the play, hard-working student, girlfriend, best friend.  Sitting in traffic for sometimes hours so that I could sit in a clean room, predictable books lined neatly on the shelf, the man with the kind eyes and thick mustache, button down shirt, short sleeves, simple plaid.  I don't know how much I even said some days.  I was so damn tired.  I was always glad to have dreams to report and pull apart.  I was always glad to lie down and take a few deep breaths.  Dr. Vaquer told me year after year that I did too much.  That I needed to slow down.  Putting a whole lot into a day was never difficult for me.  I say that after a 6 am dance class, packed day of teaching, attendance at a guest speaker tonight.  "The Science of Happiness."  I've always been so game.  Game for it all. 

So now I'm game for something new.  I'm game for a bit of good, old-fashioned, dealing.  As my silver ball flew around Susanna's sofa, me talking, talking, talking, so glad to be heard, to know that it was safe, that she's been there and then some.  That there really is nothing to be ashamed of.  I know that.  Yet, I've always liked being popular.  I like being liked.  I'm sort of a public person.  Albeit in a tiny, tiny pond, I have a certain responsibility...I think...It's that same feeling as high school.  How will I be judged for my truths?  Is it better to just plow ahead, very honest smile, very true heart?

I processed our conversations on my skis, far back in the Rattlesnake wilderness.  I saw the black lines, the DINGS rising from my past as I dug deeper into my toes, lowering into lunge after lunge.  Each ding reminded me of another ding that I hadn't even spoken of, hadn't thought of in years and years and years.  Each ding brought a sort of gut-wrenching joy.  Made me feel how hard I've lived, how hard I've loved, how much I've thrown whole self into. 

I usually prefer skiing up the main trailhead.  I know it well.  It's predictable.  I worry less about mountain lions because it's more heavily populated, the tracks smooth.  Wide, open trails with vistas of the frozen creek. 

But I turned at Spring Gulch and went up the quiet way, through the thick, dark trees, the bumpier terrain.  I felt a heaviness in my chest.  I wanted to cry loud.  I wanted to smile huge.  I wanted to shout out.  And then cry a bit more. 

Not because it was sad.  Not because I am sad. 

I say it again. 

Not because I am sad.

Gratitude runs thick and heavy through my veins.  I watch the clouds move, welcome my children to the "rainbow disco" each time sunlight hits the prism in our kitchen window.  We have a song for gratitude!  For light!  I smile big!  I make eye contact!  I feel and feel and feel. 

So even if the pinball of associations made me step outside the rainbow disco for a bit, it's because it's all part of the precarious package.  The timeline. 

I've been mentioning the Boho revolution for a while here on this bloggy.  And the gratitude.  It's all coming together.  I am connecting with my whole space.  I finally have a few, fresh breaths from the depths of being a "new mom."  I think I can safely say that I am no longer new at this.  True my children are very young and there's a whole heck of a lot I know nothing about.  But the feeling that there is so much more to love, so very much more beyond me?  That's certainly clear. 

But I'm beginning to take a bit more shape.  It's beyond having a night away with my girlfriends at the hot springs, my cares laid to rest for a precious day or two, our deep talks and our revelry in not being needed.  I'm standing on the precipice of yet another new thing.  And I'm trying damn hard to articulate it.  Perhaps it makes a bit of sense. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

five and a half

There are people who say it just keeps getting better.  I think I agree.  I know I like being older, wiser, more comfortable in my skin, more confident in my choices.  I'm certianly also feeling that way about my first born.  I seem to be in a constant state of marvel with her and I just declared, "Creativity time!" (I've never called out that one before, but she went with it, and is sitting at my feet wiht a pile of stickers and crayons and paper scraps, busy making a crown...) and opened up this page real quick so I can get some of it down. 

She's just fun to be around.  All the time.  She does what we ask with a spring in her step.  She takes risks and tries new things.  This week Jeff and I enjoyed three full days with her alone while Soli was back at school.  It was so awesome.  We went up to the ski hill and she and Jeffy went up to the "tippy top" of the mountain together.  I hung out in the lodge and read my book waiting, waiting to see them making their way down Sunrise Bowl.  Finally there she was, purple butterfly outfit and pink helmet clad, power pizza-ing her way down the icy ridge.  I was practically clapping my hands with excitement to see them both.  I was so dang proud of her.  They'd been gone for over an hour and I could feel myself beginning to get anxious.  Maybe she freaked out.  Or fell.  Or was really cold.  Or cranky.  But no.  She was perfect. 

The next day we took her to the local pool.  She practiced her swimming, chatted with us in the hot tub, had a great attitude.  It was actually relaxing. While one of us swam with her, the other one could soak in the hot bubbles, look out at the frigid landscape, the January sun a welcome after too many days of gray.  Jeff looked at me with a smile and said, "Imagine if we'd only had one."  I smiled and nodded.  And then sweet Eliana jumped in with, "But that wouldn't be as much fun, you guys.  And besides, who would I play with?"  Sweet child.

And the espanol.  We can hang out and speak Spanish with our child.  And her accent is gorgeous.  And she knows all sorts of words I've never heard of.  Pegatina is sticker.  I learned that one today.  And just out of the blue just this very second she looked up at me and asked:
Okay, mama.  If you speak Spanish but you don't live in a Spanish speaking country but your parents don't speak Spanish, is that okay?  Can everyone still communicate?  Because you and daddy, well you speak both Spanish and English and so do I, so that's okay.  But some of my friends, they speak Spanish and their parents, Don't speak Spanish so how can they even understand?  
Deep thoughts from such a goofy little ragamuffin. 

Speaking of pegatinas, we made her a little chore chart.  Things like, hang up my coat and tidy my room and wipe down the table after dinner.  Jeff added, "Ski strong."  She's so into it!  She comes in and looks at the chart and then declares, It's time to hang up my coat now!  Alright, now I'll just check that one off my chart.  Hmmm, let's see, maybe I should brush my hair.  Can I have a pen, mama?  And she's off to earn her little checks.  All the while her brother is trying to grab the chart, rip the page, write on the kitchen table.  

Not to say her brother isn't getting better with age.  He's certainly funnier.  More articulate.  More able. But also...more prone to frustratoin.  More temperamental.  Louder.  More aggressive.  And demmanding.  I so see myself in both of them.  When Eliana gets dreamy and creative, I like to think I see bits of my best self.  When Solomon is super annoyed and frustrated, I also so see the self I try so hard to keep in check.  Yesterday I woke up super anxious.  Bad luck day fo sho.  The last Friday of our sweet vacation.  I imagined our normal school days.  I thought about how much has to happen before I even begin teaching at nine.  It's extra cold and icy and January-ish out.  The car takes forever to warm up.  We need gloves and hats.  How the hell do I do it?  After two weeks of taking our time, of having Jeff and I on a totally even playing field in terms of how much time we spend with the kiddos, it seems so absurd.  Absurd and super difficult. 

But Anxiety likes to play glass is half empty.  So I brought my crabby self to yoga.  Brian began by talking about, believe it or not, anxiety.  He reminded us how we can choose how we can choose to worry or choose to be present.  I thought about rushing around in the morning.  Then I imagined having enough time to do everything somewhat decently. My early morning exercise classes have helped bring that kind of clarity.  Because I walk back in the door at 7:15 and I've already had an hour of time to be completely present.  Totally for myself.  It makes cooking breakfast and wrangling socks and coats seem so much simplier because I'm feeling whole. 

As I anticipate Monday morning, I anticipate trying out a new vinyasa class.  It starts at six.  It will be  a cold, dark traverse to get there on time.  And I'll probably have some anxiety about it the night before.  If I'm having a good luck day, I'll sleep well and the kids won't wake in the night (Eliana's been having nightmares...that's another story, but it can be super disturbing...)  If I'm having a bad luck day, Eliana will sweat and howl, wake her brother, we'll all end up in our little bed, wide awake and mildly grumpy.  And then I'll decide to bag the class and know that there are always, always, more Mondays.  Or I'll go balls to the wall and do it anyway.  And the fact that I'm even writing about the possible outcomes shows that I've slipped out of the present and am on the wheel of unknowing. 

Thankfully, Eliana just brought me back.  She's rigging this rad crown out of jewels and scrap paper and a glue stick and she needs me to measure it on her head.  Her eyes are big and bright and she has the focus (and hair) of a wild chemist on a late night in the lab.  I think I'll push, "publish" and bring my creativity time back to this sunny kitchen Saturday.  To the oven beep that tells me our banana/carrot/coconut/oat loaf is done (because our creativity is limitless).  Sol will be up soon and this vibe will shift.  But we'll both be so excited to see him, we'll run into his room like lovetorn fools.  Jeffy will come home from his ski day and we'll make California rolls (Eliana's pick).  And the next time I open this blog, after school is back in session and these long, lazy days a wild blur, I'll remember this moment and the blessing that's been this time together.