During tonight’s wrestlin wranglin bedtime rodeo, the man-cold pops in to inquire politely if I might care to squeeze some oranges for its parched throat.

I wish I could say that I responded with all (as Mom would say) sweetness and light, but that’s not exactly how it went down.

I actually said nothing, as I held one slippery eel kid down with my knee and tossed pillows at the other one to slow his accelerating loping across the kitchen.  I’ve learned to say nothing at first.

UNGRATEFUL

We’ve already gotten scientific proof that when we both had colds a few weeks ago (or forever), I had to get giant stupendous antibiotics for mine, yet his complaints were 10 times what mine were.

He says it’s therapy, to groan like that.  I say go for the in-patient care and move directly to the hospital.  I don’t.  Really.  I say nothing at all.

 

1.  I am at Gracious Bakery and Cafe and have just eaten a spectacular pretzel-croissant.  I got to go here mid-morning on a work day!

2.  I bought an extra one for Jim to eat so he’s not “starving” before we shop at Costco.  I am so organized!

3.  We are finally getting a membership at the new Costco – had to wait for our Sams membership to expire.

4.  I got to meditate for like 40 minutes at City Park during my favorite weather period:  about to rain.

5.  Clifton got the Peace Corps Award today for resolving conflicts in the classroom and Arthur got the Thomas Jefferson Author Award.  (Two notes – he accidentally jumped up when someone else got an Arthur Ashe award, plus I was hoping for John Quincy Adams.)

6.  Rain Garden.  Those two words flow through my mouth like creek water over smooth round stones.  I love them.  I may change my name when I go completely hippie.  Tomorrow.

7.  The absolutely lovely and sweaty end of school year bus stop party yesterday was what I imagined when I imagined having kids.  (Have to note this as there are so many things that I never imagined that happen – good and bad.)

 

Weekends.   Sigh.

It’s Sunday night.

Let’s note a few bright moments to flush out the dread of starting all over again on Monday without the faintest whisper of ever catching up.  Things like:  Not only did I not clean up the writing on the wood floor (ssshhh), now there are misspelled last names and Frozen snowflakes on two new pieces of furniture.  Kids uniforms will be waiting in the dryer for early a.m. search and rescue missions.  Got through sorting a few boxes of old work stuff last week, but at the cost of all regular housework, exercise and volunteerism.

So shut up.  Here’s the thankful list from the weekend.

At his request, took a walk around the block with Clifton Saturday evening to see the moon. He was wearing Toy Story pjs.

Got a text from Angela asking if I remember a Heart concert where the guy who got the tickets licked us on the face.

Got to endure jokes about both my marriages – not too many friends around with that level of intimacy!

Arthur about to fall asleep thoughtfully listing all the foods starving Clifton could still eat at 7pm.

Krispy Kreme bread pudding. (me, not starving Clifton)

I stayed out until after 1am BOTH Friday and Saturday nights.  So now I have the first episode of “Orange is the New Black” Season 2 to watch finally.

 

Ooh. Gotta go!

 

 

Even tossing away old adult literacy files seems momentous.  Will I ever get over this vocation that led my life for so many years, that has me so conflicted when I dip a toe into it’s same old helplessness and hopelessness?

So glad not to be in those conversations and meetings anymore.

So sad that after all this work, it is still only the very small victories celebrated.

I know there were successes, coach, but here are some things to get off my literacy chest:

  • I regret never having time to develop the low level Driver’s License curriculum so they don’t have to have the test read to them and can drive themselves to work.
  • I regret that I never got to make the perfect speech about adult literacy – only sad missives that failed to capture the complex heart of the issue and failed to move people.
  • I regret that I didn’t work and research adult education in Canada – the topics from their research conferences are vastly more interesting than U.S. ones.
  • I regret the 2 negative feedback comments I got from the conference I did present in Canada.
  • I regret that my hair looks like shit in the BCM annual report from 2001.  They were supposed to be taking pictures of the adult education programs.  I kid you not, on the inside cover -me (pasty white) and Crystal (African American) leaning in towards each other in front of a US flag.
  • I regret that I never worked to realize the fun idea of a literacy float in Mardi Gras parades.

There are many more regrets from this past life, but I’ve wasted enough time.  These are the ones that just floated through my wrinkled brow on their way out to the place where all purposeless paperwork goes…

 

photophoto (1)

Field trip to Whole Foods to prepare for Green Living Babystep #2. Pricing our top 5 family edibles out of the Dirty Dozen – aka: which vegetables do I have to talk Jim into buying organic

Mission for Green Living Babystep #1

Also known as small steps to sanity.

Little things I can do that make me intensely joyful.

USE CLOTH GROCERY BAGS

Seems simple and something I should do, can do, already do.  Yes, to all of these, but sporadically.  I have about a dozen from various conferences and grocery stores, but they get left at home or in the car.  And J doesn’t flat out refuse, but turns a blind eye and almost tries to explain that he needs the plastic ones for kitty litter, but then knows that I know that we have enough for all of kitty’s 9 lives, so protestations falter off.

  1. There are 5 bags in each car.
  2. I have written “Use Cloth Bags” on top of the blank grocery lists (thanks Kim!).
  3. I am making rear view mirror hanger reminders to put in the cars.  Ye olde marker on cardboard.  Can we say upcycled, yeah?  Okay, no we can’t. These don’t really have the cache of a cool green product at the art market. However, along that vein and to make me intensely joyful…
  4. I’m going to take a silkscreening class for free at the NOLA Community Printshop.  Soon.(la la la la)  Then maybe if they come out kinda cool, can make them from recycled paper products, fabric, hemp cloth, something eco-loco (translation: green crazy).

Also trying to think of a way that they could fit somewhere in the front of the car – some kind of flat way to store them on the door or dashboard where they are not in the way, but are in eyesight so you don’t forget.

Progress!

 

For kid memories, before I forget.

Memorial Day weekend spend the night at Mom’s house.  Clifton has been talking about “Pop Pop” for awhile and a lot over the weekend.  I don’t know if this is his generic name for all grandfathers or if he is really channeling Dad.  Sunday morning and we are playing the piano together.  Lovely actually.  Not harsh and scolding like so many of our other activities feel – lots of no no nos.  I quit trying to teach him chopsticks and start playing the bass line for heart and soul.  He is gently picking out high notes and it just sounds right with what I’m playing.

He picks up the brass plaque with Dad’s picture on it – the one that got made with the big plaque that hangs in the Iberville Parish Museum.  It was intended to go on Dad’s crypt, but still lives on the piano.  He’s saying things like Pop Pop told him to play this song; Pop Pop likes the piano.  Then he asks about Dad, is he dead, how did he die, and a wave of sadness engulfs his little 5 year old body.  He slumps against me and looks up sad that he never got to see him, he doesn’t know where he is. And so now I’m crying and trying to talk about where your spirit goes and where your body goes.  And he wants to go to the cemetery.

Arthur provides the comic relief, unintentionally as always.  When I ask him if he wants to go to the cemetery he says no, lays down under a book and reaches his arm up as if zombie coming out of the grave.  I done tole him to quit checking those zombie books out of the school library!  When we all get to the cemetery, Arthur asks where all the plusses are. (crosses).  I just love his straightforward precious brain.

Clifton wants to gather flowers and put them on any grave that doesn’t have some.  Love his generous inclusive spirit. They are not freaked out by the mausoleum where we look for Dad’s name or the graves outside with all the flags.  We go to find my grandparents at the city cemetery (picked a magnolia flower to leave there, ssshhhh) and I’m relieved that Clifton doesn’t ask me about my other sister buried there.  Enough sad thoughts for the day.  Arthur is still watching Scooby Doo in the car for this one.  Could have stopped by one more in White Castle, but it’s 7:00 already and time to go home.

Visiting family cemeteries with little kids makes my heart heave and glow.

Have I learned nothing from FlyLady?

It’s all about babysteps, and I thought the simple “buy organic potatoes” was a babystep.  Here I am 3 weeks later with a giant bag of potatoes that Jim got from Sams sitting in the fridge in the utility room.

I couldn’t even get over to Whole Foods to get a price on organic potatoes for 2 weeks.

Wait.  Start over.

I’m working on tools to make living closer to the earth easy and simple.  I was starting with buying organic for the Dirty Dozen vegetable list – dirty, as in holds the most pesticides.

(One kid on Wii Scooby Doo game. The other singing Katy Perry songs from a karaoke DVD.  My chance to write! 5,4,3,2,1… Mommmeeee)

Start over rescheduled for later tonight, when the kids are down but the sun is still up!

Creak, snap, twist, rrrriiiipppp.  The sinews of my writing brain are achy sore from not being used at all in the last 6 months.  Writer Rachel is snarling at Mother Rachel, Worker Rachel, and this last month’s energy sapper, Costume Maker Rachel.  She never gets let out unless there is a crisis.  Last in line for any spot of free time or energy.  She’s so pissed, she’s not even going to let me edit this post.  It’s just going going gone.

Peeking around the clutter forest are the little leaves of inspiration.  Propped up books by Anne Lamott (ooh, let me get that fb post from her and copy here for retrieval) and Natalie Goldberg.  Mini puzzle from the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford (shout out to Carl!) of the painting of the cat from his family room that was always the last object along the mantle that made up the stories he told to his children.  Finally, my beloved imaginary mentor and coach, Tim  Gunn is on my desktop with trademark hands fold saying, May I make a suggestion?    Write.

Anne Lamott February 1 facebook

I don’t usually count on inspiration in my work. I count on the belief that if I show up, keep my butt in the chair, hold a potato gun to my head, and make myself sit there, something writerish will happen.

I’ll get some words down on paper, or the on screen.

They will suck.

There may be 185 of them, when was I was after is a sentence of 40 words. Or 18, or whatever. But if I stop to figure out where that one sentence is, I won’t get the next 203 words down, in which will be buried the 36 I seek, to describe the stream, or the truly most awful person in my life, or the light on my flowering pear tree.

See? It’s a lot like real life–incredibly time-consuming, with very little to show for it in terms of profit/loss, with endless, meaningless chatter, mostly about how hopeless it all is, and what a fraud and loser I am, and–most important–who is to blame for any current discomfort.

But inside that chatter, that bad self esteem and grandiosity and judgment and self-righteousness is the prize–me. My true me. Who I always was, deep inside, behind my eyes, taking it all in. My perfect precious self, who no one managed to ruin–not the parents, the culture, the worst men, the alcohol; not nothing.

The ancient Greeks called God the Really Real, but that also describes my being buried in all Fibber McGee closet that makes up the me you think you know–the persona, biography, survival tactics, scar tissue, foibles.

And inspiration is when the really real in us gets through the chatter. Not the drama and trauma addict with her Blanche DuBois inner storms, or the lawyer, and not the flight attendant, or the set director arranging people on the set we’ve created, with sand that trucks hauled in, and beach chairs. Just the child, and our animals selves, and an old but ageless person who takes it all in with a small smile, who has seen it all, who nibbles away on a bit of leftover scone, tends to the cats and the orchids.

That part of me, which gets a turn to speak sometimes when I am not agitating, enabling, scheming and multi-tasking, beckoned me into the glade of itself on Monday,even though I was busy It tricked me!

I somehow had the presence of mind to shut up, and let my mouth drop open. I was hushed, and a moment of inspiration seized me–or at least tugged gently on my sleeve. And I knew–out of the blue–if you believe in “out of the blue”–how to proceed with my work, and my life. I all of a sudden knew what I am up to now–and if you read these posts, you know I’ve been floundering and faking it for a couple of months now, since the publication of “Stitches.”

The thing is, though, that while I’ve been floundering, in limbo, I took the right actions. We take the action, and the insight follows, not the other way around. I pray, I hike, I try to take care of God’s children for Her, knowing that He or She will take care of me. I practice radical self-care, ie, I make myself artichokes, and put clean sheets on the bed, and wear shirts I feel pretty in. I take naps. I get my butt into my office chair come hell or high water, because, once again, as Woody Allen said, before I turned on him, 80% of life is just showing up.

And now I kind of semi/sort-of know what I am doing again. Wow. I know what the next two weeks work will entail, whereas a week ago, I was going to give up or put aside this mumbled jumbled garrulous narcissistic piece I’ve been slogging away at. Because inside those pages WAS a story worth telling, a story that is true and human and touching, and sort of funny–just like inside us, beyond all the facade and performance art is this wild touching tender being or person who has been watching all along and taking notes, whom no one and no thing could ruin.

But it came through me because I was not sitting around waiting for inspiration. I was getting my work done, as a debt of honor; showing up for my life.

I’ll tell you what came to me, as inspiration, over the transom, that you may not think is all that spectacular: when I was a child, I got lost all the time, because I was a space cadet. And once I got lost at the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. I was five, and weighed about ten pounds. I was missing for half an hour, in a crowd of 15,000. I was found by some friendly strangers–this was before all strangers were assumed to be homicidal pedophiles–and turned over to the care of a Grand National Rodeo girl. She stayed with me while an announcement went up over the PA system, that a five-year-old child would love for her daddy to come to livestock Pavilion. But I swear on my soul, I remember two things. I was not afraid. I did not know yet that if you were lost, you should be afraid. And I believed with every ounce of my being that when I grew up, I could be a Grand National Rodeo Girl.

I could be beautiful, with flowing blonde hair. I would wave and smile, astride my horse, and help lost children not to be afraid

I would lose this belief over the next few years, what with the funny hair and scrawny body. But I got it back Monday, that this IS what I am doing with my life, on this cold scary crowded planet. That this is who still lives inside me, and maybe inside you, too.

Thanks Anne – I promise to get my butt in the office chair.

Love, Writer Rachel

(pressing Publish NOW before you even get a chance to look at it! No tags either, beotch! You’re lucky I let you put on a title.)

A big worry in the new parenting realm for me was the state of my spine.   I have treated the symptoms (but not the cause!) of my back problems for years with the altogether fabulous trifecta of pain pills, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories.   Just saying muscle relaxer makes me soft and smiley.

Then came the practice back pack trip at Black Creek, MS, wherein I attempt to carry significantly more than I ever have in preparation for a much longer harder higher trip scheduled a  month later.  And the back goes out.  Way out.

The ensuing year and a half is a blinding blur of extreme pain, Cirque du Solame contortions to get out of bed, a full body brace “positions everyone!” whenever a sneeze approached, wonderful physical therapy with diagnosis (thanks Fred and Crane PT),  that ended with the epidural.  That’s right ladies.   epi.  dural.

That word does continue to freak me out, but y’all, they put pain meds right where it hurt, right on it!  I don’t really do major medical procedures (Lasics vision correction, which Jim watched from the hallway, doesn’t count).   The nurse took my blood pressure, did the eyebrow raise and immediately recommended the fast acting xanax, so I don’t remember much of the procedure at all.  Jim still talks about how we went to McDs after,and I ate the egg mcmuffin AND the hashbrown.  He’s still not over it.  But I was over my back pain and able to strengthen instead.

So now, I am extremely pleased to report that I have had no back problems whatsoever in the two and a half years since becoming a parent.  Turns out all the extra activity of bending, picking up, running around, chasing flailing arms is good for my back.  It was my sedentary lifestyle that was the culprit all along.  As if I didn’t know that already.  No time for television, no time for stiff as shit.

What I am constantly protecting from pain are my breasts.  The elbows, the twisting bodies, the climbing over and over and over, the head jerks without warning.  I love it that the kids are on me all the time.  It’s an unexpected perk of parenthood, the constant feedback of touch and skin is well documented and leaves an aura of euphoria about you all the time.  The worst is when Clifton uses my breast as leverage, when he’s slipping off my hip or trying to reach to something above his head.  The pain.  I spend a good part of my time with my hands over my breast like Mike Myers’ verklempt Linda Richman

Here’s a poem I wrote about Rio our cat and my breasts a few years ago.

In the quiet river

of our sleeping bed.

Slip-covered bodies sway

and roll from shore to shore.

Rio, the yellow tabby cat,

uses my nipples

as stepping stones

to get to the other side.

Ow!

Fuck me!

Ow Ow!

I could write a similar poem about the kids and the last three lines would be the same.