Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Your Own Path

Let's set the record straight:
the truth is,
you weren't always a very good mother.

You drank too much.  When other moms
were baking cupcakes and going to PTA meetings
you bleached your hair and wore too much blue eyeshadow.
Worked late nights. Had noisy sex when you
came home
in the mornings.

You laughed too loud when I was a teen
people would stare at you,
dancing as though
no one else was watching.  Embarassed me almost
to death.

You always loved the wrong men.
Including my father, who left
 and never really looked back
at us.  Not until
it was way too late.
You forgave him anyway.
Did not forgive the one who hit too often,
dropped it all and flew off in the night with me,
sleepy in the back seat of the car.

You grieved too hard.  Got angry
fast.  You could yell like a man. Fight dirty.
Spent entire days reading long novels and
ignoring the housework.

When the time came, you let me love the wrong boy
didn't say anything you would regret later,
and learn what that felt like. 
Stay out all night.  Ride in
fast dangerous cars when I should have been

There were loud fights.  I sometimes
wished you were not so brash
so rude to rude salesgirls.

You blew smoke into the blonde chippy's face
when,  16 at a football game, she coughed and
complained about your cigarettes. 
I looked at the other frumpy mothers
selling band candy and wearing brown shoes
and wished you away.

As we got older, and things a little easier,
all my friends liked hanging out with you--
It kind of annoyed me.
I said "she's not your mom."

You've had a tendency to rewrite history,
talk about how many flowers you planted,
how often you cooked home meals for me.

You did not age gracefully.

You do everything the hard way.

But the truth is:
now I know why. 

I've always liked Magdalenes better than Marthas.
And I am not embarassed to have loved you
all of those things.
in spite of them.


You know the story of Pandora's Box, right?
All the sins and ills of the world, and
it was hope
that flew out last?

It is a terrible thing. 


I used to find comfort, in that story.

Holding on to a single golden truth:
The idea that something could be hopeful
meant it could look up.  Get
better.  Improve.
This place was
as bad as it could get.

But I didn't know how hope could be used to tease you,
push you right into a limbo of doubt where you hang and cannot let go
--just this one more test, we'll try, just to see
maybe, maybe, maybe.
she'll turn around.  Maybe
this will be the one.

I've been kidding myself that I was
a goddess of plenty,
of summer sun and bees dusted a frenzied yellow.

When in truth, I know so much
better-- this--
chill of the bones
this, pinching of the mouth
loss.  Not yellow plenty but bitter brown.   
Bare branches and curled leaves. 
A swirling wind that leaves you
breathless and
tired, birdbaths overturned,
summer far away.

The last thing that flew out of that box
was as much a curse as a blessing.

As are all gifts that come in secret boxes.

KAW  Feb '10

Monday, February 15, 2010


I deal with life by writing about it. This has been fairly well established and won't be a surprise to anyone reading this.

Right now, words are sort of failing me. I want to write so many things about my mom, who is not doing very well in the hospital after we had hoped she was rallying.  I'm not really ready to do so, and I'm afraid that writing too much will somehow jinx her, but I also know that my blog writing doesn't have anything to do with what is happening in that hospital room right now.  While I have handled my dad's death and other family members going so well I wondered about myself a little bit, I don't think I'm doing very well with this one. 

I remember once when I was a very little girl riding in a blue truck, nestled between my dad, who was driving, and my mom, who suddenly fell out of the truck door and rolled down the steep hill we were on.  I think it was kind of a parking lot of some sort.  It seemed like a long hill, and it seemed like she rolled forever while I watched her go.  My dad stopped the truck and she came back and was mostly fine.  She had scraped her arm pretty badly and never could wear any jewelry with nickel in it again because her watch had gotten into the scrape and she had developed some kind of traumatized allergy. I don't know why the damn door opened and she fell, and/or remember much else about that day. 

This feels kind of like that time, though.  Watching her rolling down the hill, helpless to stop it, not knowing what will happen-- will she get up or will she just keep rolling until she is out of sight for good? 

I also used to have this reoccuring nightmare of being in the trailer where we lived at the time.  My mother was asleep on the bed, and the whole place was on fire.  I kept trying to reach where she was with the water hose but it would not stretch, and she would not wake up and save herself.  Classsic anxiety of kids about losing their safety source, their mom.  Clearly about me, too, because I always try to save people, especially when they aren't trying to save themselves.  Sometimes to my own detriment.  

My trouble is, I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that question already.  It feels like a heavy sort of knowledge and it turns out, my ability to be unreasonably grief-stricken over a cycle, a natural part of life, in a way that my mom would scold me for, is just fine. 

Incidentally, the picture above is my mom with my older sister, Dottie, not me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

To Write Love

A few weeks ago a friend invited me to attend "To Write Love on Her Arms" day.  It sounded pretty and I shelved it in my mind, thinking I'd check it out later.   Then I forgot in the hustle/bustle of life.

This morning that friend had a profile picture with it written on her arm and I thought, "oh yeah, I was gonna check that out."  I looked at the event and saw the hundreds of pictures uploaded and uploaded my own:

The event is meant to support "those who are fighting against depression and those who are trying to recovering."  It's a nonprofit group for those who are struggling with the issue.  I plan to go and see if there is a place to donate some money, too, because the point of passing on awareness should be more than just posting a mobile photo, although that is nice, too. 

As I was browsing on the site, I noticed several pictures that were taken by people who had clear scars from cutting.  One said as her caption something like "I have to keep working on it." 

I so wanted to hug these people, and had to blink away tears.  Oh, I've been sad, just like everyone, I've had heartbreak and pain.   I've even gone through phases of what could definitely be classed as depression, although they've been pretty short.  But I, myself, have never felt that much pain.  I am too attached to the world, too in love with snow dripping off the trees and squirrels yelling that it's too cold, a warm cat on my lap, and the smile of my loved one. 

But I am enough of a crusader to want to fix the pain for those who have it that strongly that they try to cut it away, or end it all.  I know that writing love on my forearm won't fix anything, but perhaps letting someone know that I DO love them, even if I don't really know them, that I love the bad things they've done as well as the good because that is HUMAN, that is life, and we keep going or we don't but love is the whole point of it all.  It's what we're here to learn, in my opinion.  And it can be as simple as an act of random kindness or as comlex as the things that make us scream from rooftops.

It is okay to hurt, but it is even better to love yourself into NOT hurting anymore. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You ride your horses, I'll stick mine in a zoo, thanks

I have been an addictive computer gamer in the past.  Man I played the crap out of some Sims games back before I had kids*, and this one pretty cool action game called The Longest Journey, and and and!!!!.  I remember even back before I had a computer and it was all about the Nintendo being up 'til like 4 am thinking "just this one more level and I'll go to bed."  It's definitely a place I know better than to go because I do get obsessed, and there's a level of fun/pleasure there that people who never "game" probably don't have any clue about.  Maybe they don't have the same buttons that get pushed by the games, maybe they do but have just never tried it. 

Addiction is addiction, whether it's morphine or sex or-- computer games. 

I don't know WHAT inspired me a couple of days ago to click on the stupid games.  I tried the Farm one-- thought it was kind of boring and didn't get into it.  I'm really NOT interested in the Mafia game, or the cafe game, or even the City game or the island fish.  Still not interested.

Then I tried the Zoo game.  I remember playing it once ages ago, actually, and finding it stupid and saying no thank you.  Oh, and I played with it idly for a few minutes and then left it alone for a couple of days.  I wasn't all that into it.  So I don't know if it's changed or what, but I played it this weekend, just because I was a little bored.  I figured it would keep me a little entertained while the hubby worked on taxes, the kids watched ANOTHER episode of WonderPets & I wasn't quite ready to write more on my novel.

And then, the other day, my mom got sick.  Almost died, AGAIN, for the second time in several months.  May still not be totally out of it.

And, like any natural addict does, during a really stressful day, I reached for something addictive to keep me from thinking.  To numb me.  An opiate, of sorts. Man I played the CRAP out of that game yesterday.  I tried to keep the notifications from clogging up the feed but there's a certain level of things you can't actually accomplish in the game if you don't "share" the information.

I didn't pull out a belt and a needle, thank god, but I did fiddle, way more than is healthy, with a computer game.  It's fun, and there's a certain level of pleasure that comes with the organizing, like having a doll house.  You put the animals in neat little rows because you can't order your own world so easily.  And there's observable progress from it-- you "level up" when you do something simple that you can track.  In real life, the level up process is not nearly so clear.  And you can very easily go "up" and a few days later be smacked back the hell down, like, far far far. 

I've made fun of the facebook games before.  I joined a "not playing" XYZ games group in the past, just to tease.  And the endless invitations are kind of a pain.  Everyone knows that.  But they are part of the way you play the game.  When I was playing in the last couple of days, I was careful to only invite people who I knew were actually playing the game.  But I also know that Facebook is weird and it's possible that folks were being invited without my knowledge, that the application is sending out more than the basic notifications folks can block.  And facebook, as a whole, has been glitchy the last few days so it's possible it's been a pain in the ass to see all those notes.  It does only take ONE "hide Zoo World" click for it to go away (in fact, I think it's still hidden on my feed).  And it's no more annoying, to me, than the ads for Lap Band surgery I constantly get on my FB page-- probably because I talk about food a lot.

So let me say this.  If my feed adopting bears and tigers and levelling up was really annoying, I ask that you realize that it's a shitload better than me going out and shooting up, or getting drunk and driving, or whatever other addicitons I might have used to keep me from thinking about the fact that my mother is STILL on a ventilator, and still not out of the woods and I could be hours away from being a literal "motherless child" and all that entails.  I really don't want to think about it and I'm really hopeful still. 

But we never know what that "game" is doing for someone.  Maybe they don't "have a life" maybe they are hiding from the life they do have.  We all have something we use.  I promise to not mock my friends who play games and you know what?  Sometimes, when I'm not busy, I'll send you some freakin' nails.  It's no skin off my nose; I'm wasting time anyway.

And go play your own quiet hobbies.  I won't send you an email notification about Zoo World if you don't try to knit me an ugly green & yellow sweater.


Facebook, in general, is a waste of freakin' time.  If you have more productive things to do and didn't have a touch of the same bug that causes others to spend hours rearranging their Zoos or Farms then you would be reading a book or something.  I see people "quit" all the time who just don't dig it.  I, myself, am probably close to being done playing my game because I'm at a place in it that is getting increasingly too much time suckage.  It isn't worth it if the payoff is quite that long.  Cause I'm also a quitter. 

Rehab, you know, is for quitters.  What have I got til I'm done, now?  28 days?  Here goes.   Zoo, Cold Turkey. Wait.  You have a  turkey for adoption? Really?  Is it on your wall now?  Hmmmm.  Can you send me one?  ;)  Just this last Turkey.  And then I'll level up, and I'll quit.  Really. 


*Even wrote a pretty cool conference paper about it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Grief and Change

Online people, those like me who seem to share just freakin' everything with perfect strangers on our Facebook feed or here, probably boggle the minds of folks who feel more private.

But it's such a complicated thing.  I even read an article about how FB helps people deal with grief and loss, because of connections that were lost years ago but people who have shared the horrific experiences of life in ways that even your immediate friends may not have.  It's an understanding issue, in part, I guess, because everyone's bad times are their own, the first time they've lived them, and we never know how we'll handle it. 

When my dad died, I didn't really know him very well.  My sisters went to his funeral.  When Andrew's dad was diagnosed as terminal, that hit me hard, but it was still Andrew's family, Andrew's major grief, and I was busy with the kids, who were just a bit over one and it was a bit hectic. 

This Christmas, dragging my mother into the ER because if I hadn't, she would have died within a few days, was tough, but I felt like it was productive.  They helped her.  I was there, and if I wasn't, someone else was. 

Now, she's been in a rehabilitative home since then and she was doing much, much better.  But this weekend, something has happened and I don't know where it's going.  People usually don't die from a freakin' sinus infection, which is what she apparently has, but it's impeding the necessary oxygen, which her body, because of her severe COPD and 50 years of smoking cannot get on its own. 

They sent her to the ER yesterday-- something I was in the midst of trying to set up already from here after I had talked to her on the phone and was worried.  At some time during that, she crashed and they intubated her.  She's also sedated, but apparently, she's also been fighting the intubation so they've had to restrain her, too.  My neice, who has had to deal with this issue very recently with her own father, is the only person who was there.  My sister is on her way, and she will evaluate what we're going to ask happen next.

See, my mom has a DNR order.  And we all agree with it; but for some reason the hospital didn't have a record of it.  The respirator, apparently, is something they shouldn't have done based on that DNR.  While I don't believe my mom lost consciousness, I think she may have if they hadn't acted, and that's directly in violation of the DNR. 

So there you go.  I feel totally helpless and angry at the hospital and had to yell at my husband last night and my eyes are puffy and feel like they have sand in them.  I'm not really in a mood to do anything other than brood.  But writing helps, putting out the story a little bit.  I don't know how it ends, but if you extend any story far enough out, it's a tragedy. 

We'll see how this current act ends.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Warts and All

It is actually coming up on being with my husband for TWENTY years!  Seriously!  You know that scene in Groundhog Day where the insurance guy says "Ten Years!"  Now double that and the pitch just goes up even more. 

We haven't been married quite that long, but together, yes.  Just about twenty years.  And we're pretty darn happy, too.  I remember about six years ago, before we had our kids, someone was bitching about my biological clock (as if that was any of their business in the first place) and one of our family members said "Leave them alone.  They still LIKE each other."  YEAH.  Leave them alone!  

I'm not saying that there aren't bumps in the road now and then, days when I am furious at something stupid he has done, or vice versa.  I'm a perfect angel, though, so he never gets mad at me.  blink.  blink.  blink.  innocence and rainbows. 

So.  What makes this work?  What makes our relationship work, when so many others do not?  Especially after you have kids, when the tensions are ratcheted up a million times by waning hormones because of sleepless nights, whatever it is that makes those days after kiddos are born harder. 

What it mostly takes, for us, is accepting the warts as best as you can.  I always give this advice to people who are just getting married.  Figure out what you hate most about the person you're marrying and learn to love it because you're NOT going to change it.  (People do not "change if you love me."  Don't even ask).  A post by a blogger I don't read often enough, Stephanie Klein, reminded me of this because she said "what deadly sin are you willing to go to bed with?"  That's good advice, but my hubby's "sin" isn't as big as one of the Big 7. 

He's a flatulent man, honestly. Most of the time, it's not very smelly, but it's LOUD. I do not love this trait about him other than the fact that he is just so un-self-conscious about it. That unselfconsciousness I kind of do love because that makes him a sort of fearless person, and that's awesome. And it's not like he surprised me-- on our first date he snuck one out, and I thought he must be mortified (he was a little embarrassed, but not as much as most people would be).

So I laugh.  Even when it's kinda gross, and I need to spray him down with Lysol.  And guess what?  My kids do it a little bit too (Sean more than Maia).  And I actually DO kind of love that in the crazy way that mothers have of loving those little traits because they are little reflections of yourself. 

And laughing when it's kinda gross and yelling at each other HONESTLY without bringing up every fight you've ever had, forgiving each other sometimes, trying to forget, even, and not expecting the sun AND the moon.  And just dealing with the warts and all, every single day.  Some days are easier than others. 

All of that makes almost twenty years feel like just a start, and look forward to the next twenty. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

A piece of my novel

Okay, so a special treat today for you faithful readers.  This is a piece of my novel-in-progress.  It's an intense moment, when the narrator, who is a ghost, is killed.  I may take it off of the blog in a few days so it's not floating around out there-- I do kind of want to publish it one of these days.  But I wanted to share a part I really like. 

What do you think?  Critiques welcome.  Is there something you don't like?  Pacing?  Want to read more?  :) 


I can see it like it is happening right now.

Someone grabs me from behind. I am still laughing, looking at Tony’s face, and he suddenly stops laughing as strong arms go around my neck. I don’t realize what is happening at first and then Tony’s smile falls and he steps forward and then stops moving. His face goes hard, like a cowboy in a movie and I’m about to make fun of him for that and then the guy behind me (I had somehow thought, for a second, that it must be someone I knew, someone there to congratulate me on the engagement, because I couldn’t be being robbed; I didn’t have anything worth stealing.) But no. He, the guy behind me, not Tony, he says “look, if you just hold still no one has to get hurt” and he’s not laughing, not congratulating me, but he’s holding something really hard into my back, on the right side, just above the small. It hurts. I can feel it poke my spine a little as he wiggles it some. He stepped out of a doorway, out of the dark, and since I was walking backwards looking at Tony, I don’t even see his face. Tony does, though, and what he sees there makes his eyes go flinty; they go dark in a way I’ve never seen them. I mean, we were going to La Villita! There are tourists everywhere, but not tonight. For some reason, we seem to be in a bubble of space and time and there is NO one there to help us. No cars, no walking people. I think of La Llorona, for some reason, and the kids at the railroad, but I know they aren’t here to help. No one is. No one drives by, no one laughs. We don’t hear any footsteps come up to help us. Just this guy behind me, and I can smell his aftershave a little bit, like on a first date, and I think it might be Drakkar Noir and I think how funny that would be, to be robbed by someone wearing Drakkar Noir, for God’s sake, and I start to tell the guy that my purse is right here, take it.

Tony is holding his hands up, holding really still, saying something like “Okay, man, chill, it’s okay” and for some reason, the guy behind me gets nervous, breathes out sharply, and then holds me even tighter, jamming HIS gun into my side ribcage even harder. I can’t believe I was just a second ago laughing and looking at my golden butterfly ruby ring. And we were going to La Villita! I can still taste mint and sugar on my lips, and I lick them again, because I seem to have gone really dry, and I feel 100% sober, too.

I hear a noise back behind Tony somewhere, like feet scuffing, and I guess the guy holding me thinks someone is coming or maybe he had something to prove to whomever was making that foot noise and before I know it, Tony is trying to step towards us and I hear this crack, and something hits me, hard, in the middle of my side. I don’t really feel anything other than this whack; it’s kind of like falling off a merry go round when I was a kid. Falling on my back and the breath whooshes out and then I’m left staring up at the sky waiting to breathe, to breathe. Except, it doesn’t happen. I don’t catch my breath.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Autism Boy

Tomorrow is our yearly review of Sean's progress.  He's been in the special early class for a little bit under a year now, and his teacher, who is amazing & wonderful (all three of the teachers in his class are) called me this morning to give me a head's up as to what we'd do tomorrow.  She tested him this morning to have benchmarks, and apparently on a big number of things, he is doing amazingly well.  It's very good to see real progress.  I know it, but sometimes when you know something as a parent at home, it doesn't reflect at the school.  So that's the good parts.  It is VERY exciting that he is doing as well as he is.

Then, this week, when we were in San Antonio, we were at a restaurant/bar that has this kid's play area.  Sean & Maia & one of our friend's daughters were playing outside, where we could all see them through the windows.  Sean is generally a very sweet boy; when he IS aggressive or something, there's usually a really good reason for it.  He pushes back when people push at him, in other words, but he doesn't usually instigate problems.  (I can see that he might; I'm not saying he's a perfect angel or anything). This is the main reason why I felt fine about letting them play outside while we were watching not right on top of them.

But something happened with this other, younger kid.  I don't know what it was; one of my friends was there and Sean had bumped her daughter, and the other kid had started crying around the same time.  Then, this group of people brought their daughter inside.  Did they say something to me?  No.  They just sat at their table and complained loudly, and looked pointedly at our table like we should know something.  Well, I couldn't see EVERYthing that happened, so I didn't know, but I had my guess that somehow, something had happened.  If they had said something, I would have tried to make it right. 

So I knew they were talking about us, and Sean, and I pointedly apologized, told them that he's usually a good kid, but that he has autism and sometimes he can get into trouble when he doesn't understand something.  The mom of the group sort of waved at me and said something like "that explains it" and seemed to accept my explanation.  But then the whole group of them left, and seemed agitated still, as though we were those clueless folks who did something terrible to their kid. I was sort of confused.

Look.  It's not that I think Sean's autism excuses seriously bad behavior.  And I DO watch him as carefully as I can, and if I had thought there would be a problem I would have been out there.  I wish the woman would have explained to me what happened so I could understand it better. 

We're trying.  Super hard, to make him understand, to make him be the sweet wonderful kid I know he is, I know he can be.  But as I have said before, why can't we give each other (parents) a freakin' break sometimes?  Figure that it's not necessarily neglect and cluelessness but that there is something, a variable, that you don't know. 

Anyway.  One step forward, one step back.  At least we're mostly breaking even around here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Koi in Winter

they barely move
jostle close, ontop of
each other.
orange, white, gold,
tail mouth
into black leaves, stir silt
for the warmth of earth mud rot.

alien elements offering barest promise of summer to come.
it is still a long long way from here.

the water is martini-cold
straight up
clear.  clean.

the cat drinks, loving the taste of old
moss and fish breath

the fish sense watching eyes.
swirl breathe spin.
the cat does not notice.  drinks,
saunters away.

dark warm leafy stillness
is forgotten in cold rushing.

kaw jan '10

an evocotive picture


I want
to be rolling drunk
on the tip of
the sweetest

not yet released, just before the waves take me--

Not intoxicated. 
I want the Anglo-Saxon version. 
Careless.  A little crude.  Of the gutter.

Forgetful of myself
trusting in others to
remember.  For a little while.

Painless-- never reaching
the place
where the balance is tipped
towards regrets.

Constantly giddy
dizzy-buzzed.  Like
a honeybee
in a meadow filled with
golden suckleweed, lillies, roses, sweet sweetness.

I want that moment
captured in
those time-elapsed photographs
at bloom's pink peak

still. . .
before. . .

imperceptibly reaching, shivering,
holy holy holy.