Oh by the way, I’m 35 now.

9 02 2013

The thing about 35 is that years ago my aunt casually mentioned that that was the age that both of her sisters (being the one I am named after and the one that birthed me) sort of lost their shit. So I’ve been counting down to my insanity for the last seven or so years. (Which brings me to the part about how isn’t it weird how time just keeps moving and how I’m not actually 17 anymore and who the hell put me in charge of these kids?) So, while I’m continually moving towards sanity and away from losing every last one of my marbles, I’ve often wondered how much I can handle. When I was reading through my mom’s old papers last year I had my first grown-up-perspective glimpse into what her life was like around that time and she really did have a lot on her plate. So part of me felt like I’d retain my sanity even beyond 35 because I am not my mom, but part was afraid that maybe 2011 had been the beginning of just Too Much. Once I arrived at 35, though, I felt pretty good about it. 35 is a nice, clean-feeling age. Not sharp and caustic like 33. Not slow and too-soft like 34. 35 feels nice and crisp and clear. (Let’s go ahead and go back to the part where I refer to myself as sane, mrmhrm?) Of course the next day I spent in tears for… no real reason. Even despite watching the Puppy Bowl. I’m hoping that might have been a cow dairy overload rather than anything more ominous.

But my birthday itself? Was lovely. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much out of it. My loneliness, my emo-ness, my broke-ness, and the fact that the latter point means we can’t renew our Disneyland passes right now so this was our last visit for awhile, all gave me low expectations.

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We need tiaras.

cuddles with my babies

But birthdays at Disneyland are never bad. And my kids were especially amazing on this particular visit. Interestingly, we spent more than half the day at California Adventure. If you’d have told me 10 years ago that I’d have done such I thing I’d have never believed it. At the time California Adventure was really kind of a disappointment. But they’ve made a lot of changes over the years, and especially with the opening of Buena Vista Street last year, it’s really become a fun park. And Cars Land? Just fantastic detail. So we headed over there first because the kids wanted to try the big ride there, Radiator Springs Racers. By 9:30 am they were already almost out of fast passes and the ones they were currently giving out were for 8pm, when we had plans to see a show, but the lines had gone down from the four hours back in the summer to only 80 minutes so we waited. The ride is really fun, and it’s one of my favorites for sure, but I won’t wait that long again, this was just a first time special. After people get used to it a little the lines (hopefully) won’t be so bad and we’ll get to ride it more often. Luckily the queue is very well decorated so there is lots of see while you wait. The kids LOVED the ride. When Elliott gets a little bigger he’s going to love roller coasters, but I think this ride is pretty much Margie’s limit (and mine).

Car things.

*snort*

We did some other stuff we don’t often make time for – riding the Sailing Ship Columbia, for one. I’d actually never been on that one, just the Mark Twain. Margie felt a little nervous being so high up, but she wanted so hard to make sure I had a good birthday, that she decided to be OK with it (and I made sure she wasn’t pushed beyond what she could handle).

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After dinner, we went to talk to Crush which is one of my favorite things at California Adventure. It’s MAGIC. Or else cartoons are real. One of those things. Elliott got the chance to talk to him and you can see the video here. (Everyone sees long hair and thinks he’s a girl.)

And then we ended the evening with a show we hadn’t seen yet. World of Color is a water-and-light show where they project images onto the water. Despite the fact that it is, um, a water show, I didn’t realize it was so, uh, interactive. We were warned that we’d get wet, but that it was “just a little mist”. By the end of the show we were soaked. Which turned out to be pretty OK since it was, for some strange reason, about 70 degrees that February night. Go figure. Elliott, who melts if he comes in contact with water outside of a bathtub (and sometimes even in) didn’t love that he got wet, but he also couldn’t keep his eyes off the show. He had that smile on his face that all the kids in every Disneyland commercial always have. I have never experienced such a stereotypical moment as a parent. It made me giddy with the warm fuzzies.

rainbows!

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i totally fake-instagrammed this in picasa

My quick review of World of Color:
It began with a simple (and yet amazing) show of lights and music and I thought for a second that it would be something like Fantasia, where they simply animated music. They were going back to one of Walt’s original ideas, pure imagineering, just experimenting with new ways to animate music in a 3D environment. I found it intellectual, exciting, honest, and heartwarming. That was the first 30 or so seconds. And the rest was all based on the bigger characters and movies. And it was still a really great show; I sang along almost the whole time and they used their various effects very, well, effectively. But I feel like they missed a big opportunity to make something unique and important. They, of course, feel like that would have missed a big opportunity for marketing of their bigger characters and movies. Ah well. At least Disneyland does commercials really well.

The point is that the show, and therefore my birthday, ended with rainbows. And that is, I hope, a good omen. At the very least it sure is pretty.

world of color





Photos and Friends

18 02 2012

I’m at a loss for words lately. I think it’s because my camera’s sensor needs to be cleaned and I therefore feel frustrated with it. (Because pictures = inspiration, see?) But it could be simply a lack of inspiration. And time. Definitely time. We have gotten very busy this semester with the kids having appointments, classes, or park days four out of five weekdays. Not to mention all the personal stuff that’s happened like selling my mom’s house. I don’t take as many pictures as I did a few years ago because, frankly, there’s only so many pictures I can take of my kids doing school work, or of the food I eat before it gets dull. ANd when I don’t take as many pictures I have a hard time finding the beauty in life. But short of doing something amazing every day, I don’t know really how to get out of this rut. And sometimes I wonder if I should get out from behind the camera and just enjoy life and I can tell you now that, no, not really. I enjoy life much more when I can photograph it. It’s magic to make the colors pop and save them forever and ever. Sometimes the sky seems bluer when I take a picture of it, than it does when I see it with my own eyes.

But that’s not what this entry is about.

This entry is about Sonja and Noah coming to visit us this week.

We had a beautiful time with them. We hiked, we visited with Elaine, we ate, we stayed up too late snorting over Pinterest and Twitter (well, the grownups did), we had coffee and pancakes and bacon, we ran around in circles screaming like crazed animals (well, the kids did), and we cried when we had to say goodbye (well, Elliott did). Here is some photographic evidence of some of the above.

flowers

boys on a cliff

juxtaposition

rocky beach

sonja and her belly <3

climbers

cooperative seagull

While we were hanging around with Elaine (after the hike with three kids, mind you) I was too tired to photograph much, but luckily Elaine and Anya put on a show right next to me with the sun positioned perfectly behind them so I didn’t even have to get off my arse to make art. I just fired off the camera and I was pretty sure none of them would come out since I put exactly zero effort into them. And then I got home and saw these:

And my heart was full. Friends, art, bacon. It was a good time. Thank you, friends.





Before/After, Happy Things, and 7 Days Ketchup. PS. This Got Deep

21 03 2011

I mean catsup (spell check wants me to change that to “Datsun”. Seriously). I mean catch up.

After two weeks of intense Spring Cleaning, some friends came to help me move some stuff around the living room. The furniture was not only too heavy for me, but I also don’t know things like How to Put a Computer Back Together. Besides those important details, I wanted to focus on energy. I wanted to change the house to get a different energy flowing. I wanted friends to help me accomplish that. Despite my deep love and craving for ritual and ceremonies, I also am a strong believer in the ritual of Just Doing. In other words, the simple act of these amazing women coming and helping me was a ceremony, their mere acts of love in moving things around for me did plenty of energy cleansing without ever casting a circle or saying a prayer. That’s not to say circles or prayers aren’t necessary – they are – but they aren’t the only way to do spiritual work.

And did I mention that our ritual-less ritual happened to happen on the full moon? Indeed, the SUPERMOON! which was, in fact, incredibly startling even though I’d been waiting weeks for it. Despite the fact that by the time I got to my good camera, the moon was already high enough that the size difference is entirely unnoticeable in this photo, I had to take it anyway, just to mark the occasion.

Happy Thing:  SUPERMOON

Over the last years as I struggled to learn who I am in terms of clutter and mess, I’ve bounced back and forth between trying to Embrace the Mess and trying to Exterminate the Mess. I felt chaotic bouncing back and forth, but it’s taught me what I can and can’t handle. Kid messes? Can totally handle. Messes from art or baking? Yup. Clutter squirreled away in every tiny crevice and corner? I cannot. It saps my sanity and energy. Over these last years I’ve discovered I don’t truly hate cleaning, in fact I find it spiritually cleansing to have clean and organized corners and shelves. The act is cleaning is, in fact, inseparable from the act of spiritual cleaning.  What I do hate is the endless mess that follows me around, taunting me and making it clear I’ll never be done.

In the process of these last weeks, I’ve cleaned dust from nearly every corner. And I don’t mean just a layer of dust. I mean dust cakes. It’s such a metaphor for our marriage. Wipe down the surfaces, ignore the deep shit and pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does. And it grows yuckier by the year.  But now it’s gone and I’m clean. And to be honest I can’t say it will never build up again (by the way, now we are speaking of literal dust. I dropped the metaphor without telling you – sorry about that). I was never taught how to clean and, frankly, it’s something that’s difficult to learn since there aren’t many self-help books that teach what should be obvious to people like: Clean the top of your fridge. Dust off cords once in awhile. Instead I have to figure things out slowly, noticing one thing at a time until I’ve built up a good repertoire of mad cleaning skillz to keep things in order. But I’m at a good beginning place. Things are almost entirely organized now, clutter is practically non-existent, and I’m 13 years ahead of where I was when I first moved out of my mother’s home in terms of knowing how to clean and also in knowing what I want out of a home.

And so here is the before, taken in December, and the after, taken yesterday.

7 Days: Day 6 (Peek Into My Chaos)

7 Days: Day 2 Looking Down on My New Space

I knew it felt cluttered before, but not until I visually compared the two was I able to fully realize how very claustrophobic the house felt before. And, to be clear, this is not the only reason we could no longer live together, but it is relieving – for both of us, I’m sure – to be able to breathe freely in our own very different styles. To be clearer, that second photo is somewhat bare for me. There are a couple pieces of furniture I hope to afford in the future, and something needs to get put up on the walls soon. But the cleanness is just very Happy.

7 Days: Day 3 (Ostara)

And today? Today is Spring. It is the time of new beginnings. Ostara, the Vernal Equinox, is the time when the day and night are perfectly balanced – one of my favorite times of year. I love balance. I thrive in it. It is my sanity, my hold on to Life itself. Today I balanced on giant rocks. Granite which is the very foundation of my home. Which, through countless years of erosion, is gifted to us in small glimpses of the solidness and slow power of Ground. Despite the bitter cold in the air and the morning’s downpour, these rocks radiated with gentle warmth from the sun. They feel of power and strength, the masculinity of Mother Earth exposed. Each time I encounter one I am amazed how spiritually filling it is simply to touch it.

Happy Thing: Sitting on a Sun-Warmed Rock

And so I’ve cleaned out the corners of my home and Spirit, and I’ve balanced myself between outdoors and in. And now let’s enjoy the flowers and the breeze for summer’s on the way, a time of warmth and light and sun and life. Blessings!





Moving Forward

3 01 2011

collage detail

I considered naming this post, “Back to My Future” or “From Here To the Future” but then I vomited a little and decided that it’s probably best to keep things simple. You’re welcome.

This year has been BIG for me. You have no idea the things that have gone on within my head. Years worth of healing have led to growth which has built the platform for the things to come. I have identified and begun to conquer some childhood demons, I’m finally beginning to Embrace the Flaky, I’ve made peace with the religion of my birth (I mean, except for the assholes who abuse it, but there has never been peace to be made with them), I’ve reconnected with my instinctual self, I’ve learned to love my anxious self while still pushing myself through those anxieties, I’ve made some goals and acted on them, I’ve learned that I’m not stagnant at all, but that sometimes I have to let my Oak Tree lead me.

mirrors

This upcoming year, in lieu of resolutions or Uberlists, or a Word of the Year, I set my deepest intention simply to allow my Oak Tree to guide me. She knows what I do not, and so far she’s always been right. I believe she always will be.

me!

I will, though, re-begin a list of goals to accomplish. This list has no time limit, as life does not conform to the Western 365-day calendar.  It’s also lighter, not heavy like the soul-work that happens all on its own.  I don’t want to call this my bucket list, or even my life list, but I’m not sure what to call it yet. My Keep-Me-Busy List? My Richness of Life List? Please do comment on each of the lists within this list and share your recommendations with me. I intend to refer to this list often, but I hereby declare that if I do not, that is OK, too, because a List is just a list and I will not allow myself to kick me for anything ever. (Hear that, subconscious?)

vision board 2011

This year, primarily thanks to Karen and Own Your Beauty, I made myself a vision board. I did this one primarily on instinct rather than conscious intent, although I do not believe there is any wrong way to envision a year. I chose gold paint for the background for the obvious reasons (I am often drawn to gold and purple, colors of richness and royalty, when I do soul-art), but as I was painting it, I was reminded strongly of Leslie’s gold room in Bridge to Terabithia and I felt the joy that came that afternoon when they were finished. (Someday, I will have a gold room of my own. With a happier ending.) I used a technique Claire taught me which involves cutting up an old calendar and gluing the squares down into a grid – I intend to focus on organization this year. I threw on a small collage in the corner which represents various things to me in various levels. To finish, I added mirrors around the edge to remind myself always to reflect and to see me for who I am.  I had planned to write words on it, but then decided I didn’t need to.  If I had the words would have been something like: listen, reflect, remember art, ground yourself in nature, breathe deep. Originally I wanted to frame this so that I can keep the current year on top of the older ones, but in the end I wound up with a canvas. I may layer next year’s vision on top of this. We’ll see. I love it. It’s beautiful. At least I think so.

How about you? What has 2010 meant for you? What do you foresee for yourself for the future?





Guilt is a Lie

19 05 2010

Years ago a wise woman told me she didn’t believe in the word lazy. She felt that if you didn’t do something there was probably a reason. And I feel that’s true. I can see that sometimes those reasons aren’t positive – depression, for instance, has kept me “lazy” a lot in my life – but no matter how I think about it, the supposed laziness is the result of some imbalance. It is never true sloth.

I don’t know that I can explain it because my mind works in weird and wonderful ways, but that philosophy somehow led me to think about guilt and how it’s all bullshit.

Today my son sat in story time quietly listening to the stories, completely engaged. But he wasn’t always engaged that way, in fact it was only in the last six months or so that he was ready for story time, despite the fact that his sister sat quietly engaged from the tender age of two. And the thing is that I used to feel guilty that he wasn’t ready for story time. WTF? Our society is so rooted in literacy (which is wonderful) that I took on the guilt of one who doesn’t expose their children to literature despite the fact that I do and the fact that my son was simply being himself. I hung on to this guilt when I truly had no control over the reasons for it.

A few months ago I read a blog entry proposing that Mommy Guilt is really a natural defense to do the right thing and that we should embrace it and follow our guilt. While I know what the writer was getting at, I can’t help feeling that such an entry is leading us further into this bullshit path away from our instincts. Take, for instance, a woman raising children in a community that embraces the teachings of Ezzo. Her instincts tell her not to let her baby cry, but she will feel guilt if she follows them.

Perhaps at one time guilt was Nature’s way of speaking to a person. Or perhaps it was man-made to begin with. But in any case it’s a horrible and completely useless emotion now. And I have spent too much of my life entrenched in it. Over religion, parenting, relationships, things I should be doing, things I shouldn’t be doing – I took on guilt and wallowed in it, drowning. These days I have shed the cloak of guilt and I refuse to take it on anymore. If it creeps in, I evaluate it. If it’s about something I should be doing, I either do it or I determine where the “laziness” stems from and I give myself a break. Guilt has no hold over me. And I feel so free.

Recently, with the aforementioned negativity in my life, I have been handed a new garment of guilt. And so I threw it on the ground and stomped on it. I won’t wear it. They can, if they like, but they cannot expect me to.

This isn’t to say there aren’t other emotions I cannot release. Sorrow is the heaviest at this point. But with guilt involved, it would be magnified, far too much to bear.

And I feel so blessed to have learned this lesson. To be free of that sucking mud which holds me down. Today, I can walk on, guilt free.





The Pox

10 04 2010

Most of my readers know, I’m sure, that we don’t vaccinate our kids – at least not based on our current place in space and time. Well, this week, my children reached an important childhood rite of passage: chickenpox. (BTW, who knew it was all one word?? I’ve been spelling it wrong all week!)

Because I am a Mean Mommy, I purposefully exposed them. After carefully weighing all my options, I felt it was the best one. So we went and shared germs with some friends who had it and pretty much exactly two weeks later I found one pok* on my daughter’s neck.

the first pok

We’ve tried this before, to get The Pox. It didn’t work. But I respectfully kept my kids inside for three full weeks just in case we might happen to catch it. Three weeks of unnecessary quarantine suck.

This time around, probably because a bunch of elementary school friends found me on Facebook not too long ago, I thought back to one particular outbreak when I was in second grade. One girl caught them and not two weeks later, the rest of the class started dropping like flies. Children who hadn’t had them yet weren’t pulled from school during this, and they certainly weren’t kept home from school in case they might come down with The Pox – they only stayed home once they showed symptoms.

What changed? The vaccine. I’m not going to talk about vaccination versus the lack thereof, but the fact that our society’s attitude about chickenpox has changed – even among the natural hippie folk who avoid vaccinations – is, well, interesting. And this bothers me. For something that has, in the past, been considered a primarily harmless disease, to be changed into something dark and scary is a little unnerving.

And I don’t mean this to sound like one of those rants our elders share with us about walking uphill both ways in the snow and that if thalidomide was good enough for them it should damn well be good enough for us.  Because in this case, really – it didn’t hurt us. (I realize there were, on rare occasions, horrible complications – but so is true from vaccines, even the most mainstream doctor cannot truthfully deny that.)

foot pok

So this time around, I didn’t quarantine us. I let us live our lives – I tried to be respectful and shared this info with people in certain cases, but I didn’t stop us from enjoying life in the mean time.

And, besides, I’ve learned that adults need periodic exposure to chickenpox to keep shingles away. So you’re welcome.

eye pok

*I’m not exactly certain what the singular of “pox” is and I don’t care because, frankly, “pok” is better than whatever the actual term is. Unless it is “pok” in which case, good job, English language.





Earthquake on a Cliff

4 04 2010

Today my Photo Party friends and I went for a hike at Torrey Pines. It was a beautiful day full of sunshine, spring flowers, blue sky, and ocean breezes. And a big giant earthquake.

written in the sand

I have never before experienced a quake in the middle of Nature. And it was amazing. Scary, alarming, beautiful, exhilarating, fun, wild. And mostly what I thought was, are my babies OK? We all went through similar thought processes – first assuming the ground was moving beneath our feet for some benign reason, like being on the second floor at Ikea. And then we all just stared at each other, knowing with one glance, that this was much bigger. I sat down – it seemed the reasonable thing to do.  I also took note that I was not currently on the edge of a cliff and felt blessed for that. While part of my mind worried about things, and another part tried to keep the first part calm and not panicky, a third part of me connected to the Earth and felt, deeply, the circular motion the ground was carrying me in. Despite everything negative, I consider it a gift to have had that moment of communion with Nature.

earthquake!
I took this photo during the quake (it was a looong quake) – everyone stopped hiking, we all just talked about it and took in the moment together. To be honest, it didn’t feel as strong away from civilization as it probably did near or in buildings; we didn’t realize how big it was until we started checking Twitter on the way home.

ETA these photos, taken by Katie. What? I twittered during the quake. How else would the world know?

I realize this sounds very selfish since others have suffered to varying degrees from the same event; I have not forgotten to keep them in my thoughts.

On our hike down to the beach (did you know it’s all uphill on the way back? WTF?), I played a bit with the Harry Potter Camera. These are my favorite shots.

pine

daisies





This is Epic

19 03 2010

Ties so much together in so many little ways. Deeply important. I cried the tears of someone long lost, finally come home.

It fits.

“My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well – the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.

“I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me- I mean, this happy and balanced me, who is now dozing on the deck of the small Indonesian fishing boat-who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years. The younger me was the acorn full of potential, but it was the older me, the already-existent oak, who was saying the whole time-’Yes-grow! Change! Evolve!Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholeness and maturity! I need you to grow into me!’ And maybe it was this present and fully actualized me who was hovering four years ago over that young married sobbing girl on the bathroom floor, and maybe it was this me who whispered lovingly into that desperate girl’s ear, ‘Go back to bed, Liz…’ Knowing already that everything would be OK, that everything would eventually bring us together here. Right here, right to this moment. Where I was always waiting in peace and contentment, always waiting for her to arrive and join me.”

Copied and pasted from here. Because I am way too lazy to type it myself. But I did read the book myself and it was fabulous in so many, many ways.

I have been thinking deeply lately (who? me?), this time about my One Big Flaw – the One which has guided every single decision, little or big, I have ever made. That flaw is my fear, my inability, to face having someone dislike me in any way. Anyone from the most important people in my life to the stranger on the other side of the street as I walk in a busy city. I need, desperately, to be liked by everyone ever. Practically speaking, this is impossible, and so I am able to realize that in certain situations and shrug it off. But this desire is so innate, so deep, that it literally guides me in every little aspect of my life.

Late last night, I think it was, I thought SO deeply about this that I came full circle and realized that in as much as this has been my One Big Flaw, it is equally my One True Gift. It has forced my eyes and mind wide open, forced me to listen to every view point, forced me to seek knowledge and balance. When I have avoided debates for fear someone might dislike me, that very act, spineless though I always considered it, actually caused me to listen to them and to learn and grow. It made me who I am today.

All of my adult life I’ve felt that I’m just floating along in this river of life, not so much making decisions that lead me to where I am, but ending up in a better place somehow anyway. I used to believe it was God guiding me, but as my beliefs have changed (more correctly: as the Truth as I Feel It has been acknowledged) I have had to admit I don’t know who or what could possibly be guiding me to this better place. Maybe it’s me. Maybe my Me-to-Come is guiding me along, wanting so much for me to be who I can be that I can’t not hear it and follow.

A friend has spoken to me of the Waldorfy belief that children are born asleep and wake up little by little at certain stages of their lives. The more I look around the world, the more I feel that these Waldorf people are on to something. My daughter was born wide awake; we could have real grown-up conversations by the time she was a toddler. My son, on the other hand, is more deeply asleep, I think, than most children are. I have vivid and early memories of my toddlerhood, a few even of my babyhood. Most people I speak to find this strange and impressive, so I wonder if I was born awake and therefore more able to see clearly and remember things. On the other hand, I never consciously heard the call to grow – I just floated along the river, passively. So was I born asleep, not to wake up until the birth of my first child? Or perhaps my ears were just under water.

We read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in sixth grade and the concept of it hit me deeply, despite the fact that it is not at all what my belief system held to be true. Years later, I read something by Madeleine L’Engle (who? me?) which, although I did not connect it at the time, reflected this in a Christian light. She said she did not believe that Heaven was to be a big paradise with golden streets and our every need met – rather that it is a place where we continue our work for God, whatever that will be in the next plane. And all of this also somehow reflects the Hindu concept of reincarnation.

And so I wonder if I completed enough work in a past life that I was able to become aware in this one? And if that is true, and the Me-to-Come is calling me… How many lives away is she calling me from?

I don’t find that thought scary, or tedious. The concept that there is that much more work to be done is exciting and motivating! The idea that I may be calling myself from so far beyond is so utterly flooring and amazing and beautiful that it brings me to tears once again at the mere grandness of it all. Since having woken up these last few years, I love life. Even the hard parts. The bits where I am crying in a corner. Even in my darkest times, I feel that this is all progress and progress gets me There. And that? Is exciting.





The Bucket, The Epiphany, The Metaphorical World

9 01 2010

the bucket card

I am the one who must catch all the mess in the bucket.

Literal mess: vomit.
Metaphorical mess: childhood abuse.

I created this SoulCollage card last March. It must have settled into my mind, slowly sinking into my subconsious, sliding this way and that along the pipes until it hit the lock to… well, everything, I think.

One night – I think it may have been in November – I got into bed and picked up my beloved copy of Women Who Run With the Wolves. That in itself was odd, since I typically do not read that late at night – my reading time is while the kids fall asleep. But almost the moment I opened the book, I felt a click in my heart as the information flowed into my conscious mind.

Vomit causes anxiety because I must catch it.
I must be ever vigilant in my vomit-watch, lest some not get caught.
I MUST CONTROL THE CATCHING OF THE VOMIT.

Oh. Ohhhhhh. OH. It is not vomit I must control at all – it is all the horrible things that happened to me when I was small. My childhood me is quite literally surrounded by puke – plastic garbage bags filled with it, tied in knots, stinking of alcohol, filling the bathtub and more.

It is not grown-up me who is trying to control sick – it is eight-year-old me, trying desperately to control anything.

I spent an evening throwing all the most significant memories I have of barf and my mother into a Word document. I woke up the next morning, eyes still puffy, head aching with the hangover of too many tears. Yet, somehow released. A little bit.

Now when the anxiety comes, I take deep breaths and visualize my childhood self being rescued into the loving arms of the woman who saves me.  She cradles me in my mother’s stinky old plaid chair – the one her boyfriend pushed her into during a fight.  This woman holds me and tells me it’s not my fault, that this is not OK.  She convinces me to come with her.  I do, but uncertainly.  In fact, the first few times I visited this metaphorical place, we did not leave at all.  She takes me to a place that is all white, and bathes me in an old claw-footed tub, in a room covered in tiny white tiles. She rubs my back and washes me, bubbles up to my chin. I feel, as a child, sort of numb. I wonder what my mother thinks – but I know that my mother is asleep in her bedroom and doesn’t know I’m gone. I wonder what she will do when she discovers, but that, too, I know – in this symbolic world, she will go back to her drink, and then to her bed, and she will sleep until the end of her life, partly relieved that I am gone so she doesn’t have to see me and feel guilty each day. My Savior Woman dries me off in thick, fluffy, warm, white towels. She tucks me into a bed and covers me in a fat, heavy, white down quilt. The sun shines in the window, cooly, as though on a winter’s day. I sleep.

I don’t know if this Savior of mine is Now-Me, or Mother Mary. I think I want her to be both.





Mrs. Hedenkamp

8 01 2010

When I was very small and my grandmother watched me while my mother worked, she would take me along with her to her Garden Club meetings. At the time they met in the old house in Rohr Park and it smelled of coffee and cold, musty air. It was u-shaped with an uneven brick patio in the courtyard. I mainly played by myself during the meetings, wandering through the downstairs rooms and into the grassy areas outside, staring longingly at the public pool which has since been filled in without a trace, or imagining myself in a little cabin under the eaves of the log-built storage unit outside. The other women there loved me like a club full of grandmothers, and I loved them back, although shyly.

these stairs lead to the kitchen which smells of cold and coffee

Mrs. Hedenkamp lived at the same street number that my grandparents lived at, but two short blocks west. Perhaps because of her proximity, she stands out in my memory more than most of the other ladies. I don’t have many specific memories of her – just a general and overwhelming feeling of love surrounding our relationship. I remember once walking to her house where we stopped in and I met her husband who spoke with a German accent (unless I am confusing that with my memory of another German neighbor) and worked with wood. Shortly after that visit, he sent me some wooden block animals he had made for me. Years later I would paint them with my childish set of watercolors, a blue elephant and a yellow spotted giraffe are all I can remember now. He died while I was still a child.

A growing girl and teenager, sadly, have little interest in the friends of their grandparents, but always I would hear the phrase, “Mrs. Hedenkamp – she loves you, you know.” And I did know it – I felt it, and in my own way, I loved her for it.

I invited her to my wedding. It seemed natural to do so, she was, after all, another of my grandmothers from the Club. She was much smaller and more frail than I remembered. It scared me. I think I saw her only one last time, a few months after the wedding when my grandmother passed away. Mrs. Hedenkamp hugged me and, again, I knew her love for me, for my grandmother.

A few years ago, I happened across the name of Hedenkamp Elementary – a brand new school in one of the new developments. How many Hedenkamps are there, anyway? Apparently not many, since it turns out that it was named after the two who knew and loved me. How exciting! I was unaware of it all as I was growing up, but they worked hard to keep children in the community well fed, among other things.

Some time after that, while playing at a playground, shared by a horde of fifth graders wearing shirts announcing “Hedenkamp Huskies” I chatted with one of the teachers. She told me Mrs. Hedenkamp was “still kickin’” and would often visit the school, where she was beloved by the children. I loved hearing that.

Sadly, last November, she passed away. I feel sad, but it’s a sweet sort of sad – the kind which comes at the end of a long and beautiful life. Thank you, Mrs. Hedenkamp, for always loving me. I knew it and loved you back, even if it was from a distance.








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