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  Topic Review (Newest First)
10-20-2004 12:22 AM
Tanya Taylor Thank you. Please move on to Week 3!
10-19-2004 02:57 AM
insomniamama My best day of the week is Friday, when I know the calm of companionship is near and the week's chaos and tumult are winding down. I can put a lid on my week once five o'clock rolls around, confident that my husband will rescue my vagrant insecurities and exhausted body from any wreckage we've fallen victim to. I mean, it wouldn't be impossible for me to accomplish the week and weekend on my own, but there's a happy little codependence in my household that I'd be hard pressed to exchange for any amount of liberated personal responsibility; I leave all the week's spoils to him, he's happy to fall into my arms, as well, for his own relief. With two children normally run into the ground between energetic Friday morning coffee socials, frantic errands before three, and a last-minute walk to the park to cavort with other neighbors, I'm free to kick back and enjoy a movie with my hero, butter on the sofa. Kids comatose on the bed, one balled up on the right, and the other sprawled for the heavens on the left. To complete the picture, a dog atop a pile of laundry and another camouflaged, embedded in down next to the toddler, knowing full well he's stinking up my sacred ground. But it's Friday, and as this scene unfolds I'm at the end of the spiral, deeply dug into a leather sectional and half-asleep, myself.
10-19-2004 02:38 AM
insomniamama The last time I rode Marshmallow Man was in the winter of 2001. It was a stormy night, and I was in the company of 5 other riders in the arena. Rain was pouring on the tin roof, and despite the muffling earth beneath us, padded thick with cedar shavings, and the fifty-year coat of dust on the barn rafters, there was a heinous platting din overhead, as if the world was having a migraine. And he hated the noise, and my irritation with being fresh from my pelvic fracture recovery. To every thunderclap I yanked him in to a tight circle, less he take off for that corner again, to bounce me to kingdom come. The other riders looked anxiously in my direction as the hail commenced, roaring into my thin veneer of confidence, so my circles tightened. Marshmellow built a heavy sweat, even in the cold of that February night in Point Reyes, not from cantering for twenty minutes, but from being restrained, of course. And we danced around like this until everyone else threw in the towel; the noise and threats became intolerable, and I had an hour's drive ahead of me in the storm. But I dismounted and undressed him, tucked the gelding into his stall and drove home with a feeling of accomplishment, never knowing on my way home in the electric midnight that I was bearing child, and wouldn't mount a horse again until...when?
10-18-2004 11:35 PM
Curious ooops I posted on wrong week - ignore
10-18-2004 11:26 PM
ggma The last time... I bled was for you. It was the moment that I knew you were truly on your way. Hello honest to goodness labour. I should have realized we were there, but my mind kept thinking about the few things that I had purposefully left un-done in hopes of convincing you to give mej ust a few more days. To bask in the roundness of my body and mind. Thoughts ever circling back to you. Caressing you. Reaching out with all of my senses to feel/to delve into/ to -oh what word is strong enough - to be there in that moment where we were as close as we'll ever physically be. And spiritually? It is possible we may come back and even step further, or closer, but who knows. It has taken me this long to open up and release so many of the things I thought I knew. Who knows where your journey will lead you. What your challenges, strengths, and weaknesses will be. But, oh, I do so hope that we are friends and pull in to each other like the planets in orbit. I long to be your sun or your moon. Maybe a constellation in your dreams. Soon I will crawl into bed next to your soft breathing and you will roll to me. I will offer up my breast and you will settle in for the long sleep. And I will touch you ever so gently in hopes of remembering this moment. And in the warmth of our bed, in between you and papa, by body will be eased.
10-18-2004 11:00 AM
wrensmom I've been following along since last week. My apologies my post is late. here goes:

The last time I sat down to write was two days ago. My baby was asleep in the car and as I wrote I watched her from the kitchen table.
Now as I write, live bluegrass music is spilling from the living room. Mu baby has crowned her banjo playing papa with a tiara and is running around the house dancing.
The halloween lights are glowing in the window and the sun is setting in deep pinks and purples.
This is my favorite time of the year. The crisp nights and fall colors invoke ideas of soups, warm socks and getting cozy on the couch.
We prepared the garden for the winter season yesterday. Culled the last of the crops form the plants and sprinkled on the seeds of the cover crops.
My writing as been interuppted to assist my daughter with a coat and shoes. She wants to follow her papa out to view the garden one more time before dusk.
10-18-2004 05:56 AM
Curious Confession/Question

I edit before I post. Not a lot. But it seems like with some of the assignments, I know where I'm headed before I start. Like the time of my life one.

Others (most), I sit down to write (I've moved mostly to computer, I was getting writers cramp and my handwriting is getting worse and worse), and I have no idea where I'm going to go, so I just start typing something, feeling my way...and then I get something, then I go off a bit, then it hones down to something that makes resonates, feels like I've hit something worth saying, at least to myself.

The last thing had a few tangents. When I was in the second paragraph, I thought I saw where I was going, but the end came suddenly, from another place. So I went back and took out a thing or two that just seemed to take up space and not go anywhere.

I did not post my Mothering assigment even though I was really excited about it: because I edited and edited and edited, making it into a letter I sent to be read at a baby shower I couldn't attend. I know this isn't for seriously "finished" writing. (As finished as you can ever be by a deadline, anyway).

Is showing all steps of the process important here, or is it important just so long as we do it, but OK to then do a bit of cutting to save webspace and be humane to those who might be reading?
10-18-2004 05:18 AM
Curious The last time...

you cried so pitifully, and so quickly after joy, was well over a year ago, before you got used to my leaving for work. Then, we'd nurse and cuddle, and then I'd say, have fun with Grandma, I'm going downstairs to work now. And you would cry like it was the end of your world. Until one day when you were twenty months old and I kissed you goodbye - and you barely lifted your head from the cat picture book Grandma had brought you.

I hadn't seen you cry like that since the day before that day over the cat book, until this afternoon. You didn't like the plan this weekend. Not that time with Dad wasn't great fun, the adventure of sitting in restaurants, eating things Mom's never given you, traveling around town, exploring bookstores. He took you to visit me at the meeting, you'd run to me, and then throw yourself onto my legs, grinning, when it was time for him to take you away so I could go back into the workshops.

You have the smile of the self-satisfied, because you've just recently discovered that the weight of your body and the strength of your hold have both grown so that it's nearly impossible to separate us. And what you can't do with 3 year old weight weight and lifetimes old will, you do with good old baby-wiggle. You want to take us apart – just try! Oh, you hated the whole idea of me being busy all weekend. Explanations had no meaning: it's so I can make homeschool more fun, Mama is learning too. But one thing kept you going, the promise of a puppet show at the end.

Today, in the morning, where are the puppets? When Dad brought you to visit at lunch, where are the puppets? Finally, the two of you returned and we took our seats at this final part of the conference, meant for attendees and their families. You sat expectantly from your chosen spot on my lap. I could tell you'd have a tough time seeing, do you want to sit on the floor? “With Mama,” you said.

So we found ourselves a spot and I crossed my legs. You sunk into the little seat my body made for you, pressed your hot back against my chest, your little head fit under my chin. I could feel your hair against my neck, extra silky since you'd let accepted shampoo for the first time in who knows how long, just a day or two agao. II pulsed with the beat of your heart chakra under my crossed wrists, as you pulled my body tight around you. Without awareness of my breath, I tasted the scent of angel food cake rising from my nursing toddler-child.

The puppetier stood, her face welcoming and motherly. She lifted the first puppet. Her presence faded, and the room fell still and silent. Your toddler twists fell into quiet rapture. What I wanted most was to see your face, but I could only get an impression of the surrender, because you were still tucked into me. What I could do was look at the puppets and listen to their story through your eyes, and my own eyes grew teary at your wonder.

The marionnettes, little more than swatches of silk, took us to a land of Africa and secrets bursting from the heroine huntress. They took us to her trials and her travels. They took us to her failure, and to her moving on. You were heavy in my lap as a sleeping newborn, body here, soul in places unknown and exotic.

The show ended in wild applause from all, except for you. I could feel your face crumple and knew that unbridled tears were on the way. I jumped up as much as I can jump up holding the near thirty pounds of you, and swept out to the hall. I passed a few questions on the way. Oh, she's tired. Did the applause startle her? I ran for a safe place.

Fortunately, you have the gift of language now, so I don't have to play guess and soothe like when you were a baby. I put my face close to yours, and whisper, tell me. We're well practiced at this, and you move out of pure feeling enough to say. “I want more puppets!” You grieve because the show is over. You loved those puppets before you saw them, they transported you to a place of unknown joy, and suddenly they have completed their time cavorting before you.

Sounds like what some have told me being a parent boils down to. I can understand your outraged mourning.
10-18-2004 03:41 AM
Guategirl HOME
(Week 1: 5min.)
(I joined during week two so here is my “missed” post first)

What is home? How do you find it? How do you leave it behind when it’s time to move on? I’ve been thinking about home—whether this place I’m living now can be called mine or not. Hogar—a word I’ve read in Spanish to describe a place that is more than casa—this is something I am trying to define. My family and I spent six weeks this summer living in Guatemala, with Guatemalan friends who became family and whose country became a second homeland.
Now fall returns with rain and I find myself writing letters in my mind to a Mayan woman named Maria. “How are you? How is your daughter? Do you need anything? Do you know how much your humility and gratitude has lingered with me and touched my heart?”
I feel so restless here on cold tile floors amidst plastic and papers when I think of Maria in the early dawn: grinding corn kernels soaked in lime water, forming it then into balls... stoking the fire in the mist as she shivers with cold. Her rain is gone now, and I am happy to know that the steep mud path to her hogar will be less likely to cause a fall. I think of her rattling cough and know it will fade with the dampness also—a more tangible sign that her tuberculosis is in remission. For this I am thankful.
But I am troubled. I am longing for some word from Guatemala because I’m wanting to be connected to something much bigger than these cold tile floors, these school papers and soccer games. I want to hear of Maria, who I so want to save from her poverty, yet can’t help but envy sometimes. Her life based on grinding and cooking corn, carrying firewood, washing clothes. Nothing more to decide than how to keep on going through one more meal, one more day at a time. I have so many options: schools and jobs and boards and writing. Free time and husband and ....
In the place of our Guatemalan home, with people knocking every day on the door, it was easy to sacrifice my comfort for their necessities. Shoes or rain boots or corn or blankets; cement blocks to build school walls. END


THE TIME OF MY LIFE
(Week 2: 10min.)

The time of my life was when I was traveling. It still is. I love the feel of wind in my hair—a long highway stretched out behind and before me. I traveled as a child in my daydreams: I was up a tree in Africa picking coconuts or back in time with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Later I was planning a fantastic traveling surprise: showing up at a friends wedding unannounced, half-way across the country. I like the sense of freedom it brings to be on the road with only a general sense of how far I’ll go that day to reach a destination. camping along the way, even if it meant setting up a tent to car headlights and going to bed half-hungry, was always my preferred style. Reservations and commitments to call from point B with the new itinerary; this took the fun out for me. One more commitment, one more obligation. Traveling meant freedom to explore. For this reason, I had a hard time camping and traveling with children. I was always so focused on their needs and schedules. It was easy for me to choose to sacrifice my comfort for the experience, but I felt guilty making them sacrifice. And impatient and overwhelmed hearing them complain. My son cried all night the first time we took him backpacking. It’s been painstaking for me: the waiting time I instigated was like self-initiated martyrdom. It wasn’t worth it to me to make my kids come along and enjoy the traveling the way I did. This all began to change on a hiking trip one year ago. Our daughter, then aged four, hiked seven miles in one day. I hadn’t tried to make her; it’s just what happened. We went way out and had to get back to our car before bedtime, and we hadn’t read the signs right. From that point on, I knew my kids could suffer a lot and still gain from it—tired, cold, hungry exhaustion could build character. it was suddenly possible for me to follow a dream that had been germinating for years... to drag them along, with me and my husband, to Guatemala. END
10-18-2004 03:31 AM
Autumnschild Scruffy haired and freckle-faced with no thoughts of tomorrow, I ran the streets of my neighborhood oblivious to the world around me. There was a dog, even scruffier than I, who had been abused and abandoned somewhere along the line. She was my best friend and I was her only friend. It took me weeks to convince her that I would cause her no harm. After that we were inseparable.

Down the street lived a horse, a rare sight in the city. I was in love with horses and spent countless afternoons after school talking to the horse from the other side of the fence. We raced up and down the length of that fence, an aging brown horse and a wild-eyed redhaired child, whinnying and kicking up our heels in delight.

The summer of my tenth year, I spent countless hours in the field in front of our house, digging miniature streams and rivers and letting the garden hose fill them with running water. A paradise for my tiny herds of horses who ran free throughout. My spirit ran wild with them.

I built a fort in my backyard, and would mix together strange concoctions of alfalfa and lotion, and various herbs. My mom and sister were adventurous enough to let me try out my lotions and potions on their skin and hair. It was the very beginning of my lifelong fascination with herbs.

The year I was ten years old was a magical year. It was my last year of innocence, before my first crush, before the shock of Jr High with it's lockers and multitude of classes. Yet, the wild little girl who was ten years old still lives within me. And I smile to recognize her spirit in my children.
10-18-2004 03:17 AM
Turtle Woman The year when I was 10 my step dad left and came and left. He had become a constant presence but was never there for very long. I was in Christian school but that is all mushed with 8 and 9. So is he.

We had a trapeze in our room. We all slept in that room four girls. Our other room was the play room. We were allowed to walk to the plaza alone. We looked at the Indians and the jewelry they created. We always ate churros and hung out in front of the dime store or the taco shop. We always watched our watches carefully and a few times lied and changed the time.

Dinner was in the dining room with the family. The man was always the head of the table with everything to his liking and mom running back and forth to the kitchen. I always ate salsa because no one else would and I wanted to impress him. We got a healthy dinner and he got steak. He always watched TV alone while we were cleaning the kitchen.

In the summer I flew to my dads for six weeks. I don’t remember details. Only that it was good and safe. When we were apart we talked every week and I always cried. I missed his gentle loving spirit. I told him I wanted to live with him and sometimes he told my mom. I even ran away a few times. One time I took a dime in my pocket so I could call him but I really didn’t know what to do so I went back home.

I left my precious cockatiel and when I came home I was told my mom was pregnant and my bird was gone. The little step sister I hated and loved had let him out. I had walked in on my mother before I left having naptime with Tim. Ooh I was in trouble. It wasn’t the first time. I wondered if that was when my brother was made. I missed my Kiwi. I got another and soon Tim was gone. I wondered if it was because of the cigarettes I had found when I slipped my hand in his pocket at the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque but I knew it was much bigger because I never told. The fights they had were scary and once my mom had asked us to call the police. When I was 10 ½ my stepsisters were still there but soon they were gone too.

My mom was alone or so she thought. She always thought she was alone. I wanted to be her friend and I was right there. I don’t remember if we went to my dad’s for Thanksgiving or Christmas that year. I’m sure there was snow and the neighborhood Faralitos. I just remember my mom being lonely and crying. I remember talking about having a brother and naming him. I knew Tim was gone for good and I was glad.

I went to public school and my teacher was Mr. Jimenez. He teased me and I liked it. My life was too serious. We made art which I missed a lot from before the Christian school when I was in Waldorf. We did a whole mural on the wall in the hall. I wonder if it is still there. I still have an art piece on my wall by my bed made with cloth and paint and wood and feathers and a face in my handprint. My face print is in the garage and falling apart. I remember my step sister’s being there at school and I wonder if he left them with us and when he took them away for good. I remember a teary goodbye.

I read a lot of books. They were my escape. I read all day one Saturday, and when I turned out the lights I could see the moonlight shining in my window and then it was gone. My sight went black and I thought the devil had taken over my body. I wondered which bad deed had brought me to this end. I became so afraid I called out to my mom. She wouldn’t come. I became frantic and screamed. She held me. It felt so nice. I felt safe and she convinced me I read too much.

When I was 10 I made an all boys basketball team but I couldn’t stick it out. I was scared and my knees hurt. I could not stand up against the wall without my knees collapsing. I quit. I also played the drums. I carried my snare to school on a little cart. It was embarrassing. I quit that too. I had my first boyfriend and best friend. Eddie and Shannon. Mom didn’t like either one. It was just the beginning of her dislikes. I got hit in the head by a baseball and hated PE. I had sex education. I watched George Michael with my friend Allison and danced. I cross country skied with my friend Bobbie and made a cave in the snow. I lost the copper bracelet my dad gave me. I had worn it every day since I could remember. I cried and searched.

Finally, my brother was born. I saw it all. No Tim. He had been gone a long time. So were the sisters. He signed papers to give up his rights. My mom was so worried when she went into early labor. She got someone to get him to sign the papers. But then there was the day. She woke us up and said her water broke but we were going to church. She was smiling. The brother we had begged them to make us was finally coming today. Someone came to get us out of Sunday school. Mom couldn’t get up from her chair because she had leaked everywhere. We went to the store with the midwife and then to her house. Ari and I saw “Dirty Dancing” and mom was mad but couldn’t care. Finally we went to the birth center and mom was in so much pain. I wanted to help her so much. I remember her taking a bath and she asked us to go away. We went for a walk. Finally he came and I saw it all. We slept there that night and then we went home and I had to go back to school and mom had to go back to work and it was the end of my childhood when I was 10.
10-18-2004 03:16 AM
Turtle Woman I remember…

the cabin and the woods and walks by the creek…

a skeleton and then our shelter…

fires and people laughing and dancing…

our beds hung from the ceiling, in separate rooms, across a hall…

whispering after lights out and being hushed…

my sister crawls in bed with me…

waking up and crawling into moms bed in her big empty room…

throwing Augie’s rubber duckie across the room so she could bring it back and we could do it again…

making fires in the fancy white and silver wood stove…

mom boiling water for our baths…

peeing in the “pee bucket” because we hated to go to the outhouse…

my sister never wanting to step outside…

she is running from the wasps because they enjoy tasting her…

mom rubbing baking soda and water on her bites…

a wood porch and our water faucet outside the back door…

the wasps are drinking…

driving to and from town to get food and water in our blue VW bus…

the treats I would pick were Nori and Licorice sticks…

big beautiful trees…

snow on April fools day…

so much the wood is wet and we are cold…

mom disappears into the white…
we sit by the window and watch her go…

we wait…

dad and his friend come to carry us away on funny shoes…

I would do anything to have that place as my own.
10-18-2004 01:54 AM
insomniamama The time of my life
In my walk this evening I asked myself the question, "When have I been the happiest, in this lifetime?" I scanned my memories, from kindergarten to college and grad school, to California and Connecticut, back to Texas again and with two young sons in between. Two young sons in between. After a good several minutes it hit me, this is the time of my life. Not the bubble years in San Francisco, cutting classes in dental school to go salmon fishing off the Farallons, not riding all afternoon through Mount Diablo with Anje on borrowed horses, or sitting alone during spring break on a rock in the middle of the falls at Pedernales. No ounce of freedom can really compare with the responsibility I share over the boys we brought into the world. These are the days we'll look back on when we are old: looking down mid-sentence during otherwise adult conversation to realize the baby has had a blowout onto the new white blouse, and the way my first son's eyes nearly popped out when we perched him in front of the marine aquarium glass at three months (he was so delighted with the colors and patterns and light). If I imagine myself at sixty, when the children have children of their own (God willing), I'm not certain I'll reminisce so much about my own youth as I will the youth of my boys, innocent and full of hope, still young enough to believe we were really that smart and us, lucky enough to get away with it.
10-18-2004 01:50 AM
MountainMamaOf2 One basketball hidden in the bush, two basketball hoops
reminding me of my childhood turning into adolescence
and my brother shooting the hoops with our godsend father figure neighbor next door.

A beautiful little tree with no more
than twenty orange leaves hanging on
stood out to me. I was surprised to see
how bright and colorful this tree was...

Time to time, on my walk by myself (fully savored btw)
I would see just a handful of orange leaves--the first to transform into Autumn's change--from the thousands of green soon to follow. My Birthday is at this time of year and this is my FIRST time to enjoy the changing of seasons on the East Coast...
In CAlifornia, this just doesn't happen (like this), and my appreciation is here for how slowly and beautifully it unfolds.

My husband grew up in Pennsylvania so in California, he would talk about how much he missed the WEATHER, or as he joked, "Having weather..."

I breathe in the oranges--the beginning of them and the reds and the gold. I enjoy crunching the brown leaves with my steps! I remembered as a child how I always longed for more crunches when I walked home--louder ones!! Bigger piles!
Crunchier crunches would put a smile on my face.

The leaves on the ground blended with all the sunset colors evoked the memory of when my dear friend Suzanne sent me specially-chosen fall leaves from North Carolina in the mid 90s. She left Ca. to go to Chapel Hill for her Masters in Public Health and Nutrition.
I remember feeling and admiring the colors of the leaves;
little did I know a decade later--TUESday OCtober 12th--I'd be here myself!

Now Suzanne is expecting her first baby...and counsels pregnant women on how to eat the best for the baby. I'm so proud of her and so grateful she's my friend.

In my new neighborhood, usually the hydrants are painted green, yellow and red. I was happy one painted orange on the top--like a construction hat. Red-orange-yellow, it was painted, just like the leaves' fall colors. Interestingly, across the street for the hydrant there was a flag hanging, off of a porch with three plastic pumpkins and a scarecrow dressed in orange-green plaid. The flag has one red, one orange and one yellow leaf painted--just like the leaves' fall colors and the hydrant across the street! This was the same house my daughter and I walked by weeks ago and they gave the friendliest hellos...

on my walk I saw a squirrel climb a rope swing...with frays of orange tied to the swing and shreds of orange on the grass.
I stopped in my tracks and I smiled as I watched.

I saw a burnt-orange Toyota Tercel, one that reminded me of my childhood, a time when every car was either orange, green, yellow, tan or brown. THe car itself looked pretty old and the shape reminded me of Pintos and the teenagers driving them around...

At the baseball field, twelve year old boys threw baseballs back and forth to each other--one of the mits being new and more orange than brown. In the distance, I might have seen a boy wearing an SF Giants shirt or perhaps, I wondered, if that's just because that's where I'm from...
10-17-2004 09:48 PM
mamabeca A very happy birthday to Ary99! Hope you have a loving and peaceful day! mamabeca (andy)
10-17-2004 09:46 PM
sagira Protection

One gestation
Two concerned minds
medication, circumcision, formula, vaccination
the decision that binds

One bundle of emotions
two loving hearts
hunger, cold, isolation, motions
how much experience imparts

Two small feet
one determined brain
shock, gravity, sharpness, heat
so much to explain
10-17-2004 09:18 PM
sagira Mothering was a term I wasn’t familiar with until I took Psychology courses in college. I also learned fathering was a term when I took a Psychology of Parenting class. Until then, I had no idea what it really entailed because I was far from starting my journey as a mother.

Almost six years later, I would gaze at my son’s oval-shaped mouth, gaping and crying. I remember thinking, “what a soft cry coming out of such an expressive little being.. my newborn son.” His arms were shaking and he was not pleased to have been taken out of the water. I instantly felt sorry for him, and I took him into my inexperienced arms as gently as I could. The birth video still shows me holding him in a lopsided, almost-slipping-off-my-arms kind of way. But I didn’t care. For the first time, and never again going back, I’d begun mothering.

Mothering since then has meant many things to me. It’s holding him when he needs comfort. It’s nursing him when he needs food and warmth. It’s kissing his head when he’s sitting in my lap, it’s teaching him, protecting him, standing up for him. It’s also vouching for him, guiding him, facilitating his transition into the world of other people and our society, and listening to him.

Mothering is playing with him, it’s giggles and wet kisses, two little arms around my neck. Mothering is a road to divinity, a road where the destination doesn’t matter as much as the learning that takes place on the way.
10-17-2004 07:14 PM
sagira My best day to do laundry is any day of the week that ends in –day. I think they call that a suffix. You pick up the piles of clothes from your bed, couch, kitchen sink, and round them up on the floor. Then you decide which ones are dirtiest. Someone told me you have to look at colors too. Let your toddler do that. She will be thrilled to throw red with blue, white with black, and basically have a ball.

Next you pick up a big ball of clothes and walk to the machine with it. You open the lid (you plop the clothes on the floor in front of the machine first), and tell the machine to fill up with water.

After five minutes or so, rethink your strategy and turn a few dials first. Our home technology is not that advanced yet. Then the bowl with holes fills up magically with water. You grab some detergent, sprinkle to your liking, and dump the clothes around the cylinder in the middle.

What are you going to do now? Close the lid and look around.

It’s been too quiet. Where's your toddler?

There she is! She’s spilled paint all over the rest of the laundry!

Here we go again.
10-17-2004 05:53 PM
Ary99 Twenty three years ago today, I was just nine and waiting for my tenth birthday two short days away. I wouldn't be one number any more. I would be two. Somehow, that would make me more here, more of a person. I would almost count.

"Yes," my mother had said, "and you'll never, ever be one number again." I became terrified. I cried. I clung to nine every last hour until I saw the clock tick tock away to October 19th, 3:42pm and I was ten.

An October birthday was full of uncertainty in south Texas. Hurricanes could still blow through, just as Allen had in May, knocking trees and lawn furniture into our pool, ripping off roof shingles, washing snakes, frogs and fish out of the bayou behind our house and into the driveway. My birthday fell on a Sunday that year. I was bored to tears, everything closed because of the blue laws, and nothing on T.V. except Hee Haw at 6:30.

I remember nothing of a tenth birthday party or any celebration. I only remember feeling like my childhood was slipping away. After turning ten, I climbed into bed next to my mother and sobbed.

"I'm not your little girl any more," I hiccuped, looking for reassurance that never came from my mother.

"No, you are not," she replied. Although she stroked my hair, she did so watching the Movie of the Week, imagining herself playing a lead role, living a better life than the one she had with me, my sister and her pathetic marriage. She made no secret of her misery.

I started imagining myself living a different life too. Sometimes a jar of ashes was all I had to dream about. Mount St. Helen's spewed so much ash that summer, I'd scraped off the residue from Dad's Caprice Classic and saw myself living somewhere in Seattle, being rescued by a fireman before the volcano swallowed me up.

I was also Princess Leia, brown buns on either side of my head and white bed sheet as a dress. I'd seen Star Wars three times and ached to see the Empire Strikes Back. It was seven years before I got that chance though.

If I couldn't go back to nine, I decided to grow up as fast as I could. Maybe I would finally feel happy.

I'm 33 and 363 days old today, and indeed I am happy. I do everything I can to give my precious son the gift of a peaceful and happy childhood. One day he may come to me in tears and say, "I'm not your little boy any more."

I'll reply, "You'll always be my little boy". And I will hold him tight.
10-17-2004 01:17 PM
zenfulmama Mothering

I must say goodbye
and go bake apple pie
and sweet potato pie
acorn and butternut
squash with cooked down
chicken and sheep's yogurt
mint sauce
till fill my man children
with love, warmth, sustenance
sustaining succinctly
to nurture them
(those two boys and one man, sometimes)
infuse them with warmth and light
and caring
so, i must go, and leave this computer
and this writing moment
this place in transcription
interrupted by activism, oxmorons, bad grammar,
and redundancy

goodby to this moment
go cook creatations
while making sure
gum is not stuck to carpet
to use positive phrases
heads are not bonking themselves

let my eyes linger longer
let my heart be calm
let my patience and love be forthcoming
O, God, I pray
10-17-2004 12:30 PM
zenfulmama The year when I was ten years old...the year I returned from Fairbanks Alaska to Paducah, Kentucky and life with my poor, alcoholic, single, mother and my two younger brothers.

Before I left Paducah when I was eight life was decent with only the experience of then to relate to. My mother allowed me to leave her and my two baby brothers behind to be with Grandma Lou in the lands of frozen blueberries, forest for hiking, snowsuites, moonboots, new friends and frenemies and blessed stability.

I returned to a hot Kentucky summer. We worked on getting my room cleaned, making a place for me. I claimed a tom cat kitten named Tiger. He rode on my shoulder. I carried him around and felt the soft contented weight and purr of him. (Little did I know that I would carry my two infant boys around the house in the same manner. My shoulders are so strong now that I can carry the weight of the world with little or no problem.) My space in the house of my mother, Joy, and ex step father, Tom, was soon to be violated with noisy raucaus parties that scared me. I asked mama to go live with my great grandma Belle and she lovingly took me in and painted my room lavender per my request.

How wonderfully ironic and lovely it is that lavender continues to soothe me in the holy trinity of herb, flower, and color. In my lavender (lavendula) room, I could now concentrate on having best friends named Andrea and Lori, Being in the fifth grade class of Mrs. King, learning how to write haikus, looking at whose busts were budding, and wondering whose flows were beginning, playing teacher, and exploring my world in a safe place.
10-17-2004 12:15 PM
sagira The last time I was reading a book the darkness around me was palpable. Except for my little trusty book light, I couldn’t see much. But I could feel the crescendo and diminuendo of the baby’s breathing. I could hear the deeper breathing of my husband in I could make out a small form lying right next to me. Another large one loomed a little farther in the distance. As I peered a bit harder, I could make out one tiny foot touching my husband’s back and a tiny fist touching my shoulder. The fist all of a sudden opened up into a perfect hand, which started to shake a bit. I could hear a little squirm. The book light went out, the book put away. I turned around, and my little man helped himself to a midnight banquet.
10-17-2004 12:00 PM
mama_om Mothering

I didn’t think my family was unhealthy until my mom stopped breathing. It happened almost two months ago. She’s breathing now, again, of course, but things are different. It’s the drama that had to happen to open all our eyes. Except no one is opening them.

One thing that makes me realize that we may not have always been a healthy family is that this is the third time my mom has stopped breathing. I didn’t know about the other two until now.

My mom stopped breathing and she went to the emergency room with my dad. They didn’t find anything wrong with her but she told me later that she didn’t “bounce back” like the previous times. So then she took the prescription for prednisone the ER doctor gave her.

And that’s when she got really sick. So sick, in fact, it was the first time I ever saw her in bed. The first time I ever brought her water, a sandwich, a pillow. The first time I ever mothered my mother – myself a new mother, my one-year-old between us, climbing over her on the bed.

The prednisone was a big mistake – a misdiagnosis to begin with (it was highly unlikely and never shown that her breathing problem was due to inflammation), plus my mom didn’t start it until ten days later, and it was a massive dose, especially for someone her size. My mom is small.

And it messed with her head, and her heart. Not the organ but her soul-heart. She’s sad and she’s scared. And now she’s sick.

The reason she stopped breathing, the doctor (not the ER doctor) has now said was likely because of anxiety. And now, when every other day or sometimes many times in a single day, she feels “shaky,” she doesn’t know if that is still the prednisone working itself out of her body or if she is having a panic attack.

She wishes they weren’t happening.

I want to take care of my mother. I want to mother her, in all that word implies – unconditional love, encouragement, practical support, hot tea and comfy pillows, gentle hands, warmth and food to eat – but I can’t and that’s because my mother is married to my father.

My mom told me once that she ties her shoes backwards. What did she mean? She told me that when she married my dad, she saw the way he tied his shoes, and it was different from the way she did it. She figured she had been wrong all this time and she relearned. But then later she learned that my dad actually tied his “wrong” – he is a lefty. But by then it was too late, she kept tying them backwards. When I was five years old and learning to tie my own shoes, she told me: “Don’t tie them like me. I do it backwards.”

Pretty early on I had a sense of my parents’ relationship…. that my mom did not “stand up” to my dad, that my dad was loud and angry sometimes, and unfair. As a teenager, I often silently urged her on, but nothing. Instead, I became the one who stood up to my dad, and I was promptly grounded, or sent to my room, or yelled at. I remember, just now, being yelled at as a child, and the act being terrifying enough to start me crying, immediately. It didn’t even matter what he was saying. My father is a terrific yeller, and he looks especially horrible doing it.

My mom didn’t stand up to my dad, I did, and then there was the long, hollow and silent time, when my mom was our go-between. I simply didn’t talk to my dad throughout my teens. That was okay, I suppose, though I always felt bad for my mom, recognizing even then how she was forced between us and unable to take sides. But I doubt I would have survived adolescence if my dad had not backed off. He was smart enough to realize that we were headed for a full-scale rebellion that could be potentially dangerous or even fatal. So I got to be me and we went along, me in my normal, “healthy” family.

I grew up, went away to college, and I found some respect and kind feelings for my dad. I kept growing up, and I got married and became a mother. My father retired and became a grandfather. And he became a tyrant – he lost his place of power outside the home and he went about reclaiming it, over and over, at home. Who was home? My mom. Though I think he knows, deep down, that the situation is hopeless, but it doesn’t stop him from trying.

And my mom became smaller. And now she’s really sick.

I had dreams when she got sick: a house full of light and I find myself inside, she is house-hunting; a baptism that my father is forcing us to attend, I tell my mom, “I don’t want to go,” and my mom says, “Do you think I do?” and I am shocked to hear it for I had seen no indication; I am picking berries with my mother, we’ve never seen such a color of blue, she wants to know are they edible?; I see my mother a phoenix rising, and then I don’t see her at all.

I try to tell my mom of the renewal of the opportunity she has for growth. She says nothing, not a thing, and I hear myself, my silent urging, Stand up, mom. Please, stand up. I can’t see you.

I can’t say it. I am always the one to say it. I can’t say it because we both know change is impossible under the circumstances. My dreams are desperation. My dreams are hopes I try to impart – but it remains clear they are my hopes, not hers.

All I read about mothering – the advice to create space for your child to be who they are and not who you want them to be… where is the parenting book for mothering my mother? How do I do this?

I am always the one – the only one – to stand up to my father. It doesn’t really get me anywhere, except frustrated. After our most recent argument, I exclaimed: “Well, god, if he’s going to be such an asshole, I wish he would at least be logical!” I also apologized to my mom, for my part of the fight (which happened in front of her). She said, “There wasn’t anything you could do. You could’ve said anything and it would have ended up the same.” Is this what she’s learned that I never have? At what cost? How many more times will she have to stop breathing before he wakes up before she wakes up and says Me.

When I Was Ten

When I was ten years old, I was still part boy. The boy part was still there in me and so on the surface that I was often mistaken for one. There is an entry in my journal, the black book with white pages and frog stickers, written by me: “Got called a boy today, again.”

I liked being part boy,
wearing my tough jeans and chasing each other
around the playground,
climbing trees and salting slugs and fishing,
building rafts, riding bikes,
picking berries, climbing logs,
crab-crawling down the sewer pipes (euw),
daring and double-daring, chewing gum, burying bees, skinned knees,

kickball, football, whiffle ball, spotlight,
capturing the flag, tumbling over fences, fulfilling
my duties as an honorary “Doobie Brother” (which consisted mainly of sitting around in the Frank’s open garage with the other Doobies),

tire swings, tall grass, ravines,
snowballs and snowfalls
leeches in lakes and tadpoles
pollywogs

jellyfish in the sea, anemones, flashes of light
baiting hooks and dangling legs
sea spray and sunburns, diamond waves and murky depths,

rock-cod dog-fish eagle of the sky
salmon flounder halibut
sea otter and seals, dolphins at play

brown bear, hot springs, fish heads and slime

two piece bathing suit
bare feet on hot tocks
moss, tiny worlds, lichen

rocks to skip, crabs to unearth
salmonberries, devil club, bear bread

huckleberry blueberry salmonberry strawberry
oh! raspberry too

The world was nature and nature was smelly and big and full of tiny other worlds.

The world was fourth grade, the very edge of becoming a girl for certain… before fifth and sixth grades, when I looked for breast buds, when I carried a comb in my back pocket, when boys wrote us notes appraising our bodies (Vanessa had “great tits” and my legs were “nice”). When I was ten, Mount St. Helen’s erupted and the hostages were released from Iran and we got a new president, Ronald Reagan. When I was ten, the world went from my back yard to “out there,” where things like politics happened, and the earth rearranged itself on catastrophic scale.

When I was ten, I was small, still narrow and straight. When I was ten, I wrote stories about butterflies and squirrels and trees and dollies. When I was ten, I stole matches from my mom and when I got caught, I ran away, to the old hiding place in the woods.

When I was ten, I watched my thirteen-year-old sister preen in the mirror and I played star wars with my brother, who was seven. When I was ten, I was in the middle, between them, between being a kid and being a teen.

When I was ten, I played hard and didn’t know I was headed for girldom, or that I would survive it. I knew I had fierceness, and I fiercely protected it, fighting with and then against the boys on the playground, until after a while I didn’t fight or run anymore, I walked into my girl’s life, and survived.

© 2004 by Stacy M. Lewis (just putting this here since this is posted on the WWW)
10-17-2004 10:49 AM
zenfulmama thank you tanya for caring enough to start this group. tears are filling my eyes with gratitude...thankyou ezrasmummy for the welcome...
10-17-2004 03:22 AM
ezrasmummy As far as I understand you should try to post at least one a week but more is fine. Tanya (the moderator) requested that we not comment on eachother's work for now so I think the purpose of posting is mostly accountability and catharsis. Welcome to the group!

10-16-2004 11:20 PM
zenfulmama Greetings Ladies,
I would like to join in. And wouldl like to know how much of these assignments should be posted.
Jessica
10-16-2004 11:06 PM
nona_lee_jordan I'm not sure if new comers are even allowed, but I did the weekly assignment and I thought I would go ahead and post one... if it's too late to join, please let me know.

The time of my life

There is nothing quite like realizing your own worth. The world sings when we treat ourselves with the care and respect we so richly deserve... Two years after I stopped drinking and began facing my life and my actions, I found that magic sweet spot where I truly loved myself enough to act with conviction on my own behalf. During this time (or more likely, because of this transformation) I met my husband to be. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined such a man, with such a zest for living. We fell in love - within three months, I was leaving Seattle and my career and my friends to go live with him in Idaho. Three months after that, we were married. Together we have travelled around the world- South America, Europe, the States, and we have moved three times in the last year and a half- all the time gleaning the best of our surroundings. Sharing experiences, delighting in tastes, sounds and the nuances of each place - delighting most of all in one another. Now we are expecting our first child in a few short weeks and I am anticipating our relationship will change. However, I believe that our love for one another, for living fully and for our unborn child will ensure that we continue having the time our our lives.


I'm not sure that I tied back together the idea from the beginning to the ending- but for me, they are very intricately woven....

I am enjoying reading all of your essays. Thank you for posting.
10-16-2004 10:15 PM
L.J. My Best Day

Is it possible to have a best day? Everyday could be my best. Today is the very best that I could make it.

My intellectual brain says that the "answer to the question" is something like, "my best days were the days my sons were born."

The two days my sons were born certainly stick out more than most. Despite being nearly divorced, I'd have to say that my wedding day was also a very special day. I felt especially proud when I graduate from university, especially since I was the first one in our family to achieve this. I've had amazing days throughout my life. Fun times with family and friends. Events. Trips. Days when I've won awards, been recognized, felt especially helpful.

Looking back, I can also see that some key moments that at the time seemed like nightmares, but were catalysts for major growth & change in my life. I'd have to include those times as best days too, for without them, I may not have become the amazing woman I am today.

Maybe the day I was born was my best day. The start of my Earth Journey, the first day alone in my newly formed body.

How can I pick a best day?

As I think and write I realize that to this point, I've had a series of best days that have lined up one after another, forming into weeks and then months and into years. Yes, when I really think about this I realize that each day has been the best day because each day holds its own mysteries, gifts, challenges, struggles & experiences. And really, that seems to me to be what life is all about. My best days all strung out in a row now, stretching over 34 years of my life.

I look forward to adding another one tomorrow.
10-16-2004 08:07 PM
SPOTTO The time of my life…

The time of my life was also the most destructive time of my life. I was young, too young to be living alone in New York City. And as usual, I found myself with friends that were not lifting me to a higher level, but were leading me down a destructive path. I partied and I partied hard! Underage drinking at bars, dancing and having the time of my life. There were nights that I partied so hard that I had alcohol related blackouts and couldn’t remember whole parts of evenings. Maybe I just thought I was having the time of my life. Deep down, I knew it was an unhealthy lifestyle. How could I not realize that? I was a lost soul, losing her direction and purpose in life. So maybe I was wrong. Maybe that wasn’t the time of my life? Maybe despite the sleepless nights and messy house, this is actually the time of my life? I have a husband whom I adore and who adores me, we have a great house and of course, the most wonderful baby girl anyone could ever ask for. So I correct myself. THIS is the time of my life.
10-16-2004 08:06 PM
SPOTTO This exercise turned into 20 minutes for me. After writing it and doing the exercises for the week, I realized I'm simply writing about events and not exploring the depth of the emotions that go/went with it. That's my goal for next week...to get into the meat of it.


The last time I…

The last time I performed, I never felt so heavy and earthbound. I knew my career was coming to an end, but I was hoping to go out in a little better form. The show before that, I felt better than I ever had before and the piece was a showcase for me. But then I had a really rough summer with the exception of my wedding in August. In May, I was told that my ailing grandfather was taking a turn for the worse. I rented a car in New York City where I was living and drove all night to get to the life-care facility my grandparents were in in Maine. I arrived at 11 AM greeted by my Aunt, her partner and a family friend. Nothing they said really prepared me for what I was about to see. I nearly gasped aloud when I saw my Grandfather. He was alert and sitting up in bed with so much life still in his eyes, but he was skeletal. The series of strokes had left him barely able to talk. This is what was so hard because he was a man who loved the English language dearly. I was almost afraid to touch his frail body but I walked over and kissed him on his parched lips. The nurses were there, concerned about the raspy sound he was making. We stood around and talked while he mutely watched us. Though I had never heard it before, I knew it was the death rattle. My Aunt, her partner and our family friend left the room to go off and get lunch. I barely made it to the hallway when I broke down sobbing. The change in my Grandfather was difficult to handle. It was clear he was dying and I had never been this close to death.
We got back from lunch around 2:30. When we walked into the room, he was drinking a Heineken. I think the nurses knew the end was near and couldn’t say no. When we were out, I had bought some flowers to brighten the room. I put them on the dresser where he could see them, turned to him and told them they were for him. He smiled weakly at me. My Aunt, her partner and the family friend were talking with the nurses in the room. I looked over and saw my Grandfather staring at the flowers and it struck me how the look in his eyes changed. He looked at me and mouthed the words, “I love you” to me. He had waited for me to arrive so he could die. The rattle grew louder. I got scared and had to walk out of the room with our family friend to comfort me. Twenty minutes later, my Aunt came to the door and told us they thought this was it. We all gathered around his bed. My Aunt was by his head, her partner on the other side and I held his hand while our family friend comforted my Grandmother. The end for him was quite violent as his heart shut down. What struck me most in those moments was how my Aunt has encouraging him telling him over and over in a soothing voice, “You’re doing great Dad”. It was something I never imagined saying to a dying man, but thought it was brilliant – making it okay and safe for him to let go. My Grandmother who had Parkinson’s sat on her bed not understanding what was happening. Our friend tried to explain it to her but she didn’t get it. When he had passed, something happened and she became very lucid. She begged him to come back and she cried. For the next twenty-four hours she cried and mourned the loss of the man she loved so dearly. Before he died, every night, the nurses would push their beds together so they could hold hands and pray. The next day, my Grandmother cried with me and told me she wasn’t ready to go yet. I told her it was okay, she could stay her with us all for as long as she wanted. The next day she was back in the cloud of Parkinson’s.
I returned to New York but got a call four weeks later that I should come quickly, my Grandmother was dying. Once again I rented a car and drove through the night to Maine. I arrived at 5:30 Am. My Grandmother was so frail. My Aunt told me that she had been asking if I was coming. She told her I was on my way and then my Grandmother slipped into a coma. I still feel as though she knew I was there. At one point, I was holding her hand when her blind eyes opened wide, looking scared. I stroked her hand as I had as a child and told her we were all there and that everything was okay. She settled back into her coma and rested. Her passing was much quieter and more peaceful than my Grandfather’s was. We noticed her breathing becoming shallower and further apart until she stopped. We each took a private moment to say goodbye. I have never cried so hard in my life. I was mourning such tremendous loss in such a short period of time. My Grandmother died four weeks to the day from my Grandfather at almost the exact time of day.
A few days later I had to go back to perform in my last ballet. My heart just wasn’t there. I didn’t have the adrenaline rush I usually felt. It was the final sign I needed to show me it was time to retire. The last time I performed, I never felt so heavy and earthbound.
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