Paper Christmas

Every year, Dan and Miss G & I head to Tucson to celebrate Christmas with my folks and my siblings. But Miss L spends Christmas with her Mom’s family, so we do a separate celebration for our immediate foursome. Or at least, we try. Shifting custody schedules and other-parent-snarkiness have combined to make Christmas pretty squirrely at our house. The annual uncertainty of when or how we’ll manage to celebrate has been the only holiday tradition we’ve managed so far, something that deeply offends my Christmas vibe. It’s hard to feel merry and grouchy at the same time.

I should have learned to roll with this kind of thing by now. God knows nothing else in our lives is peaceful or settled. But I grew up in a family that was serious about its traditions, especially at Christmas, which makes all this vague ambiguity that much harder for me to accept. Like moving from bedrock to marshlands.

Last year it came to a head-- no time during the winter break when we’d have both kids, leaving us with no family Christmas at all. Thanksgiving was the only weekend we’d for sure have both kids. But we already had plans to hit Fresno over Thanksgiving; how could we get back in time for Christmas the same weekend?

Then I came up with Surprise Christmas. I painted a Christmas tree on kraft paper and made paper ornaments, then hid them in a mailing tube under the camping gear along with wrapping paper and stockings.

We stopped at a hotel on the way back from California. I donned a jingly reindeer headband, Dan his Santa hat, and we unfurled the tree and hung it on the hotel room wall. We did all the shopping early and brought the presents along; the kids did their gift wrapping in the hotel room, surrounded by Elvis’s Blue Christmas and twinkling lights. They hung up the paper ornaments and sang carols. Santa even came in the night and crammed stockings full.

I’ve never seen either kid so excited.

On the surface, we got our Christmas. I guess. I mean, it had all the important elements of a ‘real’ Christmas-- family togetherness, lights, carols, presents. But despite the kids’ (and Dan’s) obvious delight, I felt depressed by the farce. It was a poor second to celebrating Christmas together for real. I mean-- a paper Christmas tree, for pete’s sake? Come on.

In the year since then, my perspective changed entirely; turns out it’s the most successful family Christmas we’ve had yet. The kids have asked-- multiple times-- if we’re having the paper tree again, and kept asking when would Christmas happen, starting around October. They were grumbly to hear Christmas was going to be a planned event this year instead of sprung on them unsuspecting. There’s been nothing but “Remember when” about last year’s Christmas; none of our other Christmases have been reminisced over even once.

Some traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Some develop slowly, build up over time. And some spring forth fully-formed, armed and ready for battle-- like Athena from the head of Zeus.

So, even though our celebration this year is marred by Dan’s radiation treatment, even though we’ll have to stay an arm’s length away from him while hanging our ornaments and opening presents, I can’t wait for our day. I plan on doing more than just celebrating-- I plan to revel.

I really, really love Christmas. There are a zillion movies about Christmas spirit and I cry at all of them. But nothing taught me the lesson so hard as last year-- that Christmas is where you find it. That Christmas traditions are accessories, not the foundation. That sometimes you have to make your own Christmas, even if it’s only out of paper. And sometimes, those are the most sacred of all.


Back to (Christmas) Basics

By the time we get to our foursome family Christmas, it’s Christmas #2 or #3 for the girls. They get so many presents that giving them yet more stuff feels like futility. Futility overlaid with a slight slime of one-upmanship.

I don’t want our gifts in competition with Miss G’s new digital camera from one of her other Christmases, or Miss L’s new Wii from one of hers. It’s fine if grandparents or other parents want to spend that much money. But I don’t.

It drags us to the edge of a black hole-- every year spending more and more, trying to find something nicer/more expensive/more memorable than last year, something better and more loved than presents received elsewhere. I don’t want Christmas to be about that.

So this year, when Miss L’s list started off with a $500 cell phone and an iPod touch, and Miss G included an electric scooter on hers-- I decided, this has to stop. Lists like that feel... well, ugly. Entitled. These are words I want to keep out of Christmas. More upsetting is when Miss L started to read me her Christmas list, then stopped, flipped to page two and said, “Well, I’ll read you the less expensive stuff first.” Yowch.

Then I thought, I refuse to feel guilty over this. There is no earthly reason I should spend more on a single present than all my other Christmas shopping combined.

We’re not stingy at Christmas. Even last year, with neither of us working and drowning in legal fees, the kids didn’t feel any lack. Except the lack of celebrating it together. Having that taken away from us was devastating. So this year and all years to come, the togetherness will be the most sacred part of our holidays.

Miss L’s assumption that we wouldn’t spend that kind of money on Christmas presents is absolutely correct. And you know what? I’m taking it even farther. I’m gonna be proud of it. I’m bringing the spirit back to our celebration. Let the kids’ other Christmases be about piles of stuff, stuff and more stuff. Ours is gonna be about handmade presents, stringing cranberries and popcorn, making cookies and gingerbread houses. The stuff, anyone can buy that anywhere. The traditions, the memories, being a family-- we build that all on our own. Together.



I miss footie pajamas and sippy cups. Parenting was clearer then.

Definitions have smudged over the past few months-- how much eyeshadow is okay for a 12-year-old to wear; how much visible cleavage is okay for an almost 12-year-old. (Very little and none, respectively.)

We're at the edge of exponential complication, lingering over a last cup of hot cocoa before the hurricane of two teenagers strikes with full force. No one's screaming that they hate us or slamming any bedroom doors. Yet. But it's coming. The air's thick with hormones and dichotomy.

They wanted to see Tangled, the latest animated Disney movie. At the rate things are becoming lame around here, I would not have predicted that. They ditched us, of course, sat somewhere in the back. But after, they held our hands all the way back out to the car-- one in her push-up bra and skinny jeans, one in her cargo pants and fuchsia eye shadow. They'll be taller than me by next year.

From the inside, this age was miserable. From the outside, it is magical-- watching them take grown-up out and try it on, twirling around in it. They are so beautiful in their alternating uncertainty and fearlessness; they are luminous with awkward grace.

And then, just as fast, the grown-up is all put away. There is not a word for this, for these women-dipped girls-- not quite ready to let go of who they were a minute ago, hesitantly brushing up against who they'll become. Contradictions ravage them at breakneck speeds.

We brace ourselves with arms wide open.


Single Parenting Salute

I’m doing this internet Secret Santa thing and after some (minor) internet stalking, I think my giftee is a single dad. This makes me want to send him about three times as much stuff as I originally planned, plus an entire extra box of stuff just for his kid.

Because it’s tough. It’s so tough, I couldn’t comprehend how hard it was until recently. When you’re in it, you just do it. But watching my sister with her daughter, how busy she is, knowing Miss G was at least that busy at the same age and I was doing it solo-- I don’t understand how I got through it. How we both did. I remember people asking me at the time, “How do you do it!” and I remember shrugging and saying “It’s not that big a deal.” And I really thought it wasn’t. It was just my life. And I was happy, and I loved it.

Miss G’s dad’s absence was a blessing. It made things easier on us, not harder. And in many, many ways I had it made. Although my folks were no longer in town, I had a village of friends helping me, an army of benevolence at my disposal. I had a generous grandpa who let me live in his home rent-free while he moved into semi-assisted living. I had scads of free grants to go back to school, enough to cover tuition and daycare entirely. I took out a loan anyway and just lived off that during the school year, then worked summers. Living off less than $1000/month was challenging, yes. But I’d always been so broke, it wasn’t a whole lot more challenging than usual.

And I remember those years as being blissed out. Challenging, but hilarious. Miss G and I call them our ‘glory years.’ But with newly married perspective, I realize-- it was a big deal. So big I couldn’t see the edges. I thought I stood on solid ground but I was really treading water, neck-deep. And the longer we swam solo, the more exhausted I got. The chances of a passing boat seeing us splash around got slimmer and slimmer.

But I didn’t know all that. We just lived our life. Our movies. Our Zelda-playing. Our pizza-ordering. Our long walks and longer drives, screaming along to Jackson 5 with the windows rolled down.

Not until I met Dan and he so effortlessly stepped in to help me with Miss G from time to time-- volunteered daycare when he wasn’t working, never gave me exasperated attitude if I canceled on him because she had the flu, offered her shoulder-back rides everywhere without her asking, was just there with his comforting presence and his stupid one-liners and his gentle heart-- did I realize how much easier it was with two.

I stumbled into my Santa’s old online journal entries about moving here and there with his daughter. He mentions his roommate , and I imagine the challenges of this little girl growing up with a couple computer nerds. (I say that lovingly). He mentions dating, and I can’t get into the horrors of dating as a single parent because this is a blog, not a novel. He’s posted grinning, freckled photos of her smiling over food and I wonder if she made it herself, or if he’s teaching her to cook. There’s one of her gamely yanking carpet out of her room, so he’s teaching her some remodeling too. Excellent.

Australian Secret Santa, hang in there. It gets easier as she gets older. I salute you.

PS, Thank God again for Dan.


Thanksgiving Curry

I almost had such a great post for today.

So, last time Miss L was here-- almost a full month ago, on Dan’s surgery weekend-- she asked me what the plans were for Thanksgiving.

“Well, I think you & your dad are going camping,” I said.
“Oh. So are you and Miss G going to Tucson?” she asked.
“Nope, she’s going to Florida with her dad, and my folks are going to Denver for Thanksgiving.”
“Oh! Well... what will you do?”
Be blissfully, blessedly alone for four whole days.
“I'm writing a novel,” I said.

After Dan drops her at the airport, he comes home and says, “Miss L doesn’t think it’s right for you to be alone at Thanksgiving. She wants to stay here and cook.”

“I-- what?”  No. No, no, no, no.

“Yeah, she asked me what my favorite dish is and said she wants to make it for Thanksgiving. So she’s making curry.”

Oh god. And I can’t say no. You can’t say no to your stepdaughter wanting to spend Thanksgiving with you. Crap. And I hate curry. He knows I hate curry. It is the only food I will not eat, other than “meat” from McDonald’s. I’ll have to somehow choke it down; I can't hurt her feelings. There is just... no way out of this. Or-- wait.

“Well-- if you guys are staying, I’d rather make traditional dinner. What about leftover turkey curry the next night?” While I go to a write-in somewhere.

“Oh, great idea! I’ll run it by her.”

The next week, he says, “Oh, I talked to Miss L about Thanksgiving. She’s really looking forward to cooking with you.” He’s all lit up.

“Cooking... wait, what?”

“Yeah, I suggested making turkey curry the next night, but she really wants to have curry as one of the side dishes on actual Thanksgiving.”

“Honey, that’s kind of a hassle. Curry is really involved, and our kitchen is ridiculous. There’s just not room for both of us to be cooking such different meals in there. If she wants to help with regular Thanksgiving dinner, that would be great. And then she can take over the kitchen the next night for curry. It would be so much easier for both of us.”

“Oh, well. I guess that would be easier. Okay, I’ll talk to her.”

[Disclaimer: Okay. Lest you think I am a total, total bitch for not wanting to cook Thanksgiving dinner curry with my stepdaughter, let’s discuss my kitchen. And, to a lesser extent, curry. My kitchen is galley-style, flanking two parallel walls. There is literally 26” between counters; I have to stand off to one side to open the oven all the way. In addition to the tight quarters, our crappy stove has three working burners, of which I will need four: gravy, potatoes, cranberries, and stuffing. Plus the oven. It’s already a challenge to cook Thanksgiving dinner in there without adding a whole extra person needing at least one entire counter and a fifth burner. And the curry? Miss L’s mom’s family is from Sri Lanka. When she says curry, she’s not messing around. This is hours of chopping, mashing, peeling, prepping, simmering-all-day traditional curry.]

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which is the day before her flight arrives, Dan says, “Well, Miss L couldn’t decide which curry recipe to make, so she’s doing two.” Ha ha! Two! What a delight. Dan is pleased as a full tick.

His cheerful oblivion is the last straw. I flip. Dan flips back.

He’s pissed that I’m not excited to have them here for the holiday. I’m pissed that he can’t understand it was important to me to write over the weekend.

He doesn’t understand why the curry is a problem. I remind him about the three burners, the 26 inches. I remind him that I don’t let anyone help with making dinner because two people in this kitchen is way too many.

He throws up his hands and says “You two have just built a wall! A WALL!” and I say “Oh my god, you think this is personal?” I tell him it has nothing to do with my relationship with Miss L, that I would feel the same way about Miss G wanting to make one (let alone two) really complicated dishes on that day. Let there be no mistake, I tell him, I am genuinely touched that Miss L thinks I shouldn’t be alone at Thanksgiving, and I am willing to figure out a way to make this work. But it’s still a pain in the ass.

Let's skip ahead to the grudging compromise portion of the argument in which we decide to take over his parents’ kitchen a few houses down; they’ll be out of town. Will Miss L feel exiled if we send her to cook down there? Possibly. To avoid this, Dan and I decide that I will cook regular dinner down there, and she can take over our kitchen here. Bonus: with no one home at the other house, I can bring my laptop and get the alone time after all. Win, win.

Except. Oh, right. His folks are installing new flooring, so all the kitchen cabinets are sitting in the backyard, along with the kitchen sink (and not in the metaphorical sense). So... maybe I can... wash the turkey in the... er, bathtub?

And wait-- okay, where do we eat? Load up plates at the other house and cart them back to our house and eat? We can’t eat at his parents’ because the dining room table is now holding up the microwave and pretending it’s a kitchen counter.

And is Miss L familiar enough with her dishes that she can gauge what time they’ll be done, so we can eat everything at one time?

I ask Dan all these questions. He suggests finishing the flooring real quick and getting the sink hooked back up. I say, “Installing kitchen flooring and a sink while I’m trying to make Thanksgiving dinner is the only thing that will make this day more ridiculous.” He says I’m a Negative Nelly. I say he skips right to the magical unicorn dust happy ending without any practical sense of how we get there.

Put us together and we break pretty close to even. This is why we’re good together.

I figure... okay. We'll figure it out. Whatever. Plus rinsing the turkey out in the bathtub and the whole curry thing will make a good blog entry. The only thing I’ve done this month is write, think about writing, or avoid writing. And once, dressed up like a fairy. God knows I could use some material.

So, I put my grouchies to bed and got ready to take discreet anecdotal notes.

And then. Miss L had the temerity to show up with a giant ziplock bag of frozen curry she already prepared at her mom’s house, thus neatly preventing any drama or interesting stories arising out of Thanksgiving day dinner.


Maybe next year.


Ha ha, whoops, is it Sunday already?

The blogging gods are conspiring against me.

Yesterday I hit the Phoenix Faerie Festival with my mom and sister and little Peep, planning a winged photo vignette for today's post. Only the damned photo uploader is on the fritz, probably to punish myself and all other procrastinators.

Anyway, here is the lone photo that would load: Me n Peep.


Guess they weren't kidding about the soul-eating.

I thought NaNo would be a background thing, just something I was doing along with many other things. Writing 1600-some words a day isn’t that much for me, not really.

I was so wrong. It’s taken over my life, and I’m not even halfway through.

Unopened mail stacked up on the front table. Kitchen floor un-mopped. Unbalanced dinners, served way past dinnertime. It's embarrassing.

The writing itself? The whole thing is a blur. I’m disorganized. I forget where I am. I’m almost positive I described a particular plot point not once, but three times now, just in different places.

It’s ridiculous. It’s not much more than I usually write in a day. It shouldn’t be so pervasive, thinking about it constantly, or so complicated to stay focused and keep track. But more than that, it shouldn’t be this fun.

So, disclaimer: there’s about a 93% chance the rest of this month’s posts will be about NaNo and very little else. I’ve become a pod person. On the upside-- it’s only for 16 more days.


*That* door there.

The family cleared out of here on Wednesday and the rest of the week has been far too quiet. Playing with Peep was the perfect balm to soothe the chafe of husband-nursing.* I loved her little “That door. That door. That door there.” followed by a serious finger grab of nearest willing adult and beeline for whichever door caught her fancy (we have several in our house, and each one leads to a new adventure... actually I think ‘that door there’ might become one of my regular metaphors). Once outside, she’s all chirpy and happy. Not that she’s unhappy inside, just that outside is always better. She’s a delight.

Spending time with Peep reminded me of Miss G at that age-- not because they’re similar (Peep is way less bossy, for one thing)-- but just the feeling of entering the world of a toddler, speaking their language, every moment so purposeful. There is no wasted time with kids that young; every minute is spent teaching them something new or learning something new from them.

No wonder I loved it so much.

*Pretty minor. He’s already out camping this weekend.


Breaking through the boring

NoBloWriMo reminds me of an exercise we did in drawing class. We were told to bring a small, simple object to class. I brought a little stuffed penguin. The girl next to me brought a seashell. The boy across from me, a disposable razor. Then the teacher told us, we could only draw that object the entire quarter. Nothing else. He said, "You're going to get so sick of looking at your object. But just-- stick with it. I think you'll be surprised by what happens." We all exchanged looks of dread.

I can't tell you how dull it was, weeks of looking at the same stupid penguin, stupid drawings of him standing up, lying down, all mind-numbingly lame. And stupid. Then one day, in desperate whimsy, I tossed out a jewel-toned pastel of the penguin lined up with nuns, drenched in stained- glass sunshine. I hate pastels, but I loved that piece. My teacher laughed when he saw it and said, "You're getting there."

Things got easier after that snap of impatient irreverence. A couple weeks later, after I finished a particularly intriguing abstract in shades of grey (actually a closeup of chubby penguin belly, beak, and flipper), he said "There. You got it. Now just keep it up." And he was right. That piece, and the ones I turned out after, were some of the best I've ever done. I still have them.

At the end of the quarter, the teacher told us the point of the exercise wasn't to get really good at drawing one object. It was to force us through the boring. Once you get past the boring, you break through into seeing your object in new ways, ways you'd never thought of if you weren't sick of it.

NaBlo had the same effect on me. I started out writing as usual, just more often.  Then got a little bored and came up with new ways to post, things I don't normally do-- photos, little short quips, even a list. And I whipped out a couple things I was really happy with, that just showed up out of nowhere. I wrote more and edited less. I traveled in directions I would not have gone, except for actively seeking new ways to write.

NotHannah was right. This was fun.


Exhuasted Shuffle-Step

It's hard to say who's more exhausted-- me or Dan. Actually, I'll include my sister in there too; she's juggling a 2-year-old plus the bulk of the transportation and meal planning.

It's funny that being home is more tiring than being in the hospital. We got no sleep there-- no uninterrupted sleep anyway. Someone came in every 2 minutes to draw blood or drop off equipment or deliver medication. But at home, the place with a big bed with no handrails and no interruptions-- neither of us can sleep.

Dan's been up walking around during the wee hours both nights we've been home. I can't sleep till midnight, and find myself awake around 5. Naps aren't working either.

Sleep. Sleeeeeeep.


Jiggety Jig

We made it back home.

We're in the house three whole hours before Dan looks at me and says, "I've got cabin fever, honey." 


Cancer, schmancer

All is well.

Except for the super wonky wireless connection here at the hospital, and the disturbingly absent sense of humor among most of the staff.


Surgery Eve

Today I chatted briefly with a gal who was leaving town "indefinitely" to be with her sister-in-law in her last days. I expressed my sympathies, and she said she was really going to support her brother, because he was having such a rough time. "She was only diagnosed around Mothers' Day, so he's really struggling."

From diagnosis to death in less than six months? The words 'rough' and 'struggling' can't possibly be enough.

So tonight, on Surgery Eve, I find myself feeling grateful and lucky. I hereby rescind my grouchiness over the phrase 'good cancer.' Dan's got a good cancer all right. Maybe a great cancer. A cancer that offers a 90% chance at a lifetime together instead of six months.

Thanks, cancer.


10 things I wish I would've known about/learned about/taken care of way earlier than I did

(Note: not in order of importance)

1. Bought a house
2. When to speak up and when to keep quiet*
3. Money: budget, credit, investing*
4. Sometimes love isn't enough
5. Wearing shoes with proper arch support is really important
6. Laser hair removal and teeth whitening
7. Read stepmom books prior to becoming stepmom
8. When to walk away, how to stand up for myself, and when to do which*
9. There's always another boyfriend
10. Flossing daily is so worth it

*in process


Firsts and lasts

Tonight, Miss G asked me to pluck her eyebrows for her. And I did, sharing tricks and tips along the way. It was fun and sad and beautiful all at once.

It's such a heartbreaking age, these in-between years. I love that our conversations are growing more substantial, but miss the days of tickling and swings. Every day she makes decisions with new maturity; it's inspiring and humbling to see seeds I plant daily finally sprouting and taking root. And it's a relief too, that all the life lessons I've thrown her way are indeed sinking in. Well-- some of them. At the same time, every new shoot reminds me that my giggling baby, my serious toddler, my focused kindergartner have all faded away and aren't coming back. 


"Yes, thank you."

I’m terrible at recognizing the times I need support, and just as terrible at asking for it. My blindness and my stubbornness have cost me emotionally, financially, and physically time and time and time and time again.

This is something I know about myself, and that I’ve been working really hard to fix.

And yet. When my sister and my parents first heard that Dan would need surgery, they all offered to come to town and help out during his hospital stay. I said “Ohhh gosh, I don’t think you need to. We’ll be fine.” And I wasn’t trying to be brave or anything. I really believed it. I’m old hat at being a single mom. And Miss G is 12, after all, not 2. She’ll be in school during the day, can be left alone for a couple hours here or there and make herself mac n cheese. And it’s not like I’d need to carry him from the car to the house when he’s released or anything. It just didn't seem complicated enough to require an influx.

Blind. And being blind, of course I can’t see that I’m blind.

Once the surgery was actually scheduled, bumped up against Miss G’s 5-day weekend and overlapping a weekend Miss L will be here, practicality started poking me in the ribs. For one thing, how will I handle the kids’ visits? The hospital visitation policy says only 2 visitors in the room at a time. It also says all kids under 14 must be supervised at all times by an adult who isn’t a patient. So, all three of us can’t be in there at once. And at the same time, none of us can wait in the hall. Plus they’ll be bored after about 20 minutes, even assuming Dan is up to a longer visit. So I’ll have to drive them home and the hospital is 40 minutes from our house on a good traffic day. And once they’re home-- then what? Ditch ‘em home alone and go back to the hospital? Or stay with them and leave Dan alone in recovery?

And this is just one facet of next week. There’s also managing airport runs for Miss L, getting Miss G to her dad’s, plus keeping all the kids and dogs (and snakes and toads and fish and hamster) fed and watered and reasonably clean.  

More than anything else, I’m a realist. So when my sister asked a second time if I was sure I didn’t want any help, I took a deep breath, braced myself and said, “I’ve decided to just say ‘Yes, thank you’ to all offers of help that come my way this week. So... yes, thank you.”

And get this-- not only is she coming, but she’s put together this insane itinerary with a hospital visiting schedule for the kids, activities to keep ‘em busy and having fun from Thursday through Tuesday, grocery shopping, dinner-cooking, haunted housing and trick-or-treating. AND talked my folks into coming to help her with her own offspring while she’s taking care of mine.

I like this 'accepting' stuff. I’m still bad at asking but... I’m gonna keep working on it. This’ll be a great week to practice.


Type A Sick Day

I walked into the kitchen this morning to start breakfast and found Miss G standing on the counter, rummaging in cabinets.

“I’m sick, “ she explained while hopping back down, victorious can of chicken noodle soup in hand. I sigh.

“Think you might let your  mother take care of you?” I ask. She glares and hands me the soup. I feel her forehead (definite fever), hand her some kleenex (Okay, we don’t have kleenex-- it was a roll of toilet paper) and tell her to go sit down.

With some prodding and bickering, some of us showing grouchy resistance and some of us yelling a little, I get her tucked onto the family room couch. She allows me to kiss her forehead and snuggle her a little before wriggling me off her and refolding the blankets properly (I never do it right).

I ask if she wants some peppermint tea.

“Oooh-- yeah!” she says, and hops back up.

“I WILL MAKE IT. For the love of god, child, please let me take care of you when you’re sick. It’s my job. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

She tucks back in, looking both chagrined and rebellious.

It’s not that I’m raising her so much as I’m hanging onto the caboose of the Miss G train-- white-kuckled, legs flying out behind me. And not because I have a timid violet personality that just bows to her whims; she is just so much more present than anyone I’ve ever encountered. Except her dad. It’s this crazy, charismatic larger-than-life thing. The whole family has it-- him, his cousins, his uncle... they’re all just freakin’ exhausting.

I bring her tea, and sit with her on the couch while she evaluates the milk/sugar ratio. She tests it, and then pats my hand.

“You make it perfect, Mama. It’s just right.”

“Great. Do you need anything else? That I can get you, that you don’t need to get up and get yourself because I am here to do it for you?”

“No, this is just right.”

“Okay, kid.”

I give her a kiss and head off to my shower. Sometimes I wonder if people who are raising Type B children are this worn out all the time. I’m ready for a nap and it’s only 7:15.


“Yes, darling girl?”

“I love you. You’re the best mom ever.”

“Thanks kiddo. I work really hard at it. And I love you too.”

Tooth Hurty

The year Miss G was born, I got my first cavity. First 3 cavities, to be exact. I went in to get them filled. The first two went fine but the last one felt wrong. Like, not lodged in all the way or something. But whatever, what did I know; I'd never gotten fillings before. So I said nothing and went on my merry way.

Fast forward 10 years to the next time I saw a dentist. (Yes. Ten years. Long story.) Part of the filling had chipped off, and the whole thing had loosened in its socket enough to work a hairline fracture into the tooth. I went in to get it fixed (plus, you know, get my teeth cleaned) but between that, and all the other dental work they suggested I get done was something like $4000+, a total which scared me away for another two years. (Granted, the total included several things I thought unnecessary-- like a $600 teeth-grinding-guard which I’d never buy in a million years, and replacing all my current fillings-- but still. That's a large, scary number to a single mom.)

A few months ago, the pain started. First, only sometimes, if I bit something hard. Then if I bit anything on that side of my mouth.Then one day I bit something and thought I hit a bone and realized it was-- gross-- a chunk of my tooth. That was like, a month ago. Did I go to the dentist after biting my tooth in half? Why, no. That would make too much sense. Instead I wait until it hurts all the time. And when does that happen? The week before Dan’s surgery is scheduled. Because, of course, the day I decide I can’t put the dentist off one more day is the same day Dan’s surgeon calls and gives us our date: next Wednesday. Could not be worse timing. Damn my damned procrastinating.

I squeezed in at 10:30 this morning for a quick consult. Result? I was given three choices: One, do nothing (not recommended). Two, root canal. Three, extraction. I was also issued much finger wagging and lecturing, which I ignored. I don’t think anyone who avoids the dentist for a decade is unaware of the fact she ought to be taking better care of herself.

I went with Option Two. But I get Option Three as a special bonus anyway, because I need a wisdom tooth removed. I think I got off easy. The amount of neglect I’ve heaped into my mouth-- it could be so much worse in there. And after I get this stuff fixed, I swear-- I will floss every damned day.

They tossed me a bunch of antibiotics, which should ease things up a bit. All I need is to be able to eat without pain for the next little while. Dealing with surgery and hospitals AND a root canal all in the same week seems a little much. Even for me.


Dancing in the Rain

Miss G and I get positively giddy when we see clouds coming in across these too-bright desert skies. And when we get the rare thunderstorm-- like the delicious black clashing flashing goodness we had last night-- we dance together in the rain.

“Mama! It’s raining! Hurry!” When she grabs my hand, shoes and obligations scatter. Nothing exists but us and the rain.

We run to the middle of the street, then throw our heads back and open our smiles to take it in-- the taste, the smell, the chill of it. Stinging kisses dazzle our parched skin, while our bare feet get drunk on puddles. Sometimes we shriek and giggle and yell back and forth. Sometimes we stand silent, listening to the mice-feet of the rain and thunder’s kettle drums.

The kitchen’s warm yellow welcome is lost in cold lightning flashes, but we can always find our way home. We’re magic, in the rain. Connected and eternal and sacred. For those wet minutes we dance outside the world, just us. Us and the rain.