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.



I guess Dan being gone weighed on Miss G’s mind this weekend too, because when I got up this morning she’d posted a video on her facebook page mentioning him being out of town. “My stepdad, Dan-- the actual one I live with, my... dad -- is in Reno visiting my stepsister...”

She swings the word “dad” like a right hook. Defensive, like she’s daring someone to challenge it. You can hear the anger layered underneath, see the contempt and hurt skitter across her face when she says it. It breaks my heart for her, and for her father. My instinct is to call him and say “Listen to this. How can that be okay with you?” but I don’t, knowing it would make no difference. I’ve tried. I told him when I found the piece of paper that had “My dad does not care about me!” written about 20 times on it, like a student’s punishment. He stepped it up the next couple weekends, but fell back into the usual rut after a bit.

He just doesn’t get it. He got a job offer in LA a few years back and refused to take it, telling me, “I’d never see Miss G!” I thought, Wow. He really has no idea that he could live and work in another state and keep right on seeing her just as much as he does now.

In his mind, he’s a caring and involved father. In Miss G’s, he’s the daddy who’s supposed to love her but doesn’t, and she thinks it’s her fault somehow.

And in mine... In mine, he’s a broken man who can’t spend too much time with his daughter, because it might open him to the entirety of what he’s destroyed. And if he glimpses that, he’ll never come back from it. Never.

I used to hate him. Then I felt sorry for him. And now I think-- he's had twelve years of chances. This isn't circumstance; this is what he's chosen. And thank God for Dan. Thank God every minute of every day for Dan.


Circumstantial Insomnia

Having a kid attached is pretty much dating kryptonite, so sleeping alone is nothing new. And Dan hasn’t been in the picture all that long-- not compared to the pre-Dan portion of my life, anyway. He goes camping without me, I go on trips without him, we spend a pretty good amount of time apart. I can sleep alone no problem. Actually, I enjoy it... taking over the middle of the bed, sleeping with the fan on and the porch door open-- both of which make Dan nuts. And no one to complain about me stealing all the covers. (Whatever. I do not.)

But not this weekend. All my sleep has run short and crappy sans Dan. Friday, I was still not tired when I turned lights out around 2, waaay past normal bedtime. And then woke up around 5 and couldn’t get back to sleep. Last night, I turned the lights out around 10:30 to even things out. After a while of smooshing pillows this way and that and still no closer to sleep, I got up and read a book. Finished it. Wrote for a while. Played bookworm. And still got up before sunshine appeared.

It’s a little embarrassing. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people. I’m stubborn and independent, probably too much of both. I’m inherently solitary; I look forward to my ‘me’ time when he’s not around. But this weekend was just-- different. Bad trip mojo or something, I dunno.

I can’t wait to steal all the covers from him tonight when he gets back.


That was-- unexpected.

I expect changes. I mean-- I should, seeing as I’m actually trying to change... new horizons expanding, etc and whatnot. I just didn’t expect them to be all sneaky like this. I thought I’d feel lighter as old things fell away, brighter as new things bloomed in their place. I thought I’d notice crawling out of hibernation, see a sharp division between Winter and Spring.


Looked up the other day and was startled to find my atrophied moxie right there in the passenger seat, looking very much like her former spunky self. I didn’t put her there. I didn’t even know she was still around. She just kinda waved and grinned and fiddled with the stereo.

I must be closer to “there” than I realized, and that’s good. But there’s an uncertain fog hesitating too; I don’t know what I think about parts of me becoming unrecognizable even to myself. Or maybe I just haven’t seen them in so long, I forgot what they looked like.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo today out of nowhere. Ohhh, I briefly thought about it before today. Sort of how I briefly think about emigrating to New Zealand. And then I’d chase the whim away with logical reasons not to commit-- like, the fact that I don’t really write fiction. How I moved from dismissal to choosing a username is still a little fuzzy. When I came to, I was introducing myself on forums, trying to figure out what genre my novel is going to be.

What. The. Jiminy. Crackers.

Really? I’m really taking this on? I couldn’t have picked a worse month to find 50,000 fictional words than this November. My calendar is already crammed with long weekends, roadtrips, turkeys, and at least one surgery. But-- the timing was nuts for NaBlo too, and I’m holding steady. I like the push of it, like working for a clear, objective goal. There has been far too much murky subjectivity in my head for far too long.

Today, from somewhere, the mission-should-I-choose-to-accept-it part of me yawned and stretched, then shrugged “Bring it” over coffee. She’s a leisurely kind of defiant, but no less determined for it. I forgot how it feels to push myself, instead of being bullied by circumstances. I like it.


Team Us

Dan is up visiting Miss L in Reno this weekend, so Miss G and I find ourselves alone together for two whole days. She’s all lit up about it, even turned down a chance to sleep over at Miss B’s house so we could hang out. I’m all lit up about it too.

I can’t quite believe that, at twelve, she is voluntarily choosing to spend time with her mother. Even though we’ll be going clothes shopping tomorrow. But I freakin’ love it, even more because I know full parental ditch mode is approaching. So fast it’s all blurry.

So, I made her favorite bean dip and we hunkered down to James & the Giant Peach, a movie we haven’t seen since she was just a little twink. But instead of getting lost in the show, I got lost in nostalgia.

It’s like we cut and pasted ourselves out of 10 years ago and into a new coloring book-- same bean dip, same movie, same positions on the couch. But everything surrounding us is different. Vertigo-inducing different.

With a backdrop still so new I sometimes don't recognize it, tonight I’m grateful that this one thing holds true. Miss G and me. Team Us. Even if for just a little while longer.


The Happy Place

A bunch of stuff I don't know the names of, some stuff I forgot the names of, some hen-and-chicks, and some mint.

The free flagstones Dan found in some alley. (The resultant chiropractor visit, however, was not free.)

One of my yard birds.

Colonel Mustard & Chief Mango, formerly buried yard treasure.

Peep is my best helper. These plants will never have to drink again.



My single largest frustration about a blended family is this: Things that would be simple in a 'normal' family are exponentially more complicated in ours.

Take our current adventure. In a standard family, I would take my husband to the hospital for surgery, visit him while he's there, and then take him home. Not any kind of fun, mind you, but only one sentence at least, and a pretty straightforward sentence at that.

But in our non-standard family, nothing is straightforward. We need walls of text.

For example. Miss L wants to come to town for Dan’s surgery. This leads to many possibilities, but I’ll just sum up the two currently under discussion.

Option A) Miss L flies in solo. This means I have to worry about picking her up from the airport either the night before surgery (because, you know, there won't be enough other things going on) or the day of the surgery (a similarly slow day). While dealing with the normal stress level I imagine is standard to your spouse of less than 2 years having cancer and going under the knife, I will also be dealing with the stepdaughter who will literally not be in the same room with me if we are alone in the house together. Which we will be. Alllll weekend. I will also need to keep her fed/hydrated/entertained during the however-many-hours long the surgery takes, and-- my favorite-- be the bad guy who says "Okay honey-- Daddy's tired. We need to go." Plus, I will somehow need to handle any emotional fallout resulting from seeing her beloved bouncy dad laid up in a hospital gown hooked up to tubes and things. I could comfort my own kid, but how to comfort a kid who keeps me at arms’ length?

Then we have Option B) Dan's ex-wife suggested bringing Miss L herself. This frees me up from chauffeur and entertainment duties, but also means I will be passing the time during Dan's surgery hangin’ with the woman who has made our lives -- I guess, 'extremely challenging' is the most polite way to say it. For hours. I anticipate an atmosphere similar to Hoth, except with polite chit-chat. After the actual surgery, I will have to put the polite chit-chat face on every time I drive to the hospital, because she will be visiting regularly with the daughter who won’t be alone with me. They will both act as if I am an usurper with no right to be there, just as they’ve acted since I walked in the door 5 years ago. I will worry that it’s not okay for me to ask either of them to leave the room ever, so I can have time alone with my husband. I will bite my tongue, keep the peace, and internalize miserably because for some reason I don’t want either of them to think I’m a bitch even though their opinions of me are long since set in stone.

See? See how quickly things got ridiculous? And this is the reader’s digest condensed version of complications. This is if everyone plays nice and things go smoothly. My sister-- the lawyer-- suggested I bring copies of our marriage certificate and their divorce decree in case there are any questions about who has rights to medical information. Just imagining any scenario at the hospital requiring either of those two items makes my stomach hurt.

But, this is my family. This is what I signed on for, what I accept in exchange for the there-isn’t-a-word-large-enough blessing of having Dan in my life and Miss G’s. He’s worth every extra convoluted paragraph.

Okay, enough serious stuff. Shake it off.

Tomorrow: lighthearted pictures of me with my niece in my Little Back SideYard.


Waiting Forever Room

I picked Dan up early from work, and we drove to meet his surgeon. We filled out paperwork, and then we waited for the appointment time. Then we kept waiting. The flock thinned as folk were herded back into the nether regions.

Not us though. We kept waiting.

And waiting.

Dan leans over and whispers, “I bet we can out-wait all these other patients, honey.”

I am thankful every single day for a man who makes me laugh all the time. Even in an oncologist’s waiting room.

Dan kept me giggling until we finally get into the exam room approximately six years later. I mostly regained composure at that point-- minus one instance of Dan running to the bathroom, then running back into the exam room with a breathless “Did I miss him?” which set me off again.

Once the doc came in, we tried to be more serious and grown-up. We used words like ‘thyroidectomy’ and discussed the importance of calcium levels after surgery. The doc answered all our (very serious! very grown-up!) questions patiently and thoroughly. He then asks us if we have any further questions.

Dan says, “Ooh-- ! Yes. Will I have to shave my beard?”

(Answer: “Tilt back your head for me? -- Nah, we should be fine.”)

I love Dan to pieces. I love his attitude, like this is just another rock to climb in the middle of all our other rock-climbing adventures. And I think it must be contagious, because I’m feeling a little climby about all this myself these days.


Kids have it hard

Today was a rough day.

Miss G’s dad called about Thanksgiving. He wants to take Miss G to Florida to visit his folks. Fine, no problem. He says he wants to be there a week, Sunday to Sunday. I say, great. Then I look at a calendar.

“Uhh, that’s the weekend of the Phoenix Faerie Festival,” I say. “We’ve been planning on driving over, meeting my sister there, then visiting my folks in Tucson after. Could you fly out Monday instead?”

He scoffs, tells me tickets are cheaper if he leaves Sunday. I’m bummed, but I agree that time with him is more important. I warn him, “She might be stressed about missing school. She’s been on a kick about that lately.” He scoffs again, and buys the tickets anyway.

Miss G comes home and calls her dad. She’s in tears within about a minute and a half. He’s furious that she’s not thrilled. She’s inconsolable over missing fairies and freaked because he’s mad. Both are asking me to explain the other. (Funny I should have to; they’re exactly alike.)

Ruffled feelings were eventually smoothed, though not without many tears. And, in at least one case, ice cream.

One of the worst lies we tell our kids is how easy they have it, these are the best days, enjoy it now. Grown-ups who say this must have forgotten what it’s like to be kids, forgotten the powerless feeling of having no say in their own lives. Kids go where they have to, do what they’re told, and get in trouble if they dare to ask why.

Remember? Remember hating school, thinking your parents didn’t care when you tried to show them your new something-or-other while they were making dinner and they got irritated, not understanding why you had to go to some lame wedding on the weekend instead of riding bikes with your friend down the street?

It’s really hard being a kid. But it doesn’t take much from us to make it easier. Put down the spatula. Turn off the phone and give 30 minutes of undivided attention. Even 10 makes a difference. Hang out. Watch a cartoon. Make their day.


Grouchy-Making Days

The community college here has a horticulture program focusing on indigenous plants. On weekends in April and October, they open their greenhouse doors to the public. Proceeds from the sales fund the program. I've been looking forward to October for months just to visit this place.

We didn’t make it last weekend, so today I was on a mission to get there, visiting family or no. I made a truckload of Eggs Benedict for the eight of us-- three of us, plus my mom & dad, plus my sister & her husband, plus toddler-- and then we packed into the car and drove across town to the greenhouses.

Side note: there's something funny going on with my car the past couple weeks. It's leaking freon fumes from somewhere. Not all the time, but today was one of the stinky days. Because of my extreme sensitivity to scents and chemicals, I had a pre-migraine going roughly 10 minutes into the drive. Mesquite tree, I told myself, willing my headache to disappear, trying not to throw up. Desert willow. Globemallow. Indigo bush.

40 freon-infused minutes later, we pull up to the place, and it's closed. Not just closed-- boards-on-windows closed. No note on the door. No ‘new hours’ sign. Nada.

Days like this are grouchy making.



I know just enough about computers & programming to get into trouble, and not quite enough to figure out how to get myself back out. I tried to change some stuff on my blog template about a week ago and things got all wonky. Finally I just switched to a new template and hoped my dad (the computer guru) would throw me a lifeline when he came to town this weekend.

So, today was the day. Dad and I jumped down the HTML rabbit hole. He's a good guide, but it's dark and scary down there. And there doesn't seem to be a quick-n-easy crash course; it's all really involved. But the scariest part about it is that-- well, I might really like it.

I don't need one more thing to be into right now. Because there's no half-assedness about me when I'm into something. It's utter immersion. I start on a project-- mudding a ceiling, let's say-- and I forget to eat lunch; it's dinnertime and there's no groceries. The world outside my project disintegrates. I forget things like packing lunches, laundry, renewing my drivers' license (oops).

Being a mom is already full-time, plus the full-time home improvements. Add painting and writing to that and I'm booked solid. Plus I added gardening to my list of addictions. My hours are full, and I love it that way, but family dinners have become decidedly less balanced now that I shirk my meal-planning to sketch instead. Or weed. Or jot down ideas.

If only I could focus like this on housework.


Happy Birthday, John Lennon!


Happy Birthday, me!

It's my birthday today.

To celebrate, my family descended upon me with Greek food from our favorite little place. Just right.

It was a relief to have a celebratory birthday for a change. The last few years, my birthday has coincided with some seriously crappy mojo. This year, it's coincided instead with the first glimmer of our house being suitable for company. I mean-- we have miles to go before we sleep and all that. We still walk on plywood floors. I can still touch both walls of the bathroom with my elbows if I'm standing sideways. And the front yard... oh god, the front yard...

But-- An evening of hummus and wine has gone a long way to making me feel less transitional. Maybe what the house needed was a party instead of another coat of paint.


Someday, I will get it together. Probably.

Is it an unrealistic goal to hope someday I'm organized enough that I don't have to spend two days cleaning the house when my family's coming to town?


Back Corners

I’m going to sum up my long and dirty day cleaning out my in-laws’ shed by sharing the discovery that best captures the bizarre atmosphere of the entire ordeal. And then I’m going to take a third shower and go to bed.

I find a paper grocery bag, tucked away in a back corner under the shelves and carefully folded over. I open it. Inside is another, smaller paper bag, also carefully folded over. I open that. Inside that bag are two more paper bags. One contains large wood chips. The other is full of sawdust.


The Old Madonna

Today, while belting out “Express Yourself” and getting paint everywhere, I pondered Madonna. Lately I keep hearing about how Lady Gaga’s the “next” Madonna. A few years back it was Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears. Maybe both; I forget.

I may be a biased 80’s girl at heart, but I don’t think any of ‘em has lived up to her yet. Madonna’s single-minded ambition, her fearless self-reinvention, her capacity for pissing off the Pope-- thus far, all unmatched. But we want to reincarnate her just the same, keep looking for the next woman to take on her mantle.

While change is daunting to the rest of us mere mortals, Madonna, grinning, leans against the wall as a cocky example of effortless evolution. Maybe that’s why we want the ‘next’ Madonna-- more role models of turning lives and selves upside down and sideways and emerging smiling from the other side. Yes, you too can transform from your own (probably metaphorical) fingerless-gloves-and-crucifixes to something classier, like a (still most likely metaphorical) gold cone-bra bustier!

I get putting Madge up on a pedestal for accomplishing what she has, although I myself am not a dedicated fan. I couldn’t tell you the name of her last album, or when it came out. I appreciate her in passing, and enjoy her chameleon ways. But today I realized there is something truly inspiring about Madonna.

It’s her invention, not her reinvention.

When Madonna came on the scene, I don’t remember a single person saying she was the “next” somebody else. She’s like the first critter that dragged herself out of the primordial mud on little leg buds. She built herself from scratch, not as some cardboard imitation of a preceding rock star.

This revelation is a lifeline for me. I’m scraping new dreams together from scratch these days, a phrase which previously made me think ‘sugar cookies.’ And sugar cookies -- while very nice-- are not particularly motivating. Madonna from scratch, on the other hand....


Remodeling via the 90's

I finished coat #3 of mud on the ceiling today, thinking very uncharitable thoughts about whichever previous owner did such shoddy work. It’s taken almost a full box of mud to even out the horror of mismatched drywall seams and insane texture. A full box, for less than 10 square feet of ceiling. But, I like working with my hands. It’s satisfying, making ugly things disappear.

While working, I listened to old mix CD’s on an old stereo, both recently resurrected from my now-empty storage unit. Three notes in, and I was 17 again-- no, 15-- no, 22. I forgot to pay attention to the work I was doing, forgot everything but how to breathe through my nose while treading memories.

I wandered through the edges of highschool today, with a smattering of college thrown in. I listened to a midnight roadtrip, heard boxes packed for a cross-country move, and sang of climbing out my window to smoke clove cigarettes on the roof.

I’m exhausted. Mudding isn’t hard work, but the time travel wrung me right out.


Worst romance novel cover contest

So we went to the library book sale today. It was a little disappointing. Miss G whispers, "Mama-- they're all pornos." I whisper back, "The official term is 'romance novels, kid." There were three times as many of them as any other kind of book. We dug around anyway, hoping for buried treasure.

The girls' disappointment turned to giggles less than 5 minutes later. I look over and see them pulling out various trashy paperbacks and rolling eyes at the covers. Then they start reading the titles to each other and giggling. Pretty soon they're laughing too hard to even try to use low voices anymore.

"I want to find one for Chelsea!" says Miss G. My friend Chelsea & I have an ongoing battle to see who can find the cheesiest romance novel. Then we wrap them up fancy and give them to each other at inappropriate times-- like, just after surgery, or a devastating breakup. The winning book has to have just the right combination of tawdry cover art plus absurd title. Then, whoever receives the most groan-worthy book has to read the thing.

I didn't realize Miss G knew about this, but I know Chelsea would approve. Plus, I still owe her bigtime for The Marine and the Debutante. I tell Miss G to knock herself out. She starts off tentative, with the mild-mannered A Wife of Convenience.

"That's pretty good," I said. "But no one's ripping anyone's dress off on the cover. Think bigger."

Miss L decides to play, countering with His Trophy Mistress and Private Places.

"Better!" I say. "Look for the really funny ones."

"Mama! The Disobedient Virgin!"

Other mamas may be embarrassed by their child delightedly yelling this out in the middle of the library, but 12 years of Miss G's public enthusiasm has rendered me immune to such things.

"Perfect," I say. "Definitely one for Chelsea. But I think I won the day." And I flaunt my copy of Cowboy Commando, featuring a shirtless cowboy lunging out of the cover.

The girls both breathe a reverent "AWEsome."

Chelsea's toast.


Commence NaBloWriMo

Okay... I've got my water. I've got my floss. And it's officially October 1st, so it's time to kick off NaBloWriMo (yeah, okay, I had to cheat and look at the official site to spell that.) A blog a day, every day, for the month of October.

Around mid-September, I looked at the calendar and thought-- no way I'm doing it this year. October's crazy. Miss L flies in tonight, Oct 1. Dan's mom visiting from Hawaii tomorrow. She's here for a week, and I'm helping shovel out their house for the final move over in December. We have to finish remodeling their bathroom, clean out the storage shed and the back yard, and move their piano and any other large, heavy furniture we want over to our house. The community garden that's open twice a year opens this weekend, and we need to buy all our front yard plants. And plant them. The library has its $2/bag book sale (*squee!*), and it's Art in the Park as well. Then my family's visiting, there's the Renaissance Festival, and my birthday. 

That's the first week of October.

So-- not a good month for this. I thought, maybe next year. When things are calmer.

Then I thought, I add that thought to EVERYthing-- 'when things are calmer.' But they're never calmer. Not long-term. Sure, there's the odd quiet week here or there-- but mostly, my life is like this. A little nuts. Maybe it's time I just freakin' roll with that instead of fighting it all the time. And-- hey, with so much going on, it'll be no problem writing every day. Right?

So, I signed up for NaWro.... [checks the site]... er, NaBloWriMo. What's one more little thing?