Monthly Archives: April 2016

My sofa, my home

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My sofa, my home

A couple of days ago, I would have been embarrassed by the pizza crumbs I found in my bra; but today, not so much. No longer bothered by the idea of wearing the same clothes for two, even three days, I’m learning to embrace my condition. I’ve come to think of the weight I’m putting on, as a result of stress eating and complete lack of activity, as what will one day become winter insulation. I’ve moved out of denial and am sliding comfortably into acceptance.
After breaking my ankle a week ago, I’ve turned my sofa into nearly my entire world. Surrounded by stacks of pizza boxes, I’ve come to accept this as the space I occupy. I eat here, sleep here, read here, build cities here, watch tv here, write here, pay bills here, yesterday I even recorded a radio show here. I’ve organized my belongings around me: a bag for trash, a bag for clean clothes, a bag for dirty clothes, toiletries, calcium vitamins, medicine, first aid kit, books, batteries, pencils and pens, brush, salt, remotes. Oh sure, I’ve been out in the past week. And certainly I’ve made the trek to the bathroom and I’ve had the adventure of crawling up three flights of stairs so I can take a sponge bath and wash my hair in the sink. But the majority of my time has been here.
Normally, I am a mover. Not in any particularly productive way, just there’s a lot of motion in my life. I go. I would simply stand up more, but my toes keep turning purple. So, adjusting to sitting on this sofa for the majority of my time, has taken some adjustment, but I think I’m over the hump. Maybe I’ll just extend my time here, stay. Perhaps I’ve transitioned to a sedentary life. And in this day and age, I could practically have anything I want delivered just a few feet away from me. Food, clothes, office supplies, animals, more cushions. I could learn to really appreciate the joy of getting to walk out to the porch and listen to the rain, or the birds. Enjoy the hours of solitude. Soak in the slow pace, buy clothing that doesn’t button, zip or tie, calculate how many hours it would take to watch every documentary on Netflix, learn how to make doilies.
In my mind, I am Tom Hanks in Cast Away, dreadlocked blonde hair, my best friend a pizza box that I’ve drawn a smiley face on. I’m learning to weave a hammock from the sofa stuffing and catch slow moving bees for food. I’m scratching tick marks into the window frame to keep track of the days. Rain storms are exciting, and I’m keeping an eye on the horizon for helicopters.
That is, of course, if Tom Hanks had been able to accomplish all that he did in a week. It’s easy to get lost in your own misery, whatever it is. In reality, I’m already halfway through the hardest part of my recovery. I’m truly getting off easy. But we’ve all had a cold, a heartbreak, a sadness that we thought would never end. It’s hard to see the light when you are down the rabbit hole. Sometimes we lose sight of hope and learn to manage the discomfort, and then before we know it, we are well again, we are lifted up, we are rescued.
Bones heal, heartbreak mends, sadness subsides, life moves. I could learn to stay here beyond my recovery, embrace my new sofa culture, order pre made food from the Internet, but in order to do so, at some point I would have to resist a lot of inertia to move forward. When we are uncomfortable, sick, sad, broken, it feels interminable. And fighting these unpleasant feelings probably doesn’t encourage them to pass us by any more quickly. They have their own course, their own pace. Giving in feels like the right thing to do for the moment. Try to find comfort in the discomfort, rest, feel bad. And not so long from now, I will rejoice in the simple pleasure of leaving my sofa and standing in the shower.

What is the meaning of this!?

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What is the meaning of this!?

So let’s talk about the swarm of lethargic bees that invaded my home in the first 24 hours following my recent fall. But first, a bit of backstory will provide you with the understanding that I’m terrified of bees. Once as a lanky preteen I cartwheeled over a bee in my yard that promptly stung my finger. The old house that I grew up in frequently had wasps nests in the attic fan and as soon as the weather got warm enough, they would fly into our home and hide beneath the bedsheets. I once got a nasty sting on my thigh, through a pair of brown corduroy pants that I was wearing to keep warm in bed. As a curious four year old I picked up a paper wasp’s nest in my yard, only to discover that makes wasps angry. And yes, these are mostly wasp stories, but the pain of a sting doesn’t discriminate between species.
But these current trespassers are slow moving, crawling, bees that just march about my floors or buzz casually in my window sills; they are easy targets for a can of raid. These are low quality bees to be sure. So, it’s not so much the quality that’s an issue, but the quantity. And the fact that when it comes to exterminating bees, I don’t have a leg to stand on. Haha, get it, because…so I called in reinforcements, to help, with the bees.
Ani DiFranco says, ” life may imitate art, but Art imitates TV”. There must be a deeper, more symbolic meaning in these infestations, these minor upsets to my current condition. May friend J suggested I look to literature to search for meaning. Because after all, literature was life experience first.
I certainly can’t avoid the obvious analogy that these normally busy, active creatures are slow. They don’t fly, they walk, as though their wings are utterly useless. “Busy as bees”? Not these guys. They might as well have their wings propped up on an old sofa watching reruns of “Arrested Development” on Netflix. It is no secret that it is impossible to move quickly on crutches. Even when I’ve gotten up a little speed, I’ve nearly caused new injuries when I’ve been forced to over correct. The only way to get up stairs at the moment, is to sit down and lift myself onto each step, slowly. So perhaps the universe has sent this analogy to mock me, ” Look at these bees! They are hardly even bees. They crawl about (like you) waiting to be eliminated.” That seems a bit harsh Universe, so maybe it’s something else. Something more positive and less self-loathing.
Bees have jobs, some bees go out and collect honey, some clean the hive, others care for the larvae, and of course the queen Bee holds the hive together. Essentially the hive is an exploded version of a parent. I am carpenter bee and caretaker bee and queen bee. I may have mentioned, “things” are in disarray in my hive. There is an appealing array of mucky, greasy dishes scattered throughout the house. I swear my youngest daughter is just pouring dog food onto the floor to feed the dogs. And I’ll not even go into detail about the indoor water balloon incident. Slow moving bees would be horribly inept at keeping up with an active hive. Honey would rot (if that’s possible), larvae would shrivel. Ironically, bees could thrive in the clutter of my kitchen; lackadaisically walking on dishes of old strawberries and whipped cream.
However, perhaps the most striking parallel is that a hive, even this “low-rent” hive that has taken up residence in my room, isn’t a single bee. There are many, many bees, doing lots of jobs. When the queen is down, the other bees rally around and take care of hive to ensure its health. Both Hillary Clinton and Starman were right…”it takes a village” and “when things are at their worst, people are at their best. ” Even though some bees are solitary, for the most part bees are social creatures. They live in hives, work together and take care of each other. I’d image, there are bees back at the hive that are moving a lot faster, taking up the slack for these slothful bees. So, I’m learning to accept help and help is being graciously offered.
I suspect the reason for the lazy pace of these bees is actually the recent warm spell (which was also related to my recent fall; warm weather caused me to wear impractical sandals, impractical sandals caused me to fall on the sidewalk). I believe there is a hive in the air conditioning duct. When we turned on the A/C, the cold air blew them out into the house, but it also felt like winter to them. Blasted by cold air, they move slowly, as though birthed in winter. Our solution was to just turn off the air conditioning, which seems to have worked, for now.
I am concerned that the bees are just hiding in the walls, curled up in their hive, binging on nature documentaries. Hopefully by the time they decide to emerge once again, I will be healed and ready to do battle. Thanks to a very helpful hive, I am indeed healing every day.

2001: A Full Shining Lolita

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2001:  A Full Shining Lolita

As I lounge, with my purple cast propped on a pillow, looking over the chaos that has erupted in my house in the last 24-48 hours, I realize what I normally do all day; Clear Cheerios off the counter, close boxes of crackers, throw away Puddin’ Pouches, put stray forks and spoons into the dishwasher, rinse dishes, feed the forgotten animals. My home looks like the scene in the movie after the girl has broken up with the guy and he holes himself up in his living room, surrounded by pizza boxes and empty whiskey bottles. Shades pulled, he reclusively resides amongst a sea of damp towels, waded up newspapers and filthy socks.
Breaking a body part, particularly one of the ones you use for propulsion, forces you to face the world from a particular point of view. One that is slower, lower and less capable than you were even the instant before you stepped ineptly on the uneven sidewalk in your impractical shoes. Even the most simplistic task becomes a chore of such gargantuan proportions that you spend significant time contemplating if it’s completion holds enough value to bother. Whatever is not near you suddenly feels launched into a universe that is too distant to comprehend; approximately the location of the horse head nebula. And walking up a flight of stairs has never before been appreciated for the sheer accomplishment that it is, nor has the defeat of realizing my toothbrush is three floors up ever been so poignant. Also, I don’t feel terrible about eating a handful of Bac’N Buds because they were left on the coffee table and therefore are in arm’s reach. And you should know, I’m not particularly good at accepting help. So I’ll just enjoy this new (albeit temporary) perspective on life.
A relatively minor injury, like breaking an ankle while,well, walking, isn’t such a big thing. It will be a delineation of a particular era; “oh that party happened right after I broke my ankle” , or ” oh! That’s right, I couldn’t drive then because of my ankle.” But mostly it only gives me these few moments to experience life from my sofa, or to gather perspective teetering atop a pair of crutches. But it’s important to remember it could be worse. There was no surgery, no metal pins, my toes are free, it’s only 2-3 weeks. I am a survivor and figuring out how to accomplish these mundane tasks is a challenge I’m willing to accept. Except showering, that’s just the dream of a crazy person.
There’s an interpretation of these recent events that practically writes a Stanley Kubrick flick. Particularly when you fold in the swarm of lethargic bees, which I’ll address a bit later, who have invaded my bedroom. This bedroom is tragically, on the third floor. Laid up from the simple act of walking, unable to drive single mom of three, her house infested with bees- slow bees-lays wrapped inside a single blanket on the cold porch, her wild eyes searching the landscape as her calf twitches inside her cast.
But I think there’s more humor to be found here than tragedy. For example, I’ve been using my bra as a carrying pouch. And I “butt-scootched” up the steps to the third floor, only to become so comically panicked that the house would catch on fire or that the slow-moving bees would leisurely surround my bed and form a bee beard on my face while I laid powerlessly on my back, that I had to make the disagreeable, protracted trek back down the stairs. And watching me try to maneuver this iPad out onto the porch was comic gold. Imagine a one armed sea otter learning to juggle for the first time. Mistakes were made. Comedy happened.
I’ve given up on my appearance almost entirely. I am very interested in purchasing those sweatpants that unbutton down the side. I think athletes wear them so they can rip them off in a moment’s notice to go jump in the game. I’d like the option of awkwardly tearing them off so I can pee. Earlier I did splash some water on my face as I stood wobbling over the bathroom sink. But even that feels inadequate, although difficult, enough to not even be worth it. My daughter brought me a warm dish towel to encourage me to at least rinse off, but as I slowly become more entrenched in the sofa, it just seems like an act with no meaning. Comically without meaning, of course.
And here is perhaps the most comic part of all, the person who is so graceful that she fell while walking, is now forced to encounter the world while precariously balancing on one foot. Her counterbalance a heavy, non weight bearing purple cast. Just try not to laugh when I have to pick up a sock off of the floor or when I try to suddenly change directions or when I tear off my athletic pants like a one-legged stripper during a Sunday matinee.
There is often comedy in tragic situations and it’s certainly better for my psyche to view it through this lens. Besides, I’ll have lots of time to write and catch up on some reading. Who doesn’t enjoy forced down time? Now you’ll have to pardon me, I’m planning to watch A Clockwork Orange, it’s just so relatable.

Love as dark matter

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Love as dark matter

It’s 3am, the dog is barking at what might be a serial killer or a simple burglar, or a leaf. A lanky teenager occupies the space next to me in bed and a bleary-eyed preteen hovers over me. I don’t really care which reason the dog is barking, or why these interlopers are here, I just long for a peaceful night’s sleep, which I can’t remember having in my adult life. The little wants to cuddle so badly that she makes a move like she’s going to just curl up uncomfortably on the prickly rug that is next to my bed. I angrily jump out of bed, cursing, to all who will listen. Storm down the stairs declaring that this is the last GD time this is going to happen, these are children after all, not infant triplets. Why won’t they go the F to sleep?
I am not good at cuddling, I do it out of guilty obligation and an overwhelming belief that it is a short term solution to the nightly interruptions of what is already fitful sleep. It must feel that way to my girls, or maybe I fool them, or maybe touch feels the same whether it is begrudging or mutual.
One of the dirty aspects of being a single parent is that you are always on duty. Day, night, sickness, health, tired, angry or hungry. It’s hard for everyone to get their needs met in any meaningful way, I offer love and support of the drive-thru variety. It’s quick, it’s low quality and it’s offered through a window as you pass by. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation. To have needs that you’ve recognized are going to remain unmet, or in the best-case scenario, met primarily in moments of crisis. Of deep hunger or hurt. It’s unsatisfying for both parties.
Still we muddle through, catch love, or sleep when we are able and frankly periodically experience the kind of wealth that you can only appreciate if you’ve been disadvantaged.
This is how we are. Doing the best we all can under strained conditions. And, speaking of wealth, we are fortunate that in the hierarchy of needs, we are in search of satiating our emotional needs. We have the luxuries of other wealth, but emotional poverty is powerful and debilitating in ways that often feel more immeasurable.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that I am extraordinarily adept at responding to some emotions, even the ones that erupt in the deep darkness of the night. Anger is easier than sadness for me. And sickness is permissible, though not welcomed. Apparently there is a law that states that if a child is going to vomit, it will be around 3am and it will soil every piece of bedding they are near and probably divert away from hardwood floors to land on carpet. But I don’t manage the fears of my children particularly well. Partly because the only way I know how to overcome fear, is to ignore the source of it. Whether that is thunder, or nightmares, or just the fears that curl up with you as you fall asleep and rattle you awake in the middle of the night.
Sometimes saying, ” Everything is all right.” Is the worst possible answer when everything feels not all right. But in the sleep deprived state that these fears often arise, they are the only words that rise to be spoken, that and “Go back to sleep.” And apparently, ” God dammit”. Which now that I think of it is probably a worse response than ” Go back to sleep. ” nothing like having your childhood fears be a catalyst for your only parent’s anger.
And the worst part is, if I could find breath in those moments, enough breath to squeeze past the expletives and just put my arms around them and give them the tiny gesture they need to feel secure, I know it could be better, better for everyone probably. But what I find instead is guilt over not being able to conjure that breath, frustration over my inability to fulfill this expectation.
These are the realities of being a part of this life. This life where I’m underperforming my own expectations of what is minimally acceptable, even in the states of sleep deprivation. Where the tension is not in being unaware of what would make things better, but in being too emotionally tired to accomplish them. It is the pain of watching your children having to suffer through what cannot possibly be enough. And what is not their fault.

And it is the knowledge that we will all survive these circumstances, and some days not only survive, but thrive. This life can also be about understanding need, hardship and doing without in a way that creates a situation where we are able to appreciate the infrequent riches of love and selflessness. This life can be about valuing the brief and uncommon cuddle. This life is a space where love is in the guilt of inability rather than the wealth of stability.
We can all long for the lives that we do not have. We can lament the absence, of not just highest success, but of nominal satisfaction. Certainly we can strive to be better and apologize when we fall phenomenally short, but we can also spot the upside of loss and the advantage of deprivation.

Must love dog parties

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Must love dog parties

Just be who you are, whoever that is…. Ever heard that saying? Well, what if who you really are, is an asshole? Or how about, “there are no stupid questions.”? Uh, duh, yes there are. Plenty. So how about ” there’s no wrong way to do X.”? These are just lies circulated by well-meaning mothers (including me) and the Hallmark channel.
I was dating wrong. I was in desperate search for a wife. Date like that for awhile and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Worse yet, I was looking to replace the husband and father that was a fantasy. I blame Disney and the Hallmark channel.
If you’re dating, or single, or in a bad relationship, everyone has dating advice for you. ” you’ve got to be ready before you can find love” or “there’s a fish for every hook” or ” you’ve gotta love yourself first.” Or ” create a vision board/list/seashell mosaic of your perfect mate. ” and these things work, some times, by chance mostly I believe.
Because my last dating experiences, before “the marriage”, occurred when cell phones were carried around in ten pound bags, I assumed I just had a learning curve. All this technology! And it’s true that the language of dating has changed, or rather the platforms through which we communicate have changed. ” Last night was great! LOL” but the basics are more or less the same. I did have to stop looking for true love for it to land right in my lap.

In the beginning, the second beginning that is, I wanted so terribly, hopelessly, to replace (as quickly as possible) the relationship I imagined I’d lost with my husband. A space where there were brochure-worthy vacations, holidays with perfect turkeys, enviable Facebook posts, family yoga, homemade bread, Boggle games, picnics with dignitaries, dry camp sites, fire station visits, softball tournaments, bean bag chairs, dog parties, clam bakes, matching outfits, seaside family portraits, gardens, ferret adoptions…
The point is, I discovered rather immediately (at least twice) that that wasn’t what I wanted at all, well maybe dog parties…. But I wasn’t adept at sharing the charge of my daughters. I’m kinda a careworn frontier woman in this respect. Maybe that was something I longed for a decade ago, but I’d failed to let that fantasy go when reality took its place. So those forays into relationships were heartbreaking partings, and maybe it wasn’t a wrong way to date, but it certainly was agonizing.
So, I did what I could figure out to do, go on match.com and power date. It’s like looking for a new car: I like these features, I don’t like these features, pick a couple of options, test drive and put down an offer. But people are poor substitutes for cars. And cars are terrible substitutes for soulmates, except maybe my Mini Cooper. I’d probably marry her, though she’s terrible at doing dishes and the one time I asked her to plan a dog party…wow, did she ever fuck that up. But I digress.
I considered the vision board, but in my house finding a glue stick that isn’t dried out and a pair of scissors that opens AND closes isn’t really an option. I thought about making a list and pondered singles cruises, but the whole situation had exhausted me, so instead, I just sat.
I stopped expecting something, stopped imagining that I was ready to know what I wanted, or needed. I can hardly order lunch some days and I am fully aware of exactly what kind of food I want and need. Why did I think I knew who was going to fill the chasm in my heart? I decided to sit alone. Because if I had to go on one more horrible date and make small talk about beer pong, I was going to jump a slow-moving train to Vinton.
And confidentially, no one will ever fill that chasm in my heart, or be the imaginary genius Dad/husband that I kept checking for on Tinder. Knowing this was the most freeing thought I could have had. Hearing this allowed me to breathe and sit . And one day, I found myself sitting in the right place with the right space to allow something beautiful to grow.
So here’s my unsolicited dating advice for you, gentle reader…lose your list of expectations. What you think you want, maybe isn’t what you really need. It’s probably something you never imagined, or could imagine, like the distance of Pluto from the earth. And maybe it’s helpful to start with knowing who you are. Me I’m a complicated mix of hilarious and needy, generous and bad at home repairs, honest and a decent dancer, a mother with a teenage heart. So you, go ahead, be who you are, even if that’s a total asshole, you’re in good company. I hope you find your asshole soulmate and you both play out the rest of your days tossing waded up love notes to each other at your dog’s birthday party.

I don’t like wine spritzers

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I don’t like wine spritzers

I’m a forty-something single mom living a life like no other forty-something woman I know, or have ever heard from, or seen in a movie. Not that the latter has given me very many realistic examples to choose from–please see Tyler Perry’s “Single Mom’s Club” for a plethora of one dimensional options. I’ve never quite fit in even when the Breakfast Club was the movie to emulate, though I came closest to a cross between Michael Anthony Hall and a more awkward Molly Ringwald.
I could share with you a laundry list of disparate hobbies (or more accurately the ways in which I periodically spend my free time) from directing an improv group, to clumsily exercising to hip hop, playing the djembe (not well), to selling junk (er, antiques) , watching nature and food documentaries, or devouring a Netflix series like it’s Baltimore street crack, writing this blog, or recording a vlog in my car with my dear friend Blair, reading books about feminists and racists systems of power or performing plays. Nothing too outlandish there. Though I have left out the sock puppet musical I’m co-writing and some of the things I might include were this an anonymous blog. But all in all these are generally activities that would most likely be found in various arrangements of other 40 something women.
Mostly you are aware of my bizarre (though not terribly unfamiliar) dating life. Not everyone had an actual amateur taxidermist, or cat trainer in their dating history, but we’ve all had our dating woes and frankly I can’t really access this part of my narrative in the same way now because I’ve met someone who matches my crazy heart with his own crazy heart and more or less finds me intriguing rather than a train wreck. Or at least he’s not terribly easily spooked.
There’s nothing particularly supernormal about any one aspect of my life. Though I’d like to imagine I’m in a unique position on the spectrum as a young widow with three teen/preteen daughters. But still, I’m not nearly the only one. So nothing individually is enough to make me an outlier.
Certainly from a surface assessment I’m about as common as cough due to cold; white, middle-class, employed, college graduate, cisgender, heterosexual…which makes me wonder even more why I always feel like the person filmed in slow motion during a teen movie. Not the girl who takes off her glasses and let’s down her ponytail and the cute, rich jock finally sees as dateable (which, side note, ew gross) But her friend that she stopped hanging out with after junior high because a rumor started to circulate that she’d eaten bugs on a class trip to the science museum. The girl who moved to school in the third grade, who once unconsciously leaned over to kiss her best girl friend goodbye, the same girl who thought her red knee socks and shorts were cool and made her look like Wonder Woman. The girl who blew up gasoline soaked army men with the neighborhood boys not so much because she wanted to (though confidentially it was pretty cool) but because she hoped that performing this perilous act would make them like her. Or when that same girl grew up and attended her first South Roanoke Doctors’ party and drank so many wine spritzers in order to ease her nerves in a place where she felt like a complete fraud, that she attempted to drive a bulldozer down the street. The woman who was picked last for the supper club who underestimated how much food feeds 12 people, so that the hostess had to thaw out meatloaf from her freezer. Oh- they talked about that woman later. The same woman who feels like she’s faking it most of the time, unless she’s writing her sock puppet musical or snorting because any one of her daughter’s said something hysterical.
Maybe we all feel out of place, with our crazy lists of things we love, both the things we will admit freely and the things we keep hidden or to ourselves. Maybe we all feel like frauds in our friend groups or like our own one person show that only homeless vets come to sleep through. We all fumble uncomfortably through the movie that is our life, feeling mis-cast in the role of “yourself”. We are all unique snowflakes, melting on the windshield of a world that would rather see us from a distance, as homogeneous globs of white.
Truthfully, None of us really fits in anyway. In the quiet of the night, the doctor’s wife watches Wife Swap instead of making enough paella for the dinner party, the once bespectacled teen grows older and leaves the jock for a 44 year old housewife, the jock longs to learn the djembe and drink white spritzers.
So, if you’re like me, and I know you’re not, it’s ok.