Monday, May 31, 2010

Misguided Mommy sits down to write
a lamp to her left a dog to her right
the kids are in bed asleep for the night
it was quiet in here so I turned on the lights

El Papa has gone, out with some friends

Welp! Welp, welp, welp--here we are, folks, on the good ship Bloggy Plot, some with candy and some with not, some with seaweed in their snot!


A fly buzzeth above my headeth, annoyingly, and I hear the annoying sound of dogs eating their food in a loud, slow, annoying way!! Yet I sit here and persist in the insensible task of writing a blog entry when under the spell of not one but three margaritas, and it's already 11:33 and I committed to taking Lula to school (aka waking up at 6:30, performing a series of "brain teasers", driving a car) tomorrow, so Joedy could go out tonight, so what am I doing? Why? Because I finished the espresso chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer? Maybe? MAYBE?

Anyhoo: Joedy's out trying to see a band somewhere, Lula and Malko are in bed, the dogs have stopped making that noise, and I've totally forgotten the things I was going to say!


Anyway: the house is a disaster zone. It would look to someone like the parents here have been partying all weekend over a three-day weekend, although at least one of the parents (I'm not saying who!) did a remarkable amount of house cleaning the first night the other parent was out with his friends, who'd just come into town, the night the cleaning parent was in a really great mood, the mood that did not last through the afternoon of the following day, when that parent was STILL stuck home with the loud, demanding, small, heavy, clingy entities. It was at that time that the cleaning parent began to resent having cleaned so thoroughly and goodheartedly, so warmly...aye, it was now that this parent turned cold! Bitter! Unpleasant to chat with! And all things teetered on the edge for a little while, but the other, non-cleaning parent very nicely apologized for having taken so long on the lake, and his cousin offered to babysit, so we took the kids over to her house, and we got in the car and went out on the town and I got to DANCE!

And today, I had two avocado margaritas and one plain/slushy margarita! And I got to swim in a huge spring and sit under these huge beautiful trees! And then eat a certain charred-pepper salsa with insane guacamole, listening to loud wonderful music! It was heaven!!

BUT: tomorrow is Tuesday, the 2nd-to-last day of Lula's school, and we have to plan some serious summer things (I guess) and I have to call the dermatologist, clean the house, go through the InBox, make MD appts. for Lula and Malko, do laundry, make an Internal Affairs MD appt., and get certain "creative" objects ready for travel...because...maybe? We will? Be going? Somewhere cool? Really soon?

I hope?

I hope!


Stay tuned for more news from the goon!


Monday, May 24, 2010

When Joedy and I moved to Costa Rica we knew we'd feel far from family and friends, but it wasn't till we got there that we realized just how far we really were, how alone we were. While living in California we'd already been far away from many of our close family members, so we thought we could handle the distance between Central America and our loved ones; with Skype, email, and plane rides, we'd keep our relationships alive, we'd manage.

By the second week there I was totally depressed and didn't give a flying fruit loop about monkeys or warm turquoise water--I didn't care about the adventure, I just wanted to go home. The idea of staying long-term in Costa Rica, of creating lives for ourselves that would more or less exclude the people we cared most about, felt very, very wrong. Sure, we could fly to visit people, we could video chat every day, but the fact remained that it felt far, really far, and the thought of Lula and Malko growing up like that--apart from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins--made us sad. It wouldn't be right for them, it wouldn't be right for our families, and it wouldn't be right for us: we realized we couldn't live there after all.

We revised our plans, thinking we'd stay a year, maybe nine months, and as soon as the decision was made to come back to the States we cheered up. More than ever before, we knew distance wasn't what we wanted between ourselves and our families; feeling so deeply far away, we saw closeness with new eyes--the relationships we were privileged to have seemed more important and valuable, less easy to take for granted. I thought a lot about the bridges I'd burned, or come close to burning, over the years by not returning phone calls or emails, by simply not being there when someone I loved needed me, and though my chronic "communication-procrastination problem" almost always stemmed from a fear of not doing it right--not having interesting things to say, not sounding happy--I thought it was time to change: it was time to become a more loving, supportive friend and family member, to get over myself and into other people, to become a giver.

Our stay in Costa Rica ended early, in November, and for the next few months, while our lives crept slowly back from near-total disarray, we were shown again and again how lucky we were to have family and friends--people who took us in, supported us, offered their help--and though we didn't like taking, to be living like lame losers off the people we wanted to give back to, it was good to be with them; it was good to be close, not far away.

Since January, when we landed in Austin, our lives have blossomed in ways I didn't think possible. There have been some changes I'm tempted, now and then, to think of as miracles, but effort and love, not just luck, have been involved, and I know the likelihood of more change manifesting--of our being the people we want to be--is good.

I thought about this stuff tonight, sitting at the dinner table with Joedy's parents and my own, visiting us for a week from Rhode Island. It was their first encounter since Joedy and I hooked up, thirteen momentous years ago, and seeing them together, singing to Malko and playing with Lula, relaxed and happy, close to us, part of our lives, gave me the feeling that things are going in the right direction; the road from Costa Rica, or to Costa Rica, is taking us where we want to be.


Monday, May 17, 2010

I was lying next to Lula on her bed a little while ago; in the semidarkness, she hugged Wolfie and Ottie, her stuffed animal friends, and remarked that Lapis (lying on her legs, vying for my attention) wasn't going to get Wolfie like last time, when he tried to bite Wolfie's neck and it looked like he was trying to carry him, the way a mother cat carries her kittens.

She looked at me. "Like Lapis tried to do with Gato, remember? Do you remember Gato, our little cat in Costa Rica?"

"Of course I remember Gato!" I said cheerily, trying to steer the conversation away from a potentially depressing topic. She'd been a little hyper in the evening, and I didn't want to disrupt an already precarious mood with talk of the sick, blind kitten we'd found next to a pile of trash and brought home, tried to care for, and discovered dead a few days later. Although the little orange cat had impressed me with his liveliness, with his sheer catness--despite being just a handful of fur-covered bones--there wasn't much to say about him that wasn't sad.

"Remember when we were in the bathroom, Maman, and he fell off the bed? We found him under the bed?"

Um, yes--I remembered. The tiny, fragile, sick kitten fell off the bed. Onto the hard tile floor. I could hardly find him under Lula's bed, he was so still and small, and as I scooped him gently, gently into my fingers I wondered what exactly he was doing, walking all the way from the middle of the bed to the edge. Was he looking for his mother? For food? For Diablo, who'd decided he was the kitten's surrogate mother? Was he just being a curious little cat?

"I love Gato," Lula said, and, hearing a tremor in her voice, I pulled her closer. "I love Gato too," I said. "It was good he had us for a family, don't you think? He had people and animals who loved him..."--how could I avoid it?--"...at the end of his life, when he died. He was lucky to have us, and we were lucky to have him, you know?"

"Yeah," she said, but she didn't sound convinced; tears seemed to be threatening. "I wish we had him still though. I wish he had been able to grow up and be a big cat like Lapis. I wish he didn't die and be all alone somewhere...where did you put him again?"

I lied: I couldn't tell her about the plastic bag, the trash can, and the bugs. "I put him under a tree in the forest next to our house. Remember the forest? I put some leaves over him and soon his body fell apart and went into the earth. Remember how I told you that when we die our bodies become part of the earth? Gato's body did the same thing--it sort of melted into a bunch of tiny pieces and went into the dirt, and when worms ate some of that dirt he went into the worms, and when birds ate the worms he went into the birds. He went into plants and water, into all kinds of different things. He got to be all these different parts of nature."

I thought I was starting to sound cheesy, so I stopped. Lula was quiet, and I looked at her face, trying to read her feelings. Her eyebrows were raised and the corners of her mouth were turned down, and though there were shadows around her eyes I knew they were open, staring sadly ahead. Tears weren't coming after all, but the deep, empty sadness I recognized in her was worse: I didn't want her, only a few days into her sixth year (she's still so little!), preoccupied with thoughts about death and loss, about the undeniable fact of life that life, well, always ends. I didn't want her to turn, so soon, into the gloomy person her mother can so often be...

She continued lying there silently and after a while I caved, tossing the "ain't-death-a-beautiful-part-of-life" spin out the window. Maybe what she really needed was honesty. "The sad thing, Lula," I continued, cringing at what I was about to say, "is that animals die all the time. I've had lots of pets that have died, and it's just sad. It really is. It's really, really sad..." I was coming close to choking up, so I stopped again, feeling lame.

She was quiet a while longer and then she asked if Gato was "still ours." "Yes," I said, "Gato will always be ours--he'll always be our cat. Even though he's not with us, he'll always be part of our family." I didn't really know what I was saying--I just wanted her to be happy again, and was glad she looked less stricken. Smoothing her hair, I asked, "Are you ok now, Lula?"

She nodded yes, and I could tell it was true. Getting up, I blew her a kiss from the door, relieved and a little amazed that everything was fine. We'd talked about death. I'd admitted it's mostly sad, that there's nothing you can do about it, and she was...blowing a kiss back to me.

Phew. We made it.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yesterday after (neatly) shoving all the stuff lying around the bathroom back in the cabinet I vacuumed the bedrooms and did some laundry and then I thought "Ha HA! Now I'm going to prove my last blog entry wrong by sitting down and doing some work! I CAN do everything!" But since I'd skipped dinner to do the housework I was starving, so I went downstairs for some fortification and wolfed down a huge piece of bread slathered with half a stick of butter and eight tablespoons of strawberry AND blueberry jelly, and then I made a cup of thick syrupy hot chocolate and guzzled it, and then I felt sick. Nauseous. Unwell. I'd thought the sugar buzz would be a good thing, but it was a scary thing; I tried to write but my fingers were shaking, and since it was late I decided to throw in the towel--take some Tylenol PM and go to bed.

I'd wanted to write about the movie I saw on a field trip with Lula's class yesterday. It was called "Oceans" and it was about...oceans...and though it was moving and beautiful--I loved the shots of the mother walrus hugging her baby walrus--it left me feeling depressed, because it showed photographs of polluted water flowing way, way out into the ocean and a seal swimming around a shopping cart on the floor of a shallow body of water, plastic cups and debris floating by and a cloudy blanket of trash on the surface. The shots of the pollution were bad enough, but the sight of the seal swimming around the shopping cart struck me because--I think--it must have been so totally incomprehensible to Lula and her friends. How does a six-year-old understand a seal swimming around a shopping cart? How does a six-year-old understand the plastic bags and other crap floating around the seal? Though Lula and her friends know a little about pollution, I think the seal and the shopping cart must have just looked odd to them. A seal? And a shopping cart, like, from the store? In the water together? Weird.

It was the thought that Lula and her friends are being given a world--a reality--where shopping carts invade a seal's home, where nature is constantly abused and compromised, that made me sad. It didn't help that the "strange-for-this-time-of-year" wind was still raging outside, blowing the message into everyone's ears that yes, natural disasters are happening more and more frequently and could soon happen in a place near you, so just think about that, you silly little mommy, as you're cleaning the upstairs bathroom, trying to put some order and sense into a world that's in so many ways incomprehensible...

It was the feeling of desperation--we NEED to do SOMETHING!--that made me decide, while putting a new box of diapers under the sink, that once these diapers run out Malko's going bamboo--as in, wearing reusable (bamboo) diapers. My brother and sister-in-law use reusable diapers (they wear a much bigger size than your average baby), and it's something I've thought about for a while; though of course I might change my mind, I felt pretty certain last night we'd follow through with this. I was a little apprehensive about breaking the news to Joedy (what if he refused?), but given his reply--"Okay! Why?"--I realized it wasn't his willingness I had to worry about...

I don't think our switching to reusable diapers is going to make much of a difference in terms of the earth. I don't think buying produce from a local farm is going to do much to save the planet. Frankly, I think we're fucked, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to try. It doesn't stop me from trying to give Lula, Malko, and their friends something better--a world where shopping carts and seals don't mix, a world where mother walruses can keep hugging their baby walruses for a long, long time.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why do I do it, when it keeps me awake till two? Why do I do it, when staying awake till two means I'll be ragged and humorless tomorrow, unable to complete the medicine cabinet overhaul I imposed on myself today, the packing-of-winter-clothes extravaganza I started a month ago? If I can't put away the bottles of medicine, hair bands, swim diapers, and toothbrushes blanketing the bathroom and the weird piles of clothes scattered here and there--on the chair in the living room, in the stairs, in a plastic bag beside the washing machine--how am I ever going to work on the children's books, the mobiles, and the jewelry? How am I going to get anywhere with the creative projects if I can't pick up after myself, let alone two little kids?

Why do I do it? If I hadn't done it, I'd be asleep now, comfortably snuggled in the eggplant-colored sheets. I'd wake up fresh and focused, and after making Lula banana pancakes and taking her to school (explaining evolution on the way) I'd clean and organize the house and then I'd sit down to work on the "other stuff."

But now I won't, because I did it. Why? Why do I do it?

Why do I drink hot chocolate late at night?


Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Great Banana Pancake spoke to me yesterday, and this is what it said:

"Waste not thy tyme on qualms about Muther's Dae. If thy hopes aren't lifted, thou cannot fall. Harbor thoughts not of diamond earrings and chocolate cake, a massage, a horse, and a Nova but of simple harmony amongst one's kin. Follow the light, the light above the kitchen sink, where tomorrow thou canst do dishes, happily knowing thy chylde is not badly syk, her fever is down, and peace for the most part is thyne."

I heeded its words and stopped doing the gnarly pile of dishes, built up in the last few days while Lula was home sick, and told Joedy I'd finish them tomorrow (Mother's Day). I meant it: we'd been pretty busy taking care of Lula, and now that her fever had dropped I could finally relax and feel insanely grateful--again--that everything was OK! It didn't take long to figure out that what I wanted for Mother's Day I already have in googolplex quantities, and though--what the heck--I'd totally wear diamond earrings, I knew I'd be completely, entirely satisfied if the day just went normally.

Twenty-four hours later, I ate another cookie and tried to explain how the day did, in fact, go normally, with homework for Lula, some vacuuming, snacks, and The Pink Panther; I also tried to explain how the "normal things" often feel abnormal in a novel kind of way, in a you-just-won-the-lottery way. I tried to explain that, but the warm fuzzy feeling I got from the bison meatballs, chicken-prosciutto ravioli, uncooked cookie dough, cooked cookies, and Joedy--who did the dishes, fixed the washing machine, and gave me presents--clouded my mind, so I stopped trying to write and posted a video I took in Costa Rica last fall, while Joedy and I were out riding our bikes and many things were different.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In the last week there have been so things I've wanted to write about:

1. My trip to the Community Care clinic to get some freaking health care. Getting instead a (friendly) lecture from the doctor about how bad the health care situation is in Austin, where there are 250,000 uninsured people trying to use the Community Care network. Nobody wants to work at this type of "social services" clinic because the pay's bad, and with just one doctor per clinic the care is--believe me--very bare-bones: I asked to have some moles checked, and the doctor told me I could maybe get an appointment with the network's dermatologist in three months.

Wanting to hear more of his thoughts on US health care, I asked him if he thought we were heading for a crisis; he didn't even hesitate before replying, "We're in a crisis." This wasn't news to me, but hearing it confirmed so emphatically by someone "in the know" drove it home even more. When the appointment was over (he didn't even bother to look in my ears) the doctor said: "Don't get sick, and don't get in an accident," and it was clear he wasn't trying to be funny.

2. Our trip to Wimberley, a tiny town west of here, this weekend. Pre-departure, while Joedy shuttled the kids, the dogs, and a small suitcase into the car, I cleaned the house, maniacally throwing toys in bins and lining shoes up just so, organizing dirty dishes in the sink and piling clean clothes on top of the growing mound in the closet because...because if we didn't make it back--if we got in an accident--I didn't want people to think we were slobs. I didn't want them to come in the house and see cat barf on the rug, shoes in the sink, or a bike in the stairway, so I cleaned and organized frantically before we left. Later, when we came home safe and sound--thank god!--the house was so nice and neat that I wondered if it's maybe a good thing to think depressing, morbid thoughts.

3. My recent hair turbulence: thinking I looked haggard, tired, and drained a few weeks ago, I bought some do-it-yourself hair dye. The picture on the box showed my color, light brown, as a nice golden shade post-dye, but instead it came out orange! Bright! Brassy! Orange! Looking for a cheap, natural way to tone down the hideous hue, I learned that blueberries can correct brassiness in hair, so I boiled a couple of bags and put the resulting soup on my head. It was kind of fun doing that, but the feeling of the boiled blueberries as they escaped the towel and trickled down my neck wasn't nice, and after two more blueberry sessions (neither worked) I decided to go for some real chemicals, in the form of blue shampoo. I went to a hair supply store, found a blue shampoo, and asked how long I should leave it on; the salesgirl responded, "Well, normally, it's left on for five minutes, but your hair's so--" and then she stopped and put her hand in front of her mouth because, I don't know, she was laughing? At my Bright! Orange! Hair?

The blue shampoo (it was actually purple) helped a little, but not much, so the other day I went to a salon to get some professional "correction." It was fun getting my hair done--I love having to sit STILL, listening to other people's conversations, and being fussed over--and in some ways my hair is better now, but it's also kind of too blond, and now that's bothering me. I guess I don't want to look like I dye my hair. Or do I? Do I care? Do I care about my hair? Do you care if I care about my hair?

4. Lula's school. We thought it was great when we first visited, and in lots of ways it still seems really good, but a few things have come up that have made Joedy and me wonder whether she should continue there in the fall. Our biggest concern is that the student population seems for the most part underprivileged, if not outright poor, coming from a low-income housing development nearby. With two kids on Medicaid, we'd be in an uncomfortable position saying bad things about the poor, but that's not the point anyway--the point is, poor people are generally less able to afford quality care, help, or support, and that often means more problems and instability. When families have problems and instability, the kids are more likely to be troubled, I think, and it's this--the possibility that there might be more troubled kids, and therefore a riskier environment at the school--that nags at me, especially when I see the "No Guns Allowed" signs posted on the sidewalk. Will we have to move Lula to another, more affluent school to feel safer? What would that mean to her, and what would we be losing?

5. Our inbox: we have an inbox! It's actually just a cardboard box that held exercise gear, but the magnitude of the fact that we have an inbox should not be belittled, because it means I--not just Joedy--play a part in our administrative affairs. Unlike a time not too long ago, when my self-prescribed mail duties involved ignoring the mail, I now open mail, sort mail, place stamps on mail, and send mail, and I even file stuff now and then too. Becoming organized in this way has been hugely wonderful, and the best part is knowing that I'll never go back to my weird mail-phobic ways. Being an inbox person is VERY empowering!

There are other things I wanted to write about--like Malko climbing over the gate at the top of the stairs, Malko launching himself headfirst into a bathtub full of water--but the main thing, the most important thing I wanted to say is how, while frantically cleaning the house pre-Wimberley, imagining the worst possible scenario, I thought, "Well, at least I'd die happy." And it's true: driving together in the car, making up new verses to the diarrhea song, just being together--nothing makes me happier. Of course, as we all know, when one claims to be happy everything immediately starts going wrong, so I better start complaining--about my hair, I guess...