Wednesday, August 30, 2006

wild west

We are getting ready to drive to Oregon for what I am not-so-fondly calling the "wedding of the fucking century". J-dog's fabulous friend from college is getting hitched. I know and love this woman, I find her extremely intelligent, witty, and down to earth. She works on complicated environmental issues that benefit all of us, and is one bad ass chick. And then came the wedding.

It started when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I thought that sounded amusing so I figured what the hell, I haven't done this since the 80s... But it turns out I am one of SEVEN bridesmaids. I started sweating then, from fear of taffeta and dyed shoes. Dyed shoes make me particularly nervous. There should be some sort of legislation banning them. Really.

So we are driving 12 hours for a three day extravaganza. Parties, rehearsals, dinners, pictures, and eventually even a wedding. The gala is being held on a ranch, where the only lodging is inside the ranch, and what an expensive ranch it is. Hundreds of dollars for 3 nights of lodging. And that doesn't include food. Or beer.

Then, if the fear hadn't already started creeping into all parts of my brain, the real nail biter came last night. Our formal invitation to a Friday night party with a Wild West theme. Ho' down with the Cowboy and Cowgirl IN COSTUME sort of invitation. They actually put this in writing. Hanker on over to the outpost around 10pm, and so forth.

There better be an open bar all weekend long. If not, we'll be forced to crack open the bottle of JW Blue we got for their wedding gift on the Cambodian black market and carried in our backpack for a month. I am not even sure she deserves it any more.

Look forward to this cowgirl ho's recap of her rootin' tootin' good time sometime next week.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

attack of the dragon

Before having M, I had some lofty (read: unrealistic) ideals about the type of mom I'd be. Take TV for instance. We all know it rots young minds. The last thing I wanted to do was expose M to TV. And I did ok for a while, but the reality of working full time, being incredibly overwhelmed, and yes, general laziness won out. We started with Sesame Street. I can get behind Sesame Street. I mean, there is counting, people. Learning colors. WORD OF THE DAY.

But then M found Dragon Tales. Dragon Tales is ridiculous. These two kids find the land of dragons and go back and forth from their room to visit. There is singing. And Cassie, the pink dragon. Cassie has taken over our lives. M wakes up saying Cassie. She says Cassie more than any other word (aside from NO) all throughout the day. She wants to watch DT repeatedly, and then some more.

Last night we drew a line in the sand and said "No more Cassie". My child flung herself in front of the TV sobbing and wailing, her tiny voice chanting between sobs, "Cassie, Cassie, Cassie" as she tried to hug the TV in solidarity. J and I looked at each other and became very afraid. Other than opting to join the military someday, I can't imagine something more horrifying than my child melting down over the LACK OF TV. And worse, we've created this phenomenon. THERE IS NO ONE ELSE TO BLAME. And that alone is a terrifying prospect.

Monday, August 28, 2006

a wispy lisp

My barely enunciating nearly two year old yummy breakfast treat has a lisp. I've noticed it. J-dog has noticed it. Madam DayCare has noticed it. 2 of the 3 weren't tripping on it - hell, I am glad she's uttering words - whether or not they come out correctly hasn't yet made it on my radar.

Madam DayCare, however, made a point today of saying that if the lisp is still lurking around at age 3 that we should get her evaluated by a special education professional. And look into therapy. And etcetera. And so forth.

Isn't this a bit early to start freaking out? I mean, really, people. She's not yet two.

But of course, once the words are spoken by the child development professional it sounds serious and important. Something that must be looked into. Research needs to be involved. Something we must apprise the 3x yearly pediatrician we see through our HMO, the one whom has never heard M speak and can't possibly diagnose anything in the 7-9 minutes allocated per visit.

The gun has been jumped (what the hell does that mean anyways?). It's hard not to dwell on "all that might go wrong with my kid" so instead I remind myself I Am Doing The Best I Can and Reacting Likewise, and that My Child Is Miraculous, Lisp And All.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

confessions of an economic hit man

Have you read it? It's got an agenda, but since it's in alignment with mine it works for me. Simplistic, yes. True? False? Self-aggrandizing? Heartbreaking?


Friday, August 25, 2006

babies having babies

I got a phone call from an old client of mine yesterday. C was part of a large family who had suffered horrendous abuse by the father. She stayed at one of our shelters for over a year when she was 12 or so and we became very close. There are certain people you meet on this journey that you carry in your heart and she is one of them in mine. She called out of the blue (and after several years) and said "It's me. I need help" It's a bit of a joke with some of us who have been around awhile - we'd love to get a phone call from someone who just called to say "hey, it's me, and guess what, I am doing great!" But the nature of the beast and the bitch of poverty doesn't lend itself to that reality as much as it should.

C is 19 now. She has a 7 month baby. No surprise, given the history of sexual and physical abuse she suffered but heartbreaking nonetheless. On her own, didn't get to finish high school, and in trouble. The years melt away in an instant - her precious voice is still the same, only a bit tougher now, and jaded now from 6 more years of hard travelling.

I make some calls and I arrange to meet her at one of our programs. She's on time, with baby and baby daddy in tow. I can tell after a few minutes that we can help, that she isn't doing drugs, that she is serious about keeping her baby safe. Not only can I help, but god, how I want to. I want to wrap her in soft blankets and put her to bed in a quiet room and let her sleep. I want to feed her healthy food and lots of fresh milk. I still think she's 13.

But she's oh so woefully not. She's a mother now, and she's homeless. But sometimes the planets line up well. We have an opening in a program that will keep her safe. We can help her get her diploma and get a job. If she does her part we can meet her halfway and hopefully help her swim against the tide that wants to pull her under. She knows very little other than poverty. She's lost everything years ago, and gave the rest away, but the girl has hope. She wants a better life for her baby, and perhaps we can get there together with a little tough love, a safe place, and some free diapers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

young love and my broken heart

M came home day before yesterday yelling repeatedly "I love Nathan". Over and over. All night. Nathan is in her daycare. M is only 23 months old. Nathan's a bit older, maybe 26 months or so. My first reaction was "hell, yes, just like her mommy" and I promptly called some aunties and we spent a few minutes amusing ourselves that she's obviously my child, because she's already aware of a fine looking young man.

The next morning, M was singing the same ode to Nathan on the way to daycare. When we get there she runs into the room, spots Nathan, and squeals. She runs up to him and he turns and walks away. Not to be deterred, she grabbed my hand and brought me over to him, where he turned and walked away again. She turned to follow, and tripped. I swear to god she looked around to see if anyone (him) saw her fall. She looked around shyly and wandered away.

My heart promptly broke in two. I don't know what I was imagining, perhaps the two of them toddling off to the sandbox hand in hand, old souls reconnected...but I wasn't picturing this. I am not ready to see my child rejected. I am not ready to see her putting her beautiful and perfect heart out in the universe and not have it held in the most supreme order of righteousness. I am not ever going to be ready to see my child hurt.

Please know that I know that this is all about me and my projections. M probably was looking around for what tripped her, and this is a game she and Nathan play all day long. They probably spend hours gazing into each others eyes and playing with trucks. However, in that instant my heart broke. I want to do anything in my power to protect my baby girl from pain. I want her to only know light and love and joy. And I know I can't promise anything. I know she'll grow up and feel left out, disappointed, and heartbroken. And I will bear witness, and I will do my best to lift her up and always remind her how achingly perfect, beautiful, worthwhile, and important she is. And how she can kick ass. And how she is so deeply loved.

But I can't protect her from growing up. And my heart aches, and the tears spill freely. And I have never felt more like a mother.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

human suffering

I've definitely witnessed an abnormal amount of suffering over the last decade. Working alongside the homeless, working in an office where people sleep - you see some incredible stuff. I've often chalked it up to the "crazy shit one sees when you work where people live". Lately, though, I've noticed my tolerance is going down. Since M came along, I can no longer watch the police wrench a child from a mother's arms and take him/her away. I can no longer watch babies being born in cars. I can no longer watch people eating out of the trash. I can no longer remain objective when children are bruised. Or hungry. Or both.

Pre-M, I had some issues. I was never able to stomach the elder homeless. Or the adult children who would drop them off at the shelter claiming there was no room for them at home. It broke my heart when grandparents died on the shelter floor, or when they had to take the bus to the county hospital to get chemo and then line back up for a nightly bed. Because these folks, see, these folks KNEW what life was like before they were homeless. They had full lives, they had children....they knew life before. Kids were totally different in my mind. I've probably seen a thousand homeless kids, and pre-M, my tolerance rode high. They are resilient, I thought, they don't know any different, they have their whole lives ahead of them....on and on. One more thing I thought I knew, but had no fucking clue what I was talking about.

And then all that changed. One of the first days back after maternity leave I was involved in a typical domestic violence situation. Good mom, troubled (shithead) dad, dad hits mom, kids see it, kids are in danger. Mom can't get rid of dad, he pays the rent. Bada bing, bada bang. But this time, when the police came, and insisted that the child needed to be removed, even though the Mom had finally thrown Dad out. They cornered mom and baby in my office and said "we need to remove your child from your home" Mom became hysterical, and internally I was a close second. All I could think is that these authorities, no matter how kind they may be, did not know what this child's favorite blanket was. Or how she was rocked to sleep at night. Or what being away from her mom would do to her. And as the mom literally threw herself at my feet screaming, "please don't let them take my baby" I was screaming right along with her. It took all I had not to grab the cop and join right in. I cried openly that day, and had trouble recognizing myself. I wasn't sure how to feel about that, but I knew it was serious. I am not the same person any more.

The right to a safe place to live should be a right we all can enjoy. It shouldn't necessarily come with qualifiers. People make mistakes, but 9 times out of 10, it's the system that has failed at some point. People get sick, people lose their jobs, people live check to check. The house of cards falls sometimes, even when you just barely bump into the table. The homeless are no different than I am, except I've not had my turn at the gates of hell just yet. They stand up, and try to forge on, and they have hope. They love their kids. They make bad choices. They are my heroes.

Morgan Spurlock did a great piece on this in his 30-days series about living on minimum wage. He really captured the desperation, the breakdown of the relationship, the stress and pressure of every single day. I often think that if I was in that situation, I'd end up getting high too.
But then it's oh so easy to blame the situation on the victim. If only they....

If only we.

Monday, August 14, 2006

when children attack

We brought M to the services on Saturday. My friend had specifically asked her to come, so we honored that request while knowing that a 4-5 hour ceremony might be a bit tough on her.
M was beautiful. She danced and clapped in awkward timing to the drumming and chanting, and was enchanted by the incredible headdresses and other traditional clothing. At one point she had excused herself to the aisle to move to the sounds on her own (standing up shaking and rocking in the pew was getting taxing for everyone, not to mention the people behind us). I was watching her while another small child also climbed down and started moving towards her....he was a stylish three or so year old, hair gel, a bit of jewelry, your basic hipster. He saunters over to M in a decidedly rico suave fashion and while she watches with open arms and a giant smile he winds up and slaps her in the face. Full on. I jump up and go to her, and after I determine that she was more frightened than wounded I notice myself scanning the room for an open window so I can pitch him out of it. It's not lost on me that I hear his own family snickering. They don't leave their seats. Think. that. over. people. Their response told me more than I ever needed to know about his formulative years. So, I take the now crying M outside for a moment so she can pull herself together, and when we return to the pew a friend leans over and whispers "What a little fucker." which brought me more comfort than it probably should have.

On another note: we managed to see Little Miss Sunshine last night. It is an undeniable MUST.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

surviving the dead

My friend's teenage son was killed on friday. I went to his house yesterday to offer my love and support and was welcomed into quite a beautiful exercise in humanity. My friend is Native American and practices the traditional customs of his tribe, and death comes with many specific rituals. It was day four of an eight day process. Day four is when his son's spirit makes his final goodbyes to the living and begins the transition towards being welcomed by his ancestors. To honor him, my friend and his community have been sitting in sacred circle surrounding an altar. We smoked ceremonial tobacco, mixed with sage and anise. Prayers were offered. The casket is being built by hand in the garage, the top carved with a beautiful medicine wheel. It will rest on a bed of sage. Medicine men are coming from the reservation. Tribal elders are gathering. The sweat lodge fire is burning and ceremonial sweats are taking place. There is much chanting, dancing, and prayers. People were sharing dreams and visions of the elders welcoming the son home. My friend is exhausted, grief stricken, and full of grace. The sacred circle was in a tiny ragged but lovely garden, and after offering tobacco a brown hawk flew up over the circle, and off into the trees. Hawks are not common where we live, but no one wondered why it was there.

My friend has suffered the greatest loss of his life, but he is surrounded by community, and held steady by his beliefs. My friend knows his grief time is still coming, and he is ready.

The last service is on Saturday. 16 ceremonial songs will be performed and the beat of the drums will ensure his son has reached his final destination. There will be many tears and much rejoicing. We will be there, and my friend has specifically requested my child be there - it is important to him that she and other children learn early on that death isn't something to be feared. She'll clap along with the drums, we will cry for his loss and our pain, and we will celebrate. I am honored to be a small part of such a powerful experience, and I hold my friend in my heart as he buries his son. And he will be ok.

Monday, August 07, 2006

grinding out the same tune

Things are getting to be a grind....go to work, come home, fly around the house like a crazy woman playing with and caring for M, doing housework and watching lameass TV after she goes to bed.....repeat.

I feel old. J-dog feels old. His dreads are actually sprouting some grey...and lord knows I've gotten my fair share too. The thing is: I knew it was going to be this way. I avoided motherhood like most people avoid the clap. I was on the pill when we conceived. I had a game plan but someone tweaked with the rules ahd propped open those egg tubes anyways. Don't get me wrong, I adore M more than I ever dreamed possible...but damn if this shit isn't hard on a woman. I still struggle to identify myself as mother. I still struggle with what my idea of mother is. But my biological interworkings make sure I am hypervigilant, giving, and aware. My child reads, eats healthy foods, and learns new things daily. She laughs harder than I've ever seen anyone else laugh. Ever. She is loved. We love her. I know she is thriving. But damn if this shit isn't hard.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

my many bosses

Pre-child, I did a terrific job of navigating life and doing what I believe is right in the world and for myself while being able to circumvent too many instances of authority. For instance, I run a fairly large non-profit - and I've never owned a business suit. I've even kept most of my piercings. I've managed to live without having to compromise too much of what I considered to be essential about myself. My personal life is the same thing - J has no interest in telling me what to do and that works out perfectly - so we've managed to navigate a partnership based in mutual love, understanding and compromise. For the most part it even works. We've made sure that travel is incorporated into our lives and carved out time to do the things we want. I look at it as flying just under the radar. Just low enough to not get any particular attention which frees us up to do whatever the hell we want. No particular code or creed other than actively loving each other and those around us. Again, for the most part, it works.

And then we had a kid. Now I have many bosses. Many figures of authority in and out of my life that want to help steer the ship. Sometimes fine, sometimes amusing, sometimes, well, I just hand over the wheel for no apparent reason and all of a sudden, we are on somebody else's course. M's daycare, for example (um, ok, child development center educators) have definite opinions about right and wrong behavior. I have gotten much feedback. The other day it was "We assume you put sunscreen/lotion on M before dropping her off, as we do not use it till after naptime." Shit. And here I was thinking how cool I am that I manage to get her to school on time. With her shoes on. While I totally understand sunscreen, that phrase rattles around in my brain every morning. I responded with "doesn't saying that remind of you of that scene from Silence of the Lambs with that chick in the hole in the ground, you know, put the lotion on the baby in the basket.....?" Wrong answer for madam daycare, by the way.

And no need to get into what happens if you are not on time... suffice to say it's an expensive proposition. By the minute. But I love these caregivers, and I love the environment M is exposed to, so I suck it up and am somebody else's mommy. Because M's mom doesn't do those things. M's mommy straps M to her back and treks through Central America. M's mommy doesn't care if M says fuck because her daddy yelled it when he dropped something on his foot and M is in a repeating stage and doesn't have any reason to use the word for it's intended impact anytime soon. However, somebody else's mommy cares a lot about M saying fuck at daycare. Or in front of grandparents.

Grandparents are the other new boss of my life. Pre-kid, we ran amuk in hedonism and travelled over holidays and forgot to get married and rarely clean the house. Post-kid, you'd think I was the one who sanctioned the war on Iraq. All of these transgressions now mean I am a bad mommy who doesn't want her child to succeed because don't you know you could DIE in central america?, who is selfish in denying M her first birthday cake, and don't we know that M will only feel secure if her parents are legally married??? The day she asks for proof by way of a marriage license is the day I strap her onto my back and take her back to the wild so she can please get a grip on her own reality.

Maybe the many bosses will come in handy after all....