Thursday, September 28, 2006

blog karma

The planets aligned themselves well yesterday - with me blogging about my wanderlust and so many of you generously commenting on yours kept the lure of travel swirling around and around in my head. J-Dog and I talked for a long time about where to go next, and finally decided we could swing 12 days after the first of the year - not long enough for India (I am totally with you on that one, Crazymumma), but it would give us a chance to explore something somewhere a bit closer.

After some Lonely Planet back and forth I think we've narrowed it down to Honduras, Panama, or El Salvador. And then the "how do we pay for it" debate insued. I hate that part. Killjoy bastard money.

But here's where the blog karma comes in, and I am thanking all of you for this tasty morsel....J-Dog unexpectedly got a small bonus last night, and believe it or not, it almost exactly equates the amount for airfare to one of the above destinations.

Game on, travel diabolita. I can't get you off my mind.

Now the only question is where...

So lucky charms, what do you think - Honduras, Panama, or El Salvador?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

heart drifting eastern...



Travel is a huge part of who I am and what feeds me as a person. Pre-kid we tried to get out more, but now we are down to one or two international trips a year. I've been reflecting a lot lately about our recent trip to Cambodia.



Cambodia is incredibly stunning and heartbreakingly debilitating all at the same time. The spirit of the people, the colors and smells all mixed with the suffering and pain of a nation who is incredibly poverty ridden and desperate, as well as being one of the few nations who have survived genocide in our lifetime. We went for all of the reasons I've just listed, we knew we'd be pushed to explore our own biases, be stretched in new and challenging ways, and well, hell....we love it. Give me a backpack and we are out. No itinerary, no reservations. Just us and the open road.





Most people think of sex trafficking and Pol Pot when they think of Cambodia. Both are accurate - but we can't forget the other nations that drive that market or in the 70's, bombed the hell out of them all which contribute to the horrors that exist today. We visited the infamous Killing Fields and spent a heartbroken day wandering the grounds, the shallow graves, stepping over the bone fragments and clothing still embedded in the ground. Monks chant there 24 hours a day. I have photos of the wall of skulls but I'll spare you that. In fact, I'll spare you the lot of it, but as my heart and mind drifts eastward this early morning, remembering the Temples at Angkor, our bus hitting a water buffalo, the many, many people who survived tremendous tragedy and still laugh in the streets, and the ever so amazing Phnom Penh, it makes me also wonder where you would go, if you could go tomorrow without restrictions, to a place that speaks to your soul.

Monday, September 25, 2006

standing in my own way

Metro Mama's post today http://riverdalemama.blogspot.com really got me thinking. I've definitely fallen into the camp of "must do everything herself" while standing in line over at "my way is the right way" all while eating lunch at the Cafe "my partner really does do a lot". Or I stop by and visit my friend Dawn at www.truewifeconfessions.blogspot.com/ and then console myself that things are not as bad as some of THAT. I am a walking mixed message.

I am a walking mixed message because I'll spend substantial time complaining in my head about how woeful is me, and then I'll come home, do three loads of laundry, make dinner, hell, even buy the groceries. And then complain passive agressively instead of sitting back and truly sharing the load.

I mean, come on. What we are really talking about here is control. My need to control what happens in my home and child's life, and my faulty belief system that I am the one that holds the magic secret about how to keep the wheels turning.

Truth be told, I do not. I've just carved a righteous niche for myself and no one is standing in line to jump into an already churning cycle..I mean, who would? Would I?

J-Dog gently reminds me. He'll mention the miracle of keeping the said child alive in his presence while I am at work, or the fact that he's managed to keep himself alive and well for 35 years. And he does. And he does a bit more. Being relieved of the mommy pressure means he can focus on the fun stuff - stuff my kid clearly needs and thrives from. Stuff that I have my head too far up my ass to consider. And they have a great time. And if I ask, he'll do more. I know that isn't the case for every home, but I think it's the case more often than not. Men want to father. We just need to get out of the way and let them. And while it may not be "my" way, the way gets us where we need to go, and the trial and error is part of the journey, and the reward. Sometimes we just need to get the hell out of the way.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

feeling green


M in repose after a battle with her stomach. I'd be wearing shades too, kid.

Friday, September 22, 2006

three is the magic number

I tested positive for the Down's Syndrome gene during my pregnancy. I'd submitted to the testing the day after we got back from two weeks in Central America (or otherwise known as how we came to fall in love with Belize) so I was jetlagged and didn't think much about it until I got a call from a genetics counselor. These cats are so serious. And the appointment was serious. Moderate risk of child being born with DS. Please get amnio.

Even though I've had my head up my ass since the second I got pregnant, I was coherent enough to know that the risks of miscarrying from an amnio are about the same as M having DS. And we'd seen her by now - her little fingers and toes and kidneys and perfect little spine. She was real to us, and real enough to know that if DS was our roll of the dice, so be it. Given my previous post, I might assume folks reading might think "ungrateful bitch. get an abortion if you don't want to have a kid". Strangely, I never considered it.

M makes her appearance. I'll save you the details because giving birth is a very common phenomenon. However, right after she was born they brought in a specialist who said "I am not entirely convinced she has Downs." Not "I am not entirely convinced she doesn't since that silly test said she might, and hell, she looks great, so let's just rule it out." Oh, and we won't have the results for 2-3 weeks.

2-3 weeks were spent analyzing her every expression and movement. To decide to a degree of analytical certainty if that particular instance warranted the "maybe she does....", or "think that facial expression looks like....?" We were very scientific about the whole thing, obviously.

I remember being in the kitchen when the phone rang. I recognized the hospital prefix on the caller ID. Negative. Hysterical laughter while hanging up on the genetic counselor. Screaming, crying, hugging while sobbing on our knees on the kitchen floor. We didn't know we had that much pent up till it all came running out that sunny fall afternoon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

how two became three

We were on a road trip in Oregon over the holidays and decided to drive along the coast on the way to meet our friends in Bend. We stopped in this little town and went to a bar. The place was filled w/ old folks - 70's was the median age I think - and they were GETTING DOWN to the live jazz band in a way that I've never gotten down on any dance floor. I was riveted, romanced, idealistic and a bit drunk. Went back to our little hotel and made sweet love. I vaguely remember martinis and a white garter belt. Woke up in the AM and paused to tell J-Dog about a quaint little dream I'd had involving fireflies and one landing on my belly. Then hit the road for a week of yuletide debauchery.

3 weeks later I found out I was pregnant. I was on the pill. That fucking firefly dream rattling in my head. It had to have been that night. M was announcing her arrival even then.

Every wall I have ever built, leaned on, or tore down came crashing down around me while going up in front of me in industrial weight steel. I was NOT AT ALL PREPARED FOR THIS. I had just lost 15 pounds from some weird virus after our Asia trip. I was thin, dammit. I was getting a promotion, and we are heading to Cambodia in what would now be my 8th month of pregnancy.

And the truth behind the wall of bullshit was: I was paralyzed with terror at the thought of being fundamentally responsible for another human being. For the rest of my life.

After spending a decade around homeless families and their kids, I had all the ammo a woman needs to NEVER GIVE BIRTH. I've seen every shit situation, every screaming kid, every juvenile probation officer, and every worn out angry frustrated freaked out scared exhausted mom. I wanted no part of that. Not me. Nope. I am cool-i-o, people. Cool-i-o. My motto had always been there was no trouble I could get into that 12 hours and a UHaul couldn't fix.

Every time I saw a baby I cried. But being the guilt ridden girl I am, I had my mental breakdown while taking prenatal vitamins, while going to birthing class, while finding a doula, while singing to M (I knew she was M from the beginning, it's weird how such good stuff was mixed up in all the rest), while drinking milk and while not drinking beer. I did everything right, except honor the place I was in and allow myself to feel joy instead of fear.

There were magical moments, but honestly, I had a hell of a time, and all inside my own head. Well, except for the part about testing positive for Down's Syndrome. That part rocked. Free torment folks. Step right up. And all this meant J-Dog and I had a hell of a time too. He could not stand that I was so unhappy, so governed by fear. He was not used to this, he hadn't met this girl before. This ungrateful girl who could not see how goddamn lucky she was.

Then I kicked some primal earth mother ASS at the birth.

But afterwards, I struggled some more.

Pt. 3 coming soon.

Monday, September 18, 2006

how one became two

I met J-Dog at a point in my life when I was seriously done with men. As anyone who'd made it to their 30's and are still single, I'd already had a lot of relationships. A lot of fun. And a LOT of bullshit. I was finally at the point where I felt good about being single, good about being me, and well, not wanting to rock my own boat.

And then we met. We met accidentally, and immediately, I thought "I want more of that, please." And so we went out on purpose. I had talked myself into believing that I wanted to hire him for a position at my work - he was getting his Ph.D at the time, was very transpersonally focused, and I kind of wanted to hire a guy for this particular gig. So we talked at length about it and he decided to come in for an interview. During the interview I blurted out "if you take this job we won't be able to date." Pushy bitch. He stopped short for a minute and said, "maybe I shouldn't take this job after all." See, we knew. But I didn't know I knew, so I took him for what had been my all-purpose dating game for years - a road trip to baja. A terrific road trip to one of my favorite spots in the world usually meant we'd hang out for a while. If the trip didn't go well, if the cat didn't understand what I loved about the shithole hotel and the cheap beer, then that spoke volumes too. The interesting point about our trip, though, is that I'd only known him a week before we went. Talk about speed dating, people.

While my actions obviously dispute this, I really tried to resist J-Dog emotionally. I was having a good time in life and I didn't want to give that up for potential heartache down the road. Uh huh. Keep talking.

We had an incredible time in Mexico. We both felt like we'd been found - like THIS is what we've been waiting for, that our collective bullshit finally had a purpose, like we'd arrived....it's almost cheesy enough to be a celine dion song, and I hate that bitch. But our love made me feel courageous. It made me feel powerful. And we had a hell of a lot of great sex.

We moved in together six months after we'd met. We knew it was crazy, but we didn't care. We were fearless. We set up this little home and started our lives, not without some decent arguments, not without some ups and downs, but we did it. We were remarkably in love and while we didn't know where we were headed, we knew we were on to something.

And then I got pregnant. But that's the stuff for Pt. 2.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

easy like sunday morning

The last time J-Dog and I flew on an airplane I happened to notice him eating his meal. I saw my beautiful J-Dog hunched over a plastic tray of really bad food and as I watched him pick through it looking for something edible the futility of the world came crashing around me -we are all just trying to get through life and do the best we can, and we take what we are given and we try and make it work. And we are so precious in the process.

I felt the same on the playground today. The Bay Area is a weird mix of the super rich, super smart, super tech, and everyone else (whatever, yes, I am the latter). The playground today was filled with mostly the former, and I again felt a similar futility - highly intelligent men and women trying their damn best to engage with their children over sharing a sand toy for the two hundredth time, about leaving your SHOES ON, PLEASE, and tailgating their kids through slides so no one came to any major bodily harm. But what I noticed was their faces - the occasionally forlorn and far off looks, the sometimes forced joy and cheerfulness, and maybe even the desperate attempts to not stab themselves in the eyes out of boredom.

And this does not mean they don't love their children. We all do - in fact, we are mad for them. But we also remember those Sundays in the not too distant past where we slept in late, had delicious morning sex, and then walked to a sidewalk cafe with friends and drank bloody marys in the sun.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

bitch slapped

Last night M and I were taking a bath. All of a sudden M leans over and smacks me in the face. Hard. Actually, really hard. It's the first time she's ever hit me so I was taken a bit aback. I dug deep and very calmly told her NOT to hit mommy, and how that HURT mommy, and we DON'T hit each other. And she looked at me, said "yeaahh mommy" and hit me again.

OK, the kid has game. I got me some game, too. Game on, kid.

Time Out. I grab the dripping M and am heading into the time out zone. We use a baby gate in her room for this, so after a couple minutes, I went to the other side of the gate and again said M, please do not hit mommy. Mommy does not hit M, and M does not hit mommy. If you hit mommy, you will go to time out. Blah, blah, wasted breath, and so on - average time out (read: futile) discussions. But then, I said again, M does not hit mommy. M again says "yeah, mommy", and WHACK. Repeat this scenario five more times with five more time outs. And then once more. All the while she is laughing hysterically.

I literally had no idea what else to do so I poured myself a large glass of red wine and put her to bed. I was whacked into submission. Or stupidity. Or both.

I don't even know what I really think about using the whole time out theory - if that is really a useful philosophy or not - in fact, I am unsure whether I have a philosophy at all.

advice welcome....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A belated birthday photo

Otherwise known as the first sighting of M.

Not so very ordinary

I noticed Her Bad Mother http://badladies.blogspot.com is asking for folks to speak out about what impact they are having in their world/community/family. Instead of shamelessly plugging my own gig I figured I'd cast some light over at www.mynewredshoes.org I am on the board of this newly created non-profit and I have been most impressed with the professionalism, passion, and determination of the founder. What is it, you ask? Heather and MNRS strive to make sure that underpriviledged kids in the Bay Area receive new clothes and shoes on their first day of school, and they do that so our kids can show up feeling and looking just like everyone else.

Heather targets homeless shelters (I love that about Heather) and other programs that serve families who are struggling. And it's a lofty goal, because amidst all the wealth and status that swirl around in the Bay Area, there are a hell of a lot of families who live day to day, who don't know where they will sleep tonight, or what they'll feed their children for breakfast, and sometimes, despite their best intentions, cannot provide new clothes for their kids. Heather is there to help, and therefore, she gets my vote for working to change her small part of the world in this small but very important (especially to those kids) way.

Since having M, I've been repeatedly humbled by what it might be like raising M under different circumstances, and whether I'd be able to dig deep inside myself and carry on in the midst of uncertainty, fear, and shame. Being ostracized at school and in our community only adds insult to injury, and that is what MNRS addresses. I am proud to be a part of seeing that happen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

when panics attack

When I read the embassy news this AM and had subsequently heard from my friend N, I woke J-Dog up (at a completely reasonable hour, thank you) to tell him what happened. Calmly. Simply.

J-Dog get up and reads the web. States "Don't get all panicky. It was a couple of kids throwing rocks at a wall". I immediately had a vision of slamming his head into the counter. And I am not predisposed to violence. (Really)

I continued to get ready for work. But that kept rattling in my head; one, because I WAS NOT PANICKY, and two, because THAT RESPONSE SUCKED.

Here is the rest:
The One in the Right (me): That response was kind of dickheadish. I did not panick, and you invalidated my concerns by saying that.
him: What are you talking about?
me: I did NOT get all panicky. THIS is panicky. Proceed to mime a panic attack.
him: Is that panicked or orgasmic?
me: Dick
him: exactly what I am asking.
me: Simple validation about the welfare of our friend, and the simple fact that being in a new country and seperated from your children (who are in the welfare of someone you are just getting to know) would be a bit stressful.
him: still, no need to go overboard.
me: you know, 4 people were killed.
him: 3 of them were those rock throwing kids.
me: admit it, your response sucked
him: I am sorry my response appeared invalidating to your comments about this specific event.
me: mentally having that counter vision again, this time sharing it out loud.


We ended up laughing about it, especially when he asked me to repeat my panicked demonstration yet again, but it really made me think about a) why I care so much if my reaction is shared with others close to me, and b) why being mislabeled/interpreted/etc drives me up a fucking wall. Because, wow, baby, that makes me crazy.

US embassy in Syria attacked

My best friend and her family recently moved to Syria. I've just gotten an email from her - they work at a school and are on lockdown, unable to leave a central room they are holed up in. Their two small children are at home with the equivalent of a US nanny. They've only been in the country a short while, so no one has had proper time to acclimate, and now they are spread out at different parts of Damascus bound by some sort of attack protocol and unable to go and be with their children, as are many other families this morning in Damascus.

Friday, September 08, 2006

meth love

During our entire 12 hour drive through the Northwest I had a running joke (mostly with myself) about the amount of meth that was probably manufactured and consumed in the small towns we drove through. There was example after example of folks that seemed to fit the bill - looking a wee bit strung out, way too skinny, and well, you know....ON METH. However, I failed to give the drug the credit it is due. The CLARITY OF MIND IT EVOKES......because when the bridal party went to town and had to walk down a street w/ an open garage with a bunch of pseudo-gothics playing drums, drinking, and smoking inside, we got a bit of unexpected insight. We stopped at the car to hang out for a minute and one of the guys walked over, ranting about how hot we all are (not so much) how he never sees 5 chicks in his alley (maybe) and how it was his lucky day (probably not).

After some minor yet inappropriate touching, we realized we needed to take charge of the moment. So in honor of the soon-to-be bride I decided to ask him what his thoughts were on marriage. Or, better thought of as PLEASE STOP TOUCHING US AND FOCUS.

Joel (by the way, meet Joel) came out with quite a beautiful and lengthy rant about how if he got married, he'd love that woman so much that he'd be her best friend, he'd try to be really good in bed, and that he "would do whatever it fucking took to make it work, man, because that is what love is". And when it didn't work, he'd be in the front row of her next wedding, cheering her on, "because that's what love is, man, going to her second wedding after they get divorced, because THAT'S WHAT LOVE IS, MAN!"

We even used the Joelism at the wedding toast, we appreciated it THAT MUCH.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

two

M turned two yesterday. Her delicious yumminess of a papaya roll is actually two.

Year One was really difficult for me. I spent most of the year nursing and/or pumping, crying, wide awake at 3am and stressed out. I felt like we had survived something when she turned one. I mean really survived. Year Two has been much easier - I've come to terms with being a mother. I now think beyond her basic needs and what it truly means to mother a child. I've often felt a bit lost, going through the motions but not really understanding what being a mother means, or what kind of example I want to be. This year it's all gotten clearer - my desire for M to see the world in all shapes and colors, to see beyond her daily routine and hopefully wonder and explore and be filled with mystery. To love people who act or look different than she does, to see the grey between the black and white, and to hunger for more. I want her to see her mother as a multi-dimensional being - one who loves a great glass of red wine, who turns her on to music she might love, who loves the jungle, and who puts herself out there and does her part to make it a better place.

And M makes it easy. Her open heart and bubbling curiousity never ceases to amaze me. Her constant deep belly laughs, her sly sense of humor, and her kindness towards others are remarkable, and while I am her mother, I still objectively believe they are unique.

And to my lover, partner, and friend - J-dog has been beside me every step of the way, from the minute M was pulled into this world till now - always loving, always trying, and always showing up, no matter how tired or sick or worn out he may be. What a blessing to watch a good man become a tremendous father - and what a lucky child we have. Mistakes aside, we've made ourselves a family, and it's very, very good.

Happy Birthday, M. Thank you for teaching me how to love someone so deeply I often feel like I could go crazy from the depth of it all. You've been patient, you're up for every adventure we throw your way, and you are simply magnificient. I love you, baby girl.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

lack of the cowgirl blues

I was completely wrong in my assumptions about this past weekend. In short, we had a riot from start to finish. The fact that there was a river of alcohol and filled with people who so incredibly rock this planet helped immensely. And hell, we were in one of the most gorgeous places in the Northwest. Rock on, (and forgive my past transgressions).

The wedding was perfect, Laura was gorgeous, and the New Jersey faction only riled up once, which is pretty damn good for a stressed out group of Jersey women. I fell in love with the Montanians - anyone who skins their own meat and makes their own sausage gets a gold star in my book.

My absolute favorite part of many was meeting Tracy and Dominic. Tracy and I met the first night and she mentioned that they were camping (which sounded horrible) so I invited them to share our larger than we needed cabin. These two strangers turned out to be the most incredible people and I am now completely in love with both of them. Dom is a chef in a 5-star restaurant and Tracy bartends - and between the two of them I ate and drank my way through the weekend. The fact that Tracy locked Dom out of the cabin one night at 3:30am and passed out 5 seconds later so she didn't hear his knocking and J-dog and I were woken up an hour later to a frozen-now-parka-clad Dom pounding on the door in desperation definitely sealed the deal. Nothing says raucous laughter like a chick who accidentally locks her man out when he's lagging behind getting something from the car and then in the morning says "I don't even remember Dom coming to bed last night." Um, yeah, and let me tell you a hysterically funny story about that one, sister...and hell yes, I'll take another bloody mary.

It's rare (in my stage of life) to connect so strongly with another woman - it made me long for a stronger local community while feeliing incredibly blessed to wake up today feeling that the world is a smaller and more hilarious place than it was a week ago.