Y’all. I just can’t help it. It’s been trying to bust outta me all week long. On Monday during the inauguration, every time there was an “I, Barak H. Obama” moment I’d giggle. All I could think was, “I’ll bet that’s what Jesus’ middle name was!” You know, Jesus H. Christ.

Earlier I heard Daniel lecturing Atticus: “Saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t fix anything. You’re just saying that to make yourself feel better, but it doesn’t actually fix anything.” And immediately afterward Daniel walked into the dining room where I was sitting, farted, and walked back out, leaving me with the cloud of stink. I shouted about it, and he said “Sorry”, and I said…you got it… “‘Sorry’ doesn’t fix anything!” And then we both ran out of the room giggling.

One of my goals for 2013 is to see at least one sunrise per week (I’m insufferably lazy in the mornings and need a little extra discipline in this area). So far, my scheduled early mornings are all on overcast, rainy days. I was really hoping to get into this habit while sunrise occurred somewhere between 7-8am and ease myself into those earlier rises that are coming along very soon. Meanwhile, I’m anxious for Punxsutawney Phil to wake up to an overcast sky next weekend. I need spring this year more desperately than I’ve needed it in awhile.

I was going to post this as a status update on Facebook, but I told myself I might try this old blog out again. Since the last post 8 months ago I feel like so many things have changed. My life has changed; my self has changed. I heard a report on the radio about how much a person changes over time, yet how little we expect to change. This idea is sort of an obsession of mine. Listen here:

You Can’t See It, But You’ll Be A Different Person In 10 Years

I realized recently that I have been living my life as though it were a story I’d eventually tell someone. I keep sitting around, waiting for new plot points that will shift me into the next chapter. I keep wondering who I’ll be then instead of becoming her now. My “seemingly essential self” is hovering on the balls of its feet, anticipating the next big shift and ready to dive in. But all that really needs to happen is for my seemingly essential self to get off its ass and take the first step. Everything is always about taking one step. And when you come to the edge of things, do a 180° turn, and take one step. I think I’ve arrived at the edge of things and am in the process of that 180° spin.

So…yeah. Let’s do this thing.

These days I am spending time trying to absorb everything. With Grey losing teeth all over the place I am desperate to soak up her smallness and sweetness before it disappears into tweenness. And I’m so worried that my lovely Atticus will melt into a stranger way too soon that I maybe smother him too much with love nibbles. I am trying to learn new things and see all the stuff there is to be seen and drink every blend of tea that Stauf’s carries and try every new flavor that Jeni’s comes out with. It’s a little overwhelming.

I have been writing A LOT in my personal journal, starting stories and jotting down characters’ conversations. I ask my professional friends questions like, “What would you say if one of your counseling clients told you about a sex dream she had” because that is the sort of character I’m dealing with, and I’m grossly under-prepared to write her story. I haven’t written longhand for YEARS, and I’ve not been so committed to a story for about that long, too. I should make it a much more regular habit because it is helping with my sanity level.

In this current stage of my life I have time to go to the library. I am reading all the time again, and I feel so much more like my old self because of it. And I’m reading good stuff, too, because I have time to enjoy the writing and not just the story. At my friend Jessica’s recommendation I picked up a few books by Jeanette Winterson. I finished Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in record time, and LOVED it. I worry at how much of this book might be autobiographical. I dog-eared quite a few pages in this book (yes, the library’s copy), so I could copy them out later. Here are a few for you that were so beautiful to me. Out of context they may not be as beautiful.

Describing a sudden, major shift in her relationship with her mother, the character Jeanette thinks to herself,

“She burnt a lot more than the letters that night in the backyard. I don’t think she knew. In her head she was still queen, but not my queen any more, not the White Queen any more. Walls protect and walls limit. It is the nature of walls that they should fall. That walls should fall is the consequence of blowing your own trumpet.”

And just after that she writes,

“At one time or another there will be a choice: you or the wall.

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

The City of Lost Chances is full of those who chose the wall.”

Gives me the shivers. She writes several times about the past and going home, both of which are intriguing topics for me. Those passages are too long, so I won’t copy them here. But it’s a really lovely book.

Also at Jessica’s prompting I read some of Anne Lamott’s fiction. I’ve read nearly all her non-fiction but only one of her novels, and again, that was ages ago. I picked up Joe Jones from the library and just can’t escape my loving feelings toward Lamott. I so enjoy how she captures her characters. I have no idea how in the world she manages to do it, but her words just work in the most magnificent way. The library is going to start banning me, what with all the turned down corners. I just can’t help it.

“You know why I like Eva so much, Louise? Because she’s like totally a lady. She’s just so neat, you know, she makes me want to start being shy.”

How many times have I thought like that about one of my friends?! The character Louise thinks earlier in the book “you ought to be in love with someone you wouldn’t mind being”, which pretty much describes every single one of my dearest friends. I love them each so much that I wouldn’t mind being them.

This bit had me cackling in bed so loud I woke up Daniel:

Jessie is the only devout Christian Louise has ever been able to stand. Wouldn’t that be interesting to be able to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? I mean, in your heart? It must bring on the sort of security one imagines in an infant marsupial. I’m more like–who was it who said that Unitarians are athiests without the courage of their convictions? I mean, I’m sure that Jesus was one of the Truly Sweet People, like Willie–I’m sure He stepped high over bugs. But that He rose from the dead? Jessie thinks so. But then again, Jessie believes that toasting a piece of bread reduces its calories by about one-third.

Seriously, I wish you would just read the book. Here’s one of my favorite bits from it. This one’s a little long, so let me preface. This is a story within the story. Louise (Lulu) wants desperately to call her ex, Joe Jones, and her friend/co-worker Willie is trying to convince her what a mistake that would be. Willie says,

“Don’t do it, Lulu. You’re setting yourself up. Somewhere down the road, he’ll break your heart again. You call him, man, that’s like ‘you fukker.’ Or like me and speed.”

“You fukker” is shorthand. Louise’s beloved uncle Duncan had been sober three months when his younger brother, Louise’s father, died.

“I need a buffer, baby,” he told Louise.

“But drinking doesn’t work for you–you end up in the toilet.”

“Because I always drink too much. My liver can only metabolize one and a half ounces of alcohol an hour, so if I stick to that, more or less, maybe sometimes just a little bit more. . .”

He had tried before to limit himself to an ounce and a half an hour, and she had seen him too many times when he’d had just a little bit more, but he was determined to try again. Six ounces of wine equals one and a half ounces of alcohol. He would limit himself to one bottle, to twenty-four ounces a night.

He kept a journal of the first night and showed it to Louise when he was sober again: “6:00, scared, but breathing again. 7:30, calm, smart, may not need whole bottle. 8:15, feel I will stride again. 8:45, last glass, want to sleep soon.” Then, in the scrawl of an angry child: “YOU FUKKER! YOU OPENED THE SECOND BOTTLE.”

Seriously, so many little ditties in this one. I truly, truly loved it. Did you get that yet?

So, life has been slow, but I have been very busy trying to just take it all in. I am trying to find little corners of my mind to clean out or dust off. Sooner or later all my pieces might come together. I’ll email friends back. I’ll write here more regularly. But at the moment I’m just soaking it up.

What are you doing these days? Or what are you reading?

I took my kids to my parents’ house this morning. Normally driving in the car is the time I dedicate to listening to the news, and the kids have to suffer through talk radio just like I did growing up, damn it. This morning Atticus begged to listen to music, so I switched to the oldies station, which, if you recall, was what I listened to on my own time growing up.

After I left my parents I switched back to the local NPR station and heard this song:

I knew Daniel would fall in love with her voice (and the fact that she’s nearly a redhead doesn’t hurt), so I shared it with him as soon as I got home. Audra Mae is our obsession du jour.

This post is so long and random I couldn’t come up with a good title for it. My apologies.

I have had so many moments of something like déjà vu this past year. I’m not sure if this is normal with getting older, or if all my earliest memories have been flooding back to me as I experience 5 years old again with my own kid, or if it’s that my life is strangely following stages I remember my parents going through.

I know part of these feelings of déjà vu are just memories stemming from our family’s move back to my hometown at the end of last summer. I’m seeing people I haven’t seen in years, and I’m driving past landmarks that remind me of my past lives nearly every day. Daniel hears the most random stories about my childhood these days; it’s funny how much he still doesn’t know just because I never thought to tell him. It’s the strangest tour for him: “And on your left, you’ll see the movie theater where I saw ‘Liar, Liar’. That may actually have been a date with that boy, but I’m not sure because he wasn’t very clear and he never called me again.” Or “To your right is a bar that used to be a card and trinket store where I first heard Wilson Phillips’ ‘Hold On’, and in that same store I was inspired to make little ceramic bear figurines with cute names (similar to Precious Moments except less painfully adorable), and somewhere I probably still have the small notebook where I started sketching out my ideas and even my dad thought some of them were clever.” And “This one time, my parents went to Orlando for a week during the school year, and I had to stay with the new girl in class. That was an OK experience, except I knew that she wasn’t my kind of people. . .eventually she grew up to be cool, and, I grew up to be, well, awkwardly funny. Anyway, we walked from her house to this shopping center *right here where we are now buying Lemon Hummus from Whole Foods* and I got a large chocolate milkshake from the practically abandoned food court, and on the way back to her house was when I first discovered I have sensitivity to dairy.”

We lived in Daniel’s “hometown” for most of the last decade, and the most I got was, “That’s where the old Walmart used to be” and “I rode my bike down this street once with my friend.”

Another random memory you may enjoy is my most-favorite-ever Daniel story. Grey requested that her new size-6 underwear be boy briefs instead of girlie unders, so I went to Target last night to get her some. Having recently read this article, I am convinced that Target is Big Brother, watching my every move, so I wonder just what they think about my buying little boy underwear and salt and vinegar chips. Said purchase-slash-paranoia led me to recall a purchase of little boy underwear by Daniel and his concern for the reaction he might get upon checkout as well:

The day my sister got married the bridesmaids gave her several pieces of lingerie (because this what bridesmaids do?). About this time, my sister realized she and her betrothed had not picked up an item for their wedding night: lubricant. She asked Daniel to go to the store for her since time was short. Being the thoughtful brother-in-law, and not to be outdone by the bridesmaids, Daniel, in an unprecedented act of intimacy and generosity, decided to also pick up a few things he finds sexy on a woman, namely boxer briefs and wife-beater tank tops. Since my sister is a small person, he picked up these items in the boys’ section of the store. And, to even the playingfield of sexiness, he also grabbed a package of man-th0ngs for my brother-in-law. All this was meant to be mostly a joke, but Daniel realized his error when he placed his items on the conveyor belt at the checkout lane: underwear for young boys, a bottle of KY, and a package of adult men’s thongs. . . .  Talk about paranoia. Pervert.

* * *

The déjà vu comes into the picture more often when I’m doing things with my kids. They’re recently obsessed with playing hide-and-seek. Of course, a 1,000 square foot townhouse doesn’t really afford too many places to hide, so we end up playing doubles–two hide and two seek–that way we can get in a good 3 rounds before using up all the best spots. So, we were playing our 3 rounds before bed the other night, and I was struck with the feeling like I’ve been here before, done this before. I know I have.

When I was 5 my dad took a job that relocated us to Houston for the year before we moved to Ohio. One of the houses we lived in had an enclosed breezeway between the house and garage. At some point the three of us girls received red flashlights as gifts. The flashlights were square, and we carried them by the handles at the top like lanterns. My parents played hide-and-seek with us in the dark one night, and we used our red flashlights to find each other. I’m sure we were pretty dang cute, sneaking around in the dark with our lights. Hide-and-seek became a game of sardines. Have you heard of that? It’s where one person hides, and everyone else looks for them, hiding with them until eventually everyone is hiding in the same place. So this game of hide-and-seek/sardines was mostly us trying to find my dad who was hiding somewhere in our dark house. Once, though, I just couldn’t find him. I looked everywhere, in every room, behind every piece of furniture, even out on the breezeway. He had disappeared out of my home and my life.

My tiny heart started skipping beats, my mind went into the darkest corners it had ever discovered, and my emotions swelled like an over-inflated balloon to include this new feeling of desperation. I’m positive I was on the edge of a Kindergarten panic attack. Having a 5 year old now, myself, I can understand better what I may have been feeling at the time. When 5 year olds feel something, that feeling takes them over; there is nothing in the world besides that feeling in that moment. I think losing Papa in the dark that night was the beginning of my years of paranoid, nightmare-riddled sleep.

This déjà vu is why, when we play hide-and-seek with our kids now, the lights are always on, and I tell Daniel to not hide too well. (It turns out, my dad used to sneak around the house behind us, giggling quietly at our cuteness.)

* * *

In examining these moments of random memory and déjà vu, I’ve come across several things that are forever entangled in my mind. Most of them are ridiculous and simple (I cannot see bendy straws without thinking of Bob Evan’s restaurant), and many of them are tied to food (I can’t drive past Chipotle without thinking of my friend Brandon). Also linked forever in my mind: Anne Frank and my first period (because that’s what I was reading at the time I “became a woman”. . . this may be the most depressing detail of my life); the song “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Amsterdam (because I was in a seedy Amsterdam club the fist time I heard it); also Amsterdam and my first period because that’s where Anne Frank lived.

Something else that has–until recently–been inexplicably linked in my mind is my father and otters. When Papa took that job in Houston he began traveling for work. For the ten or so years following that relocation, he traveled 50 of 52 weeks each year, and he would occasionally send home postcards or bring us t-shirts or small gifts from the places he went. One of the first postcards he ever sent me had an otter on it, and I’m positive I still have it somewhere, buried with other cards and notes.

These days, however, when I think of or see otters, I think of my friend Wesley. Wesley visited the Tennessee Aquarium last summer and took this picture:

Watch out for those otters.

Wes captioned his picture, “I’m going to take this Tennessee Aquarium sign non-contextually, as kind of an existential warning about overreaching. ‘Don’t attempt too much. The otters will get you.'” So, not only are otters forever linked to Wesley, now overreaching, over-achieving, perfectionism and trying to do too much at once are forever linked to otters. It’s a double-whammy.

Anyway, I was in the shower this morning when Wesley popped into my mind. Of course, Daniel thinks a letter from a woman to another man should never begin with “I was thinking about you in the shower this morning, and . . . .”  However you feel about it, Wesley was in a traumatic car accident in college that nearly killed him and did leave him without the use of his legs. He celebrates his “un-death” day each year, except that someone he knows has mistaken “un-death” for “un-dead”, which prompted me to immediately begin looking for zombie photos to send him on the anniversary of his un-death.

Dear Wes, We’re so glad you’re UNDEAD.

So, this is why, with spring nearly here, Wesley popped into my mind in the shower. It is time to find a new and awesome zombie photo for him.

Now that you’ve made it to the end of this blog, if you scan backwards you’ll follow the rabbit trail my brain took this morning in the shower. Seriously. That is all I really wanted to share. (I hope you’re not disappointed.)

This afternoon I heard my children conspiring against me.

Maybe that’s not the best word. I was upstairs folding laundry. I had my window open (it’s nearly 60* in January!) and was listening to those two nuts playing on the patio. They’re wearing short sleeved shirts and winter boots.

I hear Grey direct her brother to be the lookout while she climbed up on the kayak. She said, “Mama can’t see us when she’s upstairs. We can do anything we want to that she told us not to. You stand here and watch. If she comes downstairs, say, ‘Hi, Mama’, and I will know she is here and get down.” She said she was going to climb on the kayak even though she wasn’t supposed to.

This seems so advanced and wicked to me. Wicked, not in the sense of evilness, but wicked in the sense of OMG, who taught you to be so rotten!? To ME!?!!? Advanced because I don’t remember scheming against my mother until I was at least 8 or 10.

My mom had these huge glass jars she used to get milk straight from the dairy. Years later these jars held flour or sugar or Mama’s special blend for hot cocoa. (1lb. Neslte’s Quick, 9 oz. CoffeeMate powdered creamer, 8-quart box of instant Carnation dry milk, 1/2 lb. powdered sugar–add 4 tsp. of mix to make one mug hot chocolate). After everything was in the jar, we’d take turns rolling it across the living room floor to blend it all together. On the rare occasions we were home without Mama, we’d sneak little cups of the cocoa mix and eat it by the spoonful during after school cartoons.

Bridget and I also had interesting ways of disposing of veggies we didn’t want to finish during dinner. My dad still giggles when he remembers moving from that house and finding piles of dried, shriveled food behind the china cabinet.

One time we sneaked some smallish fruit and one of Mama’s bras. We stuffed the bra with the fruit to see what we’d look like in a few years.

Well, now I’m just listing occasional naughtiness (we weren’t especially deviant children). I am sure I must’ve actually conspired against her. I know I definitely had it in me; but I just can’t remember doing it. It’s just really weird to be hearing this sort of thing and be on this side of the scheming. I think I feel this way because I’m not expecting Grey to be her own big self yet. I think she should still be 2 and cute as a button and sweet as anything. And not smart enough to conspire against me.

I didn’t do anything about it, by the way. I just listened and watched from my upstairs window. See, I never told her to not climb on the kayak. I just told her to be careful if she was going to climb it.

Growing up, I always thought our family was an us vs. them sort of thing. I remember the exact moment of my life, sitting on my front porch at 16, when I first realized my parents were on my side, that we were a team. I hope it doesn’t take 16 years (or longer) for my own kids to realize this. I try to convince myself this childish scheming is normal and natural and that my children aren’t evil. Maybe just a little wicked. They come by it naturally.

Any suggestions on how to do this without having to rule my children or guilt them into good relationship with me?

With my new job I have a lot more “free time” on my hands. I put that in quotes because it’s not necessarily free. I have the office hours posted outside my door, and I need to be here to keep those office hours, but many days–like today–I could sit here all day long and maybe spend about 30 minutes doing actual work. When I am caught up with my filing and notice-writing and lease-typing, there just isn’t a whole lot else I can do. I am subject to the weather and the season, meaning people don’t want to be out looking for a new apartment during winter, if it’s raining, or mid-school term. These are not the times folks move, so I really am just sitting around here reading books to my kids and cooking dinner 3 hours early, waiting for the phone to ring and biding my time till 5 o’clock when I can declare the work day officially over.

Meanwhile, I have so many ideas all the time floating about in my head. So many ideas, in fact, that it’s hard to pin any one of them down and begin working on it.

Thursday night is chess night at Stauf’s, the coffee shop I’ve been going to with my parents since elementary school. I remember learning to play chess in the back of my high school boyfriend’s parents’ full-size van. As sexy as that sounds, it is not a euphemism, and this was years before we were romantically involved. Because I am dim with anything that requires strategy, it took some time to understand the game, and I quickly became an unwilling opponent, surrendering the board in about 8 moves. Chess still excites me about as much as the thought of being in the back of a van with my high school boyfriend.

At Stauf’s on Thursday, I sat and watched for a few minutes. I cannot fathom the time spent on each move. This thought hit me:  I have let my mind become so lazy, hardly thinking at all most days. This poor muscle doesn’t see much action below the surface. I rarely sit and meditate, choosing instead to be entertained. What a frustrating thing to realize and admit.

When I think about what I want for myself these days words come to mind. Peace. Rest. Stillness. I think my mind and body are detoxing from the last phase of my life where everything about me was so frantic and messy. We have been living our lives always focused on the next steps, on things years away from us. I think this is one reason I have been a crazy wreck: I am no good at chess. My mind cannot work like that, making moves that far into the future. I can realistically only handle what is going on at the moment.

I hope to learn to be at peace in these moments of “free time.” I hope to give my brain some good things to work through and allow myself to think and grow. I hope I can let myself rest and find new energy for all my ideas so that I can release them into the world, happy with them and proud of them.

What say you? What is going on in your brain these days? What are you working on or creating? Have you found ways to have peace and rest?

Atticus, snow angel

It snowed today. I haven’t lived in snow in 9  years. Occasional flurries, a freak storm now and then, but hardly life in the snow. It was beautiful. Atticus said it was “so blowy” and Grey thought it was a huge storm. It was the sort of dry snow that can’t help but dance feverishly in the painful wind, so it did look like a terrific storm. The kids took advantage of the quarter-inch accumulation on the patio and made snow angels and an 8-inch tall snowman.

I opened this blog two years ago with a post about New Year’s resolutions and making goals. I think we thrive on the idea of beginnings, of starting over, of second (third? fourth?) chances that may eventually lead to happy endings.

We are strangely hopeful.

We had our big life shift in the summer, moving away from friends, family, and an easy community to something very new. (I grew up in this area, but I left when I reached adulthood, so things here are just as new for me as the rest of my family.) I’m not sure we’re ready for more goals right now. There are things I would like to accomplish this year, but my main goals are silly things like remembering to take my vitamins every day and flossing on at least a quarterly basis. I’m not getting any younger, after all, so major efforts need to be made to begin preserving and preventing. Also, I plan to read for pleasure and journal something each day.

Some of the dreams we had years ago are moving back to the forefront. It’s weird, feeling like dreaming is possible again and having time to really dwell in the dreams. Looking ahead is exciting, and today it feels like dreams can become reality.

Did you make any goals or plans for yourself this year? Do you have any dreams hovering in the misty part of your mind, just out of reach?

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