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We Are All Free Now

Veggie Chili Cheese Mac on a brisk autumn day.

I have been away, but (always) here.

Words don’t seem adequate lately. I realize I have a tendency to over-express, and I long for concision. With that in mind, rather than writing the novel of my time in Chicago that the zine was starting to become, I decided to make more of a collage. Short, descriptive interludes of what my life was like then.

And perhaps that’s what this blog should be for what my life is like now.

My life at the moment is like chili cheese mac on a brisk autumn day. So easy to make, and so delicious. Around here, we have “chili week.” I make a couple of huge pots of chili (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, green pepper, jalapeno, tomatoes and beans and beans and tomatoes…seasoned with chili powder, salt, pepper, plus maple syrup and cocoa powder. cook the veggies, throw in the beans & tomatoes, season and slow cook for as long as possible. We stock the house with fritos for frito pie; macaroni for chili cheese mac; veggie dogs and buns for chili cheese dogs; and, of course, tortilla chips for nachos. I’m actually thinking about making chili enchiladas this time around. Or maybe a chili omelet? Chili potato. Hell, throw it in some queso. It’s chili all week. In celebration of chilly weather.

I’m recovering from overextending something…ligaments or joint or something…in my foot. We have these giant bur oaks on our property that drop acorns that are slightly larger than golf balls (as I typed that, one hit the roof and rolled down, loudly, into the leafy grass…making that sound that things make when they land in a pile of crisp leaves.) For as long as I can remember, we’ve called them ankle-breakers and joked about how careful we need to be to avoid stepping on them wrong because they are ALL OVER THE PLACE. So, you’d think I would know not to step on one. But it was pretty spectacular when I did…because I totally did this graceful barrel roll into the street, right back up to my feet. Ta-da! I was on my way out to a movie, so I got to rest it for a couple of hours, but I knew it was bad when I was limpy after the movie.

So, I’ve been sidelined. It healed pretty quickly past the tender phase, but it still starts to hurt after long periods of use. So it’s been week of minimal walking and maximal  hyperactive dog activity. It’s been difficult to manage her, but understandable that she is restless. I’m looking forward to re-establishing our routine.

Tonight we did about half of our usual walk. A route I have walked for many, many years. As we walked, I thought about Wendell Berry and some of his essays about the importance of being able to live in one place for long periods of time. How having a sense of place allows you to mark time against time. Like measuring the healing of an injury by the distance I am able to travel today versus the distance I was able to travel yesterday or last week. Or even marking aging by measuring the difficulty with which I travel the same distance today that I traveled much easier 10 years ago.

Those markers don’t always have to be geographical, I suppose. The same thing can happen when listening to music, and remembering songs from certain periods in your life. Or, of course, smells…or foods. Like chili.

A few months ago, I met a new friend. He is a very nice man who shares a lot of my interests and has a very relaxing way of being that I appreciate a great deal. We went to a forest together in the middle of summer and laid in a field and told each other stories about our lives, and it was very nice. In telling my stories, I was reminded that when I was the age of my eldest son, my goal in life was to live out in a trailer on some land somewhere. Just me and maybe some dogs and cats and a typewriter or something. I would be a writer, or I would run an animal sanctuary, or something. But I wouldn’t let my work define me and I wouldn’t have any men or children holding me back.

It occurred to me at that moment that my dream, aside from the not having any children holding me back part – which, I guess, is negligible, is 99% attainable at this very moment in my life.

I have now lived in this house about as long as I lived in my mother’s house growing up. If all goes well, I will be in this house another 4-6 years. After that, I’m thinking my life may be a little more transient. I have plans. I have ideas. I have vague outlines of goals, and I have dreams.

We were celebrating my return to work, my boss and I. She took me out to eat after my first night back from a month-long leave during which I was hiding myself and my children from my abusive soon-to-be-ex husband. The CPS report had come back and it was decided that my soon-to-be-ex was not a danger to my children, in spite of the fact that our flight had been predicated by him biting my then 6-year old son’s ear so hard it left marks that I could see for hours after he was returned to me. Mortified that my child had borne the first physical manifestation of emotional abuse that had gone on since shortly after he was born, regretting that I had made the decision to involve myself with such a person, and thankful that I had someone in my life who was able to provide us with safe shelter, we hid until the state told us it was safe to do otherwise. Needless to say I didn’t consider any of us safe, but at least I felt there was now a witness. There was now evidence. There was now a paper trail. 

So, my boss took me out to dinner, and I was thankful. My boss was a cheeful, chatty person. She was good-hearted but somewhat self-involved…meaning if you called her on her self-involvement, she was appropriately conciliatory. And I was thankful to have the opportunity to hear someone talk about something other than me and my “situation.”

Unfortunately, self-involved people are self-involved. I don’t think she even realizes to this day when she lost me as a friend completely, but this was the moment. Here, in the restaurant, as we celebrated my sort-of ability to be kind of not as hyper-vigilant, my boss was prattling on about her sister. Her sister who was over 20 and had never been kissed. Her sister, as my boss told me, who would NEVER get involved in an abusive relationship, because she was just too smart for that.

I stopped eating. I couldn’t even look at her. I definitely couldn’t say anything. She just kept talking. Not noticing. I endured until it was time to say goodbye. She paid the check, of course. How could someone as stupid as me be expected to pick up the tab?

It’s as simple as that, the invalidating. People wonder why abused women don’t leave their spouses, and I can think of at least 5 reasons off the top of my head, but one of them is because we are frequently made to feel like it is our fault we are in this situation in the first place, and when there are children involved, we feel obligated to make sure they don’t have to face the consequences of our own “stupidity.”

There are other reasons. There definitely were in my case. For one thing, I was not legally able to kick my husband out of my house, so for the first 3 years after he “left” me – which was about 6 years after the abuse started – while he was unemployed, I was faced with the decision of whether I should just bear the burden of him living in my home and crawling out of his room at random intervals to sneer at me, or face the possibility of losing my home and going bankrupt in the process if I moved out. Countless phone calls to lawyers that began with “We need a $1500 retainer up front” and ended with me hanging up the phone in tears, feeling completely hopeless. There was the trip to Legal Aid – for which I made too much money to qualify for assistance and too little money to pay a reduced-fee lawyer to take my case. There was the attempt at mediation that got my hopes up, because soon-to-be-ex acted as polite and accommodating as I’d ever seen him be during the proceedings, and immediately after, tore the agreement up in my face telling me it didn’t mean shit because it wasn’t a legal document.

But that mediation did one thing. It got him to move out. And him moving out was both the beginning of my new life and the beginning of a whole new set of fears and regrets that I’m sure many women who are getting out of abusive relationships are familiar with. Fears like “Now that I don’t know where he is all of the time…where the fuck is he?” (It turned out he was breaking into my house and rifling through my personal journals and paperwork. Caught in the act one day by a friend who came over to babysit the children.) And “Who will take care of the children while I’m at work now that he’s not around all of the time?” (It turned out I had an amazing group of mama friends who were more than willing to take that on for me, and for whom I will forever be grateful. Whose actions and deeds were silently and freely the kindest things I have ever experienced, and they guide me in any decision I make today when someone I love is in so much need they can’t even begin to ask for help…and whose kindness was roundly resented and threatening to my then soon-to-be-ex, and responded to with accusations and attempted retribution.) And, finally, but not insignificantly “How can I protect my children from him?” (Which I continue to worry about to this day after years and years of witnessing his manipulative behavior manifesting in his relationship with his children…behavior I can do nothing about because even when one of the children made a stand and refused to see him anymore without any prompting or encouragement from me, we were all punished with a need for expensive lawyers to extract us from the legal clusterfuck he brought down upon us.)

But it was never a straight line to these things. There were times that we got along splendidly. For a little while, we even moved back in together. I loaned him money to start a business. Hell, we had another child after he and I had been engaged in an unhealthy and abusive relationship for years. So even those logistical things above weren’t the only reasons I stayed. They were just some of them. Some of the reasons, too, were not so well justified. I felt sorry for him. I felt like he had been abandoned by his family. I felt like I couldn’t do it on my own, and that any kind of support was better than nothing. I felt like a burden to the rest of my community who had already done so much to help me. I felt like a failure, and I wanted to be able to at least pretend to have a normal family. I wanted my children to have two parents.

So I zigged before I zagged. And then finally we were done. Only we are never done. Because when you are done with someone you are still forced by law and by love to parent with, no matter how unreasonable they are…you are never done.

At least I’m smart enough to know that. And, you know what, It took a fuck of a lot of brains and grit and fortitude to make it through the rest of it. So fuck ANYONE who tells a woman who is in an abusive relationship she just isn’t smart enough. You have no fucking clue.

Teaser for the forthcoming Oyster Lexicon.

These are the commands that Lulu has learned so far:

  • Sit
  • Stay (sort of…she’s still too excitable to stay for long, yet)
  • Go lay down (again, sort of – this is supposed to get her to lay down in her crate, but she conveniently forgets this a lot)
  • Down
  • Leave it
  • Settle (working on it!)
  • Off (This is new)
  • Lulu/Come (although I just realized I need to do more work on this one.)
  • Cookie (sometimes this works as an all-purpose word to get her attention if all else fails)
  • Out
  • Walk
  • No

I’m reminding myself of this, because I’m having a lot of trouble with getting her to leave the cats alone. If I’m with her, and we’re near the cats…she’s excited, but if the cats stay still, she manages to contain herself. The minute they move, though…it’s on. And she’s so big, and the cats are so tiny…it worries me that she might one day catch them OR destroy my entire house in the effort.

So, the list above focuses me. I need to concentrate on the following:

  • Come (probably most important)
  • Leave it (when it comes to her getting distracted by other animals or people)
  • Settle
  • Off

I also need to work on general manners, like getting her to let me lead the way out the door, making her “ask for permission” before coming up on the furniture (so, like an “up” command once she’s calmly sitting next to the furniture or the bed)…and we’re still working on the excited puppy-biting and general hyperactivity at certain times of the day when she just seems to get completely out of control.

Counter cruising has been an occasional issue. She managed to grab a stick of butter when I left her along for a few minutes the other day. Normally, she never leaves my side – so this is something that might come up more as her separation anxiety decreases.

We also need to work on separation. I’m hoping I can find a good doggy daycare that will work with her once or twice a month so I can get a break and she can get used to not having me around all of the time. Right now, if I try to put her in the yard for a few minutes so I can compose myself or until she calms down, she INSTANTLY jumps on the door and claws and barks loudly…and she’s so large I worry she will break through the glass. It’s REALLY frustrating. But these things I feel like I can manage. These things seem like puppy things that she will outgrow. She’s already naturally outgrown her habit of crowding the door. And she will lay patiently outside of my room if I shut the door.

On the bright side – her leash manners are steadily improving (as long as she doesn’t see other dogs). She came to me already trained to not defecate or urinate while on walks, which I’m finding to be a really nice habit. And it took me like 1 hour to train her to not sniff every single thing she encounters on the walk. She’s super super sweet and affectionate (if a bit clingy) COMPLETELY housebroken. And really a very fun, silly, sweet puppy.

I knew having a dog was going to be a lot of work. This week has been the most difficult yet. I’m getting great exercise teaching her manners and helping her get her energy out by walking almost every night, throwing the ball around for her, and giving her lots of good things to chew. I just miss my kitties, and want so badly for them to feel comfortable in their home again. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Shaunee.

I have a complicated relationship with my family. The kind of relationship that might one day transcribe well to an allegorical fictional novel filled with universal references to the hardships all families face, but which doesn’t translate well to a blog post. It is especially and even less well-able to be translated to an ongoing feud on Facebook that ended with a couple of family members terminating their relationship with me.

 

It could have ended differently, I suppose. I should have probably reached out privately at some point in the year-long argument about social justice…to get a temperature check and attempt to communicate in a less-charged context. I am, after all, the adult in the situation. I don’t really have an excuse for not doing so, aside from the aforementioned complicated family dynamic – which isn’t much of an excuse, but I allowed it to be, until it was too late.

Other than that, I’m satisfied with my behavior, if not the outcome. And who knows what the outcome is/will be anyway? And I can say that in the midst of discovering myself at odds with some members of my family, I strengthened my appreciation for others. And, in a way, some of the complications of the distant past were healed in the process.

And, so I find myself nearing another change of seasons. I feel like the summer is always a wasted season. I feel like I accomplished very little, and am quickly becoming charged with creative energy at the prospect of the end of summer…even though in Austin, summer won’t really be over until nearly the end of October. 

Dancing

Funny how I started writing about my family and I suddenly am feeling a wave of creative ideas about the garden. We’ve been thinking about the perfect centerpiece for the succulent garden. Considering a bird bath, which is still a possibility. And I’ve been going to thrift stores trying to find the perfect bowl for the bird bath…and it struck me that what really belongs there is the toilet that has been sitting back in the yard for years because I couldn’t part with that much of a functional porcelain bowl. I mean, really – it’s a giant, lovely, flowerpot. Sparkly and everything. So. That’s that.

Lulu in the twilight.

And my artichokes are sprouting. I’ve decided I’m going to dedicate myself to planting artichoke plants all over the property. I want several of them. I want them lining the walkway and bounding the seating area. Because I can. Ha. In fact, I have four little sprouts coming up right now, and a couple of packets of seeds due in the mail.

In the meantime, my brussels sprouts sprouts aren’t doing so well. I completely lost interest in them when the artichokes started sprouting. The artichokes seem to be such hearty little seedlings, and the brussels sprouts so delicate. 

I’m really excited about making an artichoke kingdom here. Hahaha.

And I have ideas for the zine, which I have really not worked on much except in theory. I’m thinking about backgrounds consisting of the same collaged pages I used to make, only the collage will be flyers from Chicago bands. And I’m thinking about rather than making a full color zine, I might make color postcards of some of the drawings. And I feel like I’m going to be writing the zine in a day…which isn’t necessarily a bad prospect. Just spending a day going from beginning to middle to end. Sounds like a lovely plan.

His shirt says “I got out of bed for this?” and so does his general attitude.

First day of school. My kids hate being photographed, so I don’t have one of those adorable “Back to school” shots year after year for comparison. So I will just post a bunch of random stuff I have in my backlogged camera roll. “Back to school” doesn’t really exist when you are homeschooled, once you get over the urge to fly kites in the schoolyard or blow bubbles in front of the library as a means of obnoxiously expressing your relative freedom*, and the annual homeschool “not back to school” swim party is both overcrowded and underparticipated by kids your kids actually want to hang out with.

Tofu Spring Rolls with peanut sauce at Kim Phung

But being that this is the Tao of Bird’s second year of public school, and now that Buddha the Grouch is taking classes at the community college pretty much every day of the week, as well as participating in some of the usual homeschool activities…today was markedly different from the rest of the summer, if only for that brief few minutes after BTG went to school and before TOB came home from school when the house was oddly empty.

Tofu with Garlic, Hot Pepper, and Lemongrass at Kim Phung

I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t climbing the walls waiting for the boys to start school again. Maybe a little for their own sakes to get them out of the house, but truthfully I love those guys. I’ve grown used to sharing my space with them. It’s nice to have my own space once in awhile, but it’s going from being with them constantly to, too soon…too close to now…having one child move off to school, and yeah…I like having them around.

Key Lime Pie

But I’m also excited that they are out and learning and excited about what they are doing – at least to some extent. I’m pleased with the fact that TOB was placed in AP classes in spite of asking not to be (and secretly hoping it was his father who arranged that, as I finally had to give up trying to convince him to take them and just make an agreement that if he took it easy this year, he would really have to kick it into gear when he gets to high school…even though his father was the one who originally disagreed with putting him in pre-AP classes to begin with & yeah if that was difficult for you to understand, basically welcome to it. But even though it’s maddening inconsistency, I’m pleased that TOB is in those classes and I didn’t have to betray him to ensure it.

There wasn’t much to my day. It’s been too too hot lately to sit outside at all. Yesterday, I took Lulu out for a walk around 10 AM, and after an hour she had to flop down in the grass for 15 minutes – not due to thirst, because she refused water – just out of sheer exhaustion. She did it several times for about 5 minutes at a time…and wanted to flop down again, but then saw a squirrel and decided she wasn’t all that tired after all, as she attempted to drag me up the tree to reach the taunting bushytail. So, yeah…hot. Exhaustingly hot. Oppressively hot. SQUIRREL!

I did wake up early this morning. Early enough to make eggs for TOB before driving him to his first day of school and get a bit of gardening and housework done before dropping BTG off for his class in the afternoon. Then to the pet store and grocery.

 

And several episodes of Upstairs/Downstairs because I’m FREAKING addicted.

Man Bites Dog – Veggie Abe Frohman and Cheese Fries

It’s more overtime for me this week. And possibly more again next week if it’s available. Time to save back up after all of the school expenses and activities.

Artichoke sprouts

And you know what? I do alright. I really do. And I feel alright. I feel as though I have done a pretty damn respectable job as a parent. And they have as children. So far.

Oyster Lexicon, #2

I started working on the next issue of the zine today. I mean, I have a lot of the artwork done, but none of the writing, really. Beyond conceptual. Some of the writing will be original from my time in Chicago. I’ve been considering publishing some of the sweet little love letters I have from that era. I don’t THINK the other party involved will mind. I am in touch with him, so I will ask him…but I have to find them first. I know I saved them, but there was a large box of letters in the house that my ex got into and maude knows what he did to the contents. I haven’t delved beyond the nasty things he wrote on the surface of the container. I tucked it away in the attic. It’s time to take it down and look at my “keep forever” things. Plus they are super sweet, and I think they would make people feel squishy.

Chicago Theater

Love is awesome like that. Regardless of whether it’s forever love or not – which is wisdom that would have allowed me to enjoy myself more when I was younger, but no matter. At least I can still smile at the me that was in love with that boy who broke my heart (or whose heart I broke, because – really – who can tell which came first) especially since I still know that boy and love him in a different, but not lesser way…which is something I think I always HAVE understood about love.

Marching Cicada

And I’ve decided not to make “D” in my alphabet about divorce. In the nick of time, I’m reminded that the dogs in my life have been far more significant. One of them allegedly caused the divorce. Another two once stood on the chest of a man who woke in my bed, and then rightly attempted to escape from them and my life after a regrettable night on the eve of forever.

Lulu hug

There are some stories that can’t ever be fully told. And some that have been overtold. And some that are best told

through other means. There are some stories you tell to others so convincingly that you start to believe them yourself. I think telling stories through the eyes of the dogs I have had in my life will make things slightly easier. I’m just not sure if I can adequately draw a dog…hahaha.

Hoping it will be out in time for our yardwarming around the equinox. That’s what I’m aiming for. I have about a month.

… 

*Yes. That obnoxious person was me.

20140601_104404

I’m having difficulty motivating myself to write blog posts. I come here sometimes, and start writing…and I end up writing about some political topic or other that has me feeling frustrated or angry or hopeless. But this is my selfish place. This is not for politics. This is where I talk about me. Me. Me.

And though I know the internet has limitless real estate, and anyone not wanting to hear about me. me. me. is totally free. free. free to go elsewhere…I still feel guilty for claiming this space. Or, perhaps, that’s just an excuse to externalize everything and avoid self-examination.

There is a lot going on right now. Most of it is awesome. I’m tempted to quantify the awesome. I’ll just stick with “most of it.” That works. I feel pretty damn content, albeit somewhat lazy in contentment.

So, perhaps it’s more that I don’t have a lot to write about. Life is pretty dang boring. Most days follow a similar, predictable pattern…

I wake up & have breakfast (usually just coffee) and read in the back yard.

On workdays, I pretty much spend all of my breaks in the same chair in the back yard. Reading, or chatting with my housemates, or just staring at the yard and sky. Watching the birds. There’s a flock of Monk Parakeets that live in the neighborhood. I love their cranky cackle. Tao of Bird and I always say it reminds us of Buddha the Grouch. “You’re wrong!” They yell in their gravelly sqauwk.

Sometimes I cook on my lunch breaks. Sometimes I eat leftovers. Sometimes I run errands.

After work, I decompress in that same chair. Usually it’s dark or getting there. I watch the moon begin its journey across the sky. Sometimes there’s a fire in the firepit.

Usually I take a walk. Sometimes with a friend. Sometimes alone. Always with my dog.

On my days off, I visit. I hike. I cook. I clean. I plan. I scheme. I create. I observe. Sometimes I gather. Sometimes I remain in solitude.

And I rest so I can begin it all again the next week.

I think a lot in those times. My life takes on themes. Lately, my theme is “reclaiming.” I’ve been reclaiming space – in my back yard. Reclaiming time lost to a job that usurped too much of it and left me with too little energy to enjoy myself off the clock. Reclaiming creativity in the zine, in artwork, in areas I allowed other people to negatively influence my opinion of myself…including myself. Reclaiming dog ownership, even, as I recall the last dog I adopted was brought into my life under stress and duress of pregnancy, grief, and separation. I’m processing a lot, without much to say about it, other than it’s nice.

And I’ve been thinking about my future; the time with my children living in my home with me is drawing to a close. One son will be off next year, the other a short 5 years from now. I am so proud of them both, and so pleased with them as people. I know they will do good things in life. And while I will be sad to not have them in my daily life anymore, I’m already thinking about who I will be when I am not day-to-day “mom.” There’s lots of good material there. Lots to consider. Lots of things I haven’t considered in a very long time.

And of course I’ve been thinking about relationships. Mostly about how happy I am, currently, about not being in one. I was telling a friend the other day that I’ve frequently wanted someone to lean on during the difficult times. And sometimes I’ve had someone. But lately – I’m content to the point of feeling protective of my solitude. Protective – not defensive. My borders are permeable, but it’s a long journey to the center of me.

And the center of me is where I’m living right now. <3

Lately it’s been all about the dog. And the dog is great, but there’s also the kitties.

ESP, the wonder kitty

ESP, the wonder kitty

And the garden…which will be scattered throughout this post.

Side Yard Tomato Garden

Side Yard Tomato Garden

This work week went by quickly for me. Tao of Bird returned home from his month-long visit with his father on Thursday, with slightly more (or less) fanfare than usual. My Birdy. He’s been afraid of dogs ever since his beloved Twyla died, and then he had a bad run-in with a dog at a friend’s house. His fear of dogs is real, but it’s also dangerous to him, because it causes him to behave in all of the ways that make a dog attack you if he is to run into a dog who might attack him.

We're still getting tomatoes. I actually took these photos after I harvested a handful of cherry tomatoes & there are more on the vine.

We’re still getting tomatoes. I actually took these photos after I harvested a handful of cherry tomatoes & there are more on the vine.

Regardless, I didn’t get a dog to cure TOB of his fear of dogs. I got a dog because Twyla died 2 years ago, and I’ve had a dog for most of my life and it was time to get a dog. Time to resume nightly walks. Time to nurture something. Time for ME to have a dog. So, I considered TOB’s fear, but I took a gamble – which is something that parents do frequently – and adopted the dog.

I spent a serious amount of time considering how to break the news to TOB. There isn’t a lot of communication between us when he’s at his dad’s. He prefers it that way. And I didn’t want him to feel anxious about the dog for a prolonged period of time so he could build it up in his head and have it affect his time there. So, I waited. Two days before he was supposed to come home, I texted him. “I have something to talk to you about. Can you please call me when you get a chance.”

ESP among the tomatoes.

ESP among the tomatoes.

He called immediately. I told him. “I got a dog.” I said. He said “Like, you BOUGHT a dog, or we’re TAKING CARE OF a dog? Or maybe you are FOSTERING a dog…or is it a forever dog.” “I adopted a dog. She is a rescue. She’s a parvo dog. You are gonna like her so much. She’s SOOOO sweet. And I promise that you can set the pace for getting to know her. I’ll do whatever I need to do to make you comfortable with the dog.” 

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

“I won’t ever be comfortable with the dog.”

…pause…

“Well, ok. If it turns out that you just can’t be comfortable with the dog, I will find a new home for her. We’ll figure it out when you get here.”

“You can’t just give the dog back, mom. It’s fine. I know you need a dog to take walks with at night. I’ll be fine. I’ll just be in my room A LOT more.”

“We’ll figure it out when you get here.”

…silence…

“Want me to send a picture of the dog?”

“NO. I gotta go.”

Pepper plants and back yard beds.

Pepper plants and back yard beds.

***

Two days later, he’s home. None of us was sure when he’d get here, but he showed up while I was working in my room with Lulu, but my housemates were in the living room with their dog. She barked at TOB. He dealt with it OK, Went to his room. Allowed minimal interaction with the dogs. Just enough to make them a little curious about him. I asked him if he wanted to feed Lulu a treat. “NO.”

The next morning, I let Lulu out of my room while TOB was in his bunk. I told him she was there, went to the bathroom…and heard a loud “WOOF!” and TOB’s door slam shut.

“THAT’S why I don’t like dogs!”

Rosemary, sage, aloe, flowers...and Samantha's rear end.

Rosemary, sage, aloe, flowers…and Samantha’s rear end.

All apologies, I settled Lulu down. Explaining “She barks at you because she doesn’t know you yet. This breed of dog was bred to protect her family. Once she knows you are family, she’ll protect you, too. When you are ready to come out, you can give her a cookie. Until you get comfy with her, you can be known to her as ‘That guy who just randomly gives me cookies all the time.’ and of course she’ll love you!”

 

Spinach seedlings

Spinach seedlings

TOB timidly steps out of his room. Lulu sniffs him. Wags her tail. He gives her a cookie. She patiently waits for more. Then he pets her head. I tell him “I read that Great Danes are really sensitive to vocal tones. They tend to prefer women, because they like the higher tones, and they get sad when you use the cookie monster voice with them. They’re really sensitive, and they want you to be happy.”

My neglected sage plant. She's a survivor!

My neglected sage plant. She’s a survivor!

TOB nods. Waves me away.

I walk outside with Lulu, TOB follows, says “Hi, Lulu!” in high-pitched voice. I say “Lulu says ‘Oooh…there’s that guy who gives me cookies!” TOB responds “When I was afraid of dogs” (past-tense!!!) “I think it was because I’m a pragmatist, and I don’t hear the dogs saying those things that you say they are saying. Mostly I just think about their teeth.”

Awaiting seedlings...

Awaiting seedlings…

We sat down in the chairs in the backyard. He said “Remember when I asked if Lulu was a temporary dog or a permanent dog? Well, now I’m hoping she’s a permanent dog. I really like her, and I don’t think I’m afraid of dogs anymore. I’m glad you decided to get her.”

And that, my friends, was that. A rare, ACKNOWLEDGED, parenting win. I couldn’t have been more relieved.

Now we just gotta get the CATS acclimated.

 

Standard link dump rules apply. Emptying out my pockets…

This is so important:

“We are under occupation here,” said Abayomi Azikiwe of the Moratorium Now Coalition. “They’ve taken our homes, taken our public institutions and privatized them, and now they’re taking our water. Soon enough, it will be coming to a city near you.”

The nine people arrested were trying to form a blockade in front of Homrich, a private contractor being paid over $5 million to turn off water to Detroiters whose overdue bills exceed $150.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is a public asset valued at $6.4 billion. Forty-five percent of the utility’s annual budget goes to Wall Street banks to service its debt —a debt the emergency manager has the power to re-negotiate.

Detroit activists worry that their water utility, like other public services, will be privatized.

http://www.popularresistance.org/water-rights-march-in-detroit/

As of now, 166 children have been killed and 1,310 have been injured, some of them severely.

http://mashable.com/2014/07/23/gaza-children/

 

This post may be somewhat disjointed. I am somewhat disjointed. Out of joint. Bent…

2e855d2d-f848-4973-b1af-3e9069706207

I’ve been walking a lot lately. Walking is conducive to thinking. Walking is frequently conducive to composing blog posts in my head. Some of which never get written. Some written, never posted. Let’s hope this one passes muster.

I feel like I’ve mentioned, in bits and pieces, that I’m currently in the process of reclaiming certain aspects of my life. Some of which I didn’t even realize needed reclaiming. Some of which I figured I’d leave unreclaimed. Some I thought I already had a claim on. And while it’s frustrating that I find myself still not completely free from certain negative impacts of certain types of trauma in my life, I’m thankful I can recognize the origins of that frustration, roll my eyes and be temporarily exasperated with myself, and move on.

I’ve been telling the same stories over and over again, because I find myself confronted with them. As my housemates were cleaning up my yard, cheerily clearing the brush and treating the arduous labor as a happy task, I vividly remembered walking out to the backyard a long lost married-person mother’s day ago, to find my then-husband angrily hacking at the shoulder-high weeds with a push mower. “Happy fucking Mother’s Day!” Through gritted, angry teeth, was my greeting.

That wasn’t the last time the lawn got mowed, but it was the last time he mowed the lawn.lulu

Needless to say, it wasn’t a very happy Mother’s Day. It wasn’t a very happy anything in my life during that time period. Somewhere around then – I think the same year – my elderly dog got cancer. I was 5 months pregnant with a 3-year old and a surly, unhelpful husband, and my best friend for the past 10 years was dying and I was incredibly sad. The day she died, he helped me load her gasping body into the car and he was the one who sat with her when she was put down, and then it was like a switch was turned and suddenly any sadness I felt about it was not allowed. Was a play for attention. I was being overwrought. I remember being so desperate for some sort of mutually nurturing relationship I went to the pound on the 4th of July – or thereabouts, and finding Twyla curled up in the corner of a kennel with a sign on the cage that said “I’m deaf, but I’m really sweet.” And she was. And I brought her home much to my ex-husband’s dismay.

“You always do the most difficult thing.” He snorted.

“I married you, didn’t I.” I retorted.

My mind is blurry, and I can’t remember if this happened before or after he broke up with me, but that was around the time. I came home on a lunch break from work, hugely pregnant. Hot. Emotional. And he told me he was breaking up with me. I had to go back to work in 30 minutes. Still hugely pregnant…hot…emotional…and single. Little knowing at that time that it would take multiple years to finally extricate him completely from my daily life, in spite of his refusal to contribute emotionally, physically, or financially beyond the bare minimum.

I’m not saying these things because I’m still bitter about them. I’m stating these things flatly. This is my experience. This is what I have lived. These are the things that re-emerge when we do things we haven’t done since that time period. Like getting a new dog.

5c44e4f5-c619-4bce-a177-b6d766f18fa1Even publishing the zine. I recently sent a couple of copies of the last issue of my old zine bAnal Probe to a friend of mine, and I realized those last few issues were done in collaboration with him. I hadn’t even realized publishing a zine was an act of reclaiming…and there it is. Reclaimed. Painlessly. Cleanly.

I wasn’t the best dog owner during those times. I was distracted, at best. The dog never got my full attention. We went for frequent walks and I spent much of my time feeling overwhelmed with everything I was responsible for. I wasn’t a BAD dog owner. I was mostly just exhausted and had no room in my life for another living being. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve felt sufficiently free of the every day responsibility of nurturing children to really focus on a pet, and this batch of cats in my life has gotten more love than previous batches. For sure. I’m excited about having a dog both who seems to require less effort and for whom I have significantly more bandwidth.

Along with those realizations was the realization that the way I’ve been managing my time is kind of screwy now that I don’t have to think in 15-minute increments as much. It’s time for me to expand my attention span. It’s time for me to have more flexible time for just sitting and enjoying. I’ve thrown away the old system and am working on a new system that allows for that. I hope. I imagine some things will fall through the cracks during the transition, but so far I’ve been spending a lot of lot of lot of time with friends, I’m getting a lot more outdoor time. More movement. A bit more structure. This structure will probably increase as I get used to the rhythm of the dog. When to feed her, when we walk. It’s kind of like having a large, slightly more self-sufficient baby. I’m so glad that she’s at least housebroken. And she sleeps through the night.

And well into the morning. Which is nice.

***

The other thing I was thinking about on my walk is all of the anger and frustration and heartbreak I am feeling for the mamas of Central America and Gaza whose babies are at risk. And of course for the mamas themselves. And the non-mamas, but mostly the mamas and the babies.

I’m sure this is a political theory that has already been written somewhere, and I haven’t taken the time to do any sort of research into who might have already thought of it, but it strikes me that the only way to make free trade not inherently exploitive is too also have open borders. Otherwise aren’t we just allowing the true cost of our low prices to be out of sight out of mind? And when something like a huge influx of refugee children show up at our border because they’ve been suffering that consequence for us, it’s altogether too easy for some people to blame the victims.

 

This song seemed an appropriately celebratory little number for my end of weekend celebrations. Not that I WANT the weekend to end, necessarily…but it’s been a nice weekend, as weekends go. Also, surprising. The biggest surprise, by far…is Lulu.

Pensive Lulu

Sweet Lulu

But I also had some fun adventures with a surprisingly…familiar…new friend. You know? One of those kinds of people who just makes sense, and to whom you just feel like you also just make sense. Buddha the Grouch, when he learned of my platonic hangout, said “Oh, so you went on one of those faux Lainie dates where you go out and look at birds.”

birds...spiders...same diff.

birds…spiders…same diff.

    I laughed so hard, because he’s pretty much right. And it feels good to have someone in my life with whom I can just go out and look at birds. Or at milkweed floating in the wind. Or armadillos. Or the way the pond scum rejoins itself after a rock passes through the film. Someone with whom I don’t have to rush through the getting to know to get to “the good stuff” because the good stuff is the getting to know. I’m really enjoying the getting to know. This weekend was also a little cooking (more cooking to come) a little cleaning (more cleaning to come) some walks and talks…and lots of chilling in the backyard. My friends who are staying with me (who I need to think of a clever name for, as I’ll doubtless be referring to them a lot) have kicked so much ass at getting the yard in shape for planting. They’ve cleared and tilled three huge beds, we’ve all schemed a less-conventional succulent / hummingbird / butterfly bed, and they’ve made good with my neighbor, whose little garden was being overshadowed by some weeds in my back yard. There’s talk of chickens. There’s talk of greenhouses. There’s endless talk of gardens and gardening. I’m still slowly rearranging my time to begin to accommodate, but it’s difficult to begin! We’ve created a sitting area outside that has been encouraging me to just sit and watch the sun (or moon) move across the sky. The dog only adds to this notion of sit and stay. Especially since, being new here and nervous, any move I make is shadowed by her. The more I sit and relax, the more relaxed she becomes. And, thankfully, the energy level of a Great Dane, as Lulu is, is much much lower than that of a boxer, which my last nervous dog was…so there’s plenty of sloth and relaxation.

Slothful, and relaxing!

I feel like Lulu is going to have the sweet temperament of Twyla (the boxer) with the gentle lazy hound-dog attitude of Cash (the pitbull). Once we get her acclimated…and everyone gets acclimated to her.This Crack Star This weekend also included a meditation/remembrance of the passage of Texas HB 2 – the bill that has been responsible for the closure of over 61% of Texas clinics that provide abortions and other healthcare services, leaving many people - particularly those who are already poor and marginalized – without access to safe abortions. We sat in mediation, did a walking meditation – I walked in circles around the middle of the rotunda floor, did another sitting meditation and then had discussion. It was a beautiful memorial. It was very healing…and it got me thinking about reclaiming spaces. I’m still thinking about reclaiming spaces. I need more time to think about it, I think. And journal about it. Before I write about it. Publicly. But I am thinking about it. Reclaiming. I’m also thinking about how hard some people have to seem to work to get the rewards that so many people take for granted. And I’m not even referring to the least among us. I’m talking about everyday people you might see and think “Hey – that person does alright.” and really they are pinching pennies to buy gas, or riding the bus not to be a hipster but because they had their car impounded because they couldn’t afford to renew the registration. And I just feel like if people that I know who are employed, employable, hard-working, able-bodied, intelligent, and genuinely good and decent people are struggling, then I can’t say anything in negative judgment of anyone else who is struggling. I imagine most of them are equally all of the above and equally just totally screwed by circumstance. And that’s all I got to say.

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