Category: Being Mom


I’ve been working. A lot. And thinking. A lot. Mostly about the whole “kids getting older” and “decisions I have made” and some setting of intentions. Preparing for another change of seasons.

I finished the journal I started in March – right before my journey to Colorado. Seems like a good point to reflect on things I wrote in that journal…

***

@Bottomless Lake State Park

As it turns out

Happiness is ALL of Texas

In my rearview mirror

Sitting still, listening

to the sounds of

No sounds

Until

the wildlife

forgets I’m here

& resumes its chatter.

***

Attentive. Tender. Inhale ——> Ex

Hale.

Breathing In & out.

(An) interesting

Proposition.

Never mind-

It’s only a small

Incision.

Tender

Ills

Hook me

Sucker

Punch.

***

1000 miles later – I’m oddly not tired.

Relying on the light that comes from shadows.

***

I was raised in a road trip family. Some of my earliest/most vivid memories involved listening to that reassuring sound of tires grasping pavement in revolutionary inertia. The feeling of hurtling through space while sleeping in the back seat. The smell of gasoline, dead skunk, and endless cattle pastures of the Midwest to West passage… (This might actually become its own blog post…)

***

Me: What’s the weather been like?

Tao of Bird: The weather

Me: Yeah.

Tao of Bird: Hot.

Tao of Bird: Also, cold.

***

It’s as if at any point, I could be dying, die-ing, died

it only makes sense to

shrug

and go on living

***
SLOW MOTION

APOCALYPSE

at the

GROCERY STORE

***

Breathe in – I can still feel that hurtling feeling.

Singing – Dancing – Scribing – Eating. Enjoying the last day of my vacation, for tomorrow is back to work. Tonight – I clean and cook. For now, I dance. And write. And eat. With windows open to the breeze and my slightly scattered room full of all of the implements of my creativity. I am holed up here. Holding forth a festive atmosphere. Coming undone to reintegrate.

Forecast/aftcast.

I’m sunburned and tired and it’s 10 PM on my Sunday (my Monday is Wednesday) and I have so few words and yet ALL OF THE WORDS for the things I have witnessed and participated in over the past 72 hours or so.

Sunday morning found me up and about at a relatively early hour. My goal was to find somewhere to hike between my house and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. I found Walter E. Long Metropolitan park, paid the $10 entrance fee, and found a picnic table under a tree to enjoy my breakfast.

I’m usually fine with paying entrance fees for parks, because my unconfirmed hope is that the money is being used for preservation and/or providing employment. I’m not so sure what I was paying for with this park. It appears that the main draw for the park was fishing, but in general, there was a lot of trash in the park, the roads weren’t kept up, and there were no walking trails that I could see…at least not initially.

Undaunted, I decided to walk the length of the allotted shoreline & I managed to find some nice things to look at, as well as friendly people enjoying the day. Mostly fishing. Some playing in the water.

When I reached the end of the shore, there was an area that was chained off, but there were no “No Trespassing” signs, so I manouvered around the chain and walked a ways towards the dam, then back down a path that led to another, wider path. It wasn’t so much of a trail as a grassy road, but I intended to get my $10 worth of walking, so I persisted…

I saw some pretty wildflowers…and then I spied a little alcove, and beyond it was a little lake, surrounded by wildflowers, weeds, and trees.

And I sat down to write in my journal:

Tiny little oasis at Walter Long Metropolitan Park. Listening to birdsong & enjoying solitude after another week of overtime. I’m sweating, but it’s delightful to be here among the wildflowers. And the leaves and branches on the trees leave shimmering, swimming shadows on the page & a tiny bird lights on a tree, regards me with avian curiosity – head cocked, feathers ruffled, tail twitch…hop…hop…then flutters off, peeping the story of me to those too intimidated to venture nearer.

I imagine they are speaking to me. Or trying to. My mono-species-lingual ears are not responsive. But they are encouraged by my relative quietude & continue trying to get through – progressively louder & with increasingly more enthusiastic accompaniment.

And then the frogs start in with their clicking. And I should probably think about moving on, but I’m in love with this moment & in love with the solitude. So I hesitate. Linger. Drink until my eyes, my ears, & my nose are sated.

And then I progressed. Got up and made my way back to the car. I heard crows caw, which I don’t usually hear in town…and I saw a HUGE hawk flying overhead, and I decided it was worth my $10 to be there for those things. For all of the things. Though when I return it will be on a weekday so I won’t have to pay quite so much.

I had no idea what to expect at Hutto. I had received an invitation from a friend to join a concert outside of the Hutto Detention Center, and I’d heard of these events before – where people gather to provide audible support and solidarity to those who are housed inside, awaiting release or deportation or asylum. On the ride up, I was thinking about how birds fly back and forth over borders without any concern. And how we are all, really, just intruders on this land. How I just paid $10 to go to a park, where a good many of the people there were likely fishing for food – so that $10 is definitely a relative cost.

I arrived late. The last band, Sonoita, was freaking AMAZING. I was grinning so huge listening to their radical punk lyrics and music…and the simple beauty of the whole idea of putting musicians, poets, and speaker right outside the detention center – with the sounds echoing loudly against the walls so there was no doubt those inside could hear…it was amazing. Whole hearted. Wonderful. And even though I was only there for 20 minutes or so, it was well worth the trip. Next time (and there will be a next time sometime in October) I will plan better and get there early to help set up. And I will help promote it better, so more people can be there to witness this perfect little act of resistance. Because sound also travels over borders and fences…just like birds.

I came home feeling full of thoughts and ideas and inspiration…and crashed in bed, exhausted.

Monday was spent running errands in preparation for summer semester for Buddha the Grouch. So I got to spend the morning in the car with his holy grouchness. I had been in a running discussion with my nephew about increasing the minimum wage and why we should indeed provide food and shelter and medical assistance to those who are living in poverty. Buddha the Grouch is a great foil for these conversations, because we DON’T always agree, and he’s a good litmus test for me to tell how far out on the political spectrum I’m being. So I asked him “Why do we provide food stamps and housing vouchers for poor people?”

He responded: Uh…because it’s disadvantageous to our government for people to be dying in the street.

I countered: But what if there are some people take advantage of the system and are just lazy?

He responded: That’s not statistically significant, and it’s not worth making some people go hungry just to punish those few people who are taking advantage

*phew*

That night, I went to an Austin CAN Community Council forum on Disabilities, where a panel of experts explained the challenges people with disabilities face in our community.

With all due respect to the people on the panel I left the meeting feeling frustrated. First, we were pretty much outright told by the representative from Goodwill that there are no local issues that impact people with disabilities, and we should focus our attention on national issues. Which is all well and good, but I’m sure there are some local things we can focus on, and I intend to inform the rest of the council once I figure out what they are.

The other thing that’s always frustrating when dealing with the non-profit industrial complex is…I just don’t think we’re getting all of the information. Granted, disabilities are not always visually evident, but I just didn’t get the sense that everyone on the panel was personally affected by the issues they were discussing. Not that you have to be in a certain demographic to advocate for the needs of that demographic, but in general I feel the social services crowd tends to invest a lot of time and money in developing people within their organizations to speak on behalf of the populations they serve, without taking the time to develop people in the communities they serve to do the same. Obviously, there are exceptions. But sometimes participating in these forums is like going to a badly-organized “community event to determine the needs of the community” where the only people present are those providing services to the community…which makes no sense to me, though I do understand the challenges in engaging people and encouraging participation.

Today, I woke up early and wrote letters…

And visited with some friends who are exploring an idea for a non-profit. I feel like I’m very blessed with people in my life who get excited about doing good things for others, and I’m especially happy when I can provide useful information and insight to help them help others. 🙂

I brought the Tao of Bird to his therapy appointment, where he spent yet another hour stonewalling his therapist and me, while we did our best to keep conversation going in order to make the environment more conducive to problem-solving. But that bird is a stubborn one! And so smart! And on to any tricks that would maybe encourage him to share his fears and possibly devise strategies for overcoming them.

And then I attended a forum on property taxes in Austin. I was blown away by the rage in the room. I mean, this crowd was one step away from pitchforks and torches. And for good reason. Did you know 90% of commercial building owners protest their property taxes annually, resulting in tax rates that are based on 60% of the value of the property? Meanwhile, I’m here in my home that’s falling apart because I’m spending all of the money I should be spending repairing it paying for the right to live here in the neighborhood I have lived in for 17 years…and the value of my home increases by 10% every year, in spite of the actual value of my home.

We were explained the weird formula they use to figure property taxes, and were told that, essentially, the tax assessor’s office can’t use actual home sales as a guide, since we’re a non-disclosure state. So, basically, we all get issued our ridiculous tax bills, and corporate entities spend a portion of the money they WOULD have spent on taxes paying lawyers to argue they’re property has been improperly valued until the tax assessor’s office has to cry uncle due to lack of resources for litigation and just settle.

Meanwhile, homeowners (and, likely, renters) are left bearing the burden of taxes. And this isn’t even addressing the tax breaks and incentives we give to businesses to move here. It’s freaking ridiculous. Here are some of my favorite quotes & notes of the evening:

-Large businesses employ lawyers to take advantage of the property tax appeals system. The appeals system can’t afford to litigate everyone, so they settle. Large businesses end up paying taxes on only 60% of the actual value of the property.

-The average home sale in my neighborhood is currently $347k

-The greatest increase in home value was in the downtown core, and East Austin <—

-The suggestion was made to advocate on a local/city level for a flat homestead exemption from the City of Austin

-Evidence that will help when filing a protest includes: Sales information, independent/certified appraisal, interior inspection, costs of repairs for large things like deadly mold and cracked slabs. (not sure if protesting will actually help me)

-Oh yay! Voting fixes EVERYTHING!

-Talk to taxing jurisdiction about services

-F1 is currently in litigation for property taxes

-Businesses filing appeals don’t have to show proof of revenue generation

-STATE INCOME TAX!!! (one of the audience members suggested this and everyone clapped…the presenter said that comment would have gotten him escorted out of the room in Houston)

-90% of county services are paid by property tax

-Robin Hood education taxes send 30% of Austin’s property taxes back to needier districts.

-Austin American Statesman has had 3 articles in the last few months about the commercial property tax loopholes.

-Research “Local Infrastructure Fee”

-Suggestions for improvement include: Close loopholes, end tax exemptions for commercial property, or sunset after 10 years.

-The City of Austin issued a senior citizen exemption & we should have fought for a homestead exemption.

-A suggestion that we end tax giveaways and subsidies for corporations garnered ROBUST applause

-Someone whose land value has TRIPLED in the last 6 years asked how land is being appraised and whether we aren’t just footing the bill for speculative development. (at no time during this forum was the possibility that this is all an issue of speculative development explicitly refuted)

-BANKS get 3% when you pay for your taxes online by credit card, get x% on interest when you have to take out a loan to pay the escrow increase, get $$$$$ when they foreclose on a home for failure to pay taxes.

-KEEPING APPRAISED VALUES STATIC ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES AND NEIGHBORHOODS, RATHER THAN ENCOURAGING TRANSIENCE

-Voting is not enough – stop telling us to vote when those we vot for sell out to special interests.

-A lot of state, city, county properties are not on the tax rolls.

-NOT ALL HOMEOWNERS ARE EQUAL

-Organize the State now in preparation for the 2015 legislature

-Homeowners/Commercial buildings used to have a 42/20 percent split of the tax burden, now it’s more like 52/less than 20

-One guy said he measured his home with laser measuring devices, and that he discovered the square footage is rounded up. 300 additional squre feet resulted in $1200 more in property taxes.

-“Responsible people who bought responsibly are now being priced out of their homes.”

-Legislators have not gotten a lot of heat about this.

-F1 stats:

  • $250 million tax break
  • Annual tax protest reductions that have amounted to about $250 million again
  • $14 million electricity plant that the taxpayers are paying for
  • $13 million water plant that the taxpayers are paying for
  • $16 million new entrance that the taxpayers are paying for
  • WTF1?

-Hyatt

  • Sold for $87 million
  • Appraised at $37 million when it was time to set the taxes.
  • Because lawyers….?

-Appraisal district budgets are being cut, so they have even fewer resources to litigate.

-Someone asked “Can I change my home from residential to commercial?”

-Many of these businesses were provided tax incentives because they were going to “widen the tax base” but we’re seeing lower services, higher taxes, and more traffic

-UNCONTROLLED GROWTH

-CITIZENS VS. DEVELOPERS

-How is growth being paid for & who is paying for it?

-90% of all commercial property taxes are appealed

-26% of residential property taxes are appealed

-Commercial property owners are writing non-disclosure riders in contracts for buyers AND sellers – because Texas is a non-disclosure state, the tax appraiser can’t get that information unless it’s provided, so there’s no way to value property according to actual market demand.

-Someone asked if we could support an appeal by putting our houses on the market at the price they are appraised at and proving they won’t sell.

-Some of the questions about how to cap increases were met with an accusation that just “shifts the tax burden” – so one guy responded “If you’ve lived here 20-30 years, why SHOULDN’T you shift the tax burden to the person who moved here 3 weeks ago & paid $750 k in cash for their house?”

-CAP EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION

-Some people were talking about organizing several people to hire a lawyer to appeal

-One guy was all “If we could only go to the state house with badly spelled signs like the tea party…you have to make them FEAR you!” (I was thinking “Uh…where the fuck were you when we actually DID that, only with perfectly-spelled signs – FOR YEARS!”)

-Someone mentioned that the 10% cap on increases is the MAXIMUM, but the taxing entities COULD choose to lower the percentage.

-Another person asserted that developers are buying properties, razing the houses on them, and rebuilding duplexes and triplexes that are then sold to rental agencies who make a huge profit and don’t pay as much in property taxes – she seemed to be saying that there’s some sort of loophole that causes the tax rate on duplexes/triplexes to be lower, and that non owner-occupied houses are taxed at a LOWER rate than owner-occupied houses.

-Two good resources: Austinaffordability.com and Realvaluesfortexas.org

It was an AMAZING meeting. I’m looking forward to seeing where all of this goes. In the meantime, I’m going to file my protest, even though I don’t feel very encouraged that it will get anywhere…

***

Phew! That was a very full weekend.

Lazy Sunday, Lainie Style:

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Asparagus, Pea, and Smoked Gouda Frittata…

First…I like to eat a good breakfast, and feed my mind. Sometimes that means fancy egg dishes and non-fiction…sometimes it means donuts and comic books…or any combination. Usually I cook breakfast for the kids when they’re both here. Sometimes I go out and get something.

It’s still mild enough to sit on the front porch and listen to the birdsong. They’re all going at it out there. It feels perverse to eavesdrop on their mating rituals, but it sure sounds pretty.

Usually one or more of the cats come to visit me while I’m on the porch. One of our cats likes to have her belly rubbed, so if she visits me, she’ll usually flop over on her back and wait for me to do my duty. Another cat likes to approach in friendliness or recline as though inviting you to scratch her belly, but she’s like the venus peopletrap of cats and will clamp down on you HARD if you take her up on her faux offer of belly rub-ness. The last cat…the male cat…just kind of meanders up like, as my son says, the guy whose just crashing on your couch, and says “‘sup?” Whenever that cat comes home, we all say “Cheezee is here!” like it’s some great celebration. Or like the folks at the bar on Cheers greeted Norm. We all kind of speculate Cheezee has another family who he lives with, though he’s been our cat since we rescued him from a foster situation, and is the brother of the tiny cat who loves belly rubs. He’s just that casual. But that’s another story…

Obligatory bluebonnet selfie

Obligatory bluebonnet selfie

On this particular Sunday, after breakfast, I drove my eldest son (aka buddha the grouch) up to a friend’s house in Round Rock and took myself out for a hike. I wanted to go to the Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Preserve, but the GPS led me on some wild adventure through some backroad skirting the park, but not actually at a place where I could enter. Still, it was lovely. I saw hawks circling. It smelled awesome outside and, though hot, it was lush and green in a way I will be missing mid-summer. And I thought a lot about land “ownership” as I passed miles and miles of PRIVATE PROPERTY – NO TRESPASSING NO HIKING KEEP OUT signs in front of some of the most beautiful land in Texas. And it pisses me off that people can own property and disallow people from entering…not even to hike or just have a picnic…and yet we continue to also cede our public land to private use. In other words – it was really sad to me that I had to drive for over 20 minutes or so actively seeking somewhere that I could just walk around in nature without trespassing.

But I found a place. Meager though it was, it allowed me the exact experience I needed. I don’t even remember the name of the “Recreational Area” I ended up at, but it had a boat launch and a picnic area, and it was LCRA land right alongside the Colorado River. So, I parked, I threw on my backpack, I put on my headphones, and I started walking. Then I took off my headphones, because I realized it was absolutely silent, save for the birds and the chirruping grasshoppers. Also because it was really fucking hot and my ears were sweating.

I had no idea what to expect. I just wandered around until I found something that looked like it might possibly be a trail. Encouraged by a lack of “No Trespassing” signs, I meandered off for awhile until I found the shoreline and, surprise! Beautiful wildflowers everywhere.

I was vaguely amused by the fact that someone in one of the gigantic houses across the water was blasting Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on their no doubt multi-thousands of dollar sound system loud enough for me to hear it crystal clear across the water. I never understood why people build such huge houses so close together. I would want to build a tiny house on a large plot of land.

I hope his neighbors like the devil rock!

I hope his neighbors like the devil rock!

About 3/4 of the way back in what I hoped would be a loop (I wasn’t even really sure if I could get all the way through the way I was going without encountering some impassable obstacle) I found a shady tree under which to sit and write a few things down and just catch my breath and enjoy the sounds and the stillnesses. But I knew if I sat too long, it would be difficult to get moving again. I made a mental note to bring a blanket next time. A nap would have been really nice there. Out in the open with air warm enough to feel like a hug from a good friend.

I decided to “traipse through the woods” to get back to my car the more direct way. So I picked my way through the underbrush, up and down a few little hills on either side of what was apparently once a pretty major waterway, judging from the abundance of shells.

Back to the car – and home. I picked up my younger son (aka The Tao of Bird) and took him out to dinner at his favorite chinese buffet place. I had to stop after one plate, but he ate an astonishing amount of food by any standards, even more by his…as he’s never had a very large appetite.

And home again, where I took a refreshing shockingly-cold shower & stretched out for a nap, feeling sated and pleasantly exhausted…

How was your Sunday?

 

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Something struck me last night at a presentation I attended with the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable. Something that I want to write about without a witty lyrical title or any images.

First, I want to emphatically acknowledge that if I wasn’t already aware of the incredible challenges those who are re-entering the community after being released from jail or prison face, I certainly would have been after last night’s presentation. I have no lack of empathy for people who have had run-ins with the law to any degree, and particularly with those who have committed non-violent crimes and are struggling with the co-efficient of mental illness (including substance abuse) or those who have been dealt the short hand of being treated as a second-class citizen in our society for any number of reasons that have been proven to put one in a position to choose to commit (or at least be more prone to being prosecuted for committing) crimes or become dependent on substances…or both.

However, one thing that was mentioned last night and was celebrated as a victory kind of hit me in the gut and has stuck there like a stone ever since. One of the presenters stated that the laws have recently changed so those who are re-entering are able to delay their obligations to pay child support upon release. This is meant to help ease the burden of the formerly-incarcerated, but it made my head buzz. After listening to the panelists talk about the other debt collectors who required immediate attention upon release: bankers, student loan officers, and the prison system itself, which charges for monthly P.O. visits, among other things…it was stunning to me that the person/people who were expected to bear the brunt of easing the burden on the newly-released would be the children of the formerly-incarcerated. How on earth do we justify that? Is there no way to suspend college loan payments, mortgages, or credit card debt for a period after release? Do we really need to further burden the parent who has already been burdened by being the sole provider for a child while the other parent has been in jail? Is this what we call progress?

I guess it’s my experience as a single parent that informs my outrage over this. I mean, it’s bad enough that there are people out there who view child support as “indentured servitude” by the other parent. I hear so many stories of non-custodial parents who haven’t been incarcerated who actually have the fucking nerve to be irritated with the custodial parent for expecting them to, you know, earn a fucking living and pay their fair share of support, as if the custodial parent actually has a choice to do so. And now this from the state – this dismissal of the very real challenge of being the sole financial provider of children who have two TWO *TWO* parents. As a single parent with primary custody, I don’t have the option to opt-out, delay, or postpone taking care of my child’s everyday needs. I simply have to find a way.

And, while I know those who have been recently released from jail or prison have a significantly more difficult time finding a way, I feel if the state is compelled to make it an option for them to opt out, postpone, or delay these responsibilities, it ought to take responsibility on behalf of its recently released inmates and provide assistance to the co-parent of those it chooses to incarcerate. Anything less than that is flat out invalidating the challenges of those parents and children who are the collateral damage of our (in)justice system, and by association – it even manages to invalidate the need for all children to have the support of both of the people who chose to bring them into the world, whether they’ve been incarcerated or not.

I just realized I never got around to writing about my return trip from Colorado. And, to me, that was almost the best part. I took the long way home, choosing to travel south through New Mexico, rather than angling southeast. My intention was to pop in on my friend Raymond before heading back to Austin. No big whoop, right?

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Well, I left Denver super early. It was gorgeous outside. I resumed my steady stream of “No fucking way” I had continually uttered at the sheer gorgeousness of everything in the universe. First, it was the moon that I began my journey beneath. I snuck out of the house before Pansy and Scott could wake up and drove south – hoping to drive as far up pike’s peak as possible. Unfortunately, Pike’s Peak tollway doesn’t open until after 9, and I got there well before.

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I took the opportunity to, instead, take a nice stroll through the garden of the gods. Excitedly trying to snap pictures of the (to me) pretty black and white birds I saw everywhere. I’m sure to people from Colorado, these birds are as interesting as grackels are to us Austinites, but I just adored them.

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Oh, and there were also some pretty rocks to look at.

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After wandering around for a bit, I got back into the car and drove around the little town until I found a restaurant with the word Omelette in its name. Hoping to get a decent omelette, but ended up getting this monstrosity stuffed with canned jalapenos and nothing else. It was pretty gross. Thankfully, I apparently have a stomach made of steel, because I suffered no after-affects of that culinary atrocity on the journey.

I spent much of the day traveling along what I perceived to be the Pacific-Coast Highway of the Rio Grande…I THINK it was 285, but I’m having difficulty mapping it now, and it might have been a smaller road than that. Snaking through Taos and Santa Fe alongside the river. I love and fear traveling near water. I get the same kind of feeling I always get when I’m in a high place. That feeling that I might just be overly tempted to throw myself over the edge or drive right into the water, and not be able to stop myself from doing so. I felt the same delight traveling next to that river as I did when I found myself accidentally driving through Clearwater National Forest, as well as the multiple times I’ve driven up and/or down the actual PCH. An approximation of the feeling I’ve had standing on the shore of Lake Michigan…coastal Florida…The Pacific Ocean…This. Is. Where. The. Land. Ends. What lies beyond is made of the stuff of drowning. You can walk to the edge of me, but once you cross that line, you are altered physically.

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And it’s these little surprises that happen along the way that make me prefer road trip travel (particularly when I am able to be loose about schedules and therefore choose (or not choose, and let randomness choose) the path I take. I tried to take as many obscure routes as I possibly could (which isn’t difficult to do with my meandery GPS system that seems to be programmed to send me off on the least direct route possible.) And while I didn’t have enough time to actually stop and enjoy the water, I did take the time to pull off the road a view times and take pictures, or write, or just sit in silence and wonder.

I was listening to the last half of Nick Cave’s _The Death of Bunny Munro_ on CD, having heard the first half on my way up, and trying to decide if I liked it because it was by (and read by) Nick Cave, or if it was because it was actually a good book (I’m still not sure what the answer is to that.) The day was perfectly temperate, clear, sunny. There was more traffic on the way home than there had been on the way up to Colorado, where I barely encountered a single car the whole time I was driving on open roads. And it took me a very long time to get to Albuquerque.20140316_174214

But I got there, and got a tour of the gallery from Raymond, and stayed a little longer than I should have but not even a fraction of the time I wanted to stay, picked up a gigantic pizza to feed the boys when I got home, and left just before dusk, determined to somehow drive the remaining 10 hours straight through, all the way home – losing an hour at the border, and getting me home at around 4 in the morning. hahaha.

I’m nothing if not ambitious. Particularly when it comes to driving.

But I’m also practical. And, after once again marveling at a fucking gorgeous full moon slowly emerging first as a giant plasmatic orb peeking just over the tops of distant landscape, and inching slowly to the top of sky – beaming triumphantly. It hypnotized me, and I realized I was getting tired already at 11 AM, and this is my VACATION, damnit…so I decided to stop at a hotel near the border of NM/TX and get some rest and enjoy the rest of the journey daylight even though, like regrettable sex, the drive through Texas is almost always best done in the dark of night.

And with that…I’m going to end this section and write the last leg another time.

snippets of springtime from random journal entries:

There is a tiny baby in polka dots here in the waiting room at the eye doctor. We are waiting for Buddha the Grouch’s pupils to dilate. The baby cris, is picked up by her mom. She (the baby) makes a motor boat sound with her tiny lips. I tell Buddga the Grouch “That baby is cute. I want to squish her.” Buddha the Grouch says “That baby wants me to be able to play M-rated video games.

***

End of day I’m off my feet

This cultivated silence, background noise & candle & a cuppa joe. Resounding non-sound a temporary respite from day’s dull roar & I sit in silence, let word overtake me silence bringing onrush of joy to temporary standstill silence & my crickets still sound like birds after all these years humidity brings it back to me that bedroom window the only place to press my face for cooler air to embrace. People drifting in and out of my picture view, bumbling like enormous mountains the size of ships. The traffic shifts my focus.

***

Dear You,

What have I learned this week? That you can’t force a banana into a peanut jar? That I don’t know why I keep ending up in the middle of crazy-ass relationships. It’s like the reverse instinct. Like when we were at the zoo & the people all ran TOWARDS the lion when he roared.

***

What I mean to say is this – I am forming sentences in a vacuum. A grave mistake. A simple misdirection and a hollow expression. This magic can interact transgressively. Regress into an open can. Trying to believe I can be liberated. B.B. King is free from the spell.

***

I ate popcorn for dinner tonight – and other tales of misguided adulthood.

The dog is outside, whining. Right now, I’m playing Sims. Enjoying peace and housematelessness and guestlessness. Soon there will be more guests and new guests and before that kids and back to work.

But at least the house is mostly clean, and the laundry is mostly done, and I have mostly exercised mostly every day. Mostly.

From here on out, I get to do what I want to do. Wander around in my pajamas all day.

Mostly.

***

 

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When did I allow my heart to get so fettered, not feathered,

Weathered. This is not love

by any approximation & yet

it is approximately the closest

I feel like I can get

 

One who gives me everything but

one who gives me nothing but

I divide myself into portions

Portions of me

Free

For the taking.

 

I should be satisfied

with

the dove in my hand, and

the hawk in my bush.

Instead,

I may go cold turkey.

***

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I wonder what I am half paying attention to now?

What am I?

I stopped caring

the minute I stopped

defining.

Steadfastly refuse to call myself

a poet

Though…pictures

paint words

in my mind.

**

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Walking in heat

Falling in love w/the you in everyone

& longing, which is the better part of love

The distance so tangible, it feels

like a touch

that keeps me from alone long not long alone. The

you in everyone I have never had had

never known no never. Will never know

& that’s ok b/c longing

is the better part

of love

***

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Listening to wind chime & bird chatter and cars going by. It sure feels good to be alive.

In a minutes, I’m going to wrap this up & take the kids out for ice cream. Maybe come back out on the porch later & write some more.

Oh, and – I got the job.

***

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Chirping, I hope like a cricket – w/out wings. I can only fall. Hop. Skip. You say it is not the way you planned things. I say Fuck Your Plans.

***

The Tao of Bird argued about not wanting to take a shower for about 30 minutes this morning. Including yelling and name calling and tantrum throwing and many many many “I HATE YOU”‘s. Now he is in the shower. Has been for about 15 minutes. Singing away. Apparently never planning to come out.

Meanwhile, Buddha the grouch is still sleeping, I am listening to an Animal Collective song called Bees. The birds are singing. The sun is shining.

“Please Take Your Time…”

The song entreaties me. Entices me. Pleads with me.

 

I want to write more about my vacation, but today was an exceptionally good day, and rather than write about the then, I’d prefer to gush about the now.

I’ve been struggling lately. I mean…I’ve actually been struggling for awhile, but I do a pretty good job of managing my own personal struggles I think (I hope!) – but lately I’ve been struggling in a positive way – overcoming, is the word. I’ve been overcoming some of the residual imprints of struggling.

Overcoming seems to involve a lot of self-reflection. A lot of heavily guarded alone time. Sometimes to an extent where I wonder if it might be unhealthy for me to spend so much time alone, without really desiring the company of anyone else in particular. Not that I don’t love and adore my friends and loved ones…it’s just lately I seem to adore spending time by myself an awful lot more.

I sometimes worry that I don’t have the ability to deal with ever surrendering any tiny scrap of my autonomy to be in a relationship with another person…but I’m too busy not caring to worry about that for very long. Though I do have a corollary worry that my inability to surrender any tiny scrap of my autonomy will cause me to end up being bitterly alone when I’m too old to find someone who wants to surrender a tiny scrap of their autonomy for me.

Who knows. Maybe it’s just a phase.

What I haven’t been struggling with lately is being ridiculously appreciative of the gentle rhythm of my days, which is possibly WHY I’m feeling reluctant to risk losing control over them. I notice that I really seem to enjoy my job on a soul-nourishing level. It’s nice to help people all day. To be able to talk to them as a human being and solve their technical issues. I really enjoy people treating me like an authority on something. One of the first things I had to learn to do to succeed at my job was to eliminate my tendency towards humility when helping people with technology. I’m used to approaching people in an exploratory way, which works pretty good for training, but generally when you are calling tech support, you want someone to be a bit more authoritative. I’m really enjoying mixing both so I don’t come across as a know-it-all and intimidate people who just need a little nurturing. It’s actually not a bad way to spend 10 hours a day.

I’m also really happy with the habits I’ve formed around preparing and eating healthy, homemade meals all week, reading, getting some sort of exercise, and writing in my journal every day. It’s been awesome to have time to spend on myself. And while I have had weeks of getting sucked in to one TV series or another (most recently, Eureka, which actually gave me some of the most amazing dreams and, in spite of the fact that it was a pretty damn cheesy show (or maybe because of that) has me mourning the little world I lived in with all of those characters for a month or so.

I guess this is all sort of related to my vacation, because part of all of this is the fact that I’ve also been able to travel more – take more road trips – get out of town more. It’s something I feel I’ve been somewhat deprived of over the past few years. It’s really nice to be able to pick up and leave town for a bit. The endless rhythm of the tires on asphalt with trees and signs and other cars whishing by. The places my mind goes when there’s endless novel monotony all around me. My face focused forward, but watching the world peel by on either side. Tracking time by moon and sun and moon again. Driving. Driving. Driving. Being driven.

unruly

Photo by John Jack Anderson

 

Name Change. Because I accidentally typed “unruly mom” in an email, instead of “unruly mob”…and, miracle of miracles, for some reason no one has ever thought to snatch up the domain name unrulymom.com until now.

I mean – it RHYMES *and* it’s a play on words.

So, that was something that made me happy after a rough couple of days.

I want to say things about love and friendship and how complicated it is to deal with conflicting feelings about depression and suicide.

Instead, I think I’ll just say a few words about family. Or, interchangeably to me, Community. Family is a concept I have struggled with all my life. I come from a large family, but they are not all my Community. It is an oddly mismatched group of people with a somewhat similar upbringing. As the youngest, I don’t feel like I ever really got to know my eldest family members all that well. As the half-sibling to all of my 6 siblings (3 with the same monther, 3 with the same father) I’ve always felt like both the outsider and the tie that binds.  Though I do remain in touch with some of my immediate family members, for whatever reason I’ve never been connected to my extended blood relatives. This could be why I spent much of my adolescence (and beyond) cultivating relationships that imitated family.

Now that I have children of my own, my lack of a solid connection with my larger family disturbs me. I worry my children have inherited this disconnection by default. I do my best to encourage them to be conscious of their connections, but I haven’t set a very good example, and I’m not much of a “do what I say, not what I do” kind of parent. So I try to compensate by committing to my Communities in a way that some people commit themselves to their families

To me, family is about staying connected to people even if you screw up. It’s about second chances, asking for forgiveness and fully expecting to be forgiving. It’s about being forced to learn to get along with people who might not agree with you, and being patient when you don’t agree with them. Sometimes it’s about setting boundaries and enforcing them. Sometimes it’s about giving in.

Today, I’m reminding myself that even family members make mistakes. Even familial love has its limits. Sometimes people need more than their immediate family. Sometimes they need an entire community. And sometimes it takes an extreme circumstance for family OR community to respond to the needs of its meekest members. Sometimes it’s just impossible to know thin the rope is until someone is hanging by the last strand.

I’m very glad I don’t have to talk about one specific family member in the past tense. I’m once again in awe of this community I have haphazardly become part of. A community that responds to a cry for help by organizing a people-powered dragnet to comb the city and rescue one of their own. A community that responds to a loss of hope by fully reinforcing the reason why we should have hope in the first place. A community of people who arrive in the nick of time. Maybe not precisely when we want them, but time and time again I see my community members…my Brothers and Sisters…get there EXACTLY when they are NEEDED.

This world is a scary place. I’ve lost too many loved ones to despair, and I don’t really care to lose more, though I certainly understand how one would get there. Today my brothers and sisters have restored my faith and hope in family and community – and the necessity of both. Thank you for providing the best of both worlds as an example for my children. Thank you for providing such a wonderful example of mutual aid and selflessness to anyone fortunate enough to witness it. ❤

 

(by Cole: Age 13)

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Today’s Mantra, while taking my second Eucalyptus-infused shower in less than 24 hours in hopes of clearing my allergy-ridden nose:

Ritual abandon, chaotically enacted with surgical precision.

I am engaging in a project-based mini, semi-vacation within a tiny bit more of a vacation. Otherwise Known As 24 entire hours (plus!) without having to be in the presence of another human being. But my time is drawing to a close. Soon, ruckus will once again descend upon the house, but it will dissipate and a quieter ruckus will ensue. And just that near silent-hum that exists as a background noise whenever there is another person in the house with you, capable of interrupting the quiet at any given moment. Most of a time that is a pleasent hum. Sometime – it’s just nice to muffle it for a day.

I spent my time well. Forced, as I was, to succumb to a mostly horizontal plane of existence due to aforementioned leaky nose and the irresistible allure of lethargy. I’ve been organizing my data. Pushing around bits and bytes from one storage format to another. Sifting through images, music, writing – things of my past that have been stored in various formats throughout my life. Organizing it. Analyzing it. Contemplating it. This life in pixels.

I create systems while I work. Systems of efficiency. Systems of reward. Systems to prevent me from becoming bored. And, while working, I watch – or listen – or create in between bouts of “productivity.” Appreciating the progress. Enjoying the process. Knowing there is a beginning, middle, and forseeable end to this project…makes for a very satisfying few days of laze and precious solitudinous haze.

What are you waiting for?