Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Heavy Heart

My Mama left today, after having spent the last two weeks with me. Excuse me, I need to blow my nose. I've been leaking fluids - tears, nose funk - since she left. I don't full-on cry much anymore, but I rarely escape a goodbye without leaking fluid. It used to be much worse, I used to just SOB, which let me tell you, ain't a pretty sight. You know those women who cry so gracefully and beautifully? The ones whose faces are serene as the tears roll quietly down their beautiful snowy white cheeks? Who can continue to breathe through their beautiful noses while this whole silent tear business is going on? They are the same people who wear a size zero, the same people whose hair is beautiful no matter how humid it is. Yeah, that's not me. When I cry, my face kinda twists all up, I get furrowed brow and quivery lip and BIG FAT EYELIDS and a swollen, red nose. I do not cry pretty. So it's probably good that I don't full-on do that often with the airport goodbyes anymore. I can just see the airport security guy telling me that all this fluid is definitely more than 3oz, and I can't bring that on the plane. I'd have to check myself in the cargo section.

But my heart is always wet-beach-towel-heavy. There's a part of me that feels like a child, all warm and fuzzy and cared-for, that feels like everything is right with the world when my Mama is around. She does shit for me my husband would NEVER do. She irons my ironable things (this is a big list, skip to end of parenthesis if you aren't anal like me - tablecloths, doilies (shut up, YES, I have doilies), runners, tea towels/dish towels, pillowcases, the tops of my embroidered sheets, duvet covers, little girls frilly and not so frilly dresses, my tops/blouses/skirts). She makes sure we always have fresh limes because come 3:30 Wednesday through Sunday, ain't the bar open yet? It's time for a Cuba Libra! She makes her little guest quarters seem like a slice of her little heaven, even though it's my guest room in my own home. It's hers, when she's here. It's cozy waking up in the morning and knowing she's in the other room, waiting until 8 (yep, she's a spoiled rotten slacker) to bring her coffee in bed and warm up a decadent cinnamon roll for her. Watching the joy she gets out of stopping at Tamale House #3, which Does Not Sell Tamales, buying her two guacamole crispy tacos for less than $2. Hearing her subtly direct me in her Mom Tone with cooking, cleaning, laundry, occasionally child-rearing, with her little bits of wisdom (which I am free to take or leave, because it IS MY HOUSE, after all, but generally I take them). And then knowing she's gone to sleep in my home as early as my daughter, because her RA takes a lot out of her, and she needs about 10-12 hours of sleep each night with 3 potty breaks. I grow so accustomed to the little bright spots when she's here, the conversation, the swinging on the porch, the extra set of eyeballs to keep an eye on Hootie (read: keep her from breaking shit or killing herself) when I'm getting things done I hardly get a chance to do when she's not here. And when she's gone, even though it's been all of about 30 minutes and she is still sitting at the Austin airport, probably having just boarded the plane, my heart feels so heavy. It's like it takes extra energy just to continue shoving hemoglobin through its arteries, contracting and expanding. Then I get used to that feeling like a constant drip of water in the middle of my forehead, coming from a rusty pipe under which I'm strapped to a board for my torture, and start to not notice it so much anymore. Visits cannot go on forever, and eventually we all go back to living our lives, she in her town, with my sister and family and her friends, and I in my town, with my husband and daughter and friends. I know that I will see her soon, that after Christmas, mid-January, we'll go back up to the Pacific Northwest and help her recover from another surgery. In the FOG. That is so thick you can't see your mailbox across the street, let alone Five Mile. And it'll be colder than a whore's heart, 10 degrees colder than anywhere else in the town, and with 3 extra feet of snow. But I miss her nonetheless.

And so does Hootie. We love you, Moosie!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


So, WAY back at the beginning of this blog, I stated that I fully intended to get a tattoo. I showed the drawing, I discussed it in some detail. I explained what it was all about. And then that little intention fell off the face of the earth. Lack of balls? Nah, lack of money. Until 20 Nov 2006. Yes, last Monday. I got it. I went in, with my Mama, and got my tattoo. I wish my sister could have been here, and gotten hers with me, but we will take her in to get it done soon, when she is here in April.

'Did it hurt?' you might ask. I'd have to say the answer is somewhere in between "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!!?" and "At least I didn't punch anybody out." I had two breaks to get up, walk around, get the circulation back in my bottom lip which I bit to keep still.

Mig was very professional. He asked if I had any questions, and I said not about tattoos themselves. They are self-explanatory. But, I was curious about the sterility of the process, and how risky is it for me to get something as a result of this. He told me they use a new needle for each customer, the device/needles are not "disposable" but are sterilized in a machine called an autoclave. The thing gets inspected every few weeks to ensure it is functioning properly. He wore gloves, used alcohol to sterilize my back first, and was the utmost in tidy. Mig is a friend of my friend Shonna, whom I have mentioned before. I have extremely high respect for Shonna, and I know that her group of friends, every single bloody one of them I have met, are all very high quality individuals. Mig is no different. Although the tattoo studio where I got this thing done looked very much like you would suspect - very brightly colored, pumping in loud rap music with a lot of heavily pierced and tattooed individuals working there - walls lined with stylized tattoo-type images of everything from tits to dragons to tribal pointy-spiky designs to flowers and butterflies to Harley Davidsons. None of that was on my agenda though. Mig has no tattoos on his arms, neck, chest, face, or back. He said he does have some on his legs, however I didn't see them to know how many or of what. He's very articulate, and due to us both having had children around the same time, was very curious about my experiences parenting, going through childbirth, and so on. His wife is lovely.

The chatting took about an hour, plus the placement of the design on my back with a sort of "fake tattoo" type paper thingie of my design. I had to have him wipe it off and start over twice to get it just so. Evidently my back is kinda lopsided, because although it is where it should be, it looks a bit not quite straight. But it's me, not the tattoo.

The actual tattooing took about an hour and a little bit. He outlined it first, then drew some areas thicker according to the design. It did feel like a cat dragged a claw around my back for about an hour. It was not pleasant. Several times I couldn't continue talking or answering questions. My mom filled in the gaps though. :-) When it was done, it felt immeasurably better than having it done did. Afterward, it felt like a bad sunburn. I kept the bandage on all night, which SUCKED worse than the tattoo felt after I took it off. I don't recommend leaving it on.

Now, it is almost done with its scabbing/sluffing business. It's almost flat (it was very raised for a few days). So here it is:

It is in the center of my back, but above the bra strap, rather than below. Still easily concealable, yet not so much so that nobody will ever see it besides my husband. I catch a glimpse of it or look at it in the mirror, and cannot believe it is MY back upon which this design is permanently inked. It's very strange-feeling. I love it, but it's weird. I don't know if that makes sense.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One or More?

This is Thanksgiving week, and my Mama is here in town. Thus, the posts are a lot fewer and further between. In fact, I think the last post was the day before she arrived.
I just read a post from RubySoho which sparked further interest in me, because I'm amongst the few who choose to have just one child. Aaryn commented about how she doesn't miss the baby phase, as much as she enjoyed Ruby's baby phase. I am 100% in agreement with this point. Points like this always beg the question for me, "why, if you enjoy something in life, is there an eternal quest to relive it? Can it not just be, in its goodness, and not happen over and over again?" I loved going through all of Hootie's little phases and yet, I am perfectly happy to remember them fondly, not try to get them back with another child. I'm not saying that people who have more than one child are doing this, but rather I am saying that enjoying the first child's baby stage does not necessitate wanting to "repeat" the experience. Not to mention the fact that the experience itself will be nothing like the first one when repeated. And that's not entirely because the children are different children, though that is part of it. But the experience of having a second is a lot more hectic and hurried and a lot less surprising and full of wonderment and awe. By the time the second one comes along, you have the first one in the house needing and wanting attention. You no longer have the luxury of sitting for hours rocking a little tiny baby in your arms, watching her sleep, nuzzling the baby fuzz on her head and smelling her perfect little baby smell. You don't have time to slowly trace the little veins on her eyelids, or smooth the little baby hairs back while they sleep, and lie on the floor with a stuffed thing, wagging it back and forth in her peripheral vision, just to see if she can follow it. That one is now running like wildfire through the house, singing made-up songs at top volume, while you hurry through changing diapers and nursing and/or bottle feeding, hoping the older one doesn't get into trouble while you're quickly tending to the other one. No, for people having second and third (or more) children, they do so because they love and want to have a whole bunch of them around, not because they want to relive the first child's baby phase.
For us, I think it comes down to being satisfied with our life with just one. She is fascinating, she is brilliant, she says the strangest things sometimes, and makes us burst with pride (just like every other parent out there). I do experience moments where I know that she will no longer sit on my lap, all leggy and cozy, wanting me to "hold her like a baby." It makes me sad that the day will come where she doesn't want 500 hugs and kisses a day, where probably weeks or longer will go by during which I won't likely hear "I love you SO MUCH, Mommy." I wish I could slow time down and soak her up for longer and longer, but no matter how fast or slow time races or drags, there will be an end to it, and it is the end I dread, no matter how long it takes to get there. At the same time, I am also loving watching her little mind work and learn. I hope, at least, that I am creating an environment for her where she can become whatever her heart desires, and can always ask me anything she wants to know. I hope that I will provide her a springboard from which to jump curiously into the world and embrace all of the wonderment it holds, rather than fearing it because of the scary things within it. I don't usually have the slightest idea how to impart characteristics I think are important and admirable in a person, or if it is even possible to "impart" them. I think that part is a crapshoot, honestly. But I spend a good deal of time thinking about it, how to teach and guide and inspire and motivate her. Truly, I have my hands full with just her. My Mama still thinks in her heart of hearts that we should have another. I don't know if it is just her desire for a steady stream of little tiny babies in her life (oh how she loves little babes!) or if she really thinks my life is missing out on something by not having another. We thought about it for a while, thinking she maybe "deserved" to be given a life-long companion or playmate, though that isn't a guarantee either. Many siblings don't ever become close, let alone stay close. And creating another person just for the express purpose of having a playmate for the first one seems like a rather flimsy reason to have a child.
In the end, we decided, at least for the time being (unless one of us has a change of heart), that we are perfectly satisfied with our one amazing little individual. One we can take to Europe and other parts of the world soon, one that we can likely send to college almost anywhere she wants to go. One we can fit neatly into our tiny little home, and still live in the city. Because that one little being fills our hearts up to the brim and overflows all on her own.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Seriously Weird Vegetation

Her Weirdness, Eunice:

My deck is the current residence for this peculiar cactus that my friend Shonna recommended I purchase from the nursery where she works.

I do not know her Latin plant name but in plant-people circles, Eunice is not well-liked. Evidently these flowers smell like rotting corpse. I cannot import a smell file for you to smell it, but I can confirm their odor is nasally offensive.

There are some damn strange plants out there on this planet.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tubas In Her Ears

This evening, it was my turn to execute Hootie's bedtime routine. On My Day, Hootie is generally very easy to get to sleep, whereas when it's The Husband's turn, she will start in very early in the evening to subtly (or not so subtly) sneak in subliminal messaging suggesting it's actually MY night, not his. Or that possibly I'll be doing the stories, and he can do the songs, because after all, HE'S a good singer (Which is an absolute falsehood. He can't carry a tune in a bucket, and though I'm no undiscovered diva, at least I can sing the notes on key).
Tonight was a bit of a different story. Hootie had her bath, we brushed her teeth and she gave Daddy a hug and kiss goodnight. We both crawled up onto her bed with two stories in hand, and I started to read. She began to ask 412 questions or find other ways to dilly dally on each page, trying to make the storytelling process linger as long as humanly possible.
"Let me count the eggs, Mommy. One...two...three, no, let me start over. One...two...three...four, wait wait! I have to start over. One..."
"Hootie, I'm going to read the rest of the story now."
We finished stories, and sang a song. Then we said our prayers. "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Angels watch me through the night, and wake me with the morning light." (I see no reason at age 3 for her to say the part about if she dies and what should God be doing then? That's nuts.) God bless.... (insert EVERYONE WE KNOW, EVERY STUFFED ANIMAL IN HER ROOM, the light, the kitchen, the dog, her Moosie's dog, her Auntie Wah's dog, and who were those people down the street? Oh right, Champ and Hays. Them too). Amen. Time for kisses, hugs, and bed.
Hoo: "But I don't WANT to sleep in my bed. I can't SLEEP in here."
Mommy: "Hootie, this is your room, of course you can sleep in here. You have slept in here all week. Put your head down and try. Goodnight, sweetheart."
I shut the door about 3/4 of the way shut and walk out toward the living room.
4 seconds pass.
Hoo: "MOMMY! YOU DIDN'T BRUSH MY HAIR! MY HAIR IS WET!" (it was in a ponytail and didn't need it, but okay).
Mommy: "Okay, let's brush your hair." I go in with the brush, get it all brushed out, re-kiss and hug her, say good night. I shut the door about 3/4 of the way shut and again try to walk toward the living room.
4 more seconds pass.
Hoo: "MOMMY! I'M HAVING A HARD TIME GETTING TO SLEEP." (Repeat 17 times, verbatim, top volume).
After listening to all this plaintive crying from the other room for a while, I go in again.
Mommy: "Hootie, it's time for bed."
Hoo: "But Mommy, I'm having a hard time getting to sleep. There are LOUD NOISES in my ears."
Mommy: "What kind of loud noises? A bell? A whistle?"
Hoo: "Tubas."
Mommy: "Tubas? There are tubas in your ears?"
Hoo: "Yes, Mommy. I can't sleep with tuba noises in my ears."
(Of course, there are no noises going on at all in the house or outside worth even mentioning).
Mommy: [Holding her ears closed a minute] "There, is that better?"
Hoo: "Nope. I can't sleep with these noises. BUT, if I went to sleep on YOUR bed, the tubas would go away and I could get some sleep."
But of course. Why didn't *I* think of that?!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Statistical Updates

Taking a page from Sweet Juniper's post of today, I have a few random statistics to share of my own, for the household of the Hoo and environs.

Quantity of snot flowing out of my child's nose today: About a tablespoon
Likely quantity of snot flowing out of my child's nose tomorrow: About 3 cups
Likelihood I will acquire whatever it is my child just caught from some germy little monster she encountered somewhere: 0%
Likelihood I will get a sinus infection instead: 99.9% (gotta leave room for prayer to work here...)
Number of times my child has said, "Mommy, play with me?" in the last hour: 4
Number of times I have checked the weather forecast to see if they have removed the infernal 80's from the upcoming week: 17
Number of sweaters in my closet: 11
Number of times I will be able to wear one of them this winter while in Texas: 4
Number of people who actually read this blog: 3, I think
Number of times I wonder daily why I bother writing it: 8 or 9
Pairs of shoes in my husband's wardrobe: 5
Pairs of shoes in my daughter's wardrobe: 11
Pairs of shoes in my wardrobe: 34
Pairs of shoes I still think I need: About 400 :-)
Pairs of shoes I can afford to buy myself at the moment: 0
Times this week I have cooked a home-cooked meal: 2/4 (so far, there are still 3 days left, people)
Times this week I have bagged it and ordered take-out: 1/4
Times I just reheated leftovers: 1/4
Number of people who actually give a shit about that: 1 (my sister will let me talk about anything. Love you Wah!)
Minutes I have left until I complete this post? .5

Politics Are Out.

Note to Self: Do not engage your father in a discussion about politics again in the future.
Postscript Note to Self: When father attempts to engage you in a discussion about politics in the future, feign ANYTHING to get off the phone - doorbell? Something on the stove is on fire? Kid just wrote HOOTIE in crayon on the wall? Just get off the phone immediately.

I had a rather unpleasant conversation with my father recently, as you can tell, involving politics. He is an avid Bush supporter, feels like if we weren't fighting the war in Iraq, it would be going on in Southern California instead, and he's definitely not pleased that he raised a child who isn't Republican. It isn't that I'm Democrat either, or a Liberal, or anything with a title. I think politicians generally speaking have compromised morals and really don't stand for much if trading it for some other treat of the day will get them somewhere.

It's just a rathole. Don't. Go. Down. Rathole.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Jesus is a Music Teacher?

It has recently come to my attention that Jesus is alive and well, and teaches music at Hyde Park Baptist Church. And, get this! Jesus is a WOMAN! How so, you ask? Last you heard, Jesus died and was buried about 1,973 years ago, was raised from the dead, and ascended into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father*, right? That's what I thought too. Not so. According to Hootie, her music teacher IS Jesus. Every time she walks past her on the way out of the building after I retrieve her from preschool, she waves and says, "Goodbye, Jesus!" or "Have a good weekend, Jesus!" or "Thanks for the songs, Jesus!" I'm not kidding.
I'm not sure whether or not to be embarrassed or amused by this. In theory, if I were teaching her correctly, she'd know this couldn't possibly be true. But if truth be told, the child's religious background consists of a) being baptized Catholic, due to her paternal family being Catholic, b) saying prayers at night before bed, "God blessing" everyone in creation that we know, c) reciting grace before dinner (adorably, I might add!), d) attending Baptist preschool, e) attending Catholic church once in a while, usually resulting in her and one parent tearing ass through the cry room at break-neck speed, while the other parent sits in the pew not listening to the sermon, but rather wondering what the one parent and child are doing to keep themselves out of trouble, and f) owning about 4 different religiously oriented books, most of which are on the subject of Christmas, Easter, or how and why Noah got all them damn animals into his big ol' ship. It isn't that I do not want to share my religious viewpoints with my child, because I do and will, one day. But the way I see and view and experience religion is... complicated. At least too complicated for a child of 3, even a future Mensa member. And I sorta figure the Baptist church would be giving her the same rudimentary basics that the Catholic church would. But somehow, every last one of us who have been involved in her religious education have failed her if she thinks the music teacher is Jesus. I really don't have the foggiest idea how she came up with this notion, and/or why nobody prior to me last week has even caught it. Maybe because the stories about Jesus are often sung TO Jesus, and she's in the front of the room, being sung to?
Well now you know. If you're looking for Jesus or have a special request, go to the music room at HPBC. I'm sure she'll be happy to help you out.

* I didn't even have to look that up. Regurgitation of Catholic mass materials courtesy of my photographic memory, which apparently works both in audio as well as video.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Yard is Africa

Every novel I have ever read about Africa describes the environment as almost insuppressable. The weather is violent in many directions - there are areas of barren desert, dense tropical rainforest, jungle, wild savannahs with flooding and drought. The vegetation itself, especially in the rainforest, is a tangled mass of vines and branches and roots. The insects, snakes, and other creatures are hearty and dominant. One must be extremely resilient and persistent to try and tame the lands in Africa; those who have lived there for centuries tend to just co-occupy the land rather than tame it. It's the western influence which brings about cities and transforms the land into something it wasn't before.
But if people stopped beating it back with scythes and bulldozers and chainsaws, within a short matter of time, the land would stretch its tendrils up and reclaim the surface for its own. I envision a mass of vines growing amongst the cars and cement structures and lights, engulfing them until they are swallowed up into the earth.
This is my yard, the back yard in particular. It is a little 6000 square foot section of Africa. When we first bought our house, the yard consisted of tall weeds, mud, and assorted junk buried in the dirt. No grass, no buildings, no deck, no fence. Only what grows wild and natural. We added the aforementioned items - tilling the soil, bringing in sod, creating a dog run with that black fabric which would resist weeds, creating a nice deck and fence to delineate recreational spaces from each other. We built a garage and painted it green. There are flowerbeds and walkways with stepping stones.
And now, my yard is reaching up its tendrils to swallow up these things and bring back the loose weeds. The rock-hard dirt has moved my fenceposts so they are no longer straight, pulling the panels of pickets to and fro, up and down. The deck structure leans to a side, and the tree sheds a half ton of pollen and leaves and nuts all year round. The weeds have completely consumed the rocked-in dog run, to where a field of volunteer sunflowers and spiderwort plants loom tall next to my windows. The dead branches which fall from the tree into the lawn get tossed or drug by the dog into the disasterous dog run, creating a makeshift barrier between sod and rock, if such a delineation is even clear anymore. My dog is nature's accomplice in this process, digging random holes, tearing the black fabric with his claws, carving a nest in the matted carpet of tree refuse in his corner. The paint has already begun to peel off the garage wood, and the stepping stones will not remain straight no matter how many times I level them. When the rains come, they come in gullywasher form, pounding the unnatural surfaces into submission. Then the hot sun beats down, removing any layer(s) of varnish on any sorry attempts to maintain wood furniture on the deck. The fabric of the umbrella and chair seats on the patio set are faded from sun, mildewed from standing water, and thinning out. Everything appears to be falling apart. And it's about 3 years old.
I visit my mom and sister, or my husband's sister in Seattle, and their yards are beautifully manicured, tidy and manageable. The insects are tiny and rare, the soil is easy to dig, the landscape is calm, and the grass is soft. No forces of destruction hover on the property line, waiting for them to put away their rakes and shovels and brooms, like they do at my house. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to just give the yard back to nature, as it seems so intent upon reclaiming it. Yet I would never spend time out there in such a condition, so I will continue to toil away in my spare time, hacking at it with my scythe, beating it into submission. But as I do it, I know I'm fighting an uphill battle, going against the grain.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Beautiful Patchwork

Yesterday I accompanied my dear friend Shonna to the Austin Museum of Art, where displayed in the gallery was an exhibit entitled, "The Quilts of Gees Bend." Upon hearing that we would be viewing a quilting exhibit, visions came to my mind of wild works of art in intricate detail, beautifully embroidered wedding rings and log cabins and floral extravaganzas. I have seen the quilt medium used as a canvas for creating scenes and find that mystifying, but this is not what I encountered.
Upon walking into the exhibit hall, there was a flat screen monitor to the right. A documentary of sorts was playing, in which a very colorful group of black women from Gees Bend, Alabama were giving their recountings of how and why quilts were made in their community. On the walls were some amazing asymmetrical quilts, pieced together from scraps of all kinds of fabrics, mostly all worn-out clothing. Amidst bits and pieces of work denim and corduroy and aprons were darned holes, spots of dirt scrubbed and bleached as much as they could be, leaving behind untold stories of how these flaws and stains came to be. Nothing was thrown away - if the item became too worn and damaged to continue its life as a piece of clothing, it was cut and torn into strips or squares, and sewn into quilts for bedcoverings. In the cold of winter, beds were covered with many layers of quilts for warmth, or hung over doors and windows to keep out the drafty cold air. With the history these rough folky works of utilitarian art embodied, they were breathtaking. Not in the traditional, sparkling clean, precisely and finely detailed way, but in the fabric-of-life way. I could close my eyes listening to the women in the documentary sing, in Gees Bend, Alabama, and envision scuffling in my worn-out work boots along a gravel road between two fields of cotton or tobacco. With a bright blue sky and warm humid afternoon upon me, the sounds of low woman singing drift to my ears. I look to the side and see a droopy roofed clapboard house with so little paint remaining on the wood, I can barely tell what color it once was. The smell of honey and biscuits wafts out the front door, and the breeze blows it languidly around my face and into my nose. The same breeze is gently moving and drying four newly quilted and washed quilts hung out on a makeshift line spanning between the house and an old oak tree to the side. They are each different, from four different families, with the latest scraps and bits from the house. It evokes a sense of "down home" and the deep South. I want to curl up on the alfalfa grass with a book and one of these treasures.
These women were so humble, so of the earth, and so inspiring. They live their lives, piecing together quilt tops in their spare time, then quilting the tops into blankets with their women friends, singing hymns and folksongs that possibly hearken back to the days of slavery in the South. Or stopping to relay the latest news from a child who has moved away. Their female children and grandchildren play under the quilts and watch the needles go in and out of the fabric, knowing one day they would make their own quilts as a rite of passage.
Some of the quilts were turned into prints by a printing house in Berkeley, CA, though for what purpose other than art, I am not sure. But all of them were beautiful and unique in their way.
I was mesmerized and inspired. I can sew, especially if not constrained by the requirement that something be perfectly straight. How beautiful would it be, to have a quilt that contained bits and pieces of my own family's history and life? Bits of Hootie's baby clothing that no longer fits, and might never be worn again by anyone? Old jeans, ripped in the knees and stained with grass from gardening, or paint from freshening up an old desk, old tea towels and dishcloths used as potholders and rustic old bowl dryers over the years? I think it would be lovely.
What has inspired you lately?