Friday, May 27, 2005

Beating record highs, the sun sets and the sky turns shades of pink and aqua better suiting the Caribbean than Portland. There are a couple of hundred little walking sticks infiltrating my flowers now that the oothea has yielded up its harvest of pest-vacuums. Tomorrow morning I fly to Montana with binoculars and bird books carefully tucked in a borrowed backpack to spend a week in relative wilderness. Comfortable wilderness, but there should be a lot of wildlife and very few people there. And no internet hook up, so I wish you a happy week while I'm gone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I am standing in the Rite-Aid (multipurpose drug store) waiting for my daughter to come out of the bathroom. I have suppressed the irritation that comes when a child has to go NOW just as we are walking out of the store, instead of waiting the 10 minutes it would take us to drive home and I am also suppressing the irritation of going to Rite-Aid for non-existent advice on allergic reactions to shampoos which the pharmacist was clueless about. After looking at the ingredient lists of about 20 different bottles, all loaded with 10 or more chemicals with unpronounceable names, we've decided the only answer is to conduct a formal scientific inquiry on my daughter's skin because she breaks out every time she washes her hair with anything. We'll let you know the results. Frankly I'm suspicious she will fail the control experiment and break out from water too. But anyhow I am still standing in the Rite-Aid with a son who is asking repeatedly why it takes his sister so long in the bathroom (this morning he informs me it is because she is a teenager and he winks. this I find both hysterically funny and wise) and we are standing at the end of several rows - a wall full of different kinds of shoes to my right, a wall directly in front of me covered with games, a wall ahead and to the left with summer water toys, and to my hard left aisles filled with shelves of toys. For some reason I am feeling very overwhelmed. My son walks over to the shelf of cars and picks up an army tank, saying something like "I don't have this" and quickly putting it down as if he recognizes why he wouldn't have one, and then says "I like all the Hotwheel cars" waving expansively at hundreds of tiny cars, which does not surprise me but I am feeling like I will faint if he asks me to buy him something, as the excess of the stuff in our house has loomed up in my mind to meet the cacophony of colors of baby bowling pins and Frisbees and neon pool toys and women's Ked's style shoes in fuschia and cobalt. Why is this bothering me now? Why doesn't it bother anyone else? All I can see at this moment is a meaningless excess of cheap soul-stealing stuff. At home many things are broken - the fluorescent kitchen light, the garage door and siding on the south side of the house need replacing, the pond leaks, a car is dead in the driveway and requiring towing. I've spent the last hour talking to the repair guy about all the different ways to replace the fluorescent light with no clear answer. Has this sent me over the edge? Everything seems so complicated.

For a minute I contemplate sprinting out of the store to escape, but there is a thirteen-year-old still in the bathroom and I cannot explain to the kids why I am panicking if I don't understand it myself. I would most like to sink down onto the floor and sob for twenty or thirty minutes but I realize this is both impractical and would make for significantly more and larger problems than I have to cope with now and really, if I just grit my teeth and wait a couple more minutes she will finish in the bathroom and we can go home and walk the dog. So I do what is required, grit the teeth and wait, then walk quickly out of the store with two children and some degree of remaining sanity in tow.

I suspect those who know me real-time would not believe I wrote this. Maybe this is the greatest insanity of all.

The kids came through and delivered a lovely Mother's Day dinner Friday night, where I was not allowed to lift a finger. It went quite a bit better this time and they surprised me and did something of their choosing with some help from their babysitter. My son had a great baseball game Saturday, and our garage is half-way cleared out and organized after a productive day Sunday. I'm going on vacation next week to Montana to hike and birdwatch. My Dad is now planning moving up here, at least for a trial run, something I've been trying to convince him to do. My youngest niece is turning around her school and behavior issues, and everyone is healthy, and my kids are thrilled to learn their mother likes Linkin Park. Possibly more than they do.

Yes, actually, I'm sure more than they do. If someone's gonna scream, better Chester than me.

Friday, May 20, 2005

An explanation

Imagine me the sea, and you a river
Our relationship the place we come together,
Estuarine, dynamic, often brackish
Ask the moon to govern where you begin and I end
But in the fertile silt you drop at my mouth
I spawn new life, adapted to this margin
Of unpredictability,
I nurse the abundance growing in the dilute brine of our intersection
Flood and withdraw, a tide of changes
While you keep flowing steady by the fingers of grasping land,
And dissipate into the horizon

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Baby update:

The killdeer in the parking lot at work hatched at least two very active little kildets (my term, don't go looking that up) and there may have been others down in the grass this morning. It seems a bit miraculous that they successfully nest there, darting back and forth between cars rushing to make a late meeting.

If the eggcase (ootheca) full of praying mantis is dilating, it sure isn't obvious to the naked eye. Isn't ootheca a lovely word though? That one's real.

I got to hold a four-week-old baby this morning at work. She was quite patient with being passed around and peoples' faces visibly changed as they held her.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A watercolor by Lerri Peterson of Malaga Cove Library:

Beth wrote a beautiful post about her trip to the library last week.
It made me remember going to our tiny neighborhood library in California, an old stucco building with a red tile roof sitting under massive trees, always cool and a little damp feeling (looking back I hope not! damp isn't good for books!) I spent an awful lot of time there as a child, my Mother was a voracious reader and I became one too - checking out stacks of 8-10 books was a weekly errand, sometimes followed by a trip to the plaza bakery for a sugar cookie. Once my sister left for college when I was seven, reading filled in the lonelier moments, which I hear is what Laura Bush is telling people now about her experience as an only child. The grounds were on a rather steep slope, and on warm summer days you'd find me rolling down the grassy hill, or dabbling in the huge Spanish fountain on the flagstone steps leading to the neighborhood below which deliciously held water lilies and goldfish.

Beth talks about the volumes of biographies and the journeys of people the library holds, but I was typically found in either the fiction areas desperately hoping for another book by a favorite author, or in the nonfiction area reading every book on some subject which I had no direct experience with... Backpacking and camping, or the world of extrasensory perception for example. A favorite for a while were the books written by people who hunt ghosts. I could still walk right to that bookshelf in the library which held them, although by now I'm sure they must have rearranged.

The neighborhood libraries near my current home have no real character, but my daughter also enjoys checking out stacks of books, and for that it's worth the trip. But next time I visit my Dad I think I'll go back to my old childhood library and just inhale deeply, wet my fingers in the fountain, sit under the massive magnolia tree and listen to the birds just to make sure I don't forget one of my favorite places and how it felt to go there. Refresh that memory so it will last the next 30 years! And in the meantime, if you haven't yet, go visit Beth. While I wax nostalgic, she connects the local sights to much broader perspectives and writes in beautiful photographic detail to boot.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Friday Catbird Blogging: A portrait for Dave, a day late, although you could say yesterday's attempt at poetry was more "cat-bird" appropriate anyhow.

She is petite, dainty even, with a small pointy face and delicate paws. She is fully grown but much smaller than the others, owing to childbirth at such a tender age and then subsequent starvation by the despicable humans who dumped her. When I saw her that day four years ago and noted how her eyes were too large for the rest of her, you remember how babies eyes are large so as to capture their mother's attention? Ribs protruding (but that was then, she has a nice little round belly now; after we nearly lost her in the first couple of days, overeating to try and make up for what her body had lost, and then throwing it up again until we started rationing, giving her small amounts every hour or so,) well anyhow, I was unable to walk away when they told me she had starved while her body kept making milk for her kittens, so maybe this is why she purrs anytime I am within ten feet of her. Not all cats appreciate their rescuers, but there isn't a day she doesn't thank me. Given the opportunity, she will press her body against mine in any way possible, whether its shoving her face into my abdomen while I sit, cuddling up into the curve of my neck if I hold her while standing, curled exactly into the small of my back while I sleep, then when I roll away from her onto my back she crawls over, drapes her upper body over my collar bones settling the rest into the hollow of my underarm. She likes to be hugged. I've never met a cat who enjoyed the sensation of being squeezed. But she can only tolerate a small amount of petting, the ears go back then woe to you if you haven't retreated, claws snap out and you are skewered. Her fur is short and an amazing pattern of black and orange. She is mostly black-mottled tortoise shell, but like a horse she has an orange diamond in the middle of her forehead, from afar her golden fur acts like underlighting on her chin, and her front left paw sports two nearly blond toes. She must be nearly five years old now, but she still looks and acts a lot like a baby, talking in little squeeks and mews, scampering wildly across the bedroom then ducking and sliding under the dresser without even slowing to pounce on a toy mouse, whacking at the dog's fluffy tail as he turns to walk away from inappropriately nosing her. She gets the run of the house, whereas the other cats are rarely allowed to roam freely, and we sometimes find her perched atop the aquarium housing the anoles, them: safely buried in a plant at the bottom of the enclosure, her: tail flicking, barely denting the screen top with her weight, green eyes wide. Of the residents she is the most graceful, the most affectionate, the most quirky. For example, she strongly prefers to drink from a running faucet - you will find her perched waiting next to a sink as you wash dishes or brush your teeth. She reaches out to grab you with a front paw if you walk past without acknowledging her. She bounds rabbit-like at times, in a front to back rocking motion, as if in a sack race. This is "Acorn," "Little Bit of a Cat," "Bitty," "Sweet Girl".

Friday, May 13, 2005

The cat's nails drag across the door.
Dog whines, a louder echo
Of the faint cries from the vaux swifts
That have nested in the brick chimney.
All else is a waiting silence.

Still, you don't speak
And gradually I become the void
Vibrating in our ears...the low hum of a train
Idling at the station,
The dial tone on a displaced phone.

You'd be amazed how often I stare at the "create post" screen and never type a damn word.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A friend at work has been bringing our department camera to events lately and as usual, all the pictures of me turn out terrible. I think there are probably fifteen photos of me in existance that I like (or at least 15 from my adulthood) and the rest I would gladly burn. This is not so surprising - many people dislike photos of themselves - other than I usually look at myself in the mirror and like my face, so it isn't rooted so much in the general hatred of my appearance as much as how it gets caught on film.

Each day my aol homepage rotates pictures of people in the news, and today I am reflecting on this subject because there is one where I completely recognize the look on the woman's face, and I realize it mirrors the sort of smile I have on my face in each of the handful of pictures I like of myself. What I find disturbing is... it is a picture of someone who has done something so despicable that I don't even want to stain my blog with this picture. But it is a moment in time where this woman feels confident, sexy, in fact irresistable, and despite drab clothes and background, there is no hiding that she is loved by someone and for this slice of time she has no question she is graced by this. He has given her what she doesn't have on her own and knowing their story, she paid a big price for that smile.

I saw that same smile looking back at me in the mirror about a month ago while I was being hugged by someone from behind, and for a minute I didn't recognize myself.

I can't even begin to imagine doing the crimes this woman in the news committed, but suddenly this morning I believe I can understand the motivation.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

An aside for Chris at Creek Running North, who has had quite the interesting debate raging over the politics of childbearing.

Kids will break your heart.
Possibly this is the best reason to (not) have kids.
You'll note that both answers are true.

I realize this is an odd way to start a Mother's Day post.

In the years before my then-husband decided we could indeed have the kids I so desperately wanted, I experienced Mother's Day as one of the most painful times of my life. It seemed like the holiday was invented to make me feel as miserable as possible, everywhere I looked for the week beforehand were the happy images of mothers and children, wrapped in all the messages about what it means to be a mother, what it means to have what I couldn't have.

Now of course I have the two most charming kids I could hope for and yet...
Kids will break your heart. Even good kids will do things that in a moment of vulnerability leave you sobbing.

What I find I really want is for them to recognize the incredible amount of sacrificing that goes on, especially that goes on in a single parent household, and occasionally recognize when it's mom's turn. This rarely happens when you most need it to. Mother's Days, Birthdays, Work Stress Days, Travel Days. It does happen, really. But not when I think I have a right to expect it to, or desperately need it to. The older one seems to get it when I'm sick, but beyond there, I guess Hallmark hasn't convinced them that Mother's Day is the one day of the year you really shouldn't act selfishly. Maybe I should be relieved that such artificiality isn't making a dent on their psyches. Maybe I should remember the times I was an ungrateful little prick at the worst time.

But simply, they will break your heart and maybe the truth is, we break their hearts too.

So I stormed out this morning when the promised kid-made Mother's Day breakfast was subjugated in importance to a dumb Hilary Duff movie. There were slammed doors and yells about if they couldn't be bothered to make breakfast for me, they'd still have to get their own breakfasts and by-god do their own breakfast dishes too for once. Actually I was rather astonished at the surge of adrenaline and anger that drove me through the neighborhood, over the freeway and through the drive-thru espresso line. It occurred to me that I was too upset to eat and pretty close to falling apart if the espresso people said anything at all to do with Mother's Day. I noticed the woman in the car behind me twiddling nervously with long hair as she waited and so I paid for her coffee when I got mine. Sometimes this sort of "if I feel like a jerk I'll act like an angel" thing helps me feel better. But I still lost it in the Target parking lot I retreated into upon seeing a Mom riding in the front passenger seat of a car that was loaded with Mother's Day balloons heading into the adjacent parking lot of a restaurant for brunch.

I sat there sipping my coffee and attempting to calm down knowing that the kids were likely mortified at this point and to be honest, I was not really caring. It did not bother me that I had likely hurt them in the terms of my departure just as badly as they had hurt me. It did not help to compare to the days when I so badly wanted a kid under any terms and conditions. It did not help to think about my own mom and wonder why she never blew up at me.

Eventually I turned on NPR. It is everyone's good luck that this all happened between 10-11AM when my favorite show, This American Life was on, which first distracted, then soothed, then somehow lifted me out of the little hell I had built with two ungrateful kids as jailkeepers and me, the innocent wronged. Which is somewhat amusing as the story was about a young man in Santa Fe who had the bad fortune to be arrested, suspected of being an international terrorist (through no small set of damning circumstances) after he committed what was a simple act of graffiti-cum-public art.

It would be great to draw an elegant parallel here, but I simply drove back home after thirty minutes, accepted the written apology taped to the door, ate the cold french toast which had been prepared in my absence, and told the kids the story about Shaheen I'd listened to on the radio. I'd like to say that I felt completely better, and in truth I did sit there thanking the stars that I have the kind of kids that regret the pain they've caused. But it's still there, the little stab of pain in the heart, the knowing that it didn't matter at all until I made it matter. And no one volunteered to do the pile of dishes, and when asked, the younger one who didn't cook had a lot of excuses of why he shouldn't have to do them.

Here's that lesson again, the one I keep having to relearn. Choosing to love another is simply a commitment to heal one's heart from the wounds love inevitably brings. I'd be lying if I told you I liked this part of parenting, but it is still a teaching I can grow from.

Postscript Monday AM:
We had a chat on the way to school this morning, because it occurred to me that I was still grumpy and they must not really understand the purpose of the holiday to have messed it up that much. We all agreed they'd give it another try in a few weeks.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Urgent Wasabi Chocolate Update:

You have to try it. Here's what happens. You break off a square. You place it in your mouth and first you get the dark fruit liquor flavor of the extra dark chocolate. Next, quickly following, the ginger presents a citrusy note, clean and crisp as the chocolate starts to smooth out into a richer flavor on your tongue as it melts. Then you have a slight texture but no real flavor from the black sesame seeds, but textural interest is good and it doesn't overtake the smooth feel. Then you swallow, wondering "where was the wasabi?"

Your throat tells you its there. A hint of heat, somewhat menthol like, as the horseradish chases back up into your nose.

COOL. This one is called a Black Pearl Bar.

There was a second bar I kept secret. But now I'll tell you about that one too. It's called a Naga bar. I love the word Naga and it is well named. This bar is milk chocolate based, and so it melts much sooner against your tongue, filling your whole mouth with a rich velvety feeling and a mild but intoxicating chocolate flavor. It feels lush. Curry is firmly melded into the chocolate flavor, unlike the separation of the ginger in the last bar. Not strong at all, but definitely evoking all the exotic pictures you can conjure of sultry women in saris, smoldering Indian men, incense and humid emotions. But also a third evenly emphasized note, of coconut. Not Mounds bar kind of coconut, just a light note harmonizing with the curry and the milk chocolate, adding sweetness, depth and balance.

I think I liked the second one better, for the sheer surprise of the curry and chocolate together.

These are products of Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Worth looking for.

Thanks Robin and Carl! I'm absolutely relishing them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I would be the first to concede that the birthday card I got from a close friend with the punchline: "I could ask for a more NORMAL friend, but not a better one" was appropriate. But reviewing some of the gifts this year, I'm wondering if I've gone too far or my friends just think I have. I mean, who else do you give:

-An egg case out of which will hatch 200 live praying mantis?
-A dark chocolate bar with wasabi, black sesame seeds, and Japanese ginger?
-A DNA testing kit to trace your female ancestors back to their origins?
-An author signed novel reviewed by NPR this way: "A quirky literary creation... a romance, a tale of terror, an historical novel and a primer on holistic health."
-A teapot shaped nightlight and a certificate to have tea at a tearoom 800 miles from home.
-A birder's journal

I guess I just don't seem like the Gap gift card type.

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