Buy Nothing Month: Day Two

2 Jun

Beans are cheap. Beans are tasty.

Beans are…windy.

It’s amazing what 50 cents worth of pinto beans, some onion, garlic and cumin and a little cheese can make. I gorged on bean burritos at lunch and am now, 8 hours later, still pretty damn full.

Bean power! (I am pretty grateful my lover is NOT here tonight since I would likely blast him out of the bedroom. Apparently 1 cup of dried beans makes you a little…powered. :p

I was good today. Yay me, right? I needed to grab a few things at the grocery store, which filled me with dread. (If you’ve ever been to the major mall in this city, you’ll understand.) I went straight to Sobeys though, grabbed what we needed (emphasis, need, with the exception of the Coke) and left, disturbed by how little it felt I got for 20.00.

And for the record, there’s something terrifying about the fact that a 591ml bottle of sugar water is almost as much as a 1kg bag of frozen corn.

Since I had some time to kill until the next bus, I wandered through the mall, window shopping. Most of what I find falls into three categories

  1. Doesn’t fit me
  2. Hideous
  3. Pointless
I looked at some pretty things I’d never use, some ugly things I might. I remembered I need to buy teacher gifts soon. I poked around in the shoe store since with feet like mine, you are pretty much forced to look whenever you can. Ape feet aren’t easily shod after all.
Then it struck me, just how much crap we buy. There are 4 stores devoted to bags. Not even bags that are more than passingly useful, but tiny stupid little purses which cost more than I make in a day. Expensive bags made in another country which took lord only knows how much fuel to produce and arrive at this mall. 4 stores. FOUR.
Don’t even get me started on all the stores selling virtually the same ugly, 80’s inspired hoochie clothes.
It hit me, as I conciously thought about “stuff”, that most of what we have, most of what we want, we don’t need. And yeah, I know that isn’t totally profound or anything but think about it. In the run of the average day we lust after things-iPad’s, cute shoes, yet another book on gardening, new underwear. Cameras and helper monkeys. We spend time thinking about stuff, and it’s never dire. It’s stuff bought to facilitate the purchase of more stuff! Most of which is usually plastic, potentially lethal, and boring by the next day.
So how do we determine need? Is it a need if I would die without it, like food or pants? Is it a need if it makes me happier, like yet another bottle of nail polish? Is it a need if I just fucking want it?
I suspect that far too many of us would answer the latter. Whether we’d admit it publicly…well, that’s another thing entirely.
When I break it down to it’s essential parts, there isn’t much I need, not in the form of little pieces of junk at the mall. I would *like* to treat myself to a new bottle of kick ass nail polish at some point. But I don’t need it. I would like a second lug mug so I have one for coffee and one for my mint tea (it’s nasty to mix. Oh how nasty it is to mix). But I don’t NEED it.
My kids need sandals, shorts. Sunscreen and hats. We need more children’s asprin, and will need some milk next week. These are needs. These needs aren’t sold at La Senza or Payless or Toys R Us, or any other place in the business of telling you that in order to feel wonderful, you need to spend.
I think I’m done with riding that particular train, and you know, I kinda like the air on this other one. It was freeing today, just walking through, sitting to read my book while waiting instead of buying something.
It was nice to spend nothing.
What was bad today?-I bought that coke. Sigh. It’s my one fucking vice and it LOVES ME and refuses to let it’s claws go. So that one is a hard bitch to beat. And I spent .50 cents on Mike and Ike’s at work when I should have eaten the pudding I brought from home. So, I spent around 3.00 on stuff I shouldn’t have. That’s already 6.00 in two days. SIX DOLLARS I spent on little crap. Treats add up.
What was good? I didn’t buy a coffee at the mall while waiting. I was starving but I didn’t eat. Because I could eat when I could get home. And I did. Beans. Delicious delicious BEANS.
Lesson? Those little treats add up, and I don’t need them. Try harder grasshopper. You can do it. 😀

Buy Nothing Month: Day One

1 Jun

Yeah, I suck. Spent 3.00 in vending machines at work. Because as tasty as Kamut puffs and yoghurt and granola can be? THEY AREN”T CHOCOLATE.

However, since I’m down to 2.50 in my wallet, this problem will resolve itself soon.

Spent the day determining if new headphones are a want or a need. Considering I will start walking at least one way to work each day again soon, they are a need, but not a pressing one. They can wait until payday.

Ran out of popcorn. This is a snack need, which, along with the corn I forgot to get for my enchiladas (damn peas! You fooled me!) will be grabbed tomorrow. Dinner is a need.

Lesson today? Leave the damn cash at home. Make it a pain in the ass to spend.

What sucked today? Nothing aside from freaking gale force winds….and vending machines with tasty Fritos.

Deep Breathing before Buying Nothing

27 May

So I’m a few days away from June, not many really, and I’m staring at the small pile of money to get me through the next 2 weeks and I feel that familiar tightness in my chest. This reminds me why we’re cutting the cord next month, and why even though it might suck sometimes, something will be awesome.

My goal here is to feel good about money again.

I never learned to save. Call it the consequence of the nuclear family, the 50’s household, but my mother did ALL the housekeeping. The cooking, the cleaning, the bill paying. My father received a certain amount each week for cigarettes and coffee and that was it. He didn’t worry about it. She was his keeper. He didn’t worry about the gas bill being paid, he just made most of the money to pay it.

And then she died, and suddenly, he had a pile of bills, access to the bank account, and no real clue how to manage it all. And around this time, I came of age, and started handling money. These two incidents do not a budget friendly tightwad make. (Perhaps they could, but not in my narrative they didn’t)

Being more than a little screwed up, I adopted the lazy person’s view of the world. Why save for tomorrow when I might die today?!

This is not helpful. While it means that today you get a snazzy pair of shoes or a nice new tattoo, it also means you get to experience to truly awful pain of anal rape via interest rate. I do not recommend, nor does my credit score.

I have shied away from this problem for years. I have been terrified to try and take it in hand, worried that I just couldn’t, which is ridiculous. I’m a smart, capable and adaptable woman-why can’t I get my finances under control? What am I so worried about? Being more poor? I don’t even know if that’s possible. (It is. Trust me it is.)

Sure, a part of me wishes I had a keeper like my father did, wishes I never had to deal with it. And in my marriage, it was kinda like that but without the real partnership aspect. There was no sense of a household budget, no pooling of money. Just two people paying random pieces. No goals, no focus.

I have a focus now.

I want to get some very particular things out of the next month, and possibly longer.

  • I want to catch up on all my bills as much as possible. Looking at my potential incoming dollars, I should be able to be in the green on all but one bill.
  • I want to start setting more money aside. I had started a little savings account via my workplace, but after stepping on someone’s iTouch, after dropping mine in a bathtub, there goes that money. So I start fresh, but I also want to know what it’s like to leave money IN my bank account for something other than paying off bank fees.
  • Completely paying off the overdraft would be nice as well.
  • I need NEED to start seriously working on this house. Which means I need to be able to set money aside for maintenance. Even if it’s just buying drywall compound or a new baseboard heater for the bathroom, it needs to be done, and needs to be made a priority.
My long term focus is to make not spending money a habit. I know people who can do this, and I envy their self control. And when I get right down to it, THAT is what I want and so desperately need. Self Control. I’ve never had it, but it’s about time to get some.
And so you know, I actually did a meal plan tonight for the next two weeks. Potato Pesto Pasta, Zucchini Black Bean Enchiladas, Bean Burritos, Chili, and Chick Pea and Swiss Chard Curry. I figure I can get at least 2-3 meals from each, depending on what the girls might eat. And most of these meals will barely cost more than 5 dollars, with minimal cooking. I’d like to see just how cheap I can get the grocery bill down to as well. I know I spend too much on crap. (And yes, I DO like beans that much. I don’t follow a real vegetarian diet, but I certainly don’t eat much flesh in a normal week.)
I hope you’ll follow me, and hell, possibly even join in this month. My goal is to post every day, the challenges, and the inevitable annoyances. Just like when I quit smoking, I’m looking at this as my breaking years of habits. It won’t come easy. But it will come.
Thanks for coming with me.

My Buy Nothing Month

25 May

I spend too much money.

Well, I consider it too much money. I don’t have much money to spend, after the mortgage and the groceries, hydro, the internet and phone bills. Child support pretty much all goes to child care.

When I do the math though, there should be more. I shouldn’t get to the end of the month having a freaking panic attack about where I’ll shuffle the money from to pay the hydro bill. I should be able to save a bit here and there so if I want a weekend away, it isn’t a huge stress.

I’m fairly confident that there are a few hundred dollars in a month that I’m flittering away stupidly. Coffee and trips to the thrift store and ill-advised KFC lunches. Crap. Junk I don’t need, food that isn’t good for me, things I could do at home. You know, all the stuff they tell us not to do.

I’m a single mom. Money doesn’t grow on trees. My ex-husband is great about paying support, but that’s eaten in child care, and I can only do so much to earn extra. The money only stretches so far. Food costs more. Doing anything costs more.

I already buy most if not all clothes used, 90% of books and toys are the same. I occasionally treat myself to new books (like Homesteading and Backyard Ballistics) but even those books have a point-feeding my household and living a lower impact life, and keeping the kids occupied while terrifying my neighbours. We don’t eat high on the hog, I don’t smoke, I rarely drink, I don’t even go to the freaking movies anymore. I cut off my cable. I have a cheap cell phone plan, reduced my internet level.

And still I feel like I can’t catch up.

So in June, I’m gonna stop it for a bit. I don’t do well with budgets, and frankly need a keeper to give me an allowance. But since that isn’t going to happen, I’m committing to this instead.

In the month of June, there will be NO non-essential spending.

I will consider the following essential

  • Standard bills-my mortgage, hydro, sewer, and cable bills (this holds my phone bills as well)
  • Food. I will reduce and attempt to plan meals so I am spending less, but honestly, I’m mostly as low as I can go without eating liver everyday as it is.
  • Garden supplies. If I’m putting in a garden in order to save on food this summer/fall, this will matter long-term.
  • Medical expenses, if any.
  • Household repair, if needed.
Everything else at this point, is gravy.
I know there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in my budget. Frankly, selling my house would open up more money, but then that just gives me an entirely new set of problems and doesn’t figure into possible long-term plans right now. I have to face it-I’m poor.
But part of facing that is understanding that 2.50 on a coffee each day just isn’t feasible. Not when I cringe to spend 3.99 on a box of tea I love. It doesn’t make much sense does it?I think that along with my extremely fucked up way of dealing with eating-i.e. as a source of emotional comfort, money is a crutch. I didn’t have much as a child, and when my mother died, I had open access to two things for awhile when we were hurting-food and money. All I got for this was a fat ass and an inability to handle money.
Frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m too old for it, and I want to change. And just like smoking, I think I need to do it cold turkey. Cut the cord. Get the spending under control, and hopefully the eating will follow.
I want change. The person I want to be isn’t the person who wastes money on crappy food or shoes she doesn’t need. So for June, I will be documenting daily how it goes. I’m not comfortable disclosing dollar amounts, but what I want to do is explore the WHY. Why I want to spend. Why I feel that blind urge to spend money, even knowing that it won’t make me feel better for fix any problems.
Any advice, any guidance is welcome. But remember, I’m not handling a 6 figure income here. I’m barely hanging on some months, and it sucks, but I can do better. I want to do better.

Falling

22 May

I am driving in a car, sitting quietly beside the driver. I’ve never liked driving, always had a tightness at the back of my throat about it. It’s better now than it was, now I’m able to sit in a car without white knuckling it the entire way home or having a panic attack. But I still hate it.

In this dream I’m abnormally calm, until I look up to notice that the car is being driven on the edge of something, one set of wheels on pavement, the other floating almost in the air above water. The edge of the lot is corraled by a large bump, striped with multiple colors as a warning. The warning is not being heeded by this driver. We veer to the right, towards the water and I realize I need to get out. The water is dark and choppy, winter water, cold and dormant. I need to go, and now.

I open the door and step into the air as the car is falling, throw myself from the car as I urge the driver, comically slow and muddled, to do the same. I hit the water with a snap, and come up to see the car bobbing on the surface. I’m calm but paniced, unable or unwilling to go under to try and pry the door open. I know I can’t. I know it won’t help. I’m not strong enough.

Swimmers are gathered from a nearby beach, and one looks to me as I scream and dives down. There are terrible grey seconds and then finally, he rises with the driver and feel peace again. It is safe. He is safe.

We stagger to the beach together, and say nothing of it.

I wake and remember the cool surrender of falling, and the strange terror of calm.

“Water continually dropping will wear hard rocks hollow.”

18 May

It will not stop raining.

Literally. It has rained for what seems like weeks. Coming off 3 straight months of blankets of snow, (no joke-look up Moncton snowfall for this year and you’ll see), enough snow to collapse roofs of sheds and garages, the rain is a sick sad joke, a curse sent upon us. Just enough to make everything green and sweet, but leave it wet enough so my lawn grows like the Nile. I don’t dare mow it, worried I’ll destroy yet another mower.

I’m about ready to buy myself a goat, tether it to the front lawn. Might keep away pesky kids with flyers and Jehovah’s I think.

The rain, the incessant rain, the only words we can speak “Will it stop raining soon? When will the sun come out? Had enough rain?” So typically Canadian, this focus on the weather. It’s the common divider, the soft reasoning in public, the cushion. The weather is safety, out of our hands but not political. Just, rain.

So we talk about it more. I talk about it, and I blame it for my anger, my sadness, my irritation, my complete and utter lack of motivation unless food is somehow involved. My house stands messy and slightly odor ridden and I just don’t care. I haven’t the effort, or the will. And the rain I blame, the grey, the messy sigh out the window I give.

There are decisions to be made, decisions deferred, and I’m waiting for the sun to find me before I make them. I spend the weekend in another city, full of rain, full of grey, but feel at home. I see whales, fins of minke whales from a distance and I glow at my lover, amazed. I spend the weekend glowing. Wet and slightly chilled because I insist on wearing shorts or skirts, but in a constant state of wonder and calm. A place where I feel at home. A place that fits.

It’s not just the rain. It’s this place. It’s 10 years of a place I feel outside in. Ever had a pair of pants that fit, technically, that look ok you suppose, that almost make your butt look good, but they just don’t work? You can’t explain it, if it’s the darts or the fabric or the cuffs but there’s something about them you cannot stand. They keep you warm and covered, they do what pants essentially should, but they don’t make you feel beautiful. They don’t hug your curves or make you feel womanly.

Those pants are the city I live in, have lived in, have tried to give the college try, have attempted to love. But it’s empty, and seemingly cursed like the sky. A perpetual motion machine when all I crave is silence and stillness and some sort of age. I crave a land that knows its name and age, that remembers where it’s been and loves itself more for it. A place judged on merits other than having an Old Navy and baby boomer bands once a year.

I want a place that greets my heart and soul, and this isn’t it. It never was. It’s a lot of things. It’s where my children were born. It’s where my marriage slowly floundered, a dull descent into its own hell. It’s where I went to hell and back, needlessly.

But it’s not home. It’s never, ever been home.

And I want home.

***

I hate some cities. Ottawa. I absolutely despise Ottawa. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up nearby and harbour opinions about the city because I was dragged there every.single.year in winter to freeze my ass off skate on the canal or if the sheer number of government workers makes me twitchy but I cannot deal with the city. Same from Brampton. Just, too weird. But I love Kingston where I was born, nestled near Lake Ontario, privy to the Thousand Islands. I love Nashville.

Hated Houston. Apathetic about Toronto.

I need a city to inspire me, a place. Small towns with age hold me rapt because they transport me, let me feel and smell the people who have come before me, walk with them. Imagine their children bawling in the dark air. The world should be full of magic, even the everyday type, not full of anger and rage and stuff. The sheer volume of “stuff” and its resultant worries in this city is like a sore I cannot heal. I’ve said it of other places, and I’ll say it of this place.

There is no poetry here.

***

Is there poetry where you live, beauty? Does it matter to you what’s outside your door, or is it home that you crave, behind your own doors?

Lately

13 May

I buy them toys to asuage my guilt, a peace offering, a token. My love, made real, given purpose.

It’s not just guilt. I take time to pick out their wants, one of these for Vivian, to be built in 3 minutes flat. Some of these, to play with the almost forgotten Lite Brite (new from the thrift store, 3.00. Perfect find. I wanted one badly enough to taste it as a child. Never got one.)

The shining light in their eyes, the speed with which they run to the table, the “thank you!”, the hugs, the joy in their intent faces, I know it’s not just stuff as I fear. It does mean something, being able to provide, knowing that stuff, along with their mother, means something. The fact that I spent 20 minutes deciding what little thing would be best, they don’t need to know that.

Viv turns to me and says “The lite-brite stuff for Ros? That’s perfect for her. Thank you Mom.”  She puts the little robot man together, takes him apart, together, apart, over and over. “He can hang out with my Bionicle” and they do.

It’s stuff. It’s 15 or so dollars, less than an hour’s wage for me, but sometimes, I know it’s more. I remember the time my mother bought those stupid expensive popsicles, because things were stressed and weird and I just needed to know what sometimes the magic things could show up at home. And sometimes they did.

This is what matters to me as a mother, as a parent. Being able to stretch out my fingers and make a rough week better. I don’t always have time, I don’t always have money. But sometimes I do, and the mess across the table just means my kids are doing what they should-being my kids.

My kids.

***

I’ve been writing lately, and the words have been pouring from me, the story flowing outside my fingers, another child, this one growing on it’s own, growing like a weed, over taking my brain. It leaves me spacey and distracted, caught up in what if’s and maybe’s and how long her hair might be and why she might kill him and get away with it. The world builds itself in my head, the greens verdant, the sunlight flowing like rum.

It’s amazing after so long of nothing, of false starts, to feel like this time, it means it. This time the writing is real. it’s left me dry for most other things, the false starts of open browser windows or emails, emptied it seems. And perhaps that’s how it should be, all energies devoted to that one child, this one voice, this latent memory of future.

However it’s happening, it’s sweet like a plum and I’m savouring each bite.

“God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.”

1 May

On the day she died, around the time they would have just pronounced her dead in 1989, I was standing in a thrift store, damp with icy April rain, selecting jigsaw puzzles.

I have waited a long time for the space and quiet for these puzzles, the desk, the time, the light. When my mother would receive chemotherapy or radiation, I would sit in the lounge with the old men, eating cookies as I searched for the edge pieces, or perhaps the snowy mountain peak or Ottawa’s tulips, vivid and alive. I was a bridge then, between illness and health, youth and death. I was hope eternal on knobby legs. I was truth and beauty. I was a reason, her reason, a reminder of theirs perhaps, a glimpse into who they were, who she was. The breath of youth. Wasted on the young as it is.

I never knew their names, in their polyester pants, brimmed hats. I counted only their wrinkles, their winks, their stories. The saved the oreo’s for me, gently refrained from asking why I was there, smiled indulgently when my mother would make her way back to me, unable to hurry but wanting to, knowing the time between treatment and nausea was brief, and not always longer than the drive home. Those old men were safe, a certain thing in that hospital. They didn’t try to explain. They didn’t ask me how I felt, they didn’t look at me with pity or sadness or even anger.

They just asked me to work on my corner of the puzzle.

***

I’ve been thinking about my mother lately, as I sit in the quiet of my empty house, as I clean her old things, as I purge more and more of my own, craving the stillness of less. I’ve been thinking about love, and her hands. How her hands were so full of life, so simply beautiful, like tiny wrens. Expressive, they could flutter, they could sting, they could harangue.

And lo, how they could love.

A few weeks ago I missed my daughters, truly missed them for the first time ever. Missed them like I thought my heart would explode and I with it. In the shadows in the corner of my room I could feel her there, whispering, nodding with her eyebrows cocked as she said

yes darling. That’s it right there. That’s how it felt all along for me, forever.

and I thought my heart would dissolve just then as I understood, more than I ever thought possible, what it meant for my mother to die.

They say our children are our hearts walking outside our bodies. I say, it’s our mother’s too.

***

Every year I stop in April to think of her. Today I made my yearly mea culpa to her of washing her tea cups. Into two of them I dropped, to remain invisible, her rosary and a piece of her jewelry, two of the few things that were hers that I actually possess. I like that they’re hidden, secrets in the open. A smile of hers tucked away to watch me over my shoulder.

It never really leaves me, that death. No other death will ever hit me as much, excepting the death of a child perhaps, or a partner. None other will be as full of impact or meaning as hers was. I wish I could leave it behind. I know I can’t, it being one of the stilts my life has been built on, whether I like it or not. Her death defined who I was, who I became. I can move past it, I can move through it, but it will never, ever change the fact that I have no mother. I have a ghost mother, a spirit, a whisper who moves me.

Sometimes I think I understand what it all means, and aspire to grace and wisdom. Other days, like tonight, sitting in my house, my daughters tucked haphazard in their beds and snoring, I don’t understand it at all, not anymore at 33 than I did at 11. It’s just not fair. It was never fair. It was always completely and utterly wrong but it will never change the facts. It will never bring her back, and will never change that she’s gone from me forever.

So tonight I hugged my girls a little longer. I told them I loved them, I kissed them, I spoke softly to them. I memorized them, as if to copy. The soft pear of Rosalyn’s cheek. The steely glint to Vivian’s eye. The sound of their laughter echoing around these walls.

I can’t remember my mother’s voice. But I’ll be damned if I will ever forget theirs, or them mine.

She Shines

23 Apr
081 by thordora
081, a photo by thordora on Flickr.

Dear Mother

13 Apr

They’re beautiful.

I see your ghost in them, your poised hands behind their heads, guiding. I see your steel in them, your voice, the eager trill of your bravery. Rosalyn picks her clothes with care as you did, Vivian carries your devil may care, skillfully harnessed behind motherhood and cancer, but there nonetheless like a whisper in your hair. I saw it then. I see it now, in her bones.

You miss them. I know that. In that bed, through those last days in the blue room by the front door, your futures melted into mist, dervishes in the sunlight that sighed through the window seat your love built for me. What’s it like when tomorrow slips from your fingers, buttered by grief? Did you know their names then, their voices? Did they hum for you long before they ever did for me?

I fucking miss you.

I shouldn’t. I should be grateful Dad convinced you to let go, that you were released before..before I was more aware, before the pain would have hurt me too, before you became less my mother and more that creature in the bed. That thing you became more each day, the cancer, the sick, the broken. The un-soothed.

But dammit I miss you. I miss you as a mother, someone to tell me to stop coddling Rosalyn’s lazy habits or to make both girls pick up their rooms. I miss you as a mother who would nod sagely when I complain about there never being enough time, and how they grow to fast and soon, they won’t even live here anymore and will have lovers I don’t agree with and opinions I cannot change.

I miss you as a woman too, a woman I have never had in my life, never allowed in. Someone who would have explained bras and periods and lust, someone who would have tossed me Midol and said “suck it up princess”. Someone who would have understood daughters, through the eyes of one. I am missing a wheel, skipping a generation. I have lost the middle part to the manual and am alone in figuring out what goes where and what to do with backtalk and deliberation.

I cannot parse this without you it seems and some days, I miss you so fierce I break into tears near Starbucks and swear I can smell your perfume.

You would be so fucking proud of me, of all of us. You would love them wouldn’t you. You do love them. You love them through me, because of me.

Mother, I miss you. I miss what we don’t have, I miss that I stay up late and wonder for you, try to figure out who I’d be if you were here and there was no need for a burning heart with your name on my shoulder. There are two of me out here, the me before, and the me I am. It’s curious to think you’re responsible for both, and we all sit wearily together somewhere, drinking milky tea as we buff our nails.

You would be 65 this year. You would be retiring, planning your advance, singing in the bathroom, cooking poppy-seed cake for the neighbors who just married. You would see love as I see it in your eyes on your wedding day. Pure, to be savored. Joyous.

Do you miss us too? Do we fill you with joy, somewhere, somehow?

I am now as you once were, a young mother, youngish I suppose, still green around the gills but hopeful, a dancer in particles, a movement in time, hands together, the dusty light of a living room at sunset. I don’t have your gravitas, or your faith, but I like to think I have your strength and your honor, and perhaps just a little of your grace.

I miss you like I miss the pieces of me which left that day, 22 years back, in a cold catholic room in an old Ontario town.

Dear Mother.

Then love knew it was called love. And when I lifted my eyes to your name, suddenly your heart showed me my way.

11 Apr

Sometimes saying “I love you” just doesn’t feel like enough, that the truth of the emotion, the raw reality in my veins can’t pour out of me enough and I feel helpless, gasping and gaping like one of the kissing gouramis’ I’ve always been fascinated with, the mindless pucker and blow. But it’s like that, and more, an all encompassing surrender, the taut rightness of a bubble surrounding us, brimming.

I thought I had loved before. I’ve known love. But I’ve also known hurt and anger, cusses that burn the air around them, glares that could deny nationhood-I’ve known them all. I’ve known the love that ends, the love that fears, the love that wounds. They are recorded on and in my body, scars and colors across me, reminders I don’t really need if I think about it. It’s all here.

With him I know peace, and a singular focus. In his arms I murmur and become whole, better. I see a future, I see many futures, laid out with so much possibility it makes me want to cry. Such beauty in such a simple thing. With him, I love, and am loved. No questions, no fear. Just love.

There are days where it terrifies me, how plain I feel before him, how exposed. We’re standing in my front yard under the newborn sun of April and I almost whisper “I want a home with you.” and realize I DO! I want that with him-perhaps not this home, perhaps not right now but I see it as clearly as I feel his arms envelop me. I want to wake to his arms each morning, I want to hear him tell me I’m gorgeous every afternoon before dinner, I want to have a silly argument about who’s cooking every day.

I want to be the person he comes home to. I want to be his home.

***

I am full with this. I am distracted and heavy with love, settled in my place, blinded by my reflection in his eyes. I never expected to fall in love, not now, not going on 34 with two kids and a mortgage but fuck me if I didn’t wake up and realize that somewhere, in August on a hot highway or October through the dusky leaves I have fallen utterly and completely in love and it’s more incredible than I ever imagined. It is simple this love. You live your life believing that love is complicated and difficult but it really isn’t. It’s a hand on a knee on a drive through the country. It’s a whoopie pie from hours away. It’s a voice telling you to sit down, let me bring you supper.

It’s knowing he’s got your back, and believes, completely, in you. It’s a glance at the mall, and the knowledge that you really don’t have to say it out loud.

It’s a quiet voice, whispering we.

***

He makes me feel gloriously, effortlessly, like me.

***

Here I love you.
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters.
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other.

The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.
Oh the black cross of a ship.
Alone.

Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.

Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.

The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.

The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.

(Neruda, of course. I never liked him before now. Huh.)

Daily Care

1 Apr

I make plans for daycare. We wander over, we check it out. The daughter of a friend, a little sprite of a girl I’ve known since she was  days old, sprints toward me and hugs me tightly. She used to be afraid, anxious and quiet. She grins up at me as she’s wrapped around my butt, and the smile pulls at her face. I look to the woman who runs the center and she smiles softly, tells me “she’s one of our favorites around here” and I can tell she really means it.

I’ve always been slightly terrified of child care, worried that children will either shrivel up into small tiny Watchers or become engulfed in the who’s it/what’s it of any social group, tethered by stuff and shoes and the lack of it. I’ve stared at it, wondering when parents got the chance to know their children. Is it possible when you really only see them on the weekend, or for a few hours here and there through the week? Do they carry your rules and morals with them?

Do they carry your voice?

But here we are. We walked through the back field, Vivian marvelling at the diving boards, Rosalyn gasping at the jungle gym, their mother quietly noting the older well kept neighbourhood. We circled the grey-brown building, yanked at the heavy door.

They have bingo on Monday’s. The old caretaker, gentle and joking, immediately reminded us all of my father. Suddenly, daycare felt more like home than we expected.

***

My children have never known institutional care. They are in school, and at 6 and 7.5, have only ever had family or friends to care for them. For the past few years, my father has filled this role, and frankly, it’s not working.

Grandpas and rules? They don’t mix. Dinner is not Lucky Charms. School clothes are not pajamas. Granted, these aren’t things that are going to scar a child for life, but they aren’t my expectation for their rearing. But how do I demand, whn I am never there? How to I enforce when I cannot be there to do so?

And to be honest, I want my house back. I want a silent building when everyone is away, I want no humming, I want the right to leave my fucking dishes on the counter if I damn well please. I pay the mortgage. I keep the heat on. But finding your balance when the live in help that’s saving you hundreds a month is your father?

Fucking hell it sucks. It’s like high school but with even more confusion, and damn it I’m kinda glad to see him go and know that I’ll have a few hours a day at home, between shifts, where NO ONE will be humming, singing, dropping things, smoking or otherwise just “BE THERE”

My children get outings to museums and water parks. I get the seemingly forbidden knowledge of a quiet house I can clean up in peace while listening to Made out of Babies. Loudly, with no complaints or whining.

So sure, I’ll be broke. Sure, I will rarely see my kids. But I will have at least some of the silence I have been so sorely craving these past few months.

***

I’ve never done care, and so I ask-what should I be ready for? Tantrums? Crying? Being thought “boring” because I don’t do the fun things they do there? Extra acting out because they don’t see me? We’re getting to the age where Mom isn’t cool, but we aren’t quite there. Vivian teeters on the brink of it, scared and looking back, but ready. Ros would crawl back IN the womb if possible.

So I’m nervous for them. I’ve been so lucky to do this with only friends and family. But I think it’s time.

 

Spring air, sweet with you

26 Mar

I miss you on days like these
Shorn away, shucked and discarded
The scent of you abandoned on the air
Lingering.

Not possible, as it is
So very far away and long ago.

I miss you on days like these, on days
But not for me.
I miss you for the daughters.
The ones you knew as a mother knows.
A mother knows.

Dark traded for light. My slight moods
Swapped for her largesse. You knew her, in me.
You saw her, a ghost of the unliving,
Unnerved.

I miss you on days like today, when the light
Hits the eyes of my youngest and
Her fingers glow like magic and she is suddenly
Unequivocally yours. The delicate
Touch of a hand. The glossy upturn of
That same side of hair.

That one Mother, which never listened to men.
Or iron. Flipped like a turtle, unyielding.

I miss this for you.

They were kids that I once knew.

11 Mar

I suppose that spring will always remind me.

If a marriage is a bloom, is a growing, breathing creature of change, winter is it’s anathema, spring it’s mother. A marriage develops in similar ways-the new green of yawning trees, the blinding naiveté like that of the lilacs growing in the ditch. (Of course, it also includes the thawing stench of secrets and hidden poos. It just wouldn’t be that certain shade of new without those hidden minefields.)  Then rushes in the burning warmth of late July, with the sweat and the late nights spent staring at the ceiling, too tempered to touch, too tempted to not.

If we’re lucky our marriage falls into autumn, glowing with the flames, cocooned in the comfort of drawing in, drowning in the scents that welcome us home.

If we’re unlucky, we fall prey to winter, and remain frozen in it, immobile and vacant.

My winter is past me now, a year out my limbs are new and wet, glimmering in the brightening light, and I feel renewed, validated and whole. But the memories of that winter, that long, interminable winter linger and drag, a vapour trail of pinched lips and leaking, bitter anger. 

But summer is near. I can smell it. I can feel it.

***

No one starts out that way. I imagine once we mattered to each other, that there was love, something more than teenage lust between us. I always felt that he was a memory I had forgotten, sprung to flesh. Perhaps at 20 or 23 he was, but closer to 30, it was more of a dream turned to nightmare as my mind and body morphed to the left and his roots grew closer to himself. Growth can be value but sometimes, it’s just cancer.

If I’m honest I loved him best as I could, but trapped in my own sadness, my unreasonable anger, my belief that my brokenness defined me. I loved him as a child, I loved him as a half grown feral. But that’s not real love, and that couldn’t break the cold walls. Often I wonder if we wanted it to, content instead to lobby back and forth the barbs and wires, afraid of life outside. Afraid of spring.

It’s easier with what you know, and on dark nights, it can be missed, that person who saw you every day for years and years and years. The strings that tie, not tight but tenuous. A whisper of connection. But not the real one. Not the connection that understands implicitly why tomatoes are so horribly icky outside of those sweet summer weeks when they taste only of the sun and the sweat from your hands.

It was never the connection that understood why my winter anger had to be let loose in silence instead of anger. It was never the connection that understood my strength was in allowing myself weakness. It was never a connection that said “you can, if you want.”

Spring brought me that. And I cannot be angry at the one who couldn’t give it to me, not anymore. He couldn’t. And I never would have let him.

It’s taken a year, a hard winter, and a love I never saw coming to admit that to myself.

It’s my spring gift, my Lenten contribution, my budding flower, this honesty.

***

We were just babies, the spring of our lives, new and blinded, terrified in some ways, excited. The world beckoned and we shrugged. Why not?

I smell spring and I think of our wedding, of the faces saying no, of the hope we had, the throw away faith that somehow it would work.

And like benevolent neglect in my garden each year it did. Until it finally didn’t.

6

10 Mar
070 by thordora
070 a photo by thordora on Flickr.

And so it goes and so it is that leaves grow green and fall and winter blankets us with snow and the sun comes back out, eventually. And children grow older.

My baby, my second born, my risk has turned 6.

Where her sister is rough and burly, she’s delicate and tiny, walking everywhere on her tip toes, lips pursed, a story on her lips. Monkeys that fly, perhaps a pony or a diamond. She’s the girl my mother likely dreamed of, flounce and poof, pink and purple, dolls and puppies.

But she has more than one story my girl does. For all she appears careful and girlish, she has a solid core, a steel inside I did not anticipate. She will wait, she will howl, she will say no, and mean it, and know what that means, to say NO. She is fierce in all the ways I can never be, a silenced acceptance of herself even now,

When I think of women, when I think of the woman I want her to be, I shake my head and realize, she’s already half the way there.

***
She’s 6. I sat on the bus home yesterday remembering her howling face in mine that first time, the scowl, the iron core even then. How big she seemed in my arms, wrapped and rubbed and angry at a world that woke her almost too soon. I didn’t feel love, I felt puzzlement, awe that I had held her in me, then cast her away from me, as mothers do, again and again and again.

A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.

5 Mar

I was sad the other day.

I had written this post, and was still feeling conflicted, and more than a little delicate about it. These are thoughts I have difficulty expressing due to the immediacy of the response from others, the firmness of opinions. I feared exploring outloud, but did so anyway.

But it still made me sad, the thought of not being there 24/7 for my kids, giving up my house, looking for my place in the world.

So I was sad, and cranky, and out of sorts. I fell into a rough sleep, woke up just as sad and cranky as before. I spent the morning pokey and cranky.

Until I decided I didn’t want to be that way.

So I fought with myself, to remember what I do have, to remember that change is good, and sometimes refreshing. I laughed at jokes, listened to non emo whiny music, beat at the driveway with a shovel until the anger and general pissiness exited my body, like a fever you burn off.

I stood up in the wind, the strengthing sun falling behind my neighbour’s house as night came. And thought, Wow.

The right to be angry. The right to be sad. And the right to make myself feel better.

What a concept.

***

The problem with being told once that you’re crazy, and believing it, is that you believe it. You start thinking you’re broken. You function in an environment that tells you that to be “normal”, you need a pill. You need to talk more. You need to be made different.

So you take the pills. You take more pills. Maybe the pills don’t work, maybe they do. You wonder if you’ll ever be better. You’ll wonder if you’ll ever be normal. They tell you that working harder is the secret, or maybe something is wrong with your brain, or it’s all because someone didn’t love you enough, or those girls who were mean to you in high school


Regardless, it all ends the same. You aren’t supposed to feel.

Don’t be sad. We have a pill for that. Don’t be TOO happy. We have a pill for that. Don’t be angry, especially if you’re a woman. There is most definitely a pill for that.

They told me I was bipolar. I believed it. One doctor tried to reach me, tried to tell me it sounded like my relationship was the problem. But no, I said, that couldn’t possibly be that case.

That would be my fault. That would have meant that I chose wrong, that I caused my own problems, that my circumstance was causing my distress. Self Sabotage.

I didn’t believe it then. 4 Years or so later, I believe it now.

I know there are people who are truly brain sick, and who need the pills like I need water.

I do not believe that I should know more people on those drugs than not.

How are we so removed from feeling? When did the earth shift and make emotion something we tether and control. Where once we had poetry to accompany heartache, we now have tricyclic anti-depressants. Where once we had anger over death or divorce and poverty, we have Risperodal. Where once we had joy
do we have joy anymore? Do we have private joy that we can feel, unconnected from the things we buy, the clothes we wear, the places we go?

Are we allowed?

It all links together-the overprotectiveness of my children by others, the increasing feeling that something is missing in our lives, the trouble in connecting with others in life, the wonder if this is really all there is.

Is it all we have left, this beige world where sadness or joy cannot be visited without suspicion? Is all we have left a place where something is wrong with us if the circumstances of our lives make us miserable? Is all we have is the ability to drug ourselves into submission so we don’t have to feel it after all?

Is it worth it?
***

They told me I was broken. I believed them. I believed happiness was a struggle, something difficult to attain, a bliss I could never follow.

What do we do if they were wrong, all of them?

Leavetaking.

1 Mar

Comments from a piece on Salon, from a mother who “left”:

A narcissist. Totally self involved. Your children are lucky they had a more involved father. SHAME.”

“It sure would be convenient to parent at your leisure; it just wouldn’t be parenting, would it?”

“You seem very proud of yourself for someone who caused so much needless misery in the lives of two little children. You seem to buy every aspect of the grandiose rationalization you’ve constructed.”

***

Would we hear the same if the writer had a penis?
I’ve been beating my brain and heart for weeks about this decision, one weighted against my own background of loss, my experiences with other children of divorce. I remember the look on a friend’s face everytime her mother came, and left. I remember the echoing hollow of my chest not having a mother. It was hideous. I’ve been weighing the guilt of this decision against something so vagrant and seemingly radical that I don’t know if I can voice it without the critical mass rising up and howling for my blood.
I want to know myself, and be happy. I never wanted children either. I love them fiercely, but if I’m honest, and in the red light of a late night I am, I am not the mother they need or deserve. I am a shadow with them, a stressed shell of a woman who knows not herself or the world around her. A woman child who has made life altering decisions for others, always. For my father. For a husband. For a child.
I find myself now without time, without pause, in stasis, unable to move. So much time spent being broken, being in a broken concept that I cannot figure out what it means to be me.
And so selfish, I think I see the answer, even as it breaks my heart.
The problem is, it breaks my heart for all the wrong reasons. I don’t hear my own desires (for space, oh blessed space I can trap myself in, the silence stretching before me like a ribbon, the stillness I could melt to) I don’t hear my desire for my children’s happiness.
I hear the judgment, and the guilt of the modern mother, or more accurately, the war against her.
Does my vagina make me a better person? Does it automatically invest in my abilities their father doesn’t have? A bigger, warmer heart? More patience? The desire to play Lego? The want to be there, day in and day out until my hair grows greyer, faster?

Why is it that because I have created these creatures, willingly or unwillingly, regardless of my desire for them, I am to be tethered so absolutely to them, forever? And why does this not extend in the same way to a father? If I were the man, I could have left months ago, with nothing more than a “tsk tsk” to feather behind a door. If I were a man, my desire for summer visits and the occasional weekend would be lauded. My desire to have any interaction with my children at all would very nearly be considered revolutionary.
But I, possessing of a vulva and breasts, am none of these things for leaving. I am a bad mother, a selfish, narcissistic person, and a shitty all around creature. For wanting to breathe.

***

I spent the majority of my weekend with my girls, and by the morning on Monday all I could think about was getting back to normal, where normal is a day with limited interaction with them. I couldn’t bear to be touched any longer, and my knee jerk near revulsion when one of them jumped on me or asked for hug left even me ashamed.

Later when speaking with my boyfriend, I lost it. I burst into tears and couldn’t see why.

But then I could.

I spent about 2.5 days straight with my daughters, the longest amount of time I have in months, despite them living with me. And I hated it.

I hated the noise. I hated the sticky fingers, the need to be near me, constant, the mess that spiraled out from them, their crap, ever increasing in all directions, their voices, their incessant need. And I hated the way I felt, distant and unknowing.

I have all the stress for the least reward. My children spent the majority of their day at school and then with my father, seeing me for thirty minutes before school, and a few hours in the afternoon. Then weekends they spend with their father, who they miss and are genuinely happy to see. With me, it’s like puppies aching for affection, and I feel stunted and small.

I am not raising them, and I am fairly confident I no longer want to try.

I am not saddened by that thought, at least, not as much as I likely should be. I am saddened by the thought that at least a few of you think badly of me for it, for my rapidly approaching decision to walk away. I am annoyed that anyone might think this easy-I am full up with what if’s, and should’s. I am angry that as their mother, I am to be everything-I do not want it. I never did.

That makes it harder, that lack of wanting.  How do I explain any of this to people who want their children, who enjoy them, who are made better for them? I am made hollow by this mothering, this facade. I am not made better, or am good for them. I am unhappy with them, unhappy in this house and with this life.

This, this home, this place, these children, they are all failures I cannot change. A dream I had once that I cannot assemble, and have lost the will to fight with.

I am not the mother anyone thinks I am, or should be.

You have your homes. You have your warm place. I have empty reminders of all the people I wasn’t, and cannot be.

I cannot do it any longer.

***

I am terrified.

I want a clean slate. I want to start over, and breathe slowly, and finally determine, finally understand what I want. See if I can become the mother my daughters deserve, in months or years from now. I cannot be that woman here, not now, not like this.

I want a little house with a garden someday, a small thing like a fairy cottage, with lattice and fence, grasses. Stained glass in the window, trees all around. An attic room for my daughters, chicken coop behind. A quiet, sane place we can hide in, where I can love and stretch my arms. A place where the air is scented of lilacs and sunlight.

What I have is a house of cards collapsing, with a leaking basement, and a father who slowly seems to be taking over. I have become a wisp of a dream here, a passing thought to pay the mortgage and cafeteria bills.

I cannot do this, and I am scared.

Do not judge. You never quite know what it’s like in here.

“Come live in my heart, and pay no rent. “

14 Feb

My valentine didn’t bring me flowers. He didn’t send me chocolates or cause me to drip in jewels.

He bundled me into a house made warm for me, two wood stoves blazing into the night against my fevered shivers. He tucked me into a chair before one, before the hot one, handed me warm tea and dinner, told me to shush and feel better.

He left me to snuggle in the morning while he stoked the fire and made the coffee. He poured my bath too hot to warm the iron of the tub, and left me to simmer until drowsy, I slept for hours through midday. Smiling, I awoke to the happy noises of his puttering beneath me, the dreams of a spring to be spent on the road manifested through the clatter of steel.

My head still hurt and he, my love, poured yet another bath for me, just hot enough, and left me to it, the kitten and I. And when I crawled out, we sat and were silent under music, content with nearness.

In a morning that dawned bright we started talking and the morning turned to noon which turned to late, we marveled at the time which slipped unnoticed from our fingers, and how we never mind.

How can we mind when love infuses all that we do, even the silver silences that move between us?

The only gift I received today is that which I have always wished and wanted for.

Love.

~

I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz

or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:

I love you as certain dark things are loved,

secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries

hidden within itself the light of those flowers,

and thanks to your love, darkly in my body

lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

 

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,

I love you simply, without problems or pride:

I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

 

but this, in which there is no I or you,

so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,

so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

 

Love Sonnet XVII

Pablo Neruda


Toy Review-A buzz, a poke and a shake.

7 Feb

It’s time for another sex toy review! Please, feel free to go do something else if you aren’t down with your bad self. 🙂 Like watch this again.

Continue reading

“I’ve grown certain that the root of all fear is that we’ve been forced to deny who we are.”

31 Jan

She’s different.

I know this. I know it intimately. I’ve lived it.

We’re reading Ramona the Brave when I stop and ask how school is. She’s evasive, she’s of few words, in short, she’s many non Vivian things. She’s uncomfortable.

I ask her if she’s enjoying anything this year, if school is fun. A quiet, tearful nod no. I ask if she feels like she doesn’t fit.

No she whispers

Do you like the boys? The girls?

I like Devon but feel like a third wheel around him and his friends.

You don’t feel like you fit do you?

More silent nodding. More barely held on tears.

Mine this time. Not hers.

***

We all have the stories of feeling the outsider, whether it was real or perceived. It’s part of growing up, feeling like the kiwi in a pile of apples for at least a little while, until you find your footing.

I remember the feeling well, the itching discomfort of difference. Wolves smell fear, children smell oddness, discrepancy. Little accountants they all are.

What I remember is asking constantly why I had to keep my shirt on in the heat of July. Why I had to wear a dress. Why everything was fucking pink. Why it was ok for boy type people to roll in the dirt but not me.

A slight dissonance. A shift to the left, just a bit unfettered. A ball bearing without the right grease, grinding against the side of the wall. In my own skin I felt it then, and to a lesser degree, I still feel it.

Not quite girl, not boy.

Most of us grow up told gender is a binary. Boy or girl. Period. No variation, no wiggle room. And in the case of my mother, there was especially no room. I would wear pink dresses. I would be quiet and play with dolls. I would be the girl she wanted.

I knew I wasn’t her.

That constant sense of displacement, of not being the person anyone wanted or expected, that sense of failure. It lingers. It sticks with you, underneath your breath. That tiny voice telling you something is off, is wrong. I’ve carried it forever. You grow up with the knowledge that you don’t fit in or up to what others expect, and you start to accept that when you don’t, it means something is wrong with you.

I don’t believe gender is a yes or no anymore than I believe sexuality is. Life is fluid, and dazzling and based on a variety that keeps us fresh. But when you’re 8, and your neighbour likes to touch the girl parts you don’t quite understand and your mother insists that “ladies don’t do X”…..you want to be normal. You want to fit in. All you want is to want the same things the other girls want, the things that make no sense to you.

Not much room for dithering as a child.

I’ve fought myself for years, my internal division, my fence sitting. How can you be a little bit of both in a world that only sees one or the other?

***

She seems much the same. girlboy in a girl body. Vivid in her disgust with “girl” things, comfortable in jeans and sweaters, itchy and pully in dresses or well placed haircuts.

If she is as I was, if she feels herself more boy than girl, if she is displaced within a body, even a little, there is no shame. There is no failure in my eyes, as there was with my mother. She is who or what she will be.

But she feels it, this arch between, the step to the left she walks around other kids. The girls have their silent camaraderie, the boys their whispered belonging. I watch her and see that she stands astride it, unclear.

It hurts her, and it hurts to watch, and I can do nothing but grimace and remember when.

***

You’re different I tell her and it’s ok. You’re different and it’s awesome and in a few years, you’ll embrace this, being you, unabashedly you, and it will be ok.

But I won’t lie. It’s gonna suck sometimes too.

Her eyes grow bigger and she just seems to know, somehow, that it’s just how life goes, like wind in trees. She nods and snuggles into me.

I get it darlin. I’ve been you.

I bend over her head.

But don’t you forget, we’re pretty fucking awesome too.