27 November 2007

One Large Mama

So, my cute little sister-in-law (AKA Mrs. Brother) is really, really good about taking pictures when we're all together. Let there not be a moment undocumented in her presence-- she is on hand to preserve the memories. And when I realize we're dragging suitcases out my mom and dad's front door after 4 days and have not managed to snap a single shot, I'm thankful she's been fluttering around, capturing moments.

She sent Thanksgiving pictures today.

And Oh My Fats, Mama Snee, time to lay off the cheesecake already.


26 November 2007

Ah, the Thanksgiving, It is Over.

In case you were wondering, I chose to watch cable instead of posting for the last several days.

Actually, that isn't accurate. For all of the delicious cable television that was available, I actually watched very little of it. And for all of the delicious food that was available, well, that's another story. Two words: Gingersnap Cheesecake. Two more words: Twenty Pounds.

Here's the Recap:

First off, Our Bird. Our Bird, our Bird. Could not have been a better traveler (except maybe that last hour in the car where I had to contort my body to hold her hand from the front seat and sing "mockingbird," complete with the made-up verses, over and over in the dark and pouring rain). But the rest of the time, with the chattering from the back seat and the self-entertaining, really, she just could not have been better. And to top it all off, we had a fabulous impromptu dance party, just Bird and I, south of Louisville in the empty, too-bright, too-loud restroom at McDonalds, jumping around all rumpled and wrinkled and weary, happy to be off the road, unbuckled and on our feet, finally out of the rain. I'm telling you, that kid has some serious moves. And she knows it's funny to dance in the bathroom. I am a lucky mama.

And that says nothing of our first real holiday-with-toddler experience, watching Birdy chattering with family, losing her shyness, baking pretend food for her grandparents, saying "please" and "thank you" and a hundred hilarious one-liners I can't seem to hold long enough in my brain. Snuggling in the guest room at my Mom and Dad's, nose to nose with me, saying, "you be quiet now, mommy. I have to go to sleep."

And the Thanksgiving went on like that, generally peaceful and easy, visiting with my grandparents who made the journey to Littleplace with the help of my Dad, spending time too-rare with my brother and Mrs. Brother and their completely reconstructed dog, talking more about life now, and less about life then.

That distance between past and present is both jarring and peaceful, depending on the second it hits you.

And it isn't always easy to know who or how you are supposed to be-- even as unshakable a person as you may be in your daily life-- when you are back in the mix of family, being a mother and a daughter, a sister and an in-law, a cook and a guest, under the old roof, sleeping in the old bedroom, with the old roles and the new roles and the new people and the old people.

And truly, we are so thankful. We are thankful for family, for a safe trip, for our healthy, happy Bird and her sweet spirit. We are thankful for cars that run well and twenty bucks secretly slipped into my purse for gas. We are thankful for all of the reasons that pull us toward moving back to Indiana, and just as thankful for all of the reasons that keep us here in Tennessee. We are thankful to have enough reasons to want to be in two places at the same time.

And you know, that exhausted and joyful dance party in the bathroom on our long drive home is probably my favorite memory of the whole five days. Which is not to say the rest of our time wasn't completely lovely, because it absolutely was, with the pies and the hugs and the catching up. But this is what I'm talking about, whether I make any sense or not-- the past and the present and roles and relationships and parents and children and things now and things then and it all shifts with this new family of mine that is unfolding, holding me tighter and tighter in a little ball with Bird and A.

On another note, my dogs shit on the floor almost every day we were gone. We're going to run out of dog sitters if this continues.

21 November 2007

Happy to You

Off to Indiana for Thanksgiving.
May or may not post every day like I have (sort of) been.
My parents have internet service,
but they also have cable. Which I enjoy only a few times a year, during holidays like these.

So we'll see.

Happy yellow/ white food holiday to you!!

18 November 2007

Scenes From A Marriage

Leaving church this morning with a styrofoam cup filled with coffee:

A: I really like this coffee, but I think I like it because I don't like it, you know?

Me: um, no.

17 November 2007


Two songs that get stuck in my head multiple times a week for months now:

1. Some bullshit song by Jewel from the mid-90's that contains this line:
I know that you love me/ and soon you will see/ you were meant for me/ and I was meant for you.

Did you know Jewel was a stalker in addition to being Alaskan? The line that makes this song swallow up my brain is something about how if this guy comes back she'll keep the house clean or some shit and she'll "never leave wet towels on the floor anymore," because that's clearly why the relationship fell apart. It pops into my head when I see A's damp towel lying at the foot of the bed in the mornings. And why, oh why do I know the words to this awful, awful song and why has it resurfaced so many years later?

2. Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks. I don't know all of the words but I know enough for the whole song, verse AND chorus, to stick to my brain for reasons completely unknown to me. The song was a huge hit in my high school with the popular, out-drinkin'-beer-in-the-cornfields-again crowd, and I hated it. They played it (as a joke? maybe?) at my brother's wedding but that was back in March, and here it is November. Talk about a bad houseguest in the ole brain. Go home, Garth. And by home I mean back to Littleplace, Indiana, because I'm sure all those guys are still parked in the cornfield getting trashed and waiting for you and your gigantic black hat.

16 November 2007

So, How Was Your Day, Honey?

I had a two-hour, promising meeting today. With people who are not currently my employer. And that's about all I want to say about that.

Except for one statement: during the discussion, I found myself really distilling all of the peripheral information and goals and bladdyblah to this: the difference between being intellectually engaged and being emotionally engaged is a huge. effing. difference. And I do not lack for emotional engagement in my personal life, making my true "life's work" out of being a wife, mother, friend, sister, and daughter. And I'm feeling today that it's possible that what I truly need out of a vocation is intellectual and creative engagement. I miss that. There is enough emotional activity in my life to fill a bucket.

I have lost 30+ patients this year. All of my patients will die of this disease, but not before it steals their ability to move, to speak, to breathe. And all the while their cognitive abilities will not be affected, trapping a healthy mind in a completely paralyzed body. There is no question, no cause, and no cure.

It gets to you.

When I left my post in the mental health field, my anxiety went through the roof-- anxiety about the person standing next to me in line at the gas station going ape shit, anxiety about unpredictable, violent behavior. Because I saw my fair share of that, but couldn't really process it until I left that environment, as a protection to myself. I don't regret those six or so years because I learned more than I can explain, but I also know it's taken me about 4 years to come down from it.

I wonder how this current job is affecting me beneath my own protective distance.

I also believe that I have been led here for a reason, and I don't mean that in an "I've been led to make a difference" kind of way. I mean that in an "I'm here to be prepared for something" kind of way. Quite possibly to prepare myself for the deaths of people I love-- I am 31 years old and still have all 4 living grandparents, albeit barely. What I have learned about grief and dying is more than valuable to me.

And one other statement (and then enough with the statements): when I was writing for a living, I left because the job changed, not because my interest changed. When my vocational landscape shifts (I move two states away, my employer morphs into a completely different company while I'm on maternity leave), I run right back to social work. Because I'm good at it, it comes easily. I have history in this field (I started in mental health case management with the SPMI* population before I'd even graduated college**). I like to speak in social-worky terms, I selfishly like to know what's best for everybody because I can never decide what's best for my own damn self, and I like to know that I'm doing "good works," as my grandmother would say, and I wonder how much of that pleasure lies in the knowing and how much in the actual doing. There are big, meaty questions to ask myself, and they're not new ones.

I also question what is best for my family-- I thought that my working part time was the right thing for us, so I could have more time with Bird, but living paycheck-to-paycheck (and sometimes not even that) isn't good for us either. I have no idea how to even weigh possibilities on this one-- I believe there are opportunities to earn more where I am, but it's all very, very muddy with the change in leadership.

There is no conclusion here. I also know that for me, the company I keep makes all the difference, and eight hours a day is a big chunk of time.

Stay Tuned.

*Serious and Persistent Mental Illness
** With a degree in English, concentration in creative writing/ poetry, minor in Italian Language, no less. The majority of my working life would be the definition of "accidental career."

14 November 2007

Recipe Corner

Curried Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and Chickpeas

Straight outta The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atlas. I did not make this one up, I just made it for dinner.
Page 194.

2 large sweet potatoes
one 16-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
one 14 to 16 oz can diced tomatoes
10 to 12 ounces fresh spinach, well washed, stemmed, and coarsely chopped.
1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder (I used one heaping tsp)
salt to taste.

Bake the SPs in their skin until done but firm. (400 degrees, about an hour, give or take based on size.) Peel and cut into large chunks.

Cook chickpeas and tomatoes over medium heat in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer for 5-ish minutes.

Add spinach and cover. Cook briefly, until wilted, 5-ish minutes

Add sweet potatoes and curry and salt, cook over low heat, 5-ish minutes.

Usually I don't follow a recipe exactly (which is why I feel like they're actually mine when I post them here), but this one worked out just great to the letter. Served it with whole-wheat pita pan-fried (fried? sauteed?) in olive oil and my super simple version of cucumber raita: a cup of plain yogurt and half a decent-sized cucumber spun in the food processor.

I baked the potatoes the night before and just kept them in the fridge... so no baking time after work or waiting for those suckers to cool before peeling/ cutting. Made enough for me + A + some sweet potato chunks pulled out for Bird (HA, like she's eating sweet potato chunks, please) with enough left over for at least one lunch.

Delish! Go forth and make thine own curried sweet potatoes with chickpeas and spinach.

* Edited to Add: Not as good the second day. Still good, but the pita was all gone. Huge difference.

Tough Questions with Mama:
Do I like my job because I like doing what I do, or do I like my job because I'm good at it, and I like being good at things?

What do you do?

So, let's say you're a potty training parent.

It's morning, and your spouse has left for work already, and you have just taken a seat in the parlor with a nice bowl of Corn Chex and soy milk, watching your little potty trainer feed some sort of wooden pizza to a seated, stuffed baby. She chit-chats, you chit-chat, you eat a few of your Corn Chex. They are delicious.

And it gets quiet. Your toddler looks both surprised and terrified.

She says, quietly, "haffa use the potty."

You leap from your chair, shouting, "LET'SGOLET'SGOLET'SGO," like you're heading up some potty-focused fire and rescue squad entering a burning building full of kittens and babies. You shuffle your toddler into the bathroom, a bathroom so small there is really only room for one of you, even when one of you is two years old, but you crowd in and jockey with the door and the sink and try to pull out the potty chair in time for this joyous pee event. You set your cereal bowl on the toilet tank and realize it is about to start an avalanche of magazines and catalogs. You set your cereal bowl on the floor.

Your toddler is having trouble pulling down her jammie pants. You turn around to help and manage to ram your hip squarely into the doorknob, but you don't curse. You help with the pants, you help with the diaper, you realize it is partially too late. There is poop in the diaper. You seat the toddler on the potty chair and proceed to try to shake the poop pancake into the toilet for flushing. You try to turn around and ram your other hip squarely into the sink. You don't curse. You shake the (suprisingly stubborn) poop from the diaper into the toilet. Your toddler pee pees. You make a big deal about it, high fives, stickers for the chart. You help her clean up. You get a clean diaper. You empty the pee-pot and swish it with vinegar, all the while talking up the potty success.

Your toddler goes back to the wooden pizza. You look at your cereal bowl on the bathroom floor.

You think, "I didn't see any poop fall in my cereal when I was shaking out the diaper."

You think, "Surely there is no poop in my cereal."

You think, "But what if there is poop in my cereal? I wasn't exactly watching the cereal."

You think about the floater in the bathtub last week. You gag a little.

You think, "Really, the chance of some poop flying off of the shaking diaper and landing in my cereal are so slim."

You think, "Who has a bathroom this tiny, anyway? Without some kind of flat space to put a cereal bowl?"

You think, "Seriously, what if there is poop in my cereal? There is no poop in my cereal."

You think, "but what if. What if it is down at the bottom of the bowl, or even worse, just a small morsel of poop that I wouldn't even notice."

And then you throw the cereal away, that's what you do.

13 November 2007

Oh, Tuesday, here you are again.

Remember how I said I moved my blogroll into it's new little blog apartment sometime last week? Well, I think maybe I should delete the whole thing. I've been to the end of the internet and back this afternoon, quite unintentionally, and have burned some remarkably useful hours looking at... I don't even know what. Blogs? Pictures? In any case, burning my eyeballs to raisins, once again. If I'm going to waste time, I have plenty more productive ways to do it, you can be assured of that. Maybe I need to have a No Bloglines Before 4pm policy. But then how would I read all of those stinkin' blogs? THE PRESSURE IS JUST TOO MUCH.

I've decided to adopt a dear friend's "I feel sorry for you that you have to be a butthole" approach to anger-processing here in the workplace. I believe the technique was developed for mothers-in-law, but I'm hoping it will work here, at least to dilute some of my anger about our new... um... "leadership." Some days I feel like running from the building screaming, others I feel like this might still be okay somehow if I just sit tight. It also seems I am incapable of making a plan and sticking to it, distracted by possibilities and what-ifs and bright and shiny objects. And, ultimately, comfort. And the bowl of candy on the admin's desk.

In related news, we are out of money. Not kidding. Maybe we will get some more soon?

I have officially applied to take the exam to become licensed in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. I should start studying, like, yesterday (actually, a month ago), but if you must know the truth I'll wait until I get the go-ahead to schedule the exam and then and only then will I crack a book, closer to the last minute than anyone thought possible. I could pretend otherwise, but the truth is: that's just how I roll.

And lastly, this made me laugh today.

12 November 2007

Ten Years

Birdy's current favorite books are a couple of ten-ish year-old photo albums that live on the shelf beside the couch. They are full of photos of A. and I, so young (21!) and so cute, on vacation at the lake and the beach and being rowdy college near-graduates in our run-down house in Bloomington with a young, fat bear dog, not a dime to our names, and not a care in the world. Except maybe who was playing at Second Story and where we were going afterwards.

I watch A. flip through these books with Bird and I think that this is it, finally, that it's happening. That this is what I secretly or maybe even unconsciously wished for back when these pictures were snapped, before marriage, before babies, before Tennessee, that this scene would actually be real after ten years of storing these not-even-that-great photos. That I would be here, watching my husband page through these little books with this amazing little Bird, watching him explain, "that's your mommy. And that's daddy. And that's Bear with a Wheat Thin on his head. That's your uncle Dave. That's mommy in a bikini. That's mommy and daddy on the boat. That was our house in the country. That was our roommate. That was the time your mom made manicotti."

Sometimes I look through these and think, "wow, who knew?"

And then I think, "we did."

10 November 2007

Still Posting Every Day in November

I went to a wedding.
And then I sat on the back porch with A. drinking beers. And talked about things.
More later.

09 November 2007

Friday is My Day

A bit of housekeeping:
My blogroll has left the nest and now lives in its own page. Link is on the sidebar.

And now, In the spirit of tomorrow's yard sale, I'd like to share with you a couple of things I just can't seem to give up.These are the only black heels I have, and I've had them at least 4 years. These heels are mangled. The soles are thin, the heel is worn at a crazy angle, there are visible nails on the bottom. Part of the seam has split, revealing some shoe-guts, and I touch that part up with a sharpie every now and then and pretend no one is the wiser. I would buy new heels, but I'm constantly telling myself I 'm on my way to a job/ life without heels, so why buy some now? And they stay in rotation another year.

This is Big Mama. We've been together 7 years. This might be my favorite-ever thrift find-- I bought it at Southern Thrift shortly after we moved to this city with a coupla hundred dollars and no jobs. The year we couldn't afford the $6 admission to the Willie Nelson Museum and had to peek over the velvet ropes at his exercise bike, the very bike that was taken from him by the IRS.
I am always tempted to find a new heavy bag when winter rolls around and I find myself carrying several more unexplained pounds of unnecessaries, but I always come back to Big Mama. She used to have some inner pockets that have since ripped out, but she has still never failed me.

And you can tell I didn't go to work today, because I'm in such a fantastic mood I'm going to tell you about
Three Things I Love Today:

1. An entire day to myself. Nothing fancy, but it was mine. So refreshing. My application for the NCETMB is completed, including passport photo/ mug shot. 8 months of paystubs and EOBs and oil change receipts have been filed. Two cigarettes have been smoked, Two episodes of This American Life consumed, and much coffee ingested and processed. Felt good.

2. Stereolab. Rediscovered.
Which tends to happen without explanation on the occasion that I have several consecutive daylight hours to myself. Maybe because I started loving stereolab in college, during the year I finally lived alone.

3. Bird saying, "Actually." And using it correctly, and often. As in:

Me: Do you want milk or water?
Bird: Actually, I want juice.

And then there was this, tonight:

A: (to me) Do you want to just order pizza?
Bird: (Before I could answer) Yes, let's have cheese pizza. Thanks for asking."

08 November 2007

A Piece of Advice from Me to You

Don't do this.

That's right. You're looking at deep fried mac n' cheese that you eat in your car at Sonic. And I ate 6 of these evil little bites today on my way home from a patient visit.

Here's a snippet of telephone conversation:

Parked at Sonic, Columbia, TN, waiting for my order.

me: I'm at Sonic. Guess what they have.

A: dunno.

me: Macaroni and cheese bites.

A: Macaroni and cheese cokes?

me: gross. I'm hanging up.

A: no, really, what?

me: macaroni and cheese bites. I'm so excited. I have to go.

back on the road

A: Hello?

me: These things are so fucking awesome.

A: bye.

ten minutes later

A: Hello?

me: um, they had a weird aftertaste.

A: Maybe you should have ordered a mac and cheese coke to go with them.

And A Bonus Installment of Scenes From a Marriage:

me: Dammit! The zipper on these pants won't stay up all of a sudden.

A: mwahahaha, my plan is working!

me: Your plan to have me walk around the grocery store with my fly down?

A: (defensive) It still needs some work.

07 November 2007

Bird Says

This evening, at the dinner table, while trying to stuff the sour cream lid down the neck of her shirt:

"Don' worry. I'm just putting it in my pocket. Dass all."

06 November 2007

What I probably should not share

Sometimes I go into the bathroom at work and flip off the new boss from behind the door, both birds raised and blazing. It's quiet but I'm yelling.

Also, when I come home from a rotten day and A. is in an equally rotten mood, it does not double the rotten, but rather, makes rotten squared.

05 November 2007

More City Mouse/ Country Mouse

Visited another small town today, got really lost, depended on the kindness of (many) strangers at (many) gas stations speckled around the big beautiful nowhere to get me where I needed to go.

Could not have picked a more perfect day to drive, wish I'd had my camera. And just when I was really getting my dream on about sitting on the front porch of a big white farm house in a cozy sweater with a cup of coffee on my favorite rocking chair, looking out over the cows and horses and goats to the fiery red and gold mountains in the distance, I drove past a ramshackle trailer, EXACTLY like the one in the Dancing Outlaw scene in which they go "muddin", with about 5 effed-up looking dudes in thermal flannel, a graveyard of cars on the hill, including the burned-out (?) shell of a school bus and fifty mangy dogs and random parts of things, and I kid you not, they stopped what they were doing and stared my car on down the road. I'm sure they're very nice people. (-ish?)But they freaked me out and gave my little country dream a big record scratch back into reality.

04 November 2007

It was like moving except we still live here.

Today we decided to clean/ organize/ move part of the kitchen around, which set off a chain reaction that included my husband standing in the middle of the dining room (which Bird calls the "parlor") holding metal rods that were once a very large metro shelf, surrounded by dusty record albums and toys and shelving parts and unplugged stereo equipment with its guts hanging out, looking like he was going to cry. For my part of the organizing, I emptied and replaced and relocated everything in the few cabinets we do have, purging a few awkwardly shaped baking dishes (heart-shaped spring-form pan, anyone?) while Bird stood over an upside-down laundry basket and poured lentils from a measuring cup into about ten different teeny plastic containers. And all over the floor.

While I was moving shit from here to there and back again, I unearthed something so evil and allergic I don't know if I'll ever be the same, as I have been struck by a never-ending series of violent and unpredictable sneezes that make me think I might pee my pants every single time. Seriously, it has been hours, and the sneezes just keep coming. My head feels cloudy and drugged, maybe from the drugs. Time to have some tea. Aren't you glad I'll be posting every day?

03 November 2007

No, I got them ALL cut.

First off, Bird told me one morning last week that she wanted to wear a belt. And we had this cute ribbon from one of her birthday gifts, so I tied it around her waist. She's worn it almost every day since.

So, here's our shaggy little peach before the haircut:

And now, all groomed up and grown up:

It has been kind of an adjustment, painfully cute as it is, because now I look at her and I think she might really be some kind of kid, not a shaggy toddler-baby. A kid.

02 November 2007

Day Two and Still on the Wagon

Almost failed Nablopomo on my second day, but look at me! Not failing!

Today, Bird had her first real haircut-- a little buster brown hairdo, cute as a button. No pictures yet, because she was awarded a tootsie pop by the beauty shop lady, and therefore had no nap because she was high on sugar, so I had no shower. Which matters not. I didn't take pictures because she has been a grouch.

I visited a patient in a very small (and CUTE) town in Kentucky on Wednesday, and I started feeling my small-town itch (contrary to popular belief, the small-town itch is not something that gets passed around the cheerleading squad and the football team). I'm from a little burg, and sometimes I feel like I should be again. Like my family should be from a small place, because in my life, that's where families come from.

But then I start looking around for kids' haircut places online and get all caught up in some Sniparoo chain out by the mall where you pick from a menu of haircuts and they distract/ overstimulate/ snack your child into submission while they cut the hair. And I decide, "fuck it, we're going to Wayne's Unisex Salon on the big street across from Mrs. Winner's." And we walk in to a true, old-style beauty salon, where everybody's gossiping and sitting under helmet-dryers, and an old lady named Elaine pulls out a big padded booster seat so Birdy can sit in the special chair while she darts in and out of Bird's wee blonde mop with her scissors (with lightning accuracy for an old lady and a moving target, I might add), and everybody coos and pokes at Bird and makes a fuss. It might as well have been Littlesburg, Indiana, population 4000, where I grew up. And I think about the nice Egyptian guys that run the corner market and give me shit for smoking, and how I can walk to the post office, the grocery, daycare, and the library. And I realize I DO live in a small town, smack in the middle of this bustling city. And Birdy might actually get to be friends with a non-white child before college. AND I can buy beer on Sundays. So I'd say we're doing pretty well.

01 November 2007

Here's Something to be Uneasy About

Yesterday at a Fazoli's in Bowling Green, Kentucky I had to tell the counter/ food prep staff that they were out of soap in the bathroom. I would like to think that the soap ran out during some kind of big bathroom rush that happened AFTER the last female employee washed her hands, but there is much uncertainty, as the restaurant was not busy and well after lunch rush, and there was about one female employee. Odds are she was the last one in. Out. guh.

Halloween Story:
Birdy had a monkey costume. A damn cute monkey costume. A damn cute monkey costume that she wore all day on Tuesday at daycare where she learned how to trick-or-treat proper-like. A damn cute monkey costume so damn cute and special that she made an extra phone call to my brother and sister-in-law to tell them all about it before dinner last night.

A damn cute monkey costume that must have been made of molten lava or creepy crawly bugs when A. went to put it on her after supper. She wouldn't even let one foot get in the one fuzzy little leg. NOoooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOONOTWearMonkeySuuuuuuuuuuuuit! with the wailing and the kicking and the tears.

So A. said, "That's fine. But if you want to go trick-or-treating, you need to dress up."

And she did. All by herself. She put on a tutu, a hat knit by my friend S., some butterfly wings, and one red glove.

We decided her costume was "Age Two."