I haven't done one of these lists in a while. Despite the darkish tone of All Adither, I honestly see myself as someone who's able to find real joy and meaning in life through small pleasures. So, here are just a few of the many things I love:
1. Supportive people. Friends, family, and even acquaintances who express enthusiasm for your projects and encourage you despite the odds.
2. My camera. All my life I've been trying to describe scenes with words. What a luxury and delight it is to capture moments with my Canon Rebel. All it takes is the right light, the right angle, and you have a story. I am in love with photography.
3. Bikinis. Within the last few weeks, despite having had two babies who stretched my mid-section to basketball-sized circumferences, I decided, so the fuck what? I still look pretty good. And it's only going to get worse. Here are my sort-of-slack-abs, world. I'm okay with them.
4. Swearing. A well-timed F-bomb makes everything better.
5. Cinnamon toast.
6. My son's encyclopedic knowledge of animal facts.
7. The striped tea cups I got on the London leg of J.'s and my honeymoon. They still make me happy every time I see them in the cupboard.
8. Paraffin. Hot and smeared across my eyebrows just before the rip.
9. Little House on the Prairie books. I've been reading them to Max and Claire. They are great history lessons and each chapter is its own engrossing small story about American pioneer life. Besides, they take me back to my own childhood when I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder tomes as if they were caramels.
10. Made beds. Unmade beds drive me to distraction. Walking into a room and seeing crisp, neatly tucked sheets and blankets is peace embodied.
Grace in small things. Because life is short and love is large.
One day last week I gave a panhandler five bucks. Something I almost never do. She was standing at an intersection in a Seattle neighborhood called Greenwood. Kitty Cat and I, having just spent $60 on birthday presents at a nearby toy store, drove past her. I couldn't catch all of what her sign said, something about "being honest" and having "two girls". I didn't care, frankly, what she'd written.
It was her face that got me. She might've been an amazingly good actress, possibly overplaying a little, but her face. Her face was crumpled. Her eyes not downcast, but sad and shocked. If it's possible for a person to look nauseated, she did.
One hand on the wheel, my other started digging through my purse. But we were two lanes away and I still wasn't sure. When our red light changed to green and I drove off, I kept looking at the woman in the rearview mirror.
I swerved right and eased us into a driveway.
"Did we take a wrong turn?" Kitty Cat asked, pronouncing it "tu-uhn."
"No," I said apologetically. "I'm going back to give that woman some money?"
"Because she looks like she needs it."
A lot of people look like they need it. But, her face.
When I reached the woman, I pulled up along the sidewalk, my tire hitting the curb. I was tempted to make a joke about it, but felt so ridiculous in my huge, sturdy car that I could not. Instead I held the five-dollar-bill out the window.
She jogged over to me and took it. "God bless you," she said. And, in that moment, my heart sunk. I felt like I'd been duped, though I can't exactly say why. Her husky smoker's voice? The life-hard-lived lines carved deeply into her cheeks (though those could come from misfortune as easily as decades of partying)? Whatever the reason, I drove home, muttering, "I don't know. I don't know if I did the right thing."
But in the end, it's only five dollars. An americano and a muffin. If there's even a possibility those five dollars bought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for two girls and a mom, I'm okay with it.
One of the benefits of being a blogger, even a lesser known blogger, is that you get invited to cool parties. Normally, when someone or some entity invites you to one of their cool parties, they expect, or at least hope, you'll blog about it.
Normally I'm able to skirt the issue by posting an event on Savvy Source, where I put in a handful of hours a week, or by tweeting it, etc. I hate to use this space, this white column between the yellow and green columns on All Adither, for anything remotely commercial. It's all my creative ramblings, my photos, and I want to keep it that way.
But last Monday night, some nifty women from theYellowUmbrella.org, came to Seattle, threw a small bash with food, drinks, cupcakes, musician Christine Baze and eye palette giveaways by Debra Macki (smart, because I don't know any woman, besides maybe my sister, who can resist a cute eye palette). They hoped we would help them spread the word about cervical cancer prevention. I couldn't say no.
I've never had cervical cancer, no one in my family has had cervical cancer. But I do know what it feels like to be told you've had an irregular pap and to have to undergo a cervical biopsy, which HURTS like a mother fucker (and I still say this after having two kids). I can sort of, in my worst nightmares, imagine the crushing panic of being told you do, indeed, have cancer. That's what happened to Baze, at the age of 31. She's a gregarious, cool, stunningly talented singer who isn't afraid to get out there and talk about her chemo, radiation, loss of fertility, and her cervix if it'll convince other women to get regular paps and tests for HPV (which can cause cervical cancer).
So, as a tiny-time blogger, that's my message today. Get tested for HPV. Go to your gyno once a year (without fail, ladies) and convince other women in your life to do the same.
And if you comment on this post by Saturday at 10pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time, I'll choose one of you at random to receive a free Debra Macki eye palette.
That is all.
I was alone with the kids for a good part of the weekend. Something that often strikes panic in my heart. I've been spoiled. J. hasn't had to travel much in the last year or two. That's starting to change again though...he has several trips coming up.
Yesterday, after swimming lessons, I took Fruit Bat and Kitty Cat downtown to see a free concert by the Seattle Men's Chorus. I didn't expect to introduce my children to Drag so soon in their young lives. (Or at all.) But they were marginally entertained. I thought it was pretty fun.
I packed the day full (consciously or not, I don't know). So full we were all exhausted by the end of it. So full that Fruit Bat and Kitty Cat were sprawled across my bed watching Max & Ruby and eating Happy Meals while I sipped a glass of white wine and inhaled a hamburger. And it was all we could manage.
The sweetest, most breathtaking moment of the day for me was not, as you might imagine, taking this photo of my littles holding hands and watching the International fountain at the Seattle Center. Though that was nice, too. It was standing in the checkout line at Target waiting for Fruit Bat to pay for three small things he was purchasing. Just the day before he'd loaded his wallet with money for the first time (in the past he's always lugged his coins and bills around in a Ziploc or his pockets).
Anyway, he was taking forever and I got distracted trying to pull Kitty Cat away from the candy display. Finally a line started to form behind us.
"What are you doing?" I asked, exhaling impatiently. Then I looked down at his small, seven-year-old boy fingers rifling through his wallet's pockets and compartments. There were two crumpled dollars (not enough to pay for what he was buying). There were also: rocks, Sweettarts, a piece of gum, a marker, and a folded drawing. Those were things he thought would be handy to keep on his person.
GOD, it was so sweet. It breaks my heart just writing it.
I paid for his trinkets, with the understanding that he'd pay me back when we got home. And I fell a little more deeply in love with my boy.
This week I've seen...
A dictionary lying, sodden, in a puddle (blasphemy!)
A turquoise-haired girl leap from a car and wretch onto the ground as pot smoke rolled out behind her. She looked lost in our neighborhood.
Blood squeezing from Kitty Cat's mouth and over her bottom lip just after she lost her first tooth. She danced around happily like a vampire who'd just found some juicy prey.
A man wearing a shirt with a chest patch that said, Cancer Lifeline Superhero.
Another man next to me in a coffee shop with papers full of squiggles and pi signs and x's and y's.
Faces softened, faces of middle-aged women and guys with ponytails and iPhones, when they saw a Bernese Mountain Dog tied to a bike rack. Almost everyone who passed stooped to pet him.
Myself in a dream wherein I was on a cooking reality show, racing to make some pasta dish. I was crushed because I couldn't find sun dried tomatoes. As I was frantically searching through cupboards, a producer came up and told me I was dressed sloppily and needed to buy new clothes. Analyze amongst yourselves.
Fruit Bat reading Kitty Cat a book as they sat curled up on the couch together. What a sweet way to start a weekend.
There are some things I know from spending so much time at my coffee shop of choice:
A woman, about seven months pregnant, is trying to decide if she should go on an exotic trip. She wants to, but isn't sure it's safe. She's spoken to several friends about her predicament.
A man in love with his own voice and gestures runs a company that makes nutrition bars. They are sold at Whole Foods. He very much wants his nutrition bar to be the Number One nutrition bar in existence.
Another man, this one not nearly so well groomed, with a greasy black-gray beard, sits in the corner day after day. He jiggles his knees compulsively and stares with wide, baggy eyes, a small smile cavorting across his lips. He speaks to no one.
Next to me, a woman drafts a book. She seems as unfocused as I do, writing a little, then chatting online, browsing, downloading music, writing a little more. I say, "Sorry to be nosy, but that looks suspiciously like a manuscript."
"A memoir," she says. She's been working on her story almost as long as I've been working on mine. She's on her third draft. I think I've seen her around school, that she's another parent.
I marvel at all the creative people, ambitious people, down-trodden people who pass in and out of my life everyday. I'm sad that, most of them, I'll never really know.
Though in certain ways it seems like I do, like I might. Sometimes I feel I've run across so many people in my life that I see the intrinsic sameness of us all. Each of us possess bits of the same qualities, they are just rationed differently. A little more drive and energy for this one. A touch of mental illness for that. More compassion for him. A heavier stroke of insecurity for her.
Or maybe I'm just naïve.
Okaaayyy, that last post riled one or one of you. And, to the one, I'm so sorry for your losses and frustrations. Truly. I have been incredibly lucky to have been able to bring two fantastic, thriving, loving little people into the world. I am thankful for my good fortune everyday. I may not express it here, necessarily, but I do feel it. And my children know it, too. I (often) hug them and murmur sweet nothings in their small, seashell ears and kiss every inch of pale, smooth skin when they let me.
I didn't mean that last line (Jealous?) to be flippant. I meant it to be funny.
Mothering is this huge, fluid, amazing, heartwarming/wrenching, aggravating thing. And sometimes it siphons the living soul right out of you. When it does, you just have to laugh and make fun of it. Or cry. Or both.
But, yeah. I can't make this blog only about how honey-warm-and-sweet parenting is, because a lot of it sucks. It's the truth. Doesn't mean I'm not grateful.
And now I'll stop with the defensive bit.
In other news,
• It's Delurker Day. If you read All Adither, if it ever amuses you enough to turn up the corners of your mouth or annoys you enough to grunt at the screen, please comment. I would love to know you're out there. It keeps me inspired.
• I saw a man this morning, a Real Change vendor, crushing a cracker into the pavement with his shoe while a pigeon waited patiently nearby. When the man was done, the pigeon pecked away at the crumbles. It was so sweet.
• We're all thinking about Haiti today. About the poorest of poor nations with an unstable government, shoddy infrastructure and suffering people. If you'd like to donate and haven't decided where you'll give yet, consider Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health. Both are highly-rated organizations with strong histories in helping humanity.
• I recently sold something on ebay so I could afford to buy another lens for my Rebel. (And, oh God, how absurd does this sound considering the previous bulleted item?) The woman who bought this something, one of the only semi-valuable somethings I actually owned, has struck up a friendship of sorts with me, emailing me about her life, her husband, her sons. She ends each email with a question, drawing me further into the dialogue. Not in a stalkerish way at all. Just in a, you are human and you seem friendly way.
One of the joys of life is connection, yes? Is knowing there are so many good people out there.
Relief relief relief relief that Christmas has come and gone.
Sadness that I feel this way, that the holidays are so much work and so little joy for me now. There are lovely moments, of course. A few sprinkled through every day. Maybe that's all I can hope for. But none of those long stretches of ahhh I used to love about Christmas.
Kitty Cat and Fruit Bat were wonderful, though. Taking turns and sharing and proving themselves to be mostly good company. (All this despite Fruit Bat waking for the day around 2 am).
And I got this bitchin' flash for my camera. One that'll make good nighttime pictures possible. I'm excited about it and I'm realizing how little I know about this photography stuff.
Now I'm ready to get back to normal life. To our school day frenzy. To my regularly scheduled writing sessions. To waking to the alarm and barely seeing J. To scrambling to make dinner every night and doing my own laundry and kitchen clean up. Oh wait.
Maybe I'll just do my best to enjoy this upcoming week...
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