Saturday, August 6, 2011

Moving Day

                Moving Day broke exceptionally early. Our house still needed to be cleaned and our trailer loaded before the early departure time of six AM. Elijah had been up a lot the night before so I pulled myself from bed sluggishly at five AM and began cleaning what I could. Breakfast was something quickly thrown together from the scraps of food still left in the house. Knowing that I was going to be cleaning all morning, I skipped the shower and went straight to work on scrubbing the tub. Other people began to rise as well and it quickly became apparent that we’d bitten off more than we could.
                It was going to be another hot day; this time tipping the scales at a whopping 104 plus excessive humidity. Needless to say, Mom was down for the count before too long, cloistering herself in her bathroom to use her nebulizer. Dad and Douglas worked relentlessly at fitting everything we’d decided to move ourselves into the trailer. What had been an easy “We have plenty of room” quickly turned into “Not everything is going to fit.” While Elijah slept, I busied myself collecting trash, sweeping the floors, and forcibly choosing to remain hyper-analytical for fear that the sizing stress would suck me in and I’d have a breakdown.
                We did not make our six AM departure. In fact, we sailed right by it along with seven, eight, and nine o’clock as well. By eleven thirty, we finally decided enough was enough.  Mom was at the end of her rope trying to find those last minute things. Dad discovered a huge pile of things he couldn’t bare to part with but didn’t have room to take, and Elijah had woken up eager to help the only way a bored two year old knows how to- he got in the way. We packed the Jeep, the Impala, and the trailer to the brim. Dad and Douglas piled into the Jeep with our Border Collie Seumas. Elijah, Mom, the cat Socks, and I shoe-horned ourselves into the Impala and we made our way to our first stop: a real breakfast which, at that point, was off the lunch menu at McDonalds.
                We ate in the car and shared easy laughs. So Mom could relax, I took the wheel first and we headed out of town. Socks began meowing; something he didn’t stop save for a few short naps, until let out of his cage in Kentucky.
                Before long, though, it became apparent that the Jeep was pulling too much weight. We went back and forth over our walkie-talkies to decide our best course of action. It was decided that we’d switch to a truck. Dad and Douglas would drive in that, Mom would take the Jeep with the dog, and I’d take the Impala with the cat and my kid. We pulled over in Chapel Hill- not two hours from home- and Dad, Douglas, and I began the long process of switching everything over. Mom stayed in the Jeep and Elijah stayed in the car with the windows rolled down. I checked on him occasionally and it was obvious he was getting uncomfortable so I kept pushing the water on him.
                When everything was loaded onto the truck, it must have been close to two. We got into our vehicles and began the caravan to Kentucky once again. Before long, I knew something was wrong with Elijah. He was tomato-red and despondent. In the rearview mirror, he stared at nothing with blank eyes. It was obvious that the heat had taken a toll on him. I said his name over and over, louder and more desperately. When he didn’t respond, I slammed on the horn repeatedly in an attempt to get Mom and Dad’s attention and pulled over. I quickly got out f the car on the side of the freeway and went to my son. Again, I called and called his name but he just stared someplace beyond me. It was only when I gave him a firm shake that he began to cry. I gave him soda to drink since I knew he’d have more of that than water, and got back in the car, driving quickly to catch up with my folks to get help. It wasn’t long before I spotted the Jeep and the U-Haul. I slid in behind then and cast a happy smile to Elijah in the rearview mirror. He was, once again, red faced and despondent. This time, I put on the hazard lights and sped dangerously quickly to get around them, blasting my horn as I went. We pulled over and Dad had me strip him down to his diaper. We gave him more to drink and decided he needed someplace cooler so we found a truck stop. I cooled Elijah off in the bathroom, before getting more soda from a waitress and having him sit in the restaurant’s air conditioning. When he started talking about all the trucks, I knew he was getting better so we got back into the car and drove on.
                Someplace in Virginia, we hit a traffic jam that extended for miles and hours. We all crawled along at a snail’s pace, occasionally weaving through the traffic in an attempt to find a quicker lane. Somewhere along the way, Mom- the only one without a cell phone that worked or a walkie talkie- got separated from us. We spent the next few hours driving through every rest area and squeaking around Beckley, West Virginia (a place they had often stopped for dinner on trips to Cincinnati) trying to find her. The sun fell behind the hills and our worry grew. We called the state police to see if there had been any sort of distress calls from her. Around nine-thirty, we found her. She had asked another motorist at a rest area if we could use his phone.
Our reunion was short, however. The anxiety of losing Mom had both kept me awake and drained me of my energy. Someplace outside of Charleston, my vision began to blur and I began to lose my depth perception. The car lights all had tracers. I told my folks I was going to pull over and get a motel for the night. They decided to carry on. At eleven o’clock, I handed off Socks to my Mom and took Elijah to the Knights Inn in Charleston, West Virginia.
Had I had even a smidge more energy, I’d have left the motel as soon as I unlocked the door to my room. It was frigid and everything had a bizarre sticky filminess to it as if someone had used too high a concentration of the cheapest soap possible to clean (and failed miserably at cleaning). There was a hole in the wall where the door handle had hit it and a spot on the floor than sank as if the boards beneath had rotted through and were covered with cheap carpet instead of fixed. Elijah was thrilled! He ran around the room, playing with the microwave that was haphazardly stacked upon a dorm style mini fridge on the floor. He tried in vain to climb onto the high beds and giggled the whole time. It was after midnight before I was able to pull him close to me (since he didn’t want to sleep in his own double bed) and drift off to sleep. I woke at five and took a surprisingly good shower. While Elijah slept, I organized the car a little better and threw awake the assortment of garbage we’d collected. Elijah woke up around seven and put up a fight about leaving the motel. He pouted all the way to Cracker Barrel where we celebrated his second birthday.
We drove straight from there to Newport, Kentucky. Elijah drifted off to sleep in the back and I, not fully recovered, yawned in the front. Hitting Kentucky gave me a little boost and I enjoyed the great feeling of “home” that had visited me when I first walked the streets of Seattle. I’m not sure how acres of corn, horses, and barns and rain soaked city streets can inspire the same feelings but they did.
Instead of going straight to my folk’s new home where the movers would surely be, I took Elijah to the Newport Aquarium where he darted from one exhibit to another like one of the fish in the tanks. He loved the frogs and the jellyfish. It took him a good long time, however, to cross the glass parts of the walkways where you can see the water below. At the gift store, he got a little plastic fish that swims with him at every bath and a sippy cup that broke the next day.
After that, we hit up Skyline Chili for lunch and took it home. Unbeknownst to me, my Uncle Gordon whom I’d not seen in years, followed me to the new house. He got out the same time I did and welcomed me home with a bottle of Patron, thus securing the “Coolest Uncle Ever” title and instilling in me the idea that maybe I can have two homes: my beloved Pacific Northwest and the home that we left when I was three: Kentucky.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Biography of My Depression

   I'm reading "An Unquiet Mind" right now which is about a psychologist with manic depression. It inspired me to give a brief (twenty years condensed into four and a half pages) history of mine..... 

             I remember when I was a young girl, maybe ten or so, and commenting to my Mom that I did not think I smiled as much as other people. She said that people often did not smile and I said that I thought this was different. I didn’t feel happy like others did.
                Shortly thereafter, I was sent to my first psychologist. My fears and desires were very limited, like those of most ten year olds, and her great solution was to get a cat to replace one I’d been very close to up until her recent death. The following birthday, my dad took me to the shelter and I picked out a lovely and sweet black and white cat. Little surprise, a new cat did nothing to quiet the growing shadows that were being to spread from the corners of my mind.
                As far as upbringings go, mine was fairly normal on a superficial level. I was the only girl, third born in a flock of four. My dad was in the Navy reserves until I was about seven, at which point he went on active duty. My mom was a part time nurse and full time mother. The oldest brother showed a remarkable interest in architecture and was encouraged from an early age. My youngest brother adored the outdoors and was an active Boy Scout, obtaining Eagle Scout status and his Order of the Arrow. The middle brother has mild to moderate autism and has been in need of constant attention. Then, there was me.
                I’ve never truly felt like I belonged with my family. Whether they’ve pushed me away or I left of my own free will, I do not know; the feeling so old and pervasive. However, the distance between us has always been a constant source of inner (and sometimes outer) turmoil for me. Things were about the same in school; my classmates always commenting on how shy or quiet I was. Throughout the years, I’ve become more open with my friends and have a fantastic circle of people that I’m honored to know. In many ways, I am closer to several of them than I am my family, who seem to lead lives rather insularly. This is especially true with my dad who, at this point, I’ve all but given up on developing the sort of close relationship that I so desperately long for with him. There is a bitter irony knowing that we were closest when farthest apart.
                The incident with the first psychologist was certainly not my last. From her, I went to a rather well respected and charming one by the name of Rachel who was fantastic at using tools to help me open up and communicate with her. It was she who I first confessed to being suicidal and she who saw the need for my first hospitalization.
                To be twelve and sent to a psychiatric hospital is a wretched thing. I remember packing my things in the late evening and the overwhelming sense of embarrassment I felt. My Dad told me he was disappointed in me which only deepened my shame. The drive to the private hospital was dreadfully tense and the admission process equally so. Upon being admitted, I was strip searched and put in solitary confinement for the night. The next morning, I met a slew of other kids my age or a bit older that had been runaways, or depressed, or gotten into drugs; mostly pot. Most of us were military dependents and we all seemed to have “Daddy Issues.” Overall, it was not something I’d ever hope to repeat. I found the doctors interesting and enjoyed the time one-on-one but it was few and far between. Most of the time was spent in the group, being forced to talk about things I felt were deeply personal and no one’s business but mine and my doctors.’ My first roommate drew wretchedly detailed pictures of death and smuggled cigarettes hidden in her vagina that she’d chain smoke in the bathroom. She would threaten me with a longer stay if I told anyone what she was up to. As she was older than I, I believed her and sat at the small desk in our room, looking at nothing and trying not to smell it either.
It wasn’t long before I was switched into a room with a kinder, gentler girl who was very friendly and, on one particular morning, did my hair in a pretty French braid. I looked so much “improved” that morning that they offered me a surprise day pass to see my family; an awkward day of long pauses and feeling more fractured from them than usual. I don’t remember her name but I do remember being surprised to find out that this bright ray of light in my life was equally depressed as I. During that period, I met my first homosexual, an endearingly kind sixteen year old named Mike who was admitted because he tried to kill himself when his parents lambasted him for being gay. I also had my first boyfriend to whom I was not very kind. It was shortly after I moved from the state that I found out he had killed himself.
                There were other wonderful kids there whose names and faces I’ve forgotten over the years. I think that I gained a bit of empathy while there and began to realize that we all fight our own battles; not always publically. I also felt like a caged animal, stalking the walls of my prison and admiring the boy that tried to escape. My heart ached most for the few of us who were deemed “LT” that is, destined for the long term treatment facility in Mississippi. Unlike most of us, LTs would not be going home in six weeks’ time. They’d have walls to stare at for eighteen months or more.
                Moving to Chicago did little to alleviate the sinking feeling inside. The neighborhood around the military base was rough, the school was horrible, and I continued to butt heads with my father. For a mental break, I began to volunteer at the Naval Hospital. It was there that I met a young ensign who seemed wildly charismatic, charming, and good looking. They called him Dennis the Menace for his mischievous ways. I fell hard for him and we spent many an evening searching out corners of the hospital wing to neck and fondle each other. It was only after a month or so of this intense game, his wife showed up on the floor with their two children in tow. I found out that Dennis was four years older than he had told me and that I was incredibly naïve to think I’d been something special. In fact, I’d been just another knot on his long line of misdeeds. Dennis the Menace indeed.
                Shortly thereafter, I was admitted to another hospital after stumbling into the ER blithering about Dennis, the fights with my dad, and the overwhelming desire to die. I’d been lying in bed, staring at the walls, twisting, turning, sobbing and scratching at my wrists. It was to the hospital or suicide. I chose the hospital which resulted in embarrassing scandal for my parents and the return of that horrible caged animal feeling when they were called to admit me.
This stay wasn’t so long which was probably best for me anyway. As I hated the staff and felt wholly uncomfortable being with people who had much more serious problems than I, I felt the best way to get out was to play along, working everyday on perfecting my answers to gain what I ultimately wanted: freedom. While there, I met the man who would become my psychologist for the next three years.
Dr. G was a kind man with an honest desire to help people but I’m not sure he was the best fit for me. Never once could I open up to him about the plethora of boys and young sailors that I began cavorting with. He never knew that I had a friend that had an abortion or the deep feelings the news had stirred in me- or that her boyfriend had shared my bed as well. He didn’t know I was planning to run away until I was already several states east. He didn’t know that gang violence had ended the life of one of my friends and nearly took the life of another. These things, I feel, you ought to be able to tell someone paid to listen. All in all, while his intentions were good, admirable even, I never felt close enough to trust him. Of all the weekly sessions, the things I got most from him were to dye my hair if I wanted to (suddenly the permission halted any longing for blue hair) and to “stop” being Pagan. Fifteen years later, I’m an ordained Pagan minister with a Pagan son.
No, I got better therapy with the horses. Shortly after moving to Chicago, I began riding and was soon offered a job at the stable in exchange for my lessons. Nothing halted a black mood quicker than to see my “babies.” Many an evening, I would go into the stall of a particularly beautiful grey gelding and lay my head on his shoulder. He stood patiently, neither eating nor begging attention, and simply let me stand with him. It was then that I knew Grace and my heart broke a thousand times over when he was sold.
My dad officially retired from the Navy when I was sixteen and we settled in Raleigh, North Carolina. If the Chicago years had been difficult, North Carolina was the worst. I felt wholly out of my element. Attending public school was an outright disaster (I’d chosen to homeschool after the death of my friend) and a few months into it, I found the safety and comforts of my bed to be far preferable to tally interacting with hundreds of obnoxious, lively teenagers. During Thanksgiving break, I resolved not to go back but instead finish high school at home.
My parents found another doctor for me to go to. She was very kind but couldn’t figure out why I was still in therapy. In her mind, I had all the tools to conquer depression. It was simply a matter of using them. Her attitude was more along the lines of: there is nothing that you want that you can’t have. Now, go get it.
The best thing she ever gave me, though, was encouragement to pursue photography. It was in her office that I saw pictures of the Great Wall of China and fell in love. Photography has been a fantastic source of self-expression since then.
Unfortunately, all that prodding to use “I feel” statements and encourage closeness with my family did nothing to ease the tension between my father and me. During a particularly angry outburst with him, he told me that I could leave if I didn’t like the way the house was run. So, I did. I moved to Washington State.
I honestly wish that I could say moving to Washington alleviated my depression. It certainly lessened it quite a bit but it never left completely. Instead, though, of long simmering bouts that were tolerable, I went through shorter, darker bursts. The man that I moved in with seemed to me a completely different person than the one I’d met online and spoken with over the phone so often. He had this manipulative way of wording things so that it was never his fault. Was I completely free of blame? Of course not. A healthy dose of stubbornness combined with the naivety of an 18 year old made me a very tough person to live with, not to mention that my mind is more often focused on anything other than cleaning and general housework. We fought quite a bit but I was never really depressed in the 18 months or so that we lived together.
In fact, I went several years without any real signs of clinical depression. There would be a small bout here or there but I could still get out of bed and function. I had to. During those years I got married and my husband had the most difficult time keeping a job. Every day, I would wake up and knew that I had two choices: to stay in bed and risk losing my job, too, that would send us down a spiraling path of debt leading to possible eviction and the ruination of our marriage or I could go to work and, if nothing else, take care of the financial part of my issues. At work, I was blessed with many friends who showered me with love, affection, support, and an ear to vent to: all the things that keep depression under control for me.
In the fall of 2007, however, that support wasn’t enough. My husband had just spent the last two years suffering from, attempting to diagnose, and ultimately treating an exceeding rare form of cancer. Shortly after his treatment end, I suffered the miscarriage and took it especially hard. Dreaming of our child had been a coping mechanism I’d relied on during those many dark months. To lose that child broke me. When my OBGYN wrongly diagnosed me with high blood pressure and prescribed me a medication that caused heart damage, I had all that I could take. I was not quite 27 with a barren womb where life was supposed to be growing, a broken husband that escaped with more and more frequency into his music and other friends, and a heart that was both quite literally and figuratively broken. Piled on top of the job I disliked and a brother at war, it was simply too much.
One day, when my husband was at band practice, I grabbed a handful of pills- a combination of the drugs that had caused the damage and the pills used to treat the damage. The first had caused a severe drop in blood pressure which caused my heart to race. The second slowed the racing of my heart. It seemed logical that if I were to overdose on a combination of the two, my heart would slowly stop and I would die a peaceful death long before my husband returned. My heart would simply slow down and halt. I took the pills in one hand and a glass of water in the other. My heart, funny enough, was racing and my hand shook. This was something that I’d pondered for weeks. I’d researched each pill. I knew the doses to take. I put on the clothes I wanted to be found in and I had decided that I would commit the act in the bathroom so that if any vomiting occurred (a possible side effect of one of the drugs), it would be one less thing to worry about. Hopefully, I’d vomit into the toilet.
I don’t know if it was the Gods or willpower or a combination of both, but I stopped just short of swallowing the pills. Some little thing flickered inside my head at just the right moment and, instead of swallowing the pills, I dropped them into the toilet. I emptied both bottles and flushed. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t watch them wistfully or regret my choice in the weeks to come.
When I later told my husband what I had done, he called me crazy. He acted, I felt, as if this were a burden unto him. My depression became his annoyance.
The next time it hit was the fall of 2009. My son had just been born and I suffered from post-partum depression. I hated breastfeeding and began to resent my newborn son for it. I hated that my original three months of maternity leave had to be cut to six weeks, and I hated that while I was feeling this way, my husband was out, playing his music and hiding late night visits from a particular female “friend” from me. Although he swore nothing was happening, I often didn’t find out about these visits until much later and then only by accident. When I expressed dissatisfaction in our marriage, he “jokingly” said that if we were to divorce, he’d tell my son I was dead so I’d never see him. Those words hurt me so deeply that I almost went into the traffic right there and then. To him, a joke is a joke regardless of the pain it causes.
I went to a therapist for a couple of sessions. The first was okay and I felt good to know was getting help. However, the one with my husband resulted in him carrying on about how great music is and deflecting all other questions with the therapist doing nothing to steer things back onto track about the crumbling family. The third, and our final visit together, is when she suggested we take out credit cards to support me staying at home with Elijah. To this day, I still cannot understand what would cause a trained professional to offer such foolish advice.
As you know, our relationship deteriorated into regular screaming matches and a long overdue divorce that I celebrated with considerable joy (and tequila).
I wish I could say that my depression has abated recently. The thrill of starting over, of going back to school, of being with my son so much, and being away from my now ex, ought to raise my spirits. In some lights, I see it as a good thing. In others, though, I’m still very much homesick for Washington. While I can’t say I’ve missed my ex for a moment, I do miss his parents and my friends. I miss the drizzling rain, the lush landscape, the wildlife, and the sense of belonging that I’ve always felt in Washington. Plus, it’s no easy task to be with my parents again. My relationship with my dad is the worst it’s ever been and I desperately long for my own space. Plus, I’m especially worried about not having a job in Cincinnati and I’ve made some friends here that my heart is breaking over the thought of leaving. Even doing my best to keep myself aloof (which I’m not very good at, mind you), the idea of not seeing these people kills me a little.
The other day, I broke down and cried to my Mom for a very long time. It’s always a hard thing to do because she always suggests some sort of medical treatment (I feel I ought to be able to do this on my own by now) and the fact that her mom committed suicide must make it incredibly hard for her to know that it’s a thought her daughter has entertained on occasion. But, ultimately, the cry was a good thing. I have honestly felt better since then and am hoping that the city I always referred to as home before I knew my northwestern one will welcome me back with open arms.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Stand Corrected....

                I was invited out to lunch by a certain sous chef I’ve spoken about in the past. As usual, I won’t name names (although, if you guess, apparently I can’t help but nod) but it’s the guy with the “DB” sweater. His first invitation was a tad clunky and awkward, leaving me to ponder if it had been a real invite or another bit of his ribbing. So, at work today, I asked if the particular restaurant was open on Sundays (I had it in my mind that it was not which did not help my confusion). When he said that it was, I asked if he’d like to come to lunch with me, figuring that the best way to stop my confusion was to risk looking a little foolish. It was at this point that he informed me (rather exasperatingly) that he’d already invited me so I told him that I’d love to (which is better than the “I’ll think about it” that I gave the cook that invited me to drinks after work. Honestly, if this invite thing had been cleared up earlier, I could have said I already had plans which would have been considerably more gracious).
                So, after work we went to a restaurant I’d actually interviewed at when I first arrived in Raleigh. We had pita sandwiches and baklava. Save for the pickled vegetables on my sandwich that I was not a huge fan of, the food itself was nice; lighter fare with good texture and just enough to fill you up but not so much you’d be dragging tail by four).
                The conversation wasn’t too stilted thanks to having known each other for four months. We talked about our hometowns, the restaurants we want to open, our dreams, schooling, and those other subjects than generally fill the air when you’re feeling someone out for the first time outside of work.
                And I’m ready to admit that I was (partially) wrong. He’s a really, really nice guy with an interesting history. I think he has walls and I think that some people can be deterred by those walls but the person I had lunch with today seemed genuinely sweet and a nice guy. I hope that one day he feels comfortable enough to let others see who I saw today. I really wish I’d seen this part of him and learned what I did of him during lunch earlier.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's Never Too Late...

                I have been a bad, bad girl recently. I know I should be saving up for my apartment (I have $3,000 thus far so it’s not been a total bust) but I saw these three photography books as of late that I just have to have. The first was a Steve McCurry book called “The Unguarded Moment” that I actually first saw months ago but couldn’t justify the expense for.  Somehow, though, after selling my Jetta, I just happened to go to the mall to run a quick errand. I just happened into Barnes and Noble, just happened to pick up the book, and just happened to be out at the car with it and a receipt clutched firmly in my hands. Of course, I have flipped through it many times since then, admiring the lighting, the composition, the feeling and the thoughts behind each picture. I’ve imagined taking those pictures myself. What would I have done differently? What did I really enjoy? How would I interact with each of the individuals seen through the viewfinder on my camera?
I found out that Steve McCurry offered expeditions to various parts of the world so, of course, now I want nothing more than to go to Cambodia or India or Afghanistan and shoot the people there. Those of you that know me best wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve often fantasized about being a world-weary photographer and bringing awareness to various situations.
Funny enough, that leads to the second book. It’s a thick tome of some of the Magnum photographers’ best works (Magnum is an agency for some of the most amazing photographers in the world. If you’ve ever seen a truly powerful image of a world event, it could very easily been shot by a Magnum photographer). I first saw this book at the Timberland Regional Library in Tumwater, Washington shortly after 9/11. The book is filled with pictures of every aspect human life; our greatest celebrations to our darkest hours. On one of the pages, there is a photo of a girl in Sarajevo. The blast from a bomb has knocked her from her feet. She’s bruised and dirty on the ground. A short distance away, a dog is lying in a puddle of blood. There is an intensity, an anger, and a sorrow,  about that picture that, ten years after the fact, has stuck with me. After 9/11, some people wanted to join the military to defend our country or to seek revenge. I considered joining so I could shoot like the Magnum photographers. The book is currently for sale at another bookstore in town.
The third book has a simple tan cover. It’s called “At Work” and it lets you know front, back, and spine. It’s by the famed photographer Annie Liebovitz. In it, you’ll find several of her most famous portraits but infinitely more important than the images is the text that accompanies them. Reading what she thinks and feels about her work, how she came to be the artist she is, and all the triumphs and tribulations along the way make her seem more real and the dream more attainable. I bought it yesterday and am half way through it.
Along with the Leibovitz book, I bought a bookmark (a rare feat for me) with the quote “It’s never too late to be what you could have been” engraved on it. Good words for us all, I think.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chef Humpty

                Because nothing says “America” like hamburgers and God, I’m eating a left over charred nugget of cow flesh and listening to Cantate Domino by Sulpitia Cesis. Honestly, I love choral music. It probably has something to do with my love of history, religion, and foreign language; most definitely my love of foreign music because if this were in English it would probably be something like “Goooooddddddddd, Gooooooooooddddddd, Gooooooooooddddddd is Soooooooooooo Aaaaaaawwwwweeeeeesssssssooooommmmmeeeeee.” As much like reading about and studying religion, I’m not too big into being proselytized to. It’s sort of like scientists at the CDC. Just because they may like studying the latest flesh eating disease doesn’t mean they want to catch it. Did I just compare religion to necrotizing fasciitis? I believe I did. (But it’s really not- maybe more like meningitis in some cases but those are actually few and far between). Unlike flesh eating superbugs, choral music is also very soothing. I feel like I ought to light some candles and sway or something. Instead, I’m going to write about the intended subject that caused me to open Word tonight: this guy at work.
                This guy at work will henceforth be known as DB. Don’t worry. Those aren’t his real initials but if I were buying him a monogrammed sweater, that’d be what I’d have put on it because the thought of this guy wearing a sweater with DB on it, cracks me up.
                DB, as you might have surmised, means “douchebag” and I do use that term with the utmost affection because, as much as his presence grates my nerves, I actually sort of enjoy it. Why do I enjoy the company of a douchebag? I don’t know. Why was I marri- okay, that’s too easy, even for me. Let’s just say, it’s familiar territory but, instead of holding it in, I flip it right back.
                Anyway, DB can be such a total, well, douchebag.  Case in point, one of my friends complimented him on his food and his response was “For $32,000 tuition, it had better look good.” To a coworker tonight: he told him we couldn’t have any of the pizza that a customer didn’t pick up AFTER DB ate a slice right in front of said coworker. To me, “I like a lot of hiking, mountain climbing, and biking; you couldn’t keep up” when I asked what his hobbies were (because douchebaggery ain’t a hobby, yo!). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently, his attitude is bordering on legendary. It seems everyone has a story of this guy’s, er, non-hobby.
                But here’s the thing that gets me: I think (maybe wishfully) that it’s all an act. Maybe he’s scarred or damaged goods because sometimes he can almost be pleasant and the one time he really hurt me, he acted really sheepish about it when he realized what he’d done. Maybe, hopefully, he has this huge douche wall that protects a shy or scared or fragile guy. I like to think so. I like to think that that guy is really sweet to his family and snuggles with kittens or something utterly fluffy. Maybe he writes really awkward searingly personal poetry and cries when he makes an especially good meal at home. Or maybe he secretly knits little sweaters for orphaned kittens and puppies at the no-kill shelters and can describe the best peach of his life.
                And then there’s this other part of me that mockingly imagines that he’s so stand offish and jackass-y because he’s got some horrible, deep secret that will destroy us all one day and he doesn’t want to get close for fear of it interfering with the “MASTER PLAN.”
                Or maybe he’s just a douchebag. Meh.
                The funniest thing, though, is that if I treat him the way he treats us, he acts offended. Is it hurt? Is it shock that someone would throw a tomato as “His Highness?” Is he trying to remember the places I love so he releases the flesh eating brain disease (that is not religion) there first? I really do not know. And so, I try to be nice to him but, well, sometimes I just have to snap at him because walls or no, I can't help but throw rocks at Humpty Dumpty.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Better Day

Today was a better day over all. I woke up to a sympathy card from my folks and a list of bakeries, delis, and organic stores in the Cincinnati area. There's one place that has, like, eleven locations and was started back in the sixties. My folks got their wedding cake there in '74 so it would be very, very cool to work there.

And, I guess since Whole Foods is all jacked up, I could work part time at the bakery and go to school and have the government support us for a bit. Hell, I've been working since I was twelve (paper route and baby sitting to pay for my riding lessons) and paying taxes since I was sixteen. I feel entitled to some government relief. We all know Medicare and SSI are going to be gone by the time I retire anyway so I might as well get something while there's still something to pick. It would certainly be a humbler lifestyle but that might be an okay pay off if it brings a better future overall. Besides, I'm sure listening to the cracked out ramblings whistled through the broken teeth of my prostitute neighbor would surely inspire a story or two. Just got to stay positive!

Plus, I got a text from Paul saying that child support was being deducted from his check which make me wonder if the full amount was deducted this time. Wouldn't that be nice? There's a two week delay so it will be a bit before we find out.

And, since our shifts were opposite, there were no snarky comments to deal with today; just the crazy Chicken Nin-cha (don't ask- or ask and be confused).

Then, on the way home, I saw two lovely deer sprint off into a farmer's field and, even after a long day in a hot, humid kitchen, I'm still porting envy-inducing mermaid curls. FTW!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Consolation Prize

                So, today royally sucked ass. I woke up late to take Elijah to his babysitter which meant that Elijah had to be woken from a sound sleep.  See, if I wake up late, I just get really focused and do what ever I need to do to make up the lost minutes. Elijah does not operate that way; he’s a toddler. So, if he wakes up too quickly and is prodded too soon, he whines, then cries, then lets out a full blown temper tantrum complete with kicking and throwing. This was one of those mornings. I carried him out of the house like a linebacker clutching a football and he screamed all the way to the car.
                After dropping him off, I started making those all important phone calls. After a week of trying, I finally got a hold of the team leader in Cincinnati to work out the details of my transfer. I guess, however, that in the course of that week, the guy that I was supposed to be replacing decided to stay so my job suddenly went up in smoke. I can call back a couple weeks before I move to see if anything has surfaced but there’s no guarantee.
                Now, as I’m talking to my would-have-been team leader, I searching the web for income guidelines for child care vouchers in Cincinnati (because I can multitask like that, yo, and my next phonecall was supposed to be to gather information on getting help ASAP). In Olympia, I qualified easily so, I guess I just assumed it would be the same in Ohio. My entire budget had been worked out with my Whole Foods job at my current pay and only a nominal, if any, childcare expense. Nope. I make $100 too much a month to qualify.
Yes, as I’m being told I have, basically, no job in a month, I’m learning that even if I pull off getting a job, I won’t be able to afford childcare for my son or get vouchers to cover the added cost.
But I forge on. There are more calls to make. The child support I’ve been anxiously awaiting is late and I need to figure out what’s going on. I call my case worker. He says that they got a payment and it should be in my account by the weekend (never mind my car is sucking fumes right now, my cell phone is shut off, and my credit card is overdue- all things that should have been easily covered by this payment). He mentions the amount and I say “Excuse me??” It’s half of what it is supposed to be. Half!!! And if that weren’t enough, the payment I was expecting was only half of the month’s. That’s right! I’m now basically expecting a quarter of a month’s child support, which I guess I should be happy about because up until now I wasn’t getting squat. My kid’s birthday is in a month, I can hardly pay my bills, and I can’t even use one fucking red cent of the piddly ass child support to buy Elijah a present because it’s a quarter of a month’s! All of Elijah’s birthday presents from his first birthday are still in WA because I can’t afford to have them shipped and now for his second birthday, I can’t afford to buy him anything. His birthday went from La Rosa’s pizza and Graeter’s ice cream at the Cincinnati zoo with all the family to “Well, I can probably take him to Gigi’s as long as I don’t buy cupcakes for everyone.”
As this is all sinking in, I start to realize another wretched thing. I’d turned in an application for a lovely small cottage about two miles away from Whole Foods in Cincinnati. It has the sunroom I’ve dreamed of, the fireplace, the backyard with the garden spot. It’s on a dead-end street in a quiet neighborhood. It has a basement and a storage shed. It was right in my budget as long as I sell my car which would be totally cool since it was only two miles from work. I’d gotten the guy to consider me by offering to pay for all of July despite not moving in until the 26th. I can’t rent a place if I don’t have a job and this guy isn’t going to rent to me because he has other people equally excited about the house that are able to pay rent. Bye-bye dream house.
I head out of the office and sit at the table. I tell my mom the bad news. She sighs and sits with me and lets me cry. She tells me these things happen for a reason and I snap at her because I’m sick of all “these things” happening without a real, defined reason. I don’t say it aloud but I think of the damage done to my relationship with my dad by moving in with them. I think of Paul’s year and a half of cancer. I think of my miscarriage and subsequent heart problems. The divorce. My depression. Leaving all my friends. Leaving my home. When do I get the great big fucking pay off from all this???
Time ticks away until I realize that I need to go to work. I change quickly, burn a new CD to listen to that will fit my mood (it’s a quick compilation of all my favorite angst filled Tool songs because nothing sounds better when I’m upset than the same crap I was listening to when I was a teenager). I head into work and one of my friends asks what’s wrong. I tell her and she suggests staying in Raleigh (not gonna happen) or moving to Pittsburg (why?). We talk for a few minutes and then go over my work for the day. It’s all mind numbingly easy crap which, on the one hand, suits me just fine because I don’t feel like thinking, but on the other, frustrates me because, well, it’s mind numbingly boring shit and why did I take this job if not to learn? And it’s not bad enough to be bored but to be regulated here because my baking background has instilled in me a need for exact measurements and a consistent product.  Anyway, my only question concerns stars next to one of the dishes (the only new one to me. Do the stars mean to get a recipe? Go over one of our notoriously wrong recipes? Or something else entirely?) so we track down one of our sous chefs to get clarification. He says they need it right away and it’s just like another recipe we do. I point out that the last time I followed that recipe, it was all messed up to which he responds that this will be just like all my other dishes then. What the fuck????
Okay, I get that I have a ton of questions and I know that unlike the guys that have been doing these recipes for fifteen years, I am not sure exactly of everything. And, yes, I screw up. And, yes, we have a notoriously antagonistic relationship, but, seriously? Is he really so mind bogglingly dense as to not know that sarcastic quips are best reserved for people who are not already visibly upset. And, seriously, did it have to be one so close to home? Honestly, I almost broke down in tears yet again. My friend abolished him swiftly which did make me feel a little better for the moment but, in retrospect, the douchebag really needs to be brought down a peg or two and since I don’t have a job in a month anyway, a temptation to be the one that does it is certainly on the rise.
By my break, I wasn’t feeling any better so I snuck out to my car and blared my angry teenage music and had a good cry; something I had to repeat before driving home. And just as I got ready to drive out of the parking lot, I opened my glove compartment, pulled out my glasses, and my glove compartment will not shut now for some reason.
So, let’s recap:
1.       No job.
2.       No home.
3.       No childcare.
4.       Rude, biting comment from douchebag sous chef.
5.       Broken car.

But, on the plus side, I scored some sweet baking pans that work was throwing away. It’s like a shitty consolation prize. I’d have preferred the trip to St. Lucia, Pat.

Monday, May 30, 2011

If I had $200 million

                The lottery is at $200 million dollars. I’m going to buy a few tickets tomorrow because, even if I don’t win a dime, one of my favorite fantasies is the “If I won the lottery” game. So, this is what I’d do if I won $200 million dollars:
                First thing’s first- I’m getting the Hell out of North Carolina. I know it’d make a lot of people happy were I to move to Cincinnati but, honestly, with that sort of cash, I can visit enough to suit everyone. No, I’m going home. I’d buy a nice house that over looked Puget Sound- probably some place on the peninsula around the Orcas Islands. I’d want it to be open with lots of windows overlooking the water and a huge deck so I could grab a cup of coffee in the morning and watch the eagles and whales. Something like this:
                And I’d fill it with things from Restoration Hardware:
                Once that was settled, I’d set my folks up with whatever they wanted. The same goes for my brothers. And I’d pay off my aunts’, uncles’, and cousins’ debts. Then, of course, money would be invested for my and Elijah’s futures.
Of course,  Ár nDraíocht Féin ( would receive a sizable donation as well- gotta keep my Pagan peeps rolling in the dough.
So, hooking my family up is taken care of, I’ve sat down with my financial advisor to keep Elijah and me happy, and I’ve done the appropriate tithing. Hmm, well, that still leaves well over $150 million dollars. Let’s party!
Let’s all go to St. Croix for a month, and then spend a few months traveling through Europe. Of course, we’ll have to hit up Asia and parts of Africa and South America. Basically, I’d just travel the world as whim and Elijah’s school schedule allowed, and bring whoever wanted to come along for the ride…. But I’d make you buy your own passport.
Oh, and I’d buy a sailboat for traveling around the islands. Nothing too big- I want to be able to handle it on my own but I don’t want to feel like Jonah the first time we come across an orca, either. Hmm, maybe something like this:
And then, I’d open up my own café. Like, of course, my beloved Le Panier:
And I’d buy my dream car:  (the hatchback, please, in blue).
Oh, and this picture as well….  I really want it as a tattoo, actually…. But where??

Saturday, May 28, 2011


                I feel like I’m cheating myself. Maybe it’s because I’m growing older or maybe it’s because I’m slowly taking steps out of the cage I locked myself in after the divorce. I don’t know. I’m sure it has a lot to do with how much self-examination has been done of late. Either way, the sides I have are so distinct, I think I ought to have been a Gemini… or diagnosed with multiple personalities.
                There is one side of me that writes deeply personal stories, listens to classical music, watches foreign films, and loves live theater. She takes a deep breath before speaking, offers well thought out advice to her friends in need, and weighs the possible reactions before doing anything. She prefers classic, comfortable clothes and wouldn’t dream of wasting time on such a silly thing as make up before working in the kitchen. She is firm and disciplined. You might find her in a coffee shop, inhaling the aromas of her grande latte (no whip, no flavors, please), and reading a book on comparative religion or editing a photograph of a tastefully done nude. She is guarded and insecure. She attempts to find goodness in everyone. She wants a deep, romantic relationship with a guy that will adore her and adopt her son as his own….. in time, once we’re settled.
                Then, there is the other side of me that likes pop music and/or rock. She has tattoos, curses like a sailor, and drinks hard alcohol. She likes to speed in her car and really, really wants to say all the inappropriate things that pop into her head (seriously, have you seen the size of our carrots at work? They inspire- nay, demand- dirty thoughts!). She’s sarcastic, snarky, and cynical, and nothing pleases her more than a night on the town with fun, loud people. She believes in vengeance, laughs really loudly, and wants nothing right now than to find that perfect shade of red lipstick to go with the kiss prints on her underwear. Girl talk is her number one hobby and all she really wants in a guy is someone who can help her figure out the intricacies of Karma Sutra Positions #87, 93, 34, and 109… oh, and how do you do that thing with the…..? But don’t even think of meeting her kid because she’ll be gone in a few months and that particular boyfriend doesn’t belong in the long term plan.
                Then, there’s that third side that speaks softly, smiles shyly, and LOVES flowers and kittens and puppies and aren’t these peonies just the most lovely shade of pink? They simply must be picked and put upon the dresser. And everything is soft kisses and shades of romance. She’ so achingly honest that she’d beaten back by the other, more robust sides that simply could not stand to see her hurt. And she crushes on all the attractive boys *sigh*
                Needless to say, things get a little confusing and I often feel like the Jack-of-All-Trades-Master-of-None. If I hang with people who can’t quite step away from the high school bullshit conversations that, unfortunately, linger on well past graduation, I start to wonder about the book I left on my nightstand or the quickest way to swim in deeper waters. If the conversation veers too far in the opposite direction, I suffer a log jam of snark and step up to the bar for a mimosa or six. Either way, I feel a bit like a fish out of water in any pond.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stool Pigeon

                My new boss confronted me the other day and asked if the rumors were true. Is my house on the market and do I plan on moving? Considering that I was expecting, if anything, a question about scheduling or some other banal workplace topic, I was a little taken aback. Now, I’m not entirely stupid. When you A) have a public blog in which personal life is posted, B) post links to hopeful apartments on your Facebook page where your coworkers can see them and, most damningly, C) say to your coworkers “I’m selling my house and moving to Cincinnati to, hopefully, get a business degree,” people you did not intend to find out certain information sometimes discover it nonetheless. I get it. I understand.
                My question, though, is “Why?” Why was this brought up? Why did the person that “tattled” (because, let’s be honest, we can place money on C even if we don’t know for sure who ratted) feel the need to rat about something that, ultimately, has so little to do with the company? It’s not like I am in charge of anything major or had applied for anything. What conversation transpired that this occurred? And why, dear boss, did you feel the need to clarify it with me? Would it change a damn thing? Nope. Because, again, I’m not in charge nor am I applying for anything. And, while we’re asking questions, why the hell would you bring this sort of question up to me in front of an office full of people?
                So, once I regained a little composure, I replied “I’ll give you plenty of notice should I ever leave.” Next time, I think I’ll just leave one of the house’s brochures and encourage him to take a look at it.
                If you need any clarification or just want something for my boss to highlight should this ever be brought up again, here it is:
                I never intended to stay in North Carolina when I moved here from Washington. This has always been temporary. I don’t know exactly how long I’m going to be here but my home is on the market and as soon as we get a solid buyer, my folks are going to buy a house in Northern Kentucky. I’m going to travel with them up there and get a home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Then, I’m going to go to school and, hopefully, start work towards a business degree. I plan on transferring to the Cincinnati Whole Foods and staying on with them in some capacity during school and either rising through the ranks to corporate or starting my own business after I get my degree. My favorite color is blue and Southern culture confuses the fuck out of me.
                There! Happy?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coup De Grace

                On the way home from work this evening, I passed a rabbit sitting in the middle of the road. I thought it weird that the rabbit was there so I turned around, went back, and turned my hazard lights on. When it didn’t run away, I knew that the poor thing was injured. My first thought was to gather it up and take it to a vet. Then, I saw the little pool of blood under it and knew that it was going to die. My heart ached for it. I had two options presented before me. The rabbit was going to die tonight either way. I could take an active part in the animal’s death and deliver the coup de grace or I could drive on and let nature take its course.
                As a Pagan devoted to  Epona, I’ve always felt a strong kinship with horses (obviously) and rabbits. Epona, in addition to guiding the sole in the afterlife and influencing our dreams, is a fertility goddess and rabbits are often seen as symbols of fertility.
In addition, my father, on occasion, would call me Boudica as a teenager. Boudica was a Queen of the Iceni people (now modern Norfolk, England). She was a strong, intelligent redhead that waged war against the Romans when her daughters were raped by them. It is said that the Warrior Queen released a rabbit onto the battle field as an offering to the gods before the battle and won. She, it is also said, had a rabbit as a guide during a vision.
I’ve always considered seeing a rabbit the sign of a good day and have always wanted one as a pet. Because of the religious association, I simply won’t eat rabbit outside of ceremony and, honestly, would feel very sick if I had to in ceremony. So, you see, as silly as it may seem to you, I simply could not just let this animal suffer. I, also, did not think I had it in me to kill any animal, especially a rabbit.
I cried over this decision. I simply didn’t know what to do. Then, the rabbit looked me straight in the eye and I felt my Goddess push me to end the animal’s suffering. I got in my car, drove a short way, turned, and aimed directly for the creature, praying that I wouldn’t miss lest I have to turn around and make a second attempt. My front tire hit with a definite thud and bile rose in my throat. As soon as I parked my car in front of my house, I cried for the rabbit’s soul and wished it safe journeys on its way.
I feel so sad for the animal. Now, I know that I went that particular route home because Epona knew that animal needed my help. It was a challenge, one I hope not to be presented with again, but I think I acted well on her behalf. I hope I shortened the rabbit’s suffering even a little bit. I hope that, in those final moments, in whatever capacity it could, it felt my sorrow for its pain.


                The Muslims have a term for non-believers. No, it’s not “Filthy White Infidel” although that might be some people’s translation. No, the word is “Mushrikeen” or “Mushrik” if you’re thinking singularly. I know this because I’m reading an English translation of the Qur’an. It’s my goal to make it through the Qur’an, Bible, and Torah in hopes of gaining a better perspective on the three major religions of our time. To avoid long, uncomfortable conversations with my Dad (who is an Elder in his Presbyterian church), I probably won’t even start the Bible until I move out.
                Although I’ve been reading this book for about a week now, I’m just now actually getting to the actual Qur’an. The first 120 pages are a history of their Prophet Mohammad. It’s, honestly, a little bit of a hard read because it was written by an Islamic religious scholar who was a little heavy on the religion but not so much the scholarly side. I’d really like to learn more about Mohammad because, in theory, he was a real person. I’m not sure but, I think that the case for Mohammad’s existence is a bit stronger than that of Jesus’s. Of course, this one fact wouldn’t give Islam any more validity in my mind than video of Jonestown makes me think Jim Jones was the Messiah or whatever he thought Kool-Aid and guns made him.
                Anyway, I’ve finally gotten to the actual book but I’ve got a sort of sick feeling in my gut. I get this way with most Judo-Christo-Islamic situations because there seems to be such a heavy focus on ridding the world of Pagans. Whether through breeding (were a Pagan to father a child with a Jew, that child would be Jew), conversion, or slaughter, they all seem to have an unhealthy focus on getting Pagans the F*** out of here. As a Pagan, I find this a bit unnerving. Nobody likes the idea that major religions have spent several hundreds or thousands of years trying to get rid a particular group- least of all, whatever group that may be.
                Look, not to get all crazy about it, but the history of Pagan polytheistic religions predate monotheistic religions by tens of thousands of years. I think we’ve got a right to be here. I’m not saying everyone needs to abandon their ways of thinking and come back to the folds of Mother Earth and Father Sky (Honestly, we don’t want you. Do you think we want our religion to be spoiled the way you’ve spoiled your own [see below]?), but I’d like to read a little more “this is what we believe and if you don’t, that’s cool, too” and a little less, “death to the infidels”, “thou shall not suffer a witch to live,” etc., etc.
                In addition to that particular theme, in the beginning of the Qur’an, it says that Allah gave people Moses and the Torah to bring people to him. Then, he gave people Jesus and the Gospels. But people (we Pagans) did not believe so Allah sent the Prophet Mohammad to confirm the Torah and Gospels and give us the Qur’an as well. 2:[87-90] Okay, right there people! One God, one message spread across three books. Why the fuck are you guys so Hell bent on killing each other? You know, killing Pagans suddenly makes a lot more sense than killing each other. It’s like saying “You’re dead to me because you say tomāto and I say tomăto!” It’s the same damn fruit, people! At least when you say that we Pagans are the bad folk, it’s more like “You’re dead to me because I say ‘tomato’ and you say ‘garden.’”

                I don’t think I’ll ever be turning my back on the Pagan Gods. Comparing polytheistic beliefs to monotheistic ones, I think that polytheism still makes way more sense. The idea that we are looked over by several different Gods and Goddesses that specialize in different things, have different views, and different temperaments just seems way more logical (if logic can be applied to religious and spiritual views at all) to me than this concept of a singular creator who destroys, kills, nourishes, and brings life to everyone so we can kill each other over how to correctly worship him.

                But, because it’s important to attempt to understand, I’ll keep reading, and I’ll keep questioning. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Grandmother's Cookies

I wrote this a long while back and keep telling myself I ought to publish it somewhere. I guess here will do for now.  


          I never met my maternal grandmother. She passed on long before I was born, leaving in her wake a devastated child that spoke of her so rarely I did not even know she existed until my adolescence. That was when the depression that enveloped and eventually took my grandmother’s life reared its ugly head and threatened to take mine as well. It was a simple, shocking story in which Mom revealed that the woman I knew as Grandma was actually my grandfather’s second wife. Her eyes bloodshot with fear and sadness at the discovery that I wanted to die, my mother said simply, “The first time my mother tried to kill herself she took a bunch of pills. I was so scared seeing her wheeled out of our house on that stretcher. The second time she took my father’s gun from his nightstand and killed herself. My father was accused of her murder despite the coroner ruling it a suicide. I’ve not spoken to her side of the family since.”
            In the fifteen since that revelation, I’ve never had the nerve to ask my mother about my grandmother. Her entry on the family tree my father made for all of his children leaves her entry blank save for the name “Gladys Petitt.” I’ve pieced together bits and fragments of her over the years through simple statements. Her middle name was Marie and my mom regrets not giving me that middle name. She let her daughter play in a patch of lily of the valley that grew in their yard each spring— both her and my mother’s favorite flower. Her family was of farming stock from northern Ohio. She had a dachshund. Her favorite Christmas carol was “What Child is This” and the song makes my mother cry each time they sing it in church.
In the only picture I’ve ever see of her, she’s sitting on a spot of freshly shorn grass, dressed in a crisp skirt and matching cardigan with perfectly coiffed hair that frames her features in large dark curls. Her long legs are stretched out in front of her. In her arms she holds my mother. She wears the beautiful smile of a mother very much in love with her daughter. My mother keeps this picture hidden in a jewelry box in her bottom dresser drawer. She claims my grandmother would be “positively tickled” by me.
            There is one story about my grandmother I remember my mother telling me over and over. Every year as Mom mixed the flour, sugar, eggs, and other ingredients for Christmas cookies, her eyes would take on a glassy stare. Her voice became high, quick, and halted, fighting back tears. She would relay her favorite childhood memory.
            In the chilled weeks before Christmas, my mother walked home from school. I imagine the clip of her Mary Janes on cold cement and her breath hanging in the air as she saunters along a street lined with tall oaks and craftsman style homes. It’s only when she sees the steam in the kitchen windows— a sure sign her mother has been baking— that she picks up her pace. In a swift moment she scurries up the wooden steps and burst into the kitchen which smells of toasted nuts, butter, and sugar. Chaotic piles of cookies cover the kitchen counters. There are sugar cookies decorated with colorful sprinkles, pecan balls dusted in snowy white powdered sugar, almond cookies shaped like crescent moons, and my mother’s favorite cookie of all: black walnut slices. Her mother— forever frozen in my mind as the woman on the grass with her daughter— turns from removing the last of the cookies from a baking sheet and smiles at her daughter. Mom gives her the sort of heart warming hug that children specialize in, sits at the kitchen table, and eagerly awaits a tall glass of fresh milk dropped off that morning by the milkman. It’s placed in front of her along with two perfect black walnut cookies and my grandmother removes her apron before taking a spot across from her. With her chin resting between two fists, she listens to her daughter recount the stories of the day, be they good or bad, and eats her treat with gusto.
            The Christmas before my eighteenth birthday, my mom wrote down all of her favorite recipes for me and put then in a cherry wood box with a note that reads:

Dear Heather,

It is with love that I copy these recipes for you and add a bit of family history. May you always enjoy the kitchen. It is a great place to relax and just think. It’s also a good place to prepare a bit of ‘love’ for friends and family as you put together their favorite recipes.

All my love,
Christmas 1998

            That spring I moved out on my own and away from Mom’s Christmas cookie baking. My grandmother’s story, however, lives on at the beginning of the recipe for black walnut cookies. When I seek out the black walnuts, mix the sugar, eggs, nuts and other ingredients I think of my grandmother in the kitchen, telling her daughter with simple actions that she will always love her. I may never know as much as I’d like to about my grandmother but through these humble cookies, and my mother’s softly spoken words, she will always be one of the most loved people in my life.

Anatomy of a Miscarriage

                It starts with the cramping, the blood, the sickening feeling of contractions come far too soon for your baby to be brought into this world. Whether spontaneously or with due warning, your whole heart screams with agony at the knowledge that this child you’ve been carrying is no longer with you. Sometimes, you’re able to hold the fetus in your hands. Sometimes, it’s so small, you can hold the little thing in the palm of one hand and have plenty of room to spare. Other times, it’s almost the size of a full term infant. If only it would open its little rosebud mouth and let out that cry. But that wailing in your soul is ringing in your ears, echoing off the walls.
                You mourn. You cry for the lost child, for the lost of hopes and fears that envelop every day of parenthood. You have crazy, heart wracking dreams that cause you to sweat your sheets. Watching a diaper commercial or seeing a mother pick out formula in the grocery store causes you to break down and lash out at the ones that have what you don’t. If you’re really unlucky, irrational thoughts enter your head. The little worm digs around in your brain: I want to die so that I can follow my child and make sure she is okay. I’m her Mom and it’s my duty.
                Everyone that knows, tries to offer some sort of consolation. They tell you it wasn’t meant to be.  They say stupid things if you were very early on in your pregnancy like “At least you weren’t further along.” No matter how far along it is, everyone repeats “You can try again,” “Are you going to adopt?” or “It’s God’s plan.” They look at you like you’re a stranger. Yesterday, your friend would have hugged you. Today, she’s biting her lip and shuffling her feet like a toddler, uncomfortable with the burden of grief. If you have any pregnant ones, for a while some of them might avoid you as if your miscarriage is contagious. You are a leper in their eyes. The ones that have suffered as you do, know what to say and do. They stand by you and hold your hand. They say they love you and ask for nothing in return. This is actually good. This shows you who your friends are.
                After a time, you are expected to move on. You go back to work. You suffer through the first few really uncomfortable dinners with people who have continued living while you’ve been shrouded in mourning. They laugh lightly about silly little things you’d once have found amusing, too, until the observant one notices that your lips twitch with every smile that never reaches your eyes. Oh, and then that person has to ask how you are really doing.
                I feel like a failure. I lost my little baby and she visits me every night in my dreams and I just want to cry and scream and punch the walls. I want to beat my husband for not understanding what it’s like to not be a mother-to-be any longer. I saw a child that looks the way I imagine my baby to look had she turned three and I spent fifteen minutes attempting to control my breathing so that I wouldn’t have a complete meltdown downtown.  I tried to return that layette I bought but can’t bring myself to touch the bag it came in. My baby is dead!
                Twitch. Smile. Take a drink or two of the wine. Smile just a little too wide now. You’re overcompensating on your expression in hopes that it will help to deflect attention from the madness swelling inside. “I’m fine.” This happens often enough and you start believing it. You’ll even have a genuine laugh again.
                Then, someone will announce their pregnancy. Depending on how strong you are and how well you’re coping, you might be able to hold back the tears until you get home. Maybe you’ll hold them back for the whole evening, into the week, or well into your friend’s second trimester. No matter, though. Those tears will come. You’ll spend a day wallowing in self pity and crying for your baby once again. It’s okay to skip out on baby showers and first birthday parties for a good, long while.
In time, the people around you will give birth. You’ll be forced to go into the baby section of Target and pick out something for the new arrival. You’ll manage just fine. You’ll coo over the miniature dresses and pint sized sleepers. You might feel a little melancholy but you’ll be able to make it through. You’ll go to the hospital, hug your friend, and hold that baby. You’ll feel positively happy for your friends. A tiny voice is going to ask if your baby would have been this wrinkled or bald or ruddy.
One night, you’ll tell your husband you want to start trying again. He is going to baulk. You’ll fight over it. He’ll tell you how horrible it was watching you suffer, how terrified he is that this is going to happen again, how he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to stand it if you get so low, so dark again. You will argue. You’ll go to bed angry and feeling more hollow than ever. Hot tears are going to soak your pillow again. Where is the man that vowed to stand by you through everything?
You will bring it up again and again and again. The arguing will continue in this wretchedly circular fashion of wants and fears. A cold and lonely distance will isolate you from your spouse. He’ll withdraw into himself. You’ll continue that pressing crusade for motherhood until you wear him down or he comes around. He’ll stumble upon you sitting alone on your bed one day, crying bitter tears over this path your life has taken. When he asks what’s bothering you, you’ll have the good sense to leave the sarcasm aside, lay all your cards out and pray for the best.
If luck has abandoned you, you’re getting a divorce. If, however, she’s shined her light upon you, you’ll agree to give this whole parenthood bit one more stab. You’ll read every article you can on getting pregnant. You’ll eat your leafy greens. You’ll time your sex. You’ll lie on your bed with a baby name book on your chest, your buttocks resting on three stacked pillows and your feet propped on the headboard. If you could, you’d study for the pregnancy tests that follow at weekly intervals.
Every negative is going to haunt you. Will you ever get pregnant again? Why is it taking so long this time? Is there something wrong with you that’s making it so you can’t get pregnant again? Is that what caused the miscarriage in the first place? Did the miscarriage cause this?
Then, there will be that one night when you let your guard down. You drink a little too much wine. You have sex on the wrong night and, for the first time since before the miscarriage, it actually feels good. Instead of spending the evening attempting to funnel as much semen towards your womb as possible, you fall asleep in his arms with a slick mess dirtying your thighs.
When you wake up, you are pregnant again. Of course, you don’t know right away. You’re back to doing your math, contorting the tilt of your pelvis, and wondering if you’re doing it right. It’s a full two weeks or more before you take a test and get that little positive sign. Congratulations.
This pregnancy isn’t like the first one, though. You don’t run out and buy a shopping cart full of gender neutral items this time. You’ve been bitten and now you’re shy. Even when the doctor confirms it, you still step gingerly. It’s harder to grow attached to this one like you did with her. You count down the days until your first trimester is over. Even then, you only gently prod at the prospects of motherhood. There is still so much that could go wrong.
When your doctor checks for a heartbeat, you hold your breath every time until you hear the comfortingly swift rhythm you’ve committed to precious memory. And those tears will flow hot and heavy if, for even a moment, it’s a bit difficult to find. The ultrasounds fill you with conflicted excitement and fear and if you ever go a day without feeling a kick or flutter, your nerves fray just a bit.
The pain of childbirth is easy compared to what you’ve been through. Seventeen, twenty, thirty six hours of labor are like a walk in the park compared to the months you’ve been through. Finally, after all the pushing and screaming and tears, this wrinkled, bald, ruddy baby is placed on your chest. It looks at you with the most beautiful face you’ve ever seen and lets out a cry that fills your heart with something new that wells up inside of you, bursting forth in loud gushes and sobs. You cry right along with your baby as your husband holds his new family close.
I wish I could tell you that the worry you first felt when you found out you were pregnant with your son ends or that the pain over your miscarriage disappears. It doesn’t. Whether you think about it or not, your miscarriage has left its mark on your child. No child is going to be more special, more loved, nor more fragile than the one that followed your miscarriage. He is the one you fought for, cried for, begged and pleaded and bargained with the Gods for. The ghost of his lost sister will always hang over him, growing fainter and fainter as he grows up but will never quite disappear.


                Since my divorce, I have cried many times. I have cried for Olympia, the only town I’ve ever felt at home in. I’ve cried for the loss of independence that came with moving in with my parents. The prospects of being a single mom, the friends I’ve left, and being “stuck” (for lack of a better term) in North Carolina have all brought tears streaming forth from my eyes. But I have never cried for my ex. For most people, this wouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve not made a secret about how screwed up our relationship was in the end.
                I won’t lie. It’s easy to paint myself with all these bright colors, or worse, put on a victim’s mask and pretend that I was wronged over and over while trying to be an angel. I was no more an angel than Paul a saint.
Yeah, he always had some well-rehearsed excuse for not working full time or losing a job or not keeping up with the house. He carried on with at least two women that I suspect he had affairs with. And he said he wanted music over his son.
But I can be a fairly demanding bitch. I want an equal partnership. I’m not interested in carrying other people and I don’t really know better ways to tell someone this than to get all drill instructor on his ass when he falls out of line. And, while I never cheated, I certainly entertained the idea on two separate occasions (an eye for an eye, maybe). Sometimes, I wonder what my life would be like had I escaped with the one that asked me. I wonder now and I wondered many a night after that one left my life. No, I am not an angel.
I tried, though. I really, honestly, can say that I wanted our relationship to work. I wanted to be married to Paul until my dying day. Even when I knew I wouldn’t be- long before we announced our divorce- I never stopped wanting a different reality than the one we lived. Even as we watched our relationship nose dive into the oceans of divorce, I kept praying for some sort of miraculous recovery that never came. I loved the man and I wanted that back. I lost good friends defending him when they said things I already knew. I didn’t want the resentment which, I think, ultimately was the final push that ripped us apart. But reality is what it is and what we had is gone.
So, today; nine months after I left Washington; I asked a coworker for a friendly cup of coffee. “No pressure” I said with a smile. He agreed.
And that was that. I cried on the way home. I pulled over into a cemetery parking lot (how melodramatic) and balled my eyes out.  I cried because, even though I’ve intellectually known we have been over for about a year now, this felt like the final nail emotionally. I cried because I’m still hurt by the divorce. Because up until the divorce, I had a partner every day of my life since I was sixteen, one lined up right behind the other (I’ve met my next boyfriend while dating my current each time but never cheated), and I don’t have that safety net any longer. I cried because I’m lonely. I cried because I am acutely aware of the walls I’ve built around myself all my life and now I simultaneously want to break them down and hide further within them.
I cried the way a newborn does when air fills its lungs for the first time. 

Brick by Brick

                “When you say things like that, you are putting up a wall. Talking to you, sometimes, is like being lost in a maze. It is so frustrating!” He said to me in exasperation one night.
                “Then why do you keep doing it?” I snapped. My passions ran just as high as his; or maybe more considering he had eighteen years on me with which to practice controlling his emotions.
                “Because I love the girl that hides in the center!” His words stopped me dead. I couldn’t manage even so much as the derisive snort that was the mortar to my emotional bricks. I sat there, mouth agape. Never had I heard those words spoken with that amount of truth. “The girl in the center of all this anger and mockery and sarcasm is so soft, so sweet, so innocent and naïve. I want to pull her close to me and protect her from everything. I want to love her, to help her break down these walls. Don’t you see the walls that keep me out also trap you in? Break down those walls!”
                As we were both self-described writers, our words on those first ardent evenings tended towards the dramatic.

                “I love this person I only get to see, I wish you would let her out more,” someone else said to me twelve years later as I curled in his embrace and whispered cloying sweet nothings. And he said it again when I delighted in kittens, when I kicked and laughed at his tickling fingers, and when I wore my brilliantly scarlet heart on my sleeve.
                When I felt insecure or embarrassed, another wall dropped. Cold, heavy stones avalanched from the sky between him and me. Sometimes, it was easy to push the pebbles aside but as the stones continued to fall, they grew in size, and it became too tiresome to move or circumvent them. Now, there are mountain ranges, both figurative and literal, between us. And I still have my walls.
                These walls are so big and ever present that I can see them. If I make a quip about needing help, there’s one. When someone pays me a compliment and I counter it with a critique of my own work, there’s another one. How about when I edit the words coming out of my mouth to present a very specific image of myself? Most definitely. Or when I blurt out something  far too blunt? Oh, yeah. Even if I were to say “Ask me anything and I’ll answer honestly” it’s in hopes that the strength in that statement, that challenge, will be enough to hide any damaging truth that might be uncovered in the inquisition. It’s funny. So many of my walls damage me more than whoever has come knocking. It’s as if I’d rather the brick fall on my toe than risk the possibility someone else might find something exposed.  How many good people have I pushed aside in an effort to protect myself from the very few bad people in this world? And what can I do about it? I don’t know.
                I wish that there was a way to blast them all away. When I say, “This is me. You get what you see,” I wish people saw more than just some rough bitch. Why do I let so few people see all the other parts, the parts that make the sum greater than the whole?
                Of all the times to attempt to present a whole picture, isn’t this the time to do it? When I’ll be gone in a few months and anything bad that comes from all this will be a fading memory by Christmas? Isn’t the prospect of an easy escape just another wall?