Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2pm, yesterday afternoon

As I write this, Bean is snoring loudly on the room monitor. Her environmental allergies have spiked - grown horns and developed tails that are long and reaching. We had her annual visit to the allergist a week ago and I'm still tired from that long afternoon.

The sleep Bean is getting now is thanks in part to a grape-flavored Benedryl wanna-be, a pill I gave her before her nap because we'd been outside blowing bubbles. I watched the transformation take place as silver bubbles soundlessly popped against a winking blue spring sky: her nose dripping a slow but steady stream, picking up from a trickle to a stronger flow as the minutes ticked by and cut grass fluttered through the air. She asked me, mid nose-to-sleeve wipe, what the droning thrum was in the background, cocking her head. I told her it was the neighbors' gardeners, their lawn mowers, you understand? When she nodded, she rubbed her eyes, squinting with pink eyelids.

This is what I remember most about this year's allergist visit--- beyond the needle pricks, beyond watching Alice's back abloom with countless red welts. Beyond her cries over the pain and irritation, how much it itched, how much she wanted me to help her. What I remember most about last Monday is watching her play in the waiting room while we listened for our name to be called. She crawled on the carpet quietly chattering to herself as she explored a huge dollhouse set in the corner. She was enchanted with its size, how her little toys could sit at the kitchen table without help, how she could put them to bed in the bedroom.

I watched her face light with wonder, and I thought to myself, "This is my child. Whole and well. I am so lucky."

An hour later I was sitting in a small white room holding her shoulders as a nurse poked her bare back with two dozen tiny needles. I thought about my Alice: the Alice I see in my dreams. An older Alice with greater awareness about the world she lives in. An Alice that I will still struggle to keep safe.

You don't know. You just don't know until you've lived it, what it's like. The hulking weight of responsibility to bear when every grocery cart has the potential to carry something lethal within it. I do the best I can. I keep the weight on my shoulders as much as possible so she can still skip through her days. But I've started to talk to her about the things she can't eat; how we don't eat nuts at all, how some things can make her very sick. And in the coming years, I'm going to have to talk to her about the people who are going to judge her based on her allergies. The ones that say we're over-acting. The ones that say we're over-protective. The ones that tell us she'll get over it if we just let her eat some damn trail mix already.

I've dealt with it more than you know: the mean ones and the well-intentioned ones alike. The ones who don't get it, and the ones that don't want to. The ones who try to help only when it's convenient. Every one of them who fails to see a small piece of chocolate as the deathly delivery device I know it can be.

It's a waste of energy to wish for that kind of understanding, just as it's a waste of energy to wish these allergies away. This is our life, I wouldn't have it any other way. My little girl is sleeping upstairs in deep naptime slumber. She is safe. She is happy. She is well.

And so am I.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

small moths

The space that I can call so small that my ideas have become small. I am like a caterpillar in a cocoon of paper; all around me are sketches for sculptures, small drawings that seem like moths fluttering against the windows, beating their wings to escape from the tiny space. I make maquettes, tiny sculptures that are rehearsals for huge sculptures. Every day the ideas come more reluctantly, as though they know I will starve them and stunt their growth. At night I dream about miniature gardens I can't set foot in because I am a giantess.

The compelling thing about making art---or making anything, I suppose---is the moment with the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nibue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art. The magic I make is small magic now, deferred magic. Every day I work, but nothing ever materializes. I feel like Penelope, weaving and unweaving.

-Audrey Niffennegger, The Time Traveler's Wife

For a while I thought it was stress: a break from writing while I adjusted to the changes taking place around me. Chip was gone a lot: a slew of business trips five days at a time. And then deadlines: for work, for church, for home. Taxes and paperwork doctor's appointments and insurance applications before the end of the month. So I waited.

I cut fabric. I sewed. I made plans for Bean's summer wardrobe. I dreamed in pictures instead of words. And still I waited for the words that didn't come.

As time went on, I felt a shift inside - where once I could categorize and shift ideas in my head to translate here, in the last several weeks the ideas and stories I would have told once-upon-a-time seem to condense into nothingness inside my brain.

It was last night when I started to think about this passage from The Time Traveler's Wife. I understand that feeling, but it isn't physical walls that are closing in around me. I find myself in a metaphorical room that is forcing my mind to shrink inside of itself, the words disappearing into nothingness.

But there is something I know.

When your own words don't come, when they stick in your throat and gather there until you feel like you'll choke on them--- when the words can't come from you, use someone else's.

And so that's what I'm going to do this week: use beautiful words said by other writers. Until mine come back, until I can find my way out of this small space. Please be patient with me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

patch pants

More sewing show and tell.

This time with blue pockets.

And really, isn't everything better with blue pockets?

Friday, April 22, 2011

musings on easter

I am thinking of new beginnings. Birth and rebirth. The power within each one of us to begin again (and again)--- for however long it takes until we learn the lesson we're meant to know, for however long it takes until we become something better, something truer, something finer.

This weekend we're headed into one of the most important observances in Christianity. No matter how you feel about Easter - whether you're in it solely for the candy or if you attend church morning, noon, and night, can you do me a favor? Give some thought to beginnings. And be grateful we have them. I love starting over: a fresh day, a fresh chance, a fresh piece of paper.

Tomorrow's a new day, and I'm so glad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the present is a gift

The Castle

It's the fabulous castle of Now.
You can walk in and wander about,
But it's so very thin,
Once you are, then you've been---
And soon as you're in, you're out.

-Shel Silverstein

I've been contemplating the moments: how I can never hold on to one long enough to feel it, way down in my center, in the meaty core of my bones. The days pile up in succession without seeming to make a mark. It was just Monday a week ago and here it is again---- no, it's gone. And with it, another day. Another cluster of memories go uncataloged.

So it goes, letting days pass without a peep on the blog. This space is dusty, forelorn.

Not for long, not forever.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the smallest tea party you've ever attended

With a three-year-old Alice, life is juxtaposition.

Tiny little tea cups and tiny little tables nestled up against bigger-than-life emotion, a face filled with joy that can eclipse the sun.

And this, for April's poetry month:

On Turning Ten

-Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel

like I'm coming down with something,

something worse than any stomach ache

or headaches I get reading in a bad light---

a kind of measles of the spirit,

a mumps of the psyche,

a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,

but that is because you have forgotten

the perfect simplicity of being one

and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.

But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.

At four I was an Arabian wizard.

I could make myself invisible

by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.

At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window

watching the late afternoon light.

Back then it never fell so solemnly

against the side of my tree house,

and my bicycle never leaned against the garage

as it does today,

all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,

as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.

It is time to say goodbye to my imaginary friends,

time to turn the first big number.

It's only yesterday I used to believe

there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,

I skin my knees. I bleed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

only in dreams

I've been dreaming of writing without thought, of writing without worry, of writing without pressure.

Actually, I've been dreaming of vampires wearing purple football uniforms and dancing through red brick buildings--- but in my waking hours, when my fingers hurt to the bone and my mind races with thoughts of finishing our taxes and work deadlines, there is a deeper part of me - a small bit of my soul, perhaps - that dreams while I walk.

And in those dreams, I am saying things in quiet wonder. Observing the miracle of sunlight and rain fall. I am telling you about the movies that play on the inside of my eyelids. And I'm unafraid.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

big box of toys

When she turned three, there was this mental border I crossed in thinking of Bean as a toddler to thinking of her as this compact preschooler-child-person. It happened mostly because of the common "for ages three and up" warning on toys.

Not that I'm running around the toy aisles willy-nilly grabbing items off the shelves that previously I had considered out of Bean's depth only a month ago---- but what I have been doing is thinking of one word: LONGEVITY. Not many toys have it. They are awesome and fun and So! Darn! Fantastic! for about five minutes---- and then they sit in the bottom of the toy basket forever more.

I've done my best to avoid Quick Toy Death, but as Bean is at this weird precarious age between toddler and school-age, where she is more interested in her stuffed buddies than a doll, where she likes to play with Little People, but will only do so for about ten minutes and then loses interest--- I'm trying to figure out her Toy Personality and I'm failing a little. She's just not a dolly girl. But she does love to play mommy to Elmo or Olivia or her blue monster Hurp. She also loves tiny things: so even while she's ignoring the full-sized dolls in her bedroom, she carts around Strawberry Shortcake in her pocket - laying her down on tiny pillows and underneath equally tiny blankets next to small plastic figures of Elmo and Oscar the Grouch. She still loves the play food and dishes. They were great choices a year ago and great toys even now.

So what do you think? It's not like I have a birthday to shop for (we gave her a tricycle that loves but doesn't know how to peddle--- and if anyone wants to clue me in on how to teach a three-year-old to peddle a tricycle, that would be awesome). But I'm just curious. Toys on the brain, I guess. And thinking of Christmas about a million months away.

In your experience - whether it's your own or with your kids, what would you say are the best toys for lasting beyond five minutes for a three-year-old?

Monday, April 4, 2011

a poem for your pocket

April is National Poetry Month. It's also Monday. And I am tired from lots of sewing. I have been trying to get caught up on a million different care packages and sewing projects that I have promised people... in some cases it's been MONTHS. This week will mark the end of all the catch up. Which means that my brain will again have space for writing. In the meantime, in honor of April: The Journey -Mary Oliver One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice--- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations--- though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do--- determined to save the only life you could save. (a quick note: I've tried to fix the formatting of this post a million times and technology is KILLING me. as well as Ms. Oliver's poem, for which I'm very sorry. perhaps tomorrow the kind people at blogspot will smile down at me and give me correct poetry formatting. until then...)

Friday, April 1, 2011

no foolin

There is a lot I could say to establish my craziness.

A lot I could say to prove my love for Bean.

There is a lot I could tell you about the strange small gestures of motherhood.

There is a lot. A lot of words for those things.

But today I will show you in pictures, just because.

I spent an hour last night making these.

Teeny tiny little blankets and pillows for Bean's small action figure-y buddies.

Because she wanted to put them to bed.

You're welcome.