Monday, May 30, 2011

because he saves my life

There are weekends that pass by in a slogging haze of work and chores and too many commitments. There are weekends that fly past because they are jam packed with fun: too much fun, with sticky fingers and giggling and fizzy drinks that you wouldn't normally consume except during a weekend of big top happiness. There are weekends that droop around a person in a murky clinging fog. Gray weekends and pink weekends and weekends of stripes. They exist. I know they do, because I've lived them.

This was not one of those weekends.

But although I'm not going to talk about what kind of weekend it was, exactly, I'm going to tell you this: there were moments--- excruciatingly painful moments, when I felt like I couldn't breathe. When I worried and wondered and wanted more than anything to feel confident about the next moment to come.

It wasn't the best breeding ground for good communication with Chip. In other words, I was sensitive and cranky and let's just say it: a bit on the crazy side.

It was in some of the worst most crazy-making horrific moments when Chip would reach out to me, take me into his arms, and hold me.

There are weekends when you feel as though the very laws of gravity don't apply to you, and everything you own, everything you are, your very existence is going to fly off into the atmospheric void leaving nothing behind but a dark smudge. If you are very very lucky, those are the weekends when someone is there to hold on to you and keep you grounded in safety.

And I am that lucky.

I love him for so very many reasons. But above all, I love him best because he saves my life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

if you don't feel safe

On Monday Alice and I went to the grocery store. Oranges on sale, a few bananas...we walked lightly laden to the car. While we shopped, two large trucks had parked on either side of us--- making the squeeze to get Bean into her carseat that much more acrobatic.

Once she was in, I walked to the driver's side, feeling strangely edgy. The prompt to get in quickly felt deep in my gut. Once inside, I locked the doors and put on my seatbelt. The feeling didn't make sense since we were out in bright daylight: a busy grocery store parking lot, Monday morning shopping on people's minds. I sat for a short second, thinking about the nonsense I do when I caught movement outside my window--- a man approaching the car, mouth moving already as he walked closer. Don't roll down the window, came the voice deep inside of me, if you don't feel safe. He motioned to get my attention, roll down the window--- but I didn't. I wouldn't, shaking my head. His face was a mottled roadmap of hard living: deep wrinkles interspersed with a shaggy beard, teeth stained brown like shoe leather. My car needs a jump, he said squinting. Can you give me a jump? A hopeful stare, waiting.

The rational part of me seemed willing, a perfectly normal request, it said. But that voice, that voice rumbled quietly inside of me--- if you don't feel safe, you don't have to do anything.

I told him I was sorry, there's somewhere we need to be. He motioned again with his hand, roll down your window. His whole body leaned in, there was something in it that was much too insistent--- a desperate reach toward my Yes. I shook my head again: No, already pulling out and moving the car.

It was then that his face crumpled into anger--- the lines set deep around his mouth as he yelled. As we drove out of the parking lot I caught bits of his ranting: HOW DARE YOU, HOW CAN YOU NOT HELP ME, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

Later, telling Chip the story over the phone my hands started to shake, the quiet voice of warning reminding me, if you don't feel safe, if you don't feel safe, if you don't feel safe... you don't have to do anything.

It's possible that he was just having car trouble.
It's possible that he was just a stranded driver looking for help.
It's possible that nothing would have happened other than an exchange of car energy.
But that voice, the warning--- and the image of his leaning body into our space.
I consider it a near miss.

Near misses
-by Laura Kasischkee

The truck that swerved to miss the stroller in which I slept.

My mother turning from the laundry basket just in time to see me open the
third-story window to call to the cat.

In the car, on ice, something spinning and made of history snatched me back
from the guardrail and set me down between two gentle trees. And that time I
thought to look both ways on the one-way street.

And when the doorbell rang, and I didn't answer, and just before I slipped one
night into a drunken dream, I remembered to blow out the candle burning on
the table beside me.

It's a miracle, I tell you, this middle-aged woman scanning the cans on the
grocery store shelf. Hidden in the words of a mysterious clock are her many
deaths, and yet the whole world is piled up before her on a banquet table
again today. The timer, broken. The sunset smeared across the horizon in the
girlish cursive of the ocean, Forever, For You.

And still she can offer only her body as proof:

The way it moves a little slower every day. And the cells, ticking away. A crow
pecking at a sweater. The last hour waiting patiently on a tray for her
somewhere in the future. The spoon slipping quietly into the beautiful soup.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

picking my battles

Last week out of the blue she announced that she would be calling me Francine, and she would be Olivia.* And what I thought would be a short-lived session of make-believe turned into a recurring theme of weirdness where she will approach me, hold out her hand for me to shake it, and then say, "Nice to meet you Francine." After introductions, we proceed to interact in our usual fashion (making dinner or doing laundry or playing with blocks, etc.) all the while maintaining our alter-egos of Francine the very proper pig (who eats her lunch with a SPORK, thank you very much) and Olivia, lover of all things impetuous and red and dramatic and delightful. I've been Francine at the grocery store, Francine at the hotel pool, Francine during dinner, Francine during bathtime. A few times I've wondered if its wrong to let her call me something that is not Mommy or Mama--- like some kind of weird undercurrent of disrespect.

*(For those not in the Olivia know, Francine in Olivia's sometime friend, sometime competitor.)

- - -

Its late in the afternoon, the sun coming through the high dining room window in a slant. She woke cranky and unsettled from her nap, crying for a sippy that sat forlorn on her dresser. She could see it from her bed, but still believing in the invisible bonds of bed-dom, that once she's placed in bed she can't get out unless released by a parent. When I heard her cries at 2:30, I walked to her bedroom quickly, hoping I could climb in bed with her and calm her into another 30 minutes of shuteye. As soon as she saw me, her tear-streaked face crumpled, demanding the sippy. "The sippy right there. Right there!" I sighed inwardly, knowing nap time was O-V-E-R, spelling it out in my head. Now we're sitting at the kitchen table. I'm trying to read something on the computer while she busies herself with play doh. I don't know why I try to get her to do it on her own--- play doh is an Alice Directed activity, wherein mommy rolls and molds and cuts the dough to Alice Directed Specifications. Without my help, she's rolling minuscule amounts of the blue lump toward my elbow. Now the table is covered with the stuff and she's irritated, voice rising into octaves reserved for mice and small girls. I tell her that I will play with her in five minutes, ticking the five off with my fingers. But she is adamant in her pleading and I let it go, close the computer, pick up the play doh and ask, "What should we make?"

- - -

Yesterday I caught her saying that something was stupid. I sunk to my knees, pulling her toward me, "We don't that word in our house, Alice. We don't say 'stupid.' Do you understand me?" When she nodded, there were tears in her eyes.

- - -

She asks for the marshmallow cereal, code for Lucky Charms---though I'm too cheap to buy the real thing, I think it's Marshmallow Mates or something equally ridiculous that I pull out of the cupboard. When I sit her down with the cup of cereal, I tell her to eat it all. A bit later she finds me in the kitchen, the cup in her hands. She asks for more. The cup is still three-quarter's full, just brown oaty squares and no marshmallows in sight.

- - -

It's bathtime. She's been playing for a good long while, has surrounded herself with floating foam letters and numbers. When I ask her to put them away, she moves slow---and then slower, putting letters in a pink bucket I hold. Now she has the last six letters held tight in her arms, insisting that she keep them with her while I wash her hair. I tell her no, she can hold two-- just two letters. But she wants more: five letters. Five letters, mommy. As I restate my offer of two letters, I feel the line settle here in front of us--- the insistence of here is the limit, here is the place where I dig my heels and hold my ground. And as her voice wavers and rises, I have the same thought that I always do in these moments: how I'm not sure if this is really the particular time and place to prove a point, how I want to teach Alice about discipline and obedience but don't want to be a tyrant. I wonder if bath letters are worth all the fuss.

- - -

Sometimes the battle is over cereal. Sometimes toys. Sometimes we set up opposing camps over the insistence of a cookie. And each time, I wonder what my victory is worth: the tears, the sadness, the frustration? I understand more and more that the point is almost never the cereal or the toy or the cookie or even holding foam letters during her bath--- the point is the exercise, the practice of saying no and hearing it, the act of following instruction.

I never knew parenting would be just as arbitrary as I once imagined it when I was the one desperately fighting for foam letters in the bathtub.

Monday, May 23, 2011

the truth is...

Every once in a while, I have an episode of Binge Blog Writing. True story, and a weird one, seeing as how I've been all Blog Silent lately.

But a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a whole slew of entries; one right after another.

The truth is, I was nervous. Wracked with nervous jittery energy, and it seemed to be the best outlet to my craziness. It was that, or throw myself off the hotel balcony to the pool below - and when I suggested that option to Chip, he seemed pretty unsupportive of a four-story dive. So I wrote. I posted pictures and arranged badly-written missives.

Nothing spectacular, as you can attest, since you read the results of that late-night mess a while back.

This entry, this one you're reading right now, is the last of that group. And it serves as a sort of gravy catch-all for the stuff that won't fit anywhere else.

Like this: I forgot to add a few pictures on the Monday post when I talked about my escapades with Bean in our very own Harry Potter closet:

(Yes, we fit food storage in where we can, which happens to be in the lower reaches of our hallway coat closet. And yes, we love applesauce.)

The truth is, all that catch-all blog writing was in direct relation to nervousness. Our beloved Winston had major back surgery the very day after I finished writing the slew of posts--- and I just couldn't focus on anything except feeling nervous and worried about Winston. This is one of those times that remind me again, just how far we live from my parents. Like when Bean tells me that her Grammy and Grampy live far, so far away. So far that we drive for days and days (her words). Without the luxury of being able to drive for days and days to be there with them, I rely on the phone - on calls with my sister and the Little Brother who both live within evening trip distance, for apple pie and cinnamon rolls. We're headed down there this summer for a long visit. Lucky for me (and Winston), the surgery went well and he is fully on the mend.

I've got to tell you, too, that there is something I want to say about how awful it is to see your parents grow old, and older--- but the truth is, I can't say much because my lovely mother and the equally fantastic Winston both read The Creamery and I wouldn't want to make them blush, or feel like they're soon to be giving up the ghost (which, surely they are NOT). So let's just say: I am officially voting against the notion of parents growing old. Who is with me?

The whole big girl bed thing is going well. Bean has yet to discover that she can actually get out of the thing without us coming to release her in the morning. I am not rushing to dispel her of that notion anytime soon. The next big hurdle is THE LAST PACIFIER, which sounds like some kind of frontier movie with horses and cowboys and a long dusty ghost town road--- instead it's my complicated multi-prong weaning off of Bean to her very much loved pacifier. She's down to the very last one, used only when her head is actually in contact with her pillow. It took a serious amount of decision-making energy and strategy for Chip and I to come up with a plan for getting rid of the final paci. After rejecting the Paci Fairy and deciding thoroughly against having Alice give the paci to her doctor, we have decided that the best way is to have Alice give her paci to a sales clerk in exchange for... FISH. A fish tank. And fish. And for some inexplicable reason that only Alice herself knows: a bag of colorful rocks to put in the fish tank. The reason for the strange paci exchange item is this: she wants fish. She has wanted them for a long while. And I've told her that the fish are very expensive, and the only thing the store will take for them is pacifiers. We'll see how it goes. We've been talking about it for a few weeks now. I think we'll be taking the leap sometime very soon. Wish us luck.

I'm going to jump back on the blog writing wagon this week, cross-my-heart, so you can return here tomorrow for Real! Live! New! Content! I guarantee!

And with that, Whimsy is signing off. What do you have going on right now? Any helpful tips for The Last Pacifier?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the child you allow strangers to push around on a hotel luggage cart

Meet Alice.

I've been trying to teach her the name of the city we live in, a precursor to teaching her our address. After saying and repeating the correct answer about seventeen times on Monday I asked her, "Hey Alice, what city do we live in?"--- to which she responded,

She's more than a ham. She's the kind of child strangers want to have complete conversations with. We're in Portland with Chip this week, and yesterday had Alice and I riding the elevator to head down to the pool. On the journey down, we met Allison, a police officer staying at the hotel for some kind of conference. She and Alice discussed their similar names, the trials and tribulations of being three years old, and hair ribbons.

Later on, Chip asked me exactly how it came to be that he was sitting in the hotel lobby on a conference call when he looked up to see a perfect stranger pushing Alice around the lobby on a luggage cart--- a smiling and laughing Alice being pushed around the lobby on a luggage cart by an ecstatic smiling and laughing Alison, followed closely behind by me.

My answer was this:
Because Alice is the kind of child strangers want to push around on a hotel luggage cart.

And I guess I'm the kind of parent that lets it happen.

Thursday, May 12, 2011



What child can resist pockets?

Certainly not mine.

Especially when the pockets are big enough to fit Olivia.

*not a spelling error, totally intentional, and I didn't include the entire reference to Gollum in The Hobbit because it just seemed creepy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Not just one word, but a whole slew of them: the sures.

There is the simple SURE--- for quick agreement, for simple assertion.

The SUUUURE--- when she's being a little silly, the smile playing just at the ends of her lips.

There is SHORE--- the answer to my more serious requests, like when I ask her to please pick up the 1,250 pony beads she lovingly threw around her room, into every single sticking corner, and even when my voice was starting to wobble with irritation as I demanded she PICK UP THESE BEADS, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. RIGHT NOW. She smiled, licked her lips, and said shore.

But my favorite, the one that is so weirdly quintessentially all Bean: SHOW-WAH--- elongated and exaggerated, like some 3-year-old New Yorker. Reserved for the most excited and outrageously exuberant agreements. Like, "Would you like a piece of chocolate cake?" SHOW-WAH! Or, "How about we sit down and watch Scooby Doo together?" SHOW-WAH! Or this one, yesterday morning, when I showed her an overnight creation that I had to finish because it had both pom-poms and ric rac AND tulle.

"Bean, would you like to wear this today?"

Nothing less than


Monday, May 9, 2011

we are the makers

I once wrote a post about identity. Who I am in singular words. Words like goer and picker and vanilla and snoozer. Yesterday it struck me, again, that I am a maker.

There's something to say about a soul bruise. Something to say about it, even though the words have lately failed me. It feels like they are stuck inside a hose, building up but not powerful enough to push through the blockage. The bruise continues to heal as I leave it open to the air, as I give it light and space and time. I am wary of pushing the tender area too far, too quick.

And then there's the studio. A haven from the word drought. A place where I feel useful, where I feel competent, where I feel free. These days I dream of patterns and color. When I wake in the 2am darkness, I imagine skirts and dresses I'm going to make. I draw plans in my mind's eye for Alice's summer wardrobe. And even when Chip reminds me of her full closet, how she doesn't need another pair of summer shorts, I smile and tell him, "She may not need them, but I do."

Because I'm a maker. While I can't change the tilt of the planet or take another's pain, what I can do, is make. Use my hands. Craft fabric or fiber or paper or food into something else, into something to love. I can make. I can offer comfort through my efforts. I can clothe and decorate and beautify and succor. I can make. I can express these feelings and desires that seem trapped here inside. I can make. I can do. I can be busy with thread while my mind untangles itself. I can make.

So I do.

A very dear friend of mine is suffering. Grieving and worried for her brother, who is struggling through advanced cancer. I talked to her yesterday at church. It was the first time I'd seen her since she told me the news, since she'd stumbled through explaining the vast abyss of pain she is navigating. We stood there in a crowded hallway as Alice pulled hard on my hand, urging me forward even as I pulled back, even as I reached forward to hug my friend. In those moments, there are no words than the small few we've heard a thousand times; sorry being the main one, I'm so sorry. She stood there against the wall with people pushing past us in a rushing hurry. She blinked tears and then said, "I'm making him a quilt."

Because my dear friend, too, is a maker. And this is what we makers do. We make.

When I heard her say those words, "I'm making him a quilt", I knew she'd be okay, she will pull through. Because making isn't really about the things we make or even about the people we make them for. It's an act of creation in the face of loss, nothing short of an expression of hope, the transformation of one thing into another. We refuse to let raw materials defeat us. We take what we're given and we make it into something better. We spin gold from the straw, our faces reflecting the luster. We make. And we shine.

(Yes, I made this. Reversible orange playday smock and dark rinsed summer shortie pants with sailor stripes around the cuffs.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

attention minions: gmboa time

Hello to the Minions! The GMBOA is available and up for grabs over at Chocolate on a Rainy Day. Act FAST, because I am late in alerting you and I'm hoping that Miss Rainyday won't hold it against you if you enter late.

Go here to get your grubby mitts on that fabulous golden box of gifties.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

on bruises

This was Chip's gift to me: an away place, a place detatched from memory, a place to think, a place to be quiet.

I don't know why exactly, but there is something bruised deep inside of me. It's like those mystery bruises that show up on my shins from time to time: unbidden and unremembered, I'm only aware of them later when I go to kneel down in front of Alice --- to tie her shoes or straighten a hair ribbon --- and as my knees hit the floor there is a sharp stab of pain, the blossom of purple staring quietly from my skin.

A soul bruise of unknown origin. Invisible, but felt at odd times - most especially when I'm reaching into that place to share something of meaning here. The aching pain, the stab of tenderness. It's why I shy off, time and again, from writing anything real.

I talk about our days, skirting the abyss with photos of Bean. Her face is a star, the winking silver drawing my mind away from anything that stings.

And Chip: my confidant, my best friend, my protector and husband. He brought me to this place as a gift. Even when I couldn't find words to tell him about the bruise, he noticed my shift in demeanor, how a smile doesn't stay long on my face, how I spend extended moments in the studio, how I say that I keep hoping for peace.

It wasn't long after I told him that I was glad I couldn't hurt a sewing machine - that I couldn't say the wrong thing or misunderstand a piece of fabric; it wasn't much later that he told me he was going to Lake Chelan and wanted us to come with him. A short trip, he said, but a beautiful one. A little vacation, he offered, for quiet thinking.

So that's what it is. And that's what I've done.

There's a bruised and painful place inside of me. It's tender near my heart; so tender I can't quite face it, can't put my fingers on that place for fear that I will pass out from the pain.

When Alice hit her head a few weeks ago, the bump rose on her forehead: angry red and deep purple. In the days that followed, she watched the geography of her face change and kept asking me about it. I gave her the name for it: bruise, just a bruise, honey. And I promised she could watch it go away if she gave it enough time. The purple mark turned dusky gray and yellow: so ugly she worried that it was mad at her. But in another week, and then two, and then three--- it faded. The rise of skin, the smudge of injury: gone. Only her perfect ivory skin in its place. I caught her touching the place just yesterday. She put her fingers over the spot and made faces at me in the bathroom mirror. Look Mommy! It's gone! It was just a bruise- and now it's gone.

Which is what I tell myself now: just a bruise. I will give it time, some space, an occasional viewing in the mirror. Just a bruise. In no time, I'll be just fine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

polandroid to the rescue


Yesterday in pictures, driving to Eastern Washington with Chip for a brief visit to Lake Chelan.

Apple orchards and rolling green hills.

A hotel right on the lake.

We've been promised 65+ degree days.

I'm thinking we're in for a nice time.

I'll let you be the judge.

Monday, May 2, 2011

our next big milestone

Life these days, viewed through a cracked kaleidoscope lens. If you move too fast the scene shifts into an exploding sunburst of colors.

Look--- here's Alice helping me organize our very own behind-the-coats, beyond-the-extra-pantry-space, under-the-stairs hidey hole storage we've dubbed The Harry Potter Closet.

And the time a few days ago when she grabbed my glasses off my face and ran around the room wearing them herself. She looked (even more) like a miniature version of me, and she laughed until she couldn't stand straight.

Then here's us setting up Alice's big girl bed. Her face is an array of excitement, of wonder, of anticipation.

And later that night, the darkened glow of lamplight in her eyes as we tucked her into that bed. Everything smelled like baby soap, and I thought to try to will myself to memorize every fiber of that moment, how small she seemed in that vast twin bed.