Conversations with my daughter

There has been a tilt, a shift, a natural evolution between my thirteen year old and I's communication this summer.  The questions she ask are becoming more intimate, the answers
and stories I tell are becoming more sprawling, more detailed.  She will quietly pose a question as I am painting or drawing, my back to her as she curls up on the couch.  The honesty flows from my hands onto my work and from my mouth into her being.  I tell her tales of family, of teenage adventures.  We talk about first loves, about silly incidents, but mostly we just talk about life.

I tell her that she needs to look at each person as an individual: man, woman or whatever gender the person identifies with and embrace them.  
I tell her no book, no person, can tell someone who they can or can't love and marry.
I tell her to look at the people she thinks are mean and think about what they might have gone through in their short lives, how it chipped away at the natural state we are all born in, how experience hardens and hurts.
I tell her not to listen to what people tell her she should be, including me, and to carve out her own journey, choose her own path.
I tell her that death is scary but inevitable, and it's okay to miss someone forever.
I tell her how strong she is, because she has grown up with the weight of her birth mothers abandonment and she has not allowed it to ruin her.
I tell her that I am her mother, although she was not born from my body, that we were meant to be together and that she is the big open butterfly tattooed on my arm because she was my
first child and she made me bloom. 
I tell her that it's okay for women to wear short shorts, tube tops, sari's, hijab's, men's clothing, dresses, skirts, and whatever the hell else they are comfortable in and that they are never asking for it.  I also tell her a man has the right to say no, too.
I tell her that she has strong, mighty legs like her father.  That she needs to be proud of her shape and be mindful of what she eats, not for fear of fatness, but so she can stay muscular and powerful.
I tell her that chocolate cures almost all ailments, but the bad times require chocolate and ice cream.
I tell her that I am very clumsy, and I say the wrong thing most of the time, and that my brain works differently than other people, and she laughs and says she knows.

We talk of when I am old, of the silly things I will do, how she will divvy up the taking care of
me with her siblings.
We talk about songs and movies and books.
We talk about how tattoos and piercings do not define a person, but a person can use them to define themselves, to tell their stories.  
We talk about not giving away all of ourselves to any one person, because one must always keep the biggest chunk, for safekeeping , sanity, and strength.
We talk about the endless capacity of the human heart, how it can never to too full to love one more person.
We talk about losing friends, what the emptiness feels like, the disappointment and longing for something that can never return. 
We talk about how saying no when you are uncomfortable is right, no matter what.
We talk of what pets, what car, what job, she dreams. 

This always happens with my back to her, there is something raw and authentic when people communicate without having to look the other person straight in the eyes.

Sometimes I will glance back at her during a break in conversation and I will see a faraway look in her face and wonder what she is thinking about. I don't ask, though.  I turn around and continue my work, and I let her weave her private destiny in our comfortable, companionable silence.

Reflections of Summer

Summer is an incredibly intoxicating season. The soft glow of first blush over thickly leaved trees turns into the searing heat of day, then dusk arrives, painting the sky a haze of pink and orange hues accented sweetly by lazy swirling of lightening bugs.  It is the time of dirty feet and dripping popsicles, of scraped knees and wishes made upon stars.   It is the time for sunblock and swimming, clapping and feeling your heart swell when you watch your child find their courage and take that last step into the pool.  It’s driving home in wet towels with the windows down, a carful of shiny red noses and a sleepy sort of contentment that comes from splashing around in water for hours.

Afternoon naps and simple suppers, lots of fruit and lots of ice cream. A brand new pup curled into your neck, that warm feeling of contentment when she wakes up with a puppy breath yawn and a lick on your cheek.  Watching her accidental somersaults while she excitedly trips over her paws and her (mostly) patient older buddy, who doesn't mind too much when she jumps on her head or nibbles at her floppy jowls.

Summer is made for murmured confessions and sighs in the dark. Weaving legs and dreams with your husband, imagining different scenarios in the quiet of a Sunday morning (…yeah well, I would hire three nannies and someone to rub my feet on command…) It’s time for life lessons for your teenager, some painful, some hilarious, all memorable.  Watching a thirteen year old girl navigate through life is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.  You stare in wonder and pride (and horror) as she struggles, stretching and twisting and fitting into her teenaged skin.  Wanting to alternately clutch her to you and let her fly is an almost indescribable sorrow.

Oil pastels, acrylics, watercolors, pencils and a variety of other mediums cover my hands and my clothes most of the time.  I create to remember, I create to forget, and sometimes I paint cupcakes just to see my niece give me a huge grin.  I blanket the kitchen table with old newspaper, a jar of brushes and paint and paper and let the children find that piece of themselves they long to express and form, watch imaginations come to fruition in swooshes and shapes.

Summer is bittersweet, for summer is when we lost him.  August will always be tainted with the taste of sorrow, the burn of regret, the change that can never be undone. The countdown to the moment time stood still, the stinging realization that life continues even though we are missing a part of ourselves, the pang of reality during this time of wonder and dreams, of time passing.  We ache with sadness, and with happiness, clutching precious memories of a wide smile to make the days bearable.

It is a time for reflection, for sprinklers, and for playing outside after dark.  Too soon this moment will be over, fall will quietly take the daylight, the leaves, and like the seasons, we will change. 

A Horror Story

Our weeds grow at an alarming rate. I imagine they do a secret mating dance overnight, a frenzied multiplying that threatens to choke the life out of flowers and plants that have made a cozy home in the terra we lovingly placed them in to thrive. I have no animosity towards weeds, I believe they have their purpose. I just prefer they serve their function away from my hostas and azalea bushes.

One morning I knelt, the sun warming my back, the fresh smell of dirt and grass in the air. Work gloves on, gardening spade in hand, I was pulling the sharp, spiky interlopers from the mulch while the children ran around like they always do when we are outdoors. They resemble berserk prisoners who've just escaped and are savoring their first whiff of freedom.

I was enjoying the mild breeze, the sound of my children's laughter, and the warm feeling of accomplishment when it happened: one of the weeds quivered. I froze, holding my breath and girding myself for what was about to happen. I slowly backed away while the weed trembled furiously, and then was crushed underfoot by what I can only describe as hell on earth. The creature and I locked eyes, and as I scrambled away in horror from it's fiendish stare and freakish body it slowly came towards me. Overwhelming revulsion welled up and out of me in the form of a shriek that would make beloved scream queens bow in awe. I ran away, incoherent, delirious and shaking with fear.

I have not weeded the flower beds since that day, handing that job off to my husband and oldest daughter who are composed of stronger stuff than I.  I often think about that beast, and have accidentally encountered a few like it since. My reaction is always the same: frantic hysterical loathing of the disgusting savage hellion.

Look upon thee beast, the demon spawned from Satan's testicles:


I feel paralyzed by an invisible enemy, known only to me.  There is no simple way to describe my foe, for he is mine alone.

He is my curse, his desiccated remains heavy on my back, sharp clawed hands brutally wrapped around my neck choking me. My albatross, my illness. He breathes untruths into my ear, secrets to painful to reveal. He is what makes me feel shame, remorse, useless. He does not rest, for what creature such as this would need rest?  His sustenance is my weakness, he feeds off my fear and my faults.  Every misstep brings him glee, he bathes himself in my self-loathing.

He is never quiet, although at times he is drowned out by the hope in my heart. Even he can't break through that last piece of me, for that is my stronghold. My heart is strong with love, the whole of it inflamed to bursting by one unwavering love of a man and three sets of eyes . Two so much like their fathers, and one matching mine. Their love comes with no canon, it just is. That is a nourishing love, a love that keeps me existing even when I feel the demons never-ending weight slowing me, making me crawl and grasp and cling.

He is relentless, he leads me down dark twisted paths in my mind. He twists my stomach and confuses my thoughts. Will I ever live without this beast, or is he forever entwined within me? Am I to walk this road for the rest of my days feeling half whole, feeding him, sustaining him?

Someday I will learn to carry this burden. Someday I will be stronger than this unwanted invader. Sometime he shall bow to me.

Real Advice for my Offspring

I've noticed an influx of syrupy, sentimental bilge like "A Letter To My Son" or "18 Things I Want My Daughter to Know" all over Pinterest and various blogs.  After reading a few, and dismissing them as pure rubbish I decided I needed to make one of my own.

Some shit you need to know:

1. Continuously scraping your shoes across the floor at school so the front wears off two weeks after I bought you a new pair pisses me off.  Stop it.  It makes us look destitute. I know you get irritated when I bitch about it.  My future grandchild will come home on the second day of school with scuffed up shoes and seeing them will ignite a rage in you that is almost inexplicable   Then you'll understand, and I will accept your apology with minimal amounts of smugness.

2. I give you bites of my food but I really don't want to.  I'm going to retaliate when i'm old and pretending to be addled.  Let's see how you like half chewed food spit back onto your plates and backwash. Don't fall into this trap with my future grandchildren.

3. Nobody likes people who can't properly wipe their own ass.

4. Always remember to continue walking after you trip.  Don't look around to see if anyone noticed. just strut. But if  someone you know does it, make sure you point and laugh loudly. Sometimes being an asshole is funny.

5. You can like really nerdy books, movies, and music but you must pretend you don't.  You will be ridiculed by everyone, including me.  Keep it to yourself.  No one needs to know you have Don Henley's greatest hits in your minivan's CD player.  Not that I do, i'm just using that as an example.  I am nowhere near that lame.  For reals.

6. Never judge a book by it's cover, unless the cover is of the movie adaptation.

7. If you're going to pretend to be sick, do it up big.

8. 'No one can make choice for you' is a load of crap. People make choices for me all the time.  It's how you adapt to them that shows how awesome you care.

9. It's normal to grieve.  Anyone who ever tells you different is a sociopath.  Run, don't walk, away.

10. Making bad choices can be lots of fun. Just make sure the bad choice doesn't have a pregnant girlfriend.

11. If you're going to take pictures of your tits, make sure your face is cropped out.

12. Shockingly enough, Michael Jackson wasn't a white woman. Keep that little pearl in your brain for future arguments.

13. Wear lots of deodorant.

14. Don't ask your dad advice about how to hold your liquor, he's a terrible drunk. Like in a not awesome way.  Like in a 'puke in front of the pizzeria up the street' kind of drunk.  You'd think as big as he was he could pound more back...

15. Taco Bell is always a good idea, unless you are just about to have sex.

16. No matter what anyone says, your feet are not ugly. Everyone's feet are ugly.

17. Make sure you do one absolutely batshit crazy thing everyday.  It keeps everyone on their toes.

18. Don't marry anyone that can't kiss well or give good backrubs.

19. There's always going to be someone better at stuff then you.  Just make sure you are the master of wiping your ass.  Remember number 3?

Tell me, what advice would you want to pass on to your kids? 

My Shining Stars

I celebrated my thirtieth birthday Saturday.  With my awesome friend Sara, my mom, aunt, and brother all came with me to watch me get my first tattoo.  Then I spend the rest of the day (and night!) with my beautiful friends.

I spent a long time deciding on what tattoo I wanted.  And i'm really, really happy with the way it turned out.

I had "Remember to Live" tattooed on my forearm.  I wrote this post on 11-6-11. Those words have stuck with me since that night, the words from Christian have echoed in my head.

"It was bright, and cool breeze blew through my hair. I was bent over a small tree I had just planted, filling in the hole with dirt. I sifted the earth through my fingers, felt it in my hands.  I sensed someone, and I squinted into the sun and saw him standing beside me. I felt him lean down next to me, and then he was my dreams he is always very still.  I looked at him, he smiled and said, "remember to live."  It became an echo, a chime, a song.  Over and over, as we knelt in the dirt, as I pressed my hands down, finished patting the dirt around the tree, I heard his voice say to me, "remember to live."

Remember to live."

I had 4 stars put around the words.

The largest, for Christian.  For loving my sister, for changing our lives.  For giving me words to live by.  I had it colored green, because he loved the land, his farm.

The blue star is for my Grandpa Dilas, for his bright blue eyes.

The yellow star is for my Grandma Virginia.  She would get a bouquet of flowers from my Grandpa Mario with one yellow rose right in the middle.

The red star is for my Grandpa Mario.  He loved red.  And red is a strong fiery color, it reminds me of him.

The entire time I was being tattooed I had a lump in my throat. It has so much meaning. I have a little bit of the people I miss the most, who i'll miss the rest of my days, with me.

And when i'm having a bad day or I feel like giving up, i'll look down and see Remember to Live and my little shining stars and find my strength.

I Carry You With Me...

Grief, an incredibly heavy word that means something different to everyone it touches.  People push it away, tamp it down, hide from it, or lose themselves in it.  I carry the ones I’ve lost close, tucked away in that special place in my heart.   

My grief is still raw from my sister, our family, losing Christian.  It’s a hot, jagged wound right in my core.  Sometimes I swear if I touched my skin on my chest it would burn from the fire of my broken heart.   Five months seems a lifetime, like he’s been gone forever.  Five months is like a second, the shock of his loss still so fresh.  

There is no sense to grief. No handy illustrated manual telling us what to feel, when to feel it.  We can only ride the waves out, wait for the storms to pass.  Cling to our loved ones that are still with us, hold the memories close. 

An old friend and her husband buried their child.  I cannot imagine the loss, every parent’s nightmare come to fruition.  She loves that baby, loves her so much that she is forever changed. She is so gutted from losing Mary Beth; she’s trying to stop other women from going through the same thing.  Some people are resentful of this; they think her an angry misguided person.  But she is none of the things they accuse her of.  She is just a mother, going on forever with a piece of her missing.  

We grieve because we love, deeply and irrevocably.  We love without restraints, and love doesn’t change because a person leaves us.  If anything, it becomes deeper, more precious. It’s all we have left of them, the love we shared.  We all go on, broken and bloody from loss and pain.  We try to make sense of something we never will, until we’re gone too.   

The surprise of living when they are gone, the laughter and smiles, and hope for tomorrow are what keep us plodding forward.  Through the thunder rumbling in our hearts, the rain pouring from our eyes, the wind blowing wild our thoughts, we find love and support.  We find our best friends, renew the bonds of family and friends, and stave of the loneliness with the only reason we live.  Love.  

...I carry you in my heart.