Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Send Me On My Way

I knew this house was ours immediately.

It wasn't the bright kitchen or the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom that lured me in. It was the sunlit staircase, with one window at the top of the stairs and another at the bottom. I had only been a bride for two months then, but we agreed that children were in our future and as I stood just inside the front door, I could see myself carrying a baby down those stairs. We told the realtor we needed to think it over and then parked just around the corner.

"We're going to have babies in that house," I said.

And so we did.

The house bore witness to my life, as houses do. I waddled pregnant, rocked infants, read stories, nursed fevers, kissed boo-boos, calmed tantrums, set up sprinklers, stuffed stockings, planned birthdays, baked cupcakes. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner and Easter dinner. I nurtured, and then ended, a marriage. I fell to my knees on the living room floor and cried for the death of my father. I blared the kitchen radio at 6 a.m., high on adrenaline and strength, the morning of my surgery.

I adjusted as the house continually ceased to represent my former life and morphed into my current one.

I have long loved this house. I love the way the light comes in through the expansive kitchen window. I love the way my bedroom smells, like fresh air and perfume, when the windows are all open. I love the scraping sound my son's door makes when he opens it in the morning. I love being under a blanket on my couch, watching the snow fall out the front windows. I love sitting on my back porch with a coffee or a beer or a book or a friend.

I love this house and the life I have lived in it.

But a person cannot truly move forward if her feet remain in the same spot. You can't stay where you are, I remind myself as I pack boxes, digging through the rubble of the last 13 years of my life. You have to keep going. 

I'm excited for a new beginning, a place that is free of ghosts. A place where I am not the ex, not the mourner, not the brain tumor.

A place where I am just me.

A place where I am home. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This Must Be the Place

June 5, 2013
This is the water bottle with the red top. This is my red v-neck t-shirt. This is my pair of dark blue jeans. This is the trash barrel I stuff it all into. This is my contempt.

This is the ambulance. This is the rush-hour and pre-Bruin's playoff game traffic. This is the fear of hearing 'there's nothing we can do.' This is my watch. This is 5 pm. This is the thought that I would give anything to be in my kitchen making dinner for my sons. This is my father at my right shoulder. This is my grandmother on my left. This is the thought that they are here to guide me through my death. This is the prayer to my grandmother, woman to woman, to help me mother my children through whatever is coming next.

This is the longest ride of my life.

April 29, 2014
This is me with my head in my hands, crying for the biting shock of it all. This is my best friend. This is her hand in mine. This is her crying for the biting shock of it all. This is the processing. This is my scar. This is where it hurts.

September 12, 2013
This is the first MRI to check for regrowth. This is my stomach in ropes. This is my cautious optimism. This is the arm with a ripe, swollen vein that the woman can't seem to tap for an IV. This is the bruise she leaves. This is the set of foam blocks stabilizinging my head. This is the table I lie on. This is the noise the machine makes. This is the flashback to June it evokes. This is the hour the test takes. This is the tiny, cold room where I change my clothes. This is the man who comes over that night to rub the day out of my shoulders. This is the floor I sit on while I describe for him the complexity of emotions that day. This is the door he leaves from.

June 12, 2013
This is the white mark on my forehead from the Mayfield pins screwed in to my head to stabilize it. This is the razor used to shave my hair. This is the breathing tube put down my throat. This is the #10 scalpel that cuts my skin. This is the muscle that is sliced apart. This is the drill that bears holes into my skull. This is the circle of bone that is removed. This is the lumbar puncture in my lower back that drains off cerebral spinal fluid. This is the brain tissue lifted and shifted. This is the specimen sent to pathology. This is the muscle removed from above my jaw and patched up on my head. This is the 150 ml of blood that is lost. This is the 5 inch scar that remains.  

June 11, 2013
This is the quiet night.

June 12, 2013
This is me at 6 a.m. This is my kitchen. This is my blaring radio. This is me ready.

April 30, 2014
This is my scar.

This is where it hurts.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Reasons Why Being Single Is Just The Greatest Thing Ever And Ever, Amen. Infinity. For Real.

Being single is underrated. Sure, there are moments of loneliness that settle in every now and then, but at times like that I chose to focus on the things that are really super amazing and awesome about being single.

1) The Whole Not Getting Knocked Up Thing: Guess what, kids? Turns out the Catholic Church was right, abstinence really IS the best way to avoid pregnancy (unless you're the Virgin Mary)! This has also proved to be cost-effective, since there are few things I love to do more than take expensive pregnancy tests after I've been within five feet of a real, live man. So thank you, men, for staying away and thereby providing me with free birth control.

2) Abandoning The Two Forks Lie: I'm a sweets girl. Put chocolate on just about anything and I will order it off the menu. So the last thing I want to do when I've just ordered something called Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love is share. I DON'T WANT TWO FORKS. I want to eat ALL of the Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love myself. If not now, then I want to take it home and sneak-eat it at 3 in the morning by the light of the refrigerator like the normal woman that I am. But that's like 20th date behavior. There's a certain level of intimacy I need to have with a man before I'm comfortable reaching across the table and biting his hand when he tries to get near my Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love. Being single means I don't have to pretend that I'm down with him wanting to get two forks so we can share. The Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love is ALL MINE, MOTHERFUCKER.

3) Accepting That My Digestive System Exists: There are few worse things about dating than reaching that inevitable point in the relationship where you're spending so much time together that you can no longer hide the fact that you are a human and, as such, have a digestive system that, if it functions normally, will demand to be reckoned with. In other words, YOU CAN'T HOLD IT FOREVER. Eventually, your body is going to be like, "Look, we get that you like this guy and you'd rather wait until he has gone home or until the middle of the night when you're sure he's asleep so you can go use the downstairs bathroom without worrying that he'll wake up and be all on to you, but here's the thing...you've been holding it for 3 days now. We tried to warn you last night with that whole fart-in-your-sleep-and-wake-you-up-thing. But here you are, still trying to talk yourself out of it. Cut the shit, sister. Everyone poops. Now get to it already before we make you VERY sorry. We have ways of doing that. You don't even want to know." As a single woman, however, I don't have such problems. My body says, "Hey!" and I'm all, "Oh, right, okay" and that's it, the beautiful dance happens seamlessly, wherein I eat all of the Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death and my body properly digests it. That is called harmony. And it is good.

4) I Always Control The TV: Sometimes I just want to sit and watch a re-run of Grey's Anatomy from back when it was good. Especially if it's the one where Denny dies and Izzy is crying in her pink dress and everything is all Snow Patroly. OR if it's the one where George dies and the way you know he dies is because Izzy is being resuscitated and then she's all pretty and getting on the elevator in that pink dress and you're thinking that's a bummer, Izzy is dead right now, and then the elevator doors open and OH. SHIT. IT'S. GEORGE. In his Army uniform. Oh my God. So, sometimes I want to just sit and watch that and cry a lot and not have to worry that someone is sitting on the couch next to me sneaking a peek to see if I'm crying because OF COURSE I AM. It's practically Pavlovian; if Izzy's in the pink dress then bad things are happening and crying will commence immediately. Being single means I don't ever have to watch football. Instead, I can watch people die on TV. You might just have to take my word for it that this is better. But it is. I swear.  

5) No Pressure To Cook Anything Fancier Than Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: My friend Karen and I used to say that we were going to write a cookbook called "How To Bake A Potato" because this was the kind of lame stuff that, when were both first married and realizing that cooking at home was a lot cheaper than getting Papa Gino's pizza every night, we had to look up. But then the internet came along and sort of shit all over that plan, so thanks for THAT, Al Gore. Eventually I learned how to cook well enough to sustain two small humans and not cause heart disease or food poisoning in my ex-husband or myself. Now the men I cook for are 8 and 10, so the general consensus is that if you can dip it in ranch and/or ketchup, then it's good eats. If I were dating, I'd most likely be whipping out the GOOD recipes once I found a guy worthy of my spending 3 hours in the kitchen for a meal that takes all day to cook, dirties every pot and pan I own, and takes all of 15 minutes to eat. But until then, it's grilled cheese.

Cut diagonally if I'm feeling all fancy and shit.

Friday, February 28, 2014

two in the morning

It's two in the morning. I can't sleep.

I never get up at night. I've lain awake staring at the ceiling all night long and not gotten up. But my mind won't stop racing. My heart won't stop clanging around in my chest. My plate is full and there are many problems that need solutions, solutions that can't be worked through in a single night. I tell myself this, but I don't listen.

So I get up. I go down the stairs. The third step creaks.

Just as I knew it would.

Just as it always has.

The living room looks strange in the dark and I feel almost as if I'm intruding. You're not supposed to be here, it's saying. Back to bed with you. Go.   

One year ago, two years ago, this night would have been different. I would have come downstairs and felt cold and alone and probably sat in the dark and cried. Sometimes I still feel the cold. A lot of times, I do feel alone. And I will cry whenever I need to.

But it's all different now.

I'm no longer afraid that the cold is going to seep into my bones and settle in so deeply that I never feel warm again. I'm no longer afraid of the vacuum that is the empty side of the bed, that it might slide up and press against me, wrap its arms seductively around me and then swallow me whole. I'm no longer afraid that I might kneel on the floor and cry out my heart, my soul, my tumor, my hope, my passion, my disappointment, my words, my anger, my music, my funny, my body, my life, my love, my love, my love, until I'm drowning in all of those tears.

Now, I know how to warm myself when I'm cold.
Now, I know how to stretch out into the empty side of the bed.
Now, I know how to swim.

Now I lie on the couch and look around at the dark living room. Soon this won't be my living room anymore. It will belong to someone else. Strangers will watch their TV and read their books and drink their wine and kiss their lovers and talk on their phones in my living room. But it's okay. Because I will be watching and reading and drinking and kissing and talking in a new living room, too. This is all okay. I don't like it. But it's all okay.

There are white Christmas lights outlining the windows and I wonder for a moment if I should plug them in. Long after the ornaments had been put away, the tree dragged to the curb, the needles vacuumed up, the lights remained. They make everything feel softer, sweeter, younger. They are romantic and silly, but I plug them in on nights that my sons aren't here. Because I don't want to ever stop feeling romantic and silly. Not even when it's two in the morning and I have a full plate of problems, each begging for a solution.

I opt not to plug in the lights.

Because I'm not afraid to sit alone in the dark.

I'm not afraid.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Touch Me, Take Me to That Other Place..."

People need to be touched.

When our babies are born, we pull them up to our chests, their little hearts beating against ours, their skin against ours, their warmth entangled with our own. When we feel compassion for friends or family members, we reach out and touch their hand or pull them in for a hug. When we are in the various stages of falling in, or being in, love, we rest our heads on chests and drape our hands over knees. We wrap our arms around waists, we nuzzle into necks, we trace our fingertips gently along the lines of a body because we crave to be closer, closer, ever closer.

We need to be touched.

I sat in my best friend's kitchen one cold, gray day not long after my father died. She was cutting my hair, snipping away until she had finished. She dried it. And then she styled it, brushing it this way, fluffing it that way, smoothing it down. Tears streamed down my face as she did. It had been so long since I had been touched by someone who wasn't one of my squirming sons that I had forgotten what it felt like. Or just how much I missed it. My loneliness, my sadness, my longing, it streamed down my face.

Because she had touched my hair.

In the days between discovering the brain tumor and the surgery to remove it, my home was filled with friends and family. People I hadn't seen in years came to see me, wished me well. My living room, my kitchen, my dining room, they were full of people who brought me food, brought me magazines, brought me flowers, brought me toilet paper, brought me love.

But at night, the house was empty and still. And the very thing that was keeping me going during the day, this sense of strength that I had discovered, this certainty that I had everything I could possibly need in my life, even without a man, would crumble in the dark as I longed to be touched. Not in a sexual way. I wanted to be taken care of, to be comforted, to be held.

To surrender.

Just for a bit. Just until morning.

The last thing I saw before my surgery was my hand as they injected medication into the IV.  How many people had I touched, comforted, connected to with that hand? How many people had held that hand within their own?

I was staring at my hand, offering up gratitude for my life, for all the things I had done and felt and for the people I had loved.

For the people I had touched. For the ones who had touched me.

Because people...people need to be touched.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Virgin Mary's Birth Plan

The Virgin Mary's Birth Plan:

-If a birthing ball is not available, I would like to labor while riding a donkey.

-If the baby and I are healthy, I would like to have a manger birth.

-I would like to have an unmedicated birth. (Unless the child's father, God, decides to intervene and take the pain away. Which would be nice. Since I'm doing Him a big solid here, what with the whole pregnancy-without-sex thing, which really gets people talking, by the way. I'm just saying...a little Divine Intervention would be nice.)

-I would like music during my labor and delivery. If angels do not appear to provide musical accompaniment, I will bring my favorite Enya cd.

-The following people are allowed in the manger during labor and delivery: Joseph (life partner), Wise Men (no more than 3), shepherds (no more than 3), and various barnyard animals.

-The following people are not allowed in the manger during labor and delivery: Innkeeper

-I will be exclusively breastfeeding. Please do not give my baby any bottles or pacifiers so as to avoid nipple confusion.

-Please do not allow barnyard animals to eat my baby.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Letter To Santa Claus, From The Committee For Elf Welfare (Internal Affairs Division) Re: Immediate Suspension of The Elf On A Shelf Program

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

We are writing today to express our concerns regarding your Elf On A Shelf program.

As you know, the Elf On A Shelf initiative was a fundamental component of the 2009 Creative Recessionary Elf Employment Program (or CREEP), an effort launched by this committee in order to minimize the effects of the Great Recession upon the North Pole's economy. We have always believed that the key to maintaining strong North Pole economic growth lies in ensuring that our elves have ample employment opportunity.

Initial implementation of the program was anticipated to be successful: elves who were ineligible for positions as toy makers, reindeer handlers, Keeblerian cookie bakers, or cobbler assistants, would be assigned to a household with children. The elf would observe the behavior of those children and report back nightly as to whether the child should be placed on The Nice List or The Naughty List. Enthusiasm for this program was high, as it had the potential to not only open up job opportunities for otherwise unemployable elves, but to also ensure workshop operations could be most efficiently utilized, as toy production could be tailored to appropriately reflect a child's most current Naughty/Nice List status.

However, now that the program has been in place for a few years, it has come to our attention that the elves involved are spending less time observing the behavior of children and more time engaging in activity that we find troubling.

The committee recognizes that you, Mr. Claus, are a very busy man. Given your hectic schedule, we understand that perusing social media sites may not generally be a productive use of your time. However, we believe that if you take a few moments to log onto Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, you will find ample evidence of the inappropriate behavior a number of the Elf On A Shelf employees are engaging in.

For instance, we have seen photographic evidence of elves ingesting illicit drugs, consuming alcoholic beverages, destroying personal property, and engaging in inappropriate sexual activity with Barbie dolls. Each of these offenses, as documented, has occurred during work hours and within the home of the elf's assigned family.

This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. Not only does it inflict serious damage upon the positive image and credibility of North Pole elves, but our legal team  has advised that any litigation resulting from such elf misconduct could take years to resolve and  have far-reaching economic consequences.

Therefore, it is our recommendation that the Elf On A Shelf program be suspended immediately and all guilty elves be placed on the Naughty List indefinitely.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.


The Committee For Elf Welfare
Internal Affairs Division