Friday, January 19, 2018

The Experience of a Cumquat

“No thanks. I’ve had a cumquat,” my student says.

“Yes. But you haven’t had a cumquat today. You have to have one today if you’re going to write about it today.”

“Do I have to eat the whole thing?”

I nod and he shakes his head and does it.

Embracing the shitty first draft I bite into the cumquat. The burst of the dull, bitter rind; and the tart and then the sweet that follows. But I cheat and spit out the seeds.

“Do you like cumquats?” he asks me.

“Not exactly.”

I enjoy the experience of cumquats. I enjoy sharing with others something they’ve never tried. I love to see someone’s face the first time a thought strikes them. I like to be the one to deliver a new idea like showing him the Metamorphosis and how “we’re all bugs.” And I rewatch Baraka and remember all the things that move me. I sweat on the treadmill and remember who I am in the sloughing off of what’s toxic to me. I can taste what’s good in me when I let go of what’s bad. It’s not exactly that Baraka is good. It’s that it makes me feel, it makes me think.

Do I believe life has no meaning? Do I like cumquats?

Not exactly. Because it’s not that I like cumquats. They’re an experience though. There’s something about the burst of flavor, the way it pinches the side of your jaw and how minutes later, your saliva is still sweet, an after effect of something so sour.

Not exactly, It’s the kind of answer I give my boys. And then I let them taste the world in all its nuances. “Do I have to eat the whole thing?” Yes, you do. Taste it all. I let them bite into the rind and then they tell me they hate it. They fight to not taste. But I play them punk rock music and they feel too alive to say no. They eat and drink and listen to music and we talk about racism and art and symbols and they tell me they love it and talk so much my brain shuts off.

Do I like cumquats? Maybe I do. The experience of them, the life to them, the punch of laughter and sour and bitter and then the writer sits typing, tasting the sweet after-effects of her thoughts.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hot Water

Our hot water heater went out on Friday. This sucks, obviously. I'm not psyched about spending money on a hot water heater and installation. Unexpected expenses make me feel a level of out of control that always makes me cry. And I don't enjoy the extra time it takes to boil water so I can take a bath in one inch of water. Neither do I enjoy heating up water on the stove to wash dishes. But, as things that interrupt our routines tend to do, it causes me to think.

I ponder a full tub of hot water, a full sink, water as it had poured before over dishes to rinse them. How much water is it? How much water do we use? How much do we need? I mean, really need?

I think about this video I watched about people having water delivered by a bus driver who volunteers her extra time to bring the water. I think about the shortage, about the damage to water. I think about getting by with 7 gallons of cold water for a week. I think about the connection between women and water. We are the water bearers. I think about our society's treatment of women drought really any wonder?

I think about waste and water and how good it feels to be clean. How powerful and able I feel when I'm clean. How organized and calm my mind feels when the house is clean and organized. And how I don't work to make this happen, not really. I do the cleaning, sure. But I'm not the one out protecting our water.

I think how the timing of this is bad because I just left my job and so our family income is down. But then the timing is good because it's not winter when the water comes from the tap just barely above freezing. It's good timing because we'd just washed all the laundry. I'd just washed the floors. It's good timing because it's easy enough to walk to the rec center, swim and shower afterwards.

I think about the value of spending time boiling water and the considerations I gave to how full to fill the pot. I think how carefully I have to walk with a full pot of water in my hands, lest a drop sloshes out and burns my foot or worse, my kid's. But neither do I wish to waste the energy heating a half full pot. I fill it and take careful steps, tighten my core and take tiny penguin steps, making sure the kids are out of my path. I rinse dishes in one pot's worth, carefully planning which to rinse and wash first to keep the water cleanest the longest.

I consider whether this inconvenience need truly impact my happiness. What truly matters in making a happy life? What level of convenience do I need? It's nice to have big, clean spaces but is it what builds my life into a happy whole? I suspect not. I suspect what makes life grand is more than hot water that's boiled or not, more than clean floors. It must have something to do with wind in my hair and sun on my legs. Or time listening and touching. It must have to do with time spent on a rocker and friendship and conversation. It must have something to do with deliberation, even if it's over something like boiling water and taking penguin steps to the bath.

I feel calmer sometimes after doing these tasks, taking this time, thinking about small things and big things and how they are sometimes the same. I feel like it's valuable to think about the things we use daily. Our lives are a wonder compared to most other points in human history. Hot water can just pour and pour. Until it can't. I think.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Stop Licking That Author Reading in Denver on June 10!

Stop Licking That Author Reading in Denver on June 10!

Who: Parents, grandparents, readers, kids
There will be a separate simultaneous story time for kids so adults can enjoy the interactive reading
When: Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 10:30 AM.
What: Listen to excerpts from my new novel, Stop Licking that in a gorgeous, hip bookstore in Denver. I'll share tips like ways to use duct tape on your toddler's winter wear, and why to teach your kids to blow snot rockets. We'll play a game of telephone and maybe, just maybe, play SuperVALLEY Girl Says!
Signed copies available at the event.
  • 1 (303) 455-1527
  • 4353 Tennyson St.
    Denver, CO 80212

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Blue that shows through

You have to spray away the muck when you can. This morning I washed the car on my way into the office. I pulled under the white and blue painted concrete and lifted the nozzle to spray away all the grime of the past weeks. Mountain cars get a special level of dirty and return quickly to that state.
And yet.

As I sprayed away the grime, I saw the flaws it filled in for. The dirt was over the nicks and marks of rocks that have chipped away at the burgundy paint. A scrape here or there from where the kids dragged a stick along the side body, suddenly glares in the sun, freshly exposed. One of the fog light covers, a perfect sphere, without the mud, its cracks scatter the promise of clarity.

I rest the muscles of my hand for a moment, releasing the grip on the hose, considering whether I could repaint the car myself this summer. Nevermind the many more pressing chores on my list of things I won't get done, I wonder about this one. I could paint the car. A vision of papered over windows and carefully taped pieces flits and I imagine spraying paint, renewing the car's exterior. I imagine us as those people who can keep things nice. The ones who take on projects and keep their yards free of clutter, the ones who refinish furniture and keep annotated baby books. At times I regret how we can't be those people who meticulously care for things, keeping organized stacks and shelves, de-cluttered counters and clean shower stalls. We have a light bulb that's covered by a sarong for one of our light fixtures. We just aren't that.

I think of a woman who lived next door to us when I was a kid. She rented the house with her 3 kids who were often dirty. I don't remember her name. I don't know why I remember her wearing jean shorts. I remember her Gremlin changing colors though. One day it was blue and then she came outside in her jean-shorts and taped paper over the windshield and passenger windows, followed by the rear and driver's sides. She taped the wheels and then had a small handheld sprayer she used to paint the car white.

I think of white trash when I think of her, even though her kids were among my favorite in history to play with. We had a staple gun fight in the basement, followed by throwing matches we struck against the box at one another. Her daughter taught me about makeup and hairstyles and we watched MTV for hours. Her name was Cassandra and she knew dangerous things like how to throw a shawl of hair over your shoulder and disregard being called sharp words like "slut."

I watched their mom repaint that car and invented a boyfriend she was hiding out from. They'd run away from him and he'd never know it was them because she'd made the car white instead of blue. I always watched that car when she'd pull in at the end of the day and wondered if I really saw, or only remembered the blue showing through that white Gremlin's exterior.

I think of this as squeeze the handle and go back to spraying away the grime of our lives half-assedly. I won't paint the car. But maybe I'll get a new windshield. Maybe I'll look out through an unpitted, new windshield, and lie to myself about the cleanliness of our view.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Gomez's kidneys

When Gomez was 4 months old, he spiked a very fever in the middle of the night with no other cause. I called my mom to come over so we didn't have to wake Mars & take him to the ER with us. She came right over and off we went.

Gomez had no other symptoms. Just a high fever. So they sent us home and we followed up in the next day and week with trips to see his doctor and then specialists to find out what was going on.

It would turn out he had a kidney malformation of the ureters that caused a reflux that meant he would have chronic bladder and kidney infections. They put him on daily prophylactic antibiotics and waited to see if it would get better.

It didn't. So at 11 months, he had major kidney surgery.

Now I know many people who have kids with really serious illnesses and this is not that. All along we were fortunate and knew that this was a highly fixable and routine abnormality. I knew he'd be okay in time and with help.

Still, it's a lot to see your baby have his entire abdomen cut open. It's painful to watch your baby try to stand up and walk with 9 tubes coming out of him including an epidural. I'd never even had an epidural. It was terrifying to watch him not eat or drink because of the pain.

For the last 4 years, we've had ultrasounds for Gomez, first at four months to see how bad the reflux was, and again later at 10 months, then surgery, then more ultrasounds since to make sure the surgery was successful and to monitor the amount of scar tissue in his belly.

Every follow up ultrasound has come back with the doctor asking us to follow up in 6 months or a year. He's wanted to keep an eye on it. He's had concerns about the scar tissue.

This was the first one that Rob took Gomez in for. They got up and left the house at 7 this morning to take him to Denver to see how the scar tissue is doing, to be sure the ureters aren't leaking, to be sure he's okay. Meanwhile, Magnus and I had a special breakfast together at our favorite local spot. Then I dropped him at school, and went to work.

20 minutes ago, I got a text from Rob saying that Gomez is cleared. It's finally over. Gomez is fine.
I had no idea how much that little bit of worry existed. I didn't realize how much I worried that he could need to have additional surgery. I knew it was there but didn't think much of it, back there gnawing away at my stability until I read the text.

I literally can't stop crying from gratitude and relief. I think I might be worse at handling good news than bad news because I literally bawled at this news.

I wrote about his surgery in my book but the story wasn't really over until today. It's over. It's over. It's over.

What freakin' awesome news.

Amid my crying and celebrations, I received 2 additional texts from Rob.
#1 was a picture of the upcoming shows at a theater in Denver. We've been having an ongoing disagreement about whether you can refer to "Bone: Thugs in Harmony" as "Bone Thugs" which I argue is not okay and he says is. And they're coming to DENVER! So there was that picture.
#2 Gomez says his birthday is on the Fourth Bewakens.

So let's all celebrate by listening to bad 90s rap and eating cake. THE FOURTH BEWAKENS & I miss my uncle Charles, ya'll...

Monday, March 20, 2017

FREE Kindle copy Stop Licking That Today ONLY!

Stop Licking That is FREE today on Kindle. But it won't be for sale for long. I'm pulling it from the market after this week. Get it today while it's still available. (Also, Between Families is just $0.99.)
Here's the longer explanation. When I planned the release of this novel for spring, my schedule was set to be light. My plan was to promote this book during the spring and have it ready to rock as a great summer read.
Instead, my pay-the-bills full-time job has had me incredibly busy and I just can't promote this the way I'd like to. So that has meant treating this book as an afterthought and plopping some attention over to it now and again.
That's just not good enough. This book deserves my attention. It doesn't deserve to turn into a rotting fish tank which is sort of what it feels like could happen. See also the actual fish tank in my house which desperately needs a thorough clean.
In the interests of that, I'm going to pull it off the market temporarily until after graduation when I'll be able to devote more focused energies on writing & promoting. So, if you want the Kindle version, you can get it free today or for $2.99 the rest of this week. It'll go back up in summer when I can put it out on all platforms. The price will be higher. I'll send out another update when I'm up and running for summer. I will not pull the paperback. You can still buy that whenever you'd like.
Thanks for reading and understanding. I hope you get a copy while it's around and read and review it! And if you don't have time until summer, I certainly can't judge that! Because I don't either.
 And to thank you for reading this far, I'll tell you a funny story.
(Important info for this story: My husband's name is Rob. My dad is gay.)
SO last week I started having an autocorrect affair. It started with texting my mom. I texted her about Ron.
Her: Who's Ron?
Me: My LOVER!!!!
Her: Who's Ron?
Me: --...
Her: Who's Ron, your dad's boyfriend?
Me-OMG THAT"S SO FUNNY because that means my dad has stolen my autocorrect lover!
And then I picture an eye-rolling teenaged, snotty-cuss of a version of myself yelling "Jesus, Dad, I can't even have my own boyfriend!" *stomps down hall and slams door*
I did finally text her back to clarify who Ron is. No more mundane fake-lover that my dad is trying to steal.
Finally, my kids got 2 baby chicks to be kept at my mom's house. Their names? Sparkle & Fartrock. Happy Spring!
Peace y'all,

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In the wake of recent attacks on St. Louis Jews

My heart is with all the Jewish families in St. Louis. I used to live right by the cemetery that was attacked and ran past it 4-5 times/week. I made my route in such a way in order to pass it twice. Passing it always made me feel connected and I often stopped there to stretch. I didn't mean to trivialize a sacred place by stretching there but to be present with so many lives that had passed, thinking of what they'd done. I was keenly aware that many of those stones likely represented holocaust survivors. And some were older and there's something comforting about things that have been in one place for a long time.

Running for me is where I use my body to slow my mind and think more clearly. It was vital to my overcoming seizures in my early twenties when I lived in U City. Each day, I had a goal to run and I did and I felt control over my body and my mind, when I was struggling to have control over either. I was in college and needed to get through a lot of academic material. I used running to process and brainstorm. I gained writing habits and routines that I use to this day, running there. I'm heartbroken and this was my minimal connection to the 170 gravestones that were maliciously knocked over. I can only imagine the feelings of those with loved ones there. And this on the heels of bomb threats to the J the week before. It's just too much.

Our loved ones we've lain to rest are sacred in our minds. This broke into a mental space and a physical one. It cracked into something sacred and that's unacceptable.

I remember when a high school friend was the victim of anti-semitism early on in college. She had gone away to school to a rural section of the state, outside of what I then thought of as the safe-haven of St. Louis. I was completely floored and incredulous that someone would target someone for being Jewish. I knew so many Jewish kids. They were in my honors classes, arguing their points about literature. Jewish holidays at school meant classrooms were emptied. It was noteworthy and taught me a lot about considering other people. Even now if I try to tease out all the people I know who are Jewish, I can't because they are so many and so large in my life.

I remember going to a Jewish cemetery in Prague and sitting down with the prayers all around, the mossy headstones stacked nearly atop one another, weighty with WWII even 50 years later. I remember touring a concentration camp and how embarrassed I was at the emotions that flooded me and that it took everything I had at 20 to hold back my tears and horror. I hid my tears but I could not hold them in, even when I was younger and "tougher."

I remember walking through the Anne Frank house and wanting to sit on the floor alone for hours. I remember late night talks with another high school friend about her trip to Israel where she was selected to go as a religious community leader. I remember my high school boyfriend going to Israel to serve in the army. I remember so many connections to this community.

I'm so, so grateful to have grown up parallel to such a vibrant Jewish community. To the Jewish community, I hope you feel the support of all of us who sat next to you and took prom pictures with you. I'm incredibly sorry to hear that anti-semitism is alive and exists at this level of powerful.

I know you though. I grew up with you. Together we are more powerful than they are. My thoughts, heart, tears, and prayers are with you.