Monday, December 29, 2008

christmas cards from the heartland - part 1

Getting here was an odyssey. I had never considered that a nighttime drive from North Carolina to the prairies of northern Indiana would become an epic journey. But what I had been told was normally a fairly boring 9-1/2 hour drive on interstate became for our little family a harrowing adventure.

Long story short...we left at 6pm and had smooth sailing all the way to Lexington, KY at which point the finger of fate shifted to point squarely at our little orange pontiac. At around 11:30 pm we hit a literal wall of immobile traffic in a sea of darkness and hissing icy rain. For 2 hours we sat unmoving 10 miles back (according to a passing police officer) from a nasty accident and ice-covered road. The wreck, we are told, had been cleared an hour before, but still no one was moving save the lone smokers and strollers who floated like hazy apparitions among the acres of families sitting mournfully in their frozen vehicles waiting to resume their nocturnal holiday migrations.

Unfortunately, we left our radio and defroster on. Seemed logical at the time, but we regretted it when Scott tried to turn the car on during a premature forward leap of traffic and discovered nothing but a clicking starter. Birch became inconsolable. The baby began to fret in earnest. I pondered a night sleeping bunched together in the cold like a den of testy badgers. Thankfully, Scott jumped right out and started hailing nearby cars for jumper cables (ours were, of course, in the other car at home). On his 6th try he got some from a friendly fellow and after a bit of fiddling and annoyance, we got the car started and we crept ahead...about 10 yards!

Yeah, the traffic was still jammed.When things did start to move they did so with a lurch and we surged forward quickly much to our excitment. However, immediately things skidded to a cold-blooded crawl and we inched along for another hour or so as orange signs forced 3 packed lanes to economize to 2.

After we finally got rolling at a good speed, Scott made the executive decision (because the rest of us were in various states of coma) to take I-69 from Indiananapolis to avoid icy backroads. The unkindest cut of all came as we prepared to merge onto 69 -- the home stretch, so to speak -- and found in front of us a wall of barricades and police cars with flashing blue lights....(to be continued)

Saturday, December 13, 2008


This morning I needed my shower...I mean not in a "needed it because I was dirty and smelly" sense, but definitely in a "needed as the salvation of my earthly being" sense.

It was one of those nights with the baby.. She puked in the bed...twice. And when she pukes like this, it amuses me how some adults call it "spit up" when babies hurl the contents of their tiny stomachs out at us. "Spit up" sounds almost sounds small and manageable and like something you'd brush off your lapel with a breezy laugh while sipping your apple-tini and chatting with your fashionable mama friends. But this was most definitely puke. The bed was awash with it.

She clearly was not feeling well. Besides the double dragon puke-fest, she generally just stayed up all night fussing and nursing and making poo messes in her pants on on the bedsheets and on her pj' get the picture. So at this point, as I write this with zero z's behind me, I'm feeling pretty close to comatose and very near the end of my good humour. Wishing I'd written this first in Word and pasted it in here so I could avail myself of spell check...

So at 8:30 this morning when I finally gave up on getting any shut eye and stumbled to the shower I was in dire need of some hot water salvation. Unfortunately, at that very moment my beloved had emerged from downstairs where he had just put in a load of puke-saturated sheets to wash...on hot. Thus, due to the limitations of our hot water heater, my steaming dose of salvation was sadly downsized to a non-commital, luke-warm drizzle.

But, for some reason, instead of giving in to despair, I started thinking:

Showers are truly divine. How many of us really appreciate the gift of our morning hot shower? Think about it.

I remember during my years on the road in Latin America, Asia and parts of Europe, a shower of any kind was a blessing...even an ice cold one (which most of them were) was welcome if you were cruddy and worn with road-rot and Tiny Bus Seat Funk (if you've ever traveled via reanimated school bus in the third world, you know what I'm talking about). But a hot shower...oh, the bliss of a hot shower! I mean, most hot showers you'd get were perilous to say the least since the water heaters in places like Laos and Honduras tend to be roughly the size and appearance of a yard sale toaster and hang precariously close to the water flow attached to the shower head with weird wires and things sticking out...But still. You would just stand there, forgetting your fear of death by electrocution for a minute or two and soaking in the rain of was heaven.

And here in the U.S. today...I mean, hell yes, our economy has tanked, the government is rife with corruption, no one can afford to go to the doctor or buy a house, but damn it, most of us has access to a hot shower, at least every once in awhile.

When my son was a baby and colicky, the shower was my one moment in each long, lonely day of endless caregiving that was just for me. Even though his dad was usually gone and I would have to strap him crying in his baby seat on the bathroom floor just outside the shower, with the curtain drawn and the magnificent hot water tumbling down around me, I could snatch, even if just for a minute at a time, small islands of peace and serenity all for myself. In those days, I meditated in the shower. I even did a sort of modified yoga in the shower. It was MY time.

And so, even though this morning's shower didn't deliver everything I had hoped for, I am grateful. I am grateful that I have this magical, curtained box in my house for my own personal use. I am grateful for hot water heaters. I am grateful to have a daddy in the house to watch the baby while I let the falling water clean away the grit and misgivings of a sleepless night. Ahhhh....the beauty of it. :-)

Monday, December 8, 2008


Today is without a doubt One of Those Days.

Baby Boss and I are sick with a sniffly, sneezy, coughing, aching stuffy head, fever cold that has my emotional flag flapping listlessly at half-mast. Plus Baby Boss, probably due to her cold, but who knows why, is not night, that is. She is currently sleeping of course. Since it's noon and all. But from 8pm-around 6am, she's wide awake and fussy and wanting to be attached full-time to my poor nipples.

So today is not so wonderful. I'm actually sort of (my salt-of-the-earth, no-nonsense fundamentalist upbringing is fighting desperately to keep me from saying this) feeling sorry for myself.


You know, most moms have probably been to this place. It's called the Land of Needy Me. Today I suddenly feel most intensely all the choices I make that are strictly for the rest of the family: We go to Capture the Hoops games at the school on Sunday instead of the Buddha's Enlightenment celebration at the temple, I decide to catch up on all that laundry instead of going to yoga class, I make a special dessert for dinner and skip that walk I've been needing to take...those kind of choices. And I never even think twice about it...until today.

Here's a dream: To travel again. To hit the road with my backpack and my passport and head for somewhere high and lofty where I can hike for days, or else somewhere slow and tropical where I can sleep for a $1 a night in a handmade hammock in a hut on some quiet beach. I'd drink fruity drinks and fall into long, fascinating conversations over dinner with other travelers from places like South Africa or the Czech Republic. I'd spend a whole hour just sitting in one place doing nothing but staring at the sky. I'd lie in my hammock on a long afternoon and write haiku in my journal. I'd buy some local jewelry and find a good place to get a back massage.

I know as I write this, that my dream is as close as making some different choices...rearranging my life to make it happen. And honestly, I feel that slowly coming to pass. I can see the whole family sitting soemday soon on that quiet beach, playing in the sand and arguing over where to eat for dinner...or hiking the Annapurna...or sailing the Pacific.

But I am sad. And tired. And I miss myself. Where did I go? I am here...yes,totally and completely here in this beautiful life I've reinvented...immersed in my kids and my man and my home. But I must remind myself...I must allow feed ME a little of the good love from time to time. It's a mama's duty.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Having a baby is a good way to examine the question of sexual identity. Cultural conditioning, nurture or can explore all of this in depth beginning with the simple act of giving birth.

That's because all babies are born either a boy or girl. Except, of course, hermaphrodites. And those babies have a whole other set of things to deal with. comes a tangent: When I was preggo with Baby Boss, my son somewhere heard the word "hermaphrodite" and upon learning what it meant immediately decided that he hoped the baby would be one. I was like, huh? But he thought, of both worlds, right?

Yeah. Or the worst. Depends how you look at your glass of milk, I guess.

So anyway, when I was pregnant with my son I was in the bloom of my "let's change the world" feminism and was determined that The Boy would grow up with no pressure or conditioning that might lead him to adopt a "traditional boy" role. In other words, I didn't want him to grow up unconsciously believing that all boys wear blue, like dump trucks and play baseball or that all girls wear pink, make cookies and play with barbie.

So I told our friends and family to please, please, please try to buy us gender-neutral clothing and toys. I didn't want our baby color-coded. I didn't want our baby to grow up assuming he/she was supposed to play with whatever our culture said she/he should play with.

I eschewed the ultrasound sex prediction for many reasons (not the least of which was we used a lay midwife who didn't do ultrasounds), but one of the main ones was so that our relatives wouldn't all go out en masse to Target or Mall-Wart or the nearest mall and paint our world in pink or blue. It made them mad as hell. And frustrated. I mean, really, if you can't buy a baby pink or blue, what are you left with? Well, I'll tell you: Lots of beige and yellow, that's what. And we got a lot of that...OR people waited until the baby was born, THEN ran to Target and Mall-Wart and the nearest mall and went blue-crazy.

Funny thing is, despite my earnest intentions -- and I did stick to my guns (ha to speak) as much as possible with all that stuff -- my son started being interested in cars and tractors almost as soon as he could hold his little head up and look around. And although I never bought him -- or allowed into the house -- a single toy weapon, he picked up sticks or whatever was handy and began his own rudimentary war games utterly uncoached.

Humph. So much for that. True, he had a thrift store doll named "Blue" that he carried around in a sling, and he loved to play dress up with my old clubbing dresses and a toy tiara. But really, in so many ways, he was just your stereotypical down and dirty, dump truck lovin' American boy.

So now we have a girl and here we go again. I am loathe to let her grow up thinking she has to be thin and sweet and adorable to be happy and loved. So I want to shelter her from as much harmful pop culture influence as I can. And goddess help me, I want to keep her from drowning in pink.

It's truly amazing: She isn't even old enough to have a color preference, but thanks to a bunch of really sweet and very generous family members and friends and even acquaintances, this baby has so much pink stuff that it looks like a pepto-bismol bottle exploded in our house. And don't get me wrong, I am truly and deeply grateful for all the things people have given our Baby Boss. Lord knows we can't afford to buy all those clothes and things. But I am truly fascinated: Pink. Wow.

See, I never liked pink when I was a kid. I played barbie as much as the next little girl of the 70's, but when it came to clothes and room decor, I was more eclectic. I liked sporty-looking stuff, ironically, despite the fact that any respectable tomboy could have kicked my wimpy little bookworm butt. I do remember when I was very, very small wishing I could have a big, poofy ball gown like Cinderella's. And once "Little House on the Prairie" hit the small screen, I was wild about long dresses. But mostly I was into t-shirts and blue jeans. And my favorite color from my earliest memories was always, get this -- blue!

So it is fascinating and bit overwhelming the amount of pink that has entered my life. And I have to admit, a lot of this stuff is just so freakin' adorable. Really. Pink roses, pink ponies, pink teddy bears, you name it.

But as Scott said the other day, Baby Boss seems like such a take-charge, no-shit little person. She seems sort of serious, despite her big toothless smiles and giggles. She runs a tight ship around here. It almost seems like we're mocking her sometimes when we dress her up in her pink onesie, pink diaper cover, pink leggings, pink fluffy jacket and pink lacy socks with (oddest of all for a baby still months from walking) pink mary jane shoes. I mean, good grief, the kid has absolutely no say in this stuff -- she's totally at our fashion mercy.

Ah, well. Soon enough she'll be old enough to choose for herself. And just watch. She'll probably want to wear...PINK!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This will be short...I started to write something about a dream I had last night, but when I read it it just sounded ridiculous, so I resorted to a mere account of what I am doing right now...right at this moment, which is this:

I am sitting at my computer, it is 8pm on the night of the final presidential debates (I should turn them on!), Scott and the Boy have taken Baby Boss to wally-world for a few minutes to give me a tiny island of time in this day all for myself -- well, almost. I had to do the dishes before I sat down here..better to do them now than have to do them later when the baby is driving me nuts, right? Anyway, this is it. This is my time. It's one is asking me one needs one is trying to tell me something...this is all for me.

(((smile))) I really don't quite know what to do...

I think maybe I'll just....SIT. And. Do.

Nothing. :-)

Friday, October 10, 2008

may the forest be with you

Just back from a trip to Florida to visit the family. Remind me never to do that again...that is take a 12-hour car ride with a 3 month old baby. Sheesh! V's a good-natured baby, but anyone would scream uncontrollably about being strapped tightly into a plastic seat facing backwards in a hurtling metal box for hours on end. And then there was the much freakin' rain. It rained the whole time we were in Florida (remind me to post about our Exciting Trip to the Beach where we stood under a picnic shelter for 2 hours and froze to death with an obnoxious group of drunken teenagers before we finally gave up and drove home). Then it rained the whole trip back. Hard. And the car leaked. And the floors were flooded with stinky water which kept getting all over our stuff and splashing in our shoes...okay, okay...I'll quit whining.

But it was great to see the family again, even though they were passing around a nasty head cold. Also, on the trip back we stopped at one of my favorite places in the entire universe -- the Hostel in the Forest. Hidden away in the pines and palmettos in an unlikely place just off of I-95, the hostel is and has been for many years my occasional salvation. As you drive down the long, ragged dirt driveway into the heart of the land you find yourself leaving behind you a trail of all the stress and aggravating shit that the modern world heaps on us every day. What you find at the end of that road is peace...well, peace and a bunch of wild, barefoot hippies cooking up "love bread" in the communal kitchen and using composting toilets and such.

At the hostel, you get to sleep in your own treehouse, which is incredibly cool. Many of the treehouses are totally without electricity, so at night they glow with candlelight. Some are very secluded and some are located close to the main dome structure that houses the office, kitchen and dining area. There's a pond for swimming and canoeing, a natural spring-fed swimming pool, a meditation and yoga building, outdoor showers and lots more and all of it is connected by catwalks. It's just so dang awesome!

So anyways, we're back now. Back to real life. Bah humbug. Oh, well...the good news is....

WE GOT MORE MUSHROOMS! Scott found a bunch of these little white puffball guys that we love that taste like scallops. Generally, puffballs are not something we mess with because some of them are very poisonous, but we know this one quite well and it's yummy, so we're always glad to find it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

shrooms: the ultimate groundscore

I love fall. I love all the usual stuff like the changing leaves and cool weather, but it also brings out all kinds of mushrooms...some of which are good to eat!

For the past few years, I've had a good time looking for edible shrooms on my hikes. It's a bit of a scary venture, of course. You have to be sure that you get the right ones or you could end up one of those "idiot stories" on the 6 o'clock know, the stories where people sit back in their recliners and say "what an idiot" when they hear how some hippie died in intestinal agony in the emergency room from eating a curry made with some pretty little mushrooms they found on the trail. I try really hard not to become one of the "idiot stories." We make really good friends with certain mushrooms we know are edible and we stick with them. If we find new ones, we proceed with extreme caution.

Anyway, this time of year, there are lots and lots of shrooms out there. Some are definitely just for looking at, some bear further investigation, and some -- like that nice, fat shelf of Chicken of the Wood we recently found (check out the photo above) -- are most definitely for eating.

We are always looking for oyster mushrooms other good-to-eat varieties, but Chicken of the Wood is the cat-daddy eatin' shroom. It's huge, it's in your face, it's cool-looking and when you cook it up in some olive oil, garlic and white wine it tastes just like very delicate chicken breast. Or at least I'm pretty sure it does -- I've not eaten meat in so long that I'm really pretty much guessing about that. At any rate, it's amazing.

And it's free. It's the ultimate groundscore, in my opinion.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Big Night Out

Last night was a zany departure from the norm for me...I went out for drinks with friends. Woo HOO! Yeah...not that long ago, hanging out at the Westville Pub was all in the course of a day for me, but now it is a rare treat. Scott and Brett and Scott's sis hung out with the Baby Boss for a couple of hours so I could hit the town with my girlfriends.

I had started with pretty ambitious plans: Pump lots of milk to keep Baby Boss satisfied for up to 4 hours or more so we could meet up, have drinks and go see a band somewhere.

Well, for those of you in the non-lactating set, pumping You have to sit there for ages with this stupid machine attached to your boob. The machine makes a really monotonous whining noise. The pump makes a really monotonous sucking action on your boob. The baby senses competition and becomes restless...everyone else goes on with their day...the clock ticks endlessly on...and there you sit. I hate it.

But with a night out at stake, I managed to pump a few ounces...enough, I figured, to keep the bottomless pit satisfied for at least a couple of hours.

So me and the girls (and Nelson) ended up out at Westville Pub, which was really pretty awesome. I didn't realize how much I needed to get out and feel like an independent being for a little while. A couple pints of Wedge and a trout quesadilla thrown in didn't hurt.

Weird thing, 9pm we were all getting tired. 9pm. How scary is that? Most bands don't even play 'til after 9. So anyways, Leanne goes for a smoke break and I take the opportunity to call home to check in...and guess what? Baby boss is screaming her fool head off. I mean, that's all I hear when the phone picks up...end-of-the-bloody-world baby shrieks.

She missed the boobs.

So off I go. My wild night on the town over at 9pm. It was okay, though. A couple of hours to sit around and talk trash with my girls and not have to focus on a baby were enough to give me a solid mental boost.

Now I can make it 'til the next mama's night say, 2 or 3 years? Ha! Let's hope not.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What it's like to be 40

Yeah, well, I guess it's about the same as being 39...only you get slightly more interest in your birthday because you are now officially Over the Hill.

So my birthday was sort of odd. I was in a really bad mood -- as in grouchy and ill-tempered in an almost pre-menstrual way from lack of sleep. This was due to the baby deciding the night before to have a big fuss party from 2am on. Not a nice birthday present for mommy, baby. Not nice at all. :-(

Then we had to get gas. Filling up the car used to be a sort of afterthought to all your other daily activities, but these days due to the incomprehensible gas crisis it is like foraging for food in the Ice Age. It takes precedence over every other thing. You are always scanning the internet, networking with people and keeping an eagle-eye out for available gas. Scott took the day off work because he had a meeting about refinancing the house and because he wanted to take me out to lunch and stuff. But our tanks were near empty so he spent the whole morning driving all over Asheville trying to find a station that had some. Luckily, he spotted a gas truck pulling into a station near our house during one of his searches and followed it in, making himself first in line. He then called me and I had to pull the baby (and myself) away from a potentially wonderful nap to go get in the monumental line for the pumps.

Because Scott is awesome and I am loved, I did get to go out to lunch at Salsa's and pick out a box of assorted truffles at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, but the baby fussed all through lunch so I ate by myself while Scott walked her around the restaurant. Phooey. Foiled again by that deceptively adorable baby!

Then we just had a quiet evening -- take out (so I didn't have to cook) and ice cream cake and watching "Harold and Maude" for the first time since college.

It was a really enjoyable birthday other than my own sleep-deprived grumpiness and generalized self-pity. But what got me to thinking it a bit odd was this: Earlier in the day my X called to wish me happy birthday and acted suprised that I wasn't having a party. Hmm...a party. What a novel thought! It actually never even occurred to me, but I guess it would have been a fun thing to do.

But let's face it -- I'm 40. A nap seems more appealing than a round of tequila shots most of the time. Much of that has to do with the fact that I'm keeping up with a new baby and have to get up every morning in drill sargent mode to force a third grader to get ready for school. But maybe I've mellowed just a wee bit...


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Super Deluxe Birthday Premiere!

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday. 40. Forty. Wow. When I write it, it seems so old. I mean, when you're 8 or 9 and imagining your fabulous future with a celebrity spouse, a successful career in international espionage and jet-pack safari vacations to Africa, you never picture yourself being 40. I think 30 was about the outer-limits of my imagination when it came to picturing myself as an Older Person.

I don't really feel 40, though. I guess physically I'm feeling a bit older -- lower back pain, a bit of extra weight around the hips, aching shoulders from carrying my behemoth baby daughter, those odd wiry alien hairs that sprout overnight from my chin and a recent disturbing habit of falling asleep sitting up on the couch like my mother does.

I realize this is very cliche, but in my heart I am still 20. I am still hot. I am still edgy and wild and cool as hell. Too bad your heart is just that....your heart, and not the thing that everyone sees when they look at you.

Oh, well. It's okay. The media says 40 is the new 20 or something like that, right? And anyways, I have so much amazing stuff going on right now: New man, new baby, new house in a very happening town, a totally bizarro 8-year-old son that constantly amazes me, a bunch of oddball animals that keep me's all good. Even the bad stuff. It's good.

So I decided to kick off this blog while I'm still officially a 30-something to get this new decade off to a creative start and to celebrate mi vida loca in all its ragged glory. Welcome to my world!