Friday, May 22, 2009

Rough Drafts

Pages and pages of colorful construction paper covered my small square desk. My hands worked the scissors through the paper as I contemplated my cover art.

"Can I use your stapler?" I had asked my teacher.



My requests were met with her sweet tea-stained smile and a nod.

She got me. At one time, she probably was me.

While all the other children sat hunched-back at their desks, composing their stories, I was done.

I had crafted what I knew to be a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of epic proportions--which was why I was getting a jump start and working on my cover art.

And no, cover art design was not part of the assignment. But, I was clearly an overachiever. The words had been effortless. I didn't speak much in class, but my words always found a home on the page. I felt the hot glare of students as I bounded around the room looking for art supplies.

It felt good.

Numbers may have abandoned me (as made evident by my pencil jabs and scribblings on math worksheets), but words were forever my friends.

Several nights ago I sat in the big "leather" chair opposite the computer screen. I stared at it, pleading for inspiration. My hands reached for the keys and pulled back.


Well, someone needs to clean that up!

So I did. For nearly an hour I cleaned my keyboard and computer desk, reorganized my bookshelf and vacuumed the office.

I sat down once again. The screen saver was mesmerizing.

I got nothing, I muttered to myself. But, I forced myself to put something down. Anything. Three words. And a title. DRAFT.

And off to bed I went.

Where are my words? Where did they go?

Though at times I fancy myself a writer (or writer wannabe), I don't own that title. But, I do still own my desire to capture my life in words. Yet, they escape me over and over. The few that remain end up in the darkness of a draft, waiting to be plucked from a sad oblivion where they can become another bone in the body of a story.

Poor words. They float with purpose in my head, yet as they ready themselves to pour out onto the page, they become lost, directionless and seemingly resentful.

I watch as JR moves across the floor with excitable precision. His eyes dart from me to his father. I can tell he is yanking and pulling at an idea in his head. His growing curiosity. His uncanny problem-solving (diaper=sling--I kid, but you know it'll happen). His ever-increasing power over his weary parents. I want to write about it.

She never stops moving. Unlike her brother, who barely lifted a foot while safely ensconced in my belly, she uses my insides to conduct what I can only assume is fetal aerobics or maybe kickboxing. The other night I sang to her. Her movements slowed. Either she had locked her hands over her ears or she was lulled by my voice. I choose to believe the latter. Either way, I wanted to write about it.

The final day of my mom's group commenced with a large group of hormonal SAH mommies congregating in a church hall. Food, red carpet, an awards show. And tears. So many tears I had to stifle a laugh from the overwhelming sound of sobs and snotty sniffles. I bit the insides of my mouth, desperate to belong. No tears. Nothing. I thought of lost kittens and the ending of La Bamba. Nothing. So desperate was I not to let the growing giggle escape, that in the end I grabbed a tissue and dramatically blotted my tearless face. I wanted so much to write about that.

Every writer I know has trouble writing. Yeah, Mr. Heller, that doesn't help me.

Early on I used to just write. I didn't care about how the word looked on the page. It didn't have to wear Versace, drive a BMW or even have a very big bank account. It just had to say something. I vomited, cried, spit and pooped on pages all the time--heart, soul, guts--mashed on the page. Bodily fluids produced where my brain could not.

And that was OK.

Over time I found a way to let my brain in on the party. It was a good thing. Instead of a bunch of crazy kids running the show with their cliched adjectives, broken beer bottles, twisted phrasing and the drunk kid no one knows, there was some order, some logic, creativity with a purpose.

In the last few years, hitting hard the last few months, my brain has kicked out the kids all together (only inviting them back when it needs a beer and a laugh).

In other words. I think too much.

Way too much.

What will JR thinks when he reads this? What if my mom finally figures out the ON button and stumbles upon my blog? What if I reread this later and realize that I'm completely dillusional about my mothering, writing, humanity? What if . . .

So, I wait until I am near exhaustion to write--usually around the 2 AM hour. My brain is tired and weak. The party kids enter the house--unafraid, unencumbered, ready to dance.

And that's when I let go.

I think too much. And while I do the stories become smaller and smaller. The ideas that once blossomed into something to behold disappear as if never there. The moments that cling, waiting for a chance to spread wings, fly and dive onto the page, fall, slowly, peacefully, with not a word of farewell.

Sad. But so true.

I should write about this.

And this is how a DRAFT found the light and warmth of the page . . .

I demanded that my brain finally share the stage and a thousand and one stories, ideas and moments stumbled in. Ready. Willing. Letting go.

Amazing how words can breathe when you let them--how when you just accept them for what they are that they can do just about anything.

Are they always pretty? No. Are they always perfect? No way. Will they always be a contender for a Pulizter? Only in the mind of a deliusional grade schooler. Will they always be true? When you let them . . . yes.

And that's what matters most.

And if by chance my mom finds the ON button and crashes the party . . . HI! Oh, and don't bother with the archives. That's just old stuff you don't ever need to read. I swear.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

He's Got Skills

Oh, does he . . .

JR, my ever-adventurous toddler, is now 21 months old. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that. I mean the concept nearly escapes me as much as my ever-increasing waistline escapes all comprehension (please, not one comment on the shakes/Slurpees/kid cereals).

Yesterday we picked up a brilliant "toy" that is sure to provide extensive opportunities for JR's educational enrichment (AKA, give mommy a chance to spend some quality time in the bathroom alone . . . ).

Last night, we (as in DADDY) put it together . . . a SAND AND WATER CART (NO, this is not a review for Step 2 . . . I'm not so sure they'd be all over this idea)!

Of course, I couldn't wait to use it. We have the sand. We have the water. However, I wanted to use it RIGHT NOW--at 8 PM at night.

We used rice (this brilliant idea, as was the idea to purchase said table, was my friend AG's--brilliant, I tell you!). JR thanks you, AG . . .

We commenced with the rice. Spoons, measuring cups, bowls . . . you name it. He ignored every single thing. Instead, he plowed into the rice with both hands and showed us his skills.

Throwing (as far and high as he could--relishing in the feel of the rice as it fell on his head).
Pouring (it all over the TEXTURED BERBER--don't be jealous of my brilliance in choosing suitable locations for the rice-capades, please).
Spin-tossing (need I even explain?)
Stuffing (in places we can't even begin to explain or describe--you'll thank me later).
Flinging (he actually discovered this one just a few minutes ago--can you say RICE CATAPULT?).
Swishing/sweeping (with his hands, arms, other body parts . . . oh, that poor rice, those poor body parts).

It took me over an hour to clean it up.

And, I'm going to admit . . . it was all worth it. Even though I will find rice grains around the house until he turns 18, totally worth it. Even though I had to stifle my urge to race for the vacuum, totally worth it. Even though I dreamed of being attacked by creeping, crawling rice grains last night, totally worth it.

So worth it that I did it again this morning. I even opened a new bag of rice (please no comments on the wasting of rice--I swear I will donate a bag or ten to the food bank with every single one I use . . . oh, and here, you can too!).

Rather than explain our rice-ventures, why not show you?

*I apologize if you need to tilt you head dramatically to the side when watching or if you get dizzy while trying to follow my exceptional filming abilities. I totally missed the whole film making class in toddler school.

You know, something most definitely happens when you have a toddler running around. You don't go running for the paper towels or the broom as much as you go running for the camera. And, you don't shake your head in annoyance over a mess as much as you smile and nod in pride, feeling the swell of ridiculous, overpowering love and cuteness. You turn into one big messy emotional mush.

But I'll be darned if it isn't worth it. Every single grain . . .

Yes, we enjoyed the rice-capades quite a bit . . .

now where's my vacuum

Friday, May 8, 2009

And Then She Left

My back rested against cool porcelain as my eyes shifted from her blush-covered cheeks to the quick flick of the wand in her hand. She leaned into the mirror, tilted her head and pursed her lips seeing the beckoning teen vixen of not so many years ago.

I envied her. Her easy beauty contrasted the awkward angles of my face, the thickness of my limbs. The golden locks of hair that curled around her ears and traveled down her back were unlike the dark and heavy stands that hung like a Gothic drape over my eyes. My gap-toothed smile was nothing like hers. She could freeze a man in place with her seductive curling lip. Broken as she was, her beauty gave her refuge. Her beauty, warm and welcoming to him, left us cold. Empty. Lost.

As a little girl I would sit on the fuzzy-covered toilet seat and watch her spread colors on her cheeks, her lips, her eyes. I would mimic the faces she made in the mirror, wishing that one day our reflections would match. She would glance at me, arching a brow while pulling heated rollers from her hair. Was she wishing the same?

"I'm leaving." Her words banged in my ears. I should try to understand. I'm not a child anymore. I should be supportive. I should . . . I should . . .

But instead I was the awkward little girl made of sharp edges clashing with soft parts, wishing for a spread of pink across my cheeks, the turn of a wand before my eyes, the easy beauty that made life seem so . . . perfect.

But perfect never was. Looking in the mirror the reflection stares back. Broken.

And then she left.

My mother left.

*I had to leave this post as it was in the early morning hours when I spit it upon the page. I couldn't believe I posted a stinging memory such as this so close to Mother's Day--a day of celebration. But earlier in the week I was left standing, shuffling through cards with tin foiled and glittered exclamations of a mother's greatness and it left me with a furrowed brow and a heavy gut.
Here's the rest of the story . . .

Her mother left her in the scattered dust of four spinning old whitewall tires. Her mother left her staring into a future that held no sweetly sung lullabies, no tea parties with flowered pots and pretend guests. Her mother left the tiny girl with soft curls and barefoot feet with promises that she never intended to fulfill.

Tiny, broken and lost she clung to scattered memories of the woman who birthed her, the woman who said she loved her, the woman who found something better. She clung to the empty words that her mother, clutching a beaten suitcase in one hand and keys in the other, whispered in her ear. The little girl knew no truth existed there. She knew this woman would never draw her into her arms, bury her face into the sweaty curls that wrapped around her neck and tell her she would never leave her.

My mother, so little, so lost, yet so full of hope, watched as her own mother stumbled into an old Chevy, slammed the door behind her and pulled away.

The once abandoned little girl was now a woman with children of her own. And there I was, her nearly grown daughter who watched her as she covered imperfections and made silent promises to the reflection in the mirror. My mother would find her happiness. She would not be lost anymore.

Even if meant she had to let us go.

And she did. For a time. We were never the same, the young woman tripping into adulthood, the barely teenage boy full of angst, the little girl with scribbled dreams, the baby with a lifetime ahead of her. We were never the same when she kissed us with rose-stained lips, the heady scent of her perfume trailing behind her.

She's not really leaving, is she? My little sister's eyes questioned me as the tears began to form, blurring the blue of her eyes.

"Yes. She is." I said loudly, with no words. I knew she had to go. I knew she felt she had to go. And I knew that one day she'd realize what she left behind.

Broken as she was, as she is . . . the love I have for her finds a way to fill the gaps.

I often think of her, that little girl left alone in a trail of dust, her hands reaching to her eyes to push aside the dirty tears she didn't understand. I want so much to hold her . . . tell her that one day she'll have all the love she'll ever need.

Tiny. Broken. Mine. Mama.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WW: I Love Him . . .

Photo: Courtesy of sweet AG's mommy . . .

Do I need to say more?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Surviving Inadequacies

She threw her hair over her shoulder, gave me a shrug and mouthed "It is so hot," while dramatically fanning herself and rushing back into the kitchen to fetch more pancakes. She never came to say hello. She didn't bother. Why should she with so many more important things to do?

There I sat, in a tiny booth meant for two. Me, my growing belly, my husband and JR. Well, in truth JR was off running up and down the aisle ways with the love of his life. My eyes narrowed as she returned from the kitchen, balancing plates and engaging in an easy banter with patrons. "You're growing a life," I repeated to myself. "You're raising your son," echoed in my head.

She's a teacher. The head of the English department of which I was once an integral member. She has given up her Saturday to volunteer her rather limited time to run tables for a pancake breakfast fundraiser. The restaurant was filled with teachers I once joked and laughed with while mingling in the mail room. There were students I once sat with, hovering over essays and open literature books discussing themes, plots and characterization.

But now, there I was, eating one pancake after another while my eyes darted from table to table, reliving the time when I was someone everyone knew. When I had my own voice mail box. When I had a creamy colored notepad with a name, mine, and title embossed on the bottom. When I had a room to call my own (granted there were no windows and it had a serious pest problem--it was still mine).

I have been a stay-at-home-mom (I don't even like the way it sounds. The tiny needling meanings that slink around the letters do nothing but make my lip curl) for well over a year . . . going on two.

Is my story done? I am often wondering if this is my final chapter.

I have no regrets . . . do I? Never, ever do I regret that tiny voice that calls for me late in the night, only to soften to a moan the moment my hand begins to rub the gentle curve of his back. Never do I regret the slow swell and swoop of my belly as I contemplate fabric choices for a room yet unfinished. No. No regrets there . . . none, whatsoever.

Yet, there is a part of me--she sits, small and wishing, hoping for more. Scrape-kneed, fingering the fraying hem on her shorts and smoothing the stained fabric on her daisy-embellished shirt.

She always wanted more, but never thought she should. So she hoped instead.

Maybe some days I have regrets for her. For all she wanted to do, for all she never did. For stories left unwritten. She was not the smartest. She was not . . . no, there is no SHE.

We're talking about me.

I do sometimes wonder about what I haven't done. What I didn't finish. Where I didn't go. I wear my inadequacies like a wool coat, weighed down with the heavy snow of winter. I shrug it off from time to time, especially when the sound of JRs giggles fill a room or when I fold the knitted purple sweater for a baby girl yet-to-be.

I am reminded of what I have done. Where I have gone. What will never be finished . . . but in a good way. In a you will always matter and what you do will always make a difference way.

This is not as easy as the words beg it to be. I wish it were . . . I wish these feelings of inadequacy could easily be washed away with giggles, knitted sweaters, photos drenched in sepia, artwork hanging on doors, tiny booties tossing in a dryer, the scatter of letters on the front of the fridge.

But it isn't.

I am left to think about all those filled notebooks of "Where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years." I think about the poetry filled with schoolgirl dreams . . . rock star? Artist? Writer? Doctor? The faded To Do lists I recovered from a journal I don't even remember keeping--yet, there was a day when the entries, the poetry, the lists just stopped. Did the story end? My story . . . our stories?

These stories of mothers, of women, there they are. Like hallowed bones they lay, splayed open like empty pages, waiting for the guts to fill them up, the skin to pull them together. Those inadequacies, those fears that gray the white, they can be more. I tell myself that they can, that they will. I don't have a choice but to believe it. To hope for it.

While part of me will always be surviving these inadequacies--the other part of me, lets it all go, knowing that my story is not yet finished. And that his tiny voice, her tiny wiggles are mere reminders of the pages I have yet to fill.

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