Where to Begin?

There’s so much of the past three years I want to write and I plan to write it all but where to begin?

It started with losing Tammy–a person who helped me become the woman I am, who always saw the best in me and let me know it. She was much too young, it was so unexpected, and before I could catch my breath, I was faced with the decision to put down my dog, Why?lee. Why?lee was seventeen at the time and we’d spent fifteen of those years together. It was brutal, but at his age, I knew it was coming. Three months later, my horse Tristan had to be put down suddenly. He was twenty eight and we’d spent eighteen of those years together. Despite his age, I was unprepared and completely wrecked.

Two months after that, I had a miscarriage, and in another two months I was pregnant with twins, our cars broke down at the same time, my pregnancy was a nightmare of violent illness every single day for seven months. I got so dehydrated from vomiting, I had to go to the ER for an IV.

Then we lost Kerry–one of the best humans I’ll ever meet. I wasn’t actually related to him, but he was soul-family to me and he will always be one of my highest role models. And then we lost Brent, a good man and a good friend, for devastating and unfathomable reasons I still can’t wrap my heart around.

The past three years I’ve felt like I’m always just one half-step away from a complete breakdown. It’s too much. Too much loss, too much sadness, too much worry. I am unimaginably grateful for my friends and my family, my amazing neighbors who just keep showing up even though I struggle to reciprocate, for this beautiful place where I get to watch my three, precious babies experience so much joy and wonder. Because it’s been some of the hardest living I’ve ever had to do.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that I was not, in fact, a half step away from a complete breakdown. I fell right over that edge and did have a breakdown. A breakdown doesn’t necessarily mean a complete inability to function. For me it looked like a lot of cancelled plans, a lot of not responding, not sleeping, not brushing my teeth, not taking enough showers. I stopped trying to process my grief. I stopped making plans and trying to connect. I stopped reading. I stopped riding. I stopped everything. I’d forget my thyroid medication, forget to eat, forget to respond to texts. My whole life became one minute to the next, one foot in front of the other, one absolutely necessary task at a time.

And now I’m here, having drifted so far only to come right back to the same realization that I had in the midst of my cancer treatment–this is my life and time presses on whether I’m truly living it or not. I have lost so many but there are so many who are still here. I am still here. And for what? . . . if all I do with my time is shuffle one minute to the next? I need to write out this dark chapter so I can finally close it.

So I’m straightening my shoulders and picking up the reins (and my pen ; ), even though I haven’t quite decided where I’m going yet. I know I’m ready to leave here. I’ve turned a corner and whatever comes next, I’m meeting it head on . . . in clean clothes . . . with my teeth brushed . . . and my lipstick on.

It’s Time, I Suppose

It’s time, I suppose, that I really looked at myself–my eyes, my body, my life.
“How have you been?” I might ask
but probably I won’t
because the answer is “I’ve been with the children.”
I already know.
Instead, perhaps, I could say
“What color of lipstick would you like to wear?” or
“Those shirts are so old and worn, let’s find something new.”

It’s time, I suppose, that I pulled out my notebooks
my scribbles, my art
and pored over them again
to remember where I was
when I quit writing.
My fingers have been drumming
on the dining room table
writing out a grocery list that goes
Broccoli
Avocados
Milk
the milk spilled
we must have more
Cream
my coffee needs
I need
a break from boring lists
to write about how I love
living near the wild things
where tall trees bang into each other
when the wind whips up
and dark clouds rush overhead
heavy with hail and snow and
it’s so cold
I can focus on one thing at a time
Butter
Flour
Eggs
Sigh.

It is time, I suppose
because I’m restless
and the children are napping
and I can’t remember who I was
I can’t remember what I was doing
what was important
before they came.
Not that I plan to try and go back
I don’t so much want to go back
as to figure out where to start
becoming who I am now.

It’s time, I suppose
after I finish this list
after I put together something for dinner
something with the jalapenos
which are about to go bad
a few diaper changes
some fresh pajamas
it’s almost time
bedtime is soon
I’ll tuck them in
and kiss their sweet heads
read a few stories
then it will be dark
and quiet
then I’ll start
maybe pour a glass of wine
then I’ll decide
where to begin
becoming who I am now.

Here I Am

On the phone with my Uncle Bubba last week, he asked if I was still writing my blog.  I explained that with the twins, the toddler, the new puppy, etc, etc, I wasn’t giving up my blog, but I just hadn’t had the time.  I assured him I was still thinking of posts and jotting down tidbits here and there when I could.  I expected him to say ok, makes sense, keep it up, blah blah . . . but nope.  He didn’t let me off the hook at all. Instead, he spent a couple of minutes reminding me why it is I write this blog and pushed me to keep going.

So, here I am.

Last week, I blew my nose into a diaper because we were late for swim classes for the kids and I was getting over a cold and thought we had napkins in the glove-box and we didn’t.

My toddler threw up with almost no warning in our bed at six this morning, but don’t worry, my ninja mom reflexes kicked in and I was able to catch ALL of it with my hands.

I’ve got her tucked into the couch watching PJ Masks and eating plain grits, one of my baby boys is sleeping upstairs, and I’m literally nursing the other as I type this with one hand.

I haven’t had a shower in three days, but I’m crossing my fingers that tonight is the night!

I’ve re-washed the same load of laundry three times over the past three days because I keep swearing I’ll get it into the dryer but I haven’t folded the towels in the dryer yet, and every time I remember to move them, the wash already has that mildewy smell from sitting wet too long.

Update: she missed me so she grabbed all of her play dough stuff, climbed into the chair next to mine, and is telling me all about the pista (pizza) she’s making while I try to wrap up this post.

And my Uncle Bubba is right, this is exactly where I need to be and all of the above is exactly what I need to be writing about.  A huge portion of my life right now is motherhood, cleaning the same things over and over like I’m living in the movie Groundhog’s Day, always being behind on everything, and trying to remember where I’m supposed to be before it’s too late to get there for whatever we’re supposed to be doing.

But there are other things, little moments in between the big ones where I remember myself outside of the roles that are currently dominating my life.  I am an adventurer, I love horses, and I love dogs. I am a reader, a knitter, a friend, a businesswoman, a problem-solver, an inventor when I need to be, and I am a writer . . .

So here I am.     (Thank you for the push, Uncle Bubba. :)
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Spring 2017: The Flurry

Spring came late that year.  It was still bitter cold and snowing in late March.  The family had been making regular visits after that first and every time she heard them coming up the walk, she hoped that maybe, just maybe, that day would be the day they stayed.  In the meantime, she treasured each moment they spent with her, mostly sitting in the kitchen together, talking quietly, and dreaming their dreams.

She began to file away the feeling and sounds of their lives–the slight weight of the baby (it was a girl!) when they laid her in her little bed to nap, the old dogs turning their circles to lay down after running around outside awhile, the woman’s soft voice murmuring about ocean colors, and the firm step of the man checking this or that.  She didn’t want to waste any opportunity to know them better, if they were going to be hers, and it would seem that they were . . . (She was still sometimes struck with terrible bouts of anxiety that they would not come back and she would be alone again, uncertain of her fate.).

One night, shortly after they arrived for an early evening visit, she felt a slight tug and heard a pinging sound.  It was coming from the window over the kitchen sink . . . with no further warning, she felt the last of the day’s sunlight flood in, pure and bright, pouring onto her counter tops, her walls, and her floor!  Oh, to be touched by the sun again!  It had been years since the plastic was stapled there, to keep the heat in through cold winters and to keep the heat out through hot summers.  She appreciated it, since there was no one inside to look after her, it offered some protection from the elements and changing seasons, but it was also terribly suffocating.

She had heard the phrase, the eyes are the windows to the soul many times in her life and had decided, in turn that her windows were the “eyes” to her soul.  A house could not see, of course that would be silly, but through her windows, she could feel the sunlight warming her everywhere it fell, no matter how cold it was outside; when they were opened she could feel fresh breezes and hear the birds and the people outside; and with the plastic gone, her body was filled with light–just as it was meant to be.

Windows were also a point of pride.  At her birth, she’d had only three, but after a few updates and additions somewhere in her first hundred or so years she was blessed with forty two!  And every last one of them had the shade pulled down and thick plastic stapled over it.  Well, every one but the one over the kitchen sink, that is . . . if she could have sighed, she would have, it felt so lovely.

That was how it began–The Flurry, as she would later think of it.  They peeled the plastic off that one window and watched the sun set, then began bringing in bags and setting them in the pantry.  They pulled up the old carpet in the living room, they scrubbed the sinks, counter tops, and the cupboards, and when they left late that night, she gleefully noted that they did not take any of the bags with them.

Over the following days, more and more boxes would come, they brought friends and proudly showed her off, they vacuumed and they bleached, they drug out the old kitchen shelves that the mice had ruined, and the man came one night by himself and stayed very late painting the living room floor.   The day after the floor-painting, they didn’t come in the morning or in the afternoon and as the day wore on, she found herself afraid again, even after all of their cleaning and care, even as she held boxes and boxes of their things.  It is hard for an old house, one that has held and loved so many over the years, to be alone.

That particular day was sometime early-spring, though she couldn’t have given an exact date for houses do not mark such things.  The last of the winter snow still lingered, but the sun had been staying longer and longer, and she was lost in her fretful thoughts when she felt the key wiggle in the deadbolt. She could tell by their shuffling steps that they were tired.  Moving quietly, they placed the baby in her little bed in the downstairs bedroom, brushed their teeth, made their way to their bed (which they’d set up in the living room of all places!) . . . and went to sleep.  It was the night she’d dreamed of for so long and she spent the whole of it listening to the sounds of their soft and steady breathing and dreaming dreams of her own.

That night would have been the highlight of her year if it weren’t for a few weeks later when she felt a small and strange thump, thump, thump, WUMP in the kitchen followed by the woman’s squeal of delight.  It had been so long since she felt such a thing, she didn’t recognize it for what it was until the woman spoke.  “Oh honey!  You did it! My sweet Sunshine, papa is going to be so excited!”

The baby had taken her very first steps: three of them!  Thump, thump, thump!  Before falling on her bottom with a WUMP!  A house cannot cry, and that is good, because she would have absolutely flooded herself so moved was she by the feeling of those tiny feet and the sweet sound of a mother’s joy.

The Flurry continued all through spring; furniture and appliances came, electrical and some plumbing were updated, old shelves were torn down and new ones put up in their place and it was glorious.  After spending years wondering if she would molder right back into the earth from whence she came, she delighted in all the activity . . . but it was just a touch more than delight.

That spring, the perfect season for such a change, her dread and loneliness were replaced with joy and the bright energy of a new beginning.  As they moved in, placing all of their possessions along with themselves in her care, she felt her sense of purpose swell, filling every dusty corner of her being.  And at the rate they were cleaning, soon there wouldn’t be any dusty corners at all!

Despite her age and current state of disrepair, she took great pride in the fact that even after hundreds of years, she still stood strong under and around them.  She may have lost much of her outer beauty to peeling wallpaper, chipping paint, worn out floors, and broken windows, but inside she was as sturdy as the day she was made–with wood hewn from the forest she stood beside, hand-forged and driven nails, and horsehair plaster.

After so long standing empty, she felt deeply the precious weight of their life–something only a house could truly grasp.  And knowing, as she did, how quickly lives came and went, it was a gift she meant to cherish.IMG_4195

Sunday Randoms

Every memory I have of feeling alone, when I look back, I can see I wasn’t.

I’ve learned to work on forgiving myself first.  If I can’t manage that, then there’s no path to forgive others and being forgiven doesn’t help.

As my sweet Sunshine gets older, so many long-forgotten memories of my own childhood are coming back to me.  My favorite from this morning is a memory of my mama playing hot lava with us in the living room when I couldn’t have been more than four.  She was jumping from the couch to a cushion on the floor and belly-laughing.

It takes so much more than love to make a long-term relationship work well.  But when hearts get broken, great love can sometimes hold you together while they mend.

If I could only choose one word to describe my twenties, it would be “big.”  I had big fun; I made big mistakes; I felt big hurt; and I found big love.

I can’t choose a word for my thirties yet because we aren’t even halfway through, but so far, “humbled” and “grateful” are neck and neck.

I am falling in love with Massachusetts.

Snowy days are my favorite–beautiful, sparkling, white.  My thoughts swirl like snowflakes in the wind while my fingers chase after them over the page like children with their tongues out.

I cannot get used to the sky here–each day a new shade of blue I’ve never seen and can’t describe and the clouds move so fast there’s no time to decide their shape.

And when the morning sun hits winter tree limbs after a freezing rain, it looks as if diamonds blossomed overnight.

We are rich, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

All the Updates!

Big changes coming for Mac n’ Cheese Manor!!!  We are working with the Get the Lead Out program to certify our house as lead free which will include: new windows, siding, doors (inside and out), and trim.  We’re working with MassSave to insulate!  It will likely be a few months yet, but the contractors who will bid on the work have been here to look around and after months of paperwork and phone calls, I feel like we’re finally moving forward!

I have never had a garden and know nothing about growing things, but we’re going to give a small garden a try this year.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it, or rather, our poor plants are going to need it!  On a similar but different note, we are also planning to build a chicken coop!  I mean, can we really call it a farm, even a little one, if there’s no garden or chickens?

On the battle front, we continue to lose to the squirrels.  We have four traps (three live/one kill) and every day the bait is gone but the traps are empty.  We’ll be welcoming two cats to our home as soon as the construction work is complete and hopefully they can succeed where we are failing.

I stopped using shampoo about a month ago and I’m never going back!!!  I’ve started using New Wash which is completely fantastic, but is also quite expensive.  So when I run out, I’m going to try the curly girl method and see if that works for me as well.  I have a friend who does it and her hair looks great so I’m crossing my fingers!

As it relates to writing, I’ve changed my mind about rewrites.  As I’ve gone through it, I find that most of what I wrote doesn’t want to be rewritten;  It was what it was at the time and looks too different in hindsight for me to even know where to begin.  I’m still going to fill out the rest of my Cancer Files, but by adding to them, not rewriting them.  Everything else I’m leaving be.  There are so many new chapters to write!

It’s been a lovely and difficult winter for me.  It is so beautiful here.  I haven’t loved snow like this since I was a child.  I fall more in love with our creaky, old, farmhouse and rambling eight or so acres every day.  We’ve made wonderful new friends, and I love being home with my Sunshine.  And yet, when the anniversary of my mid-December move arrived, I felt so sad for all we’re missing by not living closer to our families and friends back West. There is a certain kind of loneliness for much-loved people and places that is unbearably bittersweet.

2018 is just going to be a big and busy year for us.  Between repairs to the house, additions to the farm, and our wild baby, we’re going to be hopping and that’s not a bad thing.  I feel like I need to be this kind of busy right now.  Lots to do, but not sooooo much to do that I can’t sneak in a momosa and some writing time here and there.   : )

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100 Old Poems Rewritten into 1

Walking through old words
I see the same ones
over and over and over
just rearranged
carefully scattered
and strung again
to avoid being caught
at being the same poem
I wrote a hundred times
if I wrote it even once.

It wasn’t very good.

As heavy and slow
as the number of times I wrote
“heavy” and “slow.”
“Beating hearts” and “blood in veins”
as tired as the word “tired” became.
“Wandering, disconnected, lost,
broken, seething, pooling, secrets, unspoken”
over and over and over
and yet
I fooled no one.

If I could write it again now
it would go like this:

I am afraid
I might be worthless.

 

Friday Randoms

When we finally arrived at our new life, I found the person I had packed up would not do at all.  Four boxes of clothing and only two pairs of Levi’s?
Who have I become?

I went back to open that dark door again,
but found only a small, bright window where it used to be.
And what should I make of that?

It’s been over a year and I just switched my focus forward from all I left behind.  Had I waited a moment longer, I might have fallen right over the edge of my life.

Motherhood broke my heart and I can’t keep anyone out anymore.

I’m going back to ugly places, where there are beautiful lines, poorly housed in shanty poems.  And when I get there, I’ll be kind to the girl who wrote all that falling down poetry.  Even if she’s a stranger now, I walked here in her shoes.