Thursday, December 25, 2014

Rolling Stones (fa la la la laaaa)

Today is Christmas, 2014.  I am the mother of 2, a wife who loves her husband, a 40 year old singer who doesn't sing that much lately, and I have no real land, no country.  my husband said to me last night, "it's just annoying that we have no city.  no place we belong.  That would be crazy depressing if it weren't "we".  I have a happy, loving family.  I never feel alone, unsupported, or at odds with my spouse.  I have two living, relatively healthy parents, two healthy living in-laws.  I have healthcare (thanks Obama) and I have food, and a roof.  Holy carp, if you compare me with the whole freaking g world, I have everything.  Life itself is a gift.  Happiness is a gift, and I am wealthy.  probably wealthier than the folks who fired my husband, or the people who turned me down without even granting me an audition for my Doctorate. 

 So rolllling along, we are, now again available for a new city.  We will stay if it works, we will go if it works.  All I know for sure is that we learned this Christmas that it wasn't quite working where or how we'd hoped.  Again.  Daddy still doesn't have a job that pays bills or fulfills him or uses his skills, and Mommy is still living in part-time world and hoping to sing again.

 I love where I am and I hate where I am.  Probably ok, huh? 

Gonna quote the Indigo Girls again
 there I am in younger days, stargazing, painting picture perfect paths, of how my life and love would be
not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection, my compass, Faith in love's perfection, I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen...and we sit here in our storm and drink a toast, to the slim chance of love's recovery.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I think I just had my first panic attack.  Something with the dogs happened, and a neighbor was nice, but suddenly I found my heart pounding.  Would she scream?  She was on the phone, would she call the police?  Then the nausea, my ears with a deafening hum, heart banging on my rib cage and tears pouring and I have no idea what's happening.

And then the suggestion my sister made last night comes to me.  Do I have some form of PTSD?  Now I feel lame.  I'm not like...a vet, or someone involved in a shooting.  But I did hide in my house at night for 2 months, afraid my neighbor would kill me.  I did shut off the lights so he couldn't see me.  I did hold my husband while someone ripped him apart.  It was so ugly.  And I may be free, but often, I don't feel free.  I can't just relax, I need the tv on all the time.  No music,  stuff with words.

Everything is hard to do.  Motherhood is hard.  Holidays, cleaning, red tape.  All the stuff that is normally hard is extra hard.  Normal me is fine.  The kids and I laugh and read books. But a few times a day, I am not me.  I am hoping it's better, not worse.  But I'm not sure.

I am gaining weight.  I have gained about 8 pounds in 4 months.  I have bad spinning headaches.  Is that blood pressure?  I wish I knew.  My blood sugars are higher than ever.  For the first 3 months here, I had periods every two weeks.  Thinking about the health stuff just makes it worse.

My husband says, "you are not allowed to be more upset about me than I am" and he hugs me, but I don't know when it will feel like recovery.  Even vacations don't feel like vacations.

Somewhere in here there is a transformation.  I will get to the other side.  I will.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My kids are whole people

Everyone has and (I believe) is entitled to their own philosophy on child-rearing.  I have yet to read something I buy hook, line and sinker about parenting.  I have yet to meet a parent who does everything right or wrong.  There are some areas I think are harmful...your addiction that's out of control?  Tons of people coming in and out of your house that you may not trust?  Perhaps even if you find yourself doing one bizarre thing that everyone in your culture says is a bad idea but you insist your child be part of it?  Maybe stop and question that too.

But the rest, is how we pass our spirit onto another person.  All of it.  The schooling, the food, the exercise, the speech.  I love the Emmerson quote:  you taught my lips a single speech and a thousand silences.  So is the job of parenting.  And oh ho ho there are no guarantees!  Your lactose free family could easily raise a cheese smuggling person.  Your Muslim child could convert to Judaism....your girl could choose to be a boy.  We can only choose their choices, not yours.

So many challenges.  How to make them nice people?  How to get them to eat enough vegetables?  To me what makes it hard is the thousands of articles insisting some PART of your raising them is going to destroy them as a whole.  And tonight I am annoyed at YET another bashing of the "princess thing".  Look I hate it as much as you.  I was never a princess.  But I also loved it.  Did I want to be a princess with a chocolate castle and a white unicorn?  Uh, yeah, why the hell wouldn't you want that?  I don't even know why boys don't want that.  Our little people princess castle is just as much my sons favorite toy as my daughter's.

Ok, so why don't I just get over it, and why is it annoying?  The constant fearful discourse that if I buy princess things for my daughter she'll have no chance at feminism?  The part of our culture I feel I have long hated is this idea that if girls like it, it can't be as good.  What the hell?  I am not apologizing for my daughter longing to have everything pink and frilly and wrapped up in a bow with a little white kitten on the top.  She has a kick-ass mom applying for a Doctorate.  She has a dad supportive of his wife's career.  Our choices will be the ones she's most likely to emulate.  Let her be 5, you damn article writers.  I'll teach her to respect the girls who find princesses bizarre and annoying.  And you stop posting things on facebook about "how to fix your princess-loving daughter".   Let us work out the real and unreal in time.  Give me time to teach her she is a whole person.  Right now, we can love a little pink.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tools of Sanity

I've been in program for a while.  That means over time, I've been taught to use tools to get through something hard, even something as simple as an offensive comment or a hurtful thought, or someone drinking your coffee.  I am an addict.  I am addicted to blitzing out on food, to making myself vomit, to focusing on my own body as a way to avoid the hardest feelings I have.  And therefore, I need a tool.  A bunch of them.

I've had a tough week, so here some tools that are available to me.
Writing it out
Eating well
Calling others in program

I am eating better.  I am avoiding sugar but not to the extent I wish.  Progress.  I need to remember that the sugar makes me feel better temporarily, but also makes me overreact to things.  It makes me feel out of control.  It makes me less healthy, it makes me fixate on my body.  Blech, sugar.

I feel hardly ready to write it out.  I walked in on my sister sharing what could have been my own unshared feelings with my father today.  It was a small argument for them, and he clearly didn't hear her, which is why I haven't had the argument with him.  It could even be resolved lovingly....these are not feelings that you can't come back from.  Actually they are completely healable.  Is that a word?  Well they are.  But it didn't go well.  It ended tense, angry, with me wishing my dad was in a program like me.  I mean, he kind of is, but I wish he was using tools.  And suddenly I thought, "how can I wish that when I myself am not?"  So here's a tool.  Writing.  I resent that my dad rejects me without knowing.  I resent his wife, and feel guilty that I do, because she is so sick.  I resent that he took every opportunity he could to love someone more than me, and never stood up for his own kids.  I resent that everyone in the world is as worthy of his love as his children.  Even though maybe that's not even true.  So maybe, dad, you just tell me that I'm crazy, and that you love me the most, and all 3 of your kids are the best thing you ever did.  See?  Healable.  But I think he believes the best thing he ever did was find a wife when I was 19.  And so I will still have this gaping hole.  Gaping.  Ugh.

I resent immensely that my father thinks that the sister who doesn't talk to me and I are "equal".  She doesn't talk to ME.  I did what I needed to do to HELP her 5 years ago and she ruthlessly cut me out.  And I know, I know, I know, that I need to figure out her heart...where she was coming from, why she would hurt me like this, and that maybe I could begin to heal.  But I can't.  I just feel pain. with. her.

God, grant me serenity today.  Help me make a good audition recording.  Remind me I can't change my dad, my sisters, my husband.  I can change me, though.  Bless them.  Change me.  BLess them.  Change me.  God, your will has always been better than mine.  I have no idea what that is, but you know.  So your will, not mine, be done.

Remind me nothing beats peace.  Unfortunately many things will hang in the air, and hurt, and it's up to me to come to lay them at your feet and trust (this is the hard part) that you will handle them for me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Cup Runneth Over

This is my first time blogging on a smartphone so you may want to expect lots of type os, and possibly a few weird auto correct moments.  It it also my first time blogging in months and I can't tell you why.  The period between May and October of 2014 will some day be a distant memory, but right now it is constricting and painful to think about.  I will be paying it off financially for a long time, and the scars....they are still dark.  Dark on my husbands forehead, and dark on my heart too.

I wish I could do a blanket apology for all the calls I didn't return, all of the money I had to borrow, all of the things I said to my 5 year old that she'll remember even though I don't want her to.  But everyone deserves their own apology, their own thank yous, and I just pray I remember.

Life got better in October.  Not when we moved, not when hubby got a crappy job that is (thank God) a job.  It just got better all at once.  The house closed, our account has a little money.  Our life is normalish.  We are making plans.  We are living in the moment, because we can't imagine tomorrow.  I am not sure what's next for hubby.  Same prayer--please make it seem to have made sense.  Don't let it end that news just kicked his ass and left him for dead.  I can't bear it.  But I don't know what will be a fix.  I can't guess.  God, help me to have the faith I had before this year of watching the bad dudes win over and over.  How callously I kept my faith all this years while OTHER people lost loved ones to cancer, or violence.  I said "surely God has a plan." But when it was me, stripped of hope, I got pretty damaged.  I feel embarrassed by that.  Not good form at all.

And so I sang this week.  What total joy!  I am teaching music and even a class next term!  I am home with kids and doing what I love and sure we can't actually survive on what we are making yet, but I find myself hoping that maybe I really can still sing again.  Not to be famous, or the best, or some preconceived opera lady I never was, but just have some possibilities of that joy, more frequently.  I forgot I loved singing.  Ain't that weird?

My children are amazing, and I am the luckiest mom around.  My husband is still the man of character I fell in love with, and honestly, we are more
Glued together than one can know what this last year was the way we as a unit do.

You don't have to go far to hear a worse story than your own, but it doesn't help.  What I find helps the most is seeing today.  Taking the kids to the park, relishing this blessed moment, not looking back for anything,  finding my spirit again.

We are not where we were, but we came out the other side.  Every day is a gift now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Face of God

There's a line in Les Mizo which says "to love another person is to see the face of God" or something like that.  There is some truth in it...after all, there is nothing in life so satisfying as love, so filling.  But I haven't seen God's face in a while, and I have been surrounded by love.

I realize I am depressed.  It's not the I can't get out of bed type, it's just a general weakness, an illness, a malaise of hopelessness.  Today I have a couple cute babies, a loving husband, a part time job or two....we have food, we have family.  We are blessed people.  But the face of God is justice and mercy, and I haven't seen any of that in a while.

When you're in this state, you hear the pain of the journalist' smother, begging her son not be beheaded much more clearly.  You hear the sound of people struggling to pay bills.  The weight of the world is actually comforting.  And I don't mean "I feel better because some people have it worse".  That never works, please believe me, don't say it to someone.  No one is ever glad they don't have cancer.  They are just devastated when they do.  Unless I suppose you're in remission or something, then I would guess you wake up most days grateful.

I wonder if that's how we should think of our jobs.  Remission from unemployment.

I miss the face of God.  I miss the feeling of justice.  I've had it, it's not imaginary.  I miss mercy,especially though.  Divine mercy, human mercy.  To have people look at you and say ",only is more important to me than kindness" is like looking into the face of evil.  I dreamed of Satan last night.  Isn't that strange?  He's just like the landowner next door who says "what's in it for me?" In my dreams.  We were drawing circles around ourselves to keep mercy in....because I once heard someone say Satan can't get in unless he has an angle.

I guess the circle is like the face of God then?  But I don't want that necessarily.  I want the God who whispered in my ear during my parents divorce.  I want the God who has shown His face to me before....with true justice and mercy.

I really want to see your face again, God.  I promise to look for it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I can't take care of you

Yesterday was hard and awful.

I've decided not to share details.  It was a day of confessing feelings, seeing weaknesses, dredging  pain up and showing up, strong and brave.  I have probably already judged you for not doing what I just did.

I may or may not have saved the incredibly challenging sale of the house.  I yelled at people, I kept my cool with others.  I wrenched my insides out, forgot to breathe, tried not to take things the wrong way, and popped a Xanax.

In life, you take care of me and I take care of you.  And that's how to be a good friend, a good mom, a  good wife, a good daughter.   But I don't have this today.  I am holding myself together with a paper clip and a chunk of old gum and sheer will and it's been too long to end on a note like yesterday's.  I showed up, got punched in the gut, and I have no idea how to be the person you need.

No idea.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do I Have to Change My Blog Title?

I was just looking at pictures of my family in Iowa, after a weird night of dreams where I was putting on a television show in a huge warehouse, with a live studio audience of mostly college students, and our former neighbor was walking through it in his boxer shorts picking out stuff he wanted and pretending it was his.  I couldn't sleep

Maybe I couldn't sleep because children flocked me so tightly on either side that my arms and neck became wrenched in a painful position.  We did not start the night with kids in the bed.

The house here in Arizona is closer to live -able.  It has been tough.  I was not prepared with how much my father was storing in here.  We went from 1450 square feet with a big basement and garage to 1550 square feet with no basement, no garage, and two rooms filled with boxes, crafts and old furniture.  But we have been selling things, with Dad's permission, and have made a little money.  I joked with hubby that it fees like we have a machine that turns scrapbooking supplies into food and gas.  We have far more than $37 now, though bills remain unpaid until a job or a house sale go through.

I didn't panic yesterday when hubby received the $3000 estimate on the garage at the old house.  Everyone is telling us to somehow "scrap it". .....foreclose, see if a realtor will buy the house, etc....but we have a set of buyers who really want our house.  We are currently making $10k on it, and if it has to be $7k, or $5k, it's still a better call than what everyone is saying.  I'm in a good place this morning, besides the pain in my neck.  I don't feel alone.  I don't feel this will go on forever.  Hubby has TWO TV interviews set up for next week.  We don't count any chickens now before they offer us a contract, but we know that soon we will have chicken.  Damnit.  We will.

August, I don't know what to say to you.  You're the longest month I've ever lived through.  One day I was in Iowa, loading up a house.  Then I was in state after state, driving a car of crazy kids (the baby kept touching the toddlers face with his foot to entertain himself in the car, and thus was born my first experience of "he's touching me again!" In the backseat.  Then I was in the hot desert, in a house indescribably different with oppressive heat.  Then I was penniless and selling crafting stuff on the driveway.  Seeing my parents several times a week?

And it's only the 17th!  We are only 2 days late on our Iowa mortgage!  My girl is still 4.

I don't know how long I'll be here.  I don't know if hubby will like it.  He misses his roots, and he's hot.  My baby girl tells me someday she's going to live in. Michigan and go to Arizona when it gets too cold.  She's got a plan at least.  And if I look at my future, seriously, my head explodes.  Even August 18th freaks me out.

So no title change yet.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friendship and Loneliness

I spent a few hours "out" this morning with the baby:  my last Iowa farmers market, shopping for flip flops on sale, frozen yogurt (which the baby then vomited all over both of us) and the pet store to see kittens.  I was forcing myself out, as home is lonely and my brain runs a line of anxious  and difficult thoughts.  I really miss my 4 year old, and  I realize how grateful I am for my husband's time at home while he's gone.

Unfortunately, something I have realized in my late 30s is that friendship as an adult is built to be unsatisfying.  As an 8 year old, it's perfect.  Someone else washes your underwear while you spend all day bonding, playing imaginary games and feeling emotionally built up by your friends.  And then life happens, and you do your own laundry, and you form strong opinions, and then friendships are complex.  But inside, we all still want the friendship of an 8 year old.  I hope to live vicariously through my children's relationships.  But I have realized that I have experienced so much pain in the last few years from either my false expectations of friendships or my friends expectations of me.

When I left home, I went off to be single for a long haul.  I left home at 17 and got married at 34.  So that's 17 years of single.  In those 17 years I didn't have serious boyfriends,  not for more than like....2 months.  I had meaningful, awesome friendships.  And then I moved.  I cried and missed people, and then moved again.  I had other aspirations.  I learned to call people I barely knew and say "could I please cry in your kitchen" and generally they said yes.  They were still with their own childhood friends, so they rarely called me back. They didn't seem to need me the way I needed them.

Only now at 40, I realize they probably did need me.

One way (and there are many) in which I am an awful friend is that I rarely say "and how are you?"  OH how I have tried over the years to change this part of myself!  But in my family we just share, we just launch.  We were taught that what we felt and experienced was important, and should be shared (good job, mom) but I have learned over and over that people think if you don't ask, you don't care.  I don't think I'll ever be able to convince friends that I want nothing more than for them to share their pain, to be initiate, to let me know secrets.  Friendship was everything to me for 2/3 of my life, and someone trusting me with what hurts them is such an honor.  But I haven't done that well.  I still don't.  I know all it takes is an invitation, but I fail at that.

Moving around has taught me that you don't have to match my ideals to be my friend, but it helps.  I am opinionated, and I have to work my way through that stuff.  I realize that I do better in friendships with people who have strong other faiths than people who have none.  Interestingly, a devout Muslim lives in a way much more similar to mine than an atheist.  We have both known what it's like to have someone roll their eyes at your belief, at least.  And nothing is harder than a lack of respect on friendship.

Since getting married, this 8 year old part of me has all but died.  I rely on my husband for what I could not find.  I threw out a million requests for women to eat Thai food or go see shows with me or come to my house, and my phone did not ring often.  So much for my false sense of popularity.

I hope for something different, but I fear.  I do not know what waits for me next because I come home a different person, and who would know that?  I remember a few things that hurt in vacations, coming home after 3 years of college when I had first started to form real opinions and an identity and having a friend say "well you haven't changed at all" has all but destroyed a relationship with someone from my past.  Coming home for a "camping trip with the girls" where they endlessly mocked my single status, or a Christmas dinner where they called my faith offensive makes me think, "what am I returning to?" And two of the people I'd most like to see died in their 30s.  Life changes so unexpectedly.

The world expects romantic relationships.  They wait for you to partner up, have kids (unless you're gay, and then they shame you for that thought...) but friendship, that's another ball game.  Great work if you can get it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The peace of poverty

I am on a second day of prednisone, and I do think my mood is genuinely lifted.  It reminds me I probably should have taken antidepressants through the last 6 months.  I guess I want to communicate to people that anti depressants really do take the ugly edge off.  You can still be sad, frustrated, gloomy, but it seems to put a little barrier between you and the "edge".  I have often been to the edge in the last 6 months.  It isn't pretty.

Today I dodged a bullet with my car.  I completely ran it out of oil, forgetting car maintenance in these months of pinching pennies.  But when they looked at my semi-clunker, now 14 years old, they found a lot of needs....a lot of issues.  It is a car worth keeping, but in need of work.  This car is the worst financial decision I've. Ever made.  After 3 years, I still owe half the value of this car.  I want to sell it, at least pay off some of it, but then I also think maybe just keeping it and driving it to death might be a better financial choice.

None of it matters.  None of it.  Because at this point everything outside of bills and groceries goes on the credit card.  Everything.  And that alone makes me horrified and worried.  Did I say horrified? Ugh.  We've sold off collectibles, gifts from the wedding, all our old clothes, anything in the house that was never opened, or had a tag, it's all gone on Craigslist or EBay.  And now all we have is the promise that we WIlL make money some day, and can pay off this time.

So today when the mechanic recommended $2400 in repairs, and we widdled him down to $600 now, and a brake job coming, I smiled.  I laughed, I made jokes, I went shopping at Goodwill.  I was charming.  Because I find as you get closer to the bottom there's a little peace.  This could also be the result of prednisone, hard to say.

I just keep saying these things to myself...we are still alive, we still have each other.

We are not poor.  We are not refugee poor, or even Third world poor, or French Revolution poor.  We are just waiting to get back in the flow.  Just sitting on the banks of the river, unfortunately dipping our credit cards in every so often...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Bread of Anxious Toil

Every day I'm packing.  The house is unbearably quiet without my daughter and husband.  Being here, day and night, alone with a 14 month old baby, is so strange.  I don't want to be here.  I want to be with the person who calms my anxious heart.  It took a while for me to realize how well God matched type A, think out of the box and make it happen personality, and his soothing, live in the moment, let me find a way to make you smile personality.  We hardly knew it.

As I pack I find bizarre memories of a life in NYC that I remember loving.  I kept a journal then.  NYC, ironically, spanned 7 years of my life and covered my richest and poorest moments.  I had moments where I needed to beg someone for a dollar to get a train back from Brooklyn, and I had moments when I went out for expensive food and held a pretty decent savings account.

Regardless, I stumbled across something I wrote in a journal to myself, "stop eating the bread of anxious toil, Piper, just stop it."  What a weird statement, and yet today I am terrified.  Our house may not sell.  Our battle with the neighbor who finds nothing wrong in profiting off of our misfortune could end badly.  We could drive across the country, putting gas on credit cards, borrowing money from my dad, and spend the first week in Arizona eating ramen noodles and looking for temp jobs while I let my husband try to calm down my crazy head.

But I'm not sure any of that would be so bad, would it?  This bread tastes terrible.  I've eaten it before.  And each time I don't recognize it until I've downed half a loaf and my stomach is full of "what else could go wrong?"  I have someone who is the best partner I could imagine.  And for the first 33 years of my life I had nothing of that sort.  I am going to be with family, who love me, and who will make sure this isn't a disaster, if they can.  I will have to adjust to that.   Family likes to tell you what they think you should do, and I've been calling the shots (happily) for about 23 years.

When did I get so old?  I noticed the other day my neck isn't youthful anymore.  Man that sneaks up on you.  In those boxes are years of my husband and I pursuing things we love.  He had a funny little newspaper he made in college and handed out to people.  I have hundreds of recordings of myself, or programs, or things I loved doing and took for granted.  Thank you God, for showing me how much hubby and I have lived!  We are far from waiting for our lives to start.

When I was in Peru, it did not escape me that a majority of the people I met live every day like this.  They start each day with almost nothing, and they find people to love, and they manage to stretch what they have into something, and they have no idea what else could exist, or at least their idea is more fantasy than reality.

This anxious toil's all I felt today.  I cried a lot, and my contacts are all gross.  I made uncomfortable phone calls.  I begged God for help, but now I need to put down the bread and drink,maybe, a little living water.  You sip it, you realize what you have been blessed with, you feel the hurt of the world around you, and when you look down your cup is full again.

Tomorrow is a new day and boy am I thirsty.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


I have known you for longer than I remember, but I met you when I was 11.  You are the great love of my life, and nothing compares to you.  This world is your creation, your baby, and I can't imagine how you love and mourn for us.  You know where my head is and I am not proud of it.  I am full or anger and pride and self pity right now.  You know I doubt you every day lately, that I don't trust you at all, that I am living in fear.

Every prayer lately is me pleading.  I beg the job comes now, I beg for the house sale, I beg for the prayers of other people.  I beg, and I feel I am standing at the edge of a void that won't hear me.  But you said you'd hear me.  Does that mean you actually care what's happened to us?  I'm not sure I believe that this stuff concerns you anymore.

There are many with bigger needs than I.  I am not so Whiny as to think I've got the worst.  All I want to do is see you again, feel your peace again.  Nothing feels better than knowing you're in control.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Do You Do When You Can't Hold it Together Anymore?

This will be a short post.

Yesterday, our hope was broken when the job I thought my hubby would get decided to do a hiring freeze.  The man who wants to hire him has been avoiding him all week, lobbying to hire someone.  He said he still can't give us a yes or a no, but it sounds like a no.

I am remembering the breakdowns I have had throughout my life, trying to remember how far away they seem now.  There was the time I had no money and I dropped my only debit/credit card down an elevator shaft.  There was the time in NYC when I was robbed and I didn't have enough money to get home on the subway.  I had to walk miles in my work shoes.

There was the time that a guy I went out with completely destroyed and rejected me, humiliated me, and then cried on the phone that he had feelings too. 

There was the time that my high school crush came out of the closet. 

There was the time that my parents got divorced, the time I got diagnosed with diabetes, the time....well there are a lot of them.

Just one more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nothing is Ever Perfect Here

The other day I got a call from a woman whose phone number I thought I'd lost.  I tried like crazy to find it, because for the last 7 years ago, I have called this person as a counselor and reminder of how to view things from the perspective of a 12 step program.  I don't remember how the calls started, and I don't know her in "real life" but I know when I get off the phone I will feel better, I will be more sane, more reminded of how I want to live and who I want to be.

So understandably, losing her number and not talking to her for the 5 hardest months of my life was horrible.

I have gotten a lot of good advice from older female mentors in my life.  I often ask myself "what would I do today if I had no fear?" As my friend Arlyn says.  I was just told my prayer should be "bless them, change me" and I have thought so much of that in the last few days.  I am reminded Detach with Love.  That will be the hardest....after all, I did that by leaving Arizona.  I loved, very much, but detached from the crazy of my family by living a few thousand miles away.  And now I will have to find some new way of dealing.  I hear my sister may be moving back--the one who probably wants to have a kind relationship with me while despising my husband for no reason.  The one who heaps love on my father and abuses my mother.  That one.  My father almost drank himself to death last month.  How do you detach from that if you live across the street?

With that, hubby and I are still so excited.  We have senioritis, and we want to get out of here fast!  I am done with Iowa.  I can't overlook the many good things....I did meet kind people, I sang in a few good shows, I loved my beautiful house and my beautiful kids, apple orchards, first snows, big gardens, no lines anywhere, corn festivals, the enormous farmers market....I even learned how to teach voice here, I made a living off of my real skills... Many of those things I probably won't find in my next life, sure.

But I also had a lot of angry, judgmental folks, closed minds, winter days that were90 hours long, shoveling, too many students, not enough opportunity, never being a part of a real community, though I tried like crazy.  Being yelled at to get off people's lawns in a town with no sidewalks.  I won't miss our neighbors on either side-people who showed me unfortunately that there is a real difference in being educated or uneducated.  Not in how much you earn, but in your understanding of the world and how you approach things foreign to you.  I will never see that that way again.  I've never witnessed this kind of judgmental living.  Ever.

I became more liberal in my politics here.  Iowa challenged my faith more than. New York ever did, not being unemployed, but sometimes really finding I didn't identify with Christians in the way I did in the big city. Well, the last 8 months haven't helped.  There have been a lot of times I felt I was crying into a void.

We are happy to go.  Because when it was good here, we were still lonely.  We were happy together, and we were lonely.

No place is perfect.  I suppose this is always my thing about God.  I have seen imperfect.  I have seen stuff so evil that I couldn't articulate it.  I have seen us run toward the dark like crazy rats, escaping anything pure, good, kind.  And I believe to everything there is an equal and opposite there must be something as good as these things are bad.  There must be a true, real God, who loves the way we cannot, who hears the way we are deaf.  Who welcomes the way we yell, "get the Hell off my lawn."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Imaginary Relatives

I am well aware that much of my thinking about the neighbors is judgmental lately.  Some of it i feel bad for, but most of it seems like what I've been bottling up for 5 months.  It's hard to say.

There are moments I look at my two children and feel amazed knowing how.much they will love each other.  Watching a sibling relationship form is bizarre.  At firsr the sibling is just there, just taking up space....but then the bond begins to form.  And that's not even with the addition of speech yet.  Something so profound about having to share your parents love, and then ultimately, regardless of how much their personalities clash, or if one turns out to be strung out on drugs or a thief, or, well pretty much anything, the sibling will somehow learn to love that person on quite a few levels.  They will mourn for each other, be proud of each other.  All just from being in my womb and living in our house.  It's amazing.

One thing the neighbors do that drives me nuts is they refer to everyone as "aunts" and "uncles".  As my friend said, I think part of the creepy factor of that is all of us having heard stories of promiscuous moms and their various (and dangerous) visiting "uncles".  It Isn't that the actual aunts and uncles in a family can't be predators, but it seems like it's somehow negating that sibling bond.  Or sharpening it.  Does that make sense?  Sometimes when I'm reviewing again with my daughter that usually we call a person an aunt because she is your mom or dad's sister, I feel well, yes, there could be a close person, a friend....

Then again, I am not sure that this aunt and uncle thing doesn't derive from those who have burned many of their real relationships.  They forget heir family, so they have to create "New" family.  Perhaps over and over.  Perhaps New family each time their life decisions drive away the previous "aunt" or "uncle".  It's one of the worst things about having a screwed up parent.  Few long term relatives.

Next door to us we also marvel at what these aunts and uncles are willing to do for a couple who are angry, sometimes in jail, frequently in court.  They drive their kids around  pick them up, take them overnight, and do everything they can to make sure the kids don't get taken by some agency...

My hubby and his sister feel that's just kindness.  They feel bad for the kids.  They want to help a family.  But I am more cynical.  I think they find the parents charming.  They drink with them, they maybe have been arrested with them to and got lucky.  At the end of the day, I just think the aunts and uncles will get tired and stop helping.  After all, it's a temporary assignment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Little girl, little girl

I have a monster stack of paperwork to register my daughter for kindergarten in Phoenix.  Part of me wishes for a moment that I felt capable of home schooling her.  I confess that after a few years of motherhood, but the things I want her to learn I don't see how she could get from me.  At least not now.

We are working hard to fix up the house, and not being able to constantly entertain her causes fits, difficult conversations, multiple time outs.  How would I deal with having her around all day every day?  I would have to sacrifice everything I wanted to do in order to fill the day with kid learning activities.  And I will confess, I just ain't that good of a mom.  It takes so much bribing, work, reward, and sacrifice of my time to just get her to read 4 words!  Sheesh.  I don't know how people do it.  And the things I hope for her to learn.....I want her to know about Jesus, but I want her to be around people who grew up with something else.  I want her to know be ambitious and know competition.  I want her to be exposed to sports and arts that I could care less about, and to ask me questions about history because she was so confused by the textbook.

All this and she's just 5.  I'm exhausted just looking at the paperwork.

My daughter can be so clingy.  She needs me to fall asleep, to get her clothes, to help with every boo boo....and in turn I do the worst thing, which is to push her off because I can't stand the constant pulling on me.  She's this beautiful thing I love, and at the same time like the worst boyfriend I've ever had.

I don't know to be a mom.  I'm still winging it.

I keep reminding myself that my theory on parenthood is to do all you can for the least of these....for the people you don't care about, can't benefit from, and definitely don't love.  And that hopefully my children will see that they too should love those who can't do anything for them. I figure love for my own kids will always come, and wit it the decisions I feel will benefit them.   They will never be the hardest to love.

The rest, I'm just winging it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Grasping at Goodness

As we find more and more good news about our house situation (though the unknown is still frightening) I feel more and more guilty that I reacted in anger.  I know our neighbor tried to bully my husband into what he wanted.  I know that he spoke to us in a way I would have thought unimaginable.  And I know that although we did not insult him, he has no remorse speaking to us like that.  I literally want my children and husband away from him as soon as possible.  But it was my temper, my inability to play my cards close, that started this stupid war.  Mostly in the end, the kids will pay for it.  The girls next door and my girl, none of whom I feel anything but affection for.  They used to play outside well into the night, and now the parents next to us force them in.  It's a stupid game.  I want to yell at them that my children are the one chance they have at someone smart, someone whose parents don't "use" at home.  I don't want to say it out of anger, but it sure sounds mean.  So I guess we fold up and move on.

I used to have someone I called from a 12 step program who could calm my heart about this stuff.  This year I lost her number.  And we don't use last I'm screwed.

A woman I barely know gave us about 350 dollars over the last 6 months.  She wrote me the following card, and it wish I could have it tattooed somewhere I was forced to read everyday:

Dear (me),

I'm not certain I will see you again.  If you'll be at the remaining two of our meetings or not.  When I first came here, my life was on pretty shaky ground.  All I had to stand on and hope on was Gods word.  I found hope in my sisters here.  Your love for Christ was a testimony of strength for me.  I am daily amazed how he burned the flesh away and renewed my heart for Him.  In the past I would never have come to your aid.  But he changed my hardened heart.  My actions now are because I would never not want The Lord to have eliminated those many days of refashioning my spirit.  I know he is doing something amazing although it is veiled from your eyes.  I'm sorry for your pain and that you are suffering.  He so deeply loves you.

God bless you &keep you, something truly good will come from this.


And as I read this, I again hope that I see how I am supposed to be changed by this....and how I can bless someone else later the way she did me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My little man

Weird to post this after the drama of May 9.  It was an awful day, and since then we've come to find things that I guess make it easier--a bit of a criminal record, and best of all, plenty of documentation that our know it all neighbor is in a rent to own relationship with some "landlord"... So basically all his blown smoke is exactly that.  Imagine renting a house and having so much hubris that you'd try to bully the owners next door into selling their house differently so you could take their driveway.  Amazing.

The good news is that I haven't wanted to eat and have had stress induced diarrhea for a few days so I lost 5 pounds!  (The long meditative bike rides helped too i guess).  Who knew that all I needed to do to budge those stubborn few pounds was have an a-hole neighbor?  Life is funny.

A year ago tonight I blogged about the baby coming, my anxiety, my coming to terms with.a second c-section.  I weighed 78 pounds more than I do tonight, and I felt like I was barely human.  I then gave birth and spent a week visiting my son in NICU....I can remember the feelings, the smells of the hospital, the feeling of pumping and his sweet tiny face with his sunglasses on in the little enclosed bilirubin bed.  I remember nursing him for the first time, holding him endlessly, loving him from the beginning.

Since then, he is my bright happy light.  He is all smiles and laughs (and prat falls).  He is a risk taker, an amazing imitator.  He loves to run through the house, pretend he's doing whatever we are doing and he makes me so happy.  Something about the second (and last) baby.  You can't seem to snuggle them enough.

Happy Birthday boy.  Stay exactly like this forever.  Just stop rolling off beds.

Friday, May 9, 2014

blame it on the alcohol?

In Iowa, a place I am starting to doubt was ever in God`s plan for me, we share a driveway with our neighbor.  It's been 5 years so I don't remember what was discussed about this "easement" except that everyone knew it had been shared from the beginning.  Two siblings built sweet little identical houses on a rural corner in Iowa.  They shared a driveway.  After time, our house changed hands, but the other didn't.  Good old Lu died in that house, then it sat empty.  We bought our house while it was empty and then a couple years ago Gary moved in.  Young, partying Gary with his "buddies" who visited frequently.  I have never been crazy about him.  The drinking, the girlfriends, the cigarette butts in my flower bed..  but I live with it.  Then Gary got a girlfriend in January who came with daughters.....daughters my daughter loves to play with.  And then the girlfriend became a fiance.  And our relationship with Gary increased.  My husband has always liked him, been service to him, defended him.  It's hubby 's way, and what I love MOST about him.

We have never argued with Gary.  For 7 months my husband has been searching for work while Gary has bragged about his moves from one blue collar job to another.  How they loved him, how they gave him raises.  I always thought that was the way he seemed to brag that his basement didn't flood, while ours did.

Basements....houses....oh yes.  Here is our chance.  We are finally getting out of this place which had seemed to be after us...wanting to squash any happiness we have, and our chance was the house.  The house we love  is also precious equity.  And when we leave, perhaps we will have $10k to start our new life...or something.

Tonight, Gary casually walked over to my husband and said that he went to the assessor, found out the shared driveway was really his, and after 90 years, was claiming it for his own.  This means when we sell the house, there will be a requirement that we share with a new buyer that Gary will be taking away any access they have to their garage and will be making them build a new garage and driveway on their property.  Right through a beautiful oak tree and probably the neighborhood telephone pole.

I walked  up to Gary and said calmly our friendship was over and to please call the girls back to his house, as I didn't see why our daughters would continue playing (this is not totally out of the blue as I fear there are a few scary substances at Gary's).

Then Gary lit up, angry as he'll and yelling.  He said my husband was a lazy f##cling person who sat in the house and did nothing to support his family for 10 months while hhheee got a job in 10 days.  Then he said it louder, then he said it to my husband in front of my daughter.  Then I had to watch my daughter's tears while I explained why she can't go over there to play Anymore and they yelled at hubby from across the way that we were "childishly" taking it out on the children.

How e not know this man hated us, nudged us, so passionately?  Gary....I do not know what will happen next.  But I do know  you will be the thing I. IOWA that convinced us it really was right to leave.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Apparently you can go home again

I write blogs all the time and I don't post or finish them.  I am sorry for anyone reading this, because weeks pass with nothing posted when I really am writing...just not publishing.    Maybe I should just hit "publish" every time before leaving, even if it doesn't feel well-composed.  Who am I kidding?  I am way too into "completion" for that.  I like a good project with a good finish:)

This morning, well, my sister said it first.  Last night my sister said she missed me.  She said I left Arizona at 17 and I haven't been back.  She's right.  And not only that, I have never looked back.  Why is that?  The heat?  I mean, I've said to hubby..."well, not the Southwest"  as he looked for jobs.  I am not a crazy fan of the lack of grass, the fake lakes or the politics....but I am not opposed to a little family, right?  I miss them. Good Lord, I haven't ever let myself say that, huh?

You know, I am a special breed.  I am one of those crazy kids who leaves for the big city with two dollars in my pocket and the determination to get myself noticed!  I am ambitious.  I was naive, hopeful.  And as time went on, and I missed the weddings, the childhoods, the hospital trips....I had to be successful.  Either that, or what kind of person was I?  Trading all that family for nothing?

So here is the weird part.  I think about going home to the desert...where I never felt I belonged...and I've got kids and a husband so I'm practically my own personified fears of being totally boring.  But I am not feeling anything but relief.  I just want to fall into the arms of my family and do what everyone else does.  I want to feel like I'm nobody's imposition.  I want date nights again without paying $75.

I guess you can go home.  This morning when I told a room full of women what I was thinking of doing, I punctuated with...."it's been 23 years since I lived near family."  And those Iowans gasped, they did.  And then one said, "maybe this is what God's telling you".  And now that's all I can think k about and I feel oddly.

Happy about it.

Then of course I told a student tonight and she cried..

You can't make everybody happy cannot.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Lately it seems like only my die-hards are reading the blog, which is fine.  Not sure that many want to enjoy the plight of voice teacher mama and her out of work husband.

I have expressed before how incredibly difficult Iowa has been on my faith.  We watched a church go through a big scandal with pretty scrappy attempts at any real healing (they sent us a letter this week asking for money and prayer for a new building, eye roll).

I have experienced a few times the generosity of believers, but only from a far.  Mostly what we experience here is a frighteningly blatant desire for separation from "strangers"...and if you didn't grow up here, you are one.

Last night it was so apparent when we got the awful news that the person who was representing hubby to find news jobs decided to drop him after (what seemed quite obviously) talking to the former boss....the viper who seems to have it out for all of us.  We were on the phone with those who loved us for a bit--and not a single one of them was an Iowan.  We had, after 5 years, nowhere to go and sit down and mourn.  No friendship, no intimacy....we have never, in five years, been invited to a meal as a couple by anyone except pastors.  We got help when Baby S was born...butLittle N, well we weren't church members anywhere so why would friendship or help occur to anyone?  And when we have asked for help here, we have not received it.  Even the state laws seem against us
  When I add that to the number of people yelling at me to get off their lawn because it's private property, or the lack of kindness I see in stores or parking lots....Iowa....I'm just done with you.  I don't know when I will go, but I don't think it even matters.  I tried.  I did the reaching out, the inviting, the service.  And now I am done.

There is a fear to show your own weakness in faith to those who don't believe.  After all, you want them to want them to love Jesus too.  You want to spread the word.  But I guess in this day and age of everyone showing sparkling white toothy pictures of their happy families and careers on Facebook, accompanied by memes of beach looking pictures with advice on who God is and how easy it is to follow Him, let me say this:

I am an awful cynic.  I am scared, weary, angry and full of sorrow.  I know others suffer worse but I just want to pout about my own suffering.  Through all this, though, even though I have insomnia for the first time in 20 years and I can't bring myself to take a full breath, I can't wait for Jesus to come back

And pardon my French here, but it is still utterly satisfying to remember that Jesus, innocent, loving, ready to give His life up for anyone and everyone, spent his whole life being accused falsely by a bunch of dickheads.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mama's math

First, I can't believe I have a son who walks at 10 months.  Not just "steps"....this kid walks.  I always thought parents who bragged they had 9 or 10 month old walkers were just blinded by parental pride. But apparently it is possible.

Last week I got weighed and measured....and had my picture taken in my skivvies.  I think it was mostly for the sake of self-encouragement.  I am still dedicated to the exercise, even despite my number of injuries.  I am also revamping my eating, with my sisters partnership.  I am eating "paleo", which I think sounds lame, but is certainly low-carb.  No dairy and no grains!! Imagine!

I was raised by a professional dieter--my mom.  For the most part of her life, she's been a Ali, healthy woman, and is now.  I was a chubby kid, on one diet after another,but all with mom's math...calories in, calories out.  No matter what my eating program, I am counting calories,  but as I get older, I am much more drawn to having a less neurotic way of eating.  35 years of counting calories (I figure I started around 5) and I can do it well, but I also find ways to cheat.  I hated the hunger that went with all those years of calorie counting.  And I feel like I failed it.  So it actually possible to eat only good foods...lower in carbs, no sugar dairy or grain, and then just eat without the running math? Is it possible because I so want out.

I am tired and my ankles and shoulders hurt, and my weight loss has been stagnant since my husband lost his job....but here are the amazing results.

I weigh about 70 pounds less than I did at my sons birth last May.
Since I started kickboxing last July, I have lost 30 of that.
I have lost, since July, 2.5 inches off each arm, and 5 inches off each thigh!
I have lost 4.5 inches off my waist, 3 inches off my chest, 3.5 off my hips.
It's amazing, and if I get grave enough to share the pics, they're amazing too.

More math....hubby's been unemployed for 4 months, 1 week.
This month, for the first time, we start to deplete what little savings we have.
We have been living off of 35% of our previous household income.  I do not know how, and we have.a fair amount of medical collections, but somehow we are sustained.   I hate living with this canopy of stress, but we are alive.

I am tired of the math...of putting off everything until he has a job....of worrying if I'll be stuck sustaining myself teaching home lessons forever.  I wonder if I'll ever be able to sing a bit more...teach in a salaried position, feel like there was some reason for my years of working at it.

Smaller, apparently, but tired.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Secret of my Success

Well I feel silly, but I am about to blog about a blog I read a week ago.  I am kind of angry.

First let me say that almost everywhere I've ever worked there were a lot of people saying that they were the person at their business/theater/office who worked the hardest.  We all have a sense of being under-appreciated.  Even the bosses, the wealthy, the "uppers".  Something about American culture (and maybe others, I'm not sure) +human DNA says "it never gets good enough for me, while it's far too easy for others."  So I forgive you, all of you out there who think that every good thing comes from hard work.

So, someone I like re-posted a blog written by someone I have generally respected about "the business"...the opera business.  In this blog, she described how those generally who we're not having careers, who had chosen a more "normal"life (what the hell is normal?), honorable though that can be (thanks, we all appreciate your validation), gave up because we couldn't see it through, we couldn't make the sacrifices.  At the end of the day no career, to this relatively successful singer, meant not enough passion.

Hahahahahahaa.  Sorry, I'm choosing to find this humorous over the preferable emotion of  outrage.

This really reminds me of a guy I flirted with, a tenor I met in NYC.  One day, while on the phone, I bemoaned doing hundreds of auditions, spending half of every paycheck on lessons and coaching a, head shots and new music, he said, "you know why you're not more successful?  That washer/drier you bought". Soooo he was suggesting that my desire for the "comfort" of washing my jeans at home was what explained my lack of gigs.

This guy had wealthy parents who were thinking of buying him an apartment in Yonkers, and a toddler aged son he never saw.  The whole world was sacrificing for his career, and he criticized me for not sacrificing enough for mine.  Sometimes this reminds me of politics...a bunch of people struggling to pay doctor bills yell at each other about ideologies while people who can't remember how many houses they own make all of the decisions for everyone.  There's a lot of blaming at the bottom.

So this blogger....ugh.  I know a few things about her.  I know right out of college she landed an incredible gig, paid, with someone who championed her.  That within a few years of that she'd sung a few well-paid, coveted gigs.  I know she's married, she owns a house, is supported by a husband, and though she has had years of struggle (of course she has, you can't be a singer without that), she has walked a charmed path in many ways.

I struggle not playing a tape in my head sometimes.  When I left the Santa Fe apprentice program, a director took my hand and said, "all your hard work here did not go unnoticed".  He never called me back.  I remember auditioning for a dream role for someone with whom I'd networked ad nauseum, who said to me, "I'm so glad to see you're getting some work".  He never called me back either....oh yeah, and that small company whose directors said, "you know, we really believe in you, and we'd like you to be able to come here, perform with us and build up your repertoire."  They laughed and toasted me, talked about how great I was at auditions and Never Hired Me Again.

It's tough all over folks.

The moral of this story to not to be bitter.  It's to never forget.  Never forget that what you got was miracles.  You work hard, sure, but everyone else does too.  Success isn't yours, it isn't earned, it's always....ALWAYS a miracle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March, Enough of this Lion Crap.

Ok, I have not written in a while.  I am not sure why--I actually think I don't write because I don't want to face what's going on in my head.  And good Lord, there is plenty.  Here are some brief, current facts:
1.  My husband has now been out of work for about 4 months.  In that time, we have been sustained by loving friends, by family, by miraculous bits of money that come in the mail, by tax refund, by my private teaching ANYONE who wants a lesson, by my little part time jobs, by my husband giving plasma for cash twice a week, and I am tired of eeking out a life where we earn enough to get through each day, but not enough to plan for 3 weeks from now.  THis sounds whiney, I mean, let's be grateful for survival, no?  But there's more than that, there's....being a good wife to an unemployed person.  There's that.

2.  I have a sick baby, a sick 4 year old, and I'm sure I'm a terrible mother.  I'm tired, I'm tapped out, my 4 year old purposely pushes my buttons, and I was recently told in a coffeeshop that I did not "control my kids" well enough by a mean lady.  I want to send my kids away until this is all over because I don't want to explain to the 4 year old for the zillionth time why we can't do this or that because we have no money.  I am also tired of breastfeeding all night long to make a sick teething 10 month baby feel better.  Tired.

3.  I am eating paleo.  There.  I said it.  I LOVE it.  Finally the weight loss has kicked back up....2 pounds in 5 days, and I feel better, and my skin is awesome, and I just love it.  I am not counting calories or writing down food or feeling hungry.  I have also not eaten sugar since I started and I don't even care.

4.  I am a wreck physically.  According to the doctor, due to my heavy kickboxing schedule, I now have tendonitis in my ankles, my bicep and both shoulders.  It is aggravated by picking up my rather robust baby.  So I crack and creak when I walk and I can't hook my own bra.  It's amazing.

Alright, that's off my chest.   So the good stuff is this.  How can unemployment be romantic?  It can.  My husband and I are bizarrely lovey with each other, rarely arguing, making out in the kitchen.  We are so happy together.  My children are so bright and healthy and beautiful it's ridiculous.  I believe there will be an end to all of this.  I am exercising and losing weight.  I actually think that this will be it....that I will find this lifestyle suitable to me (would be nice to feel confident enough to rest my horrid joints) and I will finally have the body I think is really mine.

I just read some STUPID article someone wrote blaming those who have given up a singing career as people who obviously didn't TRY hard enough.  As if the people who are richest in the country are those who worked the hardest.  The person who wrote the article is someone I know, who experienced significant success right out of college--sure, she fell on some little tough times here and there, but  has ALWAYS sung.  She is the very opposite of what most of us experienced "yes, I think you're fantastic but unfortunately I'm not going to hire you" gets old after 20 years.  IT GETS OLD.  And as I'm mourning tonight, again, how much I want to sing...I also kind of want to punch this lady in the nose.

I am a person who knows who I am.  I will not be bitter, folks.  Life is too short for that.  So for now, I focus on the possibility that dreams are never really gone, if you don't want them to be.  And God does work in His's not just something we say.  Right?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


It has occurred to me, unfortunately, today, that sugar may be holding me together.

I did have a lollipop of those dum sums.  It was strawberry lemonade.  But other than that, I'm off the white sand.  The sweet stuff.  The corn syrup highway.  I want to lose 15 pounds by summer, rounding my weight loss to a total of 100 pounds from the moment I gave birth, and 50 or so since joining Farrells, and a few pounds less than my lowest in NYC.

But I feel angry.  Without sugar, watching my husband go through this unemployment makes me miserable.  I feel hopeless, and my feelings make it overwhelmingly impossible.

Though I hate to admit it, sugar makes me a nice cuddly mommy type with the patience to love my husband.  Sugar is my worst enemy, and my favorite soft place to land.  I miss you lady.  Honey, sweets, .  I am trying not to give into your siren VOICE--calling me from gas station to chocolate shop to my hubbys private stash.

I don't know how to make it through any of this.  There isn't a shoulder big enough to cry on without betraying my marriage or feeling generally unfaithful or expressing a ridiculous fear.  Why am I here God?  Help a sister out.

Either that or just...make ice cream calorie-free will ya?

While I wrote this, my daughter, up way too late, lay next to me begging me to tell her how much I love her.  Then suddenly without warning she passed out and I never said it.  I know she must feel this pain too, and I wish I could be better to her than this.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Good vs. Bad

I remember last time there was a horrific school shooting, there was quite a bit of posting on facebook about "the good".  In an effort to stop the sinking feeling in our hearts that all of mankind was made of evil monsters, or maybe the feeling of fear that our children would never be safe, people posted lovely tales of making children feel special, or people sacrificing for each other, or just kindness in general.  It didn't really cut it for me.  In fact, this always seems like evidence of God for me....somewhere my logical brain says if something is AS BAD as a person killing a room full of children for sport, then there must be something THAT GOOD.  And doing some nice thing for someone, that's just not good enough.

 So, that's kind of a negative way to start a post about my birthday, but there ya go.  The last few months have been all about this horrible unemployment, these awful unjust trials, and pure exhaustion.  But with all that awful stuff, there has been an unbelievable outpouring of love and support for me and my family, and finally, I'm just going to say, for me, my heart has started to fill with peace.  It is enough, to know you are loved, to feel supported, to experience generosity.

Today I turned 40.  WOAH.  This morning, I got up at 6, in the -11 degree weather, and went to my kickboxing class.  When I got there, half the class was dressed in black (for my 40th) with party hats on.  They had one for me too!  They cheered me on while I did 40 pushups on my toes, and all that would have been enough.  And then they gave me a card.  I waited to open it until I was in my car, and inside were lots of notes of support, talking about our rough times being over soon, and $140 in cash.  I cried.  And I can't think of a better way to start my birthday.  Almost nothing I could think of would have brought me down after that.

My daughter has wrapped almost everything in the house and presented it to me as a gift.  Old pictures she's drawn, shoes she likes, necklaces she's made.  It's all a birthday present.  She's also asked relentlessly about the cupcakes that my husband bought.  Poor thing--my birthday's over and we still haven't opened them!  I had scheduled a massage with money from items I sold on ebay, and it was cancelled--masseuse had a sick child, but it was still a lovely day.  My dining room is filled with balloons (I'm not sure how many times I need to tell hubby I don't like balloons) and I just ate a whole pound of steamed snow crab and two glasses of vodka with cranberry juice.

It's about as good as it gets today.  I'm not even dwelling on the fact that a student's mother told me I looked "run down" yesterday.  All I know is a week ago I was plagued with fantasies about throwing a cup of coffee into the face of my husband's old supervisor, and now I can't stop being touched at all of the people who have reached out to me to be encouraging and help financially.

40 is the birthday where I realized that sometimes the good on earth can outweigh the bad.  Not bad at all.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Past Dreams and People Who Need Me

Well, it's so cold here that it feels like it will never be warm again.
It's just poetry isn't it?  It snows AGAIN (for the zillionth time) and we are honestly running out of craft projects, and taking out the garbage feels like a battle of wills because the pain of the wind against your face is SO devastating, and then you come inside and find out your husband got a rejection letter from the last job we'd prayed for.

It is relentless--both the feeling of injustice with his last job, the hoping for a new one, and the friggin' winter.  Relentless, can't think of a better word.

I am using my time inside for organizing, when possible with little children, and I came across a book of songs I'd written between ages 16 and 23.  This is because between the ages of 16-23 I was not planning on singing classical music.  I was going to be the world's greatest songwriter.  I was amazingly prolific, writing literally hundreds of songs, playing them on the piano and singing them.  I think most of my friends know the story of how, during senior year, I got up in the middle of the night and pushed my family piano down the hall into my room so I could write without waking people up.

It stayed there for a while, bless my family for that, and I wrote a lot that year.  Some things I remember, some I don't.  I came across the words to those songs the other night (most songs I didn't notate) and tried to remember melodies.  And couldn't.  Because something about that dream just faded.  It was wonderful, it was mine, and then it just kind of got covered up by time.  I don't mourn it too much, but if I sit down at a piano, for a while, by myself, I can write a song again, sing, and be transported to the way it felt to do that 20 years ago.

20 years ago is the point at which I started working toward becoming an opera singer.  I don't think I was good at it at the beginning.  I teach a lot of high schoolers who could sing circles around me.  But at some point during my Master's studies in it, everyone's tune began to change, and I got told I was a world class singer.  My voice grew, and I started developing a new dream.  The problem with the second dream was watching so many people become successful at it, I think.  It started becoming "unfair" that I wasn't on that track, working as hard as I was.  So the second dream hasn't faded the way the first one did.  It's not a gentle sleep, more of a series of nightmares, honestly.   Ones that start with me singing professionally and end with me realizing I'm sitting in front of the tv with baby vomit on me.

That last part sounded bitter.  I suppose part of the reason why I am hashing dreams out in my head is that I realize, or am realizing, that new dreams can materialize all the time.  I do think of composing operas, I think of writing books, I think of all sorts of things that are beautiful creative outlets that could become dreams.  I think of cabaret shows or going back to the first dream again.  THe future is wide open.  It's just the wide open part that seems unbearable, and makes me want to just--go to a movie.

I feel like adding in this blessing of "the girls next door".  Our neighbor, a man in his early 30s who is on the whole fairly friendly, has had three women live with him since he moved in 4 years ago.  I call him a serial monogamist, though that sounds judgmental as I write it.  The newest of these women moved in two weeks ago and brought with her two girls a little older than my daughter.  The three of them have played, and played and played.  They have slept at each others' houses and played in the snow and done all sorts of things.  And the blessing is incredible.  It is incredible to just put in the time to have 3 girls sleep in our living room (beyond exhausting, and much more screaming than you're imaginng) and then do a nice trade of having a quiet house the next night--with our big empty bed and some time to watch a grown up movie or have a romantic evening.

Yesterday, the girlfriend had a miscarriage.  They were excited about having a baby (this all seems insanely fast to me) and devastated to lose it.  And we were able to help by taking the girls.  It was exhausting and I didn't get all my stuff done.  But at the same time, it is so nice to be needed when here everything feels like it's falling apart.

We are rarely needed in Iowa.  Mostly, there's a bunch of self-sufficient people with big families who seem to mildly enjoy us and are kind of helpful in time of need.  So just being truly needed by someone makes us feel a little less pitiful, a little more important.  And I am so grateful for that.  Even if it does come with resolving lots of discussions of who gets to be the teacher when they play school and who gets to play with the doll who has the best hair.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

trials, tribulations and tunes

This Tuesday I participated in the faculty recital done every year at the college where I teach part,-time.  As I prepared, it occurred to me that it had been two years since I'd sung on stage in front of anyone, really, which explained how much I needed to  throw up beforehand!  The rule of performing and nerves is pretty simple:  more performing, less nerves.  I noticed years ago how the first audition of the season was horrifying for me, but 15 auditions later it was as easy as taking a walk.  So....Tuesday night I sang a set of Bolcom's cabaret songs, including a cheeseball mostly spoken laugh-a-minute number I often like to pull out.

The recital, generally, was more serious.  It was "smart people" music, performed well, and sometimes beautifully.  And if anyone brought a date that night who doesn't really love smart people music, then I was  probably their favorite :)  I was also approached by a woman who wanted me to sing at her Unitarian church.  They love funny songs, I've noticed.  I also sang some of Brahms Liebeslieder waltzes, in an octet, so I could be more than just a funny gal.

My mom came, and sat with my husband.  Mom took notes and told me I was the best.  Hubby just smiled and made random comments.  But I don't go home from anything lonely anymore.  I have noticeably chosen a life of love, and I have that.  And I have an amazing marriage, and adorable kids and a mom who takes notes when I sing.

However, singing almost almost always reminds me of wanting to sing Chinese food I guess, where you feel like it almost makes you hungrier.  Now I am lost in thoughts of how I will reinvent myself God help me.

We are awaiting the results of my husband's trial against "the man" (ironically with all women on the phone) and praying that his second job interview from yesterday results in a job...with money.  But we are also just hoping for a few weeks of even,-keel, calming, happy times.

I am less than 10 days from 40,  oy veywould like some good news,  you know?  And maybe a haircut.  Oh, and some sort of promise that it won't be 2 years before my next performance.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Night Before

Tomorrow morning my husband and I do a phone hearing to fight for the unemployment that he paid into for 5 years.  We are fighting a large corporation and the person on the phone will likely be a well-paid attorney who has never met or heard of him, but just wants to save their billion dollar company a little cash.  Tonight, my job is to attempt to forgive the people who cruelly mocked him, made up weird, false accusations about him, overworked him, came in to work hung over and did nothing to help while he  had to work more and more, longer hours, more crap, more lying from coworkers who thought nothing of assisting in the firing of an ethical, loving father of two a month before Christmas.  Tonight we pour over a file that is so hard to look through I feel like throwing up.  It's like watching what they put him through all over again, and I wish the next 12 hours would pass in an instant so we could just get this over with. 

I want to say that one of the things he's accused of is sexual harassment.  The laws that put sexual harassment in place are pretty sacred to me.  SO many women struggled to be taken seriously for years and fought for those laws.  Now, the idea that my husband would be punished for advising someone not to wear a skirt when being a field's such a blasphemy.  I want to sue the people who insisted she file so that they could "hurt" my husband in some way.  I want to slash the tires of the girl who claims that my husband telling her to stop yelling about sports bras says that he made her feel uncomfortable (she was the one doing the yelling). 

I don't know what else to say, except that my body is full of violent thoughts right now.  I want to bring down, attack, drown, and beat up these people. I find no love inside me for them, and yet I believe in that kind of love.  Radical forgiveness, right?  Either I believe in it or I don't.

Pray for us, please.  Pray for justice, pray for money.  But most of all pray that my heart grows in the way Jesus wants it to.  Pray that I find forgiveness for these people, and not harden myself instead.  Pray my husband and I remember those who helped us, those who gave us money, those who called him to say he didn't deserve it, and be grateful that we have the possibility of a life of forgiveness rather than the alternative.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What We Choose to Remember

We are back in our current "day to day" which feels strange and easy.  It is amazingly, bitterly cold outside.  Your boogers freeze in your nose, you are in danger of frostbite, and the dog runs out, pees, and runs back in immediately.  Even those that we call "cold snobs" here...the people you see in below zero weather wearing short sleeves or capri pants, even they are huddled in their coats.

We are surviving largely because so many people stepped up to help us this Christmas that I am profoundly humbled and grateful.  We have grocery store gift certificates, wal mart gift certficates, and money from parents and even anonymous friends.  It actually feels....almost like normal.  We are waiting for info on Medicaid, which makes me feel poor.  And even better, we are waiting for our unemployment appeal next week, where hopefully the lawyer we hired will win our case and we will not be forced into some ridiculous repayment of the unemployment we received for just one month.  Right now, we have only teaching money to live off of, and none of my students want lessons until next week.

In 2 1/2 weeks I am singing in a faculty recital.  I am excited, and happy that it pays a few hundred dollars.  I am also insanely nervous to prepare for has been a while, and though it is all music I could sing in my sleep, it is the stuff nightmares are made from!

I have noticed in the world of "unwarranted advice" that people generally forget two things about their own lives (or choose to remember it differently).  One, having children.  I do not know why advice about having children (and raising young children) is so bad.  I have spent a while trying to figure that out.  I can only think that people put a happy wash over that period in their lives.  Either that, or they had so much help that their experience was a polar opposite of mine.  I only know that it is extremely rare to get advice that doesn't belittle your experience or make it seem like you're "just not grateful" to have kids.

I read things about how it's wrong to have them watch tv or have screen time.  But I can't describe the feeling of spending 7-8 hours coming up with meals, activities, learning situations, physical play, and being yelled at by the child about ALL of it.  You know what feels great about 4 hours into that?  A freaking Barbie movie.  2 hours of peace while she munches popcorn is worth my sanity, I can tell you that.

I have been very vocal here as well about the "cherish every moment" comments.  Does that include the moment when my daughter writes on the music I saved up for months to buy?  Does that include the moment when she tells me that I'm one of the "fat moms" thinking that it won't hurt me?  Or does it just include the moments that I'm going to treasure anyways?  Because those I don't actually need advice for.  Most moms of 4 year olds, I'd imagine, simply love those little toddler hands pretending to give you a medical checkup, or singing a funny made-up song.  But realizing that she just drew a picture of something on your hardwood floor with a sharpee?  Not cherishing that.

Number two is struggling financially.  People seem to forget what that feels like so easily, and so therefore the advice is feels like there's an odd amount of shame in it (which I DO NOT believe in) and it's just so hard to feel like your life is still a normal life (even though many people go through this exact thing).  I find people describing how they struggled when it simply doesn't appear they've gone through anything like this.  It is an odd bit of perspective that certainly doesn't transfer--either in advice or words.  It's only empathy that matters now, and that which you desire almost more than money.