2.26.2014

My way home.

Life was getting scary, so I wanted my dad. On Monday night, I grabbed an overnight bag and drove my car an hour down the interstate to my backwards little hometown as if it were an oasis of safety.

Here's how this thing works. I'm an (almost) 35-year-old woman who still wants her daddy when she gets scared. He's still my hero, the tall, warm man with a full beard and open arms who'll wrap me up in a bear hug and make it all okay.

When I was 13, I found out that my dad was a mere mortal, and I was so pissed off, so disillusioned, and so angry at him and with my step-mom. I felt like they'd colluded to keep me in the dark, keep me thinking he was a giant, a god. It was unconscionable, and I wanted someone to blame.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I realized it really didn't matter. He was still larger than life to me, even if he did falter and bleed and make mistakes at times. He was all the better for being real.

Now I'm incredibly thankful to still have my dad in my life, and my wonderful step-mom. They have both been so forgiving, so kind, so always present.

There's a children's picture book I love, one that I discovered when Eliot was a baby: Maryann Cusimano's You Are My I Love You. It begins:

I am your parent; you are my child.
I am your quiet place; you are my wild.

(You can find the fulltext of the poem here, and a very cool photography project based on the book here.)

I love this book so much; it captures for me my feelings as a parent to Eliot, but also my feelings as a daughter to my parents.

And I'm very lucky in that my parents ARE my quiet place. They ARE my way home, my nightlight, and my lullaby. They've always been all of these things for me, even when (most when) I didn't deserve it at all.

I have two sets of parents who care about me, 'cause I'm lucky and spoiled like that.

AND, Pam and Dad have a mop bucket full of barbecue sauce in their laundry room.


Just...
I don't know. If anyone ever wonders how I came upon my penchant for the absurd...you might start here.
I'm just sayin'.

xoxoxo

1.02.2014

Quilty.

I started this blog in 2007, when my son Eliot was just a couple of months old, and I think one of my New Year's resolutions every year since then has been to post more often. Ha! I'm not even making that a resolution this year, but it is sort of an intention of mine. My official New Year's resolutions are much more vague: to accept the gift of uncertainty, to let go, and to show up. I'm not going to go into all of that and just exactly what it means right now because right now I want to talk about sewing. :)

At some point in 2012 I joined an online sewing/quilting community called Threadbias, and in January 2013, I started sewing with a Threadbias group called the NewBee Quilters. I think I've written about that here before, but basically everyone who wants to join gets assigned to a group of 12 called a "hive" and each month one person in that group is the Queen or King Bee, and everyone makes a particular 12.5 x 12.5 inch quilt block for the King or Queen and mails it to him or her. So at the end of 2013, I'd sewn 12 different types of quilt blocks--a great way for a new quilter to learn and practice--and I'd received 11 blocks of my choice from my hivemates in the month of June when I was Queen.

I wanted to go back and look at them altogether, so I made a lovely mosaic using Big Huge Labs:



At the beginning of the year, I didn't have much fabric at all; I was working mostly from scraps and bits I'd either foraged from my mom's stash or picked up at the thrift shops. By April, I'd started ordering fabric online because I couldn't resist all the gorgeous eye candy I kept seeing on Etsy and Fabricworm and Fat Quarter Shop, and the bajillions of craft blog posts that come through my reader.

I think my favorite of the past year was September's wonky house block. It's been a struggle for me all year to measure, cut, and seam precisely so that each block measures exactly 12.5 inches square when I'm finished. I'm not a math person, and even though I'm a perfectionist, I'm not good with precision. My personality very much lends itself to improv and wonkiness rather than perfect straight lines. Eliot says his favorites are August and November because the August square (churn dash) looks like a ninja star and the November square (converging corners) looks like a diamond sword from Minecraft. So there you have it. :)

12 months, 12 quilt blocks.

2014 = Ready for Round 2!

12.07.2013

This is why we can't have anything nice.

To Whom it May Concern:

The holiday season is not my favorite time of year. Mostly, I try to maintain a cheerful facade throughout November and December, never indicating to my loved ones that I'd rather string myself up from the mistletoe and take that long dirt nap I've been yearning for since I was eleven or twelve years old than live through one more round of ThanksmasEve.

No, that isn't true. Actually, I bitch about the holiday season in a very vocal manner, pretty much daily from October onward. I mostly look like this:



After Thanksgiving this year, however, I dutifully ordered James to bring the boxes of Christmas decorations up from the basement so that we could start the obligatory pretending to share the goodwill towards our fellow (wo)man that is required of us so that we don't psychologically damage the child too much.

In other words, we were going to put up the Christmas tree, no matter how much it pained me us. Upon opening the box that contains the tree, and hauling its three sections out, putting the middle one incorrectly in the stand, then swearing and lugging it back out and replacing it with the bottom section...I began to notice strange bits of fuzz falling from the branches. Fuzzy pink and yellow globs of...? And, wait...this strand of lights is all frayed and separated, like... Slowly, the pieces of the picture came together and I realized that during all those months I'd been happily not celebrating Christmas, mice had infiltrated the cardboard Christmas tree box, had constructed a nest made of bits of insulation in the fake branches of the tree, and had proceeded to nibble their way through various sections of the wiring on the lights. Lovely.
 
I was ready to cancel Christmas right then and there, but James, sweet James, with his scrappy, make-do disposition, his creative diy ethos, was sure that the tree could be salvaged. All we needed to do was remove the chewed up strands of lights and string new lights on the tree, clean up the wadded insulation, and voila!, we'd once again have a perfectly serviceable Christmas tree. My corporeal body suffused and glowing with the true spirit of Christmas, I said, "Fine. You do it."


After days went by with James snipping and pulling away at strands of lights and Eliot wandering around the house lamenting, "We're NEVER going to finish our tree. Why did the mice have to eat our tree? We're never going to have a tree!" James finally broke down and requested my assistance with the tree. Satisfied that he had been duly punished for his wayward optimism, I grabbed a pair of scissors and went to work snipping apart the strands of lights that were ziptied to the branches AND twisted around them AND held on with small plastic clips. Let me just warn you right now: Do Not attempt to detach the strands of lights from an artificial, pre-lit Christmas tree. Do not. It is NOT worth it. I am here to tell you. Not. Worth. It.

Just set that fucker by the side of the road next to the trash bin and explain to your family the cold, hard truth: Baby Jesus didn't want us to have a Christmas tree this year because it has come to his attention that we are a bunch of godless pagans.

By the time we finished stripping the tree of its lights, my fingers were sore, I was having sneezing attacks from the dust/insulation/mouse debris, and there were at least three pounds worth of artificial pine needles heaped upon the carpet under our now Charlie Brown-ass looking tree.

Tomorrow, we'll put new strings of lights on the sad thing, festoon it with ornaments like my beloved gold, spray-painted macaroni mitten, the empty toilet paper tube with glitter on it that I made when I was six, and the Christmas tree made exclusively from lined notebook paper and Scotch tape, and we'll call it good. We are going to leave this goddamn tree up until after New Year's and we are going to enjoy the motherloving hell out of it. Like a FAMILY.

Merry effing Christmas, everyone.

xoxoxo
Love,
Rachel  

11.16.2013

First grade is a hot mess.

I've been volunteering in Eliot's school this year. I started with two hours a week in the library, which has been great. My favorite task is choosing books to pull from the shelves and display, and when kids check out the books I've pulled, my heart is happy. I like filling requests for books about horses, or snowmen, or bats and spiders, or whatever particular subject is making them curious that day; I like telling them, "Yes, there's a book about that!," and then leading them to its home on the shelf. I like sending them away with my own favorites, storybook gems they might not otherwise discover, like The House in the Night or It Looked Like Spilt Milk. I like reshelving books or clipping and sorting Boxtops for Education while listening to the librarian read to the whole class, her story inevitably punctuated by raised hands and excited, total non sequitur exclamations like, "My grandpa took me fishing once!" in response to a story about the Gingerbread Man.

I like that every time I walk through the halls of the elementary school, I'm an immediate celebrity. First-graders nudge and whisper to one another behind their hands, "Psst...That's Eliot's mom!" or call out to me, "Hi, Eliot's mom!" with gleaming faces as I pass by.

On Tuesday mornings, I spend an hour in Eliot's classroom, helping kids one-on-one with their reading or math. His teacher (we'll call her Mrs. Teacher), has specific tasks ready for me to help with, a list of sight words to help children practice at a desk in the hallway, sets of flashcards to go through with certain students. This week, I walked into the classroom at my appointed time, and Mrs. Teacher wasn't there. A substitute explained that Mrs. Teacher was in a meeting and hadn't left any instructions for me.

I probably could have just turned and walked away at that point. All my spidey-senses were telling me to run, but alas, I saw Eliot sitting at his table, grinning widely at me, delighted as ever to have me there in his classroom, if only for an hour. I stayed. Substitute was working with a group of about eight kids on a reading project of some sort, and the other students, around 14 or 15 of them, were split into groups, busy working at "stations." A timer went off at intervals, signaling to the children to go to the next learning station in their rotation. For about five minutes after I entered the room, everything was peaceful. Groups of kids were reading to themselves, reading in small groups, drawing, writing sentences, etc. There didn't seem to be anything in particular for me to do, so I walked around, casually observing. I sat down at a table next to a little boy drawing a picture on a worksheet, and said, "Hey, there. Whatchya drawin?" Mistake.

Within seconds, the delicate balance tipped, and the class descended into chaos. Apparently, giving a first-grader unsolicited attention of any kind immediately signals to all the other children in the vicinity that attention is being given. SHE IS GIVING AWAY FREE ATTENTION! I WOULD LIKE SOME FREE ATTENTION AS WELL! This is what happened in the brain of each little girl and boy within minutes of me striking up a conversation with that one kid, whom we'll call Tom. We'll call all the boys Tom and all the girls Susan, for the sake of expediency and protecting the privacy of the not-so-innocent.

So, as Tom is explaining to me his lovely drawing, which features him playing his favorite video game, I look up to see Tom holding a book high over his head, trying to keep it away from Tom, who is jumping and grasping at the air trying to get it while a third Tom tackles the knees of the first Tom, and soon they are all three wrestling on the floor, in a death match to determine who will get the book. Susan has appeared from nowhere and is tugging on my hand, pleading, "Will you READ to ME? I need you to sit by me at my desk!"

Mere feet away, Tom has thrown all the red laminated flashcards on the ground and is stomping on them, while two Susans yell at him to stop. Susan taps the glass aquarium of the class tarantula and yells to me from across the room, "Mrs....*breathy exhalation of air that moves her bangs out of her face* Mrs. Eliot's Mom, did you know that A SPIDER IS NOT AN INSECT IT IS AN ARACHNID?!"

I'm casting my eyes wildly about, trying to assess which situation needs my attention first (I'm thinking it's the three wrestling Toms), and Substitute remains blissfully unaware of the growing noise level as she works in the corner with her reading group. Eliot looks up from the book he's reading silently to himself and catches my eye. He smiles and waves and goes back to reading, an oasis of calm in the eye of a first-grade hurricane as Tom, and Tom, and Tom, and Tom, and Susans meltdown all over the damn place around him.

Tom tugs on my sleeve and complains, "Tom called me a bully!"
"No I didn't! You said it to me first!"
"He said the word 'kill'!"
"YOU said 'kill'!"
"Tom is sticking his tongue out at me!"

I take a deep breath and exhale a series of admonitions as I lunge across the room towards the wrestling Toms: "No name calling don't look at Tom we don't say words that make our friends uncomfortable and that IS NOT THE WAY WE TREAT BOOKS!" I blurt, shaking off Susans and pulling apart Toms.

The timer goes off and the kids all drop what they are doing and switch places, except for Susan at the aquarium, gazing at the tarantula. I sidle up to her and ask, "Susan, which station are you supposed to be at?" She ignores my question and whispers, pointing, "This corner is where she keeps the dead bodies." I look, and sure enough, in the back corner of the aquarium is a pile of empty insect husks. I grimace and say, "Ugh. That's pretty gross."

"It's not gross," Susan tells me solemnly, "It's just what spiders do."

I look over at Eliot, now drawing a picture of his favorite activity on his worksheet, and he smiles at me and shrugs.

I have a feeling I'm going to hear that timer dinging in my nightmares.

9.25.2013

Just now.

I am reading Haruki Murakami's 1Q84.
Eliot is reading Magic Tree House #23 and Fly Guy #4

My favorite song at the moment is "Burn It Down" (Flame Princess Dubstep).
Eliot's favorite song at the moment is "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons.


I've been watching Dexter.
Eliot has been watching Minecraft videos on YouTube, especially music video parodies of popular songs.


I've been sewing things like pillowcases and pencil cases and working on Adventure Time character embroideries.
Eliot has been experimenting with construction paper shapes in his school art class and begging me to enroll him in karate lessons.


I've been playing Candy Crush.
Eliot has been playing Minecraft and games on Lego.com.

I've been bringing home essays to grade.
Eliot has been bringing home green banana behavior reports and math homework.

I've been scanning the internetwebs for a white terrycloth robe that doesn't cost too much money. (Why on earth are robes so expensive?)
Eliot has been scanning eBay searching for the missing pieces to complete his McDonald's Power Ranger Megazord toy.

I've been sleeping under the blue and white quilt my Grammy made.
Eliot has been sleeping with a camouflage Build-A-Bear that his Ma-Ma bought him. Its name was originally "Army," but this evening Eliot rechristened him "Mr. Cuddles."

9.13.2013

Yes, we have no green bananas.

When I picked Eliot up from school this afternoon he was scowling as he got in the car.
"What's wrong, buddy?" I asked, glancing at him in the rear view mirror.
"My banana is in red," he muttered.

His banana was in red. In Mrs. D_'s classroom is a chart with monkeys and a banana tree. Each student has a banana with his or her name on it and at the beginning of each school day, their banana starts out hanging at the top of the tree, in the green zone. If they're having behavioral issues, not listening, getting too chatty, disrupting the class, whatever, their banana moves down to the yellow zone. They then have chances to move back up, depending on their behavior for the rest of the day. If things don't improve, their banana drops to the ground, which means the banana is in red.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I can't remember," he mumbled.

I adjusted the rear view mirror so that I could see his face more clearly and asked again, "How did your banana get in red?"

He whined, "I said I don't remember! Mrs. D__ didn't say."

He clammed up and wouldn't look at me. I gave him a minute, and when he still wouldn't tell me, I said I guessed I'd have to call Mrs. D__ and find out, since he couldn't remember.

After a few moments of silence, he whispered, "I do know."

I said, "What happened?"

"I was quacking," he said.

"...?"

"..."

"You were...quacking?" I asked.

"Yes. You know, like I was making duck sounds."

"Why were you making duck sounds during class?"

"I don't know."

"Eliot! You know better than that. What is wrong with you?! Why would you make duck sounds?"

"I told you! I don't know! I just wanted to!"

"Well, why didn't your banana go back up? Did Mrs. D__tell you to stop and you kept doing it? Was it in the afternoon or in the morning?"

"It was kinda like...pretty much all day."

"You were quacking all day at school?!"

"Yeah."

And then I couldn't help it. I busted up laughing because my kid is such a freaking weirdo and I love him so much. He looked up at me with a cautious smile.

"Are you laughing at me, Mommy?"

"Dude. I'm sorry. I can't help it. You were seriously quacking?"

Eliot, forlornly, hanging his head, "Yeah."

Me, catching his eyes, "It's kind of funny. It's a little bit funny."

He started to smile.

Then we had to have a serious talk about why quacking isn't allowed in school, even though it's funny. He has the weekend to get all the duck out of his system, and then hopefully we'll be back to green bananas on Monday.

:)


That's quacktastic!

7.10.2013

Tomorrow is another day.

I've been listening to Macklemore this morning and I keep replaying "Starting Over." It's funny that I found it this morning. I'd never heard the song before. It's funny that I found it this morning because this morning I'm starting over. Again.

I'm not an alcoholic or a drug addict. But I have bad days.

Yesterday was a bad day. I call it a "bad day," but that doesn't mean it rained and my checking account was overdrawn and I was tired and cranky and I didn't get any mail. A "bad day" is when the voice in my head says "I can't do this anymore. This breathing in and out is too hard, and it hurts. I want to be done. I AM done." A "bad day" is when everything is too much, much too much, and I'm ready for it to be over. I sit and cry until the cries turn into shaking sobs and my face turns inside out. Or I crawl into bed and try to sleep, hoping like hell with everything I am that I won't wake up. I wish for a brain aneurysm. I sit at the bottom of the shower, close my eyes, wrap my arms around my legs and breathe in water until I choke.

[I don't mean to scare any of my loved ones with this confession. Generally speaking, I'm okay. None of this is new. It's old, old, old. I've been having days like this, sometimes days and days that stack up in a dark row, since I was fourteen. I have a therapist whom I see regularly. I'm on medication. My medical doctor works in tandem with my therapist, yadda, yadda, yadda. Please do not be alarmed.]

I wouldn't even write this and post it for public consumption except that I feel like I understand something right now that I can only fully articulate by writing about it, and I feel compelled to share it in the interest of honesty and transparency. 


I know, today, I know that my depressive episodes are not brought on by outside circumstances; therefore, they cannot be cured by outside circumstances. In other words, no matter how nice my living situation is, no matter how much money is in my bank account, no matter how many people shower me with adoration, no matter how many beautiful works of embroidery I create, no matter what words I manage to put in what lyrical, skipping order, I am still going to experience days when I can't physically pick myself up off the ground because I'm in too much emotional pain. Even if I write a book that Oprah thinks is fabulous, that shoots to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, that gets made into a Hollywood blockbuster film whose midnight premiere draws millions to theaters across the country, I will still experience days when I have to concentrate on the words tattooed on my wrist and encourage myself to just breathe in and out again and again until I can do it without encouragement.

Glennon Melton blogged recently about her continued battle with depression, and it struck me so hard, because that woman's book and blog has been read and loved by soooo many people. She's been up on the Huffington Post numerous times, she's done publicity tours and readings and signings for the book. Her writing has touched so many people, and it doesn't make her impervious to "bad days." She still has them.

James shared this graphic on his Facebook wall recently:


This quote, along with Melton's post and the Macklemore song, has been floating through my brain this morning, and it just reminds me that for better or worse, I'm pretty well stuck with this depression thing. That's both saddening and encouraging. It's saddening because every time it comes around again I think, "Shit, really?! I thought I was DONE with this. I thought I was cured. I've been doing so well, and I'm so happy in my life. I can't deal with this again. Not again! Why?!" And sometimes I think, well if I just had X, I'd be so happy that I wouldn't have these episodes. This couldn't possibly happen to me if I had more money, or a skinnier body, or a blah blah blah nonsense whatever. I have to remind myself that that just isn't true. 

So it's also encouraging to think of "bad days" as inevitable because if I can just hold on through the storm, I know that it will pass. It comes and goes, and the important thing to remember is that it GOES. It does go. No matter how much in the midst of it, it feels like it is forever, it's not. That's just a dirty lie depression tells me. Also, these episodes don't mean that I'm necessarily doing anything wrong. When depression shows up, it isn't because I don't have enough money, or a skinny enough body, or enough blah blah blah insert stupid material things that, if I thought about it, I actually don't value much at all. It just comes because it comes. It comes because of some funky brain chemistry that I can't change. 

Yesterday James climbed into bed with me and held me while I sobbed against his chest. Just tears and snot everywhere. Today, he didn't have to because I was up and going and doing life again.

I'm actually pretty lucky. I have an amazing partner who understands, loves, and supports me. I have a great big crazy extended family whom I love. I have the best son possible. I love my job. I have numerous creative outlets that I enjoy. I have enough space and time and love. More than enough.

So on good days, I know I'm not done yet. Even on days when it rains and my checking account balance is low and I don't get any mail, I know I'm not done yet. And on the "bad days," I have Glennon Melton, Macklemore, Jim Carrey, and James Pritts to remind me that tomorrow will be better.