A tea stain from a splatter on thick watercolor paper. One dark line encloses light pink, a red drip and green at the bottom is all I can see of a painting above my head on a shelf. One time I told my friend I was wanted to propose an installation piece to an arts foundation. I said it was going to be a display of heads on a shelf. She said I sounded crazy and they might think I’m talking about real heads. I saw a centipede yesterday while I was walking up the hill with Billy. The bug was crawling through a trickle of rain water. It was yellowish with tons of little legs and white antennas. It was a beautiful creature. Trampolines, video games, loud music, it was too loud at the amusement center we took Jack and Fiona this morning. I’m not good in situations like that. I had to wait in the car. I took a lavender soak when I got home to make me feel better. I concluded that I will never like loud places with flashing neon lights and I shouldn’t feel bad. I also realized I will never be O.K. with being in a car with my whole family if they continue to all ask me questions at the same time. I never will, and I am going to tell the kids this, I’ll just tell them it makes me grouchy so when I say “quiet time” it must be quiet time. The alternative is to listen to my head phones? But then I feel rude. But it may be the solution. “Mama’s freaking out guys, Mama needs a break, I’m gonna listen to music for fifteen minutes”. Is that weird? Should I do it? I don’t like feeling bitchy and annoyed.
My book is listed under parenting right now. That’s not what I intended. I said MOTHERHOOD and FINE ARTS AND CREATIVITY. I just panicked over this and ran to my i-phone and sent two emails to the publishers that I want it to say: MOTHERHOOD, INDIVIDUAL ARTIST, and CREATIVE NON-FICTION. I’ve learned so much about computers, numbers, and codes, during the publishing process. I learned when you publish a book you gotta be real specific. It’s just the nature of the beast. I’m half-crazy now. If I was half crazy before does that mean I’m totally crazy now? I’m texting the gallerist asking her if she wants to peddle books with me!!!! I’m totally crazy!!! Amazing. And yesterday, when I said I was going to go with the flow, oh my god. I tried, I did the whole deal, a pancake lunch, a scooter around the city park, a trip to wild care. It was hot. And we were all tired. There was complaining every step of the way. Luckily, we all felt the exact same, me and my two kids, three-and-a-half-year old’s. I was horrible. I ate French fries and a crazy garden burger. Jack banged his forks and spoons and the lady next to us told him to hush. She turned out to be super cool. She helped me and wanted to talk. She showed me her swollen feet and showed Jack the Velcro straps on her shoes. Jack was being bad. When we got back to the car I saw this lady, a homeless woman I see a lot, but she’s usually looking down at the sidewalk. She whispered, “Any Change”. I thought I knew what she said, but I asked, “What?” She repeated, we made eye contact. I grabbed ten bucks outta my bag and handed it to her. Her feet were super dirty, red, and swollen. Her face burnt from the hot October sun, she had those red sores. The ones you get from tweaking and picking the skin off your face because you feel like there’s little bugs in your pores. I think we could be the same age. She said, “Really? Are you sure?” I said “Yeah” She walked up the street, past the place Jack, Fiona, and I just had our horribly behaved lunch, and looked back at me several times saying “Thank You”. When we got home my foot started to ache a bit. Then more, and more, and, more. The only thing I can equate the pain with was when I had a miscarriage. It was like my foot was convulsing in pain. I locked Jack, Fiona, and I in their bedroom. I laid down on the book reading futon. I tried everything, warm water, elevation, resting, deep breathing but it was like a nerve was being twisted and my foot was turning inside out. It started to swell and turn purple. I was freakin out. Jack started acting bad. He unlocked the door and ran upstairs to get into the fridge. I had to go up. I hopped to the stairs, and crawled up, one by one. I sat down and opened several string cheeses for Jack and Fiona. I took two Tylenol and after an hour the swelling went down, and the shooting pain dulled. Today the doctor said I had to have the surgery to remove my ganglion cyst growing outward, creating a whole new landscape on the sole of my foot. I’ve had it for years. My doctor told me to avoid surgery as long as I could. He said it’s dangerous and I could get an infection. But I can’t handle another flare up like the one yesterday, unless they give me some heavy pain pills. It was that bad.
“STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE” this cop shouts. I look his direction. “I’m not, really” I say. “YES, YOU ARE” he says. I didn’t like his tone. He had asshole written all over his face. I still should have said, “OK” and put my phone down. I wasn’t even looking at anything, except a big blob of a bright red and yellow and green circle that was hurricane Maria, at the same time I was listening about the earthquake in Mexico on the radio. I was also still wondering what kind of birds I’ve been seeing that fly in a flock and look like a cross between a turtle dove and a hawk, birds I’ve never seen here before. The light was red, when it turned green I turned right. I failed my first driving test because I didn’t turn right on a red. I learned to drive in New York where rights on reds were illegal and I was taking the test in California. Maybe the cop was annoyed at me because I was lollygagging. I was too numb to be on the go. I am too numb. The cop made me cry, a few tears came from my eyes and my body felt frightened. I felt scolded like a child and mad like a rebel.
“I love you mommy” Fiona said as I carried her in my arms, the top of her head was all purple. We were playing tag and she fell over a big tree. Her eyes were closing. “Wake up Fiona” I said as I carried her up the hill. I had been lost all night. As usual I couldn’t remember any phone numbers or find any phones that worked. There was a party at my house, shards of glass were on the floor, windows broken out. “What happened?” I said. “I have three-and-a-half-year old’s, you need to pick up this glass” At the top of the stairs I left the house. I walked through people, I saw a city scape and a mountain range. All the people I met were nice. They were artists and musicians and children. I kept trying to find out where my family was. I thought I was in Oregon but there was no smoke in the air. When I woke up I was surprised how deep I had fallen back asleep. I woke up sometime last night with insomnia, afraid to look at the clock. I thought I would be up for the rest of the night.
A giant spider just crawled up my wall. Dark brown, menacing. Billy the dog is laying down at my feet and the house is quiet. There’s only moments left before I must take a shower and pick up the little ones. Jack didn’t want to go to school today, he said he was scared, that kids were hitting and pushing him. I don’t know if it’s true or not. But it reminded me of what a cruel world it is. As much as I have protected and nurtured and poured everything into raising my babies they will eventually be exposed to all the things we think are true about life but turn out to be untrue as we get older. Fiona told me she wanted long hair, like her friend. There’s no way for me to alter their course anymore, how they respond to peer pressure. I will always have conversations with them and in the end when they are old my teachings will be in their core just like my moms are in mine. But my children are individuals, I don’t control their minds, they are free, just as I have always been free. It was a strange feeling when I saw this door opening, this future door.
A bra is part of a costume. I see it now so clear. Mama, mama, mama. I understand now. We use it for our armor. We use it on our bodies. Protecting us. Protecting them. We use it all the time. It’s so tight and suffocating. Suffocating. Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama. What do you want this time? I’m telling you the answers, no I’m shouting. Oh, babies, babies, babies Can you hear me? You say mama mama, mama, mama, mama. To ask me something. But I have a question for you. Do you think that your body is your own? Do you think you need to hide it from the world? Do I tell you that’s just the rules? Don’t show your vagina in public. Don’t show your penis. And when you get breasts, don’t show those either. That’s just the rules here. Obey and fall in line.
I tell this rule and that rule. The rule the world before them told me. The world I sift through, sometimes on quick sand, sometimes on ice, sometimes on green grass. I look around my studio. Drawings and marks, paint. The real world. My best world. No questions being asked of me, no roles to play or armor to wear. Or is my armor my paint? My paint brush armed with green, yellow, dark blue, palette knife white. Scraping and staining, forming a protective mesh between me and the outside world? It doesn’t matter. I just do it. I work and experiment and ruin. I have time. Time to layer and scrape. Time to mash and spread. All the time in the world. Just as the moments pass away they come just as quickly, one day running out. There’s still the same amount of moments each day until that last day. We have all the time in our world to make a mess, make a masterpiece, make a statement, make nothing, make everything.
The doorway to nowhere but the big blue ocean. That always open doorway. The crevices I crawl in and out of. Again, I crawl into the crevice that says women must cover their breasts while in public. Why? I think it’s an outdated law. If men are allowed women are allowed.
You will survive the doctor says. I sit on the edge of the exam table on a Saturday afternoon. I can’t believe I got an appointment. Just drop me off, I tell Alan. Take the kids to the park. I’ll figure out what to do after. I’m sick again, or having a relapse, maybe rheumatic fever. Maybe I’m just PMS’ing, perimenopause, maybe menopause. I say this to the doctor. I wipe tears off my face. I’m sorry, I’m just breaking down. The nurse took my blood pressure twice, its low, 84 over 55. Same both times. It looks like this has happened before. She says reading my chart. When she leaves the exam room I start to cry. I hope they don’t keep me, I hope I don’t get rheumatic fever or congestive heart failure. Hearts aren’t strong in my family. That’s why I’m taking the celexa. Do you ever meditate? The doctor asks me. I think it would help a lot, she says. I did before. Before Jack and Fiona were born. I tell her. I’ve started going to Yoga again recently, but haven’t been in a month because of this stupid sickness, cough, sinus infection, never ending. How old are your kids? The doctor asks. Three and a half. Yup, do they go to daycare? Yes, I say. You will be sick until they are six she tells me. So, I’m not dying? No, and you can’t get Rheumatic fever since you took the MOX anyhow. My grandpa had rheumatic fever, it kept him from going to d-day she tells me. Everyone in his battalion died. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for rheumatic fever. The doctor tells me. Wow! I say. I tell her how my grandma used to tell us the story of having rheumatic fever when she was a child. How it affected her life. They didn’t have the antibiotics until 1965 says the doctor. There’s always drama around those stories she says. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are sick with the responsibility of having to take care of kids. Get some rest, drink a hot toddy, and start meditating. Doctors parting words.
My studio is a mess. The whole thing. Paint brushes hard, palette knives covered in dry paint. Works I work and work and work over. Mud and ambiguity. All over the place. Sadness in my heart. The circle of life, the we are who we are fact of it all. The THIS IS WHAT IT IS and accept it. I would do anything to have you back in your studio working my friend. Anything. I see myself in you, you in myself. Line and brush stroke, ink and glue. Ripping and attaching. The highs and the lows. The circle of the dark giant PVC pipe, too dark to see inside. Head first, head lost, if it wasn’t attached. Another toke another joke, another pill another drink, another depression. It’s all the same for you and me. The happiness, the togetherness, the creativity and productivity. It all goes together. The dyad of life. The need for escape. The difficultness of paying the bills on time, of remembering where they were put. The studio needs to be cleaned. I miss my friend. I feel a loss knowing that he’s not in his studio working. The art community is a precious circle. One falls, we all fall. The losses are real. Painting and making, filling the void, the loss, heartache, disappointment, pressure, setback. Do the lines on the canvas fill the space that good, innocence once lived? That bad happened? I put on my crusty apron. I put on my rubber gloves and begin to work. To fill the dark space with grey, blue, pink, green, muted, layered, collage, charcoal. Work is all I can do. I stay afloat. I have the lost souls in my heart. Keep them protected. Foggy mind, draw for clarity. Foggy mind, paint for clarity. Scratch and claw out of the PVC pipe. Once I stop making I stop living.
“Peppa and George are fast asleep”, I hear from the kitchen T.V. 7:29 AM Monday morning mid-June. Fiona is on break this week, no school. Jack has a stuffy nose today, I keep him home from school too. Last week I receive an e-mail from Yoga Works, it’s an invitation to a “10 Day Yoga Challenge”. I’m excited, I set up my free online membership, I can do videos on-line Tuesday and Thursday morning at home. I imagine myself in the studio Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then I realize that Fiona doesn’t have school until the following week. I wonder if I could get away with bringing Fiona to class with me. It would be so inappropriate, everyone goes to the studio to get away from domestic responsibilities. Fiona is good at Yoga though, I think. Maybe she’s the one kid and I’m the one mom who could get away with it? No, not a good plan. Now, I sit in my living room Monday morning, Jack and Fiona watch Peppa Pig, then a Phonics video. I feed them juice boxes, crackers, fruit roll ups, blue berries, raisin bagels left untouched. I decide in my mind, in my heart of hearts to do the online classes here with Jack and Fiona, or at least Fiona, Jack can play in the sandbox. I’ll make it an activity we do as a family. Just need to have the will power. It’s a gorgeous morning, rays of sun shines through the blinds. Something Alan said as we were driving yesterday pops in my mind, “It’s been a crappy summer so far hasn’t it?” he says. I ask, what do you mean? He explains the weather has been cold and windy. I feel like it’s always windy here in the summer, I say “No, I think it’s been a good summer so far.” But my glass is always half full. I hover on a plane of half full glasses ready to catch me when I fall, when I start drowning in the other half. I always have something pulling me back.
Part of today, I feel or think, is a free roaming, anything possible, (except if it requires leaving the house) kind of day. It’s just me and the babies until at least afternoon. I can make my own reality, as a mom. Yesterday, after our morning and lunch out, when we got home, Fiona wanted to take a nap and Jack wanted to play in the sand box. Alan took Jack and Fiona in the Jacuzzi, Fiona took a shower with Daddy. When she got out I put on her jammies, gave her the new book we got at TJ Max. I laugh because I’ve trained my kids to love going to TJ Max looking for cool discounted toys. It’s been a fun activity for us through the years! Consumerism, pleasure center. I let Alan know one person needs to read a book to Fiona and tuck her in, one person needs to bring Jack his clothes to the sand box and hang out. I go to the sandbox. It’s a beautiful afternoon. The sky is blue with a slight breeze that rustles the fig leaves. It’s quiet for a while. I can hear the birds singing, then the breeze comes. When the leaves of the fig trees trap air, I can hear what the airs looks like between the leaves. It vibrates through my body. When it stops, contrast in the silence it leaves in its wake. “Jack did you hear that?” He acts like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. When the symphony starts again I ask him, “can you hear that?” he evades the question, he starts playing with an excavator, pushing an old battery. I relish in this moment; the birds sing, the quiet play I am invited to with Jack. I feel I am in his private world.
Now Fiona watches the Wiggles in the kitchen and Jack watches Blippi on the i-pad. Clouds cover half the sky and a cold air comes in the house. I make a second cup of hot coffee I drink it now. The table is covered with everything, empty juice boxes, books, playdough, pens, games, I have two kids with only shirts on. I have two “screens” on, the words and music merge to create one constant background noise. The sun peers onto the deck, I want to go outside. Now Calliou is on, I have Jack and Fiona both in the kitchen. This will be the last show, I promise. When I was sick the other day I watched T.V. all day. I woke up Saturday morning, well I didn’t sleep very well. I had a severe allergy attack Friday night and bad cramps, then Saturday I woke up wiped. I missed my friend’s birthday brunch. Alan wasn’t too happy I was out of commission, I’m guessing. I’m inferring really, just by mood. He took Jack and Fiona to the bouncy house and a pancake and bacon breakfast. I did a twenty minute on the bike, showered, put on comfy clothes, ate a piece of pot chocolate (for the cramps), vacuum the living room, set up the couch with clean sheets and pillows, turn on the circulation fan, close all the blinds and windows and doors, turn on a sci fi movie and rest. I sat on that couch and watched the movie, then Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States.” Yesterday morning I took Billy on a walk up the trail, I feel well rested, It’s so good to be up here. Billie’s leg is better. I have a euphoric moment, I think I found the Golden Ticket, resting! And not feeling guilty about it. To listen to my body and take care of it, not let outside influences affect my needs, not affect the way I care and love myself. These are goals.
Last sip of second cup of coffee. Still in Pajamas, Jack and Fiona are watching Blippi again on the i-pad. I start to feel guilty. I’m a bad mom. But I’m such a good mom. The past day I begin to teach Jack and Fiona to say, “No, don’t touch me, I don’t like that.” I teach them that they own their bodies. That their bodies are in their private space. I ask them every time I give them one of my automatic heard rubs or hugs or any automatic touch adults do to children to show affection, I ask them “is that ok?” I find out Jack only likes his back rubbed at night when he’s going to sleep, but my head hug is sometimes welcomed, especially if he can wipe his snotty nose on my shirt. So far Fiona says she does not like any of the automatic touches I give her on her arm. I am uncomfortable with most random touching too. I don’t like when people touch me or get too close to my face. I want Jack and Fiona to know they have the right not to be hugged or kissed or grabbed or held when they do not want it. The powerlessness small children must feel when a parent grabs them and holds them when they don’t want it must be freighting. Sometimes it’s necessary, to be strong held by an adult, of course, but maybe if they have the words to say, “I don’t like that”, even when it has to be that way, they will feel more powerful and confident, not helpless.
It’s soon time to start playdough, painting, playing outside, baths, lunch, and naps. Jack needs a nap today with his cold, to get better quicker. I hope I have time in my studio today. I hope I follow through with my Yoga plan. That’s all. Those are my only hopes for this Monday in June. It’s my reality. I can grow my day as I see fit under the circumstances. I take a nice breath, I feel relaxed and the bit of anxiety I felt about letting Jack and Fiona watch three hours of T.V. and eat junk this morning has dissipated. I will join Jack and Fiona on their road of growth today, watch the sun shine through the clouds and fog, find small adventures to have in the garden together, enjoy our day together.