A Secretly Real Identity

The paunchy gal here is a figurine brought to me years ago from Mexico by a friend. He must have seen a resemblance, but in all fairness, she’s actually a little less paunchy than I am. She’s taken up residence on our new deck. Before the deck, our weedy patio hid her exposed body, but I like that she’s now shamelessly sunning herself, embracing life and the world, not hiding in fear among the weeds, and definitely not worrying if society will disapprove of her brazenness.

Anyone who’s read this blog for more than a few months at a time, knows I have a penchant for redecorating. I change banners and colors. Sometimes it focuses more on painting and then on cartoons and back again to writing with pictures. So, you won’t be too surprised to read that I’m thinking about a new banner.

What may be surprising is that, unlike previous PickingMyBattles banners, this one may include my brazen friend and also may not have more than a tiny a tip of the hat to the bad parenting and even worse housekeeping that have driven so many posts over the years.

Thing1 was still nursing when he started toddling. He went through the crawling stage and the pulling-himself-up stages. Then he’d reach out for our hands and walks with us for guidance.

And then he didn’t reach out. He figured it out, and our help was no longer needed.

For that.

And then he didn’t need to nurse, and he took another step away.

And now he’s getting ready to take a giant step away. Thing2 is taking some of the same steps as he starts middle school and finds his own identity.

And I’m questioning mine.

‘Mom’ was, for a long time, the primary (and sometime only) way I identified myself, and I was happy about it. I didn’t like myself before Thing1 was born. Being his mom, meeting his needs changed my perceptions about boys, about the world and about myself.

But there was a person there before he was born. That person evolved, but she’s still there.

She’s still bi-polar as hell, still eating too much and the owner of a bleeding heart. She’s no longer afraid of hard work or committing to others. She’s a techie, an artist and a writer. And she’s demanding to be as much a part of my identity as the person my kids know just as ‘Mom’.

There is no such thing as ‘just a mom.’ That phrase strips motherhood of the depth of its responsibility and meaning as thoroughly as it reduces women to one of the other popular one-dimensional labels of angels or whores. I’m a bit of all of them and more.

There are still battles to be fought on behalf of Thing1 and Thing2. Thing1’s hair trigger colon still threatens his independence while Thing2’s creativity combined with his pack-rat sensibility could give new meaning to Vermont’s image as ‘the Green Mountain state’ with more of a green glow. I’m grateful to be the one fighting along side them. They’ve helped me see how much stories about family do matter as much as – maybe even more than – the stories about politicians and generals. I will always write those because they are the stories about people coming together, they are ultimately stories about hope.

But there are otherbattles, my battles, to fight as well – battles for creativity and a life of contribution and meaning beyond the laundry pile. They are just as important, and all of those battles can only be won by embracing every aspect of my identity – the loving mom, the bleeding-heart angel and even what the world may see as the bi-polar whore.

They are what combine to make what any seasoned veteran truly is — a fighter.

Timeless Tails

I don’t know what the foal’s name is. I’m calling him Ralph. He’s less than a week old, tagging along after his mom, getting in her hair/tail. He was napping while his mom was recharging when I first went to grab a snapshot. I got this on the way back from breaking my diet at the Wayside.

Sunning himself in the grass, picking his head up every so often to make sure Mom was still there, he was playing out an ancient story of moms loving their kids (biological or not) and kids made strong in the shelter of that love. That story may as old as time, but it’s one rerun I can watch again and again.

An Ordinary Gift

I was finishing up the day with my live chat tech-support customers when storm started rolling in. My office is at the back of the house and has no windows, only a sun tube we installed when we built the house to make sure that every room had natural light during the day and did not need to use electricity. My only warning of the approaching storm was sudden dropped connection as our satellite Internet lost signal.
I went out to living room to make sure the animals were in. Princess calamity Jane, our mighty grey huntress was by the window, meowing to go out. I ignored her plea and went to through the mudroom to the front door to call for Gentleman Jim, our orange tabby who thinks he’s tough, but is really just a big pussy cat (yes I went there).

I open the door and was blasted by the steamy hot air whipping around me. A few drops of rain had begun, and the clouds coming over the mountain were violent and purple. I didn’t see Jim and closed The door, turning the Tumblr lock to keep the wind from blowing it back open. Thing2 and I went to the living room window to watch the storm, uttering the odd “look at that” Or “there goes another tree” as the wind forced the trees surrounding the yard to bow to the ground and submission to the sky.

I went back to the door at one point to try to call for Jim. The wind was roaring, taking on familiar sound of an approaching freight train that, when I was growing up in Midwest, would have sent us scurrying for the basement. I could feel the air pressure change as I opened the door and called for Jim, wondering what I was doing risking our safety for a cat.

I could hear him yowling in fear, and turn my head toward the sound of the distorted meows. He had taken cover in the woodshed, but the rain was blowing in and, seemingly having forgotten his barn cat origins, he desperately wanted to be inside and dry. He heard me calling and looked in my direction. 

“Come on, buddy,“ I called to him as if he were one of the boys. He hesitated as the rain began to pound harder and then made the four jumps from the shed to the door. We rode out the storm at the living room window, with me thinking how lucky we are to live in a house that is essentially a storm cellar.

The storm was almost as brief as it was intense. Thing1 still needed things for his very specific diet at the grocery store. It was late , but the boys and I headed back to the mundane and to Bennington, riding out the second and last storm of the evening in the supermarket parking lot.

The Big Guy has issued dinner for the last few months, a weight-loss strategy that’s been quite successful for him. The boys and I still needed/wanted to eat, however, so we stopped at a nearby restaurant on the way home.

It became another completely ordinary evening, the powerful storm almost forgotten. we ordered our drinks as the waitstaff brought a birthday cake to a nearby table. We argued about just how much caffeine Thing2 do would actually be allowed to drink. Another family sitting directly behind us, speaking Spanish, celebrated a birthday with a singing cake. It was deliciously ordinary.

We told the birthday lady Feliz Cumpleaños as we got up and walked out to parking lot.

The last of the storm clouds are moving out, and a brilliant sunset begun. It was as if mother nature was trying to tell us that this ordinary day, this day when we had the luxury of worrying about the safety of pets because we knew our family was safe, when we could experience the potentially very dangerous power of mother nature with awe and not fear and still be able to enjoy a typical grocery store visit and dinner out marked only by the two performances of a birthday song, had been a precious — and rare — gift.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to pay it forward.

The Little Things

So one of the really annoying little things about writing a whole lot lately as it makes you appreciate things you think you want to change. Take, for example, that dream we all have about quitting when we hit some jackpot or (even more improbably) publish that bestseller?

I have a children’s book I’m wrapping up (some idiot who looks a bit like me lost the stylus for my digital drawing pad holding up progress) about a kids’ messy room. While I wait for the new e-pencil to arrive, I’m working on another book about family in the mornings before my day job. And I fantasize about a day when the book work would be my day job.

We’ve had enough healthcare disasters in our family that my day job will be a fact of life until I’m on Medicare and Thing2 is, hopefully, working some place with good health insurance. But that’s not the only reason I’ll have a day job for a long while.

Last week and the week before, I took a few days off for cleaning and Thing1’s graduation celebrations. I had a bit of extra down time, but, somehow, in the middle of that down time, no extra writing happened.

More life happened, and, when I got back to my mundane early morning write, late morning work for money routine, the writing got back to normal. I’m still writing about the ordinary family stuff, but it occurs to me that the day job forces me to treat the writing like a job with its own schedule. To show up each day. It makes the mundane family stuff, like the battles with the insurance company and the purchase of a tomato plant or two, possible in a lot of ways.

It’s a little thing, and, even though it’s always been appreciated, sometimes it’s nice to see it in a new light.

Functional Art

I am the last person to suggest that art should exist for anything but art. My garden being less about art than food, however, features vegetables and fruits almost exclusively. Almost.

Marigolds are one of the few exceptions, tucked in between the tomatoes to keep the bugs at bay. They are all about enjoying art of the  functional kind.  And just for the heck of art, too.