Saturday, December 1, 2012

little braveheart

isadore did the most amazing thing tonight. i was at the dinner table, post-dinner, slid low in my chair. it was one of those two-people-with-needs-and-not-enough-to-go-around kind of days with the husband. i was looking out the window trying to conceal my tears from the disappointment and loneliness i was feeling, and she skipped into the room with her normal isadore energy. she stopped mid-question (kids always enter a room already talking to you) and noted my tears, and began to in her flair-for-drama way take exaggerated steps backward, to un-tip-toe herself out of the room.

at that moment i shut my eyes very tight. i didn't want to think about anything, about how she was receiving me, what kind of memory i was creating for her, what kind of weepy mother i was being, i just needed to pause in my lacking without consideration. on my island of a moment i was surprised to feel a warm breeze blow in, and that breeze was isadore wrapping her arms around me, with complete acceptance. it felt like medicine, and i was equally comforted as i was amazed at her ability to see what i needed and be brave enough to give it to me. plenty of times my tears have turned into anger at whomever happened to be within snapping distance. perhaps she wasn't afraid of my sadness because she knew it had nothing to do with her; she didn't take it personally, and she had it in her heart to meet this need she'd stumbled upon. i immediately let out a sob, i felt so safe doing so. she said to me "i have been wanting to do this all day." and i thanked her and thanked her and thanked her again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dangling aloft

I felt good about getting up today, "my day" to get all three kids off to school. All three. Completely new territory. With prior evening preparations and organization, I felt like a mom With Her Shit Together, a confidence boosting space for me. The morning arguing and stress was minimal (perhaps none??) and we left with the house tidy. I experimented with a slightly altered route from my usual, and got to our destination with 5 minutes to spare.

Mayan launched out of the van before I'd killed the engine and dashed off immediately to find her friends. George and I walked Izzy into the building, and then the two of us waited outside of the preschool waiting the doors to be unlocked. The air had that delicious autumn nip. Once inside, George was happy to change into his slippers and kiss me goodbye.

I met a friend in the lobby so she could tell me about her new love interest, the first since her divorce. I took a moment to revel in her happiness before excusing myself to go to yoga. Although I had 40 minutes to drive only 7, I knew I needed some molting time. The strange, full, lonely, lost feeling was creeping on me. The questioning of myself. A mother whose children are in the care of others, and from now until forever, they will always (and even more so as the years tick on) be in the care of others or of themselves. That raw, dangling feeling, as if aloft without the distinction of joy, but accompanied by the tightness of throat and the imminence of tears. I got to the sun-warmed car before letting any of them fall. I dumbly picked up my phone, sobered by not having my day planned out. Just yoga. Going forth to yoga, I knew, was best.

The northeast class is big, much bigger than the humble loft in southeast, my usual yoga cocoon. I feel slight irritation at this particular instructor--I sense a snobbish streak or maybe I just find her too adorable to relate to. But her classes are skillful, if not lacking a strong flow due to the incessant verbal instruction. Today, my fellow yogis and I packed in only slightly less like sardines. I stayed introverted as I set up, clutching a tissue to dab any quiet trails of tears as they slipped past the ledge of my lower lashes. As the detailed instructions began, I became so engrossed in the distraction that I was taken away from my sadness completely. I thank her for that. Our focus was on the kidneys and spine and brain, and the cerebral-spinal fluid. I've never paid so much attention to the interior space of my body in all of my 11 years of practicing yoga.

Yet when the class wore off and I found my self back in my mobile sanctuary, more tears came. It was then 11am and I had 4 hours of unmarked time. I called the father of my babies and he offered me a verbal pillow to soften on. He helped talk me through my next move--home to brew a pot of coffee and reheat left-overs. He granted me the permission that I silently sought to sit at home with no interruptions in front of my laptop, a perfectly acceptable afternoon. A gentle way to transition into this unprecedented independence that marks the beginning of a whole new elevation of my mother journey. And I promise not to waste it all on Facebook.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dead Can Dance, Alive Can Sit


In an outdoor theater outside of Seattle last Friday night, Blake, Mayan, and I saw Dead Can Dance perform. The band has been split up since 1998, and most people thought they would never reunite. Seeing them was an awesome experience, especially in the open air on a summer's eve.

 Possibly the sweetest thing I've ever seen: Blake helping Mayan with her eye make-up

The venue reminded me a lot of The Crowded House show we attended a few summers ago at McMenamin's Edgefield, and I suppose most outdoor summer concert venues have that same vibe. Grassy fields for parking, older crowd who listened to band 20 years ago and can afford to pay the ticket prices, some bringing their families, tiny compostable cups of red wine and micro-brews abound. And of course, the seating.

 Nothing says "Restoration" like a few hundred SUV's, sport wagons and luxury sedans.

At first we were so excited to get reserved seats through pre-ticket sales, avoiding the hit-and-miss of the grassy general admission seating area behind the reserved section. But as we approached the tidy rows of white chairs just as the first notes rang out, I realized that when the mesmerizing melodies washed over us we would all be...SITTING. Jesus Lord forbid, you are moved by the music and you want to dance (Dead Can DANCE!), because you'd be blocking someone who paid good money to sit on their ass to ingest this long-awaited experience. Which is FINE; that can be nice, too. It's just that as a crowd you have to collectively decide what you are going to do, and this massive crowd decided they were going to stay glued to their chairs.

The diplomatic extrovert in me fantasized about starting an actual conversation about sitting versus standing, and whether or not we could work something out that could get "all of our needs met." My proposal would have been: let's stand for the first two songs, then sit though the remainder of the set, then stand again for the encore. How does that sound, folks? Ok, smiles, nods, agreement, comradery. But, nooooooo, I just quietly bitched to Blake for a few minutes.

Partway through the show, I identified that guy--who was so moved by the music, he was having the hardest time staying in his chair. His hands were in the air most of the show, he shot out of his to seat to clap after every song, yelled out verbal encouragement and praise, and one song he even (gasp)...remained standing for the next number. I watched intently to see what would happen.....a passionate rebel, ignoring the law of the people...would the people take pity or see it as act of of mutiny? I counted about 36 seconds before the lady behind him tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to sit. He complied, neither graciously or non-graciously, but just succumbed to The Group.

  You can see Hands Guy in this video!

Mercy, did they sound GOOD. Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard sound as crystal as studio recordings from 20 years ago. It's amazing to me how some people's voices can hold out and stay so strong and beautiful over decades, and hearing their rich voices blended together in the flesh was truly a delight.

This was only the second show of their reunion tour, so the energy was still fresh. Plucking away at her hammered dulcimer, and dressed in silk and velvet gown, Ms. Gerrard looked much like a priestess, composed and serene. I often saw what looked like complete delight and gratitude on her face, as she basked in our applause. Being in the studio, recording soundtracks for movies like Gladiator and Whalerider, have quite a different reward than live performances, I imagine. Mr. Perry, who looks simply like any one's Social Studies teacher on summer vacation in a short sleeve shirt and casual pants, can both rattle and lighten the bones with his pleasing baritone and resonant 12-string. Their music is like a hand-picked selection of "the best of" world music with darkly melodic roots, orchestrating a variety of instruments and tongues into a diffusion of deliciously palatable sounds for our Western ears; this is done with an intensity that makes their bodies seems like vessels which ancient spirits and sounds are channeled through. Perhaps this is the inspiration to the name--the spirits of the dead are dancing through their voices and hands.

In the end, the best part of the evening, wasn't actually the show, or our succulent Italian dinner afterwards, or our familiar and posh hotel room in downtown Seattle we retreated to post-show. The best part was that is was a great date with our oldest daughter, Mayan. She, too, is a lover of music, no matter what the are, she loves all things goth and lace, and keeps DCD on her iPod. While she has an especially tight relationship with her dad (the two are cut from the same yard of fabric, I swear), her and I have had a rockier, oil-and-water type connection....pretty much since birth. The past year or so, we've been able to come to an understanding place, and though she is in the throws of great changes, we've been surprisingly close, and able to appreciate our differences for the first time in years. Her father and I found it truly refreshing to have a chance to take her along with us on what would usually be Just Us, and still have it be relaxing despite "having a kid with us." Her presence really enriched our experience, because it reminded us she really isn't a kid anymore, she's a lovely, creative, sensitive, and funny young woman, and ready to partake in more mature adventures. I look forward to many more!




Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Information

Last week, on my way to get my boy from preschool, a minivan suddenly turned into my lane giving me only a moment to steer clear. Luckily, I was able to downgrade a full-on collision to a mere scraping of bumpers. The other van and I met in a nearby parking lot, and the passenger and I got out to make sure everyone involved was okay, which was the case, aside from my frantically beating heart. I took a few breaths, and felt the headache I had been fighting all day bear back down.

As per the fender-bender custom, I walked around each car to see how much damage had occurred; my front drivers side had some scrapes but no broken lights. Theirs was in slightly worse shape, although it was difficult to tell what the already battered van looked like before the accident.

The couple, who were African, spoke English as a second language. With my insurance card and smart phone in hand, I asked to exchange information. The woman, in her mid-20s with rough skin and modest clothing, looked to the man for guidance. He placed his hands in his pockets of his khaki pants, relaxing his stance, but his gaze--the energy behind his eyes--changed as though the thoughts behind them quickened.

The man nodded to his wife and spoke. "Get the card." She hesitated. "Go," he said more firmly. "The card."

She headed to the car, but sort of danced around it, approaching the vehicle from different angles, before saying to me, "But you okay. It is okay."

"Yes," I agreed. "But we need to exchange information. It is the smart thing for me to get your insurance information."

I turned back to him. "The baby was crying," he explained.
"Yeah. You turned over a double yellow line. You can't do that. That's illegal."

His hands remained in his pockets so I nudged him for his license or some type of identification. I looked toward the wife who stood looking at her open door but had still not produced anything yet.

"Just tell me if you don't have insurance," I pressed, tired and wanting to get to my son on time. I could see this wasn't going to go as smoothly as my last traffic accident did, my only other traffic accident, where a woman hit me in the school parking lot. We snapped pics of our insurance cards, IDs, and vehicle damage and were on our way within 5 minutes; the insurance companies mostly took it from there. 

"My ID is coming in the mail. I do not have it yet, but it's coming," the man assured me.
"You don't have a driver's license?"
Pause. "No."

"Then you don't have insurance," saying this mostly to complete the puzzle for myself. I knew I couldn't walk away from this with nothing as it has been hammered into my American brain my whole life: exchange information. Exchange Information. 

My great desire for "Information" was clearly beginning to boggle them, but I insisted. "I need your information. It is the right things for me to do. When there is an accident, it is essential that we Exchange Information."

To them, I must have seemed like an uptight middle-class woman, with my messy red hair and fancy pocket computer, making incessant demands for this seemingly vital Information. They were concerned only with what was in front of them: cars are okay, people are okay...what else does this lady need??

Unrelenting, I turned to her, willing to take whatever I could get. "I need to take a picture of your license plate and ID." Again, she looks to her husband, who nods, but is having a harder time hiding his irritation at my request.

She stalled one more time before getting anything for me, and decides to offer every bit she can that may possibly satiate my need for the Information.

"We have a baby."
"Yes," I say.
 "My sister lives right over here," she explains.
"But you are okay, and we are okay," she finally offers.
"I know," I reply.

Finally, she opened the sliding door to her minivan and inside were 5 or 6 children, between the ages of newborn and 12, sitting inside. She gestured to the baby before reaching for her wallet. "See?"

The oldest boy sat next to the infant seat, pacifying the child. Another small boy, maybe 4, had been crying and a thick layer of snot was caked all around his nose. The oldest daughter shifted her eyes away from me, as I silently admired her brightly colored pink and green head-covering.

"I see," I told to the mother. Then to the children, "That must have been scary for you." Then, I walked behind the van take a picture of the plate.

The woman one last time tried to talk me out of showing her ID, but I was unwavering. Reluctantly, she handed it over, a type I did not recognize right way, but in the blaring sun I did my best to get a shot of it. My headache was persisting, and I was feeling even more sapped after the initial adrenaline had worn off. The couple seemed uncomfortable, and the man, who was clearly done with the scenario, retreated to the drivers seat.

I handed the card back to the woman and offered to reciprocate. "Do you want my license?"
Confusion passed over her face. "You have it already. I already gave!" she says defensively.
"No, MINE. Would you like mine?" She shrugged, and said "OK," like she is just going along with this ritual that I have been forcing them to participate in. I look at the man who is shaking his head, looking somber and slightly ill.
"You don't want it then?" I checked, the mediator of this whole information triangle. He said no. "We don't need."

I pulled back my card and dropped my hands by my sides, in retreat. Her next words took on a different quality, a more reflective tone. No longer trying to appease my requests or follow my lead, she had honesty in her voice.

"It's not like this in Africa," she stated simply. "You okay. We okay. It's not like this." 

I understood what she was saying. In their eyes, I was making it complicated, much more complicated than it needs to be. They were thinking of the people involved and I am thinking about the vehicles and potential repairs. I only have a moment to gather my response. I am an America-born citizen who was raised on rules and regulation and the complexities of US legal system. Even in this brief encounter, I realize that its a very different world that she comes from. Besides our bumpers, our cultures had collided and the contrast was palpable.

Under the influence of that revelation, all I could offer was this generalization, "In America, its all about the insurance companies. Insurance rules everything." Then I walked away.

After they drove off, I examined the photo I'd captured in the shady relief of my car and I realized what she'd offered me. A US Immigration workers visa...that had expired in 2005. In order to appease my need for Information over a tiny fender bender, they offered me what is probably their biggest secret and greatest burden.


Illegal immigration is not something that penetrates my world in such a distinct manner. I was raised in a town that was 97% white, and even in Portland I feel mostly shielded from racial and socioeconomic issues, that I know are present but they don't affect me in an obvious way. I am a very white woman, in a mostly white state, in a fairly white neighborhood, and our family does moderately well. I am, at least, aware of my bubble. This unexpected encounter gave me a glimpse into a life that, while only blocks from my home, is worlds away from my own.

Afterwards, I grappled with whether I'd done the right thing, and what to do next. Here is where my perpetual dual-sidedness comes in to play. On the fence where I dwell, it is difficult for me to be passionate about any one cause because I can always muster some empathy for either side of an issue.

I want all drivers to follow the rules of safety, because I want my family to be safe, and I want to believe that every one of those drivers has read the book and passed the test by demonstrating their safety knowledge and, in turn, earned the proper license. Yes, there are a number of bad drivers out there who have followed that protocol and still barrel over double yellow lines. Or get distracted by crying babies. We are always at risk on the road, no matter how many people follow the rules, as we are ultimately steering about giant hunks of steel at high speeds.

As Americans, we demand the least amount of risk, and do everything to maximize the highest safety standards. Compare our car seat standards against those photos you see of families piled on a motorcycle in Mongolia. Here, our need for (and perception of) safety is a cultural thing.

As far as immigration goes, I have not lived a life that has helped sculpt solid opinions regarding the issue, like maybe a person who has lived in Texas, Southern California, or New York City.  There are multiple angles to attack such a complex issue. Looking from a government standpoint, this family is illegal.  From a citizen and taxpayers standpoint, they could be considered irksome.  From a mothers's understandable. I have no desire to blow the whistle on this family, even if I thought I had what I needed to track them down; the thought of possibly breaking up any family is disturbing. Even if they are living sketchy lives, or the dad is a reckless driver or an abusive jerk, or even the mother for that matter. I don't know a damn real thing; my glimpse didn't get deep enough to see, and its not my job to uncover.

I hope his ID is in the mail. I hope when they got home, the husband and wife hugged each other, and he thanked her for doing her best to protect their secret. I hope they had a conversation about how things could be different, how can they take the right steps to legitimize themselves and stop living under this fear of being exposed as living illegally (maybe I'm being naive and that is impossible.) I hope that the fact they let this stubborn American stranger walk away with a photo of the wife's expired visa doesn't weigh heavily on him, and that he doesn't take out his stress on her or the children. And finally, I hope I did the right thing by letting it go. 

While I was processing this experience, I kept thinking about the possible reactions of very random people in my life. What would so-and-so have done? The young activist couple I know, a friend's military boyfriend, Blake's dad "The Judge", my own mother, sister, and best friend. Another reminder how our roles and experiences shape us, and I guess that is why I am so often on the fence. Out of 6 billion people, I just don't see how my perspective is so well-informed, so significant, because it's not. I'm just one hopeful voice in this big, wide world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I just really, really love my family. Which, while always true, is a surface feeling that I must savor right now. Because sometimes it's really hard. Loving them is not hard, but allowing the feeling or expression of love to float freely to the surface...its the most surprisingly difficult things I've ever experienced. I look at this and feel such gratitude, such appreciation...for who they are, each of them individually and how they impact me, shape my reality and existence. A stunning group of humans. I am responsible for their care. Boggles my mind and humbles my soul. Xoxo

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The dysfunction of my family has overwhelmed me already and it's only mid-day.

We arose reasonably early, so took the opportunity to go to a park as a family before Blake opened the shop at noon. The day before, I'd discovered a rare slice of unadulterated nature in Southeast Portland, a sun-dappled place for the kids to safely explore a remarkably clear creek and try to catch crawdads. A place to fill all of our "cups" and set the tone for a peaceful day.

After that, you can imagine how frustrated I got on the ride home hearing the kids exchange confirmation to each other about how much they dislike one another, as well as a slew of other annoying behaviors, sounds, rude demands. Repeatedly, us increasingly irritated parents, calmly stated our observation/needs/requests, and other non-violent communication bullshit, yet we got nothing but resistance, obnoxiousness, and persistence of the the offending behavior. So I deteriorated into my good old fashioned shaming, threatening, and yelling. I even added a leg smack when George launched into an ear-splitting "Fucker Face!!!!"

I had offically Had It, and curled into my passenger seat for the remainder of the drive, sobbing silently. It really boggles my mind after a scene like that how one of the kids can ask, "What's wrong, Mom?" I think they think this kind of life is normal.

When we arrived at home, I decided it was better to just dive into to productive housework and not speak to anyone. Blake grabbed his bag, gave me an unanswered hug from behind as I slung dirty dishes around the sink, and shuffled the girls out with him toward work. He rightly assumed the less kids, the better. I turned around only to find Isadore's shed clothing dolloped along the clean living room, like a Hansel and Gretel trail. "Don't worry!" I shrieked to the empty room. "I'll get that for you!" And then I whisked them to her hamper, tornadoed around the bedroom creating an opposite-of-destruction effect, before crumpling to the floor for an angry, ugly cry.

I know who I get mad at on these kind of days, its not the kids or my husband--it's me. I chose this kind of life, I knew I was too young to get married, and I knew I was marrying into a dysfunctional family and that I came from my own dysfunctional family, and I just dove right in and started having babies anyway. So while I am beyond frustrated with the behaviors, shortcoming, and lack of communication skills that is the default state of our tribe of five, I am fully accountable for my part.

It's becoming clear that when all that is up in my face, I have to ground myself in some way. (The other choice is to numb myself, and, sure, I go that route sometimes, too.) If I can find one action or activity that brings my lens from the macro-mess to focus in on a micro-beauty, this day will not be wasted.

Today, I look to strawberries. I pulled this flat from my fridge and knew that if I didn't process them right then and there, I would hand them off to someone else or leave them to rot. I grabbed my strainer and kitchen knife and I washed, de-stemmed, and sorted until my cutting board and fingers were deeply pink-stained. On the stereo, Blind Melon was a perfect accompaniment; Shannon Hoon offering falsetto empathy......when life is hard you have to change...

It's not as gentle as it sounds
As though it sounded yesterday
When I heard a leaf of my life hit the ground
And as a bottle cap flew from my fingers

I don't know what I've gotten in to
But I'm glad it's now instead of sooner
This desert heat has crowded me strong
With a wish I had for winter

He died at age 28 of a cocaine overdose. So things are not so bad for me, I remind myself, as the strawberries fill the bowl.

Cooking and music might be able to turn my this around. If I can get better at slowing down, calming down, and turning toward simple things to help me process this life I'm in the thick of, maybe I can turn my collective days around, and one day feel like I've turned my life around to something more functional.

Even if my day goes to shit all over again, I will have the strawberry preserves to keep me afloat. Just for today, anyway.


Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar 

2 cups strawberries (about 1 pint), trimmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a small heavy saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring, and skim surface. Simmer mixture, stirring and skimming foam occasionally, 15 minutes, or until thickened and translucent. Remove pan from heat and cool preserves completely. Preserves keep, covered and chilled, 1 month.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


my intention in yoga today was creativity.

i told myself that this summer i would do yoga, spend lots of time outdoors with my kids, and write (a lot, about anything, just as long as i am putting words down.) i have done yoga 3-4 times a week and taken the kids out every afternoon. i have only attempted one piece of writing--about our first year of public school--and it was a train wreck so i hucked it.

my creativity has stage fright. ever since i committed to going back to school to study creative writing, i've felt zero inspiration and an impending sense of dread about writing. so much self-doubt has oozed its way into my brain. even my tiny, uncapitalized letters here reflect my feeling of weakness on the page.

instead of attacking my writing in my usual way, which requires me having a topic and the drive to sculpt it into a readable piece, i am trying to get creative about my writing. sneak around in more subtle ways. no big movement or loud noises.

examples: having a separate private journal-blog to jot down any ideas, thoughts, experiences without the pressure of having to form it into something coherent. being okay with not posting anything epically wonderful to my main blog. thinking about poems in my head, but not necessarily writing them down. making up stories for the children in the car and then visualizing them as picture books. combing through books at thrift stores and adding selections to my nightstand that extend past my usual variety, and not promising to read them. opening up my laptop less often.

taking a cue from yoga, i am trying to be very gentle and patient with myself. to have faith that i'll get somewhere--here, there, nowhere in particular--as long as i pay attention to my creativity.

so i'd like to know: how do you stay creative?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Decade of Motherhood

Mayan, for some reason, has recently taken to reading old Milk and Ink posts. The other day, while Blake and I were chatting in the bedroom and sorting laundry, she barged in and exclaimed, "You were going to put Zeke on Craigslist??" Our dog, who passed away just after George was born, was a slow, old lumbering thing whose presence was pushed way into the background once Blake and I started a family. I hadn't thought about it for so long, but conversations had passed thinking he may be happier spending his final years in another home, although we ended up sticking it out. Apparently, though, I had blogged about it.

I'd seen Mayan looking at the old blog photos, and reliving the life we just recently left behind. She was between the ages of 4 and 8 when these posts were written, and now at the wise old age of 10, she is hearing my interpretation of our lives during that period in written form for the first time.

Milk and Ink has always painted a fairly pretty picture of our lives on the half acre, raising chickens, gardening and homeschooling: the most exciting moments, the most productive days, the most flattering shots. What Milk and Ink didn't show was the crumbling marriage, the tears and anxiety, the fits of rage, the massive parenting failures. As I look through the blog, and watch our progression as a family through this rosy lens, I don't have to ask myself where things went wrong, I instead have to look for the point where we couldn't contain the dysfunction any longer, and it finally spilled over the edges and into the floor.

My gut-wrenching theories are that having a third a child tipped the scales, and that I was never ready (at 21) to become a mother in the first place.

It is a horrible and humbling thing to admit that you had too many kids, or even that you made the wrong choice having kids so soon. When I look at my kids as individuals, they blow my mind. Forget that they are all Gap-model gorgeous, they are really fucking cool, powerful, bright beings to their core. Together, as siblings and in our family dynamic, they are a train-wreck. We do not live in a peaceful home in anyway, and I am not overstating things. (Our neighbor who was once very friendly, has shied away, and I am so embarrassed to think its because she can hear how our family operates behind closed doors.) Comments like "Oh, every family has their moments" or "No family is perfect" do not bear any weight; I know what our family is like, I know what our "norm" is. Loud, dramatic, volatile, and stressful--everyday. Something is broken.

Our attitude has been broken for a long time. Once upon a time, I would openly discuss parenting issues within my mothering community, I'd be grounded in a particular philosophy, I'd seek online sources to inspire my parenting, share them with Blake and implement them with the betterment of my children in the forefront of my heart. I can't recall when it exactly it happened but in many ways, at some point, I've given up doing my best at being a parent. I find that I am only occasionally able to muster being the parent I want to be. 

For the last year, I've been putting my best efforts toward at being married, which has undeniably paid off--the results have been such a transformation, that it almost feels like magic happened. In an age where so many couples split, and so many couples are together but struggle with being utterly unfulfilled, we turned a bad marriage into a good marriage. But I have to remind myself that it wasn't luck, it was due to inexplicable effort on our part.

So while Blake and I are very happy, individually and as a couple, our children are clearly not. While at first this seems ironic, I am reminded that our children have always suffered at our unhappiness, but now that he and I have reset, they now feel safe enough to be able to show us their wounds openly.

Can our children be happy? Can I now shift that same effort that rescued our marriage to patching up the damage we've caused them? I have to say, after all that effort, I am really fucking tired. Its like the end of a wretchedly long day, and you drop a priceless antique vase that shatters, and you are just too tired to sweep up the pieces. You are so sad about, but you just want to go to bed and hope it can be glued together in the morning. Then in the morning, you cut your foot on a shard and say "Fuck you, vase!" and grumpily sweep it into the corner. The vase has nothing to do with it, you are mad at yourself for dropping it in the first place. Really, you just want it to be whole again.

Leaving our home and ditching our ideals, might seem counter-productive to lifting up our children. Moving is damn hard and transitioning to public school is damn hard, especially at the same time...then stir in the additional stress of having your parents only recently narrowly escaping a divorce. We are only 8 months into this desperate effort, and the children are as difficult as ever. More so. They, each in their own way, have thrown us challenges that are bring us to our parental knees, and Mayan, although I feel the need to double check her birth certificate from time-to-time, is not even 10 yet...we have a road ahead.

At a party last night, we met a handsome and talented couple, who while aside from looking fabulous and achieving in career goals I wish to be achieving in as well, mentioned that they home-school their two kids who are 11 and 13. "I love to be around them; they are just really cool kids." God, it hurt to hear. It sucker-punched my two biggest fears: that having a third pushed us over the edge, and that I am too immature to even enjoy my precious children. Even though I believe in home-schooling, I literally have had to send them away to protect them from my shitty attitude.

The majority of the time, I don't love to be around my kids: I am so ashamed of this. My buttons are always pushed: the screaming, name-calling, lying, stealing, destroying, pouting, belittling, and defying. In my head, I keep a roster of the women I know who speak about their children they way I wish I spoke about my children--the mothers who turn a cheek to the undesirable behavior, reinforce the goodness they see, and celebrate the simple moments. The ones who sounds grateful for the experience of motherhood. If I spoke that way, I would be faking it. Wretched me, I am so blinded by the constant pain they seem to be in and how they display that pain all over our family, that I am always on the defense, and always looking for respite. They take turns being the most "in crisis", so when we finally feel like we've identified and addressed appropriately one particular child's drama, another child fall into stress. The cycle repeats every damn day.

How can I pull back to see the larger picture in the moment, and offer calm, strength and compassion, when I am always triggered? How can I not take this personally, when its completely personal: this is not just who they are, it's a result of my parenting thus far. In my overwhelmedness of young motherhood, I've shamed, blamed, and punished them into insecurity. Like a bad dream, I watch what takes place as it unfolds but I feel paralyzed to make any significant advances. Albeit not thoughtlessly, I am wasting the years I will desperately pine for when they are grown and gone.
A friend recently posted that children each have unique frequencies and the job of a mother and father is to tune into these frequencies and parent from there. My biggest problem isn't that I don't have enough love to go around, it's that I can't seem to tune into more than one channel at once. 

The biggest relief that sending the girls to school has given me is the opportunity parent one-on-one. My best parenting moments come from focusing directly on one child at a time, without the influence of the others' presence. Again, its not my ideal. I had this vision of myself that I developed about the time I turned 18, as the youngest of four kids, none of which had gone on to marry and have children, that I would have 4 or 5 kids--all boys actually, and I would raise them to be sweet, funny, caring gentlemen. Buzzing about me, being protective, affectionate, and above all grateful. Like homeschooling, I still believe in, or at least admire, large families that remain strong.

In truth, I do miss our old life, of homesteading and unschooling on the half acre, but I do know there is no going back. I don't miss the isolation and the massive work it took to keep the home and grounds maintained. For fuck's sake, I don't miss my bad marriage. 

We've scraped that life, and started over--thankfully, together--in hopes of building a new one. It's not pretty yet, there are still great cracks. Will I ever be one of those moms who loves being with her kids? To get there I have to tie enough strings, tie them tight enough to not break whenever conflict arises. Basically, I have to grow the fuck up and get my shit together. They might be adults before that happens, but I am riding it out because I do believe the love I have for my children will rise to the top again. Eventually, I will learn to communicate with them in the same loving and respectful way my husband and I have finally learned to communicate. Even in our lowest moments, I know that we will never give up helping them along the great path, even if we gave them one hell of a bumpy start.


Sunday, April 1, 2012


Little clouds cushion my steps.

This weekend, I met someone I've been eager to meet ever since I discovered her local existence. Someone who showed up as a nudging, little beacon at the exact time I stepped forward toward my own uncharted territory. A mentor of sorts. A tangible source of inspiration in a world overflowing with creative types, this was one that hit close to home...more so that I expected.

Since committing to the Literature and Writing program at Marylhurst University, I have kept a writer's frame of mind--while still greatly intimidated because of my lack of exposure and knowledge, I have been paying attention to the literary traffic that passes by me. The insecure part of me feels underdeveloped and ignorant, but the wiser, braver part of myself knows that every book, article, and author explored will benefit my erudite landscape. My eyes, ears, and heart are like tingly antennas, receiving what I can to broaden my exposure; I am merely a newborn in this world of writing.

Six weeks ago, a link came through my news feed posted by my friend Amy, regarding a Portland author who had just revealed herself as the anonymous author of a popular advice column in San Francisco's The Rumpus. Yes, I state this smartly now, but I had not heard of The Rumpus, or the column, Dear Sugar, or the author, Cheryl Strayed. I link-hopped over to her website, and before I knew what was happening, I'd spent two hours pouring over her various articles and Dear Sugar letters.

While her initial bio sparked instant connection--a mother in southeast Portland, with a respectable and burgeoning writing career--it was her voice that grasped me, squeezed an unnameable point in my insides somewhere between my lungs and guts; I was a little breathless, a fair-amount stunned, and completely affected. Reading the loving advice she spooned out to her seekers, I could sometimes anticipate the end of sentence before I read it. Her voice sounded so comfortable in my brain, I was confusing it with my own.

I felt a pressing of validation amidst a bubbling of emotions that ranged from excitement to insecurity: I felt as if I was hearing what my own writing voice might sound like in 10 to 15 years, if I stayed on the path. The internal conversation that ensued, between my dual-selves, the angel-devil type that sit upon your shoulders, sounded much like this:

"Oh, my god. That could be me. I would totally say that. People clearly respond to this. You could do this..."

"Sure, SHE can pull it off. I'm not sure YOU can pull it off..."

"But this kind of raw, honest, nurturing, seeking-beauty-in-the-pain approach...that is SO YOU. It's what you want to do, and here is someone proving that it can be appreciated."

"Yeah, but so what? She's already out there doing it. Lots of people are. There are plenty of writers out there doing, and have BEEN doing it for are too late in the game."

"But I have a talent. I just don't have the experience...and that will come, over time...and with hard work."

"Hard work? You are lazy, always have been. And, don't forget, nothing really huge has ever happened to you. You've never even experienced can people take you seriously if you've never experienced something as basic as grief?"

"I know I connect with people, its one of my strengths--I know how to draw out beauty in the tiniest of experiences. This woman inspires me...I can be a writer. I AM a writer, goddamn it."

"Huh. Good luck with that."

"You are a douche-baguette. Let's go to sleep."

Waking the next morning, my thoughts were still consumed, but the shitty voice was much quieter. Mostly, I felt a surge of confidence and energy, like someone handing you water during a run. That morning as I worked, cleaning one of my regulars homes, everything I'd absorbed the night before kept cycling in my head: the moving stories people had told to her and her soothing responses, the sharply tender way she spoke of motherhood, the vision I'd created for this author in her office on the top floor of her home in SE Portland--Stumptown coffee mug within reach, words radiating from her as her fingertips busily worked the keyboard of her Macbook. Then I'd try to place myself there instead. A Real Writer.

I'd been reading Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, John Irving...these are not authors I could connect with as actual people. Only the stories themselves vibrated me, and left me basking in the book itself, not able to see beyond to the person who conceived and birthed it. I could not try-on their lives the way I could try-on Cheryl Strayed's life: in her, I had my first contemporary inspiration.

Cheryl Strayed.

My day carried on and still I could not control my tumbling thoughts. It was as though I had taken a dose of an overly potent medication, and it just had to wear off on its own. I rode the high, and went about my business. I showered, I made lunch, I tidied the house, I checked the mail.

As I stood in our wood-floored, mid-century, brick ranch home, that we just recently rented, cloud-filtered light came in through the large picture windows. I passed each piece of that day's mail across my hands. Many of them had the large yellow label across the bottom, USPS alerting me to the fact I'd not updated my address to the sender yet, and that particular piece of mail had been intercepted before it could be erroneously sent up to our old home in farther-out Southeast. There it would have been rejected by our new tenants, something we occasionally have to do for the adrift mail that shows up in our slot intended for the owner's of this charming ranch. The days contents: bills, junk ads, a dental reminder post card...and a letter addressed to the owner of our rental.

A letter addressed to Cheryl Strayed.

In the less-than-24-hours I'd been in my haze, my brain had not recalled the fact that I had seen that name before. Cheryl Strayed was the owner of the house we lived in, but because we go through a property manager, I've only seen her name on the lease and on the occasional bits of mail that find their way into our box--certainly not enough exposure to have had an instant recollection. I questioned the odds that my newly discovered mentor would also turn out to be my lessor. Suddenly, I had a triple injection of encouragement--as though the universe was patting me on the head and handing me a pen and pad.

In the following days, I delighted in telling this story to the people closest to me. The reactions usually fell within the range of disbelieving bug-eyes to table-pounding "No WAY"s. Whether or not I wanted to reach out to Cheryl herself, I was not so sure. As a chronic rule-follower, I was unsure of the appropriateness of breaching the renter-manager-owner chain of order. Also, even if I did, say, write her a letter, would she see it? Her memoir Wild, was on the verge of mass release, magazines and newspapers were already posting great reviews, so I imagined her inbox's were already at capacity. Plus, wouldn't that be creepy? I just couldn't gauge it, and more dual-self conversations ensued.

My friend Amy, the one who posted the link and a personal friend of Cheryl's, when I told her the story said, "Let me introduce you!" and I immediately reacted "No!" I've met people I admire before, and the awkwardness is too much to bear. Even when they are gracious and welcoming, the leading up to it makes me feel adolescent, I'd prefer to keep it at a distance. "She's just a regular person, Leah," Amy reminded me. Of course she is, I know that, and that is one of the reasons why the connection is so electrifying for me. But it doesn't change my preference to keep things It was such a great story, though, Amy reassured me, and I wanted to find the right way to tell.

The best approach, I decided, would be to attend a book signing for Wild, and multiple opportunities dappled the spring calendar. In such a scenario, I could feel it out, and if I chickened out I was just another person in line for an autograph. Newborn me, I've never even been to an author's book signing. I worried that everyone in line had a story, that she'd be burned out on hearing them all, I'd be rushed along, and only get out a lame, choppy version that only inspired a lukewarm, half-hearted reaction. Around my friends, I can tell a story with ease and humor; around strangers my voice shakes. This way, I had options and if it didn't have that easy feeling, I could try another approach. A bumbling fool is not how I would come off.

We booked tickets to LiveWire, a local radio program taped with a live studio audience at the Alberta Rose Theater, where Cheryl would be the headlining guest. Another first for me, I sat in the theater and I felt like I was trying on the literary crowd, seeing how I fit in. I was certainly the only one wearing hot-green pants and leopard print heels, but my fashion choices never deter me. You can take the writer out of the her fashion major, but you can't take the fashion major out of the writer. Only some of the jokes went above my head, but I feel like I hung in for the most part. I drank $10 red wine in a plastic cup and ate $2.50 truffle. With Blake by my side, I was having a good time.

As the hours passed, guests were checked off the list and finally Cheryl came up. She was poised and lovely, and read an except from the memoir that had folks cringing and laughing at all the right parts. Onstage, she was so instantly accessible and likable, just like her writing. As the interview wrapped up, we snuck out of our seats and were first in line at the book signing table. We'd already texted our baby-sitters and asked for more time, as the show ran longer than we'd expected. Close to my chest I held the large hardback book with a picture of a boot on the cover, the most I've ever paid for a book, and the happiest I'd been to do so as it seemed like such a direct method of purchase.

Blake squeezed my arm and smiled at me. I heard the uproarious applause signaling the end of the show, and within a few minutes Cheryl breezed in to the room. "Let's do this!" she shined as she picked up the marking pen and turned to me. "Look at you guys, first in line!"

"I wanted to be first, so I could tell you a quick story," I admitted upfront.

She planted her elbow on the table, rested her chin on her fist, looked straight into my eyes expectantly and said, "Tell me."

"Tell me." Lesson learned here: Good writers must be good listeners.

So I did. I had paired it down in my head throughout the show, and had the perfectly condensed version. My voice barely even shook. I began with my acceptance into the writing program after 10 years of dedication to my family, my recent discovery of her, how drawn I am to her writing, and of course, the delightfully serendipitous moment revealed to me by that ordinary piece of mail.

"You guys live in the house??" she squealed. She came around the tall, black table, reached her arms out and embraced us both, and then looked around the lobby.

"Where's Brian..?" She scanned the crowd. "Oh, there he is. Brian!" She waved over her husband, a trim, handsome man with stylish glasses. "Brian, these are the people that live in our house!"

The four of us shook hands, grinned, and threw around some casual comical comments about the house. The front bathroom, she told me, was where she gave birth to one of her children. Blake gave them a business card. Both husbands snapped photos on their phones, while Cheryl and I tossed around more smiley chatter. Best of all, she confirmed what I had hoped and suspected: parts of Wild were written at the home, including the master bedroom, where I am now typing out this very post.

Cheryl smiles warmly while I do my trademark gesticulating.

"We should BBQ!" she exclaimed, which I though was adorably generous, and then playfully waved me aside and added, "Now let me sign some books."

The moment was completely satisfying, for a first encounter with my first author-crush. I sheltered the signed copy of Wild in my jacket from the Portland rain, beaming as I walked to the car with Blake, both us of filling each other in on what we'd said to the couple while the other was talking. Once we were on the road, I pulled down the mirror vanity light to read the inscription which read:

This, I realize, is probably the common inscription she applied to most copies that evening, and the evenings prior and the one she will grace the title pages of her memoir with in the future. Regardless, the fact that it contains the words 'beauty' and 'bright light' meant something to me. In a workshop I took two years ago, the one about finding my purpose and living from it, the workshop that launched some the biggest risks and changes ever implemented in my life, the one that allowed me to develop a clarity deeper than I'd ever had, and to have the truest vision for myself....I developed this statement:

"With humor, devotion, and grace, I will seek the beauty that allows me to shine."

That is why I want to write. If I can devote myself to my writing, if I can infuse every piece with humor, if I can spill myself honestly onto the pages with grace, and bring light to the tiniest, most beautiful things, then I am living fully. I have barely stepped onto trail, but I am grateful for this little push to get me going, an author placed in my path when I needed confirmation: a canteen of water, a flashlight when mine goes dark, a book in my pack...thank you, Ms. Strayed, for your warmth and for being my personal trailblazer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rough start

Mothers live in the details
More than you can fathom
Socks books snacks chargers Information
Keep the unit functioning
Keep the unit together, fed, watered
Keep it cool when the unit malfunctions
Vacation: one day in, already you are the unsung,
All you can cling to is the days final glorious unlonely moments,
Passionless room, all resting, finally for the love of...resting!
Resisting sleep, why would I give into tomorrow when I know what tomorrow feels and looks and sounds like?
I cling to my simple celebration of salsa and solitaire.
Somewhere beyond this polyester spread, they breath and recharge
For good or evil I'll not speculate.
I will (again) fight for the best of us.
Memories will be made.
Mothers, for fuck's sake, make vacations to remember.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Monday was a holiday. Now that my children are in school, I get how significant an extra day can be in our lives. With our current schedule, I feel like by the time my day gets rolling and I get done what I'd planned, it time to pick up the girls. Their school gets out at 3pm and there is no quick and easy way to get from SE Portland to North Portland and back. I drop the children to their preferred locations--gymnastics, my husband's studio, home--and by then, I have to think about preparing dinner. By the time dinner is eaten and the kitchen cleaned the littlest is already off to bed. We parents cap it off with wine, foot rub, Desperate Housewives, and before you know it, we start all over again. This is how time works in the family dimension: there is never enough.

Presidents' Day. Martin Luther King Day. Veteran's Day. Teacher in-service days. They have a purpose and meaning, but what most families value it as is a day to catch our collective breath.

Now that school dominates our schedule, we see less of our non-schooling friends, so on this bonus Monday, we asked a family we used to see more often to meet us at OMSI. The kids were excited to spend the day there with their buddies, I was looking forward to sipping tea and chatting with my friend and the parent-strangers I would inevitably spark conversations with. I had my snacks, my favorite mug, my soon-to-expire OMSI membership pass, and three eager children secured in the mini-van.

What I didn't have was the sense to know that everyone else in Portland wanted to catch their collective breath at the Science Museum, too. It dawned on me gradually as I looped around the parking lot, again and again. As the vans, hybrids, and wagons circled, the tension was building. I saw a few spaces open up, yet each time another car was already there, blinker on, staking their territory. Three loops through the first lot and I thought I had my first bite: a silver Nissan crossover, backing out near the entrance. I was following the designated flow of the lot's arrows. I was up next. That spot should have been mine. On the opposite side of the car, I see a person who had just pulled into the lot poised to take the space, going against the law of the parking lot arrows. I was helplessly blocked by the departing car, and arrogant bastards swooped it.

By now we were late for our meeting time, the kids were already grating on my nerves, and wasn't feeling very friendly. I waited for them to get settled in, and step out of the car, and as I passed this righteous carload I rolled down my window and shouted "Cheaters!"

We hadn't even gotten to our destination and it was already turning out the be that kind of day.

The back lot turned out to be the same warfare, only less spaces opening up and more contenders. I had a crudely hand-signed conversation with another mini-van mom about a space that we believed to be opening up because a woman was approaching her car. We both put on our blinkers, she signed, "It's mine." I signed back, "Hell no, it's MINE. I've been around this lot five times, newbie. I'm taking it over your dead body." She shook her head unbelievingly. I refused to look at her, and sat back confident and smug. When she drove off, I thought "HA! I won! Move along, sister..." only to realize that the lady with the prospective space was merely getting something out of her car, not leaving, and I was the last to realize it. I was left feeling idiotic and more irritated that ever.

My friend texted me, that they too were late, and I warned her of the parking situation. She confessed she was Day One of her period and not feeling very tolerant of the whole scene. We decided to reschedule (when is the next holiday?) Just as she bids me a nice day, a slew of spots open up and I finally rest the van in one, but was unsure of how to proceed. If the lot was this bad, how will it be in the Science playground, I shuttered to think. In my short-fused parenting frame of mind, I tried to assess if the kids "deserved" to go to OMSI at this point, or if it would be the attitude adjuster they needed.

I should interject now that the morning, prior to our departure, was far from perfect. I'd already heard the words "idiot", "shut up" and "I hate you" repeatedly--the current communication preference of the 3 and 7 year old, despite all of our constant efforts to put names to all of our "big feelings." If I took away everything they held dear, every time they expressed themselves in such a disrespectful way, not only would we never go anywhere and they would spend their days in a toyless basement eating rice cakes and water, they wouldn't learn anything about healthier communication either. It's one of those things you have to consistently encourage betterment of, but you can't allow it to become a daily battle source. I say things like "I can hear you are upset, but I won't be called names" or "You can make a request of your brother to be quieter without being hurtful" or "Hate is pretty strong word to use over a crayon. You are frustrated, I get it." Christ, I am such a fucking mom.

Back to our morning. Husband and I had made some fair and respectful requests to our oldest that she was rebelling hard against. Both expressing one's individual style AND dressing properly for every occasion are important to me, and we are constantly trying to teach this balance to our budding young women. But seriously, a gothic lace veil, a dog collar, dark eye make-up and bright red lipstick is NOT appropriate for a play date at OMSI: YOU ARE NINE YEARS OLD. My final offer was make-up off before we leave, fine if you wear all black, but the veil comes off by the time we park. She agreed, until the final moment, and that is probably what pushed it over the edge for me.

I usually hate disappointing the children, but by this point they were being so obnoxious and ungrateful, and I was feeling too tapped to be compassionate for their side of things, that I pulled the plug on the plan with little tenderness and allowed the disappointment dust fly, then to settle.

Luckily, because my husband owns his own business, I can always drop a kid or two there when I want to thin the pack. Our oldest is already an invaluable employee, who can do a multitude of task including making sales and running credit cards. Regulars know her by name, and kids that come in really connect with her. Best of all she prefers to be there, working side-by-side with her dad. She seemed perfectly happy when I told her dropping her off there was the next plan of action. Isadore insisted she stay, too, which felt like an abandonment to her brother who spends his days pining away for a sisterly playmate. Poor guy, this was supposed to be his day for that.

What I wanted to do from there, I wasn't so sure. Suddenly, every other kid-friendly destination seemed just as volatile and over-run as the science museum. Was I up for that? My feet were cold. I was still harboring hurt feelings from the kids. I thought about going home again but husband's sister and her 4-year-old had been living with us for 10 days. They had successfully hit our last nerves and the siblings had had a heated argument early that morning. Before I left I had seen bags by the door; they were likely departing. I didn't know what the scene would look like there if we were to show up and I didn't even have the energy to text and ask her what her plan was. I was sure the mere wording of the reply would annoy me so I was stuck in avoidance mode. I wanted a space to be grumpy and not have to take my chances dealing with anyone, family or stranger. I had four hours to kill before middle-child's gymnastics class and no where that felt like home.

After 45 minutes of sitting around pondering my next move, it dawned on me. I was perfectly happy where I was: in the mini-van. I had a parking space peering directly into the studio where I could see my darling husband at work, a delicious lunch of leftover stir-fry, plentiful snacks, Stumptown two blocks away, a DVD player to entertain the boy, and a fully charged phone with Facebook and Netflix and to entertain me. This non-sexy vehicle that had been a process in itself to accept into my life, was offering me the peace and solace I was craving.

So that is what I did. I queued up Back to the Future for the boy. I kicked my shoes off and reclined my chair. I alternately blasted the heat, then killed the engine, to control the temperature. I suddenly increased my presence on the social network. I received window-visitations from the rotation of studio-dwelling family members--accepted beardy kisses and doled out snacks. Gradually, I softened to the girls who had been such a source of stress for me; by allowing myself some space to be hurt and disappointed and to show it to them in an honest, non-angry way, they really came around and were very respectful of my boundary, genuinely apologetic, and expressed some sweet compassion toward me.

Ridiculous as it sounds, I actually drove the two blocks to Stumptown to get a coffee, and came back. It was one of those I-don't-care-this-is-just-how-I-want-it type of days. I literally spent the whole afternoon in my "mini-apartment", I came to refer to it as, and you know what? It turned out to be a pretty darn good day because by the end of it, I embraced what I needed to feel nurtured even if it was a slightly comical concept. In fact, it was so successful, I'm considering making it a President's Day tradition.

Monday, February 6, 2012

the leather jacket

We all have our addictions--the things that we can count on to make us feel high.

On day 35 of no booze or sugar, I have become very aware at how I use these things to cope with stress. No matter how many amazing-yet-nutritious meals I eat, or hours of running/yoga/orgasms I log, or cups of chamomile tea I drink, nothing really gives me that respite from a bad week, bad day, or bad mood like a gin and tonic or a bowl of pistachio ice cream. Granted, a life that feels more even-keeled, less peaks and valleys and steadier flow of moderate serotonin is nothing to sneeze at, this I will admit.

This was rougher week than usual, of which the details are mine to keep but I can say financial issues were at play. On this particular Sunday, I stumbled onto a high that I hadn't felt in a long time, at least not with such pleasure and intensity. You can't plan a high like this. Despite my opener, I should let you know now, this piece is not about addiction, it's simply about a leather jacket.

Being broke and drug-less is not optimal for wandering into a Nordstroms Rack, to be sure. I was there to make a return, smartly swapping out a pair of cheetah print heels for another pair one third of the cost. Not nearly as darling, but I was only planning on wearing them once, to a prom-themed event. I'd already purchased a gorgeous blue satin prom dress (for $23) earlier in the week. A fancy shrug would surely complete the look, if I could find one for the right price. This is how I found myself where I did, in the coat section, feeling up the faux-fur, and in prime position for the leather jacket to catch my eye.

A rack beyond me, someone had pressed the jackets open, to better to examine this gem. It was unzipped so I could see it's label: Miss Sixty, an Italian brand that I have very positive connotations with. I first discovered this brand in Canada, on Vancouver's famous Robson Street, where I purchased the most money I've ever spent on a single item of clothing--a slim-fitting yet incredibly toasty olive-colored down jacket, that I continue to wear every winter. In 8 years, it is still in excellent condition and as flattering and stylish as it was the day I bought it. No regrets there. Another of my favorite winter coats, is an essential black wool pea coat, with a heavenly nipped waist, and generous hood. I was lucky enough to find this Miss Sixty jacket, never worn, for $40 at a local Goodwill. I feel a surge of gratitude every time I put it on. In terms of outerwear, this company has taken very good care of me, and this is why, when I spied the red and white label, I set my tea down on the clothing rounder and approached the central object of my story.

Everyone should have a black leather jacket, this must be written somewhere in the fashion bible. I only recently acquired one from a vintage store for $10. The lining is shredded, it is badly faded in some areas, and it smells slightly of unidentifiable mammal urine, but the fit is great. Also it's the perfect mix of tough and feminine (this is the Ultimate goal of the leather jacket.) I've been perfectly happy with it so far. This is why I wasn't actually in the market for what I found.

My discovery transcended "the market." It didn't matter why I was there or how much money I had at the time, I'd already seen what some people never discover: the perfect BLJ.

Can you recall a time, when a piece of clothing had everything right: the fit, the color, the detail and materials? You are somewhat in disbelief as you comb over it, looking for its fault, but there isn't one so your disbelief morphs to gratitude, and awe. It is so right, it feels like a miracle. Maybe I should name my jacket Baby Jesus.


During my disbelief-to-awe transition, I took this photo. I did not have the money for the jacket, so I was trying to just appreciate what it was, and resist the urge to make it my own. When I put the phone down, though, I had a thought. It was a somewhat nasty thought, as it goes against my financial principles. In order to take the jacket home to be forever mine and mine alone, I could see about extending the credit limit on my Nordstroms card. I only have this one credit card, and have only had it for 18 months. I've done a very good job at keeping my debt to credit ratio in the recommended 30%, until our trip to New York...and then the holidays. Since then I've been teetering at maximization. I'm such a sucker. They had me right where they wanted me. The sales girl offered to dial them up right then and there for me. Next thing I know I am holding the phone, telling them my story. They placed me on hold for 15 seconds, and then, just like that, my credit limit was doubled.

I actually winced...then sheepishly handed the phone back, nodded at the woman to ring it up. The deed was done.

Unlike the more common shopping high, this did not leave me crashing later with regret. In the non-dressing room light, the pleasure remained steady, and I got surges again and again, like when I fingered the impeccable Italian stitching, zipped and unzipped the metal-zippered pockets, and when I pulled the hood up over my head (yes, it has a hood! I TOLD it was perfect!!) I am not ashamed to admit that I slept with my jacket last night, folded up near my pillow where I could smell the delicious fresh leather scent and stroke the velvety calfskin. (So, to be clear, I didn't actually sleep with it ON; I'm not a sicko.)

Behold, Baby Jesus...

The other photos I have so far of my jacket are not appropriate for the internet. They were taken by my husband, who really, really, really likes the jacket, too. When explaining what I had to do to get it, he didn't hesitate a moment with his support. "You can't pass up the perfect leather jacket. That is a take care of it later situation." All afternoon he shared in my gushing and celebrating, hence the private photo session. Admittedly, he has a touch of BLJ envy. I have assured him of my efforts to help him in his quest now (even if it means using that credit card with my fresh new limit.)

Day 36, otherwise known as the morning after, I continue to shun sugar, take my run in the sunshine, fantasize about wine with dinner, and cope with the ups and downs as best I can with the tools I have. But today I have something to make me feel just a touch more capable, more centered, more joyous. Look out for us. Just me and my leather jacket, riding high. We can do anything together.