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.