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?