Sunday, May 26, 2013

Just Me; Bitter & Sweet

Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.~~Rumi

                                                                                                                                                                              I'm on hiatus this week.  The pause will be bittersweet.
I suppose I look at life that way. Every time I take out my notebook and raise my pen up in preparation of jotting a notion or impression, I find myself right smack in the middle of this torturous dichotomy.
You look out a door. You see a newly opened, scarlet peony.
Its brilliant petals are magically arranged in perfect symmetry.  You stare into its center and you wonder how you could ever doubt that there was a Creator.
Right next to it, lies an injured sparrow.
She is slow-moving and weak.
You want to save her, like you want to save the spiders on the bathroom wall or the dog being drug around town on too short of a leash.
You pour yourself a piping hot cup of emerald sencha, all the while the sun is streaming in through a window behind your shoulder. The warmth makes you think of summer days from your childhood.  Seconds later, passing by that same window that filled you with so much joy,
is a dilapidated man.  His eyes are hollow and dull. He's pushing a shopping cart with one hand and holding his pants up with the other.
For me, life is constantly like this: a dichotomy of the bitter and the sweet.

A week without The Cousin and Sweet Pea is restful for sure, but it's accompanied by a twinging ache at the thought of not seeing their little mugs.

When I first started writing this blog, several years ago, I didn't call it a blog.  I called it a "friendship email" and I sent it out to only my email contacts: family and pals. It was a weekly rambling consisting of a roller coaster of subject matter that ranged from politics, religion, poverty,human rights, animal rights, love, peace, No Nukes and other current and relevant topics of the day.  More importantly, I wanted all recipients, especially those that lived faraway, to know I was thinking of them and sending a "shout out" of love.  Then, someone said to  me, "Why don't you write a blog?" The question left me feeling like a Stegosaurus emerging out of a cave. What the f*@ck was a blog?

When the blog was created, I suddenly found a voice.  My 7.5 years as a trailer park manager in Prunetucky, California, seemed to be of significance in the most insignificant way.
For sure, it was downright hysterical to many of my friends, and far more satisfying than
whirled peas to others.
The feedback came in droves.  I began to realize that although we all can offer up exchanges of life's bitter and sweet, the truth of the matter is, we all desperately need laugher.
Reminds me of a bumper sticker I  purchased on one of my adventures in Austin, Texas:
"Laugh Until Life Makes Sense."
I think I've talked about this mantra before. I wrote a blog once upon a time about these 5 words of wisdom.

Laughter has saved my ass on more than one occasion.  This blog also. Writing, in general, has saved me from the fires of hell, from the dark dungeons of depression, from beating myself up with the "self-critical stick", from getting my head bashed in by an angry "hater".
Because with writing, in any genre I choose, I am able to talk, cry, pray, shoot off my mouth, and yes, even laugh without getting into a fist fight.

This week has gripped me with sadness, as the news of a special friend's death came last Tuesday.
Sometimes "family" comes in the form of "non-bloods" and that is certainly the case with this
86 year-old woman who, while we sat together in her living room years ago, asked me to call her "Auntie Arl".

Auntie Arl was the sister of my Auntie Ferrol.  Talk about two peas in a pod! These gals phoned one another every single night at 6:00 p.m. sharp for more than 4 decades. Can you imagine?
We all knew not to call either of them between the hours of 6 and 7. To most outsiders, it was inconceivable how two people could have so much to talk about every night at 6. Especially in the last 10 years, when both of them stayed pretty close to home each day and kept their activities to a minimum.  But I understood them.

They talked about golf, health articles, exchanged recipes from cook shows, recent doctor appointments. They each sipped a glass of their favorite Mountain Rhine boxed wine throughout the conversations; never diving too deep into emotions.

Rituals carve deep imprints into our hearts. My mom and I shared the ritual of calling each other every Sunday morning for at least the last 10 years or so of her life. It wasn't until after her death, that I appreciated how sweet that ritual really was.  For many years following her death, I hurt every single Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m.
These are the things in life that stay with us; cut deep like broken shards of glass and form both the bitter and the sweet.
Growing up, I didn't see Auntie Arl like I did my Aunt Ferrol. But in the last 10-20 years, she had been a regular part of my life.  I hold many, many memories of conversations about reincarnation, discussions of politics, shared meals at her favorite Chinese restaurant, Chester's in Camarillo. My partner and I also made ourselves available to change her light bulbs, clean out the top rows of shelves she could no longer reach, recycle her batteries. I recall a drive we took down a main street in Camarillo. The center of the street was lined with dozens of old Jacaranda trees, all the most stunning shade of purple.  Auntie Arl was so pissed off that the city she loved recently voted to remove the trees. "I can't understand how they can call this progress" she griped.

One of the final things she said to me happened on a visit at the hospital just a couple of weeks before she passed away. I bent over to give her a hug and a kiss on her cheek.
She grabbed my arm, and because she was getting frail, she struggled to get the words out.
She said, "Take care of her"  referring to her sister.
"You know I will."   I said back.
And as I walked to the door, I turned, our eyes meeting, and I blew her another kiss.
This one was a funny, overly dramatic, big one!
I will always remember the smile on her face, just like I will always think of her when I see a
Jacaranda tree in bloom.

But everything has an end. Luckily, even sadness.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Day

Sweet Pea called in sick today. I think, though her parentals reported a 102.8 fever, she was faking it in order to have a day home with mom. Who can blame her really? Her mom is close to perfect, beyond attentive and drop-dead gorgeous.  I would have faked sick habitually had she been my mom.

The Cousin was higher than a kite on a summer day, when she heard the news.  I arrived and hadn't even put my things down, when she came skipping out of the back room, on her tippy toes no less, to greet me. As y'all know, sharing the nanny, or any adult for that matter, leaves a sour taste in The Cousin's mouth. Today's her lucky day. A pair of Aces.
The Lottery. And her way of showing it? She hands me every damn toy she owns: the cash register, the tower blocks,
2 baby dolls and several books.
"Let's play, Wallerey."  Her pronunciation of my name is changing; taking on a new sound-form.  Lots about her is changing. Her hair's getting longer, her speech more defined.  She questions everything.  The first time she asks the question, it's cute.  By the 6th or 7th time, it's borderline annoying!
"What are you doing, Wallerey?"
"I'm pushing you in the swings."
"What am I doing?"
"You're swinging."
5 minutes later...
"What are you doing, Wallerey?"
"I'm still pushing you in the swings."
"What am I doing?"
"You're swinging."
12 minutes later...
"What are you doing, Wallerey?'
"I'm drawing with chalk."
"What am I doing?"
"You're drawing with chalk also."
5 minutes later...

You get the picture.
So, today's just The Cousin, me and the phenomenal sunshine that rarely shows itself in Pacific Grove, CA.
We're in the buggy and out the door by 9:00 a.m.
"Sweet Pea! You can call in sick anytime!"

Kitty goes everywhere with us these days.  I end up holding her paw while The Cousin plays in the wood-chips or eats her crackers.  She doesn't want Kitty to be left alone on a bench or in the stroller.

Kitty is a pain in the ass on the changing table. Seriously, I have enough trouble maneuvering The Cousin, the diaper, the Wet Wipes without worrying if I get the excrements on Kitty.
"Wood-chips are The Bomb."
The park becomes our mutual Nirvana. It's so much easier with one. I can't drive this home enough. As much as I love that little shit, Sweet Pea, it's a piece of cake with just The Cousin. After a couple hours, we load up and head to the library for Toddler Storytime. We make our way through a crowd of about 20; moms, toddlers, toy dinosaurs, carpet squares. We find our place near the facilitator woman who has a tee shirt on that says, "Reading is Delicious." The shirt has a picture of cartoon-like children eating big slices of pizza with books sprawled around the kitchen table.
I find the shirt a bit odd, and quite frankly, ridiculous, but whatever.  When it's time to begin, the lady grabs a bumble bee hand-puppet and starts singing a jubilant rendition of "If You're Happy and You Know It" and The Cousin and I chime in.  I look around the room and see lots happy kids and lots of runny noses. After 2 very long stories (this lady hasn't a clue as to the attention span of a 2-year-old) The Cousin can't sit any longer and heads to the book crates.

During her "book safari", a woman looks at me and says, "Your daughter is so cute."
MY DAUGHTER!?  Love that.  Especially after multiple comments regarding my possible "grandmother status".
I must admit it felt just fine.
"Thank-you." I hear myself saying. These types of lies boost my ego in some superficial way.  Soon, The Cousin is starting to lose it. This becomes apparent when I tell her we need to go to the bathroom to change her diaper, and she yells "NOOOOO!!" in her "not-so-proper-library-voice" then goes sprinting down the non-fiction aisle.  I know it's quickly approaching nap time, but I don't lose my cool.
A quick diaper change and we're on our way.

It's difficult to make time for naps. We're busy girls.  We really don't want lunch either.
There's no time for it.
We are artists and artists need to express themselves. Period.
"Wallery, I'm painting sunshine."

And then come the questions...
"Wallery, can I touch this?'
"Can I eat this?"
"Can I paint the table?"
"Can I paint the paper?"
Our afternoons, like our mornings, are rich.
And then, as unpopular as it may be, we cram down some lunch-grub and head to the crib with some books.
I'm on my knees, praying,  for 45-50 minutes. I can almost taste the delicious silence that will soon be mine.

Like her, it was my lucky day.  The Cousin slept from 2:00 p.m.- 4:15 p.m.
Can I hear a SAH-WEEEEEEET!??!

And me? I'm feeling the luck and the love today.  Feeling the beautiful gift of having one kid, not two, and thinkin I just might have enough energy in reserves to stay awake long enough to watch Jeopardy when I get home.
Peace y'all!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's Just Another Day

Sometimes in life you've just gotta take a few risks.  We might stumble, crash, get our index finger stuck in an electric socket, but if we don't take chances, tell me how rich and interesting can our lives truly be?
I'm reminded of this and so many other lessons when I watch this kid.  As syrupy as this might sound, she's one of my greatest teachers on the entire planet.  She constantly reminds me to take risks. (though I break a sweat).  She reminds me to laugh.  She reminds me to dance when the music starts to play.  Oh, we have our moments.
We squabble about a few minor issues, such as nap time and playing near the heater grate, but isn't that all part of this thing we call life?  Sweet Pea and I differed about her climbing these cement steps.
I wanted to allow her a few moments of independence without jeopardizing her safety of course. I also wanted to get the shot.  The part I couldn't snap was her "toddler tantrum" when I disrupted her climb as she was approaching the "danger zone".  Boy was she p.o.'d at me for taking her off the peak.
"Climb every mountain."

I think this last week with the "Dynamic Duo" centered around a couple important "themes" and certainly those themes could be referrred to as "lessons."
Risk-taking and pushing ourselves to our own personal limits was definately one.  Sweet Pea pretty much does that 24/7, whereas The Cousin needs some encouragement.  
Which is where I come in. 
Sweet Pea takes the world by the balls.  The Cousin is an observer.
Think about the people you know.  Think about your own-self.  The world is surely big enough for all of us; the "ball grabbers" and "the observant ones", eh?
"I'm in the zone."
The Cousin is a rare gem.  She's a thinker.  She is inquisitive about the world around her, yes, but she doesn't jump off buildings or dive into trash cans like Sweet Pea.  She sits back and watches, accesses, puts the tip of her big toe in the pool to test the waters, never her whole foot.  But she makes her mark just fine. She insisted on wearing her hat inside out with the tag in front. Hey, that's cool with the nanny!  Her eyes lit up when she figured out how to hold the chalk on its side and "shade" rather than "write" with it. 
In addition to the lesson's of "risk-taking" and "pushing limits", "lack of privacy" was a biggie last week as well; 
Specifically, mine.
Sparing y'all the nitty gritty details, let's just summarize the day by saying, the nanny had stomach issues of the unpleasant kind.  It's not a cake walk when you don't feel well and have to make several trips to el bano, all the while caring for 2 toddlers. Welcome to my Wednesday. There I sat on the toilet. And there they both stood, side by side, less than 10" away from my sorry self, just staring at me.  
"What are you doing, Bal La Lee?" The Cousin inquired.  "I need to poop. I have a tummy ache."  
"Pooh Bear poops." she responded.  "Yep. Everybody poops." I say. She then runs to her room and returns with a Winnie the Pooh book, opening it to a page where deer poop rests in the snow. 
By this time, Sweet Pea has positioned herself even closer to me and is patting my leg.  "Girls, can you wait for Valerie in the other room?" I say like an idiot, as if they're not babies.  The staring continues. Suddenly, I let out a familiar sound. The Cousin beams.
"Toot! You toot, Bal La Lee!" "Yep, everybody toots" I say.

Moving right along, we take it in the other room to enjoy some of our faves: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Cat in the Hat and Super Readers.  This is usually around the time I look at the clock, notice it's only 9:00 am and say, "Shit." to myself.
"I'm taking one of those Cheerios and there ain't nothing you can do about it."

Just when we thought we finally survived the teething stage with Sweet Pea, she has a mother-of-a-molar pushing through her gums.  It's gigantic! She's reverted back to biting, gnawing and sucking on any and everything she can get her mouth on.

"This is helping."

"Damn Teeth."

"That's a kiss not a gnaw."

The teething solution in 2013:

Okay, I'm old. But what the hell is this? I'm telling you, these girls' moms have all the latest inventions. This is a frozen fruit sucker, bpa-free. Sweet Pea's mom places chunks of frozen mangoes or strawberries in the netted pouch for Sweet Pea to suck on. I really think the damn thing was a waste of money because Sweet Pea demonstrated, at least to me, that she'd much rather suck on the door knob or a computer cord than this cutesy gadget.

The Cousin's language skills are better than many 50-year-olds I know. Each week, she amazes me with 7 or 8-word sentences that begin with words like "Yesterday" or "Actually".  Soon I will have to carry a pocket grammar dictionary just to make sure she doesn't correct me.  

She's one cool kid.  They both are. 
I guess this last week was a simple one for the 3 of us.  Nothing ground-breaking, earth-shattering to report.
No occurrences of mass chaos. Nothing crazy-ass funny that would make y'all fall of your 
chaise lounges. 
It was close to ordinary. Just another day...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Birthday Girls!

                                                               This kid rocks my world.

This one also.

Sweet Pea reminds me of all things raw and spontaneous that exist in the universe.
She's headstrong, yes, and determined; a "spur-of-the-moment" kid.
But she can also be so tender.
She loves flower petals, basketballs and dangerous appliance wires; not necessarily
in that order.
And she loves, no adores, her cousin, much to her cousin's dismay.

"Numero Uno, Amigos!"
  And guess who turned one last week?

"Look out world! I'm two!"

And guess who turned two?
It's birthday madness around here and we've got the energy to prove it!  Presents! Balloons! Singing! Sugar-hangovers!  It's all double intensity with the girls' birthdays only a few days apart.

I picked a bad week to give up coffee.  If fact, I  was clean of the stuff I call "God's beverage" for approximately 72 hours, then I arrived at The Cousin's pad and broke down.
I made myself a cup; one in which the color was that perfect caramel brown.
Those tea drinking, self-righteous-hippie-bastards, who profess to be living a good, healthy life drinking pints of green, white and black tea on a daily basis, do not have a one-year old and a two-year old in their care.  I'm back on tea this morning; tea and this roasted grain crap.
I wonder how long it will take until my partner kicks my cranky ass out of the house.  It's all a test for me. Is coffee what's affecting my stomach or is it all the other delicious toxins God created? Could be stress, says my doc, or a combo of several things that "women your age" get...
I'm thinking I could give it up for 6 days a week and then drink one cup every Wednesday, in order to be alert for my nanny assignment.  But, I'm not a very disciplined girl, never have been and I don't do much in moderation. Lesson not-yet learned.

So Bal-La-Lee partied with these girls like it was 1999, and let me tell you, they can party!
We started with a little chalk art; a personal favorite of The Cousin's ever since she met her neighbor buddy, Miles.

Then Sweet Pea took it upon herself to sample an appetizer.

"Yuck. Send this chalk back to the chef."
Next, it's run run run with the birthday balloon until it pops...which caused major grief that needed immediate consoling.
Happy moments before the Big Bang

Life is like that though.  One minute, you experience the thrill of running freely under a sun-drenched sky, green balloon in your hand and not a care in the world...
And then the next minute, you trip up or your special balloon suddenly pops, and life becomes one depressing shit hole in the blink of an eye.
It's times like these that we head to the "you-know-what."

"Dora the Explorer got nothing on me."

"I'm not saying Cheese"

Somehow the park takes all our blues away; melts every last one of them like sticks of butter in the noonday sun.  
Life suddenly returns to  "happy" and little women (and the big ones too) get very,very tuckered; 
which is always nice.

Sweet Pea defines her own nap time.  It is she and she alone that determines the exact amount of allotted minutes. When she's ready to rise, she's ready to rise.  The Cousin, on the other hand, slept 2.5 hours which set a beautiful record!
I sat Sweet Pea down for her afternoon snack.  Oh, did I mention?  She also determines how she will sit in a highchair.

"What exactly do you mean I can't sit like this?"

I dig her tenacity.  It's like a bulldog. Reminds me of so many persistent women I know and have known; all of which embody this incredible amount of strength and tireless determination.  
Hope she never loses it...