Saturday, May 30, 2009

I am David Sedaris' Mom

It was the end of a long, hot week and all I really wanted was for a handsome man to fan me while serving me cool, refreshing beverages. What I got instead was the playdate from hell. Two minutes after shoving three children into the back of my very small car, I had to pull over in a "oh my god I've become my mother" episode.  
"I can not drive with all of this screaming. You HAVE to settle down right now, damn it." Both of my kids' eyes widened and they looked at each other with the all knowing, "She's in one of those moods" looks. But my son's friend, the one I was mainly yelling at, didn't bat an eye. He resumed his thrashing and screaming, I yelled again, he yelled louder, so I turned up the stereo and sped home. Once there, I told the kids to play outside, threw them some snacks, and locked the door. 
Occasionally, I would hear a scream or yelp and drag my sorry butt to the window. 
"Put that shovel down, someone..."
 "Bang! Owww!" 
"Are you bleeding?"
And the window would close. My resourceful three year old daughter came inside, using the unlocked front door, and found me sprawled out on the couch.
"Those boys are crazy," she stated.
"I know. Did you get hurt?"
"No, I just watched them. What are you drinking?"
"Juice," I lied. 
"Can I have some?"
"It's special mommy juice."
"Why are you drinking it in a coffee mug?"
"I have no idea. Let's go upstairs and spy on the boys. They won't be able to see us from the top window."
And that's where we remained until we saw the friend's mother pull up, which caused me to stash my "juice cup" in a potted plant and pretend I was a normal, if at least somewhat attentive, mother. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From Separated Mom to Single Mom

I’ll admit it, part of the allure of separating was having every other weekend to myself. I’d finish my revisions, write in my journal, sleep in, stay up late, see friends, watch movies, and daydream over coffee in bed. I couldn’t wait. I knew how impossible it was to delve into my own problems or gain any insight about my life while watching the kids. Even when they’re asleep, I’m still a mom. I’m still responsible for them and I still place their needs and safety first. 

But all of that drifted off of my shoulders the first glorious weekend I had to myself. I kissed everyone good bye and drove to the ferry terminal. Before I even got on the ferry, I had jotted down more insights about my marriage and ideas for solutions than I had been able to come up with in two years of counseling. This was going to be good. 

And it was good. The two weekends I had away were fabulous, cathartic, healing, productive, relaxing, inspirational, and insightful. And then it all came to a screeching halt. Jason traveled to Utah and Portland for work and then went to Thailand for two weeks with his brother. I looked at the calendar and saw that not only would I be with the kids every weekend (and weekday) in March, but there were also a large amount of “no school” days.  

I bitched and moaned and complained to anyone who would listen. I cursed Jason’s work, threw his Thai guide books across the room, and felt very sorry for myself. But then I thought, “You know what. It’s going to be good. It’s been your biggest fear and now you’re going to have to face it. Single parenthood.”

I entered the abyss. And for the most part, it is good. I’ve had to give up my “I can do it all” ideas and let people help me. The first being the kids. They make their own lunches, clear the table, get ready in the morning and evening on their own, and entertain each other. And when that’s not enough, I call a friend. I don’t worry about whether it’s my turn to watch her kids or not, I merely say, “I need some help,” and they almost always say, “Of course. I’ll be right there.” 

I no longer harbor my negative feelings from the kids and wait to release them once I’m alone. It’s not healthy, nor is it possible anymore. They need to see all parts of me and I can’t run away from them every time I feel bad. Being forced to be with them all of the time has actually made being with them easier. I’m no longer, “Happy Mama” or “Appropriate Mama,” when I’m with them and someone else away from them. I’m me all of the time. If I’m grumpy, I say so. If I need to have an adult conversation, I tell them so and call a friend. I don’t try to be infallible, or always nice, I’m just me.

And I’m not perfect. Which was clearly dispalyed after I spent a half an hour constructing paper, wire, and tape into big horn sheep horns for Little Dude and a flower for Odo, only to have them immediately throw them on the ground and yell, “That’s not right!”  

“I knew this was going to happen, that’s why I didn’t want to do this stupid project in the first place!” I snapped. “You should be thanking me, not throwing a fit. Now get upstairs and get ready for bed, I need some time to myself because I’m so frustrated.” Little Dude cried, screamed, and slammed some doors, but within twenty minutes we were all snuggled in bed reading books. 

“Do you feel better now?” I asked. 

“Yeah,” he smiled.  

“Me too,” I said.

Even on the yelling days, I know we’re doing the right thing. The kids and I are learning and growing and becoming stronger every day. They’re learning that I have needs, just like they do, and I’m allowing myself to be more honest with them.

 When I’m in the middle of querying an agent and say (or bark), “I need ten minutes of no interruptions so I can finish this,”  they say, “Set the timer.” Once they see that I’ve set the timer for ten, not fifteen, minutes they scamper out of the room. If they ask me to play chase and I don’t feel like it, I tell them so. I say I’ll watch them chase one another, and that usually satisfies them.  

Last night, when Odo started up with her 101 bedtime questions I said, “I’m out of patience, I can’t answer any questions tonight.”

“OK, Mama,” she smiled. “Nighty, night, sleep tight.” 

It’s an amazing thing to ask for what you need and not be met with resistance. Especially from a three year old. 

I may not be perfect, but as any single mom is, I am Super Woman and I kick some serious ass. At the end of every day, I feel so empowered. I did it! And no one got hurt! We even laughed and danced around the kitchen! I even revised my manuscript on time and filed our taxes! I’m fucking amazing!

During my third week of single momhood, I got an email from Jason. We was on a sunny beach in Thailand, snorkeling from island to island, enjoying daily $10 massages. I looked outside at the bleak, grey, forty degree day and sighed. I felt the lump in my throat from the strep throat Little Dude and I had caught and thought about the twelve bottles of pills on the counter, all requiring a complicated and varried schedule. 

Little Dude needs to eat with his antibiotics otherwise he’ll puke them up. I should have an empty stomach when taking my Chinese “calming” herbs. Vitamin C should be taken by all of us as often as possible. Acidophilus for me, three times a day without food, and three times a day for Little Dude mixed in with food. Amoxicillin for me, again three times a day. With food? Without? Oh, who the hell cares? I wish I was in Thailand. 

I wrote Jason back, but instead of complaining, I told him how Odo is learning her letters and Little Dude actually said, “Whatever,” to me in his first act of defiance. I remembered how we all cracked up on the way to school that day because Odo kept calling my doctor, “Doctor Green Beans.” I thought about how their faces light up when I pick them up and I looked forward to going out for Mexican food with them that night. And I no longer wished I were in Thailand. Not only is this where I need to be right now, it’s where I want to be. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Motherhood: Egg to Zine Performance

A week before our first live performance my kids get the flu. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday pass without any puking. From me that is, there is plenty from the rest of my family. By the time Thursday rolls around, I figure I’m in the clear and move on to other concerns. 
Most of the nine presenters have never met one another, we have a vague notion of what we are reading, but not a set agenda, we have never practiced together or practiced at all for that matter, one of the owners of the site where we are reading just delivered a baby, the other manager has yet to secure our contract nor can he guarantee he will be there to show us the sound system, lights, microphone, etc., no one is familiar with either locale where we are presenting, and three of the writers are coming from out of town and the highways have been closed due to snow and flooding. I’m not sure which is worse, women screaming at one another and pulling each other’s hair or reading to eighty empty chairs, but both images continually come to mind. I know there is nothing I can do to prevent snow, floods, or ill tempered women, so I settle on the mantra, “It will be what it will be.”

The day before the show Angelina from Chelan calls me and says, “I spent all last night having Southern Comfort poured down my throat. I’m still drunk!”

“Where are you?”

“We’re driving home.”

“What!? I thought you were in Seattle already.”

Maybe it was her cell phone or maybe it was the Southern Comfort, all I know is she wasn’t making sense, she wasn’t in Seattle, and she wasn’t sober.

“Don’t worry,” she says. We’ll be there in plenty of time for the two o’clock show.”

I don’t believe her, but I can’t will her car to turn around. 

It will be what it will be. 

An hour later I call another performer to tell her we still need her bio. 

“Oh yeah, I forgot,” she laughs. “I’m going to try to make some time tonight to write my piece and I can send you my bio then.” 

“You haven’t written your piece?” I try to hide my panic, but am sure I fail. 

I hang up the phone, lie back on the couch, and try to tell myself the tightness in my stomach is due to the past two phone calls. When I run to the bathroom to throw up, I tell myself it’s nerves. Even though I’m the one that reserved the sites and convinced the others to perform for a large audience, I am horrified by the notion that in less than twenty four hours I will actually have to read aloud to someone besides my cat. I broke out in a sweat when I tried to read to my mom and the kids, how the hell do I think I’ll be able to read for a room full of strangers? 

As the day progresses, the drunk Angelina, unwritten piece, and fear of crowds subside and in their place are the chills, more puking, and all over body aches. Twenty hours until show time and I’m out cold with the flu. 

I sleep for sixteen hours and awake feeling somewhat better. Just as I’m strategizing my “puke anytime EXCEPT for while on stage” tactic, Angelina calls. 

“How mad will you be if I’m late? The car broke down and we got a late start and the kids have to get dropped off in Marysville...” I’m not sure all of what she’s saying, all I know is I’m starting to feel as if I’m going to throw up again. 

Twenty minutes before show time I get another call. The belly dancer needs a boombox and she’s lost. She’s the opening act. We’re so screwed. 

I apologize to the audience, tell them this is a dress rehearsal of sorts, and reassure them that we’ll be starting shortly. An elderly woman scolds me for listing the wrong address on our press release, and says she is already disappointed. “I chose this performance over the evening one because I thought you’d be fresher, but you clearly don’t know what you’re doing.” I give her a fake smile and try not to puke on her. 

We adlib and I introduce the first reader. I can barely hear her due to a noisy, incessant fan. Our second reader bursts into tears and can’t finish reading her essay. The words “Fuck” and “Shit” are forgotten to be omitted and all children present look up and finally notice the crazy women reading aloud. We’re almost through with all of our pieces and still no sign of Angelina and the belly dancer. 

During the final stanza from the final reader, Angelina and her seven children and hubby arrive, doubling our audience. She jumps right in and begins her piece. We see the belly dancer pull up outside, so Angelina adlibs a second piece, giving the belly dancer time to change and set up her music. 

Somehow, we make it through our first show and I can’t wait to go home and lie down. Just as I’m leaving, I hear a couple of the writers say, “Let’s go get a drink. Or two or three.” 

It will be what it will be. 

The evening show has an MC, full bar, troupe of belly dancers, stage, lights, sound system, and microphone. Someone is actually able to show us how to set up and use the equipment and the troupe of belly dancers is present and ready to perform an hour before show time. All of the readers show up on time, the microphone is set, the lights are dimmed, the chairs are arranged, and people actually begin to fill them. By seven o’clock we have a full house and the first introduction is made. 

We read and dance for two hours and no one seems restless, no one leaves, no one pukes. Some pieces make me cry, several make me laugh, and all of them touch my heart. It is an incredible show. People praise us on their way out and thank us for an amazing evening. I ride an emotional high for days, exuberant that it went so well. I bask in the cathartic nature of facing a fear and moving through it and look forward to rewarding myself by resting. 

The telephone rings again. It’s Angelina planning our next performance in Chelan. “I’ll set us up for two shows in Chelan and a third show in Wenatchee. And then I want to do a Portland show this summer. It’s mama writer land, we’ll draw a huge crowd there. Want to help me set it up?” 

I think I have the flu again.