Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Value



The following is something I wrote a while back. I'm sharing it not because I feel that way today, because I feel quite the opposite in most moments. I'm sharing it because I believe that I am not alone in my feelings. We don't talk about things as a society often. hardships are one of these things. We place a lovely filter on daily tasks and while I am a full supporter of not being a whiner, I think it's okay to feel these moments of hopelessness and emotional fatigue.
So here it is. A moment of mine.
Maybe someone will scold me for ever thinking these thoughts.
And, that's okay too.


Money is assigned a denomination of value. It is used according to predetermined amounts of said value and the costs, or perceived value of goods and services.
Money is earned a variety of ways, though typically through traditional means that are considered gainful employment.
So it goes:
Work to earn,
Spend earned income on goods and/or services.
Your time is given a value also, your wage, living or not is the determined by the perceived "value" of your time and efforts. That perception comes from a variety of sources.....and to my understanding the notion of feeling undervalued is not uncommon...or even one could say the norm.
I'm feeling precisely this way, right this moment, though it's not my employers I'm feeling undervalued from but rather my family.
I am a mother and a wife which apparently equates often to being a resource.
I am a dry well. The water removed and replaced with all the things my family finds necessary to their well being.
Affection.
Transportation.
Guidance.
House keeping.
They need. and need. and need. And it is assumed, given my moniker of mother that I am obligated to fulfill these needs with my time and efforts. And though I do feel obligated and I do attempt to fill said needs, I am often met with knowing that my duties are thankless tasks that meet me each day with my waking and sometimes demand me to interrupt my slumber so that I can feed the beasts that is my family.
What value is it that we as a society place upon our mothers and wives?
This is a value that cannot be measured obviously but isn't even seen most of the time. It is not even recognition or appreciation. It is not our undying affections.
It is said to be priceless, the work of mothers.
But then we too often to advantage of all of the people in our lives.
The grand human condition.
Assuming that others are placed here as a resource to fill our needs so that we can continue to fulfill our aspirations.





Wednesday, June 10, 2015

As The IV Drips



Sometimes I'm here at my little blogging cyberplace and I find my self feeling vulnerable. Dear Diary-ing my way through the page. Click, click of the keyboard.
More often than not, these are not polished verses that reach eyes and I'm okay with that. I write these words for me. If someone comes across them and can connect and feel a little less alone, well then, all the better.

It is date night. I primped and pampered as much as I ever do, which includes wearing something suitable for a date night and adding a pair of earrings.
"Hon, can you zip me?" that's what started the spiral of morose thinking. My back isn't something I inspect often...er, ever really. No, never. I have no need to but this time my husband noticed some discoloration around one of the moles on my back.
And it is cause for concern.
Now, on a date night, I am thinking about cancer. Who has time to worry about such things?
I'm certain it's fine. Yes, definitely.
I'll just sip on more wine.

It's a scary thing to think about. Cancer.
It has taken the lives of friends, family and other's loved ones.
It has also managed to transform lives whether it takes a life or leaves it.
I'm no stranger to a cancer scare.

While pregnant with Connor the midwife discovered some suspicious tissue. It turned out to be cervical cancer that required a quick in-hospital procedure. This was the first I'd been put under and it wasn't what I expected. I anticipated a countdown. Some kind of slow descent from wakeful to unconsciousness, maybe some weird dreams, I don't know. Instead the nurse informed me she was giving me something to calm me. They wheeled me off, down the corridor, into the operation room. The buzz of bodies preparing around me and the clink of metal instruments being readied was the last I remember. Then....
nothing. I awoke slowly and realized it was all over. I wasn't so much achy as worn down and emotionally fatigued that day, Halloween, snuggling the sweet infant whos very being may have been what saved me from cancer. A good friend at my side since the husband was off at work. No costume parties or trick or treating adventure that evening. Just reflecting and healing. Passing out candy to little ones as they came prancing to the door.

I'm avoiding the doctor for myself because we already see doctors so often. it's tiresome and I feel fine, no need to fret over check ups but the cancer idea weighed heavily on my mind for just that night. A date night tainted by a faint shadow of worry.

Not a week after my short lived cancer obsession, we had another appointment for my eldest. The usual check up with her specialist. It's been almost exactly a year since her hospitalization. A year that has not been entirely, if at all good, in terms of her health. The thing with a diagnosis like Lupus is they don't really know what to do with you. "Caring" for Lupus is just an educated guessing game and what works for some does not always work for others. This year has been one for finding out what has not been working, so now, we are in the cancer ward of the hospital, an IV full of medication dripping slowly. A 2 phase infusion, 8 hours a piece, that while the doctor calls it "a gamble" is the best bet for my child to avoid another serious hospitalization.

I'm considering all of this. My wondering if I should see a doctor to check on a worrisome patch of skin. My child's health and being here among other parents whose children are suffering from cancer and I crumble a little inside. I wonder how it is we all arrive here. I recognize the worn faces of parents who suffer for their babies. Those same worn faces that convey a special kind of stability. A strength that deserves a warrior like moniker.

These visits are casual in appearance. Complete procedure. Things that must be done. There's no real conclusion to this. Just digesting. Sitting in a seat as the IV drips......

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mayo and Pickles.


Mayo and pickles, again.

My stepmom woke me up, hurried and excited.

“Get up! You’re late, let’s go!”

I am 8 years old and it doesn’t occur to me to glance at a clock and protest. I’m pulled out of bed with feelings of dread. Quickly I dress myself and head to the dining room where my stepmother is ironing like a madwoman.

“Go, go!” She hands me my lunch pail and shoves me out the door.

It’s a crisp January morning. The grass crunches under my feet, frosted over with dew. As I walk to school I watch my breath when I exhale into the frigid morning.

Hurried. Anxious. And alone. I remind myself how stupid I must be, like a mantra. I repeat it to myself because that’s what I’ve been told so many times and I allow the stupid tears to well up in my eyes.

My stepmom rarely misses an opportunity to remind me how unwanted I am. This morning she shoved me out into the cold to go to school. No words were needed.

I arrive and the double doors are locked. I circle to the side door only to find that door locked as well. I am not late. Not only is school not in session, it isn’t even open yet. I cup my hands and push my face up to the glass to peer into my classroom window, hoping my teacher is sitting at her desk working away.

She is not.

I’m scared to go back home. Worried to meet the wrath of my stepmother. Petrified she will tell my Dad how useless and stupid I must be.

I don’t go home.

Instead I sit under the window sill, my lanky limbs pulled close and I wait.

I wait long enough for a grumble to rise from my belly. In her haste, she did not feed me breakfast. I make the choice to eat the contents of my lunch, skip the lunchroom this afternoon and wait it out until dinner time. If my Dad is home from work tonight, which is rare, I am guaranteed a meal. If not my stepmom may create a feast and neglect to feed me.

I didn’t know what bulimia was back then but came to understand much later the special kind of torture she displayed to me, concocting full meals she would gorge herself on to only throw up after while I went hungry.

I open my pail and retrieve my sandwich, peel apart the slices of white bread and peer at the contents with disdain.

Pickles and Mayonnaise. Again.

My stomach groans at me some more and my 8 year old mind is convinced that I am being punished. My father doesn’t want me because I am bad. I can’t help but be bad because my mother is bad. This is what I am told and I believe it because I am sitting outside in the freezing January morning, biting into a mushy sandwich, tart with pickle slices that slide around in the mayo.

Tears threaten to pour from my eyes as the lump in my throat builds. I take small nibbles and throw away the remainder of my meal.

Then I wait some more.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Secret Sauce Society: Beginning


Again, due to circumstance this is later than I anticipated. But I'm sharing anyways because if these itty bitty glimpses compel you to attend one of these divine events it's totally worth it.
 
They call themselves The Secret Sauce Society.
They concoct pop up dinner parties throughout the South Sound.
These dinner parties include several courses of small bites that boast exquisite execution across the board. The ambiance varies. The theme changes. The flavors and presentation are always superb. You should sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date on upcoming details.
 
The most recent event took place in what will soon be home to upcoming dining concept, The Table. I'd call the digs rustic, at best as they are in the process of renovating. No light fixtures were present so while dinner began during daylight hours during a glorious sunny day, as the sun set dinner was lit by tabletop tealights and a large work lamp in the corner where the chefs buzzed like an assembly line preparing each plate. Exposed wires hung from the ceiling, bits of wall were interrupted by bare pillars. There's lots of work to be done still but The Table is sure to wow when it opens.
Each item plate prepared was inspired by what's to come at the The Table. Which is a good indication of what we can expect. 
Pretty bouquets adorned the tables.
Among mason jars to sip from and white linens. 2 full tables filled the space equating to over 30 diners excited to take a culinary journey. Some were first timers. Others had been to several.

The first course was a bonus and was not mentioned on the menu. Sweet strawberries with a tart creamy cheese sat atop a perfectly toasted baguette. Pretty presentation.
 
The Sweet Potato Hash was divine with leeks, local mushrooms, hazelnut and a lovely fried quail egg. It was well balanced in the flavor and texture department and made me wish for an entire order.
 
This classy number was a Lamb Sausage atop corn grits with crumbled goat cheddar, peppers and a cherry gastrique. All of the components singularly were exquisite and when they found themselves on a fork full together they took you right to flavor town.
 
The Fried Salmon presented Oregon Troll Caught salmon with a pops of flavor provided by a salsa verde, preserved lemon and celery seed aioli. There was a sweetness, smoothness, spiciness. Very playful, definitely one of my favorites of the evening.
 
Here sausage, cave aged cheddar reside in an Arincini, (tender rice ball on the inside, lovely crisp texture on the outside) paired with a bernaise sauce this nibble was glorious. Again, a lovely balance of textures and the cheese game during this whole dinner was to die for.
 
I found it refreshing to have salad in the midst of the meal rather than at the very beginning. This Mirepoix Salad featured butter lettuce with a carrot tomato vinaigrette, caramelized leeks and a celery marmalade. Every nibble was fresh and divine and the celery marmalade, though I was suspicious is amazing with loads of peppery spice and pops of sweet that had me wanting the recipe.
 
Duck, which I anticipated to be my favorite was in fact one of my favorites. Tender duck breast, seared with malt beer jus, duck agnolotti, greens and currants was decadent.
 
The Baby Octopus was served grilled with roasted pepper marinara, mussels, spring garlic and fettuccine. The seafood was meaty and tender and the roasted pepper was flavor forward.
 
I will never turn down the dessert menu when asked. The finale of our dining journey was a Dessert Duo. Lovely little raspberry beignets with vanilla anglaise and a chocolate pot de crème. I could have enjoyed the chocolate by the buckets full.
 
I was not kidding when I said they were buzzing away like an assembly line by the light of a work lamp. Proof. they fact that such exquisite food is prepared in these odd locations is a wonder. Some of the best chefs in town gathered around this table to make this dinner happen, a testament to not only how inspiring our local culinary culture is but to the level of community that can be found among these great minds.


 
 Libations of the evening were provided by Heritage Distilling Company, including their Elk Rider Bourbon and Coffee Vodka. The latter which has inspired me to concoct a grown up mocha cocktail that you will be seeing at Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge before you know it.
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

So, Uh, Now What?

This is what my work station looks like more often than not.


My heart sank when I heard the news.

My boss suggested we connect in person, that we were long overdue for a mind meld. And I agreed. We were. Overdue.
I sit over here and write my words and he sits over there, cleans up all the dirty little blemishes and publishes them.
We make a good team.
He's my hero. Truly and sincerely. I admired him as a writer long before I had met him in person. He is and was a fervent community enthusiast. The words he wrote, and writes still,  a clear indication of his brilliance and wit.
When I grow up that's exactly the type of writer I want to be.
So working with him has been an immense honor.
Somewhere deep down I feared that this overdue meet up meant he was going to fire me. Scoff at my work in the nicest way possible and simply tell me I didn't cut it.
Some how, the news he delivered was much worse than that even.

He was retiring from the paper.

As he told me this I wondered if this was an epic blow or a grand relief for him and my heart sank because to imagine our community void of his words is nearly impossible.
Luckily I don't have to.
Since he's made it public (in classic, eloquent Ron fashion) he has also announced a new venture of his that will mean the good people of Tacoma and everywhere else will have the opportunity to read his words.
Though I was fairly certain since hearing the news, I had to give it some long hard consideration and have decided to resign as foodie writer for the Weekly Volcano.
The Volcano has been my ultimate pie in the sky goal since I began writing professionally. Once I obtained the coveted position I failed to concoct a new pie in the sky goal. I have enjoyed my work with the paper, however, I can't imagine the Volcano without Ron Swarner and his various other pseudonyms.
He is the very pulse of the pages.
To remain on staff isn't really an option.

So now what?
Well I'm not really certain yet. I may find more freelance work around town. Continue making pitches to SouthSoundTalk.com and South Sound Magazine, do theatre reviews for EdgeSeattle.com and other local publications but I suspect you will see more of my noshing and penning about it here on my blog until I find a new permanent home.

As for the boss man. Though I won't call him boss after this month, he is still my hero and friend and I am quite sure that he's got a little something rad awaiting him. and hopefully all of us too.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sylvia Plath Made Me Want To Commit Suicide


Sylvia Plath made me want to commit suicide.

Not the dreary, sad sort of suicide where one dies alone and confused, feeling rejected or defeated. No. More of a romanticized version of suicide in which the departed is remembered, emulated for their grand exit, memorialized in their life’s work. It probably goes without saying that I was a melancholy adolescent, no Lydia Deetz, but melancholy all the same and I daydreamed of what life I would lead one day wrought with art and depth, even though at the time I could hardly say I had much worth mourning in the way of my life’s work.

 This wasn’t an actual, immediate desire to end my life, instead a friend of mine and I would talk about it like it was to be scheduled for our future selves while working on a book report together about Plath.

Turn 18: Graduate

Age 21: Publish First Book, probably a collection of shorts peppered with poetic prose or something

Age 22: Get Hitched

By Age 26: Have Offspring

Age 28: Publish Second Book

Age 30: Die

Simple enough right?

Had I known more about numerology and astrology I would have been more apt to schedule my passing at 27. The age when Saturn’s return is said to come into effect in one’s life, or as numerology theories state the number is indicative of the end of a cycle. All theories point to a difficult time of transition or a struggle between isolation and intimacy. A time of great turmoil, when the beastly weight of humanity lies heavy on your shoulders and begs for change. Who’s to say? I know at 27 for me instead of passing through to another realm, it meant the end of a long term relationship which shortly after led to me connecting romantically with my now husband. Looking back the two were so vastly different, I may as well have been existing in a separate plain of existence, so I think the theories have some kernel of authenticity.

It wasn’t only Plath that made suicide seem like an eloquent exit from this cruel world. Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, Francesca Woodman all exquisite artists who met their demise by their own hands. But Plath and her gas stove seemed the most peaceful way to obliterate one’s own life, less of a messy affair, void of the annihilation of physical parts while departing this realm.

This was a juvenile train of thought of course. Suicide isn’t anything I condone, not even before I had a family of my own to consider the feelings of but it seemed to me very enchanting of an idea, to leave this world at the peak of perceived perfection.

 It seems like a whole lifetime away that this was how I imagined life to be. Now, I have teens of my own and though they can be a dramatic bunch, I think it unlikely they are scheming their own future demise. And their presence, which was surprisingly close in time to when I as plotting my poetic passing, meant instead of obsessing about the end of life, I began obsessing about how to live it. One of my favorite quotes of all time is courtesy of Anais Nin when she wrote: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” The words resonated with me, echoing eternally because it felt that she must have absolutely known how I had felt when she wrote these words. The ache that exists and forces us to flourish finally, or perish otherwise. I was swimming in it by the time I was 20. Not simply swimming but drowning in it and I absolutely had to take action or quite possibly leave my children motherless.

I had managed in my youth to find a relationship that may as well have been a form of suicide. It was self-destructive, toxic and literally, physically damaging. Then one day it was like a light switch had been flipped and I needed to flee. To live for my children and regain a sense of identity as mother and self. Even in these days I was still mooning over Plath’s verse but my ideals had changed. I was examining her work and wondering how, as a mother, she could choose to leave them. What must she have been feeling, what hopeless state overrides the instinctual and powerful need to remain a foundation for your children.

In the tumultuous days I lost my words. They only found their way from ink to page in a rare journal entry and never were uttered outside of those confines. I wonder now what stories I would have told, what words were swirling around begging to be lovingly placed together. I wonder if conveying them more fiercely and out loud as Plath did would have changed my course of action.

When I rediscovered my love affair with the written word it happened slowly. School essays and articles made writing easy but rarely left time for my creativity to peek its head around the corner and I thought maybe it wasn’t like riding a bike. It’s not a knowledge that is eternal if you do not use it. My creativity may very well have withered and died. Until one day, I was sitting in my car, waiting for a teen to get out of work and the following passage came to me:

“Staring down the dilapidated alley I marvel at the primal beauty of it. Nature’s refusal to retreat in its urban environment. Tangles of lush blackberry bushes vine around empty liquor bottles and long forgotten fence posts. The denial of resignation to any eyes who would take notice as if whispering defiantly, I am here, I have always been here and I will be here in the era after. “

It’s been several years now but I keep this phrase fresh in my mind because it was a milestone for me. A recognition of a need within myself that I felt to my very bones.

While I still admire Sylvia Plath for her body of work, she doesn’t make me want to commit suicide any longer but quite the contrary because……

I.Am.Here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The 2015 MOG Slider Cook-off Rundown

 
"I'm in and it's on like Donkey Kong!" famous last words from yours truly in regards to signing up for a fundraising game entitled "The Biggest Loser."

The game is simple really, you put in your fee towards the cash prize and compete against others who admire this same non-profit and vow to lose the most percentage of weight during a 5 week period. It's meant to be motivating and also fun, while you ask your loved ones to "sponsor" you per pound lost with money raised benefitting non-profit Peace Out.
Boom, I needed some motivation to get my ass in gear since my youngest is now one and a half years old and the excuse of "I just had a baby," doesn't really apply any longer. Plus, I admire Peace Outs mission to encourage youth philanthropy through volunteerism and education and an opportunity to lose a few pounds and raise a few bucks is a rad one, two combo.

I'm not doing too shabby all things considered, like say, candy filled holidays like Easter, Opening Day AND the opportunity to judge the Museum of Glass's 2015 Slider Cook-Off, which is not an opportunity I'm one to pass up because lets face it, as a food columnist I have a proven track record of enjoying good food and essentially consider it my sworn duty to share that admiration with those who choose to read my words.



Now, I know I'm a bit late on this but I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts of the contenders because I post photos and folks are like, "Tell me more!!!" while they drool onto the keyboard.
Being my second consecutive year as judge, I'm seasoned in all things slider cook-off and came prepared. Get in. Eat as many right away. Take good notes. Turn in clipboard. Done and done.
Devouring as many sliders in the first half of the event means less waiting in lines (because many folks have not arrived or are busy mingling) and also helps you stay the distance. Your brain has yet to receive the signal from you belly that it is full. So you can eat, and eat and boom, freight train of full hits you full force.

Anyhow, I didn't fall off the weightloss wagon with too much force but here are some thoughts on the cook-off.

Here comes some weeburger action:


First up, Engine House 9 presenting a mini version of their Wagyu Burger. This was a lovely start to the noshing with a classic take on what a slider is meant to be. Dare I say even a brave submission since others tend to lean towards inventive and compelling during these competitions. With a hand formed seasoned Wagyu beef patty set upon a slider bun this lil guy included herb roasted tomatoes, iceburg lettuce, cambozola cheese, crisp bacon and bacon aioli. It's was flavorful when tidbits of each component appeared in each bite and paid mind to the often neglected aspect of good food, TEXTURE. This little guy was a hit and won People's Choice Award.

Second on the list, Metropolitan Market's Prime Rib Slider. Now, while the Metro is a fabulous high end grocer featuring artisan goods and uber fresh produce and meat products and the deli is the bees knees, brimming full with compelling flavors, I wish I could say the same of the presented slider. It was not bad, just underwhelming. Featuring Prime Rib, carmelized onions, horseradish Dijon sauce, and au jus--the lil sammie was served cold and the sauce lacked some much needed oomphf. Nice presentation but nothing to write home to mama about.
The Hub is always tops when it comes to grub and hops and brought some delectable flavor with their rendition of the Bahn Mi.  Fresh baked wheat bun, sweet jalapeno, spiced mayo, cured pork belly, arugula, cilantro, pickled carrots, onions packed some lovely flavor sadly, I know this may be sacrilege but the pork belly was a miss for me. I love our fine piggy friends but pork belly can be chewy and unsatisfying all too often. The texture on this guy was a miss unfortunately.
Dirty Oscar's Annex is the sole competitor this year who is a veteran at MOG's Slider Cook-Off and got crafty with their stuffed lamb slider exploding with Mediterranean flavor. This guy was a tall order featuring a lamb patty stuffed with garlic, roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, oregano, basil, cucumber and  feta cheese then topped with tomato, cucumber, arugula and tzatziki, served on rustic ciabatta bread. While in theory it sounded amazing this mini sammie was TOO tall to dig into properly making it difficult to get a little bit of each component in every bite.

The Louisiana Red Slider was brought to you by Stanley and Seaforts. This mini guy was a napkin and fork required sort featuring a slow roasted and smoked pulled pork with a Louisiana red sauce and housemade coleslaw. Nom, nom, nom is my official thoughts. The meat was tender and delectable and with slaw made to order and a little kick lent from the red sauce I was in heaven.
Pinky's Kitchen is the first Seattle joint to join the slider shenanigans at MOG and brought the first breakfast slider I had seen contend. Pinkey's Scratch Made Breakfast Bomb with  housemade, locally sourced Shipwreck Honey Ham, Fried egg and Pineapple Habanero Béchamel on a their housemade Shipwreck Honey Jalapeño Corn Bread I was intrigued. Shipwreck honey is a local, single source Blackberry honey from Washington state and is injected in the featured ham  during the cure process. After noshing I was left on the fence with this one. While the sauce and the ham failed to bring the level of flavor I was anticipating from the description, the cornbread was out of this world. I'd even proclaim it the best cornbread I've ever had the pleasure of devouring.


Tacoma's The Valley is brought to you by X-Group and the Peterson Brothers, a partnership that almost guarantees culinary success. These guys brought a Sausage Bahn Mi featuring a sausage patty made with garlic, ginger, soy and fish sauce then topped that flavorful meaty goodness with pickled carrot, diakon, jalapeño, fresh cilantro and citrus mayo on potato bun. Though the competition was fierce, this sammie was heads above the rest with the perfect combo of uber fresh veggies and a juicy sausage patty sandwiched between to lovely little buns. I want some more and so did the other judges because these guys took home the big win. I mean seriously, just look at this little guy. It's wee burger perfection.


 And all of this is exactly why losing weight is hard.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Humblebragging

~Unpopular opinion time (followed by positive vibes)~

I think the word "blessed" is overused.
There I said it.

To feel "blessed" or "grateful" should be celebrated and recognized but to place a hashtag before it to accompany the most mundane of things cheapens it. To proclaim how blessed you feel ALL of the time makes you a humblebragger, which is almost worst than just plain ole bragging.
All that being said, I'm feeling pretty grateful, or even, dare I say, blessed for my Creative Colloquy adventure.

Now, to begin the humblebragging.

I reflect on CC almost obsessively and with the one year anniversary behind us, that obsessiveness has been heightened to a whole new level.

After party goodness occurred at local digs, Doyle's Public House. Those who chose to follow us down to continue the dialogue over drinks were welcomed by this. I didn't even expect a banner. How rad is that?

I imagine we all daydream about that journey, that project, that accomplishment, that thing we yearn to undertake. So much so, sometimes the daydreaming is all we are courageous enough to do.

Since I was just a wee one, writing and words has been a part of my life. The first story I remember writing was in the 1st or 2nd grade. It was about the Oregon Trail, from the perspective of a family's rocking chair being lugged around on the journey. It had a tumble or two, hell people even got sick and died in this epic adventure and from that time I was constantly writing. Angst-y teen prose, dark poems about the Holocaust (which the Language Arts teacher suggested be in the school paper, only to have the kids on the committee decline it for it's dark nature and go with something of mine more friendly to their fragile sensibilities). I was forced to read assigned writing projects out loud in class, which was the last thing I wanted to do.
The point is, I loved to write. I still love to write, though shadows of doubt linger at my lack of skill or creativity, even when I get to call writing my profession.

While I doubt myself, often, I play as an advocate to the literary arts. Nudging those who admire words as I do to remove themselves from the solitary action of writing and shed themselves of the protective cloak of anonymity by sharing their stories. Placing their dark fonts to the bright light of a cyberpage and then suggesting they take it a step to the next level by breathing life into those words just daring to speak them.
Out loud.
Into a microphone.
In a room full of their peers.

And every time it happens without fail my heart swells with, ugh....yes, gratitude. I feel an immense pride in what CC has become, not just for me and the opportunity to do work that I love while meeting the robust literary talent in the area and learning to hone my own craft but for what it is for those that come each month, whatever reasons that bring them. I'm proud that CC has managed to develop in the last year and help create a sense of community among a group of folks that can often be haunted by the same afflictions~the instinctual need that compels them to tell their stories and all of the side effects that comes with it.


Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey. You literati. You listeners. You supporters from afar.
You all have a little chunk of my heart. I appreciate you something fierce.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Musings Brought to You by Lobbies and Offices



 
We spend a lot of time in the lobbies and offices of doctors.
 
We see specialist who check joints. Specialist who use activity to help with muscle, social, speech and skeletal development.
There is lab work.
Questionnaires.
Constant insight.
Lots of hurrying up to wait, so we can wait some more.
These doctor appointments are not for your usual vaccinations and check ups. Not even for the cosmetic stuff like braces.
Though we do all of that too.
 
Of my four children, two are diagnosed with life long "afflictions" that require special care. 
My oldest was diagnosed with Lupus at age 12. She's now 17 and this cycle of waiting and testing and talking and poking and prodding has been a part of her narrative for some time now. I don't know if that necessarily makes things easier so much as more predictable. These appointments have a certain ritualistic quality to them. We load up the car to make the drive to Seattle Children's every 6 weeks or so. We know the drill and we go through the motions, the required steps, to maintain a sense of good (sometimes not so good) health for Moira.
 
In the early days, these visits were life altering each time. They were mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. There were more tests to be done. More discoveries to be made and more information for all of us to digest. With time now these days still feel long and tiresome but I see them waning, knowing fully that soon she will be an adult and embarking on a second leg of her diagnosis. The leg that includes her not being a child with Lupus but one being an adult with Lupus.
 
Being the mother to ready her child for such a journey is not something you can prepare for. I attend each and every visit. She checks herself in. She answers all of the doctor's inquiries. She can now reschedule appointments. As far as going through the motions she is ready but what about everything else? Is she ready to battle her hazy days, the achy days, the dark days that come with her diagnosis? Is there a way a mother can take a step back to be a silent and supportive witness? It's hard to know and I am feeling ill-prepared.  
 
 
 
Connor, now 5, has been officially diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a vague term that can be translated in so many ways that we are still in the process of taking the steps necessary to help him in his journey.
 
ASD is something we suspected from the time he was very little, or something similar to it. He was always just a little distant, a lack of eye contact prevalent. And while distant, he lacked the idea of boundaries and will not, nor has ever, to hesitate before going sit on a strangers lap to talk or reach into an acquaintances pocket in search of Angry Birds.
 
 We considered personality quirks, personal preference and learning disabilities. My husband, a man known to worry would sit there and brew on it. I could look over across the room and literally see the wheels turning, him wondering and worrying about all the ways we may have failed our son. All the ways he could struggle in his life, all the times he will experience heartache and frustration. These worries are not unique to parents of those with health issues, they are common throughout the journey, a test of endurance and stamina of the spirit.
 
It's terrifying to have a child experiencing an unknown, invisible terrorist to their well being, especially those we haven't experienced during our own life journeys.
 
There's no kernel of insight to be found among these pages. No great "AHA" revelation in terms to the human condition. Just me sharing my thoughts. Allowing myself to be vulnerable here. Shedding the game face and the sometimes tough exterior to just be.
 
My children teach my lessons each day. They test my temper. My will. My foundation. Raising children remains to be both my greatest accomplishment and struggle at once. Experiencing the journey of a parent with many hours logged on in lobbies and hospital rooms leaves me tired to the bones, raw, worried. I see it on the faces of other parents in these lobbies.
We are a tribe. Connected in spirit even if we never know each other's names.
 

April 27th, 2014: She will be so mad when she sees this but here's my I'm posting this....I want to remember this forever. Waking up and looking over to see her face perfectly thru the handle. Seeing her sleep on her side because the IV isn't connected today. Knowing this is our last day. This week was a scary reminder of how serious her illness can be . She plans on keeping a journal to keep track of her diet, exercise, meds and how she's feeling. My heart aches that she had to experience this but swells with gratitude that she is well and one of the most amazing people I know
 
 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Words That Resonate: A Three Dog Life



"You don't have to start right, you just have to start. Put pen to paper, allow yourself the freedom to write badly, to get it wrong, stop looking over you shoulder." ~Abigail Thomas

While reading A Three Dog Life many words resonated with me. The story itself was exquisite. Life is complicated, difficult, an intricate web of occurrences and our reactions to them. Our stories are our own. Thomas manages a memoir that reflects life after a catastrophe so simply.
Contents of our fridge. The grocery lists.
Nibbling among our beloved pets, crumbs falling to the floor.
One too many manhattans.
Abigail's husband suffers a traumatic brain injury after getting hit by a car while walking the dog and life as she knows it transforms. Reroutes in a way she could not and had not foreseen.
While reading other reviews I was in awe of those who considered her to be cold, detached and heartless, maybe because I too have often been accused of being detached, but I felt quite the opposite about her. I felt more like she's just honest. Rather than presenting herself according to societal standards of how one is supposed to behave in a time of tragedy she tells her story as it really is.
Her words are unpretentious and genuine as though she is dictating the story to the page. Speaking it out loud while her pen hits the paper to match the tempo.

"You don't have to start right, you just have to start," stays with me. Not just as a writer, as the context it is placed in but as a person. Fear of failure, (success, ridicule, change, rejection) keep so many of us from starting.
Give yourself permission to make the leap.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

28 Days of Play~Rediscovering Play

http://www.youplustwoparenting.com/day-31-rediscovering-play/


Connor’s eyes light up at the sight of Miss Becca. He gets giddy, goofy and is clearly elated at their scheduled play date. After our first visit, when asked, “Do you like Miss Becca?” he responded, “No, I don’t like her. I LOVE her a lot.” And it’s no wonder! Miss Becca speaks in a calm, motherly tone. She asks Connor to swing like Spiderman from hanging apparatuses and encourages him to kick down large weight bags in his path. She draws on the windows alongside him and then they giggle as he tosses suction balls at their art work. She PLAYS with him and he loves it.

Above is a little tidbit from my contribution to the 28 Days of Play project on the You Plus 2 Parenting blog. I've spent the last year connecting with scribes on a very local sense and even online to nourish my writer self and learn as I go. One of my Doe Bay friends brought this project to my attention and I feel very fortunate to be among the diverse voices of mothers and fathers, all writers, as a guest blogger. It was an excuse to challenge myself by sharing my words and putting them out there.

The theme was play, from a parents perspective. How do we play or why don't we? What does play mean? Why can it be a struggle and how do we connect with our children through play?

Click the image above to read my piece in it's entirety and read some of the other amazing posts. This group of mamas and papas are a genuine and insightful bunch.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

An Excerpt.....perhaps

A wet rag is flung across the table and smacks me hard in the face.

I think the saying goes, "there is no use crying over spilt milk," but we are poor and cannot afford to waste milk.

My father's booming voice leaves me trembling with tears and milk from the thrown washcloth used to wipe up my carelessness, streaming down my face. Crying usually enrages him more so I try to stifle my sobs and apologize.

Looking back on moments like these I will recognize the regret that washes over him after incidents like this. I will know my father was well intentioned and just a hurt and angry young man. I will know all of this eventually but in my youth all I knew was the fear.

I moved in with my Dad when I was 5 years old. He was absent for much of those first years, serving in the Air Force and stationed in Florida and England. Rather than relocate, my mother kept the two of us, later joined by my little sister, in Washington State. This left me hardly knowing my Dad when my parents chose to split their duo of daughters during their divorce. Eventually, I would know, even given the dark days of my childhood that I was the lucky one when it came to my lot in life, but that comes later. My sister and I parted ways not knowing we would be denied a typical sibling relationship, rivalry and all.........

Friday, February 20, 2015

Speakeasy Shenanigans

Creative Colloquy partnered with Nearsighted Narwhal to produce our first ever audio collection, Valentine's Day Massacre at the Narwhal, a series of dark noir shorts and musical performances reminiscent of the theatric radio shows of the 30's.
Though released on Valentine's Day, we gathered at the Nearsighted Narwhal to celebrate the launch. Everyone was fabulously dressed and prohibition style cocktails flowed while the CD played in the background. We were treated to readings from authors L. Lisa Lawrence and Jack Cameron while writers and admirers of the literary rubbed elbows.
I feel so honored to be a part of Creative Colloquy. Our vision to support the creative culture while fostering relationships built upon the mutual admiration of the written word is realized every time I get to spend time with you beautiful people.
Here are some of my favorite captures from the evenings festivities.




 
 

 
 




 

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Finite Moments, Infinite Gratitude

I kiss the snuffalupugus lids of my youngest, take in her sweet baby smells, stroke her curly blondish lockes and remind myself how finite these moments are with our children.
I sneak in moments like these with my 5 year old boy while he still allows and with the teens I get caught gazing at them in moments of awe at their presence. They can be talking about school, or a new videogame and it will occur to me that these people were once tiny little humans who loved me unconditionally. And I them.
This journey of parenting is unpredictable. Before you had children, or if you haven't yet you have undoubtedly professed what kind of parent you're not going to be or promised to be nothing like your parents. You want to be a cool parent. The epitome of loving, nurturing and understanding. All of those things that we idealize in parents.
Truth be told being a mother has tired me straight to the bone. My soul aches when I think of all the ways I have failed my children and all the ways I will continue to fail them even as I attempt to learn and grow myself.
I console myself by recognizing my attempts to do better than my own parents. I accept that I am only human, deeply flawed and well intentioned. Being a mother is singlehandedly the most rewarding journey in life and simultaneously manages to also be the most thankless.
As a mother of four I am realizing that each of their life journeys will be vastly different and the obstacles we meet together so diverse from one another's that my previous experience will have no practical application.
We will meet each bad decision, self inflicted wound and grand injustice each day, anew.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ten Stubby Digits, Ten Chubby Toes

Sometimes putting our thoughts to paper (or screen) can be a challenge. Even as a "writer" you can be at a loss for words that truly convey the depth of your message. Sometimes, even when you find those words they can sting and leave your heart feeling achy and empty, or maybe even brimming full, both can prove to be painful.
So, while I'm wrestling with a blog post it brought me back to some words I wrote for the Destiny City Film Festival's Story Alchemy.
The theme was "transformed by compassion" and empathy, and while I felt ill equipped to write a story, let alone read it out loud, I accepted the challenge and the opportunity to represent Creative Colloquy while also answering the call to share my words. It only seemed fair since each month I ask the same of others.
So below is my story~keep in mind, it was written as a guide to be narrated out loud and not necessarily grammatically proper. But I'm revisiting some tough times and it brought me back to this moment.

This image makes me chuckle. Because this is what I look like when I talk and I'm clearly anxious. But I did it.
Most parents will tell you while awaiting the arrival of their child that it’s not the little person’s gender that matters. Or even whether or not they inherit Grandpa Joe’s eyes or Aunt Becky’s curly locks. It’s about those tiny little digits and a happy, healthy baby. All of the corny things you hear from parents are absolutely true. We marvel at the shift of priorities. Under rested sporting tee-shirts dabbled with spit up, food and maybe even poop we manage to proclaim our pure state of awe and belief in love at first sight. However, the cosmos are forever striving to obtain a sense of balance and with all the awe inspiring moments filled with joy and happiness there is a grim flipside to things.

 Parental bliss is always, inevitably interrupted by horrifying worry, heartache and sometimes an utter and crushing sense of failure.

 I experienced all of the above about 5 years ago. My daughter now 17 was born, happy, healthy, all of those wiggly fat digits we’d hoped for and proceeded to grow into a beautiful young lady. Well adjusted.  Smart. Kind. Conveying a dry, wicked sense of humor that perfectly combined her dad and I. At twelve years old she became moody, achy and fatigued all of which you can pretty much attribute to puberty. With what seemed to be the usual side effects of becoming a woman she was stricken with a rash on her face. Her already rosy cherub cheeks and across the bridge of her nose became blotchy and irritated. After weeks of avoiding the sun, changing or trying face lotions, oatmeal scrubs and dietary tweaks we finally took her into the doctor.

 It was only after an assault of questions and blood tests that she was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. Systemic Lupus, for those who don’t know is an auto immune disorder. Essentially her body was attacking itself from the inside. Waging war and inflicting her with not only a visible symptom like the malar rash but also rheumatoid arthritis.

 When we received the diagnosis I could only describe my initial reaction as shock. Though that doesn’t even really place it in the proper box. I’d always strived to be the Wonder Woman Mom, we hadn’t always had it easy but I strived to remain the sturdy foundation for my children to turn to. Stable. Comfortable. But with my daughter’s diagnosis I felt shaken and battered. Naturally living in this modern age I turned to WebMD to discover all I could know about Lupus.

For anyone who self-diagnoses or researches their own ailments knows this is a horrible idea.
WebMD informed me of all the symptoms that I shirked off as signs of puberty were in fact Lupus related. It went on to tell me that Lupus was not curable but Treatable. And as I read the laundry list of complications my tough mom façade crumbled.

 Not only were the complications heart wrenching to imagine. Even in a best case scenario manageable ailments like arthritis sting. I was hardly equipped to consider possibilities like organ failure, miscarriages in women and even death. Is any parent?

 I’ve always been naturally a bit cynical, not always jaded but suspicious of the inherent good in people that folks always insisted upon. Is this ‘good’ a tangible thing, can it be measured or seen or even experienced? I believed for a large part of my life that it could not. It simply did not exist. Not to say that people couldn’t be good but rather, they just tended not to be. And with that I approached every interaction, even the most superficial, wary of people. Initially my daughter’s diagnosis did not change this.

If anyone has ever visited a children’s hospital they know what I say is true. It’s a high tension atmosphere. Parents and children sit, emotionally drained and exhausted. Tired of tests, waiting rooms and traffic. Tired of being the proverbial Guinea Pig in which to tests different combinations of potions and elixirs. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. Earlier when I said Lupus was “treatable” that’s exactly what I meant. Treatable. A simple term to really mean a barrage of medications you cannot pronounce. An ammunition of pills that all have their purpose. You take one for this and another to fight the side effects of the last. All of this, the sitting in Seattle traffic, circling like sharks to find a minivan parking space, followed by a wait to be told to wait so they can sit you in another room to wait some more……It’s all quite infuriating.

 Some days my daughter would just shut down. She’s not the whiny, woe is my type but a weight would lie heavily on her shoulders. Her doe eyes would tire. I witnessed with a heavy heart how all of these physical ailments were affecting her psychologically. That, more than anything, left me feeling lost. I had no sound advice to guide her. It could not be fixed. It was only treatable. There. Was. No. Cure. 

Though all of this certainly help my disdain for my fellow human kind it left me feeling increasingly isolated……until the day I started to really pay attention.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own head. Mindlessly moving thru the motions and not really being present. Not ever really investing yourself. So many of us are guilty of doing it. But then there are those who take a moment to really look at you. It can be in a simple gesture that contact, that moment when the eyes connect and rather than look away hurriedly in discomfort or shame they stop and see you. Of course this isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to the children’s hospital but it was there I really began to take notice. Those little knowing glances. All of us there, whatever affliction had hold of our children were there together. Of course it wasn’t just those minute empathetic affinities. It was larger than that. Acts of compassion through connections. A hi-five from Hector the lab technician will instantly make my daughter grin. A nurse during my daughters 3 day hospital stay was one big work of compassion. Silly socks pulled up to his knee, scrubs tucked in, afro and hipster glasses conveying a character of a man who liked to have a good time would come to the window on the isolation ward and play games of hangman and adorn the window with works of art.

Before being admitted into said isolation ward, her regular doctor came to visit. Dr. Hayward is a mother as well, we’ve witnessed each other progress through a pregnancies in 6 week intervals. Each of us getting a little rounder as she inspected my eldest. She has always had a tender touch and maternal approach with my daughter but when she came to check in on Moira and talk to her about the hospitalization even though it wasn’t her shift, it was that moment that made my heart soften as tears filled my eyes. That was a big one. She wasn’t just doing her job. And she wasn’t exactly a friend. She didn’t have to be present and yet there she was comforting and affectionate. Easing this horrific hurdle, if only a little by her presence.

Tiny embers cared to will ignite bonfires of flame and warm whole families and provide light in the darkness.

These kernels of compassion strengthened my daughter’s heart. The weight though still there is a little lighter. She’s a warrior. Stronger in spirit than nearly anyone I’ve encountered and conveys compassion to me daily. Our lives woven together, I may never fully understand how her illness affects her. Her journey is her own. But she has instructed me to be less cynical and soften the edges with small gestures of empathy. She’s the one with an illness and she shows ME empathy.

Through this life experience I’ve learned to be more open hearted. Though I’m not so sure I buy into the whole “inherent goodness” within all humanity. I have seen people who care to their core. Whole heartedness shared to anyone who will have it in instances where empathy and community connectedness is the only thing that will get us through it all. Maybe not unscathed but enlightened and better for it.