soul keepers

Ever Sophia, Love, pretty things, soulfood

In the past three months I have traveled physically, mentally, emotionally. I have unpacked my bag of family and school stress laid it out on my bed and evaluated it. Then I repacked my bag with neatly folded and tucked layers of uncertainty. Replaced despair with question marks. There’s a new grip on my sanity. It’s always seems to be a different version of the same fist doesn’t it.

Diagnosis- anxiety.
Comorbidity- exhaustion.
Treatment plan- trust.

Early this summer I kicked off two weeks of release with a one night camping trip with my baby girl. It was hands down the sweetest moments that we have shared maybe ever. Ev is her father’s daughter, she loves all things outdoors and is relentlessly handy. Ever-v-Woods I’d put my money on her every time.


We put up our tent at dusk. Walked to the lake, stood breathless at the infinite perfection of our Earth. Came back, set up the rest of camp by lantern. Ate raw s’mores and tucked ourselves into our tent sans rain flap so that we could take in the sky.


When was the last time that you were in the middle of no where and looked at the stars? If it has been awhile, clear your schedule, just go, do it. It’s unbelievable. More than stars, the galaxy. Perspective. Guaranteed dumbfounding beauty.

We laid there in that tent on the waters edge, lulled to sleep by the croaky growl of bull frogs. Directly above us perfectly framed by our tent poles hovered the big dipper. I took the opportunity to share a Lakota story that I had learned the weekend prior at a sweat lodge about a Lakota female ancestor spirit that lives in the very center of the big dipper. I will proceed to butcher what is truly a beautiful tradition because I don’t remember all of the details and the oral tradition (thankfully) evades the powers of Google. This ancestor spirit acts as the gate keeper of all souls. Souls travel to new babies born on Earth through a portal of sorts in the middle of the big dipper and when we die we all return to that place. A shooting star is the soul traveling across the sky, a baby being born.

And just then, in the middle of the constellation- brilliant and tactile as we lay simply in awe, the brightest most distinct shooting star that I have ever seen blazed directly across the stary ladle.

“Wow! Did you see that Mommy?!?!?”
“How could I not”.

It still gives me chills. Hums a low this place, your place, our collective being is bigger than you can ever conceive. And for 9 hours and counting every day our world goes still and quiet begging for you to look up. To witness the spray of magic breathing and burning in perfect unison with all that is. To swaddle you in her spangled darkness of destiny.

 

 

When life was different

Ever Sophia, Love, soulfood

This morning I rolled over, wrapped myself around my boyfriend like a baby sloth and moaned I don’t want to go to work. He countered- Don’t. Quit. I’ll take care of you.
Old Reagon would have protested. New Reagon savored.

I just got back from ten days of soul searching. Of beauty, tense situations, silence, giggles, music, reading, nature. From ten days of being alive, present in every moment. Life was still, my thoughts and emotions were congruent. I was one with the perpetual feeling that I am so fucking lucky to have my baby and my man. To have my family.
That was it. That was all that mattered.

Loving or at least having a deep appreciation for your life despite it’s real-lifeness is the goal.

That’s so very important for me to remember. To keep on the tip of my tongue. To carry in my hand bag for those days when self-pitty and exhaustion hijack my gratitude.
____________________________________

My mother very graciously gifted me a new car (I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop fortune and luck tend to evade me). That car was filled with totes, boxes and bags of my things.
Ohhh these things. How do I describe them:

Books. Books I loved. Books I learned. Books that I couldn’t take to the thrift store because at one point and time each of those books held the ticket to the other side of a course and another A. All of those A’s. So shiny and desired. As it turns out they’re rather hollow, transcripts long forgotten. All that lingers is a nagging sensation to correct someone when they miss label Existential  art.

Journals. Before I blogged I journaled. I love each one of them. But each one of them are tough to look at. Tough to face one page because I was young and dumb, the next because I invited in an unfortunate series of events launched by my grandmother’s death.

All of those mementos from Ever’s babyhood. I put her little plaster cast foot prints, her hand written birth story, her baby albums all in boxes and shoved them to the back of my mother’s garage. I would never throw them away they just had to be forgotten. For self-preservation.

I opened the trunk to that shiny new  car and was met with five years of agony. My initial reaction, I’ll just drop it all off at the Goodwill. My Mom insisted, “No you’ll want to go through this”. Fuck.

Last night I did.

I thumbed through journals, books, papers. I smiled, I laughed, I shook my head in disbelief of all of the years of college that I soldiered through. I put a few things in the throw that away don’t even look at it pile. The rest I saved for today.

________________________________________

Today, I cried for that girl that I was not that long ago. That girl desperately grasping at normalcy. The girl making the worlds hugest batch of lemonade. The girl that got pregnant at 20. The girl who pretended for four years that her ‘surprise’ family could hold water.

I cried for the girl who honestly believed that she could make anything work.

For the girl who saved apology notes- a cheap bandaid clinging to the scabs of abuse and betrayal.

For the girl who went through labor all alone because she didn’t want to be a bother.

For the girl who should have fucking left. And for the girl who wrote -check- done 7/8/11.

And for that exhausted, pissed, purging, self-denying, material girl, wonder woman.

________________________
Life gets better. You’ll do better. You’ll find yourself, it won’t be easy, but you will.

 

 

Sweet Girl of Mine

Ever Sophia, Love, soulfood

I look at you and you stare back every time

with those same huge brown eyes

that I fell madly in love with seven years ago

or was it twenty-seven?

 

A piece of me has always known that you are a reincarnation

of your exquisite great grandmother.

The joy that, that qualifier would have brought her.

Half of me thinks if you could have only known.

 

Because it’s hard for that half to imagine her any other way

Any other being.

 

To imagine her being mine instead

of me being hers.

 

Though, in every way

I will always be yours.

To Fail the Reflection of Yourself 

Ever Sophia, Love

 

You and I child

We are one.
Where I stop you begin.

There are a lot of things that I am good at:
Falling in love
Following through
Getting back up
and carrying someone with me.

 

I haven’t always been good at being your mother.

 

This is a new skill set for
Me-I
You-and-I .

 

And damn if we aren’t both constantly changing
Growing
and trying to keep up.
Hold my hand, we’ll look both ways.

 

You and I child.

 

 

The Truth About My Boyfriend and I

domestication, Ever Sophia, Love, soulfood

By now I’m sure you all know how Julius and I’s love story goes. Some of you have lived it with me. Others heard it recounted over and over.

Today in my ridiculous amounts of spare time that I have completely squandered away (and am trying not to feel guilty about) I went through all of the photo booth images on my computer. They chronicle the spring though winter 2014. The summer that I spent in Lawrence crash coursing a relationship that I wanted so badly to be real.

The truth. Well the truth is that I fell in love with Julius hard. Really-really- unadvised hard. And all before I had any remotely romantic interactions with him in person.

When our long distance flirtationship was born I had just been romantically steam rolled by another man. Flattened and stunned I gathered up all of my guts that I could muster and took a leap of insanity. We’ve talked before about how I don’t do particularly well alone. I CAN do it but life just sucks without a partner. I hear the many of you that lust for your bachelor days of yore, it’s just not my cup of tea. So here I was, heart broken, reeling and totally smitten with a man three states away.

Yada, yada, yada. I show up to Lawrence for one weekend a month before I was to stay for three months. Julius and I had a chaotic, confusing, weird couple of days that ended in a lot of uncertainty. But you know how I like to cling. So we resumed skyping and writing for the gap month.

Then Ev and I returned for what would become a very very long 60 + days. That first weekend I invited him to be my date to my best friend’s wedding. At that juncture I didn’t know which was worse to be a date-less maid of honor or to have a pile of pictures with a man that I briefly loved way back when and blahh blahh tragic break up story to haunt me until the end of time. This is real shit that women (I) think about: Do I want to invite you to the family Christmas photos? I can’t undo documenting you in all of my magical moments that I would like to fondly reminisce about one day. Trust I have plenty of jpegs in the don’t open ever folder. Eventually you become more discerning.

I invited him despite my hesitations. It had to be exceptionally awkward for the poor sweet man but he made social butterfly lemonade and we had a swell time. Yes, there are pictures to document that indelible limb that I went out on.

Today, I scroll though a mess of selfies and videos of Ever being a total goon. There they are– those sweet, sweet pictures and videos of Julius and Ev being silly when our family was just a newborn baby.

Photo on 6-28-14 at 12.33 PM #2

Julius and Ever got thrown into the ring together without much warning. It wasn’t easy for either of them. Ev was insufferable. Completely defensive about a new man in addition to the general stress of turning our regular routine on it’s head. I -then and now- make a lot of concessions for the fact that for every break up that I’ve endured in the past seven years so has she.

Those first months were terrifying. The weight of fucking up your kid’s life any more than you already have sits like a lead vest on your chest. Things were pretty tumultuous between Julius and I. All kinds of stressors compounded with some major trust issues that my darling bug a boo mercilessly projected at me. We had a lot of long painful let’s call it quits shall we conversations that summer. I was sure that I was back in the old familiar place of self-dreamt delusions about a love that you only wished were real.

The love was real. The logistics were just fucked.

Yet, there he was on the other side of the lens immortalizing himself into a photographic memory that is harder to swab clean than your own mind. I’m excellent at forgetting, it’s the reminders that get me.

I stand by that the first year is the hardest. Fuck the first few months are the hardest.

But we both kept coming back together. Kept gambling on a love that we didn’t have any futures on. We were simply unable to let go. Over and over and over. Honestly it wasn’t until spring 2015 that I was sure that what we had was a safe bet. And still for a full year we kept participating in each others memories holding a lump in our throats that one day we may look back in pain and anger.

Why didn’t we walk away all of the times that it was really fucking hard? Some combination of: Fait. The fact that’s it’s really hard to undo what you’ve done. All of those magical moments where we flooded every dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin receptor in our brains. Because both of us are really tired of starting over. Because there’s a baby involved. That at the end of every day, beneath all of the layers of shit, that we genuinely liked each other.

The other day a friend posted an instagram picture of her beautiful children that were born really close together and said something to the effect that she couldn’t believe that she ever doubted this. That’s a universal truth if I’ve ever heard it. That the scary things- the big things- like creating a new life, embarking on new love, taking a new career path, doing what ever it is that is terrifying are the most important. Maybe they don’t always work out but some of them will. When they do you might want to look back to two years ago and see the pictures that remind of a time when you weren’t sure. Because they remind you that you won’t be sure again but that time will march on and that certainty has a way of finding you. It’s the nature of things.

So, the truth is that I thought then that we were crazy. That we were doomed. That I was hurling myself towards a wrecked heart. That I was jeopardizing the little stability in my daughter’s life that I could give her alone. The truth is that I was unsure about my boyfriend. The truth is also that I was wrong. It turns out that he’s a pillar of stability, that every picture is better with him in it and of that I’m sure.

In Response To Your Noise Complaint:

Ever Sophia, Love, soulfood

I will not apologize because:

-Because my baby- yes the padding foot steps of a 72 month old is a little louder than they used to be- is playing, singing, dancing. Practicing her tendus and haphazard cartwheels.

-Because my dogs bark at what they perceive to be a threat against their people. Me. Us. That big scary looking one, she is an absolute baby. An absolute baby that circled and brought to the knees a dangerous man that crept up on me and Meena’s little girl human. The little one, well we found her abandoned by a dumpster. She’s so excited to have a home, to have a dog friend and space to run in circles. She may never catch her tail but we’re going to give her the space and acoustic allotment to try.

-Because some times the stars align and the most magical throw backs stream out of Pandora begging me to shake my booty while doing the dishes. Ev is never one to sit out a dance party and the dogs quickly follow. It gets loud. The people in the apartment below  cross my mind, I’m just as fast to shoo them away. These days, her childhood, they’re passing far too fast. I won’t be quiet for it. 

-Because I love when my boyfriend dances. How he tries to hit all of the impossible high notes with Jill Scott. And because nothing makes us laugh quite as hard as his post-dinner serenades.

Because I have lived in loud houses before. Loud with screams, pleas for mercy. That’s how I grew up. The quite one, who was often forced to scream back in a house of loud. The bad kind of loud. The kind of loud that warranted a noise complaint that never came.

-Because as an adult I lived in another loud house. One where I was the woman on the other side of a duplex wall desperately screaming for my neighbor to call the police for me. For someone to intervene. To help me when I felt the most helpless. No one called. Eventually I was loud enough to get my phone back to call 911 for myself. I know exactly how loud that I can be, I’m never trying to come near that decibel again.

-Because tonight I got to read the email that my beautiful boyfriend sent to the leasing office. Amidst the explanations and a timeline of the ‘loud music’ incident was this line, “….other than the occasional sleepover for our six year old”. Our six year old.

Excuse me while I bubble over with happiness. Happiness and disbelief that I’m in a place in this world with a partner who says OUR six year old. Our might not feel so resounding except that it’s the pronoun that defines our day to day life that has lingered in the air waiting to be claimed for a year.

For instance this day I called J in a tizzy at 3:10 to remind him to take Ev to gymnastics.
“Hello, ohhh yeah we’ve been here it started at 2:30”.
“God, you’re so good at life”. When I have completely forgotten, there he is holding all of the pieces together. 

Yesterday he embodied OUR when he took Ev and her friend door to door peddling two dollar chocolate bars for her school fundraiser. They coined this genius sales pitch, “I’m selling chocolate, how much money do you got?” and “I’m selling chocolate, where’s your wallet”. 24 chocolate bars later I’ve got to say they’re a dynamic duo.

So thank you bitch ass down stairs neighbor lady you shined an amazing light into the fog of titles and accountability in my little family. It’s nice to bask in the glow. OUR happy, joyous, jump up and down, bumping soul jams at 4:00 in the afternoon, laughing fits before bedtime, loud life. 

I won’t be apologizing for it. 

I figured out what’s wrong with the world and the solution. You’re welcome.

Ever Sophia, social awareness

You know what’s wrong with our world? We’ve raised our children to be assholes. 1,000 years ago, 2 generations ago, me, you, mine and yours.

I’m 6 and a half years into to motherhood. And everyday I see things with new eyes. Everyday my baby becomes more and more like the adult version of her self and today I was alarmed.

Alarmed for the second time in 7 days. Tonight a little boy and her were playing in the pool with a raft with a rope on it. The little boy got tangled in the rope that Ev was pulling and was drug under the water for a few seconds. He wasn’t hurt just panicked. It wasn’t malicious on Ever’s part simply an accident. But the fucked up thing was when he started flipping out she swam over to him untangled him from the rope slyly and swam away. We pulled the little boy out, he was fine just shook but Ev kept her distance.

When Julius asked Ever very nicely to go apologize to the boy and see if he was okay, she refused. In a bashful way more so than in a defiant way but none the less she refused to apologize.

Parenting confession. This wasn’t the first time that a demanded apology was denied. In fact the majority of the time that’s her m.o. To stop just short of actually looking guilty and then execute a finely orchestrated dance of avoidance and refusal to apologize. Because, we all know, an apology concedes guilt.  

Maybe if today was any other day I would have reprimanded lightly and turned a blind eye. But it was today.

The day that my boyfriend texted me that his day was shit. He came home. I was fueled with a laundry list of anecdotes and condolences. To no avail my normal I’m sorry that worked sucked speech doesn’t counter you read a litany of news reports today about your fellow Black Americans being murdered by a regime that was put in place to ‘protect and preserve’ white men. The same white men shrouded in the a mythological concoction of the divine conducting themselves under the collective delusion that one man deserves life and another does not. Topped of by the nagging notion that even if you flea this country there is no place where you would be safe, safe from judgement, safe from persecution, safe from ignorance and violence. 

How do you pick up the puddle of anger and disbelief that is the light of your life from that kind of day. (A day not unlike any day before or any day to come). Welp you brainstorm. You fire out suggestions. You offer hope and the ridiculous. Here’s what I came up with:

-You can go to Cleveland to the #blacklivesmatter conference. It may give birth to the next big organized results producing civil rights movement.
-You can channel your rage into your writing, the pen is mightier than the sword after all.
-You can help organize the people of color for the Bernie Sanders campaign. There’s real hope there.
-We can move to a hippy commune, start our goat farm and never consume media again.
-Finally— just because my boyfriend is a super sci-fi nerd and often gets angry at me when I tell him that given no set of hypothetical situations would I actually travel through space with him— you can start the first Black colony on Mars.

He wasn’t really feeling any of my options, except for dissembling all of our household appliances to make a time machine or at least preoccupy his mind for the rest of his life laboring towards the absurd. Ohh and going to a former nuclear bomb site to acquire enough radiation to get super powers and then exterminate all of the terrible people in the world.

At least I got a good laugh or two.

In the midst of that my daughter refused to apologize to a little boy for hurting him. Awwwwhhhhh hell no. 

Granted this giant ball of– evil is continuing to prevail and the Earth is literally in the midst of the worst case scenario for the continuity of sustainable human life– may have exacerbated my even keeled parenting demeanor. 

Fair or not. I’ll be damned if I raise another shit head that will keep perpetuating unaccountability and disregard for other HUMANS and CREATURES as their equal. We’ll be good God damed to quote my man.

So Ever got snatched out of the pool and we went promptly home. While getting a speech littered with words about 10 years over her head. But she understood the inflection. Mama is pissed.

Really stewing. Weighing all of these things that I know to be true about me, her, the universe. Then concluding that the time has come. You see I wrote this paper entitled The Reality of Tiger Mom a year ago and can’t seem to shake it from my mental reservoir of solid parenting advice. (You should probably read it, I think it’s pretty fucking interesting but I’m biased). Here’s the part that always sticks out in my mind, uncoincidentally Ever has arrived at the age of understanding and I’m 8 months late to the Tiger Mom game.

” ……As the author’s hypothesis predicted Chinese immigrant mothers in this study highly endorsed the authorative caregiving style (Cheah et al., 2009, p.316). They were also found to support independence in their young children more so than their American counterparts. A major cultural difference of note is the Chinese concept of the age of understanding begins at six years old. Cheah et al. explains that before this time that the mothers are, “…lenient, warm, and affectionate towards infants and very young children” (Cheah et al., 2009, p.316). After the age of six children are held to a new standard and stricter discipline is imposed. This concept is the product of Confucian belief (Cheah et al., 2009, p.312.) At the age of understanding and beyond highly authorative mothers balance their goal-oriented demands with early self-regulation (Cheah et al., 2009, p.317). Importantly, Chinese mothers emphasize an awareness of the child’s impact on others through reasoning and induction (Cheah et al., 2009, p.317).

The children’s outcomes at the time of the study correlated to the widely held authorative parenting style outcomes. The Mainland Chinese parents that used this style did so in part by encouraging early self-regulation and emphasizing the child’s autonomy (Cheah et al., 2009, p. 318).

Consequently,
‘These children’s abilities to regulate behavior and attention was related to lower levels of children’s difficulties including emotional symptoms,conduct problems, hyperactivity, and peer problems, as rated by their preschool or day care teacher’ (Cheah et al., 2009, p.318)………”

I give Amy Chau a pretty serious analysis the good and the bad for the record. But at the end of the day being the doting, lackadaisical parent that I am in my heart of hearts is doing my daughter a great disservice. And yes it may have taken me seeing her stone cold reaction to potentially drowning a peer to make me realize that.

We came home. She went in her room after being grounded from electronics (my former stand by for punishment that is actually effective). Still the mash up of how is it possible that there is so much hate and ignorance exists in this world and how to actually effect change did back flips in my mind. 

In the room for round two (yes I know this isn’t parenting book protocol but to my credit Ever is alarmingly intelligent and pretty accustom to my rants) of my verbose speech on how you aren’t going to be a jerk. It went on and on. The take away,
“You will be kind, you will be nice to your friends and strangers. You will show remorse. You will be considerate. You will be empathetic and sympathetic. Peppered with that is the expectation and do you understands. The finally if you are not I will gladly punish you until those reactions become instinctual in you.”

End scene. Almost.

J and I silently went over the facts that the base line issue is the extreme privilege that my child experiences. “She is soo spoiled” seems like a slight misdemeanor charge given all of the terrible issues that can potentially intersect the parenting experience. But oh contraire. She is so spoiled removes her from reality. Yes, there is innocence in being young and naive and I don’t want to entirely spoil that. However, when I busted out the Save the Children commercials tonight the first thing out of Ever’s mouth was, ” Why don’t they have cars? They need cars? And how come those babies are just bones, ohhh that’s what happens when you don’t eat”. Seriously she has no clue. I’m not trying to bring down the white American land of obesity and hate crime hammer on my 6 year old but I sure in the fuck am putting the breaks on the, “Ever is the center of the universe campaign”. Gigs up kid. 

 

Between the State of the Union speech that I gave and the queue of youtube videos about homeless shelters in Michigan, slums of India and cleft palates in Uganda I made Ever fill a grocery bag with toys that she had to give away.

IT WAS THE MOST DEVASTATING THING THAT HAD EVER HAPPENED TO HER. She was violently sobbing. Had snot careening down her face. She meagerly filled the bag with dress up items that she had out grown and books that were less than thrilling. Nope go fill it up more. Pick two stuffed animals. She did an all right job. It was torture for her to give up one small bag of the mountain of useless objects that she plays with. What an allegory for the state of things on our planet in 2015. 


Our night ended with a few more gentle talks about what will go right next time. With a splash of any time that I see you being mean to your friends you will fill up another bag of toys. Tears ohhhh the tears. Tears at the thought of all of the toys that she will lose for being bad. Well Ev you don’t have to lose any more toys if you’re nice plus you could always decide to share.

At the end of the day (literally) I can now honestly say that I don’t believe that children are born innocent and blank canvases. They are born human. There is a primal human desire in everyone of us to sustain our status quo. At the most basic level that’s nutrition and safety but when you are born into swaddling blankets and a world bending over backwards for you the stakes are a little higher. I talk about in that paper about how American parenting philosophy changed drastically after WWII. It is ever changing and settling into a whole new disturbing land of entitlement. What are we gonna do about it? Write it out? Build a time machine? Make your kid give away a bag of toys? It’s my best idea yet.

Maybe even take stock of your own bag of toys and tricks. Maybe you have a little to give. If you can’t get past the devastation of sharing may you at least be kind. 

How I Found My Daughter a New Dad —- and why saying that is taboo

domestication, Ever Sophia, Love

I get asked,  “Are you going to have more children” a lot. I don’t mind answering it’s too complicated for a cut and dry no so I start talking about how Ev would love a sibling but I really can’t justify it right now or rationally any point in the future.  Every now and again a fellow mother will respond with,
“My oldest child was a single child for ___ years. The whole time all they begged me for was a brother(s) or sister(s)*. So, I found a man**, got married and had __ children. They love their siblings but they still aren’t happy. There’s nothing you can do to give them what they want.”
A couple of weeks ago that exact conversation happened at the pool and ended with. “Well now she’s 19, moved out of the house and I have a 2 and 4 year old that she see’s once a month or less and only refers to them as my kids”.

*Ev personally wants 100 sisters, no brothers. We’re still crunching the numbers…

**I don’t completely buy that that woman ran out and rustled up the most convenient man to settle down with and start popping out playmates for her oldest. But what I do think is like all single mothers she felt inadequate. She felt like she started a family, the circumstances of the failure are irrelevant, all that matters is that she failed. Other than the desperate women who resort to one night stand “gotcha babies“, here’s an instructional guide if that’s your bag. [Sane] Women do not get pregnant and follow it up with a cozy I’m going to raise this child by myself declaration. It’s not how we’re wired biologically. It makes no practical sense. If you’ve ever had to figure out rent, gas, groceries and $700 worth of daycare a month on once income then you understand. But more than the money and logistics of what in the f am I going to do when little Timmy catches the flu and I can’t find a babysitter, it’s a matter of the heart. 

So we set about the world recovering emotionally from the truth of our failed relationship or our failure at planning, clad in the abundant love and joy that our child brings to this world, searching for a partner. 

This time we’re looking for keeps. 

Here’s the dichotomous nature of those intentions. Everyone in the position to comment on your life, has a million opinions about who you should date… marry and how that should manifest. For me all of the ineligible bachelors thought hey you’re attractive can’t you just bat your eyes, wave a magic wand and find a sugar daddy? Okay, sugar daddy isn’t really PC but let’s be real you need to get P-A-I-D, killing two birds with one stone. Go on, just bibbity boppity boo already, treat yo self.

Some thought. Oh courageous one. Your life is so cute with just you and your daughter. It’s basically like having a sleep over every night and someone to love you unconditionally. Now, let’s be honest a solid man comes around once in a blue moon, let’s not exhaust yourself finding him. Just be content. If it’s meant to happen then it will, but seriously though your like the poster child for cute single parenthood. Why would you want to miss that photo op?

Photo on 2013-05-24 at 10.48 #6

It’s true we’re fucking adorable with or with out a man or father in our life. But do you want to know what is also true. At the time that I took this picture, I was working full time, going to school full time, living with my mother (a state of existence that no adult should have to endure… love you mom but God damn we do not function under the same roof), I was exhausted, lonely, stressed and very unfulfilled. I was also a crappy mother because of all of those things. Ev was shuffled around between me, my mom and her dad’s parents. Nothing was stable for her. Yet, I was doing the damn thing for her sake. To make a better life for her. Here’s the trouble in making a better life, the future may very well be exponentially worse than the present despite your best efforts. We have to invest in the present. That’s all we’re guaranteed.

I didn’t know that then. I’m barely learning that now.

Back to my point so you have two camps:
1-find a man, let him fix it all
2- Come on girl rally, read some Virginia Woolf gather your mothering instincts up and fearlessly trudge into the future without the worry of a man

Maybe that works for you. It doesn’t me.

I hesitate to call myself co-dependent. I don’t need a man. But I am my best self when I’m in a healthy happy relationship. I am the best version of Momma that I can be when I have the support of a caring partner. I’ve known this for all of my adult life, I can’t suppress the need or fill the void with something else when it’s missing.

I went about my life looking for a compromise.

Here’s the conundrum. At least in my age bracket you can’t very well go out to a club and proposition someone to be your surrogate baby daddy. Well you can and then systematically have every man in the place slowly back away and then run. So instead you put on your heals that you’re liable to break your neck in, you find some perfume labeled sex kitten in lieu of the pheromones that you should actually be roller balling all over your body. And you go out. The selection of potential male suitors is always grim if you’re as picky as I. If your efforts aren’t entirely in vain you’ll find one guy that’s worth nestling up to the bar with. You’ll give him doe eyes and exaggerated laughs at things that probably aren’t funny. Maybe you’ll take a few too many shots and fuck him that night. Maybe you’ll take the high road and simply exchange numbers.

Best case scenario you’ll exchange snap chats and quips about sports or some shit that you’re not even vaguely interested in. If your lucky you will be offered a real date like you’re a real girl. At which maybe you’ll break the I have a little babushka ice. You slip it into the conversation over the appetizer like so,
“Hhahahahha, ohh that’s funny. Speaking of funny things earlier today my daughter said the darnedest thing. Hahaha”. Ohhh solemn face. What? I didn’t look like I have kids. Was that on account of my still intact vagina? Or because I don’t have a ‘mom’ haircut? I’m a little confused. But really having a kid is no big deal. Hopefully one day soon I’ll feel comfortable enough to introduce you two. You’re going to love her, she’s brilliant, funny, charismatic. Basically the most incredible human to grace this earth….”
“Well except that she’s going to want you to die. Absolutely die. It doesn’t matter if you bring her lollipops or a unicorn your still an intruder. A “new one” and she doesn’t like your type. But then you’ll overcome that and we can buy a cute little bungalow and ride bikes to the farmers market on Saturdays and go on vacations every summer. She’s really a blessing in disguise. I mean shit. I didn’t mean to say any of that out loud.  What I really meant is , like, basically she’s like a puppy. She just wants to play and she naps a lot and totally doesn’t get in the way. You won’t actually have to be her father, she already has one, you’ll just have to come over for ice-cream and say hi. Then we can have sex. It’ll be great.”

UHHHHHHHHHHH.

That was not an exaggeration. That conversation is so painful. Straddling the line(s) of
-I’m inherently flawed because I have a child(ren)
-I still have to present my self as a completely self-sustaning single parent
-convincing them that they are primarily going to be a romantic partner to me and just vaguely a part of the kids life
is some kind of shitty position.

I used to fantasize about meeting a single dad at the park whose ex-wife had ran off with the circus leaving him with his 1 or 2 children. He would be so stoked to have serendipitously found me. We would start this beautiful stock photo worthy blended family. It would be magic.Despite all of the hours logged on park benching, prince charming never swept Ev and I off of our feet. So, I was forced to improvise.

My solution. Date older men that already know me in the context of being a mother. Bammm awkward conversation (it’s bigger than a conversation, maybe life proposal) adverted. This way they would know before the first wink and smile what they were getting themselves into. [Read here about how my daughter is not and will never be baggage.]

What happened? Well, the plan wasn’t fool proof. There were a couple of less than great decisions that I made in relationships. But they were part of my journey in discovering what I needed in a relationship and what I had to give. Why did I stumble so many times? Because they weren’t ready. And  because they weren’t my one.

Finally my ode to Father’s Day.

The other day I wrote about how pragmatic that J and I were about our relationship at first. Maybe I was being slightly unfair in my depiction of how our relationship started.  We were both really cautious. With good reason we had just come out of really fucked up relationships, we lived in different states and there was a child involved. At one point early on we exchanged these excerpts from emails (modern day romance, am I right?)
__________________________________________________________

4/27/14
J:

[This isn’t really relevant BUT float into my lap like a dandelion…. put a fork in me]
Do you know what its like to search for love for years? To grind and toil over it, sweat and labor searching for it, getting knocked down again and again until one day it just floats into your lap like a dandelion in the breeze? Sometimes I think you’re a mirage, and that I’m still in the desert, deliriously chasing a figment of my own imagination, but in reality stumbling to my own death. [He goes on to sugarcoat likening me to death and then:]
I don’t even think about my future anymore. I think about ours. My short goals all revolve around getting to you. My long goals all revolve around taking care of us…of building a family with you.
R:
I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an asshole. So, I guess I’ll preface it with in my heart of hearts I feel like you are different. But, every guy that falls in love with me sings the same song— your the greatest girl in the whole world, I’m going to marry you, here I have the stars and the moon tucked in my pocket just for you—-. Granted you say it the most beautifully and the most convincingly. There’s a part of me that feels like I’m just having déjà vu. That somewhere between early infatuation and the doldrums of a ruined love, you’ll realize that I am not Helen but merely a siren. Thus far everyone has destroyed their ship on my shores. Regardless of how much of that was their own doing it’s still hard to watch. To have no mercy. To withhold the urge to save the next poor fella from himself. From me.

J:

I love your pragmatism. I’m a mess, your a wreck but that’s just human being-ness. And let me be equally pragmatic. I don’t think ur a Godess or siren…I have no pedestal to prop you up on. And I also fear the bottom. But I don’t fear you. All of my fears are the ghosts of relationships past hahaha. It takes quite an effort to remind myself to keep the past in the past.
And I’m certainly not promising you the moon, the stars…green clovers, blue diamonds or any other lucky charms 🙂 My head is not in the clouds, my feet are firmly planted. What I know is pretty simple.
I enjoy us.
But I do have one fear about us, just one. I don’t fear Ever, I don’t fear the possibility of putting my goals on hold to help you achieve your grad school dreams. My only fear is removing the distance buffer….
Well let me assure you. I know exactly what i’m getting myself into with you.
____________________________________________________________
My response 14 months later
6/21/15
R:

I fell in love with your words before I fell in love with you. Can you blame me? Those emails were like reading a well written romance novel were I was the lead character. [ Pro-tip fellas girls dig that shit, unless you can’t make coherent sentences than spare us.]

I don’t actually think that either of us had any idea about what we were getting into. We didn’t anticipate having an incredibly intense summer in Lawrence that was anything but the picture-esq get away that we had dreamed. We didn’t anticipate that I would drive away at the end of July  with no hope that you were actually ever going to move to New Mexico. We didn’t anticipate how hard it was for all of us when you got here.
We didn’t anticipate all of the disagreements. We didn’t realize how intense it was going to be to find middle ground to parent Ev from. I don’t think that you anticipated that you were going to have to be such an unwavering pillar for me and that little girl. We didn’t anticipate how intense our love for each other would be. We didn’t anticipate how much fun we would have together. And we also didn’t anticipate how easily that we could both bring each other to our emotional knees. That’s the magic and might in resonating so deeply with each other.
Having/being a family then seemed like a buzz word. It sounded nice. We weren’t living it. We weren’t fighting for it. I’m still not sure if we know for sure what we’ve gotten our selves into.
IMG_0570
But I do know that this is the greatest love of my life. In it’s multifaceted dimensions. Sharing an existence with my two soul mates is trial and error but always the greatest privilage. Day and night, last minute runs to the pharmacy, bed time stories, cheers from the crowd as our baby crosses the stage, staying up way past bedtime, report cards, dance recitals, discipline, breakfast lunch and dinner. All day, every day. We are a family. You’ve made us that.
We’ll forever be making it. Together. Happy Father’s Day, I’m so happy that we’ve found us.
Love
-Reg

how I loved your father

Ever Sophia

The vessel that contains every ounce of my love, devotion and hope weighs 47 pounds and wears a size 1 shoe. Her name is the most perfect word that I could conjure. Ever. She is my dear sweet baby girl and I need to give her better answers:

Dear Ever,

Well Sis, you’re six and half (yes we’re counting the halves and every day in between). At this point I have lived the past seven years through the lens of you. I know that that’s hard to believe as a daughter myself. It’s hard when the world is convoluted and puzzling. Things feel unfair and unsolicited. And at the top of the list of WHYS will always be my name. I’m not particularly thrilled with that reality but there’s no escaping it. Our lives, our wellbeing are the ultimate responsibility of our mother. Mine, Grandma’s, Great-grandma and all of the great-great-great-grandmas before have fucked up their children’s life in one way or another. It’s the human condition. It’s inevitable.  Let’s talk about the elephant in the room that has hurt you so from the tender age of 3 and will still at the age of 33.

“I want you to love Daddy”.
“You weren’t nice to Daddy”.
“I don’t like it when you meet new ones”.
“I want you to marry Daddy”.

That’s how a verbose toddler and kindergartner breaks down– I have a broken family, one parent and I’m hurt.

*Fucking gulp.*

I have tried my damnedest since you were 2 to explain to you succinctly, using all of the made for emotional support children’s books words. “Mommy and Daddy love you very much. We tried very hard to live together  but we just didn’t get along very well”. There’s only so many ways to say that. Maybe it feels hallow. Maybe you can see right though me– well you definitely can. But up until a few weeks ago I haven’t blatantly lied to you (what, sue me if I bribed you to come into the house to see a surprise so that you would stop having an epic crying fit on the neighbors front porch). After which I told you in a very sobering way, more so for me than you, your’e right I did lie, that’s life, people lie.

All of that is to say that it has never been my intentions in life, love or motherhood to sugarcoat things. Sure I get stuck in my good Midwestern passive aggressive nature where I choose to bottle, bottle, bottle and inevitably explode. But we never got off on that foot and there will never be wool over your beautiful eyes.

There are some things that I want you to know. Things that I am afraid will get lost in time, space and animosity. I want you to know that love though flawed always shape shifts over the lifespan. Two people in like, lust and love are still two people. Human. Imperfect.

I could wax poetic about being young, irrational, adventurous, naive and brimming to the top with ego. But that would only provide a cautionary tale for myself while serving you in no way. Your own choices, trials, successes and God willing adventures are your only lesson. Some will turn out, some will turn you under. You may learn, you may not but one day the reverberations of LOVE IS COMPLICATED will reach right in your chest and grab something. The fog of applying logic to love will dissipate a little.  It still won’t make sense but you learn to look at all matters of the heart with compassion.

Forgive but never forget, that’s how we grow boo.

Tonight I talked (at) to your father. The sound of his voice makes me go numb. It’s not a healthy reaction but it is adaptive. I had to let him go from my heart some time ago. Our relationship ended in total exhaustion. We tried we just didn’t know how.

Though I wish for you to find a (mostly) perfect love with great speed as to spare you the upheaval of loving and loosing I know that isn’t realistic. Especially when you like I, infatuate easy. Jump in without checking the depth of the pool and fall down a lot. Ouchies heal but sometimes the scars linger and that’s okay because they show that you got back up.

The details of the breakdown have seeped out in many ways, it’s not a secret. I just want this one to be different. I want to reminisce about when things were good. When we had a house full of love. The palpable amazement that we shared for you. A friendship. Loyalty. Family.

Your dad is such a tactile person. Love manifests through him in a way that you can touch and measure. He loves to be the one who came through in a pinch, the guy who fixed it, the first at the scene. When your great-grandma died I drove myself out to her funeral and felt more alone than I could ever explain. Your dad, at that point only a friend, called me constantly, insisting that he would come out there just so that I wouldn’t have to drive home alone. I had to forbid him from coming. He just wanted to make things better for me the how was the only thing that was ever askew.

Your dad was like inhaling light for me at a time when I was in the doldrums of life. He was so young. Bubbling with jovial shenanigans. We had a lot of fun. We were reckless and hell bent. That was the only reprieve that I had in a year of emotional anchors. I would have been a very different person today had I not lived that first year of us with out you.

When I was growing you from embryo to eight and a half pounds of utter perfection your dad would get so excited. I was very pragmatic about the lot of it. There was an itinerary, deadlines to meet, mountains to move before I could make a suitable world for your to land softly into. Not Dean. He told everyone about you before I was willing to tell myself. He got so excited about your crib that he built the whole thing downstairs without thinking about it needing to go up the stairwell and through a door. Without skipping a beat he tore it down and rebuilt it before I could notice.

He would gently cradle my belly in his gorgeous manly hands while peering into my soul with those exact big beautiful brown eyes that you bat me. After you were born he would still reach out to rub my tummy and look up bashfully when he realized that you lived on the outside now. I didn’t mind it still felt like love.

evey

We would make really nice dinners every night. You would sit in your highchair stripped joyously directing everyones life with your laughs, points and NO!’s . You would smear your food everywhere, chuck bits of anything to the furthest baseboard. We swept and Swiffered every single day then. It would unravel out into music, dancing and harmonizing poorly to Crosby, Stills & Nash.

This song feels too real even now. They are one person, two alone, they are three together, they are four each other. Confusion has it’s cost.

You were such a complete and total brat about sleeping in your crib. It didn’t last long after 9 months you would climb out and attempt to squeeze through. We all ended up in a big familial pile on the floor every night. You know how you insist on having your back rubbed before bed? That was your father’s doing. I would always be the first to pass out and there he was rubbing your back and singing Hush Little Baby out of key. He was never in a hurry to put you to sleep.

sleepy

There were the sobering times when you were sick and hurt. When you had a fever. When we rushed you to the emergency room. When we so desperately would have given up either of our lives to make you healthy and happy. There were so many times when we were a unit of three out of necessity. All of the crumbling pieces of logistics were futile at those times. We were simply a little family with the biggest concern in the world, you.

Evey, I agree that it was all to brief, but it was there. You were made in a place of love. Were you a life raft out of a storm in my heart? Yes. Was that fair to you? No. In the light of retrospect I can confidently say that becoming a parent is the most selfish thing that a person can do? Yes. Would I change a single choice, fork in the road or excruciating decision that came before you? Never. All of the signs pointed to you in some mystical way. It was you that I found so that my life could begin. Know that it has been you many times that kept your dad from choosing to end. You are my destiny and I your starting line, I’m not going anywhere. You were loved fully and deeply then like you will always be.

-Mama

A Note On Reproductive Decisions

domestication, Ever Sophia, Love

Two things on babies that the internet made me say today:
1) I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again. Do not collect children like chotchkies. No I don’t believe that we should go all China on you and charge 7 years worth of wages because your family planning methods are shit. I do believe that your body is your decision. But that you should act reasonably about it. Are you unable to afford the children that you have? Are you unhealthy or creeping up there in age? Do you have fertility issues because of chronic illnesses? Was your last pregnancy an utter nightmare because of how high risk that it was? Is getting pregnant putting your own health and wellbeing in jeopardy?

These are all deal breakers. Maybe not for your first child, or hell I’ll give you the first two. But if you have two or more existing children and it is very dangerous for you to have another, or if you cannot guarantee the health and wellbeing of your future larger family. THEN DON’T HAVE ANOTHER GOD DAMNED KID. Yes, I think babies are a blessing. Yes, my ovaries explode overtime that I get with in 60 feet of an infant. But you don’t see me popping out babies every year because I think that some how my life would be more fulfilled. And I’m young, healthy and financially responsible for my family.

SHIT.
If that offended you for personal reasons, then it’s you that I’m talking about. Not sorry. 

2) Incase you missed the announcement of the year. My best friend is growing a little baby bear in her beautiful womb as we speak. I’m a little excited. 

About this time years ago for a multitude of reasons and cosmic destinies I peed on a pregnancy test for the third time in 2 weeks and two little blue lines stared back at me. A long exhaled FUCK is about the best description of that feeling. I was 20 years old, full of false optimism about the trajectory of my life and my ability to be a parent. Up until that point everything that I had ever put my mind to, or wanted bad enough always worked out. That was of course all a direct reflection of me, my personality, my intelligence, my sticktuitiveness. Naturally. I was pretty great. And I could totally handle 1 baby. I mean yeah, it’s just 1 baby. Single mothers everywhere have 4 plus babies. Slaves gave birth to babies in the cotton fields, strapped them to their back and continued working. It’s not that hard. I could handle it.

I just needed to have a silent panic attack, walk my dog for an exorbitantly long time and get my shit together. Gulp. Well that went well for about 1 day. Then the skies opened up, the first bolts of baby daddy reality struck and the shit storm that would be the next 3 years of my life blackened my skies.

I strapped my self and the blastocyst that would become bouncing baby Ever in the car and drove to my friends house. I can’t remember which came first Ari or Laura. At Laura’s I ranted about my life to her and the unsuspecting bystanders. She was rational, collected, her friends were always in a life predicament. And then I went to Ari’s. Sat on the front step and broke down in completely sobs. She held me. She made all kinds of unsupported assertions about my superhuman capacity. She told me that she would help me raise it.

Life went on. 8 short and excruciating months later Ever became a shitting, screaming, vortex of happiness, love, loyalty and conviction.

Dysfunctional though it was I had a village in Kansas that allowed me to be a full time student, a fully time employee and a part time mother. It was love and support. It was also piecemeal parenting. No one wanted me to give up on my dreams, no one wanted me to miss rent on any given month and everyone wanted to be the best ______ to their granddaughter, niece, daycare parent’s kid.

Most of them did. But it was no substitute for a real family.

The concept of a real family is always on my mind. I’ve written about it, grappled with it, thought and twists in turns about it.  Maybe that’s what you do when subconsciously your soul is trying to make the sum of the parts a whole and complete family and not just for yourself anymore- though that would be nice- but because that’s the most absolutely fundamental thing that you can provide your progeny.

I couldn’t find the footing at home that felt right. Infact it all completely unraveled which is enough torment and then the skies turned green and purple and hailed down deceit, danger and mostly heartbreak.

I had to leave.

On an unassisted, parachute free, leap of faith I decided to move to New Mexico. Ari was there and it was far enough away. Those two pros out weighed all of the cons.

And she helped me raise it.

aribaby

lovessss

Somehow despite the bumps in the road the pieces have fell in place here (for now, I’m getting less naive). I’m learning to trust a path that I can’t explain and never understand in the moment. But on that road every day are the two most beautiful gals in my world, Ev and Ari.

Ariel- I probably won’t have to be the pillar in your parenting adventure that you’ve been for me, but when you need me I’ll be there. When you need a cheerleader that boldly exclaims that if Sarah Smith can do it than so can you, I’ll be that person. When you want to put that baby in the microwave (jeez I never actually did that) because you will, I’ll find you a bottle of wine and turn on Shaggy, I know how that makes everything better. And if for any reason your path gets knotted, unruly and incomprehensible I’ll hold your tinny little hand and walk blindly into the future with you and these beautiful children that we’ve created.

I love you and yours. Forever and Ever.