Sevens

I was gone for seven weeks. 

Correction: I came back on the first day of my seventh week away from my whole entire life. 

It's been so long since I've written anything here, and so much has happened in that expanse of time, that I can't even remember what's already been said. I suppose I could go read my own archives, but that somehow feels like cheating. On myself. With myself. There's a vibrator joke in here somewhere.

I was gone for seven weeks. So much has happened in that time.

My oldest son's voice dropped while I was gone. I called one day and had no idea who was on the phone. I wasn't even sure it was a *human*. That boy is going to make some choir director's baritone dreams come true. He also got his schedule for high school while I was gone. After 14 years of parenting, I have now officially missed a milestone. I can't believe how awful that feels.

My youngest child, my daughter, she kept her squeak but refined it. Like the baby fat that sheds itself overnight, the roundness of her words molted away and was replaced with sharp angles, strong bones, and complex adjectives. I came back to a girl-child, a woman-in-progress, someone who spent the summer learning, for the first time, how to be feminine from someone other than me. Now I condition her hair all wrong, but she'll still gives me butterfly kisses in the early hours of the morning when no one else is looking. I'll take it. 

My middle son is the most eerily inconsistently consistent human being I have ever met. Nothing about him has changed in the slightest. It is amazingly comforting to come back to one familiar thing. 

I left Phoenix with a 10X15 storage locker and the hope that everything would work itself out...and not much more. I had to go; I had to go for my job, I had to go for my sanity, I had to go for him and his family to start finding their own way through this together. I had to go, and I went, and I had no clue what was going to happen once I was on the other side of more flips of a calendar than I'd ever relinquished control of my family to before. 

Relinquishing control is not my strong suit. Josh and I got into a massive fight in, oh, week two because he and his sister were being such control freaks and undoing each and every one of the many meticulous plans I'd so carefully laid out, all pressed and starched, on the edges of the beds for the time I would be gone. Because I'm not a total hypocrite, oh no

Turns out, letting go is a lot easier when you're in free fall and there is nothing to latch on to. 

This summer was a long, slow, drawn out, slow-motion leap of faith. It wasn't even a leap so much as a leaning over the edge until I had no choice but to fall. It was terrible and frightening to be gone for so long, and I am so glad that I was. I think I had to be. I think I had to let everything settle down the way it wanted to, not the way I wanted to orchestrate it to.

I think I had to let the kids father spend the summer with him in his own way - not the way I would want, expect, or even tolerate, honestly, had I been within a 10 hours drive of them, but it wasn't my summer with them so really, it isn't my place to dictate how it went.

They lived.

They're happy as shit to be home.

The end.

I think I had to be very, very humbled by the love and support that I sometimes forget I have in my corner of the ring. My kids' godfather and his brand new wife and their brand new baby basically gave me a home when literally did not have one, some company, some perspective, and the best homemade ice cream you will ever put into your body. My best friend talked me off a lot of ledges, and watched over me even when I wasn't sure I wanted to be watched over.  My old, old buddy (who *gasp* doesn't have anything to do with teh internetz and is therefore unlinkable) fed me some wine when I needed it, played me ridiculously loud rock and roll in the parking lot, just like we used to do a million years ago, and reminded me of who I used ot be before I tripped and fell into this damn hole again. 

I think I had to be ready to let everything change, and I think I was gone just long enough that everything did exactly that. 

And now we have this home - a house that I took sight me-unseen (the kids and their dad came to check it out, and the kids said, "uhunno, i guess it'll do, grunt", and that, like cookie, was good enough for me). We still haven't met our neighbors (though I've met their unsecured wifi signal, howdy) (don't you judge me) and my garage still looks like this:

But my living room, MY living room, myveryownlivingroom without a drunk guy on the couch sucking all the energy out of it, looks like this:

And my daughter's room looks like this:

And my sons' room looks like this: 

And that is, of course, blackmail for later, when they are really being a-holes and also have girlfriends. Have blog and iPhone; am not afraid to use them. 

(Also, judge not the dorm room. They had loft beds which clearly will not fit. Ikea run for twin frames forthcoming. Until then, that room is merely a crystal ball of their almost-immediate future, with less ramen and porn.)

I am not showing you my room. Last night, my son told me to flipping clean it up already, mawm, jeez. When a 14 year old is disgusted with the way you're living, it's time to reassess. 

But really, what matters to me most right now isn't the way the couches I got for $125 on Craiglist while I was gone (score) perfectly fit this space I accidentally ended up in, or the way the sun rises through the blinds in my windows and makes everything look sparkly and full of promise every single day now that I'm back, it's that under this roof, there are three smiles. Three real, relaxed, not contrived, not manic, not hiding anything behind them smiles. 

I was gone for seven weeks. That's why. And now I get to start on forever, finally.

The Editing Games

My brother and I weren't allowed to read children's books when we were little kids. Momma say chill'en book are da debil, which made children's books no different than the lorikeet, my stuffed Ziggy doll, the avocado-green Chinet plastic plates, the china hutch, the Alvin and the Chipmunks cassette taped over the Blue Oyster Cult because my father cannot resist poking a stick at a hive full of crazy, the silverware, and (occasionally) my big brother. 

Chinet plates and silverware will not melt, no matter how hard you try to make them. Neither will my big brother. Bygones. 

We were allowed to read the bible all we wanted, and we had a book of bible stories that we could read, too. Aside from that, my mother read us only two books -- The History of Physics by Isaac Asimov and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Those were our bedtime stories. This may have been the only good choice my mother made in her 24-year-long career as a parent. 

This information is simply context for the rest of this post; I have a massive bias against (most) children's books. I am also still convinced the world is probably going to end before, like, 2017 or something. There are some things you can unbrainwash, and then there is dogma. More on that later.

I try, like all mothers do, to give my kids better than I was given, and so we have children's books in the house. I've even read a few. *gasp* There are some really great ones (Sandra Boyton? *piles* of win.) and some really horrible ones. Have you ever tried to read the first five Magic Tree House books? It took them five books' time to find an editor who didn't instantly commit harakiri with the nearest semi-colon upon reading that woman's "writing."

Grammar isn't just a snobbish set of preferences; it's like the traffic laws, or maybe even the sheet music, for words. Pixies sounds amazing, all jumbled up and off-key and wah-wah-peddled to death, but if you sat down and tried to read No. 13 baby you'd gore a hole in your frontal lobe with a bass clef. 

The thing is, fragments? Can be used cleverly to make a point, or. Well. You know. They just make sentences choppy. Difficult to read. Doubly so if you're reading them aloud.  

I pretty much banned the Magic Tree House books from my house during my sons' formative years because they were impossible, annoying, and insulting to read out loud, but also because I didn't want them learning to read with that nonsense as their model for acceptable grammar. This whole deal sucked, because the stories are actually quite lovely.

When I attended Parent Night at my kids' middle school this fall, I learned that they don't actually teach grammar to children anymore, at least not in our school district. A parent had asked when they would cover grammar, in between creative writing and reading comprehension and all that jazz, and the teacher said, "Oh, we don't teach that." When asked why, she replied, "because they aren't tested on it," and then alluded to the fact that they would learn it as they went, by, you know, reading

This is what they're, you know, reading.

Supple leather that has molded itself to my feet wwwwhhhhaaatt??? ::tears hair out:: 

This is not me saying that I am so much better than anyone else, or some master writer or anything. I didn't go to one day of college; I went to high school and then made martinis and babies, both in bars. I end sentences in prepositions all the damn time, I start sentences with and, but, and/or/also because. I personally guarantee you no fewer than three grammatical errors in any given post. And then there was this.   

But hell, I'm not a New York Times best-selling author who has a team of editors *at freaking Scholastic* working like crazy to make my book the best selling tweeny-bop novel of all time. 

Hunger Games, however, does

That paragraph up there in the picture is from page two of Hunger Games, and that's as far as I got into the book before I had to walk away from it. Those "liberties" she takes with grammar are brick walls that we crash into going 87 miles per hour with no airbag, and the entire story stops while we scrape our brains off of the ground, scoop them back into our heads, and ram them against that sentence again. 

I think the arguments that it's written for young adults or that it's all just 'creative writing' are malarkey. Why on earth don't we need to use proper grammar when it comes to our teenagers? For little kids, sure, taking license works, and sometimes it works gorgeously, but for my 14-year-old? He can read through a semi-colon and if he can't yet, I'd like him to learn now before he becomes an adult and has to write as a professional man in the world. 

All I'm saying is that I'd like my children's first exposure to proper grammar to come from something other than the internet

In Chinese, if you use the wrong tiny little line in a word, your boss' business cards say Big Sauce instead of Big General. They execute motherfuckers for less.

Maybe what we really need is The Editing Games, where we pit editors from different publishing companies against each other in a race to the dangling participle. We could pair them boy/girl to create some future-perfect tension, and equip them with white-out, those ridiculous horn-rimmed glasses that are all the hipster-rage these days, and red marking pens filled with the blood of the last round's losers. 

The publishing team who actually has a fucking clue how to write a book in English gets the contract. May the subordinating conjunctions ever be in your favor.  

Today

There is a stray cat prowling my neighborhood, desperately in the throes of a reproductive cycle that it cannot understand or control. I've listened to to it - shrieking unseen for the baby it know it wants but can't find a way to create - for over a week now, and I keep silently whispering to it, "Sister, I know."

This morning, that cat was in my house. 

Before it was time for the light of dawn to nudge us out of sleep, it began. It wasn't merely thunder somewhere in the sky, the air itself became the raucous clapping of the gods and slammed into us and around us and through us and shook each of the bricks that make up the house while the floodgates of heaven opened up and attempted to drown the city in its sleep. 

My children let the cat in, to save it from the rain. Not for a moment did they think about their allergies, or their dogs, or anything other than the fact that the cat was screaming and they were not. 

This is how it begins, for people like us. 

And then the sky screamed us awake and the dogs screamed themselves dominate and the cat screamed itself free and tore the chest of the child trying to save it wide open and none of this is coincidence. 

We puttered about in the darkness of morning, listening to air screaming from pressure it cannot understand or control. I made the coffee and ironed a shirt while they ate their cereal and he trimmed his beard. We have never had a morning like this, not ever once in the thirteen years and eight months and twenty five days since we have been an us. 

We put medicine on the tears in his chest, to stop the hives which always follow, and I reminded him that not everything wants to be saved, and sometimes the only choice is to let go. He smiled the way children almost never smile at you once they are old enough to believe in a different god, the way I never once smiled at her.

      quiet in so much chaos. Exactly like I had wished for this day, twenty times over. 

I watched the flood warnings and tornado sightings and tried to find words that I am certain do not exist and then my glasses broke in half right here in my hand and as soon as I couldn't see it anymore, I could feel it. 

All of it.

I can feel

       something other than the cold on my face when I walked out of that door, the cramps in my legs from crouching in a phone booth, hiding for hours, the pressure on my chest when the plane took off and the hollow space left in its wake when I landed 2000 miles away from the last moment I will have ever seen my mother's face. 

Twenty todays later so many things matter more than everything I didn't get to know that about the woman inside of my mother. Twenty todays later she may be screaming over my head or shrieking at my backdoor or shaking the walls around me but we are inside here, together, and I am letting her go.  

The boarding pass that I kept, inexplicably, all of these twenty years is here.

Some background is here. There is more here, and at every other January 9th in my archives. Some on the 7th, too.

Where I Been

It occurs to me that I'm only posting on my blog once a month or so, which is probably my subconscious' way of dealing with the fact that I haven't had a period in over a year because some jerk stole my uterus a year and two days ago. He made up for it by leaving a shiny new bionic vagina for me, which really hadn't done me all that much good until the other day when it showed up on Klout

Klout is a completely useless tool that measures your 'social media influence' and gives you a 'Klout score' that you can use to get high-paying jobs in biotechnology or something. And Klout has decided that my vagina is influential with moms. I keep trying to explain to Klout that the only mom I could ever even hope to influence with my vagina is a dad, but they don't care.

I'm also only posting once a month because I've had the summer of travel-hell which should have peaked with China, but actually peaked with Boston because I am a geo-centric asshole who's attention span can't sustain more than 300-400 years of history.

Paul Revere's Final Ride

We went to Boston to go fishing exhibit at a trade show, but had just enough spare time to go scorpion bowling with a friend and have dinner with some others. I didn't get to see one friend from Boston while I was there, but I ended up seeing her a few days later in Denver, for the one reason you never want to catch up with old friends.

My best friend's mother was quite possibly the single best person on earth, and for right now, that's all I have to say about that.

Colorado welcomed me home the best way it knows how, with the Denver Foot. The Denver Foot is the 3" of snow we get every October, but that the national news networks will tell you is O!M!G!12!"! In fairness, it weighs the same as a foot of snow, and probably increases ski tourism considerably, but won't delay your flight out of Denver - no matter how hard you pray for it to.

And now I'm back in Texas, and since my full time client decided my job was so important they needed to hire someone to do it in-house, I'm going to try to blog here a bit more while I look for a new job (maybe in Boston or Denver) (because, damn, I think I need winter) (and chowder) (and huevos rancheros with proper green chili) (and fishing in fall)

Fishing

I've still got my Babble Voices gig (you can read it here) (or subscribe here) and am inconsistenly consistent on Momversation. Which, if you're into silly little YouTube videos of kids getting the shit scared out of them, you're welcome.

Sometimes apples do far kind of fall, it turns out.

I always dreamed of being a rock star, like my daddy was. (Not a famous one, unless you're from Delaware in the 80's, so don't bother googling him). In a lot of ways, we do much the same thing, I think. We both write things for a living, though I don't get to write a few versus and then repeat a chorus, so I guess I win this round. We both have pretty buff fingers, though you don't need to trim your nails or develop callouses to type, so I guess he wins that round. We both had to learn other languages (music/HTML) and we both had to just embrace the fact that to do what we love best, we had to learn to drink. 

The thing that separates the boys from the men in our situtation is 'the road'. My dad did his very best work on when he traveled but I...well...I suck when I travel. I take a million notes on tissues and cocktail napkins. I write opuses in matchbooks. I write up my arms if I have to because, like my dad, traveling inspires me but unlike him, I don't do a damn thing about it. I blow my nose on the tissues and roll my gum in the cocktail napkins and burn the matchbooks because, um, burning things is fun, shut up, and nothing I write when I travel ever sees the light of day. 

I was in China in September and have yet to write about the culture, the history or the squat toilets. Last night, I returned home from Boston which is an extrememly cool city filled with history and vibrancy and art and I found myself utterly inspired, doodling furious notes on every scrap of paper I came across.

Of course, all I have to show for it is a video of kids playing songs with their noses.

I can't even imagine how proud my father must be right now.