The Sleep Between Snoozes

{I thought I saw you painting a house the other day. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I couldn’t look away.

The boys recalled a memory of you- but once it hit the air, it dissipated-  as memories always do.

We clung to this one, with a collective sigh and let it linger, strangely, none of us asking why.

Until someone turned up the music or shared a silly joke. We’re masters of distraction now, you know?  It is only on our silence that we choke.

I had a dream last night that you were here.  I ran into your arms and we fell over- laughing and crying.  I woke and ran downstairs. I dusted off and hung up your picture. There’s been a heaviness in the air -I think it’s time to reconsider…

I thought it would pass us over, as it has before, but things seem a little strange today and I find myself wanting to want you more.

You’ve been around here lately, haven’t you?  Returned from a battle with all the old players- demons and angels and monsters and men… You headed home leaving flames and dust behind you, hanging shield and sword beside you. You walked along a familiar path- tall grass and gentle rapids.  But you came home. You came here out of habit.

“Well don’t just stand there! Come inside. My mind’s made up – You’re staying for at least the night.

Come in and take a seat!  Close your eyes and breathe in deep. The table’s set. Dinner will be ready soon.

Take off your shoes and relax your gaze. There is only warmth and love in our space.

Be still our hearts while you tell your stories- of keeping us safe in other worlds and how there’s no need to worry. We’ll hang on every word with bated breath!  Oh! The kids will be so happy to forget your sudden death!  I can’t wait to tell them- ‘Boys! Look! Look who’s here!’

I’m sorry I’ve tried to carry on without you. You and I know there’s not another besides you.  Please come in and belong with us here. Please don’t leave again, I can’t live in that fear. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like. I hung up your picture, see? Everything’s alright….”}

I wrote this down a day ago and when I woke up this morning, I knew, ya know?

I fell asleep in the shadowed crook of your arm and when I opened my eyes, you and everything that was, was gone. I lumbered downstairs and remembered once more.  I know how this works, I’ve been here before.  I brushed away the tears and tried to move on.  I thought you would stay with us here where you belong.  First there’s the anger and then the regret. I can’t live in this place, I’d rather forget.

There’s no such thing as justice when you come in and take another piece of me. I took a deep breath and begged for you to just release me.

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Do I have it in me?

When you start putting the pieces together and it takes so long and you’ve crumpled the instructions up so many times that you can’t even decipher the words.  When you keep going, putting pieces where you think they should go, inserting parts from other projects and using chewed gum to hold them in place because glue costs $3.00 and you only have $10 for the week.  When you wake up in the morning and swear you’ve given it all you could and yet somehow find yourself back at it an hour later. When you know it takes blood, sweat and tears but all you have left is an exacerbated sigh.  When you ask your friends to tread lightly because the whole thing might fall, but they forget and it shakes under their careless feet.  When you finally look up and see your reflection but you hardly recognize yourself….

When you finish, will it matter that everyone you thought would stick around has long since gone and the only one to say “well done” is you?  Is your voice going to be encouraging and soulful enough at the end of it to make you believe it was worth it?  Will you be satisfied with yourself even when no one else cares?

I surely hope so because the crowd is dwindling and your candles have all burnt low. Time to quiet your screaming voice and save your energy  in case you ever build that fucking thing. Everyone else has left the building and the only conviction you have is yours alone. 

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Fit of giggles and happiness

This past week, my mom had the boys enrolled in a day camp a few miles from where she lives, an hour away from me. I had a whole week to myself!  I’ve spent the past year redefining what kind of parent I am on my own.  This week was a rare opportunity for me to rediscover what I like to do on my own-not as a mother, but as a woman. It took a few days to decompress completely and wrap my head around it.  I was still working but I had the evenings and mornings to myself.  It was glorious!  I went for runs, long strolls into town for no other reason than I could, swimming in the morning and at night, watched TV whenever I wanted, had friends over, stayed up late and ate left over pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By Friday night, I could tell that my breathing had slowed down, my pace had changed to a sauntering stroll, my whole attitude was centered in a much more peaceful place. I had finally had a chance to completely recharge! It felt great!

I couldn’t have it all, though. Oh no, not this girl!  A full week going by without a problem coming up just doesn’t happen for for a gal like me.  Something always, always pulls me back and grounds me.  While the kids were away,  I ran into some serious car trouble that will likely leave us without transportation for at least the next few weeks. That combined with the fact that in order to fix it, I’m going to be completely broke (as in negative bank account, as in make the food last as long as we can) could have been bad. By the time they’d returned home on Sunday, I’d resigned all of us to a couple of weeks of biking where we needed to go.  While it was frustrating, to say the least, I couldn’t help but see the silver lining in all of it.  Maybe this was who I was now.  The week of recharging had changed me! Perhaps I’d been through so much lately that a problem with an actual solution was enough to keep the skip in my step.  {This wasn’t so bad.  I’m a peaceful, happy person now. I can totally make this work!}   When relaying my plans for the upcoming weeks to the boys, I found myself saying things like “We could really use the exercise anyway!” and  “It’s supposed to be fairly sunny for the rest of the week, why not enjoy the weather?” “I’ve been meaning to check out the various meals we can make using Ramen Noodles!” (I think there are over 100, btw!!)  Thankfully everything we need (my job, their camp, grocery store, etc.) is all within a  two-mile radius and we live in a town in which biking is a completely acceptable form of transport.  My peppy pep talk to the kids was met with long, blank, stares and a few grunts and moans, but I skipped right through it and moved along, using words like “team” and “bonding” and “namaste.” (No really- I bowed out of the dining room, while my younger son looked on amused and perplexed with his hands in prayerful pose as instructed, as I repeated Namaste until I was out of sight.)

As positive as I was trying to be, I admit, I had some seriously sobering moments of panic that could not, no matter what, be squelched. {What if we wanted to leave and go somewhere else for a weekend?? Everything outside of this place is at least 45 miles away!! What they hell was I thinking? I hadn’t even checked the weather! It could totally rain the whole time and then what?!  I pull up to work on my 5 speed, drenched and freezing all day and then have to turn around and bike 2 miles to pick up my equally wet and frozen children from camp?!}  But the most terrifying thought was: {What if this whole thing never ends and this is it?! This is how we get around now-the biker family….”there goes old widow Ashley and her poor children….biking through the snow…”}  The more I thought about it, the more terrifying the whole deal seemed to me. It wasn’t just the car, it was the financial worries and eventually every bad decision I’ve ever made.

So I stopped thinking about it. The reality was that we didn’t have a choice. This was just what we had to do and we could do it and feel good about it or we could do it and be miserable. I chose door # 1.

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Sunday night we were fortunate enough to accompany a friend to a small little theater situated at the edge of an enchanted old farm, with rolling hills and picnic tables and perfectly lined stoned walls.  It was beautiful and such a unique place to celebrate theater!  As we waited for the show to start, I looked around and wondered how we could possibly be upset about  obstacles in life?   We were so lucky to be in this little place!  I leaned back in my seat, grinning from ear to ear, so proud of myself for having chosen door #1!  This night was validation that good things can happen as long as you commit to happiness!  Ahhhhhh..  A quick glance over my shoulder to share this moment with the boys but when I looked over, they were gone.  Still calm, I thought “they must have gone to the bathroom.”

I scanned the length of the tiny barn, turned theater and found them blocking the entrance and in the throes of some barely audible, but clearly very intense battle over a sweater. People were skirting around them with annoyed glances at one another or requests for them to please move. All of which had no effect on them whatsoever. I couldn’t hear but when I squinted to get a better look, I noticed one had a cup of water and a crumbling cookie that he was clearly intending to use for ammunition against the other if the sweater wasn’t released.  The little one caught my eye just as the cookie hit his cheek and  let out a wail so loud that almost every head in the audience turned to see what was going on. They made their way back to me but it didn’t end there so I had to sit in between them.  It calmed down for a moment until a little hand made its way behind my back and slapped his brother’s head so viciously that a shout escaped.  Ordinarily I would have taken them outside and unleashed my usually very effective speech in which I threaten to rid my house of every electronic piece of equipment.  But we were trapped in such close quarters that I had to resort to whispering potential consequences through gritted teeth until the lights dimmed and a pianist began the play’s introduction. By this point I was so hot from embarrassment and angry from trying to control them in that barn that my bangs were stuck to my forehead and my mouth had never been so dry. I tried to find the brochure to fan myself off but couldn’t, which just made it worse. When I finally found it, crumpled up in my son’s sweater, I was so angry and frustrated at the whole situation.  I held up the crumpled remains of the brochure along with the sweater and with my lip stuck to my teeth and my eyes bulged out of my red face, I proclaimed to both of them, in a sinister, throaty voice :  “It’s mine now.”

I was clutching the sweater so tightly that my knuckles were white and my fist was shaking.  I held their gaze for a full 30 seconds.  My face must have looked completely psychotic.  Upon receiving my preposterous declaration and holding my alternating glare for as long as they could, it occurred to all of us how ridiculous this was. I looked like the Hulk, head moving from side to side, sweat pouring down my face, arm raised with a miniature piece of cloth hanging around my wrist. I had made one last attempt to hold my happy place together and all I had to show for it was a sweater and a crumpled brochure. The facade was cracking and we all knew it.  My older son bit his lip to stop himself from laughing as his brother’s hands flew up to cover his own mouth. By now, the curtains were opening and we’d all completely lost it. The first half an hour was spent stifling laughter as random parts of the play would remind one of us how ridiculous I looked.  All it would take was a sigh or twitch and we were, all three of us in stifled, uncontrollable, hysterics, heads down with the biggest smiles on our faces and tears rolling down our cheeks. We eventually had to excuse ourselves and return collected.  By the time the play ended, I was in the middle, their heads on my shoulders and we were breathing in sync, trying not fall asleep.

I don’t know how these next few weeks will go. I imagine much like the first few days. I foresee some unavoidable inconvenience and struggle but I hope those things are mixed with pep talks and great fits of laughter that lead to nights cuddled up on the couch together.  When we make it to the other side of this, I don’t want a trophy at the end. What I want is to be given another night like that. I want a chance once in a while to appreciate and savor the moment with my two boys.

By the time we left that old barn, turned theater, I felt like I had the richest piece of chocolate melting in my mouth and I didn’t care that the euphoria had allowed to me to laugh when the chocolate dribbled down my chin.

You can be whatever kind of boy you want to be

My 11 year old was walking around in my heels for about a half an hour. When I glanced over, I gave him an amused smirk and asked what he was doing. “What?! They suit me!” He proclaimed over the click, clack of wood heel on wood floor.  As he left the kitchen and headed toward the couch to play XBox, still wearing my stilettos, he threw an “I like it!” over his shoulder to which I replied, “whatever you need to do, man.”

It may seem like an offhanded response, but this was a careful reply and an attempt not to pay much too attention to it.  My first reaction was to tell him he looked silly and ask him to take them off. “Heels are for girls!”  However, it occurred to me that telling him not to wear those shoes contradicts the message I’ve tried to teach him up to this point. It tells him the ponies he played with when he was three, the easy bake oven he asked for for Christmas when he was four, and the general understanding that “he can be whatever kind of boy he wants to be” are wrong.  It tells him the Legos and trucks he likes are acceptable, but anything that comes painted pink and purple or requires a spatula or brush and and change of clothes are NOT for him.

I know it was just a pair of heels and really, it means nothing other than he was trying them out. But it opened my eyes to how easy could have been for me to confirm stereotypes and validate lasting gender specific prejudices. The confusion of gender in this country doesn’t exist because we allow our children to have options. The confusion about what it means to be a boy (or girl) in our ever evolving, yet frighteningly stagnant culture comes from a child knowing there are options and being told without reason or rhyme that they’re just not allowed to chose them.

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Brother Love

The boys are in the living room playing a video game when I hear:

Younger Bother to Older Brother: “You don’t love me.”

Older Brother:  “Come here and I’ll show you a trick to tell you if I love you.”

(I’m in the kitchen letting this play out, but terrified that this is a set up!)

Younger Brother cautiously makes his way over to his Older Brother.

Older Brother: “Ok. Feel my heart. Do you feel that?” (Y.B. nods) “If you can feel it beating, then that means I love you.”

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A poem for the working mother

If I were a stay at home mother, I’d give BJs like no other.

The house would be clean, dinner cooked. “Here Schnookums, sit down, relax with a book.”

If I stayed home, the kids would be sweet. They’d fight over nothing. Their rooms would be neat.

I’d dress them in clothes you’d know I’d made by hand. Each little collar would have stitched a “domestic” brand.

The things I would do if I were home all day long!

I’d bake pies and cookies and have weekly meal plans. We’d have HBO, Netflix and of course, On-Demand.

I’d wait for your paycheck on bated breath. The thought of your cock would always make me wet.

If I were a housewife your life would be great! You’d be adored and respected. For sex- you’d never wait.

But sadly for you, I’m a working mother. I clock out of one job and start in on another.

No BJs for you ’til everything’s done. And who am I kidding? Sometimes, you take forever to cum.

The dishes are stacked high, the dog peed on the rug.  You want your dick sucked? Well, I need a hug.

I work all day and I hate every minute. But the kids need shoes and clothes and food. So I’m in it to win it.

When we were first dating, I promised the world but having a job has jaded this down home girl.

I’m sorry my darling,

Most days you’re forgotten and saved until last.  “Tonight if you wash the dishes, you can put it in my ass.”

*ding

Pressure’s a good thing, right?

I need to write. It feels great to have had a little momentum: posting consistently and getting some great, positive feedback.  In an attempt to feel like I’m being good and actually working on this, I have resisted the impulse to scarf episodes of the new Orange is the New Black, browse reddit, scroll facebook, stall on the phone with friends…

But despite my best efforts, I can’t concentrate for the life of me and as a result I have 5 tabs open with five words here and two paragraphs there- including the post I promised for today: Fifty Shades of Widow Grey (Round 2). {see https://thewintermakersbelt.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/fifty-shades-of-widow-gray-round-1/ if you’re interested}

I thought music would help get me in the groove, but my music has gone from streaming Pandora to YouTube and inevitably on to google searches about the song/artist i’m listening to  : /

I guess the lesson here is that you can’t make the mind do what the mind don’t wanna do…

IMG_1220 And then there’s this guy….Ok- I might have browsed online a little bit 🙂