happy birthday, big brother

today my brother mike would be 55. he died 10 years ago on december 19th. this photograph is from the last time he & i & the rest of us were all together in one place…my wedding.  thinking about him, i started this memoir….

the six of us assumed we were blessed for the mere fact that we survived our childhood.
survived our father passing out at the wheel.
survived drunk motorcycle rides with dad.
survived our father sending us into precarious places to do dangerous chores.
survived our father, drunk, angry, & armed.
survived family adventures. camping. hiking on natural bridges…up to starved rocks…into mammoth caves…all though the grand canyon. 
survived water skiing behind jet engined motor boats.
survived a back yard pond with a homemade diving board in the summer and ice skates in the winter.
survived snow mobiles, three wheelers, four wheelers, chainsaws, log-splitters, tractors, riding on running boards, riding on trailers, riding in the beds of pick up trucks.
survived no baby seats. no seat belts. cars driving fast down country roads so you can catch that stomach dropping hill just right.

six almost died when he had a head on collision with a gravel truck while riding his four wheeler around that one blind corner of the gravel pit. but six was the only one of us to wear a helmet (pants & shoes as well!) the helmet did not survive. six had a broken jaw, broken cheek bone, his femur snapped in half.
but he survived.
which was further proof that we were blessed.

one died when he was 45, and his death shattered all of us. it was beyond comprehension that he could really truly be gone.

some of us were quick to go numb. go into denial. some of us threw ourselves into the mystery, the drama of his death. some of us searched for someone to blame…anyone to blame.

i had talked to him on  his birthday just 19 days earlier. he sounded sad. stressed out. we had so much family drama happening as well as the drama he kept hidden from us. his one consolation was that he had gotten a red velvet cake for his birthday. his family left for a ski trip, but they had baked him a red velvet cake first. 
the same cake that two always got on her birthday when we were growing up because two’s birthday is just before valentine’s day. 
all these years one had been coveting two’s cake just like i had always coveted five’s cake. she got devil’s food every year while i was stuck with angel food–because i was “the good one.”

one finally got his cake. and then he died. and his wife and four kids would have to forever feel like shits for going on a ski trip on his last birthday….

my favorite way to make fun of one was to mimic our phone conversations. “so what else is new?” he would ask incessantly making me scramble for newsworthy tidbits to tell him.

i was on the phone with two around the time one’s plane crashed down. i was making fun of one again. i had just gotten his yearly–& much anticipated–christmas newsletter.
a newsletter so crisp & professional as it was designed & produced by a proclaimed “web guru.” yeah, my brother. 
between the smatterings of “keep christ in christmas” & photos of his beautiful children doing all the things beautiful children with money get to do were articles lamenting the newly elected president and calling for strength & endurance for this upcoming apocalypse of a democrat in the white house. 
thanks to the thorough brain-washing of my completely insane & devoutly catholic mother, one literally feared the evil baby-killing agenda of the left wing.
to me, a self-proclaimed anarchist, one’s christmas newsletter was hysterical in every sense of the word.
so i ranted about this to my sister as one died…for his beliefs. 

so this is the beginning. i hope to write more. another work in progress. hang onto your butts.

ps! if you want to support my art & writings…contribute to my getting microsoft word again so i can edit my stories…buy notebooks…journals…ink & paper…you can do this (and more!) by clicking here

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flower ninja evolution

original ninja

i drew this picture sitting at my kitchen table, while still in high school, apparently before i developed my aversion to pencils. there was a vase of dying flowers on the table. and i was a bit into creating whimsical characters (shocking, right?) so this happened.

then, in my late 30s, living in a cooperative, getting ready to go back to school to study art & writing, i did another version of her in ink & art marker, titling it “flower ninja.”

flower ninja yellow

i have her posted on a page…probably the ancient art by me page…where she was admired & then requested only for me to realize i am pretty sure i gave her to dusty who also admired her. god only knows where she is now.
hence the latest version where i went bigger & updated her per my own evolution as an artist.

i think high school me would be delighted that something she drew at the kitchen table would one day evolve into a work that someone would actually pay for.
of course, high school me would also be utterly pissed off to find out that she is not a world-famous author by now.
“and what’s up with the ex-husband collection–why all the jerks?” she might wonder–albeit somewhat relieved that we did manage to get laid….

hmmm. i think maybe it is for the best if we do not tell high school me very much of what we know of current me.
it’ll just be our little secret.

misha’s birth day

i know another reason why i’m feeling warm & fuzzy towards dusty right now. when we were married, i surmised that if we were ever trapped somewhere, dependent on working together to get to safety, we would die.

my observation was true of every time i needed him to be there for me.
except one…misha’s birth.

misha is my third child. my first two were c-sectioned because my body likes to take more than 42 weeks to perfect a baby–& doctors do not like to let a woman go much past 40.
so, twice, i let them cut the baby out of me because they said that it was for the best.
when i got pregnant with misha, i could not bear the thought of another c-section.
so i fired all the doctors.
problem was, none of the midwives in madison would support my birth because i had been deemed too risky.
i had never had a vaginal birth. i was 40 years old & prone to long pregnancies. these were my crimes.
misha is the one who suffered for  them.
i found an outlaw midwife who lived one state over & would travel to me when i went into labor.
second problem…i didn’t know what labor looked like because doctors had never let me get that far.
by the time i was certain i was in labor–& not wasting the midwife’s time–misha was on her way out.
she came out fast. relentlessly fast. none of the stages of labor i had read up on were observed by misha as she rocketed out of me.
there was one doula present and dusty.
we were in a kiddie tub on the fourth floor of a 30 person cooperative.
when misha was born, she was having trouble breathing. she probably just needed a few puffs of air to get her going, but none of us knew what to do. by the time the mom down the hall called her midwife to come help, misha was showing signs of seizure.
the paramedics took her away.
the NICU kept her for 12 days.
they told dusty & me, best case scenario: misha has coordination issues & learning disabilities.
worst case scenario: cerebral palsy or epilepsy
i cried so hard as they said that. my heart broke. it was all my fault. if i had just been unselfish enough to get the fucking surgery…to have another fucking c-section…misha would have been fine.
i waited for dusty to blame me. he blamed me for everything. it was always my fault.
this time he would be right.
except
he didn’t blame me. he told me it wasn’t my fault. he zoomed me around the hospital in my wheeled chair–being silly & sweet–as i was still too wrecked to walk much after the birth. he watched the boys while i kept vigil at her side. he came to be with her when i was forced to go home & sleep.
he took care of us.
he was there for me.
seven years later, just as i would remember & be traumatized by a bad event, the good things that happened feel as fresh as yesterday.
and i miss that version of dusty.

(in the NICU…& one year later when the neurologist said, “oh…nevermind.”)

more memoir

i wrote a little bit more on my memoir.
there is now a page eight and a page nine.
i wrote page nine (i had started but not finished page eight at the time) after waking up from a dream about him. the whole thing felt so delicious. you know those dreams.
and i looked in the mirror–and my hair (at least in my mind) was all like super sexy super model hair.
being one of those people who have few & far between “good hair days,” of course i took a picture.
my dream was so awesome, it gave me good hair.
that says something, right?

little me

split-apart

it was new year’s eve 1992. i was 22 and running away from my life, en route to washington dc from iowa city, ia. i went to my parent’s house in illinois for christmas. my younger–very straight & conservative–sister suggested we go out to a bar in the nearby college town of normal. i think she was trying to impress us that she could be cool. it was a grunge bar (before grunge was really even a thing) with a purple mohawked & tattooed bartender and all the hip college kids as clientele.

i woke up the morning before we went there with one thought in my head, “today you are going to meet the man you are going to marry.”

it was a strong thought. this had happened to me before–and come true. the strong waking premonition. so i did not doubt it.

at the bar, the gallery, i was amazed at the number of hot guys. i had bad luck dating in iowa city, everyone thought i was a lesbian–and i had plenty of those opportunities…but very few straight ones. and all terrible in their own ways. so i felt i had stumbled upon an oasis in my romantic desert.

of the sea of hot guys, i was informed by one of the bartenders that her good friend thought i was cute. he was–sadly–the least attractive of the boys there…not at all my type. large & hairy. but due to my premonition, i thought, what the hell. let’s see what happens. so i started dating him. started having feelings for him. scrapped my plans to move to dc & (with the help of the tattooed bartender) found a job & a place to live in normal.

then the mountain man dumped me.

in retrospect, i think i was just the person he needed to feel confident enough to go after the woman he really wanted to be with. and, his having me doting on him, gave him that attractiveness credit with the would-be girlfriend. all of a sudden, because he was my boyfriend, he was a guy worth looking twice at.  i was a tool. they are happily married now. i never got a thank you card for that…oh well.

i spiraled as someone with low self-esteem is bound to do once rejected. i dated & flirted & messed around…a lot. seriously, so many cute guys! there were parties where all these hot people would sit around & play “spin the bottle.” i had so much fun that i can never tell my kids about.

anyhoo!

there was this one bouncer at the gallery. okay. stop. erase your mental image of “bouncer.” at this bar, the biggest & most threatening bouncer employed there was a woman. none of the bouncers could have probably bounced. mostly they just checked id. and in the case of the 6 foot woman bouncer–deep throat kissed everyone who came through the door. ah…the early nineties….

so there was a bouncer who when i first saw him he was cleaning his brand new belly button piercing behind the bar. (it later got infected and was impressively pus-filled enough that the piecing was abandoned.) i had also just gotten my belly button pierced–so i was like, “hey, me too.”

here’s the thing though. this boy was so incredibly good-looking that my mind literally did not entertain thoughts of him for even a second. he was quickly filed in the “out of my league” category. also. he was in one of those epic romances that everyone references when they are talking about perfect couples. it was always him “&amy.” they were a fixed point in time.

and i was a paradox.

but we became fast friends. fun friends. he was great to goof off with. funny. so funny. i can remember my face hurting from laughing when i was with him. and so laid back. i would find him at parties (there was always a party. seriously. weekend parties. after-hour parties. so many parties!) and we would have long conversations about everything & nothing.

then one day i was at his going away party. he was moving to montana. and he was gone. my life went on. i continued living a strange life full of drama & dating.

then one day he was back.

i was walking down the street, and there he was. he told me that he just got back into town, and from that point we were inseparable.
he later told me that he moved to montana to get away from his girlfriend–it didn’t work.
he also told me
that he came back
because he had a dream about me.
i continued to resist it as a romance…especially since he seemed unable to break up with his girlfriend. but we were the best of friends. we plotted ways to make money. we went on crazy road trips. we even became roommates.

i would lay in his arms every night…you know, as his roommate, and feel like i was home. he made everything okay.

we eventually did date.
and break up.
and get back together.
and get engaged (with tattoos!)
and move to an all girl college together.
and move to austin, texas together.

and…

i fucked it up. as hard and terribly as i could. i mean, it’s like i put effort  into fucking it up. i destroyed our relationship. i destroyed everything.

and i have spent the past 20 years trying to forget him and get past him (when i’m not missing him & imagining what would have been).

but i can’t forget him. i remember him better than i remember what i ate yesterday. he is etched in my brain…my heart…scattered across my soul.
i no longer believe i am able to forget him. or that i am meant to forget him.
back then & still today, i believe he is my split-apart.
the other half of me.

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