five years later…

excerpt from my short story “jesus fingers”

You feel like you are inviting badness into your life every time you mutter “the little fucker” to yourself and every time you regret not killing it when you had the chance—every time you think about it just disappearing from your life and how easy that would make everything. You can’t help fantasizing though because everything just seems so hard now. So fucking monumentally stressful.

And your body that you were anxious to have as your own again—where is it now? And the days you were anxious to have as your own again? How many more years before that happens now? Five? More? With number three you kept thinking, “Just get through the toddler years this one last time and there won’t be any more toddler years to deal with. Just get through the breastfeeding one last time. Then I won’t have to worry about what I do to my own body—it will be mine again.” But now you sink into despair, realizing it will be even longer. Another baby to soothe to sleep. Another toddler to watch with an eagle eye. Another toilet training. Another kid’s meal to buy if you can actually afford to go out ever again.

five years later

i am defeated
by a five year old
he crushes me
so easily
maybe because
not much of me is
left
he destroys me
so easily
screaming & screaming & screaming
until i am
lying
on the floor
sobbing
i am nothing
as i wish
silently
reverently
that i had never
become
a
mother.

ps.
writing both of these pieces, my short story and this free verse, it helped me to deal with the overwhelming anguish around my conflicted feelings about motherhood.
i wouldn’t trade poppy for the world, but that doesn’t mean sometimes i just don’t want to be a mom.

my “m”

the following is an essay i wrote today for my brother’s oldest daughter who is putting together a collection to honor him on the 10th anniversary of his death. 

Mike was my “m.” It was a family joke. Our initials, in birth order, were
M-P-S-M-P-S.
He was my “m,” & i was his. We would all tease each other by saying what the different letters stood for. Such as, “p is for perfect”; “p is for prude”; “s is for silly”;“s is for sarcastic”; “m is for moody” or “m is for money.” Of course, Mike & I knew that m stood for magnificent.

M also stood for movies. All of us loved movies, but I think Mike & I were possibly the most manic about movies.

We didn’t have a lot of money for things like movies and rarely went to theaters, but I remember the spring of 1980 when we went to see the long anticipated sequel to Star Wars. Mike drove us to see it, possibly in his Chevy Impala that he seemed to be constantly working on. Was that the time the Impala broke down in East Peoria, and we all feared we would not see the movie? But Mike got the Impala rolling, and we all tumbled into the theater to see The Empire Strikes Back. The ending came with a foreshadow of the next in the series with Yoda telling Obi Wan “there is another.”

Walking out of the theater to the car, Mike simply said, “It’s Leia. They were talking about Leia.”

It seemed like magic that he knew that. Mike paid attention to detail & the subtle hints that now seem obvious to those of us who have watched the movies a thousand times.

The summer of ‘81, he loaded us up to take us to another movie. I remember complaining that Raiders of the Lost Ark sounded like the most boring movie ever. However, I was blown away as we left the theater. I would eventually learn to trust Mike’s instinct with movies. His recommendations rarely disappointed.

Once he was away to college and bringing home VHS movies for us, a whole world opened up for me. I will be forever a fan of dystopian plots after Mike’s introducing me to Blade Runner, Terminator, and even A Boy and His Dog. I remember sitting in our downstairs room where we had a TV, VCR, and hundreds of movies, watching Terminator for the first time as Mike would gleefully exclaim, “Surely he’s dead now!”

The last time I watched movies with Mike was the Christmas of 2001. I was living alone in Lexington, Kentucky when he called me up out of the blue and invited me to have Christmas with him & his family. I was so grateful for the invitation and drove right up to Ohio where Mike, Heather, and the kids welcomed me into their Christmas.
I brought him some Knob Creek from Kentucky, and Mike took me to a pub and introduced me to the local beer, Great Lakes Brewing Company, by buying me their Christmas Ale.

To this day, I still buy Great Lakes Christmas Ale every Christmas season & drink one in his memory while watching one of the movies he introduced to me. This year it was Terminator, which I finally let my older children watch with me, gleefully waiting for the chance to say, “Surely he is dead now,” never suspecting that my oldest son would beat me to the punch.

Magnificence must run in the family.

ps. i am the one in the picture in a white t-shirt & jeans who looks like a 12 year old boy 

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

panic attack

i am 
literally
having a panic
attack
looking through 
google docs
& files files files
on my hard drive
& months months months
of writings
here & in the physical journals
from whence
they sprung
…it’s
too 
much
too fucking much
how many words 
can there be?
how many 
emotions
vomited
all over my laptop?
now
fuck it
there is one more.

i am serious about getting together a collection to try to publish…but holy fucking crap. there is so much–crap–to wade through. 
do i keep it to the actual art journal project?
do i add in some older stuff?
some sideways stuff?
some stuff i don’t even remember writing? 

i need a personal assistant/editor stat!

this is going to be one of those “kill your darlings” moments i always heard about in writing workshops, isn’t it?

get me a bottle of whiskey & a blowtorch, y’all, i’m going in!

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.”)

don’t tell…the last page?

have i finally exorcised this fucking ghost?

i hope so. i am tired of holding a torch that just burns the fuck out of my fingers. i want to move on and stop wondering which thing that i did wrong was the thing that drove him away.

fuck it.

it needs editing & more substance, etc. but the rough draft is available entirely for reading over at medium.

let me know if you have any suggestions for work that needs to be done on it. i am still pretty close to the story–i was crying as i wrote this last page. but i think in writing it, i am working out a lot of the bullshit that i was holding onto and calling love.
yay.

the journal page is from 1995 when seymour & i lived in austin, tx with peacocks on our front lawn .

performance anxiety & high school reunions

emails from ex-cheerleaders
high school reunion
for this small town freak
i was going to be famous
by now
i was going to be
bigger than the beatles
but
you know
life got in the way
now i am a single mom
an unknown
just another cog
turning circles around
social media
but going nowhere
really.

so if anyone is looking for a good time, i have an invite to my 30 year high school reunion….
i wasn’t invited to my 20 year…the only time i actually was in a relationship. granted it was with dusty…but he’s charming & easy on the eyes. he might have been a good date….
my 10 year i was invited to…and i found a date…but then i ended up deciding it would be more fun just to get laid & skip the reunion.
that was pretty much how a lot of my decision making was done when i was in my 20s.

i have been depressed ever since i got the invite.
plus i had to see dusty to pick up the kids yesterday.
plus every song is still reminding me of seymour as he continues to ignore me….

in other news!

i was invited to join the literati mafia!!! so my imposter’s syndrome and anxiety about anyone noticing me is on full blast.
full blast, y’all.
and i am working on a post for them. which, of course, i am worried will not be good enough…but in my head it is an awesome response to the invite to my high school reunion/another obsessive piece about seymour.

so stay tuned!

(the illustration today is my practicing my figure drawing. lots of nipples & cooch in figure drawing, as it turns out.)

ps. i posted my memoir, in full without illustrations over on medium.

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

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