You See, My Mom Is Special

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There’s no easy way to talk about our mothers on Mother’s Day. So let me start by saying that my mom is special.

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Mom and me, 1986 or 1987.

You see, my mother is different from most other mothers out there because she raised two free children. Her approach was something that came naturally, but now, she would be called a ‘free-range’ parent. We were always encouraged to do things on our own, come up with our own games, and go to the store unattended either on behalf of our mother or grandmother.

Mom and dad, 1983.

Mom and Dad, 1983.

While hers wasn’t an easy childhood, mine was the easiest of all. She never pretended to know everything and often urged us to get the answers we were seeking on our own. Through some of the most complicated phases of our lives when she barely had any time to sit with us for dinner, mom managed to stay sane. Raising two children with little money while taking care of a sick husband is not an easy task, but my mom made it happen and guess what? She never complained.

Mom never complains.

Mom & me, 1989.

Mom & me, 1989.

She’s the happiest of all women even when she’s not, and when we talk over the phone or see each other, she cries. And as I kiss her cheeks she reassures me that all that salty taste is a product of happiness. She’s so happy that my brother and I are free. And because of her, I’ve always known freedom.

It’s because of my mother that I love dancing, singing, and Paul Newman, but it’s also because of her that I love freedom.

Mom & me, 2014.

Mom & me, 2014.

You see, my mom is special, and she’s all mine. ~

The Beginning


10689926_10100484989998343_8921128706315324931_n10155096_10100503328926983_4984782017965837736_n And time is just sliding by in that quiet humming way that it does. Summer subtly dropped into fall and already winter is upon us. We light fires at night to warm the house and boil water for tea. The sun tucks away early so we hole up inside and read and watch movies and curl our bodies around one and another. Zelda walks around lazily, purring, stretching, thoroughly enjoying what winter has brought her…us, indoors, couch potatoes.

We’ve been in Washington for eight months now. Eight months. We shut the door on our wild youthful lives in Los Angeles and traded it in for a different kind of wild. We’ve grown closer to the animals that we are. We work very hard; in the sun, in the rain, and now in the snow. We laugh and dream wild dreams at night. We have battled forest fires and mice. We have moved from couch to a three bedroom, to a tent in the woods and then into a leaky, mousy camper and finally into an old and beautiful log hewn cabin. It has been a journey.

We’ve battled each other. We’ve missed our old life. We’ve wanted sushi at 11pm. We’ve wanted our friends. We’ve wanted our old rituals.

We’ve fallen in love all over again as we surprise each other with our strength. We’ve fallen in love with our new life—with the mountains and the green scent in the air. We’ve made new traditions.

Neighbors bring us firewood and squash. We are given home canned jams and salsas. My family surrounds us and they stop by to have dinner or help out with one of our many moves. They make us smile. They give me a hard time—and they hug me tight. We have been shown so much love.

We eat from gardens and the rivers that finger thru these mountains. We warm ourselves from trees. We’ve gotten to swim in the lake and eat snow from the sky.

This is what I wanted all along. This is what we needed.

We’ve built this new life for ourselves. With our hands. With our hearts.

It’s been eight months and it’s really just the beginning….

Grateful

A few days ago, I forced myself to do something which I rather dislike. Not because the task was unpleasant, which it was in the sense that all things associated with death are, but because I was terrified of that look I would see in my father’s eyes. That look of mortality, of fleeting time, of disbelief, of instant heartache. For a friend of my dad’s had passed away quite unexpectedly and being the good daughter that I am, I bought a bottle of whiskey and drove over the mountain pass to commemorate at his house.

Once I arrived there however, my solidarity faltered as I remembered that summer day not too many years ago, when I had spontaneously driven over that same mountain pass and up my Dad’s gravel driveway and into a memory of sadness and shame. As I pulled up to a stop & jumped careless out of my car as only a young girl can do, my Dad lurched forward out of his office and onto the porch in a way which immediately told me something was wrong. At first I thought he was in the throws of a heart attack but as he choked out the words as I rushed towards him, I understood that it was my Uncle Brian he was talking about, not himself. And in that moment I experienced my first sense of shame, because I was grateful it wasn’t him. Whether it was right or wrong, that emotion was the first thing I remember about my Uncle Brian’s death. And as a world wholly new and painfully sharp sprang up around us that day, that day of sudden and young death, my first thoughts were still, at least it wasn’t you Dad. Thank God it wasn’t you.

And that is why it took me a few hours after arriving to finally go see him and to bring him his bottle of whiskey to be washed down with my few paltry words of condolences. I knew that same look was coming and I also knew that I once again would feel that guilty sense of gratitude that it wasn’t him. For the thought of a world without my Dad breaks my heart, it’s something that I fear I simply could not bear. So when I look my Father in the eyes, his grief makes me sad, sad because his friend was a good man and the world is a little less bright without him, sad because his own mortality is something I cannot stop. Yet he is still here, we still have time, and for that, yes I am unshamefully grateful.

Jeannette Rankin: The First U.S. Congresswoman Was Also Antiwar – Updated

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The first woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress was Montana’s Jeannette Rankin. Her most noteworthy feat was her opposition to war. Then, very much like now, being against the war was seen as a treason.

Jeannette Rankin

The first U.S. congresswoman Jeannette Rankin.

In an essay she wrote in 1958, she explained her votes against World War I in 1917 and against World War II after the country had been attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

While she did have some support the first time, she stood alone before congress the second time around.

According to her own account, she would not be able to face her remaining days in office if she had not voted against the war. In her remarks after a long investigation into data available then, Rankin claimed the war was nothing but an attempt to blame the Japanese for the aggression the United States had started by imposing economic sanctions against them.

The very first U.S. congresswoman, a Republican, was vehemently against war and dedicated to bringing details the administration would rather keep under wraps to light no matter what. Her decision to stay true to her role as a representative of her people was all she needed to act honorably.

In 1958 she said:

And how much do the people and even the members of Congress know about the moves now being made by our government or other governments which may lead to another war? Our being kept in ignorance arouses my apprehensions today as it did more than forty years ago when World War I burst upon my world.

It breaks my heart this is still true today. ~


Quote taken from: We Who Dared to Say No to War – American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, Edited by Murray Polner & Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Northern Migration



moving photogoodbye la

When we loaded the trailers sky high in a modern day version of the grapes of wrath and drove north in our mass exodus from wild, smoggy, youthful and vicious L.A., we knew life was changing. Of course we did, we were moving after all. But really we had no idea. Even Zelda (the cat) was destined for change.

The move was a battle from the beginning to end…one of those things that later you look upon and say, “If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth it.” And of course it would be worth it if it had been easy—we just may have had a bit more fun and money in the end. Alas!

We packed in a wild mess and left piles of shit in the alley outside our apartment—most of which was squirreled across the drive to the neighbors compound. I doled out plants and made my friends promise to care for them in all their greenness. The neighbors across the hall snagged a couch. And still we were overloaded. To the max. Heaps and heaps of belongings that would be carted from LA thru Vegas and eventually home to Lake Wenatchee, WA.

My mom and brother Drew were there like cursing angels—spackling walls and hauling boxes. Bringing humor (as always) and the help that we so desperately needed.

And finally we fit all we could and said goodbye to LA on a Saturday night. It’d been seven and a half long years. It had been the city where I grew up and where Derek and I fell in love. It had been a lot of things to me. And now it was time for me to move on.

We contended with flat tires, flat spare tires, burnt wheel bearings, broken axels, skeezy motels, desolate roads, and hot, hot sun. We wrestled shorted wiring, hail falling from a grey sky and an angry cat pissing in the car. We threw all our money at the problems and crossed our fingers that we would make it home.

But we also laughed and soaked up family. We kept our dreams close.

We are here now. And we are tough and ready and eager. We planted some flowers the other day and I can’t wait to see them bloom. Zelda’s even killing mice. So it turns out, we all three seem to be settling in to country life fairly well.

The Best Part of Motherhood

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A friend of mine recently asked me, “Isn’t motherhood the greatest!?” to which I responded, “Ya, it’s awesome.”  I suppose this was probably the quickest and lamest answer I could muster after a twelve hour work day but the word does encapsulate parenthood.  It is awesome & magical & breathtaking & tiring & trying and all those other adjectives which can fit into the definition of motherhood.  Yet to me, one of the best things about becoming a mother has been the chance to witness 1st hand my husband becoming a father.  From that first grainy picture, he has been there; on the journey with me and though he can be overly opinionated & sometimes bossy and almost always overdresses our son, which I blame on his Guatemalan roots-his patience knows no bounds.  Watching him watch this amazing little being we created together is magical.

Then when London does something hilarious, which since he’s a toddler, is often, we catch each other’s eye and the same thought is there-“How did we make such an awesome kid?” and the fact that we both know that & recognize that same sense of awe in each other is what makes it amazing.  That there’s someone else besides me on this planet who loves this kid as much as I do and is there raising him along side me.  It is a luxury that previous generations longed for I am sure as prior to the last few decades, parenthood was very much a one woman show. Dads were the weekend disciplinarians, the figures who swooped in for a quick game of tag in the backyard and goodnight pat on the head.  I know because that is my Dad and though I wouldn’t trade him for the world, raising children with him was no doubt trying at times.  I want somebody in the thick of it with me, tackling the chaos head-on, side by side, not leading the way from a safe distance ahead.

So thank-you my love for being the husband that you are and the father you became.  I couldn’t imagine doing this without you.  It’s made my journey into motherhood that much sweeter and I would not have picked anyone else-nor, I am sure, would have London.

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About taking yourself seriously

My sweet mom trying to decide on what dessert to go for.

 

“Lost in the valley without my horses / No one can tell me what my remorse is” – the great ~ ~ THINKER ~ ~ Anthony Kiedis (yeah, dude from the Red Hot Chili Peppers)

My mother is a fervent catholic.

She maintains a tradition of dedicating a mass to dead loved ones at the anniversary of their deaths. Every year. No matter how long it’s been since they have passed away.

She does that for her father, mother, aunts and brother. She does that for my brother, my father and cousins. She does that for her grandparents.

While I’m not religious and have never seen a major point in carrying on with this tradition, I’ve recently begun wondering what I would do if my mother could no longer maintain her promise to herself. If she is no longer able to celebrate the memory of her loved ones, her own way, would I have any reason to carry on with her tradition, even if she never even implied I should at all?

Personal promises are powerful, but only if you take yourself seriously enough. Oftentimes, however, taking oneself seriously is the least-likely thing you are encouraged to do.

Taking existence lightly makes things easier, when you fail. Learning where caring ends and where taking things lightly begins is something we have mastery over after we set our own standards.

There’s nothing pre-made. No perfect formula to follow.

Just like I can’t tell you what should motivate you, you are the only one who knows what’s important to you and so it goes with what kind of traditions you like to embrace and carry on. Could I choose to care about a promise my mother has silently kept for so long or would I weaken its significance by not quite getting why she does it over time?

I still don’t know. ~

Maybe it’s Spring

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There is an air of change about and its making me high and giddy and all kinds of thrilled about living. These are the ebbs and flows—this is the way of life.

Tonight, as I headed home from work, the sun, still hanging just there in the sky keeping the world light and hopeful, I smiled one of those giant, genuine smiles that say everything and I felt fucking good—no, great! It’s a funny thing, but when things are good—everything else is better—all in the world is beautiful and there isn’t much that you can’t laugh at or fall in love with. Its lucky that this feeling comes to us—that we can look out onto the sky or the plains or the mountains or whatever it may be and say to ourselves, “Fucking hell, could it possibly be any lovelier?” And no other words can really follow that because you feel so damn much that words just don’t give due credit. So you trot along in a loving haze—goofy and mesmerized by it all.

Which is what I am doing…trotting and thrilled. Finding myself writing love sonnets about a pink sunset and friends that call and cats that purr. A leaky exhaust on my neighbors car is music as there dinner on the oven wafts thru my open windows. How have I not chosen to feel like this always? Why must it come and go?

At any rate, it’s in the air now and deep within my lungs. And it feels how everything should feel and I am entirely happy.

A Tangled Nest

I’ve long held the belief that everybody has at least one physical trait that others find beautiful.  It could be the eyes, a finely turned ankle or a dazzlingly white smile, but there is always something.  For me, it seems to be my hair.  Long, thicker than a horse’s tail, and honey colored; I’ve always been a bit partial towards it.  It’s embarrassingly easy to maintain and I suspect that my husband even married me because of it’s golden hue~after all, what true-blooded Latino could ever resist a blond?  All in all, I have been truly blessed by the hair gods.  However I realize now that it really was never created for my benefit  but rather for my son London’s; for my hair has become his nest, chew toy, blanket, teething ring and worry doll.  Not a day or night goes by when he doesn’t burrow himself down in it, entangled in it’s golden tresses, and sooth himself to sleep.  This process however, is not as gentle as it sounds, and my scalp as well as any loose strands are ripped and pulled in a most unpleasant way.  In the dark of the night, when a violent tug has awoken me from a deep sleep, I often wish I could find a silky haired, lactating doll which I could easy switch places with.  

Yet as my baby sister so graciously reminded me, this time is fleeting and it won’t be long before he’s 18 years old and I would give anything to have him small again, wrapped up in my arms, contentedly chomping on my split ends.  So I’ll endure the nesting, the aching head and frazzled morning hair for now because I know that she is right.  Image

I should just doubt myself more often

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I have had the opportunity to fall madly in love and believe I would be in love forever three times.

The three men I gave myself blindly to taught me I was actually wrong. Not all along, but just for a brief moment. They thought me to doubt me and as I doubted myself, I learned something else entirely new:

I was right.

Romance is not the type of struggle you would imagine. It’s not a struggle, at all. I always knew how to feel it, it comes naturally, and at last, I find no shame in facing it.

As I struggle for other things in life I know this: love is not a struggle, it’s the eye of the storm where you are just as safe and just as absolutely vulnerable as you possibly can and yet, you don’t need shelter, you don’t need to find a way out. You accept it gladly. Both of you.

It’s a clichê because we all have it in us, some of us take longer to grasp, some don’t.

I never lost it and I as much as I would like to teach those men what I’ve learned, I know I can’t. I’m sure they will figure this out too once they doubt themselves first.

After all, every quest for meaning starts with a question.