The Clean Side of the Living Room


I am typing this post in the messy half of the living room. I just cleaned half of the living room — vacuuming and steam cleaning. I moved all the toddler debris to the other side of the living room. I moved the couch until I could not move it anymore. I blocked in all the mess and decided it was OK to clean what I could. Half is better than none.

I managed to put away rogue toys and forgot (intentionally) about the proper container to put them in. Thinking to myself — if they are in a container that is good enough and then musing about containers and problems and people and who is an IKEA or container store person and WHY. WHY? Why must all the debris be put away? It is in the messy side of the living room that true living happens, but I long long long for the clean side of the living room, with its toys put away and rug vacuumed. And steam cleaned. Steam clean it all away — all of life’s dirt and grit.

But the dirt and grit is where the living truly happens.

F that. I want a clean living room. But for now I acknowledge that the messy side is where I really live.

Ben sits in front of me finger painting  his lime green Dollar Store Play-Doh knock off cap (with water colors).  A stack of boxes he will not let me have or rather disassemble to put in the nice IKEA/Container Store cubby shelves. The plastic cubby buckets are his ladders to his roof. His roof is his Mickey Mouse Playhut. Ya know the square tents that fold up to be one dimensional. But once unfolded are three dimensional with a fourth reserved for the imagination of a toddler’s mind. The dimension which transforms it to a roof to a house that hold everything that is needed: messy imagination on the other side of the living room.

So, one side of my living room is clean. The other still messy. And guess where I feel most comfortable and write this right now? Yep, the messy side.

Life gets messy. And sometimes it is just as beautiful and serene as the clean side.

Photo by Megan Oteri

Photo by Megan Oteri — Field in Southeast Wyoming

 

Let the Light In — Dog Sh*t Happens


Window Light

Window Light

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” – Williams Wordsworth

Wyoming hills near Cheyenne, Wyoming

Wyoming hills near Cheyenne, Wyoming

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” – C. S. Lewis

Dog in boat, resting in the sun

Dog in boat, resting in the sun

“To love beauty is to see light.” – Victor Hugo

I am rather smitten with this photo.  I just adore it.

Leaf on Lake

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle Onassis

My mother and I on my wedding day.
My mother and I on my wedding day.  My mother passed away Christmas Eve 2012. My heart hurts.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”- Edith Wharton

"Every moment of light and dark is a miracle." - Walt Whitman

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” – Walt Whitman

I had a really good day today. I spent time doing meaningful work; I played with my son. I watched him build a mountain out of couch cushions, which he called his mountain. He climbed it, curled within it, and sat atop it proud. He stood on it, went underneath it, and cried behind it when I moved one of the pillows. Toddlers are curious creatures; their moods so intense. I thought to myself, “My son built a mountain out of pillows. Who says I can’t move mountains?”

I continued my day thinking only positive thoughts — I let the light in, after all it was shining. I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with my son. He stood on a chair, pouring in the ingredients. I let him crack the egg, allowing his own method of crushing it. Surprisingly, no eggshells fell into the batter. The light shone in through the kitchen windows. I pulled back the curtains I usually keep closed. I let the light in.

My day was filled with warmth and sunshine. After I dropped off my husband at work after lunch, I took my son with me to get shoes. I never shop for shoes. I needed a pair of sneakers. I found the perfect pair: purple Nikes. I had the check-out clerk call the manager (in fact I asked twice — I get that from my mom being a little pushy when necessary). I thanked the manager for a wonderful shopping experience. My son played with a penny we found on the ground walking into the store. He ran up and down the aisles as I walked away from the shoe helper in mid-sentence looking for my toddler son, whom I could hear laughing. The shoe helper, TJ was kind and patient. He knew a lot about shoes; he knew a lot about feet. I tried on a dozen pairs at least and asked two dozen questions about shoes. TJ kept an eye on my son and told me if he was within sight if I had lost sight of him. My purple shoes were perfect. I have bad knees, torn ACL and ACL replacement surgery. TJ helped me find my purple shoes. He was kind. He was knowledgeable. He also was born the year I was a sophomore in college.

I told the store manager how great this shoe shopping experience was after we checked out. Purple shoes, bubbles my son found near the check out line, and M & M’s in a bag. The manager smiled, revealing Invisalign braces and shiny freckles on his forehead. He was happy; his light was shining. He said, “This is great. Usually people call on me to complain.”

“This is not the case. I have had a wonderful shoe shopping experience today.” I followed with, “I really hate shoe shopping.”

He asked me, “Is this your first time in the store?”

“Yes, but it will not be my last.” I smiled.

My light shined.

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” – Desiderius Erasmus

***

My next stop was to get my haircut.  Ben and I blew bubbles while we walked.  His light shined. I focused on this moment and held my breath. I felt lucky.

I gave my hairdresser three cookies: homemade. We chatted about motherhood and its hidden secrets. I told my hairdresser, Libia, “I give you creative freedom with my hair.” She cut my hair as we talked. My son ate M & Ms and played on the floor. I shared my creative passion with her: writing. I love my hairdresser. Her light shines. I always request her and I get my hair cut at Great Clips. I wouldn’t spend any extra money at a fancy salon. She is that good. She is that kind.

This time my hair shined.

I finished the day at the park with my son and mom friend.

My son at the park with his friend

My son at the park with his friend

It was a lovely day.

I went to pick up my husband at work. When we got home I noticed a strong scent of poop. I checked the area for a rogue dirty diaper. Nothing.

Then I check my new purple sneakers. Bingo!

I stepped in dog shit getting out of the car — in my brand new perfect purple sneakers. Dog shit happens.

You can always clean it up.

It was a good day. Light trumps dark. But the two exist together. Today I chose light. It chose me. We shined.

Mirrors of beauty

Mirrors of beauty

I’m Not Alone


 

Painting by J Gray

Benjamin’s in my arms right now.  Quiet, sleeping, calm.  I’m watching him like an oil painting in a museum.  My tiny giant one year old.  I study his face and body. His ears have grown; they are now the size of apricots.  His hair curls with the humidity.   I study his sounds.  His tiny snores zigzag under his breath.  When he is asleep I am Wonder Mom.  When he is overdue for a nap and I am overdue for a nap, I am Awful Mom.

The fight to go down for this nap lasted 30 minutes, seemingly like hours through toddler twists and mounts, crying screams that only escalated in decibels, cocooning into a curved ball on my shoulder, head butts to establish prime shoulder rest real estate, and a tenacious one year old desire to stay awake.

I tried the breast first.  It used to be my go to sleep inducer.  Doesn’t really work anymore;  he filled up –recharged and energized, hips spinning from back to belly to knees to movement, pointing to things with toddler immediacy and curious craft.  Saying “Dis, Dis,” and trying to unravel the mystery of each object.  The air purifier: white like a Storm Trooper, sleek and tall, shiny, huffing out Darth Vader voices of puffs and curled noise with electric royal blue lights humming back and forth like an elevator.    The light on the side table to the left of the mattress on the wooden floor — its cord now tucked secretly behind its back.  The light, a montage of balls and gloves – football, basketball, soccer ball, and a baseball, all equally interesting to him.  “Dat Dat.” He points again looking back at me with the inquiry of a class of eager freshman. 

This nap is going nowhere.  I start to think about moms who sleep train. I begin to envy scheduled nap time where babies know to nap and agree with baby coos and smiles, snuggling lovies that offer comfort.  Teddy bears, baby blankets, little toddler hippos, grey and blue with fuzzy soft down material – some kind of something that will fill in my mom blank.  Something he wants more than me right now when I am not soft and snuggly on the inside.  In fact, I am dry as the desert and in need of an oasis of patience.  I imagine one flowing full with clear streams of mother love.  I begin to drool from the thirst.

 This patience I barely have is wearing thin, like dough rolled out in transparent flakes.  I suddenly am desperate for him to go to sleep.  Desperate.  My plans on peacefully napping with him to catch up on much needed rest and sleep passes.  Quickly, like lightening bug flashes.  I suddenly want wine, sugar, donuts, cupcakes, beer, coffee, carbs, and lots of it.  Out.  An escape hatch.  Where’s the nanny?  Where’s the hatch? Oh, I am a Stay At Home Mom. There is no hatch.  I even have an acronym: SAHM.  I’m the damn nanny.  There is no damn escape hatch.

He is smiling, grinning with giggles that echo through the room and bounce off the high ceilings of his blue bedroom.  I get a cup of oasis patience water and smile back at him.  I can’t resist the song of his giggles so gorgeous.  I’ve sang him Over the Rainbow over and over the best I could.  Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high da da da da da da da to dream aloud. Once upon a da da da da da da da. Way up high on chimney tops and lemon drops you’ll find me, waiting…

Where does the patience come from?  Where does it end? 

Layered Hands

It is quick like lightening when that long braided rope runs out, slipping quickly through my layered hands, my layered thoughts, my layered mind.  Layered with questions, insecurities, doubts, fields of emotions, floors of frustration, conundrums, lists of things I’ll never do, wishes put on hold, way up top next to the creamed corn, on the shelf I can barely reach. 

I’ve got to raise this baby.  This boy.  My boy, Benjamin.  Hold those teeth tight.  Lassi whoa, the horses can’t gallop off just yet. I’ve got a family to feed, but the horses patter — their feet below the very ground that is supposed to hold me stable – sturdy – rooted in soil. My curled tendrils attach below this very ground in the garden of motherhood. 

Photo by Lisa Dearing

The horses’ hooves start to become restless—eager to run – to escape – to gallop in a wild childfree shout.  I start thinking about news shows and 20/20 segments about moms that start drinking at noon because of the boredom.  I think about how having a job outside the home holds me in place. Holds my busy mind, scheduled, engaged in adult synapses of activity and thought.   Boredom erupting, flowing over into red pooled lava circles. The containment area – lullabies, swing sets, and gooey gooey baby talk. 

Earlier this morning on our morning walk, I thought about working, how even hanging on the back of a garbage truck would be more active than this.  More exciting, as I listened to the men shout and rumble through the quiet morning streets, banging and pounding, creating a symphony of noise like jazz musicians.  Strolling down the sidewalk, with my beautiful baby boy, who was taking it all in visually.  His mind turning cartwheels and somersaults.  My mind – numb with boredom.  I was suddenly jealous, eager to be hooting and shouting along with the loud garbage men, bustling with activity on this early AM morning.   I thought about interaction.  About space.  About time.  About mind.

 I thought about all the people I used to talk to on a daily basis when I was a teacher and now as a SAHM, I have to check in politely for bi-monthly play dates.  I’m desperate for daily contact.  I used to see my colleagues every day.  A comment – a conversation – a break in the teacher’s longue.  Something – an exchange of ideas, humor, fashion yes nods.  “You look good today.  I like that shirt; it brings out your eye color.”  A question.  An opinion.  A complaint.  A joke.  A dare.  A don’t.  Something.  I don’t get this from Ben, from the swing set at the park, nor does the stroller answer back.  Instead, I look forward to bi-monthly mom meet ups.  My version of lonely staff meetings where we make small talk about sleep schedules, baby food, and recipes and try to get to know each other through questions like, “Where do you live and what does your husband do?”  

I am too open I think, admitting to post-partum depression barely after introductions are made.  I stumble long after the group has assembled and disassembled, breaking down the baby strollers, and driving off to each of our own separate spaces.  I’m still yearning for a 9 – 5 work day; a 9 – 5 play date would work.  I ask myself and roll over the video in my sleep deprived mind – “Why did I say that?  Where is your damn filter for goodness sake?”  But then a mom I have just met clicks like links in a set.  She laughs at my blunt cut Grade A honesty and nods her head.  Yes, I get it.  That’s all I need to hear.  I’m not alone.