Tuesday, October 4, 2011

left over shrimp

I used to love reading Erma Bombeck when I was in high school. There was absolutely nothing relatable to me in anything that she wrote. She was just that funny, and just that good.

But here I am, a tragic chapter, bottomed out in the cherry pits.

I wondered today what in the world I would do with my time when I was no longer assembling and preparing bottles, assembling and preparing sippy cups, disassembling and cleaning bottles, disassembling and cleaning sippy cups, assembling and using a breast pump, disassembling and cleaning a breast pump, changing 2 sizes of diapers, stocking 2 sizes of diapers, and ensuring enough wipies are present in the warmer, the diaper bag, my purse, and our bedroom to cleanse away all the poop, snot, pee, spit up, and tears a day can dole out. I wondered if the skin on my hands would grow back after being washed away in 5 sudsy sinks per day.

I opted out this morning. I put on my manager pants, my steely resolve, and my belief that life is 98% attitude, 32% resolve, 5% circumstance, and 27% ability to make statistics look real. I got on the phone with the yard people, the birthday party people, the spouse, the doctor's office, the toddler museum art planner (or whoever she is), and I put it all on the calendar. Everything is going on the calendar from here on out. With proper organization, everyone will be happy and potty trained.

I read books, showed my toddler my tinkle 10 times (HI PEE PEE! BYE BYE PEE PEE), I cuddled, sang songs, counted to 5 over and over, had tummy time with the infant, and I checked every box, I further engrained the theme song to Dora into my bruised sensibilities. I bounced balls, and cooked chicken nuggets with one hand while warming a bottle with the other. I tickled and cooed.

And what woman, what real woman can't do all of that and prepare an organic gourmet meal out of left overs, clearance items, and an addiction to Lidia's Italy and Hubert Keller on PBS?

I watched the clock until my husband arrived home and envisioned my little charges all pulled up to the table, the girl singing songs and counting aloud while the boy gazed toothlessly and adoringly at his mother for whom his worship is unabashed. My husband would take one taste and declare it the best meal he's had, wonder aloud how it could be possible that I could single handedly prepare for our family such an altar of familial bliss. So, when the girl was in tears over her faulty apple juice cup, and the boy's farts clouded the lingering aroma of my perfection, and my husband, after declaring everything tasty, asked what I thought of his brilliance on facebook today, I realized that for all of my feminist ways, I am a cliche.

My husband spirited the baby away to attend to an evening bottle, my daughter proclaimed her meal complete, and I sat alone at the table staring at my meal. Alone... except for the dog licking up what the girl had thrown.

You know I used to be a contender. I used to be the one called into facilitate meetings between state agencies with communication problems. I managed the high profile, the highly complex, and I was the go to. I was the one that could get things done. And I've been brought down by two people who can't spell their own names. Hell, one of them doesn't even have teeth.

I sloppily shuffled away from the table this evening to get a shower and brush my teeth for the first time today. I angrily told myself that I would at least shave off the 2 week's worth of leg hair growth, and no one could stop me.

My nearly 2 year old stopped me. "You hokay, mommy? you hokay?". She asked to be picked up and rub noses and hug. Like that could make things better. Yeah...like that could solve anything. Gawdammit though, it did. Dammit... it made it better...

So, while I pushed her around the living room in her plastic car with my gin and a splash in the other hand, I said my favorite rhyme. Pump and Dump. Take that, Cat in the Hat.

The Houswife Cliche Left Over Shrimp
fry some bacon pieces and remove from pan
quickly saute some steamed shrimp in the rendered fat and immediately remove
wilt spinach, baby portabellos, and garlic in the same pan. Add olive oil if needed.
Add mascarpone cheese and simmer briefly. Add the shrimp and bacon and pour all over angel hair pasta.
And make it organic, bitches.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about my grandmother over the past few days. I go through episodes where I painfully miss her. I don't just miss her. I miss her house. I miss the way I felt when I was at her house.

The older I get, the more I try to temper my memories with what must be fact. She couldn't have been perfect or my mother would not have felt so weak and unvalidated to have become what she did. She married and remained silently by my grandfather who, through his own insecurities and need to be validated, made my mother feel she didn't get what she needed. I obviously don't know the whole story. I was recounting my memories once to my my husband in front of my mother. She interrupted to tell me that this was not my family but hers. I dutifully put my memories aside and shut them back into the shuttered clutter of my brain. But they don't seem to go away. My memories make noise in my head. I long for feelings I had. Maybe my memories aren't completely accurate, but the feelings I had and the feelings that seep into the cracks in my are real to me. My memories are real. I am really remembering the safest place I've ever known.

My grandmother's house was tiny. It was on the outskirts of a small western Idaho farming community. The house always needed a coat of paint and repairs. It never looked dilapidated or unloved. It looked much too loved to have clean lines and a definable color. When entering the house, the door opened directly into the front room. There was barely room for one low sofa, once maroon, a chair for her, and a duct taped chair for him. A table sat between them with crossword puzzles, reference books, writing utensils, magnifying glass, and notes scrawled across memo pads. A round dining table was pushed against the wall, and a credenza of sorts was against the other wall. A television was moved about on wheels as desired. The walls of cracked plaster were adorned with fading photographs my grandfather took, developed, and framed.

A tiny hallway to the left led to the two original bedrooms. One bedroom, the one I loved and stayed in had a double bed pushed against two walls to make room for a clothes rack on wheels. A bookcase contained National Geographic magazines dating back to the 40's, all in order. A homemade large pinkish plate hung on the wall. At night, I stared at that plate as I drifted off to sleep. That plate hangs in my bedroom now. I have asked others what the plate looks like to them. It is so familiar and burned into my psyche, it is devoid of style to me and represents nothing but a wheezing breath looking at me as I slept. That bedroom was cold during the winters. The plaster was cracked, and the windows seeped wind. I had to cover my whole body and face with an electric blanket. I could hear the sound of a train whistle long in the distance at night as I fell asleep.

The bathroom in the middle of the hall remained blue right up until the time we decided in my post college days to "renovate" it form them. Surrounding the tub was board, cut to look like tiles. A shelf behind the tub contained jars of dippity do and a plastic vase of plastic flowers. The sink and tub had rubber stoppers attached to chains. My grandmother did not ready herself in the bathroom. She took her wooden framed mirror and propped it against a brown clay cookie jar in the living room on the table. She brushed her barely graying brown shoulder length hair of no particular style straight back away from her face.

The other bedroom was a mystery. I know it was blue. I know it housed a built in book case, and I know my aunt lived in there. My aunt was mentally retarded and also had severe rheumatoid arthritis. She never attended school as she was before the day of mandated free public education for everyone. She was the oldest sibling, and she called the shots. I know she loved the cartoon Garfield and her teddy bear, had a dog eared box of saved greeting cards that she read daily, that she loved babies, but did not like at all nosey nieces. I stayed pretty clear of her. She did not engage in conversation with me but did laugh at my brother's and my antics through the years. She was also the only person I've ever met who could make my mother stop speaking immediately.

Back in the living room, a doorway led to the kitchen. When a full sized stove was finally installed, it was too large for the kitchen, and the a few inches of the back of the stove showed through the doorway to the living room. A round table was pushed against an alcove. The smallest children sat in the back. On the wall hung a large yellow rotary dial rented telephone, the only telephone in the house. The cabinets, sink, and dish drain area were all chipped metal. The walls were yellow. The house always smelled as if something had just been baked. The kitchen was shaped like a 'L'. it led to a side door opening to an added car port. This hallway looped back around to a laundry area and the entry to my grandparents' bedroom. This area of the house smelled of dirt and rocks and earth. Boots lined the wall by the door and rocks saved due to their color or shape or peculiarity were stored in coffee cans and empty buckets. My grandparents never made their bed or at least I never saw it made. My grandfather kept a picture of my grandmother on the inside of his closet door. She was wearing shorts and was standing on a ladder. My grandmother only let him display that picture there. He called it his pin up picture.

The house oozed comfort, acceptance, and peace to me. I was exactly who I was in that house. Through the years, I tried on different versions of myself and brought those incarnations to my grandmother's house. It never took me long to drop the act and sleep. I always slept the first day I was there. It angered me. I was afraid I was missing something. But I couldn't help it. My grandfather would have plans for us as soon as we arrived. My grandmother would study my face and tell him that I was staying back. I always said I wasn't, and she agreed with me. She always asked me to go rest for a bit and leave later. It never failed. I only drowsily opened one eye as she was tucking me in for the rest of the day and then the night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


"You are militant", my father would say with a smile that showed mostly irritation with what I hoped was a bit of pride. He enjoyed ogling the television cheerleaders during football games. My response to this was that he either allow me to dress like that or stop looking. Militant was the response, a smile was the expression, but the television stayed on, and the way I clothed my body remained out of the jurisdiction of my own decision.

And they sent me to church. I was at church when the doors opened until the doors closed. I was a part of every club and activity the church had to offer. I felt quite alone in my struggle with religion. I didn't understand. Apparently you didn't have to believe all of it, just some of it, and just the some of it that was a special pet to the particular denomination. But, you could let that slide on an individual basis at times, depending on your age or particular circumstance. It was understood that teens would be teens, but should have their hormonally skewed emotions exploited from time to time to bring them back on track for brief periods. I tried to share my frustrations with my fellow teens and found no corroboration. I counted the key changes added to the music to raise my emotional reaction to a pet belief. I visited other churches in a quest for the pure belief. Finding none, finally decided that I should either leave the flock and become a Quaker or ditch the system all together. I ditched. My only response to my queries was that people do the best they can, and why did I have to be so black and white... and militant.

Over the years, I have reined in my tongue. Some on the receiving end of my beliefs would disagree. When I hear a half truth or an excuse to temporarily bury a conviction based on convenience, my brain can conjure an injuring response at a speed that frightens me. So my mouth stays closed, most of the time. I have softened my edges through amputation as I have not the skill to express myself otherwise. One of my favorite people, Tommy Smothers, said that he always played the dupe because he could not state the truth without being mean. We share a birthday.

Mayou Angelou quote: "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."

As I learn new things about the natural world around me and the people who struggle to co-habitate on it, I cannot understand a lack of change.

How can you drink coffee because it's cheap, knowing that it is at the expense of the grower, his/her family, his/her health? How can you know that the majority of what you eat harms your world and know that the person hired to grow and slaughter your food was hired specifically based on his inability to blow a public whistle? How can I continue to own things that were manufactured where the right of the maker does not exist and her voice is snuffed? How can I be less militant?

I felt a gratitude wash over me at a co-worker and previous supervisor one day during a meeting regarding the care of children in foster care. I had a point to make. I needed to persuade. I wanted the bureaucracy to cease long enough to hear the child's voice I thought I heard. I stuttered and stammered and spoke each word with painful care. My friend and co-worker spoke up to my aid. She will get to the point, she explained. She needs to find the words that will help you listen and not offend nor anger you.

Last night I found Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a feminist and mother and wife. I had heard her name, but always in the shadow of Susan B. Anthony along with the rumors that always tend to ensue when two strong and intelligent women become friends without the necessary aid of a male to guide and protect their joint journey. A kindred spirit. A person so consumed in her convictions as to speak with sharp wit and acid tongue what she knew to be correct. A person who could also burn her bridges through quick cruelty based in hot anger and then suffer the unintended results. Susan B. Anthony, in the end, understood her own politics. She was willing to segregate her movement, dilute her tongue, and hold hands with the hind face of her previous enemies. She did this to focus her aim to a laser point and win the day, long after her own death and with consequences to an entire race of people. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on the other hand, grew more vociferous and progressive throughout her years. She alienated and befriended, withdrew from public and then exploded on stage, and never softened her piercing stare into the camera for her numerous public photographs.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton's first hero was Lucretia Mott, a feminist and abolitionist. Lucretia Mott refused to wear cotton or serve sugar as these items were provided on the bloodied backs of an entire race. I know why Mrs. Stanton liked her.

I am a humanist who struggles to connect to humans. I hold my tongue as best I can and watch. But, I will be forever grateful to the fates that I can see and hear the words of others who succeeded, others like me.

Because we have to do it on our own, in our solitude of self.


Friday, January 7, 2011

While Cleaning the Bathroom

The following is the internal dialogue occurring while I was cleaning the bathroom this morning.

Man. I can't bend over and clean this floor on my hands and knees. I'm pregnant. Pregnant people shouldn't be on their hands and knees scrubbing the floor.

Yeah... but that chick from The Good Earth plowed a field, gave birth during a potty break, strapped the baby on her back, and milked the cows. Or something like that. That was Pearl Buck, right? Yeah. Her other books were kind of preachy I think. Makes sense though. But I think that woman died or her baby did. I don't want that.

Listen! You can't compare yourself to some Pearl Buck character! You come from tough stock, woman! The women in your family formed the only female sports teams at their pioneer schools. One became the school's principal. They wore PANTS, man... PANTS! You can surely wipe down one bathroom floor.

Sure, but they had to ask their husbands' permission to get hysterectomies when they had those female problems or whatever. I don't have to do that. And no, I don't think that means they wouldn't scrub the floor, but they were pioneer types and and had a trillion children so 5 could live and work the farm. I don't have a farm.

Remember your grandmother?? The one who went out for her morning walk and fell and broke her hip? She figured she could wait until someone found her or get up and walk the half mile back to the retirement home to get help. SHE would have scrubbed the bathroom floor with a toothbrush... well... she did scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush.

Let's also remember dear self that she only had one baby and found that too much at times.

You named your first born after a true tough gal. She birthed your grandmother at home along with her 5-6 or whatever surviving children. She did that on her own, and I bet she would have scrubbed the bathroom floor.

Okay but she died in the 1918 flu epidemic. I bet she would have survived too if she rested more. She probably scrubbed her floor and the keeled over right there. Besides, who are you to judge me?

I wonder if my sister-in-law has passed my score in Zuma.

I think I'll just mop the floor with my foot and a wet rag. I'll spray some stuff to make it clean and all.