My Own Personal Spring

As you can tell by the amount of pollen that’s decorating the cars now, it is officially Spring.

And other than seasonal allergies, I’m pretty stoked about that.

With the rebirth and reawakening of the world around me, I feel a reawakening inside my creative-self as well. Which after the last few months, is a really good thing.

Life has been difficult, to say the least. My husband’s health problems continue to plague him. As a caregiver, I’m beside him as he deals with the highs and lows of the battle. (He has diabetes that swings wildly. It’s funny because it’s true.) My youngest son, My little Doodle, is struggling in school and at this time is on a waiting list to see a developmental pediatrician. After a lot of testing in school with the school psychologist and his personal pediatrician, there are concerns that he may be on the spectrum. We are almost functioning on a reduced income. So yeah, life is difficult. And when life gets difficult, you go into survival mode. And for me, the first systems that get shut down in survival mode are creative and spiritual. Flying on autopilot requires all only the most necessary systems to run. And I’ve been on teetering on autopilot for a while.

So my writing, creating, and connecting had all stagnated throughout the winter. Writing was like pulling teeth, but I did it. I’m not sure how much was good, but it happened in a slow trickle. My connection to my Craft really took a hard hit. I was lazy, I was mindless, I was spiritually tired. So there was a lot of motions going through, but not a lot of actual thought and feeling behind them. Mostly because I didn’t have a lot of actual thought and feeling left.

But with the shift in the seasons, I’ve felt a shift in me.

And a lot of it has to do with a wee little snake.

Saturday past, we got the front lawn mowed for the first time of the year. I was a little sad because we had a patch of clover growing that I was for, some reason, totally in love with. A few hours after it was done, I was taking Jake, the dog, out for a much need bathroom break. And really, it was a nice break for me too to get away from the loudness of the house. Do you know how loud three kids can be? They are freaking loud.

Anyway, Jake is off doing whatever dogs do when they are done doing their business, and Im looking at the newly cut grass. And there, not far from my shoe, zipping through the leaves that we never raked up, was a deep reddish brown little snake. (I use the little in meaning width only, the little guy/girl was about the length of my forearm.)

I’m immediately mesmerized. I watch it for a moment, sure that it’s going to disappear into the ground and our meeting will be brief. But no! It doesn’t hide away. It stays out, enjoying the Sun no doubt. With Jake still busy shoving his big snoot into something snootable, I squat down to get a better look at the snake. Not even the audible protest of my knees scares it off. It turns and moves towards me for a bit, while I spit out the best babytalk I know. And trust me, my babytalk game is strong. And for one second, I swear the little snake and I have a moment. We inhabit the same spot, the same Sun, the same warmth. We share something. I don’t know what it is, but we share it.

Jake hears my cooing and decides it must be for him and starts trotting back over my way. His leash is still in my hand so I move away from the snake as it moves away from me. I rise to my feet as my big doofus comes closer and I use the leash to guide him away from the area the snake traveled and he was none the wiser.

And this isn’t the first time that I’ve had a run in with a reptile in my front yard that’s reconnected me to my lost self. A year or so ago, I happened upon the big black snake that used to inhabit our lot.

S/He was in the middle of eating a bird when a sudden rain shower lowered it’s body temperature and caught it in a pickle. That encountered was memorable, because not only did it involve a big freaking snake, it involved me waking up.

Just like the encounter on Saturday did. They both happened in the beginning of spring. And just like snakes shed their skin when they outgrow it, I’m finally able to shake off the binds of a Winter that held me too tight.


Since then, and I know it’s only been since Saturday, but I feel awake. I feel like my own personal spring has happened. I’ve been able to feel like I’ve been refreshed in my abilities to create and just, breathe. There’s air around me now and in it possibly. There’s room for my magick and my practices. There’s room for my knowledge. And there’s room for me to create.

This doesn’t mean my load has gotten any lighter. My husband’s illness is still here. My son is still struggling. But I am whole. I am more than just a caregiver, a maid, a housewife, and an errand handler.

I am a writer, a witch, a mother, a reader,  a healer, and all the other things hidden inside this meat suit.

I am not bound by a season of darkness. I am not bound by skin of a certain shape.

I am awakened. I am refreshed.

I am ready to begin.

And that is what Spring is for.

Beginnings. Regrowing. Reclaiming.




On Thoughtworms and Mother Wounds

For the last few days, there is this bit of audio that keeps playing in my head. It’s a quote that’s stuck on loop. This often happens to me a lot. If for others the tendency to get songs stuck in your head is called an earworm, my head is one of those little styrofoam cups of nightcrawler for sale in gas stations and bait shops. This is not as fun as the chorus to SOS by Glorius Sons (seriously, listen to this song).

This is a quote on repeat. There is no hook, there is no musical accompaniment. Its just words. And they won’t go away.  I can hear it as clear as day, over and over no matter what I’m doing, no matter what’s going on, no matter whatever else I’m blasting in my ear canals to try to cancel it out. It’s in there, burrowed down deep inside like a parasite.

It’s my mother voice, nasal and deep fried and tainted yellow by cigarette smoke snarking

You see your Hell here on Earth.

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As I’ve said earlier, religion was never a strong point in the household I grew up in. My father was a lazy Methodist. My mother only cared about God when she could use the idea as a means of punishment. So they were Christian in nature but not knowledge. They knew what most ignorant Christians do. In the way that anything other than what they say and what they believe in is wrong. So, people of other races, religions, sexualities, nationalities, etc were wrong. Now we didn’t attend church or pray as a family, but as kids we weren’t allowed to say “bad” words (butt, suck, hate) or cut our hair. And good ole Mom used to brag that she knew more about the Bible than the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would come to my great grandma’s house.  Which is funny because growing up the family Bible was always located in the back of the trailer in the cabinet above where the washing machine was. The laundry detergent spent more time with it then she did.

The core of this is that while she may have put on airs about it, she was not a Godly woman. She was not a woman of Christ. And by that same token, she was not a learned woman either. So her view on where you found your own personal Hell was not as philosophical as it may have sounded. This phrase that she was repeating in front of baby me, enough times to burn it’s way into the core of my memory, was not a lesson in being responsible for your own actions. Or for being aware of what your actions create. It was nothing so beneficial. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

It was a trip wires laid across the field of my childhood. It was the passive-aggressive moanings of an unhappy woman who regretted the decisions she made. It was someone who didn’t want to be there and wanted those around to know that they were the reasons she still stayed. My mother had made her own Hell, and I was a part of it. And no matter how good my grades were, no matter how good my behavior was, and no matter how much I loved her, I couldn’t make Hell any better. And she kept letting me know.

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My issue with the phrase is, as a mother (and trust me, I know the annoyance of using that phrase) why in the world would you use that as arsenal against your own children?i understand there is no making sense of abuse caused by untreated mental illness. I understand there are just people who shouldn’t be parents. But somehow you’d expect that sort of nihilism to be either explained or sugared if it was going to be force fed to children right?

The other thing that is troubling me is that I can not get this out of my head. I do not want to have this woman and her issues taking up any more space than needy in my already cluttered mind. Usually, the only way to rid myself of an earworm is to listen to the full song. Recently, it was “X” by Poppy. I got it stuck in my head and then listened to it a few times and boom, it was out of my head. (At least, until now cause I’m totally listening to it again.) But I can’t do that with a quote from someone I have no interest in communicating with.

Also, it’s kind of hard not to see the world as a being a little bit of Hell right now. Maybe its not coincidence that I started hearing it around the time of the Christchurch shootings. Part of me is wondering if maybe the old bag is right? Maybe we make our own Hell. Despite her own ideas about the afterlife and her facade of belief, is it true that the worst torture we can face is being alive? Is living the ultimate punishment? Is this world the worst place we can be? What’s better than here?

I don’t think I need to go into why giving thoughts like those even a second of time is dangerous. Thinking this world has gone to shit and there’s no relief coming doesn’t leave much room for growth. It doesn’t leave much room for living. It doesn’t leave much room for anything. And that’s not true.

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There is room for love. There is room for life. And there is room for all the good and bad things that come with living. Living is not a punishment. Yes, sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes there are things and people that make it worse, but being alive and being free and being HERE, is not hell.

The idea of Hell, with it’s demons and torture, has no place in our existence here on Earth. We can make decisions. Good or bad, they are all part of our story. We can make better ones and change our path. If we need to be better, we can try. We don’t have to turn our pain into poison to try to sicken those around us.

Look, I’m just shy of my mid 30s.  I feel that I’m almost too old to keep picking at this mother wound. For what it’s worth, it’s smaller than it’s ever been. I feel like it’s got some nice scar tissue forming on it now. I got to test it’s thickness out not too long ago with a chance Wal-Mart encounter and it did just fine. But every once in a while, the damn thing itches. This must be one of those times. Hopefully, talking about it here will exorcism this thoughtworm from my brain and make it go away.

You do not see your Hell here on Earth, Dear Readers. Your existence is not hell. Please believe that. It is the wonderful, messy, beautiful, scary, amazing, thing it is. And it and you are not a bother to anyone. Don’t listen to any entity that makes you feel otherwise. 

 

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Boomerang

She might be tiny, but her voice, especially at such an early hour, is not.

“Mommy! Can you spell DOUGH-DOUGH SIGWA on my Ken-dal?” she yell-asks with just a bit of budding Southern accent in her adorably electric, and often ear-splitting, 4-year-old voice.

“Dough-Dough Sigwa” is actually JoJo Siwa and if you haven’t been introduced to this piece of saccharine sweet, ultra bright, hyper AF pop culture money machine, let me introduce you.

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JoJo Siwa is a 15-year-old dancer, actress, singer, and Youtuber who started on the Lifetime show Dance Moms (not as a mom, but as a kid, duh) and then branched out to create her own brand. That brand now includes a personal vlog, a clothing and bedding line, and a singing and acting career. Her Youtube channel is her go to HQ where she shares her everyday life blogs about her love for her family, her touring schedule, and her obsession with crazy hair accessories. It’s also where she releases her music videos. And that’s what lead to her to being introduced to our house. Because apparently, her songs complete are bangers for the 15 and under crowd.

The one that gets the most play our house is the song “Boomerang”. It gets played multiple times a day. MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY.

The lyrics are uplifting, positive, and talk about persevering no matter what hardships happen. It’s about not caring what people say about you and living your truth. It’s about always coming back no matter what life throws at you and never letting anything get you down. It’s a true hype anthem and really is a good song that breeds positivity and self-love power. 

And it really is fun to see a 4-year-old rock out to.

But in all honesty, I really, really, dislike that fucking song.

It’s so bubble gum sugary pop that I’m pretty sure my ears are getting cavities every time I hear it. While the message is exactly what I feel little (and big!) girls and boys should be hearing, my inner music lover is kind of grossed out by the mass-produced auto tuned side of it.

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I won’t lie. I’m no music saint. I’m not one of those hipsters that likes to tell you that I only listened to it before everyone else started liking it but hate it now and can also detail how your favorite band sold out.  I’ve listened to my fair share of shit music too. But this stuff makes me feel the same way Britney and N’Sync did when they first came out. Like it’s catchy, I get it, but so is the fucking flu.

But that’s the point for things targeted to the under 15 demographic, isn’t it ? It’s all about this shiny new thing and how fast you can get these young people to fall in love with it. As someone who is way older than anyone in that bracket, all of it sounds like hogwash to me.

But me not liking it, doesn’t mean I can’t respect it.

My daughter digs this stuff. And I’m sure thousands of other people’s daughters dig it too.  JoJo Siwa has 9 million subscribers. That’s 9 MILLION!!  And she has a Nickelodeon deal and a tour that is coming near my house in June. ( I will not be telling the young JoJo fan in my house though because tickets start at $121 and gods have mercy, that seems like the most expensive hell I can think of.) So either she or someone who is in charge of her team has some serious hustle.  And on top of all that, her music and videos promote positivity. There’s no hate mixed in there. It’s uplifting, believing in yourself, straight up power.  And that’s what the younger generation needs. Hell, that’s what we all need.

We all have to find places and things to recharge and uplift ourselves. I reread Witch by Lisa Lister, carry around rocks, and listen to 90s grunge when I’m feeling drained. (Note to self: Put on In Utero and read that book again, you’re still running low). My husband likes to go to the range and fire off some rounds. We all need these things that give us our center and bring us to our happiness. And if for my little miss that’s singing and dancing along with this brightly colored decked out 15-year-old wholesome pop star, then so be it.  I can put my taste in music and aesthetics aside and just let the kid have fun.

Let’s pull a page out of Marie Kondo’s book on this one.

Hold this music in your hand.

Was it meant for you?

No?

Then let it go back to who it was and let it bring joy.

It’s not your’s to shit on openly so keep your mouth shut.  

 I will not destroy the happiness of another just because I don’t dig it. It is not some weird power trip for me to flex my better taste muscles on those who like things I do not. It’s not about what I like. It’s about what brings joy to others.  I am not a slayer of joy, and you shouldn’t be either.

There are sometimes that keeping your opinions to yourself pays off. This is the lesson all these annoying things our children love can teach us. This is the lesson we should willingly be able to learn from them. They are often as much as our teachers as we are theirs. This is one of those times. 

So Little Miss is going to keep her JoJo fandom strong. Every day, just like she sings in her song, JoJo is going to come back like a boomerang, and I’ll get to hear it again and again and again. And it will irk me. And I could put on headphones and listen to a million other things. But then, I might miss getting to hear my Little Miss learning how to sing and dance along to a song that makes her heart light up. And that brings me joy.

So I think I’ll keep that.

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Accepting The Approaching Crone

As this year slips quietly into the next one, I’m thinking a lot about the passage of time.  

I told you about turning another year older a few posts ago in Chapter 34. And while I mostly used that post to describe the day, I did speak briefly about how now I need to start letting go of so much of the baggage associated with my birthday. Like Elsa in Frozen, I need to Let It Go.

(I have a four-year-old little girl. I’ve seen Frozen more times this year than I’ve seen Law and Order. It’s worked it’s way into my brain. Please send help.)

Part of letting it go is accepting that while I’m still knee deep in the waters of motherhood, cronehood is within my sights.

Physically, I can no longer make babies. In August of this year, after years of struggling with birth control, I had a tubal ligation. Four months later, I am not sad nor do I mourn the loss of the ability to make a new life. Maybe it’s because I’ve supplied the population with quite a few new faces. I’ve done my part and met my baby quota. I honestly no longer get that fever feeling when I see a cute little dumpling of a baby. I’m ok with never having to carry a child again.

The three children that I am circled by are more than enough. And while they are my world, every day I can see them growing slightly more independent and getting closer to the edge of the nest. While that might strike fear in the hearts of some mothers, it makes me really happy. I want them to be free to be themselves. They have to fly away sometimes. They have to be complete people outside of me. I will be the tree they can always return to, not the anchor that weighs them down. It’s going to happen, they are going to get older.

And you know what? I want to get older too.

But it seems that the world keeps telling me that I shouldn’t want that.

Every time I open one of the magazines that show up at my house randomly or scroll down the social media platform I’ve been meaning to quit, I get reminded of all the steps I should be taking to keep my impending age at bay.

I’m shown creams to stop wrinkles and spots, dyes to hide gray hairs, undergarments that lift, flatten and boost body parts that need to be modified. It doesn’t even end there. I’m reminded by billboard ads and radio jingles that there are plastic surgeons who can make me look younger and thinner in just a few trips. And if that’s too drastic of a change, I could always just purchase a Groupon for a spa nearby and get some Botox and eyelash extensions for 40% off. I don’t have to let time effect how I look. According to all these ads, I have the power and the opportunities to rally against it and forever maintain my youth.

(Just to put this out there, I am a huge proponent of dyeing your hair all the colors of the rainbow and I support every person that decides that plastic surgery is for them.)

But what if I don’t want to participate in that war? What if I don’t want to hold on to my youth?

My issues lie in that I do not support being told by people I don’t know that I NEED these things in my life. I do not support the idea that I must take part in these activities as some act against my body. I don’t like the idea that I should wage war on myself just because the years are changing my outer husk. I sure as hell don’t appreciate being held to a standard of beauty that I didn’t sign up for. If I want to change my hair color, fuck yeah I’m going to do it. If I want plastic surgery, fuck yeah I’m going to get it. But it’s going to me for my own reasons. Not to fit into so some “forever young” standard.

Listen, I think women are beautiful. That includes all women. From the young, shining and dewy-eyed to the old, bent, and wrinkled. I want to live a life that shows I’ve done both. I want to experience both ends (and the middle) of my womanhood with the same amount of reverence.  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

By pushing us to worship youth, our culture pushes us to hate aging. And there is a huge fault in that. We demean and devalue the act of aging and of growing because we fear moving away from what is accepted. We see being old as being less. And we really fucking fear being seen as less. Less beautiful, less worthy, less important, anything that is deemed less, we strive against.  We have fought long and hard to not be seen as less because we’ve been told endlessly how just being a woman makes us such. So for something as simple as the passage of time to render us useless is unnerving. That is why there are billion dollar industries that make their money by telling women that there is only a fleeting window of beauty they can attain. They don’t want us to see the beauty in all walks of life. They want us to desire to be unblemished, unmarked, untouched maidens forever. Just the type of maidens they, conveniently enough, find attractive.

It’s a little messed up, isn’t it?

Cronehood is just as worthy as maidenhood and motherhood. It is not diminished because of the ability or frailty of the human body. It is not diminished because of the perceived lack of beauty. We are not made less because our bodies are weathered by Father Time. If anything, we are made more. The knowledge we acquire through the tribulations we face accumulates. If we mature as we age, by the time we have reached the age of the crone, we should be a wealth of experiences and knowledge. We should be a library ready to share with those around us. We should be well-written books full of adventures, ready to share our worn pages and the stories within.  

(Obviously, this is not always the case. Personality disorders, untreated mental illness, and being an asshole are a motherfucker. The inability to change and accept your faults hinders the ability to grow and learn. But that’s talk for another day.)

I don’t want to be frozen in place forever. Life was not ment to be lived in stasis. I want to evolve and grow old. More than anything, I want to experience life and learn. I want to learn all the things. The good ones and the bad. And life can only be learned by undergoing the passage of time.

Life is fleeting. We must respect and enjoy its passing.

So bring on the wrinkles. Bring on the gray hair. I welcome the bent fingers and curved spine and the age spots and the declining eyesight. I want to be the old woman with silver hair, covered in tattoos, sitting under the old oak tree teaching grandchildren how to snap peas. Or how to tell if a storm is going to be bad. I want to tell them stories like my grandmaws told me. I look forward to my older self and all the adventures that await. I don’t care what society tells me. When it’s time for me to be a crone, I will wear the title proudly.


The Normalcy in Magick

Picture this Dear Readers,

I am standing in my front yard. The light from the full moon shines down upon me. Coupled with the warm glow from a light deep within my home, my face is illuminated as I call the corners and cast a circle in the grass below me.

In the circle, a small collection of crystals glitter in the moonlight. A pitcher of collected rainwater reflects the broken sky above, with glimpses of stars and the Moon herself peeking through.  freestocks-org-425057-unsplash

 

The late October night around me swells. The crisp air, finally fulfilling Autumn’s definition causes goosebumps on my exposed flesh. I raise my arms in total awe and thankfulness. It is late and the neighbors have long turned off the lights in their windows. The street has been asleep for hours, no one is out but me.

The wind rattles the old rosemary bush near my front door and the smell fills the air. And in that, lost in the smell, the cold, and the connection to the moon, I am home.

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Now let me tell you how it really happened.

While all of that is true, and all of that did happen, it probably looked nothing like how you just imagined it did.

We tend to think of any working of witchcraft as this ultra-feminine well maintain beautiful artform. Basically, we either all look like a young perfectly made up Stevie Nicks with our flowing layers of hair and fabric twirling in the breeze or like the cast of some CW show. I can assure you Dear Readers, that ain’t me.

As I stood there under the moon, in all my glory, I was anything but well maintained. My hair, which is dyed black, except for the bleached part around my face, was tied on the top of my head in a messy loose ponytail. It’s only bleached in that area to hide the gray that is coming with a vengeance at my temples. I can’t wear it in a bun because it the tightness gives me headaches. So I have like this messy valley girl 80s vibe constantly just to keep it out of my way.

I wasn’t wearing one of those cool witchy flowy outfits for my ritual either. I had on a pair of Halloween theme leggings I got from Wal-Mart because they were cheap and super comfy. Plus I’m a sucker for anything with a pumpkin and a bat on it. 

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I was also wearing an oversized Golden Girls t-shirt with the collar cut out. I had borrowed my husband’s slide on sandals because I’m a baby and my feet are really tender. Walking outside in the dark barefoot seemed like trouble waiting to happen so the grass, which was a little longer than it should have been for this time of year, tickled my toes.

The sounds of the night that surrounded me? Most of them were dog barks and police sirens. And someone who really needs a new muffler.

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The romanticization of witchcraft in modern culture has given everyone, on both sides of the broom, the wrong idea about what is and isn’t witchcraft.

While witchcraft can be long black dresses and All Black Everything, it can also be burning sage while listening to Johnny Cash and wearing your ratty sweatpants. It can be all rituals and rites but it can also be drawing sigils with mustard on your kid’s sandwiches on while packing their lunches.

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It can be lighting candles and sprinkling Flordia water or it can be noticing that certain bird landed on your car on a certain day.  I think the amount of normal that is actually in witchcraft gets painfully underrepresented.

We are not all fairy tale creatures or lead characters in a story. We just normal people who have normal people lives. Yes, we use magick and talk with spirits and some of us have gods and goddesses. But we have bills and jobs, some of us have kids and cats and laundry to do too.

We are our magick and our magick is us.

It’s as wonderful and really at times as boring as we are. If we are going to let it be part of us, it’s got to be all of us.

The good parts and the waiting in line at the grocery story parts.

The helping the kids with homework parts and the whistling for the rain parts.

The being mad in traffic parts and manifesting change parts.

The praying that there is enough gas in the tank to get home parts and the making shit happen parts.

It’s not quite shadow work. These are not hidden parts of ourselves we have forgotten. These are parts of ourselves we overlook because they are so mundane.

This is everyday work. It’s part of who we are and what we do. As much as it’s ingrained in us, it is in our Magick.

So never feel bad if your practice doesn’t look anything like what you’ve read or seen before. Don’t feel like you’re a failure because your altar isn’t Tumblr or Instagram perfect. And never, ever feel you aren’t witchy enough. What you see other’s presenting is not the standard you should measure yourself or your Craft by. Other people and their path, whether real or for just for show, has diddly squat to do with yours.

You and your magick are just fine the way you are. You’re normal. It’s normal.  It doesn’t have to be flashy. It just has to work for you.

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Diverging

I had set the alarm to go off thirty minutes earlier that morning.  I’ve never been one to sleep hard, so I chose a light twinkling sound that would be just enough to wake me up. I gathered the clothes I had laid out beside my side of the bed the night before.

You know how when you’re trying to walk quietly but it sounds like you have tap shoes on your feet? That was my struggle as I walked down the hall. I held my breath as I passed doors with sleeping children behind them.

It wasn’t until I was in the living room that I allowed myself to breathe. I quickly pulled on pants and slipped shoes on my feet. The dog lifted his head from his pillow, decided I wasn’t worth moving for and went back to sleep.  I grabbed my purse and keys from beside the door and quietly locked the door behind me.

I walked to my car in the dark. The day was more than a handful of minutes away. If I could get out of the driveway and on the road before anyone in the house realized I was gone, I’d be okay.

The car was unlocked and started easy. The shifter was stiff as I slid it into reverse and backed out of the driveway. I popped it up into drive and just like that, after all that quietness, I was gone…

To Wal-Mart.

Wait, you thought this was the story of me leaving my family and running off to be a free woman?

Oh no, this is not that story.


This is the story of waking up early to go to Wal-Mart to get cleaning supplies and some cash for yet again another school fee.

Why didn’t I just go to an ATM and get the cleaning spray later, you ask? Because my dumb bank, Bank of ABunchofFuckingIdiots, doesn’t have an ATM in my backassward town.8d1 

And when it comes to service fees I get possessed by Red Forman from That 70s Show. I will go out of my way to keep the $3 ATM fee for trying to get my own money. I shouldn’t have to pay for my own money! Or pay extra for a company to accept my payment online!

 


Now that my rant is over. I’ll be honest with you.

While driving in the dark and quiet of the predawn hours, the idea of leaving did dance in my head. I was a little dazed by how easy the idea came to me and how easy it would have been to execute. I could have just taken the car and all the shit in my purse and just keep going.  I have a phone with Google directions on it, I could have just gone anywhere. In the three-mile trek to the local superstore, my life could have totally changed.

In my life, I’ve seen a number of women who have done this very thing. They’ve uprooted themselves from their lives and just…fucking left. Like just up and, POOF, gone.

Not all of them did it with a car on a dark road. Some did it with a bottle of pills. Some did it with hookups from Craigslist. Some even did it with nothing more than their own ego. They decided one day to separate themselves from their families. And more times than not, they never came back.

And the longer you think about it and the more you tilt your head to change your view, blame becomes hard to stick on them. Being a mother is hard. It’s really fucking hard.

You take your life and you use it, for however many years it takes, to help guide someone else into theirs. You’re on call continuously. Personal time is almost nonexistent. Hell for the first nine months, your body isn’t even yours anymore. Then they spend the next forever coming into the bathroom when you’re trying to pee. The definition of personal time gets changed a whole lot.

The definition of responsibility gets changed too. Because suddenly, you are responsible for so much more than yourself and your path. Mothers are often solely responsible for the upbringing and strategic planning of that upbringing. We sign forms and check temperatures, change diapers and administer medicine. We are the boo boo kissers and the nose wipers. We encourage, discipline, maintain and inspire. And we are expected to do that all the time, as needed, every day.

So the fantasy of wandering out of frame or driving off into the sunset is a real thing. And I for one don’t feel guilty about it.

I would never leave my family. I don’t need to justify my love for them by telling you here that I love them. I would do anything for them. And in a lot of ways, I have. I lost myself in them. I’ve forgotten myself for them. I’ve taken every “right” path even when I didn’t want to or knew it would do me harm. And that’s okay. That’s what my role is. I know what my job requirements are.

But there’s still the feeling sometimes that I’d like to get away. Runaway to somewhere no one knows me by the name of “Mom” and start over. The desire to be wholly independent is sometimes palpable. The hand I got dealt in life had me being a caregiver at a young age. It’s not surprising that by now, three decades into being alive, I want to taste the lightness of being free from caregiving. I’ve been doing it for a very long time. Everyone needs a break.

But life doesn’t afford us those breaks often. And when it does, it pretty much always feels too foreign to enjoy. That’s why the fantasy of taking off and walking away is so tantalizing. It’s our little taste of escape, that when tempered correctly, hurts no one. It’s an indulgence we need to try to keep our wits about us. And with the weight we have to carry constantly, we need that help.


In the life that lies on the other side of the left-hand turn I never take, I am a professional writer. Maybe for VICE, maybe for Rolling Stone. I live in a small apartment with a pug named Deadpool. I have no children, I fill out no school forms, I have no husband. I’m happy, but it’s in a differently shaped way.

Making up the world Alternate Angela lives in does not mean I don’t love where Actual Angela is. I very much do. This life is hard and sometimes unfair. But I don’t want it to be anything but what it is.

No one has better summed up these feelings than everyone’s favorite red haired country singer, Reba McEntire. (And if she isn’t yours, go listen to “Fancy” until she is).

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When Dinosaurs Ruled The World

In the summer of ‘93, I was an eight-year-old jorts wearing tomboy, covered in mosquito bites and baseball caps. I spent most of that summer playing in the dirt at my great grandma’s house. It had been a weird year for me. I was a year or so removed from a near catastrophic knee injury (remember kids, don’t ride double on a moped. Not even with your dad), my sister was a toddler and my mother was dealing with an impending hysterectomy. It was a very confusing time. In the chaos that all of that brought, I found solace in three things. Baseball, pro wrestling, and dinosaurs.

 

And 1993 was a very, very good year to love dinosaurs.

 

The commercials for the movie started earlier in the year. Water rippling in colossal footprints, talons through metal gates and the now iconic clip of a young girl shining a giant flashlight into a dilating pupil of something huge and monstrous. I was hooked. I was feverish. I don’t think, outside my family and my little mutt puppy, there was anything I loved more. Without really knowing much about the movie, or any movie really, I knew I had to go. I had to see it.

Pretty soon, my closest cousin was in on the excitement. We’d spend hours reenacting the trailer over and over each time adding a little bit more. We’d trampled through our great grandma’s woods for hours searching for dinosaur bones and pretending the chickens were velociraptors. The briars and kudzu were toxic plants from another age. Smashed elderberries were our blood stains as we battled imagined terrible beasts.

 

When we finally made it to the local cinema (which teenaged me would nickname “The Enema”  much later) we were beyond ready. We paid our nominal fee, grabbed some over buttered popcorn and sat in the darkness.

 

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The next 2 hours and 7 minutes would change my life. 

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And not all of that change was because of the prehistoric beast in the story. Even my eight-year-old brain understood how different this movie was. Yes, it had special and practical effects galore.  But it also had female characters doing the heavy lifting. It had eccentric weirdo-nerds saving the day by loving their craft openly and out loud.

Ellie Sattler was never a damsel in distress. She was a woman of science. Even though she was in a relationship with Grant, she was his equal. Her knowledge was her own. It wasn’t built around her connections. Her bravery, courage, and intelligence made her a hero. She was brave not only in dealings with the dinosaurs on the island but also with the hubris of the males around her.

 

Lex Murphy wasn’t a clueless little rich girl. She was a hacker daredevil that helped reset the park and ensure the group’s survival. Yeah, she screamed a lot, but who the hell wouldn’t? She was also a woman of morals. Even the in the midst of the worst event of her life, she stuck to her beliefs in vegetarianism. If I were being chased by hungry carnivores, I’d probably want to rip some meat apart solely out of spite. She was loyal to herself and her family, biological and collective.

 

Ian Malcolm was more than a sweet talker in a leather jacket. He was like the 007 of chaos theory. He was cool, he was suave, he was unapologetic. He made math and being a geek sexy. He was also unbending in his opinions. He was unafraid of the fat cats with deep purses. He constantly viewed his truth as being more worthy than monetary gain. And he was right.

 

Jurassic Park inspired me in ways I don’t think I fully understood until much later. It strengthened my desire to do well in what years later would be touted as the STEM field. Because of how important math, science, and tech was in that movie, it pushed me to focus on those avenues and go further. Even on an elementary school level, I knew that if I wanted to actually become a paleobotanist, I was going to have to focus on math and science. Math was a struggle for me when I was younger. But that one night at the theater (and many, many Blockbuster rentals) showed me how important that struggle was.

 

That night, watching that movie, changed my young life. The next year at school I was placed in the gifted and talented program.
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Now let’s jump 25 years forward.

33 year old me is standing in the same theater (now known only as “The Enema” in my mind) with my just turned 10-year-old son going to see the latest in the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. We grab popcorn and soda and take the same outdated cushioned seats that I sat on in my single digit years.

 

Everything in the theater is almost the same as it was a quarter of a century before. The curtains covering the walls were still dark, but I’m not sure whether it was from age or dust. The seats were squeaky and uncomfortable, from hundreds of butts spending hundreds of hours of movie escapism in them. The popcorn was still less than grand, but still not quite as overpriced as the mega cinemas out of town. The ticket prices are still incredibly low, even with the dollar increase. (“All shows before 6, all seats, $4”). The No Smoking sign was still there but it now read No Texting. It was the very same place with just a slight timeline shift.

 

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To celebrate his tenth year of life, the Not So Little Anymore Guy and I were going to watch some dinosaurs. He had seen the other Jurassic Park movies, but not in the theater. I hoped that the magic I felt as a young person would still be in there for him. I hoped that the movie would inspire him the same way its predecessor had inspired me. I wanted him to see the connection between absolute badassery and science. I wanted those strong characters that showed him there was no need to fit into any one stereotype. You can be this AND that at the same time.

 

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Instead, we got a disaster movie full of generic bad guys, flat characters, and jump scares. It just didn’t have the same magic that the first movie had for me. I don’t think he came away from the movie wanting to jump into science or to study dinosaurs. He was excited, he had a great time, but in the five minutes or so drive home (small towns for the win), he was pretty much over it. The movie was all fluff and no filler. There was no meat on those bones dancing around under all that dino CGI. It’s not one of those things where I expected him to be moved the same way I was at his age. I wanted him to have his own experience and I had great hope it would be wonderful.  I just expected the movie makers to do better. I miss the heart that the original movie had. Maybe I’m looking back with nostalgia in my eyes. Maybe we live in a time where it’s easier to produce thousands of frames of computer generation instead of sustainable storylines. I don’t know. It’s like the whole movie felt like a glass of soda after being left out all night.
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I don’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t have fun and enjoy him grabbing for my hand when a there was a surprising swerve. I did. I loved seeing the movie with him so much. I know how special that moment was, for both of us. In a handful of years, he’s going to be a teenager. I will probably, at least for a short moment in time, not be his favorite person. Soon, I will be the out of place dinosaur, living in an era not my own.  And that’s ok! That’s how things are supposed to work.
This trip to the movies, just the two of us, will be memorable forever. The experience of us giggling to each other after a sudden scare or whisper-yelling that the old lady down front needs to get off her phone will forever be recorded in my heart as something significant. Shared moments always are. The movie may have lacked the importance that its predecessor had for me, but the event of seeing it with my son was worth so much more.
I wouldn’t trade it for all the money spent on special effects in all the Jurassic Park movies.
I never became the paleobotanist that I dreamed of becoming. I never became a computer hacker or a chaotician or any type of person of science. I became a mom. And while I’m not bringing the stories of the past to life for another try at existence, I am trying to make a path for the future by loving my kids the way they need to be. And if that’s by having special moments watching less than stellar films, then I’ll gladly go see the next five Jurassic Park/World movies.
Dinosaurs ruled the world once. Soon the same will be said of us humans. We shouldn’t expect every generation to be motivated and inspired by the same things.

Life, after all, finds a way.

Spider Webs-07

Happy Obligation Day

Mother’s Day 2018 is officially in the bag. Another year, another series of cards, flowers, saccharine dollops of love and clickbait headlines like What Moms REALLY Want filling up your feeds. TV and radio commercials tell you about bouquets, hearts that look like butts necklaces and weekend getaways more frequently than they bring you the news. Every store has circulars and signs explaining how best to use your money to prove your love for your mother. Instead of being inspiring, these endless suggestions make Mother’s Day seem like an obligation.

And like Victory Gin, holidays of obligation leave a bitter taste.

I should be the prime target for this Hallmark holiday. I’m a mother of four. I like flowers. Shiny things catch my eye. I’d be so down for a spa day. But something about how Mother’s Day is celebrated really crumbles my cornbread. It feels too commercial, too disingenuous, too consumeristic.

My umbrage for it all probably has something to do with my personal mother quandary. Yes, I have a mother. Yes, she’s still alive. But she’s not worth the spit on the back of a stamp. She’s the fly in my self-esteem punch bowl. I have more things to vilify her for than celebrate. If anything, Mother’s Day is a reminder that of the hole in my life that she created that keeps me on the other side of normal.

Personal feelings aside, Mother’s Day has a pretty interesting history.

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Ann Maria Jarvis

The roots of Mother’s Day start with Ann Maria Jarvis. She was an OG social activist who cultivated women’s and health groups during and after the Civil War. With only four of her possibly 17 children reaching adulthood because of the effects of childhood diseases, she became a champion for better care and fought for more sanitary conditions.

It was Ann’s daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis (Yes, Ann Maria the mother had Anne Marie the daughter. How Norman Bates is that shit?) that made Mother’s Day an event.

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Anna Marie Jarvis

Looking to find a way to honor her deceased mother, Anna held a memorial celebration at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908. (In the years since the site has been renamed The International Mother’s Day Shrine. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.) In the flair of her mother, Anna made the memorial for more than just herself. She incorporated all mothers in this remembrance as she felt that maternal figures were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. It was Anna who introduced the idea of gifting carnations to mothers. She gave the Church 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to commemorate her mother’s decades long service. In sharing these flowers with the mothers in attendence, a trend was born.

But eventually, even Jarvis struggled against the river of commercialization. She wanted the purity and sacredness of the day of remembrance observed, not made into a money-making tool by the floral, jewelery, and candy industries.

She was quoted as saying:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

Jarvis went so far as to try to rescind the day in 1943 by organizing a petition. Her efforts did not get far because later that year she was, and I swear Dear Reader I am not making this up, committed to Marshall Square Sanitarium. She would die in that sanitarium five years later, penniless.

The history and the commercialism of the holiday make it a bit complex. My personal feelings make my experience of the day a little bit more complex. But my experience is not the same for everyone. Some people love Mother’s Day. Some people very much respect the idea and the methods in which that idea is delivered. And that’s totally cool! I am not here to ruin what others care very deeply about. That would not be fair of me at all.

We are all familiar with what Nietzsche said:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Applying that thought to Mother’s Day is wise. Not every mother is Kitty Foreman or Clair Huxtable. That also means that not every mother is the cold cream faced Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. Somewhere between is where most mothers, just like people, land.

Celebrating or not celebrating is an individual choice.  Whatever your decision is, make sure it’s one made out of compassion and not out of obligation.obligationday

 

 

Disconnected

I don’t have pretty words to dress it up. I don’t have metaphors to make it relatable.

I’m drained. I’m empty. I’m disconnected.

This year started in the red. My husband had a scary hospitalization that has since lead to months of dealings with the VA and his jobs HR department. And if you have ever dealt with the VA you understand what a headache that is. More than just the administrative frustrations, I’ve been worried. I’m a worrier by nature so his inclement health has heightened my natural protocols to be a worry wart. Forms, phone calls, driving downstate to the regional clusterfuck of a medical facility, it’s all a perfect storm of frustration and low key fear.  But like I wrote about here, I pulled on that heavy crown and dealt with it

But added to the weight of reigning, is the weight of plebeian life. Kids, schools, pets, and domestic adventures weigh a thousand fucking pounds on a good day. But when you’re running on almost empty, they weigh even more. Balancing doctors visits and IEP meetings, with grocery trips, homework and family dinners requires more patience that I have left in the tank. The chaos of normal life glows neon under the light of stress. And guys, that annoying fucking glow is starting to hurt my eyes.

There are so many things I’m carrying that don’t belong to me. I think sometimes my compassion gets ahead of me and takes the friendship into therapist territory. I often have soft boundaries and am just so thrilled that someone trusts me enough to bring their problems to me I don’t know when to excuse myself. For me, and I think other empaths, emotions are viral. The feelings and energies of others act like a contagion and take over the host. More times that I should have allowed, that host was me.

It’s a balancing act and I’m the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This wavering existence and the darkness it brings has made it hard for me to be me. It’s severed me from the things that I’ve really loved. As more things pile on to my haphazard load, the more I pull away from myself. The things I’ve enjoyed have become harder and harder for me to accomplish.

How do you reconnect? That’s the big question. Thankfully, the internet is full of advice. Self Care is a hot topic. You can find hints and tips from Facebook to Pinterest and back. Hell, I even wrote about it here. That part isn’t hard. The hard part is making yourself commit and implement those strategies into your life. The struggle is not in finding information, it’s in using it.

I don’t have answers. I could sit here and preach to you like the Southern Baptists that pepper my genetic background. I could bombard you with recommended things to try that would guarantee you some connectivity to your life. I could easily just copy and paste some list from some other blog. But honestly, I’m not a good liar. I can’t bullshit well. That’s why I keep my ass away from the poker tables. (That and my horrible math skills.)

So I’m just going to admit that I have a lot to work on. I will acknowledge my part in my own struggle. I will tell you that this is a public declaration that I need to step up my self-care game. I’m going to find the fray in the wires between where I am and who I want to be and stitch them back together. I’m going to grab the receiver and complete the call.

pavan-trikutam-1660-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

 

 

 

Featured Image Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

The Problem With Purity Rings

After days of conversation and hours of introspection, my husband and I have decided that on our son’s thirteenth birthday we’re giving him a necklace. Unlike the “chains” that so many others boast about this necklace will be a locket. Inside that locket will be a picture of me.

More than just a lovely picture of his forever smiling mother, this locket will be a promise between my son and I. It will be a promise that from the day he receives it to the day he says “I do”, he will love no other woman as much as he loves me. This necklace will be a physical representation of the connection between us. And it will always remind him that no matter what, Mother knows what’s best for him. Every time he wants to make a decision on what to do, he’ll feel the necklace around his neck and will think of me and consider what I’d say in the matter.

*record scratch*

What? Is that too Norman Bates for you?

If the concept of that Mommy Dearest necklace makes your skin crawl, then so should the idea of a daddy-daughter purity ring.

 

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Photo by Jacob Rank on Unsplash

 

Purity rings, also known as promise or chastity rings, are typically given to a young girl in the Evangelical community as a commitment to chastity. A fashionable part of the abstinence-only sex education club, the purity ring is like a wedding ring but in a creepy incestual sort of way. Typically silver and simple, some of the rings have witty little mottos stamped into the metal while some feature a cross wrapped in a lazy sort of swoop way around the finger. Diamonds or their lower cost alternatives are also frequently used.

Instead of being between two consenting adults starting their lives as a wedded couple, the purity ring is typically between father and daughter. It signifies that the daughter will remain chaste until she marries. Since “purity” is all that is clean and beautiful in their world, the ring will help keep the girl on the straight and narrow. It’s a giant bubble of Godliness that protects her from the filth of premarital sex and the temptations of the secular world. Because of course, a young woman’s worth is totally dependant on how “pure” she is. Who needs brains, talent, or personality when you can say you’re morally unsullied?

Two of the high profile organizations responsible for the popularization of the purity ring in America are the True Love Waits* movement and Silver Ring Thing* movement. The mission’s statement on the Silver Ring Thing  (abbreviated as SRT, cause abbreviated are cool) reads:

“To inspire sexual wholeness in this generation through the power of the Gospel.”

It goes on to explain a little bit more:

Silver Ring Thing is a radical response to culture’s view of love and relationships.  Our events inspire teens to defy the meet-up, hook-up, break-up culture of today and discover true life found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This goes way beyond just ‘purity’ to embrace our identity and pursue a lifestyle that brings honor and glory to God.”

Sounds like some party people right? Part of the allure of groups like this is that they make their message seem hip. Most utilize a concert like atmosphere that rivals most rock bands. Some use comedians and celebrity testimonials to influence their audience.  More than that, they understand how the teenage brain works.

 

 

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Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

 

Peer acceptance is a key element to a young person’s development. If you’ve known a young person for any amount of time, you’re well aware of how important being accepted is to them. So for this movement to prey upon youths desire to fit in is as genius as it is disturbing.

While young people who make pacts to lose their virginity is a topic for countless exposes, tv shows, and movies, the reverse is not true. The market for hive minded purity was largely untapped. That was until these movements began their “Purity is cool! God is rad!” message. Based on the way young people work, the message went viral. Not because it was actually believed but because it was believed in mass.

The creepiness factor of a father, mother, or organization stomping on a child’s bodily integrity is huge. Forcing a child to take a vow on what they do with their body is troublingly archaic. It’s a practice of eliminating the sovereignty of a child before they can fully understand the meaning. While the common joke is to call followers of religions sheep, that’s exactly what this causes. The children grow up not understanding that their body is their own. This causes a dependence upon a hierarchy that puts the child on the bottom with parents and the church standing tall above them.

In Conclusion

The practice of purity rings is troublesome. It’s a restrictive, oppressive act that teaches children they are not in control of the only thing they truly have, their bodies. It is no wonder that we struggle with body autonomy in this country if this practice is so commonplace. So much time was spent wondering how to control what children do with their bodies, no one thought if they should.

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* Call it shitty writing, but I’m not linking to the organizations mentioned in the text above. You’re welcome to Google them on your own. I don’t want to support them by sending any traffic their way. After cruising their pages for information, I feel mighty dirty.