Writing, Running, Being.

The finish line is a shifty Thing and what is life, but reckoning?
Ani DiFranco

Monday, February 18, 2008

good exists

"Grace" is one of those Christian buzz words. It has about 20 dictionary definitions. The one that happened to me yesterday was number three: favor or goodwill. Saturday was sunny and above 50 degrees. After finishing my morning group run with Jonas in the Chariot at the Air Force Academy, I was not yet ready to retreat indoors for the day. I got overzealous and decided to run Barr Trail. The Chariot is too big to push up Barr Trail, so I tied Jonas as tight as possible onto my back with my Mei Tai. I ran up 45 minutes then turned to walk down. I hadn't anticipated the treachery of the snowy descent. It was no bueno. On the way down a particularly icy section I was stopped by a couple who undoubtedly thought I was the worst mom in the world; either that or the dumbest. But they didn't stop me to lecture me or to call CPS on me. They stopped to offer me the woman's Yaktrax. I declined several times but they insisted. Already embarrassed to be caught in a moment of supreme senselessness, I finally accepted the kind gesture. I might be an idiot, hiking icy trails with a 7 month old baby on my back, but I'm not an evil idiot. If these Yaktrax were going to save my child's life, than I was a fool not to take them.

We arranged for a spot to leave them at the trail head and I said many thank-yous. The man lent me his arm to steady myself as I stretched the Yaktrax over my running shoes. Then I took off down the trail. I had been hiking less than a minute when the man caught up to me and said "You know what, why don't you just keep those, we'll get new ones, it's not a problem" Again I tried to argue but again he insisted. Those Yaktrax really did save our lives on the way down. I don't know how I would have handled it without them. Hiking down Barr Trail in the snow is hard enough without a baby on your back, throwing off your center of gravity so I don't know what made me think I could do it initially.

So grateful was I to those people that I smiled all the way down the trail. I felt like the Grinch at the end of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" when his heart swells out of his chest. Sometimes people surprise me with their goodness. Their Grace. Just when I start thinking the world is a terrible place full of violence, poverty and apathy , people like them show up to donate Yaktrax to an ill-equipped young mother on an icy trail and restore my faith in humanity. The world is still a terrible place, but Good exists.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Panis Angelicus and other Catholic Classics

Panis Angelicus and other Catholic Classics

Why are mothers compelled to sing when their infants cry? It's not soothing. No. Not at all. Especially when that singing mother is yours truly. If anything it makes babies scream harder and louder. When Jonas and I find ourselves in a situation where he is unhappy and I can't do anything about it, say, driving on the highway, it is always such a stressful thing. First it starts out as a whimper, or a few minutes of consistent grunting. Then it escalates to a cry. Before I know it, there is a screaming banshee in the back seat in the midst of a complete emotional meltdown that I have absolutely no control over. I panic. Biologically, mothers are programmed to hate the sound of screaming babies. This is Mother Nature's way of ensuring that an infant's basic needs are met. Those basic needs do not include being sung to in an out of tune, off-tempo, don't-quit-your-day-job fashion. So why is this my first inclination? I do not know. All it does is annoy Jonas even more. Hell, I even annoy myself when I do it.

Tonight Jonas cried the whole way home from Chilis and in a pure state of panic, I frantically searched the archives of my mental music collection for appropriate songs that might provide some comfort for my hysterical child. Don't ask me why but all I could come up with were Catholic hymns. I can't even remember the last time I attended Mass, let alone participated in the Offertory Hymn with an open Misselette in hand, but "Be Not Afraid" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "Come With Me Into The Fields" were filling my brain and flooding my memory like incessantly played-out Top Forty pop songs.

I sang those hymns tonight like a Crucifix-wearing, florally decked, shoulder-pad sporting, poodle haired, Eucharistic ministering, bake sale organizing bona-fide Church Lady! I wasn't a crazy white trash mom speeding down I25 in a Saturn with a butt-crack in the bumper and a wailing pant-less baby in the back seat. No. I was an angel. A celestial being. A beautiful, singing divine messenger, stopping crime and ending wars with my magical melodic voice. My enchanting song made rapists stop mid-thrust and reexamine their consciences. My captivating croon filled the world's hungry with the sensation of a thousand Chipotle burritos each. Even the homeless found shelter in the confines of my Christly carol.

Triumph all ye Cherubim
Sing with us ye Seraphim
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn
Salve Salve Salve Regina

All the problems of the world were solved when I became a singing angel in my car. All except the problem at hand. Jonas continued to cry. Apparently he wanted nothing to do with my holy fantasy. He didn't care whether his mom was a hooker or a Heavenly being. Bottom line, his basic need (whatever it happened to be at that particular moment) was not being met. And calling on the Lord through jumbled fragments of "On Eagles Wings" was not going to ease the situation no matter how breathtaking my voice.

Next time I will just let him scream. I will offer no consolation as it has proved ineffective thus far. If an Angel of God can't pacify my child than I sure as hell can't. Five bucks to the friend who can name this tune:

"It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back..."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

from cheese to carrot

Stupid American Idol never fails to make me cry. I think the producers have found a way to weave Estrogen into the Alpha waves that my TV is sending out into my living room. One note of a Whitney Houston song (one that I would normally scan shamelessly past on the radio) coming from the belly of a 18 year old Pet Smart cashier on a mission to get the hell out of Dodge and my eyes turn to watery pools of emotion. Barry White, Celine Dion, Luther Vandross and the like have never succeeded at making me cry with their corny ballads, so how is it that these sweaty and awkward teens are evoking so much emotion from me just by singing a single a cappella verse during auditions? I don't know. Sometimes I say to myself "Who ARE you?!" Like today, when I changed my favorite cake from Cheese to Carrot. I just don't know. I surprise myself sometimes.

My soul is a big fat black woman singing the blues in a smoky New Orleans bar. She is prisoner of pit stains and bad breath and utter poverty but she knows why the caged bird sings...
My soul gets high and drinks Southern Comfort with Janis Joplin.
My soul gets low and shaves her head like Britney.
My soul gets off on sunshine and wind and the stars in the San Luis Valley because they're so close you could jump up and catch them in your beer bottle when you're really drunk.
My soul is B Minor because my fingers still stretch and struggle to keep the strings down and fuck it if it never comes out right.

Alas, I am still a white girl as far as this life is concerned. Just trying to keep the snakes at bay. Just living one day at a time. Paycheck to paycheck. Boyfriend to boyfriend. Apartment to apartment. Mile to mile. Just another white girl who will never make it to American Idol to be discovered. Just another white girl still choking on dreams as they cut to commercial.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

snakes in the brain

Brian calls them snakes. Snakes in the brain. And I guess that's a good way of putting it. The snakes have been writhing a bit more violently than normal lately and he thought I might need to talk about it. The thing is, I'm done talking. I have decided that life is not a long winded poem, a good conversation, or a concerned email from a friend. And I don't need to "talk it out". I need to do everything but talk it out. I need to sweat it out bleed it out piss it out puke it out shit it out and be done with it. Because life is not a conversation about life. It's the verb. The air I breathe the pain and all the joy I feel and the things I do as opposed to the things I say. So I'm done being lame. I'm going snowboarding tomorrow. I suppose that's a start.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

poison summer

Last night as I was sliding in my Saturn down Garden of the Gods Road in the snow, a song came on the radio that took me back:

The last time I went on the annual family vacation out East, I was a posh fifteen year old. I couldn't believe how completely unlawful it was that I should be forced to share this twenty-eight hour road trip with one dork, one brat, and two insanely illogical authoritarians. It was a complete injustice that I would have to put up with this totally inferior clan for no less than the seemingly impossible duration of TEN days! I had a Discman, a journal and a yearbook full of people telling me how awesome I was. The Discman to drown out the unbearable drones of Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura, the journal to record the abominable actions of the travesty that was my family and to express every detail of my maltreatment. And of course, the yearbook to make me feel a little closer to the ones who knew what it was like to be cool. My friends, the people who "get it".

There are parts of my self whom I wish to go back in time and kill. Or at least sternly reprimand. One of these selves is a fourth grader whose floral stretch pants and scrunchy socks were thought to be all the rage. The other is a sixth grader who thought her killer Down's Syndrome impression was second to none. Another is that surly fifteen year old in the back seat of the gray Plymouth Voyager on the way to Long Island to see Grandma.

I don't remember much about that family vacation. It probably went something like this:
Erin stop! Mom, Erin's touching me! Are we there yet? can we go to McDonalds (Teresa) Can I have some pretzles? Hiiiii Graaaandma. Your pants are too long, they're dragging on the ground. Let's go buy you some nice pants. Where are your bangs? You can't grow out your bangs, your forehead is too big! We're going to Mass. I hope you brought something nice to wear to Mass. Do you want to play with the American Girl dolls? I bought a new outfit for Molly and I bought her backpack and her bicycle too. No running on the hardwood floors you'll slip. Take your shoes off in the mudroom. You can play with your mom's old jump rope if you wish. There's also a Skip-It in there. Do you girls like Skip-It?

One thing I do remember very vividly in fact, was the one and only cool person I saw on that vacation. On the ferry to Fire Island. He had Airwalks on his feet, a boom box in his lap, jean shorts and shoulder length brown hair which whipped his face in the salty Atlantic wind. He was at least five years oder than me. Maybe in his mid-twenties. He must have been a camp counselor or something because there were millions of Puerto Rican children swarming about him. Tugging at his shirt, poking him then giggling and ducking out of the way. None of this madness phased him. He was completely relaxed as he closed his eyes and breathed deep and gave himself to whatever was coming out of that boom box.

Intrigued, I moved up a couple of seats to be across from him and to disassociate myself from the cheesy family who kept talking to me in direct violation of our understanding that we were to ignore each other in public. I wanted to see what was written on his "Hello My Name Is.." sticker. I wanted to see what color his eyes were. Most of all I wanted to hear what was coming out of that boom box that seemed to be taking him far far away. As I leaned in I recognized Don Henley's "Boys of Summer". Except at the time I thought it was "Poison Summer" and something about that misconstruction fit perfectly into the little hole I had taken along on the family vacation. "I can tell you/ My love for you will still be strong/ After the "Poison Summer" has gone..."

I fell in love with that guy on the ferry that day. Although I never did find out what his "Hello My Name Is" sticker said, or the color of his eyes, as he had them closed the whole while, there was still something about the way he tapped his foot and drummed the boom box. Something about his hair getting windblown and tangled in perfect conjunction with Don Henley's voice singing "I can see you/ Brown skin shining in the sun..." Something about a little smile on his face that told me he had no idea I was watching, no idea that anyone was watching. Something about the way he was able to put himself in another place just by closing his eyes and listening.

I wondered if he had a girlfriend. I wondered if he called her "Baby." I wondered if he lived in an apartment. I wondered if he was in college. I wondered if he would open his eyes so that we could get married. Whenever I hear "Boys of Summer" I think about that guy and my own "Poison Summer," cursed with spending ten days of quality time with my loathsome kinfolk, only my CDs and my Clearasil to comfort me. It has been almost ten years. Still, when I hear that song I close my eyes and become transported like that guy. I feel the wind on the ferry and I taste the salt in the air. I see his Airwalks tapping and his stringy hair dancing. And I laugh a little inside, because "Poison Summer" is not the name of the song. And looking back, that summer wasn't so bad.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

metaphorical cake

This past week has been a series of ups and downs. Actually just varying degrees of down. Jonas got teeth, Brian got a speeding ticket, I had a full-on anxiety attack, and our bedroom door now has a hole in covered by a full length mirror that holds about as much validity as one you might find in a fun house. The world keeps spinning and I feel as though I'm being flung up against the wall by centripetal force and I'm searching desperately for something to grab onto. I'm looking for something solid to cling to so that I can stop spinning for a moment and relearn simple breathing. I have been distracted by pure things that I am quite unworthy of. My thoughts have been muddled with what if and if only and why why why.

Dani and I discussed weddings yesterday. We both find it to be incredibly rude and tacky when the bride and groom smear cake in each other's faces. As an ex-pastry chef who has baked hundreds of beautiful wedding cakes, Dani was somewhat familiar with this crude practice. Apparently, In the olden days when women had less of a choice in taking on life partners, this was a bride's subtle way of expressing her distaste with the groom she was reluctantly marrying. I can't say I blame her. If smashing cake in someone's face was the one way to express resentment during a time when a woman's words were to be sweet and limited, then I'm glad for those brides. I'm going to love you as it is now my duty, but I must first convey how much I hate the whole idea.

Today I realized that I have been smashing metaphorical wedding cake in Brain's face almost daily since the night the pink line appeared on the EPT. I cannot help resenting him. I remind him everyday how much I loathe his computer and his slurping and his whistling and his cat and the list goes on. I keep picking away at small things because I am denying the real problem. It all came to a head tonight when I was called out for this very problem. I am an asshole.

And there's Brian. On the couch watching Rambo. Escaping the confines of my ridicule. Eluding my nagging voice by seeking solace in machine guns and shouting. That makes me feel like a fucking doll, let me tell ya. He's wiping his face off again and I'm wondering when he will give up. Will there come a time when we can really just sit ourselves down with forks and plates and eat our cake like civilized people? Stay tuned...