Crazy, Loco Love

When I read Karen Maezen Miller’s declaration of love on Mothering in the Middle, I knew after the first two sentences that the post I’d been writing had become a draft for another day.

Crazy, loco love stretches us in more than just directions when it comes to our children. Ms. Miller’s boldness and vulnerability opens up a space for conflict and love to traverse.

On loving a teenager

“They love us in a different way.

I said that when someone asked what it was like to have a teenager.

I feel like we’ve lost a daughter.

My husband said that after a silent and inconsequential Sunday.

Just shut up.

I said that to her after a ride in the car yesterday.

And yet, there is love, so much love between us and it has gone nowhere! I am standing on the high bluff over death valley, infinite openness in all directions, stunned dumb in the emptiness, but I know the space before me is pure love. Pure love. Life grows here, even when we can’t see it. Refreshed in a cool night, fed by invisible rivulets. A whisper of sea sails five hundred miles across five mountain ranges, and the whisper is this.

They love us in a different way.

They love us in the space, the space that is nothing but love…”

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My Sally Fields’ Moment

When Sally Fields accepted her Oscar for Best Actress in Places of the Heart, I bet she never expected that one sentence of her heartfelt speech would’ve been taken out of context and brought on such ridicule.

“And I can’t deny the fact that you like me… right now… you like me.”

Sally Fields

Please, Like Stretch Marks!

 Muchas gracias for your company and support as I Indie-publish Stretch Marks! I’ve submitted the Book Cover Changes, Interior Layout, and the manuscript, which was proofed, again, by three different picky people, myself included. We were stunned to find   punctuation errors and extra spaces we’d missed. So, I proofed it again, just in case. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to purchase it by mid-February!

Blogging and the inevitable criticism

I lap up the advice from seasoned bloggers on their method of managing criticism and am secretly relieved when they admit to handling it as poorly as I do. I’d assumed these highly regarded bloggers, who have tens of thousands of followers, would dismiss the handful of criticism among the hundreds of gratifying comments. Not so!

The tips they offer range from taking deep breaths, going for a walk to sleeping on it, and consistently include a warning to thwart the overpowering temptation to respond right away.

Well, that’s child’s play for those who don’t have an evil twin sister, like I do, lurking over their shoulder prodding them to reply NOW!

I have to wrench her hands from the keyboard and wrestle her to the ground. She fights back with a seductive promise that in a matter of minutes she can compose a wicked reply to put the ignoramus in their place. How dare they disagree with me!

Sometimes I give in, but on the condition that my evil twin sister has to respond on paper, away from the computer, and the submit button. I give her diatribe ample time and don’t dare censor her bombastic remarks. I cringe while she gleefully pummels one of my followers with a thick red marker until she’s exhausted her rage. I only offer a tissue to wipe the drool off her chin.

Next, she must read it out loud to me at least three times. She laughs at her snarky remarks and pouts when I don’t high-five her skewering the poor soul. We pin it up on my bulletin board and stand back, shoulder to shoulder. I thank her profusely. She beams at me. She’s satisfied and goes off looking for trouble elsewhere.

Only then do I respond with humility and gratitude that this person is following my blog and taking the time to offer their opinion.

I find this helps keep me sane and prevents me from making a fool of myself.

I was insane…

I mean infertile.

I wrote those words without equivocation, in a writing trance when nothing else but the truth and I existed. Writing Stretch Marks required mining my past: some nuggets I held up to the light, others I’d leave in the darkness, and many required a pickaxe to unearth.

I’d already written three drafts. This revision had the additional pressure of crafting a prologue. When I’d written those last six words, I’d admitted far more than I’d ever planned on, but it was the truth and what, I believe, holds true for countless women.

When a woman wants to have a baby, heaven help anyone or anything that gets in her way.

I remember my Ob/Gyn at the time, looking at me crossed-eyed when I told her we were still trying. “Why? You’re almost forty!” I fought the urge to kick her on my way out. I changed doctors and charged ahead.

Now, looking back, she was right. Even though I was healthy and fit, my eggs were seemingly in retirement. I disregarded every naysayer and resolutely forged ahead.

I’m glad I did and went in with my eyes wide open. I expected my body and bank account to be pushed to the limits, but I was unprepared for the emotional extremes that seemed to test my sanity.

I garden at night…

when silhouettes and stars accompany my nocturnal weeding, watering, or lately, covering delicate trees and plants against the frost. I retreat outside to think without the Matrix like miasma of testosterone lurking right outside my office door and bouncing off every wall in every room. A boombox of sorts.

My sons don’t follow me either like they tend to do indoors, because there’s no WiFi in the garden.

It’s just me, my thoughts, and the stillness of the garden where there’s a wide berth for rehashing, considering, regretting, and letting go of the bits and pieces of my day.

When I caught myself talking out loud to my mother and grandmothers in the moonlight as if they were sitting at a table, drinking coffee and lighting a cigarette, in a corner of my garden, I froze.

A long ago memory of Nana Herminia swooped me up. I was still in elementary school.

My paternal grandparents lived next door to us. From my bedroom window, I had an eagle’s eye view of her garden where during the day, she wore a pith helmet to guard against the desert sun and a cigarette dangled from her lips as she tended to baby roses and olive trees.

 

Late one night, on my way back from the bathroom, I looked out my window and spotted a teensy tiny light. A speck of a glow. It moved. It stopped. It moved. It became brighter. Lightning bugs? A fairy? A prowler?

 

As my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I recognized the orange glow was attached to my grandmother. I carefully opened the window and heard the water gurgling from the water hose as I followed her.

 

When my older sister woke up, startled, I explained in an apologetic whisper that Nana Herminia was out in her garden watering.

 

“You’re dreaming. Go back to bed.”

“I swear, she’s out there.”

“Then she’s crazy. Go back to bed.”

Nope, she wasn’t crazy at all.

Vetting and The Unexpected Outcome

Earlier this week, I wrote about my dismal attempts to have my sons read my memoir before it’s published this month  – Vetting works much better than bribery.

My eldest son when armed with a mission to vet my memoir, passed on watching The Daily Show with us, and instead took Stretch Marks and went to his room. I wouldn’t have been surprised if, as I switched off lights and reset the thermostat before turning in, I had found the paperback left on the bottom of the stairs or on the dining room windowsill.

I didn’t. I also didn’t ask him the next morning.

Later that afternoon, I was so anxiously caught up in finalizing the proof and book cover design that I forgot to ask my eldest if he’d read any of it.

I didn’t have to.

“I liked it,” my eldest said. I cocked my head at him, I thought he was talking about some cold leftover he’d just wolfed down.  He laughed. “Your book, I liked it.”

“Really?” I sounded sixteen.

He nodded. “Impressive, your writing, I mean.” I took a very long deep breath and sipped some tea. My knees shook.

“I finished it last night,” he said.

I choked up and thanked him. I forgot my previous anxiety and fought the urge to channel Sally Fields during her awkward Oscar acceptance speech and blather, “you like me, you really like me!”

Instead, I started by asking what had surprised him.

Everything he’d forgotten about in Ciudad Juárez was his answer.

 

VETTING works much better than bribery!

Why I didn’t use the word vet before, and save myself a whole lot of trouble and time only attests to  the opacity of my blinders, which I straighten and tighten every morning to keep me focused on my goal–to publish my stories at all costs. And I mean at all costs. Yes, that too!

My teenage sons like the idea that their mother is a writer and a blogger as long as they don’t have to get involved. Well, now they have no choice. Family, friends, and followers  agree–they need to read VET my memoir. It’s imperative they know what I’m about to release to the public.

As soon as I used that three-letter word that the White House throws around like confetti, my oldest son puffed out and said, “Well, why didn’t you just say so?” I swear his posture straightened as I gave him the book and permission to mark it up. He wanted to know when I could take a meeting with him after he vets my book. Later on, when he abandoned  his homework and raked his hand through his thick hair as he vetted Stretch Marks, I fought the urge to dance around the dining room table. He was on chapter four! When my youngest shot him a dirty look and said, “you should be doing your homework,” I almost clocked him.

My youngest prefers reading comic books, National Geographic, and still rereads from his vast collection of Calvin and Hobbs, and so prefers to simply sign a disclaimer. When I said that wouldn’t be fair to him, he said, “I trust you, Mom.” Then he reconsidered and clarified,  “As long as you didn’t write about that time in Big Sur, remember, on Mother’s Day when I accidentally…,” as his eyebrows knitted together. I promised I didn’t. He followed me into the kitchen while I made dinner and continued, “But it would be okay if you wrote about the time we almost burned down the house, or I recycled your wedding ring, or remember when, I hid in that dollhouse at Toys R Us, and I wouldn’t answer, (pause for whooping laughter) even when you started crying.”

He was disappointed that those stories didn’t make it, but we struck a deal that I’d mark those chapters he appears in and he’ll vet those.

I’m beginning to face the music…

from my younger son, who can’t believe I disclosed something quite personal about him in my soon to be released memoir, Stretch Marks. Mind you, the story he’s referring to, happened fourteen years ago when the adoption process held us hostage in Ciudad Juárez and he was two years old.

“Thanks, Mom, now everyone is going to know!” I wanted to counter with, “I wish”, (as in, I wish EVERYONE would buy my book), but instead I stupidly replied that I’d also admitted some pretty awful things about myself. He merely fumed. There is no statutes of limitations in my sixteen year old’s world. I can almost see him hunched over, black Sharpie in hand, redacting that part and many others in the book, before my book signings.

In comparison, my eldest beamed, he clearly loves anything being written about him, good or bad. His burning question: How was Stretch Marks II coming along? I can see him, orange hi-liter in hand, marking up the good parts where he figures prominently, and selling the book at school for an extra  buck or two.

They have not vetted the entire manuscript. But really, now, how many teenagers want to read a memoir written by their mother? And, yes, I do want to know and Hannibal Lechter’s kids don’t count.

For the record, I’ve offered them the opportunity to do so throughout the dozen drafts I’ve written over the years. They’ve smiled politely when I gave them their copy to read. I forced myself out of the room as they thumbed through it, imagining them comic book enthralled as they read. I kept my promise and didn’t grill them about each chapter. In fact, I didn’t bring it up at all. So, when I didn’t find it in the garbage can, I felt victorious. Until I found it  doing double duty along with a stack of Captain Underpants and Dr. Seuss books being used to prop up a bookshelf in the TV room.

So, should I give them another chance?

More wishes…

came in through phone calls where my girlfriends had much to say, their thoughts and stories impossible to capture in any form of correspondence.

Each conversation, some brief and some a half hour-long were all steeped with memory-provoking stories which, still resulted in me crisscrossing my legs and arms. Now laughter and gratitude peppered our talks as we also  buoyed each others’ new endeavors. Right before we hung up each one reiterated their wish.

“I wish people would simply shut up and hug the other person, I mean a real hug, a nice long one where the person can just fall into you.”

“I wish more people understood, that ‘I’m so sorry’ goes a long way.”

“I wish folks hugged more.”

“I wish for people to listen to each other more.”

I also received this comment on the blog (thank you!) and wanted to share it:

“I wish for any women undergoing infertility to find a support group, online or in real life to lean on, to hear her when no one else will listen. To not feel she has to smile through her tears or be made to feel terrible because she cannot sit through another baby shower. I wish that she remember her worth as a woman is not measured by her ability to conceive. I wish that she remember that she can still plan vacations and be romantic with her husband just because without having to monitor her cycle every waking second. I wish that she not waste hours upon hours Googling for the top 10 ways to get pregnant or every crazy potion on the market. I wish she could just love and appreciate what she has in the moment and not put off enjoying her life until she can have a child.”

 

Thank you so much to all of you who sent a wish!

My wish to women going through infertility

I wish you shed off the filmy, suffocating label of infertile with more expediency than I did.

I wish that as soon as you can, you step out, one foot at a time, careful not to trip over the hem of your pent-up feelings, and toe that heap of uselessness away before you take another step.

I couldn’t do it for myself for far too long, even when I knew how to advocate. I instinctively grew claws when my sons entered elementary school and refused the set of labels the caring and concerned teachers and evaluators bandied around.

I countered with their background and that boys were ill-suited for sitting long stretches at a time. I’d blame the summer when my sons lived outside, like feral kittens, in a tent away from the house where they’d pee and contribute to the decimation of invasive shrubs, and shower from the hose. They came in to forage for food only after the parade of ants and beetles in front of their tent flap passed by. They’d settle down, I promised. Just wait and see, I’d smile, just wait, you’ll see.

That’s another post, for another day.

All this to say that only we can refuse any label, even infertility, when it feels glommed on like a facial masque, sucking out the moist juicy you and seemingly rendering our insides into ashes. But, it doesn’t have to define us. It doesn’t have to tattoo itself to our soul. We don’t have to pick it up and clunk it around either, like the Opus Dei, flagellating ourselves in penance.

I did. All of the above and more, but you don’t have to.

That’s my wish for you.