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Today.

I got up gradually, in late morning, read a little bit more of Blood Canticle and checked my various favorite sites to check. It's Sunday after all.

Made Ananda and myself mushroom and brie omelettes with pea shoots on top, and halved salted cherry tomatoes on the side. Mine was a wreck but hers was perfect, i.e., I fucked up the first time and gave her the good one. Delicious coffee a la Grant, that espresso machine was the greatest investment of all time.

Had lavish love sessions with Jake and Elise, cuddling and snuggling and tickling and talking about when they were babies and how they'll always be my babies.

Watered various lovely things.

Buckled down and did a couple of hours of proxy library research and academic writing, with Bach in the bakground. Emailed what I have to the group members I'm working with.

Messaged various people on OkCupid. There were TWO really promising people semi-local today, which is pretty wild. I do not hesitate to message people first. We'll see. I'm ignoring like 10 messages to me that are all bleh, which is all it usually ever is.

Laid around reading more next to Grant, who slept. Attempted and failed to proposition him. Took care of things myself, which has become strangely casual ("I'll give you some time alone"). He's going through a series of personal struggles - depression, illness, tooth troubles.

I'm really proud of how he's taking initiative with those struggles. Actually going to the dentist (which has terrified him for many years), seeking real mental health help. It just takes time.

Found out Aaron was attacked by dogs while out skating. He's ok but a skate is bit up and he was shaken and angry. He knew who the people were as the dog emerged from under a fence while they sat on their front porch and DID NOTHING, so I drove him the miles back to where it happened so he could point it out to me - nobody home. I'm going to at least leave a letter in their mailbox. Sometimes I really hate how inescapable other people's dogs are. I feel like I'm constantly waiting while someone secures an animal or chases it down the street, when I knock on their door, or finding poop in our yard, or walking with someone who is picking up and carrying a sack of poop, or being barked at from behind fences as I walk around the neighborhood... I find a real knockout exception now and then, but for the most part I just don't understand the allure of dogs at all. Kristin got one and has been texting me pics galore and I'm polite, but man, her stories about how adorable it is that he constantly lays in the stinky creek before coming back in to the couch just don't do it for me.

Went and picked Isaac up from a birthday party G had taken him to. Blared Hozier on the way there, talked to him about how the party went the whole way home.

Waded through tedious emailing back and forths with (school) group members who don't seem to understand the need to cite EVERYTHING in a paper, or just how consistent you have to be in your APA styling...

Talked to Ananda about her boyfriend, who was over most of the day, and other things, as we made cream of mushroom soup. Said goodbye to Ethan from around the corner, as he left.

Children are filing off to bed gradually now, Jake very grumpy since this is the first night he and Elise will be back in their own beds, rather than sharing the tv room with a movie at bedtime, since they watched Stranger Things. They LOVED it and have talked about it incessantly, but it also scared the crap out of him. I stayed up late one night last week, showing him the "making of the monster" (costuming and costume actor, CGI layers, etc), which helped a bit, but not enough I guess. I had a talk with Aaron - who shares a room with Jake - to try to ensure he's extra nice to him.

This has been a quiet and subdued kind of weekend, but here are a few perks:
-My Monday classes were inexplicably cancelled!
-There were cardinals out my window several times Saturday, then a big storm - followed by rainbows.
-My lovely front porch mums got a little bit of tumblr attention, which I feel they fully deserve
-Blood Canticle is an Anne Rice book I've had on a shelf for years and never read, but in my searching for "fictional characters that represent me," for that silly facebook thing going around, I did some e-search and found there are MAJOR INTRIGUING PLOT TWISTS in this book, which got me pretty excited. And it's a real page turner so far, unlike a few of the other newer Vampire Chronicles - I still haven't finished Prince Lestat. It has great parts, but too much of it is narrated by Not Lestat. This is all him, and it is thus all awesome.
-We baked pumpkin pies that turned out wonderfully. Ananda and Elise made the crust, and Jake, Isaac, and I did the filling. Yum.

I believe Grant and I are going to go and watch "Kinsey" now. With Pralines and Cream Haagen Daaz. Goodnight world.
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I'm spending 12.5 hours per week in class, now, and about 4.5 hours per week commuting to and from school. Of course, there is also homework.

I LOVE feeling connected to my classmates. I love that there is a group of us moving through this program together, having multiple classes together, and embarking on the beginning of a couple of years together - so different from undergrad, so much more like high school but with more common interests and ideology across the board.

The spectrum of people was dizzying and almost unbelievable at first - the recovering heroin addict who wants to go into helping people with substance abuse. The attorney with a friend who was jailed and disbarred for petty drug use and wants to help change the prison system. The flamboyantly gay man who is there for LGBT policy. The woman who just got back from 2 years in India, where she became certified as a yoga instructor, and decided she wants to bring yoga to the disadvantaged, since it can be done without equipment or memberships, and in troubled neighborhoods where walking doesn't feel safe, and even in a jail cell. The immigrant who lost his mother five years ago when, as soon as they arrived, she fell ill and then died after being refused help at a local public hospital (spoiler: it's the one I loathe) - he's on a mission now to reform protocols for immigrant health care. The blind, 65 year old man who takes the bus in, and wants to inspire others with disability even though his kids wish he'd just retire. Those are 6 people out of a class with only 12 people in it, another of whom is me, talking about death positivity and end of life care....

To be clear I have another class with 35 people in it, it's just that it includes about 10 of those 12, and in general the program let's in I think 50 new people each year (approximately), so it's the same core group with lots of overlapping people in individual courses.

It's strange and interesting to be seen, in my classes. I'm used to moving through school invisibly - since 2010 when I started, I've been taking classes at strange times, and in fits and starts, at huge places where I'd never see anyone from a given class again after that class was done. I did a whole semester online twice, and I was usually a solid decade older than most other students when I was around them. I've never done any kind of "campus life" stuff with clubs or events.

Now, I get someone yelling "Hey Book Writer!" on the way back to my car, and then catching up to talk. I get people adding me on facebook. I get told someone saw an article they think pertains to my interests, and that someone likes my pants. People reference something I did during a role play in front of a class two days later, in a different class. Or they ask if I have notes from a class we're not currently in.

There's also an interesting overlap between this group and my general life, that I didn't expect. A mom I know from the kids' school and GMYS, is in one of my classes. One of my supervisors from the Switchboard is in another. And, I'm currently writing a group paper with somebody who is a mutual friend of one of my good friends. I saw somebody from class at the grocery store the other day - considering that I live 45 minutes from school, it was a surprise.

I'm struggling with the roundtrip 3 times per week when I already do SO MUCH DRIVING on the days I have to go there - yesterday I was in stopped traffic for over an hour twice, and was unexpectedly detoured off the highway, during a different trip... there's so much construction and so many accidents (and yesterday, a bomb threat, and a couple of weeks ago, a sinkhole, and often lately, torrential downpours).

I clash a little, with one of my professors, and feel intimidated by the (punctuality and attendance) standards of another.

I'm also struggling with just how long those 3 days in a row are - from getting my school kids ready to hanging out with, teaching, and carting around Jake and Elise (to their activities,) and then starting my school day as theirs all wind down. The days that I wake at 6:45 to get them out of bed and I don't arrive home again until almost midnight are really something. Of course, it's also beyond epic that Grant is making them good dinners and texting me pics and going shopping, etc.

I'm still working out the time management, as by the time those 3 days in a row are done, I want to completely ignore school for a couple of days before I come back around to studying - which can be ok, and can also not be ok.

The material I'm learning is amazing. I love research, and discussion, and take so many pages of notes and come home bursting with things to say, and ideas. It's almost time to settle on my Spring Practicum already (AAAH! Positive and Negative AAAAH!) and I am vaguely but consistently considering a research assistantship.

I'm sort of confused that I'm already almost done with week 4 of 15.




Grant and I went to New York for 5 days/4 nights, with Ananda. It was our 10th anniversary and her 16th birthday celebrations, and it was a really, really great trip. Some highlights from fairly to most amazing:

Chinese Hot Pot
The giant rocks and hills in the ground being natural, and the lovely trees with skyscrapers right behind them all not being a movie set, in Central Park. I've been there before, but I still stare with Floridian amazement at this surreal shit.
The subway, from real NY subway rats to haunting violin played full volume in a crowded car.
Raclette
THE SHOPPING. What the HELL, we bough so much stuff, from Obscura Antiques and Oddities, from a Brooklyn Flea Market, from Forever 21 in Time Square (which is four stories and has an entire plus sized floor), from Nordstrom Rack (who unexpectedly offered and then gave me a credit card, can you hear the danger alarm going off?)
Being outside and taking pictures at the top of the Empire State Building
The Met, including the current Manus X Machina fashion exhibit
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Dresden Dolls live in Coney Island Ampitheater - and we were comp'd VIP passes for having to deal with a seat change! TO BETTER SEATS. But man, OH MAN, that show.

There is a tag on my tumblr about NY, but I've only included a few things because I just haven't had time.




My children are wonderful, complicated, etc. Ananda is having a hard emotional time, lately, but also downright inspiring in her efforts to cope, and self-care (that's a verb in this case), and reach for help as needed. Aaron is doing fine, Isaac is doing great, Jake is good - Elise is having such wild bursts of spoken language skills, and reading and writing abilities. She is currently beginning 4th grade by age, and she is not there with the reading and writing at all, but she has recently jumped somewhat suddenly from about beginning 1st grader to ending 2nd grader level. It's a big deal! All her voluntary activities involve things like grabbing a stack of books to bring in the car for a ride, and writing up "newspapers" for her My Little Ponies to gossip about each other all over Ponyville with.

I wonder sometimes if Jake and Elise will develop (or reveal?) mental health issues as puberty really takes hold. Ananda has fairly new depression and has always had moderate anxiety. Aaron is seeming more bipolar by the day, though as stated he's in a stable period. Isaac has had severe anxiety all his life, which thankfully is mostly controlled by Zoloft for a couple of years now. The three of them have seen a psychiatrist for varying periods, and been in and out of counseling at different phases for years. We talk about it all very honestly and casually; Grant is depressed, too, and actually talked himself into meds in the process of trying to convince Aaron they're a good idea for him.

They all have plenty of friends, activities, and even romantic relationships. Nobody is actively suicidal or trying to self harm. They do pretty consistently well in school (As and Bs, very good rapport with most teachers), and are pretty artistic - Isaac writes for pleasure in addition to playing his clarinet, Aaron is really emotional about dance and spends hours per day doing that at school, and Ananda warned her visual art teacher that her summer portfolio project was "very dark," because she was "going through some stuff." He's wonderful, told her he's so glad she can use art to purge, and gave her high marks.

There are just also days when rather than getting up to go to school, we have uncontrollable crying with a side of unable-to-get-out-of-bed. Or, I wake up in the morning and find that Aaron's been up all night, mostly on the roof, and is SO EXCITED about the gorgeous sunrise and isn't even tired. Or he makes a Vine account and posts 50 different 6 second videos in one day, each of which is more erratic and bizarre than the last. That is a switch, from the 2-4 VERY EMO dramatically sad Instagram posts that were appearing each night...

Mental illness of various kinds is definitely heavily featured in all of their DNA. I spend a lot of time wondering whether we (as a generation) over diagnose, or people have just refused to be honest in the past. I think often about an episode of Invibilia that I heard over the summer, about how frustratingly HARMFUL it can be for loved ones to try to help, change, and/or cure, mental illness in loved ones - you should check it out, it's really something.

I don't know where the line is between being a teenager and real mental illness, but I do know they are over it. I do a lot of taking people out one at a time (usually at least one per day) and a lot of going behind a closed door with one person at a time, to talk (again, usually at least one per day). I push thoughts of dishes, free time, and homework from my mind to linger in cuddle piles. I spend my ten minute walk between classes glued to my phone trying to connect.

Sometimes I get sick with worry and preoccupation. Other times I'm just tense from my efforts to be endlessly available and always ready to listen warmly. Overall I know they're ok, but I still find myself begging for a hard pressure massage, listening to sad music as I drive home through the dark just to cry and get some of this out, just... ugh.

Jake and Elise have been watching Stranger Things with Grant and me. They're SO INTO IT, even though we have to pause the show every half second to explain things - Elise wants to know what is a morgue, and a coroner, and a state cop, and CB ham radio, and we end up having these wildly long talks about how most people are NOT just a "good guy" or a "bad guy," or going back over a scene to make it more clear what the heck is happening, plot-wise. They're really poised to enjoy it though, being 9 and 10. It is definitely the most intense/mature thing they've really watched, so far.

Aaron is 5'10" - ISAAC is 5'2"! Jake is 5'1". So big, the lot of them. Ananda is stuck forever at 5'3", where she's been since she was 11 (she's 16 now).

Everyone is healthy and beautiful. We do a lot of laughing, and music up dance parties, and play WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH UNO.

I'm (still) using a rescue inhaler so often that I'm afraid I need a maintenance inhaler, and I'm not pleased about it but not sure what to do otherwise, so.... also chewing the everliving fuck out of my fingers, partially out of albuterol jitteriness.

Grant has been on a big calzone and stromboli kick lately (I'm telling you, they are the SAME THING). Shaun and Cristy have come over a lot of weekends, to eat here.

Say hey and by the way, this is a video Grant voiced, Cristy drew, and Shaun animated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FG4-9Tv3q8




Grant and I went to a backyard potluck of a local polyamory group. It was pretty great, better than either of us anticipated - every age and ethnicity, a big turnout that is supposedly usually even bigger since the weather was meh, and an informational meeting beforehand about how it is not a sex or even a dating group, but just a way to talk and connect with like minded people. They have a lot of other events coming up. It was pretty lovely. An older Indian couple pressured us to try the coconut rice they had brought, and the owner of the home compared gardening notes with me.

I also took a bunch of tulsi seedlings to a plant and seed swap (different group, if that's not obvious), and am probably going to be teaching a little, 15-20 minute class on tulsi at an upcoming swap. I have enough seedlings started to distribute them, and can bring pitchers of iced tulsi tea to share as well. There are other people showcasing their various specialities the same day.

Back to poly, I think about it a lot, and I have a guy from another city that I talk to on FB messenger most days and on the phone once or twice a week, usually while driving. And there's another guy I've met IRL a bit, and known only-online for over a year, and interact with a lot in facebook posts, comments, and tagging. He's also long distance but with a lot more realistic prospects for hanging out again... sometime. Maybe. Mostly it's all calm. I went to an art event over the weekend for the sole purpose of flirting with somebody, but that was stupid as all I really did was sweat a lot and get pissed that the food truck generators were so loud.

I'm mostly polyamorous in that I'm very active in a couple of closed polyamory fb groups where we debate philosophical shit :p




BOOKS!

I LOVED Russell Brand's Bookie Wook - could not put it down, sent Grant and others lots of pics of excerpts, had Grant reading a section of it out at a french restaurant on Sunday. In many ways it's the male version of Michelle Tea's How To Grow Up, which I consumed on the plane to and from NY - both books are about people who grew up in some kind of pain and spent their 20s in extremely dysfunctional and often very dangerous situations, but eventually figured life out enough to move on with it. I'm reading Michelle Tea's Rent Girl now, and have her Mermaid in Chelsea ready to go when I'm done. Didn't realize Rent Girl was an illustrated book until I received it - I think I like it, but it makes it a little more awkward to read out and about at some places since it's basically a memoir of her time as a sex worker, and the illustrations reflect that.

I finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and you know I really got into it just before it ended, which was awful in that it meant I got to feel a renewed pang of "no more Harry Potter to read" about a book that didn't even hold my interest most of the time. It was great as a conversation piece but personally I didn't get into it deeply on a personal level.

Also creeping slooooowly through Barbara Moore's Tarot for Beginners, which begins with lots of delicious detail about tarot history. She details four hundred year old decks of cards individually hand painted as wedding presents with portraits of the brides and grooms in mythical situations, "dripping in gold leaf" and currently held in museums. Lots of interesting ideas about the cards evolving from game playing to fortune telling and, more recently, from fortune telling to psychology, as people are using them more and more to explore their self image, goals, fears, etc based on talking through their interpretations. Not sure if that elevates the tarot or downgrades psychology, but I have thought QUITE A LOT lately about the freedom a degree and licensure gives you to act credentialed as you do all manner of suspect things in a seemingly professional way.

I was in a crystal shop the other day that was advertising moon and aura related events hosted by someone calling themselves, "Their Name, LCSW." It leaves me torn between intrigue and side eye. Is it even ethical to advertise yourself as your credentials if they're not really coming into play in the setting you're advertising in? I don't even know where that line is - you wouldn't stand in front of a car, though, and try to convince someone they should take your advice about their alternator because you are an MD. "The Engine Doctor!" Or maybe you would.

I have to go to bed now. I feel like I'm going to fall asleep right here at the laptop, and also like I'm getting sick. Hopefully that will fade back while I'm unconscious. Luckily, Grant is a cozy and home-smelling furnace to cuddle up to.
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Actually I was with a wide array of people I love being with, but I didn't have any kids or a husband along. Just me in our smaller car, accumulating varied messes and then cleaning them out at a trash can every few hundred miles/couple of days.

I find myself at a place where I'm not sure I want to use real names to talk about people online anymore? That's weird. IS THIS THE END OF... whatever this is? Or, was.

For my own records, for the handful of people that are rooting for me or just clicking for content they've been skimming for years, for the couple of RL lurkers that read this instead of calling me on the phone - perpetuity:

I stopped in central Fl on day 1/my way up, to meet a guy I'd talked to a lot on fb (he's a friend of RL friends) and his girlfriend. They were both great - we went out for Indian food and it was a little like, "I don't actually know these people," but really not so bad, and then when we went back to their place there was a distinct, "I could easily have kept talking to them for many more hours" vibe. I really only eventually left when I did because it was so late and I had 2.5 more hours of driving to do that night.

Also - she is SO MUCH like my friend Kristin, and he is so like Grant in certain ways, and she and I have some fundamental stuff in common; it makes me feel like maybe there are just a few prototypes of people, like cats (white, black, ginger, calico, tabby, etc).

When I went to leave their place, I saw their cat on the roof of my car, but you know. Cats jump off. RIGHT? I didn't even think about it. I sat in my car for a few, programming the GPS and updating some people on times, and then I drove off. The whole way through town. ONTO THE HIGHWAY. I was driving on the highway for a few when I sat up straighter, adjusted my rearview mirror a bit, and spotted their damned cat on the trunk of my car. Casual, if slightly hunched, in that cat loaf position. I thought "if I just pull over, she'll immediately be ran over...but I can't leave her there!"

Anyway I made a big illegal u-turn when there was a huge gap in traffic to stop at the most secluded area possible, in case she bolted. But she just sat there on the trunk looking at me. So I put her in the car and texted them, "headed back to your place...you guys aren't going to believe this shit."

EXCEPT THEY TOTALLY DID. They were relieved she was ok and thankful I'd brought her back, but also like, "Oh yeah she does this, that's why she has a GPS collar. You've got to shove her off the roof of your car."

On my way to Tallahassee, I texted Grant and Co pics of the cat screaming at me in the car (because apparently she's just like other cats in not being into regular, inside-vehicle travel) and told them the story over speakerphone. They were dying of laughter.
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Sooooo I stayed up a bit with Jess and Cale when I finally got to Tallahassee, but mostly was exhausted and on day 1 (uterus trying to kill me) of my period.

Bedtime was the beginning of me trying to reconcile my normal Princess and the Pea ways with travelling. Gah. I LOVE Jess and Cale, and their place is mostly awesome (decor, space, cats, food, etc), buuuuut they don't have allergies or asthma of any kind to contend with. I myself am a slob, but an allergic slob, so there are certain things that have to be in place - like no wall to wall carpet, seriously high tech vacuum, periodic intentional dusting, etc. Also they just have different cats than I'm used to? And their futon has a big bar sticking up in the middle of it. Anyway I basically tossed and turned for hours and then woke up far too early with my eyes crusted over, coughing and sneezing, each morning. By day 4 I was dizzy and light headed and tight in the chest, and had to do a lot of phone tag with pharmacies and Teledoc to eventually get an inhaler before I passed out in the middle of CVS. I've been on a steady cocktail of claritin and/or benadryl with albuterol, ever since.

I could spend the rest of my life talking to Jess, though. Two different days, we went out to coffee shops and just talked for hours while I methodically shredded my styrofoam cup. One day Cale came too, and I got a bunch of nonsense out of my purse (mushroom playing cards, tarot cards, various seashells) so everyone could fidget with things and look through stuff while we talked.

Sidenote: It's so epic that Cale is someone I get along so well with, and could easily be good friends with in his own right. It would be so different to continue on with her and our 20 year friendship, with someone I felt awkward around inserted into our visits. Even when Jess was in the hospital and rehab last year, after surgical complications, it was easy to talk to and stay with Cale just the two of us. It makes me really happy for her, that he is as good as he is.

One day the 3 of us went on an hour+ drive to Withlacoochie (really) Florida, to swim in a cold spring. We stopped in the last available store, on the way, to get some food to take - the place seriously had gallon sized cans of boiled peanuts with faded labels and rusty tops. The vending machine outside only sold Faygo (.35 cents - quarters only!). The friendly cashier had a southern accent and just a couple of teeth. It was the pinnacle of "I hear banjos, paddle faster!" and one of many times I felt like I was in not just a different city, but a different country. I feel so distinctly Cuban once I'm outside of Miami-Dade County (where I feel white).

The Springs were AMAZING. Beyond amazing. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and something about the cold shock of water and the physical exertion was the perfect antidote to all the driving I'd been doing, and the lack of physical affection I'd started to feel like I might shrivel up and die from.

Really - I am suddenly quantifying how touchy each of my kids are and wondering wth I'm going to DO, when they're all grown up.

The Springs were even better because we got there when it was storming, and walked through the woods in the rain, and after we waited out the park ranger's orders not to get in due to lightning, we had the place to ourselves for a bit since the park had mostly cleared out.

Eventually it was time to I-10 it over to Jacksonville for the second half of this trip. Which sounded a lot like this:



Jean-Paul is doing great on all fronts, really having a kind of all-around upswing in love, career, mental health, errythang, so that's obviously cool. He's also the best kind of host, from not caring when or how I come and go and giving me my own key, to washing my allergen-coated bedding, and frequently having cookies or (gluten free even) brownies there when I'd get back. He's a host with lots of fluffy towels, and great conversation at the end of every day.

If anyone who reads this doesn't already know, he's both my 6th grade boyfriend/long time long distance friend, and Grant's cousin. So I get to do fun stuff like list our relationship as exes and relatives, on facebook :p

He's also an IT guy, like Grant, so the guest bed was just like my own in that it was near a computer used for working from home on double monitors.

Him: I can't believe you slept through that conference call.
Me: You have no idea.

Jacksonville is a sprawling place that's woven it's way through various parts of my life. I lived in a huge, dilapidated, old house in "historic" San Marco when I was 10-11, until we were evicted. Then I lived in a tiny, dilapidated, old trailer in Sin City, until we were evicted, and then turned 12 living in a roadside motel on Phillips Highway. There was a westside trailer's spare room and a beach apartment's couch in there, somewhere. When I was 19 or 20, Bobby and I moved up there with baby Annie and newborn Aaron and lived for a few difficult months with my mom in Mayport, before getting a nice house in Mandarin that was working out well, aside from the whole "second trimester miscarriage/fetus buried in the backyard" ordeal, until that whole relationship blew up.

The point is that Jacksonville in it's entirety is like a mesh patchwork of different kinds of mixed nostalgia. I generally avoid chasing ghosts when I'm there, but I decided for some reason to go find the two story house (from when I was 10-11). The path Laura and I used to walk to our bus stop is blocked now, so you have to go a few blocks out of your way to continue down the street the house is on. It looks the same, when you get there. Who cares, right? Except apparently I do, because I went and wrote a freakin' 4+ page long poem about this fucking house.

On that note - I used to say I felt six deep down inside, and weird little anecdotes about things that happened when I was 6 would come out in my (fictional) writing. My most private inner self, was the me that laid awake night after night in bed with Laura sleeping nearby, eavesdropping and making up stories about fairies.

At some point that changed, though, and for the past few years if I were to be so silly as to talk about my "inner child," I'd have listed her as being 9. The me that lived in LuMar apartments and read Stephen King books I didn't quite understand all of, and had a baby brother, and a big imaginary world behind a closed bedroom door. "Recently molested, still happiest at Nana and Pa's house" Tina has been who I am under the exterior.

Well, during this trip I realized that's not really the case anymore. My deep down, vulnerable, kid self has somehow evolved into the 11 year old hiding behind a building when the school bus came, and then spending the day sticking my feet in a fountain and stealing books from the library. Down a few layers I'm now that me, simultaneously venturing out into the world and also extremely isolated. Menstruating and starting to think obsessively about sex, and crushed that my sister is moving away.

I don't expect this to exactly make sense. I realize it sounds pretty kooky. But I think it's interesting, anyway, that it isn't (as I once thought, in my mid-twenties) that a part of me is just gonna be 6 forever. Apparently that formative, private, underneath part of me is growing older, too, albeit much slower than the rest of me and for reasons I don't fully (consciously?) understand.

After I spent the whole afternoon in a coffee shop full of man buns, writing and editing this poem and talking to a woman nearby about Pokemon, and feeling sick, I went out to dinner with Kristin! And heard all about her recent adventures in Micronesia, and laughed about god knows what. Definitely the best part of the day. We took a horrible selfie that screams her jet lag and my allergy and asthma troubles.

The next day, I drove back down to central Florida to hang out with the new guy again. Girlfriend was at work. We went and swam in one of his friend's pool, and ate mangoes and played music, for hours, and told each other a bunch of shit about our lives. Then when she was off work, we met his girlfriend for Korean barbecue, the highlight of which is that he apparently walked in and claimed someone else's reservation. He said this was a panic reaction, and it caused a lot of laughter when the waiter approached us with the party whose reservation it actually was. Seems relevant that our group and theirs were literally the only people in the place, so it's not like anyone was getting turned away.

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I spent a whole day with Kristin, her sister (who I've met several times), her mom (who I've hung out with lots), and her kids (who my own consider family). I adore all of them, individually and as a group. Sent plenty of pics back to my house. We walked up to a brunch place and then hung around sister's apartment until she had to go to work. Then Kristin and I drove down to St Augustine, where her fiance/love of her life was finishing up with his conference for the day and becoming available.

Man oh man. One, much as I love them all, just her (or her and her guy) is better. Two, we went to the most off the hook AMAZING restaurant (The Black Fly, on Anastasia Island). The three of us split three dinners and three desserts. Luscious crab cakes. Blissful scallops. Mushroom medley in puff pastry. Chocolate mousse cake with hazelnuts, coconut lime creme brulee, and bourbon pecan ice cream. Every single bite was moaning and heaven. They're grossly in love and infectious in their happiness. And, since he hasn't heard them all before, we get to tell him all of our old stories :D

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We went back to their hotel and swam in their warm, salty pool, which was hilariously close to frequently passing freight trains. Lots of laughing, and everyone finding my hairs wrapped around them (which was an ongoing theme of the whole trip... it's almost as though I was on a mission to clog every shower in Florida). She's a bug scientist and he studies mangrove conditions around the world, so nothing I have to say about plants will ever seem inconsequential to either of them. Yet we can also be aghast together about tumblr porn that involves eyeballs being pushed out of assholes. THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE, I TELL YOU.

I went back through central Florida on the way home, specifically stopping in to spend an hour with this guy I only met this trip. It was an interesting conversation on a couch, and then I gave him a ride to work. He (like Cale, and Jean-Paul, and practically every other man I ever talk to apparently?) is an IT guy, and was tense about a problem he was having trouble solving at this new job. I was like, well, you sound like Charlie Brown's parents to me, buuuuut I'm willing to bet I know someone who can help with that issue. So Grant and him skyped through it.

IT guys are interesting, and a bunch of the ones I know don't really identify as IT guys. Cale was going to be an attorney and this is just a way to pay the bills, Grant would rather see himself as a photographer or dad, this other guy would rather be around kids and has worked with kids at times. Jean-Paul is adamant that work doesn't define people and anti-capitalism in general. Like even when they make a ton of money (which is frequently the case) and enjoy their jobs, there's still this vague unease at being seen AS that job, which I suspect is partially because none of them seem to consciously choose it. It's a whole generational phenomenon where smart underachievers stayed up on computers instead of doing their homework, and missed a lot of high school/dropped out entirely, and then that somehow turned out to give them a super profitable skill set.

Back to my timeline here, my last stop was to see Samara, Bobby's wife (who I think is the bee's knees), about my allergies and general malaise. She sells and markets and graphic designs for some pretty natural and well planned out supplements, and I have been dead against hearing about them (or any other direct sales) before. But I basically walked in and said, "Clearly I need help. I am now ready to receive your wisdom." She's got grace for days so this was actually not awkward, and involved laughter and hugs as I told her about the Herbal Conference I went to in February, and how I stopped eating grains for months but just cheated a ton while travelling, and don't know if I can cut sugar at all, and so on... she's the most calming presence. I don't even know how to describe her energy.

I even had a long, civil conversation with Bobby before I finally headed out towards home o_O


So here I am. It's been a restorative sort of weekend featuring lots and lots of sleeping in my LUSCIOUS KING SIZED BED, lots of showing my kids pictures, and cuddle piles, and just a few occasions of venturing out with a couple of them at a time. Aaron, Jake, Elise and I went to a cafe and down to the ocean to look at jellyfish, yesterday. Later I'm probably taking some people to see The Secret Life of Pets. I arrived home broken out, with canker sores in my mouth, tired like I haven't been since I had babies and still reliant on a couple of meds - so while I really did have a great time, it was good to get back to my nest. Definitely gonna be brainstorming ways to make future travel less physically stressful. When I went to Lakeland a few weeks back to visit my grandparents and other family, it was sort of perfect because I stayed at my friend Cindi's place (which is far cleaner than my own, and pet free) where I had my own room with a good bed, and limitless access to a bathroom nobody else was waiting on. Obviously it's not reasonable to expect everyone I know to be able to provide that kind of guest space :p I wonder how much of my trouble was about NOT bringing all my normal supplements with me (because they're for the whole family, some require refrigeration, etc). I usually take a LOT of shit every day, and strongly suspect I'm counteracting some malabsorption issues that way. I'm also kinda flabbergasted by how cavalier other people my age act about chronic extreme sleep deprivation? Jean-Paul acts like that's just "being an adult," and even Jess and Cale "can't sleep past 9am" (even if we're staying up talking til 3-4am?!). Kristin is basically ideologically opposed to naps. I'm just like, guys. GUYS! SLEEP IS A WELLSPRING OF GOODNESS AND LIGHT!




I also got back to the news that I'm getting a $5,000 grant I hadn't counted on, for this first upcoming year of grad school! I have a mandatory orientation for that next month, and I'm getting pumped about the whole situation. I met with my advisor and got my schedule sorted out a few weeks ago. Also exciting that the average age of FIU grad students is 31, so hopefully I can actually make some friends other than the teachers.

Not ready to let go of summer yet, though... bookstores are throwing Harry Potter parties; Grant, me, and Ananda are going to NYC next month. And, Kristin is coming here for a couple of days. I am failing abysmally at prioritizing book writing. Today I had to make a million appointments, take Isaac to counseling, drive Elise to and from camp, wash a mountain of dishes, cook us all dinner, and more. It took me 3 days to write this entry! This weekend seemed promising, but someone wants to come over, and I've been asked if I can cover some hours at the crisis call center.

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Last night I took a lot of care to make Grant a food/drink bag to take to work. Note: this is not a standard thing, as 1.) he works from home 3/5 days each week, 2.) he likes to go out to lunch, and 3.) he does half the shopping and cooking and would be as likely as me to pack stuff if he wanted stuff packed. But he wanted some leftovers and went to bed too tired to put it together. He's gone ALL DAY when he goes in, since the commute is so intense.

Anyway, I was smiling as I packaged him up a container of chili with a tiny tupperware of shredded cheddar, a ziploc of crackers, and a tiny tupperware of cream cheese to go on them, since this is how we garnish chili around here. Then a container of kale and bean soup, with an extra side tiny tupperware of parmesan cheese. Spoon, butter knife. Found and filled up his water bottle and put it all in the bag in the fridge.

It was very satisfying this morning when he texted that he'd been forced to smile against his will at an ungodly morning hour when he saw it all, and accused me of grin-rape <3




I started seeing a new doctor today, because the levels of disorganization at my old doctor reached new heights. They don't answer the phone or return calls (ever - I always end up just driving over after several days' efforts to reach them), they don't even return faxes from the pharmacy when I need a refill on my B-12 vials. They don't draw blood in the office and TWICE now they've told me they sent in an order for me to have blood drawn and then when I get to the lab, sign in and wait to be called, I find out they actually forgot to send the order. So I just have to leave. Worst of all, especially with reference to all these other things I'm describing, they are only open for a few hours 3 times a week since their old office had a fire a year ago. They've been sharing space with another office ever since and I was trying to hang in there for them, but man. It's a shit show. Totally representative of the whole place that the empty water cooler has had a paper sign taped on for months that says, "Please buy water!"

Anyway, this new place is (of course) half an hour up the road, but anytime I leave town for any kind of medical care, it's a revelation and I'm glad I did. When I got to this new place today, they had a personalized stack of forms waiting for me that had been printed already including all the info I gave them over the phone when I made the appointment. Can you imagine? They also drew blood right there in the office, which was generally much nicer, more spacious, and full of friendly people acting like I was a human being.

I really don't love giving new people my medical history because the shock value is too high and they always go on and on about it. However, the doctor today was a former OR nurse and actually cried and apologized on behalf of the medical establishment, for my retained surgical instrument. Simultaneously kinda ridiculous and kinda amazing.

It's good that things can be efficient. I was really clinging to the old doc being half a mile from my house (we have to get on the highway for SO MANY THINGS already) but it's clear this will actually save me time and energy, backwards as that might be.

Tangent: It was getting seriously old with the other doctor, feeling I was hassling them and getting so many suspicious looks and questions from the office staff every time I was "back about the shots again." Seriously, who the fuck has a B-12 problem? It's not exactly a controlled substance. Over and over the secretaries acted like I wanted it for weight loss, asked if it was helping me lose weight, etc, and over and over I had to explain that I have a diagnosed malabsorption condition and need it for basic functioning/survival. UGH.

Sometimes it's still wild to me that I have this chronic condition and need these shots forever, and yet I could easily just stop going to get them. Nobody's gonna make me - nobody official is keeping track of whether I do or don't. Quite the opposite; I often have to fight through red tape for them. The gastroenterologist who diagnosed me acts outraged every time I express any of this to him and offers to fax my lab results to more places, but it's not like he does continuing/follow-up care himself.
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feel free to click here for a weeks old entry I forgot aboutCollapse )

(and/)Or, find out how not long after that entry I felt pretty triggered (haha, how ironic).
That led to some serious two steps forward, one step back personal struggles (challenges? INSURMOUNTABLE BARRIERS I'VE SINCE BEEN CHINKING AWAY AT ONE CRUMB AT A TIME?!) with polyamory, as polyamory in general - even in it's infancy - has a way of highlighting every single thing you didn't know you were avoiding dealing with at once. I'm very fortunate to be so deep in a bond that allows for sharing everything patiently, even when that involves stop and starts, and backtracking... Even if we never acted on any of this we know each other so much better, now, and I feel so much closer to him. Paradoxical, I guess, but getting to the "why" underneath every scared and sad feeling is something that's taking us places we might never have gone otherwise. I feel like I'm going to understand life differently and have a different attitude as I get older, because I'm tackling this deep shit inside of me that I've never looked straight at or felt so directly and consciously, before...
I am also pleased to report I can once again take an IQ test without any sense of personal tragedy.

Here are some pics of me and Elise around our neighborhood one weeknight, and some others from a tour G and I took of R.F. Orchids last weekend.

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TL;DR - I am on a general broad upswing that involves some hard times and is not a simple curve. I travel this path with a bunch of other people who are also all on varying and irregular (usually) upward slopes. I feel good about life, and also get tired.

I will probably make a way shorter update soon, about apps I'm using and things I've recently cooked. Take heart, if this is just too damned long and convoluted and TMI.
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I'm working on a lot of long term, slow to develop things, and I'm happy about all of them but sometimes I have to sigh and forget about all of it for a bit while I do something that will yield some immediate results. Otherwise I get stuck in this loop where I look at my credit score and think, yup, it's up one point, and look at my credit card balances, and think, yep, they're going down (sloooowly), and will be even more down in a couple more months... score will be up more, then, too... Then I go to my FIU email and the FIU site and check both and, nope, still no word on whether I got into grad school... so I look at my little notepad file about all the pounds I've lost and it's like...yup... down another .8 after another plateau... Etc. My chard and holy basil are looking ok, still not ready, baby mangoes are slightly larger, nowhere near ready to eat. Squash plants and lavender are creepin' along... don't see any bananas yet... There is ONE MORE BLOOM on my front porch dahlia and my lemon seedlings are half a centimeter taller! ...yawn.

Geez, you know? Time passes so fast and yet this is all draggin'.

I've got one definite solo summer trip in the works, that will involve several of my favorite long distance people, and I'm looking forward to that. There's also one possible Grant-me-and-Annie trip that miiiiight happen, that would be awesome if it works out.

I also FINALLY started to write, which is a Really Big Deal, even if it's also another long term, large scale project that I will be working through forever a long time.

The 7 of us went down to Key West this past weekend, because my mother and her husband got a guest house for the week. She wanted to reconnect with the side of her family that lives there, and commemorate the 7th anniversary of her father's death in the bar he basically lived at. I love seeing my Dad's family, that is down there, and I love Key West, and it's usually really expensive whereas this was free, so we went. And, I'm glad we did - the kids loved the sunset shows on Mallory Square, and my Aunt Michelle cried when she saw Annie, and Aaron and I found a backyard parrot rescue where we spent half an afternoon. All of us but Isaac, who wanted to sit and relax and play video games, went down to a pier and saw crabs and lobsters galore, and a small shark. The weather was lovely. The island is always lovely.

My mom, though. And her husband. They're just drinking so much. I don't get it. My mom never drank until her alcoholic father died of liver failure, and now it's like she wants to be a drunk in his honor or something. Like I get that it's a vacation but who can just wake up in the morning and fill the glass again, to start a new day, over and over? How can you not feel terrible? How can you even afford that shit? They just stayed at the guest house drinking while we went out exploring and having a good time. Which, you know, whatever I guess. You do you. I keep untagging myself from embarrassing, emotional, long winded facebook posts. And the both of them are gun people, now?! O_O

Bleh.

Anyway. I found a fellow herbalist and mother that lives here in my town, via mutual facebook friends, and that's intriguing. Also there is this other woman/mom, who is pretty cool, that reached out to me online a year or two ago and I guess we've been circling each other slowly ever since but now she's started going to this weekly meditation on the beach that Grant and I love. Maybe we can settle into friendship at some point despite the geographic and resource hurdles. Next week I'm going with a PATH woman I've known for years to a bookstore and some other spots. I also have a meetup.com potluck in a couple of weeks that I'm hopeful about.

As for my kids... Ananda is brilliant, beautiful, has a bad attitude in the morning but is pretty happy all the rest of the time, continues to spend far too much time locked in the bathroom, continues to refuse to eat breakfast OR lunch on school days. She had multiple people competing to buy a piece of her art at an event she entered through school, not long ago, and was pretty pumped about that. She's reading Flowers in the Attic, and continuously aghast - that is one of the only books I've ever told her she couldn't read, since it had too many close issues and topics that seemed potentially disturbing. She was 12 then, though, and now she's almost 16, so yeah - she's reading it. Her best school friend is a never ending fount of hilarious stories that she tells us.

Aaron is attending a lot of outside-school-hours rehearsals, for dance, and loves his dance teacher, which is nice. He gets recognized a lot as doing well. He's "taking a break" with his girlfriend. He skated the whole time we were in Key West and is obviously depressed about being back home. He's talking about living down there as an adult. He also seems open to dancing professionally and/or teaching (dance or something else) in a way he hasn't in the past. Him and Annie have been doing things like spending a day of Spring Break riding bikes miles out into the redlands, exploring. Or going out into the woods two blocks over and coming back with an entire raccoon skeleton to clean and take to school so people can draw it as a still life.

Isaac is often having a hard time. He's been to a gastro, an allergist, and his regular ped, recently, and none of them seem to be able to work out where his "allergies induced coughing-possible reflux-probably anxiety caused stomachaches and headaches" circle begins. He also see a psychiatrist for his Zoloft, which may need to be increased due to growth and puberty, and attends an anxiety group for kids his age which contains at least one person he considers a real friend. He's in a bad mood or having some kind of physical suffering at least half of the time. He's a very picky eater and upset about the options we have in the house every day, no matter what we have in the house. He's still responsible and organized, still polite and doing well in school when he manages to get there. He has several good school friends and his teachers love him, when they're not emailing me about why he's out. I've had to meet with his principal and email with his teachers a lot about his absences. He spends a lot of home time at his new best friend's house - that's a kid I love who lives one street over and is also here often.

Jake is doing great. He does his chores without being asked pretty often, he builds clever things with legos and flies through school work. He's curious and interested in everything. He and I are the only two who've resisted an illness going around the house (so far). He's been adorably considerate of his sick siblings, making Elise tea and getting her movie set up, or delivering messages from Isaac when he doesn't want to get up and offering him his turns on the computer. I'm reading him the Narnia series now; we're about halfway through the 2nd one. He's been writing limericks and drawing comics.

Elise has been sick for the past two days, which is unusual but now she seems to have bounced back. She talks a LOT, is very energetic and cheerful, surprises me with how well she's reading regularly (though she's not quite where she "should" be). She's cuddly and hilarious and has started doing things like using air quotes. She seems to live on 90% bowls of yogurt with granola and berries in them, and cut up tomatoes with salt and olives on them - both of which she frequently prepares for herself. She counts down basically hourly, to her 9th birthday, which is less than a month away. We've been reading in the hammock under the mango tree a lot, which is pretty sweet.


Grant and I have been watching shows again for the first time in awhile - Horace and Pete, which is a Louis CK creation I HIGHLY recommend, and High Maintenance, which is a great Vimeo series that recently got picked up by HBO.

I've also been thinking and talking about the concept of class often - a friend sent me a podcast to listen to, about the difference between economic and social class in the U.S. It's interesting stuff I've thought about before. I happened to hear something semi-related on my NPR One app two days later, about the way we view food based on the status of the people whose culture it's from. I suppose that's all relatively entry-level material on those topics, but hey.

I was considering making a tumblr called Altarflame's Cooking School, where I just make entries about basic shit that it took me way too long to figure out - it would be geared toward adults who did not grow up eating home cooked meals and who feel pretty lost in the kitchen. Topics I've considered include things like "Roasting Vegetables 101," "wtf is a dutch oven and why should I care," "cooking with wine: also, the definition of 'deglaze'," and so on. I find there are a lot of REALLY SIMPLE THINGS, that take very few steps, that somehow intimidate people the most. Such as, roasting a whole chicken, or baking a cake without a boxed mix. Those things are actually much much easier than many of the alternatives that get attempted instead. *shrug* We'll see.
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Written early yesterday evening:

Adapting to life without school in it is weird.

I didn't have to do it in January or February because I had 40 hours of crisis counselor training (plus commute times...) and grad school app shenanigans to take up the hours I might have spent on academics, over the last couple of years.

Also, re: applying to a, single, grad school... I had to get stamped and addressed envelopes, with forms I'd printed, to 3 different people who had agreed to recommend me via emails. I had to apply electronically to the university and via paper to the particular grad school. And, I had to submit an 8 page (minimum) Personal Narrative Statement, addressing various questions. I'm not complaining, I'm just kind of astounded by how people recommend you apply to as many grad schools as possible. You're supposed to have fail safe schools and high hope schools, with mid-range options in between. Aside from how this guideline does not really apply to me as someone who doesn't want to just move my whole family anywhere in the country, on a whim once we hear back - wow, that sounds like a full time job! To fulfill the application process for a bunch of different schools. Not to mention non-refundable application fees (mine was $30, and I've seen several listed at $50, so they would add up quickly). It just really rams home the idea of "privilege," I guess, which is something I think about a lot, lately.

Aaaaanyway. Life without school in it. I'm supposed to be using it to write, and that's not really happening thus far, which is absurd because I NEED to write and that manifests in stupid ways. For instance, picking fights with Grant.

Today I made a bunch of vegetables held together by eggs and asiago, for Ananda, Jake, Elise, and myself. We ate out on the deck, as is the habit lately. The deck picnic table is literally rotting in several places and will need to be thrown out soon, but for now we're enjoying watching the fungus change (really). Grant made fantastic coffee like he does every day since we got each other/ourselves an espresso machine for Christmas and he set out to master it. He works from home 3 days per week now, which is kinda huge since his commute is so intense.

Jake, Elise, and I skipped watering our various plants and flowers, which is normally A Thing each morning, since it unexpectedly rained so much yesterday.

I took Ananda to the Orthodontist at 11, which is the reason why she was home. The wait was kinda ridic, and I spent too much of it pointlessly arguing on facebook about a meme I disagree with. On the way back we drove through Starbucks for green tea, which was an excuse to put Bernie Sanders stickers on their drive-thru stickering spots. I do try to pick places that accumulate stickers and are (hopefully) not obviously the bane of employees forced to scrub them off.

I weeded our hibiscus while talking with Annie about getting our soil tested because I'd like to know it's safe to make tea out of that hibiscus and this is an old house that's liable to have lead in the soil. Especially there, where there are pipes present.

Grant and I worked on a budget for the next couple of pay periods, including the STEM and yoga classes Jake and Elise are in, and these other class I'd really like to put them in. Among many many other things. We've had a never ending stream of home repairs - the AC, the dryer, the kitchen sink, the house's water pressure, more Septic Tank Saga. The front door and deck are next up but it's kinda intimidating/never ending.

I picked up Aaron and Isaac from school, and took them with Ananda to Michael's, to get her the pens and ink she needed for art class.

I talked to Aaron about the new rouge plant (Rivina Humilis L.) that's sprung up at the corner of our house, as it fits in with our mutual goal of providing habitat for birds and butterflies. He's got milkweed seeds that will be planted soon. We've also been rolling pinecones in bird seed and hanging them around. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just baiting them to be killed by our cats, though the cats seem to rarely if ever go after them.

Jake and I talked more about limericks. He wrote a couple, and did some multiplication assignments, which I checked. Elise and I reviewed all the words and sentences in her handwriting book, once she was done working on today's pages. I read him more of The Magician's Nephew, in the hammock, and her more of The Prisoner of Azkaban. She's the last one still listening to Harry Potter.

I made a big caprese salad for me, Grant, and Ananda. I cut up a loaf of sourdough and set it out with the most delicious honey. Everyone is in love with that honey, Aaron raves about it like someone describing wine for a magazine.

I thinned out and repotted all my tiny chard seedlings, and brainstormed with Grant about how to build more draining tables or raised beds.

Written Tonight:

While I was typing that yesterday, my sister was calling and texting my cell phone over and over. It was forgotten in my locked car in the front yard, and she needed me to give her a ride to the hospital ASAP. WTH, you know? My phone is almost always in arm's reach - as I type now, I realized it's actually under my wrist on the desk.

So I spent 7 hours at the hospital ER with Laura, and then awhile at the pharmacy, and we managed to laugh a lot and she's ok. She's in a lot of pain but it's nothing dangerous, just something to get through. I'll be taking her school kids to and from school along with mine, tomorrow.

TODAY, after I took my school kids in and made sure breakfast and activities were available, I slept for a couple of hours. When I got up Jake and Elise showed me all their new lego creations and drawings, and told me about the dreams they had last night. We ate together and took care of our plants and watched videos about parasitic fungus taking over carpenter ants in a rain forest, pausing to talk often. We also talked about the democratic primary states that were up today, and native plants we could put in our yard that would take minimal upkeep, and ideas for inventions... our good friends who are in Hawaii sent us tons of pictures of black beaches, sea turtles, and more, that got us talking about and e-searching all sorts of other things... basically until it was time to pick kids up from school.

On the way I played a song I'd never heard before, and lo and behold, it made me cry continuously. And laugh out loud several times. I had to pull over to keep paying attention and crying as it's 10.5 minutes long:

I sat there in a parking spot and shared it on facebook, tagging the first half dozen or so moms I could think of, before continuing with my day.

I'd promised all my kids Chipotle after school, so off we went, and while we ate there was somber talk of our (beloved) pediatrician, who recently died. We're attending the memorial service in a few days.

Then we made a list of ingredients for a bunch of soups I'll be cooking in the coming days:
-french onion
-butternut squash
-kale and bean
-italian (italian sausage, vegetables, tomato-olive oi-broth base, beans)
-cream of mushroom
-zuppa toscana

Two grocery stores and lots of good talk with Annie in the car later, after I'd put everything away and made sure Isaac took his meds and checked in with Laura about tomorrow and argued for continued political hope, on facebook...

Here I am.

The point of listing what I did, yesterday, was supposed to be to show how it really is a lot, added up, and yet it's not nearly enough to fill the time. The crisis counselor gig is 4 hours once a week. My kids are great company, though the amount of food they eat drives me to distraction lately. I have a lot of long distance communication with some great people I really care about. I'm fairly happy. It's kinda drifty, though. Kinda unfocused and diffuse. Which is...ok? It's temporary, on several levels, and... I'm not even sure what my point is. Except that sometimes I'm so aware of myself twiddling my thumbs between tasks.

I took Jake and Elise to a 3 day, 2 night herbal conference a couple of weeks ago and (partially because I was so ready for it, and it fit with the place where I was anyway), it really changed my life. It's not something I've talked about online anywhere, but I guess I probably will at some point. I'm not sure where to begin. I took a ton of notes, during classes. We camped. They had a great kids' program and a good meal plan. I made friends and got their contact information. I joined groups like United Plant Savers and Florida Native Plant Society. I spent time alone by water and under stars. When I got home, I changed the way I eat completely and totally, and without any of the angst or struggle that usually accompanies that. That transition has already altered the way I feel, physically, SO MUCH. Emotionally, I feel quieter and slower in a peaceful way, most of the time.

I'm very aware on many levels of meaningful change and growth being slow processes. Somehow that seems ok, now, though, when it really never has before.

I think about age all the time - how I feel so young, but I had to get older TO feel young?

While I was away, my bachelors degree arrived in the mail. I was extremely on edge about it coming whenever I thought about it, as though I hadn't really finished it until the paper showed up at my door and I wasn't ready to face finishing it at all. I have a fear of success that is hard to explain. Not the possibility of failing... success, itself.

When I had The Paper here, though, it was just nice. Kinda like the difference between the frenetic energy and near terror as my wedding approached, compared to the peace and contentment of realizing I was married. Or the anxiety and pseudo-despair of going through the editing and type setting and cover choosing aspects with my book publisher, vs the happy pride when I received a box of copies. I think that once something is finalized I relax into knowing that it can't be taken away. Even if things change in the future, _____ was real and happened.

Grant insisted we buy a frame straightaway, but honestly, where do you hang your own college degree in your own home? It makes perfect sense to me to display in an office setting but seems silly to put up in our hallway or something. He thinks differently; that I'm the first in my family to do this and that it's a good thing for our kids to see. I'm sort of mortified by the idea, though. I think if the home office we originally planned for my writing existed, it would make a little bit of sense there.


I have to go to bed now, so that will have to do.

I have continued to update my tumblr with personal stuff pretty regularly.
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I can be hard on myself for not taking charge of certain aspects of my life that are ongoing struggles - making regular writing time happen, improving my health. It's really hitting me this morning how little time I EVER have to myself, and how difficult that makes proactivity, or even the kind of thought gathering that precedes making plans.

I really get motivated to do my own "stuff" almost immediately when I have the smallest slivers of alone time - it's why I used to stay up til all hours of the night when I had babies/toddlers. I have a WAY harder time doing that, these days, though. And so when day after day passes without any chance at regrouping, there's this sense of never being able to stop and thinking - and always reacting - that starts to make me feel stagnant.

I do DO things apart from my family, but they're not really "on my own." I've went to a group meditation and I've been in crisis counselor training a lot lately. I text with friends often. But the idea of like, being at my house by myself? Is just wild. The idea of sitting somewhere alone ANYWHERE for a period of time, has become foreign. As I type this, this little beginning of an entry, Elise has been rambling about things despite me asking her twice to give me a few minutes, and Grant's woken up and come to ask me how I'm doing this morning. Which is nice, and I love them, but it can also get kinda Give Me Strength at times.

Some of my whirlwind:

Isaac went to the doctor twice last week, I met with his principal once, I emailed with his teachers and played phone tag with two different specialist offices (it seems he's developed asthma and has gastritis; poor kid has been coughing until he pukes WAY too much and missing a ton of school, it's awful for him...I sometimes worry his respiratory and gastro issues will never end, but then again it's really hard to untangle what of those things is his anxiety... poor Isaac). He is doing better this week, at least, with the help of albuterol and Zantac...

Aaron is sad again about another breakup with the same girl and I'm trying to surprise him with cups of tea and slip him random Chipotle burritos, when he doesn't want to talk. I'm also cutting him slack when he needs me to do his laundry constantly because this week, his ability to plan has fallen by the wayside (laundry is generally Aaron's chore, and he has daily laundry from dance at school).

Last Friday all my kids' had dental check-ups. Despite the fact that we LIVE at the damned dentist (it feels that way; they get checkups every 6 months but Jake had to go in for a cavity last month and Annie's there every month because of her braces), Elise had an abscess! A freaking abscess! They had to do an extraction before we could leave. I couldn't believe it - she hadn't complained at all, and the tooth looked normal from most angles. But the whole inside, looking down in from the roots once it was out, was green and hollow :/ So Friday was devoted to helping her through that, and the recovery, including buying/prepping soft foods. My 3 younger kids are just so prone to dental troubles, it blows my mind. Neither Ananda nor Aaron have ever had a single cavity, which is how I was until back to back pregnancies - and Aaron is the worst about brushing/flossing. My little kids are methodical and thorough about those things, and have started with regular dental visits way younger, but it's just intense - Jake had an infected cavity for the first time when he was only 3 or 4.

I didn't go to the dentist the first time until I was 17!

Monday there was no school - Annie was back at the dentist for the orthodontist, and then all five kids had their annual physicals, which took foreeevvveeerrrrr. We laughed a lot while they weren't bickering but overall the amount of waiting around in a small room was not cool.

Tuesday aside from needing to pick things up at the pharmacy and drop things off at the post office, Elise and Jake had kids' yoga and Elise tried a new Girl Scout troop, since she hasn't really had one and misses it.

I'm doing schoolwork with Jake and Elise during the school days. I'm reading to the younger 3 at night. I'm grocery shopping and cooking dinners all the time. We had to have an AC guy out last week, and we've got a plumber coming this week.

Soooo yeah, on the one hand wtf life, how am I supposed to accomplish anything "for me"?

AND YET - while I was in school I had a system of structured deadlines with accountability, and therefore accomplished plenty of my own things. I took 17 credits of upper level coursework Aug-Jan 7! And I ended with a term GPA of 3.36. I was doing survey research at FIU and meeting with professors in between visits to the hospital, while my little niece was in-patient and while I helped my sister with her older kids! Also, I skyped a presentation and studied tons of math while we were out of town for a wedding! But I felt I HAD to do those things, and I can cram school in around the edges. The way I'm doing with my training, now, I guess.

But exercise? Blocks of writing time? Not blogging time that I can be interrupted at 75 million times and keep coming back to, or eventually give up on... the kind of writing time where I've opened a flood gate and need to give it a couple of hours behind a shut door. The kind where I need a plan and I get very upset if the plan is messed up.

Hopefully this entry is part of me working my way around to figuring these things out. I'm fairly sure they're connected, as writing siphons off so many of the capital-f Feelings that lead me to eating more than I should. It's really about proactive vs reactive.

Off I go... to the kitchen, ironically. But as they say, I got shit* to do.

*dishes
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I suppose I think about death in a conscious way, and talk about it, more than most people do? I mean everyone is always aware of death on some level but, I dunno. I don't think it's a downer to bring it up. I seek out the latest Ask A Mortician videos and am in the process of becoming a Hospice volunteer. I kind of adore gallows humor.

It's sort of a relief to just have it out on the table. I think it also makes me live my life differently (in a very good way).

At some point in the past year or two I realized I would be absolutely disappointed and just really not ok with being buried here in the greater Homestead/Miami area. This is noteworthy as typically I am someone who says I don't care much what's done with my body one way or the other aside from 1.) not wanting it to be embalmed (it's horrifically bad for the embalmer and the earth you go into, to say nothing of the manufacturing process - and aside from being totally unnecessary and strictly a US-centric thing) and, 2.) having a very strong (PTSD related) desire to not have it be used for medical research. Which I realize it selfish, but, *shrug.*

I'm not 100% sure why local cemeteries seem like such terrible burial spots, and have spent some time trying to pick apart whether it's a kind of symbolic geographical failure - would it represent having never "gotten out of here" before I died? I don't think so... I really love a lot about Miami and the Keys, moreso every year. When we talk about leaving, we talk about coming back, too. I still want to move away eventually, and I even think this place will be under water at some point, but I still think of it as home.

I think maybe these cemeteries are just...normal cemeteries. Full of embalmed bodies and sealed caskets and fake flowers. Places that are along highways and behind shopping centers. They're sterile and have roads and lanes and rows. They're part of an industry I increasingly disapprove of, for all kinds of reasons I don't want to get into right now.

I found this place, Prairie Creek, about 6 months ago. It's up around Gainesville (Fl) and it's awesome: http://192.185.83.169/~pccc106/

It's a natural cemetery (meaning you can be buried in no container at all, just a natural fiber shroud, or an all-wood casket), and it's also a nature preserve - so basically a place with wildlife all over, where loved ones can come take picnics or go bird watching if they want to. There are big old trees everywhere. They mark your grave with a little thing if you want, but either way they record GPS coordinates, which are available to the family, and can assist your loved ones getting to your spot anytime they'd like help. The only parking lot is grass and the road is dirt tracks.

They charge $2,000, half of which goes to securing new lands that nobody can ever build on or mess with.

Basically, I love it. I finally sent them an email tonight asking if a person needs to secure their spot in advance to be guaranteed a place upon death (though it doesn't seem so, from the info on the site).

The Order of the Good Death, which I aspire to be an active member of one day, has been encouraging people to take care of their advance directives. I've been meaning to - seeing my Nana suffer day in and day out following her strokes has had the subject on my mind, off and on... as well as seeing my Grandpa's body, a few years back, before his cremation. I'll probably really print it out and start writing things down tomorrow.

Here's a video about Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery:

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Dec. 31st, 2015

This month has been extremely productive and overall wonderful.

My semester end was hectic, with finals and papers (I turned in a 35 page paper full of statistical analyses, with various graphs and SPSS readouts in the appendix, for my Research Methods class...) coming fast and furious as soon as we got back into town. I felt a bit rushed about the Christmas season - we never got decorations up on the outside of the house at all, and it's the first year my kids haven't had little mini trees in their bedrooms. We baked a scant, single batch of gingerbread cookies before Christmas Eve!

And, I had some intense sadness about Christmas Eve, and my incapacitated Nana, and lost traditions and family gatherings gone by.

But, in the end it all turned out pretty great, and we've been coasting on the Twelve Days of Christmas ever since.

Grant and the kids all have two full weeks off, and I'm now "only" in this one mini-session course (online). It requires working every day, but is very manageable. Overall this is an unstructured and luxuriant time full of visits from out of town friends and relatives galore, with dates and cuddle sessions and repotting plants and so on. G is doing half of the cooking, cleaning, and parenting. Everybody's got a ton of new stuff, so there's a lot of taking Elise out on her new bike, and taking various people one at a time to spend their various gift cards, and viewing and videotaping the K'Nex roller coaster Jake worked on for hours. Life is pretty sweet.

Grant and I gifted each other an espresso machine, and the coffee around here has improved dramatically as a result. He also got me some essential oils, dark chocolate, and a new teacup and saucer. I got him Dune magnets and buttons and a new water bottle (that he'd been asking for), and some caramels and cookies.

I actually got the old granny square pattern book back out and looked up the one I was using for a blanket I had half finished, earlier in the year. My (very dusty) sewing machine was brought out for the first time in some 8 months.

Kid Updates!

Elise (8.5) just got a (requested) haircut that I think makes her look like an elegant mushroom. It's a short bob, longer in the front.






She is very high energy and usually really happy. She had a major breakthrough a few months back that shoved her forward in many areas - she could suddenly listen to more complex chapter books with thorough understanding, play Minecraft by herself, speak with less hesitations and searching for words. I think another of those is happening, now. She's also growing RAPIDLY - on December 11 I stood her against our height wall and she'd grown at entire INCH since December 2! At which point, she was a centimeter taller than a week before that! She's still obsessed with My Little Ponies, and plays with hers on the library carpet every single day. I don't know how much longer we can stretch this sweet innocent period of bath toys and "underwear girl" running around the house in the evenings, but I'll savor it while I can.

Jake (10) is hitting the slightly chubby phase that happens before the big puberty growth spurt. He reads a lot and usually has a pile of books next to him when he falls asleep. He's still affectionate and sweet with me, still moody and stoic in general. He's not as quick to anger as he used to be. I think he's going through a fearful period - scared of death, of fair rides, of social awkwardness. He's got some friends in the neighborhood but still seems restless and lonely at times. I think he's in a transitional phase. He still spends a lot of time building/innovating/drawing/etc. He is so in love with his cat, Jake Jr, the fluffy demon who rules us all, and says nonsense like, "how does it feel to be a grandmother?" He'll carry her up to Elise and tell him, "that's your Aunt, Jr." He's also a total sucker for any kind of cute animal video, and has this involuntary giggle that reminds me of a hamster.

Isaac (almost 12) looks an awful lot like a teenager all of a sudden. He's also really quick to assure us that he understands complex things and knows about everything. He's got a kind of image conscious defensiveness that wasn't there before, and is almost strangely matter of fact about the girl he has a crush on. He and Jake sometimes have a great time together, but Isaac is more and more likely to want to go somewhere with friends or just Dad and/or me, or close his bedroom door to be alone (a brand new thing). His anxiety seems to be mostly under control, but there was a relapse recently and I'm eager for him to get into a couple of programs that currently have him wait listed. He continues to be more "together" (organized, prepared, able to easily find misplaced items, etc) than the rest of us. His vibrancy - bright blue eyes, freckles, white eyebrows, etc - is stunning these days.

Aaron (14) is over the moon that he got a Wii U for Christmas. At school, the various art areas recently did performances during the school day for other students in other art areas, and it was the first time he danced for peers who are not dancers (including his siblings, and girls he likes, and friends/acquaintances/etc, and there were also core subject teachers in the audience...) This seems to have really changed his life. People who had never seen him dance were in awe of him and he said getting up there was the scariest stage fright he'd ever experienced. Typically recitals have been just for parents of dancers and dance teachers, and competitions or like the Hammerstein Ballroom thing in NY were for strangers - this was some whole other deal and he says he almost didn't do it. Just wearing tights on stage at 14 in front of your whole school of band kids and theater kids and writer kids, etc, is a lot! His tarantula, Tulip, is about half grown now. He's not depressed lately and I'm eating it up. He's still awkward and sensitive. He makes me laugh whether I like it or not pretty often. He's fucking obsessed with Chipotle and drives us all nuts wanting to go there constantly.

Ananda (15) is the bee's knees. She's so comfortable in her own skin and brilliant. I feel really proud of her almost all the time, lately. She has this horrible ironic fashion - like she just got SHINY GOLD HEELIES for Christmas like she wanted, and she's pairing them with these light wash, high waist mom jeans she had to have - it's painful! But she kinda pulls anything off. We talk a lot and I drive her friends places with her and we show each other things we find online. I betray her any time I get a note from a teacher that she should come to math tutoring or retake a spanish test, by immediately telling them she can do tutoring every day and this is my number, etc. She groans and says "THE WORST!" but with a smile, and then worries about how she's gonna do stuff like that in college without me forcing her to. Her teachers adore her. She has chai with the one she has an aid period with. We have a lot of fun eating gourmet food and exclaiming about science. She adopted some elderly rats a friend of hers needed to rehome and she's completely smitten with them, constantly feeding them vegetables and carrying them around.

So, that is them, and they are epic :) I'm gonna edit this entry to throw some pics in, since that's so much easier to do on a phone now.

These are their Christmas Even pajamas - Jake got a Gryffindor robe instead of regular PJs and immediately ran to grab the cinnamon broom, to go with it. He's trying to somehow be "in character" in the first shots :p



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