whistle while you work

I’m sitting at my keyboard with dust surrounding me and crumbs beneath my feet, grinding into the hardwood floor and my soles. There were bugs in my Tupperware of orzo last night, discovered when they floated lazily to the top of the boiling water like tiny black bubbles. My tush is perched at the edge of an irreparably broken chair with the left arm dangling.

It sounds like squalor, I know.

Believe it or not, I am someone who loves to clean. There is such a contented, whole feeling about everything in its place, like my mind is free to wander and soar because there’s so much free space!

But lately it feels like drudgery. I clean the kitchen to perfection and in what feels like moments the floor needs to be swept, the counter cleared, the stovetop wiped and the dishes done. I feel sucked dry by the monotony of it.

Laundry feels freeing – I love the finished feeling of it, of having fresh clothes to wear and them all tucked into their sweet little homes, awaiting my use. It never gets old, even though I do it twice a week. The sight of the hamper filling warms me, because I know those lovely clean things were used happily. Cooking is always a joy – and I don’t mind cleaning as I go, or cleaning the kitchen after – to me, that’s the culmination of a job well done. The sigh of contentment in action form.

Maybe it’s because I can see those things in a creative stance, as a creative project, a renewing of health, warmth, and life to our home and our selves. Why, I wonder, can’t I couch the dusting, swiffering, and general kitchen tidying those ways? Is it because I’m not always the one who creates the mess? Because the floor isn’t meant for granola bar bits and hot sauce splats while the bowls and towels are meant to be mussed? Yet these things are caused by our living of life, enjoying of our home, loving of each other.

I want to be Cinderella, Giselle, Snow White. Not for the prince at the end, but for the joy in the process while in dusty, dirty, disgusting homes.

Like mine.

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true friend

I have an old-fashioned shiner – the first of my 32 years minus 2 days – and it was given to me by none other than my nearly 3 year old daughter… which she will point out to you with a note of mild pride in her voice – I gave my momma a black eye.

It’s interesting how people respond. Most ignore it. Some look at me with worry or pity or, like the cashier at Target, an impressed approval. I try to wear it like a badge of honor, at least after covering it as much as possible with concealer – I haven’t worn this much makeup since junior high.

The best response by far, however, was from my dear friend Mary. As we chatted I saw a look of horror pass her face and then, not a moment later, she asked very solemnly what had happened. Her relief upon Olive’s admission was palpable and she said, “I had to ask. I debated for half a second but I thought, no, I have to. Because I can’t imagine Jeff would do that, but if he hit you it would have to be reported.”

I can’t think when I’ve felt so loved.

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did I mention the bedbugs?

…probably not, since that was the same time that the rest of life fell apart, including my computer. Well. Whoever said “don’t let the bedbugs bite” was a complete moron because, honey, if those buggers want to bite you there ain’t one thing you can do about it. Not one thing.

Being the nerd that I am I had to reread Harry Potter before I could go see the new movie and I was sitting up reading beside a restlessly sleeping Olive. Her cheeks and arms were covered with red splotches the pediatrician had identified as hives, though we couldn’t find anything around she could possibly be allergic to (save the brand new dining table – which I cleaned & oiled in case it was the varnish!). Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little something moving and realized it was a small bug on the sheet beside me. I flicked it off. A few minutes later another little something was crawling up the page of Half Blood Prince and when recognition dawned and I leapt from the bed another couple teeny brown insects scurried behind the pillow I had been leaning on. Without a moment’s hesitation I started sobbing.

Little things had been eating my little girl as she slept, nibbling her little round cheeks and below those pretty hazel eyes! How could this happen? How did I let it happen – for nearly two weeks – before we figured out what it was? They had eaten me, too – while I traversed Hogwart’s they’d been munching on my shoulders and upper arms. It was 2 am and I ran in to Jeffery, still sniffling, and announced that we had bedbugs.

Thus began our saga of vacuuming, buying new beds and linens and pillows, spraying, washing everything Olive owns in super hot water and on dryer setting “high.” And it paid off.

…for a month. Then the sneaky little things showed up in our bedroom, and then in the couch. So, to illustrate our quality of life right now – all three of us sleep on the bunkbeds in the 2 year old’s room. Twin sized bunk beds. Mmmmhmmm.

And now, in these tiny lifeboat-sized beds, we wait for the magic that is the exterminator to come and rescue us.

Hurry, please!

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Yes

He looks up at me, in all his eight month old wonder, and I find myself saying with strong affirmation, Yeah. Yes. Mmmhmmm. And suddenly it strikes me that this is what I whisper to all babies as I nestle them in my arms, drowning in their deep gazes. Their eyes seem so full of wonder, peace, hope, possibility, love and it’s all I can do to tell them Yes! the world is really that wonderful, and YOU are really that wonderful. Hold onto that hope, that beauty, that innocence and possibility for as long as you can, because we need you to be like that. It helps us – it helps ME – be like that, too.

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keep me safe

“Keep me safe, Mama,” she says, grabbing my hand as we go down the stairs.

“Keep me safe, Mama,” she says, wrapping her arms around my neck in a death grip as she uses a public restroom.

“Keep me safe, Mama,” she says, gripping my arm as she crosses the jointed bridge at the playground.

“I’m keeping you safe, Mama,” she says, throwing her arms around my waist as I lean up and out to help the hubby wash the second story windows.

And I cry.

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seismic shifts

The Big One. That’s what we heard about all the time growing up in California. We did earthquake drills, huddled under our desks with our clasped hands over the back of our necks. We each had our own earthquake preparedness ziploc bag in the classroom each year, full of mylar blankets and granola bars. We knew to go stand in the doorway when we felt one come on. Or, more often, just continue on with what we were doing.

I lived through a lot of earthquakes, but not yet The Big One.

Lately, in looking around me at people I love, I’m seeing lots of personal Big Ones. My dear friends just lost the pregnancy they’d been dreaming of for years. My mom is selling her home to finally finalize the loose ends of her divorce from my dad. This uproots my siblings, who all live with her.

I cry over these things; for their hurt, for the ways my heart has been hurt.

Lately I’ve been mulling over my firing, even though it’s a year and a half hence. Reprocessing some of the embarrassment, confusion, frustration. I don’t know why. It moved me to a better place – I no longer dread going to work each day. I love my job. Life is much better now. It wasn’t The Big One. It was just some plates moving, crunching as edges scraped against each other. Rearranging my life.

We’re thrashing about in the decision about having #2. Friction. Plates shift. It hurts. But in all that, it’s so….good. Which feels sadistic to say, but yet… the possibilities, the hope for the future, the ways we’re changed and softened as those rough edges are worn away with the scraping… it’s beautiful. It creates a mess out of what we’ve known, who we’ve known ourselves to be, and yet it opens the way for something new, better. A chance to rebuild.

And this is what I’m holding in my heart for those I love.

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