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  1. Go ahead and make that thing for dinner, even though everything’s just going to hell-n-a-handbasket regardless of whether good food is made or not. It’s now an hour later, and it smells and looks amazing, and you have been hungry all day without actually *feeling* hungry. What the hell is that.
  2. Since the husband has finally got his sorry ass home, and is wrestling the Terrible Child on the couch, go ahead and do the dishes because this pig sty of a house is ridiculous and a shame to your mother and a blight on the face of America.
  3. Since the dishes are done and the thing is bubbling and smellicious and almost done, go ahead and have the dregs of malbec from the old box of wine in the Liquor Cabinet (now that I have one I’m sure as hell capitalizing it because do you have one? I thought not. *sniff*). Turns out there’s no sediment or sand or gravel or bad flavors. Some things still work in this broken-down excuse for a fancy rich country.
  4. Since you made chicken broth today for the express purpose of making chicken pot pie and it all turned out well, shocker, just turn your gaze upon those quart jars of brown liquid and toasted-herby-marrowish sediment. Good job on that. Ok. That was good.
  5. Since you’re beginning to believe that your life has some goodness to it and that not everything you did today was shite and pointless and swallowed by the vast monster of Thankless Child-Rearing, go a little further. Think about how most writers and artists etc. who were mothers got their work done somehow but at an older age than 31. Don’t think about how most writers are men who either abandon their families or don’t have them.
  6. Since you’re easing onto a park-bench-of-the-mind with a cigarette and watching the kids skate on the iced-over pond, bring yourself back to reality, end the weird thing you’re writing, and eat food.
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Title are literally the worst.

So I felt 1. proud that I’ve somehow been able to follow through on this vow to do a Saturday poetry series here, but 2. irritated that now my blog just looks like a string of poims that are not even that good. So here’s some large blocks of text to break up the monotony.

Life continues to be garbage and pretty good at the same time (like always). Since Mary’s due to wake at any moment, this will actually take the form of a list instead of the aforementioned large blocks of text.

  • I’m seeing a therapist, and it feels v. v. excellent. Partly, this guy is clearly just good at what he does, and it’s been productive, considering that I’ve only been twice. But partly, it just feels good to be doing something proactive for my own health. After trying and failing multiple times to help people I love, I’m finally learning that I’m the only one I can truly help, in a real and uncomplicated way. So, let’s get TF on that.
  • Organizing the house and the house’s numerous and complex projects is overwhelming, even though we have slogged and argued through initial first steps, including but not limited to ordering and receiving $3K’s worth of cabinets.
  • It’s fall, and somehow still super hot.
  • The garden is a bright spot: I still have to weigh (and finish harvesting) the winter squash and the dent corn, but it’s gorgeous and exciting. Peppers and cherry tomatoes are still coming in.
  • Mary is still refusing to toilet-train, which is fine with me, because I can afford pull-ups and so far no-one has suggested that I should be getting on it. I mean, I suggest to Mary that she should be getting on it, but so far that has only resulted in her trying to sit on her baby potty *after* she has already pooped in her pull-up and getting poop smeared on stuff. That was ONE GARBAGE DAY. And I probably shamed her and I’m … still trying to deal with that
  • I don’t have anything to say about politics at this time.
  • Back to Mary: I had a few hours of work to make up on Friday and couldn’t find a babysitter, so, she came to work with me. I feel like I’ve joined some ranks. So many ranks to join. So many of them are garbage. However, this day turned out to not be garbage—it was actually really, really fun and wonderful—due to the fact that my bosses are laid-back and I think they really love and care about me. They didn’t mind me bringing my toddler to work, and my co-worker Jessica got pretty excited about it and at one point put Mary in the truck and drove her across a field to go see the chicks. I can’t describe the cuteness of Mary’s tiny red head barely showing at the bottom of the front passenger window as they drove away. (Very safe, if you were wondering. As you were, if you were a mom.) Mary helped pick green beans, and stepped on several bugs as I weighed and bagged greens.
  • Also, Mary has somehow weaseled her way from her bed (napping) to the couch next to papa (watching sportsingball on TV) to my lap with my arms around her as I type on this laptop. Pretty cute man. She likes what she likes. And I do encourage that, no matter how much I vent about it on social media.
  • We went to Kyle Carver Orchards this a.m. so I could get some fall frenzy going on. I wanted a bushel of apples, but Marshall talked me out of it. Possibly he was right. So we just got 1.5 pecks of Arkansas Black, Mountain York, and Carousel, and a pint each of the apple butter and sorghum they make. Yeah I instagrammed it. The fact that I just spent 30 seconds trying to figure out if I should be defensive about that or just straight apologize should remind you that I’m in therapy. But it was a most excellent morning.
  • Pizza for dinner, dough is rising while I daydream about food. God I love food. This should be its own bullet:
  • God I love food. Since I seem to have grown 50-70 lbs of winter squash, I am going to have to get creative about eating it, and these are my thoughts so far: pumpkin streusel crumbcake; pumpkin-ricotta ravioli (huge batch, freeze half) ; enormous vats of butternut soup for dinner party; vegetarian pumpkin chili; pumpkin cheesecake; cauliflower-pumpkin enchiladas; pumpkin layer cake with cardamom-cream cheese icing. AAAAA. I love food so much.

When our daughter was new we slept apart,
he on the couch and I on the bed
with her, bouncing her to sleep on a spring and I
awake again with every chirp and squeak and cry.
Then, god, honestly I don’t want to
remember. But his Meniere’s Disease was progressing
and he had 3 hours of vertigo and vomiting
and loud moaning with his head perfectly still
over the toilet, retching after moaning,
moaning after retching, small times of quiet groaning
but then I could hear the waves ratcheting up again and here
is the retching again and I was pacing the house
with my 2 month old baby. I couldn’t believe
that I, who had driven myself to morning
every day with cozy dreams of helping those I loved,
couldn’t help any of us and the waves broke
over us all over and over. I left him in the bathroom
to breastfeed my daughter and I did not believe
that even milk was coming out of me.
I wished, dry-mouthed, for her
not to starve at my breast.

Megan_SheaShea_Eila
Jessica got photos of Eila Lucia, born on the farm a few weeks ago. Jessica is our super fab intern who is also a great photographer.

CareoftheEarth_Fall_AnnaLaura_beans
And of me tossing some bean pods onto the compost pile.

 

I wait for signs,
as I have always waited for signs, leaning
out of windows
or walking.

As the mystics said, as they did,
waiting for the present moment
to reveal itself, for
the ever-present God.

And so,
I am walking a field of grass,
ironweed, and goldenrod,
a cloud of signs wrapping my head—

great bees and dragonflies,
barn and tree swallows, martins,
the sound of weight
moving through lightness,

my baby heavy in my long body.
She waits for signs, or not;
I wake her one night
with my crying.

She turns in me one morning
like someone drying a glass,
dishtowel stuffed inside
and twisting.

pp2

It’s going to be some real shit for a while, maybe I’ll get good again…we’ll see. I was going to make a comment about “baby steps,” but it just struck me that babies and young kids are the ones taking really huge developmental leaps. We adults tend to regress or barely hold our ground or make progress against headwinds at a rate of two-steps-forward-one-step-back. Small steps, small victories, belong to adults. Kids are whizzing forward. In a sense I can cling to my daughter’s coattails.

After discovering that my sister in Iowa HAS BEEN BLOGGING WITHOUT ME (i.e., resurrecting her blog and posting frequently all of a sudden without telling me—or at least without reminding me often enough), I have decided to quit with all the angst that blogging has become fraught with, for me, over the past year. During which I have received several intense and negative messages about individual posts. It put me off blogging, partly because I barely had time to do it in the first place, but mostly—if I’m honest—and I am—because I’m a people-pleaser and want people to like me and find it difficult when they don’t. But growing up includes finding one’s way and learning not to worry much about other people’s opinions about one’s way. So: I’m beginning. I will blog, like I did in the beginning (my first blog was created while away from friends & fam at college, in 2004): I will blog to relate personal thoughts and events to faraway friends & fam.

Social media makes things feel so complicated—so being off facebook but still blogging feels like a return to a more natural way of communicating. I am still on instagram, because I couldn’t quit social media cold-turkey, but the day may come when I quit it, too. If I do you will certainly read about it here.

A significant thought: being at the brink of the grave, as I am, at 31.75, and with the amount of “free time” that being a working mother has robbed me of, I have been recently reminded that I should make a list of things I want. A friend told me she had written such a list, and proceeded to read me the best and most inspiring list; it had things she wanted out of her career, concrete things she wanted to do, larger-scale things she wanted to own/create, and some desires about her creative life. I was amazed that she could make such a thoughtful list after just giving birth to her first baby only a few weeks before—but of course, it’s not that strange. Becoming a mother, and realizing how stapled-down your actual body is to the ground of the world, is sobering. I wasn’t that emotionally healthy at 2 months out, postpartum: I was reading facebook comments sections.

So she said I should write one for myself. And after thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I finally wrote one. I’ll combine it in some way with this blog’s “short-term goals” and long-term goals” pages, but it’s already 2 minutes past my bedtime, and I haven’t even finished the ice cream that’s melting in a bowl beside me. Here is my list:

  • Publish more poems in litmags (original said “publish poems in litmags” but I had to insert “more” so you will know I’m already famous published writer-type person
  • Write a postpartum essay collection
  • Find a writing group
  • Make my house beautiful
    • Renovate dismal kitchen
    • Figure out confusing curtain situation
    • Area rug for living-room
    • Finish painting house
  • Get/rent a writing studio
  • Establish incredible herb/flower gardens (well on my way tbh)
  • Get comfortable with high-pressure canning
  • Create small seed library for self
  • Create tiny improv quilts that are beautiful
  • Establish home yoga practice and/or take regular classes
  • Get nice croquet set
  • Get nice badminton set (fill in holes in lawn concurrently)
  • Turn out low-key book comments (too lazy to write “reviews” at moment) on the regular
  • Write a kids’ book for Carla to illustrate
  • Build pergola
  • Build tiny greenhouse
  • Get a woodstove
  • Trip to Vienna and/or Scotland
  • Host annual friendsgiving or other fall/winter feast
  • Become independent Mary-Poppins-type woman who don’t need no man, but with heart of gold and committed (unlike Poppins who left family in a cloud)
  • Fix up the shed as a chicken coop
  • Butcher or trade roosters

So that’s what I came up with a while back—would really like to expand on this list and make some additions about spiritual life and marriage and daughter and reading. Will soon.

Mary is singing and talking to herself in her crib, but she’s  in her crib, and I showered and made myself tea and am deciding—of all the top-priority things on my to-do list—to write a blergh. What if this is the road less traveled by, and it will have made all the difference?

So it’s Friday, and despite a terrible night of sleep, during which the husband’s bad cold roused him constantly till about 2a.m. with phlegmy throat-obstructions (sudden spluttering coughs like gunshots), and consequently roused me, I am feeling light and buoyant. Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and we’ve agreed that my present will be a solitary date all by myself—to the mountains or some other piece of wilderness—where I will have fancy cheese and crackers and a beer, and write/edit, and read in a hammock (or similar). I might decide at the last minute to take myself out for lunch and then see a movie instead—obviously I should go to the mountains. But MAN I love movie theaters, and I hardly ever get to go.
  2. Making pizza tonight.
  3. The president of my country continues down the path of horrid nightmareness and it’s becoming less and less easy for his supporters to support him. TO MY GREAT RELIEF. One tweet in particular came out today and was fucking insane. Madhouse. But our independent paper has just reported that no fewer than six (6) women from Knoxville or Maryville are preparing to run for office as Democrats. A pertinent quote: “In Tennessee’s 220 years of statehood, only two Democratic women have held office in the U.S. House of Representatives, and no woman in Tennessee has ever served as a governor or been elected to the U.S. Senate. Just two Democratic women serve in Tennessee’s 33-member state Senate, and seven Democratic women in the 99-member Legislature” (17). Makes me curious about Republican women, but I’m sure it’s safe to assume their numbers are comparable or fewer. Hope for the future!
  4. Garden is getting along, and only one plant has been eaten by rabbits. A garden fence is on next spring’s agenda, so I’m just planting tons of the things I really want, and hope that the neighborhood warren spares me enough to freeze and can. For instance, as of today I have 25 tomato plants in the ground. Ridiculous, but like I say, some of them will get eaten by rabbits. I have gorgeous rows of Whippoorwill peas, Tiger Eye beans, and a cranberry bean called Lena Sisco’s Bird Egg bean. I have about 20 winter squash plants in the ground as well: Tan Cheese pumpkins, San Jose Mountain Club squash, Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecks, and one random red Japanese squash plant I saved from the compost at the farm. One long row of Tennessee Red Cob corn. Also four pepper plants and five rows of zinnia & tithonia, also brought home from the farm. The herb garden is looking good, too, but the vegetable/flower garden is exciting because my hopes/expectations for it have risen sky-high and plummeted several times this spring, and I think it’s gonna turn out to produce ok. Yay.
  5. The “long-term forecast” for East Tennessee was so worrying, earlier in the year, as they were predicting a year like last one—hot, extreme drought—but despite (portentous) roller-coaster high and low temperatures, we continue to get rain. I’m grateful for every drop, even though we’re garbage neighbors and let mosquitoes breed in collected rainwater that we keep finding around the yard.
  6. We got a new couch to replace the old one, and we are delighted by it EVERY DAY. The old one was vintage velvet (?), striped with dark gold and pale yellow and blue—a very cool old couch—but it was passed down by someone who had bought it secondhand, and it was on its absolute last leg. I had grown to despise it. Its cushions needed daily re-shaping, the upholstery was stained and faded, it made bad noises when you sat down, and occasionally harbored mysterious odors. The day it left was the day I rejoiced. The new one is a gray sectional with nothing frilly or fancy—you might even call it Brutalist—but it is like heaven. It makes the room nice to be in. It has room for two people to stretch out, which is a heretofore unheard-of luxury, in our house. It makes me feel a little more at home.
  7. We’ve only killed one of the five chickens my boss gave me. Technically the other chickens pecked it to death (one of the several reasons I have no fuzzy feelings AT ALL toward chickens), but I think it was because we had them in an enclosure that was too small. We’re working on a larger pen and hope everybody will be somewhat at peace till it’s ready.
  8. I have so many things on my to-do list that I rarely write them anymore. It’s too frustrating. There are emails I should have replied to months and months ago, rooms to clean, weeds to pull, and just numerous other things. I don’t even have time to write them out. So instead of scrolling instagram, as is my wont, I’m writing. It’s little, it’s shitty, but I’m writing. And it makes me glad.

Today Mary threw up five times between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Since she’s been incredibly congested from leftover cold gunk and allergies for the past week, we’re guessing it’s drainage build-up in the stomach, not a stomach bug. After her last barf she seemed especially bright and cheery and kept down a cup of yogurt (I know I know), two pieces of toast, and a handful of banana and apple bites. The nurse I talked to on the phone said “just watch her,” so I’m staying home and watching her.

I did like four loads of barf-laundry, moved the chicken house to a new spot of grass, planted a row of winter squash in the garden, and got climbed on while Mary watched Clifford and The Magic Schoolbus. Mary is not a snuggler, but simply MUST have me close by, so I let her climb and sit on me till it drives me crazy, at which point I jump up with a roar and run into the next room and shake the sharp little elbows and knees off like a dog after a bath. Definitely find her amazing, etc., but my god she jabs me with every hard little bodypart in the boobs, neck, —ugh!

I’m having Reese’s cups for lunch/tea while she takes a nap. Wishing I could take super glam selfies and work in a tall glass building, wearing clicking heels. I’m feeling pretty again, for the first sustained amount of time post-pregnancy, but have poison ivy rashes on my face and neck, and a farmer’s tan.

To which the better half of my brain replies, “sure love my job” and “things are pretty good right now,” both of which are true. The garden is growing, and I think I’m going to be able to grow most of the things I wanted; I have a few chickens and only one has died; I’m getting back into shape and feel strong; I’m reading White Teeth and am delighted to report that I’m underwhelmed by it at the mo; and I’ve been thinking about sending some poems out to litmags this summer. And I’m still finding profound meaning in my work at the farm (and I got a raise, binch).

But we’ve been watching Ken Burns’ new series The Roosevelts and the person of Eleanor Roosevelt feels a little too kindred for comfort. Hearing about her life, reading her letters, reminds me of my immersion in the character of Mrs. Ramsay from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse; I have the feeling of sisterhood, of her soul having been made of a similar material to mine. And when a guest historian declared, after a brief segment on her early life as a mother, that “Eleanor Roosevelt never really hit her stride, as a mother,” I felt the invisible cymbals clash. That does it.

I also feel out-of-stride as a mother. I realize that doesn’t make me a bad mother, but it makes life strange and out-of-joint. I hardly seem to catch my breath when I’m underwater again—I finally re-work my daily schedule so I can re-incorporate something life-giving like writing or reading poetry when the porch is blown off the house in a gale, and I with it. All that exultant fuss about me getting up early in the morning, a few posts back? Daylight Savings, a.k.a. parent-sanity-ruining-time, and creeping sunrise had Mary awakening at 7:00 instead of 7:45. And 45 minutes may seem like a tiny amount of time, but it had already been a delicate balance. I haven’t gotten up early to write in at least a month.

The next episodes are going to be about how ER fledges, how she manages to “run a family” and also enter into a new time of her life’s work. Already I can see little glints of hope coming from this woman’s life and words. She’ll likely become a new muse and mentor for me.