Friday, August 31, 2012

the way we say i love you

i am hovering over the baby, her cries
dry wells - she is sobbing from her deepest
chest and nothing rises in the bucket,
not one drop of water leaves her eye.

honey, i cry out to him over the television,
honey i don't know what is wrong with her.
he is watching his favorite show, and the last
ten nights he has not sat longer than ten minutes

or eaten dinner at the table or eaten dinner.
i see the rough of his beard move incrimently
and i know he is thinking about answering me,
or not. the beer is unopened and sits on top

his Robert Parker, also unopened. the baby
stuffs a bulb fist into her mouth, and mouths
the thing wet. the high whine of misery leaks
around her fingers, in the place of those absent tears.

honey? i see the bristles move outward with his jaw,
the fatigue of being absolutely necessary
one hundred percent of the time. although i understand,
i feel a scream building, cheeks jerking,

and i think i might cry out like the baby
but i might say 'goddammit!' or 'what the hell!'
because i have not slept more than three hours at a time
for more than three months, and because i cannot

make her happy, or stop her crying, and because i am
her mother and i do not know what to do. that alone
is enough. i look down at her. baby
looks at me, sucking her fist, and as my tears

fall onto her eyelids, i feel his hand on my shoulder,
his exhausted voice slightly edgy, rancid breath
on my face as he asks, ' what is it.. sweetheart? '

this is how i know that i am loved.

maggie may ethridge, 2009

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

a secret told only to me

The first day of Fall came as a secret told only to me. The morning light changed, leaves scattered and chattered, grasshoppers bounded through the complex, the pool looked sun damaged and water logged, the sky curtsied a bit and the air was damp with stories of rain and snow and hail and wind. Dakota caught a praying mantis near our home and bought a conclave for it, dumping in tiny crickets. Within five minutes the green and watchful mantis grabbed a cricket, popped its eyeball out and ate it. Cold world, as Dakota is fond of saying, cold world.
I feel a tenderness for life that has been almost completely the domain of my baby and children for the last two years. As my body begins slowly to prepare for Ever's independence, my heart opens first. The news is too much. The stories of horror happening to children especially, those stories could kill me. I read them and I can feel the great and terrible futile suffering begin to smother me, so that were I ten years younger and off zoloft, I could spend the night shaking with sobs. I begin with what is true: I cannot save them, those that are gone. I cannot save everyone. Those two facts. Third: I can help someone. Then fourth, as I stroke Ever's heel while she nurses, I am helping someone. I am helping this human child right here in my arms, raising her in love and the safety of this family. After that, I can spread further out. As Ever grows so will my reach into this world. For now, this blog and my words are my reach. For now, small things and small movements. 
The story of Winter is on the tip of Fall's tongue, and it is that we are all alone in this together. Alone together. Together. Buddhists say that transcendental meditation has a similar effect to some serious drugs, in removing the brain's boundries from 'me, myself' and everything else. The state of freedom and love and bliss that follows is what we feel when we recognize our connection to everyone and everything. I believe this because I have had moments of it in my life, that I reached for desperately afterward, falling off a cliff and sliding down a silken rope. To achieve this kind of peace takes work I have not been willing to do yet in life. Daily practice. But to know that it is there? Is a gift.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Ridiculous Beam Of Sunhine and Love

You ridiculous beam of sunshine and love. At 20 months I am gobsmacked in love with you. I am your Momma. I am 37. I am yours completely. I adore you, every inch. Even when you drive me nuts I am so glad to be going nuts over you. You wake in the middle of the night still. You don't open your eyes, mostly. Mostly, you lie with your eyes squinched tightly and say 'Momma? Momma?' in your tiny tiny voice and whatever I am doing- writing, usually- I stop and come over and stick a booby in your mouth and say 'Momma's here' and you make this incredibly blissful face that if painted would include a slight, smug raising of the eyebrows and a sleepy contentment of the cheek and mouth. I think this little exchange summarizes our entire relationship. You have complete and total trust and faith in me and my love and my willingness and ability to take care of you in any situation, and I do so while feeling like the luckiest person on the planet to be adored in this primal and Universal way. Even nights when I lie down resentfully, wanting to finish a sentence, the river running through is always there, always saying something like: this is over so soon, nothing is more essential or important, i love you, i'm so lucky and so the two rivers run next to each other not conflicting, each with perfect right to be there. You love to turn light switches off and on, wear everyone's shoes downstairs ( Daddy's shoes! you squeak ) hug Wolfgang, empty the dishwasher, take all the books off a bookshelf, draw on yourself and various furniture with markers, ( sometimes you like to draw on paper, too ). There is a laminated picture of Daddy in his truck that he must have for work, ( Daddy's vroom vroom truck ) and when you have just had enough we give it to you to look at, and kiss, which you happily do. You steal gum, open it and sit and chew it happily until someone catches you.  You climb on everything- last night Daddy and I caught you standing inside a bathroom drawer, balanced on the edges of the drawer to get more height for leveraging yourself in grabbing all that way up high stuff you aren't supposed to have: razors, toothpaste, body cream. You recently started saying I'm sorry and always add the offended family member's name: I'm sorry Daddy. I'm sorry Wola. Dakota's best friend spent last weekend at the house and when he bumped into you on his way past, you offered I'm sorry Yake. His name is Jake but I don't think he minded. 

The last few days you've been teething badly again, two teeth coming in, and you are a different child when teething: angry, violent, prone to fits. This morning you woke up and stuffed your fingers in your mouth. A minute later you lunged at me and grabbed my hair and yanked. Ow! I yelled, untangling your fingers. I looked at your face as I sulked. You had that dazed, confused look toddlers often get when doing or after doing things like having fits, hitting or throwing toys at people, and I was reminded for the millionth time how little you comprehend of your own body and what you do, and how completely incapable you are of understanding that anyone around you could be hurt by you.. I sowwee momma, you said, patting my face. I sowwee.  I thought of how Penelope Leach talks about the way that toddlers and little children get so afraid of their own fits of emotion, how they don't understand what is happening to them or how to control it, and how terrifying it is for them when not only do they feel out of control, but then the adults around them lash out toward them. It is very scary for them, and they feel that no one is in charge, no one knows what to do. I believe that giving children the feeling of security- that someone knows what they hell they are doing around here- is the most essential thing about parenting young ones, after love.  

You love mac and cheese, avocado and black beans, string cheese, water, chocolate milk, apples, grapes and still eat mixed veggie pouches. You love Lola's dolls, the Fabulous Four especially- the four she plays with daily- and call all of them Abby. Abby is your favorite- the baby doll with hacked off hair ( Lola clipped it off in chunks when she was five ) who rarely is dressed. You carry them around until you are sick of it and then just toss em, wherever you are. Oh mang, you say regretfully as you point out to me where you threw them down. Sowwee Abby. 

I kiss you a billion times a day. You have the most kissable bridge of nose ever. I kiss your little toddler mouth and sturdy short legs and fat belly, the bottoms of your feet and along your arms, inside your neck and on  your cheek- the flat of your hand. 
I have, for months and months, said in a sing song: You want a yittle bit tootsie eye in your mouth?
Meaning, would you like to nurse? And now you say 'tootsie eye mouth?' when you want to nurse, and when you finish nursing you often pull away, look up at me with those enormous doe eyes and say ' Mm (in an approving grunt ) tootsie eye mouth. ' and then look at it, in case I was missing your point.

The thing you do that breaks my heart open right now is when you are stuck somewhere, like on a chair, or fell down somewhere, like off a chair, or afraid of something, like the vacuum cleaner, you get very still and say in the calmest,  most unremarkable voice, Momma? So that if someone else was listening they would never guess anything was wrong. You simply say Momma? and I come over and you look up at me calmly and it breaks my heart wide open.

You love cars and your car activity center, you love Barney. I can't even talk about how much you love Barney. You don't, won't, watch anything else. We watch one Barney in the morning and one around seven, before your bath. You say Barney with reverence. I'm sorry you watch any T.V., I really am, but you are the fourth kid. And I am a writer at home. So there you go: Barney.

All your siblings are the best versions of themselves with you, and I did not calculate how totally stoked I would feel watching them love you and care for you.  You are like gorilla glue that was added to our family bond.

Daddy is the sweetest Daddy to you. He takes care of you with such grace and tenderness and patience and interest in who you are as a little person. He plays with you, bathes you, changes you, chides you, feeds you, and our favorite little ritual is when Daddy and I take you and sometimes Lola on a stroller walk down the street and through the big park with the choo choo train and the stream. Daddy sometimes hurries in and looks past me to see where his little girl is, and it makes me love him even harder.

Last night when we were trying to have 'romantic time' in the bedroom and you banged on the door and all? That wasn't so great. That wasn't one of your finer toddler moments. Just saying. Your sister was SUPPOSED to be watching you, but I found out she was busy being a social butterfly fifth grader and lost track of what you were doing. Grounded for life! 

I have to go pick your sister up from Girl Scouts now, so I'll scoop you up and kiss you and off we'll go. She will slide into the car shrieking ' Kinny! Kinny ! '  and you will smile at her that special smile and I will be like 'WOAH. I'm so lucky.'

And so I am.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

People In Your Neighborhood

Take a seat and read!
The director of Blue Valentine ( Mr. Curry and I LOVE that movie ) tweets the story of the unruly passenger next to him on an airplane. It becomes so much more than you think. I love this.

Out Post For Hope:  "Outpost for Hope is doing groundbreaking work in using the Internet to bring together law enforcement, social services and families to help people who are perhaps the most vulnerable in our society: "missing persons,: including children, who are "off the grid" and often impaired by substance abuse or mental illness"

" Play is one of the most cognitively stimulating things a child can do " An article that supports all of us parents ( me ) who are spending our children's baby and childhoods supporting their natural brain and emotional development through love and play, not lesson driven success driven achievement. I'm not against lessons! ( my kids take em ) but I'm FOR lots of free time and play. LOTS.

I wrote about this with Dakota a few years ago, and feel strongly we need to encourage youth to work hard in a way that makes sense for them: "We know that people don’t spend large amounts of time engaging in tasks they do not do well. Yet, homework-trapped children are made to struggle for hours on end to get everything done. These children would be far better off if they were asked to work for a fixed amount of time (perhaps 10 minutes per night per grade) than to fall into an abyss of working all night to get every worksheet"

The importance of social media and blogging: a great post about how networking online is the new getting ahead in business- the most important part of growing a blog

Friday, August 17, 2012

People In Your Neighborhood

Take a seat and read!

Hi I'm still here :) Between the amount of writing I'm doing, some creative, some assigned, and the kids and school looming my feelings of sadness and blankness when faced with the blog post screen, I am off radar. I hope all of you are well and finding some relief from the heat if you are in the summer areas...we have had searing heat- for San Diego- with high nineties and humidity. Day after day for a few weeks now, so that everyone is feeling the effects. Meanwhile, I've found some things you have to look at. Sometimes the internet just explodes for me with good images and words, and now is one of those times. So here!

First of all must do a #humblebrag and say that because of my lucky friendship with the wonderful Caroline of the blog Salsa Pie I was able to do an interview with her on Childhood Creativity. It was really satisfying to think on her questions, and I had fun, too. Thanks Caro :)

On NPR I found these tiny world images that reminded me of The Borrowers, a book series I loved as a kid.

In the light of Jessie Jackson Jr.'s fresh diagnosis of Bipolar 11, Time magazine wrote this interesting article on the diagnosis and its treatment and how much is still unknown and guessed at.

i09 writes about the new study showing that antibacterial hand soap causes serious loss of muscle strength. I have never bought antibacterial hand soap for my family because my mother always taught me that most things that we humans muddle in like this end up harmful. Hot water and regular soap.

Have you been following the story of the punk band Pussy Riot? Three young girls arrested in Russia for playing a concert, now convicted of 'hooliganism' and two years in labor camp. Where is Bill Clinton? He needs to pay a visit to Putin.

After reading this interview with Gabor Mate in The Sun magazine, I put two of his books on my wishlist in Amazon. I have never heard anyone express so closely my own views on childhood trauma and the lifelong effects, or the deeper reasons why attachment parenting matters so much.

Paul Corby was denied a heart transplant- for a condition he was born with- because he is autistic. 

I read everything I can get my eyeballs on about parenting a child with anxiety.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Keep Calm And...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Maggie's Complaint ( Not related to Portnoy)

I've noticed that a very hard childhood is often followed by a very hard adulthood. If  I could take note of the statistics of exact proximity of Dangerous Childhood Incidents and Other Threatening Emotional States to the exact proximity of a thriving, healthy adulthood then I could make a report, publish it to much acclaim and much ado, critique and disgust, infuriating many parents and also many human beings who would like to use their life as example of why my stats were bust. I'd like to be a researcher for each important issue in my life and become an expert, a brand of sorts, someone that others depend on for their reliable, informative tweets. 'That girl, she knows her shit', they'd wisely think before clicking FOLLOW. My Facebook pages would each blow up with keyword and research driven postulations, being extremely careful not to simply state things I like, and things I do not like, as according to the latest information this is the least likely status to obtain interaction. We must have our interaction. Many a day. I must have my interactions. I can use a phone, a computer, an Ipad. I can be in my bedroom, living room, your room or the bathroom. I close the computer, satisfied. Smugly, I look around the room. I know my shit, I'd think. 

I believe parenting makes me a small bit more insane every day. In somewhat proportion to this, I also become more aware of my insanities and more disciplined in controlling them. This is not a favorable trade off in my estimation.

Because I took note that very hard childhoods are often followed by very hard adulthoods, I expect to be quickly informed by the internet all the various ways that this observation and belief is incorrect. If I were an expert, I could argue back with my razor like intellect zapping facts and intuitive reaches into the unknown with the greatest of calm eyebrows and lips that do not tremble. I would play the situation like an instrument for which only my mouth is suited to coax into song. I would rule.

I would not use the words and phrases:

I think
Could be
It seems

I also have taken note that male writers use these words significantly less than female writers, therefore more often being commented on their ' authentic, confident voice ' in reviews. After considering the freedom of lack of pre and post explanations for most every thought or opinion I hold, I began, years ago, the rigorous process of deleting these words and phrases from my writing. Not all. Many.

In parenting, the experts make headlines about our children. I want to be an expert. I want to make the headlines. As of now, it is the children who write the headlines, and I have the lowly, underpaid job of assisting editor and copyrighter. MOM I'M GOING OUT UNTIL THREE AM PLEASE LEAVE THE DOOR UNLOCKED I LOST MY KEY he writes. I fix the first paragraph and insert a clause noting that a new key must be made, and a phone call as well. MOM I AM A GROWN UP NOW AND I'LL MAKE MY OWN MISTAKES, NO MATTER HOW HORRIBLE THEY ARE
Now this can't be true. 

I stare at this headline all night. 

The job of editor is confusing.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

People In Your Neighborhood

take a seat and read!
I had two pieces online recently, I'd love for you to take a look. I have a new column on The Conversation, a great website offshoot of The Conversation TV series, an awesome interview series of powerful women driven by Demi Moore and Amanda Cabanet. I'm writing on The Conversation about women's sexuality, and my first piece is about Mr. Curry and I as we married, and what you need to know about your sexuality before you say I Do... 

On The Huffington Post I wrote again about Mr. Curry:  our tendency to derail while arguing and five steps to arguing without tearing down.

I was so happy when I came across this photograph essay piece on literary figures and their tattoos. I love this kind of thing!

In The Atlantic, a piece I found deeply inspirational. Marie Myung-OK Lee writes about how her son's profound disabilities taught her that having it all is really just about how you are looking at it all. I'm saving this one for my personal folder in email on how to get along in life.

An interview with the writer Don Lee: ' Poverty wasn't inspirational '

Roxanne Gay and We Are Many. We Are Everywhere. A call to recognize that there are many black writers, all you have to do is read them- and a list of some to start with.

In Salon, Kevin Sampsell writes about how saving a man's life was the precipice for his own reckoning. I loved the honesty in this piece, the way it broke my heart so cleanly and openly, like a child's face as they tell a story. It made me think about modern life, and how estranged we are, and how much everyone needs to have a place, to be necessary.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Humble Servant Of Love

I felt adrift all my life, until Dakota. He anchored me spiritually and physically. The first bath we took together, he was a few days old and looked like a wrinkled old man, suction cup lumps on the top of his forehead from his extraction. ( I was screaming 'come out come out come out' and my doctor took this literally, popping the toilet plunger on baby's head and tugging him out into the world. ) I slid into the bath with his tiny red butt on my naked crotch. He cooed. He looked at me and blinked. I looked back at him and kissed the bottoms of his feet. And then he let loose an enormous, yellow, breastfed baby poop all over my crotch and stomach.

I was nineteen. My teenage years had been a battle between my actual body and the body I thought I should have, the body that would bring boys, admiration, attention, love. Love. I wanted slimmer thighs, a higher ass, bigger breasts, smaller cheeks, less freckles. I wanted to look like a cartoon character from animae porn. I wanted to obliterate my selfness and be someone already created and tested on an audience. I vomited, I starved, I worked out, I cried. When I became pregnant, all of that came to a complete halt. I stopped smoking, starving, vomiting and eating like shit, and my body became a place I was devoted to- it carried the life of the most precious thing in the world. I ate three meals a day, with vegetables, drank water, took vitamins, went on nature walks. I rubbed essential oils on my stomach, bright and shiny and stretched and soft, shaped like a Picasso with a leg here, a foot there, his blocky head in my ribcage. I began learning to love my body by loving the body of my unborn baby. 

After he was born and home a day I nursed him on the stairs in the hallway. I sat in pajamas, hair on top my head, swollen faced and blissfully happy, the happiest I have ever felt in my life. The sense of possibility and love was stardust depths, pressed into me until I was completely and totally both cleansed and saturated. Dakota latched on, and I felt my uterus clench like a great fist, like an orgasm commands the muscles but to pain, instead of pleasure. I cried out and pulled him off the breast. My mother took baby and I sat and rocked for a minute until the contractions ebbed. I sat up straight, intensely impressed with my body. My cells know what to do, I thought. I just have to follow what they tell me. After that, I lost my fear of doing something wrong. I knew that my body would tell me how to care for him.

If I trusted, and listened, I knew when to nurse, when to give up in frustration, when to roll over and when to hold closer, when to let go.

If only I could listen so well now, eighteen years later.  To feel with hands in darkness the space between yourself and your grown but not grown child, to find the distance that allows but the closeness that cherishes. To hold on is so easy. To hold tightly, so easy. To let go? The very words challenge everything I know about loving my children. Parenting has been a series of steps involving choices that have at times completely baffled, humbled and humiliated me. While reading and learning and listening and praying and taking into account my own humanity, doing the very best I can is doing what? Everyone will have an opinion, especially you. ( I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to you )

When the best answers were all closer, closer, closer, I was a champion. A thoroughbred of love. Now that the answers are a dark and brilliant road of retreats and forward marches, advice and deaf ears, open doors and lines drawn, unanswered calls and uncertain genesis and a time for letting go that also demands me as the backup plan and soft landing place, I am just a humble servant of love. Did you know- were you told at the meeting?- that sometimes, doing the best you can still isn't enough? I never heard, I didn't know, and this is the fairy tale that I must let go of. I never believed in happily ever after or marriages that went on and on easily with romance and grace, but somewhere along the way, in the unforgettable days of the sweetest salvation I will ever know- my baby in my arms- I did believe that I could make it all end well with the sheer magnitude of my love. The sheer determination of my self exposure in therapy, my dogged hair suit of journal confessionals, the moral belief that if I exposed my every fault and failure, I could protect my children from them, and protect them, then- here comes the real fairy tale- from their own.

"We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it."
Rainer Maria Rilke

previous next