Monday, December 15, 2014

The Appendix Diaries, part 3.

10 days, give or take. 

10 days I was housebound, recovering from the flu. Except it wasn't the flu at all. It was a perforated appendix which landed me in the emergency room at Legacy Emanual. They took the infected fucker out, gave me some pain meds and a water bottle with a straw and sent me home. My nice, warm home in North Portland. A rental. Just the basics really. But nice. And warm. And home. 

For 10 days I wrestled with a strong, but bound and held down, desire to produce. Write more! Construct more! Contribute more! Make my mark on Earth, gently, but noticeably. But my body wouldn't let me do much more than sit, uncomfortably, and feel the limitations of my own mending. 

I cried a lot, no longer from the vicious pain that had attacked my abdomen so unexpectedly and so violently. I just cried. I felt useless. So much pain in the world and I was stuck at home, my nice, warm home, unable to even make a cup of tea. Unable to even enjoy the taste of the tea when it was made for me for the metallic taste that still pasted my tongue. I cried from feeling selfish. I cried from feeling helpless. I cried because I missed my kids. I cried when kindness came to my doorstep with a copy of Humans of New York or a bag of food. I cried because I knew that I would heal, but others won't. 

10 days later, give or take, and I'm back on my feet with few limitations. But I'm holding inside me a pain that I don't want to release, a pain that has strung out like a connective tissue, an empathetic wire for friends, family and folks I see around me who are hurting. They weren't taken down for 10 days and returned to their nice, warm, home. They hurt constantly, with no end in sight, save a final exhale. I've been crying for them. 

If you have any extra you can give this holiday season, please consider a financial donation to 2 dear friends of mine. Alethea Phillips, who bravely fought metastatic melanoma and endured unfathomable pain before finally breathing her last on October 30, 2014. Her husband, Michael, is enduring medical issues of his own while still reeling from the loss of Alethea. You can help by donating here. And my friend, Daniel, who I sadly see too little of, was badly injured in a motorcycle accident and has suffered extensive nerve damage in his right arm. You can help Dan by donating here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Appendix Diaries, part 2.

Last night I talked to my boyfriend about my bowel movements, and how it hurts so much to reach around to wipe my butt.

No, wait. You don't understand.

These are things I do not discuss with anyone, ever, with maybe just these few exceptions.

1. With a toddler who just announced she made it on time ~ And then we both look in her little red potty and squeal, she out of pride and delight, and me out of the quick whistle of vomit that has sprung up behind my molars.

2. With my girlfriends who are loud and proud poopers ~ They share giggles while one poops and the other pours the wine, and I snicker like I'm listening but really am just searching for something else to clean.

3. With an entire emergency medical room staff ~ Because my body is a machine, my body is a machine, my body is a machine, and the machinists need to know how the pipes are holding up, and also, sigh, are the contents fluid or firm? 

I was married for 10+ years to a man that believed I never had a bowel movement. Over 10 years I stealth-bombed the one shared bathroom; I was a gastro ninja. I was confident in my regular irregularity, a functioning and discreet digestive enigma. The world was my stage, my heart an open book, but that was one piece that stayed behind the curtain. Keeping it secret was an ongoing victory.

But my main mansky, Cransky, loves me enough to buy me stool softener along with my antibiotics and pain meds. And then enough to ask me how things are progressing "down there".  And then I must love him enough back, because after a few TMI disclaimers, I answer.

He must love my guts. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Appendix Diaries, part 1.

I threw up hot pink jello today, right in front of my kids. I couldn't see their initial reactions of course, but they definitely didn't freak out. I had kept the whole ordeal fairly tidy, I had a gallon sized ziploc bag at the ready, right next to this chair I've come to know so well recently. The mess went straight in, no splashes, no eating contest aftermath. And actually, I took pause mid-retch and enjoyed a very blissful moment when I realized how this was the most perfect vomit experience I had ever endured. Except for the fact that it happened in front of my kids. Magnolia may have gasped, just a little, softly. And River asked three times - though not too quickly and definitely not panicked, "Are you okay Mom?" And I withheld the urge to pull my face from the bag to answer "I can't quite say, cause I'm in the middle of puking up my jello lunch. But thank you sweet boy." He was concerned but in control. And then he went to the kitchen and brought back a cloth napkin for me. He offered to refill my water bottle. Then they both gave me sweet and gentle, caring hugs. And then they returned to the table and finished their homework. If it weren't for the bag of vomit in my hands, that may have been the happiest moment of my life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Destroying the Cleaver legacy

Last night I read an editorial from Ariel Gore in a recent issue of Hip Mama. It was about breaking down the notion of the nuclear family. You know, one dad, one mom, 2 kids, middle class, white-identifying. Even if the Beav isn't your next door neighbor, the Cleaver legacy is still pervasive. It's still clung to as an ideal, even though it's complete fiction.

We see evidence of a strife to break down cultural baggage about what it means to be a man, or a woman. To re-imagine gender as not directly connected to one's genitalia. Because we're learning, slowly, that there isn't just one definition. And when you put people in boxes, their world shrinks. And then the whole world is filled with boxed up people who don't know how to grow into their own skin.

The same is true for family. We see families that are contrary to the Cleavers, the arrangements are unlimited. Single parent, 2 dads, 2 moms, grandparents, no parents, 19 children, no children by choice, no children by infertility, lost children, step-children, foster children, and on and on. We say we accept them, and for the most part we believe we do. And yet, these contrary families still feel that tug of the Cleaver legacy burden. It happens in simple moments, ordinary interactions that have no ill-will, like "Are you her babysitter? Oh! It's just I've seen her get picked up from school by another woman before." Or, "Hey, can your son come over and play today?" which is met with "I'm sorry, no, he's at his dad's until Friday." And then a response of "Oh bummer. My kid will be so sad." I'm sure your kid will indeed be so sad ... for a minute. Meanwhile, I'll keep myself busy these next few days until I see my kids again and try to catch up with them on the time we spent apart. And then after a couple of days we'll give our hugs on the front porch before school, I'll kiss them good-bye and say again, "I'll see you in a few days." To my own children, weekly, "I'll see you in a few days." It never gets less weird. It always breaks my heart. And I can feel the tug of June Cleaver's critical glance: well you were the one who chose divorce.

There are plays in motion. Our television shows are beginning to depict a new offering of what family can be. But when did looking to TV as a model for real life ever prove to be effective? There's still this tugging of legacy, that by being a "modern family" we're bucking the status quo! That status quo that still knocks at the front door daily with sidelong glances and assumptions. And when we can't (or won't) live up to the status quo, when the one dad, one mom, 2 kids and a healthy income don't pan out, there's depression, there's guilt, there's rage, there's suffering. There's still that box of an ideal that didn't work out, and it's confining. The nuclear ideal has to go away completely. I get what Ariel was saying. You may indeed be in a loving family that has one man, one woman, 2 kids and identify as white. They're yours. Enjoy each other. Love each other. Celebrate your family. But to keep that one structure on a pedestal above others -- even if we don't realize it -- is setting us all up for disaster.

There is more opportunity to grow when we're not constrained. It's physics. (Right? I never took a physics class.) But it's obvious at a basic cellular level.  A sunflower won't reach for the sun if it never sees it. We must strive to let go of tired notions of what family looks like. To expand empathy. To truly embrace each other. To be able to grow.

It's the love that defines family, not the structure. Let's all agree to aspire to love as the status quo of family, even if it must sometimes be filled with too many good-byes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ode de toilet.

The kids still really haven't caught on. Emotions still get heated and the drama still escalates when one of them has to poop ... and the other one has to poop at the same time. They still whine outside the bathroom door, hopping on one foot and then the other, yelling "Mommmmmm, he's taking too long!" And I call out the magical and urgent Mom call that has not to this day sped up the child pooping process. "Hurry it up! Your sister has to go, too!" And then we remember, we have 2 toilets now. Holy. Blessed. Shit.

It's been a lifelong struggle. I grew up in a household of five: four women with periods, small bladders and crimping irons, and one man with a tree in the corner of the backyard.

The struggle is real. 

But no longer will one child have to try to take a bath while the other fouls up the bathroom air with yesterday's PB&J. We have entered in to a golden era. Nay, we have entered into The Porcelain Era.

I would be lying if I didn't admit to you that I have dreamed of the day that I could blog an ode, Ode to Bathroom #2. I'm 37 years old, and for the first time in my life I have a 2nd bathroom. It is glorious. And I even hear rumors that there are homes that have more than 2 bathrooms! More than even (gasp/faint) 3! It feels like when Marty McFly admitted to his 1950's mom's family that he had not one, but two television sets in his house. Scandalous! Luxurious. Jealous.

But the struggle IS real. 

While I prance like a filly through a field of toilet seats, the lack of access to hygienic toilets is a massive global problem. 4 out of 10 people in the world don't have access to a clean toilet. And here I am, with access to 2. And also next door to someone with 2. And so on, all around me.

Toilets aren't just a matter of making us comfortable while we unburden ourselves of that which makes us smelly. For this 16 year old, it means she has privacy and dignity when managing her menstrual cycle -- especially important in a community that still sees menstruation as an embarrassment and a taboo. Access to a private toilet means she no longer misses school out of fear and anxiety, an issue that still affects millions of girls worldwide.

And if that makes you as uncomfortable as shitting in the woods in winter, here's why toilets matter. In the absence of basic sanitation facilities, waste from infected individuals can contaminate a community's land and water, increasing the risk of infection amongst the people that live there. People often have to live close to and even drink water from an environment that is contaminated with waste, including the waste of infected individuals. If the water is infected, then so is the dirt, the food, and even the flies.


Water.orgDoes that mean I need to feel crappy about my two glorious shitters? I don't think so. But it certainly means I appreciate them more, understanding how it has affected the general wellness of our world, and that there is still so much that can be done. Easily. Preventably. Non-profits like WASH United and are dedicated to improving water and sanitation issues globally. Improvements are being made with increasing access to clean toilets, improving hygiene practices like routine handwashing, and education. These organizations and others can only make change when we -- the people with toilets -- actually chip in to help.

I wasn't asked by anyone to write a blog post about toilets. Honestly, I didn't even realize that #WorldToiletDay was a thing until I saw WASH's picture of Earl Blumenauer in my newsfeed. But I had simply been thinking that I am still so grateful that I no longer have to worry that a child of mine might be forced to drop trow in the backyard (again). And I know that this shouldn't be a luxury, but a human right.

Thank your toilet this November 19th! Or head to Central Park right now and thank this one.

POST PUBLISH NOTE: My incredibly insightful friend, Sabrina, clarified "that thing that happens when one person is showering and another is pooping, it has a name. At least in our house. "Sheet-zah-nah" (shit-sauna" but said fancy like. Sheet-zahnah."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

urbanMamas Podcast

Some time late this summer a long-time friend, Rae Ann, came over to the house. Rae Ann has been content manager for the locally famous parenting website, urbanMamas, for a few years now, and she does a helluva job. Have you ever tried to keep tabs on all the events in one bustling and highly engaged city and then curate them into one easily navigable website for all to see? DOUBT IT. That shit's hard. You know what else is hard? Parenting. And even harder? Single parenting. Even harder still? Single parenting while content managing while going to school full-time. Even harder than that? All of it plus a few ducks. And chickens. But Rae Ann has been kicking ass like the social butterfly warrior goddess that she is. She asked me if maybe I'd like to consider contributing content to the uM website.

I love me some content. BUT!

I thought about it. In fact I lay in bed that night thinking about it. I already had a full plate -- the most delicious plate of all is a full one amirite -- and I wasn't convinced that a few contributing blog posts would do much to support uM and, by extension, Rae Ann. Somehow, in those hours between "Holy Shit I'm So Tired" and "Holy Shit Why Can't I Sleep" an idea occurred to me, which led me to stay awake thinking until the hour of "Holy Shit It's HOW Fucking Late Now?!"

I texted Rae Ann first thing in the morning.

What about a podcast? I mean, I hardly ever read a blog post from start to finish anymore. Why? Cause I'm a busy mom. And I never EVER click on videos that are sent to me during the workday. Why? Cause I'm working goddammit and who has the time to watch a video when I could just as easily listen to it while flitting through all my open browser tabs. A podcast. We could do that. Portland moms could listen while they work/parent/study/exercise/create/shower/eat/play/hike/drive and be generally magical people all of the time. PLUS! We could use the transcript as blog content, for those who'd rather read. 

And holy crap on a crocodile, we did it. I reached out to a good friend of mine from back home in Humboldt. Andy and I were co-spirit commissioners in high school, and apparently, the Tiger doesn't stray far from its spirit den. Andy is a master of streaming audio in his post spirit commissioner days, so I picked his streaming brain. "How the hell do I podcast?" With Andy's tips, a brand new Blue Yeti mic, a kitchen table, and a city with more story than Disneyland, Rae Ann and I recorded our very first podcast episode.

Our first guest was Rosalee Rester, owner of Baby Wit, maker of the coolest duds that my kids ever donned. Our second guest was Sabrina Williamson, long-time friend, protector of teeth, and the wittiest photo caption writer this side of BuzzFeed. And we have so many other stories lined up! Moms in and around Portland who are creating and advocating and plowing head-first into problems then busting through the other side with revelation and revolution. This is our community, Portland! And Rae Ann and I would like to invite you to come and have a seat around the urbanMamas table. Subscribe to the uM Podcast on iTunes and listen in, whenever the hell it works for you. And if you're feeling extra delightful, leave us a review and comment on iTunes!

This whole podcast thing is new to me. I've had to learn a whole new media in a very short time, and I don't know even a fraction of it yet. I am profoundly grateful to Andy, not only for his initial tips, but for connecting me a few years back with a new friend, Mike, who is the ultimate podcast nerd, and bless the stars that he is. He has graciously offered his advice and has even mastered an episode for us! I LOVE YOU PEOPLE!

I'm verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. Then shhhh, go have a listen to the urbanMamas Podcast. Report back on the uM Facebook page, or Twitter, or leave a comment here or -- seriously, you could throw a comment up into the wind and it would land on me or Rae Ann. Like seagull poop, but not quite as sticky.

Find the urbanMamas Podcast here:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Legalized It.

Oregon, say hello to your new state weed:

Aunt Mary, bud, cheeba, chronic, doob, ganga, giggle weed, golden leaf, grasshopper, herb, grass, homegrown, jolly green, Kansas Grass, Mary Jane, green, reefer ... a weed by any other name is still marijuana. Yesterday Oregon voters ended our state's prohibition of marijuana, taking sales off the criminal market and legalizing possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and older.


I wish. There'd be a lot more hugging, a lot less violence, and way more snack treats.

But the truth is, not everyone's gonna be so high. Those who don't smoke weed now aren't just gonna pick it up the moment it's officially legal next summer and then plop themselves in from of an Adult Swim marathon with Funyuns and Chili Cheese Fritos. But now, this plant that has been forced to thrive underground for decades (and thrive it has, despite its prohibition) can come up out of hiding, into the sun, and shine its economic growth on all of us. Colorado is headed toward $84 million this year from recreational marijuana taxes and fees. And Washington is estimated to bring in more than $50 million between 2015 and 2017. And though it's too soon to say what this new green economy will look like in the long-haul, from a mom's perspective, I would MUCH rather my child get busted by me for being stoned and eating all my Oreos, than getting drunk and doing just about anything. Period. Because I've seen first-hand and close-up what alcohol and marijuana can do to people. And it's night and day.