On Nightmares

You know those naked at school or work dreams you have sometimes that you wake up from in a cold sweat, kind of dying a little inside? Yeah, you work in a restaurant for long enough and those dreams keep the crowds but lose the naked bit and get replaced with lost checks or burnt steaks. And they're horrifying.

And it doesn't matter how long it's been since you've worked in a restaurant, because that shit will haunt you for the rest of your natural days. Perhaps more. I'm pretty sure the 6th layer of hell involves a buffet line and Mother's Day.

Last night, I had a 9 table section and it was full. Like, full full. There was one table I kept forgetting no matter how hard I tried to, and one table of two that were fairly regular customers who came in with a double pork chop and a chocolate cake made with garbanzo bean flour (shockingly good, I've learned. Thanks, Zoeyjane. I'm totally waiting for that recipe.) They wanted the pork chop cooked to medium and the chocolate cake served to them in 5-7 minute intervals, each at a different style. And they had an evaluation form. And they were filling it in as the night progressed.

I realized this was a dream when I didn't tell them to bite me.

So, it was 20 minutes before the kitchen closed and the dish racks were all full and lined up in front of the kitchen door so I had to go outside, enter through the alley, and cook my own food. The pork chop got thrown on the grill with two steaks that someone wanted stacked up like a double cheeseburger with a side of defibrillator and I got started on the chocolate cake.  I got round one plated up and ready to go, then had to run next door to the crack house to sit on the couch with the crack momma and her social worker. I wish I knew why. I was offered tea, and I can't say no to tea, and before i knew it, more than a half hour had past. I ran back, got the heart attack stack out, checked the pork and ran the first cake. And the people weren't at their table. So I took the cake back to the kitchen.

I wasted another thirty minutes looking for a hammer and chisel to open a coconut I was suddenly carrying around before I remembered the pork chop who's asian glaze I hadn't even begun to make. I ran back to the kitchen to find all of the lights out, every cooler locked and an empty grill. Romero (his name was Romero) (because I name imaginary dream people) threw the pork away when he left.

That's the point in the dream when you wake yourself up because you're about to hit the ground and if you fall that far in a dream and actually hit the ground, you'll die in your dream and in real life. If you've never worked in a restaurant, you'll hate me for wasting your time with this whole post but if you have, odds are you're puking right now, just like I wanted to when I woke up.

Dreams Do Come True; It Can Happen To You, If Your Mother Refuses To Let Go Of Childhood Angst. Or You're Young At Heart, Either Way.

I was born with the ability to play the piano. This is no surprise; my parents are, and I'm not kidding, two of the most gifted musicians you'll ever meet. My father taught Jim Croce's brother to play guitar, not kidding. All of us are musically inclined, whether or not we choose to use those skills. And hell, have you ever seen my fingers? They're like pipe cleaners sticking out of dough, I tell you what. They're made for three things....guitar, piano and masturbation. Thankfully or unfortunately, I can't decide which, I was so indoctrinated with cultish visions of damnation and hellfire that one of those three was forever ruined for me.

As for the other two, I taught myself how to play guitar with a book full of Janis Ian sheet music and my 4th grade music teacher realized one day that I could just play piano. He taught me basic notes and chords and sent me home, and my mother handed me the sheet music to The Incredible Hulk and a dry erase marker for the piano keys and told me to have at it. A year later, I could really play the piano. It's the ugliest thing in the world, watching me hammer away on the keys, but it sounds right and hell, I'm sure that Beethoven looked like an asshole when he played, too, but no one's smacking him down for form today, now are they?

I am no Beethoven. I am no Elmo on a piano, but if I wanted to be, I probably could rock that shit.

For a while, I wanted to be. We had two player pianos in our house, side by side in our tiny living room, donated to us by our church in what I can only guess was a misguided attempt at keeping our little fingers busy with anything that didn't involve our naughty places. I used to BEG my mother for lessons, but she refused on the grounds that we couldn't afford it, which was probably true seeings how we only ate a few times a week, and no amount of the Rainbow Connection and church hymns filling the air would also fill our tummies, but it didn't make me want them any less. I was very understanding of the whole situation, though. I'd sit while my bat-shit crazy grandmother who thought she could channel George Washington and make the dog levitate tried to teach me how to play the score from Oklahoma with her squeaky little voice that wasn't completely unlike that shrimp from Poltergeist's demon voice. I'd hammer out Suicide is Painless, which maybe wasn't exactly the smartest sheet music to hand a suicidal pre-teen in hindsight, but bygones, until I got it right, and I still fall asleep with Ted Cassidy's voice in my head, telling me about science gone awry and Dr David Banner's struggles with elastic waist bands, muscle shirts and finding a nice shade of lipstick to compliment his earthy skin tone. Or something like that.

And then one day, after spending the better part of a year teaching my little brother to play the Pink Panther theme, my mother announced that she was getting him piano lessons because he was clearly gifted and deserved the extra help.

Cue head explosion.

I swore, SWORE, that no matter what my kids wanted to be in life, I'd make it happen. If they dreamed of being a world-class marathon runner, I'd put down the cigarettes and strap on the Nike's and train with them. If they wanted to be carpenters, I'd hand them a hammer. And a bandaid. If they wanted to be starving musicians, I'd buy them their first Les Paul.

IMG_3277Can We Build It?Ain't Noise Pollution

Of COURSE I ended up with the kid who's only goal in life is to beat every level of Guitar Hero and then become, not just a professional, but a sponsored skateboarder. I have a really hard time asking my husband for $8 when I need milk and bread, but I'm supposed to figure out how to get Element to pay my kid to skate? Christ on a goddamn cracker, yo.

The boy is dead serious. He will skate for someone, and well, and he's not going to stop until this happens for him. Or he breaks his legs. Or he starves to death under a half pipe. Or he falls over backwards at the skatepark and hits his head so hard he cracked his Bell helmet all the way up the back. Oh, wait, that already happened, and it really didn't stop him. It did stop any number of parts on me, however, but I think I've started breathing again and I seem to have a pulse, so I think I'll recover. He thinks it's pretty cool. Bastard. Bastard who now wears his helmet everywhere he goes, though, so I win.

Of course, I have these dreams of my boys winning Pulitzers and accepting Nobel prizes and graduating from Ivy League colleges but maybe that's not in their cards. Do I want my kid to put everything he has behind skateboarding? Honestly, a little. Skateboarding is awesome. But there's that grown-up in me that wants to tell him to have a "fall back" career, some "real" skill, something "substantial" to base his life's dreams on. Because I didn't even go to college and it's taken me 34 years to even find a job that doesn't require an apron. And if I want anything in this world, it's for my children to know more than I did, to live better than I ever could have.

But my baby wants to skateboard, and I can't deny that. I mean, look at that shit. It's poetry.


God shield I should disturb devotion. So tomorrow, I'm packing these boys up and, under the guise of testing out the new Tony Hawk video game Ride, I'm lugging them down to San Diego to spend a weekend with His Holiness himself, Mr Tony Fucking Hawk. Because maybe I'd also like him to have a law degree, but I'd really much rather watch him have his dreams come true. And of all the things that matter to me, the fact that my kid knows I support him, in whatever, is the most important thing to me in this whole world.

Besides getting to meet Tony Hawk, of course. I'm kind of flipping out about that one.

Better Living Through Crimes Against Fashion

I have some back problems. They're not "end of the world" back problems, but most certainly prone to being "abrupt end of my day" back problems. Basically, the right side of my back has decided to wage global-thermo-nuclear warfare the rest of my body, and it's gotten the entire right side of my body to join in it's jihad.

This shit hurts like a motherfucker a good deal of the time.

I've tried everything to fix it. I've handed thousands of dollars over to a chiropractor in Denver whom, I am pretty sure, used it all on midget porn. I've done yoga, but when your stomach hangs the way my stomach hangs, yoga stops being classically graceful and fascinating to watch and becomes something Quentin Tarentino wouldn't be comfortable putting on screen. I've gone to a billion doctors. I've cried. I've eaten my body weight in ibuprofen. This afternoon. Nothing helps.

When I moved up here to Ye Ole Canada, I figured that it might take a while but I'd maybe be able to actually get this fixed, what with the social medicine making sure I don't have to bankrupt myself for help. I went to several different doctors who ran several different tests and all of them were inconclusive at best. My current doctor, whom I am sort of in love with, actually went so far as squeezing me in for a CT scan, which came back normal.

Because guess who's back didn't hurt the day of the scan? Go on, I'll give you three tries.

It's gotten to the point where I know, without any doubt, exactly what the problem is and I have a general idea of how it would need to be fixed, but my doctor isn't about to let someone slice me open without an MRI, and that would take no less than a year to get, so he's told me that yes, I'm probably right about what I think, but just keep taking those Motrin and it'll go away someday.

Which, in doctor speak, means "when your birth certificate expires." I'm just not that patient.

He offered to do some nerve conductivity test, but then forgot. He ordered a bunch of bloodwork for me to have drawn, and I lost the forms. I asked him what to do if this continues to get worse, and he told me to get an exercise ball and do these completely pornographic sorts of back-bends and splits and bouncy things on it. I think he has the hots for me. Or wants me to have more children. Either way, I'm not buying my kids an $85 bouncy ball that's bigger than their head in the name of physical well-being. That's what I buy Guinness for.

The last time I was in his office, he wrote me a prescription that read, not kidding, "Shannon has monster feet and needs orthotics" and wrote me another one that I thought I was mis-reading. I looked at it. I held it up to a mirror. I turned it upside down. I asked a Ouija board. I kept getting the same answer.

The man prescribed me Birkenstocks.

And I figured that it's finally happened, that the province has run out of tax money for medical care and they're throwing any old diagnosis at people just to make them so annoyed, they'll stop coming to the doctor already. Or drive to Seattle. Which would just make my back hurt worse. So I went to the shoe store and talked to a lady forever and bought my very first pair of tree hugging hippie shoes (with my husbands own money, thankyouverymuch FTC) and you know what?

Those bitches Changed My Life.

My back still hurts, but more in a "I have a really good reason to whine today, and possibly get away with not washing the dishes" way than the "I'm going to give this Playdough Thanksgiving set plastic knife to my daughter and let her dig out a chunk of my spine with it" way. I actually feel better when I wear these shoes. A lot better. Like, I don't ever want to take them off better. See, my normal flat feet don't sit properly on the floor, and that throws my entire spine off and makes me stand all funny which throws my back off more, and then everything pinches and tightens up and the entire right side of my body starts talking about seceding from the Nation of Me in revolt. And the Birks? They fix it. They make my feet set properly on the ground. They rotate my arches way the hell up, and keep them there, and they mold to my feet to make sure that everything continues to stay where it belongs. And it makes the pain stop.

They look completely fucking ridiculous with a slinky black cocktail dress on, but I've never been one to put fashion over comfort, so there's that. Don't like it? Don't look down. Doctor's orders, yo.

So I am now officially one of THOSE people who wears brown hippie shoes with woolen socks under them and once I move to Boulder, Colorado and stop shaving my armpits and start humping trees, my transformation will be complete. And I'll be so close to pain free, I may actually be able to notice the other little pains, like all the crotch splinters. Humping trees ain't for the faint of heart.

On Fall

Orange is my favorite color, and that's why I love fall.

I love fall because the air is thick with the smell of burning wood. In the fireplace way, not the Californageddon way.  I love fall because I don't have to shave my legs, ever, and I get to break out my fuzzy socks. I kind of have a thing for socks. Bet you didn't know that.

I love fall because it's laced with traditions. We go back to school; lunch boxes are lined up on the counter every day, story time and dinner time and shower time and bed time all happen on schedule. We let go of the hap-hazard, fly by the seat of our pants summer days and we pack up the pastels and the florescents in exchange for the earth tones. My little green eyed babies, my one blue eyed boy with olive skin, they look so beautiful in shades of green and brown snuggled around their necks that it hurts to look at them sometimes. My husband rushes home on his early nights to fill our house with the grunts and the woots! that football season brings. Beers are cracked, crotches are scratched, and the men take over for a while.

The first truly cold day of the year is coming, and that means the first pot of chili and the first batch of cornbread are imminent. Fall means that you can watch a season crawl across the planet, inching towards you, leaving dustings of snow on the highest mountaintops that it passes in its slow decent to earth.

I love fall because, rather than shoving and screaming at each other for the good tv spot, or the stool in the washroom, my children stumble down the stairs in the morning, huddle together under a blanket, and stare silently into the flames from the fireplace warming their little toes and noses awake. We spend more time on the floor in the fall, because we can't resist the fire. We eat dessert on the floor, lay on our tummies and play on the floor, hold each other and read stories in front of the fire.

I need the fall to prepare for the winter. The cold will come, the snow will fall, and I'll hide inside until it stops and life resumes. Fall is my dose of life before the world hibernates, and I with it. And the pumpkin spice latte is back, which is really as close to godliness as you can get.

I'm curious....what's your favorite season? And why?

What You Don't Know

This is the fourth draft that I've started for you today, and that seems only fitting, since it's your fourth year of life that you've started today.

I don't really know what to say to you, sugar. You don't even really get what the whole "birthday" thing is yet, beyond the presents. You don't actually know what birth is, come to think of it. You like to catch me fresh out of the shower and make me squeeze the sticky mulk out of my boooobeeees for you to see, and you know that babies drink milk from their mommas, but you don't realize that you did, too. You know that babies can be in a momma's tummy, and that one day they are out, but you haven't put two and two together on that one just yet.

You have no idea that everything changed the day you were born. You don't understand that events can change people yet, mostly because the grandest event in your life to date has had to do with an imaginary blue hedgehog. You don't know that I am a person yet. Right now, I am your momma just like that leg is your leg or that doll is your doll. You still possess me, and you couldn't understand that, once upon a time, you were part of my body, even if you wanted to.

You don't understand that the photograph on the wall of your brothers and some weird, bald baby is you. It can't be you. You are this big with that much hair, right momma? You don't own that dress, so it can't be you in the picture.

What is it is that you have no concept of the past. You can't comprehend growth or age yet, so this arbitrary number that people keep throwing in your face today, sticking in your cake frosting, calling you and singing...none of it means anything. Your favorite number is two, so that's how old you are. You don't know what being two means, just that it feels good in your mouth to say.

What I want to tell you is that four years ago you defined me. That more than being their mother or his wife or her best friend, being your mother has been the most life-altering path I've ever walked. It's not that I love you more than those people, it's that the love is different. I look into your brother's eyes and I see my heart. I look into yours and I see my flesh. It's different.

It makes me understand, this having you, why the stories of god and creation being with the man and lead to the woman, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. I feel that when I look at you. I feel you under my skin and in my hair and coursing through my veins every second of the day, every day of your four years of life. Creation of woman is the most grand, crippling, powerful thing in the universe, and I did it just once. The further you grow from me, the more I feel the loss, because you are my very life. I gave it to you the day I bore you, wet and wrinkled, into your brother's arms.

When I had your brothers, I learned how very wrong everything that my own brother and I survived was. I learned to hate those people who had hurt us so many times over, for so many years, and who continue to in their absence. Your brothers showed me that there is a natural order to things, an instinct that prevents people from torturing their young, and it showed me finally that it wasn't me, it wasn't us, it was them who were broken. Your brothers gave me walls of strength and reassurance.

And you tore all of them down.

I see you cry and I can't for the life of me imagine what it did to the very souls of the people who made a hobby out of making my brother and me cry. I put bandaids on your boo-boos and I wince in pain with you, and I wonder what kind of monster you would have to be to rip flesh off of a child, just because you own a belt and you're taller. I feel what it is like to be mother to a daughter, I am swallowed in the magnitude of this greatness thrust upon me, and I find myself feeling something I've never felt in my entire life...pity.

You've helped me to let go of my rage and my blood-lust for those people and pity them. I don't want to forgive them, I don't intend to forgive them, and I'll never pretend to understand them but I've learned that I can feel sorrow for the loss of what they never really knew they had. They wasted their entire lives never once seeing what I see in your face every day. They've lived out their years never feeling what I feel every day in your arms.

And as for me? I can give all of that love, all of the touches and kisses and snuggles that I'd accumulated over those 17 years I spent trapped with those monsters and I can hand it all to you. I can give your every beautiful memory I imagined I'd have if things we just different. I can teach you to nurture, I can create a woman, I can right the wrong and make you stronger, better than I ever could have been anyway. I know that you've come to replace all the hurt and the hate that was beaten into my body, to fill that space, and I know that I'm okay with letting it all go for you. I don't need it anymore, I just needed you.

You can bring silliness back to this home of very large, very grown people. You can remind us of quiet bathtimes and lavender lotions and plastic xylophone concertos. You can take the traditions I've created out of starlight and dust and keep them alive for our whole family. I watch my middle son take your face, hold you close to him and say goodbye to his little three year old, then tell you how excited he is to meet his big four year old in the morning, and I know that we are all okay.  I know that I've made it all right, that it's all come full circle and I've not only broken the chain, I've made a brand new one for you. For all of you.

Thank you for that. Thank you for all of this. Thank you for giving me a soul again, and filling it up. I promise, I'll guard it, and yours, and all of ours, with my very life.