The Impossibility of Toes

My youngest child was just almost 5 when I started this blog.

Five was the turning point for me, the arbitrary time-frame to start living my life. Because I was completely broken by five, so when I first had children, eight million years ago, I was petrified of passing on our family's tradition of breaking their kids before they knew what it was like to not be broken. I decided that each of my kids would get five years wrapped in a cocoon of adoration, and once they were of the age to go out into the world on their own, to start school and form relationships beyond me, then I could pay attention to myself. I had to focus on them 100%, heart and soul, and make sure that they walked out of their infancy with a foundation lacking in cracks and overflowing in confidence.

So that's what I did.

I didn't wash the dishes because I was busy dancing with them. I didn't fold the laundry because I was busy reading them stories. I didn't go on dates with my husband because I was busy rocking them to sleep. I told them 15 times an hour that I loved them, I woke them every morning with a thousand kisses, I tucked them in every night with a silent prayer that I did right by them that day, and I'd do it again the next.

And then 5 came for one, and he walked off to school without so much as a glance over his shoulder, and I knew that I had done the impossible. And then 5 started to approach for the other, and he was just as fine, and I started to dream about what I was going to do next. I was empowered with the knowledge that I'd risen above something so big, I never thought I could see over it. I kicked a family legacy in the ass and my children were whole. We won, it was over, and it was time to start building the person I wanted to be.

And then, on New Year's Eve 2005, three months before my youngest turned five, I hit reset and started over.

I was terrified. I had no idea how I'd managed to get through all those years and not become my mother, my grandmother, her mother. I had no idea where the strength came from to do what I'd done, to beat odds unbeatable and raise two perfectly happy, healthy, fearless boys. I felt like I was so close to dodging a bullet, and now I was putting another child squarely in front of it and hoping that we all knew how to duck. I was smacked in the face with guilt and fear, for the future of this new child, for what I could so easily become, if she was to be a girl and if history serves our family right.

Cue the panic. Gut-wrenching, head-spinning, soul-crushing panic set in. The what-ifs I stared down, knowing that baby could be a little girl, knowing what my every woman in my family does to their first little girl despite what I am sure are the best of intentions, made me question everything I'd just spent the past seven years raising children learning about myself. The only response I'd ever learned to fear was to run, but how do you run from something inside of you? You don't. Your only other choice is to fight for it.

Lucky me, that little baby knows her momma, and fight is exactly what I had to do.

The beginning of that pregnancy was the kind of bad that they don't make words for in several different languages. My body was saying no, loudly, but my heart was saying yes and the baby was saying yes and maybe it's a blessing because I was too sick to think, let alone fear. And then the tests came back and the doctor said words that were so much more frightening than anything I'd ever feared before, and there I was, 29 years old, scared out of my mind to have this child and scared out of my mind to lose this child and I had to choose, right then and there, fight or flight. Stay or go. Do or die.

And when they stuck a needle in my stomach and I watched on a grainy black and white monitor as her little hand reached into the blackness, wrapped her tiny, perfect fingers around that needle and squeezed it as tightly as I was squeezing the bed and her father was was squeezing my hand, I knew it was all going to be okay. I knew we were all fighting. I knew we were all in this thing together and she needed me to be braver and stronger and smarter than I was capable of being.

So that's what I did.

She was born five months later, perfect in every way, especially in her conjoined toes. And I wasn't afraid.

She turned five three weeks ago, and I am still not afraid. And I am more today than I ever dreamed I could be, and I think it's all her fault.

Just like a Libra is supposed to do, she taught me balance. I still sang to her and danced with her and woke her with a thousand kisses, but I also managed to wash the dishes and fold the laundry (occasionally). I started to rebuild the life that I'd traded for theirs in 1997 when the first baby came to me. I stared my demons in the face, because I had to, and in that I stopped fearing their shadows. I learned compassion for them. I'm still working of forgiveness, but I think irrelevance is more noteworthy a triumph than forgiveness, anyway. I don't care what was done to me, or all the first-born daughters in my family anymore, because every day with this little girl of my balances those scales and redeems the past. My story is now told in the shadows of hers. My past is re-written. She, twisty little toes and all, has stomped out the footprints of our ancestry and together, we are all making new ones.

I'm three weeks late writing her song this year because this is her fifth year, the year that has always been my benchmark for success. I always thought that five was the magic number, that if we could make it there, we'd make it anywhere. And this year, I realized that my lucky number is 9 3/4. That I still have a lifetime ahead of me. That whether they're 5, or 10, or 12, they still need thousands of kisses every morning and enough I Love You's to make them squirm, and that blowing off the dishes to dance never will get old, and that when they turned five and went out into the world and formed relationships beyond me, it's wasn't the end.

It's merely the beginning of doing impossible things.

Close Up Toes

I'm not entirely sure I want you to read this

Blog for Choice Day

Today, I am talking about choice. I really wish it was the choice between chocolate ice cream and chocolate cake, but it's not. I'm talking about women's choice, along with a bazillion other bloggers.
I could throw a bunch of carefully researched numbers at you; I could give you facts and figures and speeches by predominate leaders, but that's not how I roll over here.

Today, I am going to tell you a little story. I am in no way proud of this story, but I am telling it anyway, and then we are never going to speak of this again.

Once upon a time, I was a 21 year old very pro-lifer Mr Lady dating the wrong boy for the wrong reasons, and at the perfectly wrong point in my life I found myself all knockered up. I wasn't careless or reckless; quite the contrary, actually. I tried very hard to not get pregnant, I just failed miserably.

I had a moral dilemma on my hands. I knew that if I had a kid, I would be a single mother. A single waitress mother. With no education, no parents to help me, nothing. I would become my mother.

I went to my dad. I asked my dad what to do. Now, my dad does NOT believe in abortion. He has 9 kids, 5 of them illegitimate, backing up those beliefs. He sat me down and said, "Mr. Lady, I am giving you ONE get out of jail free card. You go, you take care of this, and you never, ever forget it."

I went to baby-daddy and told him I was pregnant. He cried. He didn't sleep for a week. His heart was broken. He knew, too, what we had to do, and he hated it in a way I didn't expect.

Shortly after I turned 22, I became a pro-choicer. It wasn't the horrible torture they told me it would be. It wasn't calloused and superficial and awful the way I was taught it was going to be. Even before the crazy rule structure got put into place, they sat me down before, told me ALL about what was happening, laid out every conceivable option in front of me, and then made me go away and really, really think about what I was about to do.

I really, really thought about it. And then I really did it.

Four years later, I was married to that same baby-daddy. We had 2 children. I was losing my mind and his was planted quite firmly in the bottom of a bottle of Mouvedre. I was trying to figure out if I could leave him. I was trying to raise two infants all by myself while he found himself. Our shit was not good.

Of-mother-fucking-course I got pregnant again. We had one very good day together, and I am as fertile as the Tennessee valley, yo. I was totally in denial, even though I was late and right back up to a DD cup. I refused to even admit it until I had to admit it. When I finally did admit it, I came immediately to one very clear conclusion; I could in no way have another baby with a man who I was *this* close to getting away from, who had hurt me and made me an evil person. I had 1 3/4 of my feet out that damn door and I wasn't getting trapped back in it. I went to my best friend, I talked to her. I cried to her. We really, really thought about it.

I really, really thought about it. And then I really did it.

I ended my fourth pregnancy, and this one was so much harder than the first time. I think it was because I knew how great being a momma was. I knew how much I loved my babies. I was so thoroughly in that place where your whole life is your kids, where every minute in a sacrifice for them, and I did something I saw as purely selfish.

It wasn't purely selfish, though. We had to go. We had to let dad figure out his crap, and we had to leave him to do it. And that's exactly what we did.

If I had kept that pregnancy, I never would have left. I never would have learned that I could leave. I would have disappeared into the haze of co-dependency that IS life with an alcoholic. Being able to leave then braced me for being able to leave in '06, when I really, really had to leave, when it was international and gruelingly difficult and totally a non-option.

There was no way I could seen those two pregnancies through.

I wish that it was different. I watch these people that are so much a part of my heart and who are going through adoption processes overseas because one little thing went awry for them and the can't have the babies they are so desperate for, and it makes me feel small and ungrateful for the gift I have been given. I am not ungrateful. Every day I rejoice in these creatures that I have made, even the days when I want to sell them to the circus. I know that this thing, this raising children gig, is the single best gig in the world, but that doesn't change the fact that sometimes, well, sometimes people just can't do it. Sometimes people try really hard to avoid the situation, and the situation finds them anyway, and sometimes it can destroy people.

I thank whatever every stinking day that I had the options I had. I will kick and fight and scream and rally and throw things and cry to make sure that some other 'me' out there has those options, too. The world is not black and white on Ariel, and everyone has a different story, a different history, and different reasons to make the choices that they make. What's important to me it that the option exists for women who need it.

This is the point where I would really like to get into everything that I think is wrong with the system now. I would like to talk about the men who don't get a say in the process because it's such a convoluted, screwed up lobbying topic and has become this drastic, political monster rather than the save-haven for people it should be. I would like to get into all the serious flaws in the system, and how I firmly believe that it should be WAY more regulated than it is, with limits, with accountability, with responsibility and compassion. I would LOVE to get into the fact that those people who make posters of aborted fetuses to propagate their own political agendas, those people who mock and abuse the pure hell that women go through in making this choice, need to be hung by the nearest tree. I am not going to get into all that though, because I know that if I had once ounce of gumption I would get off my lazy ass already and be the change I want to see in the system. I haven't, and I doubt I will, and I am totally ashamed of that.

I have this box that I keep; one, small, wooden box full of all the little favorite letters and notes and secret, special things to me. In it are plane tickets from the day I left my mother, drunkenly scrawled on cocktail napkins, birthday and mother's day cards, and buried deep in the bottom of that box is an ultrasound picture with a tiny little dot in the middle of it taken 11 years ago. I will never look at that picture, but I will also never throw it away. Because I refuse to forget. I will not ever take it lightly. I will always know that I did the right thing at the right time, and I will always be grateful that I live in a world where I could.

Would I do it again? Hell no. Would I hold your hand and rub your hair and make you tea if you had to? You bet your sweet ass I would.

OK, that's it. I cannot talk about this anymore. That is my story, and I'm sticking to it. I hope y'all don't hate me for it. I hope that no matter how you feel about it that you google Blog For Choice today and read what I can only imagine are seriously more eloquent, more poignant posts on the subject. This is merely my experience, and I share it only in the hopes that maybe someday, someone who needs to read it will.

Tomorrow we resume our normal broadcast days.

Obligatory New Years Post

The first day of the New Year. It means, for me, cleaning out the cabinets (which sucks), getting ALL the laundry done (also sucks) washing our sheets (which are fucking gnarly) and wiping a few slates clean. What better way to do that (and NOT do the other stuff) that with the blog.

I spent the first 6 months of this year, and a few from the previous year, as a single mom. A frantic, scared, disorganized, afraid mom. This was my choice, and it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Mad props to Molly, to Darla, to Piper, to all of you who do this every day so seamlessly. My life did one of those super fabulous fun rewrites in the middle of the night one night, and some very tough choices had to be made.

Sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same.

That first half of '07 taught me so incredibly much about myself. I taught me to be content, and humble, and accepting. It taught me that pride is, for sure, my number ONE personality flaw, and it forced me to kill that where it sat. It made me prioritize my life, and appreciate the gifts that I have been given in my children and my family. It taught me who my family really is, and the answer surprised even me. It pushed me to learn what I am capable of, and showed me exactly what I am certainly not capable of. It made me look long and hard in mirrors, lots of mirrors, and see what I am and where I want to be. I learned to stop being such a horrifying martyr already and to just live. Righteously. As best as. I wouldn't trade one stinking minute of it for the world.

I spent the second half of this year as a married mom, with a partner. I spent it as an ex-pat with a very shitty Visa that has prohibited me from working or furthering my education. I went from going in 11th gear to going in 2nd, overnight, with no warning. I came back to this place, were I was totally alone, to rebuild a marriage that has failed more than it has succeeded, that was founded too early for the wrong reasons, with skeletons in every closet and war wounds upon scars upon bruises. I came back a re-worked woman, mother and human, nothing remotely like the one that left 10 months before, to a completely re-worked man, who stayed and fought for his life alone and afraid and with little hope. I came back, and I cried a lot and I fought a lot and I worried so much my teeth ache and it has worked. Beautifully. Better than anyone thought it would. I wouldn't trade one stinking minute of it for the world.

Sometimes the right thing and the hard thing are the same.

That is where I am starting this new year. This year, I look forward to my son reaching his first decade in my life. I look forward to eating Hamburger Helper and drinking orange soda on my 10th wedding anniversary. This year we will take our first ever real, not in a car, family vacation to a location requiring passports and perhaps a vaccine or two. I will live in one house, in one country, and I will do it with four other people who share my last name and understand that I cannot help but leave my dirty clothes in the bathroom.

These are not resolutions; these are cold, hard facts. That I have cold, hard facts again is reason enough to believe in God again.

This year I solidified a few relationships that, in my heart, needed some definition. I learned who I needed to keep, to nurture, to envelope without the fear of rejection or abandonment that I carry around everywhere I go. Those are the people who I dug into, knee deep, dirt under the nails and all. I worked. I tried. Little seeds turned into beautiful gardens. I learned to accept some of those relationships for what they were, not what I wished they could be, and to be at peace. I learned who I just needed to let go. I learned that anger is so easily replaced with joy, and that I am really good at making that jump. And that I'm getting better with practice.

...to be continued