Wednesday, April 29, 2015

*if you break down, I'll drive out and find you. If you forget my love,I'll try to remind you, and stay by you when it don't come easy

Today I felt like I was stuck in the wet oppressive air before a storm. I'm not really sure why I felt like that, though I tried to come up with a reason. Should you have a good reason to feel bad? I mean sometimes you just DO but is it a requirement?

Maybe it is a requirement because I got a reason later.

The case manager at Griffin's group home called me tonight to let me know that Griffin had attacked a staff member and when she tried to extricate herself he fell against a wall and cut his forehead. (I know that didn't sound right to me either- later queries revealed said wall was actually the fireplace, or maybe a shelf.) He's okay - calm now and seeing a doctor though the case manager didn't think stitches were likely. 

I feel helpless to protect him, and conflicted about what happened too because I have lived in the war zone he can create, and he doesn't seem to need any protecting then, others do.  Am I angry? With whom?  I can't separate the rotten truth from the delicious bullshit. He is so often so sweet...

at Christmas he was getting his Mickey Mouse itch scratched and he was pretty adorable. 

and sometimes not. 

the last vacation we ever took with him was awful. He was obsessive and aggressive. At one point I was barricaded in a small bedroom with him because I was the only one in our family he wasn't attacking. It was an awful, horrible time. Shortly after that we got him into a group home and I thought I would never stop crying when I dropped him off after a visit. I eventually did but it took a couple of years. 

Probably his injury today was just an accident...but I worry. I want to make it better, whatever it is that upset him in the first place, like this mama cat. 

I wish I didn't suck at sleeping. Sleep would be great right now. 

What I'm Reading - The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison. Mystery/thriller. Don't know if I like it or not. I've just started. 

What I'm Listening To - Jeff's sweet deep breathing. He does not suck at sleeping. Also Joan Armatrading.

*When It Don't Come Easy - Patty Griffin

Sunday, April 26, 2015

*oh don't you dare look back just keep your eyes on me

Oh, YOU GUYS, the two Listen To Your Mother shows last night were amazing! The whole experience start to finish, actually was amazing. Imagine meeting 13 beautiful, tragic, hilarious, perfect, infinitely relatable women and having them showing their very best selves, all of you lifting each other up, everyone shining their lights. And YOU GET TO HANG OUT WITH THEM! Like total instant golden ticket admission to the cool kids club. And the audience! I was lucky enough to have folks at both shows and it was a total rush. At the evening show there were 18 people who came just to see me! AND THEN my husband, Jeff the amazing and wonderful, had no kidding filled the house with flowers...BEHOLD

and bought two fabulous bottles of awesome champagne and all these crazy snacks and my wonderful people came to our house bearing wine and cobbler and queso and strawberries to add to the crazy snacks table and we partied like middle aged suburban rock stars playing music and singing and talking talking talking until freaking TWO IN THE MORNING. WOOT! 

And in that weird way where stuff avalanches once one little pebble breaks free I actually have TWO other shows I get to be in coming up - that I just found out about! 

On May 14 I am performing at the Austin Poetry Slam 20 Year Anniversary show! You can even see my photo next to the P in Poetry. This group of awesome is way too cool for me, but I'm gonna call it lucky that I get to hang out. Y'all should come! 

AND on June 3 my memoir writing workshop (with the amazing Spike Gillespie) will be doing a staged reading at Hyde Park Theater. Awesomeness abounds. More details on that when I have them. 

*Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon

Thursday, April 23, 2015

* I wonder what would happen if you say what you wanna say and let the words fall out honestly, I want to see you be brave.

The SHOW is coming up on Saturday and I am totally not skeered. Although phrased like my usual brand of b.s., that’s true, this time. I’m excited! I am absolutely getting my brave on, and I’m happy to get to hang out with this awesome and  beautiful cast of fabulously righteous women. I am happy so many of my friends, family, and framily are coming to see it. I'm even sober right now while I am saying this! 

Since my Listen To Your Mother piece is about a day five years ago with Griffin and Dylan, here’s a Where Are They Now (apparently my secret writer aspiration is to write for Parade magazine):

Dylan is 22. He aged out of high school last year. He spends his days with his biological mom, and is with us every other week, for the evenings and weekend. He has cerebral palsy, is nonverbal, and does not have use of his right side. Prior to April of 2010, Dylan took no medication, had very mild scoliosis, was alert, and had good trunk and left hand control.  He could feed himself and scooch around on the floor independently. For unknown reasons  he suddenly started uncontrollable head movements, and lost control of his left hand. His neuromuscular scoliosis advanced at rapid and alarming rates. He could no longer get around independently or feed himself. He also went from a sunny happy all the time personality to a more withdrawn and vacant one. Seizures were ruled out. After a series of trials a medication was found to control his head movements.  He is mostly bed ridden now, and has a G-tube for feeding. He had spinal fusion surgery last October. He doesn’t really grab anymore. He is often unhappy now, but it’s difficult to know why. My husband, Jeff, will try various positions and entertainment options and that will often work for a while. Every now and then the sun will peek through and he will laugh and smile as he used to, and it’s amazing. He still loves movies, and especially scenes of chaos and destruction!

I took this photo of Dylan and his dad at Christmas.

Griffin is 20. When he was 17 we made the absolutely heartbreaking decision to move him to a group home. It felt too soon, and yet we didn’t really have a choice, as he was extremely aggressive and it wasn’t safe for Dylan, or really any of us. His group home is only 3 miles away though, and I see him every weekend. He is still in high school, still wears a diaper, is low verbal. His receptive language isn’t bad at all though, and he’ll follow simple instructions. He loves googling videos he watched when he was very young and watching them over and over on YouTube. Sometimes it will be the previews on the VHS tape that he’ll want to see, but you know what?  They are very often on YouTube! He’ll google something like “Walt Disney’s Masterpiece Gold Collection Pocahontas VHS” and tada! There it will be and he will happily watch the previews over and over. Or just the part with the logo where the announcer says “The maaaaagic of Disney” only it will be like infinity times for those of us in the audience and it will go like this: “The maaagic of Dis….the maaagic of Dis….the maaagic of Dis….” Repeat. Forever. He still loves popcorn. He still jumps up and down….even if he’s holding popcorn. (That will make more sense if you come to the show. Come to the show!)

This blur is Griffin in his room at the group home, super happy because I got him a computer. 

This is Griffin on his first birthday on my dad’s shoulders and Dylan at three on Jeff’s.

Here is a family shot  from 2011 where Dylan is managing to grab Cassidy and photobomb! A multi-tasker! Griffin is auditioning for the part of a secret service agent. 

 *Brave by Sara Bareilles 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

* Time is hurrying on and all that I want is save me a Saturday night

Whoosh! Sometimes time gets away from me!

What's new? let's see...

I got to meet the rest of the Listen To Your Mother cast - and they are amazing. You will absolutely laugh your head off...and cry some...and feel lighter in your heart and spirit if you come to this show. I promise. Please come!

 Photo by the awesome Casey Chapman Ross. Here's the link to buy tickets - April 25th at 3 and 7pm

Guess what? TONIGHT we have a babysitter (DATE NIGHT!!!) and are going to see NEIL DIAMOND who I deeply and unironically love and have for years, even when he wrote Turn On Your Heartlight, that E.T. song. My love is unwavering. I did however make an interesting discovery today. 

Here is a picture of young Neil Diamond - all moody and sexy

and here is a picture of my husband holding almost one year old Dylan in 1993

'namean? But WAIT...THERE'S MORE!

Here is distinguished older Neil

and here is distinguished hottie Jeff I think we are getting a little insight into why my jaw dropped and my eyes did the cartoon bug out with hearts the first time I laid eyes on Jeff. 

What I'm Reading - Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little 

Fast paced debut thriller about an heiress imprisoned for ten years for murdering her mother - then released on a technicality. Clever mini chapters that are text messages, or transcripts, or scraps of paper. I'm loving it and I still don't know whodunnit. 

What I'm Watching - last night I watched My Week With Marilyn 
and it was beautifully acted, perfectly done. Stellar cast. It's based on the true story of a week of filming The Price and the Showgirl, with Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier. Marilyn was weeks into her marriage to Arthur Miller and fragile and difficult, and she became attached to a young man hired as a gopher more or less. 

What I'm Listening To - NEIL DIAMOND! Duh!

Right at this moment the groceries are done (Thanks, Instacart!   If you haven't tried them yet this link will give you free delivery and $10 off your groceries. I haven't gone to a grocery store except to buy fun stuff in about a year.) The laundry is done. My house is clean. Griffin is here and adorably happy. 

and life is very good, y'all. 

*Save Me a Saturday Night - Neil Diamond

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

*I've been chasing grace, but grace ain't so easily found

What I’m Reading: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - these are excerpts from her Dear Sugar advice column, and they are so true and lovely and heartfelt. I also just finished The Rosie Project  which I loved. It's a novel told from the perspective of a genetics scientist who clearly is on the autism spectrum, but is seemingly unaware of that. His voice is funny and endearing and brave as he tackles social challenges. LOVE. 

What I’m Listening to With Harrison On Our Commute– The Swiss Family Robinson - man I loved this book in the 5th grade. I would very much like to make my own plates and bowls and spoons from gourds and coconut shells, and discover sugar cane, and mine my own salt...I mean I would in my IMAGINATION. In real life that shit's hard, yo!

When Harrison is not in the car: I am listening to Slaid Cleaves, who I have loved for years. In fact, I'll be seeing him play tomorrow! Big fat yay! 

What I'm Watching: Daredevil, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Vikings, and as of this mornong's workout - the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! It's a miracle! - omg this show is hilarious)

Here is a series of haiku I wrote following my recent annual mammogram, and all the fun things that followed. All the images except the last are borrowed. 

Haiku for a screening mammogram
Pull and stretch and pull
Then squash and smash and flatten
Hold your fucking breath

 Haiku for a Diagnostic Mammogram Callback
It's nothing I'm sure
It's nothing I reassure
But I'm scared to death

Haiku for a Follow Up Ultrasound #1
Smear me with the gel
And look over at the screen
Even I know that's not good

Haiku for a Follow Up Ultrasound #2
Doctor holds my hands
Looks me in the eyes and says
“Test confirms a mass”

Haiku for an ultrasound guided breast biopsy #1
The ultrasound tech
Won't laugh at my nervous jokes 
That's total bullshit.

Doc's clicky pen tool 
Takes core samples of the mass 
One, two, three, four, clicks.

You would be amazed 
How many times I can still
Google breast cancer

They said they would call
By Monday. Now it's Friday. 
Time is an old whore.

I answer shaking
Fuck yeah, it's benign! Benign!
relief floods my chest

*One Good Year - Slaid Cleaves

Saturday, April 11, 2015

*I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee

      Finished our taxes today - if by "finished" you understand that I mean I took a stab at it then sent the mess over to my dad (who's a CPA) in the hopes that he will have time to look it over. Usually I can do it myself but we did stuff that made them more complicated this year and I'm skeered. 

I decided to celebrate with a café  con leche, and then decided to document the process of making a proper Cuban coffee so y'all would all know how to do it. (Doesn't matter though - even though I have shown a number of my friends how, it seems like I'm the only one who they trust to make it). 

Ready for the magic? 

Okay here's what you need to start - a cafetera, some Café Bustelo, sugar, a small glass pitcher or measuring cup, and evaporated or regular milk if you want a café con leche. Today I did but usually I just want a cafesito Cubano. 

Start by adding water to the bottom half of the cafetera, just up to the little valve/screw. Fine I don't know what that is. It has never mattered until now. It doesn't matter much now. 

Then add the coffee (really don't bother with anything but Café Bustelo) to the little filter basket. Loosely packed is best. 

Screw the two halves of the cafetera together tightly, then set it on the stove at medium high to high heat with the top open. This is actually a very crazy thing to do because if you aren't vigilant you will spew boiling coffee everywhere, but it's the best way to make sure you get the first few drops of coffee and that is CRUCIAL. You are now pretty much stapled where you are  now staring at your cafetera. 

Take your eyes off it for a second and put about 4 tablespoons of sugar in your glass measuring cup. 

Heat up your milk - either on the stove or in the microwave. I use about 1/2 a cup or so.  It should be steaming but not scalded. You can use evaporated or just regular milk. If you didn't heat it in your cup pour it in your cup once heated. Skip this step if you just want café cubano and not café con leche. 

Carefully watch your cafetera. Once the first drops of coffee start coming out, close the lid (to avoid boiling coffee spewing everywhere) and add those first drops of coffee to your sugar. It will usally be a tablespoon or two. Put the cafetera back on the stove to finish brewing. 

Now get a spoon and stir the HECK out of that sucker. If your arm doesn't hurt you aren't doing it right. Stir the whole time the rest of the coffee is brewing. It should make a thick glossy light brown paste of absolute deliciousness. This is your espumita (sugar froth) base. 

super double plus YUM. 
Once the coffee is done GENTLY pour it into your pitcher. 

and stir it gently, almost like folding. You don't want to destroy your espumita. It should rise to the top like a gorgeous carmelized head of awesomeness. 
For café cubano just pour the coffee into a demitasse cup. 

For cafe con leche add it to your steamed milk. 

I love this so much. Now I'll curl up on the couch with my book and my coffee. Yay, Saturday! 

* You're So Vain - Carly Simon

Friday, April 10, 2015

*and every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one man band

Harrison has been writing poetry. (Sensitive writer apple does not fall far from the sensitive writer tree!) If you are Jeff's Facebook friend you have seen some of the really amazing work Jeff has been producing this month, touching and beautiful and finely drawn. 

Harrison looks like his dad and acts like his dad and always has. Flashback Friday Exhibit 1 – Jeff's Mini Me. 

Harrison's principal asked him to read the following poem he just wrote to the whole school at the assembly today. I got to watch him and he did great! I transcribed it because it’s hard to read but am uploading the photo because the sweetness of his own handwriting and the blob of syrup from his breakfast was too delicious not to share.

We are cruel to the world, look all around
The trash and the garbage thrown to the ground
We fill the air with poison and gas
The birds fall from the sky, their lives soon will pass
We drill into the Earth, through skin and bones
We kill Mother nature for reasons none knows.
We shoot down the deer, the hogs, the bears,
We eat them for dinner but nobody cares.
So pick up some trash, throw it away
Close the lid, have a good day.
Buy an electric car, it’s nicer and new
You’re saving lives, the air will be cleaner than you.
Plant bushes and trees, you’re doing some good
And try not to buy products of wood.
It’s not bad to buy meat, eat Whole Foods instead
The food is much better and their lives were long led

He's so intense! He loves to eat game (though not bear) so I am not sure what he was trying to say with the line about shooting and eating the deer but no one cares. Once he finished a parent who didn't know I was his mom, said “He should do poetry slam!” HA! If she only knew. 

*Homeward Bound - Simon and Garfunkel

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

*there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them

When our four older kids were younger, especially in the years when Harrison was an infant and toddler, life was pretty intense. The year after Harrison was born we had Dylan in high school, Madison at a magnet elementary school, Griffin at the regular middle school, Cassidy in elementary school, and Harrison in pre-school. After school Griffin and Dylan were bused to the same city sponsored after school care for kids with disabilities, Madison took the bus home, and Cassidy had ballet most afternoons, so everyone except Madison had to be picked up - unless she stayed late to work on a project in which case she too needed a ride home. 

We had a pretty structured system to allow us to do the high level of hands on care needed to get our three boys out the door, and guide the girls, as well as get ready for work. 
Evenings were also pretty intense, with ballet, possible other after school activities, homework, dinner to be prepared for kids with very different dietary needs, and some time hopefully for us to connect as a couple. Often Griffin's behavior issues would consume us both completely. 

The four older kids that year were all going to their other parent's house every other week - so we were able to maintain a pretty high standard because we had every other week to catch up all the stuff we couldn't get to, with just one little infant at home. 

These days it's a very different world. Dylan still lives with us every other week, but Madison lives with her other parents, Griffin lives in a group home and Cassidy is mostly away at college. Harrison is still home because he's in elementary school. 

What that means is the cracks and crevices in our lives where Jeff and I were able to find a tiny space to create have cracked wide open. Most Sundays we gather with our framily, and make wonderful food, and play music, and talk. The kids run around. In the summer we are in and out of the pool. Jeff has been posting a poem a day on Facebook this month. I was honored to be gifted with a beloved but very broken viola by a talented musician and I painted this: 
which isn't too surprising if you know this is what I have next to my chair: 
I have this blog, and it seems like I have so MANY cool projects and things I want to do. Jeff too. We may even go back to the slam once in a while. I am so lucky to have found him, perfect, and waiting for me. We still send each other love notes every day. I long for him to get home if he's later than I am. First thing we do is catch up our days, last thing we do at night is kiss and whisper our love and devotion. 

I'm reading - All the Cuban books! and The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain - fictionalized version of the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Pretty fascinating stuff. 

I'm listening to - Peter and the StarCatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson and narrated by the brilliant Jim Dale. This was written as a prequel to Peter Pan and is quite well done! 

When Harrison's not in the car I'm listening to - Jason Isbel's Southeastern album...again. Love his dark and desperate soul. 

I'm watching - Vikings, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Flash because you can't take the nerd out of this girl, or the sky from me. 

*Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce

Saturday, April 4, 2015

*spread your arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape

Yay! If, hypothetically, you were planning to go on an Easter camping trip with some of the awesome people you went on an Easter camping trip with last year, and if when you were ready to go you checked and the forecast predicted thunderstorms, then what you need are generous awesome parents with a gorgeous house on Canyon Lake. Thanks for saving the day!

Boo - My friend's mom had a fall, and broke her face, and is mostly okay but it's still nerve wracking and tough. 

Yay - We just had a very elaborate 9 beer IPA tasting thing with fancy papers and beer wenches and statistical figuring. 

There were score cards...and tasting notes. 

Boo - people close to me are struggling with sadness and despair, and I am rooting for them, but there's not much I can do other than that. 

Yay - kids are cute and awesome, even mine with the scowly frown on purpose face. Also views are awesome. 

Yay - my friends are funny

Yay - tonight we will make an amazing meal and tomorrow we will hide Easter eggs for all the kids, and we will sip coffee and cheer them on while they hunt, and we will laugh and feel connected and awesome. 

Have you ever been a little sad then struggled with figuring out why? That was me today and it turned out it didn't matter why - there is always plenty of sad to spread around. Here's the awesome thing, all of us, together...begin. 

*The Cape - Guy Clark

Thursday, April 2, 2015

*we always did feel the same we just saw it from a different point of view

Today is World Autism Day. The global awareness campaign is called Light It Up Blue.  I wrote this poem for Griffin in 2000. He was six and still not speaking. He can speak a little now, but is still considered low verbal. His twin sister was diagnosed on the spectrum as an adult. She struggles with her social skills and it has affected her in many ways, including her ability to stay employed. I am wearing blue, for whatever that's worth, so I can promote awareness, so folks will donate, so more research will happen, and so kids like my twins will be helped to have better lives. 

I am so lucky that I get to be their mom. 

(for Griffin)

He does not speak.
Longing defined
I once imagined words like angry ravens
caged and mocking.
All the glossy scavengers
pecking at my son's head,
and calling out
though he cannot.

The unkindness whipping him into screaming
rages, their claws tearing,
their muscular wings beating,
me crouched over him, yelling
at his twin to go go GO
hide in my room.

He batters my body like it is the glass window
that won't let him reach the sky.

So many days for this child I love madly
I swallow my lions
and my pride roars
a wounded salute.
So many middle-of-the-nights I wait.
A watch of nightingales
sings a dim vigil over a mangled sound.

Sometimes in the storm with him I feel love grow sharp
with angry edges,
for him, my tiny tyrant –
my child of grief and euphoria.

Two years ago, when he was four,
he pushed his magnetic letters thoughtfully together and spelled
it's freakish perfection, a painful poem,
a declaration of himself as Self –
whatever his level of understanding.

I see an image of my Self then
releasing the other child,
the one locked
and talking
behind the glass.
This one is my son.
This one.

Sometimes his joy-filled wordless song soars
across me – (I cannot reach you)
and captures (I cannot separate).

In my heart he is the larks – an exhilaration.
His voice
an absence

a cry of hounds.

*Tangled Up In Blue - Bob Dylan

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Here's a Not At All Typical Day In The Life (with photos! And Steven Spielberg! And Ernie Cline! And Harrison!)

Sunday my smallest fry turned 9. It was also the birthday of the wonderful Ernie Cline. I couldn't be with them that day, but we had a long and super awesome day Saturday to celebrate.

Harrison requested Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels instead of birthday cake, so first thing was cutting and wrapping the batch.

Then I started Ernie's birthday cake. A salted caramel ding dong cake

First layer

Vanilla bean cream filling
Luckily for me I got a private concert for that. My husband Jeff playing love songs. Shutup. That doesn't happen all the time. Okay it happens frequently but not daily or anything. Okay fine! It's totally awesome and it happens all the time and 15 years later I'm still giddy about it and squee like a subscriber to Tiger Beat magazine. Glad that's off my chest.

Then Harrison and his best friend N. got dressed up for adventure. They are fierce. 

We started out with a little discussion regarding ground rules and consequences. The boys took it well. 

Jeff had a discussion with a camel. The camel won. 
Is it wrong that this makes me laugh every time I look at it? Well then I don't want to be right. 

I can assure you that Harrison is not making an acceptable noise with this horn. 

So many jokes to make here.....but I'll just say that the very fine wooden swords that we bought from Hollow Earth Swordworks  for the three of them were considerably smaller than this model. 

The boys attended sword school!

The falconry show was funny and amazing!

They were pretty wiped out at the end of the day. 

Then Ernie and Cristin came over to our extremely messy house and I was doing some phone tech support when they arrived. They were pretty forgiving. Ernie has spent many hours in the last 15 years answering my bat signal and walking me through the intricacies of the guts of a cheap PC from Discount Electronics, while Griffin flapped and screamed in my ear. I managed though to slap the last layer on the cake and we wished Ernie a happy birthday and a happy oh my god STEVEN SPIELBERG  will be directing the movie of your first novel holy shit day! Photo by Cristin!

Then, unbeknownst to Ernie, Jeff and Harrison and I took photos of ourselves wearing a teeshirt Cristin had made with a picture of Ernie in his high school talent show, playing with his band, VIP. It was all part of an elaborate birthday gift from Cristin to Ernie involving people from all over. Everyone tweeted the photos either without commentary as to the shirt's origins, or with fake origin stories. 

So, another trip around the sun for these two. How wonderful! I already know this next year will be amazing.