10.28.2009

elt-may. own-day.



Last night, my 23-month old daughter had a 3-hour meltdown.

It was surreal. I don’t remember this happening with Bee, but maybe I’ve just blocked it out because it is too discouraging to recall – y’know, one of those things that would have brought the idea of future reproduction to a shrieking halt. Whatever the case, the mother of all meltdowns began at 5pm, and ended at 8, when my little tornado finally ran out of steam.

And in between, it was screaming, wailing, thrashing and crying, punctuated only by the briefest of reprises as Dove was temporarily coaxed out of her meltdown by odd distractions. It pretty much went like this:

Scream. Wail. Thrash out of my arms. Scream to be picked up again. Nuzzle into my neck. Rebuff my soothing caresses. Scream. Wail. Thrash – ooh look! A tiny pumpkin!
And then I finally exhale and think we are over the worst, then Bee comes over and has the gall to touch the tiny pumpkin. Scream. Wail. Thrash. Repeat for 3 hours.

I was not frustrated by this episode. I didn’t care that my dinner was sitting cold, abandoned on my plate, virtually untouched, or that I had hoped to finish refurbishing the little chair I’ve been working on for the girls. I just felt bad that something was bothering Dove, and I did not seem to have the cure. My magic words of comfort were rendered mostly impotent, and I was out of wine. I had no choice but to wait it out, and to be available.

I asked her if something was bothering her. She said yes. I asked if it was her tummy. She said yes. I touched her soft belly. Does it hurt here? I asked. She said yes. I touched her side. Does it hurt here? I asked. She said yes. Do your toes hurt? I asked. She said yes. Does your nose hurt? I asked. She said yes. Does it feel better now? I asked. She said yes. My spidey senses told me that I should probably look for a new trigger.

Eventually, after 3 hours of nursing and cuddling and walking and jiggling and engaging, Dove calmed down. I believe the storm ended when her older sister suggested that they read a new library book for their bedtime story (I was not anticipating our usual calm bedtime routine). Dove literally stopped crying, jumped out of my arms and happily followed her sister upstairs. I’ll take it, I thought, even if I don’t really get what just happened.

And as the girls were settling into bed and I took a bite of my cold spare ribs (still yummy) and mashed squash with apples (not as yummy), it occurred to me:

Dove is 23 months old, less than a month from her second birthday. That means that she’ll be two. And not like mellow little Bee was two, I’m sure of it. Gulp.

And then I heard laughter from the girls bedroom. Bee was making Dove laugh a hearty, baby belly laugh. Bee said something else, and Dove shrieked with delight.

Maybe two will be ok, I thought. At least I have an ally.


Trouble. With a banana.



***

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10.20.2009

Aspirations

Not too long ago, I went to see author Andrew Davidson speak about his amazing first novel, The Gargoyle. Gracious and funny, he spoke with great intelligence about many things, including the process and journey he navigated to write his epic tome.

Eight years, he said. Eight years it took him, putting pen to paper daily, to create his book. He lived with the characters, he told us; he lived and breathed and literally conversed with the characters for eight years while they told him their story. He was an observer as the fiction unfolded, acting as scribe while his characters told him what to write.

Eight years.

I know many authors say that their stories marinated for many years before they were able to write them, but Andrew worked on his book faithfully. For eight years. He even wrote a diary in character, and it wasn’t even a main character. He wrote a diary for a secondary character; a diary that he never intended to publish or include as any part of the story. He did it to delve into the character, to ensure that she was speaking in an authentic voice, congruent throughout the pages and completely aware of her motivations.

As far as I know, Andrew Davidson was not writing under any publication promises, advances or deadlines that he was obligated to adhere to. He allowed his process to be personal, creative and natural.

Miram Toews stresses that her books begin as little jotted journal entries, and that once she acknowledges a theme that won’t go away, a character, and then a tale develops.

Anne Marie MacDonald says that she wrote her first novel in fits and spurts, and that writing was an exercise in trying to ‘…coax these disparate, floating bits of cosmic debris’ into something cohesive.

I am fascinated by stories like this, because I am cultivating one of my own.

10 years ago, I spent 10 months in the Middle East. I travelled for a while, then lived on a Kibbutz in Israel for 8 months. I have never written more than a passing anecdote of my time there, but for 10 years, I have relayed the stories to friends, family, myself. And now, it seems, they are begging to be put to paper. Whatever the spark that was needed to light the fire under the writing of these stories, I seem to have found it. As fiction, the tales are inspired by my time on the Kibbutz and the people I spent every hour of every day toiling alongside of, partying with, loving.

My own exercise in writing this manuscript has been a hybrid of sorts; I move from frenzied, non-stop, totally inspired bursts of story writing to out and out fatigue, unsure I want to continue.

I don’t know if the stories will ever become a book, or if the book will ever get published, but I have finally begun a process of my own, and I am excited to travel down/across/through the paths that are appearing. It is doubtful that I will be able to dedicate eight solid years to the telling of my tale, but that voice, the one that Andrew Davidson and Miriam Toews and so many other writers I have read about, stress that they must hear and heed before they can begin? Well, she is finally whispering in my ear. And I know that if I pay attention and listen very closely, she’ll have a lot to tell me.

***

10.15.2009

Tummy Troubles

Jiggle, jiggle.

Hello, Belly? You there?

Yes, of course you are. You’ve been there since deflating in a most inglorious, surgical manner almost two years ago. I’m as familiar with you now as I am with the baby that expanded you in the first place. Problem is, as that beloved baby grew bigger, you did not grow smaller.

You’re a persistent little bastard – yes, bastard – unwanted, unclaimed and something I really do not want to admit patronage of. And yet there you waddle, sad and flabby, restrained only slightly by thick waistbands and hideously unsexy underpants.

I have tried to tame you; saw glimpses of a shrinking hope during my year of chasing babies at home; my year of pushing 60 lbs worth of stroller through the snow and eating carrot sticks for snacks when and if I had a free hand, a free moment. I saw glimpses of my former self; legs toned, hips narrow, clothes fitting,

And then I went back to work and you laughed a rueful, cruel laugh, knowing that you once again had the opportunity to merrily burst forth from the top of my pants; knew I was little more than powerless to sit, hour after hour and watch as every stagnating day; every tiny indulgence literally fed you; made you stronger, made me feel weaker in my powers to defeat you.

I try not to let you crush me. I try not to look in the mirror and loathe what I see. I try not to feel defeat as I remember that, the flat, size zero stomach I used to carry belonged to the body of a girl; that this rounded, supple, hard-working body belongs to a woman. I try to want to be a woman, even as the girl I see in the mirror laughs at me, a fat fool entering her mid-30s with as much grace as a lame hippo. I try not to see my own mother, see her constant battles to lose weight as much my reality as it has been hers. I try to feel happy with who I am now while still maintaining a goal of who I could be. I try not to think of who I was.

But you, you soft, fleshy, mutant of a belly, hanging off of my body like a deflated balloon, you mock me daily, rejecting more and more of the clothes that you previously wore comfortably, cutely. You ingest all my good intentions like so much bacon grease, impervious to my attempts at exercise, ignoring the many healthy food choices in favour of responding to the one suspect morsel.

You mock me; remain big enough that I am able to detest and fear you, to barely recognize myself; to be aware that anybody that looks at me now knows that I have put on weight, that I have fallen from the thrown of svelteness that I sat atop for 32 years. And yet, I remain just petite enough to make complaining about you cue head-shaking or eye-rolling in others that have known this battle for years.

I sit, glaring at the rolls that greet me when I cast eyes downward, and wait for the epiphany. You know, the one that holds the answer to weight loss, esteem gain and serenity. I implore you to make me fat and happy or to just go away. How can I make you acknowledge the efforts I am making – I am running for chirissake, running! – the snacks I am skipping; the comfort I am not seeking.

How can this be how you repay me after years of service? After getting through high school without majorly abusing you? After loving and sharing and appreciating you? After growing and birthing and feeding two beautiful, healthy girls? How can this be my repayment? How can this be my present, and how can I ensure that this is not my future?

C’mon, jellybelly, what gives, besides the elastic waistbands of my future? Is it humility you want me to learn? Self-control? Bovine empathy? Because I’m fresh out of food for thought. Of course, I do know where I can scare up a muffin-top.


***

10.07.2009

Heaven

I'm at home. 

By myself. Just me and my coffee and the cat, who I mostly ignore anyway.

Heaven. 

Now, here's my to-do list:

  • Clean the basement
  • Bake a cake/freeze for Thanksgiving this weekend
  • Find fabric to recover little chair
  • Put together new (vintage) lamp for girls' room
  • Make an apple crisp for dessert tonight
  • Hang pictures that have been sitting on floor waiting to be hung

Now, here's what I'll really get done:

  • Make an apple crisp for dessert tonight
  • Drink coffee
  • X-stitch
  • Read blogs

I already said Heaven, right?

***