Friday, October 21, 2011

Ye Olde Writing Experiments: A Tale of Two Toys

*You might just like it if you press play first, then again, you might not.

today I was looking for something (what, I can't even remember because THAT'S how easily sidetracked I am. For example right now I'm supposed to be cleaning the rest of the house, but I'm NOT.) in a drawer of paper and notebooks and I happened upon my old notebook that I used for the DC Writer's Group. Because I am so easily distracted, I picked it up and a pang of nostalgia plucked at my heart. I remembered putting on my red coat with the fur collar, my black leather opera gloves from the thrift store, grabbing my metro card and walking the three blocks to the Metro from our apartment. I remembered getting off at Dupont Circle amidst the crowds of people, people I could just look at forever with their glasses and their funny shoes and their pretty faces.

In my mind I walked the eight blocks to the little coffee shop above the used furniture store, soaking up the sounds and smells of the city. I walked up the creaking wooden stairs, next to the wall heavy laden with flyer's proudly announcing the latest artistic ventures of all the local creative minds. How I miss those people, how I miss that place in time. And then I opened up the faded black cover of the big Moleskine notebook and began to read my own words in my own scribbled hand from years ago.

I cried, and then I laughed, and then I cried again. It was like reading someone else's book, someone else's thoughts. I felt so distant from the person who wrote all those stories and words, like a best friend who has suddenly stopped being your friend without saying why. And then I realized why. Because I kept pushing her away. I'm busy. I have too much to do. I'm sorry, not today, maybe tomorrow. We'll write tomorrow. Eventually, she just stopped coming around. Where nostalgia had been, I now felt a pang of guilt. I have been so busy taking care of everyone, everyTHING else, I have failed my creative self. So, I put the bucket of cleaning supplies down, right in the middle of the floor. My very own show of rebellion against, THE MAN. Whatever that means. But whatever that meant, I was going to write, dammit! I was going to get my friend back! The friend that IS me. I haven't been a good friend to myself and I vowed to change that.

So, I made myself a cup of coffee, plugged into iTunes, and tried to reconnect with that side of me that I appreciate so much, but is sometimes so hard to find. Nell Harper Lee wrote only one book, but that book was To Kill a Mockingbird. If I only ever do one beautiful thing with my gift, my only hope is that it touches people in the heart, and that it takes hold of them and puts down roots and grows until the beauty spills out and that person shares it with someone else. We've all read books like that, books that we can't forget, that change the way we think, the very essence of what we believe. There is so much ugliness in the world, so much hate; we are bombarded with it every day. My only hope is that I will find a way to use what I have to be a light in the darkness. And that begins with this: me and blank screen.

I vow here and now, publicly, before the faceless masses, to finish what I started and create the work I began before we moved. I vow to take more time for myself to write even if that means that the laundry doesn't get put away for another day or the shoes aren't all lined up (GASP!), or the kids go unbathed (juuuuuuuuust kidding). I guess that means I have to get to it then!

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you over the next week a couple of the writing exercises we worked on that I didn't share previously. The rules for the exercise were to write a story about the props brought in (I brought them this time) and you had fifteen minutes in which to write.

Here are the props:

This one is called: A Tale of Two Toys

A bare leg slid from the edge of the table and hung down, revealing foot with no toes and joints held together with tiny screws. It was followed by another leg, just as plastic as its predecessor.
"Help!" A tiny voice called out. "It's too far of a drop, I'll break if I do it!"

"Honestly," another voice replied, "what do you want me to do? I have no legs, how am I supposed to help you?"

"Well," the little doll said, " you have wings, can't you fly over here or something? I mean, aren't you supposed to have magic powers? You are a mythical beast, albeit a tiny, finger puppet sized one."

"Well, I just left the toy store yesterday and I've never tried," said the Pegasus. "But, OK, let me give it a try." And with that he began to furiously beat his tiny golden wings. He hovered above the table for a second and then he shot straight up and began to spin in circles like a whirly-gig. "Help! I can't control myself, I'm too top heavy!"

"That's what she said!" laughed the doll, for in truth, she was a tartish little thing , her mother having been one of those Barbies with the really short skirts that only cost five dollars and anyone can have.

She reached up from the table and grabbed both sides of the little flying horse. "I have a plan," she said. I'm going to stick my head inside of you (for he was quite a hollow thing, save the mound of cotton fluff packing his muzzle) and hold on to your arms, then you can fly us both down off of the table Just remember, as soon as we hit the ground, we have to run, er, fly as fast as we can back to the playroom. The baby's loose and I don't want her gumming me again. She swallowed my pants and shoes the last time she got a hold of me." And with that the doll plunged her head up the empty space of the Pegasus.

"Ouch! Don't wiggle so much!" he cried as the doll tried to get comfortable without the use of her eyes. Then he flapped his wings and they were airborne. He maneuvered them across the table top and slowly lowered the doll to the ground. She quickly pulled her head out and yelled, "Now...RUN!"

Side note: I could really have kept going with this one, but I ran out of time. It's something I may revisit later. After all, those little dolls belong to my children. And do you want to know something? To this very day, that little doll still has not put any pants or shoes on. Apples don't fall far from their trees, do they?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And I Didn't Even Require Sedation

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Today I devised a radical experiment in parenting brought about by a desire to stop focusing on things that aren't really important. Please, read and watch on.

Here were the terms:
1) We could do whatever they wanted as long as it didn't jeopardize any one's safety.
2) That's the only rule. Pretty simple, huh?

The following is an account of the day that developed.

Woke up at 6:45

Ate cupcakes for breakfast shortly after 7:00

The girls only ate the icing off of the tops of their cupcakes and fed what remained to the dog, wrappers and all. He ate it, wrappers and all.

It was decided we should go to the playground. A stuffed cat, a wagon, a naked baby doll, and two glasses of orange juice were deemed necessary.

It started raining. Ellie and I played patty cake with our feet while we waited for the rain to stop. That was her idea. My back made funny cracking sounds. I realized I'm getting old.

Someone suggested we look for rainbows. Almost immediately we found one.

It stopped raining. So...

We went to the playground and played hopscotch, rode the tire swing, looked at giant spiders, swung on the swings, and pretended to be pirates.

When sweat started making rivers down my body and black clouds loomed on the horizon, I convinced them to head home to our "Pirate Castle" where glorious treasure awaited.

We made it approximately 10 feet from the playground when they insisted we stop to pick flowers.

Ellie informed me that her stuffed kitty loved those kind of flowers, which just so happened to be called Chameleon Flowers. Apparently they will sneak away and hide if one does not watch them ever so carefully.

Finally made it home where Ari announced she was hungry for eggs. I decided to make frittata. Ellie drew a picture and taped it to the fridge with copious amounts of tape, relishing the freedom of her indulgence.

Ari found a cup and demanded more juice. What could I say? I gave her some.

Ellie wanted to take pictures with her camera. Particularly pictures of the TV.

I still hadn't gotten to the frittata. It was 9:10

At 9:30 while we were waiting for the frittata, it was mutually decided that we should eat a piece of chocolate. Then another. And well, you know where this is headed.

Ate frittata ( approximately three bites each) and decided to make Halloween crafts of spiders fashioned from egg carton and pipe cleaner and pumpkins from toilet paper rolls
Ari ran away to watch cartoons.

Ellie made Jesus out of orange and green construction paper and tacked him to the bulletin board.

We danced in circles.

Ellie ran away to watch cartoons.

Someone decided we should play baseball so we headed back outside. I only kind of cleaned up. You see, I was trying really hard not to worry about that stuff.

While outside, Ari ran away with Ellie's stuffed cat, who had been napping peacefully on a blanket placed on a tree root.

We scolded her.

She threw dirt at us.

We stared into the jungle and pondered how many spiders were in it. Too many, that's how many.

Ari practiced her "Balance Talents" on the roots of a tree.

No one ever played baseball. I was kind of relieved.

At 12:45 it was decided we should all go to Pizza Hut. Dressed as princesses. Yes, even ME. Ellie wanted me to wear my wedding dress since it was the closest thing I had to a real princess dress but I told her I couldn't reach it, so she settled on dressing me in a vintage handkerchief hem sun dress and some rhinestone heels...and a crown.

After they ate pizza, they insisted we go straight to Yogurtland. I obliged even though I was skeptical that they could eat any yogurt, but they ate the whole thing!

In the middle of our Yogurt, Ari screams, I'M ABOUT TO PEE MY PANTS!!! (technically, she wasn't wearing any pants, but I didn't point that out) After a frantic trip to the bathroom where a bladder crisis was narrowly averted, we finished our yogurt.

It was then decided we should go on a search for Ellie's Halloween costume. We ended up at a store that was decorated with some mildy scary creatures. Ari called a Skeleton Pirate "Captain" while protectively holding us all back from said "Captain".

When we walked out the door it set off a rattling skeleton that made all of us jump and Ari scream.

In the car Ari informed us that if we would simply put Jesus in our back packs, then the captain couldn't get us. Noted and filed.

We had a dance party in the car. I think I pulled my neck and I very possibly saw a shoe fly past my head.

Went to one more Halloween store and then meowed like cats all the way home.

They wanted to do my makeup. So I let them. Ellie painted purple eyeliner on my mole calling it a pimple and assuring me that she had now made me "pretty". She did all of this while dressed as a black cat.

There was a "situation" involving glitter.

It wasn't pretty.

The dog came running home from somewhere down the street. I never even knew he was gone.

Ellie rode her scooter down the driveway into the grass. She got hurt and ran inside. Ari followed her screaming: SISTER! DON'T DIE!!!

I taught Ellie the rhyme: Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat. If you don't, I don't care. I'll pull down your underwear.

We laughed until we cried and I had a nagging feeling that this was going to come back and haunt me at a most inopportune time.

Ellie then drew a picture of what I think was supposed to be a peacock. It raised many questions in my mind.

Meanwhile, Ari left her baby alone on a table outside, but she assured me she would be fine since she had provided her with plenty of snacks...and lotion.

They watched a movie and demanded libations and macaroni and cheese.

Jeremy came home and informed me I looked like I had been attacked by a posse of clowns.

I ran away to take a shower and while in the bathroom saw my toothbrush with toothpaste still on it and realized I had forgotten to brush my teeth. All day. EW.

When I got out of the shower everyone was crying. Even Jeremy. Just kidding. Everyone ELSE was crying. Ellie renounced her sisterhood with Ari.

Ari ran outside crying. In her underwear.

I walked past a mirror and realized that even though I had washed my face THREE TIMES in the shower, my nose was still covered in hot pink lipstick.

As the girls finished their movie their eyes were heavy and they sunk lower and lower into the sofa. It was 6:30.

I fed them their macaroni and it was unanimously decided that we should make this a regular event.

Jeremy put them to bed with minimal tears. From the kids, not Jeremy.

In the words of Ice Cube: It was a good day.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that called the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

No, Actually Heather, the Devil Poops Prednisone

Moon Face. Buffalo Hump. Truncal Fat. No, I'm not making these words up, they are just a few of the physical side effects of my arch nemesis: Prednisone. What the heck is "Truncal" anyway? I'm guessing it's that cushy little muffin top I've developed in the two and a half weeks I was on Prednisone. I've also got a little moon face and buffalo hump going on. Let's just say I'm not feeling my very best.

This drug is no joke and if it weren't for the seriousness of the circumstances under which it is prescribed to me, I would NEVER take it again. The doses that I am put on initially are higher than anyone I've ever heard of or read about and in those first couple weeks (while I'm on it) I feel great. I have loads of energy, feel pretty happy, and my vision begins to clear up. And then...

When taking Prednisone, you have to be tapered off of it because your body stops making Cortisol (the stress hormone) after two weeks and becomes dependent on it. This is the tricky part. The last time the doctors took longer to taper me off of it and decreased the dosage slowly. This time around it was all done within a week. I didn't think much of it, just following doctors orders, until the first day off of it as I stood in my kitchen and started shaking all over. That was just the beginning of the party.

I think in the course of a couple of hours I had cried, screamed at everyone several times ( probably because their shoes weren't all lined up neatly in a row {wink wink}), had a near panic attack, and then felt more tired than I had years. I lay down at 5:00 and was in bed for the night. Look at me! I'm a party and a half! Throw in some Geritol and I'm your Grandma!

The next day was pretty much the same except that the anger and waves of rage had subsided and were replaced with good old fashioned melancholy. I felt like Eyeore, and I can't stand Eyeore. In the back of my mind I knew it was all from the medicine but it just felt so much more extreme than last time.

But then again, who really knows what happened during that episode. Time is like a rock polisher and my memories are the rocks placed inside the vault of time. It spins and spins and as the memories tumble through time their edges are softened and their surfaces become smooth. A funny little story to tell the children and a page in family lore. I seem to forget all the heartache and pain and everything seems not so bad. Just like child birth. But right now. Right. Now? It sucks.

I went to the doctor to see if there was any other medicine they could give me to offset this awful come down ( which can last months) and he basically told me to suck it up. I'm going to be OK. It will be a gradual process and I won't just all of the sudden wake up one day and magically feel better, but it WILL happen. And while I kind of knew all of this already, it was comforting to hear a professional confirm that I am not losing my mind, that what I've been through is traumatic to my body and that there are serious side effects to some of this medication. Like Buffalo Hump. Or losing your mind.

When did everything become soooooo serious?!?!

I remember lying on the grass outside my friend Jennifer's parent's house in Jackson, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. I had no home to return to, no clothes, no stuff. I just was. There was no water and no electricity. So we sat outside on the grass, underneath the scorching Mississippi sun and we laughed. We laughed about nothing and everything. I made shadow puppets on the wall and talked in silly voices and we laughed some more. Because sometimes, that's all you can do. Or else you'll cry.

As I sat on the couch in my pool of sadness, some of it a side effect of the medicine, some of it my own doing, I wondered how I had drifted so far from the girl who laughed and made shadow puppets on the wall. What had changed in me to make me so different? It seemed ironic that as time softened my memories, life's bumps seemed to have hardened my being. But then I remembered something that made me smile and forget about the truncle fat for a little while. I remembered what I already knew. And that's what remembering is really, isn't it? Recalling something we have forgotten. It was this: I may have no control over my circumstances. And often I don't. But I do have control over my attitude. So I choose to be happy.

Even when my body is telling me otherwise: that I'm sad, that I can't get out of bed, that I'm not going to be ok, I will tell it shut it's moon face right up. That doesn't mean I don't listen to the physical things. Yeah, I learned that the hard way the other day when I met with my trainer and did what would have been a fairly easy hour workout pre-this whole mess. Near the end my body started shaking and I began to feel dizzy. I threw up twice and was in bed with nausea and migraines for most of the day afterwards. So, yes I'll listen to my body, just not when it tells me lies about myself.

So I lounged in a hammock with my girls and we laughed about nothing and everything. I talked in silly voices and they made up their own and we laughed some more. A few moments out of time but eternal in the lessons learned from them.

I know this healing process is a slow one. But my hope is that I can remember to take each day and within each day, each challenge, both physical and mental, and overcome them with objective thought. And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. And maybe some shadow puppets.