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A working professional and Mom,a want-to-be full time writer and modern day Alice in Wonderland who's always "A Little Mad Here"...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Doubt Digit Joy

Our little girl woke up this morning with a wide grin, ready to embrace her double-digit birthday with open arms. She proudly flashed the crisp $20.00 bill left under her pillow by the tooth fairy, informing me with unrestrained glee, that “she usually gets $5.00” and “she must have left me extra because she knew it was my birthday!”   She then proceeded to get dressed in her school uniform, humming loudly all the while and taking frequent breaks to gush over Lola who watched her with equally unrestrained adoration. 

Her mood might have been elated but mine felt far more subdued. This birthday feels different. I do not feel ready to embrace the double digits, the doorway to all thing’s “tween”.  I am not ready for her to begin a new journey that may have her leaving behind the childish trappings of her youth. I ache with the bittersweet notions of those coming losses, those casualties of her growing up…not far off now it seems to me as she marks this milestone.  After depositing her, and her birthday donuts, at the classroom door this morning, I found myself fighting back tears on the way back to my car. As much as I want to share in her enthusiasm, I feel so much like a mother on the brink of something I am not prepared for and it has left me feeling uncharacteristically unmoored. 

These days I am struck by all the small things that mark her changing.  While she still prefers to clamber into our bed at night, she has begun going to sleep in her own room. She has taken to wearing a sleep mask she got for Christmas. It has a wild, purple zebra pattern that looks at odds with her little girl sleep smile.  I check on her to find that, even in sleep, she has begun to straddle some invisible line between the child and the young girl.  One of her arms is wrapped tightly around her stuffed horse Roo and the other is draped loosely around her dog Lola and that flashy eye mask is firmly in place. 

This week she asked me to paint her nails. She has managed to grow them at last, in spite of barn chores and piano lessons. The nail polish I had at hand was a perhaps a shade too dark for her, but she still brandished them proudly. As far as I can tell, they are her only real vanity in the otherwise athletic and unadorned style that she’s adopted as her own.  

Last night at the barn she went about her chores as usual, taking a break when a song came on she liked to “dance with Roo”. I had to laugh at her antics, her silly made-up moves that garnered only the most casual glances from her munching horse. Roo is growing used to his child, the one who covers his soft nose with constant kisses and prattles about his stall, talking about her day even though he is far more interested in his hay. Still, I see him turn to watch her with his large brown eyes, his curiosity as clearly evident as his affection for her. At times he seems to have this expression that says, “yup, that’s my kid…that weird, wonderful, chatty little being right there”, and I find myself in a complete and kindred agreement with our gentle gelding. 

Watching her this morning, I found myself thinking, “Yup, that’s my child…that’s my silly, kind, smart, crazy, loveable, “on the verge of something wonderful” …little being right there.”
I don’t know how much longer she will believe in the tooth fairy.  I don’t know when she will retire her stuffed animals or when I will stop finding her wrapped around me like a koala in the night.  I do not know how much longer she will break into those random fits of wild dancing.  For now, I celebrate those things and I feverishly document them…leave my testimonies in electronic ink so I will have them always.  While I might not be 100% ready for double digits, I know I am more than grateful, more than blessed for the opportunity to be part of it all.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Leaving 9 Behind...

Soon, very soon…my daughter will be in double digits. With the start of the holiday season rushing in on the coat tails of Thanksgiving, it will be here in no time at all. And while I look forward to celebrating her 10 year birthday, I do so with the familiar bitter-sweetness that has become a hallmark emotion of being her mother. 

Age 9 has been an eventful one. It has been a year full of firsts. This year marked the first time she’s joined a team sport, playing for our town soccer league both outside and indoor.  This is the first year we have all come to learn the delicate balance that comes with managing multiple after school commitments. This will always be the year she got her first horse.  It was a beautiful moment, witnessing her stunned joy.  It was a surprise unlikely to be matched by much else for many years.  Age 9 also saw her first pimple, and an abundant show of gratitude once I managed to camouflage it with some of my “magic” cover-up. 

This year she began wearing those tiny bralets under her clinging uniforms…a decision that was much more about laying the groundwork, rather than because she really needed them just yet. It was also the time of “the talks” about hygiene and the importance of washing her face….talks made all the more imperative after that first major pimple appearance the same week as school pictures. We talked also about a girl’s first period, something hopefully that is a year or two off.  She is still so much a child, but there are some signs and things can change so rapidly and I want her to be more prepared than I was. 

She is still shy, though she is beginning to open up to adults she knows. I see her testing the waters by ordering her own food and having more animated conversations with her soccer coaches on the sidelines. I think she is more outgoing when I am not around, a dynamic I don’t fully understand.  All the same, I try to back off more and give her some room to engage others outside the realm of her mother’s shadow.  She is still so easily embarrassed and I am always afraid to upset the balance of her world in some accidental way. I am encouraged by her building confidence on horseback but dismayed with how much she still fears getting hurt or failing at something.  I find myself frustrated, watching her on the field, dogging the ball or falling back when I know she has the speed and skills to attack. I often ask myself, “How do I encourage her to be more aggressive?”  Then, I find myself asking, “ but do I really want her to be more aggressive?” 

My daughter is, at her core, sweet and reserved. She mostly plays her emotions close to her chest. At 9, she has developed this silly, funny sense of humor that she really only reveals to a handful of family members and her best friend.  Her timing is spot on though, and I think I have laughed out loud at her antics this past year more than any before.  I hope double digits brings her more confidence and more opportunities to share this wonderful, vibrant part of herself with others.

I am convinced 9 year-olds have compromised hearing. I need to repeat things four or five times before she “hears” what I am telling her yet, she her ability to eavesdrop on my conversations is startling. It has spawned more than a few arguments and shouting matches that have sent the dogs dodging for cover. My husband has frequently had to step in, to remind at least one of us, that they are an adult. My frustrations with my daughter however, pale in comparison to my pride and admiration for her.  

I have seen her push herself well outside her comfort zone to achieve something she wanted. I have seen her rally after an injury, stifling tears and tabling the drama to run back out onto the field or climb back up into the saddle.  She has been brave when she hasn’t really wanted to be. She has turned toward a challenge, even as I see how much she wants to run back to me.
My daughter is a nice girl. She is a good friend. She is loyal and loving. At 9, she prefers the company of girlfriends but seems to also enjoy the quiet and polite boys in her class.  She seems blissfully unaware that, in the space of a few years, the boys may start paying her a bit more attention.  Even as my daughter stands, fussing with stray ponytail hairs in the mirror and mugging playfully with her reflection, she is completely unaware of how beautifully unique and lovely her features are.  I have caught myself tearing up at how beautiful she looks in some outfit she has casually put together, not realizing how the color she’s chosen sets off those amazing sea green eyes or how the cut and fit show the graceful lines of her slim silhouette.  She is so physically different from me, that it takes my breath away.  The truth is, she just takes my breath away…in the moments of her wild at play, in the midst of her darkest mood, in the sweet silences of her sleeping…in all her movements and motions. 

My daughter at 9, might be my physical opposite but there are ribbons of my own nature woven into her being.  She seems to share my far ranging musical tastes, adopting my playlists as her own on our car rides and during our time spent cleaning or tending to Roo. She loves having people over, playing games and spending time with family.  She has greedily binge-watched some of my favorite shows with me, as interested in Stranger Things or The Umbrella Academy as she might have been with some of her more mainstream choices. 

Sometimes I’d like to say my daughter is a mini version of me, a “mini me”, but in truth she is very much uniquely herself. She is a wonderfully blended mix of her Dad’s quiet nature and summer-kissed caramel complexion and my fiery temper and penchant for debate. My daughter is also prone to goofy song and dance numbers, funny photobombs and bursts of manic storytelling. She is obstinate and argumentative, seeming to relish flexing her mental muscles with me most of all. She is unabashedly affectionate.  Most nights she clamors up between us in bed, insisting she wants to still fall asleep with us even though she’s almost ten. We wake up to her most mornings with one of her legs cast across our bodies or her arms around us, sleeping contently, as close to us as she can get. She will still randomly take my hand when we are walking, or drape her arm around my waist while we wait in line. She does these things almost unconsciously, undeterred by the strangers and observers around us.

She calls me Mother Bird when with her friends and Mamma when it is just the two of us. She will thank me, sincerely and unsolicited when I do something for her or buy her something she has asked. She will just as readily storm off with an exaggerated stomping of her booted feet when I scold or embarrass her.  

Everything in her current wardrobe is black, blue or gray and all of it is devoid of glitter, ruffles or depictions of small woodland creatures.  Even the dresses she selects for herself, when forced outside her typical leggings and hoodies, are unadorned and easily paired with cowboy boots and denim jackets by design. She is developing a style all her own and it’s one that I secretly love on her.  

There are a few months remaining until her birthday candles number 10.  I have enjoyed this 9 year old version of her, even though I have spent most of this year feeling like she was once again moving too quickly for me to keep up.  Her steps have been different than those she took as a toddler when her racing, stumbling feet kept her just ahead of my reaching arms, carried forward by momentum and sheer will.  Her steps away from me this past year have had the measured, deliberate cadence of a young girl discovering the best parts of herself to explore and expand her world. I am immensely grateful that, no matter how far ahead I feel she is getting, at 9 she still always takes the time to look back and assure I am still there….if and whenever she needs me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Trio of Demons

Torrential rain had battered her window panes for an hour before the storm had finally claimed her lights. Olivia contemplated closing up and heading home but blanched at the thought of facing her tiny apartment, reheated Chinese takeout dinner and yet another Friday evening alone. She recovered a book of matches from the desk. She set about lighting the candles strewn about the shop, chasing off the darkening shadows with a soft, sage and pumpkin scented glow. It was better to be alone here in the shop when someone...anyone....might brave the weather to dash in for a bit of a herbal remedy or last minute curio gift.

How many years had she run the place now? A decade? At least long enough to see her once charming New England fishing village slowly morph into a tourist trap destination. Every summer season the crowds advanced, taking selfies in her picture window and clambering onto the monstrous whale-watching boats that leached poison into the harbor. Olivia felt a bad mood descending. She grabbed a rag and began to pace about the store, tidying up to keep her mind occupied. She began organizing what she playfully nicknamed as the “shelf of evil”, a corner curio cabinet filled with figures and occult-themed knickknacks that the tourists seemed to love. She found some humor in that fact that most of the macabre figures had "made in China" stamped on tiny gold foil stickers affixed to their bottoms.  She reached toward the back to retrieve a particularly dusty sculpture. She drew it closer into the light of the nearby candle and regarded the crude figure.

It was a novelty take on the old adage, “see/speak/hear no evil” but instead of the traditionally posed monkeys, this statue was a series of three tiny, cinnamon-colored demons. These were stereotypical characterizations of demons, complete with horns, cloven hooves and red, pointed tails. The demons sat side by side with one covering its eyes, one covering its elven-like ears and one holding both claws over its open mouth.

Olivia set it down and stared hard at the trio of demons. What had been their names? She could no longer recall. They had been a riotous and nasty bunch for sure but, at least for a time and for a young, lonely witch, they had been lively companions. The three demons had properly tempted, cajoled and guided her in her dark pursuits but they had grown insatiable.  She had been unable to keep up with their demeaning demands. They grown too hard for her to control. In the end she’d had to bind them. The statue had been a bit of comical license on her part but it was oddly fitting.

Astaroth, she now recalled the name, had been a biter. She still had the white scars where he’d delivered a particularly violent bite as punishment for not casting a spell on the local woman who ran carrier pigeons. Astaroth had hated all birds but found the pigeons and their keeper particularly abhorrent. He had encouraged Olivia to craft nasty spells against her and her flock, and pretty much anyone else who crossed his path. Olivia had come to believe he'd been jealous of their wings, having been stripped of his own so long ago.

Olivia picked up the figurine, trying to remember the time when she’d spent those years learning from and tormented by the trio. Suddenly another name popped free from her memory, Baphonet. Her eyes focused on the demon covering its eyes. Baphonet’s eyes had been black, obsidian pools. He could look into her and see whatever she was coveting but also what she most feared. He had been the cruelest of the group by far. He showed her all the nasty looks people had flung at her back, showed her all the banter and teasing she managed to miss or ignore. Those black pools delivered visions that turned her soul blacker with every reveal. She remembered how long it had taken her wounds to heal and how much effort it had taken her to turn back from the darkness and change her path before it had become too late.

Mammon had been the last demon. In so many ways he had been her favorite, as well as the most destructive of the three. The “hear no evil” demon had been exceptionally skilled. Mammon had been the insidious foe whispering in her ear, the voice in her head goading and guiding her toward her own ruin. He was the cooing cajoler of her nightmares. He was the one who urged her to act on her dark impulses, to sever almost all her ties to the light. Mammon had made her an instrument, and played her to perfection. He had been her nearly constant companion, her most trusted friend. She could still hear his syrup-sweet voice in her ears, promising everything she wanted; power, acceptance, love, in exchange for being the attentive and mendable pupil. She felt a familiar tug somewhere inside her. A phantom need stirred and she heard faint whispers of a former life.

Olivia abruptly pushed the figurine away. The three demons seemed to flicker in the candlelight. She grabbed an old headscarf from a mannequin and quickly wrapped the statue up in it, breathing easier as the three demons disappeared in the folds of fabric. She placed the figure away in a box under the stairs. She hadn’t wanted to replace it on the shelf with the other items.

The former witch breathed deeply of the healing sage-scented air. Those three demons had been part of her old life, one filled with compromises and broken promises, darkness and devotion to an evil that delivered her only to pain and despair. In a last ditch effort to save her soul, she had bound the trio and turned toward the light. What she had lost in the bargain had been substantial, her strongest powers and her immortality. Still, she knew she had chosen well even if sometimes it seemed as if she had traded one type of loneliness for another. The demons slept and while they did, the witch had become a healer. Today, the counsel she listened to, the visions she saw, the actions she took were all exclusively her own. She lived in the light and acted for the good. Olivia had made her home a community that respected and appreciated her. She lived a simple life, alone but not isolated or exiled.

The lights in the shop suddenly flicked on with a snap, bathing everything in fluorescent light. Olivia saw that the rain had stopped and bodies where once again moving about on the street outside. She heard the jingle jangle of the shop door opening. The Healer felt a smile spread across her face as she stepped forward to greet her customer.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Some days...

The hours are quickly passing before I have to make my business trip.  As much as I worry about leaving, I also recognize how badly I need to get away and gain some perception.  Over the last few weeks I have felt my footing slipping, my will to do anything, draining away. It all feels like too much effort to force myself into an existence when I feel so overwhelmingly invisible.

I feel the need to slip into someplace where I don't expect to be seen or paid attention too.  I crave a world where I have no expectations of my loved ones, my career or my ability to be heard and noticed. It is the expectations that crush me. If I did not set expectations, then I would not have to register the disappointments. I need a crash course in how to live life without expectations, for myself or for anyone else.

I'm grateful for what I have in this life. I wish that felt like enough all the time. I wish my many blessings were enough to make me feel full and complete and successful at this stage in my life. Some days though,  they are not. Some days all I see are the failings, all I feel is the loneliness and the tide of darkness slowly creeping up on me.  Some days my accomplishments feel far too few and insubstantial and whatever ambitions I may have, seem to be overreaching.  Some days I wish I had someone I knew would pick up on the other end of a late night phone call or be the voice that asks me, "am I okay?".  Some days I wish I it wasn't so hard to feel seen.

It is crazy that someone who feels so alone is somehow looking forward to spending time actually being alone.  It is crazy that I actually find comfort in knowing I'm going some place where I will be actively ignored. Maybe its because for once, my expectations about people and situations will prove true and I won't be disappointed. For once, for the next few days, things will be exactly as I expect them to be.

I think I might be in the middle of a mid-life depression or something. Maybe I have felt some of the losses this past year more acutely then I thought.  I don't know.  I just know I feel vacant, like a placeholder, not a real person some days. I feel robotic and pedestrian. I oscillate between rage and an acquiescing numbness. I feel like I want to shine but can only manage the weakest flicker, like some dying candle losing its battle with the dark. At least I am not manic, wildly swinging from joy to despair, but rather I'm stuck in the middle of the grays...all the shadowed hues. My days of vivid color are too few and far between. I tell myself this will pass, this stage of my life is just some mediocre plateau and eventually I will wake up. I will wake up to me, to the woman in the mirror. I see her at least. She isn't invisible to me. I think she's just lost.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Unintended Love

The love we do not intend is sometimes the love that saves us. This phrase popped into my head as I was clearing out my emails and contemplating writing for one of the many prompts littering my inbox. These days my muse is a bit of a fickle bitch, so the fact that these words suddenly came to me wasn't something I felt I should ignore. A writer who is not actively writing needs to pay extra attention to such divine inspirations after all.

In many ways, as I think about it, this statement is one of my great truths. I might not have intended to fall in love with my future husband, but I did. At that time in my life, I can honestly say that it was the love that saved me. My heart and faith had been mortally wounded, dealt a death blow by back to back relationships that had worn me down and left me feeling desolate.

Then, unexpectedly and when I wasn't even looking, he entered stage left and restored my hope. In many ways I felt "saved" from taking up a permanent residence in     all my familiar dark places.

And lately, there has been another unintended love that has supported that statement.

Recently various cosmic forces, and one determined little sister, combined to result in us getting a horse for our budding equestrian of a daughter. Roo is 12 year old, sorrel and white painted quarter horse cross that stands about 15.2 hands high. He has a sweet disposition and will be able to grow with my daughter, they are about the same "age" experience-wise overall. When the opportunity presented itself, I knew relatively nothing about horsemanship. I was just starting to get the hang of being a horse-mom though, toting her gear and fetching her tack and using all the right jargon. I enjoyed our times at the barn and her weekly riding lesson was something I had grown to love and look forward too with the same enthusiasm as my daughter. Admittedly though, I hadn't considered ever owning a horse of our own despite the lure of empty and available stalls at my sister's recently purchased horse farm.

Yet, the opportunity arrived. I told myself I would be practical. I told myself that while it might be inevitable given my sister's agenda, it didn't need to be now and it didn't need to be this horse.
Then, it happened. My daughter fell in love with Roo. Unexpectedly however, so did I... the very first instant he nuzzled my shoulder with his big head and turned those big brown eyes in my direction. Roo's owner is good people and she was committed to finding him a "soft place to land". I think she knew he would be my daughter's "heart horse", she might have even expected he'd also become mine too.

For the first time in my life, I came to understand my sister's connection to the animals that had always been part of her life. There is something soulful about horses, some primitive connection that resides in human beings, brought to life by soft nickering and their sweet, grass-scented breath. There is something powerful about an animal who can so easily dominate you, but is simultaneously so willing to try to please you. There is a serenity and grace in these animals and something that borders on the almost mystical.

Roo will always be my daughter's horse and she is very blessed and lucky to have him. He will be a good companion, they will make a good team. He is also however, the second unintended love in my life. He has, in many ways, saved me...albeit in a smaller and more humble way than my husband's love did.

Roo has become the balm on an irritating day and the stream of sudden sunshine on a cloudy one. He is the inspiration to spending special, companionable time with my daughter and my sister, doing barn chores or training. These are hours passed simply and without thought of anxiety, stress or strain. Roo inspires me to think outside my rigid boxes and harness bravery when I feel out of my depth. Roo provides the unique opportunity to see my daughter developing confidence and responsibility because he challenges her to believe in herself, to push herself and to aspire to be stronger.

I tried to explain it all recently to my husband, who to be fair, has not fallen in love with Roo or the idea of having this new 900 lb family member to care for. After a long-winded explanation, I simply ended with, "he makes me happy." And, honestly, that is really just it. Whenever we walk up on his paddock and he flicks his ears and turns in our direction, the worries and concerns of the day just disappear. When I watch my daughter plant kisses on his soft white nose, I feel grateful and blessed. My heart is happy for her and also for him, to know the boundless, unconditional love of a child. My heart is joyful to watch him run, moving with such freedom and grace, but also to see him working with Jaden, seeking that shared conversation between horse and rider. Whenever I take a moment out of grooming him to step in close and lay my head against his neck, breathing in the smell of him, I am content and happy in this simple moment of shared affection. I can see my reflection in his quiet, big brown eyes and it brings me a special peace.

These days, when the crush of daily existence and the pressure of life gets to me, that special peace is what saves me; saves me from rage, from discouragement, from doubt, from the rut of routine. Roo reminds me that my life isn't just about work and bills and responsibilities, but also about things that bring my soul joy. Roo reminds me to take the moment to find happiness and peace in my life - even if I find them in the most unexpected places.