Friday, September 25, 2009

for love of ink -- or maybe pain -- but probably both

At the very instant the needle first penetrates, it's like what I imagine a perfectly honed blade would feel like piercing your skin in a very dramatic, but very romanticized sword fight. (Not necessarily my sword fight, mind you, but that's hardly the point here.) [Point? Ha! Pun so not intended.]

Just a peek of Amy's latestIt's not a puncture, or a stab, or even a prick (too easy -- let's leave that one alone). It's an unfamiliar pain, which allows you the unique benefit of not registering it immediately. And there's no counting it off for you either, as in, "ready? here we go." Because it's that first impression, the how you take it, how well you absorb the hit, how credibly you can pull off nonchalance, that sets the tone for the rest of the session.

And if you can not react. If you can manage to hold your breath stealthily, and expel your sighs in whispers as it slides in deeper and deeper, as the first signs of red liquid begin to bubble to the surface, as it bobs up and down, in and out, interweaving threads of color with your own DNA, then you've got a pretty decent chance of not only coming through this selectively scathed as planned, but of maybe actually really really enjoying it.

Partial view of Jo Anna's 7th
And it's truly impossible not to. It is. Although I fully acknowledge the banality of describing it as a transcendental experience, it does almost require you to separate yourself from your physical existence. To sit by (unrestrained, no less) and not only allow, but pay AND tip, someone to carve repeatedly and with strength of purpose into your own exposed flesh, cleaving apart the tender pelt in order to then pollute it with a black river of ink, like an oil spill. To feel the natural heat from the friction begin to radiate across your canvass, the rhythmic pounding on your bones intensely magnified, the sudden dearth of conversation underscoring the mellifluous sound of the buzzing needle. It's like entering a dream state. Or sex. Without the peyote and the stinky sweatlodge. [The dream state, not the sex.]

It's a right of passage. Yes, even the little butterflies on the ass cheeks and the daisy on the hip. And certainly it means something different to everyone. And most assuredly it's not always aggrandized in this way. But as an optimistic, idealistic, hopelessly romantic adolescent, it was something I never ever could see myself doing; and now, as an optimistic, idealistic, hopelessly romantic woman, they're one of the few things I can't even begin to imagine myself without.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

WHITE BELTS ALL AROUND, BUT NOT A GREEN TIP TO SPARE

Okay, so I caved. And we finally, after 3 years of their begging (hey, I can hold out when I want to) let them join karate.

Well, it's supposedly on a trial basis, one month free, sign here in blood please, and then once you're in there's no getting out type of deals. I mean, geez, between Comcast, AT&T, and now the dojo, I really just have more "family" than I could ever possibly handle -- and I'm Mexican, so that's saying a lot.

But the first class went well. Even our ubersquirrely boy began to settle down a bit (yes, only in the last 2 minutes of the 45-minute session, but, hey, it's a start). And Saia, who we thought for sure was going to take to this like second skin, was surprisingly very self-conscious and shy.

But they did a lot of running around -- ALOT of running around -- and learned a few moves, and yes-sir'd and shook hands and bowed to just about everyone and their mother, and so left their first day feeling pretty awesome and totally excited about coming back.

That is, until we talked to them about the rules.

I don't know if this is how it works everywhere, but here they earn various colored tips in addition to their belt levels. There's a set of 7 home and school rules that they are required to follow without question. Any breach and their parents get to remove a tip. They then have to explain to one of their masters what happened, and then they're given a week to rectify the situation. If they haven't earned back all their tips by belt-testing time, regardless of whether or not they're ready skill-wise, they don't get to test.

So, first class was on Monday. They earned their white belts on Wednesday. Saia received a negative behavior report from her teacher on Thursday for "interrupting and offering her unsolicited advice to the teacher" (yes, I know, no comments from the peanut gallery, please), and lost her first green tip tonight. :(

And she was just devastated. Had been working on her shuffle-shuffle-step-out-punch all week. And is now thoroughly embarrassed at the thought of having to explain to her master why she lost a green tip. Which, yes, I do understand, is the point of it all. But, yeesh, my poor baby girl.

So, we spoke with her together to try to find out what was going on with her. If she was having problems at school, or if she was just being her of-late-typical smart alecky self (which we were already working on). She's always been the one to temper HIM. HE'S the wild thing. HE'S the handful. HE'S the reason we expect to meet the principal within the first two weeks of school. But she's developed this devilish little attitude over the past few weeks, which is just about unbearable at this point. And I'm fairly certain it has to do with her pissing and jockeying for position amongst all the other alphas in her class. Which I get, and expect will level out soon. But the teacher?!?!? She can't be taking on a teacher!!! (At least not until high school, anyway. And by then, we'll have a really good therapist. And probably an attorney...or two.)

So, as far as we can discern, there doesn't seem to be anything specific causing her to be such a disrespectful brat. Which, truly, is almost worse. But she lost her computer privileges for the week, and has to write lines, in addition to giving her teacher a formal apology on Monday, and we wrote down on a calendar how long she had to make some significant improvements in her behavior.

But on Saturday (and, boy, she's counting the days), she's going to have to face her master. And then we'll see...we'll just see if this is gonna be worth the time, the money, and, most painfully, the having to sit there for an hour-and-a-half every week and listen to the incessant empty mommy chatter from all the other hens.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 26: SQUIRREL VS DOG

"What is it, Ryce-a-roni? What do you see?" I said, coming out into the backyard to investigate her repeated (and now annoying) growl-growl-bark.

"Aha!" I say. (Yes, I am talking to the dogs now, thank you very much. Apparently, one of the negative effects of not working. No need to harp on the obvious.)

And then I see her. It's a bird! It's a plane! It's "Squirreltastica!"

Perched in a pretty precarious position up on the shingles of our roof, frantically flicking her tail back and forth, beady little eyes darting over to the fence and back to the (almost 12-year-old) viciously salivating monster below (at least that's what she'll tell the other squirrels tonight), calculating the risk, estimating her chances of survival, and all the while sending out morse-code chirps and grunts to the Squirrel SWAT, who I expect should be arriving very soon...dropping from the sky in tiny little parachutes...with little AK47s strapped to their backs...and filling the yard with smoke bombs...you know, as a diversion.

Oh, God help me. I really do need to get back to work.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BAD BOYS, BAD BOYS, WHATCHA GONNA DO???

Heading over to our favorite little local restaurant. Stopped at a red light. All windows down as we soak in the last bits of our Cali summer. And the sheriff's car rolls up along side us, also with his windows down.

Amy glances over and then whispers to the kids with a nod, as she usually does, "You better behave, there's the..."

When the kids suddenly shout (of course, at the top of their lungs), "IT'S THE PO-PO!!! HANDS UP!!!" As they both shoot their hands straight up in the air.

And yes, the cops turned to us and saw the whole damn thing. And yes, they burst out laughing. And yes, I was just mortified, and had to stick my head out of the window to apologize in the middle of the busy intersection, and then proceeded to glare (pretty unsuccessfully) at Amy (who was also still cracking up) all the way to the restaurant.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SHE WILL ALWAYS BE MY BABY, AND, THEREFORE, CAN NEVER EVER HAVE ONE

Last movie night, we screened Robots, a 2005 animated flick about a personified robot world. Within the first 5 minutes, the male lead goes running out of his job where he works as a dishwasher and down the street screaming, "We're gonna have a baby! Our baby's being delivered today!!"

But when he finally makes it home, his wife tells him disappointingly that he missed the delivery -- quite literally -- as the UPS man had just left the box on their doorstep a few minutes before he got home. (Cute, huh?)

Then she says to him, with a wink, "Don't worry, honey, it's making the baby that's half the fun."

And Saia turns to me and very matter-of-factly proclaims, "I want to have a baby."

And then I passed out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

casualties of an unexpected decaffeination

I don't know how many casualties there were. It's been a good 3 days, I'd say, and the toll has definitely been on the rise.

I was at the bank, the nail salon, the school -- twice. There's a good 6 innocent bystanders right there. Then I completely ignored direct requests from a couple of friends for visits, IM-flamed others, and even burned off a few emails I probably should've recalled -- if that recall feature actually worked.

And somewhere in there, I even managed to snub a new neighbor, piss off the mailman, and yell the dogs so far back into their houses that they didn't even come out when I called them for guilt-treats later.

But it wasn't until I'd barked at the kids for like the 15th time in an hour and Saia, smart girl that she is, finally called me on it, that I realized the mounting pile of victims had hit its peak and just had to stop.

But what the hell? Where do I start? It's not like I was PMSing. No full moon from what I could tell. No less sleep than usual the night before. And yes, her girlfriend is still in town, but I swallow that whole, down deep inside, where only hypnotherapists dare to go. And then I saw it. The 12-pack of Diet Dr. Peppers I'd been tearing through the last two days was not the new one with cherry, like I thought. It was not only cherry-less (go ahead, just try to crack a joke with me today), but the damned thing was freaking caffeine-free!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

it's raining tonight

Oh my God, that's thunder. Do you hear it? I think it's raining.

It always reminds me of Seattle, of New Orleans, of Texas. You remember? It always makes me think of you.

Here, come lay down next to me. You can hear it perfectly from right here on this pillow.

Mmm...can you smell it? Man, there's just nothing like that. It's dancing off the cars and the stop signs and the street lamps. Not quite the same as a lamina roof, I know, but it's still such a powerful sound. Can you hear it from where you are, baby? Is it there somewhere above her whispers and giggles?

Look! Did you see that? Here comes the lightening now. Lightening! I can't even remember the last time I saw lightening. The whole sky just lit up like fireworks! Why are you missing this, dammit? Why aren't you here?

God, I do love the rain. It's the first downpour of the season, you know. How much do you think it can wash away tonight, I wonder?

Friday, September 11, 2009

unpartnered

"Hi, I'm Jo Anna. And this is...um...this is my...this is, uh...Amy."

Good God, when is this gonna get any easier? Why can't I just utter those words? She's my ex. This is my ex. Hi, I'm Jo Anna. And this is Amy, my ex.

I mean, she's in another relationship, for crissakes. I should be able to acknowledge that we're no longer together by now, shouldn't I?

Because the thing is, in a heterosexual relationship at a PTA meeting, you can say, "Hi, I'm so-and-so, and this is John Doe, the children's father." Or maybe you refer to yourself as "divorced." There's a sense of separation there, of feeling severed, of finality. And people understand. They get it. They've likely been there.

And we...well, we just don't have that.

Typically, when we'd say "this is my partner," or "the children's other mother," well, you can imagine the strange looks we'd get (yes, even here in California). It usually doesn't take people long to figure it out from there, but at least then they can put us into a little box. The oh-ok-so-they're-a-lesbian-couple box. And then choose to hate or love us based on any number of subjective and abstract concepts and irrational fears.

But now, who are we? We are a lesbian unpartnered couple. With kids. And there's no real box for that. And if people didn't squirm before, man, you should see them wriggle now. Because we still look like a family. We still act like a family. And we work really hard every day to preserve what we've built together as a family. And like it or not, agree with it or not, most people who meet us are able to pretty quickly reconcile themselves to that fact. We. Are. A. Family. And they get that. They understand that.

But this...this seems to shake people up. And I have to wonder if it's actually potentially damaging someone's perception (and possible acceptance) of the legitimacy of gay relationships when they then see us unraveling. When they hear of our fractures.

Is it suddenly justification? Validation? Confirmation of what they already believed?

Do they go home whispering, "Uh-huh. You see? I knew it. They're not meant to be."

Or is there a possibility...a small one, granted, but a possibility just the same...that, like having children, it somehow legitimizes us more?

That maybe they, too, can empathize with the loss, with the sorrow, with the grief that comes with the realization that you're no longer one half of a whole. That your birthdays and holidays and vacations are all fast becoming pawns on a chessboard. That you, too, feel like a failure. That you, too, just want to be happy and complete. That whether you were allowed to marry, or barred from the institution, or even chose not to marry, your heartbreak is no less painful. Your long dark nights, no less lonely.

Do you think? Maybe? Do you think they can see that we're just the same?

[**and just a note that i do realize as i write this today how utterly ridiculous and petty it must all sound in light of the devastation of 9/11]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

romancing the intellect? maybe in another time.

So, Amy took me to see The Time Traveler's Wife today. I hadn't read the book, but I adore Rachel McAdams (admittedly, more for her bitchy portrayal of Regina in Mean Girls than anything else, but STILL!). It's definitely not a typical Amy movie, though (you know, classic chick flick and all that), so it was a nice surprise. I hadn't been to the movies in the middle of the day in quite a while.

And then I remembered...football season kicks off tonight. Aha! She's just paying up in advance.


But it was a decent movie, nonetheless. Although I didn't much care for the male lead. And I felt like I walked away with a ton of unanswered questions, like why, if his passing this gene onto his own spawn was such a forgone conclusion, wasn't it made clear why or whether his own parents were time travelers. And what was the purpose of his traveling anyway? You know, like in Quantum Leap, righting the wrongs and all that? And if it was just an "affliction," a genetic anomaly, why weren't there others, support groups, research? And although they did hit a high point for me when they just touched on the idea of her fetus traveling out of the womb, they never go into why his daughter finally survives her gestation, or why she's able to control hers, but he had absolutely no control over his whatsoever.

It began to just get...annoying!

And maybe all those answers actually are in the book (although I kinda doubt it), but mostly, besides feeling a little empty, I'm left feeling a little insulted. As if we, as women, are such suckers for sap and mush, that we'll be perfectly fine with a vacuous storyline so long as there's hopeless love and unattainable eternal happiness. I mean, I'm the biggest hopeless romantic there is. I am. But even I can't be swayed by a one-dimensional plot and a pretty face.

Monday, September 07, 2009

THE LABORIOUS LABOR DAY

As a reward for a phenomenally smooth transition to their new school and a subsequently very successful first week, the monsters easily negotiated a chore-free, bed-making-free, grocery-shopping-free weekend.

So, after a quick jaunt to the farmers' market (mostly for the kettle corn), that was pretty much the extent of adult interaction for me. The remainder of the weekend consisted of Friday Night Game Night (we played King of Toads; Saia totally kicked butt), Saturday Night Movie Night (we watched Igor; the review's still out on that one), and then, of course, we played Swiss Family Robinson on Sunday afternoon. So by the time Monday came around, I gotta tell ya, people, I was really kinda jonesing for some grown up activity.

I awoke with a one-track mind and wasted no time getting down and dirty. On my hands and knees on the cold bathroom tile, I wrapped my fingers around the toilet bowl cleaner and made that porcelain bowl sparkle and shine. (What? What were YOU thinking?!?!)

And as soon as the monsters began wiggling around in bed, I recruited them into the fold, just as my mother had done to me, and her mother before her, and like every other Mexican mother who knows the value-add of personal child labor.

And for the next two hours, although they huffed and puffed beyond belief, we scrubbed and swept and mopped and dusted. We divided the chores, made lists for each of us, and tackled the cleaning like Merry Maids.

By noon, I began to feel almost normal again, just in time to fulfill the rest of the kids' reward request, lunch at Benihana's and swimming at Mommy's. Before leaving the house, though, the kids insisted they post a whole bunch of these little signs all over the place so that no one (like who, I have no idea) would slip and fall while we were gone.

Not entirely certain, but if they're learning about tort claims and personal injury law in first grade at the new school, I'm thinking it's probably gonna be a pretty great (or at least fairly lucrative) year.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

THE SAIA AND CHAGO SHOW: EPISODE 12 -- GOT FISH???

video

In which the monsters drone on and on...and on and on...about our quick little afternoon fishing trip-turned unexpected 3-hour wilderness adventure. Except they tend to leave out all the adjectives, adverbs, and nouns, and only really fill 7 minutes of film with transitional phrases like, "and after that we..."

So, here's the gist of it:





It was the perfect cool but sunny afternoon to take a walk down to the lake. [Can't you just HEAR the Andy Griffith theme song playing?]
When very shortly after this picture was taken, the 6-year-old twin terrors decided they were bored and ready to move on from the whole 15 minutes we had devoted to the actual fishing portion of our fishing outing.
But as luck would have it, we managed to scrape up a few mudbugs and clams before, evidently, deciding to follow the female spawn up a cool-looking shortcut that, unfortunately, was neither.

Two-and-a-half hours later...

We'd scaled one mountainside too many, scraped up our elbows and knees, lost the majority of our crawfish water, but emerged triumphantly on the other side...and just in time for dinner, too. And no, it was not crawfish and clam chowder (much to their chagrin). We're, apparently, holding them (still) in our garage in vicious vengeance for their treacherous trickery in deceiving us into believing a shortcut is a shortcut is a shortcut. THAT should teach them!

[pew! what IS that smell?]


Saturday, September 05, 2009

ALAS, POOR SALAMANDER, WE KNEW THEE WELL

Oh. My. Geeeeaawwwwd.

Gross little thing floating in the dogs' water bowl. And I walk outside just in time to see Chago on his hands and knees trying to fish it out with a pair of plastic pliers that he's dangling from the end of a bungee cord that he'd hooked onto the...um...bad end of the pooper scooper, while maneuvering his little body to block Saia from seeing anything and using his freakishly limber left leg to keep Reyna (the chihuahua) away.

No, no, go ahead, just try to picture it. I'll give you a sec.

Okay, moving on.

"Hey there, boy. Whatcha up to?"

"Oh, Mama, thank goodness you're here. Can you scoop that little salamander out of the water for me? He's dead, I think." And then quickly adds, "But I want him anyway."

"What for, son?" [pokes slimy grey thing with a twig, just to confirm] "He's done for. Why don't we go ahead and bury him instead?"

But he wasn't even listening. He'd already high-tailed it to the other side of the house to find his bug house, which he was dragging over to me, still holding his dead-salamander-retrieving-contraption in his other hand.

"Here, Mama. Just put him in here. I'll take over now," he says with a wave of his hand, dismissing me.

"But Chago...he's dead."

"Yeah, yeah, I know, Mom. Here, ok?...right here. Can you just drop him in, please?" and he's stomping his feet now.

"Son...Chago...look at me. I'm getting a little concerned here, babe."

"Just please, Mama! Please do it!" he begs.

And I just stand there staring at him, his eyes fixated on the limp and lifeless little creature the way most kids stare at cake.

And then in a quieter voice he says, "He's the first REAL bug I've been able to capture...Even though he's not really a bug...And I guess...I didn't really capture him."

[I know, I know, it got me, too.]

"You know what, papa?" [plop!] "You go on with your creepy little lizard corpse. If you need my help when you decide to bury him, you just let me know, okay?" And then remembered to add, "But if you set even one foot in the house with that thing, you'll be spending the night out here with it, do you hear me?"

And, in what should not have been a surprise in the least, his head perked right up, eyebrows raised, and that tiny little mischievous smile began to creep across his face as he said, "Really?"

Friday, September 04, 2009

an affair to dismember

So...a friend of mine is having an affair.

And I find myself in the ridiculously awful position of supporting her -- because she's found a happiness and joyfulness and passion within her that she'd thought was long dead and gone. And wanting to strangle her with dental floss and jab her eyes out with my pina colada umbrellas.

They're just evil, blood-thirsty little things, affairs. They suck the life right out of you while making you think you've got it good. They're parasitic. Scavengers. They change who you are inside, shake your core, and feed on your principles. But, hell, how do you even begin to say that without sounding, you know, supremely righteous? Or, you know, batshit crazy?

And, don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude. I totally get, without you having to describe to me in excruciatingly painful detail, the excitement, the rush, the euphoria of taboo relationships, of forbidden fruit, of greener grass, and all that. I get the temptation. I get the flirtation. I get the to and the fro, and the heave and the ho. (Well, not so much with the ho.) But I get it. I do. I've read my fair share of hot steamy tales. I've seen all the movies. Hell, I've even lived it -- a time or two.

And you hear all the time about affairs turned longtime companions. And you hear all the time about couples who just go with the flow and learn to have open relationships and make it work. Or about couples who recover, grow stronger, and have a better relationship because of it. And I guess I can't help but wonder if it isn't just a natural part of life. If it isn't just something that we learn to accept as human beings. As flawed human beings. Maybe it really was just a midlife crisis. Maybe it really was a way to express unspeakable emotions, or voids, or sadness, or loss. Maybe it really was a form of self help. Or, yeah, maybe it was just too much wine. But it's likely not...just...sex. Not just.

But then isn't it possible that then maybe it makes you re-evaluate what you've really got? What you're really risking? Sets you back on your path? And maybe...maybe? it serves a, dare I say, purpose?

I mean, we make choices, we make decisions, we change our mind, we have self-doubt. And then at some point we lose our way, and we stumble, and sometimes fall. (And, yes, everyone's definition of stumbling and falling is different. Just go with it, would ya?) And maybe YOU don't. Maybe YOU'RE the exception. But the rest of us might then feel stuck and trapped, and embarrassed that we allowed ourselves to get into a situation that we can't get out of, that we were wrong about, that didn't turn out like it was supposed to, and that's turned us into something society has deemed terminably bad ("once a cheater, always a cheater"). And so now...do we go forward or do we go back? And how do we forgive ourselves...and each other? And which way makes us stronger? Which way keeps us truest to ourselves?

And that's what sucks most. Because, ultimately, you should always be true to yourself. But wasn't it doing that that got you here in the first place?

And the thing is...the thing is that this one, man, it's right up there with killing and stealing. It's one of the big ones. In stone and everything. And, you know, all of those big ones, they're about self control. So, without careening off into a religious debate, I guess I'm really wondering whether or not an affair can ever be good for your soul? Because at the end of the day, when all the parasites have gone, and my friend has rid herself of this distraction and returned to face the music of her life, I don't want her to not be able to look herself in the mirror. But, truthfully, I just don't know if I honestly believe she has the right to.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

THE SAIA AND CHAGO SHOW: EPISODE 11 -- 1st Day of 1st Grade

video
In which the monsters attempt to describe their first day of first grade (in separate classes, even). Can you believe it??? :)