Friday, September 30, 2011

Horses in the back yard

We have horses in our back yard. I don't talk about them a whole lot, mostly because they don't technically belong to us. Their names are Maggie and Norman.  There's another horse, a mare, named Sweetie, but she's just visiting, helping the other two eat all that grass, for the summer.

Norman and Maggie belong to my sister, Nancy, who doesn't live anywhere near here but who loves her some horses and collects them like big, terminally -hungry, rather-expensive, not -exactly- potty- trained pets.

So, while she's off looking after other people's horses, which she does for a living, we get to look after hers. And I can't say it's not exactly a burden. In fact, it's fun.

Because horses smell good. I'd much rather clean up their house than my own. They are warm and fuzzy. Their noses are as soft as velvet. And their chins are like rubber eggs.

They are also a fabulous substitute for Saturday morning cartoons, which we couldn't watch if we wanted to because we still, after however many, five, months living back here, haven't figured out how to hook up our pre-digital television so it actually shows a picture.
Esther loves having a pony to "train" and a reason to get up early and put on her fancy riding boots we got in England over Christmas. She says she is training the pony, Maggie, for Isla to ride.

Isla isn't entirely sure she wants to ride Maggie just yet, but she's got time to decide.

She is a bit frisky. What I like the most about Maggie is the way she contrasts with her surroundings. She doesn't look anything like grass or trees so she's easy to spot. She gives our bored eyes a treat each day when we look out the window and see her standing in, or sometimes running through, the meadow.

And they both look really good in the late-afternoon sunlight. If I hadn't dropped my camera in the lake, you would be able to see just how good without being distracted by ghosts.

I have decided that life is too short to use a narrowly-resuscitated camera, and am determined to go camera shopping this weekend, hell or high water.

Any recommendations? I liked the one I have, a Panasonic Lumix, before it drowned. But I am open to suggestion....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fed up mom kicks melancholy out on its ass

Last Saturday was the first Saturday in a while I didn't spend having mini anxiety attack after mini anxiety attack. (In layman terms, that's tantrum after tantrum.)

I am really good at ignoring the fact that this house, and, in broader terms, this life, is/are still very much in disarray during the week. But Saturday always coincides with the donning of my glass-half- empty goggles and suddenly my life goes from beautifully chaotic to pathetic disaster. They should change its name to "Sadurday." Or maybe "Madderday."

There were typical "Sadurday/Madderday moments" last weekend, sure, but I managed to breathe, rather than curse audibly with alarming hostility, through them. It was as if I was swimming with a foam noodle, rather than relying on only my thrashing arms and legs, to stay afloat.

I wish I could take all the credit for this improvement, but the truth is, I'm cheating. I begged my midwife, during a long-overdue annual, to renew a long-since expired prescription for antidepressants last week.

I had all the usual, ego-fueld reservations about doing this, but my month-long battle with "PMS" this past month kind of scared me. And there is only so much crying  and self loathing you can do in front of your kids before you need to say to heck with stoicism and pride, yoga and B-vitamins,  magnesium, and Vitamin D, and regular exercise, all that other self-help, accountability garbage and do something,QUICK!

I told my midwife, the woman who guided me through both pregnancies, a woman who is as calm and spiritually vast and wise and beautiful as the sea, that I was depressed beyond what is acceptable. She did not argue when I told her I thought I needed  medication, aside from an initial suggestion of acupuncture. She could tell, I think, I was on the verge. She also knows, I know myself better than anybody.

I have taken antidepressants before, and each time was prompted by an extenuating circumstance: The Olympics, if you can believe that, Isla’s burn accident, and now this, what, triple whammy of our family being split up, coming back to America, to my home, my birthplace, after having “lived the dream” in France, and the ensuing culture shock, which, I've discovered, is a fancy word for depression. Oh yes, not to mention the harsher realities of watching the fog of Alzheimer's steadily blot out the man formerly known as my father.

It's as if his brain is full. He's not taking in any more information. He listens, sure, but he doesn't retain. Our relationship is no longer evolving in any reciprocal way. It is what it is. We've reached an impasse.

So, where was I, yes, I have taken them before. And I have always gone off them again, after a few months of having my brain hooked up to an electro stimulator. Jump start.

I’ve been taking them for one week now and imagine I feel better. I have to admit, I also feel a bit  weird. Not all here. I remember this. A bit dizzy. A buzzing in my brain, a fullness, as if my brain has expanded. It’s my heart that needs expanding, isn’t it. My brain neeeds shrinking.

But I do feel better, lighter, less prone to death by earnestness. More capable of enjoying the ridiculousness of daily life with children, without letting my angst in to wring the joy out of everything.

I am in such a better place, on a plane that is actually above ground rather than six-feet under the muck. I can see the afternoon sunlight dripping all over the changing leaves. I can see the vast blue sky, stretching like a huge dome of possibility over my head. Right now I can hear steady pounding rain falling from a sky that is completely absent of color. That too is comforting. I can smell fall in the air and it doesn't make me want to cry.

And I can feel the annoying sting of the mosquitoes, which suddenly buzz around here in menacing flocks- feasting on my helpless, sleeping children-- since they hatched post Tropical Storm Irene. (Ian tells me it's only the females who suck blood. Is that true?)

The pure, daily violence of those blood-thirsty insects almost makes me look forward to the first deep frost. Almost. But I am looking forward to tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that. And that, for sure, is a start.

More musings on why we moms are so mad all the time over here at Momformation. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And now, we wait

The petition for alien relative, along with all the accompanying documents, I hope, and reluctantly -written check for $420-- what price for a husband-- is in the mail.

My hands shook as I sealed the priority envelope, after checking and double checking I had included everything. I'm not sure why, but the feeling of powerlessness, of vulnerability in the face of bureaucracy, is a potent one.

And, as I write that, I am conscious of the thousands of others, immigrants and natives, praying their petitions to bring their loved ones to the same continent as them, get into the hands of the least grouchy Dept. of Homeland Security employees and get the "approved" rather than  "denied" stamp.

I am not alone. And I, by the dumb luck of being born American, caucasian, WASP, probably have no right to be whining at all. Ours is a minor blip, a technicality, which can and will be overcome. Not so for everyone. For I have felt the unexpected shame of sitting on a train, passing through frontiers, watching men and women around me, those with skin and hair darker than mine, be asked for papers, while I was totally and completely ignored. My whiteness renders me uninteresting, invisible, exempt. OK.

And while half of me admittedly wonders if this isn't all a sign we should have stayed in Europe-- the question still dangles in my peripheral vision--I want to see Ian back in this house he built, in this family he helped make, in this country he adopted for the love of me.

He called this morning to tell me, to tell us, he saw a shooting star in the middle of the dark French night last night. I can't help but choose to see that as a sign as well.  

image from akshay moon@flickr

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When in doubt, call Delilah

As I mentioned over at Momformation today, it's our anniversary.

Problem is, I've been less wife and more trouble and strife lately.

If I were the type to call into a radio show, and Ian were the type to listen to a radio show, I might consider calling into Delilah right about now.

What would I tell Delilah?

I would tell her I've been unfair and unkind to my husband, who is not with me right now.
I would tell her I regret some of the things I've said to him over the phone.
I would tell her I regret thoughts I've had. I would tell her I regret the self pity I've been feeling, and expressing, in the most embarrasing, shameful ways, and the frustration I have been trying to take out on him.

I would tell her I regret just about everything that I've said and done in the past week.

I would tell her I want him to know I love him and how grateful I am to have him.

I would tell her I want him to know I know he's doing the best he can and I'm sorry if I've suggested otherwise.

Except I wouldn't want Delilah to pick the songs for me, oh horrors. Imagine the cheesiness:

So sad, so sad, such a sad sad situation.....Sorry seems to be the hardest word. 
Or Chicago's  Hard for me to say I'm sorry 
You are the wind beneath my wings.....

I do like this one:

No. I would have to pick the songs myself.

No, I'd have to write them myself.

Unless there are any songs called, "Forgive me, I'm an idiot?"

Or how about, "Can I blame PMS every day of the month?"

Or, "Maybe it's time to renew that prescription?"

If you were Delilah, what songs would you play for my poor, battered husband? 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chez nous

Domestic update:

We’re, well most of us, off the floor.

We had been camping out in one bedroom, mattresses on the floor, clothes and books and art supplies strewn about the place just like a college dorm, minus the beer bottles, for far too long.

For some reason, we, okay, I, couldn't get any further than this. My bedroom became our buffer zone. United we lie down. All together in one room was the only way we could manage being back in our house without Ian.

I've also had this crazy idea I was going to give all the walls a fresh coat of paint. There is only so much soap and water can do to wash away the remnants of beer and boogers and resinous slime left behind by the overgrown toddlers previous tenants. 

When we first moved back in here, I remember earnestly telling my neighbor, Maria, how I was going to paint, one room at a time, at night, after the girls were asleep. If this were a sitcom, the laugh track would cue up here.

Most nights, I wake up around ten, fully dressed, next to Isla in her bed after having fallen asleep with her. Wasted with exhaustion, I stagger into the bathroom to brush my teeth and think briefly about trimming out the living room walls, while I peel  off my mom suit and crash back into the bed, my womb.

“Just do it, later,”  has become my catchphrase.

Esther and Isla were ready to broaden their horizons sooner than I was. Even Isla, my personal limpet, started to beg me to set up her bedroom.

“Please, Mommy,” she repeatedly whined, "I want to sleep in my own room in my own bed."

"I know you do, Isla," I answered wearily. "I'm working on it."

“Is today the day you are going to make me a cozy bed and put my clothes in the drawers in my room?”

“I think today could very possibly be the day,” I would say, with the conviction of a woman turning down an epidural.

But, day after day, I didn’t get it done.

Until one day, I finally felt a glimmer of inspiration, like a flash of heat lightning, did I see that?, to set up the beds in the girls’ bedroom. I had painted the shelves that go at the head of the bed on another inspired day way back when.

 I dug out the metal bed frames from the attic and was momentarily flummoxed by the fact that the screws don’t line up with the headboard.

I chose to overlook that minor frustration the other night and, right at bedtime, late again, we are late to bed every night, I decided, once and for all, after so many hot, restless, sticky, “Isla you have got to push over, it’s too damn hot” nights, it was time, beyond time, to reestablish boundaries, reclaim our territory, fill out our private spaces and give ourselves a little breathing room, already.

Sheesh. I am a human glacier.

I slapped up those beds and made them--minus the bed skirts, who knows there they ran off to-- while the girls, contagiously excited, got busy collecting things, random things to personalize their corners with.

Isla had spent that morning carefully hanging up her clothes in the closet that has no door. Esther has pretty much decided she is not ready, after all, to brave her new big-girl-room- in- waiting in the attic. One day.

When I, finally, tucked them in, read a quick book and kissed them goodnight,  Isla said, "Mommy I don’t want you to sleep with me tonight."

That's great, Isla," I said,  "because I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. Tonight is officially everyone in their own beds night."

Then Isla said, "I don’t want you to sleep with me ever again. "

"Okay," I kissed her again, laughing, "you are a silly girl."

The next morning I woke up, on my mattress on the floor-- I'm still missing parts to my bed frame-- to the sound of gentle purring. I turned my head over on the pillow and came face to face with the dark tunnels of Isla’s nostrils. Her shiny moon face just centimeters away from my own. Her head on my pillow, acres of empty bed behind her.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Just for a moment

Just for a moment
I let myself imagine
that you are dead
something happened
something terrible and unexpected
sudden and instantaneous
you are gone
I am left
the pain of this thought
overwhelms me with sadness
I wonder how
could I imagine such a thing
Me alone in this house
In this kitchen
where you so often kiss me
Alone on the bed
I lay in silent question
my morbid reverie is interrupted
by the sound
of car weels on our gravel driveway
your footsteps on the porch
your sweet voice calling out
I'm home!

I found this in my journal from 1999. Married just three years. No kids yet. Kind of morbid, for sure, but I can still relate to it, perhaps more now that we have children. Forming connections, attachments, allowing yourself to love and be loved, is not all safe, fuzzy and warm. It's scary, it's risking loss, it's putting your heart out there in the wide open air, just hoping it will be able to withstand the elements, the breeze, the occasional bird droppings, and keep on beating.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Immigration ate my husband

I'm so angry at Ian right now I could scream. In fact I have been screaming. Usually the f-word, at the top of my lungs, deep in the woods where no one but the coyotes and barred owls can hear me. Or so I assume.

We don't fight often. We're not fighters, us two. I've tried, but it's really not rewarding, in any way, to pick fights with him. He just won't get emotional or immature, even in the heat of the moment. He just won't stoop to my level. This is what I get for marrying a Brit.

But I don't want to pick a fight with him right now. I just want him to come home. And he can't. He can't because he's not finished with the farm -house project in France. I can live with, and expected, that.

But, as has now come to light, since his recent visit to the American embassy in Paris, he couldn't come home even if he wanted to, because his Green Card has, for lack of a better word, expired. Why is it expired? He didn't follow the rules. He didn't know the rules, and never bothered to find them out before he left America for France. He was supposed to inform someone, Big Brother, that he was leaving the country. And he was not supposed to be away for more than a consecutive year.

It never occurred to me that there were "rules," he needed to follow. I figured as long as we were married, and together, there were no borders.

This is what else I get for marrying a Brit. 

I've never been a resident alien in America before. I've only ever been an American. Land of the Free. Home of the brave.

In order to straighten this out, I need to file a petition for an alien relative, put out by the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland security? Alien relative? Holy hell.

That's my husband they're talking about. The guy who has been paying taxes in America, quite a lot when we were all in France and got penalized up the ying yang, for more than 15 years.

He was also told at the embassy that it could take up to six months to resolve.

Excuse me but f-ing hell!

 Still, it was not a bright move on his part.  Neglecting details is never a good idea. Perhaps even less bright than my recent oops of putting my new digital camera on the top of the motor boat at the lake and seeing it fall in the lake and float to the bottom. He told me, in a very fatherly way,  I wasn't very clever for that. Touché.  Worse still, we got wind of this potential snafu before I even left France. He assured me he had a handle on it. Argh!

But I have to swallow my anger because he needs me to help him. If I want him to come back to us, I need to help him. I have told him that I will help him, but he is living in the dog house once he finally makes it back here. 

The girls want him back. It's beyond time. The other day, while looking at a photo album with one of my older sisters, they got to a picture of Ian holding Isla's hands and helping her walk in the shallow part of the river.

"Who is that?" Nancy said, joking with her.

"That's Betsy's husband," Isla answered, with matter-of -fact precision. 

Yea. It's time for him to come home.

I want him back too. We've been apart for four months now. That was the most we had assumed it would be. But that, I realize now, was naive. When builders give estimates, you always tack on two or three months to the date. Right?

Christmas maybe??

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Internet cleanses don't work like colon cleanses, I guess

As I explain, with varying levels of eloquence, over here,  I attempted an internet cleanse last week.

Speaking of varying levels, my success at this was questionable. While I proved incapable of physically leaving my laptop behind on vacation, I did manage to leave it behind mentally for some significant chunks of time. It spent most of the week in the bag, despite the temptation to keep up with each and every detail of the trail of destruction Hurricane Irene lay down in Vermont. 

And I didn't blog for a whole four days. Where's my medal?

Though no one promised this, I am still waiting for the release of toxins and outpouring of creativity that I was hoping might come from all that wholesome, fibrous, face-to-face interaction with real live humans and real live nature, rather than this here screen.

I did, however, sleep quite well, and manage to scribble a few pages in the legal pad I purchased at the supermarket, trying to replicate what I read was J.K. Rowling's writing habits. Alas, the next Harry Potter-like book did not come pouring out of my head either.

All babbling aside, Maine was fabulous in a "life is blessed if you can manage to deflect, or ignore, the constant family tension" kind of way.

I love the sea. It slays me with its perfection. And I love trying out the fantasy of living right next to it, day in and day out, hearing it breathing, sighing, ranting, heaving itself again and again onto the land,  and just having it there, stretching like a massive dark mirror, beckoning to you, right outside the front door.

As we walked along one of the many dirt roads, lined with beach cottages, Esther intimated she felt the same way. I felt compelled to apologize to her, to warn her about the torpor learning to love the sea  will cause her for the rest of her life.

"This place can ruin you," I said. "Just like Paris, and, on some level, Vermont can ruin you. You will forever be comparing every place you go and live to this place. And even though you know it's not reality, and it wouldn't feel this perfectly blissful if you lived here every day, you won't be able to help missing it, on some level, all the time."

Esther said nothing, but I am fairly sure she gets it, already.

If you look carefully, you will see the picture that explains why I take far more pictures of Isla, lately, than I do of Esther.