Sunday, May 08, 2011

Written on the fly

Life has certainly been full.

Snapshot sent to JJ while he worked.
This could easily describe my day, but no... I describe being a Mother of two beautiful little girls. I will post photos of them, but for now, let me just say: I LOVE BEING THEIR MOTHER. It is lucious and vibrant and trying and challenging and rewarding and and and...

...all impossible but for the most remarkable man. JJ, Father, partner, friend, I love you. I would travel to see you and get that moment, I know you know which one, when fatigue and weary souls took pause together.

Thank you for giving me our two darling girls.

:love:

Monday, May 02, 2011

Home

My parents sold my childhood home when I was 16 to move to a small 13 acre farm, 12 miles away.  It was to be their home for their retirement.  The running joke was that "okay Mom and Dad.  I get it.  You want us out of the house." 

Greta Jo, just shy of 19 months. 5/2011
Home can mean so many different things to different people.  I have started a photo series of my family to be taken in black and white.  I hope to capture those moments when we are at home.  Falling apart, hanging together, weary, needing to refuel, whether for nourishment, sleep, or nurturing.  Home isn't just the roof over our heads, but the hearts that open to support and love one another; on those days that can be the best of times, and the worst of times, all within the same twenty-four hour span.

Here's a link to the photo series - kept on Facebook for now:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/fbx/?set=a.10150174742617770.318077.538192769&l=42aeff0acd

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Managing Chaos

I want my house back from what feels like interminable chaos. I anticipated and have coped with the previous eight stages of chaos that has led to what I shall call the Big Bang.

First, allow me to describe the current, and what I demand, dear universe, to be the ninth and final phase of chaos for our time in my cute little single gal abode turned family homestead. There is falling retaining wall, leaky rotting doors, door jams and cellar door that have so little density left in the wood that it resembles corrugated cardboard sooner than the actual wood. A fence that will keep our kids in line... to the doctor for tetanus shots, that is. There is a coat rack that has been precariously dangling at one corner for all but the first week of installation, shelves to organize my home office still in the packaging since last fall. Mismatched appliances. Mismatched kitchen cabinets. A shower head held in place by a solitary screw, and even that is askew. There is a place for laundry, but it seems to always be occupying every surface set aside for cooking and eating. The one place we don't have that really ought to top the list. [spoiler alert: about to divulge too much information, but seriously folks, we know you're curious when you get the nickel tour of our house with no true bedroom, and the room we use for sleep is also occupied by both of our little girls.] Nope, we don't have a place for sex.

All this pent up frustration MUST have some solution. I don't want our girls to see phases of chaos as their norm. This isn't to suggest that we won't need to repair, adjust how we use space, spring clean, sort, donate, etc. etc. However, if I don't get to organize the stuff we have, have some idea when things can and will be repaired, maintained, some inkling as to when life has some semblance of structure, I am going to crack under the pressure of running a household, being wife and mother and start my law practice in the midst of it all.

Maman needs another glass of wine.

But alas, that isn't the solution!

What brings me to the explosion of words? The aforementioned Big Bang. I was up working until 2:30am, when Clara Lou awoke. JJ didn't wake up as he typically does, so I rushed to her, turning off my computer screen, so that the light would not wake Greta Jo. Well, in my hurry in hopes of avoiding Clara Lou from waking her sister, I didn't give my eyes a chance to adjust. The dining room that serves as my office, JJ's office, storage for the girls clothes in the next or previosu size, shelving awaiting to be hung, laundry editor to be sorted and out away, my saddles, a bar, and and and... in that shambles of what could be the most efficient use of space ever... BANG!! I stubbed my toe. Is it broken? I didn't pause to think, I just grumbled my way to Clara Lou, she now finishes nursing, and I rata tap tapping out this blog entry on my tiny phone.

As the wind storm gives way to rain, and thunder rolls elegantly like a wave gently across ab easy shore, I remind myself, I not only chose this, but am grateful. Damn it! How I am grateful!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Eat your dinner!

Greta Jo demonstrates that you can both eat and wear dinner. 01/2011 
Look for what's lacking, don't bitch when you find yourself short-changed.

I prefer to look for what's good, what fills my heart, even when it feels more like a sieve than a cup.

Right now, my life is abundant.  It is filled to the brim with a wide range of emotions, many of which I cannot begin to describe.

What I can describe is a bit of discourse between me and two friends: Sarah, and her four year old son, Rowan.  Sarah had been kind enough to come cook me dinner.  My ingredients, her skill, and we had a delicious yellow curry, and delightful conversation ta' boot.

While Sarah and I managed to all but lick our bowls after finishing our dinner, Rowan, had decided to not eat his, save a few obligatory chomps.  Asked to eat more, and he politely declined.  Sarah, ever the playful parent, suggested he eat something... he had growing to do.

To which I said, "Come on Mom!  Hey Ro, are you done growin' today?  Are you going to be 'this' tall and no more today? 'Cause if so, you can be done eating."

Sarah, way ahead of me, replied with a smile, "oh no!  Rowan can grow 'this much' in one night!"

"Uh oh! Rowan!" I exclaimed.  "That can be trouble.  If you grow after not eating your dinner, your brain will shrink and you'll wake up stupid!"  (Come on, this is not my kid!)

Rowan's eyes got really big, with mild alarm, glancing over at his now laughing mother.

She said, "now that would be a problem because Rowan wants to grow up and be a scientist of everything!"

"Oh no Rowan!  You better get to eating." says me.

Still unsure if this adult speaks the truth, Rowan, still not taking a bite more of his dinner, looks for assurance from his Momma, who continues to laugh and play along.

I can't stand it. I come clean.  "I say, I'm joking Rowan.  Your brain doesn't shrink so the rest of you can grow if you don't eat  your dinner. But, you do need to eat everyday and every meal, so your body can be healthy."

I just can't stand myself sometimes.  I know I'm not funny when I try, and then I go surprise myself with a zinger like this one.  

And yes, I will read and re-read this entry anytime I get the blues and need a giggle at poor Ro's expense.

I love you sister girl Sarah. 

So, when faced with going hungry just to prove a point, I prefer to see the plate of food before me.  Sometimes, you gotta put aside your complaints and enjoy the food you've got.

And no, I'm not really talking about dinner.

And no, when you don't enjoy what you got, it's not your brain that shrinks, but your capacity for joy.

Sorrow

Rodin's "Eternal Idol" - the supplication of two lovers.
With every beginning, there is a hello.  There is also an inevitable goodbye.  The tenor of the hello, the experiences, memories created, emotions stirred and reflected upon, and how we meet that goodbye are of our making.  This is true in the natural wax and wane of friendships and of family, no matter how intensely felt.  For some, family doesn't show up as we would want. Just ask many a teenager, as I am apt to be reminded by parents how have blazoned the trails before JJ and I.  Friendships and family can be wrought with disappointment and hurt, even in the best of circumstances.  Let's face it, life is messy.  Recognizing love given isn't all that easy when it's not given in a way we can recognize.  Sometimes, we give or receive love without even knowing it was present, just in the flawed way it was shared.  We sometimes get in our own way.  For some, there may be unforgivable wounds that create a permanent goodbye such that healthy boundaries are kept. These goodbyes can still be filled with mixed or conflicting emotions, and sometimes none at all.

I have been lucky on all counts.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I really had the wane of friendships.  I was and am shocked or hurt each time, no matter which side of a closing door I may be.  Sometimes that door closing is a gentle click, and other times it's been slammed.  Even my first marriage, although difficult in its goodbye was a gentle click.

The people in our lives, one of the purposes isn't that they are mere characters to suit the inner dialogue and outward plot of our own life.  They have their own journey, their own plot line to follow.  No, these people bear witness to us, as we to them. 

Although my parents have their health struggles, I have both of them very much a part of my life.  My sisters, are sisters; they are the ones who will know me from cradle to grave.

At the hello, I want to fill the empty pages, and know that person.  At their passing, those shared experiences are holy, and worthy of every respect and mindful treatment.  The deaths I have experienced have been as though I have read a tome and now must find a top shelf upon which it will rest.  As with any watershed moment in our lives, ceremony is that sign of respect and honours the weight of that tome, that shared life.

That said, the weight of ones sorrow is not the measure of the love felt.  Just because one musters up the courage to cope, or in apposite, fails to cope, does not mean that they loved the one whose passed any more, any less. There is no correlation to love and loss.  There is nothing to prove with sorrow.  It simply is. 

There are casual friendships, and yes, for some, casual family relationships.  These, don't have the intensity, and can be charming, or kept at a lesser dosage, such that emotional risk is kept to a minimum.  Here, the waters surrounding us are navigable, but only with skill.  Invest too much, and you expose them and yourself to dangers of any relationship, the pain of love not showing up the way you want or need, and yes, that inevitable goodbye.

That goodbye is on my mind this early hour of a Sunday morning.  We've had a few goodbyes recently, and the ones we are preparing for sacred acknowledgement are filled with every ounce of love my soul can wrench from such a wound.  These are the goodbyes of another passing away.

No matter if sudden or expected, the ebb and flow of emotions, from fond recollections of tiny moments now held in sacred corners of memory to raw wails of not wanting this goodbye.  I don't want to say goodbye. 

I am purposefully not mentioning the names of those who have passed for family's privacy.  Although these loved ones' passing means that they are no longer suffering, I wanted to acknowledge that they are already missed. No matter how long a life or how many miles may have separated our daily machinations, sorrow fills this hole left where the living once were.  Their energy shifts from life to the death of goodbye.  It flows through those left behind like so many shards of glass, their vessel gone, but who they were falling upon those that held them dear.

I wrote to JJ:

My heavy heart is heavier for knowing, sensing and observing your hurt.

Your gentle heart, .... [suffers]. As I quipped last night, if I could I would wrap your heart in bubble wrap.

I so long for elegant bond paper and fountain pen to preserve these loving thoughts. The depth of my feelings better expressed though my pen strokes than these easy tappings on a keyboard.
 

Greta Jo comforted. Clara Lou nursed and sleeping in my arms. You, erm, shall we say "announcing" that you too have found rest in sleep with each inhale and exhale. I am filled with love.

This experience reminds me to continue to embrace my kind and loving aspects of self; to find the lightness in my manner; discover the giggles; embrace sweet love.


Sorrow swells like the tides, and if we are not careful, we can get caught in the undertow.  As we prepare for the days, weeks, months and changes resulting from our recent goodbyes, may the saltiness of parting be like breathing the sea air, rather than being swallowed by the sea.
_____________________________________________

salt covenant

grappling with the undertow
  of yesteryears
filled enjoying extremes that
  stacatoed numb monotony.

I yearn to sense the subtleties
comprehend the nuances
beyond the wrath of damage, harm and hurt

the pull of sea at my feet and legs
draws me further out to miraged safety of horizon
to float, fatigued, above such dangers
and still the sirens call
drags me down ‘til salt scores my throat,
and lungs once filled with life sustaining air,

collapse

under the weight of so many pounds above me

so still I sit at sea floor

coughing up so many grains of currency for my soul
to patiently find enough from that which is so mixed.
/nam 2004.11.22 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Roosters. They taste like chicken.*

Sometimes I get to say something funny. Unintentionally, as I'm apt to say, I am rarely funny on purpose. I get so tickled with myself when these moments occur that I have to repeat them. Over and over.  Just like I read and re-read my entries here.

Chickens have been a topic in my life.  Of particular interest since last summer.  We've got plans to have a hen house, at some point.  I've been around them.  So has JJ.  You have to be careful.  Remember, there's a reason why chickens have a pecking order.  God did not give roosters spurs and razor sharp beaks so that they could tickle you.

The most recent comment was by JJ, warning a friend about her plans to have a hen house, that she could move every few weeks or so.  He warned her that even the hens are territorial, and if they got out of the coop, her son might be in danger.  I've been pecked and chased by hens as a kid.  It's no fun.

As it happens, another little friend of Greta Jo's was at a relative's who didn't have the sense, and his Momma is a city girl who had no cause to know any of this.  Poor little friend was sent into the coop with his older, faster, more adept with a big stick cousins.  He got attacked.  He was rightly terrified.  His parents are justly livid.  To add insult, the adult who knew better, thought nothing of it, and intimated her likelihood to do it again.  This, after admitting she knew the rooster was evil and was working/considering getting rid of it.

Upon learning this sad state of affairs, I quipped to the horrified City Girl Momma to tell her dear relation, "you know, I hear roosters taste like chicken.  Perhaps a little tough, but that's what slow roasting is for."

Seriously?  What was that woman thinking sending a two year old with no concept of animals that might hurt him, armed with a little stick into that hen house guarded by its rooster, any rooster?!  His Momma didn't know that they kids were going in the coop.  Crikey! 

Everyone parents/supervises kiddos differently.  I'm a firm believer that children ought to be given the chance to fall and scrape their knee.  That life is risky, and children only learn about gravity, not by a parent swooping in and saving them from every boo boo, but by sometimes letting the child reach for that book and learn it will tumble on top of them.

However, do not, for a second, think that, as I've put it before, I would ever let Greta Jo or Clara Lou learn "hot" by putting them in any approximation of risk of being scalded or burned, for example.  Further, don't you dare go roughshod with my girls.  Will there be bareback pony rides with only halters on the horses, and jean shorts, t-shirts and sneakers?  Will they come in with smiles, and horse sweat along dirty legs?  Yes.  To not expect that would be to think that they girls will never ever go skinny dippin'.  That kind of carefree ride will be after they have learned their way around a horse.  (not going further with that skinny dippin' analogy.  I've already made JJ wince tonight about our girls future as bookend girlfriends.  Not gonna think what comes before and after skinny dippin.)  (but I digress)  Having taught children how to ride horses and ponies, I have very clear idea of what age appropriate risk and safety precautions look like.  Having been a kid around large and small animals, I also have a clear idea of what I want that to look like for my girls too.

Will we have a hen house?  I sure hope so, but I won't be sending in a toddler.  I won't be sending in any child until the hens know them, the child knows the hens and how to handle themselves around them safely.  As JJ was saying to our friend who wants the mobile hen house to free-range her egg laying hens, those hens are territorial and can hurt you.  Thank goodness JJ and I are on the same page for this kind of thing.  Taking precautions, doesn't mean I'm namby pamby, it's just a matter of having the sense God gave ya, and using it.

So, it was bound to come up.  How would I roast a rooster?

Ingredients:
beer
salt
butter
onion

celery
carrots
garlic
apple/pear
potatoes
salt, pepper, tarragon
bacon

Clean and dress the rooster.  Brine for 24 hours in beer and salt.  Wash bird.  Place butter under skin.  Salt and pepper liberally.  Set onion, celery and carrots inside and around bird in roasting pan. Add several cloves of garlic, halved seeded apples and/or pears, and cleaned and cubed potatoes.  Season with salt, pepper and tarragon.  Using toothpicks, secure thick slices of bacon across skin (to self-baste).  Roast at low temp (200°F?) covered until bacon is crispy, remove bacon, cover again, and roast until thigh is 150°F.  Remove cover, increase temperature of oven to 375°F, and 170°F and breast is 160°F, basting every 10 minutes or so.  Now, the USDA says 180°/170°... but come on, this will make that old rooster dry in my opinion. 

Take the bacon, and make a corn bread dressing, tossing in the roasted bacon after dish is prepared.

Use hand held submersion mixer to puree the juices for a sauce.  Add a roux to thicken if necessary.

Place meal on platter, take pictures to put up at the hen house as a warning.

*roasting a rooster is the antithesis of having your goose cooked.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Raw

Someone recently shared how brave I am with what I share here.  I hadn't really looked at it that way. I just don't know any other way to be.

It's not for lack of trying.  I've tried to do it "right."  I've tried to do it "my way."  Both extremes only served to either alienate myself from me, or alienate myself from those around me.  #FAIL.

I was told years ago by a mentor, who, in hindsight loved to give advice, very little of which panned out to be helpful or applicable to me. One thing she stressed was that you had to compartmentalize your life.  Really?  Do I half'ta?  She was telling me how to be a woman.  I was prime for it too; in my twenties and still figuring that out and very much feeling squirrelly any time someone didn't refer to me as a girl, I really admired her.  She was accomplished, had overcome loss, achieved professional success, had a companionable marriage and lovely children.  That said, I think giving advice to the lost says more about the one imparting it than anyone that could be receiving it.

This same woman suggested to me that I didn't need to take the bar exam. Lazy, I jumped at the chance to put away the books.  Years later, having not just buckled down and done my 2-4 year stint in practice, I was completely stopped and have a gaping hole in my CV to show for it.  It wasn't her decision but mine.

She told me that I needed to laugh more.  That bit of advice was spot on.  But laughter, if ill-timed as much of mine can be, is cruel. So, I would add, laughter and love.

Love that is warm, and genuine, and abundant.  Not dolled out in demitasse spoons, careful to give the right impression at work, or amongst the appropriate peers that sustain the career.

She told me she'd be my friend.  I disappointed her, and she never questioned whether the actions she'd been told were true or the complete story.  Honestly, it hurt when this woman I had held to such high esteem cut me from her life.  She had accomplished so much and I admired her.

For the longest time, I tried to put my career on a similar path of grand achievement.  When I sabotaged it with my not becoming a lawyer out of law school and practicing law, then quitting my life and moving to Europe, having my vagabond years, part of the self-imposed emotional hardship I went through was having to redefine success and productivity.

It's been a rough week.  Having a start-up solo law practice is a tough thing to take on.  There's lots I am doing right, even if I do say so myself.  There are, however, the harsh realities of what I want and need to do for my family.

I feel particularly raw as a result.  Once again, I'm having to redefine success.  This isn't to say that I don't own that I'm conveniently rationalizing a tough situation such that I can feel good about myself and boost my own self-esteem.  Sometimes, a girl's gotta fake it 'till she makes it, right?

This applies to some of what I am doing right now.  I have my modest book of clients, and have several open matters.  I am working out my calendaring, billing, accounting, payroll (dear God help me), and library.  mmm... Library, I do love research.  I love words.

And that is why I am in the right profession.  It's all about putting words together.  Commemorating the start of a project, announcing the structure of a new venture, summing up the best intentions of parents. There are legal terms and names to these, but I like to break them down into the base element.  The motivation behind them. Communicate completely, and hopefully, the words reduced to the four corners of a page will represent accurately the events they represent.

These four corners, of this blog, represent just a glimpse into my life.  I hope, unlike the younger version of me that hung on every word from my mentor as if it were the gospel, you take what appeals most to you.  With every ounce of sincerity, I hope that my girls one day read this and glean something beyond the memories we create/d together.  I hope to not only listen to their words, delight in their actions, stave off worry (yeah, right.  stop laughing), but also to see them in all the raw humanity we all hope to achieve.

So, as JJ has a night with the boys, I am here with the girls tucked quietly in their beds.  I love my life.  It's rife with its challenges, fatigue, body issues, business concerns, economic hardships, family and extended family... shall we say stuff, health challenges, but there are also the joys in sharing the uninhibited smile of a four month old baby, the giggle and first words of a toddler.  Clara Lou, Greta Jo, your Maman loves you very very much.

:broken link: - trying to embed an audio file of Greta Jo talking with me.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

BACON!

I've long been sweet on bacon.  Mind you, I am willfully ignorant on many aspects, and yet, am also experimenting with various cuts, curing, seasoning and such.

Apparently, I am not alone in my love of bacon.  The Louisville Visual Art Association has tapped into a common love all all things pig and is holding what I hope will be it's first annual "Bacon Ball" this coming Saturday.  I thought it was going to be later this month, and thus had time to arrange for childcare.  I'm thinking that the chances of me finding some willing sister is a foregone conclusion!  With so many sisters to pick from, it shouldn't be too difficult.

It goes for a good cause too.  Proceeds will go toward Jefferson County visual arts programs. It's rather near and dear to my heart.

Well, lunch break is over here at the Law Office of Nancy Moïse Haws, aka nancyesq.com.  My boss is looking at me funny, so I better get back on task!