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It’s strange what the heart can hold. Or, I’m just happy my brother is here.

by renegademama

Lord, I feel like we haven’t talked in a year. I feel like I’ve lived about two lifetimes the past two days.

On Thursday, I got two messages from my mother in rapid succession, which I missed while exercising. Since it was the day before the anniversary of my grandmother’s murder, I was on edge and tense and reflective, the way we are when these days come back around.

The texts just said “Please, call me.”

I called, and my mother said, “Have you heard about the fire? Ross (my brother) called from his truck. He evacuated the hospital and was trapped on a road, surrounded by flames.”

And then the line cut out and my mother got no more information.

In a word, I fucking flipped. I was thrown directly back into the moment I learned my grandmother was murdered: full body shaking, racing brain, barely able to speak. Shock, I guess. Luckily I had friends there, since I was just leaving her house.

My brother’s wife and children made it out, but I had a vision of my brother suffocating, jumping out of his truck, burning up. That was at 11am. From then until 5pm, we had no idea if he made it out or not, and all I could do was watch Twitter updates of the Camp Fire in Paradise, now the most destructive fire in California’s history, and pray to God my brother wasn’t in that. You tell yourself he’s super smart and level-headed. You tell yourself he won’t take risks.

It dawns on you that raging fire kills the logical alongside the illogical. You go back to Twitter.

And yet, he was in that. Right in the center of it. I could see where he was on the map, and I could see where the flames were via Twitter updates.

It was 110 degrees inside the cab of my his truck. He watched the bumper melt off the car in front of him. People were driving on hubcaps because their tires had melted, running out of cars that had caught fire. There were cars and propane tanks exploding, people carrying kids and pets needing rides, running to buildings for shelter only to have it catch fire, too. It was black as night in the middle of the day. Apocalyptic. Devastating.

Turns out my brother made it to a Kmart parking lot and sheltered there, and obviously, made it, or this post would look very different. The hospital where he’s a doctor found him through emergency services.

They lost everything, as did most people in that mountain town. They’re here now, and I can’t tell you what it felt like to hug my sister-in-law and niece and nephews. And to hold my brother’s face in my hands.

They showed up yesterday, on the anniversary of my grandmother’s murder. It was strange to gather again on the same day, two years later, in despair, again, and yet, not quite, because we all made it through this one.

I’ll share what I wrote on Facebook, and a few photos, but the truth is I don’t have insight right now and I’m so, so fucking sorry for people who have lost everything, for the terror, for the devastating we dodged but others will receive. I can’t even think about my brother and sister-in-law soon walking over the ashes of their home with their three children for the past seven years.

So much love to all of you. Please keep the people of Paradise in your thoughts, and the Californians affected by the Southern California fires. If you’d like to help people in the NorCal fires, here’s some info. I may set up a fundraising account for victims, but I need to organize it and figure out who will get the money, etc.

Local friends please look up on Facebook places where you can drop off supplies to be taken to Chico.

This is what I wrote yesterday when my brother and his family was on his way to us.

Two years ago today, my grandmother, Joan, lost her life at the hands of my cousin. It’s strange what the heart can hold, what it learns to exist alongside. We’ve moved through worlds since then: terror, rage, bone-deep sorrow. I still move through them.

Yesterday, when we didn’t know if my brother made it out of the fire, I kept thinking there is just no way we could lose him the day before this. That’s not a thing.

But then again we never thought we could live through what happened two years ago, but it’s strange what the heart can hold, how you learn to live with a side of you always grieving, a little afraid, a little confused. It washes life in more vivid light. I’ll give you that. Nothing is clear. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is secure, but truly fuck the whole concept of “every day is a gift.” I mean, it’s true, but fuck it on principle.

Today we are gathering as a family just like we did two years ago. To be alive and be friends. To hold what the heart holds.

my brother took this picture from his truck

As my sister-in-law said, “Isn’t it strange how you can lose everything but feel only joy because your people are here?”

Dear readers, expect some changes up in here.

by renegademama

Hey there.

So, check it out. When I started this blog about 3 years ago I did it for one reason: Because I wanted to know if the rest of the parenting world was crazy or I was. I spent a year walking around writing blog posts in my head. I’d write a whole thing while driving to work, get to work and do nothing about it. This went on until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Finally I said “fuck it” and wrote this.

I had about 30 readers. Twenty-nine of them were blood relatives. I promised myself I’d never write out of obligation. I never expected anything beyond having some fun. I never expected anything at all, actually.

But over the past three years, as you guys have come and stuck around and shared my posts, a whole lot of opportunity has come my way from this, and to my endless surprise it looks like I may have a chance to be a real writer.

Alright that’s bullshit. I’m a “real writer” now. What the hell does that even mean? I’ve been writing since I was 9 years old. A lady in church handed me a journal and said “You should write every day.” So I did, because it sounded like a good idea.

Writing became like air to me. I’d vomit across those pages before I went to bed. I kept paper in my car, in my bag, in my backpack. The last pages of my school notebooks were covered in crap poetry and barely legible prose. In high school, I’d drive to the ocean by myself and sit on the beach, smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and write my whole existence across the pages of a journal. I was so deep when I was 16. I’d listen to live Dead on the way to the beach and contemplate life, so by the time I got there I’d be all hopped up on Jerry and angst and waves against fog and salt air. I wrote through college, and I wrote a little after having my first baby, but then alcoholism choked me and I stopped, almost completely, for 7 or 8 years.

I was too dead to create.

When I came alive again, I found you guys.

And here’s what I want to say: I’m going to try to make a living out of this writing thing, and the first thing I’m going to do is start selling ad space on my blog. In the next couple days you’ll see them appear on the sidebar. Tomorrow the “Hire Me” page will change to “Hire Me/Sponsor Me” and there will be info and prices and stuff. My monthly hits (thanks to you) are high enough that I can do this and possibly earn enough to make it worth my while. We live a simple life. I’m not looking for riches. I’m looking for a way out of working my ass off for barely anything so my family can keep eating. I won’t be throwing whatever the fuck on my blog. You won’t have flashing toilet paper ads up in your grill. If it isn’t a service/business I can get behind, you won’t see it on my sidebar. That’s a promise.

I’m also considering selling merchandise. I’m thinking mesh caps with the mohawk kid logo. I’m thinking shirts that say “Try not to be a dick.” Maybe “Mothers united in the fight against helpful parenting advice.” Maybe some of those crazy ass bumper stickers I made.

It’s not deep. It’s like: “Hi. I need money. Buy a fucking t-shirt.”

Is this selling out? Probably. Not very “renegade,” right?

Yeah, well, if trying to make a living from something that arose organically from my own work so I can spend more time with my family and pursue the art that pretty much defines me makes me a “sell-out,” then I’m a motherfucking sell-out.

I want to write books. I want to make a living writing books. I can’t do that if I’m killing myself working at outside jobs and raising kids (which I’m doing now), so I’m going to try to open up some time and space through this blog. There just isn’t time to work and have kids and write big shit. I need a room of my own. I get you, Ms. Woolf.

Who knows? It might actually work.

Incidentally, part of this is your fault. You keep asking me to write a book. You keep telling me you’ll read it. And you’ve given me fire, and hope, and a sense of direction. It’s weird to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing via accident.

That’s how I know it’s real, I guess, because I didn’t set out to “be an artist” (although my personal goal in life is to get on NPR and be the one writer in the history of mankind to NOT SAY PROFOUND SHIT).

I set out to find, and connect, and do what felt right. I did what I needed to do because there was no other choice. I would have gone insane had I not started writing this thing. It was like a rabid dog scratching at my brain. Eww. Imagery.

The results have been more than I ever imagined, and I’d be a motherfucking fool to not see how deep this rabbit hole goes.

And I’d rather be a sell-out than a fool.

At least I think I would.

Anyway thank you. I just wanted to let you know, and thank you, again, for all of it.

 

P.S. I really, really want your feedback on all this. Please share your thoughts, ideas, opinions. I mean it. I will use the info to guide this whole thing. Unless you tell me I’m a sell-out, in which case I’ll just respond “Yeah. Duh. We’ve  been over that.”

109 Comments | Posted in posts not fitting elsewhere. | March 1, 2014

Life Without Television. I have not died.

by renegademama

 

Two weeks ago, my husband removed the television from the living room wall. He then placed it in our closet. It has remained there since. So yes, since that time, we have not had a functioning T.V. in our home.

Now, I would like to tell you that we did this for some deep philosophical purpose – you know, in support of some profound spiritual, insightful, Waldorf-inspired conviction…but that would be a lie.

And you KNOW I never lie.

Yes, I totally do.

But not about this, because I’d totally get caught. If I uttered the words “I removed the television from my house because I want my kids to knit and weave and make felt gnomes all day,” you all would know I was full of shit, because I’ve openly admitted my need for the electronic babysitter.

Plus, you know I am way too lazy for that wool felting thing.

So I’ll tell ya the truth. The truth is we removed the television because our son had the focus of, well, hmmm. How can I explain this?

Picture a river otter on methamphetamine. Now ask it to do algebra.

Yes, yes that’s it.

I may be exaggerating. Maybe. Very thin maybe.

And as I watched our little river otter dart around the world in maniacal inattention, I kept getting the feeling that the television was messing with him. Mac had the same feeling. It was a gut feeling.

We kept throwing around the T.V.-ejection idea, but we always came back to our own laziness. I mean, what about those movies we like to watch once every 6 months, or that vegetating time (which I keep saying I’m going to do but never actually accomplish)? What about 30 Rock? What ABOUT THE OFFICE people THE OFFICE? Don’t fuck with Dwight.

And Rocket LOVED that box. Loved it. Watched it every chance he got. Occasionally threw fits when we made him turn it off.

But as it often happens in my house, one day Mac got serious and just did it. He got his tools out. He took the sucker off the wall. He did it without word or warning.

To tell you the truth, I panicked a little. I mean, what the hell am I going to do with these kids when I need to cook? When I need a break? How I am going to plug them in for a few minutes?

Oh WOW, that sounded awful.

But I figured we’d give it a shot for the summer, to see how it goes.

And let me tell you how it’s gone: I may never have a television in my house again.

I am floored by the changes in my family. I cannot explain the depth of my amazement at what I’ve witnessed.

My son is a new person. He is calmer, more centered, more patient. He is a different child.

As I write this, he and Ava are playing Barbies in the other room. They have been doing so for the last hour. With pretty much no fighting.

I couldn’t make this up.

A couple days ago Rocket woke up at 5am. The whole house was asleep. I hadn’t fallen asleep until 2am, so it was OUT OF THE QUESTION that I would get up with him. My heart sank when I remembered I couldn’t tell him to watch T.V. quietly until I woke up. I told him “Rocket, check it out. I need to sleep. Everybody’s asleep. You need to tiptoe into the living room and play quietly until I wake up.” He said “Okay.” I thought “there is no way in hell this is ever going to work.”

I figured I’d get 10 minutes before he started launching himself off the couch onto something large and squeaky, waking up Georgia and therefore me.

Two hours later, at 7am, I awoke to Rocket holding Georgia by the hand, walking into my room saying “You want to see mama? You want ‘gook’ (nursing)?”

I was aghast. I asked him what he had been doing. He said “playing with my army men.” I almost fell over.

Holy mother of god that never would have happened people EVER EVER EVER.

Here are the other things that have blown my mind:

My kids fight less. They get so bored they actually play with each other.

They get so bored they actually play with their toys.

Ava reads the younger kids stories.

We spend time rolling around on the floor doing absolutely nothing because there’s nothing better to do. Last night we spent an hour on my bed (the 3 kids and I) taking turns making Georgia laugh by putting a book on our head and making it fall.

I thought they would harass and harangue me CONSTANTLY to be entertained. And they did, for the first day or two. And then they got over it. I haven’t heard a single complaint about the T.V. being gone, and I only hear “I’m bored” like once a day. The truth is, I am shocked. I had no idea it would be like this. I really thought the kids would flip out.

The energy in this house is 100% changed. I don’t know why. It just has. It’s like everybody has just been taken down a notch, and everybody’s calmer and more easy-going.

WE HANG OUT WITH EACH OTHER.

Yes, the house is a new level of messy. Toys are freaking everywhere.

Yes, there’s a lot more talking and singing and noise and playing, all the time. And it gets annoying.

And yes, this may be the best thing we’ve ever done.

An old friend of mine was an physician, trained in traditional Western medicine. Through a series of interesting circumstances, he ended up studying acupuncture in China. He now practices acupuncture and Western medicine, but leans toward acupuncture. When I asked him how he was converted to the practice of acupuncture (as he stuck needles in my ear), especially after all that training in the West, he responded, “I don’t believe in this shit, it just works.”

Yep. Pretty much.

I don’t believe in not having a T.V. But for us, it just works.

Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t some Zen rainbows and flowers and patchouli family all the sudden, but we’re damn better than we were before. And I like what I see…

doing nothing, soon to be wrestling. they do this a lot.

DUDE, WAH? This really happened

Playing BARBIES. This has never occurred before.

14 Comments | Posted in posts not fitting elsewhere. | May 31, 2012

How Jessica Simpson became my new hero

by renegademama

Well, now. That’s not a sentence you hear every day. Even Jessica herself might be a little surprised to read that one.

Or, perhaps even more alarming, she might not.

Anyhoo, the other day on the trusty cardio machine I was reading my trusty trash magazines and I saw a picture of Jessica during her baby shower. [Um, how much did she rake in for letting People Magazine cover that one?] And as I saw her I thought to myself “WOW. She’s gained some WEIGHT.”

And then I read that she served deep-fried Twinkies at her shower, which triggered in my trusty little brain a vague recalling of some chatter a few months back about how she said on Jay Leno that she was craving some ghastly brownie creation involving cookie dough and Oreos.

And all the sudden, I kinda started to like her.

I mean she’s not up there with like, say, Jane Austen or my grandma, but she’s further up than most famous pop singers.

Sure, I have never actually listened to a song she’s sung. (She does make music, right?)

And I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a movie she’s made (there was that one with the car and water and super short shorts…that I never fully watched…Duke something?).

And she doesn’t strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed.

And I have a feeling we may have slightly different approaches to life (considering she sold her baby shower to People Magazine).

And I wouldn’t really suggest my daughters aspire to be like her, per se.

HOWEVER, despite all this, she’s my new hero – say, for the week – because she’s somebody in Hollywood who finally acted like a fucking human during pregnancy by eating too much and getting fat. Like the rest of us.

FINALLY.

Finally somebody who doesn’t look like they’ve placed a small basketball in their Gucci dress and called it a baby, with perfectly toned arms/legs/ass/head (can a head be toned?)…happily announcing “I’m due any day!”

While we all watch, gagging from our living rooms at the sight of such horridness (I mean SHIT, ANGELINA, EAT)…sitting there 8 months pregnant and wondering how the hell we’re gonna get off the couch, since we just ate like everything and pretty much can’t move even when we haven’t just eaten. Everything.

Finally. A chick in Hollywood who gets fat like a normal person.

Oh yeah. Yeah yeah yeah I know. Health. Yes. Of course. Not every woman gets fat.

True.

But most of us do.

Fact.

Or at least, we feel fat. And we gain more than we wanted. And we don’t do Pilates and yoga and ride bikes and swim and eat quinoa and roasted eggplant til the day we deliver.

Most of us eat shit and get fat and hope to God that the whole breastfeeding-burns-calories theory holds water.

And so, I commend you, Jessica Simpson, for representing the poor choices women make during that special time. And for discussing it on national television. And in People Magazine. Even if you did get millions for it.

Of course, now I hear you’ve already sold your post-baby weight-loss journey to some weight-loss company, which means we have suddenly somehow already lost touch with one another, which is kind of sad.

We had some good times, you and I.

It was good while it lasted.

But no matter how thin you get, no matter how many 5Ks you run 4 months after your baby’s born, no matter how soon you divorce your latest flavor, and no matter how BAD your next entertainment endeavor is… I’ll always remember you as The Actual Hollywood Human Female who ate horrible things during pregnancy, got fat, and admitted it.

Like the rest of us.

So cheers to my new hero.

Gooooooo Jessica!

 

Did I really just write a blog post about Jessica Simpson being my hero? Somebody help me.

 

An open letter to dudes who check out women’s asses and think nobody notices

by renegademama

Dear dudes who check out women’s asses and think nobody notices,

You know who you are. Don’t deny it. I saw one of you just the other day, and despite my glares and mouth agape at your conspicuousness and lack of class, you just kept on staring, which compels me to write you this letter, just to clear up what I was thinking, and what, perhaps, we’re all thinking. About you. You somewhat dirty man in your 50s.

Here’s what you did.

I was standing in a long line at a coffee shop. You were over at the end of the counter waiting for your drink. A young woman in jeans was standing at the register, ordering. Admittedly her curves didn’t suck. You also noticed this and decided to get a better look. So you backed up, took a few steps to the left to get an unobstructed view, and stared. Just STARED. Your eyes did not move from her ass. I stared at you. I kept staring at you. You didn’t notice. I tilted my head to one side like “for reals?” and wished I could bitch-slap you with my mind, for being an asshole.

I felt a pang for this woman, because she was just standing there, in jeans and a sweatshirt, a college student, ordering some coffee, and she became the object of whatever sick shit was rolling through your kinda-old-man brain. And you didn’t even have the decency to hide it.

You looked away for a minute. Then did it again. You were fixated. To me, you looked pathetic and creepy and almost violent with the forcefulness of your attention.

She walked over closer to you. You kept staring. I kept glaring.

The truth is I wanted to tell you you’re a fucking sleazebag slime ball, to so obviously lust after a woman at least 30 years younger than you, with no respect for her or anybody else. With no regard for who she may be as a human, or that perhaps she deserves a little privacy, or respect. That she’s somebody’s daughter and maybe mother.

And maybe you think we don’t notice. Maybe you think we can’t see what you’re doing as you undress her with your eyes and contemplate the beauty that will never be yours.

I was once the woman you dirt bags stared at, as most of us were, when I was young and thin and, um,  perky. But I ain’t anymore and I gotta tell you, it doesn’t really bother me that much. And now, I feel this weird motherly-like protective instinct for women who aren’t asking for it and yet become sex objects under the power of a masochistic gaze.

I have a feeling you don’t get it very often. I have a feeling you have a very small wee-wee.

I have a feeling you aren’t much of a man at all. You probably pay for it. You probably pay women to meet the expectations of your self-centered fantasies. It was clear you thought nothing of her beyond what she could offer you sexually. Everybody in the place was watching you gawk. My intuition was raging that you were not a man to be trusted.

So let me just say we all know, dude. We know what you’re doing and we know you’re a fucking loser. And, yes, we know your wee-wee is subpar at best.

That is all.

Signed,

Everybody else in the world.