This was all super dreamy in my head.

by renegademama

Hello. Hi. It’s been a while.

I’m not sure where to start. Mac and I went to Paris and Amsterdam for ten days. We spent very little time in Paris, mostly stopping by to visit Mac’s younger sister and her husband, or, their new baby, who is our new nephew, and the most perfect baby ever to baby. Not that we like him.

Anyway, around midnight the night before we left for Europe, just as I was about to turn off my light, I felt a sudden, strange anxiety, like a freight train roaring toward me. As it got closer my fear grew, until it became something along the lines of abject terror.

It was super fucking weird. I felt dizzy and wide awake, my heart pounding. I sat up in bed and sort of stared at the wall, feeling like I was going to die if this continued, and yet I couldn’t stop it. I realize this sounds dramatic, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I truly felt like I was going to be annihilated. I guess this was a panic attack?

“I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.” That’s how I woke up Mac. He sort of blinked at me, settling in for the long haul.

Suddenly it all felt wrong, insane. The whole decision to move the Netherlands, even though we made it over years of contemplation, suddenly felt like a pipe dream invented in an immature, escapist haze, a fantasy that sounded fabulous as a dream, and only as a dream.

But suddenly the motherfucker materialized in front of me as a living, breathing thing that is my life now, and yet I can’t see it yet. A life I don’t know at all, that doesn’t feel welcoming or safe, but cold and unreasonable. A mistake. A fuck-up.

 

I thought about Mac quitting his job and the notice I gave to give up my office. I thought about the home we sold – WE SOLD OUR FUCKING HOUSE – and then I fucking bawled.

I cried for the porch, the big couch, the scratched, pen-marked kitchen table. I cried for every goodnight and good morning there, every step of my baby’s feet on the wood floors, every Christmas morning and Easter basket joy and every moment I crawled into bed at the end of a long day, feeling the questionably clean sheets. That feeling. I know you know it.

I thought I’d die to go back to that house, to the walls we know, to our babies running around.

“What have we done?”

When I thought about it more, I realized I’m not actually mourning the house. Sure, it’s a great house, and yes, I somehow hate the people we sold it to (rational!), but it is, in fact, just a house. What I’m really grieving is the time we spent there. The day we unlocked the door for the first time and I took a picture of Mac smiling with the key in the lock and I was pregnant with our fourth child. George was three and Rocket was eight and Ava was twelve.

It was a time when our family was still expanding, when our babies were little and when Arlo was born into Mac’s arms, right there in the living room, the whole place became filled up with us, just right. The kids and I spent that first summer going to the library and holding our new baby and I nursed him on the rocking chair by the big window, almost all day and all night, because he had a lip tie and it was fucking awful and also, I didn’t mind so much. I liked sitting there in our house. It was an excuse to sit there and watch him, watch our other kids run around. It was an excuse to not do shit other than nurse my last baby.

He grew fat. We all grew fat with each other and love.

It was a time before we had two teenagers, and all the changes that go with that. It was a time before our oldest was gone most of the time: Job, boyfriend, car. The focus just shifts. It’s all as it should be. But those years won’t come back.

My friend told me I needed to kiss the walls of the home and thank it, and I did that. Alone one day, I walked through every empty room and felt us there. Before I left I said thank you. I suppose we have to do that to the years as well.

 

We returned home on May 8, to gather our kids and close out our lives here. Ava went to prom. She’s staying here for her senior year, and then joining us in Europe for a gap year. This, I cannot even discuss. This, I cannot even address with all of you. It’s too complex. There are too many hours of discussion and too many reasons. No, we couldn’t wait another year, and it would be a 2k word blog post to explain the thinking behind her staying. In short, it had to do with age and immigration laws and high schools over there and what she wanted and a whole lot more.

But you see? The sale of that house felt like the sale of our family as we know it.

I know kids do senior years abroad. I know she’ll be 18 in six months. But I am going to miss her daily life. And that, that was what caused the freight train. The idea that my baby will be away from me her last year of high school, and even though she’ll be with my mother and return to us over Christmas and spring break and we’ll come back for a month for her graduation, how can I leave her?

If she doesn’t like it, if it doesn’t work, she can join us. She knows this. I know this. We all know this. And yet. FUCK.

Every now and then, in Europe and here, a strange loneliness settles into my bones. It cuts through me like a sheet of ice. It doesn’t matter how many new friends we’ll make. It doesn’t matter how insane America is right now. The fact is that this place, this northern end of California, the people we’ve known here for twenty years or our whole lives, will no longer see me as part of them. I am stepping away. I am leaving. I am disconnecting.

Where are we going?

I suppose this is the price we pay for the rest of it, for the feeling of adventure and newness, for the relief I felt sitting on a train traveling through countries that believe climate change is real, that don’t have an authoritarian for President, that don’t have a rising, empowered fringe right-wing that’s achieving their desired full control over women’s bodies.

I suppose that loneliness is the price for a chance at a new life, for a chance to see if it’s better over there, more sane, more free.

We booked the tickets. July 6. Ava is coming too, and we’ll spend the summer together and then she’ll return in late August. We visited Arlo and George’s school, a special school for immigrant kids to learn Dutch before entering public school. It was so humane and generous, Mac and I cried. We visited the town we’ll be living in. We walked canals and stood next to churches from the 14th century.

How beautiful to be surrounded by so much history. How lonely to leave your own.

 

I don’t know how it will all turn out. I can only feel all of this fully, and cry when it comes, and look to tomorrow for whatever it holds.

This feeling? What is it? Displacement?

I wanted disruption, I guess, a shaking up of a life that felt dead. An injection of something, anything, that felt like movement, life, growth.

Well fuck me we’re covered there.

I want to make this more romantic, more dreamy, but there’s always a fall from grace and right now, friends, I’m simply afraid. I knew it was coming.

And I know fear is a shitty life guide. It can take my mind, but it can’t stop my feet.

 

And fuck it, I’ve got my best friend.

 

****

Hey! My paperback is out!

Here’s an excerpt from the interview in the back:

“The idea that the act of reproducing somehow fundamentally alters who we are as individuals is more of the vapid sanctimony surrounding motherhood. It’s more erasure, really, the idea that a woman is distilled into goodness merely because she had a baby. No part of me was erased when I had a child: not the good or the bad. My life obviously changed, and motherhood has the capacity to teach and enhance our selves just like any other life activity, but we do a number on women when we argue that motherhood will or even should recast them into some vastly elevated version of themselves.

Of course, this expectation is placed on us alongside the bulk of the domestic work as well as the emotional and physical labor of child-rearing. This is all still mostly our job. And as if that’s not enough, most of us are also earning money to feed our families. Oh, and in our free time, we better manage the friendships for the family, schedule the haircuts, get the kids at grade level in math, do yoga, eat clean food, organize the entryway.

When we don’t manage all this, when we snap under the obscene and unbearable “requirements” of motherhood—when we’re human—we’re blamed for our kids’ failings. Now and in the future. We “become the voices in their heads.” Rapists and murderers are the result of “bad mothering.” All day long we hear how we’re going to destroy the next generation of Americans with our yelling, our fallibility, our dissatisfaction with impossible circumstances.

We’re smothered, we’re suffocating, we crack, and we’re blamed for it. Or they throw “self care” at us. Tell us to take a eucalyptus bath.”

.   .  

Hey, I’m alive! And my body mostly works!

by renegademama

I really want to tell you all the things going on in great detail but these fucking pain medications remove my brain. I’m nodding off or irritable as hell or sitting here staring at a wall. This appears to be my full range of options.

Lies. All hail Netflix.

It’s like somebody has taken a thick sheet of fog and just stuck it over the parts of brain that feel things and produce thoughts. See? Even my metaphors suck. In other news, been seriously wondering how the hell artists made music and wrote books on opiates. HOW. It must have taken so much more work, to push through the fog, to power through the misery. It almost breaks my heart more, and I’m taking only a tiny portion of what an addict takes. HOW THE FUCK.

Anyway, I can’t formulate complex thoughts but I can probably just list random shit that’s happening. So let’s do that.

  1. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, my back exploded (perhaps not the official term but it’s the one my surgeon used and it’s definitely what it felt like) into my spinal column, crushing the nerves running down my spine, resulting in a five-day hospital stay and emergency spinal surgery. I’m three weeks out now, and walking better, but still limp and my left leg is mostly numb and tingling, which is fun.
  2. It’s not actually fun.
  3. Because God is hilarious or things are just this way, we were in the final week of moving out of our house when I was admitted to the hospital. You know the hellish stage when you’re just gathering shit by the arm-full and throwing it into boxes thinking surely it will never end and there’s no hope ever anywhere? Yeah, Mac got to do that alone, while I was an hour away in the hospital.
  4. So when I got out, we were living in my mother’s house. That was strange.
  5. Also, I have to say, though I didn’t talk about it online really at all (another topic to discuss, probably), I had chronic back pain for about five years before this. It got worse every year and before the disc blew, I THOUGHT I was in the most pain I’d ever been in. And then it blew and I really understood what pain is. Anyway, a couple of weeks after the surgery, I got up and took a shower and got dressed and made my kids lunches then drove them to school and the pain I knew like air, the one I had to breathe through every day just to make it through my morning, the one that sometimes, randomly, brought me to sobs while my kids looked on and I felt like I just couldn’t to do it anymore, was gone. I put my socks on and my underwear on and bent down to help Arlo with his pants and it didn’t hurt. I sat in my car near the school parking lot and cried. Hope comes in the strangest ways, doesn’t it? That was the worst part of that pain: THERE WAS NO WAY OUT. And here I am, mostly out. There’s residual sciatica pain, but compared to how I lived before, gimme a fuckin break.
  6. We are selling the best, warmest, most perfect and cozy home we’ve ever had. It feels surreal and sort of nuts to walk away from a home like that. We knew it was too small when we bought it five years ago, yet somehow leaving it never felt real. And it’s breaking our hearts. A few days ago I went back there alone, to say goodbye, and I cried and kissed its walls and said “thank you,” and I looked at the walls that held my family. I could still feel us there, laughing and crying and yelling. It was where Arlo was born. It was where George was a toddler and Ava and Rocket became teenagers. It was where we held each other after my grandmother was murdered. It was where our dog died, and we wept again. But that home? Fuck. I never passed a day there wishing I wasn’t there. I never walked in and thought, “Oh, this place again.” It will always, always be our family’s home, and I imagine it will be the place we all remember when thinking of the wild, young, growing days of our family. “Thank you,” indeed.
  7. And yet, we look forward to what’s to come, and that’s getting so fucking real too. We have settled on living in Haarlem, which is about a fifteen-minute train ride from Amsterdam. We have the kids enrolled in schools there. IT IS SO FUCKING WEIRD THAT IT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Every now and then Mac and I look at each other and say, “Can you believe we’re really doing this?” It was a pipe-dream for so long. A fantasy. “Let’s move to Europe.”
  8. And now it’s real, but the details aren’t. Sure, we know what city we’re going to live in, but we don’t know much of anything else. He and I are going over there April 29 – May 8 to hopefully find housing and check out the schools in person, but holy hell. WE JUST SHOW UP AND THEN WE FILL OUT OUR APPLICATION FOR A RESIDENCY PERMIT WTF.
  9. That’s the process. Speaking of cool, weird shit, I’m doing two book events while we’re over there: One on May 3 in Amsterdam at the American Book Center and one on May 6 at the American Women’s Club in The Hague. Please, please come see Mac and me if you’re around.
  10. We are planning on leaving America in early July, and until then, we’re staying with my mom. She’s an absolute saint and we all get along, I mean, as much as families “get along,” but seven people in a three-bedroom house is rather interesting.
  11. The six-years of chronic pain culminating in a blown disc and subsequent surgery, the recovery, house-selling, transitional housing, move to the Netherlands, it’s all wild and weird and wonderful and what I’m learning – again, because sure as hell isn’t the first time – is that sometimes things have to blow up to be rebuilt. They just have to be fucking decimated before the new can rise. Someday when my head is clearer and I’ve had some space from it, I’ll write about all I’ve learned from this back injury, surgery, and recovery. I’ve spent my life powering through – just do it no matter what – and I’m pretty sure the lesson here for me is that I need to slow the hell down, listen to my body, accept help, take some fucking better care of my mind and body.
  12. Oh, and Rocket spent three weeks in Paris, visiting also Edinburgh and southern France. He watched Notre Dame burn, and met his new baby cousin. What a strange world all this is, huh?

I am so, so grateful for all your kind words and supportive messages. You really are the goddamn best and I feel it.

Here we go.

heavily medicated waiting for surgery. the filter is fixing a lot, here

 

this shit blew my mind.

FIX IT, motherfuckers goddamnit

 

********

 

The paperback version of my book comes out May 7!

So fucking excited to see a physical copy at a lower price ($13.54 most places).

There’s an interview in the back that you may find funny (I fuckin hope). I interviewed myself. I’ll share an excerpt in the next couple days. Wheeee.

(And if you liked my book, please please maybe mention it again to your people, and/or review it on Amazon or Goodreads. Books like mine, that don’t get much media attention, survive fully on word-of-mouth. Thank you thank you thank you.

 

We have some big news. #notababy

by renegademama

Well, I’m just going to say it: We’re moving to the Netherlands.

We are selling our house, getting rid of most of our stuff, and moving to the Netherlands this summer.

I’ve started this blog post about ten times and keep giving up because I know you’re going to ask me “Why?” and I really want to explain why, but it’s hard. We’ve been contemplating this for years and I don’t know how to wrap ten thousand hours of conversation up in a single blog post.

And no matter what I say, out loud or to myself, I am acutely aware of how lucky we are to do this, how we are nowhere near the people threatened by or suffering the most from what’s happening in our country right now, and our reasons for leaving sound a little like a blend of Eat Pray Love (puke) and some sort of DITCH THE CUBICLE FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS weekend workshop in Missouri.

Our reasons are small and material and vast and, dare I say it? Spiritual.

Fuck.

Fine.

We want to live. We want to do something. We want our kids to witness a reality that isn’t American.

Our lives aren’t working. No. They are just working. That’s it. We are surviving. Full stop.

We work and drive and pay and sleep and work and pay and drive and look to the future for relief. Someday. Someday it will get easier and better and we won’t feel like we are spending our ONE SINGLE FUCKING LIFE working and paying and driving in circles, all of it in circles, still living paycheck to paycheck, so we can turn 65 or 70 and maybe retire, hoping we make it that far, ten or twenty years before we die, thinking finally Oh good, now I get to do some shit.

When I say this, I think of how damn near all of us live this way. I feel the privilege of even contemplating a different life. My life as a writer. A house we can sell. No dependents we need to stay and take care of (as in, ailing parents). A family that I’m 99% sure would buy us plane tickets home if we were about to hit the streets of Amsterdam.

I don’t think a life lived in the crushing grind of late-stage capitalism is a wasted life, a life less lived.

What I think is that Mac and I are tired of being trapped in a life that works on the outside but costs us everything we’ve got on the inside.

We want to try something else, somewhere else.

We have always wanted to not live here for some portion of our lives, but when we had kids five minutes after we met, we gave up that dream. When we visited Spain and France in 2017, it re-planted itself in our foreheads and refused to leave. It spun around our brains but always fell dead against another thought: But we can’t do that. How would we do that? We have four kids. We aren’t trust-fund babies.

Eventually, we began to wonder who gets to decide what we can and can’t do with our lives, what’s “immature” and “irresponsible” versus “mature” and “reasonable.”

WHO GETS TO DEFINE WHAT MAKES SENSE IN OUR LIVES?  Who convinced us that this is life? And why and how did we buy so fully into it?

When you’re on your deathbeds, you’ll never regret going. But you may regret not going. Those were the words of my friend Lisa that did us in.

 

We’re going on a freelancer visa. Mac is going to make & sell custom steel and wood furniture (as in, starting a new business) and I’m going to continue writing and teaching.

I don’t think everyone can do this, wants to do this, or needs to do this for “fulfillment.” I don’t think we’re braver or more profound or harder workers than anybody who wants to do something like this but isn’t or can’t. I don’t think we are special and to be quite honest I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as exposed as I do right now, telling you this, which is why I’ve waited so long.

Because I can’t control what others do with this narrative. Of course I can’t control what the internet does with any of my words, but normally, by the time my fingers hit the keyboard, I know what I think and I know what I want to say and I am prepared to stand in the truth as I see it, knowing, of course, that I could be wrong, but that’s another topic.

Normally, I have considered and thought through and feel comfortable standing by what I say.

But I don’t know shit about this. I don’t know if it’s the “right” decision.

It’s messy and I’m afraid.

And the truth is, if we fail, we’ll move back. What else can we do?

 

And so, here I am, telling you this, and inviting you to hang out with us on this fucking adventure. We are packing and selling our house now. This is the first place I’ve ever felt is a real, real home. That’s another post, but we’re saying goodbye to the happiest home we’ve ever had, the brightest, most comfortable place, even though there’s a triple bunk in one bedroom and Arlo’s dresser is in a hallway.

I don’t know how to leave my parents. I don’t know how to leave my friends. I don’t know how to say goodbye to the roar of the northern California ocean and the redwood trees and Lake Tahoe and the vineyards of Sonoma County. There’s so much here for us.

Mac has never lived outside of this county. Not country. COUNTY. We don’t speak Dutch (I know everyone there speaks English but still).

What if it all goes wrong? What if we just can’t do it?

But what if we didn’t try?

 

the trip that did us in

****

If you read my book, you’ll know this was a dream of mine since I lived in Spain in 2000.

Fuck it, here we go.

137 Comments | Posted in .....I make bad decisions..., Netherlands | March 10, 2019

Hey Dems, can’t we just hate Trump together?

by renegademama

No matter how many times I attempt to bend my brain around it, I cannot for the life of me comprehend why those of us on the left feel compelled to vehemently attack each other over which candidate is the most perfect ever when what we’re fighting is a steaming pile of kleptocratic dog shit hellbent on deconstructing democracy.

Can dog shit deconstruct democracy?

Clearly, yes.

We are fighting against the most corrupt administration in the history of the United States but sure, let’s definitely bring up that one thing Dem candidate #267 (that’s how many there are, correct?) did in 1974 that was super un-woke and really pissed you off.

I don’t mean balanced analysis. I love that shit. I’m talking about the diehard shit-slinging based on…what? Something. Personal preference. Every one of our candidates is flawed, and every one is better than Trump.

Every single fucking one of them is better than that guy, so yay us we don’t have to hate anybody for liking a candidate we don’t like. We don’t have to freak out and attack each other.

This should be the most chill primary season ever.

We should just hang out and vote for whichever live body presents itself as the Dem candidate in the general. In the primaries, VOTE FOR WHOEVER THE FUCK YOU FUCKING WANT.

There is nowhere to go but up.

We are at the bottom. So, what are we fighting about again?

Here are my questions for a Dem candidate:

  • Do they refer to NBC, CNN, The New York Times and all other media that dares critique the GOP as “the enemy of the people?”
  • How do they feel about random pussy-grabbing?
  • Speaking of which, do they believe it’s a “very dangerous time to be a man?”
  • If they want to critique a political adversary, do they deconstruct that person’s ideas or make up catchy, often racist nicknames like “Crazy Bernie,” “Pocahontas,” “Lyin’ James?”
  • Do they view people with opposing views as “adversaries,” or do they see conflict and debate as a cornerstone of a healthy democracy?
  • If somebody suggested the government rip babies from their families, cage them, then traffic them into evangelical orphanages somehow connected to Betsy Devos, would they agree or disagree with this plan?
  • Do they believe bears wandering onto campuses is a critical problem among schoolchildren or are they more concerned about, say, kids getting murdered in their classrooms?
  • By “tax break for the middle class,” do they mean corporations will continue to pay zero taxes, the 1% will pay less, and the middle class will pay more?
  • Who does this candidate rely on for intelligence: Rush Limbaugh or, um, United States intelligence agencies?
  • In general are they cool with the rule of law?
  • On the ever-pressing issue of healthcare, does this candidate believe people should have it or like nah just the rich people?
  • Should students spend their entire lives paying off student loans at 7% interest because America can’t afford to provide free education but also Amazon can make $11 billion in profit and pay no taxes?
  • HOW DO THEY FEEL ABOUT ALL CAPS TWEETS and the use of stunningly Random Capitalization?
  • Authoritarian leaders around the world – e.g. Putin, Jong-Un, Orban – tyrants or mentors?
  • Does this candidate refer to Mexican immigrants as “vermin?”
  • How about inventing fake national crises?
  • If pressed, can the candidate speak in full, coherent sentences?

Do I really need to go on? I feel like I don’t.

Why the fuck are we sitting here shredding people into oblivion for supporting Harris or Sanders or Booker or the goddamn fucking fire hydrant across the street?

The fire hydrant doesn’t grab pussies. It can’t even attempt to sell nuclear arms to Saudis.

Is it cool that my main question for a candidate is: “Are you an entirely trash human?”

Is it cool that the bar has been lowered so far that I’d settle for partially trash human?

No, of course it isn’t cool. Of course we should be enjoying some bullshit rhetoric from multiple candidates on both sides, weighing their arguments and forming decisions while watching staged inflammatory debates of nonsense.

But no, we’ve been robbed of that circus. Instead we are staring down the barrel of four more years with Racist Trash Clown and his Band of Criminals.

So again, I ask you: Who fucking cares.

Let’s be friends. And get the hell outta here together.

 

 

NOWHERE. TO. GO. BUT. UP.

****

In my book I am less political but probably equally “offensive.” High five.

1.11K Shares
11 Comments | Posted in FUCK TRUMP | February 20, 2019

My daughter turned 17. I turned into my mother.

by renegademama

I distinctly remember being a teenager and thinking my mother was the most ridiculous human in the world with her constant “worrying.”

“Call me when you get there,” she’d say. And then I would nearly fall over in shock at how “dramatic” she was.

Or when she would ask me to be home by midnight and I’d roll in at 1:30am and she’d tell me that she had stayed up, wondering if I was alive, and I would fly into just a touch of rage at her desire to “control me.”

I remember my eye roll. As if she didn’t trust me to live in the world. I have it handled, Mom.

That’s what my eye roll said. That’s what my yelling said.

Also it said: “I am an asshole.”

(I was terrible. My parents were saints. The end.)

 

It was the morning I stood in the doorway and told my daughter, Ava, who’s seventeen, to “be careful in the fog” that I knew I had become my mother.

It’s really poor visibility. Leave early so you don’t have to drive fast. Don’t tailgate. Don’t speed.

I wanted to tell her all these things. I wanted to low-key beg her to listen to me. I willed myself silent on the barrage of guidance I wanted to pummel her with. I allowed myself just one “It’s dangerous to drive in the fog. Please drive slowly.”

Oh, and: “Text me when you get there.” I did it. I went there. I went “text me when you get to school” because of a heavy blanket of fog.

I never understood my Mom because I didn’t know that the fog dropping onto the world drops on your baby, too, who got her driver’s license only six months ago. I didn’t know the fog is a blanket over her eyes, too, and you think about all the times you’ve driven in the fog, and how it’s her first time, and you think maybe let’s just wait until it clears, while also knowing this is ridiculous and you should really pull it together. 

I didn’t know that every New Year’s Eve is a million drunks waiting to plow into my baby while she cruises home listening to her favorite Beatles song.

I didn’t know that every screaming ambulance within earshot brings with it an instantaneous mental calculation of each child’s coordinates, that even though you know your daughter is nowhere near that ambulance, you wonder. Just for a second, you wonder. You calculate.

I didn’t know that the world becomes, against your will, against your intellect and better judgment, a landmine of threat, and even if you’re reasonable, a stone-hearted analytical type, the type of person who rarely cries, you get a little fucking weird.

You hold it inside to not freak your kid out. You allow yourself one “Drive safely,” and a kiss and “I love you,” followed with a “Have fun” because the last thing you’re going to fucking do is teach your kid that the world is a thing to be feared, to be tiptoed around, to be cautiously and barely lived.

But I’m a mother and you’re my baby and you’re new at this.

 

I watch you drive away. I watch you head out the door at 10pm to come back at midnight. You always respect your curfew. How did my parents survive me ignoring it, and before cell phones? 

I always wait for the sound of the front door – opened, shut, locked – the dog hopping off his bed to greet you, your face in my doorway with a smile, or a “Goodnight, Mama” from the hallway.

The sound I could never understand until I became my mother.

A rite of passage, I suppose, this learning to live in the in-between, a part of me running around loose and wild for the first time, in a world that terrifies and delights me.

I watch you drive away in the fog. I smile when you remember to text. I smile at the roll of our eyes.

We were babies.

 

*****

 

 

***

13 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 4, 2019