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Backyard Redemption October 8, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 1:22 am

We are all told that parenting will be hard, but the hard we know before becoming a parent is so completely alien to “parenting hard.” It’s not that things before parenting aren’t hard, they are, sometimes excruciatingly so. It’s just that most hard non-parenting things resolve themselves in a relatively short time, and there are recovery periods between the hard things, whereas in parenting, “hard” morphs and surprises and reinvents itself over months and years and decades, without yielding hardly ever for rest and recovery.

And yes, of course, so does the “amazing.” And yes, of course, no regrets, it’s worth all the trials and tribulations, blah, blah, blah. Of course.

In the first year of my daughter’s life, it was the sleep deprivation that nearly did me in. Every single thing in life is arduous when your eyeballs are sore from being open too long and your limbs feel like concrete. I used to walk farther to a bathroom at work to avoid having to walk down (and, more importantly, up) a set of stairs to the closer bathroom. Energy savings became an obsession. A few months after that, I gave up all pretense and started taking the elevator the one story up from the closer bathroom.

In her second year, it was two things: first, the near-constant monitoring this newly mobile being with zero sense of danger required to stay alive and second, her interest in everything meant everything was always everywhere. I couldn’t keep up with the tidying and the cleaning and the messes AND keep her safe and alive. Before parenting, you think, oh, well, I’ll just pick up and clean when they’re sleeping. But you won’t. You’ll be so fucking tired from running around keeping them from eating the used q-tips in the bathroom trash that you’ll fall asleep with them 8 times out of 10 at bedtime and naptime, and nothing gets done. The 2 out of 10 times you drag yourself out of bed in a stupor, you’ll end up on Facebook til 1 am because it’s really the only socializing you have time or energy for. Once a week, you will pull it out and do the dishes or laundry, but that’s about it.

This year, my daughter’s third, has been just mind-blowing. The words, all the words that she learned to put together into sentences, and later, entire, imaginative stories. The way she has learned the pleasure of moving her body – running down hills, balancing on curbsides, shaking her hips to the rhythm of music, her interest in rolling out “her” yoga mat next to mine and imitating the few yoga poses I manage a couple times a week. She learned the first letter of her name “T” by her fourth day of preschool. A month in, she can point to her name, her best friends name, and any name that starts with “A.” She “reads” books she knows and tells the story correctly, and often uses exact phrases or sentences from the book. She is so happy, that at times, I feel pretty good about my parenting.

But what’s been the hardest about this year, and maybe, in it’s own strange way, what’s been hardest about her whole life, is that she’s beginning to become aware of just how run down I am. I am almost always saying, “No, baby, I can’t draw with you because I need to make dinner/put dinner away/clean up from dinner.” “No I can’t help you with that puzzle because I’m doing laundry.” “No, before you play with your stuffed animals, we need to make our beds.” “We can see if there’s time for the park after we go shopping.” (There hardly ever is.) “Yes, you can watch another video.” (It’s easier to get things done when she’s watching videos.)

We inherited a huge tub of Duplo building blocks from a friend of my sister in law’s – probably three or four hundred dollars worth. She only plays with them when her cousins are here because I never have time to help her build.

I made a lightbox for her last year because I was dumb enough to look at Pinterest and thought it would be such a good learning tool. And it would be, if I ever actually turned it on and used it with her. Or ordered see-through letters and numbers now that’s she’s learning those.

We live a short walk from a park, and a slightly longer walk to a farm we can roam freely on, and we’ve been to the park precisely three times and the farm once. She has a scooter and a bike that are barely used because there just isn’t any goddamned time to take her outside for a spin on either thing.

For my girl’s second birthday, my best friend and his son spent weeks secretly building a sandbox for her in our backyard. They’d come while I was at work and my daughter was at daycare and cover everything in tarps before we got home and they forbid us to go outside. Tima was crazy about it. We played in it daily for about a month – every morning, every evening after work: “Mama, mama, play in sandbox!” and I’d put off getting ready for the day or getting dinner started to riffle through some sand with her, but then I was not getting to work on time in the morning, dishes began piling up, bedtime had to be pushed back and she got so cranky. So I cut back on sandbox time to a few times a week, and I think, finally, she just stopped asking because most of the time I said, “No, we have to do (anything else).”

I’ve been her only parent since (donor-sperm) conception. I work full time. There’s no one to go shopping while I take her to the park. No one to start the bedtime routine while I do dishes. No one to take her for a walk while I fold the laundry. No one to cook dinner while I relax or play with her, not even one night a week, not hardly ever. But, I’m the one who decided to have her as a single mom, so I have no right to complain this much about just how little fun we have around here, do I?

And yet the reality is that all the undone things, un-played with toys, un-explored outside adventures taunt me. They make me feel inadequate, less than, and just plain old cranky. I am not, much of the time, parenting the way I want to be parenting. I am probably a bit stuck and a bit depressed about it.

Recently, I was torn between wanting some time for myself to rejuvenate a little and wanting to carve out undistracted time with my kiddo. Eventually, I decided that the maxim, “Happy mama, happy baby” had some merit and I registered for a Sunday yoga workshop. I hired a sitter for four hours, and when the time came, I left the house feeling pumped about self-care time. At the studio, I waited for the workshop presenters for over an hour. They never showed up. I opted to spring for a foot massage, since I had a sitter, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I was still pretty disappointed about not stretching and meditating for a few hours. When I walked back into the house, I was slightly less exasperated, and excited to see my girl.

She was in the backyard, in the sandbox with her babysitter. They’d been there over an hour. The sun was filtered by a thin layer of clouds and the air was light and breezy. Tima looked up at me, smiled big and exclaimed “Mommy! You came back!” (She says this all the time, as if she’s surprised I’d come back if I had the chance to run away. Maybe she is.)

Her sitter and I talked for a while. I could feel myself breathing deeper. I could feel an unwinding in my chest and belly. Home, fresh air, my girl. The holy trinity, though the house and my girl can also be holy terrors. The pleasing promise of cooler weather was in the wind. It blew my daughter’s white blond hair into her face. She brushed her bangs out of her eyes, tucked her longer hair behind her ears, chattered away, telling me stories and giggling at herself.

There’s not really such a thing as redemption, per se. The hardness of parenting is always somewhere in the picture. But sometimes, I can ignore it or forget about it long enough to just be with my kid. In this new, post-baby life, it’s these times, in these moments, that the healing happens.

Eventually, my girl sidled up to me.

“Mama, mama,” she put her hand on my knee and patted it, “You wanna come play with us?”

“Yes, baby, I do. And I will.”


2nd Concussion September 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 1:15 am

As she was getting out of the car, my two year old grabbed onto the open car door with one hand, put her other hand in mine, and let her feet swing out beneath her. She pumped her legs a little, swinging back and forth, giggling and pleased. I gripped her hand more tightly and told her to let go. She trusted that I would guide her feet safely to the ground. She released her hand from the car door. She fell right out of my grip. The thud of her skull crashing into the concrete made me want to vomit. She started screaming immediately. I rushed her inside and applied ice to her head. Within minutes, she’d lost consciousness. I decided to take her to the hospital. On our way back to the car, she roused, told me she was going to throw up and then did. Her eyes fluttered shut again. I gently pushed her forehead upright and begged her to stay awake. I knew then that she had a concussion, and this was her second one in four months. I knew what this could mean. Suddenly, I could hardly breathe. I started crying. I was so afraid. There was no way I could drive. I called 911. It took me at least a minute to describe what had happened through the weeping and trying to inhale enough air to fuel my voice.

The paramedics called an air ambulance en route to our place. We had to go to a trauma center, given her age and history of head trauma, and we don’t have one here. I tried to tell myself that this is just procedure, that she’ll be fine. But she threw up twice before the paramedics got here, never quite rousing, and I couldn’t help but compare this to her first concussion. She was worse now.

Once the paramedics arrived, her condition wasn’t giving them much to be relieved about – she kept throwing up, kept going in and out of consciousness, and they couldn’t find a vein to start an IV, which can mean shock, but can also mean internal bleeding. She screamed at every IV insertion attempt, but passed out in between. There was a lot of blood. She kept puking.

It was my fault. If I had just had a better grip, or had gotten her out of the car in a different way, we’d be watching TV and getting ready for bed.

They put me in the front of the helicopter with the pilot. I hated not being with her. I sat very still, feeling like my insides were clawing to get to her. My mind kept trying to make me think the worst thought: if she dies, it’ll be my fault. I had to stop feeling anything, had to stop thoughts from forming. The sun was setting and the horizon was a breathtaking ribbon of color. I looked over my left shoulder to see it. Panic would rise up through my belly every few seconds, and I’d focus on those colors, forcing the fear back down. The thought that this could be the last sunset of your life nearly cracked my fragile hold on the moment, but I re-focused on the skyline, swept a few tears from my eyes and went numb again.

The pilot would occasionally turn on the audio feed to the paramedics who were with you, and cut it off again quickly, but I heard: “I can’t get an IV in,” “there’s blood everywhere,” “I don’t like her status at all.” I wanted to yell “cut the fucking feed before I explode!” but in case these were some of your last minutes, I also dreaded the moment the pilot cut the feed. Just before landing, the pilot switched on the feed to the paramedics and left it on. They’d gotten an IV in. They still didn’t like her vital signs. One of them said, “We cannot get this girl to CT quick enough,”

And I could hear Tima screaming, “Owie, owie, owie,” I was still numb, but it registered. As long as she was in pain, and knew it, she was still with me.

I grabbed our stuff and ran after her, the doctor who met us at the roof top said to me, “We need to get her into CT right away, we’re concerned about her status. The ER exam room was full of at least five residents and three other doctors. Someone said, “The neurosurgeon is ready, if we need him.” I thought I might puke. They ripped off her clothes and put a neck brace on her. She was unconscious again. She puked again. They pushed her out within what felt like a minute, and took her to the scan room. I followed, numb, blank, in shock.

I was still in shock when the doctor looked up at me from the computer with surprise and walked over. She said, “I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but it’s clear, there’s no skull fracture, no bleed. We won’t be sending her into surgery. She’s just got a very bad concussion.” Somehow, despite the worries of the paramedics, the worried ER doctors, the neurosurgeon at the ready, there would be no brain surgery, and likely no permanent brain damage. Nothing but observation. I thought I would be so relieved that I’d break down, but I just nodded, and said “thank you, thank you.”

As we were walking to the Pediatric ICU, where we’d stay for the night, it sunk in that she wasn’t going to die. The knot in my belly began to unravel itself. The relief I felt was so acute, I felt my knees buckle, and had to steady myself on the wall. I told myself to pick up each leg and move it forward, alternating legs. The muscle memory of how to walk returned quickly, mercifully, before the orderly even noticed I’d stopped for a moment.

Once we were settled, and she’d stopped throwing up (finally), I got a chance to breathe, and check my phone. Word had spread quick. Three friends had offered to come be with us, but for a reason I couldn’t explain then, I didn’t want anyone else there. The Universe, after taking some time, deemed my error not so egregious, so decided to let her stay with me. Death had crossed the divide and handed her back to me. It was sacred time, and I wanted to be only with her, free of anyone else’s presence, free to relax into the cosmic forgiveness. I told everyone I was fine, that we were in good hands, and declined their kind offers.

Around midnight, a nurse made up a pull out bed for me next to my girl’s bed. I got in, pulled up the covers, and slipped your hand into mine. We slept, not well (the nurses did hourly status checks), but some. Around 4:30am, Tima woke up. I asked her, “do you want me to come cuddle with you?” and she whispered, “yes.” I really knew she was ok then.

I crawled in her bed, carefully moving all the tubes stuck in and to her. I pulled her into my chest and belly. There she was, essentially right where she started nearly three years ago. Breathing, alive, hurt, but not broken. Just her and me from the beginning until this very moment.

I suddenly felt the weight of the choice to have her on my own. There is no other adult who was required to be there, no other mandatory parent to rub her back while I went to the bathroom, to grab my water bottle for me, to clean the puke smudged on her cheeks. There’s no other parent who was with me when it happened, who can tell me that I won’t always be this on edge, that I won’t forever feel this afraid of her bonking her head on something else. There is no one who had to stand with me as horrifyingly close to the knowledge that seeing her grow into adulthood is not guaranteed.

It didn’t make feel panicky, it didn’t make me want to ask anyone to come to the hospital after all. It’s just that my responsibility to my daughter felt so very heavy. In the dawning hours of a new day, as the light began to trickle into the room, I thought, just let her stay with me forever.

As the days and weeks have passed, I have hardly relaxed. When she sleeps, I can relax a little. She can’t get a concussion while she sleeps. Dropping her off at school every weekday has been hard, not having her in my eyesight at all times is scary. We’ve stopped going to the park, stopped riding her scooter, I make her walk when she wants to run. I’m so vigilant that parenting isn’t as fun anymore. I doubt my protectiveness and worry are keeping her safe. I don’t know how to keep her safe. I don’t know how to be at ease again. Looking back on that day, it was probably twenty or thirty minutes from head impact to helicopter, a twelve minute flight to the trauma center, and a few minutes before the clear CT scan came back. Thirty or forty minutes I spent in terror. Seems like such a short time, but I am traumatized. We see a pediatric neurologist next week. Hopefully, this will help both of us. Hopefully, we can start having some more fun. Hopefully, this story will turn into “Remember that time you bonked your head and got us a free ride on a helicopter?” I want that to be the story.  


Being saved January 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 10:13 am

This morning, in the wee hours of another inexplicable sleepless night, I perused writing programs online — post-bac certificate? MFA? PhD? Rejecting one after another — not in California, all the faculty and students on the website are white, takes too long, not worth it, potential waste of time — feeling crappier and crappier about the chances of me ever ending up where I want to be in my non-existent writing career.

I started writing about Tima’s birth, a story I have tried to write at least ten times in the past two years. I am consistently rendered mute in the face of such a powerful experience. Should some things be left unwritten? It was barely readable prose, so I abandoned writing this story to some other future wakeful night.

I began organizing my laptop’s desktop, which is as disorganized and messy as my actual desktop. Files are scattered all over the place, stacked on top of one another, of no help to me in a search emergency. It’s embarrassing. There must be a couple hundred icons there, minimum. Randomly, I double clicked on an untitled word document to open, name, and file it. I started to read to decide on a title, and couldn’t stop. It started with an excellently written paragraph on the crazy thing that is pregnancy and birth. Who wrote this? I must have copied this from some article online…

But what followed was a story I recognized as my own, one about Tima’s first day on earth. And then I realized: I wrote this. This is my good writing. I don’t recall writing it, but there it was, so tender and lovely, it made me cry. Turns out, I’m not a dried up, worthless writer who’s best writing is behind me. I wrote this after Tima was born, proof that motherhood has not sucked the marrow out of my creativity. Truth is, I just need to find the right path for me and the way my life is today. Which starts by writing more often. It may take me longer than I’d planned, but getting back on the road is the critical step right now.

I spend about 99% of my time ambivalent about whether or not there is a benevolent spiritual force in the Universe looking out for me. And then I am compelled to open an untitled file on my laptop, out of hundreds of others, and it is the only one I need to see. I am struck by how every once in a while, and sometimes when it matters the most, a Good Thing happens, and I can rest, for just a second or two, in that 1% of faith, just long enough to draw some strength and confidence for the next leg of the journey.


Breasts January 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 1:29 am

I can no longer make promises about my writing.Two years into single parenthood and I have had no luck re-establishing a writing practice. After writing the essay below, it occurs to me why. I decided to parent my daughter in a way that’s been pretty all-consuming. We co-sleep, we still breastfeed. These things are not conducive to awesome, hour-connected sleep. Two years of sleep deprivation is not conducive to a creative, time-rich person. I will write and share when I can, stealing hours from sleep when I can ignore what it does to me, and stop berating my self for not being in an MFA for creative writing already. I’ll get there when I get there. 


At one of my mid-pregnancy appointments, I asked my doctor about my breasts. “Are they ok? I mean, shouldn’t they be getting bigger or fuller? Shouldn’t they hurt?” She shook her head, “Some women’s breasts don’t change much, and most go on to be able to successfully breastfeed. I don’t think there’s any cause for concern at this point.”

And I didn’t give it another thought.

When my daughter was born, my mom caught her and placed her on my chest. Within ten minutes, she wiggled down to my left nipple and began to suckle. I laughed at my immediate inclination to remark on her exceptional cleverness. I knew she was doing instinct’s bidding, and yet.

She was perfect, and she was hungry.

She nursed for hours that first time. I imagined the thick, nourishing colostrum moving into her body and preparing her digestive system for the milk that was destined to engorge my breasts in the coming days. I was in awe of this process, perfected by centuries of evolution, innate as breathing. I’d always wanted to be a mom, from as early as I can remember. Finally, I’d entered the ancestral community of women who grow humans out of newborns with only the milk made inside our bodies. A powerful inheritance.

The lactation consultant came the morning we were going home from the hospital. She took my girl’s weight and looked concerned, “She’s lost too much weight. Your milk hasn’t come in yet. It’s not uncommon for milk to come in three, four, five days out, so not to worry, but you need to get her on some formula even as you continue to breastfeed, until your milk comes in.”

The tears came fast and hard. This was not in my plan. I don’t judge moms who decide to use formula for any reason, but I wanted to breastfeed. While I was pregnant, I would often dream about lying in bed, my baby stretched out beside me, nursing, breathing, existing together as a system. I did not want to formula feed, but what choice did I have? I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be long until I’d be exclusively breastfeeding, but I thought of how my breasts had never changed, not one bit, and a part of me knew.

The next week was a blur of lactation consultant appointments, doctor’s visits, tracking feedings, taking herbs and drugs every few hours, acupuncture treatments, craniosacral therapy for the baby, craniosacral therapy for me, long crying jags for both of us, next to no sleep, and my most hated activity of that time: pumping mere drops of milk every two hours, a futile effort at tricking my mammary glands into thinking they had twins to feed.

Every other day, we did weigh-feed-weigh tests at the lactation consultant’s office. It was always the same: I was only producing about an ounce of milk per feeding, not enough to sustain my baby. I couldn’t make milk. I couldn’t feed my baby from my body alone. I felt betrayed by my breasts. Because of them, I had failed at my primary job of motherhood. This wasn’t going to get better.

I don’t know how long I cried the day I realized my milk wasn’t going to come in. At some point that day, with my skinny little newborn in one arm, I emailed a few women I’d been pregnant with who’d had their kids before me, asking if they had any extra breast milk. They forwarded my email to other moms with new babes, and within 48 hours, my freezer was full of donated breast milk.

My lactation consultant rigged us up with a system where I could nurse my daughter so she’d get whatever I was making, while tiny tubes taped to my nipples, and fed by a bottle, carried the donated breast milk into her mouth. I imagined these half a dozen or so women in my town, some I knew, some I’d never met, hooked up to breast pumps, watching their milk fill up the little bottles, knowing it would go to my daughter, happy to be able to nourish her, and comfort me, as we adjusted to our new reality. We made it eight full weeks almost entirely on gifted breast milk, and many more months supplementing formula with periodic “liquid gold” donations. Milk sharing isn’t for everyone, but it gave my girl nutrients that formula and I couldn’t, and possibly as important, it eased my desolation.

At my six-week post-partum doctor’s appointment, I asked my doctor if she remembered telling me that even though my breasts had not changed during pregnancy, that I should be able to breastfeed. She did. I started to cry big, heaving sobs. I couldn’t help it. She said, “There was no way to know then that you’d be an exception to the rule. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. It’s really, really unfair.” I wanted to be mad at her, to make her responsible, but I was too tired and too sad to be angry.

I thought I would never make peace with my breasts. I thought that seeing them would always trigger in me the despair I’d been feeling since my girl was born. But to my great surprise, my daughter fell in love with my boobs, even though there was hardly anything in them for her. She learned to latch on, tube and all, and go to town. I’d watch in amazement her tiny lips, parted just enough to see her thin, lapping tongue against the bottom of my breast. I’d feel my nipple stretched and pressed flat against the roof of her mouth. The warm formula radiated into my skin through the taped tube. Her eyes would flutter, her tiny chest would rise on the inhale, drop with a sigh on the exhale, her body melting into my arms. I experimented with bottle feeding the formula, then breastfeeding without the tube system, and my girl still wanted boob. I began taking nursing selfies, proof I could look to later to confirm it wasn’t some sleep-deprived hallucination.

My daughter is two now, and we still breastfeed. I can’t find the will to wean her. I do all the “wrong” things: I nurse her on demand, to sleep, and through the night, I whip out my breasts anywhere and everywhere, I feel tingly with pride when she asks in public, “Mama, boob, pwease.” My breasts didn’t work the way they should have, but I managed to build the feeding relationship I’d wanted with my girl anyway. I just don’t give a fuck what other people think about it. My breasts redeemed themselves, and they deserve all the publicity they get.


A letter to my toddler on the occasion of a normal day, to be read when you are a teenager, or maybe, a new parent July 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 11:27 pm

Music, Tima, is like no other thing. It can move me to tears or exaltation, soothe an aching soul or evoke memories of things I’d long forgotten. I think, on some visceral level, you get this already. In the last couple weeks, you have started singing along to music in the car or at home, or when I sing to you as you are falling to sleep. It’s half humming and half extending syllables of one of your many made-up words.

A sweet hurt welled up in me the first time I noticed it.

There will be no other “you” who could not sing from here on out. And yet, it is a piercing joy I feel when your voice rises up to meet and mingle with mine. I can imagine us in not so many months belting out songs together while we cook or clean or before bed. What fun lies ahead, and yet, something in me mourns the “you” you are shedding as you pick up yet another facet of toddlerhood.

Also, we talk now. You have enough language that you can tell me things you want and agree or disagree with things I guess that you are saying. A couple weeks ago, Grandma was visiting and we were driving somewhere. She was feeding you pieces of a sandwich, and when she was not fast enough, you said, clear as day, “I want some more.” Your first four word sentence! A couple days later, you said, “I want some boob” — a phrase you say at least ten times a day now. A week ago, you were picking flowers and you brought me one and said “Here go” as in “here you go” and when I asked for the flower you were holding, you said, “No. Dat one mine.” You know the sounds for dog, cat, cow, bird, frog, and monkey and you know the color yellow, and maybe green, red, and orange. I have lost count of how many words you can now say.

You have just started saying, “I love you.” It sounds like “I uh you,” but you and I know exactly what you are saying. Last night, on the way home from Babop’s you were holding a stuffed monster and you kept saying it, “I uh you,” “I uh you,” “I uh you.” And there that sweet hurt was again. How is it possible that this could evoke any sadness at all? I don’t know, I don’t know, but it does.

It often feels like rainbows and unicorns living with you — the stresses of the day so often fall away when we are together and when I am focused on amazing you, you who grew from my flesh, you being fabulous, unique, wonderful you. You dwell in the ever-present, not quite aware that there is a past to tarry in or a future to dream about. You pull me into your world and I am redeemed.

And then we’ll walk into the disaster that is our home, the overfull diaper pail ripening the air of the entryway, the shoes and dirty clothes littering the hallway, the compost smelling putrid and sweet in the kitchen, the dishes piled high, the living room floor littered with god knows what kinds of food scraps and toy parts and blocks and my yoga mats, laid out and receiving no asana love, and I feel defeated, wishing I were the kind of person who could clean better, more efficiently.

Also, when you get sick, things deteriorate even more. You cling to me when you are ill and I can’t do hardly anything but comfort you. Last Thursday, you began to wheeze as we were driving to daycare, so I detoured to Urgent Care, and after hours of refusing the medicine we got to help you breathe better, we ended up in the ER. I knew you would be ok, but it was still scary, scary, scary. To see your belly move so fast, to hear those little grunts and pants as your lungs were trying to get in more air; your little body working so hard and it still not working right.

By the time you read this, you will know that I start with a natural, holistic response to illness, but when I realized you couldn’t breathe well, I was like, “All the drugs, Doctor, give her whatever it takes to make her breathe again.”

We got you fixed up, and there were many tears and shots and screaming, but by midnight, you were breathing normally, and normal had never been so exactly perfect.

On Saturday, as we drove around town running errands, you were playing with a stuffed octopus the respiratory therapist at the hospital had given you. You started calling it Octopussy, of your own accord, I never said the word, I swear. You dropped Octopussy at one point and said, “Oh shit.” I laughed out loud and was grateful for your unintended levity after days of being on edge and vigilant to your inhales and exhales. I started singing, and so did you, and I wanted to drive forever and ever.

There have been two songs that have been a balm to me these past few weeks, and which you like to “sing”: “Lost in the Light” by Bahamas and “Volver a los 17” by Violetta Para covered by Ani Cordero. These are songs that you should maybe listen to right now or soon, so that maybe you can feel their power, the very same arrangements of notes and words that moved me so much in these ordinary days of raising you, of being lured into your wonderful here-and-now universe, of being your tired, lucky mama.

Here are the translated lyrics to Volver a los 17, which reads like poetry:

Returning to seventeen

After a century of living

Is like deciphering signs

without wisdom or competence,

to be all of a sudden

as fragile as a second,

to find a deep feeling

like a child in front of God,

this is what I feel

in this fertile moment.


My steps move backward

while yours keep advancing,

the arch of alliances

has penetrated my nest,

with all of its colors

it has walked through my veins

and even the hard chains

with which destiny binds us

are like fine diamond

that light up my serene soul.


Entangling, entangling it moves,

like the ivy on the wall,

and so it flowers, and it grows,

like tiny moss on the stone.

Oh yes oh yes


What feelings can grasp

knowledge cannot understand,

not even the clearest move

not even the widest thought,

the moment changes everything

the condescending magician,

separates us sweetly

from rancor and violence,

only love with its science

makes us innocent.


Entangling, entangling it moves,

like the ivy on the wall,

and so it flowers, and it grows,

like tiny moss on the stone.

Oh yes oh yes


Love is a whirlwind

of original purity,

even the fierce animal

whispers its sweet trill,

It stops pilgrims,

and liberates prisoners,

love with its careful attention

turns the old into a child

and only affection

can make the bad person pure and


Entangling, entangling it moves,

like the ivy on the wall,

and so it flowers, and it grows,

like tiny moss on the stone.

Oh yes oh yes


The fully open a window

by pure enchantment

love entered with its blanket

like a lukewarm morning,

the melody of its beautiful Diana

prompted the flowering of jasmine,

flying like seraphim

placed earrings in the sky

and my seventeen years

converted by a cherub.







When your friend is a maxed-out mama April 22, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 11:21 pm

In the last few months or so, I’ve screwed up in no less than four friendships.

To my single mama friend, I am sorry that my first visit post-birth went so poorly, I’m sorry I didn’t help the right wyas and I’m so, so sorry I got your babes sick. There is so much I’d do differently if I could do it over. I’d so been hoping that I could be your friend and ally on this single mom journey, and, instead, I made it harder for you.

To my best friend, who lost a parent a few days after Christmas, I am sorry for not finding a way to come be with you right after. I’m sorry for not calling on the first, second and third month anniversary of his death. I needed to, I meant to, it was the right thing to do, and I didn’t do it.

To my writer friend, I am sorry for trying to recruit you to the single mama club when you were still reeling from recent losses. It was the worst thing I could have done, and, yet, I did it.

To my church friend, I am sorry for presuming that you could tell me how to be poor once I transition to grad school. I puked a bucket full of class and race privilege in your lap and, truly, I know better.

It appears that I am now a shitty friend. A shitty, sad, chronically stressed friend.

Working, parenting, and trying to take care of myself and basic life stuff has proved to be too much. Being in a constant state of overwhelm for the last year and a half has taken its toll and it wasn’t until last week that I admitted to myself that I’m in a bit of slump here. It’s not a newsflash, but depressed people don’t make good friends. Depression dimmed my ability to discern what would be the most helpful, sensitive, kind, loving things to do with and for the people I love.

I know many of you would give me a pass, single-mom-of-a-young-child-who-works-a-full-time-office-job that I am, but that’s just an explanation, not a justification. The reality is that I’ve missed supporting people who are important to me in big ways, I’ve hurt people, and it sucks.

I missed the sadness because of the acute happiness I feel when I’m with Tima. She lights me up and makes all the crappy go hide in the corners for a little while. And bathed in her wonderfulness, it’s easy to discount all the little signs of discontent.

It was reading Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn that brought all of these things into focus for me. It helped me label that I’m just barely holding it together, and that everything else (i.e. friendships and housecleaning and bill paying, and so on) is suffering because I can’t keep up. But the book is short on solutions, not because the author withheld them, but because there aren’t really any if you can’t afford to work part-time.

In the short term my options are: therapy (check), drugs (going to hold off on those for now), writing (check), reaching out to friends to apologize (check) and to others for help and support (does this count?), there is a yoga mat rolled up in the corner of my living room which is begging for me to vacuum so I can roll it out and stretch all over it (priority for tomorrow).

In the long term, let’s start pressing our government to make having a family not so god damn hard. Truly it would rise a tide and lift all boats if parents could afford to work part time the first couple years (or if adult children could take time off to care for aging parents), if parental/family leave was paid, if there were universal health care so employers wouldn’t bear the brunt of more part-time employees health care costs, if childcare were excellent and affordable.

Basically, I’d like to invite you to partake in a fucking revolution. There’s nothing like a little bit of political activism to make a mama feel less stuck.

I’m mind-blowingly fried at the moment, and need to go to bed, but I will come back and list some links for activism here in the coming days. 





Being unreal April 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 11:37 pm

The house is disgusting, the worst offense is all the unwashed dishes in the kitchen sink from last Friday beginning to rot. And when I say all the unwashed dishes, I mean all of them. If I want to eat anything off a plate and with a fork or spoon, I have to wash them first.

It’s the result of five migraines in seven days, and thus, minimal functionality around here. And yet, today, I put on a new dress that I love, brushed my hair, and put mascara and lip gloss on, even though it felt like someone was carving out a hollow place behind my left eye with an ice pick and my stomach lurched with hunger and nausea. Half way through my morning meeting, I felt the Imitrex and Aleve I’d taken over an hour before start to work on the migraine. From 6:30am-11am, I somehow worked through what was a pretty bad migraine. I am not sure when I started  forcing myself to live through them. I used to let them over take me, and I’d curl up in bed with a bowl to throw up in. At some point in my twenties, though, I stopped throwing up, at least with the majority of my migraines, and that meant all I had to power through was pain.

But the pain, it’s so uniquely awful, so grating and demoralizing. Especially when I have these strings of them. Pushing through them, getting Tima up and out the door for daycare, getting myself ready, going to work, requires a dissociation of my actions from my migraine. The bulk of my consciousness is consumed by the fire, so I sometimes mentally list off what I’m doing to confirm to myself that I’m still in my body. It really is an unreal experience.

By the end of the day, my migraine had lifted, the whether was gorgeous and warm, and I resolved to for a walk at West Cliff with Tima after I picked her up form daycare. I had this idea of how good it would feel to walk briskly with the ocean air in my lungs and the sun on my face. But Tima was squirrely and wanted to roam without holding my hand, and when I tried to put her in the stroller or up on my back, she totally flipped out. It was not the relaxing end to a stressful day that I wanted, but I suppose there were some compensatory moments — the way Tima would nearly burst with joy with every dog she saw, pointing and exclaiming either, “Dog!” or “Fuh-fuh” which is her “ruff-ruff.” I was able to remember to take precisely three deep, soothing breaths at three different times, which kept me basically out of baby resentment mode.

By the time we were done, Tima had calmed down in the carrier, and I took this selfie with the bay behind us and posted it to Facebook with this comment: “The day may have started with a migraine, i.e. it started sucky, but it ended with a walk on West Cliff, so there’s that.”


It’s not an untrue statement, but it is a little unreal. I didn’t feel significantly better after the walk, in fact, emotionally, I was disappointed and distraught that instead of chipping away at my accumulated stress, I got all wound up as my expectations collided with the reality of walking with a toddler at what is normally her dinnertime. I did spin it on Facebook, though, and I knew I was doing it.

Same thing with the dress and make-up this morning — I was being unreal, pretending the migraine wasn’t there. Still, at 37, with most of the things I want in life and no need to prove myself, I paint a picture of my happy, strong, resilient family, and we are that, a lot. But on days like today, when the house literally smells bad from unwashed dishes, when I can’t hardly get anything at all done, I wonder why keeping up appearances is something I value so much.


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