April 10, 2014

Oblivious

I love this little girl.
I have dwelled long enough. It's time to put this blog to therapeutic purposes and tell you a story.

It's the story of how when I looked in the mirror on Tuesday morning and found three, yes, three brand new grey hairs growing out of my temple, I knew exactly where they came from.

There are moments in parenting that make you want to simultaneously throw up, curl into a ball and cry, and drink until you pass out. There are always going to be those moments. And the thing that makes them so awful is they're always such a surprise when they happen.

Once upon a time, I had a wonderful pyrex mixing bowl. It was a thing of wonder and beauty, even if my husband did nearly concuss me with it. I also had a marvelous pizza stone. And they were both dirty.

I did what any reasonable adult would do. I washed them.

First, I washed the pyrex mixing bowl. And I set it in the drying rack on the counter. Then I washed the pizza stone.

Of course, this was in the build-up to making a family meal, which meant RH was toddling around me like a noisy shadow, tugging and my skirt and demanding juice, asking for apple slices as I prepared to boil water, the usual.

As I set the pizza stone into the drying rack, RH walked around me, to paw at the drying rack. I rolled the vacuum cleaner into her way, so she couldn't pull down the rack filled with heavy stone and glass objects. Seemed like a no-brainer.

And then I grabbed the pyrex mixing bowl, for mixing purposes.

As I lifted it, the weight distribution on the rack shifted, and the heavy pizza stone started to fall forward. Right over RH's little head.

I reacted instinctively. I threw my hands in between my twenty one month old child and the falling piece of heavy stone.

My hands, still holding the gigantic glass bowl.

The glass shattered into a million pieces, shards as long as my forearm and as sharp as any knife in the kitchen exploded from my hands onto the floor. Tiny slivers rained down.

This all happened one foot over my toddler's head.

Unfortunately, she wasn't wearing protective
headgear
I screamed. Of course I screamed. And RH, her hair full of glass fragments, with glimmering pieces of broken glass shimmering all over her clothes, froze.

She didn't cry. It was like she'd been turned to a pillar of salt.

As quickly as I could, I set down the chunks of razor sharp glass still in my hands, and moved the pizza stone into the sink. Then I did what you have to do when your one and a half year old daughter is both covered in and completely surrounded by broken glass.

I stepped into it to rescue her.

I spent most of the night cleaning up broken glass. Picking it out of her hair, out of the bottom of my feet, off of the vacuum cleaner. I had a beer and I called my mother, because apparently that's how I deal with trauma now. I'm still not satisfied the glass is completely gone. There was so much of it.

But RH? Not a scratch. Not a single scratch on her.

And I keep reliving it.

I couldn't have been more terrified and certain that something terrible was about to happen to her if she's beed surrounded by snakes or crocodiles or tarantulas.

And as soon as I put her to bed that night, satisfied that she wouldn't roll over and slice her scalp open with a hidden bit of glass, I realized how badly hurt I could have been, with my arms and wrists right there, next to the explosion of glass.

And I had a Bailey's on ice to help me get to sleep.

First of all, let me say I know, drinking is a terrible way to deal with stress. And it's one I don't generally resort to. But I couldn't get my hands to stop shaking. I couldn't get my heart to start racing. I needed to do something to force my body to act like it wasn't in fight or flight mode, and I happen to know I'm a more competent parent on a glass of Bailey's than I am on a xanax.

But to be perfectly honest, nearly killing my kid with a giant glass explosion seriously fucked me up.

I know, she wasn't "nearly killed." But she also was. The enormous, sharp, heavy chunks of glass all around her could have easily killed her, and just as easily mutilated her for life.

Not a damn scratch on her, though.

Every time I think about it I feel sick. I blame myself, because I should have been so much more careful. I blame myself because I hesitated for a moment before I put my shoeless feet into a mound of glass shards. I blame myself, because who else is there to blame?

She's okay. She's totally unharmed. She'll never remember it, she won't know it happened. That's how toddlers work.

Me? I'm growing a nice streak of grey at my temple because I'm responsible for giving my youngest child a broken glass shower.

And that, right there, is what parenting is like some days. You worry and worry and blame yourself and second guess yourself because you're responsible for the life and happiness of another human being in a way that only comes with children. And after all that worry and self-blame and fear and agony... the kid is fine. The kid is happy. The kid is oblivious.

The kid loves you, even though they have no idea what you've just gone through in the simple hope that they will remain happy and healthy and safe. Because they already trusted implicitly that it was the most important thing to you. And they were right.

She's a quirky little thing.
That's parenthood, some days. Some weeks.

Picking glass out of your toddler's hair while she drinks a cup of juice and laughs at being shaken upside down to knock the glass of her shirt.

Picking glass out of your feet and ankles and being relieved that it's your skin that got scuffed up. Committing to memory every adorable and heartwarming thing your kid does because you never know what you'll have to remember if next time you aren't so lucky.

Some days, that's it.

Not today, thank God. But some days.

And those other days, there are always extra hugs to enjoy, smiles to ignore, or fights to end. Because life is messy, and it doesn't stop just because one day last week you traumatized yourself.

You just have to learn to be a little oblivious to your own trauma, too.

April 9, 2014

All My Little Words

A glimpse of my own writing process
I know it's a day late, and I apologize... but this week's Twisted Mix Tape is a doozy.

Really, an enormous challenge.

You see, the prompt is lyrics.

My Skewed ViewI'm a writer (as you've probably noticed).  And, if you've been reading along and listening along for my own Twisted Mix Tape contributions for the last... months or so... you'll have noticed that lyrics are kind of a big deal to me. I pick them apart. I look at their poetry, at their meaning, their symbolism and their innuendo.

You might not know this, but before I ever started writing this blog, or short stories, or books, or anything else, I was a poet. I still am a poet. And I wrote songs. I appreciate how difficult it is to tread the line between insipid and pithy, and the challenges of putting those words to music.

So- lyrics. How to choose? How to narrow it down to something even borderline acceptable?

You take two whole days staring at your computer, humming in the car, singing to your children, and generally thinking about the songs that speak to you, and why.

A lot of these songs are self referential when it comes to writing, and the process of writing. Because lyrics are written. And a lot of them are melancholy or bleak, because I've always found that there is more that sticks with you when grief or anger or loneliness is exposed than when you find another way to express joy. But even so, it's all worth a listen.

It's all more than worth listening to.

It's all worth savoring and memorizing and scribbling in the margin of notebooks.





Let's start with the act of writing, as poetry itself. No, let's just start with one line. "I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains." Sometimes it's the lyrics that make the song. It doesn't matter what beautiful instrumentation or arrangements are behind them. Like so many on this list, picking just one song to represent the amazing oeuvre of songwriting was nearly impossible.



One of the greatest songwriters of all time. Picking just one Bob Dylan song feels like insanity. But I tried. Feel free to start a debate in about which song I ought to have chosen, and please include links. I'd love to have an extra mixtape made by all of you in the comments.



Ani is getting the second spot, because her words have always spoken to me so strongly. It's a strange thing, being a thirteen year old girl. I wasn't fortunate enough to have flawless skin. I was short and busty, big haired, heavy browed, somewhat broad shouldered. I didn't look like a willowly, blond haired, tan skinned Gwen Stefani clone. I didn't look like the girls in the magazines, or on TV. And while part of me understood all the while that it didn't make me ugly, it did make me... not pretty. This is the song that opened the doors to Ani for me. For a few years of my adolescence, "I am not a kitten stuck in a tree somewhere," was my mantra.



Any list of brilliant lyrical songs would be incomplete without Leonard Cohen. His earlier works weren't so much folk songs as they were beat poems to rival Kerouac or Ginsberg, set to music. He's not just a songwriter, he's a Canadian poet laureate.



The 20th century was filled with incredible song writers, who told stories and made jokes. I thought for a long time about putting a Cole Porter song in here, but in a lot of ways Cole Porter was limited. There's a great beauty in the longing in his lyrics to say something more- but he was constrained by the times he lived in. Stephen Trask wrote this number, and if you've never seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I can't recommend it highly enough. I don't know what the rest of Stephen Trask's work sounds like, but I'm happy to judge him by one score along. And that by this song.



Bjork is so much more than a writer. She's an inventor, and an artist, and an innovator. But yes, she's also a poet. I love the way she puts words together, and sets them to music without any kind of care about styles and norms. It's a beautiful thing to hear.



I wanted to put in a Beatles song here. I really did. But no matter what I started with, I always came back to this. I love Sir Paul, but John Lennon was the better writer. And this might be his lyrical masterpiece. (Okay, it's a six or seven way tie.)



You know somebody is a genius of a lyricist when you absolutely can't choose. I actually had to pass over "I Am A Rock." I finally settled on American Tune. "I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered, I don’t have a friend who feels at ease, I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered or driven to its knees"



Songs with lyrics that stay with me, that change me, war protest songs are at the top of the list. But no song has moved me personally so much as this one. It's painful. But it's honesty is moving and jarring and hard. And that's important. That's what good lyrics, great songs, should do.



Another one that stays with you. One of the greatest and saddest and most poignant songs of all time. I include this version, not because it's Billie Holiday singing and she wrote the thing and deserves your everlasting respect and admiration for doing so, but because of this performance. Pole dancing really is evolving into an art, and with a song that is so thoroughly art as "Strange Fruit" for her number... well... it haunted me all over again.



Now that we've covered pain and suffering, let's move to love. And the pain and suffering it entails. If you haven't listened to the Magnetic Fields triple album "69 Love Songs," you're only punishing yourself.



I leave you, at the end of this painfully incomplete and insubstantial list, with Etta James' magnum opus.

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