Author Archives: WestofBecca

Day 3

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Max,

You waited. Grades were in. Finals completed. Your brother graduated from kindergarten. Once the end of the year flurry was over, you came. You came at night, 2:44 AM, with a head of blonde and red hair, the biggest surprise.

You’ve been with us for three days, now. The first day you dozed as nurses and doctor poked and prodded. The second day, we brought you home and you dozed, intermittently staring at us, the wall, the patterns in your bedroom. The third day, today, you cried. You cried with each diaper change, long, piercing wails for an infant only 56 hours old. Once, you pulled an Aunt Jackie and held your breath, an impressive force of will. At the moment, I’ve handed you to your father and you’re sleeping, happily. We must figure out this diaper thing. It’s rather non-negotiable, the bodily removal of waste and your mother’s disposal of it, so I am not sure how to stop the screaming, but don’t worry, your mother does not lack for imagination, and I will think of something. Something.

In other news, the house welcomed us home. The washer and a toilet backed up on the day your father returned to work. It was lovely.

Welcome to our family, Max. We’ve been waiting for you to complete our family, and now, you’re here, filling our house with your protests, your sleep smiles, and your laundry. Welcome, little one.

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Of What I Do Not Do Well: Big Tries to Move

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For the last four years, I’ve spent my days doing things that I like, that I have some level of aptitude. Graduate school, teaching and family meant I cut out all the extraneous details that can fill a day, things like driving and dealing with utility companies. I pay my bills online, and I found there are few places I can’t get by bike. The last four years have made me smile.

Enter the last two weeks. Circumstances filled every day with things I do not do well. We moved. I’m 22 weeks pregnant. My bike has a flat tire and my husband is too harassed to fix it. (Yes, I should learn to fix my own bike tires. Soon.) Moving meant my person was required at various utility companies and being put on hold with various internet providers. Normal people can probably get the lights on, the gas pumping and the water flowing in one try. I am not a normal person, nor am I good at details, like having the exactly right paper in my hand after waiting in line for forty-five minutes. The good clerks would patiently explain they had a system. I was not following the system. My eyes would well up because I am pregnant, prone to eye overflow, and perhaps, in slight hope, they would take pity on me. They did not, and I would drive my pitiful self back across town in search of the right paper (which was always a different paper). I would like to blame someone for this, but the truth is I have always and will probably always suck at the details of life (like driving, electricity and such). This is why I like camping.

In spite of my lack as a fully functioning adult, here I sit in my much larger house with electric, water, gas and a wireless signal. Tomorrow, I am promised a patched tire.

Bugs, Reptiles and Salmonella

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There are bugs, which we catch, study, and with much cajoling, release.

“I’m going to miss BT (a beetle). I’m really going to miss him.”

Bug catching paraphenalia

And lizards that we feed, spray and handle.

“Do you think Miter and Scrubby love us?”

The Lizards

And a turtle for the garden and one boy’s endless fascination.

“I like him. I just really like him.”

And there’s the reading of books about said creatures for there is much to know about the life and times of beetles, spiders and  snakes. It is knowledge the boy soaks up and repeats with some false information, but all the right words. “Sam, what are you doing?” “I’m building an ecosystem.”

And there’s joy and constant plans for what’s next.

The reptiles carry salmonella, but they also carry his wonder and spark his unending curiosity. It is through them that he’s learned of Africa and South America, the Amazon, the Nile, places he now dreams of visiting. So, we wash our hands, put sanitizer next to the cage, and take our chances. To be a boy, a child, is to take those chances; to be a mom is to buy the sanitizer.

Big Tortures Little with Music

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I grew up with country music and classical music. The combination means I have odd tastes, odd tastes that I tried to instill in Little to no avail.

As I drove her home from kindergarten, I would honk my horn and sign to Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic. Little would hit the floor, ashamed of her older sister’s antic and horrified by the music.

My taste hasn’t improved much. I like songs that ache, that sound like they know something about joy and pain and disappointment. Elizabeth Cook sounds like she knows something of things that matter.

So do Amos Lee, Allison Krause, The Weepies, and Nellie McKay.

And on really bad days, I listen to a hometown girl, Marjo Wilson.

Barbie Cans

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The husband comes home, surveys the  fort  of pillows the boy and I have made in the living room and correctly guesses that I haven’t bothered with dinner.

Me: “Nope. The boy needed to play after a morning of watching Jen and I can.”

Husband: “Let’s go out.”

I throw on a dress, heels to hide my summer ugly feet, comb out my hair and slap on lipstick.

Me: “Let’s go.”

As we walk into the downstairs of the converted house to restaurant, a fellow diner with bobbed hair, a perfect tan and a trendy t-shirt looks at me and sighs, “Here comes Barbie.” I stop and stare. She’s fifteen to twenty years older than me, attractive, dining with other women. I wanted to defend myself, say that beyond blondish hair, I look nothing like Barbie. If anything, I look like Barbie’s stumpy older sister. I wanted to say, “This Barbie spent her day canning and pickling zucchini.” Instead, I took a seat and mentally planned a phone call to my sister and mother.

I ate vegetable lasagna, the boy devoured a miniature pizza, the husband a salad drowned in salami and olives, and I fumed.  I fumed and thought of all the studies and theory I have read on identity performance, and yet, I consistently suck at performing identity, or at least, I am consistently read in a way that is at odds with my self-conception. Then, I asked for another glass of red wine and thought, “Screw it. I canned zucchini.”

And yes, canning evoked that much pride. To can, one must follow multiple steps and overcome the constant fear of botulism and third degree burns.  It helps to have a friend who will not shudder at expletives and not flinch at your blunders, like almost forgetting to add the pickling salt. If that friend is also a skilled technical communicator that is also thinking of revising the instructions to make them more usable, consider yourself blessed. I did.

Behold the fruits of our labors.

The cans sealed, but I am still waiting to taste  for pickling takes five days.  We used Bon Appetit’s recipe.

Jen brought pulverized grapes and made jam, delicious jam.

During the process, there were scares and squeals, but now that I know the process, I will do it again, and if all else fails, I will launch Beck’s Preserves, assuming that no one dies upon tasting the pickled zucchini.

By Big

30 Day Challenge Update: New Vocabulary and Traitorous Fingers

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Yesterday.

Yesterday, was a day of failure. I spilled lemonade, dyed dingy white towels a deep fuschia instead of a deep red, failed to finish a book review, took darling pictures of the boy without a CF card, and only made it through thirty minutes of yoga because I have the attention span of a gnat. Yesterday sucked.

Then, I visited the blog and read In-law’s funny post and Little’s plaintive post, and smiled. We’re doing this. So what if every ant in New Mexico now calls my kitchen home, my bathroom looks like a bordello, I find it impossible to pen 400 more words, and I never master crow pose? We’re blogging together.

And, while yesterday was a failure, and I totally logged into facebook this morning, the first week of the thirty day challenge was not a complete blow out.

The Yoga

Day 1: Kiss the Edge of Challenge. I fell out of crow pose. Twice.

Day 2″ Transforming Fear. In every pose, I thought about facebook. Every pose.

Day 3: Core Consciousness. Yoga has a strange vocabulary: surrender, assimilation, lock.

Day 4:  Secrets of Yoga. I have never fully considered my armpits until told to “loop your armpits back.”

Day 5: Setting an Intention. My intention — focus.

Day 6: Power and Concentration. I failed to concentrate and only made it through the first thirty minutes.

Day 7: Find Roots and Establish Balance. Favorite quote: “Notice how your mind is not helpful at all.” I have been noticing this for much of my life.

Day 8: Totally skipped.

Day 9: Thirty minutes of Power and Concentration. Obviously, I do not have power and concentration.

Day 10: Balancing for Core Stability and Will. The instructor says  “Find ease through your efforts.” This has become my new mantra.

The Facebook

On day one, I have to stop my fingers from typing in the address, and I replace one addiction for another by rediscovering blogs I haven’t read in years like Here be Hippogriffs and Woulda Shoulda. By day two, I feel righteous. Facebook? Who needs facebook? Day three, four, and five are much of the same, but on Sunday, I have a breakdown. Little tempts me with a picture of the world’s most gorgeous baby. I cave. Today, I get up, pour coffee and type in the cursed URL. There are beautiful pictures of my cousin, so I justify it. I needed to tell my cousin she was beautiful. That’s what cousins do.

This week, I’ll do better. I’ll think transformative thoughts during yoga instead of snide ones. I’ll train my fingers to work, instead of type in the evil URL. This week, I’ll become an industrious human being.

By Big

Of Frogs and Polliwogs

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Our favorite creek sprang polliwogs in early summer, every summer. We could, but did not, count on it. We trusted in reliable pools of polliwog and the whole she-bang, the place, our family, ourselves.

Fat, black bodies color the water. My brother and I pulse with glee as we try to scoop them up with pop cans we found along the creek banks. We want a frog hatchery in the bathroom, or if mom protests, maybe, we can take a shovel and build a pond in the backyard. My brother offers his tonka trucks for the project. Their black bodies are slimy but solid, like smoked oysters.

They’ll transform into croaking frogs. We’re children. We don’t want to be much more than we are right now. We want to be here at the creek catching polliwogs, being children.

We run those pop cans the mile home. Shawn’s legs can’t keep up with mine so I wait under the Valley Oak. Becky, don’t run. He yells. You’ll hurt their bellies. I tell him they don’t have bellies. They have torsos. We walk the rest of the way, sneak the cans in the house and dump the polliwogs in the bathroom sink. My mom never said a word.

At eight years old, I didn’t know, didn’t believe that I had any limits of energy, of imagination, of courage. That anyone or anything did. Now, at 32, I fear the edges of my efforts. That I will not cobble together something good, a thought worth pursuing for the dissertation, the next article, the next project. The moments of my life, washing dishes, reading theory, grading papers, pulling weeds in the garden, folding my son’s clothes feel frantic, like I must hurry, I must rush, for it’s not enough, my efforts will not suffice. I can’t scoop up the polliwogs fast enough and I do not trust they will return.

I’ve been trying to stand on my head all summer. I’ve spent hours kicking my feet into the air, trying to hold head stand, to take deep breathes with my body suspended, to rest upside down. Half a second. On a good day, I can hold it for half a second. My husband laughs at my yoga practice, not a laugh of derision, but of admiration and wonder. “You? Sit still?” he says. “Hold a pose?”

In garland pose, an obscene spread-leg squat where my chin touches my knees and my rump my ankles,  I resemble nothing more than a squatting frog. Sitting, resting in that effort, I don’t think about much more than my screaming thighs and how I really hope no one comes to the door. I can’t hurry garland pose, I can’t beat it with a frenzy of energy. Garland pose says sit. Garland pose says breathe.

By Big

Written during the BWP Summer Institute

Big’s 30 Day Challenge: No Facebook, Lots of Yoga

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It’s summer. I’m a mom, a Ph.D. student, a wife. I want to loafe, but I have work, much work, work which if I do not do now will haunt the school year, curse my family time, and in short, ruin my life. Thus, today begins a thirty day challenge, inspired by the lovely Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl, who was inspired by this TED talk (Go. Watch. It’s short.).

  • Challenge No. 1: No Facebook. During the two hours I have allotted for writing, I’m checking Facebook every five-ten minutes. Facebook checking is taking up thirty minutes of actual time, and much, much more of brain processing time. I do not have time to waste. If I use those two hours this summer, I will not need to become acquainted with 4 AM. I will not need to inject coffee into my veins. I will not need to haul a laptop to the boy’s soccer games and practices. No more Facebook — at least, not for the next thirty days. However, I am going to allow myself to post news articles to Facebook, as long as I don’t actually enter the site. Hey, I’m weak, and I do use it as a warehouse.
  • Challenge No. 2: One hour of yoga every day. Yoga has some things to teach me, things I need to learn, like how to sit still, how to rest upside down, how to pay attention. I want yoga to be part of  my day, like reading and cooking, so I’m authorizing a yoga binge before school starts, in hopes of creating a habit. I have a head start on this challenge, I’m four days in.

Sisters? Mom? Join me.

By Big

Of Birthdays and the Internet

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The Boy's Birthday

When the boy was born, I said and thought cheesy things, things I would like to blame on hormone surges but that more likely stem from my molten internal core of cheese.  One of those things was a promise — I promised to be his witness and to celebrate his days (please, don’t gag. It was the hormones).  My birthday induced madness, where I bake too much and decorate too much, is part of  keeping that promise.

The above is the photo rendition of  this year’s promise keeping. The boy turned five. It takes a lot to turn five: bugs, friends, cake, cupcakes, a pinata, pizza, antennas, etc. It took a lot to turn two, three and four, too.

Past Birthdays

In the midst of party preparations, the boy asked his father, “What are you doing?” His father replied through gritted teeth, “Giving you a wonderful experience.” For the husband, birthday work (blowing balloons, hanging pinatas, creating strange contraptions from pipe cleaners, etc.) takes 24-48 hours, while for me the birthday work begins with the wonders of the internet. This year, the boy wanted bugs, so I found the following inspirations to create the above.

By Big