dear pepper/another birthday

dear pepper, night owls.jpeg

I call this new baby “Pepper” while she/he is in my belly because on the day I told my sister I was pregnant she harvested the first anaheim chile peppers from her garden. It was March, which is autumn in the southern hemisphere, where she lives.

We don’t know if Pepper is a boy or a girl. I like the not knowing. I refer to “her” as a “girl” because it’s simpler than he/she all the time, or “it.” And maybe there is a little intuition there, I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what is right, just that maybe the gender of an unborn baby doesn’t matter to the baby. Maybe they are just a human: existing and growing limbs and learning to use lungs and blink their eyes and feel the differences in light.

Lately I do not sleep. This happened last time, in my pregnancy with Giles. Third trimester insomnia. Mostly it is because I am uncomfortable. So I am tired all the time. I’m existing in a state of being barely here.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would be 60.

I hate counting the years, because they just keep going and I’ll end up counting for a really long time.

 

 

 

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“i’m never doing this again”

…is what I said during labor while giving birth to Giles. And here I am, three months away from doing it all again.

Which seemed like a good time to finally finish and share this birth story comic.

giles birth story 1

giles birth story 2

giles birth story 3

giles birth story 4

giles birth story 5

giles birth story 6

giles birth story 7

giles birth story 8

giles birth story 9

lovers forever

For part of my three year wedding anniversary gift to Greg, I learned and recorded this song, Leather and Lace by Stevie Nicks:

This song makes me think of our relationship, of how I knew as soon as Greg walked into my life that he was in it for good. Having my own life, but needing him to love me and stay with me. City or mountains. Lovers forever. ALSO leather is the traditional three year anniversary gift.

Three years of marriage feels like ten. Mostly because we became parents so quickly, and have lived through intense emotional times, and because I cannot even picture Greg without a beard anymore.

How do you know when a person is right for you? How do you know when to stay instead of leave? I don’t really know. This is what it is for me: when Greg and I got together it was a messy time for me, but he didn’t seem to mind at all. He said, “I’d rather have messy with you than neat with anyone else,” and that stuck somewhere in my mind or heart. He took me as I was, and continues to take me and choose me as I am each day. I feel comfortable saying “no” to him. He has always treated my art as important, as Valued Work. He loves big and true, and real. He is kind. While my mom was dying he was there for me so fully, even though we’d only been dating a few months. And at her shiva he set up the food, kept my sister, dad, and I with mugs full of scotch, kicked everyone out at seven on the dot, and helped clean up. He can pick out a dress at a thrift store and surprise me with it and it’s just right. He sat next to me while I pushed out my first postpartum shit, holding my hand as I cried, which somehow felt more intimate than even holding my hand as I gave birth to our son.

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photo by Steven Trubitt

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photo by Steven Trubitt

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photo by Steven Trubitt

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photo by LeahB Photography

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photo by LeahB Photography

a day in the life

This is an old diary comic from February. Every hour from 6am to 7pm.

unnamed

A glimpse into a day in the life of a stay-at-home mom. Even though it’s months later, our routine is fairly similar. Galactus even still gets stuck in trees. I’m just more pregnant while doing all of these things. I wonder how it’s all going to change once the new baby comes?

 

i love you, monster

This morning at breakfast Giles put his hands on my face and said, “I love you, monster.”

Later in the morning a dear friend sent me a link to this article, “Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid” by Rufi Thorpe. 

After a grueling time getting my 2-year-old son down for a nap on a 93 degree, oppressively humid day, I sat down to read the article. My brain popped and sizzled with recognition at every sentence. This is exactly what I was crying about in therapy today. What I have been crying about every night for a week.

(Read the article for yourself, and then come back to this. Or read this first and then read the article. Either way, you should definitely read it, because it’s damn good.)

I’m afraid that I am failing at the life I’ve been building since I was eighteen-years-old. As I entered adulthood, college, the world on my own, I made a decision: I will be an artist who also has a family, a life, kids, love, happiness, and I will not be an asshole.”

An ex-boyfriend once told me about how Albert Einstein’s wife took care of all the daily responsibilities of life so that he could concentrate on being a genius. This was a not-so-subtle hint, I think, at what kind of wife this ex-boyfriend wanted. He also told me about a professor he admired who worked twelve hours a day in his studio with one landline phone that only his wife had the number to, and she was only allowed to use it in case of emergency so that the professor would not be disturbed in his work. This gem of a boyfriend left trash on my kitchen floor and excused himself by saying , “I don’t notice things like that.” He once didn’t call me for three weeks and told me I couldn’t be angry with him because he just wasn’t aware of the need to call me. He was too wrapped up in his art.

I know in my heart of hearts that Einstein would have been a truer and better genius if he had done his own fucking laundry.

The “mundane” things, the daily tasks and responsibilities of life are not boring. They are the beauty, the deepest beauty in the world, and we should be making art about them! Shitty fathers and husbands who also happened to write great novels did not write great novels BECAUSE they were shitty fathers and husbands. I think they would have been even better writers if they had been better fathers and husbands.

I have this memory of something I read that Bruce Springsteen said. I can’t find it, and I’m sorry, and I wish I could quote it directly, but I’ve carried it with me in my mind for a long time. He said he used to think that the moment he had an inspiration for a song, he had to go and write it immediately– disregarding his family in order to do so. But later he learned that the opposite was true: he would notice the inspiration, then let it go, opting to be where he was with his family and not ignore them. Later, when he had time, he’d search for the inspiration and find that by letting it go for a while, it always came back to him better.

And so, I believe that I am (or will be) a better artist because I am a wife and mother. Or, I did believe that until my kid refused to nap for a whole week and did I mention I’m almost 20 weeks pregnant while caring for a 2-year-old boy? It’s really fucking hard.

I’m afraid that my “self” is slipping away. And not slowly either– but off a cliff into the void. It’s not, though. I’m trying to trust that. I am still here. I exist as a mother/artist/person simultaneously. I exist in a deeper way than before. Somehow, by putting my kids first, I am a better artist. Right?

Thorpe writes about all of these ideas with a lot more clarity and elegance than I am doing here, but I’m trying to write some kind of response that echoes what she is saying while adding my own personal thoughts. I want to echo back that we are not alone. You are not alone. You, mother of however many children and trying to be a person, are not alone. This is REALLY FUCKING HARD and we are IN IT. We have to keep climbing this mountain. Because what we are doing matters. The mothering yes, and also the art, whatever your art is.

On Friday, in a text exchange with my sister, I asked her if I am crazy to have another baby. She responded:

“Yes. But full of love.”

 

 

5 years

Wednesday April 18 marked the 5 year anniversary of my mom’s death.

I don’t know what to do with that.

Five years for anything feels like an important marker: relationships, jobs, the “cancer free” mark that means you’ll probably be okay.

Being pregnant again, another pregnancy without my mom, is carrying me further into the future. I want to ask her just as many questions as I did last time, different questions. How did she feel being pregnant while taking care of a toddler (me)? What was I like then, and how did I respond to news of the baby? When did they tell people? Did they tell anyone the name they were thinking of? How did they prepare their lives to add another child? How did she deal with the intense exhaustion that is being pregnant while caring for a toddler? Was she scared? What foods made her sick? (My dad tells me salad dressing was one, and that she just used lemon juice while pregnant.)

Other people talk about her less. Or, they only talk about her if I bring her up first.

How is it half a decade that she’s been gone? I am two babies deep in a life she will never see or be part of in an earthly way. In the back of my mind somewhere the possibility of her spending time with Giles exists, and it pops up, surprising me. A thought appears, an image of the two of them together: talking, walking, cooking, laughing. I feel a sharp twinge because this will not happen. The pain feels almost new.

I will give birth again, without her. I will touch that line between death and life, feeling for her.

There is still no map. Still no footprints to guide me, and yet I keep going.

Choose joy over fear. Live it, do it, on purpose. 

 

 

remember me

movies

This past November we took Giles to see Coco at the movie theater. He was eighteen-months-old at the time. This past Saturday Giles went to see it again, at a special screening with his Nana and Granddad. He came home talking all about it, now twenty-two-months-old. He said what sounded like, “mama me,” a bunch of times and at first I didn’t know what it meant. But then I realized he was talking about the song from the movie, “Remember Me.”

This song makes me think of my mom. Know that I’m with you the only way that I can be. 

I learned it on ukulele so I could play and sing it for Giles, and for myself. And for my mom.

Next November we have another baby due. Four wheels on the car. I’ll take her/him to the movies too.

 

helpless

helpless 1

helpless 2

this comic was drawn with my left hand (which is my non-dominant hand). i do that sometimes, for specific stories, or to loosen up.

my mom switched to painting left-handed after she developed neuropathy in her right hand. in her own words:

My mind is coming back. Possibly, this has something to do with my recent shift to painting with my left hand (because of the neuropathy). Painting left-handed does not feel awkward to me—just the opposite: It feels like coming home. I feel more like myself , more in-sync with myself, than I ever did in my whole life working right handed.
This has been a powerful discovery, and one I have yet to fully process or understand.
~ Viola Moriarty
7 March 2011