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Guest post: On Passing as a Single Mom

A few months ago, a friend sent me this practical account of how a woman got rid of a placenta she never wanted in the first place. It casually flew in the face of the false dichotomy between crunchy, placenta-eating home birthers and epidural princesses. On a whim, I sent an admiring email to the author. Any woman willing to reveal her own complexity in an embarrassing tale of human waste disposal is a friend of mine. I invited her to write a guest post here, and hot damn, she wrote one.
Enjoy.

My boyfriend, Scott, was in Arizona with his dying father and I was at a diner with our two sons. My older son was rolling creamers across the table for the younger one to fling on the ground. I overheard our waitress say to an older couple who had just walked in, “Someone is in your booth.”

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Photo by Ben Husmann

She nodded in our direction. Unknowingly we had occupied “their” booth. Aware of how territorial old people can be about booths, I stiffened. The couple sat down near us, and then the husband began to silently watch us.

“Whatever,” I said to myself and then became distracted with the blue crayon my youngest was chewing.

The old folks ate swiftly and left. My children were covered in syrup, so I asked for the check.

“It’s been taken care of,” the waitress said and nodded to the booth where the couple had been sitting. I had spent the better part of my twenties—a time before back flab and pregnancy-induced skin tags—in Mission District bars and no stranger had ever picked up my tab. I asked the waitress to mind my sons while I ran into the rain to thank the Samaritans, but they were gone.

“What was that all about?” I asked her when I returned. She smiled in a certain way. Like the way you smile when you assume you’re in the company of your own kind.

It was really early; I was alone with my kids; I don’t have a wedding ring. Of course the couple—and the waitress—thought I was a single mom, which I’m not.

At this point, I became aware that silence was a form of deception and what I should say was, “What a goddamn nice gesture. It’s been a rough week because my boyfriend (super strong emphasis) is away with his sick father.”

Why did I lie by omission? Because there was something shamefully thrilling about passing as a single mom, who as everyone knows is society’s toughest of the tough.

I asked about her life. Her shift had started at 6 a.m., so she had to wake both her kids at 5:30. Then they went back to sleep on the babysitter’s couch. “Not so bad,” she said.

She had parted ways with her kids at the crack of dawn, and the suspenders on her diner uniform were pushing her boobs out to either side. But she wasn’t complaining.

I complain. For what? Not only do I have a partner, but he’s of the best stock, scooping baby poop out of the bath drain, telling me he wants me, working his ass off. I have my mom who not only watches our baby once a week but also lugs the recycling to the curb. I have the hardest working nanny in the North Bay. The list goes on.

After our first son was born, neither for the love of Christ nor money could Scott and I stop playing the who-has-it-harder game. Thankfully we’ve let that go.

But in my mind, I’m still a contestant with other moms. Why? Because Scott works nights? Because I have two boys? Because my kids are less than two years apart in age? Because all my friends live at least an hour away?

It’s not sympathy I’m after. Just acknowledgement: What you’re doing is hard. But does anything I’m doing even qualify as hard? Some people handle hard better than others. I’m ashamed that I’m not one of them.

I left the restaurant with the waitress still under the impression that we were in the good fight together.

Several months later, I returned to the diner with my family. Scott and the boys were there, as was my dad and his wife. I was telling them the story and getting close to the climax – “they picked up our bill” – when the same waitress came to take our order.

She acknowledged me. And then she scanned the full table, took in my reality, pursed her lips, and poured the coffee.

***

Jennifer Liss enjoys writing about life in the great parched state of California. She lives in Napa with her boyfriend and two young sons. She makes her living as an education and curriculum writer.

Feminism, pronouns and arts and crafts

We had a tragic accident at our house recently.

Train engineers the size of wine corks (where is my mind?!) tend to escape my 1st pass of throw-various-toys-into-various-boxes-so-I-can-walk-on-level-ground-in-my-own-home. So J’s esteemed engineer was marooned on our floor, only to be crunched under one of our giant feet. It was a grisly injury to be sure, but I felt confident in my skills once I found where the head had rolled off to.

As I was holding the head in place for the 3rd time, cursing myself for not having the patience to let the glue set, I had an idea. And as I tried unsuccessfully to peel the ripply crust of superglue off of my fingers, I decided that this was the best idea I had ever conceived.

You see, I’ve been having a daily battle in my mind, since J was very young. It is a battle with pronouns. I started to resent his children’s books, which were so casually saturated with male characters. Male humans. Male trucks. Male ducks. I decided that I could provide some strategic revisions to his stories, replacing the “he” and “his” with “she” and “hers.” And any resistance I got in the form of, “But that’s a boy, Momma,” I would just quash with my explanation of how some boys have long hair and wear dresses and some girls have short hair and wear dungarees.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I started to hear my own thoughts, and how dominant and automatic the “he” was. So I started “she-ing” birds we saw, and garbage collectors and worms.

Naturally, I had to “she” the engineer.

I had some internal criticism with myself over whether the haircut was too girly, but ultimately decided that I wanted anyone else playing with the toy to see that it was an engineer lady, so I went with the fringe-y bangs and bob.

I must say, the result has thrilled me. Every time J is padding through our house saying “My engineer, where is she?” I feel a warm, relaxing tingle in my belly.  Because more than wanting J to know that women can be engineers and that girls can play trucks, I want him to just see those things as a casual matter of fact.

And I make sure of it by giving human action figures the Sharpie treatment the moment they cross our threshold.

The revolution continues: more of your honest photos

Well, fabulous readers, you definitely stepped up to my recent photographic challenge. Here are more regular, everyday, un-gussied-up moments from your lives. Thank you, thank you for sharing them.

can’t decide if i love the pose or the soft vignette more…
“What is the torture we’re applying to the young lady? We’re washing her hair – oh no!!!”

Laura Turbow shared these next three photos. She’s an honest mom who happens to also be an awesome photographer.

“For just a second, i wish you could press a button and hear the sound of this photo, but maybe it is not necessary.”
“This photo is part of a series that i took of my champion vomit child.”
“Here is one more ‘grab the camera before I grab a towel shot'”
“Too tired from two jobs to even move the belt off the bed. i just had to lay down and stare into space for awhile.”
Life is so hard for redheads.

If you’d like to see more revolutionary photos like these, here’s the first batch I posted. And if you’re inspired, I would be tickled pink if you’d share your photo with me and my fabulous readers at my facebook page.

The revolution begins: your not-so-perfect moment photos!

I had to share a few of the great photos that you, dear readers, have been sharing on my Facebook page this week in response to my photographic challenge. The challenge, in short, was to take a picture of one of the not-so-perfect moments in your life–feeling bored in traffic, scrubbing dirty diapers late at night, celebrating the end of a big day in the midst of a messy living room. The only real constraint: you can’t clean it up all perfect and squeaky clean. No tidying beforehand or fixing hair or making things look any different than they just are.

Without further ado:

Here is a nice photo of my daughter mid-fit
I took this trying to stop a crying fit with the power of the iPhone.
My photo revolution. It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I am still in my pajamas. D would rather be doing something else.
Here’s “I don’t know what’s on the counter or if I’d even like it, but I’m gonna stand here and scream till you give it to me” (aka “why didn’t you put me to bed 15 minutes ago?”)
Here is a neither good nor bad moment that occurs many times a day every day.

I have been overjoyed from the tips of my dirty toes to the top of my frizzy head by all of your photos. Thank you. Thank you.

p.s. I’ll keep collecting and posting these, so keep sharing away over on the old Facebook.

Why I take my brain out for dinner. And what we talk about. And what we eat.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed an increasingly intimate relationship with my brain.

Thanks to my friend D, who introduces me to at least half of the things I love the most in the world, I started going to meditation and dharma talks led by this guy. The practice of just sitting with my often frenetic brain for 40 minutes every Thursday was sometimes a refuge and sometimes completely infuriating, but it served the function of sitting down over a nice, lingering dinner with my brain on a weekly basis.

A dinner my brain and I enjoyed recently: Cuban Chicken Salad w/ Garbanzos. Brains really like protein.
More about that later.

We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. And I now understand that my brain does what all brains do. It thinks. A lot. Unceasingly at times. Just like hearts are completely obsessive compulsive about pumping blood, brains are like hyper OCD versions of that one friend you have who needs to discuss everything, all the time.

My weekly meditation pretty much went the way of the dodo as soon as J was born. Much like my relationship with my partner A, my brain and I had a nice solid foundation to draw on in those first soaring and, well, shocking post-partum months. And, much like my relationship with A, the groovy connection I’d developed with my brain started to flail and falter pretty quickly after J was born. And ever since, we’ve been scrambling towards recovery.

The Zoloft certainly helped, as did J growing into a person who sleeps more and has more predictable, human-like behaviors. And, as I’ve discussed, I’ve been trying in the last year to reach a nice, steady, and dare I say optimistic place with my post-partum brain.

Enter: Brain books.

They’ve taught me that I didn’t know my brain as well as I thought I did.

One of them was tucked in the bed side table of the house where we stayed while on vacation in my Colorado hometown. (We managed to sort out a house swap during our time there, which was awesome.)

I’d been meaning to read the book ever since I heard Taylor’s TED talk (which is, coincidentally, the second most-viewed TED talk of all time) and BOOM, there it was, begging to be read. Taylor describes her experience of a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, and her stroke of insight, as it were, is that once her left brain shuts down, her right brain floats into a sort of timeless, peaceful bliss.

So I’ve developed this image of my left brain, all numbers and science and words–a stern accountant sitting at a perfectly organized desk, making sure every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed. And right hemisphere, a buddha-like child, giddy with the sensory input of the present moment and happy to sit dangling her toes in the stream and feeling the warmth of the sun. Maybe it’s not necessarily a matter of seeking peace, but rather tapping into that right brain that’s already there (and perhaps tying up and gagging my left brain).

Since we got home from Colorado, I’ve been reading this:

It’s been a game changer for sure. The biggest revelation so far: there are a lot of other mood issues other than depression that are associated with having low amounts of serotonin in your brain.

  • low self esteem
  • obsessive behaviors
  • controlling behaviors
  • false fear in the form of shyness, anxiety or panic
  • perfectionism

Reading that list, while an unnerving indictment of my life for the last 6 months, has been deeply liberating. So maybe it’s not just that I’m one of those perfectionist types, but this could actually have something to do with my brain chemistry. And more than just feeling liberated by an idea, I’ve been actually feeling better. My mood is improved.

As the book recommends, I’ve been paying more attention to my diet, and focusing more on good mood foods–fish, poultry, eggs, lamb, beef, pork, Pippa milk, veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains, butter, coconut milk, olive oil. And having less of a love affair with bad mood food: sugar, white flour, wheat, and soy. I’ve also been paying more attention to my daily mood cycles. Ross says that it’s very common to have a serotonin dip in the afternoon, which is why we often crave sweet snacks and caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon–to prop up our mood.  So I started taking my Zoloft around noon–instead of before bed as I had been doing.

And shazzam. My mood is improved. My brain seems to like this new turn of events. And it’s better company during those long, get-to-know-you dinners.

Before this starts to sound like some hopped up infomercial, let me please just say that my main motivation in writing this is:

  1. To celebrate.
  2. To share–in the hopes that you’ll find it helpful for you or some anxious, OCD perfectionist you love.

I just honestly never knew so much about my brain before. And I feel a lot more fondness, interest, and compassion. And less like wanting to exchange mine for a new one.

A toddler sleep clustercuss

Do the sleep challenges ever end? We’re having a rough day over here.

After our delightful time away in Colorado, aka my soul place, J has adopted all sorts of different sleeping patterns. When we were away, J said he wanted to sleep in the “flat bed” and since the room where he stayed had one, we gave it a try, instead of using his travel crib. It worked great and we really enjoyed being able to snuggle with him while he went to sleep. So much so that we would sometimes fall asleep too or just lay there watching his little eyes droop and cheeks bloom into that sweet, rosy napping boy color.

…not to mention the sweet, sweaty curls…

Now that we’re back at home, in the land of the room with no flat bed and only a crib, things have been pretty topsy turvy. In short, over the past 2 weeks, he got pretty used to having someone lay down with him while he was falling asleep. So now he’s been screaming maybe 70% of the time when we leave him awake for night-time or nap. I’m able to write at this very moment because our nap battle, which began at 1 and ended a few minutes ago at 2:15, has ended with victory for me. I have a sleeper. But here’s how it went down:

  • We read 3 books, sang 2 songs, then “boo boos,” our very secret code for “boobs,” the typical routine.
  • J cries when I put him in his crib, wants me to snuggle with him and leave the door open.
  • I don’t want to, so I don’t.
  • He yells. Then climbs out of his crib and plays with toys.
  • Then opens his door every few minutes, sticks his hand out, holding a random object — a rubber band, then a dragon wing — and saying “Here, Momma.”
  • I go in, tell him that if he doesn’t want to sleep he needs to have quiet time.
  • He announces he has to poop.
  • He poops.
  • He announces that he wants to watch Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • I say that if he takes a nap, he can.
  • I deposit him in his crib and he screams.
  • I walk out.
  • He climbs out of his crib.
  • I walk in, make no eye contact and put him silently back into bed.
  • Repeat these last 2 steps 15 times.
  • He climbs out, plays quietly on his floor for 20 minutes, then begins the “Here’s a random toy I’m gonna thrust through a crack in the door, Momma” routine again and says “I wanna watch Thomas.”
  • I say he needs to have more quiet time if he’s gonna watch Thomas.
  • And then somehow, I wound up in there holding him on the rocking chair and he nursed himself to sleep.

I know that this is, as one Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, a complete cluster-cuss.

I know I was not consistent. I know I tried a jillion different strategies (and I didn’t even mention when I went in, grabbed his crib mattress, blankets, stuffed animals and pillows and put them on his floor–in all my wisdom, I was trying to simulate the “flat bed.”). And after all that, I ended up “caving” by nursing him to sleep.

Here’s the deal: J is almost 3. The same strategies that used to work just don’t any more. And a lot of the good resources I’ve found for sleep drop off after the first couple of years. Like this one my friend B, mom of a 3-month-old, emailed me, with the endorsement, “I just found it and I am like yes finally the answers in plain English!” If you have a 0-12 month old, go forth and enjoy.

I also read and re-read choice sections of the Weissbluth sleep book when we go through a period like this. I’ll be the first to admit that I credit the Weissbluth sleep book as one of the things that saved our lives in J’s 5th month. I’ll also be the first to admit that his book will probably push your buttons if you take your place on the “anti-cry-it-out” side of the firestorm that is the baby sleep debate. Regardless of his opinions in the cry-it-out department, I think Weissbluth has some very useful things to say about naps, and sleep cycles and typical sleep patterns for infants in particular. Again, though, I’m kinda coming up empty now that I have a willful boy who can climb out of cribs, open doors and hit, kick and scratch.

So kids, what are your recommendations?

Concert-going: then and now

“Why don’t I just go pick up D’s burrito and go drop J off at S’s so that you can have some extra time to finish at work and then we can just meet at the house and go.”

This? The culmination of our plot to escape the vacuum of our family life for a night to go to a Radiohead concert. We had to drive an hour to San Jose, and wanted to see the whole concert (with 2 encores!), so it was a small triumph to cobble together childcare for 8 hours and hit the road.

We like to ply our friends with any food of their choosing so that they’ll come to our house and put J to sleep and hang out into the wee hours, eating burritos and ice cream. Thanks to our glorious friend D, who did this last night. And to S who had J over to play with her son for the few hours before D was available.

Oh, it takes a village. Especially when you don’t want to pay $80 (or can’t!) for your babysitting so you can go see a band.

Last night, San Jose was our oyster. We went out for steaming hot bowls of Ramen in Japantown and then snagged a free parking spot a mere 15 blocks away from the concert venue. As we walked to the complex where the concert arena sits, I saw little scenes from a similar evening we’d spent there 7 years ago.

On a moment’s notice, we’d driven 4 hours to Tahoe to get last minute tickets we found at some desperate-U2-fan website. Then drove the 4 hours back to Berkeley, slept for 2, then picked up our friends and drove to San Jose to play Scrabble in line all day in the hopes of a good spot next to the stage. We were handsomely rewarded.
We were so close to the stage that I still think the lead singer of Kings of Leon has the hots for me. We shared an electric eye contact moment.

And the girl next to us was the one hoisted onstage by a thick, bald security guy to dance with Bono during Mysterious Ways.
She collapsed in a sobbing heap into my arms when they lowered her back down again. But not before I could snap this picture that prominently features Bono’s butt sweat:
Last night was somewhat different. I watched those herds of people bouncing near the stage from my plush folding chair up in the almost nosebleeds. The concert was a juicy display of neon colors and visual noise. And Thom Yorke wiggling, all elbows and knees.

I felt a little guilty, sitting up there. I wasn’t exactly sucking the marrow out of the experience like I once had. I was sipping my beer out of a straw (they sold them that way at the venue?!) and dancing in a seated position. It was not a scream-your-lungs-out, Bono-butt-sweat kind of night.

I really miss that intense and deliberate diving into a single experience. But honestly, folks, I don’t have the energy to put into getting to the front row right now. It used to be that the stuff of life was to intentionally plunge myself down deep into a big experience–a concert, a solo backpacking trip, an all night game of drunken canasta, for example. Now, all that depth that I used to seek is just spread out over the wide reach of every day–the challenges of raising a child and making sure we’re all fed and trying to stay connected to myself and my partner. So now, what I seek out is less intensity, not more: reality tv with a beer, going to bed at 9, and thoroughly enjoying a Radiohead show, beer with a straw resting in my lap, and listening to Idioteque through the wad of toilet paper stuffed in my ears.

My version of Fight Club

I took a suggestion from Garrison Keillor this morning in honor of April Fool’s Day. Wrapped a thick blue rubber band three times around the sink sprayer handle and aimed it straight at the space where A’s body would stand while innocently turning on the tap. Not 2 minutes later, I tried to rinse off a baking tray and instead, the sprayer nailed me square in the face. Welcome, April. I needed that.

For most of March, I had to lean hard into the days like a toddler pushing a bike uphill. Not a lot of momentum over here. With the energetic crater of February came my seasonal depression that settles in until warmer weather airs things out a bit. Add to that the rearing up of my rabid inner critic and J contracting a case of hand, foot and mouth disease during a week-long rain storm…well, lets just say my mood has been flat.

Mr. Hand Foot and Mouth himself

As though the outside world has no understanding of my inner turmoil, things are really perking up. Those little vagabond plants that snuck in with our strawberries are freesias! And their succulent, yellow blooms swelled up and popped, so that corner of our backyard smells like a dream. And my ode to a driveway garden and backyard chickens was not in vain! We are now the proud owners of 2 redwood planter boxes I found on Craigslist and a chicken coop I scored after posting a coop-wanted ad on Freecycle. We picked up the coop yesterday—turns out it was sitting vacant in a backyard only 4 blocks away, and it just took a little internet miracle to connect us.

Oh, the things you can move with a Honda Accord...

As A and I slogged through the rain, pushing the mucky coop end over end, I thought, “This is like my version of Fight Club.” I haven’t seen the movie forever, but I connected with that need to be shocked into aliveness, to deeply feel and experience something beyond sitting in artificially heated and cooled rooms and eating Trader Joe’s bagged dinners. So instead of having the crap beat out of me by Brad Pitt, I’m going the chicken coop route. The combination of mud and wet working skin and purpose reminded me that I’m a creature. An animal with working muscles and bones. Alas, there IS more to life than the internet and man-made playground facilities and vacuuming and the internet. There’s the springtime blooming and rain. The pile of soaked clothes kicked off at the back door. And the promise of little green shoots pushing through and a dark corner for laying eggs.

The Second Time Around

I started interviewing new moms for my “Becoming a Mother” video series back in December. Getting to know them and editing the footage of our conversations (albeit slowly! I’m aiming to post another video soon, of T and her baby at 3 and 7 weeks postpartum) has reminded me of the joy and power of sharing our stories. It connects us to each other and reminds us we’re not alone. And I can think of no better way to steward new families than to share the specific taste and texture of the joys and sorrows of this experience. In that vein, I asked a writer that I met through the kick ass Get Born community if she would write some guest posts on my blog about her experience of becoming a mother the second time. And she said yes! So allow me to introduce you to the unflinching writing of Lesley L. McKinley. She’s 17 (ish) weeks pregnant right now. And we get to hear what she’s thinking and feeling about this baby #2 business every month! Thank you, Lesley.

~

I can’t get a read on this baby at all. Who the hell is this kid? I mean, with my first, her whole identity was mapped before the end of my first trimester. Her name, our secret codes, handshakes, and a seed of feminism so deeply imbedded in her soul that it would sprout a giant, magical beanstalk and she would be able to climb as high as she liked. She would be my daughter, a reflection of all that I have come to learn about this twisted world. She would see the beauty, yes, but she’d be wise and wary, too. Then, just when I was about to pick out her clothes (not pink ruffled crap but onesies with Rosie the Riveter) they told me my future daughter was actually my future son. It nearly stopped my heart. So invested was I in this fantasyland, that I actually wept as if I was grieving her loss.

Now, I have my son here with me in the flesh. He’s mercurial. He’s whip smart. He’s dirty constantly. He’s sweet. He’s my marauder. He would ride the dog to Tijuana if left unsupervised. He’s my boy.

And I only know boys. And I want another. But if I invest in another fantasy, I will miss out on the mystery of imaging both sides. And in the end, let’s be honest. I’ve already been to this show. Pregnancy is now more of an inconvenience getting in the way of caring for my two year old. I puked like a drunken sailor for six weeks, as just one example. It’s not a “magical” time for me right now. It’s exhausting. I feel fat, not radiant. I want to eat everything that was ever made and just completely give in to my gluttonous desires, and use this baby as the excuse. Sometimes I forget about the baby altogether.

The dirty marauder himself

For now, I have bigger things to worry about. Like the fact that my marauder can open doors…to the outside world. He ran out the other day and streaked past the mail lady and our landlord coming up the walk. Lucky for us both the front and back yards are fully fenced. I’m attempting to work again, for money, not shells. And I am beginning to think a social life might once again be possible, as the crushing isolation of motherhood has driven me to the eccentric and beyond.

Perhaps when I can feel this baby moving, rearranging my innards, and the heartburn kicks in, I’ll be better able to decide if this baby is Country or Rock n Roll. Right now this baby just is.

So this time around, I am not going to fall in love with an idea. Like I did so many times with crappy college boyfriends. This time, I want to fall in love. Full stop. Not with this whole pregnancy which I find to be a ginormous bummer, but with this kid, this being, this person. And frankly, I am happy to wait until I have this babe in my arms.

Lesley L. McKinley is a singer/songwriter and freelance writer who dreams of changing the world. Raised by wolves and pirates, her irreverent approach to most everything gets her in a lot of trouble, but she wouldn’t trade her battle scars or her sarcasm for all the trophies in the world. A mother, a wife, an artist, and a champion of the underdog, she can often be found outside, barefoot and muddy with her marauding toddler, hatching plots and running wild. She is currently crafting songs for a new album and thinking of ways to meet your pirate needs. Her website is being created as we speak. She also writes on the 10th of every month for get born, an online magazine. Find her there at www.getborn.com. Email her at llmckinley44@yahoo.com.

Starting somewhere

You have to start somewhere.

That’s the line that’s on repeat in my head today. I’ve been reading The Mists of Avalon for the last couple of months. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a cult classic re-telling of the Arthurian Legend from the perspective of the women. I just finished the last page (p. 892!!) yesterday and still feel under a spell that only a pagan, goddess, earth-based, woman-power-festival book can cast.

Reading it has stirred the longing I’ve had, since I moved away from the small, arid town of my youth, to have the dirt and sky and seasons figure prominently in my everyday life. Instead of smelling the rain coming, I sit here and type and scan websites as though the internet will save me. My tangible connection to the natural rhythms of life consists of two things lately: hanging the laundry out on the line that we strung across a tree and our back door and digging bare hands into my daily kale salad to work the oil and lemon juice and salt into the leaves. And sometimes it’s raining, so I put the laundry in the dryer. And there are days when I’m sick of kale. On those days, my ribs hurt from sitting at the computer for too long, and I try to remember to look up at the sky when I’m sitting at the park with J.

It’s not enough.

During this recent Mists of Avalon bender, I’ve been noticing the cycles of the moon again. And remembering this experiment my mom and I did in our garden, where we planted half of our plot by the moon and the other half a few days before that, just to see if the whole farmer’s almanac, by-the-moon thing had any merit. Our by-the-moon potatoes and green beans were head and shoulders above the others–I still remember the site of that lop-sided garden. One half bushing out on mysterious lunar steroids. If the moon has that kind of influence, what power is it exerting over me every wax and wane? And why does my life have so little to do with that?

So I’ve been criticizing our life here, and how I unknowingly traded the slow satisfaction of life in the San Juan mountains for the hip here-and-nowness of living in a thriving urban community. I’m stifled by the high density of people and concrete and traffic here. For better or for worse, I was raised in the high mountain desert of Colorado. I grew up roaming on our 5 acres which was surrounded by dozens upon dozens of open, roam-able sage brush acres. Solitude and open and the sounds and smells of dirt and bugs and life were freely given every day. There was no seeking required. And now I live in our little cottage that I love. And I sit on our back deck and hear airplanes, traffic and cackling crows. The deck looks out over our back yard, for which we once had grand plans and has now become a storage receptacle for our family’s bicycle fetish (cruiser, road bike, tandem, cargo…!) and various J toys. Our front yard is a shared driveway. A very beautiful, recently re-poured driveway for which I am very grateful, because J loves to roll trucks and balls and ride bikes in it, and we have a nice table and chairs there where we enjoy warm evenings . But it’s a concrete driveway.

You have to start somewhere.

I have known, very clearly since our ill-fated trip to Boulder last year, that I want chickens in our back yard. And I’ve been putting it off, because in the back of my head, I think we might move (in the next year or two) since the 650 sqft that we occupy is, for the first time, starting to feel too small. So I want to live in our wee cottage for another year or two without my dream backyard chickens just because I might have to move them? Upon conscious thought, I’ve deemed that not a good enough reason. And my earthy, Mists of Avalon, pagan self needs chickens now. So, we’ve gotten approval from all of the neighbors and have an email in to our landlords for our final stamp of approval. Here’s our future chicken sanctuary:

Goddess willing, they’ll live just below my favorite walnut tree in existence.

I love to watch the drama of it leafing out in the spring, the crunch-crunch-crackle of the squirrel walnut harvest in July and August (which inspired this video), how in one or two days in November, it drops every single rattly leaf and is naked like this again. Locals have been telling me that the soil surrounding walnut trees is often difficult to grow in, and we’ve certainly found that true over the last 4 years. So replacing the stunted ferns and lilies  s l o wly  growing there with chickens seems like just the ticket.

The one edible thing that we have successfully grown in our walnut-ed, shady backyard are strawberries. And here are some rogue spring bloomers getting ready to pop on this lovely March day. I have no idea what this plant is, so if you do, let me know. I intentionally left them here instead of weeding them out in the fall and I’m so glad I did.

And last weekend, I snapped myself out of the internet hypnosis that always calls when J is napping, and instead I potted some plants and dragged them out to the driveway.

I’m rooting more succulents in the kitchen that will occupy another pot or two once they’ve got some nice trailing roots to show. I also want to build or salvage a long narrow gardening bed for our only sunny, vegetable garden-able spot that we’ve got–also in the driveway. I’d thought of this years ago, but A was worried about the exhaust from cars on the driveway, and so I shelved the idea.

You’ve got to start somewhere. And if that’s eating exhaust-y vegetables from a concrete driveway garden that is planted by the moon, so be it.