Friday Nostalgia

I recently came across an old essay I wrote shortly after Lola was born. It brought back the memory of years I spent with Gin Miller and Step Reebok. Here's an excerpt:

Once I had a beautiful body that I didn't appreciate, with small but buoyant breasts and long legs I toned by running fifty miles a week. Four kids later, need I describe it? Now I do outdated Step Reebok videos, incrementally, in the three-foot space between the padded coffee table and the baby swing. I don't even need a sports bra; during the more rigorous parts, I just hold both breasts in my left hand, keeping my right hand free to swipe the ceiling fan chain away from my face...



Yesterday, I did another session of EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, a therapy I did a few years ago, which helped me recover from some past trauma. Having enjoyed its good results for months and months, though, I'd forgotten just HOW remarkable and life-altering EMDR is and, faced with the option to try it in my current night-of-the-living-dead depression, had not-much faith in its ability to cure.

I won't go into the specifics of how it works, because you can find plenty of information about EMDR online--including plenty of controversy. This is just to say that it has worked for me, changing my state of mind, and therefore my life, in profound ways.

When I went in yesterday, I had been haunted by an image that was causing me enormous emotional and physical distress (a common symptom of PTSD). On a scale of 1-10, I put the severity at a 12. When the image intruded on my brain, the world would go dark; it was hard for me to function, to be rational, to feel human.

By the time I left Doc Judy's office, the same image ranked a 2, about the same number I'd give road kill I happened upon while jogging. That possum rug or squirrel stew might be ugly and sad, and it might pop into my head from time to time, but it would be disturbing only as something disgusting that had nothing to do with me. I'd never scrape it up and carry it with me; I wouldn't feel the need to analyze it; and I wouldn't worry about the cars that might run over it and where they might spread it down the street. More importantly, I would not blame myself for its death.

In short, a situation I had internalized, something I believed was a reflection on me and my value as a human being, became separate--not my problem: merely something gross.

That's not to say it was easy to get from 12 to 2. It was an hour-and-a-half of low-grade torture--confronting that image, feeling its full weight, and understanding where its power came from.

But today, that image and its source have lost their power.

Something to consider if you've ever experienced trauma--be it a singular catastrophe, such as assault or a bad accident , or a sustained ordeal, such as childhood abuse or war. It can even work on more diffuse cases, such as your mom and dad's divorce when you were a kid, being bullied at school, or your own divorce (see 'war' above). Abandonment and betrayal count, too, of course. Or, say, your parents sent Spot "to live on a farm." Whatever your issue, it's worth a try.

In fact, I'd venture that George, JackMan, Lo, and Biggy are all excellent candidates.


Poison Control

When my first-batch kids were little, I spent half my time on the phone with poison control. It got to the point where they'd answer my call, "What is it this time, Mrs. B____?" There was the day I'd sprinkled cleanser all over the toilet seat and left my cleaning to answer the phone, returning to find Sadie with a Comet beard and mustache...the time Jack drank fabric softener, the night I gave Georgia a big spoonful of children's Tylenol that was actually pink baby shampoo I'd put in the sample-sized bottle when we went on vacation. My angels ate everything from Palmetto bugs and dog food to Vaseline and baby powder. I, myself, was known for confusing teaspoons with tablespoons when taking my own OTC meds for colds, so I'd end up taking triple doses.

But it has been years since I've had to make that call. Until today. Note--everything in parens is what I thought but did not actually say:

PC: Georgia Poison Control; how can I help you?

TR: Well, this is probably a new one for you...I have a chihuahua with Addison's disease, and I have to give her prednisone every day for it. Just now, when I tried to give her the 2-3 cc's from a dropper, I had it pressed against her gums by mistake and it sort of exploded and went straight into my eye. The whole dose--right into my tear duct...

PC: How does your eye feel?

TR: I rinsed it with water, and it doesn't feel too bad, but I'm not worried about my eyeball. I just don't know what the steroid is going to do once it gets in my system. (Will it cause weight gain?)

PC: That's not going to happen--at least not enough to be toxic. We'd be more concerned about your eye. Did you flush it good? Does it hurt?

TR: I flushed. It stings some, but I can still see. (Besides, I have another eye. What I don't have is much time before swimsuit season.) You're sure I won't have any side effects from the prednisone? (My fingers feel like they're swelling, my neck looks thicker...)

PC: No, no. Even a small child would have to take a lot more than 3 cc's for there to be any effects. Just check your eye and reassess in about 45 minutes. And call me back if there are any problems.

**My eye hurts like hell, by the way.


How People Live in my Brain

For years, I thought the woman in the Monty Python movie was the same lady who played Mrs. Roper in Three's Company. It was a hard mistake to live down, as all of my friends and my then-husband never passed up an opportunity to remind me of my error. Whenever I found myself in a position to defend a stubbornly held belief--(that women have an extra rib, for instance), someone would come back with, "Riiiight....Mrs. Roper...." Having long since learned of the genius brilliance that is Helen Mirren, I am near=mortally chagrined.

But today I must confess that for the past couple of years, I've thought these two were one in the same. It has caused me a great deal of confusion, since I've seen them on everything from David Letterman to The View and have been unable to reckon why I couldn't keep the name straight: "Isla?!" I'd mutter to myself, "I thought her name was Amy Adams!" The whole time I was watching Doubt, I marveled at how the same gal who played the ditz in Wedding Crashers could play such a fine, serious role.


Friday Nostalgia

I just saw a reminder about dues for Jack's prom, which reminded me...



After I had him vacuum the downstairs.


Friday Nostalgia

Nick Gilder, Hot Child in the City, 1978.

This songs takes me back to the summer I was 15, when the new giant waterslides were all the rage. A far cry from today's elaborate water parks, here's what they looked like back then:

That's right; when I was a kid, we only had one slide, and everyone had to wait in a long line to ride it down one time. Then you had to get back in line and do it again...Oh, I was a hot child in the city of Powder Springs.


This From My Friend Ginger Murchison's New Book

Out Here, published by Jeanne Duval Editions

At Practice

As if what's wrong had a beginning,
could be defined and pinned to a spot.
As if the exact moment of damage
were even possible to know,
the amount of heart it would take.

If what's wrong had a name,
would it become small enough for a fight?
Or would it swell in its own rotten luck,
thriving on any light left?
Wouldn't curses and prayers
have to come out of shards of regret?

If we have to ask, are we ready
for what happens next?

Perfect is a blue-haired blaspheme.
Against the one-legged tern on the beach
staking his claim for a windfall
of crumbs, only a squawk to protect it.
Against the first crocus, doesn't it know?
pushing its yellow mistake up through the snow.
Even the mountain lake begins
with a trickle from the snout of a glacier.

Everything's only just practicing.


After a Year and a Half

they can share my lap without growling.




Today, for the first writing class of the new quarter, I pulled out an old piece from Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, and was struck again by this passage:

Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We live and die, age beautifully or full of wrinkles. We wake in the morning, buy yellow cheese, and hope we have enough money to pay for it. At the same instance we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all the sorrow and all winters we are alive on the earth. We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived...


25 Things About Me

I was tagged again, this time on Facebook, and since I've been having trouble actually writing posts lately, I thought I'd comply, even though it's a meme I've done before and before:

1. When I was a kid, we lived in a little brick ranch house in a row of six similar ranches on Hiram Lithia Road in Powder Springs. One of our neighbors had chihuahuas and raised chinchillas. I suspect the seeds of my current lifestyle were planted there.

2. Another one of our neighbors was addicted to Pepsi. She always had stacks of cases in her kitchen.

3. My friend Deauna lived at the end of the row. She and I used to sneak Close-Up toothpaste in the bed at night and eat it.

4. I had my tonsils removed when I was four. It took my mom, the nurse, and the doctor to pry my finger from my fist so they could prick it for blood.

5. When I was 7, I had a fever of 106. In the emergency room, they packed me in crushed ice.

6. I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

7. In middle school, I was the editor of our literary magazine, The Center Pole.

8. My only sibling died of Leukemia when she was 24 and I was 26. I was touching her feet when she died.

9. I haven't spoken to my father in almost 16 years.

10. I broke up with my high school boyfriend close to the end of my senior year. When he started seeing a pretty girl from another school, I talked him into getting back together. With her safely out of the picture, I broke up with him again before I left for college that summer.

11. He threatened to run over me with the car.

12. I'm still impressed with his restraint at not running me down.

13. The most unforgettable short story I've ever read is this one.

14. I was so brainwashed by the Baptist church that until I was in my thirties I actually believed women have one more rib than men.

15. When I was 10 or 11, I read Last Tango in Paris.

16. The soundtrack to my childhood is Rod Stewart and the Doors.

17. My father made me start shaving my legs when I was 10.

18. Growing up, I had elaborate, epic fantasies in which I was a Boxcar child. These scenarios were oddly sexual.

19. The last words my sister ever spoke to me were regarding my old black China flats: "Don't you have any other shoes?"

20. The best teacher I ever had was Ellen Bryant Voigt. I've had many exceptional teachers.

21. My first car was a 1970 LeMans Sports Coupe, pea green. I cried when I got it for my birthday--and not tears of joy.

22. That car got seven miles to the gallon.

23. I've been in therapy for 22 years. Off and on. Mostly on.

24. I have a recurring dream in which I'm in college again, but I've forgotten to attend one of my classes for half the semester. It's always a Math class.

25. I can forgive almost anything, but you've got to really be sorry.


A Poem for the New Year

You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.

About Me

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

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