Friday, October 07, 2011

liar, liar, pants on fire.

So many things are happening and not happening that I'm a bit lost.

Lost because I'm not writing. Lost because when I try nothing comes to mind. Lost because I finally realized that there is simply not enough time in each day to do the things I want. Lost because I want to stop the world for just awhile. Lost because I can't find time to meditate, or laugh with my husband, or cook food I like to eat. Lost because I want every day to be Saturday.

Fretting one day about how to make all of these things happen I had an awakening. All the women who blog about how you can stay up all night and write compelling copy - after eight or more hours at you day job, cooking, doing laundry, bathing your 4-year-old, reading bedtime stories, bathing, watering all the plants, feeding the dogs and cats, and catching up on Project Runway - are just big fat liars.

If they're not big fat liars, than they must be superhuman.

While most of them admit that it's difficult, they still maintain that it's doable. I just don't see it.

My typical day begins at 5:30 a.m. when I reluctantly pull myself out from under the (warm and oh-so-cozy) covers and head for the coffee pot. After getting myself ready for work I get my son ready for daycare and we're out the door by 6:45. I meet the carpool at 7, arrive at my day job by 8. After trying to be an effective marketing copywriter for 8 hours, I jump back into the car, arriving back at home at 6-ish. I sit for a minute, indulge in a single cigarette, and start dinner. I talk to Scout and Steve about their days while we eat dinner, then clean up. After dinner it's a short time for free play, followed by bedtime rituals. At 9:15, Scout is usually asleep, leaving me approximately one hour and 45 minutes to do what I want if I want to get at least six hours of sleep. During this time I must take care of my own grooming as well as be sure that regular household maintenance is handled.

The big decisions become:

Can I skip a bath tonight?
Do I really want to watch Project Runway, or should I finish that book on time management?
Can I start working on a new project, or should I just write a quick blog post?
Should I check my twitter feed?
When is the last time I called my sister?
Are thank you notes really necessary?
Can I quiet my mind enough to meditate?
Steve? I know I have a husband around here somewhere.

So no. I don't believe you when you say that it can be done. At least not in my world.

If you still claim it's possible, I have a few questions for you.

When is the last time you washed your hair?
Do you have pets?
A maid?
A stay-at-home husband?
Do you simply buy new clothes when the others are dirty?

Perhaps I'm just unproductive, worthless, a wannabe.

Or maybe not. Maybe I'm a real woman who juggles life in the best way I can. I work hard, have fascinating thoughts, love my husband, take good care of my son, and find time to laugh.

And once in awhile, I write about it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

lizards and other things

I know there is something sacred in every living thing, but this week has me trying desperately to figure out just why we have decided that it's a good thing to have six pets in the house.

Here's the thing. I was never really a pet person. Perhaps it's because most of my childhood pets were not the kid-friendly type. They didn't, as far as I can remember, wag thier tails when I came to the door. And it wasn't all their fault. I suppose my very first pet, Jaime the white mouse, just wasn't equipped to do that sort of canine thing.

The other problem was my mother, who was the farthest thing from a pet person. It was definitely a strong-arm sort of thing when my cousins brought Jaime to the house as a gift for me. She grudgingly gave in after unending begging on my part, and let me keep the mouse. Poor Jaime didn't last long. One day I came home from Kindergarten to find that he had been baked "accidently" when my mom moved the smelly cage outside to clean it, and conveniently forgot that mice don't last long in the hot sun.

Next came Prissy the Chihuahua, the offspring of my Tennessee cousins' dogs Inky and Chocolate. She too was a gift. A neurotic, yappy, nervous gift. Prissy was not allowed to venture far from the kitchen and its linoleum floors. She didn't cuddle with me in my bed at night, or lie on my stomach as I watched television on lazy afternoons. Mom didn't trust her to be a good dog. It didn't take long for my mother to find her a new home, at least that's what she said. I was skeptical and not happy. I had been somewhat fond of the pretty little blond, but we never really had a chance to bond in the ways that kids and dogs usually do.

Enter devil dog. It was a few years before Mom gave in and let us adopt dog number two. Pierre was a poodle whose first owner guessed cousin. She got married and her husband was allergic to pets. Pierre was pretty cute, but for a miniature poodle, he had an attitude. That dog was fierce when in came to uncovered meat. He once pulled two steaks off the kitchen counter which landed him, pardon the pun, in the doghouse. He was know to corner people with fast food, growling and snarling until they dropped the goods. The only thing that helped to control Pierre was the vacuum cleaner. When it was running, he cowered under the kitchen table trembling. The last straw was when he chewed up my Dad's wallet and all the contents including currency. Goodbye, Pierre.

It was years before I really felt any need to get a pet. I was in my early thirties, and all my friends were pregnant, which I claimed didn't affect me. With my biological clock ticking, I suddenly wanted something to cuddle and care for. A puppy seemed the perfect answer. I chose a name for my would be pet, and began to search for the puppy that suited this carefully chosen name. It wasn't long before I fell for a rather large 10 week old Dalmatian with a huge black spot growing around his left eye. When I met him in the Safeway parking lot, I dashed to the ATM and drew out the cash that would allow me to take him home. Bailey was my dream dog and soulmate. He erased all of the bad pet feelings I had from my past and accompanied me on many of my life's adventures during the 12 years we spent together. Because of Bailey, I was officially a pet person.

Which brings me to how I happen to find myself with six pets. Elmo (who the vet says is a "bad groomer") and Chaz (gentle and sweet) are our cats. Along with Buddy the Sheltie, they are fringe benefits that I inherited along with my husband when I said, "I do". Three seemed like a good number of pets, until I met Dori, a miniature Cocker Spaniel with a big personality. She's an in your face and in your lap sort of pup, that will take all the affection you're willing to give. I believed we rescued her from a less than pleasant life with Steve's cousin, and she couldn't be happier.

And that was enough. Until we had a baby boy.

Scout is now almost four, and loves all creatures great and small. From beetles and toads, to flies and frogs, he thinks all of nature's children should live with us. In tanks and jars and cages and aquariums, they come and go. A tadpole named Tad is now growing into a frog in a small tank on his dresser. Toad, the toad, which he rescued from the women's bathroom at the river, was humanely released back into the wild after tough negotiations. He won, and earned himself a bearded dragon.

Dragon is probably the most needy of all of our pets. He lives in an aquarium in the sunroom and dines on crickets, worms (that must be stored in the refrigerator), some sort of pellets, and various fruits and veggies. Dragon's home is equipped with a heat source to replicate the warmth he would feel lying in the sun on a rock in his natural habitat. Despite luxurious living conditions, he didn't seem happy. He was looking a little rough and was not eating the delicious crickets that we coat in calcium powder before serving. After a consultation with a lizard expert, we learned that bearded dragons can become constipated without warm baths. He now owns a hot tub. I am happy to report that his bout of irregularity has passed, and he is again enjoying mealtime.

As I clean the kennel, fill the dishes, and turn off the heat lamp, I must admit that maybe my mother was on to something. What I thought was an aversion to animals was actually self-preservation and a plea for a little down time.

I would like to say that things will change and life will get simpler, but I'm a sucker for a cute kid who thinks our house would be cooler if it were a zoo.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

traveling south dakota

Moving to South Dakota was a no-brainer for me. I packed up and moved my life because the universe put the right wheels in motion, allowing me to be in the right space at the right time to meet my soulmate. Okay, the term is overrated. But if you strip it down to the essentials, it works. My soul had met its match. The one thing my soul hadn't bargained for is that this soulmate would have a complete life in South Dakota.

With nothing holding me in Texas, except perhaps my love of really good Tex-Mex, I followed the wise little voice inside and here I am. But that's so not the story. The story is that there are things about this place that I fell in love with. And that every so often I have to remind myself that golden plains that stretch forever have a beauty all their own. Often, it's the drive to the country that gives me the chance to remember to find the things that are good, and beautiful, and worth experiencing.

On our last road trip I took some notes, and this me, observing the South Dakota east of the Missouri River.

It appears that summer has finally come to South Dakota. Corn shoots popping their heads up out of the rich soil as we drive north on Highway 29. Aging barns dot the hills surrounded by tiny fields. I am struck by the neat and even rows and the lack of unruliness. Plants grow evenly and winding paths split the neverending fields like the lead separating the colors of stained glass windows.

Strange how a stand of old cottonwoods suddenly appear and the trees spread their leaves and branches right in in middle of a perfectly groomed cornfield. Who decided to let them stand, and why?

Gray-brown barns and outbuildings show thier age, struggling to bear the weight of years. Siding holds tight to crossbeams at twisted angles and sloping metal roofs bow at passersby.

The weather has not been kind today. Strong winds and rain twisted sturdy tree trunks leaving them bending and crippled. Sheets of water washed the pavement and left puddles for geese mothers and their young to splash. The sun sets slowly in the rainwashed sky. Tinted gray, it teases us with the possibility of yet another storm.

Cows, sheep and goats feed on the still wet vegetation that grows just to nourish them.

In the distance, a windfarm rises like 100 giant tin soldiers ready for battle. Their white armor is sleek and new. Swirling blades face the setting sun in a constant salute. Some farmers sell off large pieces of their land to make room for this new breed, yet cattle graze in their shadows.

We pass fenceposts and silos, and I am reminded of the life I used to have in Texas. There are a few differences between the flat prairies of South Dakota and the neverending spans of Texas cattle country. Where there was once a rusting metal railroad bridge flanked by catci, spindly mesquite and sage brush, there is now a solitary oak and a huddle of hay bales.

If memory serves me, the stretches of emptiness along Texas roadways offered a bit more color and had more signs of a history. Out here, one farm leads only to another, and while I know that men and women have lived on this land for hundreds of years, they have left few signs other that the cultivated fields.

Beauty? It can be found everywhere if we take the time to look.

Friday, July 22, 2011

mommy space

A couple of months ago I decided that sharing the ride to work made perfect sense in my world. I could save money and have some company riding through the cornfields on my way to the office in Iowa. I talked to a colleague, who made the same daily trek from the city and we planned to begin the following week.

Monday came. I arrived at her house and parked, waiting for her to emerge with her toddler in tow. Unlike most carpools, our third participant is under the age of two. Greta's day care provider is just a mile or so from our office. Little did I know how much this little bundle of energy would affect our journey each morning.

At first, she was definitely not down with having another human being to steal mommy's attention. The more we talked, the more needs she vocalized. More milk, more crackers, more books, more toys. Look at me, Mommy, I'm talking to you.

Over the past few weeks she has learned a few tricks. When Mommy won't respond, Melissa will. Since the novelty has worn off, she's likely, on most mornings, to do her own thing and only raise the volume when something is seriously bin has tipped or she's lost a shoe, or found a shoe, or thinks there's something interesting about her shoe. I'm good with this. She makes us laugh and fills up the time with her little observations.

What I didn't count on was the safe mommy space carpooling has created for two full time writers who also happen to be mothers of preschoolers. It's just not cool to bring mommy issues to work. Our associates don't want to hear about every cute comment uttered, each milestone reached, and the sleepless night spent cradling a sick kid.

On the other hand, our precious carpool is perfectly suited to indulging in mommyhood full force. I can tell her how funny it was when Scout explained the features and habitat of the marmoset and the peregrin falcon without worrying that she'll be bored. She knows I'll share her joy when Greta sings the entire alphabet song without prompting. She mentions how tired she is of changing dirty diapers, and I reassure her that it will end. I share my frustration that people in my family give me a hard time about being overprotective, and she understands. Food allergies, great toys, where to get a deal on used books...all of these are relevant and important in our mommy space.

Best of all, there's no one to judge us or roll their eyes, except perhaps Greta, who is perfectly content, as long as we respond when she says, "oops."

Friday, July 08, 2011

white - a poem

I was born white
the daughter of two middle class Americans
with the blood of Germany, Hungary, France, a Canadian tracker
and maybe a little slave girl and a Mexican farm worker tossed in for color.

I chose this life
as you did yours
long before the coupling which brought about my birth
chose this life of privilege
where there is no worry about getting killed on my street
And I ate purple popsicles from the front porch of a white house
with a lush lawn
and petunias planted down the walk

And I do not apologize to you for my white life

I cannot feel the shackles that rub your ankles raw
and bind your wrists
I cannot feel the pain of your multicolored soul
growing up in the middle of a war zone
streets painted with blood and graffiti
while I finger-painted flowers and rainbows at my mamma’s kitchen table

I do not know the struggles you faced just getting by
while your daddies and brothers were rounded up by white cops
for the color of their skin and being in the wrong place at the wrong time
My daddy drove his truck home every day at five

And I am not sorry

I did not hear gunshots in the street over the songs my mother sang to me in my cradle
I listened to the creek water trickle over rocks
while dogs barked and the wind brushed across my face

And I am not sorry

What do you want from me black man? Latino woman? Navajo child?

You do not want my skin – pale and freckling, burning in the sun
You do not want my sympathy – the struggle has made you strong enough to reject my well-intentioned overtures
You do not want my money – you are proud and independent
You do not want my history – yours is rich and all your own

What do you want from this white girl?

You say “nothing” and I don’t believe you as you look at me with suspicious eyes

I think you want me to pay for the sins of my father, and his father before
And I hope that I’m wrong, because I cannot fix your history, mend the rent fabric of your tattered blanket or glue together the pieces of your wounded soul.

There is no band-aid to heal the wounds left on the red skin of the natives or on the land stolen and scarred with skyscrapers and mini malls

And that’s the problem – you have to live with it and I have to live with it
Your blood boils and I can’t cool it off – not with a smile or a loving embrace or even an acknowledgement.

I want to will the injustice of the past away and share my purple popsicle, but it’s too late and your daddy didn’t live on my street.

All I can do is tell the children, the young and color blind
Teach them that graffiti and finger-painting are good for the soul
Teach them to share their purple popsicles ‘til the world runs out

And no one has to be sorry

Melissa Bachara Rohwedder - May 2003

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Friday, May 20, 2011

it's my party

Sometimes life just sends you a party. I love it when that happens. At the end of the day, all of those parties just add up to a pretty spectacular life, and I know I am blessed.

It all started when I got on a plane bound for Nashville. I have lots of family in Nashville, and hoped that somehow, despite the business I was here to do, I would be able to carve out some time to visit and reconnect with these people that I love. So I called cousin Marty, knowing that if anyone can turn an ordinary day into a party it's him. And as expected, he delivered. He spread the word that I would be in town and picked out an amazing Mexican restaurant as our meeting place. There was a plan.

After working the convention, I was looking forward to seeing Marty, his Maw, and at least a couple other cousins. But when I arrived at the restaurant, I was so surprised that there were about 20 of the most wonderful people in my life there to say hello and eat. We always eat. Beth came despite the fact that a recent surgery left her temporarily voiceless. Candy was there. Liana and Billy and their kids were there. I talked to Wendy about life and yoga, and Rachel about remodeling her bathroom, and Aunt Anna about her recent rebound from not being well. Every conversation was a delight, and I smiled real smiles and felt totally home in a city hundreds of miles away from Sioux Falls.

I loved my party and it made me realize that no matter how long or how far, family is what really connects us all. Somehow, even when the invitation is late, they show up. How cool is that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I miss you old friend. You were good with words and wrote compelling things that others might find inspiring, or at least entertaining. I sat with you in the quiet hours of the night, you at the keyboard turning keystrokes into stories and thoughts into poetry. Then one day you were just gone.

I long to see you again, find you somewhere in the back of my head. I wait, not as patiently as I may have done in the past, hoping you'll show up with a flash of inspiration that leads to something bigger.

Occasionally I think I smell your perfume, just enough to make me hope that perhaps you've returned. I pick up a pen and scribble a few words, but they go nowhere, and I know I was wrong. So I will wait.

You were here with me once and I know you have not wandered far. For you are as connected to me as my own fingertips. I think perhaps you need some rest. Your life has been full, and hectic, but such an adventure. Chaos and quiet they are the same to you and are the source of all that you put on the page. And when you're finished resting I will be here. I have time to wait, and no choice really. For without you I am nothing. Without you I cannot breathe.

So when you decide to return I will be waiting still. I will feel you in my soul and know the time for rest has ended, and I must write.