Seismology

It was the most benign of moments. We were standing in the laundry room. I was folding Dave’s boxer shorts, trying to talk to him over the competitive interruptions of Gwen, who is evidently in the throes of an Electra Complex. Seriously, can I have a conversation with my husband without you honing in, you…you…little Harpy?

Yes, that is basically the exact thought that ran through my brain as I stood there folding my husband’s underwear, competing with my six-year-old daughter for his attention. Then a low rumbling sound interrupted us all, along with a series of slow, rolling shakes and flickering lights.

Dave and I froze and stared at one another, silently trying to decipher the source of that faint thunderous sound and tremors moving our house. My mind quickly ran through a list possible explanations. Train? No, we’ve moved from the houses situated near commuter trains. Boiler exploding? Holy shit, I hope not!

“Is that an earthquake?!” Dave asked.

“Holy shit, I think it is!” I responded.

Gwen, who was standing between us, immediately began shrieking. Her eyes widened with terror.

“It’s okay, Gwen,” I said, instantly sorry we’d forgotten she was listening to our every word.

“I don’t want to die!” She screamed. “We’re all gonna die!”

Rather than running to David, she ran to me and jumped up, demanding to be held. As soon as I picked her up, her arms locked around my neck, almost completely cutting off my air supply. She continued emitting a series of hysterical screeching noises in my right ear, which promptly began ringing.

Despite her terror, I was slightly annoyed. I know, what kind of mother exhibits annoyance at a moment like that?

Me.

And I’m admitting it to the world at large – to my tens of readers. I am the type of mother who feels annoyed when faced with the possibility of temporary hearing loss and suffocation.

Mostly, as I stood there turning blue, I recalled that time last year when Dave treated the kids to a viewing of 2012. Don’t you remember? It was that John Cusack movie that tried to profit on the public’s fear of the apocalypse. If not, trust me, you didn’t miss much.

Well, that movie was rated PG-13. Dave rented it a year ago yet, Gwen only recently got over the phobia that developed after watching it. To help her work through that intense fear of earthquakes and general world destruction, we told her earthquakes never happen in Maine. Not ever.

We’re so fucking smart.

Last night, Mother Earth demonstrated that we are, in fact, a couple of morons. An earthquake centered just about five miles from our house sent us this message and it was delivered via a good shaking and some deep rumbles.

“You lied to me,” Gwen sobbed into my neck. “You said there were no earthquakes in Maine.”

Oh, the guilt of a mother is a real mother

I’m a writer, not a seismologist for Christ sake. Granted, I knew I was making a bit of gamble when I told Gwen Maine never has earthquakes. At the time, that little voice in my head actually said, “Oh, you’re going to regret that someday, stupid!”

Now, I usually pay attention to that voice but last year I truly believed the chances of a 4.0 earthquake occurring in Maine were slim. By west coast standards, our earthquake was pitiful. I know this. You know this. Gwen did not know this.

Gwen’s frame of reference for earthquakes involved gaping, man-eating cracks in the earth. She was expecting hot magma, death, and destruction. She was waiting for that moment when we’d plunge to the depths of…of… I don’t know, Hell? And what did Dave and I do? Did we run like the guy in the movie, protectively sweeping his children into his arms whilst dodging explosions and fissures? No. We stood in the laundry room staring at one another like a couple of dopes and holding onto underwear.

It’s not difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a six-year-old and know the extent of her terror when you’re writing a memoir using your own six-year-old voice. When, on a daily basis, you…I, relive the fear and confusion of my six-year-old self. When I recall that break in trust – that moment when I realized my parents were human and maybe weren’t the smartest, or strongest or most beautiful two people in the world – that parents are sometimes wrong.

And so I was wrong.

Last night Mother Earth gave me a not-so-subtle reminder that in the future, maybe I should take a slightly less lazy approach to quelling my daughter’s fears. Like, maybe I should have explained fault lines and cited statistics and discussed tectonic plate shifts with my then five-year-old. But I didn’t. Instead, I looked at her, sighed, and then took the easy route. I soothed her fears with a know-it-all statement about earthquakes never happening in Maine and, a year later wound up being choked, rendered deaf in my right ear and eating my words.

Today, I discussed tectonic plate shifts, fault lines and whatever basic seismology is available to me via the internet. Overboard? Maybe, but Gwen lost a little bit of trust in us last night. Education is the best way to combat fear, right? My goal is to rebuild her trust and let her know that we were as surprised by those tremors as she was.

Gwen is better today. She’s interested in the kid-friendly earthquake information I’ve been reading with her. Her nerves are no longer raw.

Now, let’s just pray that Frankenstein doesn’t appear.

Creative Outlets: How I Try Not To Lose My Mind

During my last MFA residency, a wise group of women authors/faculty members led a presentation about creativity. In other words, what writers do when we aren’t painting portraits with our words. Come to find out, writers are also talented graphic designers, knitters, artists, musicians, photographers and interior designers. Yeah, yeah, I know there are other creative pursuits, but these are the ones that hit home for me. The ones that spoke to me. Those creative outlets that faculty members discussed as fuel for writing and those fulfilling pursuits that we escape to when our word well has temporarily dried up.

February brought draught-like conditions to Narragansett No. 7 and to those more serious writing projects I’m currently working on. The ones I am attending graduate school to perfect…under the tutelage of those aforementioned authors/faculty members.

In the midst of last month’s barfing, coughing, cleaning, nurturing, crying, sleeping and mental breakdowns, I began questioning my choice to attend graduate school. I did that thing that so many writers do and I decided that I am most certainly not a writer.

For the 1,457,962nd time, I came to the conclusion that everyone else at Stonecoast is a serious writer and I’m just there by some fluke. Some day, those smart faculty members and writers diligently pursuing their MFAs are going to find out and they’ll all laugh at me. They’ll point and they’ll laugh and then they’ll all tell me to leave after dumping a secretly stashed bucket of pig’s blood on my head at the next Stonecoast prom. (You have to be a Stephen King fan to appreciate that list bit.)

See how whacked out I became last month? I’m the first to admit that I do this every so often and I’m finding out that many writers go through similar patterns of self-doubt.

So I went with it. I decided to let my word well fill up again and I read a few of the books assigned to me for this semester. Mostly, I just tried to forget about the pressure of the writing part. I realized that I must have faith in my ability and the learning process and that the words always find their way back to brain. (At least, this is what I repeated to myself over and over again.)

Aside from reading, I nested.

1. I ordered chickens. 8 chickens to be exact. They will arrive during the second week of April. Prepare yourself for the insanity.

Not my Domoniques - photo courtesy Wikipedia

2. Two nights a week for two weeks, I made dinner for my family plus two others. Remember when I shared that post about my friend Jess? She’s home and recovering from surgery but we’re all trying to help out in any way we can. I also cooked dinners for the family of a little boy named Finn who went to Gwen’s preschool last year. Finn is being treated for brain cancer and I hope to post more about him in the next few weeks as they are at the point where fundraising has become needed. And prayers. Don’t forget the prayers.

Jessica and her beautiful family

3. In the name of St. Valentine, I made cake pops and Oreo cookie pops and blew the insides out of eggs  and cut heart-shaped pieces of watermelon. And I did this while I should have been writing.

4. I entertained a cursing fairy to the point of exhaustion. She slumbered in a beanbag on the kitchen floor. Presumably having dragged it there to escape her mother’s manic creative pursuits and ADHD-riddled thought patterns. Note to self: adults with short attention spans confuse the shit out of children. Please don’t forget the ADHD medication.

Swearing fairies require naps up to the age of 4

5.  I became addicted to Pinterest whilst nursing my children into the wee hours during the now infamous Barf Fest of 2012.

6.  I was overcome with the need to make some changes around the house that we just moved into and which I just made changes to last year. But that’s me. I like to make things pretty. In fact, I struggled between returning to grad school for that MFA or pursuing a degree in Interior Design. Somehow the thought of bitchy women being bitchy about something I designed didn’t appeal to me, so I opted for the MFA.

Anyway…Pinterest sparked that creative side of me that dives headfirst into design projects and I spend my writing dry spell on little projects like this: 

Joe's dresser, newly painted and with knotted rope handles. I'll post more on this later!

 And this…

 
The Valentine’s Day eggs that I blew out, painted and then proceeded to shove tiny messages of love inside off. Damn you, crafty Pinterest people. Damn.You. Life was much easier back when I just went to the store and grabbed a couple of Hallmark cards and some chocolate.
 
And this…

The girl's bedroom - undergoing some changes

 
Gwen and I went to My Sister’s Garage in Windam, Maine and she fell in love with a vintage children’s room they had so perfectly arranged. For those of you not in the area, My Sister’ Garage is a local antique/vintage shop that gives new life to furniture and collectibles and I just love to go there. They will be at Brimfield in May if you want to check them out. They also have a website with just a sample of some wares. Pop over and take look. Gwen loves My Sister’s Garage much that she cried last week when I said we wouldn’t have time go. I think I have pickin’ partner in Gwen because she has inspired a new vintage bedroom for herself and Kate. I’ll post more about this later in the week.

photo courtesy My Sister's Garage

So there you have it. This is what I was doing during the month of February when Narragansett No. 7 sat collecting dust and the only thing I was writing were status updates. Sometimes, you just need to take a little vacation from what you love. And that’s okay.

Snakes in Maine

Did you know that Maine has no venomous snakes? We were informed of this tidbit while house-hunting two summers ago, as if that bit of knowledge would suddenly cause us to say, “Oh, well in that case…we’ll take this house right now!”  Being a natural skeptic, I simply nodded my head at the realtor and smiled real pretty-like, reserving my sarcasm for the privacy of our car.

I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could absolutely know whether or not poisonous snakes exist in a state filled with vast amounts of wilderness. Not only that but, how exactly, does one keep a snake from entering the state? Is there some kind of sentinel standing watch at the border of Maine and New Hampshire? “Can I see your papers please?” The visiting venomous snake pulls out some forged papers claiming that he is a common milk snake and hands it to the snake sentinel. “I’m sorry, sir…your photo looks nothing like you, you’ll have to turn around. We don’t like your kind in Maine.”

I subjected David to a relentless monologue about Maine and snakes after the realtor provided that weird (suspicious) piece of trivia. I have a hard time letting things go and, just as the ride settled into a comfortable silence, I’d ask, “So…do snakes just stop at the state line? Is there some invisible poisonous snake-repelling force field?” or, “Maybe the poisonous ones choose to avoid Maine. So….what? Maine’s not good enough?” I huffed, “Those elitist jerks.” We tend to engage in these types of conversations on road trips. Mostly because we’re slightly twisted and also because we make each other laugh with ridiculous scenarios.

Have you ever visited Maine? The first thing that you see as you cross the state line is a giant sign proclaiming that this is a state that lives life the way it should be lived. Evidently, whoever decided that living “The Way Life Should Be” also decided that life shouldn’t involve venomous snakes.

This morning I walked out of the house to find all three children huddled at the side of the driveway. Upon hearing the screen door shut, they all looked up and began talking simultaneously in a mixture of unintelligible squeals and excited sentences punctuated by high-pitched voice cracking. “Wait…what did you say?” Joe stood and ran toward me holding his hand out, “We found a snake, Mom!” I realized that the hand he was holding out was wrapped in a brown snake and my heart momentarily skipped a beat. Thankfully, I remembered that suspicious claim about Maine having only non-venomous snakes. I’m obsessive enough to have checked the facts and, short of contacting the State Wildlife Agency to confirm, I’m going to proceed living life the way I should…without fear venomous snakes. (The last known sighting of a Timber Rattlesnake in Maine was in 1901.)

Here’s our new (and likely temporary) friend, Mr. Baby Snake a/k/a Bing Bong. I can’t make this shit up.

Of course, after warning that snakes should never be picked up unless you know they aren’t poisonous and even harmless snakes bite, I let Joe hold Mr. Baby Snake who showed no signs of aggression. Plus, his tiny little head wasn’t threatening at all. I suspect that his mouth was too small to get a serious hold on kid fingers. Besides, how could I resist this textbook -boy” moment of exploration? Look at him… I love that smile and his new, too-big-for-his-face front teeth. I’ll think about the orthodontist bills later. For now I’m going to relish his final days as a six-year-old, big crooked teeth and all.

After he’d begrudgingly boarded the school bus and the grumpy bus driver shot me the hairy-eyeball, I realized that I was standing in the driveway in my nightie and a sweater. Whatever… we were having a moment. Besides, she’s pulled up and caught us doing The Robot and playing dead at the end of the driveway, I think it’s safe to assume her opinion of our family has been formed, nightie or no-nightie. (Do people even use the word ‘nightie’ anymore?)

Anywho… Joe was gone and the snake, now renamed Bing Bong, was subject to two inquisitive little girls who proceeded to poke him and decorate him with ornamental leaves. Bing Bong needed to look pretty for his journey home.

 

*Other than a bit of psychological trauma, Bing Bong escaped unharmed.

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