Friday, 15 May 2015

The Clock is Running

Everyday I have things I must do.

Feed my family, laundry, dishes, breathe.

I can get lost in these tasks. Not just lose time, but actually lose me.

I breathe. I remember. I catch glimpses of my own reflection and barely recognise myself.

This time of transition is hard. It is like there is both- not enough time to get this right and too much time spent waiting for the next part to happen.

There is a great sadness that has fallen here too, like the way that a storm that comes suddenly casts a shadow on the pasture and everything is dark.....but the wind has not yet picked up and the rain is still a ways off. We know it is coming. We prepare best we can. Yet? There are still unknowns. There are still cruelties. Still small affections. All at the same time.

This is the scariest part. Waiting. Not the breaking. Not the end. This in the middle where the air is still and we hold our breath.

This is why...make food, fold laundry, wash dishes, breathe. Over and over.

How do I keep myself moving?

My friends who are runners said this: put one foot in front of the other and run until you can't. Then walk home. You don't need special shoes or special pants. You just need your feet to move. And so running has made its way into my life. I run until my heart can't take it. I break down and cry in the darkness. I walk home. The shadows of the woods have never scared me, so this is the path I run.

Sometimes I run down the gravel roads. Not as often though because the neighbours teenagers drive a little too recklessly around here. That is not how I want my story to end- roadkill. I run.

I used to tell people if you ever see me running, you'd better run too because something big and nasty is chasing me.

Y'all. I am running. This is scary and big and the only way I can make myself cry anymore. I need to cry. If I hold it all in I am going to explode and that is also  not how I want to end.

These next 18 days are pretty intense. Starting next week I have training at Drake for fall term. Holly's birthday (which I keep forgetting to plan), then ballet rehearsal for Holly, recital and more training the next week, and then pretty soon after that I leave for Europe. 18 days more or less.

See what I mean about not enough time?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Back To Work, Normal Things

One of the things I was taught growing up was simple: check my car's oil. I was also taught how to change the oil (and spark plugs). 

I take this a step further and I teach my children too. Every gas tank fill up, one kid gets to pump gas and the other gets to check the oil. They both wash windows and help clean the car up of any trash.

This task is important. Why? Why check the oil if I have no leak?

Well, this is not as obvious.

If I pop the hood open as often as that, I get to know the engine. What it is supposed to smell like. What it looks like. What the sounds are. If I am paying attention? I may spot a problem well before I become an evening news item, a burning carcass of a minivan on a rural Iowa highway. Not that I know of anyone that has happened to. Cough cough.

Seriously though, I have been able to spot issues before they become major expensive or dangerous problems. Bonus, good habits and routine keep my car cleaner than most moms I know. Every tank fill up, instead of standing there looking bored while the gas flows down the hose, I clean out the empty water bottles and discarded apple cores. Gah, I hate apple cores. I love that my kids eat them though. Better than twinkie wrappers, yeah?

My point is, now, when my breaking heart sometimes wants to give in to the chaos, little details like this make the day stay on course. Making my bed in the morning, keeping the spaces around me a little bit extra tidy and sparkly, helps calm the inner mess. The nagging that I failed at my own life, that broken home is now my reality (more on that next post), these things creep up on me and to meet them on the battle field, I come armed with Dawn dish soap and a Norwex cloth (not to be used together, no worries.....).

Back to the blog post at hand.....

To check the oil, find the oil stick. On my cruiser it is labelled with words. Sometime they are not. If it isn't super obvious, check your owner's manual.

Alright, now, pull it out, wipe it down clean with a paper towel, insert it back in and pull out again. Now you can get a reading.

Mine was half full.  It gets that way after 7 fill ups or so. The mechanic says not to worry, but to add oil when it gets below the 1/2 mark. Be careful to never put too much in though. The hash marks on the stick are where the line needs to be, somewhere in that range is good. Less is bad, more is bad.

So I needed to add just a little.

My oil cap is labelled with words on the cruiser. One past vehicle I owned it wasn't. That vehicle may have once had windshield washer fluid accidentally put where oil goes. Or vice versa. I don't remember. That wasn't the highway fire though (that wasn't me, y'all).

Anyway, be careful unscrewing the cap. It can be hot or dirty or both. Don't lose it either. Seriously. It is an important piece of your vehicle.

Add a little at a time and repeat the process for checking the level. One time on my old Volvo I added too much and the gasket cap broke. That's the kind of thing that too much oil can cause. That, luckily, was a 5$ fix. Not all things that can go wrong are that easy or cheap.

Screw it on carefully too, when you are done.

I then take a good look at everything else, wiper fluid on my car is obvious without touching it, but power steering and transmission fluids can be checked too (though I don't as often as oil).

The last step is a walk around, visual check of the tires and a peak underneath. If you can see anything leaking, make note of it.

Cars are expensive investments. They need to be taken care of. I have found that this habit is easy to put in place, get my kids involved it, and it makes driving nicer too. Clean cars just make for better travel, in my opinion. 

Before I was even allowed to learn to drive I had to know how to: change tires, change oil, and identify basic parts of the engine. Oh, and clock in 2,000 miles once I was learning to drive, before I could get a license. I had to parallel park. I had to spin circles in an icy parking lot to learn how to recover from a spin out on slick roads. I had to learn to read maps and navigate. I had to know how to pop a clutch (function of driving a 71 Beetle with a bad starter.....) and how to jump start a dead battery (love those old VW's)....

These are things anyone taking a heavy metal killing machine out on public roads at high speeds should know how to do.

If you don't? Fix that. It is important.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Feeling the Wind

Today I stepped outside, in the sunshine, with a big basket of wet clothes for the line.

These daily chores are a mediation of loss. This is not my view. This is not my clothes line. Not my ducks.

Not my farm. Not my house. Not my life.

Yet here I am, like a ghost, still inhabiting this landscape.

Last month I posted about our divorce. That post got 2000 hits in 4 hours. More than anything else I have ever written.

Yes, my life is pretty open and public, but? I have written about way more important things, y'all. Disability advocating, motherhood, peach pie? This felt simultaneously like being hugged by our community and also feasted on by vultures. Not the best feeling.

And then the hateful messages started rolling in. Not to Chad, just to me.

Accusations that I am choosing art over my family. Choosing poetry and photography and travel over my marriage.

I never said that. Not ever.

I never once said why we are divorcing, nor will I. It is a private matter and will stay one. It is not up for public critique. It is not a decision we made lightly or in the heat of an argument. It is hard and scary and one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I am not abandoning my family, in fact, I will spend more time with the kids than before and quality time. Chad and I will still be friends and I will actively be involved in the farm for a while at least. We are still a family, just not to be married to each other.

Still, in the stillness of the farm day the loss hits me. I look around at all the budding trees. Not mine. The mulberry fruit setting. Not mine. The newly planted trees, finally, and not mine.

None of this was ever really mine anyway. Legal issues and family arrangements kept me from being a legal owner in any of it. I was expected to labour for the farm under a promise that someday it would, that we could buy it. Now? Now I leave with nothing but my spice recipes and a lot of experience, perhaps the bonus of a determination not to be undersold and invisible when I start my own farm venture.

And I will. For now, I am a landless farmer, but I carry the knowledge and the blood on my hands from Spring lambing, the milk stains from staying up all night feeding a kitchen pig, the terror of crisis management after a predator attack and sewing up open wounds, warding off fly strike, the mindset required to tend bees, and the breath of the earth deep in my lungs.

These things are not negotiable. They are mine.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Like a Willow

Yesterday Holly came to me while I was brushing my hair. She said, "Mama, my chest hurts like when Oinkers died."

Oh honey. I know. I do know. Still, I asked her, "What is making your chest hurt, love?"

"You and Daddy breaking up."

Yes. I know.

This is what has silenced me for the last month. In the midst of attending the PV2 conference, AWP, attending an art retreat in NW Iowa, getting published in Literary Mama, and being accepted to a residency in Prague this summer....

Chad and I came to the mutual decision to divorce. We've been together nearly twenty years. We have three children. We've built this farm together. Yet, neither of us are happy. Our lives looked near perfect to everyone else. I'm not going to bog down these blog posts with whys and reasons. There are so many little ones, a few big ones, and none of them make any difference in the outcome. I'm not interested in people taking "sides" because we share a community and we both really need that community right now, for support and friendship and not pity or resentment.

Yes, we are both heartbroken. Yes, we are both grieving for a future that is no longer possible.

It is time for me to stop referring to the "we" and being an "I" is scary as hell.

For now we are still living in the same house while we figure out the legal aspects, plan for the care of our children, and generally untangle twenty years of co-dependance. We have a shared history, our entire adult lives. I have never been a grown woman not married to Chad.

This is where we are. If you see me and I look distant? This is why.  I know my friends and family are worried as hell about me. Just know? Know I am resilient. Know that while I leave the farm behind (because it belongs to Chad's parents) it simply means that for a time I will be a landless farmer and I will find a way back to that life. It will just look different than it does now.

Making this public? This is part of the process too.

This is the right thing to do. It is moving faster than I'd like. Still. It is moving.

I do feel like I am being grafted, removed from the root stock of hardy timber. I feel like I am dormant while I find where to graft to, or maybe grow new roots. I am like a willow, I bend and grow. Versatile and resilient. Weeping too.