if it’s not a hell yes

PB&J

Ashley Rodriguez wrote about this: “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” Whether it’s the best advice for me or not, I’m not sure. I say no to the stupidest things. Most often the park.

But what is good advice for me (and is really the same thing) is to put more hell in my yes. Why do I need to be so begrudging? If I’m going to say yes to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, I might as well make it a hell yes. A hell yes to walking to school without shoes on. A hell yes to the Nutcracker record (again).

Say hell yes to everything. That’s my resolution. For a couple of days, anyway.

Unless it’s a no.

seperate and together

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Helen napped and woke rough. I put her in the carrier on my back and, standing, ate my own dinner to suit my own appetite: turnips, radishes, butter, cheese, sausage, wine. I set a plate of the “proper” dinner (a roast, mashed potatoes) out for Reed and put on a podcast I have been meaning to listen to about animals in winter instead of some music. Reed at the table, Helen on my back, me at the counter, Margot still sleeping, Adam at work. So often I am set on dinner together but this was fine, too. Quiet. Better than fine.

This afternoon, a sliver of sun came out, and it was just warm. We went to pick up Reed, and the kids and parents lingered outside school, the parents talking about kids, the kids chasing each other. Separate and together. One boy had found an old dried-out lizard’s tail, and I told Reed we could not take it home, and then I changed my mind. “To observe,” he said. How could I say no to that?

NYE

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Christmas Dogs

NYE tamale making
I used to be all about the reflection, looking forward, looking back. Write something on a piece of paper and burn it. But I’m over it.

I don’t want to hear any year-in-reviews. I don’t want anything like that. I just want to put another record on, another log on the fire. There are books to be read, books to be written, roads to bike. There is a bowl of doughnut dough is waiting in the fridge for morning. That’s all I want. Another tamale. Another hike. Another good slant of sun through the window.

holi days

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This morning, I brewed the coffee to weak. There is no redeeming that.

But just about everything else is redeemable- Helen moped the floors for me, unasked, while I cleaned up lunch, shared with her sister. Margot got over her cold and found a hobby. And I remembered to relax more, to say yes more. Today.

These days we find ourselves oriented around evenings. The darkness sets in, the candles are lit, there is some music and something to eat and something to read. I am not “good” at Christmas- not in the sense of a flurry of baking or making or wrapping or shopping or activity or Christmas magic. But when darkness sets in, I can string an extra set of twinkle lights, hand you some gingerbread, ask if you want to stand up in front of the fireplace and sing a song. And that’s enough, I think. Enough for me anyway.

Christmas in California is strange, but I don’t mind. A neighbor pulled persimmons from the tree and replaced them with red and gold baubles. Biking by, she asked if we wanted any of the fruits, and now we eat persimmons like kings.

Biking, candles, slicing persimmons. Next time I will brew the coffee stronger.

when school is done

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on the gate
Some people wish they could be students forever, but not me.

During school, every room is booked. Nothing gets in except to the lobby or through the cracks in the windows and doors. I like my mind airier. Leave the doors and windows open and the floor swept and see what mosies in.

I don’t know what makes a person want to be a student forever. And I don’t know what makes a person not or how different people keep house in the rooms of their minds. I’m sure I’ll be poking around and constructing funny little theories, because I just can’t seem to resist funny little theories, no matter how old I get.

But two days ago, I submitted my final assignment, and for two days, I have felt like myself. Studenthood is fine here and there- for a while, with long breaks- but every day now (all two of them), I get to remind myself that this, right here, is it. The rest of my life. And it makes me happy.

And sure, it the rest of my life during school, too. But somehow it wasn’t.

And now it is. And it feels like stretching out on the whole bed when you’re used to sharing. And the bed has fresh sheets that were dried outside. That’s what graduation feels like. And it feels like waking up to a clean house when you have had plenty of sleep.

persimmons

afternoon

eating the batter

The first oranges are ripening and the persimmon trees are looking heavy, leaning over fences, standing over yards. One fell from the tall tree at the end of the cul-du-sac and rolled into street where I picked it up and carried it home and put in on the windowsill. Our neighborhood isn’t beautiful, but there is always something happening if you know where to look. Eating ice cream after a day by the ocean, I picked up a magazine and read about foraging olives from the trees of banks and libraries and universities. I was filled with an urgency- don’t miss it! watch for the olives! autumn will be here and gone soon! But the seasons here don’t have sharp edges. They bleed into each other, relax. Olives will linger on the trees well into winter. Today we biked around our neighborhood in the heat of midday, and I watched for the orange of persimmon trees and friendly doors I might knock on and ask to pick a few. I felt the urgency to bike! bike! bike while you can!, but I set it aside for now, and set aside the other urgencies and thrills of an autumn with winter on its way. The reds and oranges of fall this year will be found in more quiet ways, like pomegranates and persimmons leaning over fences.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

stepping back in

Everyone is healthy, and we are out for some coffee.

Summer is all about stepping out. Letting go of routines. Letting things happen when they like, grow a bit wild.

I don’t know what to expect from autumn in California. I know what it won’t mean: wool hats, apple orchards, chilly evenings kicking around a soccer ball in mittens.

But it does still mean stepping back in. Finding our habits and ways after bit of wildness. I am grateful for that, and for seasons, as quiet they might be.

on what (actually) I hate about being a parent

Studying over lunch
I have a theory (I always have a theory): the things we hate about parenting are the things we hate about life.

I might say I hate this or I hate that in this world (injustice! suffering!), but when it comes to raising my kids, what do I really hate?

All the f@$%ing doctor’s appointments.

Optometrists. Dentists. Filling out the forms and getting together all the documents and putting them in a folder, and then going down to enroll in school and finding out there is a new form and going back home and filling it out and going back again.

It’s stupid stuff to hate. But I do. And the more I think about it, it’s those things- those mundane obligations- that I really just can’t stand about life, either. At least right now.

Parenthood is so definitely not for everyone. But it has a habit of magnifying life, making the whole world so small you can see it in your own house if you keep your eyes open.

I mostly don’t. But maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.

on artichokes for dinner

San Fran street car

I bought the artichokes with anticipation, but a week and a half later they were dry and shriveled in the fridge. It was always the idea of artichokes that I loved (I didn’t try one until well into adulthood); sometime in my early teens, I had watched someone on television prepare them, peel them apart, dip each piece in butter, pull it through their teeth.

And when I first ate an artichoke like that on my birthday of last year, I loved them for what they were, too. Adam cooked them for me, then, and I had only made them once since. Not for lack of love, but because a giant thistle can be intimidating.

Tonight I didn’t expect much. I took the artichokes from the back of the fridge and snipped away the most shriveled bits. I quartered them with a serrated knife and spooned out the choke with a spoon while the kids chased each other and pretended to be superheroes. Oil and leftover wine. A big pot. Shieldman hit Elsa/Ironman with one of his shields.

The kids and I ate together, the pot of chokes in the center of the table. Peeling apart. Pulling petals through our teeth. And they tasted good. Reed, who only had artichokes once before, already had established his favorite parts, his own techniques. And I realized that my kids will remember that time we lived in California and ate quartered artichokes from the big yellow pot all spring.

on celebration, rain, roses the size of your head

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Friend Day Party

It’s been a week of celebration. Then last night the rain came- real, deep rain- and the sun came out, and everything was that bright green of new leaves, and I remembered what it smells like to be with green things after the rain.

Last I wrote, I was tired of California spring. But let me say that all around the neighborhood are roses, real rosebushes like the ones the cards paint red for the Queen of Hearts and never grow in Wisconsin. The roses are big, bigger than my cupped hands, and some smell so sweet and some don’t smell at all and some smell like the tiny rosebushes my grandmother and grandmother kept so, so carefully around back of their ranch house in Kenosha.

(Oh, I begged my mom to plant roses! And circled the gaudiest from any seed catalogs that came!)

When the clouds rolled away, the kids and I played in the puddles that were left for us, and watched the snails wander through the front garden and found a city of roly-polies. I feel better any place I am when I can look down in the dirt and see things happening. And a solid spring rain is a good thing everywhere.

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