Monday, October 18, 2010

I could start over.

The season of unknowingness has arrived, and it's extra-ugly this year.

It's only 50 degrees out but the briskness is telling; I'm already starting to transform. The sweats are coming out. The skin is getting dry. The mood is flattening (plummeting?). Fall is stunning but it's always been too short, too ominous to truly enjoy. It's a transition. We are moving toward the BIG WAIT, but its meaning is compounded this time around because there is the oh-so-miniscule possibility that this will be our last winter in the upper midwest.

Dare I allow myself to think such a thing? Dare I allow myself to believe that we could escape? Talking to an old friend today, I explained our situation and how we really have no idea where we will end up next year. She asked, "wouldn't it really suck to have to start over again?"

My immediate, unqualified answer: "No." And I meant it.

I have come to understand that I am not built to live here. I mentioned this to Matt last night, and I've said it before. I drove past a set of empty tennis courts yesterday and thought, hey, that would be a great place for Matt and I to play some tennis when he gets back from San Diego. Then it occurred to me: when Matt gets back from San Diego, tennis is kind of out of the question. November signifies the shutting down of traditional outdoor activities in this part of the country. Tennis is a warm weather sport--do you ever see tennis players in sweat pants and parkas? I don't think so.

Milwaukee has changed me, certainly. I used to think that California was the only place to live. I now know that isn't true. Moving here made me begin to realize that our great dastardly country is absolutely chock-full of habitable cities: places with coffee shops, theaters, festivals, music, parks, markets, colleges, airports....every state has at least a few of these. Some of em are way too full of Republicans, but hey, so it goes. This is a wonderful city, and there are wonderful people here. We will survive wherever we go...and you never know, we may even find a place we love.

But in general, I've decided, the sun isn't optional. I LOVE heat. I could sweat all day. Even in Houston this past summer--which, incidentally, I'm pretty convinced is the hottest mosquito-laden hell on this planet--I made an effort to be outside, and I was happy. The sun, the water--give me a pool, a bay, a lake, some hot weather, and I will float and splash all day and I will be content. Sure, it could get old, choking on that miserable-thick air. But I will NEVER believe it is worse than 5 months of frigidity.

Even though I know these feelings might have no influence insofar as our near future is concerned, I do believe it will influence our distal outcome. The upper midwest is a niche. Those who grew up here love this place and will never leave. We have survived three years here and we realize that it has much to offer. And maybe I am just being reactionary but lately, I think the southwest is as deep a part of me as anything else I am, or do. I adore the topography; the desert and the mountains, the colors, the diversity of the people. The horses! The cow towns!!

I could start over. I've done it before, I could do it again. I have met so many wonderful people here and overall, it has been a worthwhile experience. If we stay here another five years, we will survive. But I know we won't be here forever. It's like we are just waiting to go home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I will play the banjo, I will ride a well-broke horse through fields of butterflies, I will be happy.

I hear the crying of the hungry
In the deserts where they're wandering
Hear them crying out for Heaven's own
Benevolence upon them
Hear destructive power prevailing
I hear fools falsely hailing
To the crooked wits of tyrants when they call

I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

I hear the sounds of tearing pages
And the roar of burning paper
All the crimes in acquisition
Turn to air and ash and vapor
And the rattle of the shackle
Far beyond emancipators
And the loneliest who gather in their stalls

I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

So, while you sit and whistle Dixie
With your money and your power
I can hear the flowers a-growing
In the rubble of the towers
I hear leaders quit their lyin'
I hear babies quit their cryin'
I hear soldiers quit their dyin', one and all

I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

I hear the tender words from Zion
I hear Noah's waterfall
Hear the gentle lamb of Judah
Sleeping at the feet of Buddha
And the prophets from Elijah
To the old Paiute Wovoka
Take their places at the table when they're called

I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome to Our Neighborhood

As most everyone now knows by now, we moved. Again. We are chronically unhappy renters. If it's not the location, it's the landlord; if it's not the landlord, it's the location; if it's neither, the place is probably falling apart; if it's none of those, we can't afford it. We often browse the Shorewest Realty website, dreamily evaluating the newly available bungalows in our favorite areas. How wonderful it will be when we have our own place and we can make it what we want.

Alas, that won't be for a good, long while--negative income does not a mortgage payment make. So for the time being we have settled, yet again. But I think it's our best bad option yet!

At 49th and Lloyd, most people relatively familiar with Milwaukee would say we've anchored ourselves firmly in the hood. True--if you venture two blocks north on our very street, you might feel a bit more comfortable with a can of Mace in your purse, especially after dark. But my notion of the hood has changed drastically since we've lived here, and I think the suburbanites are a little too heavy on the generalizations. You would be very correct to assert that this ain't Tosa. We have diversity galore, we've got the occasional boarded-up home, we've even got mounted police cruising our street (which to me, by the way, is freaking awesome). But we are also one block from Hi Mount (in fact, we share an alley with the lucky folks who reside there), and two blocks from Washington Blvd; in my mind these are two of the grandest, most lovely streets in the city. Therefore, if you ask me, we are moving up in the world!

Since school is out and I'm working part-time, I feel it is my duty to explore this wondrous area. I take long, slow jogs on hot sunny days, up and down the numbered streets, admiring the homes (some grand, some tiny, but each one different, unique) and the gardens (many mature and absolutely stunning, meticulously tended). I take my time through the 50s, especially down 51st and up 53rd, then follow Lloyd up to about 68th street and turn back through the Highlands to admire what is definitely NOT the hood (I made an entry about the Highlands a couple of years ago; historic and pristine, there are no boarded up homes there). I jog back down Washington Blvd, going out of my way to run through any available sprinklers, and end with a wild and half-dead sprint up Hi Mount, enjoying the shade of the huge canopy. Before you know it, I am home:

Yes, that is our monstrosity.   It's gorgeous, but it needs work. A LOT of work.  But that's ok; we're happy.  We have either one, or six years left in this city.  But we are home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


It has been so long since I even really considered writing in this blog. I feel like no one will think to read it anymore but that's ok, this is kind of a test run anyway--I'm not sure it will stick, I'm going to try to slither back into it. Life has been too crazy to indulge in writing 'for fun'. It seems like we, as a family, have kind of hunkered down and hidden out for a lot of this year hoping to wait out the worst of the storm(s). There were some moments of emergence and some of victory--we haven't been lazy; on the contrary I think we've worked harder as an aggregate than we ever have. But it seemed more a matter of necessity than anything else, and the accomplishments have been hard-earned and not without bittersweet reminders of what was lost.

Lately, though, I've been thinking a lot about what we might have gained from all of this. Unexpected change brings inevitable turmoil, but the human response to turmoil is full of surprises, little miracles cloaked in necessity's clothing--the truth of the matter is, we don't have to do all, or any, of the things we do. Every action is the result of a decision; we are lucky enough, or cursed enough, to have that capability. I look back on this year and I realize how many people decided to do little amazing and wonderful things--unselfish, utterly helpful and supportive things. I often allow myself to feel like we live in a world of cold and unrelenting competition, that people are primarily self-interested and thrive off of others' failures. But when I think back on the past months, what comes to mind now is how many close friends and family have put in a lot of time and effort--hard work, really--simply to help each other succeed. People stepped up and came together in a truly amazing way. We are such a hodge podge, a real melting pot of step-, half-, in-law, sweetheart, 2nd/3rd, twice removed, old friend/new friend, and so on and so forth...many people defy category or title, really, but are nonetheless now part of the fabric of our survival and our success. I wish, so strongly sometimes, that some of the events leading to the creation of this fabric could be reversed; that the unexpected change leading to the turmoil leading to the decisions leading to the miracles could have been a little (or a lot) less terrifying, less life-altering...but even so, I would never want to un-weave what has so artfully been created because I have a sense that it will protect and sustain all of us in a very meaningful way for the rest of our lives.

So we continue to emerge, I think a little more confidently knowing that the fabric is there. Thanksgiving, to me, will be the true marker of how far we've come--together. To think that nearly a year ago we were all together and we had no idea what could be, what was possible--there was so much love but we were still kind of separate, timid, distant. There's no need for that now. We've been thrown in, woven together, and even though we still sometimes kind of want to kill each other I think we realize how truly lucky we are. I can't wait to be with everyone, to experience the culinary masterpieces of the more kitchen-oriented among us (ie, not me--another reason I dearly love and appreciate my family!), and to indulge in the warmth of togetherness and survival. We have a long way to go but I truly believe the foundation is there. We deserve a celebration.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'm sorry for the indulgence of my last entry. Having a blog, it is so easy to want to spread the wealth of one's emotions among all friends and acquaintances--how convenient; one half-hour and a click and the unhappiness is effectively an epidemic!

It's not fair, I know. It is, however, what inevitably happens at 2 am in a hospital when you can't sleep and you (unfortunately) have access to a computer.

At any rate, things improve. I know this, we all know this, but in the heat of the moment it doesn't stop us from being alarmist, histrionic. At first I told myself it was the 'unexpected' that really killed me, but I think I know better now. To see a parent incapacitated, for any reason, at any time in life, is devastating. What's kind of funny is that I am only now realizing that I've known many people who have been in a similar situation. I just never really understood.

Anyway, for more detailed information you can go to:
And read about Right-Hemisphere stroke. Most of the information is right on, as it relates to my mom.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

To write this is torture, but I can only hope it may bring some small amount of relief. Not that I could sleep, anyway. The ‘sleeping’ chairs, they’re about as comfortable as a mattress made of cardboard.

The force of the past weeks is enough to fell me. Everything, nothing. Everything, then nothing. The anticipation. The exhilaration. There was never anxiety or regret when it came to him, to us. We had only everything and we held it tightly, knowing how it would fly. And it did. The finest, most utterly defining and indefinite moments; the ones that sustain you, that lift and fulfill you. They flew, and then, with so little time for absorption or introspection, this inexplicably harsh transition, a sudden tumble, the fall. The lump in the throat, the loss of control. Disbelief, panic, shock. What ended, what began?

Life is happening at a rate and rhythm I can’t keep up with or comprehend. I have so little sense of place, of belonging. I am here, but I was here before for some entirely different reason that now seems bizarrely distant; and then I was there, and now I’m back; and he is there (which is just shitty, because I need him), and they are here. And she is here. And none of us are home.

How the entirety of one’s life concept disintegrates at the foot of one miniscule organic malfunction.

How the role of caregiver is passed and received, adopted and relinquished, because it must be, because there is no other way. Because the one who always filled that role so rightly and competently and completely is suddenly the one who needs care, and we all begin to struggle, out of necessity, in our little inadequate ways, to fill those shoes, to assume that part, to begin to attempt to repay what we suddenly realize is a lifetime of debt. It came so naturally to her. She is so good at it; she relished it and perhaps at times despised it; but it’s who she is.

Swallow, think. Stop thinking. Breathe. This sterile room full of light, sound, and doubt. And to think, two weeks following a house overflowing with light, sound, and joy. How to comprehend such contrasts? How could this possibly have happened? What do we do now? Who will take care of us?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let it not snow...please?

I learned early on that mid-November in Wisconsin is the beginning of the snow season, AKA hell. We had some flurries last week, and then last night we had a real shower....nothing out of the ordinary, but when my friend left our house last night there was a definite layer of snow on her car. My heart literally hurt to see it, because it's very beautiful, and yet so utterly ominous.

It was gone by the morning. I was surprised that I felt a little disappointed. That's the thing about snow--to some degree, I absolutely love it, and I love the winter. If winter lasted two months here, maybe even three, I think I could stand it. But after having experienced the euphoria of 'the first snow' last year, I know that what last night really meant was the beginning of four, maybe five, months of freezing, muddy, icy miserableness. In that light, it doesn't seem quite so lovely.

To be fair, the next month will probably not be miserable. Pre-Christmas ice and snow is kind of sweet and charming, and breaking out the boots and parka is kind of fun--for a little while. It's seasonal. People expect it, even look forward to it. But after the joys of the holiday season fade, we begin to grow weary...and then by late January we're all pretty crabby...and by the end of February, we're just pissed off...and by mid-March we've pretty much lost our will to live.

I know I need to live in the moment, to have a less negative outlook. Maybe this winter won't be as bad as the last. Maybe my *3.5 week (WOOHOO!!)* southwest sojourn will revive me and break up the winter just enough to get me through.

I will try to enjoy the winter this year. That's my goal. But I can't guarantee that my next five posts will not be about how much I hate the Wisconsin climate. I mean, seriously--it was 95 in El Cajon today. 95!!! I'm a desert creature. I'm still not entirely sure I'm made for this place.