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Spring

25 Apr

run to the lake

sleeping bags nest next to the spangled underpass walls

I should really buy some special shoes

next to the Jewel the sidewalk says “everything is made new”

pass under a tree turned out and I hear a steady voice

a dot-scoll-sign reads behind my eyes

“you’re blossoming”

 

At the time, I was feeling pretty high on life and possibilities.  I was about to jump off some cliffs – nothing major in the big picture, but I made some moves toward things I’m interested in.  I reached for some things I’ve never reached for before.    I was hopeful, and that feeling always gives life a special shine.

So next, a thing that hasn’t happened for a long time happened – my luck came in.  I felt so happy –bursting , even.   I felt a little proud of myself.  Not big-deal stuff, but new stuff.  Challenging stuff.  Exciting stuff.

Now here I am.  Lucky, but not totally prepared.  I have to show up and learn how to do some things that, as it turns out, are hard for me.   There are new people who don’t seem to appreciate my special brand of awkwardness and quietness – my trying too hard (and I still don’t understand how that’s even a thing).

I liked the flower part.  All by myself with a brand-new idea.  I liked the liminal space – the hopeful shine as I ran for the third day in a row.  But I ran under that tree yesterday – in the new shoes I got, – now a couple weeks in and still running – and the flowers were gone.  Now it’s just gnarly little buds trying to make fruit, I guess.  I can’t really tell.   And they just keep being kind-of ugly, and small, and the same.  The gnarly nubs are just relentlessly there – being – doing something – becoming – but not in a satisfying growth-chart sort of way.  They just keep showing up.  Not even showing up because they never leave.  They’re just there.  God.  This is taking forever.

What’s that called again?  Oh right, spring.  I forget what spring feels like every time.

On Motherhood – an excerpt

11 Feb

Behold!  An excerpt of a larger/longer piece I’m working on concerning motherhood that I hope will be advice and jokes and most of all telling the truth:

The hard thing that I just couldn’t bring myself to say in the moment, because you were crying, is that the answer is “no one.”  No one will take care of you anymore.  Or maybe more accurate is to say that being taken care of will never be the same – will never be quite right.  You will always be the end of the line.  There is support, there is help, there is partnership, but there is never the same sense that it could ultimately fall to someone else.  It will always be yours and you will always be alone in this way.

This is devastating until one day you wake up and realize that you’ve become so strong, so capable, with a sky-high threshold so that you are able to sustain yourself from your own stores.  You have become smarter, more flexible, to be able to find whatever rest you need in the 4 minutes you’ve got without even a glancing thought to the 4 days you probably need.  Need?  No.  Could use.  If those 4 days, or 4 hours come, you will be shocked at what you can do.  Anything.  You can rebuild a career, shop for all of the necessary supplies, rest the deepest parts of you.  You will be beautifully pragmatic.  You will be fresh air.

In your work you will find fresh intolerance for bullshit.  The tyranny of the blank page?  Are you fucking kidding?  You will come to find that most of the problems your colleagues imagine are unspeakable luxuries which they just cannot shut their festering face holes about.  It’s not their fault – it wasn’t yours either.  But you are on the other side of knowing now, so allow yourself a wry smile at their charming idiocy and get down to tearing your projects a new one in half the time.  With one arm.  With someone sucking on whatever part of you (and not in a fun college kind of way).  By saying over and over again “just a minute.”  You’ll be vicious.  You’ll be smart.  You’ll be steely sure in your choices.  You will come to discover the great gift that having no option is.  Your work will thrive.  Don’t give up.  Do everything you want to do with everything you’ve got.  You can’t afford bullshit anymore and your audience, whoever they are, will thank you for that.

You won’t be “stressed” anymore.  You won’t be tired.  You’ll find that what other people lazily use these words for are stagnant, binary states.  You’ll come to discover the gradation and pinpoint your range of and in these feelings.  As your threshold expands, you’ll notice that you can function beautifully, even thrive in heightened states of these feelings.  It’s not sad, it’s amazing.  You can adapt.  You’re already doing it.  Give yourself every credit and notice your incredible impossible transformation.  You’re doing it.  You’re it.  You are an artist and your state of being is your work – magnificent.  Nobody sees quite right, but you’re beyond even that – transcendent.

GET OUT! ALL CAPS MEANS BUSINESS!

15 Jan

My best friend in the world is having a baby any day now.  Needless to say, I am over the moon.  But I’m here, on her behalf, just incase that stubborn little fetus has some kind of smart phone up in thrr to say before all-y’all on the interwebs (and possibly said stubborn fetus) that IT’S TIME – GET OUT!  YOU’RE GETTING DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO LOSING YOUR DEPOSIT!  Ladies who’ve gestated can attest to the fact that at the very end you become FUCKING DONE.  Not “done.”  “Done” is a state you semi-peacefully enter a week before FUCKING DONE.  “Done” is uncomfortable.  FUCKING DONE is sharpening knives and making visual aids to assist you in your plan to peel your own skin off.  “Done” is hopeful if a little exasperated.  FUCKING DONE is a wellspring of despairing tears generated by the realization that you’re going to spend the rest of your life with a douchebag of a baby lazing the days away on your bladder.  “Done” is a state of curiosity:  “I wonder when tiny love will be born?  Gosh, I sure hope it’s soonish.”  FUCKING DONE is inserting a twix like a tampon, crazy eyes ablaze, in the hope that your bundle of jerk will clamp his awful jaws down and that you’ll be able to just kind-of pull him out.

Did I ruin fishing for you?  At the very least I think I probably put us all off twix bars for a while.  Rest assured, my pal hasn’t attempted any of these things (and won’t because, you know, she’s not sick in the head like certain best friends of hers…).  But the fact remains, the tail end of the homestretch of pregnancy is a bitch.  Now, as you may recall, I absolutely loved giving birth.  Loved it.  It remains my absolute favorite day(s) of my life.  And let me be clear, my favorite part was NOT the baby-in-my-arms-at-the-end part – that part was pretty good too – but it was the labor itself.  I loved labor and really hope I have the opportunity to do it again.  I say this so that you’ll know that I’m not one of those “everything sucks about having children/your life is over/awful thing about hotdog-hallway” types.  But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?  It’s no fun waiting for a totally unknown experience after months and months of waiting for a totally unknown experience.  The fact that our culture presents labor as something overwhelmingly negative doesn’t help, but funnily enough, the part that no one is talking about that actually does suck your gross uncle’s balls is the waiting at the very end.

Do you enjoy a quick transition?  Good.  Me too.  So here’s this thing I wrote for my BFF’s blessingway (click on that to confirm that yes, it’s exactly as mystical/naked-in-the-woods/drinking (menstrual) blood as it sounds).  I hope you think it’s pretty.  More than anything, I hope that little (sure-to-be-adorable) asshole has the good sense to get hisself born-d.  Because it’s no fun to be FUCKING DONE.

I Think You Might Be The Lion

What is there to say other than what we said the other day?  That it’s an absolute mystery until you are waist deep in it – always with the water.  In tides.  Ebbing and flowing.

That the only difference is the input.

And you and I know all about that.

All of a sudden I remember you.  I am standing by that piece-of-shit stereo.  It’s playing some track – that Sufjan album, or Regina Spektor or Animal Collective.  I’m watching.  Not facing you, but looking at the mirror.

You stepped up onto Rachel’s back, impossible, but onto the back of her neck and I knew for sure that you were going to be okay.  Because even though it was dangerous and didn’t make sense – it shouldn’t have worked – it was so so beautiful and charged with the third thing.  The essential real movement.  And Jamie was an asshole like always.  He reached for your hand, but you were already gone.  Up.  Up.  Up.

That should have been such a mess.  I saw you, perfect – strong without trying – in being.  Balanced.

And so I know that you are smart enough.  Not in the way of knowing how to, or working, or any of that – you’re those things too – but this is to say smart in the deep way of falling with a welcome spirit for the ground – a deep trust that you already have what you need.

In freedom.  In radical subversive tenacity.  Not with gritted teeth, but screaming out an open window in March.  Still snow on the ground,but on the first warmish day.  Flying down Broomfield, Meridian, Isabella.

In not even stepping up onto her neck, but finding yourself there and making – deep inside –  the shift to say yes.  “Yes, and.”  Responding to whatever part pulled you up there in the first place.  Knowing that it’s Rachel underneath you.

And of course, this is the leap – that birth is the best improvisation.  You will never have to reach for the third thing because it will be the current you’re in.  Instead of snatches – seconds long miracles of presence – your attention will be perfectly wrapped – knit into the intensity that becomes a total reprieve from everything else.   Physical, immediate, intuitive.  You have prepared so long.  Before you knew your body like now.  Getting ready even back when your hair blew like a lion’s mane in the parking lot – sweaty and cold.  The new magic is brave from the outside but impossibly clear and free from choices inside – so that after this long I am anxious and glad for you to know perfect work in birth, because I know that it will mean so much to you.

And that small fierce punch of color that wells up inside of you, and defies anyone to ask if you could love something that’s so hard and withholding, will gush out again – carrying you up, up, up, just like I remember.

Rehearsal Today

5 Jan

This morning, Ida accompanied me to rehearsal.  I am working on a piece that I presented for the first time a few months ago called Best Wishes.  It will be presented in a couple of weeks as part of Rhino Fest in the Food and Performance Cabaret.  I get to do it on 4 consecutive Mondays in January and February.  As I planned my rehearsal schedule for this show, I decided that it would be loads easier if I just took Ida with me.  I like to work early in the mornings, often, and for short periods of time, so coordinating childcare is nightmarish.  I also decided that Ida would probably enjoy these outings, and would probably be a very nicely behaved companion.  I congratulated myself on making a well-reasoned decision, and for not putting off the planning until the last possible minute.  Being organized feels so satisfying.

We woke, I gave Ida breakfast and got her ready, and then I rushed around trying to get myself ready (abandoning breakfast and a semi-urgent shower in the fray) and gathering our supplies.  I was feeling harried and irritated that I hadn’t just arranged for someone to look after her.  I felt the injustice of living with a two-year-old’s sense of time and urgency.

  • Use toilet:  5 minutes
  • Put on shoes, coat, gloves, hat:  2 minutes
  • Negotiate and broker willing participation in the above activities:  45 + minutes

We got out the back door, me having just eaten a fist-full of cold spaghetti for fortification, and briskly hustled down the alley and to the train.  I swiped my transit card, ushered Ida through the turnstile, yanked on the stroller-handle to fold it up, and dragged us and our baggage up the two flights of stairs to the platform.  We just made it onto the train that pulled in as we rushed up the last few steps and instantly knew who in that train car has done this before (look of solidarity) and who has/will not (irritation upon getting banged in the shin with stroller – not that I really blame them, but what exactly do they suggest I do?).  We sat.  We exhaled.  We watched as neighborhoods came and went.  Ida and I both love riding the train.

We arrived and walked to the rehearsal space.  More stairs.  More schlep.  I tried to focus my attention on being grateful that my strong body could move and haul with relative ease.  It helped.

Ida was nervous to enter the rehearsal space.  She’d been there before to see me perform, but something about it made her scared this morning.  She took my hand and was, like always, very brave.  We set up our stuff.  I explained again what we were doing here.  “Mama is going to do some dance work now.  We can share this space for the next hour – you can play with your toys, eat your snacks, or you can do some dance work if you want to.  Please don’t touch the stereo or my laptop.  And please don’t yell.  There are going to be sometimes this morning when I won’t answer you if you ask me a question or need help – I’ll be able to do it in a few minutes, but sometimes I am going to be busy even though I’m right here.”

I started warming up.  Ida watched for a few minutes and then joined me – walking around the room, rolling her head, moving her arms.  It was beautiful and so much fun.  For the rest of the rehearsal, she would alternate between snacking/playing in a spot in the folding chairs set up in the back, and dancing with/near me.  It was peaceful, and easy, and even better than I imagined it.  It worked.  More than that, I loved it.  I really like being alone, but sometimes being alone in rehearsal feels endless in the bad way – empty and cold.  Ida provided warmth and accountability.  She would know if I just sat there staring off into space rather than dancing like I said I would.

Later in the hour, it was time for me to do a run-through of the piece I’m working on.  I explained this to Ida and asked if she might like to draw.  She said yes.  I started and had a (predictably) rough and frustrating go of it – this piece has been sitting unattended for a long time and I knew it would be tough to get back in, having had this same experience the last time I worked on it.  “This is why I’m rehearsing” I reminded myself.  Although, that makes having to perform shitty run-throughs only marginally more palatable.  Improvisation is no joke – the idea of “making it up as you go” seems so care-free and easy, and it can be, but, in my experience, it only becomes easy and fun after you’ve worked really hard at it – turning the possibilities inside and out, tearing out seams, adjusting, calibrating feelings/presence – basically just being tenaciously bad at it until you start being good.  Showing up.  Laying your self out for it.

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of these things, and slogging through this run-through that just will not end, and doesn’t seem to ever be going well, and suddenly Ida is standing in front of me.  She’s holding up a granola bar and she says “Please open this Mama.”  I know what I said, and I’m a big believer in consistency, but it was exactly what I needed, so I did it selfishly.  My own recorded voice was reading this overly emotional thing about baking bread and then my daughter was right there and I was already so far tangled in the weeds, so I reached out and opened the granola bar.  I did it improvisationally.  I did it with my full attention.  Ida took a bite and then offered me some.  I took it and the moment deepened and became even more perfect.  And I finished the run-through – breezed through it – coming to the end feeling grateful to have been in it rather than grateful that it was over.  More than anything, I finished feeling grateful for Ida.

In a minute after I finished, and before I needed to start hustling Ida into her winter gear and out the door so that the next artist could get into the space on time, I wrote this about our morning:

1/4

Ida with me at rehearsal.  She walks in circles, rolling her head – just like i walk in circles, rolling my head.  We’re warming up.  This is a huge success.  She is engaged, interested, and free – sometimes participating as a mover with me, sometimes as a watcher.  She claps.  I realize, at one point, that I’m sick of working on this, and she offers me a peeled clementine – the first time she’s done this without help.  I start the run-through – the thing we – I – came here to do.  She watches for a while, and then I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  She’s entered the dance space, left her folding chair surrounded with notebook, pencils, charlie brown and her dustpan and broom.  She is bringing me a granola bar as I hear my own voice recite a slick/sweet thing about baking bread.  And all of a sudden, a shift -we share the granola bar, performing, eating, blurring even more the lines between us, our work, our roles.  Wednesday morning.  We are learning.

City Living. Sigh.

4 Nov

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I love Chicago.  I love the energy.  I love the art.  I love raising my kid amid so much activity and opportunity.  I love my neighborhood.  I love being able to walk for 5-10 minutes and arrive at:

  • Lake Michigan – the beach and the beautiful lakefront park
  • The Redline
  • Women and Children First and other great local businesses
  • Several grocery stores (All-organic?  Sure.  Super-cheap produce?  Yup.  Mega-chain?  Yes-huh.)
  • multiple playgrounds
  • Award-winning lattes
  • Our neighborhood branch of the Chicago Public Library
  • My parents’ apartment
  • My brother and sister-in-law’s apartment
And all of this without even mentioning the food.  Oh, the food.  The hardest thing is choosing where to go.  Because all of the following are a 5-10 minute walk from our front door:  Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese (both sushi and home-style cooking!), Thai, Vietnamese (Pho and those irresistible sandwiches*), Southern, some of the city’s best bars, Huey’s Hot Dogs, Italian, Middle Eastern, and all manner of new american.  We even have a restaurant in the neighborhood that focusses on Dutch cuisine.  Seriously.  And don’t even get me started on brunch.  Bakeries?  Well it depends on whether you want a mexican, Vietnamese, swedish, or coffee-shop style cake/scones/cookies place.  Because we’ve got ’em all.
The list could go on and on.  In addition to all of this is my love of making a life with so many people all around me.  I’ve got an amazing community of friends and we get to do ridiculously fun things together that folks who don’t live in the city just don’t get to do (I mean, Ida and I had a playdate at the Shedd Aquarium this morning – that’s pretty cool, right?).  Free concerts with world-class musicians downtown in the summer, dance classes and performances with incredible artists, and walking to amazing dinner out whenever we feel like it/can afford it.  Some former students from Alma College live upstairs and provide childcare!  I have a sweet life, guys.
If all this is starting (?) to sound a little pep-talk-ey to you, there is a good reason (and congrats on your keen perception).  I need an “I love Chicago.  Really.” pep talk right now.  Because the thing is that I head gunshots two night in a row a couple of weeks ago.  They were close and it was scary.  Nate and I both sat up in bed at 2:30 in the morning, and listened as the sound traveled – getting closer, and then stopped.  3 shots in the course of 4 minutes.  The next night there was a “loud pop” at 8:30 in the evening and patrol cars were everywhere in a second.  And several days this week, there have been shootings (one with an automatic weapon) on a corner two city blocks from me – in some ways a world away, but still close enough to have me compulsively checking Everyblock (from which I have since cut myself off).  In the middle of the day on corner where I regularly pass by at that time with Ida, people are shooting at each other with really scary guns and hurting bystanders.  And I’m noticing a lot of “for sale” signs on our street.  And I’m seeing new people out on the sidewalks.  And.  And.  And.  I hear it too – I don’t like the way I’m thinking about this.
Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that I live in one of Chicago’s very cushiest neighborhoods.  Andersonville is where fabulous gay couples come to raise their beautiful families (and it should go without saying that the gays do an excellent job keeping the sidewalks safe and framed by beautiful gardens).  It’s like Chicago’s version of Florida – where to retire and settle down after your stint in Boystown.  I’m half-joking – lots of other folks live here too, of course.  I live in an exceedingly safe place in the city.  But Andersonville is the cream center between two somewhat undesirable cookies.  That old adage about the city being a block-by-block patchwork of safe spaces and sketchy spots is very true to where we’re located and it feels like the sketchy parts are starting to close in a little bit.  It is entirely possible that this is not actually happening, but through some stroke of chance I have just become more aware of it.
I’m remembering my life in central Michigan in a much sunnier light.  I’m omitting the fact that a friend of mine got stabbed in the face while she was laying in her bed, in her apartment, by a man who broke in and was hiding in her closet.  I’m forgetting about the last time I was in town to teach and a guy with a gun opened fire at a local bar.  I’m re-writing stories to create a totally safe place where, even if only hypothetically, I could be absolutely insulated from the terror of violence.  I’m feeling like I need to get out of the city and make a life somewhere sleepy and secluded.  I hear the imaginary siren song of central Michigan.
I know.  I know that the seclusion had some serious drawbacks.  I remember what it felt like to be so isolated as an artist – sometimes great, but mostly just so hard.  I remember people asking me why I was grocery shopping in the middle of the day with a look of disdain and concern – not being able to imagine anything but a 9-5 work day  and not being able to place me without a child to take care of (“um, I work in the evenings?  This is my free time?”).  I remember the constant frustration of trying to explain that making dances was not my hobby – of trying to help the other adult, professional dancers that I was working with navigate explaining our tours (and their need for time off from their other jobs) to their employers  – to explain the project at all (“no, this is not for a club I’m in/this is not a children’s group/we are not strippers”).  I remember feeling deeply bored and frustrated and irritated at the insular self-protective reflex of suburban living.  I remember more than anything else, the feeling that I just did not fit – that this just was not working.
All of this to say that I love Chicago.  That this is my home.  But I’m having a tough time with it right now.  I wish I could have it both ways – radical togetherness with total insulation from violence.  Real community so long as it doesn’t push me – so long as I never feel afraid or stretched to confront other people and our scary stuff.  Diversity, but with none of the unpleasant clashes that come from smushing together people of privilege with people clawing for enough.  I want an elective buffer that I can enact whenever I feel like it.  I want magic.  I want something impossible – something that makes the other thing, maybe even the higher-order thing, null.  I want something that I don’t believe in.  Because I know that the community and spirit of possibility that I came here for are not free – that they come with this work.  I know that I had a hand in making the world this way.  And I know that I’m going to need to get involved, in whatever small way, in changing it.  I have some growing up to do.  Sigh.
Anybody else out there holding the tension on this?  Any help for a gal who’s struggling?
* that make you think for a hot-second that all of that unpleasantness with France was perhaps worth it.  No.  Fight the selfishness.  But man.  Those sandwiches are really something.

Easter Inspirations

21 Apr

Remember college?  Man, I sure do.  I loved college.  College was my favorite (except for right now, which is also my favorite).  I found out that I wasn’t stupid!  Readers who spent their youths perfecting dazzling jazz dance routines and singing soprano can understand what this revelation meant to me, and why it came as such a surprise.  Well, a more accurate description might be that I discovered that I was arm’s length from this particular kind of smart with the ability to generate pensive looks and a tolerance for silence that made up the difference.  In other words, I am one hell of a faker, which is almost better if you want to know the truth (turns out that jazz dancing and singing soprano have paid off after all).  Less burdensome.   I quit singing seriously.  I underlined.  I highlighted.  I spent a lot of time sitting still and wondering if anyone was looking at me.  I wrote furiously scribbled essays on both Old and New Testaments of The Holy Bible in cursive (because one of my religion profs. was apparently a member of The Church of Cursive Penmanship – seriously, I’ve not experienced such zeal since).  Speaking of religion and college, I remembered a college story while I was making dinner tonight and since it made me laugh out loud and splash daal on my shirt, I thought you might enjoy it too.

I was fortunate enough to take lots of fun and interesting classes while I was diddling around in the world of higher education, but a stand out is definitely a religion class I took on the topic of Adam and Eve.  This class was taught by a very cool and hip professor and was populated by several of my friends, two ex-boyfriends (Hey!  I was a GIRL in the philosophy department!  What do you want from me?), and my future spouse.  Good times all around.  Plus, you know, lots of interesting discussions and assignments and stuff.

One member of our class was a stalwart college archetype – the stoner/thinker/bathrobe-as-outerwear-trendsetter.  Sam.  I had a few classes with Sam and always found him to be a delight.  He made some particularly show-stopping/train-wreck arguments during a small seminar of the works of David Hume.  I seem to remember something about zombies…  Sam had a strict “no reading, no writing” policy when it came to his college education.  He also had a flexible understanding of “attendance.”

Like marshmallow peeps, or light red kidney beans – nobody was ever clear on Sam’s function or purpose, but that didn’t seem like the point anyway.  One day we were discussing the origins of the names “Adam” and “Eve” and we were asked to speculate (after some instruction on the language, history, and yada yada) as to what significance these names might suggest.  No doubt hyped up on talk of linguistic origins and the deep meaning of it all (and, I’m pretty sure, aided by some fantastic substances), Sam suggested that the name “Adam” was probably a reference to – and I remember this so precisely – “man’s infinite smallness.  Like, you know, atoms?”  Sam was so pleased.  His mind working at a mean clip, he was putting all of the pieces together.

I’m sure you’ve had this opportunity at least once, but I’m here to recommend that you should always relish it when it comes along.  It’s not often that you get to see a professional person deal with madness on this level, and it’s especially rare to get this sort of action in a public forum (such as a large class).  I find that I can learn almost everything I care to know about a person if I’m lucky enough to witness them in confrontation with bat-shit-craziness like this.  So many things to say.  Like, maybe that the words “Adam” and “atom” probably aren’t as similar sounding in hebrew.  Or that atoms weren’t so much understood in the author’s time and so the relationship, even just conceptually, is probably a non-starter.  Or that you’re wearing a bathrobe to a planned engagement for christsakes.

I don’t respect a person who talks right away.  If they have a plan in place to deal with this sort of thing, I feel uneasy about what else they might be incubating upstairs.  I like what my professor did.  He waited for a respectful time – letting the class enjoy the possibility of this radical and hilarious idea – letting Sam experience the flawless feeling of having an idea and knowing that it is awesome.  Then he just said, without any meanness or despair, “I don’t…………… no/know.”  And then he shut it down and took Sam to school utilizing a satisfying combination of the socratic method and naked sarcasm.

I always wondered what he was thinking in the space between “don’t” and “no/know.”  I still think and wonder about which no/know he meant.  Sam, as you may have suspected, was completely undeterred by this lack of confirmation for his theory, and made it clear that he was pretty sure he was right about all of this.  Sam’s chops were bust-resistant and the more he thought about it, the more evidence he discovered to support his theory.  We were not privy to this information, but that was largely irrelevant as it had become clear that we were participating only insofar as witnesses.

While this story cracks me up, it also inspires me.  What must it feel like to go through life like Sam did/does?  Sure at the instant you form a thought that it’s right – that it’s perfect – so perfect in fact that no amount of reasoned criticism can remind you that you’re not an expert.  Free from the feeling that you have no right to trust your ideas.  In my life as a dance improviser, this is always the lofty (and sometimes seemingly impossible) goal that I aspire to.  The ability to always say “yes.”  The suspension of judgement.  The willingness to go, totally alone, into new space.  It’s more than just saying “who cares?”  It’s the forgetting that there is even a “who” in the first place.  It’s ordering something that’s not on the menu with full confidence that it will arrive steaming hot before you.  It’s very Easter-y in a way.

So here’s to Sam, and Adam and Eve, and to the luxury of a deeply pleasurable education followed by a degenerate life in the arts.  Cheers.

Domestic Badassery, Vol. 2 – Laundry Soap

24 Mar

Based on advertisements, I assumed that one would need an advanced knowledge of chemistry (or at the very least a pristine white coat, an ample supply of beakers, and access to identical garments with vivid grass stains for testing) to undertake such a project.  But no, dear readers!  I don’t have any of those things and I managed just fine!  Take that, March!  Stupid rainy jerk, with your stupid re-runs and stupid ugly face.

Here is what I did:

I googled “homemade laundry soap” and came across the following recipe:

  • 1 cup borax (sodium borate)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar of soap (I used Dr. Bronners, but Fels Naptha is also recommended)

I searched dilligently (read: occasionally perused store shelves when convenient) for the borax and washing soda to no avail, and so I decided to order them in large quantities via the interwebs.  I also contemplated liquid vs. powder recipes, and quickly decided on the powder variety for ease (the liquid versions all involve melting, diluting, and a much larger container for storage).

I made the soap by grating the Dr. Bronner’s bar using a cheese grater into a large bowl.  Then I added the cup each of borax and washing soda and mixed everything with a spoon.  I used a funnel to transfer the powder into a repurposed canister, fished a tablespoon out of our junk drawer, and with a feeling of smug satisfaction, admired my creation.  I always feel like a rock star when I finish a project that enabled me to circumvent some part of the mass-produced consumer/stuff machine.  I use one tablespoon of the concoction per regular-sized load of laundry (which amounts to two tablespoons each load, because I always just cram everything in that will possibly fit).

Not to get too comfortable on my (laundry) soap box, but I feel especially awesome when I can opt out of a product traditionally marketed at women (and increasingly targeted at mothers in particular).  Redefining homemaking and parenting as productive rather than consumptive activities is exciting.  It’s good, honest work that uses my whole self and I’m no longer ashamed to admit how much pleasure I take in my prowess.  I think one of the primary reasons that these domains get such a bad rap is because they’re imagined as being inextricably linked with consumption rather than production – any idiot can buy stuff, but it takes brains and moxie to make things.  It’s more than imagination though – consumption-as-parenting/homemaking is what’s being sold to us through advertising.  We’re reacting to that version of domestic and nurturing work – the version that presents it as little more than merely stocking a set of rooms with the right ready-made stuff – when we devalue it.  The version that depicts a white lady and her (presumable) offspring in a van on her daily errand to big-box-land.  The version that laments the overwhelming choices and our tiny, decision-frazzled brains.  It’s the version that atrophies the creative, resourceful self in favor of a facade of ease.  That’s the version that our mothers had in mind when they pushed us to accomplish more than “just” domestic stuff (not that they were wrong, of course).  It’s the version that taught us that homemaking work belongs at the bottom of the list.

So strangely enough, in finding myself chiefly involved in work as a mother and homemaker (and sometimes educator and artist), I’m discovering new heights of badassery in straightforward and necessary problem solving like this – clothes need to get clean and I don’t want to throw money and chemicals out there in place of a real solution.  I can make a fix.  And it just takes three ingredients!  I don’t mind telling you that I find the whole situation deeply satisfying.  Take that, March!