Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Something is different

The seed of something new. Blue cohosh fruits. Hardly a fruit, but a thin, dry skin over a Barbie tennis ball sized nutlet.

You may have noticed that something is different, something is missing. No, it's not the book that I was reading that my husband accidentally returned to the library and has forgotten renew for me. It does have something to do with him though.

Though a blog, this blog, The Shagbark Speaks, was my husband's idea, I have flooded its digital pages with stories featuring sleeplessness, messy kitchens, my chest, my husband, my toddler and other mom-ly things. I still recall clearly the afternoon I walked into our home office and watched Jared typing on the computer. He turned to me and said, "You may not like what I'm doing... I just started a blog." That was October 22, 2008.

Jared is now authoring another blog instead. He is the keeper of Wild Ridge Plants, the blog for our family business - a native plant nursery nestled in the heart of the Sourlands. Rather than go on and on with a sales pitch for the nursery, boy, I never thought I would say this, but find us on Facebook.

In the meantime, when you are not outside making snowmen, read his blog. He has a good sense of humor, adventure, and photographic eye. He also uses footnotes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dear Nana,

So about Jared's just shy of 90 Nana and her aches and pains... No actually about my aches and pains, and Jared's too:


November 25, 2012

Dear Nana,
This Virus from H*ll is just that. My mom came down with it just two days after seeing her (we had been well for nearly a week). Two days after she caught it, my dad went down. They cancelled Thanksgiving dinner and told my brother and his girlfriend, "Stay home."

After the stomach virus went away, I got mastitis and had (just fading now) a large red crescent on my right breast which was also hard, painful, and swollen. Jared's weekend project of brewing spikenard root syrup had immediate use - it's a remedy for mastitis, so I have been sipping the acrid, unsweetened infusion.

I have also been applying heat and cabbage leaves. I tucked the cabbage in my shirt just before several friends and acquaintances arrived to help at our plant nursery. In time, the wilting foliage began to slip. They would have understood (and never seen coleslaw the same again), but I hustled into the house and composted the leaves before they hit the potting soil.

I had a couple tiny insect bites become red and raw, like burns.

Jared also had a skin reactions - a blistering poison ivy-like rash on his wrist and both forearms. He's been doing oats, nettles, and homeopathic Rhus tox. He's finally feeling better.

I hope you are doing well!

Love,
Rachel



 Spikenard fruit (l) and Poison ivy vine (r)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Blogger Stats

shagbark speaks
6
conical shelf fungi
2
georges bataille the big toe
2
pushing stroller on soil
2
the shagbark speaks
2
bamboo herb layer
1
black walnut backgrounds
1
catnip tea brands
1
congaree loblolly pine
1
dirt lane in meadow into forest
1

I check my 'stats' every once and a while, like every time I log in. It's fascinating and unbelievable. Allegedly, these are the search terms that brought a internet user to this blog.

"georges bataille the big toe" was one search term. Really? I'm sure this person was annoyed to find a mother blogging about her son's sleeping habits and her husband's choice of author.

"pushing stroller on soil" What could this person be seeking?

"bamboo herb layer" A grad student in Asian ecology?

Where's Beren?




Beren and Momma play with a Waldorf school "play silk" while Papa makes photographs.  

While working at a Waldorf school for a year, I re-learned about color and art-making by observing the teacher in the classroom. Beren and I take out his chalk. I make big marks and say, "Blue is feeling sleepy and is staying in the corner to rest. Yellow would like to play. Yellow is very playful, and green would like to join. Red would like to rest, too." I pick up the white chalk last and say, "White is very excited and is running every direction!" 

Beren quietly makes his own marks. Lines, scribbles. It's relaxing for me. 

Thanksgiving, November 22, 2012

In the apartment building's lobby
Thanksgiving 2012

This year Thanksgiving was at my father-in-law and step-mother-in-law's house. They have a small apartment in Yonkers though their dwelling seemed quite large when Jared and I lived in a one-bedroom in Queens.

Around the table: my sister-in-law, who is a fashion illustrator, and her newlywed husband, an urban planner. My other sister-in-law, deep into high school years, a K-pop fan and dancer. Jared's uncle came east for the first time in a decade or so to spend this Thanksgiving here. Jared's grandmother, a former Saks Fifth Avenue employee, with incredible fashion sense. Upon seeing a photograph of her,  my once manager at Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan (also an aspiring actor, also gay) say, "I am in love with Nana."

In addition to Nana, my step-mother-in-law's co-worker, niece, and her niece's spouse also joined the table. Of course, my son was there - alternately playing on the floor, sitting in Jared's lap, or attempting to squeeze between tightly packed chairs to get onto my lap.

By dinner's end, Beren settled into a game of hide and seek. To my call, "Where's Beren?" Jared's grandmother added hers. Then Tia Laura called for Beren. Over the din of simultaneous adult conversation and child's play, my father-in-law assumed that Beren was indeed lost in the four room apartment. He made for the kitchen with a look of concern until Laura explained, "He's under the table."

Earlier in the evening Jared's grandmother told me of her aches and pains and her doctor's recommendation of no Advil, no something else, but instead something. The heat in the apartment was as I remembered all of my apartments - hot and stifling. My head bobbled and my eyelids drifted closed. Jared glanced at me and smiled.

Behind my chair, Tia Esperanza played with Beren and his new train set. "Is there an adult with Beren?" Nana asked twice.

I wondered if I will talk about my aches and pains. If I don't, what will I talk about instead? Will I worry inordinately about the people around me? If I don't who will?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

sh*t system

Hurricane Sandy kitchen. Lamp and canning kettle of water for washing on the useless electric stove. Coleman camp stove for cooking. Still on long term loan from my parents. They want to loan it to my brother and his girlfriend who were also without power, but couldn't find it. "I think Rachel has it," my mother told them. Sorry, little brother!

We're all back on solids now. Everyone's sh*t system (that's how we, the adults, call it) is up and running. Mostly.

My friend's daughter had this stomach virus the night of the storm. "We went through every diaper and rag in the house. She sat in my lap for eight hours by the fireplace and threw up the entire time." They went to a hotel that had a washer and dryer.

They got their power back a day before us and invited us over for dinner.

My friend called a couple days later, "Hey, how are you? Got power back?"

"We're all throwing up," I said.

"Oh no, oh no. I disinfected everything before you came over."

We probably picked it up somewhere else. The timing of our visits didn't overlap with highly contagious times.

I emailed my friend and mentioned Beren's 'ucky' diapers.

"Once the vomiting stopped, the pooping started. Took a long time to get better," she replied.

Imagine bread dough before adding the final three cups of flour mixed with French's mustard and really sour. Very sour. Very persistent aroma. Very ucky.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012



Peering through the curtain between our bedroom and dining room - Beren naps on our bed.

Beren's puke-laundry is in the dryer, I showered, Jared is walking upright, and Beren is into hour three of a deep nap. I think we are going to make it.

Hurricane Sandy laundry - washed in the shower stall while we bathed and hung by the woodstove.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stomach Virus from H*ll

Beren began barfing shortly after I put him to bed. Jared began shortly thereafter. He has displaced my mother as the maker of world's most disgusting vocalizations while vomiting. I looked at the clock at 3:15AM and again at 5:00AM.

Homeopathic Arsenicum albidum has helped, but not completely. It's nearly 24 hours later and the vomit keeps coming. I have not changed from my last outfit that Beren puked on (why bother?), and our house reeks of sour guts.

I have mostly abandoned my husband who now honks his mucus-filled nose. "The best thing you can do is help to take care of yourself today," I told him this morning.

Not going to win Mrs. America contests here. Most contestants did not spend the previous night:
1. Sleeping in small armchairs trash-picked from Lover's Lane (a proper Lane, not a rendezvous) in Princeton
2. While cradling and nursing a vomiting toddler
3. Who became tearful upon hearing his father say, BBBBBLLLLEEEEAGGGGGGGG.

And so, why don't women make war some ask? Spend the night as above, and the question is easily answered. With regular disruptions of all magnitudes, women do not have the time. We are doing laundry, chopping vegetables, rubbing upset bellies, and sweeping all with a child on our hip, whether real, imagined, internal, once, future, or past.

And so, when I hear about global gender inequality in the workplace, I wonder do those women really need to leave the home to make a paycheck, just so they can come home exhausted to their unpaid jobs as mother and wife? Well, if women are forced to leave their homes for a higher standard of living, I suppose so. Although 'just scraping by' is ofter the 'higher' standard.

I wonder if you see where I am going? I hope you can because my sick husband can't keep my sick son's attention, so I am punching out of my unpaid job as writer and am going back to my job of mother.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Power is on

In the final days of the power outage, the house was in a disarray.

On Thursday, the word was a pole was broken deep in the woods. A neighbor assisted with his little Kubota.

"We'll need a track machine. Don't know where we'll get one of those. So close but so far," a lineman told my husband.

On Friday, We went to my in-laws' house for dinner, thinking we would still be out of power. Beren, used to the routine of going nowhere, said, "Owse, owse." New word - 'house'. We did not want to go.

On our drive down the lane, we met with a dozen JBL trucks and more line workers.

We paused to greet another neighbor passing by in his truck.

"Any word?" my husband leaned out the car window.

"No, go ask them while they're here. Do it mountain style and they'll get it done," he laughed.

Eleven days without power meant these guys were working eleven days straight. I was prepared to be as gracious as possible. The daylight savings time change meant dinner preparations by flashlight. Jared was back to work. I took vacation time, but 'business as usual' with just a few hours of generator power per day was not easy.

We approached the cheerful foreman who said, "You should have power right now, well, by the time you get back down the lane. That pole's not textbook, but it's up."

We offered our thanks and continued driving. A couple minutes down the road, I asked my husband to turn back.

"We have to check," I said.

Back at the house, the refrigerator hummed and digital clocks blinked "00:00". I gave my husband a thumbs up at ran back to the car.

We passed the foreman and gave thanks again. I waved and smiled at the other linemen who sat in their trucks or hung on the rearview mirrors smoking cigarettes. None of them looked my way. They probably had their share of confrontations with angry residents and adopted the urban technique of no eye contact.

After a delicious meal at my in-laws, we readied Beren for the car. He wriggled, kicked, and screeched as Jared and I tried to put his socks on.

"The Terrible Twos," my mother-in-law said. "There is a reason they call it Terrible."

At no stage of Beren's life have clothes been easy to put on. Some days, even weeks have been easy, but there are always complications. Here are the stages of clothing: the newborn fragile neck with big head and new parents stage. The bigger head outgrowing the already too small neck opening shirt stage with still new parents. The increasingly wiggly stage. The I HATE PUTTING MY ARMS THROUGH THE SLEEVES STOP STOP STOP stage. The I would like to do this myself stage (not such a bad one). Terrible Twos stage, remains to be experienced. 

***

A view from the pot.

On Saturday I celebrated our electricity by laying in bed all day except to run to the bathroom and evacuate my lower half. On three of those bathroom trips, I did not make it all the way.

From bed, I listened to Jared and Beren repeating the previous night's disagreement about socks.

"You need socks and shoes on to go outside," Jared said. Their wrenching of socks inspired a wrenching in my stomach.

Defeated, I heard Jared close the front door, as I hung my chin over the toilet and dry heaved twice.

An unshorn Beren bounded to the bathroom and watched as something the color of burnt pine needles and cones poured from my mouth.

"AaaaCKKKK." Splatter. "AAACCCKK," I wretched.

Beren began imitating me, "Aaahhhcck. AKK."

He was good. His faced turned blotchy red. "AKK." He grabbed his birdie pull toy and wagged its leash at me. He pointed at the floor.

I leaned against the bathroom vanity, sweating. "Momma, doesn't feel good. Momma just threw up. That's called throwing up."

Beren held up his horse pull toy.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Seaside Heights Boardwalk

 Carousel horse

I spent many summer nights walking the boardwalk at Seaside Heights. I loved it. I loved the lights. I loved the guy with long, jet black hair with bright green streaks that swished against his leather jacket. My grandfather did not. He gripped my hand tighter and shook his head.

"I just want to eat my way up and down the boardwalk," I would tell my husband.

A trip to Seaside meant a long day - a short hike at the Webb's Mill Bog, a swim in ocean at Island Beach State Park, and then dinner and an evening stroll on the boardwalk. We would check in at Big Hearted John's to say hi to a college friend who was a barker there.

Storytime is over, so my husband and son are on their way down the steps. I hear children's voices chirping, Bye bye. Time to sign off. Here are photos of Seaside Heights:


All that target practice with my father made me pretty good at the Carson City shooting gallery. A buck for 25 shots. I impressed my husband with my aim.

 The fortune teller 

 Kohr's since 1929

 The Sawmill bar

 Hippie and rock 'n roll posters

 Midway Steakhouse

 Kiddie ride on the pavilion

 On the street

The bathroom 

 Arctic Circle

 Ferris wheel

 Lucky Leo's. Just by chance, I went to Tracker School with the owner of Leo's about five years ago.

 Kiddie ride


 Boardwalk ride

 Musik Express

Stillwalk Manor
Last night the internet kicked back on and my stress level went way up.  I did not miss email. Not at all. I quickly checked work email. Sixty-three emails. Power is out at the office anyway, my executive director wrote from her Blackberry.

Power is still out at home, so I am sitting at the Hopewell Borough Library among a cluster of laptop users, newspaper readers, and library computer workstation users. Upstairs, my husband and son are at storytime.

As we drove down Zion and Hollow Roads, we saw bucket trucks and line men (and one woman) working. One truck was loaded with new poles. Perhaps the power will be on soon. We have had several luxuries - a wood stove, a full refrigerator, some garden vegetables, and a generator that my landlord runs twice a day for a couple hours. Our ice cream never melted.

We have spent much of our days outside. Grey days, hardly much sun, very damp and windy.

During the past few days, my son learned how to blow out candles. He is good at it. Last time we tried blowing on anything, he ate dandelion seeds instead of blowing them. I don't know when he has been practicing.