Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Go Mama Guidebook site launch

It's official.

After hemming and hawing, growing some thicker skin and a wider perspective, combined with several requests to link my Guidebook to other complimentary websites, I've decided to "go bigger with it" and announce it's existence to a wider audience.

Spurred into action today by Sandra Tsing Loh's generous offer to write me up in her LA Times "Ask a Magnet Yenta" column as a speaker and voice of reason among the soon-to-be-choosing-a-Kindergarten preschool parent set,

and

sensing the growing potential audience I might find if I actually
had a URL to send people to, I dutifully spent the morning launching a quickie blog/url page specifically for learning about my public school work and for ordering my book. (I know it's just a start but it's amazing what a deadline will do.)

The LA Times piece (and link) will be published tomorrow, but you heard it here first.

Introducing...

the launch of Go Mama Guide's "Westside Guide to Public Elementary Schools..." and hopefully the jumpstart of something bigger.


Go Mama Guide

Friday, April 06, 2007

Music.

Something lifted this week, like an opaque scrim, or the shift of light after cleaning a dirty plate glass window, becoming visible only in the removal. A weight, a burden, not sure what exactly, has lifted creating a space.

I listened to music again.

Seems like this would be an insignificant thing, but I assure you it is quite a significant piece of the puzzle, like a slow healing and peeling back of the bandaging.

Before, I really couldn't hear. I would not allow myself to listen. I could not associate. I disconnected in order to be done with it and move on. But this was different. There was something about this particular artist, the words, her tone, her voice-- that woke me from a deep sleep. This time I could listen. This time I could really hear. Somehow, this one reached me,
a symbiotic spark reflected in my frozen lake which began a long-deserted thaw.

There was something here that struck me--aside from the delicious melodies and harmonies, or the team of influences on this record, the same type of record I would want to make--like the intersection of fateful stars lining up over my slice of sky.

There was recognition, resonance too, words about being tired of fighting, standing up for your beliefs, taking the hits and still standing. She took on a slew of rabid opponents and came back unapologetic. Steadfast. True. But in her voice I could hear the fight and the toll it had taken in her life. Worn. Torn. Weary. Her words rang deep within my blood, coursing, awakening a sleeping muse.

In some ways, it was just what I needed to hear.

Except I have been hiding. Covering myself. Licking my wounds. Allowing others the spotlight, the power, the strength, the glory. I have denounced my standing, accepting defeat, and instead, relegated myself to becoming the "glue." Invisible. Predicting and solving needs. All except my own. Where have I gone?

Love is a funny thing. I spent so many years chasing after it in vain, desperately seeking the always illusive, unavailable one. Years ago, when I finally met and fell in love with the man who would eventually become my husband, I promised I would shout out to those who might listen, hey, you can't spend your whole life turning yourself into a pretzel, silencing yourself, contorting in order to make it work, make him love you. That isn't love. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit, it never will fit.

What was so astounding when love hit us was it was so…unbelievably effortless. Couldn't not be. I was full. I was me in full glory. And it didn't hinder us at all, rather, it drew us in to the flame. Coming up on a dozen years and some major growing pains later, I wonder if I can still be fully me--whatever that means--and we can survive the transition.

I sat at the piano this week for the first time in over three years. It was awkward at first, but then it felt good as I found my way again, like letting out a breath that had been held in for so long you had forgotten how to fully exhale. I played through the last unrecorded song I had written, before I allowed Motherhood and the escalating stress of our lives to seal me into silence.

Music, like the flow of something so primal as blood or water, trickled through my veins from before I was ever born. It's in my genes. How can I deny myself this birthright? Because others were more popular? Made more money at it? Were more skilled, or more connected?

Taking my place on the wooden Chickering bench, gouged and nicked by the careless actions of others, my hands tentatively find the keys, keys made grimy with kid fingerprints and a layer of dust, crumbs, and now, tears. Little bird becoming uncaged.

Saddened and angry at myself for deferring, I want to lash out. I want to blame him. He's the composer, he's the talented one. People pay him the money, not me. I was just the na├»ve firecracker, splattering my art, unpolished, rough and crude as it was with little to no budget, peddling my wares around the globe to any takers who'd have me. … I'm just a Compass Girl, a nomad and misfit, wandering spirit, wandering through this world… until I wandered into this town and into his arms.

He chose me. It was mutual. Eventually I gave up the fight. I lay down my sword. Love changed everything.

As the "business" was changing, I looked up to his expertise. I sang for free, I arranged for free, I produced for free, on tracks he will own and recoup in perpetuity. I went non-union, buyout, no resids, no health coverage, no retirement, to "keep it in and feed the family." It's a cruel business, I know.

But I am angry. I am releasing mute. FTS.

Chords dance out of my fingertips. My daughter delights in this free-formed expression. We play together, then apart…fierce, and tender, tickling and fluttering, alternately heavy and bombastic, discordant and catastrophic, then delicately melodic.

"Wow! I really liked some of those changes you were playing. It's not what I'd expect from you!" He was eavesdropping.

I only smile.

Ah, but you think you know me? You think you can define me? I'll surprise you every time.

Because Creativity refuses to be contained, held captive, the good little wife, bowing down before her man, boosting up his "bone-crushing" fragile ego, lovely as it may be.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Weeping Warrior

As the swirl of emotion dances across the water, I stand immobilized. It occurs to me that I live right in the crux of opposing forces; the very intersection of conflict and release. Along that razor's edge of nurture and destruction, pain and pleasure, love and hate, storms dance and pull their weight around me. There I stand, right at the crossroads, staring down each direction, trying to keep my bearing. Where was I going again?

Balance is a misnomer. We only recognize balance once we're grossly off-balance.

2:46am. Wedding ring lies resting on his bureau. Child lightly stirring in her sleep, I hear her through the wall that divides us. I am alone in a house of three.

All I can hear running through my head is, "you're a failure, you're a failure, you're a failure…" like some snotty punk at recess.

I take the jabs, too weak to resist, my defenses stripped bare.

One of the first strategies I taught my daughter was how to deflect the occasional insensitivity of toddlers. "No! I don't believe you" was a powerful tool she learned to sling back to defend her self-respect.

I, however, am too worn to stop the tape. Words echo through my hollow chest as the let down threatens to drown me.

I haven't been able to monetize my work. I've been out of the game, keeping house. Failing at procreation. Floundering on the page. Losing my edge, my body, my power, my income stream and thus my self-respect. Visions of a stalled session-singer career not to mention a failed recording career, burned by the high-maintenance private chef world, add in college drop-out, no household name, oh yes, then there's the mother, the non-relationship with the brother, one sketchy-at-best tie with the father, and now, perhaps, our marriage is crumbling. The fault lines are everywhere pointing failure, failure, failure: middle-aged, overweight, broke, failure. What am I going to do with myself? Myself with child? What is it exactly I do?

Scanning Craigslist for anything, I don't see myself there.

"You have enough energy to light up St. Louis," echoes back the conversation that began my unraveling.

Yes. True. Amazing energy. Optimism. Vision. Strength. I can support everyone in their time of need. But take? Receive? Get paid for it? Who me?

It has become a knee-jerk reaction to help others, so deep I can't stop it: I brainstorm and assist with their business strategies, hours upon hours at the preschool, this committee, that committee, the neighborhood school, taking on the public schools, emailing distressed parents, offering assistance, sharing tips, helping, rebuilding, donating time, energy, resources. Crisis with a friend? I'm there. Babysitting rescue? Sure. Shuttle service? Of course. Mama stresses? Bring it on, I hear you. I can cut through to the essence, provide support, guidance, a shoulder, an ear, a hug, a cocktail, a meal, Kleenex, whatever you need. But me? Who do I have?

I am bent from weeping, hollowed out from so much nurturing. I can't solve my own problems. I can't see my own forest. I am attacked for my thoughts, my strengths, I scare people away. I've scared me away. I've run for the hills.

Who do I call at 2 in the morning? Who can I trust to ease my burdens who isn't already buckling under the weight of their own?

I scan the circles of women I've known who've popped like so many soap bubbles. Sororities, like ideas, that came and went.

The person I have built the strongest relationship with, the man I care, trust, have deep respect for and love the most…my partner…I no longer feel safe with. No he'd never physically hurt me, but the words...I fear my words will be used against me, come back to haunt me…so no, I don't feel safe. I am not ready to share myself with him right now. I know this saddens him, but I cannot. Not now. Not tonight. My words are tied up.

Like a little sapling, I feel vulnerable to fierce winds. I want to contain myself in a lame attempt at self-preservation.

So sad. I feel so sad. My heart down to my knees, my knees buckle and fall. I am blank. What do I do? Where do I go? What are we doing? Remind me again what I'm doing?

I have nothing and no plan. I scan my possessions. It's embarrassing. On paper, I am nothing. I have a house in his name, a daughter asleep down the hall, and a husband who one week is threatening divorce, and the next plotting our retirement together. I am dizzy, tired, hollow. Sapped at the root. Unsure. Too many mixed messages.

A Weeping Warrior, I stand bent over. Hollowed and taken.

It's the wound now. The primal Mother wound. There she is. The black hole. The one who couldn't nurture anyone, not even herself… and the seething anger, the resentment, her bitterness ate her alive. The wound that made my own mother snap and fall in, taking us along with her.

I must not fall in. That hole of emptiness, blackness, disconnection, death.

I am looking right at it, holding it in my hands, cupping and fingering it, weeping. So close, so far away, so lost. I am nothing. Invisible. Rootless. Useless in its power…

No, not tonight.

Tenderly, I take it and wrap it in it's innermost sleeve of delicate pink silk, then an extravagant throw of deep burgundy velvet. Next, strapping belts of rich brown suede to cinch and secure it tightly. A layer of thick plastic makes it water tight followed by rolls and rolls of muslin, gauze-like, wound around and around, around and around, until it is certainly mummified. A thick layer of shellac seals the deal, and I bury it under the earth. Tamping lightly, noticing the blood and dirt under my fingernails, I spray them under the garden hose as water floods the loose soil beneath my feet.

Bury the hole. Back in black. Black to blackness. Return.

Back in bed, 2:46am. Nowhere to go. No one to call. Who would hear me anyway? I can't organize a thought, let alone a word.

I shut the light and pull the covers up over me, curling into a ball.

Teeth grinding, I assume the position.

I lie still.

Waiting for rest to come and take me, I ride out the storm.