musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “September, 2009”

100 on Monday

Monday marked my one hundredth post. I anticipated doing something fun on 100 for it, but then I went to the Powwow and was generally blown away. Not sure I captured that in the first part, but maybe touched on it in yesterday’s post.

Anyway, a while back, in February, inspired by artist Elizabeth Beck, I posted a 100 Happies list on Creative Construction. I think it’s about time for another look at what makes me happy. Maybe it will inspire me to greater appreciation of what is right around me and motivate me toward making what isn’t immediately accessible happen. I suggest doing one for yourself. It really got my creative juices flowing to mark down what truly gets my mojo working. And get the creativity flowing again. Please note that while these are numbered entries of happiness, the numbers in no way reflect a specific hierachy of happiness.

1. dark chocolate, creamy warm liquified, bite into nibble by nibble, velvety on my tongue in a mousse or pudding, dark, beautiful rich, not too sweet chocolate
2. Honey, mine, that stands about six feet tall, shoulders wide, belly growing, knees going, hair migrating, love him, love him, love him, man faults and all.
3. cookies
4. baking cookies
5. smelling cookies baking, you get the idea
6. oceanside
7. woods
8. fall – the promise of renewal
9. spring bursting forth in magical blooms
10. winter, snow especially – much missed in these parts.
11. summer, steamy, relaxed, with the kids.
12. getting up and going on a family adventure, any adventure, but one together
13. potatoes – mashed, french fried, baked, boiled, buttered, cheesed, plain…potatoes. I tell myself it’s a much needed potassium fix.
14. sunlight through a window.
15. loving my kids
16. K’s inquiring and justice seeking brain
17. S’s hugs and need to make everyone laugh
18. C’s incredible, ooo, what’s that, and that, and can I climb this, and am I not the cutest thing ever expression that makes me want to hug her and laugh when iIshould be putting her in time out
19. being outside
20. gardening, growing things, I guess this goes for the kids, too.
21. animals, all varieties, but love having dogs and cats.
22. those moments I need to steal for myself, slow down and just take it all in no matter what, whether mayhem is ensuing or a blissful elusive slip of silence.
23. a moment that steals me, stuns me with beauty or surprise so unexpected, I can only make note of it, wish it a little longer
24. laughter – yours, mine, the kids, honey’s…random people in the check out line….
25. the nature of relationship and the human need for interaction
26. springing for some fun – dinner, dq, a movie, I guess this falls under family adventure
27. individually set time with honey, no interruptions or possibility of interruptions. a vary rare commodity.
28. come to think of it, individual time with any of the kids, too.
29. come to think of it, individual time for me, for my writing, to curl up with a book and be left alone, not have to do anything for anyone for a day, maybe more.
30. apparently wishful thinking.
31. writing, when it’s really chugging, can’t stop, got the groove
32. any creative endeavor, to be honest, too infrequent
33. dancing, movement, motion, physical activity – again, not enough of that going on these days
34. knowing that in general I can see in my kids, that I’m a doing a pretty darn good job of parenting, even if I felt like I was faking for a handful of years there.
35. honesty in all things
36. deep conversation of the soul-searching variety, growth from painful experiences made tangible
37. grass between my toes
38. the shoreline breaking between my toes
39. tickling baby toes, sniffing stinky baby toes, eating them, playing piggies, counting them. what IS it about baby toes?
40. get down, get funky
41. transcendent music like listening to Gorectski’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs or singing Vivaldi’s gloria in a chorus
42. a clear view of the the ever mutable sky
43. rain
44. sleep
45. sleeping with the sounds of rain on the windows…
46. laughing full out til I cry.
47. reading
48. poetry
49. losing myself in movies
50. walking hand in hand
51. just sitting with Honey without having to say a thing.
52. talking. I really love talking.
53. a good story – hearing one told well or telling one
54. listening. I know to those who know me, it may not seem like it, but I really do listen to the essence of what your are saying and it really matters.
55. scratching an itch
56. getting a haircut
57. …a massage…
58. a campfire
59. stargazing
60. observing the transitory nature of everything.
61. cuddling
62. listening to the cat purr
63. watching the dog sleep. I wish I could sleep like that – out, upside down, my feet in the air.
64. not missing out on something
65. 64 was vague, but I like to be in the thick of it, whatever it is
66. being utterly alone
67. life
68. musing
69. mayhem
70. order. on the surface I look like a cluttered slob, but my drawers are all well organized.
71. travelling, again, not enough of this
72. a sense of security, home, a definite place for me.
73. knowing that my definitive place is really with my family and has nothing to do with a specific place.
74. monkeys
75. bunnies. but I would never own either.
76. butterflies, well interesting insects and spiders
77. frogs that say ‘doh!’
78. my nephews and niece, whole family really
79. connecting with people of all stripes
80. I enjoy hanging out with old people. even when I was a kid, I played chess with Mrs. B next door with poodles, and cards with Mrs. F down the street who kept birds. she had a mynah bird.
81. birds – I’m a bit of a lay ornithologist
82. curiosity
83. puzzles
84. Scrabble
85. mexican train game
86. tap dancing in my kitchen
87. singing bad arias in the shower
88. smooth skin
89. leaves changing colors
90. green twilight
91. water
92. hugs
93. barefeet or in colder weather woolie socks
94. collecting seashells and intersting rocks and chestnuts, pine cones, birch strips…
95. eating a hot tomato from the garden on a sunny day.
96. my tomato thief
97. pride in s’s accomplishments, all my kids, but especially s, because it is so hard for him.
98. the smell of horses
99. love and that we’re all made of love, even when we fight.
100. spaghetti

Much more can be added to this list, and it’s constantly changing, but some things remain constant, among them, chocolate.

Chickahominy Powwow Part II

Then the women entered following the men, led by the elder woman and moving along down to mothers and young children. These elder woman were full of grace and dignity. Part of the day’s festivities was naming the annual Chickahominy princesses, from little girl to Junior to the reigning Miss Chickahominy. The Junior Miss Chicahominy was escorted out by her grandmother who was crowned on the same day fifty years prior. The little girl was escorted by her grandfather, the Chief. The sense of a generational continuity ran throughout all the ceremonies. The girls were crowned because of their winning essays which emphasized the importance of education in Tribal Nations. The emcee and the Chief both spoke on different occasions about the respect for woman in the tribe, not only as the caretakers, but as council women and fellow veterans and warriors. For much of the ceremonies we were asked not to photograph, and honestly, I wasn’t there to gawk, so after the opening ceremonies, I stopped anyway, but I did love seeing all of these Peoples honoring their Traditions – in their regalia – traditions older and more conscientious than any in my own family.

A large reason why Powwows are so moving to me is in the stories of the Tribes is part of my own family history, largely lost. My family assimilated in order to ease burdens at a volatile time in US-Indian Affairs history. I have searched records, and found that the great-grandmother who we all know was full Cherokee was claimed white in the marriage record and census records of the time. The oral story passed down from generations was that my white great-grandfather hired an Indian woman to care for his three children when his first wife died, possibly in childbirth. They eventually married and my grandfather and his twin were born to her. Aspects of my Cherokee family seem passed down in my father, my brothers and my love of nature and good craftsmanship, and in my grandfather, uncle and my love of horses, though I’ve never ridden more than a handful of times. But no culture is consciously passed down, just the mysteries and my desire to solve them. There is even less known on my mother’s side, but apparently, there is Cherokee traceable to a generation further back on her side. My parents realized at one point that they can trace some of their geneological history to the same area of North Carolina, near the Eastern Band Nation.

I am full of conjecture at this point, but the tall woman in a blue with yellow pioneer looking dress is in a Traditional regalia of cotton weavers indigenous to the Southeast. A long time ago, when I was more thoroughly involved in research, I saw Cherokee represented in these cotton dresses. So even if I’m wrong, which I admit is highly likely, I recall seeing something about this type of dress being common among Cherokee. So I fantasized a bit that this woman represented me and my prior generations.

This drum circle was one of four that traded off chanting and drumming throughout the ceremonies. See how they are drumming with one hand and using the other to grab around their throats? Their chanting reminded me of the middle eastern female ululation singers, very haunting and moving, especially with the powerful strokes of rhythm beaten out on the drum. I was moved to tears between the live sacred music, the pride and skill of the dancers and in listening to the history of this tribe and how they honored other tribes and even American settlers history in their festival.

Unfortunately this is the best shot I could get of these two young women dancers. The bright blue dress (behind the drummer in the grey hoodie) has silver jingling pieces, and the green dress (third in from the left border of the photo) has gold. Every move they made added to the music. I once had a silver Hindu type anklet that jangled, but it had nothing on these skirts, which were beautifully handcrafted, too. I wish I knew how to insert arrows or had gotten a better photo. All of the photos from yesterday’s post and today’s are from the Grand Procession opening ceremony.

This photo is of the Welcoming Dance traditional to the Chickahominy. Remember the young male dancer in beautiful white regalia from yesterday’s post? That’s him dancing between two rows of the the Chickahominy Elder dancers. In ages past, when a guest visited from another tribe, they were required to dance a long Welcome Dance to show that they were coming in trust and meant only good intentions for the Chicahominy. The Chief indicated that this dance would go on for hours or even days, to ensure that the guest had no ill will or ulterior motives toward their people. He was an incredibly energetic and skilled dancer. I can’t imagine what it’s like to dance full out like he did in all that heavy regalia. Later in the festival, he presented his nephews in the tradition as their mentor to follow him in dance. All of the chicken and grass dancers were invited out to join the young boys and their uncle, who even at about five and seven years old, it was possible to see how seriously they the took their duties in taking on this particular representation of their family, their uncle’s traditional skill and their taking the mantle of it to bring it forward for their own Nation as well as to represent all Tribal Nations. He thanked the Chicahominy for hosting their presentation as their host Powwow.
My experience on Saturday of how seriously the Native Peoples take all of their rituals, traditions and skills was something that made me think more deeply about the ways in which I relate my family history to my children and how they respond to the concept of respect, which is to say, in a modern sense. I seem to have instilled in them a certain level of respect for elders . I have always told family stories, and been as conscientious as I can be about family history and where the variety of people in our family tree come from. I think I will try to impress upon them even moreso, even though we’ve lived somewhat nomadicly, that a sense of place is very much a strong part of who anyone is. And that who we are is somewhat what I witnessed on Saturday. Next year, I will definitely take the whole family.

Chicahominy Tribe Powwow Part I

This weekend was the annual Powwow of the Chickahominy Tribe. Their tribals lands are just about an hour northwest of here, on the way toward Richmond. I had the honor of accompanying and driving an elder friend and friend of hers from church to the event. J has been going to this Powwow for many years. I’m so glad she ask me to drive. It was truly a pleasure getting to know her and her friend on the ride and I was rather blown away by the opening ceremonies of the festival. This first picture is of the initial entrance of the Grand Procession. I hope I have this correct, I believe the first person’s name is Falling Water. He was the first to enter the sacred circle, carrying the Flag of All Tribal Nations staff. After him came war veteran Native Americans from the Chicahominy and a few other Tribes serving as colorguard for the US and their own Tribal Nations. Later there was a very moving tribute to all those who have served in the US military during war. They invited all the present veterans of foreign wars who were present, to join in the circle to be honored as the warriors, taking wounds of body, spirit and mind so that the rest of us may live in freedom. They also invited all the war mothers of soldiers lost and widows to be honored with the veterans. I found it particularly moving considering that the Chickahominy Tribe, our hosts for the event, are still fighting for federal recognition as an independent Tribal Nation. There are journals and records of the earliest settlers encountering the Chickahominy along with the Pohatans of Pocahantas fame.

I really hope I have his name correct, as here is Falling Water leading the procession around the circle.

After the colorguard came Chief Steve Atkins and two Tribal elders. (I’m lousy with names, so if I am wrong again, please forgive me. Let’s just say, my first few years in education were as a substitute teacher, learning way too many names, and I believe my mental file cabinet drawers for names are overflowing and incredibly disorganized.) Largely, Southeastern Woodland tribes were represented at this Powwow. But a few people came from farther out, representing with their full regalia. I wish at this point in my life that I knew more about the language of regalia, what facets and colors of headdress and costume represented what totems and tribes and aspects of the native spirit world.

In the background, you can see many colorful regalia entering and making their way around the circle. Here are a couple of my favorites. I think the young man in green was Chicahominy and the young man in white was from a guest tribe. The young man in white was an incredible dancer – more on him later.

I was very curious about the man in black with the round feather headdress. I asked around and got a few different answers that didn’t quite mesh with each other. If were not feeling shy on Saturday, I would have had better luck getting a straight answer as I would have asked the man wearing the unusual regalia. One answer was he may have been representing the Cherokee Stormbringer and another said he seemed to hail from the Great Lakes region by the round headdress. Some dancers follow the Powwow circuit all summer through fall and all over the country.

I have more pictures and things to say about them, but I’ll wait till Part II to to get to just how much being at this event moved me. Too many interruptions to get through this posting in a single train of thought…

Gina Lee Kim

A beautiful artist who combines realistic nature elements and abstraction in her work is having a giveaway on her blog. Add a comment to have a chance to win this painting! and check out her blog, too. she is fun and her bird paintings are really beautiful!

I suppose I should talk about writing…

The question of balancing motherhood and creativity arises constantly. The other day, I read a very interesting wake up call over on and her head popped off. I loved the photograph of the mom going ahead with painting whilst her toddler hung upside down, squiggling on her lap. The mom in the photo is continuing her creative work regardless of being a mom as is the photographer and author. The essence of what Terri wrote was just shut up and do it. If you really want it, you’ll make it happen.

I think that’s why a lot of us mother-writers blog. It’s a piece of writing, that while it may not necessarily change the world or be the next Great American Novel, keeps us going. We can do it in the snatches of time during naps, or a bit of quiet while school aged kids are out of the house, in between loads of laundry and sinkfuls of dishes. We can focus for a few minutes, while our Big Project waits sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently for a chance to be the focus. We can do it while a wiggling toddler cuddles in for a snuggle while our fingers click away on a keyboard, like at this very moment that I write.

My old photography self of eons past has been relegated to largely okay pics of the kids and whatever catches my eye, with a little automatic easy camera rather than one I could make adjustments on, given the time and the perogative. The old dancer self still throws down in the kitchen periodically, albeit stiffly and ungainly. The old performer self regales at the dinner table in silly voices and fake opera, when I can get a word in edgewise among the constant stream of noise from all three kids. The old drawing self, will doodle now and then, and more often pretend large invisible canvases in sweeping gestures with my arms while I sit vegging out in front of the tv of an evening, too exhausted to do anything more. Honey must wonder what I’m doing over there, but is too polite or exhausted himself. Other times, I am making chi pottery, sitting with my hands balled around or manipulating invisible clay.

And I blog. I post something every weekday since I started this with the exception of when I took a summer excursion.

I know I have a manuscript that really wants to be finished and shopped. Believe me, if I could focus on that right now, I would. But when it comes to the big writing, I need more mental energy than I currently have. I also have three horizontal file drawers of poems and short stories that could use editing, compiling, submitting, as well as how many on the hard drive that need the same, and the three journals in my bedside drawer, dog-eared where good ideas are languishing. And then there’s that screenplay idea from about eight years ago that still won’t die, and I’ve lost the outline for ages ago.

But, for right now, This is what I can write, while I chase C away from the dog food again when things have gotten a bit too quiet. I’m doing a pretty fair job of it. And yes, I just wrote another very self-referential blog about blogging. But I’m doing it. I am writing.

Blue belt

On Monday evening, S passed his Blue belt test in Taekwando.

He had waited very patiently for this, as I forstalled last Monday because he behaved in a very undisciplined manner during his class. I spoke with Master Ko about that, and he agreed that S did not deserve the privilege of testing for his belt after that behavior. S had been very distracted and distracting all the way through class. I believe all of us tend to cut him a lot more breaks than we would another kid for the same thing. But sometimes, even a child with asperger’s needs to know when he’s taking it too far. Asperger’s is not an excuse for bad behavior. If he is going to get along in the world later, working at a job, he’s going to have to control his impulses to some extent. Self-discipline is a big part of his Taekwando experience and why we have him enrolled in the class.

But back to the good part: he passed his Blue Belt test.

Here he demonstrates his elbow strike power.

And here he demonstrates his side kick power.

When I see S among his peers practicing his forms, doing callesthenics and stretching, he looks sloppy, slow and stiff. Everyone notices. I often hear chuckles from the parent bench, some of which are my own. But the fact of the matter is that he learns his routines quickly, and is always eager to do the next thing, especially if Master Ko is teaching him rather than one of the other instructors. Then his form sharpens up, his moves are crisp, his posture indicates the inherent power of the moves, and his Qia is strong.

A few year ago, Honey and I rented a movie of Tony Jaa’s called Ong Bak. In it, you see the development of an unlikely fighter in Muy Thai. Of course there is much more to the story. It’s a good movie, I recommend it even if you’re not a big martial arts movie fan, though it is brutal. One thing that S reminds me of is the Drunken Monkey style of fighting. He’s not as aerial or springy as the style, but it’s a style that looks like it wouldn’t work if used in a real fight and also looks quite laughable. Yet it is one of the most effective for it’s disarmingly distracting sensibility.

So I watch S, goofy and ineffectual as he seems during class where others are flexible, sharp, quick. I watch him and know that while he looks off-balance, he has the center of gravity of a wrestler. I watch his legs in their low and bent rather than high and straight kicks, and know, it may not look fancy, but those kicks have power. I watch his arms in their overly quick, sloppy, flailing movements and know that should he be attacked in a dark alley, he could take the guy out. Even with his slow reaction time.

I’m very proud of his accomplishments in Taekwando. I am very grateful that Master Ko, Honey I keep giving him the chance to prove everyone wrong about him. Because given half a chance in any endeavor, he usually proves he can do whatever it is better than most. He may be unconventional, but he’s very effective.


Sunday was Sophia Loren’s seventy-fifth birthday. God, she is still gorgeous and sexy, but I fell in love with her in movies from the fifties and sixties I used to watch with my mother. I think she looks her most sexy and powerful and a woman to reckon with in her role as Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha opposite Peter O’Toole. Of course I’m in love with Peter O’Toole, too, but that is a story for another day.

Mostly, people associate Ms. Loren with sophistication and glamour. I recently realized that she was from the same area of Italy around Naples as my in-laws. She has the same big green eyes and arched brows as my mother-in-law. So while I have always wished that I were her to some extent…at least as glamorous and self-possessed, now I like to dream that my daughter may share some distant DNA with my one of my greatest screen crushes and idols.
I like to go back and look at her as Dulcinea, where she was about as undone as she could ever be and still absolutely to die for. Sophia had to be the impetus to put Rachel Welch in a fur bikini a few years later in a little B movie that made the next generation drool and put the poster on their bedroom wall. The resemblance and oozing sexuality are uncannily similar.
I still fantasize that someday, I can walk through a room that suddenly hushes, and not because I am crazily tap dancing a shuffle-ball-change out of there after tripping over myself.
*photo credit unknown or i would say. from promo material for Man of la Mancha

Autumn 2009

It’s official. Summer is over and autumn is here. I love autumn. In New England, I lived for autumn, trembling with anticipation. Now I ease gently into it, lingering with the Coastal Virginia breeze. I don’t need a sweater, and rarely, socks. The colors are just starting outside my window. No, not as brilliant as in New England, but still subtly signaling change and the continuing cycle of death and rebirth that the whole of life on earth lives by, feeding on the old to bring about the new….Happy Autumn.
For those of you who are forlorned for summer’s end, don’t worry, spring comes around in a mere handful of months, and the explosion of blooms and the laze of heat shall return. I know many New Englanders are probably already missing a summer that barely made more than the rainiest appearance after last winter’s brutal ice storms. I have a feeling this winter won’t be quite so brutal.


Well, Friday’s post was a downer, so here’s some fun for today. I know I can sure use it. And it’s Monday, so I’m sure you can, too.

I love Donald O’Connor. Always have. He defies gravity and can do a prat fall better than anyone, ever. I will be smiling and humming this all day.

such a big girl and scary stuff on the horizon

Baby C is growing so fast and seems to want to be growing up even faster. Here she is trying to fill my shoes and use her toy cellphone as a little adult. I know everyone who has ever had a toddler and a camera has a variation on this shot, but I’m feeling particularly heartstrung about it today.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to blog about this as I try to keep things on the positive here, but it’s what is on the forefront of my mind to the near exclusion of all else from school photos coming up to excitement over K’s new bass lessons and S coming up on another belt test for Taekwando. And I just realized I didn’t even mention working on edits to my manuscript in that sentence on my re-read before posting.

I’ve been heading to doctors about a few things about my health, after a bit of a medical hiatus since having Baby C. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t want to know what it would mean, or believe that it was as scary as my instincts were telling me. I have not been healing well since having her seventeen months ago, I am exhausted and achy all the time and I don’t think I can just put it down to having a baby at the age of forty-two after an entire pregnancy of bedrest and sleep deprivation from her continued night wakings. turns out I just at the beginning of what looks to be a diagnostic process at the end of which will entail multiple surgeries. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say, female stuff among them.

I am extremely grateful that what I am going through is not anything along the lines of terminal cancer, but it’s still going to be a long road, when I am already exhausted from the road I have been on. But if at the end of it, I can feel bodily closer to my mental age, and therefore further meet in the middle at my chronological age, it will be worth it. Because right now, I am walking, or rather sitting through the world like an eighty year old, and at this juncture in my life, with a toddler, asperger preteen and now a high schooler, feeling like I am eighty years old physically is unacceptable.

At the dinner table the other night, I told S about what is coming on the horizon and why. I tried to make it simple and like it’s a good thing, but his expression and conversation after said it all. His big blues widened into worry of the extraordinary kind and he said, “But what if you don’t wake up? Then I won’t have a mother.” Then he turned to Honey and added, “Until you give me a new one.”

He sounds a little funny and callous, but to me, it meant that going the childhood of blended families that he has gone through, he’s pretty resilient, despite his initial appearances. I may sometimes think he needs my constant protection and will probably have to live with us the rest of his life, but other days, I can see, given the right circumstances, this kid is going to be alright. He definitely has an angel or something watching over him.

He was onto something, though, about not waking up. I am scared of that myself, as my mother, both of my sons and I have gone under for procedures and have had a rough time with anesthesia and with coming back out of it. So that is part of my concern when the surgeries come around. I also know, that when K was a toddler, I promised him I would live forever, or at least as long as the kids all need me. My determination to fullfill that promise is stronger than anything.

Thank you for listening, and I know I will be alright. A friend pointed out to me the other day, ‘Cath, it’s worth it. You’ll take thirty years or more off your physicality that shouldn’t be there anyway. Having these surgeries will free you.” So forward I march on to the rheumatologist next. Wish me luck, and please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

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