Monday, June 1, 2015

Shopping with Toddlers is FUN!

So, for the most part, my kids are amazing. They are sweet and precious and their laughter makes my heart feel all warm and tingly, and I feel like the best mom. For about five, maybe ten minutes. You know, before the laughing, sharing tender carebears morph into screaming, growling, bottomless pits of need that seem to operate on the MAX volume setting. Then my head hurts, my nerves ache, and I reach for the aceteminophen.
When I picked my one and three-year old up from preschool this past Friday, I was so excited. We were going to start the weekend off with a great shopping trip! Yay! My daughter could get herself new boots, my son needed new shoes, and I needed a purse and epipen holder for my newly diagnosed mango allergy. I somehow thought that this was going to be FUN! The kids were excited to see me, they laughed and giggled in the car.  My husband and I shared that look that said "we are so blessed" and squeezed each other's hands. Then, tiredness of a whole week of school, playing, and learning set in, and the high-pitched whining and grunting fest began. All parents (and uncles or anyone who has been, um, "fortunate" enough to be trapped on the highway in 6pm traffic in a busy city, with a three-year-old and a one-year-old) know the drill. It all started with a simple, "hey, he has something I don't!" that went something like this:
Daughter: "Mooooooooooommmmmmy! I want his binky!"
Me: "That's his binky, sweetie, and you only use binkies at night-time, remember?"
Me: "Oh, sweetie, it's okay, we're going to go to the store and if you can hold out until we get home, I'll watch Boxtrolls with you and we can have popcorn!"
Daughter: (thinks about this) "Okay."
Son: "GggggggggaaaagaaaaaaghGGGHH-GHGHHHH!!!!!!!"
Daughter: <Crying at the top of her lungs> "MOOOOOOOOOOMMY!!! HE TOOK MY BLANKET!!!"
Me: "How did he do that? He can't reach your blanket unless you gave it to him?"
Daughter: "No, he reached over here and tooked it! He did!"
Son: "ggaah-gaah-gah!" *giggles*
Me: "When we get to the store, I'll get you your blanket back."
D: "It's okay, I taked it back."
Me: "....."
S; <continues screaming because there's nothing so tragic as having some new toy that is immediately taken away from you>
D: "He lost his binky, Mommy."
Me: his
 binky in her mouth and a defiant look on her face, and takes a few breaths before deciding whether Anna and Kristoff are going on timeout, or if there will be no Boxtrolls later>
Let's just say, that the above summarizes the first five minutes of the post-dinner drive to the vintage store where we were going to be responsible citizens and purchase sustainable, reused items. Instead, we got to the store and found nothing, and after chasing our children around the store, three fits, one bruised shin and crushed toe, and another 30 minute drive, one attempted accidental shoplifting by a three-year-old, we returned home where I promptly ordered everything online.
So, the moral of the story is shopping is NOT fun with toddlers. I'm pretty sure toddlers at least half the reason online shopping is so popular. And, don't get me wrong, I try to be green, I really do. I'm a hippie at heart and would love for nothing better than to shop local and purchase only items that have been thoroughly vetted by a life-cycle analysis for the sustainability of the manufacturing of every single component. But, the screaming. My hippie, "you can talk anything out if you just put enough love in your voice" attitude was not prepared for the sheer determination of toddlers hell-bent on being unhappy about something. You just have to ride the storm and wait until they become reasonable balls of adorableness again.
So, for the time being, most of my shopping will be done online. Plus, it shopping online has these amazing benefits:
  1. You won't spend the worst two minutes of your life screaming your toddler's name because she decided to play hide-and-go-seek behind the check-out-stand and you become convinced that someone has snatched her and you're going to spend the next few decades wondering why you had left your toddler leash in the car because now your child has been kidnapped, and the worst of the worst is going to happen and did you really need those organic grapes anyway?
  2. You won't get those judgey glares from folks as your toddler throws an all-out screaming fit because you won't let her take the life-sized Elsa doll home, which is compounded by your 1-year-old deciding that if the world is ending, he's pretty unhappy about it, too.
  3. No lines. Seriously. Waiting in line as you watch the count-down click past bed-time and watch the kiddos slowly turn into writhing monsters is the worst. There's nothing you can do unless you want to abandon your shopping (and the last 45-minutes to two-hours of your life) and run away in defeat.
  4. No finding odd things in your cart (who knew I wanted to try coconut chip pumpkin chai coffee? I didn't!)
  5. No discovering random things in your toddler's pockets that require you to turn-around and return to the store in the "we didn't buy this" walk of shame.
  6. No screaming.
  7. You can drink while you shop and no one but your husband/spouse/partner/dogs will know.
  8. Did I mention no screaming?
Seriously, my children are the best. I just don't want to shop with them. Yet? I've heard four-year-olds get better? Right? I can hope? Right?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Surrounding Yourself with Good: How we Chose our Children's Godparents

This post has been brewing in the back of my head since before my daughter was born. Sometimes people walk into your life and create what at first seems like a subtle ripple in the waters of your life, and only when you look back do you see that what started as a ripple, actually became a tidal wave.  A tidal wave of acceptance, warmth, humor, and love; a wave that picked you off your feet along the way and swept all those tangled weeds of self-doubt away with the tides and leaves you feeling whole. 

When we were expecting our daughter, my husband and I began what became a lengthy discussion as to who we wanted to be our daughter's godparents. The role of a godparent was extremely important to me, because I am who I am in no small part thanks to the role of my godmother and godfather. My godfather passed away when I was very young, but to this day I remember his humor, patience, and kindness. My godmother was a constant presence in my childhood. She was patient, kind, and unafraid of questioning my sheer determination on every front, even in my rebellious teens. Her compassionately-spoken word, even if it was correcting an erroneous belief or behavior, somehow checked me and made me think about the person I wanted to be, and how my words and actions were interpreted. We didn't always agree, but she made me think about my beliefs, and made sure that my passions were well-founded. Was she perfect? No, but she was still our saint. She was my mother's closest friend, and a soul-sister if she ever had one.

So, when choosing our the godparents for our daughter, my standards were pretty high, but we were both very realistic and treated this matter very carefully. In many respects, we are lucky. We have a wonderful group of intelligent, loving, caring friends, but this only made the choice more difficult. In the end, our choice was perfect. We chose two people who embody the following statement to the fullest:

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you,
even when you don’t see it yourself.” -Edmund Lee
On so many occasions, these two individuals have shown how truly they are dreamers, believers, and thinkers. But even more importantly, we see every day their capacity for love, friendship, compassion, joy, camaraderie, humor, and the joy in learning and sharing that love of learning with others. They take joy in the accomplishments of other people and exude love and acceptance in a way that I have always found inspiring. They laugh easily, love easily, step in to lend a hand when needed, and were some of the first people to teach me the concept of paying it forward. 

One has been like a brother to me for nearly 16 years, and the other has been like a sister since I first started training at martial arts. And something I noticed about these two folks in particular - by being around them, I was becoming a better person. 

When we settled on their names unanimously, we were gleeful.  It took us a while to ask them, since we were fearful that, after all our thought, they might say no.  Turns out, they said "yes" within a minute, and I cannot describe the a surge of relief I felt. Our children are the most precious things to us in this world, so knowing that if something were to happen to us, that they would be left in the care of these two amazing individuals, alongside their equally amazing children? They would be raised in an environment of loving support, tolerance, and kindness? I can't describe the relief. No one can love a child like their parents, but I know these two would be as damn close as you could to loving our children like their own. Because that's how they roll!  

These two have been more than a safety net - they have been an anchor. When you feel like you might get lost at sea, it is so helpful to have those friends who will tell you the truth, and will also give you the mirror so you can see for yourself that your world isn't as dark as it seemed.  

So, remember, when you're looking at the people you hold close, the people you spend the most time with, ask yourself - do they see the greatness within you? Are you able to be unapologetically YOU around them? If not, find those people who are the dreamers and the doers around you - they're the ones who make you feel good about yourself because they are simply good to the core. 

Those people are the people you want in your life. More than that, they're the people you want in your children's lives.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Drowning in the Dark - Finding Your Way to Forgiveness

It has been a long time since I last wrote, but as my son approaches his very first birthday, I'm feeling a little uptick in energy that means my fingers are itching for something new, and Facebook is just not cutting it.

But, the thing I want to write about today isn't my son or daughter and their adorable antics - it's about forgiveness, and a point when I thought things were at their darkest. My sister recently wrote a post about forgiveness and asked me about a dream I had after a tragedy in our lives. You can find her post here: Until I was Free.

As background, well over a decade ago, my husband and I were married. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It wasn't perfect, because my mother showed up that morning and told my husband she wouldn't be at the wedding. I was in my room getting dressed, but I heard her, I could hear the panic in her voice, but before I could come out to plead with her, Nick had used his compassionate powers of persuasion to convince her she had to be there. After the wedding, my mom's illness became worse. She would show up at our house and rant and yell. She left voicemails for me telling me I was the devil incarnate, demonspawn (her most used adjective for me) and she wished I had never been born. Nick began screening and deleting these voicemails, because it had become just too much for me. It was bad enough watching my mom slip away mentally, but to be the object of such hate was more than I could bear.

Our honeymoon was the first chance for me to escape. For three weeks, I didn't have to worry that I would be woken up in the middle of the night by the woman I called mother yelling under my window, the rattling of her trying to break into my house at 3:00 a.m., to do who knows what. It took a while for me to unwind, but I think it was about 1.5 weeks into the honeymoon before I felt I could breathe and let go of all that hurt, fear and anxiety I had been clutching close to my chest. For the first time, I felt like the world was actually going to be okay. And I reveled in the beauty of Greece, the food, the relaxation, the different culture, and did I mention the food?

When I returned, my world was turned upside down. While I was off re-learning to enjoy myself on my honeymoon, a friend from high school, Lucas, had killed himself, and murdered Skye, someone else from my high school. I wanted to say he had "taken someone else's life", to dance around the sheer brutality of it, but that's what it was. It was murder.  It was suicide.  

I was simultaneously racked with guilt and angry at Lucas. I had known Skye in high school and from ballroom dancing - he was a rare soul who just radiated kindness and compassion. I never saw him without a smile on his face, and I never saw or heard him speak an unkind word about anyone, no matter how deserving.  The reason I was racked with guilt is pretty simple - I had grown up with mental illness in my life. I knew the signs. I knew when someone was drowning in a darkness of their own creation.  I saw Lucas lashing out at people, I saw the spark in his eyes slowly disappear until it was entirely consumed by an emptiness. It was the same aching emptiness I saw in mom's eyes when she sank into a depression, and would hurt herself. I once found my mom sitting on the stairwell to the basement with a kitchen knife in her hands, crying. I was maybe 12 or 13 - that's when she confessed that the scars that run up and down her arm that she had always told me were from her attempt to take a knife away from my autistic uncle when they were children - she had lied. She said that sometimes she would "hurt herself so she could feel something - anything." As a kid, I didn't know what to do when someone I loved was hurting, so I took the knife away and held her and told her I loved her. I made her promise me to never hurt herself again. We never talked about the knife again.

Lucas's emptiness was also deep, but he would hurt others so he could feel. I started to see the pattern, as he became less charming and more focused on mounting verbal attacks, in tearing me (and others) down so he could feel better about himself. 

I recognized this on some level, but, I think 20 year old me couldn't cope. So, after he had verbally abused our brother, and I found him licking the ear of a sleeping under-aged friend, I blew up. I just couldn't take it. For the first time, the mousey-Raven blew up and, more surprisingly, held her ground. I confronted him, told him his behavior was inappropriate. When he tried to tell me I was over-reacting and being hysterical, I stuck to my guns, I remembered my self-defense class and identified exactly what he was doing that was inappropriate, and when he still wouldn't believe me, I swore. If you know me, you know I *hate* being angry, I hate confrontation of all kinds, but I yelled at him: "Get the FUCK out of my house." He said his friend lived there, too, and I said "I don't give a fuck, so long as I live here, you are not welcome. Do not talk to me, do not speak to me, get the FUCK out, and don't come back. If you don't get out now, I'll call the police." I literally walked forward, yelling at him to get the fuck out of my house until I had backed him out of the door and slammed the door on him. Then I ran to my room, shaking and crying. This all took place in front of our friends, whom I think were totally surprised, and possibly horrified, because his behavior was so commonplace. It was just Lucas being an asshole.

I remember that scene vividly, and when I found out about the murder-suicide, it all came back to me. I had cut him out. My other friends hadn't - they still saw him, but I had not done it in a constructive way.  Some time after I returned, a mutual friend called me and conveyed that Lucas had a parting message. He had taken this friend out before the tragic events and asked him to convey to me how sorry he was for the way he treated me. That he'd recognized I had been a victim, and he'd taken advantage of it. He wanted me to know how sorry he was if he'd ever hurt me, but that he could see I was doing much better now. 

I'll admit, that didn't help my guilt. I knew Lucas was mentally ill. I'd seen it in Mom, I'd seen it in others, I knew the signs. So, I was mad at Lucas for Skye, I was mad at him for all the hurt he'd caused everyone around him, but I was mad at myself for not recognizing the signs, for kicking him out/shutting him out, because I didn't know enough to take him aside and say, "Lucas, this isn't right. What you're doing, isn't right. You need help. I can't give you that help, but I can be here for you while you get it. Please, start seeing someone, and I will support you. If you don't, THEN, I'm afraid you are no longer welcome here." But, in all fairness, I was young and silly, and hurting myself. 

So, when I learned about what happened, I felt terrible. My friends told me there wasn't anything I could have done - that if I had continued to be in his life, I, too, might have been hurt. What I did then - it was self-protection and I needed to do it. But, at the time their words fell on ears that weren't listening. 

After a few weeks of intense guilt and crying myself to sleep every night thinking about the hurt and pain that would drive someone into that kind of darkness, I drifted into a fitful sleep. I was suddenly in Monroe Park, where my siblings and I used to play as children. I was my 11-year-old self, and holding the Express (my favorite kitten who had died in an accident when I was a kid), surrounded by  other kittens playing in the sun-filled grass. It was magical. A warm breeze teased the grass and I felt an intense wave of peace roll over me. As I pet and cuddled my sweet kitten, whom I hadn't seen in over a decade, I saw feet in front of me, and I looked up in surprise. It was Lucas, standing above me. His head was surrounded by a halo of sunlight such that I could barely make out his features, but I knew it was him. As he stepped closer, he gave me a huge smile, the likes of which I hadn't really seen since high school, and held his arms out. I stood up, and he embraced me and said "It's okay, Rachael. I'm okay." I felt those words to my very core and I woke up with them ringing in my ears. Somehow, the heaviness was lifted from my heart.  I realized that he was gone, but all his pain was gone, too. He had taken a light out of this world that we couldn't bring back, but I needed to stop dwelling on his pain and his hurt. I needed to stop drowning in the darkness his world had become at the end.  

In that moment, I understood. In that moment, I forgave him and I forgave myself. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Remembering Her Light, Four Years Later

In many ways, today is remarkably similar to this very day four years ago. This day back then, like now, was pretty typical of the Willamette Valley - cloudy, rainy, with interspersed moments where the sun breaks through the clouds, and we Eugeneans feel the promise of Spring. We feel the hope that the light brings with it.

Four years ago, my mom passed away.  Her passing was peaceful. A harpist played music for her for an hour and we watched as her face relaxed, listening to the music. After the harpist left, my little sister and I began manicuring her nails. Within minutes, her breath slowed, and we each put down our instruments and held one of her hands. I whispered in her ear that I loved her, and that I would share with the world the light she brought into it, that I would remember her light. Just as she released her last breath, the sun shone through her window, and I felt the darkness in which she had lived so much of her life was finally lifted - that she was finally free.  With everything I had just told her, about remembering her light, I knew with every fiber of my being that she was at peace.

After that moment of release, however, my own world was plunged into what felt could only be an interminable darkness. I had lost my mother - a piece of my soul, a piece of who I was. As many of you know, who have lost loved ones, I ached in a way I had never thought possible. I tried to smile, but I felt a gaping hole in my heart. I felt ashamed for all the things I did and didn't caring for Mom before her death.

Today feels so similar to that day, except I feel that hope again. I feel the promise of Spring and better things. As I have relayed previously, in my blog Three Years and Some Change, I feel my mother is here with me. I don't see her in the streets as much as I used to, as I wrote about in my previous blog. But I do feel her with me.

As my family gets ready to accept our second child, I feel closer to my mother than ever. When my two-year-old daughter told me: "I love you, too" the first time, or when she curls up next to me on the couch, I feel the joy I know my mom experienced. Whenever I begin to feel that pang of sorrow while thinking about Mom, I remember that joy. I remember the look Mom got on her face when she described how much she loved us. I remember how she told me that I wouldn't understand the joy, sheer terror, and love that being a parent involved until I had a child of my own, and I know now she was right. Now, I feel her in my own hand. She's there when I hold my daughter's little hand as we cross the street, when I stroke my daughter's hair (much like she stroked mine), when I put on my daughter's little shoes and she leans on me for balance. I feel the same little tug of pride intermingled with sadness I am sure she felt whenever my daughter tells me confidently, "No, Mommy. I got it."

I still feel my mother everywhere around me, but mostly, I feel her inside of me. I know she is still with me. Every day. And while she didn't get to meet my daughter, or my soon-to-be born son, I know has already met them -because she is a part of me, and will always be a part of me.

So, Mom, I wanted to tell you again: I love you, and I will always remember your light. I am still working on sharing that light with the world, but I'm getting there.

Your loving daughter, now until the end of time,

The Rambler

Monday, January 20, 2014


I have had this poem sitting on the back-burner for a while, as I contemplated how fear stifles creativity and positivity. Through a collaboration with a friend and artist, Pieter Karlik, I now have a couple of visual representations.

I want this poem to speak for itself, so I won't give it a long introduction, although a part of me would like very much to do just that. Without further ado, here it is, first in chalk:

And in watercolor:

As always, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Long time gone...

Wow, has it really been nearly three months since my last post? Really? Sheesh, I have been completely lax.
Just to catch up everything in a nutshell (so I can spend future posts on more interesting topics), here's a brief, uninteresting report of what this Rambler has been up to in her long absence (yes, I apologize, I spoke in the third person... I admit I am a dork. Deal with it.):

In my long absence, I can report that I am 20 weeks along with lil' Critter #2, which two year-old Critter #1 is not too happy about. Critter #1 has taken to ignoring all references to Mommy's growing belly, and has instead decided the whole world is hers. The chant around my house has become a variant of "My phone! My crayon! My computer! Mine mine mine mine!" I'll admit, I have a really hard time suppressing laughter at her vehemence over her possession of things. For instance, there's the teepee she got for Christmas - she keeps trying to push our large mastiff/lab mix out of it, while screaming "My teepee! My teepee! Out, Bash, out!" Vash (not "Bash" as my daughter likes to call him, is named after the Humanoid Typhoon from Trigun), of course, just sits there, not budging, while my two-year-old becomes very miffed. I don't know if it's just lack of sleep, but these scenes cheer my up and warm the cockles of my heart.

Also, my hyperemisis gravidarum has wrapped itself up nicely (thank freakin' God). I no longer wretch when I brush my teeth, accuse people of "smelling like death" if they brew or drink coffee.

Not too much has happened in the writing world for this one. I should have a poem nearing completion sometime in the next week or so, I am still brainstorming/early writing my next project "Shieldmaiden", and I sent a solicitation to a second agent for Waking Dreams, which was promptly rejected. That means of the nine agents I researched as being vaguely open to not only my genre, subject, accepting new writers, etc, I only have seven more agents to query. Yay? After that, there are four publishing houses I can query. Then, the final resort... SELF-PUBLISHING. And of course, edit, edit, edit. Seems like a bit of a scary, exciting world. But I am game! If the traditional course fails, which I imagine it will. I'm a first time author in a competitive world, with a very tough break-in genre, and, well, in spite of my wishes and hopes that Waking Dreams is an absolute stellar, perfect little diamond in the rough, chances are it's a rough little piece of coal that could use some pressure to become the gem it could be.

Aside from that, like all of you, I weathered the holidays (only a little worse for wear), and am feeling the holiday "Why the f*&k did I eat all that?" blues.

So, that's sort of my last three months in a nutshell. I hope everyone out there has been kind to themselves and their loved ones and are gearing up for the New Year!

Love and Peace to you in the New Year! (sorry, channeling a little bit of Vash the Stampede there).

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Finding my voice has been an odd kind of journey. Taking criticism is hard, but it's an absolute must for any writer or artist, because it helps you grow and learn what kind of criticism is constructive and will help you grow, and what you can leave at the door for what it is.

I am not a perfect writer. I am not a great poet. But do I like writing? Hell, yes. Am I going to continue writing? Hell, yes, again! And, if one other person enjoys the ride, then I feel like it's worth it. So I can say I don't find it funny when I read diatribes directed at bloggers and Facebookers, the ones that pose as witty critiques but are really directed critiques of people struggling to find a way to express themselves through social media.

Communication is difficult. People use words and images in different ways. Will our language skills grow and evolve as we age and truly find not only ourselves, but our voices? Definitely. But haranguing, ridiculing (however subtly) or otherwise making people afraid to speak is not the way to do it. The only thing that promoting silence and staunching self-expression does is staunch creativity and fan the fires of fear and self-reproach.

We can't become better writers, better artists, hell, better human beings if we do not hone our modes of self-expression.

So, with all this in mind, I wrote another poem this week. I hope you enjoy it!

   This photo is copyrighted by Cole Thompson. Permission to use the photo was granted by the artist - please visit Cole Thompson Photography and Cole Thompson Photography Blog to learn and see more of his creative work.  
Peace and a day with courage and love to you all.

-The Rambler