We’ve Moved!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2010 by Ms. Ex

Or rather, you are no longer being automatically redirected. Click here if you want to see what’s happening in my world.

The Power of Attention

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , , on July 28, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I’m going to take you back to an earlier time in my life, a time before I committed to buying coffee only from local shops.

I used to stop every other day occasionally at a particular Starbucks in my town, specifically the one on Wards Road in Lynchburg. It wasn’t really in my neighborhood, but it was near some places where I shopped, and I was willing to hold out until I arrived there because of a barrista that worked there.  I’ll call him Sam.

On of the first times I saw Sam, he greeted me like an old friend. He smiled warmly and said, “Hi! How is your day going so far?”

His eyes twinkled and the corners crinkled up and he was just so adorable I had a moment of excitement thinking, is he flirting with me??  Though he’s at least ten and more likely fifteen years younger than I, I refused to back down from my belief that he might find me pretty and might also be thrilled with my un-complicated order of a venti, half-caff, peppermint, extra-hot mocha.

I smiled back and answered that my day was lovely, thank you. And then, I couldn’t stop smiling. This kid had looked me in the eyes, grinned, and spoken to me in a familiar way. He was cute and more importantly, he was polite, attentive, and friendly, and that and five dollars will buy you a…well, I’ll tell you what it will buy you.

It will buy you a customer who drives out of her way to spend too much on a cup of coffee. It will buy you a customer who tells her friends about the really nice people who work for you. It will buy you the best kind of advertising there is – personal recommendation.

I left the store that day feeling a little lighter, and way happier. I’m not a sappy type, but having someone genuinely seem interested in me was refreshing and the rest of my day was made a little better for it.

Not long ago, my teenage daughter wanted to stop there so I pulled up and let her run in. When she came out, she was grinning and her eyes were all sparkly. When she sat down beside me I said, “He was in there, wasn’t he?”

“What are you talking about?” she answered.

But I knew why she was smiling. And I smiled, too.

Two Years Ago Tonight: The Birth of Baby B

Posted in Motherhood with tags , , on July 26, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Two years ago, in my one hundred year old house with no air conditioning, I was waddling around nine months pregnant and thankful that the summer’s humid heatwave had broken a bit and we could use the whole-house fan to draw in the cooler air. It was still damp, but not hot.

I had just gotten my little guy Ethan down to sleep, nursing him and holding him and wondering how much longer he would be my only son, how much longer before this new person would enter our lives. While nursing him, I’d felt the twinges of Braxton-Hicks contractions that were the norm now, but I had gotten past hope that it was labor starting. I just assumed it was more practice.

I lay down next to my sleeping husband sometime after eleven, around the same time it is right now as I write this. I tried settling in on first one aching hip, then the other, and felt something not like a contraction, but more like an ache in my cervix. It was odd, different than what I’d experienced with my prior two labors.

Unable to get comfortable, I got up and walked around. I just wandered from room to room, restless, not sure if this was the beginning of something or just the groanings of a woman tired of carrying around extra people all the time. I took a bath and tried to be quiet.

My husband had to leave for work at 1:30 a.m. and I didn’t want to wake him unnecessarily, but after a while I realized this was probably labor starting. When he finally awoke, I told him I thought this was it, but to go ahead to work, since my last labor had been so long and slow.  Though I was torn about it, I watched him leave, thinking I would be calling him in a few hours.

I got back into the bath and decided I should call my midwife just to tell her things were happening. My contractions were difficult but not overwhelming, and they were growing rapidly closer together, but because of our last seventeen hour experience together, she told me I should see how things go for an hour and then call her back. This was around 1:45 a.m.

I called her back at 2:00, beginning to panic a little bit and feeling like things were happening so fast.  There was a moment in which I felt my fear rising at being alone with this difficult task, and I remember telling myself that I could do it by myself. That this would prove I was strong. I called my husband to turn around and come home.

I don’t even know who got there first, but I was so relieved to see my “team” I think I plunged right into transition. I don’t remember much of the beginning. My husband filled the birth tub, and I got in as soon as I could because I was using all my energy to cope with the powerful contractions.

Not long after Leslie (the midwife), Mary Frances (her assistant), and my husband got settled around me, I was in the tub and feeling very much like pushing. I remember saying, “I feel like pushing and it’s too soon! Why do I feel like pushing?”

Mary Frances asked if it would make me feel better if she checked me, and I said, “Yes!” with what I’m sure sounded like huge relief and hope.

When she said I was complete, I got really excited about how fast it had been. Really only an hour and a half or so, which for me was amazing! But the hard work was only beginning.

I have big babies. Not like, super huge or anything, but when you consider my size, they are big. Ethan weighed eight pounds, eight ounces, and I pushed for five hours with him. That’s nearly unheard of, and it’s likely that if I’d been in a hospital, I would have been bullied into a C-section.

So I was geared up for the pushing this time, but also afraid. Afraid of getting stuck, afraid of having to last for hours.  I was determined to be effective and strong.

And boy did I try, but this nine pound, six ounce baby took a lot of work to get into the world. Leslie had to ask me to change positions a few times to help bring him down, and finally, squatting and gripping the edge of the birth tub, I was able to do it. It took everything I had to give.  Every time a contraction came I looked desperately for Randal and held his hand. Mary Frances kept cool cloths on me, and I just worked. I worked hard. And finally, when Leslie told me to reach down and catch him, I couldn’t even let go of the edge to do it!

But then he was here, and I was holding him, and he was mine. And he was beautiful, and still is.

And Beckett, sweet pea, I wanted to write your story first because I fear I’ve given you too little of everything so far. I fear you’ll remember in some part of your heart that the worst year of my life was supposed to be the best and easiest of yours.

I want to tell you that when I held you tonight and watched you fall asleep, my heart ached with all the mistakes I’ve made. Tonight, I’m making you cupcakes and telling your story. Tomorrow, you will open presents and blow out candles.

And for the rest of our lives, I will love you the best I can, and hope that it’s enough.


Becket, a few minutes old.

Every Good Food Needs Its Own Dance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 22, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I was looking for something specific, something not related to food at all, but as so often happens around this vast pseudo-informational wasteland, I ended up with this.

People who are good at making up funny song lyrics should always make videos, too. Hint, hint.

Now I’m off to make some tabbouleh with the tomatoes from my garden. Enjoy.

Borrowed Ideas

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on July 21, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I just got this idea off of Delicate Flower and decided since I’m trying to prepare for Indie Art Market I better find a lazy way to post. Like you didn’t already know too much about me, here goes:

Rules: 1. Respond and rework; answer the questions on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your invention, add one more question of your own.   2. Tag other people.

What is your current obsession?

-My children falling from great heights into fast-flowing water. Oh, wait – you mean like a fun obsession? I would say it’s iced chai tea with soy milk. And nuno felting. More on that later.

What did you wear today?

-My pajamas. Or at least, the clothes I slept in, which is just a black v-neck tshirt. And I did manage to add yoga pants before leaving the house. The shirt was clean when I put it on, and my body was clean too, so it’s not as bad as it sounds. Okay, yeah. It is.

What’s for dinner?

-Tonight it’s “whatever husband can go out and purchase.” Most likely Chick-Fil-A. I am speaking about doulas at tonight’s Birth Matters Lynchburg meeting. You should come.

What would you eat for your last meal?

-Ecstasy.  Sorry, husband. I’m dying anyway, right?

What are you listening to right now?

-The sound of one house clapping about the children being gone for the morning.

What language do you want to learn?

-All of them. Seriously. But in order of immediacy, I’d have to say: 1. Spanish (I already know some) 2. Italian 3. German 4. French (I can read a fair amount of French already) 5. Japanese 6. Russian 7. Chinese 8. Zulu.  I pick up languages fairly easily, and in fact taught myself Spanish. I had three years of French in high school but can’t really converse, though I can, as noted, still read some.

What do you love most about where you currently live?
I can walk to a park, a bookstore, a gourmet deli, a college campus, a bike trail, a river, my favorite coffee shop, the house I grew up in, downtown, and some of my good friends’ houses. And I can hear the trains thundering through all day.

What style is your current home decorated in?

-Early American-Swedish “Family of Five on One Income” (lots of Ikea, which looks really funny in a 102 year old house)

If you were a time traveler what era would you live in?

1920s-1940s. I would be a flapper, of course, to start with. A wildly inappropriate woman who likes to have fun and do the jitterbug. And actually, that description fits me now.

What is your favorite color?
You know that color you sometimes see at twilight when the sky isn’t completely dark yet but it’s a deep, deep blue and the trees are all silhouetted black against it? That color. And also, aubergine.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

-Can it be shoes? My Sketchers oxblood, shit-kicker boots that I got at the Goodwill last year. They almost make me wish it would get cold again. Almost.

What are your favorite films?

-I love violence. I do not know why. So here they are: 1. Wild At Heart 2. True Romance 3. Very Bad Things 4. Burn After Reading 5. Memento 6. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels   And also some that aren’t so violent: 7. Princess Bride 8. Ever After (embarrassing, I know) 9. Mo’ Better Blues

Your favorite books?

-This list would be entirely too long. But here are a few 1. One Hundred Years of Solitude 2. Like Water for Chocolate 3. Cold Mountain

Do you collect anything?

Yes. Phobias. And also, turtles. But not real ones.

Okay, that’s enough. I cheated and cut out the questions that would be too boring for you to read my answers to. Plus, some crafty goodness awaits me.

Just look at this nuno felt extravaganza!

Just look at this nuno felt extravaganza!

Sharing Means Caring

Posted in The Soap Box with tags , , on July 16, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I was in my neighbor’s house the other day when she came home.  She walked in with all her groceries and was all like, “Uh, what? What are you doing in here?”

And I was all, “Well, I like your house better than mine, and I noticed you were gone, so I thought I’d play here for a while.”

“But, but…this is my house! You can’t just come in here without being invited.”

“But you weren’t using it. See? It was just sitting here and you weren’t using it. So what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that it’s mine! I worked hard and built up a good credit rating and saved money so I could buy it. It’s very special to me, and private, and I’m happy to have you over some time but you can’t just come in whenever you want!”

“But I can’t afford a house this nice, and your stuff is cooler, too. And plus I’m just bored with some of my things and would rather mess with yours. I didn’t do well in high school so I didn’t get into college, so I never got a very good job. I’m a single mom with four kids and you only have three so you have more money. Why can’t you just share?”

“I didn’t do well in high school, either. In fact, I nearly flunked out. I went to college as a single mom, working nights and surviving on four hours of sleep a night so I could get a decent job. Now I’m $20,000 in debt.”

“But you don’t even work now! You must be rich to be able to choose to stay home. So whay can’t you just share your stuff?”

“We are not rich. We make choices that allow me to stay home with our kids because we believe it’s important. We drive crappy old cars and buy clothes at the thrift store. We use coupons, not food stamps. My husband works seven days a week.”

“Oh. Huh. Well, I still think you should share.”

She sighed and, shaking her head, ushered me out the door. I don’t see what the big deal is. I’d give it back after I was done.

Lord of the Worms

Posted in bad housekeeping, Embarrassing Moments with tags , , , , , on July 12, 2009 by Ms. Ex

I love to garden. I mean, I love to grow things, I don’t actually enjoy all the hard work. I might be the world’s laziest gardener. But I don’t mind getting dirty, and I adore looking at the little blossoms, watching everything turn all lush and delicious.

And I do like being environmentally responsible and so I recycle and compost. Once, I even bought some worms to have a worm bin.

The worm is a marvelous creature. It eats what is essentially garbage, and shits out this gorgeous, rich stuff that makes plants go wild. It’s like the Spanish Fly of gardening. Worm castings, it’s called.

So anyway, I ordered a shipment of these worms that you can put in a bin, toss in some damp newspapers, and put your food scraps in. Said worms will eat the whole smorgasbord of stuff and you’ll be left with the castings to toss on your garden. Fabulous.

However, I am not a good planner. I have little to no foresight, and rarely look at my calendar. Which doesn’t matter too much, since I also rarely write things in it.

So I ordered the worms – living, wriggling little creatures – and promptly went out of town for several days.

My neighbor offered to bring in my mail, which was wonderfully kind of her. I came home to find a neat stack of mail and one small package. Oddly, there were also small, dark brown squiggles all over my floor, which, on closer inspection, proved to be the bodies of dozens of dehydrated worms.

They made a break for it, and paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

Now, more than a year later, I still occasionally find a little brown squiggle stuck to my floor in some remote corner. I’m amazed at how far some of them made it. I had no idea worms could be so determined, especially since when your shit is worth its weight in gold, you are likely to have lived something of a privileged life.

So that’s my worm story, and the reason you should never send me a living creature in the mail. Just in case you were considering it, I mean.

Soul Shattering Pain Broken By Moments of Indescribable Beaty

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 10, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Humans are a terrible invention, really. But there are moments when we make up for it.

Barely Knit’s Innards

Posted in Embarrassing Moments with tags , , , on July 7, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Well, not my innards, exactly, but those of my purse, are featured over at Sweats Model’s blog.

Warning. Some of my fans have dirty little minds and are wreaking all sorts of havoc in the comment thread.

There, that’s my disclaimer. Now go, enjoy yourselves.

What I’ve Learned

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , on July 6, 2009 by Ms. Ex

This semi-hiatus has not afforded me much more time than I had before taking it.  One thing that has improved is the state of my home, but I can’t be too specific on that just yet.

I have learned a few things, and here they are, in no particular order:

1. There’s a reason writers say, “Write every day.”  It doesn’t take long for the brain to atrophy, and it seems the more I write, the more ideas I have for writing.  So I’m sorry to say it, dear family, but it looks like in order to write more I’m going to have to spend more time writing. I’ll miss you! Mostly.  And no, silly, I don’t mean you. I mean the other ones.

2. I get much validation from having my writing “out there” for others’ scrutiny and, dare I say it? I shall indeed: praise. I write for praise. It’s like working for food, only with less tangible reward. And since I haven’t been writing as much public material, I’ve suffered a downswing in my self-esteem. Yes, I realize this is unhealthy, but I have been amused and horrified at my desperation for compliments, and at least the experience has made me more aware of it. It is so very ugly when viewed on the page, in comment threads, that I intend to give it up much like I did smoking. By which I mean, quitting over and over only to start up again and then finally kicking but still dreaming about the day when I am close to death and will get to pick it up again.  Only thirty-two years to go.

3. I hate people even more than I suspected.

4. I don’t mean you, silly. I mean those other people.

5. Why I learned number three by not writing, I’m not certain, but I imagine it has to do with going to New Jersey. I’ll have to explore this more in the future.

6. GPS devices are useless. See, while we were on the road to New Jersey, I explained to four year old Ethan how they work. On our way back, in a coffee crisis, I typed in Starbucks and found the one closest to our route. When we arrived where the GPS said it would be, however, we were essentially in the middle of a field of tall grasses that looked nothing like dark, French roasted coffee. At that point, Ethan piped up from the back seat:

“That’s because there’s no such thing as a thing in space that goes around and around the planet and takes pictures and sends a signal to the GPS device! They’re not real.”

So this has been quite the educational experience for me.