Finally!

I can breathe a sigh of relief and those little muscles at the base of my skull have loosened. Why, you ask? What possesses that power, the power to soothe the angreh Lili?

I’ll tell you. Simple. It’s raining!

It started while I was walking Miss B, a spattering of drops and the firs sending up a glorious gout of celebratory balsam-smell. Then there was a fine silver curtain of drizzle while I stood on the deck out back, not caring if it was acid rain washing all the particles out of air that’s been dry for weeks. Now it’s a steady tapping on the roof, and I am so, so glad.

I’m a winter writer, I guess. I’m at my most productive when the weather is filthy outside. I love rain, it’s one of the reasons I live in this part of the country. And now the proper season has started, and I no longer feel so parched and shriveled.

Now of course there will be mud and running in the cold wet, and damp dogs, and more mud, and baking and soup-making, and did I mention the mud? I’ve been dancing around whistling Gene Kelly, getting up to check the size and health of the puddles, and I’ve been more productive this afternoon than I have in WEEKS. The Cinderella book (shhh! you’re not supposed to know about that yet) is coming along nicely in revision. It doesn’t suck as hard as I thought it did (though plenty hard enough, thanks, ha, I went there, YOU KNEW I WOULD) and there are even passages where…well, it might not be all bad.

I’m not sayin’ it’s good, I’m just sayin’ it can possibly be fixed.

Thank heaven for the rain.

Over and out.

Casa to Chez, The Final Battle

Friday dawned, yes. It was going to be a hot day, and as I looked around the piles of boxes–I’d started packing when they told me the sale was a sure thing, more fool me, there was a crushing writhing snake in my guts. Oh, I’d been through all the stages by now–fear, anger, bargaining, homicidal rage, phobia of death by paperwork, the house isn’t that nice anyway, and my personal favourite, whimpering in the corner and banging one’s head on something solid while weeping pleeeeease just make it stop… So it wasn’t anything new.

Yeah, the mortgage broker told me it was going to be stressful. What he didn’t tell me–because he couldn’t–was that a lot of the stress comes from a feeling of profound and utter helplessness. You have signed papers, written letters, provided documentation, exposed your financial (and aspects of your personal) life to a soulless worm-machine that ticks its way with tortuous slowness through a maze largely built of its own slick and foul accretions, blindly consuming all in its path and moving with no more rhyme or reason than a vengeful, lunatic sky god or blind Lovecraftian tentacled horror. (R’yleh! Fnargh! Zort! Narf!) You hear nothing for weeks at a time, and when you do hear something, it’s just asking for minutiae you’ve already provided but some impish gremlin has apparently eaten while your coffee-stained file was jammed in someone’s dusty cabinet.

Hyperbole? Maybe. But only by a fraction, mind you.

But this particular Friday, the worm-machine had apparently decided I wasn’t any more fun to play with, since I’d stopped resisting. (Well, and I was prepared to walk away from the whole damn thing and rent for the rest of my natural-born, too.) I got a call. Can you come in and sign at 1pm?

You bet your sweet bippy I could. But after I got that call, I started making other calls. Just to make sure everyone knew that we had a deadline, I was signing at 1, and by God, if there was something someone needed, they needed to TELL ME NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE BECAUSE IF YOU DO NOT AND THIS GETS BUGGERED UP I WILL BE ON THEE LIKE WHITE ON RICE AND TRUST ME, SUNSHINE, THAT WILL NOT BE PLEASANT FOR YOU, THANK YOU AND GOOD DAY.

You get the idea. And it’s a good thing I did, too. You’d think people who did this for a living would be more proactive. But anyway.

Several smaller hurdles surmounted, I set off with no little trepidation a little late, because I’d been on the phone with someone mopping up the last of said hurdles. Traffic–oh, noon-thirty on a Friday, why do you taunt me so?–was bad, and I made it there a couple minutes behind, muttering and virtually daring anyone to say one damn word about how I was a couple minutes late when they had been stringing me along for two goddamn months.

I will say I was not in my most graceful mood ever. I was determined to be pleasant. We made small talk for a little while, then were shown into an office. The stack of paper was produced, a pen clicked into readiness, and I began to sign.

But the worm-machine wasn’t done with me yet. It made another attempt. I glanced down at a new stack of papers I was handed and my heart sank.

“There’s only one L in the middle of my first name,” I said, tentatively.

“What?” The lady across the desk blinked. “Is it…”

“These have two. Those have one, they’re fine. But these have two Ls in the middle of my first name.”

The mortgage broker said something under his breath. The escrow lady looked at my realtor, who looked at me. Our gazes met, and I think something broke inside my realtor that day.

She began to laugh.

After a second, I did too. It was just so absurd. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. Meanwhile, the escrow lady got on the phone and informed someone at the other end that she needed those documents done properly, and yes she knew it was a Friday, but if she did not get them she was going to personally visit whoever-it-was next week. Apparently this threat was deemed sufficiently dire to overcome any and all reluctance, for the corrected documents arrived less than fifteen minutes later, and her small iron-clad grin told me that she was both happy she did not have to make good on said threat…and also, a little disappointed. (Note to the fellow on the other end of that call: good job, dude. You lived to fight another day.)

Anyway, I finished signing the stack of papers, handed over a cashier’s check for *mumbleungodlyamountmumble* and sat there, waiting for the sky to fall or something.

It didn’t. I cautiously gripped the arms of my chair. “So, uh, what happens next?”

It turned out I was a homeowner at that point, but (the worm-machine had to add one last sadistic twist) I wouldn’t get the keys until the loan funded, which would be…

…you guessed it, after the weekend. A weekend I survived, and it took until Tuesday for me to finally hold the key of my new domicile in my fear-moistened little paw. At which point I was too emotionally exhausted to feel anything but weary befuddlement.

Until I said goodbye to the realtor, shut the door of what was MY house, now, and ran into the living room. I threw myself down on my back, stared up at the ceiling, and made a carpet angel. A pretty nice one too, and I spent the first few moments alone in my new house just staring at the ceiling. My ceiling. My new ceiling.

And then I cried.

But I’m not going to tell you about that.

Casa To Chez, Part I

So there have been big changes afoot at Casa Saintcrow. I’ve been hinting at them, fit to drive everyone mad, for, let’s see, four months now? And my blogging has sadly fallen off. It’s not entirely my fault, though.

Because at the hoary old age of thirty-six, finally, despite my ex-husband and the raging impossibility of everything, as well as the fact that I’m basically a freelancer…

…I bought a house.

I bought my very first house. The Casa is now Chez Saintcrow, all-new and improved.

This all started months ago when I went in to see a mortgage broker (and a very fine one, too) and said, “Can I afford to own a house? Do I have any chance of getting a mortgage? I WANT TO MOAN ABOUT MY DRIVEWAY AND ROOF AND I WANT TO LAY AWAKE AT NIGHT THINKING ABOUT HOW MUCH I OWE A BANK. HELP ME.”

After he dosed me with chamomile tea and laughed at me (very gently) we started crunching numbers. I’ve been working my ass off for this goal for years. And when the divorce was done and the dust settled, and I finally had some savings and had repaired my credit (because the ex, oh my GOD, but let’s not talk about that now, mmmkay?) and took care of all lingering Bad Issues from Said Divorce…well, I was actually in a pretty good place.

So I prequalified (which was amazing, seeing the amount of money someone would trust me with, but hey I wasn’t going to complain) and then looked up with big eyes and said, “Okay, so…what do I do now?”

“Now,” the broker said, “you find a house.”

“Oh.” I blinked. “That’s it?”

“That’s it. Get a realtor and find a house. And remember…” He fixed me with a steely glare, and I began to feel faint.

Christ, is there more paperwork? “What?”

“Buying your first house is the most stressful thing you’ll ever do.”

“Are you kidding? I have kids.” I laughed and breezed on out of his office, feeling ten feet tall.

I should have listened.

…to be continued…

A Curious Calm

Chicago Loop lightning strike
doug.siefken / Foter

I’m not going to talk about anger today. For one thing, I’m smelling copper and burning in ragged spates, and that’s not good for anyone. For another, why bother? Suffice to say that sometimes anger isn’t ridiculous. Sometimes it’s a sign that one’s boundaries have been trespassed, and a call to arms. Piertotem Locomoter, and all. (Speaking of which, my Harry Potter character? McGonagall. I’d like to be Hermione, but deep down I know I’m more Minerva.)

Anyway.

It smells like rain today. There’s a dusty-earth, peculiarly summer aroma, trees and grass exhaling in expectation of moisture. It’s been a wet, cool spring, with periods of bright warmth. Prime weather for growing grass, for flowers to bloom…and for insects. The yearly sacrifice of bits of my precious fluids to the Mosquito Gods is well underway. Bees won’t sting me (I should tell that story, shouldn’t I. But really, bees won’t sting me. I’ve tried to get them to.) but if there is a mosquito within five hundred miles, it will come by for a snack. Never a gift without a curse, you know.

I want to head out to the beach, but getting dog and kids ready to go is a two-day odyssey in and of itself, and the very thought makes me tired. Besides, there are no storms now, and I really love the Pacific Northwest coast most in autumn when the filthy weather comes sweeping in. When it’s gray and nasty and cold and the wind goes straight through you, and the rain and the sand find gaps in you that you never knew existed. But there’s also a sense of calm to be found in the middle of the nastiest, ugliest weather. One is face to face with a thrashing being whose malice is not human or intentional (so it’s properly not malice at all) and there’s a clarity, a cleanliness to it.

Things are happening here at Casa Saintcrow. Good things, mostly, but even good things are stressful when they involve Major Life Changes. I’ve been away for a while, and I’m dying to share the awesome bits with you. But I have to wait and sit on it. I can sit on bad news forever, but sitting on good is pure torture. I just always want to share the happy.

The house is quiet, and there is a curious calm in my chest. May the rain be a balm today, and may the goddamn mosquitoes not find me for a while. Amen.

You’re Nice Anyway

Compound Eye / Foter

Today, dear Reader, I entered the heart of darkness.

Yes, that’s right. I chaperoned a school field trip.

The Little Prince’s school went on a Dozer Day. We even had sunny weather, a rarity here in the mossy PNW.

The mental checklist went like this: Sunscreen? Check. Fresh first-aid kit? Check! Kerchief and two hankies? Check! Extra travel pak of tissues? Checkity-check check! Hip flask? … Hip flask?

OH DAMMIT.

Anyway. I was responsible for five kids, one of them my own lovely spawn. “Give me the troublemakers,” I told his teacher. “No. Seriously. It’ll be fine.”

And she did, and it was. “What, you think I was born yesterday? Put that back…The limit is two. Not three, four is right out…Oh, honey, he threw sand on you? Come on, let’s get you cleaned up…”

All went smoothly, the only hiccups being losing (and, thank God, finding) my cell phone (this was during the sand-flinging incident) and several pocket checks (“THE LIMIT IS TWO. Look, go hide those for other kids. Hide them so well nobody will ever find them.”) and one regrettable incident involving kids thinking it was a great idea to jump off huge tires stacked, I dunno, EIGHT FEET HIGH? (I put a quick stop to that, thankyouverymuch. The Little Prince’s teacher leaned over and said, “I had my doubts when you said to give you the troublemakers. I apologize.” Heh.)

I got told I was pretty, I got my hand held by every single kid in my little pod, and I got a hot dog for lunch. So it was pretty swell. We didn’t get to the driving of the big construction vehicles–the kids could sit/stand in front of the operator, and put their hands on the operator’s hands while the vehicle did its thing, it looked like a lot of fun. My little pod, instead, got to play in sandpiles taller than yours truly, in which were buried small “treasures” in plastic bags. There’s nothing like seeing a whole elementary-school’s worth of kids descend on a sandpile. It’s got to be one of the wonders of Nature.

Every child was exhausted and well and truly filthy by the time we boarded the buses to go back to school. Sitting on the bus, one of my pod–let’s call him Jerome–turned to me with a huge grin. “You know what {Little Prince’s name} said about you?”

“Nope. What?”

“He said you had a laser eye and you could make a kid behave just by looking at him.”

“Well.” I tried not to smile. “Do you think that’s true?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “But you’re nice anyway. Look at the stickers I got!”

I tell you, of all the times today I had to keep a straight face, that one was the hardest.

I returned every child I was responsible for in original factory condition, and got to take the Little Prince home early. He had to go lie down, he was so exhausted. No doubt we will be finding sand all over the house (and my laser eye) for days to come. But it was totally worth it.

Even if next time, I am goddamn well taking the hip flask…

Sunday Always Comes

.craig / Foter

I suppose it’s odd for a dyed-in-the-wool pagan heathen such as myself to read Slacktivist so closely. But I have to admit, he appears to be of my party without knowing it–or, just maybe, I’m of his without knowing it either. Either way, I’d like to knock back a glass or two with the fellow:

Well, actually, “favorite” is the wrong word. It’s not that I like this day so much as that I understand it. It’s recognizable, familiar, lived-in.

This day, the Saturday that can’t know if there will ever be a Sunday, is the day we live in, you and I, today and every day for the whole of our lives. This is all we are given to know.

Easter Sunday? That’s tomorrow, the day after today. We’ll never get there in time. We can believe in Easter Sunday, but we can’t be sure. We can’t know for sure. We can’t know until we’re out of time.

Here, in time, there’s just this day, this dreadful Saturday of not knowing. (Slacktivist)

We live all our lives in the Saturday of not knowing, and the only light in our darkness is the hope of something better, whether it is built on our children, our work, or our sacrifice.

What stands out, ultimately, and whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, or think the whole thing is a bunch of hooey imported from the Egyptian mystery cults or somewhere, is that, in the story of Easter week, unreasoning authority loses. (Charles P. Pierce)

It’s nice to believe that unreasoning authority loses. Especially since I’m reading about Stalinist Russia at the moment.

Anyway, let me greet you on this day, a festival of fertility, spring, resurrection, of unreasoning authority losing and the boot grinding into the face of humanity being forced away for a few precious seconds. I greet you, wherever you are and whoever you are, whenever you are reading these words, to say:

I believe that understanding brings compassion. I believe that we are getting better. I believe that there is always a spring after winter’s death. I believe my love for my children will somehow help. I believe humanity is largely noble, in its own unremarkable way, and will learn to be more so. I believe in good news, and in sappy things like redemption and love and people caring about each other. I believe that blood shed will someday be shown to be worth the pain, and that by quietly being as decent as possible on a daily basis will make some sort of difference. I believe, and I have absolute faith, in the power of art to redeem where necessary and to transform everywhere.

Last but not least, whoever and wherever you are, I have faith in you. If you have been looking for a moment when someone believes in you, look no further. It is here, now. Grab it and use it, for all it’s worth. You have permission, commission, absolution, redemption, and any other -tion you may require, right fucking now.

Now let’s go kick some compassionate ass, huh?

Over and out.

Spring, Just In Case

Sushicam / Foter

Spring Break. That magical week, during which the kids are out of school…and I work, as usual. It’s good having them home. I miss the monsters when they’re at school all day. Plus it’s fun to see them relax and expand into free time, goofing off like kids are supposed to do. Makes me think I’m doing my job sorta-okay.

So, spring! The plum tree out back is in full vigorous flower. In the fall, the sycamore out front hangs onto her leaves to put the neighborhood to bed; in spring, the plum wakes up and stretches to remind me that after every winter comes rebirth. Since I’ve lived here for over a decade (longest I’ve lived anywhere) I’ve grown pretty attached to both of them. In particular, there was the Year Of Heartbreak, where one of the few things that got me through was the sycamore holding onto her leaves for long past the time every other deciduous treekin in the neighborhood was bare.

One nasty ice-drizzling evening, I went out into the front yard and hugged her slick wet trunk. “It’s okay,” I whispered. “I’m going to be fine, I promise. Go to sleep.”

The next morning, she had shed all her leaves in the night’s wind. And every time I felt like I wasn’t going to make it, I went out and stared up at her bare branches, and thought I can do this. I promised.

So I did.

The plum tree…well, he’s a little different. I remember after my son was born. I had horrible postpartum depression; I didn’t know what it was at the time, but now I do. I remember nursing him, and feeling just absolutely terrible. (Details unnecessary. Just trust me, it was awful.) It was spring, and the sun came out from behind dirty gray clouds…and I glanced out his window, at the backyard.

The plum tree was glorious that year, fleecy pink blossoms settling in an exuberant cloud over his slender fingers. I stared, after that initial glance. It was as if a bolt of something had been shot right through me–a bolt of something hot, and fierce, and utterly determined. Now, looking back, I realize it was hope. I burst into tears, cuddling the helpless little thing I’d given birth to, and tingled all over. It was like a limb waking up, pins and needles, but all over my body.

I’ve never been one to drive in roots. Growing up as a military brat, you learn that tearing them up all the time is painful, and it’s best to be a tumbleweed. I look at my kids, and they don’t remember living anywhere else. (Especially the Prince, because he hasn’t.) I think the stability’s good for them. What I never thought was that it would be good for me too, and that being around long enough to get to know a tree or two might save my life, not just once but over and over again.

Spring. Every tree in the neighborhood is waking up. Wherever you are, dear Reader, I hope you have a plum tree. Or a cherry or apple, or really any tree at all. Just in case.