hey! two days in a row

Currently, I’m sitting an an 85 degree hotel room, as my partner sits in a scalding hot salt bath to sweat out that last kilo for an 8am weigh-in.

Words <–well, lookit that. a title>

she certainly wasn’t a writer and so definitely not
a poet         not a talker either         not one
to use words like the ocean moves sand
constantly         every touch and retreat
reshapes the meaning of the beach

no

words for her were to cobble
facades         the mortar a slurry of insecurity
and fear

so

you must feel beaten by the surf of my words
relentless
ache stay body time hold live now kind hand
work fair hide need fit take look here you mine
feel leave free sun lift care her strong still
night help down hair put give come dark long
speak time me swing stop hang day life hard fast

now

these words don’t tessellate         they don’t stack to create
levies         they tumble fall shape make
me a woman mother writer
they make me
me

cajun daquiris, other

So, in Shreveport they have this joint called Cajun Daquiris. Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 6.06.08 PMIt is a small cinder block drive-thru building with a garish alligator (or crocodile?) mascot. You pull up to the window and order basically an alcoholic slurpee. And they come in ridiculous sizes. The middle size is 32 oz (which I stupidly ordered and am currently working my way through). You can also get a gallon (the largest size). Your daquiri comes in a lovely styrofoam cup, complete with a straw scotch-taped to the top — which also conveniently covers the straw hole, effectively side-stepping the “open container” law.

Shreveport is also home to the Superior Grill,  which serves enormous frozen and ever-so-strong margaritas during happy hour — also in styrofoam. I believe Shreveport is the styrofoam capital. And potentially the cheap-mixed-drink capital.

The other amazingly awesome plaScreen Shot 2014-04-05 at 6.05.56 PMce we’ve visited here was CrossFit SBC, where the coach, Asa, kicked our fannies this morning. The WOD was followed by a fish fry, where some of the members brought in this propane-fired fryer and made fried catfish ON THE SPOT. There was also this amazing catfish gumbo stuff, of which I ate two bowls without blinking an eye. As I was talking up the chick who made the gumbo (and that’s not the name she gave it — I can’t remember what she called it; it had some serious French name), she happened to mention that she and her husband had caught the fish fresh out of the Red River and that the vegetables had come from her garden. I told her she wins and that I quit.

I am really digging Shreveport.

The poem I have below is a kind of depressing prose poem that is unfinished. And I know my pace has been about 1 poem for every 2 days, but that will have to do.

[No title… sheesh. I’m slack]
I saw a pregnant woman today. We passed one another in the Barnes and Noble parking lot. The bump of her navel pressed itself against her smooth white cotton T-shirt. I smiled at her, the muscles in my cheeks protesting with the poison of sadness. It seeped from my jawbone, invaded my neck, clavicle, shoulders. I looked away, thinking how she was impatient for the skin of her stomach to quit itching from the stretch. She waited to meet the person she carried. Waited to gaze into small blue eyes and inhale the scent of newborn scalp. Waited to populate the nursery with diaper rash ointment and gender-appropriate bedding. And then I hoped. Hoped for her that her baby would be kind. That her baby would inhabit a world of security. That her baby would grow into a child, an adolescent, an adult who loved instead of feared. Who blessed instead of cursed. Who opened instead of angered. I held my son’s hand, sweaty and still small in my own, as we passed through the doors of the book store.

I’m already a day behind

By virtue of my traveling this week to Shreveport for the 2014 National Master’s Weightlifing Championships — in which my participation is to provide the real lifters with an easy adversary — I am already behind. But I persevere.

[No Title Yet]
I brush my teeth thrice:
once in the shower, the scald
filling my mouth and the paste running down,
burning the thin skin on my chest.
Twice, then, at the sink with a floss
in between for good measure.
The process, I imagine, is driven
by my urge to undo the half-assed
cleanings I’ve rushed through the other
days that week.
I’m making up for missed deadlines
and disappointments to lovers,
as though the extra effort before bed one night might repair past
missteps. The burn of Listerine at the end
reminds me:
if I get my shit together and brush
with conviction and discipline,
the suds in the sink would not be tinged
with blood.

April is National Poetry Month

And so it begins, as it does on every April 1, where I intend to post a daily, rough-hewn verse-or-so.

And then it ends, typically on April 2. I’ll try harder this year, folks.

[No Title Yet]
March, I believe
I’m quitting you.
Not leaving, as I’m not the one
who moved in. No, that was you
shoving February’s snow
aside with that first few days of glorious
thaw. You had me
looking forward to new spring with hope
I hadn’t felt since August. I opened
my windows and dusted the floorboards
for your coming. Painted
my fences fresh. Scooped
the gutters clear. But soon
your sky greyed over with a small
frown of indifference. You are here
to stay, but you stole away
the promise of a green beginning.
I’m done thinking the next morning will mean
birds in the pine and dew. I wake to snow
and the anger of purple clouds, and know
that if I wait, you’ll go.

hyphens

The summer has been careless, the sun
appearing every few days, as though hungover
and half-hearted in its shining. Peaches
are sour and water-logged from the rain,
which falls reluctantly as though called upon
too often. Seems only the weeds are happy –
clover and dandy and crab –
they shiver with the joy of wet dirt and mellow
photosynthesis. Children, blue-lipped and determined,
jump in the sprinkler turning with resignation.
I pinch ants as they venture onto my beach towel.
I bury my face in the too-tall grass.
I look at the gutters on my 90-year-old house
and wonder how tall the poke berries that grow there
will reach before I gather the courage to climb
a short ladder to dispatch them.

break

This week is winter break. I have a week free from teaching; a week of daytime flexibility (save for a few days I have to go onto campus for meetings). Additionally, I’ve somehow made it so that I am all caught up on reading/grading.

So, what will I do with myself? I wonder.

I need to write. I’ve got a notebook with about 4 poems that need attention. I’ve got 2 ideas for research projects that I should get a-moving on with. There’s a sweet potato brownie recipe that I should experiment with. And I’ve got an idea in my head for a song that I should record.

I need to clean. I would just like to say: I used to be able to keep my shit together at the house. My natural state of being-at-home involved mindlessly picking up and sweeping, moving loads of laundry along, wiping down the baseboards in the bathroom as I sat on the toilet. (Yes, not a joke.) Somehow, though, in the last years, this whole way of being has left me. I get home and I wander. I look at, and see, the sand and pine needles and cat hair piling in the corners. I witness the crumby evidence of children eating at the computer desk (prohibited). I stare blankly at the stove top, greasy with yesterday’s bacon-based meal.

The cupboards are spotty.

The tile grout is grey.

The windows are smeared with kitty nose prints and the oil of people’s foreheads.

The carpet is beyond vacuuming; it needs to be replaced, but I could AT LEAST vacuum it.

Break. Huh. I think I’ll just spend a few hours at the box every day instead.

the open

Every year, CrossFit HQ organizes the CrossFit Open, where individual affiliates can participate in a worldwide competition for entrance into the CrossFit Games. Any CrossFit athlete can register and log their scores to see how they stack up — and potentially win a spot in the regional competitions.

And I have no chance, not one in hell, of making it to regionals. I’m stronger and faster than last year, sure, but I’m 37 for good gravy’s sake, and I’m still a lightweight when it comes to all the lifts.

So why bother? Why would I spend $20 to log some pitifully mediocre scores? Why would I care about coming in, like, 5,000th place out of 10,000? Why — when there’s certain to be some muscle-ups in one of the later workouts — would I want to break my own heart like that?

Because I love it. I love the anticipation of the secret WODs; the excitement of their announcement. I love the added camaraderie that my CF community experiences as we suffer — coaches and athletes alike — through having our movements judged and counted (and no-repped). The open puts our attention back to the standards in a very useful way; there’s no flubbing that wall ball shot for ANYONE.

The open is a time to re-charge our passion for working as hard as we can, for going all out, for leaving it all on the floor.

nothing to see here

Alright. Gird yourselves; this is a non-crossfit post.

This here blog started a few years ago when my youngest, who is now 9 years old, was but a wee babe. I wrote several times a week about the intersections (collisions) between being a mother and being an academic. In fact, this blog used to be titled “Academom.” No one could pronounce it.

I mostly wrote about how being a mom was hard. Super hard. Changing diapers, potty-training, house-cleaning and having babies who wouldn’t stop screaming. Getting kicked out of stores because my baby wouldn’t stop screaming. Mediating toddler fights and tantrums. Nursing in public. Running a Girl Scout troop for a bunch of 1st graders. Listening to “Heart and Soul” on the piano over and over. Etc.

About two years ago, however, I realized that my motherhood had shifted completely. There were no more babies and no more toddlers. No more diapers. Shit, there was no more having to make any meals if I didn’t want to; these small people that had taken the place of the babies — and these small people could pretty much work the microwave and reach the cabinets to get their own cereal bowl and they could wipe their own butts and entertain themselves for hours watching TV and playing games on the internet and reading books and playing with their friends.

I still was a necessary person to them: they required rides and clean laundry and sometimes gentle and not-so-gentle reminders about bathing and teeth-brushing. But I could sit for 5 hours writing or grading papers and they would be outside playing hockey or at the mall with friends and I would be all, “Holy crap. I can be a person again!” For the past couple of years, I’ve reveled in this newfound, low-volume mothering.

Yeah. All that loveliness is kind of crashing down around me right now. I said to a colleague, “I miss having toddlers. THEY’RE SO MUCH EASIER.” I can’t imagine ever actually thinking that. But these small people in my house are now starting to have big people problems. The damn mothering honeymoon of late elementary school children is over.

The larger challenge for me, though, is that my inclination is to write about these problems. I write about stuff to work things out in my head. To solve problems. To get feedback and advice from other people. I make stuff public. But these problems are not really just mine anymore. I don’t get to air other people’s dirty laundry.

So, if you’ve got a baby or a toddler, and you think mothering is hard. Things do get better. For a while. But then they get hard again.

through hardships to the stars

Per aspera ad astra.

walking we are caught, by tiny hooks that hold our hope
our skin may be scratched, but nothing holds us back
i will be brave, my body may change
but my spirit will stay, i will be brave

Today, I went to the gym. Today, the programmed workout was 5 rounds of the bear complex, a series of movements with the barbell (clean, front squat, push press, back squat, push press). For each round, we were to complete 7 repetitions of the complex, and then add weight for each subsequent round.

So I did what I do. I look at the white board and peg the people I chase. I decide what my last round will be, do some mental math, and figure out the weight I’ll need for each of the 5 rounds.

I get set up on a platform, and I get through three rounds with little fanfare. Lindsay is sitting on a box in front of me, and on my last repetition, she says, “That’s not heavy enough.”

I look at my little white board, where I’ve written my original planned weights and rounds. I inwardly grimace. I know that I can finish the last round at the weight I’ve chosen. Her proposed revisions sound scary; I’m afraid to get too close to the limits of my push press; I fear with an increase that I won’t be able to get the bar over my head — especially on the last reps of the last round.

But she says to me, “You can do it. It’s all in here.” She pokes one manicured finger to her forehead.

I have posted about this before. I have written about how when people have expectations of me, when *other people* think I can do stuff, then I feel like I can have faith in myself. But it’s very difficult for me to muster this on my own.

I loaded up the bar with 15 more pounds than I originally had planned. And I finished the last round. It was ugly; a few of the presses were sloppy, slow, and probably technically no-reps.

I did it because Lindsay did her job as a trainer. She knows me; she knows what I respond to (high expectations). She knows that I need a small nudge, a little bit of personal encouragement. She was gentle but firm. She didn’t let me cheat myself.

***

I had another small victory today: an email from a woman I don’t know, but whom I’d like to kiss. She wrote:

Congratulations. Your submission, 10380, has cleared all of the necessary checks and will soon be delivered to ProQuest/UMI for publishing.

The submission she refers to is, for those of you blessed to be outside academia, my dissertation. Writing that dissertation was like getting through a million bear complexes, y’all. Fortunately, I had a lot of people who sat in Lindsay’s place while I cried at the barbell, balancing their high expectations of me with loving encouragement.

If you’ve shown me kindness and encouragement over the past 10 years; if you’ve been compassionate and you’ve believed in me; if you’ve loved me through my inability to be a reliable friend, sister, daughter, wife, mom; if you’ve read my writing with generosity; if you’ve told me I could do it… thank you. None of you let me cheat myself.

Aspera

i’m in shambles
blown to bits by our troubles
these brambles
our stumblings our struggles

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!

it’s a forced march
and i’m parched in denial
it’s a struggle
of faith and of fire

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!

walking we are caught, by tiny hooks that hold our hope
our skin may be scratched, but nothing holds us back
i will be brave, my body may change
but my spirit will stay, i will be brave

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!

i’m in shambles
blown to bits by our troubles
these brambles
our stumblings our struggles

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!
thorns! over thorns! through this trouble, we are born!

© 2005 Erin McKeown

banana chocolate chip muffins

When I chew, it sounds like there’s someone squishing a soapy wet sponge in my left ear, and my right-side jaw feels like I’ve been punched. Therefore, for about 10 days now, I’ve been “eating” a lot of soup and smoothies.

But when the storm came earlier this week, I decided I had to bake something, even though I wouldn’t be able to taste it or comfortably chew it. It just seemed right to run the oven during the wind and the rain. And while I genuinely cannot taste these to let you know whether they’re good or not, I will say that the texture is right, which is what I struggle with when I use this dad gum coconut flour. Also, anyone on the Lurong challenge will have to record a cheat for these, since they have the chocolate, honey, and baking powder in them. Or you can do what I’m doing, which is to eat totally clean about 90% of the time, and let the program record 2 cheats a day for you automatically.

3 ripe bananas
1/3 C coconut oil
6 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C coconut flour
1/tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 C dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips)
1/8 C chopped walnuts

So, you know the drill: wet stuff into the Cuisinart. Then scrape into a bowl with the dry stuff; mix. Fold in chunky stuff.

Pour into muffin cups. (My batch made about 15. I know. What a drag to have to put a twelve-muffin pan back in for three measly muffins.) Bake @ 350 for about 35 minutes.