liliales birthday countdown: 2004

In early 2004, we moved to a neat house in Tinton Falls, 4 miles west of our very old one. I loved our Tinton Falls house. It was a true split level, with four sections, and it had a very large backyard, and it was on a very nice and friendly u-shaped street. Also, it was built in the late 50s, and the main bathroom had pink fixtures and a grey boomarang countertop. I thought we'd be there forever because of some things. I was wrong. But anyway. 

Here's a picture of me there against a wall from which the paper had just been stripped.


I got a job at a cool old bowling alley so I could bowl for free. Seriously, I did that. I worked in the snack bar 2-3 days a week, making pizza, cooking sandwiches and fries, etc. I really loved it. I do not give a crap that my intellect, creativity, and general skills make me suited for something more—I don't even know what. I got a kick out of young Brazilian people and their penchant for cheese fries. And all that bowling kept me in really good shape. When you bowl like I do, it is real exercise. 

Here's a blog post from 2004 which tickles me. Funny that MenWeek™ only lasted a week back then...

liliales birthday countdown: 2003

From this point forward, a lot of my online presence is archived, and I thought it would be a good idea to share some thoughts I had each year. 2003 is the year I started keeping a blog. Before that I had a website on which I'd post ideas, pictures, lists of things that interested me, whatever I could think of. 

My first blog was homemade and very crude-looking. Over the years since then I've had them at Blogger, Vox, and TypePad, and I have several things going at Tumblr, but I've also got accounts at a few other places. You never know when you might need a new one. 

That year, I turned 38. I found a great deal of Bobby Darin music I'd never heard before, and downloaded it from Limewire. I feel no compunction about that. It wasn't as if this music was available for me to purchase. Me and Lars Ulrich, we'd have words if we ever met. I think that was also the year I discovered, which is still pretty much my favorite place on the web. I'm not linking, whatever. Go there if you never have, and find the Prelinger archives. Thank me later. 

I was not super well that year. The year before, I'd become ill and semi-bedridden for awhile, and was exposed to huge toxic amounts of mold. I developed asthma (the body sometimes gets confused about our need for defense mechanisms, eh?) and it's been a bother ever since. But in the summer of 2003, I was actually in terrific shape, and feeling pretty good about myself otherwise. In the autumn, I couldn't breathe again, and we prepared to move to a better house, a few miles farther inland. 

Here's the text of my first blog post. Please indulge me by reading it and the ones to follow in the other countdown posts. It was maybe more entertaining with photos, I dunno. The rest of these countdown posts will have photos, because they are archived back to 2004 on this particular computer. 

An indulgence for myself in this one instead; three poems I wrote in 2003:

Chokecherry Beach

mussel shells, tiny in my palm
born on waves, 
borne to shore on a blanket of foam,
born to live and to die
all in an instant.


cartographer's hands, once an abstract notion, 
merely pixels on a screen; 
unreal evidence of tangible form, 
now trace a complex route
through barriers named yet unspoken,
radiating a slow-burning energy
from within their hesitant source

he traces this path with his mind, his voice,
his carefully measured speech, and sears
a dark trail deep into my fevered skin.

humbert's reasons to drink

dedicated to Lola, the showgirl

stupid frigging nazis
poems don't rhyme
stopped changing lightbulbs
takes too much time
lights in train car
flicker off and on
she gave him her phone number
three weeks he's gone

left hand shakes so
i'm using the right
milk's gone sour
thirsty at night
that movie was absurd
blue alien moron freaks
i'd cut my own eyes out
but irony still speaks

it never seems to end
the cliche won't die
keeps finding new shelter
rabbits getting high
spewing Nietzsche, Tolkein, Plant
basement ruminations
they arrested Adam Ant
fashion indignations

winking at boys
inviting them in
they watch as i sip
pineapple juice and gin.


liliales birthday countdown: 2002

There's so much I'm just blank about from those years. I had a good friend, Yvonne, and we hung out in Red Bank a lot, eventually meeting a strange guy named Russ who ran a very alternative kind of bookstore. He was moody and interesting and we all became friends for several years. Yvonne was pretty much a hippy, and I felt like Donna Reed next to her. But we clicked, and were best friends for a time. 

Simple Minds released Cry that year, and oh! I forgot to mention that in 2001, we saw Depeche Mode at Madison Square Garden. Dave Gahan was at the top of his game, and the whole show was pretty great. In the summer of 2002, I got front row seats to Simple Minds/INXS for the man and oldest daughter, and then we won two lawn seats, so I took the youngest daughter who was 11 at the time, and the middle one stayed home with the boys. After INXS played, we wormed our way down to the front where the others were. Both of us have cherished memories from that; we were right up against the stage, and Jim Kerr squeezed her hand. A few minutes later, he looked right into my eyes as he sang, well. It was a lovely moment. 

I think no one but me likes this song from that album, and it is a bit cheesy and derivative, but I don't care. He sounds super


liliales birthday countdown: 2001

Hey, I got a little behind in the game! And with only a week to go, too. Well, life, and everything, you know. Often more important and interesting than sitting at a computer. 

Anyway. Some aspects of our years in Rumson run together for me. There was a big summer storm the weekend we were having a garage sale, and we had no power for a couple days, plus it was all mayhem everywhere. And once we had a blackout; that I could look up because PSE&G lost a big part of the grid, and if you are on the east coast, you'll remember that. 

But 2001, well, of course what stands out in my mind was that really good math morning we were having; our second day of school for the new year. And the phone call, with the man yelling and telling me New York was under attack. I ran down the block to the main street and then headed up the street, to see if I could see planes or anything, and then ran home to turn on the TV. And a building came down before my eyes. We've all seen it hundreds of times, but that was the first time, right when it happened. 

And later that day, the eastern horizon was black and orange. We drove up to Sandy Hook and stood on North Beach with about 20-30 other people, just staring at the skyline. 

It was at least two years before I got used to the hole in it, especially as I'd always look north as I drove over the Rumson-Sea Bright bridge, to see if the sky was clear that day. And the city smelled charred for months, with this strange haze that we'd wear home on the train and have to scrub off in the shower. 

A couple people from our town died that day, and there was a memorial for them down by the river. But across the river, in Middletown, they'd lost dozens. It was physical, palable, everywhere we went for a long time. 

liliales birthday countdown: 2000 music memories

I had a 13 year-old then. The other girls were 10 and 9. That influenced a lot of the music we heard and chose to listen to. Not just because of the radio, but whatever was on TV and in the movies, and at friends' houses. 

Not sure anything was bigger than this one...and I'm okay with that.


Here's another fun hit from 2000, which, well, kinda makes you think the world is okay, and it'll keep spinning along the way it always has.  

And I am pretty sure I heard this song every time I walked into the little grocery store closest to us, in Fair Haven. 

liliales birthday countdown: 2000

At the end of 1999, the kids and I put together a time capsule of our portion of the 20th century. We didn't yet know we'd be celebrating the end of the millennium in an entirely new part of the country. 

At that time I was very into Bobby Darin, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the new Cure album, Bloodflowers. We went down to Detroit to see them in concert, which seemed really amazing after all those years of never even considering such a thing. I still have my t-shirt, but I don't really like shirts that weren't cut for women so it stays in a drawer. 

2000 was one of those years we have now and then in which quite a few super famous people died. And VH-1 Classic started that year! At first that was very cool because they showed whatever we used to actually watch MTV for. 

Shortly after the baby turned two, we moved to Rumson, New Jersey, three miles from the sea. The six year-old had his arm in a cast from falling down the stairs. And it was quite a chaotic event, getting the eight of us across the eastern part of the country to the new house, which was very old and a bit alarming to confront at first view. However, the little town was very nice, there were many little girls around for my daughters to play with, we lived down the street from a riverside park, and as we crossed the bridge to the next little town over, we could see the New York skyline off in the distance. Even now, my heart races a little bit, thinking about it. 

There were some big adjustments to make, and it took awhile to settle in, but I felt like I'd "come home" for the first time since I was a teenager. 

liliales birthday countdown: 1999

madness swirls, darts away, returns
slithering in to take hold.
grasping and gulping i apply the disease; 
a coat made of sooty smoke 
and even after it has fled, once again, 
you can smell the residue on my graying skin
begging, aching
rain pour down and wash me clean
weak spits of snow are the reply

little match girl where are you now?
i have homemade soap to sell 
and candles to keep you warm, for a while.
not much else to offer— 
cheese and crackers and a six dollar bottle of belgian beer
that somebody brought by.

aura made of clouds gathered thickly 
guarding my soul
the rest was stolen during the last flood, 
or washed away.
galatea in solitude

the base is cracked upon which she stands,
they knew much of earthquakes in her ancient land
was it the wrath of gods and goddesses spurned;
their rare and precious gift returned?

did pygmalion watch in sadness or relief as she slowly hardened into stone?

now she is posed and waiting through the centuries
to be sculpted back to life
she does not know that in her own gracefully chiselled fingertips
she is already holding the knife

I think I started to recognize who I was when I turned 34. It wasn't who anyone else had much thought I was up to that point, which might have been the source of a lot of my trouble. I'm a fairly passive person, and also very internal. So whoever I was inside isn't who anyone else chose to look for (and define, as people seem bound to do,) and it hadn't really occurred to me that others saw everything so very differently than I did. 

Like with Jesus. All that time I thought me and the various churches of people were on the same page about that, but it turned out they weren't thinking what was inside my head at all. I didn't have a strong sense of right or wrong about most of the differences I saw in other people; they were one way and I was another. But realizing that if Jesus was who they said he was, then he could be very little of what they said he was, that was truly enlightening. That was wrong. So I went back to my childhood thinking tree, at least in my mind, where I could contemplate it all without all the layers of veneer that had been slathered on over the years. Not just about Jesus, but about the math I never learned, and the music on the radio in towns which didn't have the secret club password, and the art I always wanted to wrap myself in even though I never got "the artist" badge. 

And then I turned myself into a cool kid on the outside, instead of just on the inside. 

In 1997, I'd started this garden in my backyard, with zinnias and tomatoes and herbs and some other things. And the following year a lot of it sprang back to life on its own, like magic. That was a magic I realized I could do. I mean, manipulating the right kinds of energy: that's all magic is. It's physics married with desire. So I was sustained through early 1999 with the promised of renewed growth.

this will be my testimony...

the verbose can run out of things to say
a heart filled with shouts and screams
can fall mute and shrink away
while the deafening silence of a heavy snow
can blow out the eardrums
of a hibernating spirit

this will be my testimony...

all in this universe mourn the death of a star
some are reborn from the ashes it leaves behind,
some get sucked into a singularity
of depression and loss
compacted into nothingness
never to escape

this will be my testimony...

in my backyard under 15 inches of winter
flavors rest and wait
hope to freshen the breath,
faith to soothe a cough.
joy to add depth to some soup
patience to perfume my bathwater

Season's unbroken cycle
brings comfort to their peaceful repose

My poetry improved tremendously after that stage. And I realized many things are not as difficult as they appear to be, even though there were many times, in the middle of fresh or renewed pain, I felt that this could not be so. The lowest place hadn't even been reached. But I knew that I was standing on the surface of something larger and more wonderful than I'd realized since childhood.

And so this is the point at which, though there were still some very bad years to come, I'm more comfortable in the aftermath of them to keep the pain and grieving tucked safely away from the parts of living that need to get done and which are still ripe with pleasurable opportunity. 


liliales birthday countdown: 1998

In 1998 I hadn't been to church in awhile due to the sciatica and these really severe headaches I had on and off for a few months (and I could write, seriously, a book about my church-going days, and maybe I should,) and when my daughter started asking questions I couldn't get answered the right way, I stopped sending the kids. The man had already quit the thing, though he'd been devoted in a more hard-core way, if not to say more deeply, than me. He then went through various phases over the years, I learned from them, but realized I was really just about being tao from the beginning. It took awhile to conquer some of the bitterness I had about the organizations tied to religion, but I've mellowed over the years. 

Well, calamity struck again, and I went into labor in late June in something of a state of shock, but determined to make everything as good and healthy for everyone as I could. The labor was ages long, but the midwife was sublime. It was just me and her and the man, though he was on the phone for the most active part of it. We won't go into that; it was an era ago. 

That delivery was the saddest yet most joyful one of all, and that kid has been nothing but joy to me, even though he was very emotional and would cry at the least little thing for about two years, during which time he also rarely slept. He is a beautiful specimen of humanity, and though it was very difficult for the first few months, during which time I was mostly alone with all six kids, I have always seen him as a true gift to my life. There is not a day in which I have not actively felt this, over nearly 14 years.

This time I lost only about 35 of the 45 lbs or so, and so even though I weighed over 120 at the end of summer, I was healthier, and he was fine, and his brother was fine. But that fall, we were the poorest we've ever been, because of several co-mingling occurrences. Our heater went out and took a few days to be fixed, and it was kinda terrible, but I learned a lot from it. People brought us stuff and tried to be well-meaning, and some of it was very awkward, however, I have first-hand knowledge now of how to help others when and where I can, so that's a good thing, as well.

I was homeschooling all my kids at this point, long story for some other time, and it was crazy chaos sometimes, but good for them, I think, in the main. 

You might laugh, but here is the song I could not stop playing late that year, nearly endlessly on a cassette in the van. 



liliales birthday countdown: 1997

I'd gained more weight with that pregnancy, close to 50 pounds. Okay, here is a report on my weight through all this kid-having up to this point. 112 lbs, gained 32, lost 37. 107 lbs, gained 32, lost 32. 107 lbs, gained 45, lost 35. 117 lbs, gained 32, lost 31. 118 lbs, gained 45 lbs, lost 50 lbs.  

Each of those weight losses took place over about a two month period,and then I'd stay the same weight until a new baby started up. But the 5th time, I lost 50 lbs so fast, the baby stopping thriving. We didn't realize it at first; he was between his two and four months checkups, and at four months, he hadn't gained any weight in several weeks. It was so scary. But I'd been so depressed I had a hard time eating. He had to have extra strong formula, because I couldn't feed him enough. I did get to keep letting him nurse, though, which was good for us in other ways. (It wasn't PPD, by the way; it was wholly tied to an actual extreme event that flipped me out.)

Later in the year it appeared life was bouncing back. We went on a camping trip, oh, I gotta dig out those photos, but…I got pregnant. 

Now that time, it was just being a bit stupid. But there's this whole story, as well, and oh my gosh, life without this kid having been present is completely unimaginable. Anyway. I was less upset about it than the other time because I felt like I'd been given a chance to complete something well. I hired a midwife, went through it all a little differently. I had horrible sciatica that kept me kind of immobile, though, and gained 45 lbs, which makes that a little worse. Catch-22. But that's for 1998. ;-)

My oldest daughter was ten that year, and listening to a little bit of radio pop, so I remember the Spice Girls and others from that time. It wasn't a bad year for pop music, actually. And there was a good Blur album, and Ultra by Depeche Mode, with Dave Gahan back from near-death, sigh.

Oh! I meant to mention in the last thing, that it was fall, 1996 when we got our first home computer and internet. It was a Macintosh Performa, and we had a free Compuserve account to use with it. Good things and bad things came from that, but mostly good. Gosh, I really need to get out those photos and scan them.  

liliales birthday countdown: 1996

Early in 1996, I was pregnant again. This was a pure accident, and lest random internet "experts" who don't know us deride us for what we might have done differently 16 years ago, let me point out that I have what might be termed a "willful womb," which rejected more than one form of birth control in some earnest attempt at making the world a finer place through my abundant progeny. 

Well, I was sad and angry about being pregnant. But I'll back up and share a memory of having the flu during a wild epidemic, and my son, not quite two, got it as well. He starting tanking late at night, as little kids sometimes do, so we brought him to the E.R., where they were so filled to the gills with sick people, they were laying them out in rows. The I.V. fluids were going in wrong, and his arm swelled up, and then they made a private space for him by putting a crib in a sort of utility closet. And he improved over the weekend. 

So then I was pregnant and we really needed a bigger place, and found a large duplex on a quiet street, and I was sad for all of us that I was going to have another baby, but at the same time, I wasn't sad about meeting my new kid. 

Star Trek: First Contact came out shortly before he was born, and the man and I took turns seeing it. We were big fans of ST:TNG; that is, I was a huge fan, and he was as big a fan as he ever gets about TV. Then it was Thanksgiving, and I went into labor, for about 24 hours. I chose the other hospital where we hadn't gone during the epidemic because, well. 

I had the same transition in labor problem I'd had with three of the other four kids, but the doctor refused to give me an epidural or anything, and the delivery was my longest (an epidural can slow it down more, but it never did for me,) and the baby was born blue, but after a few minutes he was the most exquisite-looking newborn I have ever seen. I mean, this can't be overstated. Eventually, I'll dig out some pictures to share from this era. 

And then my life fell apart again, for the second time of what I'd now say are six times. We won't be discussing much of that, though. I have no wish to burden others with my worst memories.