Sunday, June 29, 2008

the last american cowboy

Some of you have posted beautifully lately on hearing the wisdom of those you've lost after they've gone. It's moved me, so much so I can barely get through your posts without breaking down crying. It's moved me because my grandfather see, I always thought he'd come back for me too.

I loved him fiercely. In a broken extended and dysfunctional family he reigned supreme, with a quick and fiery mouth and for most of his life a ready fist for anyone who got in his way (women and children excluded of course). His family was the most important thing to him on earth and never found the words to express it, he'd show it by giving everyone a hard time in an incredibly funny sort of way. He grew up rough, 11 brothers, poor, the bluest of collars. He had my mom early, he was sixteen years old and as such she grew up inside pool halls, watching his hands gripping a pool cue and a wrench with equal acumen.

I was the oldest of a mess of grandkids and we were closer because of it. I loved him fiercely, even as he made mistakes I only saw the grandeur of his honesty, the raw authenticity of a man who grew up in the streets. As I grew older we'd made our own way, I'd spend hours with him in his old barn, sharing a beer and pawing through endless miles of acquired junk. We'd talk about how much he loved his family. There was no bullshit between us and he was indefatigable, this man who could kick everyone's ass and as he grew older mellowed a bit but never really all the way.

When he was diagnosed with cancer we were all in shock. It came violently and without mercy, stripping him of his vigor in a way none of us could have imagined. One of the last times I was alone with him in the barn we talked candidly, him giving me a hard time for not settling down and telling me that was one of the reasons he was still hanging on, to make sure I didn't settle for a piece of shit. By some divine intervention and not too long after I'd met J.


His wife called me one day and said she didn't think there was much more time. She said it would be a good idea to make the long trip back and to do it soon. By then I'd only known J for a few weeks but I invited him to come and I was honest, I don't know where this is going but it seems pretty good. I want you to come and meet the old man. So we travelled a long road trip and climbed to the top of his dusty mountain and when I introduced him to my grandfather I said the same. It's not been too long yet but it might be something and I need you to size him up. And I knew he would too, there was one guy deep in my youth who he met and actually threw out of the house, the poor guy wasn't doing anything wrong and yet my grandfather had a sense, he actually opened the door and said you can get the hell out and you need to stop seeing my granddaughter too. At the time I was pissed and a few months later I'd realized exactly what he was trying to tell me that day and he was absolutely right.

The day I brought J to meet him my grandfather did something he hadn't done in months, he pulled on his cowboy boots and hat and enormous belt buckle and took J for a long walk, they scoured the property and my grandfather showed him all the things that were most important to him from his homemade cemetery to the cross on the top of the highest hill. My grandfather as was his way made no pretense I'm seeing if you are good enough for her, because I'm going to be dead soon and no one else here will kick your ass if you aren't so I'll have to do it before I go. But when they came back several hours later my grandfather looked at me, he's alright, girl. I think you might be right about this one. He's better than all those other dumbshits you brought out here. And I remember I started crying, not because of what this might mean in terms of me and J but because I knew he'd be dying soon, one less thing to keep his stubborn body alive.

He died a few weeks later and I've never heard from him since. I always thought he'd come to me, our love was so fierce and long I had assumed it would transcend death. But I still can't hear him and I wonder if I ever will. I've got no doubt he's busy, there are probably fights to be had and darts to throw where he is but I wish he'd let me know he's still paying attention. Because every day, old man, every single day of my life I still miss you and wish we could have just one more day in the barn.


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Friday, June 27, 2008

thursday afternoon

He called and asked me to show him around and I was happy to oblige. We talked and he asked good questions, curious and unfamiliar. We walked the building and he's quiet, polite to those we pass. I can't read him, I can't tell if this is horrible or painful or what the hell, maybe it's boring. When we finish we are standing in the sun. A question, he says. I turn and wait. I mean, this is....where is the dignity? Is this the best...is this the best we can do?

I know he's not talking about my work but the reason my work exists, the walking wounded lining the fence watching us right now. It's hard to wrap your head around, isn't it? I tilt my face towards the sky I mean, it's really some kind of bullshit, people having to survive like this. It's the worst kind of bullshit I know. He doesn't expect that, we don't know each other and until now I've been keeping it on the level. I can see he's been affected by his visit and yet I don't know what that means. I've just never thought of it like this, he says.

And that's the problem in general, I say and touch his arm gently and we look at each other still two strangers and yet maybe somehow not but it's too soon to tell.

It's not for everyone, this.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

collecting some tokens

Even though I've been blogging for two years I've only met one blogger socially outside of last year's BlogHer frenzy. While I've fallen insanely in love with my BlogHer peeps, none of them live anywhere near me so we've not seen each other since and it's probably what I'm most looking forward to this July. (Yes, I'm talking about you so you better get ready for me to climb all over you with giddy joy). So imagine my happiness when the lovely Alejna from collecting tokens fame emailed me to say she'd be in California and hey, did I want to get together?

So we had the pleasure of having Alejna and her family over for dinner and they were kind enough to drive a rather long distance to get here. We ate and laughed and talked and got to watch our daughters play and our partners connect. The evening stretched out, two women and their mates and daughters and it was sweet and lovely and grounding and good. We had the pleasure of discovering each other face to face and she is every bit as beautiful and witty and brilliant as she is on her blog. And she makes pregancy look damn good too. My only sadness is that they live on the other side of the country because I'd love to do it again next week.

And it made me all the more excited for BlogHer, to see old friends from last year and to get to have the chance to meet so many new ones. Three weeks to go and I can barely wait. Just barely. Dude.


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Monday, June 23, 2008

sometimes it strikes me

It's not remarkable, except that it is. The places I visit, where I get to read about you trying to get pregnant or having a baby, or your second, or perhaps even as a surrogate. Then I go and hear about others celebrating birthdays or being challenged by toddlerhood or missing their own parents. I find those who are travelling, or starting a new job, or speaking out, or campaigning for something they care deeply about. And then there are those of you who are dating, finding new love, discovering new frontiers and then others who are finding the end of the love they once knew.

I have the honor and the privilege of hearing your thoughts, the things you might not say to your neighbor or even your friends. The things that seem insignificant, the moments in time that would never make it to the water cooler and yet are shared here.

And if I didn't have this place then the smallest moments, the ones that sear my heart would go unrecorded. I'd tell no one that M was having a hard time sleeping last night and that J and I kept checking in on her. That I found him in her room at one point sitting on the floor watching her fitful sleep and I sat next to him and in the soft glow of her nightlight we gazed at each other and at her and we smiled the softest smile, sitting with her sleeping beauty and once again taking stock of how lucky we are and how we cannot believe even after all this time that we've created her from us. If I didn't have you I'd never share this, instead I'd keep it to myself and while no less significant it might go unremembered at some point as so many other colors light up the view. But I do and so I do and here it is, for giving and taking and one day it will be for her too.

And that's not remarkable either, except that it is. Thank you for gathering around my fire and allowing me to sit quietly by yours. It's been over two years now and while it's just what we do it's also so much more.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

mercy

it was 99 degrees inside our house yesterday. it's early, and it's already up to 80. inside.

there's not much else left to say, my keyboard will most likely have melted by the time the sun goes down.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

eight

it's uncouth really, to carry on about such things. it's one of the reasons i didn't say anything 5 weeks ago when i started. i wanted to of course, i wanted to let you all know i was embarking on new frontier, one that involves counting and planning and you know, sacrificing.

that's right, i'm talking about dieting. i've been counting those bastard points and drinking water and basically being irritable for weeks now, longing for the simple joys of the local taqueria, extra guacamole and cheese has all but been torn from my flesh, those ridiculously delicious rolled tacos and an occasional beer and while passe, good lord i could go on and on.

so stealthily i've trod along, day in and day out recording each and every morsel i put into my mouth, roasting more vegetables than i actually knew were previously possible to roast and still waking up in the middle of the night hungry and yes, oh yes i am embracing my flair for dramatics and in the end i'm okay with that, i've got other priorities i can carry on about too because i'm nothing, nothing i say if not multi-dimensional.

so i sit before you today eight pounds lighter, eight is a sweet little number, round and roly poly and on it's side it's infinity and everything.

Ten more and i'm money. rolled tacos, watch your back. will that part ever go away? are there rolled tacos in the jungle?



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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

impromptu chapel

I attended a meeting yesterday where everyone was a stranger. I'd been asked to speak on a thing or two and out of my element I was quietly sitting and waiting when a man stood up and began to address the crowd, his tone somewhat quiet and serious. Curious, I lean in. He starts talking about history in the making, about gays having the right to marry, how this means he is finally free to marry his long time love too. The room spontaneously broke out into applause when he said this even though this wasn't the reason for the meeting and had almost nothing to do with why folks were there. He spoke quite eloquently and it was beautiful. I felt tears prick my eyes and as he finished, this man I do not know.

And so I sat in a room of unfamiliar people and felt the warmth that comes from humans risking a moment to talk about what matters and allowing others there to say Amen.

I have some friends who are altar bound across the state, friends who love and give and honor and reach, friends who've only wanted the simple recognition so many others take for granted and is finally theirs for the choosing. And to that I also say Amen.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

we all live in a yellow submarine

She ruined the hike, there are no two ways about it. She started complaining almost immediately, and we cajole and then talk sternly and there is nothing, not a thing that will change her mind. We are a few miles out and it's getting worse and she's been carried almost the whole way. I feel it, the shit's going to hit the fan.

J loses it first. That's it, he says. We aren't going to the show later. A plan we'd had all week for today, a hike and then later, a show. I turn to him, silent and glaring. I really wanted to have the day we planned. M starts to wail, big fat tears in the middle of nature, she's drowning out the birds and we've got nowhere to run. J puts her on his shoulders, steam rising from his ears. We start to argue. It's all my fault and it's all his fault and it's all her fault and we fall silent, the hike is ruined. I feel the tears welling up, senseless tears and yet they are there anyways. I really wanted to have the day we planned but what's done is done. I am also twelve years old.

The drive home is long and silent and when we get home we go to three corners, M plays quietly because no one feels like entertaining her. I am lying on the couch thirty minutes later when she walks up to me and holds out a tower of legos. Mama, I made you a lighthouse. I didn't even know she knew that word. We embrace and talk a bit about how frustrated I felt and how lame that hike was because of how she acted. I hear J stir in the other room, he comes around the corner. Maybe we can still go, if we talk about it maybe we can still go. He's caving now and he knows it and I know it and there are costs to the caving and yet I am happy to join him. We three sit on the floor together, we each say what we need to and we hope it sinks in. I look at J. It's this, I say. This is what a family means, it means we find our way back to center each and every time. He looks at me and smiles. M, he says, this is our first time as parents, we don't always know what we are doing and we are trying really hard to do the right thing. But it's all of us together who needs to be a team. She throws her arms around us and goes running through the house. You guys gave up! And we look at each other over her head what are you going to say to that he says and I don't know but I am laughing, because in a way she's right and in a way she's wrong and we go to the show just the same.

And later we sit in the darkened theater, the three of us in a row and I watch her face, enthralled at the screen and she looks absolutely beautiful. I look up and I see J looking at her too. Our eyes meet over her head and we smile. It's this, I say again, out loud and to myself. It's this.


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Sunday, June 15, 2008

fathers and daughters

To my sweet M,

Today is Father's Day and we will be extra mindful to honor your father. You are still a little girl with a small understanding of the world so you don't realize how lucky you are, how amazing your father is. You don't see it yet but you will one day. Right now he's just your daddy, the expected other half of your family. The guy who is always here. But he's so much more.

He's always, always here for us. He puts his family first every single day. And he does it with so much integrity. He always tells you the truth, even if you don't like it. He doesn't evade the hard stuff. He makes time for you, a lot of time. He takes you on little adventures and strives to teach you about the world. You know how to recycle because of him, and you can identify all sorts of insects and reptiles and birds only because he takes the time to show you. He does this because he cares so deeply about the planet and he wants you to, too.

He loves you beyond measure. When you were born he started crying, my daughter, he kept saying, holding you close and his eyes, M. I'd never seen his eyes filled with that particular brand of wonder until he laid eyes on you. He loves us, baby girl. He loves us and loves you and is such a tremendous father every single day. You picked a really good father, my precious girl.

So today we'll honor him with what he likes best. A long walk in the woods and perhaps a little baseball on TV. It's magnificent in it's purity. Sort of like your dad. I am excited to watch your relationship grow as your awareness of him grows. As you learn about his beauty and what it means in terms of how you'll see the world and the men that will one day follow.

I love you,
Mama



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Thursday, June 12, 2008

the middle way: or where finally i spill the beans

I know, I've been such a tease. I am finally able to talk about it.

It all started back here when we realized we'd found the next chapter for our lives but had very little idea how to get there. Then we've spent the last few years slowly chipping away, paying off debt, saving money, making connections, doing research. We've lived frugally, our stuff is all old and somewhat shameful. Our cars are on their last more than a decade old legs. But we did it. I won't say it didn't cost us because everything has a price but the pound of flesh in the end tastes sweet.


We are moving to a small village in the Belizean jungle this fall. As in This Fall. J has already left his job, we've just pulled M out of school. I am slowly extricating myself, a process that went public a little while ago. We are getting rid of all of our stuff. We are only bringing what we can carry. We've got a list of things we still need to acquire and a longer one of things still left to do.


We've found a little place to rent and nice people to rent it from. It's a simple house but perfect for us while we build our own home, the one we will construct out of sustainable materials, one that we will power with the sun. We are committed to lowering our carbon footprint as low as possible, we will no longer have a washing machine or a dishwasher or a toaster, we will catch rainwater and dig a well and we will grow our own food. Chickens. We'll have some chickens. Our feet will always be dirty.


We are going to do this and it's equal parts terror and joy. It will all be unknown and there will be only the tiniest safety net. We will learn how to more deeply trust each other and to listen to the earth. We will move slowly and with intent. We will make mistakes and I will most certainly find myself huddled on the jungle floor in disbelief. We might fail but we've promised to look at it as an adventure and we expect it to be hard before it gets easier.


We'll teach M that there is more to life than producing and consuming, heading to work to school then back home every single day and repeat. We'll travel cheaply for extended periods of time and homeschool her in between as she gets older, or if she wants and it makes sense she'll go to the local school. Either way she'll have a say. We'll see that she puts her hands and feet on as many different parts of the world as she can, her science projects will be in the first person, she'll learn which trees heal and which ones can make her sick.


There are a thousand things we do not know and only a handful of things we do but we know we want to do this. We want off the production and consumption treadmill. We want to teach M how to live sustainably while teaching ourselves too. We are uncomfortable living such a sanitary existance, something so incongruous with so much of the world. We want to spend more time as family exploring for the sake of seeing what we can find. I want to get involved in regional relief and development efforts and see if I can lend a hand.

We want to push ourselves in the best possible ways. Or as J likes to put it paint our own masterpiece. It's the end and it's the beginning. It will be harder than I can currently imagine and I hope to come out on the other side victorious because the journey will be the reward.


And we'll have an internet connection. Oh yes, my lovelies, I've made sure of that. You aren't getting rid of me that easily and besides, something tells me I'll be needing you more than ever. From care packages and bail money to your wise thoughts and kind understanding, promise me you'll stick with me and in exchange I can offer you your very own in-country host for your next tropical vacation, the one where you bring your babies and sit on my hammock and we toast cold beers under Central American skies.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

and then there were two

Wexler has joined Kucinich in pushing for impeachment hearings and while it may be symbolic, I've certainly been wondering what's taken them so damn long. We can't go backwards but perhaps we can stop the madmen from going after Iran on their way out. You can read more over at MOMocrats or watch a video here. It's something. Finally, it's something.

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i know. it's stupid. but help me anyway.

a few of you have mentioned my blog takes forever to load. so i've tried removing what i think is causing the problem, but i can't tell for sure. i also don't know what i am doing.

so you can see how i need your help. does it still take a long time to load? does the waiting make you want to kick my ass?

what to do, oh what to do.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

May Just Posts

buttonmay2008
It's standard practice for us Just Post hosts to share our own thoughts on an issue or two each month at our roundtable, but this week my heart is over at Mad's sitting silently with her and her loss. So instead of pretending as we women are sometimes too good at doing, I'm simply dedicating this Roundtable to my beautiful Canadian Just Post Bride, realizing words can't suffice but knowing it's all I've got. I love you, Mad.

Just Post Authors
Ally with a post not fit for mother's day
Beth with growing new hope for refugees
Bipolar Lawyer Cook with don we now our gay apparel
Bon with dignity
Cecileaux with Argentina's farmers are not exactly old, that 70's oil crisis is baaack and oh those gay and lesbian sinners
Chani with we are all special just like everyone else and Wellness Wednesday: eliminating pain
Defiant Muse with balancing the scales and kicking and screaming
Emily with not into yoga?
Erin with Calling All Steel Magnolias: Come Out From Behind Your Ruffles
Grilgriot with only wild animals act like that and a little video slap
Hel with Truth recedes only to re-appear
Jen with Untitled, twenty four years two months nine days and I think it was the fourth of july
Jenn with Up from the ashes
Julie Pippert with 'Whatever' is not an actual salary and it really doesn't buy the groceries, either Kyla with doors
Magpie with hardwood in burma
Mary with broken string
MOMocrats with Dockworkers Display War Opposition Strength in Historic Ports Shut Down
Stella with impacts
Susanne with Why I mostly eat organic food
Suzanne Reisman on blogher with Genocide, Childlessness, and Female Guilt
The Dana Files with Apparently I just need more training
The little green house with happy birthday wesley
The r house with color consciousness not color blindness
Thor with more sleeps
Walk with me with what's a girl to do
Why Mommy with spring cleaning
Won't fear love with because children are our future

Just Post Readers
Moosh!
Emily
Mary
Bon
Alejna
Joanne
And thank you to Su, the other leg of our wobbly little Just Post table and to all of you, for continuing to speak your mind and being willing to share. I hope you all take the time to read these posts, they'll take your breath away with their beauty and strength. We are here every month and everyone is welcome.
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

everybody gets a vacation

We've had a lot of family in town over the past month, grandparents, uncle, other grandparents. M's nana is in town now and will be for a little while, she hasn't seen M in a long time so the reunion was sweet. And quickly taken advantage of by M. Namely with a pouty face and a no one's buying me anything which causes grandparents to salivate and leap to attention and parents to have a heart attack that their child is actually acting that spoiled. All I know is someone is in for a big let down once everyone finally clears out.

Overheard this morning:
Nana: M, why are you dragging your baby around by it's neck?
M: It's not my BABY, it's my KITTY!
Nana: oh, but it's not a kitty it's your baby.
M: PRETEND! Nana!
Nana: oh, ok, why are you dragging your kitty around by it's neck?
M: It's DEAD, Nana.

(crickets)


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Friday, June 06, 2008

close encounters

As I walk in he says I've been waiting for you for at least an hour and looks at his wrist at a watch that isn't there. I don't know this guy so I say is that so, what for? He smiles. I've got dinner ready, anything you want. Anything? He nods. I stop for a minute playing along. Fried chicken, I say. I want some fried chicken. He says Popeye's or KFC? I laugh. You mean you aren't cooking it yourself? Let me in that kitchen girl, I'll cook you some right now. I'm late but I'm grinning. It feels good here tonight.

My meeting runs over and it's getting dark. I'm not usually here this late and I leave the room and find five or ten dudes crashed out in the hall. It's busy tonight and we've run out of beds so now all we've got is the floor. I step gingerly over a sleeping man and look at another, staring off into space, he's wearing a robe, a red one and it looks soft. A guy comes around the corner, an old timer, he's grizzly and he says I'm home. I've had a long day and I missed dinner. I'm hungry. Can I get dinner? And I don't want a sandwich neither. I'm not sure of the drill so I ask around and figure out where to find the plates we hold back for folks who show up late. I track one down and hand it to him. Heat it up a little more for me, will you? Hot as you can. I trek back to the microwave and find him sitting pretty on a chair. I hand him his plate and he smiles. Thanks little lady, this is all an old man needs at the end of day, food and a place to rest my legs.

It's even later now and I need to go home. I'm heading to my car and I see one of the original joes, a guy I've known on and off for 10 years and haven't seen in awhile. Where the hell have you been I say smiling and grab his arm. He gives me a look and the look says jail. Ah, and now you are back and starting over again. He smiles. Yeah, but this time it's gonna be different.

I've been busy this week and not visiting as much as I like. I miss you guys. And it's not too late to send me your Just Posts, you have until Saturday to email me at girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com. The roundtable will be alive and kicking come Tuesday.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

the shattered ceiling and what it means for our children

We all know the Democratic primary is historic, watching the first woman and the first African American compete for President. This isn't news. But this morning I was reminded exactly how much it means for my child. My nearly four year old has been putting up with us for months, the back and forth on Hillary and Barack, the debates and the speeches, she's watched and learned and will tell anyone who asks that she wants Barack to win, based mostly on the Will.i.am video and the fact her mama cheers whenever he speaks. She doesn't know what winning means or what the prize is, but she knows it's between a man who is a different color than she is and yet the same color as some of her friends, and Hillary well, she's a girl after all. A girl like her. And for the record, she likes her too.

So if things go our way she'll be 12 years old before Obama is out of office. She'll live the next eight years of her life seeing pictures of him, listening to him speak, watching him lead. Seeing his girls grow up just as she's growing herself. And when it's time for the next President, she'll know a lot more about what that title means. She'll know more about how much it matters. And she'll remember last time a woman tried to win, and perhaps a woman will try and win again. And perhaps a Mexican-American or an Asian-American will run against her. And it won't be historic, it'll just be how things are done. And then she, of mixed ethnicity and female gender will grow up believing that one day too, that might be her. Because it's possible now because they were courageous enough to risk it for all of us.

And for that I will be eternally thankful to both Senators Clinton and Obama. Because you've shattered that glass and you've given our children a new dream, one that includes all of them no matter their gender or color.

Cross posted at MOMocrats.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

where the streets have no name

Sometimes it catches me off guard. I walk in and it's loud, someone's screaming and I can't quite figure out why. A woman, she's in the corner and she's rocking back and forth. There's a guy over there in a wheelchair, he's nodding off and I think he might fall over, his cap says something about being a vet on it. The line for the clinic is long, folks are coughing and no one is smiling. My eyes, they meet hers and her pain is so palpable I look away, I look away and I keep walking and I feel the sting. Everyone looks so tired. I see an old timer and his eyes light up. We momentarily embrace probably harder than necessary but in that moment I am hugging all of it, the pain and the sorrow and the fucking desperation that wraps around my head like a thick winter fog. Words are futile, sometimes this shit just sucks.

As much as I try and spin it the erosion is clear. The warehousing of human beings is wrong at best and things aren't getting better and really it's worse. Folks are sicker and older and sometimes the weight of the endless suffering and bags of belongings and the limping and the crying kids and the vacant stares and the weathered fingers and the old shoes and I could go on and on and it's simply too much. The beauty is there, it always is if you look hard enough but the suffering has it's own flavor, strong like a red chile or a head of raw garlic, it's there and you taste it and no amount of water can soften it's bite.

It's time to send us your May Just Posts. The Just Post Roundtable is coming up on June 10th so between now and the 7th we invite you to send us links to posts on social issues and justice, ones you've written or ones you've read. You can send them to me at girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com and everyone is welcome and it's free and we don't rely on animal testing or kill any trees in the process so there are no more excuses. Join us.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

the best day

We had the whole day. Our friends have been gone for a year, living abroad. We've missed them so. They were coming into town and we met in a little dive bar, a place we'd arranged a month ago without reconfirming just like the time we met them in Thailand and that other time in Guatemala. It's just what we do.

We had the whole day. Mojitos and beer, we talked and laughed and talked and laughed. They are pregnant, a blindingly new and delicious discovery. We walked and walked through the worst parts of the city that are also the best, the smell and the graffiti, the alleys and the noise. We ate pub food and later we ate again high up on a roof with the ocean and the wind and the sun, we talked and we laughed and we talked and laughed.

We parted ways after the sun set, we could have talked for hours more. They'll head back to their home abroad, we won't see them till long after the baby is born which is a long time from now. I miss them already. But it was perfect.


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