It was a Monday, and I want to tell you about that Monday on this Monday, because there was absolutely nothing special about it.
And it was marvelous.
I woke up squeezed, the cement between Ender’s sticky stinky back—Christ, that child needs a bath and a reminder to change his shirt—and his father’s cool front, his hot breath on my neck. Stretched, opened eyes, closed them. It was a Monday, I knew, and I could wake up now, go make coffee, start writing… or wait, wait, stay tucked in-between the sheets and my loves, and Sean’s alarm would go off, and he’d get up, sigh, stretch—then meander up the stairs, make the coffee before heading up to the shower.
What do you think I did?
I love waking up to made coffee. I love making coffee too—my relationship with the black drug is both dysfunctional and erotic—but I love having it made for me more.
The coffee was just ready to be pressed when I walked into the kitchen. I kissed Sean’s neck, then cheek. Poured that first cup, body taut with anticipation. Oh, yes. The smell.
Then—cinnamon. Cardamom. Liquid whipped cream—never, ever, love, offer me skim milk or diary substitute for my coffee. No, nor half-and-half—if we are to sin, let us sin fully, never in tepid, dietary half-measures.
Then I wrote.
Three pages of shit. Really. There were, in those three pages, two, three good sentences and one decent phrase—and three or four paragraphs that, down the line, may become a good chapter. But, generally… shit.
Three pages of it.
It happens like that sometimes.
Sean needed me to drive him to work, but that’s not why he brought me a second cup of coffee—cinnamon, cardamom, whipped cream added, but of course—and when I drank it—pen scratching paper, one dull sentence after another—I felt so loved I think I managed to write a phrase that didn’t suck.
We left the house at 8:40, leaving the younger two eating cereal and chips and salsa in the living room while watching age inappropriate Netflix programming.
We drove in silence. I don’t like to talk in the morning—there are too many thoughts to speak. I was back at 9:04. Flora and Ender were still eating and consuming How I Met Your Mother. “Today’s our binge day, right?” Ender checked in. I nodded. Poured a third cup of coffee. Cardamom. Cinnamon.
Fuck, out of whipped cream.
Time is perhaps my most precious commodity—and it is not that I do not have enough time—I have as much of it as you, as everyone: twenty-four precious hours in every precious day, seven days in every week, and 30 to 31 days a month, except in February…
And I work very diligently at not being overscheduled or rushed, at not overscheduling or rushing my family.
I work, quite creatively, I think, at finding ways to make my time work for me, for them.
“Binge days” are one of my tools. On Mondays and Thursdays, I outsource parenting to the iPads and laptops. The kids can watch, play anything all day (the rest of the week, we are screen-free until after supper). I don’t make breakfast, lunch, snacks—I am effectively unavailable to the children until 4, 4:30 when I will make them supper… although it will probably be hot dogs or ramen noodles. Those are the days that I sink into my work… or leave the house, meet friends, occasionally roam the streets aimlessly for hours—that too is part of the process.
I drank the coffee black while revising and rehearsing “If Nikita Krushchev had to wash a bra in Cuba.” The children were quiet so I thought I’d record it—but Sean had taken the laptop with Adobe Audition to work, so no, that wouldn’t work… what next? Another postcard, “Homesick,” yes, this one needed more work, a lot more work, and there was a piece missing—did I not write down a conversation I had with Lazaro—he asked me, “Do you miss home,” and I said… where is it?
Found it. Yes.
I don’t usually clean on binge days but on this Monday, the house looked the way Eastern Europe did when the Mongols rode through it on a thirteenth century Sunday, so on the way upstairs to pee, I swept the living room and asked the kids to pick up those things from the dust pile they did not want to end up in the garbage. After peeing, I cleaned the bathroom—because I was there, and because the Mongols had been there too.
Marie’s elder two boys were visiting Cinder the week prior (and the week that would follow). There was much joy. And really, comparatively controlled destruction. But having four boys (I absolve the man from blame) pee in one bathroom for however many days straight… no way was I going to have a shower or bath until I cleaned it thoroughly.
And also, lit some incense…
I read “Homesick” again, revised it a little, saw that you texted, decided to ignore you while I thought about what was wrong with “Homesick,” got hungry.
Made fava beans for myself and helped Ender make a cheese tortilla with salsa—washed dishes while the beans cooked—thought about a woman named Molly Jones and someone currently represented in the manuscript as [S.C./X]—asked the kids if they needed anything—chopped parsley and cilantro, got it all over the floor but did not clean it up.
Ate while reading Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, and I think you might enjoy reading it too.
Texted you, then got a great idea for how to illustrate “Homesick,” and that entailed taking a photograph of… did I know where it was, I did, found it, did it.
Ate one more spoonful of my fava bean mush.
Remembered that while I was writing my shitty morning pages I was thinking that I was running out of clothes and that if I wanted to have socks to wear for tomorrow, I ought to put in a load of laundry, so I went upstairs to start the water running for my bath, and then ran downstairs to put in a load of my clothes.
Made it upstairs before the tub overflowed, and that made me so happy.
Bath, in the dark, incense. No candles today.
True story: no one interrupted me while I bathed. Not a single one of the children needed to pee, vomit or brush their teeth.
It was glorious.
I had an idea.
I didn’t write it down. But it stayed.
I’ve been reading a little, again, about writers and writing—journaling and writing practice in particular, because, I don’t know, I’m stuck, bored? Something’s coming—I feel restless and unsettled, and I have these two, three projects in hand right now, but I think something else is coming, and I’m not sure I have the tools… where was I?
I’ve been reading a little, again, about writers and writing—which is procrastination disguised as professional development—and among the things the gurus are in agreement about is that you must write things down, have notebooks, pencils (phones with notepad apps) about you at all times to jot down ideas, inspiration. I don’t know, I guess it doesn’t hurt…
But the good ideas, they stay. In fact, they refuse to leave, the invasive, demanding, clamorous bastards.
Clamorous is a nice word. Try to use it today in a casual conversation; better yet, at a board room table.
Took the neglected dog for a walk. Flora came with. The weather was blustery; we were happy.
I had a lot of thoughts.
The dog found some disgusting garbage to eat—a piece of meat tied around a string, what the fuck—and I had to ram my hand down her throat to pull it out, yuck, yuck, gross—so grateful Flora was with me so that she could open doors for me as I ran into the house to wash my disgusting hand.
“Don’t say you hate the dog,” Flora forestalled me.
“OK,” I agreed. But I thought it.
Dogs and children do not go together. This is a horrible myth perpetuated by Hollywood? 1950s children’s books? Something. I don’t know. Please, for the love of the dog you are going to neglect, listen to me: if you are pregnant, if you are planning to have children soon—if you have small children: DO NOT GET A DOG.
It’s fine. I know you’re not going to listen. When you do get your dog, and neglect it, and don’t particularly love it, come back and let me say, “I told you so.”
Marie, by the way, I totally blame you. You should have stopped me.
Sat down and wrote for 75 minutes straight. Fucking gold. Every word worth keeping.
Well. Ok, 25 per cent of them would be cut later. In the moment, though—I was 100 per cent satisfied.
As a result, I decided to make the children mashed potatoes and breaded chicken cutlets for dinner, instead of the Mr. Noodles Ramen they were probably expecting.
Thought about you, a little. Of course I did. Listened to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking while peeling the potatoes and seasoning the chicken.
Finally cleaned the muffin in which I had made Eggs A La Janine last weekend, and ugh, it was disgusting.
a recipe: eggs a la Janine
If you ever want to feed six to twelve people piping hot bacon and eggs that are all ready at the same time, you will need a dozen (or two eggs), as many slices of bacon as you have eggs, and a muffin tin (or two).
Cut a bit off each bacon slice—just enough to fit in the bottom of each muffin hole. Put that bit in the bottom, then take the rest of the slice and put it inside the hole: yes, you’ve just made a muffin cup out of bacon. Repeat with all your bacon slices… and now break an egg into each cup.
Bake for 12-20 minutes (depending on how set you like your eggs) at 350 degrees. Yum.
When Sean came home, we ate very quickly, did a half-ass job of cleaning the kitchen, and ran to listen to some people talk about art.
When we came home, we talked about art some more. Read books to the still-awake kids—dammit, sometimes, when we go out at night, they put themselves to bed, but no, that Monday they waited for us.
Scratch that dammit. It was lovely.
Later that week—it was on a Saturday—I would meet a woman named Karen Pheasant who came into my life solely to tell me that she lived a creative non-fiction life.
Me too, sister. Me too.
The artists talking about art didn’t talk about this, but another artist—also a zoologist—calls art making the extra-ordinary out of the ordinary.*
I like that definition. Mostly.
Except… if you really pay attention to things… is anything ever ordinary?
So then… is everything art?
So then, I thought about you and all the things I hadn’t told you since the last time I saw you.
Here you go. They are all contained in the story of this one monday.
Isn’t that extra-ordinary?