Tangible Music

One of my favorite memories as a young kid was when my dad took me to Target on Tuesdays. You see, my father and I had a similar intense love of music and CDs were released on Tuesdays. I would scurry to the entertainment section and scour the racks for new music or maybe something I had recently discovered. I would peel open the cellophane in the car – obviously this job couldn’t wait until we got home – and immediately comb through the inner sleeve. I would read who the band thanked, who wrote the songs, or if they used excerpts from other songs.

This is why, no matter how much society tries, I will resist purchasing digital music as long as I possibly can. They still make CDs in 2015, so I purchase them instead. This weekend my boyfriend surprised me by buying me a new CD on Amazon. He could have gotten the digital version. It might have been cheaper and I would be able to listen to it instantly. In fact, I could probably do this on YouTube, anyway. But no, he bought me the CD because he knows what music means to me, especially tangible music.

I grew up without instant access to all the answers of questions I had regarding the music. My father, however, always paid for me to have a subscription to Spin magazine, which has always been slightly ahead of the curve. I bought Alternative Press magazine and studied the inside sleeves of my CDs like they were textbooks. Now, they buy digital copies of music tracks and can read through thousands of websites every time they Google a question regarding an artist.

They will never experience the sheer joy of peeling back that cellophane. They don’t know how frustrating the top strip is to remove from a CD case. It’s insane for my generation to be the last to discover music based on what records or CDs our older siblings had and the first to download MP3 tracks from our beloved Napster. CDs are recorded at a different volume, they sound better. Just like records sound better than CDs (everything sounds better than cassettes and 8 tracks). CDs have cover art and photography, they are a product of creativity and art all around.

Now everything is automatic. No waiting for the CDs to ship, no driving to the store to purchase them, and no potential for problems due to scratching. Take your phone into your car and there you go – your entire music library. No huge CD books, no sunvisor sleeves. Just the thing you carry around in your pocket or purse all day long. I guess I’m just getting older and I know how my parents felt when they longed for those coveted “good ol’ days.” They bitched about not being able to understand my screaming jibberish music and I just can’t understand how there are NO popular songs with actual instruments. Yeah, Jenny Lewis and Circa Survive were big names at Coachella but DRAKE headlined. DRAKE.

Well, as long as they continue to pump out CDs, I will continue to purchase them. Perhaps a little less frequently than before, but it’s difficult for me to find artists I like from this decade. But I will always have a love for tangible music. Do they still have CD clubs? I’d definitely be in on that.

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Clutching Sand

Time is elusive. It’s something that cannot pass fast enough when we’re younger and later, it turns into something like sand that we are constantly trying to keep clutched in our hands, only to watch it fall away through our fingers. I recently celebrated my 27th birthday and it really caused me to glance around at all the things that are changing in my life. My newborn is already 3 months old, my first baby is starting school & soccer soon, the pit bull I raised from literally the time she was born is about to be six years old, and as I think on my relationship with my boyfriend, I realize we started our journey before I even turned 21. I feel like the older I get, the faster times flies by. I am in no way prepared for this. I am terrified of dying, the thought of leaving my children and my world and not knowing what comes after can almost paralyze me in anxiety and fear. I’m not even thirty.

No need to chastise me. I get it. It’s a problem. A very real problem. It’s irrational to freak out about the rest of my life when I’m not even 30. I don’t know. Does losing my father at 17 have anything to do with it? I hardly lost any family members before that. Then, like my father always told me, it happened in threes: my uncle, my father, and my grandfather. All of them within twelve months of each other.

Regardless, I look back on ten years ago and expect to find the nineties, forgetting this is already 2015 and ten years ago is the same millenium. I heard Nirvana on the classic rock station last week. I always assumed classic rock was the 1960’s to the 1980’s.  That moment, it truly hit me: I am a grown up. I have children. My son is watching me sing along with Kurt Cobain and is probably thinking how lame I am, like I used to do while my father belted out Peter Frampton tunes while driving me home from school.

So what is a twenty something to do during an existential crisis? I have hugged my babies closer. I have tried to curb my frustration when it takes me an hour to put the baby to sleep. I have been dropping everything when my son hands me his Luigi figurine so we can beat Bowser together. I have said “fuck it” to chores more often, opting to spend more time with my children who will never been as little as they are in this moment. I smell their hair, attempting to file that smell in my brain, saved for a later date when I need some comfort.

Being a parent and growing up are so difficult for so many reasons, but the most detrimental aspect of it all for me is that nothing can stay the same forever. My son is looking more and more like a boy and less like a baby. I let him sleep in our bed because the baby hates sleeping with me and I know he will stop doing it soon and I’m just not ready to wake up without him next to me.

Despite this nagging feeling that my life is ending one hour at a time, I am excited for the future. I am excited to see my boy play his first soccer game. I am excited for my girl to start interacting more with her brother. I am excited to see where the future takes me, I just wish it was happening slower. In the book The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the main character Charlie speaks about feeling infinite. He describes his life going in slow motion, taking in everything around him and five minutes passing in an hour. This is a feeling I get occasionally, like when my son is playing in his pool and I watch him laughing with water splashing around him. Or when my daughter is smiling at me with so much love in her eyes.

I am a twenty something going through a quarter life crisis, who is excited for the future while attempting to keep an iron grip on the past. Life is scary, but if you look at it from just the right angle, it’s beautiful. I’m going to try to keep myself aligned with the beauty.

Times Two

One month ago, I gave birth to my daughter Veda. She is my second child and my last child. I know They (whoever they are) say it gets easier each time but I couldn’t possibly disagree with that statement any more. While there are certain things about babies that are universal, each child is a different person… there are different likes, different attitudes, different needs all from the very beginning. So you spend the first few weeks not only getting acquainted with the newest member of your family, you are also still responsible for the happiness and entertainment (depending on the age) of the first born. Instead of lying to you about how prepared you will be, I have comprised a list of the top five things you are most likely to be caught of guard with.

#1: If you have a toddler, try to remember that the newborn will be awake all night and the toddler will be awake around 5 A.M. ready to get the day started and will be awake the majority of the day. The first time you have a baby, you have the glorious luxury of a midday nap. They (again) say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps” and you actually can (and should)! I have been blessed with a newborn who will only wake up once or twice during the night and I am still guilty of putting the bag of baby carrots in the pantry instead of the fridge, I have burned garlic bread, and I am definitely guilty of using cartoons to get a few extra minutes of shut eye. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

#2: Trying to figure out who this new person is can be a daunting task. Even as a mother of one, you are being pulled in many directions. You clean, you cook, you entertain, you teach, you work, and you still somehow manage to maintain a romantic relationship with a significant other AND make time for yourself. Now add to it yet another person to carve out hours of your time. Add to that your nipple in someone’s mouth every few hours and having to wipe another person’s ass again. It gets difficult. My son was in my arms (or my boyfriend’s arms) almost constantly. Veda hangs out on her playmat or in her swing way more than Connor ever did as a newborn. The tragedy of being the second born. I had actually planned on (and actually fucking purchased) cloth diapering this time around. Again, I was under the foolish assumption that I had become an old pro at the whole baby rearing thing. She’s been in a total of one cloth diaper the entire four weeks before I realized it was completely wishful thinking. Let’s hope there is another fool (or perhaps a first timer) willing to buy these damn things so I can stop feeling guilty every time I pass by the dresser.

#3: Blowouts. If your first born is out of diapers, remember that little ones crap their pants. Then remember that you have to bring at least one change of clothes because the little one’s volume of crap often exceeds the realm of the diaper. Poop is one of the staples of parenthood; a badge of honor. It is also the reason I waited to forget about proper birth control procedures until after my son was well out of diapers.

#4: GUILT. Now, I know as parents we struggle with guilt at least once every other day. Maybe that’s just me. But a week after Veda was born, her dad had to go back to work. I was terrified. I was successfully breastfeeding for the first time and was pretty concerned with how nursing and taking care of a toddler might go. Honestly, we have been watching a ton of television and the guilt runs deep. We spend the morning feeding, eating, and watching cartoons. I feel guilty because I cannot devote all of my attention to my son like I used to. He tends to get needy when I am feeding: he will want to play cars or will pretend to be a car that I MUST converse with (“No, mama, it’s not Connor, it’s batman car”), he will sit right next to me or even love on his sister. Granted, this is dissolving and as time goes on, he is getting better at realizing when I am feeding, though he still wants to talk to her or love on her when we are. I am actually very thankful for this because it could be SO much worse.

#5: To recap: you will get very little sleep, you will be spread too thin, you will most definitely be shit upon, and you will feel the gut-wrenching mom guilt like never before. But the most important thing to be prepared for when entering motherhood of multiples is that you love the new little being just as much as you love your first one. While pregnant, I was certain there was absolutely no way I could love anyone as much I love my son. I was so wrong. They put her on my chest and I was completely in love already. Just like the first time.

Being a mother is insane. You put these little beings needs and wants above your own, your body is their home for nine months and their buffet for another 12, and you realize the human body can still function under dire stress with very little sleep and copious amounts of coffee. Hopefully you will feel a little more prepared. Or if you are in my same position, hopefully you don’t feel like you’re the only one in yoga pants with bags under your eyes and a kid on each hip. Motherhood bonds us all together, if only for the fact that none of us really have a clue what the hell is going on.

The Grip of Addiction

This is the first time I’ve had the moxie to put into words all of the emotions that come with having a brother who battles a crippling meth addiction. He has been addicted most of my life and looking back on my younger years, it’s difficult to determine what was him and what was Crystal. This is confusing and feels akin to betrayal. I remember when I was about 8 or 9, I would stay the night with him and his wife and we would stay up all night playing video games. I could never make it to 6 am, but he always could. I chalked it up to him being older. Looking back now, I know he was simply spun out.

So much has happened in our mutual pasts that I have given up speaking to him. I simply cannot bring myself to attempt to converse with him because I know it’s not really him, but Crystal that I’m speaking to. I know many people would condemn my actions, tell me that what he really needs is people that love him to support him. I feel as though I can no longer lend any support. I’ve seen the toll his addiction has taken on my mother, both emotionally and financially, and I cannot feel sympathy for him. He has two children he does not see or contribute to and after becoming a mother myself, I lost any shred of respect I had for him. He sold every memory from my deceased father’s house for drugs, leaving the rest of us with nothing.

These are things I cannot get passed. I just can’t bring myself to feel anything but anger toward him and guilt. I feel guilty because my mother tells me, “I would really like for you to forgive him because I’m gone, the three of you will only have each other.” My eldest brother might speak to him sparingly when he visits our hometown, but he is usually as disgusted and upset as I am. So, I am struggling with the idea of attempting to give him another chance, for my mother’s sake. I feel like that reasoning isn’t strong enough, I should want to do it for my own reasons. The only reason I could imagine rekindling any type of speaking relationship would be due to the fact it is unhealthy for me to harbor such negative emotions. I just have no idea how I could forgive someone who still continues to hurt my mother so badly. She literally takes care of him from 1200 miles away and he still cannot stay clean. Not after jail, not after rehab, and not even after landing a job and having a place to stay set up for him. I can say, “He is mentally ill, that is why he is able to continue living off our mother when he is almost 37″ But I honestly feel like that is giving him an excuse. I understand addiction is a mental disorder, however, he cannot stay away from legal trouble. Be it a speeding ticket, a weapons charge, or a parking ticket, he will always find a way to stay in trouble.

He has been addicted for over 20 years and he shows it in his mentality. I’ve heard that when people become addicted or go to jail, they stay where they are mentally. Since he became addicted as a teenager, he is still very much a young kid in his mind. He is hardly serious. He is constantly joking. When he was younger, he could have our entire family rolling on the floor in laughter, his impressions were spot on and hilarious. Now, his lack of genuine emotion is sad. All of the cousins in the family have steady jobs or children, we bond over the struggles of parenting and watching our kids together. Then there is my brother, who seems to only ever be joking or complaining, tossing around the sympathy card, acting as if the world owes him something.

I was 12 when our parents divorced, he was 22 and he has never gotten over it. He was never able to understand why my mother left when she was unhappy and blamed her for it all. Our father passed away when I was 17, he was 27; we were in the room when he took his last breath. While I can look back on that moment with a notion of clarity (my grandfather was telling a fishing story to comfort us and that seems so symbolic of our family to me now), he seemed to only let reality slip away a little more after that. He yelled at me once for singing a My Chemical Romance song that mentioned someone dying of cancer. As if we didn’t have the same father.

The last 20 years have been a roller coaster of emotions, I have gone from feeling so sorry for him to wanting to kill him to now simply wishing he could act close to his age and stop stressing out our mother. His selfishness is astonishing, yet I suppose that is not uncommon among drug addicts. It is a difficult decision I have made to no longer speak to my brother. I hear my mother’s plea for forgiveness echoing in my head and I feel like one day I will abide. That day may not come soon, but in the end, I suppose forgiveness is the correct path. What’s that saying? Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. 

The First Pregnancy Fallacy

Women learn how astonishingly strong they can be during pregnancy and childbirth. You put up with things you never in a million years saw yourself having to deal with on an everyday basis (Oh, look, my breasts are leaking again!). The first pregnancy is (generally speaking) a beautiful breeze. You feel like a gorgeous, round Earth goddess, forging a new life unto this planet through your own body. Everything is new and different; even morning sickness is a welcomed change. You read all the books, study your body, track the growth of the baby with those ridiculous food metaphors (Is that because pregnant women are notoriously hungry?), even post pictures of what you assume is a bump on social media (FYI: if you aren’t having a problem fitting into your shirts, that’s gas, not a baby bump). Ah, pregnancy…

Then, your first child becomes a toddler and you foolishly think to yourself, “We should do this again!” I say foolishly because more than likely, pregnancy is not going to be the fond memories you have of lying in bed feeling little feet stick out of your abdomen. No, the second time you get pregnant, all of those memories are proven wrong in the worst possible way. It’s like when you do something you’re terrified of; after it’s done and the memory has faded a little, you tend to think it wasn’t that bad. Then, when you try it again, you wonder what the hell you were thinking to even do this in the first place.

For instance, my first pregnancy with my son was (from what I can remember) an absolute breeze. I think I only got sick maybe three times during the first trimester. Sure, I was nauseous almost constantly, but as for honest-to-goodness morning sickness, I was fortunate enough to evade it for the most part. This time around? I threw up pretty much constantly for 20 weeks straight. They tell you in the books it should dissipate by about fifteen weeks, just in time to enjoy feeling the kicks (the people who write those books are often frustratingly full of shit). Yet, there I was hovering over my porcelain god up to nine times a day. I went on a camping trip for the fourth of July and ended up puking seven times before noon (five of those times were in the car on the way home).

I was halfway in and already couldn’t wait for it to be over. As I sit here, now, I haven’t had my daughter yet. I am almost 39 weeks, ravaged by heartburn (strangely nonexistent last time) and nerve pains. I was walking three to four miles a week last pregnancy and this time I can barely make it a mile walking with my toddler and my pit bull without hurting my back and walking crooked for the next five days. I have pulled an abdomen muscle (which thankfully healed), had groin pains so bad rolling over in bed at night was making my eyes water, and I am barely able to sleep at night due to being squished between a grown man and a tiny toddler terror. True love is lying in a toddler bed at nine months pregnant until the little one falls asleep and attempting to get up quietly.

The second pregnancy is focused on all that you can no longer eat/drink/do because you already know your baby is the size of a lime and you can’t bring yourself to give a shit because your toddler didn’t nap and you can’t unwind with a glass of zinfandel. I have taken more baths in the last nine months than I have in the past three years. So ladies, if this is your second (or third or fourth) pregnancy, I crookedly stand with you in complacent solidarity. If this is your first, however, I wish you well. You are probably beaming right now, holding your ever expanding abdomen, thinking about the beauty of what’s happening inside you, vowing to cherish every moment of every pregnancy. I was like you, once. “My pregnancy with Connor was such a beautiful experience, I don’t know how anyone can hate being pregnant!” I ate, then quickly regurgitated those words.

Wonderland

When most people imagine Southern California, they envision beaches freckled with blond haired, chestnut skinned twenty-somethings and busy highways flowing into the smog filled horizon. All I can imagine are Joshua trees and the smell of wet creosote. Living in the Mojave High Desert alters your experience of what it means to live in Southern California and your classification of a beautiful landscape. I can appreciate brown hills, the small bursts of green from the tops of the Joshua trees, the tremendous amount of boulders that overtake most of the landscape, and I have even come to appreciate the bristling beauty of the cholla.

The desert is one place where nothing is as it seems. The drab cactus that litters the landscape will surprise springtime visitors with beautiful pink and yellow flowers, resembling Christmas lights strewn about the tan sand. It’s truly a spectacular sight when the desert comes to life after a long winter. Spring is also when we receive our heaviest influx of tourists, when the weather is no longer freezing and it hasn’t yet reached the typical 100 degrees of summer, so staying in a tent is actually a pleasant experience.  Some of them rent time shares or vacation homes if they plan on staying a little longer. Yet, I feel like these people never get to the heart of my beloved Joshua Tree. They will visit the markets and cafes, eat at the few restaurants we have, but living in a town as small as Joshua Tree you get to know everyone on a first name basis.

We have no corporations in our town, save for the two gas stations on the highway. We have hiking/rock climbing stores, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, real estate companies, a health food store, a yoga studio, a general store… all of which are owned by locals. It is wonderful thing to see the community flourish without the intrusion of giant corporate monsters sucking the profit from the town. We are having a hell of a time keeping it this way. The town and its wonderful residents are attempting to prevent the imposition of a Dollar General (of which there are 2 within 15 miles in either direction of Joshua Tree; one in 29 Palms and one in Yucca Valley) by fighting a rough court battle against the county.

Places like Joshua Tree need to exist. Places where nature and art are the driving force are necessary, especially in a place like Southern California whose natural beauty is so often undermined by capitalism and human interruption. Humans need places where nature reigns so we can remember what life is really all about. This is why I am so thankful that after years of jumping around from city to city, I have finally developed roots in Joshua Tree. I am in the midst of finding myself in this small town and I know there isn’t a better place to begin this journey. My son was born here and my daughter will soon be born in the same hospital. I found a deep rooted love and began a family, the first stop on this road to Who I Am, and I was fortunate enough to do so in the midst of the Joshua trees and creosote.