Death of the Chelsey Nebraska Act

My dad recently mentioned that I haven’t posted on here since December. The truth is, I don’t feel any passion towards this project anymore. The Chelsey Nebraska Act was started at the end of a job and shortly after having my first baby. It was my intention to use this blog to settle in and start liking the state that I was destined to be in for a long time. Little did I know, it was actually an attempt to appreciate the here and now. What I have realized in the nearly five years since starting this, is that I don’t need Nebraska to appreciate my here and now.  I think it was a fun project that served a purpose for me and I am grateful for that, but my passions have changed. I see things differently.

As much as I would like to be able to write about the beauty of this state, I can’t anymore. I cannot continue to write in a voice that is no longer (or maybe never was) mine.  I have changed, and when I feel like writing I feel like being brutally honest. I feel like telling everyone about the deep pain and the deep joy I feel. I feel like talking about how god damned hard being a mom is some day, and also how some days I feel like the luckiest human on the planet. I want to tell everyone about how my soul is being transformed. About how I refuse to tolerate hate, fear, bigotry, and close-mindedness. I can no longer sit by and pretend to be someone I am not.

Who am I? I am a mom/wife/daughter/sister/friend, a feminist, a liberal, a believer in love and mysticism.  I am open-hearted and open-minded. I believe everyone should have equal rights and a right to love and feel safe. I get angry and feel rage about the current state of our world, our families, and our lives. I ebb and flow…which is probably why I decided to publish this after a full moon. Some days I feel grounded and like I can spread love to the world, and some days I want to burn it all down. I am human and I am evolving. I have never felt “seen” in this world, but I am seeing myself for the first time. I am new and I am old.

So, I just can’t write any more puff pieces on here. It’s not me. I cannot sit by and tell you how great this Republican state is. It has it’s perks like any state does, but everyone (every state) can make progress. Everyone is capable of change. Everyone can love more and fear/hate less. Everyone can choose presence over worry and regret. But we cannot do it alone.  We must do it together and we must speak up about love and change. Passivity is only making things worse and it’s my belief that, as a human race, we are being called to make radical change. So here’s to the the death of the Chelsey Nebraska Act and the birth of something new!

 

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life. 

-Virginia Woolf 

 

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So this is Nebraska

Thanks to my cousin, Suzanne, Ted Kooser- Poet Laureate and Nebraskan, has found his way into my life. I heard him read this poem today on NPR and it made my brain flood with memories of Nebraska summers.

So This is Nebraska, by Ted Kooser

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop   
over the fields, the telephone lines   
streaming behind, its billow of dust   
full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.


On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows   
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs   
hide broken tractors under their skirts.


So this is Nebraska. A Sunday   
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,   
a meadowlark waiting on every post.


Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,   
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.


You feel like that; you feel like letting   
your tires go flat, like letting the mice   
build a nest in your muffler, like being   
no more than a truck in the weeds,


clucking with chickens or sticky with honey   
or holding a skinny old man in your lap   
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like


waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave   
instead and leave your hand out gliding   
larklike over the wheat, over the houses.


This poem brought me back to my childhood, to a somewhat less populated area of Nebraska. Riding on the handlebars of my friends bike, challenging ourselves to fit three, even four people on one bike (all without helmets). Spending the whole day outside. Our mom’s yelled for us when it started to get dark. To get from point A to point B, we’d hop fences and run through yards. We’d go to the neighborhood pool without parental supervision or nannies literally everyday of the summer. We ate melted Reese’s pieces for lunch.

 

When we turned 16, we’d drive around for hours. With the windows down and our arms out. Feeling the warm air turn cool as it became dark. We’d find undiscovered places in the spaces around us. Drinking beer in cornfields and searching for the haunted “Chinese Cemetery” in the middle of the country. We no longer went to the pool but would go cool off in the Platte River or the DX sandpits.  Available, ungoverned, warm water.



 

It is amazing how a decade of distance can make you appreciate that which you once found boring and even despicable. From this viewpoint, my memories of smaller-town Nebraska are magical. Looking back now from the place of a parent, I wish my children could have that experience. And yet, I know there is no way I will let them have that much freedom.


And  yes, my wild childhood involved a bowl-cut perm. Because what says freedom, like a perm?

And yes, my wild childhood involved a bowl-cut perm. Because what says freedom, like a perm?

Winter phenomenon.

No flash. Just light.

No flash. Just light.


I often dream of a winterless a winter. A place that never sees snow or experiences the bitter chill of a 10 degree day. Then every year, winter comes and brings with it a sense of peace and ending. A time to retreat and rest up for the spring. If you live in Nebraska you don’t stop in the summer: you are busy every weekend, you eat outdoors as much as you can, you go swimming as much as you can, you try to absorb every parcel of vitamin D that the sun has to offer. This requires a great deal of energy, and I find that by the end of summer, I am ready for a break. Winter allows us to slow down, to cozy up on the couch, to read, to watch movies, to sleep, to watch the beauty of outside from within.
Reindeer.

Reindeer.

The first big snow storm is always magical. It always brings a blanket of comfort and quiet. It also brings light. Winter is dark. The days end at 5 PM and start at 8 AM. But when you get a good snow, sometimes you get this weird winter light that feels like broad daylight into the night. Because of the reflection of the snow and the cloud coverage, you can see blocks away just like it was daytime. And all of the sudden you feel safe. Like nothing bad could ever happen. This is a phenomenon I have often recognized and appreciated, but never really discussed with anyone else. After our first big snowfall this winter, my husband and I talked about how lucky we are to experience this.

Just doing a little outdoor maintenance after the first snow.

Just doing a little outdoor maintenance after the first snow.

A ways into winter, after your body has properly rested and the vitamin D has been fully depleted from your system you are ready for spring again. You crave it and need it. Sometimes you have to wait, and sometimes the winter gives you breaks of sunshine and warmth to help you make it to the end. So until then, I am going to go hibernate.

Wine to keep you warm.

Wine to keep you warm.

Moving and Movies

We recently moved to a bigger house. I mentioned before that I lived in a tiny 720 square foot house and now that we are adding a second child to our brood we figured we should move up to a larger space. I loved my tiny home but it was becoming more and more difficult to navigate every day. We are now in a much larger house but one that needs a lot of work. When we decided to move we really wanted a house that we could stay in for a long time. I know that with much work and probably a great deal of heart ache, we will make this house our home.

As we began our search for a new house I started fantasizing again about moving away. I felt like this was one of those windows of opportunity for us to make a big leap and go somewhere else. I mentioned this a few times to my husband in passing. I don’t think he took me too seriously, I don’t know that I took myself too seriously. At times I did feel like Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road. The idea of just selling everything and moving to Paris (or in my case somewhere in the U.S. outside of the Nebraska) was appealing to me. Of course her story did not end well, and maybe the lesson is to just be content where you are instead of forcing adventure and romance.

I have also been thinking a lot about my childhood and how I hope Edith can have a similar one. I think our new neighborhood seems friendly in the same way mine did growing up. I grew up in the middle of the state in a quiet neighborhood with lots of kids. I walked and road my bike everywhere, without wearing a helmet and without the supervision of my parents. My friends and I would stay outside until dark every night, even in winter. We were living the dream. Even though it was the 1990’s our lives were like those in The Sandlot or Now and Then. We had an idyllic childhood. Even if things weren’t great at home, we had each other and we had our neighborhood. I feel so lucky that I had this and I wish every kid could have this kind of childhood.

Things with this move have been beyond stressful. We keep finding new and depressing things that need repaired at our home (despite the home inspection). I am pregnant and we are trying to raise a 2 year old. We have been rushing to get into this house and to get our old house ready to rent. It has been rough. I have cried. I have wanted many times to run away and leave this mess behind. Last night we finally got a little break. My mother-in-law babysat, and my husband and I went to dinner and saw a movie, Don Jon. You may not think this movie has a message when you first start watching it, but then you realize it’s about slowing down, loving someone, and not being selfish. I know my desires to run away are selfish. The movie reminded me that even though I get distracted sometimes, I have a great love and I know that in the end we will be content…wherever we are.

Ominous cloud in Omaha last night. I think it looks like an angry elephant.

Ominous cloud in Omaha last night. I think it looks like an angry elephant.