Thursday, December 27, 2007

8 days and no food in the house

Whew. Its been a week! Last Wednesday I picked up the boys from daycare and came home to find the police parked in my driveway...they ended up cluttering my lawn for several hours, as my neighbor's 12 year old daughter was missing. In the end, we found out that Little Miss M. was holed up at a friend's house, and she was in trouble, BIG TIME. In the mean time we joined our new friends across the street for their regular potluck. Of course the weekend was full of last minute holiday preparations and of course...more snow. We bagged on church on Sunday as the boys were both a little under the weather. A big surprise to me on Monday was that Elyas didn't have daycare available (note to self: read the small print on the signs at daycare) so he went to work with Mom for the morning and charmed himself into the hearts of several. Christmas was magical and wonderful and surprisingly peaceful and calm. Wednesday night I was too beat to cook, so we ate out - forgetting that I had scheduled us to be at the first Single Parents Meetup at Chuck E. Cheese's tonight. So needless to say, despite the holiday, I haven't been on my schedule too much. I've had to stop at (blushing madly) the convenience store the last two days to have a lunch to send with Elyas to daycare, and sadly will have to do the same tomorrow because I haven't carved out an extra 20 minutes to go buy those crazy items you need to pack lunch - things like bread.

I've kept busier than ever in the last week plus a day, but I'm thinking there are a few things I need to do if I'm going to continue on this path.

a) Um...buy groceries. Hello unprepared girl!

b) Buy more socks for the boys. If I'm not going to get laundry done during the week, I need spare sets because those crazy things seem to slink off and hide in places that I haven't discovered as of this point in the new house.

c) Ask for more. It is interesting how much you get when you ask for it. My life has been blossoming since I just decided to find people to spend time with!

Peace and love to you my friends!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Road signs?

Life is a strange journey. I've often told people that I really don't believe in fate, but do kind of think that there is a "preferred path" and that life throws you road signs sometimes. I often find myself whizzing down my own personal interstate yelling "Hey did anyone see what that sign said? That semi was blocking my view and..." Well, I don't know maybe I need to slow down, or get on a quieter path, or stop talking to imaginary backseat passengers. Because it is a pain in the ass to have to get off at the next intersection, turn all the way around and drive back to find out the sign said the next exit was your junction. Humph.

About two weeks ago I got an email from our DRE at church asking me to sub for the Kindergarten class at church. I was happy to oblige, the kindergarten class has one of my favorite offspring in it not to mention a bunch of other Happy Shiny People. What could be more fun than an hour and a half with a bunch of five year old kids?
Well, it wasn't quite the picnic I'd dreamt up, my own child was goofy and out of control, which was an interesting combination with being glued to my body. The three stooges, as I've come to think of them, are three little boys a bit younger than my Elyas who all entered the church at about the same time, who all attended the same preschool and whose mothers all hang out together. They used to be ever so sweet as a little gang. These days they are just ever so loud, and raucous. And did I mention loud? There are some very charming little girls in the class who seemed to have a bad case of being bulldozed by the one regular teacher's daughter. And they all cried at the drop of a hat. Except for one little girl who was dressed in a lovely christmasy red dress with velvet sleeves and a satin skirt and all kinds of sparkles. She took one look at Elyas perched on my lap and decided that perhaps that is where she needed to be as well. So they squirmed happily next to each other through the story and discussion, and if Elyas whispered a comment in one ear, she was sure to come up with another. And then, something kind of surprising happened. Like I said, I decided to make my teaching commitment as a substitute this year, making sure that there is coverage when other teachers want to have a life or something. So I don't know all the kids names. As it happened when this little princess decided she needed to do a dance recital for me rather than do the craft project I still didn't know her name. I was really surprised when the other teacher said, "That was really very nice, Aria, lets sit down at the table now." If I'd been drinking something I might have done a spit take. I've only heard the name Aria once (actually spelled differently) in my life and it belongs to another amazing person who happens to be a very close friend and neighbor of my friend Cyndi. I met her when I visited Arizona in February. I found it kind of amazing because despite the geographic, age, and yes even racial differences between the two, there are some specific personality similarities. The phrase "spitfire" comes to mind. I had a moment of thinking maybe this was a sign, but I passed it off as interesting coincidence. Aria's mom picked her up after class and I congratulated her on raising such an affectionate kid and awe inspiring dancer, and that, was that.

Or.

So that leads us to this weekend. I did my normal weekend without the kids stuff, shopping (note to self, when your kid wants one of the most popular toys on the market for Christmas, waiting until the last minute is really stupid...really...), cleaning, web surfing, church, crafting. etc. But it is really getting hard sometimes - the solitude of it all. I spent a lot of time thinking how much I'd like to have some more friends. I even looked at some dating sites again, which made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. But the truth of the matter is I've been on my own for about 20 months and my circle hasn't really grown. I've recently joined a single parents meetup, but nothing has really happened with that yet. And I'm feeling pretty isolated.
That's really where I've been for several days. I woke up feeling kind of blah, but decided to start my day with a flourish and try to shake off the sad feelings. My car had become a pit of crap the kids had drug into it, so I decided to clean it out before heading out to work early. I grabbed a trash bag and opened up the car from the passenger side and began shoveling crap out. It was cold...I don't know the exact temperature, so let's just call it STINKIN' cold. And when it is STINKIN' cold, you know it takes a few minutes for your car to warm up, so I decided to start the car while I finished this job up, I put my purse and stuff down in the driver seat and put the key in the ignition and started it up. I filled up the bag and turned to take it to the garbage can. As the door swung shut behind me I remembered that my car automatically locks the doors when the ignition is engaged. I was locked out - of my car - of my house. My cell phone was in the car. And remember, it was STINKIN' cold. I tried to figure out how to break in...to the car or the house for about ten minutes. Then I tried knocking on the landlord's door. I think, I'm not sure, that they might have moved into one of the other rentals across town. At any rate they weren't answering the door at 7:15 am. Nor were the neighbors on the south of the house. My neighbors in the duplex were home, but their phones (a cell only family) were not. I looked starkly up and down the block. I really know no one around here. How horrifying to have to walk up to a stranger's house and beg for help. And yet, what else was I going to do?

I remembered our first weekend here, the neighbor across the street had come up to express his concern about the boys playing too close to the street, he'd seemed nice, so I decided, well, I'd start there. I took a deep breath and rang the bell. At first I thought they were not home...quiet then a dog, not really barking but kind of grumbling. Footsteps and the door swung open, I started delivering the speech to a pair of bare feet and the bottom of a grey terry bathrobe.

"I'm so sorry to bother you so early, I'm your neighbor across the street and..." as my eyes traveled up I saw the beagle pacing behind her and I met her eyes. It was Aria's mother! I nearly fainted. We had a big "it's a small, small world" moment and then she slipped on a pair of uggs and grabbed a wire coat hanger. She stood out in the STINKIN' cold for about 20 minutes trying to work her magic on my car (she is no stranger to locking her keys in the car she assures me) and when she couldn't she invited me in to call a locksmith. We chatted for nearly 45 minutes while she puttered around in varying stages of getting ready for her own day. She invited me to dinner on Wednesday. "We do a potluck with friends every Wednesday. I tend to tell people when we aren't going to do it rather than when we are, it's just easier." I confided in her that Elyas is rather partial to tea parties which she was thrilled about. "Aria needs a tea party partner!" And as it happens, Aria is rather partial to trains, so that's kind of nice too.

Maybe I didn't miss the exit after all, but I needed a big flashing neon sign to get to it. Maybe.

Or maybe it just really is a small small world. Whatever. Kind of a good story, I thought.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Things that confuse me

I get those moments once in awhile when I find myself obsessing over something that just makes me batty. I don't want to do this, necessarily (although, maybe I do and I just don't know it) so I think maybe writing these "Things that make you go 'Hmmm?'" things out would help me get them out of my head and maybe you'd have ideas about them...or even just find them entertaining.

Here lately, it's home decor choices. Now I'm all for freedom of expression...or even lack of desire to express anything at all, but sometimes you just have to wonder WHY people do what they do. I'm very able to freely admit that my family had basically nothing while I was growing up...we spent a good part of my youth in a 10 x 60 trailer house (you do the math on that...it had two bedrooms the size of postage stamps), so I spent my youth dreaming of getting OUT of rooms covered in horrible pressed wood paneling covered in what would have been photocopy wood, had there been color photocopiers back then. I see the stuff now and I have a visceral reaction...it makes me want to run away screaming and play Barbies all at the same time. But I've always kind of thought, oh well, it was a stamp of our poverty, that's all. No one really chooses to live in that.

But you know, I'm either a very bad judge of about the amount of money some people make or there are some crazy people out there. I'm not saying that I know lots of people who have the exact stuff that was on the walls of our trailer. But my friend Barb recently posted pictures of a house she's buying soon, with strong disclaimers that she's REMOVING the wallpaper, so try to have some imagination! I look at these pictures and I keep thinking about who in the world chooses to take the same ugly little reprinted picture and cover an entire room in it? The house she is buying is neither old (although I'm not sure I give any more credit to someone who did it thirty years ago than I would to someone who did it last summer), nor is it a cheapie one size fits all kind of house, slapped together by someone who didn't give a rat's pa-toot about who might actually have to look at this stuff daily. In fact, as much wallpaper as there is in this joint, it would appear to be a personal preference! Color me...dismayed. Really? This little man chopping wood with his blotchy handlebar moustache is an image you want to look at not only on a daily basis, but in kaleidoscope effect while you are curling your hair and brushing your teeth?

Really. Wow.

Maybe I'm just a bitch, or completely uninformed about the joys of wallpaper, but I really don't understand what would drive a perfectly logical person to go out and spend perfectly good money, time, energy and effort on such a thing. Particularly when Debbie Travis is out there leading the crusade for paint. Listen to Debbie my friends. She knows her stuff.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Love Saturday

Ah screw the rules. Today made me all warm and fuzzy in the middle of yet another snow storm, so I'd better share. It isn't Thursday, so I'm sure the earth is going to spin off it's axis. The sacrifices I'm willing to make for my kids!

Today was Elyas's first basket ball game. Can I just share a secret with you? If you are sad, bored, depressed, angry, lonely or questioning if there is a reason to go on, find out where the four and five year old kids in your town are playing basket ball, or hockey, or soccer, or whatever and get yourself there. Go particularly if it is the first time they've ever played. My son, in particular took the cry of "DEFENSE!" so seriously, hands up, dancing around like he was doing drills for a football practice. The problem of course is he had no idea why he was doing this and would watch his opponents run right by him with the ball and shoot. He never stopped dancing. LOL. One little boy (actually the littlest boy, so cute!) was told at one point to guard the basket, the coach positioned him right under the basket, and he refused to move for the rest of the game. His coach had to pick him up and carry him to the huddle after they finished. Players routinely left the court in the middle of the game to hug their mommies, or even better their preschool teachers that they haven't seen for four or five months. The lone little girl on the league was sure to cry foul when she got benched, stomping her feet and telling her mother it was sexism (totally not making that up!)

On the last play of the game Elyas got the ball and he was running with it (apparently traveling is not a problem in the under six version of basketball). The three other times he'd had the ball during the game another member of his own team had stolen it from him while he was TRYING to dribble and so this time he wrapped his arms around it and barrelled into the crowd and ran straight for the little boy anchored under the basket. As the buzzer sounded his dad shouted "Shoot Elyas!" And wouldn't you know it, he tossed it and it landed - somewhere near the locker room.

As I was walking to my car I heard one little boy explaining to his mom why he thought maybe it would be more fun to play basket ball with knee pads and a helmet. I wondered if Elyas had anything to do with that request.

I haven't laughed so much in months.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My first theological discussion with Elyas

It also happens to be the most convoluted theological discussion I've ever had. Follow me inside the mind of Elyas, but stay close we wouldn't want to get separated...

"Mom, why do people say grace?"

"Well some people say grace because they believe in God and they think -"

"YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?"

"Well no, not really, but some people do and they think it is important to thank him for the good things they have in life. The reason WE say grace is -"

"Does Dad believe in God?"

"Maybe you should ask him about that."

"But black people don't believe in God!"

"Really, that's what you think?"

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"Black people just don't. Only white people."

"Hum...no honey I think that all kinds of people black or white or whatever believe - "

"And tan people? Like me and Devereaux?"

"Yes, and tan people too...believe in God and all kinds of people also don't believe in God or believe in other kinds of things."

"But do they wear underwear?"

"Huh? Yeah. What?"

"Why do we have to wear underwear anyway? It's just stupid. And socks! Why do we have to wear socks? Mom, where are you going?"

Friday, December 07, 2007

Where ever you go, there you are.

Not too long ago, I started entertaining the notion of taking up the fight with the ex-husband that would undoubtedly ensue by moving my little family away from here, away from him and the pain of our divorce and into the loving arms of my family and/or friends in other states. I had conjured up images of long sunny days frolicking in the yard with cousins and kinda-cousins, sharing drinks with my sisters or my girls and giggling. Maybe I'd even find myself a nice man who lived in my circles and settle down again. My mama and I could bond, my kids would know my family and community values.

Or.

As I reflected it became apparent to me that I was perpetuating a tradition of idealizing the dead. It is, I suppose a coping mechanism that we humans have to remember the dead fondly, we tend to blot out their very human traits that irritated or even harmed us. It hurts us to know that someone will remember our own transgressions, so I suppose in forgiving theirs, we forgive our own. Nevertheless...sooner or later I had to recognize that not only was my own very dead past just as buried in the dust as any saintly gone-by relative, but that it had just as many of its own ugly tales buried under the rosy glow of my wishful memories. What would small town Nebraska have to offer me in the way of support or even after-school care for my behaviorally challenged special needs kid? How about my family? How would they deal with his condition when faced with the sometimes hard realities of it? How about my hippy dippy approach to spirituality? I actually spent sometime thinking about all the reasons I've left all the places that I've left. And I became pretty despondent.

Why do I not find the peace I'm looking for? What is missing? I wrote a blog, when I first started blogging about the old Marcel Proust quote, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." I've tried to have new eyes, but the same old ones seem to be there every day when I wake up. I find myself more recently remembering another quote, that I can't quite recall verbatim and can't seem to even google up, but it was from a recovering alcoholic (is that the proper term these days?) who laments that the problem with getting sober is that you have to deal with the person that started drinking in the first place. That strikes some serious chords in this whole battle about where to call home. I think I've been running from place to place, and dragging the problems right along with me, because I never stuck around long enough to quite get "sober." These days I'm sober. I'm not running. I'm dealing. But facing the person who started running in the first place, it isn't easy.

Taking it slow. Practicing forgiveness. Have you been there?

True Believer

Until I became a Unitarian Universalist, I thought I was a pretty weird duck. Well, if we are being honest, I am a pretty weird duck, but you know, I've found out there are others. It seems less weird when you have company.

A big "for instance" always comes up this time of year when moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas and various and sundry others who think they need to weigh in on our parenting choices all begin the debate about,"Is Santa a cherished holiday rite of childhood, or a ridiculous lie that destroys children's trust in their parents?" And I struggle with not getting snarky, because, while I'm pretty much an atheist (humanist, I suppose, but I see that title as issue avoidance) I firmly believe in Santa Claus. Confused? But SANTA CLAUS, you must be thinking, "C'mon Ei that one is easy to prove. There is a paper trail that leads directly back to your parents, right?" But you are wrong.

I was really late in figuring it out as a kid, I think maybe 12. I like to think that this was not because I was stupid so much as hopeful. And my discovery was rather hurtful because I was a temperamental kid (much like an eight year old who sleeps at my house) and my mom was rather blunt in her delivery...and it all kind of sucked. The end result was, "Hey kid, Christmas magic is over. Welcome to adulthood." It ruined my holidays for several years to come. Everything about the holiday took on a hollowness. Decorating the tree wasn't as much fun, baking cookies, buying gifts - it was like someone took a vacuum to the season and sucked all the color out of it. My favorite holiday in my teens was sitting with my grandmother in the nursing home, listening to her and my mom tell stories about days when I didn't even exist.

Not blaming the event in question, perhaps it was just a theme in my life, but life in general seemed to go that direction in my teens and early adulthood. By the time I was 20 it was pretty much at critical mass. I don't remember anyone talking much about clinical depression at that time, but I know I had it (still do) and this added with the daily trials and trauma of being 20 and being a college student with poor social skills were taking its toll. The many friends I'd made my freshman year were all busy with new mini-soap operas and I was just too sad to get involved. I couldn't make ends meet and I was lonely. I lived in a trailer by myself surrounded by other college students whose lives seemed to be non-stop dating and parties. I became addicted to MTV and skipping class. I took very poor care of myself (I won't even go into the food that I ate at this time...if you've lived through college, you probably have a story or two yourself). I had an old boyfriend show up at my doorstep one evening and he spent the night...just long enough to give me and STD and to crush my self esteem into the ugly shag carpet.

As we rolled around to finals in December, I was hanging by a thread. I woke up the morning before my final in history (that I knew I would fail) and tried to decide if I would go in and face the music or kill myself. Honestly. I laid there trying to decide which would be the most painful, and which embarrassment would be worse for my family, the high school honor student, Board of Trustees Scholarship recipient flunking out of college, or just killing herself because she was so pathetic?

I don't know why exactly but I decided to take the test. Maybe to give myself proof that the other option was the best choice. Maybe because I was afraid that if there WAS an afterlife, I'd have to witness how little anyone cared about my life. But I got dressed, put my hair in a ponytail and went out to start my car. I remember it was really snowy and I was afraid it wouldn't start. But it did. Once it did start I reached for my cigarettes and realized I'd left them in the house, so I quickly pulled the keys out of the ignition and ran inside to get them.

When I climbed back into the car I reached to push the lighter in as I started the car and knocked something to the floor, I peered at it. It was a little blue foil wrapped Christmas candy, with a picture of Santa stamped on the front. Someone had slipped in my car and set it there where I would find it when I'd run in the house. It wasn't frozen, so I knew it had only been there moments. I looked all around but could see no one. My neighbors all seemed to be gone. I couldn't even think of a person in the world who might have wanted to do something nice for me, much less have done it in secret.

I didn't take my history exam that day, nor did I kill myself (well, okay, duh). I did sit holding that little piece of chocolate for about three hours, crying. It became the day I call upon when I think about Christmas, and very much so Santa, who undoubtedly delivered that chocolate to me, via traditional Santa magic, which is moving hearts with kindness and love. Santa saved my life that day, probably. And if he didn't, he certainly saved my faith in mankind.

My kids know Santa much the way I knew him. And one day I hope I can help them find the colors of the TRUE Santa story in a much gentler way than I found them. But I'm so glad he's there and I'm so glad to share him with my children.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

So do I need to talk about S-E-X more?

cash advance

Or do I need to talk about the D-I-V-O-R-C-E less?

Oh come on, I've been wanting to reference that song for a year and a half.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Go me!

So as I mentioned, today is my birthday. I guess my boys have really been saving their pennies because after a rotten day at work I picked them up and took us out to dinner. Our usual diner is being remodeled, so we took ourselves to Perkins. And the boys gave me a great little table lamp and a DVD player. Our old DVD player died in January. In May I bought a portable DVD player that I could attach to the TV for our vacation. The boys broke it two days after the 30 day warranty was up...so I wasn't in a rush to replace it. So I guess they decided they want their movies back. Ha! Well...honestly I really don't like that the ex-husband spent that kind of money on me for them, but I can't exactly say that. I just makes me feel like I owe him something, and if there is anyone I don't want to owe anything to...well. Anyway.

Guess what I did! Oh just guess! I just programmed my very own universal remote! Don't LAUGH! I've installed toilets, repaired lawn mowers, and loaded concrete at a lumber yard, but that damn universal remote scares me. I can't believe I conquered it! I feel like such a WO-man! Go me!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who needs Santa when you have dimples?


So do you think there is some subliminal messaging going on in the random play with the fridge magnets?
This, if no one has noticed, is my magic child. No seriously, great mind bending magic flies out of him when you least expect it. Remember when Harry accidentally set the snake on Dudley? It is totally like that. Like on Thursday I picked him up from daycare and we were dangerously close to being late for picking up his brother and traffic was horrible. I was at that place where every ounce of my being was being devoted to holding on to a long blue stream of obscenities. He was smiling and happy when I picked him up, as he usually is, and he was having a conversation with a train in the back seat. Suddenly he said "Mama!"
"Yeah, babe."
"Deedee is swinging from vines!"
Deedee is the name we've given the car.
"Huh?"
"See those black lines? They are vines, mom!"
I can't see any black lines. I look around thinking maybe he's seeing shadows of light posts or electrical wires or something.
"Elyas, I can't see any black lines."
"Oh, that's because this is my world mom."
See? Magic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A new perspective

So there is this interesting phenomena that takes place when you are one of two parents, doing their thing separately, instead of as a unit. The thing to which I refer is is the, well, the...oh darn, I hate to say it, because it is actually a really good thing...but it's the "Tattle syndrome." Oh I know you marrieds, your kids still tell each of you things that the other does. But when they know dad and mom aren't snuggling up at the end of the evening, I think they feel safer saying some basic truths that you might not hear otherwise. I'm in the car with the boys the other day and Elyas says something about the dog biting at them. Cranky mom, ever on the alert for something that "damn man" is doing wrong jumps on it. "He bites at you? Has he ever bit you? Does he bite at everyone?" Well, turns out it is mostly play and the dog getting over excited (still worries me) but the conversation leads to "and he jumped up on the baby and made her fall down and cry."

This was all Elyas. Dev, deep in thought murmurs, "Sometimes I dance to make her stop crying." As much as it annoys me that woman is in the house with my kids, I'm charmed by this. "That's nice babe."

"Her mom says when I'm sixteen and bring my girlfriend home she's gonna tell her all about my chicken dance."

It's really a normal tease, from adults to children, almost a right of passage. But anyone who really understands my kid knows better. You don't tease, Dev. Even when he takes it (which often he doesn't), it bruises him deeply. I could tell that this worried Dev.

"I guess adults don't always understand that stuff like that is what makes kids not want to bring their boyfriends and girlfriends home."

"Yeah, mom. I'm glad you don't say things like that."

I'm glad you are teaching me kiddo.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Who Am I?

A little over a year ago, my friends and I were obsessing about a book called The Daring Female's Guide to Ecstatic Living. At the time, my separation was very fresh and new and I was ready to do a little bit of something to be ecstatic about. Anything, honestly. I was taking a great amount of solace in pouring all my thoughts out into a private blog with my close friends and it was not only a bit of good therapy, but I discovered something important. Or rather rediscovered...that I love writing. So I started this blog and posted a few of my better (and not intensely personal) blogs here and started writing...but not terribly regularly. I was still much more comfortable going to my little circle of girls and spouting off about my daily stuff.

In the process of all that, my friend Cyndi issued me a Daring Female dare. Her dare was to begin a Who Am I Journal. I in fact did this and it began an amazing journey of self discovery...some parts of which I absolutely relished, some that were quite simply painful to endure. But it made me a stronger and I think happier person. Though, there are some days I'd have to say I was wrong about that. But we all have those days, eh?

Now rather than taking you on the long winding road I've been on in the last year and a half, I'm thinking maybe I'll just tell you, this time, about where I've ended up. At first blush, I probably don't look too different than I did at that time. My job is the same, my devotion to my kids, my faith (or lack thereof, depending upon whose viewpoint you are referencing), and my friends...all the same. Even my sad dependence upon numerous ellipses remains, as you might have noticed. I still read a lot and I'm still not in a rush to find another man (I must admit I look more than I used to...still won't act on it though.) Actually, with the exception of my address, looking at my life you probably wouldn't see much of a difference at all. Did I do all that work to end up in the same place I've always been? In short, no.

When I started writing about "Who Am I" I was a woman crushed by a life, not living one. All of my expectations had been met, and that really wasn't a good thing. So I spent a lot of time dealing with the things I didn't like...and I may have done myself a disservice by spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix them, rather than doing what ultimately I needed to do, which is come to terms with them. So where I am now, is an awful lot like where I was then, with a gigantic difference. I like me. I may be so bold as to say, I love me. Warts and all. And that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world.

So now I have a guide to changing my life. I'm following that happy girl's lead. And I've learned two things that makes me happy are reading real "slice of life" blogs, and writing. So, I'm going to commit to writing regularly, even when I don't think anyone wants to hear it. Because this isn't about them. Sorry DaMomma, but this one really is about me. But I hope I can find some things to say that will do a little something for you too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nice Matters


My friend Becky awarded me a kind of cool little "pay it forward" award titled the "Nice Matters Award." Since my blog has never won an award before (I wasn't even sure anyone read it at all), it thrills me that Becky saw fit to give me this award. But I have to tell you I wish I could give this award to so many people...who don't blog but live it.


First and foremost, I wish I could give it to my church. You know this week I was forced to swallow a bitter little pill for myself and ask for some help moving. That email somehow got passed on to the Care Committee at my church. And that little bird is going to make my life so much more comfortable.


My friend Twila is going through some serious stuff. I'm trying to help her. I fall down at that a lot. She still loves me. She deserves a nice award.


My kids...wow, they are some seriously nice people. You should see the picture the little one drew for me this weekend.


My boss...you remember him, the gruff Scot? Oh he's a peach. May be the nicest man I've ever known.


My SISTER. You know how nice she is? She hardly ever mentions that I'm not a Baptist. Do you know how hard that is? And she loves me anyway!


My friends who call me and forgive me for hanging up on them because I'm a big ol' butterfingers who can't manage my cell phone properly...they are NICE.


I guess I'm just saying, nice really, REALLY doesn't happen in a vacuum. And I'm so blessed that someone noticed. But I'm even more blessed for the people who teach me nice every single day.


Here are some of the bloggers who teach me nice too. They are getting the award from me.








Monday, September 24, 2007

First you find the pool


Saturday was the official commencement of the boys swimming education. Perhaps late for Dev...perhaps a lifetime too early for Ly, but nevertheless, we were there. You may remember when I signed up it was slated to be an 8 a.m. class. So NOT cool. 8 a.m. on Saturday? That's like asking me to eat lima beans for dessert. Or beets. But then the instructor called on Monday night last week to inform me that the class had so many people sign up that they were creating a second class, and since we signed up early would we rather come to the 10 o'clock class? Well. Duh. So it became more of a fruit and yogurt parfait. Right on.


So of course, the boys were up at 5:45 on Saturday morning. Lazy things. Nevertheless, we weaved between boxes and garbage bags, evidence of our upcoming move to a duplex (a yard! bedrooms for all! an entire basement for the damn cat box!) and had a leisurely morning of cartoons and mama's French toast and fruit smoothies. And then there was this sound. The electric grinding whirring sound that does to my stomach the exact same thing that the sound of a dentist's drill does to it. It was a chainsaw...and it was close, way too close.

Dev beat me to the window. "Mom, they are cutting up our tree. Why are they cutting up our tree?" I gasped a little to see the men hanging from the tree just outside my window. "My" beautiful cherry tree was coming down in large chunks. Quickly. I gulped. "Maybe he was just getting too close to the power lines, honey." It was hopeful. But somewhere inside of me I knew it was a lie. We loaded into the car and the three of us sat there mesmerized by the sight of branches dropping, like the sick sight of hair dropping to the floor in preparation for some horrendous brain surgery. Dev started to whimper. I started the car. "Mommy, please, we can't leave our tree!" I knew there was nothing to be done. The tree belonged to the realty company, not us. I knew there had been some plumbing issues for the lower floors, and in all likelihood the trees roots were wreaking havoc with the building's plumbing. "We are going to be late if we don't go now." I lied. Class didn't start for another 45 minutes. "I'll tell you what happened when you call me from Daddy's house tonight." We paused at the drive and we all took one long last look over our shoulders and then I forcefully shook off the sad feeling washing over my body. "Swim Class!"

We soon found ourselves marching up the rather intimidating front walk of the high school where the classes are held. The building loomed large in front of us and as we entered the building I couldn't help but think of a prison movie with the architecture of the interior. "I'm sure it is better when it is full of kids." I said to no one in particular.

The boys both pressed close to me. "I don't think I'm ready for high school, Mommy." said Dev.

"Yeah, me too."

A lovely woman paused long enough to tell me that the pool was up the stairs and off to the left. We passed through the cafeteria to the stairwell she seemed to have indicated and began wandering to the left. "Mommy, aren't we going to swim?" Elyas murmured. "Yes, m'love. First we need to find the pool." We wandered for a good five minutes before I saw a light in an office. The custodian. He was very friendly and showed me where we had gone wrong. There had been a set of stairs in the cafeteria we had passed on our way to the second set. We back tracked, finally on the right track. Class commenced and they began dividing the children into groups, first by their level of fear of the water then by what they actually knew what to do. It didn't surprise me on the first pass to see my children at opposite ends of the pool...Dev on the "A little fear is a good thing, kiddo" end and Elyas on the "Water doesn't bite, sweetheart" end. About halfway through the class Elyas started wailing that he wanted his mommy. Mommy bravely sat on the bleachers and cried silently.

After drying off and warming up, I gave them both giant hugs and told them how proud I was of them for listening to their teachers, doing their best, and finishing what they started. I broke one of my own rules and carried Elyas to the car while he hugged my neck tight and kissed my cheek, repeatedly. I dropped them off at their dad's house and returned home to my monumental task of readying my home for the move the next weekend.


The tree was indeed completely gone. I ran my hand over the rugged stump and sobbed a little. Very few people know the comfort that tree had given me through the hardest time of my life, how I had laid on my bed and talked to it when there was no one else to talk to and how I felt like it heard me too. How just days before I'd told it as I drifted off to sleep that I was sorry to be moving, that I would miss it terribly and that I hoped the cherries would come in better next year. No more cherries, for me or anyone. Not from that tree.

I worked hard all day. I packed up and intensely cleaned two rooms. I broke the news to Dev that the tree was gone on the phone that night. Elyas got on the phone finally and said


"Mommy, why did they cut down the tree?"

"I don't know honey. I guess there was a reason. It makes me sad though."

"Why?"

"Why? It was a nice tree. Don't you think it was a nice tree?"

"No, Mommy...I mean why? What did the tree do?"

My baby thought it was retribution for some rotten act. For my child obsessed with death as it is, I was dumbfounded as to what to say.

"Nothing baby. I...sometimes things just happen, I guess."

He gulped a little and I wanted so desperately to hug him. "I love you mommy. Will you sing to me?"

A year and a half ago, our family, as it was, as they had always known it, died a sudden and painful death...and since then every loss however seemingly insignificant hits hard and painfully. I sat at the window and stared down at a stump in the yard. It seemed almost cosmic that they had done this as I packed up our life to move on from this first place of life lessons after that death, this place where our love and skills grew as a new and different kind of family. I thought about telling Elyas that before we swam we had to find the pool. Indeed, that is what we had done here. We spent some time finding the pool, testing our skills to see which end of the pool we belonged in, and crying a little bit when it was uncomfortable and scary. I threw a few more things in a box as I said goodbye to the tree that had sheltered me and marked the spot. I guess it is time for lesson #2.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Big Game

You probably have one going on somewhere too. Here and now it is the Big Iowa vs. Iowa State Team. I'm cheering for football widow sales. Please, PLEASE let us win big this weekend!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Just for clarification...

Sitting on the sofa, some time after bed time...

"Well hello."

"Hi Mommy."

"Um, Elyas?"

"Yeah, Mom?"

"Goodnight."

Not moving. "Goodnight, Mom."

"GOODNIGHT, ELYAS."

Smiling, but still not leaving "Goodnight mom."

Whispering "That's your cue to leave."

"Mom, how do you spell Eileen?"

Exasperated sigh. "E-I-L-E-E-N"

"Oh ok. And then, ok, how do you spell alien???"

You can see why he was confused.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ma and God


God gave us fingers-Ma says, “Use your fork.”
God gave us voices- Ma says, “Don’t scream.”
Ma says eat broccoli, cereal and carrots. But God gave us tastes for
maple ice cream.
God gave us fingers- Ma says, “ Use your hanky.”
God gave us puddles- Ma says, “Don’t splash.”
Ma says, “Be quiet, you father is sleeping.” But God gave us garbage can
covers to crash.
God gave us fingers- Ma says, “Put your gloves on.”
God gave us raindrops- Ma says, “Don’t get wet.”
Ma says be careful, and don’t get too near to those strange lovely dogs
that God gave us to pet.
God gave us fingers- Ma says, “Go wash ‘em.”But God gave us coal bins and
nice dirty bodies.
And I ain’t too smart, but there’s one thing for certain ~ Either Ma’s
wrong or else God is.
-Shel Silverstein

Shel and I go way back to fourth grade. He helped me figure out a lot of things about myself that I didn't have words for...I wish I'd paid more attention to "The Bagpipe Didn't Say No." But beyond that, I think I got a pretty firm grasp of having fun while challenging boundries when I learned me some poetry. Oddly, Ma and God only recently became one of my favorites. Mostly because I'm Ma and I don't believe in God...which is ironic in and of itself. I think Shel might have enjoyed that one quite a bit.

But in the deepest parts of my heart I do believe in something. It is just not anything that I can call God because...well I suppose that is a whole lot of baggage I don't need to go into. It's a language thing that "my people" (UU's to be precise) seem to struggle with. At any rate, I don't call it God. I usually don't know what to call it, which is probably appropriate since we really can't know what it is. I like to think of it as a universal energy. Sounds pretty new agey, doesn't it? Well I suppose I'm nothing if not a super geek, so I'll cleve to my predetermined role in life...roll with it as it were. On other days, particularly days I've been reading Harry Potter, I like to think of it as magic. (Really Jo, no more? Say it isn't so, Jo. Maybe one more...about Harry's third cousin twice removed who lives in Phoenix? No? Oh ok...I'll go sulk a little more then.)

But this poem, it encapsulates exactly my frustration with the God with whom I became aquainted as a child. Either Ma is wrong, or God is. Black and white, right and wrong...

I'm still trying to figure out what I really want my kids to know about God...or the lack thereof. But I definitely know I want them to know about Shel. And the bagpipe...let's not forget the bagpipe this time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why my children hate me

"Mom, is that wrapping paper I see?"

"Hum...yes."

"And what is THAT for?"

"Oh someone I know is having a birthday."

"It's me!!!"

"Oh yeah, you are having a birthday, right? You'll be what, fourteen?"

Giggling "Noooo..."

"Three?"

"Mommy..."

"Thirty-seven?"

"I'm going to be eight!"

"What?!?"

"Mommy, I'm going to be eight!"

"YOU ARE GOING TO BE ATE??? Who on earth would eat a little boy???"

"No Mommy, I'm going to be EIGHT!"

"So you say! How can I protect you if you won't tell me who is going to eat you?"

"EIGHT - like the NUMBER EIGHT!"

"Oh you mean like 'Eight Lords-A-Leaping?'"

Relief. "Yeah, like that."

"Cool! How did you get that gig? I didn't even know you knew how to leap."

"No mommy EIGHT YEARS OLD."

"I've heard that song a number of times and I'm pretty sure it is eight lords-a-leaping."

"MOM, I AM GOING TO BE EIGHT YEARS OLD TOMORROW."

"Oh. I see. I should probably wrap a present up for you then, huh?"

"You are so weird, Mom."

"Just doing my job, kid. Just doing my job."

Monday, July 23, 2007

By George...just maybe...shes got it...?

You'll remember last year, I blogged about forgiveness...and I blogged about it some more....and some more...you know it shouldn't be surprising that a woman who has seen as much rejection as I has an ongoing issue with forgiveness. But you know, it gets tiresome for me too, dear reader, so don't feel guilty. But with this post, I knew I was getting close. I readily admitted I didn't have it all figured out, but maybe what I uncovered would point me in the right direction, right?

But still I struggled. And that load of baggage was getting heavier and heavier. I knew I needed to set it down, but I didn't know how. Like Kim Possible's arch enemy threw a bondo ball at me and my baggage.

Something occurred to me today, that may well be the piece of the puzzle I've been missing. Did you have this piece? When the need to forgive is hurting you the most, often we thing that the kindness and love of the forgiving act needs to be pointed at the person we know we need to forgive. But we are wrong. Lack of forgiveness is an act of carrying a wrong doing around like it belongs to you, when it actually doesn't. Yep I got that part right. But what I missed was this. When you carry that hurt around, you actually continue to hurt yourself with that same act over and over again. You might recognize this process. It's the one used by all the bad guys trying to torture information out of some brave secret agent. Mel Gibson getting shocked over and over and again...they hit him over and over in the exact same spot and he screams in agony. That is what we do to ourselves when we carry around a slight. We hit ourselves with it over, and over....and over. And finally it is time to answer your interrogator's question, the question that it has been whispering in your ear for days, weeks, months.

"You deserved it, didn't you? You did something wrong, you weren't good enough, you are lacking as a human? Too fat? Too skinny? Not smart enough? You know it is your fault...admit it...it is your fault."

When you can look it straight in the eye and simply say, "No." It is over.

No.

No.

NO!

Saying no is an act of setting the baggage down, leaving it in the road for it's proper owner. It's freedom.

Friday, May 18, 2007

OPM Anonymous

Hi. My name is Eileen and I'm an Over Protective Mom.

~Hi Eileen!~ (That's your line, speak clearly, reach for the back row.)

I'd like to tell you there is a day that it started. Maybe the day I got that horrible email about the three year old who was abducted in England. Maybe the day someone I "knew" from the Internet had a child killed in an unfortunate driveway accident. Maybe...but probably I was born this way. I'm not a risk taker. I was the sit and read books kid. I had a fear of things like bleeding. I avoided it at all costs. Which might have been nice for MY mother. Maybe. But it really doesn't do my two boys any good. Two boys.

You know I have heard people say things like "How can you look at a sunset, or a flower, or a new born baby, and not know that there is a God?" I dunno. I look at that as astounding circumstance, the brilliance of cause and effect and chance. But if there ever were an argument for the existence of the almighty, I believe it would be the fact that this wall flower, book reading, liberal, pacifist, candle meditation loving round girl somehow birthed the modern day version of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (I'll let you decide who is who...) That, to me is evidence of not only a higher power, but one with a sense of humor, (and may also support evidence that this higher power is kind of mean).

So last night after a good couple of hours of, "Please don't touch that. Hey we don't throw rocks at cats! Why are we pouring water into a cardboard box? Where is the hamster now? Oh, no, please not in your ear...or no...not there either...Are you licking me? Why are you licking me?" I was laying on my bed blinking. I wish I could tell you some grand epiphany came to me but my brain had stopped working. The realization was old and new and old and new. They aren't going to change. You have to adapt.

And I do, not just for my own sanity, but for theirs. They are boys. Boys experiment. They bleed. And they like it. And sooner or later they'll be better men for it. And I might survive too. But I have doubts about the hamster.

Ironically enough, I got a book recommendation today. I ordered it for the boys, hopefully it will be here just in time to take on our vacation next week. Read the interview with the author at Amazon. Written by brothers dontcha know. Anyway, I guess summer is as good a time as any to begin living a dangerous life. I'll bring the band-aids.

The Dangerous Book for Boys
By Conn Iggulden
Release date: By 01 May, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Home

It was tentative and uneasy, but I slipped my shoes off and slid my toes into the grass. I remember suddenly that no matter how lush and lovely it seems, that it will always surprise you with sharp angles of thick cut stalks and the coolness of it. I'd told someone recently that putting my bare feet in grass always made me remember my grandmother's laugh. That only made me realize how long it had been since I'd done it. I couldn't force myself to stay long. The rush of memories was so strong, so pleasant, so...uncomfortable. I'm not sure why uncomfortable.

The best days of my life were spent in the company of my grandparents. I wanted to say "in the company of my grandmother" but I know in truth, as hard as my relationship with him was, my grandfather contributed a great deal to that bliss. I remember waking in the attic bedroom, crammed full with artifacts of several lives...theirs, their parents', my mother's, even mine. There was never enough room to do much more than walk around the bed, but it was my favorite room in the house. I dug through boxes, imagining my grandmother in this dress, my grandfather smoking that pipe, or marveling at strange things that seemed to have no logical purpose. There were books and fountain pens, hats and dime store jewelery. It was a treasure trove.

But what I remember most of all is waking up, bright light, a fresh breeze and the lilting sounds of a tiny town waking up wafting through the windows, lifting the curtains in a lazy dance. There was the familar smell of eggs frying in my grandmother's cast iron skillet and the unmistakable sounds of dishes clattering and my grandfather coughing himself awake in the bathroom. I would hear my mother and grandmother talking, and Paul Harvey or the local weather on the radio. And bad country music. I'd do the obligatory dance outside the bathroom door as I waited for my grandfather's endless morning preparation to cease and then would sit sleepily down to my glass of Tang and whatever cereal I'd talked my grandmother into that week.

The summer days we spent there were endless chores that seemed like vacation to me...painting the screens, hanging laundry on the line, peeling potatos for dinner. I built sand castles in the street (it was the sandhills after all and the "street" was indeed sand!) and hiked up the road to look at the neighbor's great nasty Thanksgiving turkey, strutting around the yard and scaring the chickens. I snooped through my grandfather's shop and wondered about how many ways there was to put all these things together and the marvelous things I could build. Grandma and I would play Kings on the Corners, and she didn't let me win because I was a kid. In fact, she didn't let me win because she was a kid herself at heart. At night, after the dishes were washed and put away the grown ups would sit in lawn chairs and I would sit in the grass looking for four leaf clovers. While the clover was the bane of my grandfather's gardening experience, for me, it was the best thing his lawn could offer. I would lay there for hours examining each individual clover, excitedly plucking some out, only to realize that I had been deceived. I would pull up a healthy three leaf clover once in a great while and tear a leaf down the middle, trying to convince myself that I'd found one, but it was just a game I played to keep my spirits up.

My grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1982, the summer I was 13. While she lived for another four years, she never came home again and it was never the same without her.
I did eventually find a four leaf clover though. She was gone by then and I was 22 years old. I put it in her jewelery box. It was gone the next time I came home. I suppose my mother might have found it and thrown it out. But I like to think Grandma found it and knew it was something I wanted to share with her.

I had a friend recently ask me to think about what home feels like. Home feels like bare feet in the grass. Home feels like a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Home feels like people you know and you trust waiting for you with a glass of Tang while the wind blows the curtains beside your bed.

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma, wherever you are.

Happy Mother's Day to you too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

STOP

Elyas fell off the new scooter for the third time and I went to pull him to his feet. He smiled his brilliant little smile and leaned in to hug me. "Mommy," he murmured, "you are the nicest, sweetest, funnest mommy there is." He pressed his face up against my neck. "And you smell..." He was searching for just the right sweet nothing..."You smell just like...a cow..." Big sigh, bright dancing eyes. You can tell he thinks he's the smoothest guy in town.

I stifle a giggle. If my son knew for a second what actual livestock smelled like I would have been mortified. But that's just my kid - amazing, crazy, fun. I set him back on the scooter and gave him a push off in the direction of his brother. I ambled along behind them racing along in their red and blue helmets, bobbing and weaving along the long straight walkway leading across the campus with its impeccably manicured lawns. It was such a vision, these perfect little people who some how came from my body, scooting their way toward the sunset, occasionally pausing to lean in and share with each other some mystery of the universe that they'd unravelled in their journey across the lawn. And a voice deep within me called out "STOP!"

It all goes too fast. You hold those new born babies with their intoxicating smells and gurgling smiles for a moment and they are toddlers wiggling and stretching for the nearest thing they can dump on the newly vacuumed floor. You scoop the toddler up into your arms and suddenly he's a preschooler reading you a book and explaining the lyrics to a favorite song to you. Turn your face from the preschooler for a moment and you look back to find the confident school boy kicking a soccer ball across the lawn with the precision of Pele. And sometimes you just have to beg the universe to give you a moment more...one more second of perfection before those young men are slipping out the door on the way to college, or back to work, or off to pick up their own kids from daycare. Some days you just have to beg the universe to stop. And even though it doesn't, it will give you something to hold on to. One of the things I will hold forever is the vision of my children bobbing down an endless walkway that cuts through a sea of green grass and laughing because I smell like a cow.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rome was not built in a day.

I've been teaching myself about small steps these last few weeks without realizing it. Planting one foot in front of the other rhythmically, and deliberately, all the while trying to keep my eye on the destination. Sometimes it falls behind a tree that blocks my view...other times it falls behind a mountain, but still I look toward it, knowing that it will reappear on the horizon soon enough.

Two weeks ago - almost, I was sitting in the reinstatement meeting for my son's last in-school suspension and his father was trying hard to press the point that he has in fact made tremendous progress since the beginning of the school year. The educators all shuffled in their seats and hummed about it, "Yes, but we need to deal with what is happening now." His father and I are not fools, we know this. We discussed some strategies for helping the boy calm down in situations of stress, at least when the staff could see it coming. As we left the meeting, only the teacher, a counselor, the father and I remained in the room. The teacher expressed concern about this business of setting up special procedures to help my son cope in situations that are difficult for him. "I am not a parent," he said with a certain tone that annoyed me, actually, "but from an educator's point of view I'm very concerned about him learning life skills. As an adult, if my boss tells me something I do not like, I do not have the option of getting time and space to calm myself down or special tools to do it."

"And I am concerned about the idea that it is reasonable to have adult expectations of a seven-year-old child." I locked his eyes and continued. "Most certainly he will need those skills as an adult...he also has quite some distance to go before he is an adult. Perhaps we should be focused on helping him grow into an adult, not become one overnight."

A few weeks later in my weight loss quest, I read something that tells me that one of the biggest problems people face in "diets" is that they look at them as temporary confinements while they reach for a goal. Once they reach the goal, they go right back to their old behavior. You should never continue on a diet plan that you can not envision yourself keeping up, once you meet your goal, the article said. It made me think about the goal oriented approach I've always used in such endeavors. After I went and got a snack of trail mix I'd been denying myself, I reflected upon how many times I started off an exercise program trying to walk four miles in 45 minutes every single day, or push my way through an advanced aerobic workout despite my lack of grace and health because "By God I was going to do it this time!" I've repeatedly ignored the warnings to start slowly and to be gentle on myself. And then because I couldn't fulfill these lofty goals, I gave up and labeled myself unworthy. So on Tuesday morning when I really didn't want to walk, I thought "Eh, well then I'll just go out and stroll around the neighborhood a little, just to wake up." Of course I ended up walking two and a half miles and feeling exceptional about my day.

Two nights ago the ex-husband and I had an actual civil conversation about the boy's latest suspension and both of our frustrations about them not giving the boy credit for his progress, even though it is visible and steady. Not to worry, by the next night I made an innocent remark on the phone that sent the ex into a characteristic rage, yelling loudly at me and trying hard to insult me. I simply hung up, but it bothered me a lot. I worried about how my boys can cope with such a personality. Granted, I don't think I bring out the best in the man anymore. But I tried to just close my eyes and focus on my destination, happy well-adjusted young men bringing me degrees, awards, life lessons, and of course grandchildren. This morning when I sat down at the computer, there was an email from the father titled "Apology." And indeed, that is exactly what it was.

Rome was not built in a day, it was built in a moment.

In fact, millions of them.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Days Like That

As I was leaving to walk at lunch today, my coworker came in overwhelmed and tired cursing mistakes made by others and how crummy she felt. I smiled and offered to help. She shifted in her shoes. I don’t think she wanted me to show her up. I don't think she heard me saying "I've had days like that."

Walking at lunch today, I watched cars passing by on a street that used to be a one way street, but isn't any more, I watched the driver of an SUV slam on his breaks as he narrowly avoided a head on collision with another vehicle who was actually in the right. His face turned red with anger as he leaned on his horn. I watched it dissipate into shame as he saw the freshly painted double yellow line on the right of his car. He looked up at me at that moment and I smiled at him. He flipped me off as he drove away. I don't think he heard me saying, "I've had days like that."

Walking at lunch today, I passed by the building where I went to marriage counseling not quite a year ago. There was a woman coming out of the door. She had a cell phone pressed to her ear and she tried hard not to meet my gaze. Her eyes were watery and ringed in red, her face was sallow and there were dark circles telling the tale that she'd either been crying a lot or sleeping very little, or, probably both. I smiled at her and she turned away. I don't think she heard me saying, "I've had days like that."

Walking at lunch today, I gazed up at a cool spring sky, and took in its lovely color, breathing it deep into my soul. I spun around a bit and was grateful for the day I was having, for the life I am having, for my own special story to tell. I stopped to see an old man in a funny hat across the street gazing at me with a smile on his face. "It's a good day for a walk!" he called across four lanes of traffic. I smiled and nodded, "It is indeed!" I shouted back. We stood and regarded each other for a moment. Finally we both turned in opposite directions and went on about our days. But I heard him loud and clear. He's had days like that.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Dummy's Guide to Fasting...

Occasionally, those of us with very loose religioius ties try things that many other faiths do on a regular a basis, because it seems like a pretty sound spiritual practice. It's been awhile since I've done anything of the sort, but I decided to do a small fast this weekend, for both health and spiritual reasons...clearing out my system from a few different angles. I used to do this back in the day...an annual spring cleaning and I figured if there were ever a time to get back to it, this would be it. The boys were with their dad, and I loaded up on juice and tea and a couple of good books, I parked the television on HGTV and I was on my way. I did some reading, and some discussing, and I want to share some very basic things I taught myself this weekend.

1. Mega Green juice is chock full of all kinds of good things for you to be taking in to your body. But don't put it in a glass that you can see through. There is something about drinking something that tastes like yummy papaya juice but looks like water from the haunted lagoon that may be good for fasting, but really bad for finishing the juice. Don't look. Just drink.

2. Health food stores have a way of dashing any hopes that a fasting weekend will somehow be cheaper than a regular weekend.

3. While walking sounds like a wonderful thing to do when you are taking care of your body for the weekend, you should probably either do it on a treadmill or walk in circles around your house. Only an idiot decides a four mile hike is a good idea when they've done nothing but drink water and juice and tea for 12 hours.

4. Even if you don't like V-8 juice, it becomes delicacy after 16 hours of fasting.

5. If you go into a fasting weekend with fantasies that you may one day find yourself able to take on a healthy vegan type of lifestyle, dreaming about pork chops dashes those plans fairly quickly.

6. The quickest way to sabotage yourself on a fasting weekend is to decide you MUST go buy cupcakes for your child to take to school for his birthday. And buy them somewhere that Girl Scout Cookies are being sold. And where crab meat wontons are on special. But 38 hours is pretty good, for someone who is rusty, right?

Anyone want a wonton?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Life as you know it is about to change...in five...

...four, three, two...there! Do you feel it? No? Ok go back and try it again. I'm sure you'll feel it this time.

Life is a constant tumble of change. You breathe in, breathe out and somewhere in that breath, life has changed irrevocably for someone, probably you. Maybe you sucked in some germ, maybe in a zen moment you reached a higher consciousness, maybe you decided to buy those damn cute shoes even though you shouldn't. Maybe somewhere someone decided that you are the person they'll love 'til the end of times, or maybe they decided to sue you. Maybe your kid discovered his passion, or maybe she discovered where you hide your secret chocolate stash. Maybe someone you love just was born, or born-again, or breathed her last breath. Maybe that damn butterfly is flapping his wings again wreaking havok on your weekend with a resultant late spring snowfall in Iowa. But it has been said in simpler terms...the only thing you can depend upon is change.

Change is frightening...and exciting...and chaotic...and refreshing...and exhausting. How ever you choose to look at it, change is a fixed aspect of our lives. We grow, experience, age and falter, and move ever closer to our final change from this life to whatever moves beyond. Human beings try to outsmart the "butterfly effect" by being prepared for anything. But it has occured to me lately that this is a frivilous waste of time. We can't predict what is next any more than we can predict which leaf might fall from the mighty oak first. We might ultimately be able to get even that to a really terrific educated guess, but to what end? Once it falls, we then look at each other and say, "Ok...we got that one. Now what do we do?"

A year ago I wouldn't have thought about life like this. I was managing everything and enjoying nothing. I was on a schedule, on time and in a groove...a groove that resembled a rut in retrospect. And then, the earth moved and my rut was gone and all that was holy in the world of order abandoned me. I found myself crying a river of tears one night and giggling madly with the girls the next. My once predictable role of mother to my children became as complex as navigating a mine field. My own personhood was a strange new land of discovery. And the bizzare thing is, I loved every minute of it. The hurt, the anger, being oddly self-possessed in some places and completely unable to mask my emotion at others. I've climbed through my own hang ups and examined them like my son examines the bark on trees. And it all felt like living...not existing, but really living. This change, this is the stuff that makes a life a story worth telling. Living through challenges helps us measure who we are, both to ourselves and to others. Possessing joy with willful abandon gives the world the gift of our presence.

My advice to you today is don't wait for a rift in your own time space continuim. Get out there and embrace the changes being tossed your way today...experience them, love them, hate them, mourn them or celebrate them. But let them surprise you...you have a gift in that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How long?

"So how long does it take, this process?" asks my gruff, but good-guy Scottish boss. It is a question that has been asked of me about 300 or so times since my marriage fell apart last spring. It's funny how being in the process of getting a divorce is supposed to make you some kind of expert on the subject. Funnier yet, is how many women come to me for advice when they are having trouble in their marriage. I rarely say it but I can't help but think, "Um, you are the one that still has her husband in her bed, why are you asking me?" But I don't. I guess they think that misery loves company. Or maybe, they've noticed I'm not that miserable, and they are intrigued by that...I don't know. But I get questions all the time about how much lawyers charge, how often you have to go to court, etc. And the truth be told, I'm almost done and I still don't really know. I've gone through it all, but it has really been a blur of bad timing and strange innuendo. And even if I could make sense of it, it doesn't seem possible that what I've been through has been a normal process. Nothing about this is normal.

But I do think I've come up with an answer, or maybe more appropriately several answers, to this "How long?" question. Since the decree should be going before a judge very soon, I thought I'd take a moment to write it down. How long does it take to get a divorce? Well, this is just my experience, but:

  • from the 11:30 p.m. revelation from your husband that he loves you too, "I guess" to signing your final decree of divorce, it takes 50 weeks, five days, and eleven hours
  • it also takes seven years of trying and not really knowing why nothing seems to work
  • it takes .5 seconds to say "Yes." instead of "Can we make this decision after the baby is born?"
  • it takes 30 + years of carrying your self esteem around at the bottom of your purse, and pulling it out, in shock that it is tangled up in teeny tiny knots that you will need tweezers to work out
  • it takes twenty-three hour long visits to your own therapist, countless hours with your children's therapists, and monthly visits to the pharmaceutical counter at Walgreen’s
  • it takes many sleepless nights, staring out the window, with rocks in your stomach
  • it takes as many hours of free long distance as you can rack up - and several hours that aren't free
  • it takes hundreds of hours of dealing with the angst and anger of your children, answering questions to which you don't really know the answers
  • it takes five hours to take a parenting course that teaches you not to call your ex bad names in front of the kids
  • it takes too many billable hours with the cheapest lawyer you could find
  • it takes 37 years to start it, I haven't quite figured out how many it will take to tie it up
I always used to get a bad taste in my mouth when I heard stories of women who party it up right when their divorces were finalized. But I understand now, it isn't celebrating an end, it is celebrating a commencement. I will officially move into a new phase of my life this week. It is my pinning ceremony, the turning of a tassel, the signature on my diploma. I've passed this test. Now I get to take on some new life. Somebody, please, buy me a drink already.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Buzz About Maddy

I read an angry mom blog today about the newest Disney Princess, slated to hit theaters in 2009. I'm accustomed to parents who are angry about Disney Princesses. Lets face it they are riddled with problems for parents of someday women. The characters are entirely too focused on getting their men and the industry focuses too much on sexual stereotypes that are, if not harmful, completely one-dimensional.


Princess Maddy, who will star in Disney's "The Frog Princess", will take on an entirely new set of problems as well as a lofty goal. Maddy will be the first ever black Disney Princess. Here is Princess Maddy, sassy girl from New Orleans! A princess in New Orleans? Ok...I'll bite.


For my friends who have little dark skinned girls with tight dark curls, I know Maddy might be a welcome sight. One such mama has told me how she worries for her daughter's self-esteem when she tells her mother she wishes she could have straight blonde hair and blue eyes, because then she would be beautiful. We know these little girls need to see their own images of beauty. Disney, long suffering for its lack-luster performance in the realm of diversity, is trying. And it can't hurt to have those little girls who have the straight blonde hair and blue eyes completely revel in the loveliness of a woman of color as well, right? Oh my, but she is the picture of loveliness too, isn't she? But then again, if Disney thought it suffered at the hands of irate Muslims when the presentation of Middle Eastern culture in Aladdin was perceived to be stereotypically violent and blood thirsty they might be in for a surprise here. If they screw up presenting New Orleanian African Americans...well...I'm sure there's enough fodder there for the next fifteen Shrek movies. Word is that the plot line includes some voodoo, so it sounds like they've got a leg up on that! Whew!


I started to wonder why this mattered to me at all. While my children are biracial, they are boys and the chances of them being significantly impacted are relatively low. I'm all about women empowering themselves and each other, but I can honestly say, it wasn't a feminazi rage boiling in my blood when I started reading about Princess Maddy...nor was it a white privilege shame.

When I was in college, I was lucky enough to do a show called "Talking With..." It consists of eleven monologues from eleven different and incredibly interesting women. My favorite still is a barrel-racer named "Big Eight." She'd been in the rodeo since she was a child, and she loved it with everything that she was. After years of living her simple life, the rodeo was "bought" by a company that decided it needed to be packaged differently. She tells some seriously funny stories about rodeo clowns dressed up like astronauts and the choreographer that used to work for the "Ice-damn-Capades" and about how they asked her to "haul her ass through the barrel races done up like Minnie-damn-Mouse in a tutu!" But the end of the monologue, it sticks with me. I think of it often even 15 years later, even though the role wasn't mine.


"Someday, somebody is gonna take what you love. Buy your rodeo. Turn your pleasure into the Ice-damn-Capades. Do you hear what I'm saying to you? Yer just merchandise to them. Yer just merchandise..."


In the end, that's my problem with Disney. Women are just merchandise. Ethnicity is just merchandise. New Orleans is just merchandise. Welcome to the main stream, Princess Maddy. You've come a long way, baby. Now please bend over.

What Eleanor didn't tell us...

"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

Eleanor Roosevelt

I love a good quote, don't you? When such a powerful thought can be boiled down to one simple statement, it is rather awe-inspiring. It is such a popular craft that almost anywhere you create an account for personal purposes online, you are encouraged to share your favorite quote. The problem, I'm finding, with quotes is that they are too simple. We read a quote like the one above, and I'm sure you've all read it before, and we think "Yep, that sounds about right." Some of us might even say a little, "Amen, sister!" And often we think to ourselves, that is one we need to remember, because "that one is one I need to focus on!" And then two or three months or even a couple of years go by, and you read the quote again...and this time maybe you are thinking, "Oh yeah! I KNOW this. I've GOT to remember it." If you are like me, about the 784th time you run across this quote you are smacking yourself on the forehead and saying, "Why the hell can't I get this? What is wrong with me?" And look at that, Eleanor Roosevelt just made you feel inferior...you didn't give her permission did you? Or did you? Hell you can't even remember a stupid quote, how the hell are you supposed to remember if you gave someone permission to make you feel inferior? The problem is not really the idea behind the quote; the problem is it doesn't make the reader go through the work of getting to that idea that the writer (or speaker) had to go through. So while you might think you've got it, you've only got its essence.


This occurred to me tonight as I drove home from work. I was humming along, windows down fresh, cool spring air blowing on my face and I was thinking about maybe writing a blog about Maddy, the newest Disney Princess to be launched in 2009. And I was smoking a cigarette. And I drove past a very put together looking woman on the street walking and pushing a toddler in a stroller. She gave me a look...a look I could only interpret as disdain, but I'm fessing up that it was only my interpretation. And I began making excuses to myself about my smoking and getting annoyed about presumptuous people judging me. "She's never waked in my shoes!" I lamented. And then someone pushed the pause button and I really stopped and thought about my own internal dialogue. Truth is, I had no idea why that woman shot me that look. Maybe she thought I was judging her for having her obviously mobile toddler in a stroller. Maybe she just remembered a bill she forgot to pay. Maybe a bug flew up her nose. And yes, maybe she was judging my smoking. But the truth is, all of that is irrelevant, because all the negativity that was affecting me was coming from ME. Wow.


I finished my business at the bank, already knowing my blogging subject matter had changed, when I came to a two way stop...you know one of those places where the sign is posted "Through traffic DOES NOT STOP." And there was someone else across the way, coming from the opposite direction. This stop is just beyond the rise of a little hill, so sometimes it is a little hard to see the "through traffic." The woman across the way thought she saw an opening and started across and I tapped on the gas, but slammed on my breaks quickly when I saw an oncoming car. The person in that car also slammed on the breaks, tires squealing, horn blasting. As my "other side of the road" counter part whizzed by me, the driver of the car that had stopped was waving her hands and yelling, though I don't know what. And my internal dialogue took off again with excuses that it is really hard to see and "Gee, you don't have to be a bitch!" I only realized a few minutes later that I was in fact feeling guilty for my moment of having stepped on the gas, even though I had stopped in plenty of time. This problem, I surmised, runs deep in me.


I've actually been working a lot on my internal dialogue, and the fact that I'm seeing this behavior in myself says a lot to that. It is easy for us to get angry with ourselves for all kinds of things and project it out on other people. This is what happens to me when I find myself brooding over slights, real or imagined...the person I'm usually getting unreasonable flack from is myself. I don't know that I've found the cure, but I'm really working on being gentler in the way I talk to myself. The funny thing is, it results in me being gentler with the people around me. I stopped being mad at both these ladies almost instantly, in fact, I found myself laughing and hoping that their evenings got better, and I allowed myself to go on and have a better evening too. What a cool gift.


Just wanted to tell you that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

There oughta be a place...

I can't remember, it seems like it was a year ago that I blogged about visiting the courthouse on Valentine's Day and how delighted I was at all the fresh newlyweds clogging the hallways, taking photos on the front steps, and generally being gooey-eyed over each other. It might have been an email though, because I can't find the blog. Well, here I am a year later and I found myself once more needing to make deliveries to the court house for work. Only I couldn't do it. I just couldn't face the gooey eyed idiots. I've shuffled through the office with my eyes down kind of holding my breath so I don't even have to smell the roses other women here have gotten. Luckily, something melted on the vaccuum cleaner belt so the smell is not so much an issue. And then to top it off, I got my copy of "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion in the mail today. I flipped it open to the first page, to the first words on the page, "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it changes." And I started crying.

My lack of enthusiasm about Valentine's Day, or rather spending lots of money that we didn't have on Valentine's Day, was an argument used in supporting the need for my divorce. I wish I could tell him today that if he thought I wasn't enthusiastic before, I'm very close to being dead around the heart regarding this holiday now. Life hurts too much. My friend Shari reminds us that St. Valentine is the patron saint of epileptics. I think that's a better thing to reflect upon today, don't you? Love is a really sucky thing to focus on for an entire, entirely too public day. Love is personal and painful and raw. It isn't really a Hallmark emotion, is it really?

I read an article today by a woman who escaped to a Dominican Republic beach resort with her two chilren on the first Valentine's Day after her husband was killed in the twin towers. It was an outstanding piece, very uplifting, all about how we can find new meaning despite ourselves. Despite the ringing endorsement for embracing the new love, the new traditions, I have to admit that in my heart of heart what I really got out of it was..."that's a hell of an idea." Her idea was perfect, an escape for those of who are wounded by this painful holiday, though her execution, we find out, was not terribly successful. I'm thinking though, that there are establishments who could make a fortune for Valentine's Day Protesters. They have Football Widows sales on Super Bowl Sunday, wouldn't it be a brilliant choice for someone to dish up some forgetfulness for "the rest of us" on this puffy pink nightmare of a day?

I'm just sayin' - there oughta be a place for people like us.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Love wrapped in peanut butter

I've been on a three day marathon of tending two small children who sound rather like the love children of Marlon Brando and an irate Harbor Seal. That, of course is because of the cold...not because of me so sheddup anyone who wants to rag on my bowling alley waitress contralto. On the other hand, they behaved more like chimpanzees on crack. But of course, when Mother Nature blankets the earth in the softest prettiest six or so inches of fluffy beautiful snow, and the air is cool enough to sustain it, and warm enough to make it sticky enough for the first perfect snowball of the year, there is nothing a little boy wants to hear more than, "I'm sorry baby, you're sick, you have to stay inside." It is a hideous guilt wracking experience for a mother to utter those words, and guilt, most of you know, causes a mother to lose her stinkin' mind.
Thomas' Halloween Adventures Marathon - Round Number 1:
Mom, Mom! (cough, cough) Look there's Terrence!
Who?
Terrance, the tractor! Oh you missed it, back it up.
__________________________________________________________________
Who wants muffins? Mommy made banana nut muffins!
I hate banana nut muffins. Can I have a peanut butter sandwich?
For breakfast?
(cough, cough) Yeah, can we go outside and build a snowman today?
OK, PBJ, on toast, maybe?
___________________________________________________________________
Mom? Can I make a mailbox?
For what?
Uh...so you can write me letters when I'm at Dad's house?
Mommy? It's TERRENCE! LOOK NOW!
Uh...yeah OK...uh what do you want to use for this mailbox?
Mommy...LOOOK NOW.
I was thinking we could cut a hole in that laundry basket and...
WHAT?
You missed it AGAIN! Back it up, PLEASE!
____________________________________________________________________
(Out of tape out of glue, have made two cardboard mailboxes, covered them in construction paper and stickers and hung them carefully on the wall, written several thousand love notes with and for each of the boys and stuffed them full several times. We've made penguins out of their traced hand prints. There are scraps of paper on every square inch of my living room, and sippy cups stashed in places I'd never think of. One is snoring softly on my lap the other emerges from the bedroom in a television induced trance like state.)
Mom...
Yes dear? You OK?
Yeah.
Mom?
Yes, honey?
This place is a mess. You should pick up.
_____________________________________________________________________
Thomas' Halloween Adventures Marathon - a reprieve after round number 23: Instead? Wonder Pets....
Trilling gerbil: We must save de dowfinn!
Trilling duck: Yes! We must save de dowfinnnnnnn!
Dev: Cut the karaoke and save the stupid dolphin, already!
My son, ladies and gentlemen. MY son!
_____________________________________________________________________
Mommy, I've got mail!
Huh, yeah, cool baby.
Dear Elyas, Leave me alone. Your brother.
That wasn't very nice was it?
(Lip trembling) No.
I'm sorry.
Mommy? How do you spell stupidhead?
______________________________________________________________________
Can I have another peanut butter jelly?
We're out of bread.
Oh. Can I have a granola bar?
They're gone too.
I'm STARVING!
You still have soup left from lunch.
Oh. Can we build a snowman today?
I could make pancakes, I guess...
______________________________________________________________________
Thomas' Halloween (WHY HALLOWEEN? It's JANUARY) Adventures Marathon round 483:
Look Ly! It's Terrence!
Duh mom.
______________________________________________________________________
Hey Mommy. We had a nice time at your house this weekend. Daddy says we have to go to bed now. Hey mommy, maybe tomorrow you can go to the grocery store? You know, get some more bread and granola bars? Mommy? Mommy?

Yes, I did.


QuitMeter Counter courtesy of www.quitmeter.com.