Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sweatshirt Tears


I was on my yoga mat, following along with my yoga channel.
I was directed to go in a child's pose (gladly) and breathe deeply.
My face became lost in my sweatshirt, many sizes too big, as I curled in on myself.
Of course it was a Mount Holyoke sweatshirt.
And it was my father's Mount Holyoke Sweatshirt.

He wore it in the chilly months whenever he exercised. And as I was in this tunnel of grey, breathing deeply, resting shaking muscles, I had a flash.

Spring sky, dappled light, as he walked down the Esplanade.

Standing at the toaster, waiting for his breakfast, and tapping the butter knife in a song.

Sitting on the porch, watching the birds, with the newspaper folded on his knee.

Trying to give my mother a hug, sweat still pouring down his face, her batting him away.

Rocking in his rocker, a few minutes more before going to take his shower.

Sleeve rolled up for his post-stroke, weekly blood draws.

Standing in the kitchen, face beaming, asking me,
"Do you love me, or what?"
"I love you, Dear Ol' Dad."
"OK. I will take my walk now, Kitty Kat."

As I saw him perfectly, as if yesterday, walking down the driveway, I was afraid to inhale knowing it would only give me the air to cry.

And there I cried, in the privacy of his sweatshirt, in the joy of all I remember, and the sadness of why his sweatshirt is now mine.




Friday, August 25, 2017

What is 100%?

Help me with this... (because I have learned to ask for help)
What is 100%?
When it comes to giving 100% or being at 100% or doing it 100%, is that just a saying?
Does it exist?

I have written before about not being able to give 100% as a teacher once I attempted to be a 100% parent. Now, though, I wonder what this 100% business is and if it even exists.

In my children's lives, I never expect 100% on tests or first place in an event.
I do root for at least a 90% in their happiness.
Because can you be 100% happy?
And is it that 100% the ultimate?
The outlying goal?
A beacon in the long swim of it all?
Is it something of value that we need to even think about?

I was talking to a wonderful friend about being at 100% a while ago, and it has floated around and around in my mind needing a complete think through.

To be honest, we weren't even talking about 100%, probably, but about something maybe just as out of reach for a human- we were talking about being as good as "before".
As I listened to her concerns, I began to think inside of myself about whatever "before" could be for me. (And you could think about what "before" may be for you, as she knew what it was for her...)

My before is gone.
It left with entering my 40s.
It left with a prescription.
It left with a flux of chemicals and juices and what have you in the human body.

Then I thought...wait...do I want my before back?
Because even though it came with tighter thighs, it did not come with the deeper breaths I take now.
Before came with the ability to see a menu in any light and at any distance from my face, and it didn't come with the clarity I like to think I have now.
It came with lightning quick reflexes and reactions, and it didn't come with walking away and steeping in thoughts until ready.

Stepping away from the idea of 100%, I ask the question: What is good enough? And what could be the answer since we all have to answer that individually and for ourselves?

In China, I heard at different times from English speaking Chinese, "Is good enough". It made me smile remembering a Buddhist Monk say it once in a talk. It was the theme of his talk about letting go of assumed perfection. It has since become a refrain of my family. As I took in the different cities in China, the words took on a deeper meaning to me.
There is, where I am, an American tendency for the perfect home, the perfect body, the perfect lifestyle. What that looked like, in the China I saw, was completely different. The outside of a home might have looked run down, but the inside was polished wood and meaningful furniture and art. Restaurants might have been too hot and the plates and bowls mismatched, but the food was expertly cooked and delicious.

So what mattered more?
The outside or the inside?
The look or the feel?

I wonder if giving our best selves, almost all the time, can be agreed upon.
And seeing as I just smartened up the outside of my house, I wonder if my inside of the house can remain a bit disheveled as long as it is still a comfy place to enter.

I would like to think that entering a classroom, open to learning and open to the struggle of learning, might be the enough for both student and teacher.
Might be the better?
Maybe it is the honesty of saying, "I am going to get in here, have at it, and see what comes out from the passion to try this thing."
Maybe that can be translated into some value we can all embrace.
We don't have to be like before.
We have to be like now, and we have to be all in with the now and the who we are at this point in our lives.

And, we have to give everyone a break.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Yin-Yang

I love thinking back to the cards I wrote my husband on our earliest anniversaries. Excitement about the life we would have, the mention of babies as they came along, the wishes for more of our dreams to come true, the declarations of undying love.

Aww.

But seriously, folks- It is so sweet.
I love to see myself as a Big Eye teddy bear looking at the journey ahead and the thoughts and dreams that would lead us down the yellow brick road...
To more love and happiness?
To "making it" whatever that may be at whatever time?
To old age?

I am not sure anymore what it was since my perspective is completely different. I definitely understand now that life is the living and not the destination.

Destinations exists, I suppose, in scattered moments throughout our day- snapshots of contentment on a porch watching a cat and a hummingbird, spooning a crying child as they fall asleep needing only you, or revelations in a car ride that was all about the reaction in that moment for the rest of their life....

Other than that, destination marks an end, and I am not there yet.

In living married life now, 16 years in, 19 years deep in our relationship, I find myself summing up our partnership in his anniversary card as:

You do the research, I'll make sure there are snacks and underwear.

We are going on the biggest trip of our lives ever, and we are taking the kids to China. I am completely overwhelmed, yet this is where my husband excels. He had us download this and he ordered that and he took out all the stops and found every bell and whistle that my Scottish mindset would never allow. I completely let go of the reigns (?!) and let him lead the charge on this overwhelming and exciting vacation.

Our shopping has been very different.

He bought sim cards (sims cards? Simz?)!
I bought granola bars.
He bought face masks?!
I bought 47,000 pair of underwear for everyone.
He bought a Panda hugs for each of us!
I have flushable wipes and mini toilet paper.
Upgraded our seats where possible!
Tide-to-go pens.
He bought VPN somesuch whatitswhat?!
Grabbed some dramamine.
Visas!
Goldfish crackers.
WeChat!
Sunscreen.

It is totally the yin and yang. How appropriate for this trip! and for our life journey.
"(陰陽 yīnyáng "dark–bright") describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another."


Living with someone and loving someone can often bring up the question of "Why can't you just..." and you fill in the blank for yourself:

get up 
relax
do this
try that
let it go
come along
leave it
hurry up

However, there is always the flip side

lie down
be alert
do that
try this
gather it up
stay behind
persist
slow down

Which is of equal, yet different, value.

In our day to day life, I am mostly holding the reigns and planning side by side with Rob, and our yin-yang serves us.

Me: We need to move here!
Rob: (research, paperwork, execution)
Me: This is the car!
Rob: (research, paperwork, execution)
Me: These are their presents!
Rob: OK. Add this.
Me: They are going to this camp!
Rob: But it doesn't have sailing and horseback riding.
Me: Stay out if it!
Rob: (shrugs)
Me: You are taking me out!
Rob: (turns around and gets back in the car with me)
Me: These are our new sheets!
Rob: (sleeps)
Me: Paint it this color!
Rob: (sleeps. Then paints it that color.)
Me: We are picnicing today in a new field in Somewhere, Massachusetts! 
Rob: (sleeps)
Me: (stares at him)
Rob: (sleeps....one eye opens)
Me: (stares at him)
Rob: (sleeps)
Me: (unleashes children)
Rob: Get me a pepsi!

I know that when it comes to the big, overwhelming stuff,  Rob will lead the charge and make it run smoothly. And when we get there and he opens up his suitcase, hungry and needing a shower, I am going to be there holding all the undies and waiting to hand out the snacks.





Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rob

Rob, this one is for you.



To the dad who always buys what I refuse (when I probably shouldn't refuse.)





To the dad who will take on the sweaty bodies for hugs and leans on the hottest of days.




To the comfiest chair on the planet.





To the man who is giving his children the world.





To the dad who won't let the traditions end, knowing their importance.





To the husband who can always take a joke.




To the greatest source of safety in their world.




To the parent with all the patience and so much knowledge to impart.




To the man who steadily and strategically worked his way to a dream for us all.




To the dad they can't stand to be without.



We thank you.
Happy Father's Day.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Inspired by Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening



We descend upon the empty beach
With the sun still low in the blue sky
The warmth it will give still out of reach
To witness what is left of her fly

Light reflected is overly strong
Making us all look down as we’d choose
The cheer in the weather feeling wrong
To support our hearts for love we lose

By handfuls we cradle the ashes
Some giving pause to think or to pray
Children’s large tears rest on their lashes
Still haven’t dried when given to play

Siblings, friends, in-laws, and all loved ones
Stand in circles big and in groups small
All drop titles becoming one heart

Mourning our Eileen who gave her all.

Inspired by Street Music


This home
the doors slamming
voices distant
the doors bursting
voices erupting inside
cats mewling
requesting love,
food, space
vacuum whirring,
clanking, zinging up legos.

Drums vibrate the
floors
guitars settle the walls
singing stinging my eyes
its beauty and my child
kettle screeching
inviting a rest
garage door’s creak
summoning excited yelps
and scraping chairs
and calls of his name.
This home
rarely silent
rarely completely quiet.

Inspired by Tiger, Tiger

My Three

Quietly sitting in a chair
Stillness juxtaposed by swirling hair
Heart as open as the sea
Comfortable in who she wants to be

Clinging, holding, squeezing tight
Running, flipping, showing might
Outwardly wearing a tough kid mug
Sneaking in nightly for an extra hug

Born with his soul shining outside
Every thought and feeling never to hide
Confidence bellowing from every pore

Kindness and love as his very core.