Thursday, November 12, 2015

First World Problems

Honestly, I have only been listening to the Starbucks cup debacle with one ear. I cannot give it more than that because it is about a cup with overpriced coffee in it and about not having a snowman or snowflake on it.
A paper cup.
It is about a paper cup.

While taking a road trip with my kids yesterday, my 12 year old asked me, "What are First World Problems?"
My response was, "A red cup."

I told the three kids what I knew about the cup controversy and how that is considered a First World Problem because meanwhile, there are people in the world who would just like a clean cup of water to drink. Just any old cup of basic need and yet someone is making a stink about their unnecessary  coffee cup for the next 2 months that they will add and add and add to our landfills. (I'm usually not all soapbox-y about stuff like that, but yesterday I was because....people are upset about a cup that is essentially trash while meanwhile, there are children rooting through trash to bring home food or fuel.)

I explained what a Third World was.

I explained the joys and simplicities we have as a family- our basic needs met and surpassed.

I explained that sometimes we get SO frustrated because a webpage takes forever to load and yet our bellies are full and we are sitting on our couch in a heated home.

I explained that it isn't always fair that the oldest gets the new phone or bike while the younger gets the hand-me-down, and yet we have bikes and phones and money to pay for that and funny thoughts to text and safe streets to ride around in.

I explained it is so easy to get wrapped up in the negative. To see only what  effects ourselves.
Our world.
First World.
And by taking a breath and enlarging our scope, one can always find perspective.

As we arrived at the huge retail candle mecca to make scented jars of fun, the conversation ended. My family is fortunate. I am not going to give my children a guilt complex or feel guilty about that. I just want to make sure that they see the forest through the trees; the world through the cups, so to speak.

And just in times for the holidays! (and paring down the wishlists)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Clothing Rants? Agaaaaaaaiiiiiin? (yes)

Walking out of the dressing room, you need the friend (that Steph!) that looks straight at your crotch.
"Hmmmm. No."
"Almost, but Whisker Kitty."

Our nemesis this year whilst cloth shopping has been the dreaded whisker kitty, probably not noticed by many. (Part of the importance of our noticing is that we both notice and can't abide the kitty.)
I'll spare you anymore suspense:

These pants are clearly just too big. But can you see whiskers in the groin area?


 CROTCHSHOT! The whiskers are there!
This examples doesn't look as bad as what we encounter in the dressing room because we are at an outlet and that is where they sometimes put the creations of an angry or lazy cutter of fabrics. Where the newbie's sewing skills are sold. 
I get it. 
Doesn't mean I need to walk out of there thinking I am wearing slacks when I am, in fact, wearing an ASPCA worth of W. Kitty.

I have since bought on line a pair of my yummies yummers favorite- corduroys. The only color my dear friend Eddie B had left was a beige, but it was hugely discounted so yes. Thank you. Please.

Well, I just tried them on and they do fit me as they promised that they would fit like their line of jeans....but.....where is the lush? Where are the deep valleys and high rifts of swish swish swish? These aren't corduroys. They are textured pants. They are thinner than jeans so please do NOT sell them for Winter wear....but knowing they are cords I just can't pull them out in June! So shelf life season-wise and yet, not seasonal. My cords have gone the way of the burnout and the slub I have ranted about before.

And now, of course, I can hear my mother's voice saying, "Kathleen, you get what you pay for." But that is just it! They were selling for money! The whisker kitties had a big enough price tag, too. Slubs are costing money! But there is no longer the material to back up the price.

As always, my disclaimer- I am not a fashionista. I am terrible at spending money on clothes for myself. But I tell you, I have started perusing the sale tab on places like Peterman's, I bring in my fake ID so I'm old enough to go to Talbots, I am starting to invest in higher quality clothes. And I also know I will be that old teacher at the school that is wearing something very outdated and slightly faded because I am not throwing this full wale cords and non whiskered stuff out, and my mom will no longer be here to insist I buy woolite.

I could write a whole other post on butt flaps and other such fashion nopes Steph and I didn't put in our shopping bags of disappointment at the outlet....and maybe I will because......

Friday, October 23, 2015

Not Yet.

I just dropped off my oldest daughter and her close friend at the school's Monster Bash 7th & 8th grade dance. There was a little hemming and hawing for a while this month about whether or not she was going to go. In the last week, there seemed to be a flurry of classmates asking or being asked out to the dance. Being fortunate enough to have a daughter that shares with me, I heard about some of the drama and the who is with who.

I asked her, "Do you wish that someone asked you to the dance?"
I really had no idea what her response might be. Only in the beginning stages of puberty and all that awesomeness, I wasn't sure where she really was with crushes and such.

She answered, "No. Not yet."

The maturity of her answer struck me. Not yet. She is not ready yet. She will be someday. She appreciates just watching it. There will come a time when she may feel left out. Right now, some chicken nuggets and macaroni with a good friend was all the date she needed.

I do and I don't remember this time in my life. I am fascinated watching middle schoolers all day at school and chatting more intimately with one at home. What was I doing at 12? Other than growing larger and carrying the literal and figurative weight that entailed. I wonder if I knew what I was and wasn't ready for. Was I aware that I had some say in that?
I feel like at 6th grade, I was a tourist in the world of puberty....not really going through it. Watching others' appearances change. I knew I was supposed to have a crush and grabbed one up in my mind to refer to. It mirrored most of the girls' crushes.
As for 7th grade- I can't remember any of it. I don't even know what homeroom I was in. It was a miserable year. As was 8th grade.

But today in school, I watched my 7th grader skip down the hall to do recycling.

As in-she skipped.

She holds such happiness. When I see her in the hallway, I am immediately at ease, comforted by her simple presence. I'm elevated by her excited wave "hello". I can breathe easy, fully understanding now that our children do not relive our lives.

Colleen holds more confidence than I had predicted for her, and I am burning the rest of the rough sketches I had of her in my head. She is a molding all her own.
I am quieted by this life lesson.

(A Colleen creation- she is obsessed with pandas)

Saturday, October 17, 2015


My mother had Breast Cancer. It was caught early and she had the lump removed, some lymph nodes removed, and a tattoo placed upon her breast for radiation. She thought it even stranger that 2 of her kids had tattoos after having to get her own.

My mother has been rendered speechless once in her life that she will admit to- when she met the Pope. Other than that, she will pretty much talk. People she doesn't like get a different tone of voice and clipped words, and even some rueful laughs. She will talk to strangers about anything She will talk to animals to tell them to get lost. She will talk to her children's friends about what they don't tell their own parents. 

When she came home from her diagnosis and immediate removal of the cancer and nodes, she was silent. That scared me more than the diagnosis.

My mother finally spoke to tell me to not tell the boys-my 4 brothers and an Elon- and I looked at her and to her face(!!) told her no. I would be calling them. I took the receiver off the wall phone and pulled it into the mud room. As I closed the door she slowly turned and went upstairs, batting the twisted phone cord out of her way. I think that was my first openly defiant move towards my mother ever (the sneaky defiances don't count). 
I was 20. I grew up at that moment. 
You could hear it. It was so abrupt it had a sound, a color, a smell, a feel, and it left a mark.

My mother does not like to be referred to as a survivor.
She was looking out of her apartment window 17 years later with me as the sun was just beginning to rise over the Charlestown Navy Yard. She was waiting to take me to the starting line for the Avon 2 day walk for breast cancer. She wasn't saying much and I knew it was because she was feeling things. She finally said that it was complete incompetence that killed her mother. Breast cancer that the doctors did not understand how to handle. It finally made it's way to her brain. 

She didn't talk about Grangy's dying often, and I listened quietly. We didn't say much about it because being the same person, my mom and I, we both hate being choked up. We want to be tough. In the air was her feeling off loss and her feeling of pride. "It is so good of you to do this" she said. "I never did stuff like this." 

My mother always donates the most to me in the fight to end breast cancer. I don't think she sees it as her donating to the fight against the cancer itself. She donates to me, her child, because she supports me most of all. She asked me why I was so involved. Many people asked me that over the years. There is so much that swirls in my chest and puts an ache in my throat, but the spoken reason is easy. 

I lost a grandmother early. I fight that.  

My mother was hurt by it. I want to destroy anything that hurts my mother. 

When my aunt was diagnosed, it upped the ante. I will admit- I felt a little surrounded.......

And then I had a daughter. 
And then I had another. 
No contest. 
The disease ends here. Before it has any chance to reach my children.

It is October. Not the only month in which you should feel your boobies....but the one in which you may remember it the most. You will be surrounded by pink. You will be boobsmacked by all the ribbons. All year long you will be surrounded by fundraising. I used to take a full year to raise all the money I needed in order to join a walk-a-thon for breast cancer. Now what I do is this: I make a meal when needed. I attend an event when I have the time. I donate money to the cause. I volunteer my time when asked and I have it to give. 
And I promote Pink Revolution
I choose Pink because it is local. It has no payroll. It supports Umass Cancer Center in Worcester. It supports local women in need of help while battling breast cancer. The money reaches an area where change is happening.

And while we are at it, the Co-Founder of Pink Revolution also helps run the Pancreatic Cancer Alliance. Having just lost my sister-in-law to pancreatic cancer, I want to share this link, too


                                     Cancer can suck it.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Losing Eileen

Loss comes in two parts for me. It starts with the idea that a person I love is going to leave me, this earth, all the people to whom she gives love and from whom she receives love, forever. 

I won’t hug this frame again.
She will never walk through that door.
How does that smile not radiate across the table?
Who will read these books?
In that chair?
Who will have that voice of reason and that no nonsense approach in a world of nonsense?

Then comes the part when the person is gone. 
How quickly the timbre of her voice will leave my memory when I swear it won’t ever. 
How soon I will rejoice in a memory shared with me, new for me to take in, making me miss her all the more. 
The silent moment in a dinner conversation she might have filled. 
The beat of a moment when you realize she is not walking in the room behind her family. 
The vacuum of breath in that void.

At her passing, thoughts of which mourning is the worst has begun. Is it the one that comes first? The new slap of realization across the heart? Because that feels pretty terrible. Or will it even be more heartbreaking once she is laid to rest with witnesses to our pain and grief around us. We don’t even know the pain of it yet.

It will be both. 

There will be no winner. Mourning, both parts, will hold the ache in the throat of trying not to cry. The involuntary shallow inhale of breath when realization enters the mind. 
The tension of the jaw. 
The speeding of the heart rate. 
The heat followed by the chill.

And mourning has other branches. What I feel when I think of the husband being left behind. How would I feel as that spouse? And because her husband is my brother, how I ache for my brother’s pain. And then I think of her daughter. How unfair she loses her mother. How I would hate to lose my mother as a teenager. How I would hate to leave my teenaged daughter. How I would be so sad to leave my husband behind; my jealousy at his having the joy of raising our children. 

Or I would not have that reaction at all. 
Or I would be encouraging. 
Or I would be something I cannot now know because I am not in it. 
I don’t know.

We have lost Eileen. 

Her family has. 
My family has.
Our family has.
This world has. 
The Cape Cod air won’t have her to wrap around. 
No ocean nor bay will hold her solid form. 
The books she has not read will never be read by her. 
A student never under her guidance will never learn from her directly. 

We have lost Eileen.

I have gained so much in my 30 years of loving Eileen.
I gained a sister and a friend.
I gained grounding conversations and pep talks.
I gained insight from her openness to talk about her dying.
I gained understanding in watching her last days.

She brought us the human walking (swimming) and talking definition of determination.
She brought us warmth.
She brought us her family. 
She brought us chocolate.
She brought us the art of sleeping-reading on a couch.
She brought us waving hands of happiness before the hug.
She brought us someone to dance with Dave.
She brought us someone to love my brother as he deserved to be loved.
She brought us Ann Marie.
Thank you for Ann Marie.

The world was better with her in it and those who know her know she died too young. And I am thankful that I have 30 years worth of memories to wade through. And I know I can't have 30 more. 

But I will take some time to wish that I did.

Friday, September 11, 2015

On Never Forgetting

When the sky is at its most brilliant royal blue, adorned with clouds so fluffy and bleached-cotton white. When the first few days of the school year are underway and the nights and morning call for a sweater. When I have an inkling of who my students are or who my kids' teacher are and what the rhythm of the school year is.      There is a hiccup.

The images appear on Facebook with the words "Never Forget".  My first reaction is so selfish and reactive.
No one needs to tell me to never forget.
How could I forget?
Who is forgetting?

And all the sharing of the images of destruction begin. The pictures that could lure you in to the Box Office hit Summer movie. Those images are remembered, already.  We know most of those.

I wish, instead, we saw the "Real People of New York" type images.
The head nods.
The greetings of strangers.
The holding open of doors and getting up from seats for others.
The lack of divide that appeared in the boroughs those months after.
Show the team work and the comfort.
The looks of connection when a loud noise was heard, a subway car went dark, homeland security had us on Orange.

I wish everyone could see the circle time in the classrooms that began to repair the spirits of some of today's college students. The classrooms that allowed time for children to build with blocks. To rebuild with blocks. The creating of towers again and again, earnestly and cautiously. As if that would fix the hole and cover the constant smoldering.

"Mrs. Laird, I wish the Twin Towers were made of legos because look how I could fix them."

And with three deep breaths I release my negative reaction and throw it back into the air until the next September blue sky appears. Until the crickets start to chirp again in shadows of day as well as at night. When this week comes that drags down my heart and dims the view.

I will always have my list of fortunes:
I don't live in a country where such destruction is commonplace.
We can have a line like "Never Forget" because it is so rare.
I handed back each of my students to their living parents which wasn't true for all the teachers at my school.
I got to live in post 9/11 NYC which made me married to that city. Forever.
My husband was safe. My brothers were safe. My Father in Law was safe.

My physical view was different after. In various ways many of my views changed.
I am glad we all remember and that we will never forget. And I hope everyone will remember the moments that were found among the wreckage from which we could build the strong foundation for continuing on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


I opened the window the other night after turning off the a/c. I was met with a sound that makes me feel both excited and melancholy. 


August has waned. 
September has come.

Spring is usually thought of the starting fresh season, and January holds the clean slate mentality. But it is Fall in my world. Fall is where my true resolutions are made. With the start of school for the kids and for me, we return to a routine. Maybe the routine will involve making more organized and healthy meals,  establishing a no BS bedtime, a rhythm to the jumping in the car with our leotards, drumsticks, music, guitar, snack, backpack. LET'S GO!

Having gone to school for 20 years and then worked in schools for another 10 or so, my life is a school calendar. My method to organize our life is to label and buy new and set up and find places for and create habits....that all fades sometime in October. (The important stuff sticks).

I am always struck with the memory of an orange and brown plaid dress with an apple on it. (Pretty sure the apple was corduroy!!) I am guessing it was a dress for Kindergarten. A back to school clothing memory. (Totally made from this packet of patterns I am sure.)

That dress always floats back to me this time of year. I can remember clothes from other years as well, but it is that dress at that age that I think of first.

When the mornings remain a little cooler at the end of August I smell my first morning on my college campus. It is accompanied by distant but real butterflies in my stomach just remembering the navigation of my life at that point. Never having gone to camp or anything, that was my leaving home for the first time ever. I was heartsick for my mom and confused as to how I was going to make it there when I felt as intelligent as a bowl of grapefruits. It was also soon after my body and looks completely changed- I had no idea who I was. And having been at the same school since 3rd grade, had no idea how one makes a new friend nor how I would be seen, having been seen as the same by the same people for much of my life.

As with every change of season comes the approach to the Fall/Winter wardrobe. The finding it under the bed or upstairs closet, or where ever it may be. The re-trying on of stuff with internal dialogue: 
WHAT did I do to myself this Summer? 
WHY do I have this?
WHO stained my favorite "crisp weekend out with friends" shirt??
WHERE did the style of this go?
HOW did I think I could get away with having this pair of pants for 16 years?, pant)....OK, I will put them away for next year's "goal" pants.

Knowing I have to undo the damage of Rota Springs/New City Microcreamery/Ericksons/ DQ trips that claimed many of my Summer weekends, I still turn my thoughts to the first pot of beef stew I will make and the many baked ways to handle a bushel or 3 of apples. Oh and the pumpkins we will pick- that will involve some flour, sugar, and butter....

Well, that is OK because I will have the new, tight schedule in which to slip in my yoga and walking with ease and the usually always healthy menu lined up by then. (Or is that the thing that always fades by October?) Well, regardless, there will be yoga pants and running around and baked goods. You get one shot at life- live it like it is Fall- all lit up, sometimes warm, sometimes chilly with a cozy sweater. Inevitable. And though it is when so much outside starts to breakdown, it really is the staging of rebirth.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Defining Ourselves

I like to iron while listening to dharma talks. They are talks that just make one think about how to not freak out all the time.
How not to be a jerk.
How to let things out of your control go on their way.
(That is my quick summary)

I recently heard a quote that stayed with me:

If you allow yourself to be yourself completely, 
then you don't have to define yourself. 
Because when you define yourself, you become limited. 
And when you let others define you, you become limited.

I think I have always defined myself as a person. 
I was the only girl. 
The youngest. 
The fattest. 
The funniest. 

As I grew older, the list became more complex and changed again. I was never remaining one thing. I was never remaining several things. 
Was I who I dated?
Was I who I was attracted to?
Was I who I loved? 
Was I who I birthed? 

I liked a few of these labels for myself. Some I couldn't stand.  I sometimes liked better what others had chosen for me, and at other times felt confined. It is only as I get older and more settled into myself that I wonder about the necessity of any of it. The only defining term that fits me is my name. It is the only label I prefer.
By being myself, I am simply only myself.
And I am fluid.
I am daily and hourly.
I am always until I am not.

Settling into this concept in my 40s is comfortable. However, trying to teach this concept to a 10 year old was difficult.

For half of her life Evie spent most of her afternoons in a gym being a gymnast. Over the past year, fears developed over new skills that ended up encroaching on mastered skills. It was time for her to switch out of the strict and specific pre-olympic team and move back onto the Xcel team where she could work hard, compete, learn new skills, and have to time to do other things.

Other things.

"What other things!?" she wailed one night.

You love horses and animals.
You have mentioned softball a few times.
You are often running.
You could learn something besides the same old blues riff on the guitar.
You could just hang out.
You can take pottery.
We can join a pool.

You are not just gymnastics.
You are Evie who happens to take gymnastics.
There is more to you than this one part of your life.

It is easy for us all to slip into what we perceive to be our roles. What, over time, is expected of us to do or be. It happens within our families and friendship circles. In the classrooms and in the lunchrooms. It wasn't surprising that this turn of events- which still had her on a gymnastics team- shook her. She felt lost in having been removed from the team she had known for years. She lost her tribe. She lost who she was in that tribe. That girl was often her partner. They were her coaches. This was her time slot.

Four months later I am now the parent of a chipper girl who is flourishing under the ease of the Summer. She has regained lost skills because she no longer has to have those skills. The pressure is off and she is singing at home. She is running around the house, laughing, driving us mad with her extra energy. And when I think about the turning point in her in this struggle, I always cry:

My husband and I were invited to the basement to watch the kids put on a talent show. When it was Evie's turn she put on "Fight Song" and began singing and dancing to it. She incorporated gymnastics and violent punches to her moves. I dissolved watching her beat the shit out of what expectations she had had of herself under her label, nestled in her compartment for so long.

She emerged victorious.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song 
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song 
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

I would say to her, if it wouldn't make me choke and snot upon her golden head, that my dear little boat upon that vast ocean has many matches with which to make explosions. They don't run out. They just are. Just like she is who she is.


Thursday, July 30, 2015


I wish I could suck in my upper arms like I can suck in my gut.

I wish that I could have that wish for my "upper knees" as well.

I wish I had a caramel apple.

I wish that I knew tomorrow would be OK.

I wish I could remain in the present and not have the above mentioned wish.

I wish that big hips equaled fuller breasts.

I wish I never heard the song "We Built This City on Rock and Roll".

I wish my brothers lived closer.

I wish that french fries tasted like what I fear the green stuff in lobster tastes like.

I wish my neck would never change.

I wish there was a real dinging sound that would go off when I made the right decision.

I wish pets didn't shed.

I wish I would read more.

I wish the end of life would always be easy and peaceful. 

I wish bugs didn't want to come inside my house.

I wish babies could talk from birth and say "Thank you, Mom" with a milky, gurgly voice at 3:45am.

I wish I had a mini fridge of cheese that was on wheels, and no one would think it strange.

I wish the mini fridge would come with a cheese melter attachment because...come on. Melted cheese.

I wish that I could eat a Confidence Fortified banana some mornings.

I wish we didn't have to lose hours of daylight just because the seasons change.

I wish that my two oldest nieces lived next door so I could braid their hair often. 

I wish I could see the animal that makes the porpoise noise from underneath my porch in the Summer.

I wish chocolate was good for you.

I wish I could drink and get brilliantly tipsy and then push an off button and be sober to go home.

I wish that my children loved to clean. Insisted on it, even.

I wish the contentment I feel right now will linger through the chaos of the week.

I wish my job title, since I have to have one, sounded as important as the work I do.

I wish sad things wouldn't happen. And I know that they do have to happen. With sadness, we also know joy.

I wish everyone a moment of joy, at the very least, at some point today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No, Quiero No Slub

I used to teach with a woman who could speak Spanish and loved to sing. We would spend our prep periods singing Cher, Monkees, Elton John, and a favorite song, No Scrubs by TLC, sung in spanish. No, no quiero no scrub.

Why do I tell you this? (To begin a rant)

Because I no longer want, nor did I ever desire, slub clothing. For those not up on the lingo, slub in fabrics means having an irregular appearance caused by uneven thickness of the thread/yarn.
Por ejemplo:

Maybe a single shirt like this in one's arsenal is fine. However, I can't get away from them. I see a shirt I like, look closely.


Such a perfect sound effect for the disappointment.

No, no quiero no slub.

The word is giving me a rash and heartburn. The word is every bit terrible as moist.

Slub is not to be confused with burnout!
This material will have see-through parts. It will cling to every roll on your person. I can see it as workout wear because you either don't have rolls or you are working on your rolls. Go ahead.

And while we are on to the cling factor- every shirt this day and age is made with 1/3 of the material it once was. I remember cotton shirts being soft and yet had a thickness so that it fell away from every nook and cranny my local creamery has gifted me. Must we see the bra wedgies and edgies? Why do I now have to do the thing with my arms inside my shirt acting like two struggling squirrels running about before I slip my arms through the sleeve holes and finish dressing? Do you know of which desperate dance move I speak? Stretching out the front of my shirt to give myself a little "me" space from the material.

Hey, also- if I want to buy a white shirt these days, the clothing industry has the bonus of my also buying a cami to wear under it, thereby doubling their sales. They are obviously spending less on every piece of clothing we are buying because 2/3 of the material is reserved for more clothing manufacturing. Why must I buy two tops to count as one?

I just want to buy a shirt.

I. Want. To. Buy. A Shirt.

That covers.

That flatters.

That fits.

¿Es que tan mal?

My last words on the subject: Now that we know that none of these shirts cover us properly- if you wear a dark shirt, wear a dark bra. And with light goes light. Unless you are trying to make a statement. I thought that went out in the 90s, but that means nothing because I am no fashion icon nor genius in this realm. What I am saying is, if you aren't making a statement, match as best you can because if someone takes a picture, the bra color always shines through. Just look at all the pictures on social media. Your bathroom mirror isn't telling you this! (And if you are a man and are reading this, disregard. Unless you wear a bra. Then heed. Unless you are making a statement.)

My mother always said that all my taste was in my mouth, and yet I still wrote an essay on clothing. Ta-daaaah!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


I'm not sure what came over me, but I seared tuna and changed the oil in my car. On the same day. Both firsts.

I felt like knocking some stuff off my "I wonder how...?" list. I was inspired by my friend Vanessa who is always tackling a project that involves spread sheets, poison ivy (or some such repulsive outside stuff), and a tool. (This week's tool was a sawzall and her repulsive wildlife was a family of snakes.) She just goes at it with the best attitude and I find it so bad-ass that I, too, wanted the bad ass.

With seared tuna, the worst thing I could do was actually cook it rather than sear it. Not a nightmare. Definitely keeping my health and that of my family's in tact. Probably the hardest part was driving an extra distance to a fish store to purchase it with 3 kids in tow who just had ice cream. And they had walkie talkies.

It was just very annoying.

I got home and double checked the recipe and the steps.
Then I did it.
One a wee bit over cooked.
Rockstar status with my middle child.
Moving on.
Shot a text out to my husband


(Now, no one get bent out of shape about the line if I "could do it physically"- my car is big and pretty low to the ground, and that shit was awkward with parts being screwed on tight. The man's arms have about 4-6 inches on mine, each.)

The Change Oil Soon light was ablaze in my car and I had a mini road trip planned. In order to not explode my car on the side of the road, I wanted to change my oil and feel accomplished. (I would also learn that needing to change my oil was not synonymous with car explosions on the side of the road.) After assuring my husband I would still love and need him in my life... and that I understood I would be on the garage floor and dealing with dirty car oil...and that, yes, I know he would be happy to do it for me as he loves me and I seared tuna for him...we got down to work. (My badd-assness almost waning during the negotiations because the alternate choice, reading and not being dirty, started to appeal to me as well since it was going on 8pm when I can tantrum more easily.)

Under my kitchen sink, I had the choice between purple or neon green rubber gloves. (Duh. Purple!) Once I shimmied under the car- a process that started with my trying not to lie on the garage floor at all which made shimmying along the floor impossible- I was in. Old dried leaves in my ponytail, a dead bug in my line of vision.

Rob gathered all that I would need, pointed the parts out to me under the car, and sat back on the stairs to let me get to work, talking me through it. He is a very good teacher (as long as he isn't helping anyone's mom with a computer and/or tablet. That goes wrong, fast.)
(Use the force, you will, with leftie loosey)

Besides almost ripping my right arm out of my socket while over extending it with a socket wrench, all went smoothly. The oil was warm and oozy and messy. At one point it was running down my arm. It was enjoyable, even at 8:20pm. Enjoyable because I had accomplished something I wanted to and because I knew I never HAD to do it again. But could. I also added a new air filter after examining how BAD it was, just like how the Jiffy Lube people loved to present me with my filter. Good times.
(The gloves were the perfect shade of I Am Woman)

Up next....A little web savviness? If we refer back to my text with Rob, he didn't even touch that part of my inquiry. Why? Refer back to his working with moms and their computers/tablets. He wants to pretend I never said a thing....
Oh, how a little bit of learning gives so much.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Where have I been?

I am feeling rusty, but if I don't write something, I am not sure when I will start again.

I wrote two important pieces about my college. Yes. That college I don't shut up about. One was to be read at an assembly held during reunion weekend, and one to be placed in the college's quarterly magazine.

The speech came to me at 9:15 one night and I just wrote it and sent it to my Class President and my Co-Reunion Chair for their review. Would either of them like to take parts of it to use when either of them gave our class speech? They decided to use the whole thing and for me to read it instead. This was a body numbing big deal to me.
One fraught with the emotions of fear, pride, and sadness.

I am not a public speaker, save the 3-4 toasts I have given at weddings/anniversaries. I think I gave a quick one at my own 40 1/2 birthday party and was told to just cut the cake already.

I was proud to have made two very intelligent and creative women writers content with what I had to share. That they believed in me to deliver it to a crowded auditorium on behalf of the Class of '95 was overwhelming to me. I overwhelm way easier than most which can be embarrassing. And that is just me.

I was sad that this moment came without my father, a speech writer, around me. I rocked on my porch and kept whispering in my head, "What do you think? My dear ol' Da, what do you think?"

As I tweaked the speech, another wowing writer friend and editor emailed me and asked if I would submit something to the college magazine.

I wet myself.

She had an idea of what she was looking for. It perfectly fit with the point I was making in the speech. It would be seamless! It would be an honor!

It would be a literal and literary ass kicker.

I started with something I had already written and tried to tweak it. Dad rushed in my head and said "Throw it out. Start again. What matters will stick."
I then tried different angles.
I was then given suggestions I tried to incorporate.
I lost my voice we were both looking for.
I then had to edit out about 200 words.
I then didn't like the whole flow.
I then had to edit about 60 words.
I am sure margins were altered a bit to save me.
I felt like an ass.
I felt like I didn't know the first thing about writing.
I felt challenged and inept.
None of this due to my thoughtful and clever editor. She told me she loved working with someone who knew how to write an essay.
I thought I knew how to write an essay...

I was being asked to approach writing differently than I had for 21 years. I was so challenged by that. In my heart I knew I needed to be challenged. Growth is hard and growth hurts. I had to embrace it.

When I submitted the last draft, I felt as if I had run a marathon in 550 words. I was glad I had done it. I was embarrassed by whatever was dripping down my legs by the last miles. I never wanted to do it again.

I stopped writing for a while after that. I watched my writer self from afar and noted that I just needed time to grapple with what taxed me: Parameters. I'm thinking that was what stumped me. Also a fear of disappointing the editor, my classmates, and through all that, myself. 

Oh, the ego.
The ego.

I started writing again one melancholy evening. Unfortunately it is about something sad that I will eventually share. As I turned to look at what was welling in me, I was so grateful that the words began to flow again. I don't think it is the sadness that inspires me as much as feeling. Finding perspective in feelings. 
Writing seems so selfish for me. I am grateful when someone reads it and indulges me a bit, though.

I have been here this whole time. Just rocking and thinking instead of rocking and typing. Watching hummingbirds. Petting a cat. Waiting for a breeze.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Den Talks

My father gave Den Talks. They were sometimes in the sunroom or on a porch where he could look out at the birds. They could be on a plane, or in an office. They could be in the car or in a hallway alcove in the Senate. I don’t know what they were called in all those other places, but we called them Den Talks.
They happened when report cards came. They happened when mom had it up to here with our behavior. They happened when a major decision needed to be made. One entered these talks a little sweaty or, in my case, a little teary. They were never harsh or angry, really. But you were going to have your rear-end handed back to you, and it was terrifying because leaving there, you had to step up your game. Nothing is more frightening than that.
I am the only girl, the baby, after four boys. We were raised full on by our fiery little mom who dealt with our day-to-day needs, hijinks, problems, and absolute good times. Dad would come home in the evenings, would be in his den or, later, when we took over his den, the sunroom all weekend. He was present, but more of a sideline guy. He spent his days running so much at work that he loved his back up role at home. At least that is my theory. And we were plain chaos, but in a good way. 5 kids, 4 of whom were born within 5 years. My mom would tell us that she was the boss and Dad the giant. He would come in and say, in a hard situation, “What did your mother ask you to do? Why in God’s name have you not done it yet?” All very calm and yet all very, very business; his voice so deep and full. We did what she asked in her name, his name, and God’s name. Whatever name it needed to be done in.
His Giant moments were rare that I can speak of. My brothers may have different stories. His advisory position started out 2-3 times a year. Usually when report cards came out. The report cards would come home, be opened by mom, left by the kitchen TV where she stacked all of Dad’s mail…..and we would wait. From the time we got home until 8pm when he came home. All of us kids lingering around the top of the stairs to be called.
I would walk in the Den with shallow breathing. I was not a star pupil. The minute we would sit down and he looked at me I would always burst into tears. He would lean forward quickly to whip out his handkerchief and start wiping my eyes, chuckling while saying, “Kitty Kat, I haven’t even said a word yet!” I would nod and nod and start to twist the hanky and hiccup. In the earlier years it would be along the lines of: Make sure you study more. Ask questions. Are you giving it your best?
As I got older the questions became deeper: What is it about Math that troubles you? Why aren’t you advocating for yourself? You need to separate out what you are being lazy about and what is making you struggle.
Nodding. Promises. Crying. Embarrassment.
Then I would look up and almost always he would have red-rimmed eyes by the end of the talk, emotional. “I want the best for you. You have to help yourself have that. I love you. Now was that so bad? Was I so terrible a giant?”
I’d always say no, but it was difficult. I never wanted to hear I had to work harder. I wanted an out, an excuse, anything that told me I didn’t need to give more of myself to something I hated so much. Those words would never come when it dealt with our work. We had to do our best. It always came with understanding, though. He always threw in a story about himself that I could relate to so I would know that he went through this struggle as well. And maybe it was just the other day. And maybe it was in childhood. Either way he knew just how I felt and I believed him. His eyes told me so.
As I matured, I understood all the phone calls he took in the den. It made sense to me why my brothers’ college-aged friends or older would ask to come over and speak with my dad. Volunteer for a Den Talk. There was so much wisdom he had to share. No matter whose path, he could envision it well and guide them on it, even if it had nothing to do with his areas of expertise. He knew what it took to present your strongest self to the world, and he would mentor anyone in how to do it. And it didn’t have to be a big talk. It was something as simple as a greeting in the kitchen, “Are you being a good boy?” while getting his cup of tea. It sounds like a throw-away line, but it wasn’t. People checked in with themselves.
3 years ago my father was diagnosed with dementia. Though I saw signs of it before the official word, hearing the diagnosis was a lead weight. All of his very essence was housed in his mind. His brilliance in a crisis, his thoughts in a hard moment, his words that were eloquent in any situation. It most certainly was the biggest slap in the face for a man like my father. It was trapping his advice. It was dampening his words. It was closing off the voice of reason I always needed. The words of comfort. The words of pride. It was just devastating to our family. I was suddenly adrift and could no longer see the lighthouse in the fog.
We would all still talk to Dad about what was going on. I would let him know when I had to make a hard decision and he would ask me about it. I would leave frustrated without any advice really given. I was mainly hearing “What do you think? Is one choice more clearly stronger than the other?” He was putting my questions back on me so I had to sit with them longer. It was a training. It was a weaning. After a little more time, there wasn’t much conversation left and I would sit next to him and lean on him which made him lean back on me. Physically comforting. Supporting.
My Dad passed away more quickly than expected, though he never was one much for lingering places. At his wake I saw grown men crying at the loss of him. I realized that they lost a man who helped bring them to power, through a crossroads, into a life with someone with whom they were meant to be. My family was surrounded by people who were changed by their knowing my father, thanking us for his time, and were so moved by his loss of presence in the world. It was a gift to know how much he had given, and, because he gave so much, the loss of him was so much greater.
Soon after he passed I had a decision to make; one that I certainly would have talked about with him. I had to go sit on my sun porch, instead, and rock in one of his rocking chairs. My head was clouding up in sorrow at wanting to hear his voice. As I let some tears fall and breathed through it, I realized that though his voice was missing, his words were present. I stared at the birds flying around outside and knew every question he would have asked me. As I thought of the answers I could see the direction he would have lead me in. His formula wasn’t top secret at all. It was just intelligent truths: show up, work hard, be good. The question he posed for me so many times that it is now one of my own go to reflection questions is, “Is it that you can’t do it or that you are afraid to do it?” His point being, if you can’t do it, then leave it to someone who can until you have gathered the skill. If you are frightened, well, life is frightening. It is hard. If it were easy, anyone would do it. It being hard is what makes it worthy of one’s attention and time.
I am saying these words to myself. I am saying these words to my children, to my friends. Though he is gone, he left with me his guidance and his wisdom. Every rock on my sun porch chair  is a Den Talk. He is with me.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How do others savasana, I wonder

I hear of wonderful yoga and meditative retreats one can go on. I wonder what I would get out of them? I truly have to feel completely at home in order to feel I have had a deep workout and have gotten out of my mind and into the breath. Will they, say, let me shout out a list of chores for the kids to do who are ignoring me while I'm planking? Would they excuse me for just a sec while I take something out of the oven? Do they allow cats? I don't know if I will know I have completed corpse pose without a face full of fur and a lung full of fancy feast breath.