28 February 2011

Time Bank

I did not watch the Academy Awards. Well, I watched a little. The Captain came to find me in the little boy room, to tell me Two and Three wanted to watch the Oscars with me. I acquiesced, considering it a bonding experience, and stayed through "Best Supporting Actor," won by (spoiler alert) Christian Bale.

Two: "Wait. Christian Bale has an accent?"
Mom: "Yes, he's British."
Two: "Has he done any films with the accent?"
Three, in a superior tone: "Yeah. Don't you remember him in District 9?"
Mom: "He wasn't in District 9, honey. That was a South African actor."
Two: "See? You're even more stupid than I am."

Then I left to write the blog. I want to bond and all, but at a quicker, TiVo'd pace. And without the sibling sniping. I don't want to waste the time.

Years ago, the Oscars would have been marked on my calendar as a recognized day of celebration. Perhaps I would have hosted a party, or at least made puff pastry hors d'oevres for my personal consumption. Now I no longer have three plus hours to spare for sitting in front of my television. The competition for my time is fierce.

Earlier, I spent an eternity in the bedroom with Four and Five, reading books and then snuggling. After an hour, I went to climb over Five, and, semi-conscious, he clutched at me to stay. I rubbed his back for a few minutes until he loosened his grip enough that I could sneak away.  We're both recovering from him vomiting all night long Friday and Saturday. I don't bounce back from those all-nighters like I used to when I was younger. By Saturday afternoon I had passed out on top of my bare mattress, stripped of the sheets that had absorbed Five's germs. When the Captain came to find me, I was so disoriented I thought it was Monday.

Sunday was no less fuzzy. Two was meeting his choral group at the wake for Sean, and I blinked back the tears as I reached up to knot his tie. I realized I only get him for about three more years. Then, hopefully, he'll be like his father, and leave for college and never come back. I know he'll still be my son, we'll be in his life, but it will be different.

I wish there was a life time-bank. One could look at the calendar, and rearrange the hours as needed.
Term paper due on Friday? Borrow hours from Monday and add them to Thursday night.
Sister coming for a visit? Save up and splurge for an extra day.
Had a fight? Shorten the days after, so you can get to the recovery faster.
Children growing before your eyes? Stop time as needed.

Time is flying,
life is rushing,
years are passing,
I am grasping.

26 February 2011

The Week: End, Please

I just got back from driving Two and five of his friends home from a party. It was a classic Two move: I drove him and two friends to the party, told him to see if he could get a ride home, and he texted me at 11 to say I should come get him, John, Anthony, Mikey, Charlie, and Keenan. But that it was okay, because most of them were going to the same house. They were not. It was an  hour long round trip. I will say, however, that it was almost funnier listening to a car full of teenage boys than it was yesterday with the young 'uns. It was a non-stop comedy routine, with intermittant sing-alongs.

I had an irritating day, which was the culmination of the longest twelve days of my life. The disjointed school breaks wore me out. I felt out of sorts the whole time. So even though it was a pain in the ass to drive them all over Kingdom Come, they made me laugh. A few hours ago I was ranting about how much I hate team sports, and doctors, for any species. I'm too tired to go into it right now, but I'm pretty sure it's displaced anger. Valid, displaced anger, but nonetheless, I can continue to stew, or work on my letting-go skills this weekend.

Now I'm off to bed, and hopefully, a normal weekend. I'm not even sure what that means. I'll let you know how it all turns out. Okay: break!

Damn team sports.

25 February 2011

Imaginary Rewards

A small, but wonderful, thing happened today. Four played with toys. I know. It sounds unremarkable. My house is strewn with toys. The playroom floor is covered in legos and Beyblades. The little boy bedroom has a floor made almost entirely of trading cards and stuffed animals. The distinction is that these are primarily Five's toys.

Five has always been an outstanding imaginative adventurer. He never really needs anyone to entertain him, for which I am eternally grateful. He lines up cars for races, he arranges army guys for battle, and we often have entire zoos designed in the bedroom, with appropriate separation between carnivores and prey. One of my most favorite sights is Five on the playroom couch, playing alone with a stuffed Grover that belonged to One. It is a well loved friend, whose blue arm has been re-attached at least half a dozen times, usually by my mother. In fact, one of the classic "How I Failed Five" moments is him berating me in the kitchen for failing to sew Grover in a timely fashion.

"Every day, I see you NOT sewing Grover!" he wailed. I thought it rather unfair to be assessed on things I wasn't doing. As you can see from the sidebar, Five has agreed to limit his complaints to tangible acts of failure.

Five and Grover act out all sorts of scenarios. I think they are "Star Wars" related, as Grover is often flying through the air, and there are a lot of those explosion noises that only boys know how to make. I don't get close enough to hear, because Five is shy about his solitary play. He is immersed, and I don't want to break the fourth wall.

In contrast, Four likes moving images. I remember being impressed, and a little frightened, by the fact that he could watch an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants" once, and then repeat the entire thing verbatim. It was one of our first indications that something was awry. The upside is that he taught himself to read by following the closed captioning that accompanied the image. And when he does read, it is with great focus. If he is gifted four books, he will read all four in one sitting. And then he will re-read them later. But, he still prefers video games above all else. If he and Five are playing together, they are often just re-enacting a show or video game. And Four is always the director, which often creates conflicts with his actors.

Four attends a private school that employs a "token economy" behavior modification system. It is a grand version of gold stars. He earns points for good behavior and academics, and every Thursday he can trade them in at the school store. Today he came home with two small (and I quote from the package),"Nano Minis: Collectible, Poseable Wowwee Robot Figurines!" One was a robot dog with wheels for back legs, and the other was a panda. He asked me to open them up, and said, "What should I name them?" Then he saw they had names on the package. But I asked what he would have chosen for them, intrigued that he had even considered something of his own creation.

"I would call the dog 'Wheels', and the panda 'Cutie'," he answered. We both agreed his names were far superior. Then  he went to watch some television. But with the robots.

When Five got home, Four introduced his new friends. Then we all got ready for Tae Kwon Do, and set off with Wheels, Cutie, and a flashy red car that Five had chosen for the trip. On the ride over, I listened to the two of them playing. It was a completely unique narrative, not just a Pokemon or Star Wars re-tread. Four gave his robots certain powers, Five's car had awesome evasive maneuvers, and I wish I had recorded the whole conversation. The highlight was when Five said Four couldn't call his battle area a "Battle Zone" because that was from a show, and Four said okay, but only if he got to choose the name next time. Compromise!

The boys willingly surrendered their toys at the beginning of class, and resumed play the moment they got back in the van. I don't know if Four will care about his Nano Minis tomorrow, but it was lovely to see him engaged and using his imagination. I left the radio off, so I could eavesdrop. It truly was music to my ears.

24 February 2011

I Need it Done STAT!! Okay, Maybe Not

I need a deadline. In our house, things are accomplished in priority order. I am not a list maker, because I don't even want to think about what is happening three months from now. I am only going to work on what needs to be done this week, or, at the most, two weeks from now. I want to be more organized, and I am making incremental improvement in that regard. But, basically, if I am not pressured to accomplish it, it won't get done.

Yesterday, I was reading the website dedicated to the NECRWA conference that I will be attending in April. The post detailed all the preparations being made, and how there was still space available if we knew of anyone who might want to attend. (And if you do, you can visit them on Facebook!) Then they mentioned that there were still open editor and agent appointments. I wasn't sure how to interpret this information.

The overall tone of the announcement made me nervous for the organizers. Have you ever sent out invitations to a child's birthday party, and when you don't get immediate responses, you fear your baby has no friends? That was the vibe. Of course, I know that can't be true, because when I went to book a hotel room, the whole joint was sold out, and I had to weasel my way into Delia's room. So, I thought maybe they were just overcompensating, in an effort to make sure their seminars are packed full of enthusiastic romance writers. (Are there any other kind? Don't you have to be somewhat positive in nature to believe in the triumph of love?)

However, when I read about the open appointments, I wasn't so sure of their booking success. I think one wants to ensure that the kind folks who have given of their time (or been paid to show up) are rewarded with lots of eager attendees. So, naturally, I thought I should help make those agents feel wanted. I would make an appointment to see whichever agent or editor was underbooked. I would take the next month to finish my manuscript, and the two weeks after that to shine it up, just in case the lonesome editor wanted a final copy. I would have a deadline!

I mentioned this idea to my friend, Janet, who I am sure screamed, "WHHAATT?? NO, NO, NO!!!" in the privacy of her apartment, but then took the time to calmly recommend that I not inadvertently set myself up to fail. I did, in fact, confirm with the conference organizer that it is highly recommended that one not take meetings until the novel is finished. So, I'm screwed on the forcibly created deadline idea. Now, I will have to resort to actual ambition to get the damn thing written.

I suppose I could try and trick myself, by pretending I have an upcoming meeting. We used to have a cleaning woman, but I let her go in an attempt to save money. And also because it drove me crazy that I basically had to tidy my whole house in preparation for the actual cleaning. The Captain recommended that I just imagine she was coming, pick up all the crap twice a month, and the house would stay in good shape.

I am never going to finish this book.

23 February 2011

There Are No Words That Make This Better

Lately, I feel the blog is about nothing but pain and struggle. Today is no different.

This afternoon I got a recorded message from the high school that a senior class student had died in the morning. One is a senior, and Two knows a lot of upperclassmen from football, chorus, and theater (he has diverse interests). I texted him to remind him about a form, and asked if he knew who had passed away. It was a young man named Sean, who was in the fall play with him, and is also in his choral group. I started to cry in the kitchen.

Sean was a terrific young man. My father-in-law has known him since he was an alter boy at our church. I saw him at an academic honors ceremony in the fall. He gave a stand-out performance in the fall play, and was scheduled to perform in the spring musical. He had a lovely singing voice. I am crying again.

I am heartbroken for his family. It is impossible to quantify the love that a parent feels for their child. There is only comparison, a benchmark against which one can measure the "greater than." In that same way, I cannot begin to imagine the depth of their despair. I hope I will never know it.

I feel for all his friends, and my own son, as they struggle to understand the death of someone their own age. Because there is no understanding it. There is no explanation. There is just disbelief and sorrow. And there is no salve for the pain. Time may lessen it. But there will always be a void where Sean should be standing, a space that cannot be filled, because he is irreplaceable.

I can't stop crying.

22 February 2011

The Reality of Pornography

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has arrived. I knew it was on its way, because one of  Three's friends texted that his had been deposited in the mailbox.  At this point in time, I think the thirteen year olds are more excited about its publication than the Captain, who has seen his share of swimsuit models over the years, and grown jaded.

Only a few years ago, we would hide the issue away from young, impressionable eyes. Now, we know that if you have a computer, you can access internet porn with ease. I  remember a friend telling us his twelve year old kept swiping his laptop for viewing purposes, and I was horrified. And then the same thing happened here.

We have a laptop that I let Four use to play games. One day I turned it on for him, and the search history revealed that someone had visited a pornographic website. I quickly deleted the history, for fear that Four would accidentally click on it, and then I went to find Two. I told him what I had discovered.

"Two," I began, "someone accessed porn on the laptop. I know it wasn't you, because you know the rules, and you're also not stupid enough to leave the site on the search history."

"Yeah," he answered, "that's definitely Three. He's an idiot."

This meant a conversation was in order. I waited until I was driving Three to practice, because all important conversations take place in the van. I told him what I had found, and started with the most basic rule: you aren't allowed to watch pornography. Even though I know from experience that they will, if given the opportunity, absolutely watch porn, it's important to forbid it. Otherwise, we're tacitly endorsing it.

I told him how horrifying it would have been if his nine year old brother had accidentally clicked on the link. This was a risk, because I  knew he would either listen to me, and stop watching, or get more savvy about deleting his searches. His embarrassed silence led me to believe he might actually be shamed into listening.

I finished the talk with what I call "The Broader Societal Context, and What That Means for You." This includes the important distinction between pornography and real sex. Our society is obsessed with looks, and the pursuit of perfection. It's a crazy cycle of botox, boob jobs, and staged intercourse. I want the boys to understand that real sex between real people with real bodies isn't going to resemble porn. Otherwise, they're going to pursue some ridiculous, idealized version of a woman, or themself, and never be satisfied.

Finally, I threw in the fact that if any of the actors on these sites are under the age of eighteen, it is considered child pornography, and that is a punishable offense. Most of the posted videos are "real people," which means no one is checking their working papers, you know? This is the nugget to tuck in the back of his mind for the future, when he is older, and decides to browse again.

There is no way to measure the success of the pornography lecture. This isn't the first time I've had it, and it won't be the last. It's a tough sell to the hyper-active hormonal stew that is a teenage boy. I almost want to hand him the Sports Illustrated, which is tame by comparison. Sure, the models are almost naked, but at least the boobs are real.

21 February 2011

The Bitter and the Sweet

I am drinking the last cup of coffee from the pot. It's been on the burner a little too long, so it has that slightly burnt taste that indicates I should just throw it away. Instead, I'm going to add another Equal, and force it down. That pretty much sums up the day.

Four woke up early and climbed in bed with us. He snuggled for awhile, then went off to the couch for some morning television. I lingered, but he and I had a date with the religious education director at our church. She is a lovely woman, very spiritual, who has made the special-needs children her focus. She is retiring at the end of this year, and she's made it her mission to ensure Four is up to date with his sacraments before she leaves.

Today, Four was not willing to be educated. He was rude, complained about how boring it was, and pretended to be asleep. I was not happy. He was much better at the end of the lesson, and I made sure to let him know I appreciated his effort. I dropped him off at home, and went to Costco to buy the usual: seven gallons of milk, laundry detergent, veggie straws, giant chocolate chip cookies, waffles, green apples, grapes, a couple of chickens, and at least one thing from the clothing section. This week it was socks for Two and Three, to replace the hole-y heeled ones.

When I got back from Costco (I'll wax another time on the rapture of one-stop shopping), Four was in the process of annoying Five. Again. This behavior continued throughout the day, and finally resulted in a complete melt-down at the end of the night, when I forbade him from wrestling with his cousin. The cousin is five, and weighs thirty-five pounds soaking wet. It was a potentially life-threatening situation.

By melt-down, I mean full-on screaming, throwing pillows, "you can't keep me in this room, Missy!", tantrum. He followed me out of his room, down to my bedroom, where he yelled some more about how horrible his life is, and then collapsed in tears.

"I just can't help it," he sobbed.
"I know, sweetie," I said, drying his tears.
I talked about how the anger is his enemy, trying to make his life miserable. I explained how he could defeat it, using calming jitsu-his own invention.
"But it's hard, especially at school, when people say mean things."
"Yes, but you'll win if you don't get upset."
"I'll try," he said, his lids growing heavy.
I kissed him and stroked his hair, and he fell asleep. Anger is exhausting.

I hoped he would stay asleep, but he stumbled out to the kitchen about two hours later and asked for some pizza. He ate, and after dessert, he said, "Thanks for helping me with my anger, Mom."
"You're welcome," I said. "I love you always, no matter what."
The cousins were getting ready to leave, and he went and  gave them all a hug good-bye. Unprompted, he apologized to the little guy, for getting angry at him. Then he curled up on the couch, and asked to watch a movie.  I started it, and he called for me to come closer to him.

"What do you need, honey?"
"Just a hug and a kiss."
We hugged for a long time.
"My eyes are sore."
"I think you're still  a little tired," I told him, praying he would fall asleep again.
"You're probably right."
Later, I got him in his own bed, and we snuggled. Even though he said he wasn't tired, he fell back to sleep.

I am drinking the cup of slightly bitter coffee. It isn't delicious, but it's warm, and sweet. Sometimes, that's all we get. And it's enough to make it through to the next day.

19 February 2011

Time Changes

I'm happy this week is over. That's not entirely true. The passage of time doesn't have the same joyous effect as when I was young. Then, I counted every day until the end of school, so I could begin my luxurious summer vacation. I couldn't wait to become a teenager, and then a driver, then a voter, and a legal drinker! Later, there was college, graduation, marriage, jobs, children.

And now, I'm 46.

So, if I could slow the days, I might. After all my children leave. But I would still skip over this week, because emotions were running high.

My five children are currently educated in three separate school districts. One and Two are in our regional high school. Three and Five are in our local K-8 district. And Four attends a private school about thirty minutes away. This year none of the vacation breaks coincide. This week, One and Two had school Monday, but not the rest of the week. Four was home all week, and Three and Five had school. Next week, One and Two are off Monday, and Three and Five are on vacation Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Confused? Join the club.

Every day this week, after I smacked my alarm clock, I lay in bed wondering what day it was, and who was supposed to go to school. Then I went to wake half the sleeping children in each room. After I got them on their buses (a close call more than once) I came home and stood in the kitchen, sure I had forgotton someone. My mind boggled.

Having Four home all week is not good for his routine. Quite a bit of snow still covers our parks, so there could be no swinging or sliding. My yard has an icy shell on top of three feet of powder, so no sledding down the mountain into traffic. Consequently, Four was a little stir crazy, which affected his interaction with Five. There was a lot of rambunctious playtime, which devolved into injuries, accompanied by full-blown screaming and disowning. "That's it! You're not my brother!" was a popular refrain.

We have experienced this before, with different sibling pairs. I tell them there are plenty of mean people in the world, who will call them names, and hurt their feelings. That's why brothers need to be kind, and protect one another. Family is forever. They are young, so that seems like a long time. But I have watched the last twenty years fly by, and I know the truth. Maybe I won't wish away any more weeks.

Today's verse, to remember forever...

Tenderness and Rot

by Kay Ryan

Tenderness and rot   
share a border.   
And rot is an   
aggressive neighbor   
whose iridescence   
keeps creeping over.   

No lessons 
can be drawn   
from this however.   

One is not 
two countries.   
One is not meat   

It is important 
to stay sweet   
and loving.

18 February 2011

The Furnace and I: We Are Exhausted

I  feel like I've been beaten up. I just rolled out of the snuggling bed, and every part of me hurts. I must have been clenching all my muscles while I slept. Oh, yes, I fall into a fast, fitful sleep every time I snuggle with Four and Five. I am tired by nightfall, and they are so warm and cozy; it's nearly impossible to stay awake. Tonight, I was also emotionally exhausted.

The day began, eventfully, with a leaking furnace boiler. The Captain was lucky enough to get the last warm shower of the day. Three was the one that alerted me to the hot water deficit. He got a cool shower. Two had to content himself with microwaved water to wash his hair, and the rest of us just stayed grimy.

I tromped downstairs to the furnace room, noticed the circulating pump leaking, tried to reset the damn thing anyway, and then called the oil company. We have a service contract with them, and we use it liberally, especially in winter. Every house we've owned has had an ancient boiler, and those contracts have been worth their weight in gold. The technicians will come out any time, day or night, and fix it.

I called at 6:30 a.m., was given an appointment slot between nine and  noon, and the tech arrived at 12:15. He finished at 4:00. It was an epic service call, and it left all of us a little drained. After he left, I had to hurry Three through his homework, get his uniform and Gatorade ready for his 6 PM basketball game, and prep Four and Five for Tae Kwon Do.  While they were at their lesson, I ran through the grocery store, and picked up a pizza for dinner. We all went home, Two unloaded the groceries while I threw food on plates, and then I ran out to catch the last half of Three's game.

Then the real drama unfolded. Three's team was losing, badly, in the third quarter. He was on the bench. The fourth quarter began, and he did not go in to play. I saw him throw his hands up at his coach/father, and sulk in his chair. The next think I knew he was walking toward the door, hand on his nose, blood running down his arm. He can be prone to nosebleeds. I met him in the hall, and dug for tissues. Pinching, pinching, blood running through his fingers, and all he can say is, "Now, I'm not going to be able to play."  Obviously. We cleaned him up in record time, got back in the gym, but he didn't get substituted in to play. So, he stormed out, biting back the tears. Mind you, the game clock was still running. It was a very poor decision on his part.

I followed, and he threatened to walk home, because it was Dad's fault he wasn't playing. We have previously discussed Three's ability to distribute blame around his perimeter, so I took his statement with a grain of salt. I offered to drive him home, and when the Captain finally appeared, he said he was going out for a burger and a beer. It was a wise decision on his part. They needed some distance between them. Details about Three's game behavior emerged as the night went on, and the Captain was right to bench him. When he got back from the bar, he was more sad than mad. Three has made great strides since The Year of Living Anxiously, but every so often, that irrational side of him shows its ugly face, and it's just disheartening.

Three hid from his father for the rest of the night. He called his other coach to apologize, who forgave him, and told him to focus on the next game. When I finally rolled out of the little boy room, the Captain had gone to bed, and Three was downstairs, unconscious on the couch. It was a tiring night for us all. I woke him, and got him to his room. 

"Where's Dad?"
"Asleep, honey."
"I didn't get to apologize."
"Tell him in the morning."
"I won't see him."
"Then text him. He'll get it first thing, when he wakes up."
"Alright. Goodnight, Mom. I love you."
"I love you, too, dear."

I do love him. All of them. Wholly; deeply; without question. I just wish, sometimes, my heart had a service contract.

Now, a poem, about when it was easier.

Love Explained
by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Guy calls the doctor, says the wife’s   
contractions are five minutes apart.   
Doctor says, Is this her first child?
guy says, No, it’s her husband.

I promise to try to remember who
I am. Wife gets up on one elbow,

says, I wanted to get married.
It seemed a fulfillment of some

several things, a thing to be done.
Even the diamond ring was some

thing like a quest, a thing they
set you out to get and how insane

the quest is; how you have to turn
it every way before you can even

think to seek it; this metaphysical
refraining is in fact the quest. Who’d

have guessed? She sighs, I like
the predictability of two, I like

my pleasures fully expected,
when the expectation of them

grows patterned in its steady
surprise. I’ve got my sweet

and tumble pat. Here on earth,
I like to count upon a thing

like that. Thus explained
the woman in contractions

to her lover holding on
the telephone for the doctor

to recover from this strange
conversational turn. You say

you’re whom? It is a pleasure
to meet you. She rolls her

eyes, but he’d once asked her
Am I your first lover? and she’d   
said, Could be. Your face looks
familiar. It’s the same type of

generative error. The grammar
of the spoken word will flip, let alone

the written, until something new is
in us, and in our conversation.

17 February 2011


Three, the cat-boy, likes to have his back rubbed when he goes to bed. Actually, he likes to have any part of him massaged, at any time of the day that he can get someone to do it. He negotiates every night, to see how long I am willing to sit by his side and knead his shoulders. If he is in bed exactly at his bedtime (sometimes), I will stay for three minutes. If he is lying prone before lights out (almost never), I agree to five. If something catastrophic happens, like we lose the cable signal, and he flops on his mattress out of sheer boredom, I throw in "TheTingler."

"The Tingler" is a handheld wand that has cascading metal prongs attached to the handle. The prongs are pliable, and the whole thing is made to flex and fit over your scalp, like a friendly electrocution cap. It looks ridiculous when you slide it down over your hair, but when you pull it back up, oh my. Does it ever feel good. Every nerve on your head pings to attention, and then surrenders, in wave after wave of tingles. Yes, it is a cranial orgasm.

Naturally, Three tries to incorporate "The Tingler" into the routine every night. He uses his most skilled, softly pleading voice. If he can reach "The Tingler" while his face is embedded in a pillow, he holds it up and waves it in my direction. I am relatively immune to his tactics, but the other night I realized he's going to use these moves on his girlfriends. And most of them will do whatever he wants, because girls are stupid.

I know that's a sweeping generalization, but I was a teenage girl once, and I really wanted boys to like me. I based many of my decisions on whether that would be the end result. So I fear for the boys' future dates.

I already have a plan in place to prevent unwanted pregnancy. I am going to by-pass the penii entirely, and speak directly to the vaginas. Figuratively, of course.  I'm going to tell them to ignore all the wooing, the promises of forever love, and keep their most private of areas locked up. I love my boys enough to actively try and deny them sex. At least until they're eighteen, or gainfully employed and can afford birth control/child support.  And I like to think I will love their girlfriends enough to do the same.

I know it sounds a little unreasonable. Even I doubt the success of the plan. But I still hope they will wait to share sex with someone they love. Someone independent, who can't be swayed by smooth talk. Someone who demands respect. Someone who wants them, but doesn't need them. Someone life-sharing worthy. Someone confident enough to use "The Tingler" on their own terms.

Today's verse, about sex...

[Lying in bed I think about you]


Lying in bed I think about you,
your ugly empty airless apartment
and your eyes. It's noon, and tired
I look into the rest of the awake day
incapable of even awe, just
a presence of particle and wave,
just that closed and deliberate
human observance. Your thin fingers
and the dissolution of all ability. Lay
open now to only me that white body,
and I will, as the awkward butterfly,
land quietly upon you. A grace and
staying. A sight and ease. A spell
entangled. A span. I am inside you.
And so both projected, we are now
part of a garden, that is part of a
landscape, that is part of a world
that no one believes in.

16 February 2011

Waiting for the End to Arrive

I am writing a romance novel. Well, mostly I'm writing this blog. But I got to this point because I'm writing a romance novel, as I clearly state over there in the right column. Everyone knows I am writing the book, and often check on my progress, either indirectly ("Hey, send me some new chapters!") or otherwise ("Wow; how long have you been at it now?").  The kids keep asking me if I'm done, which is starting to freak me out a little, because I desperately want to say, "Yes, Mommy has completed her opus. Come take a look!"  Even the Captain will occasionally ask me where I am in the story. I tell him, and then I map out where I'll be going with it, and it makes him sad. Because he has lived a version of this tale, and he feels for my hero. I remind him that the most basic requirement of romance fiction is a happy ending.

The truth is, I'm a little...stuck. I keep looking at the word count to make myself feel better (78,565), but honestly, I know what I have to do, and I'm just procrastinating. The next chapter is what I consider "transitional." It serves to move the story along, but with no major events (a.k.a. sex, or fighting) contained within it,  it's more difficult to get jazzed up to tackle the writing. 

I also decided, somewhere along the way, that it might be a good idea to learn  more about how to actually construct a romance novel. This may have been a mistake. Now I worry about "showing" instead of "telling," and the dangers of "head-hopping" (not as exciting as you think). And I have discovered that I prefer to edit as I go, as opposed to just getting the story done. How does one do that, without laboring over words?

I chose the poems for the blog at the beginning of this week. I wanted there to be a thematic arc, through the phases of life and love. Reading them was a reminder of my own journey, alone and together with the Captain, who many years ago was my boyfriend. And remembering that time has made me curious about my characters again.

I am going to try and recall the feelings I had at the beginning of the novel. I will conjure the summer heat, and warm skin longing to be touched by another's hand. I will remember the thrill of the first kiss, and the joy in stolen glances. I will close my eyes and be transported back in time to the wretched airlessness of heartbreak. Then I will wake, and, hopefully, write my happy ending.

Now, about when you find the happy ending...

The Hush of the Very Good

by Todd Boss
You can tell by how he lists
                                          to let her
kiss him, that the getting, as he gets it,
is good.
             It’s good in the sweetly salty,
deeply thirsty way that a sea-fogged
rain is good after a summer-long bout
of inland drought.
                            And you know it
when you see it, don’t you? How it
drenches what’s dry, how the having
of it quenches.
                        There is a grassy inlet
where your ocean meets your land, a slip
that needs a certain kind of vessel,
when that shapely skiff skims in at last,
trimmed bright, mast lightly flagging
left and right,
                      then the long, lush reeds
of your longing part, and soft against
the hull of that bent wood almost im-
perceptibly brushes a luscious hush
the heart heeds helplessly—
                                          the hush
of the very good.

15 February 2011

You Knew Me When

We share our house with  my in-laws. We made the decision to live together about five years ago, and considered building an addition onto our previous home. But instead we moved, to a house that was already set up as a mother/daughter. Or, in our case, a mother/son.

The Captain's parents are young, they both still work, and are active outside the home. But we do all get together on Sunday night for family dinner. It's the only day of the week we guarantee a home-cooked meal, and the rare opportunity to visit with all the children.

This past Sunday, after dessert and clean-up, Two sat at the table and did his homework while I did some on-line ordering for my father-in-law. He is a weight lifter, and needed some specific apparel for his next meet. We tooled around some sites, and found the correct items. The clothing is built to spec, so body measurements were needed. I told him I drew the line at measuring his glutes. The mother-in-law was called in for the job.

FIL : "Let's go. Measure right here."
MIL : "Really? That's where your glutes are? Because when I measure my ass, I measure down here."
FIL : "Right here. And now we have to do my quads. Come with me, because I have to take off my pants."
MIL : "Really? We have to go in that bathroom? You can't just measure over your pants? Make the tape measure really tight."
FIL : "Now my flexed arm. Measure right here, where it's flexed."
MIL : "I cannot see these numbers. Megan, what number is that? I think I'm using the wrong side, with the smaller numbers. All this for a shirt?"

At this point, Two stopped working and said, "I can't wait to be married, so I can have conversations like that." I thought it very sweet, for a variety of reasons.

My parents divorced when I was thirteen, and at that time, they had remained married longer than the parents of most of my friends. A large percentage of the boys' friends have divorced parents. So, it is a remarkable thing, these days, to witness the daily life of a couple who have been married for 47 years.

They've known one another almost all their lives, and got married when my mother-in-law was 21. They have known ME since I was just out of my teens, and arrived at their house wearing pounds of rosary beads draped beneath my purple hair. When asked why she married at such a young age, my mother-in-law says, "We just wanted to be together. We couldn't wait any longer."

Today, we all tend to wait a little longer. That first wave of love, and the all-consuming need to be together, eventually ebbs, and we realize that what's left in its wake isn't enough to sustain us for a lifetime. Two will experience this soon enough. But he has the rare opportunity to witness honest and enduring love every day. Hopefully this will be the lighthouse that saves him from the inevitable wreckage of young love, and sets him on his own course, filled with family, food, and funny conversations.

Today, in honor of both new, and knowing, love...

I Love You

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I love your lips when they’re wet with wine
    And red with a wild desire;
I love your eyes when the lovelight lies
    Lit with a passionate fire.
I love your arms when the warm white flesh
    Touches mine in a fond embrace;
I love your hair when the strands enmesh
    Your kisses against my face.

Not for me the cold, calm kiss
    Of a virgin’s bloodless love;
Not for me the saint’s white bliss,
    Nor the heart of a spotless dove.
But give me the love that so freely gives
    And laughs at the whole world’s blame,
With your body so young and warm in my arms,
    It sets my poor heart aflame.

So kiss me sweet with your warm wet mouth,
    Still fragrant with ruby wine,
And say with a fervor born of the South
    That your body and soul are mine.
Clasp me close in your warm young arms,
    While the pale stars shine above,
And we’ll live our whole young lives away
    In the joys of a living love.

14 February 2011

Love and Longing

The Grammy's are playing in the background. I love music. I wish I were a musician. Specifically, I wish I could play the cello like Yo Yo Ma, and the drums like Dave Grohl, back when he was in Nirvana.

I also wish I was a poet. When I was young, I wrote reams of overly dramatic poetry, bleak in its consideration of all topics. I wrote a few poems this past year, usually when I wanted to be creative in a very structured way. But they were penned with no knowledge of the craft. I want to learn more about the rules of poetry, because I find it enigmatic, but enticing. I think I just described most of my college boyfriends.

Songs are the poems of my everyday life. I am always astounded by how so few words, phrased so compactly, can have such impact. As a writer, a beautiful lyric both inspires and depresses me. I want to compose my images with the same brevity of language and clarity of vision. I long to forge that connection between the words and the reader.

Speaking of longing....

Today is Valentine's Day. It's a manufactured holiday, but I like to use it to remind my children about the importance of love, in all its permutations: parental love, brotherly love, self love, neighborly love, date love, creature love, earth love. I don't know if love is all you need (food and shelter seem fairly important), but I think love can make the world go 'round much more smoothly. I have given up on my dream of playing drums, but I haven't given up on love.

Each day this week I'm going to share a lyric I find particularly luminous, as a mini-poem in the margin. And I'm going to include a poem that reminds me of the amazing, transformative, heartbreaking, life-affirming, messy, miraculous power of love. And words.

Bar Napkin Sonnet #11

by Moira Egan

Things happen when you drink too much mescal.
One night, with not enough food in my belly,
he kept on buying.   I’m a girl who’ll fall
damn near in love with gratitude and, well, he
was hot and generous and so the least
that I could do was let him kiss me, hard
and soft and any way you want it, beast
and beauty, lime and salt—sweet Bacchus’ pards—
and when his friend showed up I felt so warm
and generous I let him kiss me too.
His buddy asked me if it was the worm
inside that makes me do the things I do.
I wasn’t sure which worm he meant, the one
I ate?   The one that eats at me alone?

(Megan's disclaimer: I don't intend for the poems to convey the details of my epic love affair with the Captain. They just might, anyway.)

12 February 2011


As you know, it means both hello and good-bye. It's time for another weekend away from the blog. This one is relatively open, but not without the potential for disaster. Four has an 8 AM basketball game, and half his team will be absent. This means he will have to play the entire game. Or at least until he collapses, either emotionally or  physically.  I'm not looking forward to watching.

After the game, I am driving "down the shore," as they say in northern New Jersey, to look for potential summer vacation rentals. I grew up near the beach, as we call it in central New Jersey, and it's taken me many years to get it through my head that I am now considered a "bennie." Or "shoebie," if you're very old. A tourist. We vacation in Seaside Park, which is the town next to Seaside Heights, home to the guidos on "Jersey Shore." Suddenly Seaside Heights has cachet, something it's always lacked, even back in the day when I would use my fake ID to go clubbing. The downside is that the world thinks New Jersey is full of Snookis.

Seaside Park is very quiet. There is almost nothing to do but swim in the ocean, and crab in the bay. The whole extended family gets together for two weeks in various houses. The cousins hang out and play Rummikub and LCR, and we all eat Pappou's homemade ice cream. It's sweet in its simplicity. This year we are trying to get a big house with my mother and step-father. It will be good to be closer to her, and the ice cream. It will be a little nutty, but worth it.

I leave you with sunny thoughts. Where is your favorite place to vacation?

P.S.: Had to stop by to say that Four played the whole game and the rag-tag band of misfits tied! I was very proud of him, and chastened, for having so little faith.

11 February 2011

Can I Amend That?

If you read my blog at 6:15 AM EST, it may look different than what I posted at 12:01 AM. That is because I have amended and/or edited it. I just discovered this Blogger feature last week, and I initially resisted the urge to fiddle, because a blog is allowed to be urgent and raw. But then I remembered I'm a writer, and  revision is my birthright.

I would love to tell you these little stories spring to life fully formed and adhere themselves to the cyber-page, with hardly an errant keystroke. But that would be fibbing. The source materials spring to life daily, usually after I rub them, whisper in their ears, pull back their covers, and point them toward the shower. Then it's just a matter of standing back and listening.

Today's fun exchange, overheard between Four and Five, as they assembled a new Bey Blade, a type of fancy top:

Mom: "Four, I forgot to have you sign this Valentine."
Five:  "Who's it for?"
Mom: "Halley."
Five: "Who's  Halley?"
Four: "A new student in my class."
Five: "Oh, is she a girl?"
Four: "Yes."
Five: "I have a new girl in my class."
Four: "What's her name?"
Five:  "Ayana."
Four: "Is she a Bey Blader?"
Five: "No."
Four: "Oh."

That is the single, most important thing to them right now. I felt sorry for Ayana, who was summarily dismissed for her lack of top-spinning skills.

I will read this post at 6:00 AM, and check to see if there are any typos, because I often miss those when my eyes are bleary. I will also scan for grammatical errors, which aren't always as easy for me to catch. My grammar skills haven't been refreshed since middle school, so I mostly go with what sounds correct. Right now,  I know the teachers, and my friends who went to Ivy League schools, are scanning for dangling participles and whatnot, but I wouldn't know one if upside my head it smacked me.

The primary reason for post-posted editing is simple. I cannot work with NCIS playing in the background. And lately, the Captain has been on an NCIS jag ( a little play on words for you original NCIS-ers). It's like he's just begun an affair with Mark Harmon, or the Israeli chick, and they're in that fabulous first stage of the relationship, spending all their free time together, learning the details of one another's lives. The Captain is late to this party, and thus has to catch up on some backstory. Lucky for him, there was a marathon this weekend.

Now, I will say, with almost 85% certainty, that he would turn off the show if I went in and sat down beside him. But I've been blogging. And sometimes the post doesn't become a conscious thought until 10 PM. Then there is the writing of it, the revising, the general gazing into its eyes and reflecting upon it. Huh. It's like I'm having an affair.

Okay, let me amend what I said earlier...

10 February 2011

A Wish for My Mother

Today's post is about my mother. I was going to write about the boys, but she is on my mind. A lot of what I learned about being a mother came from her, so I'm not deviating too much.

My mother has a host of illnesses, most of them auto-immune. But she was diagnosed a few years ago with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF. "Idiopathic" just means "of unknown origin", as in, "You have pulmonary fibrosis, and we just don't know why!" The treatment options seem just as limited if they actually know where it came from, so I don't get why they make the distinction. Either way, there is not a lot to be done if one has IPF. There are some medications slowly wending their way through the FDA approval process here in the United States. One could have a lung transplant, but my mother is not a good candidate. She takes a super-anti-oxidant, which provides some relief, and is now on continuous oxygen, which has helped. But her health is deteriorating, which is frightening for us all. She is a wonderful person, a great mother, a terrific example of a life fought for and well-lived, and I'm not sure what we'll do when she's gone.

I  have no regrets about our relationship, which endured many rough patches when I was practicing how to be a good addict. We've forgiven and forgotten all our past mistakes. We genuinely like eachother, and enjoy being together. I hope she knows how much I admire her, for her hard work for us when I was growing up. I often use her post-divorce life as an example for my children of how a family should work together. At one time she had three nursing jobs, and we were responsible for getting our own meals, doing our homework, and looking  after younger siblings. Later in life, she became a teacher, and then an anatomy instructor. She had bills to pay, but she was also proud of her work. It was a good lesson to learn.

She is, in no small way, responsible for my marriage. The Captain always recommends checking out a girlfriend's mother, to get a glimpse of the future; I think he hung around waiting for me to get my shit together mostly because he loved my mom. He knew what he was getting, stubborn streak and all. (He's still trying to figure out who is more intractable. The answer is Mom.)

So, today, we were trying to figure out when we will next see her. She's in Florida, we're in New Jersey. The children all have different spring break schedules, so it will be impossible to go to her. She doesn't do well in the cold weather, so she can't come here. We miss her, but more than wanting her to come home, I want her to be happy. I want her to be frivolous. Extravagant. Impulsive. I want her to be selfish. But that will be hard for her, because she's spent her life being self-less. Just this once, I want her to be less stubborn than I am, and change her ways.

09 February 2011

Our Bodies, Our Selves

Four and Five have decided to give Tae Kwon Do another go. They haven't been to a lesson since the end of November, because the exertion was "too hard, and painful" for Four, and Five felt like he was being "yelled at" (he's a little anxious, but, fingers crossed, not yet pathological). But we got called in for a personal consult with Young Master, and after the talk, they decided to try again. Young Master is kind, soft-spoken, and wants them to succeed, so I hope it works out. Also, we found out there really isn't any way out of the ONE YEAR CONTRACT that I signed. Apparently, I didn't read the fine print. Because I would never commit Four to one year of anything. But the lessons could be good for him, because he has been talking about getting in better shape.

This is a difficult topic to navigate. The boys all have different body shapes, and most of them started life with extra rolls. Two was my most luscious baby, and now he's 5'11" of stretched sinew. Three goes through periods of expansion and contraction, as he grows ever upward. Five was the only one born with no extra meat. He looked like a plucked, organic chicken: pinkish, bony, and assless.  In stark contrast, Four is very curvy, with a definite gluteous maximus. And he has gained quite a bit of weight because of medication.

We'll talk pharmaceuticals another day. Today I am negotiating the fine line between preaching body acceptance, and encouraging body transformation. I'm not sure if Four initiated this healthy quest on his own, or if it was instigated by Chicken Butt's liberal use of the word "chubby."  Although I routinely remind the pack that they are not to open their mouths except to be kind or helpful, that is not always the case when they are out of glaring distance.

I want the boys to like themselves, and their bodies. But they are more conscious of their looks than I realized. Maybe not on the same level as teenage girls, but male beauty propaganda is increasing. Two would like better abs, and I won't even go into how many times I've been asked, by one or the other,"When will I get armpit/facial hair/a larger penis/rid of this acne?" So, I tell Four that his body is just fine the way it is, but if he wants to be more healthy, then we can eat better and exercise. But I worry about his odds for success, because he's batttling chemistry.

He has asked to learn how to jump rope, and do sit-ups. He may be on medication for many more years, so I've decided that, more important than losing the weight, is his decision to try. He's caring for himself, and taking control of an aspect of his life. And that will serve him well in the long run.

08 February 2011

It's All Art to Me

I am a little tired from the Sunday night shindig. We had some family over to watch the Super Bowl, but even with all the kids, the crowd numbered fewer than twenty. So, it was more of just a shin. Nevertheless, the house had to be tidied and decorated, which is a time-consuming, but necessary, project. If it wasn't for family dinners and parties, my house would never get cleaned. I hate cleaning. I especially hate the mundane, routine tasks: changing the toilet paper rolls, loading the dishwasher. So, I had to laugh out loud the day Two asked me if I liked cleaning, because he noticed I spent a lot of time doing it.

I do like a nice presentation, though. I labored over the design of this blog like I might be graded on it. I chose the background, because  the stars have one point for each boy I've birthed. I wanted a dark background, but not black, to convey the intimacy of my thoughts. I considered fonts for a ridiculous amount of time, to find one that would seem casual (like handwriting), irreverent, but not immature. See? It looks fun, but I take this shit seriously.

I approach party decoration from a similar angle. I like a central theme, either in the color scheme (white for New Year's Eve  to express the idea of a fresh beginning), texture (handmade linen sheets as tablecloths for Thanksgiving, to recognize hard work and family tradition), or tabletop (my fave from this year was tools, nursing implements, and teacher supplies in old coffee pots for Labor Day!). Almost no one notices the theme (Labor Day was especially obscure), but it's the party facet I most enjoy.

This year I bought an artificial tree that sits in my dining room as an "all-season" tree. It looks a little like a large, Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I got it from a local place that sells to the interior design trade, so it's incredibly realistic. It was marked down, down, down so I couldn't resist. I put it up for Thanksgiving, changed the decorations for Christmas (yes, it was first a "Thanksgiving tree", decked in cookie cutters and bejeweled fruits), and then forgot about it until the other day, when I realized that winter is probably sticking around because I haven't changed the holiday theme on my tree. That this seems like a reasonable explanation is proof that the weather has driven me insane.

I went and bought many hearts of all makes and models, and have transformed the tree. Three did his homework and watched as I worked, commenting every so often on the placement of a particular heart. The little boys were very excited when they got back from school to see what had transpired. I'm sure I'll tire of the tree by summer (who wants to look at a fake fir in the middle of July?) but today, it made me happy to do it. I hope, in some small way, I am teaching them that creation is a personal expression of  joy. Even if no one else notices, or understands, it.

07 February 2011

Our New World Order

The Report Cards have arrived. And, for some in the pack, they are not good. Frighteningly bad, I might say. So, we must re-order our priorities. This will be a challenge for all involved.

Grades are no longer a surprise for my high schoolers, because the district posts them online, and I can check in every two weeks and see how things are progressing. This has not been a source of comfort for me. I have watched in horror this quarter as Two's grades slipped farther and farther into the "Cumulative Abyss"- the point from which, no matter how well you do, there is no way to raise your average.

In contrast, Three's school sends a mid-term progress report, and then we wait to see how it all turns out. I know what you're thinking. I could flip through his binders and check his test scores. I could maintain contact with his teachers to make sure he's completing his assignments. I could act like a concerned parent. Yes; I completely own my failings. But in my defense, I would remind you that I have a lot of kids. They all have homework, and the younger ones, especially those who are extra bouncy by the end of the day, REALLY need me to supervise. As they get older, I kind of want them to pick up the slack and get their stuff done without me having to stand over their shoulder. But The Report Cards have spoken, and deemed this folly.

The Captain and I sat down to create the new rules. This is not our first rodeo. Previously, we have encouraged; we've threatened; we've seen improvement, and then we forget the rules. So, it seems the success of this plan rests upon...us. Mostly, me. Because now I must implement, supervise, and evaluate the process. I must become a middle manager, and I'm pretty sure I don't have the clothes for the  job. Okay, honestly, I don't want to wear the clothes. I find suits constraining, I will do almost anything to avoid wearing pantyhose, and I much prefer Converse to pumps.

I think I am angry about The Report Cards because they have forced me to rewind my life plan. This year has been fairly successful for me, especially when compared to where I was two years ago. All of my children are in school full time. No one is suffering from paralyzing anxiety. When the phone rings, I no longer fear it will be a school calling me to come and collect my child. I have free time. All of which, when combined, allows me to write, and imagine a future with that as my primary occupation.

But now, The Report Cards have pulled me out of that dream, to remind me I still have children to raise. Some of them have special needs, and may be with me well into their adulthood. And as I write that sentence, I realize I'm not angry. I'm sad. Because, more than me wanting a life without them, I want them to have a life without me. Especially the ones that have no extraordinary challenges. I need them to grow up and move on, so I have space for the ones that may stay behind.

So, in true Protestant fashion, I am pulling myself up by my bootstraps, and dragging the boys with me. We are headed to the New World-a land of limited cell phone usage, no facebook, and only one social event per weekend. It will be arduous for us all, but I come from hardy immigrant stock. The success of this journey depends, to a large degree, upon my stamina. And I am willing to endure Two's protest slings and Three's whining arrows to ensure that someday they will blaze their own trails.

05 February 2011

...To you and you and you

Adieu, adieu...until Monday. Thanks for another great week, all!

Psst: I'm going to the conference.

04 February 2011

Standing on the Corner of Want and Need, Looking for Harmony

I want something. I am trying very hard to get it. But I haven't figured out if I'm being addict-y about it (a bad thing), or if I'm simply motivated and pro-active (a good thing). The questions I am asking myself, in order to label my behavior, are perhaps the same ones you have asked yourself at one point or another.

How do I define myself?
What do I want for my family?
What do I want for myself?
Can I have both?

Over the years, I've read a lot about the idea of "balance" in our lives. Work/home balance. Mother/self balance. But I think there is no "balance". Our lives aren't math problems that can made equal on both sides of the equation. There is only isolating the variable. If I want "x," I'm going to have to subtract something to get it. I call this practical harmony.

Practical harmony means if I decide to spend the day outside in my garden, my kitchen will not get cleaned. If I choose to go to bed with my husband, I will not stay up late and write. If one child has the equivalent of a nervous breakdown, the others will not get as much of my attention. There is no balance; there is only borrowing. And right now, I'm struggling with how much I can borrow for myself.

I have never had a career "outside the home." I've had jobs, but when One was born, I stopped working to focus on his medical needs. I went back to work part-time after Two, but when Three graced us with his presence, I was home for good. I'm not complaining; I feel like I kick ass as a mother, and I am proud to pencil in that title when I fill in the "Occupation" box on medical forms. But, now, for the first time in my adult life, I see the possibility of amending the form. I want to be a Mother/Writer.

I am excited about all that has happened in the past month, since I made the decision to publicly declare my intentions. I've opened my ears to other writers, and offered up my work for review. I've decided to share my thoughts, and been proud of the result. I signed up to volunteer (a lot!) at the Romance Writers of America national conference, because even though the damn book isn't done, I thought it might be nice to meet some other writers, and learn a few things. And that brings me to my dilemma.

I want to go to another writer's conference. It will be smaller than national, so I think of it as a chance to get my feet wet- a practice run.  Lucy March is a featured speaker, and I wouldn't even know about it if I didn't follow her blog. But I do follow her, and I did find out about it, and I feel like I already know some of the women who will be there, even though I've never met them. But that connection is already inexplicably powerful, and I'm not sure I should ignore that, even if it doesn't make sense.

The problem is that the Captain will be away at a hockey tournament the same time as the conference. I've called my sister to see if she can watch my children. (She hasn't fully commited). I've mapquested the route. (It's a five hour drive). I have a friend who will share her hotel room with me. (But I'll have to drive home late Saturday night). I'm trying to cover all my bases. And it feels a little addict-y. Like I want it too much, and I'm willing to really manipulate the universe to get it. If it's this hard to make it happen, is the universe saying I shouldn't go, or is it asking me to prove how much I want it? Can there be harmony, or is that impractical?

03 February 2011

No, I Don't Want to Smell That

I live with guys. My house is ripe with guy smells.  And the guys don't care. In fact, I would say they revel in it. They burp loudly, often trying to incorporate speech into the act. They lift cheeks off chairs to fart with abandon. Only One has any sense of decorum, but I think that's because he finds bodily functions kind of gross, not because I've instilled in him a greater sense of mannerly behavior.

They play a game called "Door Knob," wherein the farter must yell "Safety!" after farting, before any surrounding boys yell "Door Knob", or he gets punched in the arm. Even Five knows this game. The other day it was just the two of us in the kitchen, and he yelled "Safety!" I took that opportunity to explain two things to him. One: I am his mother, and as such, I am not going to run across the room and punch him in the arm. At least not for farting. Two: I am his mother, and a GIRL, so it is bad form to fart without saying "Excuse me."  He seemed to comprehend that I wouldn't punch him, but he looked doubtful about the girl part. He didn't identify me as female.

Every so often, I get dolled up to go somewhere, and the pack is practically rendered speechless by the sight of me in a dress. One time, Four literally stopped talking, as his brain struggled to assimilate the image before him with the data he had stored about his mother. I had to call his name, for voice recognition. This worries me. I am supposed to be their template of femininity, upon which they will model their behavior toward all women. Clearly, there are some "opportunities for growth" in my job performance.

The older boys seem to understand I was a girl once, WAY BACK WHEN, but can't see how that applies to their lives now. They've actually said, "Kids today aren't like when you were young." And I had to disagree, because their father is exactly the same today as when he was a teenager.

The other night, he was unpacking his hockey bag. In our dining room. The hockey bag is the pinnacle of bad smells. It should be labeled as hazardous waste, or at least contain a warning about the possible release of deadly ammonia gas. I try to avoid the hockey bag at all costs, and I will only touch the contents within if I am wearing latex. But for the Captain, it's an odoriferous treasure chest. Sure enough, he opened it up, pulled out a glove with pride, and said "Smell this!" I declined, but the dog wandered in for a sniff. He is a boy, and smells butts, so he found it appealing.

But I felt a little better. The Captain  managed to land a swell girl like me without changing this aspect of his personality, so perhaps his sons will find the right women, too. I hope so, because I need some of this stink to go.

02 February 2011

My Mantra, My Mantra

Today I spent an inordinate amount of time on-line, most of it reading a conversation between some fantastic women about shame, worthiness, love, and vulnerability. If you want to see what we were talking about, I think this link will work. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html And if  you're curious about the fabulously wordy women, you should visit  http://lucymarch.com/.

I felt pretty good about myself when I was done watching, because I've done some courageous things in my life, survived some challenges, and my life view is still: It will all be okay.  This is my mantra. It's not particulary profound, but it's reality based, so most times I make it even more casual, and use the conjunction for ease of use. It'll all be okay. Don't you like the way the "ells" roll off the tongue?
It'll all be okay.
It'll all be okay.

The simplicity of my mantra helps me cut through the disorientating effect of anger/ grief/ depression/ anxiety, so I don't get lost in the maelstrom. I know me; I know what I'm capable of (good and bad), and I know that in the end, it'll all be okay. I know this to be true, because my father died when I was nineteen, I pushed away everyone who loved me and became a drug addict, my first baby had a pre-natal stroke, my fourth is autistic, my house flooded and we had to live in a hotel, my mother is battling a fatal disease, and yet...I'm okay. I'm here. I'm fighting. I'm loved. I love.

The mantra hasn't always been with me, guiding me through the pain. The mantra was born of the pain, and the recognition that I surmounted it. Sometimes, when life looks bleak, I remember I've been here before, and  it'll all be okay. We all struggle, but I hope you recognize all that you've accomplished, and can call on your inner strength when you need it.

01 February 2011

Small Man, Huge Victory

As previously mentioned, Four plays basketball. Well, he belongs to a basketball team. He's learning how to play. His team is comprised of third and fourth grade boys, and he is probably the most inexperienced player in the group. Two Saturdays ago, he played in his first game. It was only the second game the whole team had played, and just six players showed up. The Captain, who is an assistant coach, was working that weekend, so I had to sub for him, because we felt strongly that Four needed direct supervision on the bench.

The game didn't go well for our team. Our opponents were more skilled, and I instantly disliked them because they had matching shorts with their names and numbers emblazoned on the leg. This is a township rec league, not the NBA. I forgave the kids, but not the coach, Mr. Fancy Pants, especially after he suggested we weren't allowed to keep our best player in for the second quarter. WE HAD SIX PLAYERS! Four had taken himself out of the game, crying, "I can't do this anymore. It's too hard. They're too fast!"
I'd like to say we came from behind and beat the Fancy Pantsers, but alas, it wasn't a feel-good movie. We lost by ten.

I had to convince- really, bribe- Four to play in the next game. The Captain was finally done with inventory, and this would be his first chance to coach him.
"Do it for Dad," I said.
"Okay," he mumbled. "But then I'm never playing again!"

This time, we had a complete team, and they actually looked like they knew how to play. We scored baskets, we rebounded, we bounce-passed with aplomb. Four guarded his man like white on rice, his feet and mouth moving the whole time. At half-time, we were winning by 11.

At this level, the referees let two members of each team take a free throw. Usually, you pick players who don't normally shoot the ball to take a shot from wherever they want on the floor. Four was one of the chosen. His teammate made his shot, and handed him the ball. The whole team was up and watching, telling him to get closer, get closer. He stopped about four feet from the basket, tossed it up, and it went in! Normally, he can't even hit the rim, so it was a big deal, and he celebrated like he'd made the winning shot from half-court at the buzzer. He threw himself in the air, he high-fived the refs, he fist-pumped, and then he went for a drink, because all that activity was pretty exhausting. I almost cried. We won the game, too, and he basked in the glory of it all until bedtime, when he said he wasn't sure he was going to play again. Such is our life.

Tonight, we played a make-up game against Team Fancy Pants. At half-time, we were winning by five. By the middle of the fourth they had evened the score. With 42 seconds left, we got a free throw. Our man made it, but they rebounded, and won by three. I really, really wanted to beat them, to erase the memory of that first game. It didn't happen. But Four showed up to play, defending his man like they were shackled together on the chain gang, and he left the court with a smile. That's a victory.