Thursday, April 28, 2016

This You,That You

I told you once that this is one of my favorite photos of you. When you asked why I didn't give a clear answer, maybe because I, myself, didn't quite know why. I only knew that the photo made me feel proud of you, made me remember you - as if I'd forgotten - and it captured you, the essence of you.

It occurred to me some time later that the picture was familiar, and I thought maybe that's why I loved it so much. But familiar why?  I looked for the reason in the only place I knew to search. It's here. In this picture from your 1st year baby book.

Same face! I remember when I snapped this shot of you as a baby I was laughing. It was one in a series of photos I took as you argued, mostly in babble, for control of the TV remote. There you were, this little pee wee, against your big, strong daddy with his giant hands, making your case, pulling, smiling sweetly, threatening tears. You must have worked for a good ten minutes, which in baby time is an eternity, until you got him to give up. (I suspect he intended to give up all along; you've had your daddy wrapped around your finger since the moment you arrived.)

In the photo above, you are steeling yourself for a live performance at the Abbey. You were having  a hard day, if I recall, and you were setting yourself away from everyone to get ready, to prepare because there was a task at hand and your focus had to be turned away from your own needs and to the job in front of you.

Shortly after both photos were taken you were smiling, gregarious, charming - your usual self - your public self. I love that you, the hugging, funny, kind-to-everyone you.

But I also love the you in these photos. The determined you, the hard-working, self-sacrificing, undeterred by 'no' you.  This is as much you as the other and I so admire and respect this you, as this you works in the background so the other you can be out in front. No certificates for this you, although we know the truth. This you is truly remarkable.

As you head off into your adult years, as in all the years before, I encourage you to seek adventure, to taste new things, know yourself and take the risks that make sense for you, and a few that don't (as long as it's reasonably safe to do so). And as you walk further and further away from the baby in that picture, remember that she was a little force, who's become quite the power, and there is no limit to where she can go.

It'd also be great if you'd leave your dad and me the remote for the TV. It's been eighteen years. Cut us a break, would you?

Happy Birthday, Blue. We love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gratitude: First in a Series

I'm reading a book recommended by a friend that provides some thought-provoking exercises on how to become a happier person. Among the suggestions: write letters of gratitude to people who have been or are meaningful in your life. I think I do write about people who are important to me, but it's been quite the while since I wrote to someone. I think this is an exercise that can be both intimate and shared, so I'm going to begin with this message, to thank the friend who recommended the book.

For not being what I expected at first at all, and then for being so interesting to watch, and then for including me a little bit on the trip to your better self, thank you, John.

When we first met I think we were far enough away from one another on the life spectrum so as to not find threads in common, and that was fine in its time. Proximity and circumstance gave us some chances and I will say some of those early interactions were not easy on me. I'm sure we had one or another conversation where you might have hoped I had less of an opinion - not my strong suit then, and not now either. But people are never all what they may appear to be, a lesson I've learned many times over, and again with you.

Your strong opinions contrary to my own have been mostly wrong-headed, but your devotion to family, your appreciation of culture - your own, mine and so many others, your taste in food and music (and the attendant YouTube advertisements), your intellect and willingness for self-reflection, self-correction, and your migration to a life lived as opposed to spent, all these have been so fascinating to talk about, learn from, and watch. You've been private, as you should be on matters of import, but not unfair about what you have learned. Moreover, you have been as interested in me as you have been in expressing your own thoughts - not too much, not so little as to seem disaffected. It's really been just the right touch, and not just for me, but for Sam and Tony, too. I'm grateful to you, and I don't think I've said that.

So, thank you. I'm glad to have been around for this part of your life, and I'm more glad you have been there to be a part of this time in mine.

This does not mean you do not owe me my own decadent dinner some time. You totally do.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Crappy Day in the Life Of

Yep, kids are great, mom is great, everything's grrreat! Blah blah blah blah blah. Some days, even though everything is great, everything is crap.

Yesterday, I had to get up early to show a listing. Blah blah blah the people think the house is so cool, the house is so old and classic, the house is so blah blah blah. You know what? I know the house is old and cool. I think it's a classic, too! But chatting with you endlessly about it at 9AM, I gotta be honest, is not the only thing I got going on. So enjoy your day, enjoy whatever house you're going to buy that isn't this one - because that's the kind of day I'm having - do whatever it is you're doing, but for the love of cheese and crackers, stop yapping so I can get out of here.

In this frame of mind, I came home. To the usual mess, laze, and all-around moist-sock smell that has become my home. You know what? I HATE that. I hate it every time. I hate coming home to my pretty home that I'm trying so hard to keep, finding everyone's 'descuidado' (which is, roughly, carelessness but sounds more ominous in Spanish) splayed about like badges of 'screw you' being advertised with gusto.

And I'm tired. I'm tired of cleaning. I want to sleep! But did I fly into a rage and make everyone miserable at the start of their days? No! I'm a reader! I read lots of books on how to be happier and how be a better mother, a better wife, a better person. I'm so busy being better I think better must be reading books about being me!

So I put all that good bullshit to work and took control of my own issue. I started picking up, cleaning up, and putting things away. That task always takes longer than one expects, and in my case was made exponentially more difficult and maddening by the slow drip of teenagers that began to make its way in and around the messes I was trying to clean up. I can only imagine what a nuisance I was with my dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dish-washing, windexing, and all the rest while there was so much important snap-chatting and gasping-picture taking going on.

By 3PM I still hadn't eaten. I still had to work and had report cards to pickup which entailed going to the schools where - in one, I don't volunteer hardly at all and I feel like an anonymous wall-hanging every time I walk in - and in the other, I volunteer plenty and still feel like I should have been there helping out all day. Schools are literal volunteering vacuums. I felt terrible when I saw another mom alone at the table I was supposed to be manning, and even worse when I told her I couldn't stay. I didn't get to talk to any of the teachers I wanted to, really, and the few teachers I did speak with seemed to ignore the fact that I had my youngest daughter with me. They only wanted to talk about my oldest daughter.

Hey - I get it - it's great that she's smart. Yes I'm proud. Yes she's awesome. But I have THREE children and I actually think all three are pretty great and smart and I'm proud of all of them. The one I have standing next to me, for instance, is a person. She has ideas and aspirations and she works hard and wants to be excited about her future and wants everyone to greet her like she matters, too. And my son does just about everything my girls do with nearly zero fanfare, and I'm sure once in a while he'd prefer not to have to suffer another joke about how great his sister is and what a loser he must be by comparison. He's actually not.

I walked out of there pissed and emotional and feeling like a failure. And broke! Because I owe exam fees and book fees and graduation fees. Shoes and flaming cripes the world freaking runs on charging me fees!

I came back home famished, but I couldn't make anything to eat because Tony was meeting me so we could go to another appointment. I sat down, knowing we had just minutes to make it on time, and waited. He came in a few moments later and as I began to gather myself to walk out the door I saw he went straight to the kitchen to get himself something to eat. When he came back into the living room he told me, between mouthfuls, that he and the client had agreed on a slightly later time.

Did I screech and rail against the forces of humanity that had delivered this wretched day to me? Nope. Super calm.

We went to the appointment and, all things being what they are, two hours later we were on the road back to the house. I had not yet eaten and dinner had to be made. It was already 8PM. So we made a financially disastrous decision and ordered pizza, which Tony can't eat because he's gluten free, and went home. When we got back, already a new mess had been installed where the old one had been removed.  Whew! I thought we'd be missing the mess and funk for a day, but thank goodness slobbier heads prevailed.

I told the kids we'd ordered pizza to celebrate report cards and I got snarky 'Bad parenting move' comments in return. When the food arrived one of the kids tried to take pizza and salad upstairs so as to not eat with us because the marathon snapchat that has become her life was still in play and I think she'd rather eat with electronic company than suffer fifteen minutes across from me. I ate the wrong slices of pizza and had to give a half-eaten piece back to Sam, because he's meat-free, and then I had to eat pizza I didn't want, now cold because the box had been left open.

At the end of the night I reminded one of the kids about dishes, and that the dishwasher was broken (it was a crappy day, what can I tell you?) so they'd have to be done by hand.

The Cubs won, and if I had to have a crappy day, that was certainly a fine attempt at turning it around. I worked through most of the game, but will admit that the sound in the background does bring a smile to my face.

I feel asleep on the couch and had to be tucked in by one of the kids, who also wanted to know if I could get up a little earlier than usual to take her to school so she could do some make-up work. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

I got up early, as requested, and went into the kitchen. The dishes were still there, all piled up, creamy salad dressing and water lifting bits of lettuce and carrot along the salad bowl that had been left on top; ants were carrying on a rave, Studio 54-style. I blinked at this and decided to make coffee before I murdered anyone, so as to improve my precision (always thinking about the mess).

While the pot brewed I went to get dressed and found that I'd not managed to get laundry done so I had no socks. I slipped on a pair of Tony's which could double as leg warmers if you're putting a positive spin on things. I decided to go sans. My feet are freezing.

I tried to check email and found that my password wasn't working so I got locked out of all my work-related sites. The early riser wanted to know if there was enough coffee for her to take some. 'Sure!' She got it all together and we left. I came back from dropping her off to find that another of my sweet darlings had taken the remainder of the coffee I'd made and had left a joyous mess of sugar sprinkles and a little half 'n half on the counter. One can imagine the glee of the ants.

I have so much work to do my face hurts just thinking about it, and as I write this I am on hold with tech support. That can't be good, can it? I still have a sink full of dishes and clearly I need to do laundry, plus the no-socks thing reminds me I've needed a pedicure for about a month. That's not relevant at all, but it pisses me off that I can do so much God blessed crap for everyone else but I can't get a God blessed pedicure.

I'm telling you all this because I have a beautiful life. My children are amazing, I love my husband and he's a great guy, my mom is a cutie pie, I'm healthy and have a happy home. But everybody has crap. Real life includes a lot of crap. And the less we hide our crap, the more we can treat one another with a little kindness and compassion when we're having an o.k. day and someone else isn't.

I hope your day is going ok today. If it's not, if it's a crappy day, I hope you have a better day tomorrow. Hang in there. They can't all be bad. Can they?


Tech support just hung up on me.

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's Hillary's Turn. Or Is It?

Bernie Sanders is getting under Hillary's skin and I don't blame her. She subordinated herself to her husband, then to the party, then to the will of a movement beyond any prediction in the campaign of Barack Obama. It's her turn, right?

Mmmm.... let's talk about that.

The whole point of our democracy is that anyone can become anything, not that some are entitled. Hillary isn't owed anything, either by the establishment Democrats or the progressive movement in this country. She has to make her case and the voting population has to buy it. If they don't, she loses, and that's how that works. End of story.

But Bernie is being disingenuous, suggesting that her PAC and corporate donors influence her policy-making, right?

No, he's not. No matter her integrity and good wishes, you can tell a lot about a person by the people they surround themselves with. So, too, you can tell a lot about Hillary by the people she is receiving money from; that's just true. You can tell that she speaks a message her backers believe, you can tell they have confidence she can win, you can tell they are not abstract in their interest in her - they are heavily invested in her success. Why do you think that is? It's not because she is necessarily false in her speech, or two-faced as has been insinuated, but because she will work to protect some of her investors' interests. She's a person well-versed in compromise, moreso after her own experience in trying to bring forward healthcare before the country was ready. She touts herself as a pragmatic, a progressive who can 'get things done'. Agreed. That requires bridging gaps, and that means some of the dirty money players will be brought to the table, people who have and continue to manipulate the economy on the backs of the poor and middle classes in this country for the quite obvious and gluttonous gain of a select few.

There's an objection to that among Sanders supporters and instead of being indignant, Hillary could own that objection. She could say, "I have friends in those crowds. I've had dinner with them, spoken at their corporate meetings, and attended their private events. I agree that it could seem they might influence policy, but the opposite is also true. I intend to work those personal relationships to influence them, and I hope to bring them into the fold and encourage them and incentivize them to work for the middle and poorer classes in our country, and here are my ideas..." Her pushback seems defensive, and so fuels the Bernie supporters' worries about her sincerity.

Hillary is, no doubt, the most qualified person to run for President in this or any recent election. But in addition to these flaws in her message, she's generally not a great campaigner. Her well-known temper is starting to show. That's not going to play well, but more importantly, it may not be useful to her as a Commander in Chief. You can't "pissed wife" your way through the job, just as you can't "schoolyard bully" your way as Trump imagines. I think that's one of the things people are responding to in their Cruz and Sanders support. Neither of those guys is perfect for the job either, but they may appeal for the anti-Hillary or anti-Trump reason enough to garner a vote. That's not illegitimate, it's just unfortunate.

There are several of these pings and pongs to consider, but I do grow tired of the 'get off the stage already' dissertations aimed at Sanders and Kasich. I personally think their presences are the only things making this embarrassing election cycle less the abomination it would be without them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'm Trying Not to Curse In Writing

Why for flowers' sake can't the government - at any level - do its job? I hire people to work in the government by my vote. I provide feedback via my voice and my choices and I evaluate my government representatives on their performances by my observation. My observation is that they suck pink petunias.

The federal government is engaged in a childish repartee on just about every issue of import which can be boiled down to: 'If you're not on the red team I'm not going to let you play with my jump rope' and 'If you're not on the blue team I'm going to tell everybody you eat your boogers'. That makes about as much sense as pickles do.

My state government is so defunct they won't even show up to work anymore. The strategy there? 'I know you are but what am I?'. The employment of that strategy is about all the two sides have in common and, for that matter, about all the employment they give a solid whit about anyway. So smart, then, that most of those microphone-dandruff factories ended up running uncontested in the primaries.

Locally, my city government operates like the storyline in a twisted Cat in the Hat, without the playful Thing 1 and Thing 2 to entertain. 'I stole from you here to pay for them there. The money's not in this pot and we're not sure where. You can suck it up or take your lumps. No other choices, you sniveling chumps.' Someone ought to give the job back to the fish.

The government is supposed to work for me. It's supposed to consider the green-goodness nominee for the supreme court and vote. It's supposed to implement a mother-flapping budget that does the best it can with the resources its got. It's supposed to fund the feather-loving public schools and make sure our kids have qualified teachers with all the plum-picking materials they need to teach.

None of the bug-catchers in government are doing any of that sunshine but they are all still getting paid.

So what to do? I'm asked often if I could or would run for public office. I've considered it, I won't lie. But first - I actually stunk it up pretty good when I was responsible for a small community organization not too long ago. Turns out I am no better than purple crayons at building consensus among warring factions. I don't have the patience? (I was shocked, as I'm sure you are.)

And second - and more importantly - I honestly don't think I could be incompetent enough to get along with all these spoiled, self-serving, low-ambition, uninspired thumbtacks who currently work as public servants. I'd have to stop working myself. I'd have to bloviate endlessly about how other people were making it hard for me to get off my lazy, well-dressed-on-the-public-dime duffle bag to do something. Anything!

So in protest, I'm about to not work on Friday so I can put on a red shirt and walk around in circles trying to get these these lower-than-wet-lint-intellect, full-time bunters to notice that I'm ticked so that they'll do their jobs. Do you love this? I'm doing nothing to get them to notice that nothing's getting done. I've become a character in the mother-flowering-good-for-nothing comic book that is our government's profile page! This is why every-pumpkin-loving-thing is so full of caterpillar doodle! Because we have to not make sense in order to communicate with the people we hired to make sense of things in the first place. What the broken-milk-carton sense does that make??

I think I'm just going to go back to cursing.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

It's Worth Celebrating Every Day

I commented to a friend recently that I never feel confident contributing to his Facebook discussions on religion. His acquaintances are so scholarly, so perfect in their recollection of chapter and verse in every context. It's intimidating. So usually, I stay away.

I feel the same way about church. I'm a doubter, a persistent one, and at least among my Catholic brothers and sisters, that's not super popular. I am intimidated by their righteousness, especially when I don't see honor in so much of what is done outside of church.  So I stay away.

But not too far away. In fact, I remain tethered in this straddled position because this is where I feel nearest to my faith and most focused on the work of living its truth as I see it. And from this conflicted yet confident place, I've been looking upon Easter this year with wonder. Wondering how many times I must celebrate with greatest amazement something I've known all my life. It's like having a surprise party every single year on the same day for forty-some years. Doesn't it feels a little silly to shout "SURPRISE!" year after year? It does to me, anyway, but I think we're conceding here that I'm not the gal you should be following.

And then, as He always does, the good Lord just dropped himself into my living room (sometimes He shows up in other rooms, the room is not important, the dropping - focus on the dropping in). I sat down this morning and checked my Facebook page for scintillating updates on all things Buzzfeed and cat related and instead, I found a video my friend had posted on her page.

It showed how hidden cameras reveal 'thieves' and 'gangs' and others in acts they believe to be hidden. A young girl 'stealing' a kiss. A 'gang' helping a stuck car get moving again. A man risking himself to push someone off the tracks before a train barrels by. A man dancing in the street to an unheard tune. So often, too often, we use cameras to capture one another's faults, our sins. But here was this montage of hidden goodness, kindness, joy, the love that Jesus taught us being practiced every day all around the world, with no reward but the having done it because it was good and right.

I believe that one of the purposes of Jesus' life was to provide an example of how love can overcome any obstacle - sin, pain, hunger, even death. It was an example of turning toward love, into kindness, giving over every doubt in another's worthiness so as to only have room to carry compassion for him. But the example written is not enough, the example spoken, same. A person must see and feel, must experience in their own lives, these examples of love in order to truly understand them.

We do. I was reminded just now that we do. And that is why we rejoice. His love is in us, with us, and all around us, and that is worth celebrating every day.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Farther From the Block

Among the middle row of buildings on the east side of the street

In an anonymous neighborhood at the edge city's heat

Women on the sidewalk, watch their children play

Men across the fence lines, share a beer with stories of the day.

Children laughing, scrambling, ne'er among them all a fear

In backyards blowing out their candles and, with them, all the years. 

As time has passed they have all moved, far, and farther from the block.

None has lived for ages there, tho forgotten is the clock

For as long a time may pass between the days from there to here

As far as any of them stretches, their family keeps them near.

Go and marry! Graduate and fly.

Home is where we are together, as we will be by and by.