Thursday, October 16, 2014

Picture a Turkey Staring at a Beautiful, Delicate Bird.

Wherein I am the turkey, an aging one, and it's all good.

The poster on my bedroom wall growing up was funny.  As I grew older I knew there was deeper meaning, or maybe an inside joke,  I just wasn't wise enough to really get it. Now, I realize I've been living with it and by it all my life.

Picture a turkey staring at a beautiful, delicate bird. The caption: "To thine own self be true."

Good advice that has served me well at every age.

Now, as the curls grey and the smiles wrinkle, I find the more immersed I am in the roles of my age, the more myself I have become. And I'm enjoying every bit of it, not worried or wallowed as some my age might be. I'm a different kind of beautiful, not concerned with how I 'should' look, rather happy with how I do look. I'm a better kind of passionate, informed and directed at results. I'm an intentional wife, a devoted mom, a well-practiced professional. I don't have all the answers, but I don't have to. I'm my own version, flawed and still trying, succeeding some times, knowing there's always a next day to repaint the sky. I am confident and relieved to be so.

I am blessed again and again with the love of my family and the kindness of my friends. I have no where to turn because all that I need is here beside me and what is mine is truly mine, because I have gathered it all as my own self. What is lost belongs to the wind anyway. There is a watch over me which is whole and constant.

It's a good, good life, with lots to sweet and taste. And, still, among all the many things I savor in my better-wine years, lessons from my mother linger on my palate.

Picture a turkey staring at a beautiful, delicate bird. "To thine own self be true."

Friday, October 3, 2014

This Is What I Do



I didn't ask for permission to post the picture with their faces, which are beaming, so here are the (quite adorable) shoes of a beautiful family, happily sitting on the swing of their new front porch. This is what I do for a living.

'You match shoes to front porches?' you ask. 'Yes.'

I match moms to kitchens and dads to yards and children to secret cubbies on the second floor. I match retired people to the house near their grandkids and I match the Bickersons to the object of their agreement.

I am the pathfinder to Home and the keeper of the American Dream. It's not a bad gig.

It takes care and thought and constant development. I am a professional. I may not be the best (but probably I am... honestly?... I am... others are great, too, but really I'm pretty kickass). I strive and am determined. The days can be long, seemingly endless, and I work when others are at rest.

With all that, my job has allowed me to be at nearly every performance my children have ever had, to take my mom to the doctor's office, to still read the paper version of the paper. I get hugged at the end of the day, pretty often. I am treated like family in homes all over the city, and I get to be in, see, and show off all the great bits and pieces of my beloved hometown. What more could a gal want?

I love my job.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Still, I Live in My Promise

With edits and updates since the original post...

On September 11th, 2001, when all the world was burning down around me I was stunned into silence.

On September 12th, 2001, when all the world was stunned into silence around me I was numbed to the point of inaction. 

On September 13th, 2001, when all the world was grappling with what to do next I walked into my new home for the first time.

My husband was working from home. He wandered aimlessly from office to kitchen to nursery, where little ones breathed in and out, blissfully unaware that the world had been forever changed.

When he returned to his desk it was only to continue dulling his day away. The phones were not ringing and, for once, we were thankful.

I spent nap time washing dishes, wiping, drying and then rewashing because of some invented flaw in the original cycle. On that day, and for many days after, resting when so many others were restless with terror and tears seemed awful and unfeeling. I couldn't rest so I just washed dishes.

As the babies were waking, my husband came to me with false enthusiasm, brimming with it rather garishly given the circumstances, and insisted we go see a house. He'd come across an oddball listing and decided we needed to see it right away.

We'd talked a little bit about buying a house after the twins were born, but soon settled into a routine and the issue had been back-burnered. Now, all of a sudden, it was the most important thing on my husband's agenda. He persisted. And I was too beaten down to refuse.

So we packed up the kids and made our way to the property, just a few blocks away.

I think, my husband's initial idea was just to get out, to revive the family, wake us up and give us some sense of purpose, even if only for a few hours. But stepping out onto the sidewalk, being in the dead air of those silent days following the burning of our arrogance was no comfort. Speaking to fill the air with noise and nonsense seemed irreverent. So we walked in silence.

When we got to the front of the house, we all looked up, as if called to the roof's peak by some herald. I won't blather on about the creepiness of the upside down cross that trims the front of the house, ending in the crux of the roof. But it was creepy. Years later, when we had the roof and trim re-done on the house, the 'capper' asked us if we wanted it removed. We both looked at each other and shook our heads 'no'. It belongs to the house, and to us, and to that moment when we first looked up.

We stepped in and breathed in the aura of someone else's home. It was plain, worn, a little odd in places, and old. But being inside seemed to captivate all of us.

The twins did everything they could to climb the stairs despite each step being about waist-high on their tiny, 13-month-old bodies.
Lucy did what all little girls do in huge old houses - she pretended princess and bowed delicately to her imagined prince, before she escaped into a one-sided ballroom dance in the middle of the living room.

I hemmed and fussed over the kitchen, hands on hips, and Tony went straight to all the mechanicals. It really wasn't much of a house, all whitewashed and creaky.

When I looked out the dining room windows and noticed a faded red patio set and bushes practically encroaching on the spot where I stood inside, I called to my husband.

"Look," I told him, "you could probably make the house workable, but I don't want to be on top of my neighbors like that. I want space. We talked about this. I want a yard."

He smiled at me, a genuine smile. It took us both a second to enjoy it, because we were well into day three of having no ability whatsoever to express happiness.

"Come with me," he said gently. "You don't understand."

And he led me through the dining room, into the kitchen and out the back door.

"That is your yard," he motioned across the expanse I'd just frowned upon. "And so is this," and he swept his arm across the other side. "It's just what you've always wanted. I found it."

And I was overcome. The babies spilled out behind me to claim territory. There were roses and vines and trees and flowering plants and all sorts of pines and firs. This yard, this little secret space on this pained planet, was so full of love and life and beauty. I was overcome again.

Did you ever read 'The Secret Garden'? This was it, but somehow with an air of Gatsby too. It was serene and splendid, but alive and tingling. You could hear the tinkle of glasses from parties past and you could discern, barely, a perfume in the air, as if the remainder of a courtship still lingered among the flowers. You could feel the life in the garden and for the first time in days I - we all - felt alive again.

Needless to say, we were sold. It probably wouldn't have mattered what we had to do, we had to get it. If the garden hadn't done it (and it totally did) the fact that the small finial on the staircase leading up to the bedrooms came off in my hand - ala 'It's a Wonderful Life' - would have completely sealed the deal.

We went home awake, talking, jabbering really, because the rush of language that had been pent up for so many days came tripping out of each of us in gush and gab. Even the babies, I'm sure feeding off of our excitement, participated, filling the walk home with the music of happiness and hope.

While my husband hurried to complete forms and sign documents, I tended to the spiritual element of the home purchasing process. I closed my eyes, clasped my hands together, and promised.

I promised God, of course, more out of practice than anything else, but with an element of urgency usually reserved for medical crises.

But more importantly, I promised all those babies who lost their parents two days before, all the parents who lost their babies, all the weepers who posted futile notices and waited in vain, and the sweepers who tended the debris left behind by blameless and suited souls. I promised probably as deeply as I am able.

I promised I would live out loud, for all those whose lives had been muted. I would make that house a place where every day, the love we have for one another would be remembered and acknowledged, and spent generously, in case the day's events halted the next day's chance to do it again. I promised we would open that house to as many as would come, with all we could give, for as long as we could. I promised my babies would grow up in that house and, when they left it, it would be to change the world, even if only in the smallest ways, with their sunshine and shimmer. I promised I would tend that garden to the best of my ability to make sure that its secrets were kept and its magic was kept alive. I promised that if God saw fit to give me that house, that gift would be repayed in every way I could, with every breath I have, until I could pay no more.

I've had days when I've thought the day when I could no longer pay might come sooner than I'd hoped. But for now, for as long as I can, and every day, I live in my promise.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Observations, Attributions and Musings

"I'm a middle-aged Indian gay man with a paunch, who would want me?"

"I would," said the obscenely tall white gay man with complimentary paunch, smiling.

He wears the royal purple in a pleasant plaid.

He carries an umbrella, looped casually around his wrist. They said rain, he knows.

And they are fine together, walking in synch, as I stall against the passersby.

I'm going to the store. I'm going to the store. I'm going to the store. I'm going to the store.

WHOOP!

Almost tripped that curb.

What was I saying? Oh yes!

I'm going to the store. I'm going to the store....

The slight man in the silly shorts and fanny pack - front facing - urges himself to Target with serious intention.

He has spilled something green on the white of his shirt. No matter.

He is fine, too, bottle-thick glasses focused on his feet benevolently preventing him from noticing the stares.

"GURL, you should have seen him!" only a dash of original color peeking through the shocking yellow and orange tint on that head of pointy, implausible hair.

Against the red of his shirt and blush it is at once garish and becoming.

Hand splayed. Voice now hushed. Gossip the only item on the agenda.

Her blush and lowered lash replies.

And back to the racks they go. Teenaged and tender.

And they are fine.

As are we all.

If only we allow.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm At 55% - A Day in Doctors' Offices

There's an ant on the floor and his aimless meander maddens me.

And fascinates me.

I'm too tired to rile, though.

This man's mustache is at once comical and a nuisance.

He's nice enough.

But he doesn't even acknowledge my ice-breaking jokes.

I miss my mother's comfort.

I miss being able to be comforted by my mother.

Now the gloss on the tile smiles brightly at me and makes me wish.

The cush of waiting room chairs is false; I'm here for the hard.

And why should I pay for parking?

An unnecessary dash of salt, I'd say.

In the end, rather
matter-of-factly, I'm very common.

So my scare, the kind I have not shared?

I cry in the parking lot, just to get it out of my system.

And go home to what is normal.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Things I Dare Not Say

I still can't tell who's right, Israel or Palestine, so I don't say anything at all and I fear that makes me, in part, to blame.

I can't tell who's to blame, the people who live in the shoot-'em-up neighborhoods, for letting it be like that or the people who don't live in the shoot-'em-up neighborhoods, for not helping those who live there.

I understand my kids' anger because it comes from me.  I am more sorry for passing along that trait than any other I can think of.

Illegal immigrants are committing a crime by entering our country illegally and that's the plain truth.

We are permitting illegal immigrants to enter this country because we want them here, and then we treat them poorly and shame them for being here, which makes us disgusting.

I believe public education is a good idea that's being managed badly but I'm o.k. with its inadequacy because I think it mirrors the dysfunction in real life, where good ideas like being a country of immigrants or sharing a holy land among more than one religious culture can get pretty tangled.

I'm afraid of my own potential, so I keep it tamped down as best I can and then laugh it off when it escapes from me anyway. (And no, for the love of peanuts, I am not running for office.)

I think we'd all be better off with more lives of faith rooted in love for one another than lives of faith in higher powers that lead us to be in conflict with one another.

I don't think Hillary should be President because the woman who breaks that barrier has to be her own person, not someone we know because of her husband.

I'd rather be a little fatter and happier than a little thinner and miserable.

I'm a lot poorer than I look but I don't give a damn any more.

I'm disappointed when my children do not get the honors or prizes they are aiming for, but I'd rather they get kicked in the shins and walk with a limp than never get kicked and not know how to stand on their own two feet.

All babies are beautiful, pure and deserving. Some don't get a chance and we all bear some responsibility, both for that fact and the change we could effect if we stopped being comfortable with that fact.

The fact is, I do what I can but it is never enough.

I dare to say first, because I hope to change my own self and be better.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here's What I Don't Get

I heard a woman on the radio today talking about why she's camped out in Arizona protesting attempts to bring minor children from a detention center there into other parts of the U.S. for housing and care. The children are 'illegals'. She said it was a shame that they were children, but "clearly their parents didn't care enough about them to keep them and take care of them so...

Left hanging in the air was the end of the sentence which was "why should I care?"

I don't get that.

My son is away for a few days at a friend's house and the longing I have for his face, his warmth, his presence in my house is absurd and painful and silly, but potent and consuming nonetheless. I cannot even fathom the pain of looking that boy in his sweet face, holding his hands, putting my arms around him and his sisters and saying 'I think this is the best thing for you. I love you. Please, please be safe. Go. Stay together. I promise you I'll do my best to get to you if I can. Don't ever forget that I love you.'

Can you imagine that pain? That terror? That self-doubt and fear? What would drive you to that? Anything? I might not ever have the courage. But to save my starving child, I would pray for the strength.

So what was that woman on the radio saying? What kind of filth was she thinking? My first reaction was to call her disgusting. I said that, out loud, in my car. "Disgusting!"

And then I caught myself judging her the way she's judging these parents, without knowing what her pain is.

I don't know what it's like to live in Arizona. I don't know what it means to have to deal with so many strangers just trapsing through your town. It might be frightening or nerve-wracking or downright aggravating. It might be more than you could bear and you might lose your sense and think that little children coming to a new country with no family, no security, no sense of what might happen to them deserve to be yelled at and scared and detained and shipped back, without regard for where they might land when they get back 'home'.

You might be so mangled in your thinking by all the stress you're dealing with you might get on the radio and suggest to the world that I don't love my children.

I may be wrong to send them to another country; God help me so I never have to even contemplate such a thing. But you are wrong - wrong, wrong, wrong - to believe I don't care. And should fate ever ruin me to such a degree that my children must go away from me for some condition like the ones those parents suffer, I should pray with great passion that they do not meet that woman on the radio. I should call to God to deliver them into the hands of compassion, understanding and love that we should all enjoy when we are at our lowest. Isn't that the damn point of being an American?

I just don't get why we all don't get that.