Friday, December 25, 2009

This is the One

This is the one wish for you I have on Christmas.

I wish you could see my Sam, the faithful, the fierce, so noble and good. I wish you could see him in his brand-new jammies, eager and excited, waiting patiently to be given the 'ok to open' signal. The imposition of restraint on Christmas morning, a tried and true parental inside joke, is wasted on this boy. He is possessed, with good measure and even better sentiment, of a rightness that makes his center impossible to challenge. He is what prevails when goodness is tested. In fact, he is the enduring goodness that awaits us all. I wish you could feel that. I'm sure it would give you the confidence it gives me that all is right with the world, no matter the troubles of the day.

I wish you could see my Sara tripping down the stairs, bounding through the halls, then tiptoeing into our bedroom, long before the sun comes up, to reassure her densely sleeping parents that Santa, indeed, did come. Had only we known... My Sara, so alive and giggly and noticeable; so shy, intimidated - so like me - she reflects the most hidden pieces of me. I wish those pieces were as beautiful, as graceful and delicate in me as they are in her. I wish you could know her, as I do, to be the magic that speaks only in the shimmer of stars and the twinkle of lights lost in a horizon. She is the vibe in the room, the excitement in the crowd, the ear-to-ear grin that erupts for no good reason at all. I wish you could see that. I'm sure it would give you the joy that must be the meaning and purpose of all life.

I wish you could experience the spirit and joy of my Lucy, so much the young lady, squealing with delight when she receives the long-awaited gift on Christmas morn', from Santa, of course. Would it be a shame to take pleasure in whatever baby-like qualities remain? No matter, I do. Though even as they fade, there is a bloom about her that is unflolding, softly, sweetly, not without thorns but lovely in anticipation. She reaches out to receive a life where the hint of who she is will be revealed in finest splendor for all the world to enjoy. This, under the gaze of a generous and doting sun, washed by the wishes of those who love her - adore her - and rooted in the strength of character she's possessed long before this change could stall or stray her. I wish you could be with me to see it all, and I wish it would give you the fullness of heart it gives me.
So this is the one wish: I wish you the confidence to dream and dream big, it is a beautiful world; the joy to live, really live, with a broad smile about the whole thing; and the reason, whatever it may be, to open your heart and fill it with all that is here, and all that will come. And may God bless you and keep you now and always. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Holiday Random Post

Who knows when I'll get back to this, so all the random holiday thoughts I can muster are here to ornament your memories of the season.

I totally love red christmas balls. Can't say that around my son without infecting the house with giggles and snickers. Ah, the nine year old boy's sense of humor...

I wish I could be a million sparkles shining down on everyone I love during this season. Instead, I'm a million wishes in a dollar store gift bag.

People who work at the dollar store during a down economy should be given TARP money for all they suffer at the hands of overwrought customers trying to tie together a million-dollar look for under three bucks. God bless them one and all.

Cleaning house day for the holidays ought to be a federal holiday. A gal can't work and do that at the same time.

My hot chocolate is always either too sweet or too bland or too hot to drink until it's too cold. Is it too much to ask for the ability to make a dang good cup of hot chocolate?

On that note, mini marshmellows simply don't do it for me. I prefer one big fluffy marshmellow melting all across the top of the cup. Which never happens for me because I can never get the temperature right.

I let my husband pick out the Christmas tree this year and he, of course, picked the least expensive tree in a variety of pine that I loathe. Sadly, the tree is gorgeous and now I'm forced to tell him that all the time.

Lucky for me, he won't remember it three days after it's down and I'll make sure to remind him next year that I hated it.

Why is it that no matter how much I try not to meet new people or make new friends my Christmas list becomes exponentially larger every year? I suppose it doesn't help that my extended family keeps having babies in twos.

As an added bonus during the craze, my body apparently experiencing global warming. I'm freezing all the time. Except when I'm boiling hot. This could explain the hot chocolate debacle. Or be a sign of things to come. Yeesh.

That said, at my ripe old age I still have no idea what to get for my mother. It's the bane of my holiday season. Aside from the temperature problem, that is.

My babies still believe in Santa. Or pretend to for my benefit. Either way, I love it. Gives me hope that innocence still has a place in the world. It's upstairs tucked into bed.

When it's all said and done the tire, the mire and high-wire act one must perform to participate in the celebrations of the season should leave one spent and flushed but thoroughly pleased. If that works out for you, let me know?

Funny how my homemade gifts still require the use of technology that to generations before mine would have seemed alien in concept, much less application. So, by 1920s standards, I'm as cutting edge as a space shuttle vacation on Mars!

Also, is it me, or has anyone else noticed that just about everything on Star Trek is now normal, every day stuff? That's just wackadoodle.

The nearer we draw to the end of the year, the more I'm compelled to reflect and remark upon the sheer thrill of surviving it all, not just me, but everyone I know. I'm also compelled to wonder how in creation we'll keep it up. But then, that's the fun of it, isn't it?

The smile being the best accessory to any outfit, I'm wondering if my jeans could get on board and just suck in my hips for me when I grin from ear to ear. Their lack of cooperation making for less-than-favorable reaction from the full-length mirror. While I wait, the waist-high wall mirror will have to suffice.

I love, love, love the smell of Christmas candles in every variety. Except that gawd-awful spiced cake thing I got a couple of years ago at an outlet store. Smells like spiced foot. I swear I've thrown it out eleven times and every year it resurfaces.

I blame my mother.

It's got nothing to do with her. It's just simpler to keep all the blame in one column. Sorry Mami.

And while we're on the subject of sorry, let me insert a blanket 'sorry' here for all the folks I'd love to love more often, especially during holidays, with more attention and more time, but simply can't. I'm starting to think that guilt manifests itself in me physically as hair, which is why I look like a female version of that hairy character in the Harry Potter movies. Something to think about come resolution time. Must get a guilt-cut.

As for resolutions, I'll have more to say (natch) but for now, this: I resolve to keep at it. To keep trying, to keep my head up, to keep smiling, to keep expecting the best and bracing for whatever comes with the best cheer I can gather and the most strength I can find, offering the best care and most love I can give, until I'm thoroughly spent, flushed, and pleased. When that happens, I'll order a nice cup of hot chocolate from someone who knows what they're doing, and rest.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Insert Title Here (I can't think of one)

First, in case I never get back to it, Happy Holidays to everyone!

I'm sure my uber-Christian brothers and sisters at Fox cringe when they hear that, even from this distance. (They are far, right?) It's only because their little X-Mas Elf ears affect their hearing. Not news to the rest of us but apparently, over at Fox News, they haven't heard yet that the world - nay even our country - is not entirely made up of people who believe Christ is the son of God... GASP! Avert your eyes Sean, Bill, Glenn. It's ugly.

I will say in defense of the 'Save Christmas Patrol' on FNC, I have the same reaction when I find out some people are not Cubs fans. That boggles.

Next, I've so so so much work in front of me in every direction, just thinking about it makes me tired. Do you feel that way? I used to look at tons of work and purposely ignore it and go have fun. The youthful me was such an optimist. "I'll have time later." The current me knows there is no time later that isn't filled with something.

Also, along those lines is it me or is 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' offensive? Men need a song now to tell them to relax during the holidays? Please.

On another 'is it me?' front - British accents are usually very pleasant. Except during holiday season (attack of the flying tea bags!) when they seem snooty to me. Right?

Went to the office holiday party (is that Greta Van Susteren coming at me?) and all the babes in the office were hanging all over my husband. Husband soaked it up with a big smile most of the night. Mock jealous rage ensued. Couldn't help a smug smile on the way out with my party-hit of a man.
Went to my kids' holiday concert (watch for flying 'no-spin' gear) and was completely renewed in my faith that no matter the troubles anywhere, all is right with the world. Beautiful children, with hopeful voices, learning to overcome nervousness and worry with hard work and dedication; learning that no matter how different they all are when they come together it is beautiful; finding ways to share each other through a universal language; millions of ways to enjoy that evening and the lilt of loveliness in the air was only one of them.
Went to a friends' holiday celebration (look out! they've launched the Rove!!) last night. She had been having lavish holiday parties for years and then started taking each year's down a notch on the extravagance scale as the economic faint of the last few years took hold. Finally, last night, she did a pot-luck. I think she was a little worried about how it would turn out. It was fantastic! The luxury of old was replaced by an abundance of beautiful dishes carefully crafted by those wanting to impress with their offerings - they all did, generous amounts of wine, the good, the mediocre and the 'who cares, it's wine', and people, all different kinds, shapes and struggles, just happy to be together. It was beyond delicious all the 'way round and I was so pleased for her that it truly was an evening of celebration.
Last, just curious. Why is it that when we see people wear elf outfits for holiday events (did you see that Hannity mug fly by?) we think it's cute and it makes us smile - but when I go out in my little elf hat and shoes, everyone steers clear of me? Is that fair? Or balanced? Don't answer that.

Monday, November 30, 2009

No, I can't.

Y'know that old adage "I think I can, I think I can"? And is there some song that goes with it about a rubber tree plant? (Why I'm compelled to think of Lavergne and Shirley when I remember that is beyond me. If you know, do tell.) Am I rambling already? Yes. Forget that part. I'm on something else. I'm on "I think I can".

"I think I can." Really. Really? You can? How do you work a full-time job, keep a tidy home, love and pay attention to your children, be a devoted spouse, provide support and care for your aging parents, spend time with your friends and extended family, and keep a trim, healthy figure, stay fresh on current events and make appropriate facial expressions during group conversations? You know how? No you don't. You don't because I don't and I call bull! It's really impossible.

I'll admit, it has never been easy, but there've been times in my life where I had most of my stuff together. Then, like the plate spinning fool of old television, I added more and more spinning articles to my repetoire. I added a spouse. He came with in-laws. (Should have read the manual on that purchase!) We bought a car. Then a building. Then had a baby.

I was fat, but that wasn't new. And all the other plates were happily spinning along, so we had another baby. Oh. Uh. Yeah. About that. Make that two. Ok. No worries. We can handle it. Bought a house. Kept the building. Got another car. (I'm saying car, but what I mean is disgusting green minivan. But show some kindness and let's just say car, o.k.?)

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

Anyone who watched those shows knows that the more plates that spin, the more poles you need in the air to hold the plates. And the more plates you put up, the faster each must spin, in order to give you time to get back to the first plate.

Family needs me - SPIN. Mother needs me - SPIN. School needs me - SPIN SPIN SPIN. Friends neglected - SPIN! Kids need me - SPIN and need me more - SPIN SPIN. Family spin teetering on the brink of collapse - RUSH SPIN SPIN SPIN. Wait! Clients need me. SPINNNNN!

And then, despite all the frantic racing back and forth, all the late-nite spins, the early morning spins, the coughing and tired but still spinning spins - despite all that effort a plate crashes to the floor. Loud, embarrassing, and halting. If you stop to stare at the smashed china you'll not have time to get back to the other plates wobbling and flailing on their respective poles. So you give a brief eulogy in your head for the innocent plant that turned into a potted ode to death in your dining room and get back.

Adding to your grief, someone who's equally busy - or maybe moreso - seems perfectly calm and mania free and advises you to stopy worrying. And if you're me, she's probably thinner than you! Where's the justice I ask?

The sad and pathetic truth is, if all this plate spinning had me model-thin I'd probably not give a hoot. But I'm one of those people who does not get slimmer with stress. I get facial rashes. So, I'm tired, have bags under my eyes, I'm fat and have a 3-D multi-colored rash on my forehead.

I don't know how I got into the plate-spinning business, but I will tell you this: I hate rubber tree plants.

As for "I think I can". Actually, no. I can't.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why This One?

Thanksgiving should be the most important holiday ever. Why? (I just knew you'd ask.) Because this holiday is the very essence of what a holiday should be. A holiday is a respite from the ordinary, a vacation - even if for only a few hours - from the every day. So the table is set a little more beautifully, the meal is prepared a little more carefully, and the occasion of being together with ones you love is felt a little more deeply. Isn't that lovely? In theory, it is. And that's what I want you to focus on.

Because the actual setting of the table, when your back hurts and your feet ache and your family is helping about as much as a collection of lawn gnomes might isn't always pleasurable. And the frantic resetting of the table when the cat knocks over your fancy glasswear and pulls down the tablecloth two seconds before people arrive isn't any better.

Meal preparation in the magazines and t.v. shows doesn't look anything like it does at my house. Here, the kitchen generously donates itself not only to the task of boiling, baking and burning (let's be honest here) the most important meal of the year, but also bends to receive the automotive project du jour, the incessant display of whatever "mommy LOOK" item is being paraded by a child, and the hotel switchboard-like ringing of the manic house phone.

As for holding the occasion of bringing loved ones together more closely? This is probably the most complex brush stroke on the painting, isn't it? 'Some of these folks,' you're thinking, 'I wouldn't admit to knowing on other days of the year.' Or am I the only one that thinks that? No matter. It's so hard not to be grumpy about the repeated loudness of some, or the chronic lateness of others. In fact, the same things that bug you on other days can seem magnified instead of lessened on holidays when you are stressed and excited and tired.

I know. But when that happens to you tomorrow, try something new. Close your eyes for a minute and think to yourself - 'This moment, this person is a gift to me that I could not have received on any other day but today.' And then, allow yourself to be glad for it. Give thanks that your mother, so slow, so annoying, so picky, is here to share this day with you. Smile broadly at your baby who, despite every instruction to stop bugging you, has come into the room to show you yet another stick-figure picture. God willing, that baby will grow up to celebrate with his own small family some day, and you'll not be there to smile. Wrap your arms around your husband, partner or companion, and thank him for working on that messy project in the middle of the kitchen. He's spending his holiday working to solve a problem so you don't have to. For that matter, gentlemen, remember to warmly thank your wife or sweetheart for the care she devotes to you on this and every other day. She loves to hear it, and doesn't mind at all when you repeat it.

This holiday, this brief journey away from days of drudge and drear, is a day to give - and give generously - of something you don't need to budget, save or shop for. Just thanks, in copious amounts if you're doing it right. Spend freely, without limit, and enjoy the bliss of reckless abandon that we've all come to avoid in other, more traditional expenditures. Tomorrow take a break and open your heart deep and wide and give thanks, as I do to you for sharing this moment in your day. And in keeping with my own advice - here's an extra for the road - Thank You!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Last Word

The American system of justice in all its glory is nothing to be feared, avoided or circumvented. It is the envy of all justice systems. It is the reason we are so great. A display of our fair, impartial and corruption-free system of justice as it carries out the proper consequence for the greatest terrorist act against our country is entirely the right thing to do, and should go far to restore the world's confidence in our moral justification for global leadership. Now if you're afraid that our system is not fair, impartial and corruption-free, or you believe we are not great, or that we have no moral justification for global leadership - if that's what you're afraid of, then you've an entirely different problem. I am not afraid. I have faith in our system. I believe, in the parlance of some on my ideological right, that "these colors do not run", nor do we whine when we don't get our way, nor do we fight one against the other. Our enemy is not our brother. Instead, our enemy, after too long a wait, will be brought to justice as he should be, in the place where he can smell the unity of our cause and feel the palpable truth in our one step. In this country he will be tried. In the country he tried to sink but failed. In the country where justice is blind but not stupid and our pursuit of it is righteous but not arrogant.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

When Tony and I bought our first property, I was pregnant with Lucy. It was a time of great hope, dream and joy for us, despite the attendant drama that goes with such a big move. We bought a modest building in a comfortable working-class neighborhood and settled in for the work of updating, upkeeping and making home.

Next door, a couple with their two children served as ambassadors for the neighborhood. He knew everyone and everything and if he didn't he bragged on as if he did anyway. She was sweet and mild and easy to laugh. Their children, both beautiful, were lively and precocious. We became fast friends.

And through them, we became friends with everyone on the block. There was a couple down the street with two young boys, a family of five with kids of every age, and a single guy living with his elderly parents. There was an unmarried gal living in their place and a couple with two older children to the north. Everybody knew my neighbors and so we got to know all of them.

We were unlikely matches, all of us, crossing economic, language, cultural and religious barriers to enjoy a backyard barbecue or hang out in front while the kids played. But we were comfortable with each other, like warm sweaters, and we all enjoyed the time we spent together. When I became pregnant with the twins just a year and a half after I had Lucy, the whole block joined me in being excited and nervous. It was a wonderful time.

Time marches on, as they say, and of course, things change. We'd had a longer term plan in mind when we bought the building, but the twins altered our math a little and we soon found ourselves bursting at the seams. Mostly by accident, we found a house nearby and were the first to leave the block. We kept the building as an investment (hah!) which kept our ties to the neighborhood strong and our friendships continued even after we moved.

Sadly, the young man who lived with his parents had to say goodbye to his father, who passed away after a brief illness. Tony sold the building and helped the mother find a nearby apartment. The young man moved off to a far away suburb to escape his sadness. (It didn't much work, from what I can tell.)

Another family - faced with the prospect of having to place their sons in less-than-desireable public high schools, decided to move closer to a private school. Tony sold their building and helped them buy another place. The neighborhood got markedly quieter after that.

The large family that had been renting several doors down decided it was time for them, too, to go. The older children to the north of me went off to high school and then college. Their parents, who always kept to themselves anyway, retreated further.

And so the only ones left were our original next door neighbors. Steady, dependable, always willing to lend a hand, this family had always been there to openly receive newcomers and to wave goodbye as family after family left.

And now it is their turn. The father, our friend, has become ill with, mostly, self-inflicted ails. It's terribly sad. The son, now college-age, returned after a year away at school to help out at home. The daughter, a few years older than my Lucy, is just now coming into her own, but it's a slow walk. And the mother, our quick-to-smile friend, is carrying on despite the hardness of the situation. Tony's selling the building and we're going to help them find a new place, hopefully close by.

The thing is - this is not the way I thought all these lives would carry out - with death and loss and injury. I can look at it all and find the incredible good - the two gorgeous boys who moved away with their parents are every bit of wonderful and good and smart; the widow who moved into her own place has found new life with friends and family members and a granddaughter who lights her life; we have gone on to live a magic-induced dream of a life with beautiful babies, and a warm home and lots to celebrate. And I know my friend will find peace and happiness in her new life with the children, away from this place where I think many sad memories reside.

So I can look at all that and be happy for what has and will come.

But I have a sentimental desire to return to those September eves when we'd all be out in front, kids laughing, moms chatting, dads mowing - when none of us had lost a parent or watched a loved one wither. I always think, if I could just go back and hug those moments of my life a little tighter, it would make me feel better.

But I can't. I know. And I wonder what lies ahead, given what has gone. It is, indeed, a long and winding road.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can't Be Completely Original Every Day

Some days, it is better to borrow someone else's words, isn't it? This, from the lovely Miss Sara:

As I Go To My Mother

As I go across the

Valley of blossoms

I see the nature of leaves

Coming to me

I feel the cold and chilly

Breeze of fall

And how I wish

I had some nice crispy pumpkin pie

I jitter my fingers upon my toes

So soothing

I could feel my mother

Call me

So Softly

As I could feel her in my heart

As I sit upon a sturdy branch

Waiting for my mother

Running to get me

I feel the soothing dreams

I scooped out all of my


And run to my

Beloved mother

From Sara to Mommy

Not to leave a good weep unpaid, I will reply to my treasure with the following.

I Go Because

I run to you

Because I'm lost

When you are away

I am brash and foolish

When I don't


You are my reason and center

My soul

The cool breeze carries my wishes

To soothe you, surround you

Sweeten your sit

Upon the sturdy branch

Until I can come

And draw you into me

Gentle, Soft, Kind


I Go Because You Are

My Baby

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Church Wants My Money

I had an interesting moment yesterday when I got home and picked up the mail. I got a letter from my church. They want money.

I suppose I should clarify. When I say 'my church' I mean the church in my parish. I am a registered parishioner, and I have been to the church on a few occasions. So, loosely, this is 'my church'. In fact, however, the church and all its attendant accoutrements are largely absent in my life.

Not surprisingly, the pastor remains blissfully unaware and so wrote to me that the parish is 'struggling to meet [its] fiscal responsibilities', requiring '$48,000 to operate monthly'. Wow. That's a big number. That's more than half a million dollars a year. The money, according to the letter goes to 18 teachers, 5 pastoral staff members, and 7 support staff members. That's 30 people. Okay.. ummm... carry the 3 and... that's less than $20k per person. Oh. That's a small number. Like the fine Catholic I am under this fast-talkin' veneer, I immediately began to feel guilty.

But wait - I've always presumed the church was getting a boatload of money all the time. I paid for my wedding mass, my children's christenings, have contributed to every funeral mass I've attended, and have provided regular donations to Catholic Charities ever since I was an adult. They ask for crazy money to enroll my children in their schools. If I can't afford that they ask for mortgage-worthy money to have the kids participate in catechism classes. They ask for money every week at mass, for St. Pete's sake! They've got money, haven't they? So they need more money?

I tried to talk myself out of feeling guilty but I'm a damn good Catholic at heart, and the guilt riddled me as I continued my bipolar grumble through the rest of the mail. I couldn't dispel the anvil of obligation weighing on my shoulders. So to ease my mind - and occupy the three minutes the babies were elsewhere entertained with Daddy - I sat down to skim through my latest edition of Time magazine.

And there it was. Page 34. The highlighted excerpt caught my eye.

Right-wing Catholics lobbied the

Boston archdiocese

to refuse the Kennedy family

a church funeral.

Read that twice.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, according to the article, claimed that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who presided over Ted Kennedy's funeral, was 'under the influence of Satan, "the father of lies"'. I read on, mindful of my rising temperature and its implications for the health and well-being of the innocent magazine becoming more and more fiercely clutched in my grasp. Details followed about the on-going debate among Catholics regarding politicians - or any flock members I suppose - who believe that a person's stance on abortion defines the entirety of his rights to the Catholic church, its services or its support.

I'm sorry, what?

Yes. According to some, if you are a pro-choice person, regardless of your otherwise stellar Catholic comportment, you deserve no funeral mass. You don't have to have an abortion. Your attitude sucks the worthiness right out of you. Believing in another person's right to make their own choice makes you such a grave embarrassment and disappointment to the church, that even in death, you cannot be redeemed sufficiently to allow your loved ones to grieve in the house of the Lord.

I've been horrified by the church before, but this one really made the bile rise.

Forget Kennedy and forget this Archbishop or that Cardinal. Just like voters who have no grasp on the constitution, Catholics who have no understanding of the simple tenets of the religion ought keep their opinions silent.

From the Gospel, According to St. John, Chapter 12, 44-50, King James Version

Jesus cried and said, he that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

Where does it say there that some imbecile from the Vatican gets to decide that I'm not Catholic enough because I believe people should make their own choices? May the good Lord help me to understand those who judge the world when not even His own son would do so. How dare these pastoral phonies presume to speak for the Lord, in whose name the Son forgave Judas, saved Mary Magdalene, and gave His life for all sinners? How impudent can they be to suggest that Satan resides in the heart of a man who humbly presides over a ceremony to respectfully dispatch a soul, seeking God's acceptance? It is not the right of the presider to decide whether the soul is admitted into His heavenly home. This is the purview of the Lord Himself. So if the celebrant usurps the Lord's authority, is he not more guilty than the supposed lost soul in the coffin? Blasphemy is the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.

Quotes, definitions and interpretations aside, is not the Lord's teaching one centered on compassion and forgiveness? The filth and vitriol integral to the modern Western political process is finding false roots in our religion and I for one will not abide by it. The right of choice may be a debatable one. The choice to allow others to choose does not a sinner make. And the judgement of sin is best left in the capable hands of He who has not sinned.

I silently affirmed this to myself as I held my Time magazine in one hand and the letter from my pastor in the other. In essence, my pastor must know that the reason his church is failing to meet its fundraising goals is because my Time magazine tells me that my church won't bear - at least not without argument - my funeral. The journey of every Christian's life is one through Christ to God. I shall let Him decide whether I deserve to be received in His home and it is there that I shall pay - with all the life I have spent - my contributions to the church.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cannot Escape The Random

More unrelated thoughts/questions that need to be expressed. My inability to focus seems to play well with the masses.

Will the gentle people from the United States yield for a question? If a little-known rep from a non-headline-making state wants to get into the history books for all his descendants to see, what should he do?

If that rep joins his opposing party in passing a reform bill that has been at least a century overdue, in a country that calls itself 'the richest country on Earth' and turns a blind eye to the 1 in 8 of its citizens who struggle with hunger, he deserves his 10 minutes. Hunger, in case you didn't know it, affects your health.

My daughter said to me "I think you'll be sunshine." 'What?' from me. "When you die, and you come back to visit me, the way David visits Daddy as a bird. I think you will be sunshine." Unrequited joy.
"Wouldn't it be cool if Daddy was moonlight?" Yes.

There's only one tree on my block with leaves on it. It's in front of my house. It drops a seemingly never-ending shower of leaves on the lawn that my husband so painstakingly cares for all year long. Raking is futile. I shouldn't find that funny, right?

I'm having an incredibly hard time releasing my daughter into the world, even just a smidge, so she can have a little freedom. I've become a storied clown fish on this issue. Funny.

The tepid temperatures, while gorgeous and silky and sumptuous, are enjoyed with a modecam of modesty. Either they are a generous gift from God, a benevolent, unexpected respite to distract from all the other woes and worries - OR - they are a sign of the end of days. Tough one.

I've regressed from my earlier statement about staying home on Thanksgiving to wear comfy pants and eat pie. Having family and friends in the house on holidays is part of the whole thing. Somebody talk me off that ledge, please!

At what point do you call it quits and realize that no amount of cleaning will ever render your house clean? I believe I'm nearing the finish line and I just want to know so I can do a little 'woot woot' dance.
Saw a little fuzzy puppy this morning. I want one! I can talk myself down from that one, but thanks for offering.

Totally plan on writing a book. Any second now. As soon as I can collect three or four thoughts that go together and make sense. Might not be any second now.
Turns out CSPAN in high def is just as borning as CSPAN on the regular channel. In case you were wondering.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Come On, Get Happy!

I can't think of a single thing to write about. Lucky for you, that means we're having 'random day' again!

I tried telling my husband yesterday how much I love him and he didn't get it and made a joke. If you care for him at all, I'd suggest you warn him to have a food taster for the next few days. I love him, but I am part Sicilian.

My children did presentations in school today, one dressed as P.T. Barnum and the other as Barbaro (the famous racehorse). It was delish. I wish my mom could have gone to some of my in-school activities, but I'm even happier that I can do it now for my babies.

That reminds me that my father is a total nerd for missing out on all of my growing up, and he's a double nerd for missing out on all my kids' growing up. Nerd.
Speaking of which, I found out that my oldest daughter is considered a 'nerd' in school. When I was growing up, she would have fallen entirely into the 'popular' category with her green eyes and slender figure and perfect white teeth in a row. I've said many times I probably would not have been friends with her in school. Turns out, it's not because she would have been popular, but because she would have been a nerd! Go figure.

On the subject of crazy, I have this: Glenn Beck is isolation-cell-worthy crazy. He should be quarantined. Or at the very least his mouth should be.

Before you go there: I of course recognize his right to free speech. I therefore further recognize my right to speak my mind about how completely absurd his speech is. It's ridiculous. It's "My shoe has an ear and he'll have pie before the bus comes!"-type crazy. Crazy.

Am I wrong to think that Bob Marley is seasonally inappropriate for office background music now? Somebody needs to cue the DJ.

If I've learned one thing as an adult so far its that all the people I thought were way smarter than me may not be, and alot of the people I devalued may be way smarter than I gave them credit for.

That said, I'm still terribly impatient with people who are not as smart as me. If I've been impatient with you, please disregard that remark.

Forgiveness is a talent learned by example. You first.

I've become one of those people who obsessively puts on hand creams and lotions. Finally, Estee Lauder is going to get her money's worth after all the free samples I've taken from her counters and gift bags over the years. I've been feeling guilty about that.

I wonder if she feels guilty charging me $25 for a stinkin' hand cream.

It is one of life's great mysteries how I always happen to be in a quiet room with my family while all of them crunch, munch, and slurp some food or drink. I've come to believe that it is entirely on purpose and that they're all trying desperately to drive me mad. Joke's on them. I'm already nuts!

I want to see everyone in my family for Thanksgiving and give them all warm hugs and kisses and tell them how much I love them. Alternatively, I'd like to stay home in my snuggly pants and eat pie in front of the t.v. The pants are currently winning that contest.

I've decided that if I keep comparing my figure now with my 17-year-old figure my current figure is always going to suck. I'm therefore going to start comparing myself to a 17-year-old elephant. Amazing how gorgeous I become with just that little shift in thinking!

When other people grow their hair out, does it actually grow OUT, as in across instead of down? Because I think my hair is confused about how this thing is supposed to be going. Figures. I'm terrible with directions.

People who do not understand the concept of reformed healthcare because the government can't successfully run any programs should forego the use or benefit of any federal programs, departments or agencies, including: the legislative, executive or judicial branches of the government and all the services they provide, the military, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the VA, Medicare, Medicaid, the postal service, FEMA, the treasury, the EPA, the FCC, the State Department and so on. They should refuse to read any books kept in libraries that are subsidized by the federal government, withdraw from the use of any federally subsidized highways or bridges, refrain from attending any national parks, and for that matter, keep far and clear of the election process - a federally run initiative. They should reject any federal monies in their schools, especially if the government is holds the schools to any standards as a tie-in to receiving the money. They should blow whistles whenever they see federal workers inspecting packages as people enter federal buildings. They should, in fact, never enter a federal building because, let's face it, the government can't do anything right. The building might collapse while they're in there? And then who'd take care of them? Not us. We don't have healthcare coverage.

If you could only give thanks to one person in your life, who would it be and why? I can't answer that question so I'm hoping you give a good one and then it'll inspire me to find my answer. (Do not pick God. That's cheating.)

Where do you leave your cares when you're told to 'leave your cares behind?' Because I think I've been doing it wrong all these years, which is why my behind is so dang large. But not as large as a 17-year-old elephant!

Which leaves us with "Forget your troubles. Come on get happy. You better chase all your cares away. Shout hallelujah. Come on get happy...." If you're about my age, you'll hum it but may not know all the words. YouTube the video for Judy Garland's version - it's sure to make you smile - as I hope the few moments you spent here did.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pay Attention, Mensos - Here's the Manual

I've heard people say that parenting ought to come with a manual. I agree. And since no one else seems to have a good one and Spock is dead and was not aware of the phenomena that is in-class texting, I'm going to lay down some simple rules. If you're a bad parent, pay extra close attention:
Rule Number 1. PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention to your kids. Listen to what they say. If they're annoying you, turn, tell them to wait until you can pay attention - then follow-thru and pay attention. Go back to them after you're done doing the dishes and say, 'OK honey, show me the picture.' If you don't pay attention to your kids, they will certainly not pay attention to you. That's a hard one, but an easy one to understand.
Rule Number 2. YES. You do have to give up a good portion of your own life in order to participate in what's going on with theirs. Yes, you do have to review school work, even if they (or you) don't like it. You have to read the homework, calculate the math, at least flip through the books they're reading. Suck it up. You have to turn off the show you want to watch and talk to them. You have to have their friends over even if you'd like a peaceful evening to yourself. You have to say 'no' to the dinner out with friends so you can be with your kids. Yes. You do.
Rule Number 3. RESPECT IS EARNED. And that street travels in both directions. Your child deserves your respect if he/she is behaving the best they can. And you only deserve respect when you act like a respectable person. Work. Keep a watchful eye over your babies - at every age. Be valuable and value your children. Speak intelligently. Maintain healthy relationships. Read a dang book once in a while. You are the model they follow. Even when they stray at certain points in their development, they will always return to you if you deserve it.
Rule Number 4. LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH. Love is critical, no doubt. Without it, the whole thing collapses. But love does not compensate for inattention, laziness, abdication of responsibility. You can't only love from a distance. The school educates, babysitter picks up, the grandparents watch on weekends, the best friends' mom has the sleepovers. And you go to soccer games and show up for holiday pictures. Gee thanks. That doesn't cut it. You need to be present. Don't leave them behind when you go to the store. Take them with and talk. Don't make them play outside or downstairs all the time. Let them play right where you are, and you play too sometimes. Don't just hand them a prepared meal. Let them make a salad or toast some bread while you work on the main course. These things matter. They are, in essence, the expressions of love that make up the fabric of a life. Rule Number 1 followers take heed - your children's little hearts depend on it.
Rule Number 5. HARD WORK MATTERS. Of course its easier to do the laundry yourself - or better yet - have hired help. But what is your child learning to help themselves do laundry? Bust your butt a little. Drag them down to the laundry room and teach them how to do it. Then follow them on several trips to do the same thing until you feel they've got it right. And then, this is tricky, insist they do it on some regular basis. Get up off the couch. If you're following Rule Number 1 this gets easier. Just know that everything you teach your child makes him smarter, more capable, more confident. The more you fail to teach the more likely your child is to fail.
Rule Number 6. BEING WEAK IS OK. There are days when you're really going to flop. That's fine. It doesn't mean you don't have a leg to stand on. It means your children have to see you as human - gasp! So you didn't do the dishes yesterday? That doesn't mean you can't demand they be done today. You weren't on time for pickup Monday? Tell them you're sorry you were late. Then be on time Tuesday. When you're sick, let your kids see you be sick and teach them how to show kindness and care for you. Their expressions of compassion will enlighten you both.
Rule Number 7. PANIC OFTEN. I think the whole calm parenting thing is a crock of doodle. For crissakes - you've got a little life in your hands! That's a miracle - magic the likes of which we cannot completely understand. Is there anything in your entire life that you'll ever have that'll be more important? (My husband might quibble about the relative value of his iphone and his plasma screen t.v. but for those of us still rational to think clearly, the question stands.) Of course you should worry where they are after school! You should worry that they're sleeping o.k. - and make damn sure of it! You should freak out if they're not taking school seriously and find out why right away! You should have your heart in your throat if you think they've been hurt! That is your baby, you idiot! See Rule Number 1.
Rule Number 8. DON'T ACT LIKE YOU'RE PANICKING. Rule Number 7 does not give you carte blanche to act like a raving lunatic. It just means you can't take the whole thing with a glass of chardonnay and a long 'welllll' approach. You need to get heated and excited and thrilled and furious and protective. Love is an ACTION word. Your child needs to know that you are having genuine and meaningful reactions to the things that happen in their lives. This is their measurement of whether or not you are paying attention. See Rule Number 1.
Rule Number 9. BE GOOD. We tell children all the time to 'be good'. But are we? Are we kind to others, faithful, fair-minded, unbiased and compassionate? Don't just drop your kids off at school and assume that everybody in the building was brought forward to this moment in time to educate your child. Walk in the darn building and find out. Talk to teachers and volunteer when you can. Don't just use the swings at the park and then go home, leaving behind your trash and your spent energies. Show up on clean-up day. Talk to the kinds whose parents aren't there and show them a little smile or share a laugh. These are children in your community and they need you, along with all the other adults in their lives to notice them. (Pesky Rule Number 1.) If you care about your church or your politics or your environment, participate and take your kids with you to participate. They will do good, be good when they follow your example.
Rule Number 10. LOVE IS EVERYTHING. Despite the tone of Rule Number 4, it is to be understood that love is all we live for, as children, as parents, as humans. Love is expressed in a million different ways, as above, and more. For me, love spills out and covers everything. It touches and holds and smiles. Love is warm and sometimes fierce and fiery. Love is whispery and gentle and delicate. My love for my children is constant and permeates all of me, every move, every action. It is in my voice, even when I am angry, and it is in my food and my furnishings. My children may walk away from their childhoods knowing full well that as crazy as I am, I have loved them as completely and thorougly as a body could be loved. And that truly is everything.
The 10 items above are the rules that came naturally to me as I started out on this little adventure. I've other, less critical bits of advice in my head like:
- don't let them put captain crunch in their noses (don't judge me!)
- if you believe in Christmas, a real Christmas tree is environmentally irresponsible but entirely necessary to a successful childhood
- walking the kids to school is the right thing to do, but if you're too lazy, it's better to drive with them than let them walk alone
- after your first child has had three doctor visits about coughs you needn't ever call a doctor again about a cough; they always say the same thing
- dress your kids like you care how they look; appearances matter, whether we like it or not. also your kid looking like he just dropped his rumpled butt out of bed does not help him with the ladies, either
- candy, in moderation, is good for all of us; candy, in exaggeration, makes your kid a lunatic and prevents me from inviting her over after school. your call.
- if you reprimand my kid in front of me and you're right, we're all good; if you reprimand my kid in front of me and you're wrong, apologize or prepare to be decimated.
- children should be respectful of all adults, but obey only the ones they trust. this is an important one.
- children are a joy and should be treated as such, unless they are being annoying, in which case they should be called on it so they know how to identify annoyingness in the future - its a public service
- kisses, hugs and snuggling are always o.k. except when mommy has cramps. this is especially true when your son weighs over a hundred pounds but still likes to jump in your lap.
- potty training is the devil's work. hire a professional.
- gardening with children inevitably leads to lots of mud, mangled flowers and a frightening array of toys in your garden. it's great. you should try it.
- PB&J on a suede couch is a bad idea. just trust me on this one.
- cats prefer not to be petted when the petter has superglue on his or her tiny little hands.
-capes are dangerous when worn over the face. in case this wasn't obvious. as it wasn't in my household. (again with the judging?)
- if you have children in your life, you are blessed by God and should be thankful every day. maybe that should be rule number 1.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It Is True

It is true that in death, there is life and renewal.

My cousin, Michael, is gone. But in the week that he lingered, during which those of us still living said our good-byes, each in our own way, a little seed was planted.

A woman, so often embittered by her conflicted relationship with her daughter-in-law, found common space to occupy, as both women sorrowed and suffered together. They had both lost a love.

A daughter of sorts became a daughter without question as she came forth to trade doubt for adoration, dismissal for devotion. When there is time to grieve, the time for distance expires.

A sister brought to learn the tapestry of a life woven despite her absence recognized threads bearing the scent and color of her early days. So, too, she was connected.

A family disregarded wandered instinctively toward its members, reaching out to touch and hold and share, finding that no matter the differences, the sameness matters more.

Michael, despite his unique, awkward and charmless life, left behind a treasure of grace and gentility which if nurtured and tended may bloom long after these days of pain and grey. In fact, his departure ushers in the bright light of a new day filled with possibilities and potential. There is life. There is hope.

So then, it is true.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random is as Random Does

A few random thoughts of the less vitriolic kind than previously expressed:

When everyone else in my generation hears the word 'ditty' do they start instantly humming "A little ditty. About Jack and Diaaaaane. Two American kids growin' up. In the heartland."?

If I wasn't fat when I was younger, because I see pictures and can objectively say now that there's no way I was fat then even though I thought I was fat, then am I actually fat now or am I just as thin and think I'm fat like I did before? (Clearly, yes, I am fat now, but it's fun to fantasize!)

Why do you have to ask for water at nice restaurants? I get it at McDonald's. But at a $30-an-entree gig? No. If the point is to not waste, give me a small glass of water and buzz off. I hate having to ask for water.

Along those lines, does everyone who goes into a restaurant critique everything from the pattern on the rug to the flavor of butter in the dessert? Or is it just me? (Is this blogging thing supposed to be interactive?)

Ever notice how you never notice a certain kind of car until you know someone who has that car and then every car that's even remotely like that car catches your eye? That does happen to other people, right?

Guys should not wear glossy lip balms, straight or not.

Am I the only one contemplating cashing in all my chips (worth approximately dog drool) and moving to some po-dunk town in a rural community to just S L O W D O W N? I probably couldn't stand it for more than a month, but I wonder how good that month'd be.

Are pocket-coin jangly people aware that they are incredibly annoying? Gaaaahd.
Our company colors are blue and white. Our office is decorated in 80s pine green and fancy-lady-pants' beige. I'm going to go ahead and own the fact that I'm the only one who finds this annoying. But it is and others should be annoyed.

I want to suggest that my kids' school add 'musical productions' to their music-instruction program. I was playing Hangman with a group of kids and none of them had heard of 'Oklahoma!' or 'West Side Story' although one of them wanted to know if Zac Efron was in that last one. You don't know 'surrey with the fringe on top'? Is it just me? I should probably stop asking that question.

I love apple-baked things, don't you? Mmmmmm.

When my mom says, "whippersnaappers" is she putting me on? Or is she serious?

At what point do I have to stop proving to people that I am -blank- enough? Smart enough? Cuban enough? Mom-ish enough? I'm so tired of being tested on that crap. I get some answers wrong, I don't know every Cuban saying and sometimes I'm a terrible mom. Satisfied?

I can never decide when its too late in the season to stop wearing socks. I think it's too late now, but I couldn't find any socks to wear. Behind on laundry. See terrible mom reference above.
That guy David Schuester on MSNBC is having a good laugh at all our expenses given that he hasn't been laughed off the airwaves for using the 'mock journalist voice' as his everyday voice. Nobody really talks like that, or jutts out his chin and sucks in his lips like that. It's a put-on and I'm ON TO YOU David Schuester!
My kids are on this track right now where they ask me 'what's the -blank- you ever -blank?' So, things like 'the worst day you ever had?' or 'the best joke you ever heard?' I've found these questions near-impossible to answer. I wonder why I don't know my absolutes.

Ever since Tony got a ticket for turning before coming to a complete stop my kids yell 'ROLLING STOP!' every time I come to a stop sign. Makes me want to jump out of the car and scream 'ROLLING (something else)!!' Again, just me?

Also, the 'punch buggy' thing bugs me because I just don't have the hand-eye-mouth coordination necessary to compete effectively. Survival of the fittest is totally fixed against me.

I don't mind the Christmas decos in the stores this year -even though I think they started in June. The colors are festive, makes the stores look alive - unlike Halloween decos which are, I'm sorry, yicky. Seeing the stores look so upbeat makes me think 'somebody must be happy'. Someone else being happy makes me happy. And that makes me happy.
BTW, look at the carpet in nice restaurants and tell me they don't all use Christmas colors in their patterns. They do! They do it to make you happy! It's an industry-wide practice. (So does this work on non-Christians? Put that on your tree and light it!) And now that you're thinking about that, you'll check the carpets all the time and I won't seem like such a nut when I do it. Hah!
I thought about ending on that silly little item and then this occurred to me: 'If that gal doesn't stop laughing I'm going to stab her.'
It is me talking, after all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Michael, I Hope

My cousin, Michael, is dying. It's not a huge surprise. He's had a series of ailments over the past several years, been in and out of hospitals, and has been so ravaged that he has become virtually unrecognizable. Illness, however, is really the least of his hurt. Over the course of his adult life, Mike has been on-again, off-again estranged from his parents, at last call his brother and sister have no contact with him at all, and most of us in the wider family circle haven't seen him for ten years or more. His wife is odd with him, at best. They never had children. He did help his wife raise her nieces after a terrible accident left the girls orphaned. The girls don't speak to him now. Michael, as you may have gathered, is alone. He has always been. He is the kind of person who could be in a crowd of thousands and still be alone. A single drop of water, lost in the sea.
Michael is the oldest of my cousins. He was a beautiful baby with a perfect round head, smooth, pale skin, a swoop of brown hair across his forehead and clear, sweet eyes. In a different time, perhaps, he would have been a golden child, showered with love, affection, pride, joy and the delight of all the adults in his life. The baby pictures I've seen of Mike make him look like the kind of child who's pictures evoke automatic 'awwwwws' - they certainly do in me. And in the very earliest of these pictures, he smiles.

Later, smile-less photo after smile-less photo serves to remind those of us who were there that Michael was not the adored child he should have been, and those soft, sweet eyes have been hardened and unhappy for most of his days. I will not pass judgement on my aunt or my uncle, whose choices would not be my choices, but both of whom I believe did the best they could. I will say, however, that their choices did not land well with Michael and he suffered greatly and quite obviously when we were all children.
By the time I was a young girl, Michael had developed an incapacity for looking people in the eye. He always shuffled his feet and wore an almost physical fret and stutter. He spoke in a soft monotone followed by bursts of nervous laughter attached to some joke played on a loop in his own mind. Mostly, though, he spent his life retreating into himself and never delivering himself into any conversation or any relationship. He was clumsy, prone to becoming red-in-the-face, and slight - the very definition of socially awkward.
When Mike got married, there was a near-audible sigh of relief across the familial countenance. No one particularly liked the woman he was marrying, but the act of getting married was so uncharacteristically normal that everyone hoped it was the start of some new chapter in his life. But just like the hope that existed from the very time he was born, this path didn't take Michael where he might have gone - where we might have hoped.
Instead, his marriage was marked by culture clash, depression, isolation, despondence, anger and disconnect. His wife has been alternately cold and overly possessive. Over the years, Mike has done his part to fill his life with darkness and murk. He has had terrible bouts of temper, both the warranted and the unbeckoned. He has lurched between drinking and food binges that were worn painfully, uncomfortably, but no less so than anything else. And most hard for his parents to watch, he's neglected his health -and then his deteriorating health - to this point of no return. If I had to draw a picture, I'd say Mike is the living definition of the word 'wince'.
For this, and many other reasons, I stopped long ago having any communication with him. Mostly having it and not having it have resulted in virtually the same level of closeness - none.
That said, I have longed more times than I can count, to call Mike and tell him that I love him. I love him for carrying all his burdens so awkardly and still trying to stand - there is great valor in that. I love him for being in so much pain when we were little and surviving for as long as he did - there is a lesson to be learned. I love him because he is owed something that he has never received and he hasn't known how to collect... or how to let go. I think we all do that to some degree.
I love my cousin Mike because he is my family. He is one of the men - whether he knows it or not - who this fatherless young girl looked up to as a child. And when she did, she saw a boy whose eyes were a faultless, flawless blue with a world of promise in them. Today, in her mind's eye, they remain the same. And in her dreams - in my dreams - Michael will not die but be renewed. He will shake away this clouded world and emerge a new man, strong, healthy, tall and full of life. He will hold on his shoulders where pain once rested the hopes and good wishes of those who believe in him. He will not be 'maybe' he will just 'be'. And as such, his promise will be fulfilled and his eyes will shine with the love and joy of a good life. So, Michael, I hope.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let It Snowe Let It Snowe Let It Snowe

Fresh and refreshing, the first snow of the season is always greeted with some grumbles in Chicago, but also with great wonder at what natural beauty the sky can render. So, too, Olympia Snowe brings a refreshing, if ire-inducing to some, newness to the political season. It has been widely reported today that Senator Snowe will vote to approve the Senate Finance Committee's bill on health care reform. And while the great majority of politicians only mimic the folkloric right of a woman to change her mind, Snowe has the rare distinction of actually being a woman, and so retained the right to enter a different vote if circumstances change.It is, of course, not entirely shocking that she is willing to vote with the committee. Most of the summer was spent covering Snowe and her looming decision on this subject. The conventional wisdom had it that she'd be the only Republican to vote affirmatively. The hair-sprayed, blue-suited, talking manikins on cable news spent a good long time discussing it, the possibility of it, the likelihood of it and the consequences if she did or didn't vote as they had prescribed. Now that she's made a decision, there's something new to be reported upon and discussed.If she does, indeed vote to approve the bill, it will be a huge step in a gigantically new direction for the United States. We could debate endlessly about whether or not this bill is the right bill. I'm not interested in that conversation any longer. What I am interested in is making a decision and moving forward. What's more, if Snowe's decision causes others to pause and re-evaluate their motives then she serves an even more valuable role in the process than simply offering a vote. She'll serve to lead the way, just as others in moments of historical import have done.Others like John Hancock. I recently had a conversation with my children about one of the world's most famous signatures, explaining the term "Give me your John Hancock." I pulled up a copy of the Declaration to show them how Hancock fearlessly wrote his name in big bold letters across the document that gave us some of that freedom we so petulantly bicker over today. I imagine his signature meant 'I don't care what others think. I believe in this. And I am not afraid to do what I believe is right.' In so doing, Hancock attributed his brave signature to these fine words which open the Declaration of Independence: When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.In the context of the discussion on health care reform, I wonder if anyone other than Olympia Snowe has thought about the less severe, but no less necessary, need for a dissolution of political bands to assume a station that the laws of nature and God entitle them to assume - a station with fair and accessible healthcare, a station where the compassion of one's fellow citizen is not viewed as encroachment on liberty but rather as birthright and certainty. I applaud Olympia Snowe for dispensing with the irrelevant political ties to which she could have felt obligated in order to draw a stronger bond between herself and her constituents. She places her convictions above bias, declaring as cause for her separation from her party "when history calls, history calls".I'll have another conversation with my children tonight, about the importance of acting on your beliefs. I shall remind them never to be quiet signers. I will impolore them to sign boldly, stand firmly, and declare themselves with the strength of their beliefs behind them. And I'll make sure to tell them that Senator Olympia Snowe is doing just that.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trust Me, Avert Your Eyes

A look inside my head, reveals a short stream of thoughts so far today. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

People make me so mad.

At least today they do.

Who am I kidding?

People make me mad all the time.

I'm mad, mad, mad.

Crabby, crabby, crabby.




I hope that damn phone doesn't ring.


Oh great.

Never mind, someone I like.

Done. That was nice.

Oh great.

Now I have to work.


Totally behind schedule.

I'm so damn ugly today.


I'm hungry but I don't want to eat.

Why shouldn't I eat, again?

Because I'm fat, obviously!



Oh My Lord That Gal Was a Total B*&$#

Not me.

I'm very reasonable.

Boooorrrriiiinnnggg. This desk is so boooorrriiinnnggg.

Ooooh. That's not a good number.

Maybe I'll ask him.

Never mind.

He annoys.

I'm so damn crabby!

Time for chocolate.

I don't want M&Ms.

It's so cold in here.

I want to go home and go meemees in my snuggly cama!

Frickin bedroom at home is a mess.

Is that rabid phone ringing again??


Even blogging sucks today.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Potpurri of Emotions

Early this morning, on my way into the kitchen to start breakfast, I found a series of post-its tucked behind a vase. These were notes written by the same author who penned (really markered) yesterday’s inspirational message. Eagerly, I set out to devour them - smiling before I started - expecting nothing but joy. Here’s what the notes say, verbatim, in what I think is the right order:

Hi, my name is Sara. You may know me, but may not. So if you do please listen and the others should listen too. I am here to talk about gang people. You shouldn’t turn into them. I am only nine but you don’t know what many nine or ten year olds can do. I feel like I can change things when it comes up to gangs. I will always be people’s friends. Unless it is someone I hate. Then, some day we might be friends. It seems that people who seem popular that really aren’t want to be, but they just can’t. They try to but all that happens is they have to dress pretty and pretty much act all cool until they think you are. And popular people seem like they don’t have to do any home work. They think they will pass the third or the fourth grade. But, most likely not gonna happen. I am Sara. Thank you.

Not exactly Yates, I know. But for some reason this series of notes didn’t elicit a simple, or even singular, response. Instead I was flooded with a potpourri of emotions. I was overcome first with an oversized apple of pride. She is empowered and confident! That’s good. Then, the moment became bittersweet. She is strong, yes. But she longs to be accepted and feels left out. This made me sad, melon-choly is it? (I thought about blue-berries, but that was more predictable, no?) I wondered if I’d been there all the times she wanted to talk with someone who would show compassion instead of impatience, or interest instead of distraction. As I contemplated my anger inward, a fire-red fruit, I imagined my vengeance against those who had hurt my baby.

All the while, I held those soft, crumpled notes in my hands, running my fingers across the letters and feeling, in my own mind, the tender heartbeat of my baby against her chest as she wrote the words, smelling the perfume of her sweet, sweet soul. The more I held onto those notes the more wistful I became. How I longed to go back to myself at that age and tell myself I was doing everything right, because some day I was going to have a daughter as magical as this one.

And as I stood in the kitchen with those remnants of a day gone by in my hands, a new day spread across the room and washed slowly over me, temporarily bleaching the words from the page until it seemed I was holding nothing at all. In truth, I was – I am – holding every single bit of it tightly and closely. Through the swirl and sway of emotions one stepped through and took command of the room, blinding me, overwhelming me.


Love, love, love. In every single possible way, I love this child with all my might. And the full, rich, satiating scent of this love stays with me all the days I endure.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Her Own Words

I have this posted on my office wall; a little note from the lovely Miss Sara, left behind after a day of doodling at Mommy's desk. It fills me up every time I look at it. Hope it gives you a little something too.

Dear Mommy

You Make My Heart Beat.

I'd Never Be Here

If You

Were Not Married

With Daddy.

I'd Rather Be Here

Than Not Being Here

I'd Hug You

When I See You

And Jumping Up And Down

I Go!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Color of Gun Control

So we're watching the news the other night, my honey and I, and he flipped to Fox News as he often does during his tour of the evening news. A real comedian, my husband. I like to think of Fox News as the Jerry Springer Show of cable news, whereas your 360 with Anderson Cooper is more your early-Phil Donohue. (Later he became a total warm glass of milk, but early Phil was a rich, chocolaty, berry-filled cab. Look it up.) We usually end up with Jon Stewart, who is the modern-day Walter Cronkite. It is what it is. Stewart takes the news about as seriously as he should, given the content, but like Cronkite he actually informs his audience with depth, thought, and a perverse sense of respect for the truth.
Anyway, I ramble and trail.
We were watching Fox News when they started blaring some infomercial for the NRA... I mean a 'news story' about gun control laws being revisited by the U.S. Supreme Court. Daley's ban on hand guns in Chicago was mentioned and as the reporter droned on indignantly about the loss of civil liberties, a video played of lawful, red-blooded Americans doing fun things with guns. In the background, boot-wearing dads helped their blonde little sons aim at cans in the backyard, they walked with their freeze-dried-haired wives through gun shows, and stood up against their faded red trucks holding rifles and spitting tobacco as they lamented the attack on their gun-toting ways. Very apple pie-ish.
As I'm watching all this I'm thinking the same thing I always think: "They're just so rural. They're not bad people. They don't understand city concerns about guns because they live in rural places where guns are as normal and doorknobs." I'm nothing if not devoted to seeing the other guy's point of view. It usually doesn't change my mind about a damn thing, but I'm willing to see his point.
But then Tony turned to me and said, "Can you imagine what a reversal you'd see from these people if those pictures were all of black men with their little black boys aiming guns at cans? Or Mexican men with their wives at gun shows? The whole conversation would be turned on its ear. It'd become 'They're taking over our country, threatening our womenfolk and our boys with guns everywhere!'"
I snickered back, "You're right! That would change the conversation, wouldn't it?"
And he said, "You want to effect gun control in this country? Have Acorn start registering poor, uneducated blacks and Hispanics for gun licenses. That'd do it."
And the more I thought about it, the more I thought he was right! The image we all have of people defending their gun rights is a Charleton Heston type, wearing flannel and sporting bad hair or a worse trucker cap. We don't think of a young black man in jeans and a Sean John tshirt. We certainly don't picture Julio and his son Paco toting guns through the mall on the weekends.
Maybe what it comes down to is that we figure Trey and Jorge aren't going to read the constitution. Because - have you read it? The 2nd Amendment states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Militia. Context schmontext, right? The origins of this amendment may be in dispute by some, and the current interpretation even moreso. But I'm sure we can agree that the right to bear arms was not intended to preempt the right of school-age children to travel to and from school without being in fear for their lives.
That's what's happening in Chicago, though, and our pathetic laws and even more pathetic enforcement devices are complicit in the murders of our children. Funny, though, that most of the children we are killing don't look like the kids in the gun rights videos. They're not blonde or freckled. They are black. They are poor and black and live in the city. And their mothers weep inconsolably, as would I if I lost my son. And their younger siblings grow up in fear, as would mine, if their big sister were shot down in the street near our home. Their communities suffer the loss of them, as would mine if my child were not able to grow up, work and re-invest in my neighborhood.
Its almost as if minority children are under attack by a persistent and dangerous threat that the army and the police cannot seem to control. Its a good thing, then, that we have rights under the 2nd amendment to protect our families - set up a well-regulated militia, if needed - and that right cannot be infringed. Now, all we have to do is make a video.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Picking Up Chicks

Sam: 'Hey mommy, guess what I heard on the radio today.'

Me: 'What's that Sam?'

Sam: 'Like six different ways to pick up chicks!'

Me: 'Really?'

Sam: 'Yeah. Like at the supermarket - that's one place.'

Me: 'Oh yeah?' Totally not listening.

Sam: 'Yeah. And at a tupperware party!'
Me: 'Tupperware?' Paying some attention now.

Sam: 'Yeah. Tupperware parties are hot places to find chicks.'

Me: 'Hmmm. Never thought of that. You want cream cheese on this?'

Sam: 'Yeah. And you can even pick up chicks in - get this - its so funny - Church!!'

Me: 'Sam, you are not picking up chicks in church. Tie your shoe.'

Sam: 'Oh yes I am. It was on the radio!'

Me: 'Sam, you are not going to be picking up chicks anywhere. Tie your shoe.'

Sam: 'I am. I am going to pick up hot babes.'

Me: 'Sam, what are you going to pick them up for?' Looking directly at him now.

Sam: Long pause. 'I don't know,' slowly. 'They didn't say. What do hot chicks do?'

Me: 'Sam. Tie your shoe.'

Sam: 'OK. By the way, what is tupperware?'

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Silence As Virtue?

My mom always said that to me when I was little. "Silence, baby," she would say, "is a virtue." That was my cue to pack up my noise and ship it elsewhere. In hindsight, I could have answered with 'patience is a virtue', but that likely would have resulted in collecting a righteous return on my bottom so it's probably better I just clammed up.
When I was very small I didn't even know what a 'verchoo' was. I had a faint idea that it had something to do with the Mary statue in church, but that theory was disproven when I learned to spell. Turned out, she was not the 'verchoon mother' I once thought she was. When I realized my mistake, I didn't want to publicize the gap in my knowledge by asking what a virtue was, especially since I'd, many times, nodded in agreement when I was told about this virtue or that. So onward I went, stoicly carrying a desire to have these oft-talked-about virtues even though I didn't know what they were. (This was oddly similar to my desire, later in life, to have 'vander-built' jeans, even though I didn't know why it mattered who built them.)
I was in a fourth grade class when I finally learned what a virtue was, from a nun who clearly hadn't acquired the 'patience' one. She gave a lecture on the seven virtues: chastity, temperence, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. Finally satisfied! I knew what a virtue was. In essence, this was a fancy word with many meanings that could be expressed in its simplest form as 'good'. Patience is good, kindness is good, etc. etc. etc. Grown ups, I said to myself not for the first or last time, make things so complicated. I didn't think more about it for a very long time.
In high school, the lecture on virtues was repeated, this time by a most unassuming, soft-spoken nun who I've come to believe had acquired all of the Christian virtues. Her name was Sister Humiliata, naturally. She talked about how the process of acquiring virtues was not to be viewed as a triumph of the individual but as a gift of spirit to others. Very interesting. Unfortunately, I was sixteen and couldn't dwell on the importance of that message for too long. My hair required much more devotion than my spirit.
The lesson lingered though and recently the concept of virtue has come back to me, along with my mother's wry take on the most important of these to her - silence. I've mulled the healthcare debate, the economic crisis, the war strategies - everything - with this idea of the virtues.
And what I've come to is this: there are many different collections of virtues based on religion, culture and philosphies. They are all worthy of some study. But more importantly, they are all worthy of action. The virtues, the ones that work best for each of us, should serve as the standards by which we approach the big problems facing our country and our world.
In my case, I imagine the good that would come from a little 'Patience' in foreign relations. Add some 'Kindness' to that. Many civilizations believe 'Mercy' to be a virtue. Certainly in health care it must be so. And blessed be the Romans who added 'Humor' to the list. You couldn't watch one session of congressional debate without it. Learn from our Hindu friends that 'Reverence for Earth' is most definitely a virtue.
And what of silence? Is it a virtue? You could argue that it is not. You could hold that silence - in the face of deafening world hunger, poverty, suffering -is the cruelest of all the sins. Silence sent us to war. Silence can mean pain when what is called for is a loud cry. I wouldn't argue against that. But then, silence also offers something else - opportunity. When you stop speaking, you can listen. When you turn down the noise, you can think. Silence offers respite, serenity. And from that place you can wonder more honestly, perhaps more innocently. See a people filled with respect, honesty, wisdom - all virtues - and work toward a world community centered on justice and peace. Serve with honor, speak with restraint and work diligently. Offer a humble soul. Silence is a virtue, I agree. And in my quiet, this is the world I see.