Monday, February 10, 2014

snow

I hate winter.
I hate winter.
I hate winter.

It is February.   A blanket slumped over my shoulders, I gaze through the window on what appears to be the depths of Cocytus....as detailed by Dante himself:  "the deepest level of hell, where the fallen angel Satan himself resides. His wings flap eternally, producing chilling cold winds that freeze the thick ice."  It is morning, when color will emerge from the gray twilight, and, yet, it remains mostly gray.

I could continue to explore my feelings for the dark, dead, soul-sucking ice-gray pit of depression, rendering me nothing less than fetal for 12-14 weeks of the year....
I could...
However, I will acquiesce.  For now, I shall admit, in a quiet whisper...barely heard above my throbbing contempt....the exception to all the distresses this season brings, and pay homage to the miracle of snow.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

How, I ask you, can one despise a phenomenon involving crystalline confetti of purity?  Dancing, spinning, floating like frosty feathers in the empty cold.  Utterly tender and silent, suspended by its own delicate nature until lying down, like a whisper, into a lacy veil, piling effortlessly until the landscape is overtaken by the ubiquitous plume.

When the snow tumbles down, as seen through window pane or windshield, it creates a mood, fluttering like candlelight on a cloudy day.  Light and weightless, or recklessly driven, it layers and blankets and tucks in all that is small and loose and lost, and hushes the mourning of what has been sacrificed to the darkness and covers the stark nakedness, lulling a dormant landscape quietly to sleep.

The first timid flakes appear from thin air, little more than imagination.  And, you peer heavenward, searching for the birth of a snowflake.  You will find that it bursts to life from within an infinitely deep steely gray void  And, the snow cascades, each flake exploding into being, from the nothing gray, in that place above, just beyond the reach of fingertips, only mere seconds before it pelts dewy kisses on steely foreheads and velvet cheeks and perches like a frozen teardrop on hesitant eyelashes.

Sugared roadways become alive with serpentine trails, twisting and writhing until it coagulates and packs down in the tread of traffic.  Children suit up to dive in and taste and roll and slide, while I find solace in what is warm and cozy and slow, in a life of white-hot, blinding speed, and it becomes universally proper to fall limp amongst blankets and pillows while the exhale of a steaming drink fogs my nose...




Friday, January 10, 2014

unconditional

Some time has passed since my last post.  Ahem...
I'm sure there is a well-funded federal case study to find the average time allowance for a new endeavor, or resolution to utterly fail, and I have filled a personal graveyard of abandoned interests.  Nevertheless, here I type, resisting--no, taunting--the laws of averages.

A few individuals of late are prodding this exhausted mother to continue.
So, I told my parents, "Alright, already!  I'll get more pictures of your precious grandchildren posted..."
(Whaaa-whaaa)

Actually, what will never cease to amaze me is the interest of those without nepotistic motive, no common DNA do we share, and, yet these have an interest in the mutterings of a tired (already used the word 'exhausted') middle-aged mom, and, in so doing, they become more than a cheerleader toward this goal, but a cause.
I owe a debt to anyone who reminds me who I want to be.


But, who are these people that cheer us on?  Where do you find that individual banging around in this world ready to dive into you and the minuscule personality trinkets you have to offer?    A relationship is nothing short of a phenomenon.   These people become attached to us in this life, some for a blink and others until there is no more.  And, in the ups and downs, to whom do I consider "blood" vs. "water?"

An infant born, bathes in love unconditional.  A young child demands this love, and an adolescent challenges and frays the fibers of the "unconditional" parameters.  And, I don't care how old I am, I still pine for my parents' love in that deep, hollow place between the heart and gut.  Birth is random. The blood we share is not by choice, it is blind and chaotic and arbitrary.


Yet, we ramble and hurl through the stream of days and months and years, and encounter individuals who matter little, and we don't know their name, we cannot recall the tone of their voice or their scent that lingers in their hair and scarf, and we do not long for their gaze, their thoughts unburdened, the inhale and exhale that fuels the light of their desire and dreams.  They drive a Honda, like so many Hondas, and they drop their keys while paying a cashier.  They have nice shoes and look pensive.  They peck at a phone in their hands, shuttling messages to someone not us.  And, that someone is someone to them, and how and when did it occur?  Were they born into common blood, or was it another chance encounter bound for unknown intention?

 "Blood is thicker than water" is commonly understood to mean that the bond between family members or blood relations is stronger than one between people outside a family (water?).  Life has a way of challenging an absolute philosophy, does it not?  Upon further research, I discovered what appears to be the origin of this phrase:   

“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

Interesting...
When blood sealed a covenant, it was more binding than a family tie.  It's all about perspective.  It's all about commitment.

There is no doubt I understand the complexity of unconditional love, when wellness is hoped for above all else.  To love, without diminishing self, without accepting disrespect or abuse.

I love my husband unconditionally, bound by a vow, a covenant.  To be "blood" through the good, the bad and my many hairstyles of the 90's.  And, I love my children and, unconditionally, through sweat, tears, and...yes, blood, battle the doldrums and trudge the summits that lock child and parent in a tandem journey to discover who we all are and how we will bear the yoke we carry together.  Born in water, bound by blood.

And one day, you may bend down to place keys in the hand of a stranger, or share a bench with a personality reflected in a pair of fabulous shoes.  Sometimes the chemistry, the electric fray in which we are all immersed, will produce a random ricochet that lands and sticks, and you find a friend.  More, really, because there is a sense of yourself in that one, already understood, with words unspoken.  And when you find yourself speaking, tumbling toward fore-drawn conclusions and sentences unfinished yet understood, you will forever share your existence with this one, because you knew from the first spark that this one is blood.

Friday, September 20, 2013

kids at play

close your eyes fall into pleasant recklessness.  feel the sting of every scrutiny, the tick of every clock, and the weight of every bill lift away....
laughing at the ridiculous seriousness of it all.

picture freedom...
feel the caress of a clean breeze and get caught away in it, only to crash down, feet catching random divots of earth, running wildly with no goal, no intention, eyes closed and head thrown back...happiness welling up, ready to overflow into every sweet, warm crevice of your being.

that is play.


children are children because they have little accounting.  they are boundless and grow loose and wild in a world they constantly redefine.

anything can be anything.
anyone can be anyone.
they revel in their defiance of what is, and they take liberties and create, and make light and life and dreams wherever and whenever they please.  it's a power they have, and they own it because they take care to believe it.

i envy their ability to leave the world behind.
i envy their oblivion.
i envy their belief in what is "real."

they live light and untethered.
they don't fret for food.
they don't scrutinize their possessions.
they don't fear for the future.
they don't know the power or oppression of a dollar...
for if they did...
they would not be children at all, they would be victims, robbed of the essence of innocent youth.


 "play," (verb) to amuse or entertain; to take part in a game."

my kids are geniuses at play, rambling around in a loose reality that often blurs and folds into the actual substance of life.  red-faced and breathless, they crash upon me, excited and high on their exertion.
***
"love" must, undoubtedly, be the first "high" in life....making "play"  second.  ("accomplishment," perhaps, the third...)
***
and what becomes of us, 20, even 30 years later?  we take what personal time is left to ourselves, even our family to "veg,"  and we sit, glazed over, with sofa and screen, and a stranger is paid handsomely to entertain us with sport (play) or an act (a play).  and, so, this begs the question:  what happened to our own "play"?

"play," (noun) the performance of a story on the stage."

life has often been compared to a stage.
so...what's the title of my play?
"The Mom-Jeans Chronicles"  "Chaos in the Midwest"  "Doldrums and Dollhouses"
where is my plot going?
are the motions of my life pulling and tugging my limp marionette body beyond my control? 
would i rewrite any of the scenes?
thankfully, i am the playwright.


I hold the script and must decide...
is there room for a little whimsy?  more imagination?  more laughter from the belly over nothing important, but everything that matters?  at times, the "scenes" unfolding have become rote and dull, and it's time to release our white-knuckled grip on the tedious and expected duties that have done nothing but turn us into stiff, ashen, dry, respectable, clean, predictable, fresh-smelling, upstanding, sunscreen-wearing, boring "grown ups," and find that hazy place where reality and fantasy blur...where our children are waiting for us...
and
play.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer




Summer...
The word hisses with heat,
rumbles from the mouth,
lingers on the lips.




Summer is light.  Eager, brilliant light stretching higher and higher still, proud and formidable, fingering through trees, beads of crystal cascading around silhouettes.  



Summer is life.  Life growing so wild it must be tamed.. rich and thick and dense, thriving, but challenged by inevitable heat and thirst.








Summer is sound...buzzing, humming, cooing, chirping, splashing, echoing from the outside in, beyond dusk and into the rich, thick darkness.



Summer is red-headed and runs wild, inexhaustibly, through thick, woolen days that ramble on endlessly. She is young and dangerous and free, and her freedom is intoxicating.  She is inspired and propels untamed toward unknown beauty and dances to the music of the sounds that fill the honey warm air.


Summer belongs to children.

And, while the sun bronzes and bakes their skin, glistening with sport and play, they hum and swarm, and the wild crawls inside and runs deep into their veins, and they pulse with the fire and the light, and their laughter soaks into the hearts of mothers and fathers who only sigh...sigh because they know how quickly the flame of summer is burnt, and the brilliant, sparkling light is soon to fade away.

































Saturday, July 6, 2013

the bees knees

Bees are, in fact, busy.  They are motion.
The "buzz" an audible metaphor of industriousness.
In a honey bee colony, all the worker bees are female.  Hmmm....
Makes you wonder...
or does it?

 I often wonder what my neighbors must think when they see the minivan swing into our driveway for four and a half minutes, only to whip out onto the street again, squealing away toward the next destination.


Moms buzz a great deal of their days away.
Most days become a blur, a blinding repetition of weekdays and weekends that rush to conclusion so quickly, and I wonder where it all went and what was even done.


Now, deep into summer, what does a busy mom do when children thirst for perpetual activity? 

All wired with ADD and hopped-up on multiple "G's" streaming and "fi-s" "wi-ing," we don't handle silence well as a society.  The multi-tasking capabilities of mothers have snowballed toward a multi-tasking of multiple tasks, and we become restless without the stroking of perpetual accomplishment or achieving a life-long goal on a daily basis.  Life expectancy is the longest in history, and we have only managed to feel claustrophobic with free time and suffocate without "something to do."

Our children will fare far worse, I'm afraid...

With "much to do" on one side, and "boredom" on the other, I feel I'm on a teeter-totter of  summer obligation.  I experienced actual panic the last day of school, becoming ever aware of the concierge service I was to provide for these children anxious for a summer to remember.

As I bead with sweat to accomplish and serve, I cast a gaze on the bodies draped on the sofa.  Such taunt skin, glowing in youth, nary a callous to mar the buttery velvet...  Muscles sculpted for bursts of play....  And, the energy we covet as middle-aged adults, energy conserved for the indulgence of pure recreation.... 
I blink hard against the 3:00 lull.  I fight the longing to close these tired eyes, while the kids lick their chops for me to entertain.
Am I breeding a colony of drones, bumbling about with little purpose and even less practical assistance?  Why am I doing all the buzzing?

I have surfed the tidal wave of their presence for so long.  Children leave a path of destruction I have long attempted to remediate like a Superfund site.  As they grow older, I wonder how long I should clean up after individuals for whom I could literally wear their clothing.

This queen bee is ready for some "workers," and they aren't all female in this colony!

I don't want my children to recoil from work and the lessons such work teaches.  It would be a failure on my part to shield them from the basic responsibilities expected from a viable adult.  So, this summer, I have decided to meet their boredom with fun, yes....and a realistic dose of work.

Dishes are washed and put away.
Laundry is stuffed in drawers and hung askew.
The van is combed and emptied.
Beds are proud to face the day.

We attack these chores together, in small spurts throughout the day.  It usually involves 10 minutes of time, as a group, and we are then ready to move on to something more enjoyable.  It may not be done with strong attention to detail, but, honestly, that can come in time.  I'm so outnumbered that any help becomes a compounding savings of time and energy for me, rather than an exponentially amassing snowball of disarray mounting and piling.

Of course, the suggestion of these new expectations were at first ignored, and then balked.  But, they are part of a busy colony to which they should contribute, and why not expect something from them when they unabashedly expect so much from me?  They are growing up before my eyes.  What a shame it would be if they only grew in size and age, but not also mature in a way that illicit respect. 


Though once infantile and helpless, children are amazingly adept, resilient and perceptive.
To witness their growth toward adulthood and to feel the comradery of colony working together...
and, that's the bees knees!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The gift of the present.


My husband has some kind of nerve asking what I'm "doing today."
The last time I checked, he wasn't a detective or some sort of adult truant officer, peeling back the monotonous layers of my domestic routine to uncover the unsavory recognition that I might not be performing brain surgery or saving a species or negotiating a peace treaty.

I always brace myself for this question because it's tiresome to admit that the answer is always, basically, the same.  I'm pretty much doing a version of what I did the day before.... 

While I know he is asking from a place of curiosity, even concern, my jaw still tightens and I must confront an accountability of sorts.  To answer for my time.  To outline the efforts I am making for my children, my family.  I sense an immediate need to create an image of activity that lends credibility to my time and expenditure of my energy. I huff about chores and obligations.  What else would I be doing?  Working my fingers to the bone!  Should I admit the potential for boredom?  Could there be a whisper of laziness?  Indulgence between loads of laundry and the shuttling of his progeny? 

Before I go any further, my husband is well aware of the tedious, ongoing work I do every day, without a doubt.  I also acknowledge the freedom I have to decide how I spend my time and dedicate myself to activity I see fit.  Something, however, unsettles me to account for ambiguous time.

I met a pediatric oncologist the other day.  She also is a wife and mother, and I bet nobody asks what she is doing for the day.  If they did, they would get trumped.  "Just saving the lives of children..."  It doesn't take much to trump me...What are you doing today?  "Well, I thought I would do some housework in my pajamas and find a little time to work on that mystery stain on the couch..."

This all begs the question of how we value time.  What we esteem as important and how we utilize the precious moments we have to spend with our family.  Is there any glory in the everyday repetition of our lives?  Better yet, can there be found joy?

I find that I have a deep, ongoing struggle to live in the present.  As I become swallowed in mindless activity:  scrubbing, pushing a vacuum back and forth, back and forth... I sometimes fall into a black hole of pondering the past and pulling it into my clean, bright present.  And, like a cold front darkening the horizon, the clouds roll in and I anguish over events I cannot change, and darken the possibilities of today, feeling that it is somehow forever tainted.  I also have the tendency to plague my present with the future, of all the things that must change and upgrade in order to sense a proper level of satisfaction with my life.

I found a quote that resonated with me, and I find so much inspiration in it, and really couldn't express it better myself, so I wanted to share...

I “believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. This way of living and noticing and building and crafting can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without ever realizing it.
I don’t want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting.
I believe that if we cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over. The nuances and shades and secrets and intimations of love and friendship and marriage and parenting are action-packed and multicolored, if you know where to look.
Today is your big moment. Moments, really. The life you’ve been waiting for is happening all around you. The scene unfolding right outside your window is worth more than the most beautiful painting, and the crackers and peanut butter that you’re having for lunch on the coffee table are profound" in it's sustenance. "This is it. This is life in all its glory.... Pull off the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted.
Your life, right now. t  Today. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is.
You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending.
You are more than dust and bones.
You are spirit and power and image of God.
And you have been given Today.”
Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

In an ongoing effort to rehabilitate my "present," I am determined to live this summer presently, and find the beauty in it.  To feel the connection to the only thing that really is:  now. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

last day of school

I don't know who is more excited about the end of the school year...the kids, or me...





I have a little bit of hippy-mom in me and truly, truly love the indulgence of free time, free thought, free play.

School is a necessity.  And, I've learned--not overnight, mind you--that routine and expectations are essential to the proper development of a child.  I thought I would be the mom who would let them skip school, at least once a year, just to have a fun day with me.  Rollin' like a couple of fugitives.  Eating cake for breakfast and dodging police cruisers in the park...the only evidence of us being the echo of our laughter against the trees as we duck out of sight onto trails thick with brush (and probably poison ivy).

Reality is the ultimate "stick-in-the-mud," however, and I found I could never find the appropriate day to which I would voluntarily allow them to slip behind, or miss art class, or even believe that I could justify the sugar content of cake so early in the day without at least an egg or a multivitamin to compensate for my lapse in good parenting.

Nope...no skipping school.  Although, I did pick up my kindergartener early once this year to buy the first spring flowers of the year.  I did this with a clean conscience because kindergarten is not legally required in the state of Indiana, and I was only taking her out one whole hour early.  As we crept  away from the school, inconspicuously in a mint green minivan, she explained to me that she told the teacher she had to leave early to go to Lowe's to get flowers.  I kinda grimaced at the expose, but shook it off quickly in exchange for the feeling of brazen rebelliousness.  Born to be wild...yeah...that was us, with our potting soil and daffodils.

It didn't take long into their school careers for my kids to sense my disregard for homework.  Maybe because I waited until bedtime to ask if they even had any.  Maybe because I huffed and rolled my eyes at the sheer audacity of it.  Maybe because I realized that homework for them was, in all actuality, homework for me.  In the elementary grades, I've found they don't always know what they are supposed to do with the worksheet crumpled in the bottom of their backpacks (and, yes...they do have a folder for such things).  So, we parents smooth out the wrinkles, furrow our brow, and read the instructions, trying to decipher the current, super-optimistic-love-to-learn-K-12 vernacular.  What is a lattice?

"Everyday Math" has helped me to appreciate my archaic education.  When numbers had an indisputable value.  A value that was.  It didn't change.  You didn't just keep guessing numbers until you eventually reached the answer, that interestingly enough, had a concrete value to begin with.
I digress...

The point is:  even though education has changed a little over the years, I'm not making a comment on the efficiency or effectiveness of the current system, I just know what school means to my life now, as a mom.  And, after 180 days of packing lunches and dropping and picking up and being the enforcer for the teacher that sends work home, it's nice to get a break, for all of us.

When the end-of-year testing is complete, and field day pumps warm blood into their atrophied muscles, and heat rolls in steady and thick, and the long days cry out for exertion and basking and rambling...  Aimlessly....  Indulgently....
Then it is summer.


 The grind has reached a brief hiatus.  And, we slow with carelessly.  We race to activity.  We pulse with excitement to drip with heat and stomp in the dew and chase fireflies and burst with light and dance with the color of every long-awaited summer day.