Resisting Depression—Like a Boss

 

I stepped over to my manager’s cube and announced my depression. It occurred to me yesterday morning before heading into work, all slumped against my pillow with TODAY and a mug of coffee, that this persistent weight of sadness even Hoda can’t cheer away is simple, unmistakable, good ole fashioned “feeling depressed.”

And searching for a substitute for that word to avoid repetition I realize how perfectly descriptive that word is, depressed: I’m a tongue and the thin wooden paddle of life is squishing me, causing me to gag and my eyes to water. My spirit, the lever of me, is being pushed into submission. I am dispirited. I’m pressed. Down.

I’ll be fine. I’ve felt worse. It’s just that one of those normal life passages that pass for loss looms. My sweet little bird—my second and final—is about to fly from the nest. I realize that this is not a tragedy, but I am more than sad. “You’ve done this before, with your boy,” you say, and you’re right. But that was different. Due to a host of challenges, poor lad, the weeks and months leading up to his departure knotted me up in worry more than sadness.

He was the first, and I ached for him and still miss him when he’s gone, but this one’s so final. This one marks the empty nest milestone and all that comes with it. (When Mayo Clinic offers coping tips, it’s real.) I feel downright depressed, though mildly enough to have energy to seek ways to fight it, thank goodness.

So since my boss, whose only child has been away at college in another state for two years, seems not to be suicidal, I decided to confide in her. “I’m depressed,” I said beneath the office glare, “because Grace is leaving for college in less than three weeks.” I went to her thirsty for some sage perspective, which she offered freely. She gently reminded me of a well-tested device. “Make a list,” she said, “of what you have to be thankful for. Try to focus on all the good things about the situation.” This experienced mama bird was prescribing gratitude.


A List of Good Things About Now, or My Attempt at Gratitude

  1. I have the luxury of dreading my little girl’s departure purely because I will miss her and not because I am worried. I feel assured that she is in a good place, every indication that she is ready to launch.
  2. She was accepted into the honors program and will be living in a spankin’ new residence hall (with AC!) with other honors students at a well respected institution of higher learning. This is a very good thing.
  3. She likes her assigned roommate.
  4. My girl will “only be an hour away” by car. But here’s the thing: she could be a two-hour plane ride away, and the everyday reality of my house is the same—she will not be in her room cuddling our cat, on the couch beside me watching TCM, playing her guitar on the screened porch. No more impromptu “belly walks” around the block or binge-watching Nashville (poor Deacon). But the point of this list is to practice gratitude—so okay, I can get there or she get can get home within an hour if she needs anything (or if I need her). I am thankful for that.
  5. My daughter and I have a relationship that is sweet enough to miss. She and I have a kinship it never even occurred to me to wish for. I didn’t know this quality of mother-daughter closeness could exist. She’s a dear friend, my most fun pal. Her presence is sunshine and light. I want to be more like her when I grow up. If I say more now, I will cry and not stop.
  6. Sadness impelled me to write this blog post, the first in two years.
  7. Technology. My sage supervisor recently used FaceTime to coach her daughter through cleaning a room fan. With the magic of a video phone, separated by 800 miles they conquered a household task together. When I was  three states away in college, I had to rely on handwritten letters and long-distance calls on a wall phone. Grace’s and my smart phones will easily connect us. I will still have access to that sweet face and can hear daily details of her life as often as she allows, and will also be available to her when she needs me.
  8. She seems excited to go. In two months she has gone through her own stages of grief—from bummed about not getting into her top choice, to confusion over the leftovers, to defeatist about where she decided to go, to ambivalence, to acceptance, to enthusiasm enough to design and construct her own tassel-embellished bedspread. This is huge and it all has been a wonder to watch.
  9. I have a daughter at all. God let me be her mom, to live 18 years with this girl. She is a miracle, a dream, and everything good my heart ever longed for. She’s healthy, happy, sweet, kind, smart, and motivated to go forth and fulfill her potential. This is the best case scenario of parenting.
  10. My boss. She is pretty cool, and she is a friend.

I’m still a wee bit depressed, and I probably will be for the next few months at least. But if smiling can fool a brain into thinking it’s happy, then listing the good things about my baby bird leaving the nest may well fool me into acceptance. (Or at least get me to Thanksgiving.)

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Found Wonder: Parenting Teens Can Be Downright Astonishing

Dear Moms and Dads of Tiny Ones,

Less blog post than Sunday snapshot of my life, this here message is a note of encouragement to parents covered in applesauce and urine and floating through the bodily fluid era of parenting. It feels like this, too, will not pass, and as aggravating as it can be, it’s a precious time, and you might dread the teen years. Backtalk, hormones, and delinquent behavior you expect, but here is my message in a bottle to you: parenting teenagers can be quite wondrous.

My son, a senior in high school, leaves his homework and hobby detritus scattered all over the dining room table most days, and on top of today’s pile I saw a handout that stopped me cold. Or rather, I guess you could say it stopped me warmbeautiful boy, beautiful mind

I have no idea what his notes mean, but his doodles never cease to thrill me with wonder. The jocks at his school probably think he’s a nerd, but his mind and passion for language and linguistics delight this mama. What a joy to watch your children’s strengths and fascinations emerge.

And my darling sophomore-in-high school daughter, who is away this MLK weekend to play guitar on a youth retreat, warmed me Friday morning before she left for school and I left for work. As she came into my room for our morning goodbye hug and smooch, in a mournful voice she said, “Aww, I won’t see you till Monday?” The realization that I have a daughter, almost sixteen, who still adores me and would miss my company makes me feel like the luckiest mom in the world.

So you infant-cradling, Goodnight Moon-reading young moms and dads worried about your little angels growing out of this present, precious phase, take heart: don’t worry about the teen years. You think these are the sweetest days, but just you wait. It only gets better.

Love,

Beth

Babies Then
Babies Then
Babies Now
Babies Now

Be Thanking

Living on pins, needles these past months since

Surviving a second heart attack in eleven years I’m finally

Beginning to relax,

Feeling better, better than back to normal, lighter, back to

Working at my

Marketing job for a

Publishing company, which isn’t all that creative but freed me to reserve my creative energies for

Digging into deep thesis revisions, finally finished, and now the joy of

Crafting it into a manuscript, because a friend who read it thanked me for

Revealing, in my stories, a gracious God, a

Loving God, the same one who let my heart keep

Beating in July, so that in November, this quiet

Thanksgiving

Morning I am

Enjoying just

Sitting on my Crate and Barrel couch

Watching another Macy’s Day parade, my 49th, and

Sipping coffee my

Darling husband brewed, and I can see outside tiny snowflakes

Falling, and I can hear the egg timer shaped like a chicken

Ticking down the minutes for the pumpkin pie, my sweetie’s favorite, in the oven

Baking,

Filling our home with cozy aromas after yesterday, a glorious, common day of

Cleaning and

Cooking and

Nesting to give my babies, two teenagers who are still in their beds

Sleeping, memories of a normal holiday with their mother who loves them more than life still

Breathing,

Typing this little post,

Trying in vain to capture her gratitude by

Counting the ways she is blessed with gifts so good it’s

Embarrassing, so extravagant that all she can do is just be

Thanking.

Healing The Heart with a Big Giant Kid and a Little Kiddie Lit

The Runaway Bunny

The second sweetest thing about cardiac recovery is the extravagance of time you find to loll on the screened porch playing the synopsis game with your 18 year-old son, who hasn’t yet read the books you’ve loved in college and half a lifetime, but who has read the books you loved and hated in high school but can’t recall.

The sweetest thing about cardiac recovery is winning at the synopsis game against your über literary little boy-man, with the clue, “a child tries to prove his independence by leaving in many ways, never escaping the persistence of his mother’s love,” and the prize: digging out, dusting off, and reading aloud to this man the book he doesn’t remember finding in his first Easter basket, a book you read and re-read to him before naps, after naps, at bedtime, and so many times in between until the pages were bent and sticky and smudged with too swift a season.

“Have a carrot.”

Have a carrot. Image borrowed from Rob's Thoughtful Spot
Image borrowed from Rob’s Thoughtful Spot

A Pleasant Day to Be My Kids: How To Throw Off An Abductor—Make A Scene

Self-Defense By Ethel
Self-Defense By Ethel

I don’t know what it is about being sick that sends the mind into the dark places, but moments ago as I drove home my sweet innocent, exercise-flushed daughter from her bball game, and my son from the dropping off library materials (Citizen Kane blu-ray and some evolution art book), it occurred to me that if they suffered or died at the hands of an abductor without my ever having told them to “do something,” I would never forgive myself.

Like, scream or something. I mean, if the slimeball sticks a gun into my babies’ backs and tells them not to scream or he (or she) will shoot, I want them to scream like banshees, because there is no chance they’ll be heard in the woods or cave or basement or wherever he or she takes them.

So between violent sneezes at the corner of the 1st and Main stoplight I say to my naive suburban children, “If you are confronted by a would-be abductor who says not to scream or they’ll kill you, I want you to scream anyway. Because that’s going to be the best way-” and the son interrupts, “-to die?”

Well. Not necessarily, and I try to explain my rationale, that it might be your only chance, maybe, to be heard and rescued. And then I say, “Well. Just do something, and loudly, something unexpected. Like maybe, for instance–make a howler monkey sound at as booming a volume as you’re capable.” They start laughing and for the rest of the drive home join in on what becomes a brainstorm of ways to catch our abductors off guard, freaking them out with the element of surprise and novelty. Chewbacca-2-Among the ideas:

  • Bust out your best Wookiee roar, but eardrum-busting LOUD
  • Hysterical, Cuckoo’s Nest-nutso laughter
  • Criticism, in the form of a Randallesque narration: “Oh, Mr. Abductor Man, how pathetic do you have to be to stick a person up with a gun, I mean, how desperate can you get? I mean, how cliche can a criminal be? Oh, NOW he’s cocked the gun, guess I’ve really pissed him off now, but if I shut up, he’s going to keep abducting me, so I’ll just keep running my mouth off until a)he shoots me, which I doubt he’ll actually do because he’s dumb enough not to have cocked the gun before now he probably doesn’t even have a loaded gun, or b) he just lets me go because I’m just so anooyyying. Is that what you’re gonna do, mister? Is that what you’re gonna do? Okay…
  • the black speech of MeowrdorChanting the Black Speech of Mordor
  • Show tunes: break into an Ethel Merman impersonation singing, “There’s NO business like SHOW business, like NO business I KNOOOOOW, there’s a MAN pointing a GUN at my back, PLEASE call nine-one-oooooone….”

Oh, so upon further research I see that screaming’s a bad idea. But doing “something” could save your life. Running away is one idea, according to the WikiHow’s How to Thwart an Abduction Attempt: 10 Steps. But I still think belting out a little Ethel Merman could work. I hope neither they, nor I , nor YOU, ever have to find out. Be safe! Do something! Make a scene. Run. Lie. “Fight as if your life depends on it,” because it might.

This Just In: I’m A Harlot, Not An Adulteress! (Aren’t We All) Thoughts On HJR-3 and Me and Not Being a Stinky Christian

the-scarlet-letter

In other news, upon further examination it has been determined that “adulteress” was not entirely accurate. Turns out I was only a harlot and that, after more research into Biblical definitions and semantics, I apparently had it all wrong about adultery.

According to the author of a somewhat prominent Christian marriage site I’d rather not link here (hey, it’s a blog, not a newspaper), “modern Christians” completely misunderstand the word “adultery,” and I quote:

Here’s a simple test:

If a married man has sexual intercourse with his single secretary, has he committed adultery?

If you answered yes then you don’t know the definition of adultery.

He goes on to clarify the matter thusly: “The fact is that anyone who has sexual intercourse outside of marriage has indeed committed a sin (harlotry*) but if the woman involved is not a married woman then it is not called adultery.” He also says, citing Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as his source (“the concordance favored by theologians”), that adultery refers to a specific kind of sexual sin: sexual intercourse with another man’s wife or woman who is engaged to another man. “That’s it,” the pastor-author says. “Nothing else.”

“It is impossible for a single woman to commit adultery.” Hallelujah. Thank goodness I’m a harlot. (Or was a harlot.) Harlot has such a nice ring, doesn’t it?, compared to “adulteress.” Harlot. I like the literary flavor. But wait, no. I was an adulteress and a harlot? Wait, what? Oh, man.

I do subscribe to the following idea asserted on another site representative of Christian thinking on the matter of “sexual sin,” namely that: “God created you with a purpose: To bring glory to Himself in an eternal love relationship with Him.” I love that about God. He’s such a lover. I also buy into the notion that “God invented marriage as a living metaphor for how He desires our relationship with Him to be.” My non-believing husband demonstrates this Ephesians 5 standard of marriage, driving me deeper into understanding of Christ’s complete and sacrificial love for His bride, men and women who follow Him.

25 Husbands, love your wives. Love them just as Christ loved the church. He gave himself up for her. 26 He did it to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her with water and the word. 27 He did it to bring her to himself as a brightly shining church. He wants a church that has no stain or wrinkle or any other flaw. He wants a church that is holy and without blame.

28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives. They should love them as they love their own bodies. Any man who loves his wife loves himself.

That’s the extreme to which my agnostic husband loves his Jesus-freak wife. Lucky me, eh? (And I also realize that the passage goes on to speak in terms of marriage applying to a “man and a woman,” but dude: I know gay and atheist couples loving their spouses in this Christ-like way better than many, many so-called Christian [male] husbands and their [female] wives. Don’t even get me started on the stats of violence and other forms of domestic abuse within Christian marriages.) But, in an article examining the question of why homosexuality, fornication, harlotry and adultery are sin I see clearly now that I really have no business being married. Specifically, this line:

“Homosexuality, fornication, harlotry, and adultery pervert God’s purpose for creating us and destroy the metaphor that represents the Holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctified intent of marriage.”

So therefore, dear reader, anyone who has ever had sex outside of marriage—including before marriage, which, according to the Waiting Till Marriage website’s article 4 Cool Statistics About Abstinence in the USA, takes 97% of American citizens out of the running as marriage material—really has no business tying the knot.

Anyone who has ever had sex before marriage—probably most of my high school class and yours—shouldn’t have the right to be married, legally or otherwise. We, all of us, are—or were—harlots, fornicators. We have all, whether in thought or action, perverted the metaphor.

And right now, in Indiana, the handling of a particular piece of legislation singling out same sex couples grieves and infuriates me! When I think of my gay friends who are monogamous and have been in a committed relationship years for more years than my (latest!) marriage, gay friends who are single and more chaste before/outside “marriage” than I was, and more faithful within their unions than I and other Christians who have made poor relationship choices have been, I think this: maybe I am the one who shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

We Christians STINK! Sheesh. We’re such puritans and hypocrites! According to the article “Why Affairs Happen”, in Today’s Christian Woman, “As many as 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women will have an extramarital affair by the time they are forty, according to the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.” And ministry folk? Not great PR/witness there either. “A Christianity Today survey found that 23 percent of the 300 pastors who responded admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry.” 

And that’s not even accounting for the different “types of adultery” (emotional, mental). Jesus said, after all, that “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Por ejemplo: guys from 12 to 102 drooling over barely-dressed young women in just about any television commercial and the February issue of SI, to say nothing of actual porn; women, too, oo-lah-lahing over Don Draper (guilty!) and Adam Levine (again, guilty!). But for some reason, straight-up hetero- gray area impropriety/meta-adultery isn’t as appalling to us church types as homosexual monogamy. Blame the ick factor (<<<compelling NUVO piece from Indy photographer Mark Lee).

It’s not same sex couples being allowed to marry that unravels the fabric of our society, it’s people. Assuming a sex-focused root-of-evil perspective, society has been unraveling for a long time. Remember Thomas Jefferson? Bill Clinton? JFK? If it’s sexual sin we’re fingering as the agent responsible for poisoning our otherwise pure society, then consider the legions of “lustful” senators, presidents, ministers, priests, etc. and other skeezy culprits keeping CNN, FOX News and SNL on the air.

If it’s true that “Homosexuality, fornication, harlotry, and adultery pervert God’s purpose for creating us and destroy the metaphor that represents the Holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctified intent of marriage,” then maybe the Speaker of the House should reword the amendment to include language excluding from legal marriage in Indiana anyone who has ever had sex before marriage or outside of marriage. That would be the ideal. What say you, Brian Bosma?

And as long as I have my Bible open to Ephesians 5, I’m going to spend the day lingering on the first portion of the chapter: “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children and WALK IN LOVE, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to god for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

in defense of this marriage
the Smythe-Moores:
an ideal marriage
41271_422589687131_7466270_n
The “Smore” Family

It’s Not Flashy, It’s Not the Himalayas Or Vegas; BUT Giving Back (and not) Can Happen Here and Small

I started writing these thoughts as an entry for a Thanksgiving season “giving back” essay contest my MFA program was hosting, but when I missed the deadline (over dread of rejection) I decided to make it mine.

Cupcake Girls
More on Cupcake Girls
Below

Last month my girlfriend Brooke passed a few nights holed up in a Katmandu apartment, praying and fist pumping against injustice, ticking down the niggling hours her husband spent in Nepal brothels with prostitutes the age of my 9th grade daughter. He and two men from an organization called Tiny Hands* were there to gather evidence via interviews—and used condoms, when they could got their hands on them, yes-you-read-that-right—for local authorities to use in the prosecution of sex trafficking perpetrators. Brooke and Jeff are taking a year away  from their real jobs as social worker and physical therapist to travel the world writing and photographing for a social justice travel magazine—first to Rwanda, then Cambodia, Nepal, Vegas and Cuba.

Kind of kicks the shit out of the cans of creamed corn and kidney beans I plunked into a grocery bag and placed on my front porch for a local church to pick up for their food drive a few Sundays ago.

And then some little girl featured on Christian radio, Gracie, just five years old, knocks me down. She got it in her mind after watching Cinderella or some such shoe-related fairytale that she wanted to collect 67 pairs of shoes for children whose parents can’t afford them. She handily exceeded her goal to the tune of 80 pairs to donate to this organization that exists to shod “orphan souls” around the world.

Kind of makes my one shoebox a year stuffed with underwear and crayons for Samaritans Purse to send as Christmas gifts to kids across the ocean look anemic, flaccid, half-hearted.

DIY bookshelf makeover
The Boy’s DIY Book Shelf

The same week I heard the shoe story on the radio, I stopped by Menards for supplies for a thesis-avoiding DIY project restoring a couple dated bookshelves, one for my son’s extensive book-and-stuff collection and one for my office. On my way out carrying a bag stuffed with multiple, unnecessary cans of paint and primers in various colors, I passed a cashier dragging a Volkswagen-sized box labeled “Wrapped New Toys.” Customers invited to donate new toys to kids in need took me back ten years: When my kids were little, the week before Christmas I’d have scan the toy room for toys they no longer played with, intending to teach them the value of sharing (and, conveniently, to make room in the clutter for their new booty due the 25th). We’d wipe down discarded cars, Barbies, dinosaurs, books and building blocks, wrap them in festive paper and bows, and haul them down Christmas Eve night and leave them outside the front door of the Hispanic church. That was fun.     It now strikes me as presumptuous, and maybe even a little condescending. Our hearts were in the right place, but I’m sure it was more fun for us to play Santa than for the church secretary to be burdened with schlepping the heavy box inside (or to the dumpster, because how on earth would the gifts be disbursed or trusted to be safe?).

In an interview I read a few years back, Tom Hanks (or, I don’t know, maybe it was Billy Crystal) said the key to a strong marriage is to out-give each other, to out-generous your spouse. If every person in town would apply this principle to his or her sphere of influence—the gas station attendant beleaguered by lottery customers, the downsized mid-level management guy slinging fries since the banks ruined the economy, or even the neighbor across the street who never wants to wave back at you—what kind of sweetness would it lend to our lives? What kind of heaven on earth would we create if we out-gave the people who get under our skin and those we love, or those we love who get under our skin?

GET OFF MY ---!
GET OFF MY —!

Which makes me think about the idea of applying the Out-Give-Your-Spouse thing to the greater world, but in reverse. As in, not giving back the garbage dumped into the laps of our experience. A Twitter acquaintance  recently posted, “I wonder if Saab comes in a doesn’t-tailgate-me model,” to which I replied, “BMWs too.” What is it with import drivers, like the BMW that always seems to tailgate me down my own street on its way to its more affluent cul de sac?? I suppose they feel they’re entitled because, well, they have created a world in which they are. They’ve worked for it. It chaps my hide, hard, to be tailgated in my Toyota minivan by a shiny, spendy import (Mercedes drivers seem to show more consideration, however), but then I find myself doing the same thing to the timid Ford Focus driver creeping through the roundabouts that clog my city’s avenues. I growl from behind the tan vinyl wheel of my middle class vehicle, and snark, “C’mooon, man, drive!” I try not to cuss. I don’t even notice that I’m trailing closely, and for me it has nothing to do with entitlement but everything to do with impatience and bad manners. My own. And then I notice the silver headed driver and feel guilt pelt my stomach. And I think, B, how bout not giving back once in awhile?

So this week, three weeks from Thanksgiving, my Nepal sex traffic fighting friend and her husband are headed to Vegas for their next mission: helping and reporting on Cupcake Girls, an organization that shows God’s love by offering cupcakes (and other services, including medical, financial, dental assistance) to women who work in strip clubs and leaving tracts and judgment for other so-called Christians. Her blog post about the Cupcake Girls pricks me with a question: What will I be doing to show God’s love during the three weeks they’re in and out of seedy joints? In between dipping in and out of O’Malias for dinner stuffs, buying presents, painting furniture, obsessing over dust and décor in my home, and baking pumpkin pies, maybe I can look for small ways to give back and NOT to give back.

I’m just not in a position in the current stage of my life to afford, in time or money, the grand gestures. But that doesn’t take me off the hook to invoke a little heaven on earth, to give back blessings—of friendship, kindness, hospitality, generosity—with which my family and I have been embarrassingly showered. Even without the freedom to donate weeks and months of time or loads of money, it is possible to open my eyes to ways in which I can out-give my family and people in my community. Brainstorm:

GIVING BACK IDEAS

  • Bake a loaf of spice bread and walk over to the widow across the street.
  • Make a little extra soup and take it to the nutty neighbors in ill health, the ones with the frequent visits from cop cars and fire trucks.
  • Place a smile in my voice with an incompetent customer service person on the other end of my phone call.
  • Offer a kind word to a bag boy.
  • And how easy is it to throw into the shopping cart cans of veggies or bags of beans when you see “10 for $10” and drop it all off at a food bank or the Methodist church on the corner? (All Methodist churches have food banks, don’t you know.)

NOT GIVING BACK IDEAS

  • Choose to rag a little less on my kids for their messy bathroom and comment a little more often on all they do to make me proud, appreciating a little more the ways in which they lighten our home with youthful abandon.
  • Instead of, “Your room is out of control,” say to my creative daughter, “The fact that you’ve spent so many hours practicing guitar really shows in the quality of your playing, Grace. You sound amazing.”
  • Or instead of saying to Mr. Bates, “Would you please squeeze out the wet sponge instead of leaving it in the bottom of the sink to rot?” try, “Honey, I feel really grateful to have a partner who is so helpful in the kitchen. I’m aware not many husbands pick up a dish sponge let alone use one on dirty pans.”
  • Pray for the guy in the BMW riding my back bumper.
  • You know. That sort of thing.

All in all, a long, meandering way of saying: Give back good stuff to the extras and main characters in your life story; harness and trash the bad stuff and negativity doled out or spoken into your life, which you might be leaching out without realizing it.

*Click for more information on Tiny Hands International.

To read the social justice travel magazine for which friend Brooke reports and photographs, click World Next Door.

Free to Report Bullying

In the handbook of the school system attended by my children and funded by my household, under the section about bullying (defined as overt, repeated acts or gestures, including verbal … communication … by a student with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate or harm the other student) there is a point that states: Parents should feel free to report suspected acts of bullying to an appropriate school official.

We should feel free, shouldn’t we, to stand up for our children in any way we can, no matter how ineffectual in its discipline is a school system that retains coaches after they allowed sexual assault to occur on a team bus with no immediate consequence to their inaction?

We should feel free to advocate for our son who has endured ridicule for three years to the point where he, stretched beyond his attempts to remain tough and tolerant, finally breaks down in the kitchen after school and confides in his mother how a boy in gym class yelled at him, this smart, tender, artistic guy with a medical diagnosis that makes his long, spidery legs, clumsy and akimbo, run in an awkward, uneven stride, “Hey, Jack. RUN! Don’t SKIP!”

The mom should feel free to report how the boy, an athlete who is inexplicably “popular” (in spite of obnoxious interpersonal habits) punctuated this ridicule with, “FAGGOT!”

Why don’t I feel free?

Caveat: 25% of the school officials contacted in this matter have been compassionate and responsive. This school system has offered mostly premium educational opportunities and exceptional creative outlets for our children’s edification and enrichment.

Hell Has Frozen Over…

Happy Birthday, darling

…and I’m in it.

Happy Birthday, darling
What a mom won't do for her kid

After a gloomy weekend of rainy weather, it’s Monday, the kids have a Flex Day, and the sun is shining. The sun is shining bright like a blue sky day on the beach, it’s 75 degrees, and I’m in the Carmel Ice Skadium writing a Bosma internal newsletter on my laptop while my daughter skates stumbly laps for two-and-a-half hours with four other 11-ish buddies. It’s her birthday, and spending three hours in a cooler was her choice.

And since Grace really is the best girl who was ever born, truly, I didn’t hesitate to oblige her. But between you and me, I appreciate this opportunity to complain. Not that I didn’t spend hours in this very place after school and on weekends when I was her age, learning spins, jumps and spirals. Like with so many other haunts in this town I left in ’83 never to return, I’ve had enough of this particular locale. I never needed to see it again. Or smell it. It still smells like feet, sweat and dirty frost. The steel rafters, wooden stands carved with marks from a million blades, and cinderblock bathroom walls painted yellow remain as they appear in my memory.

A change in ownership a few years back, though, and an accompanying infusion of capital have resulted in some significant improvements. Topping the list is a new manager—a friendly, helpful guy they hired away from a rink near Seattle. (The old guy was aloof, loud, and rude. And I’m not saying the year, exactly, but it was earlier than 1980.) Mr. New Manager says they brought him on to “fix” the Carmel Ice Skadium, specifically the facility and programming. (“We sell ice. Ice and fun.”) When I asked him to pinpoint the most critical fix, he said, “Customer service.”

Friendly, helpful help goes a long way, sure, but so does a new and improved snack bar that sells hot Starbucks beverages, Tazo teas, bagels, breakfast sandwiches, pizza, and…BEER! (Mommy needs a beer, but nothing makes a responsible adult wait to drink at home more effectively than four little girls who depend on said Mommy to provide safe return to their mommies and daddies.)

One girl left because she was bored (a wrist injury prevented her from skating-???); another sulked by my side, slurping her blue slushie in my ear for fifteen minutes trying to annoy me into giving her money for a snack (I resisted), but the other three party girls skated and fell and skated some more until it was cake and present time. After the girls slimed a tabletop with their blue and red slushie juices, I offered to wipe it down. The new manager smiled and said, “We’ll take care of that. You just relax. Is it going okay?”

Grace is having a blast, it seems. And it’s not too bad for me, really. The prices are reasonable – $5 for kids, $3 for rental. I’m picking up someone’s internet signal. And the new manager, with his efforts at creating a tidier facility and a better experience for kids and parents, has made this afternoon’s warm weather deprivation a little less hellish.

Wintertime – Living is Easy

winter is easyApproaching the six year anniversary of the 95 percent blockage in my 38 year-old lower anterior descending artery, I’m still counting my blessings. Happy to be alive, that’s what I am. I snuggle longer, stress less, laugh more, eat dessert first, kiss my sleeping kids — all that jazz. But: I miss shoveling snow!

At the end of a week in the hospital recovering from my freak heart attack, the doctor sent me home with a list of activities and corresponding time frames when I would be allowed to return to them. “Walk a block – one week. Light house work – two weeks. Climb stairs – three weeks. Have sex – four weeks. Shovel snow – NEVER.”

Indiana was blessed with a lovely snow storm last night. Balm to my soul. Anyone who knows me knows I didn’t leave Colorado in my rearview mirror seven years ago. It hangs around my neck like a tacky accessory I refuse to remove. It’s a virus I can’t shake. The West was my home for thirteen glorious years; it’s where I grew up, found Me, met grace, died a couple times, learned to live, work and play. It’s in my blood, and I’ll ache for it until I return for good.

But in the meantime, a blanket of white provides temporary relief to the longing I feel for my home on the range. A snowy day doesn’t have to be an official snow day to be a Snow Day to me. This morning, though, it’s official. Work and school are closed. I’ve suited up my children to play in the snow and help Daddyo shovel.

As I sit here in flannel jammies, my husband is outside laboring to clear twelve inches the heavens heaped on our driveway as we slept. I wish I could help him. Aside from feeling guilty that he’s pert near dead from cold and effort, I’m a little envious! I want to feel the warm, wet fleece against my neck and the cling of sweaty silks on my back. But if I do, I might die!

So, I’ll watch through the triple panes from the big comfy couch as I sip coffee and type on my laptop with Ellen on in the background. And I’ll have hot cocoa ready for my cold, sweaty, rosy-cheeked loved ones.

Living is good.

Inside Out

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I cringed so hard, my body folded in on itself and turned inside out. My vessels now hang out in the sun to dry; I put food into my oral cavity but it has nowhere to go and rots in my new skintestines. I’m losing weight, since my stomach is on the outside of my body now and there’s no way to get food to it. My dry flesh gums the food I cram inside the opening, but it goes nowhere.

My children don’t kiss me anymore – “Your teeth look weird on the outside!” my boy says, and “I miss your lips! Where am I supposed to kiss, Mama?” cries my little girl. They’ve stopped hugging me, they’re so afraid of bruising me deep inside by a simple bump on my new external layer.

My tongue flaps outside in the air, dehydrating, with no roof or lips against which to rub to make meaningful sounds. No one can hear what I’m trying to say — least of all the people I want to hear me. I need them to hear me.

I’m aware that you look at me now and see a monster — or an exhibit at the science museum.

I’m still a woman. I’m the same woman on the outside, and on the inside, only now I look different to you. I’m unrecognizable, and I’m mortified for you to see my sickening, naked structure. I’m lonely, longing, humiliated. 

art_peel

Jen Sherrick Shot My Babies and My Heart

(With her Canon.)

This photographer sees the beauty I see in my children and captures it on film. More examples in a later post, but check this artist’s work on Jen’s website. And see the cutie brother and sister on her blog!

Yep, on the July 14 post, them’s my babies!

Here’s the headshot Jack used for his IRT audition today, his 12th birthday! (It’s from a scan, so it’s not as clear as the real thing.)

Not a professional shot:

My Big Birthday Boy!
My Big Birthday Boy!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACK!!!