Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pull In and Push Back

I would like to just take a minute to congratulate myself, and accept your appreciation, on my lack of political opinions on the internet lately.

(Twitter doesn't count.)

Not to be dramatic, but the entire rest of the world is slowly killing me. So slowly though, like the world has straightened out a paperclip and is stabbing me with it repeatedly -- short, annoying, constant jabs that sometimes pile up until I lie in bed at night and wonder if all of these little hurts could add up one day, that all of the little pinpricks might let my soul leak out onto the sidewalk until people are stepping over the puddle of me and arguing over who will be responsible for cleaning it up.

Not to be dramatic.

I am 85% sure that the world is not a safe place for someone so easily affected, and yet I'm stuck here. I also think the internet is a big problem, because the whole world is in my lap and I can't brush it off when it feels like the sky is falling. But if I zoom in to my own tiny little bubble, it's so much easier to remember that it isn't.

So there is a constant push and pull of tightening my circle until it's so small that I am in control and widening my worldview in an attempt to have empathy for every side of every issue, so that I can understand what's happening.

And I'm not depressed, just disappointed in the planet's general vibe. Seriously. Get your shit together, entire rest of the world.

I watched Welcome to Leith on Netflix recently, a documentary about a white supremacist that sets up shop in a small, sleepy town, and how it changes everything. Their circle was tight, life was zoomed in enough to care about your neighbors, and then some loud, determined, fairly clever idiots moved in swiftly and changed their little world through careful maneuvering and politics.

It was a small stage battle, but powerful in its implications, and terrifying in its potential, and revealing in how important it is to push back, even/especially when it feels scary to do so.

You should watch it. And you should pull your real people in so close that you don't forget that they're the ones that matter. And you should speak up against injustice, even when it feels futile, because it can come for your people, too.

But do it on Twitter, Facebook is bad enough.

(*Note: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. I get free Netflix, which is proof that there is a higher power making sure we each have what we need. My opinions on politics, the world, Facebook, nazis, the internet, and/or idiots are my own.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer o' Snark

Part of Big Kid's sleep away camp experience involved exploring the arts along with nature. He wrote a humorous Dear Abby column one day, which included the line:

So if you’re a farmer (and you might be, if you’re still reading the newspaper)...

Big Kid's brand of snark makes me look as sweet as Pollyanna. I know people think he gets it from me, but he has so far surpassed anything I could hope to achieve in terms of dry wit, that maybe I get it from him.

We were at the beach the other day and a woman sat down next to us with a bunch of middle schoolers and proceeded to have all kinds of raunchy and inappropriate conversations, up to and including how her son was an accident and period talk. Very educational for all. Then they left their trash behind.

As we recounted this story for friends, while trying to delicately imply that she was rough around the edges, Big Kid interrupted to add, "She had a rose gold iPhone," in a way that made everyone understand.

(Sorry, people with rose gold iPhones.)

Snarky little a-hole, but on such a subtle level that it's hard to correct someone for disparaging the paper and rose gold iPhones.

(He reluctantly agrees the mini MacBook is cute in pink, because I made a strong case for it.)

When I picked him up from camp, I asked what he had liked doing and he loudly (in front of his counselors) said: "Everything but journalism! Why would they make us do that? What a waste of time!"

"Big Kid! Journalism is very important! Also, your mom is a writer."

"Are we seriously calling what you do journalism?"

"No, but what I do is probably a step below journalism so let's not go there. Also, I saw that you were making fun of newspapers? I do have a newspaper column..."

"Right, mom, a newspaper. I mean..."

"Newspapers are important. They represent a tangible connection to your community and..."

"Right, farmers and old people need them. I know."

He's not wrong, he's just about to be a teenager. And their brand of not being wrong is difficult.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Creeping Along

"My doctor said I should have come in a long time ago and that they will probably put me in one of those boots," I was explaining my need for a podiatrist (I'm so middle aged, people) when little kid interrupted, "Mom! No!"

"What? The boot? I know. Not a convenient time for it. I should have taken it more seriously when I first thought I broke it."

"Seriously, I wouldn't do it. Your legs are fabuloso. A boot would look weird. Don't get me wrong, if anyone could rock a boot, it would be you, but still, your legs are nice."

"You are a total and complete creep," Big Kid replied.

"Why? Because our mom has nice legs?"

"Yes. That's the weirdest thing in the world."

"No, it's not, because she's my MOM. I can say my mom has nice legs and would look kind of, well, dorky in a boot."

He is a little creepy, but I also appreciate the input.

When you're at an age to actually need a foot doctor, you take compliments wherever you can get them and just pay for the therapy later.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Camp Reunion

Big Kid just returned from a five night sleep away camp.

He's 12 and has not spent many nights away from home. I was really apprehensive about him going, and even offered to chaperone or rent a place nearby, to which he gave a robust "ABSOLUTELY NOT" and then we got into an argument about how I am not literally crazy, which we do a lot.

However, I did really well. I didn't even cry when he left. My mom asked if I found myself wondering what he was doing all day long and I could honestly say that I didn't. I missed him, in a "Wow, the house is empty and a life like this would suck" kind of way but he wasn't even able to call all week and it was fine.

I was glad when it was time to go get him, though, even if it involved a five and a half hour road trip. I arrived 20 minutes early and was heading to the bathroom when I spotted him walking alone, and at that moment, I missed him unlike anything I have ever wanted in my entire 37 years. With all of my heart and soul and every fiber of my being, I longed for him. I turned and followed him and thought about how he would kind of melt into my arms and realize that he missed me like I have missed him when we hugged.

I walked faster to catch up with him and called his name. He turned and said, "Mom?!" and that word has never filled me with warmth and light like it did at that moment. I reached out to fold him into me and he put his hand up in an awkward "hi" (or a crossing guard's "stop") and stepped back, saying it was good to see me. It was the reaction you give an old classmate who caught you unaware at the mall, someone you would have ducked behind a clothing rack to avoid.

You know when people say it was like a door slammed in their face? It was like a brick wall. Except instead of a brick wall, more like the Great Wall of China, and instead of my face, it was every inch of my skin, skeleton, and soul. I felt like I might instantly explode with tears.

It was a visceral devastation, and I'm not just saying that to make him feel guilty when he reads this as an adult some day. (But that's an added benefit.)

I looked closely at him then and saw that he was happy, in a carefree way. That he had done well. And that's the whole point of parenting, so I stopped being literally crazy and waved back, maintaining my excited, uninjured chatter.

And then a tall, impossibly tall, and beautiful blonde girl walked up and introduced herself. She was really tall and bubbling with sharp charisma, really impressive and so tall in every way. I thought I started to understand.

However, when we returned to join the others, I noticed he didn't lean into anyone like the other (really tall) boys did. He wasn't doing the annoying thing where they tap on one shoulder and duck to the other side to get a girl's attention. He didn't seem particularly close to anyone in the group and I started to wonder if it had gone so well.

(It went well. I am literally crazy.)

A brunette girl wearing a hoodie in the high heat went to hug him and he dodged away but laughed, in a way I haven't seen him laugh before. They looked over at me and she asked him something, in an animated way. She then walked over to my table, sat across from me, leaned in and said, "I'm going to spam your son's email to death."

Be still my heart.

"You should. He'd like that."

Her eyes were intense and green. Lovely, hoodie and all.

"Oh, I will. We have it all planned out."

He sat down next to her and eyed me warily.

"Well, I'm glad you two are friends. That's cool," I said, acting like I didn't really care because that's what he wants.

"We are friends. We're both random. That means weird."

"Eh. I think it means authentic. Good for you guys for being who you are. When you grow up, everyone thinks it's cool."

They started telling me a long, boring story because that's what middle schoolers do and they finished each other's sentences. At one point, their faces were kind of close and they were laughing and she said, "Look at us, like an old married couple," and his smile made me swoon.

And she didn't get a hello hug either.

We're okay. All of this is good.

We didn't leave until she did, despite the long drive home, and as we left he jogged off, returning a few minutes later to say that he had good timing and was able to say goodbye just as she was getting into her car.

He also did all kinds of amazing stuff and hung out with artists and documentarians and food foraging farmers and underwater photographers all week, but these simple exchanges were worth the money and the effort and the drive and the mini moment of massive heartache.

He's growing up and he's doing good at it, and that's the whole point. Even if it kills me under the weight of its emotional bricks. That's the job.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Womb with a View

So I went to that Goddess/Tarot party a while ago, as part of my 40% happiness project that includes playing with friends and trying new things, and so you and I would have things to talk about.

Soon after my first glass of wine, I made sure to let everyone there know that I was a writer and I was going to write about this and that I make fun of all of the things, all of the time and that there will be no hurt feelings when I don't believe one ounce of this bullshit. Everyone was in agreement -- this was for fun and it was funny.

A tarot reader and a -- what? I don't actually know. Belly dancer/spiritual person/someone exotic and interesting -- were present, but elsewhere in the house when I made this announcement.

About two glasses in, they came in to ask how we wanted to do the rite of the womb.

I was certain I had misheard. There was general confusion and I assumed she had said "rite of the ROOM" and I thought they'd be lighting some candles or whatever. Yes, do that, sounds great.

Then we got clear that it was the rite of the womb, and did we want to do it together or separately?

I demanded more info before making any such decision and after some vague, roundabout discussion, we decided we weren't doing whatever it was alone and maybe not at all.

At this point in the night, I'm feeling curious but uneasy. I don't know that trying new things is a good idea anymore, especially if it involves my womb.

She takes us into a small candlelit room (we were at my friend's mom's house, who was supposed to be out of town but unexpectedly found herself in the middle of the rite of our wombs instead) and explained the process.

First, we were going to meditate.

*Awesome, I'm kicking meditation's ass lately, sounds good.

Second, we were going to stand at the entrance of the room and drape a veil over our eyes and take 13 steps to her where we would remove the veil and repeat a mantra.

*At this point, I'm craning my neck to make eye contact with the friend who organized this, and she won't look at me.

We would be quiet and hold the space for our sisters as she led us through the ritual.

*I'm the type of person who laughs at funerals. Once I laughed my way out of a sexual assault involving a stranger in a bathroom stall. My panic is at an all-time high at this exact moment and I start forcing myself to think of the saddest things ever so I don't laugh, and the tension in the room is unbearable.

She gives a whole speech about the moon and blood keepers and blood givers and blood -- God, what? Havers? She also thinks all women should get a week off each month to honor this process.

*I don't know because at this point I am aching with silent, painful sobs of laughter. I again try to look at the organizer who won't look at me before staring at the ceiling and biting the inside of my cheek as hard as I can, wondering if I should just excuse myself now or if that would be even more disruptive. 

My heart was pounding and I started to think I might cry because I was confused and uncomfortable and felt trapped in the corner of the couch and had just been thinking about my dead cat. I was so mad I didn't bring my wine into the room. I was also starting to fear no one would believe this story and was upset I couldn't take notes. Why wasn't I live tweeting this? Full on freaking out about everything. Then it was time to begin.

We all meditated together...and it was beautiful. I know it would be funnier to make fun of it but being with such a small group of wonderful women, in that cozy room, just breathing together was beyond what I could call lovely. She asked us to connect with our time in the womb and our connection to our mothers and grandmothers and it was fine. It was a nice meditation. Perfect timing too because I was about to break a rib trying not to laugh but I had sufficiently calmed down during meditation and just tried not to look at anyone because I can't behave if I have an audience.

Then one by one we went to the entrance, double doors with a light on beyond them so there was this dramatic silhouette effect, and we would place the scarf over our heads like a veil and take the 13 steps. But the room was too small for 13 steps so everyone always overstepped it, and ended up right in the spiritual lady's face and had to make their last 2-3 little steps backwards and in place so they weren't nose to nose.

I didn't know what to do with my hands.

She unveiled me and I was screaming at myself to just keep my shit together and I looked into her large, soft eyes and felt almost a little in a trance. I wasn't going to laugh. She took my hands in hers and said (something like): "The womb is not a place for pain and fear. The womb is a place to create and give life." She said it twice and then I had to repeat it. I couldn't remember it though because she put her hands on my belly and I am not a huge fan of that, but still, okay.

And I want to make fun of it and say it was silly and that we all died of laughter afterwards, finally purging ourselves of those pent up giggles we were all fighting. But I can't.

Although so far out of my comfort zone I couldn't remember the zip code, it felt sacred and special and like a little bit of ancient feminine magic. I feel like I have a lifelong connection with these women now, and I barely knew some of them walking into that room. It meant different things to each of us, and some had a connection with the process that I didn't have, but my connection with them because of it was significant.

We did laugh about it later but I think everyone had that same reluctant, freaked out sense of awe even if we won't repeat our mantra on each new moon as instructed. It was cheesy and weird and still somehow lovely.

Then it was time for belly dancing. Trying new things or not, I was not doing it and made this clear at each and every possible opportunity from the initial invitation to meeting the spiritual lady. But then I had just cleansed my womb with a bunch of people I hardly knew and the scarves with the bells looked like so much fun, so we belly danced. We loved it. Everyone danced and drank while we went and had our tarot cards read one by one.

My tarot reading seemed spot on. I thought I knew exactly what it meant and the tarot reader seemed uncertain about my interpretation. It was fairly broad but oddly appropriate and I had fun.

And the universe has been fucking with me ever since.

It turns out my 40% project wasn't some sign of my enlightenment -- it was the equivalent of the cosmos sticking water wings on me before sending a tsunami my way.

Very soon afterwards, some truths about my life were basically packaged up and presented with a shiny bow on top and that's another story for a different time. And once those pieces of the puzzle fell into place, my reading made perfect, specific sense, whether or not I believe in any of it.

The next morning I went to walk on the beach (because I am mastering that part of the 40% project) and I was thinking about the newest turn of events and I stopped to look out at the horizon. I started to feel a little bit sorry for myself and then thought of this crazy-ass book I've been reading and how it had a passage that pointed out that just being here to have a bad day is an incredible miracle, that everything from your parents meeting to the skill of the people who delivered you to the fact you didn't get hit by a car in the parking lot means things are going really right for you, that the universe is conspiring on your behalf.

And I was thinking of that and wondered, "What if the universe is conspiring to bring me good things?" and at that exact second, my phone started playing "Sunshine" by Matt Costa from my back pocket and although I know it was a coincidence involving Spotify and my butt,  I do think the universe has an amazing sense of humor.

I laughed then, by myself at the water's edge, like seriously cracked up laughing because I thought it was hilarious (and maybe I was still a little buzzed from the night before?) and realized that as long as I keep laughing, do my 40% and trust that the universe and the people it has placed in my path have my back, things should be mostly okay and that's really all you can hope for on our journey around the sun.

Being open to new things is scary and uncomfortable and unpleasant and life can suck and people are weird and sometimes the very worst things can be the very best things all at the same time, and it's so confusing that I'm just going to stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey where, how, when and with whoever I can.

Also, I might start taking belly dancing lessons.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Brotherly Love

"I'm going to miss my brother when he's at camp."

"Maybe you should get off of the computer and hang out with him." 

"I can't because he hates me."

"He's 12. He hates everyone. Our job is to love him anyway."

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Four Square Court

The other day in the car, little kid casually was talking about a girl at his school who cheats at four square -- a cardinal sin in the extremely competitive and political four square environment that is his elementary school. Four square is so serious that they have adult four square police at each court and my kid gets kicked out so often and so loudly protests the injustice of it all that I've seriously considered going down there and figuring out what the hell is going on (other parents have, and their children allegedly have immunity now) but I just don't care.

I think the four square police lady sounds a little intense about it all, but what do I know, I'm just glad I don't have to do it.

Anyway, while he was telling me about her improper serving techniques, he casually slipped in that she had a crush on him.

"She sent her friend over to tell me. That's how they do it sometimes. Last year, Olivia* came up to me at recess and said she loved me. That was brave."

"She did?! What did you say back? I can't believe I haven't heard this story!!"

"Uh, it got real quiet. She didn't even say she had a crush on me, just that she loved me. What do you even say to that?"

"You had to have said something."

"I really don't think I did. She ran off pretty quick."

"Wow. You've got to admire the approach though. That's bold. I remember her, she was sweet and pretty."


There is another girl he knows whose behavior sounds atrocious, and he is fascinated with her bragging and tattling and rumor spreading and drama and everyone's various reactions. I know I shouldn't encourage gossip but it's like a soap opera and I love the updates.

The other day she said her dress was designer and he joked that his dog was designer, and I thought it was hilarious. If any of this makes me sound like a bad parent, it's just because you haven't witnessed one of the reenactments.

So it was surprising when he got off the bus the other day and said that he overheard her tell her closest frenemy that she had a crush on him.


"Yes. Way."

"What did you do?"

"I turned around and said, 'I heard every word of that,' and she got white as a ghost!"

"No, you did not! That's amazing."

"I did. She said I better not tell anyone, but like I'm going to tell anyone? It doesn't make me look good. I told her she better not tell anyone. The last thing I need is for this to become a rumor."

"This all makes sense in a way."

"It does. I think her behavior is bad normally but that she is showing off or something? And I think when she tells on me -- because she tells on me all the time -- she's just trying to get my attention. Even if it's in a bad way. It's not a good strategy, though."

So, unsurprisingly, little kid is a ladies' man. When asked if there was anyone he had ever had a crush on, he gave a thoughtful but emphatic no.

"I just want to play four square with my friends, and not have people cheat."

"That is a good plan. Let me know if you need to me to go down there and ask the four square ladies for clarification on what's going on."

Because it's better than girl drama.

*Names changed to protect my ability to attend after school park play dates. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Unfortunate Truth

"Don't be an idiot, okay?" Big Kid just yelled at his brother from the living room.

(I was hiding. I don't care that they are fighting.)

"You're not my boss! I can be whatever I want when I grow up! My mom said!"

"No, she didn't. Everyone says their mom said that, but your mom didn't say that."

"She loves me! No matter what! Even if I'm an idiot as an adult!"