Tuesday, September 27, 2011

your moment(s) of zen.

so wingman is sick. and i ask him where? he says his head. and i ask him how does it feel? he says his head 'feels sick.'

now. that may seem simplistic as he is 10, but i've always taught my kids to tell me exactly 'where' it hurts and 'how' it hurts. in words that are easily understandable by everyone. detailed description, however simplistic.

like the word 'stomachache' doesn't always cover what is actually going on. the stomach is a broad area to a child. where? point to it. how? do you feel seasick? do you feel like you've been punched? does it feel pinchy? or growly?

same with the word 'headache.' etc.

i learned that if they could tell me exactly where and how using language they understood then i could administer the best remedy. biggest complaints first and go from there. basic parenting.

okay, i have a point. i'm getting to it.

so his head doesn't hurt, it doesn't feel fuzzy, it just feels off. 'sick.' which i understand. even if i can't put my finger on it. he's not warm enough to worry about a temperature, he feels fine otherwise. but the BAD disposition percolating the last few days coupled with the glassy eyes this morning and his complaint leads me to believe we're on to something. so i sent him to bed and started a big pot of homemade chicken soup.

if he had said, 'i have a headache,' and if i had left it at that, he'd have some children's pain reliever in him and we'd be doing school. but that's not 'healing.' and being asked exactly how you feel and describing exactly how it feels is powerful to a person. to be asked. to be heard.

the beauty and power of language.

i was thinking about this as i pulled out the chicken. pasture raised, kosher, no antibiotics, etc. the words printed on the package gave me a specific view of the chicken i held in my hands. they told me that because of how it was raised, when this chicken sat in the pot for an hour with covered with water and a bit of vinegar added before cooking there would be more minerals and calcium to draw from the bones creating a healthier broth. and that because of how it was raised this chicken would produce more gelatin and give the soup more of the healing oomph that gelatin provides. everything from fighting the common cold to fighting delusions. a one stop wonder of healing! (that is, if you believe what you read about gelatin and pasture raised meat and chicken soup and if you're not a vegan or vegetarian ;) )

i make this soup with love. and when i tell wingman, 'i will make you a pot of soup' and when i hand wingman the bowl and say to him, 'i hope you feel better soon' he will feel the love in the soup and he will hear the love in my words. and that as much as anything will work to heal what ails him.

the power of language to have the power to heal.

which brings me to my point. i swear.

the duke told me the other day, chuckling, that his friend said to him that cupcakes are just 'slutty muffins.'

which is actually pretty funny.

but to which i said

'i don't like that word. slutty.'

'well, i don't either. i just thought it was funny.'

'it is. but you understand how derogatory the word slutty is, right?'

'yeah. i mean, i don't use it or anything.'

'but you did just now.'


okay, i wasn't trying to be a bitch about it. (aaannnnddd. there's that word. bitch. a whole other story. sigh. oh language, you are nothing but trouble some days.) i told him i thought it was funny. and i'm inappropriate A LOT. i get offensive humor. to a point. i laugh. but only UP to a point.


i am also 40 years old.

the duke is 14.

so the other day if i had just laughed at the joke and left it at that then the chances of 'slutty' becoming part of the duke's lexicon would be higher than it is today. and he didn't ask for my opinion, but he got it. because i am a woman and because i am his mother.

and because language has the power to heal. as much as it has the power to hurt.

the duke is just figuring out how the world works. how being a 14 year old boy works. figuring out how what we SAY shapes how others SEE us. how what we HEAR & SEE shapes how we VIEW the world. language. words. images.

he's figuring out how this puzzle fits together. and how girls fit in at all.

and what drives that process? parents, friends, media.

okay, parents and friends have a LOT of influence, but let's face it, the media wins this race based on sheer face time and the ability to catch and release our young people more times in a day than any other thing or person can. to 'hook' them. over and over and over again. in just one 24 hour period. HA! yes. i just used a fishing reference as metaphor. perhaps successfully. i am as surprised as you are.

anyhow, this is for most of our young men and woman. not all. but most. and the media is driven by numbers and figures and bottom lines. and the bottom line is that because of this, the portrayal of women in the media is more often than not not terribly positive. and oftentimes downright exploitative.

and if the young men are getting most of their information about women from the media how is that going to work? because you and i know what's out there. this is in no way a new conversation. what's out there is what's always been out there, only getting more outrageous. more intense and shocking. condensing women to boobs, hips, lips. and no argument from me that these are indeed intriguing female qualities, but they are NOT AT ALL ALL THERE IS to a woman.

but how do the young men find this out? how do they get the other side of the story?

which brings us to the joke about the slutty muffins. which, is, like i said, pretty funny...but...

all right. i have a point. i do. and it's this. i think that language is very powerful. and i think young people need to be more educated about the world around them before they just fall into using certain words. that the images presented to our young people should be less condensed and more balanced. homemade soup made with love vs. canned soup: just add water. how is that food? to nourish and heal and grow? okay, i'm falling into judgment and more bad metaphors, but you get the picture.

these days it seems our young people are way more sophisticated than they are mature. maybe it's always been that way, maybe i'm just old. but i'm willing to bet that's not entirely the case. and i'm willing to bet it's creating a huge deficit of actual understanding. about members of the opposite sex, the same sex, about who we are. as individuals and a collective culture. about what we are capable of. all of us. even the ones with the boobs, hips, lips.

so. when the duke came home yesterday i showed him the following video. (props to my friend jodi for directing me to it.) because it has nothing and everything to do with the joke about the slutty muffins. because it's timely and it's a continuation of a long and developing conversation. because women are so intelligent and so capable and so beautiful and so fabulous and they are almost always more than what the media tells us they are. and i know that. and you know that. and i want my son to KNOW THAT, TOO.

so we continue the conversation. the one that begins with 'say, MA MA.' and continues with 'hot! ouch!' and 'please.' and 'thank you.' and 'i'm making you a pot of soup.' and 'i don't like that word.'

it is in that spirit i bring you this installment of your moment(s) of zen. it's a bit long, but well worth it when you get a spare 8 minutes. and if you happen to know a young woman or young man share it with them, too. (though, in fair warning, there are images that could be considered inappropriate viewing for teens in some families. the images are in context, but they are there. so. proceed accordingly.)


Friday, September 16, 2011

dear person i like to pray to: this does not mean i think it's a good time to get knocked up. that would be never again. amen.

they tell you in the books about how your teenager will change. they mention the moods and the frontal lobe and drugs and sex and rock and roll. they tell you how hard it will be and how to be cautious in your approach and how to be aggressive in your pursuits and how to bide your time and get through it and to listen and to provide and to support and to be present and on and on and on.

but they don't tell you how much you will miss your child. just simply miss him.

oh you know they're not that same little kid you used to know. and you love the teen they are now. you know that they won't initiate as many of the hugs, you know they will want to be with their friends more than you, that weekends are best when spent with their group. you were a teenager once. you know how it is.

and it's natural. and it happens every day. but now it's happening to me.

and i miss my kid.

i eat breakfast with him and dinner with him and hang out with him when he wants company for homework. and i'm not there when he doesn't want me there.

we make time to do family things.

but it simply is not the same.

because it used to be different.

and i know it's just a transition.

and things will change.

and there is a new normal on the horizon.

and it will be golden.

but right now, i miss my kid.

and they never mentioned this part. not once.

i had a baby. and now i have a teenager.

and some days i just need the world to be a little patient and let me catch up.


Monday, September 12, 2011

take care of your eyes.

my friend ingrid had a dream about me. i was splitting open milkweed pods and letting the wind take them.

this describes my grief as of late.

instead of crying when i want to i will feel it come and i will send it up and away. i don't know why this is. i am a champion crier. i cry at anything. and yet, i don't want to cry. be sad. think about it.at.all.

i am choosing to believe this is normal.

i've been thinking about my father a lot lately. i feel his presence with me even as i am completely certain i'm not fully understanding that he is actually gone.

there are things i need to do that aren't getting done. there is personal work and paper work and house work and LOTS of things i need to do that aren't getting done. this is depression. i know this. depression and grief. i am allowing it. even as i can't really stop it. we have an understanding.

yesterday we went to REI to buy sunglasses for me. i sat on my beloved smiths more than a year and a half ago and have lived with cheap/free crappy ones since then. my cheap gas station ones were stolen (nice work, idiot. how are those crappy sunglasses working out for you?) and my free with a box of vitamin ones i somehow LOST. i still don't know how. if i didn't know better i would think the husband lost them for me so i would be FORCED to get new sunglasses.

but i couldn't put it off any longer. and now i know why i did.

when i sat on my beloved smiths i was still estranged from my father. and then i wasn't. and then he got sick. and then he died. and i knew the place i would be going for sunglasses was REI to replace the smiths. not online, not to another store, because REI was the place to go. i lived in seattle nearly 20 years. that's just the place you go.

my father worked at REI for years and years. he fitted packs and sold stoves and recommended or didn't the fun gadgets and charmed customers with his tales and his twinkly eyes so that you couldn't quite figure out if he was pulling your leg or not. he won the coveted sales award one year. he was good. it was his element. he was even featured in a television report about REI. we joked he was the 'face' of REI. he was 'that' guy you see in every REI.

and, he sold the sunglasses. he loved to fit glasses to faces, he would flirt and cajole and the customers ate it up.

of course i didn't want to go buy sunglasses. didn't want to go to REI. not then. not now.

but i was out of sunglasses and out of options.

and when i went to the REI yesterday, across the country from the one where he worked, there was a guy my father's age working with the sunglasses. 'that' guy. REI is like that wherever you are. the same young girls in clothing, the older handsome woman in kayaks, floaters in books and maps. i drifted over to the cheaper glasses (made by smith at least, but under a different name and not as good.) because that's just how i roll. even as i heard my father's voice and felt the husband's push towards the smiths. 'take care of your eyes' my father would say. 'why would you put cheap glasses over your eyes for protection? they're your most valuable asset? take care of your eyes.'

i just wanted to grab a pair and get out of there. i hated the shape of my stupid face in the stupid mirror and i hated the selection of stupid smiths that weren't the ones i used to have that they didn't make anymore. it all felt scratchy and wrong. i felt teary.

and then i asked the guy working the counter a question about a pair and i swear to god he had to hold up the glasses to his ONE GOOD EYE and try to read what was on the side! he couldn't SEE! okay, a bit, from far away, with ONLY one eye.

a sunglass salesman who couldn't see.

this would have been one of my father's literary characters. this would be the kinda guy he'd make up and create a life for. imagine that, x, he would say. the guy sells glasses and HE CAN'T SEE!

all right. okay. hi, dad. i cracked a smile. i let my shoulders down a bit and ended up with the glasses i first saw, i liked them and they fit my face, and we left. i felt better. and OH MY GOD i cannot believe how much more relaxed my eyes were! i cannot believe i've been living with crappy sunglasses for so long. TAKE CARE OF YOUR EYES. i get it. i got it.

and then later when we were checking out at the brazilian market right there, on the ground, there was a penny. and then another. and another. they weren't there before, i swear they weren't. and then they were. just like that. all over. the duke and wingman and i kept finding them 'look i found another one!' nearly 10 in all. in just one spot. we were giddy. it's Pops! they said. yes, it is. it's Pops.

i guess this is how grief goes. you are sad and then you're not and then you're sad again. you take comfort in the signs however they come. lost sunglasses, lucky pennies. humor. you let it all sink in. you go with it. it's okay. or, it will be. you pick up the lucky penny, the wish having changed, but still there just the same.

you take care of your eyes and your heart does the rest. it distills the best of the person that you can remember and you take little sips here and there to sustain the momentum of moving forward.


Friday, September 09, 2011

your moment(s) of zen.

from the time i was 13 until i was 19 i saw my mother less than a handful of times. maybe three. one of the times i saw her was for my high school graduation. then the two of us hit the road for a trip up the northern coast of california.

i am the middle child. my mother moved out when i was 8 and moved across the country when i was 13. and it occurred to me that i had never really been alone with my mother. and here we were. just the two of us.

my mother is the most fun when traveling. i discovered this on that trip. one day i'll have to tell you about our more recent trip to los angeles when her own mother was dying. let's just say it involved a HUGE ASS white on white cadillac and an incident that started with a safety deposit box and ended with me stuffing into my purse a plastic grocery bag full of not technically belonging to her (yet) jewels on the streets of east la. like the gypsies we totally are.

anyhow. back to the graduation trip. so we were headed up the coast. we stopped in oakland for breakfast. my mother was born in richmond and grew up in the bay area. but she was always more of an oakland girl than a san francisco girl. more east bay. those were her stomping grounds. with a mother who worked nights as a cocktail waitress and who was always in between husbands and adding kids, as a young girl my mother had lots of responsibility and maturity and very little supervision. she was a child of the neighborhoods, running with the gang, two little brothers in tow.

we made our way up highway 101, through cloverdale, stopping in booneville for something cold, driving through wine country and orchards and heat and continued up highway 128. towards highway 1 and the coast.

i had recently bought the album union by toni childs, but i think my mother had it, too, at any rate we were listening to one of our copies while we drove. we were chatting and reminiscing, the area we were headed to was our old stomping grounds. my favorite place. the place i lived with my mother, my whole family, intact. the way i remember it, the place where my mother was happiest.

now as you're driving on 128 you will go through a stand of trees. and when i say stand of trees please know that it is a majestic gorgeous band of redwoods. it's about oh 10 miles or so. and after winding and heat it's a welcome bit of straight and cool. we turned off the air conditioner and rolled our windows down. we were mostly quiet. listening to the music, enjoying the trees.

when you come out of the trees there's a bit of an estuary where the navarro river mixes with the ocean and then bam. there's the pacific ocean. just.right.there. and if you are me you KNOW it's going to be there because you've made this drive for as long as you remember breathing, but every time it feels like you've snuck up on it. because you can't see it through all the trees.

okay, so we are nearly out of the trees. and the song is ending on the tape. and as the music dies my mother asks

'where's the ocean?'

and i kid you not my hand to god THAT'S right when we came out of the trees to the estuary to the ocean. and it was right.there. like we snuck up on it. and i KID YOU NOT MY HAND TO GOD that's when 'where's the ocean' the LAST SONG ON THE TAPE starts playing!! and the very first line is 'WHERE'S THE OCEAN!!'

my mother looked at me and i looked at her and we couldn't speak so she took my hand and held it as she drove. she would not let it go.

as you may imagine there's a lot more to the story when it comes to my mother. and the stories aren't the same, as no two stories of the same circumstance ever are. she has hers and i have mine. and i'm not going to pretend in my story that as magical as it was that THAT'S the moment i knew i would be able to be totally 'okay' with her and the circumstances of our relationship. that it was right then that our mother/daughter relationship was cemented and firm. a magical musical moment that had the power to heal all. because it wasn't, and it didn't happen like that. that would come later, and i am happy to say that it did.

but i will say this, i remember the way my mother's hand felt in mine as we shared that moment of serendipity. as we looked out over the ocean we both loved, in a place we were both mostly happy. the only place i feel like that had ever really happened for the both of us. together. and please, when you hear the word happy remember the relativity of it. always.

and i did realize then that this meant something. this moment. that this person holding my hand represented a bond that i did not, could not share with any other person on earth. that she was my mother, and regardless of how it all played out, that was a fact that would never change. that and the fact that i love my mother.

so no matter what she did or what had happened, no matter the circumstances, the history...it was done. and that going forward, well, that was up to me now.

so, i held her hand back.

it is in that spirit i bring you this installment of your moment(s) of zen. <------ (psst. click

there are songs on that album i love more, and this is more a love song than a mother/daughter sharing a moment song, but life isn't perfect and neither are the circumstances of the moments that make up that life. so, you take serendipity where you can find it and you try not to be too picky about it.

have a wonderful day. and if you can, call your mother. she'd probably like that.


Friday, September 02, 2011


me again. i SWEAR i will make it up to you one day. i PROMISE.

all right, so we don't need to recap do we? regular readers know about 'the year of my loss' and for those who don't, check the 8th season DVD (still in progress).

okay, so it's a bit of a recap. call it a rerun. it's me. no dead horse left unbeaten. it's what i do.

so. i've made much of trying to move with and in and past loss and change. at least with the house. my father is so freshly 'gone' that i understand there is a process there. steps on the path. stages of grief. last night i think i was in stage #546 PEOPLE ANNOY ME WHEN THEY ARE IN MY EYESIGHT OR WITHIN EARSHOT. WHEN THEY BREATHE.

it's a real step. look it up.

anyhow, so there's a lot here. a lot going on. some days i am so close to tears i can taste them even as they don't fall. some days i just try to keep my mind occupied, my loss and grief in the abstract. most days i just wish for a break and carry on. did i mention it's been a tough year?


so yesterday.

wingman and i decided to get out of the house and walk down to get a slice of pizza. it was the end of our school week (we don't have school on fridays. ask me who's idea that was. ;) ) and what a weird week, two weeks, it had been. death, grieving, the duke no longer at home with us.

so much change. so much 'muchness.'

i swear wingman and i catch ourselves staring at each other, like empty-nesters. looking at each other, looking around, wondering what in the hell just happened here? for the whole time i've been homeschooling and wingman has been homeschooling the duke has been *here.* and now, it's just the two of us. just like that.

okay. it's NEVER 'just like that.' but you get the point. and really, when things finally happen, even though you know they will, it still feels 'just like that.'

anyhow, we needed to get out of the house. so we headed down the hill. wingman was chattering on about the thing that gives meaning to his life, link and the legend of zelda, and i was just amazed at how fine a day it was. the weather had finally turned for the better, the sky was blue, the clouds amazing.

and i know this sounds an AWFUL lot like other walks i've described, but i swear to you after a block i had to literally stop.in.my.tracks.

what was that?

i realized that it was so silent. in my head. in my heart. my gut.

there wasn't any buzzing or squeezing or continual knot tying.

it took me a minute to define it. and then i realized it was...calm. joy. relaxation. peace.

what is this? did someone slip little white pills in my trying to stave off an ulcer (true story) probiotic drink that morning?

'c'mon mama!'

i started walking again. and it felt like i was hi-IGH. like 'knocked up' seth rogan high. like this is fucking awesome.

here's the thing. i lost my house. yeah. but, and it doesn't make up for it but it's amazing nonetheless that when we lived on the farm i could NEVER EVER in a million years decide we needed to leave it right then and there and get a break and just put on our shoes and just leave out the door and just take a walk. and here we were. just heading out the door. taking a walk. wingman was trucking along, in a neighborhood he's getting really familiar with, saying hello to his favorite dog, thinking about his favorite slice two blocks away. we'd walk to the library after. and he was humming. the whole way.

and the buzzing and knot tying were gone when my father died. the past few months have been hell wondering when and if that phone would ring. bringing more bad news, no news, stasis, crisis. every day there was potential for absolute heartbreak. i knew the proverbial shoe would drop, but when? and not before kicking my ass first.

it was incredibly painful, crazy making, stressful. *refer to the ulcer above.

so here i was. knowing that was a hook i was no longer on and i could really and truly just enjoy the afternoon. for the first time in a long time. it was incredible.

and i started thinking about loss and its impact. how hard it is to bear. how much havoc it reeks. and yet. there is that point when the benefits show themselves. you've just got to be able to see them. and pull them into the process. because it can't be all about the loss. that's why it's a process.

a process that brings you to the good stuff. a process that HAS to include loss.

i literally hadn't been this relaxed in a very long time. we sat outside. wingman eating his slice.

(me with my almost ulcer NOT eating a slice. along with a blander diet, there is no alcohol or caffeine or ibuprofen. okay i cheated last night with a glass of wine after i ate. but i swear, really? no alcohol? i e-mailed the husband and i said

"no wine for awhile while i heal this ulcer. what will i do with all that free time? take up knitting? porn? "

he said knitting was too dangerous and voted for porn.)

okay, so we were sitting outside and wingman was eating and i was just...there. without the buzzing and squeezing and churning. just.there.

and i know there are ways to achieve this feeling by manufacturing the relaxation. and those are fine too. for a minute. constant whiskey and putting 'the boxer' on repeat helped the first few days after my father died. my doctor offered tranquilizers. she offered it all. i declined.

the worst moving across country road trip imaginable helped after losing my house. there's no way to feel pain when every day for 8 days is a fresh kinda road rash hell. complete with blizzards, police pull overs, and freshly severed deer heads. by the time we landed i was exhausted and still had to keep steady. for the boybarians, the family, the cats, the future. no shrugging for atlas.

(yes. the cats. who wants 4 fucked up cats? not me.)

so finding a break from the pain that is neither breaking me down or addiction worthy, even if just for an afternoon, is amazing and welcome.

because some places of peace you cannot stay in.

okay, this is an old story, you've heard it before, but bear with me a moment. when i gave birth to the duke i almost died. i had been in so much pain for so long. 36 hours of hard labor, 3 hours of hard pushing, no drugs, etc. etc. when my behemoth son emerged it was too much loss for my body to absorb. so, i started to bleed. it was as if someone turned on a faucet in the yard. and i bled more than the normal human (not pregnant) has in their body. and i floated up to the ceiling and watched the scene below.

god. i felt so good. so warm. so peaceful. it was easy, now. no more pain. i could observe the scene below without being the main attraction. big big sigh. big smile. but there was a problem. and the problem was that i saw the husband in the corner holding the duke. watching me bleed. watching me fade. watching his world fall apart in front of him.

the problem was that i was up on that ceiling alone. and i knew that that feeling of being absolutely pain free was ultimately false. because NOTHING is pain free without a price. ever. and i grabbed a fireman's hand and yanked him to my face and said

'look at me. talk to me. do not stop.'

'uh. okay, who's the president of the united states?'

'george clinton.'

'close enough.'

and then i knew i was saved.

cue the p-funk.

so i KNOW there is a way to be pain free. but there are a lot of ways to achieve it without bleeding out and floating up. and choosing to stay there.

i don't want to escape the pain only to end up in my own private idaho. so i took yesterday afternoon as my parting gift and absorbed it as much as i could.

of course by the evening my afternoon of peace gave way to melancholia and irritation and wondering if i would ever not be sad. about it all. *refer to grief stage #546 above.

lather rinse repeat. process. blah blah blah. so in life loss is inevitable and yes, necessary. you have to go through it to get through it. to understand. and to accept. and to benefit. and you just do it as long as you need to. it gets better and worse and better again. but it goes forward. in its own way. yours is to recognize it moving forward. however that presents itself.

and that whole thing about all you need is love. and only love prevails. i believe those. with all my heart. i also know that it's not as easy as all that. in the end, sure. but in the meantime? in the meantime it's two steps forward and one step back. it's messy and complicated. it's heartbreaking and crazy making.

and it's funny. because when you're in the thick of a situation that's so FUBAR you can't imagine it can get worse, and then, of course, it does, and you are so scared. you are in so much pain. you can't imagine ever feeling better. and then, you do.

just like that.