Tuesday, June 21, 2016

If You Were a Song

It's hard for me to productively write at home, so when it comes time to bang out something more creative than a grocery list, I try to head to a local coffee shop.

I usually find my way out the door after the kids hit the hay, maybe 8 or 9pmish.  Upon arriving, one of the things I have to force myself to do is to secure my headphones, turn up my tunes and zone into my computer screen, literally forgetting that anyone is around me.

Because I promise you, all of the whack-a-doos come out on school nights to coffee joints.

And they typically come in the form of focused students, groups of youngsters (yes, I use that word-because I am officially old compared to all of them) playing board/card games or people on bad dates.

Enter the duo seated next to me.  I have been trying all night to stop listening, but their dialogue is a  fucking train wreck and I'm desperate to find a way to sneak this sweet girl out the window in the bathroom, but she just seems way too nice to cut her losses. 

So, this is what happened.  Let me begin by saying that he's seated next to her instead of across from her. at the table..which is creepy....where's the circle of grace/personal space bubble/room for coffee breath?  Then, after initial pleasantries, he talks Ad nauseam about his last relationship but confides that as a romantic, he still holds out hope for love and hands her one of his ear buds saying, "If you were a song, this is how I see you."

I have no idea what he played, but I involuntarily snorted and then excused myself to head into the bathroom. 

Jesus Christ...does this stuff still happen?  I mean, really?  A song?  Holding out hope for love?

After giving strong consideration to walking up and pretending that I knew her, providing a possible out, I packed up.  Lord have mercy. 

I've already planned it out.  I'm going to write a book of these really pathetic dating scenarios and hand it to my daughters as a mandatory read prior to their courtship years.  Cause really, ain't no one got time for that. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I'm So Lonely

Yesterday was a hard page in the parenting books.

Almost a day that I want to forget except for the redemptive late afternoon chat with my 11-year old that changed everything.

It's been ridiculously hot in our little neck of the woods for the middle of June.  With temperatures in the upper 90's, crazy humidity and heat advisories, we've been doing what everyone else has...going to the pool.   We were super excited to have our friends join us and to beat the heat by going down water slides, lazing about with colorful noodles and eating ice cream while lathering the shit out of ourselves with sunscreen.

But yesterday, every time I turned around, Sam was just not himself.  Irritable almost borderline belligerent, I could tell that something was up, but my patience was being sucked dry by the sun.

It culminated at the cafe, when denying him a smoothie in favor of what the masses were having...ice cream, he said to me, "How dare you?!" to which I was thankful that we were in a public forum with dear friends or I would have knocked his ass out the door and let him bake.

After we said goodbye to our pool mates and everyone put on their seat belts, I proceeded to read them the riot act about entitlement and what it means to be unappreciative in a life filled with blessings.  They lost screen time, were given additional chores and had quiet time in their rooms until dinner.

As I was in the kitchen, Sam came in with tears in his eyes.  "Mom, the truth is I'm just lonely.  I mean....I'm not a kid like the girls, but I'm not a teenager...I still like dinosaurs and Harry Potter...but I kind of just want to be with my friends without you and without all of the rules. I just don't know what to do."

My heart broke and I gave him a really big hug.

I remember what it's like to be a tween...caught in the middle of younger siblings who still think it's cool to have your mom cart you around to play dates, while yearning for independence and freedom but not quite completely ready to break free.

It's a tough gig especially when you don't live on a street filled with kids your age and you have to be intentional about creating and sustaining connections, particularly in the summertime.

And to that end, we brainstormed all of the ways that he can stay in touch with his friends and all of the ways that I can back off in the process.

And the truth is...he's growing up....and he's the first born...and I don't know what I'm doing...and I'm continually assuming that I'm fucking it all up...and he's endlessly forgiving...and so am I...and it's really God damn hard to be a parent.

The goal is to help them fly and from my experience, to fly far away and have extraordinary adventures (those were always the most memorable ones for me) but every fiber of my being just wants to keep him close and talk about books, movies, and play chess and board games and snort while we laugh and hug on him.

Maybe I can find a way to do both...but man, it's a rough go.  Here's to finding the silver linings in the process.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Even So

Summer began at our house with sickness and then peddled its' way into a beautiful vacation with family in Northern California. 

It really was an extraordinary experience exploring the majestic Redwoods, witnessing the memorial of Ray's father who was lost at sea, traversing the stunning Golden Gate bridge, hiking through the freakish historical ruins of Alcatraz prison, bungee jumping at Fisherman's Wharf, laughing and reminiscing with dear friends on cable cars, eating our fill of clam chowder, sugaring up at the Jelly Belly factory, running up boulders at Tahoe all while enjoying roadside vineyards and mild temperatures.

We came home happy and exhausted.

Recouping from the time change and the travel, we awoke on Sunday morning to the horrible and unexplainable tragedy of the killing of 49 men and women at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse.

Now it is Wednesday morning and I still can't stop thinking about each of those people and the terror they must have felt seeing the man with the gun.  Some were 22 years old, others in their 30's, 40's...some made a last minute decision to go out that night, others had it planned and were laughing, dancing, singing and enjoying life.  None expected that those moments would be their last.

While perusing my Facebook feed, I stumbled upon a recent graduation speech by James Ryan, dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  In his address, he gave what he believed to be the five questions we must ask to find happiness and success in life.  They are:

1.  Wait, what?
2.  I wonder, why/if?
3.  Couldn’t we at least?
4.  How can I help?
5.  What really matters?

Bonus question: And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?

All of his questions intrigued me, but the one I fixated on in light of the recent horror in Orlando, was the bonus question.

Derived from one of Raymond Carver's final writings in "The Late Fragment," he asks the most profound question...essentially, in light of everything that has happened to you in this life...all that you planned and all that you didn't...was it enough?  At the end of the line, did you love and were you loved?  Did you do your best to help make it better than when you found it?  Overall, did you live with love in your back pocket instead of regret?  Did you adore another enough to sacrifice your momentary desires? Did you appreciate what you were given even if it wasn't exactly what you had hoped for?

I'm not insinuating that the men and women trapped in the night club in Orlando had a moment to reflect on any of these thoughts...but I do think that we can.

If today was it, did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?

Can you say, I did...and what did I want?  To love and to be loved.

Because if we boil it down to that, we can all do that...choose to love. 

And love is love is love is love is love.