Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Religion Redux

I haven't looked at my Statcounter numbers in over a year, I'm guessing. I used to check it every day for traffic rankings, audience and page view statistics, referral was very, very important to me. I don't know when or why it stopped being so important to me. I literally forgot the Statcounter was even there.

But recently, prompted by the new "statistics" feature that blogger has implemented, I remembered and decided to take a look. There were no surprises, really. My viewership is way down, daily pageloads are minimal. I knew this. It's what happens when you all but abandon a blog. People drift away when there is nothing to entertain or illuminate.

But my Statcounter did reveal one interesting thing - two pieces still get the majority of my traffic; both pieces I wrote way back in the beginning, both pieces that were written without thoughts of an audience because there was no audience to speak of. I was just writing what I thought and felt without being conscious of whom I might offend or alienate or just plain piss off.

And you know what? They're good. I like them. I'm under no illusions as to why they are the most highly viewed. It isn't the quality of the writing. It's really just a happy SEO coincidence;  GOD and PUSSY and STUPID being highly searched keywords, it seems. But in looking at individual visists, it seems that those who came by accident, expecting something either more salacious or more scholarly...stayed to actually read the pieces they encountered.

I think that's cool. So I'm going to share them with you again. It's been a very long time since I posted either one, so I don't think it will be as tired as most recycled material. And, as I said...I like them. I want them to be read again. How's that for self serving?

I now give you....

Religion For Dummies

(Imagine my surprise at finding an actual book by this title)

I am not a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, and my parents tried very hard to rise above the problems that plagued the small Baptist church we attended for the sake of their faith. But eventually, dispirited and sick at heart over the petty bickering, corruption and favoritism, they simply stopped going. As Baptists living in the land of Catholicism, their alternatives were limited and so, our days of churchgoing quietly ended.

As children, my sisters and I were, as all children are, particularly vulnerable to the prejudices that proliferated there. We watched year after year as the same girl, whose parents could afford to lavish such gifts as a new stove or a second hand van upon the church, garnered the much coveted role of Virgin Mary while we, invariably, were stable animals.

We watched as Sunday after Sunday,Mr. Jones, who could no more carry a tune than grow feathers and take flight, but was obscenely wealthy, sang the Sunday solo in a ridiculously discordant falsetto. My father, who hadn't the means to bestow gilt-edged, leather-bound hymanls upon the congregation but who posessed a rich and melifluous baritone, sat silent.

We were not at all disconcerted by our abrupt departure from that little church, and strangely, though we received no explanation from our parents, neither were we surprised or puzzled. All three of us understood and in unspoken solidarity, approved. That was the beginning of my disillusionment with and suspicion of religion as a whole, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that little church was not the only enclave of hypocritical and disingenuous Christianity. When I moved to the Bible belt as a young adult I experienced the realization that deeply held religious beliefs are often nothing more than another means for those who hold themselves in higher esteem than others to justify their intolerance and sense of entitlement.

So now you understand my stance on religion. Though I do not espouse or embrace Christian beliefs, or any religious ideology for that matter, theology is a source of endless fascination for me, both from a historical and sociological standpoint.

That said, I was recently reading about a recent study that said church attendance is at an all time low; only 45% of Americans attended church on a regular basis in 2005, as opposed to 86% in 1905 and a whopping 95% in 1805, though of course, we have to take into account the subjectivity of statistics gathered before the advent of a reliable postal and census system (The Census Bureau did not begin using statistic sampling techniques until the 1940’s). In a recent discussion it was suggested to me that this decline is due to sociological factors which make religious ideals incompatible with modern thinking and increasingly egocentric lifestyles. I think that the reality is much simpler.

People are just smarter these days.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that people of faith are intellectually inferior. But in the religious heyday, people were largely uneducated. As such, they simply accepted the way things were, because it was the way things had always been. They had no knowledge of anything that might seriously challenge their faith, nor any desire to acquire such knowledge.

By the same token, Pastors, Ministers and Priests were community leaders; people of great authority and prestige. People looked up to them and trusted them without question. They believed with the conviction of an unblemished soul, that their religious mentor would not lead them astray. People looked to them for guidance and wisdom on all manner of issues, but in regard to religious matters, it was thought by many that only a man of the cloth had the wisdom and insight needed to understand, interpret, and dissemble the word of God.

So what has changed? The way I see it, there are two key issues.

First, we have the great privilege (or grave misfortune, depending upon your perspective) of living in the information age. Generally speaking, people are literate and well-educated. From the time we are able to speak, we are encouraged to think for ourselves. We are taught to question, we are taught to seek answers. We have the freedom to decide for ourselves, and the confidence to do so. We have access to many widely varying resources and points of view, and the temerity to avail ourselves of them.

There is evidence to the contrary of many previously undisputed beliefs and now even the most poorly educated and/or heretical individual has access to this evidence, which they can use to form their own opinions. Ongoing research has debunked many of the Bible's greatest myths. Indeed, there is evidence that Christianity is as much the result of folklore and fantasy as anything else.

I am not a theologian by any means, but I've been doing a lot of reading about this subject lately. The information is there for anyone who seeks it out. Some of the books I've read are Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Magdalene Legacy, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and The Goddess in the Gospels. These are but a few of the many tomes dedicated this subject. Go to the religious history section of your local bookstore and you will find the shelves bursting with them. The abundance of such material is a testament to the burning dissatisfaction and disillusionment that we as a people feel towards a rote doctrine that we once simply accepted.

The other issue is the deconstruction of the religious leader as the picture of perfect humility, morality and servility. Jim Jones poisoned his flock. Jim Baker hustled his. David Koresh, in a shocking display of sacrilege, declared himself the Messiah, and then had sex with numerous women and young girls in the name of himself. Then of course, we have the many Catholic priests who abused, molested and raped their young and trusting parishioners.

We got fed up, and then we gave up when we began to realize that the mantle of religious respectability was nothing more than carte blanche to pander to the most base human instincts. No longer were we willing to relinquish our children or ourselves mind, body and spirit to those professing to have only the salvation of our immortal souls at heart. And really, what relationship can withstand such suspicion and duplicity?

We have become a society that is less inclined toward blind acceptance and more inclined toward suspicion and disbelief. We are now a people that questions. I don't see that as necessarily a bad thing.

But I will tell you this: Some days, I envy those who have the solace of a convicted heart. Those who take comfort where it is to be found, and who believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that sometimes a thing that cannot be seen, or proven, just is.

A Leap of Faith, they call it. And I am reminded of the quote by John Burroughs…

"Leap, and the net will appear."

So…where does the courage lie? In leaping, or in doubting? If you figure it out, let me know. Because despite my skepticism, I still get goosebumps when I happen to hear a long forgotten hymn from my childhood. And it makes me think that deep down....we all want to believe in something.

(Dedicated to all the exceedingly patient Christians I have known, who suffered my heresy and blasphemy with grace and kindness. I suppose, this time, it is I who should repent. step at a time, okay? )

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stuff Nobody Tells You Because The Species Would Die Out If They Did

If you're a parent, then you know that people are very free with the advice when you're expecting. Most of it is well intentioned. Some of it is preachy and self righteous. Some of it is patently ridiculous. (Did I ever tell you the story about the advice I was given by an, ummmm, rurally located relative of Husband's regarding freshly laid hens eggs and teething? No? Remind me to.) And, if you were anything like me when you were expecting, you soaked it all up in desperate but gleeful anticipation, figuring there's no such thing as too much information when the care and keeping of  distressingly small human being is left in your hands.

I did benefit from a lot of that advice. And I learned that some of it was pure bunk. Cabbage leaves in the bra? Good God. Nothing like a cupful of soggy, limp body temperature salad to make a post-partum gal feel especially sssssexay.

But I'll tell you what would have been more valuable to me: the stuff that nobody tells you. The stuff that isn't covered in "What to Expect When You're Expecting." The stuff that can't be solved with a clever gadget,  a sweet treat, or a mother's hug.

Nobody tells you that you might not get a Hallmark card, Kool-Aid commercial, picture frame model, teacher's pet, parent's favorite, kissin' ass and lovin' it, Opie Taylor lookin'....kid.

You might get kid that has issues or disorders or syndromes; one who is surly and contrary and irrascible and stubborn and argumentative. You might get a kid who is socially inept, resistant to change, bad with transitions of any kind. You might get a kid that adults dislike and other children delight in tormenting. You might get a kid that causes people to cringe when they see him coming. You  might get a kid that causes you yourself to breathe a sigh of relief when he walks out the door each morning.

Nobody tells you that other people will judge you because your child is different. Nobody tells you that other parents will look at you with disdain when your child says or does something wildly inappropriate. Nobody tells you that administrators and teachers will blame you when your obviously intelligent child fails class after class. They will think you are not following through at home, not imposing consequences, not checking backpacks and agendas and behavior reports. They will think it is your fault. And you are often sure they are right, though you can't imagine what else you can do, short of completing the homework yourself and then hand delivering it to the teacher.

Nobody tells you there are days when you will have to walk away from your child  to avoid saying something horribly damaging. Nobody tells you there are days that you don't do it soon enough, and nobody tells you that the guilt, on those days, will keep you up at night, contemplating what kind of future this child has, when even his own mother can't stand him. Nobody tells you that you will often wonder if your child can make his way in the world at all, or if he will become one of those people who live on the fringe; maybe peacefully, maybe not. Nobody tells you that sometimes, in very dark moments, you wonder if your child is destined to become something unspeakable; someone people will talk about for a very long time.

Nobody tells you that your other "normal" child will suffer in ways you never expected. Nobody tells you that this other child will retreat from the constant conflict, locking himself away in his room where the turmoil won't touch him. Nobody tells you that you agonize over how to stay connected to this other child and how on earth to give him equal measures of time and attention. You wonder if you have anything left to give that child at the end of the day, when you are exhausted in body and being from the battles you have fought with his sibling. Nobody tells you that trying not to fail one child can make you feel like you are failing another.

Nobody tells you that sometimes, when the rope is frayed and unravelling and the end is mere inches from your feet...there will be moments of brilliance, wonder, perfection, meaning and hope that will give you the courage to tie a knot and hang on. Nobody tells you that despite all your self-flagellation you will ocassionally get small glimpses of evidence that in some way, on some level, you are doing some thing right. And you are getting through, even when it seems like the walls and the obstacles are insurmountable. Nobody tells you that the snippets of "normal", when they come, are like a gift from some cosmic force. Or, that you will savor them more than any sweet treat you could possibly think of.


So what has prompted this post? First let me tell you that I almost didn't post it. Because it sounds awfully whiny and self pitying and really, really ungrateful. I know there are women out there who loooooooonng for children. But let's be honest, they don't long for a child like mine. So although it may be all those things and more, it's also real. And I try to be real here. Because I don't want to read about somebody else's perfect cookie cutter children and perfect cookie cutter life, where there's no turmoil, no upheaval, no judgement, no regret, no resentment....None of that makes me feel less alone or soul sick or desperate.

Perfect holds no meaning or appeal for me. I want to hear about struggles and failure and chaos. And if that is true for you as well, then you are in the right place!

Now...back to what prompted this post...

School is out for my boys, and has been for two days. For many Moms, this is cause for celebration. But I'll be honest, for causes only a feeling of sick dread and impending disaster. And that makes me feel bad. It really does.

Other Moms are posting and tweeting and blogging about how happy they are that summer is here and they get to spend all day everyday with their perfect sunshiney kids and they can do perfect wholesome activities and enjoy each other's perfect smiling company... and all I can think is...

It's going to be a long fucking summer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Soundtrack; Apocalypse

 Linkin Park~Waiting For The End

Mika~Any Other World

Kansas~Dust In The Wind

Duran Duran~Save A Prayer

Depeche Mode~Blasphemous Rumors

Alphaville~Forever Young

Death Cab For Cutie~Soul Meets Body

Howard Jones~No One Is To Blame

Journey~Who's Cryin' Now

Simon and Garfunkel~The Sounds Of Silence

Duran Duran~What Happens Tomorrow

Billy Joel~Only the Good Die Young

WHAM~Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Europe~The Final Countdown

Nickelback~If Today Was Your Last Day

Have I forgotten any pertinent pennings? If so, leave them in the comments and I'll try to add them before the world ends.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Which I Decide...If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of overt displays of religious fervor.

Where I come from, religious affiliation is a very personal issue and not one that people broadcast at every opportunity. Northern people are very conservative when it comes to publicly expressing their religious views. Which is why, after 20 years in the South, I still cringe when someone slips a little halle-LU-jah or Praise JeZUS into completely random conversations.


Conversant #1: "Wow, this potato salad is amazing! I finally persuaded Mary to give me the recipe."

Conversant #2: "Praise JeZUS!"


Conversant #1: Can you believe I got this dress on sale for $25?

Conversant #2: Halle-LU-jah!


Any and all such pronouncements bug the living snot out of me, but the one that really makes me want to smack somebody silly is...

 "Have a blessed day!"

The cashier at the grocery store said it to me this morning, and I reacted the way I always do. First, I blinked furiously, trying to process. Then I felt the smile on my lips freeze into a maniacal rictus. Then I bit my tongue to resist the urge to say something like...

"Well, I'm really looking forward to roasting over the fires of hell, but thanks anyway!"

Now, rationally, I understand that when somebody says "Have a blessed day!" they are simply trying to be kind. But part of me can't help thinking that it's also a fairly effortless way to hedge one's bets when it comes to the pre-judgement tally at the pearly gates.

I imagine St. Peter and his long suffering assistant standing at the head of a long line of the wretched and the damned, trying to decide who gets in and who has to kiss Satan's ass for the rest of eternity.


St Peter: Next!

Long Suffering Assistant: Let'sssssss seeeeeee. Oh yes. (clears throat) Candy Ann Spellman, 38, single, no children. Christian. Cashier at the Brew Barn. Hobbies include scrapbooking and wet t-shirt contests. Killed in an MVA, attempting to flee the scene of a thwarted armed robbery, masterminded by her most recent paramour, one Harold "Crusher" McCoy.

St. Peter (raising eyebrows): Joel....what do we say about Christianity??

Long Suffering Assistant: One must walk the walk, Sir.

St. Peter: Exactly! Send her packing.

Long Suffering Assistant: Um, with all due respect Sir, it says here that she exhorted some 4,786,592 persons to "Have a blessed day".

St. Peter: Yes, yes, what of it?

Long Suffering Assistant: Sir, I believe you are aware that such a dedicated display of pointless religious promulgation is grounds for a declaration of zealotism and as such, negates any and all prior transgressions as they pertain to eternal life.

St. Peter: Poppycock!!

Long Suffering Assisant (patiently): I assure you Sir, it's not Poppycock at all. Why else would Rex Humbard be here?

St. Peter: We have got to do something about that loophole. Remind to speak to the big G about that.

Long Suffering Assistant (scribbling): Noted, Sir.

St. Peter (sighing): Alright then. Let her through. A loophole is a loophole. What size halo?

Long Suffering Assistant (checking his notes): Uhhhhh, size 10, extra pious.

St. Peter (thunderously): Extra Pious! I think not! She'll get a size 10 semi devout and LIKE IT!

Long Suffering Assistant: As you wish, Sir.

St Peter: Next.

Long Suffering Assistant: Yes sir. Next we have Alice Ghostly, 81. Widowed. Mother of 7. Agnostic. Character actress and stage performer. Cause of death...

St. Peter: She's in.

Long Suffering Assistant: But I haven't finished yet.

St. Peter: She's in.

Long Suffering Assistant: But Sir....

St. Peter: I loved Bewitched! I know the Big G wouldn't have approved...Witchcraft and all that, but she wasn't a real witch. And my goodness...the trouble she got herself into!! (chuckles)That Esmerelda. She had spunk!

Long Suffering Assistant (dryly): She certainly was a hoot, Sir. But I'm afraid she did not utter a single "Have a blessed day" during her life. Not one.

St. Peter: Well damnation.

Long Suffering Assistant: Quite literally, Sir.

So...I dunno. I'll admit I'm hyper sensitive when it comes to such things. But, really...what's so wrong with plain ole "Have a nice day?" It doesn't offend anybody. It doesn't exclude anybody. It isn't pretentious, self-righteous or contrived. It your standard all purpose social nicety, n'est pas?

Oh I know, I know...we Americans have this weird need to customize every little colloqualism, aphorism and slogan to our own personal designations. I have no idea why. I suppose it's the American propensity for self aggrandizement and involvement.

Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

So to all of you out there in the blogosphere, I say....

"Have a religiously ambiguous day!"

(Recycled from 2007. Had a discussion with a friend the other day that made me think of it, and I decided that I like it enough to subject you to it again.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I want to tell you about this thing that happened. I don't know why I feel like I need to tell this story, but I do. And yet, I feel silly putting it down in black and white. Because honestly, I feel silly believing it. But I do, despite my efforts to reason, justify, rationalize and explain it some other way. I do believe it. Maybe because I really, really want to.

About a month ago, my sister called to ask me if I had seen a charm that belonged to my Mother. It was something that held meaning for her and so, had ended up on her list when we reluctantly divided up my mother's belongings. But it was nowhere to be found. She searched my Mother's house up and down, and her own as well. She looked in handbags and cabinets and dresser drawers and storage boxes and various little catch all vessels that my Mother had around the house. It was just gone.

My Mother knew she didn't have very much time left, so she had spent a lot of her time organizing, labelling, categorizing and inventorying. It shouldn't have been missing. But it was and my sister was just sick about it. I told her I would look through the things I had brought home, just in case I had picked it up inadvertantly. But it wasn't there. She decided that she had probably put it away someplace safely away from little hands that can wreak big havoc, and had since forgotten where.

Several weeks later, she called me to say it had been found. She sounded calm, but there was something in her voice that put me on instant alert. That sister intuition, which had told me she was calling with bad news the day my mother passed away, told me once again, that something peculiar was afoot.

"It's so weird...." she said slowly "I found it on top of my computer monitor. I saw it the minute I walked into the office. I put a lot of stuff there, including the memory cards for my camera, which I'm always switching out. I look there a million times a day. And I looked there when I was searching for it. It. Was. Not. There."

I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. But I had to first explore the obvious.

"Could the kids or Husband have found it and put it there?" I asked.

"I asked them. They all said no." She paused for a moment. "You know what I'm thinking. Am I crazy?"

"No." I said. "No, I don't."

But I did realize that we are still grieving, and grieving minds are often governed by grieving hearts. The heart can accept a lot that the mind won't. I thought maybe in time, it might make some sort of sense. She agreed. We hung up.

Now, let's rewind a few months, back to the days immediately after my Mother's death in October. When I arrived back home two weeks later, I was laden with pictures and momentos. The momentos I stored carefully in a small armoire in my bedroom. The pictures I wanted to put with the other historic family photos, which I kept in a large padded manilla envelope, clearly marked. Many are very old, some nearly a hundred years. Some are fragile, all are irreplaceable. I kept the envelope with more recent family photographs and portraits in a cabinet in the living room along with extra picture frames and the million and one snapshots I still haven't gotten around to putting into albums or even some kind of cursory order.

I went in search of it, intending to add the photos I had carried home with me.

 It wasn't there.

I took everything out of that cabinet, emptied all the boxes and storage containers, removed all the board games and playing cards. It was not there. And that's when I began to panic. Where could it be? I tore my bedroom apart. I checked all my other various storage places. I looked in closets and under beds and even in my kids' rooms. But it was just nowhere. And I was just sick over it. But like my sister, I decided I had probably stashed it somewhere safe and since forgotten exactly where I stashed it.

Months later, in February, I visited home again, to tie up some loose ends regarding my mother's passing and to care for my sister's children while her eldest daughter had surgery in another town. Again I returned home with pictures and momentos. I put the new cache of photos in a place where they could not and would not be reached by any hands but mine.

Two days before Mother's Day, I got out my carefully gaurded treasure trove of pictures and selected those most special to me. I began uploading them to Facebook. I wanted to celebrate her in some way. Words were failing me, so pictures would have to tell the story of how extraordinary she was. I came across a photo of her as a child; perhaps 9 or 10 years old, that looked stunningly similar to Diminutive One. I thought it would be fun to post pictures of them together, so I went to the cabinet in search of one of his school portraits.

I opened the cabinet door and....

You can guess what was there, right?

Right on top. Plain as day. Impossible to miss. My own handwriting in bold black ink proclaiming....

Old Family Photos; FRAGILE!!

My knees went weak, I couldn't breathe, and my head swam for a moment. I was almost afraid to touch it, but I finally found the courage to pick it up and look inside. As far as I could tell, all the photos were there. And then I sank to my knees in front of the open cabinet and cried. It was shock, relief and disbelief that caused my tears, but something more too. I felt her then, though I tried to deny it. I reasoned and rationalized, just as I had done with my sister. 

I jumped up and called my husband. I said nothing of what had just happened, I simply asked him if he had recently found an envelope with old pictures in it and put it back in the picture cabinet. He had not. I asked him if he though the boys would, had they run across it somewhere. He snorted, confirmimg my own skepticism in that regard. Later that day I asked them anyway, but you already know what they said.

I hung up and called my sister. I told her the whole story. And then there was dead silence as we both struggled to process what had happened.

When I could bear the silence no longer, I said..."Now I  have to ask I crazy to be thinking what I'm thinking? Am I inventing in this? There's an explanation right?"

She said, "No, you're not crazy. Yes, there is an explanation. We just can't accept it because we don't think that way."

She's right. We are empirical proof kind of people. Seeing is believing. Logical. Practical. Not unimaginative, but not given to flights of fancy. We are far too pragmatic for this kind of nonsense.

And yet, we both felt that somehow, she was responsible. And it's a hard thing to shake when you want it to be true so very, very badly. When you want to believe that in some way, on some plane, in some form...she is still here with us.

I still can't explain what happened. But I can tell you that I check on my envelope every day. I touch it, just to make sure I'm not imagining that it's there.

Am I crazy? No, I don't think so.

I just really, really, really miss my Mom.

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Potential and Beyond sons and I all had to face something that we feared.

I wanted to be strong for them, because that's what Moms do. I wanted to seem as though I could face my own fear and laugh in it's face. I wanted to seem indomitable and determined and really, really badass.

But I wasn't feeling very badass. I was feeling like I wanted my Mommy. I wanted her to tell me that she knew I could do it and be really awesome, but it was okay if I decided not to; that she would still love me and be proud of me.

So that's what I told my sons. You can DO this. And no matter the outcome, I love you, and I'm proud of you.

Pubescent One took his driver's test. He was terrified. Not of driving; of failing.

Diminutive One participated in his first sparring tournament. He was terrified. Not of sparring; of losing.

They have, despite all my efforts to prevent it, inherited my tendencies towards perfectionism and fear of failure. Because of that I knew that I absolutely positively could not NOT face my own fear. No matter how badly I wanted to call off my class and say something like..."The timing just isn't right" or, "I need more practice" or, "I've realized this isn't really my thing"...I HAD to do it. Not only for myself, but for them.

It wasn't success I wanted them to witness, but trying. Trying, even though I knew full well I was going to make mistakes.

If I had a magic Mom wand that I could blythely wave and grant my children anything...I would grant them freedom from the fear of making mistakes. Unless you have such a fear, you can't really imagine what a handicap it can be in life.

Do you know how many times I heard "failing to live up to her potential" when I was a child and a teenager? I never understood that. But I understand it now that I'm able to examine myself with a grown up eyes and a grown up mentality and be realistic about what I see. I never lived up to my potential because I never tried anything unless I was absolutely certain I could do it, do it flawlessly and be the absolute best at it. That seriously lowers one's odds of success.

I find that somewhat tragic, to be honest. What could I have done and been and accomplished if only I hadn't been so afraid?  I really, really hate it when people say they have no regrets because every choice they made has led them to where they are and made them who they are....blah, blah, blah...horseshit. Everybody has regrets. Not regretting doesn't make you a self actualized and wise person. I think you build a lot more character by acknowledging your regrets and then using them to kick yourself in the ass really hard.

So, determined not to stand in my own way yet again, I did it. I held my first class. And you know what? It was a NIGHTMARE.

I had a great turnout; friends, family, weight watchers acquaintances, fellow Zumba instructors. They all came out to support me. And I was determined to give them a good show. And most likely, if it had been entirely in my hands, I would have. But sometimes, life wrests control away from you and gives you a choice only in how you deal with the ensuing disaster.

The surround sound system in the studio malfunctioned, but unfortunately, I didn't realize it until well into my warm-up. I had never turned it on to practice you see; only using the two front speakers, since it was just me alone in the studio. So we never realized the back speakers were disfunctional until, as I said, my class was well underway. Suddenly, the music just dropped away and entire stanzas became nothing more than muffled murmurs. I couldn't hear my cues and at certain points, I was basically just guessing, improvising, and totally winging it. I wanted to cry. But I couldn't. I was screwing up big time, but I had to prove to myself that I could go on.

So I finished the hour long class. And believe me when I tell you it was one of the longest hours of my entire life.

One delicious man, who is the husband of an instructor friend who came to support me, actually sang the lyrics to me at one point, to help me keep pace. His off key warbling lent some comic relief to the situation, which was badly needed. I could have kissed him for his kindness. Afterward, people told me they enjoyed it and I believe that they there sincere.

And then I felt as if I could breathe again. I did it. I didn't worm my way out of it and I didn't quit when things were going wrong. For once in my life, I did not stand in my own way.

I was really proud, but I was prouder still two days later when my Pubescent One handed me a Mother's Day card in which he had written how proud he was of what I had done, and how I had stuck to my plan and accomplished the goal that I set for myself. See...that's the nice thing about having older kids; when they get it, they can tell you so. It made me cry, that knowledge.

And I was proud again this past weekend, when Diminutive One, lacking an opponent in his weight class, was given the opportunity to get a medal without fighting. His other option was to fight a kid much bigger and of a higher rank than he (he is a senior brown, his would-be opponent was red). Diminutive One stated that he had come to compete and he wasn't going to take a medal without a fight.

He knew he was going to get his ass handed to him. He had been warned by his Master that he would, this being his first sparring tournament. So he was expecting that part. But even though he had watched his opponent's previous fight, during which another kid forfeited the match after one blow, he didn't really expect to get kicked so hard in the head that he went to the floor.

The medic checked his pupils, asked him what year it was, along with a couple other questions, and then asked him if he wanted to go back in. Diminutive One didn't hesitate. He got back in the ring and he finished the fight. He lost. But he never gave up. He kept fighting. 

I like to think I had a little something to do with that.

Pubescent One passed his driving test with a 93. Diminutive One took second place.

And we all learned that by God...we can DO it. If only we don't stand in our own way.

I hope they've also learned that making a mistake isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person. I hope they will be less afraid to reach for things that I wouldn't and couldn't. I hope they never fear losing as much as they fear not trying.

And screw potential. I don't want them to live up to their potential. No sir. I want them to soar past it; to be more and better and stronger than they ever thought they could be or would be.

Maybe now they can.

And maybe in this one small way, as a Mother and a role model...I finally lived up to my potential.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood; the Mystery of Boys

I used to lament not having girls. And I used to think I would simply keep churning out children until my womb yielded a child with the proper assortment of sex organs. I believed that I would have my girl. That's not exactly how things worked out, and as it happens, its really all for the best.


When I was pregnant with my first child, I cried the the day I found out I was having a boy. I had no brothers you see, and boys were more than mysterious to me, they were simply and profoundly absent from my life experiences. men I knew. Men I understood. Men I could handle. Men, I believed, are essentially simple and straightforward creatures.

But men are first little boys, and I was desperately afraid that I would do something egregiously wrong in my rearing of a male child and end up unleashing upon the world some oddly Oedipal manwoman incapable of relating to the opposite sex in any but an entirely superficial and/or thoroughly unsettling manner.

I was afraid of raising Norman Bates.

It was a foolish fear of course, but pregnant women can be a little irrational sometimes, and first time Moms are distressingly adept at borrowing trouble.

I suppose the jury is still out on whether my fears in that regard were completely unfounded, but I've learned a thing or two in 16 years of parenting boys, and I think I can say without equivocation that I am finding boys to be, all things considered, as uncomplicated as their adult counterparts.

Oh they are different of course, and in some ways, almost alien. But I've figured it out for the most part, with Husband's help. And I now realize that tempermentally speaking, I am much better suited to raising boys. I have no patience for drama, you see. I have no patience for histrionics, catfighting, backbiting, gameplaying or machinations. I cannot mollify, pacify, placate or patronize with adroitness or sincerity.

But boys....

They don't mince words. They don't play games. They punch each other and then it's done with. I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing. It is a whole lot easier though.

There is one way in which we differ that I find thoroughly frustrating. It is the same issue that has plagued relationships between men and women since time began.


Boys do not like to talk. Oh they will yammer on about matchbox cars and dinosaurs and Star Wars. Or, when they're older, real cars, sports and real cars.

But feelings? Relationships? Conflict Resolution? A pox on them.

Nosiree. They'd rather adopt a "wait for it to blow over" strategy. The "walk on eggshells until she forgets she's mad at me" strategy. The "if I don't think about it, it will cease to be true" strategy.

Husband is pretty good at communication, which is why, I feel, our marriage has lasted almost eighteen years. But even he will sometimes practice tactical avoidance when he knows I am upset, but thoroughly mystified as to the cause.

Recently, Pubescent One had a protracted disagreement with his best friend. Both of them are unusually affable kids, so it was a little strange that they hadn't worked things out after a couple of days. Usually, all it takes is a couple of insults, a couple of good natured and half hearted thwaps, maybe a nuggie, and all is well.

To whit:

"You're such an asshole."

"I'd rather be one than look like one."





"Wanna play Guitar Hero?"


But apparently, this argument was of a scope and seriousness that such a strategy would not suffice.

So he brooded.

On the third day, he came home from school, stomped up to his room, slammed the door, and burst into tears. a mother, my instinct is to fix things, and my way of fixing things is to talk about what is wrong and how to mend it. But this is the wrong tack to take with a boy. Forcing a boy to emote when he wants to cave is really not constructive at all. It can be fantastically ineffectual and even disastrous.

I've learned this the hard way and in so doing, I've had to face Husband's pursed mouth, head shaking, I-told-you-so look when my insistence has resulted in one or the other of our male children closing us out completely, with stubborn, sullen, persistent muteness.

So I sent Husband to do deal with it. Birds of a feather and all that rot.

In the meantime, I decided to call Best Friend's Mother to see if she had some insight. She didn't and agreed that it was frustrating that neither child would talk about it. But, she confided, girls are worse. MEANER, she qualified. Much, much meaner.

She said she would try to talk to Best Friend, but that realistically, it would probably just have to blow over. We sighed together over the ridiculous maleness of it all and hung up.

She called back the next day to let me know that there was actually more to the issue, which I had suspected. She filled me in. And she told her son that it wasn't fair to give Pre-Pubescent One the cold shoulder without explaining why he was angry, and that they owed it to one another as friends to be honest and direct.

But he wasn't ready to talk to Pubescent One about it. Of course. "I can't push him" she said apologetically. I told her I understood and we agreed to just wait it out.

I went up to talk to Pubescent One. I told him Best Friend was angry about more than just the one incident, and that his anger was justified. I told him that when Best Friend was ready to talk about it, he needed to listen, and really hear what Best Friend was saying to him.

He nodded very earnestly, clearly relieved that Best Friend was actually planning to talk to him again at some point.

The next day it snowed, which here in Georgia is a VERY big deal. Every kid in the neighborhood was outside, including of course, Pubescent One and Best Friend. They initially ignored one another, but a couple of hours later when I looked out they appeared to be, once again, bosom pals.

Later that evening, I asked Pre-Pubescent One about it.

"So...things are okay with you and Best Friend?"


"So...what happened?"

He shrugged.

"Nothing, really."

"Well did you talk?"


I looked at him and he looked at me. Clearly, I was going to have to drag it out of him one word at a time.

"What did he say Pubescent One?"

"He said I was being an asshole."


"I listened, I heard him, and I apologized for being an asshole."

"That's it???"


"Didn't you ask him why he was mad?"

"Why would I do that?"

Why indeed.

I felt there was more, because with a boy, there almost always is. To my credit, I did not harangue him further. It would have been pointless.

And like that day so long ago, when he came home from his very first day of school, and I was hungry for details of his first foray into the world without me, I simply settled down to wait until he was ready to unburden his heart.

The moments come when I least expect them. Sometimes, they are casually tossed into the hectic conversation of day to day life. Sometimes they are whispered to me in the darkness on the cusp of a dream. Sometimes they are blurted, tearful confessions wrenched from them by guilt.

But always, they are precious to me for their rarity.

A boy's heart is often a closed and mysterious thing.

But sometimes, sometimes, a mother is privvy to it's secrets.

If she can wait.