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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Genus Saber Toothus

Last night I started a new Zumba class at a local ballet studio. When I arrived, class was in session for the two year olds. Yes, two. Two year olds taking ballet. Well, it wasn't so much "ballet" as it was "herding and constantly redirecting". Cute, but kind of silly, if you ask me.

Nevertheless, the mothers in the waiting area chatted excitedly as they watched their offspring through a windowed wall. The talk shocked me, frankly. They gushed about being the stewards of god given talent and they enthused over how much the tiny tots looooove their class, though the window revealed that one child was staging a coup by sitting cross legged on the floor and refusing to budge. Another child expressed her opinion of this behavior by delivering a swift kick to the slender shins of the malcontent. The teacher was unfazed though. She picked the child up off the floor, planted her firmly on her feet, and then calmly positioned her limbs into a fairly recognizable ballet posture.

People, there are not enough drugs or dollars in the world....

But anyway, the parents seemd unfazed as well and the talk continued with scarcely a pause. One older woman said, "My granddaughter is learning her sixth language and her not even THREE years old!" The other mothers were duly impressed but all I could think was...

"In God's name...WHY???"

Honestly, what need has an almost three year old of six languages? Or ballet, for that matter. I'm not disputing the value of either one, but at THREE? Three year olds should be blowing bubbles and coloring outside the lines and eating play-doh. They should be chasing rainbows, wishing on stars, blowing dandelion fluff into the wind. Their days should be filled with whimsy and magic and make-believe.

The thought of an almost three year old being drilled on verbs and tenses and the like makes me a little ill, frankly. A lot ill. It smacks of abuse if you want to know what I really think. It brings to mind a whole new classification of Tiger Mother. These women are SABER TOOTHED Tiger Mothers. I turn back to the windowed wall and watch the tiny twirling little forms with a new perspective. And I find that I am terribly, terribly sad for these little girls.

Their mothers would probably be surprised to know that. They would probably question the value of chasing rainbows if I explained my sorrow. They would probably wonder about my parenting skills and how my kids are faring in the excelling department.

It's not that I don't want great things for my boys. I do. Because I know they are capable of greatness; both of them, in different ways. But if you cultivate greatness with too much vigor, I think you end up with just the opposite. Because nobody wants to think they have no choice but to excel in life, especially not at three, or five, or nine or even sixteen. That's a lot of pressure and pressure, as we know, foments rebellion. And rebellion against being great means being mediocre.

Mediocrity has it's appeal and its benefits. Average isn't so bad. But unrealized potential is a real tragedy; one I hope to avoid with my boys.

There are some basic things I want for them. Anything above and beyond those things is a bonus; sort of like collecting $200 when you pass go in Monopoly. In the game of life you collect a lucrative career, professional esteem, a stellar reputation. And if a beach house or a sweet ride get thrown into the mix, much the better.

So what are those things?

I want them to be happy. Whatever that means for them.

I want them to believe in themselves.

I want them to know that they can be whatever they want to be.

I want them to find somebody to share their lives. Someone who makes them as happy and whole as their father makes me. Someone who will be their best friend and their lover, forever.

I want them to thirst for knowledge, seek answers, question everything and never, ever stop learning.

I want them to understand that the world is a big place and everything in it is worth their attention. I want them to never be mired in the insular attitudes that keep people from ever wondering about other people. I want them to seek out new vistas with ever interested eyes, new tastes with an ever hungry palate, new ideas with an ever curious mind.

I want them to experience regret and failure, because without it, we do not grow.

I want them to grow up and think...You know, I had really awesome parents.

Okay, maybe that last one is more for me than them, but I had awesome parents and it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized just how lucky I was and just how many people don't have awesome parents. And I wonder about those little twirling girls, with the tiny tutus and the tidy little ballerina buns. Will they think they had awesome parents? Will they look back and think...Boy, I was really lucky.?

Class ends and the girls race to their mothers. The tearful coup stager is swept into her mother's arms and for a moment I think more kindly of the woman, as it appears that she is going to comfort the tired and clearly overwhelmed child. But then I hear the ummistakable sound of murmured scolding and my heart sinks. Two years old and already she has failed to live up to her mother's expectations.

The woman looks up and our eyes meet. Her expression is inscrutable, but I fear mine is not. Does she the sadness there? I can't tell, but I think so, because she turns her back on me abruptly, though we had spoken cordially enough moments ago. Now the child is facing me. Her bun has come undone and strands of gilded hair stick to her cheeks, glued by the tears that still trickle from her clear blue eyes.

I realize that I am being judgemental, but I am angry with that woman all the same. And I hope someday, somewhere, someone teaches that little girl how to blow dandelion fuzz into the wind.

Please God, let her learn from somebody.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


As you may have surmised, I was pretty tightly wound yesterday.

I tried not to think about the number on the calendar and the celebration that wasn't taking place. I didn't want to cry. Friends, I tell you, I am so very, very weary of tears. So I wrote yesterday's entry and then I tried to pretend it was just any other day. The funny thing about's easy to pretend to other people; not so easy to pretend to yourself. And heartbreak doesn't go away just because you refuse to acknowledge it.

Later in the day, a friend called, needing a favor, which was a good distraction and allowed me to further distance myself from the pain of wanting of my Mommy.

Isn't it peculiar how that never leaves us? We bring babies into this world, battle sickness and banish darkness and brave ever new frontiers as parents and as people...and yet...when we are afraid and unsure and a little bit's our Mothers that we think of and long for. When I was giving birth to my first child, lost in a haze of pain nearly unbelievable and almost certainly unbearable, though my husband held my hand and bathed my brow and even held the basin as I was my mother I wanted. Then, as now, I knew it was impossible, but it didn't stop the wanting. I don't think it will ever stop.

So though I went through my day dry eyed and efficient as always; chauffered my children, tended to my friend, taught my was all a charade, and a fairly tenuous one at that.

I came home from my class exhausted and sweat soaked. Husband had prepared dinner while I was gone, which has become the custom on nights that I teach. The meal was delicious and the hour was late; we all ate heartily. Husband cautioned us to save some room, as he had bought a special treat for dessert. I sighed and ran a hand through my still damp hair, trying to summon the energy to drag myself upstairs to bathe. It was then that husband placed this in front of me with a small flourish:

Of course you know what happened then. Taken by surprise, I could do nothing but bury my face in my hands and sob. While I cried into my palms, Husband and the boys each shared with me their favorite memory of my Mother and vowed to celebrate her life instead of mourning her loss.

And so I ask can I bitch about toothpaste splatters on the bathroom mirror when he does crap like this?????????

Do you SEE the problem here? The man leaves me with a woeful lack of ammunition for future marital battles.

Goddamn him.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Birthday Bonanza

Today is my Mom's birthday.

I'm trying not to be sad. It's one of the firsts in a great many we are suffering through this year. I can't let each and every one drag me down into the depths of despair. I'm trying to focus on the good times and the happy moments, because there are so, so, so many. And because it would really annoy her to know that we all sit around thinking maudlin thoughts every time her name comes up or her memory is summoned by some random object or event.

I know you, my readers, care very little about my mother's presence in my life or her lasting influence on me. I know it doesn't mean much to you that she's gone. To you she is nothing more than some words on a page, a story, an anecdote. I understand that. But to me, she is still a living, breathing, laughing, loving, smiling, scowling, scolding, hugging presence in my life. So I'm writing this to me, because it matters to me, and I need to celebrate her today. Read if you wish, or pass on by and come back another day. I won't hold it against you.

Memory #1: My maiden name is really unfortunate (you wouldn't believe me if I told you) and lent itself beautifully to teasing and torment. In first grade, a kid named John Bonsack teased me incessantly about it. I was bereft and cried daily. My mother decided I should say to him..."John Bonsack has dirty socks." Snort. It still makes me giggle to this day. She thought that would him in his place alright.

Memory #2: One night there was a horrible thunderstorm. My Dad wasn't home and my sisters and I were frightened to death when the power went out, because of course, our trusty nightlight went out as well. It was so profoundly DARK. Mom came into our room, balancing my baby sister on one hip. She was very calm. She told us to just wait a minute and we would see that it wasn't as dark as it seemed. And then, when we realized we really could see, she told us to look out the window and see how beautiful the lightning was and what fantastic patterns it made in the purple black sky. We were so mesmerized, we forgot to be afraid.

Memory #3: For a while my Mom worked as an instructor at the local beauty college. There was some kind of competition for hairstylists and my Mom entered with one of her students, who had hair down past her waist. My Mom actually wove her hair into a basket on top of her head and put real fruit in it. The girl wore an off the shoulder blouse and a skirt with flounced layers and an achingly bright print. She looked so juicy and tropical I could scarcely believe it. Someone took a polaroid of that gravity defying hairdo and I carried it around for months, showing it to anybody and everybody who would deign to look.

Memory#4: Although my mother had a wicked sense of humor, she wasn't given to laughing out loud. So when she did, it was very memorable. Once, after a long hard day on her feet, she came home and collapsed upon our ramshackle sofa. She rarely let us see just how tired she was, but pretense was beyond her that day. We were worried and asked what we could do. Smiling weakly, she asked my sister to go upstairs and change her clothes for her. My sister went. Upon her return, we heard her giggling before she reached the bottom of the stairs. She had dressed herself in my Mom's lounging clothes, a soft comfy shawl collared sweater with brown and white stripes that belted at the waist, a pair of turquoise polyester stretch pants with a perma crease down the front, and pink fuzzy slippers that had seen better days. Of course, they were all miles too big. She stumbled in the slippers as she paraded through the living room. She giggled and snorted as she walked through, pretending not to notice us sitting there watching. My Mom laughed until tears were streaming down her cheeks; not at what my sister had done, but at the fact that she had so effectively cracked herself up that she couldn't stifle her giggles long enough to finish her little stunt. Yeah..that's a good one.

Memory #5: I was caught in flagrante delicto with a high school boyfriend. My mother, determined to do her duty, called me to the inner sanctum (otherwise known as the master bedroom) to deliver her lecture. Unfortunately, my mother could not bring herself to utter the word "sex" and so, she employed the euphemism "that behavior". I fear that her lecture failed to make an appropriate impact on me, because I was completely preoccupied by her fascinating inability to say the actual word. As young adults, my sister and I used to tease her by saying "SEX" as often as we could, just to make her blush. My mother was pretty unflappable and seldom discomfitted, so it was a heady thing for us.

Memory #6: The look on my mother's face when she deplaned in Atlanta to see me holding my newborn infant son; her first grandchild. My mother hated to fly as it combined several of her phobias into one convenient package. So initially, her expression upon stepping through the doorway was brittle and tight. But the moment she saw us, I swear, it was if the very flesh melted on her bones. The look in her eyes, which had been somewhat frantic, became unfocused and dreamy as she breathed a soft. "Ooooooh." She reached for him immediately, and she didn't let him go for a week.

Memory #7: My Mom and Diminutive One, sitting on the front porch of my childhood hom, talking. Just talking. I can still see them, dappled with sunlight, the hair of both heads ruffling in the slight breeze...just talking. That's something Moms sometimes don't have the luxury of doing; just sitting down and talking. And my Mom knew how to talk to Diminutive One. She didn't speak to him like an adult speaking to a child. She spoke to him as if they were friends. It's not her face I remember so vividly in this scenario, but his. He was relaxed and completely at ease. Happy. Content. Just to sit on the porch and talk to his Grandma. That one is good too, but really hurts. Because those talks are a thing of the past now; irrevocably gone.

Now I have to stop, or the maudlin will come creeping back. These are good and perfect moments in my life that I hold on to with all my strength. I write about them so they are always sharp and crisp and so they can't get lost to the mists of time. As long as my words live on, so does she. And so, friends and readers, I fear you will have to endure many such postings from here on out. I am her legacy and I intend to do the job justice.

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Through the Wormhole

My science and fact obsessed Diminutive One recently discovered a new series on the Science channel called "Through The Wormhole". The first episode queried...Is there life after death?

We watched it together. His grandmother's recent passing has raised a lot of questions about the issue of death, dying, afterlife, religion, heaven, hell, reincarnation...the topic is indeed a vast wandering wormhole of questions that spawn questions and more questions. I don't think either of us expected to have our questions answered, because I think we both know there is no answer to be had for the living. I think we both realize that nobody gets to know until they're dead. Maybe we expected to have some of our suspicions and doubts validated. But I don't think either of us felt that way when the show was over. Curiously, I think we both felt disappointed, even though we knew no epiphany or enlightenment would come from watching.

That tells me that even though the rational mind knows, the heart denies. The heart keeps searching and searching for those answers. The heart keeps looking for a way to quiet the fears that plague us in the dark solitary hours of the night, when we are alone and adrift in our own dreams.

I am weaning of migraine medication; the last pharmaceutical in a calvalcade of medicinal salvation that began when my strokes were diagnosed. Because it works on brain chemistry, there's some fairly funky stuff going on in my gray matter at the moment. The doctor warned me that I might experience unusually vivid dreams. "Unusually vivid" turned out to be an understatement of truly gargantuan proportions. Because of that, I am able to remember every detal into my waking hours, something that has never been true for me before.

In the most recent dream, I was talking to my mother on my cellphone, driving down my own street in my own car. I can recount the entire conversation word for word. I can still HEAR her voice so distinctly in my ear. I'll spare you the long, emotionally frought details of that conversation. But the curious thing was that I was completely aware that she was dead and that she was calling from someplace....beyond.

I asked her where she was. She replied, "I can't tell you that honey. But you know."

I didn't know and I told her that. "I don't know Mom, I don't. me know."

She said, "You have to find out for yourself. But it's okay here. I'm okay here. Don't be scared. I don't want you to be scared anymore."

She knew, you see. In life she knew that nothing scared me more than the threat of deep, cold, eternal blackness. She also knew that none of the conventional stuff that people choose to believe in to relieve that fear, made any sense whatsoever to me. And so I floundered around, dog-paddling in my fear, trying to keep my head above water and not let myself drown in the panic. She told me shortly before she died that she wished I wouldn't worry so much about it. I wish that too.

But anyway....

She has visited all of us this way. The boys dream of her. I dream of her. My sisters dream of her. And all of us have felt that same sense of reality about these dreams. My eldest son woke one night to find her sitting in his desk chair. They had a nice chat. And then he went back to sleep, unafraid and strangely comforted. A dream, surely. And yet.....he says that he can't shake the feeling that she really was there.

Is there a point to this post? No, I guess not. Except that...I'm still pondering. Still a little lost. Still afraid. But maybe...maybe getting a little better. Maybe getting a little less worried about what happens after, and a little more committed to living well before.

Maybe there's a way through the wormhole. And maybe that way is acceptance.

And maybe I'm completely full of shit.

Time will tell, I guess.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starbuck’s; A Sociologist’s Wet Dream

I'm sitting in Starbuck's trying to kill two hours. I will be doing this every day for the next four weeks. Why?, you may ask. I asked myself the very same question. Because it seems patently ridiculous to me, this shameless waste of two hours. And yet, shameless though it may be, it seems the only logical thing to do.

Diminutive One, you see, has to be in summer school, having failed to pass Math this past year. Frankly, given what he's had to face over the course of the year, I'm amazed he managed to pass anything. If you don't yet have children in Middle School, let me just warn you…it's BRUTAL. It's brutal for the most confident and socially adroit child. For a kid like Diminutive One, it has been nothing short of agony.

But I digress.

Due to budget cuts, only two schools in the entire county are offering a summer session this year. The closest one is a forty minute drive from our house. The class is only two hours. That means it makes very little sense for me to go back home, since I would only have to turn right around and go back, especially considering the cost of gas these days, and our extremely tight budget.

So here I sit, sipping four dollar coffee and watching people. I've always enjoyed people watching, but I find that Starbuck's provides a particularly diverse sampling of humanity. There are business men and women, college students, post-workout suburbanites, Moms with strollers, and a select few that defy classification.

Some are respectful and polite; conscious that the real estate herein is precious public domain. They take up as little room as possible, keep their voices low when speaking on the phone and try not to seem interested in the conversations taking place mere inches from them. They keep their belongings in a small neat pile directly in front of them, shifting and reshifting to avoid spreading beyond the borders of their carefully staked out personal space. They apologize if they happen to make contact with another person, abashed and contrite at having invaded somebody else's domain; accidental thought it was.

Others seem to believe they are at home in their personal office space. They spread out; papers, laptop, phone, food and beverage covering their own space and that immediately surrounding. They are unapologetic about this and sit with defiant posture, challenging anyone to protest. They speak loudly into their phones, perhaps believing that their unavoidably overheard conversation makes them seem important, productive and relevant. Do they really not realize that it only makes them seem boorish and self-important? Apparently not. Other patrons look at them with disgust, but nobody asks these people to keep it down or take it outside. Obviously, the spreader and the loud talker are both familiar fixtures at Starbuck's and are tolerated, if not entirely appreciated.

I like to look at how people have groomed themselves. Some are artfully disheveled; affecting a bohemian look that suggests they are above such trivial things as personal appearance. Others are merely disheveled; suggesting that they don't have the luxury of choosing any kind of affectation at all. They are what they are. Some are smartly appointed; the women in casual but trendy attire with matching jewelry, the men in business suits, natty ties and shiny shoes.

Some are wearing workout out gear, though clearly, they have not worked out. They are elaborately coiffed and their outfits are too carefully coordinated with shoes and jewelry, suggesting that the destination this morning was the nail salon rather than the gym. But there are those who look as if they really have worked out. They are sweaty and slightly bedraggled and dab at themselves self-consciously. I like these people and feel a connection with them, even if some of them could benefit from a better sports bra or any kind of underpants at all. They've worked hard and I can appreciate that. I secretly disdain the non exercising people clad in exercise wear. Not because they haven't exercised, but because It seems so disingenuous. I wouldn't walk around wearing scrubs, now would I?

Then there are the hoverers. They sit and wait with quiet but determined patience for someone to abandon a seat they have clearly deemed their own. They do not care that they are making those in occupation sip their four dollar coffee more hurriedly than they would have liked, guilty without knowing why and wanting only to be away from the scrutiny they understand, but can't relate to. Clearly, they don't understand the unspoken rules of Starbuck's occupation protocol.

At this very moment there is a gentleman eyeing me with a confrontational gleam in his eye. I am obviously in his spot and have been here far too long for his liking. Well, I have to pee anyway, so I will vacate and let him claim his little corner of Starbuck's for however long it takes him to do his business.

I'm betting he is a spreader AND a loud talker…wouldn't you agree?