Friday, September 19, 2008

Where we are is where we are

I haven't written in awhile because I felt that I had to have some sort of resolution to the last few months of ramblings. Some sort of lesson learned, some sort of answer to make the journey seem worthwhile. While there is much we have done, there is not much of the core of our life that has changed since we started down this road four long months ago. We still forget about dinner until the last minute, we still get sick of being in the house, our kids still need to be occupied no matter where we go. There are bills that need attention, laundry that needs attention, and a whole mess of chores that never seem to get finished.

What has changed is what I have learned about the everyday, the mindlessly mundane, the tasks that fill up our hours and our life. The ones that rob us of family time, of quality time, of alone-and-hearing-yourself-think time. What it comes down to is this: None of it matters. Not the bills, not the cleaning, not the way I arrange my home or how my kids follow the rules. In a hundred years, I won't be here. In two hundred, there's a good chance my house won't be here. My laundry certainly won't be, thank God. But just because I can't take anything with me doesn't mean I won't leave anything behind. I will leave a legacy of family, a living history of how I loved and how I hurt, of my priorities and utmost importances. How do I want the world I am shaping to speak of me? I want it to speak of love, of patience and consideration; I want it to sing the songs of my soul, and there is no way that it will unless I let the melody finally reach my lips. And right now, I am just trying to find my voice.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The sabatical continues

I can draw many parallels between this time off from life and when I took a semester off school. We are getting quite a few questions and curious looks as to where we're going from here. It's fun to laugh and say, "Who knows?!" but I am never quite able to do this. I'm always afraid people are going to think I'm crazy.

When I was going to college, I spent a summer semester studying literature at Cambridge University in England. It was an eye-opening summer, a chance for me to venture out on my own and come to some new conclusions about the type of person I was becoming. When I returned to the States and my old stomping grounds, I wanted to continue growing and evolving. I didn't want to get trapped in old routines. So I took a semester off to think, to grow, to expand. I worked, socialized, helped my dad out around the house. But Jesus, by the reaction I got from my family, you'd have thought I'd decided to join a commune or something. Every time I picked up the phone, I got the same response. "We are so worried about you! What are you doing with your life? You need to go to school! Do you have any idea how important your education is?"

But that was just the point. I did know exactly how important my education was. I knew how easy it was to get stuck in a rut, to look back at your life and wonder how you ever became the person you were and how little it resembled the person you wanted to be. I was nineteen years old and was already beginning to feel that way. The choices I made with that semester did not appear, on the surface, to change my life, but they did in a tremendous way. I ended a disappointing relationship that was bringing me down, that enabled me to meet my future husband less than a year later. I took a job at a news station that led me, nine years later, to the red carpet of the Academy Awards. I took chances that ended up allowing me to fulfill my dreams. I didn't have the luxury of hindsight to know all of that at the time, but I had the luxury of faith. Faith in myself. Faith in the bigger picture. Faith that it was all meant to work out in the end.

And that is pretty much what is going on with our lives right now. We have a sort of luxury at this moment that most don't get to enjoy or experience, and we are not letting it slip by. We want to figure out where we stand, figure out our vision for our future, and figure and how we can make it happen. We are taking a semester off, so to speak, to learn about ourselves, to work at making a better life for ourselves and our family, to slow down and decide what really matters. Just as when I was a teenager and the well-meaning relatives would call, all the friends and family are asking just what we are doing with our lives and have we figured it all out yet. I think of it akin to grieving. Everyone wants us to get over it and return to what they are comfortable with. I don't blame the family, for their concern comes from love, but they need to have the faith in us that we have in ourselves. It is all going according to plan. We find that out in the end.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Everything I Need to Know I'm Learning From My Three-Year-Old

If you're not having any fun, you've got nobody to blame but yourself.

Monday, May 5, 2008


  • So I did so much complaining, I bet you're wondering if we took any action. The surprising truth is that yes, for once we did. While most of my life has been defined by lots of griping and little or no response, after thirty long years, I've grown tired of letting the moss grow on my backside. I've spent too many years watching other people live life, wondering if I will ever get my chance. And although the jumping off into the abyss of the unknown is frightening, it is the pounding inside your chest that lets you know you are still alive.

Eric took a break from work. He's tired of seventy hour workweeks, of a life lived on the road and away from his family. It's unconventional, sure, but his job will always be there. How long will good health and the will to enjoy it be around? How long will our kids be young and willing to spend so much time in our company? This is the time we lay the foundation for their lives, and we're not willing to pay a cheap contractor to do the job fast. It is something that we must make sure is done right; it is something we must do ourselves.

I pulled Carter out of preschool. It's only preschool, sure, but education has turned into blind monotony, and although I love his teacher and his program and his school, I am choosing to follow my heart in this journey. As of right now, he needs us more than he needs circle time. There will be years and years of his life where he needs to show up and stand in line. Why start it all so soon?

So we packed the trailer full of a week's worth of fruit snacks and pureed peas, and headed as far west as this great land allows, where we could smell the salt and hear the crashing of the cliched waves. We parked it for a week at Dillon Beach, just across Tomales Bay from Pt. Reyes. We spent days building sandcastles, watching the tides, and wading in the water as far as the end of April would allow. We lived in flip-flops and rolled up jeans with cuffs full of sand, tousled hair tucked behind our ears, cheeks pink and golden from the glory of the sun. We ate hot dogs and barbecue, roasted marshmallows over the fire, let the kids stay up way past their bedtime. We watched the sun set from the front seat of the Ford, pj'd kids in our laps, open Sierra Nevadas in the cup holders. We smiled more in an hour than we normally do in the course of a week. It like watching heaven unfold around us, knowing each moment was a memory that would be taken out and remembered with reverence for the rest of our lives.

It was bliss. It was living. And we didn't want to have to go home.

So we took a few more days. Wandered up to Oregon to visit family we normally never seem to find the time to see. Toured a state we'd never spent any time in, opened our eyes and looked in awe at all that passes us by each day without notice. Laughter. Joy. Beauty.

What is it that we're waiting for, I wonder? Permission to live? Why is it so hard for adults to relax? We certainly aren't born this uptight, it must be something we learn as we grow and are taught the supposed definition of responsibility. My children definitely don't have a concept of it yet, and part of me doesn't ever want them to. I think it is a lie that life takes sacrifice. Why are we cheating ourselves?

And so the great sabbatical continues. Sometimes you must walk away from the classroom to learn the most...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's a Beautiful Life

The template for the text of my posts reads "It's a beautiful life." It's also the start-up message for my cell phone. I put it there to remind me that life is really a blessed adventure, because I seem to forget that most of the time.

There is much that is good in this world. Unfortunately, I think we've all grown blind. We've been led out of the barn into a noisy, chaotic street with blinders strapped to our halter to keep us on the road. But the greenest, sweetest grass is not growing up between the cracks in the asphalt that we see in front of us. It is beyond our vision, but somehow we know it is there, just as the carriage horse can still smell the joy of the field as he plods along the avenue. Yes, there is a job that must be done. Nobody can deny that. The problem lies in the way we go about it. Take that very same workhorse, keep him harnessed for ten hours a day to the city streets, where the horns honk and the people yell and the exhaust is enough to suffocate, then bring him home to the four walls of the urban livery, and what do you get but a shell-shocked animal who is afraid to trust himself or those around him. Or you harden his soul until he doesn't care about the field anymore, doesn't need or even understand its beauty. I ask you right now in the terms of your own soul, which one is worse?

I don't want to strap myself in for the day, the week, the year, in order to retire tired and beaten to a field long forgotten. That much is all I know at this point. I can still feel the perfection of the pasture. It calls to me as it calls to the stubborn carriage horse who suddenly refuses to take one more step down the cobblestone lane. We all have the power to break free from the carriage that drags along behind us and run with our head held high, nostrils flaring, mane flowing as nature intended, to feel our hearts pound wildly in our chest with the euphoria of life, to gallop back where we belong.

We all have that power.

But to use it, you must learn to trust your instincts, the ones your were born with, the great internal compass of your life. Don't let the coach driver tell you where to go. Only you know where that may be.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Little bit lost

A friend wondered the other day if I was going through some sort of mid-life crisis. I didn't really have an answer for her. Doesn't it seem like we all are having some sort of crisis these days?

I'm fed up with the rat race of what defines a typical grown-up life. I don't want to always be questing for more of what I don't need and not having enough time for what it is that I do need. I refuse to accept that this worry, this fear, this boredom is all that there is. Life is not decades of anxiety, even though the newspapers and the magazines and the television and my neighbors tell me it is. Being an adult shouldn't be the death of fun, of joy, of hope. As my husband says, "It's shouldn't be such a struggle."

And so this family has decided to take a stand. We are not sure exactly where we are going, but our hearts are the best compasses we are given in this world. What we are choosing is to participate in this one life we are blessed with, instead of watching it fly past us as if it were the blurry home video of someone else we hope we will never be. We have lived through the mistakes of our parents and their parents before them, and we are choosing to learn from them.

We are throwing away the box.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Living on vacation

It’s sad how we spend very little of our lives actually living. The days seem to overfill with planning, as if to-do lists and schedules have a mind of their own. We go from one task to the next, always working, never completing. And at the end of it all we wonder why life passed us by.

This past weekend, Eric and I packed up the kids and the RV to check out a new campsite we’d heard about. It was another thing on the list that needed to get done. We chose a spot by the stream, a spot where we could hear the rushing water as we went to sleep at night, a spot too beautiful for the passing glance we gave it as we rushed about setting up our camp.

I had an agenda. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and probably tried to follow it yourself in the past. The “Relaxing Weekend” agenda. We were going to go on hikes as a family, have picnics, sit by the river and watch nature. There was going to be at least one barbeque, at least one night spent drinking wine at the picnic table after the kids went to bed, and at least one morning spent sipping coffee and watching the sunrise. It would be memorable, it would be enjoyable, it would be that great weekend we always talked about later.

Except great weekends cannot be planned, because plans fall apart, especially plans where you try to script perfection. I clung to my preconceived notions of relaxation, so tightly I found myself whining by day two, complaining that our perfect weekend was not going as perfectly as planned. There had been no family hikes, no picnics, none of the memorable moments I’d expected to have. Eric told me to take a hike, and I don’t think he meant so I could check it off my list.

There was a playground a little further downstream, an old wooden one with a tire ladder like they used to make when I was a kid. Carter was obsessed by this playground. That’s all he wanted to do. “Go to the park.” It was his idea of perfection. Because he is three and because hiking with a toddler usually means hiking with a toddler on your shoulders, we ended up spending most of our weekend at this playground. I fought it hard in the beginning, because it wasn’t fitting into my plan. But then, late into day two, a strange thing started happening that never seems to happen at home.

I started to forget about schedules. I opened my eyes and let the day unfold around me. I didn’t try to shape it or force it or turn it into something it wasn’t: I just enjoyed it for what it was.

There was a little girl around ten who ran over every time we showed up at the slide. I will always remember her smile, the slap of her shoes on cement, how much she liked playing with my son. She had long blond hair, gold glasses, and a heart you could see right through. Her smile for us was shy, but her smile for Carter was true.

One warm evening as we were getting ready to go, Eric spotted a few lizards lying out on the sand. He spent an hour teaching Carter how to catch them, taking him down to the stream to find long, supple branches to tie into traps. They lay on their bellies for longer than I’ve ever seen my son stay still, trying to loop the nooses around the necks of the sleeping lizards. Carter almost caught one. Eric was more impressed by this than he’s been by the other developmental milestones. I’d never seen him so proud.

Brody and I sat in the sun on a blanket watching them, letting the wind redden our cheeks and tear our eyes. I watched my baby play with a flower, transferring it from hand to hand, feeling its petals, learning its smell. I only took it away when he tried to eat it, and then only after I’d let him have a taste. Eric brought over his catch, a lizard with a belly as blue as the night sky. I remembered how he used to do this when we dated, how he’d taught me to make my own noose out of a branch so thin the lizards won’t know it’s there. Sometimes the things that impress you most about a person are the least expected.

It was a perfectly memorable weekend, and there was no surprise when Eric rolled over on the morning of our last day there to tell me that he didn’t want to go home. I didn’t either. I didn’t want to return to plans and lists and days that fly by in a blink. I didn’t want to be too busy to know my family.

I don’t know how to bottle those moments, I only know they cannot be planned. They can never be expected or demanded. They must be savored. And perhaps in those few subtle seconds, when we are living and not just doing, we learn more about life than any years could ever teach us.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lamenting the Demise of the Nap

Oh peaceful slumber, that golden double-hour in the afternoon where I am free once more.
Where tiny bodies release my legs, my arms and I can shower and read and talk on the phone with friends I never see anymore.
Why are you abandoning me?
Have I not treated you well?
I never took advantage of your precious minutes,
I never ignored your silent beauty.
Why do you deny me my joy, my peace, my bath?
Lay your hands on my tiny toddler once more,
let him fall under you spell.
Let me watch twenty minutes of TV that is not Noggin.
Do not turn your back on me, I pray you.
Haunted my shadowed halls until many years have passed,
until I am no longer tired and need a break,
until he is in college.
For I
Need you
Than He
Ever Will.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The quiet of my heart

I watch the sun warm his skin on this early spring afternoon and I am overcome by the feeling of wanting to hold onto this moment forever. I can watch the days pass in his face the way I watch the decades on my own. He grows, he changes, so much in such a short time it overwhelms me. His childhood will end before I know it, this fragility, this innocence, this purest form of love. I could watch it slip through my grasp like so much soft, white sand.

He is three with a bad haircut, three with a scar under his left eye and a small chip in his front tooth. Three with long legs and a heart that feels as if it wants to break free from his chest. He loves all, passes no judgement, knows only the kind of simple honesty that belongs to the young. He knows night follows day, laughter comes after smiles, and that a good day should always end in a bath. His tiny voice makes my heart sing.

I want to freeze this moment in my soul, hold onto this precious youth of his with the desperate grasp only a mother can posses. I take more pictures of him than I could ever keep; they could fill a room with their glossed-over memories. But each photograph does nothing to preserve his joy, his exuberance, his youth. They are a poor reflection of how real the actual moment was, and this truth makes me sad to look at them, though that doesn't stop me from taking them. They have become an obsession.

He is my son, and he will always be my son, even though he will grow big and strong and shed the pureness of his childhood. He will be a man. He will be a banker, a climber, a rock star. He will be filled with his own dreams and desires and wishes for his future. I will respect him and grow proud of all he has become. But in the quiet, dark parts of my heart, he will always be the sweet babe who wrapped his chubby fingers around my own. His eyes will always shine with the love he has for me, his mommy. He will always be my child. And there, in my soul, I will hold onto this moment forever.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Doin' the impossible

Why does it seem as moms that we often seem to attempt the impossible? Somehow I decided that it would not be beyond my abilities to take my 77-pound Labradoodle to the vet with two kids in tow on a very rainy day. Somewhere in my mind, I thought it was a task I was capable of taking on, probably the same part of my brain that decides it's an okay idea to begin scrapbooking the last two years of my life at ten o'clock at night after two glasses of wine. I am constantly thinking I can do the same things I did before I had kids, and while I'm glad I think so highly of myself, I sometimes wish I set the bar a little lower. Like around my knees.

So there I was at the vet's office, holding my toddler with one hand, my baby carrier with the other, my umbrella by my neck and um, yeah, exactly how am I supposed to bring in the dog? I was stretched thin and uptight, doing something I knew was ridiculous, so of course Carter decided to do the only thing he knows how to do in those situations. He threw a temper tantrum.

He was upset that I wouldn't buy the ridiculous $20 dog bones they sell there because he wanted to give Sparky a treat now and only now, even though we have $3.99 dog bones at home that I swore to him were just as good. Does anyone buy those dog bones? Or are they just there to make you feel bad that you're giving your dog crap at home? He cried like a banshee when they took Sparky away for his blood draw, screaming, "I just want to see him again!" like they were taking old Spark to the kennel in the sky. He rolled all over the floor, getting dog hair and God-knows-what-is-all-over-the-floor-at-the-vet's-office all over his shoes, his pants, his head. The ladies behind the desk looked at him like they were glad he wasn't their kid. And as much as I hate to admit it, I was thinking the same thing.

In Carter's defense, he's still suffering from a killer cold, a cold that has run rampant through this family, causing ear infections and bronchitis and exploding eyeballs, which, to quote Dave Barry, would make a great name for a rock band. And Lord knows a toddler who's sick and tired should be anywhere but out in public, out where people can stare and point, anywhere else but somewhere where he has to behave, because that is the very last thing he wants to do, and just merely asking him to will start the beginnings of your own familial World War III.

But in my defense, I had to get things done, which brings me back to my point. Why do I think I can do more than I am truly capable of doing? Maybe it's the killer cold I've got right now that's fogging up my ability to think rationally. Or maybe it's just the Thera-flu. But I do this when I'm healthy, I do this on a daily basis, I do what all of us moms do. Too much. Sacrifice for the good of the brood. I wish I could stop, I wish I could do less, but then, who would do it? Who would take care of the kids and the house and the laundry and the shopping and the dogs with their annoyingly expensive health problems?

I'm a mom. It's my job. And when you see those moms out at the store with their whiny kids in tow dripping snot down their faces, the moms with the messed-up hair and the Goldfish stuck to their shirts, give them a break. Give them a hand. Hell, give them some Thera-flu. Lord knows we need it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Common Courtesy

It was drop-off time at preschool last week when I noticed Carter's new best friend had one heck of a cough. Ugh, I sighed to myself, here we go again. Although it's hard to confine a three-year-old to the house, where his only choices are to watch mom do the laundry or watch his little brother drool all over himself, and it's even harder for me to contend with him confined to the house without anything to climb or ride or jump on besides various parts of my body, it's just something I do without question when he's sick. Why make every other mother within commuting distance as miserable as I am? I don't really need to make enemies when I still haven't made too many friends here yet.

But why does it seem that no one else feels that way? Why do other moms have to send their kids out into the world feverish and snotty-nosed? And why do those kids have to be my kids' favorite playmates?

So now I've got one kid with an ear infection and green snot trailing down his face, another kid with a fever and bronchitis, and a ticking time bomb in my own white-cell depleted body. Although I've just about drained my personal Airborne stash, I know it's just seconds before I come down with a combined version of the nasty viruses my kids are harboring.

But I'm doing the good thing. I'm sacrificing myself, my health, my sanity, for the good of all kidkind. I'm keeping my boys home and safe and warm to recuperate and return to good health.

I just wish everyone else would do the same. Who knows, without playgrounds and preschools, maybe we'd finally win the battle against the common cold.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spoke too soon

Apparently, nature decided to let me know how little I really knew about being a mother. She laughed at my inability to occupy my three-year-old, her chortles strong enough to shake the trees. She, in her ancient wisdom, her centuries of rearing species after species without any kind of thanks, decided to unleash her anger, or maybe just her moodiness, by whopping our house with a winter storm.

Wind rocked the windows at almost sixty miles an hour. Rain fell sideways, sloshing out of the gutters and filling our cul-de-sac. Civilization couldn't keep up, and we lost power at nine a.m.

Twenty hours without electricity is a dream to those who still haven't had the lights come back on. But twenty hours without heat, without light, and without Curious George are nineteen-and-a-half too many when you're trapped indoors with your own tiny hurricane.

At least it's hard to see the clutter, hard to see toys scattered about and cheese sauce sticking to the counters when you're living by candlelight. We built Lego houses for hours, read stories, made pancakes, slept an afternoon away. It got cold, colder than our spoiled California bodies are used to, and the baby spent the night cocooned under our covers.

We made it through, and I took my teaching like a tablespoon of castor oil forced down my throat. It was bitter, but it was necessary. I don't need to complain about how hard it is to take care of my preschooler. Because Mother Nature is listening.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cabin Fever

Some days in California are sunny and beautiful and clear, others, like this cold January day, are ugly and gray and rainy. They type of day where the sky seems to be upset with the earth. Where the rain pours in sideways. Where even the dogs huddle for cover.

I tried to chase the boy outside today to play in the rain. Isn't that the best part of being a boy? At least, I imagine it would be. No worry about messy hair or mud on your nice pants. Just being three and outdoors seems all a boy needs. But not today. Today he needs Mommy and Scooby-Doo and thirty-two snacks before noon. Today it is too wet to play. So we sat, on that cold, cold wet day.

Except no cat in any kind of hat has shown up in at my door today to entertain us by balancing the fish on a plate. The only kind of Things that have run down my halls are my boy and my dog, and they did not have my dress on a rake. What do I do with my first toddler on a rainy day? Go to the movies? Sometimes I am unable to imagine what it is kids like to do. Add to the fact that I am a Girl, that's girl with a captial, undroppable "G," and that means I really do not know what to do with a boy who is three on a rainy day. He does not want to color with sparkly pens, or make play-doh animals, or anything else that involves sitting. He wants to run and run amok, and he's acting like a wild animal trapped in my living room.

If anybody has any ideas on what to do with my bored boy, comments would be greatly appreciated. Now I must go put on my earplugs...