Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Monday, December 16, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013
- All my Christmas decorating is done. Now I need to clean my house from all the Christmas decorating. That just seems unfair. Seems to me that the elves should have to do something.
- Most of my Christmas shopping is done. Except for the main gifts for the boys. I have stocking stuffers and cute little things and pajamas. I have no idea what they will be getting other than that. Perhaps brooms and dusters, and I shall rename them "elves."
- There are only eight days until school is out. I'm extraordinarily excited about it. Two whole weeks of me NOT constantly badgering my children to get their school work done. What other Christmas present do I need?
- I made these cookies for the boys' robotics team competition last weekend. Do yourself a favor and make them for yourself. Just be sure to share, because otherwise you will eat all of them by yourself and then you won't be able to zip up your favorite holiday pants and you'll blame me, and I don't need that kind of stress.
- I made this cake for a Christmas dinner party last weekend, too. It didn't look as pretty as the Southern Living variety, but it was very moist and flavorful. Go. Make. Share.
- AND - I have big plans to make this cake for Derek's 14th birthday, which is in 11 days. If it comes out at all like the photo, I'll be certain to post my own photo for you all to admire. Chances are, it won't because that's just the way I roll.
- I got that little yarn wrapped birdie in the photo at Target, and he just makes me smile. I have two more and I'm fairly certain they aren't going to get packed away with the Christmas decorations this year. They're just too adorable to hide.
- My dogs need presents. Do my dogs need presents?
- In two days, the love of my life comes home to me. Who needs Christmas presents?
- On Christmas Eve, we always have a "feast" and watch "It's a Wonderful Life." I'm always on the lookout for "feast" food. I don't know why we call it a "feast." It's just appetizers as supper and we spread it out on the coffee table and sit around reaching over each other for everything and quoting all the best George Bailey lines. I love Christmas Eve.
- Can't wait to see this...and to hear my boyfriend, Mr. Cumberbatch, woo us all with his dulcet tones - even if he is a dragon.
- I have been seeing the idea on Pinterest to make monogram wreaths for the front door. I keep thinking it's a great idea, and then I remember that my last name starts with an "O" and that means that every ordinary Christmas wreath is a monogram wreath for me. I pretty much win Christmas.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
They've been around a while.
That's Benn on the left. It's not Ben. It's Benn. Get it right.
In clockwise fashion, there's Steve and Dexter.
Then Baby, in the middle. Or maybe Little Bear. I can't tell them apart. The boys can, though.
These guys have backstories. They have histories. It's one of the great regrets of my life that I haven't had Derek and Joshua write them down for me.
Benn is actually King Benn. King of the Stuffies. Steve and Dexter are brothers. Or cousins. I can't remember. Their dad is upstairs somewhere. Or maybe it's their uncle.
Why don't I have it written down?
They come from their own countries, these stuffies. They have waged wars and fought battles. They've rescued each other from certain doom. The imagination that has gone into the care and feeding of these guys is extensive. And these are only four of the dozens of equally back-storied stuffed creatures upstairs.
Every. Single. One. has a name and a story and they all fit in the grand design of two boys who have developed a magical land with its own language and customs and myths (at least one of the stuffies was birthed from the belch of another. I can't remember which.)
Why don't I have it written down?
What a grand tale it is. What a grand undertaking it will be for me to delve deep into the heart of it. I do believe I've just discovered a project that needs doing - now - before they get so old they forget.
I will have it written down.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
This is me with my brother, Brian, shortly after we'd moved to Guam in 1972. I was 3. He was 6. We were adorable. Derek and Joshua were looking at the picture, and remarking at how big my smile was, and how Brian's looks a little off.
I told them that Papa had probably done something silly, and I was laughing about it, and Brian was talking through it.
Brian was always talking.
I miss that.
I never thought I would. Some days, his talking drove me absolutely bonkers. He woke up talking and he went to bed talking and then there was all the talking in between.
Joshua has picked up where Brian left off, though. I'm sure Brian is up in heaven, laughing at the fact that after so many years of quiet, my baby boy is picking up the mantle and running with it. But the joke is on him.
Because I love it. Yes, there are days when I think all the words are going to cause my head to explode. So. Many. Words. But when I hear the constant prattle and unceasing monologue that Joshua provides to my days, it reminds me of Brian and reminds me that there are never enough words. My 21 years of listening to him were just not enough. Each word becomes precious - like a flake of gold or a perfect gem. They can't be replaced and they can't be replicated.
Love you, BJ. Miss you every day.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Saturday, November 09, 2013
He's like his Mama in so many ways, but I think he's smarter. He knows things that I can't explain. Gets to the punchline five seconds before me. Too often, our minds run together, laughing at inappropriate times and thinking impertinent thoughts.
But he's smarter. He's smarter because he knows it's okay to be angry. He knows it's okay to express himself - out loud and forcefully, and I never knew that. He knows that love isn't contingent on like. He knows that sometimes I don't like how he's acting, but I always love the heart that is beating inside his chest. He knows that being the younger doesn't mean taking any crap from the older. He knows that crying is a perfectly acceptable response to crushing disappointment and frustration.
And I never knew that. Not when I was 12. Not when I was 21.
Sometimes, not even now.
But he's teaching me. He's teaching me that emotions are big and loud and sometimes ugly, but they are ours and we own them. He's teaching me that injustice shouldn't go unnoticed - that sometimes we have to stand up and say to the world how wrong it is. He's teaching me that it is okay to feel sad, as long as you can still feel hope at the same time, and that sometimes you just need a good cry to make the world all right again.
And he's teaching me to laugh. To laugh like a child again, without worry that someone will think less of me. To laugh at the silliest things, like 12 year old boys do. To laugh at things that really aren't even funny except that somehow they are.
I love that. I love that. I love that.
Friday, November 08, 2013
Applicant holds advanced degrees in geology, super-advanced degrees in
Job must include:
Creative thinking and experimentation.
Telling other people what to do.
Drawing and painting.
Frequent travel to semi-exotic locations paid for by company.
Writing captivating blog posts such as this one.
Telling other people what to do.
Salary requirement is negotiable. Will consider commission-based work, as long as I can tell other people what to do.
Resume available upon request.
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I get up early, but not early enough. Never early enough. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want and need to do. I know I'm not alone in that. We've created a world of moments that fill up too much space and we never seem satisfied until our moments overflow and run out all over the floor in a mess of chaos.
I fix my coffee and walk to the bottom of the stairs to call the boys down for breakfast. They groan and stretch and stomp, stiff-legged and resentful, down. each. stair. to the chairs where their morning blankets are draped and chilled from the overnight slumber.
"Good morning," I tell them. "Did you sleep well?"
"Mmph. Flrgl." They reply.
We hug and snuggle for an all-too-brief moment before setting the breakfast table and eating together. The groggy fog lifts and we start to smile at one another, talking about our agenda for the day. It's carefully choreographed, this life. Each thirty-minute increment marked and labeled. There's little room for wiggling.
Time to eat.
Time to dress.
Time to study.
Time to learn.
Time to get a snack.
Time to hit the courts.
Time to breathe.
Time to sleep...
and then it starts all over again.
Monday, November 04, 2013
I love to read. I LOVE to read. I love to READ! I've said it before. At least once. Maybe twice.
So, Linda challenged me to list my favorite books, and I though, "EASY!"
Then I started to make my list, and I decided it was easier said than done. There are too many. There are too many categories. Should I list the fantasy novels? The young adult ones? The regular adult books? The classics? The new editions? I could write an entire blog post on just the books that contain wizards and/or magicians.
Sigh. It's too hard.
Here's the problem. I'll read anything. I don't have a favorite genre. If it has words and a semblance of a plot, I'll read it. I may not like it. I may love it. Typically, my favorite book is the one I'm reading, unless it's like that one with the asteroid ending. That one was definitely not my favorite book.
I love books in series. Should I list the individual books, or just the series? But some of the books in the series are better than others. For instance, I love the Harry Potter books, but I thought the last three were far superior to the second, third and fourth.
Okay. So here's what I'll do. I'll list 10 books and/or book series that don't include Harry Potter or anything JRR Tolkien wrote. Because we all know I love those. I read those annually. I quote them often. Don't judge me.
My favorite books (as of today) include...
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
The Magician (series) by Lev Grossman
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Pretty much anything by Jane Austen
The Mysterious Benedict Society (series) by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
You can check them all out at my Goodreads site - seemed easier than linking each individual one.
So tell me - what are your favorite books? I'd love to know...so they could be mine, too!
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Saturday, November 02, 2013
The first. He's like his dad, but not just in how he looks. He has a heart a mile wide and is kinder than I am by a factor of 1000. He's quirky and unique and precious. Precious. That's how people describe him. So many times, I've picked him up from some activity and found him hanging out in the office talking to the adults. Asking questions, sharing stories.
In a group of mixed ages, he'll be the one with the youngest kids - helping them navigate the waters of the big kid arena. He's sweet and gentle. Encouraging.
I don't know how many times he's opened the door for me as we enter a store and I've gone through, then turned to see him follow. But he doesn't follow. Because there's a large group of people coming and he stayed to hold the door open for all of them, as well. Considerate.
"You look pretty today, Mom."
"Thank you for breakfast. It was delicious."
"You're the best Mom in the whole world."
He really thinks that, too. It's not just buttering me up for something. Maybe he's a bit naive.
But I like him that way. He doesn't get worked up about the rest of the world. His drumbeat is internal and steady and completely different from mine. Precious. Encouraging. Considerate. Kind.
My own sweet boy.
Friday, November 01, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, Linda and I met for our “monthly” creative meeting, which happens kind of on a monthly basis, but more on a “Oh, crap! It’s been three months!” basis. Except for that one time when we were going to meet on the first Thursday of October and she texted me on the last Thursday of September and neither of us realized it was the wrong Thursday and we met anyway and then laughed about our complete lunacy until the strange man at Panera came over and told us a CIA joke.
Anyhow - we were lamenting our lack of creative energy lately - the lack of writing and photographing and drawing. The sad, dusty state of our sketchbooks. The shriveled, dried up husks of webspace where our blogs used to thrive, back when we watered them. I started to realize that those spaces were reflecting my own internal space, just as they always have. In 2009, I wrote 263 blog posts. In 2012, I wrote 4. What happened in the space between those two statistics?
Well, it can’t be a coincidence that in December of 2009, Pinterest launched. I signed up way back in the invitation period, and occasionally pinned a thing or two and looked at another couple. No biggie. Cute room ideas, Christmas decorations, recipes. All the cool bloggers were pinning. I could handle it, I told myself - no problem. I’ll just spend 15 minutes a day there. I can handle 15 minutes a day! I told my friends about it. I invited my mother.
“Just try it. It can’t hurt. You’ll get inspired! It’ll be great!” I told her. My mother. Dear, dear woman. I’m so sorry, Dad. I know how many projects you’ve had since then. I blame myself.
Fifteen minutes a day wasn’t enough, though. Soon, I was dropping the boys off at tennis and coming home to write or paint or draw and I would log on to Pinterest, just to get a little visual stimulation. I’d pin a nice idea about a staircase, click on a link for a recipe and find myself falling down a rabbit hole of time-sucking, brain-stealing activity. Next thing I knew, it was time to go pick the boys up. I had to pull myself together, shut down the computer and dazedly drive the whole 20 minutes there with visions of stencils and chalkboard paint floating across my mind.
Then, they launched the mobile apps, and I didn’t even have to leave it. I could suspend it just for the 20 minutes drive and once there, resume my frantic searching for...for...damn. I don’t even know what. My creative core was so hungry, but there was no satisfying it. I would turn on the computer, open my Pinterest page and it would go something like this:
Look! Crafts! I love crafts!
I’m going to make all the Thanksgiving place settings for my mom’s dinner!
- Out of burlap!!
- And spray-painted gourds!!!
- And add a thankfulness tree!!!!
- And tiny origami pilgrims as place cards!!!!!
Then, I’ll handcraft everyone a Christmas present!
- Out of organically grown, fully sustainable bamboo!!
- That I’ve grown on the back third of my yard!!!
- With my own compost and fertilizer from my chickens!!!!
- And harvested using traditional Vietnamese implements procured via a responsible dealer, certified to have strictly safe labor practices!!!!!
- Tailored to the recipients exacting taste and preference!!!!!!
- Wrapped using handmade recycled newspaper with soy-based ink wrapping paper!!!!!!!!
- And then…
- My head exploded.
So now? I’m trying to decide if I need to go cold turkey, or if I can wean myself off gradually. I need to remember to look elsewhere for inspiration - the computer is too cold and impersonal for me to draw from. I need to create, not just view others’ creations. Don’t get me wrong - I love Pinterest. I think it’s one of the most visually pleasing places on the internet.
But real life is better. The colors are more true. The places are attainable. The people are slightly flawed and imperfect in the most perfect of ways.
Go outside. Talk. Shake hands with strangers. Smile at the girl behind the counter at your favorite bank. Tell her you like her glasses. Make silly faces at a baby while his mother’s back is turned.
Wake the genius.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Just a little DIY fun over Labor Day weekend...
I found an ammunition box at a local vintage shop and absolutely loved the shape of it. I actually watched a guy carry it in to put in his booth. I followed him and snatched it out of his hands.
At another vintage shop, I found a set of gigantic, industrial-sized casters.
Brand-new, one-of-a-kind night stand for me!
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Thursday, June 06, 2013
This is a tough sport. It requires no pads. No one has to wear a helmet. Some may use mouth protection, but you don't see it often. All you really need are a good pair of shoes, a fresh can of balls and a decent racquet.
And exceptional hand-eye coordination. The the ability to fly around the court. Chess-like decision-making skills. Endurance. Mental toughness. An opponent who has a strong understanding of sportsmanship and ethics.
These kids go out on the court and take care of business. They don't have line judges and chair umpires and ball boys. They call their own scores. They call the outs. They come to the net and work out disagreements.
It's hard to be that competitive and look at a ball you want desperately to be out and call it good. But for the most part, I watch kids do that every weekend. And they do it well. There are some bad calls, but there are bad calls in professional matches with chair umpires. 90% of the kids in the tournaments I've watched do their best to make good calls.
There are resources available to kids in a tournament who feel their opponent is not making good calls. They're allowed to leave the court and find an official and ask that official to watch the match. I've seen it a few times, and I've seen those officials go out, act impartially, and help everyone on the court by being there.
This past weekend, however, I saw the worst sort of playing and officiating. I was thankful that it wasn't on a court with one of my boys, but it did happen on a court with a boy that trains with mine. He's one of those kids that is completely straightforward in his game. He makes good calls - sometimes he's a little too generous with his lines. He is calm on the court, rarely making any triumphant "C'mon!" calls, rarely showing any displeasure when he makes a mistake. He just wants to play, play well, and win. And he does.
I watched him play a match on Sunday against a boy who was a good player. The first couple of games seemed pretty even, but that's about when the cheating started. The opponent started calling balls out a little more regularly. He started making late calls, based on where he thought his ball was going. He tried to change the score. He started being disruptive. So, my boys' friend, let's call him Honest Bob, went to get an official. The official came out, watched the match for a while and then was called to another court.
The other boy made excellent calls while the official was on the court, of course. He started his nonsense right back up as soon as the official left. Honest Bob would get an official again. Official would come out. Cheaty McCheaterson would start up again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The first set went to a tiebreak, which Bob won.
Flash forward to the second set. It's tied up at three games each, McCheaterson serving. He lost three points in a row, making the score 0-40. Bob hit one wide on the next serve. McCheaterson drops the balls on the court and starts walking to the score board to give himself the game. The score should be 15-40...a long way to go before winning the game.
Honest Bob stops him - asks what he's doing. Cheaty says he just won the game. There are words at the net, and Bob leaves the court, yet again, to get an official. When he comes back, it's with a different official than the one who's been on the court umpty-four times already. He talks with the boys.
Typically, in such situations, the official will ask each boy for his side of the story and try to get them to agree on a score. If the official wasn't on court at the time, he can't make a determination about who is telling the truth. In the stands, we all start to assume they're going to have to replay the entire game, if they can't agree on any points.
Instead, we all watched in disbelief as the official walked over to the scoreboard and flipped the card on McCheaterson's side to 4. After listening to both boys, he decided that Cheaty must have won. The spectators in the stands erupted. Bob ran off the court to get a higher official.
Long story short - well, shorter - the head official takes the game back to 30-30. Bob goes on to lose that game, the set, and eventually the match. The emotional strain had overwhelmed him, which was, of course, exactly what Cheaty McCheaterson was going for. He didn't care if he won that game. It was a calculated effort to disrupt the mental game of Bob.
And that's ridiculously sad.
Sadder still is the official who decided to make a ruling based on the acting skills of a boy who had set up the whole thing. He acted as if he had the power to change the game score, to accept the word of just one side, and he didn't. His entire role was to be a mediator, not a judge. It's pretty clearly outlined in the guidelines what to do in the case of a dispute, and he didn't do it, not by a longshot.
What he did was undermine the credibility of his position. We tell these boys all the time - if there's a problem, get an official. If you think someone is making bad calls, get an official. How many of the boys that were watching that match will want to go get an official when tensions erupt? How many times will Bob go and get help after that match?
It's unfortunate, but in the long run, Bob will continue to get better and Cheaty will start to falter. Cheaty actually lost his next match, and Bob went on to win a couple more. I talked to Bob after his match, and he was so discouraged. He just wanted to go home - to give up, because that just sucks the fun out of the game. But he didn't. He processed the loss, found some positives to take away from it and moved on. And I was proud to know him, in that moment.
Because sometimes wrong wins. Sometimes bad behavior succeeds. Sometimes cheaters prosper.
But nothing feels better than an honest game. Nothing feels better than getting into bed at night, knowing that whatever you did that day, win or lose, you did it with integrity and honor. And nobody can truly beat you, if you hold onto your standards and do the right thing.
Good work, Bob.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
- Summer was heralded by the frantic scribbling of pencils on paper, scented with aroma of eraser debris and the heady smells of mimeographed exams?
- Parents didn't scramble to find something to occupy their children during the weeks of summer vacation, they just made sure that the hosepipes were functional and the locks sturdy?
- Three bowls of sugar-laden cereal didn't seem all that excessive, and in fact were considered a well-balanced breakfast?
- Scabby knees were badges of honor, regardless of gender? Their protrusion between the hems of shorts and the tops of tube socks were a sign that trees had been climbed, hills had been conquered and bicycles tamed.
- Speaking of bicycles - do you remember wearing helmets? Me neither.
- Bologna sandwiches were excellent lunches?
- Barbie and Ken broke up because Barbie had the hots for G.I. Joe? Or was that just at my house?
- Bottle-rockets were fired from one end of the street to the other as a part of the on-going war that was Camellia Lane? And somehow, no one lost an eye or a thumb?
- The street lights went on and everyone started running, calling out see-you-laters and same-time-tomorrows?
I do. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the street and the people on it. I remember the red rubber ball that we played four-square with. I remember calling out "CAR!" and moving out of the way. I remember my white bike with the banana seat and the white plastic basket on the front that was covered with plastic daisies.
I don't remember what my mother did. I assume she was around, but she had her own friends and her own things to do. I guess she was running errands and taking care of my little sister and gardening. And making bologna sandwiches. Sometimes they even had fried bologna on them, but only when we were being particularly good.
I wonder what my children will remember. Likely, it will be all the time spent in the car to get to this thing or that thing. They'll remember time spent hitting tennis balls and time at the neighborhood pool. But they won't remember the freedom that they had, because kids just don't have that any more. Even when I send them out to explore and ride their bikes and have a great time, they come back...there aren't any other kids out exploring. We go to the pool and it's just us and the toddlers until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, when the parents are off work and the kids can finally come out to play.
All the other kids are at day camps and day cares and math tutoring sessions and art classes and music intensives. Because summer is the time to get ahead and make up lost ground and pushpushpush so we don't get behind.
And I'm sorry for them. I'm sorry that they never shot a bottle-rocket at their friend and watched in horror as it hit the bill of his ball cap and flew straight up in the air. I'm sorry that they haven't perfected the art of manufacturing fake blood out of Karo syrup and food coloring and scaring their mom half to death with it. I'm sorry that they never got lost in the woods behind the neighborhood and worried they'd never find their way home but then realized that they were only three houses away. I'm sorry they never played kickball in the street with the four-square ball and had to quit when Jason's mom called him home early and he had to take the ball with him.
I'm sorry they never picked up the hose when they were thirsty and just drank out of the end of it instead of coming in the house and getting water from the fridge. Because that burst of cool water, after all the hot water that had been sitting in the hose all day ran out...that was the stuff of legend - the nectar of the summer gods. And once you had your fill, you gently placed your thumb over the end and sprayed all your friends and the droplets of water hung in the afternoon heat and created prisms of light.
And nothing was more perfect than that.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Last week, when the Smarty came home from DC, we headed south to see his folks in Alabama. We hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving, and so even though my folks are just another hour and a half farther down the road, we had decided to keep this trip about his mom and dad. I saw my mom a couple of weeks ago, and she and my niece are coming back very soon, so at first glance, that seemed to be the right thing to do.
But, with everything going on with my grandmother, once we got to Birmingham I decided to head on down and pay a quick surprise visit. I severely underestimated the reaction I would get. Let's just say I made my mom cry, I made my dad cry, I made my sister cry, and I made my niece cry.
I was only able to stay a few hours, but it was long enough to have lunch with my parents, visit with my grandmother (who smiled and smiled and smiled) and be with my mom as she met with the home healthcare providers that are going to be helping with my grandmother on weekends. It was long enough to reminisce over photo albums with my sister. It was long enough to watch my niece's dance routine that she used to try out for the high school dance squad. It was long enough to sit and drink a cup of coffee and just listen to my mom talk.
It was long enough to just love my people a little bit and let them know that even though I'm not there in the midst of their trial and turmoil on a daily basis, my heart is there.
My heart is theirs.
Monday, May 13, 2013
School is winding down for the year, and we are rather frantically working to make sure we've completed all the work required.
And by "we," I mean me, of course.
There's no frantic in my boys. There's a lot of eye rolling and Dear-God-WhyAren't-We-Finished-Already-ing. If they could just figure out a way to harness all the energy required to keep up the constant sighing, we'd be done already.
One of my children is the most amazing procrastinator I've ever seen in all my life. Please bear in mind that I'm an outstanding procrastinator. World-renowned, even.
He tops me by a mile.
One day last week, he spent five and a half hours doing his schoolwork.
And completed nothing.
Then, in one three hour session on Friday, completed five science lessons, a vocabulary test and a grammar lesson.
Crazy-making, is what that is.
The other one just gets done what needs getting done. He chips away at it every day, little by little, and has actually completed the required lessons in all but one subject, two weeks ahead of schedule.
We've always said that if we could combine them, they'd make one amazing super-human.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Monday, May 06, 2013
We spent the weekend as we often do - at a tennis tournament. Dr. SmartyPants was not here, so much of my time was spent texting game scores to him, my heart racing, my stomach churning.
It's one of those great joys in life to witness your child living up to his potential, demonstrating the mastery of skills for which you've paid the equivalent of a small island nation's GDP, and getting a win over his opponent.
It's another thing entirely to witness your child living up to his potential, demonstrating the mastery of skills for which you've paid the equivalent of a small island nations's GDP, and getting his butt kicked in 35 minutes flat.
It is, however, the nature of the game - and of life, quite honestly. So many times, regardless of how hard we've prepared, how mentally ready we are to take on a task, we end up defeated, and how we handle that defeat is what defines us in the end.
My children handle defeat very differently...they handle pretty much everything very differently. Derek walked off the court after his first round loss and said "Well, I played as well as I could have. That guy was just better than I was."
He was right. He did all the things that he's worked so hard on over the past couple weeks - things that had been problems - things he hadn't been doing well. And he did them well. The boy he played was just better. He was bigger, he was stronger, he was older and he had more experience. Derek could see that and move on.
Joshua won his first round match, although he lost the first set. He buckled down, won the second and the deciding tiebreak and then had to go on to the second round. His opponent was the #2 seed in the tournament, the #11 ranked boy in Tennessee. Joshua actually started out playing really well. He won a few games, lost a few really close ones. But here's where Derek and Joshua diverge - Joshua started getting angry.
He actually started angry. That's his default setting.
After the match, which he lost, I said something to him about being angry and how it shuts his feet down - shuts his game down, really. (This isn't the first conversation about it that we've had...) I could see the tears in his eyes as he said to me, "You tell me that it is okay to get angry, but then tell me that I shouldn't be angry! I don't get it!"
He's right. I've said both things to him. And I'm right, but he wasn't getting it. I told him to go take a shower, cry it out and come back and we'd talk about it.
I really just needed a few minutes to try and figure out how to explain it. Here's what I came up with:
Anger is an emotion, just like joy or sadness. There's nothing wrong with anger - it just is. But here's the thing...every time you get angry, it's like creating a one-pound brick. There's nothing wrong with that brick - it just is. But once you've created the brick, you have to decide what to do with it.
Ideally, you learn to put it down, out of your way, where it can't trip you up. Better yet, realize that it's just a brick of sand, blow on it really hard and scatter all the grains.
But you can also decide to strap that brick to your leg and hang on to it. Now - one brick that weighs one pound probably won't hinder you all that much, but consider this: It takes losing 24 points, minimum, to lose a tennis set. That's 24 opportunities to create an anger brick. If you strap all 24 of those bricks to your legs, you'd find it hard to move.
Imagine playing your best game with the equivalent of 24 pounds strapped to your legs. It just can't happen. You have to practice laying your bricks down, pulverizing them and blowing them away.
He thought about it for a few minutes. I asked him if he understood.
"Yes. I get it. It's kind of like in Minecraft? When there are zombies? And if you don't kill the zombie, they spawn more zombies and then you're completely overrun with zombies and you can't do anything."
"Exactly. I think. I have no idea what you're talking about."
"That's okay, Mom. I do."
Friday, May 03, 2013
I've never been a fan of gardening. My mom was a gardener - all my people are gardeners. My earliest memories of gardening are picking the weeds out between the rows of okra and eggplant that my mom decided to plant one year, the whole time thinking, "I HATE okra. I HATE eggplant. Why do I have to pick out these stupid weeds. I don't even LIKE gardening."
Thanks Mom. Happy times, there.
I have another memory about gardening, but it involves chicken manure and a game of king of the hill. You'll thank me for not repeating it.
Anyway - as I've grown older, I've found that I miss the taste of fresh-out-of-the-garden tomatoes and peppers. I miss the smell of fresh vegetables sitting on the counter ready for preparation. So I planted some tomatoes in pots on my deck at the last house - it's not gardening! There aren't any weeds! All I have to do is walk out onto my deck and pick my glorious tomatoes!
Except it never worked all that well. The containers dried out too quickly and the tomatoes suffered and all it did for me is make me want more. MORE, I tell you.
So, last year, as we were examining our acre of land and marveling at the fact that the previous owners of this house cut down all the trees except the five scraggly, ugly cedars and left the patches of bare, scorched earth that used to be shaded by said trees, I thought maybe I'd plant a garden. I wasn't brave enough to till up the soil, yet, so I bought a raised bed kit at the local hardware store and filled it with gorgeous garden soil.
I planted four tomato plants, one cucumber, a yellow squash and one zucchini. ONE zucchini.
People - this garden produced like crazy. I had so much zucchini, I couldn't keep track of it all - as a matter of fact, I would lose zucchini in the giant leaves of the plant so that they ended up growing bigger than my dog. The picture above shows the zucchini plant at about half its eventual size. It completely crowded out my squash and my cucumber. The tomatoes held their ground, but it was pretty clear that a) zucchini plants are insane and b) zucchini plants need more space.
When the garden was done, I removed the raised bed, mixed the garden soil into the bare scorched earth area, planted crepe myrtles, daylilies and oriental lilies and turned it into a beautiful little flowery oasis. I'll take a picture of it as soon as everything blooms.
Yesterday, I took my raised bed to a different bare, scorched earth section of the yard. I found another raised bed at the hardware store and added it so that the zucchini will have its own space, although I did give it a spaghetti squash and a watermelon friend to hang out with. Hopefully, they'll play nicely together.
I gave the tomatoes their own bed, with a border of marigolds and a lone bell pepper friend to grow with. My mom always planted marigolds with her tomatoes to keep the bugs away. Guess she taught me something after all.
Thanks Mom. Happy times, indeed.
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Have you ever watched something unfolding in front of you and just ached for it to finish already?
Have you ever wondered at the patience of nature?
Have you ever mourned the time spent straining and becoming and simply longed for the finish?
Have you ever gasped at the first sign?
Have you ever seen miracles take over and do what you could never hope for?
Have you ever grown weary of the battle?
Have you ever been humbled by your own lack of power?
Have you ever watched as those precious hearts for whom you've been given responsibility exceed every expectation?
Have you ever wept as those same hearts are crushed by failure?
Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
In order to reconnect with my habit of blogging, I'm planning a post every day in May. It may be a drawing, like the crow above.
It may be a photo.
It may be a rant against society.
Who knows? The point of it is that I miss being here. I miss writing. I miss the connections I've made through the past few years of hanging out in this space.
Feel free to join me - I could use the company.
Monday, April 29, 2013
The Smarty was home this weekend. It was a short visit, but just having him around for a couple of days feels like a cause for celebration.
We miss him like crazy.
He had some bonus dollars to a local big box electronics store, so he decided he'd take the boys and buy them a new game for their XBox. The only reason they got an XBox was so they could play Minecraft with their
nerds friends and talk to them at the same time. Before that, they had to play Minecraft on the computer (which they still do) and talk to their friends on the phone.
So. Very. Lame.
Anyhow... Saturday morning we went to breakfast and to buy some groceries, then ran to the electronics store to shop for XBox games. This is the XBox aisle in the store. There were tons of options to choose from.
Well. There were tons of games. And as long as you are a big fan of shooting people, there were tons of options to choose from.
People. I realize my boys are growing up, and that one of them is technically a teenager, but when I started reading the descriptions on the backs of the cases marked "T" for "Teen", all I could think was, "No."
Here's what I saw...there was a basketball game, a football game and a tennis game. Fine. No problem. My boys just aren't into basketball, football or virtual tennis.
Then there was the chainsaw massacre by a half-naked, busty woman game. And the heavily tattooed and scarred ex-military man with an AK-47 game. And the stealing cars and running drugs game.
How about the skateboard game? Well, the advisory panel states, "Blood, drug use, crude humor, offensive language." So, no.
But there's a racing game! "Crude humor, offensive language, suggestive topics, nudity."
I don't understand what's happened. I realize that times have changed since I had my Intellivision, folks, but is this really what we've become? A bunch of crude-talking, drug-using, gratuitous-violence-wielding people? Over 100 games on the shelf, and more than 90% involved shooting up either guns or heroin. The other 10% were sports, which would be awesome, except apparently no one plays sports without suggestive overtones or foul language.
We ended up with a Lego Star Wars game (which they already have for the Wii) and an Avengers game, in which the characters fight each other, but there's evidently no blood or naked women. These were the only two games on that entire aisle that I could even consider.
And it just made me sad.
It made me sad that our children are exposed to so much violence, at such a young age, that it isn't shocking to them. I don't believe that video games cause violence any more than I believe guns kill people.
People cause violence. People kill people, with guns and without.
But when it's clear that we've turned a corner to a world where the graphic and realistic-looking killing of "people" has become commonplace, it makes me hurt. The world is a violent and scary enough place for kids without adding this on top of it.
I realize that I'm in the minority, and that all my kids' friends have these games and play them. I realize that those kids are most likely not going to grow up and become the kinds of people those games portray. But I just can't do it. I'm sorry, guys...I just can't.
I would rather you miss out on what all your friends are doing. I would rather you be mad at me for making you miss it. I would rather you grow up completely shocked and horrified at what people will do to people instead of blasé and jaded when a bomber sets a backpack full of explosives down at the finish line of a marathon, or when you hear a news story about a murder downtown.
I want you to be disturbed when you hear of a robbery at the local drugstore. I want you to be disgusted when women are objectified. I want you to be dismayed to see what illicit drugs really do to individuals. I want you to be devastated by the evil that people can subject upon other people.
I want you to be like your father, who agrees with me.
I want you to grow up, understanding that life is a precious gift and that there are no second chances at it.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Life is a strange thing, sometimes. We rise and fall, ebb and flow throughout it. We stress out over things that are completely pointless and shrug our shoulders and laugh off important things. We work so hard to control every aspect of it - some of us, anyway. Some of us act as if we have no control over anything, and we allow ourselves to be swept along with the tide.
I fall into the first category, generally. I am fairly sure I could stop the tide from turning if I applied myself. The world would stop turning if I didn't get up in the morning and start it going - you can thank me for that.
I watched Joshua play a finals match in a tournament this weekend. He played beautifully, but he lost. He basically lost because of a double fault, and it just broke his heart. It broke mine, too. I sat in my chair, on top of a hill and two courts away from him, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I talked him through it, even though he couldn't hear me.
"C'mon, baby - stay with it. Good boy. Topspin. That's it. Aaaarrgh."
I was absolutely no help at all.
It made me realize how often I strive to control things and have just as little influence as I did over Joshua's tennis match. It made me realize how much undue stress I place on myself. It made me want to learn to let go a little.
But it is so hard to let go. So hard to give up. So difficult to lay it down.
My mom was here visiting this weekend. She needed to get away for a couple of days. Her mom, my dear grandmother, is almost 93 years old. She's far into dementia, her body is failing and it is nearly time for her to go. Her mind has been gone a long time, now, but her body just hasn't realized it's time to stop. My mom is the only daughter - she has two brothers that are younger than she is. Her time here, away from it all, was punctuated by telephone calls from both brothers. Calls from doctors, nurses, caregivers. She's trying to keep everyone informed, plugged in, advised.
When she left, I told her to call her pastor. To keep communicating with her brothers. To give up some of the responsibility that she's carrying so that she doesn't get ill from the stress. To let go of some of the control. She knows. And I know how impossible that is.
My grandfather, almost 95, is still trying to control what happens - after 72 years of marriage, he's not sure how to let go and he's exhausted from the effort. My grandmother's doctor has called in Hospice to help care for her - to relieve some of the stresses that my sister, who is my grandmother's caregiver, faces.
To help everyone learn to let go.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Today is National Haiku Poetry Day. I felt inspired by certain events of yesterday to write a few (incredibly bad) Haiku poems of my own.
Streak across the yard
Green trees, a flash of black, white
Smells like that don't die
Jasper wants to play
Hi! Lovely forest creature
That really smells bad
Jasper is a dog
He likes to chase animals
Well, not anymore
What is that odor?
Oh, dear Lord, it's my dumb dog
Some things never fade
What is that odor?
The skunk is in my nose
IN MY NOSE, PEOPLE
A day at the vet
Cleaning, cleaning, two skunk baths
The scent still lingers
Go write your own Haiku poem - they're quite cathartic. Feel free to post some in the comments - I'd love to read yours! Just please, please, please...make them better than mine.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
This is how I spend most of my days. No - not perched on a log, enjoying the sunshine, although I would, given the opportunity. I spend my days on a razor's edge of alert focus, watching for dangers to my cubs. With the Smarty gone 90% of the time, I feel like this cheetah - poised to spring at any moment.
***Do cheetahs have cubs? Or are they kits or something? Okay - looks like they are cubs, and holy moley - how stinking cute are they?***
The flip side of that is I spend most of my days completely exhausted. When the Smarty comes home, it takes me about two full days to recover from the relaxation that hits my body, knowing that I'm not the only parent in town. That makes for some serious quality time with my sweetheart. Sigh.
My word, I don't see how you single parents do it. I can only hope that you have a network of trusted friends and family that step in and prop you up on the days that you've been sucked completely dry of all energy and reason. Because that's what I've noticed above all else - when my energy hits the bottom of the reservoir, my reason flees right along with it. I look at the bowl sitting next to the sink, encrusted with the remains of someone's lunch and I just want to throw it across the room.
"Why doesn't ANYONE in this house do ANYTHING except for ME? As soon as I get one thing cleaned, FIVE HUNDRED OTHER THINGS ARE DIRTY. Has ANYONE EVER put up a pair of SHOES in this house?"
When the fact is, other people actually do things here. Just yesterday morning, I heard the boys taking out the trash and recycling, even though I hadn't actually asked them to do it. They help feed the dogs, put up dishes from the dishwasher, take their clothes upstairs and put them away. Well, I assume they put them away. I don't look. They are quite possible sitting in heaps on the floors of their closets. I honestly don't care - as long as I can't see them.
They hug me and kiss me, even when I'm angry and unreasonable. They say "Please" and "Thank you." They tell me I'm a good cook.
Cute, adorable, sweet little liars.