[more on kindergarten kissing at the end]
One of my friends has walked and/or run a minimum of two miles (and typically more like five) every single day for over 200 days. In the process she has inspired a significant number of women to get outside, get to the gym, and just plain get to it before the day is done. Knowing others are out there moving in a journey toward wellness encourages me to start over every day, and try and do just a little bit better than the day before.
Some days I succeed. Often I do not.
It’s raining today after a long stretch of sun sprinkled days during which my sugar snap peas, zucchini, and broccoli doubled and tripled in size. The carrots I started from seed didn’t make it, but the tomatoes, cucumbers and greens look happy. Experimental cantaloupe and unidentified herbs are also doing well.
One tiny strawberry is turning red and this afternoon I was super strict with my youngest about not picking it until it’s ripe. He looked at me like I was the Wicked Witch of the West, but he did his usual 180 crazy degree changeabout within moments and gave me a kiss with love in his eyes.
Last night we harvested the first romaine of the season for a salad. My kids rejected the poppy seed dressing, but there’s still something about eating something that grew out of the ground, or fell from a tree, that the boys and I like. Although I’m not a vegetarian anymore, I cannot see a better way to start the day than with a cup of strong, black coffee and a healthy serving of fresh spinach in an omelette. And yet, too often lately I’ve opted for less healthy fare. I’ve been craving salt like crazy and eating baked cheesy puffs and popping corn which I overly salt. I skipped yoga last night. I’ve drank too much wine. I’ve had strange dreams.
As a result, I’ve felt tired this week. I meant to run today, but the rain felt heavier than usual.
This past Sunday’s 10K seems like it happened long ago. Why can’t every day be like Sunday run day?
After school I tried to ask probing questions to get my son to describe his day. Today I asked if there were “any problems” during the school day. Quickly he told me that Allison* kissed Maribel* in the girls’ bathroom and that the substitute teacher had told the entire class that “no kissing is allowed”.
Here’s a snippet from our dialog [*names have been changed to protect the innocent]:
M: Allison kissed Maribel in the bathroom. Then Maribel told the substitute and Mrs. H. told us there is no kissing allowed.
M: You know, usually kissing is a girl on boy thing, but sometimes it can be girl on girl.
[me: just listening, nodding].
M: But Teacher Penny doesn’t mind kissing, but the substitute says it’s not allowed at school.
Me: Was Maribel upset about the kiss by Allison?
M: No! She just came back in and told the substitute.
Me: Ok, well, do you remember the rules on kissing? Ask Permission Before You Kiss Someone and They Have To Ask Permission Before They Kiss You?
M: Yeah, I remember. Can I have a snack?
Before picking up the boys today, I made a last ditch effort to purchase a new dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding. I’m pretty happy with what I came home with. Having headed immediately toward the little black cocktail dress section, however, my cell phone rang. It was my husband.
Don’t buy another black dress, he implored. Nothing black.
So instead I tried on a half dozen colorful dresses in daisy patterns and flowery oranges and reds and blues and yellows. I found one that was perfect, but of course it didn’t come in my size (curse you, extra 10 lbs, curse you – they are coming off as I train for three half marathons this summer). Finally, I went with a faux wrap dress in — yes — black, but it also has lots of white and a bow. Step in the right direction, yes?
This post is full of silliness and truth and thinking, and as my son said the other night, …sometimes the thinking in my head just surprises me and I have so much to tell you! There’s just so much thinking in my head tonight.
Wishing you a bit of color and light, readers, as you walk or run through the rain this week.
If it’s not raining where you live, gaze up and drink in the deepness of the sky.
I fell off a treadmill a few days ago.
Fortunately it was located in my basement and not in public space.
It was embarrassing.
Dark, ugly scratches beginning to scab over now trouble both my knees.
What happened? I’d stretched to one side to adjust the music on my left arm’s miniature Ipod and lost balance somehow.
It didn’t hurt as it happened, and yet the next day I found that my knees were a mess.
And they hurt.
So all the times I’ve told my sons after a tumble, oh it’s ok, you’re fine, and it’s ok, well… it’s not.
Splicing the delicate top skin off one’s body hurts.
Two days ago, I ran 6.45 miles in a gorgeous inner city park in Portland, Oregon. I’d been concerned about my still-stinging knees, but they were fine. I should have been more concerned about my legs! It was quite a hilly course, filled with ups and downs and loops, surrounded by tall green trees and cheerful volunteers and children (including mine!).
A beautiful morning brings the city to life.
During the run (four hilly loops in the park) I was reminded that I am so fortunate to be able to run. I walked a bit on the uphills, too, and generally I’d feel bad about that, but I didn’t this day. Walking a little was okay. I felt energetic and onward toward the finish of the Run Mama Run 10K.
I thought about the knees and ankles and lives blasted away in Boston just weeks ago and my heart sank a bit, humbled by the terrible, trying aftermath as we humans just go on and do what we know to do well and unwell and the actions that may ultimately do and undo us following a tragedy.
When we came home I gazed at the flower pictured below smiling at the sky from its shady spot in our backyard.
I carried white calla lilies on my wedding day, and these gorgeous flowers with dark green pointed leaves never fail to mesmerize me.
In 1944, Diego Rivera painted Desnudo con alcatraces (Nude with calla lilies). We have a reproduction of Rivera’s Calla Lilly Vendor in our dining room. Some people believe the calla lily represents Rivera’s lover and wife Frida Kahlo, a woman of complex talent and suffering. I’ve read almost everything there is to read about Kahlo and Rivera, and I’m not sure what the white blossom indigenous to Mexico means, but it sure was lovely to tend to while I sat gingerly on the deck, crusty knees and sweaty hair and slowing heart rate.
I thought of how Kahlo never became a mother, and how she described what it was like to wake up bleeding, having lost another gentle angel spirit, a life for only a moment or two.
I held close in my mind’s eye two young boys who one by one stole my heart, and listened to them cheering me on from the side of the road, their voices clear and joyful.
Run, Mama, Run!
Truly I am blessed given what I have lived, loved, and lost.
It was a wonderful Mother’s Day, and the journey continues.
Let’s see if I can accurately capture tonight’s dialog.
Bed Time after Long but Good Day (soccer, park, backyard, snacks, sunshine, etc)
CHILD: I have allergies and I’ve been to get a tissue a hundred times and my legs are tired and my eyes are tired and I’m sleepy and I’m exhausted and everybody is having fun but me [pause.] And you’re being mean to me and I’m not happy!
[He storms into bathroom and returns to bed.]
ME: I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. I hope you feel better in the morning.
CHILD: I won’t! I won’t ever feel better in the morning!
[He pushes face into pillow.]
ME: Good night. Love you.
[Note: Child does not have allergies.]
CHILD: Grumble, sigh, hiss.
Well, Mother’s Day Eve has concluded. Truthfully, this scene is unusual. Late afternoon crankiness is definitely expected, but just before bedtime usually involves books, snuggles and songs.
Being rather tired myself right now, I consider the impact of such a busy and sunshiny-day on a five-year-old.
If there was a formula that would result in the behavior of my child it must be something like this:
Star at the Center of the Solar System Shines Brightly in a City that is Unused to Sunshine + Boy + Soccer Game with Big Kids + Dad as Coach + My Nana Leaves After Spending A Week with Me + Hot Dogs on the Grill + Backyard Soccer Game + Becoming Really Mad when Younger Brother Chooses Muppets to Watch as Evening Movie = Really, Really Unhappy Kid.
Squared. Or times two. Or four. Whatever. I never did like math.
My mother spent the past week with us and taught Miles how to take away, or subtract. We practiced tonight, and it’s clear that though the practice is somewhat baffling as to how it works, she was successful.
Albert Einstein stated that “as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
Goodnight, dear readers.
Wishing all the mother readers a most beautiful Mother’s Day.
We wouldn’t be here without you.
My son had a difficult doctor appointment this morning, but handled himself mostly with grace, a little bit of humor, and a few tears. Before we left, the doctor tipped an enormous canister of liquid nitrogen onto the floor where it smoked and disappeared before our eyes.
Science is so awesome, the doctor said. Miles agreed.
We rode the tram and then tucked into the hospital café for a snack before heading back to school. I agreed to the purchase of a double lemon muffin.
Double lemon! he smiled. I’ve never had double lemon before!
On the way to school, he asked me not to mention the muffin to his brother.
Let’s just keep it between you and me, the angels and Santa.
I agreed to be discreet about the treat, thinking about what such a gathering might look like.
Candy canes, jingle bells and great, golden wings.
Whispers of love, promises of cheer, drained cups of chocolate and a big jolly laugh.
Frost on the windowsills, angels’ breath.
Santa, the angels, my eldest son and me.
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
RECIPE FOR A MIXED UP DAY
Thoughts of Boston
Late opening for kid in school
Painters at our house all week
Missed opportunity for yoga (see late opening)
Stupid stupid stupid political decision to abandon attempts for gun control
School meeting = missed work meeting
The power of Word Girl on public television
Kindergarten kissing conversation (see details below)
One glass red wine
Combine all ingredients in one human body. Let settle. Feel. Acknowledge the process by which we humans learn, unlearn, do, and undo.
Do this over and over again.
My body is more tired than usual, but more motivated than usual. Short home practice. Running scheduled tomorrow 6:30 am.
Outcome upon digestion of ingredients listed above:
We (I) will not be cowed by those who lack courage and end lives for the purpose of nothing other than causing pain, provoking anger, and engendering fear.
We (I) will be strong.
I must take a new path tomorrow. Literally.
Be strong, faithful readers and readers of faith.
(Names have been changed to protect privacy of my son’s classmates).
Kindergartener: You know what, Mom? ALL of the girls in my class are IN LOVE with all of the boys!
Me: Really? Love?
K: Yes! You know how I know? Because I saw Sally kissing Marcos in the corner of the room! She kissed him on the NOSE!
Me: Oh my. Did everyone see?
K: I don’t know!
Me: Was there more kissing from all the girls in love?
K: I didn’t see any! But I asked Sally and she said she LOVES me!
Me: She did? How did that make you feel?
K: I don’t know! It cracked me up!
Me: Ok. What if Sally wants to kiss you?
K: I don’t know if I’ll say yes or no.
Me: Well, here are a few things to always, always remember. If anyone wants to kiss you, they have to ASK PERMISSION. And if you want to kiss anyone, you have to ASK PERMISSION. And if you’re kissing someone, then he or she should be someone that you trust and respect.
K: Got it. Trust, respect, ask permission.
Me: Because kissing is a big decision.
K: Yes! It’s like a real TRICKY decision, Mom. I just have no idea if I’ll say yes or no.
Me: Also, it’s ok to just start out with something like a high five. Or holding hands.
Me: Just remember to -
K: Yes, I KNOW. The RULES about kissing.
Me: Ok. I trust you. Love you, Miles.
K: Love you, too, Mom.
I’ve been reading so many words. Heartbreak and running and terrorism and sadness and fear and anger and amputees. I’m taken back to the moment when I felt compelled to write about Sandy Hook. Last summer I wrote about Aurora. I pick up any newspaper and must consider the horrors that continually confront women in India, children in Palestine, youth in Haiti.
More words: tsunamis and hurricanes and landslides and oil spills and rape and judgement and kindergarten and tragedy.
Sometimes there are just too many words and my mind is heavy with newsprint and websites and death.
Too many incomprehensible and appalling words bring us to our knees.
When will humanity be compelled to become humane?
And then I read this.
“here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life”
–e.e. cummings, i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Nearly six years ago we planted a young maple tree in our front yard to welcome our baby boy into our lives and our world. Each spring its leaves unfurl gently and remind us of new life, and in the fall they are crimson and spectacular. My sister’s ashes nurture the earth at the base of the tree.
Greeter of angels, she welcomed an eight-year-old boy yesterday.
Words, light of my life, my children, my friends, the trees and the sky and the earth affirm life even as we are faced with unspeakable loss.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a trampoline in my living room. A gift for my three-year-old, this piece of equipment immediately became an integral piece of furniture.
As I look around the room, my gaze lands on a Spider-Man skateboard, approximately one thousand red and yellow checkers belonging to the game Connect Four sitting on the coffee table, and a stack of library books on topics ranging from sharks to spiders to hiking to a curious monkey abducted from Africa by a German in 1941.
An orange child-sized soccer ball sits in a corner, having been well used today. A large empty box that originally held easy peel tangerines from California is now decorated in red and black marker, a mural of soldiers in battle beneath a dark sky complete with lightening bolts and ominous looking clouds.
What else? The dinner has been cleared from the table in a small dining area nearby. Our large black Labrador is sleeping on an old green bed beneath an Ethiopian cross carved of wood given to me by my father and an Irish poem gifted to my husband and me as a wedding present. The youngest child is watching the Cat in the Hat on the sofa while the eldest has left on an adventure to procure strawberry milkshakes with his father.
We have cheered through one soccer match and two remain to go. We have skipped swimming lessons. Our boys both had moments when they literally couldn’t breathe they were laughing so hard, and others when the tears flowed. We set up the two-person REI tent that I purchased at age 22 in the backyard (this so far has been my most brilliant move in April). We have filled one 15 cubic feet dumpster with yard waste from the Jack and the Bean stalk-like laurel wood trees at the edge of our property.
For the six years we have lived here, it has been A. vs the Laurelwoods. Finally, he is ahead.
It is the Weekend, Day One. It has been alternately eventful, entertaining, awful, relaxing, fun, boring, and such, a blend of personalities and decisions and emotions and challenges that make a family.
I am looking forward to Day Two.
What did you do today, Readers? What will you do tomorrow?
Last night I attended a Passover Seder dinner for the first time. I was both surprised and delighted to receive the invitation from one of my son’s former teachers. I am an agnostic Catholic, if that really means anything, and it’s been a while since I participated in a formal and/or traditional religious event. I enjoy speaking with believers more so than the actual practice of attending Mass or other services.
I think my mother’s church is beautiful, and yet as I’ve stepped through its doors over the years I am overcome with sadness. It is the place where we formally said good bye to my sister. It does not bring me peace.
As we spoke and sang the words of prayer and poem tonight, I felt calm, curious, and included. A few times I wondered about what was going on at home. I’d left my phone on silent in my purse rather than in my pocket. What if there was an emergency? Did my husband have my friend’s number?
Unlike other evenings, I was able to let those worries go.
My participation in the Seder felt respectful.
It felt engaging.
I wanted to ask every person at the table a hundred questions about who they are and what had been their experience.
I felt appreciated that the host welcomed the group by asking everyone, if they felt comfortable, to note how they were connected to the gathering. I think we should do this regularly.
How do we belong?
How do we find ourselves in these situations?
How do we belong is a good question, one worth asking, especially if one finds oneself in a place where one doesn’t feel appreciated,welcome, or worthy.
The symbolism presented during the Seder is intriguing. I was more mindful of the food and drink that we consumed. I thought about whose hands prepared the food, and how perhaps thousands of hundreds of men and women ate those same foods a long time ago.
My own ignorance of religious text, excluding the Bible, didn’t add much to the conversation about how to interpret or consider the words of the evening. I remember those days of bible study during my freshman year of college and the memories make me feel ill. So much hypocrisy, so much judgement, even if it wasn’t meant to be so. Tolerance was promoted but not practiced. Students were born again while others were cast aside. I found myself adrift, wondering what and whom to believe, and for a while I believed in nothing.
Last night I was included in a beautifully inclusive place of prayer and reflection. Not one among us might know the other were it not
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Today I am delighted and grateful for the opportunity to guest post on a wonderful blog called Kind Over Matter. Kind Over Matter is a celebration of community that is creative, energizing and full of gratitude for the good stuff, and even for the bad stuff.
Please consider reading my brief essay discussing kindness after loss.
Be kind, be well, be kind.
As I was getting ready to go out, my eldest son glanced up and noticed a strand of silvery colored beads around my neck.
Wow, I like your necklace, Mama. Those are shiny. And pretty. And sparkly.
A few minutes later, my husband glanced at me.
Him: Are you going for the middle school.. ahem, ahem… look?
Did you say middle school teacher?
Or middle school librarian?
Him: Oh, nevermind, he responded.
Me: Because one of my best friends happens to be a middle school librarian!
He agreed. So there. True story.
For the record, I was wearing tights, tall black boots, skirt and… kind of a wraparound black cardigan thing that my hubby can’t identify.
Him: What is that? Is it a sweater?
We headed out for drinks and dinner on a Friday night. I’d just spent 6.5 hours on a kindergarten field trip with said kindergartener AND his preschooler brother. It was gorgeous in Portland, a mild, sunny day in early March that happened to coincide with my birthday. It was a fun, exhausting and life affirming experience surrounded by five and six year olds.
As I bid good night to my 39th year and cautiously enter my 40th… which, by the way, means I turned THIRTY NINE and I’ve got a year to go till I hit four decades of life so far…
Now I can’t remember what I was talking about.
Oh yes. Birthdays and love and family and stuff. All of the usual suspects.
My baby will turn three years old quite soon. Perhaps because he’s the “baby”, I haven’t given much thought to his birthday. For my eldest, I think back on how we threw a party in a park and tossed a beach ball to every party-goer age 1 and up. It was a blast.
I don’t have similar plans in mind for little M. He has some difficulty expressing himself in words, and that adds to the pot of perceiving him to be younger than he actually is. I’m looking forward to him meeting with a speech therapist on Monday. However, he is adept at communicating his needs, and more often than not he needs hugs and cuddles rather than food, water, or the potty (actually, he never needs the potty, as he is potty-training averse). As we embark upon his fourth year, I think of babies and the need… the constant need… the physicality of parenting… the holding, patting, soothing, rocking. My little one is still a rocker, and when very tired he will rock back and forth on the sofa or in his carseat, soothing himself. I remember the stretches when my husband or I walked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, across a dimly lit room, willing the tiny being into sleep. I recall the minuteness of their hands, their diminutive feet.
I don’t miss it.
For a moment, ok, I miss it.
But as they grow, and as I linger by the computer while they sleep, I remember, and I think – wow. This is happening. They are becoming real people. They are a part of me.
And so, my birthday recently past, and despite the challenges of my 39th year, I feel good about raising these small people. They are contributing. They are observing. They are learning.
So when my eldest told me today that he “would be much better behaved if he didn’t have a brother”, I could breathe in and nod and say, yeah possibly. But you do have a brother. And I do have two kids. So let’s get on with being a family today.
Thanks, readers, for the journey around the sun love last week.