Wednesday, February 25, 2015

These are the moments when I'm not sure that I can stand all the beauty in this world

In the middle of a snowstorm, with a house full of rambunctious children, I handed the baby off to my husband last weekend and retreated upstairs for some much needed solitude.

I also needed desperately to dye my hair.

While the wind whipped outside and the bands of heavy, wet snow lashed against the windows, I was content to hide up.

Just me and the familiar scent of grasping at youth. For a while.

I sectioned and applied and timed and waited. Alone.

It was glorious.

I heard the baby fussing a bit, heard the familiar words my husband speaks to this, his last child, and soon he was quieted.

I wonder sometimes if it's the parenting miles we've accumulated on our odometers or just our ages now, or some magical combination of both, but I can tell you that parenting this time around has been vastly different.

This baby isn't an easy one, not by any stretch of the imagination, but parenting him has been easier. More relaxed. More familiar. 

We're more patient. We're more at ease. We relish more, push less. We just watch him more. We hold him more, linger with it all, even when we could put him down because we've learned just how short this time is. It's just more, all of it is more. I don't know how else to describe it. 

If only I'd known what I do now back when we started this parenthood journey all those years ago. 

I finished up, enjoying my last few moments of being alone in the quiet, shut off the lights and headed back downstairs to the video game infused chaos of a snow day.

About three steps down the stairs, I heard it, that song. Hallelujah, the Jeff Buckley version. My husband had been reading in the living room away from all the chaos. I found him lying there on the couch, the song softly playing in the background, fast asleep. Cradled in his arms, our son. 

It took my breath away.

I crept down the rest of the stairs and sat across from them both, watching them sleep, drinking in the moment, listening to that beautiful song. 

These are the moments when I'm not sure that I can stand all the beauty in this world.

Moments like this make me feel so terribly insignificant and filled with meaning all at once.

I took a picture, more with my mind than with the camera I used. 

These moments, the ones that bring us to our knees with gratitude, they make everything else worthwhile. They were so peaceful, so intertwined, so beautiful, like they just fit together perfectly in this moment in time and space and nothing else mattered right then. 

As I took this picture, a teenager in the adjoining room hollered down the hallway.

"Isn't that the song from Shrek?", he asked. 

I laughed quietly. Shook my head in amusement. "Oh, this was a song long before Shrek...but yeah. Yeah, it is." I replied. 

I was transported instantly back to the chaos of a video game infused snow day once more, but not before I was lucky enough to witness this, to sit with it, to be with it, to absorb it and to commit it to memory.

This man is my home, the calm in my storm, the peace in my chaos.

This child is my last, the one I never imagined I'd have the chance to meet someday.

And this? This was perfect.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the all things Oscar edition

There's entirely too much to cover this week, so we'll be skipping any kind of introduction this time around. Off we go.

The Quick and Dirty About the Academy Awards
The ratings were bad this year, and for good reason. The show was mostly boring, as it usually is. A lot of people protested the blandness, the whiteness of the Oscars this year by refusing to watch at all. The film industry as a whole tends to be pretty reflective of the white male experience, this is true, but the awards shows tend to take that to a new level. This year was no exception.

I watched for a few reasons, one of which is that I try very hard not to criticize things I haven't personally seen or read. I know many people who refused to watch on principal this year, and I wholly respect that decision. I also know, though, that institutions only ever really change when they are forced to. The Academy is a particularly insulated institution because of the membership requirements, one even less amenable to change due to that insulation. Because of that harsh reality, it will take a whole lot more pressure for things to ever be different. Trying to make changes in society requires us to stay present.

Anyhow, for anyone who wants to try and take me to task on my criticism of the whiteness of the awards, you really only need to reflect on the truth that the room was filled with British actors and no one asked any of them who they got their Green Cards from. That question was only posed to one person, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the Mexican director (i.e. the son of a bitch) of Birdman. Did anyone else stare at the screen when Sean Penn said that, wondering aloud if that really just happened????

I know I did.


Other Oscars Observations
- John Legend and Common's performance of Glory was beyond amazing. Beyond. Speechless chills. If you haven't seen it yet, you must.

- Lady Gaga sang the hell out of the Sound of Music, which has apparently shocked most of the world...or at least the people who never noticed that she is actually talented before that performance. Of course she is. I've been saying that for years. Just seems like most people couldn't see past the meat dress. If you haven't seen this yet, here you go.

- The Academy LOVES to use popular films in its montages, but those same films relied on for applause are rarely ever the ones nominated. Hollywood loves a big box office, just doesn't think it is ever worthwhile when it comes to the tiny statues.

- The whole lock box thing was terrible. The fact that it wasn't something Octavia Spencer was asked about beforehand makes it even worse.   It really was just grossly inappropriate and completely unfunny.

- Patricia Arquette. Hmmm. The sentiment was fine and all. I can get behind anyone stumping for equal rights on such a large stage. That's rad. What wasn't so rad is all the other stuff she said afterwards, the kinds of things that make it pretty obvious that she doesn't really get the whole idea of intersectional equality. It's possible to be a feminist and argue for equal rights without discounting the experiences of other groups, particularly those that haven't obtained the level of equality she implied that they have or those who fit into more than one category. Also, no one gets to demand that other groups fight for there's that.

- Joan Rivers wasn't included in the In Memorium segment, and the reasons the producers gave were pretty shallow and lame. Personally, I tend to think she was left out intentionally, mostly because she spent her entire career making fun of all of them. But whatever. She was a comedienne, and someone who will forever be associated with the red carpet, for better or worse. She should have been included. But no one asked me.

- Speaking of fashion critics, slamming Zendaya's dreadlocks was a bad choice, Guliana and Kelly. Zendaya just blew me away with her response, though. You can read it here if you'd like. 

- Graham Moore gave the best speech of the night, on a night when talking about mental illness and suicide publicly on a huge stage with bright lights and the world watching became okay.

The Twitter War Between Amber Rose and The Kardashians
A real life soap opera at its smarmiest, this battle is one for the ages. Seriously, there really is no level which won't be stooped to here. It's hard to look away from the trainwreck.

What bothers me tremendously, aside from the nastiness of it all, though, is the fact that Kylie is underage. Tyga is accused of stepping out on his wife for her (which it appears fairly likely that he did, unless jetting off to another country on a romantic trip together is something that totally platonic friends do now), but no one really seems to be talking about the fact that Kylie is underage.

Unless 17 is the new 18 and rules don't apply to Kardashians.

But whatever, let's all just focus on how many showers it takes to wash off the nasty.

Also, let's somehow focus on whether the women involved are at fault here, not the men (even the one accused of cheating on his wife...)

Bill O'Reilly
Much like Brian Williams, O'Reilly has been accused of embellishing stories, of stretching the truth, of just flat making up pieces of news stories. Unlike Williams, O'Reilly is enjoying the unyielding support of his network and throwing around promises to come after his accusers "with everything he has".

NBC suspended Williams to look into the allegations. Fox hasn't.

What does that say to you?

.....types out retraction to run at the end of the newscast....

All the cool kids are doing it
Apparently, it's totally legitimate and not at all racist to question everything about President Obama. For the longest time it was the birth certificate truthers. Then it was the people who claimed he was a Muslim. Now it's totally cool to publicly doubt his love of country and muse about how dedicated he is or is not to Jesus.

And it's totally not racist. Wink, wink.

(p.s. I should just remind everyone that Muslims and Atheists are as protected by the Constitution as all the Christians elbowing for the anti-Obama soundbytes here....)

Monday, February 23, 2015

To The One I Least Understand

Dear Freckles,

Twelve years ago, yesterday, you told me you were on your way, whispering to my heart as the twinges began. It was early, but I knew it would soon be time. I'd spent the better part of the week prior preparing for the wedding of a dear friend, the one that your older brother was to be the ring bearer in. We all joked that I needed to stay pregnant at least long enough to get him through the ceremony, and no one was at all surprised when I started having contractions just afterwards at the reception.

You'd wait until the following day to arrive though, after a long sleepless night. There was much to do about your birth, so many people in that room that I wouldn't even hazard a guess at the number. My labor with you was filled with laughter and the odor of sandwiches consumed by giggling people in the corners of the room. Your father passed the time by trying to make me laugh, something I hated him a little bit for when a contraction would come along. Laughing only made the waves stronger.  

You waited until your grandparents arrived, then like a deer trapped in the headlights, your poor grandfather was stuck near the end of the bed for some reason. He rallied and did his best to avert his eyes when he needed to. A part of him was horrified to have been witness to your birth, but a bigger part was grateful I think. 

You came screaming into this world, literally. Before you had even fully crossed over to earthside, you were letting us all know that your lungs worked just fine. You wouldn't go quietly.

You wouldn't go quietly anywhere. Ever. Even now. 

You've been a tough one to figure out, as a baby, as a toddler, as a little girl, now as a young woman. I won't for one second pretend that I've mastered all that you are. You are, to me, a mystery far more often than not. 

Your father, though, he gets you. Because so much of him was you. You are so alike, the two of you, that it is eerie at times. I know that I'll never fully understand what makes you tick, but he seems to. I trust that the two of you will work things out. I'll be here, watching, marveling at just how much two distinct human beings can be so alike.  

There are tiny little pieces of you that look more like me, though, things that you do that I can't hold anyone else accountable for when I glance around the room at the usual suspects, the most glaring of which is your perfectionism. 

We really are superheroes, aren't we?
Supergirl and Wonder Woman.
Comic Con, 2013.
You hold yourself to this impossible standard for so many things. Your penmanship is precise. You edit and edit and edit. You won't turn in work that is substandard. You follow rules as though your life depends upon it. You fear failure so much that you hesitate to try new things. 

That, all of that, I understand, and because you are so much like me in this respect I push myself outside of my own comfort zone so that I won't be a hypocrite when I ask you to push out of yours. 

You were always the one clinging to my pant leg as a little girl. Your arms were always wrapped firmly around me. Your hand reaching up at mine even before I asked. You even did that a few weeks ago, you know, grabbing my hand as we walked into your school. You reminded me in that moment that although you're almost as tall as I am now, you're still so much my little girl.

You hang on. You stick out your toes into the water hesitating, pausing, pulling back. 

When you finally let go, though, it is magnificent to see. 

It always has been.

Your tiny victories have never been tiny ones.

You're the most deliberate of my children, the planner. You're the one who makes me laugh the most, makes me frustrated the most. You make so many of my emotions bigger, grander. 

I stare at you sometimes wondering what is going on in that blonde head of yours. Whatever it is, it has to be fascinating. 

You are my most interesting child and the one I least understand. 

For a long time I struggled with that part of our relationship. I felt like I was failing you because I didn't understand you. Now I know that when I least understand you, all I need to do is sit you down and look into your eyes and tell you that I love you and that I'm trying. I really am. 

I know that I can tell you that I'll never stop trying to understand you. I know that I can tell you that when I struggle with the things you do, sometimes I just need to lean more heavily on your father, because chances are that he knows exactly what I don't.

I love you, sweet girl. You've grown up so much this past year. 

Just remember that when life tells you that you are supposed to be growing up and getting older, if you need to reach out, my hand will always be there. Stay little as often and as long as you need. 

Happy Birthday. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

#1000 Speak - #1000Voices of Compassion

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

~ Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Of all the quotes in this, my most favorite book of all time, this one speaks to me in the manner of greatest significance.

I've written before about compassion, about how it is sorely lacking in our society, about how it is absolutely imperative that we teach it to children, that we foster and encourage it. I've written about how desperately we all need it, how much we seem to have lost a basic connection with it and with each other. It's a topic near and dear to my heart.

A while back now, a movement began within the blogging community to write about compassion. To take one day from our collective lives and focus on this subject instead of all the other things we all write about.

Tomorrow is that day.

The original goal was to get 1,000 writers together. I believe we're over that number now. The home of the movement can be found here, along with the links to the other pieces written. Check back over the next few days as more are submitted.

As a writer, some of the pieces I have been the most personally attacked for were the ones where I asked others to be considerate of one another. Where I attempted to explain that none of us truly knows the journey of someone else. Where I asked for people to reserve judgment, to refrain from reacting emotionally to all the trials and tribulations, to understand that though we may be affected by the choices of other people, we are almost never the reason for those choices, to choose to be compassionate even when it is difficult.

I've written about this most frequently in the context of addiction and mental illness, though there is an argument to be made that those two aren't nearly as distinct as most people believe them to be. I firmly believe they are interconnected intimately, and the evidence increasingly suggests this truth.

Compassion demands that we try to do what Atticus Finch asked of us, that we try to imagine what the world looks like through the eyes of another person.

It is easier to judge. It is easier to assume that people intend to hurt themselves, to hurt others, to hurt us. It's easier because in this society we like to point fingers. We like to assign blame. We like a hard delineation between rightness and wrongness.

Seeing people as fallible, as human, as struggling with their own battles, it makes teasing out those distinctions impossible.

Rightness and wrongness fade away when we begin to embrace the human experience of another person, when we can begin to understand where they come from, what their motivations are, why they are the way they are and why they do the things they do.

None of us truly ever knows what another person has been through.

We can't know.

What we can do, though, is try to understand.

I'm going to ask you all to try.

Try to imagine what led someone to alcohol, to drugs, to reckless behaviors. Try to imagine what it might be like to overcome an addiction. Try to understand what drives a child to lash out physically at another. Try to understand why family members need to distance themselves from one another. Try to imagine the struggle of the single parents, of those who have lost their spouses, of those who've been left by the person they depended on most. Try to imagine what hunger is like, what it means to not know where your next meal is coming from or if you'll be able to feed your children. Try to imagine what it is like to live with a terminal diagnosis or a chronic life changing one. Try to imagine what it's like to suffer from an invisible disease or ailment, one that no one can see but affects every aspect of life. Try to imagine what it is like to struggle to read. Try to imagine what the weight of anxiety feels like upon your shoulders, when depression holds on tight and won't let go.Try to imagine what it is like to suffer great losses. Try to imagine what it feels like to be truly alone.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the I forgot what day it was edition


I seem patently incapable of getting this post written on Tuesday these days. In fact, I actually forgot that yesterday was even Tuesday because of the holiday on Monday. Maybe by Friday of this week, I'll know what day it is. Maybe.

Anyway, off we go.

Stomach Viruses and Spring Cleaning
I am in a mood to clean, and not just the regular cleaning that I try to keep up with in a house of seven people. I want to clllllllllean all the things.

My family tends to cringe when I get like this because they know what it means - that I'm going to start demanding that they go through the piles of stuff and make decisions about what is worth keeping and what isn't and then they will go through 14 levels of grief and denial because they all like their stuff.

I can't handle clutter. It makes me crazy.

They, on the other hand, love the clutter. This is not trash is the battlecry of my people. And also of hoarders. So there's that.

I haven't been able to get that much done, which just frustrates me more. Between a super demanding baby and a stomach virus slowly making its way through the house, I'm just trying to keep up.

I am, however, intent on at least attempting to keep up with the 40 days/40 bags challenge like I did last year. I LOVE to get rid of stuff, and one bag a day is a totally reasonable goal. I'll be posting reminders every day on my Facebook page.

An Inconvenient Winter
So we haven't really had winter here this year. It happens. Some years we have unbearable cold. Some years we get months on end of miserable wind. Some years we get a ton of snow. Some years we get balmy days with only an occasional storm.

It's that last kind of year.

The thing that happens that is super annoying on years like this one is that the storms are super rare, so much so that we get used to not having to deal with snow. And then when it does actually snow, it usually happens on the worst possible day. Like the storm in the forecast for this weekend, in fact.

Hardly any snow for months, and now we're looking at potentially a foot of snow on Saturday - the day The Oldest has to be an hour and a half south of here for a drumline competition.


The good (?) news is that it's Colorado, where no weather forecast can be relied on and everything can change in 15 minutes.

Cindy Crawford's Real Body
By now, you've probably seen the picture, and if you haven't, you can see it here (or pretty much anywhere on the internet for that matter).

The picture was initially said to be leaked from a piece about to run in Marie Claire magazine about un-retouched photos. Which seemed like an awesome story for the mag to run. It just wasn't true.

It was a photo leaked from a shoot a few years ago, one that was sent out into the interwebs without Crawford's consent or permission, and wasn't at all part of a shoot intended to show the world what her body looks like pre-photoshop.

Much has been said about how amazing she looks in the shot, which is true. She's a very beautiful woman, and the picture is one showing breathtaking ownership of her womanhood.

What it isn't, though, is what everyone seems to want it to be.

It isn't something we should be applauding her for per se for the simple fact that she didn't release it.

The fact that her flaws are all there for the world to see, the things that most of us have in real life, the fact that they all make us feel better about that something we should be thanking her for? Honestly?

I don't think so.

Think about what that sounds like...hey, thanks for having cellulite and flabby skin so we can feel better about ourselves too. 

Not such a positive message, is it?

Here's the thing. It's not her job to make us feel better about our bodies. It's not her job to try and undo the photoshopping of images we are shown. It's not.

At some point, as women, we've got to start understanding that we can feel confident and secure about ourselves without relying on the imperfections of others to do it.

We're all beautiful. Period.

Network Television
These days there are so few actual television shows aired and it seems like half of them are NCIS or CSI related. The airwaves are saturated with reality shows, each one a little more disgusting than the last. New shows are always the hardest to predict because the networks are so fickle about them.

It appears that Constantine will soon be added to a long and growing list of shows I've loved that were canceled in that unpredictable first season.


It's dark and broody and mysterious and disturbing...all good things.

And it is also probably dead in the water.

At least Scorpion and The Flash were renewed.

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