Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Waves of Happiness

I'm sitting on a Key West fishing boat, surrounded by friends and  my family. The Florida sun is blazing down, changing my near-stark-white Polish/English skin a dusky shade of pink, while the spray from the sea cools my shoulder.

I tilt my head back, close my eyes and listen to the sound of the engine, a low roar, as it propels us to the next spot of calm. I hear my child laugh and open my eyes to see her face holding a wide, tall grin that is pure joy itself.

My daughter reaches out to point at the dolphins that are swimming alongside us. While I'd expect that visage to make my heart burst out of my chest, it doesn't. Instead, it settles quietly and contentedly as I allow myself to be fully immersed in this beautiful, golden moment.

And I think, as I'm here, that this is it. This is paradise. No palm trees or sunsets needed. Just sunshine, laughter and loved ones.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Suck it, Monday.

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up all bright and full of hope and just to be a dick, life says:   "You know what?  It's your turn today, jackass. Bend over."

Today was one of those days.

BUT: today I managed to keep my kid alive and reasonably well fed. (She's not bathed, but it's summer and running under a hose totally counts as a bath around here.) The dog is still here. No spouses were harmed in the making of this post.

I did not, at any point,  reach out and choke-slam anyone, regardless of their level of deservingness, although fate tempted me with quite a few jerk-offs who might have actually benefited from getting some sense knocked into them.

Overall, I'm calling it a day and a fucking WIN.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Arguing With the Kids in the Room is OKAY.

When I was younger, my parents fought like their lives depended upon it. An observing anthropologist might have written in a travel diary  "The adult natives appear to actually gain physical energy and sustenance  from battling both verbally and sometimes physically with one another."

I swore, when I grew up my children would never see me argue with my spouse. They would only see the good. The happy. The idyllic.  In short, I was full of shit.

Today, the world pissed in my cornflakes, took a dump in them for added protein and then force-fed them to me while I was being made to watch 'Perfect Cousins' reruns. It was...a challenging day. So, when K came home, I was already full-throttle bitch mode.

K: ...*walks indoors,sets briefcase down*
Me: Hi!
K: Hey, listen, when's dinner ready? Ten minutes, you say? Ok, I'm just going to cut the grass before dinner. 
Me:...(TILT. TILT. TILT! )...Why did you even ask about dinner, then? G'head, cut the damn lawn. I've only got dinner IN THE OVEN and almost ready, but suuuuuuure. 

Now, granted, I kept the curse words to a minimum when D could hear, but she did, in fact, hear us arguing. And you know what? That's ok. Because after a few minutes to cool down, and collect ourselves, she saw this scene, too:

K: Listen, I didn't realize how hard you'd worked to have everything ready when I got home. Let's sit down and have a nice meal. I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention.  
Me: I'm sorry, too. It was a long day and I should have been more flexible. 
K: K. We're good? 
Me: We're good. 
K: Rays game after dinner? 
Me: Sure, but oh my God, have you seen their pitching staff lately? May as well watch the Walking Dead. Fewer zombies....

Sure, she does hear us occasionally lose our cool at one another, but she also sees forgiveness. Tenderness. Compassion. We talk to hear about the fact that sometimes grownups disagree and that yes, she's right, we really should use our indoor voices when we're disagreeing. We work hard at being good to each other, but sometimes marriage and proximity and challenges just push you past the point of sanity. 

The important thing is to forgive swiftly, wholly, and honestly. (And to check with each other about dinner first, because seriously, that damn roast took me an hour.) We are all continually learning more about the people we live with, be they old or young. I like to think that D is learning some pretty good things from us, even when we show her our imperfections. 



Friday, April 25, 2014

Through Sickness and In Health

I'd like to take a moment to write about something that's near and dear to me: The Circle of Kvetching.

This article changed my life. Or, at the very least, my worldview. It  was as if someone had distilled the common knowledge of social attitudes toward sickness and pain into one sketchily drawn infograph.

And I LOVE IT.

Here's the thing about having a loved one who is ill. There is no downtime. There is no time when you're not worried, or scared, or contemplating the different alternative therapies you're discovered on the internet. (Peach pits to cure cancer! The Anti-inflammatory diet! Sacrificing a live chicken during the full blood moon!)  This is to say that is is FUCKING EXHAUSTING.

So, when your friend/neighbor/overly-intrusive-cubicle-partner begins comparing their hangnail to your husband's painfully progressed sarcoidosis, it's, well, challenging  not to throat-punch them right where they stand.

Compassion IN, dumping OUT. It's an elegantly simple rule for bitching about your life. When someone's issue is bigger than yours, you send compassion IN. When their teensy hangnail is smaller than, say, your loved one's cancer, you have full right to dump outwards onto them. (Literally or metaphorically. Your choice.)

Point being, everyone needs an outlet. And if you're a caregiver or advocate (God bless you, my friend) your life is a giant pressure cooker and kvetching inward is not an option. (Who wants to be the dick who puts more pressure on the sick person?) Your option is to kvetch outward. And so on, and so on.

It's the circle of life, but with matzo balls and chicken soup.

Wishing you and all of yours many years of happiness and health.


Why My Kids Will Never Hear "We Don't Have the Money"

When I was a teenager, my father lost his job. Times were tough and making ends meet became impossible. One morning, my mother ushered us out the door to drive us to school and oops! there was no car in the driveway. After she called the police, she called my father....who told her it, um, was probably reposessed. A few embarrassing phone calls and white lies later, my mother called off the police and she and my father had to figure out how to get our car back.

I didn't know at the time that the car had been repossessed. In my house, talking about money was verboten as discussing your grandmother's sex life.  All I knew was that Dad had lost his job and my mom had forgotten that he'd taken the car in for service. (Good white lies. Believable for a 12 year old, anyway.)

The truth came out (drunkenly) after my mom had one too many mimosas on Easter morning. Since then,  I've decided my children will never hear that we don't have the money for something. Ever. Instead, they'll hear: "Sorry D, that toy/milkshake/unicorn that poops marshmallows just isn't in our budget for the month. If you'd like to spend your own money on it, you're welcome to".
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You see, money was such a taboo topic in my house that when I left for college, I had NO FREAKING CLUE how to manage my own meager stash of it. And, credit card companies being the thoughtful entities that they are, there were credit card recruiters EVERYWHERE on my college campus. I signed up for three. Mostly because they were giving away truly awesome gifts with the application. Like water bottles. Or T-shirts. Or a Koozie.

In addition to credit cards, financial aid was the other source of my 'free money'. I know, I know. I did sign papers saying I would pay it all back, blah, blah, blah. But to me, someone who had never learned about APRs and IRAs and any other acronyms thrown in there, it was all free. Gloriously, awesomely FREEEEE!

I have since learned that I may been a teeeeeny bit liberal with the meaning of the word free. And by liberal I mean "used the word like a fucking moron'.

So, my daughter will not hear "We don't have the money". She'll hear "that's not in our budget." After which, we'll talk about important financial things like budgeting. And bank accounts. And why knowing what you're signing up for on campus is important (in so many ways).

She's already started earning an allowance for her chores (she's four, so it's not as is she's raking in the cash. It's a dime every day she brings her water bottle down from her bedroom in the morning. If she keeps doing it for the next 3,000 years, she'll be rich.) But, she's learning about saving, paying for things with hard-earned cash, and how to prioritize whether something is a really worth all those dimes she's been saving. (Side note: the bank tellers just love  us when she brings in all those dimes.)

I'm now in the throes of starting my own company, paying off my 'free' financial aid, and trying to save for D's education down the road. In the meantime, though, I hope I can pass along some of my painfully-earned knowledge in the hope that my daughter will have a much firmer grasp of financial reality than I did.

And that she never has to ask where the car is.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Echoes

Dear Latayah, 

We talked last night. Or, I should say this morning, to be more precise. 

You knocked on my door in my dream, and I opened it to you being your same beautiful self. We talked about...something. I really can't remember and its not important. What mattered was that I was able to see you again. To hear your laugh, to ask your advice (you always gave the best advice) and to see your smile. 

There were bizarre parts of the dream, of course-you had an obituary of someone else you carried with you. I don't remember who's it was, but it felt like it was your own. Odd, right? 

And then there was the moment when I looked away from you. At that moment, I realized you were dead. I was talking to a dead woman. I looked back and your face was covered by a cloth. I asked you about your apartment; if you were still there and you said "Yes." And everything froze for me. 

Suddenly I was back at your apartment- staing at the door. (It's been replaced by now, but it was the old one I was looking at). I'll never forget seeing the scars on your door--you know the ones. The hatchet marks where the fire department broke down your door to find you, already gone. 

You were Sleeping Beauty on the couch, only no prince could ever wake you. 

I miss you, my friend. I hope you're not still home. I hope you're resting peacefully and happily, wherever you are. I'll see you in the sunshine and feel you on the breeze. 

I know you'll never read this, as I'm guessing the Internet connection may be spotty where you are.  Just so you know, though-I love you and always will. 


 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And The Thunder Rolled...

I'm sitting here, in my quiet little cozy corner of the house. (Cozy being a euphemism for hot and small, but whatever. Glass half full, and all that.)

As I write this, the RainPocalypse has descended upon my neighborhood. Thunder roars as it beckons the rain to slash mightily through the tree lines and across windshields...and here I sit. Safe. Warm. Excited.

I love storms. Always have. There's a cleansing quality about them that can't be replicated by any shower you can ever take. Perhaps it's the unpredictability or lack of control, but storms, they are magical. As the RainPocalypse continues, I can't help but think about what storms meant to me when I was younger. 

They were nights snuggled on the couch with my parents, who rarely even spoke to each other, let alone snuggle on a couch. They were candle-lit walks to the kitchen for snacks because our power always (ALWAYS) went out during a thunderstorm. They were boardgames played by lantern light because OH MY GOD, the Nintendo was out.

It was thrilling and bonding, at the same time. It was extraordinary to see the lightning spider like broken glass above the lake.

It was during a storm that I found my first true love. We sat on a dock in the rain for hours and talked of everything and nothing. We've since lost touch, but I will forever have the memory of that storm tattooed on my heart.

So, as this storm rolls over our house, I'm taken back to nights where life was simpler, safety was a given, and love was earnest and true.

It's amazing how a little water, noise and electricity can do that.