Boys Will Be Boys

Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose CA

Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose CA

My son is already sleeping 2000 miles away as I sit here in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose watching boys be boys.  The sky is dark outside Carlos’ window.  He is tucked under the I Spy quilt, or maybe the zoo blanket.  I imagine he’s wearing his “Beep Beep It’s Time to Sleep” pajamas but I don’t know because G has been putting him to bed while I’ve been at BlogHer.  In the whirl of the conference, I had distractions to keep my mind from wandering to what I am missing at home.  But today, there’s plenty of time to sit in the breezy sunshine of California and imagine my baby so much closer to dusk, closer to sleep.

I picked a bench in the shade of a sycamore tree, not knowing that I had a ringside seat to the show.  One by one, the teenage boys arrived on their bikes.  Knit hats pulled low, ear buds, skater shoes tucked into Velcro straps to hold their feet on the pedals.  Like most teenage boys, they ached with cool detachment.  They lined themselves up, taking turns at the wide open space of the plaza.  I could sense that there was a pecking order that they knew as to who would go first and who got to ride alone and who had to share.

Catching Air in San Jose

Catching Air in San Jose

After the first boy flipped his bike in the air and nailed the landing, I gasped with delight and almost clapped.  They eyed me and remembered not to smile.  They started to preen when my camera came out.  I asked one guy if I could take his picture and he nodded.  He took his turn, attempted a mid-air twirl, and busted it.  His friends pitched shit his way.  One guy yelled, “Is the bike OK?” and they laughed quietly.

Their tricks grew ballsier as more people stopped to watch. Swooping and spinning then stopping en pointe.  Hopping along the granite steps and riding backwards on one wheel. Weaving together and taking turns.  A new guy showed up, going too fast and the coolest of the cool yelled, “Coming in hot!”  Every rider braked for safety.  When a little girl toddled across the plaza to her mother, every boy stopped his bike.  It was sweet to see, how they maintained that teenage frisson and the gentleness of someone older and the joy of someone younger.  These boys are masters of balance.

Then I heard an awful wet plop a few feet from me.  With a mother’s reflexes, I assumed someone was barfing up slurpee after too much sun and fun.  But no.  A grizzled man in brown corduroy pants had taken off his shirt to bathe himself in the water fountain.  He used a pine green wash cloth from the bundle of possessions in his cart.  He took his time.  The boys rode past the homeless man with the same gentle respect they had given the little girl–making room for everyone.

That’s when I thought about Carlos, tucked safe in his bed in Georgia.  Which of these boys will my boy become?  Will he be the teenager on the bike?  The ringleader of the one coming in hot?  The young father watching from the benches?  The tired man pushing the ice cream cart or the homeless man bathing in the water fountain?

Sunday Sweetness–A Piece of Poppy

Do you have a cozy quilt that makes you feel safe?  Did you have a special “lovey” when you were a kid?  I have a tiny “piece of Poppy” that I carry with me everywhere because it reminds me that I am loved by a very generous boy who wanted me to feel better. Today’s story is called “Five Security Blankets.”  Click on one of the stars in this quilt to read it!

quilt-112550_1280

 

A Rising Tide

rising tide

I had an ugly mental moment this morning.  I’ve been cultivating a sense of abundance this week.  Trying to focus on all that I have.  Chanting, “I am enough, I am enough.”  Rowing my little boat and keeping it low in the water, right in the middle of the channel.

This Voice of the Year thing on Friday is a big deal for me.  I’m claiming that.  Some days, I numb myself from the excitement so that I don’t confess that I am thrilled to have wanted something and gone out and gotten it. I’ve been trying to stay in a positive, happy place with it instead of moving straight into “I hope I don’t screw this up” territory.

This is not a left-handed plea for y’all to say, “You’re going to be fine!”  I’m just telling you where my head went because I learned something from it.  I learned that it’s really hard for me to accept attention for doing something well.  I crave that kind of attention.  I seek it out.  But when it comes, I am afraid that the rug will be pulled out from under me.  I am afraid that someone else will come along and take what I wanted so much just because I admitted that I wanted it.  I am afraid that the “You’re OK!” store will be empty by the time I get there.

I am afraid.

That’s the gist of it.  At the heart of perfectionism is fear.  At the heart of my anxiety is fear.  At the heart of my depression is fear.  It’s always fear that I won’t be enough.

I am enough.

And here’s where the ugly mental thing came in.  I saw that another blogger, who’s very creative and clever and funny, will be doing an event the same time I will.  My immediate reaction, instead of, “Oh, wonderful!  I can’t wait to spend some time with her!” was “Seek and destroy.  If you get near her, you will be less.”  Suddenly, I wanted her to fail so that she wouldn’t take any of my success.

What the hell????  I’ve never even met her.

Luckily, I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book, “The Gift of Imperfection.”  I recognized a shame reaction as I was having it.  And even luckier, I had a therapy appointment already scheduled for today!

I made myself sit with the fear.  I checked my evidence and it proved that I have a right to be there, regardless of who else is around me.  I talked it through and realized that this once-in-a-lifetime event is also a big package of every inadequacy trigger I have, all rolled up into one.  People will see that I am old and overweight.  I might cry.  I might get short of breath and look like I’m panicking.  I might not be that good.  I might be good, but not the best.  I might ask for too much.  Maybe it’s arrogant of me to walk out on stage.

I’m reading a story about Richard and it might not be good enough to honor his memory.

These are my triggers.  Maybe they will make me sing and I’ll just black out altogether.

Part of going to therapy is letting these feelings come up.  Sitting with them.  Saying hello, then moving ON.  Even when they are scurrying to catch up to me.

I did my work with my therapist and I came back to the knowledge that there is enough of enough for everyone.  I don’t have to scrap with other writers for a limited number of readers.  I can be good.  She can be good.  You can be good.  We can all be wonderful together.

The creative life is not a competition; it’s a tide.  A rising tide lifts all boats.  When I occupy a space of abundance in my own heart, I can share it with others.  When I’m stuck in fear, I have nothing to give.  I am going to loosen my grasp, let the tide take me.  A rising tide, lifting all boats.

I’m not even going to reread this because I might chicken out on publishing it.  Just remember this:  fear doesn’t have to stop you.  It won’t stop me.

Swimmin’ In the Rain

A Man In Love

A Man In Love

Let’s see…for the month of July, we’ve spent $1000 on pool repairs and maintenance.  What with bad weather, assorted sicknesses, and a brief green period, the pool has sat idle for most of July.  If we divide that $1000 by 3 people going swimming 3 times each and that comes out to….carry the one…borrow 10…old math vs. new math….too much damn money and not enough fun!  So I left work today with one goal in mind:  GET IN THE POOL.

(Oh, and by the way, the bikini still hasn’t been worn.  It was too BIG!  I’ll try again with one size down.)

Anyhewwwww.  We got in the pool.  Vivi started some elaborate game that required her to corral a bunch of stray pool noodles (that she referred to as “dawn horses” or Eohippus) and some rubber balls (baby sabre tooth tigers) while Carlos and I worked on him kicking and blowing bubbles.

And not 10 minutes into our swim, it started to rain.  Big plunking drops that hit the surface of the water so hard, each drop made a bubble pop up.

“OK, let’s get out of the pool!” I hollered in my best upbeat yet not-to-be-contradicted Mom voice.  I shuffled towards the steps with Carlos in tow.  Vivi set the Eohippuseseses free in the deep end and headed over.  She pointed to our cups, sitting beside the steps and said, “Aw, man!  The rain is getting in our water!”

Wait, what?

Duh.

The rain is getting in our water?  And we’re getting out of the pool because…we might get wet?  Wetter?

I stood still and listened for a moment.  No thunder.  No lightning.  No high winds.  Just plinky plunky rain on our heads that were already wet from being in the pool.  Hell, it was warmer in the pool.

So we got back in.  And we LAUGHED about it.  I turned my face up to the sky and let the rain plunk and plink on my skin.  Carlos practiced holding on to the wall and kicking.  Vivi went back to the life of a nomadic prehistoric herdsgirl.

We went swimming in the rain.  Because sometimes you follow an old habit just out of habit, but when you look around, there’s no real REASON for that habit.

Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo 
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo 
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo…

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singin’,
Singin’ in the rain

Dancin’ in the rain
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I’m happy again!
I’m singin’ and dancin’ in the rain!

I’m dancin’ and singin’ in the rain…

Why am I smiling
And why do I sing?
Why does September 
Seem sunny as spring?
Why do I get up
Each morning and start?
Happy and head up 
With joy in my heart
Why is each new task
A trifle to do?
Because I am living
A life full of you.

(Hit it, Gene Kelly! If you’ve never watched this segment from the movie, PLEASE do yourself a jaunty little Tuesday kind of favor and take four minutes.  It’s totally worth it.)

 

A Tidy Kitchen Will Break Your Heart

beverage-21905_1280

A tidy kitchen.

“Just.  Wash. The. Godforsaken. POTS.”

That’s what I was growling under my breath tonight as I clung to the edge of the kitchen sink and tried not to pass out from the bleach fumes.  See, G is a chemist by training and he thinks that there’s NOTHING that bleach can’t fix.  Especially pots and pans.  He–being both a chemist and a MAN–refuses to just pick up the f’ing scrub brush and scrub the pot.  Instead, he leaves this morning’s waffle batter bowl sitting in the sink with equal parts bleach and water until the concoction eats through the stuck on stuff.  And my last nerve.

This makes me NUTS.  Just wash the pots and be done with it!!!!  His bleach fetish is also why most of my tshirts have a little line of bleached out dots right across the belly, where I’ve leaned up against the sink too soon after he’s “done the dishes.”

Is it just me or is your blood pressure up too?  GAH!!!!

So I finished up all the dishes once my eyes could focus from the fumes.  Done and done–ten minutes and NO DAMAGE to anyone’s respiratory system.  But the fumes did remind me of a story and a lesson I learned about 10 years ago this summer.

A few weeks after Richard and I bought this house and moved in together, my sister called me.  “So how’s it going?” she asked.

“It’s great…except there are a couple of things that are hard to adjust to after a few years on my own.”

She thought I was talking about manstink, but I assured her we had separate bathrooms.

“No, it’s the fact that he NEVER shuts the kitchen cabinets!  Or drawers!  He’ll walk into a perfectly clean kitchen to make a cup of coffee and leave the cabinet door hanging open, the spoon drawer sticking out, a sticky spoon NEXT TO the sink, and the creamer on the counter!”

My sister hooted.  Turns out her husband does the same thing and it makes her crazy too.

For months, Richard walked through the kitchen doing his thing and I walked right behind him tidying up.  (Which, if you’ve been in my house since I had kids….is no longer my practice.)

Then he got sick.  And he went to Baltimore for treatments.  I went up there on his heels for the first week but I had to come home eventually.

One morning, I walked into the kitchen to get something for breakfast and there wasn’t a thing out of place.  Except him.  The cabinets were fine, but he wasn’t.  I sank to the floor, right there in front of that clean sink, and sobbed until the dogs got worried and started to lick me.

A tidy kitchen will break your heart.

Sharing a life with someone takes compromise.  Sharing a home with other people is hard.  It’s messy.

Wonderfully, wonderfully messy.

And that’s not just the bleach fumes talking.