Category Archives: Happiness

He Simply Doesn’t Know Better

Our Snowmaggedon turned into Snowmanothin’.

The kids were full-on, wide open RAMPED up about having snow this weekend. I got pretty excited too after my trip to Fresh Market to lay in a weekend supply of brie, crostini, cornichons, sushi, and bruschetta. We went to sleep Friday night to the sound of rain on our roof and temperatures dropping quickly. Friends to the west were already posting pictures of fat fluffy flakes. Wheeeeee!

I woke in the middle of the night and went right back to sleep with a smile on my face. The sound of rain had been replaced with a serene quiet that whispered, “Snow.”

I woke just after dawn and rolled over to peep out the window at….the browny browness of our deck.

Clusterflake 2017

Clusterflake 2017

“Aw, man,” I muttered. “The kids are going to be so disappointed.” I went back to sleep with a little gray cloud of gloom over my head. There goes our special excitement for the weekend.

I finally dragged myself out of bed late in the morning, sure that the children would be piled in a warm and dry heap of despair by the back door, their sleds quietly dry rotting in the tool shed.

Instead, Carlos met me in the hallway, dancing with glee (and nekkid, because that’s his weekend ethos).

“MAMA!!! IT SNOWED! IT SNOWED OUTSIDE! IT SNOWED!” He pulled me to the deck to show me the SNOW.

And that’s when it hit me–he doesn’t know any better.

Carlos is my snow baby, born during the big Christmas snow storm of 2010. That was a snow that I’ll never forget, but it’s not exactly a part of his memory. He also got a fat lip and a black eye during the ice storm of 2014, but I don’t think he remembers much of it.

He’s never been to Utah for snowboarding in a foot of fresh powder. He’s never made a snowman. He doesn’t know what the world looks like from atop a glacier in Austria. He’s never watched the giant pandas at the National Zoo play in the drifts of snow. He’s never been in a snowball fight. He’s never stood outside in the dark and marveled at the quiet of fat fluffy flakes falling all around.

To this cheerful lark of a child, IT SNOWED. He saw this snow for what it was, not for what it wasn’t. Sometimes it’s good not to know better, because it keeps us from comparison. It’s hard to allow happiness to float if we’re always comparing each experience to all of our other experiences to see how it measures up.

Oh, to not know any better so that I can enjoy what is before me.

Pants added in post-production.

Pants added in post-production.

G captured this photo of our boy “playing in the snow.” Boots are for snow. Jackets are for snow. Pants are for SUCKERS.

Today I Pledge

It was a rough weekend. Anxiety pinched at my every breath. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop thinking, couldn’t finish any of the tasks I had set for myself. Just…couldn’t.

It’s been a rough month, what with the pneumonia and the plumbing crisis and taxes to do and summer camp registrations and bleeding cash and still missing my dad and the pollen and the and and ands.

It’s been a rough year, even the parts I haven’t talked about. I’ve been getting quieter and quieter because I started believing the lie that there were stories I’m not allowed to tell. I spent too much time listening to the vicious little voice that says, “No one gives a shit what you think anyway.” I started carrying the weight of “but what if I hurt someone’s feelings if I say that?” I put my own hand over my own mouth then wondered why I felt so stifled.

So with all that said, I found myself sitting inside my car at Carlos’ school this morning and I realized that I was pretty close to happy. Jayla and I had made a pattern of beads. She took my hair out of its ponytail and said, “Let’s be pretty!” Reniya sat in my lap while we counted pegs and stacked them up to make the tallest tower we could. Caleb counted all the way to 20. Rico snuck up behind me so I could play our game where I look over my shoulder and pretend I can’t see him back there. Malak showed me her new pink sneakers. Jaden showed me his dance moves.

When the Good Morning Song played over the intercomm, we cleaned up the toys and pushed the chairs under the table, then the kids went to their spots on the rug. I kissed Carlos on the top of his head and whispered, “Have a great day. I love you.” I gave a couple of hugs to the ones who wanted one. I slipped out the side door of the school and walked across the empty parking lot as the Star Spangled Banner played. The PA system reaches out to the playground, so I can still hear what’s going on inside the building.

I sat in the car with the keys dangling from the ignition and my phone in hand. On busy mornings, that moment in the car is usually my first chance to gather myself and see how I am that day. Today, after all those airless moments this weekend, I found myself with a glimmer of happy, like a candle flame trying to get started. I looked out into the sun rising over the playground and breathed in some of the pink sky.

The teacher in charge of announcements read the menu for breakfast and lunch. She reminded everyone that tomorrow is superhero dress up day. Then she welcomed three little preschool kids who would be leading the school in the pledge that day. Each one hollered their name into the mic–so loud and proud I couldn’t really understand them. But their joy came through loud and clear.

They launched into the Pledge of Allegiance with verve. One little girl was going double-time so it kind of fell apart in the middle section. The teacher chimed in to get them back on track, and in unison they all wrapped it up on, “with liberty and justice for all.”

My heart twisted. That’s the part of the pledge that’s hardest to hear right now. For the past couple of years, being woke has worn me out. Once you’ve become attuned to the unjust parts of our system, whether it be sexism, racism, or economic chokeholds–it’s hard to believe it when we say “liberty and justice for all.” I have to remind myself that it’s a goal, not a done deal. That liberty and justice for ALL is what we’re working towards.

The happy started to dissipate under the weight. I could feel all that joy that I had stored up with my preK friends begin to flicker and fade.

But those kids on the microphone weren’t finished. Right after the Pledge of Allegiance, all the students at the Early Learning Center recite their school pledge, which goes like this:

Today I pledge to do my best

By being READY to learn

RESPONSIBLE for myself and

RESPECTFUL towards others.

I am an ELC Lion…hear me ROAR!

The trio doing morning announcements really threw themselves into that pledge today and I thank them for it. As their roars raced across the parking lot to where I sat alone in my car, I realized that I can believe in their simple pledge. Right now, every day.

I am ready to learn, even when the knowledge hurts.

I am responsible for myself, honoring my mind, body, and spirit.

I am respectful towards others, even those who disagree with me.

I am a tired but hopeful middle-aged white woman whose heart sometimes breaks in the parking lot….hear me ROAR.

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The Grind

As this load of laundry that has thus far cost me $4358 to do spins in the dryer, let me tell you a story about why I was sobbing in the flooded basement over a broken old coffee grinder that I clutched to my chest with affection that would have better suited a beloved stuffed animal from childhood.

I was diagnosed with pneumonia last week. The nice doctors gave me three kinds of antibiotics and the instructions to drink lots of fluids and get as much rest as possible. So I spent the entire weekend in bed with fevers that rattled the bones followed by sweats of the Sahara (kinda like any spring in Georgia). I missed my kids, I missed having breath, I didn’t even want a cupcake. Awful. By Monday morning, I was so worn down that I despaired.

Now, when you are a lady person of my age whose pelvic floor has lived under the tyrrany of a couple of babies, you have a little secondary problem with a wracking cough–you pee. And when you’ve been drinking 200 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated–you pee a lot. Hell, even with wearing a pad I was coughing so much I was piling up laundry. On Monday night (at 12:30) I decided to run a load of my comfy sweats. When I still couldn’t sleep at 2 a.m., I checked on it. Water was pouring out of the machine, into the kitchen, into the pantry….G unplugged the damn thing. The sink in the basement wet bar just below it had backed up too. Water was EVERYWHERE.

We spent an hour sopping up with towels because the shopvac would have wakened the kids. I got an hour of sleep that night.

On Tuesday, I spent another day trying to rest. I also spent $1000 on plumbers trying to open the laundry drain line. Nope. Gonna have to run another. At least the fever I had had for six straight days was gone and I was beginning to have some hope again.

So Wednesday I was in the flooded basement wet bar slowly moving stuff out of the way of the plumbers. That’s the thing about pneumonia–the short of breath thing leaves me so fatigued, I have to remind myself to do ordinary things slowly. I was actually feeling powerful because today I am remembering that I can be resilient. This body–this fat, old, graying, tired, unadorned, skirted bathing suit wearing body can bounce back. I can live with less AIR for a while and endure. This body can make PEOPLE and hold them until they are ready to join the world, even if they do make you pee a lot.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

My friend Linda (who even offered to do laundry) had posted this prayer for compline from the Book of Common Prayer today because people are hurting for the terrorist bombings in Brussels. I love that prayer. Robin shared it with me after Richard died and I still clutch my heart at “shield the joyous”  We’re all hurting lately, it seems. Hurting because orange idiots with debatable penis sizes are crowing about how when they are boss of the planet they’re gonna bust them bad guys right the hell up. And hurting because we aren’t shouting Ankara? and Ivory Coast? It’s exhausting. Makes you want a cup of coffee and I don’t even drink the stuff.

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Earlier, I had posted this image and a friend told me he wished he could be as open about his atheism as I am about mine. I told him that I had made an intentional decision to talk about it because people might become less scared of atheists if they realize that a lot of nice normal people really don’t think we need religion at the helm of our government. He agreed, but said it’s hard to give up on the idea of a god. I don’t need to persuade them out of their belief in a god–I need to persuade them that there are lots of valid ways to be a decent person. He made the point that people like their religion because it makes them think there will be a reward at the end, not nothingness. True. It’s scary to think of nothing after this. It’s hard to think we go through the grind only to find that grind was all we get. I’m OK with that. My reward isn’t at the end of my life. My reward is my life, even with the grind.

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I stacked the popcorn machine and the yogurt maker and some contraption of G’s and the crystal growing experiments and my vintage tins in the messy grit on the floor. The idea of moving is hard, much less doing it at half speed.

Then my hand fell on the little old coffee grinder with the cracked lid. I clutched it to my chest and cried. It’s the first time I’ve cried this whole long feverish week. It belonged to Richard and it’s one of the things I kept because it said so much about him. Every morning he would fill it with beans from Trader Joes then carefully place his thumb over the hole before turning it on.

coffee grinder

“Why don’t you just get a new one?” I’d ask. “I like this one, even with the crack,” he’d answer. He kept it because he didn’t waste money. I kept it because it reminded me of him. We all have our reasons for what we hang on to, whether it be a cracked grinder or a lost love or a faith.

We survive the grind.

Just like the coffee is already in the bean, the heaven is in us, right here and now.

I climbed back up the stairs, slowly slowly slowly, and fixed myself a Diet Coke while waiting on the plumbers.

A Little Patch of Blue Will Do

It’s been raining for a solid month. How do I know? Because the day my dad went to hospice–poured buckets. It rained until the day he died. Then it rained some more but we had a beautiful blue sky day for the funeral. Then it rained some more and then October was over but it is STILL RAINING. Here’s a haiku I wrote about the weather:

Rain rain more damn rain

Yep still raining rain rain rain

Rain rain rain rain fuck

(That is COPYRIGHTED, y’all, so don’t try to sell it to Hallmark.)

Even on a good day, I’ve already got a wagonful of depression to drag around. Add to that a layer of grief, a layer of rain, a layer of daylight saving time and a snotty cold and it has made for a really bleak week. Oh, then my doctor pointed out to me that I weight 20 pounds more than I did when Carlos was born. Cherry on top.

The grayness is eating into my brain. But right around lunchtime today, a weird soft glow came through my office window. I looked up to see a patch of blue hanging over the soggy trees!

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I made a RUN for it. I walked the longest way possible down the stairs, across an extra parking lot, around the E.D., past the puddle-covered helipad, up stairs and down. I crossed the street so I could walk without the old oaks dripping on my head. People I passed on the sidewalk looked like little squinty moles rising up into the light.

Then up ahead, another patch of blue:

marti's

The line snaked out the door but the wait is always worth it for Marti’s at Midday. When I ordered a half Paige (tuna melt) with a half/half mint tea, Marti winked and said, “This one’s on me.” I’ve learned to just say thank you when she does that and put what I was going to spend on lunch in the tip bucket. A few minutes later, she handed me my lunch, blew a kiss and said, “Love you.” Her blue eyes twinkled with loving kindness.

The rain began to plinky-plunk again. I really wanted to sit outside and enjoy the patch of blue sky while it lasted. Then I remembered that there are a few tables on our cafeteria patio that are covered. Victory! I claimed one for myself and pulled a book out of my purse:

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Check out that little patch of blue, huh? (It’s about two inches above Justin Theroux, for those of you having trouble focusing.) If you are watching “The Leftovers” on HBO, the book is well worth the read. I watched some of the first season and one recent episode from the second season. Lots of differences in the novel, so it’s interesting to compare how one had to be turned into the other. And Justin Theroux. There’s that.

So I was feeling pretty good, out of the rain, enjoying the last 30 pages of a book, my favorite lunch on the side. I choked up over one scene (No spoilers!) featuring Jill, the teenage daughter who has lost so much in the story. She stood up a person whom she was supposed to meet in favor of hanging out with a cute boy:

She felt a little guilty…but not guilty enough to do anything about it. She could apologize tomorrow, she thought, or maybe the day after.

I ran into some friends, she could write.

Or: There’s this cute boy, and I think he likes me.

Or even: I forgot what it feels like to be happy.

Yep. Sometimes I forget what it feels like to be happy. Today was a nice reminder.

As I got up to leave the patio, I saw one more patch of blue out of the corner of my eye. There sat my friend, Pat, also taking advantage of the shelter of the overhang so she could eat her lunch in the fresh air. Her back was to me and I thought about leaving her to her private time–she’s a nurse who doesn’t get a lot of down moments during the day. Just yesterday, she gave me a hug in the cafeteria. I wanted another one. She was another patch of blue on my trail.

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Look at that smile! Pat is one of those people who has been encouraging me for years. Whether it was through grief or motherhood or boring days or thilling ones, Pat never fails to tell me that everything will be OK and I will be too. We talked for a few minutes and she told me how much she enjoys reading these stories on Baddest Mother Ever. I got my hug and another one to spare. Thank you, Pat.

That lunchtime adventure really turned my mood around. I followed the “blue clues” and found myself a little happiness. This afternoon? It poured. As my dad always says–said–“It’s raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock.” I can’t change that. Any of that.

And that’s OK. I just have to find enough happiness to keep going. During those times in life when it’s raining and it’s been raining and it’s going to rain for another week, a little patch of blue will do.

The Sanctity of Marriage and the Sweetness of Justice

My third husband put the kids to bed tonight because I was baking cookies for a fundraiser in memory of my second husband, and with all that time in the kitchen, I got to thinking about my first husband.

Seriously. If you’re new to this site, here’s the quick guide:

  • Husband #1, aka “Fartbuster” (divorced after he got someone else pregnant)
  • Husband #2, Richard (died of leukemia at the age of 38)
  • Husband #3, aka “G” (still hangin’ in there)

So anywho. Everybody is talking this week about Kim Davis, the clerk of court in Kentucky who has been defying the federal law by refusing to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples. Tonight, she’s in jail for contempt of court. And rightly so–I agree 100% with that ruling. Either do your job or leave your job, but you are not allowed to define your job based on your convictions or beliefs. Nope. The law is the law. Imagine if a Quaker decided not to issue gun permits because her religion does not condone violence? Or a Muslim health inspector flunked all restaurants that didn’t serve halal meat? If you don’t want to allow citizens equal access to their legal rights, then you don’t get to be clerk of court. Go work at the Dress Barn.

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Ms. Davis has been pilloried for the hypocrisy of being three times divorced, four times married, yet still braying about the sanctity of marriage. Well, I’m not going to mock anyone for taking multiple trips to the altar (see above). I was just exercising my right as a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen.

When Fartbuster and I went to the courthouse to get a marriage license, we joked about how the same counter handed out marriage licenses and gun permits. The woman who handed us that important piece of paper wished us luck.

When Richard and I decided to get a license, he was too sick to go downtown to the clerk of court office. They came to us–two court officials, a notary public even–came to the house to deliver our license and witness that everything was in proper order. I appreciated their kindness so much that I offered them a glass of champagne. They declined–still on duty, y’know. I wanted to thank them, so I pulled two long stemmed coral roses from a bouquet my writing friends had sent and paid them each with a flower. That’s what it should be like when you do the paperwork for marriage–met with kindness, touched by joy.

While I was baking for the Leukemia Society fundraiser and thinking about this woman who has taken it upon herself to deny American citizens their legal rights, I could have gotten all riled up. I could have gotten distracted by her sideshow. But there is too much living to be done. Too much sweetness to be shared. I dwelled instead on the kindness of the people who spend a few hours making something to share in the bake sale. We’ve raised well over $10,000 with these cookies and cakes and pies.

My neighbor rang the doorbell and delivered a pecan pie, still warm from the oven. We chatted for a minute then she went back up the street to the home she shares with her wife. They’ve been together since I was in high school.

Somewhere between the third and fourth batches of oatmeal cookies, Tommy posted a photo of the lemon cream cheese pound cake he’s donating to the bake sale. He’s still mourning the death of his husband a few months ago. He and Ed were together for almost twenty years. These days must be so strange for him, all this time on his hands that used to be spent taking care of his beloved.

Both of these couples had to go to other states to get married because they didn’t have the right here in Georgia. I always had the right to get married when I chose to. Now we ALL have that same right.

The law will take care of Kim Davis and her noise. I’m going to keep on baking, keep on fighting leukemia, keep on loving my friends. That law is settled. Now it’s time to get on with the sweetness of life.

davis bye

Sunday Sweetness–“Start the Day In Happiness, In Kindness”

Here’s a beautiful sunny day kind of poem by Mary Oliver, read by the author:

Want more of her work? Follow this link:

 

Want to read a classic Baddest Mother Ever story about kindness? How about:

Panning For Gold Atop Lookout Mountain

To Call Myself Beloved

The last poem in Raymond Carver’s collection A New Path to the Waterfall is called “Late Fragment.” Legend has it that his wife, Tess Gallagher, found it scribbled on a scrap of paper in the pocket of his bathrobe a few weeks after he died from brain cancer.

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to

feel myself

Beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver screwed up most of his life with alcohol, but he spent the last eleven years of his brief time on this earth sober, successful, and happily married. Then he died from brain cancer anyway. That’s how life goes, right? No promises. No deals. No rest for the wicked and only the good die young.

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As I grow older and my heart gets tougher, those two words–even so?–resonate. They are the acknowledgement of all that has come before, the good and the bad, the fair and the shitty: “Did you get what you wanted from this life, even considering all that has happened to you and where you are right now and whether you deserve this fate?” Carver accepts it all with two simple words: I did.

Oh, when I read this poem for the first time, I thought I knew a thing or two about life. I was 21 and completely enthralled by a man who was totally out of my reach. He loaned me this book–he liked to lend me books and ideas and I lived to borrow them, mostly because they had been imprinted with his approval. So when this poem worked its way into my tender and untried heart, I skipped right to those last words: to feel myself/Beloved on the earth. Being beloved is the point of life, right?

Nope.

The longer I live, the more I realize that the heart of this poem, this last fragment from the crumbling mind of a bruised genius is the line just above that: To call myself beloved.

It’s not about the even so and whether it will ever be balanced out.

It’s not just about being beloved while on the earth.

The work of this life is to call myself beloved.

 

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