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Grampie's eyes were blue, the rest of him was orange. He was a vibrant person, proud, stubborn, independent and genuine. He was an intelligent man who survived on common sense, a razor wit and a fourth grade education. When we were kids, he would march 10 or 12 of the oldest grandchildren to the penny candy store every Sunday afternoon and blow five dollars and the shop clerk's nerves. In his older days he measured his fortune by the photographs that overflowed the mantle instead of by hospital stays and surgeries. Each day I see those eyes in the mirror.
She closed her eyes and sighed minutely into the darkness. Her pillows were cool and soft, those 450 thread count sheets were worth it. Beside her he shifted slightly in his sleep, his straight form encompassing hers, caressing her spine with his chest and her legs with his longer ones. He cast one arm carelessly about her waist drawing her to him without waking fully, their motions synchronized after all this time. She sighed again, the content gentle whoosh of breath that bid sleep to wash over her and the trials of the day to slip away with her consciousness.
In order for someone to win, someone must lose. It's elemental, basic, simple, and harsh. For every victory there is defeat, for every win there is loss, for every high there is low, for every success there is failure.
The thrill of winning the NFC Championship has been replaced with the crushing blow of losing the Superbowl. The NFC title that just a week ago was the banner of success, is now not long enough to stop the bleeding wound of coming in second.
To sports fans, it IS whether you win or lose, not how you play the game.
Monday is perhaps my favorite day of the week. The rush rush of the weekend and it's long list of errands and activities is over, the kids are at school, my dear one is at work and the comfort of aloneness has returned. I adore my family, yet I enjoy my solitude as well. Mondays are my bonus days, I don't go work but they all go about their business leaving me time to recharge my spent spirit for the upcoming week. Mondays I read, try out new recipes, drink chai, take naps, Mondays are treasured personal days. Tuesdays suck.
I thought the assault was over, that my nerves and senses had finally become accustomed to it all. I thought I was immune or at least adjusted. Wrong.
There I sat, on the sofa, watching the sappy, over-rehearsed, trite comments of past presidents regarding patriotism and americanism and suddenly there it was once again; the impact, the fire, the collapse, surging once again across my line of sight and prodding relentlessly at my psyche.
I don't want to forget, I can never forget, but I'm tired of replaying, reseeing, refeeling and remembering the horror. And so again, I cry silently.
Valentine's Day is a hollow, sappy, sentimental mess of cheesy cards, tacky stuffed animals, overpriced dying flowers and contradictory expectations. It is, at least superficially, about love but actually, it is about appearances: which girl in the office got the biggest bouquet, the longest long-stemmed roses, the "good" chocolates or the most diamonds. It is about booking dinner reservations, getaway weekends and outdoing all others. Is it love or obligation, adoration or expectation? If he really loves you, he'll bring you flowers for no reason at all. Real love celebrates every day with exuberance and joy, not just February 14.
Childhood: a time to learn the fundamental education skills that are the foundations of all future endeavors; a time to learn the social skills of caring, sharing, self-deprecation, empathy and basic humanity; a time to learn that failure teaches many more valuable lessons than success and that sometimes we have to let you stumble to help you to learn. It would be easy to shelter you, do the hard work for you, get you out of the tough situations, but would it be better? We love you enough to let you make mistakes. You can't know how difficult that is.
Superstitious folks say bad things happen in threes and I certainly hope they're wrong. Yesterday a young woman I know as a friend of a friend died suddenly of a previously undetected heart defect. Early this morning a young girl I used to teach dance to died in a freak car accident where she was thrown from the vehicle and died instantly. I really am ambivalent about reading the newspaper today. I think if anything had happened, I'd have heard about by now, but it's still unsettling and two deaths in two days is tragic enough. Peace J and D.
Does soup have curative properties? I wonder. Nothing is as soothing as a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup when you feel a cold or the flu coming on. Most likely it's the steam that makes one's head feel clearer and less congested. Logically, it makes one feel warmer and its comfort food. But is there more? Garlic has been used throughout the centuries for its health benefits and cayenne pepper has been shown to have a decongestive effect (yes, I add Tabasco to my soup). Celery and carrots provide vitamins. So maybe it is medical. I certainly need some.
Who are you? Not what do you do to earn a living. Not where do you work. Who are you? It's a tougher question than it appears.
Factor out who you are to other people: spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, partner, boss. Then factor out who you are in the workplace: CEO, Vice President, clerk, cog. What remains when you strip away all the associations and are left with nothing but the self.
Who are you inside, what makes you unique, or worthwhile? What makes you useful to the societal tribe? What do you know, what do you bring?
I want to make very clear that I hate wakes. No one likes them, I know that, but I think I hate them more than most. Some will say they give closure and comfort, I've never witnessed that. I find them heart-wrenchingly barbaric.
When my time comes, don't lay me out for those I despised to keen over and those who couldn't be bothered while I was living to come offer contrived sentiment. Please bury me quietly and then have a party; cry if you must but laugh too. If I have lived well, the smiles will outnumber the tears.
I'm overly distracted today. I cannot seem to rein myself in. My thoughts are everywhere and nowhere, scattered like marbles in a shallow glass bowl, rolling around, crashing into each other. They make no patterns, no sequences, nothing remotely coherent. Each one is something small but important, spinning and whirling around in its own small irregular orbit. I'm annoyed that I can't settle down and just focus on one thing or another. I'm restless and the minor headache I've had since yesterday is escalating into a not too subtle persist droning thud. Sleep is the answer, when is the question.
Its a small silvery purple tattoo so far down on my lower back that few have seen it. It's a celtic triquetra representing the stages of the female life: virginal maiden, mother protector and wise crone. It's a symbol that has many interpretations. Some imbue it with religious overtones of the christian trinity; others endow it with neo-pagan elements calling the points air, fire and water and the whole earth; still others some say it represents birth, life and death. To me it's something more. It is who I am: wife, mother and self: intertwined and forever inextricably tied together.
He was her first real love. He was the first man to break her heart and later put it back together. She was young but somehow she knew that he was he one, even if he didn't yet know it himself. She took him to her prom, he took her to bars and clubs where no one ever asked for ID. She dated him steadily for five years before he asked her to marry him. After an engagement period they married. After eleven years they're still married. She's now thirty-four and they've been a matched set for half her life.
How am I doing? How do they see me? Sometimes I think I'm okay and other times I wonder if I'm even qualified to be someone's mother. I answer the questions, help with the homework, make the meals, do the laundry and the cleaning, work at night so I can be there if they need me. I help out at their school and with their activities. They love me; I don't question that. But I wonder if they look at me and see what I saw when I looked up at my own mother with the eyes of a child.
He looked at me and smiled that vague polite but uncaring smile. He changed my oil, checked my fluids, topped off my wiper cleaner, and filled my tires to the proper pressure. He cleaned my windshield and offered to vacuum my car (which I declined). He gave me a little reminder sticker to come back in three months or three thousand miles and then took my money. He then informed me that I needed a new fan belt and should probably get my transmission fluid changed. No matter what, I always feel like they're taking advantage of my automotive ignorance.
My son's basketball team is on a winning streak. They're currently in second place and have won their last six games. I'm happy for him that they're doing so well, but more deeply pleased with the skills he's learning and rapidly mastering. More important than the score, he and his teammates are learning to play as a unit instead of individuals and how each position is crucial to the overall outcome of the game. Last year they learned how to lose gracefully, this year they finally get to savor victory as well. Hopefully, the lessons will carry over into life.
The zoo in winter is an odd and magical place, quiet yet alive and fascinating. The animals that laze away the warm summer months have come back to life. The snow leopard who usually hides out in the cool of her cave was basking in the sun and even the lions who usually pace restlessly were lolling around as if sunbathing. The lowland gorillas were quite animated and were interacting with the onlookers so much so that you wondered who was studying who. And best of all, the rude and tacky tourists who confuse zoos with circuses stay at home.
Why do I do this job? Why do I push myself to make them look good? Why do I make such an effort when its so clear they don't, can't or won't bother to do the same. Its no wonder this is considered a factory, not a firm. The way the automatons function, one wonders if they are capable of thought or if rote regurgitation of cites and statutes is all they're able to do. I process words, I make sense of gibberish and scribbles, I correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. I make them look good. Do they notice? Sigh.
Sometimes the words flow in a logical intelligent progression, a perfect choreography of nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs dancing and swaying in a flawless waltz of coherence. Other times they gush forth as if a levee has broken inside my mind, they tumble and fall over each other in waves of intermingled thought, unsorted and unclear. Sometimes they ricochet wildly around my head, their staccato blasts forceful but uninterpreted. Often they resemble puzzle pieces tossed carelessly on a table, parts of something more. They are genius and brilliance, lunacy and idiocy, snippets and shards awaiting their moment of clarity.
School vacations are a challenge. When I was a kid, they were fun, no school, no homework, what's not to love. Now that I'm the parent, they're a bit more challenging, no school, no homework isn't enough. They want to DO something. We're going away on their next break so this break we're staying local. So far we've gone to the zoo, gone bowling, tried ceramics and painting, eaten at a new restaurant and seen the newest Nickelodeon kids' movie. Tomorrow we're having lunch with Dad. They're getting bored. I can't wait for Monday and a return to regular schedules.
Watching children play without their knowledge of your presence is a precious moment. You hear your voice in their words, you see them mimic your body language and hopefully what you see is a positive reflection on you. My daughter talks to her dolls and stuffed animals. They become her and she becomes me. She recites stories almost verbatim from books we've only read once or twice. She instructs them on why they have to brush their teeth or wear a seatbelt. When she realizes I'm listening, she stops. Being privy to her soliloquies is a treasure for the heart.
I am off center. Neither left or right, just off center. I hate the feeling of being off-kilter from the world. I feel I'm always a headline or a conversation behind everyone else. Is it possible to be on five second time delay from the universe because I feel that's about how off I am. I think sleep would probably help and if I could just figure out how to wedge three more hours between 1 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. I'd be golden. I wonder if other people feel the pause or if I'm alone in this time continuum interference.
If you were to die this day, what would people say about your passing, what would they write in your obituary? Beloved spouse of someone? Dear mother or father of someone? Cherished friend of someone? How would they herald your passing: acclaimed author, renowned poet, Rhodes scholar, Nobel Prize winning physician, award winning inventor? Dying isn't what scares most of us, it 's being forgotten that terrifies us to the core of our being. Would your death leave a hole in someone's heart, a void that could not be filled with the passage of time? Then, you have lived well.
I can't believe that for years I looked to you for self-definition, for validation, for approval that was never fully given, or how much time and energy I wasted on a relationship that was ultimately fruitless. Once you were my mentor, my friend and my confidante. You pretended to care, pretended to be involved, but ultimately it was all about you and when the plans no longer included you, you couldn't, wouldn't be happy for me. Goodbye shadow woman, you've haunted me too long and I no longer permit you to occupy any space in my mind or my heart.
I paid off all my credit cards this week. I buckled down and took out a loan to cover the entire balance, in full. I then cut up and cancelled each card. This act is strangely empowering. Credit and I have had a long relationship which ceased being beneficial and became more of an addiction or a dependency. Credit allowed me to acquire the latest, best and brightest but eventually the benefit was eclipsed by the bill. Now I have a smaller monthly loan to repay and am no longer accruing obscene amounts of interest. This alone is worth it.
I decided at the start of this year to divest myself of people and entanglements that only pull me down. Its an on-going, if exhausting labor of necessity. I've resolved some issues, mostly the easier ones since starting simple is usually better for me. I've worked on my finances, reexamined some friendships and taken a long realistic look at myself, who I am inside, where I am in life, what direction I'm moving in and where I hope to be in the future. Some things I've salvaged, some things I've let fall away. Oddly, salvaging was harder than letting go.
Today was the kind of crisp winter day, sunny yet chilly, that makes me glad I'm a New Englander. Days like today make me happy I live in a climate where seasons change dramatically, for each has its own beauty. Some people don't see the beauty in winter, to them it is a season of death. To me it is a season of rest, a time to gather strength for the rebirth of spring and the robust vitality of summer. Winter is a time of accounting; perhaps that's why I've been compelled to consider the balances in my own life.
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