UPDATE TO Mrs. Flinger October 16, 2015
Because the Universe has a wicked sense of humor, after this delcaration, my blog threw up all over my last upgrade.
So I'm starting over using Craft. Turning 40 and kid entering Jr High next year, sometimes it's just time for a change. These archives will still exist in the way the last child goes off to college and their room is the same for 20 years, but it's just time to move forward.
December - the syndication month part 1: I can be your sunshine? Dec 03, 2014
I made a promise that I would post a “behind the scenes” or “what this means to me now” post in December, of some of my favorite, or touching, posts in this decade-long blog.
Today I pulled up, “Maybe I can be your sunshine?” Originally aired May 6, 2011.
——- The post——
He watches the truck with a camper pass us on the road. “I wanna go camping again. Are we EVER going to go camping again?” My three year old is a drama queen sometimes. I laugh. “Yes, we’ll go camping, I promise. We’ll go when it gets sunny again.”
“It’s NEVER going to be sunny again!” He whines. He also loves to whine.
“Oh, it will,” I assure him, “Probably July 5th.” The classic NorthWest joke doesn’t mean anything to him.
“Hey, I’m wearing yellow! Maybe I can be your sunshine?” he beams a little.
He starts to point out all the yellow. There’s a yellow sign! And a yellow truck! And yellow flowers!
Suddenly there is so much yellow that he declares it is a sunny day even as I turn on the windshield wipers.
Sometimes he seems to know exactly what I need; even before I do.
———Today, December, 2014———-
This kid can still be drama and he can still win over my heart with a sigh. This boy is a connection to past, future, and story books. He is the “I love you forever” son, he is the Ron in Harry Potter, he is the gold people look for in rivers and streams. He can make his Second-grade girlfriend laugh (two years steady now) and can score goals on his always-winning soccer team. He is a testimony to why traditional schools don’t work and why kids are resilient and amazing.
Drama doesn’t stop following this one but we’ve learned to catch flies with honey. “Is your tummy REALLY that bad? Let’s go to the doctor,” I heard myself saying this morning. “No, maybe I’m just full.” He is nervous, has a rough stomach at the smallest change to the schedule, and reminds me that we’re creatures of habit.
My son, the most amazing, dynamic, sporty, hilarious little person I know. With compassion for yourself and for others, your future is as bright as the flaming sun. With adoration, as always, your family. xo
On birthdays Nov 02, 2014
My mom always made a big deal over our birthdays. She would make a homemade cake and in very-detailed, time-consuming, 80’s perfectionist manner, decorate our cakes in secret under a banner of birthday wishes and streamer-lined dining room lights.
It was difficult for me to understand her when she told us all she wanted for her birthday was a cake. “A fancy cake?” we used to ask. “No, just a cake. That’s all I need.”
It wasn’t until last year that I believed her. Last year I sat at my brand new job, day two, in a corner struggling through onboarding. I didn’t realize how lonely it was to have nobody know it was your birthday. I realized, I don’t need a cake, or a party, or presents, or a big todo, but the value and warmth of someone saying, “Happy Birthday,” is highly under appreciated. I know people leave kind things on Facebook, but call me old fashioned, Facebook doesn’t seem as sincere as a person using their actual mouth to say, “Happy Birthday” with their eyes and a warm smile.
I’m clearly getting old. Authenticity is a hallmark for all that I value now. Well, authenticity and a clean laundry room. Before this I had a different take on aging.
I was being authentic when I said to people, “I just love when people wish me a happy birthday. I don’t need a lot. I don’t need presents or special things, I just want people to smile, be kind, and maybe share a drink with me. And I’m totally, 100% cool with that.” I sounded like my mother asking for a cake and only a cake. Suddenly I got it.
I don’t need much, but if you’re willing, I’d love a genuine happy birthday and a toast of cheers.
This year, I was blessed with so much more than that.
My husband and I had a real, genuine sit-down-date where you go someplace and they server you food WHILE YOU SIT THERE. I know, right?! The joy! And we chatted about things, not all job related or kids related, but about life and things and stuff and nouns. Maybe even verbs.
Back at work we had a heavy deadline and a review with our client. After the call, I was summoned to a central station where twenty-five work friends were waiting to sing happy birthday to me. Y’all: After last week, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. People who I adore, who are kind, and lovely, and forgiving, and hilarious, all came to sing me the (as Aaron Brooks said, “The Cake Song”) and we shared multiple cakes, including Gluten Free for me, and a cider or pumpkin beer to ensure a fun time. We then went back to our respective deadlines and happened to kill it. (A thousand shout outs to my team for being awesome and for pulling this out of our butts and getting it done in Real Time, Yo!)
I came home with my left over Gluten Free Chocolate-OMG-Amazing Cake and shared the night with my family. I then had a lovely night out with my girlfriends later in the weekend and am ready for the countdown to 40. The thing is? Most of my friends are already there. I see them laugh at my angst, they jeer at my goals, they mock my determination to change anything in the next 363 days. “Yea, I had goals,” they laugh, “now I just say CHEERS!”
I’m forever grateful for the people who show up in my life to leave their mark on my history and my heart and I hold, cherished, their truth. We all have a story and I’m grateful to include them in my own. Birthdays, to me, aren’t about selfishness, but about celebrating the entire road to where we are at now: and today, I’m most grateful for the people who keep showing up, day after day, in my happiness.
On handling things poorly: A how to guide for losing your eferloving mind Oct 25, 2014
You know that part of your gut that tells you wise decisions in which you promptly ignore? It’s also the same part of your gut that knows you’re holding on to some trauma that your brain hasn’t processed.
You should probably start listening to that part of your gut unless you want to lose-your-shit at a Laser Tag Team Building Exercise.
I’m not a gun person. I’m so not a gun person that the one time I shot a real gun at a range with my parents, I promptly set the thing down, walked in to the bathroom, and hyperventilated until the automatic lights turned off with me sitting in the stall.
Rule #1 to losing your shit: Deny your emotional response to tragedy.
I don’t think I’ve always had this phobia of guns. Up until a few years ago I might have been somewhat ambivalent about them. But now, well, things have changed in the world, my world, our world, and I am no longer uncertain about my thoughts on guns.
When a tragedy strikes, everyone feels *something*. When the Newton shootings happened, the whole nation, in fact a majority of the world, shook their heads and sighed and went home to hug their children tighter. I was closer to the tragedy, in a way I didn’t feel I had any right to claim “effected” because my relationship to the youngest victim was a short playdate earlier that summer. He was the nephew of our good family friends and my son and his cousin knew each other well. Very well. So when I text my girlfriend to see when we are getting together and she replies, “That’s Noah’s school on tv,” I left work and ran to her house as quickly as I could arriving with Kahlua and Diapers: the essential survival kit of tragedy with a small baby at home.
I was there as much as possible for the following weeks, and I saw a family deal with something nobody should ever have to deal with. I saw the variety of emotions and different ways of grieving. I saw people stand up to offer support and others avoid having to say anything at all because what is there to say?
I never once thought I was going to need to work on my own issues of having seen someone close to me go through such horror, having known the face of a victim, and the emotions of going home to my own family; Guilt, Fear, Hate, Worry, and a very intense hatred of guns.
Rule #2 to losing your shit: Ignore Your Wise Gut-feeling
When my team proposed a laser tag outing, I admit it wasn’t top on my list of things to do. I should’ve listened to that small voice saying, “You hate guns.” Instead my brain part said things like, “We’ve been trying to get together for a year,” and “it’s fine, they are just toys,” and “It’s been a long time now, common, it wasn’t even your nephew.” So we booked our night out and included a party bus.
I know I wasn’t super excited about it but I figured it would be fine. Plus, there’s the alcohol. Surely I would be able to handle a pretend toy gun if I’ve had enough wine, right?
Rule #3 to losing your shit: Numb the Wise Gut-feeling with Wine
We were all enjoying adult beverages. In fact, on the way over to the venue, having just left a work party, we were all feeling relaxed. I wasn’t even the most “relaxed” of the group. But, and this is something I can admit to now, I was getting more and more fearful of the laser tag event and in a flurry of panic, decided to catch up to those more “relaxed” than I was.
Rule #4 to losing your shit: Shove away the feelings from another, similar, scary tragedy that happened hours earlier just up the road
I checked my phone after a few meetings and found a voice mail from our school district informing us of a shooting at a nearby school. Without thinking, I grabbed my headphones and went for a walk to call Mr. Flinger. It’s how I’ve always dealt with bad or scary news since I was 13 years old: I call him and he talks me out of the crazy or he breathes with me while I try to remember how to breathe.
It was the middle of the day and I had work to finish. I also had that team outing in a few hours so I couldn’t get too down and let my emotions get the better of me. So we chatted for twenty minutes while I walked and tried to breathe and come to some sort of understanding about why I was so affected by that news.
I told a project-team-member and her reply struck me as odd. “Was that your kids’ school?” Surely if there was a shooting at my child’s school, I would run to be as close to them as I could without a single word of explanation and certainly not a casual conversation. She followed up with her thoughts on school shootings. I can tell you this: sometimes the best way to reply to horrible news, even if it seems completely unattached from you or your coworker, is to just say, “Wow. I can’t imagine.”
Without realizing it, because I was trying very hard not to realize it, the news brought up a lot of memories, emotions, and feelings I’ve never given myself the permission to feel because *my* kids are safe and my family is ok. What right do I have to be affected by shootings?
A side note: We should all be affected by the news of shootings. The minute we stop being affected, we as humans lose the ability to empathize. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to just lose their shit about every tragedy, but we should never stop feeling the feelings that this is not ok and we have to do something.
Rule #5 to losing your shit: Re-enact the scary thing that produces those emotions after trying to ignore them and cover them with wine
The minute I had the gun in my hand, it was too heavy, too real, and I was shooting at targets. I got, how shall I say, “mouthy,” as you do around a bunch of dudes who are holding guns in their hands. I might have said something about being scared and the wise gut-part of me started yelling that I truly shouldn’t be doing this. So I tried to play along, poorly, and half way through was escorted out of the laser tag maze. Apparently cussing is not allowed and y’all, lemme say this: I was fucking cussing a lot because there were zombies coming at me and I was shooting them with a fucking gun.
Yea, the cocktail of losing my shit had perfectly mixed.
I sat down, thankful for being out of the fucking zombie attack, and started to shake. I still couldn’t put a finger on WHY I was so effected. Up until a friend asked if I was ok, and I was not ok, and the tears and sobs like a choking cow came poring out, I would’ve answered I was fine.
And there, in the laser tag bar, without a seemingly rational reason, I lost my shit and bawled in the arms of four co-workers and blubbered on about a little boy who was killed and why are we killing each other and what is wrong with our children that they have to take lives? How can we raise children to be confident and happy when I can’t even be sure that they will be safe in their cafeteria? Or their classroom? I know the innocence of my 7 year old, the way he thinks about the world and I sobbed because there was a family who will never hear what their 7 yr old boy would’ve said as he started second grade or soccer or birthday parties.
That’s how I lost my shit on a Friday night with my teammates. That’s probably what we call a royal fuckup and in the true professional sense, I should probably go shove my head in the sand and start applying to other jobs. But at the same time, if I can be completely candid, WE HAVE TO START TALKING ABOUT THIS. It’s why we’re all so shocked when Robin Williams kills himself or when another shooting happens across the street from our office. It’s the reason we are so numb and fake and perfect. It’s why we value people with no real emotional bank and why some CEOs are only shells of actual people. I don’t say the right things all the time, or half the time, but I’m smart and a hard worker and I’m doing fairly well at my job. I have great feedback and I enjoy my work. But I know just yesterday when a friend at work admitted to having a hard week and said, “I can’t say that here. To anyone,” it’s a sign that we’re not allowing our work to have real-life people working there. I don’t want to work somewhere that I can’t be human. *These opinions are mine and not my employers. *
“It’s not personal, it’s business.” It’s always personal. It’s personal because we’re people. And sometimes, in a perfect storm of bullshit, a person will lose their eferloving mind in the face of news and tragedy. I might not have handled that with grace, but I handled it as a person, a mom, a fiend, a co-worker, and a human.
I hope I’m forgiven for being those things. And I know the next time someone else is human, I’ll offer a breath, a hug, and forgiveness.
Do the Hail Marys. Even if you aren’t Catholic. Oct 20, 2014
When I was 7year old, we sat in the bathroom during Hurricane Alicia. I was living in Houston with my parents and very tiny sister, who was only 2 at the time, sleeping quietly in the safest area of the house: under the bathroom sink.
My parents listened to the weather on a battery powered radio while the walls shook and tornadoes clamored around the neighborhood. We walked in to the eye of the storm where we found our fence down the street at our neighbor’s house, ten doors down.
At the time I didn’t realize my parents pissed off someone holy. I didn’t know God was a revenge sort of guy and that my mom probably chewed the wafer at Communion that week so we were doomed to lose a fence and all our backyard toys.
Now, though, I understand the weight of being a mother. We bear the responsibility for the natural, and the unnatural, disasters.
Yesterday, I was happily writing a post for my daughter’s tenth birthday, while yelling at her to stop itching her head. It had been a very busy weekend with a soccer game, gymnastics party, family coming over. So the first quiet moment since a deliverable push at work and all the aforementioned things, I sat writing about her turning ten, thinking all the lovely thoughts of her, while I periodically yelled, “SERIOUSLY! STOP ITCHING!”
And then I realized, holycrap she is itching. A lot. So we dove in to her hair and saw nothing. Nothing. I mean hair, yea, but that’s it. So we told her to go shower, we told be boy to go shower, and they came back clean and pretty. And then I checked again this time with a light and a fine tooth comb. Nothing. And then. Something.
So we did what every parent of this age would do: We watched a lot of youtube videos about searching for Lice.
Waaaayyyy too many videos are out there about lice.
So I read some things about Lice and THIS happens to speak exactly to people like me. CLEAN PEOPLE. PEOPLE WITH OCD. PEOPLE WHO LIKE WINE.
Then came the Freaking Out Our Shit. To be fair, It was just me freaking out my shit, but I did it enough for the all of us.
After emailing and texting people we saw this weekend with the good news, “HEY! FORGET ABOUT EBOLA! Just worry about head lice. You might have caught it from us so see? LIFE IS GOOD! You’re welcome.”
Then we started treatment and I realized that lice is no laughing matter.
Maybe worthy of a few puns, but certainly not laughing matter.
As I sit here with Mayonnaise on my hair (the legit kind, not the usual Veganniase that we eat), and watch the children with their coconut oil hair with shower caps, I think we may have survived this episode.
I’m not so ready to be confident of that, though, because, as the RID shampoo brochure stated, “These assholes can hold their breath for a really long time and promise to infest your life for possibly ever.”
I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere, anyway. I’ll let you know how this turns out. And promise not to share my hair scrunchie.
In which I write loud letters from the bathroom and think future things, not cyborgs Sep 10, 2014
I can’t tell you how many times I hear the Lost in Translation quote in my head. It doesn’t sound like the movie, it sounds like a dear friend of mine from my First Real Job at Portland Public Schools; “But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.”
Jenna told me this when her own baby was only a few years old. I remember so vividly because I hadn’t had children yet, but the idea stuck with a tar-like dignity that warms in the sun on certain occasions.
Tonight was such an occasion.
The nine year old girl had asked for some time to take a bath; a legitimate luxury given the schedule most days. Tonight was a fine night to do so, so we answered with a “Of course!” like any parent who can finally grant their child’s ridiculously small wishes.
About thirty minutes later I sing-sang up to her that it is time to get out and hello, was it me she was looking for?
Then I started writing her pretend letters verbally, when I didn’t find her again.
“Dear Lolo, I’m in the bathroom where you just were. I hope you are ok. Love, Mommy.”
“Dear, Lolo, I am almost done cleaning up the bathroom where you just were. I hope you are in your room but have not heard anything. Love, Mommy.”
Silence. Maybe some nose laughter.
I continue with my nightly OCD, “Dear Lolo, I’m done with the bathroom and I’m concerned I have not heard from you. I might even clean the toilet. Love, Mommy.”
She appears in the doorway, filling it more than I remember her tiny self doing so, and laughs. She was, apparently, plugging her nose so she wouldn’t laugh so loudly that I could hear her. She thought my letters to her were hilarious. I am glad because I was nearing the brink of sanity. Or at least, the end of my todo list in the bathroom.
We continue on like this for thirty minutes or so while the boys play some rolling-ball game in the living room. I echo a letter to her, she replies back to me in kind. We “verbally write” each other various letters. At one point she forgets to sigh her “letter” and I “write back” with, “Dear Lolo, you know, it’s polite to sign one’s letters with love, so and so.” She replies, “Dear Mommy, sorry, I forgot. Love, Lolo.”
We giggle as we compile these letters to each other in the air.
I am astonished at how big, how human, how.. grown up she is.
I can barely contain tears when I hug her at last laughing, “We make great pen-pals!” She laughs, not seeing my wet eyes, “Yup! We’re very good at yelling.”
I can not believe how this baby, toddler, preschooler, challenging every step of the way, this person, turned in to, well, a person. She is all that I would ever want in a nearly-tween and more. She is a most loving kid, subject to moodiness and hanger, (hungry anger) and wisdom and ridiculousness. She is kind hearted and smart and witty. She loves her brother with ferocity. And yet, she keeps a sense of herself amidst the structure of life; this free spirit that I’ve always known since the minute she produced herself to the world. She is, and forever shall be, her own self. And by god I love that kid. That human. That person. With a tenacious ferocity of its own. Letter writing could never convey the magnificence of it all. But I still think she understood, and even wrote me back.
I love you biggest of all the loves in the world.
On Coaching: Can Corporate America work like a Team Sport? Aug 02, 2014
I’m used to being yelled at. “Point! Point your toes!”
“You’re overextended, bring it back, good, good, POP! MORE! Nice!”
These are words I heard coming from the side of four apparatuses growing up. I can still, to this day, call muscle memory from years and hours in the gym. I can answer, almost turrets like, questions about gymnastics.
“What is the olympic order of events from 1- 4?”
“VAULT! BARS! BEAM! FLOOR!”
“Who was the silver medal winner in 1985”
“The Romanain with the curly bangs! Ecaterina Szabo!” This one I know because I got my BANGS PERMED to look like her. While million of little girls where trying to be Mary Lou Retton with her gold medal, flashy smile and short bob hair, I was aiming for second place and wishing to be the girl NOT from the USA team.
(This reminds me to bring this up with my therapist this next week.)
As I work on a spec outlining Front-End Best Practices, I hear coaches yelling these old pieces of advice. Not figuratively, LITERALLY, I can hear them yelling “Point your toes!” “DROP NOW!” I’m working in the gym as my daughter attends her first gymnastics lesson.
I’ve been careful not to push gymnastics on her too hard or too early. I was mindful not to put my own passion on the little girl I had. I remember Mr. Flinger asking me if I’d want our daughter, if we had one, to do gymnastics. He was surpised when I answered honestly, on our honeymoon, I’d never push her in to the sport. In fact, I admitted, I’d be fine if she never did it.
Sitting here in the gym for the first time in twenty-three years, I’m nostalgic. I can still do one-arm cartwheels, handstands, some other easy gymnastics basics. Years after quitting competitive gymnastics, my body knows HOW to do a double-back or a full twisting vault; I just can’t physically DO it anymore.
I’m confronted with mortality of youth.
I watch the girls do backhandsprings on beam. “I can do that!” My brain yells at my legs. “COMON!” But my body; achy and older and heavy and tired, sighs, too exhausted to muster any mocking comeback.
So I continue to write my spec and notice in the background as each girl receives input for improvement. I can’t help but equate my work to this teamwork. Spending nearly two decades in sports, trains a person take and give helpful critique. Somewhere in my adult life, though, critique became harsh and competitive. Someone forgot to tell the corporate world we were a team*. I’m sure it’s not just the corporate world, I know this because several of the women from work today spoke of a variety of industries and experience where competition ruled motivation.
To quote Jillian Michaels, “Now that I’m forty, I just want to collaborate. I’m done competing.”
As I near forty, this theme presents itself more often. Listening to the coaches, I think how valuable input can be. I trained hours, days, years with the knowledge my practice, and guidance, would help me improve.
How do I convey this to the adult world? How do we get back to team sports as adults -in our jobs? Is it possible to succeed without crushing each other to make a point about how much better than someone else we are?
I’ll just sort of let that question hang out there and leave you with this:
*Views Mine, not my employers or anyone else’s.
**Points of clarity: I’m not talking about a specific team here, but a general attitude of the reward system of the American Dream. It’s more a discussion point to start than an accusation. At this point in my career, I’ve worked on a London team, Germany team, multiple types and sizes of business teams, and higher education. The idea that we can rise above our neighbor is “one of the great things about ‘Merica.” HOW we do that, is a question I’m asking. Gymnastics is an individual sport but we still celebrate and lift up our teammates. I get there’s more at stake here; people’s livelihoods and actual security, not just a happy feeling and a medal. But still, I wonder if there’s a way to achieve something as a person that is greater with a team than I could do alone.
Let’s call this middle age and all agree home-girl is thinking out loud….
The Universe is One Persistent Mofo Jul 12, 2014
Over a year ago, I started talking to someone about ADHD. I joined a group of other women and we talked about what it was like living with distraction, children, jobs, husbands, and the constant 32 TV monitors playing different channels in our heads.
One of the themes that started cropping up was the idea of mindfulness. Mindfulness, or the awareness of your thoughts and living in the present tense, has been shown to decrease ADHD symptoms. Meditation, it’s practical companion, has been shown to help cancer and diabetes, fix marriages, and save the planet from impending astroids.*
The last one is a theory but I’m sure someone is researching that right now. Maybe.
It’s been a year and a half now that the theme mindfulness has been cropping up. At first it was my women’s group, then it appeared in books I was reading. (Granted, with titles like Mindfulness and the Brain and You Are Not Your Brain, I knew what I was getting in to) but lately it’s picked up the pace of obviousness and is a bit more “in your face” if the Universe is like that, which it is.
Sometimes when you don’t stop to listen, The Universe will start yelling.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO HEAR BEFORE YOU START MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION?
Apparently the article in the Costco Connection this month was my last straw.
FINE FINE I GET IT NOW. I should probably start a mindfulness practice? And go back to Yoga?
Fine FIne Fine. Ok.
So today I went back to Yoga for the first time in nearly a year. A year of fighting the idea of stillness and breathing. A year of forgetting bout my core strength and my arms. A year of very few warrior stances or downward dogs. A year of being disconnected.
Luckily, my very favorite Yoga teacher started a new class down the street that has the best of both power and mindfulness. After some guided meditation, we started Vinyassa Flow. I started to remember I had muscles in my body somewhere. My arms burned and my belly got in the way during Karnapidasana, but the realization slowly sank in that regardless of how long I might ignore my own reality, it’s never too far to get to a Yoga mat in the middle of a room filled with other people working on grounding themselves, too.
I hope you’ll join me in this new series of Mindfulness Posts as I begin the journey to whatever it is that is Today. I’m ready to listen. Sometimes by sharing what I hear, the lesson sticks in my stubborn brain just a little bit more. And perhaps, maybe, I can help someone else who is not too far from their own message, whatever that might be.
I thought I was more Sandra Bullock, but really I’m more Emmet Jul 11, 2014
I used to joke that when I wrote my famous novel about my life (because it’s that interesting?) I would have Sandra Bullock play me in my movie. “I can see that!” friends I bribe with booze would say.
Lately the reality is setting in that I will a) never finish a book in a timely fashion and b) have zero original thought.
See, The Internet is awesome. It lets people express themselves. It allows us to connect on a global scale. It also takes all my brilliant ideas and squishes them because SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY SAID THAT.
I went to graduate school which means I understand I have no thoughts of my own and have to research everything to back up any claims I might make. Basically I paid a lot of money for someone to tell me I don’t know anything.
I’ve taken this concept in to my professional life. I know what I know, I know there’s a lot more to learn, and I know I have to use data to back up anything I might spout off if I want to be taken seriously. This means I spend a lot of time researching articles and reading ideas that have come before my own.
When I’m asked to submit an article to something awesome like HTML5Hub, I obsess over what I’m saying and ensure I’m not stepping on toes of ideas similar to mine.
This also means I have serious writer’s blockage.
Stuart Firestein, in his awesome Ted Talk “The Pursuit of Ignorance,” talks about this phenomenon. The more you know about a subject, the less you know about anything. It means that the more you go in your career or education, the more questions you have and the less likely you are to be confident that you know anything at all.
So at the end of all of this, my brain really feels more like an empty cavern without any original thought at all. The reality is I’m not Sandra Bullock, I’m Emmet.
In soft whispered voices Jun 30, 2014
Sitting on the edge of the bed of my seven year old he whispers to me, “I’m writing a book about a Koala and a bear. You know that bear that made us have a lockdown at school? Well, that baby bear and the koala have a story and I’m writing it. You would identify with the Koala, Mommy. It’s a traveling Koala.”
“Oh, I’d like that story, Bud.”
“Yea, maybe you stay for a minute and rub my back?”
“Ok, I can stay another minute and rub your back.”
“Wait, you can’t leave yet. I’m not asleep. Maybe you go downstairs and do five minutes of work and then you come back and check on me? Then you can do the laundry. But five minutes of work, ok?”
“Ok, Bud. Five minutes and I’ll check on you.”
You won’t be awake when we go in again. You won’t see us peering over your sleeping face and smile softly to ourselves. You won’t see us kiss your cheek or whisper “I love you” in your ear. But what you will do, which still amazes me, is somehow whisper, “I love you, too,” in your sleepy stupor.
Some of my favorite memories are happening this moment.
There’s Gold in Them Hills Jun 28, 2014
Two of my best girlfriends and I take an annual Moms/Kids camping trip. We started this at a “close-ish” park in 2009 with a toddler and a few pre-schoolers. We stuck close in case shit hit the fan and we had to call home for emergency needs like running another set of matches out because these ones don’t work. You know, big things.
Of all the years we’ve been doing this now, there are a few stories that stand out more than all the others. Sure, there is the annual whip-cream shot after waffles in the morning. And yes, there’s usually a craft and some roasting of things. There’s some bike riding (and bike smashing that one year I backed up over my daughter’s bike) and scootering. Kids learned how to bike while another learned to walk. But of all these stories the few we pass down each year go something like this:
“The Year of Raccoons”
The year we all slept in tents was an epic achievement. It was the first trip and I was daring this adventure with a newly turned two year old toddler. As would become the “norm”, Michelle and Laura arrived first and had their shit together. I, probably after a wrong turn, arrived late and sweating.
We set up camp and successfully fed children and wore them out effectively. After kids were asleep in each of the three tents, Michelle and Laura’s kids each in the smaller one near the edge of the camp and my two kids in Our Giant Red Tent Of Mansion. We sat in our pride sipping our beer when suddenly they came out of the woods; a thousand eyes. I kid you not, A THOUSAND EYES were glowing at us from the edge of the wood, not ten feet away.
We did the only natural thing any mom would at that point; squeal and jump on the table and call our husbands. The husbands did not find it necessary to save us from, what they assessed, were raccoons. Instead they sighed heavily and HUNG UP leaving us out in the woods with our raccoon perfect baby-meals and our gnaw worthy toes. I’m pretty sure one of us might have even said, “The Dingo is going to eat our babies!”
We had a very bright idea at this point, brighter than the sets of eyes closing in on us slowly. We grabbed the two older children and we placed everyone in the Giant Red Tent of Mansion. We crawled in next to the children to protect them, should a raccoon grow an opposable thumb and work the zipper, and waited until we fell asleep to the sound of tiny paws scampering by us to easier targets.
The children didn’t even bat an eye when they woke up that we’d all slept in the same tent. The evidence of the night before was kept to a small bit of trash strewn about and the blood-shot eyes of three tired moms.
We decided that from then on, we’d never visit that camping site again. And we kept to that for exactly two years. But, once we did go back, we swore to stay in cabins only. “Because raccoons still can’t unlock doors.”
Not yet, anyway.
“The Kids Gone Wild” year.
We still laugh when we picture Trev stripping to his intense whip cream buzz. You know what? A picture is worth a thousand words so let me keep this short. A video will explain it so much better than I can.
“The year I smashed Lauren’s Bike”
This is a short story because that? Pretty much sums it up. “Mom, stop reminding me of my bike. It makes me sad,” she used to say.
Now she says her new bike is too girlie. “Want me to back over it for you, hon?” She grins.
“The Year of The Weird Women Doing This :: GRIN ::”
It started drizzling. Then it started poring. The kids were neatly tucked in four beds, some sharing screens because let’s face it; we’re modern ladies and sometimes screens are OK. Like 10pm on a camping trip when moms want to not deal.
Trevor comes down to tell us of a Weird Lady he saw on the wall in our cabin. “She was doing this!” He scrunches his face in a weird grin and shuts his eyes. “You mean you could see that in the knots on the wall?” He looks perplexed. “Well, ya. On the wall.” “Oh, no, did you tell the other kids? They’ll be scared.” “Er, yes… Um.. Ya.”
We talk about what to do. Do we pre-empt a nightmare? Do we ignore it? They’ll probably just go to sleep and not stare at the weird lady in the knots, right?
Fifteen Minutes Later Laura comes down from the cabin with something in her hand and she’s laughing.
“This is the lady on the wall” she says breathlessly. She is wheezing from laughter. I look at the paper.
Dear god it’s terrifying.
WHY was this on the wall? In our cabin?! We all dive in fits of laughter, us girls heaving and crying and laughing until we can’t stand it. The whole imagery of the children sitting on their bunk watching the Lego Movie and noticing.. This.
Only to have your mom say something like, “Well, there are things on the walls. Don’t read in to it.”
“No, Mom, there is an actual picture of a weird lady doing THIS.”
Reality is sometimes so much funnier than perception. Especially with these ladies.
I can’t wait for next year. Or every adventure and tradition in between. We have so many now, it’s hard to count. But the traditions of our friendship, the photos of the kids at various stages, keeps me grounded. Time really is slipping away, ever so slowly at first, and faster every stage. If not for the yearly traditions that staple me to the experiences of our friendship, I’d float away in daily chores and work and laundry. I’m so thankful for these families that remind me to live and breathe and laugh-
To laugh until I can’t breathe and then finding a breathe again, sucking in the sweetest air of all life provides. “There’s Gold in Them Hills.” Thank you for the reminder, ladies. I hope to repay the gift.