Saturday, May 26, 2018

Crying In The Car

I read a blogpost by my friend Linnea over at A Mindful Life LA about befriending negative emotions.  She talked about missing her oldest daughter, and crying in the car.  I wanted to hug her, and pat her on her sweet cheeks.  I kept telling myself though, that I would not let myself relate yet.  I wasn't ready to grieve my growing boy flying the nest yet.  He's still at home.  He still has senior year.  There's just too much to do to get him ready.

There's too much to do to get ME ready.

So I pretended I wasn't there yet.  I am not in the thick of it yet. Because I am made of stone, dammit.

Seriously, though, I used to be someone who cried at every sappy commercial.  I was pretty in touch with all those emotions, and enjoyed getting a little damp in the eyeballs, rolling around in that feeling.  It made me feel alive and connected to the world.

But things got really busy, and really real and life has gotten stressful.  Aging, man. I never thought I'd be THIS much of a grown up.  Where I sweat the small stuff.  But I sweat not only MY small stuff, but everyone else's small stuff AND all the big stuff.  I am SUPER sweaty. And some days I feel about a hundred and twenty years old.

Well, today the dam broke.  My husband and I were in the car, running errands.  We were talking in that distracted, disconnected way that you can when you've been married a long time and no longer have any hormones that force you to notice and delight in each other's every word.  We were heading home, and he had put his music on, and said casually when this song came on, "this really reminds me of the boy.  'fly and don't come down?', 'make thunder when you run'... I mean how he runs?!  with those beautiful feet of his...."

I'd heard this song before, and I knew it made me teary, but I kinda forgot.  I was listening and singing along with him one second, and then next thing I knew I started howling like a banshee... Weeping, singing, laughing.....

It made me realize how much I needed to feel.  How much I needed to release and to stop trying to distract myself from those feelings.

I am pretty glad though, that a) I wasn't driving, and b) that the boy wasn't in the car with us.

He's past the eye-rolling stage, for the most part, but I think it might have freaked him out a bit.

Anyway, here are the lyrics.  Kris Drever is a damn genius with a sad, real song.  And my husband is a damn genius for knowing exactly how to pick the locks on my cold, cold heart.

When The Shouting Is Over

Turn like a wheel
into the road into the next town
Take a drink, but buy your meal
out at the point we wait for tight lines.
Build a wall and make it high.
Don't deny your hungry brothers.
If you dig a well, make it deep
and if it spoils, then dig another.
Remember our faces every day
that you roam.*

When the race is run
and the shouting is all over
come on home **

Plow through the fields
push through the crowds, beg and steal
walk through walls, fill empty halls
stand where the magic meets the real***
fly and don't come down****
unless there's no one there to stop you
Make thunder when you run*****
know there's no one who can top you.
If you're tired
if you're down
We will never drop you**********

Chorus X2

*this is when my throat got really tight
**this made me groan and keen and say OHHHH a bit
***with this line I could picture him standing on the brink of his life, ready to fly, and I could no longer see out of my projectile crying eyeballs
****HELLO he wants to be a pilot and this line made me gasp for air and sob doubled over my seatbelt getting my knees wet with my snot
********full on ugly crying, scaring the other car next to us in traffic because they thought maybe I was crazy and might open my car door on the freeway and roll under the semi behind us.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Today began with a royal wedding, and got better from there.

Waking up in Trump's America every day is soul wearying, and I frequently wake in a panic, but this morning I woke up and saw a mixed race woman marry her prince in a cathedral while a black choir sang Stand By Me, and I think they put a spell on the whole day, because it just kept getting better.

I got back to sleep for one thing.  And when I woke up, I got to take my boy to Alaska Airline Aviation Day, and he got to talk to pilots and go in planes and get information from schools with pilot programs, and we took pictures and ate hot dogs and it was just swell.  I am in constant awe of his aviation knowledge.  Like music, flying comes second nature to him.  He is fluent in it, and to see him in his element brings me more than pride, it's pure joy.

Then tonight all three of us went to see Paul Simon in his Homeward Bound Farewell Tour, and it was like going to church.  When we got there, JH said "I don't want to generalize, but I MIGHT be the youngest person here".  Getting our bags checked, the man at security who was in his 60's said "Young man, do you even know who Paul Simon IS?"  "HECK yeah!  I've listened to his music all my life!"  "Good job, mom and dad!"  Then we ran into one of JH's old baseball coaches, who was genuinely so happy to see JH, as well as one of JH's doctors who is on my list of all time most important people in JH's health journey.  She was out with her husband and I almost didn't recognize her without her lab coat!  But it was so much fun to see her out of context, and I thought of her later when he was playing The Boy In The Bubble, and heard "medicine is magical and magical is art".  These are the days of miracle and wonder. Music does something to me.  I feel like I get plugged in to a universal energy and I am one with everything.  It was also like being in a time tunnel and all of the ages that I have been when touched by his music came rushing at me and surrounding me and holding me still in music's magical magnetic field.  I was in my early twenties listening to Graceland on my walkman, walking the hills of Queen Anne in Seattle, hanging out with my roommates; I was in my teens having been through my first heartbreak, riding in the backseat of my sister's car on the way to get a Christmas tree, crying while listening to Still Crazy After All These Years; I was nine years old, in the backseat of a car in San Francisco on a trip with that same sister, listening to Feelin' Groovy (which he played last night to punish himself for forgetting some lyrics to Cool Cool River because apparently he HATES Feelin' Groovy!); I was in my early forties, my toddler singing the wrong lyrics to Loves Me Like A Rock while sitting on my lap ("she loves me like a rock a pages"); and I was 56, right now, sitting next to my son and my husband, feeling all the grief of Mother and Child Reunion (Oh I would not give you false hope...), as well as this magic moment:  Before the concert, I told my guys about the "Still Crazy" story, about crying my eyes out in the back seat of the car.  When he played the first notes, my son, put his arm around me, pulled me in tight and kissed my forehead.  That moment is sealed forever in my memory, in that endorphin-infused place where happiness lives.  He was so giddy all night, and it was so much fun to be next to him and witness the way he soaks up music, how it moves him, how he knows those complex rhythms innately, and to reach around and touch my husband's shoulder and know that somehow we brought this magical energy into the world. We aren't perfect parents by any stretch, we fuck up a million different ways, but we keep trying.


Help me, help me, help me, THANK YOU.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The First Last

Well, hello old friend!  It's been awhile!  The last time I was here was four years ago, JH was thirteen, and gangly and goofy and flighty.  He hadn't shaved yet, hadn't driven a car, and homework didn't keep him up nearly as late.  Now he drives, has a job, goes to school, is a drummer in a band, and for the love of all things holy take flight lessons.  We are getting ready to go on some college trips this summer.  When I started at my job, he was six.  Now,  I still work with elementary aged kids, and while I can remember him being at that stage, it was a long time ago.  I'm grateful for this blog because he was precious to me and I wrote about allllll of it.  When he became a teen, (and even before, going through puberty) I slowed way down on the blog because I wanted to make sure that I was not divulging too much private stuff.  I realized I was skating close to an edge - I didn't want to exploit our relationship, and I didn't want to write about anything that might embarrass him.  I also wanted to keep it for myself.  To hang on to it, and keep it precious to me.

So why the hell start up again?  Here's my reason - I have been having huge anxiety about him graduating from high school and going to college.  This in addition to living in Trump's America has begun to give me heart palpitations, and I'm realizing that maybe it's time to write about that, and one more thing....

I went back and read some of my old posts, and realized how much gratitude I had for all of it, how much beauty I saw and celebrated, and honestly I want to focus on that again.  This part of my life is very different.  I am very different.  I am older, not "mature" older, but OLDER older.  Heavier, greyer, busier... but also wiser, and I see myself fairly clearly.  Skin tags and all.  I have a lot of faults.  I will always try to be better, but I don't have any misconceptions that I will actually BE better.  But it's all in the trying.  Maybe by writing about it, by saying it out loud, it will ease my anxious mama heart and help me actually lift my face to the sun, instead of crab walking sideways, pinched and worried, through this stage of life.

At work we talk about "growth mindset" and one of the things we talk about a LOT is there is no "I can't".  Still, one of the things I struggle with the most is letting go.  Letting go.  It is the one thing in my life that comes close to "I can't".  It is so, so, so much harder than I ever imagined.

Before I conceived of conceiving, I naively thought that I would be a cool mom.  I would be in the arts, I would have my own life, I would be a pal, all of my child's friends would think I was the coolest.  Now I am fairly certain that all his friends think that the only thing separating me from being a helicopter parent is the lack of a rotor on my head.  When JH was about five, we went to Paris.  We were taking the Metro, and he was looking for the oncoming train and he stepped over that white line, the one that basically tells people STOP OR YOU MIGHT DIE.  He was talking to his dad, and I reached out and grabbed him with my hand, but it wasn't my hand that felt it - it was my womb.  It was like it dropped out between my legs, flopped around on the ground until it found him, sucked him back across that line and then hopped back up inside me.  I am going through a version of this now, not as visceral, but every bit as aching and emotional and vulnerable and out of fucking control.  Every time he heads out the door, I say "drive safe!" but my brain says "I am not going to let you relax until he is back through the door".  Now, just imagine that feeling, and add FLYING to the mix.  As in, HE is flying.  An airplane.  Yes, it's the absolute coolest, and after, hearing him talk about it (he is frighteningly knowledgeable) delights me from head to toe, but when he heads out for a lesson?  I want to throw myself around his ankles and not let go. "Dude, why are you dragging your mom around the tarmac for flight check?" "Sorry.  She just can't let go.  You'll get used to it.  I have.  Her sobbing has gotten a lot quieter."

So that's why I'm writing.  Because I CAN'T throw myself around his ankles.  I HAVE to let go.  And I have to find some of myself without him - to allow myself my mama pride, but also to find some of that badass chick I used to be before him.

Yeah, right.

"Hey, badass chick!  Why is your heart and your uterus flopping around on the ground like that?"

Thanks for reading while I shout out into the void.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Badass Kid

It's the day before my birthday and we were visiting C's parents.  We'd all gone out to lunch, and as we were walking to the car, JH was leaning on my shoulder, holding my hand.  Behind me, I could feel my mother-in-law and sister-in-law taking in this sight:  this nearly thirteen year old boy, a hair shorter than his ol' ma, holding her hand, unafraid of what anyone else might think.  

As we cleared the corner of the building, two boys about fourteen years old, in droopy shorts and cool hats perched on top of their heads like fully popped jiffy pop pans, came around heading in our direction.  

If my son is nearly as smooth with his future girlfriends getting his hand IN theirs as he was getting his hand OUT of mine?   Those girls are in big trouble.  Because it was effortless and seamless and a thing of beauty, really.  If our hand-holding were an object, say, and you were looking at it, why it would have just disappeared before your very eyes!  

As we cleared the boys, I chuckled and said to him, very low and quiet, out of the corner of my mouth: "were you busted?"  and he smiled back, shook his head, looked down with bright red cheeks and said just as quietly "so busted."

The next morning this is the card he gave me.  I am going to have it framed.

the inside of my birthday card from JH

In case you can't read his writing, it says:

Happy Birthday!  To the best mom in this entire galaxy.  
Mommah, whether it's you poning* me at H.O.R.S.E., (by one letter, I might add) or just chillin', I love hanging out with you.  No matter how "unkew"** it is to give u hugs or hold hands, I'm always ur son.  
Here's to you, Ma.
(ps.s  It's only when the badass people are around that I won't give you the x's and o's that you deserve)

* this means "owning" or "winning", with smacktalk.  It might also be a sexual term adopted by middle school boys, or idiots who play videogames online but if this is the case, JH and I don't know it.  And I don't want to know it.  So I'm not going to look it up.  Dammit.  Of course I looked it up.  And yes I will be talking to him about this term. 

**think Erik Cartman.  Yes, we let him watch South Park on occasion.  And we've started letting him play some "M" games on his xbox.  

It's a whole new, almost a teenager, badass world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I understand/ I don't understand....

I understand:

Bravery, selflessness, goodness, love.

These are all things we saw yesterday in the midst of madness and heartbreak.

Someone, in a brave, final act turned on the PA system at school to alert other teachers that something horrible and unthinkable was in their midst.

Teachers, with families of their own at home, instinctively went into action to protect the children.  To keep them safe.  First and foremost.  They acted with courage and love.  Teachers.  Not soldiers.  Not firefighters.  Not policemen.  Teachers, who may have gone into the profession because they thought it might be fun to be around kids all day.  Teachers, who day after day correct spelling tests and do lesson plans and worry over family situations of "their kids" that they have no control over.

First responders, many just volunteer citizens, went in to harms way, not knowing what they'd find, or if they'd come out alive.  But they went in anyway, and did everything they could.

The community, from all reports, tight-knit, close, loving, has gathered to support those who have lost:  innocence, laughter, a future of memories that will never be made.  It's an impossible task, but the community, and the rest of us, surrounded them with love and tears.  It's all we could do in those terrible moments immediately after.

I hope, and I pray with my clumsy heathen prayers that we will all do the same for a young man who lost his mother to violence, and a brother to mental illness.  He will surely need love and compassion to deal with the aftermath of this senseless tragedy as well.

I don't understand:
Why anyone with a love of our country, and good morals and a belief in a loving God, or just plain decency, would defend the fact that it's easier to get a gun than it is to get help with a mentally ill family member.

Because it is.  It's easier to get a gun than a driver's license.  That's a fact.

I don't understand why anyone who likes to use guns recreationally or for sport would feel offended that those of us who do not would like to see this rectified.

I do not wish to take away your right to own or carry a gun.  I assume that you are of sound mind, and you enjoy hunting, or you live in a terrible neighborhood and wish to protect your family or possessions.

But I don't understand why you feel the need to defend how incredibly, UNBEARABLY easy it is for the wrong person to get their hands on a gun.

I don't understand why it is nearly impossible for a person with a history of mental illness, who has exhausted their resources, and their family and community, must be deemed a danger to themselves or others before they are able to get the help they need.  Because THAT, as we've seen in the last DAYS, happens much, much, much too late.  Mental illness is not like any other illness.  Many people with mental illness do not believe there is anything wrong with them.  They refuse help.  And so their families are left to worry about them, about their safety and the safety of anyone in their path.  And there is the stigma as well - "he's CRAZY", "he's NUTS" equation of mental illness with evil.  Most mentally ill people are not violent.  But those who are?  Wouldn't it be humane to have the ability to diagnose and treat them before we find out the difference?  To at least attempt to help them return to sanity, or at the very least, safety?

Because bottom line?
It is not "us vs. them".
It is "us".
Just us.
All of us together, with our differences and our passions, living together on this planet.
We're going to need to figure it out.
Hopefully sooner than later.

Wishing you peace and kindness.  Do you understand?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Science facts

"Hey, mom - did you know that most birth defects are caused by something the mom ate or did during pregnancy?"

I am helping him get his compression stocking on, something we do every day.  It's too tight for him to be able to do it himself, even though this week he will be twelve years old, and he is nearly as tall as I am, and weighs almost as much, too.  I have just pulled it up past his knee, and I'm looking at him as he is talking, smiling.  But I was caught off guard, and for the split second it took for me to register what he'd said, he saw my secret, the thing I've battled every day since he was born and we discovered that he had Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome.  The fear that it was my fault, that I had done something wrong, even though I've had specialists tell me it's just something that happens sometimes, just a quirk of nature brought about by a wrong turn on a strand of genetic material.

I recover as quickly as it registers, but I'm caught and he...he is mortified, horrified that he has hurt me.

"But I'm not blaming you, I just have K-T, and I was born that way and I wouldn't want to be any different!  I love you and I know you didn't do anything wrong, and I only think it's sometimes that it happens, maybe most of the time, but it doesn't MATTER because I LOVE who I am and I love YOU, and if I didn't have K-T I wouldn't be me..."  He is in danger of running out of air, and I stop him.

"Sweetheart - it's okay.  I know you were just telling me something interesting that you learned, and it's just science.  Sometimes even in science there are variables.  I know you aren't blaming me.  I love you just as you are, and I know you love me too.  Please don't worry, I'm okay."

We have a ritual after his stocking is on - we have a big hug.  Today's hug is tighter than normal, and lasts twice as long.

"Thanks for helping me with my stocking, mom.  I love you."

"You bet.  I love you too."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hey, Look!

We've talked before here about JH's syndrome, always in a very matter of fact way.  It's part of our life.  I never wish he didn't have it, although I do sometimes wish he didn't have pain.  But it is an integral part of him.  I don't know if K-T has made him wiser, or more confident, or more patient, or a better friend, or if he would be that way without it.  All I can say is that he is all of those things, and I can't imagine him any other way.

Years ago, when Joe-Henry was three, Charley got his first utilikilt.  He wore it to the K-T conference in Rochester, MN, and I remember that for the first time, people were staring at Charley and not JH.  They were (and still are) fairly audacious and open about their staring.  Some, me included, might call it "gawking".  He has turned heads in Paris, in Los Angeles, and certainly here in our small town where we moved in 2006.  He even turned heads in Scotland, which I thought was sort of odd.  Everywhere we go, my hubby turns heads.  But he wears it well, with confidence, and starts conversations with strangers.  Women love it, and people think nothing about asking if he is wearing anything under it.  The usual response is that he wears it the traditional way.  Or, if they have a sense of humor, "nothing but the breeze and my wife's good graces".

He is friendlier about the attention than I am.  I was raised a Lutheran, and although I went into the arts, and spent a good portion of my adult life on stage, I do NOT like being stared at.  What I don't like even more?  Is having the people I love stared at, or whispered about.  I have been known to take pictures of people staring at his kilt, or JH's feet.  Asking them to smile for the camera.  I try to be more open about it.  I do.  It is getting easier.  I don't notice as much anymore.  I love that he feels comfortable and confident and I think he's sexy as hell no matter what he wears, but more than anything, he has given Joe-Henry an amazing example of how to swim against the current with grace.

Joe-Henry has always had an amazing amount of confidence.  Not OVER confidence, just a real solid awareness of who he is and what he is capable of.  He doesn't feel limited by his K-T, and he doesn't think twice about wearing his stocking.  It's not a fashion statement.  It's something that helps him get through the day with less pain, and not wearing it because other people might stare?  The mere thought makes him make this face like he has a question mark directly above his head.  Why on earth would he let what other people think have any precedence over his comfort and well being?  In the last couple years, he's developed quite a fashion sense, and has taken to wearing a really funky sock on his other foot.  You can't help but notice it, and I love that he has completely made it his own.

I wondered if that quality would change as he entered Middle School.  He was really nervous about going to a new school where he didn't know any teachers and there were more kids.  I could tell the first few days, he was trying to fit in.  But, it was really hot today, so he wore shorts (bright green), with bright yellow smiley face socks on BOTH feet.  I asked if anyone gave him any compliments on his socks today, and he said "no, but I did see a few people staring at my stocking."  My heart sank, but I stayed chipper and asked "How was that?  Did you say anything?"  

"Nah.  Mom, there is no such thing as bad attention."

These men of mine.  One of these days this attitude just might rub off on me.