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Kids First

Mike told me a funny little story the other day. This past Friday afternoon there was a meeting at our house regarding at-home therapy for the boys. Not the type of therapy for kids going through a difficult time or anything like that, but the kind of therapy designed to help kids with autism. Since Erin (the boys’ mom) had them on Friday, she let herself into our house and was waiting for Mike to get home so they could wait for the entourage of two therapists and the person in charge to arrive to meet the boys and then discuss with us what to expect, etc. I say “us” even though I wasn’t there. I would have been there, but I didn’t know about it until that day and thought it was a quick meeting in an office somewhere. Had I known it was a three hour thing at our house, I would have changed my plans and been there. As a result, the next day Erin and I discussed her including me in group texts about what is going on with the boys because, well, we both know Mike.

Anyway, the funny story was that when Mike got home and found Erin there with the boys, Liam said to Mike, “Hey Daddy, this is Mommy!” He said it more than once. He thought this strange enough to point out. In his world, Mommy and Daddy are in two separate houses and though there are pick-ups and drop-offs and instances where we are all together in the same place, Liam isn’t used to his mom hanging out at the house where his dad lives.

That story made me think of my own son, Jarrod, who was also a child of divorced parents at a very young age, but for many reasons (that some of you know because you know my story or you follow this blog), there was nothing civil or friendly about my break-up with Jarrod’s father, Joe. We communicated only when absolutely necessary. In fact, early on, he didn’t even know where we lived.

I had hoped that we would one day get beyond that animosity. I envisioned time healing all of our open wounds. As ridiculous as it sounds given our history, I thought we could let the past go and be friendly one day. I attempted to when Jarrod got older by inviting Joe to his high school graduation party at my parents’ house, but he declined.

What brought us together was Jarrod’s cancer diagnosis at the age of 20. Why does it take something so catastrophic to get two people to set aside their grievances and breath the same air inside the same tiny room? We didn’t drive together to Stanford University Medical Center to discuss the next steps after the diagnosis, but we met there, and the three of us huddled together waiting for Dr. Ronald Levy to walk in and tell us something that would allow us all to sleep that night. It was a two hour wait. This doctor was the leading authority on Lymphoma and as a favor to my brother-in-law’s roommate whose girlfriend was a colleague on the fundraising for research side of things, (I think I got that right), we were gratefully squeezed in for a consultation. I would have waited all night for a sit-down with that doctor.

I don’t remember all that much about the wait because my state of mind during that time was one that only allowed me to go through the motions of living. I had one mission. And that was to find the right person for the job of making my son healthy again. But I do remember that Joe and I were both calm, united together by the same feelings we had for Jarrod. We were the only two people in the entire world who knew how the other felt during that time, and if that was all we had left of what was once “us,” then at least we had that.

Despite the circumstances we were able to share a few laughs with Jarrod. That I remember. And like Liam, though it was a different kid, a different time, and a different place, I remember something Jarrod said when Joe left the room to go to the cafeteria to get us something to eat. He said, “This is so weird.” I asked, “What’s weird?” He said, “You and dad in the same room with me.”

Incidentally, we all slept better that night.

Jarrod and Liam

Jarrod and Liam

 

 

The Uneventful Eventful Weekend

Our kid weekend started out normal enough. I took off work early Friday and picked up the boys from school because Mike had a thing, their mom had a thing, and grandma had a thing. We hung out and played with a new train set until Mike got home. I took an electric engine apart looking for a battery after Liam handed it to me and said, “Fix it.” I took four screws out of the bottom, which is not where the battery is housed. The battery is easily attainable by taking one screw off the top of the train, though I didn’t know that yet. When the last screw came out, the guts of the train fell out. I had three little axles in my hand. They each had three to four wheels on them with teeth. There was only one way to make them fit so they would all work together to make the actual train wheels move. I couldn’t figure it out. All the while, a distressed little boy is hovering over me as I worked on the tiny engine. I kept repeating, “I’m sorry, Daddy will have to fix it,” knowing Daddy wouldn’t be able to fix it. I gave up, put all the parts in a little dish and set it on top of the fridge. I distracted Liam by turning on the TV then went online to Amazon and ordered a new electric train engine exactly like the one I just dismantled. These are the moments I’m thankful for Prime and overnight shipping.

As soon as Mike got home he took the boys to a fair at school so they could jump in bouncy houses. I stayed home and started dinner. I made fresh pesto for pasta and when the guys arrived home, we ate. Liam devoured two platefuls and Finn took his usual two bites. After dinner, baths, and mani-pedis for the boys, we all sat down to watch Curious George 2. Finn seemed tired, but that isn’t unusual for him at the end of a long day. Liam was his usual bouncy self.

Toward the end of the movie, and during an upsetting scene where the mama Elephant is captured, Finn, who was laying on top of Mike, sat up and let out a scream. Just as I was about to say, “the mama elephant will be fine,” the entire contents of his stomach upchucked all over his father and our new couch. And so began the weekend of thirty loads of laundry, diligent sanitation, and managing one healthy kid and one sick kid. (Sidenote to parents whose kids were in the bouncy houses with Finn: So sorry, we didn’t know he was sick).

At 9:24pm I received a message from an old friend’s son-in-law via Facebook. He told me my friend had cancer and wasn’t doing well and that she qualified for Hospice this week. This was a dear friend who for many years was a big part of my life. We met when I was in my early 30s and she was in her 50s. We worked together for several years and despite our difference in age, had an immediate connection. We had always stayed in touch, but the past few years had been more sporadic and when I received his message I immediately felt awful about that. I should have known. I told him I would call her on Saturday.

Only Liam slept much that first night. Finn was up a lot. I will spare you the details of what the stomach bug did to the poor little guy because we’ve all been there either with ourselves or our kids. There’s no need for explanations. In the morning I ran to the store for Gatorade, Pedialyte, and Jello. We had planned to take the boys to see The Angry Birds Movie on Saturday, but that turned into me taking Liam and leaving Mike and Finn at home. Finn being sick had already made an impression on Liam because on the way home from the movie he said, “Let’s go see Daddy and Finn be quiet.”

Off to the movies.

Off to the movies.

My friend and the phone call I had to make weighed heavy on my mind. I was afraid to call. What would I say? How would she sound? Would she forgive me for not calling to check in with her sooner? I thought it might be a long phone call, though I didn’t know if her health would allow that. I just knew that in the past our phone calls were often very long as we caught each other up on our lives and I wanted to be sure I had a good stretch of uninterrupted time to talk.

Liam’s new train arrived and when I handed it to him he thought it was the broken one and by the end of the weekend we realized that he thinks I can fix anything. Actually, I did end up fixing the broken train on Saturday evening because of my dogged determination.

Part of me was procrastinating, part of me was having a hard time finding a good time to make the call with all that was going on in the house. I messaged my friend in the early evening not knowing if she would answer. I asked her if Sunday afternoon would be a good time for me to call since Mike and I had already discussed him taking Liam out of the house and me staying home with Finn. I figured Finn would either be asleep or I could put a movie on for him. She responded shortly after with a “Yes.”

On Sunday morning I scooted Mike out the door for a run after breakfast. He’d been housebound since Friday. Finn was still green. He sat and stared at a plate of pancakes, but didn’t attempt one bite. He slept most of the day on Saturday and it looked like Sunday was going to be a repeat. When I returned from a trip to the laundromat to wash the boys’ comforters, Mike took Liam for a walk and lunch downtown. Finn was still lethargic and not eating at all. Knowing kids usually bounce back pretty quickly with these bugs, we were getting a little concerned.

Nope.

Nope.

My fear about calling my friend went out the window when I heard her voice. We picked up where we left off like we always had. Knowing the kind of person she was, I wasn’t surprised by her acceptance of her situation and her matter-of-fact demeanor. She had been a rock for me during difficult times in my life. She was the first friend I called when my son was diagnosed with cancer. She had a daughter who had survived cancer so she knew exactly what I was going through and she let me lean on her. I leaned hard.

Around 5pm Sunday evening, Mike and I talked about calling the doctor on Monday morning if Finn still hadn’t eaten and at the end of that conversation, Mike went in to take a shower. I stripped Finn to join Mike and we were both taken aback by how skinny he looked. He’s a skinny kid to begin with, but he didn’t look healthy. It was a little scary. After a good scrub, I took Finn from the shower so Mike could finish up and got him dressed in clean pajamas. Then he sat down at the dining room table. I started asking him about food. Quesadilla? Peanut butter and jelly? Cereal? I held up the box. “Okay,” he said. I gave him a bowl of cereal and he took two big bites. Then he said, “All done.” It was a start. He crawled up on the couch and pulled a blanket over himself. I wanted to keep his interest in food going so I put a small bowl of cantaloupe in his lap that Mike had cut up the night before. He said, “Thank you,” and started eating it, and thus began the bouncing back.

Can I forgive myself for forgetting my friend’s 80th birthday this past March? She told me there was nothing to forgive. She told me that she knows how life is and how busy I am now and how lucky those two little boys are to have me in their lives because she knows the kind of person I am. I don’t feel worthy of her saying those things to me because I feel like I have failed her as a friend. What an amazing and wonderful woman she is.

Just as Mike and I were settling in to watch Game of Thrones, my phone rang and I saw it was my mom. We talk fairly often and it’s usually pretty quick check-ins so I told Mike I wanted to take the call. He paused the TV. A few weeks back my mother had told me that she and my dad had wanted to go to Anaheim for an Elks Lodge event this past weekend. My dad doesn’t drive any longer because of his vision and my mom said she wasn’t sure she wanted to make that drive herself. They were hoping some other friends would be going so they could tag along. I suggested looking into Amtrak too, but she discovered the timing wouldn’t work for the train. I had forgotten about the Anaheim weekend until we started talking last night. She told me that she and my dad had gone after all and it was just the two of them and they had a nice, relaxing time. My mom is 82 and my dad is 86 and they just took a mini roadtrip together.

Hug your parents, hug your kids, and then pick up the phone and call that old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile.

Pat

My beautiful friend.

 

I grew a tree

Actually, I grew more than one tree. Ten years ago or so, I opened up a few pods from a Mesquite tree and put the seeds in the ground in the backyard of my house in Southern Arizona. Today the trees are massive, and knowing these beautiful trees are there because of me makes me feel like I did something good. This was different than going down to your neighborhood nursery and buying a tree in a pot. This was me helping nature by scattering seeds and growing something that will still be standing in 100 years.

My husband, David, had made a somewhat impulsive decision to buy a house in Tubac, Arizona after visiting his parents one winter. They had retired to Southern Arizona and the town of Tubac was about an hour away from them. He bought a completely staged (furnished) brand new home in a development that was within walking distance to town, which wasn’t much more than four square blocks of art galleries, a coffeehouse, a few restaurants, a saloon, and one gas station. I had never been there. He returned to our home in Palm Springs with the news.

We then impulsively rented our house in Palm Springs completely furnished, put a few things in a storage unit, loaded our two vehicles with personal belongings and three dogs and then drove to the state next door where we would live for the next two years, which brings me to the day the Mesquite pods came into my possession.

We had gone to visit my in-laws and after a lazy afternoon and early dinner, we stood in their front yard chatting before saying goodbye. They had a very large Mesquite tree next to their driveway that was shedding pods. My father-in-law (who I also must give credit too) picked up a handful and gave them to me. He said, “Take these home, open them up, and put the seeds in the ground. You might get a tree.”

Mesquite pods

Mesquite pods

Our backyard was all rock, very sparse, and with only a few desert cactuses and shrubs. It wasn’t pretty. In addition, the development had a rule about the height of your fence or enclosure. We had a four foot wall that overlooked a park to the back and an adjacent neighbor on one side. There wasn’t much privacy. I told David that I would try to grow four trees. Three on the back wall and one on the side closer to the house.

Before trees

Before trees

The seeds sprouted very quickly. I was ecstatic. When our desert dwelling days came to an end, the trees were about as tall as me, but still wispy. We visited Arizona when we could and it was always joyful to see their growth, but as the story goes there came a time when that house was no longer my house and the ex-husband got custody of the trees.

Happily, the story doesn’t end there. Knowing what those trees meant to me, David sends me pictures every time he visits Tubac.

View from the back wall of one of my trees.

Look at that tree!

 

Finally Telling: A Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up

A couple of nights ago I told my boyfriend Mike a story of something that happened to me many years ago. His response was, “I have no idea what that kind of fear feels like.” Of course he doesn’t. Because these types of stories almost exclusively belong to women.

Telling the story was prompted by reading a blog earlier in the day that had gone viral and shown up on my Facebook newsfeed. The blog could have been written by ANY woman. Not because the woman who wrote it isn’t a good writer, quite the contrary, but because I don’t think there is a woman in this country who couldn’t put herself on that page. She wrote of what we women are subjected to on a daily basis, because we are women, and how we choose to handle it, which is to minimize and de-escalate.

The title of the blog is The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About and it’s worth reading. In fact, you should click on the link and read that blog before you continue reading here.

The part where she says, They don’t know struck a chord with me because I had a story I’d never told until the other night. Actually, I have many stories I’ve never told, and a few I have. The dodged bullet story has been told, but why do we minimize and de-escalate? We do it for a variety of reasons, partly because, “It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign,” says the author of the blog. And she’s right.

I’m not sure if I was in danger, though at the time, I honestly felt I was. The man I’m going to write about crossed the line and made me extremely uncomfortable. I should have told someone, but in my youth and naivete, I began to question my judgement after the fact. Maybe I was letting my imagination get the best of me. Maybe it was an accident when he brushed the front of himself against my shoulder when he was fixing my hair. Maybe he was just going to get his mail when he got in the elevator with me. I can’t ruin this guy’s reputation without being sure that something was going to happen.

But something did happen. He was wildly inappropriate and I was too afraid NOT to pretend he wasn’t being wildly inappropriate. I chose to act as if it was not a big deal to keep the situation from escalating. Perhaps that was the right thing to do to protect myself, but not telling someone about it was bullshit. I was a young girl without the confidence to tell the story when it should have been told.

So here it is. Sadly, it’s not a special story. I imagine most of us women have these kinds of stories; some not quite as scary, and some much more terrifying. Maybe it’s time we all start telling our stories. Like the author of the blog said, “Just listen.”

I was 19-years old and still fairly new to the modeling world. When you are new and don’t have a lot of work experience behind you to fill your portfolio with “tear sheets,” your agent will suggest you “test” shoot with photographers. This can be expensive so there is often a list available of wannabe fashion photographers trying to break into the business who are willing to test for only the cost of the developing and prints. I chose one such photographer.

When I made the date with him over the phone, he said we would be shooting at his apartment in San Francisco and that there would be one other model there. That was fine with me.

When I arrived, I met his wife who was on her way out the door. They seemed like a nice young couple, probably in their late 20s to early 30s. There were no red flags whatsoever at that point.

The other model and I took turns shooting against a white wall in his kitchen that was next to a big window that had nice natural light. While she changed outfits, he would shoot me, and vice versa. The apartment was small, but there was enough room in the bathroom for her and I to cram all our stuff in there where we could refresh make-up, change our hair, and change outfits.

The photographer seemed okay, though he had a nervous energy about him. He appeared to know what he was doing and had the right equipment. Back before the digital age, there was always a Polaroid camera used first to check lighting, etc., before the photographer would use actual film. The Polaroids looked good and he was secure enough with his abilities to suggest minor movements for the best shots.

After a few hours of the other model and I taking turns, I was getting tired and hungry and was ready to call it a day. Things seemed to be winding down when he told the other girl that she could leave. He said he had enough shots for her and that he just wanted to do a few more with me. He told me to put on the white top that I had previously shown him; the one that when I first had shown him he said, “white won’t really work.” When I said, “I thought white won’t work,” he told me the lighting had changed and it should be okay for one last series of photos.

This was my first moment of uneasiness. I didn’t really like that I would be alone there with him. While he seemed nice, our rapport wasn’t easy. I’d shot with quite a few photographers at that point and I had never felt uneasy around any of them, even when I was alone with them.

I shook it off, said my goodbyes to the other girl, and went to the bathroom to change my outfit. When I came out he had me sit on a stool. This is when things started to get weird. He became much more touchy. It was common for photographers without an assistant to fix out-of-place hair, or adjust your clothing during a shoot, but he had only done that to a bare minimum. Now he kept touching me; fixing my hair, lifting my chin, moving my head…

There was a very definable shift in his behavior with this shoot compared to the others that day, but I was minimizing everything he was doing. I was having an internal battle with myself. I told myself he was married. I told myself I was blowing things out of proportion. I actually let him unbutton the top button of my blouse and pull it open more. He said, “We have enough wholesome shots, how about some sexy ones?”

I didn’t respond, but I did exactly as I was told, including “lean forward and purse your lips.” Ugh. The original duck lips. I was afraid to not comply. I was afraid things could turn ugly. My instincts were telling me that as long as he didn’t sense my fear or see that I was uncomfortable, then I could control the situation, but I was also thinking very clearly on how I was going to get myself out of there. I’d had enough. I said, “Can we stop for a minute, I need to use the restroom?”

I walked into the bathroom and quickly gathered up all of my things and shoved them in my bag. I made a mental note of where my coat was, which was on a chair by the door, and then, with my keys in my hand, I took a deep breath, walked out, and said, “Actually, I think we have enough today. I need to leave now if I’m going to beat rush hour traffic.” I could see that he was stunned as I walked toward the door with all of my stuff. His eyes were wide. He said, “I’ll go down with you.”

My heart leapt to my throat. Why, I thought. Why does he want to go down with me? He lived on an upper floor in an old building with an elevator that had a gate. The hallway was dark and dank. I had no idea where the stairs were and in my attempt to act as normal as possible, I couldn’t see a way out of not getting on the elevator with him. So I did. I pressed the button for the ground floor as he closed that gate on us and then stood there on high alert. Almost immediately the elevator stopped and the door opened one floor below his. An elderly man opened the gate and stepped on, and with him, the biggest sense of relief washed over me. I said hello to him with probably a little too much enthusiasm, but at that moment, I felt like that old guy was my savior.

I drove home.

I didn’t tell my parents.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend.

I didn’t tell my agent.

FullSizeRender-3

 

 

 

Strides

Blog2

This morning as I was walking the boys to school I was reflecting on the progress they have made this past year, though really I think the shift has been in just the last few months. I was forced to reflect upon this because Liam wouldn’t stop talking. When we came to the crosswalk he said, “Wait!” And he was yelling at the cars to stop. I said, “That’s right, we have to wait for all the cars to stop.” This made me smile because I’m the one that usually tells them to wait each and every time we approach the corner. I often talk to the boys the entire walk to school even though I may be the only one talking. I know that this is one of the best things you can do to help children learn language and communications skills and with their delays in this area, well, I just keep talking.

This morning Liam took over. It seems that all of a sudden he is bursting with vocabulary that had previously been held in some part of his brain that he didn’t have access to. Sure, he had a lot of words, but now he has phrases, questions, comments, and answers. It’s wonderful. He basically had a commentary going about everything on our walk. After we crossed the street, he looked straight up and said, “What’s that?” I said, “That’s the sky, and clouds,” and he said, “and birds, there are birds flying.” I said, “That’s right! They are waaaay up high. I didn’t see them until you told me!” At the same time, the first drops of rain started to fall. He said, “That’s rain, that’s water from the sky.” Then a woman passed us with a stroller. He said, “Hi baby.” Then we walked up the hill and he said, “There’s a baseball game.” I explained the difference between a baseball game and a baseball field. He was already onto, “There’s a gate. It opens.”

You get the idea. Last night he had a commentary with his dad in the kitchen as the pizza was cooking in the oven. There’s a lot to be said while you are hungry and waiting for your favorite pizza. I could tell Mike was loving it and what I’m realizing is that these are the first real conversations taking hold. With that, I’m noticing that he is finding his voice. For the most part, he is an easy going kid and very compliant, but the other night he yelled at his dad, “Get out of my room!” Mike said, “Okay.”

Finn is making good progress with talking too, but I can probably save his story for another blog. Suffice it to say he has a very strong will and prefers things to go his way. For example, he won’t walk to school without his stuffed kitty. He’s fine to hand it over when we get to his class so I can take it back home though. I’m not sure what people think when they see a grown woman walking with a stuffed kitty in her arms.

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Lies

Beep…
I don’t pick up. I’m standing by the machine listening to my mother’s voice tell me that she wants to stop by and see the baby. She can’t. I don’t pick up because I don’t know what to tell her. My baby is fine. He’s warm and loved and fed. I’m not fine, but she won’t be ignored. I know this about her. An hour passes and she rings again. This time I pick up as soon as I hear her voice. Sorry mom, I just got home, I lied. No, today won’t work. I’m heading out again. She wants to know where I’m going. Not enough time has passed between childhood and adulthood. She is still the mother telling me what to do. She tells me it’s too cold to take the baby out and she’s right. I’m actually not taking the baby out. I’ve been hiding in my house all day. I will hide in my house the remainder of the week. Maybe tomorrow, I say. Then what? What will I say tomorrow? I will say I’m sick. I must put her off. She doesn’t believe me. You don’t sound sick. It’s a stomach thing. Let’s plan for Friday. Friday I will appear to be fine, I tell myself. I open the door on Friday. She is snuggling the baby as I sit watching, waiting, hoping. She looks up with a smile that begins to fade. She is studying my face. What’s wrong with your eye? Nothing. You have a faded bruise under your eye. Oh that. The dog jumped up as I bent down, I lied.

Amanda

It’s two days before Thanksgiving so I’m going to write about my daughter-in-law, Amanda. I am beyond grateful that she is the wife of my only son, Jarrod, and the mother of my grandson.

As the mother of a boy, the only child I have, I often wondered who he would fall in love with, and whether he would marry or have children. When your kids are little, you have no way of knowing if any of these things will happen, but I saw these things in his future.

When Jarrod was growing up and old enough to understand the ways of the heart, I felt it was my job to talk ad nauseam about what a healthy a relationship looks like. I failed him by not living the example. I suffered abuse at the hands of his father, which was a short first marriage, and though I consider my second marriage to be a good one, Jarrod often witnessed the slow unraveling of it. I feel sad and guilty about that, but we do the best we can do.

I mostly felt like a single parent. His stepfather was there of course, but he worked long hours, often worked away from home, and during Jarrod’s high school years, we lived apart because of my refusal to move away from the community where I had raised him since grade 3. I know this wasn’t the best thing for my marriage, but that’s an entirely different story.

So there were things I wanted to pound into that “boy” brain. The “no means no” conversation and “always wear condoms,” came early on, but there is so much more than that. Keep in mind that this was coming from the perspective of a “girl” who didn’t choose wisely the first time around. I wanted him to choose well, but I also didn’t want him to ever be a poor choice. I wanted to raise a good man. Perhaps in this day and age the things I talked with him about should be a given, but awful headlines in the news, and websites such as The Good Men Project are enough to tell you they aren’t. Simplified, here are a few things I remember:

You are equals.
You don’t “belong” to one another. You don’t “own” each other. You aren’t the others “property”.
It’s good to have things in common, but have your own interests and encourage each other in those interests.
Encourage time away from each other to do things with friends.
You will learn to cook, clean, and do laundry. There is no such thing as “woman’s work”.
It’s fine to argue, but be kind and always listen. There are two sides and nobody is always right.
She should probably be an animal lover, like you.

I wonder what Jarrod remembers of these conversations. Perhaps I should have asked him before I wrote this so I could have added an anecdote about it, like him saying, “I don’t remember those conversations,” to which I’d say, “Well, something must have stuck!”

I’m coming down off a high of a three day visit with these guys, including my two-month old grandson, Larkin. The last time I saw him was the week he was born, when I traveled to Oregon for his birth and stayed a few days to help. I had no doubt that Amanda would be a good mother, but she was in a fog of sleeplessness and new motherhood while I was taking care of the house, the cooking, and walking the dog so that she and Jarrod could become acquainted with this new little creature whose arrival had changed their lives forever.

It was this most recent visit that has made me appreciate how very fortunate we all are to have this girl in our lives. Larkin is a calm and happy baby, and perhaps that’s just his nature, but I suspect it has something to do with his mommy, whose confident and easygoing demeanor coupled with pure, sweet love for her baby boy made this first-time grandmother feel immeasurable joy.

I realize I didn’t write all that much about Amanda, but in a way, I actually did. Sometimes, it’s all in the subtext.

Amanda2

Untitled – Day 4

two-paths

You stand at the bottom of two roads.

A triangle of hell.

A fork.

Choose one.

Choose right, or choose left,

or choose right, or choose wrong.

You are sleepless and restless and dazed and jumpy and wired and crazy,

because neither road seems bad or good or bad or good or good or bad.

Days turn into nights turn into days turn into nights.

Different people, different places, different animals, different loves, and different losses to experience.

And different climates.

Sunshine or storms or moonbeams or rainbows.

Indecision is a loud buzzing in your ears.

Mystery is swirling around your head.

Your life has become blurry.

There is no sign, no epiphany, no wise old owl.

There are only lists of pros and cons and pros and cons,

written on receipts and napkins and post-it notes.

Your life, on a post-it note.

You close your eyes, put your arm straight out in front of you, point your finger, spin around and around, stop, open your eyes,

And stay.

 

 

 

 

Purple Mountains

We left the train station very early in the morning for an across the country adventure. Me, mom, dad, and my brother. I was five. I never felt like we were poor when I was growing up. In fact, I’m sure we weren’t, but we certainly weren’t rich. I say this because we apparently couldn’t afford sleeping cars. As a parent, I can’t imagine traveling coach with a five and nine-year old on a train for four nights and five days, but that’s exactly what my parents did and the memory of that trip has never left me.

We were bound for Wisconsin to see my mother’s side of the family. It’s interesting that this was the only time we made the trip by train, though we visited almost every year thereafter by car from California. Perhaps the memory of the train trip isn’t quite the same for them as for me. Perhaps they wondered what they were thinking.

I’m pretty sure I was an angel on that train trip because the only time I remember crying was when my dad and brother got off at one of the many stops and they weren’t back in their seats when the train departed. I remember screaming, “Daddy!” No amount of reassuring from my mother that they were on the train would convince me otherwise until I saw my dad walk through the door of our car. I was a nervous kid to begin with. I remember not wanting them to get off. I remember being afraid the train would leave without them.

We once lost my father and brother in San Francisco. It was just one of those misunderstandings, I guess. My mom and I would look in this store while my dad and brother looked in that store and we would meet somewhere after. An hour or so later that seemed like an eternity, holding the hand of my very pissed off mother and running to keep up with her, we rounded a corner and found them sitting at a picnic table eating hamburgers outside of a food truck.

But back to the train. I remember moving around the car a lot because not every seat was taken and shyly sitting next to a girl we called Oriental back then. She was probably almost a teenager. She seemed so grown up to me and so pretty with her long black hair. She had a large selection of paint-by-numbers sets and she shared a few with me. We sat for hours painting. I asked her why her mountains were purple and she said, “For purple mountains majesties.”

The restaurant cars were the best. I couldn’t figure out how they kept changing. One day the benches would have blue checked fabric, the next they would be red, and then they would go back to blue. I loved the French dip sandwiches the best. I learned how to say “au jus” on that trip.

It was winter and it was dark when we arrived in Wisconsin. We were there for Christmas and the ground was covered in snow. Oh! That’s the reason we took a train. It was the only time we visited in winter.

purple-mountain

 

Another Round

Today marks another Day 1 of 40 Days of Writing, which is a good thing because I need a jumpstart to turn what’s in my head into something readable. It’s been a struggle for quite some time now.

An old friend died the other day. And before that I received sad news from another dear friend. And before that a very young man in town known and loved by so many died in a tragic accident. And before that a baby was born to a young couple in town with a rare heart condition that has kept him hospitalized to this day. And now terrorists.

I don’t have any words of wisdom about any of this. There are things that I can’t comprehend. Life is full of bad news and none of us are immune to very sad or even horrific things happening to us or to the people very close to us.

It’s all so very precarious.

This blog feels like a jumble. It is.

With tears holding steady on the brim of my lower lid, my thoughts were sad as I sang Finn to sleep last night. For some reason, the sound of my terrible voice singing a mostly made-up rendition of “Hush Little Baby” puts him in a trance and when you combine that with hair petting, he’s usually out in less than five minutes. Last night it took a little longer. Perhaps he sensed my sadness. He kept opening his eyes back up and looking at me and when I would gently brush my fingertip against his eyelid with a closing gesture, he would giggle.

Bedtime can be a battle with Finn. Liam never resists, but Finn will often get out of bed over and over before finally giving in to slumber, which is why the bad singing has become a routine when the boys are with us. Mike will say, “Are you ready for the dulcet sounds of Jodee?” That’s my cue. It was discovered by accident one night when I just started singing the song to him and he fell asleep in seconds. I kind of like it because Mike is their favorite, but this is my thing with them, or at least with Finn. Liam is on the bottom bunk while I stand singing to Finn on the top, but he doesn’t object to it like my own son used to. “Mommy, don’t sing,” Jarrod would say, which always amused me.

Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
It that diamond ring won’t shine,
Mama’s gonna buy you a glass of wine.
If that glass of wine is yuck
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new truck.
If that truck won’t go very far,
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new bar.
If that bar burns down to the ground,
Mama’s gonna pick you up and twirl you around….

You get the idea. I change it up sometimes too…

I don’t really have a point to this jumbly blog. I’m just grateful that my bad singing can lull a precious 4-year old to sleep.

Finley

Finley

 

 

 

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