Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Her Majesty

I was at work today when I saw the announcement via email that Maya Angelou had passed. The quote below the headline:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I like it. I like to think about what that means and how it applies in my experience and why it isn't true all the time . . . turning the idea around and around in the back of my head as I tend to do while going about my day.

It brought to mind a snapshot of reading Maya Angelou for the first time as a kid. Her words ran together like silk on the page. Hooked, I read everything I could find of hers until there was no more left.

Sitting in my cubicle today, I recognized a clear call for a quote on my chat status. Too bad Oprah already took rainbow cloud. Instead, I found,

"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities."

And *BAM* the authentic power of her words blows you right away. Words from an actual transformer of realities, who worked to uplift all people. We as a global village could use all the uplift we can get.

And love. We need love, as the Beatles often remind me in my living room and car these days. But, no one beats Maya Angelou in love quotes.

"I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn't just hold—that's ego. Love liberates. It doesn't bind. Love says, 'I love you. I love you if you're in China. I love you if you're across town. I love you if you're in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I'd like to have your arms around me. I'd like to hear your voice in my ear. But that's not possible now, so I love you. Go.'"

Tell me your mouth wasn't hanging open by "Go."

I could fall in love with a sumo wrestler if he told stories and made me laugh. Obviously, it would be easier if someone was African-American and lived next door and went to the same church. Because then I wouldn't have to translate.

Falling in love with a sumo wrestler who tells funny stories? She's my hero.

Tonight I made solo dinner. I cooked up what I thought was going to be one grassfed frozen patty from TJ's but it was two frozen patties stuck together with paper in the middle. I couldn't get the thing apart. I tried a knife, a spatula, my fingers. My solution was to throw them in the pan stuck together so I could make the separation after a little heat.

Except it didn't work that way. After a scuffle with my meat, oil and bits sprayed across the counter and floor, I thought about never eating meat again before another quote came to mind - have I mentioned that OCD runs in the family?

My life has been one great big joke, a dance that's walked a song that's spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.

I'm convinced that learning to laugh at ourselves til we almost choke would cure about half the world's ills. But good point about not actually choking.

And finally, my last Maya moment to share with you today. After I updated my chat status at work, I turned away from my computer and blinked, surprised by something I had forgotten about. A couple weeks ago, I had attached one of those tea bottle caps with a quote to the wall of my cubicle.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

I consider liking yourself the achievement of a lifetime. I'm satisfied with halfway acceptance for now.

But I'll keep trying. Thank you, Ms. Maya. 

maya picture

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Queen of May

It's still May, so I thought I better write something on that theme of your mother is always right, or at least, she's right about a lot more things than you might initially believe (hear that, daughters?). Besides, I have a story.

My mother is a huge fan of locking things up. She keeps her doors locked tight in the middle of the day, even when she goes to her mailbox for 30 seconds. I, on the other hand, tend to be a little more caszh about keeping things locked. I've even developed a fear of locking the front door of my home after being woken up one morning at the condo by a contractor, who needed my car out of the driveway.

In pajamas, undereye mascara, morning hair, and no shoes, I moved my car with a single car key in hand and returned to discover I had locked myself out. The alternate entrypoints were also locked tight, thanks to my mother the locksmith, who had been over to watch the kids. I asked a guy on a ladder if I could borrow his phone then drove 45 minutes to San Jose to pick up the extra housekey from my mother. Thank god I had gas in the car.

I mean, I live in a quiet neighborhood and feel safe. Several neighbors throughout the complex happen to work in law enforcement. So why freak out about locking a door when the real risk seems to be getting locked out? I'm in my 40's. I've got some wisdom of my own now, Mom. So when my daughters told on me to Grandma, that I hardly ever lock the door except at night when we were sleeping, I rolled my eyes. Here we go again with the negative naysayers that are my mother and children. Everyone, chill out.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I had an evening work engagement and came back to my homey unlocked front door, setting my workbag and purse just inside and taking my dog Scout out for a short walk. I was gone for somewhere in the 5-10 minute range and when I returned, there were two police cars parked in the street. I didn't think much about it because it's not an unusual sight in my neighborhood.

As I walked up my driveway, I noticed I must have left my front door ajar because it had blown wide open. It was raining a little that night so my feet were slippery on the tile as I hung up the leash. That's when I heard something and it was coming from my bedroom downstairs. In shock, the only sound I made out next was, "police!" as two policemen moved up the stairs toward me as I slipped, startled when they asked me about my daughters.

I was so scared for a moment that something had happened to my daughters, who were supposedly with their dad. The nightmarish vision of a crime scene in my bedroom faded as they referred to my daughters with unfamiliar names and told me they had been given my address by a mother of a missing pre-teen. There were more names I didn't recognize.

My fierce watchdog didn't bark at the policeman - Scout is the only male in a household of human and canine females so he usually greets men as his long lost best friends -  but I asked the guys if they would step outside with me so I could take my dog off the leash. At this point, all three of us seemed to be pumped with adrenaline. Later, I realized how it might have looked through their eyes.

The police explained what happened: when they pulled up to the address they were given as the last known whereabouts of the missing little girl, they saw the front door open with a purse just sitting there and noticed the car was still warm. They said it looked like someone was in imminent danger. I wondered for an insane second if they were in cahoots with my mother.

Of course they had ended up in my bedroom, which unlike the rest of the condo, was in complete shambles with clothes and private things people normally put away for company strewn about. It had the look of a place where a struggle of some sort had occurred.

More than once, the police guys said, "We thought someone was in trouble," apologizing for entering my home. I found myself reassuring them, it's OK, cringing with the knowledge of what they surveyed in my bedroom. They returned to their cars and long story short, the girl was hiding out next door with her friend from school. The mother was close on the address.

The moral of the story is though mothers aren't always right, they all too often are. Yes, Mom, locking your door is a good idea any time, even - or especially - with police around.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Queens of May

I can't remember where I read: mothers are the queens of May.

It stuck in my mind. Maybe a little dramatic but I like the idea of having an extended amount of time to celebrate the moms, mostly because I haven't celebrated my own mother yet this year . . . my mother who is working well into her sixties as she and my father continue to subsidize the life I can provide my children. Really, I'm sure she's fine.

My kids celebrated with me on Sunday. It was all day long. With these two.

We knew early on where we were going to Mother's Day brunch - this place in the woods we've recently discovered that I'm not even going to name because the service is slow and even slower if you're not a mountain local. No need to risk jamming up the service with my recommendations.

The kids were eager to sit on the restaurant deck in the sunshine for brunch on Sunday.

It was relaxing as we watched hummingbirds and red dragonflies buzz pass us as we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . until the kids were sinking into their chairs from hunger weakness, begging me for food. Later, the waiter generously brought me "a bloody" on the house to make up for the slow service after he eyed my children gulping their pancakes, bacon, and sausage omelet down whole.

Speaking of bacon, let's talk about Bindy. Do you know she wakes up early every morning to make bacon or other breakfast protein for her whole family? Her family includes her husband, teenaged daughter, second grader, and father in his 80s. Every morning she gets up, goes on a run, and puts the bacon on before getting the kids to school and herself to work. And everyone in her family has come to expect that she has the bacon handled in the morning - her father stockpiling several packages in their fridge. Bindy approaches her family's bacon needs cheerfully; and sometimes she makes scrambled eggs. I'm not worthy.

My girls and I seem to be falling into a daily rhythm with my new sustainable work schedule. I get the lunches made the night before, and breakfast is often yogurt and hot cocoa. Still, after hanging with Bindy last month, I was fascinated with the idea of serving up crispy hot bacon in the morning, though my daughters openly doubted my ability to do so. Therefore, I bought a nitrate-free package at TJ's.

Naturally, I forgot it ever happened. When I brought home the second nitrate-free package of bacon, I realized I was stockpiling bacon, just like Bindy's dad . . . EXCEPT I'M MISSING BINDY TO FRY IT UP. I'm happy to report my kids have been receiving once-a-week bacon for almost a month now. That's probably all I got; I'm no Bindy.

Anyway, back to Mother's Day 2014. After our brunch of endurance was over, I took the kids to . . . our local carwash! First time!! Woohoo!!!

It was actually a really fun carwash, mostly because of the gift store inside. There were peace signs and stars made of driftwood and quality toys and all kinds of stuff. I let my kids have cokes while we waited for our car on a bench in the shade. I don't like them to have the sugar but at least Daisy accidentally spilled about half of her coke. My lord is that kid clumsy. The night before Mother's Day, she was standing next to me at her dad's house during pickup, and from a stationary position, she rolled her ankle and collapsed, injuring her foot. Those are most definitely my genes.

Happy Mother's May!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Emo Coaster

Daisy is preparing to enter the middle school years of gnarlyhood in the fall, but the current struggle is with Violet, my shrimpy second grader. 

For Daisy, starting Boys and Girls Club with my job change has been a blessing. She joined the club swim team and proudly tells me she is one of the fastest swimmers. She was recognized as artist of the month at a recent club assembly for her "great work and positive spirit," receiving a gift certificate and the wrath of her little sister Violet, who proclaimed it to be the “worst day of my life.” Violet was so mad that day, she couldn't eat her dinner. 

Normal: Feeling jealous of your sister. 

Not normal: Being so mad that your sister received an art award that you can’t eat your dinner four hours later.

Let me tell you, Violet is no fan of Boys and Girls Club. At least that is what she says on the way to the club during my late lunch hour devoted to picking them up from school. However, the car session is generally not as animated as the morning complaint session, when all is heinously wrong, especially articles of clothing set out the night before, every word coming out of her sister’s mouth, and anything her mother needs her to do to get everyone where they need to be on time, including the dogs who run for cover at the sound of Violet’s grunting and stomping. And just in case I didn't fully absorb the morning and lunch complaint sessions, there is often a nightly recap of everything that went wrong that day, concluding with a look forward to what will surely go wrong tomorrow.

Last weekend was spent celebrating Violet’s birthday, Friday through Sunday. And though Violet had a great time with her family and friends, when she was alone with her sister and me, she was velcroed to my side, acting out episodes of Everything Sucks, a series about what is unfair for Violet. I believe in the power of expressing emotions so they don’t own you, but I find it an extraordinary test of patience when Violet's in that mode. Especially when she's leaning into me as I'm pinning up mustache decorations after hours of housework between birthday events.

Most of what she complains about isn’t even something she has an actual complaint about. Like when the birthday clothes from Grandma that Violet loves temporarily become nails-across-chalkboard annoying garments she can’t tolerate on her body because they’re "too big!" and "unconfoble!" Or when that dark, dark place called Boys and Girls Club actually seems like a fun place, judging from the activities I find Violet happily engaged in during pickup. 

When I’m not totally frustrated right back at Violet, I sometimes make the mistake of smiling when I look into her pissed off eyes. It’s just so much hoopla coming from a small person. I have directed her to boxes she can destroy. I have encouraged her to draw and write. I have talked to her about self checking her anger. She has a counselor. It feels like nothing's working right now but I know when it feels like that, all you can do is keep trying and accept that this crazy kid stage will end, making room for one even more challenging. 

Yesterday, I sent the kids to bed a little early after another one of their shoving and screaming matches. I was frustrated with both of them but Violet seemed to be the primary instigator. She didn't seem to be able to hear me until it was my turn to scream with my finger pointed at her bed. I was totally done and I stretched out on the couch to take a few deep breaths and close my eyes.

I didn't realize until I could sense something hovering over my face that Violet had gotten out of bed. She told me she was sorry and hugged my head. Suddenly Daisy was there too, and she wrapped her arms around both of us. My girls started shoving and screaming again. With their arms still wrapped around my head. I yelled as I pushed them off, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Violet burst into tears and Daisy tried to argue why it wasn't her fault before stomping off to bed. Violet stayed behind and cried, perched next to me, whatever demon she's fighting exorcised for the time being.

Violet proceeded to tell me through her tears that she's sad about the divorce again. It's confusing to try to keep her homework and other school paperwork organized between the two households, and she's missed some deadlines with repercussions. Violet looks at the kids with parents still together and assumes that everything is easier for them. Probably dealing with the surprisingly large flow of paperwork that comes with elementary school, yes, but I reminded her that every family has problems and for some kids it's worse when your parents stay together. She nodded, satisfied with a conversation we've had many times before. After I walked Violet back to bed, I tried to kiss Daisy good night but she turned her back to me. 

The most reliable way to get off the emo coaster with my daughters is to be around other people. Really I consider teaching my daughters how to deal with their emotions a sacred part of being a mother, but even mama needs breaks. Recently, the kids and I were at our neighborhood restaurant, where I sometimes order a margarita while I read the Sunday paper and the kids play on the patio. When my friendly neighborhood bartender suggested that learning how to make a good margarita at home was a way to save money, I hesitated. Was I thinking . . . maybe it’s time I try dating again . . . or, does this guy really think his margaritas are that good? No, I was thinking . . . if he were in my kitchen making drinks, I bet Violet would be nicer at home. True story. And yeah, no.