Thursday, August 30, 2007
As the largest capitalist society on the planet it makes sense that we ought to track these things. On the other hand, I have reached a stage in my life where my desires are so much less consumer-oriented than they ever have been and I found myself in the shower yesterday morning worrying about the economy. Worrying that if I downsize and begin to restrict my spending in order to align my material goods with my longing for increased simplicity in my life that might impact the economy of this country negatively. Millions of jobs count on me spending my money. Clerks in shops, manufacturers making cheap 'disposable' products, long-haul truckers bringing those goods to market, advertisers convincing me that I need the latest, greatest gadget to fulfill my exercise/culinary/gift-giving obligations, the list goes on.
Wouldn't it be great if we could somehow measure our collective wealth in less tangible ways? How about finding a way to assess one's satisfaction with the balance in their life? What if we knew at any given time whether the majority of citizens of our country were happy and fulfilled? Instead of calculating the rates of philanthropy, how about we find a way to ask why people give of themselves? How can we begin to change our mindset from that of finding success in a bank account or a huge house full of shiny new toys to finding success being satisfied with the relationships we have with ourselves and others? The older I get the more I want to find that place where capitalism fades into the background and becomes overshadowed by humanity. Instead of the news carrying 'human interest stories' of people sharing their time and money and love with others as if that were astonishing, let's populate the media with those examples and perhaps feature the occasional blurb about the richest man in the world. Wouldn't it be great?
Monday, August 27, 2007
Because of the rotten cold weather last week, we decided to pack up the car and drive East until we found the sunshine. Once we found it, we settled in to a friend's cabin and spent the next several days swimming, horseback riding, and eating ourselves silly. By the time we were headed for home, I was missing my kitties desperately (the dog got invited along for the ride). We arrived home to two affection-starved felines who had lost all pretense of independence. They wanted some love. Lucky for them, there were seven pairs of hands willing to oblige.
As I fell into bed at the late, late hour of 9:30 my big beautiful tabby cat followed me. S. calls him my boyfriend because of his preference for my attention late at night. He settled in next to me and began purring his loud, smooth, rolling purr. I scratched his favorite spots around his ears and he repaid me by rasping his perfectly pink tongue across my other hand.
Sometime around 2:00 AM he returned. Not fully awake, I began stroking his short silky fur and he walked in long ovals, rubbing the top of his head along my arm over and over again. We spent ten or fifteen minutes in this way, assuring each other of our mutual affection and it occurred to me that a cat is the only creature who could wake me at this hour and receive praise for it. I am kind but not terrifically patient with my kids at such a time and should the dog wake me with barking at 2:00 I am generally not pleased. There is something about knowing that Peanut has sought me out that makes me feel honored. He reciprocates my affection quietly and, aside from a gentle nudge, is not demanding. He lets me know that he is pleased by purring and almost always snuggles in to fall asleep within 15 minutes. I am fully present when we spend these minutes together, not distracted by daily tasks or other people. I love that I am not worried about falling asleep again or fulfilling someone or something else's needs. In these moments the simple act of petting Peanut is completely satisfying for both of us.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I was honored today to be given a "Courageous Blogger Award", courtesy of Eileen at A Life of Triggers . I am not sure I am all that she describes me as, but I'll sure as heck try. The award is given for "bloggers who are battling or have battled with physical or mental illness, those who are survivors of abuse, poverty or who have overcome other challenges in life. Those who serve in the military or work/volunteer in dangerous situations in order to provide a service or to help others. This award is for the strong, the brave and the courageous." Wow! First let me thank Eileen for her generosity in passing this along to me. Next let me express my utter dismay at having to choose one other blogger (and only one) to pass this on to. So many of the bloggers whose writing I routinely read fit this description. Many of them are mothers who are parenting children they did not envision having, those with autism or autistic spectrum disorders, foster children versus their own biological children, stepchildren they 'inherited' as the result of a marriage, children who suffer from mental illnesses, children who are relying on their mothers to be their sole parent, the list goes on. I cannot express the respect and admiration I have for these women who have not only found ways to cope with the challenges they are presented with in their daily lives, but who have discovered, within that struggle, a place of love and acceptance. A way to honor their children's unique abilities and traits and spotlight them. A way to share their difficulties and triumphs with other mothers who find themselves exhausted and frightened by their daily lives. These blogs can be found along the right side of my blog page under links and are daily reading for me. They are truly a balm for my spirit and serve to lift me up day after day.
However, in order not to avoid rising to the challenge of nominating another person whom I feel honestly deserves the title of Courageous, I will pass this along to my friend at Identity Crisis. At a stage in her life where most of us prefer to shut the door on any ugliness that exists in our past, especially if we find ourselves somewhat financially comfortable and possessing a few friends with whom we can enjoy ourselves, Suzy bravely decided to open the door. Despite many second-thoughts and a good deal of fear of the unknown, she plowed ahead and has confronted those demons, excellent sense of humor in hand. Suzy jumped right out of her comfort zone into another time zone completely and immersed herself in pursuing a better way of life. Not necessarily trusting that the outcome would be pretty, she began opening up and has shared her process with others, a feat that is brave in and of itself. Her witty,descriptive writing touches chords in me that generate ripples of love and compassion and for that, I am grateful to her. Suze - here's to you!
Friday, August 10, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Yesterday I was sitting in the front office of the school my kids attend, minding my own damn business when my need to 'fix' things reared its ugly head.
"Okay, somebody needs to get the spider in the storage room," E's teacher suddenly appeared at the counter, eyebrows hovering up near her hairline and her pupils magnified impossibly behind her glasses. Her arms clamped close to the side of her body, fingers clenched around a single-serving of chocolate pudding, it was pretty clear she was freaked out.
Both receptionists turned their blonde heads at the sound of her voice, but neither of them moved out of their chairs in a rush to solve the problem.
"Spider?" one asked as if she were casually inquiring about the temperature outside today.
"Huge. Ugly. Looks like one of those bad kinds," came the reply.
My senses were already heightened. Not because I'm afraid of spiders (although I am significantly more jumpy when there is one around), but because she was clearly distressed by this particular one.
"I was just heading in to get a lunch for one of the kids and there it was. It's huge. I'm not going in there again until someone gets it out."
The teacher stands there for a minute waiting for anyone to comment or come to her rescue but it doesn't seem as though there's a race to be hero. Curious, I take a few quiet steps toward her. She catches the movement and turns to lead me toward the storeroom. As we get to the doorway she puts her hand out to stop me. I feel a little like I'm a teenager in some cheap horror flick. She's actually holding me back from stepping off of the carpet onto the linoleum floor that lines the storeroom. Her head cautiously cranes around the corner to peek back behind a roll of white butcher paper, her head jerking back several times like a chicken in a farmyard. I'm not laughing, though. Even though I know this spider isn't about to jump out at her, I respect her fear.
She finally points it out to me. Yup, he's a big one. Fat brown body with dark spots, fat legs that stretch out in all directions. He's bigger than a half dollar - just sitting there compressing himself down into the crack between the butcher paper and the wall.
"Is there a Mason jar somewhere we can put over him?" I ask, looking at the metal shelving lining the walls.
"I don't know. I'm outta here," she's afraid to even be within visual distance of this guy.
I watch her disappear back into her classroom and wander slowly back toward the front office. What am I thinking? I hate spiders, too, and while I don't want to hurt one, I don't really relish the idea of capturing it, either. But nobody else is doing anything and E's teacher is really freaked.
Aha! There are several abandoned water bottles and thermoses next to the pile of sweatshirts and coats in the Lost and Found area. Now all I need is a stiff piece of paper.
The first attempt doesn't go so well. This guy is fast - fueled by his own adrenaline, I'm sure. He zips across the storage room and corners himself again. My second try just sends him back behind the roll of butcher paper. The mouth of the thermos isn't much bigger than him and I really don't want to clamp it down and see one of his legs sticking out. Ugh. Now I've given myself the shivers.
Third time's a charm. I slip the paper between the thermos and the floor, trapping him, and walk purposefully toward the front door of the building. Once outside, I debate where to set him free. Not near the playground full of kids. Not anywhere in the parking lot - he'll either get squished or end up in my car as some kind of cosmic joke. I finally let him go in the tall grass behind the cyclone fence, hoping he'll thank me on some level for getting him back out in nature.
Crap! As I return to the front desk and announce that the spider is gone I realize I've just created a monster. I will forever be known as the spider-getter. This is not a role I covet. Once again, I realize the lesson here is not to assume that my job is to fix it when someone else is disturbed. Too late.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
“NO NO NONONONONONONO,” over and over. She sounds as if she has had splinters shoved under her fingernails. She is walking on hot coals. She is tortured. I am frozen in place, horrified that her punishment will come to pass. I can’t let this happen.
I am strong and purposeful. My eyes scan the world for potential dangers waiting to ambush either of them. My armor is strong. Only behind it are there soft spots, vulnerabilities. Attempt to hurt K or C and I will loom larger than life. I will attack head-on and defend them with a ferocity seven-year-old girls shouldn’t have.
The cars are lined up for the morning dropoff. Minivans, SUVs, a few fathers in their sports cars, eager kindergarteners strapped in to their carseats. I drive past them and park in a shady spot.
I hate it when E is gone. She went to preschool last year and it was fine, but this year I am afraid. It’s silly. She’s perfectly safe. What could possibly happen to her? How many times did my mother ask herself that? Or did she not even think to ask it because she had no frame of reference to even fathom that dangerous people existed on our block? I can’t take any chances.
I drive home and construct puzzles, read board books, color with my youngest daughter. Living with the prickly ball makes my molars crunch against each other and my shoulders hover up around my earlobes. It makes me color inside the lines with a precision that is unreal. I watch the clock arms snail by until the moment I can scoop up the little one and fasten her into her car seat to pick up her sister.