Month: January 2011

Kiss and Tell?

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Apparently, it seems that one of my children have made off with one of my writing notebooks in which I took notes for this morning’s writing. Now I have to rely on my memory sans the notes. Look, this has been brewing in me since Sunday morning! (Oh, that was only yesterday!) :o At the risk of forgetting any more than I’ve forgotten already, I better quickly get in the flow.

I watched Every Day, an independent film starring Liev Schreiber and Helen Hunt, on Saturday, with hubby dearest, and it raised some good discussion.  This film was beautifully done as it took the viewer into the personal aspects of this family’s life. Liev plays Ned, a husband of nineteen years, a father, worker, son-in-law, while Helen plays Jeanne, his wife, a daughter, mother, and worker.  Ned is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts: he seems less than satisfied with his gig; he’s still making sense of how to best protect his fifteen year old son, who opened up to the family as a young gay man six months prior; his marriage already appears strained; and to top it all off, his bitter father-in-law (played by Brian Dennehy), who is ill has just moved in to live with them. Oh happy day!  Amidst all the hoopla, Ned has an affair with a co-worker during a “creative” session for his job, in which they are under the directive to concoct  material that’s sensational enough  (ie.,  vulgar, raunchy, over-the-top bizarre, sex-laden, out-there) enough for film.  Juicy? Well… not really.

This film’s approach at showcasing a family’s every day struggle to just keep it together, as they confront real issues that are a far cry from trivial or mundane, was rather tempered.  None of the subplots took precedence over the other, nor were they themselves sensationalized. At the end of the day, this family loved each other.  It wasn’t implied. They were actively engaged in loving their children.  Despite the hardship of this particular stage of their lives – caring for aging family members, a teenager coming of self, parents feeling less than satisfied with their careers and sense of living out purpose – they’ve managed to raise two compassionate sons whom they love dearly.    In an instance when Jeannie’s dad (I didn’t get his screen name) launches fierce criticism at her youngest son for not playing the violin quite right, Jeannie interjects like a Mama lion to emphasize  that he’s only playing for enjoyment. Clearly hurt, the boy walks away with a look of puzzlement and irritation which probably only I interpreted  as “you know what, you’re a blankety-hole, but I’m going to let you slide because your blank is sick”; nonetheless, he demonstrates compassion toward his old grandfather, who insists on not dying alone. Ultimately, the grandfather does die, shortly after this same grandson comes in to hold his hand while he takes his last breath.

Ned and Jeannie truly need each other like they’ve never before, but Jeannie, admittedly, isn’t quite available. The responsibility of getting her father the care that he needs, including staying on top of the seventeen prescriptions that he’s required to take, rests squarely on her shoulders, and it is has clearly taken a toll on her life, let alone her sex life.   I don’t believe that Ned went looking for an affair, but it sure didn’t take much cajoling! After all, he was love-starved, and definitely unattended in the intimate department, given his wife’s recent role as caretaker of critical, bitter dad.  I feel for the two of them. Clearly, they need reassurance from each other. It’s obvious that they love and need each other…however, the subplots of their life have taken center stage.

My husband and I asked the question of whether Ned should let Jeannie in on his little affair, and believe it or not, our answers surprised even us!  Perhaps, this was Richard Levine’s goal in writing this film, which is based largely on his own life.  Every Day forced us to be nonjudgmental in areas where we thought we had answers.  We believe in truth and honesty, but agree that there is no right time to unveil this particular truth, given the new circumstance of the father-in-law’s death.  I can take that, but I do believe that they should not waste too much time to address the elephant in the room – that is, non-intimacy – before it takes them down this road again. After all, we know nothing about what similar fate might befall Ned, should he have to care for his own father. You know what they say about women as we come of age.  Ha!!

Georgy Porgy, as performed by the late, great Luther Vandross

The Body Beautiful

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Cleopatra (1962 novel)
Image via Wikipedia, redubbed "Miss Cleo"

Now I know why Mama used to say “take your time to grow up!”  I dare not title this post “On Aging” because that would sound so common. Everyone ages. Big deal. That, in and of itself, is not revolutionary. Plus it just sounds boring, scary, recycled, and oh so…old!

More recently, I’ve become amazed by the less-than seismic shifts taking place as I mature in this Life;  the very faint, but visible crow’s feet, the laugh lines even when I’m not friggin’ laughing, the now-thinner skin on the bridge of my nose, the occasional desire for some of my baggage to fly South though I myself am not traveling, the more-difficult-to-moisturize skin on the soles of my feet (though it can be argued that this is more due to the drier, harsher winters of the Midwest), and the appearance of more freckles in more places than I’d care to admit! Oh, and how did I miss the honorable mention of a few strays of gray in my crown?

I’m compelled to take notice and pay even closer attention as my body dabbles in this phase of maturation. Let me first say that for the most part, I do take care of myself, though I can benefit from more sleep.  I exercise regularly, dance like no one’s watching, have struck a somewhat healthy balance between self-control and indulgence, and have developed an amazing comfort level with my body image/aesthetic as I’ve gotten older.  I like what I see, y’all!

The one thing I know I can do is eat better. Sometimes, I get this creepy sensation that I am antioxidant-deprived, or under-nourished in the vitamin and supplement department. There are days when I get enough fruits and vegetables, and then there are those other days when I want nothing but carbs – the simple ones. Think simple, think stupid, right?  (The use of mnemonics to remember stuff as you get older, or perhaps as your plate gets fuller, doesn’t hurt, on occasion.)  These days, I can’t even get that straight.  Wasn’t it “keep it simple, stupid?,” I think, as I reach for that oatmeal raisin cookie. What.Ever! I thought I had this part of the game – eating right, that is – down pat, but apparently I have work to do there.  I’ll blame maturing hormones for sending my metabolism into a frenetic tailspin.  There, I said it! It’s not my fault.

While I hate fessing up to a lackluster performance in the food category, I will say that I have this amazing physical commitment to keeping my body strong, supple, and lean (in most places), so that it endures for as long as I need to use it.  I am adamant about engaging it on a regular basis because I want it to pay me back with resilience, performance, and a superb power to take me through physical and mental changes alike. Though my body continues to challenge me as of lately with its slower-than-usual recovery (perhaps fueling it with the right foods would help?), I love how it responds to a challenge, and how that, in turn, fuels me mentally. Ah, so is this what they call the “Body Beautiful”?

I now find myself quietly admiring the wisdom behind those bright eyes cradled by fine lines and slowly emerging crows feet; beholding the discernment that living and twitching my nose has brought me thus far (hence the finer skin on top my nose); and, honoring the brutal heat of the less-than-sunny moments that I’ve lived, courtesy of my freckled shoulders. Every semblance of this process of maturation, in and of itself, is part of my story. Unlike a tattoo or body piercing, each one is hard-earned, like the scars of giving birth via Caesarean section. I am humbled by how this body has carried me through and over, repeatedly, so I dare not dismiss its prowess, or abandon its care. It sustains me, and gives me joy when it gets all prettified and dolled up, or when it simply warms my soul. It needs me, so I will cradle it – all of it.  I will respect its gracefulness, poise, dogged strength and agility, as well as its ability to stand at attention with me, and in spite of me at all times.

I will respect it and honor it because now, more than ever, it’s inclined to do things that I couldn’t do ten years ago, let alone want to do! (Go body, go body, go!) So I’m cradling that bad boy, and caring for it as I would a new baby, as if its been reborn somehow – taking care of it, loving it, remarking at it, and appreciating it. I intend to keep it beautiful, vibrant, and yes, sexy!

Puke, Poop, & Power…though not necessarily in that order

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Tomato purée
Tomato Purée - Got fruit?

Today calls for a tall (tall as in really tall, not tall as in Starbucks-you-gotta-be-kidding-me-that’s-a-tall?) cup of coffee, reflection, and introspection.  I’ve been more tired than usual these days, so today I have no “real” major plans other than treating myself to some quiet, unfiltered time.

Of course, there’s the “must-haves”: dinner to fix, library time, homework and exercise time, but many of these are standard, at least in this household.  I’m learning to downscale the calendar, say “no” more often, and re-define rituals such as dinnertime and bath-time.  Dinner doesn’t have to entail a 5-course menu (never did, anyway). It can mean something left over (not the dreaded leftovers Mom, not again!) from last night’s dinner, something easy and baked topped by something semi-prepared, and accompanied by prepared or fresh fruit. Who said that it had to be vegetables, anyway? On days when all the veggies are gone, fruit will do just fine.  And when there’s no fruit left, tomato sauce and ketchup will have to count as one serving! I think the RDA is 5-8 combined fruit and vegetables anyway.  Some nights, there’s pizza with absolutely no vegetables or fruit. No soda though!  Good old H2O will do just fine! Sometimes, breakfast for dinner can also be a welcome change.  The one thing that I do insist on is that we have dinner together, always. That my friend, is non-negotiable.  And as for bath-time, it need not occur 2x/day, or last for too long. Hit the essentials, including the feet. Put on some smell-goods, and let’s rock!  As cold as it is outside, cooties won’t stand a chance!

(Long break in between.  Thing 3 had to upchuck in the kitchen. Thank God for ceramic tiled floors. Whew!)

So far, I have cleaned up puke and poop twice, each. Darn the return of the stupid rotavirus! In spite of the mess, I’ve danced (gotta get my exercise on), made a scarf (hobby-turned-side hustle), done three loads of laundry (another mindless, hamster-on-the-wheel activity), numerous other things (paperwork, opened & sorted mail, returned non-personal phone calls, tracked down money owed to me, found out why Thing 2 didn’t get a callback from the enviable Girl Scouts), and changed my FB picture to display my hubby’s beautiful brown smiling eyes. That was not a typo. His eyes were smiling. You know how you can see love in someone’s eyes, even when they’re not smiling? Their eyes sometimes tell “say it all”. Well, you know that’s my darlin’ darlin baby.  What can I say? He’s special.

Well  now, it’s time to begin my second shift – homework, healthy pre-dinner snack time, more laundry (but, of course you knew that), paperwork, a lil’ bit o’ budget planning (a work always in progress), dinner, bath-time, and calendar check for tomorrow.  Today’s post was definitely a bit more local than cerebral, but it’s like that, and that’s the way it is!

This evening definitely calls for Calgon!

The Best Part of Waking Up is…

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A photo of a cup of coffee.
A way too teenie-weenie cup of coffee

As I descend the staircase before making my morning cup of coffee, I can tell that it isn’t as cold outside this morning, by the absence of frost along the bottom of my front door. This is a good start for me.  I detest the winter, and all of the inconveniences of it – frigid temperatures, excessive clothing, black ice, slush, dirty piles of snow along the edges of the driveway and garage corners, and crunchy, salted sidewalks.  “I do not like it here, or there. I do not like winter, damn Sam-I-am!” While I do appreciate the seasonal nature of life, winter is clearly something I can do without.  Weren’t it for regular exercise, I’d go bananas due to the doldrums of winter.  To this day, I swear by the normalizing ability of exercise, particularly during the winter. It is my Zoloft, my Prozac – another random and seemingly mundane thing about me that I can’t live without – totally useful and critical for my survival.

The house is still quiet, and most of it remains unlit.  Even the sun lies asleep in its place, awaiting the right time to rise and brighten this corner of the Earth.  Thankful for this peaceful, uninterrupted part of the day, I contemplate the upcoming events of the day, and whether my youngest is well enough to resume her normal activities which would in turn allow me to resume mine! :-) I think of the appointments that require rescheduling and those to which I have firm commitments and cannot worm my way out of.

I usually have my morning cup of coffee with my “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby”, and when I can’t do that, I just don’t seem to rush to the coffeepot as quickly.  Morning coffee with him has become a favorite pastime.  Set against the tranquility of the morning; an unhurried household;  a space and time devoid of running feet, and strikingly absent  of petulant screams and demands, or whimpers from bumps and bruises incurred from running in the house – yet again – I am forced to consider him and him only.

He calls me his ‘fox’.

“You mean like Foxxy Brown Fox?”, I ask.

“No”, he says, “I mean like you’re a fox.  Better than beautiful. Beautiful and more. You’re all that and then some!”  (See Merriam Webster‘s definition Number 5. :0) )

Well damn boy, keep the compliments coming! They’re good for my ego.  Who doesn’t wanna hear that?

I call him my baby, my man, da’ bomb!  Always handling his business, so seemingly effortlessly and without ceasing.  His timeliness and attention to me as a husband and to our children as a dad, pulls me in over and over again.  If there are misses, they’re small.  In the bigger scheme of things, he takes care of the most important things, the ones that if left undone, life would be remarkably different around here.  He acknowledges that I regulate the heartbeat of this household, the mood and temperament of its life, its pulse, and as such, his goal is to keep me happy, and to check in – at coffee time and other times –  when I’m not. He does that and then some!

He is…my friend, my bestie ever!

He is…smart, beautiful, gracious, and humble.

Among other things, he is discerning, trustworthy, and always reliable.  He loves me carefully and recklessly, and seeks to please me regularly and often.  We drink our coffee together to start our day, to connect with each other, to check in, to pray.  Coffee time becomes more than a ritual now.  It becomes a memory, a favorite pastime, an important moment in our day.  No wonder the second cup isn’t as good as the first!

“The best part of waking up” is…drinking coffee with my “he is”, and waking up never felt so good. What’s in your coffee?

Here Comes the Sun!

Yes…Joy, and Then Some!

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"Moms Rock!" (Amelia Island Sand Art)

It’s Day 4 of my youngest child being sick with what looks like a wicked virus, or stomach infection.  Hopefully, she turns the corner today because she’s quickly becoming a poster child for Huggies Pull-ups.  She’s become very clingy, so I’m on borrowed time, even as I type.  The last few nights have been punctuated by frequent changes of diapers and full clothing.  I’m awaiting the next explosion, so I’m going to try to get this in before the thoughts escape me. :-)

I’ve been mulling over my last post, titled  “It’s ALL PurposeFULL“.  In that article, I explored the questions that we often have regarding the mysterious nature of the life-changing events in our lives, including “Why?”, “Why me?”, and “Why Now?” My goal then was to provide assurance that we ultimately become better and fuller selves as a result of the more difficult, inexplicable events that occur in our lives.  This isn’t to say that we should have to experience loss, tragedy, or hardship to self-actualize, but rather that, the occurrence of these situations in our lives wisen us and enhance our potential to live and love more authentically.

Perhaps I took you to the conclusion a bit too quickly, without letting you in on the middle of the “journey”.  While I will never share with you sordid or personal details, or provide you with a blow-by-blow account of the events in my life that shape those truths (certainly not in a blog forum), I can tell you that during those moments in which I questioned the mystery of life, and God himself, I often felt alone, misunderstood, isolated.  My faith and hope seemed to be shaken, lacking, questionable.  To this day, I will maintain that it was not the actual death of a loved one that shook me the most. Unlike many, when my grandmother (my first true mother) passed away, I had an amazing sense of peace and understanding. As she neared the end of her life, she agonized over increasing physical pain and articulated on numerous occasions the gratitude that she had for a life well-lived.  My grandmother believed wholeheartedly that she would be in a better place.  Her death was only physical to me. I maintain a relationship with her that most would not understand. I miss her dearly at times, but most times, I feel that she is with me.

I have had other losses that bore a sharper sting than I could have ever imagined. Those jarred me to the core, leaving me to question where I went wrong, and whether this was some sort of karma.  What was life trying to teach me? I grew jealous and bitter as I witnessed others around me, realizing the very dreams that I thought were mine just for the asking. At that time, I could not see a plausible explanation for any of it. It seemed that my dreams were always on hold, always waiting in the wings, but for some reason or the other, it wasn’t quite time for them to materialize.

Fast forward to the “now”. I wouldn’t change it for the world! My past experiences, good and bad, have launched me right where I am now.  In this very moment, I can be a source of encouragement for those that have gone through similar situations.  More importantly, my soul continues to heal as I share the stories with others, especially wives, mothers, and daughters.  I come alive as I reveal the anguish of that difficult moment, and share the joy in knowing what I believe that moment was designed to teach me.

By the way, I’ve been hurled on once (good thing I wasn’t making a hat at the time), and performed two additional diaper changes since I started! It’s going to be a long, but beautiful day! It can only get better. :-)

Girls Clapping to Miss Mary Mack

It’s All PurposeFULL!

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Ever asked “why”, “why me, or “why now”? Of course you have, as has anyone who is truly living.  We go through things in life that leave us dumbfounded, speechless, at a loss. We find ourselves having more questions than answers. No amount of schooling or living seems to have prepared us for the moment that seems so ambiguous, so vague, so meaningless, so incongruous with what we’ve witnessed, experienced, or ever anticipated thus far. We struggle to find answers and make sense of the moment, thinking that perhaps after a good night of sleep, it will all be clear. Joy comes in the morning, right? Well yes, but that’s just part of it.

I’m not here to convince you that everything will make sense, or that somehow the lightbulb will instantly light up amidst your tragedy, loss, suffering, or other life event not necessarily defined by loss, but perhaps by rejection of some sort. However, I do believe wholeheartedly that, in the final analysis, it all serves a purpose, whether by design or default. The stars do line up, and the epiphanies and discoveries do follow…in time.  Eventually.

The purpose seems to be that of self-actualization. Ultimately, amidst our grieving and coping, our tearful cries and quiet whispers, our rage and tranquility, and our futility and fortitude, we find a stronger voice. We learn something about ourselves, that until now was undefinable, undiscovered, and certainly underdeveloped. We discover gifts within us, tap into amazing coping abilities, learn humility – how can we not be humbled by the order and timing of things – assume unparalleled strength, and dispel myths that we once believed to be true.

Just when we think that we can take no more, we find ourselves morphing from fragile to uncompromising. We transcend beyond our situation and become faces of hope, as we share our stories of triumph. We conquer our situations as we are forced to go within. We transcend our circumstances by finding consolation and comfort in the knowledge that many have come before us that have endured far worse, and managed to make it through. We find our resilience as the carpets of comfort are pulled from beneath us. As we reach out and across, we learn that we don’t have to go it alone, and we learn to finally understand the meaning of community, and its necessity. In the process, we redefine our networks.  Lines of friendship and family become blurred in the process, but we find amazing clarity in the truth that we must connect…with each other, and are not designed to suffer in silence, or rely on our own wit to get us through the situation.

In the end, we learn to love more authentically. Our need to open up trumps our desire to retreat into our shells during our most difficult moments. Our dissatisfaction, disappointment, displeasure, disengagement, disenchantment with half-fulfilled hopes, and dislocated hurt, anger, and pain brings us to our knees, while we are forced to acknowledge that we are in need of a personal touch, an affirming voice, and an encouraging heart. This is when we know we are growing, becoming our truer selves. We are actualizing, becoming connected. Yes!

As we become unglued from our own seats of seeming security, from the places which we sometimes occupied for too long in our roles…as parent, wife, husband, or lover, son or daughter, and even employee, we find freedom in the expression of our most sincere feelings, joy in the liberation from not having to do it all, and light in the exposure of all that once remained suppressed. We emerge victoriously and assuredly, albeit through some very painful processes and lessons.  This is especially true if we live with the acknowledgment that life is trying to teach us something. In turn, we become whole, grounded, humble, resilient, uncompromising (where it counts), resourceful, and confident. We become ourselves, as we were designed to be!

Speak up, Already!

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Why does it always take some mad act to happen for us to then have courage – to speak up or do something?

For instance, this recent example of Jared Lee Loughner, who shot to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and killed and injured several others outside a Safeway shopping  center in Tucson, Arizona.  For the love of God, when will these crazy dudes (sorry gentlemen, so far, it has been mostly male characters) like Loughner be detected, apprehended, and treated (if necessary) for their lunatic ravings, and wicked motivations before they carry out their premeditated plans to destroy life, and snuff out democracy as we know it?

Unlike those looking to blame the ‘political climate’ in America for what this man did, I blame the systems that allow for the kind of behaviors, leading up to a tragedy (usually a public one), to go largely unchecked. I blame the institutional -isms, and the pervasive bystander mentality among those, who in turn protect sinister characters hellbent on having things their way, and no other way, especially when it means the progression of society as a whole. Sadly enough, I am of the belief that had Loughner been of a darker hue – Middle Eastern, Jewish, African-American, African, a woman, even, displaying the same behaviors – he would have been Big Brother’d to the Nth degree, COINTELPRO style.  Undetected individuals like him always end up committing beyond-violent acts, then they cop-out on an insanity plea or turn the gun on themselves. Real freedom fighters, right? So much for self-preservation.

To me, it’s like the anti-abortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics. They believe they have a right to beat a woman down, as she exits the clinic, perhaps making the most regretful and significant decision of her life, up to that moment, because they think that every life conceived has a right to life, regardless of the circumstance. In a sick, twisted way, they really believe that promoting their pro-life agenda is justified, even if it means taking a life.

These are the individuals whose names need to appear on a “watch list”, along with their audiences – those bystander “cheerleaders”, the biggest silent partners in all of this – who give quiet permission to an these antics and beliefs of superiority and entitlement. For the mother who needs twenty extra minutes of sleep, silence is golden. In circumstances like these, however, silence is downright deadly!

While I’d love to elevate the level of discourse to one of civility, I am more than aghast about this latest score of premeditated violence, and I am coming up short in the euphemism department. While many are focusing on the mental health component of it, I see a lot more wrong with it, and I simply don’t have a lot of lofty language to cradle this one. No pun intended. Seriously.

I know that we must move beyond examining the causes of such a heinous act, and move to a discussion of “what now?”  We can analyze and psycho-analyze this all day, but this approach would be hardly preventive.  Therefore, I’m begging the question of how we protect society at large, from those individuals that feel that they should go to any lengths to demonstrate their intolerance for what they simply won’t accept; same-sex marriages or unions, political differences, progression of women in public ranks, or the countless efforts of those seeking to enhance the dialogue across gender, racial, and political lines.

For one, we can start on an individual level. Inarguably, everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but it doesn’t mean that we have to listen to nonsense.  We are also free to not be part of that conversation.  We can denounce these -isms head-on when we hear and see them. We can teach our children love and compassion. We can choose to not follow the crowd, or ride the tidal waves of intolerance or hate. I insist that we become more watchful and discerning, and further disassociate ourselves from behaviors and groups that willfully exclude, or passively permit the exclusion of a few, on the basis of race, politics, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Furthermore, we can trust our intuition when we feel uneasy, or recognize behaviors and language, that is off-putting, senseless, or rooted in a dogged determination to exact more evil than good. We can and should make some noise!  Run. Tell. That!