Monday, May 23, 2011

Let Me Go

Spending all of after school in the cloud of production being made at break neck speed by my 1st grade salamander expert, I felt like a slimy amphibian who broke off her own tail to escape being eaten. Dinner loomed, and I had no plan. My coffee hour usually spent at the kitchen table with the boys while they snacked was traded for cutting, taping, spell checking and mental acrobatics to avoid homework meltdown. Muddling through dinner without caffeine, I only burned the buns, all the colors of the food groups were technically represented and they were fed. Once the food and green tea hit my stomach, I felt the flood of exhaustion dissipate. My hubby's jokes helped too.

While cleaning up, I heard Cake's "Let Me Go." As the song went on about the girl who pleaded to be let go so she can come back to him again, I realized how true these lyrics were with me, my son and salamanders.

The animal report has been on the to do list for about a month. My mantra when I first saw the amount of work and processed expectations was to follow his lead. The slightest suggestions with him, like "Let's add your name," has resulted in outrage. So, I have to balance suggestions, remind him about respect and back off. Easier said then done when time is ticking away.

He surprised me. With careful suggestion, I was able to get my homework reluctant young man to the library to narrow down his subject from any animal in the kingdom to salamanders. The teacher did have a required outline, and packet which was a godsend. It allowed us to find focus, and I would reward him if he put in time filling in the outline every couple of days. The diorama was another after school marathon. We enjoyed our efficient trip to Michaels. Like his mother, he is inspired by fresh supplies. He dove right into construction of a salamander habitat. He couldn't even wait to make it to the table and completed the whole thing in the hallway. I breathed instead of suggesting a different location for the growing mess of discarded moss, puddles of glue and dissected ferns. I quietly picked up, biting my tongue so I didn't interrupt his creativity. Soon he was seeking me out for consultation.

At the core of our homework struggles is a difference of brain function. I am talking about adding polka dots, while he is thinking of four other fun facts. He thinks and prepares things like my husband. Quick, concise, accurate and informative on the entire subject are the hallmarks of my husband's work, and now my 1st born son's. Their confidence is almost reckless. They fill out things in marker. I, on the other hand, go slow, think up color schemes and decorations, narrow my focus so I can be as detailed as possible on just a few things. I write things in pencil and then go over it with a marker. This is where I mentally exhausted myself today. I couldn't stop myself. He was walking over to the foam board armed with a Sharpie. For the love of brand new supplies, I had to intervene.
"Stop!" I said a bit too loudly.
"Are you mad at me?" he asked.
"No, I am not mad at you. I just need to know what the plan is before we start using marker." I explained. Angry at myself, I started to walk away so I could regain my mantra.
"Wait!" he shouts. "Don't go. I want you in here. But you go so slow."

I make the connection, and see how important it is for me to trust his way and instincts even if it is different than mine. Being the amazing boy he is, he suggests a compromise. He wrote his facts on construction paper and we taped them to the board. Foam board spared, and marker utilized.

Scraping the Asian noodle vegetable medley in the trash, I re-framed my exhaustion. The poster got done, the paper written, the diorama completed and my son did a great job. I helped him gather materials, answered his questions and focused on him not the project. I don't know the grade, but I already see the results. We both learned about salamanders, and both learned to trust each other.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wastin' Time

The school year is coming to a close. The days are getting longer and the weather nicer. My dinner menus start reflecting the hurried pace of evenings spent outside instead of in the kitchen. Quick standard meals pulled together in the 20 minutes bring back the feeling of the days of relay parenting and jam packed schedules. The menus come in handy for the after school bike rides, football in the yard, end of the year homework and baseball practices which guide my schedule now. I assure myself the taco night followed by spaghetti night isn't lazy for someone home all day. Digging through the frozen veggie blends, the waves to one of my all time favorite songs slows things down.

"Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay" begins easy waves making way for Otis Redding's smooth voice. The lonely transient anchoring to the dock to accept the loneliness of life and struggles with conformity. At least, that is what I hear. Listening to it on this day in May, I feel the evolution of the past nine months.

When I sent my kids to school in August, I felt such relief. I was depleted, and I wasn't any good to them. Sure, I provided meals, clean clothes, mostly clean house, and whatever else was left of my time. I lacked consistency, vision, a support system and connection. Inside, I felt empty and restless. I hadn't spent consistent time by myself in seven years. I hadn't spent time confronting myself in forever. Since I was 12, I have tried to plan every minute of every day. Taking my cues from the expectations of the world around me, I strove to conform. All I found was more expectations to throw at my restlessness and bury myself. Inside, I had become the neglected vagabond on the dock.

Restlessness has consistently led me to two outcomes in the past, babies or jobs. I have no regrets of positions I have held or my babies which I love. I felt pressure to always have plan or live my life as soon as possible because it is all going to end. Swirling in my head has been the pressure of all those restless sayings like Life is not a dress rehearsal. Feeling so empty made me realize, I have been traveling through life so many years without asking myself what I really want and allowing myself to hear the answers. I usually give into the restlessness, and choose something quickly from the big checklist of life. So, as the school bus took the boys away for the first time I vowed to take this year for myself. No babies, no jobs paying or volunteer. Just me confronting my empty self.

With two weeks left of school, I started tallying things up. I did not get a job and I did not get pregnant. I did not organize my garage or my files. I did not complete my wedding scrapbook or even begin the boys baby books. I did not lose 15-20 pounds. I did not crack the code of keeping my house consistently clean. I did not volunteer for the PTO. I did not attend every school event. Considering these are the expectations I have saddled myself with for years, it would be fair to say I didn't do much.

At times it felt like I was wastin' time. Now that I feel more alive, I know now there are things to be learned watching the tide roll away. I listened to music again. I started writing again. I checked Facebook, alot. I discovered the joy of balance. I learned how to talk to my sons so I could help them with their feelings instead of trying to solve their problems. I slowed down. I started driving my kids to school. I played a lot of Scrabble. I started learning about food. I celebrated how far my body has gotten me given how little I have paid attention to it. I folded laundry. I learned about respecting myself and others. I did the dishes every morning. I learned about compassion. I got groceries. I forgave myself for all the harsh words I say to myself. I threw away all my coupons and magazines. I started yoga again. I went to Target. I finally understood what it meant when they say to really love something is to let it go. I learned to breath. I laughed. I allowed myself to cry. I stopped pushing and started allowing. I discovered and accepted me.

The spaghetti is quickly pulled together while singing along with Otis. Somethings will never change. For instance, spaghetti being a quick stand by will always be part of my summer menu. This spaghetti has few thoughtful changes. Trying out new spaghetti sauce made in locally, makes it feel fresh. Sitting down to eat, hearing the lively banter; I already feel full.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fun with Katy Perry

Warning: The following post was inspired by Katy Perry's song "Peacock" and she isn't talking about the bird. If you don't like reading about sexy topics, check out one of my past posts.

Home alone. Vacuuming. Another great time to sing, however I refuse to be called the vacuum singer. This is usually the time I switch over to my ipod and let all the explicit lyrics and sexually charged songs play out. It keeps me moving and smiling.

Katy Perry's "Peacock" came on and as usual I was giggling by the fourth beat. Honestly, I laugh so hard when I hear this song it has taken me several times to listen to the entire song without being so distracted by my own laughter. Yes, I know it is childish. Now that I have heard it out, I am inspired by her boldness.

As I collect myself, I think about the power the song demonstrates on traditional gender roles in music. There are so many sexually charged songs where men are taunting, objectifying or harassing woman. I can't think of many songs where the roles are reversed. Female artists singing about sex and their sexuality is nothing new, and is a staple with artists like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. I feel Katy is challenging men and pushing their boundaries. Her lyrics are the equivalent of mardi gras beads. The cheerleader like chanting injects fun, while the lyrics state the request pretty clearly.

The only appropriate man I can ask about this song is my husband. So, does he feel she is being vulgar and demeaning to a man by offering up this song? No. He loves it. And I have a feeling many men do, and it isn't just the men in trench coats lurking in the bushes outside Katy and Russell Brand's home. Of course, he quickly brings up how he has a thought bubble with her kissing a girl and now another where she is asking to see his goods. She is conducting a thorough exploration into her sexuality while fulfilling all of a man's fantasies.

For me it is fun. I am not looking to objectify men. I have learned passion, intimacy, communication and trust are essential parts to a fun sex life. No one should be embarrassed, exposed, coerced or victimized. If the key ingredients are in place, then for me you have to add a slice of fun and silliness. My hubby and I have numerous private naughty jokes relating to the song. It is fun to laugh about sex and the human body. Intimacy is beautiful, and necessary to relationships. I treasure those moments. But we are human, and amazing can't happen every time. Sometimes sex if funny with fumbling, awkward human moments, inside jokes and giggling. So, I find laughter just as necessary.

It is naughty. It is fun. And I get to smile while I vacuum thinking about the funny naughty text I will send him when I am done.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Page 230

With my chicken burrito, a good book, errands completed; I sat crying in Qdoba. And it wasn't the extra spicy queso on the burrito. The innocent words of Scout Finch made me weep for the injustice of labels and judgement humans so easily affix to each other.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a required book when I was 15 years old. Rereading my copy with the highlighted passages, I apparently did pretty good on the unit. Before last week, I couldn't have told you much about the story. Since January the themes and characters of it seemed to be stalking me, first in conversations, then Facebook posts, and finally the local paper. I am superstitious and gathered three signs was the universe sending me a message. I read it last week. It was a beautiful experience.

First, hats off to all the English teachers who make this required reading. What I forgot of the story, I retained in theme. I remembered injustice and prejudice were the themes. But among all the chaos that is high school, I was stuck on the broader picture of the racial prejudice of the town. As an adult with more baggage and experience, I was open to the perseverance and bravery of the Finch family to stand up to their community while embracing them. Atticus pleaded with his children to maintain faith in their community without conceding their beliefs. Acceptance despite difference is the key ingredient to community. This thought is what led me to cry in my burrito as I read these words spoken by Scout:

"Naw, Jem, I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."

The first tear was for the times I have been labeled a certain type of folk, and the many tears after were for folks I have labeled and judged.  Judgement comes with a price which you can't total up until you are bankrupt. Like the Chinese Proverb says "After all, harming others means you first harm yourself."  Another visit with the Finches makes me realize, compassion takes practice. By challenging judgement with compassion I can tear down a few walls and soothe the wounds.

Navigating out of Qdoba as the lady crying, I was lighter without my armor.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spinning in Circles

My Chemical Romance was on, and I was in the zone. The manicotti was coming together and "Sing" sounded pretty good. Zig-zagging through my kids to get to the stove just about broke my good vibe until I looked at what they were doing. They were laughing and spinning.

As my sons get older it gets harder to hug and snuggle them. It was a fact of life I knew I would be faced with one day. When they were smaller, I would pick them up forgetting the noodles or oil heating on the stove to spin together. Together in one orbit we would giggle until somebody's tummy jumped. As they got bigger, it didn't last as long until there was no more spinning together. Now, on happy carefree days, they are spinning in their own orbits and laughing together. So, I join in.

Wishing all the moms a Mother's Day dizzy in love and hugs.

Thank you to my sons Alex and A.J. for filling my life with so much love. These songs are for you.

Little James by Oasis for my little Austin James

Hanging by the Moment by Lifehouse for Alex (This was the song I listened while I was pregnant with you, and so fearful I would lose you like the others.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It Takes Confidence to Be Smooth

Seasoning the chicken and re-purposing the pasta from the night before left me with doubt as to whether the boys and hubby were going to be satisfied with the evenings fare. While doubting myself, Jason DeRulo comes on with his 2009 hit "Whatcha Say" filling the kitchen with all its regret and swagger.

Cause when the roof cave in and the truth came out
I just didn't know what to do
But when I become a star we'll be living so large
I'll do anything for you
So baby watcha say!

My first thought is. Did that work? Asking for another chance by stating your lofty personal goals? Did she jump at that? This part catches my attention because I realize how many R&B and rap songs include their vision of their success in their songs. As someone who loses focus on her vision, I could learn from Jason DeRulo, Lupe Fiasco, Jay Z, etc. All these artists either describe their vision, express gratitude or inspire. These are all elements of the law of attraction. It helps to have a killer hook that gets embedded in the listeners head, too.

Soon doubt turns to setting the table while envisioning a happy family dinner. If they don't like the food, at least we can enjoy each other. After all, that really is my larger vision for my family.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Last night, I successfully made a favorite recipe with all natural and/or organic ingredients. This isn't hard to do with a one dish pasta meal, but it is a feat for me. Some of my comfort foods have failed to convert to organic or natural ingredients. (Actively looking for a new taco dip recipe because my childhood fave didn't compute to organic.) The Tomato Basil Pasta is so enjoyable and straight-forward to make. Simmering the tomato sauce and prepping the basil are calming. However, getting everything to the table and everyone assembled always gets me frazzled. It doesn't matter how breezy and enjoyable the cooking was a minute ago. Mid frazzle, my hubby tells me about his latest endeavor. Meditating. It is really difficult to discuss meditation when your mind is in a panicked state. Once we sat down, I was able to listen and appreciate the benefits. He really did seem serene.

I have dabbled in stillness. Yoga's savasana seems to be the only time I can do it without falling asleep or tapping my fingers. Working my entire body and meditating on stretches help tame the impatience which courses through my body. I can think of a bunch of reasons not to put in my yoga DVD. I rationally know I will feel mentally and physically better if I do it. But the laundry, groceries, school projects, Netflix movie...and the list goes on. Other times I have tried straight up mediating, I feel guilty. Knowing that taking a break is necessary for my brain, I try to fight the guilt. Now the meditation session has turned into a war in my brain about whether or not I have the time to do this. The war is not relaxing at all.

Apparently, being still has been on my kids minds, too. This is a poem my kids asked me to read twice the other night:
When I am Full of Silence by Jack Prelutsky
When I am full of silence,
and no one else is near,
the voice I keep inside of me
is all I want to hear.
I settle in my secret place,
contented and alone,
and think no other thoughts except
the thoughts that are my own.

When I am full of silence,
I do not care to play,
to run and jump and fuss about,
the way I do all day.
The pictures painted in my mind
are all I need to see
when I am full of silence...
when I am truly me.

Being mindful and still with your mind is a gift you can give yourself. So, maybe it is time to spend a little time with Shiva Rea and get my savasana on. Or give the old fashion meditation one more whirl to declutter my brain. Maybe right before dinner I can center myself, so those last few moments of preparation don't get me in a spin. Maybe The Eagles can help me out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finding the Fire

I am an Arcade Fire fan. It has taken seven years and an incredible concert last week to finally admit it. We headed into the "big city" to see the concert, so dinner was a quick affair before the sitter arrived. No time to sing. I left it to the professionals. Arcade Fire put on an amazing show. The sound was incredible and cohesive. There are 8 people in the band, all playing various instruments and all completely in the zone. In a word, for me, it was phenomenal.

I bought the tickets because my husband was the Arcade Fire fan. In the middle of "Power Out", I was able to put my journey with Arcade Fire into prospective. Before the birth of my second son in 2005, finding new music was my passion. If I caught wind of a new sound or band, I was in the Ann Arbor public library database requesting the CD to get a listen. While playing many car and block sessions with Alex, tunes like "Float On" by Modest Mouse mingled with his babble and laughter. It was my slice of heaven. My hubby was bombarded with my discoveries, and he usually enjoyed seeing what I found. Arcade Fire's Funeral was the last cd I got before Austin was born. I never got to listen to it. I gave it to my husband, and went back to my chores and the boys. Two boys, 18 months apart, was noisy enough. Forget getting to read and learn about new bands. There wasn't the time. So the music repeated, and eventually stalled until it was just whatever radio station or cd was in the player.

My hubby on the other hand, took the Funeral CD and listened to it from 2005 until 2009 between sessions in his lab to enjoying it on his ipod. He wasn't keeping it from me. In fact, it was the opposite. He kept pestering me to listen to it. He told me many times how awesome the sound was and how I would like the lyrical theme. I was pretending to listen to him explain how great their music was while I made lists in my head of groceries, cleaning, playdates and things to pack. Their next CD came out in 2007, Neon Bible, and he got it from the library himself in our new town in New Hampshire. By this time, we were in a new house and I was juggling the house, a part-time job and the dynamic duo. Again, he told me how great. Again, I said I don't have time or interest. In 2010 they released the Suburbs, and it went almost unnoticed in our house. I was now living in the Indianapolis suburbs, and growing restless. The kids were off to school all day, and there was too much quiet. Pandora quickly became my best friend, and I was starting to spend more time reading the band info window instead of relying to the emails stacking up in my inbox. Arcade Fire starting coming up as a suggestion in my Pandora stations. Apparently, I am supposed to like this band. Some friends mentioned the concert, and I thought it could be fun and Bill likes them. Why not?

I am so happy we did. I learned a lot about a great band, and a little about myself. "Modern Man" on Suburbs captures the restlessness I was sitting with all of these years avoiding Arcade Fire and the enjoyment I have been missing without new music. Having put parts of myself on the shelf for my family, I am happy to be finding music and myself again. I suspect my hubby knew I was missing music. Or he was just wanting me to find him a new band to listen to. Either way, I am grateful he brought me to Arcade Fire.