Remember how you got shipped off to your grandparents when you were a kid? Maybe you were kind of excited but also not so sure about how fun it could really be. Because the toys were different, the food was different and the rules were very different. And maybe home with Mom and Dad wasn’t so bad after all. But, without any say in the matter, you went and trusted that these people had to be OK because they are kind of your parents, too. Then, as the days passed, and you bumped along in their musty sedan and stopped at their favorite donut shop and stared up at those crinkly, familiar faces, you found a new kind of love and routine and comfort. They became your home, too.
The time I spent with my grandparents was such a gift and, as much as I hated the mystery jello salad and ran into my mother’s arms, grateful to go home, after the weeks had passed — they wove themselves into my heart and my history.
My grandparents were parents at a different depth and breadth. They were my parents to the next degree. They stood one step above the pedestal my parents existed on and their opinion had a certain weight because, well, they were the boss of my parents. And THAT was cool.
Since I’ve gone back to work, my father has graciously offered to come down for a week at a time when I’ve needed help with childcare. We call that time “Camp Gramp” and I hand over the keys to my car, my pool pass, my two children and all of my trust. And off they go.
I know how lucky they are for grandparent time. Grandparents don’t always live right nearby. And sometimes they leave us far, far too early.
(I can’t help but think about all I need to catch my mother up on. I suspect she knows in some way but she is still missing so much. And it breaks my heart.)
So back to Camp Gramp. This Spring Break, they took Tampa by storm. They revisited the SS American Victory, spent an entire day at The Florida Aquarium, splashed their afternoons away at the pool, leapt waves the beach, spotted animals at the zoo, got haircuts, watched Harry Potter movies over and over and, well, snuggled a whole lot.
I keep thinking (hoping) that they are relearning the world a little differently from the way I have taught them during those short periods of time. And maybe they are learning to love my dad the way I do. I want my boys to KNOW him and get him. And build their own kind of relationship that is different to theirs and mine. I want theirs to be the kind that gets Skittles at the gas station but also knows how the sound my father’s voice can get if one of them pitches a fit at the zoo.
It makes me wish all of my family were closer. The other grandparents and all the various aunts and uncles they have scattered here and there. But that’s OK. Because when they DO see them, those relationships solidify a little more with every visit and those routines develop in a matter of days because kids LOVE routines and predictability and the constant of those people that are the boss of their parents and so so familiar.
Do you ever wonder how you can keep things from going wrong? Just stop everything and hold on and push and shove the bad away? When you love something so much, you have so damn much to lose.
A couple weekends ago, we decided to go to the beach. In January. Of course, that’s not a big deal in Florida. It’s 75 and sunny this time of year as opposed to 95 and scorching. So we brought a lunch and I sprawled out on the blanket while my husband and kids went looking for shells.
I remember lying there and thinking — desperately acknowledging, really — that THIS IS UTTER PERFECTION. The water. The sun. The day. And watching them.
I am so grateful, it almost hurts.
When bad things happen around you to people you love, you try very hard to rationalize it.
A lot of bad things have happened to people I love recently. Cancer, death, lost jobs, broken relationships, bad stuff.
Bad stuff just keeps happening to good people. For no reason. For no purpose.
But there I lay under the sun that day, I lay there in total perfection with sun and clear water and my entire family and love and health and laughter and ease.
I am so grateful.
In fact gratitude has become my superstition, my religion, my lucky rabbit’s foot and my four leaf clover.
I keep thinking that if I say thank you silently (or, ahem, not so silently… like on a blog or something), the powers that determine good and bad will think… “OH. Well. She knows what she has. She is thankful for it. She isn’t taking it for granted. We’ll let the bad stuff slide. For now.”
Ha. As if that’s really how it works.
But when bad stuff happens to good people and there is no rhyme or reason… well, whispering my desperate thanks aloud over and over and over again makes just about as much sense.
So I am clutching my own kind of rosary beads, linked together with every single thing I love, and worrying over it and and treasuring it and giving it such careful focus…
Thank you for this day. Thank you for my boys. Thank for my life and our health and my thriving boys and that I can afford to put gas in my car and that I love the person on the couch next to me and that the sun is out and all is fine, fine, fine.
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder
Every morning, on my way to work, I see this couple. It’s always around the same time, about 7:50am or so. They are an older couple, but not old. I assume they are retired. And they go for a walk together every single morning. But what caught my eye about these two was their earphones. They each wear their own pair. I imagine each set to their own preferred music station or talk show. They aren’t speaking. They are just walking together, with their head phones on, at the same time, everyday, while the rest of us whiz by with children and cups of coffee and phones to our ears and a million things to do on our agendas.
(Here is a picture I took of them with my phone the other day. It’s not great, but you get the idea…)
So what is it about this couple?
Well. They seem to me like some very obvious, probably overly romantic, analogy on marriage.
I think young couples, newly married or recently moved in, have these notions about how they should be. How they have to share every little thing. And when your loved one doesn’t like that song as much as you did, when your partner doesn’t find that TV show, that style of home, that idea of a weekend away as fantastic as you do… you question.
Are we meant to be after all? How can we be this different?
I am ten years into my marriage right now. And this couple seems to stand for everything I understand about relationships. And here’s where the far too obvious analogy comes in.
Forgive me if I seem kind of Yoda about this. Just take it for what it’s worth.
As long as you are both still walking down the same road together… as long as you both WANT to be walking down the same road together… as long as you make sure to keep walking down the same road together, every single day… as long as you keep going in that same direction, together, with positive momentum, you can each listen to any old damn radio station you want.
Same path, but room to BE.
Because same path doesn’t mean same everything else.
However same path means: hey that’s COOL she likes to listen to that other radio show. Respect for the other radio show even if you would never, ever listen to it. And if one chooses to take a different direction than you would prefer, let it go, stay with them, don’t keep score, at least you are still on that same path. And if he isn’t all that chatty while you’re on the path, chill out, he doesn’t feel like talking, but he’s still choosing to BE on that same path with you every single fracking morning.
Same path, different people.
Because you don’t want to lose who you are. You don’t want them to lose who they are. But you have to make it a priority to move forward together.
I told you this was practically cartoon frying pan over the head obvious.
But I would add one more thing about this whole same path, different radio station analogy. At the end of the day, take off your headphones, and check in with each other. Ask about the other person’s radio show. Find out if their favorite song came on. Listen. Really really try to care about the song, even if you kind of don’t. Focus on the give, not the take.
So. Ready to do this?
Because, you know: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
And I’ve been caught off guard by how deeply her death has moved me.
Maybe it’s because she was a mother. And after being diagnosed with breast cancer so many years ago, she had to face the knowledge that she could be leaving her children motherless. Which, of course, is every mother’s nightmare. She must have lain awake nights wondering if anyone would know her children the same way, understand them, help them, and love them quite as much.
Maybe it’s because my heart is breaking for her children. I don’t care how “prepared” they were for this, they are without their mother now, days before the holidays. They will be affected by her death forever. They will be rocked to their core. Their loss is immeasurable.
But I also think it is because the world lost a really good one. A woman who genuinely seemed to affect those around her in a positive, constructive, selfless way. She was scary smart and politically savvy. She stood as an example, spoke from her heart and, through all of her trials, remained strong, honest and resilient.
She should not have been so graceful. Not when she lost her son. Not when the cancer returned. Not when her husband left her side.
Still. She would regroup and stand back up again.
Over her 61 years, she took what was handed to her and she DID something. Her voice was important. Her example changed lives. Her work made a difference. Her mind reworked policy but her heart made people listen and put it all into motion.
She was a mother who affected real change in this country.
She was the kind of woman I could only hope to be.
My heart is heavy this evening. Peace, healing and love to those mourning her life tonight and in the years ahead.
My mother was a stubborn woman. When she wanted something and she felt strongly about it, she gleefully dug right in. Logic often played a part in her decision making. But sometimes it did not. Sometimes she dug in simply to boldly stamp herself on a debatable issue – and she often did it in spite of herself. You think this idea is silly? Well, guess what. I’m doing it no matter what you think. Sometimes this tendency of hers made us crazy. But most times, it could be downright endearing – in a maddening sort of way.
And that’s what happened with my mother’s Disney car antenna decorative Mickey balls.
Let me back up a bit here.
When my mom passed, I got her car. And I don’t care what you think about such a thing, I felt really weird about it. Yes, I know we needed a new car desperately. And yes, her car had very few miles on it. And yes, I know, she would have wanted this but still. It felt plain weird.
Like throwing away her toothbrush, like tossing her favorite breakfast drinks, like rummaging through her personal things in the days following her death – taking her car seemed like one more thing I was taking away from her previously organized life. It was another way to officially proclaim her time using these things was over.
This car that she loved so much. This car, a practical shade of red so that she could spot it easily in the parking lot, would never be driven by her in that kind of jerky way that I tried not to hassle her about. This car of hers, that I’m now driving through the car line at school pick up, that I am now playing my music in, that now has two car-seats strapped into the back – this car, I don’t care what that title says now, it is still hers.
Before we drove her car to Florida a couple weeks following her memorial service, I grabbed a bag of hers that I knew came with this car’s ownership. I could not leave with out it. It was a bag of seasonally appropriate Disney car antenna decorative Mickey balls.
Yes, there is obviously a story about those decorative Mickey balls. And here it goes.
A few years ago, my mother was in Downtown Disney with all of us and bought one lone Christmas themed Mickey ball. When she got home to her car, she plonked it right on her antenna. And my Dad hated it. He was NOT a fan. Not that it was his car, but he was happy to announce he thought that seasonal Mickey ball was silly nevertheless.
Well. That simply fueled her fire. During her next visit down to Florida, my mother bought an entire kit of decorative Mickey balls for her antenna. She proudly owned Christmas, Valentine’s day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Except that she lost Halloween in a car wash. My father was over-joyed, until she stomped right out and plonked Thanksgiving onto her antenna. So there. It became a running joke between both of them. He shook his head at her while she religiously changed those damn Mickey balls as the seasons went by. Plus, much like her own mother (who used to tie gaudy, plastic flowers to her antenna), it was yet one more practical identification aid used while searching for her car in a parking lot. Oh yes, the red car with the Santa Mickey decorative antenna ball, that’s my mother’s car. My father would laugh and grumble under his breath and she would tromp ahead in the parking lot. She had dug in and that was that.
So today we put up our fall decorations. I hauled out the ghost lights and plug-in pumpkins and the favorite “trick or treat, smell my feet” sign that now hangs in our family room. The seasons are changing (in spite of the heat in Florida) and it was time to decorate appropriately. And once everything was out of its boxes and set up just so, I went into my room and found the bag of those dreaded Mickey Mouse balls. I rummaged around, knew I wouldn’t find the pumpkin, but pulled out the pilgrim Mickey ball instead. Then, I marched out to the garage, pulled off the 4th of July Mickey she had put on there months ago, and plonked that pilgrim right on.
Sure, I live in Florida and kind of cringe at that seasonal Mickey antenna ball. I mean I heart Disney for sure, but I try to be cool about it. Real Floridians wouldn’t sport Disney all over their car, right? But this isn’t a Floridian’s car. This is my mother’s car. And it is my very small, very silly but fully meaningful tribute to her.
Mom, I know you love that it’s on there. Happy Halloween. We miss you with the changing of every season.
I’ve been a little burnt out on politics recently. And why is that? Hate and anger have become a normal, tolerable part of political and partisan discourse. Slinging words such as “Nazi” are considered acceptable and perfectly justified. Folks crow about misusing the racist card, but I’ve never seen so many examples of racism and fear in my country before. Not to say my party is innocent of lobbing hateful verbiage at the other side. Keith Olbermann has been making me cringe recently, and I usually love me some Keith.
We are locked down in division, partisan hate and discourse are at an all time high and there seems very little hope of any forward momentum between parties.
And you know what? It exhausts me to even post about this. If you want to know more about my thoughts on our partisan woes, read them here. Because I’m not up to rehashing it any more than I already have right now. It plain old bums me out.
But it’s not as if I can just turn away from politics and standing up for what I believe in either.
Last weekend, Joanne Bamberger (aka Pundit Mom) lead a panel on politics and blogging at the Type A Mom Conference. Not surprisingly, the topic immediately turned to the negativity in current politics. People on both sides are angry and nothing is being achieved with the one upping, the name calling, the seething hate, the taunts that “you lie!”
Folks, nothing is getting done this way. Nothing. Not when there is so much disrespect for one another, not when you or I must prepare for personal assault if we dare offer up any slice of our political persuasions. Not if the space for discourse isn’t safe, isn’t open, isn’t respectful or isn’t mature enough to tolerate differences.
So while we all left our discussion with visions of “safe, bipartisan political spaces” dancing in our heads, the fabulous Down To Earth Mama let me know about Jane Devin’s effort coming up next week. What she proposes is this.
One day with no hate.
On October 6th, Jane suggests that we allow ourselves one day where we drop our pretenses, our built up prejudices, our grudges, our self-righteous “I’m better than you” crap. One day where we quiet down, breathe, look over to the other side and LISTEN. Maybe we can use it as an exercise to find common ground with those we feel so polarized from. Maybe we try the whole “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” thing. Maybe we can find some peace somewhere in the middle of this whole mess.
Because if we can’t accomplish ONE day of no hate, we’re in big trouble.
But if we can accomplish one day, maybe that means we can try out a few days without hate. Or a week. Or longer.
So let’s try one day. What do you say?
The twitter hashtag is #1Day0Hate . And go over to Down to Earth Mama for the code for the button I have pasted above and in my sidebar.
Back from something quite mind-blowing. And now I have the task of summing it all up into words, words, words… words which brought me there in the first place. Words which I’ve learned will wield quite a bit of power if used well. Words which better do every woman there and the entire Type A Mom experience some attempted variety of justice. No pressure. So here I go.
Connecting with people online comes with the blogging territory. If you didn’t already know that, consider yourself informed. When you blog, you interact, you contribute, you gain readers, make friends, read others, become immersed in peoples lives and then connect on many social media levels again and again and again, everyday. What I mean is: I have a lot of online friends. I don’t care what your “ew, that’s kind of creepy online stalker-ish” thoughts are on such friendships – I have them and I’m proud of them.
So. This weekend, I had the opporitunity to travel deep into the hills of North Carolina and seek out some of these very women to meet in “real” life. Women who, over the course of four days, became more than just words. They became people – with great accents and loveable mannerisms and diverse backgrounds and fabulous shoes and hysterical stories and gorgeous children and genuine hearts. They live, they breathe, they are more than just a 140 character tweet. Yes, all of my apparent imaginary friends had come to life. In Asheville.
Clearly, I was busting with so much squee, glee and enough “OMG” that I saw stars and felt a teeny bit faint. I was, for all intensive purposes, frigging besiiiides myself I tell you.
So let me get down to these amazing people.
First up, I meet Corina at Down to Earth Mama and Ilina at Dirt and Noise. You wouldn’t have thunk it was for the first time. But those are my girls. They were from the minute I met them last Thursday. Smart, funny, sassy, thoughtful, invested… and did I mention smart? So smart.
(Maybe, somehow you don’t know who a few of these women are. But they are kind of a big deal. And not just to me. So go find them, bookmark them and get to know them too. For real. You won’t be sorry.)
That same night, Kelby showed me the Type A Mom magazine where she had dedicated that issue to “two astounding mothers of Type A Mom editors who passed this year”. My mother was one of the two she mentioned. So yes. In that bar that night there were tears too. Thank you Kelby.
Oh wait! There were panels! I mean, they were kind of the point to all of this right? And those panels practically deserve their own post. So much was hashed out. So much was discussed. For instance, we tackled some of the following questions:
How can women involve themselves in politics of any kind as a blogger? What effect can we actually have? What are our expectations for working with companies and PR representatives? How do we advocate for ourselves? What level of professionalism is expected? How do we blog with authenticity? How to we keep it real and keep on writing? How much do we share? What the hell is SEO and how do we get a clue about it? Does blogging mean any kind of long term pay off or future as a writer? Did you know blogger karma always, ALWAYS pays off? Can’t we be ok with being paid in cupcakes and cough syrup or should we demand actual payment for our writing and reviews? Should we be called Mommy Bloggers? Does it matter what we’re labeled?
The panels and the thoughtful discussions they inspired were enough in of themselves. And I learned a great deal. But those panels (as fabulous as they were) weren’t what left the greatest impression on me.
It was community. It was realizing that while I blog at home in my own stay at home solitude, there are women out there who have my back and support me. It was understanding that every blogger – no matter how well known – puts her pants on one leg at a time. We all have insecurities and frustrations with blogging, we all have hopes for our futures with our writing, we all -to the core- appreciate those that read us, we all find our momentum from the most impressive element of this conference: community.
To all of the women there sharing hugs and affirming each other with conversation, thank you for gracefully folding me into this astounding community of ours.
Oh and by the way, I still don’t think I did this whole weekend any justice. To get a better sense, go here and read more. I will be adding posts as I find them so feel free to share some with me in your comments:
In the process and weeks following my own loss, September 11th has arrived again for the 8th time. Stories and remembrances fill my heart and refresh the feelings, the comprehension, the entire concept of loss – and loss which occurred more than 3,000 times over one morning in September. Loss that we were not prepared for. Loss when we thought everything was ok. Loss when we assumed we were safe.
This past February, I had the opportunity to visit Ground Zero and walk through St. Paul’s Chapel located across from Ground Zero where so many firefighters, EMT workers and first responders went to re-coop during the days following this event.
At this time, it is the only real place in New York City one can visit to pay tribute to the lives lost on 9/11. And I was honored to be there.
What were my feelings?
I felt an enormous void. It was all much too quiet. The vast space where the towers stood was empty. And all of those voices who were buried in each collapse were silent. They were gone. Everything was simply gone. Certainly, there was an energy of enormity, the air felt still and thick with 3,000 lost, the ghosts of that day were real, they were there. But for so much lost so fast, it felt as if there was nothing left as collateral. Nothing there equitable to all that was taken. This flat, empty construction site was all there was. An enormous void.
I also felt a great deal of respect and appreciation for those who organized themselves and handed their lives over to Ground Zero and the horrors it revealed. I was astounded by the stories. So much more happened during those days between individuals deep in the heart of this tragedy than most of us even realize. This post couldn’t possibly do justice to how much was simply given in those days following 9/11. Or ultimately convey just how much the 343 first responders lost in this tragedy, the men and women who ran in while everyone else ran out, were willing to give up for their own community and country. They were there to save lives and then bring the dead back to their families. Their intentions and efforts should always be honored and carried through.
To truly understand the impact St. Paul’s and the surrounding churches, people and communities had on the recovery efforts of 9/11, please watch this video. And maybe, instead of reading my hiccuping attempts at stringing words together, you’ll actually “get it”. And “get” WHY our President is correct to name this day as a day of service.
These men and women are why we should be inspired. We should carry their strength and commitment with us in our own communities. Stop, do something, give back, carry on their legacy. It is the one flicker of hope that we can resurrect on this day, September 11th, the day our worlds were rocked by a loss we continue to steady ourselves from eight years later.
In the final week of Women’s History Month, I have decided to tackle a topic that has been on my mind for awhile. It is not so much a topic actually but rather an item of clothing. A few years back, my father returned from his time in Afghanistan with a gift. He brought his westernized, feminist, know it all daughter something extraordinary and like nothing I owned. He brought me a burqa. I want to share this burqa with you and try to respectfully encourage some awareness about the experience of wearing this article of clothing in a country very different from our own.
Truth be told, this is my second burqa. When I was a child, my father went to Afghanistan and brought me back a smaller burqa, one that actually fit on one of my Barbie’s perfectly. This burqa seemed part of another world, a piece of clothing I didn’t exactly understand but my Barbie wore from time to time while she went about her very important Barbie business.
While I was pregnant with my second child, my father brought me my second burqa. This time is was large enough for me to wear. I couldn‘t thank him enough, I was grateful to finally own one myself.
Why would that be?
First let me explain the burqa – or try to. The burka is worn by women in Afghanistan. Traditionally, it has been expected that women cover themselves entirely in a burqa whenever in public. It is said to be a matter of honor and one both men and women have upheld respectfully. And while this tradition has given way to western influences and fashion trends in recent years – perhaps with simple head coverings rather than a full length burqa – the Taliban do enforce the burka. In fact, in the eyes of the Taliban, it has meant a woman’s death if she doesn’t wear one in public. Regardless, enforced or not, women in provinces all over Afghanistan wear these coverings. (Please note that women cover themselves in many Islamic countries also, each garment having different names and social expectations.)
Are you a mother? If so, imagine yourself doing what you do: working, chasing down children, doing errands, cleaning, cooking, caring for your families entirely covered head to toe in a burka while in public. It is an awesome feat. Whether a cultural choice or not, I truly respect the women who wear them.
But you see this is all I understand about the burqa. I know what my father tells me and what I have read in books. So what do I really know or truly understand about its history or its meaning – positive or otherwise? I don’t. All that I do know now is what it feels like to wear one – and that has only been briefly.
(Oh yes, here I am. A privileged, American woman – annoyed when she has to wear a bra in public – and now I have a burqa and I want to see what its like. Groan. How condescending that sounds. But I don’t mean it that way. I am simply wanting to learn, to get it, to share this experience, if only for a moment.)
So I have tried on my burqa many times and here is what this western woman experienced. First of all, the burqa is hot. I guess they used to be made of more breathable cotton but newer ones are made with synthetic material so that they keep their color and their creases. And it is very hard to see through the burqa, but maybe I’m just not used to it. Also I initially thought my head was really big because the top of the burqa did not fit on my head well, it was constricting. After doing further research, I have learned this is typical for most women wearing one and it is not comfortable at all. And finally, its not at all easy to breathe in. There is no vent for the nose or mouth. I just can’t breathe in it for long. That’s why I always take it right off. I can’t breathe. I feel claustrophobic and closed in. So chasing children? Carrying food back from the store? I can’t imagine.
Now I am sure there are readers ready to discuss the matter of women’s repression in Afghanistan. And I am sure there are readers who feel offended by any lack of respect for the burqa and its place in Afghanistan tradition. While I certainly have my views, my post is not meant to judge the purpose behind the burqa. I am simply sharing the experience of a burqa, an experience many women have daily and I don’t. If you ever have the chance to try one on, please do if only to honor a woman’s lifestyle someplace far from our streets of Main Street, U.S.A.
And finally, a quick note. Do you know where I keep my burqa? It is kept in my closet, draped over the box which contains my carefully preserved wedding dress. It just seems fitting. After all, we too wear constricting garments which are expected of us. It’s just what women do here.
This is my thirdpost in a series written to honor Women’s History Month. My life has been profoundly influenced and affected by women writing and advocating on my behalf. And now, as I spend my days in a thinking, blogging, posting frenzy, I fancy myself a writer of sorts too. So, it’s high time I acknowledge the women that inspire. Here is my list of top 20 recommended women political bloggers, in no particular order.
Before we get started, please note that I did ask my fellow bloggers and readers who they read also. So this list includes my favorites along with those who have been recommended to me.
Ok then. Here we go.
1. Momocrats: While this is in no particular order, I still must put the Momocrats at the top of my list. As hardworking mothers and progressive thinkers, it often seems as if these women are speaking and advocating exclusively on my behalf when I read their posts. They are amazing writers, they know what they are talking about and the world is sitting up to listen to them.
2. Punditmom is my “go to” political blogger. When something is going down, I want to know what a smart, liberal minded, feminist pundit has to say about it. PM comes through for me every time. And sometimes you’ll even catch her speaking her mind on CNN and Fox too.
3. Julie Pippert is probably smarter than all of us put together. She’s extremely well informed, passionate about her politics and is a mother like so many of us.
4. Queen of Spain is kind of political blogger celeb in my mind. She landed an interview with President Obama during the election and has been seen on TV and at major political events ever since.
5. Writes Like She Talks is a fantastic political blogger and has written for Newsweek.com, has made several appearances on CNN and is a columnist. She is certainly a political blogger to be reckoned with.
6. Sairy is a Momocrat who’s found herself reporting from a White House Press conference, amongst other things. Here is her full bio – she is an important voice worth following.
7. Angry Black Bitch: Straight forward, very brilliant and never afraid, I met Shark-Fu on my first day of BlogHer 08 and have been reading her ever since.
8. Viva La Feminista writes as a feminist, Latina and mother – her voice is powerful, her message is important.
9. Mombian is an established lesbian family blog which discusses political topics affecting rights (or lack thereof) for same sex parents.
10. Feministing “is an online community for feminists and their allies.” The women here have created a talented and diverse community as they advocate for equal and human rights.