Several years ago, at 13 years old, I had to memorize a small speech called Immortality for a civic club in which I was a new member.  Immortality / Death was the subject. This is quite an early age for the big lessons about death to be learned, but I have never forgotten it. In fact, the lines come back to me now, the older I get, because I am at the middle of my life when funerals are as common as weddings. But never more do the words I learned back then ring true than when a young person dies. 


"It may seem strange that we should direct your mind to the thought of death, you so young, so fair, your years so tender, every hope and every ambition, just begins to bud and bloom in your life. But, however fair, however hopeful, we would teach you the lesson that death is no respector of persons. It lays its hands upon the flower and tree; it takes the babe and the mother; it regards not youth, nor youth’s ambitions."


It regards not youth, nor youth's ambitions.  No, it certainly does not.


But lately, there is another time when those words spring to mind; when I hear of mental illness and addiction.  


And today, it's one of the worst days, when all of those three things have come together and a young person, because of his struggles with mental illness and addiction has taken his own life. He was the son of some old friends of mine. Friends who I admire and love.  It's shocking. Like anyone, I am at a loss for good words of comfort.  I am not religious, and even if I was, I can't imagine finding good in this tragedy. Sometimes, probably more often than is admitted, life takes an unexpected, devastating turn for the worst and all one can do is endure the pain.  


That's a lesson that I hope we can teach our kids. Oh, we shelter them, it's true. But somewhere in this wonderful life my husband and I have created for August and Asher, I hope we can teach them how to endure the pain. And I will hope, while I am teaching them this, that they never have to call upon that kind of inner strength the way my old friends and their daughter will have to do in the years to come.



A 20 Year Prayer

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20 years ago today, it felt like the world cracked open when a bomb exploded under the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, my hometown. For me, that meant that whatever illusion of safety and naivety that was left in me, disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Everything that has happened after, from 9/11 to the Boston Bombing, has been "an addition to" that constant feeling that we are doing something terribly wrong and paying for it. Or perhaps we are failing to see what we can do that is right.

People who commit heinous crimes of uncountable consequence walk among us as our friends before we see their faces on TV news reports. They have family, friends, co-workers - people who say they saw some hints of a problem, but didn't guess the result. In no way do I mean to suggest that the fault lies with the family or friends of these murderers. Yet, I can't help but wonder what it is that allows us to continue thinking the responsibility to find  what causes these people to want to inflict this pain on so many lies with someone else. 

Your daily acts of kindness and peaceful tolerance are a necessity. Thank you. But there is so much more that can be done. Big acts, big results. Just think; there are also people among us who are trying to do great acts with big results. They are friends, family, co-workers. And your support of those efforts is required. 

If you encounter someone who is attempting to make a positive change in the hearts and minds of the human race, encourage that person, fund their project, spread their idea. Because, in the end, we are in control. You choose the forward path. We choose it together.

Just Light

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A few days ago I took one of those online tests to tell me my personality based on what I hate. I don't "hate" much and my result was surprising, to me, anyway: Frustrated Idealist.  Not that I trust an online 10 question quiz, but I couldn't get past that result. Idealist? Would anyone ever say that about me? 


I don't think being an idealist is a bad thing, mind you. I just didn't know it could go hand in hand with how I have been felling lately about the human race in general. The internet, for all it's kittens who know the art of allure and general not giving a fuck  is also a lonely place full dark corners for hate to hide and jump out anonymously tearing apart any optimism I might have. Especially when it comes to my home state of Oklahoma where select politicians and some cititzens have little regard for equal rights. Here's a sample of some headlines of my great state:



That last one, which came about recently, was particularly embarrassing for me since I always think of Oklahoma City and the University of Oklahoma as a place where all races mix well. Am I so naive? 


Who are these people?? Who, in their right mind, raises a child with contempt for someone based on the color of their skin or thier romantic nature? It’s 2015! 


And that’s when it hits me in the gut. I’m embarrassed and afraid that the rest of the world will read these headlines and think that I share this idiocy because I was raised there, because my family is there. 


I don’t want to feel this way because I see Oklahoma as so much better than that. I left the state at 24, so that makes nearly 20 years that I have been telling people across the world how wonderful Oklahomans are; how friendly and kind. These headlines threaten to make a fool of me, or worse, a fool of those I love.


Still, I’m a different woman than I was 20 years ago. Unlike most of you, I don’t cling to the hope that there is a god who will fix all this; make wrongs right, open eyes. That’s not where I find strength. So, you may wonder how I deal with the never-ending news of hate. 


It’s silly, really, but I play this song. I sing the words, willing people to see how connected we are. How we need each other.



I find it therapeutic. So, even though I’ve posted it many times before, here it is again along with my thousandth defense of my family and my friends in Oklahoma. (Close your eyes while listening to avoid being distracted by Ed's cool 90's moves) 


A knowledge of equality and familial love is what I know exists in the hearts of the majority of Oklahomans. Any optimism I have is based on that fact.


we spend all of our lives goin' out of our minds
looking back to our birth, forward to our demise
even scientists say, everything is just light
not created, destroyed but eternally bright
masters in everytime lord in everyplace
those who stood up for love down in spite of the hate
in spite of the hate


Insert Sadface

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Yesterday a woman at the park suggested that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) just *might* be real. In that instant I had a vision of body slamming her to the ground and screaming, "No shit? YA THINK?". It was sunny outside right then. So bright was the sun that I was starting to sweat and was squinting to watch Asher play with his friends. Instead of getting myself arrested, I closed my eyes and pretended I was on the beach. Within the half hour, the sun slipped away again. It was a tease. A filthy tease.

My sister suffers from S.A.D. and years ago when she told me this I tossed it around in my head, realizing that it made a lot sense. I mean, who the hell can live without sunshine? Fictional characters, that's  who. And yet, I'm sure there are people out there who are so busy that they hardly notice the correlation between the local 75 days of rain and the 50 divorces filed at the county courthouse. I am guessing those might be the same people who don't spend a lot of time outside even when it is sunny or perhaps those people are not responsible for any children under the age of 20. Numbers, numbers, psychology stuff.... We good? OK.

Around here, the rainy season is something that is prayed for by Catholics, Latter Day Saints and all eight Jewish families. In fact, because California supplies a quarter of the nations food and nearly 50% of YOUR produce, you better drop to your knees too, because if we don't get the rain, you're going to pay out the nose big time to put dinner on the table. Knowing this, it's hard to begrudge the clouds, and yet.... yet...

I wake up to fog. Fog drifting below the hills, clinging to the trees. I look out the bedroom window and half expect to see William Wallace wave to me just beyond the fence. I WISH to see William Wallace, actually, so I can have something to think about besides the annoying Spare The Air alert that prevents me from lighting a cozy fire and cheering the place up a bit. I drink a large cup of coffee and dress in the recommended layers of sensible boots, warm socks and three shirts that I can peel off as the day goes on and pile back on just after I pick the kids up from school. I play music, loudly, without caring who hears. I turn on every light in the house. I light candles. But it's no use. I am pale. The rain is dripping down the side of the house where the gutters are clogged. The dog is depressed. Insert sad face.




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Diary excerpt. New Jersey, my living room, my head, 2011:


 Oh my god, I am so bored. My brain is useless.

“Vroom! Vroom! Crash!”


“Oh, my gosh! we’re sisters!”


I loathe you, Barbie. Bad parenting, right here.

Wow, she’s beautiful. My daughter is so beautiful. How did that happen? So innocent, it’s breaking my heart. Someone will break her heart one day. Parenting the the worst. Job. Ever. Helpless.


“Guys! No Fighting!”

“I”m listening.”

“NO HITTING!”


They have no clue how much I love them. By the time they figure it out, I’ll be old. Really old.


I hate it here. I hate it here. I HATE it here. But the schools are great. The kids seem happy. Wouldn’t they be happier if I was happy?

Which example do I set? The one of selflessness or the one about being responsible for my own life, building my own happiness?

Moving is such a gamble. I hate gambling. Hate.

Did he just dance?

“Are you dancing? Awesome!”


He danced. He’s a goofy, talented, sweet genius, that boy! He’s so tender. so loving. I cannot believe how much I love him.

Poor guy is tired. Why doesn’t he sleep more? I’m a shitty parent. He needs more sleep.


My kids are s well behaved. I’m doing something right, but what? Everyone says I’m doing a good job. Which part am I good at? Not the yelling. I yell. Probably screwing them up.


I wish I had a maid/cook/nanny. Never mind. No nanny. I hate leaving them with someone else. I wish there were three of me. Then I’d get stuff done.

“STOP HITTING!”

“GO TO YOUR ROOM!”

“It’s okay. You’re fine. Shhhhh....”


I’m so very lucky. I know that. Too lucky. I have so much to loose. It scares the shit out of me. 

I need to live forever. I should call my mom. I miss my sister/brother/parents. 

I wasn’t there enough for my nieces/nephews. I had no idea how hard it is to be a parent. I was so stupid.

 

“Rod Torque Redline is fine. No, he’s ok.”

“Can our Barbies do something besides go to a dance or move to NYC?”

“Yes, you have school tomorrow.”

“Don’t cry. There’s no reason to cry.”

“You MADE this?”


She loves art! Yay!


“You made this? I love it!”


I have to teach him how to hold a crayon. I think he should know how to do that by now. He can tell jokes and remember everything I say but he can’t hold a crayon? WTF?

He’s only 3. He’s only 3.


If we go somewhere else, I’d have to homeschool. Homeschool is best anyway. But it would kill me. They’d hate me. I’m not equipped. I’d fail. Shit. Calculation and tough skin work in a corporate career, but not at home. I’d be militant. I’d be the worst of my parents.


“Because TV is bad for your brain.”

“Because candy isn’t good for your body.”

“Because it’s not nice.”


It would be nice to go out alone for dinner. 

Somewhere else. Far. Maybe southern France.

Maybe we should move there. Why not?


Huh. I’ve lost/gained weight.  Weird.

Look how tall my kids are. Growing up so fast. To fast. STOP GROWING up! Don’t grow away!


They’re amazing. My kids are amazing. I can’t believe how kind they are.

This is so beautiful, it hurts.


When a soldier has a moral disagreement with what his government wants him to do, so he doesn't do it, he is a "traitor".
When a corporation has a disagreement with what the government wants them to do, so they don't do it, they are called "brave".
Lives were at stake in both scenarios, we're told.

Explain that one to me.

The Traitor

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There's an argument, an opinion, that a soldier who gets disillusioned with his duties while at war and walks away from his post  to get drunk one night and is captured by terrorists deserves to be abandoned. A soldier whose mental health might have been compromised doesn't deserve the chance to be made well. There are those who believe that a fellow soldier is guilty until proven innocent. 

It must be devastating to discover that not all soldiers agree with their orders. Even more so, it must be a shock that soldiers, every day, are called upon to abandon their moral, human values, in favor of orders from higher ranks. Not all soldiers are proud. Not all soldiers believe in the System.
I get it it.
Just like it's a horrible pill for me to swallow that there is so little human compassion, right here at home, where there is no blood on the streets, no sound of gunfire to wake me at night. Here, it is a good place to sit snug in our homes and judge the actions of others whose every cell is forever changed, forever tried by what they have seen, heard, smelled and felt.

We are not all the same.  Thank all the gods, we are not the same.

Recorded

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"For what is joy, if it is un-recorded and what is love, if not shared?"

A quote from season 3 finale of Call The Midwife. In agreement with that, I find myself having a lot of regret about not recoding more of my thoughts while raising my kids. Time is flying by. Fast.

Yesterday I told Mike that I now realize that raising my children is the best thing I have ever done. Of course, that is a common thought. But I mean that, in comparison to my career or my travels or any good thing I have ever done, I now realize that this is the most valuable thing I have ever done for the world, in general and it is the thing I have been most good at, simply because it is a job I have held longer than any other. Ironic, after all I have thought previously.

Being a mom is not what I thought. It's more intense. The hours are longer. The reward is invisible to everyone except the person doing it. There's no glory. And people who don't do it full time really don't know what it's like any more than I know what it's like to be a working mom or a single guy at 40 years old. Doing it while divorced is not the same either. I'm not saying it's harder, just that it is not the same. There is a monotony that is fought against, a consistency that is longed for and a loneliness that occurs without warning in stark contrast to the fact that you are never, ever, alone or without tasks to do.  I love my job. But it IS a job. The lack of respect for the intelligence it takes to be a good stay at home parent is astounding.

So I record it today. 
Best job I ever had. It defies logic. It humbles me. It makes me feel more in place than I have ever felt before. I got this right.

Possible Return

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Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 8.30.04 PM.pngI might be getting back to writing. Might. BIG MIGHT. I hate promising and not delivering. But the last year I have written hardly anything. I guess I finally reached a point in my life when I couldn't share. 

I've been reading my old stuff. Reminiscing. Once in a while I read something and I am shocked. I find a gem under some unfamiliar title and I think "I wrote that?" 

Writing. Therapy. Same thing. I guess I haven't wanted to go to therapy for a while. Anyway, if you are out there reading, Hello from the edge.

Here's some insight I wrote back in December 2002.
"My theory is that writers write because they have no where else to go with the thoughts and feelings inside them. We spend all day being whatever kind of person we deemed will get us by without being locked up. And then we come to the keyboard or the journal, the pen and we dissolve into the blank space, filling it with truths; what really happened, what we really saw."

Bittersweet Snow

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Some people think life is supposed to be more happy times than boring times; more delight than sorrow. As if there is a scale at the end of the road and if you don't end up with more amazing stories of laughter and fame and money that you somehow botched the whole thing up, did it wrong. But I know that's a lie. Life, by definition, just IS.

It's the people who are keeping score who are getting it wrong.