Friday, November 26, 2010

the reason for the season

On Thanksgiving Eve, instead of contributing to the most lucrative night of the year for bar owners, the handsome hubby and I snuggled up to catch up on some newspaper reading and watch a movie.  I would say we are lame, but there is nothing lame about waking up on Thanksgiving morning feeling like a million bucks instead of feeling like something died in your mouth after it spent the night boring a hole in your brain with a butter knife. 

Pre-movie-watching, we plopped down with a few days worth of papers we had been too busy to read.  And when I say newspaper reading, I really mean wading through the giant stack of Black Friday ads that land like a ton of bricks on the front step on the day before Thanksgiving.  If you search hard enough, you might find a couple of pages worth of real news. All those ads stress me out but I decided to peruse a few from my favorite stores.  Initially I was pissed because I found the vacuum I just bought was going to be on sale on Black Friday for a hundred bucks cheaper than I paid, but then I realized that getting up at 3 am with the possibility of getting trampled was not worth a hundred bucks to me.  I guess I have a lot to be thankful for. Then I got pissed again when I thought of all the paper wasted to print these ads.

I started to think about how this Black Friday concept and how it gets crazier each year.  Stores are opening at midnight.  The good sales start at 3 am.  The number of BF ads on tv this week rivaled the political ads before the last election.  Then there is Cyber Monday, which come after BF, but online retailers are already sending out sales trying to get a leg up.  What is all of this for?  That is the question I ask myself every year.  And that is the question I asked the handsome husband last night in bed.  "Whose idea was it for the holidays to be about all these presents?"

The handsome hubby didn't even look up from his paper:

"Jesus was a capitalist." 

And that is why I love him.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

words cannot express

Just a few reasons I am thankful today......

Peace, love, and thanksgiving,

Monday, November 22, 2010

a work in progress

Remember the boy who doesn't drink the koolaid?  You know, the one who got to decide his own religious path regardless of the timeline of the Catholic church?  Yeah, that boy will keep you guessing right up until the witching hour.  No pun intended. 

Last Saturday was confirmation day at the parish where koolaid boy goes to school.  It was the culmination of a couple months worth of prep work by the students and years of prep work by priests, teachers, parents, and God to make sure that these kids get to heaven.  For those who know me, it will come as a shock that the last sentence does not contain even a hint of sarcasm.  It's the honest-to-god truth.  The number one goal of our Catholic school, before education, is to get the children to heaven.  I do not make that up.

Now if it hasn't been clear to you before, I will come out right here, right now, loud and proud, saying that I have some very conflicted feelings about organized religion.  I also have issues with the whole father, son, and holy ghost trinity.  All that does for me is conjure up Michael Landon's head in a cloud with the Highway to Heaven theme song playing.  I get turned off by the dogma, the history of religious persecution, and those good Christian folks who judge me for not believing what they believe.  I have my own beliefs and spiritual path but you will never hear me tell you that you are wrong for what you believe.  To each his own.

I digress. I'm not here to bash religion or the Catholic church.  I am actually here to tell you the pride I felt when the golden boy made his final decision. One that I didn't know until it was all over. After weeks of the required studying, report writing, meeting with the priest, getting measured for robes, and a confirmation retreat, the big C day was fast approaching.  He had been asked to serve the mass along with three other boys, something he does from time to time and enjoys.  Yes, my child is an altar boy.  I admired those in charge for keeping him involved despite his rejection of confirmation (and secretly wondered if they were baiting him).  On confirmation day, I dropped off the still undecided potential confirmee one hour early as required and rushed home to change into something that made me look less like a track coach and more like a church lady. I returned to the church and slid into the end of a pew next to a wonderful family I know who helped me feel comfortable in a place that often makes me feel like an outsider. 

I sat quietly, waiting, absorbing the kind of organ music you physically feel in your chest, and wondering why it smelled like a head shop.  Oh yes, the Catholics love their incense.  There was a lot of commotion and then the congregation suddenly stilled.  The organ started up again and we all stood and turned toward the back of the church. It felt like there was a little bit of magic in the room. I had a coveted end seat so I was able to see the faces of each of my son's classmates as they walked down the aisle in their red gowns and hands folded in front of their hearts. I didn't think once about what rotten little shits I know some of them are.  They all looked like angels. It was a beautiful procession. There were knights dressed up with their feathered hats and swords across their chests.  One altar boy waved the incense. The priest and deacon and some other guys who I didn't know were smiling. Then I saw him.  Walking beside his good buddy.  Carrying a candle and leading the way for Santa Claus...uh.... I mean the Bishop.  My breath caught in my throat and I swallowed hard.  My heart swelled because I could see in him the pride he felt in what he was doing and I know the love he has for his friends walking before him. 

After Santa...aka the Bishop.... aka the Mini Pope waved and smiled to all the children in the congregation, the ceremony began.  I sat in reverence as it went on....and on...and on. The Catholics make sure you get your money's worth.  I joke, but the Bishop is a lovely man who delivered a great message to our kids that was exactly what they needed to hear (if any of them were actually listening and not thinking about the party that was to happen afterwards).  He talked about some of his own blunders.  He told them they will make mistakes and they will fall.  This is part of life and it is not bad or wrong.  It is stupid not to get up and move on and think about your path in life.  He actually used the word stupid. I liked him more for that.

I watched as all the children stood in front of the priest and had their heads blessed with oil and made their final commitment to the catholic church.  They blocked my view of the altar and there was a lot of movement, so as much as I strained my neck, I couldn't see what happened to the altar boys and their foreheads.  Then it was all over and I found my boy at the back of the church. He didn't want to stay for the reception.  I guess the xbox was calling.

We walked out of the church together into the damp November air and I shivered.  I turned to him.  "So, did you do it?" 

And this, ladies and gentleman, is what we stressed and strained and fretted about for almost three months.....

"I guess so" he said. 
"What do you mean?" the pitch of my voice raising just a bit. "Did the bishop bless you with oil?"
"Yeah, I think so" he said as he touched his forehead.

And it was then I decided no more words were needed.  He went home to his xbox and I poured a glass of wine.

Some questions take a long, long time to be answered and maybe they never will be.  And that's really ok with me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

screw this day

Ever have days where you... wake up exhausted and you feel like there's a force physically weighing on your chest? Or in my case, it's weighing on my back since I usually come to with my face planted in a scrunched up wad of cotton in a pillowcase. The first thought that passes through the fog between your ears is actually the most rational one you will have all day:  "Shit, I am barely treading water."  Then you drag yourself up, take a deep breath that gets caught before it hits your lungs, and paint on a fake smile.  When you put one foot in front of the other and start to face your day, your overriding thought is "I f'ing hate everyone."  Ring any bells? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

That's all I got.  Just wondered if there are any other crazies out there. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

happy birthday to my boy

My boy. My beautiful, smart, witty, artistic boy with a heart as big as an ocean and a soul as old as time. 

My boy is the first one to jump in a freezing lake to support one he loves. He wants to save the planet. He is your friend because of your heart and mind, not your status.

My boy thinks so deeply it sometimes hurts my heart. He loves knowledge. He is not a follower and he is not a leader.  He is true to himself. 

My boy does not conform for conformity's sake. He grows his hair long. He carries a candle to the front of the church that he questions because he wants to do his part. He believes in God and sorts out religion. 

I look into my boy's eyes and I float in a sea of everything I know to be true.  He teaches me.  He seeks answers.  I am his home.  He is mine. 

My boy moves slowly despite any need to hurry.  He talks back. He does not hear instructions. He strums a guitar. He stands on stage and is not afraid to sing. He jokes and his belly laugh is the best sound I have ever heard.

My boy cries. He hurts.  He adapts. He learns. He spontaneously wraps his arms around my neck and squeezes. 

My boy loves history. He is proud of where he comes from. He fiercely loves his family.  We are his home. 

My boy is better than me. He is mine. 

Happy Birthday

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

all jammed up

Dad and J memory
Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

--Paul Simon

I haven't been inspired to write much lately.  Life gets in the way and fills my head.  There's too much to sort out. Most of the time I just have to wait.  My mind spins like a top, and when it stops, the pieces fall into neat little places that make sense.  Then there are those times when big chunks of emotion become lodged waiting for me to dig in and do the work.  It is holing up and daring me to pick it apart and figure out what to do with it.  This is one of those times.

There is a part of my life I rarely talk about, even to those closest to me.  I pretend I don't know how to deal with it.  I tell myself that I haven't sorted out my emotions yet. That's a lie.  The truth is I know what I should be doing.  I am able to recognize my grief, fear, anger, abandonment, and guilt.  The truth is I get paralyzed by it... and I haven't done the work.

Many people know what it's like to lose a parent.  Fewer people know what it's like to lose a parent who is still living.  My young 63-year-old father is here with us, but a series of strokes has forever altered his being. He looks like my dad, but he doesn't sound like him and he doesn't act like him. He remembers everything about his life and mine, but I can't tell if he remembers what it means.  Sometimes I see glimpses of his spirit, but it is cloaked in his sadness. I wonder if I'm just remembering...or wishing.

How do you parent a parent? It is the caring for that is the hardest part. Even though it sucks, it's not the actual act of managing his bank account, washing his dishes, and taking out his trash that is difficult.  It's the idea of putting yourself in a parenting role for the person who is supposed to parent you. I'm not talking about just the logistical side of care-giving like taking him to doctor appointments and making sure he has a solid meal.  This is the tricky 'I don't know what the hell I am doing and am I fucking this up?' kind of parenting role. Who knows how to scold a parent for putting a box of Little Debbie's in the fridge next to his insulin? Who wants to tell their dad that you are taking away his checking account?  Can you tell me how to make him understand that if he sends in a hundred bucks, he is not going to win a million?  Just exactly how do I go about doing that? 

I have done all those things that I just mentioned, but it feels like I stood outside of my body and watched it happen.  It's the hazy reality that feels like it should belong to someone else. My whole life I have been strong, independent, and yes dear, stubborn.  I know how to get shit done.  I am not afraid of hard work.  There has been loss, heartache, divorce, illness, single parenting, and I've come through it all with shining colors.  Why do I feel like the biggest failure on the face of the earth when it comes to taking care of my dad?  Why do I sit home and think about what I should do but not do it?  Why do my legs feel like lead when I walk through his door? 

Last Friday on the forty minute drive to his house after too long an absence, I watched the combines humming in the field and counted the wagons full of grain. I admired the beauty of the harvest against the clear sky and felt the sun on my face.  My music was up loud and I was singing along with Tom.  My mind wandered, but I never let it go to where it needed to go.  It never went to my task at hand, so I didn't plan what to say or how to say it.  I don't remember how it came out, but somehow I managed. I came home spent like I had run all the way there and back. For now, that's how I do it.  Maybe on the next trip I will turn the music down and do some of the work...before I have to do the work.


Monday, September 20, 2010

does the shoe fit?

Sedona, AZ, May 2009
The road of life is rocky
And you may stumble too
So while you talk about me
Someone else is judging you

--Bob Marley

How many times have you heard the old adage "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes?" I use this all the time, but I have a big fat fail when it comes to "practice what you preach." What does this saying really mean and is it even possible to live in a world where compassion and understanding always come before judgment? I know I judge, sometimes shamefully.  We all do it.  The media perpetuates it until we all choke on it.  I think being non-judgmental must be the single most difficult act of human benevolence. Judging comes as naturally as breathing and it's an almost impossible habit to break.  But maybe we can just give it a shot.

Take a moment to stop and think about how many judgments you make a day. Pick any day.  I'll take today.  This morning I started off judging a recently elected tea party member who was showcased on the morning news.  Because I don't agree with her politics, I was spouting an unsympathetic "told you so" about all of the bad press that came out about her over the weekend.  I even tweeted about it - "saw that one coming down Broadway."  At work I judged someone for a management choice he made. I would never scream at my staff that way.  I judged a photo of someone on facebook for the clothes she was wearing at a work function.  That's a little on the skanky scale, don't ya think? 

If you think you don't judge, you probably need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. We constantly make judgments based on appearances, words, actions, beliefs, and choices. We even judge a person for judging someone else. Those of us being judged will judge our offenders. "They are so judgmental."  Plllleaaase. We are all the pot in that pot and kettle situation.  

I think about how I judge and why I judge all the time.  This past weekend, I was reminded of this as I watched the pain of some severe judgment unfold. In that moment, I realized it was unlikely there were any people in that room free of judgment even though we told ourselves we were, but what we did have was compassion and caring and a true sense of support.

We judge because of what we are taught and what we have learned from experiences. We judge because of lack of knowledge and because we want to believe that our choices and belief systems are superior to those of others.  Judgment is based on ego, but we really do have the capacity to put that aside and look outside of ourselves. If you need any help with this, just watch a child. They are the best little non-judgers (I know, not a word). I am trying really hard to go back to my four-year-old roots and be better at it every day because I never know when it's going to be judgment day for me. 


Thursday, September 9, 2010

the boy who doesn't drink the koolaid

forging his own trail. colorado 2010
Where's the church, who took the steeple
Religion is in the hands of some crazy-ass people
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples
The god's honest truth is it's not that simple
It's the Buddhist in you, it's the pagan in me
It's the Muslim in him, she's catholic ain't she?
It's the born again look, it's the Wasp and the Jew
Tell me what's goin' on, I ain't gotta clue.
  ---from a Jimmy Buffett song called Fruitcakes

I am blessed with a thirteen-going-on-forty-five-year-old who is more insightful than most adults I have met.  This kid has been trying to figure it all out since before he was born.  The problem with using your brain when you are thirteen is that it sometimes stirs up some controversy.  Go figure.  I always thought it was the other way around. 

What do we do when our kids question the path that is laid out for them? If the question is "do I have to get up in the morning and go to school," then that's easy.  It's the law, son.  But what if the question is about something less black and white, like say....religion?  Yep, I said it: religion.  For many, religion is the touchiest of subjects.  (For me, it's politics, but that's for another day).  So be forewarned that depending on your beliefs, this could piss you off.  Hopefully it will just make you think. 

Eighth grade is graduation year at our catholic school.  It's also the year of confirmation.  Confirmation for Catholics is the third rite of passage, or sacrament, after baptism and communion. It's like steps 1, 2, and 3 on the path to heaven.  It is when you confirm your commitment to the catholic church and to Christ.  This church also requires that the newly confirmed have a sponsor, someone who is also a confirmed catholic and knows the ropes.  It is similar to an AA sponsor, I suppose.  Someone to keep you on the right track, whether it be sobriety or the catholic path to salvation.  {Please forgive this non-catholic for my loose terminology.  I had to look this all up. I don't even know if I'm capitalizing correctly.  Thank god (God?) for spell check.} 

Confirmation is not a requirement for passing eighth grade, but who wouldn't want to do it after converting religions, receiving first communion, and attending five years of catholic school?  Yeah, that would be my thirteen-going-on-forty-five year old.   

Are adolescents able to make an informed decision about what religion to commit themselves to for the rest of their lives?  We pick our college major around eighteen and look how many of us still don't know what we want to be when we grow up. The issue is not his faith in God, or wanting to lead a moral life, or that he doesn't want to put "catholic" in the religion box on his facebook page.  The issue is his personal spiritual path.  His path is not mine, or his dad's, or yours. He seeks answers for what is right for him, not what is right for anyone else.  I love that about him.  Even if you have been a card-carrying member of one church your whole life, your path has surely evolved, and in the end, you made the choice to stay.

So does he get to choose his path? 

Hell yes!  (no, I don't believe in hell)


Friday, September 3, 2010

reality bites

Week after week I feel my brain cells being sucked one by one into the vortex of reality TV.  The Kardashians, Kendra, Bethenney Getting Married?, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, blah, blah, blah.  True confession:  I watched an episode of Kate Plus Eight last week.  I am so ashamed. 

As if that list of shows isn't dangerous enough, I must not neglect to mention the big granddaddy of them all.  It is my Miller Lite of Ben and Jerry's of ice Lay's chips and ranch dip of all snack foods...THE REAL HOUSEWIVES.  Folks, this is the satan of all reality shows.  It started in Orange County and it has spawned it's evil seed all over the country to places like New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington DC, and oh help me Lord, Beverly Hills.  This has literally sucked the life out of me for hours each week.  Just ask my husband.  I am so much dumber than I was before this season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey began. 

Remember back in the day when the new season of your favorite show started in the fall and ended in the spring with time off for the holidays?  Television used to take a summer break so we could all go outside and enjoy the warm weather and sunshine.  On a rainy night you may have relented to watching some reruns.  Welcome to television for the twenty-first century.  There is no regular season for any of these reality shows.  The producers ingeniously stagger them throughout the year with just enough overlap so when you think there is light at the end of the tunnel and you might be able to spend an hour reading a good book, the premiere of the DC Housewives airs just before the last episode of the New Jersey Housewives.  Gotcha!  Then there are the reunion shows: parts one, two, and three.  There are the "lost footage" shows.  There are live shows with commentary about the taped shows. You can even rent them on demand. Gotcha good! 

Why are these shows so addicting?  What's the real entertainment value? They walk the line of making you uncomfortable enough to stop watching, but somehow convey enough humanity to keep you hooked. My feelings vacillate between endearment, pity, and embarrassment. Maybe watching makes me feel better about my own life. It's a little like witnessing a train wreck. You want to make sure everyone makes it out alive in the end. 

My current goal in life is to wean myself of this addiction. I think I'm too fragile to rip off the band-aid and turn off the tube for good.  Some progress has been made. I already ditched DC, NJ, and Atlanta.  Kendra and Gene Simmons are no skin off my back.  My weak spots are the new season of the Kardashians and the promise of some new scandalous housewives in Beverly Hills.  If you hear me talking out loud about how Kourtney really needs to dump her loser baby daddy, please schedule an intervention.


Monday, August 30, 2010

rock on

A different perspective on a pile of rocks.  Crested Butte, July 2010.
I have a vivid memory of a sunny summer afternoon when I was about four years old. I collected some rocks from my yard and piled them next to my front door to try to sell them - my naturalist version of the lemonade stand.  My first (and only) patron was my uncle who stopped by for a visit.  I was elated as he passed by the front door on his way to see his big sister, my mom, and said he would pay me on the way out. The problem is he paid with one of my mom's checks, and even at four, I knew that wasn't cashing.  My enthusiasm for my great idea fizzled as I sat looking at the check and pretending to be excited about it. Realism kicked in for me at an early age. I swear I was born forty years old. 

The days of the past week and a half have been a big pile of ugly rocks that I couldn't give away for free.  No one would even bother counterfeiting a check for them.  There's nothing earth shattering about these days.  It's just been a string of nothing. is. easy. and some people I care about are hurting for various reasons.  A common theme seems to be the hateful, hurtful words and actions of other people. 

Which brings me to a question I struggle with all the time:  How much do we let other people's words and actions affect us? 

I'm still waiting for the invention of a magic pill for heartache (something like Midol on crack.)  Instead we vent to our colleagues, cry on the shoulders of our loved ones, and seek out advice from spiritual leaders and self-help books.  Here are some words of wisdom I've heard once or twice (ha!)....

Someone can only hurt you as much as you let them 
Really? My first reaction was Oprah may have it nailed, but this practice on it's own is difficult for us ordinary humans. Ask someone whose partner cheated on them what they think about this school of thought.  However, when you dig a little deeper, this can also mean removing the toxic elements from your life, which I am personally a big fan of.  My friend just wrote about her cleansing here

It's not about you
This is a good one.  I truly believe if you look at the root of why someone is jerking you around, it has nothing to do with you as a person.  It is their issue. Doesn't make it hurt any less when your heart gets stomped on.

Some people just have a bad heart
That's a good theory that might make me feel better about myself for a minute, but I choose to believe that most people are intrinsically good. Does someone really wake up in the morning and say "Today I'm going to be a jackass and ruin Sally's day?"  It's more likely that person is damaged somehow and is acting out.  Maybe they are insecure, jealous, or desperate. Maybe they are just having a bad day. It still doesn't take the anger out of being undermined by a colleague or the embarrassment out of being called out by a teacher in front of the whole class. 

This is a good practice for all of us, but forgiveness takes time.  It's not automatic and it takes work like any other skill. 

So what do you do when you get hurt by another's words or behavior? 

My favorite advice: Be Kind.
Be kind to others (even to the jerk who wronged you).... and be kind to yourself.  Let yourself feel, kick, scream, or sing songs about revenge .  Do whatever you need to do except be hard on yourself. 

So to my friend who asked last week "Why do I still want her to like me?" - Because you are human and you are kind.  That's why.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

there's a little bit of narcissist in all of us

Petty show at Red Rocks last June.  This was a diamond day.
Yeah, I stole the name of my blog from Tom Petty (who I plan on marrying in another life).  Tom and I were surely born of the same soul mother.  I love his music and the lyrics and I dig his style.  “Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks” pretty much sums up how I strive to navigate and understand my life.  Plus I thought it was a whole lot cooler than “you take the good, you take the bad” ala The Facts of Life.  Although…. I bet Mrs. Garrett may have been able to hang with Tom and me. 

 When I first discovered blogging about six years ago, it went like this:  

There was this guy who I worked with who blogged about his life.  Some emotional difficulties.  Unhappy.  Questioning his choices.  Questioning his marriage.  There was an incident with a gun.  The police came to his house.  He checked himself into the hospital. He blogged it all. People were gossiping about it around the water cooler.

I remember thinking “Who the hell would want to share that with the world and who would want to read it??”  I was mortified.  I didn’t want to know those things about him!  I thought he must be a narcissist.

Over time, my understanding of blogging has evolved, as have my feelings about it.  We use it for our professional lives, we use it stay in touch, we use it as a means of recording history.  For some it’s an outlet.  I don’t know what it is for me yet.  I spent a lot of mental energy trying to figure that one out.  I have contemplated blogging for a couple years. What about privacy?  What will people think?  Turns out I really don't give a shit as long as everyone is kind to each other and no one uses the information to harm someone else.  I’m doing it for me.  If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

I read some other blogs and wish I had time to read more.  Here’s a shout out to my locals favs:

I read this because it’s my dear friend (who will fight me for Tom Petty in our next life and who is the only person I would share him with) and because she’s really smart and she has interesting things to say.

There’s this other blogger who co-founded this great website with this other blogger.  These are amazing women who are working their asses off to do great things for the community we live in.

Sometimes I read this because, like me, she is a divorced mom trying to navigate a blended family and she thinks deeply about things and is a good writer.  We are completely different personalities and the Christian theme sometimes makes me prickly, but I like my thoughts to be challenged.  

It’s all really about community-building and sharing and loving.  That’s such a hippie-esque thing to say, but if you keep reading, you’ll find that I’m a girl wearing a tie-dyed shirt under my Type A cape.  Hmmm, maybe that’s why I’m blogging….. 

Thanks for reading.