This One Time, At Band Camp

To measure the passing of time, I look at my children, and my friends’ children. The oldest of those kids have already gone off to college. When I hear about them or see them I am always amazed. Amazed in that that holy-shit-we-are-getting-old sort of way.

The passage of time is not linear. It’s exponential. Moving faster and faster every year.
Like a runaway train. Gaining momentum and barreling toward the tunnel of mortality.

Mildly depressing? Perhaps.

This happens to me every year in August. But this summer seems to be rushing by like no summer before it. Already more of it behind us than ahead.  All too soon we will be back to our Septembers.

But before September, there is band camp. My Maggie is going to band camp.

She is going away.  Away from me!  For days. And nights! To band camp.  And we all know what happens at band camp. Things happen at band camp. Scary things!

Things like gaining independence, forming lasting meaningful friendships, moving closer to adulthood. Things like growing into a person of strength and character who can stand on her own two feet. Sigh.

When I put her on that bus, I know I will see the 4 year old that I walked into pre-school looking up at me. Ohhh, the tears that were shed on that day. (All mine.)

Then there will be tortuous days of worrying and waiting for texts to let me know she is alive and well. Her one-word answers like ‘Yup’ and ‘Kk’ offering little relief to my unrealistic anxiety.

And I imagine that when I meet her at the bus at the end of the trip, she will be a grown woman, running at me with a pair of scissors, ready to cut the apron strings once and for all.

Mildly dramatic? Perhaps.

But that time-train keeps on rolling.   And sometimes it looks very much like a bus to band camp.

 

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Turn on the Day

I have always hated the news. Mostly because it is so biased and skewed that the real truth is often lost somewhere along the way. Never to be found.

But lately, the facts are undeniable. There have been so many senseless acts of violence both locally and globally that watching the news has become overwhelming. When I do watch, I vacillate between anger and extreme sadness. I’m finding it difficult to merely observe the news, simply listen to the stories, without letting them sink into my body.

Talking about it, watching it, knowing it, doesn’t make anything better. I want to stick my head in the sand, and then I chide myself for not getting involved and trying to change things. I am having a hard time distancing myself from the pain and the sadness.

After reading an article today about the bodies of the people who were murdered on Malaysian Air Flight 17 (the mere thought of it causes tears to well up in my eyes, and bile to rise up to my throat every single time) I decided I had enough.  Enough bad news. I can’t get on a plane and help anyone. So obsessing over this, reading every article,seeking it out isn’t doing me any good. In fact, it is making me physically ill.

And just then a friend posted the Bill Withers song “A Lovely Day”.  So I watched the video, and listened to the song, and I let that sink into my body instead. Diversion and denial. My go-to defenses.

That video started me on a YouTube roll about happy songs, and I when I stumbled upon The Rascals’ “It’s a Beautiful Morning” I decided to post it. Because it is a beautiful morning. And because screw the news.

I googled the song, as I often do. I like to find out when it was written, what the story behind it is. Are there cover versions? Are they any good? What are the actual lyrics, not the ones I’ve been singing wrong all these years?

I was beginning to enjoy myself when I got to the bottom of the lyrics page and saw the links for other articles:
“Couple Killed Just Moments After Taking this Beautiful Photo”
“7 Stars Whose Parents Committed Horrible Crimes”
and a picture of a mummified face with the caption “There are Places in the World Where this Could Happen to You!”

More bad news. More horrific stories. More sensational, terrific words to drag me in to someone’s screwed up agenda.

So I scrolled back up.  “It’s a beautiful mornin’, ahhh. I think I’ll go outside for a while, And jus’ smile.”

And then I turned the computer off.  Because screw the news.  It’s gonna be a lovely day, lovely day, lovely day, dammit.

 

 

 

 

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My Dirty Laundry (Literally)

Home.  It’s nice to be home.

Back home after a 10 day road trip through Canada.  We had an amazing time. We put 1600 miles on the car and what felt like 600 miles on our feet.    We saw a lot of sights, ate a lot of food, had a lot of fun,  met a lot of people, and now we are home.  Ahhh, home.

The first thing I did when I unpacked the car last night was bring the hefty bag full of dirty laundry down to the basement. Time to catch up. 

I threw a very large load of clothes into the washing machine and headed upstairs to unpack and unwind.   I moved them to the dryer about an hour later and threw a second load in the washer.  When I went down a while later to remove them, they weren’t dry yet because the load was too big.   I peaked into the dryer and I saw some black spots on one of the lighter colored shirts.  Uh oh. 

I opened up the dryer and there it was. A pen.  A pen was in someone’s pocket. And now there were ink stains on everything in the machine.  Which was basically every item of clothing that I owned. 10 days worth of summer clothes. All of the girls’ shorts and tank tops. Everything.  Sigh.

I took them out. Spot treated the big spots, transferred the other clothes to the dryer, and placed the entire load back into the washer.   I’m going up to bed.  

This morning John told me he had put the clothes in the dryer and thrown another load in the wash before I woke up.   Nice! Now we’re almost caught up. 

When I went downstairs and opened the washing machine to take them out, everything was pink.  Every white sock, every white t-shirt, pink.  Everything. Sigh. 

I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from this. Maybe it’s a metaphor. I don’t know. Whatever. I’ll just be covered in scribbles and pink for a while.

It’s nice to be home.

 

 

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That Was Just a Dream. Just a Dream.

Last night as everyone in my house slept soundly, I drove myself to the ER. I had an excruciating pain across my right back. I couldn’t lie still in bed, and every time I took a breath in I saw bright white light. So I made an executive decision and took myself to the hospital.

While I was sitting in the waiting area, filled with coughing homeless people and crying babies, I tried to breathe shallowly but calmly and be present in the moment. I tried not to worry about what I didn’t even know yet.

My current yogic intention for the summer, my current sankalpa is “Equanimity in all things”.  I’m working on reacting to all situations, especially the trying ones, with stability and composure.  This was my first opportunity to greet severe pain with a balanced mind, so I tried to embrace the learning experience. Holy hell, this is hard! Just breathe. Stay present.

I did begin to worry about my morning classes. So I calmly sent midnight texts and emails to people, asking for someone to cover for me. (Thanks so very much to my yogis who could.) And I refused to stress about the day ahead. I just have to breathe and stay calm.

After an exam and a battery of tests it was determined that I was having a “bad muscle spasm”. That’s all.  This is just a muscle spasm?  This sure is some spasm! I was told to take naproxen and a muscle relaxer if I wanted to fill the prescription. And to get some rest. Right, rest. 

I came home and slept fitfully in an upright position on the couch, since lying down was not an option. I woke up and moved slowly through the morning so I could send my girls off to school, giving them the most equanimous explanation. “I had some pain that concerned me, so I went to the hospital. They ran tests to be sure it was only a back spasm, and it is. No worries, girls. Off you go!”

And then I sat back on the couch to sleep again; a fitful sleep and a vivid dream…

At one point after wading through a river, I found myself in a town square with my mother and two aunts. My one aunt, who is around sixty years old and autistic was wearing clothes that exposed the front of her body, like a hospital gown. She began making loud grunting noises, removed the gown and started running around in her underwear. My other aunt and I began chasing her around the village green and calling her name furiously. Chasing and calling. Ducking, weaving and screaming. Frantically following her toward a building.

As we got closer to the building I saw a woman coming from the other direction toward the front door. Her hands were filled with what looked like very heavy shopping bags. She looked right at me, in the midst of my panic, with a sympathetic smile.  She lifted her burdened arms up and out to her sides, and said “I guess today, we just”.

A young man walking behind her with a head of curly hair and a bright face repeated with a shoulder shrug “Mm hm. Today, we just!”

My throat got dry, my chest constricted and tears welled up in my eyes. That simple expression of acknowledgment and non-judgmental understanding filled me from the inside. I continued pursuing my aunt, but with a very different feeling inside of me. I just followed. I just waited for her to get tired of running. I just did what had to be done.  I just.

And then I woke up with a pain in my back and constriction in my throat. In the middle of a messy after-graduation-party-house that needs cleaning. Laundry that needs to be done, plans that need to be made. So many other things I was supposed to do today. Run. Chase. Duck. Weave. Scream.

But something is telling me to slow down. Something is telling me to “just”.  So instead of all of those things that I think must be done, I will just.

Today I will merely,
I will simply,
I will ordinarily.
Today, I will just. (end of sentence)

 

 

 

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Summer Soulstice

Back in February I gave up booze and bread for the month, and by the 28th,  I felt amazing.  Clear headed, clean bodied. Amazing.  On March 1st, I celebrated, and drank beer with my friends. But I stayed away from the pizza.  For a couple of weeks after that I was mindful of everything I ate and drank.

But some time in May, my pants weren’t fitting well, and my head was not so clear. It was then that I realized I hadn’t just slipped off the wagon, I drove that wagon off the edge of a cliff.

Lately, I’ve been eating bagels and pizza and Italian bread like I’m about to move to the middle of the country.  And I’m back up to midsummer-level beer consumption before the kids are even out of school.

So last week I decided it was time to get re-mindful, to take a look at what had happened to my head since March 1st.  No big deal.  It’s not a struggle. It’s not a fight. It’s a simple slowing down,  becoming once again conscious of every choice I am making.  It’s just been a matter of mindfulness and impulse control.

And now, I’ve decided to do it again.  Back into rehab,  because these old habits, they die hard.

I didn’t ever imagine that I would conquer my bread addiction on my first attempt.  Hell, I quit smoking repeatedly for 30 years. It hardly ever sticks on the first shot. Or second. Or third, or fourth…

It’s so easy to look at someone else who is doing something that is obviously not good for them and wonder why they are still doing it.

You are allergic to gluten and get sick every time you eat a cookie, but you still continue to eat them. What’s up with that?
You know smoking causes cancer and have even lost family members to smoking related diseases, yet you continue to smoke. Why do you do that?
You are late for work every single day, but you still leave the house at the very same time each morning.  When will you learn?

It’s also easy to see when someone isn’t doing something that can make their life better.   They know what they have to do, but they don’t do it.  And we wonder, why don’t they just do it already?

If you would start exercising and eating right your sugar would be under control. Just do it!
You’re always complaining about your lousy job, getting sick every Sunday night.  Yet you still go in to work every Monday.  If you would quit, your life would be so much better.
I felt so awesome on February 28th, but I slowly slid right back into my old behaviors.    What the hell?

We all have those things, don’t we? Those things we know we should do to make life better.  Or the things we know we should stop doing.   But we can’t.  Or won’t.  Or just don’t.

Obviously, sticking with it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I need to constantly remind myself to be mindful.  So I am going back to my sankalpa “I make good choices”.

And I’m back on my wagon.    I know that having a group of people practicing mindfulness with me seems to boost my enthusiasm and make things easier.  So if you want to join me, if you are thinking about giving something up, or taking something on, let’s do it together.

You can jump on the wagon anytime.       Here:   https://www.facebook.com/events/692271527488957/692271530822290/?notif_t=like

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve Got Soul but I’m Not a Soldier

My dad always said “If you want to have a good time, there are 3 things you should never talk about; politics, religion and money.”  He was a wise man.

Because of his advice, I have friends from all different religious and political persuasions, and many of them have no idea how I feel about God or whether or not I voted for Obama.  I don’t talk about these things when we’re trying to have fun.   One of my dad’s beliefs that I chose to adopt.

I would never deny that what someone believes in is real and true to them.  I would never question their faith.  Sometimes I have to question the inconsistencies that I see, so  I can reconcile them in my own mind.

And this happened yesterday.  I was reading a blog post written by a woman of deep faith (which I envy) entitled My Husband is Not My Soulmate.  The title caught my eye, so I had to read it.

She is eventually going to tell her two daughters that the idea of a soul mate is wrong, that believing one person out there will complete you, is wrong.  I am in agreement.  You should go and complete your own self. Fulfill your own self.  If you find someone to share it with you, that would be cool. If you find a few people along the way, even cooler.  If you decide not to find anyone, more power to you.  So I’m with her on the idea of Soul Mate as Fairy Tale.  

She says she will tell them that the soul mate thing is  “made up and dangerous and unrealistic”.   She says the “lie we’ve been sold, damages so many relationships, ends marriages, and leaves countless people unhappy”.    I can totally get on board. I am with you here. No soul mates!  Girl power!

She goes on to say  “their God loves them more than any man ever could” and that “He’s their soul mate. He’s their whole.”

So, now I have some issues.

There are a lot of people in this world who believe that God is “made up and dangerous and unrealistic”.  That religion is a “lie we’ve been sold”.  Not only has it “damaged relationships” but it has killed millions of people.  It has been the cause and continuation of unimaginable suffering.   Conservative Christians use Bible verses to condemn AIDS patients.  Muslim extremists twist the Qur’an to make their wars holy.  Something about the song “Onward Christian Soldiers” bothered me, even as a small child.   “Dangerous ” ideas.

And if the idea of a soul mate is unrealistic and puts too much pressure on us to be perfect, how is God as a soul mate any less unrealistic?  I could never live up to his/her standards if he/she were my soul mate.  I would be shame and guilt ridden, all the days of my life.  For sure.

I know they are her daughters, and she has every right to teach them whatever she wants to teach them. But I wonder if they could choose to believe in soul mates if they wanted to?  Could they choose to believe in whatever they want to believe? Or do they have to believe exactly as she does?

As a parent I can confidently say that my girls will not end up believing all of the things that either I or their father believe.    And I am fine with that, because I may not even end up believing what I believe right now. Things are changing all of the time.  New galaxies are being explored.  Who knows what is out there to challenge my beliefs?

Facts are facts and can be shared by everyone.  But beliefs are a personal thing.  I can completely disagree with your dogma but still accept, perhaps even admire, that fact that you truly believe it with all of your heart and soul, if there is such a thing as a soul.

You have the beliefs that you need to get you through this life.   Maybe the idea of a soul mate keeps people going through the tough years, the years when they are searching for themselves.  Maybe they need that idea, out there, to guide them.   Just like the idea of God, Jesus, Allah, or Neil deGrasse Tyson keeps people going.

We all pick and choose the unexplainable intangible illogical things we will believe in.  The things that we have faith in.

Whether it’s Soul-Mate or Jesus or Ganesh that keeps you moving through your life, or simply faith in gravity that helps you to walk this earth, so be it.  It’s all yours.  Have at it.

Let’s just not talk about it when we’re trying to have a good time.

 

 

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The Gateway Myth

That’s it!  I’m convinced that the doorway to adulthood is guarded by the Tooth Fairy.  I reluctantly watched as Maggie crossed that bittersweet threshold a while back.  Apparently, today was the day for Shannon to peak through the door.

I was in the shower, when she walked into the bathroom. Not an unusual occurrence in my house. But she didn’t turn on the water to brush her teeth and I didn’t hear her opening the cabinets or moving around at all.  Silence and stillness. And then…

“Mom?” I could hear something big in the tone of her voice.
“Yeah?” What’s it gonna be?
“Gail’s mom told her that she is the Tooth Fairy.” Gulp. “And Santa Claus.”
Oh crap. Here we go again… But this time it will be different.  I have to work harder this time.  Shannon is a cynic, an I-only-believe-it-when-I-see-it kind of gal. Brace yourself!
“Oh, yeah?” Think, think, think.
“Yeah, she said she’s both of them. She said all of the presents that Gail ever got were really from her.”
“Really? So then…” Don’t lie. Don’t lie, but don’t tell the truth. Not yet. Maybe next year. “So then did Gail’s mom come to our house all those times and give us presents and put money under your pillow?” Deflect her. That’s it!
“No. She is Santa in their house, and you and Daddy are Santa in our house.” Yeah, I knew that wouldn’t work.

Silence. Okay, just wait. She has to brush her teeth, get ready for school. She will stop asking questions eventually. Won’t she?

“But,” Oh, she’s gonna keep going.
“I know you can’t be Santa Claus. You never would have bought an American Girl doll!”
“No, I would never spend 100 bucks on a doll.” What a racket. 100 dollar dolls.
“And you would’ve talked to Aunt Shelly to know she was giving us those dolls that year. “
“Yup. I sure would have.” I wish I had!  Would’ve saved 200 bucks!

“Buuuut…” Uh oh.
“This year I didn’t show you my wish list, and I didn’t get anything I asked for.” Yeah, what can I say here? I got nothin’. I tried to intercept the Santa letter but, no luck.
“And last year I saw a picture on Daddy’s phone of unwrapped presents. And it was in the Camera Roll before the pictures of Christmas. You told me the phone shuffled the photos around.” Yes, that was quick thinking on my part!
“But it didn’t! It doesn’t do that! I know it doesn’t do that.” Nothin’ I tell ya. I cannot think of a single thing to say. Trapped in my shower by truth and logic!

“Aaaaand…” Oh man, there’s more.
“Once I woke up and Daddy’s hand was under my pillow.” Ha! Oh, I almost snorted with laughter right there. Thank goodness for shower curtains.
“When I asked him what he was doing, he said he wanted to know how much money the Tooth Fairy gave me.”
“Well then, that’s what he was doing.” Short, simple answers. Don’t embellish, you’ll just dig yourself deeper into this hole full of lies.
“He knew exactly how much money there was, because it came from his wallet!
Sigh. I guess I’ll shave my legs, again. I won’t be leaving for a while….  I know! Redirection! Here we go!
“Shannon, what time is it? It must be getting late?”
“It’s 8:00.”
“Oh, you better go on and get dressed.”
“Yeah.”
Silence.

“So….?” Oh jayzus, now what?
“When are you supposed to tell your kids? At what age? When do people tell their kids?”
“Huh?” Is there a rule?  I’m wondering that myself right now?
“When do you tell them that you’ve been lying to them about everything their whole life?”
Gulp. There it is. The beginning of the end.
“When did your mom tell you?”  Okay, okay.  I got this one! Finally, an easy one.
“She never told me that!” Not a lie. “We never had that conversation at all.” Still, to this day.  “You know, if you don’t believe, you don’t receive.”
“Yeah, well, I think you and Daddy are the Tooth Fairy. Not Santa Claus, but definitely the Tooth Fairy.”

Foot steps. Door closing.  Phew. A reprieve. But knowing her, it won’t last. 

That just may have been the longest shower I’ve taken since I had kids.
So why do I still feel like it’s time to come clean?

 

 

 

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