Sunday, March 30, 2014

Regret and Do-Overs

When I was _____ years old (this is how bad of a friend I have been; I don't even remember how long it has been), my friend Terri got married. She sent me an invitation, and I didn't go. I was in Seattle at the time, but that is no excuse.

Missing her wedding is one of the regrets I have: not picking what matters over what's easy. Over and over again. Too many times.


Terri and her husband Mike are renewing their vows in May of this year. And I got another invitation. AND I AM GOING.

It may not seem like much, but for me, the chance to have a do-over and be a part of my friend's important days means so much to me.

So it is with gratitude and humility that I say thank you, to Terri and to the universe, for the second chance.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Would Have Been One of Those Mornings

This morning would have been one of those mornings.

Dane's alarm would have gone off early, and he would have groggily risen to his feet, starting his day. Something would have made him glance back at the bed, and he would have returned, waking me up.

This morning I can almost feel his hands on my skin.

Waking me up is a dangerous prospect. Don't poke the bear. But on some mornings with us, the best part of waking up had nothing to do with Folger's.

Some mornings we were both late for the day and glad of it.

This would have been one of those mornings.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Curse

Perhaps it's just the weather.

I am a human barometer and have had a headache for a couple days now as we cycle through atmospheric highs and lows.

Maybe it's the dreams I keep having (Dane flits in and out, and they aren't always lovely), and the fact that because one hip is higher than the other I am sleeping, poorly, on the opposite side in an attempt to even me out a little.

Maybe it's the stress of trying to finish the tiny house prior to our conference in two weeks.

Maybe it's the fact that The Child seems to have decided that I am superfluous.

Whatever it is, this has been a rough week. Lonely-making. Sad.

I keep reading that the second year after a spouse's death is harder than the first. I wouldn't say it's hard in the same way. This might be when the despair sets in, for lack of a less-dramatic word. I am not interested in spending the rest of my life alone. I can't quite imagine a relationship with another person yet, but I cannot see being alone forever. I think the women in my family have been cursed until now: aunts, mother, grandmothers, all alone. This fate does not interest me in the least. I don't need lots of people, but generally I like a co-conspirator.

Sicily and I have decided that the best course is to find a 25-year-old (better chances of me outliving him, although as previously demonstrated still no guarantee) who has a kid (Sicily's request; she'd like a sibling that I will not be providing any time soon). She has also approved Ryan Gosling for this position, even though he is a little older. Which is awesome because he is so very pretty.

This could go into a very dark place, so that's it's for now. If anyone has Ryan Gosling's number, maybe get in touch. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Passion vs. Paying the Bills

Last night I had a teaching dream, usually a sign of anxiety. Not this time. This time it was on a night of presentations that my dream students were giving at the end of a project, and I was running around, reassuring, trouble-shooting, and finger-wagging at the troublemakers. By the end of the dream, my dream self was in tears with pride for the job the kids had done.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic: passion vs. paying the bills.

Teaching is probably my calling. I am passionate about it, especially about middle school kids, especially about twice-exceptional middle school kids, and I am passionate about education. I can remember saying when I was younger that I wanted to start my own school, and I remember very clearly the day I decided to become a teacher. The dream was not off; I had many days in my teaching career where I was filled to bursting with pride and love for my students.

Now, I write. I don’t write anything particularly profound, but I enjoy what I do, and it pays the bills. More importantly at this moment, it gives me freedom that I need to figure out what’s next. We can take two days off and go to Sarasota to meet Cal Ripken, Jr. and watch the Orioles in spring training (happy birthday to me and much love to my brother for making that happen!!) . We can go to New Orleans so Sicily can speak at the TEDYouth conference. We can take six weeks off and go up and down the east coast and listen to Barack Obama give a speech commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the march on Washington. I can do yoga every morning, and we can reward ourselves on Tuesdays and Fridays with gluten-free cupcakes. In the middle of the day.

But teaching. No flexibility. Someone else is the boss (which is really not going to work for me so much after owning and running my own school). There is no spontaneity. Yes, summers are free, but they are free for everyone else, too (which makes everything more expensive and crowded and unpleasant).

But teaching.

I could see writing becoming something major after a while, but right now I am a hired gun. I get to say yes or no to assignments, but they are still not necessarily my own (lots of ghostwriting in freelance work). This blog counts, I suppose, but there is no money in it (and that does need to happen to some degree, although we live frugally and our needs are few).  It has only been a few months of writing “professionally,” so there’s that.

Which do you choose in your own life: passion vs. paying the bills? And if you chose passion and it pays the bills, how did you get there?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Don't Think About Much

During yoga this morning while I was getting wrung out like a washrag,  I started thinking about two things my friend Michael Dean said, many years ago.

Thing the First: Better to have no expectations. When you have expectations, you can be disappointed. With no expectations, whatever happens that is good = bonus. Whatever happens that is bad = no big deal.

Thing the Second: I can’t remember this one exactly, but it was something along the lines of how strong women get weak when they are around overbearing or “strong” men, and although that may seem like “allowing yourself to be vulnerable,” it is really just allowing yourself to be weak. The way I am saying it makes it sound like A) Michael is a total jerk or B) strong men are bad for strong women. Neither of those (I already warned you that I didn’t remember it clearly; see previous posts on how shot my memory is). The gist of it is that strong women use strong men as an excuse to be weak and flabby, physically, socially, and emotionally.

And, if I am being honest, which I always try to be, maybe MD was a bit of a jerk back then. So I may or may not have argued drunkenly with him, which is dumb because you are never the genius you think you are when you’re drunk so I probably dropped the F-bomb a lot and gesticulated wildly.

So upon a decade+ of reflection, here’s the kicker: he’s pretty much spot-on on both counts.

Thing the First is also known as “acceptance.” Whatever happens, happens. La and I are headed down the road to watch dem O’s crush it in spring training, and the forecast on both sides of game day is beautiful. On game day? Thunderstorms. I have decided to leave town with no expectations, and I believe we will have a great time regardless of what happens. The sun is shining, the dogs are well taken care of, and we are on a road trip. So that’s all good.

Thing the Second is a bit trickier. I realized how lazy I had gotten on a number of different levels after Dane died. Although there is nothing wrong with relying on your partner, Thing the First gets in the way sometimes, and you start taking things for granted, stop learning, and begin to get flabby physically, socially, and emotionally. The other simple part of this is that when we start a relationship, we are the very best version of ourselves. Natural. As time goes by, we show a little more of the rough edges, which is fine, and we relax and trust that our partners will accept them. Also natural. But I don’t want to ever reach the point of not being able to rely on myself to learn, to grow, or to do things on my own again. I am looking in the backyard at a house that my daughter and I have built from the ground up. Of course we have had help and instruction, but our fingerprints are all over that thing. It can be ragged and rough around the edges a bit, but it represents effort and persistence. Dane was going to build that house with Sicily, and while I would trade every minute of the experience to see him for one more time, building that house has shifted something in me that will not be shifted again.

And it’s built like a brick shithouse, if I’m being honest, which I always try to be.

Both Thing the First and Thing the Second are difficult to achieve (no expectations and maintaining your self inside of a relationship). I was thinking about that as I hauled my legs over my head in a handstand, and then again as I folded into a pretzel, and then again as I gasped for air in bow pose. So I stopped thinking about them, put them out of my mind, and felt everything sort of dissolve. Maybe the trick is to not think so hard.

I’ll have to think about that.

Friday, March 7, 2014

I Won't Back Down

Last night at softball practice the girls were doing a ladder drill, quick steps in and out of a little plastic ladder, on the run. One by one, every girl who started the drill in front of the watching parents said, "I can't" about two steps into the drill.

This morning I woke up with this song stuck in my head.


Hard to say. I hate sitting at practice and listening to I can't, or working on the tiny house and hearing I can't from La, or holding this pose for four minutes and hearing I can't in my head.

I also woke up thinking about this clip from This American Life's Ira Glass, talking about creativity and how for "the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good..."

So the solution is to keep making whatever you are making (art, music, bĂ©arnaise sauce, whatever) until finally your skill catches up to your taste. Don't let the I can't stop hold you back and in fact start right now because you will only start getting better as soon as you start.

And I suppose the same goes with the softball girls. And the yoga pose.

So this is pretty straightforward stuff. Not shocking, I know. But think about all the times where that voice comes in my head or the words come out of my mouth. This isn't some rah-rah, power-of-positive-thinking, The Secret-based bullshit. There is no substitute for working your ass off. 


Tom Petty had it right (or Johnny Cash, if you prefer). I won't back down. Or at the very least, I will try to shut up that voice.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Technology and Parenting

You may have noticed that an awful lot of blogs lately are about Sicily’s technology getting taken away.

The phone.

The tablet.

The phone and the tablet.

The phone.

Ad infinitum.

It isn’t necessarily that I don’t trust her. I am not 100% trusting, as she is a teenager, and I have seen too many parents in my teaching career that fall into the no-not-my-child-oh-shit-they-did-WHAT? category to relax totally. Plus, she has done some things that are Against the Rules As Clearly Stated and we don’t have a ton of rules around here and she has a lot of freedom so just follow the rules we have, m’kay?

But I digress.

I have been thinking a lot about how angry I get when I find her again doing something she is not supposed to do. I say that it is for her safety and protection that we have these rules about no computers in the bedrooms (yes, honey, an iPhone is a computer) and no locks on phones and spontaneous social media checks (like, whenever I feel like it or see her phone lying around or whenever. I pay for it, she’s 13, and there is no privacy like that. Sorry.). And it is.

But guess what? It’s not all about that. I have realized.

On the lighter side, it’s about me not wanting her to be a passive consumer of stuff I think is dumb because I am not a 13-almost-14-year-old-who-thinks-she’s-19 and I don’t love make-up tutorials and stupid YouTube and Vine videos (although I am a SUCKER for the cat in the shark costume on the Roomba).  I want her to produce something because she is beautiful and brilliant and talented and her brain is liquefying in her skull as she stares at her screen.


It’s about loss of control. Mine.
It’s about loss of innocence. Hers.

It’s about letting go. Me and her.

It’s giving her the autonomy that she is craving. Enough rope to hang herself. And being worried about what if it’s too much rope, and what if I am not there to cut her down?

It’s about allowing her to make mistakes and to fail when the stakes are still manageable.

It’s about giving her the gift of failure. Seriously. It is a gift. Because if you can’t let your kids fall down and then support them as they pick themselves up and then hand them a first-aid kit you are denying them a priceless opportunity to find out who they really are.

It’s fear. It’s fear. It’s fear.

Feeling anger is easier than fear.

And it’s just the beginning. And I am making these choices solo. And letting her make her own choices, too. Which means, at times, her choosing to leave me out of it.

But she is not grown, and she doesn’t know it all even when she thinks she does. But I do want her to learn to know it all.

Lonely-making. Crazy-making.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cursing and Cupcakes

Today I told Sicily, after a morning full of cursing from both of us, that the next person to let obscenities fly would be supplying the build with gluten-free cupcakes later in the day.

I lost.

There is something about building with family, and building with teenagers is worse. They roll their eyes audibly. They make huffy noises that they insist they don't make. They are spacy and then they get pissed when you don't tune in to every single word they say.

Side note: I have heard EVERY SINGLE WORD out of Sicily's mouth except for literally a handful where I just couldn't take it anymore and I tuned out as self-defense. On the other hand, Dane mastered the ability to tune out, and Sicily seemed none-the-wiser. Sigh.

It doesn't help that we are under a firm deadline. A public deadline. So stress magnifies every little disagreement or confusion. And if we had more time, or had planned better, we would have been able to mock up the very complicated stairs we are planning. So there's that. And our lovely tiny house is turning into a very expensive tiny house; the original plan was to use reclaimed and salvaged  pretty much everything, but, alas, the time factor again.

And then there is the weather. Rain? Double-plus ungood.

But progress was made today. We have lights and a ceiling fan. We have a plan for the kitchen, and most of the supplies we need to make it happen. We have superglue (seriously. We needed some). I have the ingredients for pimento cheese. Sicily made pancakes tonight for Pancake Day. I am sitting in Couch Hole, watching syndicated episodes of Modern Family (which is, appropriately enough, about home improvement) and the Awful News of the World.

One single picture from today; the others show Sicily looking at me, very pissed because I just yelled at her for putting a lock on her phone AGAIN. So that one wasn't going to make it to press. Here she is, making the base for the cabinets.

Oh, and in very sad news, the bakery was out of gluten-free cupcakes, so we will be putting that off until Friday. Tragic. #FirstWorldProblems

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Blocked Much?

I am not blocked so much as just busy, I guess. We are full-steam ahead on the tiny house and softball is starting, so there's 30 hours of the week we will never get back.

There is a lot to talk about, a lot to think about. Summer is coming, life is moving forward. I am not ready to share some of the changes that are approaching, but they are good.

Mostly, short-term, silly as it sounds, I am looking forward to deep cleaning the house when we are back from the tiny house conference. Assuming the house pulls okay and nothing bad happens. I want to throw open the windows. Shampoo the rugs. Scrub the floors.

Best case scenario is someone who would do it for me, but I am going to take it like a meditation. We'll see how that goes.

The sky is blue (for now), the earth is turning, and it is time to zone out a bit.

Oh, and pimiento cheese? Possibly the best thing to come out of the south, like, EVER. This is happening soon.