Friday, October 17, 2014

James McBride lecture

Yesterday, a stellar volunteer in my program at work asked if I wanted his extra ticket to hear James McBride speak downtown due to his wife being sick.  I had read McBride's book The Color of Water several years ago and given away two copies of it since then.  As a white mother raising two black children, the book meant a lot to me, and I've carried its lessons with me for years.

The older I've gotten, the less it bothers me to go to events alone, so for two Thursday nights in a row, I drove our little VW bug downtown to go to a solo event.  I found parking a thousand blocks away and rushed to get to the packed venue right in time.  In the dark theater, I found one of the last available seats in the upper balcony, next to another solo female.  Besides the dozens of high school students who had been given free tickets, I think my neighbor and I were the youngest people there.  Portland is a very literary city, so it makes sense that events like this sell out.  In fact, the MC gave a ten minute introduction, not of James McBride, but of the history of the Literary Arts & Lectures itself.  There was a lot of self-congratulatory applause among the very white crowd, not that I'm criticizing.

The first thing McBride said upon reaching the podium was, "It's so nice to be here in such a white...I mean, nice crowd."  I guffawed louder than I thought possible.  He never prepares what he's going to say prior to a talk, so his lecture was pretty meandering, but I knew I was going to dig it when he started off by poking fun of Garrison Keilor.

As the lecture went on, I began taking a few notes.  Here are some things I want to remember:

"Cynicism is toxic to your dreams."

He spoke about Frederick Douglas having a black wife and white mistress living in his house at the same time.

He read a lot of William Saroyan as a child, an author I was introduced to while teaching credit-ESL classes to a largely Armenian population of students in Southern California.  It was a good reminder to pull out his short stories for my own kids.

Lastly, and probably most importantly for me, he circled back around to the importance of forgiveness.  He told a story about being in a meeting of black students at an ivy league university in which the president had made prior racist remarks.  The meeting was to come to a resolution.  The president apologized and in the tense conversation, a black man in blue-collar uniform stood up to say that he forgave the president.  He was booed.  McBride spoke about how disheartened he was by this reaction.

He went on to say, "If you lose your innocence, you lose your power" in regards to the danger of becoming cynical.   He explained that artists who become cynical lose their wonder and thus their power.  Cynicism is something I struggle with, so it's no wonder I wrote this down.

As I walked out of the auditorium, I listened to the comments of the crowd and felt relieved that I didn't have to talk to anyone.  I walked through the well-lit art museum grounds to my car parked those thousand blocks away.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Silent Night

My daughter started soccer practice a few weeks ago in the afternoons.  My son isn't interested in playing, so while he plays on the monkey bars, I read or text or instagram.  During one soccer practice recently, my son needed affection.  He climbed on my lap and began humming.  It wasn't until a few moments in that I realized that the 'lullaby' he was humming was "Silent Night."  We sat together on a hard bench on a soccer field in September, rocking to and fro. All was calm, all was bright.  Mother and child.

Wisdom from Ray Bradbury, via Granger

I attended four years of AP English at a stellar public high school, and I have a degree in literature from a Presbyterian liberal arts college and was still never made to read Fahrenheit 451.  I'm closing the huge gaps in my education.  Toni Morrison comes next.

Granger turned to Montag.  "Grandfather's been dead all these years, but if you lifted my skull, by God, in the convolutions of my brain you'd find the big ridges of his thumbprint.  He touched me.  As I said earlier, he was a sculptor. 'I hate a Roman named Status Quo!' he said to me.  'Stuff your eyes with wonder,' he said, 'live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds.  See the world.  It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.  Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal.  And if there was, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away.  To hell with that,' he said, 'shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.'"


Friday, October 3, 2014

Hatch

The word was "hatch" on my son's reading homework.  He had misspelled it "hach" and was asking me what was wrong with it.  I tell him to go look it up in the dictionary, but then realize he has no idea how to do this.

He brings the little paperback Webster's dictionary from the dollar bin to me, and I show him how to look up a word.  We get to the correct page and he eventually finds the word "hatch."  I instruct him to read the definition.

"to cause the young, esp. of birds, to emerge from an egg."

His eyes bug out.  He grabs his homework and points to the picture under the word "hatch" of a bird cracking its way out of an egg.

He exclaims (and I truly mean exclaim...he was excited), "It's just like this picture! How did it know?!"

How did the dictionary know this?!  Oh my gosh, the wonder of discovery.  I wanted to jump up and down with him, to laugh and maybe even cry at the wonder of a book that contains nothing but facts about words.

He carried the dictionary around the rest of the day.  Both kids asked before bed how we know what's in the dictionary is correct, so I explained who Webster was and then ended up talking about the Oxford English Dictionary, which then led to us at the computer googling pictures of the original OED and then the current one with its twenty volumes, and the kids were just amazed.  We then talked about etymologies and how amazing these are and found the origin of the word "clue," which blew their little minds.


Run-away

She asked her little brother, "Do you know what 12 times 1 is?"

He thought for a beat and answered, "13!"

"Nope" said with a small degree of smugness.  I interjected with the short math lesson, "Anytime you multiply a number by '1', the answer is the other number."   She didn't like my interjection and sulked a bit, saying something I don't remember.  Her brother said, "It's like you just wanted to show something I don't know, and that's kind of mean."  I backed him up, gently, saying, "Yeah, that's true...it is not nice to point out what others don't know and not be willing to let them learn."

She dropped her shoulders and her head and skulked away to her room.  After a few minutes, she came to the kitchen with a bulging backpack.  She opened the fridge and started packing up baby carrots, cheese sticks, apples.  I asked, "What's this project you're working on?"  She didn't want to answer, though I knew what she was doing.  I made a decision to just let it ride out instead of making an issue of it.

She continues packing, and I ask where she's going.  She says, "I can't say."

"Well, I'm your mom and therefore responsible for you, so I need to know where you are."

"Somewhere near our property, but not on it...Can I cross the street?"

"Sure, but don't turn the corner to go around the block."

She finished packing a few things and went for her shoes.  I said, "Hey, I got some pumpkin cookies at the store today.  You want to add some to your bag?"

She walks into the kitchen to the box of cookies and says, "How many should I take?  You choose."

"I think two would be good."  She puts them with the rest of her snacks before putting on her shoes and walking out the door.

I watch her from the front porch.  Her bag is on her back and she slowly walks to the end of our block, crosses to the other side, walks the length of the block, crosses back over, does it again.  She keeps stealing glances at me over her shoulder, so I try to hide that I'm watching her.  Eventually her friend down the street comes out and asks what she's doing.  She decides to run away too.  They go down to her house so she can pack her bag as well.

They both walk up and down the block, crossing the street, crossing back.  Her friend asks, "Are you really running away?"

"No, not today because I have to go to soccer practice."

This routine goes on until we leave for her practice.  She had not wanted to go out of fear of hurting her broken wrist, but I know how protected it is with her cast, so I make her go.  Once she gets on the field, she's on fire.  She plays like a maniac, taking a break to guzzle water and then throw her bottle back down on the ground like a pro-athlete.  At one point, she falls on her broken side, and I cringe, not knowing what the reaction will be.  She springs right back up and keeps running.  When I ask her about the fall later, she says she doesn't even remember it.

Back at home, I help her shower since she can't get her cast wet.  The three of us sit in the living room reading aloud the next chapter of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  She is really into it and also very affectionate with me.  As she goes to bed, she hugs me and says, "My momiye" (the Amharic way of saying "my" is to add "ye" to the end, so she's essentially saying, "My mom, mine." It's incredibly endearing to have one's name made possessive..."You are mine, we belong together, without you, there is no me.").

Every night  I tell her I love her, and while she will always hug me and kiss me, she rarely if ever says it back.  Tonight, on her own, before I have a chance to say it first, she tells me she loves me.  I tell her that I hope she never runs away.

"Why?"

"Because I would really miss you, and I'd never sleep again if you went missing."


Remember

It took way longer than I had intended to get out the door to go to the "park" a few blocks down (it's actually just a big cemented parking lot with adjoining playground for the local catholic school).  There was the requisite chaos of cleaning up after dinner, signing homework, and packing school lunches, but then we couldn't find the dog leash and my husband was too ensconced in a project to help find it, and I was ready to scream at somebody.  Husband drags himself away to prove that he has no idea where the leash is and then promptly finds it.

I'm wrangling a dog, my own two kids, plus my friend with her preschooler who is riding the plasma car to the park.  It was all a bit much.  As we crossed a street, I apologized for my sour mood by saying that I need to be more aware that these are the days that I will look back on with longing and nostalgia.  She said, "Yes, except that you won't even remember this particular day."

That statement struck a certain level of panic in my gut.  I want to remember.

On the way back from the park, my son pushes the preschooler at dizzying speeds on the plasma car all the way home.  She's laughs her head off.  Around the corner from our house, everyone is stopped, and she's laughing in a particularly maniacal way.  I'm commenting on how funny it is, and then we notice a long line of pee darkening the sidewalk.  We carry the wet plasma car a little ways but she eventually gets back on, and my son keeps shoving her towards our house.

Even this I want to remember.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Swirl. Noise. World. Spinning.

In the moment when my seven-year-old son ran into the room full of knitting Ethiopian ladies excitedly exclaiming "Moooom!" as I scooped him up in a hug even though he's way too leggy for that these days, we were on display.  The room was packed.  There was a summertime energy in the air with the door and windows open, and I know that the knitting Ethiopian ladies were not the ones excitedly yelling my name.

There was conversation to the three new ladies about who this kid was who had his arms and legs wrapped around me.  I don't like feeling on display but I also know that I would write about this more except currently my house is full of the noise of the Disney pandora station, my kids cleaning the kitchen and discussing the little they know about World War 2.

Then I'll brush and brush and brush and brush my hair...wondering when my life begin?...lights will appear just like they do on my birthday each year, what is it like out there where they ... dishwasher loaded.... "Mother actually doesn't know best in that movie, you know, because that's not really her mother--it's a witch. Mom, is Tarzan really popular? So that's why there's so many songs that keep coming up...Mom, you usually really cry in this song..."

I will be here don't you cry.  Cause you'll be in my heart...from this day on now and forever more.

Lump.  Throat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Best Thing Ever Written About Adoption

She likes the word mother and all the complications it brings.  She isn't interested in true or birth or adoptive or whatever other series of mothers there are in the world.  Gloria was her mother.  Jazzlyn was too.  They were like strangers on a porch, Gloria and Jazzlyn, with the evening sun going down: they were just sat there together and neither could say what the other one knew, so they just kept quiet, and watched the day descend.  One of them said good night, while the other waited.

                                                                                  --Colum McCann in Let the Great World Spin

Monday, July 14, 2014

The thick middle

I hear that old 10,000 Maniacs song "These Are the Days" in my head a lot of the time.  Maybe it's that the summer so far has allowed us time to slow down in the best possible way with no hard schedules to follow, but I seem more aware than usual lately that I'm living the rich middle years of life where we pour out the best of ourselves to those in our orbit who depend on us showing up every day.  We show up whether we feel like it or not, and most days I feel like it though not always.

I keep having moments lately that often center around our front porch.  There is early evening soft light and a lot of green.  Perfect temperature.  Warm, not too hot.  Windows open.  The dog at my feet and the kids playing on the block somewhere.  I have a glass of cold tea with little to no ice.  A book.  Last was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and now nearing the end of Let the Great World Spin, a book that swallows me up, leaving my head in a fog (the best kind).

I feel self-conscious about the French housemate seeing my box of savignon blanc from Target.  Maybe she's judging me, maybe not.  She just sits there at our dining room table with her library book and cup of tea, in her long skirt and black tank-top, hair pulled in a loose ponytail at the nape of her neck, being all beautiful and French.  I taught her last month how to pronounce the word 'banjo' with a nasal /a/ sound because seriously, she was pronouncing it so horribly that we couldn't understand her.  She rides her bike around town, sitting with perfect posture on her borrowed fixed-gear bike and she goes on long runs and she bakes Brazilian breakfast rolls with cheese so delicious and chewy that my head was spinning.

I must remember these things because the middle years don't last forever.





Sunday, June 29, 2014

Almost 40

In the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, this thought:

You pass your youthful beauty down to your daughters and trade it in for something softer around the edges, more subtle, less sharp, smoothed, refined, tinged with grief.

And here you stop caring that the photos are less shiny.  Your daughters are relaxed and sure of themselves and now is their turn.  You sit with your sister, toes in the water to raise a glass to life, to soft middles, beautiful daughters and to what shimmers beyond the horizon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Junie B.

Tonight on our way home from a day trip to the beach, I was worried that my son would fall asleep (meaning that he'd be up until midnight) in the car, but instead, he was kept awake for over an hour by my daughter reading a Junie B. Jones book to him.  She's working towards gaining minutes for a spring break reading challenge in her class, so while the moment was sweet, it also had another purpose for my competitive daughter.

I have realized lately how proud I feel of my kids a lot of times, like on the way home with the reading in the car.  They also read through the children's book by President Obama, my son reading most of it with my daughter helping with tougher words.  I also feel proud of them in moments when they express genuine joy at stopping by a Subway on the way home and then not asking me outright for soda or chips (just a general, "Oh look mom there's those chips you like" but nothing more...it makes me want to buy them chips). 

I feel proud by how both of them look out for a friend's three-year-old daughter, holding her hand when she needs guidance and smiling at me quietly when she's melting down a little here and there, the way three-year-olds do, as if they never did such things (they did). 

Now my spouse is home from class and talking, and this is my writing career. 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Injera

Today I found out that in Ethiopia, if you want to compliment a person, you say that "Selam is injera."  Not, "as good as" or "like" but "is."  That's how highly injera is valued.  An elder in my program, when bragging about her son in Addis who has a masters degree and provides very well for his family said (in Amharic), "He is injera."


Monday, March 17, 2014

Storm

I don't think I've ever reached out to a comment-maker before, but I will this time to let "Storm" know how lovely your comment was on the post "The Concept."  Thank you!

Hair

A fair amount of time in our house is spent on hair.  I actually love doing my kids' hair, especially when my daughter and I have uninterrupted weekend time.  In the last two+ years she has been with us, I have gotten progressively better, even once managing to put in yarn twists that lasted a whole month, surprising women of color that I, a white lady, managed such a thing.

Now that I'm almost forty, I've noticed my feathers being ruffled less and less by things that used to upset me, like the incident yesterday at a loud birthday party in which a lovely Eritrean lady asked me who did my daughter's hair.  I had taken her twists out in the morning, sending her to church with a loosely pinned up "twist-out" with headband.  By the party, it needed attention, so when the lady asked, I raised my eyebrows at her and said, "Oh, I know what you're thinking: 'what's that white lady think she's doing with that black baby girl's hair?'"  She laughed.  When I said I knew it was a mess, she nodded in agreement and offered to bring my daughter over some weekend for braiding.  I took her number and may just do it.

Last night after the party, I put my daughter's hair in two pigtail large twists, Rudy Huxtable-style.  She looked adorable.

This morning my son needed to get his hair combed out and tea tree oil sprayed in since there's been a few cases of lice in his class.   He's gotten the idea in his brain that he wants an afro, or "puffy hair" as we calls it.  When he started to complain about the combing, I reminded him, "You know, if you want puffy Michael Jackson hair, you have to tolerate this combing and spraying."  He stood perfectly still the rest of the time.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Life

I woke myself up last night screaming.  I was dreaming that I was fending off a bad guy with two kitchen knives and no one could hear my pleas for help.  When I went back to sleep, I dreamed that my sweet, simple dog was eaten by lions right in front of me.  We had to leave him behind to keep from getting eaten ourselves.   All day today, I was tired out of my mind.

I bribed my children with the promise of artisan donuts after school if they wore their habesha outfits to school for Multicultural Day.  My daughter's teacher and I texted back and forth this morning about the scarf tied around her head as part of the outfit.  She kept it on.  This afternoon we ate donuts.  My son's pants got ripped.

A funny thing about life is that transcendent moments like the one captured below in this photo of my daughter can occur in the midst of such struggle, within hours of my son, while doing his nightly read-aloud needs to pass gas, so I say, "Look, don't get up.  Just fart into the chair."  He does, and then we take a five-second break from reading to laugh.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Elders

It's the productive coughs, the kind that bring up and rattle through my throat the infection in my chest that hurt the most.  Those are the ones that keep me from falling asleep.

I went to work today anyway, early this morning, getting caught up on the reporting I have to do for our funders, being sure to wipe down with rubbing alcohol everything I touched at my desk since the Ethiopian intern would be sitting there in the afternoon.  One of the elders in my program came in to use the lab, so I got him set up with news from his home country.  When I went back to check on him a few minutes later, he was watching Game of Thrones.  I have no idea how he got there.  The Ethiopian intern and I tried to help him get back to something in his language, but he insisted on staying, shooing us away with a loud "America! America!"  A friend told me later that GoT is extremely 'risque'.  I had no idea.

Tuesday morning, another one of the elders, a west African woman, told me about a new outfit she got over the weekend.  Her three-year-old grandson was watching her try it on and said, "Gramma! You so cue!" (cute).

"I told him, 'Grama gone get jiggy jiggy'."  And then she did a dance and busted out laughing.

 This is why I look forward to going into work, even with painful coughing fits.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love drives out hate

Tonight my son told me that when the girls in his class complain about how much they 'hate' something (or usually, someone), he reminds them, "Hate can't drive out hate.  Only love can do that."

At times, it's as if he really is listening.   Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year was a big one for him. He had a lot of questions.  I'm so glad something is sinking in.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Greed

Thursday afternoon, our office closed two hours early due to the oncoming winter storm, and I, along with many others over the next few days, stocked up on grocery essentials on my way home.  I bought milk, bread, fruit, and snacks at the storm’s onset, and my family, again along with many others, trekked out two days later for more essentials, plus chips and beer.  When you’re stuck inside during a storm, snacking becomes a way to pass the time.  For us in the United States, we stock up on snacks during a weather crisis.  We are a lot luckier than most.

Every Tuesday morning, I get to work with a group of elders at a nonprofit that exists to help immigrants and refugees integrate into our state and country.  This group of around 100 elders exercise, drink tea, eat lunch and help out with cleaning up afterwards.  They are a diverse group from countries such as Bhutan, Burma, Vietnam, Ukraine, Russia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo and Eritrea.  Some are highly educated while some cannot read in their first languages.  Some had high positions in their jobs while others were day laborers.  Some enjoy ballet and museums while others create their own art in knitted scarves, watercolors, folk songs and vegetable gardens.  Some of the Russian ladies chide me when they think my skirt is too short.  The brightest-eyed man from Burma stops everything he’s doing to shake my hand and laugh when he sees me, as if we have a shared joke (we don’t).  A Somali man who’s had four wives and seventeen children scattered about always talks my ear off and offers to bring me coffee every week.  The Ethiopian woman who brings me injera “for babies” (my kids) is often all the way leaned back in her chair guffawing with her friends at the jokes she tells, usually based on her observations of crazy ‘ferenjis’ (Americans).

Upon first inspection, visitors to this group might be surprised to hear details about the difficult places the members of this group have passed through.  They would stand at the side watching the singing, the laughter, the stretching of aged limbs trying out yoga poses and not consider the following:

In Bhurma, the voice of one of the regular Tuesday attendees:
“We had gathered all our food at home but we were unable to eat.  The children were very young. We grabbed some chickens and left in the middle of the night….The kids said they were hungry, but we had nothing to eat.  There were tears rolling down my cheeks, and the kids were crying too.”

From Liberia, a refugee trying to keep his daughter from exploitation:
 "Life is very, very hard for the children. In the morning, before going to school, I used to buy my children at least a cake worth 100 francs for breakfast, or a banana to eat. Here, we are waking up in the morning and I don't know what we're supposed to eat." (Save the Children)
 

In Somalia, a parent during the holy month of Ramadan:
"How will I fast when I don't have something to break it?" asked Abdulle. "All my family are hungry and I have nothing to feed them. I feel the hunger that forced me from my home has doubled here." (NBC News)
 

A Russian commentator about the lingering effects of Soviet-style Communism:
“The reaction to this is absolutely Soviet — it is a classic, Soviet-style panic,” Ms. Yasina said. “Remember, it has been only 20 years since the Soviet collapse. I am 46 years old. For 20 years, I have lived under normal conditions. But the rest of the time, I lived under conditions of total shortages. And habits acquired during childhood are stronger than any others. It becomes almost a reflex.” (New York Times)
 

The voice of a Bhutanese refugee:
“We have to eat little to make it last.  In Bhutan we could eat whenever we liked but in camps we cannot eat like this due to the scarcity of things available to us.” (Photovoice)


The closest I have ever come to facing food scarcity was when I ate simply during my years as a teacher in Slovakia in order to buy plane tickets abroad for travel.  That’s it.  I always had a cushion of savings in an American bank account though, a fact that disqualifies me from any sense of food insecurity. For most of us in the west, this is probably true.  For those that have never traveled to developing nations to witness first-hand the day-to-day struggle its citizens face, the situations outlined above can be hard to grasp.  They experience the inconvenience of having to plow through a freak snow storm to stock up on beer and chips, and that's about it (I  don’t mean to make light of the many Americans who find themselves in the position of benefiting from SNAP; sadly, for many places in the world, there is no social safety net for those who fall on hard times).

Knowing the little I do about the elders I spend my Tuesday mornings with, I hope you understand my reaction to the Meals on Wheels volunteer who was walking through the group handing out leftover apples and oranges.  She locked eyes with me as we passed each other and said, assuming that I, another mainstream white lady, would be a safe ear for her vent, “Ugh, they’re so greedy!”


Well, actually, they’re not. 


Until we have been in the position of not having food to give our children before school, we have no right to judge the behavior of those who have.  Sometimes the elders crowd around handouts.  A certain group will crowd around the serving table the moment the food begins to appear from the kitchen.  One elder takes any leftovers home in empty plastic yogurt containers she brings from home while another takes home all the empty plastic milk cartons which she uses to stockpile cooking oil in her garage.  In our group, we have one hoarder who I have found digging through the garbage bins outside her apartment complex.  These behaviors are odd.  They are hard to understand for most of us.  They are unpalatable and can be seen as even gross.


One thing they are not is greedy.  When you have experienced the indignity of receiving insufficient rations at a refugee camp, it is a normal response to crowd when a hand-out of fresh fruit is being offered.  We cope with whatever life gives us, whether it be refugee camp rations, SNAP benefits, scavenged food during wartime or the blessing of Meals on Wheels People congregate meals.


  I hope that, should I ever face the things these elders have faced, I find myself surrounded by the kindness of those whose heart is to uphold my dignity..

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beautiful Ruins

We are coming out of a snow and ice storm in our city that began on Thursday afternoon.  My office closed its doors two hours early to give everyone a chance to get home safely amidst torrential winds that blew heavy snow as if up from the ground.  The streets made it seem I was driving across waves.  I stopped on the way home to stock up on groceries, which I had to do two days later with the help of my husband and our pick-up truck.  This time, at a different grocery store, I found it funny that half of the chip aisle had been depleted.  It got me wondering how much weight our city has put on and what the population spike might be come November.

I have always loved 'snow days', those moments of imposed rest on a culture that is so over scheduled.  For Friday and Saturday, my family did nothing.  My son spent seven hours outside Friday, coming in only for 15 minutes to inhale a meatloaf sandwich.  A gaggle of neighborhood kids went with us to sled down the public staircases near our house and eventually ended up eleven block away on an incredibly steep hill where it seemed most of our neighborhood had gathered.  As my kids and their friends sledded, my niece and I walked to the drugstore and for fast-food coffee, the only place open.

By Sunday, we were further holed up at home due to an ice storm that coated the city in a couple inches.  Church was cancelled.  We went back to the sleep sledding hill which this time was ruled by daredevil teenagers who sped down as quickly as possible.  One was sliding down on an upside-down plastic table that he proudly told me he found in his backyard.  For whatever reason, the group of name-brand dressed teenagers were ignoring him, barely acknowledging me when I asked once if my kids should wait for them to go first.  I hated the look the one gave me as he shrugged in my direction and said, "Go ahead" while he texted.  I hate that brand of teenager, the smug, rich ones who can't be bothered to be civil when an adult asks them a simple question.

That being said, it was entertaining to watch the careen down the hill, even though I did feel sorry for the outcast one, the one with a upside down plastic table.

We ate burrito bowls and toffee oatmeal cookies, and I worried about how much weight I was putting on during this storm.  The kids, surprisingly, watched not too much TV.  My son watched The Empire Strikes Back and we all watched the first half of Oliver!  One of the nights, they watched Hercules and Pocahontas with their cousin who lives with us.

They watched two in a row because I was deep into the book Beautiful Ruins.  I finished during the storm, deeply satisfied by this meandering yet tidy nugget of a story.  I was so happy to find a Milan Kundera quote:

There would seem to be nothing more obvious, 
more tangible and palpable than the present moment. 
 And yet, it eludes us completely.  
All the sadness of life lies in that fact.

It's why I write these posts.  I cannot forget.  I can't.  This present moment: that's what I have.  Please, God, don't let it elude me.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The dark night

What was happening right before I woke up in cramped sweat was that I had walked into my cabin on a moving train having escaped the hotel in The Shining where an invisible, evil little girl was sabotaging all my attempts at escape.  It was the sort of dream that I couldn't shake the feeling of.  I got out of bed and walked around the house but felt fear as I climbed back into my dark bed, terrified of going back to that world.  I laid in the dark with thoughts of all the ways we're failing our children, so I eventually turned on the light and leaned forward, burying my face in the blankets and prayed for a while.

I told friends last night through our church that I was thinking of going back to school to become a grief counselor.  Darkness and I walk side by side, so I appreciated articles like this one in a mainstream newspaper yesterday:


"Alone Yet Not Alone" by David Brooks.

Both of our kids are very silly but at night for the last month or so, I find the one on the bottom bunk laying on the pillow with lines between eyebrows, worried and burdened.  I come down to his level, putting my hand on his head and ask, "What are you worried about?" 

His answer is always, "You know."

I do know.  It's something we talk about at night when he can't sleep.  I tell him that I wish I could carry this burden for him.  I'm not sure if this is why I've been having nightmares or not.  I'd appreciate some good dreams for all of us.