Posted in College, Insight, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Parenting bites…

With the nest almost empty now, my parenting insights come in shorter bits which I suppose is just about right as I turn more & more toward other things…

And yet, I’m learning that this role is the role of a lifetime…

~

Payback Theater

That rare night when he goes to bed before us. A dramatized rendition of what we endure night after night. Door latches. Stairs. Lights. A sudden desire to share scientific discoveries, insights, intimacies.

~

IN A FAMILY WAY

It’s such a comfort, this being a family. A buffer. An ease. A certainty. Sweet. Exhausting. Consuming. Distracting.

The silence, after, is deafening. Resurrecting. The original. Sin. Of separation. Abandonment. Mortality.

There is this larger family. This shared dwelling. This belonging.

There is this whole.

Past. Present. Future.

One.

~

OUR TURN

My state is proposing a 24-hour waiting period to buy a handgun.

Here’s an idea. Until this country figures out its shit when it comes to guns, men are unable to purchase them, and women are in charge of any firearms in the home. Furthermore, public funds are provided to women for firearm training and to provide the necessary equipment for safekeeping. Additionally, all new hires in positions that require firearms will be women until such time that a 50/50 gender balance is achieved in police departments, security teams, military personnel, etc. Public funding will also post armed women at every school, church, and each of the other venues that the men of our country frequent to kill people begrudgingly and at random.

You’ve had our vote, our money, our bodies. We’ll have your guns.

~

FROM THE MOUTH OF BABES

”It’s like the release of a new iPhone. Is it going to be good, and are we gonna like it, or is it just gonna be the same thing without a headphone jack?”

Our youngest, on the Mueller Report

~

APOCALYPSE

You know how if your kids are plugged in–at home or in the car–you gain some well-deserved solace, but it’s bittersweet because they’re checked out, like that rambunctious kid in your classroom on Ritalin, or the outlying boroughs of NYC, silenced by the seduction of indoor screens, or the neighborhood of my childhood on the base at West Point, the roads in front of the homes now three times as full with oversized SUVs obscurring the view of the Hudson, while the sidewalks and the playgrounds and the woods, once sprinkled with kids, are barren, even on a perfect July day, like the ghost town we visited when we lived in the Rockies, or the Apocalypse we inhabit now–quieted, distracted, consumed.

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Posted in College, Insight, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Children as teachers


Turns out that we no longer have paints at home, yet another casualty of grown children. And so I’ve made my very first rally signs with marker and crayon. Seems like I’ve been to lots of rallies in the past few years after barely any before and I’ve always been too shy to bring my own sign.

While I’m not on the frontline when it comes to the plight of LGBTQ folks, I do know what it is to be marginalized, dehumanized and physically threatened so I’m showing up to listen and learn in the hope that others feel less alone.

~

It was 2013 when I noticed a non-gendered bathroom at my first born’s college. I ducked into it because I was intrigued and because it was closer than the women’s bathroom and mostly because it was private and I’m an introvert and bathrooms are sometimes the quickest place to regroup.

At some point, around the age of 50, or was it 40, the world started moving too fast, and I couldn’t keep up, and didn’t want to try. (My youngest talks a lot about Mars.)

When it comes to human rights, however, I have to try. My best. I know what it is to be invisible. To be marginalized. To be targeted. To be excluded.

Today I looked up the term: Gender Queer.

My youngest has long accused me of binary thinking when it comes to my use of feminine and masculine to describe what I insist are non-gendered qualities. I remind him that he’s ahead of me and that I’m still learning.

This summer when asked by older friend what I thought of parents allowing their children to be trans (she was furious), I answered that I was doing a lot of listening these days, instead of judging.

On the contrary, I do my best to ignore #45’s antics when I can. This is a survival strategy that I developed as a young woman when faced with the outrageous behavior of men addicted to substances, rage, power and privilege.

But sometimes attention is due, particularly when what He says further marginalizes those who are vulnerable, even if he’s saying it to galvanize fear in order to bend the arc of history further away from justice.

So to those who are marginalized by gender expression or identification, I may not understand everything and I may say some things wrong, but I’m with you. I want to be with you. I’m willing to be with you.

Keep speaking.

I’ll keep listening.

You matter. Just as you are.

#Transrightsarehumanrights #VOTE

 

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

a boy and his vacuum


I’ve either done something right or terribly wrong.

Our very first vacuum was an Electrolux from our Wedding Registry, 1990. It was with us through our move to Vermont, through the birth of two kids, and into the home we built together.

Our oldest was 15 & youngest 10 when we had to replace our old pal. The kids were ecstatic. I was alarmed.

Should kids be this happy about a new vacuum?

Did this mean they were too involved in housekeeping?

Or were their lives unduly deprived of new things?

We did lead a very frugal life. I did expect them to be full participants in caring for the home we shared. Maybe I had gone too far.

Fast forward 7 years…

We’ve been without a vacuum for over a month now. It’s the second time this new Electrolux has stopped working. My husband and our youngest have been in a stalemate over how to move forward.

Repair–for this machine whose life was a quarter of that of its predecessor; or
Replace–and with what? Another Electrolux? Something new?

My husband wanted to play it safe.

Our son, the high school engineer wanted something technologically advanced.

I finally intervened.

“He only has a few months left at home,” I said, “Let him have this.”

“Exactly,” my husband said. “Why should we get the vacuum he wants when he’s leaving.

The Dyson V7 HEPA arrived today. The moment I messaged him, Aidan wanted to leave school.

When he walked through the door at the end of the day, he went right to the boxes (which I had to promise that I would not open without him) and he began unpacking, affectionately examining each piece, and bringing them to me, one by one, to illustrate the technology and the design (are those two different things?), and particularly the interlocking components.

It looks like a Cuisinart to me.

I will never be able to operate it.

But right now I’m headed to my husband’s yoga class and by the time I get home, no doubt I’ll have clean floors again.

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Parental Adolescence, Round Two, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

A LINE

I’m not sure if it’s #45 or #metoo or Menopause, but suddenly I have access to something I never had before and it’s something which I expend too easily like the first paycheck in my kid’s pocket.

“Don’t be a fucking idiot!”

A few weeks back, I spewed this at him.

(This, in a household, where I’ve long drawn a fierce line at: Shut up.)

Actually, a stream of sentences with fuck (highlighted in various forms) came out of my 54-year-old mouth, one after the other, none of which I could entirely recollect afterward–a sure sign of trance–but not one I’d so fully occupied before.

Anger.

Not just at the behavior at hand, or the accumulated attitude of his adolescent years or that combined with his older brother’s (and even their father’s) but all the ways that all women/mothers/wives are maligned for the same things for which we are relied upon.

“I’m sorry that I put that all on you,” I said to my son when he returned from hitting the speed bag in the basement.

But what I didn’t regret was the line that I had drawn, and that I will now draw forevermore, and which I appreciate that he also drew for me:

“We don’t talk to each other that way, Mom.”

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Takes a Village, Teens, Tweens, Wisdom of Youth

On hating our young

While our 17-year-old set out to march, my husband and I opted for our regular Saturday morning practice on the mat, surprised and touched to find our longtime teacher speaking to the day’s events, not just at the opening of class but into the practice, naming the young voices he admired so much–Emma Gonzales and David Hogg–and choking up as he talked about the Stoneman Douglass Ice Hockey team, so that I when I found myself, supine, in Baddha Konasana–hips and heart wide open–tears slid down & around my cheeks, and into my hair, and onto my mat, without thought, without attachment or emotion, and continued as I came into a twist, and later, off the mat, and into the day, I was struck again, as I was on Valentines Day, at how precious the sight of each and every teenager, and I understood that it is not only our relationship with masculinity and guns that will be transformed but our hatred of our young as they come of age.

 

Posted in Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

Ode to Winter & other passings

Once the weather grows cold we often prepare soup for breakfast. On Sunday, a butternut squash with mushrooms. To the small bowl he served himself, my son added not one but 4 pieces of buttered toast, dismissing my raised eyebrows by marveling over the invention of bread, “Who was the first to think of this,” he said, “It must have been life changing,” which left me marveling over the synchronicity of the poem of the day read by Garrison Keillor on the The Writer’s Almanac.

Bread and Butter

for Michael

I often wonder how people figured
things out—simple things like bread
and butter. How did the first person know
to grind and knead and bake,
to milk and skim and churn?
How did someone realize they could soak
olives in lye or let grape juice ferment
inside casks of oak? How, when
we first leaned toward each other,
did our tongues know to touch
before our brains knew
we were going to kiss at all?

“Bread and Butter” by Gayle Brandeis from The Selfless Bliss of the Body. © Finishing Line Press, 2017.

Breakfast bonus poem:

Egg

I’m scrambling an egg for my daughter.
“Why are you always whistling?” she asks.
“Because I’m happy.”
And it’s true,
Though it stuns me to say it aloud;
There was a time when I wouldn’t
Have seen it as my future.
It’s partly a matter
Of who is there to eat the egg:
The self fallen out of love with itself
Through the tedium of familiarity,
Or this little self,
So curious, so hungry,
Who emerged from the woman I love,
A woman who loves me in a way
I’ve come to think I deserve,
Now that it arrives from outside me.
Everything changes, we’re told,
And now the changes are everywhere:
The house with its morning light
That fills me like a revelation,
The yard with its trees
That cast a bit more shade each summer,
The love of a woman
That both is and isn’t confounding,
And the love
Of this clamor of questions at my waist.
Clamor of questions,
You clamor of answers,
Here’s your egg.

“Egg” by C.G. Hanzlicek from Against Dreaming. © University of Missouri Press, 1994.

(RIP Writers Almanac)

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Takes a Village, Twenty-something, Uncategorized, Wisdom of Youth

a meditation on toxicity, part II

lion-face
Embroidery and graphite on fabric by Ana Teresa Barboza

Over the weekend, I wrote–Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity–and was surprised to see so many readers drawn in, particularly on a Saturday night.

I wrote about the sluggishness that came in the aftermath of my son’s initiation… into the family… tragedy. But I didn’t explain that I was equally weighed down by the residue of a respiratory infection. Loitering congestion. In my ears and throat and lymph nodes.

I realize now that this led me to the provocative image that I chose for the piece–or that chose me. After the piece was published, the image continued to play with my consciousness and I found myself responding to a request on Facebook:

Ok, Saturday-night-stay-in’s – if you post a picture i will write a poem about it. Just say, “Hi dug- pic poem, please.”

Kelly Salasin’s Kill Strategy
a pic poem by dug Nap
(For Kelly)

Anytime she’s
not so sure
kelly always goes
for the jugular

I was stunned by the violence of this tiny piece. Had the artist read my article? Was he judging me? Why hadn’t he taken a scientific angle on this anatomic study–which could have been on the kitchen table, on any given morning, of my childhood, before my father left for the operating room.

When I went in to see the doctor last week, she put me on the table, and massaged down my throat, coaxing toxins from my lymph nodes.

I hadn’t realized that I was so filled.
With rage.
Until my son read a single line from the email he received  from the relative.
(He refused to let me hear more.)
He was writing back.

I grabbed his laptop. I pleaded:

“Please don’t respond again. She’ll only be more venomous. She can’t handle boundaries.”

My son was amused by my passion. He insisted that I didn’t need to worry. That he would be okay.

So I shared the spontaneous visions that were occurring in my mind’s eye on his behalf:

Tearing flesh with fanged teeth.

Ripping jugular veins as a three-headed beast.

Becoming a thousand insects, devouring her brain.

Faced with the mythical proportions of his mother’s protective instinct, he turned toward his father, and calmly challenged his aloofness:

“Where are your feelings,” he asked.

“I am so used to this,” my husband said.

“But she cc-ed you on the Goddamn email,” my son said. “She fucking invited you to watch as she kicked your son in the face.”

My husband remained silent.

I was quieted too by my inability to help.

We went to bed numb.

As I settled under the covers, it occurred to me that my vision could potentially injure the Other, so I mustered metta to send to the One who had attacked my child.

A week has since passed, but the meditation on toxicity continues to force itself into another day. This morning, a Mary Oliver line comes to mind:

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

My gift is knowing that a boundary was crossed. Long ago. In my own family of origin. And I failed to defend it.

benzank-400x391My husband’s gift is the understanding that he never learned that boundaries were possible–among loved ones–from whom he must claim where he begins… and they end.

Our son wasn’t angry with either of us.
He was simply sad.
He wanted to understand:

How had we lived our entire lives without ever saying:

No.

~

(The previous post: Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity.
(The post after this one: toxicity, part III: legacy.)