Saturday, August 31, 2013

Runaway Emotion

I sit in the front seat of the car outside the vet clinic where I just dropped my baby boy off for xrays to rule out metastatic melanoma.
I feel the prickling behind my eyes and recognize it as fear. One step farther down the path from pain.
And I wonder, what if I stop at honoring the feeling and don't go so far as to name it?
What if I sit with this ache behind my eyes,
the heaviness in my chest?
Just sit.
How do I arrive at this point and not give in to the inertia that pushes me forward to the next?
The questions.
What if...?
How do I...?
I recognize my own tendency toward forward motion. Moving always. Through,
or past.
Even if it means moving into fear, panic, anxiety.
What will I do without this lovely boy?
The question flits into being.
I let it go.
Don't move past,
Sit with this moment in honor of my boy. This moment is all there is. It won't last forever but the least I can do is feel it while it's here and give it space.
And as I sit and breathe, floating in this moment, I discover a place of okay has opened up to me, offered itself, and I sit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Two Cents on Miley Cyrus

Photo from AP Wire
Somehow, the topic of Miley Cyrus came up in our house a few weeks ago. Yes, before the MTV Video Music Awards and Miley's latest public appearance.

My girls are just old enough that they used to really enjoy watching "Hannah Montana" and Bubba and I used to be forced to listen to them sing her songs over and over again.  It has been a few years since that show has appeared on our television - Lola prefers 'Seinfeld' and 'The Simpsons' and Eve is a total 'Pretty Little Liars' fan - and neither of the girls owns any of Cyrus' new music that I know of.  It is, however, nearly impossible to miss the tabloid headlines and magazine photos of her with her partially-shaved, blond-dyed hair and new, much edgier look.

When we started the conversation, I encouraged the girls to say what they thought about her and both gave me some version of the statement "she isn't classy."  I have to say that I agreed, but I did manage to paraphrase this quote from her that I admired:

"People think that I was made in Burbank in the Disney building."
When Kelly Osbourne asked her about her transition from childhood to adulthood as a celebrity, she answered,

"It's called puberty....Everyone's done it from the beginning of time. I'm just doing it, so you're zooming in on it and you're fascinated by it." 
The reason I held that up for my girls to think about is because I think she has a valid point.  Some teens go through a period of major rebellion and others stay pretty much the same as they always were. Some manage to hide their testing behaviors pretty well from their parents and others don't.  Miley Cyrus ought not to be expected to stay the same innocent (if she really was that innocent - hard to know since I don't know her personally) young girl she portrayed on television any more than anyone else.  She is growing up. She is allowed to get a tattoo or shave her head or sleep with whomever she pleases, whether or not we like it.  Whether or not we find it uncomfortable to look at.

I think it is patently unfair to so closely scrutinize Miley Cyrus for daring to take some chances with her physical appearance as a young twenty-something.  She is playing with her own boundaries, something she is absolutely entitled to do so long as she isn't hurting anyone else or endangering herself in any way.  If she were anorexic or playing fast and loose with drugs and alcohol, that might be another situation, but still not one that's any of my business and I would hope that her family and close friends would step in and try to help.

Of course, when the VMAs rolled around, I was shocked at the amount of disgust and disdain shown for her performance. Granted, I didn't watch the entire thing (too busy catching up on 'Breaking Bad'), but from the description of her stripping down to flesh-colored bikini and bra and incredibly suggestive dancing with Robin Thicke, I didn't see anything that was much different than past performances from Madonna or Katy Perry or Britney Spears or even Lady Gaga.  Why the backlash against Cyrus? Is it because we all still want to see her as Hannah Montana? Are we uncomfortable with her growing up before our very eyes?  Frankly, I am far more disgusted by the lyrics to Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" and its nod to the idea that women don't actually know what they want when it comes to sex and they need men to give them guidance than I am by the idea that Miley gyrated her hips against his crotch on stage.  I've seen far worse. She was called out for grabbing her own crotch. Huh. How many male pop and hip hop stars do that almost constantly? When was the last time they were admonished for that kind of behavior?

So when the conversation came up again today and the girls had heard much of the discussion of her performance (neither of them has seen the broadcast of the VMAs), I was careful to ask for their perceptions first again.  They both felt like she was still "not very classy," but Lola pointed out that she really felt a little sad.

"She has such a good voice and it's too bad that these kinds of things take away from the attention on that."

I think she's right.  I say that, if Miley isn't hurting anyone or exploiting anyone with her behaviors, we ought to leave her alone.  She may be making some decisions that will come back to haunt her in the future, given that these photos and recordings will likely never go away, but their her choices to make and unless her actions or words are harmful to anyone else, she has every right to do what she thinks is right.  I have seen some essays discussing her 'appropriation' and 'exploitation' of black culture and I honestly don't feel like I can speak to that with any authority at all, so I'll leave that to others.  Ultimately, I wonder if a lot of the public outcry over her VMA performance has more to do with the fact that Hannah Montana isn't growing up to be the young woman many people expected her to be.  I don't think we have any right to impose our society's ideas on her simply because she was famous as a child.

Monday, August 26, 2013

This Might Not Be a Bad Thing...

I cry differently as an adult. I mostly cry about the same kinds of things, but there seems to be an odd threshold for actual tears falling now that there wasn't when I was younger.

I have always been fairly emotionally sensitive, crying when I perceive that someone I love is hurting or finding myself so deeply embedded in a book or movie that a fictional tragedy sends me reeling.  I have also always been a frustrated-crier. That is to say, if I ever feel completely misunderstood or disregarded or unfairly shut-down, the anger that rises in me does so in a liquid form rather than a vaporous trail of words I probably ought not to utter.  I am one of those women who cries when her boss yells at her or when anyone in authority calls me out, especially if it is unjustified.  I have hated that quality for most of my life, all the while knowing that it has special powers over some males of the species (in my younger years, I was pulled over for speeding/taillights out/changing lanes without signaling a few times and always, the tears tumbled over each other to cascade down my cheeks -- I have never ever had a ticket, only warnings).

As an adult, though, it seems that something has changed. Either my older-woman body is producing less liquid or my eyes have sunk deeper into my lower lids. Despite continuing to have very strong feelings about a variety of things, I seem less able to cry actual tears than I used to be.

Today, as we headed to the mall to shop for back-to-school clothes (admittedly one of the activities I despise the most, so I may have been a tad bit predisposed to negative energy), Eve said something mean to Lola. Instantly, I felt my chin begin to dimple and my eyes moisten behind my driving glasses.  I quietly pointed out that Lola's feelings were quite likely to be very bruised by that comment and asked Eve to consider her sister's reaction before opening her mouth. In the uncomfortable silence that followed, my emotions continued to build as Eve's words echoed in my head and I imagined just how painful and shocking it must have been for Lola to hear them.  I half-wanted Eve to glance over and see a tear rolling down my cheek, if only because it may have made my point for me, but not one drop crested the edge. I blinked. My eyelashes glistened, but still no tears fell.

When my cat, Marley, died I was heartbroken. She was my first real pet as an adult.  This tiny, charcoal grey bundle of silky, purring fur that slept on my lap, shared my pillow with me, and loved everyone she met.  She lived for 13 years and when the Emergency Vet called to tell me she died peacefully in her sleep I was stunned.  I couldn't cry for the longest time. A lump inhabited my throat, my face screwed up in that hideous way that prompts you to cover it with both hands, and my chin quivered, but no tears fell.  I alternately held my breath and gasped and buried my head in Bubba's shoulder in true, physical grief, but it took forever for the tears to form and release.  Once they did, it was a torrent of warm, salty emotional relief, but it took forever.

I never did cry actual tears today, although my eyes did well up for a bit. Eve didn't notice, or if she did hear my occasional sniffles and put two and two together, she didn't let on.  The emotion passed and we ended up having an okay time shopping together, the three of us. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't start crying and risk sparking a "whole thing" as Eve says, but it does make me wonder just when I stopped being able to create a flood of tears so that my 'crying' has morphed into more of a sad-face-making endeavor than a sloppy mess.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You Look So Much Like Your....

My mother's side of the family has a very distinctive "look." All but one of her siblings is female, and they all fit a similar profile, not very tall, olive-colored Ukrainian skin, round faces and their father's freckles. Lots of freckles.

My father and his sisters all have very similar faces (do I say 'have' even though Dad is dead now? It seems strange to write 'had' given that his sisters are all still alive). Three of them have thick auburn hair with a slight wave to it and the youngest, Martha, looks somewhat different from the other kids, but she and my Dad had nearly identical mouths.  They also all have freckles.

I am covered in freckles, more as I age, but few on my face. Like my parents, they mostly dot my arms and chest with a few on my legs.  Growing up, I always assumed that I would eventually look like my mother, given that I was female.  Of course, this notion was ghastly as soon as I reached adolescence and I denied any suggestion that I would ever look like her - not because she looks awful, but simply because it was important to me to look like me and only me.

Last year I agreed to be interviewed for a video presentation that would appear at the fundraising luncheon for Eve and Lola's school.  I went in looking like me, in my favorite grey top and freshwater pearl necklace my Aunt Barb gave me for high school graduation. No makeup to speak of, hair styled like I do it every day (which is to say, washed and combed and largely ignored).  A month or so later when the video aired on an enormous screen in a hotel ballroom in front of 700 people, I was shocked to see myself.  I looked like Dad.

There have been times in my life where I knew I resembled my father, or at least his side of the family, and probably equally as many when I was struck by my resemblance to Mom's side.

This morning I began wondering whether those shifts come with age or demeanor or situation.  Do I look like Mom when I am doing things I associate with her?  The video was certainly something Dad would have done (and reveled in, frankly), and I can't imagine my mother in that situation. Is that why I  looked like him there?  We have photos of me with the girls as toddlers where I have such a maternal, doting look on my face and I see Mom in there so deeply.

I don't recall a time when I was able to look at my face and see both of my parents simultaneously, melded together as one. Honestly, my freckles are the only thing I consider to have come equally from both bloodlines, but how much of that has to do with the fact that I don't really remember my parents together at all? For the vast majority of my life, I see-sawed between parents' houses and affections so maybe it is a bigger challenge for me to consider them as two halves of a whole versus opposite ends of a swinging pendulum when it comes to my physical appearance.  Do other people see themselves this way?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Having Too Much Fun to Blog

Whoops! It's summertime and I have summer brain which, for me, means a lot less writing and a lot more hanging out with Eve and Lola. I like to say that I work on writing about 2/3 time during the school year and 1/4 of the time in the summer. This summer in Seattle has been particularly lovely weather-wise, and the girls and I have had a ball taking advantage of the city's attractive parks and water everywhere.

I realized, though, that my last post was fairly gloomy and I thought I'd better update my status lest you think I'm moping over here.  Au contraire - Eve went off to a week long sleepaway camp last weekend and Bubba left for a conference on the East Coast on Monday (yup, sucks to be him), so it's just been Lola and me this week and it has rocked. Monday we decided to blow out of town, hopped a ferry with the dog and took off to wherever we wanted.  At one point, after the biggest damn ice cream I'd ever seen, we veered off the road and found a mostly deserted beach full of driftwood and a clean public restroom.  We walked the shoreline finding dead jellyfish that Lola picked up with sticks and flung back out into the sea, discovering enormous clam shells full of barnacles and throwing sticks for the dog to fetch in the surf. When we finally settled down on some driftwood and Lola started creating art out of sticks and stones and sand, she looked up,

"Mom? When do we have to leave the beach?"

"Whenever we want. We have no agenda, love. Eat when we're hungry. Drive when we want to find a new place to hang out, sleep when we're tired. That's all. Just us and whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it."

Oh, the look on her face.
Simply glorious.

We stayed for three hours, soaking up the sunshine, playing with the dog and only leaving when our stomachs started to rumble.  About ten miles down the road we found a hotel with a pool that accepted dogs, checked in and had a lovely dinner looking out at a marina full of great blue herons and beautiful sailboats.  Lola swam to her heart's content at 9:30 that night and we woke up the next morning happy and rested.  We rented a kayak, paddled through glass-smooth waters with seals poking their heads up to greet us every few feet, spied bright orange and purple sea stars just beneath us and watched herons dive for their breakfast.  When we got hot and tired, we headed back to hang out with the dog some more.

I could bore you with the rest of the details, but let's just say that even though we're home now, we are still taking advantage of our 'us' time by doing whatever we want whenever we want to.

It rocks.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Grey Mood for a Grey Day

I wasn't aware that it was possible to feel weary and frantic at the same time. Like a bowl full of eggs that has been whisked and poured into a skillet to become an omelette - resigned to that fate - and then suddenly a spatula pokes in and folds and turns and scrambles.

I am weary of the continued news of Anthony Weiner's sexting antics and his wife's attempts to rescue his public image. I don't care. I get frantic when I read about corporate interests taking over politics, conservatives using their angry voices to manipulate voting districts and women's rights, all the while touting their own gun rights and rights to free speech as gospel.  I am weary of news items that tout the FDA's new plan to define 'gluten free' for food labels because I don't trust that agency as far as I could throw them. This is the agency that recently increased "acceptable" levels of poisonous pesticides in our foods at the behest of Ag-giant Monsanto.  This is the agency that refuses to address the levels of arsenic in chicken feed or antibiotics given to farm animals when they aren't sick.  This is the agency that moves at the speed of snail when it comes to responding to anything in the public interest, and at the speed of light when money is involved.

More than anything, I am sad. I have, in my Facebook feed, several organizations that I have 'liked' because I think their values align with mine*.  And then I read solicitations for comments like this on one (shall remain unnamed) organization's page:
"Once the stuff of tabloid headlines (there was general “tsking” when paparazzi captured Suri Cruise in silver peep-toe heels), wedges and heels for tots and tweens have gone mainstream, turning up in schoolyards and on playgrounds far from Hollywood or Madison Avenue. Industry observers say the trend is part of a bigger, so-called “mini-me” craze in the children’s wear market, linking fashions for children’s clothing and accessories with the latest from mom and dad’s runway, no matter how impractical it may be for a child’s rough-and-tumble lifestyle." - The New York Times

What are your thoughts on children wearing heels?
It prompted a storm of mother-shaming from readers who lambasted Katie Holmes for dressing her daughter in heels and all I could think was, 'Aren't we supposed to be building community? Helping each other stand taller? Why are we picking on each other like this?'

In my circle of friends and acquaintances, there are many people who I believe are motivated by love and compassion for others.  I hold on to that like a lifeline. And I am shocked and saddened when I hear others say precisely the opposite.  On the radio today were two guests talking about the 'sharing economy' (things like Air BnB and Lyft car where strangers rent out things they own to perfect strangers). One guest was thrilled with the advent of these organizations and talked about how they are creating efficiencies in creative ways. The other guest said he thought it was crazy - that "people can't be trusted to act in their own best interest, much less the best interest of others, and these kinds of things need to be heavily regulated." When pressed, he admitted that he believed that people are basically bad unless motivated by some outside influence (including religion and/or punishment) to do good. The other guest had to respectfully disagree.  I was astonished. Are there people, well-respected, published author, NPR guest-like people out there who honestly believe this? That people are bad unless bribed?

I can only hope there are more of the other kind of guests out there.

*If you want to go deeper down the cynicism rabbit hole, check out this article in the Guardian.

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