Tag Archives: Parenting

One Death at a Time

One death at a time

For I can’t bare more

And they say you are at peace

And this may be so

But watching the breath leave your body was gut wrenching

You are surrounded by rainbows

And there are more songs I cannot listen to

Lingering too long on your exit is a death sentence for presence

Fuel for suffering

All the days of your life cherished

All the days in your absence regretted

Let us grieve not in solidarity

But space in between

Just one death at a time

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Autumn There

cool north wind

wisps gently around the brick corner

welcoming autumn’s first dance into the air

and on cotton-covered skin

the red swing beckons for gliding conversation

amid a back yard of years of soil tilled by hand

now a green landscape which to run and gather memories along the edge of blue grey horizon

this is how I remember the beginning of the season at their house

before their driveway goodbye waves floated solely into the chasms of my memories

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Ghost Town of Your Heart

Written in the midst of the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, April 2020.

This place a kind of ghost town
like the emptiness of your heart
from the isolation
and absence of embrace

Desolate sidewalks
chairs stacked away
and the pastry cases bare

We walked these streets when you were little
and twice while he was alive
You rode the carousel but I
never saw him ride

I like the quiet
this solace to
myself
So I have a space to linger
where there was

But you are always better
than solace.

Sponge docks empty carousel

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My Hamster Exploded and other Spontaneous Outbursts from the Mouths of Babes

I should have been writing them down all these years.

Starting as a parent volunteer, moving into assistant teaching, then co-lead teaching while preparing to receive my certification in Upper Elementary Montessori education in a classroom of sometimes dozens of 4th through 6th graders, I have witnessed some humorous stuff.

This one instance comes to mind first. We’re all sitting in morning circle, on the beautiful but worn Moroccan-style rug, all of us cross legged and sleepy-eyed after the long and desperately needed winter holiday break. Everyone is taking turns sharing about their vacations. One child in particular, a body-shy preteen railing against the imminent course of womanhood, starts to bawl as she tells us that her beloved guinea pig died the day after Christmas. Horrified and empathetic, we all sit in awkward silence as she wipes her pouring tears with the sleeve of her pink and black K-Pop hoodie. Seconds which seem like minutes pass. Some are looking down at the rug avoiding eye contact. Others are looking at each other like deer in headlights.

All of a sudden he breaks the silence. Our self-professed “Ginger” kid who claims to be stupid but is really intelligent, witty, and popular with everyone. He’s also the cause of at least two wrinkles on my face and some inevitable strands of grey in my hair.

Expressionless yet with a firm voice he blurts out, “One time my hamster exploded.”

The uncomfortable silence is almost immediately replaced by laugh-out-loud laughter and oh-my-goodness-are-you-for-real chit chat. Even the girl in despair is laughing now, her wet cheeks raising up into a rare smile.

Turns out the hamster survived after the explosion but later died of complications. Or something like that. I didn’t catch the entire story as I was relieved and amazed at how this one statement changed the entire classroom’s mood within seconds. It was like that scene in Steel Magnolias when Sally Field’s character M’Lynn is breaking down after her daughter’s funeral asking “Why Why Why did this have to happen?” and “I just want to hit something!” and no one seems to know what to say. Then the delicate disposition is bashed when Olympia Dukakis grabs Shirley McClain, pushes her toward M’Lynn and says, “Here, hit this!” Just like in the classroom that morning, the mood is quickly shifted from that of somber and intense, to sheer hilariousness and consolation.

Then there was the time when one of our more sheltered, extremely religious students openly told me during our small 6th grade reading group that he’d found out about the-birds-and-the-bees from YouTube. “My parents did THAT?” he exclaimed in horror. He then looked at me up and down. “You and the other teachers do THAT!” he said with raised eyebrows. I told him for the love of god please don’t picture me in that way and if you have questions go ask your parents. But, thanks for the heads up!

I was glad he found trust in me to even reveal this probable pent-up secret. When he eventually moved on to middle school in the building next door, he called out to me whenever I was near, telling me he missed upper elementary and our little virtuous environment.

I wish I could remember more of the hilarious stories and phrases that were coughed out over time. I know there are so many. But weeks, then months, now over a year has passed since I’ve been in the classroom. And like my own life memories, those are just as foggy.

I wonder if my students remember those instances (or some of the lessons we toiled through). Perhaps if not right now, then one day.

Yeah, I have a feeling they just might.

images

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Spontaneity

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. And most of what occurred had not been planned.

It was a gorgeous Florida winter day– one of those days that feel like heaven. Not a drop of humidity, or searing sun rays, or biting cold. The gently warm sun mixed with cobalt blue skies and fresh cool breezes kept the skin wanting more and the eyes closing in pleasure. A long bike ride was the only thing I’d planned because I knew the weather was going to be heavenly and I had no work or appointments scheduled. Just me and my bike and the trail. But right before I left I had a strong instinct to message a former coworker to meet along my trail ride for a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop. He immediately responded that he was excited to meet up with me. This coworker was an integral part of my sanity during our Covid-related lay off and unemployment benefit fiasco.

I pumped the bicycle peddles hard so I could make my route before meeting my friend. There were other bikers on the path, sometimes in my way (I wanted to soar instead of putz). Even the bugs had no time to fly away from my racing speed (there were some caught in my hair, some on my sunscreen-covered lips). I breathed deep and let my frustration flow away with the breezes. As soon as I entered my favorite park, with its many windy trails underneath the hammocks of oaks and cypress, I felt the emanating presence of god. I have never been a religious person. But I let god, as I’ve come to know this feeling of love and light and peace and gratitude, wash over me and flow outward.

I couldn’t stop looking at the tops of the trees, or inhaling the scent of orange-blossom. I even turned my headphone volume lower to hear the birds singing and chirping in the late morning.

My meet-up went well. It was so nice to see my friend after so many weeks. We sat under a pagoda, sipping our coffee concoctions and swapping stories of our latest accomplishments, work drama (his, not mine), and relished that we were both free from our old job that although had its many teachable and fun moments, a sheer relief to be unbridled by the stress and consumption of it all.

On the ride back I went through the park again, and stopped at the butterfly garden. There were yellow and orange butterflies flitting about, big bumblebees visiting each blossom that hadn’t been there just two weeks ago.

When I arrived back to my neighborhood I stopped at a neighbor’s house, as my son was doing some light yard work there as a side job. We talked about school and friends and the future week’s plans as he gathered pine needles and dusty mulch and I draped my arms over the chest-high fence. We made a date to run errands later and get dinner out.

Teenagers can be a moody, emotional mess at times. And you might not know which you’re gonna get. Today he was in a wonderfully light and playful mood, devoid of the usual school stress and pulsating exhaustion. He drove us to Home Depot, where I’d planned on purchasing a screen for our back slider, so I can let the breezes in without the critters and insects. He rolled the large platform cart along the aisles and I playfully asked if I could ride it as he pushed. I felt playful, too. We finally found the particular screen door (it was the last one left) and he questioned why we needed a cart so large for this light door and that he could just carry it, no problem. I was grateful he was there with me as these types of errands always seem to stress me.

We had dinner out together in between our errands. The conversation never lulled, there was no iPhone in sight, and he opened up to me without prodding or hesitation. We sat there fully present, chatting and laughing and eating like so many parents of teenagers don’t always get to do. Fully present. That’s what I’ll tell him to do next time there is a lull in conversation with his girlfriend. Sometimes you don’t have much to say. And that’s ok. Just being present is what is needed. In that moment, at that table, there were no distractions. I felt heard and appreciated and not an embarrassment as us moms can sometimes be to our teenagers. Just living and breathing we are dorks.

Our last errand before home was yet another home-improvement store, this time to buy an anti-squirrel bird feeder and seed, so I can invite more birdsong onto my lanai and into my life. Once again it was playful and helpful and not at all the chore I thought it would be.

When we arrived home he brought in the screen and promised to help me install it tomorrow. I don’t know how I’ll cope when he one day flies the nest. It’s too daunting to imagine. How pointless. We have today, whether planned or spontaneous.

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All the Flowers of my Childhood

In a dream I saw them
as clear as light
All the flowers of my childhood
The greens and golds
I walked past at midnight
Wispy dandelion seeds swept along cedar
by youthful breath
Clover necklaces
with knots in their stems
Distinct as the flowers of my adulthood
White and exotic and some
bearing fruit
Others only peeking long after
sun gone to slumber
Reds and yellows and umber
Some I cannot name
yet some the same
As those in the garden of
spirit’s infancy.

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The Wild Spring Breeze and All It Brings

My eyes cannot view the sea from here
but its brackish scent wafts through
with the course of spring wind

It reminds me of times spent in its warm, emerald waters
and the passage of time

So fleeting time, in its uncharted path
ever shifting like the wild spring currents

If I could go back again
however I cannot

Here I sit in calmness
breathe what the breeze brings
And know we will again
someday.

Spring Breeze

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Things That Don’t Exist Anymore, Things I Miss, and New Things

Last night I decided to watch a movie from the 90’s that I wasn’t sure I’d seen before. Since I worked at a movie theatre for much of that decade it was a safe bet I had, although the memory was as fuzzy as my comfy house slippers that have become normal footwear during this new Stay-at-Home order.

Chasing Amy is about a guy who falls for a lesbian, and I was curious to see if the story arc involved the lesbian actually falling for the guy, Ben Affleck in this case, a decently attractive man with an annoying over-the-top best friend (sorry Jason Lee, love you more as Earl). I didn’t finish the movie, because I ended up spontaneously video chatting with my real lesbian friend and her wife. Weird things have been happening all around.

So probably because of the weirdness of the world right now, the nostalgia of seeing the trends from the 90’s, the absence of being with my students, and connecting with dear friends virtually after days of not seeing anyone besides by beautiful moody teenage son, I got a little emotional and started a list. Some items are in more than one. There’s an abundance to add but here’s the short version.

Things that don’t exist anymore (some are because of Covid-19 and some are from the passing of decades):
pay phones
people smoking in movies
beepers
calling everyone “bitch”
cars shaped like boxes
rednecks infiltrating the north end of the causeway
life without devices
brown lipstick with lip liner
the park with its rickety swing set and painted, cement tunnels
all the stores at Hickory Hollow mall
Happi China
my nail salon
all the animals I loved and cared for and lost
badminton with Gracie
lunch with Rhiley
Clearwater Beach in 2004
the artificial Christmas tree passed down from my parents that was too big for my condo
Disney World, circa 2008
the quaintish/industrial/cool nightlife of downtown Nashville

Things I miss (some are because of Covid-19 and some are because of circumstance and the passing of time):
life without devices (in certain situations like mealtimes, trying to have a physical conversation, and while sitting on the front porch)
the park with its rickety swing set and painted, cement tunnels
every house, basement, condo I’ve lived in
all the animals I loved and cared for and lost
all the loved ones I cared for and lost
all the fall and winter candle scents
all the stores at Hickory Hollow mall (and to a lesser extent but still appreciated Countryside mall)
Happi China
my nail salon
badminton with Gracie
lunch with Rhiley
Clearwater Beach in 2004
plastic key baby toys
the artificial Christmas tree passed down from my parents that was too big for my condo
every moment of my son’s growing up years (except those 3-year-old meltdowns)
Disney World before 2015 (it became too crowded, now there’s no one at all)
the quaintish/industrial/cool nightlife of downtown Nashville

New Things (mostly because of Covid-19):
teddy bears in windows
positive messages in chalk on driveways
Sundays without sirens
unidentified tiny white spiders crawling across my living room tile
empty parking lots and beaches
more families taking walks and playing with their kids

Oh and here’s another list
Things I’m Cherishing Right Now:
my pet lizard’s company
the solace of helpful and kind neighbors
the connection with loved ones via phone, Zoom, social media
my availability to help my son with his schoolwork (although I’m not sure if I’m much help, maybe just emotional support)
food in the fridge, toilet paper in the bathroom
heavenly spring weather
coffee in the morning while listening to birdsong
the goodness and sanity and health of friends and family

Stay safe ya’ll. Stay home. And hug each other (from a distance).

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The Time We Have

Some of us find ourselves with more time on our hands lately. Some of us are deemed an “essential employee”. Whatever your situation, and I hope everyone safe, healthy, and financially stable throughout this strange journey we’re all moving through, there is TIME– to capture, seize, harness. Our state is on a “Safer-at-Home” order. My neighbor says he’s “going out of his mind” yet in that same breath he said he wiped the grey dust off his guitar and clumsily yet earnestly strummed the strings, something he hadn’t done in years. Our community pool is closed due to the current situation. Last Thursday I strolled around the neighborhood for a much-needed leg stretch after work (I’m considered an essential employee and have been sitting in front of a computer every day for hours, not something I’m used to as a Montessori teacher). A mom and her young daughter had filled two blue paddling pools, placed them in their driveway, and were giggling and playfully splashing each other.

Although we have implemented distance learning at our school and conduct regular Zoom meetings, some of my students have taken up knitting. Some have baked sweet, chocolaty treats. Some have FaceTimed for 6 hours while watching the same Netflix series.

I have seen even more families taking walks together than usual. My brother said it is the same where he lives, 700 miles away from me. I’ve smelled the waft of charred food on grills more nights than not. I’ve heard an unusual abundance of birds singing in the tops of the oak and Norfolk pines. Gone are the shrieks of sirens every hour, the blasting hum of airplanes overhead, the smell of air thick with the pollution of car exhaust and industry.

Even though I’m still working, I’ve had a few more moments to enjoy the sound of birdsong, make brownies from scratch, read my current fiction of choice, water my neighbor’s garden, connect with friends I’ve haven’t talked to in months. At first I was consumed by the news and social media but I’m making a concerted effort to put the phone down for chunks at a time (there are some funny memes out there, though).

This week is my son’s 16th birthday. There will not be a car in the driveway with a bow on it (that wasn’t happening anyway). We will not have our usual hibachi feast with friends and family. But we will celebrate in the quiet and simple fashion we’re all becoming familiar with.

I’m just embracing the good that can come from a dire situation. And there is good here. And there is time.

(But I haven’t been to Walmart to buy toilet paper).

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Lingering There

Dwelling in the past, for any length of time, is a deep, dark hole. Merely happily reminiscing or learning from past mistakes isn’t a bad idea. But lingering there, well no good really comes of it. In fact, it’s sure to drive you mad. Lead you to the pits of despair.

Children grow up quickly, grandparents pass away, even certain friendships die. Marriages dissolve. Relationships blunder. Businesses bankrupt. Sea levels rise. Fat grows in places it never did before.

But sometimes for the need to have a purging bawl fest we linger there. We beat ourselves up. It was my fault that this or that happened. I’m never good enough, etc. etc. Bubble snot happens. Eyes are puffy in the morning. There’s a balled-up tissue next to the bed, soaked in tears.

With the new day feel a bit better.

Birds outside are singing.

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