Friday, September 16, 2016


Tonight, there was magic.

It began at the dinner table, where so many sacred and sustaining moments occur... and it carried through the night.  Our dinner was late on the table, due in part because of after-school plans and a new recipe I'd been eager to try but took longer to make than anticipated.  Hungry but happy, we gathered around Anne(tte)'s enchilladas, cornbread, chips and salsa, and pineapple.  Everyone devoured dinner and exclaimed how good it was; that, in and of itself, felt satisfying and rewarding, given it was a brand new recipe with components that often get nose snubs.  (What the hell is offensive about shredded chicken, may I dare ask?)

As we filled our bellies, we filled each other in on our days.  Pax had a marvelous field trip to the Frontier Culture Museum; Aidan loves his science class and teacher; Leo had an awesome time at Fun Fridays; and I enjoyed a good haircut and a great run.  And then.

Out of the seemingly clear blue, Leo said, "I think that some girls are like magnets, and some boys are like metal."  "What do you mean by that, like they attract each other?" I asked.

"No," he clarified, "Like some boys want all the girls to stick to them."

Again I asked, "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, there's this boy, Carter.  He likes all the girls.  He talks to them, and says stuff to them.  And today at recess, he was saying stuff to a girl, and then he ran away.  The girl came and sat next to me, and I think she felt uncomfortable because of what Carter said to her."

I rehearsed those words a hundred times so that I committed them to memory.  My 9 year old son observed "I think she felt uncomfortable because of what Carter said to her." 

If ever there was a teachable moment, wrapped up in a shining gold ribbon and sitting on my plate, begging to be unwrapped, it was This Moment.

I praised Leo for observing that the girl felt uncomfortable.  I validated how important it is for girls to feel comfortable with boys, and that boys may not say or do anything to make a girl feel uncomfortable.  I shared with them my experience as I was walking on the Downtown Mall.

"Just yesterday, I was walking to the gym, and a man that I passed said to me, 'Hey sexy.' "(brief interruption to explain that "hey sexy" essentially meant "I like your body.")

 I told my sons how it made me feel, like I was only being seen for what I look like on the outside, not for who I am on the inside.  And that each of us are so much more than what we see on the outside.  And I said that it wasn't a compliment, because it didn't make me feel good at all.

"I'm smart," I began.
"VERY smart," Aidan added.

"You're strong, Mama!  You can see it, like, in your arms," Pax observed.

"Yes.  I am smart, and I am strong.  I am also kind," I stated.  "And that's what I want people to notice about me, and so it hurt my feelings when that man said 'Hey, Sexy,' because he didn't see me for who I am."

"Like Brian sees you?" Leo asked.
"Yes," I replied.  "Like Brian sees me."

Pax said, "But Mama, you're still cute.  You are always cute."

(Honestly, how many arguments can one have with a six year old in a day?)

I reiterated again how powerful it was that Leo paid attention to how uncomfortable a boy made a girl feel, and that we must be very careful to give compliments to people - using words to express what we admire about another person - and that our words our powerful.

Abruptly, as these moments tend to be, we moved on to another topic, and eventually found our way on to the deck, where we'd gathered materials in advance for the first fire pit of the season, plus s'mores to go with.  As we coaxed fire out of kindling and a match, and waited patiently to add logs, just to wait more patiently for the fire to burn down to s'more temperature, we told stories.

Most of them featured three little boys who were just sittin' and thinkin', sittin' and thinkin'.  A few included a Mama, or a Mama and Daddy who loved them fiercely.  Most of them made sense, some of them were poignant in the face of our moment in time, and all of them were magical.

I sat back and gazed upon my three sons, drinking in redemption, and reveling....

It is my great hope that I will take my sons to Disney World to experience all of the Magic of the Mouse.  But tonight, all I could think was, the magic is here.  For free.  At our table.  On my deck. With my sons.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Start Where You Are.

I'm reading two books that are powerful and healing, each in their own right.  One phrase from one of the books has latched into my brain, and it's what I tell myself now when I am overwhelmed by what is ahead of me, what I'm wanting to do or trying to do or afraid to do:  start where you are.

I've wanted to try to start writing again in this space for months and months and months.  I kept putting it off.  The expectations I place on myself can be crushing, and I resisted getting started because what if I can't find the time to write?  What if I can't make sense of the lags in entries, because some moments are too painful, some struggles are too big?  What if my voice becomes inauthentic?  What if I over edit?  What if I under edit?  (And what if I stop right now, doing both, since I also told myself I'd post as is, without the edits?)

Today was a horrible, worrisome day at the school where I work.  It was the perfect storm of awful, and it left me feeling defeated and shaken.  As I reflected on my day and why it affected me so much, I realized one beautiful truth:  I, along with many of my colleagues, left today feeling the same way - utterly defeated and distraught - because of the depth of our concern for and devotion to these kids whom we teach and care for and guide, as best we can, each day at school.  And so the weight of today meant something important to me - it is the weight of caring deeply for young human beings, the burden of that weight shared with my smart, kind, and compassionate colleagues.

I came home.  I headed straight for the gym, and was able to shed much of my yuck.  I greeted my children with honesty, telling them that I had had a really awful day.  But I also cared for them, showed them grace and kindness and patience and guided them through the afternoon hours, drying tears and holding small heaving shoulders as two boys cried out their frustrations and upsets.  Dinner, as it is most nights, was the great equalizer.  It was a simple enough meal, but it was a particularly victorious moment when Aidan exclaimed, "This is the best broccoli you have EVER made!" followed by Pax asking for leftover broccoli in his lunch tomorrow.

We chatted about our days, taking turns, and at the end Pax shared a homemade book titled "my love" that he had created in the minutes before dinner.  It was filled with pictures and simple sentences about the people he loves.

And so I held fast to each of these small victories.  Calmed and settled hearts; a nourishing meal with good connection to one another; a settling in for the evening.  Pax wasn't feeling well and went to sleep early, but not before a long snuggle in his bed.  Leo and I curled up on my bed for a long snuggle and a thoughtful reading of this book, which led to many questions and comments about powerful leaders and beautiful ideas.

When I returned from tucking Leo into his bed, I found Aidan sprawled out on my bed, flipping through the pages of "Of Thee I Sing."  After a long snuggle, Aidan told me how he thought Nelson Mandela and Sitting Bull were a lot a like, and that if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, we'll refer to Bill as First Gentleman President.  All of these observations and realizations in the span of just a few minutes, sparked by a quick flip through of the book on the bed.  And suddenly I'm marveling at this 12 year old boy before me in a whole new way.  Seventh grade is the "sweet spot" of school aged people, the grade in which you are not ready to give up being a child, yet you are not quite ready to be a young person yet.  And so you dabble between the two, blurring the lines with your wisdom and perspective, balancing them with the desire to be tucked in, to be sung to before falling asleep.  Sweet spot, indeed.

And in that moment, in hearing my 12 year old describe the similarities between inspirational leaders from two very different times and places, to jumping into dialogue on what to call our first male spouse of the White House, I realized it was a moment I wished to never forget.  I wrestled the goodness out of the day, and there it was, curled up next to me for a long snuggle, three times over, with new knowledge and ideas and perspective to go with.

So I start where I am.