Sunday, May 8, 2016

mom of bad mom, revised

I wrote most of this for my mom's birthday a few years ago. Today I revisited & revised it thinking I might share at her retirement party, but we were laughing too much about this woman's shenanigans as lunch lady for 31 years for me to step in and squelch the mood with a Hallmark moment.
Yet I still want to put it out there, because she is pretty kickass and deserves the recognition.
________________

She's been a young mother, a single mother, a drag racing & dating mother, a working mother, a mother of two, a second mother to many, a mother-in-law, a grandmother.

We've done a lot of things differently through the years - I never did drag race anyone... - but I have never doubted the influence of my mom's example as a brave & decent woman.

My mom taught me
family is important, even if they can be embarrassing and exasperating at times.
My mom taught me
we help people whenever & however we are able.
My mom taught me
quality is key, in work + play:
we mowed lawns like John Deere and colored like Van Gogh.
My mom taught me
it's best to let go of things sometimes.
But when I say 'things' I mean hurt feelings and bad memories, because...
My mom also taught me
garage sales & thrift stores are far more marvelous than the mall.
My mom taught me
napping is allowed.
My mom taught me
ice cream is a food group and we should eat it often.

And my mom taught me
if something is valuable to my child,
it should be valuable to me.
There is a difference between time spent
and time invested.

My mom is extraordinarily full of kindness. I'm proud of all that she has accomplished in her life with astonishing graciousness. She's even managed to stay devoted to the Seahawks despite 40 years of relentless Cowboys fanhood by her husband & first born. I'm actually beginning to think she has willed the switch in talent between the two teams...

I should say it more often but again, my mom is one sharp, capable woman so I think she knows how awesome I believe she is.

My mom (plus me)
July 1968



Saturday, April 23, 2016

in the presence of royalty


I have no idea how I got Prince's 1999 cassette, but I do know that it immediately became my favorite album. Favorite very secret album, playing directly only into my ears through the headphones of my knock-off Walkman whenever I strolled to the beach, mowed the lawn, or tried desperately to get a tan lying in my backyard. 

I felt subversive listening to it; for 1983 small town me the songs were unbelievably naughty. But for all its overt sexiness, Prince never made me feel uncomfortable [except when I thought about my parents hearing the lyrics]. So I knew then for sure that sex was supposed to be a good, fun thing [that I would never ever discuss with my parents]. A couple years later I spent my babysitting money on the Purple Rain LP and fell in love.


Riding the bus home Valentine's Day in 1985, I heard on the radio that they had added another Prince concert for the next night at the Tacoma Dome, and there were still tickets available. I bolted from my bus stop to the kitchen phone, frantically found the number for our local ticket shop/t-shirt printer and called. They said one of their employees might have a couple of tickets to sell, check back in 15 minutes. My heart was pounding - the possibility of seeing Prince was 15 minutes away. Fifteen minutes plus whatever the cost was, a desperate phone call to my mom asking not only for permission but for her to drive me and my best friend 2 1/2 hours each way on a school night, and my best friend's ability to come with me away. I don't think I have ever been so blindly optimistic again in my life.

The tickets were $25 each. They were front row. My parents said okay. My best friend's parents said okay. It was a miracle.

Regardless of our love for Prince, my bff and I were hardcore stereotypical teacher's pet-type girls. So naturally we wore our purple sweatshirts. Over purple polo shirts. With our Normandy Rose jeans and loafers. I am not making this up; I feel slightly embarrassed and very sweaty just remembering our outfits.

It didn't matter how out of place we looked (seriously, no one else was wearing a sweatshirt. Of course.) - WE WERE GOING TO SEE PRINCE FROM THE FRONT ROW. Sheila E opened like a goddess, tied an audience member to a chair and danced & drummed around him in her sheer bodysuit, then it was time. Purple smoke covered the stage and filled my unsuspecting, willing lungs. I have a memory of Prince crawling across the stage at some point but I'm not sure when that happened. He changed clothes a few times, and I'm pretty sure he was shirtless at one point. My stomach felt wiggly, my breathing shallow, and not just because I was on the verge of heat stroke. We were pushed against the barrier fencing for two hours and I thought many times I would lose one of my shoes (honestly, what was I thinking? Loafers.) but didn't really care. It was the best night of my 16-year old life.

For the past 31 years, I have felt like I actually know Prince because of that concert. I believe he made everyone in that arena feel like they knew him. Each time I saw Prince in an interview, on an awards show, with The Muppets, I believed we had a connection. 
Because he was miraculous

Saturday, February 6, 2016

upon finding myself unplugged for an hour

Written on scratch paper at Powell's in Portland, Oregon this morning while my phone was being repaired 
________________________________________

I watched a woman in an SUV waiting at the light on 11th Avenue.
I thought she was zoning out like we all do at stoplights, her face expressionless. She could have been sleeping upright behind the steering wheel, with her eyes open. But then, I saw her lips pull down, her cheeks crumpled. I wondered then if she was lost in thoughts about someone - someone she broke up with or was considering breaking up with, or someone who had died. I know how that face feels.

I kept watching (it was a really long light) and saw her eyes brighten then, lips slipped into a half-smile. Maybe she was listening to a sad song on the radio then a happier one started. Or maybe she's listening to an audio book, I thought. Once I borrowed a cassette reading of The Phantom of the Opera for my long drive home from college. When I pulled off the highway for gas, I couldn't remember passing any of the familiar landmarks; my shoulders were tense and my jaw tight from hours of being trapped in that story. The attendant must have thought me strange, a sleepwalker emerging from my car.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

a few truths and a lie

I am not a resolution-maker. If I ever feel like changing something, I do it regardless of whether it's January 1st or the first day of school or my birthday or a Sunday night. I understand the desire to make a big production of starting New Habits and I did participate in the theatrics for most of my life, usually by buying a pretty new journal and writing lists of changes with a pretty new pen on the fresh pretty blank pages. After two weeks (maybe), that journal would be prettily collecting dust and anxiety on my nightstand; after a month I would stash it shamefully in a drawer and go on with my presumably failed life.

I finally realized, after years of suffering the little daily defeats of marriage and parenthood and teaching, that pressuring myself to Be Better on a particular date doesn't work for me. It's manufactured and bolstered by hype, and I avoid hype on principle - I wouldn't watch the first season of Survivor (but have watched all twentysomething seasons since), and though I love & live the idea of Carpe Diem, I refused it as a tattoo after finding 7000 versions of it during a Google search. Also, I'm pretty terrible with deadlines. Of course, I could resolve to be better with deadlines but that just makes my head hurt. I can do deadlines that are meaningful to other people - contributing to an IEP before a meeting, submitting grades, attending a party on the day it's happening - but trying to tell myself something needs to get done by a certain time? I am a totally insensitive jerk.

I've decided, partly because of those little daily defeats in life, piling on specific tasks so clearly unpleasant that I've ignored them most of the year is cruel, even for an insensitive jerk. After some reflection, anxiousness, depression, and counseling, I decided I'd check in with myself a few times each day to find out what I needed to feel, well, better. Better = calmer, content, connected, productive. Sometimes I need to do a specific thing (usually for other people/effing deadlines), sometimes I eat a little chocolate stashed in my desk, sometimes I play John Mayer loud, sometimes I take a nap, sometimes I startle my children by hugging them in the hallway.

I no longer make random resolutions at the end of a year. Instead, I make about 95 mini-resolutions every day, with immediate deadlines, and - I'm happier.

Carpe every damn diem.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

reflection

Having lived almost a half century now (THAT'S FUN TO SAY), I'm a little surprised at how many things I'm just coming to terms with. Letting prepositions land at the end of sentences is one thing, but here is another.

Dropping my husband off at the airport for a business trip will never really be fun.
First of all, a shocking number of people wonder why I 'even bother' and whenever they express this I consider why I do it. Obviously (I hope? I guess the Potential 2nd Husbands list seems a little suspect to some...), I like my husband and want to spend as much time with him as possible [except during football season, because a) he would rather be in the garage and b) he doesn't fully appreciate how passionate I am about my team. I digress]. But I sometimes wonder if I insist on taking him because of a subconscious concern about our relationship; I have strongly identified with When Harry Met Sally... since its release - am I worried that not taking him to the airport will say something about us?

Anyway.

Every time I do it, I focus on the fact that PDX has great shops (Powell's!) and a beloved Coffee People so after he leaves I can get fun gifts and books and sit with a delicious non-Starbucks latte in blissful peace. But really what I do each time is have a pastry with my man, staring & talking about anything inane until 15 minutes before his boarding time, not-awkwardly walk parallel to him as far as I can while he goes through security, try not to cry or take 100 weird blurry photos, then wander through the stores feeling melancholy and spending far more money than I should even at Christmastime. "Coming to terms" with this so far simply means admitting to myself that I am sad when he leaves, no matter how many clever things I buy, and avoiding looking directly at any other people dropping off or picking up loved ones; airports are drowning in tears and I am not yet old enough to fully immerse myself in the poetry of this.

Maybe when I hit that century mark.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

wish lists

A Very Special Rerun from Winter 2010

When I was a kid, my mom bringing home the Sears Holiday Catalog felt like getting ONE MILLION DOLLARS dropped into my lap. For a few delicious hours, I could have EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED [that was sold at Sears]. I went through it in three calculated stages - first, dog-earing pages featuring anything I was remotely interested in. Next, I dreamily reviewed those pages and used a broad-tip, exquisitely toxic black marker to circle those items I actually thought my parents might buy for me. Finally, I neatly wrote the item descriptions & quantities of everything I truly desired on notebook paper and if I desperately needed something (like the popularity-enhancing matching Shaun Cassidy pants and t-shirt), I would cut out the catalog picture and glue it on the notebook paper next to its listing. (Got the t-shirt but not the pants and, sadly, popularity remained static).

I still relish the idea of creating wish lists - for everyone, not just myself; sometimes I add things to my kids' Amazon lists because I am certain they simply did not think of asking for Star Wars trombone music or a German pencil sharpener but would really love getting it.

Today, with less than 3 weeks until Christmas [yes; try not to panic], I am designing lists of gifts I wish for certain people who inhabit my world. If I had a Sears catalog, I would cut out pertinent pictures and glue them on notebook paper, too, for emphasis.

For My Husband:
A personal (volunteer) masseuse; freedom from worrying about his hair loss; long, straight stretches of radar-less highway for driving his Cobra; a wife who spends as much time cooking, cleaning, and performing other domestic duties as she does composing hilarious Facebook updates

For My Kids [beyond the sheet music and school supplies]:
The ability to believe your parents when they tell you what remarkable traits + talents they've noticed you developing; a pause button for the universe when you need to take a few extra breaths and compose a coherent response to the girl/boy/teacher looking at/talking to you; the capacity to hold onto all the memories of your best lunch conversations and after-school meet-ups and momentsthatfeellikecenturies in the hallways

For My Friends:
Long periods of uninterrupted time to spend with me, drinking tea and other beverages, eating delectable foods, and talking about everything that brings us joy (and a little snark); more memories of their favorite things - watching kids growing & acting & making music, volunteering valuable skills, traveling, baking, reading in silence, writing future Pulitzer Prize winners

For Fellow Teachers:
The energy to keep delivering knowledge + wisdom + care; extended moments of quiet; time to thoroughly enjoy the activities that you love as much as teaching but give you a tad more peace of mind; unlimited back rubs and frequent spa days

For Our Students:
Warm, comforting places to be outside of school; the solid belief that we teachers love and value them regardless of their backgrounds, faults, and occasional attitudes; visions of a positive future

For Some People I Shall Not Name:
Clarity, honesty, self-awareness, humility, and more than a touch of class & tact in certain circumstances [everyday life]

For My Readers:
Continued good taste in blog material; time to indulge in simple pleasures as well as a few extravagant ones; more opportunities to meet up with your favorite people, in real life and from cyberspace

 

~ To all, blessings & best WISHES ~

Monday, July 13, 2015

mental health, deconstructed

Today I decided I wanted to start yoga again. This is what that decision-making looked like in stages.

I awoke with 1st husband at 5:30 a.m. He told me to not let him back into bed because he had a lot of meetings today; I considered getting up with him to get some tea, write, and do some yoga but instead turned to diagonally occupy all bedspace and fell asleep again.

Husband woke me with a kiss when he left for work at 7:00. Imagined getting up to have tea, write in the quiet, do some yoga, then went back to sleep.

Awoke at 8:45 to text from 1st husband saying our new bathroom tile would be here tomorrow rather than the projected end of the month. Texted back "Wow, great!" and thought about going downstairs to do yoga. Ate some chocolate from my nightstand and perused Facebook instead. For two hours.

Got out of bed because back was aching, decided doing yoga would really help, went downstairs and poured a tall cup of ice water [after considering the merits and downsides of various other glasses and bottles in the cupboard]. Emptied CD player of other CDs to put in meditative CD of instrumental classic rock songs, wondered why we still own, alphabetize, and use 600 CDs instead of our 7000 hours of digital music. Cleared coffee table of last night's tea cup, wine glass, chip clip, empty Cheetos bag. Decided to vacuum coffee table drawer along with the impossibly plain always-littered brown rug where I then put my Wii balance board and yoga mat, instantly creating the need to vacuum again. Turned on Wii, discovered balance board batteries dead. Ate more chocolate, recycled old batteries, found new. Resisted urge to change from pajamas into yoga pants and sport bra, closed blinds, sat down to document this morning on the blog I've neglected for seven months.

Message : For any boys (or girls) from my junior high/high school days who lamented not getting any dates with me, thank your lucky fucking stars. Because sometimes this whole thing happens out loud.

Now, I'm going to do some yoga.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

something far away


The second time I visited Singapore, in 2006, I flew alone the twentysomething hours to meet with my husband who had been there for a week already, working. I had plans for our time together - botanical gardens, night art festival, tour of Christmas lights, visiting an old Catholic convent and Snow City, lots of eating & drinking & taking probiotics. We did all of those things, and they were wonderfully memorable (partly because of how much we sweated through every outing). But like with most vacations, the mundane can become the sublime, too, if you're paying attention. 

I wanted to wash some clothes during our stay and after an hour-long adventure in miscommunications with the hotel staff - plus one confusing trip to a restricted area - I realized there was actually no place in the building where I was allowed to do it on my own, and the hotel service would cost somewhere in the realm of the US national debt. So Stu & I took a cab with our two bags of sweat-soaked garments to the mall and handed them to the old woman at Washy Washy, an even hotter place than the sidewalk outside, where the only area not taken over by clothing was our space at the counter. It felt a little scary considering I had only the outfit I was wearing and maybe one more left in my suitcase at the hotel, but my husband had had good luck here the week before. The old woman smiled & nodded at Stu like they were old friends as she grabbed our bags, pulled at a few items on top, then tossed them to a corner full of other bags, shouting in less-smiley Chinese to a worker.  We had to prepay our 22SGD, which was so significantly cheaper than the hotel rate that I once more doubted I'd see my clothes again. 

We had lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ© (because, Americans) then shopped along the main road. I considered replacing all of the clothing I'd just handed over to Washy Washy but settled on just one Esprit shirt and a cute long denim skirt that ended up being very difficult to walk in. 

I'm pretty sure I slept fitfully that night, worrying about whether I'd get my clothes back, if they'd be wearable (I had a feeling no one was looking at labels about dryer heat recommendations), if I would have to spend my teacher pay on a new wardrobe. But when we returned to the launderer, the old woman smiled & nodded in recognition and went right to our bags. Everything inside was clean and folded with care, nothing was missing or misshapen or shrunken; in my relief, I left an embarrassing tip. 

I tried many times to toss out the receipt for our laundry but something kept it in my wallet. Every time I saw it, I remembered how much I loved Singapore (despite the breathtaking heat) and I felt accomplished somehow. I felt like an adventurer, finding a way to get something done without taking the easier, expensive, tourist way. I realized later no one at Washy Washy had spoken English, yet we did great business together. 

I hope I can go back someday. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

me today


With Mark Wahlberg and the spirit of Adam Yauch, in my classroom trying to catch up + get ready for Monday. 

I love my job teaching teenagers, but 'love' is a funny word. In our Poetry class, we call it taboo; instead of telling, show what love looks like. Feels like. Smells, tastes, sounds like. 

So. 

This is what my love looks like : a bulletin board next to my desk filled with handsome men and thoughtful quotes and notes from students, and an old laundry receipt from Washy Washy in Singapore; I bring what makes me smile, sigh, wistfully remember and pin it to my periphery for inspiration and joy and relief. My love also looks like tables arranged for seeing each other, a raised eyebrow, hands in the air, faces awake with thinking or furrowed with disagreement or blank with confusion trying to be alleviated. Sometimes it looks like eyelids fighting sleep because that's how life is, for all of us. 

This is what my love feels like : the shaggy velour pillow against my back in the desk chair, the push of tacks and squeeze of binder clips, a swipe of Lip Rescue, the smooth glide of Flair pens on papers, tension fading in a student's shoulder, breath catching in my throat during a discussion, the empty-building concrete cold that settles in my fingers and under my socks on days like today.

My love smells woody like pencil shavings, floor cleaner sharp, deliciously acrid like playing school in 5th grade with markers that made me lightheaded, Tropical Sorbet spray when the paper mill stench stretches up the hill, and meadow gardeny when I slather on hand cream at the beginning and end of every day. 

Love that tastes like black tea sometimes hot and sometimes lukewarm, fast lunches, secret chocolates in my desk drawer & stale emergency crackers in another, salty smoked almonds for sharing. 

And this love sounds like my IHeartRadio New Order station (Van Halen on Fridays), the daily grind of a pencil sharpener, a whirring projector, scraping chairs and teenage voices negotiating for seats, maybe loud, maybe quiet from the edges, powerful words put into powerful sentences, "Good morning, Mrs. Spencer" and "Bye, Mrs. Spencer, have a nice day."

I love my job.

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