Mother Blue

I photo. I take day trips. I lightsaber battle. I analyze the stuffing out of myself.

Why I Fight and Other Nonsensical Somethings

I am fatigued.

I had spent an afternoon scouring the internet for information. I became enveloped in a vortex of research on a slew of different topics when something popped up in my Facebook feed. I really don’t know why I chose to pay attention to this particular meme. I am not really a fan of most memes. I also don’t know why I chose to look at the comment section, but I scrolled down anyways. I wished I hadn’t.

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This is an actual screenshot from Facebook.

Third.

Comment.

Down.

Permanent words written with a digital Sharpie pen. No shame. No apologies. Just direct words of warning, ignorance, hatred, and a suggestion of murder.

I immediately looked for ways to report that person on Facebook. Then I waited for my son to come home from school.

My mind was reeling. I struggled to work. I started to think about my mother.

• • •

It was my freshman year of college. I can’t remember if my mother wanted me to stop by for dinner, or if I had just had it with cafeteria food and was in need of some decent home cooking. Either way, Mom hadn’t seen me in a while, so I had made plans to head over there. I asked her if I could bring some friends along for the ride. She said, “Of course.”

My mother was a God-fearing person who, for many years, worked in the main office of our parish. It was a kind of home base for her throughout her divorce, even while dealing the conflicting relationship between her own religious ideology and her disintegrating marital circumstance. Abusive or not, it was still a marriage under the eyes of the church. It helped that the priest, while still an old school theologian, was somewhat progressive and forward thinking.

I remember speaking to my mother on that day as if I was trying to prepare us both for some horrible truth. I mentioned on the phone that one of my friends was going to bring his boyfriend to dinner. I asked her if that was ok with her while almost lecturing her to “behave herself” in a self-righteous, daughterly tone. I don’t remember her ever mentioning to me one word either for or against homosexuality in all my years of knowing her, but I was young and I was in the beginnings of discovering I had the strength to assert myself in parental-daughter relations. AND I knew that what the Catholic church believed was in direct opposition of my personal beliefs on this subject. I also knew how opinionated she could be. Therefore, I was determined to let her know that she MUST keep any dogmatic ideas she had to herself on this matter.

“Kimmy, don’t be silly. All of your friends are welcome.” I immediately felt shame for trying to pigeonhole her into a tiny box of beliefs.

My friends and I had a fantastic time. We conversed. They loved how genuine she was. They adored her naivety and they gently teased her for it. I still miss seeing my mother smile and laugh in such a freeing, uninhibited way. She was not happy very often, but when she was it was organic and lovely.

It was also around this time, when I would come home on weekends, I would overhear phone conversations between my mother and a longtime friend of the family. He was struggling with his own sexuality issues and as a direct result he was in the midst of losing his family. My mother and he would speak for hours. She would listen and counsel and comfort. They would laugh… loudly. They spoke candidly and without reservation. In those moments, I would see her true spirit. Looking back, it was in those moments that I admired her most.

• • •

After Jack had quickly finished scribbling down his handwriting homework in a desperate attempt to be able to watch next episode of Spongebob, I asked if he could stop by my computer before turning on the TV.

“You know how daddy and I always tell you how important it is to stand up for other people. Especially people who are being hurt or made fun of?”

“Yes.”

He said it quite nervously. I think he felt a little interrogated.

I debated showing him the above screenshot all day. Only one week prior had he heard a child say a bunch of hate filled words on the bus. “He said the N word, the B word, the…” All those words, said by a child mostly for shock value, and recited like they were ingredients on a shopping list, are creeping into my child’s world at unacceptable rate.

I stroked Jack’s arm and showed him the comment. Those terrible words. His eyes got very wide.

I explained to him how the word FAG was just like any other hateful, shameful name invented to label a person. I explained to him that not only was this a “bad word” floating around in a sea of other words, but that statement was an outright expression of hatred. I told him that the saddest part of this is that it wasn’t written by an unknowing, naive kid trying to test the waters. This was penned by an adult with fully formed beliefs who deliberately chose to express himself in such a way. This wasn’t about a difference of opinion on marriage equality. This was about a basic disconnect of humanity by using the phrase “a shotgun shell through the side of the head” as the exclamation point to his terrible statement.

“Sometimes grown ups can be bullies.”

Jack stood silent.

We talked for a few minutes. I reassured him that the world can be a really awesome place, but explained to him that sometimes, some of the people in it may act less than “awesomely.” That sometimes your world will be interrupted by moments of terrible words. Words said for a laugh, words said to be hurtful, or words said in order to make some sort of sense out of something. And sometimes it will be the “grown ups” spewing forth such nonsense that goes against everything you know to be right.

“Sometimes grown ups are not always right.”

Sometimes you may make a mistake. And sometimes you may get punched or kicked and your heart may get hurt by others who simply do not agree with where you decided to place your feet on that day. But the standing up matters. And the people who matter will always stand with you.

“Listen to what your tummy has to say. It will most likely never steer you wrong.”

I finished by telling him about his grandmother. He listened, asked a few questions, and then he was done. He wanted to play.

• • •

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Jack and Me

I wish I still had my mother to talk to.

I see the bullies everyday, in living color, on their soapboxes, all over the internet, and in my backyard. I read the far too many stories of rape culture justification. I watched the internet blow up with harmful rhetoric towards people of color in regards to the Boston Marathon Bombing. I see the call to arms from the internet masses as their words fill the comment sections of internet news stories and political blogs, begging for permission of some invisible authority figure to finally “send all these people back to where they came from.” Extremists everywhere. One bully speaking more loudly than the other.

These are the grown ups.

I see the reports on the Twitter feeds of the vicious, misguided bullies and the Instagrams of people battling low self-esteem.

I see the passive aggressiveness of this world whittle away at people.

I sit in an Anti Bullying seminar for our school district and my heart hurts. I sit and wonder why on Earth I decided to bring a child into this world. I sit and wonder if I am really strong enough to watch my child wade through all of this nonsense. I can barely wade through it. I sit and wonder if any of us have the power to change anything.

I try to keep my thoughts from drifting towards righteous indignation and despair. As much as I try to operate towards justice, I can be flawed, apathetic, and unreasonable, as well. I know all too well of my own missed opportunities brought on by my own complacency at times. The world’s terrible side can always creep in.

I throw my arms around myself in a makeshift hug and begin weeping for some motherly guidance. It is then that I realize, she already gave it to me. And she keeps whispering it to me when I need it most. And what she is usually whispering is that simply and plainly we grown ups, myself included, have to stop being assholes to ourselves and to each other. In turn our kids will learn and follow suit. We have to be empathetic. We have to stand up.

I don’t know how my mother would have felt about Marriage Equality or the perpetrators of this or any other terroristic activity. She died before she could bear witness to 9/11 or Oklahoma City or Columbine or Newtown or any other catastrophic event played out in living color on our home turf. And I am guessing she would probably would not have much to say about marriage after trying her best at a doomed one. All I do know is that she believed in humanity and justice and long phone calls filled with listening and laughter. I have to hold onto a world like that. Jack has to know these things. Jack has to know that people like this exist. It is the only way anything will ever change. It is a small thing in a vast world of many things. But it can be the beginning of something.

Mom and Me.

Mom and Me.

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Indulgence

Sticker Mural by Jack

Sticker Mural by Jack

Saturday night insomnia.

My brain laid heavy in my skull as I tried to think on other things other than the things that were keeping me awake.

I have been spending most evenings meditating before bed. I laid on the floor and tried to focus on my breathing, but the words in my head were just too loud, no matter how aloft my thoughts longed to be.

I headed upstairs to do my nightly routine (face wash, teeth brush, other bathroomly things), but instead of making it to my destination, I headed towards the light in my son’s room. He must have forgotten to shut it off before he passed out for the night on the living room floor.

I walked in, sat down on his bed, and stared at the wall behind his headboard.

He asked us earlier in the day if he could put some of his own “stuff” on the walls in his room. He had his share of superhero and Star Wars posters but he wanted something else. Something non manufactured, I guess. (Even after having this house for almost three years, I am still afraid to put any kind of nail hole in the walls. I have an attic full of artwork still waiting to be hung.)

Jack’s request brought Randy Pausch to mind: “When I was in high school, I decided to paint my bedroom. I always wanted a submarine and an elevator… And the great thing about this is they let me do it. And they didn’t get upset about it. And it’s still there. If you go to my parent’s house it’s still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me  let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry about resale value on the house.”

Jack begged us not to check out “his masterpiece” before he was all done.

The mural he left behind was nothing more than stickers he found lying all over his room. Stickers from old school workbooks, birthday party sticker favors, stickers from the kitchen drawers, whatever stickery type thing he could get his hands on. There was no rhyme or reason to his design. It was rainbows and puppies and other unrelated nonsense. There were at least 100 of them laid across his wall in perfect kid formation. It was that and his own scribbled NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign. (He has since bent that rule when his friend, Emily, came over to play “let’s break some Guinness Records” with him.)

It wasn’t a remarkable presentation by any artistic standard, but it was brilliant in its own way and it was his. He didn’t care. He just wanted to take his white space and make it his own.

• • •

After school yesterday, he walked over to my computer and planted his face on my scanner. Bent over, knees on the floor, butt up in the air. He waited.

I said to him, “What on earth are you doing?”

“I want you to scan my face. It will be awesome!”

(What if the scanner burns his retinas?!)

I hesitated. Then I said, “Close your eyes.”

He knelt there motionless as the light bar moved slowly across his face. The first time he slowed down all day. He doesn’t usually stop talking or moving until exhaustion sets in, and even then he acts as if he is Rocky Balboa “giving it all he has got” until he is down for the count.

• • •

I have said it before… sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I forget that for him everything is still new. That every weird, terrifying, tacky, strange, dangerous, insert adjective here, thing/idea is new and brilliant and they believe they are the first people to have ever have thought of it. He asked me later if he could scan his butt. I said no with a chuckle. He has no idea that throughout the 1980s, people Xeroxed the HELL out of their butts in office parties around the world.

I do forget more often than I care to admit. I am tentative. I don’t indulge myself or him as often as I should. Part of our job is to keep them safe while they indulge in their whimsy. As I sat on his bed reflecting on his work, and as I watched him giggle as the scanner scanned his squishy face, I remembered that for every time I remember, too often I have forgotten to close my eyes and giggle… for myself, for him, and for them. I am thankful for the reminders.

• • •

Happy early birthday, Buddy. Eight is great.

Hand Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Hand Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Face Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Face Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Close to 13 or 681

What I woke to

What I woke to

I really dislike January 1st. My family loves it. They always feel this sense of rebirth and renewal. They spend December 31st filling their bellies with fantastic finger foods of all shapes and kinds. They watch Rockin’ Eve on the TV with fun, sarcasm, and anticipation. We all play board games. There is laughter and champagne and fruit punch. But I often feel unfinished no matter how much I try to reflect and compartmentalize the year. Restless soul syndrome, I guess. I know I am not good with goodbyes, or change, or endings, or beginnings. The party horns, the pots and pans, the Auld Langs Synes, and midnight hour marks this symbolic sense of renewal and I feel intense pressure.

The commercial played and the words “Never Stop Searching” scrolled across the screen.

After our low-key festivities faded into midnight, I sat there listening to the breathing patterns of my family gently slow into snores as they lulled themselves to sleep, their bodies wrapped in comforters as they camped out in the living room.

• • •

I “deactivated” my Facebook account a few weeks ago. It was just for a few hours. Just to see what it would be like. It was easy enough. You get the option to come back later so I knew it wasn’t this grand, bold gesture. Just self-imposed exile that was not dependent upon anything but free will.

Three clicks, a prompt asking me “ARE YOU SURE?”, photoed faces of random old friends seemed to manipulatively stare at me, begging me to stay, taunting me with computer generated words of: “So and so will miss you!” A secret code confirmed my decision.

Fade to login page.

Over the last year, I had noticed a few people mentioned they were leaving Facebook for a period of time to regroup. The reasons were varied. Some needed a break, some wanted to catch up on their reading, some just for the hell of it. I often wondered if that act of sequestering themselves from technology freed them in the way that they had hoped; if it gave them some closure or solace. How did they correspond? Did they make more phone calls? Did they move their conversations to another technology? Did they visit more people? I felt both exhilarated and anxious to let it go, even though I quickly realized that I relied on this “thing” for almost every conversation I participated in, work or otherwise.

Permanently/temporary logout. I did not mention it to anyone. I wasn’t totally sure why I did it at the time. I had been reading a lot of people’s status updates. Shootings and Fiscal Cliffs and Holidays were all becoming one long FB dialogue. The world was becoming less and less certain in high def and at a rapid pace. Status updates (including my own) ran the gamut of declarative drama, glee, humor, and matter of fact melancholy. But it wasn’t overtly sad, like the sad in which resided in the fact that sometimes life was sad and that tomorrow was a new day but for now there was sad. Maybe it was sad due to loss or some other hardship. It was silent strength amidst soundless stati. Silent searchings for words/responses. Maybe I simply felt lost in the circuitry. Maybe I needed more silence. Or maybe I was silently screaming. But I did not know exactly for what or for why.

The first hour passed by with very little fanfare. When you turn off your “world’s” light switch in only your house you expect… something. But really, nothing happens. I worked. I drew. Life keeps moving. It is like staying home sick from school one day. You’re an empty desk. You rest up. You get to play catch up once you return. Over the next hour or so, I received a few emails from people telling me my FB account had somehow gotten “messed up” and that they needed to contact me about this, that, or the other thing. I kind of felt relieved that life had afforded me those messages and I instantly felt ashamed in admitting that to myself. Had this working from home isolated me too much from the “real” world that I now needed the comfort of knowing people were a just click away? This IM communication that I often loathe, the painful misinterpretations of tone in text that turn into arguments, the instant accessibility, all these things that I so hated were now like a bad boyfriend I could no longer rid myself of. This thing that was both a vice grip and liaison to everything.

Maybe all of this nonsense is just winter personified.

• • •

I do realize my personal worldview is one of very close digital proximity. I get bogged down by and attached to the things in front of my face and I let the real, real world outside become distant and cold. I set up a protective barrier to everything and sequester. I blame my awkwardness. Yet I am sometimes so fearful of silence and I forget that the silence could be so much more silent. The people within my Facebook are my connective tissue to humanity. But I realize that even with this connectivity, more actual, physical human connection to humanity is needed.

So I conducted a second experiment. I wanted to see how connected I was to reality; the living reality outside my family.

At 10:30 PM on December 31, 2012, I opened my Facebook friends list, grabbed a notebook, and began to handwrite every single name. As I scribbled down each name I thought about how I knew each person. Like my little “log off” experiment, I did not really know at the beginning why I chose to do it. Maybe I wanted to reminisce. I took solace in knowing that I had interacted in some small way or had some sort of connection with most everyone on the list and that this list wasn’t just a collection of names. There were people there I missed terribly, people I had said goodbye to, people I had not seen in years, people who I lingered on, people I very recently laughed with, people I loved, people I wished I knew better… The song suggests that auld acquaintance be forgot. But I wanted to remember. I wanted to log off and connect.

The groundwork for art, photo, and other is being laid as we speak. The how and why I connect.

I stopped for a few moments at midnight. Kate was the name where I left off. My hand hurt by 1 am. I was finished by 2:33 am. Out of practice penmanship. 12 pages, single spaced. 681 names. People I know.

nrew-years-1398

12 pages

Storage Unit

An invitation to the ridiculous and the sublime.

An invitation to the ridiculous and the sublime.

I had not ventured out with the purpose of taking random photos for a very long time, but I knew I was very much in need of a moment of solitude.

I left my boy at the party of 8 year olds to play sports and eat cake and make merry. This was his first non-parent party (as in, parents could drop off their kids and return to gather them at the end of the allotted time.) I had never really left him at a party before, only on play dates, but I knew he was with his school friends. I knew there were enough grown ups. And I knew that he was safe inside the kid’s recreational complex. I sat in my chair just outside the fence of the training area as I watched him run off to play without hesitation. I recognized that we could both could use an afternoon of freedom; a time for him to play and for me to think. I walked over to the basketball courts, kissed him on the forehead, and handed him my cell phone number which he pocketed hurriedly. I exited the space feeling a slight twinge of his growing up, but I left with little hesitation.

Just outside the building was an old industrial complex. It was Sunday afternoon which meant most of the area was dead, closed, and quiet. I drove down roads with names like: Progress Court and Determination Street and other plays on motivating words. Around the time I found the corner of Progress and Progress, I saw a man sorting out his possessions behind large green garage doors and tiny numbers. When my tires crackled on pavement of the parking lot entering the storage facility, he looked up accusingly. I felt I interrupted his methodical ritual of compartmentalizing things, so I drove down to a different row of doors. I parked and began to storage, compartmentalize, and document myself on my tiny cell phone camera.

The space reminded me of the town where I grew up. I thought of some of my favorite photo partners as I walked and my heels clicked through the rain. I wanted to photograph my friends in stylish coats against the green doored backdrops. I wanted them to hold my hands as they roller skated  all over the lot in their striped knee socks and old fashioned skates. I wanted them to carry brightly colored umbrellas as they weaved in and around the buildings. My thoughts of them inspired me to the next few moments. I stared at my boots and jumped into the body of 1940s screen siren Chloe Parker who was at that very moment of space and time completely trapped in her own angsty web of intrigue. I was starring in my own version of bad French cinema which would later be named “Fritz Bolkestein: a Life without French Fries.” It was my few moments of play before I drove back down Progress Blvd. to interrupt his.

Storage-unit-1

The corner of everything (Le coin de tout)

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Chloe perdant son esprit.

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The buildings reminded her of Fritz. Le Sigh.

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La porte à côté d’homme continuée changer ses chemises.

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Je suis Chloe.

Storage-unit-3

Oh, L’amour.

Storage-Unit-2

Mémoire.

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Où est-ce?

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A photo to remember what she was about to leave behind.

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Vingt-cinq

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Silhouette

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She wished it were wine.

Barrière

Barrière

Fritz Bolkestein : une vie sans pommes frites

Fritz Bolkestein : une vie sans pommes frites

Novembering

I wanted to capture something. Instead I captured everything.

I have had a few blog entries sitting in my almost finished queue for months, but I have not been able to move forward with a single one of them for quite some time now. I have been blaming my lack of completion on work, life, and overall busyness, but the reality is that I just can’t figure out how to complete any of them. They just stop. Dead. Like doodles in a notebook that are beautifully drawn and expressive, but in the end go nowhere. I can’t even progress through them anymore. There they sit; just snippets of text; a non sequitur or two; ideas; fleeting imagery and floating words…

I suppose it is symbolic.

Maybe the enormous amount of transition, discovery, and change that has taken place over this last year has finally taken its toll. (I can barely remember January at this point.) Even now, I have yet to form a cohesive final thought…

The worst part is that I feel this immense amount of bloggers guilt. Like a mother who has abandoned her child. All of this makes for a dangerous mix of apathy and anxiety.

• • •

UNFINISHED JULY

A few months ago, I was kissed on the forehead by my work weary husband as the sun slowly peaked through the drapes. The front door slammed and I was left to my own devices. I laid there semi-motionless on the bed, staring out the window, pondering my ponderings, thinking my thinks, and relishing in the time before everyone else in the house (i.e. Jack) begins to wake. I was tempted to stumble out of bed and check the days happenings on whatever hand-held device was nearby. Instead, I laid there and continued to think.

I began to labor through the imaginary “handwritten” list of all the things I needed to do for the day, but that quickly evolved into tedium and annoyances. So I closed my eyes and tried to focus on something else.

LOVE…

…the word just hung there in the Technicolor darkness behind my eyelids.

The ridiculous monotoned drawl of Mr. Tom Hanks’ “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is,” dialogue from Forrest Gump annoyingly played (and replayed) in my head as I lay there. This word. A word I keep coming back to every time life breeds the most important, eloquent, and frustrating questions.

Do I know, Mr. Gump?

The L – O – V – E word…

It sits there like a lump in my subconscious. And at its fundamental core it is a enigma that I am not sure I truly understand.

I mean, I really don’t understand it. Like really, really, really, infinity.

My dirty little secret.

I have never been great at deciphering love, or telling when it is real, or how to handle it when it is given to me. This 4-letter word and all its nuances plagues me. The search within myself this past year or so has brought me towards so many questions about my way of thinking, and my true thoughts on this word have very much been avoided until now.

• • •

My father was full of nuances. I think love was a disconcerting thing for him. He coasted through life on what he thought worked and tried to aggressively control the uncontrollable aspects that didn’t. He was a tough person to live with. He could be very unkind and conversely he could try way too hard. He was emotional, bipolar, angry, sad, and unhinged. He tried to make memories but mostly got lost in the minutia. It always seemed to me that for him existence was torture and his brain was in a constant state of torment. We never really talked about these things. I wish we could have.

I think I broke vase or maybe I lied or maybe it was something else. I can’t remember now. He looked at me and his angered response to my actions were, “I don’t know if I can love you when you act like this.” At the time I believed him.

He moved away when my parents divorced in the early 90s. I only saw him a few times after that. He had since remarried. I found out later that his wife’s son had special needs and that he and my dad had had a very close relationship. They enjoyed their movie nights and he was a good caregiver and companion. I used to think dad was just one of those folk who were ill-equipped at being a father, and in a lot of ways he was. It wasn’t his hard-wired, undying destiny to parent. But upon examining this now within the clarity of my age instead of in the midst of my burning emotion, I think I believe he was just meant to be someone else’s father, as sad as that is to write. I sense that he finally found the simplicity and purpose he felt eluded him throughout much of his life. His purpose in this newfound something.

• • •

I am an anxious person both by birth and by experience. That anxiety causes me to analyze the stuffing out of every situation and in love there is no exception. I can’t live easily in any kind of love. I am never content and am often caught trying too hard. My anxiety causes me to make a lot of mistakes. Dave gently reminds me to try to be happy within the simple life moments I am given. He and Jack can do this without effort and it maddens me. My own lack of zen causes a certain amount of tumultuousness within myself, therefore I end up retreating inside. I become fearful of getting close to anything or anyone. I clam up. I shut down. Even with the amount of love from friends and family that my life so generously contains, I still associate that word with uncertainty. This “thing” that can be red-hot and conditional; or passive aggressive and dishonest. This “I don’t know if I can love you when…” Where simple mistakes mean the end of love and the givers of “love” could be easily distracted and tempted by the next new shiny thing and move on. It makes my subconsciously protective reservedness rear its ugly, unsure head.

I got lost in this swirl of ideas, of self loathing, and a general ‘ahhhhhh shut this brain off, please, please, please!’ when I heard the pitter patter of little feet… a slight depression of mattress… then familiar arms around my neck.

I settled into that squeeze and forgot everything else.

• • •

I thought back to Dave’s Great Aunt and Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration. It was one of the nicest events I had ever had the privilege of attending. The weather was great. The water was warm. The many, many kids were happy. And the love of the happy couple was felt. He karaoke-serenaded his bride to the oldies that were playing, while the cousins created impromptu doo wop style backing vocals, complete with choreography. She chuckled at the silliness of her husband and her eyes were filled with love. It was an all day into the night affair.

Jack fell asleep poolside as the evening dwindled. I sat there content and thought of very little. “Sittin’ on Dock of the Bay” began to play. I started to quietly sing along. I caught Dave’s uncle’s eye and my silent solo became a duet. When it ended we went back to our moments. Mine of poolside blissfulness and his to his group of reminiscent chatter.

• • •

My analytical self tends to discourage my emotional one.

But maybe that is all there is. Those simple moments of something where you forget something else and revel in a moment. A badly sung yet beautiful serenade. Poolside chatters. A kiss on a forehead. Those little arms that will always fit perfectly around my neck and smell like my little boy. The same smell that only a very exclusive club gets to know. No one talks. No one has to. It just is. My questions still plague me. My work in progress still haunts me. My letting go of things still chokes me. I know with a very real sense of self that I am simply not very good at any of this, but I am desperately trying to pay more attention to the moments.

Interlude

A long two months. Happenings. Elation. Anxiety. Angst. Changes. A cliff of possibilities and choices that might as well be bottomless. I have been away for a while.

I went upstairs intending to take a simple shower before continuing with my work. I soaped my hair and then, well, I just stood there. I couldn’t move. Soap still running down my back, I lifted my hands slowly under the pouring water until the cups my palms made bounced a thousand droplets of spray towards my face. It tickled. It hurt. It was hard to breathe, but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t put my hands down. My brain so full of everything, my heart hurt, my eyes tired. The water turned colder as time lapsed and I continued to stand motionless apart from my slowly moving hands creating an ever-changing mask of water dripping off my face.

I thought of the speeches I had made, advice I had given, of new friends and old. I thought of New York, and colors, and delicious food. Of moments in time with all the people I love, and the deer that continued to move despite being pummeled by a car just moments before we passed. Street fairs and opportunities gained and lost. I experienced so much these past few months and missed so much more. I felt I needed to be cleansed from something; from exhaustion, from over worked-ness, and not feeling quite like myself. I felt like I need to hold onto something as well. But that lies out there… blurry and out of focus.

I heard “Time” by Alan Parsons Project playing in my head. Everything was as slow and dreamy and annoying and painful as that tune can be. Lost within myself in my tiny shower that seems to never come clean. I wish it were November, August, or September. I wish I was not battered by my inner self. I wish I could let everything go from time to time. My patience with myself and my surroundings is wearing thin.

Cold. Cold. Cold. The temperature ran cold as time passed as I heard, “Mom, are you alright?”

The cold water and the tiny yell jarred me into reality. I opened my eyes, still trying to focus like I just woke up from a dream. Nothing is really wrong, everything is just transitional. This moment felt like an alternate reality as if when I opened the doors of the shower it would suddenly be something new. Like some sci-fi novel; some Brave New World.

Tomorrow is bounding toward me. Next stop: dreams.

Sunday Dresses and Subway Grates

Snowglobe from Chinatown given to me by Jack (cell phone pic)

“Stop spinning around, all over the aisle, young lady…”

Shopping for a few last-minute items necessary to complete Easter Sunday dinner, I overheard these words, uttered in complete exasperation, between mother and her tiny daughter.

“But I just look so pretty today. I just have to spin…”

She was dressed in her Sunday best for the Saturday Easter services. Lace and chiffon, ruffled anklets and patent leather shoes. She had to be no more than eight.

Her sister joined in, matching fluttery spins. Mom’s arms were filled with packages. She tried to quell their reverie, this time in a much sterner tone. “Stop Spinning! Just stop it! There are people trying to shop here.” They held back a bit and walked behind the weary mother. They spun again, quietly as they grabbed more groceries. They needed to play their not so secret, secret game for a few more moments.

• • •

I felt the guilt and weight of the above scenario almost immediately. Sometimes I am so very quick to stifle what appears to be useless nonsense in my eyes. Sometimes it is a necessary lesson in decorum, other times is it stupid grown up rules of “how to behave” and overall lack of little person patience.

On the car ride home, I began replaying the montage of Jack stifles I have doled out over the years, clocking in my head all the hours and wondering which one will be the ONE he tells a therapist about in later years. Hours of stifling laughter and mischief into a myriad of different versions of the phrase, “What the heck do you think you are doing? Saying? Eating? Etc.?” Sometimes I feel I am snuffing the life out of his childhood curiosity, one phrase at a time.

• • •

Driving through the Holland Tunnel (cell phone pic)

I had planned on a working, photo project oriented, NYC trip, but my travel partner’s illness and other circumstances altered the chain of events. At 11 am on the day before the trip, I called my husband and asked if he could take tomorrow off. I am usually not this spontaneous and I could have gone by myself, but Dave and I love New York and we have always wanted to share our love of that city with Jack. So we snatched the little one from school and headed east on an adventure.

Our trip became one of those unplanned, jump in the car and pick a direction, whirlwind family vacations. We had no idea what this adventure would bring but the weekend left us with some simple and truly magical in moments. There were so many little moments that the memories play out like snippets of text written out on an old-fashioned teletype machine.

Jack staring out our hotel room window, moments after we arrived. He was fascinated by the Chinese symbols on everything. He sat in that window for the next half hour and copied them all down into his notebook.

The trip was simple. The moments were simple.

• Jack asking us to spell the word “colorful” as he carefully scribbled every moment of this weekend into his journal. • Mom and dad singing to Foreigner and Hall and Oates. • Small hotel, the queen size bed nearly took up the whole room. Walking sideways was necessary to sneak around each other in order to get to the bathroom. • Four TV stations. The Food Network made us hungry for everything. • Saturday morning Starbucks and a walk contemplating the possibilities. • Jack on his first cab ride, more fascinated with the little televisions inside than the city view. • Walking the length of Times Square, ooohing and ahhing at giant M&Ms. • The Toys R Us had a giant kiddie ferris wheel piercing through three stories of merchandise. • Afternoon with an old friend, lunch, MOMA and Cindy Sherman. • Sleepiness and Washington Square Park. • West and East Village. • Tiramasu and people watching in a tiny restaurant in little Italy. • A walk to ground zero. • Three little rings, one for each one of us in Chinatown.

Rooftop bar with a view. (cell phone pic)

Our first evening there was our most magical one. We had no expectations for this day, so it made it all the more simple. Prior to the plan of taking the family on this trip, I had made plans to meet a friend for a drink in the city. So Dave and Jack made plans to check out the area around our hotel while I journeyed in the opposite direction.

We walked towards the village. I had always wanted to see Manhattan from above in real life. The weather was perfect. The sky was clear. I wanted to capture the moment from every angle. My friend found a place not too far from the hotel that had a rooftop bar. We crashed the fancy dinner party that was taking place around the bar and out on the roof. I was still slightly haggard from my long drive east. I was keenly aware that my less than dressy outfit complete with very worn tennis shoes and frayed pant cuffs looked very out-of-place. They asked if we were with “the party” and my friend immediately said yes. I drank my free wine and made it outside to the edge of the building, and looked out into this city that I love so much. The people looked so close yet so far away. I wanted to stand on the edge of the building and just dive into it all. I wanted to yell “helloooooooooo, I am hereeeeeee!” to the crowd of people rushing off to begin their Friday evening plans.

We walked back to meet my family, stopping at a tiny bakery along the way. We sang cheesy 80s tunes loudly, badly, joyously as we made our way through the beginnings of everyone’s evening. I felt the energy of everything. The energy of the possible. We all met up outside the hotel and began to walk around the city and chat. I felt alive. As Dave and my friend chatted about New York and the subways and the city sites. I turned to Jack, grabbed his hand and said, “Are you ready?” He giggled and said yes. We took off running down the block leaving our walking companions behind. We ran and jumped on the nearby subway grates, listening to the loud booms as we landed. It was the only thing I could think of to do to capture my excitement for being in this city with the people I love most. I was running toward something, feeling inspired and overwhelmed, unstifled.

I couldn’t sleep that night, too excited, too something. I listened to the cars outside and felt the subway roll underneath. I watched the thigh high boots and the late night walks of shame, and waited until dawn so I could step out into it all again. I felt like those little girls in their Sunday best and I just had to spin…

Remnants of fashion. Somewhere in the Village. (cell phone pic)

Bowery Street (cell phone pic)

Walking through Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Little Italy and the Empire State Building. (cell phone pic)

Spying on the tourists in Dunkin Donuts. (cell phone pic)

Times Square (cell phone pic)

Jackie feigning shock and awe in Times Square (cell phone pic)

Walking to MOMA. (cell phone pic)

Ken laughing at Jack dancing to Kraftwerk at MOMA. (cell phone pic)

Jamming to Kraftwerk. (cell phone pic)

Sneaking a Sherman pic. (cell phone pic)

Intersection (cell phone pic)

Late Dinner in Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Very Old Tombstones (cell phone pic)

Chinatown Starbucks. (cell phone pics)

Good and evil Jackie (cell phone pic)

Ruckus in the East Village. (cell phone pic)

Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Hotel. (cell phone pic)

Gas lights in the park. (cell phone pic)

Washington Square Park. (cell phone pic)

Tribeca. (cell phone pic)

Sleepy family. (cell phone pic)

Night Swimming and Happy Birthdays

Jack and Max, by Cara McDougal

A lot on my mind and a lot on my plate these past few weeks. Not the least of which has been suffocating feel of time progression that seems to get faster and faster with each passing day. My blog entries become less and less even though I still have so much to say. I have got my head in the game, the eye on the prize, and yet time seems to saunter mockingly all the while running at an electric pace. Time, oh no, you have not been a friend as of late.

• • •

The other morning as I was tired from a long night of work, fumbling for my keys, and working hard to get into my car. I overheard someone getting into the car next to me say “We are young” as in the context of “Why not, we are young. Let’s just do it.” For all I know they could have been discussing the possibility of switching from diet to regular soda, or excited over staying up past 10:30 p.m. on a school night (which is usually my version of a leap into adventure). We Are Young. The words hovered in the air for a second. For reasons I did not yet acknowledge in that particular moment, I was left sideswiped and so awestruck by the power of those three little words that I opened my car door and fumbled for something to write on in my overly cluttered glove box. I sat down in the driver’s seat and wrote those words down in big bold letters on the back of a scrap piece of paper (which may or may not have been the back of my registration card.) WE ARE YOUNG…

• • •

My little boy turns seven today. This birthday is the first one where both my husband and I have admitted to feeling the real impact of the weight of his age. A friend of mine encapsulated the reasons for this perfectly. Seven means our little ones are really in the full throes of being a kid. All signs of being a toddler are way in our rearview mirrors. The slow and steady pace of the endurance test that is adolescence to the wretched middle school years and beyond has begun.

 • • •

The photo at the top of this blog was taken last summer by a good friend of mine. Jack is the one on the left. This image took my breathe away when I first saw it. To me, it is youth personified. It is exactly how I see Jack. It is exactly how he feels to me, to us. She managed to capture it perfectly. I had thought of including many pictorial representations of Jack for this particular blog entry, but in the end this photo became the only one because I felt no other image could illustrate Jack more faithfully and beautifully than this image could.

• • •

After scrawling down the words WE ARE YOUNG and tracing over the letters a few times, I turned the key in the ignition. That ear worm of a song “We are Young” came on. I laughed at the timing and the coincidence and knew it had less to do with some magical, cosmic connection with the universe and more because you simply can not turn on the radio right now without hearing it or a station fading into it within moments. I knew everything about this moment was cliché as I was living it, but age and mommihood entitles you some cliché. Not to mention on this particular morning I had completely forgotten to pack Jack’s lunch and had raced over to the school unshowered and unkempt hoping to get his food to him before his foodless panic set in. My penchant for caring about how I looked or what was playing on the radio had pretty much flown out the window in that moment. So I sat back and listened to the poppy tune. Ah youth… that song’s intent was to manipulate the listener into an anthem of experiences of his or her own youth and declarations of living life to the fullest while things are still brand new, or at the very least a vehicle for which us older folks can reflect upon. But I didn’t reflect upon my own misspent or misguided and sometimes intoxicating youth. For the first time I really thought about his.

I mean I really thought about it. He is in IT. WOW. I always knew that this was his time, but I had to remember that it is actually HIS time. He is experiencing his youth right now; not this abstract or voyeuristic perspective I have of his growing up. These are his memories and they are all coming fast and furious while I am sipping my coffee and making my phone calls. His firsts, the life of his own, as a friend of mine put so eloquently in her blog post: I am beginning to watch him run toward something else, and away from me. The stuff I now reflect upon about myself as I get older. It is his slow motion montage that will be played through filtered glasses and “edited for television” at a later date. His journey to be whatever he wants it to be as he gets older, all slowed down and subtle, with all the feelings that those moments emote. The stuff that dreams are made of and car commercials run on.

My nostalgia level is probably waxing more lately not only because of Jack’s birthday, but because I had been working on my son’s elementary school yearbook. I had been logging in quotes and memories of the past school years from the staff and students, and had been pouring over current classroom photos that will eventually meld into “what were they thinking” hairstyles and faded memories. I was seeing and reading all the talk of the “possible” and knowing they don’t yet understand the gravity and weight of their choices, their voices, and their ideas at this stage of their game.

 • • •

The Youth song faded into a muffled and incoherent wall of sound. I left the radio scan for a bit as I journeyed home. “Nightswimming” was half over but I stopped the scan there anyways. My youth began to fade into my mind. I never night swam until I was an adult but the recollections of moments came into play. The simplistic beauty of that song took me back to every first everything, to the point that this whole morning car reflection experience felt corny and overly earnest but not necessarily in a Lifetime movie way. I guess more in the movie montage way or another contrived way that sometimes actually happens in real life when you sit in the parking lot of your son’s school in ripped sweatpants and tousled hairs on a random Tuesday.

• • •

I keep finding more and more reasons to want to be. I am still on the edge of exploring this newfound lust for life that has reared its adventurous head to a woman whose realistic, responsible self usually beats the idealistic one into submission. New people to love and appreciate, kisses to give as the credits roll, hugs to random strangers. I am waiting to go night swimming again and skinny dip off the highest cliff with the ones I love. Right now I am standing on the edge, naked, ready to dive in. I am getting ready to jump.

• • •

Happy birthday my dearest, Pumpkin King. You have made me want to believe that all is possible.

Exploring dreams: A CALL FOR ARTISTS AND OTHERS

Bathroom Routine, Doorknob Dream

I announced a new project last week but have not had a chance to post it here until now. I have been pondering this idea for quite some time. In fact, my subconscious had been trying to give birth to it for the last year or so, even by coming to me in a dream last September. It has something to do with the call for artists I posted around that time. I think this idea has legs and is ready for the world. I think this is my little attempt at giving us all the chance to make something happen, to change things. Call it art, delusions of grandeur, catharsis, whatever you will. I think every dream starts off sounding impossible and delusional, and then… well…

…well, I really believe this could really be amazing.

BUT…

I need your help to get this thing going.

Take a look at the site. Spread the word. Consider making art. Tell the world your dreams.

I will be making some announcements about this later on this week and posting some community made art as well. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

THE TLATSEG PROJECT

Summer Skies in Winter

My Reflection in the Dirty Window on the 6th Floor

I spent most of the past year and a half looking up.

My obsession with “up” was born out of another obsession (borderline paranoid neurosis) that was born out of purchasing a home. I am an excessive roof/gutter checker, i.e. I am terrified that I will awake one day to a huge hole in my box gutter, or an even bigger one in my roof. This daily practice has caused me to look more upwards more often than most people should. This habit has gradually morphed into my neck craning skyward whenever I venture outdoors. First it was to check out everyone else’s roofs and gutters and compare their maintenance/deterioration to mine. But all this measured structural analysis led my eye drift skyward on more days. I guess I didn’t realize until quite recently how striking Pennsylvania skies can be; or maybe I just don’t remember them ever being quite as dynamic as they were this year; or perhaps there was just more pollution creating more cloud covers and wacky weather patterns; or maybe I was just paying closer attention than ever before; or maybe I just chose to look up more often.

Clouds Over my House.

Looking up into the sky reminds me of my summers working as a sweeperette at Kennywood Park. Back in those days, I loved having the 4 p.m. shift. The late start to the work day helped me to avoid walking around the park in the wretched noon day sun. And as an added bonus, if the weather was pleasant, it gave me a chance to head to the local water park with a few of my friends who also had my same schedule. We would always dash straight towards the “Lazy River.” We spent the day talking and not talking while floating um, lazily, in oversized inner tubes on this man-made “river.” We held onto the handles of each other’s tubes in order to stay together amongst the long line of tubers. Usually we ended the day happy, sleepy, and near sun poisoned. The following hours would entail sweeping up the remnants of leftover amusement park fun while nursing our pinkish skin with aloe vera, praying for the cotton of our polo shirts to stop scratching at our blisters. Ah, the bliss of young summers.

Parking Lot Sunset.

The memory of one of those “water park days” came to mind the other night. I remembered sitting on the foot of my friend’s bed laughing, joking, and listening to music before getting ready to head out. The Bodyguard soundtrack was playing in the background. As the next track began to play, my friend stopped talking, sat down on the bed, and leaned back on her elbows. She tilted her head back, inhaled and then exhaled and said, almost in the register of a shout, “I love this song.” She belted out that tune like it was written for her. She was looking up when she first belted out her tune, and then she turned her head looked directly at me and began to sing in that jokey way only close girlfriends can. I followed suit. I remember the look on her face and sound of her voice as if it were yesterday.

That was the summer before “devastatingly” serious relationships started to rear their lovely, angst filled heads; the summer before my mother died; the time when college was just beginning, before  momentum of growing up took hold. I loved the innocence of those Kennywood summers, the simplicity of lying on a bed and singing out loud with a close friend. When living in those moments were all you were required to do. I spent most of those summers looking at the ground, sweeping. I barely opened my eyes on the “Lazy River” because the sun was usually quite bright, even on the most overcast of days. I looked for the moments I could peek through and let the sunlight in, but I was often left seeing the imprints the clouds left behind when I was forced to close my eyes again.

Driving back from the water park, the car was usually quiet and listless. Sometimes I would plop myself down in the seat and rest my head on the passenger side window. I was finally able to look up and out into the summer sky without sunny obstructions and daydream into the cloud patterns. Certain clouds would catch my eye and I would stare at them the entire drive, wondering if they would be able to hang on to our speedometer long enough and make it all the way to our destination. The screech of brake dust when we arrived in the parking lot woke me from my fixation. “Sigh. Eight more hours of work.” Summer was calling…

• • •

Excerpts from “looking up”. A few unposted skies from this past year.

After the storm

Cloud that Followed Me After the Storm.

Cloud that Waited for Me After the Graduation Party.

Winter Storm 1

Winter Storm 2

Winter Storm 3

Tightrope to the Clouds.

Waiting for Batman 1.

Waiting for Batman 2.

Jack's Cloud City (reminds us of The Empire Strikes Back).