Category Archives: parenting

Sitting Shotgun — #Student #Drivers and the #Zen Pursuit of the #Mindfully Bitten Tongue

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Despite my best intentions, I have ignored my writing ambitions. My life is no more complicated than usual, it’s just that right now, attending to my eldest is sincerely, a matter of life and death.

Is this a magnet of hate and assholes or a magnet of empathy and patience? I wavered on getting this; naturally projecting my hope for self-awareness and awareness by others onto them. So far, it has been mostly encouraging. But there are assholes.

Is this a magnet of hate and assholes or a magnet of empathy and patience?
I wavered on getting this; naturally projecting my hope for self-awareness and awareness by others onto them. So far, it has been mostly encouraging. But there are assholes.

He is learning to drive.

I am supposed to be the teacher.

I find, true to my form, that I am also a student.

It all started out manageable enough in May. Maybe June. He is older than most kids getting their permits and he’s been very good to himself: he hasn’t rushed this at all, and for that I am eternally grateful. Living where we do, outside Washington, DC, endeavoring to turn left is akin to thrill seeking.

Drive in a Driveway, Park in a Parkway

I gave him the keys to our MassiveMobile, a 2-ton, 2004 Toyota Sequoia, 4WD SUV. In its defense, it’s smaller than a Chevy Suburban… I mean, those things are huge. (I like to skate the thin ice when judging others…), and we sat in the driveway for about 20 minutes (yes…) as he learned to shift in and out of gears and release the brake, roll the vehicle, stop the vehicle and depress the accelerator to get the vehicle back into position. We didn’t even touch “turning the steering wheel” until about 10 minutes in.

I gave only pointers and tips. No judgements. I put on my yoga teacher personae and imagined myself as Jesus or Buddha, gently querying, “What would it be like if you sat up a little taller, took a deep breath, softened your jaw, and considered using the brake before stripping the transmission and gunning the engine only to stand on the brake within five seconds in this confined space of 20 feet by 30 feet?”

After 20 minutes, he was done. I patted him on the back and he rolled up the windows and turned off the engine. Reminiscent of a scene in a Disney movie after a witch departs, the local fauna returned to its natural curiosities: squirrels dashed from branch to branch, birds hopped along the roadways, that creepy-looking famished coyote tip-toed through the fence slats.

“Any comments? Questions for me?” I asked, hopeful for what I still don’t know.

“It sure is responsive, that car. I mean, it’s massive and knowing what I do about physics, it takes a lot of energy to move AND stop it. It’s sensitive and just hanging out in the driveway going back and forth, trying to land smoothly on the R or the D is a lot,” he said. “I’m baked.”

His cheeks were a little flushed, which is his natural complexion, but I could tell his brain was tired, it affected his body: he looked like he does after a playing a tough guitar piece again and again.

To me, that counted: that was 20 minutes behind the wheel, so I told him to add it to his phone app.

We did that drill about three five more times, at his request, adding the steering wheel and more square footage to include going up and down our little private driveway as the incidences went on. He wanted 20 hours by the time school started. But he also wanted to drive every other day.

It gets boring and true to human nature, our imaginations and ambitions crave more, want growth. I knew this was a good sign.

But for whom?

Soon we ambled over to the local elementary school. It being summer, no one was there except the custodians and maybe a couple administrators. I wasn’t ready for him to drive to the school, because doing so requires driving in a dedicated right lane (I see now how white-knuckled I was about it all, but I also think it was appropriate, these roads are really crazy here) for about 300 feet with traffic to the immediate left easily doing 50 mph. So I shuttled us there.

To me, being a “teacher” means being honest with yourself and hopefully catching yourself in moments of hypocrisy, those “do as I say, not as I do” episodes. As teachers, parents, humans, we have to be willing to change (become a student) when we are forced to eat our own dog food.

What?

I am human. Ergo, I am a hypocrite.

People don’t take a breath before they start the car. We are so automatic. I wonder what would happen if before resuming from every break or red light or stop sign that we would remind ourselves: Driving is a matter of life and death.

Around here, we are surrounded by entitled kids driving Mommy’s BMW X5 or Daddy’s Tesla, maybe even their own. Or worse: kids who are imagining that the 12-year-old Honda Civic with bald tires, blown shocks and hazy headlights are actually six-month-old Ferraris.

It being a D.C. suburb means we are also surrounded by immigrants, who are lovely people, but who likely learned to drive never, and have somehow sifted through the system of checks and balances that naive people like myself entrust to the audacious system of mutual road safety. And then there are moms, people just like I am. Distracted, breathless and barreling down the roads, sometimes not at all remembering how we got to the pasta aisle at Safeway, and not being able to find the car in the lot, yet somehow being mindful / guilt-ridden and programmed enough to bring our enviroBags to checkout.

I try not to say to him, “Everything you do on the road today can either help or hinder someone else,” even though I really want to. I try to say it to myself and then somehow synthesize it into a less Buddha-bullshit / more YouTube teenage way, in 140 or less characters.

dammit. over by seven characters. back to the editing room.

dammit. over by seven characters. back to the editing room.

I wish there was Siri in our car. Or some sort of rational, onboard computer voice, in a soothing maternal tone that says things like, “I wonder what it would be like if you decided to brake maybe NOW instead of your typical two seconds after now…”

When my mother was alive, I distinctly recall her making all sorts of “eeeeilllllllluughhhhh” noises when my father or brother (or likely myself) would take a turn aggressively or take a turn at all. My mother was a horrid driver. To punish or nauseate my children (I almost got Dad to york about two weeks ago in fact), I like to step back in time by starting “Driving like Mimi.”

My youngest loves it; it’s like an amusement park ride for him. But he’s only 11 and he can’t see much beyond the dashboard or the hood of the SUV because he’s still quite wee. My older kids beg me to stop. So does my husband, and then a fortnight ago, my dad joined in the chorus. But it was the two-year anniversary of her death, and I felt it was a nice little nod to her… especially because I believe my father rode with her driving only a handful of times.

I digress.

After the elementary school parking lot in which I would intentionally panic about an imaginary squirrel or soccer ball or toddler or zombie entering the roadway (our pact was to gun it on the zombie), which we conquered five times in 45-miunute chunks, he was ready to take that dedicated right lane and merge into the speeding left lane traffic for another 200 feet and turn right onto out street.

We were both starting to feel the call of the “open road” — which is what he called the main road outside our little Hamlet when he was four. “Let’s go look at cars go by, on the open road,” he would say when he was very very small.

Blind Spots

I am keenly aware of my emotional need to put off his driving. While I have never stifled it, and I love that he’s going to the beat of his own drummer, I would absolutely be absolutely telling an absolute lie if I said that I’m groovy with the signs of his independence and his God-given, right-on-damned-time calls to spread his wings. I will not clip them, but I’m in no rush to provide an updraft.

To say that he has been the easiest child to raise, would be another lie. He is not “difficult” in the way that he is constantly obstinate or unruly; to the contrary, he is a beautifully sensitive and smart and sarcastic and kind person. It’s into that little white lie, that “good” kids are easier to raise, that we are drawn. He doesn’t really know too much from error; he doesn’t really know too much from failure; he doesn’t really know too much from struggle. That’s not because I’m a helicopter mom, I’m not. He’s just one of those guys who is observant, smart, patient and … well … maybe a little cautious.

I blame my mother.

Ha! That was snide. But she was with him most of his waking hours for his first year when I went back to work.

And it’s also that he’s just my first kid, and he broke the mold, so letting him go out there, into that “big bad world” is hard.

One day, at the parking lot, I had him get out of the car and walk around it. Count the steps required to circumnavigate its mass. I then asked him to give an additional ten feet around the sides and 80 feet off the front because we can’t control the tailgaters. “Imagine eight basketball posts and hoops lined up end-to-end in front of the car. That’s the space you need.”

I’m so full of shit. I don’t give that space. I think I might give half that space maybe 50 feet. I don’t tailgate, mostly because braking around here is half the drive. But I’ve also been driving for almost twice the length of his life (sweet God is that true?!) and my reflexes are cat-like. Rationalize rationalize rationalize…

It’s a long time coming: he is a good driver, he is diligent about his lane changes, but he doesn’t turn his body to scan behind the rolling tank’s clearance into a lane ahead of the SmartCar behind or beside us. (I HATE SMARTCARS… I know this might sound hypocritical to those of you who know me personally because we just got a MINI Cooper for our fun buggy, but I am human. I am weak.)

So instead of saying, “You really need to improve your upper body flexibility and give yourself [AND ME AS A TERRIFIED PASSENGER IN THIS CAR] space, and look behind you — THROUGH the [God damned] windows so we don’t kill someone…” I say, invoking my therapist who often started confrontational work with me by saying, ‘I wonder what it would be like…’ “Gee, maybe sitting up taller and getting more clearance between you and your forward traffic would give you more time to turn your body and look behind you before you switch lanes…[breeeeeeeatheeee…]”

So I have blind spots of my own. I don’t turn enough to see the moments coming on, the moments when he decides to hang with his buddies (who are lovely kids too) after a game; eat a little faster at the dinner table and escape a little sooner to his room or the basement; text a little more on his iDevice, only to shut it off when I near the 10-foot energy zone surrounding him. It’s at those moments I sustain a blow to my emotional solar-plexus, and double over a little with bittersweet appreciation: I’ve done a good job, this is what he’s supposed to do… he’s his own man. So why does it hurt so much?

Breathe.

Co-Driving as a Sympathetic Crash Test Dummy

You’ve read it a thousand times? Here’s one more truth: there’s a worn patch in the passenger seat foot well of my SUV. It’s from the imaginary brake. The arm rests have indentations and oil stains where my hands have gripped and squeezed and pressed and pulled. I think my body fits beautifully into the form I’ve created with my pressing away from the windshield, like a nice little sarcophagus — a “carcophagus!” for me to live in. I should wear my night guard when I ride with him.

He laughs about it. He knows I’m biting my tongue. He knows I’m doing my best to not blast him or react. It’s good for both of us. He thinks I’m a little too nervous. I think I like the car just the way it is: lacking any major dents anywhere, save for the puckers, skims and dips from his brothers’ errant kicks of a soccer ball at the speed of light.

So that whole thing about not texting while driving…. Don’t text while your kid is driving either.

After the high school parking lot and my mandated into and out of parking spaces; driving on strange grades and uneven terrain; in the rain; and navigating tight spaces, it was time for the big road. He drove us home from his high school. He waited his sweet time at that first right out of the safety of the school property, and I LOVE that about him: no one is going to rush this guy.

That’s from my mom too. In some amazing ways, she got through to him: that while the world is populated, you have to take care of yourself. Now, in all fairness, she took that self-interest of herself for herself and by herself to extreme self-guided levels, but somehow it distilled to him in a kinder and smarter way. I’m a born codependent: when not self-aware, I will try to please others until I pass out. Not my eldest. He’s a great teacher, and so I hear myself say to him, because this is life and death, “You have all the time you need. Dial back, let the cars go and bask in the relative safety of that STUDENT DRIVER magnet on the back of our death missile.”

Because of his nature to observe and assess and learn before stepping outside the lines, he is methodical. At right turns on red, if you’re behind him, you’ll know it: he stops to a full body-lurching-forward-against-the-seat-belt stop and then goes. This is because of me. I told him, “A right on red, means you stop on that red. I’ve gotten burned for it. So, you stop, don’t roll through.” I know fully well, and I’ve explained to him, that in time he will develop his own style and with experience he will begin to cut corners, turn wider, and blow off or assume rules for himself.

Once he got to 12 hours behind the wheel with me, I promised him he could drive the Cooper at his high school’s parking lot.

Kid in a candy store.

Kid in a candy store. This is a turbocharged rolling bathtub.

He couldn’t contain himself. He said it’s like a go-kart. He loves it. It’s fast, it’s nimble. Everything you need to see is right there. “I thought the Sequoia was responsive… holy cow…” he said, doing his best to censor himself and refrain from enthusiastic and humbling epithets.

“Well, yes and no. They’re both responsive in their own respective and proportional ways. I’m letting you drive it because you will likely need to learn how. There could be an instance wherein Dad or I get a headache or feel unwell or have an injury and you will need to drive. Your driving this or any car, just like for me, is a luxury, not an entitlement.” (“P’shaw,” says my inner craven Mario Andretti.)

Driving home from that session in the high school parking lot with the Cooper, he waved to let someone in ahead of him while we were rolling. The Cooper lurched to the right because he used his left hand and then back to the left because he corrected. Thank God it’s a narrow little matchbox.

“HOLY GODCHRISTJESUS! DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN….” Like a despot Joan Crawford, I dictated.

“WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!” he hissed, all full of himself as we coasted along, as vulnerable as a newborn kitten. I was SERIOUSLY doubting my choice to let him take us home and he was totally pissed at my reaction, something I’ve heretofore been pretty good at suppressing.

I paused. Took a couple breaths. Placed my tongue in the roof of my mouth and released my jaw.

Don’t fight with the kid behind the wheel.

“Something else. You’re to keep both hands on the wheel. It’s not even been an hour in this car, and you aren’t ready to ‘wave people into the lane…'” I said all huffy and eye-rolly and impatient. Not at all like Jesus. But Jesus didn’t ride with his son in a MINI Cooper in Fairfax County. “That driver will have to wait. You had the right of way. You were already in the traffic, moving along and you’re not Jesus… there was no one behind you, there was space for that car and while I think that driver was counting on it, you waved it in… When we are on our street, I will show you how to ‘double-flash’ a driver in ahead of you… by the way, the double flash is something I don’t think you’ll see in your driver’s manual; it’s sort of like a wink and a nod, a part of the driver’s patois… The beauty of it is that you keep both hands on the wheel…”

He’d checked out. I was the enemy for that instance.

There are assholes. Sometimes it’s me when I’m not like Jesus.

He encountered an asshole the other night. We were driving home from soccer practice pick-up. Because I prefer the Cooper, and I’m a born codependent, I let him drive the Cooper. This is where I have literally had to stop and examine my own head. “It’s not about what you want to ride in, Molly, it’s about what’s safest, Molly.” My husband the other night said, “The Cooper is a treat for him. Not a given…” and that was that. I thank God for my husband.

He stopped on red to take a right turn. The asshole behind us, likely came close to driving into us, stood on his horn. Turns out the asshole is a known asshole to my family and when we had the chance moments later, I stood my ground and chewed him up and spat him out. I was simply returning the favor from five years ago when he was an asshole in front of my children at the pool, and I reminded him by telling him he started it five years ago, and that vengeance was mine and right and just and OHHHH!! how the tables have turned…. I have a whole post written about that incident at the right on red and its ensuing carnival, but I’m not sure I’m going to share it on the blog. My husband is convinced this asshole knew it was my car because he remarked on it to my husband one night… I am feeling the pull to write more about this here, but I will ignore it.

No Better Teacher than Experience.

We can read all the Dr. Spock, watch all the Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. Who we want and we will never be able to impart to others any wisdom we’ve gained therein. The only real teacher is experience. About three weeks ago, we were in the Sequoia and the road was slick and shiny from a recent rain. The clouds had parted, so it was also steamy and reflecting the low sun. We were heading west, into the sun, at about 6:30pm. I was doing my best to speak intentionally about the reflection, the glare and traffic lights being a nice idea, but when conditions are like this, you really need to watch the tail lights of the cars ahead of you.

I aggressively depicted the intersection we were approaching: it had SIX right-hand portals to either enter the main road or to exit the main road. Two of the six were actual streets, each with their own traffic light (yes, within 100 feet of each other); the other four in/outlets were for a gas station, a McDonald’s and two shared spots to enter the shopping center housing everything else. It’s a shitstorm waiting to happen and it needs some serious re-engineering, but that won’t happen because peeps gots to be getting’ gas and fries, yo…

In an instant, we were upon it.

“Back off the gas… coast…. Watch the tail lights… WATCH THE TAIL LIGHTS. COAST…. brrrrreaaaaaakkkk…..” I stopped talking. He wasn’t listening.

We were coasting in, all laaaa-deee-daaaa to our doom.

Something, like God knows what, had his attention. So I shouted, “USE THE FUCKING BRAKE, NOW….” and he said, “I was… I was… ” and I said, “MORE. PLEEEEEASE…” and he found himself standing on it.

The antilock brakes squinting their little eyes, turning away and bracing for impact… and we stopped.

About four feet from the bumper of the Mercedes in front of us, our SUV was diving and recoiling from its submission to Newtonian law. My son, that sweet angel with big green eyes, dimples and a smile to die for, looked at me and said, “Ok. Are you happy? We stopped.”

Ohhhhhhmmmmmmm Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo …. Aad Guray Nameh Sat Guray Nameh Guru Deveh Nahmeh…. Ra Ma Da Sa…. I went full-on Kundalini yoga: doing my inner chanting to spare myself, and the world, my fierce upset.

I breathed in, my nostrils flaring and pursed my lips, nodded and said, “Yes. You managed that well. That was intense. This is a death missile.” It was at this same shitstorm place where the asshole almost drove into us two weeks later. Irony? No.

Later that first night, he said, “You were right. I should have stopped sooner. I should not have relied on the traffic light. I should have been smarter…. You were right: nothing you say will teach me, it’s the experience…” Later that second night, he said, “You’re right. That intersection is a mess. It could have been me driving into someone else…”

I’m still popping Zantacs like they’re tic-tacs.

My son has waited this long to drive because he is aware of many things, the tension on the road being one of them, but most importantly because he hasn’t needed to drive to socialize. I read an article in the Washington Post recently about a trend depicting Americans falling out of love with their cars. Some suggest the trend is driven by gas prices, some suppose Über, ZipCar and the sharing economy, a trend toward living in cities, others confidently assert it’s because of hand-held devices and that our socializing is virtual and we don’t need to “see” our friends in order to hang with them.

Given my son’s predilections for his iPad at times and the ensuing bursts of laughter from chats he’s enjoying with this friends, I can totally concur with the article. Given my son’s pediatrician’s deep interest in my children’s’ appropriate need for an active and real and tangible social life, I can say that if my son is out on the road, he’s seeing other people. Even if we skirt the  the “Avatar” film’s “I see you” see-you, it could be enough.

Logging hours. The Openometer

As I mentioned earlier, my son wanted 20 hours by the time school started. He’s at about 18 and we’ve been in school for two weeks now. It’s not easy to log hours around here because everything is quite nearby. However, the resumption of soccer season has required driving to and from practice, so it’s starting to add up.

The Cooper has something fun called an “Openometer” which is a gauge that measures how long you’ve driven the car with the convertible top down. We have had the car since the beginning of August, and have recently logged 35 hours of open driving. This includes a four-hour road trip to a beautiful wedding last weekend, but excludes an entire week we were away in Connecticut. I am the primary driver, so I can drive it during the day when the kids are in school.

huge and tiny.

huge and tiny.

But we are talking about fun little car to ride in; not a giant SUV to train in. What this means, is that in order for my son to acquire the hours he needs to engender his independence, I need to be less codependent, think of his safety and experiences rather than my interest to be in a fun car and have him like me more. I have to let him spend more time with him behind the wheel: when we get milk, for drives to the barber shop, to fill up the tank…. It’s very time consuming; I’ve literally stopped myself from jumping into the driver’s seat many times, just so we can “get there.” But this only foils his growth. He prefers the Sequoia over my husband’s car, a Toyota Avalon, something we affectionately refer to as the “Old Man Car.” He loves that he can see so much and feel much safer in the SUV.

So it goes… in order to let these kids become more of themselves, we have to let go of a lot of ourselves, and become a better person that we think we are. For me, that means becoming more like Jesus: a 21st Century female Jesus who is trusting and more gentle; who refrains from playing The Killers at a deafening volume while her son is driving, and who is just plain more patient.

This was a long post. I hope you enjoyed it.

Thank you.

Back-to-School Schlepping

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It won’t be long before I miss these days.

Next week would be fine with me.

In typical family fashion, we waited until today to participate in the the oft-avoided subjugation of school supply shopping. I realize I’m a procrastinator. I married a procrastinator, and in turn, we have created three procrastinators. Our dogs are procrastinators, “Never run off with a shoe today, that can wait until tomorrow.”

I lied. We created two procrastinators.

Our youngest, likely because he is so tired of waiting for us to GSD (get shit done) is all about the future; he’s a visionary. He’s been asking to go school-supply shopping since April.

Well, maybe since August.

When I saw those damned school-bus and No. 2 HB pencil yellow signs, those harbingers of schedules, and standing in lines, and raising your hand first swing from the ceiling tiles of my nearest Target in late July, when I was just buying a new swimsuit coverup and a bottle of SPF-600 sunscreen I threw up in my mouth a little. “Back off! We live in Northern Virginia, you schmucks! Not Texas!” I hissed from the express lane check out lane.

We all lament that summer is too short. Lamenting is good for us. It keeps us in yesterdays.

Today, however, the youngest couldn’t wait to hit the streets and get his gear. He knew he had us by the short hairs. Tomorrow school “starts.” (I am so jaded about education these days… )

Because our oldest two are going to be a senior and freshman in high school, respectively, we are old hat at this. We’ve got reams of looseleaf lined paper; drawers filled with loose crayons; another drawer filled with colored pencils; about five pairs of 3″ scissors; several hundred index cards; thread-bound composition notebooks; graph paper; rulers; a dozen pocket folders, both plastic and paper; and at least 37 standard size glue sticks, not including the one my 2-year-old nephew was chewing on last week.

“Once you go through your list and cross off the things we already have, then we will head out. We aren’t going to keep getting stuff we already have; it’s like Amazon.com in there,” I said about our school supply shelf in the playroom as he walked around following me with his school supply list, pointing at it and telling me we needed four dildo large-sized glue sticks.

you tell me what we need here.  i can't make this shit up.

you tell me what we need here. if you recall, i said “cross off” what we already have.
i can’t make this shit up.

So we headed out… initially to Target and then, ultimately Staples (much to my husband’s delight because that makes him right and me wrong, but not really because I just wanted to go to Target to get more coffee, which was NOT on the list, but should be, so I won) and our 7″ scissors, three-subject spiral notebooks, 7-pocket expandable file, 24-count crayon packs, 12-count colored pencils and other things (which are apparently on another list our kid made). We have the checking pens at home. EVERYWHERE. It’s called a pen.

While there, we were among the masses, joining other gray-toned, unenthused, zombie-like adults glancing at the remains of a stationery section cum demilitarized zone. 

Choruses of “I know we already have that, let’s wait until you need it…” were groaned in louder, grainier and deeper response to “Ooh, these pink ball point sparkle pens made just for girls are cool…” sung from the spiral-eyed toe-stepper female-gender identified children.

I wasn’t sure what we needed, given that aforementioned requisition list and its NSA-encrypted WTF connotation system. So I started looking for three-subject spiral notebooks. I knew that was on the list. I cruised over to the school-supply annex nearest the burgeoning Hallowe’en candy which just COULDN’T wait its damned turn and overheard,

“Hey, Mom, let’s get this [Live! Laugh! Love! factory-antiqued woodenesque placard] for me for when I take over Stacy’s room when she moves out….”

“What? When? Stacy isn’t moving out. What are you talking about?” asked Mom who was hunched over and squinting. Trying to discern the value of gender-specific writing instruments. As I traipsed by I breezily threw said, “Last time I checked, Dorothy Parker, Tina Fey, Maureen Dowd and Condoleeza Rice didn’t need a pink pen… Just sayin’…”

The opportunistic daughter said, “You know, for when Stacy heads off to college, I’ll get her room…” She was holding the $30 distressed item next to her face.

Stacy was all of four feet tall. Stacy, as it turns out, was going into fifth grade. I asked the Mom.

There were no three-subject notebooks to be had.

Aside from the coffee, and also NOT on the list, I’d remembered that I wanted eraser pencil toppers. Target didn’t have them. So we bought what I came for, and pushed on to Staples a few miles away.

As we crossed the >swish< of the sliding doors into the store, my husband was in his upper-middle-to-senior management zone, “Step aside hon, I’ve got this… Head straight back and turn left at the middle intersection, go to the end, on the right…”

That, is how that man won my heart, 25 years ago.

I didn’t really care about the glue dildos or the small personal pencil sharpener. I knew those things would be covered the first few weeks of classes. 

I was concerned about the three-subject spiral notebooks. Due to their scarcity at Target, which was already preparing for St. Patrick’s Day, I knew they would be in high demand elsewhere.

We searched in the aisle of the standard spiral notebooks. It was worse than a toothpaste section. There were pink ones, blue ones, ones with tiger stripes, camouflage, leopard prints, Hello Kitty, Batman logos, paper covers or plastic covers. But no three-subject. Plenty of five-subject ones — he can be ambitious I thought; afterall, this “teaching to the test” bullshit is too limited, so I say run boy run (plus I don’t want to come back here again)!

My husband, betraying his manhood, asked for assistance. I was crushed. 

We were so close, just 10 more feet and a hard left at the end-cap. The masses were encroaching however. They must have heard his plea. 

Because we were too focused on getting our gear, we didn’t see other seekers, but we could feel them. We began to hunker down, get a better sight on our quarry and the collective pulse of the seekers’ energy grew. I did manage to look up, just as I saw a stack of the notebooks, and decided to grab three more, because: you never know, AND because the older two boys haven’t told us what they need yet…

But, the notebooks were college ruled.

Fuck it. Get two more! Run!!!

The nice thing about getting out of your house and waiting until the last minute to shop for things is that you bump into old friends. We did do that, but just as we were about to begin the whole, “How have you been? You look great!” conversations amid the lines of people undead in the store we somehow managed to escape (there were at least 15 bodies ahead of us), my husband was summoned to the cash register and I had the notebooks, a new backpack, a specifically blue protractor / compass / calculator combo (did you see those on the list?) and we had to push off.

The cashier attendant offered to put everything in the backpack, “Sure! Save a bag!” said our little guy, and she loaded it up. He was pleased to plop it on his 56″ 75# frame. He said as he squinted from the bright sun (another thing you experience when you get out and not shop online) about his backpack, “This’ll take me through 8th grade at least!”

When we got in the car, my husband said to him, “Hey, buddy, if you catch any static because your notebooks are college ruled, you just tell those teachers, it’s ok, you’ve got big plans…”

“Yeah, that you’re a visionary; that you’re already planning on college…”

After a nanosecond, our son said, “I’ll just tell them there weren’t any others.”

Big plans.

Happy Labor Day. LONG LIVE SUMMER!

Thank you.

On Wearables, Lightness and Being

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On Mother’s Day, my family presented me with a FitBit. It wasn’t by mistake or without some semblance of open communication.

I bought one for my husband, the HR Charge, on Good Friday (it just happened to work out that way; it’s also the only way I remember how long he’s had it). He had been angling for one, wasn’t sure which one he wanted, was starting to feel concerned about his health (due to colleagues suffering heart attacks or strokes within the previous six months) and I think he was ambivalent about spending the money to get one, seeing as how they’re pricey. To me, health is priceless, so I bought him one, put it on hold at a nearby retailer and he offered to swing by and get it on the way home from work.

He loved it almost instantly. The biofeedback was amazing data to him.

I loved that it had an alarm. That it would wake him subtly in the morning by vibrating on his wrist.

I do not wake well. I do not like to wake up. I am a night owl. Either I was born that way or I was conditioned to live that way. My mother was a night owl, and I spent a better part of my nascent life wondering and being concerned about her health and meanderings, the clanging of pots and pans, the shuffling of furniture and papers, the seeking of things, I guess habits can develop. But the thing is, I LOVE SLEEP.

So I was really drawn to that aspect, that a device one can wear will vibrate and wake us.

So I unwrapped the rectangular box, with a bit of intel as to what was inside, and stared at it.

You are the enemy. I thought to myself.

You are going to make me change. I thought to myself.

My husband, who is such a sweetheart, really, knows I’m apprehensive about these things.

I live a busy life, I thought to myself, my face contorting, like an ape at the box. I wanted to stomp on it like that chimpanzee from the American Tourister ads of the 70s:

Reluctantly, I put it on.

On Monday, the next day, I found myself resisting it. I didn’t like that I was being “tracked.” I felt it was an invasion of my privacy.

You don’t have to wear it, I thought to myself.

I found all sorts of reasons to NOT LIKE the aspect of this device on my wrist. That said, I bought an app to have it synch up with my iPhone because I like things all in one place. (Yes, I get that I said I don’t like being tracked and owning an iPhone…)

Mindfulness and personal responsibility — the data is there; it’s really an “in your face” or “on your wrist” accountability device.

By Thursday, I started to settle in. I used it to track my sleep (I suggest not setting it to “sensitive” because the non-sleep data will depress you) and I found it to be informative.

I started to want to win against the device. Get in my 10,000 steps (which is a lot of freaking walking, my friends) earlier each day. I wanted to WAKE with 10,000 steps. Be done with it. Eat THAT, FitBit!

By Saturday (six days in), I decided I would set the alarm to wake me. It being a late soccer match day and no demands which I could royally screw up by not waking on time, made the most sense.

I set it for 8:15 (okay… 8:45) Saturday morning with a snooze option for 5 minutes.

“mmm mmm mmm mmm mmmmmm … … … mmm mmm mmm ….” and repeat a two more times on the thinnest of skin.

Oh. That is nice.

The snooze happens as a default. Five minutes later.

“mmm mmm mmm mmm mmmmmm … … … mmm mmm mmm ….” two more times.

Half waiting to see if it would do it again, because to me “snooze” means y’know, bugging me, I laid there, wondering and fully awake.

No.

It didn’t go on again. It abandoned me.

I felt (honestly) as though I’d let it down. As though it were a cat that needed to be fed. Or a dog, which needed a walk. All that’s missing, to me, I thought, was the sound of pee accumulating in a puddle outside my bed, and then I’d be the hell up and out of bed in the freakin’ heartbeat. 

So I have it do its little Salome dance at 7am on weekdays, as a nice gesture of “I see you, FitBit” and what I’ve done now, is have it set at 9:30 nightly, to remind me that it’s getting late and that the process of going to bed, if I want to wake up better, should begin.

It does make me mindful, this little device, of how I’m choosing to spend my day and how I’m choosing to affect my health. I don’t enter all the data about water and food and when I’m beginning an “exercise” moment. I figure that’s stupid — it can tell when I’m at a fast pace or just moseying (which is an ambition, frankly, to mosey).

Now if there were an exterior monitor for telling me “You’re yelling a lot today” (other than my dogs hiding) or “maybe you turn on some music and chill out” (other than my kids retreating) or “I see that laundry piling up too, let’s get on it…” then we might be on to something.

That monitor is me, and it always has been. That’s the hard part.

However, it’s a nice tool. I’d be a lying liar who lies if I told you: the FitBit is not spilling into other aspects of my consciousness. I wonder if that’s a positive outcome of the device or simply a logical construct of who I am — I’m open minded and am seeking mindfulness and enlightenment and accountability.

What I would LIKE, is a better looking bracelet. It’s totally ugly. It reminds me of a house arrest device. I would like someone out there who works with metal to create a band with crystals and other cool rocks to make this more into jewelry and less Orwellian looking.

So I’m walking the dogs a lot more than I used to to hit my goal. I used to walk them the distance I have always taken them (2.7 miles) a few times a week. Now the poor bastards are going every day. I’m spending less time writing (clearly). I’m spending more time meditating on those walks, listening to Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance on my iPhone which tracks me a hell of a lot more than my Orwellian band. I’ll tell you this — 12,000 steps a day is typical for me.

I’m absolutely more present. I don’t know if that’s a combination of the FitBit and Tara or just a nice after-effect of the long walks, but I am seeing everyone in their many dimensions, which has helped me accept my flaws; conversely, seeing greatness in others helps me appreciate my growth.

This introspection has flooded my relationship with my children and my social circles. It makes me even more of a truth-seeker and a person of accountability. When the data is staring you in the face, it’s hard to refute. You can ignore it, you can deny it, you can suspect it inaccurate. We know what we know and we repress what we repress.

One of my sons is behind in his math class by several assignments. The assignments were sent home and he has a deadline. He wants to do some things this coming week which are what we consider “carrots” to hang over his head to get him to comply with his academic requirements. He thinks we are being unreasonable.

I said to him this morning, with only sincerity: “When we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always gotten.”

It’s like a FitBit.

I am not here to force him. We, as his parents are here to remind him of his responsibility to his teachers; this is NOT about me and my parenting. This is NOT about my husband and his presence. If two of the three kids are on time academically and one isn’t, it’s likely not a systemic situation. There have been moments when all three of the boys are struggling academically and it has absolutely been a busy and distracted time in the household; these things generally don’t just happen. So we’ve addressed them and try to keep things level-headed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

In this particular case, he wants what he wants, and we want him to adhere to his relationship and his responsibility to his teachers. Or he doesn’t get the carrot. I know people who fret about how these things look “on the family”; that perhaps signs of academic struggle reveal inner turmoil in the household (and that has certainly been a reliable indicator), so I wonder: is it really for the kid’s success or does the demand for academic triumph serve more as a façade of domestic bliss? That even despite the turbulence inside the walls and under the roof, that scholastic achievement is high, so Mom and Dad don’t have to sweat the shit they’re creating or stirring up or ignoring? “He’s not on heroin, so everything’s fine!”

For this particular situation, it’s definitely not a case of us ignoring my son or denying some domestic issue. This particular child, who is a lot like yours truly, simply hates math. Because he and I are alike, I get it. However, he isn’t growing up in the shitstorm I did, so I have less patience for it. My position is this: just get it done. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but not handing in classwork is an insult to your teacher.

So when a kid is floundering, discounting the specter of domestic trouble serves no one. Trust me on that.

I actually said the other day, “I’m done thinking about Mom.”

It’s so funny. That proposition, and so utterly feckless. If we are going to be so rigid, we must remember what we are finished thinking about.

As usual, in my way, I am trying to be finished thinking about the harshness, or the “turbulence of recent years” as an “in-law uncle” wrote when she died. But we all know what forcing does.

forcing does this. that tree is still growing, wind. she doesn't care what you say.

forcing does this. those tree are still growing, wind. they don’t care what you say. (c) (Clement Philippe/Arterra Picture Library/Alamy)

But he was right, when he wrote “In ways unimagined, [her loss] it will leave a hole in your world.  …  It inflicts an unfortunate dose of adulthood to lose a parent.” It’s true… we can’t blame them for our crap anymore.

On Being

During these Orwellian FitBit-mandated walks with the dogs and while listening to Brach, she quoted psychologist Carl Rogers what wrote On Becoming a Person, as saying,

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

That quote sliced through me. It reminded me of myself, of my mother, of social acquaintances, and the tremendously difficult work of truly accepting ourselves AS we are, and really, being OK with it. Not saying “I wish I were taller” or even the Stuart Smalley version of “I am ___ and ___ and ___ and darn it, and people like me…” Rogers isn’t talking about settling for who we are… or forcing our freaking benevolence and weirdness on others. He’s talking about accepting how and what we exhibit and manifest (jealous, nervous, angry, addicted, biased, afraid, insecure, deflective, repellant, arrogant, busy, reactive, meddlesome, demanding, impatient, critical, comparative, selfish, needy, thoughtless, unkind, self-absorbed, et al.) and getting down to the insanely difficult business of changing it. It requires mindfulness.

Sorry.

Ninety-five percent of our behaviors are subconscious in motivation or simple iteration. We have to pay attention to those moments, those motivations and drill the hell down and change it, because WE KNOW it’s not right.

I took a Facebook quiz this week about the Kiersey temperament (not personality) type quiz. Turns out I’m a “rational” temperament. It was heartening to me. It explained so much to me which is helpful in learning to accept myself. At times I find myself to be unreasonable about things, and it’s not that learning why I am is a good thing, it’s that it’s not out of nowhere. So now, knowing the basis for it, helps me learn to be more aware of it and possibly change it.

So while doing my subtle work of changing parts of myself in ways to make life easier, I see this summer as one of rest. My oldest is about to enter his senior year of high school. I can not express more truth than clichés do in telling you how fast the time has flown. I am reduced to a heaping pile of sobs when I look back on the life of these magnificent children I’ve been utterly blessed to have ushered into this abundant and vexing world. Being a mother, without a doubt, is the most demanding, unheralded and humbling “title” I’ve ever been blessed to wear. I try not to compare, but sometimes it is impossible: the choices my mother made in absolutely experiencing the treasure and terror of motherhood versus the choices I have made in experiencing it. I do not want them to look upon these days with me as ones of sadness and regret and shame of performance toward my survival. That said, I can not construct false meaning for the boys either.

Egos are absolutely at play. Fear has no place in motherhood, other than to keep you on track and to help you be more present.

As John Mayer wrote, “Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood / I know the heart of life is good.”

Thank you.

When We Run Out of Bandwidth We Can Always Reboot

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I’m sitting outside on our brick walk-up on the first truly nice day of spring. The sun is out, still a little weak, as it’s only April, but the air is a gorgeous 75˚ and perfect humidity, if there is any at all. On either side of me are three boxwoods and they’re making this strange fizzing sound, as if they could foam and the thin suds popped almost as soon as they were formed. I remember this phenomenon from last spring, and I went to search it online. The guessed causes ranged from insect infestation (of which I could find no evidence) to the warming of the sap in the wee branches exchanging moisture from the roots with nourishment from the warming sunlight, now eight minutes old. Always eight minutes old.

While the air temperature is warm, the breezes waft through the bushes and over the mulched garden beds, ushering along with it much tiny pouches of cooler air reminding me that we are still very early into the season. Sparrows, starlings, cardinals and finches are serenading, well, alarming their peers of the presence of my nine-year-old yet still-frisky gray cat, Gandalf. He’s still an impressive hunter, if not part-time resident of our home. He cheats on us with the pet-less, empty-nesters across the way. His reclusive and more loyal sister, Beezer, is black. She has come out of her hibernation. She’s never had kittens, but she has this strange sack-like stomach which sways from side to side as she saunters from house to house, rolling in the dust created from pulverized stones which were applied to the street during the recent ice storms. I always say she needs liposuction.

Ours is a quiet street. We live on what’s called a “pipestem,” or private street along which anywhere from three to fourteen houses are nestled in my 32-year-old bucolic neighborhood of more than 6,000 families. It was originally supposed to be the home of Dulles Airport. Congress put the kibosh on that. Instead of the airport, now we’re in the flight path. Sometimes they are so close, I can see the logo of those massive intercontinental jets as they circle above my end of the county.

I’m sitting outside, not just for my own enjoyment, but to serve as sentry as my youngest son rides his bike up and down our private street. He is eleven now. He rides in his Batman shirt and khaki cargo pants without a care in the world, without looking both ways. Without watching out for parked cars and cats and swooping birds. He speeds up hidden driveways closest to the main street and whips his nimble hand-me-down blue and silver bike around in a tight 180˚ preparing to vaunt himself, yet carelessly again, back into the main feed of the driveway.

The neighbors do not mind, but they are not home. They are at work.

Work.

I have considered, with more weight than the previous time, my return to it. To don a suit (do women still wear suits to the office? Are there still offices?), wear sensible heels, have sensible hair and attend sensible meetings — all with the noble intent to help conjure funds to pay for the next stage of my parental life: college tuition for our oldest son. And then our middle son. And then our third son.

I read an article in the New York Times this morning about why college costs so much. My outcome was not relief, a sense of “gotcha! now you colleges will tone down your lack of federal funding rhetoric and tuitions will recede!” but rather great discouragement; there is no way to shut down that business machine. And that’s what it is … a business. I don’t know who said the original sentiment, but the watered-down version of it at MCI where I used to work in corporate communications was this: “Create the need and then sell the answer.” I’m not pooping on college. I definitely see its value and its importance for a life well lived; so much of what you learn in college doth not come from books.

We attended a college financial aid night at the high school about three months ago in the dead of winter. We braved 12˚ plus winds for 300 yards from our car to the building to listen to a knowledgeable man from Georgetown University’s financial aid office talk about things that make no sense to me: that if we paid the tuition for my son to attend my alma mater at $23,000, we could conceivably get financial aid for him to attend Georgetown for basically the same amount thanks, to the benefits. My school is no slouch, but it’s not Georgetown. Couple that with the fact that our of-age son did well enough blindly on his SATs to get into several very good schools. But SATs and GPAs and ACTs aren’t enough for a white, American, middle-class, highly intelligent, book-smart, socially affable, male to be admitted (not “get into”) a good school anymore. He has to be regal, and somehow disadvantaged.

Back to creating the need: I read in the comments of the NYT article that the nation needs college educated kids to survive in the future. But the college costs are insane. That “low skill” labor jobs aren’t what’s going to carry this nation. That no one wants those jobs. Yet they, too, are absolutely needed for the future (who’s going to pave the roads?! who is going to catch the fish? who’s going to fix the cars? the planes? so many good jobs are out there!). There was also the sad acknowledgement that a college degree also doesn’t guarantee a competitive edge in the workforce. But it’s non-negoatiable; a college education is non-negotiable, it’s a must-have. Yet the tuition is insane. But the schools don’t need the money. But it’s become a business. But kids have to have a college education… But it’s super expensive… Am I repeating myself?!

Heck yeah I am.

So I started to whirl out of control over the last few days. Panicking. WHATTHEFUCKAREWEGOINGTODO? HOWCANWESTILLEATANDPAYFORCOLLEGE? HOWWILLWEDOTHIS? WHATABOUTCOMMUNITYCOLLEGE? WHATABOUTHISFUTURE? AREWEFUCKINGHISFUTUREALREADY? WHATBOUTHISBROTHERS? IHAVETOGETAJOB. IHAVETOGETAJOB. THEREISNOBOOKINMETHATWILLSAVEUS. JESUS. WEARESOFUCKED.

I started to run out of bandwidth. And to prove it, to prove that I had literally run out of mental space to be a sane and nonreactive person, I picked on the only person in my life who is nice enough to come back for more, because that’s the kid of guy he is: my husband. I created chaos. It wasn’t just him that I went after. I went after myself, in a really yucky and sad way. I said and thought things about myself that I would never say to or about another human being (well, maybe Hitler). It’s a very thin line, I learned –again– between picking on yourself and kicking yourself in the ass. After two days I figured out that I was creating a shitstorm for myself and that my anger vented at my husband was really about me. But why? Why did I pick him? Well, to deflect, and keep the heat off progress of course. If I create a shitstorm, I have to clean that up and feel sorry for myself some more. If I simply act and do the appropriate thing, where’s the fun in that? It’s about growing up, dammit.

Then there’s my own shit in my head to deal with. I’ve written about it here: the panic about my personal future and following and not crapping on my own dreams: to write.

To bring this idea closer to my own soul, to allow the kindnesses and compliments of readers and friends to actually sink in and not simply run off my skin only to drip into little puddles beneath my fingertips and pool around my feet or soak the linings of  my shoes I have begun to read the eminently readable War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I learned about that book after listening to Steven Pressfield’s podcast on The Accidental Creative. His book is a breezy little tome, broken up into very brief segments or chapters or utterances (sometimes just a paragraph long) about Resistance.

Seth Godin refers to Resistance as The Troll Inside Your Head. Pressfield says that Resistance is that thing inside us which stops us all from being healthier, ending a sick relationship, allowing creativity and living better. In its early pages I learned that Pressfield not only has a ritual (I’ve heard SO MUCH ABOUT THAT NEED FOR A RITUAL… OK…I get it…) but he also has a zone, an altar, if you will, dedicated to his writing or his creativity. He is disciplined. I used to be very disciplined. Then I had kids. That threw that bathtub right out the window. But my kids are older now. Creating a ritual and an altar does not seem quite so rife with failure anymore. He talks about not setting a word limit or a time limit on his writing and that when he starts to lose his thought, then he knows he’s done for the day. He’s very reasonable.

Pressfield makes a very compelling case about Resistance and why it wins so often. Pressfield makes us dig very deeply to uncover why we let Resistance in.

We let Resistance in because we find it easier to be afraid than to be courageous. He draws comparisons between Resistance and self-sabotage. He wrote something about how it’s even a form of sabotage against our peers, about how the worst act of treason against them we can commit is to better ourselves or get this: we subconsciously halt the betterment of others because we don’t want to be stuck with ourselves. He used an oft-cited story of the fate which befalls the crab who dares to leave the stock pot and how the others will dismember it to prevent its liberation.

You have to own your stuff when you read this book. In order to grow from it, you MUST be willing to stare yourself in the mirror and admit when you were a crab who tried to pull the fleeing one back in: are you the friend of someone who is striving for weight loss who offers him cake or makes little jabs at her progress? Or are you the one who puts out a spread of fruit and vegetables and offers water instead of soda or wine?

That made me think back to a time in my life with my mother when as much as I wanted her to be healthy and sober and available to me, I was also (this is a big confession) weak and terrified that her recovery would require me to be softer and kinder and vulnerable to her. That I would lose my enemy. That I would lose my edge. Part of it was teenage girlhood. I better understand my role in my sins against her and with that, not so much a sense of guilt, but an awareness of my fears and my false power.

I am so grateful that my go-to response was NOT guilt for the first time in my life.

It’s not like I spiked her cokes or swapped her tylenol with valium. Guilt has no place in that dynamic because ultimately, I had no power over her. What I was guilty of, if anything, was thinking I had any role in hoping for as well as fearing any sense of recovery for her. It’s hard for me to convey to you without sounding like a shrew how truly difficult it was between us, when things were difficult. To do so brings to mind that poem about the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: that when she was bad, she was really really awful. So I really try to avoid talking about it all. But doing that solves nothing either, other than makes me feel like I have to shut up and that makes me mad. I have found that when I simply accept things as they were that I don’t feel compelled to be pissed off about it all. I have to remember that.

Reading Pressfield allowed me to see my baser, more unkind and craven self from those days. Surprisingly, it has bolstered me. I see how far I’ve come! I also see myself less as a victim of hers or of circumstances and more as a participant, albeit a reluctant and confused one. I was not a young child when I had those fears of my mother’s success; I was running out of bandwidth then. I was an adolescent, on the verge of bursting from my pent-up rage against circumstances I had yet to fully understand but only sensed their state of frustration.

My middle son is now that age when I first began to understand what was going on — what was really going on — in my family. We were about to move to Virginia, uprooting my mother. My older brother had mentally left for college, I was poised to repeat 8th grade (due to low attendance and a few dozen tardies) and it was utter emotional and logistical chaos. I see my middle son now and as much as he hates school (boy!) he goes. Every day. He is more intellectually present now and his grades are improving. He understands that all of this is his responsibility (we provide the stable home life and he does the work). It has required a lot of attention on my husband’s and my behalf to keep him remotely on track, but nowhere along the line do I find myself sabotaging his efforts and secretly wanting him to slide.

My oldest son is the age when I started to become emotionally unglued; that when I actively hated my mother and defiantly rose against and mocked any belief in her proposals of recovery. It was likely my disbelief and emotional garrisoning was all I could muster as she was a virulent strain of artist, alcoholic and depressive narcissist. In retrospect, I think it was a survival skill. I was out of bandwidth.

Pressfield goes on to talk about how to overcome Resistance. How we need to be ready for it and to learn from it. There are pages awaiting me which prescribe a future without Resistance and I can’t wait to get to them. I’m in the section now where he could not shake the sense of a need to write nonfiction. That he simply couldn’t bear to write fiction yet and that he felt like a fraud for thinking himself worthy of giving perspective and advice to anyone who dared to read his words.

Man, can I relate to that. And yet he did it anyway. And I’m so grateful. Should I ever go in that direction in a cohesive sense with an all-out book, you won’t catch me daring to say I’ve accumulated the requisite letters after my name to make me worthy of dispensing advice. I can’t shake the feeling though that there’s no way to write fiction, ever, for me until I bang out something which is entirely nonfiction.

I can feel myself on the precipice. This is unlike any other sense of thrust or self-trust or self-belief I’ve ever felt.

I have considered writing when the kids are at school. But I busy myself with other things which I would categorize as Resistance. But not today. Today, I am aware. It’s like being on a financial budget: don’t needlessly spend the money if you want to have it later. Be smart about how you spend your time. Try to not run out of bandwidth. But if you do, be OK with it. Reboot. We can always reboot.

So I’ve come semi-circle about the returning to work thing. Watching my son ride his bike up and down our street mandates that I be home when he is. I have seven more years of this. I don’t think of that with regret though, as if I am trapped here. That is the mistake lots of us make. We are not trapped here. It’s a matter of perspective. Even a castle in the Alps can feel like a prison.

Ideally, I’d like part-time writing and editing work. Nothing too fancy. Just something to help the blow in a couple years. Pay for a vacation. To a place which requires an airplane ride, a rental car and abuts turquoise water. Wouldn’t that be nice? College will happen. We will figure it out. We will have to. Everyone manages to figure it out. By the time our youngest is finished I will be dead. hahahahaaaaaa.aa….aaaaaahhhh ….mmmm.

No. I will be 56. NINE YEARS, BABY! And it will ALL BE OVER! That’s almost dead. I joke. Fifty-six is the beginning of the salad days, my friends.

But for now, I sit here still. My shadow extends a good twenty feet to my right as the sun, still eight minutes old, is setting to my left. The boys have gone inside. The boxwoods are still fizzing. The birds are beginning their night songs and my cats have retreated to nap in preparation for their nocturnal missions. The liberated cherry blossom petals are rolling and tumbling along the ground, propelled by the breezes of alternating pockets of cool and warm air. They dance and twirl as if they are children on a playground, chasing a soccer ball. It’s truly magical. The issue at hand for me is to turn this love of observation into something I can share with the world, not just on this blog, but bigger.

The wind has picked up and now pollen is bombing my keyboard and screen, and my laptop battery is at 9% remaining. This is good. What a glorious day. … and there goes the ice cream truck on the main street its warped-78rpm version of “Dixie” and “Camptown Races” blaring out the yogurt-cup-sized tweeter.

Thank you.