Archive for April, 2010

not exactly what i had in mind

It may just be coincidental but since my sister left yesterday I’ve felt anxious. A kind of nebulous, shallow-breathed, uncertainty has been shifting around inside me. I cast about for reasons, and find some, money, missing my sister, the rain, Xi’s cough, and although these things at times felt intolerable I could still tell that my malaise was a deeper one and one not easily remedied.

Fortunately my sister left me not only fond memories but also her month long yoga pass of which she had only used a portion. A yoga class!? The last yoga class I attended was prenatal. Since then, if conditions are just right I am able to slide out my old green mat and bend around a bit, but a class? In order to get myself downtown at a particular time without children is a monumental feat for me. I have chosen to encourage attachment in my children which means, in short, they are attached to me and ducking out on short notice isn’t something I often do.

But a free pass and a tummy full of nervous energy seemed like the perfect motivation to get me to Inner Harmony at noon. And the stars were aligned perfectly. Nathan, my beloved, had his papa hat on, ready to shift and juggle as much as we needed to get me out the door. In fact we even managed to dig out some hole free yoga clothes, walk the dog, dress and feed the children, and get downtown with time to spare. Things were looking good. I even had enough time to escort them to our favorite cafe where they would munch on bagels while I twisted and stretched at the studio down the street. Happy to be with Papa and part of a plan to please Mama, the girls cheerfully waved me out the door.

This is where I remind you about my scattered and anxious state of mind. Because just as I am stepping out of the industrial back door of the cafe, a door I have used hundreds of times, I nearly banged my head on it as I swung it toward me. I narrowly avoided the blow by sliding my body around the edge and then….

I SLAMMED THE DOOR ON MY FINGERS.

It was obvious to me that I was falling victim to my own scattered state, so I shook my fingers in a sad ouchy kind of way and made my way towards yoga class where I would be able to settle into my own flesh, and still my mind. But then I looked down and saw blood. A lot of blood. By the time I stumbled back into the cafe and showed Nathan my wound I was sweating, the room was spinning, and I was about to pass out. Head between my knees and three worried loved ones petting my arm is how I spent my allotted yoga hour.

Darn it.

I guess if I was looking to get back into my body the throbbing fingers are doing a mighty fine job. Five hors later they are still pulsing in a sickening way, but I rather like the deep breathing and soothing voiced instructor version I was imagining better.

I know there are all kinds of lessons to be learned with this one. I don’t know if I should be thankful to the Universe for granting my wish, as I am certainly more centered, or mad at her for denying me a yoga class after so many years. I guess I will choose to trust. Who knows why anything happens. Maybe there was a gas leak at the yoga studio and my smashed fingers spared my life.

In any case, I no longer feel anxious. The rush of endorphins took care of that. But I do feel tender and vulnerable, a little accident like this makes me aware of how shoddily we are built, mere skin and bones so easily mangled, and how quickly things can change.

We aren’t in charge of anything.

April 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm 2 comments

boo hoo

The little red car did eventually pull away from the curb. My sister left this morning, and I am sad. Not only is she my sister, not only do my girls adore her, but she is also a fantastic person. She is funny, strong, generous, thoughtful, independent, and interesting. I am a better person for spending time with her, and I know the same is true for these girls.

This photo is Emily receiving a massage from Echo and Xi after dinner. She had just finished regaling them with stories of yore, the time she broke her arm, and bust her front teeth, and saved a boy at the beach. They were riveted.

This morning when I said Emy was leaving the girls hardly took notice. In just a short week they had become accustomed to her comings and goings, out with the dogs in the morning for coffee, and again in the afternoon for yoga. They were so sure that she would return shortly that they casually waved as Em loaded herself with the detritus of departure. As an adult I was too aware of how long it might be until we saw her again, so I gave them a bit more information and they hopped up to smother her in a group hug.

Sigh.

After she pulled away I did the best I could to take care of myself by hosting play group. I moped while vacuuming up dog hair in preparation and then swung the door wide for mamas and kids. Surrounding myself with friends and scenes like this

helped take the edge off of my missing, but I still wish she lived here.

April 29, 2010 at 8:34 pm 1 comment

poke, poke

There is never a dull moment around here. Even the mundane tasks are accompanied by outrageous outbursts, and dramatic exchanges, all adding up to straight-up absurdity. I guess houses with children are like this. Last night while making mac and cheese Xi ran into the kitchen.

“NALLIE!!! I don’t want her to stab me with a unicorn…”

“Oh.” I shout, ” ECHO SHE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO STAB HER WITH A UNICORN!”

Echo slumps out of the bedroom. “But I want to ask her something!”

So I say, “Xi she wants to ask you something.”

And Xi says, “I don’t want to talk to her” and then she slumps into the bedroom.

It’s all sounding crazy to me and I don’t understand a lick of it so I go back to stirring noodles when I hear Echo rummaging around the toys and saying to herself, “I’m going to get a pointy unicorn and swing it at her! I’m gonna stab her right in the leg with the horn! I’m  gonna…”

So I say, “Ya know, I just don’t think that will work for you love. Xi is just going to get upset and then you will get upset and then you won’t get to ask her what you want to ask her”. Echo trundles in to the bedroom anyway, despite the obvious logic of my reasoning and the obvious lack of logic in her tactic. So I dutifully follow, figuring that keeping the children safe is really the bare minimum requirement of parenting.

I enter to see Echo ramming a plastic unicorn horn into Xi’s leg  saying, “I’m gonna poke her! Poke! Poke!”. I make a move to intervene when Xi stops me.

“No Nallie, don’t stop her, it doesn’t hurt.”. And letting Echo know she is failing, she says, “Echo this unicorn is too soft. It doesn’t hurt me.”. And then things get really confusing when she says, “How ’bout you try and bite me??”. They then start gleefully pursuing each other around the house.

See what I mean? Absurdity.

This is why I make the argument that making rules, such as No Hitting, or No Biting, doesn’t make sense. There are only actions and reactions. Needs and feelings. On this day, for Echo and Xi at least, biting was a perfectly delightful game. Apparently far preferable to unicorn horn poking. You never would be able to predict that.

I think most parents do too much work. They enter into arguments, try to determine a truthful chronology of events, then single out which is the victim, which is the aggressor, huff and puff about poor choices, figure out a punishment and hang around enforcing the punishment. Sheesh. If you use empathy for all parties, give and gather information about needs and feelings instead of the classic crime and punishment scenario you are freed from this chore, freed from the pressure to have the answers. Holding both children, listening to their concerns without judgement, leaves room for them to find their own solutions.

I certainly would never have come up with the “let’s bite each other instead!” solution. They came to this on their own. And even though it makes no sense to me it makes sense to them. That’s what matters. Their relationship was at play in this scenario. Let’s face it, in an ordinary household Echo would have been put in timeout for her actions. I would then have been monitoring the time-out instead of stirring noodles. She would have been crying about her isolation instead of thinking about Xi’s feelings and figuring out a way to work it out. And Xi would have been denied a playmate, and a chance to interact in a way that felt better to her.

A few minutes later Echo approached Xi with two different unicorns, and these apparently were pointy enough to make Xi yelp when Echo stabbed them at her ankles. At this point I asked Echo if she wanted attention from Xi. She said yes, so I helped her formulate a request. She then approached Xi, sans unicorns, and said;

“Xi, I want your attention. Will you give me some?”

Xi smiled, bent down, and scooped Echo up. “Sure!”

If Echo were wailing away in time-out this happy ending would not have been possible. If I had demanded that the children make sense in the first place I wouldn’t have been able to guess at Echo’s need for attention, and Xi wouldn’t get the satisfaction of meeting that need. If absurdity and strong emotions weren’t both welcome in our home we wouldn’t get the opportunity to work our way through, albeit in a kooky manner, conflict.

Pokey unicorns. You just never know where it’s going. But the best part is that you don’t have to.

April 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm 2 comments

just add toga

There has been a lot of girl talk around these parts lately. Lots of interesting subjects to pull apart, spread out on the kitchen table, and sift through. All the juicy topics like love, family dynamics, fashion, dogs, hair, more love and more family dynamics.

Nathan, although an honorary woman in terms of conversational interests and emotional abilities, has been busy, coming home late after a combination of work and theater performances, so our dialog hasn’t even been spliced with a male perspective. It’s been all girl all the time. Even the children are girls, with the exception of an occasional appearance from sweet little Elliott, but he’s five and aside from a bit of strutting, tool use, and deep voiced interjections, he doesn’t correct our generalizations of the opposite sex, or temper our views with masculine interpretations.

We’ve been discussing break-ups, looking at what it takes to continue to be friends after a split. We wonder if not caring too much for the person is required in order to switch to platonic, hey-pal, kinds of interactions. We’ve been looking at unrequited love, or more specifically the common desire many women have that the man might forever harbor undying love for the woman, long after she has vacated the relationship. The satisfaction, if it could be called that, when a break-up goes in this direction, instead of the reverse, and how much easier it might be to remain friends if this were the case.

Which caused me to look back on my past and I am startled by the fact that with one exception I am not friends with any of my exes. But that isn’t even the most disturbing factor. What’s more is that, again with one exception, I cannot remember even having strong feelings for those men. It’s as if one day, a switch was turned off, and from that day forward any feelings of romantic love ceased to exist. And any memories of that romantic love disappeared as well. My sister Emily reminded me of one particular ex that I wanted her to meet. She said at the time I referred to him as my “future husband”. I guffawed! I thought she was joking. It simply made no sense that I would say something of that sort because as far as my current perspective goes I never, ever, had feelings of that nature for that person.

What in the world is that about? Why do I have something akin to revulsion about a relationship in which I willingly, happily participated? I am always ready to accept all of the feelings that I experience in the present, why am I shrinking from feelings I felt in the past? It’s weird and I haven’t figured it out.

In any case, our conversations have been meandering down these well trodden but always entertaining paths of love and relationships. And in the meantime, under our noses, the little ladies of our community have been acting out their thoughts on love and relationships. They wind between our legs with dolls and figurines. They assemble Playmobile crowds to witness weddings. They create characters that fight and fall in love and get separated. It seems these are classic themes for young and old alike.

I guess you wouldn’t have to be a woman to enjoy moments like these but somehow, the tone of these days has felt characteristically feminine. Lounging around the kitchen table or sprawled in the sunny grass, with babes at our breasts and between our feet, and love on our tongues, we feel nearly mythological.

Modern day greek goddesses, tea jars, wrinkles, and sunglasses included.

April 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm Leave a comment

a yellow dog AND a brown dog

Two dogs asleep on the living room floor. That can only mean one thing. My sister has arrived!

My heart swells. There is nothing like watching your favorite people interact. Xi and Aunt Emy gathered around the box of earrings discussing the next earring swap-out. Echo cuddled up to Emily’s shoulder, batting her eyelashes, drawing her focus to anything just to maintain her attention. Em in the center of a pile of kids at play group, mediating disputes and talking for tiny figurines. Emily in the kitchen discussing hair and fashion with Kris and Romy. The kind of scenes that put a big smile on my face.

Each time she visits she pretends that she lives here, running downtown for a yoga class, zipping to the library to pick up a book. With her popping in and out, acting like a regular instead of a novelty, it’s so easy to imagine what it would be like if she did live here, heavenly. At the end of the week I will be devastated that the realness of it all has been a mirage, I will cry and cast about for ways to eliminate the geographical distance between us, and I’m sure a post, or two, will be produced out of my sadness. But even though I know about this inevitable end, I’ll still pretend that hearing her footsteps on the stairs is a daily thing. It’s worth it.

If what I yearn for is here then I will appreciate it. There is always an end, to everything, it doesn’t do me any good to post memos around my heart warning me of the short term nature of my good feelings. I’d rather blissfully eat roast vegetables with my sister, looking at her smiling eyes, and laughing, than imagine my grief as her little red car pulls away from the curb.

April 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm 1 comment

not fine

Echo is watching Peep and the Big Wide World this morning. We checked out a DVD from the library. As far as cartoon/t.v. things go it’s not too bad. The themes are simple and innocent, there is science involved, and at the end there is a segment with real kids in real backyards. I love that part, the realness of the backyards. When the kids are playing hide and seek they are hiding behind the kind of detritus you might find in our backyard, stacked lumber, big buckets, random garden piles. I like it that the parents didn’t rush around prettying up their house even though a t.v. crew was coming.

All in all  I don’t cringe when she asks to watch it, but as I type on the computer, or stretch out on the yoga mat, the dialog filters into my brain and I end up disappointed. They aren’t mean to each other, which is extraordinarily common in cartoons, and they don’t sum things up with a trite moral conclusion, which I enjoy, but they do this other thing that bugs me. The characters pretend to not be feeling what they are indeed feeling.

When tiny little Chirp, the red girl bird, gets stuck in a tree, she tries to hide the fact that she is scared. She plays it down, like there is no real hurry to get her out of the tree. As an adult I can see that she is covering up, but Echo is three and takes things at face value. If Chirp says she isn’t scared Echo believes her, even though Chirp’s body language doesn’t match up. She is learning to ignore cues, to accept duplicity.  And although masking emotions is something so many of us do, I wouldn’t say it is preferable. The writers of this program have chosen to put themselves in a teaching role by describing the basic scientific nature of our environment, but they are missing the opportunity to teach kids about other things as well, most notably healthy emotional expression. It’s a bummer.

I can imagine what it would be like if everyone simply said how they were feeling. I don’t think I am going to make it to the dinner party, I’ve been feeling fat and insecure all day and I really want to just go home and take care of myself by soaking in a bath. But thanks so much for inviting me. It feels great to be invited. Instead of, Oh, it looks like I won’t be able to make it tonight. I wish I could but I’ve got so much I’ve got to catch up on, but thanks any way! Somehow, along the way, we have decided it is better to lie about almost every single aspect of our emotional lives.

Why can’t Chirp say she’s scared? She’s stuck in a tree! I certainly would feel scared in a similar situation. There is no comic payoff for her to lie about it, she could easily say something different without the arc of the episode being affected in any way. But Chirp isn’t really a little red bird, she’s a round ball animated by a couple people in a city somewhere. Her expressions come from some other people sitting around a table in an office, and those people probably cover up their feelings all day long as well.

I know I’m picky. I know I’m sensitive. But come on people! I’m sick of the smoke and mirrors. When your teenager comes home from school and you ask them how they are, sincerely hoping to get a peek inside the psyche of your beloved child, and they say, fine, even though their body is slumped and there are tear tracks down their cheeks, it won’t be simply because they reached their teen years and parents aren’t cool anymore. It will be because they have watched every single person in their life, and every single character on t.v., on the internet, and in movies, lie.

When we aren’t truthful about what we are feeling we rob ourselves of the opportunity to authentically connect with the people around us. We prevent ourselves from receiving empathy. No matter how well intentioned our friends are they cannot have a real conversation with us if we are giving them false information. Most of us are starved for community and connection, it is something we want more than anything else. When we get it, we are ecstatic, our problems seem smaller and the world is a beautiful place. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often, mostly due to the fact that from the very onset of every interaction we lie.

We don’t have to be “fine”, we can be sad, mad, blank, anxious, or we could even say “it’s a long story”. The people that care about us want to know the real answer. This isn’t to say we are obliged to detail all the agonies of the last half hour to the bank teller, we aren’t, but we can be truthful.

At the very least, please, if stuck in a tree and scared about it, admit it.

April 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm 1 comment

intermixing worlds

I took Echo to art class today. The class is designed for toddlers so “class” really means a designated room with lots of supplies layed out and tons of mayhem. But I love it because she loves it so much. She loves the very idea of it. She marvels at the fact that she has an actual teacher, and there are chairs just for kids, and that she goes to school. To say it’s a big deal is to put it mildly.

But you’d never be able to tell from the outside. This girl’s waters run deep and she doesn’t reveal anything on the surface. She picks a spot at the table and methodically goes about her work. She puts layer after layer on her piece of paper, stopping to observe everyone around her but never losing focus. It’s incredible to watch.

I did a fair share of people watching too though I tried to keep my blinders on a bit because other parents in a setting like that can drive me insane. It seems every observation gets turned into an evaluation, Good job squeezing that glue! , to which I am sensitive only because I choose to avoid these kind of comments. (See here.) There was also a fair bit of, Be nice!, when any child objected to the actions of another. Grrr.

But at one point in my more minimized people watching I saw another mom walk in and I realized I had just started reading her blog. I am aware that every Tom, Dick, and Susan has a blog these days, probably a good portion of that room has a blog, but I couldn’t help but be a little star struck. It wasn’t exactly like Soulemama entering the classroom, but on a small local scale it kinda was. From the outside there is no way to tell if a particular blog is wildly popular or not, I only know that late at night in my living room I read about this particular woman’s life, which makes her someone other than ordinary in my world.

In any case I went about helping to glue beads and snapping a couple of pics so that I could post about art class when the other mom brought out her camera and started snapping pics for, I assume, her blog. It was so strange because the blogging world was entering the real world, which in my experience just doesn’t happen that often, and the other strange part was that I noticed weird feelings within myself. I thought maybe I was jealous of her camera, or too aware of the fact that I was too shy to approach her and confess to reading her blog, but then when I stripped it all down, even though those thoughts were all true, I basically was just preparing myself to not like her.

What is that? I have been disliked by other women my whole life and have never enjoyed it or understood it. And today I was that person. I mentioned it to Kris later and she said fear of scarcity is the cause of those kinds of thoughts. That makes sense to me. For so many of us there is the sense that if someone else has something, or is something, then there won’t be enough left over for the rest of us. Looking back on all the women and girls that have made efforts to take me down a notch I think Kris is right. One of my best friends in elementary school read my palm and let me know that it looked like my dream of becoming an astronaut wasn’t going to come true. The girl couldn’t even read palms she just wanted to cut me down a bit. We were ten.

Well this lady, from the two seconds that we interacted, seems very nice and deserving of anything and everything wonderful that comes into her life. I’m glad I caught myself at the very onset of those feelings before they clouded my vision and prevented me from seeing another awesome mom, in this awesome community, for what she is. Here’s her blog if you’d like to check it out.

Speaking of blogs, we want to change the name of this blog. We started it as a place to give updates on things related to Feeleez but as it turns out, I like writing! And I have things to say. So, as you all know, the topics have strayed far away from that starting point. Does anyone have any good ideas for a new name? What do you think the overarching theme is around here? Please help! xo

April 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm 5 comments

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