One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I Dance Anyway

Gyms have never been my thing. The hamster-wheel monotony of what I call a treadmill prison is strictly punishment. Exercise was never something I had to schedule; being active was just how I lived my life. Now, however, I'm pushing forty and somehow the last few years I have given in to the little voice that says, sit down, relax, take it easy, have a muffin—more often than I should. So I agreed with my husband that joining a gym might be a good idea.

We joined the YMCA, and, yes, it has the rodent rooms—and I've spent a few hours running to nowhere—but it also has a plethora of classes that don't involve machines. I tried out a dance class and got hooked after the first day. It helps that the instructor is jubilant and kind and that the class isn't designed as a bootcamp but a place to learn some steps and also express a little freestyle. There's no judgment, which is great when I can't follow the arm and foot motions at the same time. I can hide in the back and not get called out for it.

The difficulty is that, though I show up week after week and mostly keep up with the group grapevining right and horsetrotting left, one key element of dance that I can't seem to master is the booty bump. My booty just won't bump.

Never in my life have I ever stared so hard at other women's rear ends as I try to decipher how they are moving them so quickly and so separately from the rest of their bodies. When I look at the wall of mirrors I hope it's got that fun-house effect, because if it isn't distorting my body image then oh my! I twirl and spin and realize my back is doing all the work, or my legs, or maybe I'm just bouncing on my toes but my bottom just hangs out there, somewhere near the middle, doing nothing.

Some people speak of being double jointed, others are just super flexible, but I'm wondering if I missed out on some sort of built-in hinge that would allow me to booty bump my fat away and not look totally ridiculous. I can't even imagine scrawny eleven-year-old me back in the days of gymnastics capable of such dancing wonders.

So I guess I can't blame it on the muffins.

If I really want to get somewhere I suppose I could take hula lessons. Or try belly dancing. Oh well, no matter what my booty won't do I can at least work up a sweat to the music and just dance, dance, dance.

Creative Commons: Victorio Marasigan, 2008



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Maybe This Stubborn Boy

Maybe this stubborn boy will stand
for something bigger than himself,
when he grows beyond the center
of his world to see that others hurt too.

When he surpasses his now,
to find that empathy is love for more
than just Mommy and Daddy,
maybe his streak of "NEVER" will
fight for those broken under men
whose selfish egos festered
until they forgot that anyone else mattered.

Maybe this stubborn boy will not stay
quiet when the bullies come for strangers,
or friends, or him.
Maybe he will champion
the voiceless as the super hero
living under his pajamas.

Maybe this stubborn boy will not back down in fear
because he is made of steel-wrapped love.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hand in Hand

My parents have been married for 45 years. I sent them a text message on the morning of their anniversary. They acknowledged it with thanks, then promptly forgot all about the specialness of the day. Apparently some time later they realized it again and decided to go to the movies and watch Wonder Woman, which they would have done anyway. I think they walked there, as they walk almost everywhere in their countrified little city of two grocery stores (both owned by the same corporation, but that's another story). You might guess that many people walk around the town, but I think my parents are the most recognized residents to choose feet over wheels.

And they know almost everyone.

My husband and I grew up in their city, so we know quite a few people as well, including my father-in-law and many more family members, but my parents can't travel two blocks down the road without stopping to chat with somebody. This has a lot to do with my mom's occupation. She not only knows hundreds of people by name and face but could rattle off their phone numbers if she wasn't so trustworthy as to keep them confidential.

Since Dad's retirement he's become quite social, thus he knows a lot of people too. From playing piano at a local church to performing at many art shows and singing in the community choir, he's rather active. When he and Mom walk down Main Street, they might end up visiting with people outside of every other store. Usually what happens is someone will say, "I saw you walking the other day!" as sort of an ice breaker to a further conversation.

Walking is probably the main hobby or activity that my parents have in common. When they really want to do something together, it will probably involve walking, which is great considering the health benefits. It might be an early-morning venture to get in a quick walk before the heat of the summer settles in. Or it might be an evening walk when Mom needs to shake off the work of the day and Dad needs to step away from his computer. Then there's the walk to the library, the river, the ice cream parlor, the art showing, or the aforementioned movie theater when they just want to get out of the house.

When my family or my sister and her family visit, we get swept up in the walking schedule. I love it, as it brings back memories of all the walks of my childhood and teenage years. We used to walk for fun or when there was something important to discuss that just seemed easier to talk about side-by-side instead of face-to-face in the living room. Burning off stress while having someone to talk to makes walking, I think, a relationship must in our family.

What's also great about my parents when they walk is that they often hold hands. Maybe they've been frustrated with one another, maybe they haven't had the best day, but I'm willing to bet if they hold hands when they walk, they just know that they have each other's back. Love in the beginning is fireworks and fun. Love after 45 years is commitment and trust (and probably some sparklers and bottle rockets, but sheesh, I'm talking about my parents, so I can't really go there!).

A few weeks ago my parents shared a story with me about how their simple walking routine speaks a testament of love to all who see them.

They were not far from home, going or coming I don't know, when a young man walked past them on the other side of the street. They noticed him but just kept walking, as did he, when abruptly he stopped, turned back, and approached them. He told them that he had often seen them walking about town, holding hands, and he just wanted to say that it meant a lot to him, especially with the recent passing of his grandfather. Something about them made him think of his grandparents and the love they had. My dad shook his hand and told him that walking would be good for him, too, as he went through the grieving process. They then parted ways, walking into their separate spaces of life, having collided for one moment to recognize and appreciate a little bit of love.

Just this morning my husband and I went on a walk in our slightly-bigger-than-hometown city. Our four-year-old son, not willing at first, joined us. We did a lot of stopping for ant inspections, stick collecting, and careful avoidance of "laser" cracks in the sidewalk and "lava" rocks that our son warned us about. But here and there we had the chance to hold hands with each other and with our son. I thought about the people who might be noticing us, out of the corner of their eye or through their windshield as they waited for us to cross a street. Would they see a little bit of love quietly passing before them?

_____

Love takes your hand, remembers the best, forgives the missteps in life, and walks with you side by side.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Geddy's Day Address

Four score and seven years ago—wait, no, just four years ago—we brought forth into this world a crying baby boy. And by we I mean my husband and I as well as the doctor and her medical team; my sister, who provided physical and emotional support; and God, showing up in the details small and enormous. We brought forth a baby, because he wasn't willing to make his own exit from his watery nest.

Four years feels like ten most of the time. How do I remember the baby so needy when my son stands before me independently wanting to do so much on his own?

Four years feels like a mere couple of weeks some of the time. How can I forget the worry that he wouldn't figure out how to nurse, the excitement when he first rolled over, the joy at his baby giggles?

This boy, ready to be big and ride his new bike but still wanting to be small when he crawls in my lap for a story or for comfort when he's sad.

This boy, so tall, so ready to race out of my sight as he has fun with friends but still clinging to my hand when he falls asleep, making sure I stay as long as he can get me to.

What a journey from wish to real live child! Our home before had no marbles rolling across the carpet, no Hot Wheels on the dining room table, no wooden blocks balancing in towers in the living room. Now we can't imagine a room without some sign of the child who lives here. A sticker on the wall, a stuffed animal in our bed, a drawing on the refrigerator door.

The years will continue and the signs will change, as they already have, with pacifiers and teething rings and burp rags already hidden away. But for now we celebrate today.

We celebrate in mud between toes and cake between fingers, friends flashing smiles and family sharing hugs. Balloons, new toys, and ice cream sandwiches. Batman, fierce, crouching on top of the birthday cake.

Today we celebrate the boy: four years strong, four years wise, four years ours to love.

Happy birthday, Geddy.









Friday, May 12, 2017

"Daddy, is That a Dang it?"

Parents worry about a lot when that first cry awakens them in the night, when the toddler takes her first steps and stumbles, when the five-year-old smashes his face from falling off his bike. They worry that something is worse than it is. They sigh in relief when the moment passes and their child is OK, all patched up in Batman bandaids or soothed to sleep again with a pacifier. They settle down to sleep at night, thankful that their child has made it through another day without catastrophe, or in spite of it.

But then, if any parents out there are like me, they might lie awake at night wondering how their great and healthy kid might still get hurt or sick the next day or, even worse, how they might be screwing up as parents, causing irreparable damage by cursing in front of their little cherub.

In this family, choice words sometimes come out of our child's mouth and they can most certainly be blamed on me. It isn't that Luke never cusses—he's not that squeaky clean—but with Mommy home all day carrying on with all the duties of house and child, she (I mean I) can sometimes let slip a taboo word or two. You'll laugh when I share what those words are, but, let me tell you, when I was a child the only expletives that were OK to use—because they didn't count as expletives—were made-up ones or those of the "shoot!" or "rats!" variety.

Fortunately, Geddy's first word in life was "more" followed by other G-rated words like "ball," "go," and "hot." Oh, and "Mama" and "Dada." As I weekly added to the list of words he was saying (I stopped doing this by the time he was two because it was hard to keep up!), they remained on the safe side, though we had to be careful to explain to others what he said for "cup," and "cracker." From age three to now, however, it has been common to hear "What the heck?!" and "Dang it!" come out of Geddy's mouth.

I could paint myself in a positive light by chiming in with, "Hey, at least I didn't say the other words in front of him!" but I think that's really just a way of patting myself on the back for the fact that I did a better job of whispering those so Geddy wouldn't hear. While you laugh, let me add that it is entirely possible that "crap" will be the next word in his vocabulary.

Send me some soap to wash out my mouth, but in the mean time get one last chuckle at my expense. The first time Geddy used one of these words from Mommy in front of Daddy he asked, in all seriousness and with great curiosity, "Daddy, is that a dang it?" Perhaps he'd been wondering for some time just what it was that Mommy was always talking about. Maybe at last he had solved the mystery and could identify a dang it. Luke laughed too hard to help poor Geddy out, so he may never know the answer.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Efulents and Whales: Chasing Water with My Son

My son has a friendship with water that started where else but in the bathtub. From the moment he could sit up on his own he became a slippery bundle of laughter and splashes. Sharks, turtles, and a rubber ducky taught him to squirt Mommy even though she scowled. The first time he wiggled on his tummy in the tub, shouts of "Daddy! I'm swimming!" echoed around the bathroom. When Daddy came in to see, the water sprite shrieked, “I got you!” and soaked Daddy's pants. The joy of staying wet means getting out of the bath after "two more minutes!" turns into five, and the shark and the boat have time to squirt the wall again. When the water starts to gurgle down the drain I hear, "Where it going?" and always wonder if I should say, "To the ocean."

Summer vacations at the coast gave him new water words: beach, crash, and wave. He liked to yell, “Throw it, Daddy!” and watch his daddy throw rocks and shells into the ocean to make them splunk and disappear. From his first summer visit at age one, to the latest at age three, he’s been fascinated with the ocean. I imagine he dreams of whales when we leave the window open at night to hear the aquatic lullaby. Sand in his diaper, wind, cloudy skies—nothing keeps him from crawling, tottering, and running in the sand to touch the water of the big, blue sea. At home when we are far from any ocean—landlocked, dusty, and dry—my son asks to “drive really fast” to get there.

Without an ocean we settle for dancing in occasional rainstorms, wading in the backyard pool, and playing Pooh Sticks with pinecones racing through the culvert under our favorite path. When summer storms flood our street, my son collects sticks, pinecones, acorns, and leaves—his mini gondolas to navigate the raindrop river. The moment he notices the water out the window he begs to march into it. The big kids slosh their galoshes up and down the curb and my son follows. His friend across the street comes to wade and chase and scream too. They don't mind the wet clothes and cold fingers. When it hasn’t rained for days and the sun screams heat on our heads, we set out the pool and have stick-boat races. Water cannot sit idle at our house.

During the winter, bath time becomes my son’s main way to keep wet. Sometimes it just isn’t enough. One night last winter my son, settled into bed, stretched an open hand up over his head in the dim light. He turned it back and forth, looking it over as if for the first time. He began to talk about the water-spraying elephant statues at the zoo. "I want to get my sweeve wet at efulents," my boy whispered. "Wait for summer," I told him. I pictured the fun he would have as a little efulent, trumpeting water over his back.

This summer I decided my son needed more water than could fill a tub or wading pool. My husband and I don’t swim, but we want our son to learn, so I signed him up for a two-week parent/child swimming class. I thought he’d take to it like a whale, diving and spouting water all over me. We visited the pool before lessons started, to let him explore. He loved it, bravely going in as deep as his waist, laughing and splashing just as I had guessed he would. But when lessons began a few weeks later, he showed me quite fiercely that they were not according to his terms. I feared I would scare the love of water out of him, and he would dry up. Each day we struggled into the swim clothes while I prepped him for swimming with little mantras of “I’m so proud of you for trying!” and “You are so brave!” My husband even bribed him with ice cream. Fortunately, he always smiled at some point in each lesson, always went in the water of his own free will, and always made progress. He stayed friends with water, and I think I see signs of a bold swimmer yet.

Just when I thought our water days were at an end for the season, I found myself saying yes to a family-floating adventure down the Boise River. My husband invited me to go along with some friends, thinking I’d want to get a sitter for our son. It was too last-minute to get someone to watch him, so I worriedly imagined us huddled in our raft in the middle of the river with our son screaming to go home. Would he get scared or would he love it? But how could I have doubted our water-obsessed child! Clad in a lifejacket, he clawed his way over the side of the raft time after time, wanting to dangle in the water while I held him by his armpits. And the only screams of the two-hour float were exuberant joy with many a “WHOA!” as we faced the few small rapids. Even when his friend showed fear, my son only wanted more water to fill the boat.

Lately, when we can’t get outside to dance in the rain, go to the river, or pull out the wading pool, my son delights in the water of the kitchen sink. He drags a chair, scraping across the floor, and parks it in front of the sink where he spends time filling and dumping cups and bowls of water. As I sit here writing he exclaims, “Mommy, there’s a lot of dishes to do!” He may not always want to do the dishes, but I have no doubt we’ll be chasing water for many years to come.


Monday, March 20, 2017

In Sickness and Sickness: A Story of Lava, Love, and the Silver Bowl

"Mommy, when it's morning, I want to go to WinCo or Fred Meyer and buy ALL the cookies!"

"No. No cookies. Mommy is sick. Go back to sleep. Wait, are you even awake?"

Our son snuggled up next to me in bed and said no more. Luke coughed and stirred in the guest bed downstairs. We were now all in various stages of illness, the first attack having started in the night not many nights earlier.
______

It began with a whimper from Geddy's room. My brain went into the normal do-I-go-check-on-him-or-do-I-wait conversation in my head before I rolled out of bed and into his dark room to hear him sobbing. Thinking he was having a bad dream, I reached out my hand to where I thought his back was and touched instead a sticky, glumpy goo. The dread had hardly time to sink in as he continued to vomit.

"Oh, baby, you're sick!" Nice of me to state the obvious. I turned on the light and started flinging blankets and animals out of the way and wiping up with his shirt as I pulled it over his head. Luke came running to hold a shivering boy and calm him while I took all the yuck to the laundry room and set up a bed on the floor in our room. Geddy had made it to almost four years old without having such sickness.

"Time to check off another milestone on your growth chart, buddy!" I thought as I settled him in the new bed and sent Luke back to his. But since Geddy had never experienced such trauma to his body before he naturally wanted to talk about it.

"Well there's a sick germ in you, hun, making you feel bad. But you have a strong body and it's fighting back."

"I think the germ has a knife. Or a sword."

"Yes, I'm sure it feels that way!"

"And I have lava in me!"

I smiled at his accurate description of the vile vomit erupting from his system. We soon settled back down for sleep, but the lava had other ideas. Two more eruptions followed. This was getting a bit much for me, so Geddy, ever concerned about his parents, said, "Don't worry; I'll get better."

"Oh yes you will, buddy, you are so right! I know you will be OK." Maybe I could give myself a pep talk too.

But when I tucked Lambie up next to Geddy his optimism wavered. "No, I don't want Lambie to get the lava." So we stuffed Lambie under the mattress.

Better Geddy did get. The following day I decided that he must have eaten something bad and didn't have a virus. Luke and I had hope. But after hours of running around, being hungry but only getting gentle foods for his tummy, and having a grand ol' day as his normal self, Geddy erupted again while sitting on the couch next to me. My slow-motion reflexes left me sitting there watching and waiting for the action to end. His tears this time were for his favorite shirt, and I soothed him with the promise that we could wash it and I wouldn't throw it away. The couch, however, to me was a total loss. If I'd had the strength I would have heaved it out the door and placed a "free" sign on it.

Geddy went to the tub and there he was when Luke got home. Somehow I made dinner that night—not for Geddy—and Luke and I took comfort in the fact that Sabbath was next and we didn't have to go anywhere or do any work except to keep cleaning up lava that might continue. Oh how we hoped it wouldn't.

My reflexes were starting to kick in once 24 hours of volcano silence had passed. In his sleep Geddy coughed and I lurched up and grabbed him, ready to put his face in the silver bowl.

"I'm not sick!" He hollered.

"Oh. Sorry."

But then the lava came for me. When I first started tossing cookies Saturday night I told my son I was sorry to wake him with all my noises.

"You didn't wake me. I was just listening. It's funny."

"Funny? Don't you remember how it felt when you were vomiting?"

"It's funny."

And here I thought he had been scared.

"I'll hold the bowl for you when you have the lava."

"Thanks, Geddy. You're a great helper."

"Yeah, I know. If Daddy gets the lava he won't think it's funny."

No, when the lava erupted from Daddy he did not have a smile on his face, but he was ready.

While I had been moaning in bed wondering how Geddy had all his energy and yet I was completely incapacitated, Luke had spent most of Sunday doing chores around the house and stocking up on sickness supplies. What I didn't know as he was making his favorite Jell-O, was that he knew the germ was coming for him.

Luke went down hard, just as I had, and Geddy remained the helper. On Monday I managed to drag myself out of the house for more supplies. Geddy wanted to help by buying jelly beans, cookies, and more Jell-O, but I firmly declined. Yet Jell-O dinners with a side of saltine crackers became a staple for the week.

Through it all the silver bowl was our constant companion. When Geddy was at his worst he carried the bowl around, from room to room, as I directed, just in case one of the eruptions could actually be contained in it. Then it lived on the floor by his bed for a time, getting a rinse once or twice. By the time Luke joined the party the bowl took up residence in bed beside him, moving to the couch when he was able to sit up for a period of time. Like another member of the family, the bowl was loyal and ready to carry our burdens.

When the wave of turmoil had passed, once and for all, I didn't put the bowl away immediately. Weakness and the inability to consume much food still left me skeptical that the danger was over. It was kind of like wanting one more day to stay home from school or one more reason to drink 7-Up through a straw: The bowl was a crutch to lean on.

Now the bowl is back on its shelf yet still ready to serve. If such an illness ravages our family again—you say "when," but I can't face that—we and the bowl will be prepared to care for each other. And if you find yourself in volcanic distress, just call on Geddy, because, as he said, he'll "help anyone who has the lava." He'll hold the bowl for you.