Family


The highs and lows of the week roller-coasted with such a centrifugal force of hormones that a Rite of Passage collided with a Mens Warehouse.

I bought The Boy his first suit today for his 8th grade graduation tomorrow. I couldn’t take him before today because he’s been cramming for finals.

The Boy is 6 feet tall and weighs 155 pounds.
These vital statistics prove he is a freak of nature
as just yesterday he was less than 7 pounds
and boasted only 21 inches.

I’m gonna have to measure, but I think his left foot now might be longer than he was when he was born.

So we walk into this suit place and Matthew comes over to wait on The Boy.

The Boy looks at Matthew who’s got style written all over him from his purple tie to his black cowboy boots and gives Matthew the eyebrow. The Boy has very expressive eyebrows that can communicate a derisive snub or an impressed bravo depending on their signature arc. He extended Matthew the thumbs-up eye brow. The Boy was quick to notice Matthew’s accessories too. The thumb ring and hand-hammered, silver slave cuff bracelet earned a nod. Matthew’s hair also met approval, tussled with that just-out-of-bed look that takes 45 minutes and two kinds of product to produce.

So as not to mislead you, let me say upfront that our boy is straight. He wasn’t sizing up Matthew, he was making notes as this first suit of his will not only be worn for graduation tomorrow, but also his first formal dance tomorrow night.

So I walk in with The Boy whose shuffling in a pair of warped flip flops and a stained pair of PE shorts (he won’t let me toss because they’re in beloved favorites), and he intersects with Matthew whose got some major swagger.

That was probably the moment that escalated the shopping trip from one that I knew was going to be expensive to one that got really expensive.

Historically,
The Boy loathes shopping.
He hates it.
He detests it.
Like it he does not.
Disinclined be he.

I get him to buy new shoes by throwing out the old pair.
Not being able to dress-out for PE motivates him.
He wears the same three shirts
over and over again
unless I hide them.
I expect his classmates think we are on food stamps.

That’s The Boy I took into the men’s clothing store today.

We’re five minutes into a shopping experience with Matthew and The Boy’s asking for fashion advice. He’s actively discussing purple versus pink as an accent color and which tie best pulls a pattern. We didn’t go in there to buy shoes and he pets a pair on display and confesses to Matthew that he really doesn’t like borrowing his dad’s shoes and that they kind of pinch his pinky toe.

Matthew counsels my son on the importance of taking care of his feet as he is an athlete and is gonna need them strong for the field as well as the dance floor.

The Boy was almost purring once it came time to pin his pants to hem. He quickly agreed it was worth the initial investment for the perma-crease for his trousers.

He and Matthew extolled the virtues of a heavy, cedar hanger for hanging suits and willingly practiced hanging up his own pants so that they would not wrinkle. Matthew explained to him that a man needed to know how to take care of his own suit without the help of mom.

To his credit, The Boy knew who held to the American Express card and gave me a look. It was the I-love-you-aren’t-I-adorable-I’m-your-boy-eyebrow.

He puts his arm around me after the eye-popping tally hits the credit card voucher and opines that he really doesn’t mind if I chaperone the dance.

(On the way to Mens Warehouse he stated that he had vomit in his mouth at the very same prospect.)

We return two hours later to pick-up his altered suit and pressed shirt. He greets Matthew with this complicated handshake-slap routine I can’t imagine where he learned. Matthew leads him to a fitting room to try his suit on and it happens.

The Boy comes out with
Young,
Proud
Swagger
that needs no thumb ring.
His attitude’s shiny
Youth,
Power
and Hope.

Potential
pops his buttons
as much as his ego
and I see our son thrill
himself with the strapping figure
and delighted grin
that greets him in the
3-way-mirror most women dread
that loves him like
the camera loves Brad Pitt.

My eyes blur as I watch my boy see himself and like the man he sees.

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Sometimes analogies are as clear as glass like I feel as giddy as champaign is bubbly or I am as low as a crab in an ocean trench. In fact, our DNA wires our brains to seek patterns from nothingness. This drive to create order compels us to interpret our dreams and identify concrete symbols from abstraction. Our medium is meaning and we seek to understand. We want to know and to be safe and feel well.

This genetic drive for stasis socializes us into a community of diagnosticians as our need to know is equally yoked with our desire to be comfortable.  As such, we approach experience like a puzzle to solve or a diagnostic differential.

If we feel ill, we assess our symptoms to determine if we do or don’t need the intervention of a physician. Often the indicators are straightforward like a fever, or a rash that won’t go away, or pain.

Unrelenting pain.
Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong.
Pain is a definitive, primal signal.
Pain flashes a warning.
STOP!
Pain asserts the most elementary of medical principals.
If doing that hurts, STOP doing that.

Yet, in it’s way, pain is also entirely subjective.

When I’m in pain, it’s difficult for me to remember that it may have hurt less yesterday.

It (still) hurts (now)!
Make it stop!
Make it stop now!
I’ll drink anything.
I’ll swallow anything.
Get me an epidural!
I don’t care I’m not in labor (or even pregnant).

When in pain, it’s difficult for me to remember that I will feel better, let alone soon, or that my life, actually, is generally very sweet and comfortable.

I’m so comfortable in fact, with my first-world sensibility and Middle Class American propaganda that I’ve devolved into something of a pain-phobic persona.

I don’t want it to hurt.
Whatever “it” is.
Truth be told,
I don’t even want it to feel hard,
or require too much effort…
Whether its making dinner,
or raising a child,
or saving a marriage,
or growing in Faith.
I really don’t want it to be messy
or painful
or moist.

I want my challenges like
I want my food,
fast,
quick,
inexpensive,
easy,
and convenient.

(Hmmmmmm…. Notice I didn’t list healthy…)

As such, I avoid pain and difficult conversations and hard workouts for the simple reason that they hurt. I know they hurt. The gamble that pushing through the pain will take me to a better place often, and simply, isn’t worth the upfront pain tax. This is true when The Husband and I try to agree on a budget or our family needs to purchase a new vehicle or The Mamma needs to schedule her annual OB/GYN physical.

In fact, prior to this week, The Mamma was over a year past due her for her pap and pelvic. Even though I respect that my health is a family resource, and it’s a commodity that daily caregives for the five people I love most on the planet, I kept procrasstinating making an appointment Here because I knew it would hurt.

I wasn’t willing to pay the pain tax.

Ever since I was in grad school, I had the benefit of the medical care and relationship with of one primary physician. Initially he was my gynecologist and later became my obstetrician. He tended my every woman’s health issue from before I conceived of conception through every pregnancy and pregnancy loss and reproductive repair.

He caught each of the heads of our four children.
He held us together through four losses.
He helped me get my body back into shape four times.
He performed seven surgeries.

I trusted him
in a way that I haven’t ever trusted
anyone else with my body.
Never.
Ever.
Except my husband.

So I thought I knew how much he meant to me before I finally made my appointment for that stupid pap smear Here.

I was so wrong.

Nothing at all went wrong with the appointment Here.

The physician was entirely competent and kind and professional. She was thorough and took a medical history as extensive as an archeologist on a dig. She tutored me on how to do a self breast exam and its importance. She inquired if I wore a seatbelt. She admonished me not to drink and drive. She warned that sending a text behind the wheel could kill me dead. She observed that there were treatment options available for recreational drug use and tobacco addiction. She inquired if my husband ever abused me and if I am safe in my relationship. She ordered blood panels and offered me a referral for a primary caregiver. She also asked to weigh me, inserted the speculum without telling me that she was gong to do it first and placed her finger in my bottom without a polite warning.

In other words, she didn’t know me.
Like, at all.

There was no malpractice and nothing inappropriate in the medical care she gave me.

As a woman physician, taking care of a woman with my medical history, she had every reason to expect I knew the ins and outs of a gynecological exam without verbal cue or someone to hold my hand.

Mine was a routine exam,
one of many she would do that day,
of the scores she would do that week,
of the countless thousands
she has done user career.

It was simply,
no biggy for her.
It was just,
as my lab prescriptions record,
a routine well visit annual exam for a healthy woman.

It was for me, however, anything but routine.

I felt anonymous.

As course as it sounds, I learned a lot about relationship from having a strange woman’s finger up my bottom.

Yep, I said it.
I went there.
I mentioned the nasty.

Ladies, we all know that appointment can be a literal pain in the butt.

Now I’ve got to figure out how to make my point without your thinking that I have some kind of anal fetish or engaged in an inappropriate relationship with my previous doctor.

No.
No, no.
No, no, no!

He was, however, a partner in my medical care and wellness. The Husband and I have had a relationship with him for over 15 years.

Relationships matter.

Relationship reduces pain. Relationship takes the impersonal out of sterile medical procedures. Relationship extends safety when you’re feeling naked and alone, let alone literally nude while straddling stirrups.

It hurts to be away from the people who make me feel safe and known and loved. It hurts to be anonymous, just another pap smear, just two more breasts to palpitate and one more woman to remind about sunscreen.

I knew it would be difficult to see a new doctor. But I didn’t realize how much it would hurt my heart.

I am so grateful that I enjoyed such flawless medical care from my physician the for so many years. His choice to care about me as a person was the longest acting, most effective and most life-giving prescription he ever wrote me.

I know it’s unlikely I’ll ever have that kind of relationship again with another doctor.

I am grateful to him.

He knew me.

I will go to the dentist and get a skin checked and make and keep my annual appointments Here.

I will also seek to nurture and grow the relationships that I’ve begun with people Here. Nothing is more important to my wellness nor better medicine than being known and appreciated for who I am.

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

The May dance Here jigs a dervish as frantic as the one I recall and trust that  you are also doing There.

It’s an aerobic month that demands inventory and industry with more than a dash of insanity.

With no end to the list of things I gotta do, my children also scramble to meet their many, various objectives.

They have academic jobs, social obligations, domestic chores, athletic responsibilities and personal agendas. They gotta do so much more than was ever expected of me at 6, 10, 12 or 14. In many ways, their I Gotta Lists are longer and less yielding my own.

It is also Final Exam season.  In my house only one is old enough for that rodeo, and the others are in the midst of the school year “ramping down.”

Running a household wherein one is frantically studying cumulative, college-prep, honor’s curriculum
(not bragging here, friends, and no longer certain that I still want them to participate in this Chase to No Where) 
while the rest of his siblings leisurely unfold into Summer mode collide two fronts as forcefully as a hurricane. Their howls, cries, complaints, and frustrations register enough MPH (Moans Per Hour) to be classified as a Category 4 event.

It is also simultaneously a season of turning each other in, spontaneous confessions and hypersensitive peer relations. In this merry ‘ol month of May, I never know at any given moment which child will come to me with moist, wide eyes and, “Need to talk to me alone.” Generally, there are tears and we have to hug it out before things resolve. The school year has tenderized their egos like a gourmet marinade and the Crying Chair hasn’t gotten this much use since we moved in.

As a Mamma, I’m something of a hybrid between an attachment parent and a drill sergeant. I am crazy in love with my wonderful children, but I get that they are no where near perfect and often need a combat boot kick to jump start their quality maneuvers. I am also aware, however, that their I Gotta lists demand almost every moment of their waking hours.

Their obligations have begun to blister them like their now almost too small shoes I bought them for Back to School in August. They are rubbed raw by the deadlines, award banquets, concerts, and games. They can not perform at a concert and play in a soccer tournament at the same time. They can’t study for an Algebra exam and practice an 8th grade class speech in tandem. Though helpful to an extent in terms of teaching time management skills, too often our kids face Hobson Choices between two required events. Does this help them better organize their time or polish their study skills or simply assert that many students are overbooked?

What strikes me as most unfair in this merry old month of May is how unrealistically our children are taught to adhere to the rigid (and often unreasonable) timelines of their I Gotta lists. As an adult, I have options that are unavailable to our children.

I can delegate.
I can pull an all-nighter.
I can file for an extension, or sometimes pay for an extension.
I can outsource it.
I can wing it.
I can decide not to do it.

At their school, my children would be suspended if they outsourced, consequenced if they winged it and have no option to delegate their I Gotta lists.

As a  mom, I also have options my children lack.

I can not do it.
(Think laundry, dishes or making beds.)
I can reduce the usual requirments.
(Think cereal for dinner.)
I can delegate.
(Now the kids have to walk Puppy and get their homework done.)
I can do it tomorrow without penalty.
(Think scheudling my dental cleaning.)

In our home, my children would lose a cherished, electronic device if they went on strike, sent to Time Out if they didn’t do something, “The right way the first time,” and have zero delegation options.

As we sprint through this month with so much to do and so many places to be, let’s consider that even within our families, our I Gotta lists ain’t really equal nor created the same.

My children need Grace, the Crying Chair and the boot right now.

And they’re in good company.

So say we all?

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The decision to move from to Here from melted a slow, liquid process like ice caps.

The final call was time-lapse photography worthy of PBS Nature episode. Nature programs always make me think of my grandfather, who was hypnotically fascinated by snakes. If a during a segment a snake began to hunt, he expected total silence in the room, an homage not only to the chase, but to the fallen.

Whether or not the snake ate well that night, the hunt stirred reminders like a gust of wind conducts fall leaves to waltz in an arbor.

Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return
I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

Though our resolve unfolded slowly, its execution was swift.

Eight weeks from driveway to driveway.

In that single interval, I learned more about the strength of the Body of Christ than I had ever known.

Our church family carried us.

They tended our children
and wiped our tears.

They tagged items for the moving sale
and showed up at 5:00 a.m. to peddle them,
(and restrain me from dousing a smoker with my Diet Coke).

They drove us 400 miles to pick-up our babies
from grandmother’s haven
and carried us home again the next day
because they knew how much it would
cost me to travel alone.

They insisted we just go.
Just go.
And repaired walls,
spot cleaned carpets,
vacuumed,
changed light bulbs,
emptied refrigerators,
and cleaned,
and cleaned,
and cleaned some more.

They held us
and prayed for us,
Jeremiah 29:11,
over and again,
For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

They put us first
at the risk of their own hearts,
paid forward labor and
toils that were rightly
ours to bear alone,
read my posts
and folded us into prayer.

They carried plates
and t-shirts,
took memorial flowers
and shared testimonies,
they showed up
and they genuinely cared.

They surprised us with visits,
even on the last morning
and showed up-
bearing Starbucks
and hand-stitched pillows
and sparkling pretties
and books for the heart,
and disco soap for hands
and timid, walking-it-out feet.

All this without judgment
or complaint.
Meeting us where we were,
loving us right as we were,
serving us as we were,
individually and as a family.

My heart floods with gratitude today for those many, precious kindnesses.

The Body was the hands and feet that made our transition Viable.

Because of The Body, I left with a Song of Praise on my lips,
and not a bitter heart.

As my feet sink into the shells Here, I realize I owe so many thank-you notes to the red-clayed kicks There.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

You kept me safe as I began this journey. You knew the road would include much dying to self before I would pick up my head all the way again, yet you never uttered a discouraging word.

You made it so I feared no evil,
Showed me He was with me,
and with sweetest mercies were such
wholly, Holy comfort.

You know what you did
as you did so intentionally.
Trust I know it too;
and am forever changed by the agape love
of every single moment still.

How you taught by example;
what we do matters.

God bless you always.

I love you forever.

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

If you’re like me, there are certain words or phrases that set your teeth on edge, for example,

“If you’re like me…”

Why do people say that?
What sense does it make?

The underlying assumption slaps the I’m right assertion with a heavy hand.
Its backhand hits on the recoil, <subtext> and if you’re not like me you’re stupid.

This phrase is kin to another irksome spin, “You’re like me that way.”

Unless you are fully vested within my inner circle, whether I am or am not like you in any way, remains a comparison for me alone to name. That aside, there’s something intrusive, counterintuitive and hyper-intimate for someone to assert, “You’re like me in that way.”

It offence blisters my sense of whimsy and chafes my authenticity meter.

Furthermore, there’s no appropriate rejoinder to dissent such an assertion without giving offense.

How am I supposed to respond?

“No, I’m not like you in that way and never wish to be?”

“No, I’m a first edition.”

“No, I’m like me that way?”

It’s all so very, order-your-own-dessert-if-you-want-cheesecake-dammit-I-don’t-want-to share-of-me, but really, how can anyone be like you in that way?

Speaking of, “Do ya wanna share < a/n appetizer/entree/dessert> with me?”

That drives me bat cakes too!

Again, I don’t want to sound contrary nor offend, but no, I don’t want to share the Meatloaf Plate with you. Actually, I want to choose my own meal, get it on my own big-girl plate, eat how I want of it precisely to my fill, and hog all of the gooey condiments for myself, thank-you very much.

Another line that consistently toggles my gag reflex like a throat culture is, “I need to tell you something, but don’t get mad.”

Too late!
I’m already mad.

If you knew me well enough to tell me something so potentially volatile, you would know how to tell me without making me mad.

I smell judgement all over the statement too. It asserts that I assassinate messengers and lack self-control.

I need to tell YOU something, but don’t get mad. You’re an idiot.

“I need to tell you something, but don’t get mad,” is kissing cousins to, “I hate to tell you, but I heard…”

One, you don’t hate to tell me at all, in fact you’re breathless from having rushed over right after you heard it to dish it to my face, capture my every micro-expression on your smart phone, and report back to your base ship.

Nothing good this way comes after the segue, “I hate to tell you, but I heard…”

I did not win the lottery,
You do not want to help me fold laundry,
Your neighbor Susan does not think my kids are well-behaved angels,
Only pain fills the pail of that conversational bucket.

If any of you find me cheeky, or worry my intensity may begin to spin hard enough to drop a house on your sister, please for the love of all that is linguistically good and reasonable don’t order me to

“Calm down,”
“Relax,”
“Take it easy,”
“You’re gonna burn out,”
“Don’t burst a blood vessel…”

Really?
REALLY?
REALLY?

You don’t find it just a tad bit above your pay grade to assess the legitimacy of my emotional range?

Talk about condescending!

Why don’t you

Excite up,
Tense,
Jig it out,
Burn baby, burn!
Hemorrhage an emotional taboo…

The only thing worse than you telling me to take it easy is if one my kids suggests that I, “Chill.”

Of course, then I could tell him, if you’re like me, there are other phrases that make you mad because you’re like me that way. We should share some buffalo wings and discuss it so you can calm down.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah!

It’s time to come clean.

Amid the transitional issues from Here to There, one of the kids has developed some serious behavioral issues.

We’ve consulted experts in the field and done family sessions together, but thus far, nothing seems to help.

It’s reached a crisis point both in terms of marital resources as well as how the other kids respond. They know we would NEVER put up with these behaviors from them and are tired of making concession after concession for their troubled sibling.

Here are some of the behavioral features that challenge us with our boy:

    • Suffering from severe separation anxiety
    • Refusing to “come” when called
    • Out-of-control whining
    • Biting
    • Aggressive growling
    • Constantly begging for food at the table
    • Fear of strangers
    • Fear of strange objects
    • Bullying small children
    • Theft personal possessions
    • Vandalism/destruction of personal property
    • Destructive habits like chewing and digging
    • French kissing house guests
    • Jumping on strangers
    • Taking lead during family walks
    • Ignoring basic obedience commands
    • Pooping on the bathroom floor
    • Peeing the bed

 

It’s gotten to the point that we don’t even know who he is anymore.

This once adorable, snuggly, sweety boy has mutated into his own Dr. Hyde.

As much as my education should make me philosophical, I cannot reconsile that puberty could so transform a soul as this.

I confess I lament:

This is NOT what I signed-up for!

This is WAY outside of my comfort zone!

This is NOT easy!

This is NOT fun!

I have even asked they why question….

Why do other families enjoy such perfect sons when ours is so OUT OF CONTROL?

At the risk of TMI (too much information,) he’s taken to stealing my dirty thongs and hiding them in his bed.

When I retrieve them they are chewed crotchless.

Is it regression?

Is it hormones?

Is it an underlying psychological disorder?

Is it growing pains?

Or is it simply, The Puppy?

And why is it we allow behavior from our pets
that we would
NEVER,
STINKIN’,
NEVER

tolerate from the issue of our own loins?

 

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

So I got a new gig.

The gig’s a good one, but it comes with a name tag.

The name tag serves the dual purpose of security clearance and identification. At a glance, children and parents may easily recognize me as a community member.

So much so, in fact, that when I first encountered the community I perceived it as a badge of honor. Shiny and white like the patent leather, church shoes I wore as a little girl to catholic Mass, I looked for those uniform placards when I needed help.

And when I first arrived Here, I needed help with everything including where to find the bathroom. As dazed and confused as I was, however, I trusted that if I found someone with that clean, white badge and its navy school insignia, s/he would help me. In its way, the troops that wore them were like my M*A*S*H* unit. As messy as I felt, they helped me triage the needs of my children and prescribe appropriate treatment.

I, however, haven’t worn a name tag at work since I worked my way through school waiting tables in local fern bars. During that season I wore an apron, carried an ice-tea pitcher and politely inquired any patron who looked under 30, “May I please see your ID?” in accordance with store policy. Didn’t matter who complained it was an invasion of privacy that I would deign to ask, or  moaned that now he would have to run back out to the car in the rain for her wallet, being sure that patrons were legal to drink came with the name tag.

Flash forward three graduations,
a wedding,
four children,
four score and seven years,
(Ok, not quite, but some mornings as I battle the snooze alarm it feels like that long ago)
and now I work another gig in a foreign land that requires a name tag.

Initially, because of the rescue mojo that had become my gestalt associaiton to the badge, I was my-first-pony proud of my name tag. Giddy, jump up and down, hug-it-out, my-new-colleagues-think-I-am-a-freak, tween with new Adriano Goldschmied ex-boyfriend jeans, proud of it, I got the job!
I got the job!
I got the job!
Oh, so happy proud of it!

Me-Pop proud of it,
feeling groovy
kind of Zen
welcome to The Show
kind of wowsa juice
proud of it…

(Like when I wasn’t wearing it at work, I kept it on the leopard apron in my kitchen kind of giddy about it, proud of it…)

Until last week Wednesday, when I was at breakfast with a friend that is.

This brilliant, percussive friend of mine is from the East coast.

She talks fast,
drives faster
and likes the F-word.
A lot.

And says it often,
a lot,
and
loudly.

Now I’m no stranger to the F-word,
I’m not squeamish about the F-word,
I grew up with the F-word,
I respect the versatility of it,
it’s pliability,
it’s enduring ruggedness
across the ages,
as dolphin flippers,
of aquatic
verbal acrobatics
that can approximate
every part of speech…

However, all of a sudden, wearing that new, shiny name tag was like having a How’s My Driving: 1-800-URF-IRED bumper sticker plastered to my forehead.

“Oh, yeah,” I could hear ONE Mommy complain to another Mommy at a neighborhood Botox party, “I saw that new hire, Ms. Jael Seeker, you remember her bio sent out by the head of school don’t you, and she was sitting there over a omlette listening to a woman drop F-bomb after F-bomb and laughing!”

All of a sudden wearing the name tag was an invasion of my privacy.
That shiny white badge publically
staged my name,
position
and place of employment in bold font.

It mutated into an invasion of my privacy
and even though it was raining,
I wish I had left it with my wallet in the car.

Wasn’t oh-so proud of my name tag then.

In fact, I was pretty embarrassed,
hang-my-head-down,
hair-in-my-face
humbled.

Context’s vital to distinguish between form and substance.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

 

 

Given January’s blush remains pink enough to paint cheeks (and because I am still unable to comfortably wear all of my pants) I trust I am not the only one who wanders the path of resolutions. I remain uncertain the exact moment that my wisdom divorced my restraint in December that began my three week binge.

And I do mean binge.

I fell so hard off the No-gluten wagon that I sprawled on the floor in a messy paste of Cheeto grease and cutout cookie sprinkles. My self-control was so badly fractured that I am still in dietary halo traction. My portion-control button was also concussed in the incident. I also don’t know why I thought that I would be the one person on the earth spared this holiday season from the consequence of the over indulgence.

Same reason I knew I would be the mother to cure sibling rivalry, another job Eve botched, I guess.

The story I told myself seemed plausible enough and suspended my disbelief at the time like the fairy tales of my childhood when I still believed in magic spells and potent witch rage. The gossamer of fiction spun its own web as I advanced from bagels to pasta. (Do you have any idea what a plate of lasagna tastes like after two years off gluten? Better than sex, ice-cream and getting a hull of popcorn out of a back molar. Perfect, saucy, decadent ectasy.)

I wasn’t worried, mind you. The spell of the story bound me to the promises of Far Far Away, the land where a mother of four children can eat without regard self-control, portion or boundaries.

“You work out regularly,” I prided to myself.

“You’ve worked out regularly for years,” I amended after cheesecake was introduced into the rotation.

“Muscle has memory,” I reassured myself as Christmas abdicated to the New Year’s nachos with extra cheese and sour cream. Lots of sour cream.

“Gonna get back to it Monday,” I vowed as 2012 ushered in its new hope and possibilities.

Monday came and went. The kids didn’t have to go back to school until Tuesday, and The Husband had an unexpected, extra day off.

“We can’t bite the hand of the vacation fairy!” we chortled, our mouths already full of Layes Potato Chips and Deans Dip.

Tuesday morning came in a flourish. I dashed from room to room getting the family machine revved without any notice of the extra dribble in my middle. It wasn’t until I went to get dressed in pants with a real waist band instead of my virtuous workout shorts, that I realized my zipper was in pain. It quivered and moaned like an Olympic weight-lifter going for gold. I actually heard it cry out.

I believe it whispered the F-word.

Actually, I must  confess it cried out the F-word in pain.

“Gravy, woman!” It seemed to moan, what have you been eating?

On the other side of January, I’m here to tell you, zippers in pain don’t lie.

As such, been eating a lot of salad since that day.

Salads with the occasional handful of M&Ms. I’m not a sadist!

Thought you might want to take a peek at what happens when my girls help chop:

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Major Mommy was deployed to Germany about the same time my family moved Here.

Major Mommy is a passionate sister in the Word, a beautiful friend, and an eager Well drinker.

We survived the Beatitudes study together…

I still wish we had made T-shirts for the other ladies!

Across the globe, we join forces to read Annonymous together.

As if in confirmation of that effort, I was overwhelmed by the God wink that awaited me in an email this morning:

Hi Jael,

“One of the most difficult lessons to master as we struggle to create effective change is to
learn not to label something as bad just because it is different from what we want.”

–Dr. William Glasser on page 32 in Take Charge of Your Life.

I wish I’d had this quote when Sylvester and I were writing our book on diversity. It really summarizes the message about embracing difference.

This echoes Alica Britt Chole’s assertion to never mistake God’s silence for His absence.

It reminds me again that anonymous seasons nurture potential and prepare us for Spring like bare trees in the winter.

The challenge is not to mistake bare for barren.
Silence does not equal absence.
Stillness is not lifeless.

I am grateful for God winks.

He consistently shows up in my day to day,
especially when I need Him most,
like this morning.

Bare is not barren.
Silence is not absence.
In the stillness, there is dancing.

Well Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
she tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah!

 

The Zuks, a Wedding, and the Rose That Changed Everything

The sunrise paints beautiful streaks of color over the Zuks’ home. Streaks of gold, orange, pink, and crimson swathe the dawn sky with a feeling of tranquility. Zyklezo, the tribe’s leader sits up and stretches. His petals are a blood red hue, and his body is grass green. He has small, strait, and delicate arms and legs. His face is made of rose petals and his features are made up of dots and lines. In short, Zyklezo is a miniature rose. He rubs his black eyes with his knobby hands, and stands. Zyklezo looks almost identical to the other members of the Zuk tribe; one of the only differences is that he is about a centimeter taller, a big distinction by the standards of the rose people. The only other difference of the people of the rose tribe is that no Zuk has the same color of petals. As he did his morning yoga which involve bending, stretching, and over all unfolding, Zyklezo thought about the beautiful rose that his tribe called home. The stem was thick and healthy; the petals were a beautiful pink with white lines twisting through them and best of all, it was in the middle of a huge garden of roses. Roses of all shapes, sizes, and colors bloomed in the field. It was bliss for the peaceful Zuks. They felt truly at home.

Zyklezo straightened. The chief of the Zuk people started through the forest of petals that makes up the uppermost part of the rose inhabited by the Zuks. He made his way to the hollowed out stem and stuck his petals in to it.

“Hak lak mekr nssd sohfls” He called. It’s time to gather the dew. Making a noise that was his way of sighing contentedly, he made his way up the rose petal staircase to the top of the rose. The Zuks would come to his call. They always did, every morning when they were called for breakfast. The dew gave the rose people the vitamins that they needed to function through out the day. Each morning they would come, eat the dew, and start their daily activities.

The other Zuks that also lived in the rose slept in the cozy tunnels burrowed in the stem of the rose. The leader of the tribe would always sleep in the top, so that he or she could protect the tribe in case of trouble. As Zyklezo reached the top of the staircase, the dewdrops came into view. Zyklezo froze when he saw the rose crushers. They had the garden tools in their hands, and they were shouting at the top of their lungs. (They weren’t really shouting, but the Zuks have very sensitive ears, so regular speech seems extremely loud.”

“Why are we cutting the roses down this time?” the tall one asked.

“The clients are planning a wedding, a big one.” The fat one replied. “It should be huge; we need to cut down a lot of roses.” They grinned at each other. The tall one started to say,

“Did you hear the proposal? They say that the guy hired-” Zyklezo needed to hear no more. He needed to warn the others, fast! Then, Zyklezo did something that is only done when there is great peril. Emitting a faint popping sound, the chief of the Zuks drew in his knobby arms and stubby legs closed his petals so that his facial features were hidden, and rolled down the stairs faster than dew down a Zuk’s throat.

“Hak dak rak bak neert! Hak dak rak bak neert! Hak dak rak bak neert!” He called, meeting in the conference room now! Distressed, disheveled, confused, but ever loyal, the members of the Zuk tribe promptly drew in their equally knobby arms and equally stubby legs, closed their petals, and rolled after him.

Once in the conference room, Zyklezo told his tribe about the “invasion.”

“Mek mak hak rak tak dak gak bak wak tredgthy howds vowds quensd.”  He told them about the huge invasion coming up, how a lot of roses would be ruthlessly slaughtered, and how somebody had hired a gunman to take them down. When the chief of the army forces, a subdued person, Zekles, asked him to be surer of the translations, Zyklezo consulted the books.

“Joh hos wic bwei sic khdsil iosj lis fh” Wedding definitely translates into invasion. The plan was made; the peaceful Zuk people had no choice but to defend their nest. The parting word of the council was the chant that all Zuk people were obligated to do before going into battle:

“We fight for protection, not glory money or fame. For the least amount of harm possible is our aim. We will return soon to our home. For far from that we never shall rome.” The night before, they had been peaceful people, now; they readied their weapons for war.

The next morning, everything was prepared. The rose guns had been loaded, and the warriors were ready. The design of the guns was that they shot rose seeds, and when they landed, a rose sprouted. It didn’t matter where the seed landed. Every seed had been coated in a top-secret growth formula. If the seed landed on a person, that person would have a rose sprout, and would even have to water it daily. If it landed on a brick wall, a huge creeping vine of roses would soon envelop it. If it landed in the ocean, there would be a surfer rose riding the waves, and doing tricks. The small guns were only to get to the satellite controls however. Once the Zuks had overridden the system, they would transform satellites into huge guns and have them all shoot at once to transform the very planet itself into a huge, blooming, rose. The “rose crushers” would all be killed instantly, and the Zuks would have a whole new planet all to themselves. Everything was in place, except for one thing, or Zuk.

Zekles, the leader of the Zuk warriors, was taking one last ride through the field before it was destroyed. He personally didn’t see any need for violence because he could understand the language of the rose crushers perfectly, and he knew that it wasn’t really a “yegd” an invasion. But, orders were orders and he had no choice but to follow them. Also, what was better than one huge rose that they could be completely safe on? This is better. He thought to himself as he burrowed down into his flowerpot. Zekles had begun to sneak out of the rose five years ago. He simply hung back when the others were eating the dew, clambered up to the top of the rose, and, using a seed gun, shoot a flower into a flower pot so that it would get picked up by the plant trolley and, sitting on top of the rose, he could see the whole field. The workers had cut some roses for the wedding, but now they were planting new ones in their place. Not that he hadn’t seen this before, Zekles had snuck out before and he had made this trip thousands of times. The trolley carried the plants that needed a lot of care; so everyday it was wheeled around the field and back. But, this would be the last time.

As he gazed at the endless haven of roses, Zekles thought about how he could convince Zyklezo that the rose crushers really weren’t earth crushers and were really good things. After a good deal of contemplation, an irrational plan came to him. It had a 99.99% chance of failure, but he had no choice except to rely on that 00.01 chance. It was time to stand up for what was right. The plan relied on one secret, the fact that the Zuk people weren’t totally a secret from the humans. There was one person who knew, a girl whose name was Zuri.

Five years earlier: Zekles was riding his regular flowerpot through the field of roses. It was considerably smaller than it is now, but it was still huge to the curious Zuk. It was a normal day, they had recently eater their dew, and Zekles had hopped on the flowerpot for the daily ride across the field. Today a girl with extraordinary eyesight pushed the cart. She was half way through the field when she saw him. Being a smart girl, she kept her head and didn’t scream. She pretended that she hadn’t seen him, and wheeled the cart into the lab.

“I’ll just check some samples she said aloud, hoping that Zekles would be fooled luckily, he was. Zekles wasn’t unduly worried. He was slightly annoyed that he would miss origami class, but he didn’t realize that anything was wrong. He did realize this however, when Zuri plucked him up and set him under the microscope.

“Interesting” she said, peering at him. Zekles was so flustered that he forgot to pretend to be an inanimate object like he had been taught to do in the What-To-Do-If-Under-a-Microscope-Being-Looked-At-By-a-Human crash course that he took in school, instead, he stood up and, calling on him limited knowledge of the rose crusher’s language, he slowly said,

“I am nothing of the sort my dame, hem hem madam! Now led me go, let me go I demand it!” instead of being scared, Zuri was fascinated. She quickly explained that she wanted to do Zekles no harm and that she worked as a gardener in the field. As soon as that was cleared up, they began chatting amicably and by the next day, they were friends. Zuri taught Zekles more English and, in turn, Zekles told Zuri any thing she wanted to know about everything. Because they were so small, Zuks could see things that humans couldn’t, so he told her about the thing that he saw.

Present: Zekles needed to contact her, now! When the trolley stopped right next to the intercom, he knew how. Zekles climbed up onto the edge of the trolley and jumped! He was able to grab the cord and, as he fell, he said through the speaker,

“Zoe, person who works in the rose field, please take the trolley from other person who also hopefully works at the rose field.” Zoe came over.

“I wonder why.” She thought to herself. She immediately spotted Zekles, jumping up and down and waving his thin arms like a crazy person. She went down on the pretense of fixing her shoe. “What are you doing?” she whispered.

“You don’t have to shout.” He said back.

“What?” she asked? “Oh, just come here!” She him picked up and plopped him on the cart. When they got to the lab, He scuttled to the microscope and went underneath it. A few months earlier, they had installed a microphone/silencer in the microscope so that both could see and hear each other more comfortably.

“There,” he said. “Zuri, the most terrible thing has happened! Zyklezo, the chief has misenterprited some workers talking about a wedding! He thought that in our language, it translates to invasion! He called a council and weapons have been made. Tomorrow we will take over the world! I will have to lead the warriors in a desperate march across the country to the NASA space station! Then, our technology will take over their system, and we will take over the satellites and turn the whole planet into a giant rose!” By the end of his sentence, Zekles had become so distressed that his words blended together in to a long assertion.

“Calm down, calm down!” Zoe protested, “What do you suggest that we do? You have tried reason with Zyklezo, haven’t you?”

“Yes!” Zekles nearly shouted in his desperation. “During the council I asked him to check to be sure because I knew that he was wrong, but I can’t contradict the chief. So he looked at the books,” Here Zekles slumped down defeated. His voice shrank down to barely a whisper.  Zuri waited patiently as he let out a huge sigh and continued. “The books, the books. They are all wrong! They say that white means black and that solid means liquid and they are just all wrong!”

“Are you just going to let it happen?” Zuri asked. There was no accusation in her voice she just wanted her question to be answered.

“I was going to, but I can’t!” Zekles answered. “It wouldn’t be right,” he continued, “to destroy something that is so beautiful. I was thinking about it on my way around on the trolley. I could refuse to fight, but there are many other warriors, I could sabotage the weapons, but I would be thrown out of the Zuk tribe, and Zyklezo would just order new ones to be made. He won’t give up until the earth is destroyed unless-”

“Unless we change his mind.” Zekles and Zuri said at the same Zekles quickly explained his desperate plan; Zuri listened quietly, pointed out some minor flaws, and softly suggested some revisions. In five minutes, they had constructed a plan that could save the world.

Zekles raced breathlessly into Zyklezo’s room.

“Zyklezo, there’s something that you have to see!” He shouted, “it’s in the field, we already have a ride.” If the chief was suspicious he didn’t show it, he silently followed Zekles through the maze of tunnels that the Zuk people had drilled in the rose.

“Zekles-” he started to say,

“No time!” Zekles shouted he was worried that if Zyklezo asked to many questions, his and Zuri’s plan would be discovered. They had made it through the maze of tunnels, up the rose petal staircase, and through the delicate walkways on top, and on to the trolley, Zuri had phase two of the plan set up, and the chief had grown impatient, he wanted an explanation, and he wanted it now!

“Zekles!” Zyklezo shouted with indignation, “What is the meaning of this? Taking us into enemy territory, not resting up for the attack! What on Zunis has gotten in to you?”

“I just thought that you should see the world the way I see it.” Zekles tried to explain. “No offense, but you look at the world through reftg eyes, you vision is cloudy.” Then, Zekles repeated an old Zuk prophecy: “Rewt huyt besd, hefd kelsd makexd, if you have dirt in your eyes, it is hard to see.” Being a reasonable Zuk, Zyklezo agreed with one condition:

“If I am not convinced, we will go on with the invasion.”

“I understand completely.” Zekles replied. I hope that this works! He thought to himself, the plan had started, and now it was time to let it unfold.

While Zekles had been working on Zyklezo, Zuri had been talking to the field inspector, Ayden. Using the power of persuasion that she was born with, Zuri convinced Ayden to inspect the field with her right now, even though the inspection was scheduled for the next month with the field supervisor. Zekles never figured out how one quick text on her part convinced the inspector to fly all the way back from Paris to California, but it had.

“I take it that this is the um… how do you Americans say it? Oh yes, yes, the special plant trolley.”  Although Ayden was strictly American, when he went on vacation in foreign places, he picked up there habits.

“Yes Mr. Ayden,” Zoe started on the tour making sure to keep her body angled towards the trolley so that Zyklezo could hear. “This is where we put the plants that need more air and sunlight then all of the others. Every day we wheel it around the field and talk to them, we believe that this helps them grow.” Zyklezo was amazed. What is this? He thought to himself. “These are the rose crushers! Why are they giving such special attention to the roses? He listened in amazement as Zuri continued:

“It is time to take the trolley around, and I really don’t want these poor plants to miss their walk. Do you think perhaps that the inspection could take place during the walk? We would go around the whole field.”

“That would be fine.” Ayden replied.

“Thank you very much Mr. Ayden.” Zoe responded “Now, to continue, this is the main rose garden. As you can see, we water our plants every day, and also fertilize with our specially made, all natural, completely safe to both plants and humans stimulant. We make this in our lab, to the left, and use it on all of our plants.” As the tour progressed, Zuri hinted all she could about loving the roses and taking care of them. By the end of the tour, Zyklezo was dumb struck.

“Meet me in my rooms after this is over.” He ordered Zekles. Then he sighed, hopped down from the trolley, and made his way carefully down the stairs. Zuri had seen him go, but had no idea what he had said, and she had Ayden looking at her expectedly.

“I’ll just straighten these blossoms.” She improvised, and then quickly bent down towards the rose that Zekles was still on. “Did it go well?” She inquired.

“I have no idea,” He replied helplessly. “But I’ve never seen him like this, the news is either good, or bad. This might be goodbye though.”

“Don’t talk like that!” Zuri admonished. “We are going to get out of this! You will convince Zyklezo that we really won’t cut down all the roses in the field! You have to help all the humans, you can’t let Zyklezo destroy the earth!”

“I know, but what will I say?”

“You know Zyklezo more than I do! I think that he was impressed with the tour, but he might need some more convincing. Just tell him the truth, that we really won’t destroy the rose!”

“I’ll try, but it might be tough.”

“You have to try, the world depends on it!”

As it turned out, Zyklezo needed no convincing.

“For the first time in my life, I, the amazing, the dependable, the faultless,” Zyklezo began, “the perfect, the humble chief of the Zuks am wrong. I have misjudged the rose crushers. The one called Zuri has taught us all a lesson.  When there is dirt in your eyes, you can’t see.” Zekles decided to not say that it had been Zyklezo that had been taught the lesson, not the other way around.

“I believe that we all have all learned many different things in many different ways oh chief.” Zekles proclaimed, “Do you think that this would be enough reason to call of the attack?”

“Of course it would!” Zyklezo shouted with indignation. “It would be wrong to attack something that would not hurt us! That would be barbaric!” With some difficulty, Zekles avoided stating that Zyklezo was about to do just that.

“Excellent decision Zyklezo,” he began “I am glad that you cancelled the takeover.”

“Yes, yes, now,” The chief began, “later we will have a council meeting to tell everyone that the invasion has been called off. Until then, go do something.”

It wouldn’t be fair or true to say that there was never another almost invasion from both the Zuks and the humans. There was one narrowly avoided mishap where the Zuks’ rose was almost clipped, but with Zuri’s help, that to was avoided. After a while, Zyklezo stepped down, and Zekles became the chief. He was truly humble, wise, kind, and the best chief that the Zuk people will ever know. As for Zuri, she worked happily in the rose field for many years, averting many an unfortunate disaster. When she retired, her son, Zachary took her place and his daughter after that. It went on like this for many years until the rose field was shut down for financial reasons. Zabrina, Zuri’s great great great great great granddaughter helped the Zuk people manufacture the rose guns into gardening tools and eventually made a very successful business out of it. As for the Zuks, their tribe lived happily for some time on their rose. Many chiefs came and went, although none quite as good as Zekles. They became more trusting of the “rose crushers” which they eventually promoted to humans, and not more than a few days went by when a young, adventurous Zuk was not sent out with a pack, and a compass to have an adventure, and come home stronger and happier than when they had left.

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