"If I knew all the words, I would write myself out of here." MRAZ

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I wasn't the teddy bear kind of girl.
I used to sleep with a hippo.

The hippo, named Hippo (I was so creative as a child, wasn't I?), appeared in my life as a gift about the time I turned 8 years old. I don't know why I felt an immediate and intense bond with this small, purple stuffed animal; but I did.

I proudly slept with this animal as I grew up, toting him with me wherever I went: to sleepovers and summer camps, senior high school retreats and college dorm rooms. He's even traveled internationally with me - on several occasions, in fact (lucky little hippo).

And then I got married; and I respectfully placed him on the night table on my side of the bed. He was my guard-hippo; and only every now and then would I indulge in a hippo-snuggle, mostly if I was taking a nap solo or if my husband was gone for the weekend.

During my separation, I kept Hippo close (he's my family after all), but I wouldn't sleep-snuggle with him. There was something desperately sad and lonely in the act of embracing a stuffed animal after I had chosen a man to embrace in bed for the rest of my life and then went back on that promise.

Even now, divorce settled and water under the bridge, Hippo stands guard more than he provides comfort. Just because it doesn't feel right anymore. I am sure he understands, old friends always do. But it makes me sad.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

reflections on family

I am currently reading Paul Reiser's Familyhood.
This is the result one of those little trails in life that came up unexpected, and I took the opportunity to explore it.


"Hey, the bookstore in that shopping center is closing. Want to go check it out?"

Of course. I was game for just about anything on that lovely, childless afternoon. I could relish in my ability to be and act irresponsible. I hadn't "just perused" a bookstore in a long time; and I was certainly interested in enjoying the fact that I had no child tagging along to gripe and complain as I lingered over the shelves of books and CD's.


I walked alone through the shelves, just as I used to when my parents took me during my teenage years. It's an intense solitary string of moments when you open your mind to evaluate whether new stories, songs and information will become a part of your existence.

I have countless happy moments of learning lived in the quiet corners of bookstores.


The new Paul Reiser book shouted at me from its predominate display.
I thought: Hey, I know that guy!
And in a bookstore full of yet-unknowns, it is always nice to see a familiar face (or name).

I am familiar with Paul's expression through his first book, Couplehood. My uncle gave me that book when I started dating seriously and I enjoyed Paul's perspective of coupling immensely. It became a kind of subconscious subtext for me as I moved along in relationships.

Just a note: I haven't read Paul's second book, Babyhood, because I was very much in the midst of dealing with my own budding courtship and sooner-than-expected baby's arrival.


My definition of family has been challenged, yet again, through my recent divorce.
I mean, who doesn't already have issues with defining their family as they grow - which is something that Paul explores - but, I feel like divorce, when there's a young child (or children) involved presents a challenge to the splitting partners on how their not-yet-realized "family unit" will be maintained, if at all.

I would suspect that there are issues outlining a definition no matter how old the children are, a truth I can attest to, as I have seen my own parents struggle to maintain their relationship. I am the child with a child, waiting to hear about boundaries, lines in the sand and having to establish a few of my own, for the protection of my own heart.


And, as I work to carve out my own meaning and definition of family - the one that I want to banner-carry through my existence and for my son, I know - that for me - the participants included aren't just blood relatives.

They are the handful of people that have seen me at my weakest and most vulnerable, and have encouraged me to keep moving forward because they love and support me no matter what. They are the people that love my child and engage in his development on a direct level, knowing that their influence of love and acceptance will positively impact him.


I am not sure that Paul will get to this. I haven't gotten into the book very far yet and I expect that he'll talk more about the family that is right there in front of him: his wife and two boys, and their adventures together.

But his first couple of chapters have my mind churning through the brain-compost and I feel like the seeds of self-reflection are already taking root and sprouting.

I'll probably struggle to get through this book. There will be another wave of mourning over the family unit I started that now suffers through an awkward existence of halting development. There will mostly likely be a wave of mourning over acknowledging that my dream of a house full of boys (one big one and a handful of smaller ones) is most likely not a realistic life-path for me anymore....I can actually already feel the premonitional heart-tug, in a sad kind of way.

I am not saying that things can't change- just saying that the elements that make it what it is are heavy-sided.


In the midst of my self-reflection and honorific mournful rite,  I am thankful for the handful of individuals who love me like family, because they are my family.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

adventures in camping (april 2011)

I went camping with my boyfriend and my son together for the first time.
Let me clarify.

It was the first time I went on a camping trip with my new boyfriend. We had started dating the month before and things were going well. He was easy to get along with and, although we were concerned about long term compatibility, we were mostly content to enjoy the moment. He didn't seem to mind dealing with the fact that I was a single mom and applauded me for my efforts in investing in my child's development. He was nice to my kid, which is really the extent to which a girl in my position can ask for without crossing a line. This guy took really good care of me, something that I had been missing in a life partner for a while up until this point, so I was lapping him up; trying my best not to be over-gluttonous (clearly, I wasn't ashamed of a little gluttony).

And, it was the first time I was taking my kid, who lives with moderate autism, camping. The kid's atypical sensory processing is hard to judge and is more than a little exhausting when it's off kilter more than usual, which is all dependent on his ability to cope...or not (which, in itself, is dependent on things like rest, health, eating right, clothing fabrics/tags, potty issues, new environments, get the point). I've committed to making sure that he experiences as much as he can, as much as I am able to manage as his mom. That's really the crux of it: I have to have a pretty decent inner reserve in order to help him manage and cope through new sensory experiences. I do the best I can as a single career-professional. I am by no means perfect, but I give it my best shot.

Thank goodness for a good group of camping friends!
The choice to haul a bunch of stuff into the middle of the woods and "set up house" is not one easily made. Camping is a lot of work. Period. But, with the right people, it is also a lot of fun!

The three of us were sort of having fun. We were learning, which is really all I can say.

The kid's initial meltdown (loud and obnoxious) mellowed into a resigned curiosity. He asked about going home a couple of times that first night. I didn't blame him. After all that fuss, I wanted to go home too. I felt so bad for my boyfriend who had basically had to set up our tent by himself, while I managed the spazzed-out little human. I tried to make it up to him much later that evening, but I don't think he'll ever understand how much I appreciated his hard work.

The next day was stormy: literally and figuratively.

We were experiencing a pretty forceful spring storm, which ended up lasting a solid half of the day, though it was an off-and-on kind of thing. The guys tied up tarps so that we would have shelter outside of the tents. We gathered our camping chairs close together and talked about how big the raindrops were.

My kid, who at the time was dealing with an Angry Bids obsession, was trying to overcome his disappointment (which was always loudly conveyed) at the lack of power supply to support his (my) technical devices. It was unfair to expect him to cold-turkey off the game, so I would charge the phone using the car-jack every now-and-then handing over the distraction at opportune times - hating myself for giving in to the easy-way-out; knowing that I should have just let him out-think his boredom.

We enjoyed a bit of rock crawling that day. My nerves were high, not really knowing if the kid would enjoy the bumpy ride or not. I was on edge the entire time, on alert for when he suddenly decided he'd had enough. It didn't come. For some of the extreme bumps, he'd look to me for assurance that this was indeed "fun" and that we weren't in danger. Every single time I gave him a full smile to brush off his misgivings. The truth was the ride was one of the roughest I had ever been on, and we stayed out for a really long time. By the end of it, I was supremely low on any reserves and didn't have much patience when the kid started whining about not wanting to stop.

Back at camp, I headed straight to the tent, told him to lay down and about passed out. I didn't completely let go for sleep, because my mommy-sense was still on high. There was no one else to care for the kid - I didn't expect the boyfriend to do it since he was laying out on the air mattress beside me - and I didn't want to ask one of the other families. They were extended friends, and though I am sure they wouldn't have minded, I wasn't in the frame of mind to ask. I rested poorly. Eventually, I decided to get up, not being able to stand the fitful tossing anymore. The boyfriend was hardcore snoozed-out. I was envious. The kid was a-flutter with energy and I hoped it meant that he would sleep well that evening. I headed over to his part of the tent and inspected his pallet. My heart sank. Lake Superior was stealthily hiding underneath his sleeping bag. I assume that a zip seal wasn't closed properly on his side of the tent before the rain had started.

I was grumpy incarnate.
And spent the rest of the afternoon hauling his bedding outside of the tent and wriggling it out. Thank goodness one of the other guys had plenty of rope with him. He made a clothes line for me so that everything could be hung out to dry as much as possible before night fell.

I was exhausted; and concerned.
I didn't expect the bedding to dry completely in time. I had some extra layers that could be used, but it wouldn't be enough to keep the kid warm through the upcoming night. Night fell too soon, in my opinion, and I did the best I could. I pulled blankets from the air mattress that I was sharing with the boyfriend and covered my kid as best as his squirmy self would allow. I knew that he would need the extra layers, sleeping by himself and with a cooler night setting in after the stormy day.

Pain crept up on me that night. The cool-moist air was setting into my sore muscles and joints, which were already aching from a long day on the trails. I snuggled close to my boyfriend's body. I had reserved two of the thinner blankets for our bed, knowing that we would have the benefit of body heat to see us through the night.

I woke up in the middle of the night and had to use the restroom. The boyfriend needed to grab an extra layer from his baggage and rustled around a bit with the flashlight on. The kid was sleeping poorly, moaning as he moved again to get comfortable. I got up and inspected his pallet. It was cold and slightly damp, mostly due to the fact that the sleeping bag hadn't completely dried out. I adjusted the covers to make the most of what was dry and laid down close to the child to warm him.

Let's be honest, it occurred to me that I should stay with him and see the rest of the night through keeping him warm. But I was hurting and couldn't even imagine what kind of pain I would be dealing with in the morning air, were I to spend the night on the ground. I left him after a bit and made my way back to the air mattress, beside my boyfriend's warm body.

"How is he?"

"I thought you were asleep. I was trying to be quiet," I answered sofly.

"How is he," he asked me again.

"He's awake and trying to get comfortable. He's cold, but I laid down with him for a little bit to warm him up. The sleep bag is still a little damp, which doesn't help; but I adjusted the blankets as much as possible to keep his dry."

"Do you want him to come sleep with us," he whispered the question to me, his concern for the child's condition unmasked.

I raised my head a little in order to get a better view of his face in the semi-dark and said flatly, "We will not get any sleep. Do you understand that? He'll be too excited and we'll be miserable in the morning."

Had it been light enough, he probably would have seen that dead-cold stare in my eyes that people tell me I have an uncanny way of delivering. I needed him to be sure of this decision. My heart was flip-flopping. I knew this was the right solution, but I hadn't been able to bring myself to ask him to deal with the responsibility of it with me; to play care-giver (i.e. daddy) for the night and put himself out for the good of the little human being in my charge.

"Well, at least he won't be cold."

My heart swelled. I called the kid to come to bed. I told him to bring a blanket. I was adjusting closer to my boyfriend so that I could be between them, trying to provide a buffer for him from the little boy antics we were inviting to our bed.

"He'll get warmer faster in between us."

I knew that; and I didn't have any energy left to argue my point. I had to trust that this guy wasn't offering this sacrifice without understanding that there would be consequences; or at least, I would deal with the outcome, his possible lack of understanding, in the morning. I told my little man to crawl over me to the middle of the bed; he obliged with a little too much energy for my taste. He snuggled in, reaching his arms out to touch the two adults that encased his body and sighed deeply. I soothingly encouraged him to settle down and he curled into his pillow. He was blissfully happy and getting warmer by the second.

I looked over my son's head into the darkness towards my boyfriend's face. I reached over and rested my hand on his chest, just over his heart, and offered an emotionally-rich, "Thank you."

What I really meant was, "I love you."

And, sleep came; the morning light, when it woke me up, was a little aged, and I quietly thanked the heavens that we had been able to truly sleep and get some rest. I looked over towards my boys, two of my favorite people, and saw that they still slept.

I giggled. The boyfriend had protected his face space with a pillow at some point in the night. Smart guy; I knew there were some obvious reasons for why I liked him so much.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the beauty of ripeness

I am awed by this picture. It seems simple enough. A tomato plant with varying stages of ripeness portrayed. And yet, it is the ripeness, the redness that awes me.

This is my first year tending tomato plants. I was late in the joining in the gardening community and restricted with how deeply I could commit. I live in an apartment complex with only a small patio to claim for growing space.  I found 3 tiny plants at Walmart for 50 cents each - I figured I wouldn't be over extending myself if the investment to tend didn't pan out. I had 3 medium-to-large sized pots and planted them with an inexperienced, still-hopeful thumb who wished to be green.

It was a very matter-of-fact attitude with which I told the plants, "You have soil. You'll have full sun each afternoon. And I will try to remember to water you as much as possible. If you are going to grow, have at it. If you don't, I don't blame you."

And they grew. I was amazed.
I purchased a wire frame so that they would feel supported as they grew taller.

I about jigged around the patio when I realized buds were giving way to actual fruit. Little pea-sized tomatoes were sprouting at different levels of the three plants. I considered it miraculous, since I wasn't a good tender; meaning, I wasn't consistent with the water they so needed to combat the full-sun afternoons.

And yet, they grew.
Bulbous spheres of would-be juicy fruit plumped-out in front of my eyes. I was delighted and proud. And thankful.

Green started turning to yellow. My mouth watered with anticipation.
And then, a storm popped out of nowhere. This storm was strong, the winds raging. In fact, it produced a tornado only a few miles away from my apartment complex. I wasn't prepared. Had no idea that it was coming. Didn't know to protect my growing plants from the violence about to ensue. A hail beating came first. Then winds so hard that they rocked the plants back and forth until they toppled over, slamming the growing vines and fruit to the cement patio. I saw this unfold, knowing it wasn't safe to go out into the storm, but feeling so sad for something that I had been caring for, had been tending towards growth being dealt hard, hard blows of nature's reality.

After the storm, I inspected the plants and turned them right-side up. Three of the tomatoes had disconnected from the plant and were brought tenderly inside to continue ripening on my counter.

The others looked intact and I asked them to be okay.
"Boy, that was tough. I hope that you are going to be okay. I mean, I understand if you feel set back and need to recalibrate or something before growing again; but know that I would really appreciate your continued growth. I thought you guys were doing so well."

A few mornings later, during a routine inspection of the plants, I saw this beautiful sight and my heart welled with pride. This little tomato, my first really red one, was proudly coming to terms with its growth cycle and would be ready to eat at any moment. I saved it's picking until later in the day, just before dinner. I figured one more morning and afternoon of sunlight would be a perfect end to its story of becoming ripe.


I couldn't help but appreciate how many of us are like this little tomato. Doggedly honoring the growth cycle, no matter what trials come along, in order to reach our full potential of ripeness.

I can't help but be proud of us all.

Friday, September 2, 2011

reason and logic be damned

The magnetism was intense.
She couldn’t deny its existence as they grew to know each other more and more. It pulled at her anytime he was close. It was like the smell of baking cookies: tantalizing and mouthwatering with the promise of sweetness.

Knowing that he was near warmed her. She felt washed in yet-unknown nostalgia; you could say comfort, which made her feel inexplicably safe and accepted. What bothered her was not being able to understand why. There was no history between them, no relationship beyond that of friendly acquaintance.

But, as she made the occasion to spend more and more time with him, the pull was stronger, harder to ignore.

On the first night they ventured into the friendly space, sharing time just getting to know each other over a few drinks, she felt this barely-escapable need to grab his face and kiss the breath out of him. The desire to touch him made her fingers tingle with want.

And, then, there was a weekend away. It was particularly difficult because they were together as friends with two other couples. It made the situation perfect for falling into each other and exploring the essence of shared space. There was a moment of enlightenment for her: they worked really well with each other. Their souls met and connected on the same living plane. Being was easy, happier.

She noted all these things as they prepared and shared meals together, working towards a common goal in the kitchen. She observed as he made 2 perfect cups of coffee and invited her to the porch swing for several moments of appreciating the cool night air, the rain and the pressure of their bodies sitting close together. She was awed at the absolute-happy intonation of their shared periodic sighs. It was as if something deep within them had found contentment, a soul-satisfying contentment that ignores all arguments of reason or logic.

The next morning, through the pouring-down rain, there was a silent parallel-reality tryst; silent except for the heavy intakes of breaths and soul-cleansing exhales. Ties of deeper connection were double knotted in some alternate universe in front of the others as they spent an innocent morning talking over nothing in particular.

Her life was sucked into a deep state of want: intense want over this soul that had been in front of her for over a year. The wanting expanded to all layers of her existence. She wanted him all to herself, for shared hours of deep breathing and pressed bodies. She wanted him to be happy and asked him what it would take; and encouraged him to be himself, because the him that she saw was delightful, intense, intoxicating, and she was sad to learn that he didn’t realize the whole of it yet.

Their first kiss happened shortly after the weekend trip. It was a night of ignoring reason, of sharing wine and talk, of teasing the fire of passion until it was too much to contain. Laying down on the couch together, he had rubbed her face gently with his thumb and titled her head just so before pressing his lips against hers. She exploded. Her mind was mush. The want of it, the want of him; the want of more, of as much as she could hold, completely possessed her. She found a new default existence and was happy to find him there to share it.
Beyond happy, she was blissed-out.

The magnetism was intense; is intense.

She remembers that first kiss and tingles still shoot through her body. She thinks about the kisses that have followed and pure joy floods her sense of being. She wants more kisses now and finds that the want leaves her breathless and soul-lonely.

They fostered the connection for a short time. It made them full and happy. There was a new-found realization of togetherness, of partnership that their base-level shared-essence understood and accepted as perfectly normally, finally right.

Their reason and logic scoffed and made spectacle of all the arguments proving their companionship doomed. The new, young shared-ness was no match for practiced cynicism.

Reason and logic won.
It is the saddest thing, she thinks.

Their personalities battled the case of differences, of extreme differences. They stomped and raged the particulars; and their minds conceded. Wills were soon to follow.

They cried over it, at first together.
Now, she cries alone; damning reason and logic to the hell-holes in which they belong for destroying such a beautiful, organic co-existence.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

read the headlines

We fall in love, choose to love, commit to love and get married.

And for many, the assumption is that love will stay the same. Time passes and growth happens; but dang it, this love will always be here, supporting us to carry us through anything that life brings.

But love is based on connection and connection is based on....what?

I think that to a certain extent, connection is ethereal link to someone else. It is hard to explain why we meet certain people on certain planes. Connection, and the associated attraction, is so much deeper than just sexuality; it is a brass tacks kind of understanding between people at a certain level...not necessarily all levels.

People marry. People change.
At least, we hope so, right?

An individual should continue towards growth, continue to learn from the world around them. Their life experiences outside of the marriage connection will effect change in their default character and personality, in their thought processes. It may be dramatic; but it could also be subtle. Either way, the hope is that we are dynamic characters in our own life story.

These changes may affect the "feeling" of love, but hopefully, not the commitment to love.

It occurs to me that change is inevitable, though we gripe and complain...maybe even resist.

It also occurs to me that the best way to foster the marriage connection through the time that passes and ages us is to consistently visit the brass tacks connection with our partner. If you can't be honest and vulnerable with your person about who you are and how you're changing....if you can't trust them enough with your base level humanity, why would you make vows and promise to spend your life with them?

Revisit the brass tacks: talk, share, dust-off the connection.

You can't be on the same page with someone unless you are willing to read the headlines as they appear on the news stand.


And I believe the responsibility to share as well as the act of asking for sharing stands directly on the doorstep of both hearts within the marriage connection. The union of two souls requires give and take on so many levels, this being one of the most important of them all.