Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lesson #57: Recognize spring.

When is spring?

What is that skin-taste that sends our body thrilling to the idea that spring is here. Suddenly. 
What makes us say, Now it is spring. 
When is that Now-Spring?

In the Valley, this spring is familiar. It comes early in the year. Brought on the trill of birdsong before dawn. Wafting on breezes heavy with the scent of almond blossoms. Floating like snow in drifts of Bradford pear flowers. 

In the Valley, spring is betrothed on first day the air is filled with sunshine. Not sunshine breaking through high winter fog or falling through spaces between cumulus clouds. But sunshine seeping upward. Sunshine caressing skin weary of cloth.

In the South, spring unfurls in the broadening mid-morning shadows cast by budding hickory. It rolls in waves of purple wisteria, climbs old brick walls like kudzu, and crawls along trellises burdened with overgrown roses in old-lady gardens. In the South, spring creeps in, slow like. 

But here, in the Valley, spring glides in like bees flitting toward freshly popped petals.
From petal to petal the bees carry promise. 
Promise of sweet scents and color. 
Promise of sun-filled seasons to come. 
Promise of spring.
One day winter. One day spring. 

Here, in the Now-Spring, the air is thick with it, heavy as a bridal gown. Heavy on skin anxious for a naked romp in the bridal bed of summer. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lesson # 56: Kids Are Costly

$79. Cost of the new smart phone for D.
$40. Activation fee.
$40. Monthly fee for unlimited texting.
$550. Cost of security deposit I just put down for D and K's new apartment in a relatively bad part of town but close to their college.
$100,000. Cost of medical bills for the heart attack D gave me last night via text.

Texts I received from D last night:

12:57 p.m.

D: Can't wait for vacation! Yomp I get a month off from school!

1:12 pm.

Me: Finals week. Keep your chin up.

1:34 p.m.

D:  Yup.

5:14 p.m.

D: OMG mom I was just shot at. The shot was so loud it made my ears ring. I was at the 7-11 walking home and when I got shot at I ran all the way home.

5:28 p.m.

D: Don't worry Maw. It wasn't that big of a deal. I don't think they were shooting at me. I am all right now. It wasn't as bad as the road rage shooting that happened out front the other day.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lesson #55: One man's trash is another man's treasure.

C and I walked down the sidewalk, his little hand nestled in my own. At the corner, a man rummaged through the trash can, tossing plastic bottles on the ground.

"Look Heidi," C said. "It's a trash guy. What's he doing?"

"He's recycling," I answered.

The trash guy looked up from his project. His hands were dirty. His clothing disheveled. He eyed C, one quick glance taking in C's crisp white karate gi and said, "Look, it's a little karate guy."

We walked on past toward the dojo. C looked up at me and beamed pride.

"That trash guy could see that I'm a karate guy," he said.

"You're right," I answered.

"Trash guys are really smart, aren't they, Heidi?" C said.

"Perhaps," I answered. "Perhaps they are smarter than all of us."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Lesson #54: Never let schooling interfere with your education.

My middle son K started college a couple of weeks ago. His younger brother I started high school the same day.

When I woke up that first morning and stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee, K was already up, fully dressed and sitting at the kitchen table tapping his toes. "Hi mom, I made coffee," he said.

I stumbled out his bedroom as bleary-eyed as I was. "K woke me up at 5 a.m.," he said.

I knew K was excited. He and I had spent much of the previous week chittering about which classes he had waitlisted, which classes he really hoped he'd be added to, whether he chose the right major, whether he'd know anyone in his classes. He'd become frenetic by the last evening and I hoped his first day would release some of that energy. I was wrong: He came home with even more energy and tales from his day.

By contrast, I's response to his first day was, "It was cool."

K spent the afternoon and evening working out math problems for his first assignment of the semester. He struggled with one problem until I made him quit and have dinner with the family. After dinner, he went back to work.

On Day 2, K stumbled out of his room about the same time I did. We fought for shower rights (I won of course). K spent his afternoon free of classes and working on his math homework. That afternoon I got a call at work.

K: I'm going to fail!
Me: What are you talking about?
K: I can't figure this math stuff out! I'm going to fail! I should just quit! You need to get your money back.
Me: Knock it off. Skip the question that's giving you trouble and do another one.
K: But I'm going to fail!
Me: Have you been working on that one problem all day?
K: Yes. And last night too.
Me: Stop crying! I command you to stop doing your homework and go watch TV!

There was radio silence from K for about two hours, and later that afternoon he sent me a text that read: "I figured it out!"

I sighed and smiled. Until I remembered that I had forgotten to send in the check for his registration fees.

No worries. All's well now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lesson #53: It Gets Better

I grew up in a four-room cabin in the middle of the woods in California's gold country. We had a wood-burning stove until the county condemned it. After that we heated our small home with newspaper stuffed into the walls through the holes that had been punched into them during fits of domestic violence and a small kerosene space heater. Our shower consisted of a green garden hose snaking through the bathroom window and a round area marked off by a black plastic trashbag hung from the ceiling by fish hooks. Cold showers meant something different to me than they do to my teenage sons.

I'm not kidding. About any of this.

And I'm writing this on the eve of my 35th birthday sipping rum and Acai juice in a fine hotel room two blocks from the White House in Washington DC. I'm here enjoying fine food, fine friends and lovely presentations by my colleagues in the university grant writing business. I'm 3000 miles from that life in the backwoods of the still-frontier foothills of the West. I'm millions of miles from the little girl who used to wait for the sun to rise so she could brush her hair in the side mirror of her daddy's pick-up truck. The only reflecting surface allowed in our home. (Long story.)

How I came here? Well, that's also another long story. It's not my first foray in the South -- and boy does it make me home sick for cicadas and real, old big magnolias, and old slate and brick buildings. But it is the first time in our nation's capital. And my first time "vacationing" alone.

When I was 21, living in a small house in a little cow-town called Waterford, shortly after I divorced my first husband and during my brief stint as a single, college-going mom of 3, a psychic gave me a reading. She told me that I would travel, far and wide. That eventually I'd travel and speak. I am not speaking yet. But I have been traveling. From California to South Carolina and back, to DC, who knows where next.

I'd love to speak. I have a lot to say, but I'm not sure what needs to be said, and to whom. I'm not sure what I should say. I'm not sure I should tell people I came from abject poverty, from the country, from base and humble beginnings. I try not to let it show. I learned to use a salad fork and a butter knife, to cross my legs and to point my pinky, to sit straight and to pay attention. I have learned to speak when spoken to. And I am learning to speak as if I'm proud of what I have to say.

So on the eve of my 35th birthday I salute the past, the home I came from, my travels and the future I am traveling toward. I have made education my career and passion, and I do wholeheartedly embrace and support the education of all, but most especially myself.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Lesson #52: If you don't want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.

I bought my very own gym membership a couple of months ago. The gym by my house opened up a brand-fangled-new location near my workplace (in another city), so I canceled the membership by my house and started anew by my workplace, thinking, of course, that I would go more often that way.

We excuse our sloth under the pretext of difficulty.  ~Marcus Fabius Quintilian

I did go, once, the week after I opened the account. It was a beautiful facility, pristine and shiny, no shoe marks on the floor or sweat stains on the equipment. All the equipment worked. I loved it.

Several excuses are always less convincing than one.  ~Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point

Then the excuses started.

1. I just had out-patient surgey and I'm not able to take a shower or submerged bath for a week.
2. My wound is still healing.
3. My wound has healed but I'm still sore and I can't wear a sports bra.
4. I have a head cold.
5. Husband is going out of town for work for a week, possibly longer, and I don't have long to say goodbye.
6. I have to be home in time to cover kids sporting events and classes.
7. I have to help K fill out his financial aid paperwork for college.
8. Someone has to make dinner.
9. Someone has to do the laundry.
10. It's too damn hot.
11. I have to work late tonight, and tomorrow night, and next week.
12. All I want is a beer.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.  ~Benjamin Franklin

Then I looked up all these great quotes on excuses, and realized, I'm not the only one who does such horrible things, or else there wouldn't be so many fabulous quotes about the activity! So, if you're looking for an excuse not to go to the gym (or some other thing you should be doing), you can pick one of mine, or make up your own. (Let me know in the comments section what you're favorite excuses are.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lesson #51: Sometimes you're the lion, Sometimes you're the mouse.

Warning: The following post is fairly graphic and disgusting.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to have a lipoma removed from my back. Earlier in the month, my husband and I had tried a home remedy that lead to infection. The tumor was exactly underneath the strap of my bra, which created an extremely painful situation and required me to go to the doctor to "fix" what we had started.

At the doctor's office, I learned that a) a lipoma is a tumor that simply needs to be removed (as in, I can't just hydrogen peroxide my way out of it), and b) I should have come in to see the doctor a long time ago (as in 8 years ago when I first noticed the lump).

So a couple of weekends ago, before the 4th of July holiday, I had out-patient surgery. I was taped up, given an appointment to the after-hours clinic to have bandage changes every day, and sent on my way. The clinic suggested my husband come along so the nurses could show him how to change my bandages and that way we didn't need to drive the 3-hour round trip to the clinic every day.

My poor husband then spent every evening watching me down a few shots of whisky and whimper and cry for hours leading up to the bandage-changing. He would lay me down on the bed, remove the bandage and gauze packing, flush the wound with water, remove the remaining chunks of lipoma that would float to the top, then repack the wound, all while I screamed and bawled and bit a pillow. After the bandage-changing, Hubby would have himself a few shots of whisky.

We carried on like this for days.

Finally last Friday, I went back to the clinic. I decided that the clinic needed to deal with this wound from now on. I had serious concerns that the bandage-changing was ruining my marriage. Hubby was irritated with me, frustrated with the process, and had become a very reluctant nurse. I was irritated that Hubby had reneged on his former enthusiasm to help, though I secretly understood why, and I had run out of pain medication.

On Sunday, the clinic nurse informed me that she thought the wound had healed enough it no longer needed packing. I about jumped for joy.

Until I got home and saw Hubby sprawled out on the floor, close to weeping. He'd slipped a disc in his back while working out and was effectively crippled. He whimpered for me to help him.

I handed him my bottle of whisky and pain pills.