Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Remembering to be Grateful

Earlier this week I spent a couple of hours putting together a slide show for my Myspace page. It was easier than I thought it was going to be but it turned up some unexpected results.

I’ve always known that family was a huge part of who I am. My family has always been solid, the rock that I could crash against whenever I needed to. We’ve been called Dysfunctional-Normal by a well meaning friend and awesome by another. We are loud, at times obnoxious, often silly, and rarely subtle in our love for each other. We are seldom quiet about the things that we're feeling, but then I guess that's the way it should be.

Agent C and I stayed up late talking the night before. While a host of odd topics came up during the conversation, one in particular stuck with me. We talked about families and what we wanted for ourselves someday.

I told him that my mom made every holiday count at our house. Valentines Day saw red and pink hearts everywhere, Halloween meant that an old cardboard skeleton lovingly dubbed Herman hung on the front door and bats hung from the windows. Christmas? Six huge boxes of decorations came from the garage; the contents dispersed throughout the house until it looked like Christmas threw up and Santa moved in.

I told him that in my own way I’m trying to pass those traditions along to my son. That I believe that traditions are the glue that binds families together and so in that spirit every year before Halloween I take my son to the Farmer's Market. We pick out the coolest pumpkins that we can find and then take them back to the house and carve them. The results are horrific to anyone that has any artistic ability at all (we don't) but we get dirty and we laugh and we are ridiculously proud of our results, a picture is always taken to mark the event. I told him about how we hang spider webbing all over the outside of the house and that that is usually the only time that The Brain ever gets to hear his mama cuss.

I told him about how every New Year's Eve I take The Brain out to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. Over dinner we talk about the last year and what our favorite memories are from it. We talk about the things that we want to do the next year... the sillier the better. I want to go snowboarding... no, I know! Let’s dig a HUGE swimming pool in the backyard! No, wait! I got it! Let’s figure out a way to make it snow… INSIDE! That’d be soooo cool!

I was thinking about the stories that we shared as I was building my slide show and the beauty of it all just hit me. When was the last time that I remembered to be grateful for what I have? How long has it been since I stopped and really focused on the beauty that surrounds me everyday? How long has it been since I stopped focusing on what I’ve lost and instead gave thanks for what I have?

Too long I think.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Worth a watch or two

Letting Go

A very good friend of mine has recently completed an absolutely fantastic short film. Please have a look and join me in congratulating him in a job well done.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lesson's learned

I had intended on posting something on the one year anniversary of my father's passing. As it turned out I just didn't know what to say.

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about the things that I've learned over the last couple of years, things about myself and life in general. I am amazed at how much has changed, how much I have changed.

I look back at my life two years ago and I see something and someone that is almost unrecognizable to me now. The woman I was then was harsher, rougher around the edges, maybe less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. She was stubborn and never asked anyone for help. Back then I was working with the local police department, in my last semester of graduate school, and had only been on the job (my full time one) as an investigator for a couple of months. To say that I was stressed would be laughable. Daddy had decided about that time that he didn't want to try dialysis and we fully anticipated that he would die before the holidays arrived. I was asked by my mother to start writing his eulogy so we wouldn't have that to worry about when the time came. I was smoking about a pack and a half a day and only sleeping about two hours a night on average. I had no patience and no time... I was in a war fighting for my life and the survival of my family.

One year ago I had graduated from school, had settled into my job, left work at the police department, and was reeling from the death of the greatest man I have ever known. I think at the time I was shocked. Why you ask? Granted, I had thirteen years to prepare for his passing, thirteen years of close calls and worrying. But that's the point. I had thirteen years! In all that time he continued to beat the odds, he never gave up and never stopped fighting. I think somewhere in my mind I really believed that he couldn't die. That we wouldn't lose this battle, he was too strong, too noble, too... huge. It just couldn't happen. And then it did and everything I knew about who I was changed. I was no longer a care provider or a nurse, I was a woman that had lost her dad. Close to half of my life had been spent dealing with his care, with him gone I had to figure out how to live. What was our new normal going to be? How could I live without that constant worry and fear? The guilt that comes from feeling like no matter what you do it's never going to be enough, the pressure of always making every Birthday, holiday, family dinner, anniversary... every everything the very best it can possibly be because it will probably be the last one you'll ever celebrate as a whole family. A year ago I was a shell and I didn't know what was meant to go inside of that shell. All I knew is that I had to fake it because I had a little boy who needed me to make things alright. Somehow.

And now. I look at my life now and I am struck by the sheer awesomeness of it all. I have in one year seen the very worst and the very best that life has to offer. Horrible, crushing grief coupled just a short time later with unimaginable beauty and joy. Yin and Yang all in the span of a year. Amazing.

I still get sad sometimes... I doubt there will ever be a day that I don't miss him and grieve for his loss, but I can do it with perspective now. While I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone, I am grateful for the things that I have learned from it. I am a survivor. Period.

I met up with a friend this past week, I hadn't seen him in a while and I wanted to check and see how he was doing. His best friend committed suicide about a month ago and he's still trying to come to terms with her loss. I stood there wanting more than anything to say the magic words that would lessen his pain or make it a little more manageable. Something that would be comforting and give him peace. As we stood talking I thought back to how I felt a year ago, the things that helped me. In the end I realized that the best thing that I could do as his friend was to let him talk, or rage, or cry, or yell, or laugh... whatever he felt like doing, and just keep my mouth shut as much as possible. Hugs are free and I have two shoulders for a reason, and sometimes being a friend means just standing there in silence and being there.

I wanted to tell him that it hurts because getting stronger always does. That there would come a day when she wasn't the first thing he thought about when he woke up, and that that would be the day that he felt the worst. That eventually he would be able to think back on the time that he had with his friend and smile at those memories, that he would be able to do that without the crushing pain of loss. That it would probably never make sense to him but that eventually he would be able to forgive and make peace with himself, his God, and his friend. That while it will always hurt, it won't always hurt like this. That he is stronger than he feels right now and that he will be able to take the lessons that he learned from this horrible experience and be able to offer his shoulder to another friend someday. That doing that will bring back those feelings of grief and loss but in a bittersweet way. That it will come full circle and that if he keeps his heart open he will learn joy.

I have learned a lot about myself and life this past year. Growing is hard, it's scary, and it's often not pretty. Life is a gift and every day is another chance to get it right. Of all the lessons I've learned that is the one that I am the most thankful for.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Overheard during The Brain's prayers last night...

"... and please help me to not smack the funny lookin' kid with big ears in my class... the one that sits next to me, I really don't think he knows how stupid he is. Some people are just like that and I don't want to get into trouble so I can't shoot my rockets off this weekend cause that would really suck!"


Well, it's good to know that he has his priorities straight at least!

(And am I the only one wondering if there are in fact two funny looking children with big ears in his class?)

I probably should've addressed the fact that it isn't nice to describe people that way as well as the fact that we don't use the word 'suck' in our house... and I would've had I not been so busy stifling hysterical laughter at the time!

Gotta love kids!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Raising Men

August 2006

Meet my son.

When I found out I was going to have a son my whole life turned upside down. I was twenty years old and newly married, I wasn't even old enough to purchase alcohol but there I was contemplating what it meant to raise a son. I was scared to death! After all, what did I know about being a man? How could I possibly take this untrained, wild little boy that wasn't even housebroken yet and mold him into the man that I knew he needed to become?

Over the last ten years I've made some mistakes... Okay, a lot of them, but that's part of the process. The thing of it is, until I read the Queen's post today I hadn't really stopped to think about the importance of what I was doing. So once again, I thank her. For making me think. Go read her and then come back. I'll wait.

I have no daughter to raise, I have a son. But I am raising him to be the kind of man that you would want your daughter to marry, and hopefully in doing so, in some small way will change the world.

Let me tell you about him:

He respects women... hell, he doesn't have a choice... he's surrounded! He has been raised to understand that while men and women often have different strengths we are equally intelligent and should be valued equally.

He understands that putting the toilet seat down and holding the door open for the person behind you is just good manners... not a sign of inequality.

He is learning that sometimes the last thing you want to do is the first thing that you should do and that having integrity and honor means all of that and sometimes doing it when no one is looking. He is learning to work hard when alone as well as by my side. That women are strong, beautiful, and capable, and that those qualities should be celebrated in whatever form they happen to take.

He is learning to value all people, regardless of their economic status, religious beliefs, backgrounds, physical stature, or anything else.

He is learning that there is nothing wrong with crying when you're sad or angry and that it takes a strong person to be able to show weakness.

He is learning to treat women as ladies... even when they don't act like it. That there will always be women who will be willing to compromise their own and his integrity for a few cheap thrills or the notoriety that comes with them. But that the cost of those thrills is too high and the consequences too lasting to fathom.

He is learning to look at every woman as someone's mother, sister, daughter, friend, and that sometimes being a man means defending those weaker than yourself... Regardless of gender.

He is learning to stand up for what he believes in and not back away from a fight... No matter how scared he is inside. He is learning that sometimes the most important thing is not whether you win or lose but that you pick yourself up and keep trying.

He is learning that there is strength in walking away and in admitting that he was wrong.

He is learning that the way he feels about himself is a lot more important than the way he believes other people feel about him.

He is learning what it takes to be a man, one day at a time. One year at a time.

Maybe someday, if enough mother's and father's actively get involved and demand a higher standard for their children, videos and men like the Queen was griping about will be a thing of the past.

We can only hope.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Realization...

One year ago today Agent C called me for the first time and the nature of our relationship changed forever. He called me because my father had passed away on August 1st and he thought I might want to talk. When he called we spent about five hours on the phone talking about everything but dad's death. We talked about our memories, our hopes, dreams, lives, everything and anything but how I felt right at that moment. It wasn't until I brought it up about ten minutes before we hung up that he mentioned anything about it at all.

I said "you haven't asked me how I'm doing... I think you're the first person to call me and not ask me that."

He replied "I don't need to ask. I can hear everything I need to know in your voice, and anything else I trust you to tell me when you're ready."

That meant so much to me.

Almost as much as the flowers that he sent to me last Tuesday on the one year mark of dad's passing. Simple, sweet, and understated the card read "I just wanted to you know that someone is thinking about you while you're thinking about everyone else. Give your mom and The Brain a hug from me."

Is it any wonder why I love him?

He's been out of cell range and away from his computer for the last five days. This is the longest that we've gone without communicating in over two years and it's killing me. He gets back tomorrow, thank God. I feel like someone cut off my arm and I just noticed it was missing. It's a strange feeling to realize that you've come to need someone so much and that you never realized it before. I've never really needed anyone before, not really, but I apparently need him.

Go figure.

My camera was acting up so I don't have any decent pictures of the flowers he sent... this was the best I could do... aren't they pretty?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Dilemma

I was helping my mom clean off the hutch in her kitchen today when we stumbled across some old cards from my wedding. Now, bear in mind that I got married almost eleven years ago... Imagine my surprise when I realized that one of these cards had never been opened!

We laughed about it until I opened it and discovered two twenty dollar bills! The gift was from an old friend of my mother's, someone that she has since lost contact with.

So now I have to find this woman and figure out a non-insulting way to thank her for a wedding gift that I never realized that she sent but that has lasted longer than the marriage did! Any suggestions?

Good grief!

Friday, August 04, 2006

First Day of School

Ah... The much anticipated and highly dreaded first day of school! But fear not my friends! This isn't just any old first day, this is The Brain's first day of Fourth Grade!

So what words of wisdom did mom have for her spawn this morning? "Just try and make friends with the teacher, okay? No more of this junk where you prove that you're smarter than she is... teachers tend not to like that sort of thing."

And what was the Brain's response? "Well, they should make them smarter then, shouldn't they? Good grief ma, I'm only ten!"

Followed by "Hey, I really hope Garrett is in my class this year... He and I have been best friends for like, forever! We even got into trouble together last year. We figured out that if we got into trouble together that the teacher couldn't argue with both of us at the same time. It was SOOOOO cool!"

And there I sat trying to figure out which lecture I should deliver first... Should it be the one that deals with respect? How about the one that says that misbehaver and manipulation in school are not acceptable? Perhaps the one that reiterates the importance of trying your best in everything that you do... Or maybe even the one that gets into the fact that while people are of varying levels of intelligence and creativity, everyone has value, that everyone is equally important.

I think I settled on something insightful like "keep your mouth shut and your nose down and please try to make friends with the teacher, please?"

It should be an interesting year!