Intentions, Sophie and the Sea

It’s common at the start of a yoga class to set an intention for the day’s practice.

Different from a goal, which is something you work toward with a focus for the future, an intention is meant to give you a focus in the present.

Bruce Black, from Writing Yoga with Bruce Black, explained it far better than I ever could …

“… setting your intention is like drawing an arrow from the quiver of your heart.

You aim the arrow at a distant target, a reflection of your heart’s desire, and with care and mindfulness release the bowstring.

And as the arrow flies toward the target, it draws your heart toward its destiny.”

My intention was set; my arrow aimed at first-born (Sophie) who becomes troubled when I leave for my Friday night trips away (an unhappy agreement made during mediation to give her father more time to parent without my ever-presence).

She cries as I leave, and as I jump into my car and drive away, I can’t help but wonder for how long she feels the pain of my departure.

There is nothing I can do to ease her pain when I’m gone.

At the end of yesterday’s class, prior to a deeply personal moving meditation and an awfully good time spent upside down in playful inversions, the class returned to our backs for quiet savasana.

As proof that I’d set the right intention, the prettiest song came through the speakers above my head; a version of Sea of Love I hadn’t ever heard.

For Sophie I’d set my intention. Now and forever, Cat Power’s Sea of Love will be our song.

M.

Do you set intentions off of the mat? Does a particular song remind you of someone you love?

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Get Inspired

Searching for inspiration is tough when ho-humnity is the name of your game, and your job is to write things that people want to read.

It’s better, then, to turn off the part of the brain that refuses to cooperate and focus on the activities that generate tidings of comfort and joy.

Here is the plan:

1. The kids and I browsed Pinterest this morning and found a graphic designer named Sarah Walsh whose aesthetic interests (pins) spoke to my brain on the side that doesn’t use words. The kids became so inspired by Sarah’s Illustration Station board that they are currently, quietly content at their own art table creating what I know will be framable works of art.

Somewhere in this messy house of mine is a beautiful set of art pens (hidden so the kids wouldn’t use them, but where could they be?) that I must (MUST) find today. Expression through art is necessary in this time of angst (divorce, divorce, divorce).

2. Outside my windows is a dark grey sky; the kind that makes me wonder if the sun is ever going to rise. No matter, I will be bundling my bod (from top of head to tip of toes) as I exit for an early morning run.

It will probably be brutally cold, hurt on a cellular level, but the results will be warmed blood, a regenerated system, and hopefully some adrenaline to push me through my day.

3. Later today, I’m taking my kids to vote. The lessons that I hope they’ll learn will outweigh the irritation that might occur from bored kids pulling on my clothes or the uncomfortable squeeze and tight proximity of three inside a voting booth.

“Women have rights, girls. They have the right to choose who they think should be the boss of America.Once upon a time women weren’t allowed to vote. People with different colored skin weren’t allowed to vote. Ridiculous, right? I don’t know who is going to win today, girls, but I pray he is able to do a good job. We are lucky to live in the United States of America. We are lucky and blessed to have freedom.”

Freedom. The ultimate inspired thought.

What do you do when you are struggling for inspiration? Do you change your focus or just plow though?

M.

Sophie’s Girl on Swing.

Mother Grammar

My mother and I have a little joke; a spin-off of the phrase, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.”

It goes like this:

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!”

My mother and I tease that most of the things utterly wrong with me are the result of being raised by her; the mother God thought I should have (so technically it’s His fault?).

It wasn’t for her lack of trying to steer me straight; she did her absolute best. But I was born stubborn, and you can’t win when trying to challenge fate.

Luckily, there is one commonality (I’m unsure if it should be labeled a personality trait) that has connected daughter to mother; and vice versa.

Good grammar and proper punctuation is the place where we meet when all other places are raging with fire. I am being dramatic; another similarity that we share. We actually agree on quite a lot now that I am a grown woman, and we take pleasure in each others’ horror over the mistakes made by television newscasters and celebrities who care not for the rules of me versus I.

Even still, with my grown-up age to match my slightly, mellowing rebelliousness, we continue to have plenty of arguments of the grammatical sort.

Most recently, I insisted that the word “of” was not necessary after the words “a couple”. “A couple of” is the correct term, in case you were wondering. Just yesterday I finally admitted that she was right all along, to which she requested I repeat the phrase, “You were right, mother,” twice.

In preparation for my next CloudCrowd test, I’ve dusted off mom’s gifted copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and am taking copious notes.

Amazing writing (I’m really having to use my brain), and as predicted by the author, reading it has ignited my inner stickler.

I imagine future blog posts will revolve around the proper use of apostrophes’, and hyphens, and commas. I will try my best to make them as fascinating as I am re-discovering.

To wrap things up, I should mention that I do believe that mothers are responsible for many of our traits and quirks; our triumphs and our failures. In a way, the joke is not really that big of a ha-ha after all.

It is, in my opinion, the true definition of what it means to be a mother; to do your best, and hope for the same, knowing that the chips will fall where they may.

So, thank you, mom. I think you did just fine (I mean, considering what you were working with, and all).

M.

Fellow sticklers. Help me out. Early in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, I found the end marks outside of the quotation marks. I can’t figure out why in the world that could be? I tested it out in line 15, and it feels all wrong.

Did you notice all of my semi-colons? I’m having trouble deciphering if many of them should be commas …

This amazing child refused to open her eyes for the picture. The stubbornness gene did not skip a generation. I have a feeling she’ll take issue with the Oxford comma as I do too.

Parenting an Artist

While lying in bed between my girls last night I took the opportunity to read three pages of The Style Rookie, a blog created by sixteen year old Tavi Gevinson who has taken the fashion world by storm.

To say that I was blown away by her work is an understatement.

A collection of her thoughts (both typed and beautifully hand written), artistic imagery (collages, others and her own), music (others and her own) and photographs of her sweet bang trimmed self styled in real fashion (as opposed to an overabundance of labels), her voice is crystal clear.

Her current tilt seems to be toward a fifties and sixties aesthetic, but the photos with her friends are timeless. I love the freedom of expression; her cat lined eyes, her mix of print and pattern and form and silhouette and color.

What is there not to love, and with 50,000 hits a day to the blog (an incredible number not attained by people two, three, four times her age), it appears I am not the only one enamoured.

As I scanned the blog I got to wondering.

Clearly Tavi is an old soul; one of those people who functions outside of age. Watching her Ted presentation (below) you can see how bright she is yet the admittance that she still hasn’t, “figured it all out,” combined with her strong yet sensitive presentation, make her real as opposed to super-hero. What a great model for girls everywhere (teenager and not)!

What became more curious to me were my questions about her parents.

Who are the Gevinsons? Who are the people who created and are raising this bright and creative soul?

I was once a teenage girl who took fashion risks and cut baby bangs and wore my hair in Heidi braids crisscrossed over the top of my head, too. But beginning a fashion empire was just a dream for me. Tavi is doing it for real and her parents are allowing her to flourish and bloom.

In her adorable interview with Jimmy Kimmel she skimmed over his questions about her parents by saying something about them being “nice people,” but I discovered later in her posted Vimeo video that her father is an English teacher and her mother is an artist who weaves tapestries. She goes on to mention that her parents encouraged her (and her sister) to be creative and to read.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing all I can to raise children who will develop into well-adjusted, secure and strong girls. It’s not easy in this world of Barbie and princesses (whom my girls love) or as Tavi describes, “two-dimensional super-women…with one quality that’s played up a lot.”

I think Tavi’s parents are the example of how to do it right (whether or not a child is meant to be a prodigy). Fostering creativity, encouraging reading and allowing freedom of expression is the key.

Now if only she’d interview them. Or maybe I should try. I bet they are equally as interesting as their delightfully dynamic daughter.

Had you ever heard of Tavi’s blog or her magazine for teenage girls, Rookiemag.com? Are you as interested in learning about her parents as I am? Can you believe she’s been blogging for four years? That’s a lifetime in blogland!

XOM

That Honey Boo Boo Show

The Honey Boo Boo craze has hit the nation. Comedians, newscasters, bloggers and play ground moms everywhere have been talking about The Learning Channel’s show, which follows child pageant princess Alana and her family.

I was never a Toddler’s and Tiaras watching fan, so it didn’t occur to me to even investigate the Honey Boo Boo madness. But as my remote wandered on Wednesday, I stumbled upon the program and ended up recording the remainder of the season marathon as it was time for me to head back to my own life and put my kids to bed.

I watched the recorded episodes last night and am not shy or embarrassed about saying that I love the show as much for what is wrong with it than for what is right.

There are plenty of things to find wrong; obesity, poverty, folks living at the low end of the socio-economic ladder, children who curse as freely as the adults, lack of manners and education, terrible eating habits, questionable hygiene, tobacco use, loudness, abrasive behavior, teenage pregnancy, and least of all the strange phenomenon of child pageants.

If you choose to believe that the success of the show is because of its likeness to a reality train wreck, then your glass is half empty, but I do understand your disdain.

If your glass is half full, though, you might see beyond the obvious. You might find beauty underneath the surface. You might find compassion while falling in love with the crazy band of misfits, lead by a mother who is doing her best.

Consider this. More than thirty five percent of American adults are obese, just like Mama. Genetically engineered foods are everywhere. Cheap and unhealthy fast food is easy and abundant. Corporations don’t teach people to drink water and plant gardens. They advertise soda and junk food and to many people who haven’t been taught a better way, it is the only way they know how to live. If you are doing your best to get by (Mama feeds her family of six on eighty dollars a week) then try to understand the conundrum.

In one scene Mama is making dinner for her family; sketti with ketchup and butter. In the microwave is placed a bowl of Country Crock margarine and a big squeeze of ketchup. It’s melted and mixed and poured over the spaghetti (which I am sure is white flour enriched, not a whole grain within a mile) and Mama mentions that she was “raised on sgetti and ketchup and butter.” It’s no wonder then that her weight (and that of the family) is an issue that they are trying to address and remedy with weekly weigh-ins.

For people who find fault with the language that is used and the often incorrect grammar, verbage and made up mix of vocabulary, consider that one of the biggest social dividers is the difference in education between those with and those without.

I learned to be sensitive to this during my first year of teaching the fourth grade in a poor section of Durham, North Carolina. Most of the time I could barely understand my children and wished they had subtitles like the cast of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. They were ten-year olds, though, and so I could correct their incorrect grammar, fix their vocabulary mistakes. It was hard, but I learned that underneath the lack of knowledge were regular children with the same loves and likes as the richest and more educated ten-year olds I’d known.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not feel sorry for these people. There have been reports highlighting the serious dysfunction (arrests, multiple baby daddy’s, etc.) and it is worrisome. But I am not blind to where they come from, so I don’t feel contempt the way one might if they choose only to see what’s on the surface.

What is below is far more interesting and beautiful.

For example, Mama knows her weight is a problem. Her struggle to ascend the bouncy tower at Alana’s birthday party was frustrating for her, but her attempt to stay away from the junk food and lose some weight is enviable.

The family talks to each other. Whatever you may think of the cursing or word mash-ups, they talk to each other. No one is fighting over the iPad (though maybe that will change with the success of the show). At present time, no one seems lost in technology land.

One episode focused on Mama’s trouble in keeping her kids busy during the hot southern summer. Without many options, the family sets up their own slip and slide with a tarp, soap bubbles and a hose. They went grocery shopping together, played Bingo together, worked together to get Alana ready for her pageant. Together they acted like a family! A real and functioning family.

And there is love.

One of my favorite scenes was when Mama was going on a date with Alana’s dad and wanted to get pretty by putting on some makeup. Mama encouraged her four daughters to make her up and they all laughed and teased and ultimately made their mom look like a “rodeo clown.” After washing off the mess, Alana stroked her mother’s face and said, “I’ll make you pretty, mama,” and the moment of sweetness and love outshone all the nuttiness of the minutes before.

I should mention the lone man who lives amongst the wackiness of Honey Boo Boo’s world. Alana’s father, lovingly called Sugar Bear, is a chewing tobacco spitting in a bottle kind of guy. He’s missing a good bunch of teeth and wore a t-shirt for the professional family photo shoot (he only dresses up for funerals).  Again, if we are only looking at the surface, he is a mess.

Dig below and you see that his eyes get soft when he speaks of the birth of his daughter. When Mama’s seventeen year old daughter comes home from the hospital with her new baby Kaitlyn, Sugar Bear sits in his chair, a thin line of a smile demonstrating his happiness. Not a man of many words. A heart that beats quietly on his sleeve.

But the biggest reason for the success of the show is its namesake, that Honey Boo Boo Child,  the adorable and feisty Alana. Despite (or because of) her environment she is free and secure in herself and happy. She knows that she is loved and when she is sad (like when her teacup piggy had to be returned to the breeder) she cried like any normal six-year-old would. She may not have great table manners, but she says, “Thank you,” when it’s appropriate and she turns on the charm when competing in her pageants. You want to hug her, she’s so real and for the first time I was rooting for a pageant princess instead of rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness of the sport.

TLC was smart and just this week renewed Honey Boo Boo child for a second season. I for one will be watching and hope for good things for this family.

XOM

Have you seen the show? What do you think about it? Agree with my take or just find it offensive? 

9/11

I wasn’t old enough to remember the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. or President John F. Kennedy. Those events in history cemented in our parent’s brains caused them to remember the very place they stood at the very moment they heard.

I do remember the day President Reagan was shot; Miami, living room, age ten, still in my pajamas, Spider Man preempted.

But when the television clicked off I went about my day like a ten-year old should. The way I hoped all ten-year olds were able to on September eleventh, 2001; being protected from the horror.

When I answered the phone in my Alameda apartment that morning I couldn’t register what my mother was trying to tell me.

“I’m okay,” she said. “Go turn on the television.”

I cried non stop for four days. Four entire days. The horror lasting much longer than the dried up tears.

I didn’t know anyone who was hurt in the attack.

My mother was supposed to be on that fated plane from Boston to San Francisco, but she wasn’t, so that’s not why I cried.

I felt in my bones the terror of the people on those plane and (from the windows of the Trade Center, the waving white flags) of victims begging to be saved.

I swore I could see the souls flying to the sky from those buildings.

I prayed for peace and answers for the living in search of their loved ones on the ground.

The pain was palpable, unlike any I’d ever experienced. It didn’t compare to the death of my father. Not close to the memories of my teenage wounded heart, which I once thought might stop altogether from the unrelenting pain.

This was greater. This hit me like a brick in the gut, heart, and mind.

Every year I watch the documentaries commemorating that horrific day.

Every year someone says, “Oh, I can’t do that! How can you watch that?”

They don’t want to remember the pain.

I don’t ever want to forget.

Where were you? What do you remember?

XOM

Like they say in church, “Peace be with you… and also with you.” I wish peace for every person ever changed by the tragedies of that day.

Girls

Today was the first day back to school and we piled into the car with backpacks empty except for spare sets of clothes, feet in socks and flashing Sketchers, bug spray to ward of playground mosquitos and girls who weren’t sure they were ready to go.

As I pulled out of the driveway I remembered how lousy morning car radio is for children. Too much talk and not enough music, tragic for little girls who get their groove on the most (the best) from the back seat of my Sequoia.

So, as I do when they just can’t stand the sound of the canned laughter and strange manly voices, I cued up song eight of disk one; Madonna’s, “What it Feels Like for a Girl.” It calms them and we listen to the breathy lovely lyrics describing what it’s like for our kind.

Incidentally, since we’re on the subject, I, depressed from the season enders (True Blood) and the almost season enders (Weeds) and the not yet started (Dexter) went on demand last night to watch the relatively new HBO show entitled Girls.

Girls, it turns out, is so amazingly written I can’t even describe the level of writing without sounding clichéd (genius, and such). It’s written, directed, acted and produced by the talented Lena Dunham (executive produced by Judd Apatow). Lena plays a writer named Hannah who thinks she might be the voice for her generation, but it’s the creator who very well might be. If you haven’t started watching you are missing out. I sure was!

This afternoon after pickup we headed home to a few good hours of house cleaning, which gave me an opportunity to listen to the audible reading of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I’ve reached part two of the novel and I concur with the New York Times; a masterpiece!

I can’t, I won’t, I wish I could tell you….

Just go and buy it and message me when you’re done. You will not be sorry!

XOM.

Bride Girls – A Poem

“When you were bride did you wear white?

Who picked out your dress? How did you know it was right?”

The questions came fast about ‘bride girls’ so named,

“Do they ever wear color? Do they all have long trains?”

“Brides can wear anything they choose for their day.

The rainbow’s their choice, their outfit their say.”

“Bride’s are pretty,” said Grace.

“They are happy,” said her sister.

And said I with a grin, “Cause they’re marrying their mister!”

To the stairs they ran fast, we were late for shoe shopping.

To the room where I sew they headed without stopping.

Grace came out with a ribbon placed atop of her head

Satin, ivory and long it trailed her up to her bed.

And she jumped up and down while Sophie implored,

“Get a clip! Get a clip from the hair dodad drawer!”

“On my head, on my head,” said Grace all a flutter.

“But first get dressed girls…

Norsdtrom waits! You are nutters!”

Once dressed and ready I took the clip,

Placed it tight on Grace’s head, let the ribbon fall and slip.

Down to the floor she walked like a bride,

Head held high to the store she would smile, we would ride.

She wore it on her head ’til her shoe love took hold.

The ribbon left crumpled, the Sketchers were sold.

The moment was gone they were making me crazy.

The memory of ‘bride girl’ soon would be hazy.

I’ve forgotten so much from timed feedings ’til now,

Will I miss it, these four year olds when that day comes around?

When they stand up the aisle with real veils to the ground,

Will I cry, will I laugh, will I feel hugely proud?

Said a lady in Whole Foods last week as she watched,

As I struggled and argued with the girls during lunch,

“It goes much too fast, time flies and you’ll see,

There will come a day when you’ll miss this terribly!”

So today as I watch, clean, cook, fold and we play,

From the mess to the laughs I’ll enjoy the array.

And despite my kerfuffle, my whining, my rants,

I know that I’m lucky to be wearing mommy pants.

One day they’ll be grown,

Strong, free, good and smart.

No one loves them like their mother,

Every inch of my heart.

Here comes the bride…

Raising Little Ships

I read a great post over at the818 entitled, How Do You Know If You’re Raising An Asshole?

What a relief, I thought, to know I’m not the only one who wonders this very same thing.

My summer has been long. Much longer than any other summer in the history of my being.

Four year olds are not easy.

My constant admonition that “You are almost five!” said with the hope that five will be the magical age that they start acting like big girls, less like little shitballs, is like an elusive prayer.

It’s not as if they don’t have moments being lovely little people.

They can hug like champs, run to get band aids for a bleeding sister in need, bat their eyelashes so that you can see the sweet that they feel on the inside and make piles of toys to give to the children who might not have any.

Lovely little people!

But the yin to the yang is their much too often use of words like vagina, butt, butthole, stupid and I hate you (with emphasis on the hate). It’s gotten so bad that Sophie unconsciously sings butthole (with inflection on various notes) while concentrating on tasks like coloring pictures of her family or buttering a piece of toast.

They hit and they run.

Rather, they hit hard and run fast.

“Use your words!” I say.

“You butthole!” They say.

They make huge messes and then sprint in the opposite direction upon time to clean up.

The incessant and rampant whining and sobbing has gotten so, that in my exasperation I have gripped my own face to thwart my own screams.

It’s exhausting and worrisome and so like Megan at the818 I wonder if I am raising two little assholes; girls more like smoldering hot fire than sweetly spun sugar?

What’s a mom to do (besides endless time outs and positive motivators and tickle torture and bribery and go to your rooms and screaming her head off)?

In exactly thirteen days I’ll be dropping the girls at pre-school with Miss Shelley the Saint, at which time I will flee outside through the double doors like a four-year old who’s just walloped her sister. I might even whisper a cuss word (or two) in the car before calling my mother to whine (and maybe cry in relief) about the entire series of events called, “Me, My Girls and the Summer of 2012.”

Apple? Tree?

Oh God, it’s worse than I thought!

XOM

I admit that on occasion I have used the term, “You little shit.” To my delight Grace thinks I said, “You little ship.” What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Right?

Mothering, Co-Sleeping and Band-aids

Tomorrow is one of the biggest and most important days in the history of my mothering.

I am leaving my children and heading off to New York City for two full nights sans kids.

It might sound strange to equate leaving my children with mothering them, but every mother crosses the separation threshold at one point or another, I just happened to be a late bloomer in this department.

The day my kids were born I expected to be like every other mom and do the things that other moms did.

I expected to bring my babies home from the hospital and put them in their cribs. I expected to let them “cry it out” while standing outside their door completely confident in their ability to soothe themselves. I did not expect that I’d be co-sleeping almost five years later.

It turned out that I was so fiercely protective of my infants that I couldn’t bear to put them in their cribs (cages?). The thought of them halfway down the hall was unbearable and a pain (yes, my pain) that I couldn’t (wouldn’t, shouldn’t) allow.

Crying it out? I read the literature and I tried it. It was a half-hearted attempt, but I did. A few moments of hearing the cries from my less than five pounders (who couldn’t tell me what they needed in any other way) was enough for me to make my own decision on the matter. I viewed it as wrong and still don’t like the philosophy.

As my children near their fifth birthday, the hope for a night of peaceful sleep that doesn’t include Grace’s pokey feet in the small of my back and a heat generating Sophie (gosh, she runs hot) seems like a dream somewhere far away in my future.

I am not complaining, because I actually do enjoy the closeness and the bonding that co-sleeping has given us. I have realized, though, that it is time to change the direction of things and give the girls the freedom to be okay without me in their bed. Whether or not it’s selfish to be giving myself the same freedom is another blog post entirely.

At every point in mothering there comes a time for really big decisions. It’s the reason mothering is such an important job as those decisions are the things that shape and mold children into the people they’ll become.

My girls are not thrilled about the prospect of a night without me (Oh God, two nights!).

It makes me rethink all of those decisions I made so early on.

But part of being a mother is admitting that we have done the best that we could. In fact, I think part of becoming a woman is admitting that our mothers did the best they could, too.

And I have, I think. I’ve done my absolute best.

Tomorrow we are ripping off the band-aid and by Friday when I return new skin will have formed from underneath the cut.

Healing and growth will have happened in spite of itself.

When I see my girls again it will be the beginning of a new chapter.

We’ll be big girls, we three, with a new formed strength to remind us that we can (and will) do whatever needs to be done.

Wish us luck!

XOM.

Big girls taking a big leap.