Thursday, January 30, 2014

Do Not Answer

Dear Telemarketers,

I respect that you have a job to do. Really, I do. I can only imagine it must feel to call people who do not want to hear from you, who are rude, snappy, who hang up on you. I know you have to make a living just like the rest of us. I can't bear to hang up on you, but I also don't have time to talk, and I don't want what you're selling. So, after I politely decline and sweetly ask you to remove me from your call list (which you never do), I add you to my contacts. That's right, I save your number to my phone's memory, like all of the other people who I want to remember by name. Only your name is "Do Not Answer." To date, I have about 35 numbers listed under this contact name. And I see your name every time you call back (how do you think I know that you didn't actually put me on the 'do not call list' as I requested?) It may be cowardly, but it's brilliant and it saves me at least 4 headaches a week. If by some chance you are a new telemarketer who has never called before, don't worry, there's plenty of room for more in the group, so enjoy my voice today, because you'll never hear it again.

Update: Now that I've joined the hordes of owners of newfangled smart phone owners, there's a fancy little feature that quickly allows me to block calls from a certain number. I'm employing this feature and it's pretty effective. Somehow, I miss the daily calls from my good friend "Do Not Answer." And the satisfaction of... you know, not answering. Sigh.   ** If you use a phone without that feature, go ahead, add all the numbers you don't want to receive a call from to your own "Do Not Answer" contact name and get some relief!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dear Bestie

      This is why I love my bestie. This morning, instead of doing my normal deliveries for work (I own a delivery service based business) I was home, moping and surfing the web (half productive- reading dishwasher reviews- ours broke, half destructive- some videos are better left un-watched), managing my foot pain and generally feeling badly about myself for not having participated in dominant culture's rituals of hygienic maintenance when my bestie texted. Cue the sad music as I immediately took this as my opportunity to tell someone just how badly I was feeling. It was dramatic, self-indulgent and in a word, wonderful. And, it was just the little boost I needed to get up and put pants on.
      As with most bestie-communication, a decoder ring is necessary to understand the conversation. The "scraping" refers to an  aspect of my wound care (I think it's a remnant medieval medical care techniques) whereby the podiatrist scrapes out any necrotic flesh from the wound, opening it up a little in the process, in order to ensure proper healing. It's not fun and it is discouraging to feel like you're moving backward instead of forward.
           'Nebuchadnezzars' are House Centipedes (the most hated and terrifying household bug I can think of.)  Nebuchadnezzar was a ruthless Babylonian king, most famous for throwing  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace after they refused to bow down to a big statue he'd made of himself. Yeah, that gem. He was kind of a jerk and pretty imposing, so we call the terrible creepers by his name (unless you are my daughter with a 4-year old accent. Then you call them 'Never-Ka-Nevers!' As is, they should never, ever be anywhere near a 4-year old little girl's room, especially not her underwear drawer. Yes, this happened. Yes, it was traumatic. Yes, she still talks about it in hushed and devastated tones)  - because when they are in the room, you pretty much feel ruled by them.

     So, for moments like these, the times when you want to tell someone, "It's noon and I haven't brushed my teeth and I'm feeling so sorry for myself that I'm imagining being eaten alive by centipedes," for those moments, you need your best friend. Because sometimes, you're just out of your mind... and someone's gotta understand your particular breed of crazy.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Week 4 Poem

This morning the fog was so thick that it was hard to see. The kids thought it was great, I wasn't looking forward to the slow commute to school. When I returned to my desk after a day spent talking with my bestie and and afternoon with my kids, I intended to check Facebook, tidy up some plans for tomorrow, spend a few minutes writing and go to bed. A friend of mine posted a gorgeous picture of the fog and my poetry prompt was also on the topic of fog (an interesting coincidence since the prompts do not come from this region.) So with that, I reflected on the dense fog I saw this morning and the more figurative fogs that can come and go in life.

We left the house
while the fog still hung
thickly overhead.
There wasn't any need
for sight.
We already knew the way.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dear Someday - Weekly Poetry Challenge (mid-week extra)

This poem was written based on a poetry writing prompt that I read. The prompt was "write a poem about someday in the future." It was sort of a futuristic theme but that didn't work for me because somehow I usually feel 1 of 2 things when I think about the future- really hopeful and longing or really melancholy. I went with melancholy and this is what came out. It was written in one quick burst and I haven't edited it but I think I'm happy with it.


I'll be done pining.
I'll be done apologizing.
I'll be done crying.

I'll forget that you were everything
and I
was everything else.

I'll remember that we are all 
made from the same stuff.
The same dirt, the same truth,
the same lies
the same bluffs 
called by the same love.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dear Mom

     I've already talked about how tricky (and by tricky I mean down right exhausting and excruciating at times) to raise a little boy with a quick brain and a sharp tongue. It can lead to frustration when compliance and obedience seem impossible to achieve without a fight,  feelings of defeat when I forget what my goals are and yell or resort to behaving like a vindictive child instead of the parent. I have been embarrassed in public and looked at with something between disdain and pity a few times when I engage in what some perceive as "indulging" my son's need to understand why I want him to do something. We have learned that this little boy's nature is one that challenges authority inherently, values justice and logic above all things. He will fight for the rights of others and for his own rights. These can be amazing attributes in a well-developed adult, but a real doozy to deal with in a boundary-testing little guy who's still figuring out what the world is like.

     Our solution has been to set specific parameters and guidelines for tough situations for him:

1-When it's OK to disobey (If someone asks or even demands that you do something unsafe, unkind or hurtful to you or anyone else, you have every right to say 'no way!'),
2- What is the appropriate way to ask mom or dad or other grownups in charge "why do I have to?" (You may ask 'why?' as you are moving in the direction of obedience OR you may ask if it's OK if we talk about it first- but you may NOT hold your obedience hostage by standing cross-armed until you get a satisfactory reason. You need to trust us.)
3-When immediate obedience, no questions asked, is required. If mom or dad say something is not up for debate right now, you must trust that we have your best interest, safety and well-being in mind and believe that we will help you understand later (the middle of the road is not the time to ask why we have to hurry across!)

     These specifics have been helpful for our little analytic guy, but they don't cover every situation and they don't always take away all sting of an answer that he doesn't understand, doesn't agree with or is simply disappointed by. The grey areas, where I am tempted to simply say "because I said so" can be the toughest. He is smart, he knows what he wants and he doesn't want to be stopped. It is tedious to have conversation after conversation about what feels to me like the same issues, but I am convinced that it's essential to the type of mother I want to be and the type of son I want to raise. I want him to know that his trust is valuable and it is to be given where deserved. I want him to know that his desires matter and that in any relationship he enters into, who he is, what he thinks and feels should always be part of the equation. I want him to know that sometimes, not getting what you want doesn't mean you are unloved and that being angry at someone doesn't mean you don't love them. I want him to know that there is always a chance to turn around, say you're sorry, try again.
     And so, when all of the above tools failed last week and I had to firmly say, "I'm sorry that you don't agree, but I have heard your point of view and I am still choosing to say no for reasons A,B and C" he was angry. Angry enough to say something hurtful. Angry enough to say "I wish I never had parents, just like Huck Finn! That way no one could tell me 'no' all the time!" (note the literary reference in his fit of rage). I took a deep breath, I let myself be hurt, I let him see that he had hurt me and chose to respond kindly and honestly, "That's an unkind thing to say. I think you should think about if that is really true. I love you but I am not happy with how you're responding to my decision and I don't like the way you are treating me. I'm going to go finish my work now, but when you are ready, I think you'll need to ask my forgiveness for those words." He looked sheepish and somewhat embarrassed, but he did not apologize right then. He went to his room to work on some lego project while I went to my office without another word.
     I wondered if I had failed, if I should have punished him for those disrespectful words, if I should have demanded an apology right then and there. I tried to remember my hope for him. I prayed and I waited. That evening, I walked into my room, spent and empty, to find this little note on my bed and I was reminded of the grace that can enter in when we make room in the broken places.

Friday, January 10, 2014

To Who it May Concern (we regret to inform you) Week 3/ Poem 3

This Is Not What It Looks Like

This is not what it looks like
you don't understand
I'm not passing you over, not one who would stand
on your pulse, on your hope
I'm only a man.

This is not what it looks like,
it's just not for you--
some others fit better.
Surely you see, surely it's true.

Come on, be a sport, it's not about you--
don't make it a race thing,
don't start with those words.
This is not about you, you've already heard.

Someone else, I'm sure, will give you a shot
This is not what it looks like,
(but we want a man)
and as you're aware,
clearly, you're not.

Straighter teeth, smaller ass,
tighter arms, tits are fine.
(But you're too brown) it's just not the right time.
No, no, no, not keeping you back,
not pushing you down.
It's just, here, see the line?
I didn't draw it, I didn't decide.
It's not about you, don't choke on your pride

Can we just forget it? It's already done.
Just move on, no big deal.
Trust me on this one-- you've got so much to offer,

But this is not about you, and this is not what it looks like.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Warts and All

On this day, three weeks ago, I had "minor foot surgery." That's what I've been calling it- "minor foot surgery" because that sounds much better than saying "I had a massive colony of warts that was threatening to permanently take over my feet surgically removed ." It wasn't so bad. I'm lying, it was awful. The podiatrist sprayed some freezing solution on my feet (yes feet, there were warts on both feet. It's appropriate to be disgusted right now), stuck a sizable needle into the 'wart family' (as my son likes to say) and once the numbing took effect (about 7 needle jabs later- ouch!!)  burned the warts with a laser. The smell of burning flesh was cringe worthy, but not as bad as the next step. He took these giant cuticle-clipper looking things and began cutting the burnt wart bits out of my foot leaving bloody gaping wholes on my feet. I'm not squeamish and since I could feel nothing, I watched it all with fascination. He then began to shave the skin inside of the wholes, much the way you would raspberry sorbet, and honestly, that's pretty much what it looked like, pink, smooth, creamy foot-flesh. After he bandaged me up, and told me to take it easy for a few days (and by days, he meant weeks- minimizing jerk!) I actually thanked him. Yes, I knew, in theory, when I heard the scraping sound as he "removed all traces of wart tissue from the dermis floor" that it would hurt later, but one cannot exactly prepare for the descent of pain that has been artificially postponed via drugs. It's just so shocking. One minute I'm walking home on feet that I cannot feel, an hour later, "Mother of God, he ripped out parts of my foot!!"

 So, I spent Christmas break hopping and hobbling to the bathroom, sitting at my computer with my feet up, and generally not moving unless it sounded like the kids were seconds from death. My husband, who was also on break, picked up the slack, with only minimal evidence of frustration and was pretty much kind and catering- for three weeks. He's been great about it, but I'm getting pretty sick of myself. You know how people get sick and at first, you're all, "poor baby" and then after a few days you want them to suck it up and get over it. Well, that's how I've been feeling about myself- Come on, buck up! Fake it, till you make it. Be-Aggressive! Be-Be Aggressive! B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E! Except, it's freaking hard to fake it when every step hurts. I have slapped that inner-cheerleader in her face more times that I can count (though I do appreciate how cute she looks in that pleated mini.)

Three weeks after my 'little procedure' I am getting around (with a cane) but am still generally cranky and self pitying. Each morning, my husband wakes up before me, makes breakfast, and gets the kids ready for school. This is great, we are the kind of couple that shares parenting and household responsibilities. But this morning, when I heard my little 4-year-old daughter saying 'happy birthday' to my husband, you'd think something would have registered. You'd think that I would have hobbled out of bed and at least join them at the table to eat the breakfast that he'd prepared. Nope. I thought, "that little girl is a dummy. She doesn't even know when her daddy's birthday is. Ouch, my foot." When my son came in talking about dad's birthday I thought vaguely the same thing. When my husband finally walked back in to the room to get dressed, I asked, "why is everyone talking about your birthday?" in an exasperated tone. It seriously never dawned on me that it might actually be his birthday, It never occurred to me that while on this day 3 weeks ago, a psychopath (ok not really) cut my foot up, on this day 34 years ago, the man who cooks me breakfast and drives hours to pick up my favorite pillow (that I left behind at the cabin we rented with friends), and wipes poopy bottoms (seriously, she's four years old and still refuses to wipe herself) and carries the air-conditioners up 3 flights every summer, was born.

So I guess I can be kind of a jerk sometimes.

hobbling to the store to pick up his favorites for dinner.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dear Non-Spanking Parents

Dear Non-Spanking Parents,

So what do you do when your kid gets a little too big for his or her britches?

Yesterday, my son turned nine. Today, he thinks he's a grown ass man. I love him, so much. He is clever and funny and snugly. He's a great climber and a fantastic imaginer. His mind is sharp and his insights astute- usually these are great attributes, but every once in a while that quick wit turns into a wicked-sharp tongue and he lets his mouth get the better of him. For a little context, he weighs 60lbs (he's like a less than a third of me on a good day) but, we've decided not to use corporal punishment  (though once in a long while an egregious offense will warrant a spanked bottom in our house- not saying whose) so generally, my size doesn't help me in the area of discipline. Nope, we're evolved parents who apparently "know better" than to damage our children with the type of disciplinary actions our parents doled out.

 Just last week my husband and I rented a cabin with friends and after a few mugs of spiked cocoa we all got to talking about what our parents did to us. I divulged the time when my oh-so-brave 17-year old self mouthed off to my mom. For more context, I was about the size I am now and my mom has always been a very little woman, maybe 5'2'' (Don't feel too badly for her, she packs a mean passive aggressive punch.) So as I was verbally disrespecting the woman who labored for 33 hours to bring me into this world (can you tell that my own motherhood has slightly altered my perspective on things?) she threatened, "If you don't shut your mouth I'm going to break it!" I, of course, with my brown lip liner, concussion-tight, high pony-tail and too-fitted RL Polo shirt, was a senior pulling straight A's without trying, had the vocabulary of a 30 year old adjunct professor, and was not afraid of my 5'2'' mother. I know you're cringing, I know.This is where that time machine hot tub would have come in handy (1- to take me back to prevent my 17-year old self from saying what I was about to say and 2- to soothe my butt if I didn't make it in time.)  But, no one did stop me from opening my stupid mouth and saying, (this is now playing back in slow-mo in my mind) ""  I think something must have happened between the time when I saw my tiny mother swing on me and when I came to, looked around and found myself landed on the kitchen floor against the washing machine (yes, our washing machine was in the kitchen- this was a rent-controlled, project apartment in Queens. No, we didn't have a dryer, we just laid our clothes on the radiators until they were crispy and smelled like whatever mom was cooking that day - arroz con pollo: good, bacalao- a pungent salted codfish: bad. You get what you get and you don't get upset.) Something definitely happened in that moment- she put me on notice that, at least for the remaining 9 months until I went off to college to do, whatever the hell it was I ended up doing, I was in her house. Mom's street-cred was reestablished and I knew that if she had to, she could take me out. It didn't fix all of our problems, and arguably, it didn't fix any at all, but, then again, I never tried to talk to her that way again.

So yesterday I heard my mom knit-picking at my son. He was already in a bad mood, for only God knows what reason. I think his 9-year old boy period was starting or something and every little request sent him off into a rant of 'why me?'s. I had asked him to do something, he fussed and I informed him of what the consequence would be. My mother, not satisfied with my lack of guilt tripping and snarky commenting, decided to chime in. The back and forth between the 64 year old and the 9 year old ensued and ended with him storming out of the kitchen. I asked him what was wrong and he literally turned into a character from "The Wire"

The conversation went exactly like this:

Me: What happened in there?
Tiny Boy: It's grandma, she's always getting me upset.
Me: Well, did you try to talk to her about it? You can use kind words to explain how you feel.
(and here's where the change happened- voice deep, scowl on his face, arms splayed in wide fury and invitation of conflict; has he been dipping into my secret stash of movies: Juice, Carlito's Way, New Jack City?)
Tiny Gangster: I don't know why she gotta be all up in my business!
Me: blink
Tiny Gangster: She's always talking trash... (he let his voice trail off, which was scarier than if he had punctuated the statement. Was he planning on making an example of his grandmother in front of all of her senior, nagging friends?)

In the end, I made some firm remarks about how to speak respectfully to and about his grandmother, but I walked away somewhere between stunned and in silent hysterics. This kid is no walk in the park. It was almost as bad as the time he was misbehaving in church and I quietly whispered, in a menacing tone "I would like you to change what you're doing" and he dead-pan responded "I would like to not smell your breath right now."

So, what do you think? Should I post this on one of those sweet parenting/"ask a natural mommy" blogs? No, I didn't think so.

So, I'm thinking I need a new plan, cause no gangster I ever met sat in time out.

At this rate, I fully expect my 4 year old daughter to declare, (with her 4-year old lisp) "snitches get stitches bitches" next time someone tattles on her.

mother of a little-man-on-fire

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Haiku Time - Week 2 Poem(s)

Four Haiku for this cold, cold week

one small, snuffed out life
I held him as he faded
it wasn't enough


I grew this flower
planted it inside of me
the thorns cut me still


O come, o come now
you shouldn't make me wait
torture is no cure


she won't stay this way
this small, this bright, this trusting
my one tragedy

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dear Abuela - Week 1/ Poem One

Dear Abuela

The smell woke me up.
I padded downstairs
one foot still sore from last week's surgery.
The podiatrist said "take it easy"
I thought, "he has no idea"
My mother, my children's grandmother
stands at the stove
stirring a pot of arroz con gandules
but I encounter my own grandmother
long before I see her.
She turns, hands paper thin,
and knobby,
steadily stirring
and offers my 8 year-old lips
a taste.
Bendicion, Abuela
Dios te bendiga

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year, New You, blah blah blah

    Every new year, we challenge ourselves and others to make big resolutions, goals, to become a "new you". Lots of people embrace this tradition, running out to take advantage of gym membership deals, joining dating services, looking for a new job. Others reject the tradition citing the hordes of people who fail or give up within months if not weeks. I understand where the fatalists and skeptics are coming from- I too call bullshit on the elliptical sale at Sears because I know that by March 14 it will be a really weird looking drying rack for my shower curtain (yes, I wash and reuse my shower curtains- don't let the industry fool you, they are machine washable! Save yourself $12.95 people!) But I also love the idea of new beginnings and each year trying to be a little bit more of who you want to be. Spending money to try to become who society says I need to be is ridiculous, but I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So the quest for a worthy New Year's Resolution began.

     This new year, I was challenged (by my, ahem, counselor) to make space for my voice. This was a refreshing challenge (which actually felt more like an invitation than a challenge) compared to the constant "health/fitness/weight-loss challenges" which are really just, well, how can I put this, a shitty interior of self-denigration wrapped in a shitty exterior of societal conformity (chewy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, just shut up and pass me a butterfinger). Seriously though, don't get me wrong, I still plan on continuing to pursue health this year, it's just so freeing to think of it as a more holistic pursuit- one that includes my mind and heart rather than one that just entails me sweating on a mat in yoga class with some 19 year old's crotch in me face NOTE 1: I did catch the typo "me face" instead of "my face" but decided to keep it because if anything makes me feel like a gnarly freaking pirate, it's yoga class with 19 year-olds. NOTE 2: if 19 year old crotches are your thing, wrong blog). So, anyway, this year, in addition to yoga class, I will be making an intentional choice to write more. Maybe one day I'll be a "real writer"( you know, when I grow up) or maybe I'll just learn more about who I am.

My first 'challenge' will be to write one poem each week for the next 6 weeks. This sounds simple enough but I'm already overwhelmed (and excited). Let's see how it goes.