Month: May 2013

Living In A Box

Luke is in a box, but this is a box he put himself in.

My son is in this box, but I am not responsible for how he got in there.

I posted something to Facebook today, an article and linked video clip about Monsanto and GMOs. When I posted it, I was merely doing so because I thought the report was interesting. What happened after I posted it, however, was even more interesting. A friend of mine from grade school responded to it. His response didn’t directly discuss the food issue. Instead, he wrote about the way the news was reported by CNN. I wrote back and said that I was looking to start a conversation about food and not about television journalism. To which he responded with a somewhat longer diatribe, basically accusing me of not wanting to hear anyone’s opinion if it differed from mine. And then I told him that I was interested in others’ opinions and did he care to share his with me or not? I stood there shaking my head because I wasn’t exactly sure how my post had devolved into a partisan issue, but it had and I was disappointed.

The whole conversation got me to thinking about how quick we are to judge each other. I’m just as bad about this as anyone else. We see what we see on Facebook and we assume we know people. We pigeonhole them based on stereotypes they seem to present through their profile. We block ourselves from the idea that there might be more to them than meets the eye. We deny their humanity. We do the same thing with the guy driving the Range Rover who cuts us off in traffic or the mom in the Walmart who is yelling at her kid or the homeless guy holding a sign on the street corner. We know who they are without their even saying a word. We don’t need to know their circumstances or their reasons or their history. All we need to know is what we see. Like an artist working only from a photograph we paint our one-sided portrait of them.

We do this same thing with people we’re close to, people whom we’ve known for years. They exist inside the box we placed them in when we first learned about them. Even though they have grown and experienced and changed over time as we all do, we still want to know them as they were because it’s easier that way. It’s difficult to accept that they have moved and maybe we haven’t made the journey along with them. I don’t know if we do this because we seek the familiar or because we’re too lazy to look deeper. I just know that it happens. In the end, although we look at each other every day, we don’t see each other at all.

The conversation I started about food on Facebook today did enlighten me, just not about food. I’m thinking now about how many boxes I live in, boxes constructed by the people who saw what they wanted to see and closed up the lid without even leaving me air holes so I could breathe. And I’m thinking about how I can take a box cutter and free some of the people whom I’ve trapped. Maybe if I slit open the lid, step back, and pay careful attention I will learn something new about them. And, maybe as with my post today, I will learn something new about myself as well.

In The Grand Scheme Of Things

You can learn a lot from the tiniest of things.

You can learn a lot from the tiniest of things.

I turned 45 years old at exactly 2:12 a.m. today. After a restless night, I was awake quite early this morning as the sun began to rise. I found myself thinking, while the rest of the creatures in my house slept, about how old I thought 45 was when my own mother was 45 and I was a whopping 19 years old. Back then, 45 seemed ancient. At 45 my mother was recently separated and embarking on a new life, one she probably never had expected when she was just 19. Now that I am 45 I can attest that I do not feel as old as the Sphinx. That 19 year old girl still lives inside me. She’s just been roughed up a bit on the outside and the extra 26 years have widened her eyes.

I had a wonderful birthday. Started my day with a 20-mile bike ride that I never would have been able to do 10, or even 20, years ago. Followed that up with hours spent lounging by the pool with my family and good friends. Throughout the day, dozens of well wishes popped onto my Facebook page from friends new and old, each one a little present in itself. For dinner we grilled out and I got to open more gifts than I probably deserve at this advanced age. And, as the day wound down, I headed up to the boys’ room to read to them just as I do every night (for as long as they continue to ask me to).

It was then that I noticed one of our four African Dwarf frogs was not doing well. It was upside down at the top of the frog tank, one of its buddies hanging close to its side helping to keep it up at the top of the tank. I told the boys that he (they’re all named after dwarves from The Hobbit) would not likely survive the night. It was a tough moment that we all knew would come someday. We did not expect it to be today. We purchased these frogs three years ago. Truth be told, they’re more my pets than my sons’. I’ve been the froggy momma. I clean their aquariums, feed them, talk to them. They are my precious charges. Seeing one belly up hit me harder than it should. After all, it’s just a frog, right? Everything has to die. I know this. I’ve been expecting these small amphibians to perish ever since the day I brought them home.

But today, as I celebrate having enjoyed 45 amazing years on this planet, watching a little creature struggle in his final moments was poignant and poetic. I tell my boys all the time that life is death. There cannot be one without the other. It is the one black-and-white truth we are guaranteed. Everything that is alive will at some point die. Nothing and no one escapes. If all goes well, we are wise enough to cherish our moments and lucky enough to have a plethora of them to recall. But it all comes down to this. We come into this world and we leave it. The life of that darling little frog is no less important than mine. It’s as much a part of the grand scheme of things as I am. Its passing on my birthday, as heartbreaking as it is, is simply a reminder that my days are numbered too. I must remember not to squander them. The next 26 years, if I’m granted them, will pass in an instant. Then I will be 71 as my mother is this year and looking back on 45 and wondering where the time went because I still feel that 19 year old girl inside.

High Hopes

The little reason I won't be jumping out of a perfectly good this year.

The little reason I won’t be jumping out of a perfectly good this year.

For my upcoming 45th birthday, I approached my family and told them I would like to skydive. My husband thinks I am crazy. My oldest agrees with his father. My youngest, however, had only this to say: “You can’t.” I am a determined person by nature and when someone tells me I can’t do something it’s tantamount to waving a red flag in front of an already angry bull. Can’t. Ha! Since when does someone 4 feet tall get to tell me what I can and cannot do? Did Willy Wonka take orders from the Oompa Loompas? I think not. In an act of defiance, I started doing research on the best place to skydive from in the area and quickly found one I felt confident about. This morning I approached my youngest again about my intention to exit a perfectly good airplane on purpose. I was hoping to win him over with information about safety ratings.

“Luke, I would like to skydive for my birthday,” I told him again.

“You can’t,” he replied quite matter of factly.

“Actually, I can. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” I replied, hopefully appealing to his inner sense of fairness.

“You can’t,” he simply repeated.

“I can’t this year or I can’t ever?” I questioned.

“You just can’t.”

“When can I?” I queried.

“When I am dead,” came his answer.

“When you are dead?” I laughed. “So that means not in my lifetime, right?

“Yes.”

“Okay. If you’re not giving me permission to do this, at least you can tell me why.”

“I am trying to keep you safe.”

I don’t know why, but hearing that my almost 10 year old son is too worried about me to feel he can tolerate watching me take off in an airplane, reach 12,500 feet, and then fall towards earth at 115 miles per hour made me feel good. It made me feel better than the much needed spa gift certificate I received for Mother’s Day did. Although I am with them day in and day out, I have never before heard such a blatant acknowledgment of my importance to him. I mean, you always kind of just know they love you (it would be a big demotivator to parenting without this type of blind faith) but you don’t often get verbal affirmation of your importance to your little people. As much as it upsets me that I won’t be able to do a jump for my birthday as I had hoped, I can’t see how I would get much satisfaction out of it knowing I’d left my youngest on the ground terrified that he was about to witness my certain death. That would suck the fun right out of it, I think.

Am I giving up my dream of skydiving? Absolutely not. I think I’ll just wait until my 50th birthday. By that time my now reluctant youngest son will be a teenager excited about getting his learner’s permit. After I tell him that he can get it when I’m dead, he might just be willing to push me out of that airplane himself.

Thank God My Son Is A Geek

Sample of a text message I received from my son

Sample text message from my son

The other day I was talking to my sister about Joe and how he’s growing up. I told her that he’s now texting his friends from his iPad. Personally, I find the whole thing reasonably amusing. Joe is not exactly the world’s greatest speller and when he texts me I often have a hard time deciphering what he’s trying to say. I imagine the process is even more difficult for a 5th grader who has less experience with the English language and with Joe’s spelling missteps than I do. My sister is more of a worrier than I am, so her mind immediately went worst-case-scenario on me.

“Who does he text?” she inquired.

“A few of his classmates,” I replied.

“Boys or girls?”

“Some of both, I think.”

“What do they talk about?” she wondered.

“I don’t know,” I answered, surprised at the question.

“Well, don’t you read his texts?”

I have to admit this threw me. Honestly, the thought never occurred to me to infringe upon Joe’s privacy. Maybe it’s naive of me, but I simply don’t see my nearly 12 year old son becoming involved in anything nefarious or sordid via text messaging at this point. First off, he’s barely one step off thinking girls have cooties. Secondly, when Joe texts me he sends me little emoticons of elephants (my favorite animal) and chickens (which he labels as “Kauai Super Chicken). Lastly, he’s the most forthright kid on earth. On the few occasions he’s been dishonest, overcome with self-inflicted, internal, gut-wrenching guilt he has confessed before I even suspected he had lied. And why would I have to read his messages when he tells me what he and his friends talk about all the time?

“No. I don’t read his texts. I have no reason to,” I said confidently, certain that my boy was sweet as seventy pounds of pure cane sugar.

“Well, don’t you want to know what’s going on with him?” she chided.

“Ummm….honestly, no. I don’t really need to read about who has a crush on whom and what episode of My Little Pony has them cracking up.”

“Huh,” my sister replied, somewhat judgmentally. “I’d just want to know more about his life, I guess.”

“Well,” I said, “I guess that I want him to know that we trust him and because I have no reason not to I’m going to let him have some privacy.”

The conversation ended there and we moved onto another subject to avoid a potential argument. But after our call I started to wonder if I was being too idealistic in my approach to Joe’s texting. I mean, I suppose he could be having conversations I might not approve of. He is getting older. They did just have “the talk” at school. He’s a shy, sensitive kid, but those are sometimes the ones you have to watch out for the most. After discussing it with hubby, we decided to take a quick look at the last texts Joe sent. The conversation was with a female classmate and it went exactly like this:

Friend: What are you talking about?

Joe: The realm of gondor

Friend: Ok??

Joe: Middle Earth

Friend: Ok??

Joe: Next to the realm of mordor where mt doom is where the ring was forged

Friend: Is this the lord of the rings?

Joe: Yes. It’s ausome (sic)

Upon reading this little tidbit, I wanted to run to my sister and tell her that I was right. I have nothing to worry about with Joe and his text messaging…at least not yet. He is just a sweet, innocent kid who deserves some trust. But I didn’t do that. Truth is I felt dirty and downright shameful for not sticking with my original instinct. I had been right to trust him in this instance and knowing that I’d violated his right to a private conversation with a friend when I had no cause for suspicion made me feel lower than a downward-facing mole on an express elevator to Hell. (And although I would not hesitate to do some snooping on my son if I did ever suspect something was seriously amiss, I have no plans to make a regular habit out of sticking my nose where it does not belong.) I still feel rotten about it. And that’s certainly not anything to call up my sister and brag about.

If there’s a plus side to this whole experience, though, it’s this…given the substance of this conversation between Joe and a female classmate, I doubt he’s going to be having any unseemly conversations with members of the opposite sex for quite some time. Unless Joe happens upon a preteen girl who obsesses more about The Lord of the Rings, sharks, and Marvel superheroes than she does about make up and the cutest member of One Direction, I likely won’t have to check his texts for at least a few more years.