Month: January 2014

I’m A Ninja Like That

Here Joe eats wild caught tuna from a can to get me off his back about protein.

Here Joe eats wild-caught tuna from a can to get me off his back about protein. I might harp a bit about food occasionally. What mother doesn’t?

Our sons have many predictable rituals in our home. None is more predictable than the two-hour-post-dinner-second-dinner. This annoys the living daylights out of me. I understand they are growing. I understand they are hungry and therefore, like every Labrador retriever I’ve ever known, constantly believe they are starving. And all this would be fine if we were independently wealthy but, alas, we are not. And a year ago, in an attempt to cut processed and genetically modified foods from our diets, I began doing the majority of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. This was not an inexpensive choice, but it was one I felt good about making. At the rate our boys are currently eating, however, we will have to disconnect our cable and wireless Internet and drop our iPhone plans to support the sudden bump in our Whole Foods habit.

Tonight, two hours post dinner as per protocol, Joe came downstairs and asked if he could consume the last of the chocolate ice cream in the freezer. He’d already had dinner and dessert, so this would technically be his second dessert. I balked.

“What fruits and vegetables have you had today?” I asked.

“I had that chicken soup for lunch,” came the reply.

He was referring to some of the homemade chicken soup I make for him each week for his school lunches. He enjoys it, and it’s a labor of loving creating a whole food lunch to infuse some measurable nutrition into my son’s diet. Sometimes I put kale in it. Sometimes I toss some edamame in there. It is always full of vegetables. It is always organic. So I had to give him some credit for that meal.

Sensing I was not quite fully satisfied with his answer, he quickly added, “I had a mandarin orange too.”

“Well….that’s probably about half the fruits and vegetables you should have eaten today,” I said. “You would need more of that before you would be eligible for more of dessert.”

In our family, dessert is not an issue. They are allowed dessert every night because they are blessed with skinny genes. Caloric intake is not a concern for our boys who are only in the 10th percentile for height and weight. Nutrition, however,  is a constant struggle. It’s hard to get them enough calories in healthy foods to keep them growing. They require more nutrition than they have traditionally been willing to ingest. We have to sneak it in through negotiations. So off he went to the kitchen in search of some additional nutrition to appease his demanding mother. Hubby and I went back to watching our Netflix movie.

Eventually, the banging noises coming from the kitchen got my curiosity.

“What did you find?” I asked, fully aware of the current Mother Hubbard condition of our cupboards.

He held aloft for my approval a now empty package of organic, chopped, frozen spinach, which he’d dropped into a ceramic bowl for heating. Interesting, I thought. Although I had bought that frozen spinach specifically for inclusion in one of my green smoothies, I decided that now was not the time to complain about his eating my food. I’d sent him in there to forage for something healthy, and he’d found it. Best not to bicker when your child listens to you and chooses spinach for his evening snack. And he did consume the entire 10 ounce package. Without butter or salt or any enhancement whatsoever. God bless him. I’d managed to sneak two additional servings of vegetables into our nearly teenage son’s day without so much as an eye roll or grunt from either one of us. Yep. I’m a ninja like that.

Of course, he still got his second dessert. It was chocolate ice cream. There are some forces of nature that even a ninja warrior can’t fight.

Note To Self: It’s Not About You

Truth.

Truth.

It’s not about you.

I tell my sons this all the time. Trust me. They are sick of hearing it. But it’s a mantra I hope they will embrace sooner than I did because this simple statement is life altering. Although we humans are hard-wired to be egocentric (and our current social media epidemic does little to abate this situation), our self-obsession causes us the greatest amount of emotional stress. There are times when you need to be self-centered…like when you’re in a throng of people and in danger of being crushed to death, for example. Then it’s probably a good idea to be proactive about your survival. Most of the time, however, our unwillingness to recognize how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of planet earth and its long history entangles us in self-doubt, worry, anger, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and sadness. Acknowledging that the world doesn’t revolve around you can be liberating.

It’s not about you.

I’ve been struggling with some personal revelations, dark things that I had buried so I didn’t have to deal with them. As these thoughts have risen to the surface through a fissure that recently appeared, I’ve suffered emotionally. This is what I was hoping to avoid with the whole stuffing process in the first place. But now that these thoughts are in the forefront of my mind and I’m feeling the negative effects of their presence, I have a choice to make. I can become angry or upset about what my ego perceives as slights, injustices, and infractions, or I can accept that none of what I’m blowing out of proportion is about me at all. It never was.

It’s not about you.

When someone else says, “It’s not about you,” well…it really isn’t. It’s about them. You just feel it’s about you. But that feeling is a choice. We choose to feel hurt, betrayed, belittled, and injured. It’s a mental decision we make. We could just as easily say, “It’s not about me? Well, that’s a relief. I wish you luck wherever you land,” and move on. We’d be much happier if we could accept that most times others’ seemingly negative comments or actions have more to do with them than they do with us. They’re hurting, lost, searching, damaged, or antsy. They need a change. They’re insecure. They’re frightened. They’re simply not able to be open and give. We can’t help them in their struggle because their struggle is not about us and their journey is not ours. They’re doing us a favor by picking up their bags and moving on. We need to let go and take a step forward.

It’s not about you.

At the end of the day, we create and hang onto more than is necessary in this life. We do this because we’re not conscious that we have another choice. We absorb others’ negativity instead of accepting that it’s not about us. We don’t have to own someone else’s snarky comments. We can acknowledge them and let them go. It is possible. I’ve been storing junk that doesn’t serve me. I’m sorting through it now, determining what positive information I can glean from it and use to make myself a better me, and hitting the delete button on the snark because it’s simply not helpful. It’s a daunting task, but I suspect it will be worth it. My next step will be to move away from taking everything personally in the first place and to venture toward keeping things in perspective so I don’t have to go through this process again somewhere down the road. Life has given me as much luggage as I can handle. It’s time to leave others’ bags with them and move on with a lighter load because what really is all about me is my attitude. That’s all I’ve got, so I’d best make it a good one.

Trampolines, Swim Fins, and Half of a Roasted Pig

Hawaii on the brain

Hawaii on the brain

I am jumping on a large trampoline in a spacious, overgrown backyard. There are at least seven of us jumping simultaneously as a breeze rustles the palm fronds overhead. It’s sunny, warm, and peaceful. I am where I belong. A friend suggests we go shoe shopping. “I love shoes,” I think, so I am all over this change in plans. We hop off the trampoline and begin walking down a city street to the store. Along the way I am discussing what I should spend my shoe budget on…casual flip flops or a pair of statement heels. I know I don’t really need shoes because I’m in Hawaii, and barefoot is as good as anything in Hawaii but I am excited to shop just the same. As we walk along, I glance down at my friends’ feet. They are all wearing shoes. I am the only one who is barefoot. Apparently this trip is all about me.

When we get to the store and begin looking around, I can’t find a pair of shoes I like. I’m not entirely sure how it’s possible to be in a shoe store and not have anything pique my interest. Something is distinctly wrong. Finally my eyes land upon a pair of Mary-Jane-style, black Crocs. With considerable chagrin I note that these are the most suitable pair of shoes in the entire store. “I am not buying Crocs,” I think to myself, brows furrowed in frustration. Resignedly I lie down on the floor and fall asleep on my stomach, head on my arms, still without shoes but at least no longer concerned about my shoeless state.

I wake up when I come to the awkward realization that someone is rubbing my back. What the hell? Who is rubbing my back and why? “Personal space, personal space,” my mind screams. I look behind me and see an old friend of mine. I haven’t seen him since college. I’d forgotten he lived in Hawaii. He hasn’t aged.

“Your lower back is really messed up,” he tells me. “See this, here? This is not right,” he says, pointing to a couple of vertebrae that are obviously protruding where they should not be. His concern is palpable. “What have you been doing?” he asks.

“Jumping on a trampoline,” I reply.

“Well, I’ve got to get you to my chiropractor,” he says. “This is serious.”

He shoves an oxygen mask on my face, and as I choke on the unsolicited gas I note that it’s not oxygen because my alert-level changes and I go to some sort of happy place only achievable with something reality-warping like nitrous oxide.

When I come out of my haze, I am walking through a casino with my friend. People all around are gambling. It’s noisy, packed, and chaotic. I feel under dressed. I hear an odd noise I can’t place. Panicked, I check my feet. Gratefully, I am no longer shoeless. Instead, I am wearing a pair of white swim fins and my feet are making a flapping sound as I proceed down the marble walkway in the center of the casino. No one seems to notice my fashion foible, so I press on. My friend points me down a side hallway to a door.

“His office is in there,” he says. “He’ll fix you right up.”

I waddle my way down the hallway, picking up my finned feet as I go. When I get there, there is a kind-faced man who appears to be from India. In heavily accented, proper British English he tells me they have been waiting for me. My eyes adjust to the darkened room before me. It is filled with wooden boards. On each wooden board rests an Indian man, eyes closed. The doctor ushers me to an empty board.

“This spot is for you. Lie on your back. Face the ceiling,” he instructs.

I can’t figure out what is going on, but I don’t see any other option so I comply. The room around me begins to vibrate with the chants of fellow patients. Various meditations fill the room. I remain silent, letting myself be surrounded with the peace and goodwill. I am swallowed by the moment and fade into another mental plane.

After a while, I no longer hear chanting. I hear casual conversation, dishes being clanked together, and the smell of Indian food reminds me I have not eaten in a while. I open my eyes and notice that everyone else is awake. I am the last to join them. I am in the middle of a reception in the doctor’s office. There are trays of Indian curries and naan bread. The men are all eating with their fingers and conversing quietly. The doctor approaches with half of a roasted pig, one that has been twirled on a spit and slow cooked. “It’s a half of a pig,” I remark to myself. It was sawed down the center and is now presented to me as a snack.

“Here,” he says. “Eat something.”

I take the half pig from him. It is still warm and heavy, but not so heavy I can’t hold it without a struggle. I can see hair on its body. Its snout is tanned and rubbery. I stare into the half face of the pig. It stares back at me with one eye. The doctor waits by my side, rocking back and forth, expectantly. As I try to ascertain the best way to partake of this offering, other people begin pulling off bits of pig flesh and eating them. I wonder to myself if they are getting pig hair in their mouths. I look at the pig again. It blinks at me with its one eye. It’s still alive. I am astonished. How is that possible? It seems pretty awkward to take a bite of something that’s halfway watching me. I’m uncomfortable with the idea.

“I’m sorry,” I tell the pig as I grab a loosened part of its tender underbelly and tear it away. It blinks again to let me know it’s all good. He understands. I put the food into my mouth.

The alarm clock goes off.

Now…I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “This gal must live in Denver.” And you’re right. I do live in Denver where pot is now legal and readily available for home consumption and where all kinds of spaced out, random mental experiences are possible. But that’s not what this story is about. This is a story about what happens to me when I have curry for lunch and spicy Italian food for dinner. Although, now that you’ve brought it up, I wonder what my brain might come up with if I relaxed a little and ate an altered brownie? I suppose that’s another blog entirely.

I’m fascinated by what our brains come up with while we’re sleeping, perhaps as they try to work out and file away the everyday occurrences of our conscious lives. I’ve been marveling all day at how my brain reintroduced an old college friend whose last name is Bacon into a dream where I encounter an awkward situation with a cooked pig. Coincidence? I think not.

 

 

Crushing The Hulk

Mental peace = sunrise on Kauai

Mental peace = sunrise on Kauai

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately engaged in what has become a regular pastime of mine…pondering the unanswerable questions of life. Rather than being consumed by the everyday worries provided 24/7 via the cable news networks, I exercise my brain by contemplating topics like the potential for achieving emotional peace whilst circumnavigating the vast ocean of fluid interpersonal relationships. Is there a meaning of life? Is there a Hell? Are humans doomed to repeat their mistakes? Will there ever be another television program as brilliant as Breaking Bad? (Okay. Maybe not that last one, but it does deserve an answer.) While some friends find my need for intellectual exercise exhausting, as an introvert I rather enjoy my armchair philosophy. There’s something comforting in asking questions that cannot be answered. At least you’re certain your suppositions can’t be proven wrong.

Yesterday while my mind was entrenched in the question of whether a person can have true compassion for a friend without taking on any emotional burden of said friend, Joe came racing in from the cold to interrupt my mental machinations. He’d been outside sledding and wanted to share something with his brother who had been resigned to inside play after I’d discovered that his second-hand snow boots were falling apart (literally, the heel of the boot was flapping when he walked and he’d failed to mention this little tidbit to me for a week).

“Luke, you’ve got to come outside and sled!” he implored.

“I can’t, Joe,” came the disappointed reply. “My boots are broken and the insides are all wet. It’s too cold.”

“Okay. But we’re out there running over the Hulk with our sleds. We’re trying to destroy him,” Joe explained before beating a hasty retreat back to the sledding hill lest he miss any additional opportunities for destruction. Poor, plastic Hulk. He didn’t stand a chance against four preteen boys hell-bent on mowing him down in freezing temps.

Luke sat quietly for a minute or two and then he ran upstairs. He reappeared shortly wearing long underwear, fresh wool socks, and a hat with ear flaps. He ran to grab his snow pants. When he came back in, he began his verbal campaign as he continued dressing.

“I have to go back out, Mom. I don’t care if my feet get cold. They’re sledding…over the Hulk. How often do you even get that opportunity? It’s epic!”

I didn’t see how I could argue with this logic. He was right. You don’t get many opportunities to team up to destroy the Hulk, even if he is just a small, plastic shell of the big, green guy. Philosopher though I am, I understand the occasional sense of urgency to let go of the mantle of deep thought, logic, and rational behavior to seize an epic opportunity, warm feet be damned. Yes. My mind may be old and grown up, perpetually stymied by life’s deeper questions, but I’m still young enough to appreciate that sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and crush the Hulk.

No matter what the bigger answers are, every day my children remind me what it truly means to live.

Downhill Battle

Joe is smiling because he’s enjoying his ski day. I’m smiling because things are finally falling into place. Hallelujah!

Eight years. It took us eight years to get our oldest son to spend a day downhill skiing and walk away from it saying he was excited to do it again. I’m not sure what it was that made today the day that everything changed. It was quite cold, downright blizzard-like at times, and he’d spent eight years crafting excuses and explanations about why he despised the sport his father and I love. Seemed to me like a perfect day for him to continue his protestations against a sport he’d never even given a chance. Perhaps he simply got sick of fighting with us about it and realized that after eight years of dogged determination on our parts he was never going to win this battle. No matter. Today was the day everything changed. That’s all I need to know.

“Life rarely gives us what we want at the moment we consider appropriate.” -EM Forster

I think about this quote (from one of my favorite authors) quite often. So many things in my life haven’t gone according to my appointed schedule. Oddly enough, the Universe does not seem to give a pink patootie about my carefully laid plans. For each time things have gone awry, though, I’ve become a bit wiser. I’ve learned that what’s meant to be will be when the time is right. And about that timing? Well…that’s not up to me, nor is it my job to understand why things happen the way they do. My job is to accept that I have only a modicum of control over anything in my world. Sometimes even something simple, like what to have for lunch, is foiled by a random microwave failure or a too-hot slice of pizza that falls from my hands and lands cheese side down. True story.

Now, I suspected that my son would eventually learn to enjoy downhill skiing. The majority of children who learn to ski end up enjoying it. That part is a no-brainer. As for the timing? Well…it took a little longer than I hoped (eight freaking years longer), but I’m becoming hopeful that we might become an entire family of downhill skiers at some point. It could happen.

Sometimes you just have to back off your expectations and give time some time to work. Thinking you have control over anything, especially your children, is a huge mistake. The Universe conspires to ensure things go directly downhill the minute you think you’ve got it all in place and nailed down. But, if you patiently allow time unfold, let go of your demands, and have faith, at some point in your future the stars might align and what you want and what is will become the same and all will be right in your world…at least for a moment. Then your job is to notice it and enjoy it while it lasts.

The Upside of Upchuck

The reason I'm mellowing...these kids have both puked on me.

These cute kids have both puked on me.

There are some good things about getting older, particularly if that getting older occurs along with parenthood. In my advancing years, for example, I’ve discovered that I have quite a bit more perspective now than I had in my 30s before I had children. My Type-A, uptight self has been given many opportunities to learn not to sweat the small stuff. I mean, there’s a lot of perspective to gain when you’ve spent hours agonizing over the perfect outfit to wear to an anniversary party at an upscale restaurant only to have your six-year-old vomit on you in the car just as you pull into the parking lot. That’s the universe’s way of telling you to relax a little and stop fussing over things that don’t matter. The universe has been working overtime to correct my anal-retentive tendencies. My mother told me once that if you pray for something, it’s not given to you. Instead you’re provided the opportunity to earn it. My life is proof that her belief is true.

Tomorrow we’re taking the boys up for the first of five ski lessons we’ve enrolled them in. I’m a little anxious because they’re not as excited about it as we are. For most of my life, I’ve been a Nervous Nelly before a new experience. Once, in college, I drank two shots of vodka before going out for Thai food with a date because I’d never been to a Thai restaurant before and there were so many unknowns I was petrified. (A therapist would make a fortune off of me. I know this.) As I’ve gotten older and lived for years with unpredictable children, though, I’ve found a coping mechanism that won’t end in alcoholism. I play the Worst-Case-Scenario game. For example, take our skiing day tomorrow. There are dozens of things that could go wrong. We could get stuck in a snowstorm. We could forget our skis. A kid could drop one glove off a ski lift. We could arrive late and miss the lessons altogether. One of us could tear an ACL. It’s all possible, but it’s not likely. I’ve learned that worrying about the “what ifs” is a colossal waste of time. If we forget our skis, we’ll rent them. If the drive is horrific, we’ll turn around and head home. If one of us tears an ACL, well….that would suck, but it wouldn’t end the world as we know it. The more I’ve realized how unlikely it is that we’ll reach Death Con 5, the less I trouble myself over the small stuff. Gradually, my Threat Level Red decreased to Orange and now at last to Yellow. I’m making progress. I doubt I’ll ever see Green, but you gotta have goals and green is my favorite color.

No matter what happens with our planned ski adventure tomorrow, I know it will all work out one way or another.  I’m grateful that the universe found a way to offer me practice in the things I need. I once thought I did not want to be a parent. The universe knew better. Now I have two boys who are providing me with a great deal of perspective. Because of them, I’m less of an uptight loon than I used to be. I try new foods (without requiring vodka courage). I visit foreign countries. I’m interested in experiencing new things. And I don’t even lose sleep over any of it. It’s incredible how having a little person vomit on you can change you forever.

Casual Conversations Between A Shark And Justin Bieber

Everything you can imagine is real. ~ Pablo Picasso

A shark talking to Justin Bieber on the phone...imagine the conversation.

Justin Bieber on the phone with a shark in the back seat. Think Justin could turn the shark into a Belieber? I doubt it.

Today we took the boys to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I won’t ruin the movie for you if you’ve somehow managed to escape the myriad trailers this holiday season, but I will warn you that it may make you want to travel. After the film on our way home, our boys who, like Walter Mitty, have very active imaginations, began having crazy phone conversations in the back seat of our car using some old telephone handsets they found in the cargo area. I was only half listening while talking about the film with my husband, but at one point I believe Joe was a shark and Luke was Justin Bieber. I love my sons’ imaginations, and it’s in precisely those moments that I deeply appreciate our left-brain dominant boys and their non-stop creativity. The other night we were discussing what life might be like if we had to exist in the present with Tyrannosaurus Rex looking into our second story windows as we were getting ready for bed. Adults never have conversations like this. It’s a shame too because it would make dinner party conversations far more interesting and it would keep us from bickering about politics and religion.

Thinking about Walter Mitty and his daydreams I keep coming back to one thing. Creativity and imagination are far too underrated in this world. You have to dream it before you can do it. Someone imagined flying before the Wright Brothers actually flew and someone envisioned walking on the moon before Neil Armstrong ever did it. American society praises innovation and creativity as if we were the first upright beings to employ them. One look at our schools today, though, and you see that we talk a good game but we don’t play it. There is little room for imagination, creativity, and out-of-the-box thought at our public schools, which are instead consumed by standardized tests meant to make sure all kids measure up to the same rubric like faceless automatons. We’ve somehow determined that this is the best way to get ahead in the world, by engineering our future generations to a measurable standard. It’s sad, really. The kids who think differently are passed along because no one wants to deal with them. Their skills are undervalued and lost. We are systematically eradicating they very things that make us uniquely human…artistry, creativity, and independent thought. We squash imagination in the name of forward progress, but imagination is the one thing that allows progress in the first place.

My dyslexic kids might not fit into traditional schools because they think differently than other kids, but because of them I see possibilities. I see life and the world differently than I used to. I think “why not” instead of “we can’t.” And, maybe it’s crazy, but I sure would like to see that conversation between Justin Bieber and a great white shark realized. Somehow I think that could only make the world a better place.