The Beauty of Soul

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It moves like air.

Like water it flows.

With grace and passion,

It’s the beauty of soul.

The truth doesn’t speak.

By being, it breathes.

The light holds the meaning

Of the lives that we lead.

The spirit flies free,

Unburdened by time or by space.

Thoughts, settled, extinguished,

The crossroads of ego and grace.

This joining, elusive.

Truth ensnares in our mind.

A glass-shattered story

More distorted with time.

And with each passing day,

It buries what’s mine.

Still, the rubble, beneath

Is faint, but it shines.

A beacon, ever so dimly,

A glint, but a glow.

From dull, dusty darkness,

Feel the beauty of soul.

The soul tells the story,

The core of what’s real.

It silently speaks,

And, with grace, is revealed.

The stories, love letters,

A heart in your hands.

Mind and body, both fleeting

The spirit withstands.

Hope

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Where are you going, spirit girl?

Across the world, your dreams uncurl

To chase the wind, unmarked, unbound

Mind’s eye free from shadows found

Not yet seen, my child, but soon

Until then, look beyond the moon

Help you, help us, to thrive, young girl

To live, unbridled, in this world

So many lessons still unlearned

Your empty slate, a gift in turn

We steer a ship whose fate is set

No key unlocks its’ mystery yet

Secrets, guarded by the tribe

No one really sure but why

To protect, an instinct. To hope, pure

The child can right this journey sure

The answers, hidden, deep within

A puzzle. A mystery. A collective sin.

Sweet child, you must unlock these gates

Help you, help us, defy our fate

This prayer, young girl, that pure remain

To nurture flames. To stake your claim.

A Parent’s Promise…

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Someday, you will understand.

Someday, I will give you all of these essays so you can see your lives through my eyes.  Someday, when you are old enough to have your own children, you can read my words and know me differently than you know me now.

You’ll understand why I acted in certain ways – or failed to act – when you thought at the time I perhaps did not notice, or care.

I do hope that, someday, you will understand.  Perspective changes everything.

Lately, I’ve been watching both of you try new things. Sometimes you soar, and sometimes you struggle.  Your internal debate is evident in your body language. I watch you will yourself to carry on despite being tempted to quit.  Sometimes, I can actually see the light flickering off in your eyes.

Until you have children of your own, you will never understand how hard it is to be a silent bystander.

Standing outwardly stoic as you, my child, struggle and suffer is a special kind of cruel torture, designed especially for parents.  Every ounce of my being wants to protect you from hurt.

You may wonder why I don’t rush to your side when you suffer a setback.  Don’t mistake my apparent indifference as a lack of guidance.

Parenting is a composition of words and actions, often seemingly callously-calculated to leave you out on a limb…to figure things out for yourself.

But, perspective is a funny thing; someday, you may come to understand that I was your puppet master all along.  I never left your side.

Until that day, you’ll think I am hard on you.

I make you see through the things you love before you fall out of love with them out of frustration.  And, I set high expectations for focus and meticulousness during homework time because you struggle in those areas and I know that hard work and determination can compensate for almost any obstacle.

Although giving up may seem easier, that route will turn on you in the long run.  It will trap you in a fortress of self-doubt, stunt you from living a successful and joyous life, and implicitly give credence to unfounded low expectations and unflattering caricatures.

So, I will instruct you to carry on, work hard, and never forget what you love about what you do, play and learn.

Someday, this will assure you that anything you put your mind to is possible, and will arm you with a quiet confidence that can be rattled but never destroyed.  It will open otherwise locked doors and prevent you from being a victim of individuals or circumstances.  It will become an insurance policy that can never be canceled.

As is the way in life, people will make quick assumptions based more on what you are rather than who you are.

When I was a young adult, my own stubbornness and determination fueled my will to succeed in the face of similar doubts.  What I often lacked in ability, I made up for with single-minded focus, determination, and tenacious hard work.  After a while, I proved to myself my own worth and eventually silenced the biggest critic of all.  That is something naysayers, gossips and the most challenging of circumstances can never steal away.

And so, this life lesson is being passed on to you.

You don’t have to be the best, but if you are your best, you will play on.  And the possibilities will be endless.

This, I promise you.

Confessions of a Closet Hoverer

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Closet hovering: the act of pretending not to be a “helicopter parent,” when, in fact, you expend almost all of your mental energy blocking the instinctual urge to interfere.  Or obsess. Like a director of your very own movie, relentless fretting and over-analyzing plays out, with some scenes in excruciating detail…but only in your mind.

I’m a classic closet hoverer.  I’m not sure if that’s a big secret.  In fact, I suspect few will be surprised.

Every “what if” and worst case scenario brews in an almost-constant whirl within my crazy mind. It’s a parallel plane of make-believe parenting that I keep neatly, and expertly, tucked away from public observation.  Or, at least I try.

Parenting is hard work.  And so is fake parenting.

Fortunately, sanity usually saves me from myself and keeps my neurosis stuffed deep within.  I’d like to think I am a master at keeping this at bay.  At least, I try like mad to fake parental calm and coolness for the benefit of my kids.

Every urge to inappropriately interfere or show the breadth of my worry is valiantly resisted as I watch them fall and get up again, over and over and over.

This, however, all at the expense of quietly giving myself a nervous breakdown.

If I had any censor whatsoever, I’m sure I would pull this off to perfection and the only casualty would be me.

But, unfortunately for a select few of my “lucky” friends, I can’t keep my “crazy” to myself for long before bursting.

It’s usually only a matter of time before someone is cornered and I sing like a canary about every single scenario, and over-analyze and troubleshoot every appropriate anticipated parental response.

They so enjoy my company.  I actually do make a great friend – just don’t invite me to a party.

Somewhere along the lines of “normal” levels of motherhood worry, there is a black hole of anxiety that tempts even the coolest of parents.  This hole doesn’t represent the natural interventions that inevitably arise, but, rather, the resulting worrying that goes along with it.  It represents the dark side.

The black hole calls for you to over-obsess about even those very real issues – and some imagined, far-fetched potential scenarios.  Resist the call.  If you jump in, you’ll quickly find that the spiraling array of potential “what ifs” and if…thens” is endless – and useless.

I unwittingly jumped sometime after my oldest entered the land of school-aged living and I learned that everything I thought I knew and could predict about his school experiences was…wrong.  Left with an appalling, and surprising, absence of total control over his well-being, was something that this control freak just couldn’t handle.

At some point I made the deal with the devil.  The tempting taunts to play out each issue in a thousand sub- parts, prepare for all potential outcomes – and, thereby, regain some measure of control – became too overpowering to resist.

But, rather than helping to deal with every scenario, that black hole of worry ruthlessly ushered my inner thoughts into the land of out-of-control.

The tricky part here became trying like mad to present the appearance that my anti-hovering ways were simply a natural extension of my “authentic” ultra-calm and cool persona.  It is doubtful that I have ever actually pulled this off.

My penchant for worrying goes way back.  In fact, “worry” is a pose I have perfected over the years, as evidenced by the deep wrinkle between my eyes, a “worry line” that began forming when I was just a kid.  My specialty, worrying about others.

Perhaps I never had a chance against that darn black hole after all.

And, though I haven’t found my way out yet, I’ll be damned if I stop trying.   It’s only a matter of time – that calm and cool mom is in there somewhere, just waiting to get out.

Hop on Board the Crazy Train

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I’m pretty sure I hit a new all-time low the other morning when I almost called the police to help me find my “missing” five year old, only to take another look in his bedroom and find him skillfully hiding behind a clump of well-placed bedding.  My phone with the police number already typed onto the dial pad was in my hand.

Imagine having to explain my incompetence to police officers, some of whom I see at court, my work, often enough to regularly relive my embarrassment – forever remembered as the one who called 911 to have the police play hide-and-seek with my wayward son.

I like to think my boys are – at heart – just active, curious, and energetic…rowdy and rambunctious, but not naughty.

But recently, those sweet little hooligans have taken it too far. The pendulum swung in their direction and they started taking control.  It happened slowly, almost imperceptibly, before my eyes.

Mostly, they were operating as a criminal enterprise, covering up for each other, holding secret meetings filled with whispers and scheming, and leaving a stream of mischief in their wake.  Mostly, it was silly shenanigans like indoor water gun battles, constant hockey fights, and covertly playing the DS and I-Pod which had been taken from them as punishments.

But, Billy’s latest stunt stunned me out of complacency.  There was no ignoring it anymore.  We had to reel them in.

What shocked me most about it was that my sweet baby boy was so brazen.  He heard my and Eddie’s desperate voices calling him from inside and outside the house at 6:45 a.m., yet he never emerged from his spot.

When I finally found him behind his castle of blankets, he was boldly unflinching.  Jaw set, chin jutted, only his eyes betrayed his fear.

He knew this time he was in huge trouble.  With an equal amount of relief and rage, I carried on and on.  Billy heard the wrath of a mom wronged.

A very weepy boy made his way – late – to daycare.  I spent my commute wondering how his latest morning revolt could have ended so badly, and spent the day silently berating myself for not being able to parent with grace.

Kids have a way of reminding us of our shortcomings.  It’s easy to get caught in a web of self-doubt when things go awry.

But, that’s the rub of parenthood.  Because we are raising little individuals and not robots, sometimes things don’t go according to the best laid plans.

Kids live at the junction of human nature and human nurture.  They’re governed half by impulses, and half by parents.  Our task: to squash the bad impulses, guide them toward the right decisions, and avoid losing our sanity in the process.

All of this feels a lot like being the conductor of a runaway train, navigating twists and turns at relentless speeds, all the while trying to prevent a crash.  Our very own version of a crazy train.

Still, although robots would be a lot easier to control, robots wouldn’t be as much fun and every day wouldn’t be filled with love.

And, though I’m doubtful I will ever look back and laugh at Billy’s latest escapade, someday it might make me smile…maybe.

But, please don’t tell Billy that.  He’s being punished for all of eternity.  Or, at least until he’s twenty-five.

Great Mom, Usually

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I’m banking on the fact that my indulgent, but unabashedly honest, temper tantrum  last night in front of my son and husband, while disgusting, is at least understandable.  And, I’m banking on the fact that my follow up performance from this Mother’s Day morning is the sign of a healthy, though perhaps slightly dysfunctional, mom.

I wince when I think of my crestfallen son’s little face as he watched me carry on last night, wailing about when I’d get the chance to sit on the couch and zone out for a mental break.

The details are fuzzy, but I do recall my tantrum involved some stomping and over-exaggerated slamming of various kitchen items, as I sighed through the evening clean up and bedtime routine.  There may have been some yelling too – and possibly an overly-dramatic proclamation to the effect that perhaps in 18 years I might be able to sit on the couch and watch a television program and finally –finally – rest my mind.

All this nonsense performed much to the horror of my sweet little seven old.

It wasn’t my finest moment, certainly not something to wail on and on about in front of my children.  The truth be told, Billy could have cared less, too engaged in his five year old shenanigans to worry over some “minor” family discourse.  But Eddie, my sweet, faithful pal, was another story.

And, on the night before Mother’s Day, the very day when the stars annually align and all the men and children in your life revere you, kowtowing to your every whim…theoretically, at least.

So, I guess I’m also hoping  that it’s not so horrible if I followed last night’s performance this morning with a cleverly-executed plan to plop the boys in front of the television for a movie and shutter myself in my bedroom for a café mocha and writing time on my far-too-often neglected blog.

While other moms were likely out brunching with their families, I, instead, choose to put my headphones on full blast, loud enough to drown out Emilio Estevez yelling at his Mighty Ducks, and the occasional scream match my boys seemed to resurrect every couple of minutes.

The truth is, the break was long overdue, and, unfortunately, the meltdown too.

My world rises and falls around my family.  If I do one meaningful thing in my life, I hope it is to raise happy, well-adjusted boys who grow up as loving, respectful and functioning members of society.  If so, I will have done my job here on earth.  It’s a simple truth.

Still, with the chaos and general busyness of life – and despite loving every moment with my boys – I have craved a break for quite some time, a break I rarely take – even when I have the opportunity.

Most moms can relate; it’s the mother-balance conundrum.

So, when you look at the bigger picture, this behavior – even the occasional and inappropriate meltdown  – are normal, perhaps even dysfunctionally healthy.  Possibly, the only thing healthier would be to actually take more breaks when those occasional opportunities arise in the first place.  Surely, it’s something to strive towards.

In the meantime, these few  moments of selfishness are a lifeboat meant to maintain any semblance of sanity.  Better yet, perhaps they are not even selfish at all.  Moms, after all, are notorious for actually being too selfless.

Best mom ever? Maybe not.  But, that’s okay.  I’ll settle for great mom, usually.

In My Defense, I Can Only Get Better From Here

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Nothing – nothing – is more humbling than needing the teacher and administrators to triage your second grader for you at 7:30 a.m. because you are too out-of-touch to figure out for yourself whether he is, in fact, sick or just playing you like a fiddle.

The fact that the “triage” lasted less than five minutes before our informal committee determined Eddie was too sick to be in school, and that my little preschooler, Billy, also started getting sick with this today, is perhaps even slightly more humbling…if that’s possible.  I’m pretty certain I may never be able to shake the reputation at school that I’m sure I’ve earned from my latest escapade.

But, in my defense, my son did somehow manage to break the thermometer in half with his teeth while I took his temp at 6:30 a.m., prompting a panicked call to poison control to verify that mercury is not in the model of thermometer I used.   And, in my defense, despite his sobbing that he was too sick for school, his flair for drama and penchant for pulling one over on me is legendary within our household. How could I know for sure?  Add to that, my preschooler’s knack for jumping in with his own tantrum, which he decided to do this morning, simply to best his brother’s meltdown.  If Eddie is the devious puppet master, my charming mastermind, then Billy is his devilish enforcer, and they both expertly execute their roles. It was 30+ minutes of mayhem, and when I finally got us all in the car, my head was pounding and I was already spent.  And, although the well-being of my kids is always first priority, the ticking of the clock kept reminding me that every minute of meltdown at the house was one minute more I would be late for work.

So, yes, by the time I lugged the two boys to school on this freezing morning, I was, a bit, frazzled.

Perhaps the triage was my lowest point of a pretty low-grade day.  But, truthfully, it’s a pretty close call.

The moment when I dragged my little guys to work with me, seeking a childcare solution while they trudged alongside obviously craving the comforts of home, doesn’t elicit a feeling of pride either.  Perhaps the lowest point was actually facing the shame of my earlier decision to steal my kids’ treasured bag of change to use for the parking meters.  I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when they caught me red-handed digging through it for meter money.

Or, earlier in the morning after the thermometer “incident” when, in a lapse of judgment, I recklessly announced to Eddie that he may have poisoned himself, sending him reeling into panic.  Perhaps I could have played that situation a little more discreetly.

Then again, the moment you witness your preschooler finally figure out how to best you is also quite sobering.  As I watched him stand at the toilet with his pants around his ankles, stubbornly holding in his morning pee, I witnessed in him the exact moment when he realized the power he holds by taking control of the one thing I cannot control.  And, I glimpsed a future of a new type of weekday morning trouble… all in the spirit of mucking up the morning routine.

Still, it’s possible the most damning part of the day actually occurred after my dad came to work to pick up my boys.  Being caught sitting alone in my office, rocking – only slightly – back and forth while holding tightly to my temples, does not inspire confidence, at least not in the immediate wake of traipsing my downtrodden children through the office corridors, a half hour late at that.

I recovered quickly from today’s disastrous start.  The rest of my day went off without a hitch.

Unless you were one of the countless people I cornered to retell the tale of my morning woes, you’d never even know there was an unprofessional bone in my body.  And, once I left for the day, I promptly arrived at Eddie’s school, like a responsible and rational parent, and gathered his homework.  A visit to the pediatrician’s, a trip to the market for their choice of ice cream, and a snuggle on the couch rounded out the afternoon.  Home cooked dinner on the table and adult conversation (that was not simmering with suppressed fury despite the crazy day) rounded out the evening.

Overall, I call the rest of the day a win.

I write this now as I cuddle between the boys while they sleep.  It’s the mark of a worried mother, wanting and needing to be close to them in their time of need.  It’s also the mark of an exhausted mother who played a bum hand today and needs some rest so she can try again tomorrow.

I may not have been Superwoman today, or most days for that matter, but I give it my all everyday, and my family knows how much I love them.   That’s going to have to be good enough.

At any rate, after hitting rock bottom today, one thing is certain…I can only get better from here.