121: Oh, and About That Picture…

After returning from the doctor, I spent most of the day in bed. What’s left of my voice is merely a quiet little squeak which is sometimes interrupted by bursts of breakthroughs from my regular voice. Luckily, the only thing I needed to accomplish tonight was to get K to his piano lesson.

     When we arrived at the studio, I realized that staying for the lesson wouldn’t be very polite – between the annoying cough and the overall germy appearance, I thought it best to walk across the street to Starbucks.

After ordering a green tea, I plopped myself down in a cozy chair and pulled out my book. I pretended to read, but really I was watching the high school girls in the corner…who were watching me.

Perhaps the girl with her back to me didn’t realize that I recognized her too; she and M had attended grade school together. While the girls whispered, laughed, and attempted to be discreet as they caught glimpses of me sitting in the chair, I pretended not to notice. But then the girl facing my direction pulled out her phone and took a picture of me. As the flash went off, M’s old classmate attempted to grab the phone – probably because she didn’t want to draw attention to the fun they were having.

Too late.

      My thoughts were urging me to just walk on over to them and say, “Hi.”  I wish I had, but I knew that once I got there, the words would have a hard time coming out because of my throat. So, I just sat there imagining groups of teenagers sitting around lunch tables laughing at me and my blog. (Having been a teenager once myself, it’s quite easy to imagine.)

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If they happen to read this, I want them to know that I wish we had just talked together tonight. It would have been interesting for us to sit down and talk it through. Perhaps we could have learned something from each other.

120: He Kept It

His room was the one I fell in love with first when we bought this house. The sea blue walls and the cedar strip paneled ceiling triggered seashore sounds from a classic wooden boat. (Which is kind of strange since I’ve never owned a boat, and I live far, far away from either coast. Not to mention, I’m also a pale, shade-dweller always lathered in sunblock.) 

     The previous owner must have noticed it too, because the perfect madras quilt she had on her child’s bed, completed the boat cabin coziness. It was so strangely symbolic to me that soon after we settled into our new house, I purchased our own perfect madras quilt. His cozy, safe, and secure cabin was turning into a perfect, safe harbor.

I suppose last summer I began to accept that he didn’t see the room the way I did. Like many teen bedrooms it was always a mess. Clothes were everywhere, there were cords coming out of every socket, and a few hung posters had begun to warp my quaint cabin’s appeal. And add to that, the cigarettes hidden in drawers, the suspicious looking herb flakes, the lighters, and the empty bottles, my seaside mirage had eventually been crushed, scrambled, and sunk. Until one day after he left.

Cleaning out his room after he left for the military academy was grueling. With each opened drawer and behind every nook and cranny, I would hold my breath. Most times, I had a favorite, calming prayer running through my head.

But the day I cleaned the mess under his bed, the seagulls returned.

     At first glance, the job would entail cleaning out two big junk-drawers, some dirty clothes, and I could see one of the beautiful madras pillow shams shoved deep in the corner. I started making my way through the junk drawers; it took longer than expected, because all the sweet memories uncovered in his junk drawers slowed me down. He had kept his duct tape wallets, his shredded money from our DC trip, his old pencils I had engraved with his name, key chains from vacations, favorite Matchbox cars, old pictures, and many other happy things.

Then I pulled the pillow sham out from the trappings of the dust bunnies, and on top of the pillow, fell a note. This is the note that stopped me in my tracks; it was written by me. All it said was, “I love you” written in our code.

Had he kept that on purpose? Oh my goodness, I bet he did. He kept all those other little things in his junk drawers. Every note I’ve ever left for my boys ends with those 3 symbols. I think he kept it. Oh my goodness; he is still so sweet and sensitive.

I kept that little Post-It out in obvious places for a while after I found it. For a few months, it remained in his bathroom resting on the toothbrush rack. Then I moved it to the towel rack. Finally, it spent the last few months on the railing at the threshold of his bedroom.

How many times did he walk past that note while he was home for a week at Thanksgiving? He was home for over 2 weeks at Christmas. He could have crumbled it up and thrown it away dozens of times…but he didn’t .

He kept it. He kept it in his cozy boat cabin next to his perfect madras quilt.

119: I’ll Try Anything

Even before I had come to the end of my long-winded message, I was regretting the excessively-maternal words my mouth was leaving on the athletic director’s message machine…

     “Since the boys’ basketball game is being played just a few miles from our house, is there anything I can bring for them? Cookies? Gatorade? Food for the bus ride home?”(Pause…This is when my mind went into a silent panic – This man must think I’m ridiculous. I bet he’s thinking, “And this is exactly what got her son into this situation…she’s a helicopter mom on steroids.)  

Okay…back to my pathetic message.

     “I probably sound like I’m hovering, but it’s just been a difficult road letting him go, and I feel this need to do something for him.” (Pause again…Now I’m realizing that I can’t erase what keeps flowing out of my mouth. Why didn’t I think this message through before I dialed his number?)

And finally, I wrapped it up by thanking him profusely.
Wow. 
I’m not going to begin over-analyzing my lamentable ramblings, because it seems pretty clear to me. (But I’ll discuss that later.)
     Ignoring all insecurities related to my copter tendencies, I headed to Trader Joe’s and picked up some things I knew he’d like: pretzels, clementines, popcorn, and peanut butter cups.
     A couple hours later, we were headed to the game, and that’s when I realized a message had come in form the athletic director. He was kind. And he let me know that the boys would love some Gatorade.
     So, we made a quick detour to the grocery story, and bought a bunch. My husband was sweet and patient with me as I asked clerks if they knew where the cheap Styrofoam coolers were located.
     Before too long, we were back in the car, and in the trunk sat our case of Gatorade – on ice – in our new $2.99 cooler.
*********************************
Sunday morning, M sent me an email. It began, “Hey mom….Thanks for coming to my game on Friday and bringing me food…” The letter continued, and it was good.


Sometimes I hover, sometimes I go overboard, sometimes I even kiss him on the cheek
 in front of his basketball teammates. 
I bought him too much food, and I didn’t need to buy all that Gatorade. 
But I did it anyway. 
When you are scared, worried, and miss your child,
you try everything.


     

118: Love Lessons from Dog School

While watching the young couple across from us fussing with their baggies filled with treats, their backpack loaded with toys, and the stubborn clasp from one of their fancy accessories, a temporary calmness washed over me.
     My own flash of serenity may come across as insensitive and snobbish, but it is the truth. Thank goodness that is not us over there, because from this side of the room they look quite silly and exhausted. 
     The Will Ferrell/Chris Farley lovin’ part of me, began to conceptualize a Saturday Night Live skit – “The Overindulgent Doggie Parents” or “The Spoiled and Pampered Fifty Pound Puppy.”

And then…I stopped. This sweet, young, childless couple just loves their puppy. They aren’t being “silly” and if they are “exhausted” then they probably don’t feel it yet. And if they do feel it – then they don’t care how tired they are. They are focused on making their dog happy.


Am I finding similarities with raising puppies and raising my children?
Yep.

     I admit it. My goal for my children is that they become happy adults. But don’t worry, there are other dreams for them floating in my head which sound more refined, penetrating, and insightful; however, when push comes to shove – I want them happy. Happiness to me is simple. I pray their hearts are filled with love, their actions pour out kindness, and their souls are saturated in faith.
Ahhh…happiness.

*************************

This young couple attending dog training with us weren’t intentionally spoiling their puppy – they were searching. They were hunting for whatever would make their dog content, peaceful, and fulfilled ~ happy.

     We are all searching. And at times (especially in today’s society,) we may over-stuff our bag of tricks. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it anymore or worry about what other people think or secretly analyze others for doing the same.
Done. No more judging.

Dear Sweet M,
I’m trying my best. (And if the size of my old bag of tricks (aka…diaper bag) I used to bring to church when you were little is any indication of how my heart overflows with love for you, then I rest my case.)

I love you to the moon and back, moon and back, moon and back. 
Always have. 
Always will.
mom










117: Fog on Both Sides

Even though my moon was hiding, waking up to fog this morning was, in some ways, perfect; because for a moment, my inside landscape matched the scenery outside perfectly.

Now, I wish I could say that the outside fog lifted and carried along with it my inside fog. But it just didn’t unfold in such a serendipitous way. Hours later the view out my window is sunny, but the view behind my glasses still seems a bit hazy.

     This fog of mine rolled in a couple weeks ago. Ever so slowly, it crept in and made me quiet. This force has temporarily cornered me and has created this reticent, sedated version of myself. For several nights, I’ve tried without success to write about my blurred vision, but I can’t seem to figure it out. Little nuggets of clarity have certainly come and gone, but nothing solid, clear, or focused.
     I’m not worried though – this too shall pass. My hunch is that my foggy funk is related to my Steam Engine Theory. For months, perhaps years, my head has felt like The Little Engine that (Sometimes) Could. My days have been spent putting out the proverbial teenage fires, meeting with teachers, checking homework, and figuring out if he is where he says he is. Yes, this list sounds pretty typical, but for some reason the magnitude of his storm has been difficult for my scale to balance.
     As M has settled into his new school, I suppose I too am settling into my new routine. I miss him, but I don’t miss the yelling. I miss his humor, but I don’t miss him teasing his brother. I miss his animated discussions about his world history class, but I don’t miss the sneakiness. I miss watching him make his crazy Oreo milkshakes at night, but I don’t miss finding bad things in his bedroom.

Change is hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s “change for the better” or “change for the worse.” The art of establishing new “normals” takes a little while.

Okay…the fog is lifting. I’m ready to snap out of it.

   

 

116: NOT Little Miss Perfect

     My middle-aged eyes can still recall what my naive, fearful, and immature teenage eyes saw so many years ago. Kids drank and smoked and had parties and broke rules and got in trouble during my high school days. I certainly wasn’t perfect, but my parents would probably tell you that I was a relatively easy teenager. I liked school, I liked making my parents proud, and I loved watching “The Love Boat” with my mom and sister on Saturday nights. (Perhaps I was a bit unusual.)

     But I did get in trouble…twice. Neither incident had to do with alcohol, drugs, sex, cheating, or the law. Instead, one had to do with a pom-pon trophy case, while the other had to do with writing in wet cement. (Boy, I sound like a rebel.)

Case #1: The Pom Pon Trophy Display Disaster…
     For some reason, my friends and I liked to figure out what words would spell if they were written backwards. (Remember…we didn’t have cell phones, laptops, or iPods.) Popular words and phrases around our high school were favorites with which to jumble. Unfortunately, one favorite made-up word from pom pon camp was a bad word spelled backwards.
     As a couple of my fellow teammates and I were decorating our glass display case, we thought it would be fun to sprinkle favorite little sayings from our camp experience on the back poster. In a nutshell…We spelled one of the bad words backwards and taped it to the background. Then my old tennis coach noticed what the word said in its reflection, and before we knew it – my pom pon friends and I were suspended from performing for the next two “home” games. (Tragic.)

Case #2: Wet Cement TMI…
     As our bus brought us back from an “away” match and rolled up to the front of the school, my fellow tennis teammates and I noticed that the front steps of the school had been given a coat of fresh cement. We all were tempted to run our fingers through it – but not everybody did.
     Unfortunately for me, I was one of the impulsive kids who couldn’t keep her fingers out of it. And it gets worse…I didn’t just “run” my fingers through it. I wrote my first and last name and my phone number.
     My high school’s front steps welcomed 2,400 students each morning. What was I thinking? (Aha…I wasn’t thinking.)
     Luckily, a sick feeling was brewing in my stomach by the time I got home. The guilt (and realization of the stupidity I exhibited on the front steps for all to see) had gotten to me.
     In another nutshell…I told my parents. My dad drove me up to school where we found a maintenance man smoothing over my contact information written for all to see on the front steps. I helped the man put away his tools, and then I apologized to the man and my parents.

********************************

In 1984, teenagers broke rules, got in trouble, and some even made their parents sick with worry. What’s going on today in our house is not a new phenomenon – but I’m convinced that the stakes are higher in 2012 than they were when I was a teenager.  (And I’m so glad that I didn’t have Facebook and cell phones and computers to document my mistakes. Sometimes, I feel sorry for teenagers today.)

M, Here’s what I want you to know –  I didn’t always make the smartest decisions when I was a teenager. Sometimes Nene and Papa had to get me back on track too.
     When the decisions your precious child makes go from being downright laughable to downright detrimental, you are going to find a way to get their attention and say, “I love you too much to let you do this.” 
That’s all there is to it.
I love you,
Mom

115: "Stronger"…Thank You, Kelly Clarkson

Just four months ago we started this mysterious journey – and the weepy, fragile version of myself has been replaced. I haven’t exactly turned into some tough-as-nails mom/chic, but I certainly have gotten stronger.

~ No longer do I cry every time Adele (or any song that reminds me of M) comes on the radio.
          Although, I still like to belt out a couple of my favorite lines from “Someone Like You” whenever it pops on the radio. (The other one I like to sing loud and proud…”Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Man, oh man – that’s a good one.)

~ No longer do I feel the need to act like a man.
          Let me explain…my husband and I have discussed at length his ability to go to work each morning, and close his Personal Life box, thus allowing only the Work box to be opened. All of my boxes are open at all times. In fact, a better way to describe my “box” situation might just be to call it one big Multi-Purpose box – and everything just flies out of it at all times. For months, I have tried to stifle my emotions – and the contents of the Multi-Purpose box – But no longer! I am woman! Get ready to hear me roar, cry, laugh, sigh, sing, and…breathe.


~ No longer do I lose sleep over mean things people say or write to me.
          But boy, oh boy…some people write the most vulgar things.

~ No longer do I feel stuck in the tunnel without a flashlight.
          Of course there’s light at the end. M is one, really cool person. He is going to get through the teenage years just fine – I’m certain of it. And I love him.
          

114: Tricks and Treats

     It’s taken quite a few months to adjust to living without M home all the time, but I have begun to make peace with parts of our daily routine. Luckily, my mind has developed some tricks and rituals to make me feel closer to him.
     The minute my alarm sounds, I pray. If I fall back to sleep, that’s okay because I have my 10-minute snooze alarm to get me going again. B has made coffee, so I grab a cup and check on K. At 10 years old, his cheeks are still smooth and soft – so I kiss them.

     (I wasn’t prepared for M’s soft, rosy, baby cheeks to change. Actually, I wasn’t prepared for most of the changes. The summer I noticed that the soft skin and smooth, little hair on his shins had been replaced, was probably the summer that my job description began to change.)


     After I walk out of K’s room, my tip-toe steps take me to the den. (This next stage of my morning ritual could be considered one of the many tricks my mind plays, but I prefer to see it as just a sweet morning treat.)
     Through the dark, I easily navigate around the ottoman and stop at the book shelves below the shutters. I pull open those wooden shutters, and…there it is. The moon. Somehow, the moon has become a close friend of mine ever since M left.
     I think it’s something I’ve read about before – loved ones being far away from each other – but that very same moon greets each of them in the morning and sends them off to bed at night. I like to think that most mornings, he notices the moon too.

There’s a chance he does. And that’s how I get to say, “Good morning, honey. Have a good day. Love you.”

And so, another day begins.

113: I Know

While M is growing up right in front of my eyes, I am too.
Obviously, this journey has not been easy for me …but it has not been easy
 for him either. And he’s the most important player here.

(I know that fact is obvious; 
I just needed to write it, to see it, and to let him know
  that I know.)

I love you, M.

112: Lessons From the Teacher’s Lounge

     Yesterday, while getting coffee in the teacher’s lounge, a fellow teacher taught me a lesson; the lesson pertained to basketball. It began with a simple comment that went something like this,

 “So, I read that M is quite an athlete on the basketball court.”

Feeling a bit concerned that I may have come across as a braggart when I mentioned all his baskets from the other night, I quickly explained that the real joy in watching him play was not related to his points scored. The pride was stemming from everything else I witnessed on the court…his passing, his patience, his sportsmanship, his smile, his clapping, his nodding in understanding to his coach, his posture…everything.
     I added, “That probably all sounds silly, but I’m just so proud of him. The boy who used to play basketball with his hands up all the time yelling, ‘Pass it to me…I’m open!’ had been replaced by a new version of M I was just getting to know.”

My fellow teacher, Coach O, quickly corrected me…

“Nothing silly about that. You can see signs of maturity on a basketball court.” 
     He went on to verbalize perfect illustrations to prove his point, and soon his words were running like expert commentary to the visions of I had rolling through my head. Soon I began to comprehend Coach O’s lesson, and I liked what I was hearing. 
Thanks for the lesson, Coach.