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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Shooting

I hate that I need to write this. You have heard the news I'm sure. Another shooting.  It seems like it is a headline everyday.  I try my hardest to keep my sons in the dark about this subject.   It comes on the television news and I turn it off, it comes on the radio, I turn it off, it pops up on my computer screen, I close my laptop.  But last week it happened so close to home it was hard to stop the constant media attention to it.

It happened at a local grocery store chain.  The one that we shop. The only one my boys know about.  It wasn't the location that we shop at, but in a town close by.  Two women were killed. One was 20 and the other was 44.  It didn't take long for me to figure out that one of the victims was the sister of a friend.  A girl I went to high school with.  It hit home figuratively and literally.

But because it didn't happen to me,  I'm on the sideline. A spectator in someone else's horror story.  But this time, it is someone I know, who I can picture hearing the news and can envision her world fall apart.

My oldest son has been having nightmares lately.  The other night it was about our dog, Wally getting beaten to death by a gang.  He wakes up and relives his dream with the same amount of terror.  I do what I can to calm him down and bring him back to reality. Show him that Wally is alive and let him know he is ok.

Yesterday I announced to the house that I was going to the store.  I do this about twice a week in hopes that someone will go with me but usually everyone hides and I don't hear anything until I have drudged all the groceries into kitchen. Suddenly they become interested.

Yesterday wasn't any different except right before I left Parker asked if he could come with me.  I told him that he was welcome too, but that he was not getting a chocolate chocolate chip Frappacino assuming that was his motivation. He said he knew and just wanted to come with me.

As I pulled into the parking lot, he asked if this was the same store that the shooter had killed that "mom".  I told him no, and that we were safe. Trying to believe it myself. But in the back of my mind, I too was thinking about it.  As we walked in, he asked what he should do if a shooter did come in.   I don't want to avoid the conversation, but I am hoping to forget that this is our reality. I tried to speak quietly out of respect to anyone who may also be feeling nervous shopping.

I tried my hardest to not seem alarmed, and continued to walk and talk saying that if this were to happen, which it won't,  that he was to run.  Run as fast and as hard and as far as he can away from trouble.

"But what about you?"

I told him that I will take care of myself.

"But I don't want to leave you." What if you get shot and nobody is there to help you?" "What if you just got shot in your knee, and just needed someone to carry you?" "If I run away, I wouldn't be able to help you when you need it."

I told him I was tough and that I have lived a good life and I want him to have that opportunity too, so run as fast and as far away as he can. I was trying to pacify his worry, but it came out harsher than I had hoped.

By this time we are in the produce aisle and I wanted to end this conversation.  I turn around and get him a Grande chocolate chocolate chip Frappacino even though it's 7:00 at night.

It's no wonder he has been having violent nightmares. His brain is trying to process harm done to someone innocent. In his mind innocence is represented by his beloved dog.  When I was ten, my biggest fear were fictional characters like witches or ghosts. Kids are forced to face some real adult fears yet, they don't have the ability to process it.

I want to bring him back to childhood. A childhood that I remember.  His childhood reality is much scarier than mine ever was and as a mother, even I don't know how to help him.

The magnitude of his words didn't hit me until this morning.  I guess I was busy trying to hide the fact that I am just as scared as he is and even more afraid that this is a legitimate fear and yes, it could happen to me, or you or anyone. The truth is,  I don't believe that there is a safe place anymore.   Like a punch in the stomach I realized that the only reason he wanted to come with me was to protect me.

I didn't mean to, but I completely disregarded is natural urge to protect his mother.  I guess I always believed that I should be the protector.  I never thought in a million years that my son would feel the need to accompany me to the grocery store so that he could carry me to safety in the event that I was shot.

That is too heavy of a burden for a 10 year old to have to bear.  If there is one thing I am proud of, was that his natural instinct was to help me and not chose to fight back.  A ten year old boy who loves to play video games, and who loves Nerf guns and army men knows that the solution is not to fight back, but to help.  A solution of compassion and peace.

I have fear for my son's future and the problems that they will face. More innocent lives are going to be lost as long as guns can easily get into the hands of the wrong people.

I have faith that he, along with his peers will be part of the solution.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fifty Shades of Red

My husband is a teacher and every year we are invited to a faculty party. To spice things up they have a white elephant book exchange. If you have been living a life that is not filled with office parties then you may not be familiar with white elephant exchange.  Basically, you have a number, you pick a gift, unwrap it, and if someone wants your gift they can take it. Then you can take another person's gift. This could go on for all eternity.  I once went to a White Elephant exchange where some people got into fisticuffs over a pampered chef chopper.

This is a little different because the people who attend this party are really well read,  predominately catholic,  and I believe most of them have their doctorates in something that

a. I cant pronounce.
b. Didn't know existed.

We attended the same party last year, and because my husband was a new hire, we chose to bring a safe book on budget planning.  However, I remembered that someone had brought the Joy of Sex and it was a hit.  You know, the 70's version with a lot of hair that your friends parents had hidden in their basement.

Don didn't seem to recall this, but I was adamant in my recollection... now I'm wondering if I made the entire thing up. 
So this year we decided to take along a popular trilogy. As a joke of course, but yes in fact I did read it, maybe in record time, but who needs to know that anyway.

As I watched every other gift get opened I came to the realization that this was some serious sophisticated literature. Stuff that Barnes and Noble doesn't even carry.  Books about the Pope, others about dead presidents. Fasting, books about growing a sustainable garden. History.  The rules are as follows, when someone opens your book, you share why you liked it and why you chose to give it.

I was sinking deeper and deeper into the overstuffed sofa.  We are surrounded by my husband's colleagues. Why did we think this was a good idea?  As I looked around, none of these people were going to think this was funny. Even if they hadn't heard of the NY Times best seller, I'm sure the handcuffs on the cover was going to give it away. 

I wanted to run to my car and find any crusty book hidden beneath the seats and make up something about the sentimental value of it, but we all know I would only be able to find a coupon book with Moe's and Chinese take out coupon's ripped out of it.  There was no hope.  It was inevitable.

Finally, our gift was chosen and unwrapped in front of everyone.  Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.  For a moment frozen in time nobody said anything.  I couldn't see anyone because at this point I was covering my face.  My husband said... this is for a very sophisticated reader and people chuckled out of kindness. My face was the color of a strawberry. But the poor guy doesn't even really know what is between those well worn pages.  If he did,  he may have very well taken me into the Red Room... Fifty Shades humor, I doubt anyone will get that. I roll my eyes...again, Fifty Shades humor... I will stop now.

If you did get that, you are one of the million of other women who read it, but don't want to admit they did.   It got passed around a few times and it ended up with my therapist.  I didn't mention he was there too? Yes. And maybe I will have to start seeing him again after this soiree.

The truth is, I'm not an intellectual. I have two letters after my name B.A. , not 6 (or more).  And eating that wasn't an easy feat.  I admire people who find enjoyment in reading.  I admire the time they can spend reading.   I average about 4 books a year and the only reason is because I belong to a book club.  Ironically,  I love to write. I can get lost in that and there are times when I'm shocked that people like to read it.

I love films. I love plays, I love operas, I love audio books, and strangely, I still love to be read to. But the thought of sitting down and reading an entire book in one sitting would require the use the handcuffs...  I just can't do it.

I left the place feeling slightly embarrassed.  I should know my audience.  As we drove home I vented to Don.  I wished I had read more as a kid instead of watching sitcoms, then maybe I wouldn't have the attention span which requires a commercial break every 10 minutes.  He said, you are who you are, don't apologize for it. 

I find that I do that a lot. He is right. In the presence of what I perceive as brilliance I tend to become a wallflower and observe.  Fearful of saying the wrong thing and looking stupid.   But as I get older I have found that brilliance isn't just the amount of knowledge in your head, but the brightness you bring to the room which can generate from all sorts of other sources.

I don't have to look far to feel the warmth of my friends.   The only thing that extinguishes my light is the shadow of doubt and I'm the only one that is casting it.  I can only hope that the warmth I feel is a reflection of the light I give, weather it is Fifty shades of Grey or Red.

With that said, next year Don is picking the book. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why don't you put on a little lipstick

I went to a fantastic event this past weekend.  It combined a trinity of my favorite things. Art, wine,  and friends. As I get older I prefer this kind of event to just going out.  Well, who am I kidding. I don't "just go out" anymore.  I need to have a reason. Going out takes a lot of preparation. First, if possible a nap.  I can't be expected to be up past 10 if I haven't had an extra hour of sleep.  Secondly, a babysitter.   As I was getting ready I was thinking about my college days.  It would usually be a group of girls and around 9 PM we would all start getting ready, listening to music, contorting our bodies over each other to get the best light in the one good mirror in the apartment.  Changing our outfits two or three times, stopping by an ATM on the way.  We wouldn't usually arrive to our destination until after my current bedtime.

A lot has changed.  I have to schedule my shower between making dinner, giving baths, wiping a butt, fixing a lego airplane that fell apart and being the referee in the constant battles that occur between 4 boys.  So what should take me an hour takes me three.  What hasn't changed is the numerous outfit changes but for different reasons.  If any article of my clothing makes me look even the slightest bit pregnant, I can't wear it.  If it poofs anywhere it shouldn't I can't wear it. If I'm showing too much cleavage, I can't wear it.  Too much leg, can't wear it.  I have always loved fashion, but all of these restrictions make my only option: black.   I still hit the ATM but its usually on the way home to pay the babysitter and outrageous amount that makes me re-think my career path.

I could wear a ball gown and my son's wouldn't notice but if I wear lipstick they always make sure to tell me how pretty I look. I could have only a bathrobe on and wear lipstick and they would immediately take notice.

Thankfully this event was themed with the art and we were asked to wear black and white. So I fit right in.  My husband had left early, and the first skirt I tried on was too short. The second made me look 3 months pregnant and the last was perfect.  Except for the back zipper part.  It was fitted so I couldn't zip it and spin it so I enlisted the 2 older son's to help me.  After a lot of sweat, a broken toothpick (long story) we got it zipped.  Sometimes I wonder what memories they are going to suppress and at the worst time as an adult remember. They deserve at least a few pro-Bono therapy sessions for all the  help they have given their mom with my numerous wardrobe malfunctions.

When I arrive I immediately take notice in other women's outfit choices. I know it takes effort whether you have kids or not.  But what is weird is that women are the hardest not only on themselves but other women.   Women are mean.  Mean in a way that would make a grown man cry if he ever experienced it. A woman may compliment you to your face and immediately make fun of you as soon as you turn around.   Women like to compare themselves to other women and hope they win.   We have all had fashion misses,  I'm all about expressing oneself, but their is a BIG difference between expressing and exposing.

I have mentioned previously that I have had a heck of a time with female friendships.  A couple friendships have ended very badly.  When I look back as to why, it was always about a guy.  But even as a married woman, with not one but four dependents plus a dog, I can somehow give the wrong impression. The impression that I want your husband.  I can assure you that even if your husband looked like the late great Desi Arnez I would not try to move in and snatch him.  I have more sausages in my cart than a Ball Park vender.

I often wonder why women view each other as competition. What are we competing for? If she is thinner than her, does that make her more of a threat? To what? If anything my husband would leave me for a heavier woman because at least he would know she was a good cook.  Ut-oh, maybe I should be worried.  Back in college, girls were looking for guys, I understand the competition, but now my race is over.

This year I'm trying to not judge other woman in an effort to make myself feel better. I'm super guilty of this.   A perfect example of this was the Golden Globes wrap up today.  Women's images put side by side in competition as to who wore it better.  I bet each of those women dieted, spray tanned, worked out and tried their hardest to look their best.  To be publicly humiliated and voted on is no different then the girls at the junior high table whispering about your new Guess overalls. (Yes, that wound is still fresh)  But now, with the internet they can do it autonomously.

Rather than judging each other, acknowledge the work and thought that each of us put in just trying to look our best.  Our best is enough and I think men sometimes forget to tell us that.  And we have to ask, and then we get mad that they didn't notice without you asking.   I was in a grocery store on a Sunday morning and two old ladies passed each other decked out in their Sunday best.  They stopped their carts, and told each other they looked fabulous. No joke. I felt bad that I was in my yoga pants.  They get it. They know that sometimes just acknowledgment on our efforts makes us feel beautiful.

Before I left, Jack asked me if I was wearing lipstick, I said yes and immediately he told me I looked pretty. I later found out that Don had told them that if I have lipstick on, they should give me a compliment.   If that is the only lesson they learn to make a women feel good, then they are on the right path.... because it worked.