Friday, June 27, 2008

Baby laughs

Oh my gosh, remember these days of heart-warming hysterics? This is great whenever I need a boost!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Clearing

I can't describe the comfort I take when seeing what a true friend is made of. The most recent example of this was watching a dear friend wielding an axe, going whole-heartedly at a stubborn, hard-wooded shrub with multiple roots in my yard. This shrub had been there for over 10 years, its roots and stems twisting and intertwining with each other until they were solidly tangled. The bane of my horticultural home owner's existence, it's been on my list for removal for years, but remained because I couldn't even imagine where to begin.

After a brief discussion one day, my friend arrived at my door with gloves, saws and an axe, and we proceeded to go at the tree until we won. I say we won because the damn thing fought back with its whip-like branches, scratchy needles and a hidden bed of poison ivy beneath it that we found the hard way.

When all was said and done, I had a pile of redwood cedar for burning, a clear view of my driveway from my front door, and a big planting bed in one of the few sunny spots in my yard. It is an open space to sow something new, for beauty or nourishment, filled with moist, healthy soil and etched by smooth stones.

What I loved most about the day, though, was not the sense of accomplishment we gained when this once-insurmountable (to me) job was completed. Rather, it was seeing my friend in a deeper sense. Metaphorically, her arriving to help me with my problem, staying on until the job was done, and repeatedly whacking away at the issue, piece by piece, was illuminating. As together we slowly removed one of my life's miseries, I saw her for the friend she really is: one who is unafraid to stand by my side and help me pull away painful elements of my life when I cannot do it alone, ripping them free from the tangles of long history. Getting rid of the bad, that which we no longer need, clears the way for new and better things to take root.

Call it therapy, or just plain loyalty. While it may sound corny, this is what friendship is all about. Connecting, helping, respecting and caring. I don't have a big circle of friends, but the ones I have are more valuable to me than I can put into words. I believe this is why we were put here on Earth: to help each other through the rough spots so that we can become the best we can be, and to make our life's journey as good and rich as it can be.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Good, The Bad and the Germy

You've gotta love sick kids. Not because they wake you up in the middle of a summer night hot and feverish, wanting to sleep in your bed. Not because they are whiny and clingy all day long. Not because they vomit only during the hours of 2 and 5am and create more laundry by morning that you can create in a week on your own. While all these things are true, they are hardly lovable. They are also why you don't see classified ads posted by women wanting to fill the job of "mom" on bulletin boards at the supermarket or in the newspapers.

No, the thing about sick kids is that they require you to drop everything. I used to believe that was awful when I had deadlines, errands and a seemingly insurmountable to-do list, and I needed every available second to complete them while the children were in school. I used to get upset, frustrated and thrown when one of my kids woke up sick in the morning. I'd let it ruin my whole day. But something's changed.

Maybe it's me who's changed. Maybe it's because my schedule (other than caring for the kids) is no longer as pressing. Maybe it's having the same kid get sick three times in six weeks. Maybe it's hearing Ben, the kid who'll try any and every kind of food and is always ready to eat, tell me he's not hungry. Maybe it's watching him lay flushed and listless on the couch, no energy or interest in anything, and not hearing him say, "Mom, I have a question..." every 90 seconds. Or maybe it's some combination of those things that made me go "whoa. Time to slow down."

Whatever caused it, here I am, the stink of my screeching tires making me heady and filling me with worrisome thoughts about why Ben has been sick so often. The boy has a stronger constitution than his brother and me put together. Before this spring, I could count on one hand the number of times he'd been sick in his life. So what's going on?

I am a worrier by nature, a true "what if?" kind of person, but I'm doing my best to believe this is not something bigger than what it appears to be. Maybe it's because I'm spending so much time with him, in the moment and by his side, that I'm comforted in that idea. Or maybe I'm in denial and know I'll function better dealing with the here and now instead of the possible-down-the-road. Whatever it is, I've pushed negative thoughts to the background, at least for today.

What I *do* know is that building racetracks, playing cards, eating soup and watching cartoons with Ben while he's home sick is the most fun I've had in a while. His fever takes his 'edge' off, and rather than bouncing off the furniture, he's curled by my side. Having him slow down has helped me to do the same, and enjoy every breath with him. What's not to love about that?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Animal Magnetism

They're here again: the children of the neighbors across the street, the next door neighbors' dog. They are drawn to our house, the yard, the playroom, something. The children always want to play here; the dog, well, he just wants to come in and see what's what. Where does our dog sleep? What does it look like upstairs? Where do we keep our kitchen? What does it smell like? Who knows what goes through his mind?

Every neighborhood has a house like ours. When I was growing up, it was my house. The kid with the alcoholic father; the kids who lived with their step-mother; the kids whose mom lived alone, they always seemed to want to hang at our house. I knew it wasn't our cool toys that brought them. We had no playroom, an unfinished basement, and only seven channels on the 13" television. Boys were not allowed in my room, and girls were not allowed in my brother's. The yard was small, fenced and full of dog poop, and we didn't have "the cool parents" by any stretch of the imagination. My mom worked in the church, my dad was a cop, and just to tighten security measures, my uncle the narc lived next door in our two-family home, with my lovely, artist aunt, their Eagle Scout son and his brothers. I vividly remember my sweet 16 birthday party for two reasons: it was the first birthday party I'd ever had with friends instead of family, and nothing memorable/interesting/illegal/ immoral/unsanitary/embarrassing or noteworthy happened. And yes, it was a co-ed party.

So what was it about our home that called to the masses? Perhaps it was the security of a double family unit in one house. Maybe it was the lovable dogs, or the rowdy laughter than always seemed to emanate from our yard. By this I mean either the laughter of us climbing trees and chasing each other, or my extended family gathered for frequent barbecues to celebrate every birthday, anniversary, holiday and commemorative event that occurred. When I look back now, through rosy, nostalgic glasses, we were a very loving bunch. There were always relatives around: cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. But I think what was most memorable were the cooking smells, since we were forever cooking something. My aunt's famous Italian gravy; burgers and steaks on the backyard grill; Armenian flatbread meat pies and Turkish coffee in our kitchen; something was always wafting from the windows, depending on which side of the family was visiting.

Yet I don't think that's what's drawing the crowd to my house. I don't cook much. The occasional meatloaf, cupcakes for school, that's pretty much my limit, unless one of the kids is having a playdate. Then I'll whip up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, but it's not often and it's just for show.

No, I'd have to say it's the consistency: the light that's always on, someone always home to answer the door or the phone when help is needed, that brings them here. I'm always at the bus stop when all the kids come home. I'm always out walking the dog when the neighbors are out walking theirs. I'm a constant, an unwavering presence in these days of working parents and not knowing your neighbors. When I was growing up, we took comfort in the security that such a house offered. Maybe some things never change.