Monday, November 29, 2010

The Reason I Believe

It must have been about four of five years ago or so.

A favorite little person and I were having an "Auntie Laura and Peanut" date.

At the time, Peanut was at that stage between toddler and little dude, small enough for a full-on carseat, but big enough to speak broken English fluently. (I know at first glance this seems like an oxymoron, but spend some time with a human being of this age and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.)

So we're west-bound on I94 through Fargo. P'nut is strapped into the driver's side backseat, feet a-kickin' away, singing "Lime In The Coconut" at the top of his little lungs. Every time the song would end, he would holler, "AGAIN!". Naturally, I would oblige.

About two and a half plays into the song that is clearly the only song in the world worth listening to, he says, "Hey, Auntie Laura?"

"Yes, sir?" I dutifully reply, pressing the mute button and angling the rear-view mirror to get a better view of him.

"Auntie Laura," he continues in one giant breath, little feet still bopping up and down in tandem, "do you 'member that time I was big and you were big and we were friends and I had a big blue truck and you had a kinda blue but not blue car and we would stop on the road and say hi and I love you and we were friends?"

Laughing at the magnificence of his imagination and sheer length of this sentence, I snorted out a, "No, Peanut, I sure don't."

The feet stopped moving. His jaw set. Our eyes locked in the mirror.

"Uh, yes, you do."

"Uh, no, I DON'T." (I'd like to tell you he was the first to take it up a notch. Sadly, that would be a lie.)


"OK, let me think," (I'm not dumb. I caught the tone in his voice, and it completely belied the size of his body. This boy meant BIDNESS.) "Uh ... no. I'm sorry, buddy, I just don't remember."

A sigh issues from the back seat.

"Yes, you do," and then a short pause before, "LIME IN THE COCONUT!"

And that was that.

Puzzling, but it faded away as many things do.

Six months later, in the middle of telling a my son a story, it hit me.

"... and your Dad drove a big ol' Bubba truck he named 'Baby'. She was, I think, an '84 Ford F150, blue with huge tires ...." my voice trailed off.

A lump in my throat the size of Missouri suddenly discluded breathing, much less speaking, from possibility in that moment.

Swallowing hard, I continued, "... and I drove a gun-metal gray LeBaron," (blue, but not, but kinda; 'sound familar?) "he would be coming home from work as I would be leaving, and we would stop in the middle of the street to talk for a minute and tell each other, "I love you."

Turning to my son and throwing the last of the memorial flowers for the year into the river, I went on.

"Your Dad and I would always say, "I love you" to one another. Even after we broke up. Even up until the last time we talked before he died. Every time. Even if we fought, we still said it."

It was the anniversary of Kevin's death and each year, the Boy and I had our ritual of remembrance.

I shared the Peanut conversation with him a few days later.

And the next year we stopped doing our annual ritual. It was the BoyRD's idea. He said it had been long enough and that we needed to move on.

And so we started in a new direction.

Peanut hasn't given me another glimpse into his soul in the quite the same manner since that late winter day so many years ago.

But he always tells me loves me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No Thanksgiving Thursday

We have something more important than Thanksgiving to observe today.

There will be no turkey. No stuffing. No sweet potatoes or corn soufflé. Zero pumpkin pie.

Instead, we'll be having a meal from my mother's recipe stash: goulash, coleslaw, garlic bread and our friend Mama I's brownies.

I know what you're thinking. And no, we're not Communists.

We are celebrating something much, much more important than Thanksgiving, my friends.

The BoyRD's birthday.

Specifically, his EIGHTEENTH birthday.

Eighteen. Adult. (see: makes his own decisions like "I want goulash and coleslaw for my birthday)

Eighteen. My baby. (see: towers over me by an entire foot)

Eighteen. Kill me. ('Knife to the heart sounds about right.)

The child who can make my heart soar and break. Simultaneously.

The child who taught me what it means to love someone more than myself, and simply to love myself.

The boy whose wavelength is more often than not the only one perfectly attuned to my own.


Eighteen years and some months ago, I was surprised to discover that my decidedly directionless life now had marching orders.

It was, in a word, tumultuous. It was physically the worst thing I can still imagine. Emotionally, I was debrided daily.

When I discovered I was pregnant, his father and I were already broken up. Drama, and lots of it, exacerbated by youth and ignorance, ensued.

I was living with my mother. Before the child made his appearance, I would also live with my Dad and a family friend, then back again to Mom.

During that time, my body was subjected to tortures never expected. Hyperemesis for the duration of the pregnancy meant I couldn't go two hours without barfing. So much barfing, in fact, that I tore the lining of my throat repeatedly. Stretch marks from mid-thigh to armpits that itched so badly, I scratched until they bled. Raging girl-infections made appearances more weeks than they didn't. Physically, it was hell. And I was all of eighteen years old. I knew everything and nothing.

I heard about a family in Phoenix who wanted to adopt a baby. My parents and the RD's father all agreed that this was a good idea.

I met the perspective family. I spent time with them. They were lovely people. Heck, I wanted them to adopt ME. I told them okay, they could have him.

And then I just couldn't do it.

I spent Halloween weekend of 1992 on my grandmother's back porch just outside of Las Vegas. She kept bringing me iced tea and let me alternately sleep, pee and just sit ... always refilling my glass. And then, on the last day, she brought me a photo album I'd never seen. These were the generations I had never met. Those who had "come over". Great grandparents, great uncles, great-great aunts. All people. Real people.

Hour after hour I spent sitting in a chair looking out at Nanny's beautifully kept backyard, desperately straining to see into the future. As it turns out, I couldn't see a future without this child I carried.

I did what was, at the time, the hardest thing I had ever done. I told those beautiful, intelligent, wealthy people, "no".

I can still feel the pain in that woman's voice. I can still hear her pleading with me to come to my senses. I can still, eighteen years later, feel the carpet on my legs as I sank to the floor—my swollen, aching, miserable body quaking with guilt, fear and the most intense feeling of relief I'd ever felt.

I have never once regretted that decision—not for even a sliver of a nanosecond.

Sometimes now in the early morning when he's still sleeping, I crack open his bedroom door. I just want a moment of listening to him breath. I try to go back in time and remember when he used to sleep next to me, his tiny body curled into the curve of mine. I want to remember every instance he chose hanging out with me over doing anything else. I want to go back to the time we made eye contact and he smiled and laughed at his Mama for the very first time.

But those things don't come back. Instead, I watch him snoring and send up a silent prayer of thanks for this child.

I pray for wisdom for him, and then some for me.

I pray for patience for him, with a healthy dose for me.

I pray for compassion for him, everyone he comes in contact with, and remind myself of what that means.

I pray for joy.

For strength.

For perseverence.

'Funny how these things work. Deciding how to go about telling you all of this brings to the forefront all of the things I've learned because of him, from him, about him and about myself.

And here I was thinking I'm the one who gave him life. Silly me.

Son, I love you bigger than the sky AND the comet. Thank you for being mine. Thank you for being you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thanksgiving Miracle

I fell on an iced-over puddle in the garage.

Dropping in obligatory slow motion, I thought to myself, "Self," I thought, "You are going to pee upon impact. Chances are good you'll also break something. No physicist is required to conclude that your broken, unconscious body will be found adhered to the garage floor by a sad, frozen slurry of your own urine and tears."

I don't know what happened then. I don't know if the laws of physics ceased to apply, if an invisible hand cushioned the impact, or if my long-dormant cat-like reflexes sprang into action, but I realized I was on the floor with no perceivable my dignity.

Clearly, a miracle.

May your week be full of mind-blowing ninja moves, unseen forces coming to your rescue and, as always, dry pants.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Call

I got the call tonight. The one every parent dreads:

BoyRD: Hey Mama. Whereya at?

Me: I'm at the house. What's up?

BoyRD: Well, first, let me just say, everybody is o--

Me: Holy balls of bat shit, Monkey. You got in an accident? You're okay? (grabbing keys, finding shoes, turning off appliances) You sure you're okay? Positive? Who's the President? When's your birthday? Everybody is okay? Who else is there? Where are you?

BoyRD: I'm at Main and 4th. Yes everything is definitely okay. I was pulling out of the parking lot and she clipped me. She says she's okay. She's really nice. I told her I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I am. She's calling the police. We're okay.

Me: I hear TheBestFriend in the background. Was he with you?

BoyRD: No, but he came back.

(Have I mentioned I love TheBestFriend like he's my own?)

By now four blocks down the street, heading to the scene, admonishments of, "get her information, give her your information, don't leave the scene, be polite or I'll hurt you, and you sure you're okay?" administered, I started to breathe.

I could tell from his voice that while riddled with historic amounts of adrenaline, he was really and truly fine. This knowledge was underscored by TheBestFriend's voice in the background at it's usual calm, cool and collected pitch. I heard no one screaming and no sirens wailing. All I could do now was not get into my own accident.

It got me to thinking. How many times had I done this to my parents as a teenager? How many calls had they gotten? How many times had they heard my name over the scanner before even getting a call? How many nights were they wondering where on God's green Earth I was in the days before tracking devices and cell phones?

I did what any cop's kid would do.

I called my Dad. And I apologized. (Mom? I'll be calling you tomorrow. I knew you were at church.)

When I got there, introductions were made, hands were shaken and vehicles inspected.

Then we spent the next hour standing outside in 45 degree weather, visiting and laughing with the nice lady the BoyRD met by accident. This is Fargo after all, it's how we roll.

And yes, he really, truly and honestly is okay. Humbler, I think, but definitely okay.

Well, Hello to You!

I'm not sure how long it's been there, but apparently has some pretty spanky tools. One of them is the "stats" tab. It was there I discovered some visitors I wasn't aware of:

I'm going to dismiss the US as a given. I mean, heck ... I LIVE IN NORTH DAKOTA.

Canada? Slovenia? Germany? Brazil? Russia? Denmark? UK? India? South Korea? I'm so pleased to have you. Please, know you're welcome and come again. Maybe next time I'll clean up first. Oh, who are we kidding? I'll do no such thing. We're friends, after all ... my dirty clothes are your dirty clothes! No, wait ... my dust is your dust! No, no ... wait. Uh ... yeah. I need to go clean something.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mmmmm, SPAM (Or: A Peak Into the Human Side of Facebook)

I would have REALLY liked to have been at the Facebook home offices when this page was born. I image it went something like this:

A young man--let's call him Joe--in a seemingly endless cube farm, is hunched over his keyboard. I'm not sure why, but I see him as just starting to bald, and unless he regularly uses a hand-mirror to check his crown, he doesn't even know it yet. Sporting a band tee under an open button-up and second-hand skinny jeans, he's got Apocalyptica thrumming away in his earbuds. The overhead fluorescent lighting casts a ghastly pall on the framed photo of Hunter S. Thompson on his fabric wall.

He's finally been given a job all his own: write the privacy settings page for applications, games and websites. He really wants to knock this one out of the park. If he can do this, he might just be able to land a status update or two on the "about" page. He'd be on his way to tech-literati greatness.

The only problem? He's stuck. He doesn't quite know how to marry the tech-jargon of the times with an accurate description of what these particular apps do. Joe acts as any good writer in this situation would. He takes a step back and analyzes the what, when and why.

"Well," he muses, absent-mindedly reaching for a now warm can of Mountain Dew. "They can sure be salty, and some of them seem to be comprised primarily of pieces and parts from rather unidentifiable sources. I really only look at 'em when there's nothing else that appealing. But what IS that? What do we CALL it?"

Stymied, he untangles his limbs from his ergo-chair and heads to the head writer's office.

Sticking his head in, he says, "Hey Ed, I need a word!"

Ed (obviously, he's the spitting image of Ed Asner) kicks back in his chair, leather patched-elbows at his sides, arms folded over his chest and considers our young writer's problem and observations.

"Well, kid," he says, taking his pipe from his mouth. "Seems to me, you've got something spammy there."

And thus a word is born.

MAN, what would I do without Facebook?

Be sure to use, "spammy" in normal conversation, kids. I know I will!

Words Are Funny Things

I'm having a hard time reconciling some things I see at work with what I have chosen to believe about people in general. I know I've mentioned my struggle to strike some semblance of balance between work, home and friends, and this subject matter is one that creates an incessant feeling of being pulled, or at least forced to peer, into something dank and dark. Totally off balance.

I just about blew a few weeks ago. There were going to be smatterings of brain matter, heart strings and tears for a quarter-mile radius ... and that was if it was a still day.

By the time Thursday night rolled around, I had a heck of a week at work under my belt, (remind me to tell you about parent-teacher conferences sometime), the BoyRD had taken off that morning for his first college visit 950 MILES AWAY and I taught a particularly emotional class that night. Dude, I was SPENT.

With a terrifically understanding boss, a day o' time built up and an opportunity to take care of some family stuff, I took Friday off.

For what was supposed to be a day of respite, it dawned a tad early. Some friends I don't get to see as often as I'd like were meeting for coffee and dip me in pig poop if I was going to miss it.

It turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

I drove a pick-up truck to a tidy, upscale coffee shop ... while listening to country music. It was like my past and my present were doing a happy little do-si-do. That, in and of itself, was healing.

Then there was the weather. You know those perfect, sunny, crisp fall days that practically sing, "Alleluia" all by themselves? It was one of those.

And while those things were sweet, the best part was at the coffee shop.

I didn't have time to shower, but instead added an extra layer of deodorant, brushed my teeth and washed/moisturized my face. Honestly, I'm not even sure I was wearing clean underwear.

Self conscious of my physical shape, I slinked in and was greeted the same way they always greet me—with love.

Driving away from that morning's coffee, I was restored. My soul nurtured by the smiles, hugs and laughter of friends, I was able to allow my shoulders to drop from near-ear elevation, my back and neck to loosen and my stomach unclench for the first time in weeks.

Most importantly, I was reminded--as I often am in the presence of these folks--of who I am, what I believe, and why.

I drove away thinking about who these people are to me, and how inadequate words can be to describe them and what they mean to me. The only word I can think of with any precision—and this is based in shear definition-- is, "friend", but in comparison with my experience of who these group of people are, it falls flat.

When I consider those I have cultivated relationships with over the years, and look around at who I am surrounded with now, I can't help but be pleased.

These people are, individually, awe-inspiring. As a collective, they become something else. They become a net, a solid sheet, a concrete bowl of support, love and--most importantly to me--genuine acceptance.

These are the people I can be myself with. The ones I adore for being themselves with me.

Adore may come off as a big word, but I spend a great deal of time thinking about this, so hang with me here a second.

I do, indeed, adore them. Cherish them. Celebrate them. Worship the very ground they walk on.

They bring me a solace I’ve found nowhere else (and believe you me, I’ve tried some comfort sources, kids.) They know with usually one word that something is awry and don’t give me peace until I spill all of it, usually in a volcano of ick and filth, never flinching when the grime hits their shoes and my language is peppered with such vile words a sailor would squirm. They laugh at the ridiculous, the nerdy, the obscure and obscene things I think up. They ask with interest about the things I concern myself with, and listen with love. And somewhere in this mess, reciprocation occurs.

These are the people who have taught me how to truly be a friend.

They meet for last-minute dinners, they sit around fire pits, they take road trips, they squeeze in coffee dates at otherwise preposterous hours and show up to help out with the crappy jobs I just can’t bring myself to do alone.

They send texts just to make me laugh. They send pictures to make my jaw drop. They call just to sing a bit of a song because they know I’ll get it.

So no, I can't call them friends. It's just not enough.

And in that space of lack, I find a full and joyous echo, filling my heart and resonating in my soul.

Here’s to my friends. To those far away and near, newer and around since dirt was invented, those I see daily and sporadically, those tied by blood, and those bonded by love and laughter:

I don't have the right word to describe you, but that doesn't matter.

I love you. Thank you for being you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Morning

I usually try to grab one of the weekend's mornings all to myself. While everyone else is sawing logs, I like to read, have breakfast and roll around in a cup of coffee.

Since a picture tells a thousand words and my camera phone was handy, I give you ... Saturday morning.

Of course, once folks hear me shuffling around and Amos starts playing (which raises quite the ruckus, I assure you), they start to rise as well. And that's when Bob's favorite time of day ensues: a lap nap on KittyDaddy.

May your day be filled with the things you love to do and the people--furry or not--you love to do them with.