Saturday, January 28, 2012


I predicate my entire life on balancing my kids' needs with the level of b.s. I need to experience to meet their needs. And sometimes, my tolerance for the b.s. wears thin, threatening activities that, you guessed it, are either helping my boys, are things they enjoy, or some combination of the above.

Right now, league bowling occupies the bete noir spot on my life's to-do list. I hate that Gabriel gets no coaching in his league (the other kids do); I hate that the other parents encourage their kids to bully Gabriel (which is why I now occupy his lane radiating all manner of hostility--it stopped the bullying, but hasn't fixed the coaching problem).

The situation in Nic's part of the forest improves weekly; although he and his teammate also get zero coaching, no do-overs (other kids do, and their more competitive parents allow it and dis-allow it for our boys), Nic's come a long way in curbing his behaviors and acting more like the almost 12-year-old he is. When a mom told her son that Nic has 'conduct problems', I called her on it. She didn't apologize, but she did backpedal. I'll take that.

Two weeks ago, I was on the point of pulling them both out for good, for all the above reasons and a whole bunch of other craziness and insults collected since September. Today, I was pleased to see Ry, Nic's teammate from many a Friday last year, join Nic and R to be with them for the remainder of the year. "He missed bowling with Nic," his dad said.

And Gabriel does enjoy rolling, oblivious to all the sturm and drang around him. I reminded hubby of these things as we had our weekly post-roll stew on the way home. "We have to remember that we can't change these people," I said. "And we can't let them chase us away, either."

Water off a duck's back. Years of weathering other people's judgment and insanity has hardened me, like it or not, to the point where I almost enjoy pissing people off by showing up. Because you know what? We have as much a right to be there as they do.

And let them make their judgments. I can see that my boys have both made huge strides since September. I see their progress. And their progress validates their presence there--and anywhere else they want to be.

Chew on that. I am.

I remind myself that these activities are not about me, although other parents sometimes sadden, frustrate and infuriate me. At some point, both boys are going to meet this hostility head on, probably sooner rather than later. And I will have to be there to teach them that life doesn't allow you to choose your interactions. So you have to be prepared to handle whatever comes your way.

They both handle adversity pretty well. I like to think I'm a good model. After all, kids don't always listen to what you say, but they will do what you do.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


It's time to slow down.

I've been consciously and obstinately ignoring all external indicators for, oh, I don't know, maybe the last several months. I hear or see these things, then double down, jaw clenched, and power ahead.

Then, a couple things happened on Friday. I heard the news that a former colleague lost her teenage son. That single event triggered a cascade of thoughts and feelings that I usually reserve for the dead of night when I can't sleep.

These thoughts take me to some interesting places in the light of day. News like this tends to make one hit the pause button, quickly chased by 'reset.'

In a way, death's easier if you can see it coming. You can slow down the clock, prioritize, get your affairs in order, get good with God, say goodbye. It still hurts--God, how can it not?--but at least in your head and heart you knew you did everything leading up to it the best you could. There are no regrets.

When death shows up unannounced, however, the recriminations and regret heaped on loss make the unbearable unspeakable.

I've spent the better part of the last three years living my life as if I were dying--enjoying my family and friends, working hard at my job and within my community, spending as much time in nature with my family as possible, and getting my spiritual house in order.

I started losing track of some of this about 7 months ago. I stopped frequently, course-corrected, struggled with some of the usual demons, adapted, adjusted, and moved on.

So, Friday morning's email arrived, and the only sound was the sound of the silk blindfold hitting the floor.

I went about the morning's business, attending to what I needed to attend to with the news and all its implications running various processes in my background. Mostly, scenes from my sons' lives in the last year played out in various ways, complete with my own internal commentary of what I could have done differently, how I should have handled things differently, what better example and modeling I could have provided for them both.

I always comfort myself with "I am doing fine; they are doing fine." And with "They are doing fine," I excuse myself.

And I know in my heart of hearts that THIS. Is not fine.

Which led to a text and a closed door conversation that went from business to the deeply personal. "I need to know," I concluded at the end of an uncharacteristic display of frustration, "what difference I am making. Because it feels like no matter what I do, none of it makes a damned bit of difference."

I think we all think this on some level. I think this is the first time I actually uttered these words to another human being.

There's no great reveal here. I always say in 50 years the measure of who you are isn't going to be what you did for employment; it's going to be the proof of who your kids are and what they are doing that will be the measure of your life. How did you live? What will people remember about you and how handled challenges and adversity? THAT is who you are.

I closed that door. And another one opened.