Friday, June 30, 2006

5 more good reasons to have kids

And now, to finish the list.

6. You'll have a chance to do it better. Look at parenting as a chance to change patterns or break cycles that have been passed down from generation to generation. My father was raised in Arkansas by Christian parents who were, quite frankly, bigots. He inherited some deep-seeded prejudices against people of color, but to his credit, he did not pass this on to his children. My grandmother passed her fear of water on to my mother, but Mom made sure each one of us took swimming lessons so we wouldn't be petrified at the pool. Although SO didn't grow up with an overly-affectionate father, he is a very loving dad, kissing and hugging the boys on a regular basis. I was raised to join the ranks of conservative Republicans -- but my kids are liberal Democrats-in-training. Much, much better.

7. Your kid might change the world. Over the course of their short lives, my boys have had a number of ideas as to what they will do when they grow up: cure cancer, invent a hybrid that runs on trash, fly (like Superman), start a colony on Mars, become a garbageman/ policeman, serve as a professional football (or futbal) player, retire and then become a referee, write a symphony, give all their money to the poor, move to Hollywood and be "discovered," start their own country. They're cute, they have charisma, and with the help of SGK, they really might do it.

8. There's something to be said for sacrifice. I used to love shoes. Adored them. I had almost as many shoes as Robin U., the girl we all borrowed clothes and accessories from in college. But along came the boys, and the number of items in my closet began to shrink. I'm not going to say I enjoyed the deprivation, but after awhile, it just didn't matter anymore.

9. Adoration is addictive. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. (You get the picture.) Add to that lots of hugs, kisses, and precious baby eyes, and you just want more and more and more.

10. They'll take care of you when you're old. Face it, they won't want to do it, but you'll have years of stories to guilt them with. I've made about 257 scrapbooks to use as ammunition, and when the moment is right, I'm going to pull out one of those carefully crafted suckers and spring it on 'em.

"You want to put me in a nursing home, eh? I don't think so. Take a look at this double-page spread. See that rapping spider costume? It took me 48 hours to make. Look at this birthday stage I spent the entire weekend cutting out of a dozen computer boxes. Leave me in that rat-infested old folks' home? It ain't happenin'. Now get in there and run me a bath ... and make me a grilled cheese sandwich!"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

5 good reasons to have kids

I always knew I would have children, if given the chance. Even though I was the oldest of four, that didn't sour me on the parenting thing. I've got maternal instincts in abundance. I'd mother anything from a homeless kitten to an exhausted honeybee. I liked to babysit. I'd tell my boy cousins scary stories for hours (until I was asked to stop by my aunt -- they were having nightmares), and I'd style the hair of my girl cousins into elaborate braids and pigtails. Then I'd get my $5 and go home.

When you've got your own kids, however, there's no going home alone -- and no time off for good behavior. You're on the job 24/7, including holidays. It's relentless, and you tend to complain about the downsides rather than dwell on the good things.

Some friends of ours are thinking of starting a family. I've been told by one such friend (none too gently) that I'm not much of an advocate for procreation. He's right, I'm a whiner. I like to think I spin my tales of parental woe with a certain flair, but there's no disguising the fact that I'm a sissy.

So to put his mind at rest, I figured I could come up with 10 good reasons to have kids (only one of which may be slightly sarcastic) Here's the first 5:

1. You'll open the door to a hidden room. When I had my first baby, and he looked right at me with his dark, unfathomable eyes, I had the strangest experience. It was as if I'd walked into the house I'd grown up in and discovered a hidden door. Opening the door, I found an endless collection of treasures, each one spectacular and unique. How could I have spent so much time in this house and never come across this door? Who knew there were so many incredible things hidden away? I thought I could never love anyone more deeply and with such intensity than SO, until that baby was placed in my arms. He revealed to me a part of myself I didn't know existed.

2. You'll see a reflection of yourself. When it came to the boys, the DNA fairy didn't spend much time mixing up our genes -- she just divided them equally. Sport favors my side of the family; LegoGuy is his father's son. When Sport was a tot, he looked so much like my baby pictures that I put him in one of my dresses and felt a shiver of recognition. It was like looking in the mirror. When he has an emotional outburst, I know exactly where he's coming from, because I've been there. LegoGuy is laid back, a watcher rather than a doer. We used to call him an old soul. He's easy going and has a great sense of humor. He's so much like his dad. "Yes, he's mine," I think sometimes, when one of them behaves exactly the way I did at his age. He is me.

3. You'll remember your childhood more fondly. Our children are gripped by the tyranny of choice. They simply have too many things to choose from for their entertainment: Xbox, MySpace, iPods, Gameboys, a room full of toys, a garage full of sports equipment. If they aren't entertained for 16 hours a day, they moan about boredom. It's times like these you'll be tempted to talk about your own childhood, but it's best to reminisce to yourself. The kids won't get it. They can't fathom having only 3 dolls to play with, or sharing a pair of skates with your brother and sisters, or riding a hand-me-down, oversized bike because your parents said you'd grow into it. How uncool is that? And no matter how crappy parts of your childhood were, you'll start to think of it fondly, with nostalgia: Shrinky Dinks, Big Wheels, Knicker Knockers, record players, Crissy dolls, building a rickety club house with the neighborhood kids, catching toads and fashioning a house for them out of bricks, playing hide-n-seek in the dark -- none of those experiences will translate well. But you'll remember, and you'll smile.

4. You'll laugh -- a lot. When kids start stringing words together into sentences, grasping key concepts and ideas, it's hilarious. They bring insight and innocence to topics we no longer give much thought to. Kids really do say the darndest things. One example-- while pregnant with Sport, we took it upon ourselves to explain the whole "birds and the bees" process to LegoGuy: male and female body parts, the egg, the millions of sperm racing up the birth canal.

"Millions of sperm?" LegoGuy's eyes widened.

"Yep, but only one can fertilize the egg," I told him.

"Hey, Mom -- I won!" Priceless.

5. You'll feel awe and wonder. Our first major purchase as parents was a video camera. We've managed to document most of the boys' milestones. When the kids are bored, they get the tapes out and have a good laugh at their chubby, toddler selves. Their father and I are transfixed by the changes to their bodies and minds in just a few short years. It's hard to believe when you're in the thick of it, but babies do grow up. And one day they'll leave, or so I've been told: "Enjoy the time you've got together. It doesn't last forever." I feel awe when I imagine that the infant I wrapped in a flannel bunny blanket will one day make his way into the world. And if we've done our job right, we'll be amazed.

Monday, June 26, 2006

An inconvenient everything

That's great, that's just f---ing great, man. Now what the f--- are we supposed to do? We're in some real pretty shit now, man ... That's it man, game over man, game over, man! Game over! What the f--- are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?

I'm no alarmist, but I've just seen Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and I gotta tell ya, this is a scary, mind-blowing walk into the end of the world as we know it.

On bad days (and I've had a lot of bad days since the Bush Administration took hold of the country's helm), I'm not above wishing for some kind of flu pandemic that reduces the world's population by half, but I always manage to pull myself out of a depressive funk by focusing on the good things human beings have accomplished: art, music, literature, Junior Mints. It's not all war, racism, greed, and Mounds Bars, right?

I really don't understand how anyone can see the movie and dismiss it outright as a partisan rant. It's obvious how much Al Gore cares about this issue. He is much more energized by the subject than he ever was by the possibility of being president. Sure, the film makes some digs at the current president and the administration's anti-science bias, but the photographic evidence of what is happening in the polar regions should call all of us to action, regardless of political affiliation. If Gore turns out to be Chicken Little, then so be it. If it turns out some of the facts have been skewed a bit to make a point, so what? Global warming is real. I'd rather err on the side of caution than to watch my home state of Oklahoma be converted into beachside property.

Our honorable, elected officials are too busy stuffing their pockets with gold to realize that it's hard to swim weighed down like that.

The one benefit of sitting by and watching while the human race destroys itself is knowing that the earth will be able to heal itself over time. Once those pesky people are gone (and given about a 10,000 year window) some other critter will step up to fill the evolutionary niche left empty by the elimination of homo sapiens.

I hope it's not the cockroach. I hate cockroaches.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Soccer sensory overload

The World Cup is wearing me out -- I've watched more soccer in the last 2 weeks than I have since -- well, since the last World Cup. Last night I was out kicking the ball with Sport, and, I kid you not, after about 15 minutes, I was so winded I could barely walk. I felt a twinge of shame because I'd found myself shouting at obviously exhausted players to "Hurry up and get the ball down there!" So much easier to coach from the comforts of a big couch than to play the game.

Although I was rooting for the USA (since I am kind of partial to my country) I'd developed a real fondness for Ghana as they progressed, holding their own and even beating some really good teams. I've found my underdog, and I'll be rooting for Ghana in the next round. As an underdog myself, I like a good success story. It remains to be seen if they can take it to the next level. It's going to be awfully challenging.

Never been much of a sports fan. Never had any natural athletic ability. My sister was a bit of a tom boy: she ran track, played basketball, and was a soccer goalie. I joined track so we could run together, but I lacked that certain spark. I hated any and all physical activity on the playground. It was hard to foster a love of athletics when it was my head being targeted by the dodge ball. I discovered volleyball in college. That was a lot of fun, but since I'm short, I could never spike it.

SO is a huge soccer fan, so in order to keep and hold his attention back in our early days of dating, I decided I'd better at least pretend to be interested. Surprise, surprise -- I actually liked the game. I like that it's relatively short -- only 90 minutes. Watching a skilled player dribble the ball down the field and shoot on goal is a real thrill. And those soccer bodies -- well, they are works of art in themselves.

When we were sophomores, my college roommate and I had a particular interest in a Canadian soccer player. He was so blonde, his eyebrows and lashes disappeared into his face. He had the most muscular thighs and legs we had ever seen. He could do things with that ball that defied the laws of physics. Looking at him, we sinned in our hearts.

I'm going to be watching David Beckham in the England vs. Ecuador game on Sunday ... and sinning in my heart.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The best-laid plans

We had a plan. It was a really good plan. We were to meet up with L'il Angel at the entrance to Mud Island at noon. From there, we were going to explore downtown Memphis and end up at the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM).

The state park we were staying at was located about 12 miles north of town, in the middle of rolling hills, thick groves of trees, and winding roads. The signage was terrible, and we'd gotten lost several times going in and coming back out; therefore, we decided to leave around 10 a.m. to make sure we could find a parking place and the Mud Island entrance. There was lots of construction downtown, but we arrived safely at 11 a.m. The boys started their mad dash from one end of the park to the other.

Mud Island is so awesome! I visited this place as a kid, and I remembered how much fun I had wading down the replica of the Mississippi River. The boys took off their shoes and traced the different twists and turns. Every 30 inches represents one mile of the 1,000 mile span of the lower Mississippi. It goes on for five blocks, and ends in a miniature Gulf of Mexico, where visitors can take a paddle boat ride.

I watched the time, and we all trekked back to the north entrance to wait for L'il Angel. After awhile, I called her cell phone. "I hit some construction, but I should be there in about 10 minutes," she told me. SO took the boys back into the park, and we agreed to meet at the paddle boats. I read my book. When I checked the time again, 45 minutes had elapsed. Where was L'il Angel? I dialed her number again.

"I'm lost! I don't know how I ended up here." I could hear the frustration in her voice and the sounds of her hungry children in the background. After some discussion, we decided to call off the meet-up. We were both disappointed, but I'd noticed that there were more than one entrance to the park, and wasn't sure we'd even find each other before my own kids started clamoring for lunch.

That wasn't the only plan that we changed. We also tossed out our visit to William Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi.

After visiting the NCRM, we decided we needed to find an activity to do that the boys would really enjoy. I think LegoGuy got something out of the museum: he knew about the assassination of MLK Jr. and was aware of the Civil Rights Movement, but there was so much information to process. He was completely overwhelmed. Sport liked seeing the replica of the bus on which Rosa Parks made her famous protest, and the burned out bus of the Freedom Riders, but it was way over his head as to the historical significance of the subject matter.

So, instead of taking a guided tour of Rowan Oak, the next day we stayed at the park and went swimming. As a souvenir, we all got a lovely sunburn. We went back to our cabin, ate some frito-chili pies, played a game of SPOONS, told scary stories (until Sport got spooked), and then shared our most embarrassing moments and other assorted childhood anecdotes.

It was a total blast!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Yeah, this place is great -- now when do we eat?

Sport and LegoGuy have this endearing little thing they do when we go to museums. I always forget about it until we're actually at one of these monuments to history, and then I have the urge to hit myself in the forehead and say, "Oh, yeah."

They have a race to see who can get through the museum the fastest.

SO and I rediscovered this at the Clinton Presidential Library. We'd chatted with the security guards while they checked our camera bag for explosives, and then visited with the friendly volunteers while the boys made a mad dash for the escalators. We'd barely made our way through the Campaign exhibit and past the Cabinet room full-scale replica before Sport was back, bouncing from one leg to the other.

"Wonder what's on the third floor?" he asked.

"Honey, pace yourself. Take a look at all this stuff. Hey, here's a letter from Bono!"

That held his attention for about 5 seconds. Quickly, I passed him off to his dad and hid out in the Timeline alcove. Then, I ran into LegoGuy.

"Is President Clinton dead?"

"No, he's not dead. Why don't you spend some time at one of these interactive stations and learn something about him?"

The family gathered in the Orientation Theater to watch a short film on Clinton's life and political career. Then it was off to the 3rd floor to see a reconstruction of the Oval Office and keepsakes from world leaders presented to the 42nd American President.

"When are we going to go eat?" It's Sport again.

"It's only 10:30, kiddo. Can you give us another half hour?"

My favorite moment came at the end of our tour. I talked one of the volunteers into summoning an archivist from the bowels of the library. Dana used her special magnetic key to take the family past the security doors and into a section reserved for researchers. She told us she was one of 9 archivists employed at the Clinton Library. Her background was in Political Science/Museum Studies, and she and answered all my questions with enthusiasm.

"So few of our visitors are interested in how the documents are organized and accessed," Dana said, and went on to explain their cataloging and classification system, which is decided by the White House of Office and Records Management (WHORM). It sounded arbitrary and chaotic to someone used to the rigidity of AACR-2 and LC classification schemes. On the other hand, it sounded like a completely fascinating job. "Some of our research projects can last up to 2 years. We become experts in the subject over that period of time. I could write a book!" Dana trilled.

The boys were sprawled on a couple of leather couches, glazed looks in their eyes. I took pity on them and wrapped up the visit.

We walked down to the gift store where I bought an "I miss Bill" bumper sticker. I'm thinking of sticking it on my dad's car, right above the "Loveya Dubbya" that graces his back window.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Too late, too early

Today has probably been the most relaxed first-day-on-the-road-trip we've had with the boys. LegoGuy set up an adolescent bachelor pad in the back seat of the rented mini-van (complete with GI Joes, miniature airplanes, and books), while Sport took residence in the middle seat, thumbing through his card games. SO put in our homemade trip CD, featuring artists such as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Snow Patrol, and Sia, and we were off on a smooth ride. Surprisingly, we didn't run into any construction on I-40 until just outside of Little Rock. That never happens.

The hotel was right off the highway. We unloaded our gear and thumbed through our Arkansas Travel Guide. Eeyore had recommended we visit the Central High School National Historic Site, and we negotiated the streets in downtown Little Rock to arrive promptly at 4:30 -- right when it closed. We peered through the glass, but the park ranger, clad in regulation brown, wouldn't even look up from the cash register where she was busy tallying up her drawer.

At least we could look at the high school. It was just across the street, and enormous -- much bigger than I had ever imagined it to be. I'm not sure the boys understood its significance, but SO and I were glad to have the opportunity to see it.

Shank had recommended we try out Doe's Place, supposedly a favorite Clinton eatery and hangout when Bill was governor. We parked and showed up at the door at 5:00 -- 30 minutes before it opened for the supper crowd. We were eyeballed by a group of men standing on the corner by the Salvation Army. Sport suggested we pull out the soccer ball and have a game while we waited, but we were too hungry, and piled back in the van to look for another eatery.

You know how this turns out, don't you?

We got caught in rush hour traffic downtown, waylaid by an accident, lost in the suburbs, stopped back in at the hotel to ask directions to the nearest restaurant, participated in a "heated" discussion, before finally pulling into the Fireside Grill for hamburgers, quesadillas, and fried cheese. Afterwards, all the boys wanted to do was go back to the hotel to swim.

The hotel seems to be rather loud -- with huge diesel trucks pulling in and out of the parking lot. I hope I sleep tonight.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I got the "Hunnerd Percent Cotton" blues

It's the same thing every year: I get jazzed about planning our family vacation, plotting the trip route, picking sites to visit, checking out the Off the Beaten Path guides for a destination jewel, and then, before I know it, it's the day before we leave on our trip. Pre-departure day. I spend the next 8 to 10 hours loaded down by the drudgery of list making and packing. It's enough to make me swear off any future family vacations. But, like birthing a baby, you forget about the pain once you're on the road.

Because the next 8 to 10 hours are so much worse.

Every pre-departure day brings with it a distinctive meltdown. In the past, we've exploded over lost spatulas, misplaced tennis shoes, what kind of music CDs to bring, and excessive stuffed animal passengers. Our latest melt-down ocurred over laundry. I thought I'd done every last stitch of laundry in the house, but overlooked the one in our bedroom. Of course, this contained all of SO's newly purchased t-shirts and shorts, so he started a load about 7 o'clock and finally pulled it out of the dryer around 10 p.m.

"Oh, for crying out loud!" I heard him shout from the TV room. "These shirts are ridiculous! Look at these wrinkles!"

I checked the tags. "100 percent cotton. They'll need to be ironed." We stared at the pile of clothes, frozen like deer in the headlights of an H3.

I'm not sure what this little episode augurs for our trip to Memphis, but I think it has the potential for a great little blues song. Here's the first verse. I'll work on it some more and keep you posted, if I can find a local library in Little Rock that welcomes out-of-towners. Leave me some suggestions for a second verse, if you're up to a challenge.

Hunnerd Percent Cotton Blues
Got me a package of t-shirts,
Washed 'em with water and soap.
Pulled 'em out of the dryer,
And lost e'vry last bit of hope...

Oh, I got the blues,
Hunnerd percent cotton blues.
Them shirts are wrinkled, and shrunken, and sad,
Don't know what it means, but it must be bad.
I got the blues, them hunnerd percent cotton blues.

Friday, June 09, 2006

God moments, part 2

I grew up in San Antonio, South Side, and most of my friends were Catholic. They’d invite me to catechism on Wednesday nights, but I always had plans. In the evangelical church I grew up in, Wednesday nights were dedicated to NYI. There, I was told that all my Catholic friends were going to burn in hell because they worshipped Mary. Not in so many words, of course – they were more subtle than that. But this is the message conveyed in the pulpit, in Bible study, in the songs we sang: We’re right, they’re wrong; We’re in, they’re out; We’re saved, they’re damned.

I knew it was heretical, but I didn’t believe it. No matter how many times it was crammed down my throat, a part of me would whisper, “It’s not true.” My faith evolved over time, and I came to believe that God’s grace was extended to all. I still considered myself to be a Christian.

But the definition of “Christian” has changed significantly in the last 20 years. Now, many in the mainstream connect Christianity to the words and actions of people such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson. These men may call themselves Christians, but I don’t identify with them. They have hijacked my faith.

How to get it back?

The other night, a group of ten gave a special presentation at my church. They are members of CrossWalk America, and are trying to change the face of Christianity to be more compassionate, more in touch with everyday life, more justice-oriented, and include Jesus’ radical welcoming of diverse people and viewpoints.

After the presentation was over, I found myself talking to a gentleman I'll call M. He had a white beard, great tan, and kind smile. He was about my father's age, and was raised as a Baptist.

"I was as conservative as you can be," he told me, and we discussed our similar backgrounds. But he told me he'd had a change of heart about ten years ago. I tried to picture my father changing his personal belief system, but I couldn't do it. It was impossible to imagine what would bring about such a radical switch in my dad.

Apparently M had made friends with a woman at work, and they'd really hit it off, had lots of things in common. Then, he learned she was a lesbian. His personal relationship, his love for this woman -- his friend -- called into question everything he'd been taught, everything he believed in, and he found he couldn't believe it any longer.

I shook M's hand, looked into his eyes, and saw something holy. I was reminded of a lyric from a Les Miserables song: To love another person is to see the face of God.

I sat in my car after the program and sobbed. Love changes everything.

Love changes everything.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

God moments, part 1

God talks to me.

Now, before you dismiss me as just another Joan of Arc wannabe, let me explain.

As my devoted readers know, I’m a cataloger, and part of my job requirement is checking page numbers, making sure the book is not defective, assigning subject headings, noting additional authors, editors, illustrators, etc. Sometimes I get caught by a paragraph, and skim part of the book. It's impossible to read every book, although that’s the stereotype that most librarians hear each time we introduce ourselves and mention our occupations.

“Oh, you’re a librarian? I’d love to have a job where I could just sit around and read all day!”

Anyway, back to my original assertion. God talks to me.

I’ve never heard a voice, never felt the ground shake, or seen a burning bush. But when I’ve needed to hear from God most, I’ve experienced what I like to call “God moments.” Call it coincidence, serendipity, fate or destiny -- it’s happened so many times I refuse to believe it's a random event.

So lately, I'm sick and tired of fundamentalists. From any religion. During the early part of the Iraq War, I was traumatized by images of kidnapped victims, held by Islamic fundamentalists and then beheaded. When Margaret Hassan, a charity work at Care International, was executed, I couldn’t sleep. I kept having nightmares. I stopped listening to the news, even to NPR. I tried, as my pastor has said, to view these people, the “other”, as human beings, people just like me. But I truly could not imagine myself in their blood-soaked shoes. How could I understand their motivations? How could I stop myself from hating them?

Now, it’s the fundies on the Religious Right who are on my last nerve, demanding a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, pulling the puppet strings of elected officials, cramming their intolerant agenda down the throats of a relatively moderate public. And check out the latest video game to be backed by these guys in the name of sharing the Good News of Christ. I don't get these people. What motivates all their fear and loathing?

The answer came in a book I cataloged by Jim Marion: The Death of the Mythic God: the rise of evolutionary spirtuality. In it, Marion discusses how the consciousness of human beings evolves upward from one level to the next, beginning with the archaic consciousness of infants all the way up to the Christ Consciousness and nondual consciousness demonstrated by Jesus.

There’s a lot to this book, but here’s what struck me (and what I call my latest “God moment”) was a paragraph in which Marion detailed the mythic level of conscious.

People who function at this level, such as religious fundamentalists, believe their religion, scripture, ethnic group, nation, morality, and values are supreme. They see themselves as good, the “other” as evil. God is on their side. They “see their intrinsic self-worth in terms of external rules and roles. They assume that everything in their immediate cultural environment is the only true way to do things, and the only true way to think. Tolerance and understanding for other points of view and behaviors, and compassion for people who hold these views and practice these behaviors, are simply not possible. They can’t see any good reason for even attempting such tolerance because, for them, this would be a betrayal of their external God, the God whose rules and roles define their entire self-worth.”

I like to group myself with people functioning at the rational level of consciousness. We “see the world as one, believe all people are created equal and have the inalienable right to practice their own religion, see the world as governed by universal scientific and spiritual laws that apply to everyone no matter what their politics or religion.” As Marion says, “Thus they usually tolerate fundamentalists even though the favor is normally not returned.”

I feel like my faith has been hijacked. So what can I do to let others know that not all Christians are fundamentalists? Stay tuned for God Moments, Part 2.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Slowly mouth the word "vacuum" and people think you're swearing

My dad took off for the Great White North and asked me to check on the Grand Dame and her daughter during his 10-day leave. Mom's expecting a visit from her best high school girlfriend on Monday, thus the impetus for a frantic phone call.

"Queen, can you come over and vacuum the house? Lord knows I can't do it; my bones are too brittle." She's got the osteo.

I was just over there on Friday and offered to vacuum, but she'd said the house was fine. Two days later, the place had suddenly become filthy. I wondered if Grandma had thrown a kegger on Saturday night.

Sigh. I grabbed my keys and pulled the minivan onto the main road, mouthing "vacuum" at every aggressive driver who passed me.

As expected, the carpet looked fine. I could still see the groves cut into the carpet from its last vacuuming, but knew there was no point in arguing. Turning the behemoth on, I started working the acres of thick white carpet, ignoring the twinge in my lower back. I'd pulled a muscle early that morning while out yanking weeds in my garden, but I knew the pain I felt didn't hold a candle to the possibility of my mother snapping her tibia or losing a toe bone in a freak suctioning accident.

"You don't have to vacuum my closet," I heard my mother yell from the back of the 3,000 sq. ft. house. Thank God! The only time I ever vacuum my closets is in the rare instance that I do a spring cleaning, which is about once every ten years.

"That carpet don't need cleaning," Grandma shouted from the comfort of her recliner. "It's just fine like it is." I nodded, but kept on going.

The truth is, my mother is a clean-a-holic. Despite four children and a full-time job, she obsessively cleaned the house from the moment she got home until she dropped into bed at 10 every night. She set the bar so high, I knew I'd never be able to match her housekeeping zeal. Before I had kids, I didn't even try. SO and I co-existed with a relatively relaxed set of rules: 1) If it bothers you, then you clean it; and 2) Wash your own damn clothes.

It worked pretty well. Then, we reproduced.

LegoGuy came along, and everything changed. Sleep deprivation combined with a rather long recovery period due to a difficult birth. (The kid was just a little too big, and the stitches a little too numerous.) After about six weeks, I snapped out of a fog and realized I was wading ankle deep in clutter. My mother would never have been able to live like this. She'd have it whipped into order in no time. Why couldn't I get a grip? I sank into a deep depression.

My doctor said I was suffering from Supermom Syndrome.

"What matters is bonding with your baby. Give yourself time to heal. Everything else will fall into place. Eventually." He patted my shoulder.

I didn't trust it to all fall into place without some kind of effort on my part. My organizational skills kicked in and I came up with a weekly schedule, with all the chores broken down into manageable chunks on a day-by day basis. We still use this system today.

And I only vacuum once a week. Even if it doesn't need it.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Never pass up the opportunity to swing. One of my many maxims. Whenever we're out walking the dog and pass by the neighborhood park, we'll let Bella off the leash to explore and take a few minutes to swing. With each arc comes a liberating sense of freedom. I'm usually able to get really high, pumping my legs faster and faster. Then, when I've gotten as high as I possibly can, the thought pops into my head.


Why is the thought so compelling? Launch yourself out of that black plastic seat and into the air. Sail up into the branches of the trees.


As a kid, I did this pretty often. For one brief moment, I'd experience the exhilaration of flight, poised with my arms raised, before gravity took hold and pulled me back to earth. I'd land painfully, twisting skinny ankles or tearing up my knobby knees. Once I even landed flat on the ground, knocking the breath right out of me.

I'm older and wiser now. I don't jump. But I can see the thought is not far from the mind of the child swinging next to me. "Don't jump, Sport. You'll break your glasses."

His mouth widens into a grin. I know he's going to do it anyway, so I don't watch. The next thing I know, he's dusting himself off before running back to do it again.

LegoGuy has always been interested in flying. When he was barely 3, he'd spend lots of time drawing pictures of his favorite superhero, Superman. He'd meticulously ink in a black curl on Superman's forehead, and a beautiful red cape. At night, he would pray, "Please God, let me fly."

There are plenty of stories about gullible children, seduced by Superman stories, tying towels around their shoulders and jumping off roofs, only to break their legs. I'd patiently tell LegoGuy that due to the laws of gravity, people cannot fly. We are simply too heavy. That's why we invented airplanes.

"But God could make me fly, if He wanted to." LegoGuy was adamant.

"Honey, God is not going to suspend the laws of gravity just for you."

So LegoGuy's never tried to leap from the roof and take off into the air. But shortly after this conversation, I took him to a nearby airport. This place had a great little diner. It served pancakes and cinnamon rolls. Pilots flew in for breakfast, parking their private planes nearby. LegoGuy was mesmerized. After about half an hour, a man came over to talk to us. He and his son had flown in from who knows where, and had been watching us from the diner window while they ate. "How 'bout we take this boy for a ride?" the pilot asked.

My first thought was: He'll take us up and throw me out of the window over Lake Hefner, then sell LegoGuy on the black market to some desperate, childless couple. But his son was staying behind, and I doubted the pilot had ulterior motives. This is Oklahoma, after all, and most Okies are above the board, kind and generous. Mostly.

So we went up. LegoGuy wouldn't crack a smile, but that was because he was focusing intently on what he was seeing. The pilot even let him take the wheel for a moment, and it was an amazing moment.

Now, LegoGuy talks about joining the Air Force. He wants to be a pilot so he can fly, defy the laws of gravity, and seek the face of God.

As for me, I'll stick to swinging. Maybe I'll risk a little jump every once in awhile, just to keep me young.