The Passing Of A Princess


I was 7 years old when I fell in love with the idea of a Princess.  Many years later I met a noble woman, known then as the Birthday Princess, who restored my faith in the fairytale of life.

We met during a time of personal emergence when each of us were fledging writers, sharing our identical secret desire to change the world with a book.  We were fast friends whose kinship sustained and nurtured an unexpected bond, despite the fact that we would never meet in person a second time.

Sacha was a natural cheerleader and coach, unwavering in her support of others.  She spread her special brand of magic like a farmer feeding her chickens – scattering goodness all over with abandon.  The only thing she asked in return was that you love your own self more; that you see in yourself the beauty and potential that she saw in you.

Sometimes in life, if we keep our eyes open, we stumble into people along the way that we don’t deserve.  They are the rare gems that enrich us and invite us to elevate our game. 

Sacha was one of those people whose light shown so bright, from a place of such sincerity and generosity, that one was instantly drawn into it.  My crass, inelegant self wondered how Sacha managed to be so filled with joy.  She was never careless with life or people or words.  She was intentional, tender, and bubbly.

When a royal presence like Sacha is taken suddenly from the world, the sweetness of life suffers a bitter blow. I will miss this friend with an unparalleled level of loss, for I am quite certain there isn’t another of her for me in the world.  But I am privileged and humbled to have been part of her fold.  For those left behind, a calling remains, a challenge really, to embody what we’ve learned from one who had mastered the art of love here on Earth.

I imagine Sacha slipping seamlessly into Heaven, taking her place amongst angels as if she belonged there all along.  No doubt she would be shocked to find herself there, but likely she is delighting in the magnificence that surrounds her and wondering how she can share it with others.

After I post this tribute, I will wait with hopeful expectation for her response.  She would write something poetic in the comments section about how my words danced off the page and filled her heart.  And I would believe her, soaking up the free praise given by my most ardent supporter. 

Eventually, it will hit me that I’ll never again hear her words of encouragement, unless, like a solid Sacha student, I learn to do this for myself.  How proud she would be of me for finding the courage to be without her.  She would tell me not to worry that I’m not there yet.  Just be gentle with yourself and celebrate every step toward reclaiming happiness.

Thank you, Sacha, for gracing this world, and my life, with the gift of you.

Deb

City Girl In The Country – With Snakes

When Beagle was bitten by a snake at six years old while playing in the yard with his sister, the two came running to the house at full speed.  At first it was hard to decipher what had happened as the hysteria was so great.  In fact, Principessa – who was only emotionally scathed – was screaming louder than her brother.  “The snake was hanging from his finger!!!”  she screached.

Sure enough, there were two puncture holes – undeniable proof of a snake bite.

Now, when a city girl’s child gets bitten by a snake, even if that city girl has been trained in First Aid, there is sure to be some panic.  But I kept my wits about me and called a number of authoritative resources to alleviate any concern that Beagle would perish from the incident.

“What kind of snake was it?” they all asked me, AS IF I WOULD KNOW.  “That’s why I called you, the expert, to magically tell me that the unidentified snake, which you and I didn’t see, was NOT poisonous.”

Country-Boy husband determined that it was most likely a harmless garter snake.  He was so cavalier about it that one almost wouldn’t detect his immense snake phobia.

In the years that followed, there were numerous snake sitings including one that took up residence in the foundation of our house.  By this point, Beagle had proven himself to be quite a nature boy.  So I enlisted him to try to catch it – in order to conquer his snake PTSD of course.  Good of me, right?

Meanwhile, I was becoming more seasoned in country life as I took to educating myself on local wildlife.  Which basically means that I was figuring out my own hierarchy of ‘Things In Nature That Can Harm Me.’  Strangely, I find myself rather enamored of squamates, most of whom can swallow prey much larger than their heads.  In stark contrast, I am exceedingly sour about ticks whose main purpose it seems is to convey bacterial disease.

When this tiny baby was discovered

dead, but beautifully intact, I decided to keep it as an ornament on my desk, much to the horror of my family.  But the real prize came when Husband called me to the yard where he discovered its mama while mowing the lawn.

Lest you think me completely devoid of my city-senses, I will clarify that I don’t handle live snakes with my hands.  But I will get close enough for a photo op.  Husband, on the other hand, wouldn’t approach closer than (literally) a ten foot swimming pool pole, which he used to scoop it up.

This particular snake with its rattling tail stunned me into a morning of research to verify that it wasn’t a poisonous variety but rather a Milk Snake, common to these parts.

When I proudly played show and tell with photos of my yard-mate, my co-worker jumped back 20 feet and began to unwind. She was shaking and stuttering and had to remove her striped cardigan which somehow reminded her of a snake.

I was aghast at her extreme reaction, but truthfully, I was also entertained and maybe a bit smug.  How far I’ve come after 12 years in the country.  These days I’m more apt to consider the city pests like rats and traffic to be more intolerable than slithering, slimy creatures of the country.

In fact, I’ve developed an actual kinship with nature.  I feel sorry for the creatures that become trapped in my house – the fly desperately seeking exit at the screen door, the drama-filled bird maming itself while trying to crash through the window…  And I’d rather have a bat in my house (which I have, several times) because they’re so smart about getting themselves free through the smallest of spaces.

Friends wanted to know what I did with the snake.  They were horrified to hear that Husband and I placed it on the other side of the fence to avoid injury from the lawn mower.  Many offered advice to eliminate it.  But this city girl-turned-coutnry wouldn’t think of harming creatures in the their natural habitat.  If however, I ever find a snake in my bed, well, that will be a different blog altogether.

Where a Parent Really Is During Graduation

In a few days my son will graduate from High School and I won’t be there.  Well, physically I will be.  But I can’t account for my mind.  It will be wandering across acres of memories, reconstructing a captivating story of the boy we called Beagle.

Regular readers will recall that my boy-raising road was paved with its share of challenges.  But as it happens when one reaches the end of a worthwhile journey, the recollection of events, once digested, magically morphs into a more palatable version of a fairytale, complete with villains, heroes, and happy endings.

It’s only in hindsight that we’re able to connect dots that were laid down like a breadcrumb trail, solely for the purpose of finding our way back to that place we started in where pure, unadulterated love between parent and child reigned.

In real-time, when a child of ours declares his hate for his parents, we might crumble in despair.  When he fails a class, we might worry. When he suffers an injustice at the hands of a friend, we feel the hurt tenfold.  But when we watch him graduate amidst the pomp and circumstance, we see the culmination of all the horrifying and glorifying circumstances that brought him to this point.  The big picture in review makes sense.  He had to struggle some, and we had to suffer some in order to arrive at this moment of sweet relief and joy.

When one’s child graduates, there is a strange phenomenon of vulnerability that occurs during which any incident may elicit a poignant memory.  As this is not my first ‘Mother of a Graduate’ season, I recognize and welcome the anticipatory swell of emotions that shows up at random, unpredictable times.  Whilst bakery clerks may be caught off-guard by a suddenly tearful woman staring foggily into a pastry case because she’s thinking of the precious boy who used to accompany her there for treats, I am blissfully unaffected by my state of emotional undress.  There’s just no telling what catalyst will set off the waterworks in the weeks surrounding the launching of a child, and one can’t be bothered with corralling all those feelings.

Husband recognizes that I’m off-center and, wisely, doesn’t try to talk me out of tears.  Instead, we reminisce about our shared history with Beagle as if we’re discussing something that happened in the span of a day.  We talk about the tender way our son loved his dog and grieved its passing; the summer he patiently taught his sister how to ride a bike and dive into a swimming pool; the funny time at the store when the cashier handed him change and he pressed it back into her hand while whispering, grandma-style, ‘Go buy yourself an ice cream.’

These memories sustain us. The pits and peaks, the joy and pain are equal parts of the perfection.  It’s a mind-boggling miracle, really, this people-raising gig.  Somehow, the process unfolds exactly as it should, every time, resulting in unparalleled fulfillment of life.

Husband, insensitive creature that he is, presents a metaphor that brings me to my knees.  “Beagle’s life,” he explains, “is a train ride that we were on.  We’ve arrived at our stop.  It’s time to let him continue on without us.”  I envision myself on a train station platform, handkerchief waving and heart aching as my baby boy disappears around the bend. 

Husband tries comforting me with more analogies which only serves to open the wound.  He suggests that we’ve programmed the GPS up to this point, but now it’s Beagle’s turn to set the destination.  Lucky for us, he has proven that he’s competent in finding his way and surviving the inevitable travails of an adventure. Like the time when he and his friends decided to buy an old camper and take it to a concert for the weekend with less than $50 between them in their pockets.  I’ll leave the details to the imagination, but allow me to emphasize the point that Beagle did not once feel the need to call his parents for assistance.

Beagle will not likely recall his life the way I do. He may never understand how how his choices worried me, how his humor rescued me, or how his questions entertained me.  He won’t know how I doubted myself at every juncture and prayed continuously for guidance.  This is all ok with me, as long as he knows that he was, is, and always will be loved beyond measure.

The time has finally come for Beagle to claim the independence he has craved since before he could walk.  I have no choice but to trust that he’s ready.  As I sit amidst a crowd of loved ones at the graduation ceremony, I will share mutual pangs of longing for days gone by, coupled with indescribable satisfaction in present time.  Husband and I will squeeze each other’s hands a little too tightly, in order to balance the feeling of releasing our hold on the son we love so very, very much.

When all is said and done, after the diploma and handshakes and hugs, I will be replete and wrung out like a wet rag that was saturated with years of uncertainty and gratification during which I raised a young man.  My map of the parenting experience will be updated. The drama will fade and my prior concerns may seem silly.  All that will be left is appreciation for the gift of this child, this marvel who appears before me in a new light.

Pills, Pot, Profanity and Parenting

As I was leaving a parenting presentation at the local school on the topic of ‘Drugs, Alcohol, and the Teenage Brain,’ I caught up with a fellow mother of a teen boy.  We commiserated in hushed whispers about the pessimistic message of the presenter, fearing that an unintended ear would hear our true confessions. We know that our boys use substances that are frowned upon by social standards, aka laws, and we have learned to tolerate it – somewhat.

Call it self-preservation – or something more judgmental and harsh if you wish.  But don’t mistake it for ignorance, negligence, or lack of caring.  Countless conversations, teaching moments, threats, punishments and bribes have been employed at our discretion over 18 years.  And still, here we are, facing the dilemma of how to keep our kids on the straight and narrow.

When we begin the parenting journey in blissful naivete, we actually believe that we have control over how our kids turn out.  As if children ‘turn out’ – like a soufflé.  With thoughtful intention and unproven parenting prowess, we create a recipe for ourselves, certain that if we follow every instruction carefully, our result will be perfect, or at least predictable.  Plans shmams.

The illusion begins to deconstruct as early as the first tantrum when our little cherub learns to express his discontent.  It progresses to backtalk, profanity, sneaky behavior, lying….any rebellion that helps a child begin the natural separation from parent.  ‘Psychological differentiation’ they call it – an academic way to describe the tug of war between parent and evolving child.  If kids aren’t testing their boundaries, they’re not growing.

A professional colleague had a son who was delinquent and derelict by all accounts.  The mother, an educated and compassionate soul, endured a years-long struggle to set him straight.    Certain that she had failed as a mother, she all but gave up hope of him ever pulling himself together. The boy, a late bloomer you might say, transformed his life in his 30s and went on to study law enforcement.  He is now a judge.  I’ll bet he’s a cracker-jack judge, having had all that experience on the other side of the law.  I also bet that prior to his current career, there was plenty of gossip about how the boy ‘turned out’.  And lots of judgment about his parents, too.

Another friend has a brother who started smoking pot at the age of 14.  He wouldn’t quit until he decided that becoming a pilot was more important.  The point is this: the lives of our children are not about what we want for them.  It’s about what they want, when they want it. 

This is a hard pill to swallow for a conscientious parent. Parents are under pressure to produce a product that will pass quality control.  But to some degree, our real motivation is to satisfy our own need to have a child who makes us proud, or at the very least, doesn’t shame us. We want the ease of not  having to worry about the stability, safety, or success of our children.  We don’t want to be reminded that they are their own beings who have every right to make choices – good ones and bad ones. 

Long ago my son refused GPS tracking, aka Parent Stalking.  Thank goodness.  It has forced me to trust or to worry blindly – just like my parents did without the benefit (or curse) of constant contact.  When I feel the need to check in, I text the one question that summarizes my intent:  “Are you happy and safe?”  That’s really what I want to know.  More importantly, that’s what I want my son to ask himself.  I want him to check in with his own heart and mind.  If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no’, ADJUST COURSE.  I’ve found that the asking is enough to let him know that he is loved and that I’m here for him.

My threshold for alarm is raised quite high since the early days when I worried about kids not eating vegetables to the the present concerns of kids making choices about risky behavior.  Case in point, when teen son opened the pantry cabinet and found an array of delicious and very un-nutritious snack food, he turned to me in shock, grinning from ear to ear.  “You’ve given up, haven’t you?” he asked with delight.  “That deserves a hug!”  I accepted the hug with the same level of gleeful appreciation with which my son cracked open his bag of chips.

Sometimes our parenting doctrine gets in the way of our evolution.  It becomes a god we worship ritualistically without question.  At some point we must loosen the reigns simply because they become too hard to hold on to.  Which usually means that it’s exactly the right time to let go. 

This year I accompanied my son to the voting polls for the first time, where he cast his own vote based on his own thought process.  He was also called for jury duty and could be part of determining another person’s fate.  In the eyes of the law, he is mostly his own young man.  He knows his current mind, and his thoughts are valid, if not in line with my own.  He is experiencing his expanding heart.  He is living with his raging hormones.  And none of it begs me to interfere or to impose outdated restrictions.  It asks for freedom to live.

Wise adults tell children that they were placed on earth to shine their own light.  What if your child’s light is less like a lighthouse and more like a bonfire?  What if the very purpose of his life, the hope he gives, comes so far down the road that you can’t see it?  Maybe it’s in a form that you don’t yet recognize.  Maybe he is shining his light already but you can’t see past your disapproval of personality or behavior.

After all these years I have less certainty than I did before I became a parent.  Much of what I thought I knew was best for my children was misguided because it was based on my own ideas from my own life.  It turns out that ‘best’ is a nebulous and evasive concept.

We simply cannot know what is best for anyone but ourselves.  This doesn’t mean we don’t try to impart our wisdom or enforce rules that make our lives sane.  But we must remember that parenting is part of a bigger dance – one in which every child has the right to be his or her unique self, whether we like it or not.

A Parenting Invitation

Fellow parent,

Let’s not compete for martyrdom by comparing the hours of sleep we’ve missed.

Instead, let’s lift each other up with loving commiseration over the hard work we each do.

Let’s not insinuate that some parents are lucky to have children who sleep well, eat well, behave…

Instead, let’s acknowledge that it is hard work and intention, not luck, that bring success.

Let’s not be bothered by people who dismiss our concerns as insignificant and tell us that parenting only gets harder.

We need to support each other through the tough times right now.  Let’s remind each other that the rewards of childrearing make the drudgery worthwhile.

Let’s withhold judgment of each other’s parenting and avoid giving advice on how to do it better.

Instead, let’s respect that we’re each doing the best that we can and accept that our parenting styles differ.

Let’s not boast about our children under the guise of ‘humble-bragging.’  The insinuation of superiority is obvious and insulting.

Instead, let’s acknowledge the greatness in every child and celebrate their imperfections.

Let’s not talk about how our children make us crazy.

Instead, let’s tell each other how we’ve cried from disappointment in our own parenting behavior, and together, let’s figure out a way to do it better.

Let’s not ever pretend that we’ve got it all together.

Let’s be honest and expose our vulnerability so that we might learn to accept ourselves, and each other, more authentically.

Let’s not play that broken record called “I have no time to myself”.

Let’s choose to sing about how we had the courage to say ‘no’ to the ones we care for, in order to care for ourselves.

Let’s not line our parenting path with comparison and criticism.  It’s not a competition.

Let’s just be parents, traveling side by side, cheering each other on.

What a Girl Really Wants

mix-tapeA sappy song played in the background while Beagle and I prepped dinner.  “I’m head over boots for you” the singer declared.  In a defeated tone, Beagle said, “I feel like this is how girls want boys to be, but I just don’t talk that way.”

Poor teen boy has entered the realm of romantic relationships and he realizes that his natural boyish M.O. won’t be enough to satisfy the very different desires of his love interests. 

We refer to male and female as the opposite sex for a reason.  Girls can be complicated.  Men, maybe not as much.

men-women-on-off-switch

Girl code, or what a girl wants without telling you but expects that you will know and be willing to deliver on a regular and perfectly timed schedule, could take a lifetime of intimate relationships to figure out.  Heck, girls sometimes can’t decipher their own jumble of mind and emotions.

Take heart, my son, you don’t need to speak the fancy words.  Instead of resenting love songs, you can borrow from their poetic wisdom to help you.  Make a playlist for a girl and tell her that the songs remind you of her.  In my day we called them ‘mixed tapes’ and they weren’t nearly as easy to make as picking digital tracks off the internet.   Just be sincere and make sure you know the message of the song.  You wouldn’t want to dedicate a supposed love song like REM’s “The One I Love” which sounds nice but is really about moving on from a girl who is a “simple prop to occupy my time.”

Furthermore, if you can get past your distaste of sappy song lyrics, you might learn a thing or two about girls from the message behind the words.  For example:

I only have eyes for you. 

No one enjoys a wandering eye in a partner.  Don’t look at other girls, talk about other girls, or even contemplate that another girl exists.  Just kidding about that last bit.  But seriously, love the one you’re with or break it off.

i-only-have-eyes-for-you

I’ll be a man who will fight for your honor…. I’ll be the hero you’ve been dreaming of. 

Chivalry is not dead, even in an age of feminism.  A girl, like anyone, enjoys knowing that you’ve got her back.  A woman I know met her husband for the first time at a frat party and fell in love with him because when she passed gas he took the blame for it.  It doesn’t take much to be someone’s hero.

my_hero__by_retro_ccn-d5s5jo4

She don’t know she’s beautiful

I’ll go out on a limb and say that there isn’t one living girl who doesn’t like to be told she’s beautiful.  Even if she should know it.  Even if you’ve told her a million times.  Even if you just told her 3 seconds ago.  You get my point.

every-woman-deserves-to-have-a-man-who-is-proudly-196906

Here’s the short of it… every person, male or female, benefits from three common things: attention, affection, and admiration.  The need for fulfillment of these basics doesn’t go away.  Finding unique ways to provide these staples to a loved one is the challenge and the fun in relationships.  Rise up to the challenge, my son, and start studying those love songs, romantic movies, and not-so-subtle hints dropped by girls.

a-real-man

Moments

 

 

moment   

[moh-muh nt]                                                                                                                      

noun:  an indefinitely short period of time; instant:

 

that moment when

love

moves in.

 

that moment when

forgiveness arrives

at last.

 

that moment when

the ugly duckling

sees the swan

that is her.

 

that moment when

life leaves.

 

that moment when

his eyes shift

from light to dark

and you realize

with dread

what it means.

 

that moment when

the new mother

is born.

 

that moment

when the silence screams.

 

that moment when

Truth

unlocks the gate.

 

that moment when

IT

ends.

 

that moment when

you release the need to know why.

 

that moment when

you decide to say yes.

 

that moment when

you realize that the pain

is gone.

 

that moment when

joy returns.

 

that moment when

you finally understand.

 

that moment

when you acknowledge

that the only thing that matters is

this moment.

 

What a tasty morsel this moment is.

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