Before I look forward, I need to do a shoulder check.
Life as a parent means primarily a life of never ending errands, punctuated by making meals and driving to after school activities, so I like to look back to prove to myself my life isn’t one long grocery list. There are other things that move me forward as a human being; a growing and learning and therefore interesting human being – it’s just hard to remember them. Although my life revolves, irrevocably, around my children, I still want to have a little orbit of my own. A part that is separate from my mothering role, so that when they fly the coop I won’t streak out of the Milky Way altogether.
Normally, when I reflect on a year, I figure out what ages and grades my children were in, and go from there. So 2009 was the year of grades 5, 3 and kindergarten. From there I recall the teachers, who largely made up my social circle that year, and then recall the activities they were involved with, the coaches of whom completed my social circle, and so on.
Exciting stuff. I will inevitably do this with 2012. But of course, there was more to my year than how much homework my children did or didn’t have. Fantastic moments that were sandwiched in between orthodontic appointments and marinating pork tenderloin. Some of them involved amazing friends and family members, while others were found in quieter times within the pages of a book or in the stillness of the forest. It’s not an exhaustive list, but here are a few highlights of my 2012:
- It was a year of real estate: I didn’t move mountains, but I moved our family to a new neighborhood. A simple sentence that explains six months of headaches. Not so much a highlight as much as an achievement, but let’s not quibble over details.
- I found wisdom, epiphanies, and triumphs in stories – too many books to list, but The Dovekeepers, When God Was a Rabbit, The History of Love, and Cloudstreet were a few of my favorite reads.
- The wise powers at Lululemon advise me to do something everyday that scares you. I did one thing in 2012: I sent my rough draft of my novel to an editor. It took 364 days to work up to it, in my defense.
- What’s a year without a soundtrack? If using the stereo of my youth, I’d have worn out the needle playing Bon Iver, Hey Rosetta, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Kathleen Edwards over and over again, but luckily the digital versions are showing no signs of wear. The concert of the year easily goes to The Lumineers, who lit up the Vogue theater like no band I’ve seen.
- I started swimming with a masters group. In my first week I swam more lengths of the pool than I had my entire life. And I’m old, so you do the math.
- We vacationed in beautiful paradises, both near and far, but 2012 will go down as the year that I finally went to the city that Frank Sinatra crooned about. The one that is the setting for so many movies, books, and reality television shows that I felt like I knew it like the freckles on my daughters nose. I had to resist the urge to tell my cabbie to take Atlantic Avenue rather than the Long Island Expressway to get to JFK. It was weird.
There. It’s recorded for posterity – moments of magic amongst the mundane – these assorted flickers of joy help to distinguish my 2012 from the thousands of carrots I’ve peeled. They may pale in comparison to watching my children grow into astonishingly astute beings, but these moments, purely mine, help me to appreciate my little shooting stars even more.
I’ve been explaining monsters out of our house for years. To emphasize they’re not there, I get a flashlight and shine it underneath their beds, and always, always, close their closet doors. Tight. After the monsters come the questions about robbers and murderers. How, they ask, do we know we will be safe? Oh babe, we live in a VERY safe community, we have an alarm system, and I wake up when a pin drops.
Don’t worry; you’re safe. It’s my job to keep you safe. Sleep tight.
When I heard the breaking news about a gunman in Connecticut in an elementary school, I did what most people did. I turned off the news, and have been careful not to listen to it since in the company of my children.
Because some monsters can’t be explained, and some crimes are so heinous they can’t be considered.
I know I can’t shelter them forever, someday they will learn about this unfathomable tragedy, but every day that goes by that they are naive to these monsters is another day of innocence, another day of childhood the way it should be, wherein I just need to explain the monsters underneath the bed, and not the ones that walk into elementary schools with semi-automatic weapons.
Meanwhile, I’m piecing together my response for the day they hear of this tragedy, the response that is supposed to alleviate both their fears and mine. The one wherein I explain our country’s laws against handguns, and the resulting lower murder rates, and the distance we are from Connecticut, and so on. The response where I emphasize that this will never happen to them.
Or so I hope.
Because of course it could.
So as I sat in my daughter’s Christmas concert yesterday, the one where she dressed up as a penguin who encounters Santa Clause after his sleigh has crash landed, the only thing I could think about was how lucky I was. The only thing she worried about before going to sleep the previous night was forgetting her lines.
Another day of innocence.
When the inflatable Santa appeared on my neighbour’s lawn on November 1st, eclipsing even the towering Douglas Fir behind it, I knew it was coming. For not I, the Grinch, Hurricane Sandy, or the war-torn Middle East could stop Christmas from rolling into town and dominating the lives of those that celebrate it.
There’s much to say about this season in the snow, people love it or abhor it, everyone has a shopping tip, drunk staff Christmas party story, or recipe to share. But in the same way my hunger instantly disappears when faced with an All-You-Can-Eat buffet, I’m stymied; am I in the love or hate camp? I’m not sure. On any given day, at different moments, I could be either.
I love the idea of giving my kids something they will be over the moon excited about, but hate the fact that this dream necessitates me tearing around the city and stalking malls everyday of December. (I know, I shop online too, but still need to grab most of the stuff in person. Call me traditional, but I’m saving a fortune in shipping fees.)
It’s a Wonderful Life. Elf. Christmas Vacation. Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Yeeeeeesssssss! Frosty the Snowman. Santa Buddies. Nooooooooooo!
Invite me to a party and I will be there – I happen to be gifted at merrymaking. The constant low-grade headache I have throughout December is another matter.
The memories of my childhood eyes seeing Santa through the crack of light in my door are precious; the ghosts of boyfriends past I could live without.
I hate the rain that is inevitably present in our city, but the snow on our mountains? Sign. Me. Up.
My joy of giving starts out strong early in the season, but by the time I’ve found a box of chocolates for the piano teacher, my daughter’s other best friend, and the barista that occasionally remembers my name, it snaps from joyful to snarly.
I held back tears of pride at my oldest daughters’ first Christmas concert; ten years and two kids later they are tears of boredom, and frustration that the tallest father in the school sits in front of me every year.
My children are not sure if they will return from school to a mother baking shortbread while cheerfully singing the incorrect lyrics to Santa Baby, or one savagely Gorilla-gluing the gingerbread house together (because why, for the love of god, does my roof always cave in?) When it comes to Christmas, I’m fifty shades of grey, fifty shades of red and green.
Love it, hate it, or Switzerland – what’s your verdict on Christmas?
writing prompt: flawed
(Sigh) – It was just okay. I liked Breaking Dawn Part 2, but I didn’t love it; much as I wanted to. Yet it’s one of those things where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – like a Jackson Pollock painting, the splotches of colour don’t mean anything in isolation, but together, the canvas is captivating. You can’t think of this movie as its own entity, but rather as the final farewell to this cast of vampires and werewolves we’ve come to admire, or at least, enjoy looking at.
This last installment of the Twilight series seemed to miss a hint of the magic that laced the others. I missed the love triangle between Jacob, Edward and Bella. The alternate tension invented for tension purposes (between the same three, but because of Renesmee) can’t compete. And as this tension has waned, so has the (almost, at times) witty dialogue. I wanted more of Charlie, and less of the vampires from all corners of the earth. Edward has lost some of his magnetism, but that could be the most recent Kristen Stewart sex scandal’s influence on me, I’m not sure.
There were many things I did like. Here are a few:
-sitting in a movie theater in a plush seat, with no one pulling on my arm, shoveling popcorn into my mouth
-watching beautiful vampires with perfect skin (shame about the eyes)
-its dramatic cinematography and incredible scenery, filmed in the very same woods and trails where I love to run (albeit not as fast as Bella and Edward, but a girl can dream)
-the concept that the unlikeliest of loves can persevere
So even though this last movie wasn’t all we Twi-hard fans hoped for, it was still great to see them; the Cullens, Bella, Jacob, and Edward, and all of their beauty, with their problems that are not of this world; projected on a gigantic screen for us to admire, forcing us to leave more pressing issues at the ticket booth, at least for two hours.
My daughter and her thirteen year-old friends agreed in unison that most of all, they were sad the saga had come to an end. I would concur, but at the same time, the story had clearly run its course; arguably one movie ago. It was time to say good-bye.
I have my ticket in my hot little hands and I’m excited.
We’re off to see Breaking Dawn Part 2 tonight – my teenage daughter works well as a prop in this instance – and I can’t wait to see Bella as a vampire. I was born to be a vampire, she says in the trailer, and I was born to fall in love with people (or werewolves, vampires, robots, whatever) falling in love on gigantic screens while eating popcorn. We all have our things.
I realize it’s not cool for a person of my vintage to love the Twilight series, and I have patiently waited for the super-crazy Twilight fans among us to attend their midnight showings and wait in line for hours to see the movie during opening week. I’m a fan but I’m not an idiot. I’m hoping for an empty seat in front of me on which to fold my coat, ensuring a clear view of the shirtless Jacob.
I’m bemused that even after four movies, the series isn’t getting old for me, unlike the Sex and the City movies, which should have died on the table after movie number one. Will tonight be the final straw? Will Edward’s sparkling skin no longer appeal? Will the vampire and werewolf culture fail to interest me? Will I be done with this love triangle, and be happy to say goodbye to rainy Forks? Will I finally have outgrown my addiction?
You are either a lover or a fighter. A leader or a follower. A liberal or a conservative. A runner or a swimmer. Put your hands down, triathletes. I know what you’re thinking, you can be a little bit of both. And yes you can, but you will have a bias. One that comes more naturally. Preferably one that doesn’t make you feel like you are drowning.
I’m a runner; not so much a swimmer. On land, I strike out comfortably, breathing in every four steps, and out every four steps, and reduce this to three or perhaps two breaths on hills. In, out, in, out, shoulders down, arms loose, feet quick. It’s a beautiful feeling, any day I run in is better than one I don’t, it’s cheaper than therapy, and it allows me to eat copious amounts of fries and chocolate. I’m a runner, born and bred. When I go out for a walk I am tired and whiny after five minutes, but I can run for miles, some days hours, without a problem. I may be a runner but I am definitely not a walker. Go figure.
But things are breaking down and my quadriceps and IT Bands aren’t what they used to be, so sometimes, in the summer months, I’m a biker. Biking has its own share of challenges, for instance the likelihood of dying on the fender of cement truck. I choose my biking days and routes carefully, and with the inclement weather we have in the Pacific Northwest these can be few and far between.
So the elephant in my room for the last few years, if not lifetime, has been swimming. Ugh, the chlorine, the cold water, the flattering skull cap look, not to mention the monotony, the boredom, the breathlessness, the other swimmers at your heels. Jesus. I’d rather walk.
But I remember the swimmers of my youth – Jacqui, Jenny, and Jamie, I’m looking at you. Damn they were fit. They kicked my cross-country ass to the curbside race after race, although I think the only time they ran was in the actual race; their training was in the pool.
So when a friend cajoled me into joining a masters swimming group (she said something like, I’ll bet you a bottle of wine you can’t do this, and I was like, oh no you didn’t), I was hesitant, but only momentarily. The writing was on the wall, and the white wine is now in my fridge. I got in the pool and kicked and splashed my way to the end. And back again. Repeat, times like a thousand.
It wasn’t pretty, I could see by the look on the coach’s face, a mix between Sweet Jesus where did this one come from and why is this woman drowning in my pool? But I got through the warmup, and though I was ready to call it a day by then, I managed to do some, if not all, of the workout that followed. Oh, the accomplishment; it was equivalent to achieving a PB in a half-marathon. I high-fived my lane mates while they looked at me quizzically, and my arm muscles wept with the joy of being called upon.
Now, twice a week, for an hour and a half, I stare at the line on the bottom of the pool and think about rolling and reaching. The water is cold for only a fraction of a second before the work required to stay afloat warms me. The coach writes cryptic notes on the whiteboard, like 8 x 50 f/c @ 60/65/70, and the only message I can decipher is that f/c is front crawl. When my fellow swimmers ask me what I want to do the 50′s in, I explain I just want to finish them without drowning, time is irrelevant. I have three speeds; slow, slower, and sinking. We swim about 3 kilometers each workout, which I figure is the equivalent to swimming the English Channel.
But I’m doing it, and I’ve never felt better. In the end I crawl onto the deck and thank God and Buddha and Shakespeare that although I came close to hyperventilating and drowning in my own snot, I made it to the edge just in time. I marvel mostly because not only did I do the workout, but that I even got in the pool to begin with. My back feels stretched, my IT bands are smiling, quadriceps spent, and the rest of the day, I feel my blood coursing smoothly through my body. When I listen closely, I can hear it say: thank you thank you thank you.