Keep Dancing

“You don’t stop dancing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop dancing.” – Jellybean Benitez

My birthday is in two days, August 16. I will be 57 years young. I recall a time when, four years ago, I was driving Shane and Max to the skateboard store. Shane said to me, “Mom, what’s your best dance move to bring to the dance floor?” I said, “Duh, it’s the Smurf!” Shane turned up the radio and I started car dancing to 50 Cent (because teenagers picked the music). Max yelled from the back seat, “Mom, STOP! You’re making God cry!”

My Max, my youngest, my baby, began his senior year of high school today. When his older brother, Shane, was starting high school, he would announce himself whenever he came home. He would slam the front door open and yell, “SHANE’S HOME!” When he stopped announcing himself, I missed that. I still miss that.

Today, on social media, I saw all the photos of my friends’ kids heading off to the first day of school. I don’t have pics of my kids’ first days of their last couple of years of school. First of all, they were usually at their dad’s house and he’s way more relaxed than me about that kind of stuff. Second, that’s not their jam. But here’s what I did do today, for Max’s last first day of high school. I went into his bedroom this morning with my headphones on, listening to a playlist that I made for him. And I danced. “Ooh-oo child, Things are gonna get easier. Ooh-oo child, Things’ll get brighter….Some day, yeah. We’ll get it together and we’ll get it all done.”  And so – I danced the Smurf to the Five Stairsteps in my high school senior son’s bedroom at 7:00 a.m. on a Wednesday. I’m pretty sure it made God laugh until they cried.

A few weeks back, Max was hanging out on my bed while I was practicing salsa steps. And I realized that we had gotten past the whole car dancing debacle. It’s an anti-climatic moment when you realize that you no longer have the power to embarrass your kid with your old school dance moves.

When Shane was here earlier this summer, he didn’t announce his entrances. But he would come into my room each day and tell me his comings and goings. He still calls and texts me enough to let me know that he has not been eaten by bears in Oregon.

I think, perhaps, maybe, this whole mom thing may be working out in my favor. My sons are moving on and out and I am going to have this entire house as my dance floor. Silver lining. And yet, I will always have them here – in my heart, my soul, my amazing kids. Yeah. This mom gig, it’s turned out to be the best job I never got a job description for.

During my 56th year, I said goodbye to many beloved friends and family. One of my dear friends told me the day before she passed away, “Know that you are always loved. And keep loving and appreciating. And don’t forget to dance.” Every morning, I get out of bed and I put on music. And I boogie downstairs to get coffee, with my beloved furry co-counsel Atticus Finch in tow. Starting with that first cup of coffee, I remind myself. This is good. Know that you are always loved. And don’t forget to dance until you make your kids and God cry. Happy birthday to me. Happy every day to you.

#Truant

When Max was in third grade, he told me that he had too many sick days to get into a good college. He said: “The government isn’t going to let me have another chance, unless I figure out a way to reverse the time-space continuum and re-do a couple of tests. And I’m not sure I want to do that.”

My greatest joys and proudest moments in my life have come from being the mother to my two sons. As have my most vulnerable and scared moments. My fired-up-tiger-claws-out-I-will-eat-your-face-if-you-hurt-my-kids-moments. My moments of deepest despair and shame came from the times when I felt like I failed my sons as their mother. I didn’t sign them up for the thing on time. I didn’t sew the patch on the right sleeve. I forgot to bake the class snack and I sent in a pack of Oreos and a side of sorry. I have this thing about the time-space continuum. I usually end up behind it. But I hope I have shown my children through this process that I am imperfect, I am compassionate, I am vulnerable, I am creative, I make mistakes, I fall down, I get back up again, and I’m going to be late.

I am the kind of late where I am trying to do one more thing before I left the place where I was. I’m trying to do a load of laundry. Read and respond to an email. Answer a text from a sad friend and I don’t want them to feel alone. Listen one more time to a song that someone I love shared with me and it makes me think of them.  I’m the kind of late who stayed up the night before reading an amazing new book or transcribing music on my cello or writing a poem or practicing salsa steps. But I promise, I’m not going to be really late. Maybe 5-10 minutes. And I promise. I will be there.  

My son Max – he’s that kind of late, too. Up too late, and in the mornings, during the school year, this meant he showed up to his 8:00 am class often 10, 20, 30 minutes late. At the end of the year, I got a warning letter from the school district letting me know that my son was a truant. My creative, brilliant, son, who gets letters from colleges weekly, who spends his free time playing jazz and busting his ass working as a grocery clerk, who stays up too late because he is trying to do better and be better. Well, according to the school district – he is a truant. But what the district doesn’t mention is that he always shows up. He just shows up late.

In a world that allegedly celebrates creativity and thinking outside the box, the problem is, we are unwilling to relinquish boxes. We crave definitions and certainty. In many ways, I get why we need that. I’m an attorney. I’m a bit of a rule-follower. But I also see, day in and day out, that we forgo the practical because it’s “safer” to cling to a definition and stay in a box. As an example. One of my favorite quotes from “The Breakfast Club” is:

“Brian: I’m a f*in’ idiot because I can’t make a lamp?

Bender: No, you’re a genius because you can’t make a lamp.

Brian: What do you know about Trigonometry?

Bender: I could care less about Trigonometry.

Brian: Bender, did you know without Trigonometry there’d be no engineering?

Bender: Without lamps, there’d be no light.”

When he was in middle school, Max said to me, “Mom, I don’t understand why we take some of the classes that we do. I understand why we take Language Arts and Math and Science. But I don’t know why we take Social Studies. I mean, yesterday we learned that Mayans considered big noses a sign of beauty. When am I ever going to need that in life?” I said, “Max, maybe one day you’ll be at a cocktail party and you’ll see a pretty girl and you’ll need a conversation starter. You’ll walk up to her and say, hello, ladies. Did you know that in the Mayan culture big noses were considered a sign of beauty?” He said, “Yeah, I’d say, hello ladies, did you know that you would be considered beautiful in Mayan culture? Your big nose would actually be a sign of beauty.” Definitions are mutable. Boxes are different sizes. Noses are relative and relevant to faces. It all depends on the lamp and the lighting.  

A friend of mine, who was an NFL football player, once told me, “You’re always a twisted knee away from oblivion.” And – his career ended because of a knee injury. But before that happened, he accomplished amazing goals. And that’s the thing. You can either be diminished by what might happen or other people’s expectations and definitions of you. Or you can keep going and take care of sh*t right now.

No matter where you are, no matter when you get there, you are perfect and exactly right. And if I’m supposed to meet you there, I’ll be a little late. But I promise. I’ll be there.

Keep Going

A few years ago, at camp, Shane and Max were involved in a game called “color wars.” Shane’s team was green and Max’s was blue. The night before Max asked me, “Mom, do we have any blue face paint?” I was really tired and said, “No, we do not and I don’t have time to go get any. You’ll just have to figure something out.” In the morning I heard him and Shane in the bathroom. He was saying to Shane, “Shane, that looks great. Now put more green stripes on your forehead!” I yelled, “Hey, where did you find the face paint?” Max said, “I found some paint in my room and you can use it for regular painting AND for face painting.” I ran into the bathroom and found them there with a tray of acrylic paints and paint brushes. Max had blue stripes on his cheeks and Shane looked like a green Rambo. Shane finally got all the green paint off his face the following morning and Max had blue hands for a week. When I tell my kids to just figure it out, they will. And I am so damn proud of them for that.

I grew up an overachiever. I lived for straight A’s and certificates and accolades. When I had kids, I swore that I would not ever demand that they do the same. Because like any overachiever, I eventually hit the perfectionist wall and froze, in my 20’s. I didn’t know what to do anymore. Because I had never done anything without the approval of someone else, whether it was through a grade, praise, a scholarship, a piece of paper. Obviously, I recovered. But a LOT of therapy, some terrible hairstyles, and rebellious relationships with musicians, had to happen first. I’m probably more of a laid back, hippie kind of mom (my kids say I’m a hippie mom, for the record). But I think, for sure, love and acceptance gets you a lot further towards happiness and a good life than judgment and criticism. And P.S. coming from a lawyer, I have a front row seat to judgment and criticism, every day, and no one is ever happy about it. Also, using my hippie mom method, you may end up with kids with blue and green faces – but it’s temporary, I promise.

When my Max started middle school, he was chubby and shy and a little bruised by the square box intractable systems he kept getting shoved into. But here’s the thing. When beautiful star shaped souls realize that they are not supposed to be in boxes and get their shine on, it’s so amazing to watch. And Max got his shine on.

In 8th grade, Max told me, “Mom, I want to give the speech for my advancement ceremony.” I said, “Okay, what does that mean?” He said, “I have to write an essay and submit it for a contest.” We talked about it for a very long time and about the topic. We finally decided on the topic of failure as being a necessary part of learning to succeed. And he figured it out from there. Not only did Max get selected to give the speech. He was asked to give the speech again as part of a nonprofit presentation, in front of a board of directors and donors.

I am sharing my son Max’s speech, with his permission. I felt like it was important to share because I think, very often, we should remember that we are, each of us, unique and special and shiny. None of us can or should be crammed into boxes. And sometimes, often, love means letting go and letting your loved ones figure it out and paint their own way. Because they will.

Shine on and believe in your damn selves, beautiful star shaped souls. You are special and amazing and the world needs your gifts. Your failures do not define you. They only make you better at what you are meant to do. Keep going. Keep drumming to your own beat.

This I Believe (Max Rosenthal,Copyright 2016)

“Drumming has been my path to confidence. Whenever I feel stressed or angry, my drum set is there to make me feel better. When I need to, I can pop in my earphones, go into the garage, and jam. I have been playing for only 3 years, but in that time I have become fairly proficient. I have not always been confident in my drumming abilities. But after I learned to accept my mistakes, I developed self-assurance in not just my musical skills, but in everyday life. I believe that no one should be afraid of failure.

I had this revelation of self­-confidence toward the beginning of 8th grade year. I practiced my drums everyday playing along to music, but whenever I attempted to solo or even do a small fill, I would hesitate and stop. One day, after I had a particularly difficult drum lesson, my instructor told me that I was a very talented drummer, I just needed to be more confident in myself. I contemplated his words as I sat alone at my drum kit in my empty, dimly lit garage. My head was buried in my hands with my elbows propped up on my snare drum. I had my earphones in and was listening to a playlist of Buddy Rich’s famous drum solos. I was so disappointed and frustrated that I could not play as well as Buddy. The garage was completely silent except the moments I would sporadically break out in anger, throwing my sticks across the room and cursing loudly at myself. I had been languishing at my drum set consumed by self­ loathing for an hour when a thought occurred to me. I realized I was too busy worrying about messing up than actually playing. I was too worried about failing to succeed. I discerned that the thing holding me back was my lack of self-confidence. I decided to stop being afraid of failure and instead embrace it. Since then, I have applied this mindset and gained great confidence in my musical abilities.

This confidence began to leak into other parts of my life. I have always felt like an awkward person and have had a hard time talking to people, but I found it became easier once I had found this confidence. I saw positive changes in my social skills, art, and writing. I became less hesitant. People have too much potential in them to let it be killed by fear and judgement. It is not fair to deprive yourself of great things because you are too fearful of doing them wrong. I believe that once you overcome the fear of failure, then you have the courage to do anything.”

Happiness Day

About five years ago, sometime in late June, I told Max, “You can’t spend the entire summer lying around in bed watching your i-Pod. You need to be productive and active, too.” In response, he wrote a list of what he planned to do every day: “15 minutes practicing saxophone, 15 minutes practicing percussion, 15 minutes practicing Hebrew, 15 minutes doing jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups, 15 minutes walking the dogs, 15 minutes eating healthy food.”

Ironically, these days it’s rare for me to have more than 15-minute intervals with my sons. This is not a bad thing, I tell myself. First of all, they’re both adult-ish. Second, the point of momming is to raise your children to survive on their own in the wilderness. To live separately from me. To be brave, healthy, happy, independent, human beings.

Two hundred forty-three years ago, on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. Fifty-six representatives from the thirteen colonies signed the declaration and pledged their lives and honor to the cause of American independence. The declaration was an act of treason: levying war against the king, King George the Third. The punishment for treason was death – and not a merciful one. Drafting, signing, and adopting the Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary act.

The last time my son Shane traveled to Washington, D.C., he returned with a copy of the Declaration of Independence for me to frame for my office. I have it in my home office: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to Secure these Rights, Governments are Instituted…deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends it is the Right of the People… to institute new Government… organizing its powers in such form… most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” I love that the revolutionaries who wrote this 243 years ago wrote not once, but twice, in the preamble, the word “happiness.”  

Today is Independence Day. My revolution is this. Love instead of judgment. Gratefulness instead of criticism. And happiness for the time I get to spend with the loved ones in my life. Even if it’s in 15-minute intervals. I hope you enjoy your revolution on this Happiness Day.

A Hill to Live On

Max and Me

Max once called me in my bedroom on my cell phone from his bedroom on his cell phone. “Mom, can you come in here please?” I went down the 10-foot hallway to his bedroom and opened the door. He was lying in bed, cell phone on his face, blankets piled all around him, lights on. I said, “What’s up, honey? Is everything okay?” Max said, “Can you turn out my lights? I’m super cozy and I don’t want to get up.” (And parents –  this is why cell phones were invented.)

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend. I spent the weekend with my friend in Pismo Beach and drove home Monday. I stopped to pick up a couple things at the grocery store. The store was crowded. As I stood in the line for the self-service register, a woman in front of me yelled “Ouch,” then turned and grabbed the grocery cart behind her and rammed it at the man who was pushing it. “I told you before, stop ramming the cart into me!” He said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” but she was so angry and upset, I don’t think it mattered. It wouldn’t have mattered if Ryan Gosling was apologizing with a dozen red roses. And I get it. I have been there.

Lord I have so been there. When the anger and the pain and loneliness was just below the surface and I knew the slightest unintended nudge could release the mother-pain-rage-Kraken.  I think I held it all in for a while after my divorce with a combination of years of A’s on report cards, decades of diets, 1980’s aerobics, law school Socratic method, and my lizard brain’s expectations of perfection as a basis for survival. But no one can keep that all in, not for long. We all have ways of busting out. Maybe it’s eating Oreos. Maybe it’s drinking a lot of wine. Maybe it’s exercising until your body is crying out for rest. I’m listing all of these because I’ve done them, by the way.  Maybe you get so angry that rage overtakes you and you get angry at the people you love the most. And in my case, when I busted out, I was newly divorced and scared out of my mind to be alone after 20 years of technically not being alone.

My dear friend C., my O.G., would say to me then – and still does, when I spin out over what to do next, or what decision to make, “Is this the hill you want to die on today?”  When I’m figuring out which legal argument is worth keeping or abandoning. When I want to send an incendiary email or text. When I consider commenting on a friend’s political post that I don’t agree with. When someone says to me, “But I want to talk to the real lawyer. Where is he?”

“Is this the hill I want to die on today?” Usually, the answer is no. I don’t. I don’t even want to be on this fucking hill.

The phrase is used in the military when deciding whether it is worth holding a position despite all hazards. Usually the answer is, as mine is, “no.” However, it’s also assumed that when you decide it’s worth it to defend the spot no matter what, the response is, “No better place to die.” I’m pretty sure defending to the death is not an intended consequence for my lines of work – mom and lawyer. (Well, maybe for the mom job, but that’s implied. Semantics.)

I once had a very frustrating day dealing with an internet service provider. After a few unsuccessful calls, and no resolution, I let loose with some less than kind language at the dinner table about what had happened. Max said, “Mom, you have great rancor towards telephone help lines.” I said, “Max, rancor is a very strong word.” He said, “Of course it is. It’s right after ‘rancid’ in the dictionary.”

I definitely have less rancor lately. I realize there’s still a lot of hills, and I often consider my O.G.’s question. But I also think I have figured out, as my Max did a while ago, that what’s really important is to get super cozy with your life and know you can ask someone you love to be there for you when you need them. I will gladly live on that hill. Goodnight, loves. I’ll turn out the light.

 

Superhero

Shane Kimba Tommy

Several years ago, Max and I were having a conversation about what it would be like to achieve your most amazing dream and how you would live your life after achieving it. For example, if you got to walk in space, how would it be to come back to earth? You wouldn’t ever want to forget how it felt to walk in space, and what could possibly compare to that feeling?

I asked Max, “What do you think would be the most amazing thing you could ever achieve or experience?” He said, “Riding on a rocket that was also a bunny that could shoot hamburgers out of its eyes and they would be the most incredible hamburgers you ever tasted in your whole life.” And after that, I didn’t even want to mention mine. Not much can follow how amazing a flying eyeball-hamburger-shooting-bunny would make you feel.

This past weekend, Max’s brother Shane was back home for a visit from Oregon. On his last evening at my house, we were all sitting at the kitchen table, talking. Max told us that he was working on how to communicate a problem to his friends. Max explained that he was feeling like there was some drama and sadness in his group and he felt it was important for him to communicate the importance of  love and acceptance. I said to Max, “I think that you are an empath. You actually can feel what other people feel and it affects you, and you want to help fix people’s pain.” Shane said, “Max, that’s your superpower.”

Max’s face lit up. As I watched my sons talk, I realized what Shane had done. In one word, he took all the negativity Max had associated with how he felt about his friends and their well-being and he turned it all into something powerful and positive. He named Max’s empathy his superpower.

When he was in daycare, Shane’s teachers used to write on his report cards, “Shane is going to grow up to be a superhero.”  It’s possibly my fault because I let him wear a Batman costume for a year when he was three years old. But that kid will always be like my favorite superhero, Batman, to me.  Batman is my favorite superhero because he doesn’t have special abilities, like Superman. He has a moral compass, he has strategies, he has intelligence. His heroism comes from a belief in the power of good and a willingness to keep fighting for justice. Those are actually Batman’s superpowers. My Shane’s superpower is his steadfast willingness to look for and name the best in every situation and in every person, no matter how difficult. Batman would be proud.

We all have superpowers, I believe.  We all have the ability to hack more love and acceptance into our lives and the lives of those around us. None of us can exactly know what another is thinking or feeling. But we can have each other’s backs, for sure. We can lift each other up, help each other get to those amazing experiences and feelings we so richly deserve.

Maybe it’s a ride on a bunny rocket shooting delicious hamburgers out of its eyes. Or maybe it’s helping someone in our lives feel better and do better. Maybe it’s helping yourself. Maybe you need to love yourself a little harder and forgive yourself a little more.  Everyone deserves a superhero. And anyone can be their own superhero. I hope you find yours – or that you realize you are yours.

“Everything’s impossible until somebody does it.” – Batman

 

 

Music = Love

Me and my boysA few years ago, Max examined my face and told me, “Mom you don’t have those pigeon tracks coming out of your eyes. That’s good.” I said to him, “What?” Then I realized what he meant. “Oh, thank you, honey. You mean I don’t have any crow’s feet.” “Yeah,” he said. “You just have a lot of dimples in your face.”  My son is observant and yet so kind about it.

Today my sons and I went to our favorite used and classic book store and a pawn shop in downtown Santa Rosa.  We wandered through and found books for each of us.  At the pawn shop, Max found a flute and asked me to buy it for him. I said to the pawn shop clerk, “I sure hope this isn’t a hot flute.” He told me that they run a police report on everything.  I said, “Good because we don’t want Yanni coming after us for stealing his flute.”

After we got the flute, Max said, “I just remembered that I actually don’t know how to play the flute.” He spent a couple hours teaching himself how to play on Yanni’s hot $100 pawn shop flute. And he’s actually really good. I don’t know why I’m surprised. He’s taught himself to play everything else.

On our way to Santa Rosa, my Shane shared a playlist with us that he named “mom.” He said, “It was only appropriate to name the playlist after the person who taught me about the music on it.”  I listened to “mom” tonight. After I practiced my cello. Which my sons encouraged me to begin playing again.

I cannot begin to explain how important music has been and still is in my life.  It’s like explaining how important breathing is to yoga. When my Shane shares new music with me. When my Max practices his drums, ukulele, bass, guitar, and now – flute. My heart is full because of their music. And it’s full because of my own.  That is the gift my sons returned to me.

Today, my sons (as they always do) said thank you, Mom, for the books. Thank you, Mom, for the music. Thank you, Mom, for dinner.  And I gotta say – Thank you, my beautiful boys.  You are worth every dimple on my face. Every scar on my belly. Every moment of my every day.  You are the music of my life. May you have and hear the music of your life, every day.

“If music be the food of love, play on.” W. Shakespeare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The love you make and Happy Birthday, Mom

 

Max once asked me, “Why is it that we have to go to school for 15 months a year and we only get 2 weeks off for winter break and only 2 months off for summer? That seems so unfair.” I said, “Max, how many months are there in a year?” He said, “Twelve, why?” I said, “Then how is it that you are going to school for 15 months?” He said, “Don’t question my math when I’m trying to make an important point, Mom.”

My Max, as I did in high school – and sometimes still do, struggles with the structure and immutability of a school system that tries to cram a wiggly star shape into a square hole.  Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my education. But I think part of why I like my work as a lawyer is because I learned early on, from my mother, that bureaucracies and systems are not inherently correct. And that individuals, especially creative, artistic, badass, bodacious, individuals, have a right to buck those bureaucracies and systems. I sure do love bucking the system. I’m with Max. Fuck the math. Let’s count what really matters. Not time spent trying to accommodate policies that don’t make sense when you are actually doing good and being good.

My mama, who moved in with me in August, was diagnosed with cancer in January.  The first oncologist told us that she had maybe a year to live.  She did not accept that. In the face of unremitting pain and an obdurate health care system, she refused to be crammed into a square hole. Her next oncologist gave her a different prognosis. She has gone through surgery, radiation, and now chemotherapy treatments. And she is kicking cancer’s ass. She is showing me – and my sons – real courage and what really matters. That challenge and inquiry and often rebellion are necessary. If you don’t challenge the status quo and stagnation, you never evolve and get better.  And that courage comes from not giving up. You have to keep  going.  No matter what. That courage leads to doing and being better, for all of us.

Last week, my mom told me, “I am lean, mean, and ready to start kicking ass.” She started walking outside for the first time in months. First to the driveway outside my house. Then down to the end of the block. Last Sunday I walked with her to the end of the block and back. Along the way, she pointed out the blooming trees and plants. “Look how beautiful that is,” she said for each one. And you know, she was right. Each one was beautiful. Hell’s yeah to my mom’s rebellion against cancer’s status quo.

Today is my mom’s birthday, I am grateful, so very grateful, for her. I am grateful to the woman who raised me to be a fighter and to be courageous even when I am scared out of my mind. I am grateful that my mom taught me to question and advocate and rebel. I am grateful to the woman who taught me to appreciate art and music and literature. I am grateful to the woman who taught me that it is important to love and serve those who need us, without judgment. I am grateful to the woman who taught me to be a good mother to my amazing sons.  I am grateful to the badass mamaninjawarrior, who taught me that life is beautiful. And that we should never, not ever, give up a single moment of that beauty to doubt, pain, incorrect diagnoses, or math – none of which matters when you’re making an important point. And that the real mathematical equation and the true point is – love.

“And in the end, the love you take. Is equal to the love you make.” – John Lennon

 

#adulting

Shane and Max

Maybe 10  years ago, Max was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework and sighing. Audibly. Then he announced, “This is too hard. I’m going to sue them for giving me too much homework.” The Wasband said, “You can’t sue for that.” Max said, “Yes I can.  They can’t do this to me. It’s emotional distress.”

Tonight an emotionally distressed Max and I were in the kitchen for about an hour discussing existentialism and motivation and the meaning of life. I had a similar conversation with his older brother Shane about five years ago. What does this all mean, Mom? I told both of them, there’s a Buddhist saying. The only way out is through. I wish I could make this journey easier for you. Or completely eradicate the pain and the failure and the difficulty. But I can’t. Because this is important shit. If you don’t suffer, you will never understand human suffering. You have to know this to love and accept other people. And if you don’t fail, you’ll never succeed. Because no one who succeeds has not tasted failure.

I love and miss overhearing the daily conversations of my sons. When Max got braces they discussed potential nicknames for him: “Transformer,” “Gridlock,” and of course the usual “Metalmouth” and “Brace Face.” Later, Max said to me, “Mom, you realize that’s just bracism.” My personal favorite comment from my kids was overheard on a suddenly quiet Sunday afternoon: “Well, we’re out of duct tape. Now what?”

Shane called me last week from Oregon. He’s getting his first apartment on his own. I had forgotten what a huge and momentous occasion that is. He said, “I guess this is what it’s like to be an adult.” Except he had to pay $50 for every application for every apartment he applied to be considered for. Which is bullshit and taking advantage of my 20 year old son who is responsible and just trying to do the right thing. That’s straight up bracism. I’m sending him some duct tape.

Adulting means hanging with our kids in the kitchen having the difficult conversations. Adulting means remembering that once upon a time we were kids trying to make our way in an adult world that maybe judged us based on our clothes and hair and music.  Adulting means putting up with being charged for bullshit that should simply be an experience. Not a cost. Adulting means letting go of judgment and letting in kindness and love. Because these kids are going to be taking care of us. And they are pretty damn amazing kids. I know. I helped raise two of them. You’re welcome.

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies. ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

Love means saying thank you

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Max texted me a grocery list, several years ago: “Caprisuns, sushi, bone of chicken, eyeball of frog, cyclops toe, potion vial, chicken strips, rice.” He called me the next day and said, “Mom, did you get ketchup at the store yesterday?” “No, but you’re not going to die without ketchup,” I said. He said, “I’ve got to go, Mom. Goodbye. I’m not going to make it.” I went back and double checked the grocery list from the day before. Cyclops toe. Chicken strips. Ketchup was not on there. There may have been a few things I didn’t pick up. I decided to get the damn ketchup and keep my mouth shut. I never want to call attention to my own shortcomings.

Cancer and cancer treatment affects your taste buds. I don’t know this personally. I know this because sometimes my mama barely eats. So we do just about anything to get her to eat. She’ll  find something she likes, for a day, or a week. And we get it for her. McDonald’s French fries. Kern’s guava nectar. Shredded beef burritos. Rice Krispies. Potato chips. Yogurt. Scrambled eggs. Cinnamon rolls. My mother texts me what she wants to eat: “Lala, order Chinese. The orange chicken not sweet and sour. Veggie rice, broccoli beef, noodles, and what you want. Hahaha.”

In the mornings, I get ready for work and then I clatter downstairs to say goodbye to my mom. Sometimes she is dozing. Sometimes she’s on her tablet. Sometimes she is up and making scrambled eggs for the damn dogs. But every time, she says the same thing to me, “You look so pretty. I love you.”

I flash back.  I am 13 years old, I am wearing bell bottoms and clogs, I am brushing my hair out of my face, I am running out of the door to make it to school on time.  I am insecure as hell. I don’t believe in my own beauty.  I just want to get an A in whatever fucking class I have that day. I am convinced that I am less than. But my mama believes in me so I’m going to try. And I say, “I love you mama! I’ll see you when I get home!” And she says, “I love you baby. I’ll see you when you get home.” All I can – and should – say is, “Thank you.”

Once we were at a restaurant and the NASCAR races were on television. Shane said “I don’t know why people watch that sport. I mean, how hard can that be? All you do is turn left about 10 times really fast.” My kid was right.  It’s about turning into the curve. It’s about releasing the expectation of things being hard. It’s about seeing things as they are. Just turning until you get to where you are okay – or done.

Maybe it’s not as hard as your mind is making it. I hope you don’t wait to say good morning and goodbye to someone you love who has cancer. I hope you say the same to someone else who matters to you, no matter what. I hope you say thank you. Every day. Because it’s a blessing. I think my mom would appreciate that. Just say it. I love you. And don’t forget to pick up some ketchup.