Uh Oh Roll Down the Window

Walter

Um who was that?” I asked, waving my hand in front of my face.

“Not meee.” “Wasn’t me.” “It was you!” “No it wasn’t. It was you, Fart Face!”

“Okay guys, doesn’t matter.” Even though I had asked the question.

Thankfully the breezy mountain air swooshed through the half-open windows and replaced any offensive olfactory evidence with its piney freshness. We all took great gulps – even the offender, whoever that was.

It’s never any of them. Even though it was clearly someone. Nobody heard it, but it definitely happened. Like the empty marshmallow bag lying in the pantry. It’s an extra ten steps to the trash can, where an empty bag should be, but that’s neither here nor there – or rather, it’s here, in plain view. Empty. I distinctly told them: one each. Which means the bag should still be three quarters full.

“Who finished all the marshmallows?” I asked the pantry. Oh, that would be… nobody.

Nobody drew on the car seat with navy blue sharpie. Nobody ate the entire bag of marshmallows. Nobody farted. Nobody cut a hole in her leggings. With scissors.

The evidence is right there, for all to see (or smell). So why don’t any of them own up to it?

I used to do the same thing as a kid. In my mind, it was better to say not me, or I don’t know, than confess to the kiddy crime (not that farting is a crime, but it is viewed as some kind of minor assault). Implicating myself was too awful to contemplate. Why would I admit I had done something less than good? Even though it was plainly obvious that it couldn’t have been anyone but me, I didn’t want to admit to myself I had transgressed in any real or imaginary way, and I would never admit it to anyone else.

But really, the assault is in the question: “Who Did It?” Accusatory. Loaded. Implies wrongdoing. Superficially it appears to be a simple request for information – but why is it important who did it? Does it matter who farted? Or who finished the marshmallows? Maybe a little in that whoever did either of those things has or will have a tummy issue in the works, and it’s nice to be prepared I suppose. But there are other ways to ask, without adding a layer of “You’ve done something wrong, now ‘fess up.”

Like: were those marshmallows so yummy? Or: was something bothering you on your leggings that you wanted to cut off? How about: is it more fun to draw on the car seat than on a piece of paper?

I want to get the most information, honestly and directly – and if there’s even an aura of accusation, natural instinct is to go on the defensive. Evade. Or even lie a little. Nope, wasn’t me!

book

As for the farting – do I really need to know?

Walter, in one of my favorite children’s books Walter the Farting Dog, has such a bad case of the farts everyone blames him for their own gassiness and he is almost ousted from the house. The book is dedicated to “everyone who’s ever felt misjudged or misunderstood.”

Who cares who it was. Everyone farts.

Better to just roll down the window.

Uh Oh Roll Down the Window by OPI

Uh Oh Roll Down the Window by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.

Thanks a Windmillion

source: talloula.deviantart.com

Turns out I’m not so good at gratitude. I mean, I know how to express it and I send thank you notes and emails and say it out loud to people all the time. I drill my children to say thank you, to show their appreciation for kindness, helpfulness, compliments, gifts. Not only is it polite and good manners, but the giver feels lovely when thanked and – perhaps most important of all – actually saying or writing thank you feels great for the givee too: a time to feel the intention behind the gift, to accept the warm love, kind thoughts, pure heart that almost always accompany an act of giving.

I love to say thank you, and to be thanked, but it’s always instantaneous. In the moment. Right when the delicious deed is done. The gift received. The compliment heard. The assistance appreciated. And I feel great globs of something way beyond gratitude for all the good in my life: my family, my health, my friends, my body that works. That I can open my eyes in the morning, see a sunrise and a lunar eclipse, enjoy the sweetness of mangoes and eat marrow bones, feel love and give love, smell woodsmoke and jasmine, have memories, talk and read and write and hear my kid say things like “We share the world.” This greater-than-gratitude is inherent. With me, in me, always.

But I rarely think about the smaller godsends in my life. The tiny, almost imperceptible openings between the marvelous moments of giving and the greater goodness. The barely noticeable happenings that evoke nuances of emotion, leave me feeling different, with a perspective altered not only in that second but for the rest of the day, the week, or for always.

Last night’s late-night phone fest with my friend Lisa yielded such an opening. In between giggling bouts of hysteria – the release of both husbands away, too many kids too little time for each of us, the intensity of daily A to Z writing that we’re both enveloped in – she suggested I use this color and this topic for T.

“I have no gratitude right now,” I half-joked, half-sniffled, completely dismissed. “Oh well then,” she replied sagely.

Couldn’t get it out of my head. Fell asleep thinking about it. Woke up thinking about it. What does that mean: No gratitude?

So with tremendous thanks to Lisa, who often inspires gratefulness in me, especially in her writings at Flingo, here are my Windmills of Thanks for today:

To my friend J who gives me the biggest hug, whenever she sees me, and tells me, “You look fantastic.” I see her at least twice a week, sometimes two days in a row – we work out together – and I look a lot of things at those times (harried, tired, irritated, pained, hair too long, sweaty, unshowered) but definitely never fantastic. I choose to believe her though. And that hug sure feels fantastic.

To my kids, who started today in that can’t-be-beat way: fighting. Because he wanted to sit in that chair, and how dare she finish the cereal, and he’s an idiot because he breathed. One of the cruelest ways to kick off a Wednesday, listening to their whingeing and whining when I’ve barely taken a breath. But the silence they left in their wake as they argued their way out the door and down the road to school was serene to the extreme.

To same storm-out-the-door son who called me at 8.17am from school to apologize. Truly a breathtaking moment and one that obliterated the day’s sticky start. Thank you, love. (And also thank you to the school for allowing the kids to call their parents no matter what – this time, anyway. It’s not always something to be grateful for).

Thank you to Matthew Weiner for creating the greatest show on TV ever: Mad Men. Yes to Don Draper. Yes to Joan. Yes to fabulous sixties fashion and design. But mostly, yes to amazing writing. And scenes like the one of Betty shooting the pigeons in Season 1. Life-changing (for reasons that deserve a piece of their own – stay tuned. And watch Mad Men).

Thank you Kind Driver for backing all the way up on Clarendon Crescent – possibly the narrowest street in Oakland, made all the more so by the cars, trucks and minivans parked on either side. No mirror is safe on this street. Whether he sensed my impatience at having to navigate this obstacle course or not, his unconditional willingness to help me out, to make life a little easier this morning, restored not only my faith in human kindness, but strangely in myself. When I raised my hand in thanks. When I slowed down. And smiled.

To my sister T (how perfect!) who shows me every day that it is possible to live life with humor and abundant compassion even when it’s all kinds of tough.

Six letters left, one week to go in this A to Z Writing Challenge and I am feeling so much gratitude for the experience, the creativity, the purest joy of writing words so often. I am blessedly thankful to have the opportunity to read the wonderful work of others, and to connect so meaningfully and relevantly with other writers taking this challenge. But I am mostly grateful for all who have read what I have written, who have taken the time, hit like, shared, tweeted and retweeted, sent an email or a text, posted a comment. I could write reams on how much that means to me. But I won’t.

I’ll just say: a million thank yous.

Thanks a Windmillion by OPI

Thanks a Windmillion by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.

Ski Slope Sweetie

jed

So my baby boy’s a snowboarder. He’s five.

I’ve shown this video to everyone I’ve seen in the last two days. Posted it on Instagram. Emailed it to uncles and grandparents in Miami, London and South Africa. My mom shared it on Facebook. I’m sorry if you’ve seen it already, but here it is again!

I don’t usually show off my kids. Not because I’m not proud of them. Every day at least one of them does some small something that makes my heart beam. Or even a not so small something. Aced a math test, was called up in assembly for being a good friend, earned a yellow belt in karate, said “I’m good thanks, how are you?” without a manners reminder, wrote his name by himself, sang Ma Nishtana (Passover song) in Hebrew, scored the winning goal in the soccer game.

Not all of it is interesting beyond the six of us, or even just the two of us. Most of it isn’t. (Except to their grandparents). So I don’t usually talk about what they’re up to, unless I’m asked specifically. A question beyond “How are the kids?” And most of the time, what they’re up to is really nothing special: he tied his own shoelaces, she wrote a poem, he read the entire Harry Potter series in one week. Oh. Nice.

But my little shredder up there on the slopes – I can’t get enough of him. I’ve watched that video over and over, and I find something new to kvell over every time. The way he holds out his little gloved hands for balance. The big smile on his face. The turn he does at the end, with a little flourish. Not only can I not get enough of him, but I want to offer him up to anyone who will stop for 20 seconds and watch his five-year-old snow prowess.

Of course I subjected my friend S to a viewing yesterday. She was as excited to watch him snowboard as I was, and then she said, “It’s so cool when they do things we can’t do, right?”

Yes! It is so cool. More than so cool. I have never snowboarded. And I’m not sure if I ever will. It’s unimaginable for me. To do what he did. Do what he can do. Balance on a board and slide down a snowy ski slope. I can’t imagine what it feels like. But this child of mine, who is 35 years younger than I am, knows exactly.

Snowboarding looks like something I would love. Maybe one day I’ll find out. But right now, watching him do it feels even better than doing it myself. Kvelling.

Ski Slope Sweetie by OPI

Ski Slope Sweetie by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.

Red like Roses

In the 21 years we’ve been together, I can count the number of times Ryan has given me flowers on half a hand. He will probably dispute this and say it’s more, but honestly it doesn’t matter. I do love flowers, any and all, and I love to receive them but they’re not his thing, they’re mine.

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In our early dating years, I adored sunflowers. Their giant yellow centers, and bright petals.The way they turn their faces up toward the sun. The way they grow seven feet tall if left alone, with thick, sturdy stems and perfectly big green leaves. Everyone who knew me knew how much I loved them. And one day Ryan proudly presented me with a bunch of… yellow daisies. “What?! They’re yellow! Sunflowers are yellow and these are yellow. Same thing!”

Of course they are not at all the same thing. Garden daisies – as pretty as they are – are not shiny sunflowers. Sunflowers are like daisies on steroids. Twenty-year-old me probably minded a lot – what kind of a boyfriend doesn’t make an effort to give his girlfriend the exact flower that she loves? – but after a couple more of those, it was so not important that he give me flowers. Yes, I love flowers but he doesn’t have floral associations where I’m concerned, and so it’s a pretty meaningless gesture for both of us. And the blue hydrangeas from the blooming bush in the garden always make a beautiful bouquet-to-self.

So no yellow sunflowers, or pink tulips, and definitely no red roses.

But what he did give me was my first pair of real cowboy boots… red. He bought them in Austin, Texas in 2011. I wasn’t with him. He got the size, style and color exactly right. He knew I needed red cowboy boots before I did. He’s good like that. Sometimes too good. Almost immediately, it was love.

origboots

I don’t wear red anywhere else, except on those boots. No red underwear, or red T-shirts, not even red nails. Red cowboy boots are it – in more ways than one!

I wear those boots whenever I can. With leggings, jeans, skirts. With tank tops and sweaters. Cloudy or sunny. The slightly pointy toe, the perfect heel, the red leather and white stitching, and the sharp, clicky “I’m here with a purpose” sound they say when I walk make me feel like I can do anything, and that when I do it, I’ll rock it. The “rock it” part usually doesn’t happen – it depends on the day and also if it’s raining, cowboy boots do not do well in the rain.  But at the very least I feel a little less awkward and unsure while I slip on the slick surface of daily life’s many somethings when I wear them.

Over the years, my red cowboy boots have come to represent a part of me I thought I had left behind. The part that wants to wander, explore and discover. The part that longs for solitude and serenity even while living the frenzy. Ryan recognized that part of me when we met 21 years ago – and I’m guessing that’s the part he bought those red cowboy boots for in 2011. He knew… before I did.

They’re not roses. Which are lovely and perfectly petaled in all their heavenly perfume. But I would put them in a vase, look at them, inhale their scent for a few days (or a bit longer if they’re from Costco and if I remember the flower food), and when they started to wilt and droop I would reluctantly throw them away.

boots2

photo by Jenn Fox

They are cowboy boots – I wear them. I feel them. They feel me. They are worn. Scuffed and scratched. I recently bought a new pair when I visited Austin for the first time. They’re already broken in. And they’re red. Like roses.

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Red like Roses by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.

Quarter of a Cent-Cherry

Great conversation, loud laughter, fun stories. Inside jokes and quick-witted comments and the type of easy, comfortable banter that comes from many years together, from shared experiences and milestones, difficult times, tears, proud moments, pure elation and happiness. From close friendship.

The air is dry, and the trees are tall, and it’s rustic and gorgeous.

Tahoe, California. Spring. 2014.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe

Was it really twenty five years ago that I was half a world away, breathing air as dry, amongst trees as tall, hanging out in somebody’s rustic bunk, cocooned by esoteric jokes and hysterical laughter and the closest of friends?

Lapalala Wilderness, South Africa. Fall. 1989.

Fifteen years old, on a week-long wilderness program in the Limpopo Province with my tenth grade class, it was the very best of times. I loved all those school retreats to simple, woodsy places in the Highveld, where it was very, very cold in the early morning and at night, sweltering hot in between. When we were woken at the crack of dawn, and saw the mist rising with the African sun. Ate cornflakes and toast with thick peanut butter and bananas for breakfast, and then packed it all up for a long hike to learn about the Toothbrush Plant, and how to belay down a mountainside. Walking in smaller groups of twos and threes, paired off with my crush of the moment, or sharing wild hopes and dreams with my BFF while the hadedas called to each other in the broiling heat.

Lapalala Wilderness

Lapalala Wilderness

Mixed tapes played Men at Work and Phil Collins, Roxette and Milli Vanilli on portable boom boxes. We dismissed every rule late into the night, breaking curfew the very least of it. The girls snuck into the boys’ bunks (never the other way around), and we told secrets and broke promises and huddled together to keep warm.

My 25-year-old memories haunt me lately. I keep coming back to that year, 1989, when life just worked. For me. It wasn’t always like that before, and almost never again, but that year the music was right, and school was okay, and my siblings were fun and my parents understood (or they pretended to) and, most important of all at 15, my friends were perfect in every way.

Twenty five years later many of those friends are still perfect to me in every way. As I gaze out at the impossibly tall Tahoe pine trees, I ache to have them closer to me – we are scattered all over the Earth – to share inside jokes, and laugh at nothing, and sing Land Down Under out of tune at the top of our lungs.

A burst of laughter pulls me away from 1989 – I focus on the faces around me. They are warm and happy, smiling and talking. Faces I know and love. Here I am, twenty five years later, half a world up and away, with friends that are perfect to me… in every way.

Quarter of a Cent-Cherry by OPI

Quarter of a Cent-Cherry by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.