Interrupting My Regularly Scheduled Programming…

please stand byFor nearly four years I’ve been plugging away at this blog. I’ve covered a spectrum of topics from parenting to LEGO to life as an expat. Some posts do better than others. Some folks come for different reasons. Usually I follow a loose, self-imposed ‘rotation’ in terms of topics. Until recently….

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll surely have noticed that for the past two months, the majority of my posts have been political in nature. Where I can, I’ve tried to find the humour in there, but I’m not going to lie…it’s hard out there for a gal. I’ve been posting more frequently, but the topics have been less varied.

I’ve spent the last week or so trying to figure out why. I mean, obviously the outcome of the U.S. election is important, not just to me, but to a lot of people. But really, what does one lone blogger sitting with a lap top on a couch with a sink-hole going to do about the outcome? And yet something keeps compelling me to write–perhaps it is merely to make sense of the craziness for myself.

Writing is like bread and butter to me. It’s both the way I sustain myself intellectually, but it’s also a luxury. And it’s the height of vanity to push my own ideas and ideals on anyone who happens to come across the page. Yet I keep doing it.

If nothing else, the last four years of regular blogging has taught me to trust my gut, and to trust my heart. To go on the page where my fingers take me. Right now, that is trying to untangle my own identity with that of my country, with that of myself as a woman, wife, mother. There’s been a lot of rage. There’s been a fair bit of swearing. There’s been a lot of angry keyboard sounds emanating from my sink hole couch.

I know I will get back to the regularly scheduled posting. The kids will go back to school and the middle school drama and life with boys will take over. New observations of a broad abroad will take precedence and my heart will once again slow down. I’ll walk away with a new sense of myself, of my country, and of how the two work together.

So, if you’re an expat follower, don’t give up on me. If you’ve come around to commiserate about finding LEGOs in the fold of your front loading washer, those posts will be back too. Normal programming will eventually resume…I mean, November’s not that far away, right?

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around.

xDinax

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You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til Someone Being An Ass Makes it Clear

screaming-womanRecently I had, for lack of a better word, a situation, with another mother. This situation resulted in me, to put it bluntly, losing my shit.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I was seething. I was practically vibrating with incredulity. I furiously messaged my husband who was away at the time, my fingers flying over the keyboard.

Who does she think she is???” I typed. There were lots of ALL CAPS and copious !!!!!!!!

“What kind of mother thinks it is ok to say to another mother that her child isn’t good enough? What kind of person is too stupid not to at least come up with a plausible lie?” Followed by more !!!!

I had fantasies of marching the offending mother through the school yard with a Game of Thrones bell, tolling Shame! Shame! Shame! behind her as she made her way into the cafeteria. I composed scathing emails filled with righteous anger. I authored imaginary text messages using words like What and The and others that end in uck. My thumb hovered over the send button.

More than anything though, I dreaded telling my son he wouldn’t be attending a party he had been talking about for weeks. A party the rest of his group of friends would be attending. A party he had been originally (apparently conditionally, provisionally) invited to. I prepared myself for his upset.

Then something funny happened. When I told him, he shrugged. My son merely shrugged. He said it was ok. No big deal.

horror woman

“Did something happen between you two?” I asked him. He shook his head. My son is a good kid, but he’s not a cyborg. If he’d done or said something to offend his friend, enough that his friend didn’t want him to come to party they’d planned and talked about, well, then I needed to know. Yet he could think of nothing and nor could I.

And in that moment, my ten-year-old son, with nothing more than a shrug and a shake of his head proved himself to be more mature than both the other mother and me.

For that alone I owe the other mother a thank you. Her actions reminded me my children continue to surprise me, each and every day. Sometimes they surprise me with their tenacity. Sometimes with the solutions they imagine, solutions I could never dream of. And sometimes they surprise me with maturity that belies their years, with a forgiveness which outstrips my own.

This was one of those times.

So for opening my eyes once again to the goodness in my child, for his capacity to forgive, I thank her.

We spoke about the whole thing for a while.

“You know what?” I said to him. “Your friend is an ass. And so is his mother.”

And then we laughed. No, it’s wasn’t my finest let’s-not-call-other-people-names moment, not my best turn-the-other-cheek lesson, but it was a moment of raw honesty with my son. And yes, I admit in my moment of pettiness, it made me feel better.

For that moment of unfiltered honesty I shared with my son, I thank her.

“It’s no way to treat a friend, is it?”

“Nope,” he answered.

“I think you’re a better friend than that.” I said to him.

“You don’t need to worry about me,” he said. Then, in true ten-year-old form, he asked if he could go on his iPad.

Sometimes it takes someone acting like an ass to remind you of what you’ve got. My son is better than pettiness. He is a good friend, one who goes out of his way to make friends with the new kids. Every year I’ve had parents seek me out and pull me aside to whisper their sons were grateful for his friendship, that he made them feel at home. In fact, she herself was one of those parents not that long ago.

Sometimes as a mother you forget, you forget how kind and nice and decent your own kids are. You get caught up in the sibling fighting and the bedtime struggles, the day-to-day whining and constant demands.

So thank you for the reminding me what a great kid I’ve got.

Shocked woman on telephoneAt the end of the day, as my son reminded me, it’s really not a big deal. I can see now that my reactions were exaggerated, my indignity a bit over the top. A bit. Maybe she just doesn’t like my kid. That’s ok, I get it. There are kids I’ve met along the way who have rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe she was nervous about numbers. Maybe she doesn’t like me. Maybe she doesn’t like how often I swear or my tattoos or whatever. I’m sure, in her mind, she was trying to do the best by her own child. I can’t find fault with any of that.

Thing is, you can do all those things without putting another child down or stepping on their feelings. It’s never ok, never classy or tactful or advised or any other big word you can come up with to say to another mother, sorry, your kid didn’t make the cut. Your child isn’t good enough.

And for that I thank her too, because the message–both the actual one and the one it implied–made it clear to me that for all my tiger mom feral anger, for all my Game of Throne influenced fantasies, I am better than that.

I’m raising my sons to be better than that too.

And it’s working.

 

 

Dear Reader…

Jane EyreIf I were Ms. Austen or a Bronte sister, this is the point at which I would say:

Dear Reader…

After two decades of procrastination, fifteen months of on and off again writing, one month of manic non-stop writing, sixty index cards, and several weeks of juggling scenes until I thought my brain was going to spontaneously combust, I currently hold in front of me….a solid first draft. There are edits to make and language to prettify. There are scenes to be fleshed out and others to scale back, but it is a solid draft. Printed, bound, page numbered and well, that’s pretty much all she wrote.

Dear Reader…now what?

Just simply Googling ‘what to do now you’ve written a novel?‘  is exhausting. Parsing through the squillion pages of advice of what to do and what not to do is excruciating.

Confession: I am still sort of, kind of waiting for a fairy publishing Godmother to wave her wand and grant me happily ever after in the form of a book deal. But at my advancing age, I’m not sure I have time to wait around on magic and wands. At my age Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo starts to sound pretty damn silly. I’m willing to put in the next round of work, but I don’t even know where to begin.

I’m not a strategy player. I routinely get trounced by my six-year-old playing checkers. Looking ahead to the next move, whittling down the information, I am clueless. You could tell me to meet Miss Scarlet in the conservatory with a wrench and I’d go. That’s how clueless I am at the moment.

I need your stories. I need your advice, your inspiration, your experiences. I need whatever candlesticks, pistols, ropes and lead pipes you can throw at me.

Reader, I didn’t marry him, but damn if I don’t feel like I’ve given birth. Like any new mom, I could use some help.

Dear Reader…

Help.

 

In Case of Emergency, Read This

4677620_origI am a note person. I leave little scraps of encouragement and wit in the lunch boxes and have been known to stuff a love note or two into my husband’s wallet between the credit cards. I keep boxes of written evidence of a life well-loved and lived. Even the blog is really just a series of notes if you think about it. So next week, when I travel across the Atlantic leaving my husband and sons behind for a week, I will likely leave behind a paper trail. A popcorn string of thoughts, making sure that those I love know they’re loved.

Originally I was gong to write this and post it from the airport. How sweet, I thought, to have a little blog post full of all the things I love about my family for them to discover as I’m hurtling over the Atlantic on a wing and a prayer. Then I had a terrible, no good, very bad thought. What if something happened in the middle of flying across six time zones? It would be nice that my family would have a little reminder but what a terrible thing to be reminded of. Then the little evil blogger who sits on my shoulder, the one with the horns and the cape thought I bet it would go viral. Woman pens love for family moments before plane goes down sort of thing. And people would read it and get all teary and sentimental because well…who wouldn’t? But all those things, all those good things I feel for and about my family would forever be tied up in tragedy. Not good.

Why is it that the emotions we feel seem more poignant when there’s an emergency? Why do we wait until the last minute, when someone is about to walk out the door or call it quits, the towel mere seconds from being thrown in–to tell each other the important things? Not I love you so much as the reasons why I did and do and will continue to do so.

 

I don’t want my sons to learn their smiles light up my life because I left behind a letter to read in case of emergency. I don’t want my husband to discover my life would be gray and dull without him because of a note I left behind. I don’t want my feelings for the people in my life to be a post-script, a break-the glass scenario. I want them to know today. And yesterday. And tomorrow.

I am always heartbroken and broken-hearted when I read letters left behind by parents. They play and pluck on my heartstrings as expertly as a harpist. As a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, a sister, as a writer, I know I would do the same. I would be frantic there wasn’t enough time to tell my loved ones everything I needed to tell them. Everything from don’t forget to floss to make sure you listen out for the “I love you” that sings with every beat of your heart. Which is why it’s even more important to scatter their lives with those reasons in the every day. Not just for emergencies.

lettersMaybe I don’t’ show it enough. Perhaps my love for my family gets overshadowed by the mundane, stuck on the bottom of a pan like so much baked on, caked on gunk. Maybe it gets lost in translation or in transit or in the spaces between. Those shiny things that make me smile or count my blessings, those things sometimes get lost in the Mondays, in the laundry basket, in between the cracks of the sofa. But I don’t ever want my family to hear about them in something that begins In case of Emergency.

So I won’t put them here.

This should be the post that goes viral, not the one stamped with tragedy, but the one tied up in life. The one that reminds us all to look to the left and look to the right and to tell the ones on either side out loud. The one that makes you remember that we have today, but not always tomorrow. In case of emergency shouldn’t be the reason, it should be merely be a reminder.