Ava

Earlier this year, when I started going to the YMCA, Bean met a little girl in the childcare center. Her name was Ava, and he looooved Ava- he sought her out each day, and played and played and played with her. Bean doesn’t make friends especially easy, and that Ava seemed to enjoy his company warmed my heart. Ava’s mom and I shared pleasantries in passing, but that was the extent of our adult interaction.

Late in the spring before school got out, the woman I carpool with phoned and told me about a new family in our ward that send their kids to the same charter school we attend. Cool, I thought- three ways is better than two. We worked out a new schedule and began lugging all our kids around. The first morning the new mom pulled into my driveway, Bean bounded out the door, practically wiggling out of his skin in delight- it was Ava’s mom- and Ava was in the car.

She was just in pre-school then, and Bean was still at his special-Ed kindergarten, so they didn’t get to carpool, but it brought him great delight to know he could wave to her.

Cut to fall…

Ava has begun kindergarten at our charter school, and Bean has now been completely mainstreamed for first grade. (another post) and today, when it was my turn to pick them up from school, Bean and Ava finally got to carpool together. Now, this may seem like a silly little thing- he’s six, she’s five, whatever. Inside, I was holding my breath, hoping– as she followed me out to the car with Bean and the five other kids I deliver to their homes– that she would be as sweet and kind and like Bean as much as he likes her. The first thing out of her mouth was “I want to sit next to Eric!”

Exhaling…

Piling all the kids in the car, every seatbelt was taken, and Ava wedged her booster seat into the center spot between Bean and Abby. When she couldn’t get her buckled fastened, Bean unhooked himself, and carefully fastened her belt. They giggled and laughed all the way home, and she never rolled her eyes or shoved him away- something I fear he is too used to.

In her driveway, Bean offered to carry her booster seat to her front door as I helped the other kids from the car- and as the last of that delivery piled out, I turned to see Ava enthusiastically throw her arms around Bean and give him a giant hug. Lump, meet throat. Oh what’s this? Tears in my eyes? No, just a speck of dust, surely.

As Bean ran up her driveway toward the car, Jeffrey began to tease him loudly from the passenger seat. Whirling around and shooting teary daggers from my eyes, I threatened his very existence if he so much as peeped. No, son. NO. Do not take this sweet, innocent friendship from your brother with teasing and big-boy gender crap. Shut it. Now.

Jeffrey leaned over to me, in a stage whisper told me they had played together all recess, and were using their hands to make hearts on the playground. Bean looked out the rolled-down window with a half-smile on his rosy cheeks the whole way home.

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On Writing

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” ~Stephen King

Stephen King, whether you appreciate horror or not, is a masterful writer. Over the years I’ve devoured nearly all of his books, while eschewing most other novels that would be considered horror. The first time I read The Shining, I was living in in a little house near the beach in Santa Cruz, and sat on the sofa all night waiting for my boyfriend to ride his bike home because I was too frightened to walk to the bathroom. Very few pieces of writing have made as strong an impression on me as The Shining. Seriously, how can walking bushes and the smell of oranges become utterly, paralyzingly terrifying? I dunno, but he does it.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a proverb that’s been around since the 16th century, but lately I’ve been bouncing these words around- voiced in my imagination in the inimitable Jack Nicholson cadence- they say “All out-flow and no input makes Jill a dull girl.”

I am spent from projecting. I am drained and empty from putting on a brave face, producing, being “on” and providing for others. This is part of my role and responsibility in life, and also part of what I have chosen- I make no mistake of casting myself as any sort of victim. Yes, crappy things have happened- find me someone who gets out of this mess without any scratches- but I have chosen to what and how I respond. Sometimes well, sometimes not really. And lately, I’ve been more about stimulus/response instead of any real, meaningful introspection. Perhaps part of it has been just survival mode- making it though the first quarter back to school, optioning my grad school program, having three kids by myself for the summer while being a full-time student- really, I just had to prove to myself that I could do it and survive. I did. We did.

But now, I am feeling it. I am feeling the tanks sucking air. I can see how people start to lose sight of perspective, and how vacuums form. If you just keep making noise, then you don’t have to acknowledge you are alone. That maybe you are scared or sad, and if you just keep putting stuff out there, it’s easy to pretend you are having meaningful exchanges. Whether its on a blog or in 120 characters or to all your 350 “friends”. At it’s best, it’s connection. At its worst, it’s an echo chamber. I’ve been waiting to have something to write about- and sitting on my hands.

In his supernal book On Writing, King said:

In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.

I need to stop copping-out and calling a friend update or a 120 character snippet writing. I need to fill my tanks with life- my messy, disordered, chaotic life and write about it. I need to read the fine writing of others, to stop, think, ponder and follow the white rabbit when he runs past me and down the rabbit hole. I need to stop being afraid of pain or of expressing myself and just write. And to be a good writer, you must live a good life, eat good food, read good books, and get out of the echo chamber.

So that’s where I am tonight- And have been for the last many days.  I’ve been paralyzed with what to do. Maybe I still don’t know- but at least I’m writing. And I am going to start tackling the pile of neglected books on my nightstand. Starting now.

Nine Years Ago Today…

This is a repost of a tribute I wrote for Jimmy DeBlase, who was killed nine years ago today.

deblase.jamesHis friends called him Jimmy D, and he was probably the only Dallas Cowboy football fan in all of New Jersey; he was certainly their most fervent!

Jimmy was born in lower Manhattan, and grew up playing football in the streets of Little Italy. He grew up with two brothers, Anthony and Ritchie. His wife, Marion, remembers meeting Jimmy in 1978, when his team, “Carmine’s Animals” had just won a neighborhood championship. Jimmy’s (perplexing to local New Yorkers) love of the Dallas Cowboys is something he passed onto his three sons, Nicholas, Joseph and James, even going to far as taking them to Dallas to see the team play. The neighborhood kids called him Coach Jimmy- he was very involved in his sons lives, coaching them not only in football, but baseball and basketball as well.

In Lower Manhattan, Jimmy attended St. Joseph’s Elementary School, and went on to Bishop DuBois high school, where he excelled at athletics. After high school, Jimmy decided football would not be his career path, and enrolled in Baruch College, known for it’s business courses as opposed to athletics.

After college, Jimmy and Marion made their home in Manalapan, New Jersey, and Jimmy worked on Wall Street for 14 years as a dealer at Oppenheimer. He joined Cantor Fitzgerald in October 1999 as a USA Bond-broker.

Jimmy was at work in the North Tower on the 106th floor on the morning of September 11, 2001. His brother Anthony was in Tower 2, and was fortunate enough to make it out. Anthony spent days after the attack looking for his brother. Jimmy’s body has never been recovered.

His godson, Robet Netzel, has this to say about his godfather:

Uncle Jim, you are a hero to Aunt Marion and the boys. We miss you so much. We are all in this together to help your family from here on in. I will take your boys under my wing as best as possible. You have been a great inspiration for your boys to be the best that they can be in life and as their coach, you helped make them some of the best players out there. Keep a safe watch over all of your family and shine down on them. Jimmy D, your are the best.

Please take a moment and pause to remember the innocent people, such as Jimmy D, who were taken from us nine years ago today.

This tribute has been written about James V DeBlase as part of the 2,996 Project, a grassroots movement among bloggers to commemorate all of the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For more information on the project, or to take part and be assigned a person to commemorate, please visit The 2,996 Project.

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Blackberry Time

(he’s looking at a bee he almost grabbed along with his giant blackberry)

We woke this morning to the power being out in the whole neighborhood, and rather than listening to the boys complain that there was no Wii, no computer, no phone, no cartoons… (wah! how spoiled are modern kids?) I threw them all in the car and we went out to my favorite u-pick farm and gathered in the bounty.

We missed raspberries and strawberries this year, but boy howdy, the blackberries were fantastic and HUGE! Witness:

We also picked a bushel of peaches, some bell peppers, onions, potatoes, carrots (that was great fun for Bean and Abby, and I have more carrots than I know what to do with) and a bunch of pickling cucumbers so I can throw down a batch of my grandpa’s pickles. I love harvest season.

Dear Mind, Love Body

Dear Mind,

Hey look, I totally know that pizza looks awesome, all hot and drippy with cheese and  chewy, yeasty, crispy, clay-baked crust. I get it. I do. Knock yourself out on the cheese and tomato part, but we need to talk about the other part. The bread? Yeah, that part. No, no- don’t check out, stay here- this is important, capiche?

See, I’ve got this little- ehem-  “allergy” to gluten, and while you, all head and shoulders up there, may think since you haven’t had any bread in a while that one little slice of pizza won’t hurt. You may think this- but that’s the problem- you only think. And you are wrong. WRONG. I gotta live with it. And let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.

When you stuff that gooey, crusty, gluten-laden slice of pizza down your gullet, it may have tasted better than angels wings, but let me explain a few things to you, dunderhead. As soon as that gluten hit this belly, it was a five-alarm situation here. You hearin’ me? Freakin’ chaos. The alarms started going off, the acid dumps, the histamines flood the system, and chaos takes over. Five minutes later, the entire stomach’s in knots, and I was shoving the mess of undigestible gluten proteins out of the stomach and into the intestines, but they didn’t want it either, which caused cramping and spasms in the back.

Meanwhile, the respiratory system is soaked with histamines because gluten protein is a foreign invader and needs a beat down. So while the intestines were flighting the physical mass, the lungs and respiratory system were in a panic as the histamines clamped down to keep the gluten from stopping lung function. Hence the snot and wheezing. How’s that pizza slice sounding now?

So next time a piece of bread or anything with any gluten in it just sounds like a party for your mouth, stifle yourself, okay? Cause I’m telling you, we can’t take this crap any longer. It’s six hours later, and we’re exhausted from the firefight, and we’re tapping out. Put a sock in it.

Love,

Your Body

Back Home: Random Catch-Up Crap

We made it home from our adventures in California late Monday night, and I’ve been playing catch up for the last two days. The kids were so relieved to be in their own beds they all burst into tears when we walked in the door- they had fun with family, but I think the relief of “home” was great, and everyone slept well.

Never, ever leave your house for two weeks without making sure all the toilets your boys pee in are flushed. Just saying. Two weeks of stagnant pee smell in a closed up house is a bad, bad thing.

Lagging on your back-to-school shopping because you think you’ll have time when you get home is a bad, bad idea as well. There are no No. 2 pencils left in all of Washington State, I am convinced. I’ve gone everywhere- and the only thing I can find are mechanical pencils. How does Voldemart, Target and Office Depot run out of No 2 pencils??? And yet here we are…

My kids attend a charter school, and there is a specific dress code. This probably also falls under the realm of “Don’t wait so long” but I can’t find any clothes for them that fit the code. Today I tried JC Penny, after Old Navy, Target and Voldemart- Nope, there either. I need shirts for them with NO logos or writing of any kind- even a small chest insignia is off-limits. Their shirts can have stripes or plaid that are woven as part of the fabric, but nothing hip or printed. This is harder than you first think- especially when you wait until September- and when you need to shop for a discount!

While we were gone, someone mowed our lawn and weeded and mulched my flower beds. I don’t even know who to thank. Add it to the list of amazing things people do with such kindness for us. I’m starting to feel completely unworthy.

Got a bottle of homemade Vanilla Extract in the mail yesterday from the awesome and amazing Carrie at This Mama Makes Stuff. Check out her button on my sidebar if you don’t know her. She’s one talented woman, and she always inspires me.

I have a cloche dome covering a bird’s nest on my coffee table, and I just notice that a small child has drawn on the glass with a green crayon. Sigh…

It was 102 degrees for a while in California, then our first day back home in Washington, it was 66, raining and the heater clicked on. While I’m excited for fall (always!) this was a little bit abrupt and felt like a record scratching. (Remember those?)

Down in California, I managed to hit up many of my favorite places- In-n-Out, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Jakes, Hwy 1, San Francisco and my beloved Nor Cal Pacific coast. I did miss out on La Bamba, Hobees, Pacifica, Santa Cruz, Cafe Violette, and Staff of Life. Speaking of Whole Foods, check out this new monster of a WF near my mom’s house:

And that’s just the deli section! Honestly, I walked around in this baby in a glorious foodie-daze, marveling at the insane bounty. You should SEE their CHEESE COUNTER!!! It’s almost obscene. And I was getting on a plane, so I couldn’t exactly buy anything- but I tell you what- if I could have rolled around on the floor like a cat in a sunbeam, I would have. Alas, I maintained my decorum and managed to remain upright. But it was hard.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that pre-teen sassy-mouth started at the 9th birthday? Because oh man! This sucks!

Six days until school starts. For the first time in nine years, I will have a portion of my day with no children here at home with me. Of course, I’m a full time student now too, but still… three hours, all by myself. Uninterrupted homework time! My, how my priorities have changed!

By the way, did I tell you? My grades posted, and I pulled a perfect 4.0 in all three classes. I had to prove to myself that I could cut it after so much time, and hopefully this sets me off on the right path. Onward and upward, with any luck and a whole lot of work.