Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fresh Paint

I love the smell of fresh paint.
A smell that represents new beginnings or change.

For the past week or so, renovations are taking place at the theater where I work.

 I walked into the side door last week, and caught the familiar and comforting smell of fresh paint. Anytime I walked down the stairs, from my office, I would catch a slight whiff, and it would bring something to the very edge of remembrance and then...stop.

What did that smell remind me of? I have been asking myself this everyday for the last week.

Well, it just dawned on me. I mean, it literally shook me from my sleep.

As I sat in my bed, I felt a weird mix of emotions.

First, I felt happy that I'd remembered what the smell of fresh paint reminded me of because it's driven me crazy all week long.  Almost like a song that keeps playing in your head, but you can only remember the catchy two line phrase halfway through. You can't remember any of the words before or after or even how fast or slow the tempo is, but you are sure of those two lines in the very smack middle of it.

After the happiness subsided, I felt extremely annoyed that my overactive brain couldn't turn off long enough for me to sleep. Also, now that I was awake; I had to pee.

Then, almost immediately, I felt sad. I felt sad because sometime over the last two decades, I'd forgotten one of the happiest moments of my life.
We spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. My mom was a single mother, and she worked a lot. During the summer, we spent nearly every day with my granny. My grandparent's home was tiny, and July in Oklahoma was only slightly cooler twenty years ago. Thus, with an overprotective grandmother keeping outdoor activities to a minimum...the house got smaller; In a hurry.
My granny always tried to find things for us to do inside to keep us occupied, and when she ran out of ideas...she pretty much just let us do whatever we wanted. As long as we weren't setting things on fire or causing physical injury to one another, she was happy.

This particular summer, I developed a weird obsession with sunflowers. Probably, it had very little to do with my newfound interest in Horticulture, and everything to do with how frequently I watched Abbott & Costello's Jack & The Beanstalk.(To a tiny seven year old...sunflowers could absolutely be beanstalks)
One day, I found some yellow tempera paint in my granny's craft drawer, and started painting sunflowers all over everything. She later made my papa purchase me some fabric paint so I could paint them all over my clothes.
I remember her saying, "This is my little sunflower painter girl! Look at these, Gene! Gene...she needs more paint."
My sunflower summer.

Anyway, after three days I had covered every piece of paper, fabric and cardboard with paint, and I was running out of space.

I was also bored.

I ho-hummed around the house for a bit, and my granny asked, "What's wrong, poot butt?" (This nickname is real, and that's a whole different story)

I remember telling her how boring it was to be stuck in the house, and I just wanted something to do. I said, "I was tired of painting little tiny things."

Later that day, my papa came in with two cans of paint, several brushes, rollers and drop cloths. He moved the kitchen table, the food shelves, and took the corded phone off the wall. Papa opened the paint can, and I saw that the paint was almost the exact color of orange sherbet.

 I loved orange sherbet.

It took me two days. My brother ended up getting to help paint the kitchen, which just killed me.

I don't remember all of the details. I wish I could.

I wish I could go back to that moment, and see my granny in her chair. Her right leg tucked beneath her, and her left foot tapping in time while the BeeGee's asked, "How deep is your love?"
I don't remember if her hair was long or short...if she was wearing her blue shirt or her red one. I couldn't tell you if she was reading a book or doing cross-stitch or watching Matlock or some terrible made for TV science fiction movie. I don't remember any of those things.

I remember that I was happy, and the tile was cold on my bare feet.
I remember I had paint everywhere.
I remember it was the only two days out of the summer that my brother and I didn't methodically plan one another's deaths each day.

More than anything, I remember my granny watching us and smiling.

There have been countless studies that reveal the power that olfaction has in bringing old memories back to life. Memories, easily compared to forgotten keepsakes or photographs...memories that we store away. There, in the recesses of our minds just waiting. Just waiting for something to trigger the slideshow of memories.

Just waiting

Until
...one day, in the middle of June, you walk into work and you smell fresh paint.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

For Good

Today was not a monumental day of achievement.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. However, to say that today fell on the vernacular scale somewhere between bad and great.... that feels wrong too.

Today was fun, but also simultaneously boring. It was painstakingly slow, but it was as though the hands flew around the face of the clock with only a blink of my eye. It was wild, but tame. It was routine, but different.

Today was a day of appreciation, and laughing... a lot.

Before my very eyes...my daughter grew up a little today. This is going to be hard to explain, but I've always heard if you can't explain it simply....you don't really understand it all that well.

Today, while my son was napping, I had a conversation with my five-year-old daughter about love. She asked me what love was; Because I want my daughter to think I know everything there is to know about everything,(and I'm not quite ready to take myself off of the pedestal she's placed me on)I looked it up.

There I sat: twenty-six years old, mother of two, wife, domestic goddess, self procclaimed art enthusiast, a woman with an expansive vocabulary and good grip on the inner-workings of the English language, and I had to fucking Google the definition of the word, "love".


The most common definition states that Love is, "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend."After reading this to Abby, I realized something quite exciting about love. The way most people identify love is by the word form when it's used as a verb, but it is also a noun. I mean...it's an object noun, but a noun's a noun.
I realized...love is not only something you can do...it's something that can be something. It's something that requires a prefacing action, or a subsequent reaction. Love is something that the subject noun can be. (I found this revelation exciting, but I may be the only person in the world who gets excited about reciting the Shurley-English Method jingles from 4th grade)

Anyway, I explained love to my daughter. Conversation as follows:

Me: Okay, well...Love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person or a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. So...when I say, "I love you." That means that I care about you. I want to take care of you. It means you and Sammy are more important than anything else in the world to me.

Abby: Oh, so only mommies and their babies give love out, right? But... Mommy, even in movies...the girl's eyes get big or they walk slow and that's love too, right?

Me: Well, there are lots of different types of love. I love a lot of people, in a lot of different ways. I love my family differently than I love other people. And, yes...when girl's and boy's eyes get big...that normally means they love one another... Or that is what the movies want to show us, but that is more like when you fall in love.

Abby: You fall down in love? Even that hurts, right? (laughs) Even when you fall in love it hurts, right? (more giggles)

Me: Well, you don't actually fall down*sigh*...it's a phrase. But yes, falling in love can hurt. Not mommy and daddy love, though.That kind of love you don't fall into. It's there...from the minute you're born we have loved you. Only slow motion love hurts sometimes.

Abby: Even that's okay though, right? Like on the movies? Even it's good to have love, right?

Me: Yes. Even love, whatever kind, is good. I love you.

Abby: I love you more...Can I have a pink popsicle?

*****

This particular conversation I had with my daughter isn't so different from the millions of conversations we've had before, as far as the subject matter was concerned.


Abby has this intense curiosity about how the world works; why people say and do the things they do, but today ,when I spoke with Abby, there was something about her mannerisms and posture that startled me. 

The way she looked extra grown up in her little khaki capri pants, sparkly nail polish and bangle bracelets. It might have been the way she was extra focused on what questions she asked, to the point that her nose crinkled up when she talked.  There she was, laying on her stomach, chin propped up in her hand, feet kicked up and crossed at the ankles and her  big, beautiful brown eyes full of questions. Then, when I satisfied her curiosity...the confusion about her query was replaced by smiling appreciation.

Before my eyes, the years sped through in a blurry montage of moments, and we might as well have been sitting on her bed ten years from now. As clear as I can see the letters on my keyboard, I could see her stuffed animals replaced by an eclectic mish-mash of teenage messiness: Magazines, music, homework... scrap pieces of paper with initials, addition symbols and hearts strewn  about. 
It was at that moment I realized...I don't have long. I don't have long to mentally prepare her for the amazing (and equally disappointing) things that will come her way in the near future.

It's also terrifying to know that I am my daughter's Google. I am her source for viable information. If something looks out of place, or if something doesn't sound 100% accurate, she comes to me. I am her Wikipedia, and that's great...I would much rather her come to me than anyone else, but...frankly, it scares the living shit out of me.


I think it scares me mostly because our life experiences are so varied from one another. I can already tell you that Abby is living a very different childhood at 5 than I had at that point in my life. Not to say I wasn't loved, but the general day to day living was different. How will I know that I'm not guiding her based on my jaded view of the world? How will I know that by steering her away from something because it hurt me...that I'm not, in turn, hurting her by not leaving her life open to experiences that may be different for her than they were for me?

Sometimes...being a mother sucks. Don't get me wrong, it will be the most important thing I ever do with my life, but the worry...the stress...the not knowing if you're doing the right thing and the inability to keep a solid grip on how quickly time passes by...these are all things that make Motherhood the best and worst thing in the world. It was after I thought about all of these things that I realized something.

I realized something I have known all of this time, but have been too blinded by my own fear of doing irrepairable psychological damage to my children, and simply didn't see it.

Regardless of what answers I give to my children when they ask questions, they are still people. They are children, but they have their own personalities. They look to us for advice, but still form their own ideas and have their own imaginations. It is part of the checks and balances of Motherhood...we, mothers, have this fear of giving the wrong advice, but our children have the choice of whether or not to listen to it. (Thank God...it makes life easier knowing they at least have a choice)

To close...today wasn't anything for the books. I didn't do anything, or go anywhere of consequence. Hell, I spent a better part of the day in my pajamas with no bra on.

Today wasn't great.
Today wasn't bad.
Today wasn't somewhere in between.
Today, simply put, contained one moment that I will remember with distinct clarity until the day I die.

As I thought about all of this...a song kept popping into my head. I actually sang this song to Abby two nights ago when I tucked her into bed...it wasn't until today that everything sort of fit into place.
So, here's to love... and the relationships between a mother and daughter that, if we're lucky, evolve into friendships.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzrGFQysfYU

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Heirlooms

All of my life, I have been taught the well known idiom; "Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you." This is something I was taught, not only by my grandparents, but by generations of people before them. It has been handled delicately, wrapped tightly to preserve it, and passed from generation to generation. When a child's feelings have been hurt, they recieve a reassuring pat on the shoulder and the words whispered into their ear, "Sticks and stones will break your bones and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah."

Of course, everyone knows what this implies; It is a message meant to convey that words have no meaning if there is not an action or reaction that solidifies the words. That words are just completely void of substance, and one shouldn't fret over things as simple and menial as words.

As I've grown older my perspective on the world has changed. While I understand the well-thought meaning behind this old adage, I am beginning to wonder how much weight of truth it actually carries.

Frankly, I think it's all bullshit.

Of course words can hurt! I've been there. I've experienced it. I've used words to intentionally hurt the feelings of others, and guess what? It worked.The first time I cried at school was because Buddy Lewis (in all of his infinite wisdom of six) chanted a school-yard taunt about my backside. I was six, and I cried because a boy with glasses and a rat tail told me I had a big butt. When I got to the house later that afternoon, I told my granny what had happened and she said, "Well, who does he think he is?!" Granny then began to recite the "Sticks and Stones" rhyme.

It was supposed to be this small thing. Just words that didn't matter.

These words that never hurt people... They were the very same words that would later cause me to limit my food intake to a cup of grapes a day, to binge & purge and cause me to see only my flaws when I looked into the mirror.

Now, whether this phrase took root because parents really believed it to be true or, because they did not know what else to say is of no importance.

I am learning daily of the profound effect that words can have on those around us. I like to think that my words have a positive effect, but I'm learning...still learning...that words can cut deeper than any knife,  burn hotter than any flame and make you look like a total ass-clown.

Our society undermines the importance of the words we speak, and the message we send through our spoken thoughts.

I find it quite humorous that the older I get; the closer I come to the day when I will pat my children on the shoulder, and give them sage advice about life...I realize, words are some of the most important things in our lives. I am also learning that nine times out of ten, people heal more quickly from a physical blow than a mental or emotional one.

As with so many family heirlooms we recieve, I really treasure this ancient turn of phrase. Had it not been for the careful packaging and passing, I would not be able to make a better future for my children.

I think when the time comes, I will let my children know that words can hurt you, but they can also hurt others. I will make sure they know, words come without an exchange or refund policy...so they must handle them with care. I will also make sure they are aware of the positive effects words can have on a person. I have discovered that nothing lifts one's spirit higher than hearing someone tell you how truly amazing you are, how much faith they have in your abilities and that you are an integral part of their life.

I guess today's moment of clarity is this:

Words are far more powerful than anyone gives them credit for.

Words are weapons, or gifts...depending on how they are used.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Writer's Block

Sometimes, finding a way to begin a piece of writing is the most difficult. There are over 500,000 words and various word forms in the English language. A person with an average education has somewhere around 20,000 words in their vocabulary, but only use 1,500 of those various words in a week.

500,000 words; Endless topics open for discussion and dissection, and I cannot seem to find a damn thing worth writing about. At the recommendation from a friend of mine, I decided to sit down and write about writer's block. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines writers block as, "a psychological inhibition preventing a writer to proceed with a piece of writing."If the folks at Merriam-Webster are to be believed...my writer's block is caused by something within me. I am subconsciously restricting myself from beginning the writing process. It is said that we have two types of inhibitions: those that operate unconsciously, and inhibitions that are imposed upon us by societal norms.

Seeing how I've never cared much about offending what society deems normal or proper, I knew it wasn't the latter.

Could it be that I am just exhausted? Could it be that the last 41 days have been so tiring that my brain is screaming, "Pump the brakes, bitch! Everybody on board the Lucy train is tired, and you need to rest." 
I've never before had a problem expressing myself. Probably, I'm too frank; leaving the other half of my conversational party speechless,  with their mouth dangling wide open in shock. I've never believed much in censoring. I think if people said what they felt and meant what they said, then the world would, most assuredly, be a better place.

And, Lo! Here I sit. Staring at the blinking Insertion Point on my blank, white screen. It's almost like the little icon is taunting me. Daring me to say what is really on my mind. Daring me to dig deep, and find the words that I most wish to put into print for the world to read. With every thing I have experienced over the last 41 days, one would think I would have something viable to write about.

My son's brain surgery.
How much I hate hospitals.
Waiting.

Friendship.
Fear.
Thankfulness.
Cell phones, and their accute ability to ring at the worst times.
Unlikely friendships.
Having a bowel movement after four days of terrible constipation. (size, shape and consistency)
How having 388 friends on a social network can often make you feel like the lonliest person in the Universe.


Like anything, the more I think of the why...the more confusing and further away the answers become. Thus, I will do what every single writing teacher has told me to do my entire life. When you're stuck on what to write....write what you know.
I know I have an obscene fascination with my bowels and their functionality.

I know that regardless of how many times I say, "I'm completely comfortable in my body"...I will still stand in front of the mirror for an hour a day, analyzing things.

I know that an immaculate house is a sign of a life not lived to it's fullest.

I know that I miss my granny....especially in moments like this one.

I know that after I type this, I will be spending an hour in my tiny kitchen...scrubbing dishes and longing for the day that I own a dishwasher.

I know after that, I will berate myself for wishing for silly things when there are so many people in the world who have nothing.

I know even though there were countless surgeons, neurologists and nurses assisting my son's brain surgery last week- the only person I will truly remember twenty years from now is, Ryan: A nurse who brought me some pain reliever for my headache while my son was in the Intensive Care
Unit. He had a little pin on his shirt that read, "I care"

I know that sometimes the most comfortable seat in the world is at a good friend's kitchen table with a cup of coffee warming your hands.

I know that the friendships I cherish the most are those that have just sort of "happened".

I know every pair of underwear I own are uncomfortable except my rumba panties, and I can't conceal those underneath anything, thus...I never get to wear them.

I know, this very evening, my flatulence could be easily confused as a trumpet...heralding the return of The Messiah.

I know being in close, physical proximity to someone isn't necessary for a close friendship. Some of my most important friendships are those who I don't see often.

I know the art of using the English language to express one's emotions is a dying art...being replaced daily by an ellipsis of extra letters at the end of words, and z's in place of s's.

I know this makes me sad.

I know that Motherhood causes conflicting emotions in women. We know it's the most important thing we'll ever do with our lives, but we cannot help but feel a bit cheated when being "so and so's mom" encompasses who we are and what we do. (If you try to tell me that you never look at your life, and wonder what it would be like without your kids...the places you would go...the low rise pants and bikinis you could wear...I will call bullshit on that in about five seconds, and cast a voo-doo bitch curse on you.)

I know my belated grandmother owned enough obscure records, cordouroy and indie films to put even the hippest, hipster to shame. She was hip before being hip was a thing, and I dig that about her.

I know I hate my fucking eyebrows. Of all the traits I could inherit from my grandfather's side of the family...I got the crazy-brillow-pad-have-to-be-trimmed-daily-and-heat-styled eyebrows.

I know that regardless of how many truths I write in this quasi-poem format...it won't be enough to cure my writer's block.


I think my problem with writer's block has been that I'm thinking about it too much. I've been focusing on my expansive vocabulary, and grasp of sentence structure. Typing four words, and then hitting the backspace with key strokes so hard they could probably be felt in other continents. Overanalyzing what to write and to phrase it when, in reality, it's all right there. My truth. Things I know to be true. That's all I've ever written about. Moments that I think other's can relate with. Experiences I can share. It's just truth.

In closing, I leave you with this quote by the great modernist writer, Virginia Woolf. "It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."
I think, my brain might be telling me something:

I may have writer's block because I'm tired, and once I'm rested...and idle...and able to shut things off for a moment....my ability to look beyond the outer facade and write about what lies beneath will return.

Until then...you can expect a lot of stories about my bowel movements.