Friday, August 15, 2014

Dream Warrior

     It rained every day on our vacation.  Normally rain and camping aren't my favorite combination, but I didn't mind it so much on this past trip.  It rained mostly at night, and I was surprised to find that I love the sound of rain drops falling on a tent just as much as I love the sound of them hitting my bedroom window back at home.

     One night, after listening to a thunderstorm pass overhead, I was having trouble falling back asleep.  There I laid wide awake in my sleeping bag, when PG sat straight up.

     "I have NO idea how to do this.", she declared loudly.  Her voice had a touch of tween-ish attitude we've been experiencing lately, so my response to her was a bit curt:

     "Do what? What are you talking about?"

      "I don't know how to capture this tree." I relaxed a little and a smile spread across my face.  It's always fun for me to catch a loved one talking in their sleep.  I wanted to get as much out of this conversation as I possibly could.

      "Why do you need to capture the tree?" I asked her.  She mumbled something of which I could only hear part of, which is unfortunate, because judging from the bits I did catch- something about "the animals" and "courage"- it was likely a very entertaining answer.

     Now, I don't know what she was dreaming.  She didn't remember anything the next morning when I asked her about it.  She had just finished reading Tolkien's The Hobbit a few hours prior to her bedtime, so I imagine her dream was influenced by the fictional world of faeries and dwarves and Hobbit adventures that she had just left.  So it was in the spirit of those adventures, with her subconscious wide open to me, that I reached out to squeeze her hand and tell her, "Don't give up.  I know you'll find a way to take that tree."

     She nodded and then slowly lay her head back down upon her pillow.  I watched her for a moment and then rested my head too.  And before I closed my eyes, I wished that my daughter, that night in her dreams, would know victory.

 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Muses and Demons

     For the last week, I've been writing blog posts in my head.  I've been talking to you guys about so many things, most of them sad, because it seems that's mostly what the world is filled with lately.  But then, before I could get time with my laptop, some other tragedy or horror was announced, and whatever imagined prior conversations I was having became moot as new thoughts and conversations pushed the old ones aside.  I have such a jumble of thoughts to express right now.  So I'm turning off the news in an attempt to force any new atrocity to wait.  I'm putting in my earbuds.  I'm closing my bedroom door and hoping that the Muse shows up-the one that helps me funnel my thoughts onto this trail of words that are being forged by this blinking cursor.
     Muses are real.  Did you know that?  I can feel them.  I think everyone can if they pay close enough attention when they are doing something that they feel passionate about.  However, to be honest with you, I think it's the absence of a Muse that proves their existence to me more than anything else.  A friend once told me that she could tell from reading my posts that "writing comes easily" to me.  Easily, HA! When I can get into a "zone", when I feel the inspiration that allows me to express myself, when my "Muse"-if you will- shows up, then yes, it is easier, but it never feels easy.  It feels like labor, but in the end, I usually have something to show for it.  Sometimes I'm even proud of that thing.  It makes it worth it.  However, when the Muse doesn't show up, when I sit and stare at a screen, when minutes tick by with nothing accomplished, when structuring every sentence is torture- that feels more like a stillbirth.
    I think creative geniuses have lots of Muses, and I think they are good at accessing them.  They know what music, what mindset, what physical setting will call forth their creativity.  They hone these skills over time, but it's my opinion that they're born with their minds and spirits wired for it.  The door between the creative realm and reality swings easily for them.
    Yesterday, with the news of Robin Williams' passing, it occurred to me that the door that allows one's Muse to pass through admits more than just creative inspiration.  It also admits demons.  I don't know why, but doesn't it seem that the price for the amount of beauty and creativity one puts into the world is paid it's weight in the amount of demons one has to battle? How many artists, how many actors, how many writers and poets can we name that are notorious for not just their talent, but for the demons they've battled? It makes me wonder if demons and muses are cousins. Maybe twins. (Twins makes sense.  It goes with good and evil, yin and yang, the paradoxes that are entwined all over the mysteries and understandings of our world.)
      I know this is a silly fantasy, but often when I hear about someone passing by their own hand,  I wish that I had the power to time travel back and show myself to them like a Dicken's ghost.  I wished this yesterday.  I wished I could have shown Mr. Williams how loved he is.  I wished that I could have shown him the world without him in it, so he could've seen how much he's being missed. I wished I could have made him understand that he wasn't really alone, that it was only the demons talking extra loud.   But then I realize it may not have even mattered. Maybe knowing all that would not have been enough.  Maybe he was just tired- tired of battling the demons everyday.  Or, maybe he was just weary of living in this world.  I understand that.  I'm weary today too.  There's a war in Israel, a Christian genocide happening in Iraq, people are beheading children and spiking their heads for the sake of their own God, and we sit in our living rooms and view it all on YouTube.

God help us all, and I mean that.

But then, also today, I read Anne's Lamott's Facebook post in which she reminded us that laughter is just carbonated holiness.  I like to think about laughter that way.  And I think about all the carbonated holiness that Mr. Williams brought into the world.  I'm thankful for it, and I'm planning to drink it in whenever I watch his movies.  I'm going to throw my head back and let all that beautiful holiness roll out of me in the form of laughter, and I'm going to think his name into the Universe, and I'm going to thank his Muse, and I'll be glad for him that his Demons can't torture him any more.

Rest in peace, O captain, my captain.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Be Responsible With Your Library Card

Back when I was in sixth grade, I checked out the "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" from the Buena Vista Library in Burbank.  Then I never turned it back in and I lived my middle school and high school years in terror of police showing up at my door and dragging me off to jail for my crime.  The day after my high school graduation is the day I left Burbank, and I remember  thinking about that book as I was driving away from Griffith Park and the Disney Studios.  I felt both guilty and relieved- like I had gotten away with something.

(That's a true story, and for those of you who don't believe that a mix of that much dorkiness and goody-two-shoeness can exist in a single human, I'm here to assure you that it can, and has.)

Fast forward 22 years.  J and Roo want their own library cards.  PG has had one for a few years, so I give them the same spiel I gave PG.... it's a privilege, they have to be responsible for their own books, if they get a fine it comes out of their own wallets, etc, etc.  We check out books.  Two weeks pass.  We troop back to the library to return their books.

The kids put all their books back in the deposit.  I start fishing through my purse looking for their library cards.  I can't find them.  I remember that I changed purses last week, so they must be in there.   I realize that the only card I have is Matt's (and when he ever did step into the library to get a card remains a mystery to me).  I decide that we can check out new books using Matt's card.  I hand the card to the librarian and she hands it back and tells me that there are twenty-five dollars in overdue fees on the card.  They date back to 2012.  She shows me the book titles.  I vaguely remember checking the books out.  Shoot.  I can't blame Matt for this one.

I decide to model accountability to the children.  Since the library takes cash only, and I'm only carrying $5 dollars, we drive to the nearest gas station where I buy a water and get $20 cash back.  The gas station charges me an additional dollar for the trouble of using my ATM card, which I find ironic since I'm only using my card at the gas station because the library won't take it.  I'm irritated.  I shrug it off.

We return to the library.

A new librarian greets us and takes the payment.  We give her the books we would like to check out.  She then informs us that Matt's card needs to be updated and that he needs to be there to do it.  We still can't check out any books.

I grit my teeth and tell her that since Matt is not here, and since I don't have my card OR the kid's cards, I'll pay the $1 replacement cost for my card.  I am determined to check out library books.  I am responsible!  My children are responsible!  We love reading!  We love the library!

Now the librarian informs me that my card has $30 in overdue charges on it.  This time, they date back to 2010.

I give up.  We trudge back to the car empty handed.

I set out on this trip to the library wanting to show my kids a love of reading, and we came back without books.

I wanted to show them how to be responsible with their cards, and I couldn't find any of our cards.

I wanted to show them how to be responsible with their books and I had racked up $50 in overdue fines.

The lesson here is that if you want to know how to be responsible with your library card, just watch me and then do the exact opposite.  Also, it's clear that I'm probably suffering bad juju leftover from The Witch of Blackbird Pond, so if anyone happens to know how to cleanse my bad library vibes, let me know.  Thanks.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

In Other News...

You guys.  It's like E!News Central around here.  The air in this household is abuzz with gossip. Hushed murmurs abound.  You wouldn't even believe the vibe here.

9 has a girlfriend.

Before I go on, let me stop and say that I am NOT writing this simply to announce on a mom blog that my teenage stepson has a girlfriend.  That would be stupid and lah-ame for a variety of reasons. It'd also be boring because it's not really anything special.  That's what teenagers do, right? They date.  9 has had girlfriends before.  So this is not news, and this is not what I am writing about.  I repeat, this is not what I am writing about. What I am writing about is the reaction of my family members to the change in 9's relationship status.  It's bananas.  The drama!  The excitement! The betrayal! (I'll get to the betrayal thing in a minute.)

It started a few weeks ago with a text that Matt sent me.  It said "9 just told me that he has a gf."

The thing is, that though he meant to text it to me, he accidentally texted it to 9.  And 9 was all "Uh, did you mean to send this to someone else?" So then Matt had to explain himself and kind of apologize.

Awkward.

Then the kids found out.

Pg is totally laid back and whatever about it.  J doesn't understand why 9 would want to date a girl because in J's world, all the love stuff is stupid and embarrassing.  Whenever we tease J about getting married someday, he insists that he won't because (and this is a direct quote) he "wants to have a happy life." So, clearly Matt and I have been a wonderful model of love and marriage for him.

In fact, if I had to guess about which kid, if any, would have a problem with 9 having a girlfriend, I would've guessed J.  A few years ago, at Knott's Berry Farm, 9 got pulled out of an audience to take part in a shotgun wedding skit in which he was forced to "marry" a man dressed as a hillbilly bride.  9 had fun with it and was playing it up.  I was laughing so hard that I had tears coming out of my eyes, until I looked down at J and discovered that he was crying for real.  He thought 9 was really getting married off and leaving us.

So you can imagine my surprise when it turned out that Roo is the one child who is having the hardest time accepting this little change.  I was totally unaware of her feelings because if the subject ever came up, she stayed pretty quiet.  However, yesterday 9 was home from his summer camp job for the first time in 6 days and Roo announced at the dinner table that she was calling a family meeting.  She took the floor and hmmed and ha'd for what seemed like forever.

"Um, I really want to ask 9 a question?  But I'm embarrassed too?" She was shuffling her feet and staring at the floor.   I had a feeling that since the question was directed at 9, it would have something to do with his girlfriend.  I said a quick prayer that she wasn't going to ask anything that I didn't want to know the answer to, and told her that it was okay.
"I feel really weird about this." she said.
"Well, you called the meeting Roo, so spit it out."
"Oooooooooookay.  Fine. 9.  Is it true that you have a girlfriend?" she asked.
9 smiled and said "Yes, it's true. I have a girlfriend."
Roo made this weird groaning sound and then she took a deep breath and asked "Is it true that her name is Lily?"
9 said, "Yes, it's true that her name is Lily."

And then Roo got this embarrassed smile on her face and ran from the room.  9 and I exchanged "What was that?" expressions as I left the room to follow Roo.  I found her in her bedroom, laying on the floor, with her feet up on the wall.  I asked her what was going on.

"I'm never talking to 9 again."she said.

"What? Why not?"

"I don't know.  Because I feel weird."

"Because his girlfriend has the same name as you?"

"No!  I just feel weird."

I tried to reason.  "Um, okay.  You know, he would still talk to you if you had a friend named Kynen."

I got an eye-roll response, so I shrugged, turned, and walked away.  I was half way down the hall when I heard her get up, stomp to 9's doorway, and loudly proclaim to him "I am NOT happy for you!"

Then she stomped back to her room and slammed the door.

I walked to 9's room.  "Did she just tell you that she is not happy for you?"

He was still laughing. "Yes."

"Oh, PLEASE can I write about this?"

He told me to go ahead.  He's a good sport about stuff like this.

What cracks me up is that if 9 ever decided to bring this girl around us, it wouldn't be me or Matt she would have to impress.  To win Roo over, this girl better show up with really cool hair and makeup, glitter or sequins somewhere on her outfit, and she had better know the words and harmonies to each and every song from Frozen.  It'd be for her own good, because truly.......


does this look like a face you'd want to mess with?



Thursday, June 19, 2014

This Is Summer, This Is My Brain On Summer

Hallelujah, the summer days are upon us!  School let out 6 days ago and though it feels like it's been much, much longer than that, it's (surprisingly) not because my family has been driving me nuts here at home.  In fact, they've been dreamy and by dreamy, I mean half of them have been gone.  9 is working a job up at a summer camp in Big Bear, PG is at her third year of camp at Hume Lake, and Mr.C has been at a three day planning committee thing that he's repeatedly explained the purpose of and I've repeatedly forgotten.  So, it's been me and the littlest of the littles and they spend most of the day deeply entrenched in imaginary play.  Here's a pic I snapped of them this afternoon:

Part of me worries that J is getting too old to get so lost in his imagination.  I wonder if he shouldn't be a little more self-conscious or embarrassed to don the crazy outfits he comes up with, if he shouldn't play more sports, if I should ask that he spends more time here in the real world with us.  Then I remember that I am an advocate for stories and storytelling and that I have a son who spends most of his time bringing all the stories in his head to life and that most of the famous and talented artists and storytellers that I know of speak of spending their childhoods in much the same way.  When I remember that, I feel better about it. (Not much, but enough to make me worry less.  Because worrying is apparently what I do.  I know.  I'm just as annoyed by it as you are.)

Anyway, I got off track.  I was explaining why this week has felt so long.  It's not because being trapped in the house with the kids has made it feel long......as has been the case in some past years (ahem, I'm looking at you 2004-2011, aka "the baby years").   It's just that the lack of schedule has turned my time into a long, meandering tunnel of no demands that opens up into a vast, sunny meadow of no obligations.  With this, I have no problem except for the fact that it's messing with my writing.  Without a schedule, my brain is on like a hippie free-flow drive and I can't focus on getting one common theme to thread into an interesting post.  So, forgive me this twisty-twirly post.  It's just reflecting summer's effect on my mind.

I guess if I had to pick a theme for this post, it'd be hair, which I know is cheap because my last post was about hair, but I can't help it if the Universe chose this week to make hair a theme in our household.  Besides, part of what made hair a theme this week was the aftereffect of the great bang massacre that I wrote about last week, and I'll explain all of this in a moment (I'll be honest with you- it's not that interesting, especially now that I've built it up), but I first need to point out that if hair was not a theme before, it most certainly is now, if for no other reason than the fact that I've now typed the word "hair"SIX times in just this one paragraph.

So.  Let's talk about hair.

Roo crawled into bed with me the other morning.  I happened to be Googling "Rockabilly Bandanna Hairstyles" because I was looking for a way to hide my bangs and a bandanna seemed like a good place to start.  (By the way, my sweet friend Alisha commented on the last blog that I should just "sweep my bangs to the side" until they grew out.  Dear Alisha, "sweep" is a word that suggests an element of elegance, and I assure you, there is nothing elegant about what happens when I try to "sweep" the hot mess that lays on my forehead to the side.  I'm sorry.  And I love you for trying to help.)

Anyway, Roo watched a few tutorials with me and asked me if I could give her "Rosie the Riveter" hair for the day.  I have to say, I love this about my Roo.  She Loves (capital L intentional) hair and makeup.  I remember exactly when this obsession started.  It was Halloween a few years ago, in which we dressed the kids as Lock, Shock and Barrel.  She was Barrel, the Skeleton, and as I sponged the white face makeup onto her face, she was absolutely enthralled.  Not like giddy, happy enthralled; more like serious, all of her senses open to the experience, taking it all in enthralled.  She loved the nearness of the other person's face as they patted her makeup on and filled in her eyeliner.  She loved following my directions of "blink" or "close your eyes" or "stick out you lips".  For months after, she relived all of it through her play.  I spent quite a lot of time letting her apply fake makeup to my face, the soft puffs of her breath on my nose as she ran a soft brush across my eyelids, giving me directions on opening or closing my eyes and alternately holding a mirror up to my face.  She a girly-girl for sure, but for her, it's about the transformation.  She loves it. So naturally when she saw the tutorial for Rockabilly Bandanna hair, she was interested.  And when I did it for her, I nearly died from the cuteness.

I've always regretted not being part of the Rockabilly Movement (was it really a movement, or just a trend?).  I may be able to live vicariously through my Roo though.

Here's the other part of hair in our household this week: J got his head shaved.  Here's the before and after.



When I was looking at this picture, I realized that the before picture is exactly how I fear J is going to look in the future after he's moved out and doesn't have to listen to me tell him how to take care of himself: scraggly hair, food on his face, and wonky eyed.  I think it's his default look, lord help me.

Now that I've written close to a thousand words about pretty much nothing (I'm so sorry), let me leave you with this one last thing.  Yesterday I was vacuuming PG's room when I came across a ring of index cards filled with quotes.  I guess her teacher had them write a quote a day and keep them on a ring in their desk.  Maybe I'm just feeling extra sentimental from missing her while she's away, but reading that ring of quotes made me just fall in love with her teacher.  That one little activity didn't have much to do with math or reading or writing, but what a beautiful way to teach children perspective.  I got a little teary-eyed reading through them.  No one should dare say anything against educators to me for quite a while- this one act has made me feel fiercely protective of them.

So, I leave you with this one quote from my daughter's ring full from her fourth grade year: "Today, me will live in the moment... unless it's unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie." -Cookie Monster

I'm going to make that my motto for the summer.  No plans.  Just living in the moment, and when life gets rough, I'll have a cookie.

Have a great night.











Thursday, June 12, 2014

Slow

Last night Matt asked me to help him shave his head.  (Shaving off his hair is a last day of school tradition for he and Jake.)  I said "Um, no."

He asked "Why not?"

I said, "Do you not remember when I helped you last year?"

Last year was the first and last time that I helped him.  He had handed me the razor with the blade guard on the shortest setting and instructed me to "just start at the back and run the razor in rows over my head." I did what he said, but I have notoriously bad hand-eye coordination or WHATEVER, and by the time I was finished, his head kind of looked like this:
I had shaven him completely bald in spots, different lengths in others, and then just for good measure, I had left a few sporadic tufts of long hair to complete this stellar look.

It's pretty sad when you have to call a hairdresser to fix something that even Brittney Spears managed to do perfectly well all by herself.  Not only that, but there were probably a lot of Paparazzi bulbs flashing in Brittney's face, so it's likely she shaved her head blind.  I had two hands and two eyes, and I still botched it all up.  

Anyway, apparently Matt didn't remember any of this, so in order to not seem like a jerk, I had to start coming up with legitimate reasons for why I shouldn't shave his head.  The best one that came to mind was that in Kindergarten, my teacher Mrs. Stone, put me in the low reading group based solely on my ineptitude with scissors.  This was totally offensive to me at the time, because I was a good reader.  I knew I didn't belong with all the nose-picking babies didn't even know their ABC's.  However, back then, poor fine-motor skills were considered a sign of a slow learner, and there was no doubt about it.... the jagged rips and tears that zig-zagged across the dotted lines of my cut-and-paste worksheets screamed THIS CHILD WILL NEED RESOURCE SERVICES.

Eventually my teacher realized that I was a good reader and that my lack of small motor skills wasn't a sign of anything other than the fact that I'm just really, really bad with scissors.  So, she moved me up to the advanced reader group, where I began my lifelong love of reading, as well as a lifelong feeling of self-righteousness that washes over me whenever I recall this particular memory.  (Seriously.  Me in a low reading group? The woman could have at least apologized.)

Anyway, I explained all this to Matt, but when I looked up to see if he was convinced, I saw that he was asleep.

I'm taking that to mean that I'm off the hook.

However, I'm telling you all this because I am still terrible with scissors.  I know this about myself, yet that didn't stop me from attempting to trim my own bangs today.  They'd gotten really long and I told myself that it'd be okay, that I'd just follow my brow line from one eye to the next and that it'd all be lovely when I was finished.

And now I'm rocking' Jim Carey's look in Dumb and Dumber. 

What do you think?  Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, right?  

The worst part about all this is (besides explaining it to my hairdresser), is that Mrs. Stone was right all along.

I am a slow learner.


Friday, May 30, 2014

The Basement

A few weeks ago, another blogger wrote that May was the springtime version of December.  Reading that felt like such an epiphany because YES OF COURSE IT IS.  May is the month of last-minute school projects and graduations and end-of-the-year programs and teacher gifts and so many other things.  In this week alone, our household is celebrating two graduation ceremonies (one preschool and one high school), one eighteenth birthday, and one big party combining the two.  There has been so much to do and not enough time and my general feeling about May is that it is beating me up.

<Insert visual of me waving the white flag here.>

However, it's also a time of celebrating.  It's a time to be proud of things accomplished.  It's the last push of energy and exertion before we exhale and relax into summertime and easy living. It's also a time of reflection. It's that reflection that I want to write about tonight, but I'm not sure how because writing about this particular topic is hard.  Whenever I think about sitting down and writing it all out, I'm not sure if my instincts are encouraging me to be fearless and to just do it, or if they are actually cautioning me about being reckless.

I guess if I publish this, you all will know which voice was loudest tonight.

So, enough dancing around it: what I want to reflect on with you tonight is teenagers.

You guys.  It's really hard having a teenager.  I also vaguely remember that it was hard to be a teenager, but (and maybe this is the distance of time speaking) having experienced both now, I'm almost certain that it's much harder to raise a teenager. Here's why: as an adult, one has all this hindsight.  You try to offer it to the teenager.  You try to use your experience and hindsight to guide the teenager when you see them making mistakes.  You offer your hindsight and (here's the sucky part) .... they don't want it.  They don't give a rat's ass about your hindsight.  It has absolutely no relevance to their life.  They don't need it.  They don't see it.  They. Do. Not. Care.  They have girl problems (or boy problems).  They have acne.  They have hormones.  They're just trying to figure it all out and sure, yeah, you can try to help, but at the end of the day you're just in their way.  You're basically left on your knees, hands lifted in supplication, reaching out, weakly calling "But....I- I have this hindsight."

And you realize that somehow, you have become as lame as you feel.

Wait. It gets worse.

When you are a new parent there is all this information.  If you need to talk to someone about your baby, you can go anywhere.... the Internet, a friend, a bookstore, heck- walk into any grocery store- and someone there will have a listening ear and an opinion about whatever it is you want to know about your baby.  But then, if you fast forward thirteen years, you will find that you'll have SO MANY questions and hardly anywhere to turn because no one can really help you with your kid.  These problems are as unique as your child is, so there are no answers.  You are on your own.  Furthermore, you won't WANT to share these problems with the world because some of them will be horrible and shameful.  You won't want to expose your child (or yourself) to that kind of judgement from the world.  They may be teenagers, but what they really are is itty bitty baby adults, and you start to understand that what we're doing during the teen years is birthing little baby adults into the world.   I would no more want anyone judging my baby-adult harshly than I'd want someone to judge an actual baby. They are just too new.  The world is just too mean.  So you keep them under your wing best you can- but it's a bit like loving on a barbed-wire fence.  It's prickly and frustrating and painful and.... lonely.

And there you are.  Alone with an angry baby-adult who thinks you're lame, and no one to talk to about it besides your spouse (That's if you're lucky. Even if you have a spouse, sometimes you won't even agree on how to care for the baby-adult, so feel free to go ahead and compound that lonely feeling by two.)

A few months ago, a blogger wrote about this same topic- parenting teens- and a few people in the comment section complained that it was too negative.  They said it reminded them of when people would tell them "horror stories" about pregnancy and child birth just to scare them.  I wanted to respond to their comments by replying back, "Shhhhhhhhhh.  We're talking.  Clearly this is not about you.  I'm sure your child's years as a baby adult will be perfect and stress-free.  Right now, there's someone here that's like me.  I need to hear because no one really talks about this."

Yet another blogger (Yeesh. This is the 3rd one I've mentioned tonight.  Perhaps I should stop reading so many blogs.) ...has a page on their blog titled "The Basement".  It's actually a brilliant idea- if there is something you need to share but aren't able to do so publicly, you submit your piece to her "basement", and she'll publish it for you.  There was a lot of heavy stuff down there, but you could see that it was a healing place too, since there was a lot "me too" in the comments.  In these last few years, it's occurred to me that parents of teens could benefit from a basement.

This has been a hard year for us and 9.  I'm okay with writing that. I don't mind if he reads that.  He knows it's true.  There were times this past year when I was so completely pissed off at him that I couldn't even talk to him.  I had to talk to friends or family instead and ask them to show me an empathetic perspective.  Then I had to actually work on feeling that empathy, like I was some kind of robot with programming instructions.  I had to actually practice feeling empathetic because none of the nicer feelings were coming naturally to me. There was too much anger in the way.  (It's okay with me if he reads that too, as he lived it and knows it to be true.)

Of course, details and events are all part of 9's story, and I won't be sharing them here.  I can only talk about my feelings and my reactions, which I know, leaves a big hole in the story.  That's why I said earlier that this is a hard thing to write about.  At the end of the day, here's what I would be whispering into the basement: he lost his mom four years ago and we all know that a lot of this past years' turmoil came from.  In the middle of all the turmoil were big mile markers; getting his license, attending junior and senior Prom, performing in the school play, birthdays.... and next week will be graduation.  Each time one of these events pass, as I'm snapping a picture of him behind the wheel of his jeep, or in his tux, or blowing out candles, I get choked up- not on pride- (although I feel pride too) but guilt.  I always feel guilty that I'm here and his mom's not.  It's a weird kind of survivor guilt, I guess.  Usually when I try to talk about this, people rush in and talk over me and tell me that it's good, it's so good, that 9 has a person to fill in the role of motherhood.  And I nod and give up, because yes, it's good.  I'm not diminishing my role in his upbringing.  But I'd love it if people would just sit in the knowledge that it is also really unfair.  It's a bad break for everyone, especially 9 and Michelle.  It's okay to say that without trying to make it "better".

Those big moments that Michelle is not here for, it's true that she should be here, but I know also that she'd have traded anything, all her worldly goods, to be here for the crappy stuff too.  She didn't tell me this, but any mom knows it to be true.  And understanding that puts a different spin on it.  It doesn't make it easier to deal with teenager angst and inexperience.  It doesn't make me feel less frustrated.  But it does bring more meaning to the task.  The good stuff is easy, maybe that's why I feel guilty about it.  The blood, sweat and tears that goes into the hard stuff feels more "earned" somehow.  It's still bittersweet.  It's still unfair.  But having a role, working with his family to help him grow from a baby adult to a mature (and hopefully happy, healthy, productive) man has been worth it.  And that is one thing that has always been clear.....

He's always been worth it.