Monday, July 25, 2011

to hell in a handbasket

It's been obvious for a while that the world has become outrageously dangerous. Wars, unrest, militant fanaticism, famine, and diseases of epidemic proportions have become the norm rather than the exception. It's appalling how well we have habituated to them as background noise in our daily lives that it takes a special kind of crazy to snap us into attention.

And if this past week is any indication, we're going to hell in a handbasket.

No one is safe, least of all our kids...

Andres Behring Breivik, 32
Killed 92 people in Norway, some with a bomb explosion, most with a leisurely shooting spree. The screams of the youth at the summer camp he targeted, overhead by survivors and people they frantically called for help on their cell phones, did not deter him from his murderous rampage. On the contrary, he apparently reloaded and calmly tracked down the wounded to finish them off.
This terrifies me.

Leibby Kletzky, 8
Young boy walking home alone from day camp for the first time, after begging for permission to/rehearsing the route with his mother, was abducted by someone in his own community, killed and mutilated for absolutely no apparent reason. The massive optimistic search for Liebby ended with a horrible thud, when his remains were found in different plastic bags, some in the trash.
As the mother of an 8-year old, this disturbs me to my core.

Amy Winehouse, 27
Soul-jazz singer who made headlines for her erratic (alcohol & drug fueled) behavior, was found dead in her home of a suspected overdose. I know that I am supposed to care about the loss of a human life, any human life, but I cannot even manage to produce a modicum of sadness for this wretched person who really died of self-inflicted bad, bad choices. How desensitized am I getting that the only thing I seem to be able to muster is a bleak:"what a waste!"?

And that scares the shit outta me!

Monday, July 18, 2011

emily turned 8 (part deux, the birthday hoopla)

I created a monster. I can't really complain because I am entirely to blame, but of course that won't stop me from doing it anyway.

From her first birthday, I taught Emily how to put together (painstaking attention to minute details and all) an age/venue themed birthday party. All she has known so far -- from the Sesame Street 1st birthday party theme, complete with jello, cookies, cake, and assorted foods, all made in the shape of the TV characters, letters or numbers; to Under the Sea with a replica of a chocolate island replete with handpainted chocolate shells, trees, and sea creatures; to Glow in the Dark Miniature Golf, yes you read it right, I said glow in the dark; to last year's Bora Bora Swimming party, where the invitation was an actual message in a bottle full of actual seashells collected in Bora Bora --,  is that mommy works tirelessly for weeks (even months) to put together the most complete party this side of a monstrous budget (and that, oddly, she has not yet been clinically diagnosed as a full-blown maniac). (And that nobody at the Tahitian airport customs thought it odd that she was travelling back to the States with an unusually large quantity of beach-gathered shells).

So I shouldn't have been really surprised this year, when I wanted to dismiss the hoopla and take the simple route for a change, that she gave me the indignant look and body language (complete with the eye roll and audible huff) signifying that 1. I was completely delusional and that 2. it would simply not do. I guess I should consider myself lucky that she picked "sunflower" as her theme. No problem, right? Wrong: if it's not the superhero-du-jour, Party City will not have it, thankyouverymuch marketing department at Disney. Even with the Tahitian getaway makeover of my backyard, I was able to use some items from the regular summer fare of bamboo serving pieces and straw umbrellas (finding banana-leaf serving platters, now that was pure detective work). There is only so much creative streching one can do with the color yellow!

Luckily, actual sunflowers were/are in season, making them definitely much easier to track than frangipaniers  (also known as frangipani, or plumeria) which apparently are not found anywhere in southern California because they don't grow in my agricultural neck of the woods, don't travel well at all (specially the extremely fragile white ones indigenous to Bora Bora), and will not be flown in on special order (yes, I did ask, in a moment of pure desperation, then quickly came to my senses... mostly after all the florists I contacted said that it couldn't be done... don't they know that the smell of these fragrant, aromatherapeutic flowers is one of the integral parts of the Polynesian experience? and they call themselves florists, ha!).

They say the child will have more fun, and will often opt to play with the box instead of its contents, after you've agonized for hours over the perfect (and expensive) gift. Massive quantities of gifts were bestowed upon Emily this year, from art supplies to swimsuits to flip flops to shoes to books to games to a grownup haircut at mommy's fancy salon. But when asked about her favorite part of the day, she chose being the bartender-for-the-day and being in charge of serving ice cream (scooping ice cream in the cones which sat in a funky gadget with colorful spiral slots made specifically for that purpose) as the highlights of her special day. Not a peep about my beautiful vases artfully brimming with sunflowers.

Maybe that's the way things are meant to be, to preserve the sanity of mankind. Despite our best parental attempts to (wittingly or not) ruin our kids, their innocent but accurate instinct will lead them naturally towards the important things in life... like autonomy, sense of accomplishment, Emily spending the day surrounded with friends and family, and love, love everywhere she looked.

There were many lessons I learned from Emily in the eight years I have had the privilege of being her mother, starting from the moment I felt her in my tummy, restlessly shifting in her little liquid cocoon.
This was definitely a poignant one.

Monday, July 11, 2011

emily is turning 8!

This weekend, my daughter will turn 8. Eight? Can't be! (counting mentally, then again on my fingers, fully anticipating a different answer) Yup... EIGHT!!!!! 

10-day old Emily, posing unwittingly for her birth announcement picture

Since she was old enough to understand (the year she turned 2 if I'm not mistaken), we've had this little birthday tradition, a special Mommy-and-Emily thing, no Daddy or Douggy allowed: every year, before the presents and the cake and the party, on the morning of July 16th at exactly 7:16 am (her actual birth date and time), I sit on her bed, wake her up and we start reenacting the following:

Me: “Happy Birthday, Moomoo!”
Emily: “Humph!” Groggy smile, her dreams still in her eyes.
Me: “Do you know what you were doing exactly (insert birthday) years ago at exactly this time?”
Emily: “What?” Same question every year, even though by now she knows the answer practically verbatim.
Me: “Waaaaaaaaaaaah!” And then I tell her about how she was crying so loud that the nurses stopped attending to the rest of my c-section to give her the bottle right there and then, in the middle of the operating room, to shut her up.
Emily: “That’s because I was hungry.” Big smile now.
Me: “Yes, it had been 27 hours since either of us had anything to eat. And do you know what I was doing exactly at this time exactly (insert birthday) years ago?”
Emily: “What?” Big grin. She ducks, knows it’s about to get loud.
Me: “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! And I got my first gray hair that day. Oddly, you had one exactly in the same spot too“. Of course hers fell off promptly, while mine multiplied exponentially.

That’s when she hugs me with her little arms, tight, so gloriously tight. I cherish these rare occasions where she lets me coddle her, pitifully knowing that they're about to get rarer still. I stick my hands under her shirt and rub her bare back still warm from the night’s sleep, taking in all that warmth, the same way I have done since she was yea big (see pic above) to soothe her colic. This is one of her favorite things, the back rub that is, always was, though lately a promise of one is the only way I can get her to give me a hug. The only thing missing is her purring like the cat that she must have been in a previous life. At almost 8, she is all gangly limbs and muscles. Her cheeks are still bouncy when kissed, but the baby softness is all but gone. My arms have adjusted to her new shape and topography, yet fiercely retain the distinct memory of her chubby, soft, infant form.

This year Emily will be at her summer camp on the morning of her birthday. This will be the first time we will not be able to replay our little birthday routine. She is already old enough to sleep somewhere else, without us... And though I am very proud to see her grow up into a healthily independent little girl, a part of me is having a really hard time accepting that she's already making her own traditions, which do not necessarily include me. And also that I'm the only one who seems to mind...

Maybe I'll show her my scars later, when she comes home.

Monday, July 4, 2011

happy fourth!

Compliments of

Saturday, July 2, 2011

because I can't wait till monday

My oldest and dearest childhood friend is coming to visit next week. She will stay with us with her family for the first time. Her kids and husband have never been to California… Ahhh the pressure of properly representing a whole state … I who am just borderline proper on my best day… with a house that barely fits us and our junk, most of the time… after she treated us like royalty when we visited her… ahhhh the pressure, the pressure, Cinde-fucking-rella!

Having put husband, daughter and dog on notice, I have been furiously delegating (fine, barking out) household tasks whilst keeping an eye on the calendar. For once, they have been impeccably well-behaved and compliant, yelling back at me only occasionally, though totally oblivious to the time sensitive nature of the undertaking (Me, hands on hips: “I've been telling you to fix the screw on the toilet for the last two weeks. The seat is still wobbly!” Husband watching TV, feet up, eating popcorn: “Oh, you mean now?”).

But since a large portion of said junk is mine, all my free time of late has been begrudgingly (10 minutes of work/30 minutes of reading other people's blogs and posting unwarranted comments) dedicated to a massive amount of tidying up, cleaning, and rearranging piles of shit that I should have dealt with years ago. Like the large mounds in the corner of my office composed mainly of my graduate research, studies, books, papers, handouts, notes, and apparently every conceivable scrap of paper I ever wrote anything on … since the day of enrollment.

To plow efficiently through the stacks, I had to constantly remind myself that the only thing I was allowed to do was to ask: “Where does this go? Trash, recycling, donation, or scanner?” Because nothing stops the momentum like a trip down memory lane. But then I found this. And I stopped plowing.

I distinctly remember the day this was handed to us at the very beginning of the first lecture in a Family Systems Therapy class. The blank look in our eyes when we realized she wasn’t passing out our syllabi. The incredulous one once we read it. Then the unanimous sigh of concurrence. The instructor was a humanistic therapist, much like the stereotypical touchy-feely ones in the movies who answer “and how do you feel about that?” to any and all questions, but there was more to her: something about her that inspired confidence, a depth, that belied her hippie clothing and demeanor. Plus she looked you deep in the eyes till you had no choice but to blurt out whatever you were withholding. Once I resisted the initial cracking-up every few seconds, I actually started digging her unorthodox* teaching methods. And didn’t crack up at all on the last day of class which was ended -- wait for it-- with a candle being passed from student to student. Never in a million years would I have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own two eyes: the personal (and frankly inappropriate) things that were said by all as each student looked at the flickering light and disclosed, me included. I blame her for my over-disclosing tendency, that’s for sure (like I wasn’t socially inept enough without this bonus affliction, thanks a lot!).

Since that class, I've strayed considerably from mainstream psychology to the more data-driven, logical, and colder confines of behavioral psychology. But Bonnie, wherever you are, this still resonates with me.

*Relatively unorthodox I would say: In retrospect, and considering the topic of the course, the format of the class was a very smart way to manufacture a sense of intimacy, essentially treating a group of strangers as a family unit and turning them eventually into a cohesive group, aware of their interpersonal dynamics and mindful of each other’s feelings and reality.