Zombie Apocalypse

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If you know my husband you know that it’s a form of endearment if he wants you around for the Zombie Apocalypse. He’ll say things like, ” That new neighbor looks like a piece of work. He’s got a pick up truck with fishing and gun stickers on it. Not really sure what I think about my neighbor having a gun, but I bet he’ll be helpful during the Zombie Apocalypse…I better go meet him.” I’m not sure if he really thinks the Zombie Apocalypse will come to pass, but he sure does talk about it a lot. For example according to him, I will be really valuable during the zombie apocalypse because of my stealthiness. When he appreciates this quality in me he calls me a ninja; when he doesn’t, he asks if I’m an assassin. “I’ll never tell.” I say.

We got snowed in for the blizzard of 2016 and I have yet to be accused of being an assassin, which I think is evidence of things going well. Given my need for exercise, nature, and quiet we agreed I’d trek through the paths to the store while he manned the fort.

There’s something about the woods I love. Unlike the roads already covered in ash, the tree lined paths glisten with snow in the days after the storm. Today, the grey clouds gave way to blue sunny skies. The patted down paths twisting and turning through neighborhoods and shopping plazas feel more personal than the roadways somehow. I bump into a mommy friend with her daughter. They are thoroughly cold and worn out from sledding which makes me smile.

Then I arrive at the grocery store and looked around,

no milk

again

no veggie 1

and again.

no veggie 2

 

With just an image or two, the quickly setting sun, and a suggestion of an inevitable outcome repeated a few thousand times utopia quickly turns to dystopia.

I ran into two mommies at the checkout that I knew, but, I noted,  the beauty of interconnectedness is lost in fear. The impromptu rescue party of husband and kiddos seemed equal suspicious, given my explicit directions to hold down the fort.

I couldn’t help but feel heavier on the way home: four grocery bags, a toddler, a husband and a baby. We made our way through unlit paths and focused on not tripping on now crunchy snow. The sled was broken, toddler’s gloves were sokin’, the kids were cold.I worried about dropping the baby in the carrier as the toddler and grocery bags alternated falling from the sled into the snow.

We try to laugh in our house. I don’t really think I need to worry about zombies chasing me through the snow. But when I got home I did allow myself a hearty minute to focus on the power of suggestion and the subtle pervasiveness of hate and fear.

Several years ago my husband and I started on a journey to lighten the load of what weighs us down. Sometimes that’s been things, and sometimes it’s been people. Either way it has been hard to seek hope rather than fortify against fear.  But in light of living in the shadow of the Zombie Apocalypse-I’m so glad we have.

 

 

 

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Snowy mornings

snowyam

For 1,000 different reasons there’s still no place I’d rather be snow bound than this little town.

Neighbors who build igloos, friends who walk the trails bringing snow gear, unexpected stop-ins, pots of hot chocolate, sledding on the neighboring hill…

Trading notes on what’s open, sharing ingredients so everyone has food…

Counting my blessings and not my curses.

28″ of snow fall

#snowdayhoneymoonphase

#nextphasecabinfever

#Blizzard2016

#Snowzilla

 

When my Kitchen is Silent

Chicken

When my kitchen is silent my heart will be empty

Long before the first light of day my kitchen is bustling. Our pace slower, but our routine as precise as a restaurant kitchen where I rummage for “Os,” and fill sippy cups-one milk, one water. To the living room it’s time for cuddles, then back to the kitchen to fill oats in bowls with two scoops of water. My hands guide this toddler man as he dips and drags his measuring cup through water. When the game is old or we’ve deemed there’s enough water, we move our bowls on over to the microwave. I position toddler fingers over buttons, instruct “push” and we watch as the magic happens. Here we are gleefully proud of all we have accomplished.

Outside it’s cold on this 30th of March. I watch as gusting rain turns to surprise snow quickly covering us with a dusting. My kitchen chugs a slow, steady pace. Daddy rises late; warms his waffle in the toaster oven. I boasted about a surprise pot of coffee ready to warm him, tease he probably wants me to prepare his cup. He’s interested and off to start a bathroom remodel- forgetting his food. I am necessary to remind him as I’m needed in the living room to “help, help, help.” Gather balls, place blocks, cheer accomplishments, reenact our microwave cooking. This time chubby fingers guide mine, instruct “push” at a make shift microwave, caution: “hot,” cheer me on with a clap, clap, clap. Then time for a “cracka” break.

bread

It takes so much longer to start the bread when people are awake. I realize I may never get the rolls on. But I add the yeast, run around the couch, add the flour, turn on the toy, sneak my own cereal with sugar but not baby slurps and fingers. Until, BUSTED! We split the Os in the bowl, share the spoon and dribble the milk.

With daddy’s help an impromptu adult dinner has been planned. We prep. The bread machine is on. The stove and then the oven are set to warm.  I warm up turkey joes, mac and cheese and oldish creamed spinach. It’s my son’s lunch, but I’m so hungry I could eat my own fingers. As a reward for making it through a triathlon of tuck in, I’ll earn myself the right to toddler left overs upon my return.  I will enjoy them out in the open.

Soon the light outside is dimming and naptime is over. The kitchen smells of sweet bread and the rolls have already risen. A chicken has been basted and the mashed potatoes, daddy is preparing. The hand mixer hums into our potatoes; and smells, like always, of memories of birthday cakes and holiday dinners. Tastes of mashed potatoes are doled out by the kitchen gate in exchange for parking cars and putting away toy dishes.  My son has long been sleeping by the time the rolls have browned and the chicken has cooled for carving.

Long after the last light of day my kitchen is bustling, and I wouldn’t have it any other way for when my kitchen is silent my heart will be empty.

My husband, our resident over qualified dishwasher, is so LOUD as he cleans the kitchen. As my heels ache and my temper shortens I long for quiet. But before I can wish for days without two dinners, before I can dream of days without our food filled splat mat, I catch my breath at the thought of women in other transitions. I know one day these loud boys of mine will not ask for my help or tolerate my guidance. One day I realize there will be no cuddle breaks, no more motion translating, no snack getting, no apple cutting, no taste granting. First, I’ll wait and hope that someone will come home to dinner. Then someday there will be no more cooking dinner. One day if I live long enough and I’m really, really lucky, I’ll lose my kitchen. But, I fear the day my kitchen is silent for my heart, it will be empty.

Talking to God

 flower 4

As I remember it the library was located in the farthest corner at the highest, hottest point in school. Twenty-something years later I couldn’t tell you how many times we went to library class each week or even exactly how old we were when we got that assignment. But I can tell you I didn’t really like library class.

As you rose up the last set of stairs and passed Mrs. LaRocca’s sixth grade classroom it smelled like hot paper. Because it was hot, even in the endless Pennsylvania winter. Old books permeated the air and spread past the 2 rooms dedicated to them and onto shelves in the hall. I could feel old books with no pictures and the crunchy plastic that guarded them just by walking past. Even though we got out of classes for our regular subjects to have library, I didn’t like it. We had lessons on the Dewey decimal system and paper card catalogue systems. Why do that to a kid? No one has ever stopped me in the library and asked me where C826 is. Nor have I ever used Dewey and his system to find my books.

One assignment seemed promising enough to leave a hazy impression. We were to pick a biography or autobiography book from the library, check it out and read it. There was a long (boring!) lesson on what those books were and where in the library they were located. I’m sure I half way paid attention to this explanation. I’m pretty sure I shyly followed the crowd to the right section. I wouldn’t have wanted to look too eager to get to the ‘graphy section first. I would have also second guessed my ability to find that ‘graphy section because I would have already known two things. I often half way paid attention, tuning out important details. I hated looking stupid in front of others, which is what I would look if I picked the wrong book because that assignment also included giving a report in front of the class while dressed up like the subject of the book.

Horrible assignment for kids in grade school (BTW). We were old enough to read books that could be long enough to be boring if they weren’t of interest to us, but we were also old enough to worry about what people thought of our interests. So we could find ourselves in a situation where we suffered through a biography or autobiography or were publicly ridiculed when we dressed up as our subjects, awesome choice.

Feminist that I was, I looked for a book about a female who would require a feminine outfit, but not command much (positive or negative) attention. Little worrier that I was I probably hung back so long that the 2 decent old books were taken by better listening or more self-assured little girls who also wanted to wear a pretty outfit.

I don’t remember the title or the name of the subject of the book. I know that the subject was a nun. Everything else in this memory is crowded with fear induced haze. It went something like: sadness, poverty, something, something, sickness, lepers?, something, something, suffering, more poverty, alone, sadness, death. It was awful (but BONUS I could wear a skirt for the dress up report). I have to think the book was old and maybe the library was under funded or just maybe (and I think I hit this before) this was a stupid idea for a kids’ library class given the size of the library and the 40 something kids in the class.

I remember the over whelming fear after reading that book. I no longer worried if my nun’s habit would go unnoticed with the other tweens. I spent all this time reading this book that talked about vocation and calling. I realized that nuns didn’t have kids or husbands. They seemed miserably alone. It talked about them not having a choice about this God inspired calling then spent pages and pages in my 11? 12? year old opinion showing why being a nun was awful.

I spent what felt like weeks fearing this fate. I think I probably spent weeks saying, “Oh my God, Oh my God! What if God MAKES me be a nun!” I’m telling you this whole destined for doom thing freaked me out. At this point, I either learned or recalled the story of Samuel:

There was a boy who was sleeping. A voice called him. He ran to his Master, asked him what he wanted.  Master said, “It wasn’t me who called.” The third time he came to his Master, the Master told him it was God who called him.

I still think that any story that has a “Master,” a boy and someone calling out in the middle of the night is GD scary. Needless to say I went to sleep many nights COMPLETELY freaked out. Because even if God didn’t MAKE me a nun. He could apparently scream out at me any dang dark time he wanted and tell me what I had to do. I don’t know how all 11 or 12 year olds weren’t scared shitless.

Finally it happened. I went to sleep and I heard… nothing. I remember clearly that I finally realized that this God who I was taught to believe in also supposedly created all things, loved his mother and called little children to him. This not scary person would not pounce on me in the middle of the night, would not force me to have a life I found miserable. Even that Nun with that seemingly awful life had a choice. She must have enjoyed something about this calling. She must have agreed to participate.

That was the first of many fears that made me tense and kept me up at night. Other nights I went to bed knowing that I had forgotten to study for a test, had said the wrong thing and upset someone, had lied(!), had looked stupid or made mistakes. I had and do have trouble sleeping sometimes for what feels like weeks thinking through problems, actions I’ve taken or others’ words and try to make peace with them, try to make peace with myself.

At the time I thought this experience was nothing. It was nothing, but the peace of what I came believe in has lasted. I think of God as the Father surrounded by children in a garden, not the God of yelling in the night. I can accept the God who enveloped with love and kindness that feels right. The God of fear, orders and judgment that’s a knot I can’t make sense of. Because it wasn’t the God of Catholics or Protestants or even the Jewish, Muslim, Buddist or New Age God, it was just a belief in kindness that gave me peace.

I don’t think of talking to God very often anymore. I don’t wait for an assignment that falls from the sky or a destiny I can’t avoid. I think a lot about the lack of kindness. I see a lot of people missing peace. I get knots about Columbine, the Boston Marathon, Isla Vista. So, so many knots, ironically they come from love. The more peace I find the more knots I want to smooth so in my son’s life there will be only gardens of happy children knowing only love.

Every shooter, every bomber, every victim tied in knots that can never be undone. Babies, all of them- once were chubby cheeks and eager eyes, hungry and waiting to be filled with lessons and truths. Some left hungry and some left filled leaving strings that can no longer be tied into bows for their gifts in the future.

At a fountain in our town’s center families gathered to enjoy the weather on Mother’s day. I was basking in the glow of my son. Chubby cheeked and eager eyes, full of Thai food and ice cream and the joy running by the fountain. I smiled, at peace. Husband worried over a boy, twenty-something looking off. Later he explained: “He was probably high. A run away I imagine. I didn’t want to get too close with our son.” Another Momma with her teens stopped and checked on him.

My heart is heavy, my chest is tight it will be oh so hard to sleep tonight. So many knots waiting to be smoothed, so many people looking for peace and finding themselves instead tied in the knots of a fearful almost predetermined fate. Maybe I can try to plant a garden. You know the kind of place where everything is alright?

Scents and Sensibility

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It is God awful hot in Virginia. Our flowers are melting and toddlers are sticky. You know what else “hot” means in toddler land: everything is hard and generally stinky. It’s the stinky that’s making me nervous. Days ago we were driving, since then all I smell is bad cheese.

I imagine it was the banana I gave Toddler. Yes, gave him. You see I wanted to see the mountains, and Good Lord he whined a long, hard, high-pitched “please”. Then cried, and I really just needed a moment. So I handed him banana. He held on a little too long; I realized too late. The banana was all over, and though I did my darnedest with a wet cloth, I know this is something I’ll have to face.

I mentioned the smell twice to Husband- hoping he’d clean it out. Truly he was too busy so hasn’t done a thing. Adult that I am, I’ll avoid it.   I learned my lesson about bananas. Toddlers should not eat them unsupervised in the back seat. I think to myself I’ve totally got this. I just take farther and farther walks. I tell myself, “Maybe it’s better…” But really I think it’s worse.

Even Husband has commented that something smells ripe. Well, his words might have been more colorful if I tell that story right. Let’s just say there’s a musty, heavy odor clouding up that car, and things aren’t going to be Kosher until someone cleans it out.

I’m standing in the kitchen. I’m far away from the source, but I’m smelling something awful and thinking Holy God… I start to smell the dishes. I even check the fridge. I check the trash and dish washer, a pile of bibs and rags by the sink. Clearly I’m regretting my decisions. Why banana? And who the flip can’t clean a seat?  I guess that’s the thing about issues-they are never very neat. Now here I am sniffing around like crazy. Then I start to think. Did it get on something I was carrying? Is it wafting off my hair? Is it a mold that sickening my baby? Are we scaring off our friends? Or is everyone just talking about what it is that stinks?

Now I’m poised for action. I’m taking on the world. I do my usual dishes and taking out of trash. I scrub every crevice and open every door. Trust me, there is no other place for a smell to surprise me anymore. Luckily it started raining, cooling off the air. Stinky isn’t traveling, but there’s still a source somewhere.

So here I go with Toddler. We’re cleaning out the car. Yes, I took him with me. This cleaning, it can’t wait. So we vacuum up some fishies. We scrub under his seat. We don’t make it perfect, but we do a lot to make it neat.

Every day he watches me, and every day I make mistakes. I think the thing about living is it’s really all about grace. Well, also a little about garbage and a thing or two about being clean. But generally I think if you’re trying you’re probably pretty safe.

Sometimes when I worry about Toddler I forget what matters most. Isn’t the best example dealing with our stuff? I have two extra little hands and one eager, open heart. I have to take him with me and honestly that’s the best part. The journey isn’t where we land, it’s how we took our stride. It’s my job to teach him to stop and check inside.

Funny thing that teaching, I find it’s a two way street. Because the reason I know about forgiveness is watching that little guy. How could I ever hold something against his eager little face? Of course I love his giggles and his gorgeous little curls. But he’s had some stinky diapers and thrown up down my shirt. He’s ruined some new outfits by falling in the dirt. I think his whines for booboo kisses are a favorite of mine. It’s not in what he’s saying; it’s in recognizing his worth. Everyone deserves compassion, everyone on Earth. So I maybe my new mission is really about myself. I have to feel for me the things I want him to have for himself.

Laying Stones

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Ninety-three is a big number in most categories, but 93 years of life in the scope of this world is huge. My grandmother who stands, I’d argue, a whisper over 5 feet is one such huge wonder. So it seems sinful, given that I know this, that my toddler had yet to meet her a year and a half after his entrance into this world.

I go “home” sparingly these days.  My reasons seem, to me, to be complicated, but to others, I imagine typical. In this year and a half of light and fullness that I credit to my son’s existence I’ve become more conscious of both the world that I want to exist for my son and my role in creating that world. Now I realize I have to build that world stone by stone.  Whether I go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, the consignment shops, boutiques or the mall, I lay down my stones. Whether it’s organic or local food, positive or traditional parenting, this class or that group of friends, I am still laying stones. These habits that we make turn into values that we pass on. They become both the path and the foundation that sets our children on their way.

I thought of none of these things as I “prepared” for my son. I distinctly remember the panic that ensued in our house when my husband and I realized we probably should not have been reading our pregnancy book in real time. For one thing by the time I got to the end chapter it was way too late to think of an alternative exit strategy for my son- and I did not like the sound of the normal route. For another, we realized neither one of us knew anything about child rearing. Let alone considered if we had established a mantra that could guide us and a child through life. If you told me I needed a mantra I would have started sweating; obsessed over it for a long while; wondered how I could include all perspectives so I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings; worried if it could be completely valid in all circumstances, while still saying anything meaningful.  Then I would have given up, feeling like a complete failure and angry at myself for not knowing that a mantra was a prerequisite for having kids.

Don’t get me wrong, while I look back at this time as one full of hope and thoughtful choices, there were months of not thinking: months, when I had no context for decision making. Sometimes things just seemed to evolve because I was too tired to make a decision or completely unaware that I should have been making one. There were conversations with my sister, resident mother expert to yours truly, where I remember saying things like: “How long until you started to sleep again?” and “What do you mean 9 months?” There were “How do I make my son friends?” questions and “Is that normal?” questions. As well as “When do I call the doctor?” questions and “What IS that?” questions.  There were articles that I didn’t read and others that I did that didn’t work. There was the ever elusive advice that all babies are different and that a mother knows best. But all of those questions and the advice – the working and nonworking kind- simply made me pay attention. I was looking at my son for evidence so I could consult the experts with what I saw and, you know, mother him right. Meanwhile I’d pray that someone could fix my inevitable mistakes.

So I watched him to gather my evidence. I started to wonder why he was doing what he was doing. Then I gushed with pride; was awed and inspired by him.  It was ever so slowly that he started to rebuild my foundation. There were months of hard decision making because I wasn’t following advice or others’ examples. Often things just seemed to evolve because I didn’t know enough to have predicted the outcome. There were changes in churches and speaking up where there used to be silence. There were new habits and old habits. There was unexpected support and unexpected critics.  There was much patching of stones in my foundation. That elusive advice proved well-meaning, and its grace and kindness seeped through me to my son until it covered us both because we let it.

I find my mantra is something about hope. It has a lot to do with kindness and grace as well as laughter and attention. I look at my thoughts and try to understand them. I think of my actions and know that I want to be proud and awed and inspired by them.

I stared at the road on the way to see Grandma thinking of our path to this point. She is the Grandma of “May I” not “Can I,” of popcorn always in the oven, nuts on the coffee table and an endless supply of peppermints. She was the owner of my “happy little home” under her dining table where I turned little bird salt and pepper shakers into my dancing friends. She was the maker of my second breakfast of toast and honey when I was too young to go to school. The thrower of extended family Christmas dinners when I usually got to see aunts, uncles and cousins; where I was often at the children’s table and there was usually an edible cookie tree. She introduced me to what she called “plum duff,” which I believe is actually plum jam. Well who cares what it’s called- it rocked my 5 year old world.

She was the Grandmother whose walks included hats and stone wall walking. Her kitchen always had music. It was her piano I avoided, and her old rooms in which I loved to snoop. She helped me make my first cranberry sauce and what I hoped would be my last fish. His name was Henry. He had eyes and it creeped me out. I don’t care what Grandma says I DID NOT like the salmon.

She was the home of the worst sick days. Complete with a sick pot to throw up in as well as a sick toy box-I shit you not. The toy box was not “Sick!” it was old and I think I remember a Gumby doll. TV could only be on in the afternoon and consisted mainly of Flipper. Books were everywhere, but the ones I could read consisted mostly of people named Dick and Jane.

She was also the home of the best sleep overs, where you could pick any room to sleep. She had heated blankets and ironed sheets on the beds. She cut both the crust as well as the excess hangy things off the sandwiches. Food and plates were always warmed. She always had THE BEST SMELLING SOAP. (I now know it was Neutrogena.) Her kitchen had the first step stool I ever saw, the coolest refrigerator magnets, the smallest writing on a chalk board, always seemed to be growing avocados, housed oyster crackers in the corner by the door near the key holder I remember staring at for way too long.

We threw my first tea party in her kitchen. I helped the dolls drink real tea that was mostly cream and sugar out of mini china at a small table. She instituted the first real tea time that I remember in the sun room with Grandpa and Pepperidge farm cookies. Don’t tell my mother because my tea time with her was longest lasting and also full of meaning.

She showed me where she hid the spare key behind the pipe near the back door so I’d never be locked out. She taught me strategies about keeping tissue boxes and snacks of nuts and chocolate in your car for emergencies. She passed on wisdom like, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hold on,” and “Take a picture, put it in a drawer. No matter how bad you think you look in 10 years you think it will be great.” To these nuggets, I’ve held on tight this last year. Though to be fair she also taught me things like how you should practice doing your nails in a hurry so they always looked good no matter how fast you have to do them. That one I threw out.

To her house, I never said goodbye. I don’t know that I realized what it housed for me. She is still my New Year’s call, my across my parents’ dinner table buddy and a happy voice when I call that tells me that she loves me. This sender of college care packages, buyer of endless birthday clothes, this attender of soccer games and many school graduations- she is a forever love.

And yet, and yet, and yet, no matter how much I remember, it can’t make up for the fact that she is forgetting. So when I saw her I made sure I added lots of hugs and kisses and, “I love yous” with any teasing I made. I passed on those memories about how we used to split our potatoes while I passed ‘em. I imagine like me she’s leaning heavy on her foundation these days. I hope she remembers the stones she’s laid. I gave two hugs and I love yous before I let her leave. I thought I would cry as I watched my father drive her up my old gravel drive way on his way to take her “home”. This Grandma of mine a huge and tiny, now whispering stone in my foundation is growing old. While this is a first visit, it could also be a last. All I can say is, at least I know and am paying attention.

For my son, I’m still laying my stones. Let the love seep through them and make them flexible, for in life earthquakes will surely shake him. Let the walls climb high for floods too will one day try to overcome him and I won’t always be there to hold on to. But these little nuggets that we’re sharing, well I guess that’s how we know our way home.