The mural joined us in the fall of 2006. It was painted in acrylics over the space of a few weeks. The finishing touches emerged, swirling into corners and bleeding occasionally onto the ceiling and spattering, no matter how much I scolded, onto the floor tiles we had chosen deliberately for our oldest child’s room.
He was the firstborn of five offspring and it took us that many attempts at reproduction before it was apparent that none of the little versions of ourselves in any way resembled each other or danced to any drum but their own. He drew his first lizard at two years old, with a crayon, on the back of his granddad’s giant sheet of unwanted street plans; a purple curvy amphibian basking across the black and white, straight and narrow, professionally engineered road map.
During grade school, what began with a proper mother’s encouragement grew into a secret mother’s certainty that her eldest child was a creative genius. It was as quickly quenched when all parties concerned were summoned into the middle school office. No one could understand how a sullen, doodling pre-teen could sit in the back row ignoring the teacher until called out for it; said pre-teen answered the questions correctly, aced the test, and doodled his way back out the door. No one could decide whether this was an academic or an attitude problem.
But my son’s art got better.
In high school, he enrolled in an art class and dropped it again after one week. It took three more semesters before he came to an understanding with the teacher and stayed in the class to play with different mediums. One day I went to pick him up from water polo practice and found the team huddled around a player, intently watching my eldest. He had dared the player to shave his head and in return, my son, using a black sharpie, drew an intricate Maori design on it that completely covered the scalp. With neither a beginning nor an ending, the design was both a prank and a masterpiece.
And my son’s art got better.
Meanwhile, our small home underwent a third and final renovation. The baby was almost ready for kindergarten, and bursting the seams, we added a new garage, den, laundry room, bedroom, and bathroom. While it was under construction, our eldest decided to live in the rafters of the new garage. He laid a plywood floor, moved crates of clothes up to it and wired some lights. He had no use for a ladder. He swung himself up like a gymnast and enjoyed his privacy. In this aerie, his art advanced to include nudes, interlaced fingers, fantasy-scapes, cyclops.
And during the last semesters of high school, he graced his brand new bedroom with a singular mural. It developed like a polaroid, integrating shapes from his night terrors, from our garden, from a place deep in his mind that sparked colors and vivid imagery that he interpreted in paint.
Always spontaneous, always unexpected, his art got better.
After he graduated and moved out, when it was time to repurpose his room, the mural was painted over in comforting soft pale green. A cover that, in hindsight, I think I wanted to caress the mural with, and preserve it along with the painful period of growth it represented. To plant it, perhaps, beneath moss and clover and allow it to become humus – eventually, fertile ground that attracts roots.
I mothered the mural because I could not mother the man-child.
His art is always getting better. No matter the medium, his signature style is stamped into it. He wanders the world, collecting no moss, pushing straight lines into flowing curves and painting them brilliant purple.
Earlier this year I wrote an article for a personality blog and I included advice for “Thinking” parents of “Feeling” kids.
I “think” my kids didn’t “feel” like reading it, which is fine, because the last thing we need to do is tip them off to our parenting techniques.
Including Big Five Personality and DISC Behavior Assessments, Holland Code Career Testing, and Meyers-Briggs Personality Typing, this website includes fun tests and a lot of information about how to make the most of our own characteristics and understand those of others.
This is how I found out that child care, bartending, acting, and public relation specialist are “incompatible” careers for me. However, I can be a correctional officer, pharmacist, umpire, or labor union specialist. I dunno. “Feels” like the same list.
Better late than never, to know yourself. Had I known that my ISTJ personality types “rarely dote upon their children”, I wouldn’t have felt so guilty about forgetting their birthdays. You know. Sometimes.
And just perhaps I wouldn’t have tried so hard to think my way out of their heartfelt trepidations.
So, here’s my article for all you hard-working, reasonable parents just trying to get through a day without running out of kleenex or whine-wine-in-a-box. Cheers.
Has anyone seen the 90s?The 1990s…end of the century…any of this ringing a bell?
I recall the hubbub about Y2K and laughing it off but sort of curious whether, if it went and knocked out technology, we would be able to live off my fabulous garden and three hens.
The year 2000 came and went. I looked up for a minute and marked the occasion with a shrug, but the 1980s were so fabulous, it sort of made up for skipping the decade between.
I spent the 1990s raising zippy little kids and we lived in a little feisty bubble that extended only as far as our little red wagon could carry us: elementary school around the corner and preschool around the other corner. We didn’t have TV by choice, but rented VHS movies from the library (also around the corner, or “river bend” as Pocahontas explained), watching Disney movies, science videos, musicals.
I have a lot of video footage (that’s when video came on film, people, you could measure it in actual feet) of my kids singingtheir “ABC”s and learning how to somersault (you bend over until your head touches the ground, then your sibling runs up behind you and gives a mighty push) but nothing on the rest of the planet.
I can’t tell you who was president then. I have no idea what the fashions were. If a food craze or fad diet swept by, it must have bounced off our bubble and landed elsewhere, because we were focussed on not choking on a Lego.
But on September 11, 2001, I was shaken awake (alive?). On my birthday no less. Not that turning 34 was such a deal. We had an alarm clock radio that woke us up at 6am every day with the news, (that explains so much…if you whack the snooze button, mission accomplished and you still have no idea what’s happening on the planet) but this time the sounds coming from that little box were absolutely foreign.
So much so that we flew out of bed and into the living room, turned on the TV and adjusted its crooked antenna. On the east coast, in New York City, one of the twin towers had been hit by an airplane. Just as the shock of what we were seeing hit, another airplane flew across the screen and into a second building. Right in front of us.
It couldn’t be real. We stood there, frozen, not breathing, as black smoke billowed into the Manhattan sky.
Minutes dragged by. I never changed out of my ratty lavender bathrobe. The kids wandered the house. I changed the baby’s diaper on auto-pilot. The TV announced that a plane had smashed into the Pentagon. I looked through the window at our clear – deserted – morning sky.
These weren’t accidents. I cannot think of a more surreal moment. It might as well have been a zombie apocalypse. Eventually, Hubby had to tear himself away and go to work. Just to feel normal. A voice in your head says, “If we go through the motions of a regular day, this will turn into a regular day”.
The kids foraged for Cheerios. A large truck pulled up in front of our house, and I stumbled out and signed papers for a delivery of gray blocks. The driver and I had no words. We exchanged looks that said, “Did you hear what they just said? Can they have possibly gotten this wrong? What’s happening?”
Or maybe it was just, “Lady, drag a comb through your hair already.” And he left. My phone rang. The baby cried.
After yet another plane crashed in the middle of a field, I have to wonder how, or even why, I got the kids to school that day. Perhaps the 1990s routine was that strong. Can you still tie your shoelaces if the world is blowing up?
The answer is yes. My world has blown up a couple of times, and all I can think is that the human heart is supple and tenacious, and if there’s a breath in my body, I’m going to tie my shoes and stand up. If only because – suddenly – so many others could not.
It felt like a physical punch to the stomach, and it was years before I could cry over the magnitude of such loss. Loss of life. Loss of innocence. Loss of a decade.
I can’t remember the 90s. I’ve misplaced that bubble. But I remember the day I was forced to pay attention to the planet again. And I think I learned how to somersault.
As I ponder the idea of no longer being a participant in the public school system, the thought that I am rid of fund raisers, done with dirty basketball jerseys, shed of tracking a textbook assigned ten months ago and never used, and altogether destitute of paperwork to be filled out in triplicate with a blue ink pen…a single tear of pure joy glistens in my eye. My left eye. The one that twitches.
Let freedom ring.
I’d like to thank everyone who made this moment possible.
I could not have worn such a deep trench in the elementary school doorway, had not Hubby insisted that homeschooling was “not an option”. Thank you, Hubby, for challenging me to find a way to homeschool our kids anyway by bringing home sixteen years of creative projects for all 800 of the students I adopted there.
Thank you, Middle School Principal, for welcoming five siblings in a row, children who brought their bicycles with them instead of their mother, children who learned the value of a dollar by hustling duct tape wallets, the value of deodorant after gym class, and the value of functional stall doors in a bathroom. We learned there’s no place like home after all.
Shout out to my firstborn for teaching me that we all learn in our own ways during high school. Some of us learn while sitting in the back row, staring out a window, and doodling on the homework. We learn that teachers are furious when they call you out in front of the class and you actually know the answers.
Second born, thank you for becoming fluent in Spanish so that I don’t need to be. It’s as entertaining as the German, Russian, and whale your siblings pretend to speak. You taught me that there’s no such thing as too many boxes full of awards.
Middle child, my never-in-a-hurry-why-do-you-want-to-rush-stuff one, thank you for waiting until two weeks to graduating to decide that you actually did want to attend college. I think your degree in “Communication” is as authentic as the panic attack I had.
I appreciate the effort it took, oh fourth one, to move to a new high school, forsaking the legacy of our family reputation to create a name for yourself. You played varsity sports as a freshman, losing every single game for a year, and ended your senior year with mono. You taught me gumption. One of us deserves a gold sticker.
And now, the last man standing, he who had to grow a sense of humor at birth, the one who had no idea his vision was bad until twelve tender years of age, the man who can perform quantum physics yet struggles with a pencil and long division, is poised on the platform, prepared to join his siblings in the world of adults, so long as there’s no laundry involved.
Thank you for doing your homework, love. Even if I think it’s cheating to do “research” from your couch instead of fighting classmates over the last three reference books in an actual library a day before the term paper is due. Sorry about that dopamine addiction. We all thought educating through an iPad was a good idea four years ago.
I’m so happy. I’m so blessed. I’m so tired.
I hope I can make it through the ceremony.
In conclusion, an Honorary Mention goes out to my fellow moms. Yes, that award given to our kids at school assemblies, recognizing that they have been showing up and breathing in and out all day. The one that reminds us that we are all winners.
To the girlfriends who stood by me during Common Core Math and the common cold; those who heard my battle cries and administered hot tea and hugs. Thank you for reminding me that the school system with its trappings and traps, is temporary after all. Our educations are priceless. And our possibilities are endless.
“Okay. Family story time. We’re gonna start with my dad. A few years ago, we got him a tablet. First piece of technology ever. And he had fun playing with it and he still does, but we tried to set him up with an email address. So I made him a password, showed him how it worked, got him set. Good job Dad, and I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna send you an email….
And I get a phone call a couple days later. He’s super frustrated. “I can’t get this thing to work. I don’t know what it wants, it just keeps asking for my address and I keep typing it in there and it won’t take it and it doesn’t even know who I am.”
“Okay, calm down let me see what’s going on.” And. He had been putting his house address in, over and over and over again. And I had to explain how an email address was different from a house address but it’s still called an address and you still kinda live there and that’s where your mail goes but it’s not real mail, it’s electronic mail. So. Anyway, we’ve come through that. We’re good now. He gets my emails. He gets my blogs. I hope he reads them….maybe not this one? Anyway. Okay.
So, fast forward. My mom gets on technology and she’s gonna start reading my blogs, so I make her the first ever video, right? And it says, right across the top, The Video for Mom…for you, Mom! So she’s getting them, I suppose she is, and I get on the phone with her, “Hey Mom, how did you like the blog?” She’s like, “Oh, honey it was so good. You did so good. I’m so proud of you.” “Oh, thanks mom.” And I said, “But, um, what’d you think of it?” She’s like, “Oh, it’s fine.”
“So you watched the video?” And she’s like, “What video?” “The video. It’s like right at the top of it.” “Well, I read it, I read it.” “But on the top there was a video, right?” And she’s like, “Well, I saw your picture.” “No,” I said, “You have to…that, that wasn’t a picture. That was a video. You just tap it, you just poke it, and then I start talking to you, like this!” Pretty exciting. And yeah, we’re figuring it out.
Which probably explains a lot about Monday. Because I think I’m related. Sorry about that guys. Um, yeah, that was not good.
So my website has been dying a slow, long death since Monday. There were a lot of interesting situations going on in there. Today’s Wednesday, so it’s the third day out, third Monday in a row for me. I spent five hours on the phone today, so far, with my website host trying to get to the bottom of things. Sometimes I think I know more than they do, which is not an optimum situation…in these situations. Okay then. Hopefully it figures itself out.
But first I lost all the photos. If you go back and look at all my blogs on Italy, all my pictures are gone. I can still find them somewhere else but – wow – that was a lot of work that’s just gone. And then some of my blogs started to leave, all by themselves, they just decided they were gonna go in the trashcan. Um, that’s not okay. When you have a “blog” you should have them still where you put them. So we’ll find out. We’ll get to the bottom of it some day. I don’t know if this is the day. We’ll find out.
Technology drives me crazy. So I guess what I want to close with is the subject of flip phones for your kids. You know, technology is a good tool, and it’s a fun toy, and a terrible distraction from “real life”, so it’s kind of a love/hate situation for me. All of my kids – all of them – and it really doesn’t matter with my firstborn because there wasn’t this huge desperate need for kids to have their own smartphones, not that long ago. But now, apparently it is, and you’re pretty much nothing if you don’t have a smartphone from toddlerhood on.
Let me show you what I have. My children – my children who, the youngest who is 18 and he’s gonna graduate high school and people, he’s doing it with a flip phone. Flip phone. Pretty beat up. Wait, wait. It can do: that. It can do that, so, you know, texting is super fun and apparently it’s a step up to have a keyboard on here because the phone they had before this “upgrade” you had to like punch the numbers over and over to get to the “s” and then you were texting like that. I figure, they can get on the internet all over the place, whenever they want to and they don’t need to do it with their phones. It does not have to be that easy. That’s the Mom Two Cent Blurb on my part. If they need a smartphone, they can grow up, get a job, and buy their own and get their own plan to go with it.
And also…my mom’s phone just died. My sisters tried to get her a smart phone and she refused and bought a $160.00 flip phone…because they get really mad when you don’t want a smartphone and then they sell you these and make as much as they can for them because – guess what? – their data plan is not gonna get attached to that. So they’re losing money, and they know it. Whatever. Aye yi yi. All right.
Well you guys have a good rest of the week. I’m assuming that I can even post a blog for this weekend, so this is me: optimistic! And um, Happy Monday! Again!
See ya later, bye.”
The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!
Hi everybody! Don’t freak out – this is not my average blog. This is the month of April, so we’retrying new things, okay? This is a really big year for fun stuff, so…videos for April! And I want to start by saying I did try and do the podcast thing. I can’t get any girlfriends to go in there and do it with me because – talking to myself? – not so fun.
“Now taking auditions for a podcast in the future. Accepting resumes!”
In the meantime, while we’re holding our breath for that, this is the first one, so we’re gonna play ‘Youtube Channel’. We’re just gonna figure it out. Something new.
This one is called “The Video for Mom”. That’s very specifically my mom I’m talking about because I got a call last week, and we’re chatting, and she says, “Okay, what’s really happening in your life? What’s going on?”
I said, “What are you talking about?”
She says, “I’m finally on technology and I can read your blogs now.”
Just so you know, it’s been five years mom, and you have a lot of catching up to do. Have fun.
But she’s reading my ones from right now. She’s like, “Okay, so there’s alcoholism, vaping, bullies…shark tank? What’s going on? I thought you wrote funny stuff?” She’s like, “Should I worry? Do we need to talk?” She’s all, “Did you find something in the boys’ room? What’s going on?”
Mom just totally validated my whole life. No, not really. It is different, this year.
I needed to try some new things and it all came from a conversation I was having with (actually more than one) girlfriend at the end of last year. Everybody’s struggling with something and that’s kind of normal. And I try to be a good ear for that and it occurred to me that I also have a voice that I’m really not using in maybe the best possible way.
So I was having a good time, laughing, you know, that’s my favorite – is comedians, you know, they’re laughing so you can just take a break from the drudge – what’s going on. But you know, if I have a blog and I have a voice, why not use it for something constructive? At least, you know, for now?
So I wanted to open specifically some conversations that families really should be having, with topics that we’re all kind of avoiding. (Me too.) And I told you in some of the stories my personal – you know – what was going on, why that would connect to me in my life in what’s happening. But I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re the only ones struggling in it.Even though you probably know intellectually that’s true, you need to feel that, that emotional support that I’m trying to float out there, and give you something practical.
You know. It’s not enough for me to say, “I love you, you’re gonna get through it, here’s a hug,” but not give you some tools, some ideas, some other things. Parenting is the hardest job in the whole world, hands down. So literally everything that I can offer…and then I’ll just keep looking for more things to help out that are happening out there, that can maybe help you out.
Parenting is the hardest job in the whole world, hands down. So literally everything that I can offer…and then I’ll just keep looking for more things to help out.
I’ll probably go back to laughing about it really, in a little while, but some of the things were pretty close to me and I wanted to get them out there and I wanted to say something about that.
So, actually, thank you mom for reading my stuff and picking up the phone and calling me, saying, “Okay, I feel like there’s something going on in your world. We need to talk.”
And she made that place available for me, her kid, to chat about something that really wasn’t going on at the moment but that was the whole point of the blogs – so far.
And I want to – what else? Hold on, hold on. I guess I want to suggest that there are a lot of other things going on out there. And I’ve always been available on the “Contact Me” page, if you guys have something specific you’d like to see me address, either with humor or just practical, I’m wide open for that because this is not just my blog, this is every single one of you who’s been reading – bless you – thank you for listening when I yammer.
I don’t know how to do videos so this is going to be an interesting thing. I’m doing this one right here in my kitchen. I think next week I might go outside somewhere but it turns out that other sounds come in. So maybe we’ll be listening to a lot of birds or maybe traffic. I don’t really know.
Anyway. Thanks for listening. I hope you guys have a fabulous week. I’m going to try to get the next one out to come out on Sunday morning. But literally I spent all weekend trying to do this and there was always a kid coming in the door at the wrong time or the laundry was done and beeping at me or…it was always something. So anyways. Fun chatting with you guys and I will be in touch. Bye.
(This video was six minutes long. I said “um” 38 times and “you know” 8 times. You do not begin a sentence with “And” “But” or “So”. Counting them is as far as I allowed my perfectionism to go. Except for the multiple times I tried to shoot the film, of course. That hurt a little.)
“Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.” – asam.org
I think you already knew from today’s title that “The 12 Steps” refers to the Alcoholics Anonymous program for overcoming alcohol addiction. Many recovery organizations are modeled after it, and there are other programs that use alternative strategies to support people who are struggling to control their drinking instead of their drinking controlling them.
Talk. They hear you. Most parents have already discussed drinking, drugs, sex, smoking and other things that people use and abuse to help cope with their internal and external struggles. It’s even more important to speak up if addiction runs in the family. It certainly does in mine. You might want to remember that perfectionism, bulimia, multi-tasking workaholic behaviors, gaming, and other actions are also our attempt to curb or numb things that hurt, scare us, or feel out of control.
What’s strange is that sometimes, the very thing we turn to can quickly make us feel…hurt, scared, or out of control. Making healthy alternatives available to ourselves and our family can help circumvent this cycle with better ways to cope with these feelings. I’m sure you can think of a great list, including what we learned last week at the end of our Stress Test questions.
If you are at Step One with alcohol, click here and begin the first day of the rest of your life. If you are unsure, click here and do some self-investigation. Alcohol abuse is not the same thing as being an alcoholic. Using prescription medication post-surgery is not the same as abusing it because of addiction to opioids. I’m by no means a “tea”totaller, but understanding what you do and why you do it is important for us and our families.
As addicts or alcoholics,
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by it is not wise.”
The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!