May 10, 2011

What makes a home?

In her book Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert went to Italy, India and Bali to find balance, find God, find herself.

I get to go to Texas. 
Anna, Summer 2005
Kurt has accepted a really wonderful job in Dallas. We’ll be moving next month, leaving Colorado, which has been my home for 20 years.

 Since my head can’t wrap entirely around the big picture of it all, I’ve focused down on what it means to leave this house. It is a place, not so much of adults, but of my children. The wall of windows in my room that spotlights the kids when they roll around the bed in a perpetual tickle fight. Watching movies on the big TV in “Daddy’s Basement” (known to the adult world as a man cave), curled up together in a jumble on the couch. The glow of the nightlight on the nursery walls as I sat and rocked each baby through the years, alone in the world except for each other. 
The girls, Summer 2007

The playroom where they learned to walk and color and read and sing (and talk back and bicker). The odd splatter of spaghetti in the kitchen from enthusiastic dinners over the years (no need to worry. The house cleaners are coming). The front hall where Anna and Silvia can spend hours throwing their favorite toys high in the air, making them fly.

The front steps covered in chalk drawings and little piles of stealthily dug up potting soil from Kurt’s freshly planted flowers. The family room where each of my kids at some point cuddled under blankets, watching TV and napping when they were sick.

The girls, Summer 2009
Splashy, soaking baths with three little bodies slipping about in the tub. Kurt painting the kids’ rooms with total patience as his pregnant wife wandered in and out, commenting on his progress (with loving suggestions, of course).

Christmas trees and Easter mornings. Valentine’s Day surprises and birthday parties. Even potty training and the eternal time-out corner. This house is where my children began. 

Jack, Summer 2010
 I know there will be new memories to come, new traditions and new delights. But I’d be lying if I said these walls don’t matter, don’t hold something important inside them. Our family was born here and it breaks my heart a little bit to leave it behind.

Still, we are leaving all the same, so I’ll eat, pray and love like the book suggests. It may be more fried Twinkies at the Texas State Fair then pasta amatriciana on the Piazza Navona. I suspect there will be less aesthetic meditation and more, “Oh God, does it really have to be THIS hot?!”. 

As for the love part? Well, fortunately that’s something that, unlike this house, we will easily bring along with us. No trip to Bali required (though wouldn’t that be nice?).
The kids, Winter 2010

May 06, 2011

Just breathe

I was at the gym a little while ago (ok, a couple weeks ago, but I have my totally convincing excuses, so there.). I ran and pushed through a pretty intense workout. On the cardio equipment I read magazines, quickly flipping past pages with too-long stories. During weights, I counted reps meticulously, my head speeding about with reminders, emails, calls to make, chores to do. During abs, I was pretty much fully focused on the “ouchouchOUCH, why I am doing this anyway?!” of it all.

The trouble started when I sat down to stretch. It’s been pounded into me not to skimp there, so I tried to focus. Breathe, hold, breathe, push a little bit more. Breathe.

It was excruciating. Not from tight muscles or achy joints so much as because I had to sit still and slow down. My mind kept flailing about like a drowning victim, desperately searching for something to hold. To CLENCH. I had to just. Sit. STILL.


Afterwards, the fact that the supposedly most relaxing part of my workout was, in fact, the hardest part really started to bug me. Why couldn’t I slow down? More importantly, what was I missing in all my manic rush?

Later that afternoon I waited in the car to pick Anna up at the bus stop. Jack was babbling to himself in the back and Silvia was staring blindly out the window. I grabbed my phone unconsciously and quickly pulled up my email (nothing special), news headlines (depressing) and Facebook (whatever). Then I stopped, looked up and had a little bit of a Moment. You know, when your brain sortstops and you realize you’re not alone in the universe and there’s so much more to the world than you’ve stopped to look at for even a whole minute in that entire day?

Just a little something like that.

I deliberately turned off my phone. I shook myself slightly and stretched my arms out over my head, filling my lungs with air. Silvia watched me with a grin and then reached her arms up, too. “Ahhhhh!”, she giggled, as though we were playing a game. Jack turned his head back and forth and started clapping his little hands, trying to get in on the action.

This week, I cancelled the data plan on my cell phone. I’ve started to make it a point to turn off my computer at night. This (aside from saving energy) makes it harder to just check things “real quick” in the morning while I ignore my kids and drink my coffee. Now I try to keep my computer checking more... in check.

When we are out and about, at the park or running errands or just playing out in the front yard, I’m there now, too, not wasting moments randomly checking my phone for something that isn’t there anyway.

It’s funny how the little things in life, like the digital distractions that have become so ubiquitous we don’t even notice them anymore, can take up so much space. I went to the gym the other day without a magazine, concentrating instead on the rhythmic thump of my feet and the sound of my own breathing (though the abs still left me with a whole lotta “ouchouchOUCH!”).

I can’t do it every day, or even every week. I race around in my head, sometimes totally consumed with the current wackiness around me of which I have no control. I tune out my surroundings in mindless internet auto-pilot more than I’d like. Everything is a work in progress and I am no different.

But so far, I’ve been able to manage two things, most days. When I would have been messing with my phone (and its total LACK of anything important) I talk to my kids.

And just once or twice, mostly before I go to sleep at night, I stop. My eyes close. And I take a deep breath. Hold.


May 02, 2011

Dust to dust

So, Osama bin Laden is dead. He was the embodiment of evil, pure and undiluted. I do not mourn him in the slightest. As unpopular as the idea is for many, I honestly believe that some people should not be allowed to live, to survive their crimes.

And now, just as his supporters danced on 9/11, burning American flags in the streets and singing, the world gathers in celebration to dance on his proverbial grave. Families of the lost, around the world, now have some measure of peace and closure. 20 years, and more, of his terror can come to an end.

But then, when the retaliation comes? When some new madman steps from the shadows to stand in his place? When the threats and bombs start flying again? I do not mourn his death. But it is not the end.

They retaliate, we retaliate. They dance, we dance.

Eventually, probably in a time very far from now but eventually, the vengeance and dancing will have to stop. The celebrations of violence, however justified, will have to end. And then what are we left with?

Just the graves.