Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

I used to think there was something sad about New Year's Eve and the moment when the clock struck twelve. I think it has a lot to do with my fascination with Cinderella growing up, and it's affected my thinking in a perverse sort of way. See, at midnight, the magic ends, the princess returns to her ho-hum life and for unknown reasons, she must maintain her silence about the ordeal instead of showing up at the castle the next day and saying, "Hey, princey - it's me, Rella. Get me out of this joke I call my life and schedule me a mani and pedi, stat."

And then there's the fact that I've not had that NYEve moments like the ones you see on TV. You know, ballgown, champagne, and clever conversations about art and great books. Well, I've had the last two, but not together, and not on NYEve, and NOT in a ballgown. My eve's were more like everyone else's, I guess, spent with family, or in one sad case, trolling a parking lot at Spy Club, trying to decide if we want to pay $50 for parking and then doing it anyway because it's 11:45 and we need time to get a drink so we can TOAST, damnit. The moment always springs up on me, catching me quite unaware and unprepared frankly. Of course, with my linear brain, that makes sense. In the mad little world that exists inside my head, my Oompa Loompas would remind me it's time to reflect, then to appreciate, then to blog, then to pour the champagne, and then to have the magical kiss. Problem with Oopma Loompas is that they've been on strike since the orange skin debacle.
And speaking of kisses, I must say that I've become a lot more comfortable with my husband's train of thought when it comes to New Year's Eve. I may not agree with him about the importance of celebrating birthdays and Christmas in a grand style, but I do see his point about the silliness that the ticking of a clock from one second to the next being heralded as the most important celebratory event of the year. And resolutions? Never really set any.

Bringing you down? Well, I'll bring you home now. See? You can trust me. The Oompa Loompas are serving cider and donut holes now and one of them just showed up with Scrabble.

The new year is so much more than that moment to me, and it doesn't happen on schedule for me. It's the moment that you go from one child to two and realize you've become part of a plan bigger than dreams that used to burn inside you. When you go from Trying to Go Out to Happy Staying In. When you are finally free of debt because you worked on it together. When you FINALLY finish the renovations you wanted for so long on the house you have loved together.

It's that moment when you stop worrying about what your mother-in-law thinks and you just get drunk once and for all. When you realize that God gave you family so you can practice friendship with them FIRST. A new year comes to me each time I hear my husband pick up his guitar and stay true to who he is. When my 3 year old writes songs to his playing and my 6-month old dances along.

It is learning that holding on to the pain is so much more detrimental to your life that just saying what hurts. It is finding old friends and telling them you miss and need them and doing something about it. For me, it's as simple as getting to sit outside at night for a moment when the moon is out and the wind is dancing through the trees.

It is knowing why you go to church and learning how freeing forgiveness can feel. It's recognizing that at many points along the way in the journey that has been your life, things didn't turn out as you expected. And that you should thank God for it.

It's telling your daughter to put socks on and having her tell you she already did. It's cupcakes with sprinkles and mess in your kitchen that will just have to wait because it's time to get ready for the party . . . the New Year's Eve party.

I appreciate that it's going to be a new calendar year, but see, I'm working hard to pack in as many years into that calendar year as I can. And that means that I'm looking for those moments in every day. I'm watching and waiting and ready to record them in any way I can so that my daughters can one day go through my memories and know what I know - that it's the little moments that mean the most. And so my husband will know how much I'm putting into that kiss at midnight . . . as much as I do every day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Life Tip of the Day #3

Life Tip of the Day - (Formerly "Mexican Tip of the Day" But Changed Suddenly Because I Have Always Typed Z instead of X and I'm Getting Tired of Backspacing to Correct This Every Day and Also, "Life" is a Shorter Word.)


I don't want to have a conversation about this. I don't want to be politically correct and say things properly just so someone's delicate sensibilities are not offended. Frankly, the more I offend, the better I'll feel, because then at least I'll be able to clearly identify those people who have so radically altered the course of American progress that I truly don't know where we will go from here or how we will return to the core values upon which this nation was founded.

See, the election is over, and all that feel-good-hopeychangey-star-shine has faded enough for intelligent people to start answering questions about the issues. I don't want to hear that this administration thinks outside the box or is challenging the good ole' boy system for a change. I don't want to hear that Obama is a good speaker because he can read a teleprompter exceptionally well or that his wife is a role model for all women because she has toned arms. I want to hear where people stand on the issues that have existed long before this presidency and will exist long after - the issues that test our collective moral compass. If a person cannot say in one sentence or less where they stand on the issues and they voted in the last election . . . well, at least we will know with some degree of certainty that the country is, for lack of a (desire to use a politically correct word), screwed.

Today's irritations:

KSM - THE TERRORIST who masterminded 9/11 being tried in civilian court instead of in a military tribunal. That is the biggest wrong - the wrongest wrong - the equivalent of lining up dump trucks of sea salt to pour into the wounds of all who lost loved ones on that day and after.

Health care overhaul - A plan is needed. This is NOT the right plan. But hey, when you call in because you have a sinus infection and they say they can see you in 2012, you'll get it.

Bowing to other presidents/foreign leaders - WE DON'T DO THAT.

Well, I feel better. If you do nothing else today, look up KSM. And imagine that possible scenario that he could represent himself and have a podium upon which to stand and air his grievances against our great country and try to justify how he helped obliterate 3000 people who were doing something as heinous to him as arriving to work or dropping off their kids at day care.

Oh, by the way, this is a blog on a site. So, if you receive these in email form and want to see the pretty page with photos and flowers and butterflies and my old blogs, short stories and poems, please visit At some point, I'm going to roll all this over into a site where I can also post my music. Yes, world domination is just around the corner.

And feel free to forward my link to anyone you think would enjoy it or who would like to pay me obscene amounts of money to do a daily column.

Tomorrow's Possible Topic Ideas: Why I Don't Straighten My Hair, Why You Should Never Befriend A Possum, Let Your Kids Be Bored, or Don't Make a Pot of Beans When You're Doing Yard Work.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Barry Obama

I remember watching Obama speak at the DNC a few years ago. I just happened to catch him just as he was REALLLY getting into his speech and forging, forever, his love affair with his teleprompter. And I remember being impressed. I thought, "Now this is someone who seems to have some passion. What a speaker! Wow! Check out those ears! What are we doing for dinner?" It was a fleeting moment of admiration for someone who could wax eloquent. I'm a speaker, I'm a writer, and I'm madly in love with words and those who know how to use just the right ones. I was impressed. And then I moved away from the moment and on about my day . . .

And here I am today, and this eloquent albeit heavily-dependent-on-devices-that-tell him-to-say-what-someone-else-wrote-for-him-to-say speaker is now our president. And even though I love words, I have a lot of trouble with the word "president" since a few months before the election. It's hard for me to say these days; I choke on it. To follow it up with "Obama" seems, I don't know, wrong somehow. I can tell you today that I have NOT said (out loud) "President O . . . . . Oh NO." Just can't do it.

Why is this hard for me? That's what you should be asking. Because I'll tell you:

I grew up in poverty. It was a miracle I did not succumb to teen pregnancy or serious drug and alcohol abuse, so I believe in the power of people lending a hand to those in need. BUT, when someone lent ME a hand, it was because I proved I was working hard. I proved I deserved it. And now that's how I feel about passing along this favor - reward the hard working. This man in office doesn't seem to believe in doing that. I don't need to prove that to you. If you sit and think intelligently for a while, you can see for yourself that he wants everyone to be equal regardless of how hard they work or what they have sacrificed to get ahead. Which brings me to point two:

My husband and I have paid off all our credit card debt - between 20 and 30K. Then we made better decisions about how we spent our money and where we chose to work. We're still on the path to financial freedom - owing only our home and one vehicle - and we have higher paying jobs, and in another year, we're going to be taxed out the wazoo because of it. We did a lot of sacrificing. We fought a lot. We said "no" a lot to fun times. And we're better for it - trust me. Here we are now, poised to truly live like no one else as Dave Ramsey says, due to our hard work and diligence, and Obama makes speeches about how taking care of your brother. Don't fault me for saying this - hear me instead - I'll take care of my brother alright. As long as I see him grinding his nose right along with me. My brother had better be working 40 hours a week like I am. My brother had better be following the law like I am. My brother had better be paying taxes like I am. And if my brother lost his job due to the financial crisis that was much more than 8 years in the making (for those of you who want to blame everything on Bush), then I want to see him working two or three jobs like I did at one time to make ends meet. I was pregnant, an assistant principal by day, and a college professor by night for a while there. And I was selling life insurance on the nights I was not teaching. My brother had better be working his happy arse off - just like I did and do.

OH, I hear you, too. What about the elderly, what about the infirm, what about the children? Glad you asked!

The elderly: I'm Hispanic, so I clearly believe families take care of family. If my grandmother or mother or father need me to care for them one day, I'll do it. That's just how it is. Additionally, I believe in Medicare. I know it's broken, but the concept is right. Care for the elderly. But I'm going to say something here - gonna put a bee in your bonnet for a bit. I have a problem with people who have lived off the government their whole lives just because they could. I was poor once, so I know it happens that way. And that goes for old people, too. I'm all for taking care of folks who need help, but if you're 70 and 50 years of government cheese has done its damage, I'm just not sorry that you have to wait in long lines for medical care. The majority of people have ample opportunities to get out of bad situations. It's just about doing it. I did it. I was an educator for 13 years, and I saw countless kids do it over the years.

The young: Medicaid aids the needy. And by needy, I mean, the young and the infirm. But I DON'T believe the needy means the children of illegal immigrants. No sir. I don't. There's a process for coming to this country. And yes, it sucks to be poor, and it sucks to be poor in Mexico, but Mexico has a responsibility to aid their needy, too. I was never poor in Mexico, but I was a poor Mexican American, and that's just a hop, skip, and a bean taco away.

What I don't get about the Obots is that they seem to have forgotten there have been government programs all along. And I especially don't understand the middle class Americans who have never stood in line for welfare or at a government funded clinic. If you've never walked this path, how can you so blindly do a double-dutch with the man who wants MORE of that?

The point is this - he talked pretty. And you fell for it. Or you talk pretty, too. Or you're just a mooch and that's all you ever will be, so the fact that he supports you is merciful validation. But he's not talking pretty anymore. He's sounding more like John Wayne now. "We're gonna round 'em up, and we're gonna put 'em in the corral." That's what Americans are being reduced to - cattle to be led.

Government run ANYTHING is problematic, but we have what we have, and many conservatives would agree that we need to focus on fixing what we have before we go off and create another system for people to learn to manipulate.

Obama said the other day "ya'll thinking for yourselves" of Democrats, and he said it proudly. And if you don't know why that's so scary to so many of us, then take your number, pretty sheep, and get into the appropriate line . . . you're going to be there for the rest of your lives.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Slowing Down

Thinking this morning about motherhood, and how the illness of a child can change the course of an hour, or a day, or a week, or a lifetime. The hours spent worrying through the night age you in a way that no one but a parent can understand, and it makes you wonder about all the other things out there to worry about. What else besides the flu can inflict harm on your most precious possessions? How much more worrying is there to do in this lifetime when it comes to your kids?

It's endless, I suppose. Makes me think of Erma Bombeck, whose writings I loved so much growing up. I was a kid reading her stuff, and now I'm a mom wondering what nuggets of humor and wisdom I might find if I happened upon those books again.

Mostly over these last 48 hours, I've thought about how thoughtful Emma can be. I've noticed that she really does still have that baby smell about her. Noticed how her eyes speak as much as her mouth does, and how she will caress the person who is holding her as much to comfort them as herself. I've noticed that she has an inherent need to help - to improve, to expedite anything I am doing, but not so much when it comes to her little world. And I've enjoyed every minute of holding her - worry or not.

A second child does steal something away from the first, and it's nothing more than a sad fact of life. The way so many of were raised - we just accepted everything that happened our way. Of course, as issues tend to do - parenting ended up in the spotlight and became something that can be easily overdone. It IS possible to try too hard as a parent - possible to worry too much - to hover needlessly - to micromanage the nature of growth and development.
And it's funny how simple the antidote for this really is . . .

Sit still with a child. Look them in the eyes when they speak. Watch them when they play alone. Hold them when they're sleeping.

We're always looking for something to calm us - to slow us down - to give us peace. Yoga, working out, vacations, a nice, cold drink (this one, I've found, DOES work.) The truth is, slowing down slows us down. Taking a nice, long, appreciative look at what we have slows us down. Children slow us down, and it's funny how most hectic, activity-filled days, this fact serves as an irritant more than a blessing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's the Drama Behind "Date Night?"

Oh . . . I think I get it now. :)

Brock and I had a great time dressing up, hanging out with friends and generally relaxing without worrying every minute about our girls.

Thanks to a great brother and sister in law who kept Emma and Ava, we stayed at the hotel and slept like rocks in a cave.

Yes, we're a little late getting to this date night thing that everyone talks about, but we have always had our own ways of reconnecting considering all we have in common. This was just a new shade to add to the canvas we call our life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


A local female school district police officer has been kidnapped by her estranged boyfriend. There's currently a stand-off and S.W.A.T. negotiation happening outside an abandoned home. It seems, thank God, that Officer Hilsman is still alive.  This story chilled me as soon as I heard it at 5AM this morning, and it continues to gnaw at me as I sit here in my nice insulated office in downtown Houston.  She's a mom - has a 7 year old who witnessed the abduction and a 13 month old.  And it just infuriates me that she's in this position.  That all she was doing was trying to drop off her kids at her mom's before heading in to work, and now she's at the mercy of a deranged loser who somehow believes he's got the right formula here.  

Where do these men come from and how to do they find the best women?  What gives them the right to take someone from their lives?  Where is the giant hand that I wish would come down and smash this pitiful excuse for a man into dust?  

There's a young girl in my office who recently dated a young man she thought was of the decent sort.  After a month or two he had a violent moment - one that showed his true colors.  That was the end for her. There was no hesitation - no searching the heart for the right decision.  She made it about self-preservation and moved on. That's what it seems like Officer Hilsman was trying to do, and then this monster set her agenda for the day.  It's stories like these that convince women in bad relationships to stay where they are.  It's a horrid catch 22. 

She's a cop.  I hope this story ends with the use of deadly force and that she's the one behind the trigger.  God forgive me, but I do. 

Praying for you, Officer Rachel Hilsman.  

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Life Starts Now

So, I've got two cousins starting at a university next week. How many is that now?  Nearing 10 who have graduated from college in my family, and I can tell you I never imagined such a thing.  There are families who have humble beginnings, and there are families for whom survival was an enormous struggle.  We fell into both categories, I think.  Life after my grandfather's death was the struggle, and I know many of us can easily recall the tough times that befell us.  But we always seem more likely to talk about the fun times we managed to create within those periods of turmoil.  

My memories . . . 

Summer days at home with Sandra, Sarah, and Lonnie.  Mike and I being sent to Pace Grocery on our bikes to buy Jolly Rancher sticks and Kool-Aid packets for everyone with the chingos of change in our pockets.  

Playing Crazy 8's by candlelight when Sylvia, Jenn, and Johnny lived with us.  The candlelight was NOT for ambiance . . . 

Hearing the knock at the door and then Rey and Rick Amador's voices, "Michaelllllll, Michellllllle . . ."  Rushing to get dressed so we could go sit in the back of Rey's dad's baby blue truck and make our plans for the day.  And so we could hear Rey tell us about everything we said, "I knew before you . . . "

Sitting outside at night.  All of us sprawled at my grandmother's feet on the sidewalk still warm from the day's sun.  Talking about nothing and everything and watching the cars go by.  

Egging Campos Revival.  Enough said. 

Eating G.W. Junior's on special nights at our big table with Sarah and Sandra and Lonnie. 

Waiting for Preston Gilbo the Third to show up at our house.  He was my first true love.  He just didn't know it.  

Racing in Henry's car . . . going so fast that I became furious and slammed my raspa into the ground when we finally made it home.  Of course, they all laughed at me.  

Going to Pace to watch Sandra play volleyball.  Sitting in the bleachers and playing cash register with the silver bolts in the bleachers.  Seeing a high school girl show Cleo a condom and wondering if it was an inflatable raft . . . 

Sitting in the back seat of Lonnie's blue car with Michael the day Sandra decided to go joy-riding in it while he played basketball at Russell.  Smiling the entire time.  Especially when she decided to tempt fate and drive PAST Russell to see if he noticed us.  He did.  

Watching Cleo read the telephone book while she sang, painfully off-key, "You Needed Me." 

Late at night, a party at our house, Sandra sitting on the washing machine and singing drunkenly, "What's the glory of living? Doesn't anybody ever stay together anymore?" 

Prom.  Seeing my gorgeous aunts in their princess dresses get whisked away to the ball. 

Saturday morning MANDATORY CLEANING BOOT CAMP run by Sandra.  Mike and I polishing Mom's crystal knick-knacks in VERY bad moods.  Sandra kicking Sara's door to get her to wake up and help. Never worked.  

Getting my hair brushed by Lonnie when he stayed home with Dad.  He was so gentle, so positive, so loving.  So bad at it.  

Watching Sara get ready to cheer at football games. The way she applied blue eyeshadow was an art. 

Sitting outside with Sandra while she talked to Farmer, who'd shown up at the crack of dawn from the mental hospital down the street for a cup of coffee.  Listening to him tell us over and over how he cracked his skull while chasing a squirrel on the roof. 

My first day of school.  Lonnie and Sarah and Sandra drove me on their way to school in Lonnie's blue car.  Sandra walked me to my classroom, and there I met Iris Aguilar.  We locked hands almost instantly.  

We've been lucky.  For even though God saw fit to give us our share of trials, he also saw fit to equip us with our legendary senses of humor.  And he made sure we knew how to love. 

These kids starting school, they won't know the tough times we knew.  There is no more Pace Grocery.  The house on Washington street not ours anymore.  G.W. Junior's closed long ago. Lonnie's blue car is probably rusted junk in some old yard.  But they should know their own senses of humor come from our rich history - from our determination to laugh no matter how much we wanted to cry.  They should know that watching them excel is the purest form of joy for us.  And for me especially - the oldest of the cousins.  The one who held and rocked and and fed and changed a good number of them and who loves them with a very special love. 

And they should know that no matter how much they grow or how far they go, we will always, always, always be here . . .  to make fun of them.  

“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” 
-George Eliot

Friday, August 7, 2009


She had, she conceded, big armpits.  She pretended to be ashamed of them in his presence, but the truth was, she loved them and often spent hours sitting on a pile of dirty laundry in the basement, looking in at them.  They were the essence of concavity, and she marveled at their supreme bowl-ness.  When she sunk in her chest and held her head from behind, they became canyons.  As much as she loved them,  she mourned their existence.  Their very position was unfortunate because she would have loved to serve things in them.  Cherries, perhaps.  Or sugar.  

He Sat Six Seats Behind Me

I am sorry for your loss, 

And I feel stricken, too.
Jodie wasn't a friend of mine, 
But he's someone that I knew. 

He's someone that I saw today.
We worked in class together. 
He sat six seats behind me, and 
I thought he would forever. 

We argued more than we ever talked
But those arguments were fun. 
He seemed so independent - 
My classmate and your son. 

His eyes I do remember. 
His voice rings loud and clear
You never had to see him 
To know that he was near. 

We'll remember Jodie, 
He'll be with us everyday.
He still sits six seats behind me,
And his memory will stay. 

If words could help your grief subside
Then a thousand words to you.
But for now, a comfort is your pain shared, 
We'll miss Jodie, too. 

M. Cantu


There was always a good reason to get out of bed,  Alma's mother told her repeatedly as a child.  This morning, as she yawned hugely and slipped her husband's hand off her ample hip, a new box of cereal was her motivation to leave the snug cocoon of her bed.  The room was all shadows,  the sun succumbing to laziness on this sleepy August morning.  Her eyes were open wide, as if stretching them to such a capacity would overcome the darkness.  As it commonly did, the edge of her dresser grumped her in the soft flesh of one thigh, and she had to suck in air quickly to keep from cursing.  She deliberately did not brush her teeth this day, the wee minutes of the morning too precious to spare on such trivial routine.  The boys were still asleep, so she had the liberty of pittering about in her t-shirt and panties.  

At the sink now, she reached across it and eased up the reluctant window.  She heard the night crickets and smiled; the unusual breeze that grazed her face a cool kiss.  Glancing down,  she saw that she had left a stick of her charcoal near the dish soap; now it made a gritty, black trail to the drain.  Maybe she should give up the sketch she started last week.  She mulled this over as she swiped the sink clean with a sponge.  She caught the deviant jiggle of the flesh on her arm.  Better yet, why not give up the diet that wasn't working? 

Alma liked Lucky Charms more than the boys did.  It made them laugh to come home and find her in the backyard, daydreaming about a deck and delicately balancing her oversized purple bowl on one palm.  On her good days, she'd be air-sketching with her spoon.  On her not-so-good days, the strong, steady crunches and quiet spoon told them to lay low.  She hadn't yet figured out their cereal mood indicator method yet.  She just thought they were good kids.  

Her purple bowl ready, she wondered again why they ever stopped putting prizes in the cereal boxes.  Cracker Jack still did.  Her children and children all over the country missed out on a great Saturday morning ritual - eating through a box of Frosted Flakes just to find the toy hidden within,  wrapped in thin plastic and covered with the fine, powdered crumbs of cereal at the bottom of the box.  She hummed softly, pushing a strand of unruly brown hair behind one ear. The crickets had reached their finale and now only a few renegade chirpers delivered delinquent encores.  It was going to be hot, she knew, as she pushed open the back screen door with one toe and emerged into the morning,  her mouth happy and full,  her chin divided by a thin stream of sweet milk.  

Living Room

He passed out in mid-drink at eight o'clock.  His left hand hit the end table, and the warm beer he had been nursing fell and leaked yellow onto the carpet below.  The couch he sat on smelled of old urine and grease.  There was no one else home to fret over the carpet or the couch - a tour of the house would reveal four gutted rooms.  No one came to wake him for a late supper.  No one cleaned the cans of beer and food out of the kitchen sink.  No one eased off his tired boots or smoothed his wild hair.  

The room was getting dark, and Richard was alone.  A handful of early stars gazed mournfully at him through a window.  He didn't snore in his hard sleep.  Something seemed to catch in his throat and he almost purred.  No one one shushed him. 
The box fan rustled a pile of newspapers near him.  With a grease pencil he had circled want ads - nurse technician, live-in nanny, cook. The numbers would never be called.  There was no phone.  He would walk to the neighborhood store in the morning, but he wouldn't remember to take the month-old ads with him. 
Completely dark now, the room awakes to the sound of Richard stretching.  He is stiff.  His hand aches and he doesn't know why.  It is four in the morning, but he is not aware of time, that it has come and gone.  He knows he is thirsty.  He knows the seat of his cheap, wrinkled slacks are wet with sweat.  He knows he is broke.  

Friday, May 8, 2009

Underneath it All

I miss him.  I can usually only admit that to my husband.  He's actually experienced the man I call my father, and he can identify with my feelings for this complicated shell of a man. 

He's heard my stories about Dad and how I once idolized him.  It's like that moment on Say Anything, remember? When she visits her father in prison, hands him a pen, and says "Write me."?  Only I never had that moment.  I've chosen silence and alienation over communication and the closeness that used to come so naturally.  Is it my background as a "punisher", if you will?  Is it because I lived so long in the role of the disciplinarian that I feel this must continue? I don't know. I know only that there is a very deep well inside me, and at the bottom of this well is a love for my father that is bigger than life.  But as he has faded over the years, as he has pretended to wrestle with his demons for my sake only (because he only puts the show on for me and not my brothers and sisters) I have been forced to allow that bucket to inch and inch further down into the void.  Once step forward, one step back.  He goes forward with this addiction - I go back into my protective darkness.  Are you supposed to reach out to an addict when they are hurting you and hurting themselves?  I'm an educated woman,  and I know that answer.  It tempers the pain of our separation. 

I've been criticized by my family for being harsh with my reactions to certain crisis situations. I am not a bleeding heart, and sometimes this has created an oil and water situation that, for the most part, is unavoidable.  It's not only that I believe in following logical patterns of behavior, it is also that I find safety in logic.  My emotions are too big to be allowed to run carte blanche with my life.  And to excuse the inappropriate behavior of others is to devalue my survival.  In the midst of the most awful moments of my life, I did not succumb to the self-pity that I despise in others.  So pity comes quiet unnaturally to me, though I do try to fake it for the sake of those who cast stones.  That's love to me - shielding the ones I love from the fact that I don't accept excuses for bad behavior - protecting them from me. 

So, you see, there is no use in calling him.  I cannot pretend that I accept who he has become.  I will not accept the confused ramblings of a man who used to share his favorite literary nuggets and rules of logic with me.  We passed books between us like scrumptious pieces of chocolate, delighting equally in clever plots and well-written characters.  We frequently discussed psychology and sociology, marveling in the behavior patterns that formed us.  We talked about history and religion - him always more open to exploring different creeds than I was.  And we wrote each other letters. Long, honest letters in which we showed our best selves and dreamed about the future.  That is our history.  It is not our present, and will unlikely be our future.  A text message at 4:45 AM one morning told me this.  "You have always had a gift of words, my dear," he said. "Why not use your gift to write songs? I love you, Dad."  

Dad.  I kept all the birthday cards he gave me since I could read them.  Dad.  I looked forward to my summers with him, even though every summer showed more and more of the man I never knew and will never understand.  Dad.  I penned your worst experiences in Vietnam for you because you couldn't and needed them on paper.  Dad.  I have always written songs.  You used to know this.  

Don't we all have the gift of premonition to a certain extent?  Some of us listen, and some of us don't.  I'm a listener.  I pay attention when a voice says "Move into the next lane," or "Don't leave that glass there."  So, I know a moment is coming when I will have to reach out to him once again.  It will be unavoidable, and because I know he still at least has the ability to FEEL, painful for us both.  

But he's there, waiting for me, I know.  Waiting for a moment to make me feel like his most special child, his proudest achievement, as he always did.  I heard him just yesterday.  I asked my three year daughter if she knew how beautiful she was.  "I have your father's nose," she said, recalling, if a bit inaccurately, that I once told her she had my father's chin.  And she does.  She will always bear resemblance to a man she will never know.  Not the way I did.  For the rest of my life, when I look at her, I will see him, and I guess my move now is to decide if there's a gift in that.  And you know, even if I have to go the the bottom of a deep, dark well, I think I know which way I'll lean . . . 

Monday, April 27, 2009

And the Reason Is . . .

Me. The reason I get this way is because of me. If I cared less, if I listened less, if I tried less, I would never get as worked up as I do.  And do you call it worked up when you're 8 months pregnant? Or do you just call it Monday?  

It starts, as usual, with the news.  The ACLU is going to release photos from torture done during the Bush administration.  Wow.  Really? This is how this organization is going to spend their day? Getting on all the local liberal news channels to promote themselves during a time with every bleeding heart needs to be validated?  SHOW me the photos of the torture!  Show them every time some terrorist detainee is captured according to our war laws and tried in a manner that our military sees fit. Water boarding? Show it to me. Starvation? Show it to me.  Neglect? Show it to me.  I will not turn my head. I will not gasp in horror.  Because I am one of those people who remembers the tumbling of the Twin Towers. I remember the horror on the faces of the New Yorkers who watched their fellow citizens jump from those burning buildings.  I remember the brave firemen who went in and never came out.  The babies in the day care who died so tragically. I remember, so I have no sympathy for anyone else's suffering. This is OUR country.  And in this country, we do things a certain way.  We trust the people on the front lines. We accept their motto, "War is hell." We don't question their tactics. There is someone who will hold everyone accountable one day, so how can we stand in judgement of those who volunteer to protect us? 
And then the circus that is the media wants to report to me that Michelle Obama is fashion forward. And let's put Barack on the cover of People or Time or whatever with his shirt off.  Seriously, people!  Are we reduced to this? This is what we want to talk about, or is this what we chew because we are fed it daily by a frenzied media?  I was watching Good Morning America for two minutes the other day because I hadn't had time to change it, and there go Diane and whatshisface, steering the conversation away from reporting and giving their personal opinions on an issue.  Write a memoir!  Have someone do an interview of you!  All I need are the facts. I was a communications major once, so I KNOW these talking heads have twisted the point of journalism to meet the changing of the tides.  They sell their souls to get the ratings. Because it's not good enough to report the news with clarity and dignity and a commitment to the truth above all else.  Where is the integrity? 
I rant because I have a little pair of ears in my house. And she's bright, and quick and listens to everything.  Well, it's not going to be good enough to listen in my house. You're going to have to hear the message - t0 demand one - to seek one when it's not evident. You're going to have to see through the crap and know how you feel after you've done that.  I grew up too complacent, and I think I wasted a lot of time accepting people's perceptions of me and the world around me.  I won't let my daughters do the same.  Somehow, we will find the balance between being all girl and a real world thinker. I know a handful of women in my life who are this person - Carey, Christina, Tammy. These women think.  And that's why they've never been replaced in my heart or my life with new friends.  Because when you know what you have, there's no reason to search for something better.  My point is - you need to know what you have. 
Do you? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Is There Left To Do?

I know there's prayer.  I pray.  I recognize God's strength and his dominion over all of us.  I'm saved by it.  But every day it's a new and more aggravating story.  This morning it was a homeless person trying to perform a good deed.  In attempting to stop the harassment of a woman at a U-turn, he was run over and killed by her molesters.  And I mean, I'm not a bleeding heart to the homeless community.  It takes a lot for me to spare some change for a person on a street corner.  And it's not that I'm not a Christian.  I pray like my good friend Tammy's Grandma Maddie - with arms outstretched, mentally or physically, I pray towards the four winds - for all the people in the north, all those in the East, all the sufferers in the South, and all God's children in the West.  I care.  And give where I see fit - mostly to police organizations.  In spite of all the corruption in that great brotherhood, the blood in my veins runs pretty blue.  Service folk have always had my highest respect. And that's why it's so frustrating to me to see someone trying to perform an act of service being killed so heartlessly.  It brings out my inner Tawanda.  And while that might inspire a chuckle by the literary folks in the group, this probably won't - it makes me more determined to get my concealed handgun license.  And here's why.  I WILL NOT be a victim to someone else's mood swing.  And I do believe in an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Maybe that's not my right.  Maybe you think I'm not praying hard enough - that my heart is hardened by the same poison that infects the murderers out there. And maybe it is in a way.  I'm not a stranger to suffering, and this has always made me a little crude in my sympathies. That feeling that people get - the sorrow for someone else who has been cast a bad lot, I get it, too, but it doesn't last as long in me.  Because I'm always thinking, "What did you do to get yourself here, and what can you do to get yourself out?"  People make stupid decisions all the time, and hell, I was one of them. I never felt sorry for myself when I screwed up royally. I sat outside of myself and looked in at the girl who cried alone and gave her what for.  "It's your fault," I'd say.  "What are you going to do now?"  And then I'd get up and do something.  For every action, there is an appropriate reaction.  And my reaction to the increase in senseless, cold-blooded crime is to fight back.