Monday, May 30, 2011

Okay,so, about this hundred-day "Message" project thing...

By the time I got sober, I was pretty convinced I couldn't finish a single thing I started. Ironically, that's one of the things that helped me get, and stay, clean: At my first meeting someone said, "We're three-inning people." It was the first time I had considered that my lack of follow-through might be alcohol-related. That's when I knew that the people around that table were like me.

Since I came into the rooms, I've finished a lot of things I've started, and I've not finished a lot of others. This is one of the things I'm not going to finish. My life is a little crazy right now. My daughter is leaving for college, I'm moving, and gosh darn it, I've got other things I'd rather write about.

But I do like taking pictures of signs, so I'll keep posting them from time to time.

So there. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Messages, Day 32: The Sock Man Cometh

Best sight of the day! The Sock Man generously allowed me to photograph him, as well as his truck. If you see him, stop. There's no better place to buy this stuff.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

in the end, forgiveness

My wonderful kid graduates from high school on Friday. That's in less than a week! I'm excited for her and for me, and I'm completely wrapped up in the flashy, full-time extravaganza that is Commencement. But I've also had deep feelings of sadness, apprehension, and loneliness.

I've dreaded my kid's high school graduation for at least a year, and maybe ever since she was born. For one thing, I'm going to lose the best roommate I could ever hope to have.

But mostly I've dreaded graduation because this is it.

This. Is. It.

No more time to get it right, to correct mistakes, to make amends. All the angst in the world won't make any difference now. My kid is permanently branded with all my parental screw-ups and misadventures. There's no more time for me to get more involved in the PTA, to check her homework, to chaparone field trips, to teach her about God. Sure, I did some of this, but not enough, and especially not lately. I've been too busy trying to dig my way out of some serious wreckage, both past and present. I've been horribly distracted, and now it's too late.

The bottom line is this: I was not the parent I wanted to be, and I can never, ever change that fact.

Except that I can. I can, and I have.

It happened last Wednesday night in the school's west hallway. Traditionally, the seniors' parents decorate their kids' lockers in secret, just as graduation activities are heating up. I knew about this in advance, but felt dejected and uninspired. Last week I carelessly bought a couple crafty supplies that I saw on clearance; I figured I'd come up with something. Whatever.

On Wednesday, though, I forgot to bring the supplies. So I spent about two hours shopping. And thinking. And then shopping and thinking some more. I went back and forth between the party and school-supply aisles at least half a dozen times, and in the end I found inspiration.  By the time I arrived at school, I knew just what I wanted to do, and I spent the next two hours lost in decorating that 12 x 36 blue steel canvas. In the end, it was bliss, just diving head-first into that simple, joyful act of little-kid parenting.

But that was later. First, it was pretty miserable.

The hallway was packed with parents -- people I didn't know very well. If I had volunteered as much as I was supposed to, I'd know most of these people by name. I felt alone, realizing that I had squandered this incredible opportunity to be 100% engaged for my daughter during her five years at this amazing performing-arts school. And now, it was too late. God, what a terrible waste!

But somewhere in there as I was sinking into the quicksand of regret -- somewhere between cutting out bubble wrap, and trying to work with impossible blueberry-flavored edible basket-grass, and wrestling with a fat yellow balloon -- a long-buried and important truth finally broke through my misery into the moonlight:

It really doesn't matter whether I had the experience I wanted or not. What matters is that my kid got the experience she needed.

Well, damn. That's really what mattered all along.

And with that epiphany came the recognition that I'm largely responsible for making sure it happened that way. For all my false starts and blatant idiocies, for all the broken boulevards I tried to pave over with great intentions, I kept my eyes on the road. I did it despite considerable pressure from others to take a shorter, grassier route. When others were saying, "she'll do fine wherever she is," I knew place mattered. The school, the teachers, the surroundings, the curriculum, it all mattered. And because I stuck to my guns on this, she had what she needed when her family fell apart. She landed in a sturdy safety net woven by gifted, loving teachers, dedicated, empathic advisers, and stalwart friends. They pointed her toward her art, which led her, finally, out of harm's way.

As I came to this realization -- sitting on the floor surrounded by bubble wrap and balloons and scotch tape and candy -- I experienced overwhelming relief. Then immediately, pride and delight: Delight in the amazing person my daughter has become, and pride in knowing I had a part.

And now, at long last, I feel joy in a job sloppily executed, but very well done.

Reward: Eternal gratitude for the return of my brain matter.

Okay, let me just say this: I sure as hell wish there was a book called What to expect when your kid graduates from high school. You know, like What to expect when you're expecting. I haven't lost this many brain cells since my daughter was born. The other day I spent about 20 minutes in the Family Dollar and then discovered I had accidentally left the car running (yes, that car, the one that barely runs and shouldn't be driven at all, much less left running in a hot parking lot.). And then yesterday, I couldn't figure out why my photo of the dog hadn't come out until my level-headed daughter gently pointed out ("Uh, mom...") that I had been aiming the camera at myself. And then, there are the missed appointments.

Well, Mommy isn't making any more plans or commitments until all the confetti is cleaned up and the grads have gone home.


Messages, Day 31. Hard years.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

in celebration of what?

So. Osama bin Laden is dead. I suppose it was necessary and I confess, I'm very
glad. I'm glad for Obama, for myself, and for my country.

Still, I am troubled by my feelings of elation, and not just because I worry
about reprisals from the other side. Each time I celebrate someone's demise as
an act of war, it seems to me, I am diminished. I become a little bit more like
"them," whoever that happens to be at any particular moment. Yes, I think my
feelings are human; but that doesn't mean I should be proud of them.

In high school, as I searched for my spiritual path, I was drawn to Judaism for
its compassion (in theory, if not always in practice). For example, I was struck
by the Passover seder tradition of purposely spilling wine during the ceremony.
There are a variety of explanations, but I liked this one best: we spill wine as
a reminder of the bloodshed on the other side. We do it as a reminder that we
ought not take joy in the death of our enemies. They are, after all, children of

Bin Laden is dead, and I'm glad. I watch report after report of crowds rejoicing
and I feel like cheering, too.

But after 9/11, I remember watching other crowds, far away, cheering the death
of Americans. I tell myself there's a difference. But deep down, I suspect we
exaggerate the distinction between Us and Them at our peril.

Messages, Day 24: Anything but crack.

This shop really, really wants a mechanic.

 And on the road is another sign:

By the way, this work is by Trent, like the signs I posted the other day. I guess I'd better quit depending on him.