Monthly Archives: January 2014

1 week

Dear Squink,

By this time next week you will no longer be in Arizona. You may be leaving the United States, even. You will be in an airport or on an airplane heading off… away from me.

(pause, just typing that made me cry)

Yes, you will be on a plane, headed to Austria with your dad. You will be headed for what will surely be a most magnificent trip. You will experience so many new things. There is a part of me that is so very excited for you! Oh, actually, in a strange way all of me is excited for you.

However, I feel helpless. For the first time since you were created, I have to give up complete control over your life. Sure, you may have thought you ruled your world, but I promise you… I have been pacing back and forth behind you, snarling and roaring and even staring down others and basically just making sure you are all right. All my choices have you involved in them at some point. Every. Single. One.

So, I have been preparing for your departure by trying to picture losing that ability, the ability to pace around behind you snapping at mean kids and adults alike. You live in your own world, where you can reconcile evolution, laws of physics, and other wonderful sciency stuff with the existence of God. This makes you happy, but you don’t see people as being capable of being mean.. thankfully, I get to do that for you. However, this happy look at the world makes me proud of you and I hope against hope that you won’t let either side dissuade you of keeping your feet firmly planted in both realms.

But, the truth is my dear… I have felt a constant and unending rush of adrenaline coursing through my body for the past week or so. I mean constantly, like of every minute… a feeling like I either need to run away from a T-Rex that is trying to eat you and me or as if I need to punch someone in the face.

Yes, it is that fierce… but we are talking about how much I love you.

Sweetness, I am going to miss you so much! I am going to miss your goofy smiles and funny statements and I am just feeling like my world is going to slowly implode while you are away. For the last week, you are the only thing that has been able to make me smile…. everyone else has either seemed insignificant or inconsequential or just downright pissed me off. Yes, I know I said pissed, but I mean it (and that is why we save those words up, for the times when we really mean it).

Kiddo, I keep telling myself that I want this to be a wonderful experience for you, and I mean it when I tell it to myself (and even when I don’t tell it)…

My job, the one that I was gifted with by life universal and all the wonderful powers that be, is to be your mom. That is so deeply sacred. So, I feel like this experience (of you moving away) is the most sacred act of mine upon that compact. It is hard, unbelievably hard for me to let this happen… without kicking and screaming… see, I know I am going to have to let this happen eventually, I was just given an opportunity to let go a bit earlier than most.

I love you Squinky, with all my heart.

Love,

Mama

PS – You know that in the event of a zombie apocalypse that the first thing I grab is you… so matter where you are… because you are who I would want to be with.

PPSS The other day when I asked you my daily questions on our way home, your answer to “Tell me about something that made you feel loved?” You answered by telling me that it was making this picture!

Inside the guano ring and an empty nest.

I am facing an empty nest.

My child is 9.

I have a continuing sense of impending anguish. Meaning I feel fine, but the over tones of my daily life are tinged with the sense that I will no longer have my dear, beloved son to be visually present to me.

The reactions from other mothers are interesting;

“Are you getting a divorce?” NO
“Why?” Because it is a very special opportunity and I can’t pass it up for a number of reasons.
“I think you are stupid” – OK, I suppose you are entitled
“I couldn’t do it!” – You might be surprised by the willingness to give your children special opportunities.

The truth is that I am going to desperately miss him, He and I do almost everything together… he comes to my meetings, and I go to his. We have our daily rituals down pat. I bask in his gentle spirit, I am delighted by him as he wanders curiously through life. I am going to miss him. I am going to miss his making silly faces and constant moving as I try to take a picture. I will miss his interesting takes on the world, his fearlessness, his graciousness.

As I go through these last few weeks with him, before he moves across the ocean for a very special adventure, there is an intensity to my time with him. And an intensity to my time without him. I seem to be attuned to the shift that is coming and my brain and my body are trying to find a way to live without his physical presence. Yes, I will be grateful for the pieces of modern technology that allow for things like Skype and Face-time but nothing can make up for the smells and small moments that will be denied to me for the next few months.

He will be living with his grandparent in a small town in Austria. He will be going to a small school where he will share a class with about 5 or six other kids. His teachers speak English as does my mother in law. He will get to play in the country and will have many memories that will last his life. He will get close to his family overseas, meet his cousins and uncles and aunts and all sorts of extended kin.

I am also very excited for him. He ask eager questions about the experience and has developed the idea that he will be perfectly happy if he can stay for longer. While I may personally wish he doesn’t, I am glad he is that excited about the trip.

But, oh my heart. How will I fill the void that his absence in my daily life will create?

I suppose that I will look to this as my own great adventure, watching my child go through an experience like this, be there for him in the good times and the bad.. I think I am busy enough as it is that I won’t find idle time, but I wonder…

Squink, 

If you are reading this… there are some things I want for you to know;
Mama loves you! That is the most important.

It is also my sincerest hope that you have one of the most life changing experiences of your life thus far. That you connect with your grandparents and all of our family overseas. That you come away with an appreciation of things both wonderful and scary and learn how to manage both. I can’t tell you how I wish I could manage to go with you. To watch you acculturate in person, to hold your hand when it gets frustrating and to clap when life is a delight.  

It is my hope that this experience doesn’t scar you and cause you pain, that mean people make what should be wonderful, hard and difficult (that was how coming to the USA was for me). Know that my tiger mama traits will still be in full force and should I think it warranted I would come and get you in a moment. However, it is my expectation that this will be a wonderful experience for you. That you will become close to your Austrian family, that you will make friends you can keep for ages, that you will learn German and use it constantly, that you will keep your Spanish, that you find Hungary as amazing as I do. That you will come to understand just how different and yet similar this world is. That you will come to understand just how lucky this opportunity makes you!

I love you, really, really, really, a lot!

Seriously!

Love,
Mama

The reflection on the strange incidence of parallel lives in a third world country in the 70’s

I have had the absolutely delightful opportunity to get to spend time with a young woman with whom I had been friends with in my youth. These glory days of growing up as the foreign born kids of expatriates in a gentle country.

It was such a sigh of relief to be able to speak to someone who can understand how real the fear of being kidnapped was, that understands just how wonderful the earthy smell of the soil we grew up on is, who gets as excited about a manicho as I do… some individualized subtleties mixed in with a certain kinship of a shared environment for our experiences.

Experiences which include our parents divorces. Scandalous and painful. Moving to the American Southwest, albeit ending up in neighboring states.
The conversations felt like family; from being held accountable to my sons table manners to laughing at shared experiences of our own expatriation to the land of our parents…
A shared commitment to write short vignettes about our lives in relationship to where we are from and what those years created within us.
Some of those experiences are hard, learning to move past the hurt and anger at our fathers for choices they made that ripped us from our roots and the gentleness of our youth… not to mention how to manage the women they chose. Others are gentle, the love for the mountains, the familiar tastes of things like chochos memories of our youth that are both innocent and intoxicating, recollections from those days and how bewildered we were when broken glass no longer adorned the walls surrounding our homes.. Growing up with strong mothers and the hard sunshine of the Southwest creating thicker skins on us than we could have ever imagined.
How marvelously lucky to be able to share these similar rites of passage, to have walked away from the chaos of an uprooted youth into our futures and now to so marvelously be able to know someone who would understand what that feels like… when the pull of our mountains calls out to us.

Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui as seen from top of volcano Corazón,
Gerd Breitenbach 2003, public domain

And for being given this opportunity alone do I love “The Facebook”

On being content in a gluttonous world

This blog space was started when I felt betrayed by a group of women and needed a place to vent and call them out on their cruelty and be able to call them the names I couldn’t to their face because that is just not what I do.

I was devastated by them. I thought they were at least genteel acquaintances, but they showed me an ugly face that I did not think they had.

There were also posts about other friends who I felt had betrayed me, had been playing with me and my emotions and this was the place to share those so I could see them.

These posts are all private and password protected. I can’t even recall what the password is.

However, what I have decided is that being content depends on not focusing on the venting but on the gentleness on this great life experience. The truth is, in part, that many of the woes are dependent on gluttony of all things, on the abundance of the material and  immaterial, to pretend that there is something other than self yet behave as if only self exists.

the consequences of gluttony

Contentment is my theme for this coming year. It may be ironic in a way I consider myself to be pretty content as it is… but after I had this notion that my year was dedicated to contentment that I happened to come back across this space and saw how much I had let others dictate how I felt. I am not sure how to change this as I still give others power over how I feel but I really want to change that.

Are there any sturdy pillars of responsibility out there?

One of the biggest arguments that I ever had was when I was in college and it centered around the moral responsibility of writers.

I was dating the young man, we had known each other briefly in high school when I had gone to a small town high school just outside of Phoenix. He was smart and had a certain intellectual wit about him that I found very attractive. We had ,what I can know call, a flirtation. There was an attraction but we never acted on it. I left the small town to return to my big city high school. We both went to Arizona State and ran into each other there, a miracle even then as the school had a collective 35,000 students among all its campuses at that time. We met for coffee and the flirtation began again. I was in the midst of studying anthropology and the biological sciences, he was in creative writing. 

We would meet for coffee or hang out in his apartment flirting with each other using the guise of intellectual conversation. For the most part it was delightful.

There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.
~ Steven Spielberg

One night changed all that. We talked about the moral imperative of our potential career choices. I claimed that artists had a oral obligation to their people, their community… he argued that they did not. They, artists, were exempt from those rules. He was so emphatic that this was the important piece of some lofty idea he had of what was an artist. We argued bitterly, it got ugly. I left with tears in my eyes, because we had crossed a line in our friendship that would prove difficult to recover from.

In science there is a built in obligation to try not to mess with certain ideas and themes. For example, one could get a viable fetus from combining gametes from a human with that of a chimpanzee… while potentially scientifically interesting, there are things that must be deeply and carefully considered before one could even begin to engage in this kind of experimentation. Failures to uphold to this standard in the past have led to developing things like Internal Review Boards (IRB) to make sure that people and the community are protected from the mad men who might think that injecting syphilis into black men residing in Tuskegee was a viable means to test a hypothesis. While not a perfect means of protection, it is there and in place.

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.
~ Marcus Aurelius

What do the arts have? Critics? Audience? I can’t think of anything really that measures the influence of their work on the the people, their listeners, their community.

So, with this imbalance between the arts an science I am pushed to recall Plato’s Republic. Plato called for the absence of rugged individualism and would set up a system of castes and classes to which people worked and lived in to create a better whole. His utopia was in no means the democratic world so many of us aspire to, but one thing that I find interesting is that Plato would have banned the arts from his utopia. I wonder if he would have banned scientists, somehow I think there is a big possibility as they tend towards that “rugged individualism” he so despised in a utopia.

I still believe that artists have a moral imperative, that they can push an envelope but that doing so should reflect some careful thought, discretion and judgement. At least until now we don’t have a thought police to monitor the artists. It is entirely possible that this is something that may come about as our world moves might move to more of a police state.

I read an article today by an ophthalmologist (is that ever so interesting?) about how Quantum physics proves there is no such thing as death. I had a problem with the article, it disturbed me, in part because it was some rather well established yet highly debatable philosophical thoughts disguised as Quantum Physics, except there was no physics (quantum or otherwise) anywhere in the article other than to allude to Richard Feynman’s theory of the double-slit and refraction. What I read in the article was a regurgitation of well established ideas gussied up with pretty words and catchy metaphors and made to sound like there was something exponentially valid…  or as I told a friend, (that) article was playing with flourishes in a beastly and irresponsible manner… that makes Blair sad.

I can understand the lure of a free conscience, but if I can’t buy it as acceptable for the scientist, I most certainly can’t buy it for the artist. 

The sturdiest pillars of human morality are compassion and a sense of justice.
~ Frans de Waal