Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Grateful Mother's Day

I don't want to sound sappy, but I love Mother's Day. It's the day that I have only been able to celebrate for the last 5 years and I am so grateful. I waited so long to have my son and have recently discovered that his conception, gestation, and healthy beginning are even more miraculous than I had thought. I would just like to take a moment to reflect on how wonderful my life is today. I am grateful for my loving, committed spouse who is my best friend. I know people say that but it's really true for me. My only problem is that there are times that I think I don't deserve all this good fortune. I suppose that just like we are taught to accept suffering, we need to accept to good as well. Isn't that what they mean by looking a gift horse in the mouth? Best not to do it.

I am grateful for having a healthy, smart son. He's funny and affectionate and delights me on a daily basis. I know how lucky I am to have him.

I am grateful for parents and siblings who love me.

I am grateful for having the greatest friends in the world. They are smart, funny, amazing women who are each living their unique lives and braving this world in such wonderful ways. They are my heroes.

I am grateful to live in a nice house that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It protects me and my family in storms. I can sleep safely at night and not worry about bombs or guns. If I need to go somewhere, I can get in my car and go. I have freedom of movement, thought, and speech. I have food to eat or the means to get it if I need it. I have clothes and shoes and water. I am truly grateful for all of that.

I am grateful for my comfortable bed with soft, clean sheets. I am grateful for my ceiling fan and for the fact that I don't have to worry about mosquitoes and malaria. I am grateful for my quiet neighborhood and kind neighbors.

I am grateful for coffee in the morning. I am grateful for fat-free half and half (one of the greatest items on earth, I believe). I am grateful for having a washer and dryer and a dishwasher. I am grateful for my clean house.

I am grateful that my son can attend a good school without fear of violence. I am grateful that I can afford books for him and that he can read.

I am grateful for music and the devices that allow me to listen to it, including my ears. I am grateful for the gift of sight and smell. I am grateful for soft textures to touch.

I am also grateful for the little boy that keeps interrupting me so that I can't write this blog! Sorry for the abrupt ending.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This may not be Kansas, but it sure feels like it

Last night,  large portion of the town I call home, Tuscaloosa, was blown away in minutes by tornadoes. I still have family in the area, including my parents. Everyone seems to be ok. Some minor damage to homes and cars, but no injuries or worse. And for that, I am most grateful.

But I have spent some time today looking at the videos and pictures of what is left of Alberta City, 15th Street, and Cottondale. And I have spent some time today shedding a few tears. I was just there a few weeks ago and all was calm. The weather was beautiful, the flowers were in bloom, and we had a great weekend. Little did I know that a lot of what I was looking at would be gone in a matter of weeks.

I'm a pretty brave person, but I am afraid of tornadoes. Not because of what I have heard about them, but because I was in one when I was a young girl. My father was working in Clanton and I must have been about 6 or 7 years old. I went to work with him that day. It was a day like any other and that evening, we headed home to Tuscaloosa in his little Volkswagen Beetle. There was an 8 track player in the car and we were listening to Tony Orlando and Dawn. Just before we got to the Centreville/Brent area, I asked him to stop and get me something to drink. We must have been in the store 5 minutes and then got back on the road. During that 5 minutes, one of the worst tornadoes to hit the State of Alabama hit Centreville and Brent. The cities were completely destroyed. We missed it by minutes. As we drove down the road, I saw people lying on the side of the road and houses completely flattened. The road eventually became impassable and we had to turn back. The nice people who owned the store we had just left were kind enough to offer us shelter. I think we might have been able to call my mother to let her know we were okay but I'm not sure about that detail. All I know is that my knees were literally knocking against each other. I was so scared.

Years later, we lived for a few years in a small town called Sylacauga before finally moving back to Tuscaloosa. While in Sylacauga, a tornado hit there. It wasn't as bad as the one I had experienced earlier, but I actually saw this one. It was headed straight toward us and then just as quickly, it split into two different funnel clouds and turned away. I was so scared that time that I ran a bit of a fever.

I don't "freak out" in storms. I don't cry and shake and go to pieces. But inside, I'm concerned. I really don't like it if the whole family is not home. I like to have everyone near me and safe.

I am holding Tuscaloosa in my heart tonight as she begins the long, slow recovery. That is my home and always will be. Roll Tide Roll.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What to do?

When I was in college, I was in a sorority. I wasn't the kind of girl that HAD to be in a sorority, but I joined one anyway. The one I joined wasn't the best on campus at the time (it has since risen to the top), but these gals were the best to me. Particularly 4 of them: Laurie, Brooke, Marlee, and Ruth Ann. We were so close and I loved these girls so much. Since we graduated, our relationships have gone through some changes.

The one thing you have to know about me is that when I have a friend, I am fiercely loyal to that person. If I hear someone besmirch the name of one of my friends, I can feel the tigress in me come out. I will not have it. I WILL NOT HAVE IT. And when one of my friends needs me, I will knock you over to get to that friend to help them.

And I have forgiven a lot in the name of friendship as well. We are all humans and we all make mistakes. But when I love you and you are my friend, that love is unconditional. There are only two things you could do that would change that: have an affair with my spouse or harm my child. That's it. Otherwise, you're golden. Do what you want to me. I love you. That's the way it is.

But I am faced with making a decision. One of my oldest friends, someone I was talking to on a daily basis, someone I had so much fun with and just loved being with, suddenly stopped being my friend just before I got married 7 years ago. She gave me no explanation. She just stopped being my friend. Now common sense would tell you that something must have happened. I must have done something to deserve this abandonment. But I am telling you that nothing happened. She just decided one day to cut me loose. This is a person who called me several times a day and was a VERY important person in my life. And suddenly she no longer wanted to be my friend. No explanation. Just gone.

Her partner told me some time later that she just cleaned house. She cut it off with me and she broke up with her partner. But that didn't ease the pain. For a long while, this kept me up at night. My heart was literally broken by this person. I didn't and still do not understand why this happened.

All of this is to say that she has suddenly and inexplicably contacted me. Her message to me indicates that she feels remorse for what happened and that she would like to hear from me. My first instinct is to immediately return her message and rejoice that I have my old friend back. But I am hesitant. At the ripe old age of 46, I have realized that some of the most difficult decisions that a person makes are in the name of self-preservation.

I have never been good at making the tough decisions that are going to be in my best interest in the long run. When I was younger, I dated men who were so blatantly wrong for me that it was ridiculous. But you couldn't have kept me from them if you tried. I knew it was harmful to me but I did it anyway. That was a long time ago. I now try to live a life without those kinds of regrets. I try to stay away from the things that I know are going to hurt me. I wonder if it's true that  past behavior is a predictor of future behavior. Do I open myself up to someone and risk getting hurt again?

If I didn't care so much about her, it wouldn't matter. But as I said before, when I have a friend and I love them, it is not something I take lightly. I will have to ponder this for a while. This is not a matter of forgiveness. Of course, she is forgiven. It is a matter of my heart. I'm not sure I want to go through it again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Class of 2024

"All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am, so many stories of where I've been and how I got to where I am."

Today I was hit by an alarming fact: my son will graduate from high school in 2024. That's right. 2024. That sounds so futuristic. I mean, won't we be wearing jet packs and silver jumpsuits by then? Will I still be alive then?

His school had a school festival today with a parade of all the classes today. Each class walked out onto the football field with a banner announcing their year of graduation held proudly in front, just like the countries and their flags in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. At first, my son's class didn't appear (he's in Pre-K). And then, at the end, the class of 2011 (to which my stepson belongs) walked out with the Pre-K class and a banner saying Alpha and Omega. My stepson was carrying  my son on his back. I was so excited to have both of them together on the field. It was so great! I was clapping and telling everyone around me to look at them.

But then the cold hard fact of that year sank in. I know that life and death are not things that we have much control over, but I really need to do more to ensure my longevity. But there is no reason to think I won't see the major events of his life barring some accident or illness. I have lived several lifetimes up to now anyway. I was saying to a friend of mine that I don't even remember being Becki Bryant. It feels like I've always been Becki Jolly. I suppose that means that it is the way it is supposed to be. I have a good life right now and I'm quite happy, but I am feeling my age. I am exhausted by spending the whole day at Curran's school and my back was killing me before it was over. How will I be in 13 years?!

But I'm not the only one in this position. Lots of people wait to have children and things turn out ok. I guess I need to think about the present as that is the only guarantee. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, they say.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Sleep of a Clear Conscience

I've never been a good sleeper. It's possible that I slept well as a child, but if I did, I don't remember it. My challenge comes in being able to fall asleep and stay asleep once I am. When the sun goes down, I begin to feel a little bit squirrelly. I'm not sure how to describe the sensation except to say that I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. My chest gets a little bit tight and my stomach gets knots. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling one might get when they feel really guilty about something. That nervous sensation waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I have always had this problem, even as a kid. Long before there were things to worry about.

Both of my parents worked when I was growing up, and I can recall waiting at the end of the driveway for their cars if they had to work after dark. I'm not sure why I did this, but it seemed to calm that nervous feeling. As a single gal living on my own after college, I would always have a TV in my bedroom and either stay up late or leave the sound on as I fell asleep. Now sleep experts would say that the TV was the reason I wasn't sleeping. But I can assure you that it was the insomnia that came first.

Now I don't have a television in my room. Not since I got married. It's really for the best. Otherwise it's always on. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary away from those kinds of things. But I get around it anyway with my MP3 player. I fall asleep now listening to a variety of podcasts: This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The Memory Palace, Slate Culture Gabfest. And I wake up with any noise in the night as well.

I never realized that I was so different from anyone else until I got married and had a child. My husband falls asleep very easily- when his head hits the pillow, as they say. But the amazing one to watch is my son. After he falls asleep, you can go in his room and lift up his arm, and it will fall back on the bed like a wet noodle. His whole body is relaxed in a way that I don't think mine ever has, even in sleep. As he falls asleep, his little muscles jerk and twitch until they are absolutely still. I always think to myself that he sleeps the sleep of the innocent, the sleep of someone who hasn't hurt anyone, the sleep of someone with no regrets. And I wish I could protect him from those things, protect him from his own human nature to make mistakes. But that is not the purpose of a mother. My purpose is to help him learn from those mistakes once they are made. And hopefully he's inherited the sleeping traits of his father.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Ghost in the Machine

I love the internet. And I hate the internet. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. I love the fact that I can keep in touch with my friends and family instantly. I've never been a great letter writer or good at calling regularly. But I am able to check Facebook and "like" something or comment on a photo. And somehow, this makes me feel better. I am in touch with friends I would never have reconnected with if it weren't for this amazing technology. I have even made some friends through message boards or online support groups.

I love the fact that I can shop for clothes or music or books from the comfort of my couch. I love to be able to look up any topic and learn about it immediately. I love to watch movies and TV and videos right at the moment I want to watch them. I have always loved instant gratification. Don't we all?

But it is a double-edged sword. For one thing, anything you write in an email or post online is open to the reader's interpretation. It is this issue that makes me hesitant to start a blog. I've resisted doing one until now, and I am ready to pull the plug at any time. I never kept a diary for the same reason. I might buy one and write a few entries and then think "What if I get hit by a bus and somebody finds this and reads it?" So I would immediately tear out the pages and destroy them. Because of this, there will hardly be any record of my thoughts. I suppose I can live with that. Or not.

I'm always amazed at the letters and documents that still exist for people from long ago. A new biography was just published about Ghandi with surprising (and disturbing) information that no one knew until now. How can that be? He's so famous and yet no one knew that he slept with his nieces in the nude? Or that he was a homosexual? By the way, it's that first part that is disturbing and the second one that is surprising. Just in case someone reads this and misinterprets my meaning.

The other thing I don't like is the temptation to look up and read things that you are probably not supposed to read. I have always felt strongly that you shouldn't read someone else's letters or diary. You might just read something that upsets you. You take that chance when you do it. The internet is the same. Google a family member or friend and you could discover that they keep a blog that doesn't mention you. Or does mention you but in a negative way. You might find pictures from a baby shower or party to which you weren't invited. Or they are a white supremacist. Or (heaven forbid) a Buddhist.

My feeling is that if you are going to look at these things, you have to be willing to deal with the consequences. You really can't get mad at someone for information that you shouldn't have had in the first place. If someone wants me to know something, I figure they'll tell me. If they don't, they won't. And if I'm going to go poking around on the internet, I'll have to develop a thick skin.

All of this is to say that I understand the urge to do it. I've done it myself. It's too tempting. Remember that Sharon Stone/William Baldwin movie where he owns an apartment building and has cameras in every unit that he watches on these TV's in a secret room? Well, you may think you wouldn't want to do that but you would be kidding yourself. You'd watch it until your eyes sunk back in your head. That's why reality TV is popular. It's human nature.

But I have tried to have some self-control and not look at things I shouldn't. I'm not talking about XXX sites (I really don't look at that or have any interest). I'm just talking about looking at the personal ramblings of your friends or family. Or doing a background check on any ol' person you feel like.

Of course, I'm writing all of this on the same internet I'm criticizing. And hoping that those same friends and family follow my blog and read it. But it wouldn't be the first time I felt conflicted about something. And I'm sure it won't be the last.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

I just got back from a weekend trip home to see my folks in Tuscaloosa. I was apprehensive at first. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to see my parents, but sometimes my mother and I disagree about fundamental topics. But I went with the intention of avoiding those topics and I can proudly say that it went very well. I was relaxed and just tried to let them enjoy my son. I really want him to know them. I was fortunate to have a close relationship with my grandparents, but my parents didn't wait until middle age to have me. So I try to remain aware of the impermanence of this life and not leave relationships in an unfinished state. My son is a very aware 5 year old and he has an amazing memory. I'm counting on it.

While I was there, I went by the ADPi house to see it one last time. I wanted Curran to see where I went to school and where I lived before they tear it down and rebuild. It was tougher than I thought. First, I parked my car illegally in the driveway in the same spot that Wilson used to park her old Scout. When I looked at that same black double front door with the brass Lion knocker, it all came back. The sound of that knocker reminded me of Rush- swinging open the doors to clap and sing. The inside of the house had different decor,but was the same in so many ways. The TV room where I spent so many hours, the sleeping porch with all of those bunk beds, the huge mirror where we would check our images as we went out the door to swaps or dates. All of it seemed so long ago and yet only yesterday.

Those days were several lifetimes ago. I feel that I have evolved and grown since then. I'm not proud of everything I've ever done but I am proud of the person I've become. I care deeply for my fellow man and all sentient beings. I am trying to instill compassion and a sense of gratitude in my son. And I do feel that all roads I have traveled have all led up to this moment: to be the best mother and to nurture the best person I can. I really do feel that he is a very special person, meant to do special things. And I am proud to be his mother.

On the way home, he and I turned on the 80's channel and I sang all of those old tunes to him. Duran Duran, Journey, Oingo Boingo. At one point, he looked at me and said "you're awesome mommy". I really do have fun with him.