December 26, 2011

Miracle Season

First: Thanks so much to Renee for putting together this blogging collective for #HanukkahHoopla.  I've cyber-met some fabulous, inspiring people who also happen to be fabulous, inspiring writers.  (Actually, I'm completely humbled and wonder where they find the time to be so smart.)  That said, it's pretty tough stuff following in their footsteps on this, the very last day of the #HanukkahHoopla posts.  See below the post for information on how you (YOU!) can still win some excellent prizes.
click here!

No matter what you celebrate, it's the season when we contemplate miracles.  It's also the season of list-making, so this is my nod to the holiday in the form of a list of miracles.   (By the way, one bizzare and amazing event in a women's bathroom, a few weekends ago, kicked off a new appreciation for finding the miraculous in the mundane, or better, in the everyday.)

Here's a breakdown of the tiny and not-so-tiny miracles I had the fortune of witnessing or experiencing each day of Hanukkah.  {Please note: I don't intend to throw the word around carelessly.  The following are just little meaningful moments in my world in the past week.}

We celebrated the first night of Hanukkah at our friends' house.  Dani and Larry had a baby ten weeks ago--several weeks premature.  He was all of four pounds at birth--the weight of three sweet potatoes.  When I first held him, his tiny head fit in my palm, his skinny body rested on my forearm.  Now, this baby is smiling at us, looking in our eyes, following our voices as we move.  He is mastering the art of eating.  The delicacy of a newborn, its vulnerability and even its form continue to amaze me. 

2nd night:  O.k.  This is less appealing than the sweetness of a quiet newborn, but my husband and I endured 20 minutes of letting our 15-month-old son cry-it-out.  Twice.  Two nights in a row, last week.  Here's a boy who has slept through the night only twice since his birth, and because his wail is absolutely sound-barrier-shattering, we've become accustomed to rushing into his room at the first sign of what sounds like a major cribside meltdown, hoping to prevent waking our neighbors and his very patient, three-year-old sister.  I'm not sure why we waited 15 months and 40 minutes until we taught our son that he's going to need to learn how to fall back to sleep on his own, but it worked, and that was the gift we gave ourselves this Hanukkah.  A kid who sleeps through the night.  Hallelujah.

3rd night: The sunset turned the sky pink for a millisecond, though mostly, it was totally overcast.  It was a dramatic sky, the kind that used to inspire sweeping brushstrokes in painters (maybe it still does).  And I caught it.  It was a deific moment in an otherwise cloudy day.  Never underestimate the power of looking up.

4th night:  The last day of school before winter break, and my students were just wrapping up their book presentations (they'd each been reading books independently since school began).  It was awesome to see how a good book could inspire the most reticent or unmotivated student to talk so emphatically and honestly about why we all should read it.   I loved watching some of my quieter students break their safety shells and speak so directly and passionately.  The power of great books!  (Yes, I've borrowed and am reading The Hunger Games so that I'm not the last person on the planet to pick it up.)

5th night: It was Christmas Eve, and we had plans to go out to dinner with a bunch of friends.  We were saying good bye to a newlywed couple, the Mrs. of which I've known since kindergarten, who are bound for another city to begin their married lives together.  We all reminisced over dessert about our good times together, and as we parted for the night, promising to stay in touch and see each other whenever possible, my old friend remarked that of course we would.  We've known each other for a hundred years, my friend said, so you're stuck with me for a hundred more.   In an age of transience--and in this stage of our lives--starting families, working, etc., it is somewhat miraculous that some friendships will persevere no matter what.  Auld Lang Syne.

6th night:  Really, it was afternoon.  The kids napped.  I'm on vacation:  I napped, for two hours.  No interruptions.  That was the first real nap I've had in over a year.  Holy wonderful, that was.

And here we are, the seventh night.  My husband and I are in the middle of reorganizing the living room around the kids' toys (no, we don't have a finished basement nor a separate playroom).  We are putting away the things they loved as babies and making room for the more sophisticated stuff, like Cinderella's coach and a Bat Cave.  And we're talking about their growth and their humor, how we'll miss some of these baby toys because they remind us of their fleeting stages.  We do not define ourselves by our stuff, but we are able to look around--at pictures, at books, at socks left out before bedtime, at the odd doll shoe someone will be looking for tomorrow.  We can't help but be so thankful for our immediate and extended family, for the chaos that we can't help but live in, and for each other, who we cannot live without.  I continue to marvel at my luck in finding my soulmate.  Somehow the path we're on is punctuated by little miracles.  I only hope to continue to have the prescience to notice them.

Happy Hanukkah, all!  And Happy New Year, too.  Now, go check out Frume Sarah’s World @frumesarah.   

Below, leave me a comment about the miracles, big, small, barely there, that you noticed this past holiday week--and enter to win some cyberswag!

I would like to thank Streit’s and Doni Zasloff Thomas a.k.a. Mama Doni, the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band for providing each of the 16 bloggers involved in #HanukkahHoopla with a little cyberswag.
How can you win? Leave me an awesome comment. On January 5, 2012, I will select one winner at random. Be sure to subscribe to my blog or subscribe to comments on this page so you can find out if you are the winner! If I don’t hear from you within 48 hours, I will select another winner.
Prefer to be contacted via Twitter? Leave your Twitter handle in your comment and I will tweet you if you win.
Not interested in winning? You can still leave a comment! I love to read your words. Just write: “No prize necessary” in your comment.
Don’t make me work too hard to find you. That will make me kvetchy. 

December 21, 2011

3, 2, 1

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-HoodWhen we reprimand our toddler, there's the warning.  Or maybe there isn't, maybe it's the dictum, the trill of warning in our voices, and then we count, 1... 2...

With 3 comes the sentence: and I hate doling these out (though usually, she's already been warned about the consequence of whatever--taking a toy away from her little brother, not listening to us, etc.).

I don't like reverting to the counting.  It means I'm frustrated, and in my head, I'm not supposed to get frustrated at a toddler who's very job is to be independent, oppositional, resolute.  But the counting means that WE mean business, that listening is not optional.  The "3" lands her in the dreaded Time Out square, a spot in the hallway where the grain of the hardwood floor is perpendicular to the rest of the floorboards, a perfect size for a three-year-old tush.  It's her tiny cell of torment.  It's the place on the floor we never put toys.

Time Out is supposed to be one minute for each year of the kid's life, each minute an opportunity for the kid to reflect (?) or at least be denied the opportunity to enjoy what anyone else in the house is doing.  Soon, for us, it will be three minutes.  Three minutes for me to decompress in my own corner of the kitchen, to count down, take some breaths, try to be more patient with the next round of stolid toddlerhood.  Who's really in Time Out?

When the oven beeper sounds, she runs into the kitchen, our routine.  I'll ask why she was in Time Out, and she'll tell me.  And we hug or high five, and I breathe a little deeper, ready for the next episode.

December 13, 2011

The Little Ladies' Room

I can count the number of times I have cried in public bathrooms, but I need all of my fingers and some of my toes to do it.   Most of those instances were in a hospital, and there, in public bathrooms in hospitals, you can find a lot of people crying.

Crying in public--or at least, in the privacy of a small stall, surrounded by strangers of the same sex--is, for me, the last place I want to be crying.  For one, the germs.  They're just everywhere.  Also, you can't help but wonder how long you've been occupying the very stall that someone immediately needs.  Then, there's the humiliation of trying to pretend like you're fine once you emerge from your stall, or the restroom itself, having splashed your face with cold water and forgetting that you went in with makeup.  Chances are, though, if you're crying in a public bathroom, you need to be crying.

This past weekend, Heath and I had were offered the chance to grab dinner and a movie, and we jumped at it.  We decided on a light dinner at the Little Theatre (one of our favorite indie movie spots), and to see Clooney's latest drama, called "The Descendants."

This is by no means an official review, but because it must be said:
1.) Clooney.  He just can't look bad.
2.) This movie is surprising and heartbreaking and wonderful.
3.)  If you have lost someone close to you, think twice before you see this movie.

I might have started crying in the middle of the movie; brace yourself for shots of a woman--the wife in this film--in a coma, and the physical characteristics (such as the slack jaw) that we associate with imminent death.  The only details Hollywood spares us is the constant cacophonous beeping of the IVs and other machines that take up room and residence in such places.  Trying to stifle my sobs were of no use later on in the film.  I tried squeezing Heath's hand, squeezing my knee.  My thigh muscles were so tight from trying to hold back the flood gates that once I stood up, I had severe leg cramps.
What's up with these ladies?

So once those lights came up, I quickly exited to the Ladies'.

And, naturally, there was a long, long, line.  I held my forehead like I had a headache, trying to hide my contorted face.

It was the Ugly Cry.

And anyone in the middle of a deep, deep Ugly Cry knows that you have to come up for air at some point.

With the Big Sob, three women immediately threw their hands and arms--it was a sea of hands and arms--around my neck and head.  It was wild.  Before I knew it, both of my hands were in the hands of two different strangers, and my head was buried in the shoulder of someone whose face I hadn't even seen.

Which made me cry harder.

When I could collect myself, come up for air, splash some water on my face, one of these women, still holding my hand, asked if I'd lost my mom or dad.  I explained that I'd lost my dad, that I hadn't expected this movie to stir me so, and then I apologized profusely for making such a spectacle.

And then the woman holding my right hand started to cry.  She'd lost her mom in 1988, she said, and still it felt like just yesterday.  The woman who'd given up my head in her shoulder (and who'd taken it upon herself to rub my back, oddly) said that she'd lost a brother, her dad, and her ex-husband.  She got teary too.  The third of these women shared that she lost both of her parents when she was younger, and still missed them every day.

We had ourselves something of a bathroom Ugly Cry pity party, the likes of which were both fascinating and I hope I never partake in again.   I might be of the touchy-feely persuasion, but this here was a bizarre marriage of a support group and EstroFest.  Before I realized it, almost 20 minutes had passed, and I remarked that maybe there were people who were waiting outside for us, and that maybe they might be concerned that we'd all vaporized in the restroom.  We wished each other well and thanked one another.  Someone mentioned blessings.  It was weird and beautiful all at once.

My eyes were mere slits when I finally exited the Little's Ladies' room, and Heath was apparently about to open the door and see for himself what was going on in there.  I was still recovering the next day, and thoughts about the movie and the phenomenon in the bathroom still linger now, mid-week.

It's a holiday season, and we move busily about: in malls, in grocery stores, in everyday places where the faces of strangers waft, unnoticed, by us.  Hundreds and hundreds of people.  And while I'm usually one to scoff at the facade of "holiday cheer" that makes people elbow each other for the last toy on the shelf or play chicken for the last parking spot, this year might be different.  I'm going to keep the faces of those women in mind.  And I'll keep in mind that for every face there's a story--maybe a loss, maybe another kind of grief, maybe a situation I can't fathom.  I don't know how to end here, except that I'm feeling rather up with people, and hope to keep compassion and patience at close range when they're tested.  I'm thankful for having this bizarre bathroom experience, thankful for the kindness of strangers.