Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Surprise! We have more in common than you think

Photo by Nuno Antunes on Unsplash
Ring Road of Iceland

Five years ago on Christmas Day, my family sat in a movie theater, transfixed by the outlandish-yet-relateable Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This was quite a feat, considering we had kids aged 4, 10, and 12 and there wasn't even a hint of animation in the entire film. From its gorgeous, sweeping cinematography of stunning landscapes to the ear candy soundtrack, Walter Mitty's sensory appeal enhances the fun plotline in a way that engaged us all.

Needless to say, we've watched this flick together repeatedly....we even incorporated it into our family norms - when one of us has a skewed reality about something, we'll say, "Ok, you're Walter Mitty'ing on us right now," referring to the alternate reality the title character often envisions.

Because I liked the soundtrack so well, I designed a personalized Pandora station around its sound. Of Monsters and Men, Jose Gonzalez/Junip, Jack Johnson, and a little David Bowie created an auditory algorithm that added bands I knew, like Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers, and Vance Joy. As I added Iron and Wine into the mix, Pandora suggested I might like City and Colour, Kodaline (OMG, love them!), Gregory Alan Isakov, Lord Huron, The Head and the Heart, and more. It's one of my favorite stations and I listen to it often at work.

Ok, so that brings us to last night's scene from Casa del Meyer.

I had just arrived home and Christopher is playing @#$%ing Fortnite, Kelsey is at work and Colton is upstairs messing around on his phone. This is typical.

So too is it typical for what followed - my command that Fortnite be set aside, and both boys start some chores while I figured out WTH to make for dinner since I got a roast out that morning but failed to put it into a crockpot as I'd intended. Christopher threw a holy fit, per usual - we need an intervention at this point - and Colton and I both got to the ends of our ropes with him.

At some point, Christopher retreated to his bedroom and it was silent downstairs.

"Hey Mom, care if I turn on some music?" Colton is a musical genius when it comes to immediately knowing artists and their lyrics, even if just barely acquainted with them. All eras, all genres. It's nothing short of amazing when I can't even remember my thoughts from minute to minute, let alone discern the actual words of most songs without the lyrics in front of me.

"I don't care, but I need it to be mellow - I'm a little stressed right now."

Colton pulls up his Spotify. "I gotchu," he assures me.

A song I recognized from my Walter Mitty radio came on, and I started to hum/mumble sing to it, since per usual I didn't exactly know the words, just the tune.

"Wait, you know this song? How?" Colton was incredulous.

"It plays a lot on my Walter Mitty station."

His song goes off and then he can't find similar music - so I turn on my station, assuring him that it was similar.

He rolls his eyes, hard, at me.

Of course, the first song was a pretty folksy/bluegrass one from Iron and Wine.

"Mom, this is so not the same...."

I skip the song and go back to the kitchen, which yields us an annoying Tide ad. I get lost in what I'm doing.

"Mom, can you unlock your phone?"

"Why? What?"

"I need to unlock your phone so I can get the singer/song that played last - I liked his sound," Colton insists.

I oblige his curiosity, and see it was a song from Gregory Alan Isakov - sidebar, what happened to being cool with a one-word moniker? Such a mouthful and it doesn't quite feel right to abbreviate in any form.

"So, does this mean you might like my music for once?"

"Well, it's not Kelly Clarkson. That was actually good."

"Well, there's a lot you don't know about me, son. There's much more to me than what you see on a daily basis - and I'm sure that's true for what I see of you, too."

And, someday, we'll be better friends. Right now, you are still being raised and you won't always understand. But these glimpses of where we can connect better give me hope.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

On coming back

It's me sitting in the gray loveseat that swallows me up every time I visit, my left leg tucked under me. I have so much energy and the words, they are flowing. I'm talking and talking, and talking so much. The filler words are not as prevalent because my thoughts are ordered and navigable.

He asks, "So is it incremental, like each day gets a little better, or a more dramatic epiphany of  'OMG, my brain is back?''

"It depends," I shrug. "Sometimes it's both. Sometimes I just fake it - being functional, ignoring the feelings - that I don't even see when it happens or even have an aha, it just becomes. This time though, like whoa, I got so much shit done for my final paper - and it's just like, so amazing because this time last week, I didn't know what I even would write. Hadn't done my lit review, no clear hypothesis of research questions to guide me, and now? I'm almost done. It feels good to be back."


It's when every ounce of my being wants nothing more than to DEEP clean this house - like dusting ceiling fans and scrubbing baseboards kind of fun -  but I need to hit the term paper (miraculously cranked out this week, per above) with revisions, data (I FOUND IT!!!), and reorganizing my sections, as well as my methods final, and being able to say to myself, "Self, you are on deadline, and you will have time to do all that cleaning when you're on Christmas vacation.

It's having the presence of mind - that executive functioning stuff is so critical - to create a plan and stick to it.

*Really, I'm not that person, where is this intense desire to clean even coming from?


It's me laughing with my teens about the very awkward conversation we are having, and thinking, "These. These are those moments you will miss. They do exist," with a smile.

It's getting excited about the work you're doing and feeling the thrill of fresh ideas.

It's wanting to invest time and effort into my hair, clothes, and outfits again.

And so much more.

At the intersections of mother, wife, employee, grad student, woman, and a jillion other hats I wear, I'm thankful for modern medicine. It's brought me back, time and time again.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Here we are again.
My fractured friend.
An unraveled heart,
A voice whose art
Is to say, "Come on, just be done"
How many times can this be overcome?

-- thoughts from a broken mind

Saturday, May 19, 2018

These Shattered States

"Oh Jesus," I pray upon seeing the news of Santa Fe, heart shattering. "It's happening again."

I remember during that horrible day in Colorado when the Columbine shooting occurred, my friend was birthing her first child. In the weeks that followed she told me, "Heather, I couldn't answer the question 'What kind of world was I bringing this baby into?'"

Over the years, the shootings have become commonplace.

We have drills and trainings.

When I started working for CSU last summer, I had to attend a mandatory active shooter training for university employees. I learned more than I ever cared to know about what went wrong with the Virginia Tech shooting, the methodological plots of a sick, and dare I say, evil, young man. I rarely dream to the point of recall the next day, but I had a horrifically detailed nightmare that evening that history was repeating itself. I was terrified.

All too often these days, our children are also having to do these drills. And then, it happens. Again and again, and again, the stories of the shootings surface, reinforcing the need for the drills, and birth the fear of "When (not will?) will it happen at my school?" What is that doing to their young minds? Is it any wonder that adolescent anxiety is up?

I recall the plane ride home last October, crying at all the empty seats. Seats that had been filled when I checked in online the night before. Too tired to sleep. Too exhausted to stay awake.

 Hot, salty memories snake down my face.

What will it take? How many more lives will be lost, and how much of our future generations will be afflicted with PTSD incurred by the trauma of living through something like that?

I struggle with the instantaneous name calling and finger pointing that people do on social media in the wake of tragedies like this. I experienced that after Vegas from my own loved ones. Never mind my trauma, because your opinions are the only ones that count, how careless of me to forget. Same for all of the nasty commentary directed towards the kids of Parkland who were brave enough to call out the bullshit that is the American fetish for guns. Same for the parents of Sandy Hook who not only lost their children, but continue to be victimized by Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists that drive attention away from the real public health issues of gun violence in America.

This is the agony of being a woke person in America right now. Whether it's guns or systemic racism, #metoo or political corruption, if you are a person speaking up about these things, the only people hearing you are other woke folks. Everyone else is sleeping under the blankets of privilege, [willful] ignorance, "tradition," and/or complacency.

I don't know how to change it.

I know my husband and I had a rather heated conversation about the guns issue this morning. Or at least it started that way. We never came to an agreement, but we did start to listen to each other.

I wish that our country could at least get to that point. Instead we have viral memes saying terrorists aren't the greatest danger to America, the Democratic party is and all Republicans are racist. That gets us exactly nowhere.

We have got to start attacking the issues instead of each other, in every way.

America, if we Humpty Dumpty too much, cracking our society to the point of no return, nobody will be left to put us all back together.

We have to set differences aside, and consider solutions for the greatest public good. That may require some sacrifice from everyone. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Nine credits later...

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
Or maybe just three.

One completed class out of three total this year. Two incompletes.

But the incomplete is a tool in a grad student's hand, I'm told.

I'm choosing to look at it that way, too, because otherwise, depressed Heather sees it as Exhibit #5967 in the case being argued in the court of my mind that I have lost my Sweary Magdalene™, no-bullshit-high-achieving mojo.

The f*cking prosecuting attorney.
I recently had to do the employee portion of my performance appraisal at work, and wouldn't you know, my deficit mindset had me stymied when it came to thinking of things that I not only accomplished, but did well. With a little coaching though, I was able to pull it together, and damn if I'm not A-Freakin-Mazing!

So, this next bit is a debriefing of sorts. For years, I have counseled people to take inventory of their strengths; guess it is time for me to take some of my own damned medicine.

That is no small feat and takes a lot of guts. Trust me, every single one of them has been tied up since rendering myself emotionally naked to the world.
  • I was behind in my poli sci class heading into finals - missing two reaction papers and my debate paper, much less being prepared to take the time-limited comprehensive final. That time-limited shit is so damned nerve-wracking and really torturous for anxious perfectionistas like me! In one week, I read all the materials for one reaction paper, revisited the materials for the way earlier reaction paper (and thus had forgotten some of the details), wrote/submitted both reaction papers, and studied/wrote/submitted that damned final.
While not done with any great levels of confidence, mind you, I basically got 3 weeks of graduate study done in 1 week! I feel like I should get a medal for it. The incomplete is for me to get the debate paper materials read, and write the paper. Submit, and I'm three credits richer.
  • Meanwhile in my sociology class, I felt like I struggled all semester. In conversations with my prof, she would say that was not her perception, and we mutually agreed that when I felt that way I needed to tell my inner negativity to STFU. That said, I did struggle with identifying a concept for my term paper that incorporated the theories of the semester. By the time I landed on a valid premise, I really had two weeks to research, review, and write the beast, one of those weeks being the 3 for 1 mentioned earlier. In virtually one week, I located and read umpteen scholarly articles that got me to a point where I could successfully write my paper. I got my bibliography done and turned in, and then realized I was running out of time. 
So I'm almost done with the paper and once it is turned in, I will have completed a doctoral level course, and be three more credits richer, putting me at 21 credits toward my required 36 for the program. (Thank you previous attempt at grad school credits transfer).
It's an expansion of my sociology paper, AND ties in with issues and experience from both my past and present employment roles! Not only am I excited about it, this semester's professors are both super supportive and that has made the confidence soar.
All of that is so not failure, ya know? 

Many of my school peers were in similar boats with respect to staying caught up, and they did not have 40 hour/week jobs, children to raise, and youth was on their sides much more than mine. Although, that was not the case for my sociology classmates - three of us are mothers and one is expecting, and it was helpful to have that commonality.

I'm feeling pretty damned good about this school year.

Soon enough, those pots above will be sporting three flowers, demonstrating this year's accomplishments. Maybe they're a little behind on the blooming, but they WILL bloom.

And that, is all I can ask for at this time.

Friday, May 4, 2018

How to do finals, working mom in grad school edition

Channeling my inner Glennon and trying to remember "I can do hard things."

You're in graduate school, so your finals are really just papers / essays. It's a lot of key-pounding and hitting the delete button like the woodpecker when you realize nothing you articulate makes sense.

There are some things you must do for success. ETA: I took 24 hours PTO off to do all of this, because, uh, balance?

1. Leave the house. You'll think, but the kids are at school, no one's home, this will be great!

You will be dead wrong.

Your dogs will think, "Mom's here, so let's go for a walk." You will be hungry and gain 100 pounds because you ate every thing in the house. You will be cold and fuss with the thermostat. You will smell something weird and begin to investigate the source, only to spend your time at home cleaning.

Leave the house - it will be better for all involved. Shower and makeup are completely unnecessary. Brushing your hair is optional.

2. Dress comfortably. Finals writing is intense, yo. I'm seen above in my 2XL Stranger Things, SO SOFT long-sleeved tee that I scored at Target last week for $3, yoga pants that don't hug too tightly and my fave pair of running shoes. I begrudgingly left my blankie at home.

2.a And....I'm all lathered up in Aspercreme because my muscles are aching from sitting at the library hunched over my lap top for 8 straight hours yesterday. See also, feeling like a geriatric admitting that. It hurts, hurts so good to admit my frailty.

3. Adding to 2.a - use the library computers, not your laptop. Because ergonomic chairs make the difference. Marathoners gotta have the right strategy. Select one closer to the bathroom - (the stall bathrooms, not the single user one that smells like butt EVERY TIME) because....

4. Bring ALL the COFFEE. If you don't do coffee, then insert caffeination of choice here, it is NOT optional. You are averaging 4 hours of sleep per night. You may be here far longer than you anticipate. (and you are an adult learner who has pushed 3 humans out of your body, so you see the need for proximity to the facilities)

5. Take SMALL breaks now and then, preferably to stand and stretch and maybe listen to an upbeat song to regain your focus. Do not open up social media and "just see" what's happening. You will be entering the quicksands of time, never to emerge with sufficient time for success

6. Maintain your sense of humor, but channel it appropriately. For the prof that is asking for a class synopsis, sure, insert wit. For the one you owe a research proposal? Not so much.

7. Repeat after me: "There is a light at the end of this tunnel. Just 10 more hours today, then 1 down, 1 to go." Adjust according to your coursework.

I wish I'd snapped a picture of the banner ad the library had running on the kiosks when I came in yesterday - it said:

Make Good Choices

Friday, April 20, 2018

Creative...from the archives

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I wrote this just over 5 years ago. It has beckoned to me several times over the years. Someday it will be fully developed into a full fledged fictional account of this biblical story.

Mercy's Fool

 She was cold, trembling with shame as the telltale signs of her chill were exposed, visible through the thin linen underdress, the customary sadhin, that she wore.  "Will they punish me and call me a harlot for this as well?" she wondered.  She crossed her arm over her breasts to conceal the evidence of her discomfort.  The men had taken her without allowing her to put her outer robes back on.  Her thin, almost threadbare, sadhin was a woefully inadequate grasp at any remaining shred of modesty she could claim, and offered no protection from their eyes.

Though she suffered the painful awareness of every carnal need her body was crying out for - warmth, food, drink, and sleep - she remained quietly aloof.  She knew the risk of her actions…that she had willfully sinned against the law.  To become hysterical and beg for undeserved mercy would do nothing for her but subject her to further judgment and cruelty.  She was exhausted, but death was certain, and despite her captors' own periodic dozing, she resisted to sleep, reliving the all-too-few memories she had of feeling loved, safe, protected in her life before it would all be taken from her.

Clearly these 'men of God' had no interest in following the letter of Moses' law, or else Nachum would be here with her, he just as guilty as she.  Nachum, her beloved, who had loved her their whole lives, and mourned the day her parents married her off to that horrid old man she now called husband. Nachum, who had tenderly kissed away the bruises left by Jubal.  Nachum, whose scent still lingered on her skin.  Did he know of her plight, and despair, realizing death was unavoidable?  Or, the more cynical side of her wondered, was he sated to have finally known her, relieved to face no consequence?  That thought stole her breath away, striking her heart with a searing pain far more excruciating than any of Jubal's beatings. "No," she pleaded silently with herself, "Nachum is an honorable man."

He had told her that first night that he was prepared to face death with her if they were ever found out, that he would rather die in the sin of loving her than live a righteous life, without her love.  Hot tears slid down her face at the memory leaving wet trails in the dusty floor as they fell.

Yeshua.  Throughout the night, she heard the elders who were awake talking, most of it unintelligible, frantic whispering.  But that name kept presenting itself in their discussions.  "Who is this Yeshua?" she wondered.  "No matter," she eventually decided. "Dawn is approaching and my fate will be sealed soon enough."  As the men were selectively following the law, she wondered if she would even be given the requisite trial before they executed her for her sin....

The story of the woman caught in adultery has been on my mind a lot in recent months.  As illustrated above, I've imagined many different scenarios that could be the back-story to what we read in John 7:53-8:11.  

In addition, I've done quite a bit of reading regarding the story's authenticity, as my Bible has a disclaimer above this passage: [The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]  

I believe to my core that this passage is authentic because it rings true with Jesus' reactions to the Samaritan woman at the well and that of the sinful woman's washing of his feet with her hair, tears and perfume.  It is a story of love and mercy, which is what Jesus is all about, and has been a go-to passage for me throughout my faith journey because it resonates with me so loudly....