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This image was taken this spring at the University of Oregon in Eugene, a piece north of Roseburg where the shooting at Umpqua Community College took place this morning. I felt it represented the emptiness that many souls in Oregon may feel tonight, and the ordinariness of a space in a college campus that can change from peaceful to terrifying in an instant.
My daughter is now in college in Washington State, and even a state away, this kind of tragedy is too close to home. Having lived in Colorado during the Columbine shooting, when Kelsea was very small, I found that too hit close to home as well, simply because I had a child who was just starting school. Letting your child go to a place that is supposed to be safe, and then realizing that there is no such thing anymore, elicits a level of deep, maternal, instinctive, protective fear. I won’t get started on the dynamics I have had with my daughter of wanting to protect her, because that’s a very long story, and that’s an area in which she has always insisted on making her own decisions. I know exactly what her decision would be in an incident like today’s. She would be the one running in to stop things, not the one running out to safety. And that’s a fact I have to live with, that she would give her own life to save another person’s.
As a residual from Columbine, and listening to her talk about some of the attitudes at her high school, I was always a bit angsty about a school shooting there, but I thought that feeling would pass when she went to college. Apparently, I was wrong. I know though, that worrying does no good, and helps no one. I have no control over the actions of others. I can only put a white light around my daughter 1399.9 miles away every day and every night and hope it makes a difference.
Tonight, I say prayers for and send white light to those parents, students, and friends whose lives changed forever today. And for my friends in the Bahamas and North Carolina, to keep them safe from the ravages of Hurricane Joaquin.
Quote of the day: “She was asleep in her freshly made bed. I can’t explain how relieved I felt for this simple mercy. She was here and safe on clean sheets.” — Laura Anderson Kurk
The hope that a new doctor will help my pinched nerve
Seeing things before they’re gone
Working towards our future
Kelsea left for college early on Saturday morning. In my characteristic parenting style, when she and ex-Pat came to pick me up, I gave her what I thought was Immodium to calm her nervous stomach. It turned out to be a sleeping pill. Oops. But her stomach did calm down, and she was relaxed for the flight, and she now has another story about what her Mother did to her. Let’s see, there’s the finger guillotine incident, the asparagus incident, the Icy Hot incident, the smoke detector incident, the birds at the zoo incident, the numerous incidents at Camp Lejeune…I could go on and on. At least she will have some classic tales to tell her children, and she knows what NOT to do.
It is hard to watch your only child leave for college, a strange feeling, buying a one-way plane ticket and sending her off on her own. I know she’ll make her own mistakes, experiments, and have her own heartbreaks. I know she’s smart and level-headed, wiser than her years, and ready. That’s the thing. We spend our years with our children nurturing them, helping them discover themselves and their limits, and teaching them how to be independent. As my friend Beth put it, giving them their wings. That doesn’t make it any less heart-tugging to watch them fly away. I miss her. She misses me, which is nice to hear. We’ve got Skype set up so we can see each other’s faces, and I can see her in her now-natural habitat. Classes start on Thursday, and she gets to go throw with some Ultimate players that day as well. She’s talked to the fire department about starting training. She’s got it more together than I did at her age, and I’m so immensely proud of her. I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow and evolve. We are all beautiful works in progress.
Quote of the day: “Sometimes love means letting go when you want to hold on tighter.” — Melissa Marr
The last day of summer (a bittersweet gratitude)
My little workhorse of an air conditioner
All pink and blue, unlike our swirling yet unfulfilled storm clouds here in Lafayette this afternoon. And speaking of babies – or those who are no longer babies – my darling daughter goes off to college orientation tomorrow. Then she comes back, which is good, but then she will go away again. I guess that is the way of it. As today’s quote says, we all leave a bit of ourselves behind when we leave a place. I have left much of myself at Topsail. My darling daughter will leave much of herself here. But we both have so much more to see and do and give, and an endless amount of ourselves to leave behind in the places we will love.
Quote of the day: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier
Making it through a tough day
Sharing Kelsea’s excitement about college housing
Our two new wooden parrots
You might have to look closely to grok this image. My words today feel like an interesting side dish to the picture.
When I was walking back from lunch with MKL today, a young man catcalled at me out of a car window. Now mind, I have just turned 53 years old, and I was not dressed provocatively. I found myself with a quick succession of thoughts that went something like this:
“Wow, that’s flattering. And at my age. Wait, no that’s not flattering at all – that’s rude. Where is my feminist side? Don’t parents ever talk to their sons about not yelling at women on the street [mind flashes to recent videos of a woman walking through New York with someone recording men’s responses to her and the video of reverse behavior with men facing hootsand catcalls from women]? Don’t most parents teach their sons to respect women? I was just totally objectified, and yet it doesn’t bother me. Why not? Because that young man did nothing to define me or who I am or how I feel about myself.”
Hmmm. Strange reflections.
Quote of the day: “It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” — Warsan Shire
The small herd of black yak we saw driving up to Steamboat
That my truck has four wheel-drive so I can get through my own alley that the utility company has turned into a mud pit
That Jess at Half-Girl Half-Teacup has raised my consciousness – a young woman wise beyond her years
That Mr. Man is acting a bit more like himself
That MKL loves me
Kelsea and I had a lovely weekend together in Steamboat Springs – one of our traditional mother-daughter trips, consisting of too-early morning risings for the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, breakfast, walks, rodeo, naps, explorations, and bad late-night television. We talked and talked. And I got a little weepy on my way home, as it will be hard for me when she goes to college. Rightly or wrongly, she’s one of my dearest friends as well as my daughter. I will miss her.
Quote of the day: “Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.” — Donald Miller
How much I laugh with my daughter
Flocks of seagulls in strange places
Social and philosophical discussions
You are perhaps wondering why you are reading a blog with a picture of a parking lot. There are two reasons tonight. The first is because I believe in seeing beauty in everything – even the light cast in the darkness of a parking lot, catching the glint of a stream of still puddles. The second is because parking has been a significant issue in the life of my darling daughter throughout her last two years of high school, since she’s been driving. Her school offers rather elitist parking alternatives. Either pay to park in the senior lot (but only if you’re a senior) or park along the 1.5 mile stretch of road alongside the school grounds, which are situated in the middle of a nice neighborhood. She’s a bit of a socialist (like me) and believes it’s wrong to have to pay to park in the lot of a school that you’re attending, and particularly unfair since not everyone has the financial means to do so. Which leaves her with free on-street parking. Needless to say, this free parking is only parallel parking (which even at my age is a nearly impossible challenge) and spots anywhere near the school fill up incredibly early. So for the past two years, I have received texts in the morning that say things like “I had to park in Nebraska and it will take me three hours to walk to class. Do I have to go to school today?” or “Everyone is stupid.” or “I. Can’t. Even.”
This image is not of that parking area. This image is of a spacious parking area that represents freedom and possibilities and how light can shine from the darkness, and that there are places where parking is not a struggle. In other words, today was my darling daughter’s last day of high school, and she will never again have to endure the frustration of parking along Greenbriar Boulevard. And she is to me a shining light that will brighten the future for more people than she will ever know.
Quote of the day: “My turn shall also come:
I sense the spreading of a wing.” — Osip Mandelstam
Dinner with Kelsea
That no one was hurt when a car hit my bus this morning
How much Mary Roach’s books make me laugh
Chats with Christine
That my Texas friends in Runaway Bay survived the tornado with minimal damage
Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.
When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.
As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was
There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”
I believe that.
I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.
I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.
There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”
I believe that too.
So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.
And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.
I’ll find my light again. I promise.
The mantra of my tribe is that Depression Lies. You may recall a post a few weeks ago about a young woman who committed suicide, a friend of my daughter. I have thought of her often, and of the culture in which our teenagers grow to adulthood (as if any of us every REALLY become adults – I still maintain that we’re all just playing at being grown-ups, and some of us are just better at it than others.) I would never blame a parent for a child’s suicide. I have nothing but the utmost, heartfelt compassion for what they must feel. Since I have personally contemplated suicide and self-harming behaviors since I was young, I feel I want to share my perspective on it now as the parent of a teenager.
It’s very difficult to judge your own capabilities as the parent of a teenager. You think you are encouraging your child to work harder, to achieve more in school, and somehow she interprets that message as “I am a disappointment to my parents,” even when you are conscious of telling your teenager how proud you are of her. And if a teenager is suffering from depression, that sense of being a disappointment becomes not just overwhelming, but seemingly unconquerable. Sharing those same feelings with their parents just makes teenagers think that they are even more of a failure, that their parents won’t believe them, or won’t understand, and their world starts to spiral out of control, through behaviors such as excessive drinking, cutting, or drugs, and sometimes with unthinkably horrible consequences – such as choosing to end their own lives.
I have consciously tried to not push my daughter too hard in school, and she has been an excellent student since kindergarten. And yet, in her eyes, I am constantly nagging her about her homework and her grades, despite the fact that she has proven to me that she’s got this – she’s proven it by her grades. These difficult few months, combined with the fact that she’s taking much harder courses in her senior year, two of her grades aren’t aligned with what her grades usually are.
One very cold night, as I was waiting for a ride at a bus stop, we talked about it on the phone, both of us in tears. I realized what she needed to hear – and what I told her – was that SHE was not the sum of her performance in school. That she is an amazing, intelligent, compassionate, talented, beautifully unique human being, and that’s what matters. Not – at this stage of the game, as she is trying to find her future – how well she did on a Calculus test. I told her I didn’t care about her grades anymore. And I meant it. It seemed to take some of the pressure off, and I am truthfully telling her now that I am proud of her when she is trying her best, and proud of her no matter what. I remember what it was like at her age, struggling with workloads, priorities, time management, work, socializing, and just trying to figure out my future. Remembering that is great help when your teenager is in the same place.
I have not chosen the “friend, not parent” role, though we are friends. I tell her when I need to say “mom stuff”, like having a conversation about the availability of drugs when she goes to college, and the dangers of drugs now versus what was out there when I was her age. I know she’s done things that I don’t want to know about, even though I thought she was telling me everything. She wasn’t. That happens when teenagers are trying to find their path to independence. We, as parents with seemingly open relationships with our children, need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that this will happen, and short of locking your teenager in her room for four years, the only thing you can do is be supportive, vigilant, protect your child-woman as best you can, arm them with as much information as you can, and hope that, if they do not feel they can share with you, that they can find someone trustworthy to share their feelings and confusion with.
My daughter was fortunate enough to have a counselor at school who, while she often gave her the same advice I did, was not me. She is a stronger and wiser soul for having had that counselor at her disposal, and having made that close connection. I was sad to see politics make her counselor leave the school just as so many students were recovering from their friend’s suicide. But that is the way of the world, and at this age, there is no sense in sheltering our soon-to-be-adults from it.
I’m probably rambling a little. I’m trying to help with my words. I’m hoping some parent will see themselves in my words, and think about what they are pushing their child to do, how they are pushing, why they are pushing, and have an awareness of how their child might be perceiving what the parent thinks of as gentle pushing. Let’s try to see our teenagers as more than just students or ultimate players, but who they are, which is so much more. We can offer guidance, but not make the horse drink. We can offer to listen, but cannot expect to be told the whole truth. We can be aware of signs of depression, but must understand that we may not see it.
These are the people we love more than anything else in the world. And as my mother always said, we are all doing the best we can with what we have at the time – both us as parents, and them as teenagers. Let’s just hope it’s enough to keep our children here in this world, instead of thinking that leaving it is the best or only choice they have.
Kelsea and I are on our annual mother-daughter Labor Day trip. She’s now able to cross another state off her list – Utah. I’ve been here before but never spent a night, so I guess now it can really count.
Our first impressions of Utah:
It’s dark. Really, really dark. Of course, it is night.
Right after the “Welcome to Utah” sign, was a sign for the “Trail Through Time”. If it hadn’t been so dark, we would have taken it. And it made me think of Dr. Who.
Shortly after that sign was a sign that said “Eagles on Highway”. What?! No!
Followed thereafter by towns with such intriguing names as Cisco and Yellowcat. None of which offered any services. And were completely dark.
Utah has very nice, smooth roads. Truck kept zipping up to 85 all by itself.
The shift in energy when we passed from Colorado to Utah was tangible. Not unpleasant, just different. Perhaps I will be able to put it into words after a bit more time here.
We know we were driving through someplace magnificent, but that darn darkness prevented us from seeing what it was. It reminded me of when MKL and I went to Monument Valley – when we arrived at night, we had no inkling of what beauty we were missing.
In the course of our seven hour drive from home, we avoided running over a coffeemaker and a pair of gym socks, and did not see any chupacabras. I have been up for almost 40 hours now, and so it’s time for me to go to bed. Photos tomorrow.
My darling daughter starts her senior year in high school tomorrow. It’s a strange thing. I remember being her age so vividly, and now I am seeing it from my Mother’s perspective. Athough Kelsea is different than I was at 17. It is so hard to comprehend her leaving home in a year. Perhaps for me, since she has not been with me full-time since I left ex-Pat’s house, and since I have always worked so much, and therefore seen less of her than your average mom, it will be a little easier. But the closer we get to the day she leaves, the more that feels like an untruth. I am so grateful that I did not miss these last years with her – yes, that was an option when I was under the spell of deceit in my previous relationship. I would not trade where I am now in my life with her – and with MKL – for anything. Not for all the islands in the world.
As she looks to the West for her future, I see her future through the strands of my own memories. New friends, first loves, that sense of freedom and power that comes from being truly on your own for the first time. Philosophy discussions. Term papers. Dorm food. Calling Mom for instructions on laundry and cooking. Walking to class on cold wet mornings. Learning a new city. Finding your way.
And I see her past. Standing at the sliding glass doors with Tug, bobbing up and down as her Daddy came home. Feeding her in the bar sink at the beach house. Her wearing her little pumpkin suit on her first Halloween. Coaching her on her first word. Playing restaurant. Teaching her to ride a bike. White blonde hair in summer. Finger painting. Blowing bubbles. Bathtimes. Reading all the Harry Potter books together. Mother-Daughter trips. Cuddling in thunderstorms. Jumping waves. Hugging next to horizons of sunflowers and darkly phosphorescent seas.
A long time ago, there was a country song by Suzy Bogguss about a girl going off to college and how her mother felt. Even before I had a child, that song made me cry. When the time comes to pack up my girl and set her free for parts distant, I suspect I’ll be playing that song a lot. (And you may see a few more sentimental posts on this blog.)
I have always said that there is an invisible silken strand that connects a mother’s heart with her child’s – my heart with her heart. She spoke that back to me a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and moved that she had heard me say it, had remembered it, and felt it too. The first time I experienced the strength of the strand was when ex-Pat took her to a family reunion. She was five years old. I had to stay behind to work. I felt so strange the whole time they were gone. She and I missed each other, and the strand stretched all the way from her heart in California to mine in Colorado. Stretched fine and thin, but as strong as ever. Perhaps even stronger for the distance.
I will treasure the days until she leaves, rejoice with her when it’s time for her to go, and cherish the strength of the strand.
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
Quote of the day: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” — Ayn Rand
That I was glowing today
Always carrying a book with me