Ever since she unwrapped her very own Hello Kitty umbrella from Nana and Papa, she's been asking me about the forecast. "It might rain tomorrow, right? Well, can you just check your phone again, just in case?"
This morning, she insisted on riding the bus. She insisted on bringing her umbrella. Her brother wasn't ready when the bus came, so I drove him, arriving at the same time as the bus. I watched from several yards away as my little girl stepped off the bus, not a drop of rain in the sky. I watched her struggle to open up her umbrella. When she finally, proudly unfurled her newest accessory, you couldn't miss her wide smile from a mile away.
I saw her strut toward the school doors, umbrella twirling. I was too far away to see for sure; but it seemed as if when she passed the police officer--the man in blue who's been greeting the children at the front entrance since Monday--it seemed like he tipped his hat to the little girl with the wide smile and the pink umbrella.
I was grateful to see him there, comforted even. Whether it does anything to deter the danger, I don't know. We still control so very little of our days and of what might fall from the sky.
But sometimes, it feels good to take cover, even when the rain isn't falling.
Ever since she unwrapped her very own Hello Kitty umbrella from Nana and Papa, she's been asking me about the forecast. "It might rain tomorrow, right? Well, can you just check your phone again, just in case?"
She skips nearly everywhere she goes. This particular time it's to the fridge and back.
"See Mama, I'll show you. Here's my schedule. NO gym on Tuesdays. So see! I can wear my fancy shoes and fancy dress tomorrow for my birthday!"
Still skipping, now waving the yellow paper. It's only a few yards, a few seconds, but it's enough for me to choke back tears.
"C'mere, Darlin'. Give me a hug. I can't believe you're gonna be SIX!"
"Well, I can't believe you're gonna be 88!"
She waves her magic words, abracadabra, turning watery eyes into belly laughs.
"I'm not that old, silly goose!"
I hug her, probably too tightly. I read too much detail today, saw too many faces that looked far too much like hers. And I don't know whether I want to sob with grief because those children are gone or cry with gratitude because mine isn't.
So I do both.
Six years old is a delightful, beautiful, sound-out-chapter-books and skip everywhere age.
Six years old is believing in Santa, bossing the dog around and buttering your own toast (or at least making a valiant effort).
Six years old is knowing exactly which tights you want to wear, but maybe still needing just a little help to put them on.
Six years old is hands cupped over mouth in excitement, hands on hips in defiance, hands laced in mama's when the path feels momentarily too big to tread alone.
Six years old is where I find most of what's right with the world.
My little monkey is six.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey. This quote:
"To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can."I know, right? I don't care if you weren't a big Jane fan before. You pretty much have to love her now.
I'm going to share a quick little list of things I'm thankful for, because unique and original and totally not cliche are the top three ways to describe me. I know because they were the first three words I found in that whimsical word search activity going around on Facebook.
(Does anyone else have the urge to create and distribute a much meaner version of this little game? Like, throwing in a few insults and expletives just to keep it fair? Stuff like lazyarss or narcissist or puppyhater or whyaren'tyoureadingMiddlemarchyoushallowlittleloser? No? Yeah me neither. I don't even have to time to think up such silly ideas. I'm too busy reading Middlemarch.)
But back to the thankful list. (Please for the LOVE, back to the thankful list). No particular order and by no means exhaustive:
- for free classics, clean water, warm coats, and that mint M&Ms are back in season
- that the roller skating party is over, that my five year old had the time of her life at the aforementioned party, for her fierce independence that had her waving me off within minutes of standing up on skates
- for my sensitive little eight year old, for books that sweep us into story and sway even a tired old mom into reading just one more chapter long after lights should be out, for his self awareness and sense of humor, for our 20 minute chats while we circle eight times around the track
- for friends who bring me back to who I said I wanted to be, to what I said I believed, for those who walk (and sometimes run) with me through the mess, who make me laugh so hard I can barely remember why I wanted to cry
So what are you thankful for today? Open the floodgates, my friends.
Every day the darkness creeps in earlier and earlier. And no matter how fervently I believe in a sun still out there shining--somewhere and surely bright--because I see so much less of it, well, it makes me wonder. I want to see that beautiful brilliant sun with my own eyes, but I'm not in the right place to see it. After all, this is Ohio we're talking about. So I trust it's still out there. But 95% of the time, I don't feel as if it really is.
From Sara Miles in Take this Bread:
"In large ways and small, I wrestled with Christianity: its grand promises and its petty demands, its temptations and hypocrisies and promises, its ugly history and often insufferable adherents. Faith for me didn't provide a set of easy answers or certainties: It raised more questions than I was ever comfortable with......I think about God the way I think about the winter sun. There, always. And shining brilliant. It's just that sometimes I'm in the perfectly wrong place to see even a speck of it. So I trust, and wait for summer.
But this is my belief: that at the heart of Christianity is a power that continues to speak and transform us. As I found to my surprise and alarm, it could speak even to me: not in the sappy, Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity, or the blustering, blaming hellfire of the religious right. What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely; that upsets the established order and makes a joke of certainty. It proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new.....
Faith, for me, isn't an argument, a catechism, a philosophical "proof". It is instead a lens, a way of experiencing life, and a willingness to act."
When I think about this space, I see wet leaves sticking to a tractor, more rusty than red. I left it out in the rain, uncovered, unvarnished. If I'm not going to put it to use, I should at least cover it. But when I see it outside my window on my way to doing something else, I only sigh. I'll take care of it tomorrow, I think. And now it seems only an eyesore, something I should clear from the yard.
I began telling stories here before she was a year old, before he was potty trained, before big girl beds and little boy bikes, before I felt like something other than an overtired mother, before I remembered who I was.
I used to write my way to calm and connection. I found both here, tilling stubborn soil until it became ground from which I could grow. This weekend I spent the better part of the day with a local friend I first met through blogging. Our whole families were together for nearly six hours, and it felt like fifteen minutes. If this was the only fruit that grew from this space, it would've been enough.
But there was so much more.
I found mythic moments in the mundane.
I found ways to laugh and smile when I wanted to cry and hide.
I found my voice.
I found I wasn't alone.
My children are eight and nearly six now. Unfathomable to me, but true. I started telling their stories five years ago, and out of their stories, found the courage to tell my own. But now....now it's not that I've run out of stories. It's just that so very few of them feel like they are mine to tell anymore. I feel an increasing urge to shield my children from overexposure.
As for my own stories, I'm struggling to find time to tell them, so engrossed I've become in living them. Maybe that's a sorry excuse on my part. Maybe I'm just not brave or diligent or dogged enough to keep tilling the soil. Maybe. But whether my reason is one of wisdom or cowardice, this seems like it might be the season to let the earth lie fallow.
I won't shut this place down, not yet anyway. I'll continue to write as I feel the urge, when I find the time. I just came here today because, well, because I felt like I ought to explain why there's a rusty old tractor in the yard.
Just writing today, with Heather.
Even though the last time I checked this was supposed to be a blog about the children, it seems I've allowed myself some editorial license and made it all about me, me, me and also me. A surefire way to discourage readership, no doubt. In the meantime, the kids have been saying and doing all sorts of cute and memorable things, but I'm going to save those stories for another time because I have some
life-altering riveting , (what, not even mildly interesting?) news to report.
I confessed last week to being a sand bagger, particularly when it comes to running. It goes something like this:
1) Set easy, achievable goals.
2) Achieve them, easily.
3) Feel proud of yourself for roughly 24 hours.
4) Celebrate that night with guacamole and margaritas.
5) Repeat cycle.
For some reason (cough--Salty--cough), I decided to break this perfectly enjoyable cycle and start a new one. It goes something like this.
1) Set difficult, seemingly impossible goals.
2) Work your tail off only to miss the goal by a small enough margin that you start to believe it IS achievable.
3) Feel permanently more proud of yourself for digging deep and failing than you ever have for sailing into easy success.
4) Immediately begin scheming about the next opportunity to meet aforementioned stretch goal.
5) Celebrate that night with guacamole and margaritas. (Because clearly, there are some parts of the cycle that don't need fixing.)
Coming off my spring half marathon, I decided my next goal was to shave two minutes from my time to come in around 1:45. My stretch goal was to run a pace under 8:00 minutes per mile (roughly 1:44:30).
But then I met Salty.
And we started running together.
And she started giving me advice.
And I started listening.
And it was all uphill from there, folks...
So when I toed the line in my fall half marathon yesterday, I was shooting for a sub-1:40 and a 7:38 pace. (What the whah? Four years ago I was patting myself on the back for finishing a 5k under a 10 minute mile pace. So yeah, the question who the freak do I think I am comes to mind.)
I'll cut to the chase (which I probably should've done five paragraphs ago). I gave it everything I had in the half marathon yesterday, and missed my stretch goal by 2 minutes. Official time was 1:42:02, a 7:48 minute mile pace. But with the race in its first year and a relatively small turnout, that time turned out to be enough to win my age group and place 6th for women overall. I'll take it!
Several times over the course of those 13.1 miles, I desperately wanted to back off the aggressive pace. The course had several hills--the sort of hills that when people ask "is this the hill you want to die on?", you pipe back a resounding "YES!". There was also the matter of the wind, the kind of wind that makes Mary Poppins curse and severely complicates forward motion.
The last mile consisted of a long, low-grade incline against 20+ mph gusts. My shoes turned into bricks and I felt fairly certain that paying money to put myself through this torture was one of the most ridiculous and insane things I'd ever done.
But you know what else is insane? Running a half marathon at a faster pace than I could run just ONE mile at HALF my age. So yeah. I think I can make peace with being crazy.
I'm going to race a half marathon in a little over a week. Not run it--race it. I've set an "A goal" that scares the shitake out of me, and while it's nowhere in the vicinity of a local elite time, it requires me to step up into "an elite version of myself" (as a fellow runner so eloquently put it).
I'm scared. Which is weird and makes me feel ridiculous. Because it's just a road race. Nothing's on the line. The outcome doesn't matter in any way, shape or form. I can't explain why I care as much as I do, why I'm holding this goal so tightly. The caring makes me feel foolish and vulnerable and like I should make a joke about how I run simply for the love of margaritas and cheese. But the truth is I (mostly) gave up alcohol and ice cream for the last two weeks in hopes that better nutrition would mean I could run faster. See what I mean? I simply can't explain why I care this much. (Giving up ice cream? How seriously messed up is that?)
I'm a lifelong sandbagger with a penchant for avoiding failure and life along with it. And this race, well, it's quite possibly the first time I've ever, of my own volition, stepped up to the start of anything knowing there is as much a chance of failure as success.
I feel like I'm flirting concurrently with disaster and breakthrough. I have only a vague idea of what my limits are, but know with certainty they'll be tested when I race next week. I know that if I do it right, it's going to hurt for the better part of 13.1 miles. I know that if I do it right, I'll be making the ugly face for so long that there's a high probability of it freezing that way. (Again, the sane 1% of my brain has to ask--why am I doing this!?)
I'm scared. About a race that has zero meaning in the overall scheme of things. And yes, it's weird and makes me feel ridiculous and melodramatic. But it also makes me feel alive and excited and maybe even slightly courageous.
So no more sandbagging. I'm saying it here so I don't wuss out. When the time comes to toe the line, I'm going all in.
There's a reason we've called her "Monkey" since before she was born. She began by swinging from my ribs, and every day since, she's squirmed, flipped, wriggled, leaped, launched, twisted and cartwheeled from one hour to the next.
She swings by her knees when she wants to feel free, and climbs me like a tree when she wants to be held.
When she was around three years old, she insisted she wasn't just Monkey anymore. She was Monkey Princess, and we were instructed to address her accordingly. She mimicked her brother's karate forms with a rendition of her own "Monkey Princess Form", in a tutu of course. I recall a good deal of kicking and arm flailing, with an occasional shout of "Mooonkeeeey Priiiinceeeessss!!!" and then a hurling of her tiara like a Chinese star halfway across the playroom. Being the wise parents we were, we took the tiara away until she was old enough to refrain from using it as a weapon.
At four, she gave us the okay to drop the princess label, so we're back to calling her plain old Monkey again.
I bemoan to my friends about her insistence on wearing a dress 360 days out of the year. I contrast my hatred of pink with her love of it, my tomboy leanings with her girly-girl obsessions. I joke that I have to take her over to Auntie 'Chelle's to get her hair done or her nails painted, because lord knows her mother doesn't have a clue. I exchange mortified looks with her father when she says she'd rather be a cheerleader than a soccer player.
Truth be told, she baffles, exasperates, and bewilders me.
Truth be told, she amazes me.
I love you, Monkey.
He's talking to the dog at the bottom of the stairs, whispering, "go, go, c'mon, go on up...", and I think he's saying "Jo, Jo...", so I get up and scowl at him from the top of the stairs for waking me up at 4:45 a.m. The dog is like, Oh great, I'm glad I have you both up. I've been meaning to talk to you about the lack of treats and the fact that I've destroyed all the tennis balls and I'll be needing some new ones pronto.
We figure out the little misunderstanding after I snipe at him about why he thought it was cool to wake me up an hour before the alarm. He laughs when he realizes it, and I hurrumph.
A half hour later, the boy calls from his room. Another nightmare, the kind moms are supposed to come running for. I fall back to sleep with my arm draped around his bony shoulders, and then I begin my own bad dream.
I'm on my way to work, wearing my pajamas. I'm driving my old Maxima, the one from the 80s with the talking lady who would tell me the door was ajar when it wasn't, the one that had a trick for doing just about everything, including keeping the door from becoming ajar. The kids are with me, and I can't remember where the daycare/school is. I keep getting lost in shady parts of a town which is 1/3 Pittsburgh, 1/3 Cleveland and 1/3 DC, with my kids in my unreliable car, and then I realize I have to go back home anyway because I can't drop them off or go to work in my pajamas. It's already 8:30 at this point, and I am starting to figure out that I haven't made childcare arrangements at any facility in Ohio.
I make it home to our temporary lodging (a condo of some sort), and my husband is rearranging all of our belongings into huge piles in the middle of the floor, looking for his pager. I confess to forgetting to register the kids for childcare and to riding all over town in my pajamas and to not being sure where my office even is. "No one said this was going to be easy," he tells me. And then, "Where did you put my pager?" I wish my subconscious would have been snarky enough to retort, "I just drove all over town in my pajamas looking for a school that doesn't exist, and you're counting on me to know where your pager is?"
I wake up to the sound of my alarm coming from the room where I was supposed to be sleeping. I hurry back to hit snooze and to hide under the covers for ten more minutes. Five minutes later, I feel my daughter's breath on my face. I open my eyes, and there she is, bright-eyed and a solid three years older than the little girl in my dream, "Mama," she whispers, "I think it's mornin' time."
Yes, darling. I believe you're right. Now, let's get dressed. I feel like I've been wearing these pajamas for days.
(Also? To wake up and sigh in big relief that I still have the life I have, that's a pretty good reason to look up and whisper thank you at least a dozen times before the bus comes.)
Just writing (again) with Heather.
I promised them we'd go to the Great Big Fair, the one for which all the kids in the county get a day off from school to show their animals and do 4-H-ish stuff, whatever that even means. I promised for two years in a row, "We'll go before we move! Don't worry! We'll go!" This was my last year to make good on the promise, so I did.
They loved it of course. (The fair is definitely not my favorite. But I love them, and so I loved it vicariously.) For the record, I actually did have a pretty good time on the ferris wheel.
Then a couple days later we all ran a race, and the boy won his age group, and I won mine. The best part was when we ran a "cool-down" mile together. Never mind that his race had been over for an hour and he didn't need to cool down. It was the togetherness thing that got me. Just me and my little boy, jogging along and debriefing about our races. I remember thinking how it won't be long before the roles are reversed, before he'll be the one slowing down for me. I remember thinking that this was a holy (albeit sweaty) moment, if ever there was one.
My daughter, the one who literally skipped to the finish line of her one mile race in 13 minutes and change, she clearly doesn't give a crap about winning or validation. She seems only to want to get her way and to boss me and the dog around. Oh, and to wear pink and be fancy. But out of the blue, she told me this afternoon, "I just love you, Mama, even though you aren't very fancy most of the time."
|Good enough, smart enough, but not quite fancy enough...|
Before my son was born, my dad jokingly asked my husband if we would promise to give him athletic grandchildren. My husband curled the left side of his lips upward and winked at me. "I don't know about athletic," he replied, "but they'll be competitive."
When we were 20 and 22, engaged to be married and determined to be grown-ups, we made a pact never to play Scrabble again. This, after I dramatically sent letters flying into all four corners of the dorm lounge. Because, dammit, he was cheating. Or maybe he was just pulling out all the stops and the Qs to make sure he beat me. Same diff.
I can be a bit...howshallwesay...intense. Or so I'm told by my cheating (but just in Scrabble!) husband. In years past, I've had plenty of acceptable outlets for this not particularly endearing quality, the foremost of which was my job as an evil HR executive. But for the past two years, while I've been loafing around as a stay-at-home mom, this success-driven, competitive, type-A personality is not so useful or applicable. Which--if I'm going to be honest--makes me feel like a bit of a loser.
I know, I know. Go ahead and lecture me about how meaningful and beautiful it is to mold the lives of young children by cutting the crust off their grilled cheese sandwiches while reminding them that showing love to each other is more important than being right about whether there such a thing as a "boy" ladybug. And I will nod my head in violent agreement. But that doesn't make this messed-up hard-wiring go away. I still want to accomplish Big Things, to get an A+ in every subject in the universe, and to be the All Time Champion (of Something) for Whom All Shall Continuously Applaud with Deep and Abiding Admiration.
So with this neurosis as a backdrop, I realize as my kids begin playing sports competitively that I either (a) need to cultivate an outlet of my own or (b) need to have a lobotomy. Because so help me, I will not be that mom who competes vicariously through her children--be it academically, socially, athletically, or facebookially. (Beauty pageants of course are an exception to this rule. Because my kids are clearly more gorgeous than anyone elses' kids, and who turns down an easy win?)
But seriously, you guys. I do need a healthy outlet for my annoying competitive self, something beyond Scrabble or whatever the cool kids play these days (Words with Friends?). And here's the thing I realized yesterday morning on my long run--I already have my outlet.
Over the past year, it seems running has become my thing, the one area in my life with measurable results, the place where comparing my performance to that of another doesn't automatically make me a jerk. Like, you know, just as an example, when I switch from an easy run to a speed workout as soon as the teen with the local high school lacrosse shirt hops on the treadmill next to me acting like he's tough shit. (And yes, little dude, I am old enough to be your mother and lookie there, I just lapped you and made it look easy.)
With running, I can race against the clock, against the random girl in the hot pink compression socks, even against the pregnant lady. And when the pregnant lady beats me by a significant margin? I can track her down and introduce myself. We can become running friends, run a race together, and she can beat me again. And when this sort of thing happens, it energizes me. Even though technically I'm still a loser, I feel like less of one because I'm competing, striving, testing my limits, and discovering a strength I didn't think I had. Hence, I have my outlet.
Yesterday my son had his first "U8 travel" soccer game. And by "travel", we just mean that the parents pay higher fees and the boys begin to move beyond the beehive model of play. I'll be honest -- I was worried about us both. As my husband promised my father, our son is competitive and intense. He hates to lose, and has been known to cry after every loss of any kind. And I believe we've covered his mother's similar tendencies ad naseum, so yes, I had some legitimate cause for concern.
But it turned out I didn't need to worry. I didn't make a fool of myself, unless you count the jumping up and tossing my umbrella backward and squealing like a lunatic about a goal that was scored only in my imagination. (I swear it looked like it went in!) The boys played hard, made some great passes and plenty of mistakes; and they lost. My son came toward me after the game as I folded up the chairs, smiling as wide as his little face allowed. He told me that wearing a "real uniform" and playing positions made him feel like he was a professional soccer player, and that he almost didn't care about losing because it was so much fun to play a real game. "Know what I mean, Mom?"
Yep, Buddy, I totally do.
Footnotes and Disclaimers:
1. Laura, I'm sorry I keep calling you "the pregnant lady." You are much more to me now than just the pregnant lady. Now you are the pregnant lady who repeatedly kicks my arss. :-)
2. Runner friends who were friends before we were runners, you need to know that it does not even occur to me to compete against you. My first impulse is only to cheer for you. Honest. I only see targets on the backs of the random people in the hot pink compression socks.
3. Non-running friends and those mercifully born without this irritating competitive gene who are now shaking your heads in that "what is wrong with her!" sort-of way, just forget I ever wrote this post, mkay? Because my competitiveness issues are nothing compared to my desperate need to be Liked By All People Everywhere at All Times.
Kindergarten is only a half day in our district, so there was no time to waste crying in the coffee. Instead, I rejoiced my way to the gym to do one mile repeats (the silence, it was golden). The rejoicing stopped right after I finished the mile warm-up and began running the second mile "on target pace", also known as the "watch out, blissfully-unaware-treadmill-neighbor, because I haven't ruled out puking" pace. Speed workouts are for lunatics. (That would be me.)
Last week at this time, we were still in Maine. It feels worlds away now, already sorted among the stories we'll soon tell about "last summer". The only remnants are the tiny pile of shells in the corner of the car trunk and the staples in my son's head. Yes, folks, the beach is not without its hazards. I told my seven year old there were easier ways to visit Daddy's old hospital, but he insisted on the dramatic way.
this fragile perfection can only last so long.
We have only so many moments of silent harmony, of loud joy, of health, of stepping forward without fear, before it is painted over with the hurdles and the brokenness and the arguing and the disappointment. I know I'm singing an Eeyore and Debbie Downer duet, which is not what you're supposed to sing when you just had a dreamy first day of school send-off with your two perfectly healthy children.
But screw what you're supposed to sing, because life isn't black and white, not enough to say "life is good" or "life is bad". Life is a mostly a canvas of good-mixed-with-bad gray; and these mythic moments, these milestones, these places of bone-deep contentment, these are the splatters of wild color. These are the hues for which you hold your breath, the colors for which you hold out hope.
But here's the rub. No sooner do the bright swirls appear on the canvas, then I am plotting how to keep them there, how to keep the silt and dust that permeates the air of my regular old life from rendering the colors dull. I know from experience these joyful colors will be dull by dinner time, when everyone is back to complaining about the zucchini.
I don't know what to do, how to live with this constant gray blurring, other than to gaze with gratitude at the colors as they come. And today, there was color. Last week in Maine, there was color. Splattered throughout this summer, there was color. So I pause and enjoy the color, come what gray.
I lifted the above title from my friend Sharone's contribution to the Olympic festivities, in which she set up a twitter account just to record the inane things the NBC commentators have to say during this 30th Olympiad. If you're on twitter and enjoy mockery, (Isn't that what twitter is for? Mock or be mocked, people!), then you should totally follow her.
My five year old daughter seems to have equally profound and insightful things to say about the Olympics as the talented NBC commentators. For example:
Of the Chinese synchronized divers: "They look like boys, but those are just girls with short hair. You can tell by their bathing suits."
Of the diving platform, "Really? You call that a diving board?"
And finally, "'Mommy, I'm calling for Chinese because Ohio's not in this and I like their backward spinny one."
My son has a bit to say about the Olympics as well. His biggest concern right now is deciding which sports to compete in. It's a toss up between soccer, kayaking, water polo, "sword fighting", and track and field. "But I think probably track, because I could be in contention for the most gold medals." That's what I like best about seven year olds. They have such realistic expectations of life.
He also speculated about what life might be like if the Olympics included food-related competition. "If there was a chocolate eating competition in the Olympics, you could totally win that, Mom." Thanks kid.
But my aspiring Olympians have a ways to go before they burst onto the international scene. I took pity on them after they complained for days on end about how boring my gym's childcare is, and decided to attempt an easy six miler on a flat bike path nearby. The plan was for them to ride while I ran. We met up with a friend (you know, the one I can only keep up with when she's 22 weeks pregnant and pushing a double stroller), and off we went. Pretty sure the kids took three water breaks within the first mile. Overall, they did as well as I expected them to do. We had to slow down the pace, but it wasn't a total disaster. We hit the playground afterward and doled out snacks, and I patted myself on the back for being the nicest mom ever.
So imagine my surprise when later that day the boy nearly burst into tears at the mention of doing a few errands before we took his sister to gymnastics. "Are you kidding me?" he whined. "First you make us go six miles in the blazing sun, and then we have to do ERRANDS?"
Okay then, buddy. Back to the gym childcare it is. (He quickly recanted the complaint but did not escape the prolonged lecture from his mean old mother on gratitude and respect.)
Anyway. At this point, unless they add whining and complaining and fighting about inane things to the Olympic line-up, I'm afraid the only gold this family will be bringing home is the Jose Cuervo variety.
I can't seem to say anything here anymore. Stories crouch on the tip of my tongue, and I swallow them down without sharing. Instead, I scribble shorthand in a journal. I run slow and long while words come together fast and clear and fade as quickly. I am forgetting so much, the cute things they said, the lessons I learned, the poignant holy moments. But it's no longer the worst thing in the world to remember only the essence and not the detail.
Because I'm not on auto-pilot. I'm here, blinking it in. I see the way life unfolds in front of me, sometimes ugly, sometimes gorgeous, always a gift, and I don't have to name it to make it real. I'm here, sometimes full of angst and sometimes of wonder, but full. Always full.
I feel like a traitor to myself when I say I'm tired of words, the way they divide, the way they annoy, the way they add up to so little. Me--the once wannabe writer and the current "words of affirmation" junkie--tired of words? Maybe it's just my own words I'm tired of. As it is, I talk too much and listen too little.
Sometimes I'm foolish enough to think that life isn't quite as disappointing for everyone else, that their existence is as sing-songy and hilarious and amazing and exciting and completely devoid of drudgery as their Facebook updates suggest. I start to think I'm the only one who gets so annoyed with my children (so completely annoyed) that I break my own rule about loud voices in the car by screaming (SCREAMING!!!) at them to be "QUIIIIIET!!!". I start to I think I'm the only one who leaves the stupid Slip-n-Slide outside to dry in my white trash yard and forgets about until it rains a whole stinking week later, and then gets sprayed in the freakin' face as I race to fold it up. Ok, I probably am the only one who does that. But you know what I mean. Life is always harder than it looks on the screen.
I was offered a consulting(ish) job this past week, and while I knew at once the timing wouldn't work, I let myself dream for a moment what it would be like to have a 9-5 break from the children again. Yes, while everyone else is clicking "Like if you will love your children forever!", I am daydreaming about going back to work so I can get away from them.
I want to get lost in the woods, to walk and run and walk and run for hundreds of miles until I have a unibrow and no idea how truly awful I smell. I want to go off the grid, to find that quiet place where the most solid and vulnerable pieces of me can emerge without threat of being smashed to bits.
Sarah Bessey wrote a piece I just loved about what's saving her right now. At her invitation, I started to write a post about that too, and this is what came out. I guess confession is what's saving me right now. Admission. That I'm screwed up and that my dining room table holds 500 pounds worth of medical journals (that are all online but still somehow cannot be thrown away until the one person in the family who has ZERO time can go through them). Admission. That I'm insecure and impatient and that I only clean the house when my nieces come to babysit because they are used to my sister's standard of cleanliness and I'm afraid of being judged by a 14 and 15 year old.
Really, I'm not making this up. Confession is what's saving me. And maybe it will save you too, to know you aren't alone in the mess and the disappointment, to know that we all need saving.
Last week, upon starting her daily "besponsibilities", my daughter told me, "Just you wait, Mama, my room is gonna be as clean as a weasel!"
"You mean clean as a whistle?"
"No, as a WEASEL."
Not exactly the standard for cleanliness, but okay then.
Yesterday, the kids were doing that thing again where they unknowingly impersonate Garth and Kat, and my seven year old asked me to take a video of them singing. (He clearly doesn't understand the future implications of putting any such video into the hands of his parents. Thinking ahead to the teenage years, the words blackmail and extortion come to mind.)
Anyway, we were in the car, so I said no to the video. His response was, "Well, then, we're going to keep singing crazy things for hours and hours until you take a video."
"Buddy, are you threatening me?"
"Oh yeah, and we'll do it, too." (Insert maniacal laugh, followed by the breakout hit "I'm Melting Like a Popsicle--and a Snowman...and a Snowman").
Big brother says to little sister, regarding her progress in Spanish: "You're doing okay, but you really need to work on your pro-uh-ni-ation." (He meant pronunciation.) Oh, lo irónico!
The people who say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery should've clarified exactly what's being imitated and by whom. My son has picked up on his parents' free-flowing use of sarcasm (What? Sarcasm is one of the love languages, right?), and is now throwing it regularly back in my face. He's even got the placement, intonation and timing down when he tosses in "Reeeeally?" and "Seriously..." Yes, this taste of my own medicine is quite delightful, thankyouverymuch.
I've been dragging the kids to the gym this summer a bit too frequently for their liking, and they are officially bored out of their minds in the childcare area. Yesterday, when I dropped them off, the boy asked how many miles I was doing, did a bit of math in his head, and then called as I left, "You better run a PR and get right back here to pick us up!"
Speaking of PRs, my friend Laura ran a pregnant PR on Sunday to win our age group. If you don't have one of those people in your life that pushes you to do whatever it is you do better, then you need to get one. Because nothing makes you want to run faster than getting beat (twice) by a pregnant lady. We've run a few long runs together (since her normal racing teammates are temporarily too fast for her), and I'm learning a ton from her as I try to ride her coat tails to hard-core-ness.
I don't write much here about running (who I am kidding? I don't write much here about anything.), so if you want to follow along with the running stuff, look for me on Daily Mile. It's a fun way to keep track of your progress and to connect with other runners, joggers, or slightly-faster-than-a-crawl-ers, whatever happens to be your happy pace.
My son has been looking for ways to earn money so he can build a theme park in the back yard. He just came up with a brilliant twist on the lemonade stand. He's going to go back to Nana's house, get her to teach him to sew, make like ten dress shirts--all different sizes--and sell them for $60 each. He figures he can get Nana to work for free, (and how much can the fabric and buttons really cost?), and he can pocket about $50 a shirt. That is, if he can keep distribution costs to a minimum with the road-side marketing approach. The wheels are always turning in his crazy brain. Nana, you've been forewarned.
|The Entrepreneur and his Chief Production Officer|
Emily posted this quote on Facebook, and if I hadn't already ruled out the possibility of divine revelation through Facebook, I'd have read it like a message from God.
I used to associate "living in the moment" with a brand of hedonistic irresponsibility. I mean, all you have to do is change one little preposition (living for the moment), and you sound more like Pitbull than Goethe, ascribing to that foolish mantra of "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die".
I've flown a responsible holding pattern for most of my life. Save for tomorrow? Yes, faithfully. Plan for what's next? Of course, diligently. Work hard, wait patiently, and step carefully. I equated doing the practical, responsible, feasible thing with doing the right thing.
But I was wrong about what it meant to do the right thing.
Today, the right thing looks very different than it used to.
It looks like traveling 3,000 miles for two short days just to witness her happy tears firsthand.
It looks like driving too far, letting them stay up too late, leaving them in the care of those who reportedly fed them ice cream for lunch.
It looks like taking chances, making introductions, running up hills, dancing like a crazy (sweaty) idiot.
The right thing looks like forgetting about the weeds and the dust and the disaster zone that is two bedrooms and hallway turned "fort",
like riding bikes instead of cleaning rooms.
It looks like staying up too late to finish a book and getting up too early to start a run.
Nothing is worth more than this day. So I pull out of the responsible holding pattern, lower the landing gear, and touch down into the joy of this day. Who knew it would feel so freeing to do the right thing?
It's just that this was the same slivered yellow moon I watched rise half my life ago over a small lake in the Sierras. It was the last week of camp, and we staffers had just come from a party celebrating the end of the season. None of us seemed ready to say this was the end, so we built a fire and spread sleeping bags over the small stretch of the beach. We walked right into the cliche of scary stories and hysterical laughter over inside jokes that weren't nearly as funny and unforgettable as they felt that night. Whenever there was a lull in the crackling of the fire, I heard the lapping of the lake against the shore.
We took turns talking until it was too late, and one by one everyone nodded off.
Except for me.
I couldn't sleep that night, and I have no idea why not, but I've never been so glad for insomnia. I watched the moon and its rippling reflection rise from the horizon of the lake to the top of the sky, and then I watched it fade into the sunrise before I fell asleep for a few hours underneath the morning light.
I woke up with a stiff ache in my neck and a dull ache for which I had no name. Now I know to call it nostalgia, this wishing to float back into previous scenes, all the while hurtling forward instead.
I didn't want to leave camp and its chronic scent of bug spray. I didn't want to stop breathing the smokiest fresh air you'll ever taste. I didn't want to let go of the waking up with dew on my hair, the lapping sound of the lake, this slivered yellow moon.
I drove home from the grocery store, scanning the sky to glimpse the moon through the windshield; and when it came into view again, I started to cry. I felt pathetic, like here I go again into this weak and skinless melancholy, hung up on a moon that takes me back two decades. But if I'm going to err (and I very obviously am), I suppose I'd rather it be from feeling too much and not too little.
The truth is, I am happy now, as happy as I've ever been. But that doesn't stop me from wishing I could skip back nineteen summers and spend another night under the spell of that slivered yellow moon.
I've discovered a not-so-magical power this summer. If ever I want to wake up the children without saying a word, without coming within fifty feet of their rooms, all I need to do is open Blogger and start typing. Works every time.
This past week, my computer had a stroke and appears to be one blue screen and reboot away from its final death. Then the fridge started feeling under appreciated and decided to teach me a lesson in gratitude by taking a break from the cold-air-production part of its job. The timing was perfect, especially since I'd just returned from the grocery store. It also helped that it was 90 degrees and muggy and we have no central air.
As I hauled my weight in ice home from the store and set about salvaging what I could from the fridge, I began listing reasons I could be grateful. While I poured the ice cream down the drain (sob!), I reminded myself that I hadn't lost a drop of what's truly valuable. (Because the wine doesn't need refrigeration to keep from spoiling.) And I told myself what luck it was that I had eaten All The Cheese the day before. Who knew that would turn out to be such a good decision?
But seriously, as lame as it sounds, this pushed me. I wanted to melt down like the popsicles, and I wanted to take a baseball bat to the computer, and I wanted to pull a Forest Gump and just start running across the country (east, toward Maine, in case you're wondering).
Instead I did some deep breathing, some praying, some apologizing to the kids for snapping at them, some listing things large and small for which to be grateful. I didn't feel a thunderbolt of transformation or anything. It was more like a slow, stealthy mist where you're not exactly sure whether it's precipitating or you're just sweating. Somehow by the grace of God and the air-conditioned gym with the treadmill and the childcare, I stayed centered enough not to miss several holy moments with the children. The good and beautiful things are always there, sometimes just more cleverly hidden.
The fridge is finally working again. The computer is still on life support. (I'm waiting to pull the plug until after I harvest a few critical files). Somehow in the midst of the literal melt-down, we've avoided the figurative kind. Gratitude wins. And restocking the ice cream helps too.
I stopped at Ultra for the first time ever this morning to buy the one beauty product in my go-to lineup that you can't find at Target. It was a relatively painless experience, even with the two kids in tow.
If you'd been loitering in the parking lot just outside the store this morning, this is what you might have heard:
"Oh man, I can't believe you had the NERVE to go into that beauty store!" says the seven year old, with a half eaten PB&J hanging from his mouth.
I reply with an amused snicker and a question, "What's that s'posed to mean, Silly Goose?"
"I mean, I didn't think you're were that type of girl..."
I might have thrown my head back laughing. "That 'type of girl'?! What do you mean by that?"
"Well, just, I mean--I just didn't think you cared about beauty and that girly type of stuff."
And the most priceless part of all, little dude was certain he was giving his old mom a compliment. Because cool moms aren't the type of girl to buy fancy eyeliner. Cool moms climb trees and play along with imaginary plane rides.
In related news, there's a 747 in my hallway right now, complete with an emergency door. And while I managed to stay put for the incredibly long and winding route to Monkey Land, don't think for a second I wasn't eying the aforementioned emergency door for the entirety of the flight. Because, yeah, I'm that type of girl.
I have a great idea! Let's fight over a pencil! Yes, that sounds like exactly what we need, and so very fitting since there aren't already fifty gazillion sharpened and half used pencils spread strategically throughout the house in every last drawer, container and/or crevice.
And oooh, this one just came to me. How 'bout we whine REALLY LOUDLY about how our brother is making too much noise while we're trying to (not) eat our carrots? Or, even better, let the brother pretend not to hear the VERY LOUD WHINING and continue on with whatever he calls that mixture of ewok noises, jibberish and saliva-infested beat boxing.
And also, while we're on a roll, you two should really keep up that thing where you ask me every five minutes what we're going to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our entire lives. It's helpful particularly because even though I didn't know five minutes ago, the conditions in my brain change so rapidly that by the time you ask again, I might have a completely different answer and begin reciting a minute-by-minute schedule that covers the activities for all of eternity, to include of course an extensive amount of water parks, highly intensive and messy crafts, and unlimited slurpees.
I'm hoping that by allowing Mount Sarcasm to erupt here on the blog, it will be less likely to bubble over during my upcoming trip to the grocery store with the aforementioned children. Fingers crossed.
So, um, how many days until school starts again?
You guys know I'm kidding, right? And that I love my children fiercely and relentlessly? This 24/7 thing just does a number on my already questionable sanity, you know? So if you're even tempted right now to be judgy and tisk-tisky, I know exactly how you can jump in and show the righteous love of the Lord to this heathen ingrate mother. Two words. Say 'em with me: Baby. Sitting.
The most offensive thing happened this weekend when I came to pick my son up from class at church. He'd been shuffled along with the other babies his age to the third grade class, and they told him that starting this very week, he was a third grader. That's right. A third grader. Can you believe the gall? Telling outrageous lies like that to my innocent seven year old? Time is going freakin' fast enough as it is, so do me a favor, dear church lady, and give us emotionally unbalanced mothers a few extra months before you turn our infants into college graduates, mkay?
Today is field day for my second grader, and there is much ado about everything as we prepare for a lovely day of outdoor chaos. He just came downstairs with his special field day shirt on backwards, with the wording in the front. I tried to get him to fix it, but he was skeptical. I showed him how he had the tag in the front and reminded him that the tags are always supposed to be in the back. Still skeptical.
"They made these shirts in Florida, Mom, so they probably didn't know where the tags are supposed to go." My Virginian-born boy sounds more and more like a Yankee every day.
Now field day is over and we're home again, home again, lickety split. My master plan for the day called for a trip to the gym to squeeze in a run, but the childcare folks at the gym didn't get my memo about extending the hours just for me, so I was forced to run at home in the dank, smelly, spider-infested dungeon that is my basement.
I'm transitioning into a new training approach in which I up my mileage and slow down the pace. This might prove to be more fun than I previously imagined, as I discovered today the combination of a slower, more "conversational" pace and a solitary setting (except for the spiders) allow (just hypothetically speaking) for a significant amount of lip-synching, singing, and run-dancing. And it just so happens my water bottle doubles quite nicely as a microphone. I think the spiders were taken aback at first, but they warmed up to me after four miles or so. I'll have 'em singing backup for me by the end of the week.
We have a half day of school tomorrow, and then BAM: Summer! Does it feel like Friday to anyone else? No? Just me? Well, whatever. Have a great weekend either way.
And since it really is Tuesday, and not actually Friday, it's the day we all Just Write.
I'm cooked. Spent. Done. Toast. I got up at 5 a.m. to run 10 this morning. Then showered and shuffled everyone to church, then lunch, then the playground, then the pool, then dinner, then the park, all in an effort to make the day fun for the kids while giving Dad some time to catch up on work. The boy was so jacked up, exploring the outer edges of obnoxiousness as only a seven year old can do. They simply couldn't be quiet to save my sanity.
Sometimes it's just too much noise, shouting, bickering, whining. Too much turning everything into a soccer ball, too many shoes that need finding. It's wet towels and tangled hair and stubbed toes and time outs and talking back.
I wish I could breathe it all in without swallowing so much angst. The impatient words rise in my throat like an ugly belch. I let them rip and feel far more regret than relief.
I scribbled the above last night while I was sitting at the park at the end of the day. It's morning now, and in this light, I can look back on the same scenes and see beautiful things. I seem to have slept off the irritation. Calli sits at my feet, straining her ears to hear the geese. (She's always on high alert after breakfast.) The kids are in bed; the coffee's in hand.
With sleep comes perspective; with perspective, gratitude. Once again, gratitude becomes the balm, the antacid, the way to swallow the angst and sing.
I stretch out my hand, ask him to dance, the boy in the green button down shirt and khaki pants. He has on his "fancy shoes", the ones he asked me to buy so he could dress more like his daddy. I am half expecting him to decline again, to say he's too busy playing with his best buddy Max, or that he'd rather continue the search for wedding cake.
But he says yes, nods his buzzed head and flashes his crooked grin, his two front teeth no longer missing, but not quite halfway in. I scrunch down a bit, feeling too tall in my strappy wedge heels, and he stands as high as his 48 inches and fancy shoes will allow. We dance like mismatched old timers, dipping our joined hands dramatically. I spin him in, then out, and back we go to making exaggerated motions with our outstretched arms. His intermittent giggling probably has something to do with the silly dancing faces I keep making while I mouth the words to "I've Had the Time of my Life."
And I can't stop smiling. My inner commentary begins: This is what it feels like to be completely happy. You must remember this forever. You have to write about this so you remember it forever. Do you know how lucky you are? Do you know how perfect this is?
Yes. Of course I know. I know it from the top of my frizzy, rained-out red hair to the red painted tips of my toes. I feel myself floating up, looking down in that weird filmmaker/ narrator way where I see the whole scene in my head, the scene where I am dancing with my son and having the time of my life.
Dani, you never met my Grandma, your Nana's mama. You were still growing in my belly when we hugged her last in the shadeless Palm Desert heat. But really, it's not accurate to say we hugged Grandma. Rather, she hugged us. She could squeeze so much love into a single embrace. There wasn't anything frail about her.
She wasn't the sort of grandma who went to the salon each week to set her hair. She was the feisty sort, the one who never wore a skirt, not even to church. (But you'd love her anyway, Dani, I know you would.) I'll picture her forever in a mid-80s puffed-sleeved sweat suit, her black hair ever short in tight wiry curls. She wore freckled skin, just like you and me; and her eyes could out-twinkle Santa's.
She knew what it meant to love people exactly where they were, without demands. She didn't make them move an inch to meet her, no probationary period required. She lived with her arms wide open, reckless with compassion. I've only recently come to understand how much courage it takes to live the way she did--to give the benefit of the doubt so freely, to throw every chip in every time, to love "all in". But I doubt she would've called it courage. She would have tossed up her hands and shook her grinning head side to side and quipped, "I guess your grandma's just crazy that way!"
Speaking of crazy, I should tell you about the time she took my mom, my sister and me to Yosemite. I can't remember how old I was, maybe 10? Anyway, it was snowing up a storm that day, and there was talk of closing the park. But we were halfway from Fresno to the park entrance before we got the warning, and she wasn't the sort to turn back on account of a little precipitation. When the sign popped up requiring chains for further travel, Grandma simply put on the chains, and on we went. We made it into the park just before they closed the roads into the valley. I clutched the inside of the car door and held my breath in fear as we slid and skidded down that steep, switchback of a road. I can't imagine how she even saw the road in front of her with the snow so thick in the air.
We passed one car hanging off the side of a cliff, another wedged into the side of the mountain. When we finally (miraculously) reached the valley, we nearly fell out of the car in relief. We walked a few steps in the direction of Half Dome, stretched our arms wide, threw our heads back and looked at the sky in every direction, watched as Mother Nature sewed the thickest, most spotless quilt of snow a mountain range could wear. Never have I felt a stronger sense of awe and wonder than in that moment, on that day when Grandma and I stood in that silent valley and looked up.
For 88 years Grandma lived this way, undaunted by treacherous roads, unhindered by convention, always looking up. She died this morning, "born into glory", as we crazy Christians like to say. And I'll tell you, Dani, these are the days when I'm never so glad to believe in heaven. I picture Grandma there now--still in her 1985 jogging suit--laughing her belly laugh, hugging anyone who comes within three feet of her, out-twinkling the angels.
We were listening to Fiest on
the way to soccer practice (by
his request--because her voice reminds
him of a certain second grade
girl--and he swears it's "nothing
mushy"--but a mama knows a
first crush when she sees it).
And I asked whether he heard
the piano in the song, and
I said he could play like
that someday if he kept practicing.
He said yes, he heard it,
and he heard the cowbell too.
Then he made what was meant
to be a cowbell sound. And
I only stopped laughing about the
cowbell long enough to tell him
you can never have enough cowbell.
(The fact cowbell has been introduced
in music class is just one
more reason to love his teacher.)
Later on, I listened to her,
the girl who doesn't go to
"big school" yet, reciting her older
brother's solar system report in its entirety.
"Lo, one of Jupiter's four largest
moons, has active volcanoes on it.
Jupiter rotates much faster than earth.
A day on Jupiter only lasts
nine hours and fifty five minutes."
So if a cowbell rings on
Jupiter, does it make a sound?
I admit I don't always listen.
I zone, tune out to them
and into my own little world.
But today I was listening. And
I heard enough to keep me
smiling, to keep me singing, to
keep me sighing the thankful sighs.
Well, I managed to show up for four out of five in Momalom's 5 for 5 week. That's four more posts than I probably would have written otherwise. And it was kindof, sortof, okay alot of fun. So apparently this will not be the week I give up blogging.
Today I'm also linking up to Six Word Fridays, hence the attempt above to fit what I had to say into six word lines.
So rest easy, Fancy Poetry People.
The above is not, in fact,
an egregious butchering of your fine
art form. It is just me
babbling on in six word intervals.
What are you hearing these days? What sounds, words, songs make you sigh the thankful sighs?
He'd been growing his hair--straight up--for six months. (See Exhibit A)
It doesn't take much, not for my boy, not for me, to be reminded of summer in Maine. The trigger might be a buzz cut, an old picture, or a cool breeze carrying the faintest scent of saltwater. If you ask me, it's unforgettable. But we hold on to plenty of pictures, just in case.
My girl came home from school today with a praying mantis cocoon. I'm told they're good for the earth, eating the "yucky bugs" and all that, but they creep me out to no end. When her brother got off the bus, she greeted him with a bouquet of dandelions, grabbed his hand and ran with him to the shrub where she'd stashed the cocoon.
I heard her say, "When the baby p'aying mantis's are born-ded, they will grow and we can say hi to them EVERY day. So, will you help me think of girl names and boy names for them?"
"Sure," he said.
And then, "Hey Mom, what's for snack?"
I wish I could outrun the melancholy, but I can't seem to shake it, not even with a five mile tempo run. Sometimes I wish I could go back, just for a day or two, to being young and idealistic instead of old and jaded. I wish there was room somewhere in a mom-sized cocoon for me to grow into something new and useful and amazing, and just in time for summer.
Just Writing with Heather, and using my Words with Momalom's 5 for 5.
"There is one thing which gives radiance to everything. It is the idea of something around the corner."
-G. K. Chesterton
I scribbled it wide and diagonal across the entire college-ruled page, all caps, all exclamation.
It was 20 years ago, and "here" meant a little town not too far from where I live today. I didn't know then what hid around the corner, only that it would surely be better and much further west. In the twenty years following graduation, it seems only the end of the "I can't wait to..." line has changed.
I can't wait...
to get a "real" job.
to get married.
to have our own place.
for him to get into med school.
for him to get through med school.
for deployment to end.
to start a family.
to quit the "real" (but too stressful) job.
to have a second baby.
to get a bigger place, with a garage this time.
to get through residency.
to get through residency. (That's not a typo. He really did residency twice--on purpose. Because we're seven shades of crazy.)
I am very, very articulate when it comes to lecturing myself about being "all in and all there" in each stage life brings. I am very, very inept when it comes to actually doing it.
And what's scarier is when I read that old journal, the one from two decades past, once I get beyond the cringe-worthy stuff, I am writing about all the same themes. I am giving myself all the same lectures. I am battling the same loneliness, melancholy, disappointment with life, disappointment with people, lofty ideals versus jaded reality, and (drum roll please) the infatuation with what might be around the corner. I believe we grown ups call this restlessness if we're being kind, discontentment if we're being honest.
We've been in Ohio for 21 months, and we have 16 months left. (Oh lookie there, someone's counting!) And dammit if I'm already thinking about what's next, that blasted corner holding all the possibilities, all the mystique, the key to endless happiness. This magical turn where promise and hope pool, right on the brink of change, it gets me every time. I constantly fight the temptation to wish my life away, to strain so hard to see what's next that I'm blinded to what's in front of me.
But this isn't the way to live, is it? Of course not. And do I really want to waste this year wondering about the next? Not on my life. So I'll add just one more thing to my I can't wait list: I can't wait until I finally figure this living in the moment thing out.
Well look at that, last week I decided to give up blogging, and this week I'm participating in a write-five-posts-in-one-week challenge. As Walt would say, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes." (And I would add to that profundity that really, I'm just fickle and indecisive. But the "containing multitudes" crap sounded so much fancier.)