Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Umbilical Cord

I'm the kind of mother
who feels your joy
who anticipates your pain
you get a shot
I flinch
I feel it
maybe more intensely than you do
you are anxious
I am shaking
you are happy
I am ecstatic
you are sad
it lays heavily in my heart
I want to wrap you up
in a bubble of protection
I can not
I want to protect from pain
yet, pain is growth
you are no longer children
yet, you will always be my children
the prettiest babies
in the history of the world
to have and to hold
four pounds, eight ounces
five pounds, thirteen ounces
now you pick me up
you hold me
I want to coddle and comfort
yet, discomfort makes progress
I do what I have to do
not what I want to do
I let you fly
I watch you fall
I see you get up
standing strong
from inside my body
to out in the world
my babies
my strong young men

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where I've Been

If you are visiting this blog for the first time or the first time in a long time, you're probably wondering, where the hell is this girl? She hasn't written an update in almost a month. Is she still among the land of the living? Did the story end or what?

I am still alive. I spent the early part of July in a state of panic as I prepared for a vacation with my husband to France. Yes...the France! Little ole me, a girl who was raised in south central L.A., by a single-mom, planning a trip to the French Rivera and Paris! 

My best friend Trish and her family invited us to join them this year. They go to Europe every summer and have invited us before, but we haven't had the kind of life that you can pick up and go to another country.  The last time we did was in 2007 when we went to Italy. Alan had a great sales year, and he wanted to splurge. It was amazing. I've wanted to go back to the region every since. The boys were younger of course. I don't even think we had an accurate diagnosis for both of them at the time. They stayed with their grandparents, and it was still difficult for me to leave them.

I've only seen France in the movies and read about it in books. It looks so romantic, exciting, vibrant, full of history, beauty, art, exquisite food, and fashion.

Speaking of fashion let me tell you a quick, funny little Paris story...

We're in Paris, at Printemps, a very fancy-schmancy, hoity-toity, department store. We first arrived in Nice, where our friends were staying, but we were going to fly to Paris for three days. So we change over to the small suitcase in Nice.

When we get to Paris, I realized I forgot to pack underwear.  The next day, we walk into the lingerie department at Printemps.  My first thought was, 'Where are the panties for black girls? These little things won't do a damn thing for me.'

Hubby asks me,"Well what brand do you usually buy? Let's look for that?"
I reply, "Honey, I usually buy Hanes100% cotton, boy shorts from Target. I don't think they have those here."

The top floor of Printemps in Paris
We're having coffee when I notice this behind me!
We did end up finding a few pairs of panties that worked for me...barely. And by barely I mean, in the middle of our tour of the Louvre the next day, one of the pairs had to come off! Otherwise, I could not have taken another step, and there are many, many steps.

Back to planning our trip and my anxiety...

My husband seems to have no issues with spending money on travel, while our house is falling apart. I on the other hand, always think of the all of the what-ifs. What if we painted our house that hasn't been touched with paint in some places in the 16 years we've lived here instead of going on this trip? That would be more practical wouldn't it? What if we repaired some of the holes in the drywall that have been made during fits of anger.

Well, obviously we decided to ignore the chipping paint and countless house repairs that our home is begging for. We ignored it all and went on vacation. What is life if you're not creating lasting memories? Right. Well, it could be a more comfortable home that you're not embarrassed to entertain in, but you can't have it all! Besides, who are you kidding Karen? You don't have many local friends to  entertain, and you don't have the energy to entertain when you're done taking care of your mother and your sons. 

One of the reasons I think we have maintained this crazy married life for twenty-one years is because we try our best to nurture our relationship. We can be at each other's throats with all of the stress in this house.  I literally want to choke him sometimes, and I KNOW he wants to strangle me.

Sometimes, the only way I know we still have it, is because we still enjoy each other when it's just the two of us. Now, if it could only be just the two of us more often, it would be great. Either that or we would kill each other. Probably the latter. 

Nevertheless, with two of our boys out of the house, and the other being 17 and becoming more independent, we thought we could pull off the trip, and so we did. It would still require a shit ton of logistics and details for me to put into place, which was really nerve racking for an anxious kind of girl like me. But this time, Alan and my best friend Trish, would not let my anxiety convince me that it couldn't be done.

I put a team of supports to do all of my jobs. We bought an additional refrigerator for the garage so that I could fully stock the house with food.  My mother claims she can't find anything in our current refrigerator, so I wanted to be able to spread things out. I made lists of what food is stored where. I made lists of food choices for Blue for breakfast when he's in a hurry. I provided all of their necessities in my "what-if plan."  I renewed my passport, we booked our tickets and there was no turning back. 

That is until a week before we left when we heard the news about another terrorist attack, this time in Nice, one of the places that we would be visiting. Talk about a punch in the gut! As nervous as I already was, this put me over the top. On my long list of what-ifs, What if I die? was on the top. Part of me could not stop thinking, these boys still need me. I have a lot of work to do in the coming year to finish launching them into the world.

I confess, another part of me thought, I am tired. I have given them so much of myself. I have very little left to give.  If I stay here, there is no guarantee that everyone will live through this stressful summer. At least if I die, I know that I have given them one helluva foundation.  If it's my time to go, I will do it having the time of my life! 

How selfish of me, right? You should know by now; I  don't  care what people think. I live my life the best way I can with what I have. 

Seriously, sometimes I think, I am so tired.  If it's time for me to rest in peace, then so be it. 

As for the terrorists, making us afraid to go out and live our lives is precisely what they want. Screw that! If there is anything my dad's death taught me this year is that he lived fully, for as long as he could and damn what the rest of the world thought of it.
This is a shot I must get in every
body of water that I visit. 

That is what I want to teach my boys. Don't let your anxiety and fears stop you from living your life. Live fully and on purpose. Take chances. You may end up having the time of your life.

So in answer to, "What-if" I die, the only thing I could control in that situation was to make sure that our will is fully updated, with all provisions for the boys in place. They will actually be in better shape financially if we're both gone. Life Insurance is a wonderful thing. It won't replace me. Nothing could. But the way my village stepped up to the game while we were away, showed me that no matter what, they will be okay. I think. I hope. I pray.

Keeping Love Alive

By the way, my village took such wonderful care of everyone while I was away.  In fact, they did so well, I think that I should move to France, permanently.

My mom cooked for herself most days when she wasn't being spoiled by one of our friends or neighbors who took her out and went to the grocery store for her.

I did not speak to Red once in the entire ten days! He called once to say, "Blue is bothering me," but I didn't pick up the phone. His mentor network was in place to help talk him through whatever he needed to process.

Blue survived his first summer job with the help of his job coach. He also completed his first college level class. He was the man of the house, helping look after his grandmother. 

No one completely fell apart ...until we got home.

Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Antibes
I wanted to bring it home with me.